Tacoma Personal Trainer Answers Your Questions
As the go-to Tacoma personal training expert, every week I receive questions from clients, people who read about me online, and other sources regarding fitness. Occasionally a friend from Paris or New York will send me a Facebook message and ask me a nutrition or training question. I am extremely busy training clients, writing, making videos, learning, traveling to seminars, running a business, training my own body, and trying to spend time with friends. I can’t answer every question I get, but I do my best.
I’ve started this weekly blog to take some of the knowledge I’ve acquired and share it with you. My goal is to answer one question a week and post it here. Last week I did a video on foot health and high heels as well answered some questions about what works well for running and knee health. You can find the video on our BeFit Tacoma youtube channel, but I haven’t had a chance to write it up and post it to the blog. My one-on-one personal training clients invest over $100 a session to work with me exclusively. Being the kind hearted Tacoma Personal Trainer that I am, I figured I’d take the time, wake up early, and answer one of the questions I got in my email last night about sports training, power, and flexibility. After this I have to book my shuttle for New Jersey, finish programming for BeFit Tacoma Boot Camp and run the noon classes.
THE QUESTION OF THE WEEK:
I took a week off of my normal training, primarily because, with the good weather, Mother Nature has taken residence in my yard. It takes a lot of time to restrain the hearty growth of landscape this time of year.
What are your thoughts on stretching prior to competitive training? Specifically, do you think it is good to do the stretches at the beginning of Phase A and B prior to a sparring/cardio session? I believe the stretches are beneficial, however I tried to do Phase A before sparring today, as I have done in the past, and I ended up with a tight calf muscle. Today I also started a new allergy medication which could have contributed to my lower than usual performance.
I have read that stretching takes out some of the elasticity of the muscle, and in some cases diminishes performance and can lead to injury. I was just wondering what your thoughts were. Sometimes I will need to perform both Phase training and TKD on the same day. I understand that one is going to impact the other; I would like help in determining how to perform the sessions.
The Tacoma Personal Trainer Answer
This is a great question because there are a variety of opinions and ideas on the subject, and I’m always interested in researching and sharing what I think works best. As a personal trainer who’s traveled around the world to learn from the experts, I have discussed the topic of pre-stretching before workouts with countless coaches, including Nick Tumminello and Mike Boyle . Before we can go into that, I need to give a bit of background information on Rocky’s training as he consults with me for customized program design.
Rocky is a competitive martial artist. He had some strength training in his background, primarily through studying magazines and working out by himself, but he came to me to step up his game. His main focus was reaction speed and the ability to be more explosive during his competitive bouts. Even though he lives a distance away and works for Microsoft, Rocky contacted me about coming down to Tacoma for program design. Since he was a referral from another coach I know, I was more than happy to work with him. Having trained as a martial artist myself for years, I was absolutely thrilled to work with Rocky. I have a good idea of the pitfalls that many martial artists seem to hit – mainly excessive aerobic training, a very low base of strength and a general focus on training the wrong muscles, thereby creating imbalance.
When I created Rocky’s first phase, I wrote him what’s called a General Physical Preparation Phase (GPP Phase) to help him build up some basic strength, balance out his tight muscles and strengthen weak ones, and get his joints used to strength training. This phase typically lasts for four weeks but can be shortened depending on how long the individual has been training. Someone with a high training age may stay in this phase for 2 weeks and someone with a great training age could stay here for 12 weeks. However the GPP is not a phase you want to stay in forever. In fact, after about four exposures to each workout, you need to change your training.
One of my goals with Rocky is to lower his body fat, not only through nutrition, but also through conditioning. So, depending on my assessment when he came back, I’d either put him in an Accumulation phase, focusing on building total work up and focusing on fat loss, or on an Intensification phase, focusing on building his strength up. A point to keep in mind is that martial artists are regulated by weight classes; the less he weighs and the faster and stronger he is, the greater advantage he has over his competition. I am careful to consider this when specifically programming for my Tacoma personal training clients; some of my clients come to me specifically to add size to certain body parts. Their programs can be as different as night and day. I designed Rocky’s first phase, giving him what’s called an A and a B. Monday he does an A Program and Wednesday he does the B Program. If he trains Friday, he does the A program and then on Monday the B program; he does each workout four times, and then it’s time to change his training stimulus.
Rocky has been trying to do his strength training program before his sparring sessions. Sometimes he only gets through the warmup, which is pretty complex because it’s a GPP phase; it hits a lot more range of motion and mobility to help lengthen tight muscles through full range of motion. However as great as the GPP warmup is, I would not suggest he do the complete warmup before his sparring session, and most definitely not his complete workout before a sparring session.
The whole goal of training is to help you in the other aspects of life. If your goal is fat loss, I’m only going to make you lift heavy weights if I know it’s going to help you with fat loss somehow or help your life outside of the gym. As Dan John, one of my favorite strength training philosophers says, ” The goal is to keep the goal the goal.” If you tire yourself out before an important skill based session (like sparring or a sports game), you negatively affect your sport. It is as if you were trying to set a personal record on bench press but did a thousand pushups before you started. Probably not going to hit that goal!
If Rocky wanted to use this program as his primary warm up, I would likely take some reps out (depending on how he is feeling that day) and add a few exercises to help him be more explosive, to get a fast twitch response and wake up his central nervous system (the powerhouse of any training mind).
And here is where we arrive at the stretching controversy.
Tacoma Personal Trainer Breaks Down Stretching
Do I think you should stretch? Yes, but it’s not that simple because muscles are elastic; when you stretch them they tend to hold whatever you put them into until you put them into again…..
What does that mean? If I do an hour long yoga class and then stand up, I just shortened all those muscles I had lengthened. To create length some studies say you have to hold a position hundreds of hours in order to obtain the change. The problem is if you stretch for 30 seconds and then walk or slouch again, you just return the muscles back to the original length, pretty much undoing all the work you just did. The answer to this, if you really need true length, is to stretch before you go to bed. Roll into bed and let those muscles lengthen for hours while you’re sleeping.
It is a myth that stretching has been proven to reduce injuries.
Well, we should probably say this goes both ways. Stretching has been shown to increase injuries as well. Your body calibrates tension in that big noggin of yours. It knows that if you are going to use your bicep to scratch your nose, it has to shorten your bicep to a certain extent to bring your elbow closer to your shoulder and your hand to your nose. But if you change the length of your bicep and try to scratch it, then you have a different length and now you need a different amount of pull. Not a big deal if you’re just scratching your bicep, but to do something complex like sprint or jump on a box and you have a problem. In fact, some studies show a higher injury rate after static stretching and sprinting.
On the other hand, people tend to pull muscles if they don’t stretch before using the muscle through a full range of motion. What is a person to do if he doesn’t want to get injured? The answer is called dynamic stretching. You take the body through a full range of motion to lengthen the muscle, but you also teach your body how to use the new length. Here is an example of a dynamic warm up exercise that works great for the hips and hamstrings. These are level one leg swings. This dynamic warm up exercise would lengthen my muscles and help me prevent injury but at the same time teach my body to deal with the new length that I’ve acquired.
The next thing to consider is the fact that the tighter a muscle is, the more power it allows. Tight muscles transmit force better. That’s why basketball players usually have such tight hamstrings; it helps them take a few steps and drive through the heel, absorbing force for a serious DUNK! Sometimes being tight isn’t a bad thing….yoga instructors…..
Anyway…that’s another long post I don’t have time for.
By lengthening a muscle you actually hurt its ability to create power, but, to be honest, it’s by a very small percentage. I believe the studies quoted it at 3 percent, but I could be wrong. It’s happened before once or twice….
Three percent is not a big deal; but, if you’re a serious competitive athlete, it could be a problem. I mean if you told me I could make 3 percent more money, I’d probably ask you who I have to kill (some people joke about me looking like a triad…they’ll get what they’re asking for!).
I want my 3 percent, and I don’t want to get injured. Therefore the answer is pretty simple. Just like a muscle gets tight if you use it again, after stretching it, a muscle will get the 3 percent energy you lost by making it contract EXPLOSIVELY!
That’s why we do a CNS exercise before we start – a dynamic warm up to wake up the nervous system and then a return of the contractile potential of the muscles. You can do many different kinds; I prefer something that conserves time. Here’s a great full body one that I love called High Knees, taught by Martin Rooney.
Tacoma Personal Trainer Wrap-Up
I include all these principles in my BeFit Tacoma Boot Camp Program for my Tacoma personal training clients, but if you have to figure it out yourself there’s the why and how. First, I would suggest fixing your schedule around what you can do, not what you would LIKE to do. If you come to me and say, “I have two days a week to work on strength and conditioning and three days allotted for martial arts practice.” I would tell you to do two days of your extra work but keep the goal the goal. Don’t try to jam in extra workouts because they will most likely end up affecting your performance and body in a negative way.
I know Crossfit and other training systems emphasize working out to the bone and killing yourself. It looks cool, but remember more is not necessarily better. Better is better. Structure your training program correctly, don’t over do it. Dynamically stretch before workouts, re-awake the central nervous system before the hard training portion of the workout, and static stretch directly after a workout to take stress of joints but not necessarily to get length (unless you’re going to bed right after you stretch.)
If you’re getting a custom program or writing your own, make sure you plan out the phases and cycle them. Don’t do the same workout over and over again; it’s not the only reason why people stop seeing results, but it is a big one.
And there you have it – a word from the over hundred dollar Tacoma Personal Trainer.
Lots to do before I fly out tomorrow but I wanted to get this out to you!