Random Training Thoughts From This Week.

This is more of a thought board of random statements that I saw on the gym floor this week.

  1. Tempo is a useful tool on the eccentric or “lifting” section of a movement if the goals are rehab, muscular endurance or hypertrophy. If the goals are strength and speed slow work is redundant. You can not lift a maximal or close to maximal weight slowly without compromising performance.
  2. High intensity work is great if you can maintain form. If you have a poor aerobic base your form will break down on repetition based cardio. This is a problem with HIIT work- it mainly becomes poor form aerobic work after a while. HIIT is popular in the mainstream at the moment and obviously it is partly client led because it feels rewarding. Initially use methods which mean that form break down can be coached properly before progressing exercise complexity e.g. a bike is a lot easier to maintain form on than hill runs or kettlebell swings.
  3. Loaded hip thrusts are popular at the moment… but I like to use them more as a finishing exercise and a warm up drill than rather than a “main exercise”, this is just personal preference as I think after a certain amount of weight the weight needed to lift for overload becomes uncomfortable.
  4. Overhead hangs (unless you come from a gymnastic population so you are training for a sport) are not a great position for your shoulder joint to be in. It feels good to hang as it decompresses the joint and stretching generally always feels good but it creates laxity in the joint which your retirement will not thank you for. Kipping pull ups fall into this category as you get an anterior translation of the humeral head at the base of the movement. What does this mean? Your arm bone gets pushed forward into the soft tissue at the front of your shoulder.
  5. Over the last couple of months I have been supplementing my diet with additional fish oils and curcumin. Two of their major benefits are anti-inflammation. Anecdotally, I think they have helped me balance out a heavy work period (I am now teaching at Hertford Regional College on their Personal Training programme) and maintained at least decent recovery from exercise. I also feel this has been a factor in maintaining good energy levels…. and getting more stuff done. Granted I did buy a new coffee machine but my intake of caffeine has been relativly the same as before!

Overhead Carries and the Overhead Athlete

With a lot of the guys we work with they have some pretty full on demands for maintenance of shoulder stability and mobility. Twinned with our fitness clients and the wear and tear of everyday life certain exercises are pretty much a necessity for building healthy robust shoulders.

Primarily, in the sporting arena we work with a lot of swimmers and tennis players. The overhead carry is great as it encourages upward rotation of the shoulder blade. If we lose upward rotation during a movement we may typically resort to placing more emphasis on to the elbow and shoulder joint rather than allowing the muscles around the shoulder blade to do the job to the best of their abilities. Swimming and tennis also have a lot of force placed upon the shoulder when it is overhead or near to full extension. This means that injury risk is highest if you can not stabilise the joint in place.

Single handed this exercise places a challenge to the rotational stability function of the abs as well as maintaining anterior core control – in simple terms it allows your abs to do the work as opposed to your lower back arching through the movement.

Loading this exercise can make the form pretty poor quickly if your ego is bigger than doing things properly. So try it out- we give it to some of our trainees early on in sessions to encourage good core position. We also use it as a challenging finisher- that said if you have had a heavy upper body training day form can fall apart on pretty low loads.

Quick Tips to Assess Your Squat

We use a squat based movement pattern in near enough every session. Their inclusion in some form in every warm up we perform highlights how functional and fundamental to effective training the squat movement is.

When we squat we see flexion at the hip, knee and ankle. This movement is performed in all of the major Olympic lifts, deadlifts and jumping so making sure this movement is dialled in is pretty important.

One of the most common impairments to this movement especially in more experienced lifters (not necessarily better) we tend to see is more anterior rotation of the pelvis meaning excessive strain is put on the lower back in order to avoid flexion or forward bending. This is often when load is added in order to counter flexion forward. It makes the lifter think they are getting lower but the movement really isn’t gaining depth through the lower body musculature. In fact the change in angle of the pelvis and forward lean of the individual is providing the extra “range.” This means there is more strain on the lower back.

So if this is the case try this challenge to help you clean up your squat. This is a good challenge to old and new trainees- aim to maintain balance while sitting all the way down to their heels while not leaning forward or coming on to the balls of your feet. Check the guy out on the right- if you look more like that than the guy on the left it may be wise to leave a bit of weight of the bar and work on your positioning.

If you fall forward it’s a good sign that your back extensors, hip flexors, quads and calves may be overactive and taking on a little too much work. Some people will remedy this by squatting with a wider stance to get lower- this is just hiding mobility issues by creating a stable wider base with less range to move through. Look where the centre of gravity is going (tip: forward). This will happen without load as you will find greater range of movement than the likely half range that you are squatting through loaded.

Why is this a negative? Well, allowing the abdominals and the other muscles around the pelvis such as the glutes to pick up the slack will result in less loading on the lower back and better force transfer. In turn not just in the squat movement but in rotational movements as well as the back and quads take the work on as opposed to the abdominals and glutes.

A good question to ask yourself is does squatting leave you with a sore lower back- if so consider dropping a bit of weight (your ego won’t suffer too much) and look to clean up your squat movement by balancing your programme and placing more emphasis on making your squat better by adjusting your strength leverages.

 

 

A bala

 

position of joint

muscular action

pressure/ breathing

 

 

 

 

 

Land Training for Swimmers

We work with a lot of good junior swimmers at Results FAST.

As we tend to specialize in shoulder and back care with these individuals it’s not surprising that of each of the junior athletes we have seen have some form of back or shoulder complaint or injury.

Simply said if your out of pool programme is not complimenting your swim programme and you are still in pain after 6 weeks either you could be on your way to surgery and you are not getting better.

The sole focus of training is that it is practice to get better, land training is no different and provides an accompaniment to the work being done in the pool. That doesn’t mean imposing a more vigorous approach to training- it means using knowledge and the art of coaching to know how to programme, when to push and more importantly when to step back.

swim1

Out of the pool we want to maintain sufficient mobility and strength to aid performance and maintain structural strength and the avoidance of injuries.

Simply- it is not about stroke correction, it is not about sport specific training drills.

It is about creating the best framework for athletic performance in the pool.

Broadly speaking when we see new athletes they exist in four categories.

1. Long but tight muscles and existing in a fatigued state. Poor structural stability at the shoulder and lower back. Not recovering well from training volume, chronic injuries or constantly aching backs and shoulders.

2. Mobile with poor stability, often weak on gym tests. On the edge of injury if training volume increases and they do not have the structural strength to deal with the increased training load.

3. Mobile in the right areas but with slight issues related to their posture dependent upon their dominant stroke.

4. Breast strokers- simply their postural issues in the lower body and lower back are different to those who do not do as much training volume in this stroke.

So how  do we deal with each case?

Often it’s not a straight in to train approach as assessment will determine programme. Initially there are two goals establish safe range of movement and improve tissue quality. Now this can be an issue if someone is in the pool for 16 hours a week so a lot of the time some individuals may need more out of pool work than others.

Once we have a suitable range of movement (which often in the injured we do not have) which is pain free we can look to create stability through movement. Again not usually an issue for those with no injuries but with those who are moving poorly or who indeed are coming back from an injury then this is tantamount to future progress.

At the last point we consider loading the athlete- strength in essence is the last thing we add to the mix. Why? When someone has high training volume then adding more strength and repetition in on top of training can be counterintuitve to the overall goals.

We need to clean up and educate correct movement before loading. This really has little to do with pool work but ultimately the postural cues and strength work in the right areas feed back in to swimming form and will help remedy any poor movement patterns.

So each individual is similar in the pool work that they undertake but the methods to support consistency in the pool are personal.

Tissue quality, joint range and strength training are prescribed as neccesary and as an accompaniment to enhanced performance- if one is compromised in one then performance decrements will be seen. 

Good Programming Vs Bad Programming

Justifying the way we write our gym programmes at Results FAST is important to me and our personal training clients. The fact is how you do something when you are training matters. Someone once said to me and I agree…

“It is very easy to make someone tired… Any monkey can do it!”

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With the rise of high intensity training and it’s many varied methods it has muddied the water between what is good exercise and what is poor exercise. Now specifically I am looking at resistance training modalities but this could also be applied to most forms of cardiovascular exercise as well. One phrase we often use is…

“Best possible result…. Lease possible effort.”

That does not mean no effort, that means you do enough in your training programme to install the training effect you are looking for, or indeed train to get better, not just tired.

So what are the factors that affect this?

Exercise order is perhaps the most important as often what you do first will dictate the pace and your recovery later on in your training session. It will effect your recovery if intense and in some cases lower your intensity if some of your exercises have a cross over in movements or muscle groups used. While it may be possible to train strength, hypertrophy and muscular endurance in the same session there is going to be a negative effect to development if the session has too many goals which lead me to my second point.

Write programmes, not workouts. Programmes need to be programmed in to a hierarchy of needs. If your goal is fat loss then your programme should be different to a strength programme. A lot of  programmes now tend to blur the boundaries. Every form of training sits on a broad spectrum of facets of fitness to train including strength, mobility and cardiovascular efficiency. What is important is your gains over time- not just a non-directional workout of the day.

Train to improve. Progression is not always a linear pathway when looking at achieving your goals just as hammering yourself in a session is not always the driver for it being a better “fat loss” session. Cycling your training means that you push at the right time so that means that you cycle in your conditioning work with your strength work so that your primary goal is not hampered.

Reassess….. constantly. One thing that I have become a lot better as a coach is to review our approaches and practices. It means we can deliver better sessions to our clients knowing that every time each session has a specific goal. Assessing your progression is only possible if you have a start point. Now that may be to lift a certain weight or perform a certain exercise but by setting that goal and progressing exercises (and if necessary regressing exercises) we have a way not only to manage motivation but also from a goal achievement perspective a way of knowing how we are progressing.

Inefficiency is only good in fat loss and hypertrophy programmes, not in strength and power programmes. If your goal is to get stronger than your programme has to cater for that. In that sense there should be no unnecessary repetitions or extra training volume unless it has a carryover to developing strength levels. The emphasis is on intensity and therefore anything that hampers speed of movement may be counterintuitve to your overall result. In a fat loss programme this is tipped on it’s head. We want to create inefficency of how the energy systems are being challenged in order so they have to go into overdrive to maintain energy turnover. Certain people may have an affinity to work with certain energy systems for instance the difference between distance runners and sprinters. For fat loss creating as big a metabolic disturbance is the key and therefore rotating different training styles is vital for great results. What you find in strength and power training is excessive training volume leads to overuse injuries.

 

The Deep Squat- Are They Bad For Your Knees?

I like questions to be answered by science. Not that I think that research always defines fact but more because it gives you a trend of evidence to base how you train in the gym. One of the questions that constantly appear in the realms of strength and conditioning is squat depth.

Gyms in Ware

The classic squat is a fundamental movement defined by near enough simultaneous flexion of the hip, knees and ankle. How this movement may look like varies dependent upon limb length and relative joint mobility. This exercise is fundamental to fat loss programmes, performance enhancement and is probably the most prominent body weight exercise taught to beginners looking to incorporate multi-joint exercises in to their fitness regimes.

Performing this movement until you can sit  almost to the floor is even with body weight representative of great mobility and strength. With extra  load though dumbbells or barbells the question remains that “Is this movement dangerous for the knees?”  and specifically”Are the pressures too great in the knee complex to warrant squatting to this depth” or indeed “ass to grass” to be a bit cruder.

deep-squat (1)

From a muscular activation perspective there is little extra effect on hamstring involvement from deep squatting and that if quad involvement is the primary goal then squatting deep may not give any extra reward. Where the benefits are seen is at the gluteus maximus, where there is increased muscular activation in the deep squat compared to a parallel squat. Therefore if you are targeting the hip musculature then this may be a technique that you could utilize.

The concerns around deep squating and knee pain relate to a basic study that suggested that deep squatting can cause laxity in knee ligaments including the anterior cruciate ligament. In turn though this has been refuted in studies that show improvement in knee stability and tighter joint capsules on the anterior draw test in deep squatters. Further studies have shown that ACL and PCL forces are reduced at full flexion whereas their greatest tension is found at parallel- the typical distance recommended for a safe squat. Interestingly the connective tissue, cartilage and meniscus are under increased tension in comparison to ligaments in the deep squat position. Obviously those who suffer from degenerative conditions around the knees at the cartilage, meniscus or patella may find that deep squats may not necessarily be beneficial when also looking to maintain healthy joints.

There is minimal evidence to suggest that squat depth is dangerous for those with healthy knees. It does suggest those that with chronic or acute knees issues may not benefit from deep squatting. As with any training programme the exercise needs to fit the person but those with healthy knees who want to maximise their glute development may find that deep squats are a worthwhile addition to their training programme.

Exercise of the Week:Dumbbell Floor Press

The dumbbell floor press is a progression I use with individuals before we look to advance them to flat bench chest press and bench press. The lying position means that the range of movement is controlled with minimal stress to the shoulder joint. This makes it a perfect exercise as a progression on from incline chest press as well as press ups. Often in individuals with unsuitable shoulder stability the scapula cannot hold position if you go to flat bench or chest press too early in their progression.

Twin this with poor torso stability and you ultimately leave yourself open to more shoulder issues. The floor press enables you to have a controlled range of movement while maintaining a suitable elbow position. Often in the pursuit of more weight the shoulders will flair out making the movement more nech dominant and placing more stress on the acriomioclavicular joint.

As you can see in the image there are a lot of ligaments that enhance stability at this joint which helps keep movement stable. From a muscular standpoint the movements you undertake will determine the pressure placed upon these ligaments. This can be shown in the image below- as joint position needs to be maintained as you lift the arm to vertical the more stress placed upon the shoulder joint which can lead to irritation and injury of the joint capsule as well as the structures of the shoulder used for shock absorption such as the bursa and cartilage.

All in all the floor press is a good compromise and a starting point for progressive loading for those with stable shoulders and can be a useful inclusion for newbies and advanced trainers alike.

Body Fat Distribution and Why Men Lose Weight Quicker Than Women…

The distribution of body fat varies between individuals and sexes.

Males typically distribute body fat around their midsection and back while females carry more on their hips, thighs and breasts. From a health perspective men are at more of a risk of heart disease due to increased volumes of visceral fat from their storage patterns. Hormones can have an influence upon the mobilization and distribution of fat around the body and although there are trends in the sex’s body fat distribution the deposition is generally individual varying from person to person.

As for removal body fat will be removed from certain areas ahead of others. Initially, visceral fat is removed as described before (possibly because of improved blood flow in the abdominal region where visceral fat tends to be deposited), hence the reason that males traditionally lose weight quicker than females.

Patterns of fat loss vary from person to person. Abdominal fat varies and traditionally reduces from the upper part of the abdominals before the lower part which is an area commonly referred to as “stubborn”. It has been hypothesised that fat loss can be targeted on certain areas dependant upon hormonal regulation- this currently though needs more ratification from research as a lot of studies are inconclusive, for the majority of people who do not have a clinically diagnosed hormonal imbalance though fat loss does not need to be confused with the use of expensive supplements.