Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Exercise as the Fountain of Youth

For those of you interested in the endless benefits of fitness, take a look at this article from the NY Times that suggests exercise might be the fountain of youth that not only keeps us young but can also reverse the effects of aging as well.

In an experiment conducted with laboratory mice genetically programmed to age at an accelerated rate, professor of pediatrics at McMaster University Dr. Tarnopolsky found some interesting results that deals largely with Mitochondria – the microscopic power generators that “combine oxygen and nutrients to create fuel for the cells” – and their ability to repair itself.

According to the article, “Many scientists consider the loss of healthy mitochondria to be an important underlying cause of aging in mammals. As resident mitochondria falter, the cells they fuel wither or die. Muscles shrink, brain volume drops, hair falls out or loses its pigmentation, and soon enough we are, in appearance and beneath the surface, old.”

The mice, which carried a genetic mutation affecting how well their bodies repair malfunctioning mitochondria, “were extremely frail and decrepit, with spindly muscles, shrunken brains, enlarged hearts, shriveled gonads and patchy, graying fur” by the time they were 8 months old, or in their early 60s in human years.  All were dead in less than a year of age….

Except the mice that exercised!

Yes, it’s true: Dr. Tarnopolsky found that half the mice that were allowed to run for 45 minutes 3 times a week since the age of three months had full pelts of dark fur, no salt-and-pepper shadings unlike their sedentary counterparts, and “also had maintained almost all of their muscle mass and brain volume. Their gonads were normal, as were their hearts.”

The most surprising finding is that the mice who exercised “had more mitochondria over all and far fewer with mutations than the sedentary mice had” despite harboring the mutation that should’ve affected mitochondrial repair: Proof that exercise had aided these mice repair and reverse the effects of aging.
But perhaps the most appealing benefit of exercise even attracts the young; “While Dr. Tarnopolsky, a lifelong athlete, noted with satisfaction that active, aged mice kept their hair, his younger graduate students were far more interested in the animals’ robust gonads. Their testicles and ovaries hadn’t shrunk, unlike those of sedentary elderly mice.”
Remember, it’s never too late to start exercising and reversing the effects of aging – contact Titan Sports at info@titansb.com or 805-683-1231 to start today!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Stop While You Still Can: The Perils of Carbohydrate Addiction

With his thought-provoking article entitled "Are Carbs More Addictive Than Cocaine?", Paul John Scott explores of the most invasive yet silent addictions facing Americans today: Carbohydrates. "It has no use for the drama and the carnage you associate with cocaine and alcohol," Scott writes, "It's slower to show its hand, more socially acceptable - and way more insidious. "

In addition to causing cravings just like cocaine, carbohydrates wreak havoc of its own:

"Unlike cocaine, this does more than rewire your neurological system. It will short-circuit your body. Your metabolism normally stockpiles energy so you can use it as fuel later. A diet flush with carbohydrates will reprogram your metabolism, locking your food away as unburnable fat. When you get hungry again you won't crave anything but more of the same food that started you down the path to dependency. Think of this stuff as more than a drug—it's like a metabolic parasite, taking over your body and feeding itself."

Read the entire article here.

Are you ready to finally kick the carb habit and have that body you've always wanted? Contact Titan at 805-683-1231 or info@titansb.com for a free trial workout and get started today! 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Intervals, Intervals, Intervals…

This will be the first of many discussions on the subject of intervals.  Intervals are one of the most misunderstood areas of training yet one that attracts great attention.  The word is usually accompanied by a groan.  However, if the progression of the intervals is modulated appropriately the intervals become a welcome challenge.  Athletes quickly understand that if done correctly large increases in fitness can be obtained.  

The dictionary definition of an interval is a period of time between two points of time, events, etc.; intervening period.  In exercise it is a period of time that an exercise is performed at different levels of intensity for different amounts of time. Most people think of intervals as the High Intensity Interval (HIT) which is typically measured in seconds or a short number of minutes.  However, intervals could be much longer dependent on the desired outcome.   The challenge, from a coaching perspective, is to determine which length is most appropriate.  This is determined by level of fitness and the needs of a particular sport. I think most people look at intervals as training that is more suited to aerobic sports.  However, at Titan we have found that it is very helpful for anaerobic types of sport as well.  The benefit is seen in the speed of recovery of athletes during training and competition.    At Titan, we usually start at 20 seconds or less and then determine rest by the speed of recovery and the desired outcome.  At the Titan Center we have an Intermittent Hypoxicator which simulates altitude, we utilize this equipment to test athletes and help us determine levels of aerobic fitness.  Duration of the interval is then adjusted so that time under intensity is either lengthened or shortened as the level of fitness changes.  Really short duration intervals tax the anaerobic energy system while longer duration intervals require more aerobic capabilities. There is a balancing act in this training because one energy system helps to support the other.    We will marry the length of the intervals to the needs of the particular sport.  The mistake that most people make is either going too long or too hard early in the development of fitness so that the subsequent pain is so great that the athlete never wants to think about this type of effort again.  There is definitely a psychological aspect of intervals that must be considered when incorporating this type of intensity into a workout.

When starting interval training spend some time on developing baselines so that you know what type of output you are capable of in a maximum effort and for longer periods of time.  If you want the most sophisticated measure you may find lactate testing and VO2 max testing helpful in determining these baselines. 

This leads me to one of the most important parts of utilizing intervals: measurement of output!  Typically this is where the wheels come off the workout.  You must measure the amount of output!   If you do not, then the intensity of an interval late in an interval workout will diminish in output to such a point that there is little value.  I call this no man’s land training.  It is not hard enough for overload, but leads to overtraining and valueless fatigue.  

How do you measure output of an interval?  Time and distance is the poor athlete’s power meter.  For example you are doing sprint intervals for 20 seconds on the track.  Measure the distance you are covering during each interval. This will tell you whether you are producing more power than the previous interval.  On a slide board we use number of touches in the time of the interval and record it.  More touches mean more power produced and now you have a way to measure improvement.  It also allows us as coaches to determine if the interval should be shorter/longer, or whether there should be more rest between the intervals and also how many total intervals to perform.   The quality of the interval is of great importance. Poor output in your interval sessions will just make you fatigued with little performance value.  This can lead to the start of overtraining.   Intervals are also an excellent window into your fitness.  If you have in the past been performing much greater power outputs than the interval currently being performed then maybe you have not had enough rest since your last workout.  If we observe this lack of output we would skip these intervals and pick them up again after the athlete has had adequate rest to perform at the desired output.  In many cases if I see athletes drop off dramatically in the output of an interval they will many times be sick in the days following.  

If you are going to perform intervals in your training, one of the first things you need to think about is determining your baselines and then coming up with a method for recording the output on an ongoing basis.  This will allow you to see what type of training outside of your intervals is adding or subtracting from your performance in an interval and also what type of intervals are adding to your performance outside of the intervals.
More to come….
Train smart, have fun, and you will prevail!

Jacques DeVore, CSCS
President Titan Sports Performance

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why Routine and Rituals are Important in Training

Training can be boring at times because of the repetition that is sometimes necessary dependent on sport, level of fitness and training objectives. Overload and adaptation lends itself to routine (http://titanathlete.blogspot.com/2010/05/overloadadaptation.html). However, there is an important place for routine and ritual in training.

Early on in the training our athletes, I want them to go through a mental checklist or routine prior to executing any particularly difficult exercise. In competition, preparation instills confidence and confidence produces winning performance.  This applies not only to sport, but to anything in life.  They call it the practice of medicine for a reason.  It is something that is practiced ongoing.  The last thing NASA says before liftoff of a space shuttle is “All systems are go”. A lot can be learned by this systematic check list in both training and competition.  

With that in mind let’s say an athlete is performing a heavy dead lift at Titan. I have the athlete develop and execute the same routine prior to every lift. How they approach the bar, visualizing a successful lift, how they grab the bar.  It may be left hand first, then right hand, foot position, breathing, etc.  It doesn’t really matter what is in the routine.  What is important is that a conditioning response system is developed that prepares the mind for success in training.  Do not forget that the idea of training is not just strength, power, endurance, etc.  It is also the time that you learn to take risks without anything at stake.  To create an environment that is comfortable so that when game time comes around you know you are prepared and you have already been at this point many times before. You do not know how many times I have seen great athletes make major changes in things very close, or immediately before competition. This is a result of lack of confidence and poor preparation. Including rituals and routines prepare you mentally during training so that game time is relaxed and you play at your best.

So next time you approach an exercise, develop your own personal routine. Stick with it, and utilize it to get great gains in training and also on the field.

Sometimes routine is not so boring. 

Train smart, have fun, and you will prevail!

Jacques DeVore, CSCS

President Titan Sports Performance

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The VersaPulley!!!

Our latest addition to our list of equipment is the VersaPulley, http://www.versaclimber.com/VP_sport.htm .  It is a wonderful piece of equipment that allows us to create exercises horizontally with both eccentric and concentric loads.  This allows the athlete to produce huge amounts of power in a movement pattern that is typically difficult to get more than body weight loads.  It is excellent for anyone who moves laterally in their sport.  We are very excited about this addition to our already long list of equipment for sport.  Please see below the highlights of this equipment.

What Is VersaPulley?

VersaPulley is a high/low strength exercise pulley machine that combines speed, power and functional mobility through any range of motion with accommodating inertial resistance at any speed, just like sports. The VersaPulley was designed to enhance sport movement and athletic performance. The resistance used is based on patented MV² technology. This technology provides responsive resistance and a true stretch-shortening cycle for closed chain, multi-plane, multi-joint exercises as well as isolation or open-chain routines. MV² technology is a mechanism utilizing rotational inertia and an infinitely variable cam (cone). One can perform a vast array of exercises across the force-velocity spectrum ranging from high force and low velocity to high velocity and low force.

Who is using VersaPulley?

World-class athletes at Mark Verstegen’s Athletes’ Performance Training Centers in Tempe, AZ and Carson, CA. Verstegen are Director of Performance for the NFL Players' Association. He and his staff work with top athletes competing at the highest levels in football, basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey, and many other sports. Noted speaker and regular NSCA columnist Juan Carlos Santana uses the VersaPulley with his athletes and clients at the Institute of Human Performance in Boca Raton, FL. Additionally, other top professionals such as Mark Roozen in Fort Worth, TX are using the VersaPulley.

Train smart, have fun, and you will prevail!

Jacques DeVore, CSCS

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why should you care about Physics?

Power = Force x Distance/Time =Force/Velocity, Force = Mass x Acceleration +Weight of Mass,  Rate of Force Development= ∆ (force)/∆ (time)

They say that you cannot defy the laws of physics.  That is true, however sometimes when you watch athletes in sport you wonder if that is always true.  The three equations above are of great importance in training athletes and must be addressed in the training and evaluation of athletes and the development of training strategies.  

I have mentioned in the past that different sports require the body to produce power at a multiple of an X factor.  In other words how much volume and how much intensity of power does a particular sport require?   These differences in the type of power place different metabolic energy needs on the body.   The X factor is determined by the requirements of the specific sport.  For example a shot putter has an X factor that is very small.  There are only a handful of throws at maximum power necessary to compete in a track meet.  A boxer has an X factor that requires power to be produce in much greater volume.  The boxer has to produce power in punches hundreds of times in a match.  Understanding this X factor and how the body produces power is where the understanding of how physics comes into play.  
Let’s start by looking at the first equation.  People confuse power with strength on a regular basis.   Strength is the ability to generate a force.  If you were pushing against a wall with your hands you are creating a force.  The force could be measured using a force plate to determine how many units of force you are creating.   Force is a measurement of Mass x Acceleration plus the weight of the mass.  It is typically measured in Newtons. Once again, strength  is the ability of an athlete to generate a force. If you look at the equation for power it takes Force (strength) and incorporates the time it takes to generate the force over a particular distance (velocity).  
Think about getting out of a chair.  You rise up and generate enough force and velocity to overcome the weight of your body and gravity to lift you out of the chair.  If you continue to increase the speed at which you go from sitting to standing eventually you would increase the speed to such a point that your body would leave the ground.  In each subsequent time out of the chair you are producing more power as you increase the speed of rising up.  So it is one thing to have the ability to produce enough force (strength) to rise from your chair and overcome the weight of your body and gravity.  However, once velocity is increased you will rise higher and higher as you rise from your chair generating greater and greater amounts of power as the velocity increases.   
Rate of force development equals the change in force and the amount of time to make that change.   What influences your velocity greatly, and subsequently your power is the rate in which your muscles produce the force.  If the rate of force development is increased then you will be producing force at a faster rate and velocity will increase if all else is equal.  If you have ever played the game when one person is standing with their hands clasped in front of them, and the other person is facing them with hands to the sides and then you try to slap the person’s hands you have a little idea about force development.  Ouch, if you are slow at force production in this game.  We used to play this as kids and someone was walking away with red hands. If you were the hitter you would stand there and concentrate to try to increase the speed at which your body moves your hands.  The faster you were able to fire the muscles and produce a force the faster your hands would cover the distance delivering a resounding slap.  In boxing they call this beating your opponent to the punch.    
Why are these physics equations important to training?  When evaluating an athlete at Titan we look at all of the parts in these equations to see where the athlete has the biggest gaps.  Much of the short term gains in strength training are neuromuscular in nature.  In other words we see strength gains in an athlete before we see size gains.  If you were to focus on nothing but strength gains there would be gains in strength but not necessarily in rate of force production. Rate of force production increases are seen more readily in explosive types of exercises where high levels of power are being produced.  (Hakkinen et al., 1985) A strength coach needs to determine the best course of training needed for a specific sport, and tie that to the athlete’s current strengths and weaknesses.  This type of evaluation is ongoing with the athletes training at Titan to determine areas of fitness that need the most attention.   For example, an athlete may come to us with a good base of absolute strength, but is lacking in the velocity side of the equation.  In many cases you can eyeball this lack of velocity.  With more highly trained athletes we utilize our Isokinetic equipment to measure the time to peak force and get specific measurements of our starting point and subsequent progress.  This piece of equipment can measure time to peak force and give us a window into the rate of force development. The faster an athlete gets to peak force the faster the rate of force production.   With this information we can develop a training program that will improve the athlete’s ability to generate a force and subsequently more power for their specific sport.  
In previous posts I have discussed tipping points in training.  These are gains in fitness that have a huge impact on an athlete’s performance and are visible after a short amount of training.  Utilizing the equations above in the evaluation of your fitness can oftentimes lead you to an area of training that could result in a big improvement in your performance on the field. 
Understand the physics and you will be able to better utilize the training time you have available. 

Train smart, have fun, and you will prevail!

Jacques DeVore, CSCS

Monday, November 22, 2010

Why each training session should have a Primary Training Objective:

At Titanwe not only look at the long term strategy of the training based on a well developed evaluation of the athlete’s strengths and weaknesses, we also spend a lot of time on the tactics of each training session.  The long term or grand strategy evaluates the long term objective of the athlete for the off season training and beyond.  If someone is not an athlete we like to create seasons for them.  This allows them to “peak” at different points in the year and give them psychological breaks from training year round. 

Each individual training session is another rung in the fitness ladder.  In order to make the next step up in fitness, each of these sessions must be developed in a thoughtful manner.  At Titan we have Primary Objectives for each training session.  The Primary Objective may be lower body strength, power, stability etc.  The Primary Objective may be active recovery.  The point is that if you do not have a Primary Objective you may want to look at incorporating this concept into your workout.  The Primary Objective of a workout allows our training staff to focus on one area of training that is the most important part of the grand strategy for that day and choreograph a workout accordingly. This will improve performance and move the athlete forward at the most rapid rate possible.   The Primary Objective must be dynamic.  In other words, if the Primary Objective was to obtain an overload in lower body power utilizing plyometric exercises, and the athlete was not able to perform at a level that produced the overloads necessary, we would need to change the session and revisit the Primary Objective.  We would determine what factors are impacting the athlete’s inability to perform at the expected level.  We would  determine if it is the intensity of the exercise being too great, maybe the rest between reps and sets is not long enough, volume may be too great etc. There are a number of factors that may be in play.   Typically, the lack of performance  is driven by recovery time or some exigent factor (a cold about to come on) . We would then make adjustments to accommodate the athletes lack of performance and not blindly complete a particular session.  We would reschedule this session into the future and evaluate why the performance was not at the level we expected making the necessary adjustments.    

Time is the real enemy of an athlete who wants to compete at the highest level.  Establishing Primary Objectives for each workout insures that workouts are not wasted or contributing to overtraining. 

Train smart, have fun, and you will prevail!

Jacques DeVore, CSCS