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.