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

 

Circuit Training for a New You

Circuit training is a type of interval training that incorporates a series of strength and/or cardio exercises with little or no rest between sets. It increases your heart rate while simultaneously strengthening your muscles using a combination of resistance training and high-intensity aerobics. This combination of weight training and cardiovascular work makes circuit training a valuable way to exercise.

One “circuit” consists of a set of prescribed exercises performed in order with little rest between each exercise. The circuit is then repeated one to several times. Many different exercise stations can be incorporated into circuit training. Usually, stations alternate between muscle groups so little rest is needed. To increase cardiovascular endurance in circuit training, brief bouts of high intensity aerobic exercise, like jumping rope, can be incorporated. The exerciser gains muscle through the resistance training, while she/he simultaneously increases cardiovascular endurance as a slightly elevated heart rate is maintained throughout the entire program.

There are many advantages to circuit training. First, it is fun and brings change and excitement to routine workouts. There are endless numbers of exercises you can add to each circuit to change it up and make it more interesting. This type of workout also burns more calories than doing cardio alone as you maintain an elevated heart rate throughout the whole exercise routine. Additionally, circuit training is a practical solution for those with time constraints as it allows you to combine cardio and muscular fitness together in one session. Further, you can set up as many stations and exercises as you want, to either shorten or lengthen your workout.  Another benefit to circuit training is that it is portable and convenient. It can be done at home, outside, or in the gym with minimal equipment. You can do use bodyweight to perform pushups, planks and lunges for strengthening and use stairs and jump ropes for cardio stations anywhere and at any time.

If you are looking for a new routine to help you lose weight and increase muscle mass, circuit training may help you achieve your goals. Circuit training is fun and is a great way to challenge your body, whether you are just beginning an exercise program or are a seasoned athlete.

 

Living With Back Pain

Back pain can be a debilitating and life altering problem for many Americans. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, 80% of Americans will experience some type of back pain in their lifetime. Most of the time back pain is an uncomfortable annoyance, although in some cases, it may be serious and require medical attention. Pain is usually associated with how our bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons work together.

While back pain can occur at any age, it more commonly effects those between 35-55 years old. Other risk factors for back pain include a sedentary lifestyle, stress, anxiety, depression, smoking, pregnancy, sleep disorders, obesity, strenuous physical activity, and strenuous exercise, especially if exercises are not performed correctly. There are many possible causes of back pain, but the most common is due to strained muscles, strained ligaments, and muscle spasms due to heavy lifting, improper lifting form, or abrupt or awkward movements. For most of the population, everyday activities, poor posture or a bad mattress are frequently responsible for back pain.  This may be the result of sitting or standing too long, driving for long periods, sitting in a hunched position, over-stretching, bending awkwardly, or pushing/pulling/carrying items. Back problems may also be due to structural problems, such as ruptured disks, bulging disks, sciatica, arthritis, scoliosis, or osteoporosis. More seriously, pain may sometimes be due to cancer of the spine, spinal infections, bladder or kidney infections, and shingles, so contact a doctor if your pain is accompanied by fever, inflammation, numbness, pain radiating down the legs, or incontinence.

In most cases, back pain can be treated at home and will not need imaging scans or treatment by a physician, though surgery may be indicated for those with structural issues.  For pain, doctors usually suggest over the counter NSAIDS, codeine, and cortisone injections. To alleviate pain, complementary therapies such as acupuncture, shiatsu, chiropractic manipulation, and osteopathy are also sometimes recommended. TENS therapy (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) may also be utilized; it emits small electric pulses through electrodes on the skin.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could avoid back pain altogether?  Well, there are steps you can take to prevent the onset of back pain. First, adopt healthy behaviors such as smoking cessation and maintaining a normal body weight. Additionally, it is important to engage in regular exercise to build strength and flexibility. Physical activity also helps to prevent obesity, which, on its own, is a risk factor for back pain. It is also important to be aware of your posture both when sitting and standing and to correct poor posture as often as possible. When standing, keep a neutral pelvis with straight legs, stand upright, and keep your head forward. While sitting, keep your feet flat on the floor and make sure your knees and hips are level. Your arms should be at right angles if you are using a keyboard, and your lower back should be supported. Next, be careful when lifting. Always bend your knees, never twist and lift, and push rather than pull objects!  Finally, make sure you have a supportive mattress so that your spine can remain straight.

If you follow these suggestions, you can help reduce the onset of back pain and also alleviate some of your discomfort if back pain does occur. Be as active as possible in a safe and effective way, and you can keep your body moving pain free as long as possible!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep Your Core Strong

In the world of exercise, the core is a common focus. Often we hear about how important it is to strengthen our core and to improve core stability, but what exactly does this mean? The core is made up of much more than the abdominal muscles. In fact, most of the power in the body is derived from the core.  It is imperative to have core strength and stability in order to prevent injury and to increase performance. Therefore, it is extremely important to understand what the core is and how we can strengthen it effectively.

The core connects the upper body to the lower body and it affects how we move these body parts. It is involved in activities of daily living, such as bending and lifting, sitting properly at a desk, housework, gardening, sports, balance and stability, good posture, and preventing back pain. Weak core muscles can negatively affect your daily functions. With our sedentary lifestyles, most of us have weak cores. We need to continually work at strengthening these muscles.

The core is made up of muscles from the neck and shoulders down to the pelvis. These include the multifidus, interspinales, intertransversarii, rotatores, internal and external obliques, transversus abdonminis, erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi, thoracolumbar fascia, and abdominal fascia. Therefore, core training is not as simple as doing sit-ups.  It is important to train all of the core muscles, not just the “abs,” for effective movement. The core transfers force and acts as a stabilizer, which is why it is important to train the core dynamically in all planes of motion rather than in isolation. Therefore, deadlifts, squats, pushups, pikes to pushups, and planks would be much more effective at training the core than sit-ups. These exercises will create more efficient movement and increased strength. Further, the core should be engaged while weight training other body parts in order to develop core strength. It is important to note that many traditional core exercises do not adequately recruit the abs and have been shown to damage the lower back.

Core stability creates efficient movement and proper positioning to prevent injury. For example, if a cyclist reaches too far forward while biking, it changes the position of the hips and pelvis, which affects posture and power. Similarly, while running, tight hips and lack of hip extension can cause the lower back to hurt and affect performance. It is helpful to use a foam roller to decrease inflammation and tension and to prevent restrictive movement before exercising.  Additionally, meeting with a personal trainer to learn the proper form will ensure you are exercising effectively in order to reach all of your fitness goals.

Don’t neglect your core, since it is the foundation for your health and fitness. The stronger the core, the stronger you are and the better you will feel.  A stronger core equals a more solid you!

Please click on this link for some effective core exercises: http://thearenafitness.com/exercise-library/exercise-gallery/images/pdf/exercise_pdfs/3_core.pdf

Osteoporosis & Exercise

Over 53 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or are at risk for osteoporosis due to low bone mass.  Osteoporosis is defined as a disease which weakens the bones so they become fragile and break easily. It is especially prevalent in the bones of the hip, spine, and wrist. Often, osteoporosis is a “silent” disease because the person does not exhibit symptoms or knows he/she has it until a bone is broken or the vertebrae in the spine collapse.

While anyone is susceptible to osteoporosis, it is more common in older women, especially non-Hispanic, white women and Asian women. Other risk factors include being small and thin, having low bone density, taking certain medications, and/or having a family history of osteoporosis. Bone mass can be tested with a bone mineral test.

There are a few ways you can prevent osteoporosis and keep your bones strong, such as consuming a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, exercising, not smoking, and not drinking alcohol excessively. Falls are the number one cause of broken bones, so weight bearing exercise and balance are extremely important to prevent falls and to increase bone density. If bones become extremely fragile, fractures can also occur through normal daily activities, such as bending, lifting, coughing, or from minor bumps or stresses.

Exercise improves bone health, muscle strength, coordination, balance, and overall health, and it is vital for treating and preventing osteoporosis. Weight-bearing and strength training exercises are both recommended for peak bone mass because you are working against gravity. Weight-bearing exercises include weight training, hiking, jogging, walking, stair climbing, dancing, and tennis. They can be either low impact or high impact. Strength training is also known as resistance exercise, and it includes lifting weights, using bands and balls, and utilizing your own body weight. Yoga and pilates are also great options since they improve flexibility, balance, and strength, but certain positions will need to be avoided to avoid spinal injury.

Consult a doctor before beginning any type of exercise program, especially if you have osteoporosis. You may have to avoid bending, twisting, and flexing to protect your spine if your bone mass is low. Additionally, high-intensity exercises should be avoided to avoid fractures. It is important to stretch and strengthen the muscles properly and to improve posture. It is good idea to consult with a personal trainer to learn how to perform exercises properly and how to progress your activities and routines.

 

References:
The National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases ~
NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
https://www.nof.org/patients/fracturesfall-prevention/exercisesafe-movement/osteoporosis-exercise-for-strong-bones/ (National Osteoprosis Foundation)

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.

 

 

 

Skinny for the Summer

To get that ideal “beach body,” you need to eat right AND exercise. One cannot exist without the other. Rather than obsess over crazy workouts or counting calories, the most important change you can make to promote weight loss is to alter your environment and your habits in order to make weight loss and health second nature. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, “the key to changing habits is to understand how change really occurs. And for the most part, it occurs by design, not by accident or wishful thinking. It occurs by transforming the unconscious choices we make every day, shifting them so that the automatic, easy, default choices become healthy choices, not deadly ones.”

The old adage, “you are what you eat,” is key when discussing diet. While the amount of food is important, the types of foods we eat are just as important.  Sugar is toxic and it is very important to limit foods with extra sugar in order to see weight loss.  Many people have food cravings and find change to be extremely difficult.  As stated before, in order to change your eating habits, you must change your environment. Do not keep candy, chips, and sugary items in your house. Place fruits and nuts within easy reach. Make fruit more accessible by cutting it up and displaying it. Do not go to the sections of the grocery store where you may be tempted to buy unhealthy items. Similarly, try to avoid restaurants or shops where you have a weakness for their unhealthy choices. Serve meals in portions, put away leftovers, and use smaller plates so you can  eat less. Find new recipes online and keep condiments handy in the house to flavor food. Also, plan your food and snacks in advance so you never have to “cheat” and so you are never left hungry and have to grab something unhealthy. Change is possible if you have a plan!

Similarly, you need to have a plan for exercise. Make sure to set aside time to go to the gym and workout. Make it a priority and schedule it into your calendar. Exercise should be easy, so find your obstacles to working out and create a solution to them!  Also remember that cardio is not enough to change your body; resistance training is necessary to boost your metabolism, increase muscle mass, and burn fat. Work with a personal trainer to learn how to safely exercise and have him make you a routine to follow. Change your current habits and start your routine to see results!

It is all about having the motivation, ability, and a trigger to change. We live in an unhealthy world, so we need to create our own healthy environment and design it to make it easy to do the right thing. That is how we create health and it is the key to success in weight loss and transformation of mind and body.