Archive for category Women’s Strength and Conditioning

Exercise Physiology for running performance

Running is an extremely popular form of exercise with almost no cost and fantastic physical and mental benefits. I’m sure we’ve all met runners who are almost obsessive about their running and are like a bear with a sore head when they can’t run. We see lots of runners at Central Performance, from office workers who run a couple of times a week for the health benefits to our elite running group coached by physio and track coach Ben Liddy.

One thing most of our runners have in common is that they would like to run a little better. Whether that’s reducing aches and pains they feel when running, improving their City2Surf time or lowering their 1,500m PB everyone wants to improve somehow. An often-overlooked way to improve running performance is to include some weight training into your training. The classic opinion was the weight training made you heavy and slow however there is a lot of good research that shows that weight training can significantly improve endurance, running performance and running economy.

It used to be thought that to improve performance in endurance sports like running that it was more beneficial to use a light weight for lots of repetitions when performing weight training. The theory was that it better replicated how the muscle worked when running and therefore it would lead to greater improvements in running performance. We now know that low repetition, heavy weight training and plyometric training is better for improving running performance and economy. This might seem counter intuitive but there are some good reasons for why that is the case.

First of all, heavy weight training and plyometric training both improve what is called Rate of Force Development (RFD). RFD means how quickly a muscle can produce force, the higher the RFD the quicker a muscle is able to produce force. A high RFD is important when running because ground contact time with each stride is so short. If you are able to increase the RFD of the muscles in the legs then you are able to decrease your ground contact time and increase your running cadence. Increasing your running cadence improves your running economy, making you a more efficient runner.

Secondly, a stronger muscle means that each stride requires relatively less effort from the muscles in your leg. For example, the soleus muscle in the calf has to deal with between 6-8 times body weight with each stride. That is an awful lot of force to be dealing with for a sustained period of time. A strong soleus, strengthened with the help of weight training, will be better able to handle 6-8 times body weight for a 800m race, 5km fun run or full marathon.

Thirdly, heavy weight training and plyometric training help to strengthen and stiffen tendons. A stronger, stiffer tendon is better able to transmit the force produce by the muscles into the movement of bones required for running. Better force transmission by the tendons again improves running economy and efficiency. It also has the added benefit of helping to guard against the development of tendinopathies such as Achilles or hamstring tendinopathy. We see many runners with these injuries and heavy weight training is the starting point for their rehabilitation.

As you can see there are some very good reasons for including heavy weight training and plyometric training to improve your running performance. As simple as two sessions of weight and plyometric training per week can lead to significant improvements in running performance. Below is an example of a simple weight and plyometric training session for runners.


Goblet squat:

The goblet squat is a fantastic way to introduce the squat movement into your training program and it is the first version of the squat we use with our clients. The squat is one of the key movements in weight training programs we develop for runners as it is fantastic for developing quad strength. This is important as the quads take the second most load during running after the calf muscles.


Single leg deadlift:

Another key movement in the weight training programs for our runners, the single leg deadlift is great for developing strength in the hamstrings and muscles of the lateral hip, particularly the glute medius. The glute medius plays an important role in maintain lateral stability of the hip, helping to prevent hip drop and subsequent valgus collapse of the knee when your foot strikes the ground. We also aim to have a mix of double leg and single leg exercises in our programs and the single leg deadlift is one of our favourite single leg exercises.

Bent knee calf raises:

An often overlooked muscle group when weight training, the calf muscles have the highest demand on them of any muscle group when running. As stated earlier, the calf muscles must handle between 6-8 times body weight with each stride. Therefore, it is important to strengthen the muscles of the calf. The bent knee calf raise helps to prioritise loading on the soleus muscle and better replicates the ankle position during running.

Hurdle hops:

Hurdle hops are one of our first plyometric progressions we introduce into our runners programs. It is a great exercise to help develop power on one leg and get our clients used to the landing forces associated with plyometric exercises. With a hurdle hop we emphasise ‘sticking’ the landing which requires our clients to be able to control the landing forces.

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Exercise physiology for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is a condition typified by a vague, diffuse pain around the knee. It is often most noticeable during running and walking up and down stairs or hills and is a frustrating injury because it can severely limit a sufferer’s ability to partake in sports and activities they enjoy. While the pain usually isn’t associated with significant damage, the pain itself can be severely limiting. One of the first steps to getting back to activities pain-free is to reduce the aggravating activities to allow the pain to settle and to start a strength training program.

Traditionally it was thought that the most important muscles to help prevent and relieve PFPS were the VMO (one of the quadriceps muscles on the inside of the patella) and the gluteus medius (one the glute muscle on the outside of the hip). However, recent research shows that specific exercises for those muscles have no better outcomes than general exercises. Therefore, the goal of strength training for PFPS should be to have a comprehensive program to strengthen the whole lower body to not just rehab PFPS but improve performance and reduce the risk of other lower limb injuries.

Here is a sample of exercises we use for runners and other athletes recovering from PFPS:

Split Squats:

A fantastic foundational exercise, split squats help develop strength in the quads, hamstrings and lateral (outside of the hip) glutes as well as develop balance in a split stance position. These place more emphasise on the quads and lateral hip muscles than the other exercises in the program.

Deadlift:

Another fantastic foundational exercise, deadlifts are great for developing strength in the hamstring, glute max (the big, main glute muscle) and back muscles. Deadlifts particularly strengthen hip extension which is very important in running and athletic movements.

Calf Raises:

Surprisingly the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) are the muscles that receive the most load during running (6-8 x bodyweight), more than the quads (4-6 x bodyweight), hamstrings, glute medius (2.6-3.5 x bodyweight) or glute max (1.5-2.8 x bodyweight). Therefore, it is important to strengthen these muscles to improve their ability to cope with the loading they receive during running .

Suitcase carry:

A great, simple exercise for the lateral core muscles which play an important role in helping keep the pelvis level during running.

These four exercises together provide a comprehensive strength program that strengthen almost all the muscle of the lower body. Together with a temporary reduction or modification to activity and exercise they can help get you back to what you want to do pain-free.

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Should We Really Bother Foam Rolling So Much, Really?

For all the jazz around foam-rolling these days it may be surprising to know that the underlying mechanisms are still not well understood and there is a paucity of high-quality and well-designed studies available.

Some of the proposed mechanisms of effect may include:

1. Reflex neural inhibition

2. Increased stretch tolerance

3. Mediating pain-modulatory systems

What we do know is that foam-rolling appears to be effective for producing short-term gains in flexibility without reducing performance. And while the benefits to muscle function have not yet been established, there does seem to be a demonstrable reduction in post-exercise muscle soreness as a result of post-exercise rolling.

So, from the research that we do have, it’s safe to say that foam-rolling is perhaps not the miracle saviour for poor exercises choices or not moving enough that we once thought it was.

Reference:

1. A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Foam Rolling on Performance and Recovery. Wiewelhove, et al. 2019

2. The Science and Physiology of Flexibility and Stretching : Implications and Applications in Sport Performance and Health. Behm, 2018.

Danny James, Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at Central Physio & Performance Fitness
Danny James, Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at Central Physio & Performance Fitness and can be reached at danny@centralperformance.com.au




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Why Should We Train Through A Full Range of Motion?

We’re often asked about the benefits of going through a full range of motion with your strength exercises. Here is why we recommend that you do and what it means for your training.

1. You get a more complete stimulus and development across the full length of the muscle. We know that muscle fibres don’t always run the entire muscle length from origin to insertion. We also know through the specificity principle that strength gains are specific to the joint angles that are trained so it is important to cover as much of the movement arc as you can. A full range of motion allows greater activation of as many fibres as possible and better strength and hypertrophy gains.

2. Technique standardisation. When you go through the same, top to bottom range for each and every rep, you can be sure when you are progressing and not simply changing form to accommodate the load.

3. Length and strength in long positions. Research has been piling high with the benefits of loading in long muscle lengths (such as in the bottom position of a squat or stiff-legged deadlift, pull up, or bench press where you feel the greatest stretch). This enables strength gains specifically in those ‘stretch’ positions where typically we are not able to produce as much force. Loading into lengthening (eccentric loading) also allows greater overload as well as flexibility improvements.

4. Less injury risk. There is a greater dispersal of stress across more joint systems and larger excursions of motion mean that less load is needed to provide an overload. This greatly reduces the likelihood of a training-related injury.

There certainly are circumstances were you might consider reducing range, such as:

1. To provide a greater overload in a particular joint position thereby effecting a specific muscle or group of muscles. Less range means more weight can be used so caution is advised here. This is to be used sparingly and mostly for the advanced lifter only.

2. Specific sport application – half squats have been shown to have carry-over to running and sprinting activities.

For the most part, the bulk of your training should emphasise taking the joint through as much pain-free range as is controllable and the muscle through full stretch to full contraction. It might mean you’re using a little less load however the benefits hugely outway the risks:

  1. Reduced risk of injury which can set your training back
  2. More complete development of a muscle and strength in weak positions.
  3. Consistent technique and clairty of progress.

References:

Altering the length-tension relationship with eccentric exercise : implications for performance and injury. h

Full Range of Motion Induces Greater Muscle Damage Than Partial Range of Motion in Elbow Flexion Exercise With Free Weights

Specificity of a limited range of motion variable resistance training

Why do full range of motion exercises not increase strength at all muscle lengths?

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Should You Be Using A Foam Roller?

Foam rolling is an extremely popular form of self-massage, with a huge number of athletes from almost all sports using it in one way or another as a part of their preparation for either training or competition.
Here at Central Performance, we get a great number of new clients asking about foam rolling, and whether it will be helpful to them not only as a part of their training, but in their everyday injury maintenance. We encourage our clients to utilise the foam rollers in their gym or homes every day, as they are a great way to not only help prepare for exercise, but also recover from it!
Foam rolling is a fantastic tool to use as a part of rehabilitation because they enable you to release tight areas of the body on a daily basis, leading to improved movement and performance. These tissues can be tight due to injury from regular training, or even sustained postures throughout everyday activities e.g. desk-based workers often experience tight hip flexors from having their hips in a constantly flexed position at their desk all day.

Foam rolling is also extremely useful when recovering from exercise. Evidence shows that Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is significantly reduced when performed immediately following exercise, and then both 24 and 48 hours on muscle groups that were the main focus of the exercise session. Enhanced recovery leads to a greater level of ability and performance, hence why elite athletes everywhere are using it!

Some of the most common areas we encourage our clients to release through foam rolling are:

 

1. Quads: rolling is very helpful for reducing tightness is your thigh. Runners find this especially useful, and it can help prevent or manage patellofemoral (kneecap or runners knee pain) and quads strains. To do it, lie on your front with a foam roller under one leg and slowly roll up and down the length of your quad.


2. Calf: excellent for runners with tight calves, place a foam roller under one calf and lift off the floor with your hands, rolling up and down the length of your calf.

 


 

3. Lateral (outer) thigh: great for reducing soreness on the outside of the hips or knees, lie on your side with a foam roller under the outside of your leg and roll up and down the length of your thigh.


So if you are feeling a bit tight and sore with running, training at the gym, netball or whatever, give these a try and let us know if you need any help!

For more tips on training, mobility, strength and rehab make sure to follow us on Instagram (@centralperformance, #centralperformance), Facebook (@centralphysioandperformancefitness), or Twitter (@centralphysio). And keep an eye out over the coming weeks for more great recovery tips!


 

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Runner’s Knee – Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome


Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) is a common complaint we see here in the clinic. This usually presents as a gradual onset of pain in the front of the knee which is generally vague and difficult to pinpoint. This knee pain usually progressively worsens over time and can interfere with your daily activities and overall function. There can be a number of contributing factors to PFPS and therefore it needs a thorough examination to identify the important factors for each individual patient. Factors such as load management, range of motion, strength and control of the hip, knee, ankle and foot can all play a part in the development of PFPS. It is important then, that we identify the contributors and target these factors with an individualised rehabilitation program. Let’s take a look at these factors in some more depth:


Load Management: As with many injuries we see here at Central Performance, the main contributing factor tends to be a sudden increase in activity (running or loading) e.g. getting back to running after a break but trying to do the same distances you were running before you stopped. Although PFPS often affects runners, it can also occur from other repetitive activities such as stair climbing, hiking or hill running as well as excessive compressive activities such as squatting and kneeling. Key to the successful rehabilitation of PFPS is to manage your load in an appropriate and graded way.

Knee Strength and Lateral Tightness: Research shows that people suffering from PFPS tend to have a weakness in the quadriceps muscles. We also see that the structures (eg the ITB) on the outside of the knee and hip are tight and this affects the position of the patella, pulling it laterally and causing increased wear and tear on the cartilage of the knee due to this sub-optimal tracking.

Rolling in of the knee (“valgus collapse”) commonly causes Patellofemoral Pain in runners.


Hip Strength and Control : A lack of hip strength or control, particularly in the gluteal (“glutes”) muscles to the side of your hips, can result in a rolling inwards of the knee during single leg activities (e.g. walking, running, steps etc). This inward rolling (“valgus collapse”) also pulls the patella outwards, which causes further wear and tear on the under surface of the patella itself and on the contact points of the femur.


Ankle and Foot Factors: Stiffness or restriction of the ankle can transfer excess load up the leg and place more stress through the knee. Similarly, if there is a lack of strength in the calf complex, then this can result in an increase in load through the knee joint in order to compensate. Foot posture has also been linked to PFPS, with those people having flat or “pronated” feet more likely to present with patellofemoral pain.

As you can see, managing Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome is as complex as it is to spell it! It requires a thorough assessment and an individualised rehabilitation program addressing the factors that are specific to you and your pain experience – there is no “one size fits all” treatment recipe. So if you are experiencing anterior knee pain our talented team of physio’s can help!


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Can Strength Training Help You Run Faster?

Run Faster For Longer With Less Chance Of Injury

The right strength program can improve your performance as well as reduce your risk of injury.

At Central Performance we see a lot of runners coming in either for physio treatment or running training with our running coach/physio superstar Ben Liddy. We know that runners love to run and can be like a bear with a sore head when they can’t run due to injury. One great, and often overlooked, way to both improve running performance as well as reduce the risk of injury is to add some strength training to your running training.

Traditionally it was believed that strength training won’t improve running performance as lifting weights will make people bulky and slow. However there is now good evidence that strength training improves running performance by increasing running efficiency. An increase in running efficiency means you to use less energy while running.

Strength training helps improve running efficiency by increasing the rate of force development (RFD) of a muscle. RFD is how quickly a muscle can produce force. The higher the RFD the quicker a runner is able to spring off the ground, reducing the ground contact time and therefore reducing the amount of energy they use.

What Type Of Strength Training Is Best For Runners?

Training needs to be personalAlso contrary to popular belief, the best form of strength training for runners is not light weights with high reps to build endurance. Research shows that the most effective form of resistance training for runners is heavy weights with low reps and plyometric (power) training. Using heavy weights for low reps helps to increase neural drive to the muscle which helps to improve RFD. Plyometrics also help to improve RFD and power development. Plyometrics involve jumping exercises and help teach the body to use muscles and tendons like springs, reducing ground contact time and thereby improving running efficiency.

The best types of resistance exercises for running are compound exercises such as deadlifts, squats and lunges. These exercises use almost all the lower body muscles in a coordinated fashion. 

Research shows that weight training twice per week causes significant improvements in running efficiency and performance. It has also shown that for competitive runners reducing weight training to once per week during the competitive season maintains the improvements made with twice per week.

Can Strength Training Also Reduce My Injury Risk?

Strength training also helps to reduce the risk of injury to runners and all other athletes. A recent review in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that resistance training can lead to a 66% decrease in sports injuries and a 50% decrease in overuse injuries. The below picture does a good job illustrating why strength training is important injury prevention for runners.

As you can see the soleus muscle, one of the muscles in the calf, needs to handle between 6.5-8.0 times bodyweight on ground contact during running. Having to tolerate such huge forces obviously requires a lot of strength otherwise the rsk of injury is greatly increased. A good guide for having adequate strength in the calf muscles is to be able to confidently do 30 single leg heel raises on each leg.

Tendinopathies are a very common type of running injury. They occur when the amount of load going through a tendon overloads the tendon’s ability to recover from it. Commonly occurring tendinopathies for runners are hamstring and achilles tendinopathies as both the hamstrings and calf muscles are extremely important in running. One of the best ways to improve a tendon’s capacity to handle load is by resistance training. Heavy resistance training provides a beneficial stimulus to tendons to help them build strength, remodel and allow them to adapt to high volumes of load put through them during running.


We’ve Got Runners Covered

The Central Performance Running Centre helps runners of all abilities improve their performance and reduce their risk of injury. Our strength coaches and exercise physiologists can get you on a personalised program that is effective, efficient and tailored just right for you. 

You can book online or call us on 9280 2322 for more info. 

This post was written by Hugh Campbell, our senior Exercise Physiologist. He has extensive experience and has attended numerous post-graduate courses on running biomechanics and the role of strength training in runners. 

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Personal Training At Central Performance, Surry Hills

Personal Training at Central Performance

Tailor-made exercise programs delivered by expert trainers to help you achieve your health, fitness and sports performance goals.

If you’re looking for a great personal trainer in Surry Hills then Central Performance has you covered. Many people know us as a physio or rehab-oriented facility, however you should know that a large part of what we do every day is work with healthy individuals, who are completely free from injury, using tailored exercise programs to improve peoples overall health and sports performance.

Here are some key ingredients that set our exercise services apart;

•  it’s all about you. Every exercise program we deliver is specific just for that client and is based on their individual goals, wants, needs, current fitness level and preferences

•  exceptional trainers who really care about you. We really make the time and effort to get to know you, your likes and dislikes, what you want to achieve and what might be holding you back. We make sure your time with us is a real highlight of your day, not just just another exercise session.

•  a warm and friendly environment where you feel you really belong, amongst a group of people who always want the best for you.

•  a dedicated team working hand-in-hand around you to give you everything you need for success. Because our team of trainers and coaches work right alongside our phyiso’s, exercise physiologists and massage therapists, if you do have any injury concerns then help and advice is always on hand.

We work with people at every level of fitness and sports performance, from gym newbies to athletes competing at national and international levels. Whether your goal is weight loss, sports performance, getting your body back to the way you like it, or maybe you just feel sluggish and you know you’ve got to get moving again, we can tailor an exercise program just right for you. Spending too long at the desk and putting on some kilos, or maybe your doctor says you need to get your weight or blood pressure under control with regular exercise? We can help. 


Keen to start training?

Sign up for our 3-for-1 Introduction To Training Package to get 3 sessions for the price of one


 Call us on 280 2322 or click for more information.

 

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Do I Need A Coach?

 

Do I need a coach?

Getting a coach involved with your training program can be a huge help in lots of different ways, but there are a few things to consider before taking the plunge. Whether your thinking of hiring a personal trainer, run coach, or whatever other sport you’re in to, here are a few questions you should ask yourself:

 1. Am I open to change?

It’s inevitable when you decide to employ a coach they’ll implement some changes to your current plan. If you’re someone that’s resistant to change or struggles to put your faith in someone, the relationship has a high chance of breaking down. Without a foundation of trust between athlete and coach it doesn’t matter how good the training plan is the results won’t follow. If you want to succeed using a coach you need to be open to change.

2. Can I commit to the plan?

After sitting down with your coach you need to ask yourself whether what they’re asking of you is realistic. If you believe you’ll struggle to fit their plan in around the other commitments in your life you need to be open with them. Good coaches modify plans to suit the demands of the athletes they work with. However, there is still a minimum body of work that needs to be done to achieve certain results so you need to be prepared to commit to that.

3. Do I trust this person?

Personal training at Central Performance.

A trainer can push you to get the most from your training

Perhaps the most important part of any coach/athlete relationship is that of trust. The more important your goals are to you the more important the trust in the relationship is. There is no perfect training program and despite their best intentions a coach cannot guarantee their program will work for you. However, if you both trust each other and form a deep bond you’ll be able to see out any hardships along the way and ultimately find the right path to achieving your goals.

If you do decide a coach is right for you and go about employing one, you’re about to develop a new number one fan! You’ll have someone who is as committed to your goals as you are, someone who’ll be there to celebrate the successes with you as well as share in your disappointments. You’ll be held accountable to the process but most importantly you’ll develop a bond that you’ll will carry through the entire process. A coach/athlete relationship can be very special and if you’re lucky enough, you’ll have this relationship for life.


Published by Ben Liddy, our Certified Run Coach & Head of Running Performance at Central Performance.


 

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