Archive for March, 2015

Endurance Athletes perform their sporting activities under sustained effort. Classic examples are long distance runners, swimmers, cyclists, and yes, a combination- the triathlon athletes. This topic pertains to these classic examples of endurance athletes. The common factor among these athletes aside from their very high level of cardiorespiratory fitness is that their events are closed skill and repetitive in nature. If their movements are more efficient, lesser effort is required to IMG_20130904_074128cover a particular distance and the successful athletes are able to cover certain distance in the shortest possible time. Moving the body (example- running) through the required distance, is work as defined by physics. Since power is equal to work divided by time, the fastest athlete in the race is the most powerful athlete. Here is when Strength Training enters the scene. It enables  the athletes’ strides to be a bit more powerful. If each stride is a fraction of a second faster and covers a few more centimeters, imagine the accumulated effect of thousands of strides in an endurance race. It would be ultimately be an improvement of their personal best. Strength trained endurance athletes would also be able to power through near the end and sprint to the finish. Strength and Power Training is now gaining reputation as a strategy to improve endurance performance.

Concurrent Training:

 

This is simultaneous endurance and strength training in a training period but not necessarily in a training session. Studies show that concurrent endurance and strength training improves  cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory fitness. A study conducted in 2008 let subjects perform Concurrent Exercises. The effects showed reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure , and more importantly increased VO2max. 1

 

The benefit of having concurrent training is having both the benefit of gaining strength and also of cardiorespiratory and local muscular endurance. But since these qualities are on opposite ends of the fitness spectrum, the trainee would not get the best of both worlds if there is no emphasis on one aspect. The trainee will be more rounded- will have some amount of strength and also some endurance. The goal will guide the coach and trainee on what to emphasize more- is it endurance or strength? For endurance athletes- the emphasis should be on endurance training. Strength training will be supplemental training but should not take up a big bulk of the training volume.

 

There was a systematic review of scientific literature on the effects of resistance training on endurance distance running performance among highly trained runners on 2008. This was done since there is a perception among highly competitive endurance runners that concurrent resistance and endurance training will improve running performance. But there are still those who would not want to try Strength Training for endurance athletes since endurance athletes traditionally did not train for strength. But after analysing several studies, the researchers concluded that resistance training likely has a positive effect on endurance running performance.2

A Guideline for Concurrent Training:

 

There was a recent study which aimed to determine whether the duration (0h, 6h or 24h) of recovery between strength and aerobic training influences the effects of a concurrent training program. Athletes were randomly assigned to either control (CONT), concurrent training (C-0h, C-6h or C-24h) or strength training (STR) groups during a 7-week training period. Two sessions of each quality were proposed each week with strength always performed before aerobic training. Measurements were performed before and immediately after the overall training period. Cardiorespiratory benefits were greatest in C-24h. Gains in maximal strength were lowest in C-0h.The study emphasized that the interference on strength development depends on the recovery delay between the two sequences. Daily training without a recovery period between sessions (C-0h) and, to a lesser extent, training twice a day (C-6h), is not optimal for neuromuscular and aerobic improvements. Therefore avoid scheduling both strength training and endurance training, with less than 6-hours recovery between them to obtain full adaptative responses to concurrent training.3

 

Using the results of the study as basis, it is better to have at least one day of recovery between your endurance training and your strength training if gains in strength is the objective. Results would be noticeable if the duration of concurrent training is around 2 months with 4 training sessions a week – two of endurance and two of strength in alternating basis. Take note that this was done on athletes who have undergone training. Weekend warriors may try lower volume and/ or lower intensity depending on their capability. One of the determining factor is the ability to recover. Even if the study says 25 hours recovery works, if the individual cannot recover well within 24 hours, then extend the recovery time and lower the intensity for the next training session until the body is able to speed up its recovery.

What Exercise would be best for Endurance athletes like runners and cyclists?

ladysquat

The Squat is one of the main exercises, if not the main exercise, that would be very beneficial to runners, cyclists, swimmers- both  for sprints and long distance. Most endurance athletes are either overtrained or almost overtrained thus it is important to control the volume of strength training so as not to add extra stress to the body’s ability to recover. This can be done by limiting the number of exercises to the most beneficial one. It can be just the squat and it will work as long as done properly with the optimum load, volume and intensity.

 

There was a study conducted to investigate the effect of maximal strength training on cycling economy.  The intervention Trek-Road-Bikes-005group performed half-squats, 4 sets of 4 repetitions maximum, 3 times per week for 8 weeks, as a supplement to their normal endurance training. The control group continued their normal endurance training during the same period. The intervention manifested significant improvements in measures of maximal strength, cycling economy, work efficiency, and time to exhaustion at pre-intervention maximal aerobic power. No changes were found in V̇o2max or body weight. In conclusion, maximal strength training for 8 weeks improved Cycling Economy and efficiency and increased time to exhaustion at maximal aerobic power among competitive road cyclists, without change in maximal oxygen uptake, cadence, or body weight..4

Other Benefits of Squatting for Distance Runners:

full squat valstrengthtraining

Gorsuch, and his colleagues analyzed the effect of squat depth on multiarticular muscle activation in collegiate cross-country runners. They conducted a study which measured muscle activity with surface electromyography (EMG) during partial and parallel squats in collegiate cross-country runners (10 males and 10 females) in a randomized crossover design. They found out that there was no difference between male and female runners when it comes to muscle activation. This means that both males and females benefit from doing squats. They also found out that there is more muscle activity in the parallel squat than in the partial squat. This means that when we do the squat, it is best to do it parallel or even lower to take advantage of the available range of motion as well as the increased muscle activation. The researchers concluded that parallel squats may help runners to train muscles vital for uphill running and correct posture, while preventing injury by using lighter weights through a larger range of motion.

 

Click here to read more about squats.

Click here to read about squats outdoors without gym equipment.

Click here for prehab and advanced rehab of ankle sprains.

Example of a concurrent training program for endurance athletes:

This is just an example based on the studies and on practical training considerations for an endurance athlete who has access to a weights room. This is a 6 week training program 8 weeks before a race.

Concurrent training www.valstrengthtraining.com

This is a sample template. It should be modified according to the athlete’s goal and fitness level as well as time availability.

 

References:

1. Concurrent Training Enhances Athlete’s Cardiovascular and Cardiorespiratory Measures. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research September 2008. 1503-1514

2. The Effects of Resistance Training on Endurance Distance Running Performance Among Highly Trained Runners: A Systematic Review.Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.November 2008 – Volume 22 – Issue 6 – pp 2036-2044

3. The specific training effects of concurrent aerobic and strength exercises depends on recovery duration. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (2014)

4. Maximal Strength Training Improves Cycling Economy in Competitive Cyclists. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. August 2010 Vol 24. 2157-2165

5. The Effect of Squat Depth on Multiarticular Muscle Activation in Collegiate Cross-Country Runners. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. September 2013 – Volume 27 – Issue 9 – p 2619–262

Tips when learning how to Squat:

ladysquat

The Squat is one of the most important exercises to learn if you want to be stronger. Squatting is a fundamental human movement. Strong people ages ago knew how to squat with heavy loads (Click here to learn about that technique). Before the invention of the modern toilet, everyone knows how to squat to shit. Now that everyone is a “fitness expert”, there are a lot of shitty squats. I am not an expert because I am still learning and I still have a lot to learn. But I make a living by training athletes to perform better and to recover from injuries. And every athlete I worked with who improved themselves squatted (except the Special Athletes who are wheelchair bound). If you are convinced that to squat is an important part of the process that you will undergo to achieve your goal of living better and being stronger, read on and then train better.

This is specifically about the barbell back squat.People always want something unique and there are a lot of squat variations and derivative exercises. This post is not about the variations. It is about the origin of the variants. To avoid confusion, this post describes the barbell back squat. And by that it is the full squat.

Why squat?

squats vs no squats

Mens-Skinny-jeans

Men should pay more attention. Men would look like men if they have muscular thighs as well. Photo shows uninjured and healthy males but with a relatively less developed lower body musculature. This affects bearing which may makes the guys look arrogant, or gay, or both! They walk strange too. Swinging side to side as if to show they are so wide to compensate for those skinny legs. Heavy squats stimulate the release of testosterone- the male hormone.

The squat is a very useful movement. As an exercise it has a very wide application ranging from health issues to fitness to athletic performance. It is a compound movement- it uses a lot of main joints and most main muscle groups. It is ground based- a closed kinetic chain movement. It is what others term as “Functional Exercise” and it truly is. It stimulates the mind and body to undergo positive changes. The best way to learn how to squat is to squat under the guidance and supervision of a capable coach. Reading this blog supplements the process and makes you pay attention to important details. It will be wordy to be able to describe some of the details. Be patient in reading if you want to learn and add to your knowledge and skills. Reading this 2,000+ word blog helps you more by improving your awareness of the details of this exercise thereby lessening the chances of injuries or lack of progress due to poor technique. As always, make sure you do this according to your ability at the moment.

Warning: If you are recovering from an  injury, has limited hip and lower back mobility, has balance problems, or has any medical condition that may be made worst by heavy physical exertion, practice utmost caution when attempting to learn how to squat. You are responsible for your own safety. Proceed within your current capability. Better to start light with quarter depth but safe rather than starting heavy and full range but ending up hurting yourself. If you are tight and weak, your squat depth will increase as your mobility and strength improves after weeks of training. Patience is important.

Details to pay attention to:

Stance: Jump up as high as you can. Note the distance between your feet. Your squatting stance should be close to that. It can be a bit wider but not wider than your shoulder width. Besides, try jumping as high as you can with a very wide stance, it is not as high as when your feet are under your hip. A good squatting stance allows you to exert near maximum effort on your full range of motion. The toes should point forward and slightly out. They should never point inwards. A good stance has the feet on hip width apart with the heels under the hip and toes slightly pointed out. You would see a lot of wide stance squats. This does not mean that it is wrong. Wide stances are used if the squatter has limited mobility. Widening the stance also lessens the distance to be traveled by the bar- which lessens the amount of work or enables a squatter to squat heavier due to a shorter movement. But when you are starting to learn the squat, practice with your feet under your hip as shown below. It is also a good basic position to be learned if you want to progress to more powerful and explosive lifts or the Olympic lifts and their variants.

valstrengthtraning squat stances

Top photo shows the feet under the hip with toes pointed slightly outwards. Middle photo shows parallel feet under the hip. Bottom photos shows shoulder width stance with toes slightly pointed outwards.

Posture: take a deep breath and keep your chest up and out. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Now, rack the barbell on your upper back. The center of the bar rests on the muscles of your upper back. Hold the barbell with fingers wrapping the bar with the thumb on a counter direction and “closing” the grip. Hands are placed at equidistant points from the center of the bar. Keep your chin slightly up and look at a point slightly above eye level. Do not slouch.

valstrengthtraining squathighbar

The center of the bar (with knurling) rests on the muscles of the upper back. The Scapulae are retracted and this forms a natural padding by the upper trapezius. Letting the bar rest on the muscles gives proprioceptive feedback as the barbell’s weight and stability. Use of padding sometimes causes instability and sometimes the padding may slip from a sweaty back making it potentially dangerous. Pads are allowed but better be aware of the precautions.


Depth
: When first learning how to execute the movement, Squat without any load and practice the described stance and posture and squat as low as you can for around 2 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions. This is a specific warm up too. Then practice using an empty bar (Standard Olympic bar is 20kg, the “Ladies'” bar is 15kg). Use proper hand position and grip. Then lower yourself in full control to a full squat. The heels should stay flat on the floor.  The torso will naturally tilt forwards. If your heels come off the floor as you go deeper, your Tendon of Achilles is tight. Put a small plate under each of your heels to compensate. But make it a point to progress your squatting technique by improving flexibility of your Tendon of Achilles. It also helps to make a “Thumbs Up sign” with your big toes as you descend in the squat to help in keeping your heels flat on the ground. To improve ankle stability, read this: Ankle training Part 1. To improve ankle strength and mobility, read this: Ankle Training Part 2.

squat valstrengthtraining

The model is a young athlete who had ACL reconstruction surgery. He wanted to continue competing so he trains hard. He is now even stronger than before he was injured since he dedicates time and effort to his Strength Training. He can squat a load more than his bodyweight. He can now do the Clean – a powerful and exlosive lift requiring full squat position. He can Clean 57kg- his bodyweight, with ease and confidence.

Knees: they flex or bend to their full range. When in motion, they normally would follow where the toes are pointing. They should not move towards the midline. A mirror or a coach would provide feedback. As seen from the above photo- the line made by the knees  and hips (femur) are pointing slightly outwards. In standing up from the squat, the knees should not drift towards the midline like in a knock-knee position.

Leg angle: Depending on the length of the leg, the thigh, and torso, there are differences on each person’s leg angle in relation to the ground in the full squat position. As long as it allows a stable full squat position, the imaginary plumbline from the knees to the ground usually goes past the toes as the knee bends to a full squat.

full squat valstrengthtraining

Elbow position: elbows should be almost under the bar. The forearms should be more vertical rather than horizontal. This is a minor part but better start learning more efficient technique rather than having very slow progress due to accumulated small “bad habits”.

elbow pos squat valstrengthtraining

When unracking the bar, grip the bar with a closed grip- thumbs and fingers would make a closed circle. The grip is near the shoulder, and the forearms almost vertical. Maintain this grip position until you finish the last rep until you rest the bar back to the rack.

 elbowposition squat valstrengthtraining

Execution: Warm up as described above.Set the height of the bar on the squat rack to your lower chest level. Load the bar evenly on both sides with a light load in relation to what you can lift. Follow the described posture above as you position yourself under the bar. Both feet should be directly under the bar. Unrack the bar from the rack and onto your upper back by standing up. Take a couple of steps back and align the toes as described above. Choose one of the positions. You can take a quick look at your toes when doing this but don’t make looking down a habit. You want to look up so that the cervical spine will extend. If the cervical spine extends, it is easier to extend your upper back. You do not want a slouched back when squatting.

Eccentric part: Take a deep breath and hold it. Contract your abdominal muscles as if preparing for a strong punch to the stomach. Slowly lower the bar by pushing your butt backwards, and bending the knees. Keep your chest expanded and shoulder blades retracted. As you go lower, your torso will naturally lean forwards but just enough to position the line of the center of mass of the bar inside your base of support and preferably at a point very near the midfoot. Focus your eyes on a point on the wall which is a round a meter higher than your head level. Continue your controlled descent until you reach the bottom position.

Concentric part: Just after reaching the bottom position, push your heels against the ground. Keep your neck extended by focusing on that point on the wall. Slowly release some air as you go up. Do not let the knees point inwards. Stand up straight but position your upper back so that the bar is balanced. Repeat the cycle until you finish the required number of repetitions, then step forward, let the bar hit the rack, then slowly slide the bar down to rest on the rack.  Come out from under the bar when the bar is safely resting on the squat rack.

Beginner’s Training Load, Volume, and rest: (click this:) squat-practice-load-volume-valstrengthtraining

Technique is affected by mobility, flexibility, strength, knowledge of the squat biomechanics, and other factors like focus and determination. This blog helps to address some of the knowledge aspect. To address the flexibility and mobility part, click this: Quick stretch and exercise for reducing back discomfort.

There are other variations of the back squat on the stance, bar position, and depth. The variations may be due to different torso and leg lengths. It can be also due to specific goals like to allow for the heaviest load to be lifted from the start position like in powerlifting. The above description is a very good way to start learning how to squat and it prepares the trainee to progress to faster and explosive lifts derived from the Olympic style lifts. Learn and be good in one technique first, then if you need to, learn other techniques as well.

To be honest, I originally did not squat like the description above. I learned how to squat from bodybuilders, and I had great results for my goals. Then I learned from videos and from reading articles and magazines. My stance became wider. And, like most people that time, I believed that full squat is not good, and that the knees should not go past the toes. But after observing, reading, discussing, listening, re-learning from more experienced Olympic weightlifting coaches, and most of all squatting more, I began to realize that some of what I believed were true then may not necessarily be true for all. My stance became more natural, and the depth went all the way to full range of motion, and the load went a lot higher than when I was much younger and stronger. I realized that there would be some differences but the most applicable one for beginners up to elite lifters would be what was described above. Of course there are some who, due to limited range of motion, or inherent body structure, would have to squat differently to get better results. There are so many variations with the barbell as well as with other equipment. Click here to read about how to squat heavy even if you have no access to a weights room.

To avoid confusion from the different squatting techniques, the trainee should have a clear goal. This will guide her or him on how to start learning and probably how to squat for some time. It may change but then again, it may go back to this original form. The best indicator of the effectivity would be the accomplishment of your personal goals in relation to the squat. Learn how to squat. It is a fundamental skill if you want your weight training sessions to be more productive. Train better, Live Better!

I look up to people because of what they say but mostly because of what they do consistently. They display all of the nine characteristics below. Writing them down is my way of honoring them, of sharing the lessons, and if ever I become old, of remembering. All of them are:

1. Passionate

they do what they do because they love doing it and they would love to share it. The late Mr. Sammy Ayochok let me train in his gym and actually treated me like a client even if I was just an errand boy in the snack bar in his gym.

2. Humble

they do not need to brag about their accomplishments. Sometimes you have been friends with them for sometime and you would be surprised to find out that they have done something quite remarkable and they do not make noise about it. Some of them are quite famous around the world yet would still have time to invite for a cup of coffee, and they are down to earth.

3. Unique

they stand out from other people in the same field of expertise because they have done something no one has done before, or something no one cared to do.They trusted in their abilities and were able to do what most would not dare to.

4. Able to share their weakness

they are not afraid to admit their mistakes and weaknesses which actually shows that they are strong enough to face criticisms.

5. Honest

they tell you what you need to know, not what you want to hear. This shows their concern. They want to be able to share what they know and sometimes time is short so they would tell it in all honesty. I asked for advice and what I heard was not really nice but deep in my heart I know my mentor was telling the truth. I respect them for being honest.

6. Hardworking

they never would have been champions or achievers due to sheer luck and genetics alone. They worked very hard to be the best at what they do. And they always want to improve, always learning.

7. Persistent

they never give up. I have seen them try and try again even if they failed. But They keep on trying and they succeeded. They have the guts and endurance to go through all the hard work and failures, never giving up. I wonder how they are able to do it, how they get back up again and again. My brother in law is one guy who showed me he keeps on trying until he eventually succeeded.

8. They listen to others

the late Jaime Sebastian once told me a story when he tore his shoulder in a major competition. He felt the bar turn sideways during his first attempt in the snatch but he was able to fight it but something was not right with his shoulder. On the following attempt, the bar rotated again and but as he tried to stop it, his shoulder gave way and was disclocated, complete with torn shoulder girdle musculature. He did not give up on his career. He listened to the advice of his doctor and patiently went through with his Physical Therapy. He eventually recovered because he listened to other’s opinion.

9. They are very patient and believe that it is never too late

This is not about Strength and Conditioning, or Fitness but without them, I would not be alive. My mother and father wanted to have a small farm. They tried when our family was young but circumstances did not allow them. They patiently worked to provide for us and when they were able to send us through school, they retired started all over again. They were able to start a small farm again. They went through a great deal of hardship when my mother got sick and needed round the clock care. Since I was away, my father and sisters took care of her until finally she rested in peace. Then instead of feeling helpless and lonely, my father channeled all his energy into his farm, always learning about the farming method that he practices, always working on his “project”. He is rewarded by a productive mini farm and regular visits from local and international organization. Even if he started farming at retirement age, he was able to contribute to other farmers by being active in their organization. His efforts were recognized by both government and non-government organizations through awards.

I look up to them as my mentors in my chosen field and also in different aspects of my life. They are not perfect but they are very good role models and they helped me a lot. By writing about their good qualities, I hope to share to others what my mentors shared to me.

I have been fortunate enough to have known a few of the outstanding individuals in the Fitness Industry in this part of the world. I learned some valuable insights from their words and most importantly their actions. Writing them down is a good way of remembering and acknowledging them, and also a way of sharing these “secrets” so others can benefit from also. Their achievements in their sport and in life is proof that they do not just talk but they make things happen. Here are some of the lessons I learned from people I look up to as my mentors:

1. “Walang naka – ukit sa bato.” (Nothing is written in stone)

When referring to training. It is a very short sentence but takes some time of observation and actual experience to fully understand. It means that there is not one way of training for a particular goal; that references are guidelines but the Strength Coach should modify them to make a training program produce the best results for a particular athlete for a particular situation. (From R.E. T. – one of the very first and most experienced Strength and Conditioning Coaches in the Philippines and in Hong Kong).

2. Barbells and kettlebells are a good investment

Barbells require minimum maintenance. Kettlebells are almost damage proof. Just don’t leave them outdoors since the handles would rust. But a quick sandpapering would instantly solve the problem. (From my J.T.- a former Champion Bodybuilder, Boxing Coach, a very good brother and role model)

3. As long as you are true in what you do, you will succeed

As long as you are sincere in training yourself, or in training other people, you would make progress. Being honest to oneself removes false expectations. (From S.C.- a world famous KB teacher and Strength and Conditioning Coach).

4. Be very good in one technique, but improve your other techniques as well

Be it in sports or in lifting weights, we would have a favorite move. When it comes to being a Strength and Conditioning Coach, it is best to be very proficient in one particular method but still be open minded to accept other training concepts. That way, you can have a method that you can always rely on but also have some options just in case the situation calls for a different approach. (From D.C. – a champion judoka athlete during his time and a well respected National Coach).

5. The athlete has to want it more than the coach, if the coach wants it more than the athlete, then you have a problem

Working with athletes by training them to be stronger brings personal satisfaction to me since it shows that I can contribute and that I am useful. But not all athletes, or clients in other cases, are self motivated. The Strength Coach is not the athlete. It is the athlete or client who should train. If the athletes are self motivated, they will make great progress. But no amount of coaching can help someone who does not want to improve because change starts from within. (From P.C-C. – one of the few Registered Strength and Conditioning Coach Emeritus, a highly respected Strength and Conditioning Coach and teacher).

I find these 5 tips very applicable to my line of work. Sometimes it may take years for one to realize their meaning. It is better to share them rather than keeping them a secret. They help make better coaches, trainees, and athletes. If we understand these 5 simple advice, we can Train better, Live Better!

When I meet friends, old and new, they usually ask me how to recover from an injury or how to improve their fitness. This is one reason why I put up this site. It is where people can learn concepts and some exercises that they may try if they think it would safely and effectively work for them. It is not a site for online coaching. All physical activities have injury risks and those who have no lifting skill require actual coaching and supervision to safely learn how to lift that is why there are Fitness Professionals and Strength and Conditioning Coaches.

Questions about health or fitness are not answered in one discussion. It is a continuous process and as we go through the process, more questions come up. If you want to get more out of life, do things which would benefit you in the long term. Acquire the services of professionals who specialize on the particular area of your need and get the most out of it. Here are a few steps on how to start:

1. Identify your fitness goal.Goals

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 weigh the same. It is better to improve your body composition which means lowering your body’s fat mass while maintaining or increasing your lean mass. Fat mass is your stored energy. Energy is used when you do work- when you move. The more work you do, the more energy expended which means fat is used. Lean mass is composed of your bones, organs, and mostly muscles. You move using your muscles. Muscles require energy to move. Strength training demands great amount of energy during the training itself plus the energy used during the body’s recovery process. 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– or 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 are far stronger than when they first started, with curvaceous bodies, and better postures. What is more important for them is that they perform better at their sport. Being more attractive was just a by product of the years of work dedicated to the training program.

2. Talk to the right personlistening5_full

Strength Coaches are there to coach a person how to lift to improve strength. Teams as well as individuals come to us for their strength training. After all the discussion and assessment, we implement the training program. Then some athletes would say something like “My physio said I should do this certain exercise to balance this problem… blah blah blah…” No offense to Physiotherapists, I am one myself (though we are called Physical Therapists in our country). But if they identified a problem and prescribed an exercise, then they should implement it themselves especially since it is for rehabilitation. That is what I do if I am working as a Physical Therapist. If I think the patient/ athlete is ready to return to training then I would go talk to the Strength and Conditioning Coach along with a written document describing the condition of the patient along with some precautions if there are any. If there are some things that the athlete/patient has to work on with the Physiotherapist/ Physical Therapist, then by all means they should continue. And it really helps a lot if there are written forms of communication between the Physio and the Strength Coach.

3. Shop around and choose the right service provider

It is the consumer’s right to look around and choose which one to buy. If you want a medical clearance go to a medical doctor. If you want to learn how to lift go to a strength coach. Sometimes I meet people who say their training is prescribed by their doctor. Yeah right! Would you want your plumber to prescribe your medication, and your gardener to do your haircut?barber

There are many Fitness Professionals, they offer many different types of services for many different types of clients. Go to the one who you think can help you. Ask around. Talk to them to see if they can offer what you are looking for. No one is an expert in everything, and good Fitness Professionals would not take in any potential client. Good Fitness Professionals render their service to clients who they know they can help. If the client wants services which are beyond the skill set of the Fitness Professional, they should be referred to the right person. Personalities can clash too and it would not be good to work with somebody who you would not get along well. Talk to a prospective Fitness Professional, and if you think you would get along well, see if they can deliver what you want. It would be good to ask for their credentials and work experiences. This also justifies the fees. Experienced and specialized Fitness Professionals may charge more than the average but not all those who charge high fees have the experience and internationally recognized qualifications and standards.

4. Listen to their advice which you asked for and give feedbackwww.valstrengthtraining

After identifying your goal and talking to the right person, then hear what they have to say. If you have tried something similar already and it seems it did not work, tell it immediately to the specialist. Maybe it was not done how it was supposed to be done, maybe it was not done in the right intensity or duration, or something else was not right. And the right advice is sometimes NOT what we want to hear. But, to be fair to consumers, there are always professionals who would make a mountain out of a molehill just to “scare” a client/patient and extract more profit. They are doing a disservice to their profession and sooner or later people will discover. What goes around comes around.

5. Put into action that which has been learnedwww.valstrengthtraining12

The Fitness Professionals who works hands on with clients can actually see the clients doing what they planned to do in the gym to realize their fitness goals. The things the client does outside the gym can only be controlled by the client, not the Fitness Professional. The desire to change should come from the client. No matter how good the Fitness Professional is if the client does not assume responsibility for his or her health, progress will be very slow if there will be any. Through interaction, the client would learn from the fitness professional what other things can be done outside the gym to support the process of achieving their fitness goals. These things work if the client would put them into action.

These would help individuals get the most out of the services of Fitness Professionals. They do make a big difference in your training but the ultimate responsibility of improving an individual’s health and fitness rests on that individual. Change has to start from that individual. Good Fitness Professionals guide that individual on the steps leading to their fitness goals but the one making the journey is the individual. Look for a Strength Coach, or a Nutritionist, or for that particular Fitness Professional who can help you to make better decisions and who can make suggestions and options to help you to Train Better, Live Better!

Once sufficient balance is established or re-established for those who injured their ankles, the next step would be to increase the ability of the muscles moving the ankle joint to tolerate fatigue. This is done by improving their strength and endurance. Since the ankles are both used for explosive movements, like jumps, and endurance movements, like running long distance, both types of activities should be prepared for. Majority of the population would benefit from preparing the ankle joint musculature this way. Take note that we may be referring to the ankle joint but the exercises that compose the training routine actually involves the whole body moving and working as one unit composed of smaller units working synchronously together. Emphasis is just placed on particular areas which might have been injured or is prone to injury.

Do it anywhere ankle exercises

1. Ankle eversionseversion

Stand on both feet flat on the ground. The distance between the feet should be around the width of your hip. Try to lift off the ground the out side part of your feet or the side of your little toe. You can do it one foot at a time or both feet at the same time. The inner part or the side of the big toe should of course be always touching the ground. This is a very small movement and if you watch yourself in the mirror, it may seem like you are just moving your feet to a beat of a catchy song. You should feel the outer side of both legs.

2. Toe raises (Ankle Dorsiflexion)df

Stand with both feet on the ground and like the first exercise, the feet should be hip width width apart. You may hold on to something or you can do it standing freely, although you may sometimes lose balance. Lift the toes up either both at the same time or one at a time. You would feel the front part of your leg just beside the shin bones.

3. Tip toes with (heavy) load (Ankle Plantarflexion)

www.valstrengthtraining.com Tip toes  Like the first two exercises, do this standing up with the feet hip width apart. Since the calf muscles (gastrocnemius & soleus) are very strong muscles, you need extra weight to overload them so that they can adapt to become stronger. However, if you are recovering or have just recovered from an ankle related injury, your body weight would be just fine then progress to carrying some load if you notice that your ankles are already strong enough to tip toe without difficulty.

Like most of the exercises suggested in earlier posts, these exercises can be done indoors and outdoors. Outdoors is where running is supposed to be done anyway. They are just presented here in a way that an individual who loves the outdoors can go out and enjoy and train at the same time in a creative and effective way. The first and second exercises can actually be done while standing, say while standing in a bus, or simply standing in line queuing. You can even do it while browsing your smartphone. Talk about multitasking! They can be done by themselves while you are, say standing while commuting in a train. It saves you time. Ankle eversion is not a big movement anyway. It is not attention catching like bigger movements like jumping, but it is also an important component of ankle biomechanics. The first two (ankle eversions and toe raises) are supplementary exercises that can be done outside of a training routine. It is better to do Tip toes with load with your other routine exercises.

 

To explain a little bit about the exercises- the Ankle eversion trains the peroneal muscles on the side of each leg. The Toe raises trains the Tibialis Anterior on the front part of each leg. These are smaller muscles designed for finer movement of the ankle joint and not necessarily for strong and powerful movements. They help in stabilizing the ankle joint in every step when walking and running and in most moments we are standing upright. The Tip toes train the calves- those drumsticks behind each leg. The calves are actually composed of two strong muscles- the gastrocnemius and the soleus. They are thicker and stronger muscles with a very strong tendon designed for both powerful movements like sprinting and jumping and also endurance activities like running for long distance.

 

Recommended training volume, intensity, and frequency:

Four to five sets of 20 to 30 repetitions per set is recommended for ankle eversions and toe raises two to three times a week. This relatively high volume is to increase their tolerance to fatigue. Just think of how many steps you make in 5 km run. If they tire out easily, especially on uneven terrain like the downhills in a trail run, then the tendency of having a miss-step is higher which leads to ankle sprains. To help reduce the incidence of poor ankle biomechanics due to fatigue, train the ankles at a relatively high volume of low intensity. Low intensity means the load is relatively light and the movement is at a smooth and controlled speed. The load is just your body weight divided by two since it is carried by two legs and feet.

 

As for Tip toes with load the volume is three to four sets of 15 to 20 repetitions. Volume is lower but it has a relatively higher intensity. The heavier load you carry, the higher the intensity. Just carry something heavy, like your backpack, to offset your center of gravity a little bit to add to the proprioceptive stimulation to your ankles. If you always lose balance, reduce the load until you can balance most of the repetitions.

Until when will I keep doing these suggested exercises? How many training sessions for how many weeks?

There is no hard rule but do them until you feel it is not challenging anymore. This would be around one to four weeks (2 to 8 sessions) depending on your perceived improvement. It also helps to “revisit” these exercises once in a while even if you are already quite good again in doing your favorite physical activity. As their name states it- they are supplemental exercises. They can be added to your main training but they will not be your main training exercises especially if your level of physical activity is quite good. If you have some balance issues or you are recovering from ankle injuries, read Ankle Training Part 1. If you feel that these exercises are not challenging anymore, try doing the next level (Ankle Training Part 3: Low level Plyometrics).

Read about Torogi Squats.

Here is another exercise that can be done almost anywhere, anytime. It builds arm pushing  strength and at the same time works your abdominal static strength all the way to your your lower limbs as stabilizers. If you want to or need to be stronger in pushing movements, and may not have access to a gym, then this is for you. Why would anybody want a stronger arm to push? If you are an athlete, you know why. If you are a fitness buff, being fit means you should be able to perform your physical tasks without being too tired. A lot of daily activities require us to push. Having a strong torso is a good health investment and allows you to enjoy leisure activities more since you are not that fatigued or you are not suffering from low back pain. What is interesting about this exercises is that you do not need any equipment at all and it trains your whole body.This is known as the “One arm push-up”. It is also a way to train your whole body together as one unit, like it is supposed to be, to attain an objective. Your whole body includes your mind as well.

The different levels of abilities

 Initially, I called it different levels of difficulty, but we better state it in a positive and descriptive way so we call it different levels of abilities. We use your body as reference point. There can be more levels in between these levels like knee level, and mid-shin level. We start with the easiest level going up to the level with the highest ability:

1. Solar plexus (the are just under your  rib cage a knuckle length above your navel) would be our easiest level.

valstrengthtraining 1armpush up solar plexus lvl

2. Hip level

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valstrengthtraining hip level push up

3. Mid Thigh level

valstrengthtraining 1arm push up mid thigh level

4. Ground level

valstrengthtraining 1arm push up ground level side view

valstrengthtraining 1arm push up front view

 

There can be intermediate levels in between the levels, it just depends on what you can do, and how you can position yourself in that level. There can also be harder variations than the ground level but for this post, the discussion would be until the ground level.

Here is how it is done:

Have a good warm-up. Click here for a suggested routine.

Start initially from an easy position. Initially position your feet wider than your hip width. The toes should be in contact with the ground. From your selected level of ability, put your strong arm in front of you and let the heel of your palm bear your weight. Strong arm means the left hand for right handed individuals, since the dominant hand would be stronger, not just strong! Put the non-working arm behind you or you can hold the side of the upper part of your thigh. The elbow of the working arm should be straight. Inhale and tighten your abdomen, and your whole body. Now slowly bend the elbow of your working arm. It is optional but you may let a bit of air out through your pursed lips, as if you are also squeezing the air. Lower your body as a whole. As much as possible, should look like a straight line made by your head to your toes if viewed from the side. Imagine you are a log- strong and straight. C’mmon, don’t cheat! I can see you are pushing your upper torso up but your hip is stuck! Do it again… Now you are doing it lick a a sexy dancer, your butt is going up way ahead than your torso. A log is not crooked, but if you can’t make an almost straight line it means one thing, move to an easier level. If the level you are using now is the Solar Plexus level and you cannot do it, then straighten yourself up! That’s the easiest level! If, by all honesty you cannot do it even with all your honest effort, then do the close grip push up first. It is a two arm push up. Do not do the one arm push up YET. Or you can make a comment or message me and I will make another post for it.

 

If you were able to lower yourself as one unit, try going as close as a fist width between your chest and the platform, and then push. Your torso should be still very tight- your abdominal muscles contracting very hard. Imagine pushing the platform away from you. Do it with full mind and body effort. Push until your elbows are straight. Once your elbow is straight, lock it in position and then you can breath in a controlled manner. Repeat. Do a few repetitions and then try doing it with your stronger arm. Do as many GOOD repetitions as you can with your strong side. You do not need to do more with your stronger side. Rest two to four minutes. Now repeat again and again in the coming weeks until you can do it with grace. Once you can do it with good control- that is smooth push-up movement with feet positioned together, then move to the next harder position in your next training session. Try doing 3 to 5 repetitions on each side for 3 sets initially. Then increase the numbers as you become stronger.

Here is another General Strength Exercise.

Be patient with what you can initially do. Do not rush. Besides, it may take time until you can perform a good one arm push up on ground level. It takes time for your body to recover and rebuild the muscle fibers, tendons, and other connective tissues. The speed with which you improve depends mostly on your desire to be better and stronger. You must supplement your desire with quality information that you can put into an actual working plan. Working for a stronger body actually makes your mind stronger. Feed your mind with good and useful information, instill good and honest habits, practice common sense, and practice, practice, and practice some more. If need be, seek out somebody who can coach you. That is quality training. Train better, live better!

kabite

These rip-raps were built without the use of machines. Moving large amount of rocks manually required efficient and safe lifting techniques as well as strength and endurance.

“Torogi” is the word “Igorot” spelled in reverse. The Igorot people is an ethnic minority in the mountains of Northern Luzon in the Philippines. The word Igorot basically means “from the mountains”. Torogi is just a slang that we use to call ourselves. Igorots are known for their strength and bravery. Since our ancestors live in the mountains, they learned how to build communities on the slopes. They have become very good in mitigating landslides by reinforcing the mountainous slopes by building rip-raps. That is aside from being warriors, hunters, and farmers in the early days.

When I was a boy, I watched men in our community carry large rocks from the ground on to their shoulders, stand up with it, walk up a slippery muddy hanging stone stair sticking out on the side of a rip-rap, and add the huge rock to a pile of rocks to be used. I noticed that they have a certain way of doing it. And when I was big enough, I helped my father and grandfather do the same. It helped me develop strength even though I was a thin boy. I was aware that this type of work made us strong – stronger than usual guys our age who did not do work. In this activity or “exercise”, one’s strength can be “measured” or observed by the size of the rock that you can carry, how far, and how steep is the slope that you have to climb, and by the amount of rocks that you were able to move from one place to another. It is similar to the story of Milo of Croton, which is the earliest documented case of progressive resistance training (google it if you do not know about it).24009_389657031274_634451274_4381304_2792879_n Igorots did progressive resistance training as well by lifting rocks. It is but natural that as our lifting techniques improved, rock lifting techniques that is, so did our strength. Boys who used to be able to carry stones progressed to small rocks the size of their head and eventually to rocks around half the size of their torso. Of course some went further than that. And so we were able to build communities on the mountains because of the rip-rap built by hands.

Paleo Diet? Try this Torogi Squat!

DSCN4256

An old rip-rap in an abandoned village somewhere in Tung Chung. The size of the rocks and the equipment they had back then gives an indication of the strength of the people who build them. They would humble today’s regular gym rats.

A lot of products are being marketed in a very creative way, whether they work or not. If you have not yet heard of the Paleo Diet- it is a concept of eating. Some believe that if we try to eat how our pre-historic ancestors did, we would be free from modern diseases. They say that Paleolithic diet is healthier. I guess people’s attention are caught by scientific sounding terms so it became quite a catchphrase.  Now that people are looking for “new” or “unique” way of doing things, it is time to re-introduce this particular type of squat to the general public. I did not invent it, but I call it the Torogi Squat.

Will Torogi Squats make you stronger?

Definitely! I have seen it done by many others in our community and did it myself. But it is not for the feeble minded. And please do not try it if you have no intention to protect yourself, and others. Rocks have irregular surfaces. So grip them well. Some call it plain common sense but what is common for some is rare for some. So bear with me if I have to give out a few details:

How big should the rock be?

Like muscles, size does not matter, not unless you are doing it for a show. It is the weight of the rock that matters. Some types of rocks are heavier than others of the same size. Start with a relatively small dry piece of rock that you are sure you can lift off the ground with your bare hands and onto your hip level, then up to your shoulder level. That is the weight of the rock that you can handle. In the real world, and that is when workers lift heavy stuff, you do not hear them say “engage your core!, fire your glutes!, activate your posterior chain!” I hate it when I hear that. But now, people expect to hear it from personal trainers. Well, I am not a personal trainer anyway. So when you lift something heavy, be prepared to lift something really heavy. Do not pretend that the rock is a small stone. When you first try to grab it, your intact neuromuscular system will immediately compute if it needs all the major muscle groups to work in unison. Not unless you override the protective command from your nervous system by slacking out. To be safe, always respect the load that you will move or lift. Assume that it is very heavy. So in short, start out with a rock that you can manage but use all your attention and effort in lifting. It does not matter if it is not bigger than your head, what matters is that you can control the load and that you can make yourself stronger even without a barbell and a squat rack.

How deep should the squat be?

The ideal one for you may be different from others. If you have relatively good strength and mobility, with no knee problems, a full squat would be great. If you have limited mobility, then work on what is available for you. It may improve later on as you become stronger and more mobile. The key is you should be able to control the load at any given moment. If you watch those who build rip-raps, you would notice varying techniques. It is because each person would have a certain technique that works for his/her particular body type. The ones with better and more efficient techniques, in lifting rocks and in lifting barbells, kettlebells, and dumbells, are those who can lift more weight and more volume. It would be the result that determines if a lifting technique is efficient. So how deep should your squat be? It should be deep enough for you to position yourself so that your shoulder is in between the ground and the rock. For training purposes, we want as much range of motion as possible but with the lifter in complete control of the rock. Deep squat is ok. If you have issues that won’t allow you to squat deeply, then work with lighter rocks. With constant training your strength and range of motion may increase.

(Click here to read about the relationship of strength training and flexibility.)

valstrengthtraining Torogi Squat1

It is easier to lift objects if their mass is directly over the lifter’s base of support (in this photo the base of support are the two feet). This makes the lifter more stable thus enabling him to control the load even when walking on uneven surfaces.

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How many sets and reps?

Try three sets of ten repetitions. It is a general set-rep combination ideal for learning a new exercise with moderate load. If you are stronger and able to lift heavier rocks, then do around four sets of five repetitions in good control. In the real world, it is done in a different way. Lift a rock, stand up with it, walk, either up a slope, a rip-rap, or just for distance to transport the rock. Put it down, then repeat until you get the job done. It serves a purpose- maybe some would call it functional.

valstrengthtraining torogi squat lateral view

As in any good lifting technique, the load (stone) should be directly over your base of support- in this case your feet. The mass of the load passes through an imaginary straight line (line of gravity shown as the yellow arrow) and it should pass as close as possible to your own center of gravity. It is best that in an upright position, this line passes through the hip joint (red circle).

How will I put down the rock?

The real men who did this work actually were barefooted. No protection except their quick reflexes, common sense, presence of mind, and their strength and stamina. They did not do it in a gym, they did it outdoors exposed to different types of weather. It made them strong and resilient. Now going back to the question of how do you put down the rock: for sure you cannot do this exercise in a regular gym. You would be doing it outdoors. It is either you put it down by dropping but making sure you do not hit your toes or anyone else’s and that the rock would not roll away to hit anyone or anything. There is another way. Stronger guys put it down with finesse. They do not drop it but lower it with control. It requires more effort. Choose between the two.

You do not need to do it barefoot either. Most of your life your feet got used to being protected by footwear. Do not over-overload your self by lifting a rock outdoors barefooted. Otherwise you might end up getting hurt.

Uninformed people will naturally think you are weird if they see you lifting rocks. Let them train their fingers on their smartphones, and let them have their own opinions, it is their right. What you should focus on is how to make yourself better and stronger. To avoid distractions and to find rocks to lift, go out and hike. You can find a lot of secluded places where you can train. Later you will have weird strength for your size, you do not get that just doodling with your phone. There you have it. I just revealed a secret. Use it to train better, Live Better!