Thursday, October 30, 2008

News & Notes – 10/30/08


It is PF Chang time again!

This means that 100’s of runners are taking to the streets to prepare for the half and full marathon coming up in Mid-January. Unfortunately, as the number of people running starts to rise, so do the injuries. This checklist can help you stay injury free this running season:

1)Warm up

Always warm up before your run. Some light calisthenics and dynamic flexibility can go a long way. I like to have runners start with some body weight squats, lunges and jumping jacks. Progressing to things like skips, hops and then some light jogging.

2)Get quality footwear

I always say, “Never short change yourself when it comes to healthcare or footwear.” What you put on your feet can have a direct impact on whether or not you stay injury free this season. Don’t just go out and buy any pair of running sneakers. Get yourself down to a running specialty store (there are several around the valley) and have them evaluate your running and determine the best make and model for you. If you wear orthodics, be sure and bring the orthodics with you to the store so that they can make sure and get you a shoe that doesn’t cause you to over correct your problem and make things potentially worse.

3)Start Slow and Have a Sound Program

Don’t start out trying to run 40 miles a week. Build up your base before jumping into a full on program. The worst thing you can do is try and accumulate to much mileage to fast. One girl (a total beginner) asked me if the program she downloaded off the internet was a good one. I told her it was a good program for someone more advanced, as it had a lot of hill work and speed work through out the week. She decided to try it anyway, and after the first few runs she came back to me and told me that her entire body felt tight and that her head, shoulders and neck were pounding with strain. SERIOUSLY, get someone who understands this stuff to assess you and help you come up with a concrete program. AZTECH Training is one of the best programs in the state in my opinion and I highly recommend them.

4)Take care of soft tissue work and flexibility

Stretching and soft tissue work are essential to helping you not only perform at your best, but prevent overuse and muscle strain from all the running you are doing. As I like to say, “When it comes to stretching and soft tissue work, you can’t have one without the other!” The soft tissue needs to be cared for before trying to increase the length of a muscle (I touchd breifly on this in my trigger point entry a few days a go). I will be offering 30min flexibility and mobility sessions for anyone interested in working on their soft tissue. For more information, you can contact me through my website, Optimum Sports Performance (more on this in the “news” section).

5)Strength Training

Since it is the “in-season” for runners, a full on strength training program probably isn’t going to be your best bet; and, if you haven’t done any strengthening before in the past, it may make you incredibly sore to start a full program. But, a little bit can go a long way. A few (2 a week tops) strength-training sessions can help ensure that your bones and connective tissue can handle the load you are placing on them. In addition, strength-training can help you to “fix” some biomechanical problems you may be having with your running technique and increase your overall power, which can help enhance your performance and potentially prevent injury. I have written an article about strength training for endurance athletes’ that you can read here. As always, a qualified exercise professional can help assess you and determine what your needs are and then come up with a specific program. Again, if interested you can reach me through my website, Optimum Sports Performance.

6)Schedule rest days

I know you all like to get out there and run and be active, and I applaud your effort. But lets face it, training for a half or full marathon is rough! Your body gets stressed all day at work and then it gets stressed during your runs and workouts. It needs some rest! Remember, we don’t get better when we train. We get better when we rest, as we are giving ourselves sufficient time to adapt to the training stimulus we have placed on our body.

Optimum Sports Performance will be re-doing the website and changing the content around. We haven’t done much with it over the past few years, but we are going to open it up a little more and get rid of some of the content on there that is just old and I don’t really agree with anymore.

In addition to the change, we are going to update our services and prices, so if you are interested about these services, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Finally, we are going to start offering some online consulting at an extremely affordable price. Through this coaching, we will go over your current program, determine what your needs are, go over past injuries, evaluate postural photos (if you can get them taken) and come up with a monthly program. I will have more details on this in the coming weeks, but you can contact me if you have some specific questions.

That’s it for now!

Optimum Sports Performance

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Parents Just Don't Get It!!

If you are a parent, and your child plays sports, you need to read this!

If you are a coach of youth athletes, you need to read this!

It amazes me that parents can be so pushy with their childrens athletics. This story is what happens when you are playing the same sport year round through out your childhood.

Total Burn Out!


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What the heck did you do? It worked!!

That is the question I got the other day from a runner that came in with knee pain. He had knee pain for the past year and feeling that he probably wouldn’t be able to run again he was going to take up biking.

I asked some questions, did some assessments, watched him run, and contemplated what could be going on. I did about 40min. of soft tissue work and some basic strength stuff, and had him stand up and run again to re-assess. And he said…”It feels great! What the heck did you do? It worked! One year of knee pain and now it feels fine.”

This isn’t the first time I have had this kind of response from a runner. Especially distance runners, who typically have poor tissue quality because all they do is run and they don’t make sure to work on their soft tissue, work on their flexibility, and work on their strength deficits (leading to congestion of some tissues that are being overworked).

This appears to be a problem with a lot of people (not just runners) who have chronic, nagging, injuries. It is amazing what a little soft tissue work can do to help alleviate the symptoms.

Oftentimes, with pain there is weakness and just strengthening the weak area, may be a misguided approach, as there may be trigger points or ischemic tissue built up in the muscle which needs to be worked out, before strengthening can happen. If the tissue quality isn’t first addressed, and “cleaned up”, then you may be disrupting the tissue more and creating more tissue trauma (not good!).

A book that I often recommend to people is Claire Davies’ Trigger Point Therapy Workbook. That, along with a foam roller, may be the best $30 you will ever spend in terms of self-care and enhancing your overall tissue quality (aside from a real hands on therapist).

Now go and clean yourself up!


Friday, October 17, 2008

Corretive Exercise or Strength Work - What is the Set Up?

How do I correct my problems but still get stronger? You write about correcting issues and movements, and then you write about strength training programs (like the undulating periodization) and I am wondering how I do both? If I work on correcting my problems, I feel like my program is more like physical therapy or rehab; but, if I work on my strength and muscle size, then I feel like I am not fixing my movement problems and then I end up getting the usual aches, pains, tightness and poor movement patterns that gym lifters tend to get. Where is the middle ground? How do I set it up?


Hey Jon thanks for the question. I am sure there are a number of people in the same boat as you are and they have the exact same questions.

Due to my interests in training and soft tissue/manual therapies I have a love for both sides of the strength and conditioning coin; the world of enhanced performance (strength, speed, size, etc) and the world of corrective exercise/soft tissue treatments (trying to enhance movement, fix postural distortions, enhance tissue quality, etc.).

For most people, it can be overwhelming when thinking about what to do in the gym. You have to worry about your issues (posture, aches, pains, past injuries, asymmetries) and you have to worry about your goals (get stronger, get bigger, get faster, get more powerful, lose body fat, etc.) that it can difficult to know where to start in the whole process.

When establishing a program, I always use my assessment to determine where the greatest limitations are in the client. I try and look for the elephant in the room, as sometimes correcting the big problems will correct the smaller more annoying problems. Remember, a symptom is nothing more than your body telling you that there is something wrong; but it isn’t telling you exactly WHAT is wrong. That is your job to figure out! After the “elephant” has been determined, the program can be mapped out. For the corrective stuff, I like to use a lot of it in the warm up for two reasons:

A) We are not fatigued in the warm up, so we can properly focus and develop strength and movement in these muscles

B)Warming these muscles up with some exercise/movement gets them primed for some of the things to come.

The other time that the corrective work comes into play is occasionally as a super set to help re-enforce the new movement pattern or we may do some corrective stuff on off days to again, try and re-enforce the movement and make it more automatic.

One way you can set up your program, is (assuming you have determined your limiting factors):

Soft tissue work (foam roll, tennis ball, the stick, etc)
Warm up (warm up the entire body, but make sure you save time to focus specifically on your movement impairments)
Strength Training
Conditioning (if that is in your program for the day)
Stretching and/or foam rolling – to finish up

The strength work can be things that you normally may do; such as split squats, squats, bench pressing, push ups, rowing, etc. The only distinction I would make would be some of these movements may be contraindicated until you have corrected some of the issues you are having with your overall movement (this would have to be determined by your assessment to see exactly what you can and can not do). The strength work can also sometimes enhance the corrective work that you are doing (IE, Is your glute medius stronger from doing isolated glute medius work or is it stronger from performing squatting movements?).

The main thing to remember with all of this is that the lifting isn’t so much the problem as it is more a function of WHAT you are doing and HOW you are doing it.

With this program you now have the best of both worlds; some corrective work and some strength work. The more proactive you are about the corrective work, the quicker things will get better, allowing you to progress to more difficult tasks and make improvements in your strength training.

The only other thing I would add is that; while foam rolling/tennis ball rolling and the stick are all nice “self-care” modalities for soft tissue work, there is absolutely no substitute for a good - hands on - soft tissue therapist. If you can find someone in your area, and see them once a month, at the least (two times a month is better and once a week is optimal), you will really reap the benefits of your overall program.

- Patrick

Friday, October 10, 2008

Undulated Training

Undulation training for development of hierarchical fitness and improved firefighter job performance.

Peterson MD, Dodd DJ, Alvar BA, Rhea MR, Favre M. J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Sep;22(5):1683-95.

Introduction: Firefighters routinely encounter physical demands that contribute to countless musculoskeletal injuries. Seemingly, a progressive prescription for fitness would offer superior protection against intrinsic job risks. The purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of two resistance training interventions on fitness adaptations among firefighters, and to assess the degree of transfer to job-specific tasks.

Methods: Firefighter trainees were recruited for participation in this experimental study. Two distinct, periodized training models-undulation training (UT; n = 7) and standard training control (STCo; n = 7)-were used to determine the differential affects for muscular fitness and transference to firefighter performance batteries. Specific tests were administered to evaluate 1) upper- and lower-body muscular strength, 2) lower-body power output, 3) sprint speed and jumping ability, 4) anthropometry, and 5) firefighter Grinder performance (i.e., firefighter-specific job tests). The 9-week UT experimental treatment prescription was characterized by daily "nonlinear" fluctuations in training to preferentially elicit specific and distinct muscular fitness components, whereas the STCo treatment conformed to a traditional model, in which each fitness component was systematically targeted during a specified mesocycle.

Results: For both treatments, nearly all fitness and performance measures significantly increased from baseline (p < 0.05), with a trend in favor of UT. Further, the UT group experienced significantly greater improvements (p < 0.05) in Grinder performance over the STCo group. Calculation of effect sizes identified meaningful differences in the magnitude of changes in outcomes (effect size > 0.50) in favor of UT for measures of thigh circumference, vertical jump, 1RM squat, Grinder performance, and peak power output. These findings suggest a potentially greater stimulus for multidimensional muscular fitness development with UT, over a periodized STCo.

Conclusions: This study effectively establishes that UT may offer a greater transference to performance for firefighter-specific job tasks.

Some Thoughts: I found this study particularly interesting because I am a fan of programs which follow undulating training variables. So, I am slightly biased. Since the abstract doesn’t reflect the actual training template that the firefighters used, I will post it here for those interested:

Undulating Template
Day 1 – Upper body endurance and hypertrophy/lower body strength
Day 2 – Upper body strength/lower body power and speed
Day 3 – Upper body power and speed/lower body endurance and hypertrophy

Standard Strength Training Template
Mesocycle 1 (3 weeks) – Endurance and Hypertrophy
Mesocycle 2 (3 weeks) – Strength
Mesocycle 3 (3 weeks) – Power and speed

The undulating template in this model is a bit different than the undulating model which some follow, in which the total body is trained using 1 variable for the given training day. For example:

Day 1 – Total body power
Day 2 – Total body strength
Day 3 – Total body hypertrophy/endurance

While I do like the above example, I think that sometimes it can be difficult to train the entire body for strength (or power) because which ever exercise is performed first (IE, squat) will inhibit our ability to display high amounts of strength in the exercise performed second (IE, bench press). Although, this could be slightly offset by alternating exercise order every time you perform your strength workout.

The subjects in the study only lifted 3x’s a week, which is potentially why all three qualities (strength, power, and endurance) were trained with the same amount of volume and frequency through the week. In Kraemer and Fleck’s book Optimizing Strength Training Programs, a book which details undulating periodization program development, they talk about creating daily undulation of training variables, under the back drop of having a specific focus during a given training block. For example, if we were training for maximal muscle development (hypertrophy), we would still have a power training day and a strength day within the training week, however the greater amount of training that week will be focused on hypertrophy specific work and then we would simply switch the focus once that training block has been completed.

I do like the approach that Kraemer and Fleck take; however, I can see the limitations in it. For example, sometimes you have only a short period of time to work with an individual, making blocks of training to short to see the adaptations you seek from them or you may be training an athlete during the inseason for a sport which several qualities need to be accounted for (IE, football would need strength, power and hypertrophy/muscle endurance). Or, you may be training an athlete in a sport which has a long competitive season, made up of several games (IE, hockey), rather than one specific competition to peak for (IE, Olympics). However, if you are trying to have the athlete peak for a certain day or a certain competition, using the block model as detailed by Fleck and Kraemer may be more beneficial.

While some don’t believe that all qualities can be effectively trained at the same time, I think that this study, as well as other studies on concurrent training, gives promise that it may be possible. However, it would be silly to assume one could train for total opposite ends of the spectrum at the same time (IE, training for a marathon and powerlifting meet at the same time). But, I do think that you can use the undulating model in this study with good success; however, know that nothing works for ever and eventually, you may have to figure out another plan of attack to get what you want from your training program.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Shin Splints

Since it is the start of the running season (lots of people getting ready for marathons), Ivonne decided to make a post in her blog on shin splits. If you have had shin splints in the past or want to avoid having them, check it out:

Shin Splints


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Saturday at the Bed & Barbell

Yesterday I made it out to Charles Staley’s Bed & Barbell in Gilbert Arizona. I got to admit, the place is pretty sweet!

I went out to get a lift in with the Saturday crew and we did some Olympic lifts and tire flipping. Besides the great equipment, the training atmosphere is awesome and intense. You have a few guys (Phil and Troy) preparing for powerlifting meets, Charles training for an Olympic lifting meet (Not just any Olympic lifting meet…The American Masters!) and Gene, a 70 year old guy who has no quit in him (Honestly, the guy should be an inspiration for all 70 year olds. The fact that he comes out there and does deadlifts is really awesome!).

For those unfamiliar with Charles, just pull up a google search as he has written a ton of articles, been on TV, and has several products available; including the ever so popular EDT program. You can learn more about him at his website,

For those unfamiliar with the Bed & Barbell, let me fill you in. The concept is really slick! Basically, the house operates like a resort/vacation type place. The upstairs are the living quarters where guests stay. The downstairs has some gym equipment in the living room (a squat rack, lifting platform and a concept II rower) and then there is a TV room and full kitchen. Out back there is a pool and jacuzzi for the guests, along with a backyard where med ball work and farmers walking takes place (the back yard also overlooks are really incredible golf course). The garage is pretty much a full service gym. They have everything! A power rack, half rack, a few benches, full dumbbell set, kettle bells, various bars (Olympic bars, thick bars, the log, etc), a big tire for flipping, atlas stones, a harness for truck pulls, bumper plates and weights.

Just like any other bed and breakfast, you come out to stay for your vacation, the only kicker is that you get to workout and get trained by Charles and Phil. It is a really great way to get to hang out in a warm weather climate (Especially now since the temperature is coming down. It is great out here!), enjoy the mountains and everything Arizona has to offer, and get trained by a strength coach who has been in the game almost as long as I have been alive and has worked with athletes of all levels and general population clients alike. It is your opportunity to get to try some things in the gym that you otherwise wouldn’t try, learn proper lifting technique, and push yourself to an entirely new level of fitness that you otherwise would have unattainable. You can stay for as long as you like (Charles told me that have people stay as short as a couple of days and as long as several weeks) and just soak up as much information as you possibly can.

If you are looking for a new type of vacation that integrates the warm weather and beautiful scenery that Arizona has to offer along with your love and interest in health and fitness, then I highly suggest you consider the Bed & Barbell. You wont be disappointed. Just make sure you book in advance!


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Movement Gone Wrong

One of the greatest things about being in this field is helping someone move better.

Watching people move, walk and perform skills or tasks you throw at them is always very interesting. Seeing what they can and cannot do is especially important as it tells you what needs to be worked on and what needs to be fixed.

There are several reasons that a person moves poorly. Some potential reasons could be weakness, lack of understanding of the desired movement pattern, flexibility/mobility problems, poor posture, sedentary lifestyle or previous injury.

It is the last one that is so critical to understand. Once we get injured, we really don’t move the same way. Our body unconsciously begins to change patterns in order to protect the area that was injured or in order to prevent us from stressing that area because when we do…IT HURTS! This creates altered movement patterns, changes in lengthen tension relationships around the joints and changes in neurological firing patterns. No longer do we operate the same way, unless we do some homework to actually fix these problems.

In the book Low Back Disorders: Evidenced Based Prevention and Rehabilitation, author Stuart McGill states (pg. 30):

“Several studies have documented a change in muscular function after injury (nicely summarized by Sterling, Jull, and Wright, 2001). These include, for example,

- Delayed onset of specific torso muscles during sudden events (Hodges and Richardson, 1996, 1999) that may impair the spine’s ability to achieve protective stability during situations such as slips and falls;

- Changes in torso agonist-antagonist activity during gait (Arendt-Nielson et al., 1995)

- Inhibition of back extensors in the presence of pain (Zedka et al., 1999) and;

- Asymetric muscle output during isokinetic torso extensor efforts (Grabiner, Koh, and Ghazawi, 1992) that alters spine loading”

While McGill’s summary here is specific for the spine (duh, the book is about the low back!) in Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes, Shirley Sahrmann offers two different models of how movement impairments actually develop.

The “perfect world” model (IE, no injuries and no movement impairments) looks something like this:

Kinesiologic Model

Base – Modulator – Biomechanical – Support
Variety in Movement & posture
Precise movement
Musculoskeletal Health

As you can see, the movement system (the top line of the model) is all connected. The system is:

Base = muscles and bones
Modular = nervous system
Biomechanical = kinesiology
Support = muscular endurance

All 4 components of the system are in healthy working order, allowing for optimal movement.

The two impaired models look like this:

Pathokinesiologic Model

Base – Modulator – Biomechanical – Support
Abnormality or injury
Impaired components
Movement Impairment
Functional limitation/disability

In the Pathokinesiologic Model we have developed an injury (or have an abonormality in one of the components of the movement system), which in-turn changes the way we perform movement and leads to further limitations as disability (as I eluded to above).

Kinesiopathologic Model

Base – Modulator – Biomechanical – Support
Repeated specific movements or sustained postures
Impaired components or their interactions
Movement impairment syndromes
Functional limitation/physical abnormality

As you can see in the kinesiopathologic model, we have a sustained posture (IE, sitting) and/or repetitive movement (IE, typing or bending and lifting all day) and this leads to impairments in one or many of the components of the movement system, leading to our movement impairments (alterations in the way we do things) and finally limitations and physical abnormalities.

Pretty interesting stuff! If nothing more, I hope you take away from this the importance of analyzing your abilities - not just how much can you squat, bench, run a mile, etc. but how WELL can you accomplish these tasks – and determining what you need to do in order to enhance you overall movement system.

More later!