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Creatine: What The Research Says

What IS Creatine?

Creatine is an essential molecule that helps provide cellular energy in the body.  More specifically, Creatine Phosphate can be used to replenish the phosphate group on ATP (the energy coin of the cell) after stores have been depleted through physical activity. The creatine phosphate energy pathway is anaerobic meaning it  generates energy without oxygen which makes it readily available to us even if we haven’t increased our ventilation rate yet. Because of this, our phosphocreatine energy pathway is used for short bursts of high energy activity such as olympic weightlifting, short sprints, explosive jumps, etc. Unfortunately, our body doesn’t retain large stores of creatine in its system which is one of the reasons why, for example, we struggle to retain top sprint speeds if we are doing repeated efforts with minimal rest.  In the sporting world, supplementation is thought to increase the ability to regenerate energy in the CP system thus improving physical performance [1,2,3,4].

 

How it works

When ATP (adenosine TRI phosphate) is used in the body it is reduced to ADP (adenosine DI phosphate) meaning it loses one of its phosphates. In the body, creatine and phosphate form reversible bonds and with help from the creatine kinase enzyme these reversible bonds allow ATP, the energy coin of the cell, to be regenerated; this happens because creatinephosphate is used to donate a third phosphate back to ADP in order to regenerate the ATP that can be used for energy.

Research and Performance Improvements

Creatine Monohydrate, one of the most common forms of supplemental creatine, is an exogenous (produced outside the body)  material formulated to be similar to the endogenous (produced inside the body) creatine that is manufactured by our liver, kidneys, and pancreas. In addition to supplements,  creatine can be found in shellfish and other forms of meat. Because food sourced creatine is acquired by eating meat, vegetarians are shown to have lower resting blood creatine levels than meat eaters [1].

Current research indicates that creatine monohydrate supplementation is effective for improving physical performance at high intensity activities which may be responsible for trainee’s increases in muscle mass and strength [1,4]. In some studies, creatine is even shown to improve neurological recovery and performance [4]. While the average daily supplemental does is 3-5g/day, studies have shown that up to 30g/day for 5 years is safe [3,4]. While this example of 30g/day for 5 years would most likely be costly and over the top for most trainees, it showcases that the supplement is widely researched and that even in extreme cases professional researchers have found it to be safe [2, 3, 4].

The International Society of Sports Nutrition, the American Dietetic Association, and the American College of Sports Medicine all agree that creatine supplementation is safe and the “most effective ergogenic nutritional supplement currently available to athletes in terms of increasing high intensity exercise capacity and lean body mass during training.” Furthermore, according to Kreider RB et al., “no study has reported any adverse or ergolytic effect of short- or long-term creatine supplementation while numerous studies have reported performance and/or health benefits in athletes and individuals with various diseases [4]”

If you so choose, you can purchase creatine monohydrate online and in many sports nutrition stores. Personally, I purchase my creatine in bulk online because it is the most cost effective option considering it is something I take every day. The bulk options are generally unflavored, but I add in flavor drops which are very affordable. Furthermore, I use a scale to measure a dose by weight in grams.

Questions, comments, etc?  Drop a comment below!

Disclaimer:

This article does not take the place of advice by a qualified health professional. What’s appropriate for one individual may be counterproductive or unsafe for another. If you are suspicious of an illness, injury and/or are in constant pain the author encourages you to see a doctor, dietician, and/or a therapist to get a proper diagnosis and rule out illness. Illness, pain, and injuries are complicated topics that have a variety of causes and presentations. You should see your doctor before beginning any exercise program. The author is not qualified to prescribe treatments, food, supplementation, or medication. The author is not qualified to  diagnose, or assess medical symptoms or conditions. This article and any information contained there-in is for informational/educational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for medical advice. Please talk to your doctor and medical care providers before starting any supplement or dietary regime and before starting any exercise or fitness program. Kansas State University and Anneliese Spence are not liable for any injuries or illness incurred due to exercise training or supplementation. 

 

Sources

  1. Burke DG, Candow DG, Chilibeck PD, MacNeil LG, Roy BD, Tarnopolsky MA, Ziegenfuss T. Effect of creatine supplementation and resistance-exercise training on muscle insulin-like growth factor in young adults. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2008;18:389–398. [PubMed[
  2.  Cooper, R., Naclerio, F., Allgrove, J., & Jimenez, A. (2012). Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition9(1), 33. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-33
  3. Kreider, R. B., Kalman, D. S., Antonio, J., Ziegenfuss, T. N., Wildman, R., Collins, R., … Lopez, H. L. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition14, 18. doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
  4. Kreider RB, et al. Long-term creatine supplementation does not significantly affect clinical markers of health in athletes. Mol Cell Biochem. 2003;244(1–2):95–104. doi: 10.1023/A:1022469320296. [PubMed] [CrossRef[]

Mythbusters: Fitness Edition!

Myth # 1: Cardio prevents muscle gain – don’t do it!

This claim is FALSE!

Well…mostly, a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning by Wilson et al. titled Concurrent training: a meta-analysis examining interference of aerobic and resistance exercises determined that strength and muscle gain interference from endurance training is depends on the frequency, duration, and kind of training being done. This study determined that concurrent strength and running training reduced strength and size gains moderately, but that bodyfat % reductions we’re greatest in individuals who did both endurance and strength training in the same program.

 

Myth # 2: Lifting weights will make women big and bulky.

FALSE

Lifting weights will not cause your quads to hulk style shred those super cute fabletics tights you just ordered, in fact the “toning up” that most gals are after will happen faster and more efficiently with diligent weightlifting pursuits than it will from spending hours on a treadmill. Women’s muscle is just as powerful as men’s unit for unit, but because of lower testosterone levels women do not pack on lean mass at the same rate as men which means that, unless you’re looking to become a pro-bodybuilder or a professional strongwoman, you’re not going to put on significant size (Faigenbaum, 2008)

Unfortunately, many women aren’t introduced to lifting through sport during high-school the way many men are, lack of experience and education early on can make the weight room intimidating; If you’re curious to learn how to lift – visit our personal training page or swing by the office to apply for a trainer to get you comfortable in the weight room!

Myth # 3: “I’m too old to start exercising”

FALSE

 

Exercise benefits EVERYONE in fact, a new study from Penn State University found that older adults who participated in strength training 2x a week significantly reduced their all cause mortality by 46%, cardiac death risk by 41%, and cancer death risk by 19%.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends older adults (65 and up) accumulate 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity a week and strength 2 or more times per week. You can visit health.gov here to learn more. 

Myth # 4: Strength training is dangerous!

FALSE

Strength training is very safe, in fact resistance training improves muscle and tendon strength and size as well as bone density. Training unilaterally (one sided movements, lunges, single arm presses, rows) to correct imbalances can reduce injury risk even further (Faibenbaum 2009).

 

So ya wanna be Stronger, Faster, AND more Powerful? Pt. 2

Review

To rehash some essentials from pt 1:

Strength: The ability to generate maximum external force on an object

Speed: Velocity of body motion

Power: Force produced x velocity of the movement

(power can also be defined as the rate of performing work)

Peak Power =  happens at around 1/3 maximum velocity

(The peak power of a muscle fiber typically occurs around 15% to 30% of that muscle fiber’s maximal force capacity. )

Power is important because its expression is essential to success in many sports: throwing, punching, jumping, sprinting, changing directions, etc all require power output, and typically the more you’re able to produce the better you’ll perform.

An athlete’s Rate of Force Development is a way to refer to their capacity for producing power.

Training adaptation is specific to the stress imposed on the athlete. This is the SAID principle, Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. So if we want a powerful punch or a powerful jump we will need to train the body-part(s), skills, and movement specifically. We need to train the energy systems, tissues (strength, endurance, and volume tolerance), and nervous system at the proper dosages to elicit power gains.

Training To Improve Power

Now that we’ve reviewed our definitions and refreshed our memory regarding physiology, stress, and adaptation we can dive right in on how to train to improve power output.

Training to improve power requires that we bring into consideration the training experience and performance level of the client (or ourselves for that matter). For example, if I’m training middle school basketball players I likely will not need to use the volume and intensity that I need to use with more developed college aged athletes. The less trained an individual is, the easier it is to make gains with simple exercises performed well and with sufficient frequency.

For the purposes of this article we’re going to aim right down the center on training experience. If you’re brand new to training, improving your power can likely be done with simple exercises, if you’re very experienced this article may also fall outside of your needs as you may need a more complex program to gain power.

First Things First

In order to know if our training is effective we must first establish a baseline. Professional strength coaches have many ($$$ costly!) ways of measuring and assessing the power, force, and velocity profiles of individual athletes but mean power, peak power, velocity of a movement, and force of a movement are some of the most commonly measured variables.

Because most trainees don’t have access to an elite training facility and the equipment to measure these variables, they can establish base line numbers from indirect tests and some simple math. The vertical jump alone does not render us a number that directly represents power so we can utilize the Sayers Power Equation to calculate power output in watts.This way if our body mass changes over the program we can still understand power gains or losses – provided the way we measure vertical jump height is consistent.

PAPw(Watts) = 60.7 x jump height (cm) + 45.3 x Body Mass (kg) – 2055

(keep in mind the equation uses the metric system – google will convert numbers for you! )

For our upper body we can easily indirectly measure power with a medicine ball chest pass by measuring distance. Keep in mind, the mass of the ball and our body position must be consistent across test and retest for this to be accurate.

Developing a plan of attack

Going back to the first article, we touched on a few necessary components to power which were as follows; muscle size, neuromuscular capacity for power and max strength, and the SAID (specific adaptation to imposed demands) principle. When we train we need to keep these three things in mind when we organize our training cycle.

If you’re a strength or single event athlete prepping for a competition your training will look different than if you’re an athlete with a pre/on/post/off season organization. Regardless, we want to train so that we are able to express our power at the time of the year we most need it for our sport. (If you’re a general fitness enthusiast, I would encourage you to set goals and train specifically for them even if you aren’t interested in competition as it provides structure and direction.)

The nitty gritty details regarding organization of sports training are outside the scope of this article but to give us a loose context, training can be organized into the following structure:

Macrocycle:

  • generally your entire training year, this focuses on improving performance for the peaking before a major event, or getting a broad overview of your sport season. Because a year is so long there are typically adjustments along the way, but understanding what skills you need to train when, how well you might be prepared to recover, and how much competitive work you’ll be doing is important.

Mesocycle:

  • This is usually a several week chunk of time, one example might be a 4 week training phase focusing on peaking for a powerlifting competetion. There are many mesocycles in a macrocycle.

Microcycle:

 

  • Most training plans keep the microcycle within the confines of a 7 day week, this encompasses the workouts for the week.

There are many kinds of programming, most utilize periodization of exercises in either a linear (increasing intensity/ & reducing volume), block (one skill at a time rotating in sequence), undulating (varying volume/intensity in waves over time), conjugate (concurrent training of multiple skills at once), or combination of the methods above format.

For now, we are going to simply focus on building one mesocycle with 4 x 1 week microcycles that prioritizes power but still maintains our strength and some of our capacity for volume (concurrent training).

The Exercises

  • Primary Power Exercises:

These exercises typically require a higher skill level and are rather fatiguing. We usually place them at the beginning of a session after our soft tissue and dynamic warmups. These exercises impact the nervous system significantly and cover the neuromuscular power component of our three priorities.

  • Olympic lifts such as the clean, snatch, jerk and their variations
  • Very explosive KB swings
  • Jumps and loaded jumps
  • Ballistic movements such as those done explosively with bands or chain
  • Medicine ball throws

Typically we keep the rep range relatively low (1-5) for power exercises as it is important to maintain the coordination and speed of the movements. Excessive fatigue from high reps limits how much power gain we can achieve. This is why very high rep olympic lifts and very high rep jumps make little sense as we may be detraining our capacity for power in the name of conditioning. There are many better ways to build conditioning that don’t limit our power on big movements!

Total sets are typically slightly higher when reps are very low with 4×5, 6×3, and 8×2 all being popular set/rep schemes.

Our intensity will also be relatively low likely starting out around 30% of maximum force capacity. For example, 30lbs for speed squats if our max squat is 100lbs.

Strength Exercises:

These exercises are programmed to maintain the strength and muscle mass to generate power throughout the program. They are typically done as a secondary primary exercise after our primary power exercise. These exercises cover both the neuromuscular strength component and to a slightly lesser degree the size component.

  • Front squats
  • Back squats
  • Bench, flat, incline, etc
  • Barbell rows
  • etc….

Rep ranges here will still be relatively low similar to our power exercises (3-6 reps), however our total sets will most likely start at 3 sets and our beginning intensity will start around 70%.

Accessory/Volume Exercises

These are the exercises we use to maintain core strength, local muscular endurance and overall capacity for volume. Think lighter barbell movements, dumbbells, bodyweight, etc with lighter loads and higher reps for moderate sets. 2-4 exercises should be sufficient and exercise selection will generally be based on supporting the main lifts and bringing up any individual weaknesses. These focus in part on the size component, keep up some lower intensity volume, let us keep certain body parts healthy/balanced (think postural exercises, bird dogs, band pull-aparts, etc), and let us bring weak parts up.

This part could be as simple as a leg day being followed by a tri-set of walking lunges, side planks, and hip thrusters, a kettlebell complex, or a bodyweight exercise circuit finisher.

Putting it all together (finally!)

Let’s imagine for a moment that Suzie has just graduated college, she was a competitive NCAA soccer athlete for her entire time in school, and now that she’s in the big kid world of full time jobs, loan payments, and being on her own insurance she doesn’t have much time to train. She figures that she can really only train 3 days a week for about an hour at a time. Her old vertical jump height was about 16 inches which, according the the NSCA’s is about average for a college female soccer player. Currently she weighs 130lbs.

Her jump in cm = 40.64 cm

her mass in kg = 58.97

Her peak anaerobic power output =

PAPw(Watts) = (60.7 x 40.64) + (45.3 x 58.97) – 2055

= 3,083.19 Watts

With 3 days a week to train Suzie can organize her training as follows:

Day 1: Highest intensity day of the week, moderate volume

Day 2: Lowest intensity day of the week, moderate volume

Day 3: Mid-High intensity, moderate volume

Finally, she comes up with the program below:

After 8 weeks of following her program, Suzie retests her vertical jump!

She jumps 17 inches after the program and has gained some lean mass over the course of it too. Now she weighs 134 lbs instead of 130.

Her new height in cm = 43.18

Her new weight in kg = 60.78

PAPw(Watts) = (60.7 x 43.18) + (45.3 x 60.78) – 2055

Her new peak power output is:

3319.36 Watts

Her gain = (3319.36 Watts – 3,083.19 Watts) = 236.17 Watts!

Program? = SUCCESS!

Sources

1.
Bondarchuk, A. P.,
& Yessis, M. (2007). Transfer of training in sports. Michigan:
Ultimate Athlete Concepts.

2.
Boyle, M.
(2016). New functional training for sports. Champaign, IL: Human
Kinetics.

3.
Hoffman, J. R.
(2012). NSCAs guide to program design. Champaign, IL: Human
Kinetics.

4.
NSCA -National
Strength & Conditioning Association. (2017). Developing Power.
Human Kinetics Publishers.

5.
Parker, J., Miller,
A., Panariello, R., & Hall, J. (2018). The system: Soviet
Periodization adapted for the American strength coach
. Aptos, CA: On Target
Publications.

6.
Zatsiorsky, V. M.,
& Kraemer, W. J. (2006). Science and Practice of Strength Training.
Champaign, ILL.: Human Kinetics.

So Ya Wanna Be Stronger, Faster, and More Powerful?? Pt 1

First things first

For starters, let’s lay down a few definitions. Within the context of sport science, speed, power, and strength are defined slightly different. Furthermore, for the sake of this article we will discuss iso-kinetic movements, where our joint angles change (a sprint, a bicep curl, etc). We will not be discussing iso-metric exercises where no joint positions change (a plank, a wall sit, etc).

Strength: The ability to generate maximum external force on an object

Speed: Velocity of body motion

Power: Force produced x velocity of the movement

Internal Force: Force produced by one part of the body on another part, this is not considered in the definition of strength.

External Force: Forced produced by the body on an external object

Resistance: External load, drag (such as water in rowing), inertia, friction, gravity, etc

Force Velocity Curve

According to the force velocity curve, it is not possible to exert maximum force and maximum velocity simultaneously. For example, our maximum force is exerted in a 1 rep max deadlift, but the velocity of the lift is relatively slow. On the other hand, we can do an extremely fast snatch or clean with an empty bar though we aren’t creating much force due to the light load. If we want to be stronger and faster simultaneously, we have to shift the force-velocity curve to the right. This means that our maximum force capacity would have to happen at a higher velocity (curve shifts right).

Because peak power happens at around 1/3 maximum velocity, and because power = force * velocity, a right shifted curve allows peak power to increase which means we can tackle harder, jump higher, and lift more faster.

The phenomenon of producing more force more quickly is referred to as Rate of Force Development. Improving RFD is a critical component to living up the the daft punk song. The unfortunate thing here is that the skills of being very fast and very strong are reasonably specific; meaning that powerlifters produce tons of force but they’re not necessarily very fast and that sprinters are very fast but they aren’t going to compete with powerlifters for max strength. Thus, training to improve power (the combo of force and speed) requires that we train both skills in an organized manner as part of our training program otherwise we might wind up super strong but not very fast or pretty fast but only a little bit stronger.

The Physiology of Being a Powerhouse

1) In order to contract, our muscles form cross bridges within a specialized cell called a sarcomere. Contraction happens at a tiny level that accumulates to a big effect because one muscle is made of many many sarcomeres. Though contraction happens pretty quickly, it still takes time.

2) Sliding filaments in the muscle overlap slightly and bond to each other when they receive a nerve impulse, this starts a chemical cascade in the cells. As bonds form between myosin and actin (the thick and thin filaments respectively), they pull the filaments into each-other in a dense overlapping pattern. The more cross bridges that form in the muscle cell, the more force the muscle can produce. You see, each myosin filament has little “heads” that grab onto the actin, after they grab on they produce a cocking action that yanks the actin into the center with force. The more heads that latch on the more force produced and the stronger the contraction.

3) Because high velocity movements happen so fast, less cross bridges form when compared to the quantity that are allowed to form with longer duration high force demanding movements.

4) There are fast twitch fibers (IIX and IIB) and slow twitch fibers (IIA). Fast twitch favor explosive force and strength production but they fatigue relatively quickly, while slow twitch fibers favor endurance and fatigue more slowly. This has to do with differentiation in metabolism and energy use in the cell as well as the motor unit innervating the fibers. Our brain senses what we are trying to accomplish and recruits the fiber types for the job. With only a few exceptions, we recruit type I first and if the task is challenging enough our body recruits more fibers to do the work. This is called Henneman’s Size Principle.

5) The capacity to create force with muscle tissue depends in part on the cross sectional area, i.e. if your bicep is as big as your head it is most likely capable of producing more force than if you’re flexing a string bean. Furthermore, type IIX and IIB muscle tissues tend to have larger cross sectional areas than IIA. Thus, strongmen are bigger around than marathon runners.

6) We tend to improve at movements patterns we train but improving one doesn’t necessarily improve another. Meaning that even if I get really strong at leg press I may not improve my squat or my jump very much even though they look similar.

This is a loose analogy, but picture velcro; if you slide two fuzz and hook layers of velcro on eachother and get them to attach, the attachment will be stronger if more hooks grab the loops than if less hooks grab loops. Muscles are similar, but rather than being pressed onto eachother like velcro, they bond and pull to create a sliding action to create the contraction.

How do we use strength and speed to improve power?

Now that we know the underlying machinery and now that we understand the relationship between force and velocity, we have to understand how that cellular machinery relates to the curve.

When we train we are creating stress to drive adaptation in the body, this stress happens at many levels (neurologic, metabolic, etc). Furthermore, this stress is specific and the adaptation is specific in response. This is called the SAID principle, or specific adaptations to imposed demands.

Because peak power happens at around 1/3 maximum velocity, we are going to focus on strength training as our primary way to improve power and speed work as our secondary way to improve power. Why? Well…

When we train for force production we improve hypertrophy (growth) of the muscle tissue meaning we improve our cross sectional area and our capacity for force production and thus power (remember power = force * velocity). If we are training with heavy weights, a lot of this growth happens in IIX and IIB fibers (the fast ones!), but some occurs in IIA too. This growth is caused by many hormonal, metabolic, enzymatic, etc adaptations but we won’t go into those for now. All we need to know is getting bigger can help us create force and give us more tissue that is capable of moving fast, and once we have that tissue we can train it to move even more quickly in order to improve overall power. Research indicates that speed work alone doesn’t generate as much hypertrophy as we need, but that when used with strength based work it can certainly up our gains so we need to train both.

In part 2 of “So ya wanna be stronger, faster, and move powerful?” we will learn about how to select exercises and plan training in order to maximize power gains.

Flexin’ On Your Brain

Today starts the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week here at K-State!

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Week, let’s explore the benefits that exercise and physical activity have on mental health!

 

 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 20% of Adults in the United States live with mental illness – thats 46.6 million people! In other words, if you live with mental illness or struggle with your mental wellbeing, you are not alone! If we’re looking at the average college aged individual who falls between 18 and 25 years old that number jumps to 25.8% of individuals living with mental illness.

According to the article Exercise for Mental Health by Sharma et al., “Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function.”

Exercise can help us:

  • Reduce feelings of depression and anxiety
  • Help us cope with stress better
  • Increase our energy levels, mood, self esteem, and self confidence
  • Improve our cognitive function, well being, and quality of sleep

If you’ve just started exercising, are new to the campus, or simply new to the rec center there are heaps of options for you to begin your journey with physical activity:

  1. You can check out our fall group fitness schedule by clicking here
  2. The second session of Cat Fit, a fun cross training class that involves weightlifting, HIIT, and strength and conditioning begins on October 21st! To sign up, you can register at the rec services office.
  3. The Rec is offering FREE (you read that right) intro to lifting courses on the 27th of October and the 17th of November and you can register by following this link .
  4. Looking for one on one or individualized instruction with a buddy? Check our our personal training services here.
  5. Intramural sports are an excellent way to build community and get active on a regular basis and learn something new – check ’em out here! 

In addition to the rec center, there’s lots of awesome events being put on around campus this week through PAWS (Peer Advocates for Mental Wellness and Success).

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental wellness on campus, visit the K-State Counseling Services located in Lafene Health Center.

From the Counseling Services Website:

If you are in immediate crisis and one of the following applies to you:

  • You feel you are in immediate danger of harming yourself
  • You feel you are in immediate danger of harming someone else
Call:
  • 911 and ask for help
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
  • The Trevor Lifeline (Suicide Prevention for LGBTQ Youth) 866-4-U-TREVOR (1-866-488-7386)

Text a national crisis text line:

  • START to 741-741
  • STEVE to 741741 (Crisis support for young people of color)

Go to the local Emergency Room (In Manhattan, KS, Ascension Via Christi Hospital is located at 1823 College Avenue).

CRISIS RESOURCES:

On and off campus resources

Off-campus in Manhattan, KS

On-campus

Sexual Assault Resources
National Sexual Assault Hotline
; 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673)

Helping a friend who has been sexually assaulted

What are you rooting for?

What are you rooting for?

So…maybe you’re rooting for yourself to get that next big squat or deadlift – BUT are you literally rooting yourself? All dad jokes aside, rooting the foot is a critical component to setting ourselves up for success in the gym.

Why rooting?

Websters defines rooting as “to establish deeply and firmly”

Our feet are the only body part physically in contact with the floor, and thus the only contact point we have to use in order transfer force from our musculature through to the ground. We need to establish our foot placement firmly in order to lift, so we root our foot to the ground!

In the theory of dynamic neuromuscular stabilization, the body only functions optimally when placed in positions where we are fully aligned and stable. Proper alignment permits our neuromuscular systems to stabilize the whole system which in turn allows us to produce more force and more coordinated movement. If our base isn’t in a good position, the stability of our whole system is compromised which means we lose more squats to falling forwards, more deadlifts to falling back, and our lunges and swings are harder to control.

By placing our feet in a stable and rooted position we help generate stability from the ground up. From this rooted position we are better able to maintain pelvic and spinal stability, proper breathing, and proper bracing – thus we are better able to produce force in training or sport.

Check out the video below for a rundown on how to execute this essential skill:

How to root

Warming Up for Greater Gains

Five minutes on the treadmill, some deep lunges, toss some plates on the bar and squat away…sound familiar?

If this sounds like your usual warm-up, we’ve got some work to do!

When training, I like to break the warm up into a few priorities that need addressing, on paper these look split into three distinct phases, in practice each phase bleeds into the next.

1)Temperature and Metabolism

Starting every workout with a general roll out and movements such as simple dynamic stretches that elevate heart rate and body temperature helps metabolic processes function optimally for the rest of the session. For example; a light row, knee hugs, walking quad stretches, and body weight walking lunges would all be sufficient to raise body temp and heart rate while taking tissues through light ROM.

 

2) Tissue and Movement Range of Motion

The goal of this phase is to progress into more ROM with basic dynamic stretches while adding in slightly more demanding warm up drills. This phase will prepare the specific tissues needed for the session for the ranges of motion and positions that will be demanded of the movements during the workout. For example, toy soldiers, shin boxes, lateral banded walks, and deep side lunges would all be appropriate to warm the hips up for a squatting session. Of course, the specific movements chosen should be chosen to address individual needs, the above 3 are not mandatory or suggested for everyone prior to squatting.

3) Neurological Arousal

Lastly, explosive activation drills should be utilized. Med ball slams and throws, hops, jumps, etc as well are all appropriately placed early in the session to warm up the nervous system for larger lifts as well as allowing any plyometric work to be done without fatigue. i.e do your box jumps first at an appropriate dose, doing 100 jumps in the middle of a workout after heavy squats is a recipe for precipitating injury later on.

Another way to think about the above traits is the RAMP method:

 

Raise

Raise refers to raising key elements, such as body temperature as discussed above, heart rate, respiration, blood flow, and joint viscosity

 

Activate and Mobilize

In this phase we activate the muscle groups we are going to be training in a more specific way in addition to mobilizing specific joints and movement patterns.

 

Potentiation for performance

Again, plyometric drills, sprint starts, or movement drills mimicking an athlete’s sport are all appropriately placed here.

 

First things first, get warm!

Our muscular system is a complex and nuanced chemical system that functions optimally at warmer temperatures. Think of it this way, you’re a baker that needs to make a yeast bread; at first, the little dormant yeasts are cold from the fridge, putting them in a sugar water base cold and adding that to your dough won’t make it rise. First, you must heat the water to the optimal temperature for yeast (too cold and it won’t activate, too hot and it dies), then “feed” it the sugar water mix so that it will begin metabolizing the sugar, it is the yeast’s metabolic processes that eventually will leaven the bread.

Much like the little yeasts that make our bread rise, our muscles need to be at an optimal temperature for metabolic processes to occur. Too cold and we don’t function well, too hot (think high humidity and hot weather induced hot) and we decline in our performance ability.

To quote the text Biochemistry for Sport and Exercise Metabolism, “rates of reaction show a linear increase up until about approximately 50*C…such sensitivity to temperature underpins our need to actively warm-up prior to exercise, so as to increase muscle temperature and increase enzyme activity in our muscles.Indeed, muscle temperature can rise from 35*C at rest to 41*C during intense exercise (Morton et al.,2006). To put this into a sporting performance context, a professional soccer player typically cover less distance in the first five-minute period of the second half period, compared with the last five min of the first half, and this has been suggested to be due to a fall in muscle temperature to near resting values during the half-time period (Mohr et al., 2004). In such instances, the same researches also observed that performing light exercise during half-time to keep muscle temperature (and enzymes active) high can offset such performance decrements”

So now we know that we need to elevate body temperature prior to training for optimal performance. We also know that if we are participating in long bouts of exercise with larger breaks in between such as half time at a ball game, gaps between lifts and lifters at a powerlifting meet, or rests between events at a cross fit competition that we need to do something in between to keep our temperature up that isn’t excessively fatiguing.

 

Movin’ and Grovin’

As discussed above, we need to get more specific and take care of our tissues while exploring new ranges of motion. Pressing overhead? Get overhead! Do some T-spine mobilizations and wall slides. Squatting? Take your hips through the range of motion they will need under load, maybe you’ll notice your left glute is kind of tight and note that you should tackle it with a tennis ball before getting under heavier loads. This is an opportunity to explore your body and check in with what needs some extra TLC before you jump into the main part of your session.

Jump Around!

Before fatigue sets in from the lifting session I like to take participants through explosive drills and skill practice. These help potentiate the nervous system’s ability to send signals to the tissue during lifting while also improving general athleticism and rate of force development.

So what makes a great warm up?

Get your HR going, get some dynamic movements in, make it specific to your training, and get explosive! Got it? GOOD – GO TRAIN!

Sources:

Gabriel, D. D. (2006). Neural adaptations to resistive exercise: mechanisms and recommendations for training practices. Sports Medicine, 133-149.

MacLauren, D and Morton, J. (2012). Biochemistry for Sport and Exercise Metabolism. Wiley-Blackwell

Shield, D. A. (2004). Assessing voluntray muscle activation with the twitch interpolation technique . Sports Medicine, 253-267.

Sleeping for greater gains

We all know sleep is important…but how well do we prioritize it?

As college students, lots of things fight for our attention; homework, exercise, new friends, jobs, and the ever so tempting late night out in Aggieville all cry “pick me! pick me!” All of these to-do’s can pile up, and for most of us the first thing to suffer is sleep. Both the quality and quantity of our sleep can be affected by these new stressors, the excitement of the school year, and the anxiety over performing well in the new school year. Unfortunately, even small amounts of sleep deprivation can take a massive toll on our physical and mental health and our gains in the gym.

An article by the National Sleep Foundation states “Sleep deprivation has also been seen to decrease production of glycogen and carbohydrates that are stored for energy use during physical activity. In short, less sleep increases the possibility of fatigue, low energy, and poor focus at game time. It may also slow recovery post-game.” When we train, we deplete glycogen stores and while proper post exercise nutrition can help replenish this, we need sleep to restore it too. An article in the in the European Journal of Applied Physiology by Rae, et al, discovered that “One night of partial sleep deprivation impairs recovery.” Without adequate sleep we cannot produce sufficient cellular energy to train. Without sufficient cellular energy, we cannot elicit the training stimulus we need for our goals, we wind up tired, under slept and under recovered, and potentially weaker than when we started.

So, how do we get a better night sleep? Maybe the answer is simple, one less episode of late night netflix, cutting out one late night party a week, or finding more time during our day for homework or studying so we can avoid staying up late and pulling all nighters. Do you already do these things and still struggle to get adequate sleep? Try some of the tips in the list below and zzz’s you way to greater gains in the gym.

  1. Go screen free
    • Too much light in the evening, in particular the blue light emitted by electronic devices can keep our brains running late into the evening. Typically, low light or the darkness we experience at bedtime helps elicit melatonin release which makes us sleepy at night, Interrupting this with the light from your phone, computer, and tablet can keep you artificially wired later than you want to be. Can’t fall asleep with out reading? Try printing that online article or hitting up the library for a hard copy of that book you can’t put down. Phone won’t stop buzzing? Try using the do not disturb feature on your phone to keep tech related sleep interruptions to a minimum.
  2. Cut caffeine after lunch
    • Caffeine takes about 45 minutes to kick in after you consume it, and it has a half life of 4 ±1.5 hrs meaning that if you drink 40mg at 12:00, you probably still have 20mg around 5:00 pm, and potentially 10mg left around 9:00 or 10:00 depending on how fast you metabolize the drug. If you’re sensitive to caffeine and you wake up at 6:00 AM, you might be hampering you effect to fall asleep by 10:00 (the time you’d need to fall asleep to get 8:00 hours of sleep).
  3. Exercise!
    • If you don’t already, hitting the rec for a class, some weights, or even some cardio can help you sleep better. Exercise helps the body maintain healthy circadian rhythms, have a lower body temperature prior to bed, and helps reduce anxiety symptoms which can inhibit sleep.

Any other tips? Drop a comment below!

Plank or nah?

One of the most common core exercises is the plank. It can be a great exercise because it involves a lot more core strength than any single ab muscle alone can provide.

The plank recruits muscles from the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques, and several muscles in the back. It even places stress on the legs, shoulders, and arms, making it a full body exercise.

If you do it right. So how do you know if your form is good? What if you can plank for over a minute? (Read more below)

Pictured on top is a picture of a plank with bad form, and how most individuals I’ve seen doing a plank preform the exercise, especially when fatigue sets in.

The problem is the lower back is sagging, even though the body as a whole is relatively straight. To fix this, try to posteriorly tilt your pelvis. This means tilting the front of your hips up while tilting the back of your hips down, like tucking your tail bone.

This position decreases the exaggeration of curvature in the lower back, as seen in the middle picture. This keeps you in a safer position, and greatly increases the involvement of your lower abs.

If you can maintain that position with some ease, move your body into a long lever position. Do this by scooting your elbows forward of your shoulders a few inches as shown in the bottom picture.

This is a very challenging position to hold. The greater the challenge the greater the reward. If you have already mastered planks with pelvic tilt, move on to the long lever position while maintaining the tilt and low back integrity.

Check out the study below for more information on how this exercise really effects abdominal and core contraction.

Schoenfeld, B. J., Contreras, B., Tiryaki-Sonmez, G., Willardson, J. M., & Fontana, F. (2014). An electromyographic comparison of a modified version of the plank with a long lever and posterior tilt versus the traditional plank exercise. Sports biomechanics13(3), 296-306.

 

~GT the PT

How should exercises differ when training for weight loss versus muscle gain?

The information you have and the decisions you make, have a significant impact on your efficiency. The information many people have is that you should do aerobic training (cardio) for weight loss and lift weights for muscle gain. However, this information is probably not the best to get you to your goals the most quickly.

 

First, as a personal trainer, typically when people are looking to lose weight, what they really want is to lose fat, and of course the weight that comes with that loss of fat or visa versa. I will continue this with the thought of fat loss as opposed to general weight loss, although they are often closely related.

 

Cardiovascular exercise, also called cardio for short, can really be anything that increases your heart rate above resting levels. Doing 30-60 minutes of cardio per day can be a great way to stay healthy and burn calories. The down fall is your body does not continue to burn an excess mount of calories as a consequence of this type of exercise.

 

So how can we burn extra calories while not working out?

 

This is where resistance training or weight lifting can come in handy. When heavy loads are moved, the muscles tend to become sore. This is from slightly damaging the muscles. When damage occurs in the body, the body automatically finds a way to try and repair. The body will use protein to help fix the damaged muscles. This requires a lot of extra work that you don’t even realize is going on.

 

Where there is extra work, there are extra calories being burned.  Assuming you’re not overeating, and you are getting adequate protein on a day to day basis, a combination of cardio and weightlifting training is the best way to get great results for losing or maintaining weight, while also shedding fat and maintaining lean muscle mass.

 

How about for people who only want to build muscle, and don’t care about losing any fat?

 

Resistance training should be the main focus of your program, especially if you have. Difficult time gaining weight or muscle. Cardio training is still an important aspect for health. Keep in mind that being lean does not mean you are always healthy and being overweight does not always mean you are unhealthy.

 

Performing some form of cardio exercise on a regular basis is still a good idea. I recommend at least 20 minutes 3 times a week. Or to be most efficient, incorporate large muscle, compound movements such as deadlift, squat, bench press, seated rows, and others that can keep your heart rate slightly elevated throughout the workout.

 

~GT the PT

How much exercise is the RIGHT amount of exercise

A lot of us live busy lives, and keeping a schedule is a real task. As a personal trainer, I hear a lot about time being a barrier to physical activity. I also hear a lot about the goals of each individual, weight loss, muscle gain, general health, or however you slice it.

The question then becomes, how can we maximize our results for our health and goals, while minimizing the amount of time spent in the gym?

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends obtaining 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity, or a mix of the two (1). Activities like brisk walking or very light resistance training would be considered moderate physical activity, while things like running at an incline and lifting heavy weights are considered vigorous.

The great thing is when we talk about health, you can also get your physical activity outside of the gym, walking or jogging through a park, hiking, or even household chores like vacuuming are all considered forms of physical activity as well.

Remember, the more aggressive your goal however, the more work you have to put it on both diet and physical activity.

As a personal trainer, I typically recommend people to start with 20 minutes three times per week doing something that gets you breathing heavy, hiking, cycling, or whatever you can enjoy. Try watching a show or listening to music while you exercise if it helps keep you motivated. Additionally, try resistance training twice per week for about 30 minutes. This will put you about 20 minute under the recommended guidelines, but a great place to start.

As you progress along your journey, try increasing the intensity as you tolerate it. For my advanced clients, I recommend being active daily, but intense workouts that combine both cardiovascular training and resistance training allow you to really minimize your time exercising while maintaining all you have achieved!

 

ACSM Reference: Haskell, W. L., Lee, I. M., Pate, R. R., Powell, K. E., Blair, S. N., Franklin, B. A., … & Bauman, A. (2007). Physical activity and public health: updated recommendation for adults from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Circulation116(9), 1081.

Cross Training

I’ve heard a lot of people talking about how they need to, “go hard every day”. While I admire their dedication and enthusiasm, this is not what is best for your body. What is best for your body is being active every day, but changing up your intensity. If you workout until your whole body is shaking and you are utterly exhausted, that’s great, but you don’t want to do that every single day.

Continue reading “Cross Training”

No-Equipment Workouts

A lot of people find it difficult to come up with the resources to make it to the gym. Whether they are lacking in money, time, transportation, or will-power, there are still ways to get a good workout in without ever leaving the comfort of your house.

I will list some exercises that are versatile enough to be done anywhere, but if the weather is good, I would encourage you to do them outside to reap the benefits of fresh air and sunlight. I will also include some exercises that can only be done outside, because exercising outdoors gives you a lot more options.

Continue reading “No-Equipment Workouts”

Interview With Alex

I chatted with personal trainer Alex Wodtke about her role as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, and her future. Alex is graduating this May, so continue reading to see what she is planning to do post-graduation.

UPDATE: After this interview was done, Alex actually found out she got accepted into Mayo Clinic’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program, congratulations Alex!

Continue reading “Interview With Alex”

Interview With Gabby

Today I spoke with personal trainer Gabby Faraone. Gabby is from Paraguay, and she came to K-State to study nutrition and kinesiology. Gabby is involved in many different things, and a fun fact about her is that she writes for the collegian, in the health and wellness section. Read on to learn more about her passion for holistic health, what inspired her to delve into this field, and much more.

Continue reading “Interview With Gabby”

Stress Awareness Month

We all have so much going on in our lives, experiencing stress is inevitable. While a certain amount of stress can be good, most of us are over-stressed. If you have begun to notice signs of burnout, it might be a good idea to take a step back and slow down a bit. With April being Stress Awareness Month, I wanted to share with you about some of my favorite stress-reduction practices. Later this month I will share about mediation, and today I will be talking about yin yoga.

Continue reading “Stress Awareness Month”

The Psoas

How many of you stretch your psoas on a regular basis? A lot of us don’t even know what the psoas is, much less, how to stretch it or what it does. In today’s post, we are going to find out where this muscle is located, it’s many functions, and how to stretch and strengthen it.

The Iliopsoas is a muscle in the body that serves as the connector between the torso and the legs. This muscle has been getting a lot of attention lately, as it serves many different functions. “The Psoas Book”, by Liz Koch is one of many books that has been published about this fascinating muscle. Her book examines the effect of the psoas on the body, mind, and emotions.

“How could a muscle and our emotions be connected?”, you might ask. According to Yoga Journal, “Either emotional trauma or an ongoing lack of emotional support can also lead to chronically contracted psoas, and thus to a loss of core awareness.” Yoga Journal suggest learning to release your psoas to promote, “…a sense of relaxation and calm that can infuse all your activities”. This is a significant impact that our emotions can have on our physical bodies.

Now, lets identify where this muscle is in our body. As I said before, this muscle connects the torso and legs. The psoas is located behind our internal organs in our abdomen. Yoga International says, “the psoas originates from the lumbar vertebrae and forms a strip of muscle almost as big as a wrist along each side of the spine.” From the spine, they said it wraps down and around the front of the hips and attaches to the femur bone.

Now let’s talk about how to stretch and strengthen our psoas muscle. Our psoas muscle gets tight when it is continually contracted. This is when it needs to be stretched and lengthened. Yoga poses such as warrior 1 and lunge pose can stretch the psoas. On the flip side, if you need to strengthen your psoas, poses that contract your psoas will be beneficial. Try poses like padanghustasana (reclining big toe pose) or navasana (boat pose).

Now you know what, and where your psoas is, and understand how important a healthy psoas is to your well-being. Use these tips to keep your psoas strengthened and stretched.

 

 

 

Sources:

https://www.yogajournal.com/practice-section/the-psoas-is

https://yogainternational.com/article/view/how-to-stretch-and-strengthen-the-psoas

 

Most Common Barriers to Exercise

Hello everyone, I hope you are all sticking with your fitness goals at this point in the year! It can be challenging to keep up with your workouts, and to learn to prioritize your fitness goals. Although your fitness regime doesn’t need to be your top priority, your health should be towards the top. And our priorities are not what we say are important to us, they are the things we are actually spending our time on. We are out of the season of New Years Resolutions, yet it has still been cold outside, and many of us have slid back into inactivity. In today’s post, we will examine some of the most common reasons people have for not exercising, as well as solutions to help keep you on track!

Problem: Not enough time

Solution: Make exercise a priority. The only person who can change your circumstances is you. If you currently have a sporadic (or nonexistent) exercise regime, start with just a few sessions per week, and work up from there. Figure out how many sessions you want to train, how much time you have, and make it a priority to work out during these times. Put your sessions in your calendar, and tell someone who can help you stay accountable.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “I am so stressed and busy, I don’t have time to workout”. I would encourage you to redefine what “enough time” is. If you are not working out at all, even just ten minutes twice a week could make a big difference. If you don’t even have a spare twenty minutes a week, see what you could cut out. Where can you find more time? Maybe you can cut back on your Netflix or social media time. It all comes down to what your priorities are. As the Minimalist’s say, “Your priorities are what you do each day, the small tasks that move forward the second and minute hands on the clock: these circadian endeavors are your musts. Everything else is simply a should.”

Problem: Lack of support

Solution: If the people you spend most of your time with don’t enjoy physical activity, it can be hard to get started yourself. However, there are things you can do to stay committed to your goals, despite what your support group does/doesn’t do.

Explain your goals to these important people in your life and explain the benefits of doing these things. Chances are they will be happy or proud of you, and if not, stay strong in your resolve, and commit to doing it anyway. You can invite them to participate with you, if they are worried about not getting to spend as much time with you. This could also help you stay committed if you have an accountability partner. Win-win!

Problem: Lack of motivation and energy

Solution: Pay attention to your habits and figure out what part of the day you tend to have the most energy. For example, I try to always schedule my own workouts in the morning, because that is when I have the most energy, and it keeps my energy high for the rest of the day. It is important to understand though, that this is just what works best for me personally. I know many people and have had many clients who need a very different schedule. Find what works best for you personally.

Another option is to find an accountability partner. This could be a friend that you come work out with, this could be a significant other, a personal trainer, or a group fitness class. The biggest reason I hear clients coming to me, is for accountability. They know that paying for sessions will help keep them motivated to get their money’s worth. Once again, find something that works for you. It also helps if you can find something enjoyable. If you look forward to your sessions or classes, you will be much more likely to show up.

Problem: lack of a space/equipment

Solution: Use your body! Body weight exercises cost you nothing, and you don’t need anything but yourself to complete a body weight workout. Exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, running, and planks require nothing but you. You can do HIIT workouts with no equipment if you want, which is a really effective way to just use your body weight. You can get creative and “make your own weights”. You could use a couple of full water bottles for front raises or lateral raises. Use what you already have.

Another option that may be free for you is going to a park. Assuming you don’t have to drive there, you could walk, bike, or run. Once you get there you can do lots of different exercises on the playground. Or if there is a fitness park, they have free equipment that you can use. There is a fitness park at Cico Park here in Manhattan.

Problem: Lack of money for space or equipment

Solution: If you don’t have any spare money to spend on fancy workout clothes, equipment, classes, or gyms, you don’t have to skip your workout! You can use Youtube at home to find just about any fitness class from yoga to HIIT workouts. You can do body weight exercises as I mentioned before, you can go for a run, or use the park. You don’t have to wear lululemon or gym shark to get an effective workout in. If you really don’t already have any clothes suitable for working out in, go to a thrift store and see what you can find. Exercise should be more about how you feel on the inside, rather than how you look on the outside. Expand your idea of fitness beyond the gym. You don’t have to spend a dime on your exercise routine if you don’t want to.

Problem: Injury/illness

Solution: You will have certain limitations to what you can do, depending on your illness or injury, but most likely you can still find a way to be physically active during your recovery time. Maybe your workouts are just walking at first, maybe you broke your wrist, so you focus more on lower body. Even if you have a disease, you can likely find an activity that will be manageable for your current fitness level. Be sure to find modifications to suit your needs.

I hope that these scenarios are applicable to you, and that you learned some ways to combat the common barriers to exercise. Don’t wait to start implementing some of these changes, make your health a priority, and change today.

Interview With Shea

This week for our second personal trainer interview, I talked with personal trainer Shea Crum. Shea has worked at the rec as a personal trainer for about a year now. Read on to learn about Shea’s internship in Colorado, and his tips for success in life. He shared lots of great quotes and principles to follow. Shea was also the employee of the month for February!

Continue reading “Interview With Shea”