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The Benefits of Spinal Manipulation

Spinal manipulation, also known as Chiropractic Manipulative Therapy, is an effective and efficient way to improve joint mechanics, reduce pain, improve mobility, and facilitate the acquisition of improved movements patterns when implemented strategically into treatment plans.

Yet the benefits of spinal manipulation, or chiropractic care in general, is still met with skepticism.

We are so far past establishing that there is evidence supporting spinal manipulation. Rather, we are moving in the direction of how to best establish the use of spinal manipulation in the management of specific musculoskeletal conditions and pain syndromes. The fact is that there are so many studies, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses done on spinal manipulation that a Medline search would be overwhelming to discuss.

The evidence is well summed up by a review of international low back pain guidelines. Over the last 10 years, 12 countries have done critical reviews of the scientific literature concerning low back pain. The international consensus is that the evidence supports chiropractic spinal manipulation as an effective tool in managing low back pain, and therefore is included in the recommendations.

However, the benefits of spinal manipulation do not begin and end with back pain. There are numerous benefits to spinal manipulation that make chiropractic care an invaluable addition to one’s health related or athletic pursuits. Below is just a short list.

  1. Joint pain relief - The most obvious benefit is relief of pain. Chiropractic manipulative therapy (CMT) can almost instantly relieve pain experienced in the low back, mid-back, neck, and extremities and has demonstrated this in research.
  2. Disc Bulge/Sciatica - The European Spine Journal published the findings from a clinical trial with chiropractic manipulative therapy showing 72% success rate in treating sciatica and associated symptoms. Disc bulges respond favorably to spinal manipulation techniques which focus on resorting joint mechanics and unloading the intervertebral discs.
  3. Headaches (tension and migraine) – There are hundreds of peer reviewed research articles demonstrating the ability spinal manipulation to prevent and ease the burden of headaches and migraines.
  4. Blood Pressure - In 2007, a team of researchers published a study in the Human Journal of Hypertension demonstrating that one upper cervical chiropractic adjustment had the same effect as two blood pressure-lowering drugs. Those effects were not simply short-term, they lasted more than six months.
  5. Surgery Prevention - The Journal of the American Medical Association recently published its low back pain guidelines and suggested that people suffering from back pain first try chiropractic before resorting to surgery. When appropriate, a growing number of physicians and specialists are recommending patients pursue conservative management of musculoskeletal conditions and pain syndromes before surgical intervention. The majority of these patients avoid surgery as they respond extremely well to conservative management via chiropractic care, physical therapy, or a combination.
  6. Athletic Performance - There is a reason why countless professional and Olympic athletes receive regular chiropractic care. The physiologic and neurologic benefit of spinal manipulation is super charged when used in a comprehensive care plan to address pain and dysfunction. Simply stated, muscles just work better when proper joint motion is restored via manipulative therapy. Athletes thrive on proprioception and motor responses from sensory input. Proprioception and motor response all improve from spinal manipulation. Coupled with exercises to facilitate motor skill acquisition, the short-term responses from spinal manipulation eventually become long-term improvements in movement quality and efficiency.
Based on my knowledge and experience as a sports performance and rehabilitation chiropractor, I’ve seen some surprising improvements with pain, joint proprioception and overall movement quality due to chiropractic spinal manipulation. When appropriately indicated, I regularly use spinal manipulation for reducing joint pain, improving joint mechanics, reducing muscle tension, and improving movement.

As stated above, spinal manipulation is a power tool that can be used within a comprehensive treatment plan. These treatment plans often utilize a variety of approaches that emphasize soft tissue work, guided exercises to improve stabilization and movement patterns, and patient education. These combined approaches serve as a “gold standard” for successful management and treatment of a number of musculoskeletal conditions.

To learn more about chiropractic and how it can be a benefit to your health or athletic goals, please contact our office at (724) 519-2833.

More related reading:

https://gallagherperformance.com/solution-long-term-improvement-back-pain/

https://gallagherperformance.com/the-solution-for-chronic-back-pain/

https://gallagherperformance.com/low_back_pain_causes_and_treatment_recommendations/

A Few Words on Athletic Development

We get asked quite often about our training philosophy when it comes to athletes. Many parents want to know if the training their child will receive at GP is going to be sport-specific. While specificity in training matters, many of our athletes and their parents are surprised to learn how general or fundamental their training must be in the early phases. What needs to be clarified is understanding how much training experience the athlete has and the physical traits that must be developed. The vast majority of athletes we work with are involved in the sports of football, hockey, baseball, and basketball. Success in these sports are highly dependent upon power-speed qualities. We must train these athletes to develop the abilities that allow them to jump, sprint, cut, and dominate their opponents with brute strength. It's our job to make them bigger, faster, stronger, and more durable. It's our job to physical prepare them for the demands of their sport.

Aspiring young athletes are in need of building a broad foundation rooted in movements that will develop strength, speed, flexibility, and body awareness. For the evidence-based fans out there, we use movements and exercises that all have been proven through research to work. But more importantly, the exercises used have stood the test of time and have served as the backbone to athletic development programs for decades. Sprints, jumps, throws, compound strength exercises, Olympic weightlifting movements when appropriate, and general calisthenics have all play a role in the training of some of the greatest athletes in the world.

But the exercises are not simply enough. Almost every single one of our athletes must be exposed to a high volume of training without a high degree of variation. It's important to respect the neural adaptations young athletes or novice trainees undergo during the training process. High volumes of training will help ensure motor learning and skill acquisition while developing the connective tissue strength needed for more intensive training down the road.

This template serves to lay the foundation for the neuromuscular qualities required to meet the increasing needs for speed and power development. It's simple math really. If an athlete improves relative strength, that athlete will be faster and more explosive. Keep in mind that that other factors can be at play too. For instance, that same athlete must also maintain or improve movement quality to improve speed and explosiveness.

However, these are only portions of what goes into a quality athletic development program. It's much more than simple "strength and speed". This is why we feel the value of a qualified strength and conditioning coach or athletic development coach is severely under appreciated. Unfortunately, far too many people have been misinformed by either poorly educated trainers or by the internet. They haven't experienced the difference guided athletic development can make in their performance. Having a coach to guide young athletes not only in their development, but also in areas such as nutrition and cultivating the mind set needed to achieve their goals can give them a huge advantage over their competition.

That's why we love what we do at GP. Not only do we get to work with clients and athletes that have big dreams and big goals, but we also help them develop habits that create a healthier lifestyle. When we have them giving us their best, they deserve nothing less than our best!

More related reading:

https://gallagherperformance.com/understanding-the-benefits-and-concerns-of-youth-strength-training-programs/

https://gallagherperformance.com/periodization-keep-athletes-track-fo-success/

https://gallagherperformance.com/the-essentials-of-speed-training/

How to Develop Physical Fitness

Recently, I was having a conversation with one of our clients about what it takes to be ready to compete in sport. The conversation mostly centered around athletics and how to be in the best "condition" possible. Specifically, this client was talking about certain people they know and hold in high regard as having a high level of physical fitness. All was going well until they said something very interesting.

In regards to someone they know, they said, "Man, are they fit. They are probably the most fit person I know."

When I asked them what makes that individual the "most fit" person they know, they just stared blankly back at me. There was no response and you could see the wheels churning away trying to figure out the answer.

Fitness is a craze nowadays. Women want to be fit. Men want to be fit. Athletes want to be fit. People want to be fit. Health clubs, personal trainers, smart phone apps, and infomercials want to sell you on becoming more fit. Slogans such as “Forging Elite Fitness” and titles such as “Fittest Man on Earth” or “Fittest Woman on Earth” make the concept of fitness very intriguing. Many people have come to believe fitness is a complex process. To most, the idea of “fitness” brings to mind someone who is muscular, lean, strong, and has stamina for days. This “idea” of fitness seems to be nothing but mere marketing and often leads people down the road of overcomplicating their exercise or training program.

So, that begs the questions, "What is fitness?"

Physical fitness is actually quite simple if we define fitness as “the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular physical task”. If your task is to compete in the 100m dash, then your fitness levels must enable you to successfully compete in that event. If your task is to start in the NFL, then your fitness must enable you compete at your highest level possible week after week.

Developing Physical Fitness
Physical fitness is achieved during the process of physical preparation or how prepared you are for competition. The ultimate goal of physical preparation is to have each athlete at their best during competition and is accomplished via a systematic process to promote adaptations that raise levels of both fitness and preparedness. Fitness adaptations thus follow the SAID principle (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands). Meaning, if you want to gain muscle, get stronger, and be more explosive, you better be sprinting, jumping, throwing, and lifting weights to allow those specific adaptations to occur. The SAID principle also means that an athlete’s level of fitness should always be specific to their sporting demands.

Debating who is the most “fit” athlete or individual on the planet is a ridiculous conversation. How can someone say that an NHL defensemen who plays almost 30 minutes per game over an 82 game is more or less fit than an Olympic caliber decathlete? How is that Olympic decathlete more fit than a Navy SEAL? How is a Navy SEAL less fit than the “Fittest Man on Earth”? How is the winner of the Boston Marathon more fit than the World’s Strongest Man?

Do you see what I am getting at?

An athlete’s fitness levels (strength, power, stamina, energy system development, etc.) will always be specific to what is required by their primary sport form. Just because someone is the “Fittest Man on Earth” does not mean they will have the ability to withstand the demands of competing within another sport at elite levels. Personally, the “Fittest Man/Woman on Earth” title would be better renamed to “Fittest CrossFitter on Earth” because that’s all the title means. The notion that elite fitness in one event or sport is somehow superior to the fitness required in another is either arrogant or ignorant (possibly both).

Understanding Physical Fitness Adaptations
To better understand physical fitness and the specific adaptations that result from training, we must first consider the training system commonly used to achieve improvements in endurance, strength, and power. This training system is known as concurrent training. Concurrent training is defined as, “the simultaneous inclusion of strength training and endurance training within the same program.” Concurrent training may be a necessary means for some athletes and individuals. However, for most, the application of concurrent training is widely misunderstood and poorly organized in the pursuit of all things “fitness”. They want to improve endurance, so they do a lot of aerobic exercise. They may run, bike, or swim for hours each week. They also want to get lean and strong, so they lift weights 2-4 times per week. These are the people who train and train and train, yet fail to see significant improvements in any number of neuromuscular adaptations.

Aerobic and strength adaptations are very divergent. The human body is simply not capable of adapting appropriately to two very different training stimuli. You can go run for a long period of time or you can be explosive and strong from weight training. Now, I understand nobody wants to be both an elite marathon runner and Strongman. However, there are people who want high levels of aerobic capacity while also becoming muscular and strong at the same time. Unfortunately, many of these same people plateau quickly or fail to see significant improvements because concurrent training attenuates muscular growth, strength, and power gains. There is an interference effect created when one attempts to simultaneously improve both aerobic fitness and neuromuscular qualities such as strength and power. The training approach is doomed from the beginning if specificity and attention to detail in training organization does not enter the picture.

To understand why, we must then understand the competing long-term adaptations that occur from strength training and endurance training.

Competing Long-Term Adaptations
1) Strength Training (short duration, high force output)

  • Neural Adaptations – synchronous firing, recruits large populations of motor units, rapid rates of force development, improve rate coding
  • Endocrine Adaptations – Growth Hormone (GH) and Testosterone release, anabolic environment, stimulation of satellite cell activation and muscle protein synthesis
2) Aerobic Training (long duration, low force output)
  • Neural Adaptations – asynchronous firing, recruits small populations of motor units, slow rates of force development
  • Endocrine Adaptations – impaired anabolic hormone signaling, elevated Cortisol and catabolic hormone production, inhibition of mammalian target of rapamyacin (mTOR), essentially shutting down the pathways for stimulating muscle protein synthesis
This means that regardless of whether you perform aerobic exercise and strength training in separate sessions or during the same exercise session, the results can be negative depending on your “fitness” goals or needs as an athlete.

Fitness is Specific
Physical fitness is thus specific to the end goal of physical preparation. The physical preparation of an American football player should be different than that of an MMA fighter. Football players do not need to have the "fitness" levels of MMA fighters. Each of these athletes must develop their physical fitness qualities to meet the demands of their sport. Consider that American football players must develop power-speed qualities that are essential to their success at high levels of competition. Some trainers and coaches feel that some of their football players need better aerobic fitness or conditioning, so they have them perform high volumes of gassers or long distance runs in the off-season. As said before, this can prove to be a huge mistake. Being "fit" for football has very little to do with how many gassers you can complete, how fast you can run three miles, or what your Fran time is.

The same is true for other power-speed athletes (hockey, baseball, lacrosse, sprinters, throwers, etc.) Senseless and poorly implemented aerobic conditioning will have negative impacts on the neuromuscular qualities needed for successful participation in these sports. These qualities are important to their “fitness” as an athlete. Sure, go ahead and perform endless miles of running or biking. Go on with your absurd amounts of circuit-based training. But when you rob these athletes of their ability to develop higher levels of strength, speed, and power, it should be no surprise as to why it happened. Aerobic fitness cannot be prioritized to the point that more important qualities (strength, speed, and power) suffer.

But, isn’t a decent aerobic conditioning base essential for these athletes as well?

Yes. However, there are more optimal ways to develop their aerobic energy systems to meet the demands of their sport. Don't make the mistake of assuming aerobic capacity is the same as being "fit". Aerobic energy system development will always be specific to the athlete's needs. Similar to resistance training, aerobic development should be periodized and appropriately dosed to developed the specific energy system demands without impairing performance.

Conclusion
Fitness is not simply achieved by going nuts, but rather being productive in specific approaches to your sporting demands. If you are unsure of how to appropriately address your fitness goals or needs as an athlete, then first start with a knowledgeable coach who understands the complexities of physical preparation for sport and is able to guide you in the process. For some, the concept of fitness requires a bit of a “reality check”. Sure you may want it all. You want the elite level endurance, strength, speed, and power. But, often this is not realistic. Prioritize your fitness goals and address them accordingly in specific phases of training. This process requires patience.

Remember, fitness is a highly specific quality that is ultimately dependent upon the physical preparation process for your sport of participation. Understand your training must mirror your demands for sport. If training is not addressing your specific needs as an athlete, you are wasting your time. Don't let some general or poorly defined concept of "fitness" guide your training.

More related reading:

https://gallagherperformance.com/physical-preparation-vs-fitness/

https://gallagherperformance.com/the-truth-about-functional-exercise/

https://gallagherperformance.com/ultimate-runners-guide-to-injury-prevention/

6 Factors That Influence an Athlete's Dedication

Working with athletes to develop their performance brings on a host of unique challenges. Arguably the greatest challenge is associated with the intrinsic motivation level of young athletes. The varying levels of self-driven motivation among the young athletes at GP is interesting to observe, especially as the character of the athlete begins to emerge. Motivation level becomes even more apparent as we progress through the training program, taking notice of what the young athlete is willing to do on their own to improve their performance. Ultimately the question becomes, can they sustain the motivation year after year if they begin a structured training program early in their career? There are several factors which can influence an athlete's dedication, below are just a few that come to mind:

1) Unrealistic pressure at an early age. Too often when parents bring their young son or daughter in to begin training at GP, some of the expectations placed upon these athletes is pretty surprising. This certainly is not unique to our business. Likely anyone involved in the sport performance industry is very familiar with this situation. During the initial consultation, parents will often state:
  • “My son/daughter is the best athlete on their team.”
  • “ My son/daughter was just voted the best player in their age group at a recent camp.”
  • “My son/daughter is a natural athlete and they always get placed on the highest level teams in the area."
While we aren’t here to dispute these claims, if you are 12-15 years old and have been hearing this type of ‘hype’, what is the motivation to want to continue working hard or even begin to work hard? The reality is, little priority can be placed on improving physical skills when you believe you are better than your competition or continually hear that you are better. To further complicate the matter, several of these athletes participate in multiple sports and over-compete year around, giving no substantial amount of time for physical development to occur because of the intense competition schedule. Parents can further reinforce this, believing that more competition is what their young athlete needs. We addressed the mistake of this thinking in this article.

2) Short-term focus, lack of quality coaches. Far too many programs at the youth level carry a “win at all costs” mentality. This has tremendously negative impacts on limiting physical and motor skill development as they become a secondary (at best) focus for young athletes. Coaches with little to no experience, no education of physiological adaptations or skill development are often times responsible for these young athletes. The short-term focus of winning becomes the ‘norm’ and developing young athletes becomes an after thought in the name of winning. This system favors the ‘early developers’ or simply the young athletes who develop faster at a young age. These kids become more likely to make high-level club teams at younger ages, but how does this affect their motivation to continually work hard as they mature and other athletes, or ‘late developers’, begin to catch up with them? Does it generate a weak-minded athlete who lacks grit and determination to want to do the extra work needed to fulfill their potential?

3) Poor management of Late Developers. What happens to the kids who are ‘late developers’ as coaches who lack education in talent selection bypass them to win games? These coaches are likely not willing to spend the extra time needed to help young athletes develop because, for many of them, they don’t have a clue what to do for them. They select the ‘early developers’ and this helps to mask coaching incompetency. Some athletes will use this as motivation to work harder and smarter, as they enjoy the long-term process of improvement. Other late-developing athletes will quickly lose motivation, as frustration mounts and they quit sports because they find no enjoyment in the process. Coaches need to look at many factors when developing athletes, wins and losses should not be the primary concern.

4) Injury and burnout. How can young athletes make a difference in their careers when so many require medical intervention at increasing rates? According to statistics, of the 38 million athletes (ages 6-18) who participate in sports in the United States, 1 in 10 have significant injuries, which will have impacts on their future development. Also consider that many of these athletes at young ages (13-14), will have a competition schedule that includes 70-90 games per year. Honestly, this is not appropriate. Common sense is lacking in the process of athletic development and athletes that do succeed in these models are often “survivors” of the system in spite of it.

5) Long-Term Development. Education needs to be the focus in order for change to the current model to positively impact all involved. Coaches, trainers, parents, and athletes must understand what is required of them and begin taking a long-term approach to athletic development. Parents and coaches both want athletes to succeed in the long-term, however many are short-term in their approach. This becomes detrimental to the athlete’s success when it really matters.

6) Willingness to Sacrifice. The current myth of overnight success has blinded us to the fact that the elite athletes we see on television have all sacrificed. They were not just simply "born with talent". This is where understanding the 10,000 hour rule comes into play. Elite athletes have practiced and sacrificed long hours, day after day. Even when they wanted to quit, they did one more repetition, ran one more sprint, or practiced their skills a few minutes longer. In order to do this, they sacrificed and conducted themselves with a high degree of discipline to pursue their goals. They made it hard on themselves and this is a huge reason why they make it look so easy when it comes to athletics. But the sacrifice and discipline needed is no easy task and it can place one outside of their comfort zone.

Most of the athletes we work with may never achieve their true potential because the thought of sacrificing X,Y,or Z in order to achieve athletic success is something they are not willing to commit to on a consistent basis (or even at all). You can have the greatest coaches and training in the world, yet if the athlete is not willing to commit themselves to the process, their potential will suffer the consequences.

Developing a Champion's Mindset
So what are the key characteristics of well-motivated athletes? Here are some thoughts from JoAnn Dahlkoetter, Ph.D., author of Your Performing Edge, and an internationally recognized sports psychologist. She has identified characteristics that make a champion athlete that are able to be developed by anyone who wants to excel in sport.
  • Enthusiasm and Desire - Top athletes have a hunger, a fire inside which fuels their passion to achieve an important goal, regardless of their level of talent or ability.
  • Courage to Succeed - It takes courage to sacrifice, to work out when you’re tired, to seek out tough competition, to stick to your program, to test your limits, and to overcome obstacles.
  • Internal motivation and self-direction - Direction and drive need to come from within. The goals must be ones that you have chosen because that’s exactly what you want to be doing.
  • Commitment to Excellence - Elite athletes know that to excel at their sport, they must decide to make it a priority in their life. They make an honest effort each day to be the best at what they do. At some point you must say, I want to be really good at this; I want this to work.
  • Discipline, Consistency, Organization - Elite athletes love what they do and it is easier for them to maintain consistency in training and in competing. Regardless of personal problems, fatigue, or difficult circumstances, they can generate the optimal amount of excitement and energy to do their best.
  • Being focused and yet relaxed - Champions have the ability to maintain concentration for long periods of time. They can easily let go of distractions and take control of their attention. They don't let emotions get the best of them and cause poor performance.
  • Ability to handle adversity - Top athletes know how to deal with difficult situations. Adversity builds character, but adversity also reveals character. When elite athletes know the odds are against them they embrace the chance to explore the outer limits of their potential. Rather than avoiding pressure they feel challenged by it. They are calm and relaxed under fire. Setbacks become an opportunity for learning.
Final Words
To develop your motivation and maximize your true athletic potential, make the most of the talents you have by stretching the limits of your abilities, both physically and psychologically. Athletics has a unique ability to become a means to both personal growth and enjoyment of the pursuit of your goals, lessons that go beyond sport alone. Try incorporating the profile above into your mental preparation to help you develop the mindset needed to bring success to any venture you choose in life.

Advanced Training for Elite Athletes

The concept of sport-specific training has continually gained popularity over the years. It’s a growing market and business-minded individuals are taking notice. Similar to trends in functional exercise, you have a growing number of trainers stating they offer the “latest in sports training”. Frankly, anybody online can say their method or approach is the best. In a competitive market, people enjoy using words to attract your business. There are plenty of gimmicks that exist, namely in the world of speed training. Often times, athletes acknowledge such methods did little or nothing to improve on-field performance. If these gimmicks worked, it's simply because the athlete was a novice or of low qualification. Novices have the unique ability to respond to almost any form of training. But does this mean what was done is most appropriate? Does it mean training was efficient or effective? Not necessarily. When it comes to the training of higher level athletes, previously used methods and/or exercises will eventually fail to produce continual improvements in sport performance. There is a point of diminishing returns and training must adapt accordingly.

For any athlete, sport-specific training must ensure maximal transfer of the training program to on-field results. If exercise selection or organization has little carry over to making athletes better, you are wasting valuable time and money. Transfer of training can be summed up with the SAID Principle (Specific-Adaptations to Imposed-Demands). The SAID Principle has been proven time and time again in both research and training. This principle implies that training is most effective when resistance exercises prescribed are similar to the target activity or primary sport form/movement. Furthermore, every training method will elicit a specific (and different) adaptation response in the body. There must be compatibility between training and sport. This becomes of increasing importance as an athlete reaches higher and higher levels of athletic competition.

As mentioned before, research has demonstrated how exercises that once worked to improve sport performance for an athlete at a lower qualification level, will eventually lose training effect as the athlete gains mastery. For instance, indicators of maximal strength (squat 1RM) often have a direct correlation in low-level athletes, but lose significant correlation with enhancing sport performance in higher-level athletes. Similarly, movement abilities such as sprinting and change-of-direction (agility) are each separate motor tasks, characterized by specific motor abilities. Improvements in linear sprint speed and change-of-direction ability have limited transfer to each other and the degree of transfer decreases as an athlete progresses.

Thus, in order to enhance the sporting ability of high-level athletes, there comes a time when we must get more detailed than simply chasing increased strength and 'quick feet'. It’s inevitable. There is no way to avoid it. The world’s greatest Sport Scientists understood this and proved the need to go beyond traditional training approaches to see continual improvements in performance as athletes reached higher levels of competition. This is where the concept of Special Strength Training (SST) becomes of importance in the training plan.

Introduction to Special Strength Training
Pioneered by Dr. Anatoli Bondarchuk, SST has been incorporated for decades by coaches in other countries, mostly in the Olympic sports. Dr. Bondarchuk is most noted for his involvement in the throwing sports, particularly the hammer, and his results speak for themselves. It was Bondarchuk’s identification and implementation of special exercises with the highest degree of dynamic correspondence to the sporting movement that became the focus of his athletes' training plan. His organization of training allowed athletes to set world records and win numerous international and Olympic medals despite the fact that they did not possess the greatest strength in movements such as the clean, squat, or bench press.

Exercise Classification System
Bondarchuk classifies exercises into 4 categories:

  1. GENERAL PREPARATORY EXERCISES are exercises that do not imitate the competitive event and do not train the specific systems.
  2. SPECIAL PREPARATORY EXERCISES are exercises that do not imitate the competitive event, but train the major muscle groups and same physiological energy systems as your sport. However, movement patterns are different.
  3. SPECIAL DEVELOPMENTAL EXERCISES are exercise that replicate the competitive event in training but in its separate parts. These exercises are similar to the competitive event, not identical.
  4. COMPETITIVE EXERCISES are exercises that are identical or almost identical to the competition event.
It’s important to note that as an athlete rises from general preparatory exercises to the competitive event, each category on the list becomes more specific and will have greater dynamic correspondence to the athlete’s sport. Thus, as specificity increases, exercise selection decreases. There are hundreds of exercises that potentially could be considered Preparatory exercises. Preparatory exercises prepare the body for more specific sport training, while Developmental exercises aim to develop strength and technique. Special Developmental and Competitive exercises have the highest degree of transfer. The greatest focus from a planning and organization standpoint is placed on these exercises in order to yield improvements in sport performance. At this point, exercise selection has narrowed greatly. Often, the competitive exercise is simply the competitive event. In the case of a track athlete, the competitive exercise is considered the event (hammer, shot put, long jump, 100m, etc). This can also include subtle variations to the event. For team-sport athletes, the competitive event is the game. The classification of exercises as they relate to specific athletes is not the scope of this article. That discussion is far too detailed and is always dependent upon the athlete, their level of qualification, and the competitive event.

In explaining SST, Bondarchuk said,
“General exercises have little relevance to the sporting action. Specialized preparatory exercises use the same muscles that are involved in a particular sporting action. Specialized developmental exercises include single joint actions that duplicate one portion of the sporting action. They also mirror the velocity and range of motion seen in the competitive movement. Competitive exercises are those that fully mimic the competitive movement in more difficult conditions and easier ones.”
Advantages of Special Strength
There are a number of advantages to programming SST within an athlete’s training program. Among many reasons, arguably the most important application of SST is the development of strength as it relates to specific movement and skill execution in an athlete’s sport. This advantage cannot be overlooked since very few approaches train physical qualities (strength, power, work capacity, etc) and technical skill development simultaneously. Programming should provide the avenue for athletes to achieve higher levels of sport mastery. Rather than applying appropriate programming, many trainers get caught chasing quantitative numbers (squat or bench 1RM, 40 yard dash time). While focus on general motor abilities is important for the novice athlete and provides performance-enhancing benefits, they lose their carryover for the more advanced athlete. SST ensures that strength gains will have a direct transfer into sport technique and skill development.

Special Strength is Task-Specific 

The effectiveness and accuracy of exercise selection within special strength training is dependent on a thorough understanding of what a given athlete is being asked to perform in competition. Selecting an exercise is great, but you have to put it into a program and a plan. You need to know your athlete and what exercise(s) works well for them. For team sports, task-specificity also takes into account that you understand the athlete’s position and the physiological/energy demands relative to their sport. Care must be taken to stay within certain parameters, above or below, the sporting movements to avoid yielding negative adaptations on the expression of sport skill. For example, applying loads that are too heavy will negatively influence technique by causing breakdown in mechanics that are important for developing speed strength. Speed strength is essential for throwing, jumping, and sprinting. Conversely, loads that are too light will also have a negative influence on mechanics since the lack of resistance with fail to promote the building of specific strength.

Summing It All Up
This article attempted to offer insight into the concept of special strength training and how it correlates with higher levels of sport mastery. Due to the nature of SST, it’s important to keep in mind that early specialization in training, similar to early specialization in sport, can occur too soon. Athletes like NHL stars Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, and Henrik Zetterberg (pictured above) don't train like novice, youth hockey players and young hockey players should not be training like them. Research has proven that athletes at low levels of training and physical ability need to focus on increasing general physical qualities such as strength, as strength will carry over greatly to movement speed. In fact, novice trainees have the ability to attain simultaneous increases in strength, power, coordination, speed, core stabilization, proprioception, and reduced injury risk. However, as an athlete reaches higher levels of mastery, effectiveness of basic training methods become limited quickly due to the specificity of movement and skill related to sport.

If you are unclear on how to properly utilize the training methods of SST, you should not blindly implement SST into your training. The incorrect application of exercise and program variables would likely have a negative affect on the neuromuscular actions involved in sport movement. Athletes looking to ensure the best results from SST would be wise to have their training overseen by a coach/trainer who is knowledgeable and competent in its application.

Sources

Bondarchuk. Transfer of Training in Sports. Ultimate Athlete Concepts, 2007.
Siff & Verkhoshansky. Supertraining. Ultimate Athlete Concepts, 2009.
Verkhoshansky. Fundamentals of Special Strength-Training in Sport. Sportivny Press, 1986.

 
 
 

3 Reasons To Train for Maximal Strength

Strength solves a lot of problems.


A high level of maximal strength is arguably the most important physical quality in performance and athletics. Regardless of whether you are an elite athlete, average Joe, weekend warrior, or someone who just wants to look and feel great, training to increase your strength levels with make you better. Period.

Here are three simple reasons why strength is important:

#1 - Move Better, Reduce Injury Risk
Adding strength to a balanced body will aid in preventing injury and help you move with greater ease. Greater ease means greater efficiency. Training for strength improves neuromuscular coordination, thus improving efficiency of movement. As strength increases, it simply takes you less effort to perform the same amount of work. Researchers have identified strength training and its association with stronger connective tissue, enhanced function of the muscle-tendon unit, and reduced injury rate due to improved neuromuscular function and greater muscle mass.

#2 - Be Faster, More Powerful
As you gain strength, the faster and more powerful you become. The body gains strength by motor unit recruitment and neural drive. This means that when you lift something heavy, the body will recruit more motor units and more muscle to accomplish the task. By continually challenging yourself with increasingly heavier weight, the body becomes more efficient and coordinated in its ability to recruit more motor units, activate more muscle and move weight more explosively.

Maximal strength training builds fast-twitch muscle fibers. The muscle that matters. Everyone can benefit from building the fast-twitch, powerful muscles from heavy strength training. All athletes perform at higher levels with improved strength, including distance runners, cyclists, rowers, martial artists, track and field athletes, gymnasts, swimmers, soccer, rugby, baseball, and hockey players. But it's not just for athletes either. Everyday tasks such as getting out of a chair, opening a jar, or lifting groceries all are depended on fast-twitch muscle. Strength is an important element of life because it simply makes daily tasks easier to perform.

#3 - Lose Fat, Gain Muscle by Training for Strength
A missing component of many fat-loss or muscle-building programs is lifting heavy weight. Over the long term, building fast-twitch muscle fibers with strength training increases metabolism. Increased metabolism means you burn greater amounts of calories, even at rest.

Boston University researchers explain,

“Type II muscle fibers have a previously unappreciated role in regulating whole-body metabolism through their ability to accelerate the energy burning processes in remote tissues.”

And if your goal is to gain more muscle, maximal strength is an essential component of your training. As mentioned previously, you gain all the benefits of Type II fibers in addition to the fact that Type II fibers can grow up to two times the size of Type I fibers. To achieve maximal hypertrophy, you have to tap into your Type II fibers with heavy weights. Research has demonstrated that near maximal strength training (93% or higher of 1RM or rep max) activates satellite cells. Satellite cells are dormant muscle cells within Type II fibers and they regulate hypertrophy. Maximal-load training causes greater activation of satellite cells and gene signaling involved in the process of building muscle.

Curious about what a strength training program can do for you? Contact us for more information at [email protected]

References:
Aagaard, P., Andersen, J., Effects of Resistance Training on Endurance Capacity and Muscle Fiber Composition in Young Top Level Cyclists. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 2011. Published Ahead of Print.
Andersen, J., Aagaard, P., Effects of Strength Training on Muscle Fiber Types and Size: Consequences for Athletes Training for High-Intensity Sport. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 2010. 20(Suppl 2), 32-38.
Comfort, P., Haigh, A., et al. Are Changes in Maximal Squat Strength During Preseason Training Reflected in Changes in Sprint Performance in Rugby League Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.

Keeping Nutrition and Supplementation Simple

"The amount, composition and timing of food intake can profoundly affect sports performance. Good nutritional practice will help athletes train hard, recover quickly, and adapt more effectively with less risk of illness and injury. The right diet will help athletes achieve an optimum body size and body composition to achieve greater success in their sport."

- IOC Sports Nutrition Consensus (2003)
For athletes and individuals looking to have improved performance and body composition, the number one priority should be eating better. The next step is to then supplement to address any deficiency of essential nutrients and/or target a specific physiological system. Just as important is ensuring that there is research demonstrating real benefit and safety of the supplement.

The FDA does not test the effectiveness, safety, or purity of supplements. There is no guarantee when it comes to accuracy of the ingredient list, accuracy of contents, and safety of contents. A 2001 study tested 634 products, 94 samples were positive for banned substances and 66 were questionable, roughly 25% of all samples. Meaning, chances are 1 in 4 supplements are questionable in nature for banned substances.

It is absolutely critical for athletes, especially collegiate athletes and those subject to drug testing to understand they may be unknowingly consuming a product that could result in them failing a drug test. Equally as important is each individual having a knowledge of what exactly they are putting into their body and potential interactions that may occur.

Below are a list of resources and strategies to help you become an informed consumer:

1. Check with www.wada-ama.org2. Supplement/Food/Drug Interactions and be checked at nccam.nih.gov/health
3. When purchasing supplements, choose a larger company or look for certificates of Third Party Analysis.
4. Check www.consumerlab.com for accuracy of label claims
5. Select products with few ingredients

Training Hard vs Training Smart


"People are incredibly innovative in their efforts to screw up training."

- Charlie Francis, Canadian Speed Coach

When it comes to sport training and many training systems, there are aspects that are poorly managed or misused in their application. One that is very common is the lack of understanding of physiology as it relates to bioenergetic training parameters and workload compatibility in sport.

Programs and coaches may frequently implement high lactate training loads into their program for a variety of reasons. Exhaustive shuttle runs, suicides, gassers, extended sets, and 'circuit' style workouts are all examples of lactic training. The problem is even though they may be performed with perceived 'maximal effort', in order to accomplish the prescribed work, individuals are training at a medium intensity. This level of intensity is too slow to develop speed. They teach muscles to behave slowly. Furthermore, the recovery requirements are high and thus cut into the ability to perform more intensive work that would directly improve speed and explosive strength.

There is not much justification for the frequent use of lactic training loads when the nature of most field/court based sports is alactic/aerobic with varying degrees of lactate influence. This is illustrated by the influence of bioenergetics on mitochondrial concentration in skeletal muscle. Mitochondria are responsible for energy production and oxidative potential. More mitochondria means greater energy supply and faster recovery. Mitochondrial concentration is elevated in skeletal muscle by anaerobic-alactic and aerobic training, while anaerobic-lactic training results in their destruction. Lactate threshold training must be appropriately prescribed and closely monitored.

This is just one example of why training loads and parameters must have compatibility to ensure the greatest transfer into sport performance improvement. The sports training world has fallen victim to a number of gimmicks in the name of profitability. Gimmicks such as high speed or anti-gravity treadmills, ladder drills, and exhaustive circuit-based training are examples of training that has very little to no carry over into athletic performance. Read more about this here.

For athletes and individuals who take their training and health seriously, your results are too important for someone to 'screw it up'.

What is DNS?

The GP Clinic specializes in DNS (Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization). Dr. Gallagher's extensive training and background in DNS therapy allows him to provide a level of care that is unique to the Pittsburgh area.

What is DNS?

DNS is a revolutionary European approach in the treatment of back pain and several neuro-muscular conditions. DNS therapy is based on the neuroplasticity of the central nervous system and targets the cause of pain/dysfunction rather than its manifestations. DNS therapy evokes ideal movement patterns by manual stimulation of developmental reflex zones. DNS exercises are used to improve neuromuscular control and the therapeutic benefits become significantly expanded from previous standards of rehabilitation. Any one from infants to adolescents, chronic pain patients to athletes can all benefit from DNS therapy.

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  • 4484 William Penn Highway

  • Murrysville, PA 15668

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  • CHIROPRACTIC
    Monday-Thursday: 9am-1pm, 3pm-6pm
    Friday: 9am-1pm, 3pm-5pm
    Saturday: by appointment only
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