Posted on Leave a comment

Do what’s necessary

 

pexels-photo-265076
Lots of coaches and athletes get caught up in the bells and whistles and flavour of the month exercises, and lose sight of the fundamentals necessary for success in the given sport.

Many of these exercises have evolved from coaches feeling the need to “spice things up” for their athletes, and have resorted to modifying / inventing new and exciting movements.

Whilst this may be beneficial for coaches with general fitness clients at increasing business due to being a ‘cool’ trainer, it is detrimental when allowing the same exercises to creep into the program of an athlete.

There are plenty of ways to spice things up for an athlete without trying to invent some funky new bosu-ball-hand-stand-push-up exercise.

Simple things like adjustments in sets, reps or tempo, using drop sets or cluster sets, using chains and bands etc are more than enough to add variety to the core movements that the athlete needs.

When it comes to high-level athletes, they will have staple exercises that are always in their program. Whilst the modality and method of that exercise may vary throughout their program, the fundamental movements remains the same.

Please note that this is in reference to adding in new exercises that have little-to-no effect on the athlete’s performance, NOT the natural progression of exercises throughout a training plan. Here’s a basic example of the natural progression for the shoulder press:

  1. Standing DB shoulder press
  2. Strict press
  3. Push press.

The fundamental movement of over overhead pressing hasn’t changed, but the modality has. Without factoring in any other variables (mentioned above) we’ve already added variety to the program.

Another consideration that needs to be addressed is the effect that the new exercise will have on the athlete’s performance. Introducing a new exercise will often result with increased muscle soreness, and consequently a decrease in performance so it’s important to implement any changes at the appropriate time in the training / competitive calendar.

There’s no need to try and reinvent the wheel. Keep it simple, but effective.

 

 

 

Advertisements
Posted on Leave a comment

Rest intervals

pexels-photo-703009

The amount of time you spend resting in-between sets and exercises is dependant on what you’re training for.

Rest periods give your central nervous system (CNS) and working muscles a chance to recover from what they’ve just done.

Exercises that are more taxing on your CNS, such as training for maximal strength (heavy load, low reps) require longer rest periods, generally 4-7 minutes. When you break it down, if the goal is to exert the maximum amount of force, this requires maximum motor unit recruitment. The longer rest periods allow your motor units to recover from the stimulus they’ve just been exposed to. If you were try and lift the same weight with only a short rest, you’d fatigue pretty quickly and not be able to finish the set.

That doesn’t mean you should just sit down for 4-7 minutes, but your time should be used to increase the range of motion (ROM) of the joints involved via active rest (foam rolling, banded distractions, trigger ball etc), as well as focussing on what you could do better. From a technical perspective, it’s a great time to review footage of your lift if you’ve been recording for quality and training purposes. On that note, setting up your phone at the right angle can provide great feedback on how you’re moving the weight frame by frame.

Training for maximum muscle growth (submaximal load, high reps) requires shorter rest periods, generally 1-2 minutes. Note that hypertrophy training for sports differs slightly from that of traditional bodybuilding.

Time under tension is the key to maximum muscle growth. What that means is that your muscles need to withstand enough strain during the set, and then go again after only a short period of recovery in order for them to grow. Total time under tension will vary according to the tempo of each rep (future article), but typically sets will range from 25-40 seconds, depending on the athlete’s goals.

Shorter rest periods means there isn’t much time for technical analysis, but different athletes will prioritise this time with either more work, or increasing ROM via active rest (foam rolling, banded distractions, trigger ball etc).

Super-setting (two more exercises back to back with a short rest in between, before a longer rest at the completion of both) exercises is the most common method. Alternating between push / pull exercises allows the respective muscles of one exercise to rest whilst the others work and vice versa e.g. super-setting bench press and pull ups. This allows for a high volume of work to be done during the session, which results in more muscle growth.

For endurance athletes, minimal rest is programmed between sets and reps to cater for the requirements of their sport – sustaining high amounts of work for as long as possible. It’s not uncommon for 0-30 seconds of rest in between their high rep sets. Working through the fatigue of repeat sets and reps after a small amount of rest requires their body adapt to training to exhaustion, which in turn, will delay the onset of fatigue in competition. Circuit based sport-specific training is sometimes preferred for endurance athletes as multiple exercises can be done in succession, allowing for maximal work to be completed.

A common misconception when it comes to endurance based sports, particularly running and cycling, is that there is no need to develop strength via weights training. This is complete BS. Their goal is to be faster, and you can’t develop speed without strength. Whilst they don’t need to be squatting 300kg, they do need to become more efficient at developing force and ensuring that this force isn’t leaked out through weak mechanics.

Use your rest time wisely and if you’re not recording your weights, analysing your last set on video, or timing your rest, don’t use your phone to scroll!

Remember what you’re training for:

  • Maximum strength and power – longer rest, 4-7 minutes
  • Hypertrophy – shorter rest, 1-2 minutes
  • Endurance – no / short rest 0-30 seconds

When you’re diligent with your rest times, great things will happen.

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Women and weights

adult athlete body bodybuilding

 

The biggest misconception around female strength training is that lifting weights will ‘bulk’ you up. Unless you train, eat and live like the female version of Arnie, your physique won’t replicate it. Heavy strength training will make you stronger and increase the density of your muscles, and this is what gives you that ‘toned’ appearance, not a bulky one.

There’s no reason why women shouldn’t be lifting heavy and training with the same exercises as men. With the exception of bodybuilders, don’t waste your time or energy on isolation exercises like triceps kickbacks, when you could be doing something like a close grip bench press, which requires greater muscle recruitment at a greater resistance, and burns more calories (1,2). Doing 20+ reps of bodyweight squats won’t be anywhere near as effective for toning your glutes, compared to squatting your bodyweight on a barbell.

Read more detail on the effect of lean muscle mass on metabolism and fat burning here.

When starting strength training for the first time, women are more likely to see rapid improvements in body composition and strength gains, compared to a male counterpart (3,4).

Supplements  are not just for bodybuilders and powerlifters; they are for everyone, especially benefitting those who lift weights. Increased protein intake is associated with improved body composition and strength gains (5).

Approximately 20% of women retain more than 5kg above their pre-pregnancy weight following childbirth (6), which makes it hard to get back into training once safe to do so. Having a foundation in strength training preconception, and during pregnancy, makes the transition much easier.

You need to lift for your future, if for nothing else. Postmenopausal women are more likely to have a fracture due to a decrease in bone mineral density (BMD). Lifting weights throughout your life is the best preventative measure you can take (7), however it’s never too late to start.

So if it’s fat loss you’re after, lift some weights, but the benefits go much deeper than that!

 


 

  1. Franchi M, Longo S, Mallison J, Quinlan J, Taylor T, Greenhaff P, et al. Muscle thickness correlates to muscle cross-sectional area in assessment of strength training-induced hypertrophy. Scandinavian Journal Medicine Science Sports. 2018;28:846-853.
  2. Hunter G, McCarthy J, Bamman M. Effects of resistance training on older adults. Sports Medicine. 2004;34(5):329-348.
  3. Cholewa J, Rossi F, Macdonad C, Hewins A, Gallo S, Micenski A et al. The effects of moderate-versus high-load resistance training on muscle growth, body composition, and performance in collegiate women. Journal of strength and conditioning research. Jun 2018;32(6):1511-1414.
  4. Ribeiro A, Avelar A, Schoenfeld B, Fleck S, Souza M, Padilha C et al. Analysis of the training load during a hypertrophy-type resistance training programme in men and women. European journal of sport science. 2015;15(4):256-264.
  5. Holm L, Olesen J, Matsumoto K, Doi T, Mizuno M, Alsted T et al. Protein-containing nutrient supplementation following strength training enhances the effect on muscle mass, strength, and bone formation in postmenopausal women. Journal of Applied Physiology. Jul 2008;105(1):274-278.
  6. Walker L. Managing excessive weight gain during pregnancy and the postpartum period. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2007;36:490–500.
  7. Bocalini D, Serra A, dos Santos L, Murad N, Levy R. Strength training preserves the bone mineral density of postmenopausal women without hormone replacement therapy. Journal of aging and health. April 2012;12(3):519-527.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

SUPPLEMENTS

yellow health medicine wellness


Whey protein isolate (WPI)
When – after training and before bed.
Taking whey protein after training helps to speed up recovery and increase lean muscle gain via an increase in muscle protein synthesis. If you’re wanting to get leaner you should opt for ~30g protein & <5g carbohydrate protein. If you’re looking to put on weight, the same protein is perfect but you may want to consider adding some carbohydrate to your mix. Whey protein is a complete protein when compared to plant based proteins, which are an incomplete source of protein.

Creatine
When – take 25g (5 teaspoons) a day for 7 days (loading phase) if new to creatine supplementation, and then 5g a day from then on. On training days, take before training.
Creatine occurs naturally in our body and helps to provide the energy for the start of every movement, in particular explosive movements. Supplementation helps to regenerate these stores faster, which can increase strength, size and power. Women can benefit from additional creatine intake too, particularly athletes.

Glutamine
When – everyday, particularly post training aiming for 5 – 15g a day.
Glutamine is an amino acid that is found within our skeletal muscle, and it helps to reduce muscle breakdown and improve protein synthesis. Glutamine also improves the function of your immune system and increases your ability to fight off infections.

Caffeine
When – take 100-200mg (shot/double shot espresso – no milk) 1 hour before training.
Caffeine helps to improve mental clarity and alertness, and decrease your rate of perceived exertion (RPE).

BCAA/EAA
When – take during training and throughout the day between meals.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and allow for constant protein uptake to maximize muscle protein synthesis.

Fish oil
When – take after training, and before bed trying to accumulate 2000mg – 4000mg a day.
Fish oil helps to reduce inflammation, promote a leaner body composition and improves cellular communication.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on 1 Comment

Can muscle turn into fat?

DNA

No. Muscle and fat are two different types of tissues, just like a brick and a piece of wood. One cannot be turned into the other, despite some fantastic product marketing efforts.

This misconception that one can be turned into the other stems from people who once were active and lifted weights, but then stopped and got fat. Now they claim that the reason they’ve put on so much weight is because all the muscles that they once had have now changed into a completely different compound, fat. Not even close.

The loss of muscle mass in people who don’t train is the result of a chronic imbalance between muscle protein synthesis, and breakdown (1,2). It is the cross-sectional area of the muscle fibers that increase as a result of resistance training, and then a decrease in the muscle cross-sectional area when the muscle isn’t trained (3). Our muscles are highly plastic tissues that are influenced by changes in loading patterns – muscle hypertrophy is a response to an increase in loading, whereas muscle atrophy is a result of unloading (4). Training = loading, non-training = unloading.

The increase in body fat is due to the negative imbalance of calorie consumption and calorie expenditure. Both the loss of muscle mass, and increase of body fat are two different things, but often go hand in hand – eating too much and not moving enough.

Another concept to consider is that muscle is an active tissue, which means that it burns calories at rest. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of calories your body burns at rest. The more muscle mass you have, the more efficient your metabolism becomes, increasing your BMR, meaning your body burns more calories when you’re not moving (5). Consequently, the less muscle mass you have in relation the rest of you body composition, the less efficient your metabolism is.

Lean muscle is built when muscle protein synthesis is greater than muscle protein breakdown (1, 3, 6). Two factors that influence this are:
1 – resistance training
2 – consuming adequate protein to repair the damaged muscles from the resistance training.

Sarcopenia is the age related loss of muscle mass. Loss of muscle mass in the elderly is associated with a decrease in strength and power, and ultimately a decreased quality of life. There is overwhelming evidence that shows consistent resistance training through out life, particularly in the elderly, is the best way to prevent, and slow down the rate at which your body loses muscle (2,6-8).

If you’re worried about your muscle turning into fat when you stop training, there are a few things you can do right now. Firstly, don’t eat as much because you no longer have the same energy requirements as you once did. Secondly, be sure to consume enough protein to maintain a positive balance of muscle protein synthesis to muscle protein breakdown. And lastly, go and lift some weights! You don’t have to be breaking records, but performing any type of resistance training a minimum of 2x per week will have enormous benefits for preserving your muscle mass and decreasing your body fat.

 


 

  1. Paddon-Jones D. Interplay of stress and physical inactivity on muscle loss: Nutritional countermeasures. The Journal of Nutrition. 2006;136:2123-2126.
  2. Evans W. Skeletal muscle loss: cachexia, sarcopenia and inactivity. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010;9:1123-1127.
  3. Franchi M, Longo S, Mallison J, Quinlan J, Taylor T, Greenhaff P, et al. Muscle thickness correlates to muscle cross-sectional area in assessment of strength training-induced hypertrophy. Scandinavian Journal Medicine Science Sports. 2018;28:846-853.
  4. Hunter G, McCarthy J, Bamman M. Effects of resistance training on older adults. Sports Medicine. 2004;34(5):329-348.
  5. Blundell J, Finlayson G, Gibbons C, Caudwell P, Hopkins M. The biology of appetite control: do resting metabolic rate and fat-free mass drive energy intake? Physiology & Behaviour. Dec 2015;152(B):473-478.
  6. Schoenfeld B. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning research. Oct 2010;24(10):2857-2872.
  7. Johnston A, De Lisio M, Parise G. Resistance training, sarcopenia, and the mitochondrial theory of aging. Apllied Physiology, Nutrition, Metabolism. 2008;33;191-199.
  8. Roubenoff R. Physical activity, inflammation and muscle loss. Nutrition reviews. Dec 2007;65(12);208-212.

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Maximal strength

fitness power man person

WHAT IS MAXIMAL STRENGTH AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Maximal strength refers to the maximum amount of force that can be exerted by the neuromuscular system during a contraction. The heaviest weight than can be lifted in one repetition is known as a 1RM (repetition maximum), and is a critical factor for the development and performance of every athlete. Knowing your 1RM is essential for getting the most out of your program and using correct %’s based off your 1RM during training, allows coaches to closely control and monitor an athletes’ load more precisely.

 

HOW MAXIMAL STRENTH IS INCREASED
Neural adaptations within your muscles are the biggest factors for increasing strength. A motor unit is a motor neuron (movement nerve) and skeletal muscle, that when activated causes a contraction. Fast contracting motor units are known as fast-twitch and are used for speed and power movements, and slower contracting motor units are called slow-twitch and are more suited for endurance movements. In terms of strength training, this is important to know as recruitment of motor units goes from smallest to biggest. For example, heavier weights will begin with smaller motor units starting the movement, and the bigger motor units quickly taking over to finish it. In a nutshell, the more efficient your neuromuscular system is at recruiting mass numbers of these larger motor units, the stronger you’ll become.

 

MAXIMAL STRENGTH AND POWER
Power is the product of strength and speed. The goal is to apply the highest force in the shortest amount of time. In order to maximize the results of power training it should be done only after a maximal strength phase, as poor strength is often the glass ceiling to increasing power. Because power is an expression of maximum strength and motor unit recruitment, the purpose of power training is to make these units contract faster.

 

INCORPORATING MAXIMAL STRENGTH INTO YOUR OWN TRAINING
There are number of different maximal strength training protocols that all work, it’s a matter of what works best for you.
Two well known maximum strength programs that you should try:

  • 5×5 – 5 sets of 5 reps @80-85% 1RM.
  • 5, 3, 1 – 5 reps in first set @85% 1RM, 3 reps in second set @90% 1RM, 1 rep in last set @95% 1RM.

Use this only for your main lifts and focus on increasing the weight by 2.5 – 5% each week, over 4 weeks. Re-test your 1RM in week 5, and then repeat the program with %’s updated to your new 1RM. Re-test in week 10 and reap the benefits.
Be sure you rest 3-5 minutes between sets in order to give your central nervous system enough time to recover.

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Caffeine and Exercise

caffeine-coffee-cup-6347

In an exercise context, caffeine is often associated with an increase in alertness, mental clarity, and a decrease in the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) (1-6). It has also been shown to increase strength and maximum power (1,2). What’s interesting though is that the performance enhancing effect of caffeine is greater in well-trained athletes, than it is for the average active person (4). For the purpose of this article, we will be looking at caffeine as a supplement, not solely coffee, and the two are not interchangeable.

How does caffeine actually affect our body?
It is understood that caffeine affects our central nervous system (CNS) by blocking adenosine (one of the chemicals needed to produce adenosine triphosphate, aka energy), from inhibiting the ‘feel good’ hormone, dopamine. As a result, this can alter our perception to pain, decrease RPE and increase time to fatigue(1).  Another factor affecting the CNS is an increased level of muscle activation and force production, by enhancing the transmissions at the neuromuscular junction (where our motor neurons and muscle fibers meet)(1,2).

Caffeine also causes our adrenal glands to secrete adrenaline (fight or flight hormone) and this is the reason why it causes us to feel more alert. There’s a common belief that caffeine increases heart rate (HR). However, the majority of research indicates that whilst caffeine can slightly increase HR during exercise, caused by the adrenaline, it has no effect on resting HR (1,3).

When should I take it?
Most experts say that having caffeine 1 hour before training, and during prolonged exercise, having ‘top ups’ periodically can have a positive effect. Combining caffeine with a meal or carbohydrate/electrolyte solution is extremely beneficial to significantly increase power output (1,4,6).

Because caffeine is metabolised slowly, you still have ½ of the amount of caffeine in your body after 6 hours, and this is one reason why having it too late in the day might negatively impact your ability to fall asleep, the quality of your sleep, or both.

Withdrawing from caffeine for the days leading up to an event in the hope of getting a bigger effect on the day, has had no effect on the magnitude of the impact (4). In fact, this method can also come with some unwanted side effects such as headaches, fatigue, drowsiness etc. More so if you are a habitual caffeine user, but again, this is very unique to each person.

How much?
The amount of caffeine varies for each individual, but an optimal dose is 3 – 6 mg/kg before exercise and 1 – 2 mg/kg in repeated dosages for prolonged exercise. This is far better than having a massive dose of >9mg/kg , which can result in an overdose (4, 5).

Common sources of caffeine and the quantities in each:

  • Espresso = 212mg
  • Instant coffee = 60 – 160mg (depending on brand and type)
  • Nespresso pod = 83mg
  • Tea = 10 – 50mg (depending on type of tea)
  • Red bull = 80mg
  • V energy drink = 50mg
  • GU caffeinated sports gel = 20mg
  • No-Doz = 100mg
  • Caffeine gum = 100mg per piece

References

1. Woolf K, Bidwell W, Carlson A. The effect of caffeine as an ergogenic aid in anaerobic exercise. International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2008;18:412-429.

2. Beck T, Housh T, Schmidt R, Johnson G, Housh D, Coburn J, et al. The acute effects of a caffeine-containing supplement on strength, muscular endurance and anaerobic capabilities. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2006;20(3):506-510.

3. Glaister M, Howatson G, Abraham C, Lockey R, Goodwin J, Foley P, et al. Caffeine supplementation and multiple sprint running performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2008;40(10):1835-1840.

4. Graham T. Caffeine and exercise. Sports Med. 2003;33(11):785-807.

5. Burke L. Caffeine and sports performance. Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism. 2008;33:1319-1334.

6. Roelands B, Buyse L, Pauwels F, Delbeke F, Deventer K, Meeusen R. No effect of caffeine on exercise performance in high ambient temperature. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011 Apr;10(11):1945-1949.

Posted on Leave a comment

What happens to your body when you train?

WhatHappensWhenYouTrain

Have you been doing the same training for a while now but not seeing or feeling any improvement? You might be stuck in a plateau, and training extra hard to try and breakthrough it.

The focus of this article is to help you understand how our body responds to exercise, and how we can utilize the responses to our training in order to get fitter, faster and stronger.

*Note that the examples used for the type of training (resistance training or cardio) can be interchanged.

Exercise is a stress that disrupts homeostasis (the normal state of equilibrium at which we function) within our body, and we respond in a number of ways in order to get back to a state of homeostasis.

The General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) proposed by Hans Selye describes the way in which our bodies recover to get back to this state of equilibrium [1-3].

There are 3 distinct phases that occur which determine how we are going to respond [1-3].

Phase 1 – Alarm: initial response to the stimulus (exercise) and frequently referred to as shock and can result in muscle soreness. It often leads to a decrease in performance. For example a resistance training session.

Phase 2 – Adaptation / resistance: the body adapts to the new training stimulus and often results in an increase in performance. Given appropriate recovery, the next time we do that resistance training session, we will be stronger than the previous session.

Phase 3 – Exhaustion: the body can no longer make any further adaptation to that stimulus, and if it continues to be applied, overtraining can occur. Adequate recovery is essential to make any further adaptations. Repeating this resistance training session with poor or no recovery would result in no new improvements, and it would only be a matter of time before an injury occurs.

Keep in mind that this is referring to both the same stimulus and also the overall training load. For resistance training, this refers to targeting different areas and can be utilized well when splitting the program into lower and upper body sessions.

Below is a basic example of having adequate recovery between bouts of the same/similar stimulus:

Monday – lower body

Tuesday – upper body

Wednesday – rest

Thursday – lower body

Friday – upper body

Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 12.13.57 am

The picture above explains this very well.

We have a baseline level, of which the goal is to increase over time through training.

When we train, we shock the body, and immediately fall below this baseline (PHASE 1 – ALARM). After 24 – 48 hours (depending on the session) our body starts to recover and then rises above the original baseline (PHASE 2 – ADAPTATION / RESISTANCE).

We then train again, and the same process continues, but each time we recover, we rise just above the previous baseline, hence increasing our adaptations to that type of training. Conversely if we rest for too long, we start to lose some of these adaptations which is a process known as detraining (PHASE 3 – EXHAUSTION) [3].

However can not just keep increasing our baseline after every session indefinitely, as our body would not be able to handle that kind of excessive loading, and injury would occur as a defence mechanism to let you know something isn’t right [3].

Other very important factors which need to be considered when prescribing training load is the cumulative fatigue of the central nervous system and concurrent training which is seen in team sports [2].

We will go into further detail about loading and the periodisation of training programs in a future article, but note that these principles can be applied both short-term and long-term.

So if you have been trying to improve your strength or fitness but can’t make a dent in your performance, change up the training you are doing, make sure you are getting adequate recovery, not just a day off, but download weeks too, or better yet, follow a program that has been designed by an expert who can do all of the planning for you.


References

  1. Chiu LZ, Barnes, JL. The Fitness-Fatigue Model Revisisted. National Strength & Conditioning Association. 2003 Dec:25(6):42-51.
  2. Issurin VB. New Horizons for the Methodology and Physiology of Training Periodization. Sport Med. 2010:40(3):189-206.
  3. Turner A. The Science and Practice of Periodisation: a brief review. National Strength and Conditioning Association. 2011 Feb;33(1):34-46.

 

 

Posted on 1 Comment

Training Specificity

AgilityLadder

Is your current training in line with what you are actually training for?

A surprising number of people are just ticking the daily exercise box with no direction, or more specifically, doing the wrong training for the goal they are trying to achieve.

We are looking at training specificity and how it is vital in any training program. Training specificity is doing certain exercises or types of training that results in specific metabolic adaptations, translating directly to achieving a desired outcome.

Take a marathon runner for example, what does a marathon runner do? They run. Will cycling improve their running performance? No, running will improve their running performance. It might sound like a no-brainer, but inappropriate training like this is very common. Coaches can get fixated on building a general base of strength or fitness, but forget about how this is going to translate into better performance of the individual.

Thinking about your own training, ask yourself this simple question, “is this going to directly translate into helping me achieve my goal?” If the answer is anything but yes, change it to something that will.

Whether you are an individual, individual athlete or team sport athlete, the principle of training specificity needs to be applied.

In traditional strength and conditioning, progression goes from very general training to specific training over the course of a program. This is focused around the idea that an athlete needs to develop a large base for which to build from in later blocks of their program. This is true. However, sometimes coaches can be ‘too’ general with their training which often has a negative impact on the progression of the athlete or athletes.

When it comes to team sports, this principle of specificity needs to be addressed in even more detail as each position has different physical demands, which need to be trained appropriately. In rugby union for example, in addition to whole squad training, position specific skills (PSS) are utilised to train the unique requirements needed for each different position. The team is split into forwards and backs for PSS sessions. The forwards can be further divided into back row, locks and front row. Whilst the backs can be split into halves, inside backs and outside backs. This allows the coaches to work on elements of the game which are unique to each group. This level of specificity is used both in the gym and on the field.

Individuals who are not training for a particular sport are no different to the athletes above. Their training needs to be specific for what they need to achieve.  Take an individual with a fat loss goal. Their training needs to be performed in a way that elicits the greatest metabolic response. This would include the type of training (combination of cardio and weights) and duration (sets, reps and time etc.) of each exercise. In this case, the end goal is not sport performance related, and therefore there is no need to focus on only one type of training modality, but can use a variety of training mediums as a tool to achieve their goal. For example, using a rowing machine, bike or body weight exercises to perform high intensity interval training. The specificity in this case is in the details of the high intensity sessions that have been programmed, not the medium used.

It should be noted that at times, general non-sport specific training can be beneficial, for example during download weeks or recovering from injury/rehabilitation. A soccer player during a download week might do some boxing sessions to compliment the lighter load of their usual training. The boxing sessions won’t make them fitter for soccer, but are an alternate form of cardio fitness, which reduces the load on the legs during the download week.

Training specificity might sound like a broad term, but the more detailed you can be in your approach to analysing your training, the better your results will be. If your training isn’t going to directly translate to you achieving your goals, get more specific with it, and follow a program made by an expert.

Posted on Leave a comment

Sleep – common recovery mistakes (pt 1)

newborn-boy-sleepingOne of the most under-utilised methods of recovery is the lack of importance placed on sleep, and therefore the lack of sleep.

Sleep is the best recovery method, closely followed by your nutrition.

Things like foam rolling, massage, hot/cold contrast, compression garments etc are important and certainly have their place, but make up only a small percentage of your overall recovery. If you’re not getting enough sleep, or if you nutrition is poor, you are wasting your time on all those other methods.

When you’re sleeping, you’re giving your body the rest it needs in order to adapt to the stimulus (training session/s) that it has just been exposed to. It is during this rest period that your central nervous system (CNS) has the opportunity to ‘recharge’ in order to enable you to perform in your next session. Having little or no muscular fatigue or soreness from previous sessions can often mask the fact that your CNS has not fully recovered. I’ve had numerous training sessions, particularly in the gym where I walk in feeling good, with no niggles or underlying issues, but when I get under the bar feel very weak and fatigued. Why? More often than not, I can trace it back to my sleep patterns. Whilst there are a number of different factors that can influence the CNS fatigue, poor sleep doesn’t help your cause.

Inadequate sleep often leads to a poor performance (primarily attributed to a decrease in reaction time from your CNS), and in some cases, injury.

But how much sleep do you need?

Everyone is different. You may have heard the old saying of 8 hours sleep is what you need, but this is not necessarily the case. In terms of recovery, its not just about the quantity of sleep, it’s about the quality. 6 hours of deep unbroken sleep is better than 8  hours of restless sleep that leaves you feeling tired upon waking.

I’ll delve into more detail in a future article, but for now, try to develop a sleep routine.

For me, my sleep routine consists of the following:

  • 2x magnesium tablets 30 – 45 minutes before sleep (helps to relax your muscular system)
  • No screens in the 60 minutes leading up to sleep (hard to do in this day and age, but the light emitted from our devices stimulates our brain)
  • Chamomile tea 30 minutes before sleep (helps to relax your mind body)
  • Meditation (Headspace has a great pack on sleep)
  • Journal for 5 minutes. Reflecting on my day and writing down what needs to be done the next day can helps my mind unwind and gives me clarity on what needs to be done tomorrow so I’m not kept awake at night thinking about those things.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I’ll be on my phone or computer right before sleep, but if I can get at least 3 of the above ticked off, I sleep pretty well.