Tag Archives: strength

Improve Mobility: Make Your Workouts More Functional

19 Aug

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Physioball Weight Roll

We focus on functional training for our athletes.  That means movement-based — and not muscle-based — exercises make up the majority of every athlete’s workout.  In addition to developing strength, speed, agility, and athleticism, we want our athletes to improve mobility, balance, coordination, and stability.  All these components contribute to a more powerful, capable athlete.

Ultimately, the athlete’s training should reflect and support the demands and movement patterns of his or her sport.

Better mobility helps athletes reduce the incidence of injury, and also gives players a considerable advantage on the court or field.  Hip and ankle mobility are important for explosive movements like sprinting; accelerating and decelerating; changing direction; and blocking and tackling.

  • Unilateral exercises (those which load one side of the body at a time), like single-arm presses and single-leg squats, are probably more reflective of sports performance than traditional bilateral exercises (loading both sides equally).  We like alternating between unilateral and bilateral exercises, for a specific movement or muscle group, every other week, to build a stronger, more balanced musculature.
  • Perform more exercises standing, including standing on one leg.  When you sit or lie down to do an exercise, you’re not supporting your own weight and, as a result, you’re compromising the development of core strength and stability.
  • Get away from training on machines that “lock” your body into exercises that don’t require balance or stability, and those that don’t work multiple joints and muscle groups from different angles.  Opt instead for free-weight exercises using dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, or even sandbags.
  • Move through different planes of motion when you workout.  Lateral, transverse (diagonal), rotational, and anti-rotational exercises are great additions to any training regimen.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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Is Flexibility Overrated?

12 Aug

USA Basketball Senior National Team Training Day 1Is there a relationship between flexibility and athletic performance?  And, if there is a relationship, is more necessarily better?

Flexibility and Performance

There’s a difference between movement quantity and movement quality.  Speed, strength, power, balance, and stability are qualitative aspects of movement.  For functional movements, i.e., sports performance, quality of movement is more important than quantity.

Most elite athletes have extraordinary levels of strength, power, endurance, or balance.  And, while there are elite athletes with exceptional flexibility, there are others with only average flexibility.  Ultimately, it’s less about the extent of your range of motion (ROM) and more about how you use (what you do with) what you have.

The average person probably has the necessary range of motion to execute most sports movements.  Their deficiencies usually have little to do with range of motion.  The issue is typically attributable to strength, power, mobility, or coordination, not flexibility.

Iashvili (1983) found that active (dynamic, movement-based) ROM and not passive (static) ROM was more highly correlated with sports performance.  Arguably, any further passive static ROM developed through passive static stretching will not provide any extra benefit.

There is a considerable body of research that discourages pre-activity static stretching — due to its potential to reduce strength and power output — in favor of dynamic warmup.  Studies show that flexibility in the muscles of the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings) is related to slower running and diminished running economy.  Interestingly, it has been shown that stiffer leg muscles in endurance athletes may make them more economical in terms of oxygen consumption at sub-max speeds.

Flexibility and Injury Prevention

The relationship between flexibility and injury prevention is mixed, at best.  Two studies involving soccer and hockey players revealed that players with more flexible groins do not suffer fewer groin injuries, while players with stronger adductors had less strains.  There is actually more evidence to support that lateral imbalances in strength and stability are a better predictor of injury than lack of flexibility.

There are some studies suggesting that musculoskeletal tightness may be associated with an increased likelihood of muscle strain injury.  Other studies, including Knapik, J.J. et al. 1992, found that subjects in the least flexible and most flexible quintiles were equally likely to get injured — 2.2-2.5 times more than subjects in the middle quintile (average flexibility).

The reality is that sports injuries are produced by a lot of different factors, and flexibility (or lack thereof) is only one of them.  It would be inappropriate to assign a level to the importance of flexibility as it relates to injury prevention.

For most athletes in most sports, there is probably little to be gained by increasing flexibility or range of motion.  Athletes are better off developing additional strength and stability within a particular range of motion.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

The 3 H’s for Athletes

17 Jun

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There are lots of qualities and characteristics that are important elements of athletic performance and achievement.  Ability, skill, and talent are — obviously — what every athlete aspires to develop.

But there are also intangible — effort-related — attributes that can improve any athlete’s performance.  Every team needs these athletes.  Persistent kids who work hard to get the most out of their talents and abilities.

Here are three of those attributes that will make any athlete hard to beat.

The 3 H’s for Athletes:

  1. Hard Work.  Get in the weight room.  Improve your strength, speed, agility, and athleticism.  Practice your sport-specific skills.  Improve your ball-handling, hitting, skating, foot skills, or whatever your sport requires.  Have a plan and work smart.
  2. Heart.  Believe in yourself.  Play with aggressiveness, confidence, and energy.  Hard work begets confidence.  Be confident, but not cocky.  Be positive, and have a “can-do” attitude.  Expect to succeed every time you’re on the field or court.
  3. Hustle.  It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re the most talented player on the field or court.  Never allow yourself to be out-worked.  Whatever your 100% looks like, give 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!

Your thoughts?

Exercise Spotlight: Kettlebell Thruster

30 Jul

The kettlebell (KB) thruster is a total-body, multi-joint exercise designed to improve strength and power performance.  This exercise can improve your ability to transfer energy from the lower to upper extremities, and serves as a great general muscular conditioning exercise for the whole body.

Because many sports involve multiple movements that require high-power output, the application of the KB thruster into an athlete’s training program may be beneficial.  Additionally, KB training is a space- and time-efficient method of training that can be used with a variety of age groups and experience levels.

The benefits of the KB thruster include:

  • combines two multi-joint exercises
  • provides more of a challenge (greater muscular demand) than if each exercise was performed alone
  • mimics sport-specific and functional movement patterns

Here’s a video that demonstrates proper exercise technique for the kettlebell thruster exercise.

Variations of the KB thruster exercise include performing the exercise with two kettlebells, dumbbells, or resistance bands with handles.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Make Waves to Get Stronger

7 May

At our facility, the goal is always the same — improve athletic performance and fitness through the development of strength and conditioning.  But we use a wide variety of tools to help our clients reach (and exceed) their goals.

Heavy ropes are one of the tools we use to improve strength, muscular endurance, and build lean muscle mass.  They work each arm independently, eliminating strength imbalances, and provide a great cardio-metabolic workout in the process.

Heavy ropes are available in a variety of lengths and thicknesses, but a 50-foot, 1 & 1/2-inch-thick rope tends to work best for most people.  You can purchase them from a fitness retailer or website, or make your own.  To anchor it, just loop it around a pole.

Here are some heavy ropes training tips:

  • Don’t just wave the ropes up and down.  Different motions will work different muscles and skills.  Swing the ropes in circles, side-to-side, or diagonally.  Alternate between simultaneous and alternating swings.
  • Use the ropes anytime during your workout.  Heavy ropes can be used for a dynamic warmup, finisher, or an entire workout in and of themselves.
  • Adjust the resistance by moving closer to or farther away from the anchor point.  The amount of slack in the rope determines the load.  Moving toward the anchor point (more slack) increases the intensity.
  • Switch your grip.  Hold the rope underhand, overhand, or double (fold over) the ends.
  • Keep both feet flat on the floor, shoulder width apart; to start, hold the ends of the rope at arm’s length in front of your hips; knees bent, hips down and back, chin up, chest up.

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!

Your thoughts?

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?

Improve Performance With Single-Leg Exercises

6 Oct

Bulgarian Split Squat (down)

Bulgarian Split Squat (up)

At Athletic Performance Training Center, we know it’s important to incorporate single-leg exercises into an athlete’s training regimen.  We alternate, weekly, between bilateral and unilateral exercises, to improve strength, power, mobility, and balance/stability.

A new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that all athletes might need to do more single-leg exercises.  In the study, researchers discovered that both jumpers’ (e.g., basketball, volleyball) and nonjumpers’ legs were not equally strong.  The natural tendency is for athletes to shift their weight, to some degree, to their dominant leg.  According to the study, that contributes to a strength imbalance that can hurt performance and lead to injuries.

Try different single-leg exercises, like lunges (stationary or walking; forward, backward, or lateral).

At APTC, we favor the single-leg squatsingle-leg pressstep-up, and Bulgarian split squat (rear foot elevated).  Perform 2 or 3 sets of 10 repetitions with a weight that is challenging but reasonable.

As you might imagine, the same principle applies to upper-body strength training.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Dynamic Warmup is the Most Effective Pre-Activity Strategy

5 Apr

You can add another study to the overwhelming and growing mountain of research supporting dynamic (movement-based) warm-up — and not static stretching — before engaging in competitive power sports.

This study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, sought to compare and quantify the effects of static stretching and dynamic warm-up on jump performance in NCAA DI female college volleyball players.

As expected, dynamic warm-up was found to result in a significantly higher level of jump performance than static stretching, especially when performed closer to the time of competition.  Athletes’ subsequent jump performance was better when the dynamic warm-up was done within 5-10 minutes preceding competition compared to 25-30 minutes prior to competition.

Hundreds of studies corroborate dynamic warm-up’s similar impact on strength, power, speed, and agility performance.  Athletes, coaches, trainers… get with the program.  Improve performance by eliminating pre-activity static stretching and implementing a dynamic warm-up that reflects the demands and movement patterns of the activity – before workouts, practices, and games.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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