Tag Archives: movement prep

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?

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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?

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?

Make Your Workout More Efficient and Productive

12 Apr

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?

Dynamic Warm-Up vs. Static Stretching

14 Aug

When I travel off-site to work with groups, teams, and organizations, I always ask about their pre-activity routine.  Specifically, I ask about what they do (non-sport-specific) to warm-up before a workout, practice, or game?  Invariably, the answer involves some form of static stretching.  And why not?  Static stretching has been helping athletes to “get loose” longer than any of us can remember (it was certainly part of my warm-up, decades ago)… right?  Well, the reality is, stretching elongates and relaxes your muscles, and does not necessarily prepare them to generate force.  When compared to static stretching, dynamic warm-up (or, movement prep) is a better pre-activity strategy for increasing strength and power output; improving running endurance; and is just as effective for injury prevention.

There are several articles supporting Dynamic Warm-up/Movement Prep vs. Static Stretching:

With regard to the statement that static stretching elongates and relaxes muscles, Covert, et. al. found, in their study – Ballistic vs. Static Stretching – “The static stretching group demonstrated a statistically greater increase in hamstring muscle length than the ballistic stretching group.  No injuries or complications were attributed to either stretching group.” (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research)

In their article, The Effect of Acute Stretching on Agility Performance, Van Gelder and Bartz concluded that “Dynamic warm-up/movement prep significantly improves agility performance, compared with static stretching or no stretching.” (JSCR)

Frantz and Ruiz compared dynamic warm-up vs. static warm-up, on vertical jump (VJ) and standing long jump (LJ) in collegiate athletes, in their article, Effects of Dynamic Warm-up on Lower Body Explosiveness (JSCR), asserting the following:

  • Dynamic warm-up participants jumped significantly higher (VJ).
  • “Individuals jumped significantly further (LJ) after no warm-up compared to static warm-up.”
  • “Dynamic warm-up increases both VJ height and LJ distance.”
  • Athletes can improve vertical jump “by simply switching from a static warm-up routine to a dynamic routine.”

Pacheco, et. al. studied the short-term effects of different stretching exercises during the warm-up period on the lower limbs in their article, The Acute Effects of Different Stretching Exercises on Jump Performance (JSCR).  The authors compared no stretching, static stretching, and “active stretching” (dynamic warm-up).  “The results of this study suggest that active stretching can be recommended during the warm-up for explosive force disciplines.”

The effect of static stretching on cycling economy (muscle endurance) was examined by Wolfe, et al. (JSCR), in their study, Time Course of the Effects of Static Stretching on Cycling Economy .  When comparing no stretching with static stretching, they concluded “… coaches and highly trained endurance cyclists should exclude static stretching immediately before moderate intensity cycling because it reduces acute cycling economy.”

Dynamic warm-up/movement prep will better prepare your muscles to generate force when you workout, practice, or play.  The best warm-up is one in which you use the same movements you will need in those activities.  For example, a pre-game (non-sport-specific) warm-up for basketball players should include running, backpedaling, shuffling, jumping, hopping, and other exercises that emphasize acceleration, deceleration, and change of direction.

Where does stretching fit into your routine?  Stretching (and the foam roll, which I’ll discuss in another post) is still a great post-activity strategy.  Static-stretching – after a workout, practice, or game – won’t necessarily prevent muscle soreness, but it should be part of your post-activity recovery plan.  The benefits of stretching after your workout (according to the Mayo Clinic) include:

  • Increased flexibility and joint range of motion
  • Improved circulation
  • Better posture
  • Stress relief
  • Enhanced coordination

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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