Category: UCO

How Mobility Can Make Or Break Your Workout

Foundational Mobility 

     What if I pointed out there was a way to improve every aspect of athletic performance in just a few minutes every day, with little or no effort, but it’s regularly ignored by a huge amount of gym goers? Mobility work is what I’m talking about. Studies show that stretching can increase biomechanical efficiency, reduce the risk of injuries and improve muscle relaxation as well as improve muscle extensibility. There are several different ways to stretch and the benefits vary just as much as the modalities. Understanding how to effectively implement the different stretching techniques can dramatically increase, or decrease effectiveness. In this article I will provide a basic explanation of the most common stretching modalities and strategies for using them effectively. 

     Dynamic Stretching is when a full range of motion is achieved but moved through slowly, or at a controlled moderate pace instead of being held. Studies show that dynamic stretching before a workout can effectively reduce the risk of injury during the workout as well as increase strength and power. Just about any movement pattern can be considered a dynamic stretch, squats, lunges, trunk twists or even something as simple as reaching overhead could be considered a dynamic stretch. It’s best to do dynamic stretches before a workout that mimic the movement patterns that will be performed during the workout. For example, doing a light set of squats with full range of motion is a good way to get ready for heavy squats. 

     Static stretching is generally the most common modality. This is when a stretch is achieved and then held for a short period of time, usually about twenty to thirty seconds per bout. More short and long term increases in mobility can be achieved with increased time in the stretch, but the benefits taper off dramatically after about one minute per muscle group per day. It usually comes as a shock to most people when I tell them doing static stretches before a workout statistically increases the likelihood of an injury during the workout. There is an exception is for older populations, but for the general population static stretches are safer and more effective towards the end of a workout. 

     Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation, or P.N.F. stretching involves cycles of activating and relaxing a muscle group while maintaining a stretch. This stretching modality is the most effective way of increasing range of motion. General guidelines for P.N.F. stretching utilize a three to six second contraction of the stretched muscle followed by a ten to thirty second static stretching period. Just like static stretching, P.N.F. should be done at the end of a workout. 

     Implementing these techniques can go a long way to improving an individual’s mobility and athletic performance, but it’s not all there is to know about stretching, in fact it’s barely scratching the surface of what is understood about mobility. Breathing techniques, pain tolerance and other neurological activity can greatly affect range of motion. Just like any aspect of fitness, mobility is almost infinitely complex, especially when individual needs are taken into consideration. With that being said, the steps in this article should provide a good way to build a foundation. The most important thing to take from this article is that mobility work is an incredibly valuable part of any workout routine. Good luck, and enjoy your fitness journey. 

For more information please consult the following sources

Sources 

 

Teşu Adrian. “STRETCHING AND ITS BENEFITS.” Annals of the “Ştefan Cel Mare” University: Physical Education and Sport Section – The Science and Art of Movement 2.2 (2019): 88-91. Web.

 

Popp, Jennifer K., David M. Bellar, Donald L. Hoover, Bruce W. Craig, Brianna N. Leitzelar, Elizabeth A. Wanless, and Lawrence Judge. “Pre- and Post-Activity Stretching Practices of Collegiate Athletic Trainers in the United States.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 31.9 (2017): 2347-354. Web.

 

Finding Strength

 

Getting Started

If someone is interested in getting stronger, getting started is the most rewarding part. The initial adaptations to strength training are the most impressive. For beginners, a ten percent increase in strength can be seen in just a few workouts. That bumps up to a 20-30% increase over the first two to three months for most people and even as high as 70-100% in some studies. 

The degree to which an individual’s strength will increase is subject to many factors in addition to working out. Having a healthy diet, routine sleep schedule and low stress levels are all ways to help get more out of your strength training, but in this article we will focus on what you should do in the gym. 

Building a Foundation 

Just because some of the strongest guys in the gym will routinely lift 80-100% of their one rep max doesn’t mean it’s the best way for everyone to get strong. Beginners should be focused on building a kinesthetic understanding of compound resistance training movement patterns like squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, pulldowns and rows. One would do that by moving slow, staying focused and doing as many reps in a set as you can while maintaining proper lifting mechanics. A typical set should consist of about 8-15 repetitions at around 40-60% of your one rep max. If you are a little younger or have some resistance training experience you can get away with starting at higher percentages, but if you’re a senior or have little or no experience, you’re probably better off starting with less weight and fewer reps. 

A good rule of thumb is that more work leads to more results, but that only works to a point. It’s better to start slow and focus on staying consistent. Going to hard to fast can lead to lots of soreness and maybe even a long term setbacks if an injury occurs. 

 

Continuing Progress

In order to keep getting stronger an individual will need to progressively increase the amount of weight lifted at certain rep ranges. This idea is referred to as the overload principle. Progress is easy at first, but requires more and more work to continue making strength gains.  

It is very helpful to periodically test the one rep max, because it helps gauge progress as well as add a level of structure to a workout program. Testing should be done at the beginning of a program and about every four to twelve weeks. After testing a lifter should reevaluate goals to help maximize the effectiveness of a training program. Progress isn’t a straight line. It’s good to see where you’re at, but testing max effort lifts to often can increase the risk of injury and take away from progress. 

For more information on gaining strength please utilize the resources provided in the sources cited section. 

 

Sources Cited. 

Colquhoun, Ryan J., Christopher M. Gai, Danielle D.M. Aguilar, Daniel I. Bove, Jeffrey Dolan, Andres Vargas, Kaylee Couvillion, Nathaniel Jenkins, and Bill Campbell. “Training Volume, Not Frequency, Indicative of Maximal Strength Adaptations to Resistance Training.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 32.5 (2018): 1207-213. Web.

Dankel, Scott, J. Buckner, Samuel Jessee, L. Grant Mouser, Matthew Mattocks, B. Abe, and Kevin Loenneke. “Correlations Do Not Show Cause and Effect: Not Even for Changes in Muscle Size and Strength.” Sports Medicine 48.1 (2018): 1-6. Web.

High Intensity Interval Training

What is HIIT?

High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, is a type of training that has become rather popular for many people in the fitness crowd. In this particular type of training you perform High Intensity workouts at specific timed intervals. Some of these timed intervals could be for 30 seconds or even 1 minute of all out effort with little to no breaks in between. HIIT training has been very successful in various areas because you are able to get a great workout in a short amount of time. Although it is not necessarily recommended to use HIIT training as the only source of physical activity, it is a great way to obtain a workout quickly an effectively.

Possible Cardio HIIT Workouts

One possible cardio workout program that you may be able to attain fairly easily throughout the week could be running full out sprints for a designated amount of time. this could be 8 to 12 all out sprints for 30 seconds at a time. After each sprint you would be given 2 minutes to recover before the next 30 second sprint.

Another simple and effective way to take advantage of this could be on a bike at home or at the UCO Wellness Center. For example, pedaling for 60 seconds straight for 8 to 12 sets at a high intensity while giving yourself a 1 minute and 30 second break in between each set of 60 seconds. Notice that in this particular type of workout the resting duration is slightly shorter. This can make it a little more challenging if you are interested in doing so or want to mix it up from the normal routine.

 

HIIT is Not the Only Way!

Although HIIT training has been proven to be fairly effective in many cases there are still ways in which you can workout and gain results without going 100 miles an hour all the time. Running consistently throughout the week, mixing in some resistance training, or even body weight workouts are also great ways to work towards the results that you would like to see.

 

Have a great week!

 

 

 

Information:

Astorino, Todd A., Ross M. Edmunds, Amy Clark, Leesa King, Rachael Gallant, Samantha Namm, Anthony Fischer, and Kimi Wood. “High-Intensity Interval Training Increases Cardiac Output and V˙O2max.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 49.2 (2017): 265-73. Web.

Does The Scale Tell You That You Aren’t Making Progress?

Have you ever used a scale to track your progress when making a lifestyle? Did you like what you saw? Did you NOT like what you saw?

So often, we believe that our hard work should be shown on the scale. Sometimes, the numbers go down a little bit. Sometimes, the numbers go up. Sometimes, the numbers don’t move at all.

If this sounds like you, we have good news!

Here are some reasons why we can’t rely on the scale to track our progress:

1. A scale CAN’T tell the difference between fat and muscle

Image result for comparison of 1 lb of fat and muscle

 

 

In this picture, you can see the difference between 5 pounds of fat and 5 pounds of muscle. While you might be losing fat, you are also adding muscle. This results in the scale not showing you the results you have work hard to earn.

 

 

2.  How you are feeling is important too!

Even if you haven’t lost the weight you have hoped, do you like how you look? Do you feel more energized? Do you feel better mentally? Are you sleeping better? If you have answered yes to any of these questions and/or have noticed any other positive changes, then you are on the right track!

3. Remember what matters the most to YOU

Any progress is good progress AND you are creating new habits that will result in a healthier lifestyle! Obsessing over the numerical value of the scale will only distract you from what matters most. Instead of weight loss goals, a good alternative is reaching other goals such as loss of inches or dropping sizes in clothes.

 

 

Machines Vs. Free Weights: Which Should You Use?

Tell me if this sounds familiar; you walk into a gym and just stand there. As you look at all the equipment that that gym offers, you continue to stand there with the one concerning question: which type of weights should I use; the free weights or the machines. Well lucky for you, this article will help you the next time you’re looking lost at the gym.  

 

*Because you’re reading this article, I’m assuming that you know what free weights are, as well as what machines are so I won’t go into that. If you don’t, check out Google, I heard that they know everything.  

 

Why use machines?

Machines are easier to use. It’s hard to use a machine wrong. I thought it was impossible until I trained at the gym at my university. Yikes. Anyways, the way machines are built, it allows you to “stay on track.” What I mean by that is, they have a specific and precise way that the levers are moved. Compare that to a free weight where there is no set path and you have an increased chance of messing up technique. This makes machines a great option for newbies. 

Less likely to get injured using machines. With free weights, you take on the risk of injuring yourself. Things like dropping a kettlebell on your toes or smashing your finger with a dumbbell are all scenarios that happen more times than we would like. If you go on Youtube and search weightlifting accidents, 98.47% of them will be using free weights. Using a machine, you don’t take those chances.  

You’re able to use more weight. This is because the fact that balancing and stabilizing are taken out of the equation; therefore you are able to focus on the muscles that are being worked and less on the ones not being directly targeted. This is perfect for those that are injured in other muscles that won’t allow them to be able balance effectively for the exercise.  

Able to target a specific muscle. This is huge for bodybuilders as they like to be able to isolate and work on a certain muscle that needs specific attention.  

 

Who should use machines? 

Beginners. Until you learn the correct technique for exercises, you’re doing more harm than good. Machines will “guide” lifters through the correct technique majority of the time.  

Injured/Rehabbing. If you aren’t able to walk, chances are you probably wont be able to squat freely either. This is where machines come into play. There are leg exercises that allow you to sit and not have to worry about keeping your balance and standing upright. 

Bodybuilders. Like I mentioned early, machines help you get that better pump and allow for a certain muscle get special attention.  

 

 

Why use free weights?

Able to hit the full range of motion for the muscle and joints involved. Machines are designed for everyone to use, and since we know everyone is different, that is a pretty unreasonable standard. With free weights, you can use them how to where it is more individualized and fit to your body. It is absolutely necessary for full ranges of motion to be hit. This leads to our next statement.  

Build more muscle. Hitting a full range of motion for the muscles is an essential for gaining muscle. When the muscle isn’t pushed and trained at its full range, muscle fibers are being neglected and not hit which leads to less growth all together in that muscle. 

Build strength. Multi-joint movements are great to do when training. They hit multiple muscles and are great for building strength. Machines are not very efficient at these like free weights are.  

 

Who should use free weights? 

Advanced lifters. Safety first. Again, learn the technique before diving. 

Those who want to build strength.  

Athletes. Machines aren’t able to mimic movements that athletes do in their sport. Free weights are able help with balance, stability, coordination, etc.. This is crucial for athletes because sports require a top level in all of those. 

 

Final Verdict 

Which should you use? There are many factors that play into this determining. The main thing is what your goal is. There aren’t any right or wrong choices, just more suitable. Hopefully this helps make your decision a little bit easier the next time you are questioning your choice of equipment.  

 

Why Warm-up before Working Out?

Last week we discussed what benefits are associated with physical activity in general. This lets dive into what you should do beforehand to prepare for a workout routine. One of the most important things you can do to get the most out of your workout is to participate in a warm-up before you begin. Most of us, including myself, want to get in the gym, get the workout in, and get out as quickly as possible. Although it may lengthen the time you are in the gym by 10 minutes or so, there are benefits to warming up beforehand.

 Benefits of a Warm-Up

  • Improved performance
  • reduction in the chance of injury
  • increased range of motion during exercise

So what happens when I warm-up?

Most individuals have heard of the saying “let’s get the blood flowing”, and there is some truth to that typical saying used by most sports coaches. Think of a meal you are about to prepare and you need to boil some water. You light the stove and wait as the water starts to heat up and begins to boil. If you were were to put your meal of choice in the water before it had started boiling it may not be ready to receive it, but if you wait until the water is boiling and at the correct temperature your home cooked meal turns out to be great! Warming up is, in a way, like heating up the muscles and preparing them for the workout they are about to perform which allows us to be able to perform the absolute best we can in any given workout. We all want the best results we can possibly achieve in every workout and warming up beforehand is a great way to start. Next time you are about to workout and are away from your trainer, think about warming up beforehand.

 

 

Information from:

Fradkin, A. J., Zazryn, T. R., & Smoliga, J. M. (2010). EFFECTS OF WARMING-UP ON PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW WITH META-ANALYSIS. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(1), 140-8. doi:http

Benefits of Physical Activity on the Brain

The health benefits of physical activity are seen in EVERYONE!!! From children to older adults, women and men, people of different races and ethnicities, and even people with chronic conditions; the health benefits can be seen in everyone. The benefits of physical activity are completely independent of body weight. The benefits that physical activity have on our physical body are more widely known, but it can also help your brain functions! The benefits of physical activity on the brain are immediate, long lasting and protective.  

3 Ways to Add Physical Activity Into Your Everyday Life

80% of American adults are not getting the recommended amount of exercise (The State of Obesity, 2018). According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you should get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week (ACSM 2014, p.147) There are many ways of achieving this without spending money on a gym membership.

There are many different benefits of staying physically active throughout your life. For example: it improves cognitive functioning, increases energy, decreases stress, and improves cardiovascular health. A lot of Americans today spend over half of their day sitting down. Being sedentary can actually increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and premature death. If sitting down really causes all of these problems, then why is it so prominent in our daily lives?

Most people believe that being physically active means you have to go to the gym and do an extremely hard workout while sweating profusely. This is actually not true at all. Being physically active means that you have found time in your busy schedule to do an activity that isn’t sitting down or lying down. You don’t even have to sweat. To add physical activity into your life, start by laying out your schedule, and finding small increments of time to add different activities. Here are three simple ways to add physical activity into your everyday life:

1. Coffee Walks

Going on a coffee walk is a great way to get in your exercise while doing something you already had planned. If you are meeting a friend for coffee, you can ask them to get their coffee to go and take it with you on a walk. This is an easy way to stay active while still getting tasks done. Sitting down at a coffee shop is something that most college aged students do weekly.

 

2. Walk While You Study

Studying is something that is inevitable as a college student. According to Louis Bherer, Kirk I. Erickson, and Teresa Liu-Ambrose, by doing any form of physical activity it can increase your cognitive functioning and help you focus more on different tasks (Effects of Physical Activity and Exercise, 2013). It is easy to go to the library or sit at home and study, but what if you took your study materials on a walk with you. It is easy to look over flash cards while you take a walk, or have a friend come with you and quiz you. This will not only add physical activity into your life, but it can also help improve your cognitive functioning, which can help you with whatever it is you are studying for.

3. Park farther away

This is one of the easiest ways to add physical activity into your day. For UCO students it is already incorporated in our day, because parking isn’t exactly ideal. However, if you are going other places like the grocery store or to get food, try parking at the farthest spot you can find. This only adds a few extra minutes onto your trip, but can end up benefitting you a lot more. The task does not have to be long or strenuous. Adding little things like this to your day may not seem like much, but over time it will improve your overall quality of life.

References:

ACSM. (2014). Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription.

Louis Bherer, Kirk I. Erickson, and Teresa Liu-Ambrose, “A Review of the Effects of Physical Activity and Exercise on Cognitive and Brain Functions,” Journal of Aging Research, vol. 2013, Article ID 657508, 8 pages, 2013. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/657508

The State of Obesity. (2018). Physical Inactivity in the United States. Retrieved from The State of Obesity: https://stateofobesity.org/physical-inactivity