Core Stability

The core is where the most of the body’s power is derived. It provides the foundation for
all movements of the arms and legs. The core must be strong, have dynamic flexibility
and function synergistically in its movements in order to achieve maximum performance.

  • Motion of the human body is not isolated to one muscle or tissue moving in one specific
    direction. Rather, it is a complex event involving agonists and antagonist structures that
    work together to create changes in position and/or location, and to stabilize the body in
    all three directional planes. Regardless of what sport one plays, it is essential to have core strength and trunk stability to maximize performance and prevent injury.

What Makes Up the Core
The foundation of the core is much more than the abdominal muscles. It includes
muscles deep within the torso, from the pelvis up to the neck and shoulders. The core
includes the following structures:

  • Multifidus – deep spinal muscles that run segmentally from the neck (C2) to the
    sacrum. They produce extension and, to a lesser degree, rotation and lateral
    flexion forces that provide stability to joints at individual levels of the spine.
  • Interspinales, Intertransversarii, Rotatores – deep structures that attach
    directly to the spinal column. These are very important for rotatory motion and
    lateral stability.
  • External Obliques – abdominal muscles that attaches at the lower ribs, pelvis,
    and abdominal fascia.
  • Internal Obliques – abdominal muscles that attaches at the lower ribs, rectus
    sheath, pelvis and thoracolumbar fascia.
  • Transversus Abdominis – abdominal muscles that attaches at the lower ribs,
    pelvis and thoracolumbar fascia, and rectus sheath.

These abdominal muscles work together to transmit a compressive force, and act to increase intra-abdominal pressure that stabilizes the lumbar spine. They also work individually to perform trunk rotation, while the internal and external obliques on the same side can work together, or synergistically, to laterally flex the spine.
Rectus abdominis- abdominal muscle that attaches at the fifth through seventh ribs, the lower sternum and the front of the pubic bone. This muscle flexes the spine, compresses the internal organs of the abdomen and transmits forces laterally from the obliques. It is a common fallacy that the upper and lower rectus are isolated differently. Training the rectus can be done with one exercise.
Erector Spinae – help to counterbalance all the forces involved in spinal flexion. They begin as the sacrospinalis tendon that attaches at the sacrum and ilium. This tendon then gives rise to different muscles that run up the spine and obliquely to attach at lateral parts of the vertebrae and the ribs. In the cervical region, these muscles attach at the base of the skull.
Quadratus Lumborum – attaches at the 12th rib and the upper 4 lumbar vertebrae and the pelvis. It stabilizes the lumbar spine in all planes of motion, stabilizes the 12th rib and the attachment of the diaphragm during respiration and laterally flexes the trunk.
Latissimus Dorsi – this is the largest spinal stabilizer. It attaches via the thoracolumbar fascia to the lumbar vertebrae, sacrum and pelvis, and runs upward to the humerus. It assists in lumbar extension and stabilization, and also performs pulling motions through the arms.
Thoracolumbar Fascia – connects the latissimus dorsi, gluteal muscles, internal obliques and transverse abdominis, supplies tensile support to the lumbar spine, and is used for load transfer throughout the lumbar and thoracic regions.
Abdominal Fascia – connects to the obliques and rectus abdominis, and to the pectoralis major. Fascial connections that cross the midline transmit forces to the muscles of the opposite side of the body.

Training the Core
The common myth is that training the core simply involves sit ups and back extensions.
An efficient core routine consists of multiplanar movements – training in all planes of
motion. As the body moves, the center of gravity changes, and forces exerted by, and on,
the body’s tissues are constantly changing. Dynamic stabilization must be included to
increase proprioception and stability in the trunk, as well as in the rest of the body. This
allows the parts of the body to react efficiently to external forces and stresses, such as
gravity, changes in terrain, and carrying loads, as well as the internal forces exerted by
other muscles.

Dynamic stability is best achieved through training in functionally practical positions that mimic activities or movements in one’s particular sport, or in life as a whole. With this in mind, one can conclude that most core training that is done while sitting or lying down and limiting pelvic movement has little functional value. Medicine balls, balance boards and stability balls are great tools for core training and should be integrated into every program. Core exercises should include strengthening, as well as challenges such as standing one-legged and/or two-legged on stable and unstable surfaces, reacting to external forces such as a partner’s light push or the catching and throwing of a medicine ball, and moving the joints of the body through all planes of motion.

The goal of functional core training is to develop in the core a system of efficient
automatic responses to work as a stable base from which to generate optimal force and
motion.

Postural Distortion and Biomechanical Dysfunction
Consider how the chronic shortening of just one muscle, which happens to be a core
muscle, can impede performance and cause imbalances that lead to injuries. The rectus abdominis is a good example of an over worked muscle. As this muscle is overworked, the other core muscles are often ignored. Crunches, leg raises and exercises using abdominal machines all work only in the sagital plane, therefore limiting “benefit”
to muscles that produce hip and trunk flexion. (Note that repetitive trunk flexion places
increased injury-causing stress on the intervertebral discs of the lumbar spine). It is
imperative to train the core in a multi-planar fashion, especially the transverse plane, in
order to create stabilization in the trunk, and in effect more optimal posture, strength and motion in the entire body. The following is a common example of the result of
overworking the rectus abdominis. A tight rectus abdominis, when creating tension, or pull, on its upper and lower attachments, including the anterior pelvis, anterior ribs and inferior sternum, produces a flexion force in the trunk. This has consequences beyond the immediate structures affected.

These consequences include a chain of effects that begin with shortening and tightening
of the pectoral muscles. These muscles will exert an inferior tension on the clavicle,
superior ribs, and the anterior scapula and will assist in internally rotating the humerus.
The force of gravity also contributes to the internal rotation of the glenohumeral, or
shoulder joint, as the trunk flexes forward. Internal rotation of the humerus tensions and lengthens the external rotators of the shoulder which in combination with the tension exerted on the anterior scapula by the pecs, will bring the scapula into protraction, lengthening and weakening the middle and lower trapezius, and rhomboid muscles. (Note that a tight latissimus dorsi can also be a primary contributor to internal rotation of the humerus.) The internally rotated humerus and protracted scapula will place the rotator cuff muscles at a biomechanical disadvantage in dynamically stabilizing the glenohumeral joint. The cuff will not function effectively, increasing the risk of injury. The reaction of the cervical spine is two-fold. The lower segments of the cervical spine follow the forward and downward movement of the trunk, and they themselves flex, causing lengthening and weakening of the deep cervical flexor muscles. (This can also stress the outer layer of the intervertebral discs, which over time, may lead to injury.) Naturally, if the lower cervical spine flexes forward, the head will follow, and if this force is not countered, gravity will cause the head to fall forward. In order to prevent this from happening, tension will develop in the cervical extensors, including the upper trapezius, splenius, semispinalis, spinalis and sub-occipital groups, which attach to the base of the skull. The upper cervical segments including the base of the skull are extended, shortening the sub-occiptal muscles. This extension will allow the skull to remain somewhat level as it rests on the atlas, or the uppermost cervical vertebrae. The over-working of the upper trapezius muscle and lengthening and weakening of the middle and lower trapezius and the rhomboids will also contribute to early elevation of the scapula with shoulder motion. This will worsen the position of the glenohumeral joint and will further stress the rotator cuff. This example has been limited to the rectus abdominis. It is important to understand that single muscles are rarely the isolated culprits in postural distortions and biomechanical dysfunction. (An exception would be an acute specific muscle injury that has not healed correctly and has caused compensatory overloading in other areas.) Because muscles act synergistically and as agonists and antagonists, there is usually more than one contributor. There are also connections between muscles through tough fascial connective tissue, which help to transmit forces between tissues. These cases of dysfunction can be rooted in other parts of the body, as the musculoskeletal system functions as a whole. Not only will these faulty positions and compensatory biomechanics cause an athlete to move inefficiently. Over time they may lead to degenerative processes in the soft tissues and joints that will lead to further injury and impairment.
The neurological system also adapts to these changes, applying muscle memory, as it
controls the musculature. Training this system is essential in developing healthy
neurological pathways and muscle firing patterns. This is achieved through the methods
mentioned above – using medicine balls, balance boards and stability balls and
challenging the neuromuscular system. Any of the muscles mentioned above may be the source of dysfunctional patterns, but it will most likely be a combination of them that will be the cause. It is important to follow the entire kinetic chain when assessing and treating these conditions.
Cycling
Most cyclists focus on their hamstrings, quadriceps and gluteal muscles, and forget about
the importance of core stability. Consider how many hours the cyclist spends bent over in a flexed position on the aerobars, with no rotational or side bending motions. A strong core is needed to counterbalance these forces. With a focus on the core, a cyclist can generate more power and can sustain a higher level of intensity for longer periods. A stronger core also means less stress on the primary muscle movers and a delay in the build up of lactic acid. Even minor changes such as brake position can affect core stability. If the brake handle position is too low, the cyclist is forced to reach too far forward with their forearms. This reaching position forces the cyclist to raise their head forcing the pelvic girdle posterior. This position can cause a restriction in several key
muscles in the core, thus reducing performance. The ideal position for the forearms is to have the elbows bent and the forearms flattened out. In this position, the cyclist head drops into a more comfortable aerodynamic position, and the pelvis tilts forward. In this
position, the cyclist is able to use all the core muscles with improved efficiency.

Running
Now consider how a shortened rectus abdominis affects a tri-athletes performance during running. Although opinions about the ‘ideal running form’ vary greatly, most authorities will agree that the less energy that is expended, the more effective and efficient the running style will be.

When performing a biomechanical analysis, it is very common to see numerous
imbalances of which the athlete is completely unaware. By video taping an athlete during activity the practitioner can show and explain what is happening then correct it.
When analyzing a runner, some of the most common biomechanical faults looked
for are:
• Over-pronation (rolling in as arches collapse) in the feet – this can cause a series
of biomechanical imbalances from the foot up to the cervical spine.
• Excessive hip adduction – due to tight hip adductors and can cause increased load
in the lateral tissues such as the iliotibial band, tensor fascia lata and gluteus
medius.
• Lack of trunk rotation – due to restrictions in trunk rotators or shoulder extensors.

This can cause overload in the hip musculature, spinal joints, and other trunk
rotators.
• Lack of hip extension – caused by tight hip flexors restricting extension, and weak
gluteal muscles. This causes the extensors and rotators of the lumbar spine to
become overloaded in order to compensate for the lack of hip extension.
• Lack of shoulder extension – caused by restrictions in anterior shoulder muscles
or poor trunk rotation.

Educating yourself on how the core works will help to avoid injury, improve your athletic performance and increase training efficiency. Far too often people read the most popular book or take advice from someone who they think knows more than they do.
This cookie cutter approach does not take into account the persons specific needs and
goals. In my opinion anyone who participates in any sport or activity should have a
professional evaluate them for any weaknesses or poor movement patterns. I can’t tell
you how many patients have told me “It just started hurting I never did anything to it”. A
simple evaluation can save you from repetitive stress injuries.
Written by
Dr. Robert Inesta
Charles DeFrancesco
http://www.fitandfunctional.com

References:
1. McGill, S, Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance: Ontario. Wabuno Publishers. 2004.
2. Kendall FP, McCreary EK, Provance PG. Muscles: Testing and Function. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams
and Wilkins. 1993.
3. Runnersworld.com

How To Evaluate A Personal Trainer

When seeking a personal trainer, it is necessary for the public to educate themselves on how to interview the right person for the job. While there are many certified personal trainers out there, only a select few of them are truly competent. You should always ask and verify where their certification is from and what their credentials are. There are different types and levels of training certifications, only a handful of them are good. Most tests are multiple choice questions that are moderately difficult and some others require some essay or program design but are usually easy. A few of the certifications allow the trainer to take the test at home unsupervised. You should also not be fooled by a college degree. There are colleges out there teaching old cookie cutter information. More times than not these college programs do not create an environment that requires the trainer to demonstrate text book principles in an actual real life situation. What you need to look at is the continuing education courses the trainers have taken and how often they attend seminars. It is the seminars and practical workshops that make a trainer more knowledgeable.

It is difficult for the public to decipher a good trainer from a bad one. In many cases, even the worst trainer knows more about physical fitness than the average person. Below are some fundamental questions that should be asked before making your choice. They are designed to save you from choosing a bad apple.

Questions:

  • What certifications or degrees do they hold?
  • Do they attend workshops and seminars? Which ones?
  • How long have they been a trainer and where have they worked?
  • How thorough was your evaluation? Did they do a medical history and test flexibility, balance, core strength, proprioception, muscle strength and endurance?
  • Are they familiar with functional training (training according to daily activities or a specific goal)?
  • Have they explained the importance of flexibility?
  • Do they stress how important it is to properly brace the core and preserve the lumbar spine?
  • Do they know what P.N.F(Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) stretching is?
  • Have they explained that function is more important than vanity?
  • Can they explain what they are going to do in the routine and how it benefits you?
  • Did they explain that cardio alone is an inefficient workout?
  • Do they have a basic understanding of nutrition?

If you already have a trainer you can evaluate them:

  • Does your trainer understand that a core routine is not a series of floor exercises?
  • Do they understand current research that proves traditional sit ups, leg raises and many of the common exercises that flex the spine can actually be harmful even for healthy people?
  • Are you doing more free weights and medicine balls than machines?
  • Do they ever take notes?
  • Are you being properly warmed up at the beginning and being stretched at the end?
  • Does your trainer change the routine periodically?
  • Does you trainer incorporate balance boards, swiss balls, single leg exercises and other challenged environments?
  • When training the core (midsection) does your trainer explain how important it is to do dynamic multiplantar movements as well as isometric exercises and the importance of low back exercises?
  • Does your trainer target weak areas?
  • If you feel pain in places that you should not like your knees, low back and neck does your trainer change or modify the exercise to a pain free range?
  • Do you truly understand what you are doing while you train?
  • Are you really getting results?
  • Do you do more back exercises than chest and abs?
  • Are you setting goals?
  • Are you talking about you and your needs?
  • Are you getting undivided attention?

If you answered no to any of these questions, then your trainer may be lacking key knowledge that is necessary for you to reach your fitness goals. More importantly, your trainer may be doing you more harm than good. It is simple for a trainer to deceive an unsuspecting client into believing they are knowledgeable. This is due to the general public not being educated about the fitness industry and trusting a gym will provide them with a competent trainer. In most cases, gyms are not always concerned with the quality of the people they are hiring. If a gym thinks a trainer possesses strong sales skills, they will hire them as long as they have some type of certification. A qualified fitness professional will understand at the very least everything listed above. Remember when hiring a trainer, to make sure they are a full time professional. Part-time does not cut it when it comes to your health. Would you go to a part-time Medical Doctor?

Be aware of trainers that are charging low rates. The going rate for a high level trainer in a gym like Equinox or New York Sports Club is around $85-$90/hr. Even their entry level trainers are $65-$70/hr and they are newly certified if that and have little or no experience. There are other gyms that charge way more than the rates just mentioned. In homes for a high level professional trainer are around $125 and can be more. You may be able to get a really good trainer for $90-$100 depending on travel time, trainers charging much less are either just starting out, not that good or a close friend. You get what you pay for. It is important you research the trainers’ certification and check to make sure they are currently certified by multiple accredited agencies.

It is important to understand that certifications and degrees are important but do not mean everything. You want to know about their clinical experience and the workshops they attend. Ask who they work with and get at least three references to call from current clients. See if they work with any local doctors, all the good trainers work with at least one doctor. Also see if they have written any articles. A bad trainer can hurt you, do your research and make sure they are experienced.

Charles DeFrancesco

www.fitandfunctional.com

 

Improving Your Golf Performance

Golf Analysis:

Your golf swing is all about proper body mechanics. A good golf swing requires full rotational capacity of nearly every joint involved and must be done – efficiently – easily – explosively – repeatedly. Many swing faults are directly attributable to poor joint mobility, resulting from soft-tissue restrictions.

A proper golf analysis will focus on the following:

  • Determining which structures are affected along the Golfers kinetic chain. We focus on more than just the chief area of restriction.
  • Identifying the antagonistic structures (opposing muscle groups) to those that have been identified as the primary structures causing the imbalance.
    Since function and performance is based upon balance and coordination, an opposing soft-tissue structure is always affected by restrictions in the primary structure.
  • Treating each soft-tissue dysfunction with the appropriate technique to restore full function to the affected structures.

The result is almost most always an improvement in Golf performance. Using this process has helped hundreds of Golfers achieve their goals and prevent numerous injuries from occurring.

Common swing faults occur due to tight shoulder, tightness in the hip joint, spinal injuries, and repetitive strain injuries. When shoulder rotation is restricted the body compensates with excessive spinal rotation. This can result in back injury because most people already lack flexibility in the spine. In addition, golfers will notice that they have difficulties in keeping their eyes on the ball and/or maintaining an optimal swing plane. This results in fat or thin shots. When the golfer attempts to compensate at the shoulder joint, the chances of a hook or slice increases. Tightness in the hip joint rotational muscles places additional strain on the rotational requirements of the shoulder or spine. Often a golfer will compensate by lifting up during the back swing and then chop down on the ball resulting in a fat shot. Wrist and elbow injuries often occur when the body does not have the capacity to effectively compensate at either the shoulder or spine. The wrists are then over-used to drive as well as decelerate the golf club. These swing faults are often easily corrected by addressing the physical restriction the golfer has in their body.

Stretching is often not enough to release these restrictions

Even individuals such as professional golfers who are constantly stretching find it difficult to release soft-tissue adhesions. This is why so many professional and amateur golfers are turning to Active Release Technique (ART), Graston, Acupuncture and stretching to release and remove these restrictions.

Often muscle groups will literally adhere to each other, preventing the sliding necessary for full mobility. During normal stretching, the first tissue that elongates may not be the scar tissue, but the normal healthy tissue. After the restriction has been removed an effective program of stretching will often be enough to stop the restrictions from returning.

Applying soft tissue techniques to golf related injuries

In order to effectively balance your muscles and remove joint restrictions, you must first identify your unique pattern of muscle imbalances. By utilizing a series of muscle balance and swing analysis tests,  the exact type, extent, and location of muscle restriction can be identified.  The use of ART treatments and follow-up stretches will help remove and resolve these restrictions, in addition to strengthening the muscles with weight training to prevent re-injury.

 

Written by:

Dr. Robert Inesta

Charles DeFrancesco

 

 

The Truth of the Trend

Research has shown that training the nervous system with Olympic lifting, plyometrics, or any type of explosive high intensity training can be beneficial to the athlete when done correctly. There is much debate on the subject of CNS (central nervous system) fatigue and whether it is a real phenomenon or a false naming of adrenal fatigue, muscle fatigue, etc. Whether or not CNS fatigue truly exists or is being named correctly is beside the point. The fact is that explosive exercises with weight such a Olympic lifting place very high demands on all systems of the body and carry serious risk of injury if not learned and practiced properly.

Olympic weightlifting requires a high level of understanding and skill. Research suggests that the optimal number for training the nervous system is 1-3 repetitions with a rest period of 6 minutes between sets. In addition, ATP is only present for 6-8 seconds which is about 3-5 reps before needing at least 2-3 min of recovery. Once ATP runs out the lifts will become compromised because the muscle does not have the energy to elicit the contraction the nerve is demanding. Anything beyond said rep range starts to overload the joint because form is compromised. Since these methods are designed to tax the central nervous system it does not make sense to try to change them into strength and endurance movements for high reps. Despite the research and proven science, many mainstream programs will suggest doing a set of anywhere from 10-20 repetitions or even do as many reps as possible in a 30-60 second window. Using these methods for endurance is like telling a sprinter to sprint through marathons for training.

Another issue is that these methods require a very high level of motor control. Proper movement patterns need to be practiced without resistance at a low level until the client shows proficiency in the movement. Of all the lifting methods, Olympic lifting is the most difficult to master because of the required flexibility and motor control for explosive movements with heavy weights to get the max benefit. Olympic lifting is a sport in itself and can take years to learn. From our experience it takes the average person 4-6 months just to be able to get into the positions required to properly perform the movements. Once they can move it can take another 6-12 months to actually learn how to correctly do the lifts with weights. Olympic lifting is a professional sport yet everyone thinks they can do it without training. Even professional athletes should be cautious because the lifts were not designed for football, soccer or tennis, but instead for Olympic lifting.

Athletes should integrate Olympic style lifts into their strength and conditioning programs to reap the benefits of these movements but not duplicate them exactly. I suggest that most athletes train from the power position. This is called the hang (bar just below knees) since that is what most sports require. If a super elite athlete wants to learn the full lifts, it should be determined by a very high level coach.

Most courses that teach this method are 2-4 days, after which a certification is received and one is allowed to teach the lifts. Since we all agree Olympic lifting is just like basketball or any other pro sport, how is that possible? One cannot learn basketball in 2-4 days, let alone teach it, right? The answer seems obvious, yet people still spend millions on extreme home training videos and going to training facilities to do trendy high intensity programs that make no scientific sense.

The videos are the most dangerous, in our opinion. Any professional knows you cannot learn plyometrics by watching a video, and that the average person does not have the knowledge of the basic physical requirements and proper progressions. The science behind plyometrics is similar to Olympic lifting and should not be done for high repetitions either. The sad truth is that a majority of programs break the laws of proven science and safety, but their obvious flaws are overshadowed by attractive instructors, celebrity endorsements, extreme marketing tactics and industry politics. These companies are commendable, in a way, because the business intellect required to achieve such enormous revenue is impressive and there are some very good components in many of these programs. The main issues with these programs are that the parts that are wrong are so wrong it negates any of the positive aspects.

So the big question we get is  “why do they work if they are wrong?”

The fact is that if you do anything consistently and intensely while eating well you will obtain results. If you were to move bricks from one side of the yard to another for two hours a day with a 15 minute jog every 30 minutes for two months, you can be assured there will be fat loss and muscle growth. This is especially true for people who have never exercised or have done very little. So does that make it right? This sounds crazy but one of the best NFL receivers of all time, Jerry Rice, did just that growing up. He played a lot better when he started training like a football player instead of moving bricks.

Why doesn’t everyone get hurt? I know a guy who has been doing that stuff for years! Well, there are people who smoke until they are 90 and have no issues while others who never smoke die of lung cancer at 40 years old. In most cases smokers will develop health problems before 85, but there are always the exceptions. Everyone is different. There are countless variables that contribute to our physical constitutions and what our bodies can handle before we break down including genetics, nutrition and mental/emotional patterns, just to name a few. Some people are born athletes and can tolerate these programs because they have a natural ability to perform most plyometrics correctly and are strong and flexible enough to weather the storm of poor training.

Are all cookie cutter programs bad? No. There are some great instructors out there who can run programs that follow science and elicit even better results. This article is meant to educate you and serve as the WARNING LABEL. This is not meant as an attack on any particular company or program. It is simply meant to provide information based on common sense and science so that better results can be achieved safely.

 

 

References:

Bompa, T. (2005) Periodisation Training for sports. 2nd ed. Human Kinetics (taken from  http://www.brianmac.co.uk/cns.htm#ref)

Peinado AB, Rojo JJ, Calderón FJ, Maffulli N.

BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil. 2014 Apr 24;6:17. doi: 10.1186/2052-1847-6-17. eCollection 2014. Review.

 

 

Squash Program

The training of athletes, squash players in particular, require a multidimensional approach. This includes strength and conditioning training as well as the sound principles of injury prevention.  Squash is a sport which requires a lot of repetitive movements and full range of motion in every joint. The goal of this program is to discuss proper biomechanics, the importance of flexibility, outline proper training techniques, and discuss how nutrition affects performance.

Biomechanical Evaluation

It is important to evaluate the body as a whole to detect weakness and any joint dysfunction. To avoid overuse injuries screening for muscle imbalances is an extremely important part of any training program. The rationale behind it is that there are detectable and correctable abnormalities of muscle strength and length.  These imbalances can affect basic movement patterns such as running or swinging a racket and lead to unexplained musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction.  Once detected, a specific functional rehabilitation program can be implemented.  This can include but is not limited to soft tissue release, corrective exercises, core strengthening through tri-planar movements, and balance and flexibility training. Our focus is on restoring function and stability by correcting irregular muscle patterns and treating the body as a whole.

Flexibility

Flexibility and balance are the two most important concepts to build a solid foundation.  Moving incorrectly will hinder the body’s ability to create maximal force which will undoubtedly affect your game and workout. Repetitive incorrect movements actually shut muscles off and create synergistic dominance, reciprocal inhibition and altered neurological pathways which will greatly inhibit your form. Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF), active and dynamic stretching should be part of your program. We find that most athletes move incorrectly due to poor flexibility and balance. Most squash players have very tight hips, shoulders and pecs. You need to stretch just about every day especially after a match or practice. If you do not stretch you will have a short lived career riddled with injuries.

Core Training

Core training needs to be specific to squash and should include balance and proprioceptive exercises. Sit-ups, bicycle crunches, and leg raises should be eliminated totally from a squash program. According to research, these types of exercises further tighten the hips which are already prone to tightness. These floor exercises also put tremendous torque on the spine irritating disks and do not recruit as many abdominal muscles as you might think. Athletes do not play squash lying down on their back, so why train that way.

Training should include core stabilization and tri-planar exercises, which mimic movements specific to squash.  Training with medicine balls and using chopping motions with balance devices are a much better idea.  The core is the center of all movement so it should be trained in a way that is optimal for each individual.  Building a strong core creates a solid base for supporting your body through specific movements.   A weak core will increase the risk of injury and can lead to loss of power on the court. You need to set up the training environment that challenges balance and proprioception specific for squash players. Implementing cuing exercises will improve motor skills and promote proper movement patterns.

Poor balance and flexibility create wasted movements and will inhibit the body’s ability to decelerate properly and change direction explosively.

Strength and Power Training

This is the most overlooked aspect. All athletes can benefit from strength training and should do at least 2 days a week, even during their respective seasons. The exercises should relate directly to squash and incorporate full body movements targeting weak links. You should be training using multi-sets, mixing resistance with endurance training. It is crucial to train at a high velocity since squash is a fast sport.

You need to establish core strength and proper movement patterns before moving onto plyometrics and explosive exercises. Plyometrics should be added only after a full body movement analysis is performed. All too often, athletes perform plyos without being able to move properly.

Endurance training

All of your cardio and endurance training should be on court, since that is where you perform. Running 5 miles is of no use to a squash player, since the court is only 32×21. Interval training should be the staple of your program. For example, set up cones on a squash court or measured area and have athletes run to the cones and explosively change direction while rotating. It would not be a bad idea to do a 30-40 min weight session and then play a practice game. This method, called pre-exhaustion, can be effective for endurance strength because in a real game you are never doing prior weight training.

Riding a bike doesn’t make you better on court either. It is an acceptable exercise for a cool down or an infrequent change of pace but should by no means be substituted for court work. You stand during squash so why sit when you train? You should not even sit between points.

You should be training according to time. The average match is about 45 – 60 min but can be up to 90 min with short rests of 10-15 sec between points and 90 sec between games. A boys point is about 30-50 sec and a girls is about 20-30 sec. If you play multiple opponents you have about 90-120 min rest. So, it is important to train in the same time frames that the game demands. Would it make sense for a boxer to train 2 min rounds and 1 min rest, when a round is 3 min with 1 min rests or to only do 2 or 3 rounds in training sessions? You need to predominately tax the anaerobic and lactic energy systems. Running and most cardio is aerobic so training that way limits carryover greatly. Research proves that too much aerobic activity is actually detrimental to sports training.

Nutrition

This is the absolute most important aspect to any training program. Poor nutrition will hinder performance no matter what sport you play.

  • Water
  • Calcium/Potassium/Magnesium
  • Pre workout carb loading facts
  • Pre game carb loading facts
  • Restoring glycogen stores after a match or workout
  • Importance of multiple meals
  • Use of supplements
  • Use of BCAAs during long matches

Recovery between multiple games

You will get about 2 hrs rest. During this time, you need to stretch and rehydrate with carbs to replenish glycogen stores and some protein (BCAA). Gatorade in any form is not recommended, drink something with natural electrolytes and carbs. Zico makes coconut water, which has more potassium than 10 bottles of Gatorade. An organic protein bar or some type of easily digested form and fruit is also a good idea for long days.

Rest

It is necessary to rest. Working out is not good for you every day regardless of how it is done. The body needs to recover, more is not better. Over doing things leads to injury and only hampers results.

 

 

 

Strength Training for Children

Strength training offers many benefits but did you know it can offer benefits to that of children and adolescents as well? Strength training is a type of exercise and conditioning that focuses on the use of resistance to build strength, endurance, and size of the skeletal muscles1.  When done properly, strength training can improve sports performance, protect against sports-related injuries, increase muscular strength and endurance, strengthen bones, promote healthy cholesterol and blood pressure, improve self-esteem, and help children maintain a healthy weight2.

There seems to be controversy with the proper age a child should be to begin strength training program and whether or not lifting weights is appropriate.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American College of Sports Medicine  (ACSM) and the National Strength and Condition Association (NSCA) all support strength training for kids.  In fact, AAP stated that “appropriate strength-training programs have no apparent adverse effect on linear growth, growth plates, or the cardiovascular system2.”

According to Dr. Avery Faigenbaum, a renowned pediatric exercise scientist, there are many common myths that surround strength training.  The first is that strength training will stunt the growth of children. However, research does not support this myth and does not show decreased stature in children that engage in resistance exercise regularly.  Instead, this type of exercise has a positive effect on bone growth and development.  The second myth is that strength training is unsafe for children.  Actually, the risks of training are no greater than any other activity as long as there is qualified supervision and a safe training environment.  The third myth is that children cannot increase strength because they do not have enough testosterone.  However, testosterone is not needed to achieve strength gains, which is evidenced by strength gains in women and the elderly.  The last myth is that strength training is only for young athletes.  As discussed, strength training has a wide range of benefits and therefore is valuable to all boys and girls, whether involved in sports or not3.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics position on strength training supports the implementation of strength and resistance training programs, even for prepubescent children, that are monitored by well-trained adults and take into account the child’s maturation level.  The only limitation the AAP suggests is to avoid repetitive maximal lifts (lifts that are one repetition maximum lifts or are within 2-3 repetitions of a one repetition maximum lift) until they have reached Tanner Stage 5 of developmental maturity.  Tanner Stage 5 is the level in which visible secondary sex characteristics have been developed.  Usually, in this stage adolescents will also have passed their period of maximal velocity of height growth.  The AAP’s concern that children wait until this stage to perform maximal lifts is that the epiphyses, commonly called “growth plates”, are still very vulnerable to injury before this developmental stage. It is repeated injury to these growth plates that may hinder growth4.”

The NSCA offers these guidelines for strength-training programs:

  • An instructor-to-child ratio of at least 1 to 10 is recommended.
  • The instructor should have experience with kids and strength training.
  • When teaching a new exercise, the trainer should have kids perform the exercise under his or her supervision in a hazard-free, well-lit, and adequately ventilated environment.
  • Calisthenics and stretching exercises should be performed before and after strength training.
  • Kids should begin with one set of 8 to 15 repetitions of 6 to 8 exercises that focus on the major muscle groups of the upper and lower body.
  • Kids should start with no load (resistance). When proper technique is mastered, a relatively light weight can be used with a high number of repetitions. Increase the weight as strength improves. Progression can also be achieved by increasing the number of sets (up to three) or types of exercises.
  • Two to three training sessions per week on nonconsecutive days is sufficient.

It’s important to remember that strength training should be one part of a total fitness program. It can play a vital role in keeping your child healthy and fit, along with aerobic exercise such as biking and running, which keeps the heart and lungs in shape5.

It is important to note that children should have a strong basic exercise foundation and have efficient movement patterns in order to develop strength and flexibility.  An ideal age to start strength training is 7-8 years old because balance and postural control skills have matured to adult levels.  Proper form, technique, and safety are keys to success, and therefore explosive and rapid lifting is not recommended because it is difficult to maintain proper form and perform exercises safely, which may stress body tissues2.

As for as sports specific training, a child athlete must master the basics, such as strength, balance, power, coordination and visual perception in order to improve athleticism. .   You cannot solely train specific skill, like throwing or swinging, for a specific sport.  The key is to improve strength, power, flexibility and speed through efficient movement patterns.  After a child become proficient in the basic skills, more specific skills can be introduced.  It is important to remember that flexibility is the key to preventing injury and stretching should not be neglected6.

In conclusion, strength training is safe for children and adolescents and should be incorporated into their exercise routine to increase both physical and mental performance.

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strength_training
  2. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/121/4/835.full
  3. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/121/4/835.full
  4. http://www.strongkid.com/uploads/Myths.pdf
  5. http://www.protraineronline.com/exercise/strength-training-for-childrena-review-of-research-literature/
  6. http://kidshealth.org/parent/nutrition_center/staying_fit/strength_training.html#
  7. http://www.todddurkin.com/the-best-exercises-for-youth-athletes/

All Trainers Are NOT Created Equal

Many people who have personal trainers feel that theirs is the very best.  I have never met anyone who doesn’t rave about his or her trainer, especially if he/she has been working with them for a substantial period of time. Part of the training experience is the camaraderie and trust formed between the trainer and his client, and the majority of people are very loyal.

However, putting friendship and personality aside, only a handful of personal trainers are truly competent and knowledgeable. As a result, many people get injured and sometimes the client doesn’t even realize that their trainer is responsible. Many injuries are repetitive injuries, which are injuries that occur gradually over time due to frequent, repeated, unsafe movements.

The client may not even know that they are being injured! For example, one morning a person can wake up with his knee bothering him and he is unable to walk without pain. He may not remember doing anything the day before to cause the injury; in fact, this injury may have been happening gradually over a period of time. Therefore, a client may be ignorant to what is causing his ailment. Injuries may be caused by improper form, unsafe exercises, or lack of knowledge about anatomy and how the body works. Clients need to be able to evaluation their trainers objectively; you cannot assume that all gyms are hiring qualified, competent trainers.

Intensive training &/or education is not currently required to become a personal trainer. All that is required is a certification that is accredited that the National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCAA); for example, the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), NFPT (National Federation of Personal Trainers and the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA). Most gyms require that their trainers are certified, but NOT all do! Make sure that your trainer is certified and that he attends seminars and takes continuing education courses to stay current.

The body is a complex machine and it is important that a trainer understands proper mechanics to avoid injury, especially if the client has pre-existing conditions. A trainer should perform an initial evaluation and obtain a health history so to target weak areas and avoid aggravating an injury or condition that is already present. The evaluation should include testing flexibility, balance, core strength, muscle strength and endurance, as well as proprioception. Your trainer should be able to explain why he is choosing certain exercises and how they benefit you. He or she should also be knowledgeable in functional training, which is training for daily activities or a specific goal. Additionally, your trainer should be able to use the initial assessment to design a tailor-made workout program for each individual. There is no one-size-fits-all in personal training.

There are many benefits to using a personal trainer rather than working out on your own. Choose wisely, because not all trainers are created equal. Do your due diligence and do your research to ensure you get the results that you want.