Tag Archives: core strength

6 Ways to Build Stronger Arms

14 Jun

If you want to build stronger arms (and what athlete doesn’t?), you’ve got to work from the inside out.  That means your focus should start with your core and work through your shoulders and arms.  Keep in mind that to build strength and power – for most exercises – you will want to work with a weight that challenges you for 4-6 repetitions per set (and may require a spotter).  Maintain good form and technique, perform the exercises with a full range-of motion, and allow adequate rest between sets.

Here are 6 ways to build stronger arms:

  1. It all starts with your legs.  Yes, I know this article is supposed to be about arm strength, but don’t neglect your core and lower body (more on this in an upcoming article).  Whether you want to improve your jump shot, throwing velocity, or bat speed, strong arms can’t compensate for a weak core and legs.  Exercises like squats and deadlifts will help you build the leg drive necessary to hit those three-point shots, throw fastballs past the opposing hitter, or drive the ball over the outfielders’ heads.
  2. Hit the bench.  The bench press exercise is a gold-standard upper-body exercise for a reason.  At Athletic Performance Training Center (APTC), we like the barbell flat bench press as our preferred bilateral, upper-body exercise.
  3. Work both sides.  Unilateral exercises help to ensure that your “weak” side is working as hard as your strong side.  Grab a pair of heavy dumbbells and perform the dumbbell flat bench press exercise.  For variety, you can do this exercise simultaneously, alternating, or iso-laterally (one arm at a time).  Alternate with the barbell bench press so that one week you perform the exercise with a barbell, and the next with dumbbells.
  4. Row your boat.  Agonist-antagonist paired sets – pairing exercises that work opposing muscle groups – are a great way to build strength and reduce the incidence of injury by strengthening the muscles around a joint.  Exercises like the bent-over barbell row, dumbbell row, and seated cable row should be included with the bench press exercises.  Dumbbell and cable rows can also be performed unilaterally.
  5. Push it upShoulder presses, with a barbell or dumbbells, work the muscles of the upper-body and arms differently (in a different plane) than the bench press – vertically instead of horizontally.  Perform this exercise standing, and not sitting, to get more of your core involved.
  6. Pull it down.  Like bench presses and rows, shoulder presses can be paired with lat pull-downs (bilateral or unilateral), chin-ups, or pull-ups.  Chin-ups and pull-ups are challenging, but you can start by doing them with a band or spotter.

Here’s a bonus.  Don’t overlook good old-fashioned pushups.  You can do them anywhere, and there are about a million variations.  We still incorporate them into our training regimen at APTC.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Switch from Machines to Free Weights

5 Jun

There’s no argument that exercise machines are mostly convenient and easy-to-use.  Hop on, set your resistance level, and go to work.

However, recent research from the University of South Carolina (excerpted in Men’s Health) revealed that men who train with free weights are less likely to have lower back pain than those who use weight-training machines.

“With machines, you don’t have to stabilize your core to do the exercise,” according to Mike Reinold, PT, CSCS, of Champion PT and Performance in Boston.  “Strength without core stability can overload your back and lead to pain.”

Instead of machines, perform exercises in which your back is not supported, like pushups instead of chest press machine, and standing dumbbell shoulder presses instead of the shoulder press machine.  Planks are another good alternative for building core strength and stability.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

The Importance of Core Stability in Athletes

24 Mar

If you read my blog regularly (and thank you if you do!), you know I’m a proponent of the development of – and importance of – core strength and stability.  Whether you’re an athlete or not, a strong, stable core facilitates everything you do, and every movement you make.

Over the years, I’ve published articles promoting the benefits or core training, including the rationale for core training; core strengthening exercises and workouts; and the implications of core strength, as it relates to virtually every sport movement – running, jumping, throwing, kicking, etc.  (to access more of my Core Strength & Stability articles, simply type the word “core” in the search box at the top of this blog page)

Here’s a nice resource from our friends at Bridge Athletic – authored by Megan Fischer-Colbrie – titled, The Importance of Core Stability in Athletes.  In her article, Megan discusses advantages of core stability for athletes; the role of core training in injury prevention and rehabilitation; and the advantage of building a strong foundation that starts with the core.  She also provides some useful core strengthening and stabilizing exercises.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Improve Your Life with Core Training

20 Feb

side-plank-mel-1-crop1First of all, understand that when I refer to your core, I’m not only talking about your abs (although your abs are certainly part of your core).

Everybody thinks they want six-pack abs… I get it.  You may be one of those people who suffers through endless sets of planks and situps to achieve your dream of washboard abs.  Good luck with that.

Actually, your core musculature extends from your shoulders through your hips, and contributes to sports performance, balance, posture, strength and power, mobility, and longevity.

Here are some of the benefits of core training – and a strong core:

Be a Better Athlete

Core training can improve your performance in virtually any strength or speed sport.  A strong core allows you to transfer more power to your limbs, which translates to more powerful throwing, kicking, running, jumping, etc.

Better Balance

A strong core is important – whether you’re an athlete or not – because strong core muscles keep your torso in a more stable position whenever you move, whether you’re playing sports or just doing everyday activities.  Core strength helps you avoid injury by making your movements more efficient.

Alleviate Back Pain

Core training can both prevent and control lower-back pain, according to Canadian research.  For individuals with back pain, core exercises that emphasize isometric contraction (exercises that keep you still, like planks, side planks, etc.) are good choices.  At our facility – in addition to those types of exercises – we also favor rotational and anti-rotational exercises.

Better Posture

Stop slouching! Simply stated, core training can help you stand up straight by improving your postural stability.

Improve Your Agility

Research shows that core training – and improvements in core strength – translates to better performance on agility tests (acceleration, deceleration, change of direction) than traditional body-building moves.  At our facility, we focus on training movements – not muscles – for all of our customers, athletes and non-athletes.

Reduce Inflammation

Scientists have found that core training can reduce inflammation markers by as much as 25 percent – not far from the result you’d get from anti-inflammatory medications – including enhanced recovery, well-being, and general health.

Live Longer

Mayo Clinic researchers concluded that increased waist circumference is associated with an increased risk of premature death.  In a review of several studies, they found that men with waists of 43 inches or larger had a 52 percent greater risk of premature death than guys whose waists were 35 inches or smaller; and each 2-inch increase in waist size was associated with a 7 percent jump in death risk.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Build Strength with the Farmer’s Walk

26 Dec
DSCN0908

Farmer’s Walk

Most of us are fairly traditional when it comes to working out at the gym.  We don’t stray far from exercises like the bench press and squat (nothing wrong with that… they’re beneficial exercises).  And, of course, if you’re a guy you spend way too much time working on your arms.

The farmer’s walk is a weighted carry exercise that’s terrific for building functional strength.  This exercise will not only challenge your core, it will also strengthen it, making you stronger in everything you do.

At our facility, our athletes also perform other variations of weighted carry exercises, including:

  • Suitcase Carry (same as farmer’s walk, carrying weight on one side instead of both)
  • Overhead Carry (hold weight overhead with both arms)
  • Waiter’s Walk (same as Overhead Carry, using one arm instead of both)
  • Weight cradled in arms against chest
  • Weight carried at shoulders with elbows tucked and facing down, and palms facing each other

Here’s How to Do the Farmer’s Walk

Grab a pair of dumbbells (you can also use kettlebells or weight plates), each weighing about a half your body weight (1/3 for females), and let them hang at your sides.  If you have to, you can use lighter weights.  Try to maintain perfect posture — head and chest up, shoulders back, core tight.  Walk 60 feet with perfect form.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Strengthen Your Glutes to Avoid Injury

25 Nov

brewkendall_fullsize_story2[2]Here’s one for the baseball and softball players, quarterbacks, and shot put and discus throwers (and any other “throwing” athletes).  According to researchers at Auburn University, stronger glute muscles may help you ward off throwing injuries.

Athletes activate their glutes when throwing, stabilizing their core and reducing their risk of shoulder injury.  When you generate power from your lower-body, you reduce stress on the small, injury-prone muscles of the shoulder.

Ironically, these findings aren’t necessarily new.  There have been several studies showing that throwing and “hitting” athletes (baseball and softball players, hockey and lacrosse players, etc.) who are capable of generating large amounts of lower-body force can reduce the stress caused by upper-body rotational torque.

Strengthening your glutes has broad application, and can benefit athletes in everything from running and jumping to throwing to lifting.  Try exercises like deadlifts, hip extensions, and lunges.

Please see related articles:

Strengthen Your Glutes With Hip Raises

Strengthen Your Hips and Glutes with the Mini-Band Lateral Shuffle

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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The Deadlift Exercise: Straight Bar vs. Hexagonal Bar

8 Jun
Straight Bar Deadlift

Straight Bar Deadlift

Hex Bar Deadlift

Hex Bar Deadlift

The deadlift exercise is commonly performed to develop strength and power, and to train the lower-body and core.  It is widely used by athletes of many sports to enhance power and strength.

The deadlift exercise is particularly useful because it is a multi-joint exercise that activates several large muscle groups – including the legs, hips, back, and torso – and involves the lifting of heavy loads.  This elicits a larger stimulus to which the body must adapt, making it ideal for enhancing muscular strength and power.

Traditionalist and “hard-core” lifters would argue in favor of the straight barbell deadlift but, at our facility, we favor the hexagonal barbell.

We work with a diverse variety of athletes, ranging from professional athletes to young, scholastic athletes, and we’ve found that using the hexagonal bar for the deadlift exercise simply makes more ergonomic sense.

The athletes’ ability to grip the hexagonal barbell at their sides – as opposed to in front of them, with a straight barbell – leads to a safer movement pattern/range of motion (less inclination to lean forward and over-activate the lower back, keeping the emphasis of the exercise on the hips and legs), and the ability to lift more weight safely.

A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared muscle activation and power characteristics while performing the deadlift exercise with straight and hexagonal barbells.  In the study, researchers corroborate and confirm the benefits of the hexagonal bar deadlift, stating that “… the hexagonal barbell may be more effective at developing maximal force, power, and velocity.” (Camara, K., et.al.)

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Work Your Core, Not Just Your Abs

25 Apr

theplankmain[1]When most people hear “core,” they think “abs.”  Actually, your core includes the muscles of your torso — shoulders through hips (deltoids, abdominals, gluteals, and lumbar spine).  These muscles initiate, generate, and resist movement (running, jumping, hitting, and throwing), strength, and power.  If you’re not strong through your core, it won’t matter how strong the muscles of your arms and legs are, because you just can’t compensate for a weak core.

Exercises that integrate your entire core elicit greater muscle activation than exercises that isolate the abs.  There are lots of exercises that target the muscles of the core, but not all core exercises elicit significant activation in a way that enhances functional gains and peak performance.

Benefits of exercises that active your core musculature include:

  • maximize strength
  • improve endurance
  • enhance stability
  • reduce injury
  • maintain mobility

Here are some core exercises that will help you maximize strength,improve muscular endurance, and reduce injury:

  • Plank (4-point, 3-point, 2-point)
  • Hanging Leg Raise
  • Medicine Ball Toe Touch
  • Swiss Ball Leg Raise

Rotational exercises, like the one’s listed below, help to strengthen the core through all 3 planes of motion:

  • Russian Twist
  • Lateral Medicine Ball Slams and Throws
  • Kettlebell Woodchopper and Corkscrew

Anti-Rotational exercises — those for which you move your arms and shoulders laterally but do not rotate your hips (for example, the Russian Twist – Bench Holding Stability Ball) — are still another way to effectively strengthen your core.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Youth Pitchers Need Pitch Counts

4 Mar

pitcher in controlWith baseball season upon us, young athletes everywhere are — and have been — preparing for the upcoming season.

Unfortunately, overuse injury in youth baseball players has become a major concern.

According to a Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study, injuries throughout the baseball season (shoulder and/or elbow pain) are on the rise in young athletes, and surgery rates continue to increase.

“With the increase of injury in youth baseball, there has been more focus on the causes of the overuse injury.  Of the proposed causes of overuse injury, fatigue or lack of adequate rest has been hypothesized as major precursors.” (Oliver, G. et.al.)

Fatigue leads to altered mechanics of the trunk, arm, and knee; and significantly diminishes shoulder flexion and internal rotation strength.

Young arms need limits.  Pitchers (and other players) should not throw to the point of fatigue.  Pitch counts should be implemented and monitored for practices, games (including simulated games), bullpen sessions, and scrimmages.

According to Dr. David Geier, orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist, youth pitchers should avoid the following risk factors:

  • Pitching for multiple teams with overlapping seasons
  • Pitching on consecutive days
  • Pitching in multiple games in one day
  • Pitching with arm fatigue or arm pain
  • Pitching in showcase events
  • Pitching throughout the year

Dr. Geier also stresses the importance of working with a knowledgeable, experienced trainer to improve core (shoulders through hips), shoulder, and upper-body strength and stability.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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The Best Core Exercise You’re Not Doing

18 Dec

DSCN0353DSCN0354The Plate Press is a terrific core exercise that’s cleverly disguised as an upper-body, horizontal-push exercise.  Once you try it, though, you’ll realize how core-intensive it really is.

To perform the plate press exercise, you’ll need a decline bench and a weight plate.  Here’s how to do it:

  • Sit upright on a decline bench, holding a weight plate against your chest.
  • Make sure your legs are securely “locked” around the bench’s padded supports.
  • Lie back until your torso is horizontal (parallel with the ground).
  • Do not let your shoulders or back touch the bench.
  • With a slow, even pace, push the weight plate away from your chest (like a bench press).
  • Repeat for desired number of repetitions.

Initially, try 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions each.  Start with a light weight plate — 10 lbs. — until you get the hang of the exercise, then challenge yourself by gradually increasing the weight.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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