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We sit around and debate periodization schemes, toss around ideas on energy system development, and discuss movement. But really, in the grand scheme of things, how much does that matter? While it is certainly interesting and important, videos like the one below make me often question what it is I do for a career, as there are professionals out there that are doing things which impact millions of people on a daily basis – Doctors who are trying to save lives, researchers who are studying the body to “crack the code” behind fatal diseases, etc.
Don’t get me wrong. I love this profession and I can’t think of anything more I am interested in doing. However, videos like this always make me think about if what I do really matters.
November 18, 2010 5 Comments
I received the following question from a trainer regarding “hypertonic” and “tight” muscles, two terms that are frequently thrown around. While the terms can be debatable depending on who you talk too, I decided to give opinion on how I look at those terms and the distinction I make between them.
What is the difference between a hypertonic and tight tissue? I am saving up to by Anatomy Trains and Dr. McGills books and I realize that we are not just stretching muscles alone. For example, in a hip bridge, when I feel my hamstrings cramp up, is it tightness, hypertonicity, or both?
I appreciate your time,
Your question is a good one and can be difficult to answer. Oftentimes the words “hypertonic” and “tightness” get used in the same breath and often interchangeably (making things more complicated). While muscles can be both “hypertonic” and “tight”, they can also be one or the other (at least how I think about it).
Hypertonic refers to the resting “tone” of the tissue. If something is hypertronic it is overly toned (IE, more tone than normal. Whatever normal means to you or to the individual client is of course something that would need to be established.). If something is hypotonic, then the tissue lacks tone and can often be though of as being flaccid. Muscles can be hypertonic if they are either short or long. While that may sound confusing, if I give you an example it may be easier to grasp. An individual with very tight pectoralis major, who sits at a desk all day and then benches three times a week, may have hypertonic pecs – the pecs are tight, the shoulders rolled forward, a very forward drawn posture in the upper extremity, shoulders internally rotated, etc. The pecs are hypertonic as their “tone” is greater than what they should be, causing a postural deviation that is not what we would consider to be “normal”. If we take the same individual and say that they also have an anterior pelvic tilt, in this case, the muscles on the anterior portion of the hip (hip flexors and rectus femoris of the quadriceps group) are tight and overactive, as are the lumbar erectors. This position, if excessive, may lead the hamstrings to be stretched way out, close to their limit. The hamstrings are stretched out and they are not “tight” but rather lengthened. However, because they are stretched to that absolute limit, they are harboring a lot of tone/tension, making them “hypertonic”. Their increased tone is not dependent on muscle tightness as it is in the pectoralis major or the rectus femoris in these examples, but rather dependent on its resting position being all the way stretched out (Think stretching a rubber band out to the point of ripping it. There is a lot of tone in that rubber band when it is stretched all the way!).
If tonicicty (hypertonic or hypotonic) has to do with the muscles resting tone/tension, then “tightness” has to do with the muscles resting length. We can test this via muscle length tests and determine that a muscle as less than, greater than, or appropriate muscle length. When working with clients, it is important to evaluate and consider the entire person in order to develop the appropriate strategy for corrective training. In the above example, while the hamstrings are hypertonic (they may even test short on an active straight leg raise test – but this can be due to many factors other than just tight hamstrings, IE, the head of the femur butting up into the anterior rim of the acetabulum, tightness on the hip flexors of the down leg not allowing to maintain that leg in hip extension as the other flexes, weak hip flexors on the leg going into flexion, poor core stability, neural tension down the back of the legs, hamstrings being all ready at full length, etc.), we wouldn’t want to stretch them as they are already at their limit! This is what Tom Myers refers to as a muscles which is “locked long”. This is why you want to have an assessment that offers you a system of checks and balances to ensure you are getting the information you need to make a decision about the appropriate way to progress.
I hope this make sense and didn’t confuse you more.
November 16, 2010 5 Comments
Unstable surface training is common training intervention used in gyms and rehabilitation facilities world wide.
The debate for or against unstable surface training can be a tough one to get into because it has typically been my experience that those who are using these methods don’t really have a good training/rehabilitation methodology or order of exercise progression. There is no real “thinking” involved in the application of these exercises in a training program. Rather, they are just thrown in because they are “hard” and because of this the client “thinks” they are getting more out of it.
Commonly in rehabilitation settings, where most of the research on unstable surface training has been conducted, clinicians will try and advance patients to these exercises too quickly, rather than having them develop sound movement patterns on the ground, before trying to progress to a more difficult variation of the basic movement.
Squats and lunges don’t typically look better on an unstable surface, so if your technique is crap when you are on solid ground, it wont get any prettier when standing on a wobble board. Crap in = Crap out.
Before I continue, it is important that we pause here to review our SAID principles:
Basically, we get what we train for. Balance and coordination are important aspects of athletics; however, these qualities are also highly specific to the sport in question. If we want to be better at running, cutting and decelerating, then we need to train those tasks. If we want to be better at performing squats on a bosu ball, then we need to squat on a bosu ball. Because adaptation is specific to the demands we impose on our bodies, it would be silly to think that squatting on a bosu ball would aid our ability to squat on the floor, or perform any athletic movement more proficiently.
As stated earlier, a lot of the information regarding unstable surface training has been conducted on athletes who are either injured or recovering from injury. Obviously, if we are a trainer or strength coach, applying research conducted on pathological populations to healthy populations doesn’t seem to pan out.
Additionally, studies still seem to be conflicting on the true benefits of unstable surface training and with the different types of surfaces available (bosu, wobble board, dyna disk, airex pad, etc.), you may get a different result depending on what you use. This seems to be more apparent in highly resistance-trained individuals, where moderately unstable training devices (IE dyna disk, bosu ball, etc) do not produce enough of a challenge to the nervous system.
What about my CORE!!
Increased “core” strength is a common quality that individuals using unstable surface training are trying to seek.
A recent study looked at core muscle activity (rectus abdominis, external/internal oblique, transverse abdominnus, erector spinae) during four exercises – back squat, deadlift, overhead press, and curls; performed under three different trials:
- On the ground with 50% of 1RM
- On a BOSU Ball with 50% of 1RM
- On the ground with 75% of 1RM
(Note: No lifts were performed on the BOSU at 75% intensity because exercises performed on an unstable surface offer a challenge to balance that would make lifting higher intensities potentially dangerous. Therefore, lifts performed on unstable surface are relatively submaximal in comparison to those that are commonly done on the ground.)
The exercises performed on the BOSU ball failed to produce significant differences in core musculature activity in all lifts when compared to exercises performed on stable ground with 75% intensity. Additionally there were no significant differences reported between the BOSU ball exercises (at 50% of 1RM intensity) with any of the exercises performed on stable ground with 50% intensity. The only significant differences noted were between the overhead press and curl performed on stable ground at 75% intensity and the BOSU ball, with the 75% intensity training showing higher activity of the rectus abdominus during the overhead press and the curl showing higher activity in the transverse abdominis and internal obliques. This led the researchers to conclude, “The current study did not demonstrate any advantage in utilizing the BOSU Balance Trainer. Therefore, fitness trainers should be advised that each of the aforementioned lifts can be performed while standing on stable ground without losing potential core muscle benfits.”
Strength And Sports Performance?
As noted above, one of the issues with unstable surface training is that appropriate intensity needed to develop strength cannot be reached due to the balance challenges that performing an exercise on something unstable present. While these balance challenges may be thought of as beneficial, it is important to keep in mind that balance is task specific, and developing appropriate strength is a crucial aspect of training (additionally, as seen in the above study, the challenge to balance didn’t add anything beneficial to the training interventions tested).
McBride et al, looked at force output between an isometric squat performed on a stable and unstable surfaces (balance discs). The isometric squat was chosen so that the subjects could perform the squat on a force plate, where force output could be properly measured. As to be expected, squatting on an unstable surface significantly reduced peak torque and rate of force development. This led McBride and colleagues to conclude, “In terms of providing a stimulus for strength, no discernable benefit of performing a resistance exercise in an unstable condition was observed in this current study.”
These findings are in agreement with Cressey et al who compared unstable surface training to stable surface training in a 10-week training program for Division 1 soccer players. The athletes in both groups performed the same training program except the unstable surface training group performed some of their lower-body exercises on a dyna-disc (small inflatable disc). The stable training group significantly improved their power output in both the broad jump and countermovement jump when compared to the results of the unstable surface group. Additionally, the stable training group significantly improved their 40-yard time compared to the unstable group and had greater trends toward improvements in their 10-yard sprint time as well. Cressey et al, concluded, “These results indicate that unstable surface training using inflatable rubber discs attenuates performance improvements in healthy, trained athletes. Such implements have proved valuable in rehabilitation, but caution should be exercised when applying unstable surface training to athletic performance and general exercise scenarios.”
While there are some studies that show evidence that unstable surface training can have a positive impact on balance (both static and dynamic balance), it is still not certain whether this will have a direct translation to improved athletic performance and skill. As stated earlier, balance is highly specific to the task at hand. Performing exercises on an unstable surface make you better at performing exercises on an unstable surface. It remains to be seen whether this type of training intervention will make you better at playing a particular sport.
If you choose to use unstable surfaces in your training programs, I urge you to come up with sound reasoning and progressions – making sure the client/athlete has appropriate technique on stable ground first – before just throwing this training technique out there, as so many do.
This article reflects my views on unstable surface training based on the things that I have read. I don’t have all the answers, but I can tell you one thing…I am not in a hurry to run out and buy BOSU Balls, Dyna-discs, or wobble boards. I’ll stick to good ole’ fashioned strength training for now.
Wahl MJ, Behm DG. Not All Instability Devices Enhance Muscle Activation In Highly Resistance-Trained Individuals. J Strength Cond Res 2008;22(4):1360-1370.
Willardson JM, Fontana FE, Bressel E. Effect of surface stability on core muscle activity for dynamic resistance exercises. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2009 Mar;4(1):97-109.
McBride JM, Cormie P, Deane R. Isometric Squat Force Output And Muscle Activity In Stable and Unstable Conditions. J Strength Cond Res 2006;20(4):915-918.
Cressey EM, West CA, Tiberio DP, Kraemer WJ, maresh CM. The Effects of Ten Weeks Of Lower-Body Unstable Surface Training On Markers Of Athletic Performance. J Strength Cond Res 2007;21(2):561-567.
DiStefano LJ, Clark MA, Padua DA. Evidence Supporting Balance Training In Healthy Individuals: A Systematic Review. J Strength Cond Res 2009;23(9):2718-2731.
Yaggie JA, Campbell BM. Effects Of Balance Training On Selected Skills. J Strength Cond Res 2006;20(2):422-428.
January 12, 2010 16 Comments
Our new facility is open for business. We are still waiting for my cable tower to come in, Keats’s other set of kettlebells, another bar, more bumper plates and we need to build our olympic lifting platform. Once that is all set up we will have a real grand opening.
In the meantime, we are open for business – soft tissue therapy, one-on-one work, or small group training.
Check out our progress photos and see what it looks like inside. CLICK HERE
Contact me if you would like to come check it out.
August 11, 2009 No Comments
Rhea M, Oliverson J, Marshall G, Peterson M, Kenn J, Ayllón FN , Noncompatibility of Power and Endurance Training Among College Baseball Players, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research:Volume 22(1)January 2008pp 230-234
Purpose: Exercise professionals seeking to develop evidence-based training programs rely on several training principles demonstrated through research and professional experience. In an effort to further research examining these principles, an investigation was designed and completed to evaluate the compatibility of cardiovascular endurance and neuromuscular power training.
Methods: Sixteen Division-I collegiate baseball players were divided into two training groups with lower body power measured before and after their college playing season. The two groups differed in training in that one group performed moderate- to high-intense cardiovascular endurance training 3-4 days per week throughout the season, while the other group participated in speed/speed endurance training.
Results: A significant difference between groups (P < .05) was identified in the change in lower body power during the baseball season. During the season, the endurance training group decreased an average of 39.50 ± 128.03 watts while the speed group improved an average of 210.63 ± 168.96 watts.
Conclusions: These data demonstrate that moderate- to high-intense cardiovascular endurance and neuromuscular power training do not appear to be compatible when performed simultaneously. For baseball players, athletes who rely heavily on power and speed, conventional baseball conditioning involving significant amounts of cardiovascular endurance training should be altered to include more speed/power interval training.
Basically another study looking at the potential effects that aerobic exercise can have on a training program for athletes in power sports.
Both of the groups performed their regular periodized weight-lifting routines (2-3x’s a week), which consisted of compound free weight movements (squats, power cleans, step ups, lunges, etc.), as well as plyometric movements like resisted jumps, hurdle jumps and bounding). The only area that the two groups different was in their metabolic conditioning program; one group performing moderate to high intensity jogging (12-18 on the Borg RPE scale) 3-4x’s a week for 20-60min. (the average being 45 minutes); while the other performed a sprint protocol of 10-30 sprints, 15-60 meters in length, with 10-60 seconds rest between sets, performed 3x’s a week.
As the results say, the group that performed the more endurance based program tested lower in power output when compared to the group that performed the more anaerobic sprint program at the end of their 18-week season.
I don’t think aerobic exercise is bad. I think that it has its place in a program, and during an 18-week competitive season is probably not the best place to emphasize it (ie 3-4x’s a week/20-60min). I think that aerobic exercise can be helpful for recovery, following intense training or competition; as well as in the off-season when the athlete is trying to raise work capacity and reach a higher level of fitness (and all the adaptations that go along with increasing aerobic capacity).
I don’t particularly like jogging and lean more towards tempo runs and/or circuit training (body weight circuits or calisthenics) as a means of conditioning in the off-season (Although some jogging isn’t going to kill you. Would I do it 3-4x’s week….probably not).
Over the next couple entries, I will post some more research that I have been reading, and talk more about cardiovascular work and using it within your overall training program. I will give some ideas as to how I have been using it (for myself and others) on days in-between my main training days and hopefully it will give you some ideas for your own training or those you are working with.
In Other News….
I am currently on spring break for two weeks before my next semester begins. I have been in school what seems like forever, and I have to say, every-time I go on spring break, I am always disappointed because it is not like my first spring break. You know, that spring break where you head out to some hot, sunny, beach like destination with your friends, get drunk and hit on girls. Now it is more like, “Spring Break. Work more, study more, etc.” Well, it isn’t all that bad. I do get to exercise more (and I am well-rested when I do it, which is great!!). The thing that I learned today as I went in to do my conditioning was that stretching after your workout feels pretty damn good! I advocate it to my clients all the time and we stretch after our training sessions, but rarely do I take the time to do it for myself; “Do as I say, not as I do.” Today I took the time, and it felt great! So, lesson of the day: Stretch, It Feels Good.
April 3, 2008 No Comments