Archive for April, 2015

Have you ever had experienced feeling pain on your heel when stepping off your bed in the morning or after long periods of sitting? The pain usually decreases after walking for a few minutes. This usually happens to people who stand for extended periods of time like teachers, security guards, and nurses. It can also happen to runners, flat footed or high arch footed individuals, and heavy individuals as well.


Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition. It is the inflammation and tightening of the plantar fascia of one or both fe280823885_640et. The plantar fascia is the strong fibrous sheet covering the muscles of the feet. It originates from the calcaneous or the heel bone and fans out and connects to the metatarsal heads (just before the toes). The hallmark symptom of this condition is the painful first step in the morning. The pain on each step causes discomfort and lessens productivity at work, performance in sports, and the satisfaction from leisure physical activities. It is not an emergency case but since it involves locomotion, it is not something that can be ignored.


What are the causes? Prolonged daily standing and frequent and regular hiking or running are the common activities associated with plantar fasciitis. img-blog-03The foot has an arch, or like a bow, and the plantar fascia is the bowstring. Some individuals have very tight “bowstring”. Some have flat feet- which makes for a weak plantar fascia. Prolonged standing, and constant running or walking stresses and irritates the overly tight or the weak plantar fascia. The constant irritation on the plantar fascia causes them to inflame and become tight. This pulls on their origin on the calcaneous and the fascia is strained mostly near the insertion. There may be small tears especially if the fascia is very tight.


plantar-fasciitis-shoes-sandals-5How do we ease the discomfort? Shoe inserts help to lessen the discomfort. Taping can also be done but just like shoe inserts, this is a temporary solution and is used usually by athletes who cannot use footwear when training. Buying athletic tape or kinesio tape and applying them costs time and money too. Although this is an option that would be done depending on one’s situation. The main solution however, is to prevent the plantar fascia from being irritated. Causes of irritation are usually  a combination of activities like prolonged standing, constant running or walking; conditions like obesity or simply being too heavy; weak and or tight plantar fascia due to flat feet or high arched feet; or running or walking foot mechanics that predispose the foot arch to excessive stress. It is not possible to change the foot from a flat foot to a normal foot. But the cause of the irritation can be addressed. The physical irritation is caused by the unnecessary  tightness and weakness of the plantar fascia. This magnifies the normal stress it encounters during daily activities like standing, walking, and running especially if it is prolonged. The best solution is to stretch the plantar fascia as well as to strengthen the foot intrinsic muscles so as to enable them to cope with the stress and thus avoid irritation and swelling and pain. It also helps to stretch the Tendon of Achilles.



Massage and stretch your own feet. Do it after your usual training routine.

There are exercises to stretch the plantar fascia, as well as the tendon of achilles. The exercises are simple and easy. They are best done after a training session during the cool down period. Better incorporate it into an existing routine which would increase its chances of being accomplished. The stretching exercises are best done with 20 to 30 seconds hold at the stretched position, then flex the joints and massage the sole of the foot. Repeat 5 to 10 times per leg. Do it with your regular training routine or around 2-3 times a week. It can be done more often since it is very light exercise.


golf ball massage

This can be done while typing in front of the computer. It makes you do two things at the same time!

An addition to the stretching exercise is foot massage. And this can be done with golf balls or similar hard balls. A practical way of doing the foot massage with the hard ball is to put the ball under your office or study table. Step on the ball and roll it back and forth and side to side with your foot. Do it when you can or around 5 to 10 minutes at a time. It can be pleasurably painful. It can be done while doing some paperwork too which makes work fun!


towel pullAnother exercise can be done to improve the function of the foot intrinsic muscles. This is called towel pulls. Put a towel on the floor with your toes on the bottom of the long end. Keep your heel on the floor while your toes pull the towel towards you. Do two to three towel lengths for each foot. It is best to do the stretching exercises after the towel pull.

Read here for other ankle exercises.



The calf stretch helps. Incorporate it into your usual cool down routine.

The discomfort caused by plantar fasciitis may take a few months to subside. It also takes time to stretch the tough plantar fascia. Sometimes it comes back which means the conditions leading to it are present again: weak and tight plantar fascia, prolonged standing, overweight. This basically means that we need to pay attention to ourselves. Injuries, whether due to acute trauma or through a slow build-up from many factors, are messages that we need to pay attention to. Acute injuries are mostly due to a big and sudden “error” on how we move.

(Read this for exercises to lower your ankle incidence)

Overuse injuries and inflammation of tendons and fascia are usually caused by a combination of repetitive movement and flawed joint mechanics. We feel the pain when damage has been done. Let your body recover and address tightness or weakness or both. Sometimes it means reducing training volume and intensity. Sometimes injuries and usual aches happen to let us re-focus and think. Heed your body’s warnings, Train Better, Live Better!

Training for performance for top level athletes requires them to train full time. But there are some great athletes who also have to work and look after their families. How do they manage to perform well given the time constraints? Many top level athletes are gifted physically. They are born with qualities that make them good in their sport like a good height, ideal muscle fiber type, advantageous limb & torso length for their sport, etc. Aside from having the right genetic traits, they were able to express those genetics potential because of other factors like very good work ethics and attitude- they train even when it does not feel “fun” anymore. They train because they understand that it will make them better. And their training works because it is done consistently and most of all it is well planned and efficient. They train not just for the sake of training but with a lot of purpose. A good plan in preparing for competitions does not need to be very complicated. It just has to work for the person who is training. Let’s try to make it simple and general, and then you can add some details later as you establish some fundamental ideas.  

Make a simple training plan so that it can fit your schedule. A simple training plan also makes it flexible enough to adjust to unplanned circumstances. Answering these two questions may help in your planning:  

First: What performance related fitness component do you need to improve that would enhance your performance? Examples are strength, agility, explosive power, mobility and stability. Assuming you are an athlete who have good skill levels, what performance related fitness component has to be emphasized for you to have your best performance? Identify what area/s you need to improve on that has the biggest effect to your performance. It helps if you can measure and record it. Then re-assess after some time. Usually, there would be more than one. But if you realize that your skill level is not that good, work on it more. Strength is a very fundamental component to work on since it supports the development of most other components. Strength training and Conditioning can only support your skills for your sport but it won’t directly improve them.splitsnatch

Second: When do you need to be in peak condition? It is not possible to be in peak condition all year round but through a progressive and monitored training program, it is possible to influence the body so that it will be at its best condition on the most important competitions. After the competitions, the mind and body needs to recover so as not to burn out. The news about professional boxers preparing for their fight like the much anticipated fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather is a very good example. Even though this is the fight of their lives, the boxers only started their training for this particular fight only a few months prior. Their skills are very well developed already. What they need is to make sure that they can sustain their game plan and be able to recover after giving out and absorbing a flurry of punches. They also need to recover in between rounds. Fine tuning their skills and conditioning their body to be able to deliver and absorb very powerful punches requires actual sparring. Athletes also want to have a long career and enjoy life after retiring. The intense training to achieve peak form is physically, mentally  and emotionally demanding that getting in peak form too often and too earl, as well as trying to maintain that top form would eventually be too much stress. The outcome would be overtraining wherein there would be an eventual drop in performance.

It is important to understand the concept of the General Adaptation Syndrome so as to be able to plan your training better (Read related article). That is why training comes in stages and the intensity gradually increases as the body adapts to it. Training intensity cannot be high nor low all the time if improvement is to be expected.  After knowing your particular “weakness” and knowing when you have to be in your peak condition, then you know how much time you have to prepare. Having too much time may actually work against you if you are not disciplined enough. Having too little time won’t get things done well enough. But then again, time is relative. It depends on your current condition. Well conditioned athletes who are coming back after a few months of rest will need a few weeks to get back into peak form. Others may need a more gradual, but longer approach.  

After answering these questions, then you can choose how to prepare. Different sports would require different ways of preparation. And mostly it would be sports specific- which means practicing the sport itself. There would be supplemental training too, which enhances and supports the improvement of your perceived “weakness”. Understand how the body adapts to training stress and other training concepts before focusing on too much details since the details would be dependent on each person’s circumstance. It would be better to try to make the training plan simple but effective rather than so complicated but is impractical. Train Better, Live Better!


Photo courtesy of Alfie Cornel & fellow OFW’s

Sa isang paglalayag sa karagatan,
Isang kagalakan at karangalan,
Nakadaupang palad natin kahit panandalian lang,,
Mga mukhang punompuno ng pag-asa at katatagan,,
Sa unang sulyap,mukha nila’y puno ng kasiyahan,,

Di mo maiisip na sa isang tabi ay balot sila sa kalungkutan,,
Kapag nag-iisa’y luha ang sinasandalan,,
Hindi dahil sa hirap kundi may pangunahing dahilan,,
Mga mahal sa buhay na naiwanan,,

Ang maiahon sa kahirapan,,
Mga pangarap ay makamtan,,
Kaya pamilya’y iniiwanan,,
Sa ibayong lugar o bansa’y makikipagsapalaran,,
Ang kalusugan ay walang kasiguruhan,,
Ngunit ang pangungulila at balot ng kalungkutan,,
Ang pinakamabigat nilang pinagdadaanan,,

Bawat isa ay samutsari ang kapalaran,,
May pinapalad pero karamihan ay dumaranas ng kabiguan,,
Kung hindi minamaltrato sila’y pinagsasamantalahan,,
Iyan ang wagas na katotohanan,,
Habang ang larawan ay ating pinagmamasdan,,

Saan ka mang lupalop ng mundo kabayan,,
australia,asya,amerika,europa,africa at gitnang silangan,,
Tayo ang bagong bayani ng sambayanan,,
Taas nuo kahit kaninuman,,
Tatak pilipino ating ipagyabang,,
Dahil dugo at sariling pawis ating ipinuhunan,,,,


(ang tulang ito ay mula kay Alfie Cornel. Isa siyang batikang bodybuilder na mula sa Baguio City.)

Unstable Surface Training is now quite popular. It is now marketed as a way to greatly improving strength as well as stability. Or does it?

cp sbDuring the 90’s, not many gyms would use unstable surface equipment. The swiss balls, and later the BOSU, were still being popularized in the rehabilitation setting and they were used for the rehabilitation of patients who have difficulty in maintaining control of their torso and balance. They were used to improve the functional abilities of Cerebral Palsy, stroke, and similar patients. They were also very useful in treating injured athletes and good Physical Therapists helped in maintaining injured athlete’s fitness levels while they were recovering from injuries. The BOSU, as well as teeter boards, and balance discs were used to re-establish a patient’s balance and control over an injured ankle or knee. Eventually, these rehab equipments found their way into gyms for use by the general population. They are very useful in the fitness industry especially since “core” training was the hype a few years ago- and even until now.


The unstable surface devices are useful from the rehabilitation setting to the general population for their goal- to improve functional abilities like standing balance, walking, gait training to improving local muscular endurance and control of the midsection or “core”. Now, it seems that they are also being marketed for the athletic population as a way to help improve athleticism and performance. The general population whose aim is to improve fitness is different from the elite athletes whose aim is to improve performance. That is when it can be confusing. People want to be glamorous and to be identified with a special group. It is always about the inflated ego. And that is why advertisers are very successful. They target the general population- say those who love to work out in gyms and make them relate to actual athletes by using famous athletes as models for their products. People would think that using a particular product would then make them into good looking athletes. Now, young athletes and sports coaches get confused. They would ask the strength coach to use BOSU, or swiss balls, or TRX for their training to improve their performance. It is the other way around but they may not be totally wrong. If improving their performance means re-training an injured ankle, then they would have a point, or their performance level is not yet that high as in the case of developmental teams. But remember, best performance is the expression of the athlete’s full potential. And what Strength Coaches do to help athletes do this is to help them maximize expression of their strength. That is why there are Strength coaches. And this strength is supported with good conditioning.


Now, going back to Unstable Surface training- will these devices help in the expression of maximum strength? There was a study conducted in 2008 which compared 1RM strength, and upper body and trunk muscle EMG activity during the barbell chest press exercise on a stable (flat bench) and unstable surface (exercise ball). The results show that there was no difference in 1RM strength or muscle EMG activity for the stable and unstable surfaces. In addition, there was no difference in elbow range-of-motion between the two surfaces. Taken together, these results indicate that there is no decrease in strength or any differences in muscle EMG activity for the barbell chest press exercise done on an unstable exercise ball when compared to a stable flat surface. It does not show that performing the bench press on an unstable surface would recruit more motor units nor decrease force output.


Another study was published on 2013. It was done to to compare force output and muscle activity of leg and trunk muscles in isometric squats executed on stable surface (i.e., floor), power board, BOSU ball, and balance board. The findings show that increasing the instability of the surface during maximum effort isometric squats usually maintains the muscle activity of lower-limb and superficial trunk muscles although the force output is reduced. This suggests that unstable surfaces in the squat may be beneficial in rehabilitation and as a part of periodized training programs. This study suggests that unstable surface training is valuable in the rehabilitation of injured athletes since it elicits same muscle activity without the maximum load thus it helps maintain or reduce the decline of fitness levels while waiting for the injury to heal.


As for performance, another study was done to compare the production of force and paraspinal muscle activity between deadlifts carried out in a standard way and with different instability devices (Bosu and T-Bow). Thirty-one subjects performed an isometric test for 5 seconds in each condition. After that, they performed 5 repetitions with 70% of the maximum isometric force obtained in each one of the previously evaluated conditions. Records of electromyographic activity and force production were obtained. The subjects produced more force and muscle activity on the stable surface than under the other conditions. These data shows that the performance of deadlifts under stable conditions favors a higher production of maximum strength and muscle activity. The researchers conclude that the use of instability devices in deadlift training does not increase performance, nor does it provide greater activation of the paraspinal muscles. These results also questions the value of unstable surface training in the performance of other types of exercises.


valclipperrace2007-08One sport, (and occupation) that requires exerting near maximal effort repeatedly on an unstable surface is offshore sailing. Sailors on big boats have to drag, pull and hoist very heavy sails. And when they sail upwind on stormy seas, they have to do it on an inclined surface which bounces all around with no rhythm. Fishermen who do not use wind powered boats still have to work on the same unstable surface. And you cannot stop in offshore sailing. When you are tired, you cannot stop the waves nor the wind. You still have to exert effort in order to maneuver your boat until you reach your destination which may take a few weeks to months.


Photo courtesy of Michelle Wong

Do they train on the BOSU, swiss balls and the like? Maybe, but most likely not. Their actual training is sailing itself. Strength training does supplement their training since they need to exert near maximum effort. Squatting or bench pressing on swiss balls for them is like a BMX race athlete training on a bike with those stabilizing trainer wheels.


Unstable surface training has its merits since it lets the body use a lot more motor units. More torso stabilizer muscles are active when doing an exercise on an unstable surface as compared to doing it on a stable surface. But once the initial challenge of learning how to use an unstable surface device has been overcome, the body will use only the required motor units to perform the exercise with the load. Think about it this way, when learning how to ride a bike, you tense up, use a lot more effort and action to control and move the bike without losing balance. But once you learned how to ride a bike, you are more relaxed and use lesser effort. Even if you did not ride a bike for many years, you would still be able to if you wanted to.

To sum it up, Unstable Surface Training has its uses but like anything that is made into a product, advertisers and promoters can always hype it to attract the attention of consumers. If you are an elite strength and power athlete and if your goal is to further maximize your strength and power, you probably have known all along that there is no way squatting on a swiss ball can make you break your PR, it can only break one’s bones and snap ligaments. But if you are a regular fitness guy/gal, these unstable surface devices may have a place in your training- although it will not be the main exercise. It is good to try different exercises once in a while to explore how you can use them for your improvement. For weekend athletes, these devices still can help you improve. Most weekend athletes do social sports like basketball, badminton, even trail running. These sports activities demand good knee and ankle control. It is good to try some exercises on the BOSU for ankle and knee control. But do not go overboard and do barbell squats on the swissball! Some people can do them but ask yourself these questions:“What good does it do for me if I will do it?”; “If I can do it, should I do it just because I can?, will it make me better?”; “Will I gain any benefit from this exercise and are the benefits greater than the risks?.” (click here for warm-up exercises which also improve ankle and knee proprioception) There is a story of a well known and respected Strength and Conditioning Coach and former athlete who was demonstrating squatting on a swiss ball. He does squats on swiss balls very well but unfortunately, on that day he was demonstrating, he landed badly when getting off the swiss ball that he tore some ligaments in his knee. If we think about it, how much more if a lesser skilled athlete, with weaker ligaments, would perform a loaded exercise on the swiss ball? His chances of getting hurt would be so high that it is insane to train for squatting strength on top of a swiss ball. And Strength Coaches would first think about not harming an athlete when prescribing an exercise.

Remember, the person who is ultimately responsible for your health and safety is YOURSELF. You have chosen to read this blog probably because you want to improve the quality of your life. The writer tries his best in his own way to convey information which he knows will be useful in improving strength and overall fitness. Use and share the information. And temper what you do with your good judgement. Train Better, Live Better!

Evidence leads to the conclusion that Strength Training helps endurance athletes (click here). Aside from enhancing the efficiency of movement, it also contributes in lowering the incidence of injuries. But does endurance training help improve performance of strength and power athletes? The answer is not so simple but it goes back again to the athlete’s main goal. If the main goal is to improve overall performance, training that also also improves a type of  endurance may help. But if the goal is to increase maximal strength, long slow duration endurance training will not help. The answer is not a simple yes or no because training to improve endurance- Cardiorespiratory and local muscular endurance, can be done as a long duration- low intensity training, and/or high intensity interval training. Long duration- low intensity training does not help in improving maximal strength but high intensity interval training may indirectly have a positive effect on improving maximal strength especially if repeated bouts of near maximal to maximal effort is required. However, most athletes may not necessarily need to exert near maximal to maximal effort in a single movement. Their sport may require explosive power but the load may not be maximal. The sports where maximum load is attempted are Olympic Weightlifting and Powerlifting, and since the load is maximal, it is lifted once for three attempts with rest in between. While jumping, throwing, punching,  sprinting, and the like all require explosive movements and need to be repeated many for the duration of the game. But there may be no rest or short rest in between repetitions and the load is submaximal. It is in these sports wherein high intensity interval training is very useful. That is still in addition to a very good strength foundation.


To determine if endurance training helps in the performance of athletes who rely on power and speed, an investigation was designed and completed to evaluate the compatibility of cardiovascular endurance and neuromuscular power training. Baseball players were used for this study since they rely on mostly power and speed. They were divided into two training groups with lower body power measured before and after their playing season. The Endurance Group performed moderate- to high-intensity cardiovascular endurance training 3-4 days per week throughout the season, while the Speed Group participated in speed/speed endurance training. There was a significant difference in lower body power between the two groups during their playing season. Power output of the endurance group decreased by an average of 39 watts while the speed group’s power improved by an average of 210 watts. This leads to a conclusion that athletes who rely on speed and power, like baseball players, basketball, volleyball, and the like, should rely more on speed or power interval training for their conditioning.1 The difference in numbers is quite obvious. This may translate into an athlete able to sprint faster or jump higher which increases their chances to scoring higher and ultimately winning over their slower opponents.


However, the beneficial effects of endurance training cannot be overlooked as well. It elicits favorable muscle adaptations such as enhanced blood supply, energy use, and fuel storage capacities.2 A good aerobic capacity also helps anaerobic performance by aiding in eliminating anaerobic metabolism by-products. Higher levels of aerobic power help to delay the onset of fatigue which reduces injury potential as well as errors in movement and in making decisions in a game.3


If maximizing the efficiency of the anaerobic system is the goal, then it means the ability to recover in between bouts or sets of exercise, or between plays in a game, should be maximized.

For the top athletes of Weightlifting and Powerlifting, their ability to recover in between sets of near maximal to maximal lifts is so much higher than a beginner or an athlete who is into other sports. This is a manifestation of the Principle of Specificity of training. Another factor is that top athletes of these sports are most likely born with muscle fiber types, limb length, psychological attributes, and other traits that would give them an advantage over other athletes. Well thought of training programs further enhances these attributes and the ultimate manifestation would be best performances by the athlete. We can analyse it like this: fitness components are like rooms and the body is the building. The floor area of a building is limited- so much like the genetic ceiling of each individual is finite. The sizes of the rooms would depend on what room we want to emphasize. A building designed for a house would have bedrooms, kitchen, toilet and bath, living room, and those who have a bigger building can afford to have study and entertainment rooms. A person who has more genetic endowments and is much more motivated to train has more potential – more “rooms”. If that building will be redesigned as a restaurant, then the bedrooms would be eliminated to make way for a bigger kitchen, and a big dining area- the rooms which make up a restaurant. An untrained individual is like a building with the rooms not yet laid out. Modifying the layout of a building with its limited floor area is similar to training an athlete for a particular sport. It enhances the fitness components required for that sport. To enhance one aspect, other aspects may have to be sacrificed- and those are the aspects which are at the opposite end of the desired spectrum. So training for an predominantly aerobic endurance sport lessens the potential “floor area” for manifesting the maximum strength within that athlete’s genetic potential. But it should be understood that this is more important in the sports at the extreme ends of the explosive power – aerobic endurance spectrum.


For the general population however, it may be possible to enhance both maximum strength and aerobic capacity since their level of development is low to start with. But once their genetic potential is being realized, like in athletes, making gains in strength and aerobic capacity would become harder. Both strength and aerobic capacity will be competing for resources within the human body needed for recovery. Training for these components taxes the body. Both are stressors that the body has to recover from in order to improve.


Since strength/power and endurance are at the opposite ends of a spectrum, maximizing strength may mean sacrificing some aerobic capacity- the type which is used for sustained effort with low intensity- such as long distance running. If the goal is to increase strength and power, what needs to be emphasized is the type of training which enhances ability to recover between bouts of very short but very high intensity effort. Time required for long slow duration training is long. Not only does it compete for recovery, it also competes for training time. So a better way to support an athlete’s ability to recover between bursts of powerful movements is to incorporate high intensity interval training rather than long slow duration aerobic training. Train with short bursts of cyclic movements like sprints with very short recovery periods- shorter than that required for full recovery of the atp-pc & glycolytic system. This is a better way of supporting maximal strength development rather than using low intensity- long duration activities. Train Better, Live Better!


  1. Non-compatibility of Power and Endurance Training Among College Baseball Players. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. January 2008 – Volume 22 – Issue 1 – pp 230-234
  2. Is Long Duration Aerobic Exercise Necessary for Anaerobic Athletes? Strength & Conditioning Journal. April 2013 – Volume 35 – Issue 2 – p 44–46
  3. Quantification of the Aerobic Component in Strength/Conditioning Programs. Schmidt, Richard J. National Strength Coaches Association Journal. April 1981 – Volume 3 – Issue 2 – ppg 40-41