Tag Archives: strength training

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?

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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!

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6 Ways to Trim Your Waist

2 Aug

If you want to slim your waistline, you can’t focus on spot training. You will need to increase your fat burning furnace with strength training, cardiovascular activity, and an appropriate diet.  Done in combination, these strategies will help you trim your waist quickly and improve your health.  Fat carried around the waistline increases your risk for serious health issues, including Type 2 diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers.

Here are 6 ways to slim and trim your waist:

  1. Have a plan.  Set a fat loss goal for yourself.  In order to shed one pound of fat per week, you will need to burn 500 calories per day.  This can be accomplished through exercise and diet – for example, you could burn 250 calories with exercise and reduce your calorie intake by 250, daily.
  2. Get moving.  Engage in vigorous activity. Moderate-to high-intensity activity accelerates the fat/calorie burning process.  Jogging burns almost twice as many calories as walking.  Other good calorie-burning activities include racquetball, jumping rope, and hiking.
  3. Try interval training.  If vigorous activity is too aggressive, initially, try interval training.  This approach involves alternating intervals of high- and low-intensity activity.  Begin with a moderate activity, like walking, and incorporate periods of jogging, as tolerated.  Rotate between walking and jogging during your workout, gradually increasing the duration of your high-intensity activity.
  4. Lift weights.  Exercise with weights, or some other type of resistance (even body weight), at least twice per week.  Total-body training sessions will benefit all your major muscle groups, and trim your waist in the process.  Incorporate core (planks, leg raises, etc.) and rotational exercises (lateral kettlebell swings, weighted twists) into your training plan.
  5. Watch your diet.  Make sure your diet – both quality and quantity – is aligned with your goals.  Keep your daily calories consistent with your ideal/target weight.  Choose nutrient-dense foods that contain fewer calories and allow you to feel satisfied.  Produce and protein are the rule.  Fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains are high in fiber, which take longer to digest.  Keep your dairy low-fat and your protein lean.
  6. Eat breakfast, and don’t skip meals.  Avoid sugary, high-carb breakfasts and instead choose protein and whole grains.  Studies show that a protein-rich breakfast like an egg-white omelet will fill your stomach and help to reduce food cravings later in the day.  Eat, but don’t feast, every three to four hours to keep your metabolism running, so your body won’t go into starvation mode and stop burning calories — which is what happens when you don’t eat for extended periods of time.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

6 Ways to Run Farther

7 Jul

Increasing the distance they run is a challenge for beginning runners, and can be a challenge for all endurance athletes.  Sometimes the obstacles these athletes encounter are physical, sometimes mental, and sometimes both.  Setting short- and long-term goals can help with the mental challenges of running.  Don’t worry about how large or small your goal seems, just keep moving.  There are several strategies that can help runners safely and effectively push their distances a little bit farther.  For safety, keep your weekly mileage increases to no more than 10%.

Here are 6 ways to improve your cardiovascular endurance and increase the distance you run:

  1. Warm-up.  Always perform an adequate, movement-based warm-up prior to your run.  Forget about the “old-school,” pre-workout static stretching routine – current research overwhelmingly discourages it.  An appropriate, dynamic warm-up can improve running efficiency and reduce potential problems like cramping and muscle tightness.  And, as long as we’re addressing warm-up, always allow time to cool-down following your run.
  2. Get off the treadmill.  Let’s be honest… running on the treadmill can be boring.  Whenever weather conditions and safety allow, get outside and run.  If necessary, invest in some cold-weather running gear.  The great outdoors provides fresh air, great scenery, and an endless variety of paths and routes.  Enjoying your natural surroundings can distract you and help keep your mind off your mileage.
  3. Change speeds.  Don’t worry about keeping an aggressive pace for the entire length of your run.  If and when needed, slow down to a very light jog, or even a walk.  This strategy may enable you to cover more distance, and you’ll still get a great workout.  As you progress, gradually increase your running time and reduce your light jog/walk time.
  4. Run with a partner.  Research supports training with a friend.  There’s nothing like a training buddy to push you, keep you motivated, accountable, and on-task.  If you usually run alone, ask a friend or family member to join you.  If that’s not an option, there may be a local running group you can join.
  5. Add HIIT.  High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) may be the single-best way to improve your muscular and cardiovascular endurance.  HIIT involves alternating intervals of high- and low-intensity activity.  Try adding this 10-minute HIIT routine to your plan: Run at as aggressive a pace as you can maintain for 30-seconds.  Immediately follow with 90-seconds of light jogging.  Repeat this 2-minute interval, four more times (five total).
  6. Get stronger.  I’m sure you’ve noticed that strength training has become a common thread in my weekly articles.  Running puts stress on your body.  Strengthening your muscles and connective tissue can help to reduce the negative impact of running on your body.  Increasing muscle endurance means going longer – more miles – before feeling fatigued.  Strength training for 20-30 minutes, 2-3 times per week, is all you need to build and maintain muscle mass.  A former business partner, who trains for (and runs) marathons, swears by yoga to improve hip strengthflexibility, and mobility.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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