Gallagher Performance Blog

The Value of In-Season Training for Athletes

 

The need for focused off-season training is well accepted. However, outside of the professional and collegiate ranks, the same cannot be said for in-season training. This is truly one of the greatest sources of misinformation that exists when it comes to progressive athletic development and minimizing the number of non-contact related sport injuries. Routine in-season training can benefit young athletes in a number of ways.

With the majority of our athletes wrapping up their off-season preparation and starting camps in the next couple weeks, we get several questions from these athletes and their parents about what 'should' or 'should not' be done during the season to continue progressing in an athletic development model.

For starters, we establish how critical in-season training is for any athlete. This is not a sales pitch, it's the truth. In-season training may not have the same public acceptance as off-season training, but that does not mean it is not valuable.

In-season training has been shown to not only maintain or improve physical qualities (strength, speed, power, etc.) developed during the off-season preparatory period, but it can improve the rate of recovery between competition and maintain healthy muscle/connective tissue qualities as well.

What does that all mean?

Continue reading

Why Specificity in Your Training Plan Matters

If we had to sum up the training philosophy at Gallagher Performance, it would be,
“Our training revolves around the utilization of ground-based, multi-joint, proprioceptively rich movement patterns that are developmentally specific to each athlete during the weight training portion of the program, while concurrently addressing the specific metabolic demands of each athlete with our energy system training. All aspects of our programs adhere strictly to scientifically supported methodologies.”
This philosophy on training has evolved continuously over the years, allowing us to gaining a better understanding how the science of adaptation influences physical, motor, and athletic development.

As a coach, you must understand the principles of adaptation while also adapting the training program to meet the needs of each individual athlete. This is why performing a “needs analysis” is invaluable. Needs analysis accounts for the needs of the athlete, such as the sport of participation, position, etc. Our needs analysis is accomplished through a systematic process that accounts for various sports medicine, coaching, and individual athlete considerations. Coupling this with our knowledge of adaptation, we are able to design a plan (i.e. program) with the focus on long-term development. This is what specificity of training is all about and why athletes require specificity for them to realize their potential.

The plan is everything to athlete. Most trainers and coaches don’t seem to put planning/periodization into practice and wonder why their athletes are not progressing. Effectively improving the various needs of any athlete requires a focused, long-term approach to planning. Strength, speed, power, and work capacity are not simply developed in one session, but through consistent and progressive work done over several blocks of training. This process requires time. A lot of time. Yet, it is becoming increasingly popular for programs to be thought up at the moment and written on a dry-erase board. The majority of this incompetency can be attributed to the lack of coaching standards in the credentialing or certification process within the industry. Periodization is not a new or tremendously complex concept, but it does take time and effort to understand proper application.

As they say, “Plan the work, work the plan.”

The training plan must be specific. The athlete's potential depends on it.

More related reading:

https://gallagherperformance.com/gallagher-performance-training-how-we-are-different/

https://gallagherperformance.com/thinking-of-taking-your-child-to-a-trainer-read-this-first/

https://gallagherperformance.com/commonmistakesindevelopingyoungathletes/

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/

Genetics vs. Hard Work

Lately, the age-old debate on the role of genetics vs. work ethic in determining training outcomes has been a popular discussion with our athletes. Recently, some of the results our athletes have seen during their time training at GP has been chalked up to “genetics” by some outsiders. From their perspective, training is all the same. At the end of the day, they are lifting weights, running, jumping, etc. There was not, or could not, have been anything special about our training system that allowed these athletes to excel beyond what they had previously done. In their opinion, the results these athletes achieved had everything to do with being genetically “blessed”.

What becomes apparent with their argument is the lack of appreciation that exists in regards to the sophisticated nature of training methodologies aimed at long-term athletic development. Long-term athletic development is a concept many coaches, trainers, athletes, and parents are either unfamiliar with or don’t have the patience for. They want immediate results; regardless at what expense those results come with.

When athletes approach us for coaching, we have a big task on our hands. There is a lot of information we must gather regarding each athlete in order to design the most effective training program possible. Keep in mind, there is an incredible amount of detail that will influence how each athlete will respond to training and it is our responsibility as coaches to know the details and address them appropriately during training. The information we gather by spending sufficient time testing and analyzing various performance markers before and during training becomes invaluable in understanding what to address with our athletes.

When designing and coordinating the training plan, we also account for each athlete’s current state of readiness to train. There are a number of factors to consider when determining readiness to train and this information is critical to know as a coach. The ability to identify the degree of intensity and volume an athlete can handle during each training session is critical to progress and avoiding unnecessary training loads. We want to ensure that each training session produces quality work, not pointless work. It’s incredibly easy to ruin an athlete; getting them to progress year after year is a tremendous challenge.

What critics fail to see is exactly how much work, quality work, these athletes put in week after week for months. They don't acknowledge the endless hours of discipline and hard work that athlete was put into a training system that addresses their developmental needs. Instead, nowadays, people find it more convenient to simply blame genetics for their comparative lack of progress or dismiss the athlete’s hard work and suspect cheating (i.e. drug use).

This is truly a shame because it is the culture sport has created. It’s unfortunate to have a young athlete become bigger, stronger, or faster and, in turn, have their peers and others in their lives ask them, “What are you taking?”

Let me be clear about something: if you are failing to see progress in your training program or are seeing more time on the bench than on the playing field, chances are you are simply being out-worked in terms of quality of effort and direction in your training.

You really should take a look in the mirror and ask yourself how bad do you want it. If you want to be great in your sport, greatness is not something you simply decide. You must act upon it. There is a lot of discipline and hard work required to become an elite-level athlete.

Roughly, how much hard work?

You may or may not be familiar with the “10,000 hour rule”. The rule basically states that 10,000 hours is the amount of work needed to reach mastery in any discipline or skill. Even thought the rule has received some criticism, the point remains that it at least provides us with a tangible number when understanding how much time is needed to develop a high-degree of mastery in any pursuit.

Let’s break down the 10,000 rule a bit further. If you practiced your sport two hours a day, five days per week, it would take you just under 20 years to reach your 10,000 hours. More commonly, most young athletes practice their sport 1 hour per day, 3 days per week. At this pace it would take an athlete 64 years to achieve mastery. As you can quickly tell, being a “recreational” athlete will never allow you to reach elite status. Mastery requires time, a lot of time, and thus is a serious decision to dedication that one doesn’t make on a whim.

Remember, hard work is only one side of the coin. Anyone can work hard. Anyone can go nuts during a training session and work to complete exhaustion. For novice trainees, this may even produce some results in the beginning. But what happens in the coming weeks or months when you stop developing and hit that dreaded plateau? This is one of the biggest problems we see, especially in developing athletes. Far too often, talented kids stop developing because of poor attention to individual considerations. When working with young athletes, there has to be a period of development that cannot be rushed. This requires an extreme amount of patience on the part of coaches, athletes, and parents. Athletes must earn the right to progress by being consistent in gradual development.

At GP, we consider coaching athletes to be a long and potentially slow process. We also acknowledge that some athletes may not be interested in this approach. However, our interest is not just in creating quick and easy success for athletes, but directing a process that will allow them to reach their true athletic potential. From a coaching stand point, anyone can create changes in an athlete. It’s not hard. Simply having anyone perform an exercise or a routine that is new will create change. But, is that change purposeful? Was it directed towards meeting that athlete’s needs? Or was the change made to simply make a change without an understanding as to why the change was made?

This is where hard work within a well-directed training program, under the guidance of a knowledgeable coach will trump hard work without direction. Our training system tailors each program to meet the individual athlete’s needs, differences, and current level of readiness to train.

It is not uncommon for some of our athletes to tell us they have “worked harder” during training sessions. They are accustomed to coaches running them into the ground and trainers mindlessly make them do high-intensity work with little rest. What else do we hear? We hear these same athletes are failing to improve. Rather many of them feel extremely fatigued and unmotivated. Sure they saw some results to start, but lately they are frustrated and confused.

When first starting at GP, they may feel that our system of training looks “easy”. This is a huge mistake. Our training may appear to be “easy”, but each training session is demanding. Each session is extremely detailed and may move at a slower pace than some athletes care for. News flash: if you’re more interested in going nuts than being productive, there’s not much any training system can do for you. Simply put, if you work hard to get better as an athlete, but also have some detailed thought applied to your training, the results will be greater than you would ever expect.

Yes, athletes with superior genetics do exist. Their genetics will allow them to progress more rapidly and experience great adaptations to training stimuli than athletes with lesser genetics. But they are more rare than you think. When it comes down to it, quality work in a well-designed training program aimed at long-term athletic development, under the guidance of a knowledgeable coach likely has more to do with superior athleticism than genetics alone.

As the saying goes,
“Genetics are the hand you've been dealt, but it's how you play the hand that counts.”
 
More related reading:

https://gallagherperformance.com/6-factors-that-influence-an-athletes-dedication/

https://gallagherperformance.com/attitude-is-everything/

 

Get to Know GP Athlete Evan James

Get to Know GP Athlete Evan James
Evan James has had quite a journey during his baseball career.

Evan is a 2009 graduate of Penn Trafford HS. During his time at Penn Trafford, he was a standout pitcher on the baseball team. After his high school career, James moved on to play junior college baseball, receiving All-American honors in 2010 and a scholarship to play at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. During his time at Northwestern Oklahoma State, Evan developed shoulder impingement in his throwing arm and took a medical redshirt in the process. Desiring to receive therapy back in Pittsburgh, Evan transferred to Penn State Greater Allegheny (PSGA) in the summer of 2012. He returned to health and his pitching form quickly, quickly, receiving All-American honors at PSGA in 2013.

On February 16, 2014, Evan was pitching in a live pre-season pitching/hitting session at PSGA with scouts present from the Tampa Bay Rays organization. During that live session, Evan was struck in the head by a line drive. The trauma he sustained was serious and life-threatening. Later that day he underwent emergency brain surgery and reconstructive repair of fractured skull and jawbones. Surgery left Evan with 4 plates and over 190 staples in head. He was told he would have a minimum 6-month recovery process and that he would never play baseball again.

Evan had different ideas. To his doctor’s surprise, Evan flew through his speech and physical therapy. He progressed so quickly that last month he received full clearance to resume physical training. He hopes to return to the mound at PSGA either this fall or spring of 2015. Beyond his collegiate career, Evan still has the potential to sign with the Tampa Bay Rays as the organization will continue to watch him.

Evan is currently training with GP to bring his physical preparation for baseball to new levels and he has immediately impressed us with his discipline in training, nutrition, and recovery. Special considerations will be made in his training, accounting for his injury history and needs as a pitcher. Without question, with his determination and work ethic, he will return to play.

Evan, welcome to GP and we look forward to working with you!

 
 
 

Gallagher Performance Training – How We Are Different

Gallagher Performance Training – How We Are Different
At Gallagher Performance, every client and athlete begins with a comprehensive physical assessment. The process includes looking at how you move through your entire body and is tailored based upon what the individual is capable of performing. Our physical assessment is not simply a standard movement screening process. Similar to our training process, our assessments are customized to the individual, thus providing us the greatest insight into the current abilities of our clients and athletes. Beyond the physical assessment, we take time to understand  your injury history, training experience, primary sport(s) played, and several other factors. You will also have the chance to meet our staff to ensure that you are comfortable when you return for future training sessions.

The information gathered during your initial assessment is used to design an individualized training program. We take time to ensure that specialized attention is given to each program design. As a result, your individualized training and nutrition materials will be provided upon return for your second visit. Clients are closely coached through the entirety of their program to maximize results.

Gallagher Performance is all about individualizing the training process. You won't find "whiteboard workouts" or "cookie-cutter programs" here! That's because we understand each person responds differently to training due to a multitude of factors that must be accounted for. The goal of any training program at Gallagher Performance is to account for individual differences and use that knowledge to maximize training results. This routinely allows our athletes to experience the best results from their physical training and become a dominant force in their sport.

 WHY Gallagher Performance?

Initial 1-on-1 Assessments

Custom and Individualized Program Design

Supervised Training Sessions

Positive and Supportive Atmosphere

Continue reading

Nutrition for Faster Recovery from Injury

Nutrition for Faster Recovery from Injury
As an athlete, injury is unfortunately part of sports. Athletics have varying degrees of both assumed and inherent structural risk to the human body, arguably making many sports we love to compete in “dangerous”. However, injury is not simply unique to sport. Frankly, injury seems to be part of life. Sure, there are preventative measures one can take to minimize or reduce the risk of injury. The reality is, there is no such thing as complete injury prevention. Similar to the weather, an honest professional will tell you we cannot forecast injury with absolute certainty. Yes, there are athletes who carry higher or lower “chances” of injury based on their movement quality and must be managed accordingly to minimize exercise-related or non-contact injuries. In some circumstances, such as collision/contact related injuries, injury is something we have little control over. Despite the lack of control we may have when it comes to injury, we do have the potential to influence the recovery and healing process for the better. This is good news since getting back to sport or living a "normal" life as quickly as possible is something most people would sign-up for in a heart beat.
Understanding the Healing Process
When you suffer any form of injury, the site of injury enters a traumatic state and inflammation occurs. For most people, inflammation brings negative thoughts to mind and their initial reaction is to stop it in its tracks. I mean, isn’t that what we’ve been told for years? But, is inflammation really unwanted or should we consider that it is part of our body’s process responsible for healing? The truth is, the right amount of inflammation is a good thing and necessary to initiate the healing process from injury. Inflammation provides signals to the body that something is wrong with certain structures or tissues. The body responds by kicking your immune system into high gear to start repairing damaged tissue.


When injured, the body needs to recover and you must supply it with the raw materials needed to promote optimal recovery. These raw materials come in the form of calories, protein, dietary fats, vitamins, and minerals from whole food or supplement sources. Ideally, nutritional strategies for injury recovery must be customized to the individual for optimal response. However, applying some general considerations can be beneficial in speeding up your return to play.

Nutritional Strategies for Injury Recovery
1) Calories
When injured, there is an increase in what is known as your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). BMR is essentially the energy (or calorie) expenditure while your body is at rest. When recovering from injury, BMR has been demonstrated to increase by 15-50% since your body is using more energy to repair and regenerate damaged tissues. The rise in BMR means you must increase your caloric intake accordingly to ensure optimal recovery.

For example, if your caloric intake is 3,500 kcal/day, your new caloric requirements could range from 4,025-5,250 kcal/day (15%-50%) during the recovery process.

2) Protein
Protein is an essential component of our cells, bones, muscles, organs, connective tissues, and skin. Protein is made up of individual amino acids. Amino acids are important for the repair and remodeling process that injured bone, muscle, or connective tissue undergoes during the healing process. The amount of protein the body utilizes for injury repair is significant and your daily protein intake will need to increase accordingly. To gain an understanding of how your protein intake should be adjusted during the healing process, let’s consider the following:

The average, sedentary individual may require an intake of 0.8g/kg of protein per day.  Athletes and highly active individuals can often require 1.0-1.5g/kg of protein per day.

          Example:  200 lb athlete = 91-136g of protein per day
That same athlete, when injured, may need 1.2-2.0 g/kg of protein per day.

          Example: 200 lb athlete = 110-182g of protein per day.
3) Dietary Fat
Dietary fat consumption should be devised to promote tissue healing and minimize unwanted inflammatory responses. It is well known that trans-fats and omega 6 fatty acids promote inflammation in the body. During the initial stages of healing, it is important to consume an appropriately balance of omega 6:omega 3 fatty acids. Consuming more omega 3 fatty acids helps to keep inflammation at adequate levels.

Rather than putting on number on dietary fat consumption during the recovery process, focus on making better food choices. This means increasing the consumption of quality, healthy fats such as coconut oil, butter, fish oil, avocados, and olive oil while doing your best to minimize or avoid eating foods high in omega 6 fatty acids such as fried foods or food sources that contain safflower oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, and soybean oil.

4) Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are nutrients required by the body in relatively small amounts, but are critically important for a number of metabolic reactions essential in allowing the body not only to survive, but also to thrive. The process of recovering from injury only places a greater importance on key vitamins and minerals to ensure that metabolic processes involved in cell proliferation and tissue remodeling occurs appropriately.

Micronutrients such as Vitamins A, C, D, K and the B vitamins along with minerals such as magnesium, copper, and zinc can enhance the function of the immune system, assist in inflammation control and collagen synthesis, improve the production of red blood cells, and improve healing rate. Supplementation recommendations will depend upon appropriate therapeutic doses, as well as the individual and the extent of injury.

5) Herbs, Spices, and Tea
Certain herbs and spices have demonstrated impression abilities to manage inflammation during the acute phases of recovery. Some of the herbs and spices can even help reduce dependency of anti-inflammatory drugs.

Some examples of herbs, spices, or teas that can assist in inflammation/pain control as well as tissue regeneration are turmeric, ginger, garlic, bromelain, and green tea.

Concluding Thoughts
It’s important to help your patient, clients, or athletes understand sound nutritional habits and patterns during the injury recovery process since it brings special considerations to the forefront. Consuming adequate calories to provide enough energy and sufficient amounts of building blocks (both macro and micronutrients) for tissue repair and regeneration is critical to appropriate healing. When it comes to inflammation, remember the name of the game is inflammation control not inflammation suppression. Inflammation is needed for healing, but must be kept to sufficient levels. Both too little and too much inflammation can interfere with and delay the healing process.

Allow these nutritional strategies to work for you. Not only will they promote a faster return to sport and competition, but also ensure more comprehensive healing while reducing associated risks of re-injury.

More related reading:

https://gallagherperformance.com/3-simple-steps-to-reduce-your-risk-of-sports-injuries/

https://gallagherperformance.com/the-hidden-causes-of-sports-injury/

https://gallagherperformance.com/resetting-bodys-function-post-injury/

https://gallagherperformance.com/dietary-fat-is-not-the-bad-guy/

Posture and Movement: Linking Training and Therapy

We have noticed a problem here at GP and it’s likely a problem many others in the sports performance industry have also observed. The problem I am speaking of is rooted in the disunity that exists among specialists involved in the preparation, rehabilitation, and regeneration of athletes. From experience, I’m specifically speaking to the working relationship amongst coaches and physical medicine professionals, such as chiropractors and physiotherapists.

There are coaches who specialize in the physical preparation of athletes while others specialize in technical sport skill development. In the physical medicine world, there are professionals specializing across a broad range of rehabilitative, orthopedic, neuromuscular, manual therapy, and manipulative therapy services. The disunity seems to stem from a lack of communication and understanding as to why specific approaches or services are being provided by specialists involved with an athlete. We have heard similar stories from a number of our new athletes when they speak of previous experiences.

Commonly, the story sounds a little something like this:

Athlete X is being trained by Coach A for physical preparation purposes while also receiving private, sport skill development lessons from Coach B. Keep in mind that Athlete X underwent surgery at the end of their competitive season to repair an injury and has been seeing Therapist C for rehabilitative care. In addition to post-surgical rehabilitation, they also visit Therapist D for chiropractic and manual therapy services such as Active Release, Graston, or massage services.

Now while this may appear to be all well and good, the problem exists in that each individual specialist often has little to no understanding in regards to either the specific work loads or therapeutic interventions being made by the others, resulting in a collective degree of stress placed on the athlete far greater than any specialist is aware of because nobody is on the same page. All the while, Athlete X is either failing to progress in their rehabilitation, consistently dealing with the same nagging aches and pains, or is having inconsistent training sessions.

More In Common Than We Realize
Physical preparation of athletes, sport skill development, and rehabilitative/manual therapy share a common bond and that is the restoration or optimization of movement.

In athletics, the improvement of both sport skills and physical abilities is without question directly related to the systematic planning and organization of developmental protocols. Often these developmental protocols aim to improve qualities such as strength, speed, skill, stamina, suppleness (flexibility), and postural control as they relate to an athlete’s sport(s) of participation.

In the world of physical medicine (manual therapy, chiropractic, rehabilitation), protocols are utilized to promote the restoration, regeneration and recovery of the body’s nervous system and tissues, improve postural balance and control, and aid in the reduction of repetitive injury patterns.

Clearly, efficient movement and postural control should be of importance to coaches, therapists, and athletes alike. Efficient movement mechanics and their respective postures are dependent upon the balance and control of the body’s movement system. The movement system consists of over 200 bones, around 600 muscles, and a seemingly endless network of fascia and connective tissue. This system is monitored and controlled by a sophisticated network of proprioceptors or sensors, which serve as our brain’s guide for learning, establishing, and maintaining correct posture and movement.

Postural Training Considerations
Correct posture, as it relates to dynamic sport skill execution, is essential to athletic success. Posture is not just a static concept, associated only with sitting or standing. Posture is dynamic and must be thought of accordingly. Poor dynamic postural control will influence the development of biomotor abilities such as flexibility, coordination, strength, speed, and any combination of the previously mentioned.

Considering poor dynamic postural control is a recurring theme among many of our clients and athletes, the training and teaching philosophy at GP allows us to focus on postural improvements. This is accomplished through activities and drills that enhance the ability to hold correct postures and positions, promoting the directional strength needed for ideal force application by reducing muscular imbalances and biomechanical weaknesses. We introduce developmental posture drills in our training programs, since athletes who learn ideal postures during simple motor tasks will lay the foundation for more rapid mastery of increasingly complex motor skills while providing the long-term benefit of reduced risk of repetitive injury.

These developmental posture drills are limited only by knowledge of kinesiological principles as they relate to sport dynamics and one’s imagination. As dynamic postural control improves, the result is more advanced movement skills. Similar to any other biomotor ability, when planning for postural control drills in the training schedule, the volume, intensity, frequency, and work to rest ratios will be influenced by factors such as training age, time of the season, medical/injury history considerations, and skill/ability parameters.

Conclusion
Coaches and therapists would mutually benefit to be on the same page since  the goal of any physical preparatory program, including  the integration of rehabilitative or regenerative protocols when required, is nothing more than movement preparation based upon the evaluation of sport requirements. GP’s approach to physical preparation accounts for an inclusive approach when addressing proper movement. Our inclusive approach accounts for what is seen by the “eye” of the coach or therapist and allows us to adapt developmental protocols as needed. We do our best to account for all stressors each athlete is exposed to during a training week as well as over the course of a training cycle. We want to know when and how often they are working with other sport skill instructors and physical medicine professionals. We make our specific considerations for each athlete’s training not just based on their needs, but also on other factors such as outside workloads from practice, competition, skill development, and additional forms of therapy. If needed, we will consult with the other professionals involved in order to keep the athlete’s best interest in mind.

At GP, as physical medicine professionals and performance coaches, we are able to stay on the same page and promote a more seamless transition for our athletes as they progress through specific phases of training and/or therapy. Similar to other high-performance training centers, GP’s approach places a primary importance on feedback and communication between coach, therapist, and athlete to ensure quality and consistency in our services.

More related reading:

https://gallagherperformance.com/technique_and_performance/

https://gallagherperformance.com/have-you-mastered-your-movement/

Year One at Gallagher Performance

After completing my Sports Injury and Rehabilitation residency in September 2012, making the decision to start up this business with my brother, Ryan, was one of the most daunting tasks I have ever encountered, including all the efforts to get it started and keep it growing. Considering I had offers for some well paying jobs all over the country, why would I possibly want to take the risk of launching a business? As a sports chiropractor with a specialization in rehabilitation, I had job offers to perform patient rehab in established offices, working as little as 20 hours per week. I could do that along with writing, consulting, and putting on seminars – all while enjoying plenty of free time. However, I saw a huge problem. That wasn’t me. As much as I enjoy what I do as a sports chiropractor, I equally enjoy assessing and evaluating athletes, designing training programs, coaching, being in the gym, training, and helping athletes achieve their goals. There was no way I could find personal fulfillment in my job unless I could be directly involved with both the training and therapy of athletes. More money or less hours didn’t matter to me.

About the time I was wrapping up my residency at Palmer College, Ryan was finishing his massage therapy schooling and working full time as a trainer while residing in Ohio with his wife, TIffany. For years, we had dreamed and talked about starting our own business that integrated not only our services, but our educational and professional backgrounds. We knew we had a unique approach and the desire to provide quality in our sports performance training, chiropractic, massage, and nutritional services. We believed that if we did things for reasons that were in line with our values, the business would grow to provide fulfillment beyond just money. We wanted to measure our success by delivering great results to our clients and athletes.

GP opened in April 2013 and has experienced steady growth every month since our opening. Our sports performance training services have become increasingly popular. With the summer upon us, athletes are coming in looking to capitalize on their off-season by improving their abilities (speed, strength, power, agility, etc). Each athlete we have worked with has seen tremendous results, which speaks to our business model, the individualized approach we use with each athlete, and the character of our athletes. We are receiving large amounts of referrals, which, to us, is the greatest compliment our business can receive. Slowly, GP is gaining the reputation for having an approach that is unlike any athletic development program in the area.

We have seen our sports performance training services utilized by athletes who participate in soccer, cross country, basketball, baseball, lacrosse, hockey, and football. We even have a client who is preparing for military special operations in hopes of becoming a Navy SEAL. With that said, our training services have especially become popular among football and hockey players (high school, college, amateur, and junior level).

Reflecting back on the past year, there have been lessons learned and constant reminders of why we do what we do at GP. To begin with, we are consistently reminded that regardless of sport or competitive endeavor, the primary goal of any physical preparation program is to prepare the athlete for the demands of the competitive season and/or higher levels of competition. This sounds simple in nature, but is incredibly complex at times as an overwhelming majority of our young athletes need to master the fundamentals of general calisthenics and body weight exercises before introducing the execution of movements with either increasing resistance using external loads or at increasing velocities.  Some of our programs may not seem “advanced” and it’s for a good reason. Too many young athletes, and sometimes their parents, have bought into the idea that they should be training “like the pros”. Kids need the basics, and a lot of them, before more advanced training can be introduced.

Another lesson we continually learn at GP is the importance of promoting structural balance and recovery for our athletes. At any age or level of competition, it’s imperative to recognize the stress an athlete’s body experiences during their competitive season(s). Often a number of precautions and considerations must be made from the onset of training and throughout the duration of the off-season to restore balance to an athlete’s body and facilitate recovery. This becomes increasingly important as an athlete ages and progresses through higher levels of competition, as they accumulate greater amounts of wear and tear. The recovery and regeneration protocols used at GP have been a welcomed addition to our athletes’ programs, since many of them have never been introduced to approaches that keep them healthy and their performance levels more consistent. We do whatever it takes to keep our athletes healthy and injury-free as they seek to improve specific performance markers.

Something else we have come to appreciate more and more is how valuable the education our athletes receive is to them. In talking with our athletes, we have consistently discovered that they do not understand how or why an athlete must train according to the demands of their sport. This is a foreign concept to many of them. The educational process provides our athletes with the knowledge they need to understand how an athletic development model is applied to their sport. This has proven to be invaluable because our athletes truly appreciate understanding the mistakes they have made and understanding they are receiving guidance that has their best interest in mind, based solely on their needs.

The educational process and witnessing the development/results each of our clients and athletes achieve, to me, has been the most fulfilling part about what we do at GP. The smile a young kid gets when they step on the scale and see that they are 10 pounds heavier or the high-five and genuine enthusiasm shared when they set a new personal best in strength, jumping, or speed makes it all worth it. And as for our clients who are training to lose fat and/or improve general fitness levels, we love to get feedback that their body feels great, they are training pain-free, and are able to enjoy the training process while maximizing the benefits of their efforts.

The vision for GP was an easy one to establish. Ryan and I made the choice to build a business that was fulfilling both personally and professionally. The process has not been an easy one, but it has been rewarding and we are enjoying it.

We also acknowledge that GP would not be what it is without the consistent support we receive. A sincere thank you goes out to all you – clients/athletes, parents, family, friends, social media followers, and professional colleagues – for your continual support over the past year. Without you, GP would not be what is today, and we look forward to many more years to come.

More related reading:

https://gallagherperformance.com/why-we-arent-popular/

https://gallagherperformance.com/two-years-at-gallagher-performance/

 
 

Stress Overload and Injury

In the world of athletics and pursuit of elite level performance, injuries are a given. However, the prevention of sports injuries is never as simple as identifying movements or exercises that should be avoided. It would be nice if it was that simple and if we could solve all the injury problems for athletes across the globe by eliminating one particular movement. Unfortunately, the human body is too complex to be solved by one solution that can be applied to everyone.

Rather than debate the role of specific exercises in a training or rehabilitation program, loading parameters and progressions, or whether certain exercises pose greater risk than reward, the purpose of this article is to discuss a much deeper concept that is at the heart of injury prevention and management, the balance between stress and adaptation.

Hello, My Name is Stress
Stress is something each and every one of us is all too familiar with. Whether it’s related to financial struggles, work-related problems, academic pressures, athletic expectations, family or relationship issues, stress is a common theme of the human existence. Now while these forms of mental stress are responsible for many reactions within the human body, for the purposes of this article this is not the kind of stress I am talking about. Rather, we will be discussing what is known as biological stress and how it relates to injury.

What is Biological Stress?

Biological stress accounts for all the physical demands (stress) placed on our bodies, both mechanical stress and metabolic stress.

Mechanical stress is a measure of the force produced and absorbed by the entire neuromusculoskeletal (NMS) system, including components such as nerves, muscle fibers, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and bone.

Metabolic stress is a measure of the demand placed on all the systems responsible for energy production/recovery and involves every major organ system in the body, such as the cardiovascular, nervous, muscular, endocrine, and immune systems.

As you can tell, both mechanical and metabolic stress are highly interrelated. The greater the degree of mechanical stress, the greater the degree of metabolic stress.

Balancing Stress & Adaptation
Training is best defined as, the targeted application of stress designed to disrupt homeostasis and put the body’s defense mechanisms at work; remodeling, strengthening and improving the efficiency of many different systems throughout the body.”
Factors that Influence Biological Stress:
  • Training Volume
  • Training Intensity
  • Training Frequency
  • Exercise Selection
These simple variables are what define individual training sessions and the training block/phase. They will dictate the amount of biological (mechanical and metabolic) stress, its application to the human body, and how much stress is applied. The training goal becomes to apply the correct type of stress in the appropriate dose/amount while targeted to the appropriate areas necessary to improve performance.

Training and biological stress is one side of the coin. The other side takes into consideration factors that influence adaptation. What makes the training process enormously more complex than it appears is what happens in between sessions as our body responds to the stress of the training session or adapts. The complexity stems from how many variables are involved in how we adapt to the stress imposed by training.

Factors that Influence Adaptation:
  • Genetics
  • Training History
  • Nutritional Habits
  • Sleep Quality
  • Mental Stress
Our genetics, nutritional habits, level of mental stress, training history, and sleep play a critical role in how quickly our body’s systems and tissues are able to rebuild and adapt from the stress of the training process. Get enough sleep, eat well, have better genetics and a long history of training, you will adapt much faster and respond quicker to the same level of training/stress than someone who is experiencing higher levels of mental stress, has poor sleeping habits, a poor diet, and lesser genetics. Even minor differences in any one of these factors can have a major impact on the ability to adapt to your current training.

Out of Balance, Out with Injury
By now, it should be clear that looking at sports injuries solely from the standpoint of the use or misuse of particular exercises or protocols doesn’t paint a very complete picture of why they happen. Even when discussions of injuries extend into the realm of assessing various movement patterns and joint function while trying to predict or minimize risk of injuries purely through improving quality of movement, often times these discussions fail to consider the fundamental concepts of the stress-adaptation balance.

The truth that is rarely discussed is that every athlete and individual is truly different and no two people will ever respond to a given training program or level of stress in the same manner. Recently, the days of individualized training have been replaced with current fitness trends of bootcamps, CrossFit, P90x and other such programs that irrationally encourage anyone and everyone to do the same thing.

Not only do such approaches always fail to consider a person’s individual ability to adapt to stress, they often preach that results are a direct result of nothing more than lots of effort with lots of intensity. The classic American attitude of “more is always better” approach has spilled over into training, training with high intensities at increasingly higher volumes. Now combine that with no individualized considerations and what you have is a recipe for injury. Current fitness trends seem to place a greater importance on the business model rather than having an appreciation and understanding of the complex function of the human body as it relates to developing a quality training program for the individual.

When you consider the stress-adaptation balance, it's not surprising why the injury rates are continually rising in youth sports. Young athletes today are under incredible pressures to specialize in one sport, be it from coaches or parents, and this is why it’s become sadly common to see athletes as young as 12-14 suffering from chronic stress injuries like tendinitis, or the more correct diagnosis of tendinosis. The ‘multi-sport’ athlete has been replaced with the ‘single-sport, all year long’ athlete. A year round competitive schedule, lack of properly constructed sport practice, and lack of time dedicated to physical preparation and athletic development is largely to blame for the huge increase in youth sports injuries in recent years.

I just happened to catch a recent interview with Tommy John on Dan Patrick’s radio show. For those of you who may be familiar with his name, Tommy John is a former MLB pitcher and the “Tommy John” surgery is named after him since he was the first individual to have the medical procedure of ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction. When asked about his thoughts as to why the surgery is so common now, Tommy John has this to say,
“I really believe….that sports, high school sports, little league sports, have become year round. And they force these kids at a very young age to pick a sport and that’s the only sport that they play, they train at. And you have these….pitching academies and your kid comes in and pays $2000-$3000 and you go in every Saturday and work on pitching. And I tell parents this, “If the best pitchers in the world don’t pitch year round, then why should your kid pitch year round?”….You have to get all these great surgeons that do Tommy John surgery, or did Tommy John surgery, they cringe when you say ‘year round pitching’ because you must let the arm rest.”
Without knowing exactly why, Tommy John nailed the central issue when it comes to several sports injuries, the lack of appropriate rest to allow the body the chance to recover and adapt to the stress placed upon it. Despite his example of baseball and pitching, the truth is each sport has it own unique injury rates. It truly all comes back to stress and the inability of most coaches and trainers to respect the stress and adaptation process. While some athletes are capable of adapting to stress far more efficiently than others, no one is immune from the effects of a poorly designed training or sport preparation program. Such programs are run by coaches or trainers that chronically stress athletes with little understanding of how to facilitate recovery and adaption, ultimately leading to injury.

Final Words
Regardless of whether you are a doctor, therapist, coach, athlete or simply just train to be healthy and stay in shape, this article was to present you with a more complete view of the role stress and adaptation play in the injury process. There is certainly value in assessing the degree of stress specific exercises may place on particular joints/tissues and whether or not they are appropriate for an individual given their needs or limitations. Failure to consider the role of stress tends to lead to an approach to injury prevention based purely on exercise selection/avoidance rather than one than also places consideration on biological stress and adaptation management.

More related reading:

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

https://gallagherperformance.com/3-simple-steps-to-reduce-your-risk-of-sports-injuries/

https://gallagherperformance.com/prevent-re-injury-integrated-training-rehabilitation/

https://gallagherperformance.com/magnesium-for-better-health-athletic-performance/

The Essentials of Keeping Athletes Healthy

The number one priority of any coach or trainer should be the health of your athletes. At GP, we look at any and all entities that should be addressed to increase the wellness of each of our athletes. This takes into account biomechanical/movement quality considerations, exposure to inappropriate training, the compatibility of current training loads and parameters, nutritional considerations, and the coordination of therapy and restoration techniques.

The process of developing athletes and ensuring they remain healthy in the process can present a major problem and one that could be remedied with both higher coaching education standards and the utilization of performance-based therapy.

1. Raising Coaching Education and Qualification Standards
To ensure the health of our athletes while realizing their athletic potential, we spend countless hours on improving movement efficiency as well as balancing workload compatibility during each training session and block. Statistics consistently demonstrate the more mechanically efficient you are, the less injuries you have. Movement efficiency also translates into athletes having higher levels of performance while expending less energy in the process. Expending less energy means less fatigue. This is important since athletes are more likely to get injured in a fatigued state.

Workload compatibility refers to the importance of understanding compatible training methods when addressing a dominant physical ability during a phase of training. For example, this demands that the coach/trainer understand if they are trying to develop alactic sprint abilities why glycolytic or anaerobic-lactic training must be restricted or avoided.

In the attempt to improve any number of physical abilities, most coaches/trainers often fall into the trap of pushing their athletes too hard in training. They understand that in order for athletes to perform any number of biomotor abilities (speed, strength, work capacity) at higher levels, they must push them during training to create a specific adaptation. In the process of achieving adaptation, often times they manipulate variables (intensity, frequency, duration, workload, etc.) without any understanding as to why they are making the change. As a result they compromise the athlete’s ability to adapt appropriately and set the stage for injury.

Simply put, more educated coaches understand workload compatibility and the development of specific biomotor abilities as they relate to an athlete’s sport. They have a system of checks and balances that dictate training variables and they are constantly monitoring their athletes to avoid declines in performance standards and injury.

Movement efficiency and the proper management of training loads/parameters is a relatively poorly understood concept by the majority of trainers/coaches when most of them have simply taken weekend certification courses and are under qualified, with no background in sport and exercise science. This is far too common in the US, as trainers with minimal experience and knowledge of these concepts as they relate to sport often find themselves responsible for the coaching and development of athletes.

This approach is in stark contrast to the coaching qualification process in the former Soviet Union, where the development of coaches/trainers was a scientific and well-planned undertaking. Those who wished to become coaches had to be high-level competitive athletes themselves and were required to take entrance exams in subjects such as biochemistry, physics, biology, and physiology. The applicants who made the cut were entered into one of the country’s Physical Culture Institutes to undergo four to five years of a rigorous, scientifically oriented coaching curriculum. Coaching in the former Soviet Union was not something one decided to do a “whim”. Coaching and the development of athletes was viewed as a career that required specialized education, mentorship, and training.

It doesn’t take long to realize why the Soviet Union dominated international athletic competition for as long as they did once you understand the qualification criteria for their coaches was a serious and intellectual process.

Athletes should seek out coaches and therapists who have the competitive sporting background and accomplishments, educational background and accomplishments, as well as clinical competence, methods, and track record to keep athletes healthy and performing at their best. Period. Anything less, and you should be skeptical about what you are getting.

2. Integration of Performance-Based Therapy
In addition to raising coaching education and qualification standards, excellence in therapy is another component that is often missing when it comes to keeping athletes healthy. Unless you have integrated sports medicine and therapy (sports chiropractic, massage, manual therapies, recovery methods), eventually an athlete will need to reduce the overall volume/intensity/frequency of training. What you are able to learn about an athlete in a therapy session is invaluable and can serve to help guide what you do in training.

As Dan Pfaff said best,
“A top athlete is like a formula one car and have you seen how much fine tuning they do with those things? The ability to run your hands over an athlete and know what is restricted gives you immense inside information into their functioning. You cannot expect the athlete to tell you either because they are terrible barometers when it comes to knowing what they are ready for. Just asking “are you ok for today’s workout?” is not enough because their motivation is so high athletes do not necessarily listen to what their own body is telling them.”
Therapy serves to normalize joint and soft tissue (muscle, tendon, ligament) function and promote movement efficiency by removing dysfunctional movement patterns. Similar to training, therapy cannot be randomly applied. Random application always equals random results. Therapy must be strategically implemented during the training plan. It should not be ignored that therapy provides a stimulus/stress to both tissues and the nervous system and, depending upon the athlete’s needs, must be utilized appropriately.

For instance, some forms of therapy can serve to promote recovery and restoration by pushing an athlete into a parasympathetic dominant state. Conversely, other forms of therapy can up-regulate the sympathetic nervous system and will either heighten performance levels or prolong the recovery/regeneration period depending upon when therapy is applied. Another factor that must be consider is how each individual athlete responds to therapy. Some athletes may respond to intensive therapy sessions just as they do to intensive training and therefore proper rest/recovery must be accounted for accordingly during the training week.

Closing Words
Both higher coaching education/qualification standards and performance-based therapy are necessary components in the health and performance of athletes. The more coaches know, the better they are able to serve their athletes and address their needs appropriately. Failure to integrate performance therapy in a complementary manner can be a mistake, as there tends to be an increase in reliance on other forms of therapy that stress rehabilitation and recovery rather than optimizing performance.

Related Articles:

What is Performance Therapy?
Have You Mastered Your Movement?

Physical Preparation vs Fitness: Know the Difference

For athletes new to GP, physical preparation is a term that is unfamiliar to them. Sure they are familiar with “strength and conditioning” or “speed and strength” programs. Many of these athletes come from high schools and colleges that have a strength and conditioning (S&C) coach. If they do not have the luxury of having a S&C coach at their high school, they are often familiar with the “Bigger, Faster, Stronger” programs that many coaches hand out to their players, especially our football players.

There is a movement within the S&C industry that has more and more coaches referring to themselves as coaches of “physical preparation”. The concept of physical preparation, as it pertains to athletes, incorporates much more than simply strength and conditioning. Buddy Morris, current Head Strength/Physical Preparation Coach for the Arizona Cardinals, has said:
“We're coaches of physical preparation. What we do encompasses more than just conditioning and strength. There are a lot of variables we have to look at it with each individual athlete and each individual group. In this country, I think if anything, we place too much emphasis on strength. I'm not downplaying the importance of strength, but I think we put too much emphasis on it and too much volume."
Physical preparation accounts for both performance enhancement as well as injury reduction measures. It's important to us that our athletes understand the concepts of physical preparation and why the services and training they are receiving at GP have only one goal in mind: to prepare each individual athlete to meet the demands of their sport and competitive season.

From an outsider’s viewpoint, our programs may look very simple. And depending on the athlete’s age and training experience, our programs can be very oriented on the fundamentals. But the biggest mistake our athletes can make is assuming simple means easy. Our programs are very demanding.

Physical preparation is one area where many programs fall short in their attempt to develop athletes. Young, well-intentioned athletes want to improve their current fitness and/or strength levels. This is all well and good, but what some coaches and athletes must understand is there is a difference between fitness and preparation. It's one thing to be "fit", it's an entirely different story when it comes to be prepared for sport competition.

Preparation vs Fitness
I recently was given the privilege of developing and coordinating the off-season strength/physical preparation program for the Franklin Regional ice hockey teams. To say I am honored would be an understatement and it is a huge compliment to our business. This is a tremendous undertaking and one that comes with many challenges. Many of these young hockey players are novices when it comes to strength training, needing a solid foundation of stability, strength, and neuromuscular control. Others have more training experience and also play for other amateur hockey organizations in the Pittsburgh area. Some of these kids play 60+ games a year. Understanding the stress their bodies endured during the competitive calendar and collision nature of the sport must be considered in the development of their training program to promote continual adaptation and proper preparation for the upcoming season.

This is where the development and preparation of the athlete must match the biodynamic and bioenergetic demands of the sport of ice hockey, not merely developing “fitness” or “strength” levels. Considerations of biodynamics (biomechanics, kinematics, and kinetics) will govern what exercises are used in the development of the athlete. Bioenergetics characterizes the nature and contribution of the human bioenergy systems towards training and competitive actions.

The development of physical abilities and specialized work-capacity will be specific to the training stimulus. This follows the SAID principle (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands). To help us understand the concept of specialized work capacity and how truly specific the development of “fitness” levels can be, let’s consider the nature of most team sports.

When considering the physical abilities that make an athlete successful in sports such as hockey, soccer, basketball, and lacrosse, what comes to mind is speed, power, strength and anaerobic-alactic capacity. To achieve athletic potential, all these abilities are necessary to train and develop so that physical abilities match the demands of sport.

What is not listed above and often a missing component in many S&C programs is developing the athlete’s ability to accelerate or how quickly an athlete can increase their speed. It is a rare occurrence in hockey, as with other team sports, that an athlete reaches top speed and must sustain that for an extended period of time. What you see far more often is that the ability to accelerate is a constant factor in athletic success.

Charlie Francis stated that most 100m sprinters do not reach top speed until 60m into the race. In other words, these athletes are accelerating for the first 60m of the race. This is not just true of sprinters, but the majority of other athletes as well and this has implications on their training.

According to Coach Francis, the major requirements for the 100m race are broken down as follows:
  • Start/acceleration: 0-30m
  • Speed/maximum velocity: 30-60m
  • Speed endurance: 60-100m
Training Implications
In this day and age, the marketing of gimmick products or programs towards athletes is driving much of the training industry. High-speed treadmills, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) programs, speed/agility schools are designed to increase pocket books, yet often can fail to deliver promises on performance enhancement when it comes to speed, acceleration, power, strength, or energy system development as they relate to a specific sport.

The ability to accelerate has major implications for explosive, alactic-aerobic sports. Athletes participating in these sports must have the ability to perform repeated bouts of acceleration and recover quickly. Acceleration ability is trained through plyometrics, acceleration training, and strength training. The ability to recover quickly is developed through proper energy system development of both the aerobic and alactic components. This doesn’t mean that an athlete needs a separate and specialized program for each of these components to be trained. Rather it means a well-organized and structured program must account for biodynamic elements, acceleration/speed, plyometrics, strength training, and an understanding of the positional bioenergetic (energy system) demands of the sport. These attributes must be understood and trained accordingly.

 
Related Articles:

Are You in Need of More Intelligent Training?
Why Athletes Should Avoid HIIT Programs
Common Mistakes in Developing Young Athletes
Don't Fall for the Speed Trap

What's the Deal with the Tape?

Similar to the current trend of marketing driving training (discussed in this article), marketing appears to have a similar and undeniable impact on services provided in the world of physical medicine. From the latest and greatest in modalities such as laser therapy and electrical muscle stimulation to musculoskeletal injury interventions such as kinesio tape (KT), the colorful tape that gained popularity from the Olympics.

Earlier this week, a GP client was speaking of someone they know who recently got “taped” because they were having knee pain while running. This client went on to explain that a few days after getting taped, the very same person went out for a run and felt a “tearing and pop” in the same knee that had been taped and is now in worse pain than before.

Our client wanted to know, “What's the deal with the tape? Is it effective or is it a cheap trick?”

Kinesio Tape: Legit or Hype?
What seems to be at the center of any benefit from the application of KT is something known as novel sensory input. Basically, this means when you tape someone, they feel it. Sensory input changes “output” – in this case – motor control and perception of pain.

In the case of the painful knee (or any joint/muscle), stick some tape on it and odds are in your favor that the patient will feel slightly better for a brief period of time.
But is this really “therapy”, getting at the root of the problem, or simply masking pain symptoms?

First, we must start with an understanding of pain. Pain is your body’s way a telling you something is wrong. Pain with movement indicates a movement problem and no amount of tape will ever solve a movement/biomechanical problem. However, taping is very effective at altering proprioceptive/sensory feedback. Sensory input will dampen pain perception, thus making it easier for your brain to ignore pain signals and you are now feeling “less pain”. This is known as “sensory gating”.

You feel less pain and you are happy, so what’s the problem?

You have disrupted the injured tissue’s ability to tell the truth, now you are more likely to continually overload a compromised structure and worsen the condition. To illustrate this phenomenon, one only needs to recall Manteo Mitchell, the sprinter who sustained a fracture of his fibula – wearing KT – while running the 400m in 2012 Olympics. The applied KT allowed the athlete to distribute more load on a painful and compromised ankle. The tape did its job. It blocked pain and allowed the athlete to feel capable of competing, but unfortunately the result was a worse condition than before the tape was applied. Keep in mind, this isn’t always the outcome of taping but it certainly is a risk one must understand.

Not only are companies claiming the pain relieving benefits of KT, now some are stating how their tape prevents injury or enhances performance. Just go to their websites and read for yourself. Spider Tech’s website has the tag line: “Recovery, Performance, Prevention” and Rock Tape (on their About Us page) has this to say:
“I discovered that the tape can be used to ENHANCE PERFORMANCE. I found that taping in advance of exercise promotes increased blood flow to the muscles, thereby reducing fatigue.”
Marketing with fancy words and convenient KT placement on some elite athletes does wonders for a product’s popularity. But are the claims substantiated?

There are few high-quality studies on taping, but a recent systematic review of the research literature revealed that KT had insufficient evidence to support its use for musculoskeletal injury. Studies have shown that benefits from KT are generally minor, brief and inconsistent in nature. The value of taping is unclear, with several experts dismissing the effectiveness of taping as placebo only. The systematic review conclude that KT did provide short-term pain relief and even range of motion (ROM) improvement, but failed to offer any long-term results to patients.

In Closing
For the most part, taping is a lot of marketing hype. At best, taping is mostly a minor and imprecise method of pain control. The amount of tape being used by athletes lately is silly and, in my opinion, its popularity has more to do with marketing than results. Sure taping may make someone feel better and in a “results now” society this can go a long way to keep patients satisfied. However, there is no long-term solution to be found with any amount of tape.

Where does one turn for a long-term solution?

At GP, we consider ourselves part of a growing body of providers who strive to identify the repetitive movements and postural abnormalities that cause pain and discomfort by performing thorough and detailed examinations. Assessments and individualized treatment plans aim to identify the underlying cause of your condition rather than merely alleviating symptoms.

The more accurate the assessment, the more accurately treatment will target a patient's pain generators. At GP, we stress a collective and active approach on the part of each of our patients through education. By clearly educating each patient on their condition and why they are performing prescribed exercises, the focus becomes about patient empowerment and providing them with a sense of what they can do for themselves. This typically results in great patient compliance and shorter treatment plans, with the average patient realizing fully recovery in 4-8 treatments. Many patients quickly improve in as little as 2-3 treatments.

Reference:
Mostafavifar M, Wertz J, Borchers J. A systematic review of the effectiveness of kinesio taping for musculoskeletal injury. Phys Sportsmed. 2012 Nov;40(4):33-40. 

 
More related reading:

https://gallagherperformance.com/resetting-bodys-function-post-injury/

https://gallagherperformance.com/technique_and_performance/

https://gallagherperformance.com/why-therapists-should-understand-strength/

Does Unstable Surface Training Build a Better Athlete?

At GP, we get plenty of questions from our young athletes about training simply because they are exposed to more training information and conflicting ideas than ever before. Recently, we had one of our athletes ask us, “A lot of my teammates are training at _______ and the trainers there have them stand on BOSU balls and do different movements, telling them it’s what they need as athletes. I’ve watched them and it seems ridiculous to me. They can’t even do simple movements correctly. Why are they doing that?”

We love educating our clients and athletes, especially when it comes to any number of gimmicks that exist in the sports performance industry.

Whether you wish to refer to it as balance training or unstable surface training, plenty of images can come to mind of people standing on wobble boards, BOSU balls, and even stability balls. These items are often marketed as “functional training”, being capable of not only improving your balance, but also increasing core muscle activation and strength. Athletes are often told that balance training is essential to improving as an athlete and reducing their risk of injury.

This school of thought grew out of the physical therapy and rehabilitation setting. In the rehabilitation setting, there is some efficacy regarding the use of balance training in chronic low back pain and reducing the risk of recurrent injury, particularly when it comes to ankle sprains. Unfortunately, there seems to be a sect of the personal training and sports performance industry that has concluded that information gathered on injured patients is somehow applicable to the non-injured individual and high-performance athlete.

The reality is all exercise is functional, if applied correctly to address the needs of the individual. This takes into account their goals, primary sport form, strengthens/weakness, and imbalances that need attention. If your exercise has no direct transfer into any of these areas, the exercise is not “functional”. Functional exercise should never be determined by how it looks, but rather what it produces.

When it comes to balance/unstable surface training, the above paragraph is incredibly relevant.

Why?

Take a moment and ask yourself this question, “When am I ever on an unstable surface during my daily life? When do I compete on an unstable surface?”

If you answered honestly, chances are very little, if ever. So why are we training people on an unstable surface when they are almost never on unstable surfaces?

The fact of the matter is, the floor works just fine.  Unstable surface training probably does more for decreasing athleticism, strength, balance, and movement quality than it helps.

Here is a quote from an article written by the man known as Kiefer:
“You instantly tense up, you almost literally can’t perform certain movements because the nervous system senses the instability of the environment and fires in resistant ways to keep you balanced. In this process, it also shuts down the ability to produce maximum force….Think about it, if you start to slip in one direction and your reflexes caused your muscles to fire with maximum force against that motion—a motion that may be inevitable at that point, like falling—then you risk tearing muscle or connective tissue. The body is trying to protect you by making you weaker.”
Simply put, as the body’s need for stability increases, force production decreases. You cannot build strength, speed, or explosive power in an unstable environment. What all the marketing behind products such as BOSU balls and the trainers that endorse them fail to tell you is that the stabilization action of musculature actually increases when you are on a stable surface, not on an unstable surface.

Want proof? Here are some findings from a growing body of evidence:
  1. Several researchers have demonstrated that there is significant increases in stabilizer activity during movements that require increased force (either greater resistance or higher speed) compared to activity seen in unstable environments [1-4].
  2. Performing squats on unstable surfaces will increase core activation, but not necessarily core strength [5] and definitely decreases muscle force production [6].
  3. Doing pushups on a physioball does less to activate stabilizing muscles than placing your feet on an elevated, stable bench[7].
  4. Unstable surface training contributes nothing that cannot be achieved when performing stable surface exercises [8,9].
  5. Stable surfaces are superior for some scenarios involving scapular rehabilitation [10].
The reality is unstable surface training is not an effective means of training athletes or healthy individuals. Unstable surface training has its merits in a rehabilitation setting, but the application outside that realm is questionable at best. There are far more productive means of training for athletes than performing exercises on a BOSU ball.

References:
  1. Freeman S, Karpowicz A, Gray J, McGill S. Quantifying muscle patterns and spine load during various forms of the push-up. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Mar;38(3):570-7.
  2. Hamlyn N, Behm DG, Young WB. Trunk muscle activation during dynamic weight-training exercises and isometric instability activities. J Strength Cond Res. 2007 Nov;21(4):1108-12.
  3. Nuzzo JL, McCaulley GO, Cormie P, Cavill MJ, McBride JM. Trunk muscle activity during stability ball and free weight exercises. J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Jan;22(1):95-102.
  4. Willardson JM, Fontana FE, Bressel E. Effect of surface stability on core muscle activity for dynamic resistance exercises. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2009 Mar;4(1):97-109.
  5. Anderson K, Behm DG. Trunk muscle activity increases with unstable squat movements. Can J Appl Physiol. 2005 Feb;30(1):33-45.
  6. Saeterbakken AH, Fimland MS. Muscle force output and electromyographic activity in squats with various unstable surfaces. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Mar 24. Epub ahead of print.
  7. Lehman GJ, Gilas D, Patel U. An unstable support surface does not increase scapulothoracic stabilizing muscle activity during push up and push up plus exercises. Man Ther. 2008 Dec;13(6):500-6.
  8. Lehman GJ, MacMillan B, MacIntyre I, Chivers M, Fluter M. Shoulder muscle EMG activity during push up variations on and off a Swiss ball. Dyn Med. 2006 Jun 9;5:7.
  9. de Oliveira AS, de Morais Carvalho M, de Brum DP. Activation of the shoulder and arm muscles during axial load exercises on a stable base of support and on a medicine ball. J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2008 Jun;18(3):472-9.
  10. Martins J, Tucci HT, Andrade R, Araújo RC, Bevilaqua-Grossi D, Oliveira AS. Electromyographic amplitude ratio of serratus anterior and upper trapezius muscles during modified push-ups and bench press exercises. J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Mar;22(2):477-84. 
Related Articles:

Are You in Need of More Intelligent Training?
Training for Elite Athletes
Common Mistakes in Developing Young Athletes
 
 
 

Thinking of Taking Your Child to a Trainer? Read this First

In order to meet the demands of working with athletes of all levels of preparation, the services at GP are constantly evolving and adapting on many levels. When it comes to the physical preparation of our athletes, there is no single program or method we use with every athlete. We are constantly assessing each athlete from day to day, learning what he or she is capable of performing during any given training session. Constantly assessing our athletes during their dynamic movements also allows us to identify weakness and address them accordingly from both an injury prevention and performance enhancement perspective.

Our approach can often times be a source of both intrigue and confusion for parents and their young athletes, since the majority of them are all too familiar with a ‘one-size fits all’ approach. Many of these athletes even come with ‘cookie-cutter’ strength and conditioning programs given to them by their coach or previous trainer. It becomes our job to explain our approach to training and athletic development and why these ‘cookie-cutter’ programs fail to address individual needs of each athlete. After explaining why each individual athlete requires their own individualized approach and why no two athletes will respond similarly to the same program, it makes sense to them. They often find this very refreshing. What doesn’t make sense to them is how so many coaches and trainers are ignorant of this fact.

In an interview with Buddy Morris, Joel Jamison addressed the heart of the matter by saying,
“Coaches and trainers maybe don’t do the best job of understanding the needs of the sport and they tend to let their athletes over train because of the….push of this country is more intensity, the quick buck, the fast results. The other thing I think that’s influenced our industry probably negatively more than anything else is the marketing aspect. That there’s products, and there’s training methods, and there’s everything being pushed to athletes and coaches from a marketing perspective. We’ve all seen the cross fits, the P90 Xs, all the functional training stuff. It’s the marketing driving the training rather than the training driving the results or the results being based on something scientific.”
Buddy Morris, now the Head Physical Preparation coach for the Arizona Cardinals, had this to say in response,
”We're trying to create circus acts in this country so, like you said, people can generate revenue. So if you actually read and you understand training methodics and you understand the athlete and training the athlete, you won’t buy into all this stuff out there.”
In my opinion, Joel and Buddy nailed the central issue when it comes properly preparing athletes not just when it comes to training, but ultimately for competition. Within the US, there’s a tremendous lack of scientific influence when it comes to the training and preparation of athletes. This is not always true of each coach or trainer, but it certainly is more common than not. The exact opposite was true of the former Soviet Union and the preparation of their athletes. The USSR’s dominance of international athletics can be attributed to a superior coaching education system and the development of highly sophisticated, multi-year training regimens that focused on long-term development over short-term results.

What the Soviets understood very well is that athletes are never immediately better after the training they just performed. Buddy Morris likens the training process to a ‘slow cooker’, emphasizing that results are best achieved with periods of gradual loading and de-loading to allow the athlete to accommodate to the stress of training. The stress of training is a poorly misunderstood concept as seen by the lack of planned restoration/recovery within many programs. Programs must account for high stressors and low stressors because athletes cannot be loaded with CNS (Central Nervous System) intensive exercises or drills everyday. This is a huge mistake and one that is characteristic of far too many programs.

Young athletes may be able to get away with this for one reason and one reason only, they have youth on their side. Young athletes are capable of handling enormous amounts of volume in training. However, this does not serve as a justification for this type of programming. It only serves as an explanation as to why older athletes who practice the same training methods they utilized when they were younger tend not to see the same results or are more likely to over-train or burnout. You’re not going to be able to train an older athlete like a younger athlete. Older athletes have attained higher levels of mastery, thus they require different training approaches with more focus given to recovery and restoration. This is why consistently analyzing programs when it comes to exercise effectiveness is invaluable. If there’s not a good reason for doing an exercise, get rid of it. The human body has a finite amount of resources, why waste them on unnecessary training?

To illustrate this, Buddy Morris speaks of Bruce Lee and how people could not understand how he continually improved as a fighter, even as he got older. Bruce Lee simply got more specialized in his training, he tossed aside all the unnecessary work in order to be more directed. Bruce Lee was famous for saying, “Don’t fear the man with 1,000 moves. Fear the man with one move that he’s practiced 1,000 times.”

These thoughts and philosophies when it comes to the preparation of young athletes are not at all unique to GP. There is a growing number of coaches and trainers that share these same beliefs. We are simply doing our best to educate the public at large. The more we can help open people’s eyes and get them to understand the broader picture of athletic development, it will only provide more quality training services and allow people to see through the nonsense and marketing tactics.

 
More related reading:

https://gallagherperformance.com/why-specificity-in-your-training-plan-matters/

https://gallagherperformance.com/why-athletes-should-avoid-hiit-programs/

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

 

Athletes Must Understand This to Be Successful

The emphasis of many athletic development programs is typically rooted in developing the physical qualities needed in the sport of competition. Physical qualities usually emphasized are endurance/work capacity, strength, body awareness, agility, quickness, speed, and explosive power. Improvements made in any of the previously mentioned physical qualities can certainly improve an athlete’s fitness and physical preparedness for competition. But great athletes are rarely defined by their level of fitness and how ‘in-shape’ they are. They are defined by their ability to play the game and perform the skills of the sport. Great coaches and trainers understand this, being able to take an athlete’s newly developed physical qualities and transfer them to into improved skill execution or technical mastery of sport related movements.

This is accomplished by specificity of training.

In order to ensure specificity of training, it is first necessary to determine the exact physical qualities an athlete is in greatest need of. Many coaches and trainers refer to this as ‘identifying the deficiency’. Once the deficiency is identified and an understanding is developed as to how the deficiency is limiting on-field performance, the deficiency can be trained appropriately.

To identify deficiencies, the majority of coaches and trainers utilize tests to determine an athlete’s level of strength, endurance, explosiveness, and even flexibility. While these tests are often necessary and provide quantitative information that will help assess how an athlete stacks up in comparison to others, what these tests fail to indicate is how efficiently an athlete can perform sport-specific skills or maneuvers.

Physical performance tests fail to indicate an athlete’s needs in relation to game performance. To ensure transfer of training into improved sport performance, identifying an athlete’s developmental needs must take into account an analysis of all components involved in successful competition. Often, this involves a complete biomechanical analysis of movements related to sport-skill execution.

For example, the deep squat is often a staple of many strength and conditioning programs. It can be a tremendous exercise for building hip strength and power and for a variety of other reasons. But when you examine the sport-related movements of many athletes, one can come to the determination that the need to deep squat is not a priority for many athletes. Consider hockey and basketball players. These sports require hip external rotation strength and power to execute sport-specific movements (skating, lateral cuts, change of direction, etc.). Rather than placing greater and greater emphasis on improving strength in the deep squat, these athletes will be better served in developing hip external rotation through other exercises which more closely mimic the external rotation demands of the hips in competition.

Again, great athletes are rarely the strongest or the fittest. There are studies that demonstrate Olympic-level athletes and World Record holders are not the strongest athletes (with the exception being in strength sports such as powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting). Athletes on the highest levels of performance do not lift the greatest amount of weight in commonly used exercises, such as the clean, squat, bench, or deadlift.

More commonly, athletes will fall in the midrange of strength numbers. What this is demonstrating is a ‘point of diminishing returns’. Many athletes reach a point at which increases in strength or other physical qualities do not always equate to improved sport performance.

Successful athletes must be able to execute sport skills with technical mastery and precision. Regardless if you are a hockey, football, soccer, lacrosse, baseball, tennis or track athlete, you need great acceleration, speed, agility (ability to change direction quickly), and the ability to jump high (which also requires explosive power). But arguably most important is the ability to perform all sport skills with mastery and precision of movement.

An athlete will never be successful if they do not have the ability to execute sport skills successfully. This is why technique must be closely analyzed and why the training of physical qualities must directly enhance the performance of sport-specific skill execution.

Analyzing an athlete’s sport skill technique and the demands of game play becomes a necessary first step to determine exactly what their training program should consist of. Often to correct and/or enhance technique, special strength exercises are implemented to develop the specific strength an athlete needs to execute movements more efficiently.

We addressed special strength exercises in this article. Special strength exercises are intended to replicate the exact neuromuscular pathways utilized in the execution of specific sport skills.

With proper analysis and identifying the ‘deficiency’ of the athlete, it enables the training program to have greater transfer into sport performance. The training program is continually adjusted as improvements in strength, speed, agility, and explosive power are integrated into technical mastery of skill execution.

Related Articles:

Training for Elite Athletes
Common Mistakes in Developing Young Athletes

Why Athletes Should Avoid HIIT Programs

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a system of training characterized by high-intensity resistance or metabolic training with short/incomplete rest periods in between working sets. An example of HIIT is often advocated by Crossfit WODs (workout of the day) and other similar programs.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, HIIT is now the most popular fitness trend. HIIT has tremendous appeal to those looking to shed unwanted body fat and ‘lean up’ or ‘get in shape’ quickly because of its ability to burn body fat more efficiently. HIIT has been shown to produce greater improvements in both aerobic and anaerobic capacity with less overall training volume when compared to individuals who only perform steady-state aerobic exercise. In the public eye, a huge upside to these workouts is they typically take less than 30 minutes to complete. Sounds too good to be true, right?

However, what is rarely if ever mentioned, is the number of injuries sustained by participants.

In my opinion and experience, which may be similar to what others are also observing, the number of injuries associated with HIIT appears to be on the rise. What is especially significant to note is that these injuries are often debilitating in nature.

Not only is HIIT growing in popularity among the general population, but it also seems to be a growing trend among athletes. The point of this article is to discuss why HIIT is not an appropriate training program for athletes and provide some insight into why athletes should avoid programs that advocate high-frequency application of HIIT methods.

Why Athletes Should Avoid HIIT
First and foremost, when training with heavy weights or performing complex motor skills (i.e. jumps, throws, sprints) it is highly critical that proper technique is learned during the initial stages of training. This is the key to not only continual development in regard to strength and all other physical abilities, but is fundamental to injury prevention.

Proper technique is the key to ensuring that strength developed becomes more useful not just in athletic skills, but also in everyday activities. For athletes, proper technique serves as the foundation for efficient execution of sport-related movement skills.

So why does HIIT fail athletes?

What appears to be most important in HIIT is overcoming a prescribed amount of resistance or finishing a prescribed number of reps in a designated amount of time, regardless of how it is done. From the start, HIIT does not place technique as the number one priority. For your viewing pleasure, Youtube provides numerous examples of this. I can recall watching a Crossfit workout during which a young female participant is doing her best to finish an overhead press. She had to contort her body in every way imaginable in her attempt to get the bar locked out overhead. Needless to say, I did not like what I saw.

What was even more disturbing to me was hearing the other members of the class cheering her on and applauding her when she finally locked out the bar overhead. They were encouraging her effort with absolutely no attention or care about her technique and safety. This is just one example of many that indicates how overcoming the weight was more important than how the lift was performed.
Other daily workouts may prescribe high-intensity metabolic conditioning that often requires participants to train to the point of exhaustion and, sometimes, to the point of throwing up. The mindset and main objective is primarily focused on overcoming a specific quantity of work as opposed to expressing quality in the work.
It is this mentality that can be detrimental to athletes and the general fitness population as well. There is a reason why physical therapists and chiropractors love Crossfit and other HIIT programs. HIIT programs are pretty good at producing patients.

Another unwanted factor associated with HIIT is the high degree of fatigue and lactate training loads. For athletes, how can they master movement and skill execution or build speed and strength in a fatigued state? The answer is they cannot. This is something the majority of coaches and trainers must understand. Lactate-based training is widely over-utilized and misplaced. This ultimately cuts into more productive training methods and increases the need for recovery. When it comes to HIIT programs, recovery is often not sufficient and will potentially push participants into a chronic state of fatigue or create an over-trained individual. Keep in mind, injuries are more likely to occur in a fatigued or over-trained state.

When it comes to HIIT, training principles regarding periodization, progressive overload, mastery of technique, specificity of training, and individualization of training are completely ignored. These principles, among others, are highly important when it comes to the safety and effectiveness of training athletes. They have been proven to be foundational in producing the most effective results from any training program.

Final Words
Training and sport science tells us that HIIT programs or any randomized high-intensity program is not conducive for efficient training and development of athletes in regards to strength, speed, power, and other physical abilities. Sure it may be trendy, but ask yourself does the program or exercise routine provide the development you want? Remember, development is always specific to your training demands. Also, ask yourself if your current training methods are more likely to make you a better athlete or a patient.

Related Articles:

Interval/Sprint Training vs Cardio: Which is Better for Fat Loss and Physique Development?
Training Hard vs Training Smart
Have You Mastered Your Movement?
2 Reasons For Your Lack of Results
Training for Elite Athletes

Athletes Do Not Need Balance to Be Successful

In the attempt to improve athletic performance or prevent sports-related injuries, it is common to read that muscles in the body should be balanced. At times, what “balanced” means is never fully explained and is often assumed to mean that muscles on both sides of a joint should be equal in qualities such as endurance or strength. As a result, trainers and coaches may advise athletes to perform equal training for musculature on all sides of a joint to ensure balance.

The intent is to achieve symmetry. Not just at one particular joint, but often throughout the body. The goal is to see symmetrical movement on both sides of the body. Consider how therapists and coaches will use movement-screening systems to evaluate movement and then apply correctives with the goal to ‘balance’ the body or to reduce the risk of injury.

However, one must question if this the most intelligent thing to do in relation to high-level athletic performance. 
From the few studies done on this topic and from observation, symmetry may not be an effective means of improving performance. Rather, It appears that the majority of high-level athletes are asymmetrical.

This should not be surprising if you have been looking closely at high-level athletes. I recently attended the ACA Rehabilitation Symposium in Las Vegas over this past weekend. Professor Stuart McGill was one of the featured speakers and he has extensively researched the factors which make great athletes great. Professor McGill provided numerous examples from cases he has seen over of the years of athletes being ruined by someone attempting to 'balance' their body. The intent was on improving their performance or ‘correcting’ movement, yet the end result was making that athlete a patient. Essentially, he cautioned us all as chiropractors, therapists, and trainers to be very wise in what we do with our athletes.

One example he provided was Olympic sprinters and how many of them have very stiff, tight ankles. He stated how this is necessary for their performance and ultimately their success as elite level sprinters. Their ankles must be stiff to serve as ‘springs’ for explosive running. Yet, as he stated, many therapists would want to ‘mobilize’ their ankles and ‘release’ or ‘stretch’ the musculature surrounding the ankle to improve range of motion. However, now you have robbed them of the very thing that makes them a great athlete in their sport.

His example brought to mind a high school football player who trains at GP. He is our fastest athlete and his ankles are incredibly stiff. This stood out immediately upon his initial assessment. Did we do anything to mobilize his ankles? No. We didn’t touch his ankles, understanding that his ankle stiffness is what made him fast. Made him incredibly agile and quick.

If you try to balance muscular development or joint function, it can potentially interfere greatly with an athlete’s performance. It’s important to remember that what makes athletes asymmetrical also makes them great. It is not only a consequence of their training, but often what their sport demands. To take time out of their training to balance their body arguably interferes with more productive training.

This does not mean that they do not do exercises to keep their body healthy and prevent injury. We have our athletes perform many exercises for this purpose, but they are typically done during the general preparatory period, not in the competitive or precompetitive periods.

Former Soviet Union sport scientists studied this concept. The Soviets understood that asymmetry appears to be a key to athletic success. Asymmetry that is produced appears to allow athletes to go above and beyond what other ”well-balanced” athletes are capable of doing. It seems that the asymmetry allows the athlete to perform on a higher level.

There appears to be enough evidence to indicate that perhaps we should not be anxious to 'balance' every athlete’s physical development. Keep in mind that this does not mean that you ignore development of antagonistic muscles. But you do not emphasize them to the same extent as you do with the main muscles and joints involved in the execution of the athlete's competitive sports skill.

More related reading:

https://gallagherperformance.com/athletic-development-will-your-child-be-a-success-or-burn-out/

https://gallagherperformance.com/does-practice-make-permanent-how-practice-rewires-your-nervous-system/

https://gallagherperformance.com/commonmistakesindevelopingyoungathletes/

Is Weight Training Inappropriate for Young Athletes?

It seems almost routine now that we come across parents who are curious about what type of ‘training’ their child should be doing to become a better athlete. Ultimately, the majority of parents are concerned about their child lifting weights. Typically their child is 12-15 years of age and the parents feel that weight training at that age is inappropriate and could be potentially dangerous (e.g., stunt their child’s growth). Since this idea is so widespread, we felt it would be valuable to address the topic and the determining factors of whether weight training is suitable for a young athlete.

To start, let’s set the stage for our discussion by simply stating that weight training is one form of ‘resistance’ training. There are plenty of ways to apply ‘resistance’ to the body. From bands to weighted vests to body weight exercises, they are all considered resistance training. If you asked most parents if they had a problem with their child doing push-ups or walking lunges, the majority of them would likely reply, “No”. Lifting weights, at times, can provide less resistance than common body weight exercises yet lifting weights is somehow deemed more dangerous.

Why?

The majority of parents are primarily concerned about the risk of growth plate fracture and the possible result of stunted growth.

To address these concerns, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) published a position statement. They determined that resistance training is safe, even for children as young as 6, and that the risk of growth plate fracture and stunted growth is completely unsupported. Simply put, it does not happen and weight training is safe with appropriate coaching and progression. Additionally, research has demonstrated significantly higher injury rates in youth sports (football, basketball, soccer, baseball, hockey, etc.) when compared to weightlifting.
When it comes to coaching and progression, this is where considerations from Long-Term Athletic Development (LTAD) models become invaluable in helping to understand sensitive “windows” during an athlete’s development. These windows identify when to capitalize on certain physical qualities. Looking at LTAD models, children around 12 years old are in a critical window for their speed development. This means that while they can improve in all athletic attributes (balance, coordination, rhythm/timing, relaxation, strength), speed development will experience faster rates of improvement. Speed simply comes down to putting a lot of force into the ground quickly. Explosive movement requires high power output and this relies on your “fast twitch” muscle fibers. Resistance training is one method to efficiently train “fast twitch” muscle. In this context, certain exercises aren’t always what they appear to be. For example, a young athlete performing squats may not be simply performing squats, but rather “speed training” because it’s a tool to teach them to produce force quickly and utilize their muscles in an explosive manner. Improve an athlete’s ability to produce force and they will get faster. Force production is directly controlled by the nervous system. Neural development is very sensitive for children 12-13 years of age. This means that the nervous system, which coordinates all movement, is primed for learning and improving efficiency of complex movements. This is one reason why resistance training is appropriate for athletes during this time period; it can capitalize on a sensitive period of neural development to help kids move with improved body awareness AND coordination, thus resulting in increases in qualities such as strength, power, and speed.
Concluding Thoughts
There are many factors to consider when it comes to “appropriate training” for young athletes. While there are safety concerns, age-appropriate and developmentally specific training methods can be extremely effective. For young athletes, weight training is a safe and effective means to develop body control/awareness and improve athletic qualities, such as speed. Weight training, as part of an athletic development program, should follow a structured approach under the supervision of a knowledgeable and qualified coach.

To ensure the highest quality outcomes and safety, GP understands and utilizes LTAD models in the training of their young athletes.

Related Articles:

Success or Failure: What Are You Setting Your Young Athlete Up For?
Don't Fall for the Speed Trap
Identifying Strength Needs for Athletes

Why Your Technique is Ruining your Performance

Technique is fundamental and should be the primary focus of instruction when it comes to any new exercise or sport skill. It's essential to the continual refinement of movement skills. Technique also has implications in the rehabilitation process as well.

However, there appears to be a huge gap in terms of what most people acknowledge as proper technique and the technique they actually demonstrate or coach.

1. Sure many coaches and trainers can "tell" you what proper technique is, but are they capable of identifying technique errors?
2. Are they skilled and knowledgeable enough to understand why they are seeing technique errors and how to systematically go about improving technique?
3. Do they understand the joint and muscular actions involved in the complex execution of specific movements?
4. Do they understand that technique can be dictated by your anatomical structure and that there is no such thing as a "one size fits all" approach when it comes to coaching proper technique?
Despite hearing time and time again from coaches, trainers, and clinicians preaching, "Technique, technique, technique", the reality is many in the fields of health and fitness do not understand technique as well as they should. Sure, they may claim to practice or teach 'perfect technique' to their clients or patients. They may agree that technique is important and that it should be accounted for.

But are they actually making sure your technique is what works best for you?

Take for example a high school athlete that was recently seen at GP. His primary complaint was low back tightness and pain following squatting and lower body training days. He had been seeing a local chiropractor for his back pain and training with a teammate at another local gym. He had been receiving care for almost 6 weeks with no change. Despite 2x/week adjustments and performing a routine of abdominal strengthening exercises and hamstring stretches, he continued to have 'severe' tightness and occasional pain in his low back for 3-5 days after squatting.

As I dug deeper into the nature of his low back tightness, the pattern of his symptoms made me increasingly suspicious that something was clearly wrong with his squat technique.

So I asked him, "How's your squat technique?" I wanted to get inside his head and hear his thoughts on his technique. His reply was, "I think it's pretty good. I learned from my training partner who has lifted more than I have and our football team's strength coach gave us tips."

I want to emphasize this point. He believed his technique was not an issue. He believed he had received good coaching when it came to his squat technique. Rather he kept expressing how he had been told he had weak abs and needed to stretch his hamstrings, and that this was the root of his problem. His mind wasn't focused on technique.
At GP, we have the luxury of using the gym to provide real time feedback during our evaluations. This kid looked pretty good doing a body weight squat, but I knew things would change once we got him loaded up. So we took our session to the gym floor. Needless to say, there were a number of technique issues with his squat that were ultimately at the heart of why he was routinely over-stressing his low back. Rather than addressing mobility or strength issues, we simply figured out the technique he must utilize based on his anatomical structure.

This young athlete had structural adaptations that had to be taken into consideration when figuring out the most appropriate squat technique that worked for him. These very same structural adaptations had been previously overlooked, yet they played a huge role in why he was symptomatic.

After cleaning up his technique issues, it was no surprise to me that his back was not a complaint. But it was a huge surprise to him. He had just spent weeks getting adjusted, strengthening his abs and stretching with no results. How could something so simple as technique modification resolve his issue?

Closing Thoughts
When someone is experiencing a weakness in their performance or is recovering from a musculoskeletal injury, determine if the main culprit is improper technique.

Far too often, most will think to only improve physical abilities (endurance, strength, balance, coordination, flexibility, etc.) when dealing with poor performance or injury rehabilitation. While addressing physical abilities is important, physical abilities have limited value without proper technique.

In the ideal situation, technique changes or modifications should be made simultaneously as strength or other physical abilities develop. For athletes, strength should be coupled with skill through what is known as special strength exercises. In other words, strength is developed in the same neuromuscular pathway as used in execution of their competitive skill(s).

Rehabilitation programs that primarily focus on isolated physical abilities without integrating those newly developed abilities into specific movement tasks or sport skill will fail to ensure that athletes are equipped to handle the demands of competition. When it comes to injury rehabilitation and injury prevention, failure to couple strength as it relates to technique will increase the chance of recurring injury.

Consider the relationship between hamstring injuries and sprinting. Several athletes frequently experience hamstring injuries, which can take weeks or months to rehabilitate. However, when efficient sprinting mechanics are coupled with development of the physical abilities specific to the actions involved in sprinting, the chances of hamstring injuries are essentially nonexistent.

This is why experts are convinced several common athletic injuries, not just hamstring injuries, are preventable. This also explains why having a coach and/or therapist who understands technique is invaluable to athletes.

 
We love to hear your input. Tell us about your experience on Google.

Contact

  • 4484 William Penn Highway

  • Murrysville, PA 15668

Hours of Operation

  • CHIROPRACTIC
    Monday-Thursday: 9am-1pm, 3pm-6pm
    Friday: 9am-1pm, 3pm-5pm
    Saturday: by appointment only
  • MASSAGE & TRAINING
    Hours are by appointment only