Tag Archives: dynamic warm-up

Is Flexibility Overrated?

12 Aug

USA Basketball Senior National Team Training Day 1Is there a relationship between flexibility and athletic performance?  And, if there is a relationship, is more necessarily better?

Flexibility and Performance

There’s a difference between movement quantity and movement quality.  Speed, strength, power, balance, and stability are qualitative aspects of movement.  For functional movements, i.e., sports performance, quality of movement is more important than quantity.

Most elite athletes have extraordinary levels of strength, power, endurance, or balance.  And, while there are elite athletes with exceptional flexibility, there are others with only average flexibility.  Ultimately, it’s less about the extent of your range of motion (ROM) and more about how you use (what you do with) what you have.

The average person probably has the necessary range of motion to execute most sports movements.  Their deficiencies usually have little to do with range of motion.  The issue is typically attributable to strength, power, mobility, or coordination, not flexibility.

Iashvili (1983) found that active (dynamic, movement-based) ROM and not passive (static) ROM was more highly correlated with sports performance.  Arguably, any further passive static ROM developed through passive static stretching will not provide any extra benefit.

There is a considerable body of research that discourages pre-activity static stretching — due to its potential to reduce strength and power output — in favor of dynamic warmup.  Studies show that flexibility in the muscles of the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings) is related to slower running and diminished running economy.  Interestingly, it has been shown that stiffer leg muscles in endurance athletes may make them more economical in terms of oxygen consumption at sub-max speeds.

Flexibility and Injury Prevention

The relationship between flexibility and injury prevention is mixed, at best.  Two studies involving soccer and hockey players revealed that players with more flexible groins do not suffer fewer groin injuries, while players with stronger adductors had less strains.  There is actually more evidence to support that lateral imbalances in strength and stability are a better predictor of injury than lack of flexibility.

There are some studies suggesting that musculoskeletal tightness may be associated with an increased likelihood of muscle strain injury.  Other studies, including Knapik, J.J. et al. 1992, found that subjects in the least flexible and most flexible quintiles were equally likely to get injured — 2.2-2.5 times more than subjects in the middle quintile (average flexibility).

The reality is that sports injuries are produced by a lot of different factors, and flexibility (or lack thereof) is only one of them.  It would be inappropriate to assign a level to the importance of flexibility as it relates to injury prevention.

For most athletes in most sports, there is probably little to be gained by increasing flexibility or range of motion.  Athletes are better off developing additional strength and stability within a particular range of motion.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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6 Ways to Run Farther

7 Jul

Increasing the distance they run is a challenge for beginning runners, and can be a challenge for all endurance athletes.  Sometimes the obstacles these athletes encounter are physical, sometimes mental, and sometimes both.  Setting short- and long-term goals can help with the mental challenges of running.  Don’t worry about how large or small your goal seems, just keep moving.  There are several strategies that can help runners safely and effectively push their distances a little bit farther.  For safety, keep your weekly mileage increases to no more than 10%.

Here are 6 ways to improve your cardiovascular endurance and increase the distance you run:

  1. Warm-up.  Always perform an adequate, movement-based warm-up prior to your run.  Forget about the “old-school,” pre-workout static stretching routine – current research overwhelmingly discourages it.  An appropriate, dynamic warm-up can improve running efficiency and reduce potential problems like cramping and muscle tightness.  And, as long as we’re addressing warm-up, always allow time to cool-down following your run.
  2. Get off the treadmill.  Let’s be honest… running on the treadmill can be boring.  Whenever weather conditions and safety allow, get outside and run.  If necessary, invest in some cold-weather running gear.  The great outdoors provides fresh air, great scenery, and an endless variety of paths and routes.  Enjoying your natural surroundings can distract you and help keep your mind off your mileage.
  3. Change speeds.  Don’t worry about keeping an aggressive pace for the entire length of your run.  If and when needed, slow down to a very light jog, or even a walk.  This strategy may enable you to cover more distance, and you’ll still get a great workout.  As you progress, gradually increase your running time and reduce your light jog/walk time.
  4. Run with a partner.  Research supports training with a friend.  There’s nothing like a training buddy to push you, keep you motivated, accountable, and on-task.  If you usually run alone, ask a friend or family member to join you.  If that’s not an option, there may be a local running group you can join.
  5. Add HIIT.  High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) may be the single-best way to improve your muscular and cardiovascular endurance.  HIIT involves alternating intervals of high- and low-intensity activity.  Try adding this 10-minute HIIT routine to your plan: Run at as aggressive a pace as you can maintain for 30-seconds.  Immediately follow with 90-seconds of light jogging.  Repeat this 2-minute interval, four more times (five total).
  6. Get stronger.  I’m sure you’ve noticed that strength training has become a common thread in my weekly articles.  Running puts stress on your body.  Strengthening your muscles and connective tissue can help to reduce the negative impact of running on your body.  Increasing muscle endurance means going longer – more miles – before feeling fatigued.  Strength training for 20-30 minutes, 2-3 times per week, is all you need to build and maintain muscle mass.  A former business partner, who trains for (and runs) marathons, swears by yoga to improve hip strengthflexibility, and mobility.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Save the Stretch for After

7 Dec

kobe_bryant_stretching[1]From the time I began playing youth sports through high school, college, and beyond, we were encouraged to stretch prior to exercising, practicing, or playing.  I guess we thought — and were taught — stretching before activity helped us to “get loose” in order to maximize our performance.  As it turns out, we couldn’t have been more wrong.

Although I still see lots of athletes and teams stretching before practices and games, today’s research overwhelmingly advises us to avoid it.  Stretching elongates and relaxes muscle, reduces strength and power production in the short-term, and does not necessarily reduce the incidence of injury.

In a recent Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research article titled, Experience in Resistance Training Does Not Prevent Reduction in Muscle Strength Evoked by Passive Static Stretching, Serra and colleagues state that “the passive static stretching program was detrimental to upper- and lower-body maximal muscle strength performance in several body segments.  The negative effects of stretching were similar for subjects participating in resistance training regimens.”

The study presented and confirmed 2 key issues:

  1. The detrimental effects of stretching extend to different muscle segments.
  2. Resistance training experience does not prevent the maximal strength reduction caused by stretching before exercise.

Dynamic warm-up (movement prep) — a strategy that involves utilizing the same types of movements during your warm-up that you will use during exercise, practice, and/or game situations — has been shown to better prepare muscles for activity, by actually potentiating force production.

But don’t give up on stretching, altogether.  Along with hydration and nutrition, a good stretch — or foam roll massage — is just what your body needs after your workout, practice, or game.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Make Your Workout More Efficient and Productive

16 May

squat4[1]According to a Men’s Health survey, the number one reason for not working out is “not enough time.”  I would argue that most of the people who gave this response just don’t know how to be efficient and productive in the weight room.  If you spend a lot of time chatting, flirting, reading, waiting, and flexing, you’re wasting your time — and wasting your workouts.

Here are some strategies to help you be more efficient and productive at the gym:

  • Have a plan.  Don’t “wing it.”  Create a written itinerary and maintain a workout chart.  Keep track of your exercises, weight, reps, sets, and rest intervals.
  • Don’t let socializing interrupt your workout.  Stay on task.  If you absolutely must, chitchat for a few minutes when you arrive and before you leave.
  • Stay focused on your workout.  I realize there may be plenty of distractions.  Don’t get caught up watching the “scenery” at the gym.
  • Be purposeful with your warmup.  A dynamic warmup (movement prep) only takes a few minutes, prepares your nervous system for activity, and builds strength, stability, and flexibility.
  • Don’t rest so much.  Try doing supersets — performing one movement after another without rest (for example, after a set of bench presses, move directly to a set of dumbbell rows).  Then rest briefly and repeat the superset.  Since each exercise works opposing muscles or movements (pushing versus pulling in this case), you won’t tire as quickly and can spend less time resting between sets.
  • Don’t spend a lot of time waiting for equipment to become available.  Grab a pair of dumbbells, medicine ball, kettlebell, etc. and be productive while you wait, or substitute another exercise with a similar movement.
  • Try high-intensity intervals.  Instead of a slow, steady, low-intensity aerobic workout, pick up the pace every 30-60 seconds.  Raising your intensity by just 15-20% will double the calories burned and cut your workout time in half.
  • Skip the isolation exercises, like bicep curls and crunches.  They provide a very low return on investment.  Try combination moves, like the dumbbell lunge to curl to overhead press.  The most basic compound movements — squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, push-ups, and rows — are often the most effective.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Don’t Warm-Up with a Stretch

4 May

static-stretching1[1]Most of us grew up being told that we should warm up for physical activity (exercise, sport practice or game) with a stretch.  Pre-activity stretching has been (and still is) a preferred strategy to help athletes get “loose,” strong, and avoid injury.

But the field of exercise science has generated a large body of research providing evidence that disputes that idea.  Instead, researchers have discovered that static stretching can reduce strength and power output, especially in the short-term, resulting in decreasing jumpers’ heights and sprinters’ speeds, without substantially reducing people’s chances of hurting themselves.  And two new studies add to a growing scientific consensus that pre-exercise stretching is generally unnecessary and likely counterproductive.

The impact of this information, especially for competitive athletes, is compelling.  Static stretching reduces strength in the stretched muscles, and the impact increases with the amount of time the stretch is held.  Stretched muscles are, in general, substantially less strong.

Stretched muscles are also less powerful, as measured by the muscle’s ability to produce force during contractions.  Muscle power generally decreases after stretching.

This information has broad implications for competitive athletes, given that static stretching is associated with a significant decrease in explosive muscular performance.  The impact of pre-activity stretching can impair a sprinter’s burst from the starting blocks; a tennis player’s serve; a weightlifter’s Olympic lift; or a basketball player’s attempt at a blocked shot.  Their performance, after warming up with stretching, is likely to be worse than if they hadn’t warmed up at all.

Although this information primarily applies to people participating in events that require strength and explosive power — more so than endurance — research also speaks of static stretching impairing performance in distance running and cycling.

Ultimately, a warm-up should improve performance, not worsen it.  A better choice is to warm-up dynamically, by moving the muscles that will be employed in your workout, practice, or game.  In other words, your warm-up should include movements that reflect the demands of your activity, whether that be physical training or sport participation.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Strength Training as an Injury Prevention Strategy

6 Apr

24-pro-foam-roll[1]While it’s impossible to prevent every injury, research shows that strength training can help individuals reduce the incidence and severity of injury.  Here are a few tips that can improve your odds of making your body injury-proof.

Fuel Your Workout

Strength training requires energy.  Everyone’s different but, as a general rule, you should eat a balanced, light meal or snack 30-90 minutes prior to working out.  Aim for a carbohydrate to protein ratio of about 3:1.

Warm-up

At Athletic Performance Training Center, we prefer a dynamic warm-up (no stretching) to prepare for our workouts.  Using light-to-moderate weight, try doing kettlebell swings or a barbell (or dumbbell) complex.  Body-weight exercises — like burpees — will work, too.  You can also do a lighter warm-up set prior to any exercise in your regimen.

Do It Right

Don’t cheat by only pushing or pulling half-way, and don’t get so enamored with the amount of weight you lift that you sacrifice proper technique in the process.  Lift and lower the weight (or your body) through the entire, intended range-of-motion.

Push and Pull

Agonist-antagonist paired sets help to ensure that you’re developing muscular balance and joint stability, in addition to strength, by exercising opposing muscle groups (for example, the bench press and row).

Stretch… After

Post-workout stretching helps to relax and elongate muscles.  Stretching also facilitates oxygenation and nutrient uptake in muscle cells.

Foam Roll (pictured)

If you’ve never tried a foam roll massage, it’s a must.  The foam roll uses your body weight and position to deliver a deep-tissue massage.  They’re available, inexpensively, and most come with an instructional DVD.

Refuel

Post-workout nutrition should be consumed within 30 minutes of your workout.  Your body needs carbs to replenish muscle glycogen stores (think of glycogen as stored energy) and protein (preferably whey) to rebuild muscle.  16-18 ounces of chocolate milk is a great choice.

Rest

It’s the rest days between workouts that help your muscles grow bigger and stronger.  Allow a rest day between training days.  Rest (including adequate sleep) is essential to the recovery/regeneration process.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Strength Training Safety and Specificity

6 Feb

adv_benchpress_03[1]One of the goals of strength training is to reduce the likelihood of injury during training.  Compared with other sports and fitness activities, strength training is actually quite safe — if and when athletes adhere to basic safety principles.

Specificity should also be an important consideration when designing an exercise program to improve performance in a particular sport activity.  Exercise selection should be determined in accordance with the demands and movement patterns of the sport.  A strength training program designed around sport-specific exercise movements can improve performance and reduce the likelihood of injury.

SAFETY

  • Always perform a dynamic (movement-based) warm-up activity — or warm-up sets — with relatively light weight in order to stimulate blood flow to the muscles and improve connective tissue (ligaments, tendons) function.  Avoid static stretching as a warm-up.
  • Perform exercises through a full range-of-motion.
  • When performing a new exercise, or when training after an extended layoff (multiple weeks), use relatively light weight and gradually increase as proficiency allows.
  • Don’t “work through” pain, especially joint pain.  Working through some muscle fatigue or post-exercise muscle soreness is usually okay, but severe and persistent pain may be a warning sign to have the injury examined and treated medically.
  • Never attempt maximal lifts without appropriate preparation, (technique) instruction, and supervision.
  • Avoid “bouncing” at the bottom of the squat exercise, as this type of movement can cause muscle injury.  Observe proper squat mechanics — keep the knee in a vertical plane through the foot and hip.
  • Athletes should build adequate lower-body strength before beginning a lower-body plyometric program.
  • Perform several varieties of an exercise to improve muscle development and joint stability.

SPECIFICITY

  • Exercise selection should reflect the qualitative and quantitative demands and movement patterns of the sport.
  • Joint ranges-of-motion should be at least as great as those in the target activity.
  • Utilize visual observation and video as tools to facilitate exercise selection and determine movements important to that sport.
  • Exercise selection should include the three major planes — frontal, sagittal, and transverse, in order to strengthen movements between the planes.
  • Training should be movement-based, and not muscle-based.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Is Flexibility Overrated?

24 Nov

USA Basketball Senior National Team Training Day 1Is there a relationship between flexibility and athletic performance?  And, if there is a relationship, is more necessarily better?

Flexibility and Performance

There’s a difference between movement quantity and movement quality.  Speed, strength, power, balance, and stability are qualitative aspects of movement.  For functional movements, i.e., sports performance, quality of movement is more important than quantity.

Most elite athletes have extraordinary levels of strength, power, endurance, or balance.  And, while there are elite athletes with exceptional flexibility, there are others with only average flexibility.  Ultimately, it’s less about the extent of your range of motion (ROM) and more about how you use (what you do with) what you have.

The average person probably has the necessary range of motion to execute most sports movements.  Their deficiencies usually have little to do with range of motion.  The issue is typically attributable to strength, power, mobility, or coordination, not flexibility.

Iashvili (1983) found that active (dynamic, movement-based) ROM and not passive (static) ROM was more highly correlated with sports performance.  Arguably, any further passive static ROM developed through passive static stretching will not provide any extra benefit.

There is a considerable body of research that discourages pre-activity static stretching — due to its potential to reduce strength and power output — in favor of dynamic warmup.  Studies show that flexibility in the muscles of the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings) is related to slower running and diminished running economy.  Interestingly, it has been shown that stiffer leg muscles in endurance athletes may make them more economical in terms of oxygen consumption at sub-max speeds.

Flexibility and Injury Prevention

The relationship between flexibility and injury prevention is mixed, at best.  Two studies involving soccer and hockey players revealed that players with more flexible groins do not suffer fewer groin injuries, while players with stronger adductors had less strains.  There is actually more evidence to support that lateral imbalances in strength and stability are a better predictor of injury than lack of flexibility.

There are some studies suggesting that musculoskeletal tightness may be associated with an increased likelihood of muscle strain injury.  Other studies, including Knapik, J.J. et al. 1992, found that subjects in the least flexible and most flexible quintiles were equally likely to get injured — 2.2-2.5 times more than subjects in the middle quintile (average flexibility).

The reality is that sports injuries are produced by a lot of different factors, and flexibility (or lack thereof) is only one of them.  It would be inappropriate to assign a level to the importance of flexibility as it relates to injury prevention.

For most athletes in most sports, there is probably little to be gained by increasing flexibility or range of motion.  Athletes are better off developing additional strength and stability within a particular range of motion.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

6 Ways to Run Farther

26 Feb

mile18[1]Increasing the distance they run is a challenge for beginning runners, and can be a challenge for all endurance athletes.  Sometimes the obstacles these athletes encounter are physical, sometimes mental, and sometimes both.  Setting short- and long-term goals can help with the mental challenges of running.  Don’t worry about how large or small your goal seems, just keep moving.  There are several strategies that can help runners safely and effectively push their distances a little bit farther.  For safety, keep your weekly mileage increases to no more than 10%.

Here are 6 ways to improve your cardiovascular endurance and increase the distance you run:

  1. Warm-up.  Always perform an adequate, movement-based warm-up prior to your run.  Forget about the “old-school,” pre-workout static stretching routine – current research overwhelmingly discourages it.  An appropriate, dynamic warm-up can improve running efficiency and reduce potential problems like cramping and muscle tightness.  And, as long as we’re addressing warm-up, always allow time to cool-down following your run.
  2. Get off the treadmill.  Let’s be honest… running on the treadmill can be boring.  Whenever weather conditions and safety allow, get outside and run.  If necessary, invest in some cold-weather running gear.  The great outdoors provides fresh air, great scenery, and an endless variety of paths and routes.  Enjoying your natural surroundings can distract you and help keep your mind off your mileage.
  3. Change speeds.  Don’t worry about keeping an aggressive pace for the entire length of your run.  If and when needed, slow down to a very light jog, or even a walk.  This strategy may enable you to cover more distance, and you’ll still get a great workout.  As you progress, gradually increase your running time and reduce your light jog/walk time.
  4. Run with a partner.  Research supports training with a friend.  There’s nothing like a training buddy to push you, keep you motivated, accountable, and on-task.  If you usually run alone, ask a friend or family member to join you.  If that’s not an option, there may be a local running group you can join.
  5. Add HIITHigh-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) may be the single-best way to improve your muscular and cardiovascular endurance.  HIIT involves alternating intervals of high- and low-intensity activity.  Try adding this 10-minute HIIT routine to your plan: Run at as aggressive a pace as you can maintain for 30-seconds.  Immediately follow with 90-seconds of light jogging.  Repeat this 2-minute interval, four more times (five total).
  6. Get stronger.  I’m sure you’ve noticed that strength training has become a common thread in my weekly articles.  Running puts stress on your body.  Strengthening your muscles and connective tissue can help to reduce the negative impact of running on your body.  Increasing muscle endurance means going longer – more miles – before feeling fatigued.  Strength training for 20-30 minutes, 2-3 times per week, is all you need to build and maintain muscle mass.  My business partner, who is training for her first marathon, swears by yoga to improve hip strength, flexibility, and mobility..

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Save the Stretch for After

4 Sep

kobe_bryant_stretching[1]From the time I began playing youth sports through high school, college, and beyond, we were encouraged to stretch prior to exercising, practicing, or playing.  I guess we thought — and were taught — stretching before activity helped us to “get loose” in order to maximize our performance.  As it turns out, we couldn’t have been more wrong.

Although I still see lots of athletes and teams stretching before practices and games, today’s research overwhelmingly advises us to avoid it.  Stretching elongates and relaxes muscle, reduces strength and power production in the short-term, and does not necessarily reduce the incidence of injury.

In a recent Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research article titled, Experience in Resistance training Does Not Prevent Reduction in Muscle Strength Evoked by Passive Static Stretching, Serra and colleagues state that “the passive static stretching program was detrimental to upper- and lower-body maximal muscle strength performance in several body segments.  The negative effects of stretching were similar for subjects participating in resistance training regimens.”

The study presented and confirmed 2 key issues:

  1. The detrimental effects of stretching extend to different muscle segments.
  2. Resistance training experience does not prevent the maximal strength reduction caused by stretching before exercise.

Dynamic warm-up (movement prep) — a strategy that involves utilizing the same types of movements during your warm-up that you will use during exercise, practice, and/or game situations — has been shown to better prepare muscles for activity, by actually potentiating force production.

But don’t give up on stretching, altogether.  Along with hydration and nutrition, a good stretch — or foam roll massage — is just what your body needs after your workout, practice, or game.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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