Olympic Lifting Resurgence (Product Spotlight)

 

Way back in 2008 I wrote and article titled O.S.W. vs H.I.T. With Olympic Style Weightlifting experiencing a resurgence of late, I figured this week I would shine the spotlight on one of my favorite resources for learning about this sport. It’s a book and DVD set written by my coach, and long time friend Jim Schmitz.

 

For those of you who may not be lucky enough to know Jim, or are not familiar with him, here is just a little background. Jim Schmitz coached Team USA in the 1980, 1988, and 1992 Olympics. He currently trains weightlifting at The Sports Palace, a member gym of the Pacific Weightlifting Association in South San Francisco, California. Jim was also the president of USA Weightlifting from 1988 through 1996.

Jim has written and produced an excellent manual and DVD set titled:

Olympic-style Weightlifting for the Beginner & Intermediate Weightlifter.

This set is available through Iron Mind, and is a bargain at around $40.00. This series is the next best thing to working with Jim in person as he offers not just some basic technical instruction in the quick lifts, but specific programs as well as tips gleaned from his 55 years of active involvement in the sport he loves, at it’s highest levels.

For those interested, there are also a series of excellent, high-quality videos on YouTube produced by USA Weightlifting and featuring Jim.

If you have a chance to attend one of his many workshops or certification courses, I highly recommend that you take advantage of your opportunity to work with Jim and find a way to GET THERE! If you are in the SF bay area, take a moment to visit him at the Sports Palace, you’ll be glad you did.

PAU for NOW,

TAKU

CONDITIONING 101:

By TAKU

No matter what sport you engage in from Golf to Ice Hockey, American Football to international Futbol (that’s soccer to all you Americans)…all athletes will benefit from a simple solid conditioning program. In fact, even if you are not currently practicing any sport in particular, a simple conditioning plan will benefit everyone when it comes to total fitness.

Most folks who have been reading my work for a while know that I am a proponent of interval style training programs. I know that interval training has become cool of late, but I have actually been recommending brief intense conditioning plans since the late 1980’s.

Interval training plans for sports are often designed with specific distances such as sprint for 60 meters, recover for a specified time, and repeat. Rather than use distance as a goal, I prefer to use time. Using time instead of distance will help people of varied fitness levels and body types stay within the desired range. If you are a 300 lb. Offensive lineman playing american Football, running 100 meters may take you a little longer than it would a 160 lb. striker playing World Futbol. By using specific times (instead of distance) we can insure similar energy systems being activated and keep the work consistent. for everyone. Finally using time instead of distance allows us to choose from a broad array of training tools or modes both indoors and out.

Most athletes will utilize a wide variety of energy systems along the intensity continuum. Remember this is a general conditioning program. It will help build a base of conditioning for almost any activity. Participants playing such sports as American Football, Basketball, Field Hockey, Rugby, Lacrosse etc. may all benefit from this type of program, especially in the off-season.

Once you are nearing the pre-season or are in-season, the playing and practicing of your specific sport should take precedence. Practicing specific sports will always be the best way to prepare for those specific activities. For instance someone training for pure speed such as a 100 meter sprint specialist, will first and foremost want to polish technique and running mechanics. The actual practice of sprinting is designed to be an all-out 100% maximum effort. To prepare for running at full speed, one must practice running at full speed. To allow this to occur maximum recovery between bouts will be required.

Below I have outlined an 8-WEEK Conditioning Program. It is set up with specific work to rest ratios. Each week we will increase the volume of sprints while reducing the actual exertion times. Your goal is to go at the most brisk pace you can tolerate, and still maintain work for the desired time. As you progress through the program (and your conditioning improves) you should be striving to go as fast and as hard as possible during the work phase of each bout of intervals. During the recovery period just walk (or pedal etc.) very slowly while you catch your breath and prepare for the next work phase.

If you are an open field athlete I highly recommend that you do your best to perform this workout on a running track or sports field.

For general fitness enthusiasts, any tool of choice may be used. Recommended tools include but are not limited to:

Bicycle
Rowing Ergo-meter
Step-Climber
Elliptical Cross-Trainer
Jump-Rope

8-WEEK CONDITIONING PROGRAM

In this program I recommend that you perform the conditioning program on two, non-consecutive days in your training week such as Monday and Thursday. You may do strength and conditioning on the same day, or you may separate them. Here are two examples of ways one might combine these types of training in an overall S&C plan:

EXAMPLE 1:

Monday: Conditioning
Tuesday: Strength Training
Wednesday: REST
Thursday: Conditioning
Friday: Strength Training
Saturday / Sunday: REST

Wash – Rinse – Repeat

EXAMPLE 2: 

Week One

Monday: Conditioning
Tuesday: REST
Wednesday: Strength Training
Thursday: REST
Friday: Conditioning

Saturday / Sunday: REST

Week Two 

Monday: Strength Training
Tuesday: REST
Wednesday: Conditioning
Thursday: REST
Friday: Strength Training

Wash – Rinse – Repeat

Note: The prescription is written so that the work period is first, followed by the rest period. For example in week one, day one you will work for two minutes, followed by a rest period of 4:00 minutes.  After completing the first week of the program, when successive bouts are called for you will complete the specified number of bouts at a given work to rest ratio, then rest three to five minutes before moving on to the next series.

Week 1

Day 1 – 1 x 2:00 / 4:00 & 2 x 1:00 / 2:00

Day 2 – 2 x 2:00 / 4:00 & 3 x 1:00 / 2:00

Week 2

Day 1 – & 2

6 x 00:20 / 01:00

Week 3

Day – 1 & 2

4 x 00:36 / 01:48

3-5 minutes rest

8 x 00:18 / 00:54

Week 4

Day – 1 & 2

4 x 00:36 / 01:48

3-5 minutes rest

8 x 00:18 / 00:54

Week 5

Day – 1 & 2

4 x 00:34 / 01:42

3-5 minutes rest

8 x 00:16 / 00:48

Week 6

Day – 1 & 2

4 x 00:32 / 01:36

3-5 minutes rest

8 x 00:15 / 00:42

3-5 minutes rest

6 x 00:07 / 00:21

Week 7

Day – 1 & 2

4 x 00:30 / 01:30

3-5 minutes rest

8 x 00:14 / 00:42

3-5 minutes rest

6 x 00:07 / 00:21

Week 8

Day – 1 & 2

4 x 00:30 / 01:30

3-5 minutes rest

8 x 00:14 / 00:42

3-5 minutes rest

6 x 00:07 / 00:21

*Rest 3-5 minutes between each series.

PAU for NOW

TAKU

P.S. My personal S&C program is very similar to that shown in example # 2. above

Balanced training or Training for balance

No_BOSU

By TAKU

I’ve been working as a trainer for 25 years now. Back when I first started, I learned quickly that strength was, and is the most important quality we can cultivate. Strength training using evidence based exercise concepts is the safest, and most efficient method to impact global health and fitness in minimal time. As I have said before, strength is the foundation of function.

As a strength coach and personal trainer, the question of training for balance often comes up. Athletes often want to know if there is an exercise that they can do that will improve their balance in their chosen sport. For average fitness folks the balance question most often arises as it relates to aging and maintaining mobility.

Many coaches and trainers on the “Balance Training” Band-Wagon claim that functional exercises should be performed on an unstable surface, in order to promote  balance. This is a very common approach to training equilibrium, whereby the emphasis is placed on proprioceptive sensitivity and core stability. While it seems, superficially, to be an obvious method of choice, it is actually counterproductive to real functional stability. The irony in these methods is that the property that is introduced to try to enhance balance control — an unstable surface — is the very element that prevents the nervous system from correcting for postural deviations.

Stay with me here…

Equilibrium is maintained through the application of force into the ground. As the center of gravity shifts over the base of support, force is applied through the feet in order to re-center the center of gravity. The inherent problem with labile surfaces (wobble boards, dyna-discs etc) is that the objective of the exercise is to avoid displacing the surface. In other words, the goal is to keep the surface from moving. To do this, the subject must actually resist applying force to the surface, and therefore, is being trained not to exert force which is the exact opposite of what you are trying to accomplish. Clearly this practice would have a dubious effect on balance control.

(LIGHT-BULB!!)

Furthermore, this type of balance training involves static balance control, in which motion of the center of gravity is severely restricted. Hamilton and colleagues (2008), quite interestingly, report no correlation between static balance control and hopping capability, a very dynamic stability problem, and one of those “highly functional” movement skills.

What does seem to aid in balance control is increased muscular strength and power. Research demonstrates evidence of a direct correlation between muscular strength and power, and the ability to maintain balance (Orr, et al, 2006, Santos and Liu, 2008). Butler and associates (2008) have even determined that insufficient strength in the ankle musculature results in a reduction of proprioceptive acuity. Conversely, increased muscle force capacity contributes to enhanced proprioceptive capability. Arguably, equilibrium may be enhanced through a simple process of muscle strength development that promotes force application. This may, in fact, be accomplished on a leg press.

The truth is that balance is task specific. A common misconception is that fundamental abilities can be trained through various drills or other activities. The thinking is that, with some stronger ability, the athlete will see gains in performance for tasks with this underlying ability.

For example, coaches often use various balancing drills to increase general balancing ability. Such attempts to train fundamental abilities may sound fine, but usually they simply do not work. Time, and often money, would be better spent practicing the eventual goal skills.

There are two correct ways to think of these principles.

First, there is no general ability to balance, rather, balance is based on many diverse abilities, so there is no single balance ability, for example, that can be trained.

Second, even if there were such general abilities, these are, by definition, genetic and not subject to modification through practice. Therefore, attempts to modify ability with a nonspecific drill are ineffective. A learner may acquire additional skill at the drill (which is, after all, a skill itself), but this learning does not transfer to the main skill of interest.

Do not attempt to mimic or imitate a skill by using a completely separate *gadget, or with exercises in the weight room. It can’t be done. Strengthen the muscles in the weight room, develop a high level of conditioning, and practice the skills used to play your sport or game. It’s that simple!

PAU for NOW

TAKU

*In Plain English: (Just in case I have not been 100% clear up to this point). You should never waste any time or energy doing any of the things demonstrated in the  images above if your goal is to improve performance in a totally separate sport or activity.

Excerpts from this article appear (with permission) from the article:

The Truth on Fitness:
Functional training
Paul M. Juris, Ed.D.
Executive Director, CybEx Institute

Other References

Bryant, C.X. (2008) What is functional strength training?
American Council on Exercise.

Butler, A.A., Lord, S.R., Rogers, M.W., and Fitzpatrick, R.C. (2008).
Muscle weakness impairs the proprioceptive control of human standing.
Brain Research. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.03.094

Greenfield, B. (2005). Functional exercise that makes sense.
Ezine Articles.

Hamilton, R.T., Shultz, S.J., Schmitz, R.J.

A Standard Conditioning Program For All Fall Sports

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns shared with permission, by Wayne L. Westcott PhD.
Dr. Westcott
Should all fall sports participants engage in conditioning programs to reduce their risk of injury and improve their athletic performance? The answer is an unqualified yes! Boys and girls? Yes. Strength athletes who play football and endurance athletes who run cross-country? Yes. Ball handling teammates who play soccer and field hockey? Yes.

Without question, all young people who compete in fall sports should perform appropriate exercise programs to enhance their physical fitness. Of course, some of the training procedures will vary based on the demands of the activity. For example, football players should emphasize power exercises such as sprinting, cross-country runners should focus on endurance exercises such as three to five mile runs, and soccer players should include both sprinting and sustained running such as 100 yard dashes and half-mile repeats.

But when it comes to muscle conditioning, I propose that a similar strength training program may be successfully applied to all of the athletes. Oh, there are some differences, such as the number of repetitions completed. Generally speaking, power athletes respond best to lower (4 to 8) repetitions with relatively heavy weightloads, endurance athletes respond best to higher (12 to 16) repetitions with relatively light weightloads, and combination athletes respond best to moderate (8 to 12) repetitions with moderate weightloads.

However, when it comes to the exercise selection all of these athletes should be strong in all of their major muscle groups. Regardless of your sport, there is no advantage in having a weak upper body or a poorly conditioned midsection. Going a step further, training some muscle groups more than others can be a serious disadvantage.

Years ago when I was a university track coach, I determined that sprinters should have powerful quadriceps muscles to explode out of the blocks, and flexible hamstring muscles to prevent hamstring pulls. All winter we strengthened their quadriceps and stretched their hamstrings, and I couldn’t wait to see the results of my specialized conditioning program. As it turned out every single sprinter pulled a hamstring muscle and I was dumbfounded. What had I done wrong?

Simple. I unintentionally promoted a serious imbalance between the sprinters’ opposing muscle groups. You see, a powerfully accelerating quadriceps group must be properly decelerated by a relatively strong hamstrings group. If the hamstrings muscles are significantly weaker they will be overwhelmed by the stronger quadriceps muscles, and injury is inevitable in spite of their flexibility.

So what should I have done to better condition and safeguard my sprinters? Clearly, I should have strengthened all of their major muscle groups, especially their hamstrings and quadriceps. Years later, working with the Notre Dame High School track and cross-country teams, I discovered how well the comprehensive conditioning approach really works. All of the athletes trained all of their major muscle groups, and the result was one injured runner in four years, and four consecutive Massachusetts and New England championship teams.

But why would football players train with the same exercises as cross-country runners or field hockey players? Because they all have the same major muscle groups. Let’s take a look at the major muscles of the body, and the basic free-weight and machine exercises that strengthen these muscle groups.

Major Muscle Groups Recommended
Free Weight Exercises
Recommended
Machine Exercises

Quadriceps (front thigh) Squat Leg Extension
Hamstrings (rear thigh) Squat Leg Curl
Hip Adductors (inner thigh) Hip Adduction
Hip Abductors (outer thigh) Hip Abduction
Pectoralis Major (chest) Bench Press Chest Cross
Latissimus Dorsi (upper back) Pulldown Super Pullover
Deltoids (shoulders) Shoulder Press Lateral Raise
Biceps (front arm) Biceps Curl Biceps Flexion
Triceps (rear arm) Triceps Pressdown Triceps Extension
Erector Spinae (lower back) Trunk Extension Lower Back Extension
Rectus Abdominis (abdominals) Trunk Curl Abdominal Curl
Neck Extensors (rear neck) Neck Extension
Neck Flexors (front neck) Neck Flexion

Many people mistakenly believe that strength training inevitably results in larger muscles and more bodyweight. This is not necessarily true. Strength training produces stronger muscles in all cases, but gains in muscle size and bodyweight are very dependent upon personal genetic factors. For example, most football players have mesomorphic physiques that respond to strength exercise with relatively large changes in muscle size and body weight. On the other hand, most cross-country runners have ectomorphic physiques that respond to strength exercise with relatively small changes in muscle size and body weight. Furthermore, the heavy weightload – low repetition training followed by football players maximizes muscle strength and size, whereas the lower weightload – higher repetition training performed by cross-country runners emphasizes muscle endurance without additional bodyweight.

The main point is that all fall sports participants can benefit from a standard program of strength exercise, and that the results will be specific to each type of athlete. A stronger athlete in any sport is a better athlete, and more importantly, a more injury-resistant athlete. If your fall athletes are not presently performing basic strength exercises, like those presented in the table, you can greatly enhance their sport safety and success by starting a sensible strength training program. Thirty minutes a day, twice a week, is all the time and energy requirements necessary for some significant physical benefits.

 TAKU’s NOTE: Thanks again to my friend Dr Wayne Westcott for sharing his excellent articles with me.

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN:

SEVEN EXERCISES YOU SHOULD BE DOING:

By TAKU

This week I want to talk about the basics of buildng total-body strength. The cornerstone is hard work on basic exercises. Make your workouts brief, intense, and infrequent. Be consistent, train hard on two or three non-consecutive days per week.

Below are seven exercises everyone should strive to include in their workout plan. These seven exercises are probably responsible for building more strength and muscle than almost any other exercises around.

BARBELL SQUAT:

SINGLE LEG CALF RAISE:

 

STANDING OVERHEAD PRESS:

CHIN-UP:

DIP:

BARBELL CURL:

STIFF-LEGGED DEADLIFT:

You can include these movements as part of your overall plan, or you can build your routine entirely around just these seven exercises alone.

(Click the link at the top to see an example of how to combine these exercises into a very effective workout)

PAU for NOW

TAKU

Better Running Through Strength Training

The following is one in an ongoing series of articles written by Wayne L. Westcott PhD.

Distance running is a great sport that is enjoyed at a variety of levels by millions of competitive and recreational athletes. Whether you prefer to jog a couple of miles through the neighborhood, or are training to complete a marathon, distance running is a highly effective and efficient means of aerobic conditioning. Unfortunately, distance running is considerably less beneficial for your musculoskeletal system. Injury rates among runners are extremely high. In fact, at the high school level, cross-country runners experience more injuries than athletes in any other sport, including football and gymnastics.

Why is a non-contact sport like running such a high-risk activity? Actually, running involves an incredible amount of contact, but it is with road surfaces rather than other athletes. Every running stride places about three times the weight of your body on your foot, ankle, knee and hip joints. These landing forces may also stress your lower back structures.

The repetitive pounding encountered mile after mile produces a degree of micro-trauma to the shock-absorbing tissues. Under ideal conditions, these tissues recover completely within a 24-hour period. However, there are numerous factors that may interfere with normal recovery processes, eventually resulting in weakened and injury-prone tissues. These factors include longer running sessions, faster running paces, shorter recovery periods between workouts, more downhill running, more hard-surface running, more racing, more general fatigue, and undesirable changes in eating or sleeping patterns.

Of course, you may wisely take steps to reduce the amount of tissue trauma and decrease your risk of running-related injuries. Such precautions include making very gradual increases in training distances and speeds, taking sufficient recovery periods (particularly between hard training sessions), selecting user-friendly running courses (soft surfaces and level terrain), competing in fewer races, avoiding over-fatigue, and paying careful attention to proper nutrition and sleep.

However, one of the most effective means for minimizing tissue trauma is to develop stronger muscles, tendons, fascia, ligaments and bones. This is the primary reason that every runner should perform regular strength exercise. Consider the results of our four-year strength training project with the Notre Dame High School girls’ cross-country and track teams.

Notre Dame High School Strength Training Program For four consecutive years, 30 distance runners from Notre Dame High School participated in a basic and brief strength training program during the summer and winter months between their cross-country and track seasons. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, they performed 30 minutes of strength exercise (12 Nautilus machines) that addressed all of their major muscle groups. Each of these years, the cross-country team won both the Massachusetts and New England championships in this sport. More important, during the four years that they did strength training, only one girl experienced an injury that resulted in a missed practice session or meet.

Strength Training Benefits
The Notre Dame runners realized that a sensible strength training program provides many benefits for runners. These include the following:

  • Greater muscle strength
  • Greater muscle endurance
  • Greater joint flexibility
  • Better body composition
  • Reduced injury risk
  • Improved self-confidence
  • Improved running economy

While the first six strength training benefits should be self-explanatory, you may be intrigued by improved running economy. In a 1995 study at the University of New Hampshire, the women cross-country runners who did strength training experienced a significant improvement in their running economy. They required 4 percent less oxygen at sub-maximum running speeds (7:30, 7:00, and 6:30 minute mile paces), meaning that they could run more efficiently and race faster than before.

Runner Concerns
With so many advantages, why do so few runners regularly perform strength exercise? Consider these four concerns that keep many runners from strength training:

  • Increased bodyweight
  • Decreased movement speed
  • Less fluid running form
  • Fatigued muscles

Let’s take a closer look at each of these issues.

Increased Bodyweight
Very few people who perform strength exercise have the genetic potential to develop large muscles. This is especially true for distance runners, who typically have ectomorphic (thin) physiques. Strength training increases their muscle strength and endurance, but rarely results in significant weight gain.

Decreased Movement Speed
With respect to running speed, our studies and many others have shown that greater strength results in faster movement speeds. We need only look at sprinters and middle distance runners to realize that strength training has a positive impact on running speed, as essentially all of these athletes perform regular strength exercise.

Less Fluid Running Form
Running involves coordinated actions of the legs and the arms, and one cannot function without the other. Your right arm moves in mirror image with your left leg, and your left arm counterbalances your right leg in perfect opposition. That is why it is almost impossible to run fast and move your arms slow or to move your arms fast and run slow. By strengthening the upper body muscles, you more effectively share the running effort between your arms and legs, resulting in more fluid running form.

Fatigued Muscles
It is true that a strenuous strength training session can cause a considerable amount of muscle fatigue that could adversely affect the quality and quantity of your runs. That is why we recommend brief strength workouts that do not leave you feeling enervated or exhausted. Remember that you are strength training to enhance your running performance, not to become a competitive weightlifter. Our program of strength training requires just one set of exercise for each major muscle group, which does not take much time and does not produce much lasting fatigue. You may also choose to strength train only one or two days per week, which should make muscle fatigue even less likely.

Runners’ Strength Training Program
The strength training protocol followed by the Notre Dame athletes, and all of our runners, is a comprehensive conditioning program that addresses all of the major muscle groups in the body. We do not attempt to imitate specific running movements or emphasize specific running muscles, because this typically results in an overtrained, imbalanced, and injury-prone musculoskeletal system.

For example, the calf (gastrocnemius and soleous) muscles are used extensively in running. Due to their involvement in every running stride, many people think that runners should strengthen their calf muscles. Indeed they should, but it is even more important to strengthen their weaker counterpart, the shin (anterior tibial) muscles. If you strengthen only the larger and stronger calf muscles they will eventually overpower the smaller and weaker shin muscles, which may lead to shin splints, stress fractures, achilles tendon problems, and other lower leg difficulties. With this in mind, our runners always conclude their strength workouts with a set of weighted toe raises to strengthen the shin muscles and maintain balance within the lower leg musculature.

Some people believe that runners should complete numerous sets and many repetitions with light resistance to enhance their endurance capacity. However, this is not our purpose in performing strength training. Remember that running is best for improving cardiovascular endurance, and that strength training is best for increasing musculoskeletal strength.

Generally, muscle strength is best developed by training with moderate weightloads (about 75 percent of maximum) for 8 to 12 repetitions per set. However, distance runners typically possess a higher percentage of slow-twitch muscle fibers, and therefore attain better results by training with about 12 to 16 repetitions per set. You should add 1 to 5 pounds more resistance whenever you complete 16 repetitions in good form. One set of each exercise is sufficient for strength development.

There is no reason to train with fast movement speeds, because training fast will not make you faster and training slow will not make you slower. Exercising with controlled movement speeds maximizes muscle tension and minimizes momentum for a better training effect. We recommend six-second repetitions, taking two seconds for each lifting movement and four seconds for each lowering movement.

Research supports three non-consecutive strength training sessions per week for best results, but fewer workouts can produce significant strength gains. Our recent studies have shown two weekly workouts to be 82 percent as effective and one weekly workout to be 69 percent as effective as three-day-per-week strength training.

Summary of Strength Training Guidelines

  • Exercise all of the major muscle groups
  • Perform 12 to 16 repetitions per set
  • Add one to five pounds whenever 16 repetitions can be completed
  • Perform one set of each exercise
  • Use controlled movement speeds (six seconds per rep)
  • Train one, two or three non-consecutive days per week

Recommended Strength Exercises For Runners
You may develop muscle strength with a variety of exercises using free-weights or machines. The following section presents recommended strength exercises for the major muscle groups.

Leg Muscles
Although barbell squats are the traditional leg exercise, most runners may do better to avoid placing a heavy barbell across their shoulders. Dumbbell squats are an acceptable alternative, but it may be difficult to hold enough weight to appropriately stress the large leg muscles.

Our recommendation is leg presses on a well-designed machine that offers a full movement range and good back support. It may be advisable to precede leg presses with leg extensions that target the quadriceps and leg curls that target the hamstrings. One set of each exercise is sufficient, but you may perform an additional set if you desire.

Upper Body Muscles
The typical exercises for the upper body are bench presses for the chest muscles, bent rows for the mid-upper back muscles, and overhead presses for the shoulder muscles. These are acceptable exercises, but are much safer when performed with dumbbells rather than barbells. For example, because there is no back support in a barbell bent row, the stress to the low-back area is 10 times the weight of the barbell. By using one dumbbell, and placing your other hand on a bench for back support, this exercise can be performed more safely and effectively.

If you have access to machines, we recommend chest crosses for the chest muscles, pullovers for the mid and upper back muscles, and lateral raises for the shoulder muscles. These machines require rotary movements that better isolate the target muscle groups. If you prefer linear movements that involve more muscle groups, well-designed chest press, seated row, and shoulder press machines provide combined training for the upper body and arm muscles.

Arm Muscles
The basic exercise for the biceps muscles is the arm curl, performed with barbells, dumbbells, or machines. Training the triceps involves some form of arm extension, either with free-weights or machines.

A good means for working the biceps and upper back muscles together is chin-ups with bodyweight or on a weight-assisted chin/dip machine. A good means for working the triceps and chest muscles together is bar dips with bodyweight or on a weight-assisted chin/dip machine.

Midsection Muscles
Machines provide the best means for safely and progressively conditioning the muscles of the midsection. In our opinion, the abdominal machine and low-back machine are key exercises for developing a strong and injury resistant midsection. We also recommend the rotary torso machine for strengthening the oblique muscles surrounding the midsection.

If appropriate machines are not available, the basic trunk curl may be the best alternative for abdominal conditioning. The recommended counterpart for the low-back muscles is a front-lying (face down) back extension. Although both of these exercises are performed with bodyweight resistance they are reasonably effective for strengthening the midsection muscles.

Neck Muscles
The neck muscles maintain head position throughout each run. As the head weighs up to 15 pounds, this is an important function. In fact, the first place where many runners fatigue and tighten up is the neck/shoulder area. We therefore recommend the 4-way neck machine to strengthen these muscles. If you do not have access to this machine, perhaps the best approach is manual resistance. That is, place your hands in front of your forehead to resist slow neck flexion movements, and place your hands behind your head to resist slow neck extension movements.

Table 1 presents the recommended strength training exercises for an overall conditioning program that should be beneficial for runners.

Table 1. Recommended Strength Training Program: Basic Exercises

Major Muscle Groups Machine Exercises Free-Weight Exercises

Quadriceps Leg Extension Machine Dumbbell Half-Squat
Hamstrings Leg Curl Machine Dumbbell Half-Squat
Chest Chest Cross Machine Dumbbell Bench Press
Upper Back Pullover Machine Dumbbell Bent Row
Shoulders Lateral Raise Machine Dumbbell Overhead Press
Biceps Biceps Machine Dumbbell Biceps Curl
Triceps Triceps Machine Dumbbell Triceps Extension
Low Back Low Back Machine Back Extension (Bodyweight)
Abdominals Abdominal Machine Trunk Curls (Bodyweight)

Once you have mastered the basic exercise program, you may want to add some of the exercises presented in Table 2.

Table 2. Recommended Strength Training Program: Additional Exercises

Muscle Groups Machine Exercises Free Weight Exercises

Quadriceps & Hamstrings Leg Press Machine Dumbbell Lunge
Chest & Triceps Weight-Assisted Chin/Dip Machine Bar Dip
Upper Back & Biceps Weight-Assisted Chin/Dip Machine Chin Up
Internal & External Obliques Rotary Torso Machine Trunk Curls with Twists
Neck Flexors & Extensors 4-Way Neck Machine Manual Resistance Neck Flexion   & Extension
Calves Calf Machine Dumbbell Heel Raises
Shins Weight Plate Toe Raises

Summary
The main objectives of a strength training program for runners is to decrease injury risk and increase performance potential. For best results the program should be high in exercise intensity and low in training time. One good set of 12-16 repetitions for each major muscle group is recommended for a safe, effective and efficient exercise experience. One or two training sessions per week are sufficient, although three weekly workouts produces greater strength gains. Each workout should take no more than 20-30 minutes depending upon the number of exercises performed. The key to productive strength training is proper exercise technique, which includes full movement range and controlled movement speeds. When you make every repetition count, a basic and brief training program should increase your strength significantly (40-60 percent) over a two month training period.

TAKU’s NOTE: Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and Club Industry magazines.

Train Sane for the New Year

Suddenly everywhere we look the workouts have gone insane. What’s that all about? Anyone who has read my stuff regularly, knows that I believe in hard work. However, just because a workout is named something that sounds tough, and or gets you out of breath, does not mean it is a smart or viable way to train long term.

The truth is the number one type of exercise we can do for our health is strength training, And the number one reason folks don’t feel that they can workout is lack of time. With this in mind,why choose a program that says you need to confuse your muscles and workout 5 – 6 – or 7 days per week for an hour or more? The truth is that anyone from the elite athlete to the un-fit office worker can get all they need from two or three well thought out 30 or 45 minute workouts per week.

What’s that saying about a fool and his money? I’ve noticed that the “insane” workout folks are now trying to sell agility ladders and other tools to make folks more athletic etc. Don’t fall for the hype. Unless you want to be a world champion at using the agility ladder, don’t bother buying or using one. No matter what anyone tells you, it will not give you better footwork for your chosen sport.

If you are a soocer player, what do you think will be more beneficial:

A: 30 minutes of agility ladder drills.

B: 30 minutes of extra time spent practicing skills with a soocer ball for improved ball mastery?

Let’s talk science for a moment.

1. Purported “speed drills” that do not replicate exact sprinting body mechanics (same speed, muscle contractions, angles of force output, etc.) may not transfer to improve speed. Again, the principle of specificity states that to become proficient in any activity, the activity itself must me practiced exactly. Anything “almost” or “close” is NOT exact. Therefore, general drills such as high knees, skips, bounds, box jumps, or other slower-moving actions (relative to all-out sprinting speed) can be used, but more as a part of a dynamic warm-up routine.

2. Straight-ahead sprinting and change-of-direction agility drills elicit a “plyometric” (stretch-shortening) effect. Therefore, whenever you’re sprinting and doing agilities, your doing plyometrics. No need to spend an inordinate amount of time jumping on and off boxes.


3.  Speed gadgets and gimmicks such as parachutes, rubber tubing, sleds, weighted vests, and the like are nothing exceptional. They by themselves will not make you “run like the wind” after their use. They can be used
for variety in a conditioning program (repeated use can create fatigue), but that’s about it. It is a fact that running with weight or against resistance alters running mechanics from those used in unweighted sprinting you’ll experience during a game (sport-specific). Therefore, keep your running both sport and energy system-specific by replicating the situations / runs you’ll face in competition.

To find out how intelligent athletes train, check out this article from last August: Strength Training for Athletes

So to sum up, it’s not about feeling tired, sweating profusely or earning a T-shirt…It’s about consistent and progressive hard work on brief, intense, and infrequent programs designed to support your goals.

Remember Train Smart, Win easy.

Pau for Now.
TAKU