Posts Tagged strength and conditioning coach

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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What’s Better For Recovery From Strength Training? Whole Body Cryotherapy, Cold Water Immersion, or Placebo.

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.”

What happened?
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.”

The study concluded that while WBC may perform slightly better on some recovery indices following a single resistance training session, overall neither WBC or CWI performed better than the placebo treatment at accelerating recovery.

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. danny@centralperformance.com.au

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Recovery (part 4): Compression Garments

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:

  • Help Thermoregulatory control (maintaining correct body temperature)
  • Provides greater joint-position awareness
  • Enhanced local blood blow
  • Enhanced removal of post-exercise waste products
  • Enhanced muscle oxygenation
  • Reduced muscle oscillations
  • Reduced swelling
  • Reduced creatine kinase concentrations 
  • Reduced perception of post-exercise muscle soreness and fatigue

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 sponsorshipship and potential financial gain.

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.

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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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What To Do To Help Recovery

The four main components that we address when building a high-performance program are mindset, movement, nutrition, and recovery. With this post and the few to follow we are going to look at some things that you can do to influence an often overlooked but vital piece of the performance puzzle, recovery.
First up, here is a general overview.
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”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
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It’s important to understand that physical (and mental) exertion is a stress input that requires a recovery process and ultimately triggers a particular adaptation. Within the training realm, your workout is the stressor event. After a difficult session, there is an alarm reaction in the body caused by working out that results in a mobilising response, creates an inroad to your recovery and an acute performance decline. After this, a rebuilding period is required for the body to build back up to baseline and beyond in order to withstand future training inputs.
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The rebuilding or recovery stage is made up of the physiological events that occur between workouts and is helped along by good nutrition, enough sleep and various other activities that we’ll talk more about later.
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 If you’ve done enough to recover from your training inroads and adapted to a higher ceiling of resilience, you’ll notice a small increase in performance (faster time, longer distance, heavier weight etc). It can be said then that you’ve completed the cycle and gained a positive adaptation from your training.
You’ve gotten a little better, and so the cycle continues. Apply an appropriate and recoverable stimulus, and repeat.
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Stress + Recovery = Adaptation
…or 
Work + Rest = Success

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As you can see, improving performance is a delicate balance of measured training and healthy supporting habits to maximise the result of your efforts. Recovery is the necessary bridge between the work that you do and what you get out of it. You don’t progress from simply training alone.
 
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There are two parts to recovery: Rest and Regeneration.
Rest is an entirely passive strategy, involving a deliberate attempt to minimise planned movement and the mental and emotional duress associated with aiming one’s efforts at a long-term training plan.
Rest is aimed squarely on achieving physical and psychological recharge.
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Regeneration involves active, movement-based strategies used to minimise fatigue, replenish energy systems, encourage tissue healing and function, re-sensitise to the training stimulus, and speed up the recovery process.
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Some of these strategies include manual therapy, stretching, low-stress aerobic activity, and cold therapies to name a few.
 
We will discuss some of the strategies in the next instalment.
 
Stay tuned…
 

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3 Things You Must Have Before You Begin A Training Program

Spring usually marks the beginning of an increase in gym traffic as many people begin to shake off the winter dust and head into the gym ready to shape up for the summer.
Unfortunately, much of this enthusiasm will wain early and the majority of well-intentioned and under-prepared trainees will fall off the path and never achieve the things that they could have.
Here are three things that we suggest you explore with yourself honestly and objectively, and address, before you begin your fitness journey, in order dramatically increase the chances of success and having your efforts come to fruition.
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1. A Reason WHY: 
Having a specific and meaningful purpose behind your training can serve as a strong foundation, and a fallback reminder for when times get tough, of what you truly value and why it’s important to do all the little things that are necessary, inconvenient and oftentimes uncomfortable in order to reach your goals. This is particularly important during the initial (and most challenging) period of trying to establish new habits and lifestyle change.
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The things that we say to ourselves, matter.
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So make sure that you anchor all of your actions off of a clear and powerful purpose and you will dramatically increase your chances of staying the difficult course towards success. As Roy Disney once said: ”When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.”
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2. A Plan
This one would seem like common sense but surprisingly the majority of gym-goers are entering the gym with no clear goal or plan of action and often end up performing whatever exercises come to mind at the time. The problem with this approach, however, is that:
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Random training yields random results. Period. 
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The old ‘something is better than nothing’ response is no excuse either. Particular training goals will have a very specific set of requirements that are guided by proven scientific principles and practical application.
Simply doing what you feel like is a road that leads to nowhere in particular, very quickly.
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A plan will give you a direction to send your best efforts, guard-rails to keep you on track against the many options and distractions as well as feedback on results. Your program should also have both short and long-term considerations in mind, starting from where you want to be, working back to where you are now and broken up into smaller, more manageable chunks of training time.
This provides the flexibility to change course throughout the process based on results and offers many smaller, specific and more attainable goals along the way that inject a bolstered focus and motivation to your training that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Remember, random training yields random results. If this is not an area of specialty for you, getting a plan built by an expert in the area of program design can save you significant time, effort and frustration.
The same way that we rely on a mechanic to oversee the safe and efficient running of our vehicles, a doctor to oversee and provide guidance on our health and well being, it’s also valuable to seek help from an exercise professional who can guide you in the right direction with a clear plan of action.
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Having the right plan will work far better than having no plan at all and leaving all of your progress to wishes and guesses. Ultimately, the benefit of having a plan is that it provides clarity and focus. Discovering your why will provide you with a vision of what you want to attain, a plan will provide you with the clarity of what needs to be done, and the focus to address the small daily actions that will add up over time.
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Wishes and guesses: the preferred strategy of every unsuccessful person you know.

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3. A Support Crew: 
A support network of people who care about you, respect your goals, and who genuinely want to see you succeed is a hugely underrated component to success in any endeavour. There are going to be challenges and you will likely stumble from time to time along the way and having good people around you who’ll lift you in those difficult times might just be the very thing you need at the time to keep going.
Having somebody to be accountable to also helps, and this can be a training buddy, a coach or a friend to whom you can announce your intentions to, and check in with on a regular basis to hold you to your word.
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Remember, nobody has to understand or agree with your goals, but it is important that you gather around you people who respect and support your choices. Your environment matters and mediocracy loves company. Choose your support crew of coaches, training partners, and friends wisely. Find people who will push you and pull you up on your excuses. People you can lean on without relying on, and who you genuinely enjoy being around.
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If you’re looking to get started and would like to do it right, reach out to us here.

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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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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118 Health and Fitness Tips

To help you get started on the right track with your fitness endeavours, here is a quick list of 118 things that we know are good for us.

1. Move often
2. Movement is a skill. Good movement takes practise
3. Mobility before stability
4. Move in different directions
5. Train movements, not parts (the body is a complex, dynamic SYSTEM)
6. Push
7. Pull
8. Squat
9. Hinge
10. Lunge
11. Lift
12. Brace
13. Rotate
14. Carry
15. Grip
16. Hold
17. Drag
18. Climb
19. Crawl
20. Roll
21. Balance
22. Jump
23. Hop
24. Bound
25. Throw/Catch
26. On two legs, and one
27. Learn to march and skip
28. Move sideways
29. Move backwards
30. Walk daily
31. Swim
32. Run
33. Sprint
34. Running and sprinting are not the same thing
35. Calisthenics
36. Play different sports
37. Play
38. Smile
39. Laugh
40. Relax more
41. Read more
42. Breathe deeply and slowly
43. Practise meditation/mindfulness
44. Do crosswords/learn a language (it’s good for the brain)
45. Sleep atleast 8 hours each night
46. Take power naps
47. Sit differently
48. Get away from your desk often
49. Drink more water
50. Eat more vegetables
51. Eat breakfast
52. Eat enough
53. Eggs are not bad for you
54. Supplements aren’t magic
55. Invest in your health
56. Fasted Training, Low Carb and Detoxes are largely overrated
57. Balanced nutrition = 90% healthy choices + 10% having a life
58. Take your shoes off
59. Strengthen your feet
60. Wash your hands
61. Take the stairs
62. Go outside often
63. Have a morning ritual
64. Do cardio (aerobically fit people live the longest, AND have better quality of life)
65. Intervals are hard, but time efficient. (perhaps not the best option for beginners)
66. Work on mobility maintenance DAILY
67. Healthy joints need movement
68. Get strong in stretch
69. Mobility = flexibility + CONTROL
70. Flexibility, without control is risky
71. Static stretching is overrated
72. Stability is not strength (you need both)
73. Strength is functional
74. Strength is protective
75. Strength is relative
76. Train to become robust
77. Use different implements (barbell/dumbbell/kettlebells etc)
78. Train for Power
79. Train velocity
80. Bodyweight before added resistance
81. Light before heavy
82. Slow before fast
83. Bilateral before unilateral
84. Stable before unstable
85. If it’s painful, don’t do it
86. If you’re injured, do what you can (within recommended guidelines)
eg. Can you modify an exercise, or train around an injury? Can you train anything at all?
87. Do the basics well
88. Do less, better (80:20 Rule)
89. Large movements
90. Full ROM
91. Perfect technique always
92. If you don’t know what perfect technique is, seek out a good strength and conditioning coach
93. If you’re new to training, seek out a good strength and conditioning coach
94. Good strength and conditioning coaches aren’t cheap, and cheap ones aren’t good
95. Have S.M.A.R.T. goals (successful people do)
96. Have a plan
97. Firm goals, flexible methods
98. Keep a training diary
99. Track progress, and progress appropriately
100. Manage training fatigue
101. Manage stress
102.  Change/tweak your program every month or so
103. Strategic exercise variation
104. One size does not fit all (re exercises and plans)
105. Consistency is key
106. Ask for a spot
107. Share your equipment
108. Put your weights away
109. Build your team (people with a strong social support network perform better)
110. Join a group or train with friends (social dynamics matter)
111. Take time away from training once in a while
112. Take holidays
113. Work + Rest = Success
114. Fitness is simple, not easy
115. Show up, do something
116. Accumulate small wins
117. Focus on process, not the outcome
118. Aim for progress, not perfect

Danny James, Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at Central Physio & Performance Fitness

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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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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