Neuromuscular Adaptations with Aging by Hayden Giuliani

[Hayden Giuliani recently finished her Master’s degree at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, where she now works as a research coordinator. She is currently in the Coaching Mentorship Program at Athletic Lab.] As we age, there are obvious changes in our performance and the way our body responds to loads or exercise. Many adaptations occur within the body, specifically the muscles, that allow for these more global decrements. But, for some, it seems there is less of a decrease in performance and quality of life. Exercise is the key method in attenuating many of the muscular adaptations with aging. The primary adaptations that occur with aging are decreased muscle size (sarcopenia), decreased muscle strength (dynapenia), and decreased muscle quality, which other muscle architectures and structural adaptations contribute to. With a growing number of older adults, this is a very relevant topic to discuss. Muscle Size Sarcopenia differs from atrophy in that it occurs despite lifestyle and weight changes. Beyond the overall decrease in lean mass and inherent increase in body fat percentage, research has shown that muscle size decreases 25-36% in the thigh musculature with aging, compared to younger adults. (Lexell, Overend) An invasive study by Lexell and colleagues found that size changes within the vastus lasteralis can begin as early as 25 years and decrease as much as 10% by age 50. This loss of muscle is different between the upper and lower body, with the lower body reducing at a rate twice that of the upper body. This decrease in size is caused by a reduction in muscle fiber size and quantity. Neuromuscular fiber changes occur through a continual process of denervation and reinnervation, which leads to not only a loss of fibers [...]

By | 2017-11-21T11:32:17+00:00 November 21st, 2017|Training Info|0 Comments

The Rotational Athlete and the Importance of the Glutes by Hayden Giuliani

[Hayden Giuliani recently finished her Master’s degree at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, where she now works as a research coordinator. She is currently in the Coaching Mentorship Program at Athletic Lab.] A rotational athlete is any athlete who uses twisting within the torso in order to perform their sport-specific movement. This is done in order to transfer forces generated from the lower body through the core to accelerate the upper body and dominant limb. Sports that incorporate this type of movement include, but are not limited to, baseball (swinging and throwing), tennis, and a few field events in track & field. The ball (or object) can be either stationary or be moving, but the intent is the same – accelerate it outwardly, as hard and/or fast as possible. These movements are very dependent on the adequate use of the body’s kinetic chain. In this case, we are speaking of a closed kinetic chain, due to the foot (feet) being planted on the ground. Ground reaction forces generated from foot contact and the strength of the lower body are transferred through the pelvis and torso to move the upper extremity, whether that is one or both arms. Because humans are naturally stronger in their lower body, it is very important to be able to properly utilize the body’s intrinsic kinetic chain. This is will increase the amount of strength and power that they can generate, but also minimize the stresses at the shoulder and upper extremity joints that contribute to injuries. First, let’s discuss the kinetic chain a little bit further… Simply speaking, a kinetic chain refers to the body’s segments that are linked to allow for the sequential transfer of forces and motions. This [...]

By | 2017-11-09T18:30:51+00:00 November 9th, 2017|Training Info|0 Comments

Benefits of Post Activation Potentiation by Michael Bruno

[Michael Bruno recently finished his undergraduate degree at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. He is currently in the Coaching Mentorship Program at Athletic Lab] Post Activation Potentiation (PAP) is a phenomenon by which muscular performance is temporarily enhanced as a result of the subsequent conditioning activity. PAP can be used to improve short-term performance in sprinting, throwing, swimming, and jumping capabilities. This is the underlying mechanism that training methods such as complex, contrast, and French contrast all seem to improve. Complex training involves a heavy compound exercise, followed by plyometric exercise with similar movement pattern (i.e. half squat and vertical jump), aimed at improving rate of force development or the ability to put force into the ground over a short period of time. Whereas contrast training is a heavy set followed by a relatively lighter set over a period of time, aimed at improving maximum strength with use of submaximal drop sets. Although there are many ways to implement PAP into workouts, we are still unclear as to the underlying physiology of PAP. In the past decade, there has been a significant amount of research done on PAP and rightly so because of its wide range of performance improvements. The research has shown that there are three proposed mechanisms behind PAP. The phosphorylation of regulatory light chains, increased recruitment of higher order motor units, and changes in pennation angle of the muscle fibers. Phosphorylation or the adding of a phosphate molecule is done through catalyzation of an enzyme called myosin light chain kinase. This kinase is activated when calcium molecules are released from sarcoplasmic reticulum during muscle contraction. After being released, they then bind to calmodulin. This phosphorylation is thought to potentiate subsequent contractions by [...]

By | 2017-11-08T11:43:11+00:00 November 8th, 2017|Training Info|0 Comments

High Frequency Training: Efficacy and Considerations for Athletic Performance by Frank Muntis

[Frank Muntis recently finished his Master's degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Louisville and is currently in the Coaching Mentorship Program at Athletic Lab.] While there are countless variations of volume and intensity in resistance training programming, a commonly under-appreciated variable of periodization is training frequency. I first became interested in the subject about a year ago when I decided to try a high-frequency squat program to help me break a plateau I was in and saw incredible progress. I not only broke through my plateau, but it seemed as if I was setting PR’s almost every other day. The more I explored the subject, the more fascinated I became. The Norwegian Frequency Project Many of you have likely heard of what is often referred to as the Norwegian Frequency Project. The study consisted of 16 elite competitive powerlifters, half men, and half women, between the ages of 18 and 25. They were split into either a high frequency (6day/wk) training program or low frequency (3day/wk) training program with the same exercises, routine and weekly volume held constant between the groups. The high-frequency group had nearly double the strength and hypertrophy gains as the low training frequency group[1]. It is important to note that these were not your everyday gym goer. The participants in this study were highly trained national level Norwegian powerlifters. This study has sparked a lot of interest into high-frequency training programs. It is my goal to speak about what the limited research indicates about the efficacy of these high-frequency programs and who they are best suited for. Effects on Neuromuscular Strength First, let’s look at the possible effects of high-frequency programs on gains in neuromuscular strength. The literature is [...]

By | 2017-10-23T15:22:07+00:00 October 23rd, 2017|Training Info|0 Comments

Neuromuscular Adaptations with Strength Training by Hayden Giuliani

[Hayden Giuliani recently finished her Master’s degree at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, where she now works as a research coordinator. She is currently in the Coaching Mentorship Program at Athletic Lab.] So what do we really know about strength training? What happens beneath the surface to increase our strength and power – that ever so desired outcome? Strength training has been growing in popularity not only for sport but also for the general population, but sometimes we don’t always understand the benefits it provides for our body. Neuromuscular changes underlie what happens when you strength train, i.e. growth of muscles, increased strength and power and increased anaerobic capacity. We will be discussing both what happens within the muscles and also the brain’s communication to them. Before we proceed, I want to be clear about the kind of strength training I am talking about. I am designing this post at the type of strength training that high-level athletes and advanced lifters use. It is designed to impose a progressive overload, with high intensities and athletic movements. I would like to emphasize that strength training should be an 1) overload and 2) progressive in nature. (It should be considered that not all research studies follow this guideline, but the ones mentioned here generally did.) With an organized strength training plan, we typically see increases in strength (either tested as a 1- repetition maximum or maximal voluntary contraction), increases in power and speed, and greater muscle size (hypertrophy). The extent to which these adaptations occur can vary, based on age, gender, and training age. In addition, training load/ intensity, volume, and frequency also play critical roles that I will discuss throughout. In a long-term study [...]

By | 2017-10-23T13:37:48+00:00 October 23rd, 2017|Training Info|0 Comments

Cluster Training by Ivan Jukić

[Ivan Jukić is finishing his Master’s degree at the University of Zagreb, Croatia where he also works as a personal trainer and S&C coach for soccer. He is currently an Applied Sport Science Intern at Athletic Lab.] Training variations are essential because they stimulate recovery and adaptation, the avoidance of overtraining, long-term phase potentiation, and an elevation in performance outcomes (Plisk & Stone, 2003). Variation can be introduced into a periodized training program in many ways. Some typical examples of training variations that can be employed when designing a periodized program are manipulations of the overall training load, number of sets, number of repetitions, set configurations, and the exercises selected. These potential methods for introducing training variation allow the strength and conditioning professional a means for introducing novel stimuli into the training program. Hodges et al. (2005) suggest that the introduction of novel stimuli allows a more rapid gain in performance and that the more familiar the individual is with the task, the slower the overall gains in performance are. Therefore, it is essential that the strength and conditioning professional employs variations in the overall training program design in order to maximize the training outcomes. This is especially true for advanced and elite athletes. One often overlooked method of employing variation to the training program is the manipulation of the structure of the set being employed. Traditionally, the configuration of a set requires the athlete to perform each repetition in a continuous fashion where no rest is taken in between each repetition of the set (Fleck & Kraemer, 1997; Haff et al, 2003; Stone & O’Bryant, 1987). Cluster loading, sometimes termed inter-repetition rest training, describes a training system whereby the rest periods are manipulated, breaking [...]

By | 2017-09-20T10:12:48+00:00 September 20th, 2017|Training Info|0 Comments

Hamstring Strength and Flexibility Following a Strain by Vincent Ragland

[Vincent Ragland is in his last semester as a student-athlete at East Carolina University, pursuing a Health Fitness Specialist Degree. He is currently in the Coaching Mentorship Program at Athletic Lab] A hamstring strain is one of the most common injuries in all sports, specifically ones involving high intensity sprinting. Aside from the physical damage associated with a pulled hamstring, there are psychological damages associated with an injury as well. For example, a high-level sprinter who has strained their hamstring in the past will almost certainly never run a race again in their life without the thought of that pull being in the back of their mind. As with many injuries, the major problem associated with a hamstring injury is the risk of a re – injury, with nearly 30% of strains resulting in such. There seem to be two main reasons why researchers believe there is such a high prevalence of re-injury.  For one, muscle tissue will not completely regenerate after a strain has occurred, and two,  a weakness of the hamstring muscle or hamstring/quadriceps imbalance. After a hamstring strain occurs, scar tissue emerges in the location of the injury. The emergence of scar tissue increases the likelihood of re-injury and also limits the range of motion in a strained muscle. The most common mechanism of re-injury is when an athlete returns back to sport before the injury is completely healed and fully functioning. A study by Brian Cammarota shows that nearly 83 percent of hamstring re-injuries occur because an athlete attempts to return too soon. Similar studies show that 20-55% of the original injury had not healed in six weeks. (Cammarota et.al, 2013). Typically, when an athlete suffers an injury, they want to [...]

By | 2017-09-13T09:45:25+00:00 September 13th, 2017|Training Info|0 Comments

Periodization of Ice Bathing by Nick Voth

[Nick Voth is currently finishing his degree in Exercise Science from Bowling Green State University, where he competes on the Cross Country team. He is an Applied Sport Science Intern at Athletic Lab.] Cold water immersion (CWI) is a common recovery modality employed by athletes to enhance post-exercise recovery. Athletes may use CWI to speed recovery and reduce muscle damage. Two potential arguments can be made regarding CWI. The first is that CWI has been used to speed recovery, allowing athletes to train hard every day. Acute recovery mechanisms of CWI include a reduction in central nervous system fatigue, reduced cardiovascular strain, increased rate of removal of muscle metabolites, and acceleration of return of parasympathetic drive (Ihsan et al., 2016). Vasoconstriction induced by cold temperatures, subsequently followed by vasodilation leads to a multifold increase in blood flow to the tissues (Adamczyk et al., 2016). On the other hand, these acute recovery mechanisms may inhibit the adaptive process that increases adaptation. CWI may lead athletes feeling fresh for subsequent training sessions, however, the timing of this strategy may inhibit crucial adaptations. It is important to find a balance between the acute and chronic implications of CWI before using it as an intervention in training. Dr. Jeff Messer (2013) describes two types of inflammation in a lecture on ice bathing: compensatory and adaptive. Compensatory inflammation may accompany a traumatic injury (ex: joint sprain), while adaptive inflammation is associated with training induced muscle damage. CWI immersion after exercise may inhibit cellular responses associated with adaptation. He argues that cellular and mechanical stress are pre-requisites to adaptation (Messer, 2013). This point brings up speculations as to appropriate timing and use of CWI. If an athlete is in a phase [...]

By | 2017-09-13T00:20:10+00:00 September 6th, 2017|Training Info|0 Comments

Fine Motor Development for Sport Performance by Tony Kauth

[Tony is currently a senior studying Exercise and Sport Science at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and an Applied Sport Science Intern at Athletic Lab.] To develop fine motor movements, serious dedication needs to take place. It is important to understand the benefits of developing this key mechanism in sport performance. To do so, there are general and specific exercises that an athlete can do. While the process of developing fine motor movements can seem daunting, let’s explore why it can be beneficial, and some methods to improve it in the most efficient manner. Performance Potential: Since fine motor development increases the precision of movement, its benefit to sport performance can be enormous. In sports where stability is of benefit, fine motor development can not only help a gymnast stay steady, but it can also help a tactical athlete redirect force more rapidly. In sports where maximal force production is of benefit, fine motor development can help an Olympic weightlifter direct that force in the most linear and efficient manner. Even in aerobic endurance sports, fine motor development can help a distance runner more efficiently strike the ground which uses less energy that they can store for later in their event. All in all, improving fine motor development reduces wasted motion. Utilization in Training: While it may be attractive to attempt to develop technical, fine motor movements early, it’s important to understand the limitations of doing so. In the spectrum of motor development, gross motor development is the first that is developed, and fine, especially those related to sport-specific skills, develop last (O’Connor, 2000). Since gross motor development occurs first, an athlete must create a nearly autonomous system of gross movements (i.e. “the basics”) before [...]

By | 2017-09-05T11:11:42+00:00 September 5th, 2017|Training Info|0 Comments

2017 Scholastic Sports Performance Update

Athletic Lab is proud to announce a major change to our Scholastic Sports Performance Program. Beginning on August 28th, the Scholastic Sports Performance small group training program will undergo the following changes: Longer Training Sessions: Training sessions will increase in length from their current 60 minutes to 75 minutes in duration. This will allow us to deliver a better and more comprehensive training experience to our athletes. Additional Time Slots: We will add 3 additional late evening training times each week to better meet the needs of in-season athletes.  In the past, our in-season athletes were often unable to continue their physical training because sport practices ended after our last training session. With the addition of new training times, in-season athletes should be able to continue their training even when they're in-season. Revised Start Times: In response to the points above, classes will now be offered on the following schedule: Mon / Wed / Thurs: 3:45 pm; 5 pm; 6:30 pm Tues / Fri: 3:45 pm; 5 pm Sat: 10 am; 11:15 am Improved Format: We will begin offering planned, progressive, semi-individualized training for all athletes in the Scholastic Sports Performance group training sessions. Athletes will receive semi-individualized training plans upon signing up and work their way through the training plans in much the same way as our collegiate and professional athletes. In the past, our group training sessions followed daily themes (speed, strength or power focused). This allowed us to focus on one aspect of training but athletes were often forced to miss the themes that were most relevant to their development because their availability did not match with our schedule. With the longer session durations and increased training time slots we will be able to address all [...]

By | 2017-08-14T11:42:49+00:00 August 14th, 2017|News, Training Info|0 Comments