Periodization

A successful training program depends on periodization.  Whether you’re training for weight loss, strength gain, or something more sport specific, your workouts and training regimen should be planned out in a way so that you are cycling though different phases of training over a select period of time.

Organization can be made through a macrocycle, mesocycles, & microcycles.

  • Macrocycle: this refers to the annual plan that is used  towards reaching your specific goal/goals of the year (in otherwords, this is the big picture)
  • Mesocycle: this refers to phases of training split up into 4-6 week time periods (the goal here is to be sure that your body continues to peak by improving/challenging yourself)
  • Microcycle: this typically consists of your workouts in a weeks time frame (each microcycle should be planned so that it lines up accordingly with each mesocycle so that progression continues)

In order to do this, variations in your training regimen must be made. This can occur by switching up exercise order, exercise choice, number of sets, number of reps per set, rest periods, and/or intensity. 

By manipulating variables throughout cycles, you are able to

  1. Reduce the potential of overtraining
  2. Bring strength/conditioning/weight loss to peak levels

If a load is always the same, adaptation occurs early on in training & one will reach a plateau, failing to achieve their expected goals.  With this being said, the goal of training then is to progressively & systematically increase & change the training stimulus.If a load/stimulus does not produce a certain amount of physiological challenge, then no increase in adaptation can be expected.

On the other hand, if the training load is too high, intolerable & taken on over a long period of time, overtraining as well as possible injury may occur.

So if you’re at a plateau, or having a hard time reaching your goals, try to plan out your workouts a little bit more, taking yourself through different phases/variations of training to get more/better results!

Reference:

Periodization: Theory & Methodlogy of Training by Tudor O. Bompa & Greg Haff

Back/Leg Circuit

Circuit training is a great way to get the most out of every workout, especially if your goal is to burn fat. Here’s a workout to try next time you hit the gym.  Emphasis is on back & legs.  Each circuit will contain one exercise for back, & one for legs; this way you can alternate between the two exercises with no rest in between & you’ll keep your heart rate elevated.

1.  Speed Squats (20)

     Supine Rows (12)

2. Walking Lunges (20)

     Seated Single Arm Row (12)

3.  Kettlebell swings (20)

     Pullups (assisted if necessary) (12)

4. Sprints; Sprint 1 minute, Recover for 90s x 6

(Recovery should still consist of a jog; it should be comfortable enough so that your heart rate goes down before you start back up with your next sprint)

Repeat each circuit 3 times before you start the next.  Rest 90 seconds in between each circuit (depending on fitness level, if you need to modify & increase your rest interval, that’s fine).

Notes:

  • Speeds squats are called speed squats for a reason; they should be done fast
  • The more parallel you are to the ground for the horizontal bar rows, the more challenging it will be (therefore, challenge yourself & if you start to struggle half way through, just make the adjustment)
  • Make sure you’re not pushing off using your toes when you lunge.  Focus more on pushing up through your heels & your get more glute activation (same goes with the speed squats)
  • Be sure you’re siting up straight for the single arm rows. Core should be tight so you are resisting the twist as you pull your arm back.  This will isolate the correct muscles we’re trying to work.
  • See my previous post on kettlebell swings for correct form.
  • Make sure your upper traps are relaxed during pullups.
  • Be sure you include a dynamic warm-up before you start, as well as a cool down/stretch following the workout.

Feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you have any questions or even if you just want to let me know how the workout went! : )

Post-Workout Nutrition

Post workout nutrition has 3 specific purposes:

  1. Replenish glycogen
  2. Decrease protein breakdown
  3. Increase protein synthesis

Simply put, athletes/exercisers want to

  1. Replenish their energy stores
  2. Increase muscle size and/or muscle quality
  3. Repair the damage that was caused by the workout

It’s important to understand that during your workouts, you’re not making gains.  Instead, you’re basically just tearing your body apart; you’re damaging tissues at a microlevel & using fuel.  This sounds like it’s not a good thing but in fact it is.  This is what ultimately makes us stronger, leaner, fitter, and more muscular BUT in the short term, it requires REPAIR.

The relationship between protein breakdown & protein synthesis represents the metabolic basis for muscle growth.  During a workout, muscle protein synthesis is increased slightly (or unchanged) while protein breakdown is dramatically increased.  So all in all, wer’re doing a lot more breaking down than building up throughout a workout.

“Window of Opportunity”

You have a small amount of time after your workout to re-fuel your body.  This window opens immediately after your workout & closes pretty quickly.  Research suggests that while protein synthesis (rebuilding) persists for about 48 hours after exercise, it’s most important to get post workout nutrition IMMEDIATELY, & within 2 hours after that.  

If you feed your body properly during this window of opportunity, you’ll see benefits & results.  If you delay (even by a couple hours) you’ll be decreasing glycogen stores and protein synthesis (rebuilding).

Finally, WHAT TO EAT…

Consume food or a meal consisting of:

  1. Protein (this is to help aid in protein synthesis)
  2. Carbohydrates (this is to help replace muscle glycogen & enhance the role of insulin in transporting nutrients into cells)

Feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you have questions about specific foods/snacks to consume post-workout! : )

Reference: All About Post Workout Nutrition by Ryan Andrews

Running Backwards

When incorporating any type of running into a training program, whether it be long distance running or short, intervals, it’s inevitable that some type of issue (small or large) will arise in ones muscular or neuromuscular system.

Some common issues include & are not limited to:

  • Shin splints
  • Tendinitis
  • IT Band Syndrome
  • Snapping Hip Syndrome
  • Stress Fractures
  • Patellofemoral Syndrome

Regardless of anything, backwards running is something that should be implemented into any running program.  It creates balance in efforts to avoid minor setbacks such as shin splints.  It is commonly used in a rehab setting, but should also be used in a prehab setting as good maintenance.

From a biomechanical standpoint, backwards running has many differences to walking/running.  When running backwards, most of the muscles that are being shortened during running (forwards), are being stretched (lengthened).  Therefore, we have opposing muscle groups working.  This is a good thing.  Much of the population today has tight hip flexors due to sitting for hours on the job.  Running only tightens them more.  In backwards running, your hip flexors get a break as they no longer are in a flexed (shortened) position, but instead are being lengthened.  There is also a reduction in the compressive forces that exist in the patellofemoral joint in backwards compared to forward running.

To run properly & efficiently, attenion should be paid to the 3 B’s:

  • Big Toe
  • Butt (glutes)
  • Belly (abdominals)

Running backwards is a great way to train these muscles.  The toes are the first to touch the ground therefore the load placed on then here is great to strengthen them.  In the backwards swing phase, it is the glutes that are activating to accelerate the swing into extension.  This allows strengthening of the glute complex and stretching of the hip complex.  In addition, your abdominals must work harder and in a different manner to stay upright while running backwards.

I would suggest starting out walking backwards first, then once you feel comfortable with that, try picking up the speed a little bit and jog.

References: 

Running Backwards by Michol Dalcourt

Quote of the Month

We all know that nothing comes easy.  Anything we want, we have to work hard to get.  This can be work-related, fitness related, or even just related to our daily occurrences in life .  I truly believe that the one thing that separates those who get what they want, & those who fail to get what they set out to obtain is the discipline that is displayed in efforts to achieve these goals.

This is one of my favorite quotes from Jim Rohn’s, Success Strategies: Seven Keys to Wealth & Happiness…

DISCIPLINE ATTRACTS OPPORTUNITY; IT ENCOURAGES SUCCESS & DETERS FAILURE 

Discipline is the bridge between thought & accomplishment.  You can tell yourself everyday that you want to lose 15 pounds.  What’s stopping you from accomplishing this goal? It’s your discipline.  Stay discipline and you will not fail.  The opportunity for you to succeed will be right there within your reach.

So you worked out 5 times this week, great.  How was your diet?  Did you eat pizza one of those nights or did you stick with the grilled chicken, brown rice, & broccoli dinner that you know you should have had instead?  In order to reach this goal of dropping 15 pounds, discipline needs to be displayed in all areas that are related to achieving it.  That would include diet, exercise, sleep, etc.

Take note that repeating today’s small failures can put your life into a disaster & set the tone for tomorrow & the future.  Your overall goal is to implement a lifestyle through your discipline & good habits.  A lifestyle of discipline that will then, in turn, turn into a life full of success & accomplishment. Get at it!

Thoracic Spine Mobility

Our spine plays a crucial role in posture as well as movement.  Every segment of our spine has its own role but let’s take a quick look into the thoracic spine specifically.  Your thoracic spine consists of 12 vertebrae (T1-T12).  Ideally, this portion of our spine is very mobile.  Unfortunately, due to inactive lifestyles and hours spent sitting in front of computers, for many people this isn’t the case.  If a lack of mobility is occurring in the thoracic spine, it needs to come somewhere.  This is where the lumbar spine (or lower back) comes into play.  If the thoracic spine isn’t able to move properly, our body may start to look at our lumbar spine to aid in movement (and since our lumbar spine should be more stable, this is not a good thing).

Follow these steps to test and see how mobile or immobile your thoracic spine is:

  1. Lie on the floor, back flat against the floor (use your abdominal muscles to press your lower back down & tilt your pelvis posteriorly
  2. Bend your knees & be sure your feet and glutes are flat on the floor
  3. Lock your elbows in to your sides and bring your arms directly overhead.  Attempt to touch your wrists to the ground above your head
  4. BE SURE TO MAINTAIN CONTACT BETWEEN YOUR LOWER BACK & THE FLOOR; DONT ARCH YOUR BACK

If you are not able to maintain this position and touch your wrists to the ground, you have less than optimal mobility. Take a look & start incorporating these exercises into your normal routine to help improve your mobility:

Thoracic Spine Foam Roll:

Start in a similar position to the starting point of the thoracic spine mobility test, but this time you will be lying on a foam roller (underneath your back/thoracic spine).  Cross your arms over your chest, tuck your chin to your chest & start rolling.  The slower the better, & if you find a spot that is more tender than others, go ahead & pause on that spot, breathe & try to relax.  This exercise focuses on loosening up the fascia that surrounds your thoracic spine.  Just be sure not to roll your neck or lower back.

Side Lying Rotations (Openbooks):

Start by lying on your right side with a foam roller, block, or pillow underneath your left knee which should be bent at 90 degrees (right leg is straight).  Arms are straight ahead & parallel to the ground, hands together.  While keeping your hips & lumbar spine stable, exhale as you open your top arm (left arm in this case) around until your upper back and arm are flat against the ground (or as close as your mobility allows you).  Be sure to tighten your core as you exhale & take your arm across your body so that your lumbar spine does not rotate.  It may also help to push your knee into the foam roller (or whichever prop you choose).  Do 10 rotations/side, holding for a few seconds as you open up.  Be sure to breathe!

Quadruped Rotations:

Start on your hands & knees.  Right hand should be placed behind your neck as you rotate along your thoracic spine, making your right elbow turn toward the floor.  Sit back in your hips just a bit to keep them from rotating as you twist.  Keep your core tight & breathe! Do 10 reps/side, holding for a few seconds as you twist.

Incorporating these simple exercises in your normal exercise routine will help your thoracic spine mobility, no question about it.  Now get on your way to a healthy back!