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.

 

 

Don’t Fear the Weight Room

Some women still fear the weight room.  The existing myth is that lifting weights will lead to women having big, bulky muscles or looking too manly.  Ideas like this give resistance training a bad name.  As trainers, we have to remember that men and women are physiologically different. The increased muscle mass that is acquired by men is due in large part to testosterone.  While it’s true that women secrete and deliver testosterone just like men do, they do so at much lower rates and volume.  This allows for women to build tone lean muscle and increase metabolism to enhance weight loss.  Many times the main objective for women to start an exercise program is to lose weight and look better, but there is more to it.  We have to remember that resistance training has various benefits that will help women’s health, both now and in the future.  Looking tone and fit is great, but what else can exercise do for women?  Looking great is always a plus, but resistance training may also decrease day to day stresses from our fast paced lifestyles.  Stress is a very important factor, which may lead to decreased motivation and eventual increase in body fat storage.  Studies have shown that proper exercise can reduce stress dramatically.  Another important factor for women is bone mineral density (BMD).  Women are at a higher risk of low bone mineral density than men, due to a higher level of estrogen.  A consistent moderate resistance program can increase BMD in women and dramatically reduce the possibility of osteopenia and/or osteoporosis.  The proper resistance training program can also increase posture, balance, flexibility and stability for all ages.  These are all very important aspects to our daily lives, but for many women, it becomes all about looking better.  How is exercise going to do this?

What is Metabolism?

Sure, running on the treadmill will help women lose weight, but so will every other daily activity we are engaged in.  Whether it’s walking, eating, or even sleeping, our bodies are using calories to function properly.  Losing weight all depends on the intensity and duration of what we are doing each day.  As mentioned,  running on a treadmill will help us lose weight more than walking, and walking will help more than sleeping, but if there were an easier way, we would do it…right?  Luckily there is.  It’s all about our metabolic rate.  Our metabolic rate (or basal metabolic rate BMR) is closely related to resting metabolic rate (RMR) and measures the total amount of energy expanded while at rest or sleep.  The term thermogenesis refers to the measure of total energy exhausted as heat disposal.  As we age, a decrease in BMR will coincide with the amount of lean body mass that we possess.  New scientific research has shown that aerobic exercise alone doesn’t correlate with an increase in BMR, but anaerobic does due to maintaining lean body mass.

Cardio vs. Weight Training

We’ve discussed the physiological differences that cardio (aerobic) and resistance training (anaerobic) play in exercise via metabolism.  Anaerobic exercise may contribute to an increase of metabolism, but aerobic exercise is important too.  Aerobic training is very important for the cardiovascular system (“heart health”).  Some people have trouble combining the cardio and resistance training.  There are important factors that a trainer must know before incorporating cardio and resistance training together.  First, if the trainee wants to increase power and strength then including cardio exercises can be detrimental.  This is due to an increase the muscle capillary density, increased number of mitochondria (both help in oxygen consumption to keep the muscle going), and a possible change in fiber type (type IIx to type IIa to type I).  Inversely, a trainee that wants to increase their aerobic power can achieve this by combining both cardio workouts with resistance training.  This will allow for an increase in aerobic power due to an increase in VO^2 Max.  VO^2 Max is the amount of oxygen exchange within a muscle for adequately supplying and keeping the muscle cells functioning properly (contributing factor may also be stroke volume SV).  For weight management the optimal goal is to combine both types of exercise by using circuit training.  Circuit training will allow a trainee to increase their aerobic and anaerobic power by incorporating moderate to high intensity (keeping the heart rate up) exercises with resistance training.

Frequency of Weight Loss

Weight loss can vary.  Some people go on extreme crash diets and lose 8, 10, or even 12 pounds a week.  Depending on the trainee, losing this much weight this quickly will almost certainly be put back on in the long run.  Furthermore, some may be able to safely and effectively lose 4 pounds a week, while another may only be able to lose 1 to2 pounds a week.  This all depends on the trainee’s starting weight.  A good table for measure can be a 1% rule (1% loss of starting body weight per week).  If a trainee’s starting weight is 150 pounds then a maximal weight per week should not exceed 1.5 pounds a week.  Whereas, someone with a starting weight of 300 hundred pounds may affectively lose 3 pounds per week.  The 1% rule can adequately allow for weight lose without becoming macronutrient deficient.  Macronutrients are the three essential nutrients that consist of carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids (fats).    When people attempt some of these “fad” crash diets they ultimately fall short in the proper percentages of one of the three essential nutrients.  This may put the body in a particular nutrient deficiency that may change the body’s physiological chemistry.

Women’s Resistance Training Program Design

A proper program design should be specific to the person being trained.  Each trainee will begin at a different level based on their condition, so a tailored exercise program is crucial with the adequate amount of progressions for optimal results.  Each exercise program should begin with some sort of active/dynamic warm-up to help promote proper muscle activation for the following workout.  To circuit train affectively, three to four multi-muscle functional workouts can be grouped together to optimize increased heart rate and aerobic and anaerobic power output.  Between 2 to 4 sets and 10 to 15 reps of approximately 3 or 4 exercises should be performed in a continuous cycle with little rest (30seconds to 1 minute after completing each cycle of the 3 to 4 exercises).  Each group of three to four exercises may primarily target different areas of the body.  After the warm-up, the first group of exercises may focus on legs.  The second group may focus on the upper body, and the third may focus on the core muscles.  This exercise structure can help save time and effort with a busy schedule and may also maximize overall fitness results.  Ending each workout with a form of static stretching may also be a good idea.  Static stretching AFTER exercise can keep the joints from getting too tight.

 

References

Copley, J. Strength Training for Weight Loss. Weight Lifting is Better then Cardio and Dieting.

April 13, 2008. suite101.com

 

News Medical. What is Metabolism?  October 23, 2012

News-Medical.net

 

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.