Why Is Strength Training Important?

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Why Is Strength Training Important?

It is well-established that repeated physical activity is an important part of living a long and healthy life (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018). Thankfully, there are many options. Running, swimming, pilates, yoga, and playing recreational sports are all popular ways that people can stay physically active. These activities vary in the specific physiological demand and movement pattern of the body. However, they all have one thing in common. Performance in all of these activities is increased by a properly applied strength training (aka resistance training) program. In other words, strength training will make you a better swimmer, a better runner, and a better athlete in general. You could say that it is a healthy performance booster (especially for those who don’t do strength training often).

What exactly is muscular strength and how can we measure it?

Muscular strength is defined as the maximal amount of force that a muscle can exert in a single contraction. Strength can be measured in several ways, but in practical terms, strength is the amount of weight you are able to lift for a given exercise. For example, If you can deadlift 225 pounds for one repetition, that is a measure of strength, specific to that exercise.

A good strength training program involves many exercises that are functional movements (squats, deadlifts, overhead press, etc) that utilize all muscle groups of the body. It is important that exercises are completed with correct form, the correct amount of times per week, and with the correct amount of weight. It is also important to not overdo it! Let your muscles rest between lifting days.

Why is it good for us to be strong?

Reason #1

Stronger people live longer. Research shows that mortality rates are lower for individuals that are stronger (Metter et al., 2002). This is especially true for people over 60 years of age.

Reason #2

Greater strength levels increase performance in all physical activities. Yes, even long distance runners should lift weights if they want to improve their running performance. The reason is because strength training improves physiological factors in the body that increase our bodies ability to do other types of physical activity. Namely, the amount of fuel we have available for exercise (glycogen storage), our ability to tolerate intense exercise (buffering capacity), and how much energy we are using during exercise (STØREN et al., 2008). These physiological factors are important for many types of physical activities but often those activities will not improve physiological factors as significantly as resistance training. If you can perform activities at a higher level, you can burn more calories for a longer period of time. Through strength, we can achieve a greater performance in all physical activities we do, resulting in a greater level of fitness.

Reason #3

Strength training reduces chances of injury. It strengthens not only muscles, but tendons, ligaments and bones. All of which are important for staying injury free, allowing you to participate in many physical activities safely. For example, many people that run to excess can develop stress fractures in the bones, shin splints, or tendonitis. However, if you add strength training to your exercise routine, your chances of sustaining an injury are reduced.

Conclusion:

Strength training is an important part of living a healthy life because it helps you to live longer without injuries, and improves performance in all other movements that you do. The long distance runner who is trying to improve his/her time should do resistance training. The recreational basketball player that is trying to play an entire game without sitting out should do resistance training. And even just the average joe that is trying to live longer and stay healthy should do resistance training.

References:

  1. U.S. department of health and human services. (2018, June 21). 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report. https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/report.aspx

  2. Metter, E. J., Talbot, L. A., Schrager, M., & Conwit, R. (2002). Skeletal muscle strength as a predictor of all-cause mortality in healthy men. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 57(10), B359-B365.

  3. STØREN, Ø., Helgerud, J. A. N., STØA, E. M., & Hoff, J. A. N. (2008). Maximal strength training improves running economy in distance runners. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise40(6), 1087-1092.

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Finding the Right Training Shoes

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Finding the Right Training Shoes

Going into a shoe store can be very overwhelming for many people. There's a wide variety of athletic shoes with different colors, shapes, bells, and whistles. It can be daunting and challenging trying to figure out which shoe is the one for you. The answer to that question depends mainly on the type of activity you will engage in and how your feet are shaped. Choosing the right shoe can help you avoid minor injuries, such as shin splints, patellar tendinitis, runners knee, etc. Let’s dive deeper into what to keep in mind when shoe shopping. Here’s what you’ll need to know:

1. Focus on function

Before you look into your favorite color scheme or shoe brand, first consider what type of activity you will be partaking in. It is ideal to separate your running shoes from your training shoes. Today’s athletic footwear is made with amazing technology that can be sometimes overlooked and used in the wrong situations. Shoes designed for running are intended for linear movements and made with a lightweight structure, breathable material, and an excellent cushion within the soles that absorb the shock from the ground upon each step. The shock-absorbing technology is great for running because the heel is thicker and it positions the body into a natural forward lean. These are advantageous for linear running, but not necessarily training in the gym. A forward lean can be less helpful while squatting because it counteracts the need of the torso to maintain an upright position. We want the torso to be upright in order to safely secure the barbell on the upper back during the eccentric phase (downward movement) of the squat. A cross-training shoe is ideal while inside the gym because the sole creates a more stable platform for the entire foot to plant on during functional movements such as squatting, lunging, jumping, crawling, cutting and slamming. Characteristics of a good cross-training shoe include a thick and durable sole with quality traction at the bottom, which is favorable for lateral movements on different ground surfaces.

2. Understand your feet

All feet are unique and one shoe model will not fit everyone, so knowing the shape of your own feet is the key to selecting the proper pair. One easy way to determine foot shape is by using the “wet-test”. Wet your foot, place it on a brown paper and trace your footprint. After tracing your foot, survey the paper looking for signs of pronation, supination or neutral arch.

If your footprint trace shows a majority of the sole with little to no curve on the inside (or if your current shoes show the most wear on the inside edge) it means you have a low arch (also known as flat feet), and your feet tend to “pronate” or roll inwardly when walking. This foot type needs motion-control shoes with maximum support to align foot, knee and hip when walking.

If your footprint trace shows only a small portion of the forefoot and heel with a slim connection between (or if your shoe wears mostly on the outside edge), you have a high arch and your feet tend to “supinate” or roll outward when walking. You will need a shoe with more cushion to provide more shock absorption for the center of the foot.

If your footprint trace has a distinct curve along the inside (or the soles of your shoes tend to evenly wear out), your arch is neutral. You will need a stabilizing shoe that will provide an even amount of cushion along the sole.

3. Always try on the shoe

Now that you know exactly what type of shoe model you’re looking for when you walk into the store, try on multiple pairs with differing brands to compare which model best fits your foot. When your foot is inside the shoe use the “rule of thumb” in which you make sure your toes have about a thumbs width of space at the front of the shoe to ensure enough wiggle room while running. After checking for toe space, get up and walk around the store to be sure you feel sufficient cushion and also that your heel isn’t sliding forward (which indicates the shoe is too long). The biggest takeaway for trying on shoes would be to avoid the mindset of believing that you can “break in” your training shoes. This is a misconception because technology has advanced enough to get the right fit the first time you try them on. If the shoe doesn’t feel good the 1st wear it won’t on the 30th either!

Pro tip: Shop for shoes at the end of the day when feet are swollen from standing all day, similar to how they expand while working out.



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How To Prepare For A Race - The Right Way

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How To Prepare For A Race - The Right Way

Whether you’re a recreational runner, weekend warrior, or aspiring runner, it’s vital that you take the proper measures when preparing for an upcoming race. By properly preparing for your race, you can improve your race time as well as prevent injury. Here are a few insights to consider before you gear up on race day.

Avoid overtraining and focus on your heart rate and maximum steady state

Overtraining syndrome is characterized by diminished physical performance, accelerated fatiguability, stress, irritability, and lack of sleep. One of the best ways to limit your likelihood of overtraining is by monitoring your heart rate using a device like a polar H-10. During high-intensity training, running, or strength-related workouts, your rest periods can be tracked using a heart rate monitoring device. This will allow you to gauge how quickly your heart rate stabilizes before it increases again during the next workout interval.

How to know if you are overtraining? If you’re having a hard time decreasing your heart rate by at least 50 percent, you may be overtraining or overreaching (at the brink of overtraining). To find out for sure, you should consider a VO2 test, which analyzes the body’s volume of oxygen consumption. Through a VO2 test, you’ll learn specific data that will help you to meet your race day goals. You can get a VO2 at Perform For Life’s newly established Run Lab. Our test can determine the following:

  1. Your body’s maximum ability to consume, distribute, and utilize oxygen

  2. What substrates (carbohydrates or fats) your body is relying on to fuel your workouts

  3. What you can expect for your max race pace or max steady state, the highest intensity (speed) that your body can maintain for the duration of your race

The risks associated with overtraining: When overdone, aerobic training can be detrimental to the body’s ability to cope with stress. When your exercise intensity is highly defined by an increase in heart rate or physical demands on the body, the amount of time spent on the exercise should be decreased. Simply put: for optimal recovery, you should have a longer rest period between days of high-intensity training.

Prevent injury by strengthening your muscular imbalances

Injury: If you’ve been a runner for a while, you may know that the greatest risk factor for a future injury is a previous injury. The truth of the matter is that running is one of the leading causes of overuse injuries. An overuse injury occurs as a result of repeated stress on the body due to poor posture and muscle function - causing areas of the body to break down over time, resulting in small to large-scale injuries.

What is a gait analysis and how can it can help? In addition to VO2 testing at our Run Lab, Perform For Life is also offering gait analyses. A gait analysis is a precise assessment of how the body moves during the gait cycle, and a gait cycle is the sequence of movements in which your foot contacts the ground during walking or running. When you run, you spend 40 percent of the time on one leg which means, during a gait cycle, the forces you put into the ground can be up to 7x your bodyweight. For example: if you weigh 150lbs, you can potentially put up to 1,000lbs of force into the ground on one foot. And, depending on how your foot interacts with the ground, that force can dictate both the amount of stress your body absorbs and how it absorbs it.

Through a gait analysis, you can determine muscular imbalances such as those that lead to foot pronation and eversion, which occurs when the foot collapses inward and turns outward. This in turn causes the knee to collapse inward and the hip to shift to the side. These faulty mechanics lead to foot, knee, and hip injuries such as plantar fasciitis, ligament issues, hamstring strains, IT band syndrome, knee pain, and hip pain...just to name a few.  

With the help of a strength and conditioning coach, physical therapist, or athletic trainer, you can  identify any imbalances that you may have and figure out how to improve them and treat them before the day of your race.   

Breakdown of what you need:

  1. A proper workout regimen that allows for rest days between high-intensity workouts

  2. A consistent way of tracking your heart rate

  3. VO2 testing to analyze oxygen intake, substrate consumption and max race pace aka max steady state

  4. A routine to care for previous injuries so that you can avoid new ones

  5. Gait analysis testing to increase efficiency and identify any muscular imbalances that can cause harm before, during, or after your race

Follow the link to book your VO2 test and gait analysis today.

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Dieting Is Budgeting

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Dieting Is Budgeting

I was recently discussing the topic of nutrition and fat loss with a client and came up with a simple analogy to explain the process: dieting is budgeting. Since budgeting is a skill that a lot of us have already, I thought that this would be a valuable analogy to allow for the reappropriation of that existing skillset. A good analogy is a great way to reframe the way you think about something, and being in the right mindset to approach a process is important to set yourself up for success. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this analogy holds up well when explaining a number of important dieting concepts - let’s explore this a bit further.

First, let's start with the basics. Your calorie expenditure is like your income, and your calorie consumption is like your is like your monetary expenditures. What happens when you spend more money than you make? You accumulate debt; in this analogy, debt’s the same thing as body fat. It also tends to accumulate slowly over time, eventually becoming an insidious problem. One day your debt can suddenly feel insurmountable, just like one day realizing how much fat you’ve gained. Debt is hard to pay off all at once - you need to make sure you’re still allocating enough money for bills, food, and other basic needs. Similarly, it’s not a good idea to crash diet too hard. You need to make sure you’re ingesting enough food to meet your micronutritional needs (vitamins, minerals, etc). Ultimately though, you need to create a surplus and start paying down your debt - that is, you still have to eat at a caloric deficit to drop fat.

With that idea in place, how can you reframe your approach to dieting to actually kick start a successful fat loss diet? Think of it like this: with budgeting, you can’t make money magically appear out of thin air. So, when you increased expenditures in one area, you have to reduce expenditures in another area; you can take this same approach to eating. If you have a really heavy meal (aka splurge on a big expense), then that’s okay, but you’ll have to cut your budget elsewhere. Otherwise you’re going to “overspend” and go into “debt,” which, again, means that you’re going to add fat. Most people choose to balance this out on a daily basis, but you could certainly also do it over the course of a few days or a week. So, if your overeat one day, you can cut extra calories the next day, or something of the sort.

Alternatively, as a means of budgeting, you can increase your income with some other revenue stream like a second job - this job is exercise. If you want to be able to spend more money, you need make more money. If you want to be able to eat more, you need to expend more. However, I caution taking this to an extreme; it’s much easier (from a time investment standpoint) to cut spending than it is to get a second job. It’s also much easier to eat less food than it is to try and exercise away a bad diet. As I’ve said many times before, you accomplish the same thing by running three miles as you do by skipping out on eating a plain bagel.

Another component of this analogy is the idea of a passive revenue stream. Everyone loves making money with an upfront investment that really pays off in the long run. This equates to building muscle mass, and is why I advocate prioritizing resistance training over other forms of exercise for fat loss. When you build muscle mass, it increases the amount of calories you expend both at rest and during exercise - it’s like a multiplier to energy expenditure for everything you do. Ideally, you layer exercise that mostly just accomplishes energy expenditure on top of this, but the muscle mass itself will do quite a bit on its own.

So, let’s summarize:

  • Calorie intake is like money you spend

  • Energy expenditure is like your income

  • Debt accumulation is like fat accumulation

    • To pay down debt, you need to make more money than you spend; to lose body fat, you need to expend more calories than you consume

  • You can cut expenditures or you can increase income (balance your budget from either or a combination of both); you can reduce calorie intake or you can exercise more (balance your energy budget from either or a combination of both)

  • Passive revenue is like muscle mass

Try to take these concepts and use them the next time you’re making decisions about what to eat, how much to exercise, and how to balance these aspects of your health and well-being. Good luck!

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How Often Should I Lift?

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How Often Should I Lift?

An extremely common goal of people that exercise seriously and consistently is to increase their muscle size and strength. There’s a number of factors that help determine how well someone may be able to achieve this, including genetics, intensity of exercise, training status, testosterone levels, and nutritional supplementation. All of these factors play a part in muscular adaptation, but one of the most important variables is the frequency of the stimulus - that is, how often you exercise a muscle group.

Generally, our muscles adapt to the stimulus that is imposed during the workout. The graph below demonstrates the General Adaptation Syndrome and provides a visual of how our muscles adapt to exercise.

general-adaptation-syndrome.jpg

After an intense workout, there’s first an alarm phase, which happens one to two hours after the exercise. In this phase, the muscle decreases in performance because of fatigue and the muscular damage caused by a workout. The alarm stage is followed by the resistance phase and the subsequent supercompensation. This supercompensation - an increase in muscular performance from baseline - occurs given adequate rest and nutrition (yet another reason to eat healthy and get enough sleep). The last phase of the cycle is the exhaustion phase, in which performance begins to drop due to a lack of further stimulation. So, the key to building muscle and maintaining this increased muscle mass is to stimulate the muscle group again (via working out) after the supercompensation phase, but before the drop-off of the exhaustion phase. If this is done consistently, the performance of the muscle will increase, resulting in the muscle becoming stronger and larger. If we fail to stimulate a specific muscle group quickly enough, though, after the supercompensation phase, we’ll miss out on the performance improvements.

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Above is a graph that shows subsequent stimuli after supercompensation phases. Before the decrease in performance during the exhaustion phase, another stimulus is provided, followed by another supercompensation phase. Keeping this cycle consistent will lead to an increase in performance, strength, and size of a muscle.

So, how often should we exercise a specific muscle group? The research says that we should have around 48-72 hours between stimuli. This time period allows for recovery, but not too much recovery to the point of performance decreasing. A good strategy, and perhaps one of the most attainable for the busy professional, is to do full-body workouts three times per week. During these workouts, a squat pattern, a lower-body hinge pattern (deadlift), a push pattern, and a pull (a row or pulldown) should be done with the proper intensity, rest intervals, and amount of repetitions - and don’t forget to finish off with a core exercise!

Remember, performance (and a continued increase in performance) is the key indicator to looking better, maintaining good health through exercise, and to continued improvement and progress both in and outside of the gym.

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