Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Filtering by Category: "CSCS"

Day 159 - Canadian Beachbody Coaching Opportunity Written



Here is the written summary of the video I posted yesterday. I figured I would post the written summary for any folks who wish to refer back to this list, either for themselves or for others. Enjoy!

Hey Everybody

Tyler here again with some HUGE news! Beachbody coaching is coming to Canada on Monday October 1st, 2012!

For those of you who know me, or have been following my online, you will know that I have been waiting for this opportunity for quite some time now.

I have been waiting for an opportunity like this for a few years now, so I am glad to announce that I am FINALLY going to become a Beachbody coach, and I am looking for some passionate, motivated individuals who wish to build a team with me!


My goal is to be the biggest coach in Canada!


Having said that, I don't want to just alienate myself from the rest of the world. As much as I love Canada, and wish to help as many Canadians as possible, I have also gotten to know many passionate, dedicated individuals from the United States and abroad who are also excited and willing to help folks achieve their goals just as much as I am.


So, in order to spread the word, and to recruit some of you, dedicated, passionate individuals who may be looking for a coach, I am giving you my Top 10 Reasons to Make Me Your Coach, so, on with the list!


#1 CSCS Certified


I am CSCS Certified!


I have my undergraduate Bachelor's Degree in Biochemistry: Pre-Medical. This degree allowed me to qualify, write, and attain my Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association in the United States.


What is CSCS you ask?


Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists (CSCSs) are professionals who apply scientific knowledge to train athletes for the primary goal of improving athletic performance. They conduct sport-specific testing sessions, design and implement safe and effective strength training and conditioning programs and provide guidance regarding nutrition and injury prevention. Recognizing that their area of expertise is separate and distinct, CSCSs consult with and refer athletes to other professionals when appropriate. This certification is the ONLY strength and conditioning certification recognized by the 
NCAA, MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL.

How does this help you?


My knowledge base in exercise science can help me assist you in many different ways including explaining the training principles and theories behind the programs offered by Beachbody. I can also assist you to tailor or modify programs to suit your exact goals and needs!


#2 Lifetime Athlete


I have played competitive sports my entire life and played soccer at University-Level on scholarship
Growing up, I have played a wide range of sports, from hockey, soccer, volleyball, basketball, golf, track, and most recently "mud runs".


Fitness and an active lifestyle is what I am all about. I love the fact that an active lifestyle is such a large part of my life, as it brings me great joy. My goal is to help others see the love for an active lifestyle as well!


#3 I Use Beachbody Products


I have been using Beachbody products since 2008.


I started out using P90X, and have later branched off to use Insanity, Insanity: The Asylum, Tony Horton's One on One series, and of course P90X2.


I have used the products consistently over the past 4 years, so that experience, as well as my educational background, I can educate you on the ins and outs of the programs to help you achieve your goals!


#4 World's Toughest Mudder


I am competing in the World's Toughest Mudder 2012!


Over the past several years, my fitness level has increased due to using Beachbody products as well as pursuing my own fitness strategies.


This year, I took part in my first ever Tough Mudder event. I managed to finish in the top 5% of my race, so I was invited to participate, and compete in what is known as the "World's Toughest Mudder"!


For those of you who are not familiar with this event, it is an 8-10mile obstacle course, filled with diabolical things like electricity, ice water, quarter pipes, etc. The goal is to do as many laps of the course as you can.


Oh yeah, and the event is 24 hours long...


Oh yeah, and it takes place in New Jersey...


In November...


#5 Honest Reviews


I review products fairly and honestly, letting you know what I personally feel is worth your time and money.


I have nearly 800k youtube views from my reviews of Beachbody products. I get compliments all the time on how much folks enjoy my fair and honest attitude towards the programs.


Moving forward, I will continue to be honest with how I feel about products and programs that interest you!


#6 Passion for this Industry


I have a real passion for the health and fitness industry.


I have worked in a Pharmacy setting that services assisted living and long-term care facilities. I have experienced the state of health many individuals deal with on a day to day basis. This is one of the many pieces of fuel I use for my motivation. I wish to live a long, happy, and most importantly, healthy life. I wish to share this passion with all of you!


#7 Blogger


I am an avid health and fitness reader/writer.


Not only am I reading about health and fitness ALL the time, I am writing about it too!


In case you haven't seen it already, go and check out my blog over at trobbinsfitness.blogspot.com
There you will find close to 300 archived blogs that I have written. These blogs are there for your use and personal gain. I would suspect there is something useful there for nearly everyone!

#8 Experience

I am an actual personal trainer, with extensive experience training folks of ALL ages, ALL skill levels, and ALL levels of fitness.


I have worked with and trained middle aged women. I have worked with trained children. I have worked with and trained athletes of all levels. I have the experience behind me to assist me in helping others. I know that any health and fitness plan starts with a goal. Once I learn YOUR goal, I can start to design and tailor a program that will help you get to where you want to be!


#9 Team Ripped


I am joining forces with TeamRipped and Coach Wayne!


Maybe you know who Coach Wayne is, maybe you don't. If you DON'T know who he is, let me enlighten you.


Coach Wayne is the Top Beachbody coach of 2011, and leading the way in 2012 as well.

By joining my team, you are not only joining me, but you are joining one of the top Beachbody teams in the world!

#10 Contest


If the 9 points before now haven't enticed you enough, let me tell you one more. I am giving away a FREE copy of Insanity: The Asylum Volume 2!


That's right. Throughout the month of October, anybody who signs up through Team Beachbody, with myself listed as their coach, will be entered for a chance to win a FREE copy of Shaun T's Insanity: The Asylum, Volume 2!


This does not mean that you have to sign up as a coach under me. Any and all coaches and general customers who are registered through Team Beachbody, with myself listed as their coach, by the end of October, will be entered in the contest.


At the end of the month, I will throw all the names in a hat, and do a draw and award one person the winner!


Well there are my Top 10 Reasons to make me YOUR coach, folks. I am not messing around here. As I said, I have been chomping at the bit to get this opportunity, I am here to help all of you!


If you have any questions/comments/suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me at t.robbins.fitness@gmail.com


You can also find my on Facebook at facebook.com/TylerRobbinsFitness


Or on my blog at trobbinsfitness.blogspot.com


I look forward to hearing from all of you soon!



Quote of the day:
"Yesterday does not equal tomorrow. Forget the past and move towards your goals."
~ Tony Robbins



Sponsored By:






Aerobic Exercise During the Interset Rest Period


As part of my membership with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), I am subscribed to the Strength and Conditioning Journal that publishes research studies on varying topics from the health and fitness field.

The latest addition has a brief review on an interesting topic that has piqued my interest, especially since I am currently making my way through my mass phase. Mohamed, Cronin, and Nosaka discuss "Maximizing Hypertrophic Adaptation - Possible Contributions of Aerobic Exercise in the Interset Rest Period." In laymen's terms, the potential for increased hypertrophy (muscular growth), by using light aerobic exercise between sets rather than just 'passive' rest.

The article discusses the factors involved in hypertrophy. Progressive overload, specific repetition ranges, muscular "time under tension", as well as interset rest periods. Some research has shown that decreased rest periods increase the metabolite buildup in the working muscles and blood stream, which can further increase the affinity for hypertrophy. By using a 1:1 to 1:2 work to rest ratio, individuals can increase their blood metabolite concentrations and force their bodies to not only adapt to the training stimulus, but to increase hypertrophy gains. The one downside to this technique, however, is that as individuals increase their workload or resistance levels, insufficient rest periods can result in decreased force production.

It does not take a rocket scientist to realize that by increasing rest periods between sets, individuals can therefore increase their force output. However, rest periods should be specifically designed to target a specific training goal, no different than repetition range goals, load goals, and "time under tension" intervals. If you were to do a set of chest presses, then go eat lunch and take an hour off, when you return to do a 2nd set of the very same chest press, your body will most certainly have recovered 100% to return and produce similar force outputs. This is not only an inefficient way of working out, but it is also not beneficial for muscular gains, especially in regards to hypertrophy.

Resistance training is a high-force output style of exercise, therefore most of us would be led to believe that the anaerobic energy systems supply 100% of the energy needed. This is simply not true, as triglyceride (fats) levels have been shown to decrease in muscle cells following resistance exercise (lipolysis - utilization of lipids/fats) indicating the fact that aerobic energy systems are at least part of the energy equation.

Although the aerobic energy systems are partially at work here, majority of the force produced during resistance training comes from anaerobic energy stores. This is the primary reason for interset rest, so that the body can 'top-up' its energy stores with 60-120 seconds of rest. Mohamed, Cronin, and Nosaka have studied and discussed the theory that light aerobic exercise between sets can have a number of positive effects on the human body, increasing the affinity for strength and hypertrophic gains. They present a table with proposed benefits to various systems in the body:

Mechanical - Optimize muscle temperature for greater force and velocity output, increase elasticity of muscle for increased work output (force x distance), and improve mechanical efficiency (ratio of energy turnover and mechanical output)

Metabolic - Improves lactate clearance rate and rate of energetic repletion

Hormonal - Greater total anabolic hormone production

Neural - Increase motor unit recruitment, firing frequency, synchronization and reflex potentiation, synergistic contribution, and co-contraction of antagonist

By using very light (50-60% maximum heart rate) aerobic exercise, it is possible to increase the efficiency of rest periods, allowing great hypertrophic gains. If one is to explore this avenue, then you should aim for aerobic exercise that targets the generalized area that has been worked on. For example, if you are training your legs, and have just come off of a set of heavy back squats, some light activity on an exercise bike or jogging can elicit this benefits. Similarly, if working the upper body, using a rowing machine or arm ergometer can improve recovery and circulation to the desired muscles.

This is definitely something that I will explore on my own and test out in my own workouts as the benefits gained sound very plausible.

Sources:
http://journals.lww.com/nsca-scj/Abstract/2012/02000/Brief_Review__Maximizing_Hypertrophic.2.aspx

Photo - http://www.kalisthenixfitnessblog.com/2008_09_01_archive.html







Muscular Growth



Since I am soon heading into my own 'mass phase' where I will be looking to build a bit of muscle, I figured now would be as good of time as any to discuss the facts on muscular growth. There may be some myths or misconceptions that some people have so hopefully I can clear the air the best I can.

Hyperplasia

This form of muscular growth is one of the most debated amongst researchers because many are not even sure if the process is possible. Hyperplasia is the action of growing a muscle by increasing the number of muscle cells/fibers. This seems to be one of the biggest misconceptions amongst individuals who look to grow their muscles. The shape and size of your muscles is largely determined by the number of muscle fibers contained in each muscle which is set by the time you reach puberty. Many people think that by working out, your increase the number of muscle fibers or cells therefore increasing size, which is not true.

There have apparently been studies that have shown cases of hyperplasia via longitudinal fiber splitting as a response to high-intensity resistance training (actually sounds painful!), but these studies have been largely ruled-out. Other such cases have been reported when muscles are treated to optimal conditions. Some theorize that muscle fibers only experience hyperplasia once they reach a theoretical size limit. If they can then be pushed beyond this point - oftentimes with anabolic steroids - they may potentially split to form new fibers.

Hypertrophy

Muscular hypertrophy refers to muscular enlargement resulting from training. Muscle fiber disruption and damage during intense resistance exercise stimulates muscle growth. Once the damage has occurred, the repair process on the muscle fibers involves many different mechanisms such as hormonal variations, immune system functions, and metabolic demands. The various bodily systems can only assist in repair if adequate amounts of specific building blocks are present (i.e. protein). Protein synthesis involves 3 main steps. First, there needs to be adequate water intake. Secondly, the body will restructure noncontractile protein structures. Lastly, contractile protein synthesis will take place.

One common misconception amongst individuals starting a new resistance training program is that they may initially experience strength gains from resistance training, but this is generally caused by increased neuromuscular adaptations. What this basically means is that the brain becomes much more efficient and develops new and stronger pathways in order to contract muscular fibers. To simplify this even further, understand that the muscle fibers simply become more coordinated in their contractions. When more fibers contract at once, you can produce more force. For hypertrophy to occur however, research suggests that an individual would need to exercise beyond 16 intense workouts or so. Mostly all strength gained within those first 16 workouts are attained from neural adaptations. Beyond that, the muscle fibers will then begin to grow.

Magnitude of Hypertrophy

So how does one maximize muscular hypertrophy? First of all, a well-structured program is key to reaching a goal of muscular growth. There are two main factors at play in order to increase muscle size. Mechanical and metabolic systems must be stressed in a pretty specific way. Mechanical factors include lifting heavy loads with progression. Also known as progressive overload, muscles must be continually pushed and challenged in order for continued growth. An example of this would be increasing either repetitions or resistance during every single workout. If an individual can perform 40lbs bicep curls for 8 reps for a set, they should try and push themselves to 10 reps the next workout, then potentially increasing resistance to 45lbs the workout following that.

Short rest periods are also encouraged during resistance training to increase stress on the glycolytic energy system. This increases concentrations of metabolites that may be involved in muscular growth. This is the second component of hypertrophy mentioned above - the metabolic system.

Muscle Fiber Types

Muscle fibers can be categorized into two different types - type 1 and type 2. Type 1 muscle fibers are referred to as 'slow-twitch', have lower force production, and rely heavily on oxidative energy systems. Type 2 on the other hand is referred to as 'fast-twitch' muscle fibers, have higher force production, and rely heavily on non-oxidative energy systems. When a muscle is resistance trained, both types of fibers are recruited for force production, therefore they both possess the affinity for growth. However, type 2 muscle fibers have a much higher affinity for growth so muscle size is largely dependent on an individual's ratio of type 1 to type 2 muscle fibers.

Load and Repetition Goals

Hypertrophy training should aim for 67-85% of 1RM with a repetition goal in the 6-12 rep range. I personally feel that individuals should try to not use resistance that would force them to drop too far below an 8-rep goal for assistance exercises. Assistance exercises are those that are single-joint and usually single-muscle (i.e. bicep curl, tricep pushdown). By using too heavy of resistance for assistance exercises, individuals can place far too much stress on those single joints.

Diet

In order to build mass, your body will require more calories than what you are used to. Having said that, if you wish to try and build as lean of mass as possible, your intake of calories should be clean. What I mean by this is that you still do not want to ingest total junk calories such as processed foods or refined carbs. Also, your macronutrient ratios should be spot on. Calorie counts will vary based on the individual and their mass building goals, but remember that building about a pound of muscle a week requires pretty serious dedication so do not set goals too much higher than that!

I have seen different opinions on this, but for the most part, ideal macronutrient ratios for lean mass building should be somewhere in the ballpark of: 40-50% carbohydrates, 30-40% protein, 20-30% fat. You will need carbohydrates (clean; whole grains, fruits, vegetables) to fuel your intense workouts and protein to build tissue.

Sources:
Baechle, Thomas R. and Earle, Roger W. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning Third Edition
Picture: http://www.thedreamlounge.net/2010/09/






Cortisol



Cortisol is one of the most misunderstood hormones in the human body. Hopefully this blog will be able to help educate my readers so that they understand this very busy hormone more thoroughly.

What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is a stress-related hormone also known as a glucocorticoid, which is released by the adrenal gland in the human body. Its primary functions include: increasing blood sugar concentrations through the process of gluconeogenesis, aid in fat, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism, as well as suppress immune system function.

Role of Cortisol

Cortisol exerts catabolic effects on the body by increasing the levels of proteolytic enzymes. These proteolytic enzymes break down proteins within the body to convert them to carbohydrates while also inhibiting protein synthesis. Research has suggested that cortisol has a greater catabolic effect on Type II muscle fibers simply because they contain more protein than Type I fibers. An immense increase in blood cortisol levels can result in a net loss of contractile protein. This results in muscle atrophy which can reduce the size and strength capacity of the muscles.

Factors that Reverse the Effects of Cortisol

To create an anabolic effect within the muscle, cortisol must either be blocked or counteracted. It turns out, testosterone and insulin can counter cortisol's effects. If more insulin is bound to a cell's receptors, or if testosterone blocks the required genetic element within the cell's DNA for cortisol, protein synthesis can be conserved or enhanced. If, however, a greater number of receptors are bound to cortisol, protein can be degraded or lost.

Studies have shown a number of other factors that can reverse the effects of cortisol such as magnesium supplementation, omega-3 fatty acids, massage, laughter, etc. Through supplementation, a reduced-stress lifestyle, and regular exercise have been shown to reduce chronic levels of cortisol and make levels more manageable.

Factors That May Increase Levels of Cortisol
Research has shown that a number of factors can contribute to higher levels of cortisol. Dietary factors such as caffeine or anorexia can cause chronic increases, but other lifestyle factors such as traumatic events, a stressful commute to and from work, stressful job, lifestyle, etc. can also play a role in chronically high levels of cortisol.

Resistance Exercise Response of Cortisol

Similar to growth hormone, levels of cortisol increase as a result of resistance training. The largest increase is seen when resistance training rest periods are short and total volume is high. This may be surprising to some, but let us not forget that cortisol is released during times of stress, and resistance training places great stress on the body. Another factor to point out, is that once an individual (mostly males) have begun to 'adapt' to their training program, the testosterone produced counteracts the cortisol levels to a degree.

Interestingly enough, cortisol levels seem to spike as a result of the same factors that spike levels of growth hormone. It can then be suggested that although chronic increases in cortisol production, caused by factors such as chronic stress, etc. can have a catabolic effect on the body, shorter, acute increases brought on by resistance training must play a larger role in tissue remodeling.

Summary

Most people need to understand that since cortisol is produced by the adrenal gland, that same gland that is involved in many of the "fight or flight" processes in the body, it is no wonder that higher levels are to be expected following resistance training. One of the main roles is to be a primary signal hormone for carbohydrate metabolism which is not at all surprising either. If the body is entering a stressful situation, you essentially want to have the brain and muscles alert for 'action' so they would require higher than usual levels of carbohydrates (the body's jetfuel) for increased performance.

Unfortunately, the stresses that most people face on a day to day basis are not actually life-threatening and therefore do not actually require this type of metabolic response. Negative long-term health problems are therefore linked to stressful lives as the body stays 'alert' for far too long.

The role of cortisol from resistance exercise is still vastly unknown, although what is known is the fact that cortisol plays a much larger role in the tissue remodeling process within the body as it is released after periods of resistive exercise that places great anaerobic stress on the body. The goal of any individual however would be to lead as stress-free lifestyle as possible and allow their cortisol production be used solely for tissue growth, repair, and remodeling.





My Thoughts on Crossfit



One of the fastest growing fitness trends in the world today is Crossfit. Unless you live in a cave or under a rock, you have probably heard of somebody giving this trend a shot. I have seen many individuals in the fitness community give their opinions on this topic so I figured I would as well.

In today's society, we are dealing with a growing obesity epidemic as well as more and more people becoming more sedentary. I think it is utter nonsense to claim that any one fitness trend is better than another, so instead, we should all be aiming to move more, and I have always said that doing something is always better than doing nothing. Having said that, any individual who is looking for a change in their health and fitness journey or somebody who is just starting out on that path needs to assess their own goals and aspirations. The foundation of any fitness program should be built upon an individual's own personal goals, and to try and group all goals into one basket is utter nonsense. Not every wishes to bench press 300 pounds. Crossft, like any other fitness style or trend, has many pros and cons associated with it which I will address below.

What is Crossfit?

A simple Google search can answer this question for you, but in case you don't wish to see for yourself, I will do my best to concisely explain exactly what Crossfit is. Crossfit was originally designed to be a broad, diverse fitness style in order to train special operations academies in strength and fitness conditioning such as police forces, firefighters, military, etc. The principles behind these training modalities were originally focused on these groups because of the wide range of physical feats one would have to endure on the job. For example, a firefighter may need to scale a flight of stairs as fast as possible and then carry an injured person out of the building and away from danger. The programs that are offered are touted as being "scalable" so anyone from professional athletes to senior citizens can participate to their fullest capabilities.

Crossfit Training Goals

As I stated previously, the foundation for any fitness program should be the goals of the participant. Crossfit is no different here, however, they take a much broader approach. The mentality that is held by its faithful is that, "Why be really good at one thing (or a few things), when you can be competent at a bunch of things?" Most specifically, Crossfitters look to be 'competent' in each of 10 recognized fitness domains, which can be found in their Foundations. From their website: "Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist." Crossfitters take pride in their 'completeness'.

The Pros of Crossfit

There is no denying the fact that there are some incredibly athletic individuals who practice and even compete in Crossfit. There is even a "Crossfit Games" which is like their version of the Olympics. Like-minded trainees get together and compete to see who is the best at specific 'circuits' which are usually a combination of various exercises combined into single events. By following suit with what I said in the intro, I feel that Crossfit is doing a tremendous job at encouraging many folks to turn off their tvs and computers and getting out to get active.

By competing and working out in groups like Crossfit classes promote, certain people who thrive off of these types of situations will no doubt have a phenomenal rush of enjoyment. Not only that, but the workouts push you to your absolute limits, and then have you try and come back to beat your time from a previous session. A self-rewarding experience that not only makes you feel young, but can give that euphoric feeling deep down inside. Intense exercise also yields many benefits for individuals looking to reach optimal health.

The Cons of Crossfit

1. Rhabdomyolysis - According to PubMed: "Rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of muscle fibers that leads to the release of muscle fiber contents (myoglobin) into the bloodstream. Myoglobin is harmful to the kidney and often causes kidney damage." It is entirely possible for anyone to overtrain themselves to this point by using many other forms of fitness, but this condition seems to appear time and time again from Crossfit training styles. There are plenty of safety recommendations to prevent such an occurrence, however, the culture of Crossfit gyms appears to illicit these types of injuries out of their participants. The Crossfit website itself acknowledges this, mentioning it in their FAQs stating, "Don't kill anyone – Rhabdomyolysis is a potentially lethal threat to newcomers; be very careful. This is a very real and present danger. Avoiding “rhabdo’ should be the primary concern of first and second time workouts. Throwing a unknown newbie into an established group class is an invitation to rhabdo." Despite the fact that is a very serious issue, Crossfit appears to feel the need to poke fun at this;




In one specific instance, a Navy Crossfitter by the name of Makimba Mimms suffered Rhabdomyolysis, which he claimed resulted from a Crossfit workout, so he decided to file a lawsuit against the company. Because of this, there is now a Crossfit "WOD" (workout of the day) sarcastically named "Makimba" - names for these WODs are usually held by female names. Not only that, but Crossfit has a video on their website showing children performing "Makimba" as if this is a safe practice for all with absolutely no hazards whatsoever.

2. Crossfit certification - Anyone can get certified. Let that one sink in for a few seconds...ANYONE. All you need is $1000 and a weekend to learn the ins and outs of powerlifting. I for one believe that we need as many people in our society to promote health and fitness as much as possible, but there are far better (and safer) methods to promote an active lifestyle than having unqualified instructors telling Joe Couch Potato to thrust heavy weights over his head.

3. Specificity Training (or lack thereof) - The human body is a remarkable thing. When you train it to do something, with repetition and proper training modalities, your body gets better at that 'thing'. This is called training. For athletes, this is how they make their living, off of what is known as the SAID principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands). Someone training for a marathon would never use heavy back squats as a staple in their training regimen, and likewise Olympic powerlifters would never run 21 miles to improve their strength. Crossfit knows this and I discussed this earlier that they feel that it is much more important to be 'good' at a bunch of things rather than be 'great' at a few things. Fine, Crossfit is great at pushing you to your limits, but please do not try and sell this to athletes as a way to improve their game. Yes, these training modalities can translate over to some sports to improve physical endurance, but all athletic training eventually needs to reach a point of specificity where training and skill development mesh together.

4. The Workouts Don't Really Make Any Sense - Research has shown that for maximal "power" gains from training comes from heavy resistance being used within a 2-5 repetition range. The snatch for example is a "power" exercise that improves total body strength and a power hip drive (advantageous in many sports). Having said this, there is a Crossfit WOD (just one of many examples) where individuals are asked to snatch 135 pounds for 30 repetitions. Why? Once your body progresses beyond the 15 repetition range, you are now "endurance" training. Why on earth would you combine a power exercise with endurance properties? There are many examples of this. Such examples are also found in the exercise styles that are used. For example, a Crossfit saying is "no matter what it takes to get your chin over the bar, just DO IT!" This creates the potential for incredible muscular imbalance and poor form as the trainees will simply aim to complete something, often times with complete disregard for personal safety or proper form. Which leads me to...

5. Dangerous - Time and time again I see incorrect form used on many different exercises. Not only can this increase the risk for injury, but it can completely defeat the purpose of an exercise completely. One such exercise that I have seen performed on many occasions that literally scares me every time is the "Kipping Handstand Pushup". By pushing yourself to your limit in such a compromising position such as this increases the risk of injury immensely! Not only that, but the "kipping" motion (coiling the legs by bending the knees and then 'thrusting' upwards) takes much of the emphasis off of the deltoids (shoulders) which is intended to be worked in such an exercise. Yes, I know, there are plenty of other exercises that have inherent dangers associated with them, but that is the idea of years of research and experience within the physical fitness field of study. There are MUCH safer and more effective ways to work the same muscle group, especially for those that do not have the strength to do a handstand pushup. You can watch an example of this below (fast forward to the 0:38 mark to see the move being performed).



6. The "Cult" - For me, this has to be one of the worst parts of Crossfit. I have run into quite a few Crossfitters who have their noses extremely far into the air. Let me state this; I think Crossfit is great. I think Crossfit works wonders for the right crowd. I do not think this is for everyone. I don't really care if you do Crossfit or not. Do not think that you are better at everything just because you can do a "Fran" in under 5 minutes. I have also met some Crossfitters who are extremely educated, knowledgeable and in phenomenal overall physical shape. Having said all of that, I feel these types of personalities can be seen everywhere. There always seems to be a select few from any workout fanaticism (Cyclists, Crossfitters, "Jocks", yoga-ers, barefoot runners, etc.) that believe their workout system is the "cat's pajamas". I'm sure it speaks to the boredom and loneliness of our modern life. People gotta have something to believe in, whether it's god, rock hard abs or the saving grace of doing a "Cindy" in record time - for the most part, the point of the belief-system is to give one a sense of superiority over others. If you are a fan of Crossfit and love it, great! But similar to those folks that wish to drive down the street with the windows of their car down so that everyone can hear their blaring music, I have some news for you, nobody really cares what you do to stay fit and healthy (except maybe for fellow Crossfitters) so keep it to yourself.

In Summary

I may receive some flak from some of you Crossfitters out there, and that is fine, you are more than entitled to your opinion. Let me remind you that I think Crossfit is great for getting in shape. There are some inherent dangers associated with it (along with all forms of fitness) that I believe are not worth the risk for many of the individuals who decide to 'give it a shot'. There appears to be a greater risk of injury doing these types of exercises while sometimes being supervised by unqualified trainers. Many folks out there should look to attempt far safer methods of physical activity and then maybe 'building up to' Crossfit.

Crossfit, like many other health and wellness endeavors, is a business and above all else, wishes to make money. Modern society, the way it is today, people are constantly looking towards becoming 'thin' and 'looking good' faster than ever before. I think it has become a product of our fast-paced lifestyles that causes many to always look for the quickest fix possible. These two factors have lead to (in my honest opinion) a tremendous popularity rise in Crossfit because of the 'rush' you get from doing a workout so intense. If it is this hard, it must give me the fast results that I am looking for, which is not always the case, and certainly should not be the intention if safety has to be pushed aside.

Also, athletes training for a specific sport should be encouraged to train in much more specific modalities to aid in their athletic performances. Crossfit trains individuals to be 'good' at a number of things, but not 'great' at any one thing, and they even proclaim that. Crossfit is one tool, in a list of many, that can help certain people with their goals, but it is certainly not for everyone!

-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. CSCS

Sources:
http://www.crossfit.com/cf-info/what-crossfit.html
http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_investigative/the_truth_about_crossfit
http://journal.crossfit.com/2002/04/foundations.tpl#featureArticleTitle
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001505/
http://physicalliving.com/what-about-crossfit-tuesday-qa-with-john-sifferman/




Anabolic Hormones Part 3: Insulin-Like Growth Factors


In parts 1 and 2 we covered testosterone and growth hormone. Today, in part 3 of 3, we will learn about insulin-like growth factors.

What is it?

I will give a very condensed explanation of what insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) are. In a process that takes anywhere from 8 to 29 hours to complete, growth hormone stimulates liver cell DNA to synthesize IGFs. The IGFs then attach to binding proteins in order to be transported by the blood stream to specific tissues throughout the body. The stress created from resistance training influences the hormonal response of IGFs so that they can stimulate growth of muscle, nerve, and bone tissue remodeling. Many of these hormonal pathways are still not understood as the interactions between hormones and their different pathways are so diverse.

Exercise Responses of Insulin-Like Growth Factors

IGF-1 has been the most studied in the context of exercise because of its immense role in protein anabolism. There is still so much to this process that is still unknown because of the 8 to 29 hour window of operation from IGFs. Researchers do believe that it is possible to initiate IGF synthesis caused by the disruption or breakdown of cellular material in the body from resistance training, including fat cells and muscle cells.

Having said that, there have also been studies that have shown the release of IGFs from fat cells caused by non exercise related stress. IGFs are stored it fairly large quantities in our fat cells but in much lower amounts in our muscle cells.

One thing that is for certain however, is that cases have been shown where if an individual's IGF concentrations are low prior to a resistance workout, the levels have risen post-workout.

Training Adaptations of IGFs

Responses of IGFs to heavy resistance training is still unknown, but levels of IGFs prior to a workout appear to affect the levels post-workout. For example, if an individual has lower levels of IGF prior to their workout, then they would see an increase due to resistance training. However, if their levels are high prior to their workout, they would see no increase, as if their body has already reached a level suited to their needs.

Mechano Growth Factor (MGF)

IGFs that are produced directly in the muscle cells are known as mechano growth factors (MGFs). These are produced in response to muscular overload and stretch (resistance training). It has been suggested that while IGFs promote the initiation of protein synthesis, MGFs initiate the growth or hypertrophy of the muscle cells themselves. MGFs have received great interest from bodybuilders as the direct injection of MGFs into the muscles appear to be a primary anabolic hormone for muscle hypertrophy.

-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. CSCS

Sources:
Baechle, Thomas R. and Earle, Roger W. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning Third Edition
http://www.steroids.ro/steroid-profiles/mechano-growth-factor.html
Photo: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2GF1_Insulin-Like_Growth_Factor_Nmr_Minimum_Average_Structure01.png




Anabolic Hormones Part 2: Growth Hormone



Last week we discussed the anabolic hormone testosterone. This week, part 2 of 3, will focus on growth hormone.

What is Growth Hormone?

Also known as "somatotropin", growth hormone comes from the pituitary gland. It has many different uses and anabolic effects within the human body which can have direct effects or mediated through the production of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) by the liver and fat cells.

What Does It Do?

Growth hormone is present and very important in the growth and development of children, but has also been seen as a result of resistance training. The tissues that growth hormone interact with include bones, immune cells, skeletal muscles, fat cells, and liver tissues. The main physiological roles are:

-Decreases glucose utilization
-Decreases glycogen synthesis
-Increases amino acid transport across cell membranes
-Increases protein synthesis
-Increases utilization of fatty acids
-Increases fat breakdown
-Increases availability of glucose and amino acids
-Enhances immune cell function

How Does it Work?

As one of the most potent anabolic hormones, growth hormone may me mediated by secondary hormones, but for the most part, it acts directly on target tissues. It interacts with tissues and stimulates the release of IGFs which greatly increase the conditions that promote tissue repair.

Growth hormone is released from hepatic (liver) cells as well as non-hepatic cells (fat, white blood cells, muscle, etc.) and enters peripheral circulation. It is transported in this way so that it can attach to specific binding proteins on cells.

Pharmacological Growth Hormone

Due to the varied uses of growth hormone in the human body, it is still unclear as to why pharmacological growth hormone acts differently than exercised-induced growth hormone. One thing that has been researched and documented however is that injecting growth hormone into an individual may increase muscle hypertrophy (size) but this may compromise the quality of muscle being built. For still-unknown reasons, exercised-induced hypertrophy is a much more favorable technique for gaining mass while also maintaining muscle quality and strength.

Program Design

If an individual is training for hypertrophy purposes, their program design is very important in order to reach their goals. Studies have shown that increased blood lactate concentrations increase the level of growth hormone. One thing to note however, is that when individuals were studied using very light weights and exercising in a much higher repetition range, serum levels of growth hormone did not change. There appears to be an intensity limit for individuals to reach in order to stimulate growth hormone production.

On the other hand, individuals who were training with heavy resistance (10 rep maximum) with short rest periods between sets (1 minute) saw greater growth hormone concentration increases when compared to individuals training in the 5 rep maximum range with longer rest periods. This has been studied and documented before and should be of no surprise as strength or power training (very high reps, 5 or fewer reps) works very well to increase and individual's overall strength, but a 6-12 rep range is ideal for muscular growth.

Growth Hormone in Women

Studies have shown that women have higher blood levels of growth hormone throughout their menstrual cycle compared to men. This not only proves that growth hormone plays many different physiological roles within the human body, but also that it is not the single limiting-factor when it comes to muscular growth. This may be due to the fact that women generally have lower levels of testosterone, but other factors must also be at play when determining what causes muscular hypertrophy.

Summary

Although there have been many studies done on the effects of both exercised-induced, as well as pharmacological growth hormone, there are still many variants and observations that need to be done. It is understood that there are multiple interactions that growth hormone plays a role in that determines muscular growth and strength as it has been shown that simply increasing concentrations does not necessarily increase muscle size/strength. Also, understanding how growth hormone concentrations change throughout not only an individual's day to day life, but also over long periods of resistance training can help us further understand the full role this anabolic hormone plays in our bodies.

-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. CSCS

Sources:
Baechle, Thomas R. and Earle, Roger W. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning Third Edition




Anabolic Hormones Part 1: Testosterone


Three of the primary anabolic hormones that are involved in human muscle growth are testosterone, growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor. There are other factors at play here such as insulin and thyroid hormones, but I will mainly focus on the three primary anabolic ones in a 3-part series here on my blog.

What is Testosterone?

Testosterone is the primary androgen hormone that interacts with skeletal muscle tissue in both men and women. Some individuals may not realize that women too have free-floating testosterone in their blood streams, but they do. They certainly do not have the same levels that men do, but it is present and biologically interacts the same way as men for muscle growth.

When most people think of testosterone, their minds may immediately think of "pumped" weightlifters (see picture above) that have been taking steroids. Yes, testosterone is a well-documented and well-studied anabolic steroid that has been used in the past for muscle growth, but the focus on this blog is about the naturally-occurring testosterone in our bodies. In fact, the direct effects of testosterone on skeletal muscle growth has probably been most notarized from experiences and studies conducted with steroid use but in actuality insulin-like growth factors (IGF's) have a more dramatic effect on the human body (discussed in Part 3 of this series).

Biological Interactions

Testosterone has many direct and indirect effects within the human body. Indirect interactions with other hormones demonstrate the remarkably complex neuroendocrine-immune system in influencing skeletal muscle size and strength. An example of indirect influence on the body would be testosterone's interaction with the neuron receptors. It can interact with receptors on neurons, increase the amount of neurotransmitters, and influence structural protein changes. To explain these changes to a laymen; this means that testosterone can indirectly alter muscular size and force properties of a muscle, but not necessarily both at the same time.

Many factors come into play when studying the size of an individual's muscle, but size does not necessarily correlate to the force that can be generated from said muscle. By increasing the number of neurotransmitters, for example, one can increase a muscle's affinity for force production without necessarily becoming "big". Real-world applications of this can be seen in Major League Baseball pitchers. Many pitchers can generate tremendous force from their shoulder but do not necessarily have large shoulder muscles.

Testosterone also has direct interactions on the body. It can promote growth hormone responses in the pituitary gland which can influence protein synthesis in muscle.

How Does Testosterone 'Work'?

Testosterone is secreted from the testes in men and the ovaries and adrenal glands in women. From here, it is transported to target tissues by transport hormones in the blood. At the target tissue, testosterone enters the cell membrane and directly interacts with the DNA to increase DNA transcription. This is the stage at which protein synthesis is induced and muscles cells can divide.

Testosterone can also bind to cell membrane receptors, although this field of study in to what these interactions actually do is continually growing.

Anaerobic vs. Aerobic Exercise Effects on Testosterone

Anaerobic exercise (resistance training) has consistently shown increases in blood testosterone in both men and women. This is obviously due to the effects of the type of training and therefore the biological response to increase protein synthesis in the muscles but to also increase the indirect effects on the body discussed earlier.

High-intensity aerobic endurance exercise has also been shown to increase blood concentrations of testosterone in both men and women. This may be contrary to some people's current knowledge but there seems to be a definitive reason for this. While anaerobic training may increase testosterone levels to increase protein synthesis, aerobic training causes a catabolic state in the body (tissue loss) and higher levels of testosterone may be present to simply try and keep up with tissue loss, or in other words, trying to replace the tissue that is lost. In fact, studies have shown that oxidative stresses placed on the body during high-intensity aerobic exercise may actually promote a decrease in muscular fiber size to improve oxygen transport to the cells.

Increasing Testosterone Concentrations

-Large muscle group exercises (deadlift, power clean, squats)
-Heavy resistance (85-95% 1RM)
-Moderate to high volume of exercise, achieved with multiple sets or multiple exercises
-Short rest intervals (30-60 seconds)

-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. CSCS

Sources:
Baechle, Thomas R. and Earle, Roger W. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning Third Edition




2011 My Year in Fitness

Well, 2011 has come and gone and many of you may be waking up this morning with a hangover. I never really understood why people would want to start a year off that way, but I guess that's the fun(?) of New Year's...

Now that we are starting a new year, it is sometimes nice to reflect back on the previous year to think of moments you were proud of and other times where you wish you maybe made better choices. The same can be done for health and fitness, and that is where I feel many people end up making their New Year's Resolutions.

2011 was a great year for me, I managed to complete many of my fitness goals that I set out for myself. On top of that, I spent a good part of 2011 studying for, and attaining, my Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification from the NSCA. If all of these aforementioned things weren't enough, my wife and I also welcomed our first-born child Evan into our family.

To quickly summarize all of my achievements from this year, I have listed my events and accomplishments below:

January

-Started my first-ever "Constant Confusion" hybrid consisting of mixing and matching workouts so that no 2 weeks were the same.

April

-Completed "Constant Confusion"

 -Started studying for my CSCS

May

-Started, and completed Insanity: the Asylum


June

-Plan and start "Constant Confusion 2.0"

July

-Compete in my first ever Warrior Dash


August/September

-Finish up "Constant Confusion 2.0" and start my Half-Marathon Training


October

-Complete my 2nd Half-Marathon (while fighting a pretty bad cold)
-Start training for my 1st-ever birthday Challenge


November

-Complete my first-ever Birthday Challenge


December

-Birth of my son Evan :)
-Receive my CSCS certification
-Start P90X2! 




Post-Partum Weight Loss

I apologize for not posting last week, but I have had a whirlwind couple of weeks. First of all, I would like to let everyone know that I received my exam results from the NSCA the other day and I have officially passed my Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) exam. What does this mean? Well, I am much more qualified to train collegiate and professional-level athletes now, but that also means that I am much more qualified than most to help everyday folks reach their health and fitness goals by providing information and resources to inspire and encourage healthy lives. If you ever have a question regarding health and fitness, please do not hesitate to contact me!

The other big piece of news that I would like to share is the birth of my first born. My wife gave birth to our son (Evan) on December 6th. Both mom and Evan (and dad) are doing great! In the interest of this news, I will share some tips and information for moms out there that wish to lose their pregnancy weight.

Set Your Goals

Be reasonable here, too. There is nothing worse than setting goals that are too lofty for yourself, only to get overwhelmed and discouraged causing you to quit. Obviously give yourself some time to rest, relax and heal after the birth of your baby as your body will need it. Speak with your doctor about this as well and you can discuss with them what you, and they, feel is an appropriate time to start exercising again.

Most women should be able to resume daily walks days after their pregnancy if they had a vaginal birth. If you have had a C-Section, your road to recovery will be a bit longer, but again, I suggest speaking with your doctor regarding this.

My wife has already decided that she will resume exercise at the start of January. This way, she allows herself some time to rest and relax over the holidays before easing back into a workout routine. For the first few weeks, she will exercise about 3 times a week and then begin to transition into 4 to 5 days a week while also increasing intensity.

Protein

Consume foods that are high in protein like meat, fish, and eggs. High-protein sources give you that satiated feeling (feeling 'full') for a longer period of time and also contain higher levels of vitamin B12 which gives you a nice energy boost. Higher energy levels and feeling hungry less means you will, in the long run, consume less calories and burn more by watching your newborn.

Teamwork

My wife and I discussed our fitness plans long before our baby arrived. My wife knows that I like to have my workout done and out of the way in the morning before I go to work. On the flip side of that, my wife has expressed interest in also exercising, so I will help out by watching the baby if she needs to exercise in the evening.

I understand that not everyone may have schedules like ours where they can call in a spouse to babysit for them, but speak with relatives or friends that live near-by that could pop over to your house and watch the little one for an hour while mom exercises.

Fight Stress

The act of giving birth, along with daily activities caring for a newborn can cause great amounts of internal stress within the body. Heightened stress levels can lead to unwanted weight gain. You can combat this with some alone time (refer to "Teamwork" above) or time for some meditation. Exercise also works well to fight stress and consuming foods high in anti-oxidants such as green tea, berries, and other fruits and vegetables can go a long way!

Be Flexible

Yes, body flexibility is important, but that is not what I am referring to here. I am talking about schedule flexibility. Some new moms get hung-up on the idea that they need to exercise 60 mins a day to lose those baby pounds fast. This simply is not the case, nor is it practical. You are now not only looking after yourself, but your little one as well. If you have such a hectic schedule and only have 15-20mins to exercise, perfect! In the end, I always tell people that doing something is always better than doing nothing!

Don't Get Attached to Your Numbers

Immediately following your pregnancy, you will drop a lot of weight rather quickly. The birthing fluids, retained water, as well as the baby itself will cause you to feel like you are on top of the world in your weight loss. This will slow but do not get discouraged. You must keep a positive outlook and understand that the journey back to your pre-pregnancy body is not going to happen overnight and that positive attitude should help you immensely!

Drink Your Water!

Pregnant women retain water during pregnancy. I know it sounds backwards, but to remove said retained water, you should drink...lots of water! It will help your bodily fluid levels stabilize, not to mention it helps in milk production if you decide to breastfeed.

Vitamins

Speak with your doctor about any supplements you are safe to take, but listed below are the vitamins that you should be consuming, as well as a list of ways to get these naturally.

Vitamin A - lost through breastfeeding, consume spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes and kale.
Vitamin C - also lost through breastfeeding, consume red peppers, oranges, broccoli
Vitamin D - stored in our fat cells and made naturally in our bodies from sunlight, can be tough to get during the winter months. This is also a tough vitamin to get enough from dietary sources so speak with your doctor about taking a supplement for this one.
Vitamin E - helps with circulation, found in nuts, seeds and eggs.
Potassium - helps lower blood pressure, found in bananas.

-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. CSCS




Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) Stretching

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) stretching was first developed to help rehabilitate patients by relaxing muscles with increased tone or activity. These principles can be applied to any individual, however, and although it is generally recommended to perform these techniques with a partner, using tools such as stretching bands or belts can help stretch certain body parts while still maintaining PNF stretch techniques.

PNF stretching may be superior to other stretch techniques because it facilitates muscular inhibition by using both passive and active movements (concentric and isometric) and muscle actions. The biggest downfall of these stretch techniques however, is that many body parts require a partner to help achieve PNF stretching, and they must be done with correct form and technique in order to work properly.

There are 3 main types of PNF stretches that I have detailed below. In each technique, the first phase incorporates a passive pre-stretch that lasts 10 seconds. The initial pre-stretch is then followed by a 2nd and 3rd phase which varies by technique.

Hold-Relax

Following the initial 10-second pre-stretch, a force is applied to the muscle in question while the individual being stretching "holds" the stretch isometrically. The "push" that is causing the isometric hold should be resisted against by engaging the muscle in question. The hold is held isometrically for 6 seconds and then relaxes. The last passive stretch is then held for 30 seconds and should be of greater magnitude due to the "autogenic inhibition" caused by the isometric active stretch.

Contract-Relax

Following the initial 10-second pre-stretch, and similar to the "hold-relax" technique, a force is applied in an attempt to stretch the muscle in question. In the hold-relax technique, the individual is instructed to not let the body part move and simply hold the muscle isometrically while resisting the force. In the contract-relax technique, however, the individual should actually complete range of motion, concentric contraction and then relax. A passive stretch of greater magnitude can then be performed for 30 seconds.

Hold-Relax with Agonist Contraction

This technique is performed exactly the same as the hold-relax technique in the first 2 phases, except in the 3rd phase, not only is the muscle in question being passively stretched, but there is an agonist contraction. For example, if the hamstrings were being stretched, then during phase 3, the quadriceps would contract to further accentuate the passive stretch.

-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. PTS




Types of Injuries, Healing Phases and Treatment Goals

In the fitness industry, injuries can mainly be broken down into two categories; macrotraumas and microtraumas. Macrotrauma is a specific, sudden injury to a bodily tissue. Macrotrauma injuries to bones can result in fractures or contusions. When they occur to joints, they can be classified as either a complete dislocation (complete displacement of the joint surfaces) or a subluxation (partial displacement of the joint surfaces). Microtraumas occurring to ligaments are sprains classified in degree stages (1, 2, 3) where first degree is a partial tear without joint instability, second degree is also a partial tear but with minor joint instability, and third degree is a complete tear with full joint instability. Injuries affecting tendons are classified similar to bones as contusions or strains based on where the injury takes place.

When looking at muscle strains, they are also classified by degrees. A first degree muscle strain is a partial tear of the muscle fibers where the individual can make a strong contraction, but pain is present. Second degree strains also involve partial tears, but the individual can only complete weak, painful contractions. Third degree strains involve a complete tear of the muscle fibers with a very weak and very painful muscle contraction.

Microtraumas, on the other hand, result from overuse injuries caused by abnormal stress repeated to bodily tissues over extended periods of time. Microtraumas can happen due to a number of reasons including poor program design, bad training surfaces, incorrect form, insufficient motor control, decreased flexibility, predisposition, etc.

Inflammation Phase

This is the initial phase experienced during an injury. Inflammatory responses cause the injured area to become red and swollen, and cause a hypoxic environment which leads to cell death and increased blood flow to the injured area. Edema occurs which is an escape of fluid into surrounding tissues. The point of this is to inhibit range of motion to the body part to help prevent further injury. Inflammation phase usually lasts 2-3 days.

Treatment Goals - The main focus here, since the inflammation phase occurs immediately after an injury, should be to prevent further injury. This should involve immediately ceasing any movement to the injured body part and removing any external hazards that could cause further injury. Once this has been completed, new tissue needs to begin to form to repair the damaged area which can be achieved by resting, icing the area, compression and elevation.

Repair Phase

As the inflammatory phase ends, tissue repair begins. New and identical tissue is produced to replace the tissues that were damaged, as well as scar tissue forms. This phase may begin as soon as 2 days after an injury but could last up to 2 months!

Treatment Goals - Collagen fibers form at the injury site to provide framework and therefore support to the injured area. By avoiding any movement or resistance to the area can cause further atrophy (decay) to the injury and surrounding tissues. On the other hand, you obviously do not want to stress the injury to the point where further injury can happen or the recovery process is slowed. There should be a happy medium where light activity to the body part or joint occurs to promote strength and stability but to also increase blood flow to the area to warrant proper recovery.

Remodeling Phase

This is where the tissues that formed during the repair phase strengthen and prepare to return to pre-injury state. Collagen fibers decrease in production so that the proper tissues can grow and replace the injured ones.

Treatment Goals - Optimizing tissue function and full range of motion should be the primary goal of this final stage. Individuals at this stage can often be tempted to do "too much, too soon", but they should be constantly reminded to not push themselves too far and to increase resistance gradually.

-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. PTS




Applying Sport Seasons to Periodization

Periodization, when applied to athletes, needs to be structured around sport or competition season. An entire year or macrocycle can be broken down into mesocycles of postseason, off-season, preseason, and in-season. In order to prevent training staleness as well as maximize results, each season mesocycle should include variety and different training modes.

Postseason

Simply enough, this mesocycle is in place to allow either active, or complete rest for the athlete since they just came off of a long competition season.

Off-Season

This largely consists of preparatory training and can last for several weeks. If an athlete's off-season lasts for a long period of time (16-24 weeks) there may even be time for 2 cycles of the three main macrocycles; hypertrophy/endurance, basic strength, strength/power.

Preseason

This mesocycle contains the late stages of the preparatory period and transitions the athlete into competition-mode. This is the essential transition from strength/conditioning training into sport-specific training.

In-Season

This is where scheduling may need to get creative in order to schedule mesocycles or microcycles around competitions, tournaments, or the most important games/events.


-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. PTS




Periodization

Traditional periodization models are broken down into cycles. Macrocycles are the largest and usually involve an entire sport year, but can last up to 4 years for an Olympic athlete for example. Macrocycles are made up of 2 or more mesocycles which can last anywhere from several weeks to several months. Going further beyond that, mesocycles are broken up into microcycles which are usually a week long but can be as long as 4 weeks each.

To properly train any athlete, a well-structured training program will consist of both sport-specific training as well as strength and conditioning training. The emphasis placed on either training modality is entirely based on where the individual stands in not only their sport season, but also in their physical conditioning. Periodization involves shifting from non-sport specific training (strength and conditioning), that is of high volume and low intensity to low volume, high intensity sport-specific activities. This shift will occur over a period of many weeks to prevent overtraining and optimize performance.

The following image will detail the periodization periods


Preparatory Period

The preparatory period is the longest period and usually occurs at the time of year furthest from time of competition. This is the time for the athlete to establish a base level of fitness in order to build and grow from there. Slow, long distance running, light plyometrics, low resistance, high-repetition resistance training is all needed and utilized to begin conditioning.

When the preparatory period first begins and the training loads are high (long distance running/swimming, high repetition resistance training), the strength and conditioning sessions take a longer period of time, which leads to fatigued athletes that have little time for sport-specific training. As the preparatory period nears the end, the microcycles begin to change to lower the work volume, increase intensity (resistance loads), and increase sport-specific training.

The goals early on in the preparatory period should be to improve muscular endurance and hypertrophy. This goal is in place to increase the efficiency and size of the muscles so that they can then be honed and trained later. To train your muscles for endurance and hypertrophy, the individual should aim for 50-75% of their 1 rep maximum (1RM) which should result in a 10-20 repetition range. The hypertrophy/endurance phase should last anywhere between 1-6 weeks and then a low-intensity recovery week before transitioning into a basic strength phase.

Now that the individual has increased their muscular size and efficiency, the basic strength phase is designed to do just what it says and improve the overall strength of said muscles. The basic strength phase involves high intensity (80-90% 1RM) and moderate volume of 3-5 sets of 4-8 repetitions.

After the basic strength phase, the athlete can then transition into the strength/power phase. This is where high loads and low volumes are introduced to maximize the explosiveness and power in the muscles. The strength/power phase involves high intensity (75-95% 1RM) and low volume of 3-5 sets of 2-5 repetitions.

First Transition Period

A very short period, the transition period is designed to allow the body to heal and recover with one week of lower intensity, lower volume, or a combination of the two to prepare the athlete for the competition period.

Competition Period

Competition periods can last for a week to several weeks, although most athletes have a sport or competition season that can last for many months. During this time, the goal of the individual is to maintain their current strength and conditioning levels by continuing to train with high intensities, but greatly reduced volumes. Especially important during this time is that the sport-specific skills are honed and trained in order to "cash-in" on the training that has been completed in the preparatory period.

Another main goal of the athlete is to ensure that their strength and conditioning peaks during competition so that they maximize the return from the efforts they have put into their training up until this point.

Second Transition Period (Active Rest)

During this period, the goal of the athlete is to allow their bodies to rest and recover from a lengthy "peak" period during their competition season. Various light to moderate activities can be practiced as long as the body is not stressed or strained too hard. It is entirely possible for the individual to not have any resistance training at all.


-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. PTS




Periodization and Responses to Training Stress

Originally introduced by Russian physiologist Leo Matveyev, periodization is a concept to help prevent individuals from experiencing slower results, plateauing results, or even reversing results which can lead to injury. Periodization has recently been publicized quite a lot with the term "muscle confusion".

Strength and conditioning programs can bring about significant strength gains, but adaptations to any program is inevitable, so periodization is the concept used to help design and schedule a program that will continue to elicit physical growth and changes.

Canadian endocrinologist Hans Selye has since attempted to explain the benefits of periodization by using the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) which can be seen below.


When the body experiences a new stress, or a stress that is greater than what is previously experienced, the body enters an alarm or shock phase. During this phase, which may last as long as a few days to a few weeks, the muscles will become tender and sore and the individual will even experience a drop in performance.

During the next phase, also known as the resistance phase, the body begins the process of recovery and repair. During the stress or alarm phase, the body is broken down and therefore must be repaired, that is where the resistance phase comes in. The body recognizes that the stress that was placed on the body needs to be reversed, and then some, so it rebuilds its tissues to be stronger than it was before. This is known as "supercompensation".

If, however, the same stresses are placed on the body for an extended period of time, an exhaustion phase could be reached. This is where the individual may see a return of some of the symptoms experienced in the alarm phase; soreness, fatigue, etc. There is also the potential for staleness, overtraining, and other maladaptations to occur. Not only can a stale exercise program cause overtraining but lack of sleep, poor diet, and excess mental stress can also lead to these conditions.

-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. PTS




Special Issues Related to Aerobic Endurance Training

There are other factors and variables at-play for an athlete who is actively training for endurance sports. These factors are listed below and should also be considered in aerobic endurance program design.

Cross-Training

There are many research studies that show the immense benefits to cross-training. Cross-training is essentially using other forms of physical activity to maintain or improve performance. Cross-training can be used to increase exercise economy in such cases like using weighted squats for runners to increase muscle strength. It can also be used to minimize the effects of certain training stresses. An example of this would be a runner using cycling maintain or improve his/her VO2 Max yet not have the physical impact on the body tissues from running.

Detraining

When an athlete ceases to train, especially in aerobic endurance training, the gains that have been attained from training can be lost very quickly. Cross-training can only slow this process slightly, so in order to slow or stop the loss of training benefits, an athlete should continue to train by modes discussed in a previous blog.

Tapering

Tapering has been show to be an effective way for aerobic athletes to reach their peak potential for a competition. The goal of tapering is to greatly reduce training duration and intensity for a set period of time before competition while greatly focusing attention on the individual's diet and lifestyle habits to increase their performance on race day. The idea is to allow the body to heal, recover and hydrate in order to 100% for competition.

Resistance Training

Similar to cross-training, resistance training can have many benefits for aerobic endurance athletes. Benefits include faster recovery from injuries, prevention of overuse injuries, and reduction of muscle imbalances.


-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. PTS




Application of Aerobic Program Design to Training Seasons

Athletes who participate in a specific sport generally have seasons. In order to train for a specific season, an athlete's periodizational training should be structured to ensure that they "peak" at the most advantageous time; when their season starts! Below is a list of how training cycles are broken up for an aerobic athlete.

Off-Season (Base Training)

Generally after an athlete completes their sport season, they take a short amount of time off from any training before they get back into their training regimen. Off-season can therefore be considered the starting point and should be used to create a base-level of aerobic conditioning.

Preseason

Preseason, or towards the end of the off-season, is the second cycle. This is when the intensity and duration for an athlete are greatly increased. It is at this point that any strengths and/or weaknesses should be addressed to hone any specific training modes that need extra or less attention.

In-Season (Competition)

Here is where any weaknesses would continue to be worked on from the preseason training during "practice" sessions. Duration and intensity should be greatly reduced in the interest of the athlete so that they are rested and recovered for their competition days.

Postseason (Active Rest)

This cycle is intended to just keep a fairly consistent level of aerobic conditioning, but to allow time for rest and recovery. The duration and intensity of the training sessions should definitely be "throttled-back" during this time to not only allow the body to heal, but to also allow the athlete to mentally relax to prevent cases of "burn out".

-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. PTS




Types of Aerobic Endurance Training Programs

When training for an aerobic endurance event, it is important to add variety to your training. Not only does variety prevent training from getting stale, but it is also crucial to allow multiple energy systems to be trained and optimized to increase performance.

Long, Slow Distance Training (LSD)

Long, slow distance training is when an individual trains at 70% VO2 Max or 80% of max heart rate (MHR). The allotted time for LSD training should be anywhere from 30 mins to 2 hours which can be the same distance or more distance than the event being trained for. This is also known as "conversation training" as the individual should be able to carry on a fairly easy conversation without feeling like they are gasping for air.

The benefits gained from LSD training are generally aerobic in nature. What this means is that an individual becomes more efficient at removing lactate, increases mitochondrial energy production and oxidative capacity of skeletal muscle, as well as become more efficient at using body fat stores as a fuel source. The increase in efficiency of using fat stores as a fuel source also spares muscle glycogen stores for more intense bouts of energy such as a hill sprint or end-of-race sprint.

Pace/Tempo Training

Pace/Tempo training is at or exceeds an intensity that will be used in a race competition. This type of training is also known as "threshold training" as it is intended to push an individual to their lactate threshold (LT) throughout their entire session. Pace/Tempo training can either be steady or intermittent. In other words, either an entire 20-30 minute session is geared towards pushing the LT or shorter bouts or intervals can be used to push the LT.

The goal with Pace/Tempo training is to increase the efficiency of both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems to improve overall stamina and performance.

Interval Training

Intervals involve intense exercise that is close to an individual's VO2 Max that can last anywhere from 30 secs/interval to 5 minutes. Any intervals that last in the 3-5min range should have equal rest periods (1:1), also known as a work to rest ratio. Interval training is intended to increase an athlete's VO2 Max as well as anaerobic metabolism.

Repetition Training

Similar to interval training, "REPS" are conducted at intensities greater than VO2 Max in work to rest ratios of 1:5. REPS work intervals should be in the 30-90 second time range, but due to their immense metabolic strain on the body, that is why longer rest periods need to be followed. The benefits here include faster speeds and enhanced exercise economy. This is the type of training an individual should use in order to improve their final leg of a race.

Fartlek Training

This is essentially a combination of all of the different types of training modes listed above. The idea here is to remove monotony associated with regular training, as well as creating race-like variables into a training session that would mimic the conditions found in a race such as hills, sprints, etc.

-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. PTS




Designing an Aerobic Endurance Program

Designing an aerobic endurance training program is similar to designing other fitness programs for any individual. We can break down training criteria into different subcategories that can be focused on. For example, an aerobic training program should include the following variables: Exercise Mode, Training Frequency, Training Intensity, Exercise Duration, and Exercise Progression.

As with any training program, however, the program should be structured to the individual's needs. For example, one person may have a history of cycling, so their form or exercise economy does not need as much training. They may have been sedentary for months or years though, so more emphasis should be placed on aerobic conditioning.

On the other hand, an individual may be very active with a wide variety of exercises but does not have a lot of experience running, and they wish to run their first marathon. In this case, not as much attention would need to be placed on their conditioning like the example above, but more time and emphasis placed on their running form and efficiency.

Exercise Mode

Exercise mode refers to the specific activities an individual must train in to become better at their desired sport or event. Obviously, if one is to become a better runner, swimmer or cyclist, they would need to practice their desired event as that would be the ideal specificity training.

Having said that, there are numerous research studies that have been done showing the positive effect cross training can have on any athletic event. Cross training should try and involve as many of the desired body parts as possible though. For example, it would not be as effective for an athlete who is training for a cycling event to spend a lot of time on the bench press.

Training Frequency

Training frequency refers to the number of training sessions an individual would have in a set period of time (usually a week). Many different variables can factor into planning an individual's training frequency such as their current fitness level as the less trained an individual is, the more recovery days they would require.

Sport season also influences the training frequency. A seasoned cyclist for example who is participating in an upcoming event may taper their number of training sessions per week.

As with any training program, recovery days are just as important, if not more important than the working days. On recovery days, it is important for one to refuel their nutrient and hydration levels in order for their bodily systems and tissues to repair and recover. Studies have also shown an increase in performance after a rest or recovery period of a day or a few days, which is not all that surprising.

Training Intensity

For the most part, the longer a training session is, the less-intense it is and vice-versa. Our muscles consist of a combination of type 1 and type 2 muscle fibers. Type 1 fibers are more fatigue-resistant because their primary energy source is derived from aerobic metabolism, although they cannot create as much power as type 2 fibers can.

Type 2 muscle fibers are more intended for power and speed, although they do so by producing energy by means of anaerobic metabolism. As the intensity of any activity increases, the body begins to transition from mostly type 1 fiber recruitment to type 2, although this is never a black and white transition, there is always some time with overlap.

By training both of these muscle fibers and their subsequent energy systems by using aerobic exercise, you are able to increase the fatigue-resistance of the type 2 fibers by training them to be more aerobically efficient. By doing so, you improve your overall aerobic performance.

The trick to aerobic training is to not train too intensely because a training session would be cut too short, but to also not push the envelope too far, so to speak, as you would not be improving the efficiency of your energy systems.

To date, there are a few different techniques that an individual can use in order to monitor their level of effort that I have listed below.

Heart Rate

One of the most widely-used methods of monitoring exertion due to its close relation to oxygen consumption. Most individuals have used methods of calculating a heart rate zone based on their theoretical max heart rate (%MHR). This can be done by subtracting your age from 220 and then multiplying it by a certain percentage or percentages to get a range.

For example, for myself, since I am 26 years old, my %MHR would be:

220 - 26 = 194

85% x 194 = 165

Another heart rate calculation that is also widely-used due to its close proximity to %VO2Max is the Karvonen Method. This is done by first calculating your age-predicted max heart rate (220-age). You then subtract your resting heart rate from this number to get your heart rate reserve (HRR). You then take your HRR and multiply it by your desired exercise intensity and finally add your resting heart rate. Written out, for myself who wants to work at 85% intensity looks like this:

220 - 26 = 194

HRR = 194 - 52 (resting heart rate) = 142

85% intensity = (142 x 0.85) + 52 = 173 beats/minute

Exercise Duration

Exercise duration simply refers to the amount of time an exercise session lasts. As mentioned previously, the more intense an individual works, the shorter the duration will be.

For example, exercise that is conducted at an intensity above maximal lactate steady state (approx. 85% VO2 Max) will have a short duration of 20-30 mins. On the other hand, exercise that stays at a steady 70% of VO2 Max can last for an hour or more.

Exercise Progression

As with any type of physical training, aerobic exercise must also follow a progressive overload training style in order to continually challenge and therefore improve the body's performance.

Typically, exercise frequency, intensity, or duration or a combination of all three should be increased from week to week during a training block. Having said that, none of those three categories should be increased by more than 10% at any given time.

Once an individual has reached a sort of upper limit for a certain variable, you can then use the other 2 variables to continue progression. For example, if an individual only have 60 mins on any given day to train, they start at 30 mins of running, 4 days a week, with a 10% training increase each week, they will eventually reach their maximum of 60 mins sessions in a few weeks. You can then "cap" each session at 60 mins, but continue progression by increasing intensity.

-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. PTS




Aerobic Endurance Performance Factors

There are three main categories that I will discuss below that should be factored into a successful aerobic endurance training program. Aerobic endurance events, whether they involve running, swimming, cycling or a combination of the three, have a fixed distance that the participants attempt to complete in as little time as possible. Training at any capacity can help better an endurance athlete's time, but a properly structured program can yield even better results and can prevent over-training and even injury!

Maximal Aerobic Power

Also known as VO2 Max, there is a strong correlation between an endurance athlete and their VO2 Max level. In basic terms, an individual who has high VO2 Max level can continue to meet the majority of their energy demands through aerobic metabolism. In other words, as the energy demands increase with time throughout an aerobic endurance event, a high VO2 can relate to increased performance for longer periods of time.

Athletes with a high VO2 Max generally have high endurance performance, although there are other factors that can be just as, if not more important such as a high lactate threshold, good exercise economy, and a high ability to use fat as a fuel source.

Lactate Threshold

As the body pushes into higher heart rate zones, and therefore transfers from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism, the body must clear away lactate from its muscles. The body eventually reaches a point in which it cannot clear lactate away as fast or faster than it is being produced. This is when you get that burning sensation in your muscles and extreme fatigue which is known as the lactate threshold. Aerobic endurance athletes with similar VO2 Maxes can have differences in performance based on their lactate thresholds.

Lactate thresholds can be trained and therefore improved which can improve aerobic endurance athlete performance. Aerobic athletes should therefore train various energy systems of their bodies in order to increase overall performance.

Exercise Economy
Exercise economy can be defined as the amount of energy expended by an individual performing a specific task or action. Certain factors such as technique or body composition can effect exercise economy. A good example of how technique effects exercise economy would be high-level distance runners tend to have shorter strides with faster stride frequency compared to more amateur runners. An example of body composition factors would be high-level cyclists. Those that are lighter in weight and have low body fat percentages can maximize their muscular efficiency versus those that are carrying extra weight on their bikes and can therefore decrease performance.

-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. PTS