[This post is written by John Grace, CSCS - Athletic Development Coach at Athletic Lab]
This is the third and final installment of this series. If you missed the last two entries in this series, you can read the first one here, and the second installment here. This entry will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of weightlifting belts.
Weightlifting belts are widely used among Olympic weightlifters as well as recreational weightlifters. Heavy duty belts are generally made of leather with a double prong buckle, while lighter duty belts are often made of nylon with a velcro strap. The main purposes of the weightlifting belt are to support the lumbar (lower) spine and create an increase in intra-abdominal pressure. This increased intra-abdominal pressure helps to support the spine and create a much more stable torso.
Attila J. Zink, et al. (1) studied the effects of the squat with and without a weight belt at 90% of the individual’s 1 repetition maximum (1 RM). During the ascent and descent of the lift, they found that the bar moved at a higher velocity while wearing the weight belt. This would suggest that the lifter is capable of generating more power while lifting with a weight belt. The study also found that while power output may increase with a weight belt, muscle activity actually decreases.
The use of a weight belt actually decreases muscle activity of the two largest and most significant muscle groups employed during the squat movement: the glutes and the erectors. The erector spinae muscles are the rope-like muscles running down the midline of the back-some of the strongest muscles in the body. Wearing a weight belt may have a negative impact on these muscles to activate to their full potential. Although you may not realize this impact initially, there is a possibility that you will eventually reach a point of diminishing returns.
As with knee wraps, weightlifting belts do not need to be worn to lift with proper form. If anything, weight belts should be worn sparingly at weights that are rep max attempts or near rep max attempts. It is also important to realize that at these higher weights, belts are generally considered more of a safety precaution and less of a performance enhancement.
1. Zink, Atilla J., William C. Whiting, William J. Vincent, Alice J. McLaine. “The Effects of a Weight Belt on Trunk and Leg Muscle Activity and Joint Kinematics During the Squat Exercise”. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. (2001). 15. 2. 235-240.
When people come through the door of Athletic Lab for the first time we always give them a warning before training. We tell people to take it at their own pace and use rest days wisely between training sessions. This is because of the intensity of training and how long recovery can sometimes take. But what happens after this ‘break in’ period?
Once a person has reached certain fitness level the body needs to be pushed to the next level. Think of it as stairs, when starting we are at the bottom stair. At each stair we train for a certain time with a certain stimulus. If nothing is ever changed then we stay put on the same stair. This is sometimes known as a plateau. To continue to see positive gains/results something needs to be changed in your training, either the intensity, frequency, or mode of exercise.
The two ways I feel are the easiest and simplest to change at Athletic Lab are to increase intensity and frequency. Increasing intensity could be adding weight during the strength portion or strength class, working at a higher intensity of your aerobic capacity, or decreasing the rest between sets or reps during conditioning. Increasing frequency is simple, come to more classes. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (Slentz, Duscha, and Johnson 31-39, 2004) states, “...a clear dose-response effect between amount of weekly exercise and decreases in measurements of central obesity and total body fat mass, reversing the observed effects in the control (non-exercising) group. The close relationship between central body fat and total fat and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension lends further importance to this finding”. Basically, dose-response effect means more exercise produces greater benefits.
People get comfortable in a routine which can have its benefits, but to see the biggest results, changes to the stimulus need to be made. Many times the reasons for this stagnate behavior is not knowing how to change. The results of this study show that more exercise yields more benefits. If you’ve reached a plateau, it may be time to change something up. The change doesn’t need to be major. If you’re not sure where to start try adding another day of training each week or push yourself a little harder. Athletic Lab is here to help you achieve your potential; we encourage you to use us as much as possible.
REFERENCES: Slentz, Cris, Brian Duscha, and Johanna Johnson. “Archives of Internal Medicine.” Archives of Internal Medicine. 164.1 (2004): 31-39. Web. 18 Nov. 2012.
[This post is written by Doretta Gaudrea - Nutritional Consultant at Athletic Lab]
Thanksgiving is just a few days away we are all looking forward to enjoying that nice big turkey and sweet desserts. Most people accept the fact that the holidays tend to bring along a few extra pounds, but the truth is they don’t have to. You can still enjoy all the great food without having to worry about gaining weight, feeling guilty, or “undoing” any of your training.
This year, when making holiday meals and sweet treats, use low fat or fat free dairy products, and if a recipe calls for sugar, use 1/4 less than what it calls for. Using just a little less sugar doesn’t affect the taste and its healthier to have less than more. Make sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes, serve whole grain dinner rolls instead of the usual white bread dinner rolls, and put out raw veggies as an appetizer.
Keep in mind that moderation is key. Fill at least half your plate with veggies and wait to get seconds until you are absolutely sure you are still hungry. It is ok to indulge every now and again, but listen to your body and stop when you are full. Try to limit unhealthy desserts to only one serving, once a day. If there are several pies for dessert and you want to try them all, eat very small portions of each. In other words, if there are two pies, eat only 1/2 of a slice of each, three pies, 1/3 of a slice of each, etc.
Don’t drink too much. Alcohol is filled with empty calories. The daily recommended allowance for women is one drink per day and for men is two drinks per day. If you are going to consume alcohol avoid fancy novelty drinks such as a chocolate martini. Yes, it tastes good, but it may also contain almost half (if not more!) your caloric requirement for the day. Stick to wine, a light beer or liquor with soda water or tonic water. If you need to spruce up a drink add a lemon or lime to it.
Get out and play! Most areas have “Turkey Trots” and other Thanksgiving festivities you and your family can participate in. They are fun, free (usually), and great exercise. If you don’t have any Thanksgiving activities sponsored by your community, then play a game of football in your yard. Getting out and participating in physical activity will help burn off some of the extra calories you eat, and provides time for family bonding.
[This post is written by John Grace, CSCS - Athletic Development Coach at Athletic Lab]
This is the second entry in the series of three posts that will discuss some of the accessories you may see Olympic weightlifters use. The most common accessories you will see being used are knee wraps, belts, and weightlifting shoes. In my last entry I discussed the benefits of weightlifting shoes. This post will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of knee wraps.
The most common type of knee wraps are generally elastic cloth material about a few inches in width (think ACE bandage-like). These wraps are suggested to be the most efficient when wrapped tightly around the knee joint. Knee wraps have been hypothesized to create a more stable joint and hold stored energy (1). This stored energy can help create a spring action that is believed to be created from the stretch of the wraps during the lowering phase of the lift. This would be similar to stretching a rubber band to its full potential and then releasing one end, allowing it flying across the room.
There has been some controversy as to whether or not knee wraps give the lifter a mechanical advantage or if it is simply just a placebo effect. In a recently published journal article, Jason Lake et al. (2012) tested back squats with and without the application of knee wraps at 80% of the subjects 1-rep max. “The results showed that knee wraps did provide a mechanical advantage.” Among other variables, power output increased while wearing knee wraps in compared to not wearing wraps. This proves that there is stored elastic energy that is aiding in moving the weight during the ascent, thus, improving the weight lifted.
This added benefit may look like an advantageous one, and it may be in certain occasions (competitions, 1-rep max attempts, etc.), but the aid that the stored elastic energy you receive from the knee wraps can only mean one thing – your muscles aren’t doing all the work. This is not an ideal situation when you are trying to develop athletes. Knee wraps may, over time, create muscle imbalances. These muscle imbalances can create issues, such as weak stabilizing muscles around the knee joint and weak hip flexors and extensors due to the stored elastic energy in the wraps working for you. The goal is to create a strong and powerful athlete, but not at the risk of their health.
Jason P. Lake, Patrick J.C. Carden, Kath A Shorter. “Wearing Knee Wraps Affects Mechanical Output and Performance Characteristics of Back Squat Exercise”. Journal of Strength & Conditioning. 26.10. (2012). 2844-2849.
[This post is written by John Grace, CSCS - Athletic Development Coach at Athletic Lab]
This is the first entry in a three part series that will discuss some of the accessories you may see Olympic weightlifters and recreational lifters use. The most common accessories you will see are: weightlifting shoes, knee wraps, and belts. This first post will address weightlifting shoes and delve into the science behind them.
Weightlifting shoes are not at all like your typical running or training shoe. Some may look at weightlifting shoes and think they most closely resemble clown or bowling shoes due to the raised heel, colorful (often bold or neon) combinations, and flat outsole. Though, weightlifting shoes may not look that important, they play a major role in giving you that ‘edge’, from a biomechanics standpoint. This edge generally is seen as a more advantageous posture while lifting, thus increasing one’s ability to lift more weight.
Posture is paramount when performing squats or the Olympic lifts. At Athletic Lab, we coach the Olympic style or high bar squat. This type of squat, when compared to a low bar squat, requires your torso to be in a more vertical or upright position-mimicking the athletic posture/stance found in a multitude of sports. D. Fortenbaugh, et al. discussed the squat kinematics -motion with weightlifting shoes in comparison to running shoes – “the shank (torso) maintained a more vertical position and the bar and hip were displaced less when wearing weightlifting shoes, suggesting a more erect trunk posture.(1)” Weightlifting shoes can help achieve a more upright posture by increasing the angle at the ankle joint, thus allowing the angle at the hips to be less aggressive.
This vertical posture will indirectly help increase range of motion (ROM) throughout the squat. This greater ROM can help bring you to a lower or ‘rock bottom’ position. At this bottom position (below parallel) is when the glutes (butt) activate the most. Your glutes, along with the other muscles in the posterior chain are the engine to all sporting activities. This is why being able to achieve this below parallel position is extremely important to athletic performance.
Lastly, it is important to consider the sole of the shoe you are wearing as its design can impact the lifter. A traditional running shoe outsole (heel and toe) are slightly rounded, or curved inward, for support and to aid in accommodation of various running strides. Weightlifting shoes are flat-and straight from heel to toe. This zero-offset design can help increase stability when squatting or performing cleans and snatches.
Weightlifting shoes are not a prerequisite to perform squats and Olympic lifts well, but they can help improve technique and posture if performing these movements on a daily basis.
1. D. Fortenbaugh, K. Sato, J. Hitt. “The Effects of Weightlifting Shoes on Squat Kinematics”. International Society of Biomechanics in Sports Conference, Marquette, MI, USA, July 20, 2010.
Everyone has opinions or reasons why they train at the place they do, or do they? Many times the question why will get brought up about certain training centers but people have no answer. As a sports performance coach many people in my field claim to be “experts”, so I have been conditioned to question everything first, research, and form my own conclusions. People should do the same with the people they chose to have train them. Athletic Lab is a place that is built from education, research, and the highest standards of training.
The standards that we have set for ourselves manifests itself in our education, continued learning, and experience. These things make us the most qualified staff in the area. We know that training techniques and programs are being researched every day, so we take pride in continuing our education to make sure our athletes achieve the best possible results in the safest manner.
The high standards are also seen in our facility. We want our athletes to get to the next level and to do that we make sure our facility is kept up date with the gold standard of equipment. You can see this in our top competition bumper plates for Olympic lifts to our indoor track for teaching running mechanics and proper speed work. We have everything any athlete needs to reach the next level and we’re always improving the facility with new upfits and more equipment.
Athletic Lab has the most experienced and qualified staff, the best equipment, and high standards but what makes Athletic Lab special is the people affiliated with it. We put our heart and soul into every program, every workout, and every single athlete’s progression. We are a family and we want others to have the same feeling. Every athlete that trains at Athletic Lab…from our performance fitness athletes, scholastic athletes, or elite and professional athletes are all trained with same care to ensure they achieve their goals.
Athletic Lab is more than a name, it is a vision. We encourage you to make the comparison on staff qualifications, facility, and quality of coaching. We are like no other performance training center and that is why you should choose Athletic Lab!
The Athletic Lab staff continue to distance itself from the competition. Coaches Drake Webster, Stephanie Shaw, and John Grace earned their USA Track & Field (USATF) Level 1 certifications. USATF is the National Governing Body for track and field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States. Drake, Stephanie, and John joined fellow Athletic Lab staff Cate Young, Eric Broadbent and Dr. Mike Young as Level 1 coaches. Additionally, Broadbent and Young have earned Level 2 credentials in 2 and 3 event specialties respectively. Dr. Mike Young is also one of less than a dozen Level 3 (sprint) coaches in the country and has taught more hours as a Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 instructor than anyone in the history of the program.
[This article was written by Cate Young. Cate has been a lead instructor at Athletic Lab since its inception. She is a former collegiate athlete and holds certifications from USAW and USATF]
Nearly every athlete and or fitness enthusiast, who has ever trained consistently, has encountered a build up of calluses. This article will take a look at what causes calluses, how our bodies use calluses, how to prevent calluses from tearing and how to treat torn calluses when they arise.
Calluses are thickened areas of skin that are caused by repetitive friction and or pressure on the skin. The callus acts as a protective barrier between the skin and the external source of the force or friction. Although calluses can form nearly anywhere on the body, the hands and feet are the most common locations for calluses. This article will focus primarily on the calluses of the hands. Although calluses are formed by the body with the purpose of protecting the skin, like mostly anything, too much of a good thing has the ability to have a negative impact.
When calluses build and thicken to the point that they are raised above the surface of the skin, they are at risk for being torn off. There seems to be an association with an initiation into die-hard training that is marked by torn calluses. Rather, torn calluses are as much a sign of toughness as is catching the flu. Both the flu and torn calluses have a negative impact on training and luckily, measures can be taken to prevent both. There is nothing beneficial nor celebratory-worthy about having bleeding, torn hands. Although keeping calluses at a safe thickness takes a little work, preventing torn calluses is almost always easier than dealing with, treating and healing a torn callus.
There are several measures that can be taken to prevent calluses from building to a thickness that poses a threat for a tear. Although various methods and preferred techniques exist, there are three main goals to keep in mind when it comes to preventing torn calluses:
Keep calluses at an even level with the rest of the hand. To keep the calluses at a safe thickness, filing or sanding them down is recommended. This can be achieved in several ways. It is helpful to file the calluses while they are soft and wet (post-shower filing or soaking hands in warm water before filing is helpful). Recommended files include: fingernail files, callus/corn shavers, pumice stones, sandpaper or even a dull butter knives. Frequency of filing varies between individuals and different types of training, but generally speaking, consistently filing callouses every two weeks should keep them at a safe thickness.
Keep hands moisturized. Consistent use of chalk and the frequent washing of hands leads to dry skin. Again, preferences differ when it comes to moisturizers. Some effective and affordable solutions may already be sitting around your home, such as Vasoline and olive/coconut oils.
As tempting as it is when boredom sets in, try to refrain from picking and pulling at the skin of the calluses. Often, this results in ripping away too much skin, leaving exposed cracks and crevices. This leaves the skin open and at risk of infection.
When torn calluses do arise, there are steps that should be taken to protect other athletes, prevent infection and to promote a quicker healing time. Torn calluses almost always occur before a workout is completely finished. If possible, continue with the workout, as pain allows, and bring your injury to the attention of the trainer. Although painful, chalk can generally be used to stop bleeding if the workout can be continued.
Here’s what can be done while you’re still at Athletic Lab following a tear:
As a measure of safety to others, all equipment that has come into contact with torn skin needs to be disinfected (pullup bars, barbells, kettbells, etc). It is very important to bring the tear to the attention of the trainer in order for necessary cleaning to be performed.
One of the most important things to keep in mind while treating a torn callus: any broken skin is at risk for becoming infected. Clean the tear with mild soap and water. Expect an intense stinging or burning sensation. Ask the front desk for Neosporin and a bandage to keep the area covered and clean until you get home.
There’s some debate as to whether the loose flap of skin from a torn callus should be cut away or put back into place. It has been reported that leaving the flap of skin and pressing it back into place makes for a faster recovery time. Feel free to experiment with the different methods to see what works best for you. If cutting the flap of skin, use a disinfected pair of small scissors to remove the flap of skin. It’s important to keep the wound covered and clean.
There are several recommended methods for speeding recovery time. These methods include: soaking the hand in warm water and Epsom salts for 10 minutes (1-2 times per day), vitamin E oil, pressing and holding wet tea bags on the affected area and Dermabond skin sealant.
Returning to Training After a Tear
A torn callus should not keep you from training. However, if a specific exercise becomes too painful, an alternative exercise may be recommended. Don’t let a torn callus keep you from working out.
Gloves: some people swear by the use of gloves. Others dislike them. If the use of gloves allows you to comfortably use your wounded hand, then utilize them. An adhesive foam ‘doughnut’ (round callus cushion) may be placed around the wound. Gloves may aid in preventing the cushion from being pulled off of the hand during a workout. If gloves are not an option, the following grip may be formed from athletic tape (see pictures).