Posts Tagged hockey

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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Recovery (part 3): Stretching

Stretching has been tied to performance since the very beginning and currently, there is some evidence to suggest that there are small recovery benefits to be gained from post-exercise stretching.

For this instalment, we’ll be looking at some of the current evidence on stretching for recovery. Stretching to increase flexibility or as part of a warm-up will be covered in more detail another time.



The most common reasons for post-exercise stretching are to reduce soreness, help recovery and to regain pre-training flexibility, and while stretching is still common practice, much of the initial supporting theory has been debunked. 

Type

There are many types of stretching but the two categories most often subscribed to for recovery are static and dynamic. 

Static:(Self-administered, in place/no movement) 

Passive:(Partner administered) 

Dynamic:Active (movement based) 

Ballistic: Active / fast bouncy actions at end range)


Effects on Muscle Soreness 

A dig through the current literature will show that while there is some research suggesting positive results from post-exercise stretching on muscle soreness, much of it is low quality. While there is also widespread anecdotal observation of reduced muscle soreness with post-exercise stretching, there appears to be very little or no effect on muscle soreness reflected in the current body of evidence.


Blood Flow 

Static stretching appears to temporarily constrict the blood vessels through compression reducing blood flow, oxygenation and red blood cell delivery to the muscle. Shortly after the applied stretch, however, there appears to be a sudden and enhanced surge of blood flow greater than in pre-stretch conditions. This short-lived shunting effect may assist the recovery process through enhanced nutrient delivery and waste removal although this has not been firmly established in the literature.


Enhanced Parasympathetic Activity 

The PSNS is the branch of the Autonomic Nervous System associated with a ”rest and digest” response. Essentially, it slows the system down, reduces neural excitability and helps facilitate the recovery and adaptation process.
Static stretching has been shown to influence PSNS modulation, acutely (same day) and across several weeks after a consistent application over 28 days. This was demonstrated by positive changes to heart rate variability, which in recent times has become a popular metric for measuring ANS status and training readiness. 


Flexibility 

More research in recent times has pointed to static stretching leading to an improved stretch tolerance, rather than increased tissue flexibility. Some research has also suggested that improvements in flexibility may occur due to a temporary decrease in neural excitability or resting tone as a result of static stretching. Some newer evidence suggests that flexibility improvements may also be the result of change to the mechanical properties of the muscle-tendon unit through stretching.

In summary: 
. Static stretching has little to no effect on post-exercise muscle soreness

. Following post-exercise static stretching, a ‘shunting’ effect occurs resulting in a temporary increase in blood flow and waste removal.

. Static stretching promotes relaxation by enhancing PSNS activity.

. Static stretching creates short-term improvements in flexibility, and reduced neural drive.

While it appears that there are a few mechanisms through which static stretching can influence recovery, these changes are not meaningful enough to warrant using static stretching as a stand-alone, or primary method of recovery. 

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Recovery (part 2): Sleep

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 take-aways that you can begin to apply right away.

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. 

Sleep is also vitally important for memory consolidation and metabolic healthby potentially modifying energy intake and expenditure which can undermine dietary efforts.

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.

Illness

Sudden change to routine

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: 

  • 66% slept worse than normal at least once prior to an important competition
  • 80% reported problems falling asleep
  • 43% reported waking early, and
  • 32% reported waking up through the night

Factors identified as reasons for poor sleep included:

  • Thoughts about competition (77%)
  • Nervousness about competition (60%)
  • Unusual surroundings (29%)
  • Noise in the room (17%) 

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: 

  • Exercise 
  • Deep breathing exercises 
  • Meditation
  • Daily journaling 
  • Gratitude journaling
  • Taking a walk
  • Being outside/sun exposure
  • Social activities / being with friends and loved ones

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).

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Should You Be Starting A Pre-season training Program?

Pre- Season training: why is it important?

For many people who play winter sports like football, soccer, AFL, netball and hockey, pre-season training is just around the corner or may have even started already. Completing a whole pre-season program is not only vital for fitness levels and skill practice, it can be a massive component of preventing injuries throughout the season!

Pre-season strength trainingA 2016 study found that elite AFL players who completed <50% of their pre season training were 2x more likely to sustain an in- season injury than those who completed >85%. This isn’t just relevant for AFL though; it’s relevant for all sports at any level.

This is a telling stat, and one that needs to be at the front of all athletes’ minds whilst participating in pre-season training. Even if you’re injured, there is something you can do. Pre-season isn’t just about “getting fit again”, it can be used for rehabbing those niggly injuries still hanging around from last season. The is also lots of research showing that increasing strength can help prevent many common sports injuries including hamstring and adductor (groin)  muscle tears, rotator cuff and other shoulder injuries, shin splints and other sprains and strains.  

Research from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) also shows that avoiding rapid spikes in training load helps you avoid injury not only in pre-season, but during the season as well. Going straight in to in-season training and competition loads causes a huge spike in strain through your body and this dramatically increases your risk of injury during the season.

So make the most of your pre-season training. Get yourself to those sessions, and work on everything you can! Remember, the work you do now will pay off come start of season if you make the effort!

Not sure what to do for your pre-season training? Let one of our Strength & Conditioning coaches  or Exercise Physiologists get you on the right program to boost your performance and reduce your risk of injury

Reference: Murray et.al 2016 Individual and combined effects of acute and chronic running loads on injury risk in elite Australian footballers

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When To Change Exercises And Why

When it comes to choosing which exercises to use in your strength training program, we encourage trainees to approach exercise selection with a balance of both pushing and pulling movements for the upper and lower body. This gives you a more complete development and greater overall balance and movement proficiency in a variety of different movement demands.

This usually involves targeting movements and body parts from multiple angles which, aside from symmetry also helps to:

1. Accumulate needed training volume, which is an important factor for building muscle size and strength.

2. Sculpt and shape the body towards ones desired proportions if training goals are more aesthetic driven.

3. Target unpractised or lagging movements and strengthen specific contributing muscles.


We’ll often have new clients show us the strength programs they’ve been using and have put together themselves to get some feedback. Often we’ll see included almost every known exercise variation for a body part that you can imagine in an attempt to cover all angles. This is a fine idea in theory, however, there are a few things to consider when trying to cover all possible angles and one of those considerations is something that I like to call variation preservation.

 

If you use all of the most productive or favourite exercises in your program, you will have too few exercise variations to choose from or to progress towards once you’ve reached training a plateau and are no longer making the kind of progress you used to on those exercises. The human body is an amazingly efficient and adaptive organism and certainly will, over a short period of time adapt to a given training plan, and this is where you’ll begin to see your progress slow and eventually stop altogether.  When this happens, you will need some strategic deviation and a variant go-to exercise that still gives you similar qualities, while offering a fresh stimulus again, and all without losing any of the progress you have built up to this point.

 

Another more obvious problem with this ‘do everything’ approach is that you may end up doing way more than you need with potentially overlapping and redundant exercises, and subsequently using up more of your valuable recovery ability, that could go towards repair and building.

 

One of the possible solutions that I often suggest is to do fewer total exercises and more total sets of those exercises. Specifically, pick fewer exercises, but make sure that you use mostly your high return movements and keep a few of them in your back pocket for a later program. Doing more total sets of fewer exercises allows greater focus to be had, and for the beginner lifter in particular, more high-quality technique rehearsal.

 

For example, a typical upper body pushing program might look like the following:
  • 5 total exercises per session,  3 sets of each exercise, 2 pushing sessions per week (30 total sets)
  • Combination of flat, incline, barbell and dumbbell exercises on both pressing days
You could instead try performing the following: 
  • 3 total exercises per session, 5 sets of each on each exercise  (30 total sets per week)
  • Flat or Incline exercises only for 2-3 training cycles
  • Barbell or dumbbell exercises only for 2-3 training cycles

You’ll notice that with option 2, you can manage the same total weekly training volume and focus it towards fewer exercises. Option B also offers a complete pressing program and leaves you with plenty of effective variations to utilise once progress begins to slow or stops.

 

It has been well documented that strength adaptations can drop off at around the 3-4 week mark using the same schedule. From here you may try changing the grip that you use, the set & rep scheme, the rep speed, and even the rest period between sets. Any of these as well an intermittent deload week can provide enough of a small change and a fresh stimulus, and still be fairly consistent enough to make continued improvement. After approximately 2-3 training cycles, however, it may then be a good idea to swap out those exercises and bring in the reserves.

 

In closing, try not to do every exercise possible – leave some high-return favourite exercises on the bench for variation preservation, to call in when you need fresh options to go to and for continued success in your training.

Have options.

Do less and do it better.

DJ

 

If you like us to take a look at your training programming or would like some help with building one, reach out to one of our performance specialists and we’ll point you in the right direction. 

 

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Runners Knee

Runner’s Knee – Patellofemoral Pain

Sydney-siders love a good run! And with the Blackmores running festival coming up, beautiful scenery & awesome weather it’s easy to see why. So today we look at the most common type of knee pain that can affect runners as well as people playing many other sports that involve running and jumping.

 

The knee is the most common site for pain in runners, but it’s not just “runners” that are at risk. Many other sports that involve running &/or jumping have a relatively high risk of knee injuries. One very common cause of knee pain is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, which accounts for up to 40% of all knee problems in sports medicine centres. The pain is felt around or behind the kneecap & occurs when the kneecap (patella) does not align correctly into the groove on the end of the thigh bone (femur). It is common in young people, & affects more women than men.

 

 


Symptoms Of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Pain is either felt around the front part of the knee or along one or both sides of the kneecap. It can sometimes be hard to find a specific spot where the pain is felt the most, especially because sometimes it feels like it is hidden away behind the kneecap. Your knee may be making some grinding or clicking noises, & there may be some swelling.

Often there is no specific cause (eg a fall or twist) of patellofemoral pain. Sometimes you may be able to relate it back to an increase in running or jumping volume, or things like new shoes or more hill running. It often begins as a niggle then gradually gets worse if you continue to exercise on it, eventually stopping you doing your normal training. It usually settles temporarily if you stop exercising but keeps coming back when you return.

Patellofemoral pain is usually made worse with anything that increases the load within your knee, eg taking your weight in a bent-knee position. Examples of painful activities can include;

  •    •  squatting, lunging & kneeling
  •    •  going up & down stairs or hills
  •    •  jogging or running, especially on hills or slopes

Some people also get pain from sitting in a bent-knee position for long periods of time, eg working at a desk or sitting in a movie theatre. This is because this position squashes the inflamed back surface the kneecap onto the end of the thigh bone, causing pain after a while.


Causes Of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

The main cause of patellofemoral pain is when the kneecap doesn’t “track” properly in the femoral groove when we bend our knee. It can get pulled out to the side of the groove, meaning that it rubs on the wrong places & becomes inflamed. Excessive or rapid increases in loading, usually due to increasing training or running volumes too fast, are also common factors that contribute to patellofemoral pain.

Poor biomechanics (i.e. the way our body controls movement) is the major factor that contributes to incorrect tracking of the kneecap in the femoral groove. Common biomechanical problems include:

  1.    1.  your pelvis drops to one side, increasing the tension on the outside of the leg & pulling the knee cap outwards
  2.    2.  poor glutes (hip muscle) strength means that your knee collapses inwards & rolls inside past the line of your big toe
  3.    3.  there may be an imbalance between the muscles on the inside of your quads (VMO) versus the outside (VL).
  4.    4.  you foot rolls in too much (pronation), causing the knee to collapse inwards so that your quads muscles have an outwards angle of pull on your kneecap.

Females are more likely to develop patellofemoral pain than males (3:2). This is due to women having a bigger “Q Angle”, which is where the quads muscles have a more outwards pull on the kneecap because women’s hips tend to be wider than mens.


What Can I Do About My Knee Pain?

Assessing & correcting your biomechanics is a big part of getting your knee pain resolved. You need to release any tight muscles on your outer thigh & hip, usually by using a foam roller or spikey ball. You will also need to strengthen muscles that are not keeping your leg and knee in the right alignment. The usual problem is that your knee rolls inwards over your big toe too much, so strengthening your glutes muscles to correct this is critical. Making sure that your inner quads muscle (your VMO) is strong enough to balance your outer quads muscle (VL) is also important. 

Your foot position also needs to be checked. The most common foot problem is over-pronation, where your inner arch collapses & rotates your shin and knee inwards too much. You will need to ensure that you have the right shoes for your foot type, eg if you are an over-pronator then pronation control shoes or orthotics are likely to help you. However as physio’s we always find that shoe type or orthotics alone are not the full solution – they are only one component. You must correct your other biomechanical factors like hip control as well.


We can help you beat your knee pain

Every day our friendly & experienced physio’s work with runners & athletes at all levels, from weekend warriors to national champions. We can help you with fast relief & get you back out there on the road, track, field or court. We specialise in finding & fixing the underlying cause of your problems so that once we’ve got you feeling good, you stay feeling good. 

If you need help with your knee pain then you can book an appointment online or contact us for more info, or give us a call on 9280 2322 to chat to one of our friendly team. 

 

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Nine Training Considerations for Females

One of the more welcome trends around mainstream gym use in recent times has been the closing gap in gender participation rates, and a rising surge of females moving towards strength training to support their aesthetic, athletic, and health endeavours.

While on the surface there don’t appear to be many training approach differences, we have sought to outline with this brief article some of the key gender specific considerations relating to training that perhaps may not be so well known.

 

1. There are no significant differences between genders until the onset of puberty
After puberty onset, there are changes in mass, structure, and tissue distribution. Males tend to carry more muscle mass, have greater bone mineral density and skeletal integrity, and females tend to carry greater relative amounts of adipose tissue (similar absolute amounts, spread across a smaller frame). Post puberty onset, there also appears to be a trend in females for quadriceps strength to increase relative to body mass while hamstring strength remains largely unchanged. This can lead to muscular imbalances, quadriceps dominance and relative weakness in the posterior chain.

2. Females have up to 9x times greater risk of non-contact ACL tears
Predisposing biomechanical factors such as wider pelvis (Q-angle) which increases rotational forces at the knee, greater quadriceps dominance, ligament laxity and generally lower physical strength exposes females to increased risk of non-contact ACL tears, and patellofemoral pain. A balanced strength and movement skill training programme has proven beneficial in reducing the risk of these common injuries.

3. Many of the primary differences in performance and metabolism are related to differences in size and body composition, rather than gender alone
Most of the true gender specific variances can be attributed to differences of muscle fibre type and sex hormone production.

4. Females and muscle growth
Testosterone is one of the primary hormones responsible for muscle growth, and post exercise repair. Both men and women produce the same hormones but differ in the amounts. Producing approximately 20 times less testosterone as males and higher amounts of estrogen, it is difficult for females to gain appreciable amounts of muscle mass.

5. Females have approximately 2/3 total muscle mass compared to males,
consisting of ½ upper body mass, ¾ lower body mass, and are on average 10% shorter. When factoring in total muscle mass per unit of height, a similar amount of total muscle mass would reduce relative strength (the measure of maximal strength in relation to body mass) level differences considerably between sexes.

6. Females benefit from similar resistance training responses as males
Although females tend to carry less muscle tissue, females can gain proportionally the same amount of strength and size as males in response to a resistance training programme, relative to mass. This means that females will gain the same percentage, of a smaller relative total mass.

7. Females tend to exhibit better metabolic health.
Despite having 2/3 muscle mass, twice the amount of fat mass as males and typically slower metabolisms, females tend to exhibit better metabolic health, specifically:

– Elevated fasting blood glucose rates are lower
– Whole body blood glucose clearance is faster
– Faster rate of glucose uptake into muscle

The hormone Estrogen is also thought to play a role in the healthier metabolic profile of females, linked to improved glucose usage.

8. Females exhibit a lower inflammatory response to resistance training
and will sustain less muscle damage than males in response to a sufficient overload stimulus. This may be one of the contributing factors to lower muscle hypertrophy levels in comparison to the training response seen in males.

9. Females are less suited for explosiveness, but are more fatigue resistant, and recover faster between bouts of effort
Females have slower muscle contractile capabilities, due to a lower concentration of Type II muscle fibres compared to males, and a lower storage capacity for anaerobic substrates and enzymes. Females however do have a higher proportion of fatigue-resistant Type I muscle fibres, and a greater capillary density, making women more suited for oxidative efficiency or aerobic work, and sustained lower-intensity muscular work. This means that overall, females tend to be less capable for short bursts of high-intensity effort, and more suited to sustained sub-maximal efforts.

Note: While females may have a lower anaerobic efficiency than males, anaerobic pathways incur a greater metabolic cost, producing more metabolic waste and fatigue. Females also metabolize a greater proportion of fat for energy at any given exercise intensity and rely less on glycogen stores, all of which contributes to females being less fatiguable. 

 

Takeaway training considerations for females: 

-Many of the main gender differences revolve around fibre type and sex hormones.

-Certain biomechanical factors can expose females to greater risk of non-contact knee injuries.

-Have similar relative strength as males, and respond similarly to resistance training.

-Have lower absolute strength and power, lower relative power.

-Do not hypertrophy to the same extent as males.

-Are less suited for short explosive bursts of activity, and more suited to sustained sub-maximal efforts or volume.

-Have greater work capacity, have better recovery after bouts of effort and sustain less muscle damage.

-Have better metabolic health: Greater insulin sensitivity, and utilise more fat for energy at any given exercise intensity (also contributing to females being less fatiguable).

Our Helen

Have you heard about HERo, our Women’s Strength and Conditioning Group?
HERo is a group training program dedicated specifically to meet the exercise needs of active women & female athletes.
Contact Sophie, at Sophie@centralperformance.com.au

 

Danny James is the Head of Personal Training and Strength and Conditioning services at Central Physio and Performance Fitness located in Surry Hills, Sydney. danny@centralperformance.com.auDanny 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. danny@centralperformance.com.au

 

 

References and further reading:

Gender differences in strength

Upper to lower body muscular strength and endurance ratios for women and men

Sex differences in strength and fatigability

Muscle size responses to strength training in young and older men and women

Response to resistance training in young women and men

Sex differences in muscle strength in equally-trained men and women

Age and sex effects on energy expenditure

Comparison of upper body strength gains between men and women after 10 weeks of resistance training

A comparison of maximal power outputs between elite male and female weightlifters

Sex Differences in Strength and Power Support the Use of a Mixed-Model Approach to Resistance Training Programing

Endocrine profiles in 693 elite athletes in the postcompetition setting

Direct and indirect effects of leptin on adipocyte metabolism

Gender differences in muscle inflammation after eccentric exercise

Variability in muscle size and strength gain after unilateral resistance training

Gender differences in strength and muscle fibre characteristics

Gender differences in skeletal muscle substrate metabolism – molecular mechanisms and insulin sensitivity

Sex differences in exercise metabolism and the role of 17-beta estradiol

Gender difference in circulating leptin level and leptin sensitivity

A longitudinal evaluation of maturational effects on lower extremity strength in female adolescent athletes

Age and gender comparisons of muscle strength in 654 women and men aged 20–93 yr

Males have larger skeletal size and bone mass than females, despite comparable body size

Are gender differences in upper-body power generated by elite cross-country skiers augmented by increasing the intensity of exercise?

The metabolic significance of leptin in humans: gender-based differences in relationship to adiposity, insulin sensitivity, and energy expenditure

Higher skeletal muscle α2AMPK activation and lower energy charge and fat oxidation in men than in women during submaximal exercise

Physical exercise and menstrual cycle alterations. What are the mechanisms?

Effects of menstrual cycle phase on athletic performance

3 Tips on training today’s female athlete 

Non-contact knee injuries in the female athlete

 

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Developing Key Athletic Qualities

At Central Performance we pride ourselves on helping our clients not only recover from injury but reach new levels of physical performance. In an earlier post we discussed how we classify movements into 6 basic patterns: hip hinge, squat, push, pull, rotation and gait. One of the other key considerations when designing our clients training programs is what physical and athletic qualities we want to develop. The key physical qualities we look to develop in our clients are:

  1. 1. Mobility
  2. 2. Strength
  3. 3. Power
  4. 4. Speed
  5. 5. Endurance

We find that in their own training clients have traditionally missed one or more of these categories. Classically it may be someone who loves jogging (endurance) and may occasionally do yoga (mobility) or lift weights (strength). However, they very rarely run fast or move explosively due to their focus on improving their endurance. This is unfortunate as power training, such as plyometrics, can have a positive effect of performance in endurance sports by improving movement efficiency. Conversely, we see some clients who love resistance training to develop strength, power and speed and also do yoga or some form of mobility training but avoid endurance training for fear it will reduce ‘gainz’. Similar to power training in endurance athletes endurance training in the right dose for people focused on strength and power development can have a significant positive impact by helping improve recovery and allowing more frequent or harder training.

Following the hierarchy of the Functional Movement System (FMS & SFMA) we look to clear mobility restrictions first in our clients. A restriction in mobility reduces the amount of proprioceptive feedback the Central Nervous System (CNS) receives from the mechanoreceptors (nerve endings that provide info on joint and body part positions) in the body. If the CNS is not receiving full proprioceptive feedback then it isn’t able use optimal muscle recruitment and movement patterns strategies, and this is when movement compensations occur. Optimising  mobility also allows for greater strength development. A restriction in mobility limits the range of movement over which a muscle can develop force, ultimately robbing the muscle of force. This is one reason why training movements like the deadlift and squat result in greater strength gains than using partial ranges of movement.

The next quality we look to develop is strength. We consider strength to be the master quality as it has a direct influence on power, speed and endurance. Power and speed both rely on the rapid development and application of force while endurance is the ability to produce force over a prolonged period of time. By increasing strength it increases the ceiling on the amount of power, speed and endurance a person is capable of displaying. An example of this is a rugby player who needs to be powerful when going in to make a tackle. If you are able to increase their level of strength, even without making any changes to their rate of force development (RFD – how quickly force can be developed) you have made them more powerful because they can now produce more force quickly. 

No wonder he’s so hard to tackle!

Another benefit of increasing strength in our clients is that it helps to build resilience and prevent injury. The literature on sports injuries shows a consistent theme that strength plays a protective role against injury. A prime example of this is the relationship between eccentric strength of the hamstrings and hamstring tears (eccentric strength is the ability of a muscle to produce force while it is being elongated or stretched). Most hamstring tears during sprinting occur at or just before ground contact while the knee and hip is rapidly extending and the hamstrings are having to produce force while rapidly being stretched. Increasing hamstring eccentric strength through exercises such as Nordic hamstring curls have been found to be protective against hamstring tears.

Power is the ability to quickly produce force and it is vital to improve performance in most sports. As mentioned above, one of the easiest ways to increase power is by increasing strength. Even without increasing RFD an increase in strength can cause a shift to the right (a positive thing) in the strength-speed curve.

Increasing strength can move everything to the right

Once a sufficient level of strength has been reached (1.5 x bodyweight squat is a good starting point for the lower body) more targeted power exercises can be very beneficial. The Olympic lifts and their derivatives, jumps, medicine ball work and kettlebell swings are some of the best and most popular power exercises. As mentioned above, power training can be very beneficial for athletes participating in endurance events, particularly running. By increasing power, especially RFD, running efficiency improves leading to improved running performance. By improving RFD a runner is able to have less ground contact time with each stride, meaning the muscles are working for shorter period of time and each stride becomes more energy efficient.

The big difference between power and speed is power is generally the application of force to an external implement (e.g. an opponent) while speed is how fast you can move your own body or limbs. For most people speed training will involve sprints or similar bodyweight only exercises and is the commonly missing element to our clients training programs. Seriously, when was the last time you sprinted flat out? Unless you are still actively involved in a sport chances are it was a long time ago that you last sprinted. However, speed is really important quality to maintain, especially as we age. Falls are one of the biggest health risks for people as they age, post-menopausal women in particular. One of the best falls prevention strategies is speed and power training. In a lot of falls the person trips or knows they are about to fall but are unable to move quickly enough to prevent falling. Maintaining speed training, especially as we age is extremely important. It is also a way to keep training enjoyable, running fast is fun.

Sprinting puts a smile on your dial

The final athletic quality we want to develop is endurance. Endurance training is probably the easiest and most commonly used form of exercise. It costs nothing to go outside and go for a walk or run, or a swim in the ocean and it is widely known that endurance training has lots of cardiovascular health benefits. Another added bonus is the positive effect endurance training can have on stress and recovery. Steady state cardio is a fantastic way to facilitate recovery from a heavy session of strength, power or speed training. Steady state cardio helps us to come out of the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response) which is utilised in high intensity training and takes us more towards the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest response). By reducing our sympathetic drive and increasing our parasympathetic state we help recover from training and other daily stresses better.

Every person will require a different blend of the 5 athletic qualities. That blend will depend on their training history, their injury history and the requirements of the sport or day-to-day activities.

To design a suitable exercise program for our clients we start with a thorough movement screen and assessment as well as take an injury history and goal setting. From there we are able to build a program that addresses or clients weaknesses while also building on their strengths.

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Why We Don’t Do ‘Girl Push Ups’ And What We Do Instead

Main Points:
1. The push up is not only a foundational upper body strength exercise, it is also a dynamic core stability exercise.
2. If you cannot perform full-length push ups, there are better alternatives than the kneeling push up that are safer and have a much higher return.
3. Appropriate exercise selection + consistently excellent technique + smart work is key to progressing safely. 

Gabriella O’Grady

The push up is one of the most universally recognised bodyweight exercises around, which when performed correctly demonstrates not only fundamental upper body strength and stability, but also one’s ability to generate whole body tension and core stability.

That’s right, push-ups are essentially a core exercise too.

The function of the outer core muscles is to resist movement of the spine, and to transfer force. It provides a robust platform from which movement of the extremities, such as pulling, pushing, carrying, throwing, striking, jumping and catching, and running can occur. In the push up, the function of the core, particularly the anterior wall known as the rectus abdominis is to provide an anchor for expressing pushing force, and to resist movement of the spine into extension.

Unfortunately push ups are rarely performed correctly. This can often be the result of improper instruction and technique, inadequate upper body pushing strength and control, but more commonly the main culprit is a lack of sufficient core strength.

Firstly, here are some examples of improper push up technique:

1. Head Back, Flexed Hips, Chicken-Winged Arms

2. Poking Head, Rounding Upper Back, Sagging Lower Back

3. Combination of Errors

 

One of the more traditional approaches to addressing the inability to execute a push up is to regress to a kneeling position, as you can see in pictures 1 and 3. This makes the exercise easier as this set-up cuts the body in half, shortens the lever and reduces the load. Unfortunately there are a few problems with this version of the staple exercise. Firstly, the kneeling position with knees slightly bent tensions the tissues at the front of the thigh that cross both the hip and knee joints, namely the rectus femoris muscle.

Much like a pulley system, in the bent knee set-up this increased stretch can pull at the attachment site of the pelvis and effectively pull it into an anterior tilt. This forward rotated pelvis reduces bracing and tension capabilities of the anterior core musculature and glutes. Since quality push up repetitions require the ability to generate a strong bracing strategy with your abs and glutes to maintain the position of your pelvis and spine, performing the push up from a kneeling position is not ideal.

Further, the sagging low back position at set up can cause compressive stress to the lumbar region of the spine as it is driven into excessive extension, which is exacerbated with the increase of pushing force through the arms. The shoulder could also be at risk due to the forward weight shift that can occur and subsequent increased support load if there is also poor scapulohumeral rhythm and stability to handle it. This could lead to some of the more delicate structures in the shoulder having to take up much more of the slack.

When you have all of these other areas of passive restraints take up the workload of mitigating forces, at best you fail to actually target the intended movement, make little progress if any and may simply have to recover more. At worst you might get hurt.

The push up is one way to challenge and develop the skill of whole body bracing and torso control, which helps to distribute load across more area, and performing them from a long lever position is how we do it.

Here are a couple of the progressions that we use, along the way to performing full-lever push-ups from the floor:

1.Hands Elevated Push Up (gradually lower the height of the bar as you progress)
2.Band Assisted Push Up (band thickness and tension while determine the amount of assistance offered)
3.Push Up (this was Gillian’s first ever set of full push ups)

While we are working our way through the push up progressions we will also supplement with direct pillar work. Here are some of the progressions that we use to enhance anti-extension strength of the anterior core:

1. Front Plank
2.Ball Rollout
3.Wheel Rollout
4.BodySaw

As mentioned earlier, the key to training that improves movement quality and  quality of life is appropriate exercise selection + consistently excellent technique + smart work.

If you are interested in our unique approach to training, feel free to call us any time and let us help you.

Ladies, if you are struggling to make the kind of progress you’ve been working towards and would like become a stronger, fitter, and more confident and capable version of yourself, you can join our all new Women’s Strength and Conditioning Program, commencing in April.

Registrations will close on April 15th so if you would like to reserve your place, call us at the clinic on 9280 2322, contact us via our website HERE or email Sophie directly at sophie@centralperformance.com.au.

We hope to see you soon.

Danny James is the Head of Personal Training and Strength and Conditioning services at Central Physio and Performance Fitness located in Surry Hills, Sydney. danny@centralperformance.com.au

 

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. danny@centralperformance.com.au

 

 

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