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

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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)

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.