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.
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.
In our post on compression garments and recovery, we brought up the potential role of the placebo effect which sparked some questions and commentary.
Adding a little more to the placebo/recovery discussion, in a new study from Wilson, et al. 2019 compared the effects of cold water immersion (CWI), whole body cryotherapy (WBC) or a placebo (PL) intervention on recovery markers after a resistance training session.
Although a single training session does not reflect the everyday workload demands placed upon competitive athletes, there was substantial enough effect on the recovery markers used following the single training session to directly compare the three interventions.
What did they do?
24 males with a minimum training age of 12 months were matched into CWI (10mins at 10 degrees Celcius), WBC ( 3 and 4 mins at – 85 degrees Celcius) or PL group and performed a high volume lower body resistance training session at 80% of predicted 1RM.
Recovery markers were assessed before and after at 24, 48, and up to 72 hours post-exercise including ”Perceptions of soreness and training stress, markers of muscle function, inflammation and efflux of intracellular proteins.”
The single training session did cause the expected perceptual soreness and muscle function disturbance with WBC managing to attenuate soreness at 24hrs and positively influencing peak force at 48 hrs post, greater than in CWI pr PL group. This has been a consistent finding in the literature to date: Stanley et al. 2012; Leeder et al. 2011; Versey et al. 2013; andRoberts et al. 2014.
It should be noted however that the WBC temperatures used in the study (- 85 degrees Celcius) were higher than those typically suggested (-110 to 140 degrees Celcius) possibly influencing results.
Aside from this small difference, it appears that ”many of the remaining outcomes were trivial, unclear or favoured the PL condition.”
Readers should be aware that we are still not aware of the chronic effects of cold water therapies and that some research has suggested it can negatively interfere with vascular and muscular adaptations from resistance and endurance training while CWI has shown some small benefits for recovery from endurance protocols.
Danny James is the Head of Personal Training and Strength and Conditioning services at Central Physio and Performance Fitness, located in Surry Hills in the Sydney CBD area. firstname.lastname@example.org
Although a relatively recent addition in Australia, Compression Garments (CG) have rapidly become quite the fashion statement, initially designed to promote recovery from hard training and competition and subsequently to help improve performance.
Compression Garments are a type of tight-fitting form of clothing made from elastic material providing a gentle compression of the limbs. Some of the reported positive outcomes include:
There is also the possible placebo effect and psychological aid of wearing CG and perceived recovery and performance improvements to be factored in, as anecdotally athletes often speak positively of their helpful effects. The magnitude of physiological recovery improvements observed in the literature are similar to what has been seen with cold-water therapies or light exercise.
While the research currently has shown some recovery benefits from wearing CG it should also be noted that a great deal of the research is of poor quality and clouded with inconsistencies.
It should be added that there is also the risk of bias due to
While there have been some benefits shown and no observed adverse effects on performance or recovery with their use, there is still also no reliable criteria for best practice.
It is therefore suggested that if CG are used they should be used as an adjunct to more proven and reliable recovery enhancing modalities such as enough quality food, good sleep hygiene, as well as fatigue and stress management strategies. Currently, the research is not strong enough to provide conclusive recommendations.
Following our introduction to recovery, we’re going to continue the series looking at some of the research around many popular recovery methods and offer some practical
First up on the list is sleep – one of the most important influences on recovery, one of the simplest to address and yet is often the most overlooked of all performance variables.
Sleep is a needed resource for psychological and physiological wellbeing, during which time many of the bodies more potent repair and recovery processes are kicked into overdrive. It is generally accepted that the primary purpose of sleep is restoration – To recover from previous wake-period operations and/or prepare for functioning in the subsequent wakefulness period.
An individual’s recent sleep history (consisting of both duration and quality) can have a dramatic influence on daytime functioning. Research has firmly established that sleeping less than 6 hours per night for four or more consecutive nights can:
1. Impair cognitive performance and mood
2. Heighten risk of illness and injury
3. Disturb metabolic health, appetite regulation and immune function
There are many reasons why sleep habits may be negatively affected, some of which include:
Stress, nervousness, thinking, worrying, planning.
Unsuitable diet/nutrient deficiency
Poor sleep habits and environment (eg noise, lighting, temperature, late television watching, late caffeine use, late activity).
In addition to the above, Erlacher et al. 2011 asked 632 german athletes from various sports about their sleep habits leading up to important events or competitions, with the results showing that:
Factors identified as reasons for poor sleep included:
The value of quality sleep is clear and it is easy to see how it can be impacted by many of the above variables which we all face from time to time. What isn’t so easy though, is how best to mitigate these factors to ensure that you get a good night sleep and subsequently prevent the associated performance decline from sleep loss.
Suggestions for improving sleep:
1. Develop a ‘POWER-OFF POLICY’ before bed
Switch off tv, computers, tablets, and smartphones 1-2 hours before sleep time. These will disturb the production of hormones that prepare you for sleep.
2. Develop a ‘Wind down’ routine before bed
Slow down and de-stress as much as possible before bed and try to establish consistent sleep and wake times. A shower before bedtime has been shown to improve sleep onset latency. Research has also shown that almost half of all insomnia cases are linked to stress or emotional upset. Avenues to reduce stress are highly individual and situation dependent, so finding ways to reduce stress are paramount to improving sleep, and long-term health and wellness. Some proven strategies include:
Habits and Environment
3. A quiet sleep space is a key
If noise can’t be avoided try using headphones with instrumental music at a low volume, or keep a fan on for an acutely distracting ‘white noise.’
4. Temperature, darkness, and clothing
Approximately 18 degrees Celsius is a cool room temperature that has been shown to help comfortable sleep occurrence. Thick bedding and clothing must also be avoided if it causes overheating. A dark environment with limited lighting can also help the body recognise that it’s night time and time to begin the process of preparing for sleep.
5. Coffee and heavy meals
Avoid caffeine, big meals and heavy amounts of liquid before bed.
6. Take Naps Where You Can & Need To
Naps can be beneficial to catch up on lost sleep, however, avoid them later into the afternoon if it might impact your regular sleep time. Blanchfield et al. 2018 recently showed that a short afternoon nap improves endurance performance in runners that obtain less than 7 hrs of nighttime sleep. Napping might be an important strategy to optimise endurance exercise in other athletic and occupational scenarios when sleep is compromised (eg long-haul, intensified training etc).
”Every training element has a point of diminishing returns. Our job (the coach’s job) is to find it shift emphasis and cycle back at the optimal point in time.” ~ Derek Hansen
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.
Also 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.
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.
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.
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.
Tendinopathy is a common condition that results from overloading a tendon. It used to be called tendinitis however research shows that usually not much inflammation is involved, hence the name change. Lower limb tendinopathy is common in sports including running, basketball, netball & football. Upper limb tendinopathies occur frequently in tennis & other racquet sports, swimming, & throwing sports like cricket & baseball.
Tendinopathy occurs when the tendon’s main tissue, called collagen, becomes damaged because it is no longer able to cope with the load being put through it. This overloading usually happens when there is an increase in exercise frequency, volume or intensity. This may be someone starting the gym again after a break, when stepping up training in preparation for a race or fun-run, or when you start pre-season training after resting from your sport in the off-season.
As the tendon becomes overloaded it starts getting irritable and in some cases swollen. You will usually feel pain in the morning after waking up, when you move again after resting or sitting at your desk for a while during the day, and maybe at the start of exercise. Often in the early stages of tendinopathy your pain will disappear as you warm up, but usually comes back again after you cool down, rest or sleep. It will usually get worse over time if you keep overloading it.
There is a lot of conflicting advice out there about how to deal with tendinopathies. Much of it is out-dated and we now know that old-style things like stretching and completely avoiding painful activities will actually slow or prevent your recovery.
For a great overview of tendon injury & management guidelines check out this video from Professor Jill Cook, a leading research expert in tendon management.
• Continue to exercise at a sustainable level. As a general rule a little bit of pain is acceptable during exercise in a tendon with tendinopathy. As a rule of thumb 3 or 4 out of 10 pain level during exercise is okay as long as the pain stops within an hour after finishing exercise and isn’t worse that night or the next morning
• Get your tendon assessed and begin treatment early. Like many things the earlier you get on to it the faster your recovery, the less treatment you are likely to need, and you give yourself the best chance for a great recovery.
• Start heavy, slow resistance exercise. Tendons need a load placed on them to allow them to repair themselves. The best way to start loading a tendon with a tendinopathy in a controlled fashion is with heavy, slow resistance exercise. Look for a tempo of approximately 3 seconds on the concentric (lifting) phase and 4 seconds on the eccentric (lowering) phase. Again a little bit of pain during heavy slow, resistance exercise is okay as long as it stays at a 3-4 out of 10 level and does not persist after stopping exercise.
• Be consist with your exercise. Tendons prefer to be used consistently and performing your exercises regularly will help with your rehabilitation from a tendinopathy
• Stop exercising or using the muscle completely. Like we said earlier, tendons need consistent loads to be placed on them in order to repair themselves. Stopping exercise completely may temporarily stop the pain but that pain is likely to return when you return to exercise as very little healing will have taken place.
• Stretch the tendon. Stretching a tendinopathy is similar to itching a mozzie bite, it might provide some short term relief for the pain in the long term it will likely slow the healing. This is because stretching a tendon will usually cause it the tendon to get squashed against the bone it attaches to. This compression against the bone will usually aggravate the tendon and slow down its healing.
• Try and rush your rehab. Tendons do not have a good blood supply and therefore are slow to recover. In some tendinopathy cases it can take 12-18 months for the tendon to remodel and recover. Be patient and consistent with your rehab. If you rush it and try and increase your exercise and loading of the tendon too quickly you will likely aggravate the tendinopathy and slow down your recovery.