Tag Archives: strength training

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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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!

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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:

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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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Strength Training Can Help You Run Faster

25 Jul

STFThere are several factors implicated in running speed.  Form and technique are certainly part of the equation (although I train some very fast athletes who don’t have textbook running form).  Stride length and stride frequency are critical success factors for any runner/sprinter.  And research continues to show that lower-extremity strength and power — and the development thereof — can help any athlete improve his or her speed and running efficiency.

Strength training (weight lifting) enhances muscle strength, so your muscle fibers don’t fatigue as quickly.  This leads to better running speed, efficiency, and overall performance.  Exercises that target hip drive (flexion and extension), leg strength, and explosive power can all be incorporated into your workout to increase the amount of force you are able to generate against the ground, resulting in improved speed and running efficiency.

Perform strength exercises like kettlebell swings, squats, deadliftsRomanian deadlifts, and lunges.  Add explosive exercises like squat jumps and box jumps.  Choose two of the strength exercises and one of the explosive exercises, and perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions each, two or three days per week, with a day of rest between training days.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Jump Training Should Include Landing Mechanics

1 Jul

bootcamp-jump-squat[1]A few weeks ago I posted an article about jump training, which generated some commentary, particularly in the area of landing mechanics.  To clarify, at Athletic Performance Training Center, we incorporate landing mechanics training into all of our plyometric (jump) training.  Research shows that most non-impact knee injuries result from landing and/or cutting instability.  There is a higher prevalence among female athletes, especially those who play sports like soccer, basketball, and volleyball.

Biomechanical considerations, such as knee flexion (knees should be bent and not extended/straight upon landing); knee alignment (knees should not point inward or outward upon landing but, rather, point straight ahead); and hip motion (jump should begin with hip flexion — hips back; extend hips through the jump; and flex hips upon landing) should be closely observed.

There are also some neuromuscular considerations, as strength and conditioning professionals must ensure that athletes possess adequate quadriceps and hamstrings strength to accommodate muscle co-contraction and balance in force.

Plyometric training involves multi-directional consecutive jumping.  Technically correct posture and body alignment are emphasized, and athletes are instructed to land softly with knees and hips flexed while immediately preparing to jump again.  However, plyometric training alone may not reduce the risk of ACL injury, but it may be more effective when combined with other types of training.

Resistance/Strength training increases strength in the muscles that support movement of the skeletal system, specifically joints.  When muscles are consistently and progressively overloaded, the result is an increase in muscle size, increased motor unit recruitment, and improved coordination — all of which influence muscle strength.

Neuromuscular training, a comprehensive approach that incorporates plyometric training, strength training, balance training, and proprioceptive training (the body’s reaction/response to external stimuli), is a sound training strategy for athletes.

Training should begin with a movement-based warmup and conclude with appropriate stretching and flexibility exercises.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Improve Your Vertical Jump Performance with Jump Training

10 Jun

Hockey-Squat-Jump[1]The improvement of an athlete’s vertical jumping ability can contribute significantly to overall sports performance.  Basketball and volleyball players are obvious examples of athletes who benefit from the ability to execute a strong vertical jump (VJ).  However, most other athletes can also benefit from jump training, because many sport-specific movements rely upon extension of the hip, knees, and ankles (triple extension).

Vertical jumps use a forceful and rapid concentric (pushing) action of the leg muscles to create separation from the ground.  Fast-twitch (Type IIa) muscle is a major determinant of force production.  For more on fast-twitch muscle development, please refer to Developing Fast-Twitch Muscle to Improve Power Output.

The following are examples of different types of jumps that can help you improve your strength, explosive power, and athleticism:

A squat jump (SJ) is a vertical jump from a static start.  From the static start position, maximal concentric muscular action is exerted, using triple extension.  You can further improve force development by adding resistance (an external load), such as a hex barbell, dumbbells, or weighted vest.

A countermovement jump (CMJ) starts with a movement in the opposite direction of the jump, followed by an explosive upward movement.  In addition to loaded squat jumps, this movement is executed in Olympic lifts, such as high pulls, power snatches, and power cleans.

The one-step approach jump (1-step AJ) is an exercise where an athlete takes a step forward into a CMJ.  An example of the 1-step AJ is a volleyball player approaching the net during the execution of a spike.  It’s preferable to incorporate the 1-step AJ into an athlete’s jump training only after the athlete has demonstrated the ability to perform a technically correct SJ and CMJ.

Depth jumps (DJ) are a type of plyometric exercise that use potential energy and the force of gravity to store energy in the muscles and tendons.  The DJ is performed by having the athlete step off an elevated platform, landing, then reversing the movement into a powerful, vertical jump.  Depth jump training is a common training modality for improving lower extremity power and speed.

Jump training should always incorporate proper landing mechanics: The athlete should focus on landing with hips down and back; knees bent and pointing straight ahead; and on the entire surface of the foot (not only on the balls of the feet)

Athlete’s who engage in both strength training and VJ exercises have a better chance of improving their VJ performance to a greater degree than those who only strength train or jump train independently.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Strength Training Reduces Injury Rate in Young Athletes

13 May

youth_big[1]Participation in sports can induce several beneficial effects in youth athletes, including improvements in cardiovascular risk profiles and bone health.

In contrast to the beneficial effects, participation in sports may also induce an inherent risk of injuries, especially in high-intensity sports with frequent changes in movement, velocity, and direction with high impacts and contacts between players.

Obviously, injury prevention is important, and it’s necessary to implement preventative measures to reduce the risk of injury and support the health benefits associated with playing sports.

“Strengthening muscles through resistance training will increase the forces they are capable of sustaining, making them more resistant to injury,” according to a recent study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. (Zouita, S., et.al.)

“These effects include strength enhancement of supporting connective tissues and passive joint stability, and also increased bone density and tensile strength.”

“… regular participation in an appropriately designed (and supervised) exercise program inclusive of resistance training can (strengthen muscles and connective tissues, and) enhance bone mineral density and improve skeletal health and likely reduce injury risk in young athletes.”

When incorporated with sport-specific skill training, strength training can improve physical performance and reduce injuries.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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