Tag Archives: core

15 Swing Set Exercises

As a father, I wanted to write this blog for the parents. It’s so hard to find time to workout in the summer. For most, fitness just takes a back seat during this time. Let’s be honest, you want to be outside. It’s the season of bar-b-que, beer, family vacations, and soaking up the sun. Your kids want and need to be outside too. For these reasons, attendance at health clubs declines significantly over the spring and summer months. So, how does one get a total body workout outside of the gym? Easy, head to the playground, jump on the swing set and try these 15 exercises.

  1. Pistol Squat: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and pointing forward. Hold arms straight out and grasp the swing for stability. Raise the right leg and lower the body while bending the left knee. Drop to a level of chair height, then return to standing. Repeat for the desired number of reps, then switch to perform on the opposite leg. Progression: Perform with the leg up on the swing’s seat. Pistol squat

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Planks: You’re Doing Them Wrong

Here’s a challenge: I bet you cannot do a forward or side plank for 1 minute straight. Many people will say that is easy. So, let me rephrase: I bet you cannot do a forward or side plank properly for 1 minute straight.

Many fitness enthusiasts choose planks to work the core, but are they really working the core? When I observe clients perform the plank exercise, 9 out of 10 fail to perform the exercise properly. Take a look at the common compensation patterns that occur during the plank exercise and then challenge yourself. Can you do the exercise for 1 minute, with perfect technique, and without compensation? Continue reading

Three Exercise Programs You Can Do Anywhere!

Turkey, pumpkin pie, holiday parties, alcohol, sweet treats, 12-hours of college bowl games, and non-stop travel to visit family and friends—the inevitable holiday weight gain. Too many calories and no time or place to work out. When the holiday season comes, people want healthy eating options. I get it, diet is important, but I am not going to be giving out recipes here. If you want a stellar gluten-free mashed potato recipe or a simple salt-free, sugar-free, protein-free honey glazed ham recipe, go elsewhere. I am going to help you get moving. Movement equals calorie burn, and the goal of this blog is to provide you with three exercise programs that you can do anywhere without equipment. The programs are designed as circuit programs, which have been shown to be most effective at burning calories.

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Recommended Reading for Sports Performance and Sports Medicine Geeks Everywhere

Sharing a breakdown of what I have discovered and read this past month. There is a little something for everyone here. Although there is a lot out there, these four articles (2 sports medicine, 2 performance)  are my favorites. All have something unique, progressive or surprising about them. Enjoy!

Sports Medicine:

Muscle Force Output and Electromyographic Activity in Squats with Various Unstable Surfaces, from the latest JSCR.

When progressing through rehabilitation programs the practitioner consistently battles the question of priority: improve strength and risk pain, set-back? Do we focus on balance and have slow progression to strength development? Can we super-set strength with balance? Can we go hard strength one day and light balance the next? Here’s a novel idea (sarcasm), let’s do both at once.

Saeterbakken and Finland measured muscle force output through on stable and unstable surfaces. The measurement was done through surface EMG, and, yes, I question reliability of surface EMG, but it is the best option out there.  What the authors found was surprising and useful. Performing isometric exercise on an unstable surface (BOSU Ball) produced lower force output, but muscle in the trunk and lower limb was similar when compared to the stable surface.

Why is this important? We have a solution to the aforementioned dilemma. We can overload the muscle to stimulate strength gains, while avoiding the load. This allows practitioners to meet obtain strength gains while avoiding the risk of set-back associated with high loading.

Full reference: Saeterbakken, AH and Finland, MS. Muscle force output and electromyographic activity in squats with various unstable surfaces. J Strength Cond Res 27(1): 130–136, 2013

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Assessing Post-surgical ACL Postural Control using a Wii Board was an article I came across Sports Med Research BlogSpot.

At first I was tepid on this article figuring it was just another article showing how Wii can be used as a modality to improve balance control. I quickly jumped to the conclusion and began saying “people, it’s not the Wii board; it’s the task of balancing and stressing local and global neuromuscular control mechanisms to improve postural control.” To my surprise I was wrong.

The authors did something rather unique and plugged the Wii board in to a laptop and utilized a customized software program to assess postural control. The authors received high-quality data that may help clinicians objectively quantify postural control and neuromuscular inefficiency. Few assessments exist that provide objective, reliable data. I would love to see the authors do another study to examine the specificity and sensitivity of assessment.

Full reference: Howells BE, Clark RA, Ardern CL, Bryant AL, Feller JA, Whitehead TS, & Webster KE. Br J of Sports Med. Epub ahead of print Dec 25, 2012.

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Performance Training:

EFFECTS OF COMBINED CREATINE AND SODIUM BICARBONATE SUPPLEMENTATION ON REPEATED SPRINT PERFORMANCE IN TRAINED MEN, from the latest JSCR.

When working with athletes on maximal speed or speed endurance, human physiology is our biggest limiting factor. Training allows body adaptation and physiological changes to improve performance and curb fatigue, but physiology is physiology – it can only be altered so much. Thus, supplements exist to cheat human physiology.

First a quick exercise physiology review. When performing maximal exertion activity the phosphocreatine system kicks in. Our cells gobble up free floating phosphocreatine stores as our primary source of energy. This energy supply gives us a maximum of 10 seconds worth of energy. Quickly our body begins breaking down glycogen stores so our body as energy to keep producing movement. After 60-90 seconds though if our intensity is still too high we hit our lactate threshold – the period where lactic acid build exceeds the cells removal rate – causing increased cellular acidity. Acidity inhibits enzymatic function and if you recall on your exercise physiology class; enzymes are responsible for breakdown of substrates to energy. So, 2 physiological factors inhibiting performance; 1- depletion of phosphocreatine, and 2- increased acidity causing enzymatic inhibition.

This study examines the combined effects of creatine and sodium bicarbonate (to retard acidic effects) supplementation of sprint performance. To no surprise the authors found that the combination of these supplements increased peak / mean power and attenuated the decline in power. Alas, we found a way to cheat human physiology.

Full reference: Barber, JJ, McDermott, AY, McGaughey, KJ, Olmstead, JD, and Hagobian, TA. Effects of combined creatine and sodium bicarbonate supplementation on repeated sprint performance in trained men. J Strength Cond Res. 27(1): 252–258, 2013.

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EFFECTS OF PROPRIOCEPTIVE NEUROMUSCULAR FACILITATION STRETCHING AND STATIC STRETCHING ON MAXIMAL VOLUNTARY CONTRACTION, from the latest JSCR.

A study done a few years ago demonstrated static stretching reduced power output and performance. Since then, there has been a lot of debate and negative press on static stretching on maximal voluntary contraction (MVC). Suddenly performance experts are saying “Static stretching is the worst thing you can do.”

This is not true! First the performance declined occurred after 45 second static holds. When a stretch was held for 30 seconds or less – as recommended – there was no performance loss. This was supported by a systematic literature review done Kay and Blazevich, published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise last year (Jan 2012). This current study examined effects of Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation and static stretching on Maximum Voluntary Control.

Unfortunately, the static stretch protocols  were to perform static stretches for 5 repetitions of 45 seconds. These parameters exceed the recommended static stretching variables of 2 sets of 30 seconds. As expected the authors came to the same conclusions – that static stretching decreased MVC.   Although this is a good study, you must take the data for what it is. Static stretching reduces MVC if the stretch variables is held for 45 seconds. Before you start knocking static stretching understand the data you are interpreting.

Full reference: Miyahara, Y,Naito, H, Ogura, Y, Katamoto, S, and Aoki, J. Effects of proprioceptive neuromuscular  facilitation stretching and static stretching on maximal voluntary contraction. J Strength Cond Res. 27(1): 195–201, 2013.

Core Before or Core After?

I was recently asked by a colleague: Why does NASM recommend performing core exercises prior to SAQ and resistance exercises when most other organizations state to perform core at the end? It is a long-winded, highly-debatable question, so I decided to write a short blog on the topic providing my thoughts.

The theory of performing core exercise at the end of training is very valid and certainly has utility.The primary theory to performing core exercise after resistance training is fatigue. Resistance, reactive and SAQ training targets our prime movers which are predominately made of Fast Gylcolytic (FG) and Fast Oxidative Glycolytic (FOG) muscle fibers. These fibers are easily fatigued due to their avascular properties. Core musculature is rich in Slow Oxidative (SO) muscle fibers. High vascularity makes SO fibers resistant to fatigue secondary to the accessibility to oxygen.

A common fault with core training technique is allowing the prime movers – saturated with FG / FOG fibers – to dominate the SO dominant muscle fibers of the core. Subsequently, we are not properly working the core muscles, we are just training our prime movers to act as core stabilizers. During higher intensity exercise like SAQ, reactive, and resistance training the FG and FOG muscle fibers become fatigued. Thus, when we transition to core exercises, the fatigued prime movers are less likely to become dominant and will allow for the core musculature and SO dominant muscles to do there job. So the organizations that support this method are certainly not wrong.

Conversely, NASM has a completely different outlook on when to perform core exercises. By performing core exercise after flexibility and prior to SAQ, plyometric, or resistance exercise serves as a functional warm-up to stimulate the neuromuscular system and enhance neuromuscular efficiency during more intense exercise. By doing so, our neuromuscular system is prepared and ready for higher intensity exercise and can prevent unwanted motion of joints and prevent injury.

The thought process behind this is the increased neurological stimulation that occurs when performing core exercise. This increased neural stimulation is much like the neural response that occurs with post-activation potentiation (PAP). PAP operates on the principle that heavy muscle loading creates increased stimulation of the central nervous system, resulting in greater motor unit recruitment and subsequently force production (1, 2).

There are two theories behind PAP. The first states that maximal muscle contraction yields an increased phosphorylation of myosin. The increased phosphorylation causes actin and myosin binding to be more responsive to calcium ions released from the sarcoplasmic reticulum (3).  This enhances force muscle production at the structural level of muscle (4).  As a result, faster contraction rates develop (1).

The second theory behind PAP involves the Hoffmann Reflex (4). The Hoffman reflex is excitation of muscle spindle nerve fibers. Physiologically, PAP increases speed of H-reflex, thus increasing the firing rate to muscle (5). It is this rate coding, and the aforementioned  phosphorylation of myosin that the NASM model suggests occurs during and following core exercise.

By stimulating the core musculature, the core will be active during the core exercise and also be activated during higher intensity exercise. Subsequently, the core is working longer and it is helping prevent injury by enhancing neuromuscular efficiency during higher intensity exercise.

What do you think? Which method do you prefer? Personally, through research and exercise experience, I favor the NASM version, but that could easily be attributed to my work experience at NASM. Nonetheless, the question remains and I think it would be a great research study comparing the two variables. Any doctoral students looking for a project?

References:

  1. Chiu, L.Z., Fry, A.C., Weiss, L.W., Schilling, B.K., Brown, L.E., & Smith, S.L. (2003). Postactivation potentiation response in athletic and recreationally trained individuals. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 17(4), 671-677.
  2. Rixon, K.P., Lamont, H.S., & Bemden, M.G. (2007). Influence of type of muscle contraction, gender, and lifting experience on postactivation potentiation performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 21(2), 500-505.
  3. Kravitz
  4. Hamada, T., Sale, D.G., MacDougall, J.D., & Tarnopolsky, M.A. (2000a). Postactivation potentiation, muscle fiber type, and twitch contraction time in human knee extensor muscles. Journal of Applied Physiology, 88, 2131-2137.
  5. Hodgson, M., Docherty, D., & Robbins, D. (2005). Post-activation potentiation underlying physiology and implications for motor performance. Sports Medicine, 25 (7), 385-395.

Want to Improve Power? Improve your Core!

Do you want to increase your power – maybe to improve your vertical jump or bat swing speed or maybe to try something new? Power is very important in everyday functional movement. Athletes need power to improve performance. Parents need it to catch a kid from falling. Seniors need power to regain balance and prevent falls after tripping. Power is important and training should be part of most conditioning programs.

The mathematical equation for power is P= F*D (or Work)/T. Basically, power is the amount of work done over a period of time.  Using basic math, the higher the amount of work performed (force and distance) in the least amount of time will yield high power. So it seems logical that if I want to improve power I must perform explosive exercises such as box jumps, lateral hops, and other plyometric exercises. Right? Well although your are not wrong, you are also not 100% correct. Continue reading