In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the research behind the triphasic training method and how it improves performance.
In Part 2, we will focus on why and how the eccentric phase improves power.
An eccentric action can be defined as when the muscle attachments closest and farthest from the center of the body (proximal and distal) move in opposite directions. This is often referred to as the lengthening, or yielding, phase, since the muscle is stretched due to a load placed on it.
Now, read this next part very carefully. Every dynamic movement begins with an eccentric muscle action. For example, when you jump, your hips perform a slight dip, eccentrically lengthening the quads and glutes before takeoff. This countermovement is critical to power production. The eccentric phase sets in motion a series of events that pre-load the muscle, thus storing energy to be used in an explosive, concentric and dynamic movement.
When you train the eccentric phase, two physiological processes contribute to force development. One is the most powerful human reflex in the body—the stretch reflex. The other, whose force producing abilities depend on the stretch reflex, is a close second in terms of force production. It is called the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC). (Although it’s important to understand these processes, they are outside the scope of this article. For now, just accept the fact that they’re important.)
Let’s go back to the “V” from Part 1 of this series so you can see exactly what I’m talking about. When you look at the graph below, you begin to see the correlation between the eccentric and concentric phases. The steeper the eccentric line is coming into the bottom of the “V,” the steeper the concentric line is leaving the bottom of the “V.” The greater the velocity of stretching during the eccentric contraction, the greater the storage of elastic energy. The athlete who can handle higher levels of force through an increased stretch reflex will be able to apply more force concentrically and be able to jump higher or use more power in other explosive movements.
I promise you will never see an athlete whose “V” comes in with a gradually descending line (red line) and leaves with a steeply ascending line (blue line) in a maximal effort dynamic movement. For every athlete I checked, if the eccentric line was shallow—i.e., if it had a more gradual downward slope—the concentric line was also shallow, meaning it had a more gradual upward slope. Remember slope is rise/run, meaning the athlete is absorbing less force over a given amount of time.
Now that you understand why it’s important to train the eccentric phase of dynamic muscle action, let’s get to the how. The most effective means is to perform large, compound movements with a slow eccentric phase.
Table 3.2 shows the rep ranges and sets that are appropriate for this type of training. In addition, the loading variables are allocated by color to show the recommended guidelines for different mesocycles, starting at white and moving up the chart.
To safely maximize eccentric adaptation, I have derived a few rules, which, when followed, yield the best results for athletes performing eccentric training.
1. Due to the intense stress placed on an athlete by eccentric training, its application should be limited to large, compound exercises.
When an athlete is first exposed to eccentric training, his or her physiological system will likely only be able to handle one compound exercise per workout. The exercise should be performed early in the workout while the nervous system is fresh.
2. Never perform slow eccentrics with loads greater than 85 percent of an athlete’s one-rep max.
This rule is based on my own risk versus reward analysis. To me, the risk is far too great to have an athlete use weight close to, at or above his one-rep max for an extended period of time. I’ve seen torn pecs and quads, blown backs and injured shoulders. At the end of the day, you can get the same physiological adaptation using lighter loads for longer times with half the risk.
3. Always use a spotter when performing slow eccentrics.
You must remember that when performing eccentric training, the body is being maximally fatigued. As you can see in Table 3.2, as the load decreases, eccentric time increases. The resulting increase in time under tension means an athlete’s muscular system could give out at any point during the lift, so proper spotting is crucial.
4. Always finish an eccentric focused lift with an explosive, concentric movement.
The most important aspect of performance—one that you’re constantly trying to improve—is the nervous system. Every jump, cut and throw begins with an eccentric lengthening of the muscle and ends with an explosive concentric contraction. The bar will not necessarily move fast, especially when you use heavy eccentric loads, but the intent to accelerate the bar, changing over from an eccentric to a concentric signaling pattern, must be firmly emphasized with every rep.
Below you will find a table with different eccentric compound exercises. Check below for hyperlinks to videos that show how to properly perform each exercise.
Source: Ben Peterson
The triphasic training method was created out of a revelation I had in the fall of 2003. At the time, I had two track and field athletes—throwers—who had me perplexed. One of them (let’s call him Ben) was a potential world-class thrower. He could throw the shot over 65 feet. The other, Tommy, was an average thrower who had trouble breaking 55 feet. Oddly enough, they were about equally strong in the weight room. Nothing explained why Ben was so good and Tommy struggled.
To find some answers, I decided to test their Bench Press using a force plate. The graph below (Figure 1) shows the results recorded by the force plate. The x-axis (horizontal axis) depicts time in hundredths of a second. The y-axis (vertical axis) represents power in watts. In essence, the graph is showing how much force each athlete absorbed and displaced in a given amount of time.
Ben’s rep is shown by the dark blue line, Tommy’s by the red line. The actual repetitions are taking place during the V-shaped segment of the lines in the middle of the graph. The descending line of the V is the eccentric (downward) phase of the Bench Press. The bottom point of the V is the isometric or static phase, and the line ascending from the bottom on up is the concentric (pressing) phase.
Figure 1: Ben vs. Tommy
As soon as I saw the graphical printout, I realized what separated Ben and Tommy. Although the two athletes could produce the same amount of maximal force in the Bench Press (each had a 415-pound 1RM), Ben could absorb more force eccentrically at a higher velocity. The graph (Figure 1) shows that Ben was able to load up his muscles with more energy to use concentrically, enabling him to accelerate the bar faster than Tommy and produce more power. In throwing, this means Ben could store more energy in his muscles during the stretch of his windup, thus applying more force to the shot before it left his hand than Tommy could. When Ben’s shot left his hand, it was powered by a jet engine. When Tommy’s shot left his hand, it was powered by a propeller.
You have just learned the key to improving sport performance in every athlete. It isn’t about who is the strongest, although many athletes and coaches incorrectly believe this to be the case. The key to improved sport performance is producing more force in less time. This results when an athlete can absorb more force eccentrically, which allows him to apply higher levels of concentric force in less time. In other words, the athlete who has the narrowest “V” wins every time. It’s all about the V, baby!
Many traditional training methods teach athletes how to expel energy; little time and effort are spent teaching them to absorb it. That is the entire point of the triphasic method—learning how to eccentrically and isometrically absorb energy before applying it in explosive dynamic movements. Athletes aren’t powerlifters. They must be strong, but only to the extent that it can benefit them in their sport. Every dynamic human movement has a limited amount of time in which the mover can produce as much force as possible. Ben was a world-class thrower because he could generate more explosive strength (defined as maximal force in minimal time) in the time it took to throw a shot.
Most training methods focus on the development of explosive strength by emphasizing the concentric phase of dynamic movement. My epiphany in 2003 was that we were approaching the development of force from the wrong angle. The key to improved force production, and thus sport performance, doesn’t lie in the concentric phase. To develop explosive strength, you must train the eccentric and isometric phases of dynamic movements at a level equal to that of the concentric phase.
Look at the original printout again in Figure 1. Imagine the graph as depicting the same athlete at different times during his or her development. The lines are the same athlete, but one shows the results of an athlete developed using triphasic training and the other in the early stages of development. Your new goal as a strength and conditioning coach or athlete is to narrow that V as much as possible.
In future articles of this four-part series, I will expand upon triphasic training. For more great training tips, check out Triphasic Training: A systematic approach to elite speed and explosive strength performance.
Source: Ben Peterson
When I was a senior in high school, I vowed to put on weight, which meant learning to cook. My skills progressed no further than boiling water and heating up store-bought breaded chicken breasts. I ate a box of pasta and two chicken breasts for dinner every night for months before I finally realized that I had, in fact, eaten the same meal every night.
So I did what any high schooler would do—I asked mom. She started to put out ingredients for me to cook in a Crock pot before she left for work and before I left for school. My first impression?
What the heck is Slow Cooking in a Crock pot?
I wised up quickly. A Crock pot is a brand of electric slow cooker. You gather ingredients, drop them in the pot, turn it on and walk away. That’s it.
I was hooked. This was cooking so simple even I could handle it. And the more I used the Crock pot, the more I realized you can make anything with it. Literally, anything. Slow cookers are considered ideal for stew and chili, but they’re also capable of making cake, strawberry jam and hummus.
Those are just a few of the recipes prepared by Karen Petersen, an author and food blogger who set out to make a slow cooker recipe every day for a year. She chronicled her experience on the site 365daysofcrockpot.com, which is a great source of delightfully simple slow cooker recipes. Seriously, if you want something that tastes like it was hard to cook—but wasn’t—check out her website.
“A slow cooker is perfect for those who want to make dinner before they leave for work or school in the morning,” Peterson says. “It keeps food warm for as long as you want, which allows for flexibility with the timing of meals and when they will be served.”
If you’re a newbie to slow cooking and don’t have a slow cooker, purchase one with a “keep warm” function. This means you don’t actually have to be there when the timer goes off—your food will stop cooking, but it won’t get cold.
Peterson offers three tips for novices:
- Don’t lift the lid. Slow cookers use steam that builds up in the pot to cook the food. Each time you lift the lid, steam escapes and adds about 20 minutes to the cooking time.
- You don’t need to stir. Since there is no direct heat source, there is no need to stir your dish unless a recipe specifically says to do so.
- Cooking on high takes about half the time as cooking on low. So if a recipe says to cook on low for eight hours, you can speed up the process by cooking on high for four hours.
Here are three beginner meals from Peterson’s site. You can find many, many more at 365daysofcrockpot.com.
Slow Cooker Honey Mustard Chicken
Nutritional Data Per Serving
- Calories: 288.7
- Protein: 29. 2 g
- Fat: 11. 9 g
- Carbs: 16.2 g
Turkey and Black Bean Chili
Nutritional Data Per Serving
- Calories: 302.7
- Protein: 29.3 g
- Fat: 9.9 g
- Carbs: 44 g
Southwest Meatballs (Chicken)
Nutritional Data Per Serving
- Calories: 357.7
- Protein: 29.8 g
- Fat: 19.7 g
- Carbs: 15.3 g
Source: Sam DeHority| Stack.com
Trying to put on some size this year? Rest intervals may be your answer.
How many times have you been to the gym and found yourself running around like a chicken with its head cut off, doing Bench Presses, Squats, Ab Crunches and Deadlifts—then 30 seconds of Jumping Jacks? That probably hasn’t helped you get the results you want.
Coaches and trainers know the value of resting between sets, but many athletes ignore it because they don’t understand it. If you had asked 16-year-old me to rest, I’d crack a smile and yell, “No, more is better! No pain no gain!”
Well, I was an idiot back then. Today, I understand the benefits of rest and want to teach you about them as well.
When we lift weights, we release catabolic hormones—such as glucagon, adrenaline and cortisol—that break down certain types of tissue. Other hormones that are restorative are called anabolic hormones (hold your horses; I’ll clarify in a second.) I’m going to focus on anabolic hormones.
The main anabolic hormones released during resistance training (not long-duration cardio/aerobics) are testosterone (T), human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF). Physiologically, your body responds best by releasing these hormones when you engage your larger muscles (legs, chest, and back) and multiple joints (Bench Press over a Chest Fly), and when you do high-intensity workouts (e.g., 4+ sets). T, HGH and IGF reduce the amount of muscles we break down for fuel during and after exercise.
Here is a breakdown of the different types of anabolic hormones released during resistance training:
Insulin Growth-like Factor: Released during use of large muscle groups, multi-joint exercises, high volume and short rest periods (less than 90 seconds).
Human Growth Hormone: Released during multi-joint exercises, high volume (4-10 sets) and short rest periods (less than 90 seconds).
Testosterone: Released during use of large muscles, multi-joint exercises, high intensity (3 – 6 reps), and short & long rest (longer than three minutes).
Why not just circuit train? Granted, circuit training may be sport-specific for certain athletes, but the majority of our sports do not require the body to be constantly moving at maximum speed for longer than 10 to 20 seconds. There are rest periods, even if they are short. In basketball, the ball goes out of bounds or someone gets fouled. Soccer involves a good amount of walking. Wrestling has breaks between points. Even in a football game, a “hurry-up offense” has short breaks to reset the ball.
I’m not saying conditioning is overvalued. I’m just saying resting between sets is imperative for proper hormonal release and maximal force production. If your 5-rep max (85%) on the bench is 225, do you think you would be able to do 5 reps for 5 sets if you were doing interval sets with 30 seconds of jumping? Or what about super sets with Pull-Ups? Nope!
Your muscles need time to recover to produce that same amount of effort—so rest. I’m OK with doing some stretching, but don’t waste energy on other exercises.
Now for the fun part. Let’s make a workout that will maximally release all of these hormones in a single workout session. Try the following workout template next month to see how it works:
1. Post-activation potentiation. Perform one strength exercise (3-6 reps), rest one minute, then perform a power/explosive exercise (5-10 reps). Rest 3 minutes.
2. Compound set (volume). 4-6 sets with short rest periods (less than 90 seconds).
3. Functionality. 3-5 sets resting 30 seconds.
How this would translate into a chest workout:
- Bench Press at 85 percent of your 1RM (5 reps), rest one minute, then perform 10 Plyo Push-Ups with maximal explosion. Add a clap if you want. Rest 3 minutes after the Push-Ups and repeat. 5 sets.
- Dumbbell Incline Press at 70-80 percent of your 1RM (8-12 reps) followed immediately by Chest Fly (at 50-70 percent for 12-20 reps). Rest 90 seconds and repeat. 5 sets.
- Push-Up variations to fatigue. Perform sets of max rep (until your face falls to the ground) with 30 seconds rest. Each set, try a new style of Push-Up: spider-man, time under tension (3 seconds down, 3 seconds up), feet elevated, stability ball, Bosu ball, etc.
After the workout, eat some carbs and a protein shake. Before you know it, you will be packing on 10 pounds of lean muscle.
Source: Chris Hitchko | Stack.com
The promise of losing weight in your sleep may sound like a claim right out of a dubious infomercial. But the truth is that your body does burn calories during slumber, and taking the right steps can increase that burn significantly.
Can you up your sleeping metabolism enough to get thin without other lifestyle changes?
Probably not. But with a healthy diet and regular exercise, these tips may be just what you need to help you win the battle of the bulge.
1. Sleep Soundly
It sounds counter-intuitive, but you actually burn more calories during sleep than while lying in bed awake because your brain is highly active during the REM stages. Plus, during REM sleep your internal temperature spikes, which means your body is working harder to produce heat.
As evidence, one Brazilian study found that men lost more than three times as much weight over eight hours of sleep than eight hours of lying awake.
To ensure maximum REM sleep, keep a regular schedule so that your body is used to conking out when you lay down for the night. Turning off the computer or television an hour or two before bed can promote relaxation, as can darkening the room completely when you turn in.
2. Build Your Muscles
The most sure-fire way to burn more calories around the clock is to pump up your muscles with strength-training exercises. You can go for handheld weights or use weight machines at the gym, or work out the no-cost way by doing push-ups, squats, bicycle maneuvers and other calisthenic exercises.
Although it may take a while to build up enough muscle to make a significant difference in overnight calorie burning, over time you can increase your metabolism by as much as 15 percent, according to the CDC. Plus, you’ll burn more calories during exercise, as well as several hours afterward.
3. Turn Off the Heater
Some scientists link home heaters to obesity, claiming the simple act of turning down your thermostat may cause several pounds to melt away effortlessly over time. That’s because your body must work to create extra heat in cooler climates to maintain a normal body temperature.
The key is a process called non-shivering thermogenesis, which researchers link to brown fat. Unlike the white fat that makes up most of your adipose tissue, brown fat is highly active, burning calories while regulating your internal temperature.
Harvard Medical School Professor Dr. C. Ronald Kahn has studied brown fat, and told The New York Times that it can burn 100 to 200 extra calories a day in colder weather. The effect is strongest when you wear lighter clothing.
While shivering the night away in freezing temperatures is not advised, you can benefit from this thermogenic effect by setting the temperature to the low 60s or simply leaving the heater off on milder nights.
Source: fitday.com | Nina Kate
So you’re trying to eat healthy. Do you think pizza is off limits? Think again!
Although people typically think of pizza as being a fattening food, it doesn’t have to be. If prepared or ordered in the right way, pizza can be a very nutritious, delicious and low-calorie meal.
- Start off smart by making a homemade whole-grain pizza dough or purchasing a whole-grain crust at your local grocery store. A whole-grain crust provides more fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than crust made with refined flour.
- Top your pizza with a reduced-fat cheese (often marked “2% milk” cheese). Sprinkling on a reduced-fat cheese in place of full-fat cheese will slash calories and saturated fat.
- Make your own pizza sauce and don’t use too much sugar or salt. Pizza sauce in a can or jar is notoriously high in both of these ingredients.
- Get creative with your crusts. Think outside the pizza box and try a roasted cauliflower crust or one made with egg whites.
- Don’t forgo fruit. Apples, pears, apricots and pineapple add natural sweetness and great flavor to pizza.
- Flavor your favorite pizza pie with a lot of fresh herbs and spices. Fresh basil and oregano boost flavor, and crushed red pepper flakes add an ample amount of spice.
- Pile on a plethora of veggies. Get creative–arugula, spinach, zucchini, artichokes, pepperoncini, roasted beets–the sky’s the limit here. The more veggies you add, the more fiber and flavor you’ll get.
If You’re Ordering Pizza
- Order thin-crust pizza and ask if they have a whole-grain pizza crust as an option. Opting for a thin-crust pizza will keep the calories down and ensures your plate is balanced with the food groups. Plus with whole grain you’ll be getting beneficial vitamins and minerals as well as dietary fiber. Fiber aids with weight loss because it helps keep you full longer.
- Ask to have the cheese reduced by half. While most pizzerias won’t have reduced-fat cheese as an option, you can simply use less regular cheese. A pizza with half the cheese will still be melty, gooey and delicious but will have much less saturated fat and fewer calories.
- Load up on the veggies. Veggies are really low in calories, are virtually fat-free, and are chock-full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, disease-fighting antioxidants and water. And to top that off, they’re also going to add complex flavors to your pizza beyond that of the typical cheese and meat combo.
- Choose a lean protein or skip the meat altogether. Typical pizza protein options include high-fat sausage, pepperoni, hamburger and bacon. Steer clear of these calorie-bombs and opt for chicken breast, chicken sausage or Canadian bacon (which is actually a lean ham). You can even go meat-free and get an all-veggie pizza.
- Ask if the crust is brushed with oil or butter and request that they skip this step to save a ton of calories. To add flavor, you can request to have the crust brushed with garlic cloves before baking.
- Order your pizza with a red sauce rather than alfredo sauce. Red sauce is lower in fat and calories and is full of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that may help lower your risk for cancer, heart disease and macular degeneration.
- Practice portion control. Limit yourself to only a couple of slices and enjoy a hefty garden salad with your pizza. Be sure to drink plenty of water or other calorie-free beverage to help you feel full.
Source: Fitday.com | Kari Hartel, RD, LD
Editor’s Note: Tired of hearing why it’s important to eat healthy and what your diet should consist of? If you’re a Amazing Core Fitness reader, you know by now that certain foods are better than others; but how do you actually apply that knowledge to your daily eating habits?
We are pleased to announce a solution. Each month we will provide Amazing Core Fitness athletes a recipe right out of the kitchen! Each recipe is accompanied by a catalog of its benefits to athletes and advice about the best time to consume it. All of the recipes are healthy, quick and easy to prepare and, best of all, great-tasting.
The following recipe is a great example of how easy it is to make cooking healthier. I took a traditional chicken piccata dish, trimmed the fat and amped up the protein and vegetables. It has minimal breading—a 1/4 cup of whole-wheat flour covered five chicken breasts—and I added lemon juice for flavor. The mushrooms, lemon juice and paprika make this one of my most flavorful meals to date! I love the appearance of a buttery crust without actually using any butter at all! Cooking this on the stove top with liquid allows for the natural flavors to come out and the chicken to stay nice and tender.
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 4 to 5 chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 egg
- 1 cup lemon juice (divided)
- 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 1 pound mushrooms
- In a shallow dish, mix flour, paprika and garlic powder, and in another beat one egg with lemon juice
- Carefully dip raw chicken in egg mixture then in flour mixture before setting on a plate
- Be careful not to cross contaminate
- Heat olive oil on stovetop over medium-high heat and brown chicken on each side
- Meanwhile, dissolve the bouillon powder in boiling water and add the other 1/2-cup of lemon juice
- Adjust heat to medium, add the liquid to the pan, cover and cook for 20 minutes
- Remove chicken and in the same pan cook mushrooms until brown
Nutritional Info (per serving)
- Calories: 387
- Fat: 16g
- Carbohydrates: 10g
- Protein: 45g
This is a great dinner for athletes. The chicken and egg provide lean protein and B vitamins for energy. Replacing the butter with olive oil provides a good source of heart-healthy fat. Using whole-wheat flour provides complex carbohydrates for a slow release of energy into the bloodstream.
I often encourage clients to use low sodium broth or bouillon cubes, but athletes might benefit from the extra sodium, depending on their activity intensity. The addition of lemon juice not only adds flavor but also packs vitamin C, which helps boost the immune system. The lemon combined with the paprika and garlic provide such intense flavor that portion control is usually not an issue when the meal is this tasty.
Source: Kait Fortunato
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Endurance athletes definitely need more fuel than the average gym rat, but sometimes what they eat can do more harm than good. Endurance nutrition done right will increase your performance.
Here are three common endurance nutrition and fueling mistakes that athletes make and how to fix them.
Mistake 1: Eating low-quality “convenience foods”
Many of my athlete clients tend to rely on packaged convenience foods, which give them nothing but empty calories.
The Fix: Choose wisely
Instead of inhaling a bag of potato chips or grabbing a candy bar from a vending machine, choose a premium grade fuel.
Fresh, whole fruits—like pears, oranges, grapes and bananas—are great portable fuel sources packed with phytochemicals.
For convenience, choose higher quality fuel bars, like KIND Healthy Grains bars, which have ingredients you can see and pronounce. Each bar provides one-third of your daily serving of heart-healthy whole grains like amaranth, quinoa and gluten-free oats. I’m currently noshing on Peanut Butter Chocolate. Who doesn’t love a quality bar that reminds you of dessert?
Mistake 2: Running to eat, not eating to run
If you think you perform better on an empty stomach, think again. I am forever amazed at how many people “run to eat” rather than “eat to run.”
The Fix: Fuel adequately for the demands of your training
Many endurance athletes who complain of fatigue during workouts fail to realize they may be under-fueling, not under-training.
Pre-exercise fuel should hydrate your body, fuel your muscles and settle your stomach. Choose foods with high carbohydrates and moderate protein that are lower in fat and fiber. Most endurance athletes need around 75 grams of carbohydrates before a workout. Try plain bagels with a dollop of nut butter or a cereal yogurt parfait with a whole banana sliced in.
Mistake 3: Imbalance of nutrients
Usually with endurance athletes, the nutrient most lacking is carbohydrates. I’m constantly asking my athletes to increase “nutrient C.” An average endurance athlete can easily require upwards of 300 grams of carbohydrates a day, and depending on the level of training, sometimes twice that amount!
Eating too much high-protein and high-fat food such as steak and eggs or greasy burgers shortly before exercise can cause an upset stomach and delay glycogen uptake in your muscles. Healthy carbohydrates, on the other hand, keep your body going.
The Fix: Befriend the carbohydrate
Instead of avoiding pizza, pasta and potatoes, bump up the carbohydrates and have fun with it. Don’t order a thin crust pizza thinking it’s better for you. If you are endurance training, go for the thick crust!
Order lean protein toppings like chicken and add all the veggies you want. Try Hawaiian pizza with pineapple for a sweet and tangy flavor combo and a dose of vitamin C to boot.
Add black, pinto or kidney beans to your baked potato. Some shredded cheese or sour cream will provide protein along with zinc, calcium, and iron—three crucial nutrients for endurance athletes.
Source: Rebecca Scritchfield
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Resistance bands aren’t as imposing as heavy plates, and they lack the appeal of clanking iron, yet they’re a great addition to any workout.
Don’t let their simple appearance fool you—resistance band exercises are no joke.
The bands challenge your muscles by creating resistance in multiple directions. You must stabilize against this resistance to maintain the correct movement pattern for each exercise. The result is increased strength in the targeted muscle group. As an added bonus, stabilizer and support muscles, which are often neglected during traditional training, are also strengthened.
No Gym Necessary
Resistance bands are small and compact enough to fit almost anywhere, making them easy to transport. Plus, the bands are extremely cheap. You can use them to create an effective workout at home, in school or at the gym.
Your entire body can get a workout with resistance band exercises. Using the bands forces your body to maintain stability throughout an entire movement. This engages multiple muscles simultaneously, so your entire body gets a workout in a short period of time. For example, wrap a resistance band around a pole and perform Resistance Band Chest Presses. Or stand on a band for Resistance Band Squats.
Resistance bands are one of the more versatile pieces of workout equipment, because the resistance can easily be adjusted. For a harder workout, use a thicker band, add more bands or simply stretch the band more. Perform the same exercise for strength with a heavy band or for endurance and conditioning with a light band. For sport-specific exercises, perform movements at game-time speeds.
Resistance band training is low-impact and easy on the joints. For in-season athletes, who are already taking a beating from competition, this type of training tool is perfect for maintaining strength. Also, increased stabilizer muscle strength protects joints and keeps them pain-free.
Substitute some of your standard exercises with their resistance band counterparts to achieve your strength and appearance goals. Perform each exercise for three sets of 10 reps.
Resistance Band Bicep Curls
- Stand on band holding handles with palms facing out
- Bend elbows to perform Curl; keep elbows close to sides
- Slowly lower to start position
- Repeat for specified reps
Resistance Band Chest Flies
- Secure resistance band around stationary post
- Stand facing away from post holding resistance band with arms to sides and palms forward
- Flex chest to bring hands together in front of chest; keep arms straight
- Slowly separate arms to return to start position
- Repeat for specified reps
Resistance Band Overhead Press
- Stand on resistance band holding handles at shoulder level with palms facing away and elbows to sides
- Press arms overhead
- Slowly lower arms to start position
- Repeat for specified reps
Resistance Band Squats
- Stand on resistance band holding handles at shoulder level with palms facing away and elbows to sides
- Assume athletic stance
- Bend hips and knees to lower into Squat until thighs are parallel to ground
- Drive out of Squat to return to start position
- Repeat for specified reps
Resistance Band Glute Extensions
- In all-fours position, wrap resistance band around right foot and hold handles in hands
- Extend right leg straight back and squeeze glute
- Slowly return to start position; repeat for specified reps
- Perform set with opposite leg
Photo: bodybuilding.com | Source: Kermit Cannon
Many of us begin the new year with a resolution to get in better shape. To accelerate gains in strength and break through last years’ training plateau, incorporate resistance bands into your training program.
A training plateau occurs when your body no longer responds to the same stresses. The human body is so great at adapting that it requires different training methods to maintain progress. Adopting new ways of doing traditional strength training exercises is a great way to “shock the system” and elicit new muscle growth.
Resistance Bands are a great tool
because they provide resistance in both the concentric and eccentric parts of the exercise, resulting in more muscle fiber recruitment over a large range of motion.
Resistance bands should not be your sole training focus. But both novice and trained lifters can benefit from incorporating bands into their training programs.
If you’re new to training, bands teach your body how to fire the right muscles as the band tension grows toward the top of the lift. If you’re more experienced, bands can build strength, stability and explosiveness—keys to improving lockout techniques when lifting heavier weight.
Pick a band with a resistance appropriate to your strength and the exercise you are performing. Secure the band so the length gives resistance even at the bottom of the exercise.
Supplement your current training program with resistance band work for four weeks. Substitute one traditional exercise for a resistance band version. You should experience a noticeable improvement in your strength.
Source: Sean Cromarty
You work hard at the gym to get bigger, stronger and faster. Yet month after month, you see little improvement.
If it seems like gains are eluding you no matter how hard you work, there may be fundamental flaws in your workout.
To help you break down the barriers and reach your training goals, here are five common workout mistakes along with solutions.
Failing to Increase Intensity
Your muscles get stronger through a process called supercompensation. This happens when muscles adapt to the stimulus from the previous workout. If you fail to challenge yourself with a heavier weight or a different volume, your muscles have no need to adapt and get stronger.
To stimulate gains, use the concept of progressive overload, which involves gradually increasing the difficulty. The process is simple: add some weight, do an extra rep or two, or cut your rest time by a few seconds. There are more specific forms of progressive overload, but this basic formula will help you climb over a training plateau.
Lack of Periodization
Don’t be surprised that you aren’t getting stronger if you do three sets of 12 reps for every exercise each week. You are only targeting one of the four types of muscle development, and you will fail to make additional adaptations if you do the same thing too long.
Change cycles every three to six weeks. As you move through your sets, increase the weight so that the exercises are still challenging even though you’re performing fewer reps. Take four to seven days off between cycles to allow your body to recover and to prevent overtraining.
- Endurance – 2-3×12-20
- Hypertrophy – 2-3×8-12
- Power/Strength – 4-5×3-8
- Absolute Strength – 5×1-3
Flashy and advanced exercises may be attractive, but they don’t always produce greater gains. Mobility and strength issues may limit potential gains from plyometrics, agility drills and Olympic lifts. And you may increase your risk of injury.
Master basic multi-joint lifts such as Squats, Deadlifts, Pull-Ups and the Bench Press. Make sure you have flawless technique and don’t strive to lift beyond your limit. As a general guideline, you should exceed basic strength standards before performing plyometric and agility work.
Note: These tests use a weight equivalent to your body weight.
- 1.5 x Back Squat
- 1.25 x Bench Press
- 2.0 x Deadlift
Jogging Too Fast or Sprinting Too Slow
Jogging too fast or sprinting too slow can cause you to fall into a range where you won’t make gains. You either won’t sprint fast enough to challenge your muscles, or you will jog at a pace where you will fatigue too quickly and fail to build long-term endurance.
Always sprint at a speed greater than 95 percent of your maximum effort. To maintain this pace over several sets, you will have to rest three to five times as long as it takes to complete the sprint.
If you want to improve your endurance, jog at less than 65 percent of your max. A light steady jog will challenge your cardiovascular system and help you stay at a pace that allows for a safe, long workout.
Failing to Recover
Strength, size and speed improvements are initiated in the weight room or on the field, but they are fortified when you recover between workouts. If you fail to optimize this time, you will negate the potential gains from your training.
There isn’t one step to recover from a workout. You need to cool down and foam roll after each session. Sleep also plays a critical role, stimulating gains through the release of natural growth hormone. Get your eight hours. Finally, it’s important to focus on your diet. Follow a balanced meal plan and fuel properly before and after your workouts.
Source: Anthony J. Yeung
At one time or another, most of us wished we had more confidence but weren’t sure how to get it. One common misconception is that building confidence is only done with results, meaning that confidence increases if you win and decreases if you lose. But outcomes (winning and losing) are usually out of your control.
Confidence is important, though, because it can be the deciding factor, causing you either to accomplish great things or fail to reach your potential.
So, how can you build confidence?
At IMG Academy, we developed the High Performance Mindset (HPM) Series. Confidence is one of 15 HPM traits. By understanding that your confidence starts with you, you gain control and realize that preparation is what really determines your level of confidence.
Before you start practicing or competing, it’s all about what you do to be physically and mentally prepared to be confident. Try some of the ideas below to turn your preparation into confidence.
- Focus on what you can control. Worry about what you are doing, not what your opponent or coach or family or friends are doing.
- Develop a routine, one that you do consistently before you practice and compete—for example, listen to music, breathe to relax, visualize success or think about your goal for the day. Remember to do it for both training and competition so it is your “normal,” and nothing distracts you from it.
- Find your positive “go-to” statements. They should put the right thoughts in your mind. For example, “I am a great athlete,” or “I thrive under pressure,” or “I start strong and finish stronger.” Be sure they all start with “I” and are positively worded. It’s best to have between three and five “go-to” statements. Write them on note cards, post them on a mirror, or set them as reminders in your phone.
- Have a trigger to turn on your best focus. Pick something you normally do—like getting out of the car, walking into the locker room, putting on your uniform or shoes, stepping onto the competition space or feeling the equipment in your hands—and make it a signal that it’s time to go. Let it remind you to block out distractions and know you are ready to perform your best.
Source: Taryn Morgan
Every week, Amazing Core Fitness brings you a new Exercise of the Week to challenge your strength, speed, conditioning or flexibility—or all of the above.
The Exercise of this week: The Push Jerk
The Push Jerk is a variation of an Olympic lift that develops full-body power. It involves a triple extension of the hips, knees and ankles, which builds powerful quads, glutes and calves needed to run faster and jump higher.
It’s also a full-body movement that simulates many skills you perform on the field. Your lower body initiates the movement and is the driving force behind the upper-body press, like when you throw a ball or swing a bat.
In addition to helping you get powerful, the exercise also improves:
Muscle Symmetry. Switching your forward leg on each rep balances your strength on your right and left sides, and it improves your hip stability.
Core Strength. A strong and stable core efficiently transfers power from your lower to your upper body while protecting your spine. The Push Jerk trains this essential attribute.
Shoulder Stability. Your small shoulder stabilizer muscles engage to balance and control the bar while it’s overhead, strengthening these muscles and protecting your joints.
Work Capacity. Moving heavy weight with your entire body is not easy. Every rep takes full effort. But it will improve your ability to call on your full power at critical moments during games.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a bar across your chest with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width.
- Lower into a quarter squat.
- Extend your hips, knees and ankles to drive the bar up off your shoulders.
- Split your legs into a lunge position and fully extend your arms overhead to finish the movement.
5. Slowly lower the bar to your shoulders and reset your feet for the next rep.
Common Mistakes and Fixes
Mistake: Pressing the bar overhead with your arms as if performing a Military Press. You use your arms to an extent, but they shouldn’t be the driving force for the exercise.
Fix: Your legs should generate most of the momentum to propel the bar into the air. Focus on lowering into your quarter squat, then exploding up. If you’re still pressing the bar, you may need to lower the weight.
Mistake: Starting with your elbows too far forward in a front squat position, which makes it difficult to move the bar overhead.
Fix: Your elbows should be under the bar so you can grasp it with a solid grip and push it naturally overhead. Your grip should be close—albeit a bit wider than a standard Military Press.
Mistake: Failing to move the bar directly overhead, which increases your chance of a failed rep (i.e., dropping the bar).
Fix: The bar should be in line with the rest of your body when it’s overhead. Imagine forming a straight line from the bar all the way to your hips.
Applying It to Your Workout
The Push Jerk is generally used to increase power. So perform it toward the beginning of your workout when your muscles are fresh, and perform it for lower reps with moderate to heavy weight.
It can also be used as a conditioning exercise—assuming you can maintain perfect form on every rep—as in Martin Rooney’s Hurricane workout. In these instances, choose a lighter weight and perform it for higher reps to tax your energy systems.
Power – Sets/Reps: 4-5×3-5
Conditioning – Sets/Reps: 3×10-15
Source: Andy Haley
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Coming out of a trail and encountering an 8-foot wall can intimidate anyone new to obstacle course racing. But if you train for it, it won’t seem so daunting.
Tackling the Wall Jump requires three basic movements that we cover in the Obstacle Course Training System.
First, you need to be able to jump high enough to grab the top of the wall. To jump high, you need a powerful hinging motion. A strong hinge will help you get your hands and arms to the top of the wall.
Second, you need a strong pull to get your leg up and over the top of the wall.
Finally, you need a solid push to press yourself up and swing your leg over. Strong shoulders, chest and triceps are essential.
Here are some exercises to help you train effectively for the Wall Jump obstacle:
The swing trains the hips and hamstrings to be explosive for jumping. If done correctly, it will strengthen your joints and help you develop the power to jump to the top of the wall.
You may have seen these in many variations of the training sessions I have posted. They are important for building strength and tackling the different obstacles you encounter during a race. When you get to the top of the wall, you have to pull yourself up. The ability to pull your own body weight is important and should be added to your training.
Once you pull yourself up, you need a small push to get your leg over the top of the wall. Dips are an excellent way to train for the push.
When you put these movements together in a training session, you don’t want to tax your anaerobic system. Do not turn this into a conditioning session. Move from exercise to exercise at a deliberate pace, not with speed.
Focusing on proper form and being explosive are key.
Wall Jump Training Session
Perform five sets, moving from one exercise to the next:
1. Kettlebell Swing x10 (use a heavy bell and be explosive with every swing, making sure to hinge and not squat).
1a. Pull-Ups x5 (get your chest to the bar).
1c. Dips x5 (fully extend your elbows and get deep with each rep).
Source: Rob DeCillis
The start of the new year is a time for reflection and personal growth. That applies to all aspects of your life—including your training program.
As a reader, you are already traveling the road of improvement just by reading the articles and incorporating the videos into your training program to get you to that next level. You don’t necessarily need motivation, because you already crave information and guidance to get to where you need to be. You’re more interested in setting new goals.
So instead of a pep talk, I’ll give you my 14 tips to revamp your training program and make 2014 the best year yet.
1. No resolutions, only goals
Most people have resolutions, which are positive affirmations to help them improve themselves. Resolutions, however, are usually broken, because they are ideas and not actual plans. Saying “I will go to the gym three times per week” is not as concrete as saying, “I will start an 8-week training cycle where I go to the gym three times a week. Each day I will focus on one of the big three movements—Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift.” Resolutions are desires. Goals are commitments.
2. Write down your goals
When I started my own gym five years ago, I wrote down my goals for the upcoming year—from business to training and my personal life. I started them on New Year’s Day and finished by week’s end. Some were small and easy to accomplish while others required multiple steps. Write out your goals for the year. Make them specific and keep them close so you can refer to them frequently.
3. Decide what you’re training for
As you most likely understand now, training for aesthetics is much different from training to enhance sports performance. When you train for aesthetics, the training itself is the sport. You find yourself at the gym working out longer and performing much more volume to build the best body you can.
For sports performance, strength training is a secondary means to help you perform better at your sport. You spend less time in the gym so you can train for your sport. If you’ve been training using a bodybuilding program, this is the year to break away from that and really get the most out of your training.
4. Plan your training year
You have your goals and your focus. Now create a general plan of attack. When your sport is in season, you will spend less time in the weight room to reduce extra stress on your body. Most of your muscle re-education and strength, power and conditioning development occurs in the off-season. Your plan doesn’t have to be too detailed. Just get an idea of where you need to be during each time of the year.
5. Learn from the past year’s training program
It’s great to want to be bigger, stronger and faster, but do not look past your accomplishments from the previous year. Think about where you were at the start of last year. Did your Squat or Bench Press increase? Can you do more Chin-Ups? Did your training program help you perform better at your sport? Did anything in your program hinder your performance? How frequently did you change out your exercises? Answers to these questions allow you to refine your program, build off the positive, and remove the unnecessary.
6. Assess yourself
A lot can happen over the course of a year. Your body goes through many adaptations during performance. Many sports are single-side dominant, like baseball, tennis and soccer. Using the dominant side at a higher frequency can cause strength, mobility and flexibility imbalances in the body. Imbalances can reduce athletic performance, slow recovery and lead to injuries down the road.
When starting a new program, it is essential to assess these areas. Do your ankles have adequate and similar range of motion? How about your hamstrings, hips and shoulders? Can you perform a Single-Leg Squat equally on both legs? Chances are, there is at least one area that you can improve going into your next program—and now is the perfect time to address it.
7. Add soft tissue work
At the beginning of every workout, I have all of my athletes grab a foam roller and roll their muscles out. Some take five minutes to complete the sequence, while others take more time. As you become more in tune with your body, you will realize what areas require more attention. Roll the whole body: calves, hamstrings, glutes, hips, quads, lats and pecs. Soft tissue work stretches, warms and hydrates the muscles, priming them for the work ahead.
8. Add mobility work
After your soft tissue work, it is time to get your joints moving. Simple movements like neck flexion and extension, Shoulder Rolls, Hip Circles, Squats and Knee and Ankle Circles will unlock tight joints by lubricating them, allowing for much freer movement during your training session. I also highly recommend these movements before competition so you can hit your peak performance and minimize injuries.
9. Address what needs to be fixed
Your assessment should have offered up many clues about the current state of your body. Now it is time to address any issues. Corrective exercises fix imbalances. They include band exercises for the shoulders and rotator cuff and mobility exercises for the hips, knees and ankles. They might not be as exciting as Squats, Bench Presses or Deadlifts, but they’re essential to keeping you healthy and performing better.
10. Add agility exercises
Agility exercises train the joints, tendons and muscles to respond quickly to change-of-direction stimuli—essential in athletic competition. Set a timer for 10 seconds and skip some rope. Do quick forward and back hops, side-to-side, single-leg bounds and others.
11. Add more power exercises
This is where the fun begins—using your strength to move an object fast. Beginners can start with Medicine Ball Throws and Slams, then progress to Bounding, Box Jumps and Kettlebell Swings. Advanced athletes might move into the Olympic lifts like Power Cleans and Snatches.
12. Add single-side training
When building a foundational level of strength, you get the best bang for your buck with the big three movements—Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift. They work even better when accompanied by single-side training. One-Arm Rows and Dumbbell Chest Presses are great for stabilizing muscles and addressing any imbalances of strength or mobility on either side. Subsequently, Step-Ups and lunge variations take care of the lower body.
13. Get help
If you enjoy the luxury of having a coach or training partner to work with you, your success will be far greater. But if you train alone, no need to worry—you just have to rely on self motivation. However, I do recommend seeking out a coach occasionally to evaluate your form and training progression. An unbiased eye keeps you on track.
14. Recover and rest
You can’t simply go forever. It’s important to schedule training days off and make sure they don’t coincide with your sports training. Make stretching and other forms of restoration, like massage and Active Release Techniques, a part of your training program. Fuel and hydrate your body properly and get adequate sleep.
Doug Fioranelli | January 14, 2014