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Know what types of training techniques work best for your sport

Running & Fitness
Saturday, July 20, 2019

I have been involved in a number of sports and activities. I try to learn as much about what it takes to improve in that sport. Some sports are easy to follow a conditioning program for. Others have so many versions of how to improve and train it takes a 400-page book to list all the methods. I tend to believe that training should be as close to that sport's demands as possible. I had several conversations this past week with physiology educators and trainers with a good background of knowledge, and we were comparing notes on some of the more unique training methods that we have experienced.

One of the trends in weight lifting today is the use of kettle bells. Kettle bells are round balls of iron with a handle. Kettle bells were the main piece of equipment for strongmen back in 1918 or so. Now in 2018 they are once again in use. It took about 100 years to be a new thing for training, but it is a good example when “old timers” in fitness say, “Yes, we did that when I was a kid.”

Stretching has been the good and bad over the years. Runners stretch before a race to loosen up the muscles and use the stretching to prevent injuries. Around 1960 a professor in exercise physiology, Dr. Peter Karpovich, did a study where he took students from Springfield College and had them run a quarter mile for time. The students were in a jogging class and did some stretching exercises in one class. The next class period he had them run with no warm up. Just take off and run. He even grabbed some students as they walked by on the way to another class and had told them to run a quarter mile. (You had to know what type of personality professor Dr. Karpovich had to get students to do his command. In class he would have students sweating at their desks as he prepared to ask questions.) The basic results of the quarter mile runs were that the times were almost identical, and none of the students pulled a muscle from not stretching or warming up. It was a good study at the time and down played the value of stretching before an activity.

When I was a strength coach for a professional hockey team there were some players that had a good range of motion, and a few that bending over to touch their knees was hard. Both types of athletes remained injury free.

The type of warm up most athletes use now is doing the movement that will be used in the sport as a warm up. Active movement versus static stretching. Runners will run before a race to get ready. This warms the muscles up, gets the blood circulating, gets the heart rate and breathing up, and aids the body trying to adjust from a stationary body to a moving body much easier. In physiology terms it is called ‘oxygen debt’ when the heart rate and breathing try to catch up to the new demand of movement.

Tennis players go out to a court and hit tennis balls back and forth long before they are to play a match. Golfers are at the driving range, or on the putting green, long before they start to play. Baseball players arrive several hours before a game to throw, bat, and field balls before a game. 

If a player is injured and needs special stretching exercises to loosen up some remaining scar tissue a trainer will do that. The one type of stretching that most experts feel is detrimental is the ballistic form of stretching. An example of ballistic stretching, such as touching your toes, is where you bounce to increase the range of motion. This often results in minute muscle tears that may later in the game becomes a torn muscle.

There are some exercises that can cause the wrong results if done incorrectly. The exercises I learned the hard way was leg lifts and bent-knee sit ups. During college, and for years later, I did 200 leg lifts and 500 bent-knee sit ups every day. When you analyze the attachment of the abdominal muscle, you notice that the abdominal muscle attaches at the pelvic bone, and does not attach to the legs, so it can’t lift the legs. Since it does not cross the hip joint, it does not cause flexion at the hip for sit ups. My problem was when a co-teacher asked me to do a sit up without having my feet secured. I couldn’t do the movement. He asked me to keep my back flat on the floor as I lowered my legs down for a leg lift. I couldn’t do that either. I had about 15% strength in my lower abs from doing incorrect leg lifts. I couldn’t do the sit up because when I did bent-knee sit ups with my legs secured I was using the ilio-psoas muscle that attached to my low back. I had a sway back (lordosis) and in order to sit up I had to undo the anterior curve of my low back to flex the trunk to do a sit up. My abdominal muscles, instead of being stronger, were actually stretched and strained and resulted in a weaker muscle. It was a tough lesson to learn that all those years of doing sit ups and leg lifts incorrectly resulted in the opposite effect of what I wanted.

The difficulty comes when you need to determine which of the methods are best for the sport you play. Know the background and knowledge of the trainer you choose, and the same for the author of the book you are reading for information.

San Marcos Record

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