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The High Performance Handbook

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 18

Written on September 11, 2012 at 9:28 am, by Eric Cressey

It’s that time of the week again: Greg Robins is here to throw some tips your way to lose fat, gain muscle, get strong, and take over the world.  It’s also quite fitting that Greg be our guest contributor on 9/11 in light of his military background.  With that in mind, for every Tweet or Facebook Share (both can be done in the top left of this page) this post gets by the end of the day on Wednesday, I’ll donate $0.10 to the Wounded Warrior Project.  Thank you very much to all of you who have served our country.

Now, on to Greg’s tips…

1. Be careful not to pair competing exercises.

When you set up your own strength training programs, exercise selection is the most commonly recognized variable; they think about it before they consider a number of other factors. I often advise people to look deeper than simply the strength exercises they are choosing. Instead, many would be better served to evaluate things like sets and reps schemes and total volume week to week while keeping the same movements in their approach longer. This aside, strength exercise selection must be considered at some point, and one rookie mistake is pairing two exercises that directly compete against one another.

Exercises may compete in a variety of ways. For example, pairing two exercises that are heavily grip dependent, such as rows and dumbbell lunges, provides an unneeded challenge to maintain grip strength. A better suggestion would be to keep the rows, but go to a single-leg exercise that doesn’t require as much grip work:

Another common example is pairing prone bridge variations with pushing exercises, as the shoulder fatigue will often take away from the ability to maintain good posture in the prone bridge. Take a look at how you have set up your strength and conditioning programs and eliminate pairings that do not allow you to give a full effort to each exercise. It’s easily fixed by subbing in exercise pairings that are direct opposites (e.g., rows with presses) or by pairing strength exercises with mobility drills.

2. Choose jumps and throws wisely for those with elbow and knee pain.

I am an advocate of placing a small amount of “explosive” training at the beginning of both competitive athletes and general fitness clients’ programs. Performing an explosive movement prior to resistance training helps to prime the nervous system for the day’s training. Additionally, it helps mentally gear people up to lift heavy stuff!

However, many people deal with nagging elbow and knee pain, which can be problematic when coupled with many of the common exercises utilized in this capacity. In some cases, a person may need to forgo these types of movements altogether while we work to alleviate the causes of such problems. For many, though, explosive movements can still be incorporated if appropriate exercises are selected. Limit jumping variations to those with the least amount of deceleration. Work with low level box jumps, and avoid options like broad jumps and depth jump variations. Another great option is to utilize jumps up an inclined surface, like a hill. Furthermore, kettlebell swings present us with an excellent joint friendly option to work the lower extremities in a low impact, explosive fashion.

Lastly, medicine ball exercises can present problems for those with elbow pain. When presented with these issues, stick to throws that do not call for violent extension of the elbow joint. These include overhead stomps done with straight arms, overhead throws done the same way, and scoop toss variations with a strict attention to keeping the arms generally straight.

3. Examine your protein supplements closely.

With the recent popularity in protein supplementation, it’s no shock that everyone is trying to make a quick buck off those looking to pack in more protein. It wasn’t too long ago that you had to seek out an actual nutrition store to purchase products like “ready to drink” protein shakes. Nowadays you can find these at pretty much any convenience store, or gas station mini mart. Furthermore, there was also a time that you could count the manufacturers of protein supplements on one hand, or two at the most. Most of them tasted like cardboard, and you needed an industrial blender to try and make that stuff into something resembling liquid. This has obviously changed – some for the better, and some for the worse. Before picking up your next tub of powdered goodness, take a look at the ingredients. In a similar fashion to what we discussed a few weeks back with food labels: the flashy front promises are often hiding a less than impressive host of ingredients on the back.

First, look at what type of protein you’re getting. Whey is not whey, is not whey, is not whey. Cheaper products are predominantly whey concentrate which is of lesser quality than whey isolate, or the more rapidly usable hydrosylate. It also tends to be harder to mix. Furthermore, if it isn’t whey, what’s the protein source? Is it soy, milk, egg, hemp, pea, or unicorn blood? Next, how are they making this stuff taste so darn good? Check for added sugar, and the use of artificial sweeteners. Lastly, be weary of the ready-to-drink variations; they are most likely full of chemicals, preservatives, and other things my high school chemistry curriculum failed to cover.

There are definitely reliable sources of protein supplements out there, though. I like to mix up the companies I use, and also the sources. I realize you could get pretty scientific about what works best and when, but I have other things to do. Mixing the source, and attaining them from quality places have served me well; I advise you do the same!

4. Layer up to beat the cold.

Fall is here in New England, and that means the cold weather is almost upon us. I have something to confess: I sweat on an absurd level. Needless to say, fall is a nice change of pace for me. I can wear a color other than black on a date, and I don’t have to buy nearly as much deodorant.

While my perspiration woes are a menace to my social life, I like being sweaty in the gym. As it gets cooler, I wear sweats and spandex or compression pants, shirts and sleeves. Plus, it seems like the perfect time to have an excuse to wear a beanie while training and not look like I am trying to just be a total badass. Do note, however, that I am perfectly okay with wearing anything that makes you feel badass, anytime.

As an aside, though, Cressey Performance does sell beanies; you can buy one online HERE.

It’s more than just a personal preference, though; it will help improve your training quality. Warm joints and muscles are happy joints and muscles. To take it a step further, warm people are happier people too – and that makes them far more motivated to train. Keep this in mind when leaving the house to train. Take a hot shower, layer up, warm up the car, and take any other preventative measures needed to prevent you from entering cold weather hibernation. Your training quality will stay up, and your consistency will continue.

5. Think twice about implementing icing for post-training recovery.

Icing has become a common prescription to help aid recovery of sore muscles. The research has always been less than stellar as to the actual merits of its application, though. Still, ice baths, bags of ice, and cooling packs have been a staple in gyms and training rooms across the country. And, if people are doing it, and claiming it helps them, then why not do it? There are, of course, different ways to use ice. Are we treating inflammation, or muscular soreness?

A recent study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that icing actually reduced recovery from eccentric exercise induced muscular damage. Participants were given cooling packs for the associated muscles affected by a controlled exercise. The pack was applied at various times for 15m in duration, post-training. The group who was given the cooling treatment did not improve recovery; in fact, it delayed the recovery process in comparison to the group who was not. Given this information, people should place a premium on other modalities to improve recovery. These include soft tissue work, compression, and low level activity in the 24-48 hour period following eccentric exercise.

There still may be some merits to icing in certain situations, so be careful to discard this modality altogether.  However, it’s clear that more research is needed to determine if/when it should be used.  For additional reading along these lines, I’d encourage you to check out Kelly Starret’s recent blog post, People, We’ve Got to Stop Icing.

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  • Garrett

    Should you ice after soft tissue work? Are you not inflaming the muscle when you do soft tissue work? I would ice after doing soft tissue work on my shoulder on days that I had pain from throwing.

  • http://www.fittrue.com Tim

    Thanks Greg. The vid of the class was especially good.

  • Marc

    Great post, the videos help more than you can imagine! Please keep posting great for all of us visual learners!

  • Justin Sorbo

    I think I agree with Gary for the most part, but his argument would be much more compelling had he not advertised on Kelly’s site.

    -Justin, BS Kin/CPT, Boston

  • Chuck S

    Good article.

    There are devices that help the grip. Like 1 ton grip and some kind of grip assist straps. Of course, you still want to exercise your grip, so it’s best to use them as little as possible. Maybe use assist for one of a paired exercise, but not the other. You can also use them if you’re limited by your grip – like if you could deadlift 300 lb, except your grip can only handle 200.

    If anyone needs icing, a bag of frozen veggies is a convenient thing at home.

  • Jay

    I’ve been reading some bad things about hydrosylates. Ie:

    “When an excess of food-borne excitotoxins, such as MSG, hydrolyzed protein soy protein isolate and concentrate, natural flavoring, sodium caseinate and aspartate from aspartame, are consumed, these glutamate receptors are over-stimulated, producing cardiac arrhythmias.

    When magnesium stores are low, as we see in athletes, the glutamate receptors are so sensitive that even low levels of these excitotoxins can result in cardiac arrhythmias and death”

    Also:
    “[An] excitotoxin [is] a substance added to foods and beverages that literally stimulates neurons to death, causing brain damage of varying degrees. [They] can be found in such ingredients as monosodium glutamate, aspartame (Nutrasweet), cysteine, hydrolyzed protein and aspartic acid.13″

    What’s your take on these excitotoxins/msg from hydrosylates? I have a half of a huge bag left of Hydrolysed whey that I’m now afraid to touch.

  • Kristian

    In regards to #1, are you talking about when super setting exercises, or just not to place two competing exercises after each? To take the example of prone bridges and push ups, could you still have these exercises in your program if you put an exercise that isn’t shoulder stability dependent in between? And just to check: squats and dead lifts would be opposite exercises right?

    Thanks Greg

  • http://starfactoryfitness.com Conor

    Great info, especially the icing bit. Thanks Greg

  • wayne

    With regards to icing the idea is to reduce inflammation and swelling in any affected areas and cool the area down. When taking the ice away from the area the capillaries and blood networks open up bringing in new nutrients and forcing the waste out into the lymphatic system. It can also reduce any painful areas as the cooling sensation of the ice interferes with the nerve signals of pain.

    Many of the pro athletes/sports players have ice baths of some description as they put their body through so much damage essentially (it the recovery which helps them get bigger, stronger, faster, etc) during training they need to stop the damage ASAP after training.

    There are probable hormone related changes too and of course you get the extra thermo loading which will ramp up your metabolism to keep your core warm.

    This is my understanding.

  • http://fitnessequipmentreviewer.com Ron

    Enjoyed the post. Thanks for the warning about protein supplements and in particular whey. It is something I don’t always do. It’s like checking the quality of your food and seeing what bad stuff they have sneaked into it to make it look better or taste better.

  • http://trainersonsite.com/ Oakville personal trainer

    Great post as per usual. I’ve tried ice baths for a few weeks, same with hot and cold showers where i’d rotate from hot for 2 mins, then cold for 30 seconds. They seemed to help for soreness, even if it was just the mental side of it. I kinda fell off the wagon for the ice baths but would recommend them. From my knowledge i thought ice baths would help flush out the lactic acid from your limbs/muscles quicker due to all the blood rushing to your midline to protect your organs. Was i misinformed? Thanks

  • Fraser Dods

    I am consistently impressed, and rarely disappointed with this blog, and Greg has maintained the standard here, though I do question the connection to Kelly Starret’s video. Greg does provide a bit of a disclaimer first – which I commend, however that disclaimer is soon lost in the 26 minutes of ice-bashing that follows. Without getting into the MANY arguable points that this video creates – by “legitimizing” the video (and its “message”) through the tacit endorsement of EricCressey.com it may lend credence to what is a VERY debatable subject, particularly when the presenters have an obvious self-serving bias, and present no defining parameters around their complete and total dismissal of cryotherapy.

  • http://ericcressey.com Ryan Chatman

    Is there a way to post this blog to my twitter account?

    Love the posts and want to share them.

    Thanks

  • http://ericcressey.com Eric Cressey

    Ryan,

    You can just hit “tweet” at the top left of this blog. It’ll post right to your account. Thanks for the support!


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