Q&A: “Training Zones” and Calorie Burn

Q&A: “Training Zones” and Calorie Burn

Q: How do I know the heart rate zones and calorie counters on aerobic machines are accurate?

Simple…they aren’t. The numbers that you see on a typical cardiovascular machine related to “Training Zones” for heart rate and “Caloric Expenditure” should be viewed as guides. They are helpful in gaining some understanding (especially for beginning exercisers) as to where to start, how much effort is necessary for improvement, and what the resultant product of the exercise session is. However, in the long run it will most likely be detrimental (or frustrating, at its least) for an exerciser to plan or base his/her workouts on these numbers.

Let’s back up for a moment and review Exercise Physiology 101. Heart Rate is used as a guide to measure exercise intensity as it closely mimics oxygen consumption (which is held as the gold-standard but impractical to measure outside of the laboratory). There are currently several equations that are utilized to estimate where an individual’s optimal heart rate zone is for maximum training effect. Generally, the equation used on many cardio machines on the market is the Target Heart Range formula (220-Age x 50% and 90%). Again, while this is a good start, it often under or over estimates the correct range by as much as 15 beats/minutes (bpm). There are many variables which can effect the final decision as to what is the appropriate range, such as age, gender, exercise history, goals, medications, health concerns, etc. Ultimately the above formula is a good range for cardiovascular improvements, but utilizing tools such as the Rate of Perceived Exertion or Talk Test are helpful in adapting the range more specifically to your current fitness level. For example, at the lower end of your training zone you should be able to carry on a conversation having only to catch your breath every few sentences while at the upper end having difficulty holding a conversation at all.

Caloric Expenditure—determined by mL of Oxygen consumed per kilogram of bodyweight per minute (mL/kg/min)—is a bit more involved procedure. Again, outside the laboratory this is difficult to determine and is affected by all of the factors listed above. In addition to this there are the components of weight, body fat percentage and adaptation to activity. Cardiovascular machines cannot account for all of these factors. Ultimately they will provide the user with some sort of estimate. But if it is important for you to determine a more accurate number (i.e. for goal achievement), you may want to consult a trusted Personal Trainer/Exercise Physiologist who can aid in that process.

Written for SB Fitness Magazine Vol.3 Is.3 (Click here to visit site)

Pre Season Workout

This is a great workout for early pre-season that address all areas of training:
Dynamic Warm Up
Acceleration/First Step Speed
Strength and Core

Focus early on is form and function. Pre-Season training is preparation. If you can’t hold form, posture and stability now, chances are you won’t be able to later in the training season either.

I tried to minimize some of the abbreviations. Most you can figure out. Enjoy the Workout! Holler with questions.

Warm Up
Sets 1 | Reps 8-10 each
Heel/Toe Walks
Prisoner Squat (Arms F/B/O)
Arm Circles F/B
Fake Jump Rope F/B
Easy Skip F/B
Lateral Skip
1/2 Speed Build Up (Nat/Un)
Hip Circle
Mountain Climber
Push Up
Superman P1/P2/P3
Sidelying Abduction/Adduction
Lateral Lunge
3/4 Build Up (Nat/Un)
Good Morning (Arms by Ears)
Mummy Walks
Quad Stretch/Knee Hug Walks
Piriformis Walk
Push Up Protractions
Full Speed Build Up (Nat/Un)

Movement/Transitory Plyo
Sets 2-4 | Reps 6-8 each
Practice Powerline
Practice Ready Position
Wall Drill 1ct
2pt 3/4 Build Up (Natural/Unnatural)
Wall Drill 2ct
DL Broad Jump/Stick
2pt 3/4 Build Up (Natural/Unnatural)
Power Skips (height)
2pt 3/4 Build Up (Natural/Unnatural)

Lateral Broad Jump/Stick
Lateral Broad Jump Repeats
Squat Step Lateral
Heiden and Stick

Quad Patterns
DL 1-2, 1-4, 1-3, 4-2

Agility Ladder
1 step/box F/B Runs
2 step/box F/B Runs
2 step/box Lateral Runs
F/B Hops w/Stick
Lateral Hops w/Stick

Lift (2 5-Station Circuits)
Sets 2-4 | Reps 8-10 each

MB Push Up (one hand on)
SLDL (MB Behind head)
Side Bridges
Y/T/W/L (separate)
MB Ovrhd Split Sq In Line

Prone Opposites
Squat Wave
DI Supported Alt Hip Flex
Narrow Push Up (touch MB)
SL Hip Lift

Jill Daniels, MS, RD Open for Biz and Online

I wanted to take a moment to point you in the direction of a great resource.

Jill Daniels, MS, RD is a great friend and colleague I have worked with and utilized as a resource for the past 10 years.

She has recently branched out on her own and begun a private Nutrition business in the East Bay Area, CA. She is currently helping Velocity Sports Performance Dublin develop their nutritional programs for athletes and will soon be consulting with a Sports Medicine office in the Pleasanton area.

Please take a moment to visit her website and utilize her as a great resource for nutritional information for yourself.

Click here to visit Jill Daniels RD.com

The 20/20 Workout: Improve Your Reactive Ability

Can you actually improve your reaction time? Will it get quicker? Honestly?

No. Sorry, but it’s true.

As I was prepping for this article I recently had the question posed to me by an aspiring college mind. “How do you go about decreasing reaction time for athletes?” she asked. “Can you do things in the strength and conditioning sessions, do you just train the athlete to get quicker, or is it a combination of factors?” An interesting question, to be sure. My first response to her was to ask if she had studied Motor Learning or Motor Control in her undergraduate work as of yet. I was curious to find out what the latest theory was that is being taught. Her response was a hesitant ‘yes.’ So that led me back to the literature on the topic of Reaction Time.

What is it? How do we define it? What are the limiting factors? Can it be improved (leading to quicker or shorter time to react)? If not, are there at least certain components of the process that can be individually addressed in order to minimize the process as much as possible?

A simple definition of Reaction Time tells us that, “simple reaction time is the time it takes to react to stimuli.” Research tells us that elite level performers (such as track and field athletes) have some of the quickest reaction times in existence, boasting about a 150 millisecond (1 millisecond is one one-thousandth of a second) response time to the starting gun until exploding out of the starting blocks. Quick, huh? However, this is not a complex task. If complexity is added to a situation or decision which requires a quick reaction time, it could easily take that time up to 400-500 milliseconds (around a half of a second).

Ultimately, we could spend all of our time talking about terms and definitions, but in the end not much would be gained on the practical application for you, the coach or athlete. So here is the deal, for our purposes we will think of Reaction Time as the actual neural (nerve) traveling time of information within the body. Guess what…you can’t really do anything about that. So let’s leave it alone for now. However, you CAN do something about your Reactive Ability. Without getting into semantics, what I’m referring to is the time it takes from the awareness of the stimuli until the athlete actually engages in the correct action in response to it. If we look at that full picture there are several more limiting factors we can deal with and work with that will have an impact on how well and how quickly athletes respond (and respond appropriately) to situations on the field.

Like what?

As mentioned, we know we can’t do much (or anything at all) about how quickly the message travels to and fro in the neural network. But we can do something about how quickly an athlete sees the stimuli, if he/she sees the correct stimuli and how quickly he/she can process those stimuli. Then again, after the correct response has been sent to the appropriate muscles to react we can also effect that movement response time by making sure the athlete is in the correct body position to respond, that the muscles can fire as quickly and powerfully as possible and that they apply the correct force application to maximize the response obtained.

To make a quick application to the last article I wrote, recall the stages of learning. In short, there are 4 stages which will ultimately be revealed in the athlete producing the correct movement unconsciously (this is a good thing). Research also tells us that being able to function at the elite or master level requires up to 10,000 hours of training to allow this high level of unconscious functioning to be maximized. Yeah, 10,000 (can somebody turn off the TV and PS 3 please?!) I know…you’re fired up about that. But before you get started, here are a couple more thoughts. Why 10,000? One of the primary reasons for this I have seen is that it allows anticipation and what is often referred to as “clumping” or “clustering” of information to occur more readily. Translation: the more an athlete has seen it or done it, the easier it is to assimilate information and faster they can anticipate what is to come.

Application time. What do you do with this? First I would encourage you to know your players. In my profession I spend a great deal of time evaluating and re-evaluating. You can’t learn everything about an athlete the first session or practice. As you continue to do this you’ll more clearly find where your athletes’ weaknesses are. In finding this information you can more effectively discover their individual limiting factors and then put together a plan to help them maximize their Reactive Ability. For example:

-Is it a physical limitation (weakness, lack of power, poor stabilizers, weak core, etc.)?
-Is it a visual weakness (lack of peripheral awareness, poor eyesight, convergence/divergence issues, depth perception difficulty, etc.)?
-Is it a processing weakness (don’t know the offense well enough, don’t know how to respond to certain defenses, haven’t seen enough situational information, etc.)?

We are focused on visual information here, so let’s assume an athlete has already established a base level of physical performance and has some level of sport processing ability. If you have something to work with there, here a couple great drills you can add into your repertoire to help deal with the vision limitation of Reactive Ability.

Ball/Implement Recognition
Coaches: None or 1
Equipment: Sport implements and/or video
Time: 5 minutes
Description: Goal is for athlete to recognize what the ball or implement used in the sport is doing at critical moments of play (i.e. what pitch is being thrown, what spin a tennis serve has, where the basketball will come off the rim). Athlete must call out desired response as soon as recognition occurs (i.e. “Curve Ball,” “Slice Wide,” “Long/Weak side”)

Player to Player Recognition
Coaches: None or 1
Equipment: Sport implements and/or video, other players to set up situation.
Time: 5 minutes
Description: Goal is for the athlete to recognize what the weaknesses a defensive player has either in position or ability. Coaches can set up situations and players to practice different situations they desire offensive players to exploit (i.e. poor closeouts in basketball, playing to close to the sideline on a tennis serve, playing too far off of a receiver at the line of scrimmage, the cross-court angle is open, detecting a slower player, etc.).

Offense Recognition
Coaches: None or 1
Equipment: Sport implements and/or video, other players to set up situation.
Time: 5 minutes
Description: Goal is for athlete to recognize various offenses other teams utilize in order to understand what they are attempting to exploit. Athlete can call out desired responses or perform desired activity based on offense. For example, and athlete might call out a “pick and roll” or “screen play.”

Defense Recognition
Coaches: None or 1
Equipment: Sport implements and/or video
Time: 5 minutes
Description: Goal is for athlete to recognize various defenses other teams utilize in order to understand what they are attempting to exploit. Athlete can call out desired responses or perform desired activity based on offense. For example, and athlete might call out a “man to man” or “trap.”

It should be mentioned here that many of these types of drills could be performed during either warm up drills or conditioning drills (i.e. balance and stability drills, core strength drills, agility drills, etc.) where athletes are in relatively contained areas when coaches can utilize pictures or video. This way athletes can engage in beneficial movement activities and work on cognition/perception drills simultaneously. It will both save time and allow the athletes to move into an unconscious movement stage while improving visual perception.

Allowing athletes to engage in visual recognition activities that will reinforce things you find are important will give athletes an opportunity to get more practice clumping information and decreasing the time it takes to assimilate appropriate information allowing for quicker Reactive Ability.

Written for SportsVision Magazine v.1 no.2 2007 (visit site here)

The 20/20 Workout: Improve Peripheral Vision Skills

Written for SportsVision Magazine January-March 2007 Issue
by Chris Ecklund, MA, CSCS

Working with athletes to improve visual and perception skills is not something new to the sports arena. However, the addition of utilizing planned integration of these skills and techniques into the strength and conditioning or coaching fields is a relatively new trend. In a recent article published by the National Strength and Conditioning Association it was noted that as Strength Coaches progress athletes to maximal strength/power/conditioning, it may be necessary to focus on other areas in order to help athletes continue to improve and achieve maximum performance.

While the Strength and Conditioning coach is by no means a visual expert, there is available information in which S&C coaches (and coaches in general) can educate themselves in order to integrate this type of training into the workout session. One evidence of this vision focus and available information is on the Nike SPARQ Website (www.sparqtraining.com).

The American Optometric Association identifies 9 important visual skills helpful for sports performance. They are: Dynamic Visual Acuity, Visual Concentration, Eye Tracking, Eye-Hand-Body Coordination, Visual Memory, Visual Reaction Time, Visualization, Peripheral Vision and Depth Perception.

The purpose of this article is to focus on the improvement of Peripheral Vision, that is, the vision of what occurs beyond the boundaries of one’s center of focus. It should be quite apparent that an athlete’s ability to identify, process and respond to activity that occurs in his/her peripheral vision is, in most sports, not peripheral at all. In fact, often times cues and information that is vital to a play or sequence occurs in the periphery of the athlete’s vision. And though it is not possible to improve the physical range or field of peripheral vision one can see, it is possible to improve one’s awareness of information, perception of that information and ability to process and respond to it.

As a Strength and Conditioning profession one of the primary facets of training I deal with is improving athletic performance through more appropriate, refined, balanced, stable, powerful movement. In doing so I have found it overwhelmingly true that there are stages of both physical and anatomical adaptation (hypertrophy, strength, etc.) but also neurological adaptation. What I mean by that is this; it isn’t appropriate to make an athlete stronger just by adding weight. There may be inappropriate movement habits or compensations at work that must be dealt with in stages in order to gain maximal performance gains safely and effectively. As Loren Seagrave (an internationally renowned S&C coach) put it, athletes go through 4 stages of learning: unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence and finally unconscious competence. Ultimately it is a process of moving through not knowing you are doing it incorrectly to performing it correctly without having to think about it. It is important to remember that as a Sport Coach or S&C Coach we cannot overload an athlete with too many stimuli to focus on at any one time. If an athlete were in a stage of Conscious Incompetence for a sport skill, it would not be appropriate to add another stimuli to improve peripheral vision as the athlete would most likely not improve at either skill. Keep this concept in mind as you implement the following plan.

With that in mind, here is a progression moving through 7 weeks of 20 workout sessions to not only improve peripheral vision but to implement it into the playing field:

Four Drills/ 5 Minutes Each = 20 minutes to 20/20 SportsVision
1. See and Describe (SD)
This drill will need either 1 “coach.” Athlete is seated or standing. The coach must watch the eyes of the athlete to make sure they are focused on an object specified by the coach directly ahead of the athlete. The coach then places various objects into the athlete’s peripheral field of vision and asks the athlete to describe the object in as much detail as possible. As the photoreceptors in the eye that sense peripheral vision are not color sensitive (rods) it should be noted that the coach should not place a great emphasis on color as opposed to simply lightness or darkness of the object.

2. See and Respond (SR)
This drill will need either 2 “coaches”. Athlete is seated or standing. One coach must watch the eyes of the athlete to make sure they are focused on an object specified by the coach directly ahead of the athlete. The 2nd coach stands behind the athlete. At approximately 12-24 inches from the athlete’s head, the coach brings into peripheral view stimuli he/she wants the athlete to respond to (pick a sport appropriate stimuli such as tennis ball, football, picture of another athlete, etc.). The athlete must respond with a verbal cue when the object comes into his/her field of vision. Pick cues that are sport related, such as “ball,” “defense,” “hit,” etc.

3. See, Look, Respond (SLR)
This drill will need 2 “coaches”. Athlete is seated or standing. One coach must watch the eyes of the athlete to make sure they are focused on an object specified by the coach directly ahead of the athlete. The 2nd coach stands behind the athlete. At approximately 12-24 inches from the athlete’s head, the coach brings into peripheral view stimuli he/she wants the athlete to respond to (pick a sport appropriate stimuli such as tennis ball, football, picture of another athlete, etc.). The athlete must turn his/her head and look at the object when it comes into vision and then respond with a verbal cue. Again, pick cues that are sport related, such as “ball,” “defense,” “hit,” or reach out to grab the object, knock it down, etc.

4. See, Look, Prioritize, Respond (SLPR)
This drill will need 2 “coaches”. Athlete is seated or standing. One coach must watch the eyes of the athlete to make sure they are focused on an object specified by the coach directly ahead of the athlete. The 2nd coach stands behind the athlete. At approximately 12-24 inches from the athlete’s head, the coach brings into peripheral view 2 stimuli he/she wants the athlete to respond to (pick a sport appropriate stimuli such as tennis ball, football, picture of another athlete, etc.). The athlete must turn his/her head and look at the objects when they come into vision and then respond with a verbal or physical cue. Again, pick cues that are sport related, such as “ball,” “defense,” “hit,” or reach out to grab the object, knock it down, etc.

These drills can be implemented at the appropriate times of your sessions based on what your objectives are. For example, after the drills are learned they can be utilized as a great option for dynamic warm ups as they will need to be completed at relatively slow speeds early on.

The ultimate goal of the Sport Coach or S&C Coach should be to improve an athlete’s ability to perform relatively complex motor skills without thinking about having to be aware of peripheral vision. You want the athlete to be able to be “unconsciously competent” at moving about the playing field while perceiving what is happening in the peripheral fields of vision.

Hope you enjoy implementing these techniques into your workout or practice sessions!

Improve Your Athletic Performance for Golf?

Are you crazy? Performance Training to improve your golf game? What ever happened to tossing back a few with the fellas and hopping in the golf cart for a quick 18 on a Saturday afternoon…??? Ask players like Tiger Woods that question and you’re likely to get a whole new perspective.

Over the last couple decades our knowledge of exercise physiology (how the body performs under various types of stressful, exercise, and performance demanding environments) has grown vastly. In the industry of Strength, Performance and Conditioning training we have had a rapid influx of research in every area of sporting and athletic activities. And they are all telling us the same things: through biomechanical analysis of muscular strengths, weaknesses and imbalances we can effectively design a Strengthening and Flexibility program that will both improve performance and decrease risk for injury. Without question elite golfers now see the importance of implementing a regular exercise regime into their routine. Why? They have seen the value in it as their drives are getting longer and their career longevity improves due to increased stability and mobility.

My guess is you’re thinking to yourself, “I’m not on the PGA Tour, so what does it matter?” Here’s a couple thoughts for you to ponder…

First, though you may not be an elite level golfer your career longevity is most certainly affected through what you are doing (or not doing) to prepare and keep your body conditioned. Just as in any athletic or sporting endeavor, mechanical stresses to a body have a similar effect over time…wear and tear. If you perform the same or similar movements with this machine called the human body over time, it will be effected just as a mechanical machine will. It WILL break down. These types of injuries are coined “chronic” as they slowly take place over 5 or 10 years. Take for example a very common overuse injury today, carpal tunnel syndrome. This is breakdown of the body due to over-doing or over-utilizing the same motion. Carry this truth over to golf. If you haven’t already had an injury my guess is that you know someone who has either dealt with lower back pain, elbow epicondylitis (tendonitis), rotator cuff problems, hip discomfort, sciatic pain, and the list goes on. If you’d like to continue playing longer and gaining the enjoyment out of the game then heading off these types of injuries early on is important. You’ll be able to play longer with less pain.

A second reason is your increased enjoyment out of the game. This can honestly be as simple as the increased health benefits you gain out of an appropriately designed exercise program so that you are in better shape and less fatigued out on the course. However, for those who have the desire to seek continued improvement in their games, improved performance through more strength, power, dynamic postural control, improvements in core, mobility and stability significantly contribute to more consistent play on the course. The less you have to worry about what your body can or can’t do, the more you can focus on some of the other more important parts of your game.

That is what we do at Prevail Conditioning. We have developed the finest Biomechanical Analysis and Golf Performance Enhancement Program based on the latest research in the field in order to better help increase performance and career longevity. So whether you are looking for a healthier and longer career, maximize your game, or even take it to the next level…we’ll help you do that.

Written for Santa Barbara Golf Club Newsletter

Training Correctly for Vertical and Acceleration Power

By Chris Ecklund, MA, CSCS

A report on “how youth learn” in the literature (Plisk 2003) as well as 10 years experience of teaching movement has all but proven to me that “teaching the movement” often involves too much thinking and very little actual movement improvement in athletes during the training session (and the respective application on the field). It’s become painfully obvious to me that there’s too much coaching going on and not enough progression. As an athlete, you can’t always “fix” a movement or performance. Often times you have to progress into it and to allow it to happen.

This is exemplified in no small way by the following scenario: Athlete #1 is instructed how to perform box (or depth) jumps. He is instructed that of primary importance is minimal contact time on the ground, a hip-loaded contact position on the ground (and again upon the top of the box), a soft landing, good knee and toe alignment, neutral spine, and the correct timing of the forward arm swing to maximize jump height. Ok, now do all those at once…ready…go!

Are you confused yet? Do you remember anything I just said?

Let’s look at Athlete #2. He is shown how to do “Box Jump Up and Downs” with no countermovement (a rapid downward prior to upward movement), correct posture and arm position focusing on landing mechanics. When the athlete is ready, higher boxes are used as well as adding countermovements and single leg variation to maximize landing mechanics control. And finally, when the athlete is ready, the true box (or depth) jump is performed. While Athlete #1 may or may not be able to handle the scenario given, often times (and especially in group settings) using this methodology will most likely cause more athletes harm than good. Also, trying to unteach poor mechanics through explanation is extremely difficult (again, especially in large groups). Moving most athletes and groups of athletes through better progressions ensure better performance outcomes sooner with less injuries.

Training athletes to become better performers and injury avoiders is therefore not just the manipulation of the higher box heights, heavier bench (because nobody cares how much you can bench if you just got leveled on the field), and bigger biceps (hope you got that figured out by now!). Though they are extremely valuable and definitely come in to play with all individuals, they do not and cannot stand alone. Often times appropriate movement adjustments and techniques can yield similar, safer and more progressively overloaded improvements in athletes than variable adjustments.

It is with this mindset that the following training protocol was developed. Follow the progressions. Learn how to move appropriately FIRST! Here’s the deal…you learn how to move, you apply power in more appropriate directions, you jump higher and run faster BEFORE you even get stronger or more powerful. Can you imagine what will happen when you add more weight and intensity AFTER you’ve already got that?! I’ve helped countless athletes add power and inches to their jumps through this progression…many of them even IN season.

Box Jump Up and Down No CM
Linear 2-2, 1-2, 1-1 (one foot to other, same to same)
Lateral 2-2, 1-2 (both outside and inside foot), 1-1 (outside to inside, outside to outiside, inside to inside, inside to outside)

Sets: 2-3
Reps: 5-10 for double leg / 3-6 for single leg
Frequency: 2-4 times/week alternating linear and lateral days (keep daily repetitions below 50)
Master Double Leg first

Key Coaching Points:
1. Posture and alignment should be maintained throughout.
2. Focus on hip loading more than knee loading initially (hips back instead of knees forward) to maximize glute, hamstring and groin power.
3. No Countermovement. At least a 2 second pause in the squatted/hip loaded position at initiation must happen prior to take off.
4. Until you can land all jumps perfectly do not add the Countermovement.
5. Land as quietly as possible.

Starting Position:
1. Neutral Spine (all 4 curves that exist in your spine should be in your spine). Don’t slouch, round out, or flatten the spine.
2. Draw in. Keep your belly button pulled in toward your spine tight. This engages the transverse abdominals and stabilizes the spine and hips and increases power development.
3. Alignment. Knees should be lined up with toes, feet flat (but pressure toward ball of foot).
4. ¼ to ½ Squatted depth in a Hip Loaded position. Here’s the easiest way to figure out if you’ve got it. Stand face up to a wall with toes no further than 1” away from wall. Can you squat down to a ¼ or ½ squat position without falling backward or losing knee toe alignment. Use that as your guide.
5. Arms back.
6. Feet hip to shoulder width (hint: your shoulders aren’t as wide as you think).

Take Off:
1. Explode upward: Fully extend legs, drive hips forward and swing arms up to the sky.
2. Try to get your body fully extended in the air prior to landing.
3. Maintain posture and alignment as you leave the ground.

Finish Position:
1. If you landed like you started you’re on the right track. Everything you started with should be the way you finish (alignment, posture, draw in, etc.).
2. Land as quietly as possible: if you can land quietly chances are you are doing a good job controlling the movement with your muscles (avoids injury and prolongs your career). If you can’t do that, get ready for joint pain in 2 years…and for the rest of your life.
3. Arms forward: allow your arms to be out in front of your body at the finish to counter balance your body.
4. Get your foot flat: not on impact, but as you come down into your squat. I see many athletes make the mistake of trying to stay on the balls of their feet. Don’t. It’s not better.

Plisk, S. (2003). Principle based teaching practices. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 25(5), 57-64.

Written for SPARQtraining.com (click here to visit site)

How can I add protein to my diet in a healthy way?

There are actually quite a variety of ways in which to achieve this goal. As is the case with many nutrients, consuming proteins from a variety of sources ensures a more well rounded diet and helps to avoid long-term digestive and possible food sensitivity issues. With respect to food sources you can choose from chicken, turkey, ostrich, veal, pork, lamb, beef, fish, seafood, beans, nuts, peas, lentils, cheese, milk, eggs, soy products, whole grains, seeds, and more. A couple quick reference points here to consider. First, if you are choosing protein sources from animal products, do your best to choose lean or low fat sources. While there are many benefits animal sources may provide which plant sources may not, one must always be aware of getting in excessive amounts of fat calories from them. If plant sources are what you are looking for, something to keep in mind is that it is very difficult to find what are called “complete” proteins here. A complete protein is one that provides all of the essential amino acids (in other words, nutrients you must ingest since your body cannot manufacture them). Therefore, if the bulk of your proteins come from plant sources, you need eat sources that compliment one another in the amino acids they contain.

A final thought here is on going the supplement route. Is it worthwhile? Can you get good protein from supplementation? Let me put it this way: your number one goal should be to start with the best nutrition you can get from food. However, in today’s world that is not always as easy as it appears. Supplementation can be valuable additions to your daily intake if it is used as a way to “fill in the gaps” of what you have difficulty getting in with your foods. So, getting in some extra protein from a blended source (i.e. containing soy, whey, casein, milk, etc.) in a shake or snack bar can be a great option. One strong caution here: supplements are not currently well regulated by the FDA. What does that mean to you? In short, I don’t think the saying “you get what you pay for” is truer anywhere else than the supplement industry. Chances are, if you are paying bottom dollar for the big tub of protein you aren’t getting a quality product. In fact, you may not be getting what you paid for at all. Be careful. Do your research on the companies from which you purchase.

…One additional comment I will make here that was not in my original article. As I mentioned on the tail end, much of the supplement realms is left to the consumer to disseminate. With all that’s out there, this is a tough chore (at best). This is one reason I only consume and recommend Advocare supplementation to my clients, family, and friends. You can take whatever you want out there on the market. With what I’ve seen, tried, researched, and gotten (or not gotten) results with…Advocare’s Sci/Med board is the only one I’ll trust anymore. Also, in some recent research I’ve found that only 25% of the U.S. population gets approximately all the recommended nutrition from food sources alone. So, you tell me…are most people getting what they need through food? Supplementation makes a good argument here. Furthermore, I would venture to guess I am one of those that fits into that 25%…yet I have felt better, recovered quicker, avoided illness, and had more energy for the last 6 years I’ve supplemented with Advocare than ever before.

The choice is yours.

Written for SB Fitness Magazine (click here to visit site)

How important is the warm up and cool down in each cardio workout?

As I get older, I find that my answer, increasingly, is “more and more important!” In truth, performing a proper warm up and cool down for each cardio workout provide a variety of benefits. First, understand that a “proper” warm up and cool down that will enable maximum benefits depends on several variables such as current fitness level, age, activity to be performed, goal of the activity, etc. However, most literature would agree that for a recreational/intermediate exerciser a warm up lasting 3 – 15 minutes of continuous movement is appropriate. This warm up should gradually increase in intensity until the desired training intensity is achieved. Note that the warm up should, with few exceptions, be performed doing the same activity that will be performed during the training. A quick reference here to whether or not stretching should be a part of this routine. Most literature is now showing agreement that static stretching pre-activity may not significantly reduce injury and may actually decrease performance of activities involving power or speed (i.e. most sporting activities). So if those are your goals, spend the majority of your warm up performing activity specific movements and possibly utilizing a foam roller or “The Stick” for self-myofascial release to increase ROM [Range of Motion]. But if you’ve got an emotional attachment to static stretching… go for it! The benefits realized from warm up?

a. Increased utilization of fat for energy: allows for more efficient decreases in body fat and greater duration of cardio workouts.
b. Increased muscle temperature: decreases risk for injury and allows faster muscle contraction and relaxation.
c. Increased vasodilation/blood flow to working muscles: allows more oxygen and nutrients to reach muscle and clears wastes increasing exercise performance.
d. Decreased viscosity of joint synovial fluid: decreases joint friction.

Here’s an analogy I often use. Ever pull a rubber band out of the freezer and try to use it? If so, you’ve probably noticed that it is far more fragile and does not recoil as quickly when you stretch it. In many ways your muscles respond the same way without a warm up. The cool down should mirror the warm up in length and activity and provides much of the same benefits in reverse.

a. Gradual decreased blood flow and heart rate: decreases incidence of dizziness and fainting.
b. Clears wastes and byproducts from working muscles: decreases recovery time.
c. Decreases Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: less soreness is experienced in the days following workout bouts.

I am a firm believer in the “something is better than nothing” philosophy of exercise. But there is also tremendous longterm value in adding a few extra minutes of warm up and cool down to increase performance and decrease recovery.

Written for SB Fitness Magazine Winter 2007 Issue (click here to visit site)

Core Training…What’s the Hype?

Written for SPARQtraining.com & SB Fitness Magazine Online
by Chris Ecklund, MA, CSCS

Here’s the punch line…it is beneficial for all individuals (healthy, non-spine injury persons) to perform core training. How much? What intensity? How often? Depends on your goals and your current state. Seek out a trainer to help you work through those questions. But here are a few examples of common exercises to give you an idea:

1. Draw Ins
Target: Transverse Abdominal
Key Coaching Points:
a. Perform by pulling your belly button into your spine as much as possible (think about getting as skinny as you can). If you can’t feel it burning by your belly button…you’re either not doing it right or not pulling in hard enough.
b. Add leg or arm movements similar to sport movements (marching, cycling, lateral movements, etc.) for more difficulty.

Sets: 2-3 Reps: 5 for 5 seconds or 5-10 reps/leg while holding DI

2. Bridges/Planks
Target: Transverse Abdominals, Gluteus Medius/Tensor Fascia Latae (Hip Stabilizers) and Multifidus/Paraspinals (Spine Stabilizers).
Key Coaching Points:
a. Perform in various positions (prone, supine, on side) attempting to hold the body in perfectly straight line from head to heel
b. Shoulder blades pinched back and down. Elbows directly underneath the shoulder joint.
c. Add single leg variations or arm/leg movements for difficulty one each position can be maintained for 60 seconds).

Sets: 2-3 each Time: 20-60 seconds

3. Quadrupeds
Target: Transverse Abdominals, Gluteus Medius/Tensor Fascia Latae (Hip Stabilizers) and Multifidus/Paraspinals (Spine Stabilizers) (same muscle groups mentioned) in order to minimize spinal rotation under stress.
Key Coaching Points:
a. Perform on hands and knees (hand under shoulders/knees under hips).
b. Belly button drawn in and shoulders pinched back and down.
c. Extend arms toward wall one at a time or alternating (more difficult). Extend legs toward wall one at a time or alternating. Extend opposite arms and legs non-alternating or alternating (utilize a dowel or foam roller on the back and maintain 3 points of contact—head, shoulder blades and hips—throughout entire range of motion).

Sets: 2-3 Reps: 5-10/arm and leg

It should be mentioned that maintaining a “Draw In,” neutral spine, perfect postural alignment, and slow controlled movements for all of these exercises should be utilized.

So what’s the reasoning behind these exercises? Read on…

For the last several years there has been considerable focus on the “core” and it’s development. Look at the Group Exercise classes available at any health club and there are bound to be some classes related to it. Check out the services available from Personal Trainers around town and you’re more than likely to see some type of core training listed on their business card. And if you’ve paid attention to the exercise literature on the local Barnes and Noble over the past couple years, you’re probably familiar with the book “Core Performance” by Mark Verstegen (the German National team’s Strength & Conditioning coach at the recent World Cup…a little tidbit for you soccer fanatics). So what is it? What does the core do? Why do we need to train it? And is it important for athletic performance?

Core, as its name implies, refers to the center. In this case, we’re speaking about the anatomy of the human body. Specifically we are discussing the hip/pelvic girdle, abdominal region and spinal musculature. Take a look at the average 20-40 year old individual. How many of your parents or parents’ friends (athlete or not) in that age bracket have some sort of a “back problem” or issue? Generally the numbers are fairly significant. And we’re talking about an age that is generally considered young. Now ask yourself this question…how many of your friends (in high school or college) have hip or back pain? Surprisingly again, the numbers are high. And this doesn’t exclude athletes! Yet the numbers are there…people are struggling with all types of back dysfunction. Often times merely aggravating, but sometimes debilitating.

As I’m sure you are aware, the spine (vertebrae) houses an extremely important part of our anatomy: the spinal column or cord. It is from that neurological highway that messages are sent both to (motor) and from (sensory) muscles, organs, tissues, etc. While the vertebrae provide a solid protective housing, there are some issues that come along with daily living (poor posture, sitting too much, etc.) that create issues for the vertebrae and some of the tissues in and around the spine: spinal erector and stabilizing musculature and spinal discs. When problems or dysfunction arise here, the spinal cord cannot transmit or receive messages as effectively nor can the body move and efficiently.

“I am an athlete, so what does this have to do with me?” Poor biomechanics of movement leading to decreased force production, which can also lead to overuse injuries over the long term. Even if your posture is good, it is likely that you do not have the core strength to maintain that position under the stresses and strains of your respective sport. Ultimately, you will ultimately lose strength, power, and have a higher injury risk. If you do have the core strength, it means a stronger forehand for tennis, a harder hit for an outside hitter in volleyball, a quicker first step and increased vertical for the basketball player, better bat speed for the baseball player and a quicker cut for the football running back. Why? All power and speed either begins or must be translated through the core. It’s like an electrical circuit. If the circuit breaker shuts off because too much electricity is being demanded…no power. Think of your core as the circuit breaker. If it breaks down…you can’t jump as high.

So what’s the hype about? Your career longevity in your sport and your performance.

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