Why Do We Foam Roll? Evidence Based Results

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Come for the hot girls on foam rollers, stay for the science

I recently received a great article on the benefits of using a foam roller written by the New York Times titled Ask Well: Do Foam Rollers Aid Workouts? This article answers the question “What does research say about the benefits of foam rolling?”

In experiments over seen by researchers, volunteers who rolled back and forth with one of the devices under their leg muscles from five seconds to one minute showed  a significant increase in those muscle’s range of motion immediately after. And unlike static stretching (holding one stretch for a long duration of time) foam rolling did not have a negative impact on force production. When stretching statically it is actually possible to lengthen the muscle past it’s optimal length reducing it’s ability to produce force and in today’s workout warm-up schemes static stretching is commonly contraindicated.

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Lastly, the article talks about using the same device outside of the gym during recovery periods. “Additional experiments at his lab found that even even after a “devastating workout” consisting of multiple sets of squats, volunteers who used a foam roller on their leg muscles were were far less sore and better able to leap and perform other physical tasks 72 hours later than volunteers who who didn’t use the device”.

So there you go, the proof is in the research. Performing multiple sets of SMR (Self Myofascial Release) with a foam roller, either before or after a workout, produces many benefits seen in your ability to perform during the the workout and subsequent recovery period.

So what are we actually doing to ourselves when we perform SMR? The article clearly states the proof in practical application and now to explain what you can’t see going inside your bodies! Kind of like the magic school bus, but unlike Ms. Frizzle I won’t be putting any of your lives in danger (seriously seriously what a psycho)

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To better serve you I have simplified a lot of the theories and terminology so if you want more details on any of the explained processes below send me a message or comment below

When we workout we are actually damaging our muscle tissue. Rip, Tear, and Repair. The muscles breakdown and grow back stronger than before. A very simplified version of the adaptation principle. Without progressive overload we don’t see progress, hence why I will always be kind enough to hand clients a bigger weight. While most muscle tissue is repaired some muscle handles the tissue trauma differently by inflamming and then spasming. These muscle spindles that have spasmed will form an adhesion (which most of you know as knots or trigger points). Left unchecked. these adhesions can begin to form permanent structural changes in the them the soft tissue”. This causes muscles to repair differently, forming short and long groups. This alters how your body performs normal motion and this altered muscle imbalance eventually leads to kinetic chain breakdown  ultimately injury. Yikes, that escalated quickly. Now it’s time for foam roller to do its work.

When applying pressure to the musculotendinous unit where these “knots” have formed, we are activating an organ within he muscle called the Golgi Tendon Organ or GTO. After applying pressure to the area the GTO produces autogenic inhibition  and decreases gamma loop activity responsible for the spasming muscle spindles.

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Aaaaah, now your knot is released and your muscle thanks you (sometimes you can feel a warm sensation in the local area). Because the tissue is now relaxed, it is a prime time to stretch and lengthen shortened muscles and and bring them back back to to their optimal lengths.

Now you know why foam rolling is so great and with research to back it up! Go fix yourselves and get back in fighting shape for the next workout 

TRAVIS

Why Cardio Won’t Kill Your Gains: Hybrid Programming

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So what does this picture have anything to do with what I will be posting about today? Well in this picture we see a gigantic man doing cardio, which foreshadows my topics of both combining cardio and strength into one program, also known as hybrid programming! Oh, you want to know what the horse is about. Nothing, just consider it a bonus…seriously move on.

Anybody who has stalked their fair share of bodybuilding or muscle building forums has heard the expression “Cardio Kills Gains”. This talk has influenced a widespread movement of people being afraid to touch a piece of cardio equipment or go for a run.

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The consensus is that cardio is catabolic in nature and can impair current and future gains when combined with a mass-building program. After reading Greg Nuckol’s article on hybrid programming and Alex Vaida’s follow up I hope to relay how implementing cardio into a strength routine and even hypertrophy programs will allow you to reap the benefits of cardiovascular health while helping, and at the least not hurting, gains in mass/strength!

 

You Know Cardio is Good For You

 

If you took a health class in high school or have taken any effort in improving your health you know there is a myriad of benefits to be had from performing cardio. Benefits in heart health including increased stroke volume, drop in resting heart rate, and recovery heat rate, not to mention a ton of other positive physiological and even psychological changes; it is obvious cardio is a very important part of fitness. “Cardio kills gains” like most broscience includes a small grain of truth drastically blown out of proportion. I can think of two instances of where cardio would hamper your gains in muscle and strength and your ability to put on mass (weight/muscle)

 

  1. You increase your total energy expenditure (TDEE) by performing a long bout of cardio without compensating with increased caloric intake. Simply put you’re not eating enough. Your planned 250 calorie surplus now becomes a deficit and as stated in previous posts is not ideal for gaining mass

 

  1. Prolonged training that put’s stress on the CNS and musculature causing soft tissue damage. The most common contributor being running.

 

Keep in mind this is about cardio and mass/strength gaining programs. Cutting programs aimed at losing weight already are at a disadvantage for gaining muscle and more focus on the most retention of strength and mass. I will post the most effective cardio for weight loss in a later post.

 

Short Term Effect of Cardio on Strength and Mass Gains

 

Greg’s article took a look at an in depth study about concurrent training and how cardio interferes with gains in both size and strength. His cliff notes about the scientific journal are as follows:

  • 1) You can still get bigger and stronger with doing strength training and cardio simultaneously.
  • 2) In the short term, concurrent training (strength training and cardio together) is about 31% less effective for hypertrophy, and about 18% less effective for strength.
  • 3) Frequency and duration of aerobic training affected strength and hypertrophy gains – more frequency and volume of aerobic training meant smaller strength and size improvements.
  • 4) When looking at the data more closely, mode of exercise mattered.  Running, but not cycling, negatively impacted strength and size gains.

            “Aerobic training does not hamper strength training in and of itself.  The effect starts materializing when it begins causing additional stress to the muscles and soft tissues.  Running, with its impact element, affected strength and size gains especially as volume increased, whereas cycling didn’t.”

Anyone who has seen a cyclist’s legs can attest to the considerable size gains that can be accomplished so like in all good programming, training modality matters! So as long as your cardio is either low impact and you don’t go insane with the volume and intensity you can ditch that shrinking feeling every time you accidentally jog. What is accidently jogging you say? Your low intensity steady state walking increases its cadence when an attractive woman in yoga pants run by you or you see the ice cream truck turn the corner up ahead and boom, interval training i.e. sprints.

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 But I regress, so cardio in the short term can be performed with only a mild tax on your strength and mass gains, but gains nonetheless.

 

Long Term Effects

 

This is where it gets a little theoretical and sciency but just muscle through I promise it’s interesting (haha..muscle through).  There’s preliminary evidence, based on a study performed on rodents, that aerobic training increases intra-muscular DHT conversion. DHT is a derivative of testosterone which binds to androgen receptors, and stays longer than its androgen counterpart for a longer period of time spent in an anabolic period. This anabolic window is key for the production of muscle. There are currently studies being down now to see its effect on human subjects.

 

“Though there’s not a ton of research yet, early studies ARE finding that exercise (in this case, sprints) affects DHT in healthy young people as well, and aerobic training can increase DHT without affecting testosterone in middle-aged men. So, maybe cardio is a little “manlier” than you’ve been led to believe!”

Programming (Alex’s Turn)

A follow up article was done by Alex Vaida who has a ton of practical experience working with concurrent/hybrid programming for 200-300lb athletes with some impressive lifts such as 450+ pound bench presses, 600+ pound deadlifts, and 600+ pound squats.

 

“For the strength-focused athlete, incorporating cardiovascular training into one’s program is something that is approached with everything from mild distaste to outright horror- and potentially with good reason.  Introduction of cardiovascular training into an already stacked strength training regimen without proper attention paid to recovery or overall work load can result in a loss of strength, overtraining, and underwhelming performance gains in the aerobic realm to boot.”

He goes on to discuss the most important factors when developing a program for the strength/endurance athlete which includes

Recovery Management

Energy System Management

Managing Progressive Overload

Correctly timing workouts in the microcycle (programming)

 

Recovery Management

Resistance training and aerobic training both tax the body’s energy stores, stress bones, muscle and connective tissues, but in different ways. By managing the stresses from each mode of training respectively, one can recover from a higher overall stress. It is important that the types of stress are varied.

“For example- sprinting and high repetition squatting are relatively similar in terms of physical stress- both involve relatively high peak loads at momentarily acute joint angles, as well as heavy eccentric and concentric stresses, so treat these as nearly identical workouts in your planning (and understand that they can, in fact, be combined).  On the opposite end of the spectrum, slow, easy cycling or swimming are completely different than standard resistance training- far less trauma to the muscle fibers (very low mechanical stress), far less damage to bone (these are not load bearing, for the most part), and can therefore be programmed with less consideration to heavy lifting.”

 

It’s important to look at what you’re lifting and choose a dissimilar workout. Focusing on legs? Avoid sprints and fast cycling and do low intensity cycling, swimming, walking, or rucking (hiking with a weighted pack). Focusing on bench press strength? Avoid swimming. Alex gives a pretty good endorsement to rucking for all strength athletes as its cadence and movement patterns differ from most major lifts. “The body adapts to what you throw at it so differing the modes of lifting and cardio combined will give you the biggest bang for your buck in both strength retention and adaptation.”

Energy Systems management

“The second most critical piece to remember- think about what energy stores you’re depleting, and recover accordingly.  A true LISS (Low intensity steady state) session WILL deplete your glycogen, but it’s remarkable how LITTLE glycogen you need to perform maximum effort lifting the next day.”

There’s a few takeaways from this section; in general as long as volume is low, being depleted of glycogen will not affect your maximum power output for a few lifts. If you’re trying to do hypertrophy work which requires more volume and higher repetitions will require more stores to be depletes which may take up to 72+ hours after a long aerobic session (if sufficiently depleted).

Also, as I’ve mentioned before and he states in his articles, the “post workout anabolic window” is overstated in its importance and duration. What is more important to consider is that after a lifting session our catabolic hormones are already high due to all of the microtrauma in our muscle tissue. After lifting, 15-20 minutes of HIIT is recommended over long duration cardio because intervals can be roughly compared to a few burnout sets of an exercise so little to no harm done. The athlete should always perform longer duration cardio after they have marginally recovered from a previous workout

 “While I am a big advocate of “big picture thinking”…  i.e. the athlete’s overall program over the course of a week matters more than a few minutes here or there post workout…  it still pays to consider when the system is primarily catabolic, and when you’re better off recovering versus simply wringing out an  already exhausted body.”

Progressive Overload

 

Aerobic activity is no different from resistance training- simply performing the same exercise at the same intensity and volume week after week will result in no improvement.” Any one of my clients will know the annoyance of me pushing a heavier weight into their hands. It’s not that I enjoy seeing you struggle (maybe a little) but you can’t just go through the motions and expect results. Same goes for cardio. You must use the same overload and adaptation principle to push your body past its normal levels to force it to adapt and become stronger.

“ Careful incorporation and gradual accumulation of low intensity, extended duration steady state workouts (The “long slow run” or “overdistance” work, to be done on its own training day), moderate intensity “tempo” work (also to be done on its own training day), and higher intensity, shorter duration sprint or interval style work (which can be done at the end of resistance training, provided it is taxing the same muscles as those worked in the previous workout) should all be incorporated to maximize adaptation and ensure progression.”

 

So what would my program look like?

 

Everyone has different levels of fitness and different goals they are trying to accomplish. Therefore everyone’s program will be unique. Like most fitness related findings, it has to be experimented with and tuned to meet your needs.

 

“I HIGHLY recommend that the individual experiment with different types of training, from swimming to aqua jogging, hiking and trail running to rucking with a loaded pack, from distance cycling to cross country skiing.  Simply thinking of aerobic activity as “running” is short-sighted- unless you are specifically training for an event, it pays to consider all the above factors when incorporating aerobic conditioning into a program.”

 

He finishes the article by asking us to be open to the idea of both incorporating both strength and cardio into a program. It’s ignorant just to assume that because cardio and lifting seem like they are on different ends of a spectrum you can’t gain benefits from both. Find a mode of cardio that will help strengthen mechanics of lift or a specific sport and do it. Get creative and take notes so you can look back and see if changes you made are helping are not. 90% of fitness is tracking and adapting based on results and 50% knowing how to add to 100. Now get out there and try some new activities and stop being afraid of cardio! Happy Fitness🙂

 

Greg Nuckols Post: http://gregnuckols.com/2014/03/03/cardio-and-lifting-cardio-wont-hugely-impact-your-gains-in-the-short-run-and-may-be-beneficial-for-strength-and-size-in-the-long-run/

Alex Vaida’s Follow Up: http://gregnuckols.com/2014/03/10/practical-considerations-for-combining-cardiovascular-training-and-lifting/

Well Now Don’t I Look Silly

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     No, not because of the Luchador mask. Please I just look awesome. For people who have been following me from my humble beginnings of blogging when I was bright eyed and believed I was capable of writing new content every week I started on WordPress. Due to a combination of ridiculous password constraints that lead me to create passwords more complex than the DaVinci code and paired with my rugby/concussion rattled brain I got to the point where I had to request a new password every time I wanted to write so I moved my whole blog over to Google’s blogger.
     Fast forward a year later and now I travel a good amount for work/leisure and blogger has a terrible mobile app. So like a pathetic ex girlfriend I crawled back reset my password for an 100th time and voila! Back to WordPress.
     So I’m back from Texas going strong on my cut. San Antonio was home to some of the best damn BBQ and like a good boy I logged like a fiend. Front loaded my day with hard boiled eggs (8 of em) and slammed back muscle milks to try and keep my macros in check while treating to myself to some of this:

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Easy to understand why Texas is ranked high on the obesity scale… Haha…. Scale. So back to New England weighing in at 204 and hitting a good stride. Now if I can be more consistent in posting! Happy fitness everyone, time to start training outside!

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Europa Fitness Games and Expo

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Yesterday I took a trip to the Hartford Europa Fitness Games and Expo and saw first hand what a bodybuilding competition is all about. I was blown away by the intensity, focus, and competitors physiques as they posed their way to qualifying for nationals.

The expo itself offered a great chance to walk around and see the latest supplements from popular brands like Optimum Nutrition, Cellucor, BSN, and the best part…FREE SAMPLES. I think cumulatively I had about 100 grams of proteins in bars and shake samples. Don’t worry, I burned it all off on a neat toy they brought. An endless ladder where everyone tried to show off their upper body strength as they challenged people to climb this revolving ladder without the use of your legs. After 16 rungs I went down like a sack of bricks…well a sack of someone who ingested every kind of protein there, even protein balls (which were disgusting).

Watching competitors pose and light up the stage with their routines was a great first hand experience of what I have to look forward to as well as how much work I still had cut out for me. After some of the divisions some guest posers, including an Olympian Branch Warren, came out and strut their stuff and brought their hugeness out into the crowds. I picked a lucky seat as I was humbled to see Branch up close and personal as he climbed onto the seat in front of me:

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Holy Banana Hammock Batman, but it was all good, I’m just glad he didn’t fall on top of me. Here’s some more pictures of the IFBB pros strutting through the crowd

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PHAT Stats #1

As this is a journey to the November competition I thought it would be nice to try and share some stats weekly or bi-weekly. There’s good reasons to record what you’re doing. One, it’s the best way to keep track of where you are and where to start the next week. It’s a good tool to identify plateaus and see where you seem to be struggling. Also, it keeps you honest. If you don’t finish a set don’t write it down. Being the best you can be is a good motivator so if you saw you wimped out on a set the week prior hunker down and put on your try hard panties and hit those PR’s.

I’ve been making fantastic progress with intermittent fasting and can’t stop looking at my abs in the mirror. It’s not that I’m insanely narcissistic but as a former fat kid the last time I was under 210 was probably in middle school. So here are some stats from the lifting cycle I finished today going into the weekend. PHAT is still kicking my ass but I’m happy I have been keeping most of my strength as I continue to cut. New PR’s would have to be the squat (ass to grass). Never my strongest lift but finally made some headway!! Enjoy and keep the questions coming.

Current Weight 205lbs
Date 6/11-6/13

UPPER BODY POWER
T-Bar Row (close grip) 3×5 195 lbs
Weighted Pullups 3×6 55 lbs
Low Standing Cable Rows 3×6 305 lbs (152.5 at handles)
Smith Bench Press 3×5 285 lbs
Weighted Dips 3×6 90 lbs
Camber Bicep Curls 3×6 90 lbs

LOWER BODY POWER
Squat 3×5 315 lbs
Hack Squat 2×6 450 lbs
Leg Ext 2×10 110 lbs
Stiff Legged Deadlifts 2×5 325 lbs
Kneeling Leg Curl 2×10 100 lbs
Calf Raises 2×10 205 lbs
Leg Press Calf Raise 2×10 180 lbs

BACK/SHOULDER HYPERTROPHY
Speed Work: Bent Over Row 6×3 155 lbs
Rack Chins 3×12 No Weight
Standing Cable Row 3×12 275lbs (137.5)
Close Grip Pulldown 3×12 200 lbs
Front/Front/Lat Raise 3×30 5 lbs

LEG HYPERTROPHY DAY
Leg Press 7×12 360/450/540/630/540/450/270 lbs
Split Lunge Squats 3×12 215 lbs
Kneeling Leg Curl 3×12 90 lbs
Front/Front/Lat Raise 3×30 5 lbs

CHEST/ARMS HYPERTROPHY
Incline Dumbell Bench 3×12 105lbs
Hammer Strength Chest Press 3x Drop Sets 180/130/90lbs
Cobra Curls 3×12 35lbs
Tricep Cable Extensions 3×12 35lbs
TRX Bicep Curl/Tricep extension/Pushup 3×10 each (giant set)

Planet Insecurity

 

Ive always defended planet fitness from the masses as I think its a good place to start if you indeed have some fears of the weight room like some of my clients. This is just straight silly…