Tag Archives: injury prevention

Up-Tempo Training is Best

1 Apr

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Seated Cable Row

One of our preferred strategies when training athletes (and virtually every other client) involves minimizing rest intervals among and between sets.  Maintaining an “up-tempo” pace  — keeping the heart rate up during a workout — results in continuous improvement, regardless of fitness level.

There’s no need to be in the weight room all day.  Most of our clients’ sessions are about 45-50 minutes in duration, and there’s very little “down” time.  They get in, get their work done, and get out (and recover).

We’ve found that agonist-antagonist paired sets (working opposing muscle groups — pushing and pulling — e.g., the bench press and row) are a great way to maintain an aggressive workout tempo, improve workout efficiency, and reduce training time, while not compromising workout quality.  In addition to strengthening muscles, this strategy strengthens and stabilizes joints and helps prevent injury.  Our athletes and clients perform the paired exercises, back-to-back, completing all sets with as little rest as they can manage, then rest for one minute before proceeding to the next pair of exercises.

We also vary our training programs, changing exercises weekly, while ensuring that each session is a total-body workout.  Performing different exercises for similar muscle movements is important to keep workouts challenging.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is another terrific way to maintain an efficient, up-tempo workout.  HIIT involves alternating high- and low-intensity exercise over a pre-determined period of time.  We like a ratio of 1:3, high-intensity to low-intensity, as a benchmark, depending on the athlete’s/client’s fitness level.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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Why Extreme Conditioning Programs Are Wrong for Athletes

26 Feb

Extreme Conditioning Programs (ECPs) like P90X, Insanity, and CrossFit have become very popular with fitness enthusiasts.  And while these programs may be appropriate for some — within reason, just about any exercise is better than none — they are clearly not the right choice for everyone.

Athletic performance training should not necessarily be a time-constrained, physical challenge.  There is no scientific rationale for the “as many as you can, as fast as you can” approach.  And since injury prevention should be an important consideration in the development of any performance training plan, programs that encourage quantity over quality should be carefully scrutinized.

Research shows that full muscular activation can be achieved well before the point of total exhaustion or fatigue.  Simply stated, when an athlete’s form begins to “break down,” during the course of any given exercise, it’s time to put the weight down.  When athletes become fatigued and technique gets sloppy, exercise range-of-motion becomes compromised and the chance of injury increases.

Scientifically speaking, the development of sport-specific strength and power — and the activation of fast-twitch muscle fibers — involves performing exercises using heavy loads, through a narrow range of repetitions, with technical correctness (full range-of-motion), and adequate time for recovery between sets.

Here’s an article from Tony Duckwall, athletic performance director for KIVA volleyball and IFHCK field hockey and co-owner and sports performance director for Louisville-based EDGE Sports Performance.  Tony discusses 5 Reasons Young Athletes Shouldn’t Use Standardized Programs Like P90X, Insanity and CrossFit.

Another article, this one from STACK Media Associate Editor, Sam DeHority, provides insight into Why Athletes Shouldn’t Just Jump into CrossFit.

Here’s the deal: If you want to try CrossFit, or some other ECP, give it a try.  But first do a little research, understand what you’re getting yourself into, and make sure that whatever you do is aligned with your strength and/or fitness goals.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Strength Training Isn’t Just for Athletes

20 Sep

At Athletic Performance Training Center, we specialize in helping athletes improve athletic performance through the development of strengthspeedagility, and athleticism.  But the benefits of strength training are not limited to athletes (or even active individuals, for that matter).  Everyone can benefit from a well-designed strength training program.  Strength training can benefit your heart, improve your balance, strengthen your bones, help you lose weight, and make you look and feel better.

Benefits of strength training include:

  • Protects bone and muscle mass.  After puberty, you begin to lose about 1% of your bone and muscle strength every year.  One of the best ways to stop, prevent, and even reverse bone and muscle loss is to add strength training to your exercise regimen.
  • Increases strength, improves fitness.  Not just for sports.  Strength training can enhance performance of everyday tasks like lifting, carrying, and walking up stairs.
  • Better body mechanics and posture.  Improved coordination and balance.
  • Improves flexibility.  Exercise muscles through a full range of motion and improve overall body flexibility.  Increased flexibility reduces the risk of muscle pulls and back pain.
  • Decreases likelihood of injury.  Strong muscles, tendons, and ligaments are less likely to give way under stress and are less likely to be injured.  Increased bone density and strength reduces back and knee pain by building muscle around these areas.
  • Aids in disease prevention.  Risk reduction and prevention of arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, stress and anxiety, cold and flu… and the list goes on and on.
  • Boosts energy levels, improves mood.  Strength training will elevate your level of endorphins (natural opiates produced by the brain), which will make you feel great.  It has also been shown to be a great antidepressant, improve sleep quality, and improve overall quality of life.
  • Helps burn more calories.  You burn calories during and after strength training.  Strength training can boost your metabolism by 15% — that can really jumpstart a weight loss plan.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

An Injury Prevention Program for Athletes

10 May

The physical demands of sports increase as the frequency and intensity of participation increase.  A structured injury prevention program should be a component of every athlete’s strength and conditioning training.  And, while it’s impossible to prevent every injury, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (among others) supports preventative training as a way to potentially reduce the incidence and severity of sports related injuries.

Balance training can be performed, in socks, on a stable (floor) or unstable (Airex balance pad) surface.  Athletes should balance on one leg, with no knee flexion (and no movement in the upper body), for 30 seconds, then switch leg after 30 seconds.  Balance training should progress by increasing the amount of time spent balancing on each leg or adding an activity like catching and throwing a ball with a partner while balancing on one leg.

Functional (movement-based) strength training for athletes should incorporate agonist-antagonist paired sets (opposing muscle groups) to strengthen and stabilize joints.  In addition to more traditional lower-extremity exercises, like the squat and leg press, posterior chain exercises that focus on the lower-back, glutes, and hamstrings can easily be added to any athlete’s strength training regimen.  At Athletic Performance Training Center, we favor bilateral exercises like the glute-ham raise (Nordic hamstring curl) and unilateral exercises like the single-leg Romanian deadlift.

Core stability training is useful to develop strength and stability through the entire core — shoulders through hips.  Exercises like the 4-point plank, 3-point plank (arm or leg raised), and side plank can be performed with minimal space and do not require any equipment.  We also like rotational exercises like medicine ball throws and kettlebell swings; and anti-rotational exercises, which require dynamic limb movement with isometric core contraction.

Mobility training is important to develop and increase range of motion, especially through the core and lower-body.  Exercises like linear and lateral leg swings, forward and backward walking lunges, and hurdle walks (alternating legs, forward and backward, over a hurdle) are recommended as an adjunct to traditional strength training.

A well-designed Yoga program can incorporate all of the aforementioned training components, improving balance, functional strength, core strength and stability, and mobility.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Is the Upright Row Exercise Dangerous?

24 Apr

The upright row exercise (pictured) is popular with bodybuilders, athletes, and general fitness enthusiasts.  It is usually performed to increase upper-back and shoulder muscle size.  The upright row also tends to increase neck girth, making it especially popular with football and rugby players.

Although it is a common strength training exercise, the upright row is not particularly functional, from an athletic performance (movement) training perspective.  Additionally, there are concerns about the short- and long-term safety of this exercise.

The problem occurs when you raise your arms and add resistance in that position.  Every time you raise the weight, a small tendon in your shoulder gets pinched (known as impingement) by the bones in the shoulder.  This  may not hurt immediately.   It may not even hurt for a long time.  The problem is, the tendon can gradually become worn down and damaged.  You may not even know you have a developing problem until serious injury occurs.

The upright row involves considerable medial or internal shoulder rotation. This action creates significant torque within your shoulder joints. This torque, in turn, places a potentially injurious load on the small muscles that control the stability of your shoulder joint, specifically your rotator cuff. Some exercisers find that upright rows place their shoulders in a mechanically disadvantageous position that can result in shoulder pain.

Use a wider grip and limit the range of motion of the upright row exercise by not lifting your upper arms past parallel to the floor, since this increases your risk of shoulder impingement and injury.  If you find upright rows hurt your shoulders, perform lat raises or shrugs for your trapezius muscles instead.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Boost Your Performance with Contrast Training

19 Apr

There are various differences in the physical demands of sports, based on factors such as the sport, itself, and positional differences among and between athletes.  Different sports require athletes to move through unique movement patterns which, for training purposes, can be categorized into vertical, linear, and lateral.  Exercises that focus on strength and power development, in these three areas, should be at the forefront of every athlete’s training program.

One of the goals of athletic performance training should be to increase the athletes’ work capacity while improving (reducing) their recovery time.  Contrast training is a highly effective method for improving many physical attributes involved in athletic performance, including strength, power, speed and agility — if implemented properly.  Contrast training involves performing a set of a heavy resistance exercise, immediately followed by a set of a biomechanically similar power exercise (for example, a barbell back squat, immediately followed by a squat jump).  Complex training is a similar approach, which involves performing 3-4 sets of heavy resistance training followed by 3-4 sets of the biomechanically similar power exercise.

The benefits of contrast training include:

  • Effective in producing results
  • Highly efficient
  • Allows for high work density
  • Time effective
  • Allows athletes to complete fewer training sessions in order to yield the same or greater results
  • May have implications for injury prevention

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!

Your thoughts?

Injury Rates Higher for Athletes Who Specialize in One Sport

10 Feb

1407870284000-xxx-concussions-hdb2641-421535871Here’s an article – and a worthwhile read – from Bruce Howard and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) titled, Injury Rates Higher for Athletes Who Specialize in One Sport.

No new news here, just more support for multi-sport participation and cross training as an injury prevention strategy.

Please also see related article:

Should Kids Play One Sport Year-Round?

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Think Positive, Avoid Injury

16 Dec

136973873_crop_650x440[1]One of my favorite quotes (attributable to no one in particular) is, “Work hard, stay positive, and good things will happen.”  I truly believe that, in order to achieve success, you must first expect success.

Recently, the power of positive thinking has been further supported by new research from the United Kingdom.  According to this research, optimistic athletes are less likely to become injured, and they bounce back faster if they do get hurt.

Researchers believe that positive thinking athletes may simply be more conscious of injury-prevention practices, or they may experience less stress during competition, reducing their susceptibility to injury.

Try turning your negative thoughts into positive, performance-enhancing ones.  Don’t let your pre-game jitters overcome your mental preparation.  Instead, interpret these feelings as a sign that you’re excited to play.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

What’s the Best Time to Exercise?

30 Nov

gym-weight-plate-clock[1]Generally, the best time to exercise is anytime you can drag yourself to the gym.  Life can be hectic, and most of us have to coordinate and manage schedules that include family, work, school, and other responsibilities and obligations.

However, depending on your training goal(s), there may be some logic to scheduling your workout based on the benefits you wish to achieve:

  • If you have a stressful event scheduled, like a test or meeting, exercising just before it can lessen your body’s physiological reaction to stress by helping your brain turn off its stress response.
  • If you have trouble sleeping, try exercising before bed.  Although some believe exercising before bed makes it harder to fall asleep, new research shows that people who exercise at any time of day or night sleep better than those who don’t (yoga seems to work best).
  • For injury prevention, exercise in the early evening.  If you’re prone to strained muscles and soreness, your “cold” muscles may not be ready to jump out of bed and workout.  Try exercising between 4 PM and 8 PM, when your core temperature is generally at its highest level.
  • If you want to lose weight, get your workout in before breakfast.  People who exercised before breakfast burned about 20 percent more fat compared with a group who ate breakfast first, according to a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
  • If you want to improve your muscle tone, try exercising after dinner.  The increase in core body temperature later in the day can translate to an improvement in exercise performance.  Muscle strength increases slightly, coordination is better, and your VO2 max (the amount of oxygen delivered to muscles) rises.  It’s a small improvement, but these factors my enable you to work a bit longer and harder.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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