James DeAndressi B.S, NASM-CPT has been interning at SportPerformanceU this summer and will be today’s guest blogger. James earned his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Southern Connecticut State University and is planning on attending school this fall to become a physical therapist assistant. Below you will find his piece on why including a proper warm is so important.
It is clear based on research, observation, and comparison that a good warm up before a workout can increase the overall quality of how you spend your time in the gym. The question is however, what makes up a good warm up and why is the warm up part of the workout important? All trainers may have different opinions and different ways of training but for the most part, it is fair to say that most qualified trainers in any setting should agree with the warm up being a key part to an individual’s daily routine.
At SPU we will typically start a client with soft tissue work as well as some specific dynamic warm up exercises. Soft tissue work for a client will be mainly foam rolling or simple active massage unless the trainer is certified and/or licensed as a professional health care provider. They need to be legally bound to doing some type of manual soft tissue work on a client. Foam rolling is safe, effective, and backed by research to roll out fascia to fix cross linked muscle fibers. This will in turn make the muscles fire and perform the best it can for that specific person at that specific time.
Foam Rolling Techniques
A good warm up needs to consist of anything we as trainers believe will have a positive impact on our client during the workout. Mobility, or in other words, the ability to move freely through a given range of motion is one component to a good warm up. Exercises to increase range of motion include ankle dorsiflexion at a wall or shoulder wall slides. Corrective exercises are another key component. These exercises will be put on a client’s program depending on the results of some type of movement analysis. Corrective exercise is a broad topic but in the simplest of terms, they are specific exercises that will be targeting some type of human movement deficiency. Examples of some corrective exercises would be Unilateral or Bilateral Internal/External Rotation of the shoulder joint or hip joint and bird dogs to increase core stability as well as to strengthen a specific deep muscle connected to the spine which can cause pain. Trainers should take note of any types of movement deficiencies during every training session in order to progress or add/subtract corrective exercises. In other words, analyzing movement should not be an afterthought but should be constantly on a trainer's mind during sessions. To learn more about SPU’s specific biomechanical analysis, read our blog which gives some detail on this topic.
Dynamic exercises are another way we can prepare a client’s body for the upcoming workout. At SPU this is the final part of the warm up before going into our power, strength, speed, and conditioning blocks. According to Eric Cressey, in his book Maximum Strength “we are focusing on raising body temperature which in turn will raise muscles temperature. Lubricating muscles and joints as well as increasing mobility in key joints while enhancing stability in others in order to perform strength movements more efficiently” is also part of the equation. Some examples of dynamic exercises would be leg raises or a lateral shuffle.
Trainers who understand the importance of a well-balanced exercise program will have a warm up section that is not overlooked, rushed, or inefficient. For a client’s own personal well being, I would recommend changing trainers if they did not properly warm up a client before a workout. Fitness professionals should all look at the warm up as a line of defense, if you will, for decreasing injury. As fitness professional including a solid warm up is a necessity.
For as long as we can remember, static stretching has been considered a cure-all for injuries and maladies. What's the first thing your coach tells you to do when you get hurt? Most likely "go stretch it out." While static stretch serves a purpose, it's really not a cure-all.
First, it's not really a good warm up. Most folks are up to date on this and use a dynamic warm up, but I still see some teams do static stretching prior to activity. (Just as an aside, static stretching is where we hold a limb at the end range of motion of a particular joint for a set time; dynamic stretches include continuous movement). Using static stretching as a warm up has actually been proven to decrease physical outputs.
Second, most injuries don't require basic static stretching. Take a muscle strain, for instance - the muscle is damaged because at some point it took on too much force at too great a range of motion. Stretching the muscle even further doesn't really accomplish anything positive. There are some cases where physical therapists and doctors might use stretching during a rehab protocol to help regain a lost range of motion, but this is for much more traumatic injuries that have greater impact to function and require a more comprehensive healing method. But, speaking of range of motion...
Third, static stretching isn't always the solution to a "tight" muscle. In many cases, tightness is a symptom of something else, like neuromuscular patterning or stability in an adjacent segment/joint. In this case, stretching accomplishes very little. Have you ever met anyone who says they stretch all the time and still seems very tight? It happens fairly often - stretching isn't the answer to every problem. In some cases, it even makes the problem worse. A kid with limitation in the hip flexor might go to stretch the hip flexor and instead just arch his lower back giving the illusion of hip stretch, but really create low back problems without actually doing anything to the hip. In reality, the problem might just have been a weakness somewhere in the hip complex that made it not willing to move into a full range of motion.
The point of this article is just to point out that stretching isn't a cure-all - it's one of many tools that we have, and to be honest, it's one of the smaller, less useful ones. Stability work, soft tissue work, modified stretching with small movements and controlled isometric contractions, and strength all tend to get better results for increasing mobility than stretching.
As much as we try to prevent injuries from taking place with solid training plans, quality nutrition and the right amount of R&R, we still have a pretty good chance of running into an injury sooner or later. How serious that injury is will depend on a multitude of factors. Were you playing football and took a helmet to the side of the knee or on the track sprinting the first 100 meters of your 400 meter race? Whatever the injury is and how long it keeps us out will vary, but how you respond to an injury will likely dictate how well you recover and how fast you return to play.
Attitude is everything. If you have the right attitude you can accomplish anything. Our mind is by far the most powerful tool we have. If you have two athletes with the same injury and everything else is equal besides their attitude it is easy to say you would take the athlete with the better attitude. But it’s not just that their attitude is better, it is that their attitude will make their recovery that much more successful. If your mindset is to get back to the level of play you were at before the injury took place your focus on the things you have control of will be greater. Those things include your training, nutrition and recovery program.
Having the right attitude with or without an injury is something that has to be developed. It takes work and doesn’t happen just because you want it to. Practice being more positive about the good things you have and worry less about the negative. Think about the good things that can happen today instead of bad things that might happen. Be grateful for what you have. Stop complaining. Help others; it will make you feel better about yourself and your situation.
You have the choice to be a positive or negative person and the choice you make will affect you as an athlete. Having a positive attitude will make your outlook on your injury less daunting and leave you will more energy to focus on getting back to play. Think positive, it’s amazing the possibilities that will open.
During my time in this profession I have had many young men tell me that they could not gain weight, it was impossible and only an act of God would suffice. Well I’m here to tell you that that is a load of you know what. Just like anything else in life, it comes down to how much work you are willing to put into it. There are two problems facing the supposed hard gainer. First and foremost they need to be eating enough quality food to actually put on weight. This would seem to be pretty straight forward, but most are missing the boat on this one. Second and just as important they need to be on a quality strength and conditioning programs.
Below you will find 10 simple tips for how to gain some quality size.
1. If you are eating all the right stuff and have not gained weight in the last month eat more of what you are eating. If you are eating three eggs, eat four instead. Having a quarter cup of rice, eat half a cup. Just having half an avocado, eating the whole thing. See if just adding more will do the trick.
2. If you are not eating the right things here is a small cheat sheet.
Protein-Eggs, Chicken, Turkey, Milk, Salmon, Steak
Carbs- Sweet Potatoes, Bananas, Rice, Red Potatoes, Black Beans
Fats- Eggs, Cheddar Cheese, Avocadoes, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Almonds, Salmon
Fruits- Bananas, Strawberries, Oranges, Grapes, Pineapples
Vegetables- Broccoli, Spinach, Eggplant, Tomatoes, Carrots
If you eat a lot of the things on this list you will gain weight.
3. Maybe all the meals are right, but you are missing what should be in between. Some might be able to gain weight with only two or three meals a day, but other need more. Here are a few options.
A. Jerky, Pecans and Banana
B. Hardboiled Eggs, Blueberries and Oat & Banana Cookies
C. Greek Yogurt w/ Homemade Trail Mix
4. Make sure to get a protein, fat and carbohydrate source at each meal. Missing either would be a big mistake when trying to put on size.
5. Meal Prep! If it is important to you, put in some effort! Don’t watch a 30 minutes of television that evening and spend some time prepping your food for the next day. Hard boiling a few eggs take a few minutes and putting a banana in your bag takes seconds. Putting some almonds in a plastic bag doesn’t take too long either. A little effort goes a long way.
Here are some tips I wish I had back in my day from a strength training prospective.
6. Stick to the basics! And don’t only stick to them, master them! Learn how to clean, squat, bench, deadlift and press properly. No, just doing bicep curls does not count as a training session. Stay away from machines and isolation exercises, you will thank me!
7. More is not always better when trying to get your weight up. Extra strength training sessions and large amounts of conditioning will put a quick stop to your efforts. Three or four solid strength training will work great.
8. If size is the goal, the majority of your training should focus on hypertrophy. There is still plenty of room for your 3-6 rep range, but you better be bumping it up a notch as far as reps are concerned if you want to put on size. 8-12 reps should do the trick.
9. Here is a question. When does your body actually build muscle and gain size? Is it when you are in the gym training? No, it is actually when you are home relaxing or better yet sleeping. When you train you are beating your body up. It will need a nap or two and 8+ hrs of shut eye a night to reap the benefits of all that training you just did. Get to bed early!
10. Be Consistent. This goes for everything in life and putting on size is no different. If you really want to put on size you have to be consistent with both your nutrition and your training. Don’t skip meals or training sessions and get to bed on tie every night.
There you have it. Ten tips for putting on size. Now get to work!
A lot of research goes into speed development. Arm action, foot contact points, kinetic energy transfer, spine angle, etc. Let's make speed development simple - the more force you put into the ground, the further and faster you will propel yourself. Yes, all those other items are important, and doing certain drills for them will help, in some cases more than others. But, first and foremost, having a solid strength base from which to create explosive power will yield the biggest dividends.
A lot of folks approach speed development from the perspective of cone drills, agility ladders, and other standard "footwork" drills. I liken those things to driving a car around a race track. The car might be moving as fast as it can, but it's becoming faster. In order to do that, you must make a physical change to the car. That's the same with athletes - without a legitimate physical change (i.e. becoming more powerful), we won't get significantly faster.
To be fair, the analogy of the car isn't completely accurate. Cone drills and running form drills do have their place. If a kid has too short of a stride, then they need to lengthen it. If their arm action is bad, then it needs to be fixed. Sometimes, all that is needed are a few coaching cues. Other times, there is a biomechanical integrity component that is restricting the athlete. Both of those things needs to be addressed. In the case of an athlete who is capable of better form, but just doesn't have it yet, the coach should indeed look at running form, which can be addressed with some cone drills and footwork drills in certain scenarios. But, to do the most good for the most people, create strength and power and you will create more speed, acceleration, and agility. That should be priority one - extensive cone drills are more akin to driving a car around a racetrack - fast, but not faster.
Solid and complete athletic development will always be the greatest component of a proper speed development program.
Many times when you walk into most training facilities, a large percentage of women will be found in yoga classes and men will be near the free weights. Women love holding those poses and men want to lift more weight. What if things were flipped one day? The women were using the free weights and the men were taking yoga classes. Did we just enter the twilight zone? Would this hamper any of the gains the men would see in the weight room? Would the women become bulky and lose all mobility? The answer to both questions is a resounding no. Both would actually move better and feel stronger.
Unfortunately we know something like this is unlikely to happen. Most people like doing what they are good at, not necessarily what they need. Overall, if we look at the sexes as a whole, women will have greater mobility than men and vice versa as far as strength goes. This is the case in most part due to our different hormonal profile. Men and women have different hormonal levels that contribute to certain fitness attributes.
So the question remains, how do you get people to work on their weaknesses? Does the twenty six year old female that can put her foot behind her head need more mobility? No, I don’t think she does. She would get a much greater benefit from spending her time near the free weights. And don’t get me wrong, yoga works on many other things than just mobility, but for the sake of the argument we are going to look at yoga as something that improves mobility.
How about the eighteen year old male that is squatting in the corner? It seems that his hips and shoulders could use a bit more mobility. Do you think he might benefit from some mobility work, perhaps a yoga class? Yes, that would help a lot! Many male squatters that do not take the time to work on their mobility have poor squatting form which will lead to a possible injury and less efficient movement. With less efficient movement usually comes less weight being lifted. Those are both bad things.
The problem is that we like being good at things. It is human nature to gravitate towards things that we do well and make us feel good. No one likes to struggle. As athletes and those still trying to maintain their athleticism we “forget” to include the things that are going to make us better, no matter how bad we might be at them.
If you are lacking mobility work on it, it doesn't necessarily have to be a yoga class , but it has to get done. If strength is a issue, go lift something heavy. The point being, if you do not work on your weaknesses, you will never be as great as you would have been had you done so. Challenge yourself to put your ego to the side and work on your weaknesses to become a better athlete. It will pay off in the long run!
As youth athletes, most kids and teens have participated on sports teams where they have been constantly punished with exercise. These young athletes tend to tie negative actions such as misbehaving at practice, losing a game because of mistakes, dropping a pass, missing the goal, and more, with punishment like running or push ups. Because of this connection between negative actions and exercise as punishment, kids are taught that exercise and pushing yourself is supposed to be miserable, not enjoyable.
What if, starting from a young age, coaches used exercise as a privilege instead of a punishment? If a coach told a misbehaving youth athlete that he or she had to sit out while their team ran together, wouldn’t exercise and pushing yourself be seen as a privilege? By excluding the misbehaving athlete from the exercise, that athlete has to watch his or her team improve and get stronger together without participating. This scenario would make youth athletes want to be part of exercise instead of viewing it as a miserable punishment. Along with this, when exercise is seen as a privilege, athletes are more likely to see the positive side of pushing themselves to get stronger instead of just feeling the negative physical pain that might come with the exercise. This would cause the athlete to tie the negative physical pain with the positive privilege of exercising and becoming a stronger, better athlete. Therefore, exercise wouldn’t be viewed as a miserable thing like it is viewed in the eyes of most teens today, instead it would be seen as important to the athletes improvement and maybe even enjoyable.
At SportperformanceU exercise is always a privilege. As an intern at SportperformanceU, I can honestly say that this is the only place where I have heard kids asking if they’re allowed to do more reps or if they can add more weight. When kids come in to do their workouts, coaches are on the floor to lead the athletes and watch the athletes technique closely. In the SportperformanceU environment, kids are never punished by receiving more exercise. Instead, when a SportperformanceU coach sees a youth athlete using incorrect technique or slacking off, that athlete is told to stop the exercise and is either corrected or the exercise is taken away. Because of this, correct technique and focus while exercising is something that has become very important to SportperformanceU athletes. By punishing through taking away an exercise or correcting a technique, more challenging workouts are something that SportperformanceU athletes want to earn. Through this form of coaching, it becomes a goal for athletes to push themselves to become stronger. SportperformanceU athletes grow eager and motivated to get stronger and achieve a record holding spot on the website.
Many strength coaches have a set of major lifts, and traditional accompanying lifts, that they utilize with all of their athletes. If a kid isn't good at say, squatting, they work on the squat by squatting more often, sometimes with coaching cues to help improve the movement. On the other hand, some coaches take a kid who doesn't squat well, stop him from squatting all together, use a substitute exercise he can do well, and work on his restrictions separate from the lift. What approach do we take?
We'll use the squat example - let's say a kid squats, and his right knee kicks inwards a little bit as he goes down. His heel then turns in, the weight transfers to the inside of the foot, he twists slightly and shifts slightly to compensate. If you're not looking carefully, you probably wouldn't notice. What does this athlete need? More practice squatting, or more work on his biomechanical integrity?
The first thing we do is check for proper movement ability - in some cases, the athlete just doesn't yet know how to do the movement, and with a little bit of practice and coaching he can do it just fine. We'll identify those kids during our analysis, and coach them properly before they load, then get them into the lift.
More commonly, the athlete has a restriction, whether in mobility or stability, that prevents them from doing the movement properly even with a bit of coaching. This is the important case - the athlete's knee, heel, and hips are compensating as noted before, and it's due to a restriction in the glutes and ankles - what do we do?
We regress the movement - that is, we don't do the squat just yet. Think about it - if a kid is compensating during his squat, and he has a restriction that can't be fixed quickly through a few coaching cues, what does squatting through the mistake accomplish? It forces the athlete into a position his body has said it is not ready to handle. It's putting excess force on different areas that are forced to pick up the slack for the restricted portion. And, it's leading to potential overuse injuries, whether in the weight room or when he eventually hits the field. All those non-contact injuries we see when an athlete plants wrong and all of sudden his knee gives out? Some are unfortunate, but others are avoidable by not forcing the body to wrongly compensate in the weight room. When certain areas are forced to compensate, and we reinforce poor movement patterns, we create a path for injury in non-contact situations.
What we need to do is:
a) Take them off of that lift (in this case, a squat)
b) Substitute something that they can do properly and still put load to increase strength and power (say, a reverse lunge, an exercise that is a bit easier to execute properly, and can still be loaded for big gains)
c) Identify why the athlete has a restriction (let's pretend in this case it's because he struggles to properly use his glute medius, and therefore puts extra stress on the knee in a valgus position)
d) Address the restriction and create stability and mobility (for a glute medius issue, we might work some mini-band activations, unweighted assisted squats with lateral activation, supine and prone squat variations, perhaps even some stretches, etc)
Once we've done that, which can take anywhere from days to years, we can return to the squat, having fixed the movement pattern and still gained strength using our substitute exercises. We've decreased the risk of injury, including risks from lifting wrong, risks from enabling compensation when we hit the field of play, and risks from long term overuse.
A good analogy for this is a math teacher going over long division. If little Johnny comes up to the teacher and says "Mr. Jones, I don't get long division, none of my answers are right, can you help me?" should Mr. Jones just offer another worksheet of long division problems and tell him to go work it out? Or, should he break down the problems, identify what Johnny is doing wrong, address those issues specifically, then return to the long division worksheet? The teacher who just hands out additional sheets to kids that are struggling is lazy - he's not actually teaching, he's just pushing. The teacher who takes the time to actually teach Johnny how to do it properly is doing his job. The same goes for strength coaches - marrying your athletes to your favorite few exercises is lazy. There are websites and apps out there that can do that. A good coach will take the time to understand the athlete and choose the exercises that are best for him or her at that time, and work them towards the more advanced lifts with proper coaching and programming.
I feel obligated to say there's nothing wrong with loving or preferring certain exercises - I have my own preferences when given the options. There's something wrong with thinking your favorite exercises are right for all populations at all times, and falling more in love with your exercises than you do with the improvement of your athletes. No single exercise is a cure-all for everybody. Each athlete requires time and coaching, and when they are ready for your favorite lifts, get after it! But until then, address the causes for WHY they are doing things wrong, instead of figuring that the symptoms of restrictions will work themselves out during compensated and loaded repetitions.
Most of us stopped playing competitive sports at a young age. Whether it was middle school, high school, college or even at the professional level. So if you stopped after little league baseball at twelve or are just finishing up your professional football career like Calvin Johnson (Detroit Lions wide receiver for our non football fans) at thirty, chances are you still want to maintain your performance in the decades to come. No I am not saying that you are going to maintain your younger athleticism, but you can enjoy performance and health that exceeds your expectations.
It’s said that you have to trainer smarter, not necessarily harder. That couldn’t be truer for those of us that are not playing competitive sports any longer. Gone are the days that you could go to the gym for two hours at a time or show up 5-6 days a week. Things must become precise and laser focused. There is no extra energy or time to be wasted. There is only twenty four hours in a day and with a career, family, dog and extracurricular activities there is not much wiggle room.
So are you getting the most out of your post playing days? Do you have a clear picture of what you need to do to maintain your performance and health for the years to come? If not, hiring a personal trainer is a great option. All you have to do is show up and work hard. There is no planning or thinking on your part. Your energy and time to figure things out can be saved for other activities.
If you would rather spend all day at the dentist than figuring out what your training program should look like then look for someone to help you along your journey.
Here's hoping you choose me! I can be reached at email@example.com
There are exercises that are considered bad. Some because they can cause injury, others because they are just plain ridiculous. I’m sure you have seen some on YouTube that make you cringe! But there are also a lot of exercises that fall into a “gray” area. The gray area is more dependent on the specific individual performing the exercise. One exercise that is bad for one person might be great for another and vice versa. This is where exercises can get a bad rep. let’s review some common examples.
Most overhead pressing is considered a huge no no within the general population, and for good reason. Pressing a barbell from the front of your shoulders to an overhead position is usually contraindicative for much of the general population, which means from the back of the shoulders would be even worse.
A competitive weightlifter that performs exercises such and the clean & jerk and snatch will on the other hand most definitely have to be able to overhead press to compete at their sport. Athletes that have developed the ability to do this exercise safety will use overhead pressing as a staple of their training program.
There are two very different people, a desk jockey and a professional weightlifter. They probably will not and should not be performing the same exercises. It is much more important that the exercise is appropriate for the specific individual than just calling it a bad exercise. Again, there is a gray area for many exercises.
The back squat is the king of exercises. Just ask anyone that trains high school football players. The back squat is without a doubt one of the best exercises to develop strength and athleticism. This does not mean it is appropriate for everyone. There are more people who have no right back squatting than the other way around and that includes high school football players. Can the individual perform a bodyweight squat with their thighs pass parallel? If not, then the person should not be performing a back squat.
There are many things that an athlete can work on so they can perform the back squat, but those things have to come first. To find the true reason why someone cannot perform a back squat a battery of tests would have to be performed to assess the reason for the limitation. Once that is done and the individual performs the necessary steps then back squatting can be added to the training program.
A simple rule when deciding if someone is capable of performing an exercise is to have them execute it with just their bodyweight. If they pass, feel free to add that exercise, if they don’t, find a way to fix it.
There are also times when unfortunately you probably should not perform a certain exercise ever again. If you are a desk jockey and herniated a few disks, deadlifting might be out for some time, if not for good. I for one always look for variations of an exercise to see if it would work. With this example single leg deadlifts might be able to be added back in eventually. And if I had to choose between no deadlifting and the single leg variation I am taking the later every time.
What it really comes down to is if an exercise is appropriate for the certain individual, not if the exercise is good or bad necessarily. An exercise can only be bad if one is not capable of performing with proper form.
SPU's Alex Drayson and Matt Migiano write the SPU Athletic Performance Blog.
365 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive
Norwalk, CT 06854
300 Wilson Ave, Suite 270
Norwalk, CT 06854
Phone (203) 810-4811, Fax (203) 831-0418