Sunday, October 24, 2010

No Muscle Memory!

In this week's installment of's blog, I want to take a minute to discuss one of my pet peeves. Recently it seems that I have heard quite a few professionals discuss the concept of "muscle memory". While I understand the concept, as exercise science professionals we should know better. There is no such thing as "muscle memory"! Muscles do not have memory control centers. The actions of our muscle tissue are controlled by conscious and subconscious brain functions.

Sports performance skills such as running, throwing, striking, catching, jumping, landing, and stop and turn activities require coordinated muscle recruitments of multiple joints and planes of movement. During the developmental period of infancy, we learn how to recruit various muscle groups in order to stabilize and balance our bodies (raise the head -> rollover -> sit up -> stand). As we continue to grow and mature, we learn basic loco motor skills such as scooting, crawling, and walking. Still later in our development, we progress to more fundamental movements such as traveling skills (climbing, galloping, jumping, running), object controls skills (kicking, throwing, striking), and balance movements (dodging, rolling). All the while, the brain is programming and saving these movement patterns for future use. With practice the patterns are fine-tuned and enhanced.

The Central Nervous System (CNS) is not programmed for isolated muscle function. When a motor task is necessary, the CNS recalls the pre-programmed patterns of movement that were learned during our developmental years. During sports activities, the body has to compensate for the pre-programmed movement patterns and react to gravity, momentum, and ground reaction forces. This pattern of muscle activation and movement programming has also been seen in recent visualization research.

Rather than referring to this process as "muscle memory", which by definition is not possible, I like to use the phrase "subconscious memory". Subconscious memory more accurately reflects the motor responses.

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS

Monday, October 18, 2010

Snacks….good or bad?

Trick question, right? Snacks can be good or bad for the athlete---depending on what, when and how much you choose to eat. You can make snacks work for you—no matter what your athletic goals are. With just a little thought and planning, you can improve your energy, health and training in the off season using high nutrition snacks.

Snacking is a great way to add foods during your day that provide your body with immune-boosting nutrients and energy to fuel workouts. Snacks give you the fuel you need before your workouts to train effectively so adding in an energizing snack an hour or two before heading to work out makes good sense for the athlete. It’s hard to make the gains you want, in endurance or strength, if you have an empty tank! After hard workouts, snacks help muscles refuel, repair and rehydrate so you are ready for the next workout/training session---- whenever that might be. Snacks help you to maintain lean muscle, stay focused and improve your energy levels throughout the day.

When opting for snacks, it’s important to remember that they add calories, as well as nutrition. Although planned snacking is beneficial to athletes, it’s not permission to eat a limitless amount of whatever foods you want. Snacks need to be chosen with some thought or they can work against you and cause unwanted body fat and weight gain. The size of your snack should go along with the length and intensity of your workouts. Try to space them out every 3 hours during the day to boost your energy. Set a reminder on your cell phone to fuel up so that the day isn’t over and you are left wondering why you are starving and have no energy for your workout after school or work! Try to include two different food groups in every snack for longer lasting energy and add some fluids for hydration. Choose a high quality (whole grain) carbohydrate source that is low in fat and a small amount of protein from lean meat, nuts or low fat dairy.

Keep emergency stashes in your backpack or out of sight in your car. I keep mine in my trunk in a box designated as my “snack box.” Keeping them in the trunk of my car prevents me from taking a visible cue to eat when I’m not truly hungry or don’t really need those extra calories. It also helps prevent eating foods out somewhere that are just “empty calories” without any nutrition, because you don’t have the right food with you. These are the moments that matter. Your food choices between your meals will make a difference and ultimately affect your health and training----either positively or negatively. It’s your choice.

Try these simple snack ideas that support good health:

• Whole grain cereals or popcorn with 100% fruit juice
• Low fat yogurt or cottage cheese and fresh berries
• Cereal or granola bars and a V-8 juice
• Small bag of nuts (about 15) and handful of grapes
• Whole wheat fig newtons
• Quesadilla with a thin layer of fat-free refried beans and a sprinkle of low fat cheese or half a turkey sandwich
• 5-6 whole wheat baked crackers with a schmear of peanut butter
• Apple and a piece of mozzarella string cheese
• Chocolate milk and an orange
• Carnation instant Breakfast and a banana
• Baked chips and salsa and a fruit cup
• Mini bagel with low fat cream cheese
• Small bag of trail mix
• Baby carrots with hummus for dip

Kim Larson, RD
Sports Nutrition Consultant

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Don't Blow It!

How important is a first impression? As a baseball player it might be the only time you get to show a coach what you are made of. This is not limited to only your skills on the field but also what you are made of as a person. I have seen and heard many stories of how athletes have blown a great opportunity, and in the last 6 months I have witnessed 3 or 4 missed opportunities because the player doesn’t think it will matter. A word of advice, everything you do matters, from what you eat to how you dress. Let me give you a few stories.

I was at a camp watching a few players. This camp was hosted by a very well known coach at a college is Nebraska, which has a husker as a mascot. During a meeting with the players, the coach was explaining how the recruitment process goes and how it’s hard to see all the players out there. During this meeting the coach explained that while traveling to see players many times they are strapped for time and will only be able to stay a few minutes. During this time everything you do as a player can make or break you. If he saw a player during warm-up messing around, he would pack it up and leave and go to the next game. "Ladies and Gentlemen this is warm-up.", as he said. This might be the only time he has to see a player that day. If that first impression is bad, he may never return. Can you afford to make that impression?

Recently I had a player that had set up a try-out with a college coach. This player had 2 months after the summer season to prepare himself for the try-out. But what did he do instead? He decided to play golf. Don’t get me wrong. Golf is a great game. But, he did not touch a baseball for 2 months. When he returns to me before his try-out we had a week to prepare. Now, he failed to inform me 2 months earlier that he had set up this try-out. So, to my surprise we are trying to get some work done before that try-out. This player went to the try out with a minor sore arm and a weak bat. So how did the try-out go? Not so well. His arm was weak and lacked a lot of power. What will this coach do? We don’t know as of yet. But, did he put his best foot forward?

These are just a few examples and I could go on. But I think I have made the point. Please, if you get nothing else out of this blog this week, know that coaches are always watching. Take the time to prepare. That first impression could be your last impression.

Brian Niswender
Co-Founder Baseball Strength

Monday, October 4, 2010

Athletic Destinies Determined By Age 10

I recently came across this article. This is something that I really try to preach to young athletes. I'd be interested to hear some other opinions.

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS

LeBron James was 10 years old once. By that age, he was on his way to becoming the LeBron James we know today, and he was helped by playing football, according to expert trainers who agree that a range of play activities between age six and 10 helps build a broad base of athletic motor and coordination abilities.

Each year hundreds of kids come through Scott Moody’s AthleteFit facility outside Kansas City, and dozens of them finish high school with collegiate sports scholarships.

“If [kids] don’t develop those manipulative motor skills at that age, that 6-10 window, then they don’t have the confidence necessary to participate,” said Moody. As a result, their overall fitness goes down, further dropping confidence. “It’s this downward spiral that most people never come out of.”

Moody joined more than 100 trainers from across the U.S. and Canada at a recent National Strength and Conditioning Association Youth Training Symposium in Chicago (see him presenting on TRX Suspension Training in the photo above). They discussed how in an overweight yet sports-obsessed culture, trainers are making a difference in how kids get started in athletics.

Patrick McHenry, a high school strength coach in Castle Rock, Colorado, talked about a tall, strong basketball player who could shoot and who looked like he might be great, but as a senior he lacked footwork.

“Was it too late? Yes, for him.” McHenry said. “If we had had him during his sophmore or junior year we could have helped him, but would he have been the best? No.”

Rick Howard, director of athletics for the School District of Philadelphia, gets requests from teachers and coaches for lowest-common-denominator training programs to meet the needs of, say, a third-grade physical education class or a girls’ softball team.

“It’s not that easy,” he tells them. “You really have to know everybody on that team, what they’re good at, what they’re not good at.” Mostly he sees sports instruction and training for kids that winds up reinforcing what they’re already good at, “Kids that are fast, keep them running.”

Reinforcement has run amok in cases where young athletes are opting to specialize in one sport at a young age. In the worst cases, according to McHenry, they run the risk of overuse injuries.

“We find they’re missing their window to all of those motor skills that are going to help them athletically later in the game,” said Moody.

“Girls’ soccer players have trouble tracking the ball in the air,” he pointed out, “because they never played volleyball growing up, they never played softball growing up. They didn’t get used to tracking objects out of the air.”

Mike Nitka is an editor for the trainers’ association journal and a Wisconsin high school wrestling coach. Motor skills in older people, he said, “can be developed, but not at the highest level possible because Mother Nature is trying to give us the biggest assist possible, and these are the windows” for that.

“I have a sign in my office,” Nitka said, “Volleyball players play volleyball. Athletes play anything they want.”

Article taken from