Anti-Inflammatory Diet

June 20th, 2011

Inflammation is part of the complex biological response of vascular tissues to irritation, damage/injury, or harmful stimuli such as pathogens (infectious agents/germs). Symptoms of inflammation include pain, swelling, redness (discoloration), and occasionally limited or loss of function to the area.

Inflammatory Diet

Certain foods are believed to increase your risk of inflammation throughout the body. Such foods include; “junk foods”(any type of food with low caloric value), high-fat meats, sugary, and highly processed foods(foods which have been altered from their natural state). Individuals who are consciously trying to reduce inflammation should decrease their consumption of trans fats(type of fat formed by the partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils that has been shown to be bad for your health. Trans fats raise LDL cholesterol, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease) and saturated fats(formed mostly in animal products and some plants. Saturated fat causes high LDL cholesterol levels). Both trans and saturated fats can be reduced by cutting back on highly processed foods, red meats, and high-fat processed meats such as bacon and sausage. Cutting back on the intake of refined white flours found in bread and pastas will also help. Move away for white flours and towards 100% whole-grains instead (a great option is Ezekiel breads and Ezekiel English Muffins0.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Just as there are certain fats which can increase inflammation there are others which can decrease it. Omega-3 fatty acids are an excellent source of fat and can be found in cold-water oily fish, flax seeds, canola oil and pumpkin seeds. Monounsaturated fats found in cold water olive oil, avocado and nuts has been linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Other healthful oils include rice bran oil, grape seed oil, and walnut oil.

As you already know fruits and vegetables are also a must. Whole fruits, berries and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and phytohemicals. Choose green and brightly colored vegetables, and whole fruits. As always mentioned, individuals should consume at least five or more servings a day of fruits and vegetables.

If you are an athlete you may be asking what are the best sources of protein. Stick with lean poultry, fish and seafood(fatty fish offers protein as well as omega-3 fatty acids).

Also remember that for your body to function at it’s best you need to consume plenty of water.

In my next article I will list the top anti-inflammatory foods.

Lift Heavy, Lift Explosively, and Lift Smart

June 13th, 2011

If you are an athlete or a gym rat you want to outwork and out lift everyone else in the gym. You understand that time and dedication is what it takes to yield impressive results. That being said, it is also important to appreciate that on top of hard work and dedication, intelligence plays a huge role in how successful a person is in the gym or how triumphant an athlete is on the field of play. I am a firm believer that whoever works the hardest will receive tremendous results, but know that whoever works the smarts as well as the hardest will receive the greatest results.

Plan out your program as judiciously as possible. Work hard, lift heavy, be explosive; but most importantly understand when and how to use these methods of lifting. Just going into the gym everyday and maxing out will most likely lead to an early plateau resulting in you not reaching your true potential. Yes, I know there have been individuals such as wrestling great Dan Gable who seemed to push themselves to the max everyday and achieved legendary status. Athletes like this are the exceptions rather than the rule.

To keep increasing power, strength, and size you have to be aware of and avoid the down falls of CNS fatigue.

CNS- The Central Nervous System is the part of the nervous system which integrates the information received from, and coordinates the activity of, all parts of the body. It contains the majority of the nervous system and consists of the brain and spinal cord.

What is considered CNS intensive training?

CNS intensive training occurs basically anytime you max out whether; it is using extremely heavy weights for max or close to max repetitions, or lifting submaximal weights as quickly and explosively as possible (such as with Olympic lifts). Both sprinting and plyometrics are also consider CNS intensive activities.

When designing a program ideally you would never want to perform two CNS demanding workouts on back to back days. To preform to your aptitude and to make tangible gains, your CNS needs sufficient recovery time.

This does not necessarily mean that you can only workout every other day. The point is that you would not want to perform Olympic lifts everyday. If you did snatches on Monday it is perfectly fine to lift on Tuesday, just don’t repeat the same intensity, instead do higher repetitions and not until failure.

Could an individual perform explosive lifts on consecutive days? Of course. Trainees do this all the time and have tremendous results. What I am saying is that if carried on for too long a period it may lead to burnout. So, if your schedule allows you to design a program which you perform CNS intense training only after a day of light lifting or rest, this is ideal. If not listen to your body, and look for indications of when to rest.

The 4 Groups of Sports Exercises:Competitive Exercises

June 9th, 2011

In my last few blogs I explained and broke down the first 3 groups of sports exercises. In today’s blog I will be going over the last and final stage/component of exercises for an athlete:”Competitive Exercises”. If you are an athlete or are training an athlete it is important to understand when and how to use competitive exercises during the training process.

Competitive exercises are the actual competitive actions (techniques) of a given sport. These movements are performed as they would be during a contest. These types of exercises are the only methods of training which totally recreate the requirements of a given sport. Because of the fact that they are able to reconstruct the necessities of a competition they are essential in the developing of competitive readiness. These exercises are highly intense and they place tremendous amounts of stress both physically and mentally on the athlete. It is because of this high level of demand that competitive exercises should only make-up a small amount of the total exercises in a program. Although the demand is great, an athlete can not afford to remove these exercises from their training regimen. Athletes would not be able to train too often with competitive exercises as they would peak much too early, reach burnout, or suffer an injury. To give an example of how little actual time is spent performing competitive exercises, trainer Tudor Bompa says that within a year high jumpers would actually spend only approximately two hours on jumps with a full approach, while pole-vaulters would spend only about an hour more.

It is important to understand that exercises have two ways in which they can affect the athlete. One way is through changes in the structures of the body. Strength exercises (general exercise period) will effect the muscles, tendons, and bones, while endurance exercises develop the lung capacity and the structure and function of the heart. Another way to cause changes to the athletes performance is through functional changes in the nervous system (sport-specific period). Remember, the athlete wants to build a strong foundation using general and direct exercises before moving to the more sport-specific and competitive exercises.

For more information on this topic I recommend Science of Sports Training:How to Plan and Control Training for Peak Performance, by Thomas Kurz.

The 4 Groups of Sports Exercises:Sport-Specific

June 7th, 2011

The next group of sport exercise are those that directly contribute to the improvement of an athlete’s performance. This group of exercises is referred to as “Sport-specific” exercises. The majority of sport-specific exercises consist of elements of competitive movements, or actions which are almost identical in form and dynamic character to competitive actions/techniques. These exercises should not be confused with “Competitive Exercises” which are the actual competitive actions used during competition.

Sport-specific exercises use the same muscle groups, intensity, and often times form, as the actions used during the competition. Examples of a sport-specific exercises would be: a boxer working the heavy bag, a sprinter practicing her takeoff from the blocks, or a javelin thrower using a pulley to practice the throwing technique and engaging the muscle groups used during the throw (hip-shoulder-arm). These exercises are beneficial because they can be more selective than competitive exercises. The coach or athlete can select aspects of the competitive technique which needs to be improved upon and focus on that facet. As mentioned previously if a sprinter is having difficulty with the explosiveness out of the blocks that phase will be broken down, trained, and improved on. This differs from competitive exercises which focus on the sprint as a whole.

Sport-specific exercises do not always have to duplicate the movements used during a competition. An example of this would be a sprinter performing explosive squats. This exercise is considered sport-specific even though the it has little resemblance to a sprint. The reason is that the squat can directly contribute to the improving the sprint. This is the key to remember with choosing sport-specific exercises, can they directly translate to on the field actions?

In my next blog I will discuss competitive exercises which is the last of the 4 groups of sport exercises.

The 4 Groups of Sports Exercises:Direct Exercises

June 3rd, 2011

In my previous blog I discussed the first group of sport exercises – “General Exercises” in today’s blog I will go over the next group – “Direct Exercises”.

This group of exercises will follow the general exercises (which helped develop overall strength and balance for the athlete). Direct exercises introduce the athlete to even more sport-specific exercises which they will be carrying  out during the following stage. Sport-specific exercises will be executed more often than they were in the previous stage and in much more depth. What occurs often in the earlier stages, beginning with the general and followed by the direct, is that a particular sport-specific exercise may be broken down into smaller segments, teaching the basic concept and mechanics with general then direct exercises so the athlete may perform them entirely along with great precision during the sport-specific level in their training. These “building”exercises introduced with the general and direct exercises help prepare the athlete for the following stage.

Direct exercises involve the muscle groups that are essential in the given sport and use the same energy system as the actual sport. These drills use similar dynamic characteristics as the sport, however, the exact movement of the sport is not duplicated. An example of a direct exercise would be teaching a long jumper various plyometric jumps. Now these jumps would not be exactly the same as the takeoff used during the competition, however, the exact explosiveness and energy systems being called upon during the varying jumping exercises will be equivalent to that used in the long jump.

Direct exercises are effective because they allow the athlete to do more total work without major concern if the form begins to breakdown. During sport-specific exercises the athlete will not want to sacrifice form, as ingraining the proper technique is key for future competition.

In my next blog I will discuss sport-specific exercises.

The 4 Groups of Sports Exercises:General Exercises

June 2nd, 2011

In my last blog I discussed the dividing up of an exercise program into 4 distinct groups when training for a particular sport or competition. In today’s blog I will breakdown the first group known as “General Exercises” and explain the objective and goals behind this particular group.

General exercises are those which develop overall fitness and are not necessarily geared towards a particular sport. The objective of general exercises is to create a well balanced body which will be ready to withstand further specialization.

General exercises can and will include exercises/drills which are similar in someways to more sport-specific exercises and those that are very different, perhaps even contrary to the sport-specific exercises (this helps prevent overuse injuries and a more balanced athlete). The exercises which are similar to the sport-specific exercises are designed to help the athlete prepare both physically (understanding how to execute certain movement patterns, and preparing the body to withstand the physical impact) and psychologically (the purpose and reasoning behind the lift) for when the are more advanced. The program at this stage must vary enough to ensure versatile development. Remember at this stage the athlete is preparing herself for more advanced lifts/movements that she will be performing at other stages. The athlete needs build a level of fitness which can withstand further demands on the body. Jumping into more advanced lifts or drills may cause the athlete to peak to early, develop bad habits, or get injured.

General exercises should be used in all periods of a macrocycle and should be especially considered when working with novice athletes. They will be used in all stages of training. During the sport-specific preparation stage there purpose is to stabilize the form. They help to reinforce the training effect of sport-specific exercises due to the variability of stimuli.

In my next blog I will discuss the next group of exercises know as “Direct Exercises”

The 4 Groups of Sports Exercises

June 1st, 2011

When designing a long term workout program for yourself (if you are training for a particular sport) or working with a beginning athlete, consider dividing the training regiment into 4 groups of sports exercises: general exercises, directed exercises, sports-specific exercises, and competitive exercises.

The reason behind dividing the workout into such groups is based on the commonalities of their form to the sports technique. Each group will use particular energy systems and muscle fibers, along with varying degrees of concentration levels. The more sports specific the exercise the higher the level of concentration and the greater amount of mental energy which will be used.

Always consider the athletes age,workout history, and skill level. The long-term progression should begin with the most basic (general) exercises, as the athlete develops the focus can begin to become more and more sports specific. Think of trying to develop an all around well conditioned athlete before attempting to focus the workouts on a particular sport. When focusing on a particular sport at too young an age or to early in an individuals workout program peaking early often results, if an injury has not occurred yet.

In my next few articles I will breakdown each group of exercises and explain what constitutes each and when to apply them.

It’s OK to Rest ad Allow the Body to Recover

February 9th, 2011

Too many people think being hard core means pushing their body to the max every workout for 5-6 days per week. To get results not only do you need to train hard but also train smart. This means resting when necessary and not pushing yourself over the limit. Three-four days of training per week is plenty. I would also say it is probably better to air on the side of less than it is more. If you hit the weights hard, two days can be healthier than five.

If your goal is to get bigger, stronger, stay healthy, and/or improve your overall health and conditioning, your body will need to be pushed hard, but it will also need proper nutrition and plenty of rest. It is impossible to go 100% percent all the time without giving yourself a chance to mentally and physically recover. Remember it is during your off days that your muscles will grow, it is not while you are training them. When pushing yourself to max moving heavy weights your muscles are tearing down. Give your muscles a chance to recover, repair, and build stronger. The mental escape away from the gym will also help prepare against burnout.

A good rule of thumb if you are lifting and training hard is to take a break (7 days off) every eight to ten weeks. After that time period you should come back stronger,rejuvenated, and mentally prepared to work hard again. For those who don’t rest they will often hit their peak much sooner than they should.

If you are a high school athlete playing three sports; try and take advantage of any opportunities to rest. If their is a week off between seasons use it. I see too many high school athletes who are so afraid they will not be ready for the next season jump right in to training the day their previous season ends. It is great to be ambitious but not always the best decision. You may not always have a week to rest between, but if you do allow your body the opportunity to recover. Getting into the gym for an extra couple of days to train will not always make you, but it may break you. If there is no week off take any time which is available, get to bed early even on the weekends and grab an weekends extra rest when it is available.

Another way to help the body recover is through massage. If you can afford one try working in a massage every month. If that is not available use a foam roler to work on the muscle fascia. For smaller knots in areas such as the upper back lying on a tennis ball can help. Also make sure to ice down sore spots post workout.

Stop Over Thinking, Over Analyzing, and Over Preparing

February 3rd, 2011

My brother will spend two weeks painstakingly designing a program. A training regiment which will help get him in “the greatest shape” of his life. The program will be broken down scientifically: days per week, sets, reps, rest periods, and span 52 weeks with off weeks indicated. From there he will workout four days the first two weeks, three the third week, drop down to one – two the following weeks until he has lost motivation, injured himself, or discovered a new routine that he thinks he needs to be doing. He has made himself a weight vest, used Strength Shoes (he was inspired by Jimmy), bought Bowflex, bought a pull up bar, kettlebells, jump ropes, tried p90x, kb videos, Body for Life, Yoga videos, tried Boxing, and (I am sure he has tried or purchased many other pieces of equipment and programs), yet he has not been able to stay with any particular one.

Some of has decisions/purchases were good, somewhere unnecessary, and some were just plain bad. With constantly changing his goals, focus, and always looking for the next best thing he has missed years in which he could have been making valuable progress. In that time if he had simply stuck with the kettlebells and a book by Pavel, or purchased an Olympic bar some weights and hung up a pull up bar, he could have been having years of good workouts.

Way to often would be trainees get caught up in all the peripheral issues when training. They get distracted by minutia. Trainees want to make sure they do everything correct they never get around to doing anything. Once they start they wonder if they are doing the right thing, they see some other program and figure it must be better so they stop their program before any results will be seen and start a new one. With constantly stopping and starting over results are hard to come by.

You do not need to over analyze your programs. Stick with the basics. Perform compound movements such as squats, deadlifts, push presses, or some kettlebell swings. Be committed to that program for three days per week for eight weeks and you will see results. Be diligent about righting down every session and have one goal every time you workout: Get Stronger. Your only goal should be to beat your previous sessions numbers. After eight weeks tweak your program, just slightly, change rep range or switch up one of the exercises. But stay with the basic program! If you do this I guarantee you will results.

Lifting Tempo vs. Speed

February 2nd, 2011

If you have been around the gym for awhile you have often heard discussed the proper lifting tempo when training. Everyone has different theories on the matter and varying reasons for their beliefs. Weight lifting tempo refers to the number of seconds it takes for the lifter to complete the full range of motion for a single repetition. Lifting tempo can be expressed using three or four numbers. An alternative to lifting tempo is lifting for speed. When training you need to decide where you fall on the issue of lifting tempo/speed. The mistake often made by individuals is to listen to fellow gym goers who give counsel to others without even considering the goals, experience, or even medical history of the person whom they are doling out their advice.

If you are considering using lifting tempos or speed lifts you first need to be honest with yourself. Decide what your goals are, take into account how long you have been training for, consider your age, and evaluate any injuries you may have.

Goals – If you are an athlete training to build dynamic power to help better prepare you for your on the field / court performance you want to avoid slow tempo training as much as possible. In order to become explosive and powerful you need to train that way. This means when performing an exercise such as the bench press you need to lower the bar (the eccentric phase) quickly, and reverse the direction (concentric phase) rapidly. The transition from the eccentric to concentric phase should be as fast as possible.

If your goal is to be built like a body builder, slow tempo may be something you may want to try. This method of training results in sarcoplasm hypertrophy. Basically you are inflating your muscle size with adding little in the sense of contractile speed or force production (relative when compared to lifting for explosive power). Some would argue what is the point, but if you want to get bigger and don’t care that much about how much you can lift then maybe this is the best approach for you. An example of this would be a 4/1/3/0 tempo. This would mean four seconds on the eccentric phase, one second pause at the bottom, and a three second concentric, with no pause at the top. You can very the pauses depending on the exercise and how much tension is placed on a particular muscle during the exercise.

I am not a huge fan of this approach, but that is because I have different goals. For some people I think it makes sense. Do what makes you happy and gives you the best results.

Experience - Although you may be training to enhance your quickness, power, and improve your athletic ability you do however want to remain as controlled as possible while lifting. This is especially true if you are a novice lifter. When first learning the mechanics you want to make sure you have sound technique and have built a strong enough base before lifting for speed. I never have beginners train to failure and I never have them lifting for speed. (This does not include Olympic lifts which I would be using a light bar, broom stick, or nothing at all, as we practice dropping from the hips to get below the bar). Develop the skills, ingrain the movements into your body, build strong stabilizing muscles, and then advance to the quicker lifts.

Age – As you get older you may want to consider being less ballistic with your lifts. Lifting with excessive speed can cause injury both acutely and cumulatively. These injuries can occur in the bone structure, connective tissue, fascia, and to the muscle tissue itself.(These examples given are extreme cases and if they were to occur it would most likely be during heavy Olympic lifts). Still it is always better to air on the side of safety, my advice is to slowdown the tempo and avoid using momentum as you age.

History of Injuries – Your past medical history needs to be examined when considering lifting tempo. As mentioned previously if you are lifting to improve your speed and power on the athletic field you must train accordingly. However, it is important to measure the risk versus reward. An athlete with a shoulder injury may not want to be lifting heavy weights for speed during the bench press, and would most likely want to avoid exercises such as plyometric push ups. The internal forces encountered by a given joint are increased when momentum is used. The faster the weight is lifted, the greater the internal forces become. These forces are greatest during the acceleration and deceleration phases. When the forces produced exceed the structural limits of a joint than an injury will occur. If an injury already exists than the athlete is just playing with fire if they are lifting ballistically and using momentum.

When recovering form an injury slow down the tempo, rehab the injury, and strengthen the joint. It is more important at this point to reinforce the area rather than to train for explosive power.

For beginners, aging trainees, and athletes recovering form injury concentrate on form and keeping a steady tempo throughout (e.g. 1/1/1/1) rather than worrying about increasing time under tension or lifting ballistic fashion. For the beginners when they have advanced to intermediate, and for the athletes who have recovered you can change and play around with your speeds once a base has been established.