An effective warm up can improve your performance in your workout or sporting activity as well as prevent injuries. However, some common methods of warming up may actually increase risk of injury and reduce your strength and performance.
For example, many people still perform passive stretches before working out, which can temporarily dampen the nervous system activation of the muscles you stretch and leave them weaker for a couple of hours. This not only reduces performance in your training session but can also lead to joint instability which increases risk of injury.
Another popular way to warm up is to run on the treadmill or hop on the bike for a long, slow, low intensity cardio session before hitting the weights. While there may be some benefits to a brief cardiovascular warm up, there is no need to expend a significant amount of energy doing cardio before training. There are more effective and time efficient methods for preparing yourself for a workout, such as a dynamic warm up and core activation isometrics. Continue reading
As in many aspects of our society, in the fitness industry there are things that many of us accept as true based on dogma rather than science and facts. An example is the persistent myth that “eating fat is bad for you”. Once an entire system of training (or nutrition) has been developed around a certain (erroneous) belief, it becomes very hard to change, regardless of how much evidence is presented. Cognitive biases are formed over time, which are inflexible by definition. This is why it is SO important to keep an open mind and to become a critical thinker!
Stretching and flexibility training is one of the aspects of strength and fitness that really seems to be dragging it’s ass. Despite the abundance of mounting research and evidence to indicate that passive stretching can lead to muscle weakness, joint instability, and increased risk of injury, there still seems to be a stubborn faction of fitness pros who won’t give it up without a fight. But if you try to argue against science armed with only your opinions it’s like bringing a knife to a gun fight.
I always tend to keep a fairly full schedule, and engage myself with projects and activities that excite me, but this past few months have been particularly busy. It wasn’t until I had a chance to slow down during this Canada Day long weekend that I actually realized just how fast my life was moving. This becomes especially apparent as I watch my daughter grow right before my eyes at what appears to be an alarming rate. Watching her also reminds me just how important it is to treasure every moment and really be present. You can learn a lot from watching your children.
As much as I still believe that intensity is the key for getting results from your training, I also understand that this needs to be balanced with proper rest and recuperation (for your mind, body, and nervous system). I have known for some time that I would benefit from adding a relaxing or calming activity into my health and fitness routine, but I never found something that resonated with me. I don’t have the patience for meditation. I’m not a proponent of yoga. I tried guided relaxation with some success, but something was missing. Recently, however, I was reminded of an activity that I had enjoyed practicing in the past, and I decided to try it again.
There seems to be strong trend developing in the personal training / strength and conditioning industry involving the use of foam rollers to perform soft tissue work. This appears to be another fad which was borrowed from physical therapists, similar to when “wobble board” training became all the rage. I look at this as an example of a useful tool being taken out of context and significantly overused, to the detriment of this profession, in my opinion.
Great trainers and coaches (even some of the best) have become foam rolling fanatics, prothesizing the many benefits of raking various muscles over these rigid cylinders. In no way does this detract from their expertise or credibility, but I do think it is time to take a more critical look at the growing “religion” of foam-rollers.
The proponents of foam-rolling often describe it as a form of “self-myofascial release” (SMR). No, despite how that sounds it’s not something naughty you do in front of your computer late at night! OK, so what the heck is myofascial release? SMR is a technique intended to treat “myofascial restrictions” and restore soft-tissue extensibility. It is frequently misunderstood and often described in terms of pressure affecting the Golgi Tendon Organ which causes the muscle to relax via autogenic inhibition. Some argue that this technique relaxes and lengthens not only the muscle, but also stretches the fascia surrounding it, thereby improving “tissue quality” and achieving greater range of motion. Sounds good, right? Well, let’s look at what’s really going on here…