Tag Archives: strength training

Strengthen Your Weaknesses

25 Mar

athletes-collage[1]We train hundreds of athletes, and one of the things they all have in common is that they come to us with strengths and areas for improvement (I like that term better than “weaknesses”).  And, certainly, even their strengths can be improved.

The first step is identifying and understanding the athlete’s area for improvement and developing a plan to strengthen it.  A baseline assessment is a good starting point, and it’s also helpful to watch the athlete play his/her sport of choice.

Typically, we all gravitate toward our own comfort zones, and athletes are no different as it relates to their training.  The average athlete will avoid certain exercises when that should be his/her focus.  We don’t ignore or neglect areas of strength, but we focus on exercises in which athletes are the weakest (exercises they typically avoid).

Some athletes may need more attention to improvements in balance and stability; others may benefit from core strengthening.  They all have areas they can improve.

Regardless of the athlete’s area for improvement, our focus is on training movements, and not just muscles.  Some of the athletes we train are already pretty strong.  We want to help them better leverage and apply their strength in a way that’s relevant to the sport they play.

Our goal is to try and make them faster; more explosive; more balanced and stable; and more mobile and flexible.  And this isn’t limited to just running and jumping.  We want to make all their muscle movements faster and more powerful.

Although we use a lot of “traditional” weight training exercises (sometimes, they’re still the best), we also favor stuff like blood flow restriction (BFR) training, suspension training, anti-rotational training, and body-weight exercises.

The key is to emphasize speed, agility, quickness, acceleration, power, and metabolic conditioning along with strength and flexibility.  All of these aspects combine to create a better athlete.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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Build More Strength With These Strategies

18 Mar

superman[1]Here’s a nice article from Men’s Health titled, 5 New Rules of Super Strength.  The five training “secrets” discussed in the article echo our training philosophy at Athletic Performance Training Center.

Getting stronger means not only working hard, but also working smart.  These five strategies can help any athlete take his or her training — and results — to the next level.

  1. Fuel your body with fat.  High-quality fats are a more efficient source of energy than carbs.  (please see, Fat is not the Enemy)
  2. Quality trumps quantity.  A longer workout is not necessarily a better workout.  Keep your intensity level high by minimizing rest intervals and using supersets (we favor agonist-antagonist paired sets).
  3. Learn to react faster.  The ability to react and respond quickly can be a game-changer, and can be developed and improved with practice.
  4. Add contrast training.  As stated above, high intensity workouts are best.  Follow a strength exercise with an explosive movement (e.g., perform a set of squats, immediately followed by a set of squat jumps) to recruit more motor neurons and trigger a surge of muscle-building hormones.
  5. Finish fast.  You won’t build fast muscle-memory by moving slowly.  Finish your workout with speed work.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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It’s (almost) All About Speed

11 Mar

STFSpeed is a (insert cliché) difference maker/game changer/game breaker in virtually every sport.  It can be the difference between starting and sitting; winning and losing.

And agility, or “quickness” (which is basically the speed at which an athlete is able to accelerate, decelerate, change direction, and react), may be even more important than “straight-line” speed (and certainly more relevant in most sports).

I hear a lot of people talk about sport aptitude/IQ and sport-specific skills (e.g., ball-handling and shooting, in basketball), and both are important.

But, as you ascend through higher levels of sport participation — middle school, high school JV, varsity, college, one thing is certain: If your opponent can outrun you, you’re at a competitive disadvantage.  Conversely, if you can outrun your opponent, the advantage becomes yours.

Not everyone has the potential to be fast, but everyone has the potential to be faster.

If you’re serious about improving and developing your speed, you’ll need to incorporate these three components into your training plan:

  1. Strength training
  2. Plyometrics
  3. Technical training (running form, mechanics)

It’s also a smart idea to consult with an experienced, qualified Strength and Conditioning Professional, to ensure that your plan is well-designed and -supervised.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Speed Development 101

18 Feb

Here’s a nice article from STACK expert, John M. Cissick, titled, Get Faster With 3 Essential Speed Training Strategies.  John’s article echoes the same advice and guidance we’ve shared with our athletes, over the years.

STRENGTH

Strength training provides the foundation so, first and foremost, get in the weight room.  As stated in a previous blog post, Speed Development Starts in the Weight Room.  You’ve got to get stronger in order to improve your ground reaction force and, ultimately, your speed.  Lower extremity strength exercises that focus on the hips, quadriceps, and hamstrings should be a part of each and every workout.

POWER

Plyometrics are exercises that “teach” your muscles to generate force quickly.  They are the most effective way to build lower-extremity power.  It’s important for young athletes to build a strong foundation, first, before proceeding to plyometric exercises.

SPEED

Speed training is an important part of the process, because you have to learn how to use the strength and power you’ve developed.  Quality repetitionstechnical correctness, and adequate rest intervals should be factored into your training plan.

For more information, please refer to Speed Training and Development (get faster!)Key Elements of Speed Training, and Maximize Your Speed Workouts.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Are You Overtraining?

1 Oct

A well-designed, periodized Strength & Conditioning program directs training strategies and recovery activities throughout the athlete’s off-season, pre-season, and in-season phases, to optimize performance and minimize fatigue.

But training doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and athletes often have to balance other factors, such as school-based team training/workouts, open gyms, etc. (not to mention family obligations, homework, studying, and part-time jobs)

Currently, my high school boys and girls basketball players train with me 2-3 days a week.  They are also expected to participate in “voluntary” team-based Strength & Conditioning activity at their schools (a discussion for another day) – usually 2 days a week – and 2-day-a-week open gym workouts.

So how much is enough and how much is too much?

Here’s a resource – An Overtraining Scale – from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Strength and Conditioning Journal that provides some insight into the subject of overtraining.

 

It’s important to understand that you shouldn’t “pre-determine” your training activity, relative to time off training.  For example, don’t make a decision to skip your Saturday workout just because you have a practice scheduled for Friday, without knowing how you’re going to feel Friday or Saturday.  This is where mental discipline becomes important.

Also understand that you’re going to have to work hard to achieve your goals.  You’re going to have to (reasonably) work through some fatigue – both mental and physical.  That’s how champions are made.  If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Build Strength with Training Volume, Not Frequency

3 Sep

More is not necessarily better, especially as it relates to training frequency, according to recent research from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

In the study (Training Volume, Not Frequency, Indicative of Maximal Strength Adaptations to Resistance Training; Colquhoun, Ryan J., et. al.), the authors determined that “6 weeks of resistance training led to significant increases in maximal strength and fat-free mass.  In addition, it seems that increased training frequency does not lead to additional strength improvements when volume and intensity are equated.  High-frequency (6x per week) resistance training does not seem to offer additional strength and hypertrophy benefits over lower frequency (3x per week) when volume and intensity are equated.”

Bottom line: When you’re at the gym, train hard.  Push yourself.  Get your work done.  But don’t underestimate the rest/recovery process that follows.  There’s no need to be in the gym every day to get results.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Getting Stronger is the Foundation

26 Dec

Are you an athlete who desires to improve your performance?  Are any of the items, below, part of your improvement plan?

  • Run faster
  • Jump higher
  • Better agility
  • Throw harder/farther
  • Hit harder
  • Kick harder/farther
  • More powerful
  • Generate more explosive force
  • Improve your sport-specific skill technique
  • Move more efficiently
  • Reduce the potential for injury

If you answered, “yes,” to any of the above, you’ll need to get stronger, because research says, overwhelmingly, that strength development is the common denominator — the foundation — for improvement in any and all of those areas.

Consult with a strength and conditioning professional and develop a well-designed, total body strength training program that the reflects the demands and movement patterns of your sport or activity.  Perform complex exercises that engage multiple muscles and joints — and all major muscle groups — each and every time you workout.  Challenge yourself by increasing the intensity, gradually, at regular intervals.

You’ll still need to invest the time and effort necessary to develop your sport-specific skills.  For example, if you’re a baseball player or golfer, a knowledgeable coach can help you with your swing mechanics and timing.  Strength training will help you to drive the ball.

And you don’t have to be an athlete to reap the benefits of strength training.  Getting stronger improves the body’s efficiency for performing everyday tasks like walking up stairs or carrying groceries, while reducing the incidence of aches, pains, and injuries.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Fit is Good, Strong is Better

8 Nov

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Strength training is the way to go.

In addition to improving the way you look, feel, and function, there continues to emerge compelling evidence that strength-based training also benefits long-term health and well-being.

The problem… ?  The vast majority of adults neglect to do even the minimum recommended amount of strength-based exercise.

Here is another resource – a large Australian study – providing support for strength-promoting exercise:

Push ups and sit ups could add years to your life according to a new study of over 80,000 adults led by the University of Sydney.

The largest study to compare the mortality outcomes of different types of exercise found people who did strength-based exercise had a 23 percent reduction in risk of premature death by any means, and a 31 percent reduction in cancer-related death.

Lead author Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from the School of Public Health and the Charles Perkins Centre said while strength training has been given some attention for functional benefits as we age, little research has looked at its impact on mortality.

“The study shows exercise that promotes muscular strength may be just as important for health as aerobic activities like jogging or cycling,” said Associate Professor Stamatakis.

“And assuming our findings reflect cause and effect relationships, it may be even more vital when it comes to reducing risk of death from cancer.”

The World Health Organization’s Physical Activity Guidelines for adults recommend 150 minutes of aerobic activity, plus two days of muscle strengthening activities each week.

Associate Professor Stamatakis said governments and public health authorities have neglected to promote strength-based guidelines in the community, and as such misrepresented how active we are as a nation.

He cites the example of The Australian National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey which, based on aerobic activity alone, reports inactivity at 53 percent. However, when the World Health Organization’s (WHO) strength-based guidelines are also taken into account, 85 percent of Australians fail to meet recommendations.

“Unfortunately, less than 19 percent of Australian adults do the recommended amount of strength-based exercise,” said Associate Professor Stamatakis.

“Our message to date has just been to get moving but this study prompts a rethink about, when appropriate, expanding the kinds of exercise we are encouraging for long-term health and well-being.”

The analysis also showed exercises performed using one’s own body weight without specific equipment were just as effective as gym-based training.

“When people think of strength training they instantly think of doing weights in a gym, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

“Many people are intimidated by gyms, the costs or the culture they promote, so it’s great to know that anyone can do classic exercises like triceps dips, sit-ups, push-ups or lunges in their own home or local park and potentially reap the same health benefits.”

The research, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology today, is based on a pooled population sample of over 80,306 adults with data drawn from the Health Survey for England and Scottish Health Survey, linked with the NHS Central Mortality Register.

The study was observational, however adjustments were made to reduce the influence of other factors such as age, sex, health status, lifestyle behaviours and education level. All participants with established cardiovascular disease or cancer at baseline and those who passed away in the first two years of follow up were excluded from the study to reduce the possibility of skewing results due to those with pre-existing conditions participating in less exercise.

Summary of key findings:

  • participation in any strength-promoting exercise was associated with a 23 percent reduction in all-cause mortality and a 31 percent reduction in cancer mortality
  • own bodyweight exercises that can be performed in any setting without equipment yielded comparable results to gym-based activities
  • adherence to WHO’s strength-promoting exercise guideline alone was associated with reduced risk of cancer-related death, but adherence to the WHO’s aerobic physical activity guideline alone was not
  • adherence to WHO’s strength-promoting exercise and aerobic guidelines combined was associated with a greater risk reduction in mortality than aerobic physical activity alone
  • there was no evidence of an association between strength-promoting exercise and cardiovascular disease mortality.

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!

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These Basic Exercises are Still the Best

8 Sep

Do you want to get stronger and more powerful?  Build more lean muscle mass?  Improve your muscular endurance?  Achieve a better level of overall fitness?

Regardless of your goal, strength training is the way to go, and some of the best exercises are the tried-and-true, old standards, like the SquatDeadliftRomanian DeadliftBench PressRowShoulder Press, and Pullup.

There are lots of exercise fads, gadgets, and gimmicks on the market, and a seemingly endless array of commercials and infomercials touting them as the “next best thing.”  And, while there is probably some merit to anything that gets people moving, you can’t do better than weight-bearing exercises that engage multiple joints and muscle groups using complex movements.

Squat

You can perform this exercise with dumbbells or a barbell, or using only your own body weight.  Single-leg squats are also an excellent, change-of-pace, variation.

Deadlift

Although this exercise is frequently performed with a barbell, we favor the trap bar.  It allows for safer execution, through better ergonomics, while not sacrificing any of the strength and muscle-building benefit.

Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

One of the best exercise for the muscles of your posterior chain — lower back, glutes, and hamstrings (We also really like the glute-ham raise).  Also try the single-leg RDL.

Bench Press

Perhaps the best upper-body strength and muscle-building exercise.  We also like the dumbbell bench press — done simultaneously, alternating, or iso (single-arm).

Row

The bent-over row, using dumbbells or a barbell, is a great “agonist-antagonist” (opposing muscle group) complement to the bench press.

Shoulder Press

The vertical version of the bench press, this exercise will also engage your core.  All the same variations apply.

Pullup

Wide grip, narrow grip, overhand, or underhand — this exercise will challenge you.  The lat pulldown exercise is a suitable variation if you’re not yet able to perform the pullup.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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