Tag Archives: endurance performance

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?

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Should You Do Plyometric Training on Consecutive Days?

12 Jun

plyometric_boxes[1]In most sports, the ability to produce explosive effort is an important component of performance.  Plyometric training (PT) is commonly used to increase/improve an athlete’s ability to sprint, jump, and change direction.  Additionally, PT may increase endurance performance in sports like basketball and soccer.

Given the high-intensity nature of plyometric training, most research recommends 24-48 hours of rest between PT training sessions.  At our facility, we favor twice-weekly PT training sessions, regardless of the number of weekly training days (e.g., if an athlete trains 3-4 days per week, two of those days include PT).

Occasionally, due to conflicts and other obligations and responsibilities, some of our athletes can only train twice per week and on consecutive days.

A recent Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study compared twice-weekly plyometric training — 140-260 jumps per session — with groups of athletes given 24-48 hours (1-2 days) of rest between sessions, and those training on consecutive days.

“Although it has been recommended that plyometric drills should not be conducted on consecutive days, the study shows that plyometric training applied twice weekly on consecutive or nonconsecutive days results in similar explosive and endurance adaptations…” (Ramirez-Campillo, et. al.)

If necessary, it appears that consecutive plyometric training days are safe and effective.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Is Strength Training Good for Endurance Athletes?

24 Sep

361012_orig[1]Most experts recognize — and relevant literature supports — that endurance athletes benefit from both heavy resistance and endurance training.  Maximal strength and power training have recently gained attention as a potential strategy for increasing endurance performance.

A recent review of the literature concluded that concurrent training (the simultaneous training of resistance and endurance exercise) has a positive effect on endurance performance.

One determinant of sport performance is the ability to appropriately and effectively exert force into the ground (e.g., running, jumping) or an apparatus (e.g., cycling).  When all other factors are equal, the athlete with a greater ability to exert force will perform the best, as they will cover more distance per muscle action.  Therefore, even endurance athletes benefit from increases in force production.

According to a recent Strength and Conditioning Journal article, strength training improves motor recruitment patterns, which lowers energy expenditure at any specific submaximal intensity because fewer motor units (and therefore muscles) are activated. Any adaptation that allows an athlete to use less energy at a given speed will decrease the oxygen requirement and should therefore increase athletic performance. Moreover, less muscular contraction leads to less blood flow restriction, which allows greater delivery of fuels and removal of waste products. High-intensity power training (such as plyometrics) offers extra benefits, as it enhances efficiency of elastic energy by increasing musculotendinous stiffness (a measure of how readily tissue reforms after being stretched, compressed, or twisted). This shifts energy production from active (muscular contraction) to passive (elastic rebound) sources.  (Martuscello, Jason MS, CSCS, HFS; Theilen, Nicholas MS)

Please see related article, Plyometric Training Benefits Distance Runners.

The addition of strength and power training should be done with caution, in order to avoid overtraining.  Strength and conditioning professionals need to be aware of proper periodization principles and specifically control volume and frequency throughout the training cycle to reduce this risk.  The relationship between strength training and endurance training should be inverse.  The addition of strength and power training should be countered with the subtraction of some endurance training, and vice-versa. For example, replacing approximately 1/3 of endurance volume with explosive strength training has been shown to improve leg strength, speed, power, anaerobic capacity, running economy, and most importantly 5k running time.

Strength and power training has many benefits for endurance athletes, including improved force output, musculotendinous stiffness and elastic energy efficiency, running economy, and race performance. In order to minimize the risk of injury, proper monitoring of program design and exercise technique should be closely observed.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Don’t Warm-Up with a Stretch

5 Apr

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?

How Does Caffeine Affect Athletic Performance?

12 Nov

Caffeine mainly acts as a central nervous system stimulant.  The vast majority of competitive athletes consume it, with more than half consuming it for the purpose of enhancing performance.  The benefits of caffeine include increased work output, speed, arousal and focus, combined with reduced perceived exertion and fatigue.

Caffeine is found in foods like chocolate, soft drinks, coffee, and tea.  A typical cup of coffee contains about 120 mg of caffeine.

Caffeine’s Effect on Athletic Performance

  • Improves reaction time, alertness, and focus
  • Decreases the body’s reliance on muscle glycogen (stored energy)
  • Increases the body’s absorption and use of consumed carbohydrates
  • Prolongs endurance performance
  • May increase the threshold for pain and discomfort

Caffeine specifically benefits prolonged endurance performance.  Sports lasting longer than an hour with sustained effort will benefit more from players consuming caffeine than sports with short bursts and duration.  Endurance sports such as running, cycling, and cross-country skiing; high-intensity sports such as swimming and rowing; and team sports such as soccer and basketball all benefit from caffeine supplementation by allowing players to increase work production, speed, and accuracy.  Caffeine does not necessarily offer a performance-enhancing benefit for strength and power activities, such as resistance training.

Caffeine supplementation of 3 to 6 mg per kilogram of body weight one hour before exercise is most effective.  The main drawback to caffeine is a potential diuretic effect, which could lead to dehydration, but caffeine does not increase fluid loss when consumed during exercise.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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