Tag Archives: strength training

6 Ways to Get Stronger

23 Jun

Every athlete can improve his or her performance by getting stronger.  Whether your sport involves running, jumping, hitting, throwing, or kicking, strength training can help you do it better.  Your sport-specific skills aren’t going to be enough if you’re the weakest, slowest player on the court or field.

Here are 6 ways to get stronger:

  1.  Get in the weight room.  I know this one sounds like a “no-brainer,” but I also know a lot of athletes who aren’t getting their work done in the weight room (you know who you are).  Strength training is not about having time to workout, it’s about making time.  Conditioning, and playing and practicing your sport, are not enough.  In order to get stronger, you’ve got to lift, push, and pull heavy “stuff.”  As I mentioned in last week’s article, you won’t get stronger by grinding out 3 set of 10 reps.  Building strength and power – for most exercises – requires that you work with a weight that challenges you for 4-6 repetitions per set.
  2. Set a goal.  What do you want to accomplish?  Maybe you want to run faster or jump higher.  Perhaps you want to throw, hit, and/or kick with more force or velocity.  Setting a goal for yourself is the first step.  You have to know where you want to go before embarking upon your journey.
  3. Have a plan.  Once you determine your goal, it’s time to develop a plan.  Your plan should include action steps that lead you from point A (the present) to point B (your goal), including exercises, repetitions, sets, intensity, volume, and frequency.  Make sure your plan is SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound).  And remember, your action steps must be consistent with your goal.
  4. Work your entire body.  Forget about “body part” training, working only certain parts of your body on specific days.  You should train like to work, play… and live.  That means it’s important to work all your major muscle groups, every time you workout.  Your body is meant to work as a functional, interconnected unit.  Make sure your training is functional, and reflects the demands of your sport, by training movements and not just muscles.
  5. Rest and refuel.  Every time you workout, you break down muscle.  Allowing yourself some time (48 hours is a good gauge) to recover, following your workout, helps your muscles to rebuild and recover in preparation for your next bout of strength training.  Nutrition – including post-workout nutrition — is important.  Active individuals should aim for 0.6-0.8 grams of protein, per pound of body weight, per day, including 20-30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of strength training.  Athletes may need as much as one gram of protein, per pound of body weight, per day.
  6. Get some help.  Consider enlisting the help of a reputable, qualified, and experienced certified strength training professional, at least to get you started.  He or she can guide and instruct you through exercise selection, proper form and technique, appropriate sets and repetitions, injury prevention strategies, nutrition guidelines, provide motivation, and more.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Strength Training Improves Change-of-Direction Speed

7 Jun

Regardless of the sport you play, strength and speed are “difference makers.”  And, although linear sprint speed is important, most athletes will need to change direction while moving at high-speed.

This is another area where strength training becomes important to an athlete’s development.

The development of strength and power through the core, hips, and lower extremities has a positive effect on change-of-direction (COD) performance.  Research shows a high correlation between 1-repetition maximum/body mass and COD in exercises like squats and deadlifts.

In addition to the squat and deadlift exercises, the leg press and split squat are also beneficial to the development of hip and leg drive.

Single-leg exercises, like the single-leg squat, step-up, and Bulgarian split squat, add an element of balance and stability to your lower-extremity strength development.

Plyometric exercises, like box jumps and depth jumps, can help you build explosive power, improving the amount of force you are able to generate against the ground.

Since long-term (>2 years) strength training improves COD performance, it is recommended as early as childhood and adolescence.  Consult with a knowledgeable, experienced strength and conditioning professional for guidance regarding an age-appropriate, well-designed, and well-supervised program.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Cardio is Good, but Strength Training is King

17 May

Here’s a great article from Men’s Health titled, ​15 Reasons Lifting Is Better Than Cardio.  Using a food analogy, the article compares strength training to the main course and cardio to a side dish.

  • Strength training is better for building and strengthening muscle, and also improves joint and connective tissue strength.
  • Strength training is better for boosting your metabolism, and the effect persists longer into the post-workout (rest) phase.
  • Strength training is better for improving mobility and range-of-motion.
  • Strength training is better for reducing the risk of injury.
  • Strength training will make you look better.
  • Strength training provides way more variety.
  • Strength training helps us reverse the effects of aging and increase longevity.

If you love your cardio, stick with it.  You don’t necessarily have to do strength training instead of cardio.

Identify your goals, develop an exercise/workout plan that’s consistent with those goals, and get in the weight room.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

What’s Your Workout Motivation?

1 May

Why do you workout?  (and, conversely, why don’t you workout?)

Are you working toward a goal or do you just enjoy the process?

Is it for health and wellness?  Do you want to improve your quality (and quantity) of life?

Do you want to look better, perhaps get more lean and muscular?  (I saw a quote, recently, that said, “Diet if you want to look better in clothes; workout if you want to look better naked.”)

Do you want to feel better?  Are you working out to improve your energy level or functional movement?

Are you trying to lose a few pounds and, perhaps, get closer to your ideal body weight and reduce stress on your joints?

Do you work out with a friend or group of friends and enjoy the social interaction?

Do you want to get stronger, faster, and more athletic?  Is one of your goals to improve your performance?

Are you doing it for you, or for someone else?

The bottom line is, there is no wrong reason — and no one right reason — for working out (they’re all right).  As that shoe company says, “just do it.”

Please tag me back with a comment and share your motivation for working out (or your reason for not working out).  I will compile a list and share the best responses in a future blog post.  Thanks, in advance, for your feedback.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Does Kinesio Taping Really Work?

12 Apr

If you’ve watched sports recently, you have probably noticed athletes wearing kinesio tape (at the 2016 Olympics, women’s beach volleyball comes to mind).  This trend has trickled down to the college and high school levels, as well (I think it has become sort of a fashion accessory).  I’ve even seen a few of our local high school athletes wearing kinesio tape.

Functional taping is nothing new, mostly to stabilize injured joints.  The specific goal of kinesio taping (KT) is to improve sport-related muscle contraction.  It is assumed that KT can facilitate and stimulate muscle function, if applied properly, due to the elastic properties of the KT.

A recent Journal of Strength and Conditioning study evaluated the effect of KT on college athletes, as it relates to vertical jump strength, power, and balance.  According to the study authors, “The KT technique was not found to be useful in improving performance in some sports-related movements in healthy college athletes; therefore, KT… should not be considered by athletes when the sole reason of the application is to increase performance during jumping and balance.” (Nunes, et. al.)

Here’s what does work for improving vertical jump strength, power, and balance:  Strength training.  Forget about the gimmicks and shortcuts.  Consult with a qualified strength and conditioning professional about a program that incorporates core and lower-extremity strength, power, and balance training.  The impact that a well-designed strength training program has on your performance will be considerably greater than wearing kinesio tape.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

4 Biggest Strength Training Mistakes

17 Mar

Here’s a nice resource from our friends at ASD Performance titled, 4 Biggest Strength Training Mistakes.  It’s a good overview for athletes, active individuals, and Strength & Conditioning professionals.

Mistake 1: Focusing too heavily on assistance exercises

Focus on the the core (main) lifts – the ones that activate your largest muscle groups – like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses (there are lots of others).  These exercises are functional (they will improve the way you feel, function, and perform) and yield a high return on your exercise “investment.”  Think of assistance exercises – like biceps curls – as supplemental exercises.  It’s okay to incorporate them into your workout as long as they’re not the primary focus.

Mistake 2: Not addressing weak points

Everyone has strengths and areas for improvement.  It’s easy to avoid exercises you don’t like or exercises that focus on your weak areas.  Not addressing your weak points can lead to functional strength imbalances and an increased risk of injury.  Recognize your weak(er) areas and incorporate exercises that will help turn them into strengths or, at the very least, decrease the disparity between your strengths and weaknesses.

Mistake 3: Skipping the deload phase

Like our friends at ASD Performance, we also refer to deloading/unloading as “active recovery.”  There are lots of different – evidence-based and effective – theories and strategies for the active recovery phase.  The basic concept is this: You shouldn’t train with heavy weight, high intensity, high frequency, and high volume, all the time.  Your recovery phase is crucial to maximize short- and long-term gains, as well as overall physical well-being.  Every so often – and at regular intervals – you should decrease your training intensity, frequency, and volume for some finite period of time (e.g., the last week of each three-month cycle).

Mistake 4: Light weight with too many reps

This strategy may work well for your short-term, active recovery phase but, if you want to get stronger and more powerful, you’ve got to train heavy with low repetitions.  This means working with loads of about 80%-90% of your one-rep max (1 RM) at a rep range of about 3-6 reps per set, while maintaining proper technique.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Train, Don’t Exercise

23 Jan

Exercise and training are different concepts.

Maybe it’s semantics, but when I think of exercise, I think of a static, random activity.

Exercise is a generic activity of varying frequency.  Most people who go to the gym are exercisers (and, although exercise is less of a planned process, it’s undeniably better than nothing at all).

When I think of training, I think of a dynamic, planned, goal-oriented process with a desired result sometime in the future.  Each workout is part of the process, and should bring you one step closer toward your goal or desired result.

Training involves a consistently performed program, designed to improve function and performance at a specific activity.  And, in order to improve performance you need an appropriately-designed program, aligned with your goal(s).

Exercise is often done in response to “need.”  Training is motivated by “want.”

Short- and long-term goal setting is also an integral part of the training process.

Short-term goals provide “checks and balances” to ensure that the process is helping you progress toward your goal, and keep you on track.

Long-term goals provide focus and help keep you engaged.  They are the destination on your training “road map,” and represent accomplishment/achievement.

 Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Do Anything But Nothing

8 Jan

cancer-exercise-011When it comes to fitness, it’s not necessarily about what you do; it’s about doing something.

Science suggests that you can get healthier, stronger, and fitter by following any plan regularly.

According to Men’s Health, the CDC recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, along with twice-weekly muscle strengthening sessions (not an unrealistic goal, but the CDC reports that 3/4 of men don’t reach it).

Best of all, your choice of activities is virtually limitless.  Weightlifting, basketball, softball, jogging, yoga, hiking, and biking are just a few of the broad array of activities from which you can choose.

Obviously, the key is to have an action plan, and your plan should be aligned with your goals (which should be consistent with your body’s needs).

And, of course, the best exercise is the exercise you actually do.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Get Stronger, Get Smarter?

7 Sep

mental-training[1]Can regular exercise make you smarter?  A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research demonstrated an association between weekly strength exercise frequency and academic performance.  The study was conducted at a large southern state university in the United States.

The results of the study revealed that those who more frequently engaged in strength exercise had significantly higher GPA.

The findings suggest that regular engagement in strength exercise may not only have physical benefits but is also associated with academic achievement in high education.

There is a need to further investigate the mechanism of strength exercise on GPA among university students.

Related articles:

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Is Creatine For You?

1 Aug

pGNC1-4505613dt[1]Are you an endurance athlete?  If so, creatine can help you recover.  Do you lift weights?  Creatine can help you do more work per set.  Are you a sprinter?  Creatine delivers more energy for interval training and agility sports, like basketball and soccer.

Creatine is your primary fuel for explosive, high-intensity exercise.  It is found in foods like meat and fish.  Your body also makes its own creatine, but supplementation can increase your supply by as much as 33%.

If you’re looking to get bigger, start with a loading dose — 20 grams per day, in 5 gram doses, for the first five days.  If you play sports that require quick movements, skip the loading dose and take 3-5 grams per day.  With regard to safety, as long as you adhere to the appropriate dosing guidelines, creatine is safe.  If you have heart or kidney problems, talk with your doctor before taking creatine.

Forget about all the designer forms of creatine — they’re all marketing hype.  Stick with creatine monohydrate.  German creatine is high quality (look for the “Creapure” seal), as is creatine made in the U.S.  Powder, tablets, and bars are all effective forms of creatine.  Avoid liquid forms.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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