Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What's your Speed?

In baseball the 60 yard sprint has been the bench mark of a player's speed for decades. There are few players that will run 60 yards in a straight line, the exception being a center fielder maybe trying to cover a gap. With that said, what does a 60 really tell us in respects to the game? It is the total distance from home to second or second to home, but in a real baseball situation we have a 90 degree bend in the middle. Many professional organizations and colleges are slowly making the switch to the 30 yard sprint and the 10 yard sprint. In functional terms this provides a coach and player with a better baseline evaluation of speed. The 30 shows how fast the player can get from one base to the other and so is a true functional measure of speed. The 10 yard sprint is a function of how fast the player is getting up to speed, which in most cases can make or break a player’s true functional speed. Baseball is a game of reaction and explosion and so the faster a player gets up to maximum speed, the more plays they will make both offensively and defensively. In most cases, even when the 60 is still used the player that has worked on his 10 yard burst and 30 yard sprint will also improve their 60. The real lesson here is to know your true speed, and in the case of baseball maybe quickness trumps true speed.

Brian Niswender

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Are You Hurt or Just Sore?

When we first begin a training program, we see a lot of improvement early. Things then level off and the rate of improvement slows down. The initial sky-rocket of improvement results from the brain learning how to coordinate the movements and recruit the muscles and energy needed to perform the new activities. This typically happens over the initial 1-2 weeks. The next 3-5 weeks are the slower, more physical adaptations that the body produces as a result of the specific activity (i.e. increased cardiac output, increased oxygen transport and use by the cells, or increased muscle fiber size, etc).

Whether you are a seasoned athlete or a beginner, whenever a new training activity is started, a common body reaction is known as “Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness” (DOMS). This is soreness that occurs 24-48 hours after activity and generally resolves within 3-7 days. Many studies have been performed to try and determine a cure for DOMS. Unfortunately, it is a natural response and a typical indication of when you’ve performed something new. The symptoms of DOMS can be decreased by performing a proper warm-up. When the muscles are “warm”, they are more pliable and responsive to activity. The best remedy for this normal muscle reaction, however, is to repeat the exercise activity. This “Repeated Bout Effect” is part of the adaptation process. Too often, we experience soreness and then wait a prolonged period before attempting to resume activity. By that time, the body considers the activity to be “new” again which results in more soreness. We then put off activity again or quit all together.

In order to see results from any training program, you have to challenge the body to a degree of stress that is greater than what it is normally accustomed. Too little, and you will see minimal or no improvement at all. Too much, may result in overtraining or potential injury. But, ultimately how much challenge your body can take, depends on your current fitness status. If you are just beginning a training program or you have had a long break, then you should start slower and with lower intensities to give your body time to adapt to the new stresses. If you are more fit, your body can handle greater challenges.

A couple of questions that I am asked frequently are “How can I tell whether what I am feeling is ‘normal soreness’ or the result of an injury?” and “How can I maintain my fitness when I am injured?”.

First, some typical symptoms that would signify an injury are:

- Swelling
- Numbness, tingling, or loss of joint motion
- Warmth to the touch
- Discoloration or bruising
- A twinge during a workout that becomes worse later
- Limping
- Pain that lasts more that 2-3 days
- Pain that increases over time
- Pain that interferes with normal activities

Second, an injury doesn’t have to sideline you for good. By following a few simple recommendations, it is possible to continue exercising, maintain your fitness level, and heal properly at the same time:

1. Listen to your doctor! - Your physician can provide you with appropriate exercises that can be done to promote healing and fitness. Most importantly, he/she can provide you with advice to avoid further problems.

2. Modify your workouts so that they don’t include the injured area. – For an upper body injury, focus on lower body training. For lower body injuries, focus on the upper body or maybe perform exercises while sitting. High impact activities (i.e. running) can be modified to low or no impact activities (i.e. stationary bike, swimming, etc).

3. If the injury continues to hurt, continue to modify your activities until you find something that doesn’t hurt. – Increased pain or swelling are signs of continued stress and occasionally, activity may need to be discontinued altogether in order to allow some healing first.

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS

Monday, December 13, 2010

Understanding Sports Drinks

Sports drinks are intended and were developed for use during sports, as the
name implies. Many people are confused about the role these drinks should
play in their lives as a beverage choice. Sports drinks should be used only
if an individual is participating in strenuous activity or sport that is
constant and lasts over an hour. For an activity lasting less than hour or
one that is not intense (walking the dog), water will meet hydration needs
just fine and the carbohydrate and electrolytes (sodium, potassium) provided
in the sports drink are not necessary. Sports drinks should not be consumed
unless you need them during exercise or immediately after exercise for
hydration. They are not a good beverage choice outside of that because
then they are just adding extra calories, in the form of sugar, that are not
being used. These extra sugar calories have no valuable nutrition and can
easily be stored as fat, if not burned. With obesity rates in children (as
well as adults) skyrocketing, the appropriate use of these drinks is
essential. If not used properly and judiciously they can promote excessive
calorie consumption, leading to high Body Mass Index numbers, overweight and

Sports drinks are a great tool during long, high intensity workouts because
they provide a small amount of carbohydrates to fuel muscles along with
sodium and potassium for fast, effective hydration. The carbohydrates help
replenish the carbohydrate stores in the muscle (called glycogen) that are
being used to fuel the work of exercise. For the serious exerciser, these
carbohydrates help to delay the fatigue that happens when the muscles run
out of fuel, enhancing performance through longer and more effective
training. They also help keep blood glucose levels stable (optimal fuel
for the brain) which enhances mental focus, so that the athlete or fitness
buff are able to concentrate and perform at the highest level possible.

Sports drinks actually hydrate better than regular water even post exercise.
Individuals who sweat a lot or who are "salty" sweaters will benefit from
using a sports drink during and after exercise to replace the sodium and
potassium that are lost in sweat. They also stimulate thirst, as opposed to
water which does not, that encourages more fluid consumption to aid in

Because this is a multi-billion dollar industry today, it's important to
look past the marketing and choose the best sports drink, being armed with
good information. Look for one that is around 50 calories per 8 oz., which
supplies about 6-8 per cent carbohydrate.

Although sports drinks are effective during exercise and for hydration after
exercise, they are not adequate for recovery. Foods or fluids that are high
in carbohydrate, accompanied by a small amount of protein are a better
choice to jumpstart the muscle recovery process, after high intensity
exercise. Wholesome, nutrient rich choices will supply the vitamins,
minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants active children and adults need
for good health. Some examples include: a peanut butter/jelly sandwich, low
fat fruit yogurt and fresh fruit, low fat chocolate milk, fresh fruit
smoothie and a handful of nuts, granola bar & stick of string cheese.

Kim Larson, RD, CD
Total Health
Contributor, BaseballStrengthCoaching.com

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What's Your Max?

This blog has two purposes, one is asking the question do we really know what our athletes maxes are? And second if we don’t know, are we doing our athletes a disservice by not testing them?

I ask the question do we really know what our athletes maxes are because I have been noticing a trend that more and more schools are using estimated maxes. In the past, this technique was used mostly in high school at the freshman and sophomore level but it has been slowly moving to the older athletes and I have been hearing it is being used to a greater extent in the college ranks. I am not saying the technique should not be used. It has many uses and is a great tool. But, when it is the only technique used, I believe we are not giving the athletes a true look at what their maximal strength is. I have been getting more and more athletes through my program both in person and athletes that I plan programs for that give me these estimated maxes but cannot really lift that weight. Many times I have found the athlete to be 20-30 and even 40 pounds off the estimated weight. This can be very significant considering that if the athletes max was say 250lbs and they could really only do 220lbs. This is more then a 10% mistake, and if these maxes are used for calculating workouts through out the week, in most cases the athlete would not be getting the proper stimulus.

This leads into the next question. Is this a disservice to the athlete? In my opinion the answer is yes. If they do not perform true maximal’s at least a few times a year, the athlete may never know where they really stand and when they move onto the next level have to move backwards in order to move forward. This can be very frustrating. In many instances, if we are able to get the athlete on track and work from their true maxes, the athlete sees greater gains in shorter periods of time, as well as, giving the athlete a greater confidence in their lifting ability.

I just want to leave you with one more thought. As coaches, would we be ok if we used estimates of speed or velocity????????

Brian Niswender, MA, CSCS