Development of the Alactic System Part III- Alactic Capacity

In a previous post, the development of alactic power was discussed.  In most athletic contests, athletes need to not only be explosive and powerful, but they also need to sustain that power over the course on an entire contest.   In order to develop this quality, appropriate programming to develop capacity of the alactic system will enable an athlete to compete with speed and power repeatedly for the duration of a contest; Verkhoshansky & Verkhoshansky (2011) defines power and capacity in this manner:

Capacity- the total quantity of producing energy

Power- the quantity of energy produced in the time unit

Improving the capacity (or conditioning) of the alactic system requires that short duration efforts greater than 95% intensity (<8 seconds) are repeated in multiple bouts.  An important component of this type of training is to keep an individual below their anaerobic threshold; the athlete should not begin to utilize the lactic system due to the intensity zone utilized being too slow for speed development (Francis, 2008).  Keeping the athlete below anaerobic threshold with efforts greater than 95% with appropriate rest intervals means the speed and power of the effort will be maintained for the duration of the session.

This type of conditioning can be performed with both jumps and sprints.  The key is to have a high intensity effort as described previously, with a rest interval of 10-60 seconds (Morris & Williams, 2013; Verkhoshansky & Verkhoshansky, 2011).  Many times coaches implement more lactic-based conditioning in an effort to help with maintaining an athlete’s speed for a contest.  The inherent problem with this is that the speed of the effort in this type of training begins to drop as efforts are repeated; an athlete actually ends up training to maintain a slower speed.  Sports such as football, basketball, volleyball, soccer, field hockey, some combat disciplines, and lacrosse are sports that primarily utilize both the aerobic and alactic systems to fuel their efforts, and should not be incorporating large volumes of lactic-based conditioning into their off-season or in-season protocols.  In a future post some examples of alactic capacity training will be outlined.

References & Recommended Readings

Verkhoshansky, Y., Verkhoshansky, N.  2011.  Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches.  Verkhoshansky SSTM.  Rome, Italy.

Francis, C.  2008.  The Structure of Training for Speed.  CharlieFrancis.com

Morris, B, Williams, R.  2013.  American Football Physical Preparation:  How to Optimally Prepare for Your Best Season Ever.  Ebook available at elitefts.com.

Development of the Alactic System

Training for sport and recent general fitness trends has placed a great emphasis on high-intensity conditioning focusing on the glycolytic system.  This intermediate energy system training typically involves medium duration work bouts (20-60 seconds) with incomplete recoveries (work periods may be shorter based on recovery periods and still quality for this type of training).  Training in this manner accumulates a great deal of fatigue, and while it may have its place in training, it is not warranted in training all athletes, or in the training of individuals interested in general fitness.

In a past post I wrote briefly on the three energy systems, and gave examples of how a properly developed aerobic system (not trained through slow, long-duration efforts) can go a long way in many athletic endeavors (also see post for combat athletes here).  Athletes in many sports have an alactic system that is not developed due to overemphasis on long-duration aerobic training, and glycolytic training utilized by most sport coaches.  Many times athletes in sports such as football, basketball, field hockey, soccer, and lacrosse, spend too much time and emphasis in training (particularly during in-season)  on running drills that emphasize activity carried out in this fashion.  Examples of lactic based conditioning sessions include the 300 yard shuttle in football, and 17’s and suicides in basketball.  This not only limits an athlete’s speed potential, but also causes a shift in how energy is used to display efforts during activity.

Sprinting for speed development should be the focus in the training of most team sport athletes (Smith, 2006).  Proper attention should be placed on both the development of acceleration and top speed acquisition.  It is important when doing this that both sprint mechanics are addressed, and that proper work:rest ratios are utilized in speed development.  Emphasis on speed development (alactic power) should focus on the quality and not the quantity of work; too many times training for speed ends up becoming a metabolic conditioning session (and typically becomes glycolytic).  Training in this manner is not only stressful, but ends up occurring at speeds too slow for true speed development (Francis, 1992).

Emphasizing alactic power development via sprints for non-track athletes can have a significant impact on their performance.  A follow-up post will give examples of how this concept can be applied in training.

References

Smith, James.  Speed Training Considerations for Non-Track Athletes: The Development of Speed Throughout the Annual Plan.  2006.

Francis, Charlie.  The Charlie Francis Training System.  Kindle Edition.  2012.

Training for the Hamstrings: Strengthening Using Hip Extension

The hamstrings represent a muscle group that receives a great deal of attention due to how commonly they are strained and their impact on sports performance.  Questions arise as to the most optimal way to train the hamstrings, particularly as it relates to training for sports performance and injury prevention.  Understanding the basics as to how the hamstrings function is vital in attempting to determine what are the best ways to train them.  The hamstrings are a bi-articular (two-joint)  muscle group responsible for extension of the hip and flexion of the knee.  Athletic events that involve either sprinting or dynamic movements throughout a large range of motion (i.e. martial arts, dancing) place high demands on the hamstring muscle group.  This post will be the first part on a series of posts that will examine the function of the hamstrings and how to train them for sport.  Each post will focus on different aspects of training for the hamstrings, examining different modes of training and their importance for performance and injury prevention.  This focus of this post will be on strength training for the hamstrings.

Strength training is an important component to the general physical preparation process for athletes of all sports.  When it comes to the hamstrings, it is very common for individuals participating in a strength program to focus on knee flexion based movements (i.e. leg curls) to improve hamstring strength.  While the leg curl can facilitate improvement in muscle cross section and general strength, it does not address the main function of the hamstring important in sprinting.   Sprint-based activities rely heavily on the hamstrings as an extensor of the hip, rather than a flexor of the knee  (Francis).

Strength training focusing on hip extension is more advantageous in promoting strength with carryover to sport activity.  Some good options for doing this involve variations of the deadlift exercise:

Conventional deadlift

Sumo Deadlift

Stiff-leg Deadlift

Romanian Deadlift

Sumo Stiff-Leg Deadlift

Snatch Grip Romanian Deadlift

Barbell Good Mornings

Band Good Mornings

Kettlebell Swings

(*Note:  variations of these exercises may be performed with dumbbells as well).

These exercises will focus on improving the strength of the hamstrings in their function in extending the hips.  Even for some sports activities that do not involve large volumes of (or in some cases do not involve any) sprinting, strengthening in this manner will stress the hamstrings more at the hip where more of the stress usually occurs from a range of motion and power development perspective.  For instance, when a marital artist throws a high kick, the hamstrings don’t get stressed structurally at the knee as much as they do at the hip.  Strengthening the hamstrings using these movements may help in improving the integrity of the hamstrings at their origin at the hip, rather than emphasizing their movement at the knee.

Hip extension based movements are an important component to a strength training protocol for athletes.  While there can certainly still be a time and place for knee flexion strengthening exercises, these types of movements should not be the primary mode for improving hamstring strength for an athlete.

References:

Francis, Charlie.  GPP Essentials.  www.charliefrancis.com

Abdominal Training & Featured Exercise

Whether it is for improved performance, general fitness, or injury prevention and treatment, training of the abdominal region is an important aspect of any training program.  While there are a multitude of exercises that can be used to strengthen the abdomen, one needs to be aware of how to properly apply loads to this region based on their current abilities.  It is generally preferred for anyone involved in strength training to focus on the ability to use these muscles to stabilize the lumbar region rather than produce large forces and movements

With this in mind, the author in most instances prefers to use abdominal exercises that involve stabilization or low amplitude movements to strengthen this area.   This enables one to condition the torso to provide stiffness through the muscles and abdomen through the low back, which will allow for safe movement that will not stress the structures of the lumbar spine.

In a previous article, some exercises were described that can serve this function.  In a video posted below, there is another exercise that is slightly more advanced that can be used to strengthen the abdomen and train it for stiffness to support the low back.  This exercise is known as the “Stir the Pot” and was taken from Stuart McGill, who is known for his research on biomechanics associated with the low back.

An important point with this, as with any stability based abdominal movement, is to hold and maintain a strong abdominal brace.  This should create tension throughout the torso (low back and abdomen) allowing one to stabilize the spine.  This particular movement also teaches one to resist twisting torque through the torso, which requires further stabilization to protect the spine.

Shoulder Mobilization Strategies Part I

In my previous post I covered some information about the shoulder, and by how mobilizing the thoracic spine we can help to eliminate many issues with pain and injury at the shoulder.  I would highly suggest you read that post before getting into what is going to be discussed next if you have shoulder issues.  While mobilizing the thoracic spine is important, it does not mean that the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint itself should be ignored.  Rotator cuff tendinopathies and impingement are just some of the chronic shoulder issues that plague active individuals.  By making sure that appropriate posture and mobility is in place, one may avoid these issues.  But before I get into some specific exercises to address this problem, one needs to examine what causes many individuals to develop shoulder pain.

Many of the postural issues that people have are just caused by how we sit; we sit with our upper backs rounded and our shoulders in a forward position, causing individuals to have reduced internal rotation at the shoulder for functional activities.  Over time, this causes shortening of soft tissue around the shoulder.  However, even though we have this shortening of tissue, the body is capable of adapting to this through dysfunctional movement, which eventually causes irritation and damage to the tissue (one of the reason why with many athletes I work with I NEVER do overhead pressing- the risk to me just outweighs the reward of what is a good strength movement).

Most people will exhibit forward shoulder posture either because of natural postures in everyday life (i.e. work, driving) or different sport activities.  One of the changes that occurs with this type of posture is tightening of the pectoralis major and minor.  In particular the pec minor will shorten due to the posture of your scapula (shoulder blades).  This tightening will cause inhibition and weakening of other muscles surrounding the shoulder girdle (see some of my previous posts on shoulder injury prevention). In order to correct this, one will typically need to mobilize both anterior and posterior regions of the shoulder, and then complement this by adding in strengthening exercises to address inhibited muscles in order to help in supporting good postural alignment.

Kelly Starrett in his book Becoming a Supple Leopard describes many different types of mobilizations that can be used to address the shoulder (and for any other body part for that matter).  These exercises can be included in a warm-up prior to activity, or they may be added in as an extra workout in helping to improve mobility.  It is highly suggested to spend at least 10-15 minutes daily working on problem areas to avoid injury.

Part II of this post will include videos of some of the suggested exercises to use to correct these issues.  The following exercises that can be performed to address dysfunction at the shoulder are:

1.  Banded Overhead distraction

2.  Supine (lying on back) internal rotation mobilization

3.  Banded Bully

Future posts on this subject will also include application of exercises to strengthen the region in supporting good postural alignment.

Shoulder Pain- Mobilize the thoracic spine

Many individuals involved in physical activity encounter shoulder pain at one time or another.  Various exercises can be performed to address issues that can cause shoulder pain; exercises to address the rotator cuff and scapular muscles are commonly used for this purpose.  While many of these exercises can be used to address weak areas around the shoulder girdle, mobilization techniques can also be used to both treat and prevent shoulder pain.

While mobilizing the glenohumeral joint may be necessary, people tend to neglect mobility around the thoracic spine which can contribute to shoulder pain as well.  Limited motion around the thoracic spine (mid-back region) will limit the ability of the humerus and scapula to move efficiently during complex movements.

Here are three exercises you can include in a routine either prior to training or an extra workout to work on mobilizing around the thoracic spine:

Foam Roll Upper Back

Cross your arms in front to move your scapula out of the way and roll up and down you mid-back (thoracic) region.  You may also lean to one side or the other to focus on each side separately.

Cross your arms in front to move your scapula out of the way and roll up and down you mid-back (thoracic) region. You may also lean to one side or the other to focus on each side separately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foam Roll Thoracic Extension

Foam Roll Extension/Rotation (This movement incorporates movement at the thoracic spine and shoulder joint).

Combining these movements while addressing other weak areas around the shoulder should assist in eliminating or preventing shoulder injuries.

Abdominal and Low Back Training

With injury prevention being a high priority in strength training and conditioning programs, much attention should be paid to the low back.  Low back injuries are both common and quite debilitating, but what most individuals don’t realize is that their exercise routine can be contributing to their low back problems.  This is due to the fact that many individuals begin with exercises that their bodies are not prepared to handle (even though from a movement perspective, they can complete the movement through an inappropriate motor pattern).  It is not until one beings to experience pain that something is wrong.

There are many novel approaches for individuals doing abdominal or “core” work.  The issue becomes that people begin an exercise program using many novel approaches without a basic understanding of how to move and use the musculature appropriately.  An example of this is the common use of the swiss ball for exercises.  While I believe the swiss ball does have a place in training and exercise, it is many times utilized by individuals who do not know how to perform basic movement patterns to maintain a healthy spine.

While there is not one ideal execise approach for all individuals, there are some basic exercises that should be appropriate for most individuals.  The following 3 exercises are advocated for by Stuart McGill, spine biomechanics expert at the Univeristy of Waterloo.  While they are very simple movements, they are very effective in strengthening the torso.

McGill Crunch

**NOTE:  Most people do not need to do the more advanced version with the hands by the head (notice, the hands are in front and not supporting the back of the head.  Many individuals who hold the back of the head end up pulling up with their arms putting added strain on the cervial region).  And, before I get any corrections on technique, I actually lift by upper body a little higher than needed on the second version in the video (although I still keep my rotation pretty much isolated to the thoracic region).

Side Plank

Side Plank V2

Birddog

Birddog OneBirddog Two

 

 

 

 

 

 

These three exercises activate all of the appropriate musculature for the core, while simultaneously sparing the lumbar spine from increased stresrses commonly seen with many other abdominal exercises.  It would benefit most individuals undertaking a fitness/conditioning program to implement these exercises as a way to strengthen the abdominal and low back regions.  While they may look simple, if performed correctly, these exercises can be challengening.

Most trainees need to understand that they do not fall into an advanced category, and that by doing abdominal and low back exercises that cause added stress to the spine can result in injury.  Even some individuals that do fall in the advanced classification can benefit from exercises like this if they have succumb to muscle imbalances due to their chosen activities.  In another post I will further get into these exercises, along with variations that can be implemented, and also how to incorporate these exercises into a training regimen.  In closing, the referenced text below is a must read.

 

McGill, S.  (2006).  Ultimate back fitness and performance (2nd ed.).  Waterloo, Ontario:  Backfitpro Inc.

Simple exercise to fix common injury issues- Band X walk

The band-X walk is an exercise, when performed correctly, can be used to address many injury problems that affect the back and lower extremity.

XwalksIII XwalksII

XwalksI

Set up a band as pictured.  Drive one foot out by abducting your hip, and then follow by bring the other foot in a controlled fashion.  One key with this movement is to make sure that your torso is braced appropriately; individuals with weak abdominals will tip and rock their torso when they perform this exercise.  Another item is to make sure that the other leg follows in a controlled fashion, don’t just let the band pull it over to meet the lead leg (the eccentric contraction here also provides benefits).  This exercise can be used as both a warm-up to a lower body or running session, or can be incorporated into the main portion of a workout.

This exercises is done to address specifically the glute medius (also helps promote abdominal bracing).  This can help with many injury problems including, but not limited to:

*Low back pain

*Knee pain

*Ankle sprains

*Lower leg pain (“Shin Splints”).

For more information on training services click here.  If would like an educational seminar done at your site with your athletes, coaching staff, or parents click here.

On-Site Seminars & Training

Mensinger Performance & Fitness Systems is offering on-site seminars and training on various topics in strength training and conditioning . I will travel to your site and present on any topic including, but not limited to:
*Strength/Speed Development
*Injury Prevention/Warm-Up
*Developing explosive power
*Lifting techniques

Seminars can be customized to your meet the needs of your group or organization (school teams, club teams, martial arts/combat sports, fitness groups or any other group looking to enhance physical performance).  Companies who want wellness programming for their employees can benefit from these seminars as well, as information can be tailored to meet the needs of just about any audience.  For more information call 610-301-5591 or email at jasonmensinger79@gmail.com.  To learn more about Mensinger Performance & Fitness Systems click here.

The best information in physical performance/fitness training in the Berks County region and beyond.

Forearm Wall Slides

Here is an exercise from the warm-up/corrective routine I posted previously.  This exercise helps with correcting issues with humerus and scapula elevation.

While this is a simple exercise, technique is important. One of the biggest issues with an exercise like this is that people will move through it too fast and ignore technique. It is very important to ensure that one does not shrug the shoulders while doing this.

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