Saturday, January 23, 2010

Better Programming for the Long-Haul

“A complete training program has to include movement preparation, flexibility work, injury prevention work, core work, cardiovascular work, strength training, and recovery/regeneration. Most programs cover, at best, two of those.

A lot of training programs only cover the strength training portion. Be well rounded; address everything.” -Alwyn Cosgrove

When most people walk into a gym, they either go straight to the bench press or squat rack (if they're more of a strength athlete or bodybuilder), or hop right on the treadmill (if they're an endurance athlete or doing their “cardio” for fat loss, which I don't recommend but that's a topic for another post). I find that the primary reason behind this is either:
  • a) they don't understand balanced programming
  • b) they do understand balanced programming (intellectually) but are not thinking long-term enough to realize that only covering one or two aspects of training will lead to lower quality training sessions in the future, and, ultimately, injury.
How many of you suffer or have suffered from a shoulder injury (or some kind of shoulder pain), low back problems, or pain in your knee/leg? If you haven't yet, then you most likely will as time progresses (whether or not you exercise). Balancing your training program will help increase the quality of your current workouts, as well as set you up for greater long-term success. The longer you can avoid pain and injury, the longer you'll be able to maintain a training program to enhance quality of life.

So, how can we upgrade our training programs to ensure better short-term training, as well as long-term training? Be sure to include these:

1) Soft Tissue Work: This helps to focus on the quality of the muscle tissue. Use a foam roller (for the larger muscles ex. quads, IT band, etc.) or tennis/lacrosse ball (for more focused areas ex. glute medius/maximus, posterior shoulder capsule) to clear up knots and adhesions that develop in connective tissues. You'll begin to feel like a million bucks as you loosen up needed areas.

2) Dynamic Stretching/Movement Prep: Dynamic stretching will help lubricate joints, increase skeletal muscle blood flow, raise your core temperature, and prepare your body for the workout ahead. This also gives you a great chance to “feel” out your body and see where you may be hurting that day, or if you feel you should exert more/less effort depending on your body's feedback.

3) Corrective/Injury Prevention Work: Certain muscles that should be working properly in your body most likely aren't. Because of the inherent nature of most of our lives, we “deactivate” various muscles that are much needed to support both stabilization and motion during training. Long bouts of sitting (at a desk, in the car, etc.) lead to shortened hip flexors and weakened/inactive glutes. Glutes are the powerhouse of the body so we need to get them firing! Most shoulder issues originate at the scapulae (shoulder blade) so we need to utilize exercises engaging the serratus anterior (the muscle that helps stabilize your shoulder blade against your rib cage). This is nowhere close to an all-inclusive list, but the point is that we need to re-activate the muscles that need to be working efficiently during training.

4) Strength Training: Most people get this part. Whether your goal is fat loss, muscle gain, or training for a sport, strength training needs to be integral part of your program.

5) Cardiovascular Work: This does NOT mean a 60-minute session on an elliptical or treadmill (although in a few specific scenarios it is appropriate). Complexes, weight circuits, bodyweight circuits, and many other forms of high-intensity training will shed fat stores and increase your work capacity much better than going for a long jog. It takes much less time to do it too. And remember, “cardio” simply means you using your heart to supply nutrients and oxygen to the working muscles. It doesn't have to imply an aerobic session.

6) Flexibility Work: Certain muscles will be stiff after your training session. Spend some time to stretch these out.

7) Recovery/Regeneration: This includes a variety of both activity and inactivity to speed up your recovery. Soft-tissue work outside of the gym, getting plenty of sleep, and flooding your body with nutrients will do wonders to your progress.

From my personal experience, once I started to add all of the above to my training program (and lifestyle), I noticed dramatic improvements both in performance as well as those “nagging pains” that were bugging me. It's not an end-all-cure-all, but I guarantee you'll move better, grow stronger, and reach any goal that you may have more effectively. And keep in mind, the better you take care of your body now, the less you'll have to do later. Taking 15-20 extra minutes each training session to ensure optimal physical function is much cheaper than a doctor's bill or visit to the physical therapist.


Post a Comment