Intra-Workouts Are Unnecessary

The importance of nutrition and weight training is known by most, even novices. Eating well around a training session not only ensures energy levels remain consistent throughout, but also, muscular gains are maximized (by limiting catabolism, as written about here).

Intra-workout nutrition is defined as nutrient intake during a workout. For the strength athlete, is this necessary or simply a revenue raiser by supplement companies?

The Concept –

The process of training elicits a catabolic response from the body, whereby degradation trumps the making of new proteins. Furthermore, training depletes certain elements, like amino acids and glycogen. This can have a detrimental effect on performance.

In order to flip the balance to favour anabolism (protein building) while maintaining a constant supply of nutrients, sipping on a protein-carbohydrate blend is said to do the trick.

What Does The Evidence Say?

Much of the research thus far has been conducted on endurance athletes. From these studies, it’s clear that a mix of carbs, proteins and electrolytes offers benefit to these individuals.

In the athlete pursuing strength, the research fails to isolate intra-workout nutrition from pre and post-workout. Consequently, it is difficult to gauge the effectiveness due to a lack of separation.

Some papers suggest good pre-workout nutrition (30-50g of carbs and protein, plus a small amount of fat, 1-2 hours before training) makes an intra-workout redundant.

Endurance

The Flaws –

For one, nutrient uptake isn’t instantaneous. It takes time, 15-30 minutes, before nutrition makes it’s way into the blood stream for use.

Secondly, the function of the gastrointestinal system is significantly reduced during a workout, further hindering uptake. Blood flow at this time is re-directed to muscles screaming for nutrition due to the physical stress they are under.

Finally, a weight-based training session doesn’t deplete glycogen stores as bouts of endurance do. As a result, ‘topping up’ glycogen is not required.

Who Should Use It?

Certain conditions and athletes call for this type of nutrition, including:

  • Long, intense training sessions (2+ hours).
  • Multiple workouts in the same day.
  • Individuals looking to gain significant mass (i.e. another method to increase overall caloric intake).
  • Endurance athletes.
  • Individuals with very high metabolisms.

Guidelines For The Minority –

If you fit into the above categories, below is a good framework to follow to optimise nutrition during your workout:

  • Carbohydrates – 20-50g (mixture of slow and fast release).
  • Protein – 20-50g.
  • Fats – 5-20g (keep on the lower side as it slows digestion).

Guidelines For The Majority –

For most, the following principles will keep you in good stead:

  • Focus of pre- and post-workout nutrition.
  • Hydrate throughout the workout with water.

In Conclusion –

As alluded to earlier, the evidence certainly isn’t strong enough to warrant that every strength athlete uses an intra-workout. Remember, supplements in general should be just that. They should be a useful adjunct to a sound foundation. The changes in performance that this type of supplementation offers is minimal in the scheme of things.

As always, focus on the basics.

 By Andrew Cammarano

References

4 Reasons You Need a Coach

Whether a newbie or experienced campaigner, coaching can take you a step closer to reaching your goals. The recent boom in online services has made highly accredited mentors accessible to everyone, meaning you don’t have to stoop to a local inexperienced coach for advice.

Here are 4 reasons to hire a coach:

  1. Knowledge – With many years of success and failure under their belts, a good coach will provide you with invaluable experience. From preventing you making school boy errors to understanding setbacks, this alone is enough to warrant hiring a mentor.
  2. Accountability – We’ve all skipped the odd exercise or training session. Why? Because we’re only accountable to ourselves. By having a support crew monitoring progress, you’ll be less likely to skimp on the required number of sets the program asks for.
  3. Weaknesses – When setting up your own program, whether it be a training  or nutrition, it’s natural to play to your strengths. Consequently, weaknesses fall to the wayside, further increasing the imbalance. A mentor identifies the areas of struggle and makes this central to your plan.
  4. Stress and Time Management – Take the strain and guesswork out of exercise selection, nutrition planning and competition strategy. Leave this in the hands of your coach, allowing you to focus on the basics.

If you’re considering hiring a coach, do your research. Ensure the individual is knowledgeable in their given field. Make certain they are not only book smart, but also have got their hands dirty in a practical sense.

By Andrew Cammarano

How To Boost Central Nervous System Activity

Typically, we associate incredible feats of strength with big, hulking man-mountains such as Strong Man competitors. Though, equally impressive, if not more so, are the lighter athletes who possess unbelievable strength relative to their weight.

Adaptions of the Central Nervous System (CNS) are greatly responsible for these athletes super human abilities. This rudimentary structure, developed when humans weren’t quite top of the food chain, has played an important part in survival of humanity.

What Is The CNS?

The brain and the spinal cord make up the CNS. It can be thought of as the software of the body. It has two main roles:

  1. The “fight or flight” response – When under threat, this function prepares the human body to either fight the sabre-toothed tiger or get the hell out of there! The body becomes excited, initiating a number of physiological responses like…
    • Faster transmission of nerve impulses.
    • Increased blood flow to skeletal muscles, like the quadriceps.
  2. The “rest and digest” response – During quieter times, free from danger, this response in essence is opposite to the above. Nerve impulses travel at a slower speed and blow flood is redirected to vital organs, thus allowing for recovery.

How Do We Activate the CNS?

Now I have your attention! So, the big question is, how do we flick the switch and turn on the ‘fight or flight’ response right in time for some heavy lifting?

The coach of disgraced track and field athlete, Ben Johnson, is believed to be one of the first to implement activation drills. He famously had Johnson complete a rep or two of heavy partial-range squats prior to a sprint in an effort to kick him into a higher gear.

The idea is to improve motor unit activation in two ways – to increase the number of units firing as well as the speed at which they are sending off impulses.

Here are some strategies you can employ:

  • Train with low reps (1-3) with loading at 90% or above your 1RM with long rest periods (6 minutes).
  • Preparatory exercises – Prior to your main lift perform 3 sets of 3 reps with a weight you can move quickly and explosively.
    • Squats – box jumps, jump squats and kettlebell swings work well for this lift.
    • Deadlifts – try out some cleans, snatches or kettlebell swings.
    • Bench – medicine ball chest passes or plyometric push-ups will do the trick.
  • Partial range movements of the same lift can also be used. For example, prior to your work set for squats, carry out a quarter squat with more weight on the bar you can handle for the full-range movement.
  • Shouting has also been shown to have a stimulatory effect. Expect to get a few odd looks from fellow gym goers!

1988 Olympics Ben Johnson

Hold Your Horses!

Before you go off and throw these into your routine, you must consider a few factors in order to optimise these drills and to avoid injury…

  • Be wary of fatigue. The activation exercises I have suggested are very taxing, so keep the volume low or it will have a detrimental effect on your work set.
  • Ensure you are competent with the particular movement. For example, I suggested cleans above. If you have never performed Olympic lifts, or a complex exercise, then trying to perform them explosively on first attempt is likely to result in injury. Use movements your confident with and slowly add new exercises to your repertoire.
  • The ‘activation’ has a short shelf life. This is to say, the facilitation which it achieves has an appreciable effect for only 5-10 minutes. So, if incorporating the above drills into your warm-up, ensure your working set soon follows to gain an appreciable effect.

CNS Fatigue

Another consideration to ensure you’re utilising your CNS to it’s best ability, is managing fatigue through appropriate recovery. Think of our ability to use the ‘fight or flight’ function of our CNS as a fuel tank. If we constantly use the above techniques, we will very quickly be running on empty. This will have negative effects on your ability to lift heavy things and move quickly, along with other side-effects like poor quality sleep.

The CNS is designed to be used in short bursts for the ‘fight or flight’ response, followed by periods of ‘rest and digest’. Here are some strategies to keep your CNS in tip-top shape:

  • If a training session requires you to operate around or above 85-90% of your 1RM, ensure you have a 48 hour break of similar intensity training. In the meantime, perform lower intensity training, focus on technique and recovery methods like foam rolling.
  • Don’t go bonkers every time you hit the gym. On the odd occasion, it is OK to sniff some smelling salts, bang your head against the bar and get your buddy to whack you across the back. Don’t make this a routine, as you’ll quickly burn out and likely pick up some low-grade concussion!
  • Ensure you get regular high quality sleep. Quality is as important as quantity. Get into good habits where you’re waking up rested rather than restless.

Summary

As you can see, utilising the CNS effectively is a real balancing act. Ensure it’s raring to go when you need it, like competition day, but give it the rest it requires. I’d be interested in your thoughts and opinions on the subject. Feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

By Andrew Cammarano

References

Selecting The Correct Program

With a myriad of strength protocols out there, how do you go about making the right choice?

You’ve heard it before – the best program or plan is the one you’re going to follow. Yes, this is accurate to an extent. but it doesn’t really hold true for the disciplined strength athlete who has no issue with consistent gym attendance. So the question remains, which program is best for me?

Line Up Your Goals

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, the number one factor to consider is, what do you hope to achieve? This acts as your filter. Once you decide upon this, your options reduce drastically. You are now in a much better position to sift through the remaining potential candidates.

Let me hit you with an example…

Albert is a keen Powerlifter. He aims to increase his total, i.e. the cumulative sum of his squat, bench and deadlift. As a result, his program should be centred on improving the competency of these lifts in a low repetition range. On the other hand, Harold’s goal is to get stronger globally, but with no specific targets. This gives him more leeway with his protocol selection. Though compound lifts and low reps should still be a mainstay of his program, but with more variation permitted.

Training Age

Experience level is another vital variable. A novice will benefit greatly from nearly any program (with varying effectiveness) as his/her body is responding for the first time to an unfamiliar stimulus. As a consequence, a simple program honing in on the basics works best. This allows the beginner to become accustom to the gym and the different lifts.

Though, as an athlete grows in training age, a more complex protocol is required to initiate strength adaptions. Intermediate and advanced trainers must therefore put more focus into program selection.

snatch

Weigh Up Your Options

Once you have defined your goals and experience levels, the next step is to research. Utilise the various websites and forums which offer others experiences and opinions, to make an informed decision.

Be wary though, the internet is a never-ending pit of information – don’t be sucked in too far. We have all been guilty of ‘paralysis by analysis’, where, due to the huge number of options, doubt and uncertainty prevents a decision from being made!

Program Hopping

Over-analysis often leads to jumping from one program to the next. Strength training must be viewed as progressing in the medium to long-term rather than from session to session.

Here are some questions to consider before changing from your current program…

  • Have I given the program at least a 12 week trial?
  • Have I followed the basic nuts and bolts of the program without making any drastic changes?
  • Have I been recording and gauging overall progress?

If you answer yes to all of the above with little improvement in strength, then it’s time to look to a new program. Otherwise, keep going! Give your body a chance to improve at the lifts and rep schemes rather than continually mixing and matching.

Same S@#$ Different Program

I have come to the conclusion that, once you have filtered for experience and goals, variation between programs is fairly small (in most cases). That is to say, if you’re unsure about whether to go with Protocol A or B, in reality there is little separating the two, go with either

In this case, it comes down to personal preference, and clever marketing by the creator of the program!

Take Your Pick

By systematically working through the above variables, making a good decision regarding programming should be a cinch! Notice I said good decision, as there is no perfect program, focus on execution.

By Andrew Cammarano

4 Reasons To Implement A Deload Week

Training and nutrition are integral parts of the strength building machine. However, an often underestimated and misunderstood component is the importance of rest.

A deload week, whereby you take a week to reduce volume and/or intensity, provides an excellent platform to further your progress. Here are 4 reasons why…

  1. Injury prevention – Weight training, or any form of physical training places stress on various structures of the body, including joints and the central nervous system. A rest period gives these areas an opportunity to rest before breaking point, thus boosting performance and longevity.
  2. Hunger – Training session after training session can have the effect of lowering your desire to get in the gym and improve. A rest week often helps to stoke the fire ensuring you’re raring to go.
  3. Growth – Remember, resistance training provides the stimulus, but it is the rest and recovery aspect where muscle and strength gains are made.
  4. Switch Focus – Another benefit of a deload is that it allows you to take a look at other aspects of your life, such as spending  time with family and friends. This helps to return balance and perspective, reducing the likelihood of burnout and aiding with enjoyment.

The value of a deload week grows in importance as your training age increases. Be intelligent about your training and implement it into your schedule to optimise performance.

By Andrew Cammarano

 

References

How To Manage A Torn Callus

Yes! You’ve just finished your last set of deadlifts, and better still, you beat your previous best. But wait a second, everything is not as dreamy as it seems…

You glance down to your left ring finger and nearly lose consciousness. Yup, you’ve torn a callus – blood is oozing down your finger and onto the floor. Your deadlifting days are over…

Before you hang up your soft suit for good, there is hope for you still, read on. Here’s what to do:

Immediately after –

  • Give the area a quick clean under running water to clear out any dirt and blood.
  • Powder some chalk over the broken callus to aid with clotting.
  • Clean up areas of blood spillage around the gym.
  • Finish your workout. Don’t be disheartened if you can do as much as you usually would, this is normal.

When You Get Home –

  • Remove the loose skin flap using scissors. Try to ensure you cut as close as you can to the edge to ensure you don’t leave an area which is likely to catch on things throughout the day.
  • Clean the area with soap to remove dried blood and bacteria. Note – this will sting!
  • Soak the affected area in salt water for 10 minutes. Note – this will also sting.
  • Allow the area to dry out.

Later That Day –

  • Cover the area with a bandaid or taping. Ensure a non-adhesive strip goes over the area of broken skin to allow optimal healing.
  • Be wary of circulation if the torn callus is on your finger. There is no need to tape around the entire circumference of the finger, leave a section open.

Now What?

Continue to clean, soak and tape for the next 3 days, or until it begins to seal. After this, taping is only necessary when lifting or carrying out laborious tasks with your hands. Otherwise, let that baby breathe!

Things To Keep In Mind

Certain lifts, mainly deadlifts, will be impaired in most cases. No matter how much taping, the broken down skin will have an impact on your ability to pull. In order to prevent re-tearing of the area, you should:

  • Reduce overall deadlift volume.
  • Use straps.
  • Re-tape after every work set if necessary as the tape tends to shift.

Preventing Disaster

If you’re one of the lucky few who hasn’t suffered a callus blow out, here are some tips to reduce the likelihood of it occurring.

  • Get your deadlift grip right. Make sure the barbell is sitting as shown in the top two images, right at the base of the fingers as opposed to the ones below, closer to the centre of the palm.
  • Shave down your calluses regularly using a nail file, pumice or similar. Aim to smooth down thickened areas so it is not overly raised or protruding. Once every 2 weeks is a good guideline.

400px-Proper_GripGrab My Strong Hand Child

By following this plan you’ll be able to continue lifting and decrease the chances of it occurring again. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Leave them in the comments section below.

By Andrew Cammarano

5 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About Steroids

Anabolic steroids are shrouded in controversy and mystery. Below are 5 facts to demystify the performance-enhancing drug.

  1. Roid Rage – Contrary to popular belief, steroids are not responsible for aggression, though they do have a tendency to enhance existing personality traits. Caffeine is more likely to make an individual blow a gasket!
  2. Shrinkage – The penis itself does not shrink, though it is likely the testicles will. ‘The boys’ should gradually return to their normal size once the cycle has ended.
  3. Medical Use – Steroids can be used as a legitimate treatment option for conditions such as anaemia, certain breast cancers and osteoporosis, to name a few.
  4. Effort – Steroids do not result in muscular and performance changes alone. They must be combined with sound nutrition and training in order to yield a favourable outcome.
  5. Baldness – There is no proven link between steroids and losing your luscious salad. Balding is heavily influenced by genetics, so blame your Mom and Pops!

By Andrew Cammarano

References

How To Select The Correct Footwear

Walk into any gym and you’ll be confronted with a barrage of different shoes – from fluorescent runners to funky Vibrams. With so many options, how does one decide which option is best for them?

As with anything, there is more than one variable to consider…

  • What is my primary type of training?
    • Is it general strength, Powerlifting or maybe Olympic Lifting.
  • What are my goals?
    • Am I aiming to get a bit stronger or set world records.
  • What is suited to my morphology?
    • Am I fairly flexible or, despite my best efforts, I still can’t touch my toes!

This helps to set the framework for the footwear which you require. Like buying specific equipment for a given sport, specialised footwear is required in the gym setting to ensure best results.

Important Considerations –

As an individual pursuing strength, keep these 3 factors in mind:

  1. Proper fit – Arguably the most important consideration. The most well-designed shoe, selected for your specific needs is worth nothing if its a poor fit. Here are some tips to ensure it fits well…
    • Try the shoe on! If you plan on buying online, go to a good old-fashioned brick and mortar store and test them out first.
    • When trying the shoe on, use the same socks you would be wearing to the gym. As an added bonus, you won’t have to use the crusty in-store socks!
  2. Non-compressible sole – A firm sole is ideal as it limits the energy lost during the specific movement or lift. This means the majority of force is used effectively in shifting you or the load.
  3. Traction – The last thing you want when a significant amount of weight is sitting on your shoulders is your feet sliding around like they’re on ice. A grippy sole ensures stability.

The Sneaker

“Andrew, I’ve been getting buy with my old pair of runner’s for years, what gives?!”

Admittedly, the humble sneaker is very versatile. For the recreational gym goer who combines a basic weight regime with cardiovascular training, a pair of Asics works well. However, they lack some significant qualities to make them a good choice for those pursuing strength…

  • Soft, shock absorbing sole – For running and walking – yes, for squatting and deadlifting – no. As elaborated on earlier, this type of sole blows off a whole lot of energy meaning a reduced ability to lift heavy loads.
  • Lack of rigidity – While this is not the case for all sneakers, many, particularly the recent range of ‘Free Runs’ for instance, are far too flexible to provide any meaningful support.

What Does History Tell Us?

History would suggest there are two shoes types most suited to strength training – the Olympic Lifting shoe and minimalistic footwear.

As the name suggests, originally designed for Olympic Weightlifters, benefits of this shoe include:

  • Elevated heel – This is the most noticeable feature. A raised heel improves the quality of a squat in particular, as it reduces the need for gymnast-like ankle and hip flexibility.
  • Firm sole – Improved force transference.
  • Straps – Fitted with straps, allowing you to lock the foot in place, preventing it from slipping around the shoe searching for traction.

Ideally suited to squatting type movements, as well as pressing. It’s weakness lies in deadlifting, as the elevated heel increases the total distance required to complete the lift.

Adipower

Minimalism

When I talk about minimalistic footwear I refer to the likes of; deadlift slippers, wrestling shoes and Chuck Taylor’s or variations thereof. These bare bones shoes offer a very thin sole – minimising loss of force, and this is their main draw card. In terms of stability, it varies – deadlift slippers don’t offer a whole lot, whereas wrestling shoes are high cut, allowing you to lock in the ankle

This shoe is most suited to deadlifting, but can be used quite comfortably with accessory exercises, like barbell rows for instance. Squatting is possible, though the lifter must have very good ankle and hip mobility for it to be effective.

So there you have it! I hope this allows you to make an informed decision on which shoe you decide upon. Any comments or feedback, leave them below.

By Andrew Cammarano

 

References

http://www.crossfitinvictus.com/blog/benefits-of-olympic-lifting-shoes/

Time For Change

Over the life of this little Blog, I have covered many topics ranging from correcting postural issues to allergies. My writing style has developed and  I have increased my understanding of a great number of subjects.

However, upon self-reflection, it has become apparent that I have lost focus, or perhaps never had it in the first place. The original idea of this project was to target a niche audience and produce relevant content which will help you, my followers, grow and develop in this particular field.

By failing to define my target audience, I wrote about anything and everything!

But Andrew, you wrote an article on specificity. I know, I’m a big fat hypocrite, rub it in!

Consequently, I have decided on my niche – the strength athlete. My posts will be directed to this sub-population and those interested in getting stronger, in areas like; nutrition, programming, common injuries and management, to name a few.

Oly Lifter

This will give me more direction, and allow me to excel in the strength field, which I am passionate about.

I understand strength, biceps and the gym are not everyone’s cup of tea, though I am confident you will find useful nuggets of knowledge within the articles.

As 2014 comes to a close, I would like to thank you for your support over the course of the year. I hope to continue to grow this blog and couldn’t do so without a readership. If you have friends or family who you believe would benefit from the content of this blog, particularly with its new direction, send them a link!

Merry Christmas Forza Family!

The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live”

-George Carlin

By Andrew Cammarano

Fat Cheat Sheet

Unfortunately we’ve come to the end of the Macronutrient Cheat Sheet Series. Here, are parts one and two. The finale covers the most maligned macronutrient of all time, Fat. Choke back those tears, here we go!

What Role Do They Play In The Body?

“Why isn’t it obvious Andrew, they make you fat”. Not so fast little Johnny, that is a huge misconception. Let me lay down the facts. Or should I say, lay down the fats.

Some of the functions of Fat include:

  • Digestion of Vitamins – The likes of Vitamin’s A and D, for example, are referred to as fat-soluble. They require fat in order to be absorbed into the body. As a consequence, a lack of dietary fats can result in nutrient deficiencies.
  • Hormone Regulation – Certain fats are required in order to produce hormones.
  • Cell Structure – Fats help to form cell membranes, thus ensuring maintenance of cell integrity and optimal function.
  • Energy – Should there be a lack of carbohydrates, fats can be converted to energy.

Are There Different Types?

I’m glad you asked. There are four types of dietary fats:

  1. Saturated – These guys are solid at room temperature, an example of which is coconut oil.
  2. Trans – A process known as hydrogenation (making the oil easier to cook and less likely to spoil), produces this particular type of fat. These can be found in processed foods like chips.
  3. Monounsaturated – Think olives and nuts.
  4. Polyunsaturated – This includes fish and flax seed oil.

Are There ‘Good’ Fats and ‘Bad’ Fats?

This is where much of the confusion arises. Rather than categorising fats, many tend to bunch them together and label them collectively as ‘bad’.

When deciding if a Fat is healthy or unhealthy, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the product come from a whole food?
  • What is the degree to which the product is processed?

By answering these questions, it becomes clear that monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the good guys (nuts for example undergo no processing and are a whole food), while saturated are slightly worse, and perhaps the most misunderstood. Finally, trans fats can be deemed the  baddies.

How Much Should I Eat?

Fats should make up approximately 30% of your dietary intake. Remember though that Fat has a higher caloric density compared to carbohydrates and protein (9 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram). This means that total quantity should be considerably lower than the other macronutrients but certainly not non-existant.

Of this 30%, attempt to get the vast majority from whole food products like; seeds, nuts and avocado. Saturated fats should be obtained through dairy and meat (organic rather than factory farmed where possible) and should be consumed to a moderate degree. Trans fats should be kept to an absolute minimum.

When Should I Eat It?

As you’ve probably guessed, a portion with every meal works best. Fats help to ensure a feeling of fullness, much like protein, therefore reducing the likelihood of snacking.

The Skinny on Fats

That’s the end of that chapter! Keep it simple when it comes to Fats – try to get the bulk of your dietary fats from unprocessed, natural goods. As always, any comments or questions, feel free to leave below!

“It’s simple, if it jiggles, it’s fat”

– Arnold Schwarzenegger

By Andrew Cammarano

 

References

One Simple Tip To Improve The Way You Communicate

Yes, yes I understand, this post is a bit off topic compared to the usual health-minded articles. However! Enhanced communication skills lead to improved confidence, reduced stress and thus better health. A little convoluted, I agree, but I’m sticking with it!

Admittedly, I’m not the most accomplished of speakers, though I have seen considerable improvement with consistent application of this strategy. Experiment with it in your day-to-day life and reap the rewards.

Listen, listen, listen!

As simple as it sounds, this is the most underestimated and perhaps the most important component of communicating. Many people, myself included, think of communication skills as the speaking and articulating aspect. However a good conversation is a give and take scenario, it shouldn’t be one way traffic.

When I refer to listening, I’m referring to the active process. Don’t just stand there like a potato, engage with the other person. Here’s how to do it…

Open Body Language

Crossing your arms and constantly looking away gives the impression you’re disinterested. Rather, adopt an open stance and maintain eye contact. This will not only allow you to concentrate better on what the individual is saying, but also gives the sense that you respect them and find value in what they are saying.

Paraphrase

After a person has finished discussing something with you, paraphrasing or summarising what they have said, and relaying it back to them demonstrates you have indeed been listening. Furthermore, it allows for clarification of any points you may have misunderstood. Imagine this scenario…

Johnny: It just seems like I’m taken for granted. My co-workers and seniors barely notice me, and worse still, at the end of the day I feel as though I’ve achieved nothing.

Jimmy: Mmm, it sounds like you’re no longer getting a sense of fulfillment which you once experienced in the workplace.

Johnny: That’s exactly how I feel!

communicate

Form a “Cocoon”

We’ve all been in a situation where distractions are buzzing all around . You overhear a juicy bit of gossip over to your left, the TV to your right is blaring highlights of your team’s most recent game. Meanwhile, your friend is trying to tell you something purposeful and your giving him the old “uh huh” treatment.

Next time this happens to you, imagine you and the other person are surrounded by a cocoon. Block out your surroundings and hone your focus on the other individual and what they’re saying. You can wait to hear about Wendy’s hot date.

Let Them Talk!

Your Honour, I’m guilty of this one. Listening 101, don’t interrupt a person when they are talking, no matter how important or excited you are to add your two cents worth. In addition, you may think you’re doing them a favour, but finishing other’s sentences is another thing to avoid at all costs.

Interruptions disempower the individual and demonstrates that you care little for what they have to say. I know what you’re thinking, “I’m just trying to help them out”. Despite your good intentions, the other person in the conversation isn’t thinking “Gee wizz, I’m so glad he  finished that sentence for me. I don’t know what I would have done!”

Think back to when you’ve been interrupted, it doesn’t feel pleasant but rather makes you feel insignificant.

I’m Talking ‘ere!

Apply these principles in coming days and make them a habit. You will likely find that you’ll be catching yourself out when you interrupt your Mum or your gaze starts to wander. That’s OK, keep practicing and perfect this craft and it will become a useful tool for social and work relationships alike.

“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening”

-Larry King

By Andrew Cammarano

Protein Cheat Sheet

Welcome to another cheat sheet installment where you will learn about the humble protein macronutrient. Grab a pen, some paper and make sure the teacher ain’t watching, here’s the scoop!

What Role Do They Play In The Body?

Proteins are made up chains of amino acids. They can be described as the building blocks of the body. Their function varies greatly and include:

  • Forming antibodies which defend the body from foreign invaders like bacteria.
  • Make up structures like collagen in tendons, and keratin in hair.
  • Transport various molecules around the body.

Are There Different Types?

There are in fact 2 basic types of amino acids:

  1. Essential amino acids – This amino cannot be produced by the body and therefore must be obtained from specific foods in our diet. Leucine, for example, helps to regulate blood sugar levels, and is found in beef and peanuts, as well as other foods in varying quantities.
  2. Non-essential amino acids – You guessed it, the body manufactures this type on its own. They can be also found in different food sources, though there consumption is not a necessity. Alanine, contained within oats, helps to produce lymphocytes, which form a key part of your immune system

When Should I Eat Protein?

A portion of protein should be consumed with every meal. This not only ensures a feeling of fullness, but also aids in maintaining consistent blood sugar levels, compared to the ‘spike’ which occurs when eating a carbohydrate source on it’s own.

With this in mind, ensure you make a concerted effort to consume protein around a weight training session. Although the stimulus of resistance training promotes protein synthesis (building up of amino acids to form a specific protein), it also throws the body into protein breakdown state, whereby breakdown overpowers synthesis. This is of course the polar opposite to what one wants to achieve from this form training, where the goal is growth.

By consuming protein around a workout, it shifts the balance in favour of protein synthesis.

Won’t I Turn Into Arnold Schwarzenegger If I Eat Protein!?

I wish!

Although protein coupled with weight training, among other factors leads to muscle growth, you will not turn into a hulking figure by eating a reasonable amount of protein. The likes of Arnie in his heyday, took steroids as well as other supplements, giving him an incredible capacity to recover from the trauma of resistance training, thus allowing him to grow bigger than is possible naturally. He also worked incredibly hard in the gym.

How Much Should I Eat?

For the individual who is relatively sedentary and doesn’t carry out resistance-type training or high intensity physical activity, you should shoot for roughly 1 gram per kilogram of bodyweight per day. For example, a 60kg person should consume 60g. This is enough to keep a protein balance between synthesis and breakdown.

For the active individual carrying out regular high intensity training, the bar is set higher as a much greater demand is placed upon the body. Aim for around 1.5-2g per kilogram, so 90-120 grams a day for a 60kg person. These parameters are suited to promoting protein synthesis rather than maintenance.

Show Me The Chicken!

That brings us to the end of another cheat sheet, hide your notes from teach! As always, any comments, questions or queries, leave them in the section below.

“I’m on my own version of the protein diet, but there ain’t no protein in it. It’s a Krispy Kreme doughnut between two Cinnabons. And you soak it overnight in Red Bull. Then you chase it with a Snickers”

-J.B. Smoove

By Andrew Cammarano

References

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-protein

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protein#Cellular_functions

http://biology.about.com/od/molecularbiology/a/aa101904a.htm

http://www.aminoacidsguide.com/Leu.html

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/alanine-an-amino-acid-energy-source.html

3 Reasons To Think Less To Attain Success

This article can also be found on the Elite Daily website – http://elitedaily.com/life/motivation/3-reasons-think-less-achieve-success/848107/

Have you ever wondered how things would have panned out had you asked out your dream girl earlier, before she was in a new relationship? Or perhaps you weighed up the pros and the cons of a job only for your application to bounce back because you missed the deadline.

The mind has a remarkable ability to rationalize and calculate a myriad of situations to work out the best ‘plan of attack’, so to speak. Often times, however, thinking, and in particular over-thinking clouds our decision-making leading to missed opportunities.

1. Risky Business

We commonly associate spontaneity with a high risk and reward scenario, and this is the crux of the dilemma.

Throughout life, the majority of us develop an aversion to risk from those around us. Parents, due to past experiences and an internal instinct, guide their children onto the conservative path in order for to keep them safe.

As a result, a risk-free mindset is established. When confronted with a situation, an individual thinks “How do I get out of this situation unscathed?”, rather than “How do I maximize this situation to get what I want?”

Often times, we overestimate the negative consequences of a ‘rash decision’.

The truth is, taking risks, whether successful or not, fosters growth and development.

2. Fail To Succeed

There are countless instances in history of failure after failure eventually leading to a great success. Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, famously said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work”, referring to the number of attempts he required before creating a working light bulb.

Over-thinking greatly reduces opportunities to fail. By rationalizing, we often identify flaws in our plan or idea, leading us to not bothering even a single attempt. This may seem like a good evolutionary trait, but what if a failure teaches us a valuable lesson about the process, leading to improvements in the future?

Failing, and in particular, failing regularly is important to overall development. Firstly, it greatly dampens down the fear of failure and rejection, which grips many of us. How often have you heard, “I wouldn’t have won anyway”?

The point in life is not to clear every hurdle, but to stumble and fall on occasion, get up and try again with a different approach.

3. Close Some Doors

When thinking through a scenario, we often do so in a manner to keep as many doors ajar as possible. Yes, this does leave us with more options, but less opportunities.

It’s hard work keeping doors open and consequently a lot of effort is spent on this chore. Rather than focusing all energies on one approach, it is sparsely spread out, making it difficult to achieve anything of note.

Close a few doors, and concentrate your efforts on one endeavor, this is much more likely to yield favorable results.

Trust Your Gut

I’m not going to tell you to that your first instinct is always correct. Truth is, it’s not, and that’s not the point.

Learn to make the wrong decision, dust yourself off and try again.

When you go with your first instinct, it prevents you from making a decision with a muddled mindset, which wastes valuable time. Maybe the girl will say no anyway or the job goes to another candidate. Then again, it could just as easily go the other way.

So, be more wary of your thoughts and don’t over-analyze everything. Be a little rash and reckless. Make some bad calls.

Remember, taking the well worn path will get you to where everyone has been. Fighting your way through the jungle, down your own path will get you to where you want to be.

By Andrew Cammarano

Carbohydrate Cheat Sheet

This little doozy of an article will provide some quick guidelines about the often misunderstood macronutrient, carbohydrates.

What Role Do They Play In The Body?

Carbohydrates are effectively fuel for the body. In it’s simplest form, carbs become sugars which float around the bloodstream providing us with energy. With this in mind, the speed at which carbohydrates are broken down is dependent on its composition.

Are There Different Types?

Carbs can be broken down into 3 categories –

  1. Fibre-rich – Legumes, fruit and vegetables. These foods are made up of a high portion of fibre as well as being low in simple sugars, meaning absorption occurs slowly and blood sugar levels are maintained at a steady level (which is desirable). Furthermore, the fibre content coupled with the fact they are loaded with nutrients, helps to control hunger.
  2. Starchy carbs – Potatoes, oats, pasta and quinoa (apparently not pronounced kwee-no-ah). This poor guys cops the brunt of the harsh criticism around carbs. These foods are slightly lower in fibre and nutrient content when compared to their ‘fibre-rich’ brothers, though are extremely useful around a workout.
  3. Refined sugary carbs – Processed nutrition bars, sports drinks and dried fruits. These cats are packed full of simple sugars whilst being low in fibre and nutrients. Unfortunately, supermarkets are burgeoning with this type of carbohydrate, so be wary.

When Should I Eat Them?

Fibre-rich carbohydrates should form the base of your carb pyramid and can be eaten at anytime.

Starchy carbs are ideal during the 3 hour window following a workout, training or relatively heavy physical activity. Muscles are most responsive during this time and will use the macronutrient most effectively, for purposes such as glycogen replenishment.

Refined sugary carbs should be kept to a bare minimum. However, if you must get your Oreo fix, try to do so in that post-workout period.

Regardless of the type, carbohydrates should always be eaten in combination with a serving of healthy fats and protein. This helps to ensure a balanced macronutrient uptake, while also helping to prevent sharp blood sugar level spikes.

How Much Should I Eat?

Quantity of carbohydrates differs from person to person due to a number of factors. Individuals who should consume higher quantities include:

  • Those who are lean (low body fat) and have a high level of physical fitness.
  • People who perform frequent physical activity – laborious work, workout daily…
  • Those who perform intense physical activity – heavy resistance training, sprinting…

Of course, lower carbohydrates should be consumed by those who don’t fit into the above framework, i.e.:

  • Those with higher levels of body fat and lower physical fitness.
  • Individuals who work a sedentary job, such as desk work.

That’s A Wrap!

Ehrmm…

I hope this provides you with a better insight into the energy packed macronutrient. Please post in the comments below if you have any queries regarding the content. Stay tuned for other cheat sheets!

“The lack of carbohydrates can make you a little crazy”

-Tom Hardy

By Andrew Cammarano

References

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-nutrient-timing

http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/carbs.html

Supplements Under the ‘Scope – Fish Oil

Welcome readers to a new Forza series, ‘Supplements Under the ‘Scope’. These articles aim to debunk supplements which are not as great as marketers suggest, and may be potentially harmful. Also, it will uncover genuinely helpful supplements which slip under the radar. First up, Fish Oil!

The past few years have seen a dramatic increase in fish oil products, ranging from the original supplement to “Northwestern Atlantic Subcontinental Jalepeno Salmon Oil” (not really, I made that up). However, recent studies propose these products may not be as beneficial as the advertisements would have you believe. The research shows they may in fact be a little fishy!

Any who, enough with the great humour, let’s dive into this one.

Why Take Fish Oil?

The supplement companies basis for the effectiveness of fish oil is achieved via the link between the Inuit people, whose diets are high in fats, coupled with the fact they have an extremely low prevalence of heart disease.

Fish oil is said to deliver a number of benefits…

  • The oil is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which improves heart health. This is achieved partly by creating a balanced ratio with Omega-6 fatty acids, which are often high in modern day diets due to their presence in processed goods.
  • Boosts eye health and reduces the incidence of macular degeneration.
  • Reduces asthma symptoms, decreasing reliance on medication.
  • The anti-inflammatory properties aid sufferers with chronic inflammatory conditions, including Crohn’s disease.
  • Boosts immune health by prompting immune cells to be on ‘high alert’.

Before you start stockpiling “Sven’s Inuit Quadruple Strength Organic Blowfish Oil”, let me elaborate on the above. Many of the aforementioned benefits do not possess concrete research-based evidence as to Fish Oil being the defining factor, particularly long term. For example, studies have demonstrated a reduction in triglyceride levels (high levels are responsible for heart disease), though only in subjects with very high existing triglyceride levels. Would the changes be the same for the Average Joe?

What are the Dangers?

As with many supplements, problems commonly arise when the quantity is high and sustained over a long period of time. Omega-3 fatty acids have a high oxidative capacity, meaning they are easily broken down. The compounds which result from this reaction are harmful and can potentially damage vital structures like proteins and components of cells.

Many of the studies undertaken thus far do not demonstrate this unfortunate correlation as they are generally short-term. The damage caused by oxidation would only be apparent after prolonged usage.

In relation to the Inuit people, the fish oil marketers failed to take into consideration the rest of their dietary intake. The variety of whole foods they consume most likely has a buffering effect, decreasing the dangers of oxidation.

Where to from here?

As my Mamma always says, “Everything in moderation”. The main thing I have gathered from my research is to take only small quantities of fish oil if you are going to take it at all. Personally, I have stopped gulping ‘Jose’s Smelly-Ass Burpalicious Fish Oil Blend’ and will opt for a different approach to achieve a healthy fatty acid balance. This will involve:

  • Reducing intake of refined foods which are high in Omega-6, and increasing intake of foods high in Omega-3’s, like fatty fish.
  • Eating a well-rounded diet centred around whole foods, like vegetables.

Pretty basic, but basic is what often works best. Leave your thoughts and opinions below. Cod Bless!

“I never drink water because of the disgusting things that fish do in it”

-W.C. Fields

By Andrew Cammarano

References

http://chriskresser.com/when-it-comes-to-fish-oil-more-is-not-better

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-993-fish%20oil.aspx?activeingredientid=993&activeingredientname=fish%20oil

https://www.organicfacts.net/organic-animal-products/organic-fish/health-benefits-of-fish-oil.html

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/triglycerides/art-20048186

You’ve Gotta Be More Specific!

I have written about the body’s incredible ability to adapt to its environment, and this article aims to further expand on this topic.

Powerlifting, a sport to which I am relative ‘newbie’, involves lifting as much weight as you can in ‘the big three’; the squat, bench and deadlift, within certain rules and parameters. My pursuit of strength in this arena has not been progressing as I had hoped and thus I went about reflecting upon why this might be. Upon analysis, it became evident that my training had not been specific enough to achieve optimal results. As a result, I thought I would share with you the importance of specificity, among other things I learnt from my reflection.

 The Principle of Specificity

When looking to improve a particular facet of a sport, constantly repeating the movement required is the best way to achieve this. The closer the situation emulates a ‘real-game’ scenario, the better. The repetition helps to improve ‘motor patterning’, improving efficiency of the nervous system. Let’s use the example of a soccer player attempting to boost his penalty taking ability.

  • Player A, or Jimmy, practices by kicking a lemon between two palm trees with his Labradoodle as goalie. This scenario is highly unspecific, and is unlikely to have any beneficial carryover to game day. Furthermore, over a period of time, the acidic nature of the lemon will damage poor old Jimmy’s boots!
  • Player B, or Johnny, practices at training on a regulation field with a match ball, a well-skilled keeper  and a small crowd watching. This situation is far more specific and is likely to translate to a favourable outcome in a game setting.

The specificity principle can be applied to all athletic endeavours and stresses the importance of focus. Often times, many of us (myself included), try to ‘hit seven birds with one stone’ as the old saying goes. Hone in on a few areas rather than spreading your butter too thin.

Ask For Help

Males in particular, often have great difficulty asking others for help, and this is often to their detriment. Asking for help aids in filling in the gaps, or perhaps offers a different perspective. I recently asked a friend about how to program correctly for Powerlifting, and he was more than happy to share with me his insight and advice about how to go about it. As a result, my program is much more well-rounded than it would have been otherwise.

Regardless of the content of the advice you’re given, it’s important to remember that it’s your choice as to whether you follow it. Take what you need, leave what you don’t.

ask-for-help-2

Feedback

This point goes hand in hand with the last. By asking others to evaluate a program or idea of yours leads to a more complete end product. Many of us, when we go about a task, often do so with a degree of ‘tunnel vision’. By having another person cast their eyes over a concept throws a different spin on it. The more people you ask, the greater the scope.

Beware of a couple of things though…

  • Don’t be offended by the criticism, although it may seem harsh or unwarranted. Instead, look at it from their perspective and try to learn from it.
  • All feedback isn’t necessarily good feedback. As above, take what you feel to be relevant, helpful pointers and discard the rest.

In Closing

When it comes to your training program, take into consideration these points. Of course, these principles can be applied to areas outside of your personal fitness with equally beneficial effects. Take it or leave it!

“I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realise I should have been more specific”

-Lily Tomlin

By Andrew Cammarano

Are Muscle-bound Athletes More Prone to Injury?

Strength-based training has steadily played a greater role in athlete development and preparation. Nowadays, it is a staple of any training program. An athlete with a greater strength capacity will be faster, more powerful and thus more complete.

The larger emphasis on this training has correlated with a spike in injury rates. Both soft tissue injuries as well as ligament sprains are on the rise. Can this be attributed to bulkier athletes, or are there other factors that need to be considered?

Amateur to Professional

Over the years, more and more money has been pumped into the sporting world, making many athletes extremely wealthy. In fact, in 2014, the collective wealth earned by the top 100 highest paid athletes was $2.75 billion!

The influx of funds has triggered an evolution in sport, fast-forwarding them from amateur to professional competitions. This has turned sport from a hobby to a livelihood, in many cases. Changes have occurred as a result, with investors and sponsors expecting success from their team or athlete. Training regimes have intensified and fixtures have grown and become more crowded, to maximise ticket sales and profits.

As a consequence, there has been a huge increase in training and playing volume to ensure success. There is no doubt that this takes a toll on an athlete’s body, with the fatigue factor often being a big contributor to injury. The human body only has a limited capacity for stress before it breaks down. The repetitive strain occurring in most sports, coupled with stress, is a great recipe for athlete injury and breakdown.Floyd_Money_Mayweather_Victory_Party_Miami

Whatcha gonna do with all that junk

When an individual undertakes strength training, the body adapts, making muscles grow bigger and stronger. Muscles have a remarkable ability to grow, and shrink for that matter, a characteristic not shared by ligaments and to a lesser extent, tendons.

Ligaments, which attach bone to bone, provide structural stability to a joint. They grow and strengthen primarily thanks to hormones and stress. Stress is a key factor in determining what movement, such as hyperextension, the ligament is trying to prevent.

“If this is the case Andrew, wouldn’t resistance training provide a stimulus to further enhance the ability and strength of these ligaments?” Unfortunately, not Johnny. You see, ligaments have a much lower morphological or genetic ‘ceiling’. This is to say that, once you’re body has reached maturity following puberty, ligamentous structures don’t really change, unless damaged.

So now we have athletes who, thanks to a greater amount of muscle mass, are able to produce greater force and speed. As a result, they are placing a higher degree of strain on their ligaments, making an injury more likely should they be a fraction off.

Furthermore, the likelihood of injury is far greater should the athlete’s strengthening program lack balance. In football for instance, a discrepancy in the strength of the muscles of the thigh often contributes to hamstring injuries, with the muscles at the front (quadriceps) being too powerful for those at the back (hamstrings). Should a program not address this, or worse still, exaggerate the issue, hamstrings be poppin’!

AFL Rd 3 - Saints v Magpies

Wrap it up

Let’s keep this all in perspective. A moderate amount of strength-based training, should it be well-balanced, is going to have positive effect on athletic performance. However, should it consume too much of the athlete’s potential training hours, as well as be poorly programmed, then it is likely to increase the chance of injury.

Also, we must consider the type of sport. Linear sports, which involve grooving the same movement over and over, such as weight lifting, see huge benefits with weight training. We perhaps need to be more careful with field sports, such as football, due to the dynamic nature of the game. It has a much greater fatigue factor, while the changes of direction required place more stress upon ligaments, compared to movements which occur in a straight line. These athletes need to place a greater emphasis on the unique skills, like pivoting or stepping, required to excel in their given sport.

“The more injuries you get, the smarter you get”

-Mikhail Baryshnikov

By Andrew Cammarano

References

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2594590

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2014/06/11/the-worlds-highest-paid-athletes-2014-behind-the-numbers/

Your Posture Sucks – Volume 2

This article carries on from the last and aims to arm you with tools to fight the evils of bad posture. If you missed the first part to the series, catch it here.

Before we move on from the hips, below are a few other variations worth trying…

piriformis_stretch

 

The above stretch works to target the deep gluteals and is a progression of the sitting stretch shown in Volume 1. Using the image as an example, the stretch should be felt in the buttocks region on the left hand side. Play around with the position a little to make sure your optimising the exercise. It is sometimes worthwhile propping your foot against the wall if your arms are giving out from holding your leg in position.

The stretch below, on the other hand, aims to target the outer part of the buttock region. It’s important to use these variations due to the many different muscle fibre directions.

ee645a0537bd2adc_glute_stretch_twist.preview

The lower back cops an absolute hammering thanks to sitting. Its worth remembering that the human body thrives on movement and by keeping the lower back in a static position for many hours compromises its function and health. The movement below incorporates rotation through this region. It should be performed in a controlled manner at a reasonable pace, i.e. not too fast or slow. Carry out for 30-60s. Although very simple, this drill is nothing to be sneezed at. Rotation of the spine helps to regain lost range in the other planes of movement, like extension.LumbarThe next stretch works to lengthen the belt-like lower back muscle which often becomes overloaded in sitting. The stretch should be felt predominantly on the left, using the image as an example. Variations of this stretch include; keeping the bottom leg straight, as well as hanging the top leg off a bed, if you are particularly flexible.

QL

 

That’s it folks for another edition of ‘Your Posture Sucks’. Work these bad boys into your daily routine until they become second nature. If you have an questions or suggestion, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments section below!

“A woman tells her doctor, ‘I’ve got a bad back.’ The doctor says, ‘It’s old age.’ The woman says, ‘I want a second opinion.’ The doctor says: ‘Okay – you’re ugly as well.'”

-Tommy Cooper

By Andrew Cammarano

Allergy Overload

“I’m allergic to water”

It seems the prevalence of allergies grows daily, including some genuinely bizarre cases. Aquagenic urticaria is in fact a legitimate allergy in response to water, resulting in a painful skin reaction.

What is fuelling this allergy growth, and is there anything we can do to quell it?

There are different schools of thought when it comes to this topic. Firstly, there is what is known as the ‘Hygiene Hypothesis’.

This theory is centred on the belief that the highly sterile environment of developed nations impacts the normal development of the body’s immune system. The excessive cleanliness is said to greatly reduce the variety of bacteria and germs which we are exposed to. This lack of exposure means the body has difficulty responding to a given stimulus should it be confronted with it in the future.five-second-rule

This holds true when comparing statistics from developing nations to developed, with much higher allergy rates in the latter. However…

Another belief is that an increased awareness and ability to recognise allergies is responsible for the spike. Medicinal advancements in allergy diagnosis may have contributed to the statistical rise in people with allergies. Furthermore, with the media always searching for ‘shocking’ headlines, the greater coverage of these hypersensitivity disorders has resulted in it being thrust into the public eye to ensure good ratings.

With media outlets having a more prominent role in developed nations, this could account for the discrepancy between developed and developing countries.

The impact of global warming has been bandied around as another contributor. The warmer temperatures are leading to increased pollen levels as well as longer allergy seasons due to the generally milder winters.

So is there a solution?

Unfortunately, this case is unresolved.

It appears that exposure at an early age to allergy-causing substances plays a big role. The immune system is confronted with a potential allergy, it recognises it is not dangerous and thus the body does not develop a hypersensitivity. This means, don’t be overly protective or concerned when Little Jimmy is playing in the mud and munching on a few snails. At the same time, feeding him raw chicken probably isn’t the way to go either!

Another important consideration is consulting an expert. They often will provide you with the best pathway to diagnosing if you do in fact have an allergy, and consequently managing it.

“I used to wake up at 4 A.M. and start sneezing, sometimes for five hours. I tried to find out what sort of allergy I had but finally came to the conclusion that it must be an allergy to consciousness.”

-James Thurber

By Andrew Cammarano

 

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquagenic_urticaria

http://fooddrugallergy.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=40

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db121.htm

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140306130050.htm

Your Posture Sucks – Volume 1

This series of posts goes out to the desk jockey’s out there. We’ve touched on the dangers of sitting in Sitting Ducks. This write-up aims to give you a few strategies to combat the inevitable aches and pains which arise from too much time spent on your rump!

The human body is remarkable in its ability to adapt to change. When provided with an adequate stimulus, the body responds to reduce the impact, should it be confronted with the same stimulus in the future.

Unfortunately, the body is unaware of whether a stimulus is good or bad. The posture of sitting isn’t inherently bad, though when done so for hours, it has a negative effect. Then, take into consideration the deterioration of posture which occurs as fatigue sets in…

You begin by slumping through your lower back, then your shoulders slouch forward and finally you poke your chin out.

Effectively what your body does from this point is it attempts to make you more efficient in this poor posture. Your hips tighten-making it easier to slouch through your lower back, your pecs shorten-drawing your shoulders forward, and so on…

Though, by making a concerted effort to consistently move out of these postures, these pesky issues can be repelled.

Before moving on to the specifics, let’s talk about the parameters. As I’ve already alluded to, the key when it comes to correcting posture-related problems is a consistent approach. So…

  • Every 30 minutes when you’re taking a break from sitting, select two exercises from this series and carry out 2 sets of each.
  • As Will mentioned in a previous post, a 30 second hold is the gold standard for a stretch. Ensure you’re experiencing mild discomfort through the targeted area.
  • In the evening, dedicate at least 10 minutes to performing these. This is the bare minimum you should be doing to combat a days worth of sloppy postures. Now, don’t try to do all the mobility exercises known under the sun, prioritise based on how your feeling and what feels tight.

Let’s start with the hips…

When carrying out this drill, you should feel the stretch at the front of the hip. Squeeze the glutes tight and avoid arching through the lower back. The first part of the video demonstrates the movement.

Once your confident and have mastered this movement, you may find you no longer experience a stretch through the front of your hips. Watch from about 2.45 in the video for the progression, it looks like this…

Hip Flexor Advanced

This stretch should be felt slightly higher up through the abdominal and oblique region.

The next stretch targets your gluteal muscles. No excuses for this one Jimmy as it can be done in sitting!

Gluteal Stretch Sitting

Apply some gentle pressure through the elevated knee in order to maximize this stretch.

That’s it for the first volume. Begin incorporating these movement regularly and see if you notice a change in the way you move and feel.

 

“Don’t keep reaching for the stars because you’ll just look like an idiot stretching that way for no reason.”

-Jimmy Fallon

 

By Andrew Cammarano

Simple Healthy Eating Strategies

Food and dieting trends are rampant in today’s society. To make matters worse, they are over publicised by a ratings-hungry media (Pardon the pun!). Despite this, and the growing availability of fast food, eating a healthy diet is still easily manageable. Check out the tips below:

  • Plan and prepare ahead

We’ve all been there. You stumble through the door after dark following a long day and haven’t eaten for hours. You heave your work or school bag on the couch and make a bee-line for the pantry. Cookies, Wagon Wheels and corn chips are quickly dispatched. Before you know it, you awake from your food coma two hours later and find yourself watching another re-run of ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’.

A simple alternative to this scenario is to heat up a healthy, well-balanced meal which you prepared earlier. For example, set aside one or two times during the week where you cook in bulk – grill a bunch of chicken, bake a tray of potatoes etc. From here, divide relatively equal portions of the meal components into a tupperware container.

“But Andrew, I like variety!”. Quit whining little Jimmy! I hate to break it to you, but the truth is everybody has their ‘go to’ staple meals which they eat week in week out, so preparing meals in advance is merely saving you time. Furthermore, during the preparation phase, simply cook a more varied source of foods for the coming days if you have an extremely refined palate.

  • Eat protein

As we’ve discussed in a previous blog, eating a reasonable amount of protein won’t immediately make you ‘bulk up’. Protein is largely responsible for that feeling of fullness following a meal. This satiety will prevent you from snacking 8 minutes after finishing your dinner.

Simply add a portion of protein to each meal you eat. For example, some tuna to a salad or beef to a stir-fry.Healthy eating

  • Remove temptation

This one takes a little will power at the supermarket. Skip the ice cream fridge. Give the chocolate aisle a miss. When you don’t have those delicious, high-calorie snacks readily available, you simply can’t eat them!

Don’t try to fool yourself with, “I better get this 48 pack of Pumpkin Pie Pop-Tarts in case I have guests”. Firstly, the Pumpkin Pie flavour was limited edition. Secondly, what’s wrong with providing a healthy snack for your guests like fruit or vegetable sticks and dip?

  • Have a back-up

Now this is  a last resort, and shouldn’t be relied upon. Keep a limited supply of pre-packaged meals in your fridge or freezer. Although I haven’t personally tried the product, Zuji Nutrition (http://www.zujinutrition.com.au/) looks quite promising. They, and similar product lines, offer a well-balanced meal including a nutrient breakdown.

Before purchasing this type of meal, ensure you’ve done your research and the ingredients are genuine.

So there you have it faithful followers, a few simple tips to keep your nutrition in check. I would encourage anyone who has any strategies of their own to post them in the comments section below!

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are”

-Brillat-Savarin

By Andrew Cammarano

Why Women Should Lift Weights

“I don’t do weights, I don’t want to get bulky”

Before Betty persuades you to get on the cross-trainer for another hour, hear a brother out!

The lingering myth of weights causing females to ‘bulk up’ has long held back the progress of many women aiming to achieve their fitness and physique-related goals. As has been disproven by many experts, the chunky female athlete is not the consequence of picking up and putting down a few dumbbells.

It is often the female bodybuilder, whose muscular and lean frame, dissuades many women from heaving around a bit of iron. These athletes take supplements, like testosterone boosters, to change their hormonal make-up to mirror that of a male. This greatly increases their capacity to add muscle and meatiness to their frame.

The non-enhanced female possesses genetics which are vastly different when compared to that of a male. As a consequence, regardless of their training program and diet, a woman is physically unable to develop the same level of muscularity.

wallpaper CL

Here are some reasons to pick up that barbell…

  • Improved ability to burn fat –  Weight training sessions burn more calories than cardio-based sessions, plus they’re not as boring! Furthermore, over time, the added muscle places a higher metabolic stress on the body. This means, muscle requires much more energy to maintain, so even at rest you will be churning through a greater number of calories.
  • Improved bone health – The loading which resistance training places on the body stimulates bone growth. This is particularly important in women as they age. The reduction in oestrogen (a hormone which protects bone density) due to menopause, means that females lose bone mass with age. However, consistent weight training not only builds up these ‘bone stores’, but it also greatly decreases the reduction in density, as the load stimulates the bone creating cells. Improved bone density lessens the chances of developing osteoporosis as well as fractures in one’s twilight years.
  • Improved muscle health – As with bone, muscle is also lost in the aging process. In the elderly population, it has been shown that getting out of a chair is a great indicator of an individual’s ability to maintain their independence in coming years. By building up lean mass stores as well as strength, autonomy will be maintained. Similarly, continued stimulation of muscles via resistance training will lessen the steady decline in muscle.
  • Increased strength – Weight training provides a stimulus which causes the body to adapt, resulting in increases in strength, power and endurance. This means improved athletic and sporting performance.
  • Improved tone – Weight training increases resting muscular tone thanks to changes in neural drive. This will rid you of those dreaded ‘tuckshop arms’!

Resistance training is also believed to benefit; confidence, sleep, prevention of chronic conditions and injury as well as mobility and balance.

So get off that boring-ass treadmill and incorporate regular weight-based training into your day-to-day life!

“Lifting weights makes women huge? False. Cupcakes make women huge”

-Anonymous

By Andrew Cammarano

Stay True

Recently I’ve found myself in a rut. Not enjoying work, not enjoying training, not enjoying life.

I was constantly looking for the working day to end and to the conclusion of my training session. I had nowhere to go, but I knew I didn’t want to be at work or in the gym.

The funny thing is, I had chosen to do these things – no one was holding a gun to my head.

I began to back track, and it dawned on me that the initial reason I had selected my current profession and hobby was because of; the happiness, the challenge, wanting to excel and better myself. So, what had changed?

External pressures and the goals I had set myself were imprisoning me. I was no longer putting the effort and quality into my work as I was too busy waiting for the end game and the accolades. In the gym, my focus had shifted from mastering lifts and slowly adding weight to the bar, to clouded thoughts regarding pending competitions and the fact I believed I wasn’t up to scratch or would embarrass myself.

At work, the words revenue, retention and profits had replaced optimal client wellbeing. My thought process had become muddled and the way I functioned was almost robotic and emotionless.

As I write this, I am beginning to climb out of the hazy woods of oppression and constraint (internal and external). I understand that it is difficult and demanding, though it is also enjoyable.

Ryan Doris’ recent video helped me to understand that we can’t allow the pressures of society dictate our lives. Forget them, work on the process and view you goals as a guide rather than a burden.

Do you.

“I’ve never looked at myself and said that I need to be a certain way to be around a certain sort of people. I’ve always wanted to stay true to myself, and I’ve managed to do that. People have to accept that.”

-Jay Z

By Andrew Cammarano

Strengthening The Neck’s Core

Neck pain is becoming more and more prevalent, particularly in those who are involved in daily sedentary tasks. It has become so widespread that approximately 70% of individuals will experience neck pain within some point in their lifetime.

When speaking about strengthening our body’s “core”, people immediately picture copious amounts of abdominal training to help with strengthening the low back. However the neck’s equivalent to this; involves a duo of muscles known as Longus Capitis and Longus Colli, which when functioning together, form the “deep neck flexors” (DNFs) within the neck.

DNF

 

When functioning correctly, they act in similar fashion to the “core” muscles in the back, in that they stabilise the cervical spine (neck) in various positions especially against the effects of gravity. Research has also shown that activation of this pair helps to slightly flatten the cervical curve which opens up the posterior aspect of the cervical facet joints.

A key article in the developmental concepts of deep neck flexors; examined the activity of the neck’s “core” and other associated muscles in participants with and without neck pain. The article by Jull and associates (2002), found that participants who complained of chronic neck pain or had whiplash associated pain, demonstrated higher Sternocleidomastoid muscle activity and reduced strength, endurance and activation of the DNFs.  The link between the dysfunctional DNFs and cervical pain is a resultant of the forward head position which is accentuated. This allows for areas in the neck including the joints, discs, muscles or ligaments to become overloaded and cause pain.

Beiber


Knowing that dysfunctional activation, strength and endurance of the deep neck flexors leads to an increased risk of cervical or neck disorders, strengthening is vital either in the form of treatment or prevention.

Exercise 1:

Lying on your back with a towel rolled under your head/neck. Gently draw your chin towards the floor, performing a slight nod of your head. Avoid lifting your head off the ground.

  • Hold for 10s
  • Repeat 10 – 15 times
  • Twice Daily

Exercise 2:

A progression of Exercise 1, gently tuck your chin towards your floor and whilst holding the position, rotate your neck from left to right

  • Rotate 10 times per side with hold
  • Twice Daily

Exercise 3:

Progressing to a functional position similar to when pain occurs

  • Sitting for office workers
  • All 4s/Bent over for cyclists or weight lifters

Gentle draw your chin towards your adams apple, whilst keeping your neck straight.

  • Hold for 10s
  • Repeat 10 – 15 times
  • Twice Daily

*Progressions of this can incorporate upper limb or lower limb movements or low grade strengthening around other postural muscles including the shoulder retractors (single arm rows/shoulder blade squeezes), whilst holding the ideal neck position.

Neckrotn4pt

 

       

Strengthening of these muscles has shown to improve their function and assist in reducing neck pain and the incidences of future neck dysfunctions. However, strengthening of the deep neck flexors are not only limited to sedentary workers who suffer from neck pain, but they are also highly useful as a preventative exercise for athletes, particularly those performing in sustained positions, such as cyclists.

 

Cycling

 

 

By William Chin

Is Altitude Training All Hype?

Altitude training seems to be all the rage in professional sports due to the resulting boost in athletic performance. Top sides from different leagues around the world go to great lengths to gain the benefits, including sending squads to altitude camps in a foreign country or even investing in an altitude simulation room. Though, is the financial strain worth all of the fuss?

So, what is altitude training?

Designed for endurance-based athletes, the protocol requires the individual to train at a high altitude where there is reduced oxygen availability. Over time, the body adapts to this environment in order to become more efficient. Changes to the body include:

  • An increase in red blood cell volume – Because oxygen saturation is less at higher altitudes, the body responds by upping red blood cell production. More of these cells means an improved ability to transport oxygen as the oxygen is afforded a greater chance at binding with the larger volume of haemoglobin. Upon returning to a lower altitude, the athlete’s body is now far better equipped at extracting oxygen, improving their aerobic capacity and therefore endurance. Erythropoietin or EPO, as it is more commonly known, is the hormone responsible for stimulating red blood cell production and has become infamous in recent times due to its link with doping in sports, like cycling, for instance.
  • Increases the efficiency of the muscles ability to use oxygen – Multiplying the number of blood vessels which supply a given area for example.
  • Improves metabolic efficiency.

“Sign me up!” I hear you shout. Not so fast Jimmy, allow me to finish!

First off, the research behind this training method is mixed. While some studies have demonstrated significant changes, like a 9% increase in endurance and power, others have shown no improvements. With so much variability, like training type, duration and necessary altitude, it is difficult to pinpoint what environment is optimal. Also, the vast majority of investigations undertaken thus far have been carried out on genuine endurance athletes, like distance runners, while no studies have focussed on the likes of footballers.

Furthermore, the adaptations which occur while at altitude are short-lived, perhaps lasting a few weeks at best. Upon returning to normal conditions, the body no longer requires the altitude-specific adjustments.

Wrapping things up now, in terms of players from team sports utilising this technique, I feel it is completely unwarranted and essentially money down the drain. However, for an endurance athlete looking to compete within a couple of weeks following this training, I believe it has its place. Even a small improvement in performance can mean the difference between placing in the medals or simply making up the numbers.

“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”

Zig Ziglar

By Andrew Cammarano

 

Compression Clothing: Performance enhancing?

Following on from part I “Compression Clothing: Recovery for the Athletic Hangover” we know that performance-induced fatigue can be heavily controlled through the use of compression clothing. This is done by optimizing recovery through:

  1. Decreasing resting fatigue rates
  2. Reducing muscle soreness
  3. Lowering ultrasound measures of muscle swelling
  4. Lowering concentrations of creatine kinase (enzyme marker for muscle damage)

These factors can most definitely accelerate recovery which would improve subsequent physical performance; however does compression gear itself provide immediate improvements in physical attributes during activity?


Popular compression clothing brand “SKINS” claims that their gradient compression technology is engineered to “enhance circulation and gets more vital oxygen to your active muscles – boosting your power, speed and stamina”.

Similarly “2XU” compression clothing reports that it can also help with muscle containment and help with reducing muscle vibrations during exercise. These factors minimize damage and overall fatigue, whilst applying pressure to the skin surface to improve sensory awareness. These “technologies” assist in enhancing physical output and improves “posture, agility, mobility and stability”.

690A0222_small_courtesy-Skins

A literary review [1], which examined 31 different peer review articles where each involved studies on any kind of compression clothing in relation to strength, power and endurance found that compression clothing had either a small positive or no effect in performance whilst exercising.

When wearing compression clothing, positive results were found in 5 studies which demonstrated improvements in single and repeated sprinting abilities (10-60m) as well as 4 studies which showed improvements in vertical jumping abilities. The suggested reasons for their improvements with compression clothing include:

  • Improved warm up via increased skin temperature
  • Reduced muscle oscillation upon ground contact
  • Increased torque generated around the hip joint

Studies that investigated strength, power, balance and stability when wearing compression clothing, showed minimal to nil improvements when compared to individuals who were without compression garments.

Unlike compression clothing’s effects on an athlete’s recovery, their effects on player performance are still questionable. With some evidence suggesting that compression clothing can improve warm ups via increased skin temperature and assist in stability of muscle oscillations during contraction, compression clothing may then have a role in injury prevention.

However there is still a substantial amount of evidence that suggests that compression clothing do more for looks then they do for athletic performance. However it is still vital to bear in mind that an athlete’s psychological and mental state can largely influence their performance. So if you or your athletes find that compression-clothing works, don’t throw it out just yet!

By William Chin


[1] Born D B, Sperlich B, Holmberg HC (2013) Bringing Light Into the Dark effects of Compression Clothing on Performance and Recovery. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 8: 4-18

 

 

 

 

 

Does Adversity Breed Success?

What does it take to be great?

Often times, whether it be in sports, academia or any other field for that matter, stories arise of talented individuals who don’t quite reach their potential. Commonly, they arise from wealthy families who provide an excellent foundation from which to launch a successful career. Though, for one reason or another, they seem to fall short.

Why isn’t there more success in the world?

Perhaps there is a formula in life, a sequence of events at a particular time and place, which help to groom prosperity.

Firstly, the individual must be confronted with adversity. For instance, extreme financial hardship as a child. Misfortune often teaches valuable lessons, such as keeping everything in perspective. Obstacles force people to find ways around them, instilling a strong work ethic and street smarts.

Another part of the equation is the environment. Potential to progress must exist. To expand on this, a young Sudanese man will have a minute chance to succeed in life. Sudan’s way of life is too harsh, the government is rife with corruption and it is hard enough to sustain the fundamentals required to live. Finally, there is very little in the way of advancement. Compare this to a young man faced with hardships in America. This country offers an environment whereby success can be achieved through bettering ones education and working to earn an income to ‘build a base’. Also, the basic necessities are relatively easy to access, like food and healthcare.

Finally, the support group surrounding the individual has a huge role in his or her overall development. Many talented people have reached reasonable levels of success before ‘falling in with the wrong crowd’. The group must stimulate and encourage growth. Honesty and keeping the person grounded are also paramount. Often times, this is why multiple instances of success and affluence can be found within the same family or social circle.

Embrace adversity, work hard and surround yourself with good people.

“That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”

-Friedrich Nietzsche

By Andrew Cammarano

Binge Eating – Part II

In Binge Eating – Part I we discussed some of the symptoms and reasons behind this issue. In today’s post, we’ll discuss strategies designed to quell this habit.

Exercise

By carrying out some form of exercise, whether it be going for a run or training at the gym, the result is the same – the release of ‘feel good’ hormones like endorphins. This fulfils the same chemical rush achieved when bingeing. Furthermore, physical activity alters our mood. So, if you are feeling anxious or depressed, a burst of exercise is likely to improve the way you feel. Pick an actvity you enjoy. Even a brisk walk will afford you the same hormonal benefits.

Distractions

Binge eating habits can sometimes stem from boredom. By using distractions and keeping yourself busy, such as reading a book or watching a favourite movie, it can often fill the void. Better yet, every time you experience the urge to overeat, think of it as an opportunity to develop an area of your life. For example, starting a new hobby or learning a new language. Over time, instead of wanting to indulge in food, you can progress this area of interest.

 

Identify the trigger

This is a more difficult one which will not necessarily help in the short term, but certainly over time. For example, you may find that after a fight with your partner or a family member, it brings on the urge to binge. Once this pattern is clear, you can come up with strategies to negate this particular trigger. For example, resolving the argument rather than allowing it to linger.

Make a habit of it

Print off a calendar and check off every day you fulfil a healthy day of nutrition, without a binge. This will serve as self-motivation, and with each day it will become easier to achieve. This is a great tool to make yourself accountable.

Blood test/nutritional assessment

This is often a good option if you find yourself craving and overeating the same type of food, such as potato chips, as mentioned in Part I of this post. A blood test can determine vitamin or nutrient deficiencies. As a consequence, small alterations to the foods you eat can nip this problem in the bud. Similarly, a dietician will be able to detect any glaring imbalances based on what you consume on an average day, while providing you with ways to achieve equilibrium.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of strategies. I’m sure many readers out there have developed ways to prevent themselves from overeating, it would be great if you could share ideas in the comments section below. If you believe the problem is beyond you, by all means seek professional help.

Remember, food is to be enjoyed.

 “You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six”

-Yogi Berra

By Andrew Cammarano

Binge Eating – Part I

Modern society is riddled with problems ironically caused by the rapid advancement in many different fields, like technology, for instance. The increased incidence of eating disorders is one such example.

Although many are aware of the high portion of overweight and obese people in the Western world, what is equally worrying are the ‘invisible’ eating conditions which are not as obvious as the 250 pound 10 year old chowing down a bucket of fried chicken.

Bulimia, Body Dysmorphia and Binge Eating are cases of this. Paradoxically, it is incredibly common for these disorders to arise in the pursuit of a better body. Many aspiring physique athletes – such as bodybuilders – suffer from Body Dysmorphia.

Essentially this is where, despite significant muscular gains, the individual continues to believe they are small and inadequate. As a result, the person goes to extreme lengths to achieve an unrealistic and perhaps unattainable level of muscularity, potentially leading to performance enhancing drugs.

Binge eating is another beast in itself. It is not uncommon for people to have issues with this disorder either during or immediately following a diet.

Key trademarks of ‘Bingeing’ include:
• Strong urges and cravings for food – predominantly high in sugars and fats
• Consumption of large quantities of food in a short period of time often leading to gastrointestinal discomfort
• A high level of guilt and regret following the binge
• Feelings of anxiety following the binge due to the fear it will ruin their physique
• And finally, a period of time following the binge where the person consumes extremely low calories in an attempt to compensate for their overeating

I’m sure many people can relate to the above symptoms and believe me, there are many people afflicted with varying degrees of this condition, so don’t feel as though you’re alone. Before I discuss some strategies which you, or a close family member or friend, can adopt to help overcome binge eating, I feel a brief explanation of the potential causes is necessary, as an improved understanding will help with acceptance, as well as adherence to management techniques…

  • Bingeing is often used to numb negative emotions. Whether it be anxiety or depression for example, bingeing attempts to fill a void, though in reality creates a vicious cycle.

  • Another reason is due to the biochemical rush it achieves, similar to the effect of certain drugs. Dopamine and serotonin, both of which are ‘feel good’ hormones, are unleashed during a binge. As a result, the binger gains this reward of feeling great post-feast, increasing the likelihood of bingeing in the future.
  • Also, a micronutrient imbalance or deficiency may be the root cause of the problem. Ever wonder why you always crave that bag of salt and vinegar chips? Perhaps a lack of sodium in your diet is the causal factor. Sodium chloride, or salt, is often pigeon-holed as a ‘bad’ mineral due to its affiliation with heart disease, to the extent where it is basically eliminated from diets (though that’s another topic entirely!).

I hope this sheds some light on some of the ‘closet’ eating disorders. Stay tuned for part II which includes strategies to address binge eating.

“One can be the master of what one does, but never of what one feels”

-Gustave Flaubert

 

By Andrew Cammarano

 

References

The Shoulder: Stability vs. Mobility

This is a guest post from Samuel Christian. Sam graduated from Curtin University with a Bachelor of Science (Physiotherapy) degree with Distinction, and is currently working full time as a mobile physiotherapist providing in-home services to those who are unable to attend a clinic. He treats a variety of conditions ranging from neck and back pain, rehabilitation following surgery, and assisting the elderly in maintaining or improving their balance, mobility and function. His sporting interests include basketball and mixed martial arts (UFC), and he is a die-hard Dallas Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki fan.

Let us talk a little bit about one of the most complex joints in the human body – the shoulder!

The shoulder girdle consists of a number of joints that work together in synergy. These are the:

  • Acromio-Clavicular (AC) joint
  • Sterno-Clavicular (SC) joint
  • Scapulo-Thoracic joint (where your shoulder blade attaches to the rib cage)
  • Glenohumeral joint (what most people refer to as the actual “shoulder joint”)

Therefore, it is important that we consider all these different joints when we are talking about, or treating the shoulder.

Today will be an introduction to the anatomy of the glenohumeral joint – the articulation between the humerus and the scapula (shoulder blade).

If you think about the normal activities you carry out each day – such as putting on a shirt, brushing your hair or reaching up to grab something from the cupboard – you will notice that they require a fair amount of mobility in your shoulder.

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in our body and allows movement in almost every single direction. Unfortunately, like with most things in life, we can’t always have the best of everything! In this case, the stability of the shoulder is sacrificed to provide a greater mobility and this is why it is the most commonly dislocated joint in the body!

But WHY is the shoulder unstable you ask? Let’s have a look…

Our joints get their stability from a number of different factors. One of them is the congruency or the “fit” of the combining surfaces. Take a look at the hip for example; it is a ball-and-socket joint just like the shoulder. The acetabulum of the pelvis (socket) wraps nicely around the head of the femur (ball) and provides a tight “fit”. This makes the hip a stable joint but in turn reduces its mobility – unless you are a gymnast or dancer which means this doesn’t apply to you!

Now let’s take a look at the shoulder… The glenoid fossa (or cavity) of the scapula is like a small and shallow socket, and provides little support for the relatively large head of humerus – some people compare this to a golf ball sitting on top of a tee. This difference in size means that the combining surfaces do not “fit” well, making the shoulder a relatively unstable joint. However, this is what gives the shoulder its mobility! With that being said, there are other structures around the shoulder that help to make it a little bit more stable.

A piece of cartilage called the glenoid labrum lies around the margin of the glenoid fossa, making the socket slightly deeper and providing a better “fit” for the head of humerus – increasing the joint’s stability. Fun fact – the depth of the socket is greatest at the top and bottom of the glenoid fossa and most shallow at the front and back, which is why we see more shoulders dislocate in a forward or backward direction!

Secondly, the capsule that surrounds the glenohumeral joint is reinforced by ligaments at the front, which are connective tissue that attach bone together with bone and limit excessive movement of a joint. These ligaments get tight when you move your arm in certain directions, such as when you try to throw a ball from behind your head. The tightening of these ligaments protects your shoulder from “popping out” by compressing the head of humerus into the glenoid fossa and restricting excessive movement, further stabilising the joint.

Last but not least, a group of four small muscles famously known as the rotator cuff provide added stability to our shoulders. In brief summary, their job is to keep the position of the head of humerus within the glenoid fossa during movements of the arm. The rotator cuff will be discussed in more detail in a later post about the shoulder!

Tune in next time – same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!

By Samuel Christian

 

References

  • Brukner P, Khan K (2009) Clinical Sports Medicine (revised 3rd edn). NSW: McGraw-Hill Australia
  • Kalogrianitis S, McBride T (2011) Dislocations of the shoulder joint. Trauma 14: 47-56
  • Norris CM (2011) The Shoulder. In Norris CM (Ed) Managing Sports Injuries. Churchill Livingstone, pp. 334-374

Compression Clothing: Recovery For The “Athletic Hangover”

Compression clothing has become a key weapon in many athletes’ arsenal. Popularity of these skin-tight garments has dramatically increased during the recent years, not only because of their style, but also because of their accumulating evidence regarding their possible performance and recovery benefits.  Part I of this post will look at their effects on recovery post performance, whilst Part II will examine their claim of improving physical abilities and athletic performance.

Performance-induced fatigue is highly common in all levels of athletes.  More common than not many athletes will experience one or more of the following:

  1. Muscle soreness
  2. Muscle weakness
  3. Fatigue

These attributes lead to feelings of exhaustion and reduce an athlete’s ability to continue training or performing at a maximal state, and increase the risk of injury from overtraining. This means a period of “recovery” is often required to allow the athlete to rest, in order to meet or exceed performance in subsequent attempts. [1]

Exhausted

Several physiological attributes can determine an athlete’s progression of recovery[2]:

  1. Normalisation of physiological functions (eg blood pressure/heart rate)
  2. Return to homeostasis (normal cell environment)
  3. Recovery of energy stores (blood glucose and glycogen)
  4. Restoration of cellular enzymes

One of the major benefits of using compression garments is to accelerate recovery following exercise. These effects are mainly attributed to enhancing peripheral blood flow in an attempt to restore physiological conditions as stated above.

A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning 2010[3] looked at the effects of 24 hour whole body compression vs regular clothing following heavy resistance training. They found that with compression clothing, recovery was optimized by:

  1. Decreased resting fatigue rates
  2. Reduced muscle soreness
  3. Lowered ultrasound measure of muscle swelling
  4. Lowered concentrations of creatine kinase (enzyme marker for muscle damage)

NB: However in the same study, they also tested parameters for physical performance, which showed no significant differences when comparing compression clothing with regular.

Also, 2 different studies[4][5] looked at the rate of glucose uptake and blood lactate removal during recovery with compression clothing. Both studies found no difference in the rate of glucose uptake nor in the removal of lactate.  However both studies did find that the participants “perceived level of soreness” had reduced greater when wearing compression garments when compared to regular clothing.

Whether it is a physical or psychological change when wearing compression clothing, one can argue its relevant use in athletic recovery. When trying to minimize the “athletic hangover”, it’s good to know that compression clothing can alter objective measures (eg. how swollen/damaged you muscles are) and not just subjective factors such as how sore you feel. With more and more research it does seem solid that compression clothing can benefit recovery following performance-induced fatigue.

By William Chin


[1] Bishop P A, Jones E, Woods A K (2008) Recovery from training: a brief review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 22(3):1015-1024

[2] Jeffreys I (2005) A multidimensional approach to enhancing recovery. Strength      and Conditioning Journal. 27(5): 78-85

[3] Kraemer W J, Flanagan S D, Cornstock B A, Fragala M S, Earp J E, Dunn-Lewis C, Ho J Y, Thomas G A, Solomon-Hill G, Penwell Z R, Powell M D, Wolf M R, Volek J S, Denegar C R, Maresh C M (2010) Effects of a whole body compression garment on markers of recovery after a heavy resistance workout in men and women. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 24(3): 804-814

[4] Sperlich B, Born D P, Kashkinoro K, Kalliokoski K K, Laaksonen M S (2013) Squeezing the Muscle: Compression Clothing and Muscle Metabolism during Recovery from High Intensity Exercise.

[5] Sperlich B, Maegele M, Kruger M, Schiffer T, Holmberg H C, Mester J (2011) Cardio-respiratory and metabolic responses to different levels of compression during submaximal exercise. Phlebology 26: 102-106

THE EVIDENCE BEHIND ICE – PART II

This is the second part  of ‘The Evidence Behind Ice’ post from guest blogger Craig Donovan. Craig studied physiotherapy at Curtin University and is currently working in a rural hospital setting. He has a strong interest in research, particularly in the areas of pain and neurology. After recently completing a project looking into the association between the brain and pain, he is a strong believer in the importance of the brain in pain control. If you missed out on the first post, check it out here: The Evidence Behind Ice – Part I.

After many years of complying with the RICE principal it has become so heavily ingrained into our brains that, when injured, we reach for the closest bag of peas and rest for a few days. This is something that is controversial, but has to stop.

Research has shown there is very little evidence that, ice plus compression vs compression alone, speeds up the healing process. There is strong evidence for the use of compression to assist in decreasing secondary swelling. Ice still plays a role in acute injuries, but only to aid in decreasing the pain by numbing the area. Therefore it is best used sparsely and for no more than 10 minutes at a time. But be aware: if you intend to continue playing sport after icing, ensure that a thorough warm up is completed as ice has been shown to reduce endurance, speed, coordination and strength of muscles.

The most recent evidence points towards elevation as being the key component in promoting early recovery. This is because the inflammatory cells have reached the target tissue but require aid in terms of drainage from the area, preventing secondary cell death (something ice does not).

Another key component that I suggest in the early stages of recovery is gentle movement (within pain limits), as this assists to both bring fresh blood into the area and also facilitate drainage through the muscular pump system. Just think about how much swelling there is following surgeries such as knee and hip replacements…. the surgeons orders are always for early mobilisation, as immobilisation leads to further complications.

If the injury is severely painful and there is an inability to move or weight bear through the injured area, then stop whatever activity you are doing. If in doubt, always consult a medical professional for further opinion, especially to rule out broken or fractured bones which, if  undiagnosed, can lead to lengthy recoveries. Physiotherapists are great at designing exercise programs to target the affected area and assist in a quicker return to sport.

So in summary, let the body do what it has been designed to do and heal itself, avoid both ice and anti-inflammatories. The body allows us to perceive pain for a reason – to make us aware that an area is injured and needs healing. The initial management is just as important (if not more) than the rehab later down the track. Aim to return to function as early as possible without pain.

Please share your thoughts or questions below.

By Craig Donovan

 

References:
http://www.chiro.org/LINKS/FULL/Immobilization_or_Early_Mobilization.pdf
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3396304/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC522152/

Rules To Static Stretching?

Following on from Andrew’s post “Is Stretching For Fools?” we can conclude that stretching is near ineffective when used as a spray and pray tool to target chronic tightness but rather:

  • Determining certain movements and postures which lead to suboptimal loading (increase tightening)
  • Correcting deficient movements and postures using different forms of analysis

Are some of the most effective ways of targeting continuing tightness. But as he outlined, restoring muscle and joints to their normal length and mobility is another process in itself. One method, and the most commonly seen is the use of static stretching to achieve this. Static stretching can be defined as bringing the muscle to an elongated position and sustaining that point for a length of time.

As seen from that description. it is often quite vague, in terms of the parameters for static stretching, most guys and gals I see on the soccer pitch stretch until they feel it’s “loose”. But how long is long enough and how intense or firm should the hold be; to allow for substantial change in the properties of the muscles and tendons, and is there really a “gold standard”.

What we do know is that stretching pre activity can lead to an improvement in power, strength and endurance whilst also increasing the extensibility of muscles and tendons which can lead to an improvement in performance and aid in injury prevention.

stretch_2_0

 

An article by Bandy and Irion looked at the effects of hamstring flexibility with static stretching when performed with holds of 15s, 30s and 60s. They concluded that stretches held for 30s and 60s stretches were much more effective than stretches held for 15s or no stretching at all. However there was no difference in hamstring flexibility whether the stretch was help for 30 or 60 seconds. Therefore 30s is an adequate amount of time to hold a stretch to allow for sufficient change in muscle properties when compared to 15s or no stretching at all.

Another study by Behm and Kibele assessed the intensity of stretches using “point of discomfort (POD)” at 50%, 75% and 100% POD, and their effect on jump performance. They concluded that stretching intensities greater than 50% POD prior to maximal jump attempts dampened performance by 3-6%. However even such a minor reduction in maximal performance can mean the difference of winning and losing especially for an athlete.

So what is ideal:

  • Static stretches should be held for at least 30s, however durations longer than 30s have not shown to be more effective.
  • The intensity of stretches should ideally elicit minimal to no discomfort in order to prevent adverse changes to performance
  • Stretches which elicit >50% discomfort prior to maximal effort activity can reduce performance by up to 6%

 

By William Chin

References:

  • Handy WD, lrion JM (1994) The effect of time on static stretch on the flexibility of the hamstring muscle. Phys Ther. 74 :84 – 85
  • Behm DG, Armin K (2007) Effects of differing intensities of static stretching on jump performance. European Journal of Applied Physiology

 

THE EVIDENCE BEHIND ICE – PART I

This is the first part of a post from guest blogger Craig Donovan. Craig studied physiotherapy at Curtin University and is currently working in a rural hospital setting. He has a strong interest in research, particularly in the areas of pain and neurology. After recently completing a project looking into the association between the brain and pain, he is a strong believer in the importance of the brain in pain control.

Recent reports

Indicate

Contradicting

Evidence

The acronym of RICE is one of the most commonly used acronyms when it comes to treating acute injuries. The term was first used back in 1978 by Dr Gabe Mirkin, MD and has been widely used from medical staff to the average Joe who rolls their ankle. But now the very same doctor who brought this acronym to our attention has wrote a post explaining that two of the key components of RICE (rest and ice) may actually delay healing.

This is a topic close to my heart long before I studied physiotherapy, I have always wondered and questioned the benefit of using the RICE principal. The human body works in marvellous ways to keep us fit and healthy. Inflammation is a natural process vital to healing injured tissue. So why are we trying to decrease the inflammation to the area?

Firstly we need to understand the basics of healing, which is a very complex process involving three stages. The first is the inflammatory phase (which I will discuss), then the proliferative phase and lastly the remodelling phase. There is a large migration of cells to the area which aim to clear dead tissue and deposit the necessary growth factors which are used later in the process to repair the damaged tissue. A study has shown the importance of the presence of growth factor in healing of mice.

Therefore it is important that both the initial inflammation response occurs to bring the necessary cells of inflammation to the tissue to allow for healing. Adequate drainage is also necessary to assist in drainage of the dead cells from the injured tissue which occurs through both the lymphatic system and the venous system.craigice2

This begs the question as to why is ice used?

Firstly ice causes vasoconstriction which closes downs capillaries and therefore reduces the ability of the cells to reach their target tissue. It also reduces the size of the veins and therefore the amount of blood being drained from the affected area. Studies have demonstrated that ice reduces the permeability of the lymphatic system resulting in an increased ability for cells to move out of the lymphatic system into the surrounding tissue .

Now it is likely that some people will argue that ice is used to reduce the risk of secondary cell death that occurs to surrounding healthy tissue. It does this by lowering the metabolic rate and oxygen demands of the surrounding cells. However as other studies have shown, ice also inhibits the ability to reduce drainage from the area and therefore this inability to drain swelling from the area can also lead to secondary cell death due to the healthy tissue not receiving adequate blood flow.

Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) are commonly used for acute injuries but how effective are they?

They work by reducing the effect of prostaglandins, which are cells responsible for producing inflammation. As the evidence has shown that reducing inflammation results in reduced a decreased immune response and therefore causes delayed healing. Therefore anything that claims to decrease the inflammatory response is likely to in fact delay healing time.

So what is the best way to manage acute injuries and prevent delayed healing?

Stay tuned for the next post.

Please share your thoughts or questions below.

By Craig Donovan

 

References:
• Cottrell, and O’Connor, P. Effect of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs on Bone Healing. Pharmaceuticals, Vol 3, No 5, 2010.
• Haiyan Lu, Danping Huang, Noah Saederup, Israel F. Charo, Richard M. Ransohoff and Lan Zhou. Macrophages recruited via CCR2 produce insulin-like growth factor-1 to repair acute skeletal muscle injury. The FASEB Journal. Vol. 25 no. 1 January 2011. 358-369.
• Forsyth, A. L., Zourikian, N., Valentino, L. A. and Rivard, G. E. (2012), The effect of cooling on coagulation and haemostasis: Should “Ice” be part of treatment of acute haemarthrosis in haemophilia?. Haemophilia, 18: 843–850. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2516.2012.02918.x

Is This the End?

Tuna was a staple of my diet throughout my studies. I would eat up to 6 cans a day during my peak, ranging from sweetcorn mayonnaise to good ol’ fashioned olive oil.

I became notorious for my consumption and fellow concerned students began to ask, “Hey guy, aren’t you worried about mercury poisoning?” I nonchalantly waved them off before slamming down another can of chili tuna.

Tuna has continued to feature regularly in my diet since then. As a result, I decided to learn more about canned food, tuna and mercury before I’m found foaming at the mouth while clutching onto a tuna sandwich.

Fish become contaminated with mercury as a consequence of improper dumping of products containing heavy metals which are then absorbed into their tissue. The effect of this is cumulative, as fish, and humans for that matter, are unable to rid this chemical from the body.

Furthermore, as fish grow and eat other mercury-laden fish, the level continues to increase. Thus larger, older carnivorous fish, such as sharks, have the highest mercury levels.

tunachickenofthesea

Another contributing factor of course is the location of the fish. Certain areas, such as the waters surrounding Japan have particularly high levels of this heavy metal.

“But Andrew, a fully grown tuna can be well over 600 kilograms, doesn’t that mean it’s stacked with mercury?” This is true; however, the tuna selected for canning purposes are said to be small tuna, under 1 year old.

With this in mind, it’s important to be wary of the source. Australian canned tuna poses a very low health risk, though some brands sold in Australia fish in Thai waters increasing the risk somewhat.

Albacore tuna also tends to be higher in mercury by up to three times when compared to “chunk light tuna”.
Here are some basic guidelines for a happy tuna eating experience (suggestions using “chunk light tuna”. If consuming Albacore simply divide by 3):

  • In pregnant women and young children – 1 large can or 2 small cans per week is a safe bet. This is because mercury can have serious implications on a developing body.
  • For an average male – 2-3 large cans (4-6 small cans) per week
  • For an average female – 1-2 large cans (2-4 small cans) per week

So it appears I’m in a spot of bother! Oh Lord!

What’s your opinion on the subject? Leave a comment in the space below while I get to work on this tuna casserole!

“Am I eating chicken or tuna?”
– Jessica Simpson

By Andrew Cammarano

References
http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Mercury_in_fish
http://www.edf.org/oceans/mercury-alert-canned-tuna-safe-eat
http://www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/consumers/life-events-and-food/pregnancy/fish-and-mercury-faqs/#.U2OQHFc3Mig

A Practical Approach To “No Pain, No Gain”

Many individuals who integrate training as part of their lifestyle will at some stage in their training lifetime, sustain an injury or train whilst in pain. Whether it’s in the gym or on the field, many athletes pose the question of whether to take time off or to continue training. This post will aim to address the impact of injury and in particular pain, on the body’s performance and ways to combat this issue when faced.

 the activity of agonist muscles is often reduced by pain, even when this does not arise from the muscle itself. Furthermore, pain causes small increases in the level of activity of the antagonist. As a consequence of these changes, force production and the range and velocity of movement of the affected body part are often reduced.”

Lund et al 1991

Lund et al’s article on the pain adaption model, highlights the general changes in muscle function when associated with pain. It is shown to cause a reduction in the intensity of muscle contractions and leads to antagonistic or “opposite” muscle groups to increase activity. This means that the specific muscle targeted during painful training, are worked sub optimally and non-targeted muscle groups have a degree of unwanted muscle involvement that can limit the effect of peak training and ultimately performance.

An article by Graven Nielsen and associates in 1997 also suggest the same idea. Their study showed that pain reduces the maximal isometric muscle torque of the knee extensor muscles by an average of 20%.  Furthermore submaximal isometric contractions (80% of max) showed a significant reduction in muscular endurance time.

This would lead us to believe that whether from muscular or non-muscular origin, pain will lead to a reduction in the ability of muscle contractions at both maximal and submaximal levels.

Another study by Graven Nielsen and associates in 2002, reinforced the same idea and found that increased antagonistic/opposite muscle group activity could be a functional adaptation of muscle co-ordination and the body’s automatic reaction to  limit painful movements of the agonists .

So whether you’re an individual who performs in a sport, which involves maximal muscle output such as powerlifting or weightlifting, or whether you’re a cyclist or runner that is involved in submaximal muscle activity’ pain is a huge detriment to muscular and athletic performance.

images (1)

So what should I do?

Many individuals who take complete time off training can respond well symptomatically, however once returning to training, similar symptoms may return, especially if the root of the cause is not addressed. Furthermore the absence of training can lead to significant changes in the muscular system, noticed especially on return. A study by Berg et al observed a reduction of 25-30% maximum voluntary isometric and knee extensor cross-section size showed a decrease of 14% following 6 weeks of rest. So is it really worth taking complete time off to treat an injury, especially when muscle function and performance is hampered on return?

A secondary (and more ideal) option is a period of “deload” whilst simultaneously receiving treating for the cause of the injury. This does not mean having a period of complete rest from training, however, having a period with the same regime, however reducing one or more of your training variables (volume, frequency, intensity, duration).                                     Research from the National Strength and Conditioning Journal suggests that it can:

  • Increase strength and power by 20%
  • Increase muscle cross-sectional area by 10-25%
  • Lower levels of cortisol (stress hormone)
  • Increase levels of testosterone
  • Improve mood

Apart from delightful physical benefits, periods of deloading can also benefit an individual psychologically, by improving mindset, especially when you’re hitting plateaus whilst training to capacity every single session.

Improving athletic performance doesn’t occur overnight, for any individual and at any level; so it’s vital to ensure that you’re always optimising training especially when injured.

images

By William Chin

Is Stretching for Fools?

“No matter how much I stretch, my hamstrings are always so tight!”

It’s uncanny how many times I’ve heard this statement in the clinic regarding the hamstrings or another muscle group. If these people are doing the right thing by stretching, why does this tightness persist?

Stretching has been the bread and butter management strategy for muscle tightness since Paris hit Achilles in the ankle with an arrow back in 1200 B.C. and told him to ‘stretch it out’.

Unfortunately it didn’t work for Achilles and perhaps we have also been doing the wrong thing when it comes to dealing with chronic muscle tightness.

achilles

“But Coach Peterson told me to stretch all the time!” Hear me out little Jimmy, stretching still has a role which I’ll explain a bit later.

Ideally what we need to address is our posture and the way we move. ‘Tight hamstrings’ for instance, often occur in populations who sit for long periods such as office workers. Sitting places the muscles in a shortened position, and over time the body adapts by shortening the hamstrings.

Similar adaptive changes occur when we repetitively move in an inefficient manner. Walking or running with your feet angled out slightly often results in buttock tightness for example, as the muscles in the region are constantly being loaded in a shortened position.

Resolving this problem not only means relief from the discomfort but also drastically reduces the opportunity for injury to occur, such as muscle strains and tears. Furthermore, performance will improve for those involved in sports.

So what’s the solution?

  • Determine the root of the problem – i.e. what movements or postures are you performing frequently in a compromised position.
  • Restore the muscles and joints to normal length and mobility. This is achieved by; massage techniques, joint mobilisations and stretching.
  • Correct the deficient movement pattern or posture. This may require; video analysis of running technique or assessment by your coach or health professional.

Simply put, if you are always tight in an area think, what positions or movements am I carrying out poorly? Then address the affected tissues and optimise the movement.

If you have any questions or would like to voice your opinion on the topic, post in the forum below!

“You can never conquer the mountain. You can only conquer yourself.”
— Jim Whittaker

By Andrew Cammarano

Sitting Ducks

The exponential growth of technology in recent times has led to incredible advances in the entertainment, industrial and medical fields. Understandably, this progression correlates with a society who is spending more time sitting than ever before.

The statistics are quite damning, with the majority of people spending  over 9 hours per day sitting. If you’re skeptical about this figure, have a look at your average day…

First you sit down to eat breakfast, then you sit to commute to work, then at work you spend most of the shift sitting, you relax at home by sitting and reading or watching television…

“Oh golly, you’re quite right Andrew!” I hear you say. Unfortunately there aren’t too many benefits of carrying out these sitting marathons unless getting a big butt is your goal. Check out the stats below:

• People with sitting jobs have twice the risk of cardiovascular disease than those with standing jobs.
• Consistently sitting for 6 or more hours a day over the course of 10-20 years increases the risk of breast and prostate cancer by 30%.
• It reduces bone mass by 1% a year in women, increasing the risk of fractures.

Sitting is so damaging for a number of reasons. It reduces circulation due to less muscle activity as well as increasing insulin resistance and the ‘bad’ cholesterol. Furthermore it is responsible for a large chunk of the back-related pain Will and I see in clinic… Actually in hindsight, keep sitting ;).shocked

Here’s what you can do to combat the dangers of sitting….
• Take frequent standing breaks at least every 30 minutes. Stretch, walk around and do some light body weight movements.
• If you have a desk job, limit sitting outside of work.
• Carry out regular physical activity.
• Get a standing desk.

Consistently following the above not only negates the effects of sitting but has added benefits of; improved energy levels, boosted productivity as well as concentration.

The standing desk is a great idea and has been used by the likes of Sir Winston Churchill and Leonardo Da Vinci. Many are adjustable, providing the function of a sitting desk also. Expense can be an issue, though there are many DIY options floating around the internet which can drastically cut costs, including some IKEA mash-ups which offer a trendy solution. Check out this link for some ideas – http://www.howtogeek.com/100748/15-ideas-to-buy-or-build-your-perfect-standing-desk/.

In conclusion, it doesn’t take much to fight off the negative effects of sitting so get busy!

“People teach their dogs to sit; it’s a trick. I’ve been sitting my whole life and a dog has never looked at me as though he thought I was tricky”
-Mitch Hedberg

By Andrew Cammarano


 

References
http://readwrite.com/2013/09/26/standing-desks-productivity#awesm=~oAHPM8pLbNMhdq)
http://mashable.com/2011/05/09/sitting-down-infographic/
http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/HW-PA-SittingLess-Adults.pdf

Performance Power Of Glutes Part II

Following on from part I; part II will outline the function of the posterior chain, how the glutes are involved in this and again why glute inactivity can lead to an increase risk in injuries.

What is the Posterior Chain?

The term posterior chain refers to a linkage of muscles which involves the lower back, the glutes, hamstrings and the calves. It forms the basis of most strength, speed and explosive movements within the body, whether you’re an athlete or the average Joe. However when sitting for long periods of time (daily) it shortens your hamstrings, tightens your hip flexors, causes your glutes to become inactive and allows your lower back to stiffen.  The creation of this muscle imbalance and loss of flexibility in the posterior chain, dampens its effectiveness and is a road block to better performance.

POstior chain 2

Posterior Chain

Also, like the links in a metal chain, each of these muscle groups are intertwined and work in unison to form part of a stronger and more stable unit. If one muscle forming the posterior chain is underworking, again, similar to the links in a metal chain, it compromises the overall stability and performance. Without a highly functioning posterior chain, it opens you up to injury risks and forms a limitation in your peak performance potential.

#2 Minimise occurrence of acute soft tissue damage

As discussed in Part I, a dysfunction in the glutes, particularly gluteus medius and minimus can cause dynamic valgus within the knee especially during single leg positions. This risk of valgus is heightened when the individual is landing from an elevated position, such as following a jump in basketball or volleyball. This is caused by an increase in ground reaction forces placed on the body, which leads to a greater control required from glute med and min to maintain hip stability to prevent dynamic valgus of the knee.

single leg valgus

Knee Valgus with Landing

What can tend to happen when glute med and min are under performing is the reaction forces acting on the knee following landing can strain the soft tissues around the knee which usually prevent knee valgus. This includes structures such as the medial collateral ligament (MCL), medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL) and the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

 ” A 2008 study by Lawrence et al. demonstrated that the subjects classified within the “weak” hip external rotation group had 146% greater vertical ground reaction forces when landing on a single leg from a 40cm block. The increased ground reaction forces led to increased anterior knee shear forces, external knee adduction and flexor moments causing significantly greater risk of ACL injury. “

Glute strengthening is therefore essential for reducing ground reaction and shear forces on the knee especially if you are involved in sports which involve repetitive jumping and landing, as it significantly reduces the risk of ACL and other ligamentous damage.

dt.common.streams.StreamServer

 #3 Decrease the risk of muscular overuse injuries

Hamstring injuries are the most common condition to affect athletes in the AFL. More often than not, these injuries may be attributed to an inhibition of gluteus maximus’s function, as both muscles form part of the posterior chain.

Since glut max is the primary muscle involved in hip extension and deceleration of the swing leg during running and sprinting, a reduction in its activity will lead to secondary synergists, such as hamstrings to compensate and overwork. This usually isn’t a problem, however due to the design of the hamstrings; it is ideally recruited as a helper rather than the primary driver of the movement. What happens over time is an overuse of the hamstrings can lead to feelings of tightness and can cause an increased risk of hamstring injuries.

Hamstring injuries

Knowing this, recurring hamstring injuries can have an underlying component of inactive glutes, which is why glute strengthening should always be implemented into hamstring rehab protocols, especially when previous programs have not involved it.

Stay tuned for Part III where I’ll discuss the recent research on the best glute rehab exercises to help target your bum.

 Part I, Glutes The Powerful Stabiliser 

By William Chin

References:

  • Diagnosis and treatment of movement impairment syndromes – Shirley Sahrmann (2002)
  • Lawrence R K, Kernozek T W, Miller E J, Torry M, Reuteman P (2008) Influences of hip external rotation strength on knee mechanics during single-leg drop landings in females. Clinical Biomechanics 23: 806-813

 

 

Be Better

We all have varying amounts of knowledge in different fields of life – an experienced mechanic will have vast amounts of knowledge regarding motor vehicles, though may have less understanding of managing accounts. As a result, he or she may employ someone to fulfill this role in order to optimise his or her business.

In essence, the same applies for people who seek Physiotherapists. They recognise that this medical profession specialises in correcting faults of the human body, therefore who better to manage their musculoskeletal problem. Right?

Well, yes and no. Before you spit your chips all over the computer screen, allow me to explain.

On average it takes 3-4 years to complete a university degree or apprenticeship. Following this, you are deemed to be competent in your given field. As the years pass, you move up the ranks, gaining experience and furthering your knowledge. With patience and good practice, you become an expert or master of your chosen skill.

As a master, you will be able to deal with the vast majority of problems you are faced with which fall under your scope of practice. Additionally, if you do encounter difficulty, the support network you have developed over your career will enable you to overcome the issue.

Now tell me, how is this accumulation of experience different for your own body? As you grow, you learn more and more about your body. You begin to understand your strengths and weaknesses. As a consequence, you adapt to play to your strengths and avoid your weaknesses.

No one else has the same insight into your unique body. You must learn how to optimise the way you function, no one else can do this for you. For example, everyone is ‘tight’ in one area of another. Why not research and then experiment with ways to improve flexibility in this area, then assess whether this improves your performance in one way or another. Have you recently begun experiencing knee pain following running? Identify what factors have changed, even video record your pattern and analyse the faults you see.Looking out for number one

You are your own expert.

Now, I’m not saying there is no need to visit a health professional ever again, just Google it! Far from it. When you do have an issue, by all means get it looked at by a pro. Their expertise in diagnosis and treatment will ideally accelerate your return to full function. If the outcome is good, you now have the tools to manage the problem should you be faced with it in the future.

What I am saying is, learn about your body and take responsibility! Experiment with the way you move and try things to perform better and better. Everyone should be able to move freely through a full range of movement and perform basic movements like walking, running and jumping pain-free (barring serious injury or illness of course). If you can’t, work out why, then correct the problem. This will vastly reduce the likelihood of injury or pain in the first place.

Dr Kelly Starrett, a Physical Therapist from the US, is a huge proponent of this. The guy is my idol! His YouTube channel, Mobility WOD, is full of resources which are designed for individuals to adopt to improve the way they move. Below is a link, trust me, just watch a few videos and absorb his sweet, sweet knowledge.

http://www.youtube.com/user/sanfranciscocrossfit/featured

Over and out.

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself”

-John Dewey

By Andrew Cammarano

Glutes, The Powerful Stabiliser Part I

Desk jobs, cars, lifts; the adversary to stronger gluteal muscles.

The gluteals act as the powerhouse of the body, providing a base of stability from which power is generated and transferred. Underlying that, the gluteals also play a large role in optimising lower limb function to assist in preventing injuries. Over several posts, I will discuss the roles of the glutes, their effect on lower limb biomechanics, reasons for why they need to be strengthened and exercises to help wake up your booty.

Part I will outline the function of glutes, their influence on biomechanics and their role in preventing overload injuries.

The Gluteal Complex is comprised of gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimis, all which work in unison. Working alone, gluteus maximus acts to create powerful hip extension and hip external rotation. During walking, glute max will help with extension of the hip, deceleration of the swing leg and assist in maintaining an upright trunk. On the other hand, glute medius and minimus have similar actions. Its most important action is to abduct (bring leg to side away from midline) the thigh. It also is able to internally and externally rotate the hip, due to 2 different muscle fibres, anterior and posterior. Functionally, they prevent hip adduction (leg towards midline) and knee valgus, which will be discussed further down. In saying that, the most important function of the gluteals is as a whole. The complex provides stability to the hips, pelvis and trunk and allows for optimal and sound movement. Any disruption to the gluteal stability will result in biomechanical faults and injuries further down the line.

GLUTE!

#1 Gluteal Strength to reduce the susceptibility of overloading injuries

Gluteus medius and minimus are the principle muscles, which provide hip stability to optimise lower limb biomechanics. It is believed that weakness, primarily in these 2 muscles leads to internal rotation of the hip, adduction of the femur and valgus collapse at the knee, particularly in single legged positions, as shown below.

MAX 2                                                                    Dynamic Knee Valgus                                                                    

One of the most commonly caused overload injuries from reduced gluteal strength is Patella femoral pain syndrome (PFPS). It is primarily caused by excessive joint compressive and kneecap mal-tracking from prolonged suboptimal (valgus collapse) loading whilst running.

“ A study by Loyd et al. in 2003 measured the gluteal strength of 15 subjects with patellafemoral pain. On average, all 15 subjects demonstrated a 26% reduction in hip abduction strength and 36% reduction in hip external rotation strength when compared to their control group of subjects without patella femoral pain”

Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is also another common knee injury caused by poor glute medius and minimus function. It is thought that the internal rotation and adduction of the femur results in a valgus position of the knee, leading to lengthening of the iliotibial band during prolonged running, causing it to tighten and irritate.

“A 2014 study by Noehren et al. examined the knee adduction and hip internal rotation angles of 17 ITBS subjects and compared them to subjects with no ITB pain. The study showed that there was a 20%  increase in knee adduction and a 14% increase in hip internal rotation which was attributed to glute deficits”

MAX3

A study regarding the effectiveness of hip and gluteal strengthening on knee joint pain (in particular PFPS), was performed by Ferber et al. in 2011. Following a 3-week hip abduction strengthening program the group with noticeable PFPS pain had a 32.69% improvement in isometric muscle strength and a 43.10% reduction in pain scores.

Part II, Performance Power of the Glutes

By William Chin

References:

  • Ferber R, Kendall KD, Farr L (2011) Changes in Knee Biomechanics After a Hip-Abductor Strengthening Protocol for Runners with Patellofemoral Pain Sydnrome. Journal of Athletic Training 46(2): 142-149
  • Fredericson M, Cookingham C, Chaudhari AM, Dowdell BC, Oestreicher N, Sahrmann SA (2000) Hip Abductor Weakness in Distance Runners with Iliotibial Band Syndrom. Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine 10: 169-175
  • Ireland ML, Wilson JD, Ballantyne BT, Davis IM (2003) Hip Strength in Femails With and Without Patellofemoral Pain. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 33(11): 671-676
  • Noehren B, Schmitz A, Hempel R,Westlake C, Black W (2014) Assessment of Strength, Flexibility, and Running Mechanics in Men With Iliotibial Band Syndrome. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 44(3): 217-222