Archive for January, 2015

One of the things that may discourage people from continuing or from starting a regular exercise program is the experience of feeling sore a day or two after an unaccustomed exercise. This is described as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). To help people go through with this, here are some suggestions, based on evidence and actual experiences, on how to minimize DOMS. Educating ourselves about the process that we undergo when we engage in a new physical activity is a good way to start too. It will change our perception about training into a more positive and rewarding process.

The reader is also encouraged to read an earlier post entitled “Setting initial training expectations by understanding a natural process called GAS”.

Why does it occur?

DOMS is theorized to occur because of microscopic disruptions or “damages” within the muscle fibers after an intense muscular activity. This causes an inflammatory process wherein chemicals are released that act on the nerve fibers within the muscle that sense pain.

Our muscles are composed of fibrous structures that have microscopic structures that attach, detach, and reattach during contraction or active movement. During an intense muscular activity, small disruptions in the fibers happen. This process causes the release of chemicals which stimulate nerve endings. This is felt as soreness. This is a normal process. The good thing is that the body would repair this mini-damages and the end result is a muscle fiber which is stronger and more resistant to damage caused by the same magnitude of contraction that caused the initial disruption. As long as we give our body a chance to recover, it will. And it will make itself more prepared to overcome the stimulus which caused it to feel sore.


When does it occur?

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) generally occurs between 24 and 72 hours after a bout of unaccustomed exercise that involves eccentric muscle action. It is most pronounced when there is a challenging stimulus to the musculoskeletal system. In other words, it is the soreness felt 1 to 3 days after a hard physical activity. Some authors state that it would resolve in 96 hours.

Most new activities can be challenging and muscle soreness is usually observed after a new physical activity or when the same physical activity is made even more challenging- e.g.: increasing the load in the same exercise.


Will it happen to everyone?

For most people, yes, but the severity of soreness would be different for each person. In a research paper, Schoenfeld & Contreras states that the precise time, course and extent of DOMS is highly variable and can last for many days depending on factors such as exercise intensity, training status, and genetics. So if you are training as a group, expect that some would be able to recover faster, some may feel it earlier, while some may not be sore (the stronger ones). As long as the activity is challenging enough for the musculoskeletal system, disruptions occur which would likely cause DOMS.


Will I experience DOMS again after I recovered?

Since the severity and duration of DOMS can be highly variable, and the ability to recover is individualized, the safe answer is Yes and No. Yes, if the intensity is significantly higher than the previous one or the exercise is totally different and demanding. And it can be No, if you do the same training routine and the intensity is not too high compared to the previous one.

In a research published in the Journal of Physiology, Proske & Morgan discussed that a second period of exercise, a week after the first, produces much less damage. This is the result of an adaptation process. This leads to a secondary shift in the muscle’s optimum length for active tension. This makes the muscles better at handling the same type of stress.

To make it simple, depending on your innate ability to recover, and take into consideration other factors like the training intensity, there maybe a some muscle soreness again but the good news is that it would not be as severe as the initial soreness due to the adaptations within the muscle fiber.

The good thing is that your body has experienced some type of stress, has reacted to it by rebuilding its composition to be able to handle the stress. And the result is that subsequent stress of the same nature would not cause the same amount of “damage” and pain.

Be patient when starting a new training program, the DOMS is a normal occurrence and it would disappear as you proceed with your training. Treat it as a sort of “milestone” that you passed by on your journey to a better you. You would encounter this every once in a while as your ability increases.


Does it occur more in some types of exercises?

Yes, since there are many varying intensities due to the nature of the exercise. Some exercises also emphasize the eccentric portion more. Movement occurs due to muscle contraction and there are three types of muscle contraction. Concentric contraction occurs when the muscle belly shortens against a load – like when standing up from a sitting position. Isometric contraction occurs when the muscles exert effort but there is no visible movement in the limbs- example is clenching a closed fist. And eccentric contraction is the part of movement wherein the load is lowered by virtue of gravity, or recoil for elastic equipment, but still under conscious controlled lengthening of a contracted or shortened muscle belly. The muscles lengthen at a controlled rate during this part of the movement and the force that lengthens it is the external load. An example is sitting down from a standing position.

All three types of muscular contraction has the potential to cause DOMS but it is mostly observed in physical activities requiring higher relative intensity. Studies and observations show that DOMS is often precipitated predominantly by eccentric exercise. Activities with higher intensity usually have more eccentric action involvement. An example would be downhill running. A research published in the Journal of Sports Physical Therapy suggests that concentric forces decrease as velocity of movement increases but eccentric force remains the same even as the velocity increases. Eccentric muscle action produces forces which are greater than concentric muscle action.

This means that DOMS is usually felt after an intense and physically challenging training and it is usually observed after activities which emphasize a lot of eccentric component like in downhill running, or doing the Negative Sets system of training in the weights room. And the prevailing body of literature does not support gender related differences in the manifestation of DOMS. It happens to both men & women. The severity is not due to gender but due to the type of exercise and intensity relative to the person as well as the level of fitness of the individual.


What can I do to lessen the soreness?

Recovery from DOMS can be enhanced by doing a light intensity exercise. Exercise the body part that is sore but at a very low intensity. If the thighs are sore, do some brisk walking or jogging for 5 to 10 minutes. Then stretch the sore muscle belly to facilitate relaxation. Drink a lot of water. Some would prefer soup or clear broth. Gentle massage along with stretching helps a lot in relaxing the muscle belly. A warm bath may help in relaxation too. Results for massage would vary depending on the time of application and the technique used. As per personal experience, used to go for massage from a friend who I used to work with in a Sports Medicine Center at the end of the week. I go for massage when I trained really hard for the past two weeks or so and it is my reward to myself for working and training hard. I trust the masseuse since she is certified in her trade and also has years of experience working with the top athletes. This approach helped me to recover from the demands of work and training and would make me ready for the coming weeks. A word of caution though- massage sessions usually would go from 30 minutes to an hour. There was one time I was really sore after a half marathon and I insisted for 2 hours of hard massage. Hard massage is when more pressure is applied to the muscle bellies. Just after the massage my muscles got swollen and I ended up being sore longer than I had to be. So the lesson is: be patient, recovery takes time. The process can be made to go a bit faster, but not too much. If we try to do short cuts, it will even take a longer time to recover than usual.

If you have no drug allergies, over the counter NSAIDS would help, but it is best to consult a qualified Medical Doctor. For practical reasons, it is ok not to take painkillers for DOMS as long as the soreness does not interfere or hinder you from performing very important and delicate tasks. DOMS is only transient and would usually disappear faster after a light training session. And it is interesting to note that exercise is the most effective means of alleviating pain during DOMS, however the analgesic effect is also temporary. Alternatively, exercises targeting less affected body parts should be encouraged in order to allow the most affected muscle groups to recover.

As with everything new, there is a period of time needed for us to adjust. Our bodies react accordingly to what we let it undergo. Understanding more about the processes that we undergo when we engage in a strength training program makes us respond positively and persist until we achieve our goals. That way, we train better, we live better!




  1. Causes of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness and the Impact on Athletic Performance: A Review. Smith, Lucille L., Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: August 1992
  2. Eccentric and concentric force-velocity relationships of the quadriceps femoris muscle. Cress NMPeters KSChandler JM., J Orthop Sports Phys Ther.1992;16(2):82-6.
  3. Is Post-Exercise Muscle Soreness a Valid Indicator of Muscular Adaptations? Brad Schoenfeld, PhD, CSCS, CSPS, FNSCA, Bret Contreras, MA, CSCS, 1. CUNY Lehman College, Department of Health Sciences, Program of Exercise Science, Bronx, NY, 2.  AUT University, Aukland, NZ
  4. Muscle soreness, swelling, stiffness and strength loss after intense eccentric exercise. M J Cleakand R G Eston Br J Sports Med. Dec 1992; 26(4): 267–272.
  5. Delayed onset muscle soreness : treatment strategies and performance factors. Cheung K1, Hume PMaxwell LSports Med.2003;33(2):145-64.

Fantasy World

Posted: January 27, 2015 in From my vantage point

It is my personal observation that people live in a fantasy world. This was made even clearer as I listened to the advice of my friend who went through being an athlete to a gym owner, a pioneer in the industry, and a coach. He shared to me his observations since I can’t understand why people buy very expensive, but less efficient “exercise regimen & equipment” while they ignore the “more effective hardcore training.” There is a discrepancy between what people want versus what they are willing to work hard for. I blame the twisted facts being advertised for distorting how we view this world. They made people want instant results with minimum effort.

As I work with more and more variety of athletes and their Sports coaches, I noticed that we may have the best intentions for them but the way it is presented may not be what they expected. Other Strength Coaches also have this observation. Then I remembered what one senior Strength Coach said to me: “The athletes come to you to have quality training. They need to be in the best possible condition for their sports training and ultimately for competition. But they may not completely understand the science behind. It is your job to design an effective training program that they are happy to follow.” OK, that is not exactly how he told me but that is what he means. It is also so much easier said than done. I feel Strength Coaches are fighting an uphill battle. We have to state the facts which are not viewed in the same way by some athletes and some Sports coaches. You can’t really blame them since there are always some fitness “experts” who advertise a “revolutionary exercise equipment” & “exercise routine” that burns off fat and keeps you in shape with minimal physical effort, “sports specific” exercises, “core exercises” that improve performance, blah blah blah…And on the other side are Strength Coaches who emphasize that a particular training system and equipment is far superior than the brightly colored “fitness equipment”,  which is true of course…

Athletes should have good work ethics in the gym if they want to be better at what they do. But I now realize that this is also sometimes a fantasy. One day, a kettlebell must have fallen on my head. I suddenly had this moment of enlightenment. All the while I was judging people who do not want to train hard but want to get good results quickly. And who am I to judge when I myself am having a fantasy of my own? I had been dreaming expecting that anybody who comes to the gym trains really hard without questions. But the reality is that people generally shy away from hard work and prefer to do things where they are already good at. It can be a challenge for a Strength and Conditioning Coach to make athletes accept a Strength and Conditioning training program that may not be so glamorous. But we have to present the facts that to cause positive change, the stimulus (training) should be at a sufficient intensity (see GAS). It is a challenge to make people change what they are comfortable doing. But it is a fact that for one to change and improve his or her level, one has to change the usual routine which is not usually comfortable especially in the beginning.

valstrengthtrainingcbIt is also a fact that there is no superior training equipment and regiment that will improve all components of fitness and sports performance. I realized that I should get out of the fantasy world, that it is but natural for people to resist change. I must accept reality and the reality is that most people live in a fantasy world. So for now, I have to go and teach a new member of the Justice league how to squat. Then I can fly back to Krypton.

“We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.”

– Archilochus


To be able to have quality training there should be a clear goal coupled with honest & realistic expectations. Quality training is training that produces intended results that can be measured. The strength coach would discuss with the client how to best achieve the client’s goals with their situation. The how, what, when, where, why, and who are discussed. It is better that the client asks questions like “Why will the training be done this way? This gives the strength coach further opportunity to help the client by educating him or her. This would help to level expectations. Expectations on what is achievable, on how much effort is expected from the client when training, and also what would the client expect from the Strength Coach.

Mis-informed clients may avail of Strength Coach services expecting something different from the specialization of the Strength & Conditioning Coach. The PAR-Q & casual interview in the initial meeting would indicate if the client would have to go to a Physician to check for some injuries or medical conditions. The Strength & Conditioning Coach would refer the client to Specialists in other areas if needed. Areas like Nutrition, Rehabilitation, and Psychology are different areas of expertise and licenses. The Strength & Conditioning Coach guides the client and it is the client’s decision to avail of other services if he really needs them.


There are some coaches who “design” a particular training program and actually train with the client not because it is what the client needs but because the coach wants to train himself primarily and the client second. The client paid the Strength Coach to coach him in his or her quest to make himself better so the Strength Coach should give what is due for the client. The training program should be tailor made for the needs of the client, not the coach. That is why clients should ask the why’s and how’s early on so as to understand the process. This would facilitate good discussion and both client and Strength Coach would learn.

It should be obvious who is doing the training but sometimes there are people who would throw all responsibilities to the Strength Coach- even the lifting itself! (relying too much on the coach to act as spotter). This situation may be minimized when the Strength Coach explains to the client what is needed from the client in order to elicit positive adaptations.


gas2One process which everybody goes through when subject to a new type or level of stress is the General Adaptation Syndrome or GAS. It describes the biologic reaction of an organism (the client) to stress (the training process) and the subsequent adaptation. It comes in phases that corresponds to the changes that take place in the body undergoing the adaptation. The first phase is called the “Alarm Phase”- this is the initial soreness and stiffness experienced when a person starts a training program. It may last from 1-3 days or longer. Within this phase also happens the countershock- that is the body starts to recover from the soreness. After the Alarm Phase is the “Resistance Phase”. It is the period when the body adapts to the stress by becoming stronger. A new level of fitness is achieved. If too much stress is applied, the next phase called “Exhaustion Phase” is reached. Experienced Strength coaches would not let their athletes/ clients go to this phase since this means it is overtraining. Applying the concept of the General Adaptation Syndrome simply means that a client has to get out of his or her comfort zone if he/she is to expect any positive change in his/her fitness level. The more change desired by the client, the more effort and time is needed to effect that change. Effort is also needed to maintain that desired state once it is achieved. So in short, if a client has a well-defined goal, the Strength & Conditioning Coach would be able to guide the client well and tell him or her how much effort is usually required to attain that goal. Then the client knows what to expect. The Strength Coach will then adjust, if needed, the planned training components depending on the situation while keeping the training goal in focus. Once the goal is achieved, it would be time to re-assess and set another objective. An example would be to maintain the fitness level that has been reached. Both the client and the Strength Coach learn from each other in the process. Each individual is unique and each situation is different. It is a matter of having a right match between what the client wants and needs, and who is best able to provide him/ her the services. Coaching involves educating the client so as to be more effective in empowering the client to improve his/ her fitness and be better in what they do.



Val R Jr.

PTRP, CSCS, CKT-1, IKSFA SP1, USAW-Advanced Sports Performance Coach

Here are a few quick stretches and some exercises to help reduce discomfort experienced by some people who have lower back pain and pain on the back of their thigh extending to the back of the leg. If the discomfort is caused by an irritation of the sciatic nerve by tight and weak muscles around your hip and lower back, loosening the tightness and improving muscular control of your torso may help ease the discomfort. The sciatic nerve may be irritated. It is referred to as sciatica. Try these exercises in 3 to 4 alternating days within 1 to 2 weeks and hopefully you would experience some relief. If it gets worst even before 1 to 2 weeks, the best way would be to consult your physician. Sciatica may also be caused by impinged nerve roots due to a prolapsed or herniated intervertebral disc. Pain may be more severe in this case and a proper diagnosis has to be established so that proper interventions can be formulated thus a physician should be consulted.

These exercises may have different names depending on who is describing them but the more important thing is that you do them with sufficient and appropriate intensity long enough to notice positive effect. You can rename these exercises if it helps you remember them. You may call them Benny or Roger, whatever makes you remember to get them into a regular routine. I just made up the names myself to help me visualize them.

  1. Figure 4 (and its variations)

This is very simple and as you can see, you are very familiar with it. You can do it anywhere where you can sit. What you need to emphasize is an upright back and “high” chest. If you do not feel enough stretch, then lean forward but do not slouch. The photos show in sequence from initial position to position to stretch hip internal rotators and hip external rotators to increasing intensity (by bending forward).


  1. Figure 4 went to sleep

When the first exercise does not provide enough stretch, changing position would increase the stretching effect.


  1. Hug your thigh

Since you are already lying on your back, might as well try hugging your thigh. Photo is shown above with figure 4 went to sleep.


  1. Number 7

If you felt some relief after doing the figure 4 exercise but want some more stretch, proceed to figure 4 went to sleep and hug your thigh. If you still need more stretch intensity, do what I call Number 7 (the position of the thighs and bent knee looks like number 7). Hopefully by this time you would have significant relief or there is no pain at all. Then you can start becoming more and more active, and start enjoying life more.valstrengthtrainingnumber7


For stretch exercises 1 to 4, hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds depending on your tolerance. Repeat 3 to 4 times in a session.

Here are some exercises to help you stretch further and at the same time improve muscular control of your torso:

a. Dog – bird

Needs a bit of coordination and balance. First photo is starting position. Then lift 1 arm and the opposite leg and touch your knee with the opposite elbow. Then reach with your arm as far forward as you can while kicking back as far as you can. Lift your leg higher than your butt. Eyes follow your moving hand. Repeat by touching elbows and knees.


b. Inchworm

It stretches your hamstrings and lower back as well as lets you use the front muscles of your torso. Do not try if your back is aching! And if you tried it and cannot maintain the position then try a less strenuous movement like the dog – bird (or bird – dog, or call it as you like).


Walk your feet as close to your hands as possible without bending your knees. You will feel a stretching sensation on your hamstrings and your calves.


Once your feet are as close as they can get to your hands, walk your hands as far away from your feet as possible while maintaining a stable torso.

For dog-bird do 30 to 40 repetitions  (15 to 20 per side) for 2 to 3 sets. For inchworm, do 5 to 8 meters for 1 to 2 sets initially then increase as you get stronger.

Remember, if you have a condition that can be made worst by a physical activity, it is best that you discuss with your doctor if you plan to start becoming more active. If you are cleared to participate in regular physical activities, start gradually and pick the exercises that you can do safely. And do the exercises with sufficient intensity and duration so they can work. The exercises shown above are suggestions and they may work well as long as they are done properly for those who are able to do them safely.

Try which position or variation provides you with some relief and try these exercises for one to two weeks to be able to observe if they work for you. But, if you feel something is wrong, or something hurts while doing the exercises, stop doing them and better consult a physician.


There are so many exercises that those who would want to start a training program would get confused. Even athletes and their sports coaches can be misinformed by all the hype. Some athletes and sports coaches may already have preconceived notion of what their Strength and Conditioning training program should be but it would not necessarily be what they need at their current condition. The same is true for individuals who may not be training for sports performance. This makes it harder for a Strength and Conditioning Coach, or for a Personal Trainer, to implement a realistic plan.


Educating ourselves helps us to set realistic expectations. Exercise may seem complicated by all the conflicting ideas but to make it easier to understand let us compare food – which we encounter everyday, to exercise.


Most people, especially kids, love junk food. Junk food tastes good but is of little nutritional value. A close to ideal eating habit would be eating at the proper time a staple food which would sustain our energy requirement, some side dishes for other nutrients needed for normal body functions, and a lot of fluids. Substituting junk food for the staple food would sooner or later make us fat, weak, grouchy, and in the long term may develop diabetes, and/or hypertension. Other problems jump in too like lower back & joint problems due to excess body weight which a weak musculature and cardiovascular system cannot support. It is true that healthier food like vegetables may not be as tasty as some junk food but that would not diminish their contribution to our health. We certainly cannot substitute our carbohydrate intake with chocolates and doughnuts day in and day out. We have to eat food of better quality and at the same time enjoy our food.


When it comes to exercise, there are similarities. There are exercises that, when used in a well designed training plan, would produce the intended results. They can improve not just one but two or more fitness components. For a particular training objective, there are exercises which would bring about the best stimulus for the the required change. These would make up the main part of the training program. Most of the time time and effort in a training session is allocated for these exercises. They are the staple part of your exercise diet. These are called the “Main Exercises” or “Core Exercises” (which is oftentimes confused with core exercises pertaining to exercises for the torso musculature.)


The training goal would dictate the choices and type of exercise. For this blog, we would be focusing on the description of exercises to improve strength.

valstrengthtrainingdeadliftCharacteristics of the “Main” exercises for Strength are: mostly ground based or done in a standing position; involves most major joints in the body like the hip, knees, shoulders, ankles, elbows, and wrist; requires some skill and technique; equipment used are free weights especially the barbells. Load would lean towards the heavy side. Kettlebells, dumbells, and  bodyweight is used too especially if the strength level of the trainee is still not so high. Examples of Strength exercises would be Squats, Deadlift, and Standing overhead press. The more powerful movements would be developed using Cleans, Snatches, jerks, and plyometric jumps. These require time, patience, feedback, and simply a lot of practice but they help improve a lot of qualities needed in athletic endeavors. It takes some time to learn them and they are generally harder to execute. Which probably contributes to the reasons why people (who do not understand or are not motivated) would not like to do them. Just like vegetables- these exercises contribute a lot to a person’s valstrengthtrainingsquatbbhealth & fitness but are generally not liked due to their inherent nature. And the bottom line is: STRENGTH is one of the most important attribute that influences most, if not all others directly and indirectly.


There are also exercises that can be referred to as “Assistive” or “Supplemental”. They are derived from the main exercises and as their name implies, they are used to supplement the main exercises for a more overall development. They are like the side dishes. They are usually derivatives of the main exercises. Examples are Split Squat, lunges, One arm press, and Overhead Squats. Kettlebells and dumbells are great tools for these exercises. These exercises help to develop certain portions of a movement that may not be emphasized as much in the “Main” exercises. Load is not as high as the main exercise.



There are also a lot of exercises which look “cool” and are trendy, BUT may not necessarily provide the required stimulus for promoting positive adaptation towards the needed athletic or fitness component. Some are marketed to “significantly improve strength” but it can be misleading. These exercises are marketed mostly as “functional” but the word “functional” is vague and would mean different things to different people. They may have been bastardized form of rehab exercises and were used for the wrong purpose but are marketed very well. Examples are squats while standing on a swiss ball. The risk would somehow negate the benefits. If the person falls from the swiss ball and gets whacked in the head by the barbell and spills his neural matter all over the floor, that would not in any way make him or her strong and healthy. Like junk food, these exercises are still exercises and a lot of them have something of value- if used for their correct purpose. But they should not make up the bulk of a person’s training plan especially if the training goal is to increase strength. They should not be prescribed if they do not contribute to the the realization of the training goals of the individual. If strength exercise is food, these exercises are junk food.


As kids begin to understand more about which food is better for them, their preference may be shifted towards healthier food choices. Similar situation is when adults are educated about exercises, they may prefer those that would give them the best return of their valuable time, effort, and money. If you want to live better, then train better. Choose your exercises wisely, educate yourself well about exercises, and train with people who you can trust- those have the qualifications and experience with the same population you are in. Add the required effort and commitment and you would make yourself better. Train Better, Live Better!


Why do people train?

People train for a variety of reasons but the most common ones are: to improve one’s health; to look good; to be able to do better in one’s sport or physical activity or job; to feel better; & to also as a means to socialize.

Most of the above reasons can be translated into fitness goals and when translated into fitness goals they can be viewed upon as neurophysiologic responses or adaptations to specific sustained stimulus. Training is the stimulus and the adaptations are the result. One key word is SUSTAINED. For the person to change, the stimulus (in this case- the exercises) should be sustained.

What do Fitness Professionals do?

Fitness professionals, or fitness coaches, would discuss with a client what a client wants- the reason why the client would want to exercise. They would then map out a plan on how to achieve these goals, what to do, how often, how much does one need to do, and what can be other alternatives. The Fitness Professional would make a plan out of what the client wants & needs, what are the available options, the other factors like time availability, preferences, & other conditions. In short, the Fitness Professional would remove some of the obstacles to achieving the client’s goals while at the same time providing some motivation & feedback for the client. A good Fitness Professional creates a positive change in the individual by ensuring that the stimulus is of sufficient magnitude to elicit adaptation and at the same time is sustained. Who accomplishes more, is it a lazy person or a hardworking person? It is the person who can sustain a consistent effort. A Strength and Conditioning Coach is a type of Fitness Professional who work specifically with the athletic population. A Personal Trainer works most of the time with the general population. Sometimes a Personal Trainer trains an individual for an athletic event like a marathon. And a Strength Coach can train individuals not necessarily for competition but for their own fitness goals. It is the one who can establish  a positive working relationship with the client or athlete who can bring about improvement and results.

Will training with the help of a Fitness Professional make a big difference?

_MBR2042Absolutely! To make it simple- training is a science that requires some expertise. Not everyone is highly knowledgeable in this area. It also requires some planning, feedback, motivation, & technical skills. Therefore, another reason why people would not see results in their training is that they do not know how to go about it. It is just like traveling, no matter how much you want to go to another place if you do not have a map & guided instruction on how to go there, you may end up getting lost.

As the name implies- Fitness Professionals are professionals. The best ones invest their time, money, & effort in continuous learning. They would have taken a lot of seminars, workshops, certifications, and continue to spend a lot of time reading and updating themselves in the science of training. They also have very good experience working with clients, athletes, and anyone interested to be healthier, stronger, & better. Most of all- they are but humans with their own inefficiencies but they practice what they preach and they also train themselves.

A scientific Study by McClaran published on 2003 tested 129 clients. The results suggest that one-on-one personal training is effective in increasing the amount of physical activity performed. Humans are humans- we have all these negative and positive traits. We would want to be better but along the way, we can be lazy and come up with all reasons not to train. The Fitness Professional is there to help a willing client achieve his goal and, depending on the client, surpass his known limits and be the fittest he/she will ever be.

Running is a very good activity. It requires minimum equipment and gives a lot of health benefits. The running community should be growing and it is good news for the shoe companies and race organizers. There are many events too, from fun runs to trail running to ultramarathons. You also get a lot of crazy events like zombie runs, sky running, and guess what – underwater running! I even heard of a story of a guy who runs 20 kilometers to work and back. And then he deliberately moved his residence much further from his office so he could run more. Hmmnnn… he must be running away from something.


ultra runSo how do you improve your running ability? First is you have to run. Running is the best exercise for running. But there are some aspects in running which can be improved by strength training. These would be the uphills, downhills, sprints, and any situation where the runner needs to speed up or to produce and absorb forces quickly like in a sudden change of direction to avoid falling off the trail in a trail run. Strength training increases muscle power output. According to the work of McBride, et. al, muscle power is most important in running events of shorter distances (60 to 200 meters), but there is also a significant correlation between muscle power between middle and long distance running (800 to 5,000 meters). In the athletic population, Strength Coaches work with sprinters since their sport requires very powerful movements. But it has also been observed that Strength training benefits the endurance runners. Davis, et. al, studied the effects of concurrent training (meaning Aerobic training and Strength training done together) on 30 women and 20 men. They concluded that, for endurance adaptations in athletes, strength and endurance training can be done concurrently and will have a positive effect. Another research by Esteve-Lanao and his friends led to the conclusion that strength training minimizes the loss of stride length that typically occurs in endurance runners. Strength training maintains running mechanics aside from improving power (speed). There are other areas like your nutritional intake, hydration, and timing of meals but that is for my friend, a Nutritionist – Dietician, to write about.


So there you have it runners, you basically have to run if you want to improve running. If you reached a certain level of mng jasrunning competency, a good strength training program can help you improve your running performance by improving your power output and by minimizing the effects of fatigue on your running mechanics. And another important thing which is usually overlooked when it comes to strength training is its injury prevention or mitigating aspect. An advice to those who plan to do back to back concurrent training: it is better to do your strength training first before you run. That way, your energy system works more efficiently. The chances of straining yourself is also lesser. There was a time when I would run around 6km to the office (which is a gym), then do my strength training before I start work. It was working well for a few weeks. Then one day it became very humid. I must have been dehydrated after the run but I proceeded with my strength training as usual. But due to my carelessness, I strained my back. When I analyzed what went wrong, it must have been a combination of a lot of factors like dehydration, poor technique due to fatigue, over – overloading, and basically bad judgement. I learned from that and came out wiser.


If you plan to do trail running, or any distance running, a good preparation with strength training can make the running experience more enjoyable. A runner gave me a tip when I was competing in our University Sports Day running event and it really works: “You want to run faster and better? Run fast!”




  • Relationship Between Jumping Ability and Running Performance in Events of Varying Distance. Hudgins, et. al. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research March 2013
  • Running – Specific, Periodized Strength Training Attenuates Loss of Stride Length During Intense Endurance Running. Esteve-Lanao, et. al. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, July 2008
  • Concurrent Training Enhances Athletes’ Cardiovascular and Cardiorespiratory Measures. Davis, W Jackson, Wood, Daniel T; Andrews, Ryan G, Elkind, Les M, Davis, W Bart, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Sept. 2008

This blog is for those who had ACL Reconstruction surgery. It discusses why we do the squats and deadlift as tools in addressing Post ACL Reconstruction cases. Readers looking for detailed discussion about the mechanism of injury, anatomy of the knee, and types of surgical intervention are advised to look into other sources since this would be outside the scope of this short blog. This NOT a guideline. For those who plan NOT to have ACL tear, read on too. Other related blogs will be posted soon.

acl basket

Options in managing Post ACL Reconstruction

If the ACL is torn, the athlete/ patient has two options: either to have a conservative approach or to undergo surgery. The conservative approach means the knee would still be unstable. It may be ok to have this option if there are no other associated structures in the knee which were damaged and there is minimal instability. After a thorough discussion with their surgeon, athletes or patients who plan not be physically active anymore, may choose this option. The surgical intervention option presents the athlete with a more stable knee. Every procedure entails risk, and granting that there are no secondary complications, most of the outcome would depend on how well the surgical intervention was able to restore the previous function of the torn ACL. The rehab that follows as well as any strength training that follows later, would work on the foundation established by the success of the surgery. But no amount of Strength Training would change the knee anatomy into a very efficient and stable knee. It cannot change the inherent knee anatomy, the Q angle, patellar angle, etc. Strength Training and Conditioning, if done well, would serve to strengthen the knee – the structures that make up the joint, and the muscles that move it. A much stronger knee is more able to resist high amount of forces. Strong and powerful lower limb musculature enables the limb to generate sufficient amount of force repeatedly when needed. An appropriate conditioning work would enable the athlete to sustain a high amount of work before fatigue sets in. Fatigue affects the quality of movement and the crucial split second decisions in the playing field. If the athlete is physically prepared with a good strength training and conditioning program, he or she is able to resist fatigue better and able to absorb and deflect impact forces more efficiently. This lessens the chances of re-injury. It does not take away pain, but if the knee functions well, if the running and jumping mechanics are more efficient, then the pain caused by small damages brought about by inefficient movement, would most likely be lesser. For both options, arthritic changes may soon manifest later in life. Weakness brought about by degenerative changes would be lesser too if the athlete invested in keeping himself/herself strong and fit in earlier years. This can be addressed by a good Strength and Conditioning training program.

After Physical Therapy (or Physiotherapy), a good Strength and Conditioning training program that addresses the particular needs of the athlete is imperative if the athlete is expected to perform better. In one case, the Strength and Conditioning training was started immediately when the athlete was discharged from the hospital. But of course, this was under the surgeon’s recommendation and the involved knee was not yet trained. Training prevented a sudden drop in fitness level while awaiting for the involved knee to recover enough. Most of the athletes who we worked with were able to resume normal training after 6 months. An exceptional athlete managed to go back to training and compete for their major competition in less than 6 months.  And it is also worth mentioning that the Athlete, Surgeon, Physical Therapist, Strength and Conditioning Coach, other support staff, and the sports team were all working very well together in this particular case. It was a huge team effort. The effort paid off when the athlete and her team emerged as champions in that major competition.


Why Squats and Deadlift?

dl ladyThese two exercises are used to increase strength. They require some amount of technique, they use the whole body, and are ground based. Executing them requires coordinated movement of several major joints, and they require that the torso (or core as it is popularly termed especially in the commercial side) is in a good position, and is able to maintain a stable position under tension while the squatting or deadlift movement is completed. They require some amount of balance and a lot of proprioceptive awareness. They require a decent amount of mobility and flexibility, and they are fundamental movements. In short, the squat and deadlift are very useful and effective.

These are two main exercises that, when executed well with sufficient load and range of motion, would address a lot of issues. They may look plain and unsophisticated as compared to the standing on a pink balance disk while the other leg is hanging on a yellow TRX exercise, but they work. They require a lot of effort to do if a sufficient load with sufficient range of motion is used. That is one reason why they work.


What does the squat and the deadlift do?

back squatA lot! Knee injuries happen when impact or landing forces are higher than what the knee can absorb and deflect. Training the body to be in a good position even under tension helps it to react in the same way under playing conditions. That is what squatting and deadlifting requires – the lifter to assume a good posture and stance before the lift, during the lift and after the lift. The squatting and deadlifting positions are very similar to almost all athletic movements. Squatting and deadlifting are done in a controlled environment and load. Granting that the lifting technique is good, and the load and range of motion is higher than what is usually encountered in the playing field, then athlete is able to keep up with the demands of his/her sport. That principle is what enables athletes,  with repaired knees, perform very well upon returning to training and competition. Some of them even performed better after retraining probably due to better biomechanics ingrained in strength training.


Is it that simple?


Yes and no. Squats and deadlifts are complex exercises that takes time to learn. They do a lot for the athlete who wants to perform well after an ACL repair. If executed properly with sufficient load and range of motion, these two exercises do wonders. These two exercises address fundamental components which are usually wanting in injured and injury prone athletes. We do not need to look for very complicated exercises with fancy routines. All the other fancy exercises also have their uses but they can not replace the squat and deadlift. If squats and deadlifts make the main course, the other exercises are side dishes. Enjoy your meal!

Val R. Jr., PTRP, CSCS

What you want may not be what you need. It may not necessarily be good either. If you want to lose 2 kg of your body weight in one week, what good does it do for you? The easiest way to do it is to be dehydrated. But once you are fully hydrated you would regain the lost weight. Sudden weight loss via dehydration is not good. It may be used but as a last option for athletes who need to be in their weight class under limited time. Rather than just “lose weight”, it is better to improve your body composition. It means lowering your body’s fat mass while maintaining or increasing your lean mass. Fat mass is stored energy. Energy is used when you do work – when you move a lot. The more work you do, the more energy expended. Lean mass is composed of your bones, organs, and mostly muscles. You move using your muscles and muscles require energy to move. The higher lean mass means more muscles moving and more energy will be used. In short, when we move a lot we use or “burn” a lot of energy and some of it comes from our fat cells. More muscles moving means more energy (which includes fats) is “burned”.

There are 3 energy systems in our physiology but to make it simple, the first 2 energy systems are for shorter duration activities but of higher intensity. The third energy system, called the oxidative system, provides energy for sustained activities, including your body’s normal functions while resting. It uses FAT for energy. A high metabolic rate means a lot of energy is being used even when resting. In any given day, we eat food which can be measured in terms of energy. Let’s say an average of around 2000 calories. This is our energy intake. All our activities and normal body functions require energy. This is our energy expenditure. If the average of our energy expenditure is always equal to our energy intake, then we do not gain excess energy. If our energy expenditure is always less than our energy intake, then we gain excess energy. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed but it can change form. This excess energy is stored in our body in special storage cells called adipose tissue or simply fat.  If our energy expenditure is always more than our energy intake, then our body will use up stored energy to augment the deficit. Our metabolic rate increases. This is when we start to lose body fat. If, like most ladies… ok, and some men, you want to lose weight, then these are your options:

energy balance2

  1.  Decrease your energy intake while maintaining your daily energy expenditure. This is what most people do. Eat less. It works BUT in reality it works for a short period of time like 2 weeks to maybe 2 months, then the lost weight is regained. because it is hard to sustain this a low calorie – low volume diet. It is simply uncomfortable. Another alternative is to eat food with lower caloric value but has high bulk. A very good example is water, next is vegetables. The drawback is that these foods  would not satisfy our tongue so it is also unsustainable for the majority. But those who are on this diet are so strong and so cute. Just look at horses and rabbits .
  2. Maintain your energy intake but increase your energy expenditure. This is what some people do. It works for some, not for some. Some get a totally different result from what they initially wanted.  You need to allocate time to train. Take the stairs instead of the lift. Jog or cycle to work. You’d save transportation costs too.  Doing a regular and  consistent training program with appropriate intensity is the key. Drink water instead of soda or sports drink after running. Remember the horse?
  3. Decrease your energy intake and increase your energy expenditure. This combination of the first two is the fastest option. But it is the hardest. It obviously works but most people are weak both mentally and physically that this is too much for them. There are particular types of athletes who do this approach and it does work for them. The more determined they are, the better they look. They are called bodybuilders and the more determined ones are specifically called Champions. Remember, you really have to be determined. This approach is not for the weak.

If you are reading this because you want to lose weight, please continue reading. Looking at the three options may not be very encouraging but it is because people are conditioned for quick fixes. People are not willing to pay the price for what they want. Or people are confused by all the hype that they start to want something which they may not need or want it for the wrong reasons. It is EXCESS body weight that we want to lose because it lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and joint problems. The overall quality of life is improved by losing the excess weight. But losing weight just to lose weight makes one lose. Running is usually prescribed but it may be hard for obese individuals. Walking and cycling are better options and so is Strength Training. Strength training demands great amount of energy during the training itself plus the energy used during the recovery process. It elevates metabolism. This is probably the misunderstood role of strength training in making ladies more sexy. Admit it, most ladies say they want to lose weight but what they really want is to look sexy and beautiful. Losing weight may be just a byproduct of the process of becoming sexy. Except for the obese population, becoming sexy may even mean gaining some weight due to the increase of lean mass. Most of the thinner lady athletes that I trained through the years started mostly with straight lines – very few curves. After a few years, they gained a bit of weight but they are far stronger than when they first started. They now have curvaceous bodies, and better postures. But what is more important for them is that they perform better at their sport and are able to overcome injuries which enabled them to compete for many years. Being more attractive was just a by product of the years of work dedicated to the training program.

Improving body composition is a better goal than just “losing weight”. Having a better body composition makes you healthier, you will look better (sexier if that is what motivates you), and you would be more productive since you would tire less. Anyone starting a regular exercise activity like Strength Training should first answer the PAR-Q. If needed, talk to physicians and state that you plan to start a regular physical activity. The physician would advise about your health issues. A good and credible Fitness Professional would assess you and prescribe a sensible training program that would address your needs. Do your homework and do some research first so you will have a general idea of your options and you can set your expectations too. So instead of aiming just to “lose weight”, its better to think of improving the quality of your life by improving your body composition. That way, you would be more motivated to train better, live better.


When I was asked what I do, I had to explain what a Strength and Conditioning Coach is and is not, complete with comparisons. It usually takes me more than ten sentences. That was more than ten years ago in my country. Fast forward to the present (eve of 2015) here in Hong Kong and when I am asked what I do, people would understand it in around four sentences. But long ones. Thanks to today’s sports superstars like Manny Pacquiao who acknowledge their support staff, people are now becoming aware of the Strength and Conditioning Coach.

The trend now is specialization and coaches are not exempted. A Strength and Conditioning Coach is a specialized coach who works with athletes and sports coaches in improving their performance. There are certifying bodies who would assess a candidate’s knowledge and skills in strength training and conditioning through written and practical assessment. That is after having checked the required academic achievement and the basic requirement of current Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) training. The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is one of the internationally recognized bodies who certify individuals who passed their certifying exam. Those who passed the NSCA assessment for Strength and Conditioning Coach are called Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists (CSCS). Other certifying bodies are the UK Strength and Conditioning Association (UKSCA), and the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association (ASCA).

cscs-logo2Not everyone who passes the exam and are certified can be called Strength and Conditioning coaches. It takes a lot of guided experience in order to develop into an effective Strength and Conditioning Coach. It is an ever continuous learning process. It is reflected by the regular recertification process which is every three years for the NSCA-CSCS. Continuing Education Units (CEU’s) are a requirement aside from fees. These can be gained by attending and/or conducting recognized seminars and workshops in related areas; having other certifications, having online quizzes; plus a mandatory requirement of an updated CPR & AED card.

There are a lot of individuals who are CSCS but are not actively coaching. This may be one reason the NSCA came up with the Registered Strength and Conditioning Coach (RSCC). This is a registry of individuals who have the experience, knowledge, and skills in Strength and Conditioning. This additional title signifies that the holder has been coaching for at least two years or more. Not all the experienced and highly qualified Strength and Conditioning Coaches opted to be in the RSCC though since inclusion in the registry is not automatic. A qualified CSCS has to apply for it. The pioneer Strength and Conditioning Coaches may not have been certified but they were very effective as coaches and they possess a very deep understanding of the art and science of strength training. Certifying bodies are now setting the standards and trends in this area of expertise as more and more people choose to become Strength and Conditioning Coaches.

So what do I do? I have a career that gives me the opportunity to influence the lives of people. It is also a cyclic journey of long periods of preparation and hard work topped by a short but sweet peak of achievement only to start again at another level. To be in this profession requires one to play different roles, to work for the success of others while always being behind the scenes. It requires one to be strong enough not to be acknowledged during victories. This is what I do. That was more than four sentences.

01 January 2015