BY BRYNNE ELLIOTT, MSC/ MUSCLEANDFITNESS.COM
Learning the finer points of self-myofascial release could help you train harder and look better while also reducing injury.If you are still of a mind that foam rollers are for everyone else, then you are missing out on one of the most effective tools at your disposal for physique-building, recovery and injury prevention. Rollers are the most popular mechanism for self-myofascial release, or SMR, and are gaining popularity among elite athletes of all walks because of the drastic and usually immediate impact it has on their performance and overall health. Here are some of the most frequently discussed aspects of SMR as it pertains to dedicated lifters.
WHAT THE HECK IS SELF-MYOFASCIAL RELEASE ANYWAY?
Self-myofascial release is often called the “poor man’s massage.” Myofascial release is a hands-on technique that therapists have been using for years. To achieve this release, a therapist would apply a low load, long duration dragging force across layers of soft-tissue in the body. After a period of time, through some different mechanisms in the body, the body will “release” the tissue and mobility between those sliding surfaces is restored. To make these changes on oneself, a foam roller can be used in place of therapist’s hands. While the foam roller will never completely replace therapists, it serves as a great alternative.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF SMR FOR THE EVERYDAY GYM RAT?
SMR can have a wide range of benefits for the everyday gym-goer. Some of the basic, most obvious benefits will be increased blood flow throughout the body, better movement and increased range of motion. These benefits can decrease the chance of injury and decrease recovery time after a workout. A decreased recovery time means more training sessions per week/month and results can come quicker. Increased circulation is huge for recovery and greater ROM means you get to work muscles more thoroughly on lifting days.
WHAT ARE THE MOST BASIC THINGS YOU CAN DO ON THE FOAM ROLLER TO START SEEING PERFORMANCE BENEFITS?
The first thing to do to start seeing results is to foam roll your calves. Most of the things we do negatively affect our calves. From the shoes we wear to the way we sit in a chair, our calves are in a shortened position most of the time. This limits the range of motion of the ankle and reduces function up the rest of the body. To address this, begin by placing one leg on the roller, then place the other leg on top of it. Raise the hips and slowly begin to roll to the knee. If you find an extra tender spot, stop and hold. After about 20 seconds continue to roll through the area four times. Then set the hips on the ground and rotate the leg four times side to side.
The second best thing is to foam roll the quadriceps. Again, from the things we do, this area can become shortened and affect the function of the hips and put additional stress on the low back. Begin by lying down in a plank position and place the GRID Roller just above the kneecap. Slowly roll down (about an inch per second) towards the hip. If you find a tender spot, stop and hold for about 20 seconds. Then resume the rolling. After four rolls, bend the knee 4 times. Make sure to breathe through all of the rolling.
The third best thing to do is foam roll the upper back, the thoracic spine. This area is designed for rotation and extension. With the postures most people are in, this area gets stuck. Begin by sitting on the ground and lay back to where the roller is just below the shoulder blades. Support your head with your hands and lean back into slight extension. Raise the hips and begin to roll towards the shoulders. Make sure not get pressure onto the neck. This area normally does not feel as tender as the others but if it does, again feel free to stop and hold pressure on one spot. Roll through the area of the spine four times with the hips up. Then, set the hips down and perform four crossfrictions, by mimicking an oblique crunch (side to side) with pressure on the roller.
WHEN SHOULD SMR BE DONE, IDEALLY? PRE-WORKOUT AS PART OF A DYNAMIC WARM-UP? POST-WORKOUT? BOTH?
In a perfect world SMR would be done both before a workout as part of a dynamic warm-up and as part of a cool down. As part of the warm-up, it should be the first thing done, before any stretching or cardio. Here, it serves to get the blood flowing the areas that maybe aren’t receiving as much blood flow and helps to reduce tension in muscles. As part of a cool down, the rolling helps to flush out blood that has pooled in the working muscles and allows fresh nutrients and oxygen to come in and begin the healing process.
If one is limited with time (as most of us are) and can only choose one time to roll, pre-workout will get them the best results. For the benefits stated earlier, rolling for as little as five minutes before a workout can have a great impact on the quality of each training session.
Brynne Elliott, MSc, is the director of education and programming at TriggerPoint Performance Therapy (http://www.tptherapy.com/). Brynne has spent the last 10 years developing and presenting education surrounding human movement and health at the university level and in the professional marketplace in the health & fitness space. She joined the TriggerPoint team in 2013 and prior to living in Austin, Texas, she resided in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she aided in the representation of TriggerPoint Education for Canada.
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BY PERFORMBETTER.COM/Jason C. Brown, CSCS, KBA
Most sporting events revolve around your ability to create explosive movements over an extended period of time. This athletic quality is known as power-endurance. Training for power-endurance can be absolutely grueling; however, the athlete that possesses the greatest amount of power-endurance usually goes home the winner.
Kettlebell training is relatively new in the world of sports performance enhancement. However, if there is one training tool for improving power-endurance, kettlebells are it.
Kettlebell training traditionally revolves around modified Olympic lifting variations performed for high repetitions. It's this combination of high repetitions and modified Olympic lifts that make kettlebell training ideal for creating incredible amounts of power-endurance.
What is it about this combination that makes kettlebell training so effective?
Olympic lifts and their variations, by their very design cannot be performed slowly. Snatches, Cleans and Jerks must be executed quickly or not at all. By combining this quick lifting protocol you essentially train your body to produce high rates of power for an extensive time period.
Kettlebell ClustersKettlebell Clusters involve performing 1 repetition every 20 seconds for a set period of time. To spice things up even further I often rotate the drills that are performed every rep. For example, on the first rep you Snatch, rest 20 seconds and then Clean, rest another 20 seconds and High-Pull.
A great way to work Kettlebell Clusters is by training with a partner. You each call out the drill that your partner is to perform for their next rep. This just adds some chaos and a lot of fun to the workout. It also becomes very competitive with each partner trying to outdo the other. Just make sure to pick drills that are explosive and performed quickly as well as within the skill set of your partner.
So, one minute of Kettlebell Clusters would look like this:
• 1 Kettlebell Snatch - 20 seconds rest
• 1 Kettlebell Clean and Jerk - 20 seconds rest
• 1 Kettlebell Push Press
Repeat for the desired amount of time.
Kettlebell Couplets involve alternating a full-body ballistic movement with a fundamental bodyweight drill that stresses different musculature or opposite movement patterns. This allows one set of muscles to recover while the others are working overtime.
Working in a descending rep scheme is a great way to train Kettlebell Couplets, simply because you can see the light at the end of the tunnel and as you near the end of your set you'll be fired up and hasten your performance. It's a great idea to time yourself during some of your favorite Kettlebell Couplets and try to beat that time when you visit that workout again.
Here are a few Kettlebell Couplets that are guaranteed to improve your power output.
Alternate each exercise until all sets of each drill are complete. Keep rest periods short and work to improve your time when you perform this workout again.
• A1) Kettlebell Swing - 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
• A2) Pushups - 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
• B1) Kettlebell Snatch - 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
• B2) Dips - 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
• C1) Kettlebell Jerk - 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
• C2) Pull-ups - 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
One of the greatest features of kettlebell training is the ability to link and combine distinct movements into one continuous set. The unique shape of the kettlebell allows you to transfer from one ballistic drill into another without a hesitation.
Complete the prescribed repetitions of each drill before moving unto the next. Don't stop working until each drill is complete. As you fatigue, drop your repetitions to ensure fast, high quality movement.
• A1) Kettlebell Snatch - 5, 3, 1
• A2) Kettlebell Clean -5, 3, 1
• A3) Kettlebell Swing - 5, 3, 1
Complex # 2
• B1) Kettlebell Push-Press- 5, 3, 1
• B2) Kettlebell Jerk - 5, 3, 1
• B3) Thrusters - 5, 3, 1
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You have no doubt seen the clips all over the internet of elite athletes thundering away on conditioning drills with heavy ropes – slamming them in a fury and drowning in a pool of sweat, only to walk away looking stronger and leaner as a result. Battling Ropes were developed by John Brookfield and have since spawned a legion of imitators who have tried to capitalize on the amazing versatility and efficacy of these increasingly ubiquitous body-carving tools.
“I knew athletes had the potential to sustain high levels of power, strength and speed over longer durations of time,” says Brookfield. “I started to mimic the flow of water by creating a series of waves with long heavy ropes. I started out simply playing around with the ropes and quickly found out there was much more to this than meets the eye.”
Brookfield experimented with the ropes in secret for over a year before sharing the idea with anyone else. Ironic, considering how present they are in the repertoires of elite performance trainers and physique athletes.
So are the Battling Ropes just a gimmick? The short answer is no. But what results do they actually produce?
“The Battling Ropes will teach the user to sustain higher levels of intensity over greater durations of time,” Brookfield says.
There are plenty of ways to make the ropes work for you but there are a few that newbies should get initiated with.
“The alternating waves are probably the most versatile of all the basic movements because they teach the user to develop equal strength, power endurance, dexterity and muscle control on each side of the body.
This ability is a huge advantage because it transfers into any sport or tactical situation plus it also promotes a tremendous amount of injury prevention by the balance it creates.”
While the alternating waves offer plenty of athletic and injury prevention equity, the two-handed (or bilateral) slams are just plain dirty.
“The two-handed slams develop explosive power,” says Brookfield. “However, the user should strive to sustain the length of time doing the slams and also push themselves to keep a constant slamming motion with equal force thrusting up as slamming down.”
That means when you pick a time – say, 30 seconds – you should insist upon working for the entire time and using the same range of motion from start to finish. This will test you in a unique kinetic chain from your forearms, up through your shoulders and down into your core musculature as your resist the pull of the ropes and the sting of lactic acid buildup.
Despite the variation you choose, the ropes help you to build strength and muscular endurance and provides a unique metabolic challenge. The all-out bouts of work that the ropes call for supercharge your fat-burning furnace, helping you to nuke calories well after they are neatly coiled and stowed.
KEEPING YOU IN THE GAME
The Battling Ropes will help you trim up while staying as fierce as a belted middleweight fighter but there are other perks.
“The Batting Ropes are very easy on the joints and I have not heard of or seen even one small injury as of yet,” says Brookfield.
Because the ropes require a high degree of core engagement, you can expect to see a high degree of strengthening with your postural muscles, particularly those along your posterior chain. They are also easy on your shoulders, providing a gentle stretch throughout each torrid set while bolstering the vulnerable musculature around your shoulder capsules.
This provides a degree of insurance when it comes back to your heavy presses and squats.
If you find yourself in the company of some heavy ropes, try this sample starter routine to spice up your conditioning efforts.
Alternating Waves: 20 sec.
Two-Handed Slams: 20 sec.
Rest: 20 sec.
Repeat this mini-circuit for a total of 10 minutes.
If you are new to the ropes, try this routine on a non-lifting day. If you are a more experienced lifter and are looking to simply augment your existing routine, add this to the end of your normal bodypart work. If paired with high-intensity intervals, do this after your more demanding sprints.
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There was a time in my life, years ago, when I was an ambassador for that foolish ‘More is better’ approach to exercise. I was teaching Spin at 6 a.m., yoga at 7 a.m., running on my lunch break, lifting weights at 5:30 p.m., and then icing it all off with a 90-minute kickboxing class at 6:30 p.m.
That was my schedule on most days, for years. I erroneously believed that she who did the most exercise would win the grand prize. Boy, was I wrong.
What I did get out of all that madness were a wonky cortisol rhythm, chronic exhaustion, and a lot of colds. As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, my body composition wasn’t changing for the better. As a matter of fact, I distinctly remember my body fat going up for awhile, undoubtedly due to the combination of high stress and the voracious appetite I developed thanks to the insane of amount of exercise I was doing.
I eventually learned my lesson when I made my switch to strength, but a quick glance at my social media feeds shows me that women (and men!) continue to work themselves into the ground, training too frequently and/or too intensely. They’re bragging about how they almost passed out or vomited, or that they managed to push through even though they were sick, stressed, or exhausted. I cringe when I see all the ‘Likes’ and cheering these types of posts get, and I constantly have to refrain from typing (with my caps lock obnoxiously on.
THERE IS A BETTER WAY.
Throughout years and years of training and coaching clients, I recognize that their lackluster results rarely stem from a lack of intensity or frequency in their workouts. Quite frankly, in women who work out regularly, it’s almost always the opposite. The reason for lack of progress is typically because women are training too hard and too often!
I want to be clear: there isn’t anything wrong with working hard, so long as you’re being smart about it.
Tilling your garden with a soup spoon is working hard, but digging that dirt up with a shovel is a prime example of working hard and smart. You’ll get better results, in less time, and with substantially less pain. You’ll never hear anyone boasting about how hard they worked to excavate their yard with a spoon, because that unnecessary labor doesn’t make sense. It’s not rational when it comes to training, either.
The Sweat and Soreness Myth
Neither sweat, nor soreness, is necessarily indicative of an effective workout.
It can feel good to work up a sweat, and a bit of soreness can serve as a nice reminder that we moved our bodies. However, the sad truth is that neither of those things means much, if anything, with regard to how beneficial the workout was. Those things may feel nice emotionally, but they don’t always have a solid physiological carryover.
I can stand in my yard and wave at the neighbor for three hours straight in the blazing sun, sweat like a maniac, and experience crippling soreness the next day. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I burned fat, or got stronger. It simply means that my arm and shoulder performed the same movement a bazillion times in a row and it was hot outside.
Out-Training Your Diet
A lot of people see an increase in their weight when they begin working out. That’s often because they dive into exercise a little too aggressively, lifting weights several times per week and doing cardio like crazy, kicking their appetite into overdrive.
When it comes to fat loss, the only thing that a ton of really intense training will do for most people is make them voraciously hungry.
If this is you, step back and evaluate how you’re feeling. Are certain training modalities or activities causing intense cravings, or an insatiable appetite? If so, consider reducing the intensity of your workout, and see how you feel.
It’s crucial to fuel your training properly, and there’s a possibility that you aren’t eating enough—but that’s a topic for another article. In the context of this topic, if your training is turning your stomach into a bottomless pit, consider backing down the frequency and intensity of your activities.
Stress is Stress is Stress
Maybe it’s because we’re naturally inclined to assume that if some exercise is good than surely a whole lot more is better. Or maybe the old adage, “Go hard or go home” is to blame. For the record, we’d actually advise you go home than go unnecessarily hard, and that is because of what it does to your hormones.
The body treats training as a form of stress and reacts to it the same way that it reacts to anything else that’s stressful—sick kids, a looming work deadline, or being chased by a bear. Training can feel good emotionally, but stress is stress is stress, and cortisol will always respond accordingly.
The stress brought on by a lot of intense training can be absolutely fine, assuming that your stress levels are in check in all other areas of your life.
Here’s a tough question: how many of us can say with confidence that our stress levels (family, work, relationships, financial, etc.) are, indeed, “in check?”
Unfortunately, not many of us can say that. It’s critical to take this information into consideration when planning the frequency and intensity of our training. This is a tricky situation because for many women, when we experience stress, our first inclination is to go “work it out” at the gym, essentially pouring fuel onto the fire.
Do not sacrifice your health for the sake of fitness.
When stress levels spike, the first thing I ask my clients to do is back off a bit (or a lot) on their training, and temporarily trade it in for some other type of therapeutic movement, such as walking or yoga. I then encourage them to focus a bit more on nourishing their bodies with good food, and aim to get more sleep. During these times, training falls to the bottom of the priority list, and that’s perfectly OK. My goal is to keep my clients safe and healthy, and teach them to train a way that they can maintain for the next 10, 20, or 30 years.
Speaking of priority lists…
The Hierarchy of Fat Loss
Any time my clients get stuck and stop seeing progress, I’ll look at a few other pieces of the puzzle before looking at their training. I believe that the list of priorities for fat loss and optimal health looks like this:
Sound nutrition, plenty of high-quality sleep, stress management, and daily movement should, in my opinion, precede training when it comes to fat loss and optimal health.
This is a tough concept for many people to wrap their heads around, and I understand that. Training is enjoyable, but like anything else, it has its time and place. Improving nutrition, sleep, stress control, and overall movement will have much more of an impact, than simply increasing exercise.
How to Find Your Training Sweet Spot
Exercise develops physical strength and mental fortitude, and offers a slew of other benefits, but you don’t have to give up your life or go crawling out of the gym after every session in order to reap the rewards.
We are big fans of using the Minimum Effective Dose. This means doing the type of training that provides the most benefit, in the least amount of time, and just enough of it to get the results that we want, without a bunch of added stress.
For most people, this means:
The rest of your results will come from nutrition, sleep, stress control, and overall movement.
If you find yourself constantly hungry or experiencing a loss of appetite, fatigued, perpetually sore, retaining water, or have an elevated resting heart rate, these can be signs that you’re overdoing it with your training.
Training is meant to enhance and optimize. It’s a way to develop strength to enable you to better engage in, and enjoy, life and all that it has to offer. The most effective training is smart training, not unnecessarily hard training.
If you want to:
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Women often subscribe to fitness fads, hearsay, and offbeat diets to get fit. According to top trainer Irene Lewis-McCormick, women must stop succumbing to pop culture in order to see greater strength and muscle definition. “It’s staggering the amount of misinformation that surrounds women and exercise,” says Lewis-McCormick. “With respect to the myths and misinformation, it’s no wonder women are so confused regarding what they should and should not do to achieve a strong, lean, healthy body.”
In her book, A Woman’s Guide to Muscle & Strength (Human Kinetics, February 2012), Lewis-McCormick dispels five common fitness myths and explains why strength training should be a part of every woman’s fitness regimen.
“Strength training is one of the only forms of exercise that offers so many benefits to health and fitness, which makes it a solid choice of regular exercise,” Lewis-McCormick says. “If anything, strength training is especially important for women because it provides maximum opportunity to control weight and achieve many other long-term benefits.”
For more information, see A Woman’s Guide to Muscle & Strength.
ARTICLE SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1OSzjIh
A collection of Competitive Athlete articles and selected content from various online sources to help you achieve your winning goals