Whether you’re a high level athlete, a professional bodybuilder, a recreational lifter or just someone trying to lose a couple lbs, you need to include soft-tissue work in your workouts/training sessions. Everybody and I mean EVERYBODY in the entire world has soft-tissue limitations in the form of trigger points, adhesions or knots as it is most commonly referenced to. By moving everyday (daily tasks or sporting events), by holding positions for prolonged periods of time and even by slouching on your couch for hours, your body will develop trigger points that will cause some sort of restriction in your muscles. Whether that translates into a restricted range of motion in your joints or by referred pain to other areas of your body (the most common one being headaches associated with trigger points in the upper back and neck region), trigger points affect your daily activities and your workouts, so it is very important that they are taken care of; otherwise that could lead to bigger problems like tendonitis/tendinosis, busitis, joint pain, pulled and strained muscles and so on.
The number one option and obviously the most effective one would be to get manual therapy work done. But the problem is that I don’t know too much people that can afford manual therapy 1-2 times a week! Therefore, self-usable tools are a valuable thing to have at your disposal; this way you can take care of your soft-tissue quality by yourself and not spending thousands and thousands of dollars on manual therapy. I still encourage everyone to get some manual therapy done every once in a while (once every 1-2 month if possible). As valuable as these tools are, they don’t do the same job a qualified professional will do.
That being said, there are tons of soft-tissue work tools available on the market, with the foam roller being the most common one.
I really like the foam roller, but let’s face it: when someone has been foam rolling on a daily basis for over 6 months, these things don’t do much. With that in mind, here’s my top 3 soft-tissue work tools:
1. PVC Pipe
Probably one of the cheapest options available, but also one of the most painful (read: effective) tool you can use. The PVC pipe is basically a logical progression from the foam roller. This is definitely not an option for beginners who have never used a foam roller as you will cry for your mom the first time you try it! The PVC pipe is best used for quads, IT band, calves, glute maximus, adductors and lats.
2. LaCrosse Ball
Another very cheap, yet effective tool. The lacrosse ball will do a very good (read: painful) job, just like the PVC pipe. The lacrosse ball is better suited for smaller muscles hard to target with a PVC pipe or a foam roller. As a fair warning, you should try a tennis ball first and progress to a lacrosse ball when it gets too easy. The ball is best for plantar fascia (bottom of foot), calves, glute medius, TFLs (hip flexor), infraspinatus and teres minor (rotator cuff) and pecs.
The thera-cane is definitely a more expensive option, but still under 40$, and totally worth it. With its very unique shape the thera-cane is built to work on muscles usually hard to access, like the ones in your upper back and neck region. It’s probably the most addictive soft-tissue work tool ever; I have one in my living room, and every single time I watch TV, I end up using it for 10-15 minutes. The thera-cane is best for rhomboids, levator scapulaes, supraspinatus, teres majors, pec minors and upper, middle and lower trapezius.
Give all of these a shot if you haven’t already, you will feel the benefits immediately!
Last week I came across an article on the internet about the obesity epidemic that has been going on for over a decade now in the world, and especially in North America. To say that it was shocking would be an understatement. It explains how people got this fat and how the ADA (American Dietetic Asoosication) is in big part responsible for this problem that is growing at an alarming rate.
The ADA is the association that controls the nutritional information that is given to the people, and no nutritional recommendation can be made without the permission of the ADA. So basically, they control what they want the poeple to know. But it’s also very interesting that the ADA is sponsored by big companies such as Coca-Cola, Hershey’s and Kellogg’s just to name a few. Yes, you read that right! So this professional unbiased association is suppose to tell us what to eat? Are you kidding me?!
But wait, the best is still to come. The ADA actually has a section on their website that invites companies to sponsor the ADA!
That’s not it. This is my favorite part; the article goes into detail as to when this obesity epidemic started and the following graph is presented showing a drastic increase in obesity and overweight people in 1977 in the United States.
Weird, huh? But what happened in the United Stated in 1977 in order to create a drastic increase in overweight people?
Are you ready for this?
The article sites that in 1977 the ADA basically changed their nutritional recommendations to the following:
- Eat more starch
-Eat more carbohydrates
- Saturated fats are bad
Does that sound familiar? Is that what we have been led to believe what “good nutrition” is by the medias and most of the nutritional information easily accessible?
If you still think that’s right, time for a reality check:
If this is considered good nutrition why does obesity, diabetes, all sorts of cancer and the like are growing at an alarming rate ever since?
How did our ancesters never had all these same problem while they weren’t concerned about eating fatty meat and definitely weren’t eating as much carbohydrates?
If you haven’t read the article, I strongly suggest you do so. It’s literally a slap in the face of common nutritional recommendations and how we’ve been wrongfully informed on nutrition as a society for the last decades. Check it out HERE.
I really like static stretching as a post-workout modality to restore length in the muscles that have been worked during the training session. It’s also a good way of cooling down after an intense training. It definitely doesn’t have to be very long; the key is to select a couple important movements or muscles to stretch and spend 4-5 minutes at the end of the session to stretch them. Depending on the sport you play (or what your fulltime job is), the best options might be different for everyone, but as human beings living in 2010 we still all have similar lifestyles; so the muscles being important to stretch are going to be similar for most. Here’s my top 5 favorite static stretches post-workout:
I often get question on what a typical training session looks like for the athletes I train, especially in-season; how is the program structured, how much volume is included and how different it is based on the sport played. Depending on the sport, the program will in fact look a little different. But at the same time, most athletes in most sports need to improve speed, power, strength and conditioning while preventing injuries. So in that sense, programs do vary some sport to sport, but probably not as much as you would think. That’s going to be especially true with somebody who’s just never lifted before.
When it comes to in-season training, volume is going to be fairly low so fatigue and soreness are minimized. As I’ve mentioned before, the goal of in-season training is to maintain gains made in the off-season. That being said here is an example of a basic program that could be used with an in-season athlete:
Dynamic warm up
A1- 10-Yard Sprint (2 point start) 3 x /side
A2- Glute Bridge Iso-Holds 2 x 20sec/side
B1- DB Reverse Lunges 3 x 6/side
B2- DB Chest Press 3 x 6
B3- Front Plank 2 x 30sec.
C1- Seated Cable Rows 3 x 10
C2- Slideboard Hamstring Curls 3 x 10
C3- 1/2 Kneeling Belly Press Iso-Holds 3 x 20sec/side
Conditioning- Bike or Slideboard Intervals 6 x (30sec ON/60sec OFF)
As you can see it is a pretty short and basic training session (probably more geared toward a young athlete with less 2 years of lifting experience), but the point is that in-season lifting shouldn’t be longer and not much more complex than that. As simple as this program is, it accomplishes what it’s supposed to do: maintaining gains from the off-season while avoiding overtraining.
Last week, I wrote a post about my pefect pre-workout routine, so I figured it would only be a logical sequel to write my perfect post-workout routine. So without further ado…
- As soon as I finish my training, I lay down on my back for a couple minutes (especially if I did conditioning that day because I need that time to wind down and make sure I won’t throw up). Is there any better ways to cool down anyway?
- After laying down for a couple minutes, I get up and do static stretching; mostly for the muscles that I trained that day to restore length.
- After stretching and making sure I won’t throw up, I will take down my post-workout smoothie that I prepared before leaving home.
- Once I took care of my post-workout nutrition, I will take a couple of minutes to sit down in front of my lap top and blog my training session I just did. I keep track of my training on a blog so I won’t ever lose programs and I can also refer to my archives very quickly on a blog. I’ve been doing this for 3 years and it’s always interesting to go check back what I’ve done in the past and how strong (or weak) I was.
- To finish things off, I jump in a sauna, relax for 10-12 minutes in there and then immediately jump in a cold thub(or cold shower) for a minute or two, depending on how cold the water is. Once I got out, I feel unbelievably good and relaxed. Unfortunately, I haven’t had access to a sauna in a while, so it has been more contrast showers lately. It’s definitely not as effective, but when it’s all you have it still does a good job.
Are you kidding me? A sauna with a TV in it….that’s gotta be the greatest thing in the world!
The whoel purpose of that whole post-workout routine is to improve recovery. Some people will argue that there is no scientifical proof out there that supports contrast bath/showers as a mean of recovery, but I could care less. Even if it would do nothing at all to promote recovery, I still feel awesome and unbelievably relaxed after doing it; so even if that’s the only benefit I get from it, it’s still worth it!
I just turned 29 yesterday, and to celebrate the event I decided I would do, like my colleague Eric Cressey has done in the past, a post on 29 things that happened or that I learned during that last year.. So without further ado, here it is:
1. Vibram Five Fingers are definitely the best shoes ever to lift in. They can also be good for everyday life, walking (and maybe running in some cases), but it really depends on individuals. I got mine a week ago and I totally love them…they just turn a lot of heads when I’m walking in the streets with them on.
2. As much as I used to hate techno music, after spending a full summer training hockey players who literally don’t listen to anything else, I realized that it can actually be decent music to lift to. You’re going to say that I was probably brain washed (and it may not be entirely false), but I think there are a couple techno tunes that get me fired up to lift, especially if it’s from Benny Benassi or David Guetta.
3. I’m a caffeine addict. There is nothing else to add to that.
4. Best continuing education product of the last year: Myokinematic Restoration Home Study Course by the Postural Restoration Institute. I learned so much about functional anatomy and how the human body (meaning everyone) is lopsided.
5. Best non fitness related book I read during the last year…well, I have to pick two: The 8th Habit by Stephen Covey and Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.
6. Being a personal trainer and being a strength coach is two very different things. They have two very different realities: everything, and I mean everything, is different. The clientele is different, the setting and environment are different, the programming is different, the control you have on our clients is different, and the list goes on and on. Until you make the transition from to the other, I don’t think you fully understant how different it is. I made the transition during the last year, so trust me, I know…
7. I-Pods are the greatest musical thing in the world. Call me a dinosaur, or just call me Canadian, but I didn’t own one before just a couple of months ago, and it literally changed my life. I used to have a small mp3 player for the gym, a mess of CDs in my car, in short, my music library was very unorganized and I didn’t always had access to the music I really wanted to listen to. No more problems! I can carry my i-pod everywhere and it’s almost sure there’s gonna be something to plug it in!
8. Moving in a new country for a new job all by yourself is a very interesting challenge that is sure to bring you a lot professionally. But it can also be very difficult on your social life. Luckily when I moved to New Jersey, I was very fortunate to have great people with whom I work that helped me make the transition that much easier for me. I am very thankful to them.
9. I think I already knew this, but I really enjoy making road trips. All you need is good company, good music and caffeine! I made trips to Boston and North Carolina in the last couple of months and it was awesome. It makes the trip even more awesome when the purpose of the trip is to attend a strength and conditioning seminar.
10. Stretching (passive and dynamic) doesn’t always solve mobility issues. I learned this during the last year by witnessing it a lot with all the athletes who walked through our door that all joints are not created equal. Everybody has different joint structure and optimal mobility or range of motion is going to be very different for everyone.
11. Stiff muscle vs short muscle…I’m still not 100% sure what the exact difference is between the two, but I definitely learned that there IS a difference. All I know is that loaded and un-loaded range of motion is going to be different…but that’s just the beginning of the answer.
13. On a related note, if you’re a fitness or strength and conditioning professional, I strongly encourage you to create yourself a blog, if you don’t already own one. It is a great way to create contacts with the smartest people in the business. Link to their site, talk about their product, contact them to do interviews with them; it will increase traffic on your website and you will have a great network of people who know their stuff around you. That was one of the smartest move I could’ve done for my career.
14. On another related note, most coaches and trainers I know in the business are very generous of their time, so don’t be shy to ask questions or if you need an occasional contribution to your website.
15. Unless you are a distance athlete (marathon, triathlon, cyclist, etc) there is no point of doing steady state cardio and you should never do it…and I mean EVER! That is not the way sports are played and it is absolutely not efficient. I used to use it a little bit with athletes in the past as a form of deload or as a recovery phase, but the risks outweighs by far the benefits. It is not worth it. Period.
16. Transitional speed work is as important, if not more important than traditional speed work. Most of the sports are about rapid change of direction and quick tranistions, which means you need to decelerate AND accelerate in another direction as quickly as possible.
17. I have said that before and I will say it again: as much as I LOVE squats and deadlifts, I now feel that single-leg lifts are way more efficient and more functional from an athletic development standpoint. We still use squats and deadlifts with our athletes, but they have become secondary lifts to the single-leg stuff. Almost everything in sports happen on one leg, so it all makes sense to focus more on single-leg lifts.
18. A big congratulations goes out to Endeavor athlete Eric Tangradi who made it in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins! Not only did he make it, but he’s also playing on a line with Evegni Malkin and Mike Comrie for now and he looked really good out there in his first opening night game. We are very proud of him!
19. On a related note, Endeavor athlete Cobly Cohen was the last defenseman cut in Colorado Avalanches’ camp. That’s understandable as Colby’s only 21 and came out directly out of college and almost made it in the big league. He was sent down to the Lake Erie Monsters, the Avalanches’ AHL affiliated team, where he will start the season as one of the top defenseman. We’re really proud of him too and I have a feeling he’s not going to stay in Lake Erie for very long…
20. What’s the most important, functional and sport-specific upper body lift for athletes to improve strength? Bench press (and variations) or chin up? Which one is the most important for athletes? For years, like probably 99,9% of the strength coaches out there, I would have answered pressing as being more important without any question…I think I’m starting to lean more and more toward the chin up side now…
21. I just had one of the greatest weekends of my life with friends visiting me from Montreal this past weekend for my birthday. I think it’s safe to say everyone had a great time and that spontaneous decision of driving down to Atlantic City at 10.45 on a Sunday night turned out to be one of the best moves of the weekend!
Unplanned night in Atlantic City with good friends…PRICELESS!
22. Best supplement of the last year: ZMA. The first time I tried ZMA probably goes back to 5 or 6 years ago, so it really is not a new supplement for me, but I used it only maybe 3 or 4 times at the most during those years. I just started taking it on a more consistent basis in the last 6 months, and what a difference it makes on my sleep quality, energy levels and immune system. I have a very weak immune system and get sick quite easily on tops of usually needing more than 8 hours of sleep per night. Since taking ZMA on a more regular basis (about 4 weeks on, 4 weeks off) I get sick a lot less and my sleep quality has improved so much that I don’t feel like I need as much sleep as I used to.
23. Best new artist I discovered during the last year: Lil’ Wayne. Honestly, I never really understood all the hype around Lil’ Wayne; I thought he was just another overrated rapper out there with his gangsta look and his explicit rhymes that he mumbles in his songs. But after listening to a couple songs he made with Eminem and listening more to his material, he quickly turned into one of my favorite rappers!
24. Strength work is very important for every athletes, but don’t forget about speed and power work too. It really teaches athletes to develop as much force as possible in a minimum amount of time and use that newly aquired strength. Things like sprints, jumps, med ball work and olympic lifts really do make a huge difference in an athlete’s program.
25. I just wrote a guest blog post for my colleague and friend Kevin Neeld yesterday about what hockey players do wrong in-season, check it out HERE.
26. I’m starting to work more and more with baseball players, especially pitchers and I have to say that I love it! These kids usually come in very weak and out of shape, but they put the effort in and we have seen rapid progress with all of them as they are definitely getting stronger and more powerful than ever.
27. Most disappointing supplement of the year: Biotest Surge. As much as I love Biotest’s products, especially Grow! protein, ZMA and spike, I have to say that when I first got Surge for my post-workout shakes I was pretty pumped about it because it was one of the only product ou there with protein hydrolysate, which is the fastest absorbing protein on the market. Combined with fast-digesting carbs, I was convinced I had the single best post-workout option possible. Then I started talking with Brian St. Pierre about it and turns out that protein hydrolysate is far from optimal because it doesn’t stay long enough in the bloodstream to create a favorable hormonal response, which is one of the most important reason to get a good post-workout meal/supplement in the first place.
28. Besides the fact that it’s my birthday, I still think September-October is one of my favorite time of the year as football season is under way, hockey season is just starting and World Series is approaching and baseball season is wrapping up. For sports fans, it’s definitely a great time.
29. That last year has been full of big changes in my life and it was great. I am equally excited for the upcoming year as there are so many things in the making right now.
There is always perfect conditions to train in; these conditions might be different for everyone as we all have different lifestyles, different preferences when it comes to food and supplements as well as musical choices. But whatever it is for you, there is definitely an ideal pre-training or pre-workout routine that puts you in the zone and gets you ready to lift heavy weights. This is mine…
- Wake up at around 8 in the morning after a good night of sleep of between 8 and 9 hours of sleep (before which I ideally took ZMA).
Awesome supplement to improve sleep quality
- Get dressed (including wearing sweat pants and a hoodie to help get warm).
- Breakfast at 8:30 consisting of a 6 eggs omelet with onions, peppers, spinach and organic sharp cheddar cheese with a side of 2 Ezekiel bread toasts and a couple of pieces of diced pineapple. I’ll also supplement with 4 fish oil capsules and 3 vitamin D softgels that I will take down with half a cup of pomegranate juice.
Hands down healthiest and best-tasting bread ever!
- Prepare my post-workout smoothie by throwing all the necessary ingredients in the blender, while drinking a cup of green tea.
- Pack my gymbag with clean clothes, post-workout smoothie and anything I might need for my training.
- Crack open a Spike shooter (which has carefully been placed in the fridge for optimal coldness the night before) and head for the Ferrari in the parking lot that’s gonna drive me to the gym.
Allright, my ’96 Corolla might not be exactly like a Ferrari, but it’s still red…and it’s WAY faster!
- Drive to the gym, while sipping my delicious Spike shooter and listening to music that goes from “let’s start to get ready” on low-moderate volume when I leave home to “let’s smash babies everywhere” on very high volume when I arrive at the gym! This is the part where I usually get really fired up to lift.
I’m not sure if it’s the Spike or the music that gets me so fired up…
- Drop my stuff, foam roll, dynamic warm up and I’m ready to roll!
Combine all those factors and I have a 100% chances of being mentally and physically prepared to lift.
The answer is most likely: YES! If you’re living the northern part of the United-States (above North Carolina) or in Canada, it is now that time of the year where the days become shorter, it rains almost every single day and the sun barely shows up. All of these factors mean that our vitamin D levels are dropping significantly because our main source is from sun light.
Even during the summer, we need to be exposed to the sun between 10 and 2 in the afternoon (where the sun rays are stronger) for at least 30 minutes to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D. Just imagine now, what it takes during the fall and winter months where the sun rays are weaker and the sun light time is becoming almost non-existent to get enough sun exposure. We could get our intake from food sources like fatty fish and fortified milk, but honestly that is far from enough.
But why are vitamin D levels so important? The thing is that vitamin D acts more like a hormone in the body rather than just a simple vitamin: it is associated with testosterone and other hormones in the body as well as having an impact on mood and fatigue. In fact, low vitamin D levels have been associated with different types of cancer, hypertension, diabetes, chronic fatigue and depression. If that doesn’t convince you to get your D levels in check, I don’t know what will.
There are different sources of vitamin D supplements out there (tablet, drops, spray) and the recommendations may vary from one expert to another. I used to recommend taking 1,000 IU per day and bump that intake to 2,000 IU during the fall and winter months, but that might not even be enough. The truth is that everybody’s different and it is very hard to know individual needs. I’ve heard of some people that needed for up to 10,000 IU per day for a 3 months period to bring their levels back up to normal. For that reason, I’d strongly suggest that you get your vitamin D levels tested. This is the best way to know how much you should take in. If that is not a possible option with a doctor for you, there’s a good alternative: Bioletics, a company that my colleague Eric Cressey has talked about in the past, makes home tests that you can order online for a very reasonable price. Ideal serum concentration should be between 40-70 Ng/ml with less than 20 Ng/ml being very deficient.