Top 10 Misconceptions Made By Athletes

Top 10 Misconceptions Made By Athletes

 

1.)    Agility ladders can make you faster- Agility or “Speed” ladders are a tool that some coaches and trainers use to better help with feet work and quickness. Although there might be a small truth to this, the fact is the only real benefit to a ladder is for proprioception training. Getting the feet to work with the brain and help with coordination. It is also a decent tool for warmups. If a coach or trainer says that a ladder will make you faster, run the other direction! Plyometrics & Olympic Lifts are what make you faster.                                                                                                                                                         

2.)    Lifting weights will make you slower– There is a misconception that lifting weights will make you stiff and slow. Some athletes such as basketball players and track runners will shy away from weight lifting because gaining muscle might not let them jump as high or fun as fast. This is the complete opposite. ALL athletes need to include weight lifting into their program in order to strengthen muscles that would otherwise not be worked during their practice. Focus on single leg exercise to make you a more complete athlete.

                                                                                                                                                               

3.)    (Females) Lifting weights will make me look like a guy– Almost every female athlete I train is afraid of getting big muscles and looking like a guy. The truth is that males & females have very different types of hormones. Most women out there can’t look like a male even if she wanted too. We are genetically different. So ladies, if you play sports please lift weights, it will make you a better athlete and there is no chance of you looking anything like a guy!                                                                                                                                

 

4.)    Doing bench press shows overall strength- The holy trinity of weight lifting. The forsaken question, “How much do you bench?” This has to be the most overrated question at any gym. My answer, “Who cares!” The bench press is only a small piece of the pie when it comes to athlete training. There are far more important aspects of training that have much more functionality and carry over to the field then a bench press. I would much rather want to know how much can you deadlift, single leg squat or run a 300 yard shuttle in. Don’t get caught up in the sexy exercises and start focusing on the functional movements and athletic movements.                                                                                                                                                          

 

5.)    Arm curls mean something- Arm curls have to be top of the list for the most non-functional exercise ever. The only sport I can think of where this might have any type of significance would be in MMA where head locks are needed. If you want to get stronger biceps do chin-ups. That way you are using other muscles together instead of isolating them. Arm curls are for body builders not athletes!                                                                                                                                                                         

 

6.)    Stretching isn’t necessary- I think stretching is the number one most underutilized part of an athletic program. Dynamic stretching is part of any good movement prep program. Athletes need to foam roll, stretch and activate the muscles to prime them for the workout ahead. This lengthens the muscles, increases muscle temperature which allows them to stretch and it just makes the athlete feel looser. Do not skip warmups and make sure you perform them with perfect form. Stretching properly can decrease your risk of injury.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

7.)    Being strong & moving well are different- This misconception is big for lots of high school kids. They pick up their favorite issue of Flex or whatever bodybuilding magazine is out there. Most athletes want to be big and do lots of bench press and arm curls. NEVER take advice from ex-bodybuilders. They are lifting to get big period, athletes are lifting to get better at their sport. These are two different methods. Perform mostly compound movements that work multiple muscles and joints. When we run and jump we use multiple joints…why not train like that?                                                                                                                                                                           

8.)    Nutrition isn’t that important- A big problem with high school athletes is their daily eating regimen. Most kids skip breakfast, eat snacks for lunch, workout after school then eat McDonalds for dinner. Athletes need to eat something for breakfast to jump start their day. Eat some oatmeal or whole grain cereal with fruit. For lunch, look for balance in food groups. Make sure eat a source of protein, a vegetable and a piece of fruit. Think the same thing for dinner as well. In between meals throw in some snack such as fruits, nuts, protein/fiber bars, protein shakes, yogurt, etc. You need to eat and eat good to be at your peak during workouts and during your games.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

9.)    Running long distances will help your cardio for your sport- Cardio is an aspect of training that all sports have in common but cardio differs from sport to sport. Cardio is different from football which has very short (about 6 sec.) burst of speed compared to MMA fighting in which rounds last 5 minutes. So if your sport requires short quick bursts why are you jogging for 3 miles? Train for your sport and cardiovascular demand. If you are a long distance runner, train for long distances, if you are a football player then train by doing short quick intervals with short rest periods.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

10.)   Technique isn’t that important as long as you can get the weight up- The number one rule when lifting weights- never get up technique for weight. Always start slow and work your way up to heavier weight. Lift within your mean and take your time. If you feel that the weight is too heavy or that it is slipping, stop and take off some weight. The easiest way to hurt yourself is to use too much weight and your form is compromised.  

Running Mechanics & Proper Shoe Wear

             The shoe world has vastly become a huge moneymaker for companies that are involved in the athletic shoe kingdom. From Shapeup’s from Reebok to the funny looking toe shoes, you can find shoes that claim to make you faster and even make your butt firmer. But with all different companies out there how the heck can you tell the difference between which shoe will best fit you? We first have to take a look at what makes shoes companies differ from each other. You have wide shoes like New Balance and you have narrow shoes such as Nike’s. Even within each company you have different forms as well. For instance, Nike has Shox which have a huge heel and a stiff sole compared to their Free’s which are very flat and offer very little support. We also have high tops, mids and low top to think about as well.
          Through the years shoe companies have used every type of cushion from air, gel and 3M foam. But as research is starting to show, less cushion is actually better. With all this cushion causes heel elevation which in turn alters our natural biomechanics and gait pattern. When we look at the gait pattern of a run with shoes on compared to barefoot, we can see a difference. The biggest difference we see is that when the person wears shoes there is a strong heel strike compared to those who were barefoot.

(www.barefootrunningshoes.org)
You can see a sharp and instant force with shoes on compared to a more gradual force when running barefoot. With shoes on, humans tend to produce the heel strike which produces much more shock on the joints compared to that of running barefoot which does a much better job distributing force with a forefoot contact instead.
We can also look at other health risks to wearing the traditional running shoe such as ankle sprains. A high top or mid type shoe, and even low tops, can actually treat the foot as if it is in a cast. If we have too much support surrounding the foot how can it become stronger? If the foot lacks mobilization and range of motion the muscles are basically non-functioning and paralyzed. We must activate those muscles so that we are not dependent on the shoe for this support.

         Most shoes also reduce neural feedback from the lower extremities to the brain. If we have no feedback to where we are in space, we tend to get injured because of foot position and decrease in function of mechanoreceptors.

(www.barefootrunningshoes.org)
         Barefoot running has shown to decrease ankle sprains, knee ligament damage, plantar fasciitis, hip and lower back pain. Although research has proven that barefoot training has much more benefits than running in the traditional running shoe, this just isn’t an option for most athletes and general public. Luckily shoe companies are starting to see the research and come out with barefoot alternatives. Although there are many types out there, the top 3 I would recommend would be the Vibram Five Fingers, Nike Free’s and New Balance Minimus.

        These shoes are the lightest, have the least amount of support/restrictions, have the least amount of heel height and have the greatest sole flexibility on the market. Although the Nike’s and New Balance shoes are the most attractive and are more popular, the Vibrams are actually the best shoe of the three because of their softness. The Vibram company makes the sole for the New Balance Minimus. Shoes I would stay away from; Reebok Shapeup’s, Nike Shox and ladies…..high heels! Reebok claimed that their Shapeups would actually make your butt firmer and tone your legs. Reebok actually had no proof of this and eventually got sued for false advertising and agreed to pay a $25 million dollar settlement . Nike Shox are very similar as high heels since their shoe also has an elevated heel. Studies have shown that an elevated heel can increase knee flexion torque and increases the work of the quadriceps muscle, increases strain through the patella tendon, and increases pressure across the patellofemoral joint. Over time, these stresses can cause injuries.
         As with any change of exercising, barefoot training duration is important to pay attention to. You should start off with short runs and listen to your body. You might feel more soreness in many parts of your body. These are areas that are now active in stability and balance that your previous shoe was not doing for you before. Take your time in your progressions and you will start to see the benefits of how our primitive ancestors once roamed the earth without the movement injuries we are seeing today.

Resources:
-http://www.sportsci.org/jour/0103/mw.htm
-http://barefootrunningshoes.org/2010/01/04/study-shows-running-shoes-cause-damage-to-knees-hips-and-ankles/
-http://www.pmrjournal.org/article/S1934-1482(09)01367-7/fulltext
-http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100104122310.htm
-Dewey Nielsen for his thought provoking Facebook status, lol

The broken promises of Supplements

The broken promises of Supplements

Just walk around any GNC, Vitamin Shoppe or supplement store you will see an array of pills, powders and drinks. It’s hard for a doctor with a PhD to figure out and make sense of all of the products on the wall, now imagine how a high school athlete feels!

From NO2 to Creatine, supplement companies have found their way to the common athlete. It’s been in my experience that less is more. As athletes try to get a competitive edge in the weight room, they also try with supplements. So what are some common supplements that are popular today?

Creatine– Put simply, creatine is a compound that supplies energy to your muscles. It is made by the human body, and also found in some foods – primarily fresh meat. Creatine is produced in the liver, pancreas, and kidneys, and is transported to the body’s muscles through the bloodstream. Once it reaches the muscles, it is converted into phosphocreatine (creatine phosphate). This high-powered metabolite is used to regenerate the muscles’ ultimate energy source, ATP. When you workout, your ATP levels drop rapidly. Creatine is responsible for restoring ATP levels. Over the last two decades, creatine has emerged as the king of all athletic performance supplements. And with good reason. Creatine intake heightens your body’s creatine phosphate energy system. This allows you to push yourself for longer periods of time, with more energy. Creatine also improves your ability to tap into explosive energy when you need it as critical times in your training. It should also be noted that in clinical studies, creatine has been shown to increase strength and lean muscle mass.

Fish Oils- Fish oil comes from the tissues of oily fish. Fish oil is consumed because of the omega-3 fatty acids it contains and the reduction of inflammation it provides throughout the body. The omega-3 fatty acids that actually come from fish are not produced by fish, but instead are accumulated over time from other prey fish they consume like herring and sardines or by consuming microalgae and fish that have consumed microalgae. And while fatty fish like mackerel, albacore tuna, salmon, and trout contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, they accumulate a lot of mercury, dixoin, PCBs, and other toxic substances that can be harmful to humans. Due to the risk factors of getting omega-3 fatty acids from fish, many individuals have started to derive their dietary allowance of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil supplements.

NO2 (Nitric Oxide)- Nitric oxide (AKA NO or NO2) is a free form gas that is produced in the human body. It’s a signaling molecule and is used by cells to communicate with other cells. This gas is produced by enzymes in the body by breaking down the amino acid Arginine. Nitric oxide increases blood flow throughout the body. For bodybuilders and resistance trainers, this means more blood to the muscles and better “pumps”. Many nitric oxide users have reported increased muscle growth when supplementing with nitric oxide.

Glucosamine/ Chondroitin- Glucosamine is a naturally occurring element in the body that plays a crucial role in building of cartilage. Cartilage is a tough connective tissue that acts as a padding and cushion of the joints and requires glucosamine because of glycosaminoglycans, produced by glucosamine and required by cartilage as a key building block. Glucosamine is also needed by cartilage because it plays a role into the incorporation of sulfur into cartilage, which is required to make and repair it.

 

Glucosamine may be efficient in treating and even delaying the progression of osteoarthritis. If you’re unaware, osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis commonly caused by wear and tear on the joints. It leads to inflammation, breakdown, as well as eventual total loss of cartilage. Some of the tissues that are more affected by osteoarthritis include those that are weight bearing joints, like the knees and the hips. The joints found in the hands are included in this, as well. Some studies have hinted that glucosamine may be somewhat as effective as some of the common medications used to treat joint condition, while having fewer gastrointestinal side effects. NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and piroxicam are included in this category and can cause upset stomachs, constipation, diarrhea, and cramps. More often than not glucosamine is taken in conjunction with chondroitin, another supplement that is believed to be effective in treating arthritis. Both of these are normally combined with manganense, a trace metal also required for building cartilage.

Whey Protein- Whey protein is the ultimate source of protein! It’s the highest quality of protein available. Whey protein is a rich source of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), containing the highest known levels of any natural food source. Whey protein is one of 2 types of protein that comes from milk (the other being casein protein). It’s made during the process of cow’s milk being turned into cheese. When the milk is being turned into cheese, the whey protein is a by-product. No foods contain actual whey protein. (edit: whey protein can be found in protein powders, protein bars and some drinks) However, many foods do contain high levels of protein. Here are the most common types of high protein foods:

•Lean red meat (20% protein)

•Chicken/turkey (20% protein)

•Fish (20% protein)

•Eggs (6-8% protein)

•Cheese (10-30% protein, but high in fat)

(www.MuscleandStrength.com)

 

As we look at these common supplements and their performance benefits, the most important question that I ask ALL of my athletes is “How is your diet?” This is a simple question that almost all athletes never ask themselves. Many athletes are looking for that “edge” through a pill or supplement but the most effective way to become a complete athlete is to eat right. This means to incorporate fruits, vegetables, whole grain and reduce sugars in the diet. Many of my athlete’s meals consist of waking up, skipping breakfast or eating Cheerios Cereal Bars. Lunch is Pizza, cookies and a soda and nothing till dinner which might be fast food. This example has no examples of fruits and vegetables that are packed with antioxidants and tissue repairing enzymes that are critical for normal function.

Athletes also need to get natural sources of protein from lean meats such as chicken and fish. Although Whey proteins from shakes are a great source of quick protein, whole foods are always the best choice.

By eating right and taking advantage of whole natural foods instead of resorting to supplements, we are creating a solid foundation to prepare for athletic movements, proper recovery and healthy habits down the road. Although some of the supplements listed above my have benefits to athletes, stop looking for a quick fix with false hopes and instead look at the big picture of your diet and the way you treat your body. These supplements might give you an edge but if you are not eating right then most likely the supplements are just an expensive waste of time and money.

You only have one body in this life, make sure you are treating it the best you can. Read labels and ask questions. Good luck!

What Athletes Do Wrong

As high school and college athletes prepare themselves for the upcoming season this summer they are doing anything and everything to get the upper hand on their opponent. Some of these tactics can be detrimental and harmful to their performance. But with internet at their disposal how is one to separate the legit information from the crap that is clogging the web? From garbage resources like http://www.Sparq.com and bodybuilding magazines, an athlete can be on information overload. So here are some points that athletes need to take into account. The first list is what many athletes are doing wrong:

Crossfit– A new spin on an old concept (Interval Training). This is nothing new, just an old workout style that has been repackaged. The issue I have with Crossfit is that the program requires individuals of all levels to perform complex and difficult Olympic lifts without proper guidance. For some athletes I train we might not even load a bar for a month until the technique is perfect. The Crossfit way is to have the person just jump into the system. Technique and form is thrown out the window in order to reach a number of repetitions and time. As a Strength Coach I could care less about either! Technique is my main focus.

Long distance running- Mike Boyle, the best Strength Coach in my eyes, wrote a great article about cardiovascular training called “Death to Slow Long Distance” where he says “We have already established that most running injuries are of the overuse nature.” Unless you are an endurance runner, stop running long distances. Your cardio training should mimic your sport. For instance, the average football play lasts about 3-5 seconds, why are you running 3 miles to get in shape? Perform short quick sprints, example 8×50 yards sprints.

Too much plyometrics- Mike Boyle writes in Functional Training For Sports that foot contacts should be limited to 20-25 contacts. Also split Linear and Lateral jumps days in order to take stress away from the body. High jumps can be traumatic to the joints in the lower extremities.  

Ladder drills for speed- As I beat to death in my other Blog post about “speed” ladders, you can probably get a sense of what I think about them. Ladders are a great tool for proprioception and cardiovascular training but are worthless for speed. Do a few runs on the ladder but don’t expect it to make you a faster athlete.

Seated exercises (Leg Press, Leg Extensions, Leg Curl machines)- These machines have been proven time and time again to only stimulate the anterior muscles of the body. As an athlete you must look at the posterior chain to become more powerful, stronger and healthier.  Get off your butt and do standing lower body exercises. You don’t perform your sport sitting down, why would you train sitting down?

Proper stretching- This is an easy method for better performance output. In a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2006 titled DYNAMIC VS. STATIC-STRETCHING WARM UP: THE EFFECT ON POWER AND AGILITY PERFORMANCE clearly proved that dynamic stretching before exercise will increase power output during the exercise. Also, performing static stretching before exercise can decrease power output. This further underlies the importance of dynamic stretching before any type of exercise.

Along with exercises that athletes do wrong, here are a few movements athletes should implement into their program:

Corrective movements: Corrective movements can be anything from pre-habilitation movements, tackling asymmetries, movement patterns and dysfunctions. Gray Cook, the co-founder of the Functional Movement Screen is a master at corrective movements and getting athletes moving properly. His website is a great resource on screens and exercises.

Single limb movements- This is a huge concept that many athletes don’t like to perform. Most athletes perform back squats, leg press and leg extensions. These exercises are all conducted with 2 legs. But what if one leg is more dominant then the other? Won’t the dominant leg help the least dominant leg? In sports aren’t you using one leg at a time? Ex- running. Train like you perform in your sport. Work on single leg movements such as split squats and single leg squats. These movements work on balance and strength without help of the other leg. Single limb movements aren’t only for legs but for arms too. Try alternating dumbbell bench press. Just like having a dominant leg, you also have a dominate arm. Separating the arms by using dumbbells can increase your overall bench weight as well as working on shoulder stability and injury prevention of the shoulder.

Olympic lifts- This is probably the most important aspect of athletic performance. If you want to become a stronger, faster and more powerful athlete, incorporate Olympic lifts into your program. O lifts are complex multi joint exercises that create force and works every muscle in the athlete. Add Cleans, Snatches and Jerks into your program.

What exactly is “footwork”?

What exactly is “footwork”?

With summer rapidly approaching, I have a lot of new athletes contacting me to start training. One of their requests is to work on “footwork”.  After tons of research, I have yet to find the secret workout to this lacking issue. You can Youtube “footwork drills” and come up with about 3,360 videos. So what do all of these great trainers know that I don’t? When looking at the videos, I came up with one conclusion.  A “speed” ladder appears to be the secret tool. Most of the videos show an athlete doing about 20 drills back and forth, up and down a ladder. I have two concerns about this. One, footwork is an overused term that has very little function in sports. Second, “speed” ladders don’t make you fast. They only help with coordination and can be used as a conditioning tool. What does footwork have to do with sports? Of course, we have to be able to move quickly.  But how does running down a ladder, taking short choppy steps, relate to on-field play? Not only does a ladder have little function in mechanics, but it also neglects the principles and factors of speed and/or power. When we look to get faster or more powerful we must impose a force to the body such as resistance or weight. By doing ladder drills we are not only minimizing function in terms of short steps, but we are also lacking a full range of joint motions that we would activate in a plyometric jump or squat.

Unless you are training to become a better tap dancer, footwork is a term used for trainers who think quick feet mean a quick athlete.  This is just not true. An athlete becomes faster by performing more traditional training such as single
leg squats, split squats, box jumps and hurdle jumps which include ALL lower limb muscles such as the quadriceps, hamstrings and most importantly the glutes. Although doing Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats might not look as cool or make you look fast while doing them, they are far more beneficial and create a faster athlete, which in turn will make an athlete have “faster feet”.

The ladder has great benefits for proprioception training (balance), coordination and conditioning. But it should not be considered a “speed” ladder for footwork, as is suggested through those Youtube videos and some trainers.  With the ladder, the outcome is not always the goal.

Don’t get wrapped up in slang terms or fast schemes. Put the hard work in the weight room and you will reap the benefits when the season starts.

“Well, he said he was a Certified Trainer!”

“Well, he said he was a Certified Trainer!”

In the big money business of sports training, combines and camps, it seems like there are a lot of people out there who are calling themselves “trainers”.  So, as an athlete or a parent, how do you know if your trainer is good?

  • Did he go to college for Exercise Science?
  • How long has he trained athletes?
  • Did he participate in any internships?
  • Who has he trained?

As parents and athletes we are exposed to many choices, but we are not asking questions.

When we buy a car we look up Consumer Reports, dig through reviews and ask peoples suggestions. When we buy a house we check out the neighborhood and have a thorough inspection performed. But it seems with our children we just drop them off at the gym and assume the best. Aren’t our children our greatest investment? The best thing you can do is ask questions and dig deep into the trainers program.

A good trainer should have played at least high school level sports. This gives the trainer some insight to what the athlete is thinking and feeling. Though, keep in mind, just because the trainer played a sport in college or professionally does NOT make him a trainer. There are many facilities that advertise their trainer who played Division 1 sports or even played at the professional level, but they may not be qualified otherwise.  That’s great that they played at a high level but does he or she know about structure and programs. What happens when you have an athlete who has an injury or a dysfunction? If the trainer doesn’t have a proper anatomy and physiology education, how is he or she going to be able to know how the body moves, or tell a Physical Therapist what’s going on? Does your trainer know the difference between strained muscles compared to underutilized muscles? Does your trainer know what part of the body needs to be stable versus mobile or vice versa? Do they do any type of screening to look at current or future issues you might have? These are questions that only qualified trainer know answers to.

A good trainer should not only have an extensive background, but their program should be one of proper progressions and periodization’s. The structure should change from athlete to athlete because each person has different abilities and needs. A good trainer can point out and fix asymmetries, dysfunctions, bad movement patterns and potential injuries. A good trainer might sometimes not have a quick fix to an athlete’s 40 yard dash time, he or she might not get the athlete’s bench press max up in a week or two, but the training will get the athlete closer to their goals in a safe manner. As parents, we need to understand that a true trainer has a systematic program that goes through a series of tests and evaluations. These tests will help your athlete stay on the court or field longer with reduced risk of injury.

Although a good trainer cannot guarantee results or promise no injuries, your chances of injury go down and you are getting a lot better training for you money.

New to blogging

I began this blog as a forum for thoughts, ideas and insight into fitness, athletic performance and sports nutrition. Hopefully my writing is insightful, informative and thought provoking. Please post questions or commits. So sit back and let’s get ready, here goes nothing!