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Fitness Marketing to Females: Don't Be A Victim

I had the privilege of writing up a blog for Tony Gentilcore's site. He's an awesome coach based up in Boston at Cressey Performance. He's had a huge influence on my development as a coach (mostly through reading his blog, but Steve and I have had the chance to learn from him first hand both in Boston and recently at his seminar). If the title intrigued you, CLICK THIS to read the rest of it.

Enjoy!

A Prerequisite to Lifting Heavy Things: Stability

In my last article, I talked about the need for correct mobility in your exercises and workout. Mobility is extremely important and should always be addressed early on to ensure good positioning and a full range of motion in your lift. Mobility, however is only one part of the puzzle. There’s another aspect that the yogis don’t like to talk about and many people get confused with a BOSU ball: Stability

Mobility and Stability are the two components that provide the frame-work of movement. Mobility is the ability of a joint to move through a given range of motion, whereas stability is the ability to resist being moved. From a biomechanics stand-point they are like yin and yang, positive and negative, peanut butter and jelly. One cannot exist without the other. They are both equally important in training, however the body will always choose stability over mobility for safety and compensations.

Dr. Perry of Stop Chasing Pain is known for his saying, “stability rules the road.” What he means by that is that your body will always give up mobility in whatever joint it needs to create a stable environment if there is dysfunction(muscles not working properly). Will that cause pain and compensation patterns? Probably, but not always. If muscles aren’t working right, then they will not be able to control the motions in joints, and your body doesn’t trust that, so it will lock it down. It’s very similar to walking on ice. When you’re on the ice, you naturally stiffen up, and you consciously will keep your legs in and tight, not using big strides.

So essentially, if you lose stability, you will lose mobility somewhere else. It follows the joint by joint approach just as mobility did in my last article. This is why it doesn’t make sense to just stretch or just to weight train. When I talked about how to create proper mobility, step 4 was ACTIVATE. This is where stability is created, in the hopes that it will start to become automatic when used with movement.

The Misconceptions:

Stiffness is the Same as Stability

Many people confuse this notion of creating stability with creating stiffness. For an area to be stable, you want it to be tense/active during the appropriate movement and yet supple when not in use.

If you’re doing 50 reverse hyperextensions a day to keep your low back, “stable,” then you’re just creating stiffness by overusing the muscles and there for doing it wrong. If you want to create true stability in a particular area, then you must train that muscle/area as a stabilizer.

Stability training is done on bosus and wobble boards

Creating true stability in a joint DOES NOT need to be done on an unstable surface. It is done by creating mobility and then using a particular area as a stabilizer to hold a particular position. This is not to say that using a BOSU or wobble-board is always wrong. They do have their time and place for rehab, but that’s another topic for a blog post.

Anyway, an example of using a muscle as a stabilizer that I like is using the ½ knealing position for variations on exercises to help create some glute stability and open up the front of the hips. What about the guy doing the 50 hyperextensions? Well how about just try some simple plank variations or maybe even a kettlebell halo instead.

Maximize Each Workout: Train Like No One is Looking

Potentially - or probably - the biggest barrier keeping most people from making progress on their goals (fitness, build muscle, fat loss, strength, etc...) is their own state of mind. That feeling like "Oh, people are watching me, so I don't want to [X]..." [look like I'm trying], [fail], [struggle], [make a weird face], etc. But, all this self-limiting behavior successfully accomplishes is self-limiting progress. I've trained all over the place in a multitude of different environments and have often been seen doing off-the-beaten-path type exercises. But, even I sometimes get a little nervous about the liklihood of drawing attention to myself. When that hesitation kicks in, here are my top 3 reminders to keep my self-limiting behavior out of the way of accomplishing my goals:

1. No one is looking. Most of the time no one cares what you're up to in your daily workout and they really are not watching. Trust in this first rule.

2. Don't let your assumptions of someone else's perceptions affect your behavior. Okay, so you're doing something attention grabbing (read: weird) in your workout. Yes, you will probably catch a few eyes, so if #1 isn't working for you. Then ask yourself this: "So, someone is watching me train, why would I stop just because they're watching?" They're probably watching to learn something new. That's what I've found over the years. No one has ever approached me to tell me I'm "wrong" - rather it usually means I'll get to have a conversation with someone new about whatever it is I'm doing. They want to learn!

3. The world doesn't revolve around you. At least in the realm of weight training - I can't actually speak for other areas. This is really the bottom line. Whether you like drawing attention to yourself or dread it, the world doesn't revolve around you. So, keep your eyes down and power through on taking a small step towards whatever is going to help you accomplish your next goal.

The point in training for fitness, building muscle, or strength is making progress towards personal goals and achieving things you, personally have never achieved before. Don't allow those self-limiting behaviors derail your success!

Strength as a Foundation

On March 15, 2013 I became a regular person - well my perception of regular anyway - and I love it!

Why did I have to relinquish my super-hero status? I’ll leave it at this: I saw my dreams not just faltering, but failing. So, to get back on track, I stopped working two full-time jobs... which I had been doing for years for "fun" versus necessity. I took a break from my love-affair with iron. I also sit more than I have in about 15 years... that's a mega regular person activity!

Well, if we fast forward to today, my big dreams in life are properly realigned and effectively back within reach. But, I want to talk about what has happened to my physical foundation over that time.

SAPT’s methodology is based on the approach of Strength as a Foundation. We use various examples to explain why this is the best approach for building speed and explosiveness, but my favorite is “imagine shooting a cannon out of a canoe” sounds silly, right? Well that’s because it is. Never having operated an actual cannon myself, I can still easily imagine how ineffective and potentially dangerous it would be to try to shoot the thing out of a canoe.

The same concept holds true for performance training. If Strength as a Foundation is ignored, you’ve effectively set yourself or your child up for ineffective and potentially dangerous training.

Okay, so getting back to my little story: since becoming proudly “regular,” I’ve been working out at home and put a huge emphasis on improving my overall fitness. “Fitness” in this case meant I wanted to put a big focus on improving my cardiovascular system's functioning and efficiency. My exercise of choice? Running. And because of time limits I have only been lifting an average of 20-minutes, twice a week... but my running workouts stick around 60-90 minutes, 4-5 days a week.

Do you see where this is heading...?

I've let my foundation crack. My strength foundation. It sort of sucks. But, I planned for this to happen... I guess I just didn't know what it would feel like once I arrived. I've been lifting consistently since I was 19 years old. The longest break I’ve ever taken (up until this year) would have been a MAXIMUM of one week off from lifting. Crazy, but this 20-min/2x per week lifting has been going on for almost 4-months. With several weeks in there taken completely off from lifting.

I’ve been trying to shoot a cannon out of an ever destabilizing canoe. Attempting to keep up such a high volume, frequency, and intensity of running without maintaining my strength foundation is trouble. I’m feeling it now.

My goals have been accomplished in terms of “fitness” but I’ve been surprised what a slippery slope running that much and lifting that little has been. It’s like the losses are compounded. My knees often ache and the muscle mass in my legs (read: glutes and hamstrings) has dropped significantly.

What’s the plan and what’s the lesson?

I need to build muscle and lift weights more frequently. That’s the plan. And the lesson? As advertised, running really is detrimental to strength levels. I’m undecided about how I feel about this. Where I am in my life, running really lines up well with my mentality and goals. I can’t even begin to tell you how many excellent ideas I’ve had while running... SAPT was actually conceived during a run 6-years ago(!). But, I need to prioritize more prehab exercises to keep myself on the trails. In terms of the biggie compound lifts, eh, I’ll probably continue to take a break. 13 years straight of weight training means I’m certain the lure of the iron will pull me back when the time is right. In the meantime, I’ll continue setting a laser focus on building an amazing business and embracing my “regular” side.

Last week I attended a workshop on marketing for the small business owner. It was amazing and led by John Jantsch who is *tha guy* when it comes to this topic. As much as I believe the experience has already had a permanent and positive change on SAPT, I will try to exercise some self-control and stay on-topic. I do mention the experience for good reason: the first - and most tangible - impact from this workshop for our readers is in how we deliver content on the blog. Here are the changes you can look forward to:

  1. Each month will have a theme that each primary (MWF) post will address. This month's theme: Give Me Strength!
  2. We will be attempting to up our quality from an internal standpoint by actually editing posts ahead of time.
  3. All this requires *gasp* planning, so posts should be more reliable with few, if any, missed posts.

Please engage if you like or hate or even have no feeling about what you read here!

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More is NOT Better - Intern Post by Josh

I've been going on and on about the quality of our interns and the SAPT internship experience, but it's true. We've got some crazy awesome interns this summer. Below is Josh's first post. Like Goose, Josh was also on the track team at Mason... as a pole vaulter *gasp!* That's my gut reaction, anyway... terror! Having my feet above my head has never been okay. I never learned to do a proper cartwheel because of that. I'll happily pile hundreds of pounds on my spine, but feet over my head? No thanks.I used to watch in amazement as Josh would perform handstand pushups outside of my office at Mason. Pretty cool to witness an athlete perfecting that variety of movement as a key skill to their sport. If you ever get the chance to meet Josh (which you might) he's this super relaxed, low-key kind of guy. He'll very quickly put you at ease and somehow seems to have an endless supply of energy. But, he's also always on top of his stuff and tends to always impress me. Everything from the best off-the-cuff dynamic warm-ups ever to thought provoking questions to coming up with the below killer blog about regulating intensity and volume when addressing your conditioning work.

He's one of the RunFAST coaches, btw. ENJOY:

The Issue    

I ask younger athletes a lot what they plan to do over the summer now that school is out and the season is over. Many of them say that they will probably run a couple of miles a day to stay in shape and get faster. This mindset causes these athletes go out for the cross-country team expecting to get faster and stronger for their primary sport: baseball, lacrosse, or even soccer. Don’t get me wrong cross-country is great if you are out of shape and just want to develop general conditioning. HOWEVER, for the athlete that needs to be reactive and explosive, running 40-50 miles a week will not only fail to accomplish this goal but it will shift the muscle composition to be more slow twitch dominant thus losing explosiveness and reactivity capabilities.

Well Actually...

You may be thinking, “Endurance actually sounds great! I want to last a whole basketball game without passing out at the end or be able to run up and down a soccer field without gasping for air. I just want to be more in shape then everyone else.” and you still can! You can accomplish these same goals by running way less. Your sport does not only require you to last but also be quick and explosively responsive to the dynamics of the game. So why would you jog around for hours on end when your sport has high demands of fast twitch moments.

To help you better understand this concept of less there is the 80-20 Rule (or “Pareto Principle), which states that 80% of the gains comes from 20% of exercises you do. For example, let’s say for your workout for the day you do 10 exercises, 2 of those exercises are going to be responsible for 80% of the performance results. This does not mean that the other 8 exercises are not important, they are! However, this should help you understand that it is not the “more” that produces better results.

What Should I Do Then?The way this can be accomplished is by working on is fast twitch (type 1) endurance. Yes, as odd as it sounds there is such things as fast twitch endurance. Look at track and field for example. Many people who do not know the sport consider the sprinting events to be anywhere from the 400 meters races and below. However, when you start looking at the college and professional times of the 1600 meters (1-mile) race these athletes/runners are looking at the event as more of a strategic sprint.

 Ok I Get It... Just Tell Me How To Train For It Already!

Sprint endurance can be trained by running slightly longer intervals such as 200-400 meter workouts with a set rest time in between. Even though these distances are longer than one would run in a game, this trains the athlete to maintain a top speed for much longer durations.

The rest time for these intervals should be anywhere from a 1:3 - 1:5 work to rest ratio. Huh, you ask? These means that if you run a 400 meter interval in 70 seconds then you would rest anywhere from 3X to 5X the amount ran. So in this case it would range from 3 1/2 - nearly 6 minutes rest. The reason for this ratio is because biologically your ATP-PC energy system takes about that time to recover. When you are training speed endurance, you are actually training the ATP-PC energy system to recover faster. It normally takes the ATP-PC system 6-8 minutes to replenish itself.

For more information on energy system, which is IMPORTANT to understand, check out Gustavo's Article from yesterday. Scroll down to Myth #2 and he breaks down the energy systems really well.

Judging the amount of rest you should take also depends on what your workout is for the day and how you are feeling. You want to make sure you can get through the workout but you also do not want to make it too easy either. Longer rest should be taken for those who are running longer distances such as 400-meter intervals vs. 200 meter interval. Also if your main focus is on speed then you want to be well rested so that each interval is quality and fast.

One More Thing!

We live in a day where overuse injuries are very common. A lot of this is due to the association of the great workout burn to getting stronger. This mentality is what causes people to get hurt. They workout to feel that pain to justify what they do is working however they actually put too much stress on the body and not give it enough time to rest and recovery. Sure in the beginning everything is fine. You are getting stronger and more in shape but as time progresses you get that nagging pain in your hamstring or your foot. This can be caused by improper form that you have been running on consistently for months or one muscle group is trying to compensate for the other. These injuries are very difficult to treat and for an athlete to go through because in many cases the treatment is to do nothing. Every competitive athlete I know hates the idea of doing nothing.

SOOOooo....

Be smart about your training. Run with quality not quantity. It will benefit a lot more in the long run. Pun intended.

Lifting & Running = Monster Benefits - An Intern Post!!!

This week we're going with one theme: RunFAST. This is the new program we've been developing that we'll officially take the lid off of on Friday. I have to acknowledge, we're offering something totally new, so we're gonna take it slow and start with a post a bit more traditional in terms of the usual SAPTstrength banter. But check the blog every day this week. We've got 5 killer posts lined up.

For the first RunFAST post, one of our interns has written a fantastic post describing in detail the benefits of lifting for ALL TYPES OF RUNNERS (yes, you distance folks can enjoy this, too!).

Why should you listen to this guy who I just admitted is an intern, well, he's a special intern. His name is Gustavo Osorio (or Goose from here on out) and he just graduated from George Mason. Goose was a member of the track team and a stellar decathlete who very recently repeated as CAA champion! Pretty cool, right? This guy knows his stuff. I learned a few things myself and, given that I was his strength coach, that means he really knows some awesome details about high-performance.

I opened up comments again, so please post your thoughts and share with friends. Here we go:

Lifting And Its Benefits For Runners!

“Strength is the foundation for excellence,” this is a mindset I’ve come to respect and adopt for myself after my short time here at SAPT. When you think about it a strong body is a health body, one capable of efficiently moving in any way and letting a person’s athleticism truly shine. Strength is without a doubt the foundation for speed and agility. This concept that may seem foreign to many runners because of all the myths regarding resistance training and running. Many runners and even some running coaches are under the impression that hitting up the weight room once in a while will only result in injury, getting “bulky”, and losing that speed they’ve worked so hard to achieve. When, in reality, a well-structured resistance training program can make the body bulletproof, make your muscles more efficient without bulk, and boost the training effects of your running workouts (aka make you faster).

Myth #1: Lifting (squatting and deadlifting) is bad for your back. Don’t do it!

When performed correctly and with the appropriate assistance work squats and deadlifts can help you build a bulletproof back, glutes, and hamstrings. All three of these muscle groups also happen to be three of the most common sites for sprains and injuries on runners. Coincidence?? I think not! When running you’re lower back acts as a shock absorber, while the glutes and hamstrings are used for force production to propel the body forward. If an individual doesn’t strengthen these muscle groups and continues to constantly hammer them with more running eventually the muscles breakdown from overuse and an injury occurs.

On the other hand, if an individual strengthens these muscle groups they reduce their chances of injury and increase the work load their body can handle. This means they’ll be able to put in more work on the track during practice and, when meet day arrives, fast times will be run!

Fun fact about elite runners, whether it be a sprinter or a distance runner, is that they have some type of year around resistance training program implemented into their training. When you get to the Olympic level and everyone is tenths of seconds away from each other, keeping your body healthy through resistance training makes the difference between being an Olympic medalist and not making the final.

Myth #2: Lifting will make you bulky and slow

A big fear amongst runners is that resistance training will put on too much “useless” muscle for them to carry around. Truth is, a resistance training routine will make you bulky and slow ONLY if you completely stop running and if you have no idea of how to make it sport specific. Just because you’re lifting weights doesn’t mean you’ll turn into the hulk overnight (or ever... let's be real here) but it can make your muscles more efficient at what they do. By training your energy systems through lifting you’re running can be exponentially enhanced. Think of your body as a car and that the energy systems providethree different types of fuel it runs on. These BIG 3 are: the phosphagen system, the anaerobic system, and the aerobic system.

The phosphagen system provide the equivalent of jet fuel for the body. It gives you tons of energy but it burns out super fast! How fast you ask?? Well it gives you enough for 6 to 10 seconds of all out exertion. It provides the energy for the beginning of every race and it is the most dominant energy system during short running event, 60 meters to 100 meters. It is also involved in any sport that requires any sudden bursts of speed and explosion such as basketball, baseball, football, and volleyball. This system is primarily trained through plyometrics and lifts that require high force production at high speeds.

The anaerobic system gives you a mix between jet fuel and regular gas, it still yields a high amount of energy and manages to last a bit longer, between 1 to 3 minutes depending on the intensity of the event. This system is the most dominant for the 400-800 meter distances.It is also involved in sports that require prolonged bouts of speed and some endurance such as boxing, wrestling, lacrosse, and soccer. This is a tricky energy system to train because it requires a mix of power training, muscular strength training, and some muscular endurance training.

The aerobic system gives the body the same effect gas would in a car, it doesn’t let you go blistering fast but it give you a constant stream of energy to keep you going for miles. This is the dominant system in athletes who compete in endurance events such as triathlons, marathons, long distance swimming, and cross country skiing. This energy system can be trained through circuit training and low weight/high rep/low rest lifting.

**WORD OF CAUTION: Train a certain energy system through lifting does not mean you’ll necessarily get faster. When you integrate a lifting program on to a running program correctly the two can complement each other quite nicely. However if all you do is lift aerobically and then expect to go run a marathon you most likely won’t finish.**

Myth #3: Lifting has no positive transfer to running.

Another great benefit of resistance training is the improvement in something called your Rate of Force Development (RFD). [Side note: Kelsey did an amazing job of going into great detail on RFD, if you haven’t read her posts I strongly recommend them! Part 1 and Part 2.] Basically what that means is how fast your muscles can produce a high amount of force. This is beneficial to runners and all athletes because producing higher amounts of force at a faster rate enable you to move faster. Through training this can help optimize your stride length (amount of distance covered per step) and increase your stride frequency (how fast your feet hit the ground) both of which will also make you faster.

This last bit is something most people often neglect, but it makes a world of difference in their running. Aside from improving energy systems and Rate of Force Development lifting can be used to improve running posture. When performed correctly the squat and the deadlift teach people to brace their core and to properly align their back so it’s in the neutral position. A lot of people can go through an entire running career (like myself) without ever realizing that this has a massive positive transfer to running.

The two pictures above demonstrate how the body should be aligned during the deadlift and squat. If you take a side picture of yourself you should be able to draw a straight line from your hips to the base of the head.

Let’s take a look at Tyson Gay coming out of blocks. You can make a straight line from his hips to his head, JUST like a squat or deadlift! Coincidence?? I think not!  By keeping his back in a neutral position and bracing his core he is getting the most propulsion out of the power he is putting on the ground. By keeping his core rigid (not tense) all the force being placed on the ground is not lost or being absorbed by an arched or hunched back. Same thing would happen if you lifted with a rounded back, the spine would absorb a lot of the force going up (deadlift) or down (squat) instead of letting your legs and glutes do the work.

Now take a look on the right at Carl Lewis, he is in the Maximum Velocity phase of the 100 meters which means he is trying to maintain his top speed for as long as possible. The line from the hips to the head is still there which means he is getting the most out of the force production. But that’s not all! Notice how his hip are neutral and not anteriorly rotated, his butt isn’t sticking out. This allows him to get a higher knee drive, cover more ground with his stride, and keeps him from kicking his leg too far back. A great way to teach this to people is the finishing position in the squat and the deadlift often referred to as the “lock out”. And like the squat/deadlift lock out phase if his hips were too posteriorly rotated, too far forward, he would put his back out of alignment and sacrifice kick back range of motion.