Importance of Power and Agility on Dynamic Balance 3/15/20
As we approach another spring season, I am reminded of the rapid pace at which time accelerates with advancing age. Whether we like it or not, our bodies physiologically change as we get older and we need to understand how best to take care of our most precious gift. Aging coincides with a decrease in muscle mass (5% per decade for sedentary people) as well as a decrease in bone mass (osteopenia). Furthermore, aging reduces the capabilities of the CNS (central nervous system) and your body is not able to send electric signals as quickly as before. Reaction time decreases and one in four people experience at least one fall per year after age 65.
With this sobering information it can become easy to become apathetic, with many people simply accepting a precipitous decline in physical health. Simple exercises combined within a comprehensive training program can improve CNS efficiency, increase muscle and bone density as well as improve proprioception (body awareness) Power exercises such as medicine wall balls and slams increase the speed at which work is done thereby increasing neural transmission and the number of motor units recruited. Agility exercises such as the speed ladder and various cone drills improve proprioception (body awareness) while challenging working memory in the prefrontal cortex. Finally, speed ladder and agility drills increase reaction time and decrease the likelihood of experiencing a fall.
I am happy and willing to create a customized strength, power and agility program to help you enjoy as many healthy years as possible. “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” – Maria Robinson
Macronutrients: Essential Building Blocks Needed to Meet Athlete Specific Demands 3/30/20
Macro’s…… We have all heard the term however many of us are somewhat confused on what the terminology actually means. Macro is an abbreviation for macronutrients, of which there are three main categories. Let us break down the three main categories and help you understand the significance of each macronutrient.
Protein- The essential building block of muscle, proteins are made of amino acids which branch together to form BCAA’S (Branch Chain Amino Acid’s) Four amino acids are synthesized (created) by the body while nine are essential and must be consumed through diet. Finally, eight amino acids are considered conditionally essential and are needed in times of stress or illness. What types of foods are considered essential amino acids? Think of items such as fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products. Looking for a plant based complete protein? Try soy or quinoa.
Ok, now that we have dropped some knowledge bombs on you let us continue our discussion about protein. How many grams should you intake per day? According to the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) an aerobic athlete will need 1-1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight. Trying to pack on more muscle? Strength training athletes need slightly more, 1.4 to 1.7 grams per kilogram.
Carbohydrates- Our bodies first burning source of fuel which are broken down to fuel (ATP). We have all heard that there are such things as “dirty carbs” and “good carbs” but what does this all mean? Carbs are essentially carbon, hydrogen and oxygen bonds and are grouped according to the number of sugar units they contain. Simple sugars, known as monosaccharides include glucose and fructose. Fructose is found in fruits and vegetables and is what provides a sweet tasting sensation. Glucose is produced by the body when carbohydrates are broken down (metabolized). Disaccharides are carbohydrates which contain two simple sugar units joined together. Substances containing two sugar units include milk and table sugar. Finally, we have the most adored carbohydrate, allow me to introduce you to the polysaccharide. It is commonly known as the “complex carbohydrate” and it includes substances such as starches and fiber. Starches refer to plant sugars and fiber refers to plant cell walls. What are some of the most fiber packed foods that will improve digestive health? Try fruits and vegetables as well as beans and whole grain foods.
Looking for a carbohydrate ranking system that will leave you satiated without enlarging your waistline? Let’s review the glycemic index system and see how it can help you stay lean and healthy. When food is metabolized it is broken down into glucose, then distributed by the blood stream to hungry cells. Different carbohydrates are broken down and absorbed by the body at different speeds. Looking to keep off unwanted fat? Try low glycemic foods such as yogurt, lentils or sweet potatoes. High glycemic foods you should avoid eating often include items that are processed and or enriched flour based (cookies, cakes, doughnuts and white pasta). For a complete list of which foods to eat click here.
Carbohydrate intake varies upon the specificity of the athlete. According to the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) endurance athletes should shoot for 7-9 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight. Strength and skill athletes (basketball, volleyball, tennis) should aim for 5 to 6 grams per kilogram per day.
Fats- Fats often are often unfairly labeled as bad or negative however they play a vital role in ensuring our health and vitality. Fats provide us with vital energy, are essential to cell health and even regulate hormonal balance and vitamin storage.
Are all fats created equal? Fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated are labeled healthy fats. Monounsaturated fats promote good cholesterol and decrease risk of cardiovascular disease. Looking to increase monounsaturated fats? Try adding mixed nuts, olive oil or avocados into your diet. Unsure which foods contain polyunsaturated fats? Salmon and walnuts contain omega 3 EFA’s (essential fatty acids) which are vital to brain functioning, hormone balance and the central nervous system functioning. Which fats should you consume sparingly? Saturated fats, including animal products, as well as coconut and palm oils are deemed unhealthy fats and can lead to coronary artery disease. These fats are solid at room temperature and are often used in processed goods to extend shelf life. How many grams of fat should you intake per day? Shoot for 20-35% of your total calories per day. (60-100grams) for most adults.
As one can see nutrition is the cornerstone to every successful training program. Without proper nutrition intake the body cannot adapt to an applied training stress. Looking to fine tune your nutrition? While I am not a registered dietician, I can offer nutritional recommendations to help you achieve optimal performance. Send me an email for more training and nutritional information at firstname.lastname@example.org
Adaptations to Anaerobic Training
Having just finished a short sprint, gasping for air, you put your hands on your head, trying to pay back the “oxygen debt.” Anaerobic is Latin for without oxygen and Aerobic is Latin for oxygen. When high intensity exercise energy demands are higher than can be produced by the aerobic energy system, the body utilizes two anaerobic energy systems to meet energy demand. These systems include the creatine phosphate and anaerobic glycolysis systems.
How does your body regulate these systems?
Think of these two energy systems as different motors, each one producing a different power output. The creatine phosphate system is a big block V-8, producing immense amounts of short burst power. Its downfall however is that it fatigues very quickly, usually completely exhausted in 10-20 seconds. The anaerobic glycolysis system is the V-6 engine, producing less power than the V-8 but is much more able to sustain power output for longer periods of time (20 seconds-2 minutes.)
How do we optimally train these energy systems?
When training the CP system (V8) motor, it is best to use a work to rest ratio of 1:10. For every one second of work, rest for 10 seconds. Training for the hundred meter dash? If you can run the race in 15 seconds, how much recovery time do you need to replenish the system? (15 seconds x 10= 150 seconds or 2:30 seconds)
When training the aerobic glycolysis system (V6) motor it is best to use a work to rest ratio of 1:5. For every one second of work, rest for 5 seconds. Training for the 400m dash? If you can run the race in 1 minute you need to rest for 5 minutes to fully recover.
Adaptations to Anaerobic Training
Anaerobic training promotes positive adaptations to body systems including, nervous, muscular, endocrine and cardiovascular. Keep reading below to learn two positive benefits of anaerobic training for each energy system.
- Increased neural drive which increases agonist muscle requirement. (more force)
- Increased motor cortex activity leading to an increased development of type 2 muscle fibers.
- Increased muscle fiber diameter (hypertrophy)
- Transition of muscle fiber from Type 1 (slow twitch) to Type 2 (fast twitch).
- Increased growth hormone and testosterone in Males (30 minutes) after the workout.
- Increased development of muscle, bone and connective tissue through increased hormonal response.
- Increased Cardiac output (heart rate x stroke volume)
- Increased Tidal Volume (increased air displacement) and increased breathing frequency.
Haff, G., & Triplett, N. T. (2016). Essentials of strength training and conditioning. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Flexibility and Its Importance in Athletic Performance
Flexibility equals verticality!!! Those words forcefully stated by my high school football coach still reverberate sixteen years later. At the time I did not take the advice to heart but as I have grown older I realize that flexibility is paramount not only to athletic performance but to quality of life.
What is flexibility? Why is it important and what flexibility modalities are most beneficial for you? Scientifically speaking, flexibility refers to the specific range of motion that occurs at a joint. Without proper range of motion, everyday activities such as walking, twisting and lifting an item overhead can be overly taxing, causing frustration and eventual atrophy of skeletal muscles. Athletes without sufficient ROM lack proper explosiveness needed to excel at the highest level. An athlete with tight hip flexors lacks hips extension and their sprint performance will suffer. How do you know if you have a proper amount of flexibility at each joint? Physical therapists use a specialized tool called a goniometer to measure your range of motion as compared to that of the “ideal” range. Even if you do not visit a physical therapist, I am sure you can identify at least one area of your body which could benefit from improved flexibility.
DYNAMIC AND STATIC FLEXIBILITY
Ready to improve your flexibility but not sure where to start? First, let’s introduce you to two main terms, dynamic flexibility and static flexibility. The term dynamic flexibility means “with movement” and the basic premise is to warm the muscle while increasing blood flow and oxygen prior to physical exertion. Muscles are much more pliable when they are warm, think about how much more stretchy play-do is at room temperature than when frozen. Dynamic warm-ups are also beneficial because they prime the central nervous system (CNS) for athletic competition. Dynamic stretches such as hip swings and step back lunges wake up prime movers (glutes, glutes, hamstrings and quads) and ensure powerful neurological signals are sent to individual motor units. Looking for more dynamic stretches to add to your warmup? Click the link HERE.
Does static stretching have an important role to play in athletic performance? Yes, but the key factor understanding when to perform these stretches. Static stretching decreases motor unit activation and SHOULD NOT be done at the beginning of a workout. However, when performed after a workout when muscles are warm, static stretching will help improve joint range of motion. Increased joint range of motion decreases muscle strains and tears, helping an athlete to stay injury free. In addition to improving ROM and decreasing injury, static stretching also helps stimulate the para-sympathetic nervous system, helping to restore the body’s homeostasis.
STILL TIGHT? GIVE PNF A TRY
PNF stretching involves a partner and is facilitated in a contract-relax pattern. In the example of a lying hamstring stretch, the partner begins by actively stretching the hamstring and holds the stretch for 10 seconds. The partner then tries to push the leg backwards as the person being stretched contracts their hamstring isometrically for 6 seconds. Finally, the partner then provides a final stretch for 30 seconds while the person being stretched relaxes. Often two to three rounds of this contract-relax pattern afford best ROM results. PNF stretching works to inhibit certain mechanisms within the nervous system, allowing for increased range of motion. PNF stretching can be applied to any major muscle group, give it a try!
As one can see, the science of stretching has improved dramatically over the past 50 years. No longer should coaches be advising their athletes to static stretch prior to competition. Well read, knowledgeable strength and conditioning coaches know that a successful flexibility program involves sport specific dynamic stretches prior to competition and static stretches post competition.
Why this concept should be the cornerstone of your training program
We have all seen this person at the gym. Someone who is constantly maxing out, every lift, every training session. They are only interested in doing one to two reps of each exercise, constantly chasing higher and higher numbers. This training philosophy is not only ill-informed, it is very dangerous and will lead to a catastrophic breakdown of the body. Let us explore a different approach (Periodization), one that undulates intensity (%RM), frequency (training sessions per week) and volume (reps/sets).
What is Periodization?
As stated, periodization refers to the scientific control of training variables (intensity, frequency, volume) to produce positive physiological adaptations without risk of overtraining or injury. A properly designed periodization program allows an athlete a peak performance window of seven to fourteen days. This window should coincide with the date of the athletes sport specific competition.
Different Phases of Periodization
Our body adapts to a new stress by responding in an “alarm phase.” Muscles are sore and one will generally experience a decreased performance level for an initial ten to fourteen days. Once past this phase, the body enters the resistance phase, where strength, agility and power increase rapidly in response to training adaptations. After a period of weeks, if a program is properly designed, an athlete will reach a phase called “super compensation” where an athlete builds upon gains earned during the resistance phase. One might be thinking, this is simple, all I need to do is continue to increase the bodies stress levels, further increasing performance. This however is not a correct assertion and can lead to the exhaustion phase, where athletic performance declines and risk of injury increases.
How is Periodization Broken into Time Blocks?
An athlete’s training program is first initiated in terms of a macro view. A certified strength and conditioning coach creates an annual training plan, encompassing one year. Competition dates are prioritized to ensure peak performance and plans are then divided into mesocycles or monthly cycles. Finally, a well-designed training program includes microcycles which encompass several day training plans to several week training plans.
Periodization Training Phases (Mesocycles)
Adaptation Phase– (Volume 3-5 sets, 15-20 reps) (Intensity 50RM-65% RM)
During this phase most initial strength gains are attributed to increased central nervous system efficiency. Motor patterns are learned with light weight to ensure proper technique.
Hypertrophy Phase– (Volume 4-6 sets, 8-15 reps) (Intensity 65%-80%RM)
Muscle cross-fiber diameter is enhanced while intensity is increased and volume decreased. The primary goals of this phase are to increase lean body mass while improving muscular endurance.
Strength Phase– (Volume 3-6 sets, 3-6 reps) (Intensity 80-95%RM)
The resistance program in this phase involves more sport specific movements as well as heavier resistance loads, recruiting more muscle fibers. Longer recovery times should accompany heavier resistance loading.
Conversion Phase-( Volume/Intensity are sport specific)
Max strength is converted to power, muscular endurance or power endurance. Sport specific movements are prioritized and the use of ballistics and plyometrics enhance athletic performance.
As one can see, while somewhat convoluted, a Periodization program designed by a strength and conditioning professional, is the most optimal way to increase your athletic performance. Send me an email today and let me help you gain an edge over the competition.