Important Information…

While a lot of our job entails educating the people we work with about information and science they may not be aware of, we must also often address the information, or misinformation, disseminated by the popular media.  Read this guest post by Dr. Hector Lopez on Eric Cressey’s blog for some very important information about essential fatty acids, and their portrayal in the popular media:

This certainly doesn’t apply to me…does it?

Why do we hop, bound, skip, jump and throw medicine balls?

Some research has shown a decline in power of over 8% per decade beginning in the 20’s (Bonnefoy et al. 1998).  If you are in your 30’s, 40’s or 50’s you may have already experienced as much as a 30%-40% decline in power output (the ability to produce force quickly).  In light of this, you may not be “old” yet, but the topic of power training definitely applies to you.
In this era of “functional” training, your coach’s job goes beyond simply kicking your butt in a workout…we need to prepare you to perform in life, both today and down the road.
Researcher Joseph Signorile has done a lot of work related to role of power as we age.  In an article for the IDEA Health and Fitness Association, Signorile provided a synopsis of some of the relevant research related to the role of power as we age and the importance of power training in our programs.  Quite simply, power (the ability to produce force quickly) is one of the major correlates to independence (Foldvari et al. 2000), fall prevention (Whipple, Wolfson & Amerman 1987), and rehabilitation after injury (Lamb, Morse & Evans 1995) as we age.  As indicated, without some form of exercise or lifestyle activity that introduces power training into your life, power output begins declining at a very early age.
So…not only is power training a great tool for improving fitness and burning a lot of calories, it is also a critical component of any “functional” training program that should be preparing us to perform in the sport of life. 

Magic Elixir or Great Marketing?

Some friends and I went on a weekend fishing trip recently that was not going to be incredibly taxing physically, but was going to be filled with long days on our feet, in the sun, at altitude.  Shopping for groceries on the way one of my close friends stocked the cart with plenty of coconut water, informing me that it is “super” hydrating. With human physiology and hydration being technical sciences  “super” hydrating struck me as an odd term.  Needless to say I decided to look into the hydrating capabilities of this “super” trendy product.
Below are the links to two items.  One is a clinical research study by Kalman et al. that compared the hydrating effects of pure coconut water, coconut water from concentrate, traditional electrolyte drink (Gatorade or powerade as an example) and straight water.  In the study, the drinks were given to subjects who exercised for 60 minutes.  The second link is to a New York Times blog post that looked into the same topic should you prefer to read an article instead of clinical research.
Kalman et al. (2012) found that all the beverages used in their study were equally effective at hydrating the subjects post-exercise.  There are a few key points to take from this study relative to hydration:
1.     Relative to coconut water, its effects may be overhyped and overblown.
2.     With all the products used yielding equal hydrating effects, your best bet and best friend is still good old fashioned water before, during and after exercise.
3.     Unless you are involved in very long duration activities or are in extreme conditions that require ingestion of eletrolytes and calories during the activity, most of us do not need to consider anything beyond water.
4.     For those of us who are perpetually trying to get a little leaner, lose a couple pounds and generally improve our body composition, ingesting unnecessary calories is not beneficial to that goal.  One of the most simple calorie control strategies trainers have espoused for decades is to avoid ingesting liquid calories.
5.     And one final note… if something in a scientific arena is described as “super…”, start asking questions and looking for research immediately!

The ONLY way to stay fit?

Current wisdom and research tell us that high intensity training is the fastest path to just about every health and fitness goal, but some old research also tells us that it may be the ONLY path to maintaining your cardiovascular fitness!
In a series of studies in the 1980’s, Hickman et al sought to determine the minimum amount of exercise needed to maintain aerobic fitness.  Perhaps the most valuable information that came from these studies was not that you could maintain your cardiovascular fitness in a matter of minutes a couple times per week, but that the only viable way to accomplish this result is through high intensity cardiovascular exercise.  In one of Hickman’s experimental groups, cardiovascular fitness was maintained by training as little as 13 minutes, 2 times per week (that is only 26 total minutes of cardio per week).  

Compare that with the group of subjects that continued training 6 times per week for 40 minutes, (YES that is 4 hours of cardio each week!), but reduced the intensity of their exercise.  This group experienced a dramatic drop in aerobic fitness.  In fact, one experimental group, despite training 6 days per week for 40 minutes, returned to their pre-training levels of aerobic fitness due exclusively to their reduction in intensity during exercise sessions…meaning they were literally getting ZERO results from 6 days per week of exercise.  

Just another reason to suck it up and go all out on your cardio workouts…it will save you time and maximize your results!

More On Early Sport Specialization in Youth…

The following article appeared in Sports Illustrated.  That the issue of early sport specialization was addressed in a mainstream periodical and not just industry research journals illustrates the rising prevalence of both early sport specialization, and the problems associated with it.  
June 07, 2010

A Children’s Crusade

Pioneering sports surgeon James Andrews is again on the cutting edge—against overuse injuries in young athletes


One recent morning two patients of Dr. James R. Andrews sat side by side in a rehab center in Birmingham. Both were shirtless. Both had fresh surgical holes in their right shoulders. And both were attentive as physical therapists hovered, advising them on how to put on a T-shirt a day after an operation (injured arm first).
On the left was Angel Guzman, whom the Cubs pay $825,000 to blow his 95-mph fastball by National League hitters. Three years ago Andrews also did Guzman’s Tommy John surgery. The patient on the right was Tommy Ventura. Tommy is 17 years old, a righthander who this week is finishing his junior year at Archbishop Spalding High in Severn, Md. Some 18 months ago Tommy was throwing a ball during a team workout when he felt an awful pain in his shoulder. “First I thought, This is an odd feeling,” he says. “When it kept hurting, even when I was lobbing the ball, I knew something more serious was wrong.” After diagnosing a torn rotator cuff and a frayed labrum, Andrews performed an operation on Tommy’s shoulder.
“You try to tell your kids not to play year-round,” says Jim Ventura, Tommy’s father. “But the ones who don’t, they’re not on the elite teams. They don’t have the college coaches looking at them.”
Sports-medicine clinics are filling up with Tommy Venturas. Andrews estimates that 60% of the athletes he operates on these days are high school athletes or younger. Sixty percent. “I don’t think epidemic is too strong a word,” the surgeon says. “We’re seeing kids hurt before they even have a chance to become athletes.”
In April the surgeon and the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, of which Andrews is president, launched a campaign to curb sports injuries in children. It’s called STOP (Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention). In addition to Andrews, STOP’s spokespeople include Charles Barkley, Terry Bradshaw, Tom Brady, Bo Jackson, Howie Long, Jack Nicklaus, Shaquille O’Neal, Bart Starr, sports agent Tom Condon and Redskins chairman Dan Snyder. Most have been Andrews’s patients. Many are friends from his decades-long career in which he arguably has been the nation’s preeminent sports surgeon.
The warning that the 67-year-old Andrews shouts the loudest concerns overuse injuries. A generation ago such injuries were rare in youth sports. Now, stress fractures in cross-country runners, frayed ligaments in soccer players and strained shoulders in tennis players make up half of all injuries suffered by kids playing sports. The main culprit: sport specialization. “You just have this enormous pressure nowadays on kids to play that one sport year-round,” Andrews says. In 1998 Andrews performed Tommy John surgery on five patients who were in high school or younger. In 2008 he did the operation on 28 kids who fell into that age bracket.
The American Sports Medicine Institute, the research wing of Andrews’s surgical practice at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham, has spent two decades and millions of dollars studying sports injuries in children and spinning out recommendations about how much is too much. One of those studies, written by Andrews and ASMI’s director, Glenn Fleisig, posed the question: Are youth pitchers really at higher risk of injuring their arms if they throw year-round? No doubt about it. It found that youth players who pitched more than eight months a year were five times more likely to incur an injury that resulted in surgery.
Andrews has offered specific recommendations, all commonsensical but often ignored. “Encourage your child to be involved in more than one sport,” he declares. “Cross-training helps develop their bodies. Don’t allow your child to play in more than one league in the same sport in the same season. That’s how they get burned out.” In all sports, “parents should let children seek their own positions. Everybody can’t be a pitcher.” But for those who can be, Andrews says, “make sure your child learns only two pitches to begin with—a fastball and a changeup. There’s no reason for a child to be throwing a curveball.”
Recently, STOP launched a website ( with safety tips about 12 sports, and the organization is formulating plans for public-service ads and possibly the launch of a National Youth Sports Injury Day. Three years ago, partly at the behest of Andrews—who is on the board of Little League Baseball—and Fleisig, Little League overhauled its pitching rules so that kids in its 7,000 leagues around the globe were limited to 85 throws per game. (Under old rules there was a maximum of six innings per week, but no limits on pitches.)
One beneficiary of those guidelines might have been Tommy Ventura, who won’t pitch again until 2011 at the soonest. Tommy allows that it’s frustrating not to be able to be on the field. But he’s able to crack jokes about “the hard part” of his recovery: trying to sleep on a bandaged arm. The teenager doesn’t blame the adults who’ve guided his baseball life. “It’s not like they were trying to hurt me,” he says. “It just happened. You roll with it, I guess.”
You can visit this article directly at:

Early Sport Specialization for Youth Athletes

This is a recurring topic of discussion in contemporary sports and child development… what is the impact of the current trend of early sport specialization by young athletes.  Take a look at the following piece written by Dr. Toby Brooks of the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA):

Current and emerging research regarding early sport specialization versus long-term athletic development continues to support the IYCA’s stance that the long-term athletic development model, or LTAD, provides the greatest benefit to a developing athlete, in both physical and psychological aspects, over time. Most recently, researchers at the Loyola University Health System located outside Chicago, Illinois presented the results of their study, “The risks of sports specialization and rapid growth in young athletes,” at the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine annual meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah. The results, while consistent with the IYCA’s message since inception, further illustrate the tangible risks young athletes are exposed to when their parents, caregivers, and/or coaches ascribe to the early specialization model.
The study involved 154 participants (92 male, 62 female) with an average age of 13. All participants were scored using a six-point sport specialization score and other factors such as height and weight were recorded. Athletes who had sustained injuries (85 athletes) completed another survey to further define their specific injury and their particular training habits. Results for injured athletes were compared to the uninjured control group (69 athletes).
The sport specialization score probed at several clues regarding the level of involvement a young athlete had in sports in general or a specific sport in particular. Questions included whether athletes trained more than 75% of the time in one sport exclusively, whether participation in other activities was discontinued in order to focus on one sport, whether or not participation involved travel outside the state, whether participation (practices, games, etc.) involved training for more than eight months in a given year, and whether the competition season exceeded six months per year in duration.
Following data collection and analysis, researchers noted trends toward significance in two relationships. First, injured athletes spent more hours per week playing sports (19.8 hours per week vs. 17 hours per week). Additionally, injured athletes spent more hours per week in organized sports (11 hours per week vs. 8.8 hours per week). Uninjured athletes average sport specialization score was 2.75. At the same time, injured athletes averaged a sport specialization score of 3.49.
The study, supported through funding from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, is considered preliminary, and researchers are currently recruiting additional participants in order to improve statistical power. The IYCA applauds such efforts to further define the inherent risks associated with early specialization and looks forward to future efforts to better understand both the injury and performance implications associated with this practice.
Dr. Toby Brooks serves at the Director of Research and Education for the IYCA. Brooks is currently an Assistant Professor in the Master of Athletic Training Program at the Texas Tech University Health Science Center in Lubbock Dr. Brooks has worked with numerous youth, collegiate, and professional athletes and previously owned and operated a youth athletic development business. He is also Co-Founder and Creative Director of NiTROHype Creative in Lubbock.
Jayanthi NA, Pinkham C, Luke A. The risks of sports specialization and rapid growth in young athletes. Presented at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. April 30-May 4. Salt Lake City, Utah.
To take a look at this article, or others by the IYCA, follow this link:

Tools of the Trade

You’ve probably all heard about portion control as a primary facet of smart nutrition.  Perhaps like many you have complained that portion control, rather than the quality of the food you are eating, is your primary challenge on the nutrition front.  For years trainers at gyms have implemented strategies for enforcing portion control without having to constantly depend on stellar self discipline in the face of large quantities of food.  This photo shows one of the easiest and most effective tools you can use to implement a system of portion control each day.  Pictured are Tupperware containers of 4oz, 8oz, and 9.5oz sizes.  They are the perfect size for implementing an eating strategy of small meals and snacks throughout the day… rather than a pattern of starving yourself and then eating anything that’s not bolted to the floor! Also notice that there are a lot of each size container so that there is never an excuse that there are not enough containers or that some of them are dirty.  For the purists in the group, there are glass containers out there that you can find for your meals and snacks! 

Anyone in the group have other good suggestions for controlling portions that don’t require an iron will at all times?