Anterior Pelvic Tilt Influence on Squat Mechanics

anterior pelvic tilt influences squat mechanicsI feel like we’ve been discussing anterior pelvic tilt lately in several articles and an Inner Circle webinar on my strategies for fixing anterior pelvic tilt.  I wanted to show a video of a great example of how a simple assessment really tells you a lot about how pelvic positioning should influence how we coach exercises such as squats and deadlifts.

If you haven’t had a chance to read my past article on how anterior pelvic tilt influences hip range of motion, you should definitely start there.

In this video, I have a great example of a client that has limited knee to chest mobility and with boney impingement.  However, if we abduct the leg a bit, it clears the rim of the hip and has full mobility with no impingement.

YouTube Preview Image

As you can see, because he is in anterior pelvic tilt, he is prepositioned to start the motion in hip flexion, so therefor looks like he has limited mobility.  I have a past article on how anterior pelvic tilt influence hip flexion mobility, which discusses this a little more.

While you are working on their anterior pelvic tilt, you can work around some of their limitations.  I hate when people say there is only one way to squat or deadlift.

Our anatomy is so different for each individual.

Some need a wider stance while others need more narrow.  Some need toes out while some need more neutral.  Do what works best for your body, not what the text book says you are supposed to look like.

 

 

The Effect of Ipsilateral and Contralateral Loading on Muscle Activity During the Lunge

One thing I talk about a lot when it comes to training and rehabilitation is the need to train the body in all three planes.  This often requires moving in one plane of motion and stabilizing in the other two.   We are often very good at moving in the sagittal plane, and poor at stabilizing in the transverse and frontal planes.  This is a big topic of discussion in my program Functional Stability Training of the Lower Body.

To enhance this triplanar stability, we often attempt to facilitate greater contraction of the gluteus medius muscle during sagittal plane exercises.  The lunge in particular is a great exercise for triplanar stability as the narrow stance challenges strength in the sagittal plane and stability in the transverse and frontal planes.

 

The Effect of Ipsilateral and Contralateral Loading on Muscle Activity During the Lunge

The Effect of Ipsilateral and Contralateral Loading on Muscle Activity During the LungeA recent study was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that investigated the effect of holding a dumbbell in either the contralateral or ipsilateral hand during a split squat and forward lunge.  (Note: they called it a “walking lunge” but I am 99% certain it was a forward lunge, so I’m just going to say forward lunger in this article…  probably just semantics.)

The study found that:

  • Holding the dumbbell on the ipsilateral side had no effect on glute med activity.
  • Holding the dumbbell on the contralateral side resulted in a significant increase in glute med activity, but only during the forward lunge, not the split squat.

I was a bit surprised that glute med activity was not impacted during the split squat, but perhaps the static nature of the position inherently requires less transverse and frontal plane stability.

There was one other finding from this study that I thought was interesting.  Kinematic differences during the forward lunge were found between a group of trained individuals in comparison to a group without training experience.

This makes sense as the forward lunge is a complex movement pattern that requires an understanding of how to control the pattern.  It requires both mobility and stability, but also the ability to control the eccentric deceleration phase.

contralateral lungeHowever, there were no kinematic differences between training age during the split squat, meaning that both novice and experienced trainees performed the split squat in a similar fashion.  This make split squats a great exercise to incorporate in the early phases of training for those with limited training experience, eventually progressing to forward lunge as they get better at moving and stabilizing the pattern.

This helps solidify the use of split squats in our lunge regression system.

 

Implications

I like simple studies like this.  Having the rationale to make small tweaks to your program is what sets you apart.  It’s the small things that may not be obvious at first but will produce better results over time.

Based on these results, I would recommend using the split squat with bilateral dumbbells to maximize strength gains since a unilateral load did not alter glute med activity.  The split squat is more of a basic exercise, so why not just use it to work on strength gains in the novice trainee.  As the person progresses, you can add the forward lunge variation with a contralateral load to enhance triplanar stability.

 

 

 

3 Systems You Need to Have in Place to Be an Elite Strength Coach

Systems.  That’s a word I say VERY frequently throughout the day at Champion PT and Performance.  Our center revolves around systems.

The two biggest mistakes I see with new personal trainers and strength coaches are very simple:

  • They don’t have a plan
  • They don’t have a system of developing a plan

One of my biggest pet peeves in this industry is just slapping together a bunch of exercises without a solid rationale.  This often happens when you pick the exercise first.  Maybe you just went to a new continuing education course and learned a new exercise, or you just read a new article on the web, or saw an exciting new exercise on Youtube.  You’re excited and want to try this shiny new exercise.

The second phase of our coaching evolution often revolves around understanding the fact that it’s better to build a solid program first, then fill in the exercises second.

That’s great, you’re evolving.  But…  my second biggest pet peeve is writing programs month-to-month.  I use the phrase “start with the end in mind” quite often when it comes to program design.  Most of our clients have clear goals that we should be prioritizing when designing their program.

If their season starts in 4-months, or their wedding is in 12-weeks, to achieve the best results we should assure the program is designed to peak and maximize their performance at the perfect time.  You can’t do this when writing programs month-to-month.  You need to have the program mapped out ahead of time.  Sure, you’ll probably tweak the program a few times as the client progresses, that’s the art of coaching, but it’s always better to start with the end in mind.

 

3 Systems You Need to Have in Place to Be an Elite Strength Coach

I really think that if you want to become an elite strength coach or personal trainer (or heck, physical therapist…), you need to have a few systems in place.  It really all comes down to developing systems to allow you to quickly and easily provide your expertise in a consistent and reliable fashion.

 

You Need to Have a Program Design System

Program design systemWhen we are just starting out in this field, program design is one of the most challenging aspects your job.  It’s because you don’t have a system in place and try to re-create the wheel each and every time you write someone a program.

It’s daunting,

You don’t need to sit down and start from scratch with each and every client.  You need a program design system to accomplishes the goals you’ve established and style of training you provide.

 

You Need to Have a Periodization System

Periodization SystemOnce you understand how to design a program, the next system to master is how to string together multiple programs.  This is essentially periodization.

Again, you don’t need to get fancy and mix this up for each and every client.  I’ve overview a a little bit of my periodization system for strength and rehabilitation in an Inner Circle webinar.

There are periodization schemes that fit well with specific goals and specific clients.  Developing a system of categorizing all this is the next step in becoming an elite coach.

 

You Need to Have a Coaching System

Assessing overhead shoulder mobilityLastly, it doesn’t matter how good of a program you can write, or how well you periodize the program, your results are going to suffer if you don’t know how to coach.

The third system that I think you need to reach that elite level is a coaching system.  This involves developing a consistent approach to cueing, analyzing technique, making adjustments, progressing and regressing exercises on the fly, and connecting with you clients in general.

Just like anything else, this can be a system as well.

 

How to Develop Your Own Systems

Systems take time and experience to develop.  This is natural.  But finding an excellent mentor and always seeking out continuing education is a great step.  You have to find what works for you.

I’ve learned so much from some of the experts in the field by studying their systems.  I am always assessing how other people do things and trying to determine which aspects of their system I can adopt and integrate into what I am currently doing myself.

Alwyn Cosgrove has done a great job outlining his systems in his educational work.  Mike Boyle has as well.  But the person that I can say I have probably learned the most from over the years is Mike Robertson.  As my readers know, I really connect to Mike’s style of coaching, ability to teach information, and his focus on developing his own systems.

 

Physical Preparation 101

physical preparation 101Luckily for us, Mike has just released his latest DVD which completely overviews his program design and coaching systems.  And when I say “completely overviews,” I mean it!  Mike has just release Physical Preparation 101, a whopping 12-DVD set that discussing exactly how Mike has built his systems.

I watched almost all of the 12 DVDs over the weekend and can say that if you don’t currently have a system in place, this is the resource you should invest in to begin developing your system.

The program is $100 off this week for the launch and a must have for all of our educational libraries.  Click below to save $100:

 

 

 

 

 

Periodization for Strength Training and Rehabilitation

The latest Inner Circle webinar recording on my Periodization for Strength Training and Rehabilitation is now available.

 

Periodization for Strength Training and Rehabilitation

Periodization for Strength Training and RehabilitationThis month’s Inner Circle webinar is on periodization for strength training and rehabilitation.  In this webinar I’ll discuss:

  • Why you need to understand periodization concepts to maximize strength
  • How to enhance strength by strategically changing aspects of your program to stimulate adaptations
  • The many different kinds of periodization and what really works
  • How I use linear, non-linear, and undulating periodization concepts
  • How to chose your periodization strategy based on the experience of the person
  • How to apply periodization concepts to rehabilitation

To access this webinar:

 

 

 

 

Does Periodization of a Program Help Improve Strength?

When designing programs to enhance strength, there are many variables that you can (and should) manipulate to facilitate improvement.  These can obviously include the sets and reps (volume), loads (intensity), frequency, and rest time (density).  However, how we periodize these variables is also very important.  Periodization is the systematic structuring of how you plan on manipulating these variables over time.

You probably know me well enough by now to know that I value systems and planning.  One of our fundamental principles in program design at Champion is to “begin with the end in mind.”  It drives me crazy to see programs written month-to-month without a goal in mind.

So it makes sense to develop a system of how you plan on periodizing your strength training, wether in the personal training, sports performance, or even rehabilitation setting.

While the strength and conditioning world has really embraced the concept of periodization, physical therapists are notorious for a complete lack of periodization.  It’s not uncommon to perform “3 sets of 10″ in the rehabilitation setting forever.

Perform a Google search for strength training periodization and you’ll find a sea of conflicting terminology that is likely to make you dizzy.  Linear periodization, reverse linear periodization, non-linear periodization, undulated periodization, conjugated periodization, concurrent periodization, and block periodization are some of the many types of periodization programs that you can find.

Unfortunately there is little consensus on terminology or definition, feeding the confusion for people looking to learn about periodization even more.  Add to that the ability to essentially say anything you want on the internet without needing any scientific validity and you’ll find a dozen different “best” ways to get strong.

But the real question still remains – does strength training periodization even matter?  And if so, what type of periodization is best?

 

Effect of Periodized Versus Non-periodized Programs on Strength

Since the rehabilitation setting does such as poor job at implementing periodization into programs when returning from injury, we should start by establishing the need for periodization.

Anytime I have a research question in regard to Strength and Conditioning, I head over to Chris Beardsley and Bret Contreras’ website Strength and Conditioning Research.  Chris has an excellent article on our current scientific understanding on strength training.

The article reviewed 7 studies comparing periodized and non-periodized programs on strength in untrained individuals.  Of these studies, 4 reported significant benefits of periodization over no periodization.

Similarly, there were 7 studies comparing periodized and non-periodized program on strength in trained individuals.  Of these 7 studies, 4 reported significant benefits of periodization and the remainder reported no differences. Using periodization may therefore have a beneficial effect on strength gains in both the trained and untrained population.

I wouldn’t say the research is overwhelming, but leans towards at least some form of periodization being more effective than using no periodization at all.  I think we would all anecdotally agree with this as well.

 

Effect of Linear Versus Non-Linear Periodization

Now that we have established we should use some form of periodization, the focus now shifts on determining what the best form of periodization may be to improve strength.

Lets simplify, and perhaps oversimplify, the forms of periodization for this conversation as either linear periodization or non-linear periodization.

Linear periodization refers to the slow decrease in reps and increase in load.  For example a 4-phase program may look like this:

  • Program 1 – 3 x 12 with a light load
  • Program 2 – 3 x 8 with a moderate load
  • Program 3 – 4 x 5 with a moderate to heavy load
  • Program 4 – 5 x 3 with a heavy load

Linear Periodization

As the reps go down, the weight goes up.  This has been the most classic form of periodization used for the last several decades.

Antagonists to the linear periodization model often point out that the benefits seen early in the program in regard to strength and hypertrophy are not maintained throughout the program as the focus continuously shifts from program to program.

This has lead to several variations of non-linear periodization, including one of the most common, undulated periodization.  Undulated periodization involves continuously shift the focus of the program on either a daily or weekly cycle.

A weekly undulated periodization program may look like this:

  • Week 1 – 2×15
  • Week 2 – 3×8
  • Week 3 – 5×5

While a daily undulated periodization program may look like this:

  • Monday – 2×15
  • Wednesday 3×8
  • Friday 5×5

Undulated Periodization

While many have stated that undulated periodization is more beneficial at eliciting strength gains, does the research agree?

A recent meta-analysis was publish in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.  They reviewed hundreds of articles and ultimately select 17 that met all their strict criteria for analysis.

Of these 17 articles, here are a few bits of information:

  • 12 compared linear periodization to daily undulating periodization.  3 compared linear to weekly undulating.  1 study compared all 3.
  • 7 studies were on untrained people (<1 year experience), 10 on trained (> 1 year), and no studies included advanced trainees (>5 years).
  • 16 out of 17 studies reported significant increase in strength in both linear and undulated periodization.  12 studies found no difference between the two periodization models.  3 found undulating better than linear and 2 found the opposite.

The overall meta-analysis also agree and the article concluded that there is no difference in strength gains between linear and undulated periodization.

However, when analyzing trained individuals, people that had previous experience with linear periodization had an improvement in strength when switching to undulated periodization.  There was no difference between the linear or undulated periodization in untrained individuals.

Based on this it appears that as your training age increases, you may need to change your training stimulus to maximize your gains.  However, linear periodization will work fine in new trainees.

Realize that the majority of articles you read on the internet are geared towards the very small percentage of people that fit into the advanced trainee grouping, when in reality, this is not what 95% of us see on a regular basis, especially in the rehabilitation and general population personal training worlds.  Sure, advanced periodization programs are needed to get from 500 lbs to 600 lbs on a lift, but probably not as much from getting from 100 lbs to 200 lbs.

Linear periodization offers a great way to introduce and teach movement patterns with a lower load and higher rep scheme, then as the movement skill is perfected, the load can safely increase.

 

Periodization for Strength Training and Rehabilitation

Because the topic of periodization is so large, important, and so often neglected in the rehab and personal training setting, this month’s Inner Circle Webinar is going to be on Periodization for Strength Training and Rehabilitation.  In this webinar, I am going to discuss the above concepts in much more detail and show you how we periodize some of our programs for healthy people and those coming back from injury in the physical therapy setting.

The webinar is Monday May 18th at 8:00 PM EST and will be recorded for Inner Circle members.

 

 

 

 

4 Ways to Improve Overhead Shoulder Mobility

4 Ways to Improve Overhead Shoulder MobilityOne of the most common areas we attempt to improve in clients at Champion PT and Performance is overhead shoulder mobility.  If you really think about it, we don’t need full overhead shoulder mobility much during our daily lives.  So our bodies adapt and this seems to be an movement that is lost in many people over time if not nourished.

I’m often amazed at how many people have a significant loss of overhead mobility and really had no idea!

That’s not really the issue.  The problem occurs when we start to use overhead mobility again, especially when doing it during our workouts and training.  Exercises like a press, thruster, snatch, overhead squat, kipping pull up, toes to bar, handstand push up, wall ball, and many more all use the shoulder at end range of movement.  But here are the real issues:

  • Add using the shoulder to max end range of overhead mobility and we can run into trouble
  • Add loading during a resisted exercise and we can run into trouble
  • Add repetitions of this at end range and we can run into trouble
  • Add speed (and thus force) to the exercise and we can run into trouble

 

4 Ways to Improve Overhead Shoulder Mobility

In this video I explain the 4 most common reasons why you lose overhead shoulder mobility and can work on to improve this movement:

  1. The shoulder
  2. The scapula
  3. The thoracic spine
  4. The lumbopelvic area

The first three are commonly address, but not so for the lumbopelvic area, which is often neglected.  I’m going to expand on this even more in this month’s Inner Circle webinar.  More info is below the video:

 

Improving Overhead Shoulder Mobility

This month’s Inner Circle webinar is going to expand on this topic and discuss how and why you want to improve overhead shoulder mobility.  In this webinar I’ll discuss the importance of overhead mobility, how to assess the 4 most common causes of loss of mobility we discussed above, what corrective exercises to perform, and tips for manual therapy.  The live webinar will be on Monday April 20th at 8:00 PM EST, however will be recorded for those that can not attend live.

 

 

 

6 Things You Do That Your Clients Hate

6 thing you do that your clients hateIt’s funny, over the years you start to accumulate several thoughts on a subject that one can only do through experience.  The old saying “if only I knew then what I knew now” is certainly true.  I often laugh at some of the things I did and say to my clients when I was less experienced.  We were having this discussion with our students at Champion the other day, and I consider this a normal part of your career advancement.

In addition to reflecting on your own personal practice, I think there is also a lot to learn about from your clients when they tell you their past experiences with other professionals.

I tend to see a lot of clients that have tried other health care and fitness professionals and for whatever reason find themselves with me after not achieved the results that they wanted.  In my experience, this is often due to a few reasons:

  1. They didn’t listen
  2. They didn’t connect
  3. They didn’t put in the time

 

Notice how none of these things are “clinical” in nature.  Sure, I see my fair share of clients that were not diagnosed well or treated properly, but in all reality, I’m not perfect either.  But I listen, connect, and put in the time.  This allows my the luxury of being able to call an audible with my clients when I feel we may have started down the wrong path.  They trust me.  If they didn’t trust me, they’d move on to the next clinician.

How about these two comments I received recently from clients about their past experiences with other professionals.

  • “All my therapist did was tell me what I was doing wrong.  I know what I am doing wrong, that’s why I went to therapy.”
  • “I left my last therapist and always felt bad about myself.  They made me feel bad about myself.”

 

For the young clinicians (and I guess the more experienced one’s too!), I want to share some of the things I have picked up over the years that clients hate.  Remember, you need to connect in order to do you best with your clients.  Learn from my mistakes and errors and avoid these 6 things you do that your clients hate!

 

Stare at Your Device

I can’t think of a worse way to start off your experience with a healthcare professional than having them stare at their computer and typing while asking you a series of questions.  Not a great way to connect and help your client feel like your are compassionate about them, rather than just trying to finish your “task” of their evaluation.  I still take notes briefly when pencil and paper and do my documentation afterwards.  Sure, it takes more time out of my day, but it’s the right thing to do.

This also goes for staring at your phone their whole session.  You could be responding to a highly urgent and work-related email, but realize your clients will just assume your are posting pics of your kittens on Facebook.  Excuse yourself and respond to an urgent message if you must, but don’t do it right in front of your client.  This looks like they are not important to you at the moment.  Otherwise, keep your phone in your pocket.

I’m not sure if the Apple Watch is going to help us here or hurt us, we’ll see!

Your client needs to feel like they are the most important person in the world to you during their session.

 

Don’t Listen to Them

Your first interaction with someone is really important for several reasons.  Obviously you need to determine where to start with your client, but it’s also the most critical interaction to development a connection.

This starts with letting them talk.  You want to hear their story.  Some will want to get right to the point, while others will want to elaborate.  Let this happen.  Don’t interrupt if you can, and let them lead the discussion.

As I get more experience, the subjective portion of my exam could really only last 30 seconds for me to have enough information to start looking at the client.  However, I have learned that a big part of connecting with your clients is listening to your client.  You need to provide the platform for them to share what they want with you.

 

Force Feed What You Want Instead of What They Want

It’s not about you.  Starting with this simple concept is a great start.

As an example, perhaps a client comes to you and says “kinesiology tape really makes me feel better.”  How do you think they’ll respond when you say, “Your shoulder pain is coming from signals in your brain, kinesiology tape won’t help that and doesn’t really do anything.”  Ummm, probably poorly.

You said that kinesiology tape “doesn’t do anything” and they said it “really helps.”  That sounds like conflict, not connecting, to me.

In all honesty, we don’t know as much as we think we do about the human body.  I have no problem providing a treatment, such as kinesiology tape, if there will be no harm, no long term consequence, and there is no definitive research saying it is ineffective.  Obviously, if scientific evidence is available to completely say something is ineffective that changes the topic.

Don’t get me wrong, I will do what I want to do with that client, but may also try some kinesiology tape as well.  Perhaps that makes my treatments even more effective.

Another great example in the fitness world is the focus on movement and corrective exercises.  I think this is great, but don’t lose focus.  If someone comes to you for fat loss and all you talk about is how poor they move and how you want to fix their asymmetrical 1 on the FMS straight leg raise, you are forcing what you want on the client, and not focusing on what they want.  They don’t give care at all about what their straight leg raise looks like.

Again, I think you should work on that movement pattern.  But that can’t be the focus of the program.  It has to meet their goals first.  Sure, we sneak our goals into our programs too, but be careful here.

 

Tell Them Everything That is Wrong with Them and Nothing That is Right

I think we all get carried away sometimes with finding “deficits” during our assessments and evaluations.  That is normal.  But we need to be careful with how we present this to our clients.

Some people will focus too much on the little things, while others will seem just feel bad about themselves.

Every client should leave your facility feeling better, more optimistic, and in a good mood.  You want to be one of the best parts of your clients’ days.

I’ve actually talked about this in the past in an article on The Dale Carnegie Approach to Assessments.

 

Talk Over Their Head

As you can see, communication and people skills are pretty valuable in our professions.  Another area that I often see as being an issues is not bringing the discussion to your client’s level.

Just like you should be trying to match your clients’ energy levels, I also try to bring my discussion to their level as well.

Students and young clinicians are often guilty of this for a few of reasons:

  1. They are used to talked scientifically to justify what they are doing to their professors
  2. They haven’t accumulated that database of analogies we all use on our heads
  3. Unfortunately, they are a little too egotistical and trying to impress the person with how much they know

Confusing someone and talking over their head is not going to impress someone.  Some people like to hear all the detailed scientific things, while others just shut you out.  You need to feel this out and adjust.  However, your ability to convey your points and messages in a manner that connects with each person will impress them.

I use several different tools to accomplish this based on how I feel the conversation is going, but my go-to methods are:

  1. Using pictures and videos during my evaluation
  2. Using analogies to compare a complicated point to one they understand.  Car analogies work well!  Things like, “it’s like driving with your wheels out of alignment, eventually your tires are going to wear down unevenly.”
  3. Using a whiteboard to express thoughts.  This doesn’t always just mean drawing a picture.  I also often write and make lists.  Some people are more visual learners.  You can usually tell when they whip out their phone to take a pic of the whiteboard when you are done!

They key is to give them the science but don’t stop there, back it up with something they can understand.

 

Criticize Their Other Healthcare Professionals and Past Experience

I’m surprised at how common this point is in our professions.  I have many clients that have commented on how other professionals they have worked with in the past just criticize everyone else they have and had worked with in the past.  Like a personal training putting down their physical therapist or their physical therapist putting down their chiropractor, as a couple of examples.  Realize that your client has probably built up a lot of trust and respect over the years for the other people they are working with, which have not currently built up.

Not only does this make the person feel bad about their past choices (see above), but it’s also very transparent that you are just slamming someone else to try to make yourself look good.

I have a general rule of thumb that I developed over the years after seeing many “prestigious” people commit this error – Don’t make others look bad to make yourself look better.  It may work in the short term, but always catches up to you.

Yes, you are a genius when you have the power of hindsight.  Everything is clearer in retrospect.  Be respectful of their other people your client is seeing and has seen, you aren’t always right.

 

In reality, I probably could have listed another dozen, but these are a great start.  Avoid these 6 things that you do that your clients hate and focus on connecting, listening, and putting in the time to maximize your own effectiveness in helping people achieve their goals.

 

 

 

How to Enhance Recovery Beyond Nutrition

Today’s guest post comes from Kamal Patel and the team at Examine.com.  If you haven’t heard of Examine.com just yet, you’ve been missing out!  Examine.com is the web’s best resource for evidence-based information on nutrition and supplementation.  They are completely unbiased and only report on scientific fact, not speculation.  The nutrition and supplement fields are filled with anecdotal information, false beliefs, and downright inaccurate claims about efficacy.  Examine.com helps us sort through what is fact and fiction.  Be sure to check out the special offer from Examine.com at the end of this article.

 

How to Enhance Recovery Beyond Nutrition

Training sounds pretty simple on paper. Just eat right, sleep well, and lift a little bit more weight every workout. But every workout takes place in real life, and real life can make training pretty hard.

To improve at the rate that you read about on internet forums – hitting a 315 pound squat or 225 pound bench press after a year of training – you need to train like an athlete. That doesn’t just mean going to the gym three times a week and downing a protein shake afterward. Optimal training only occurs when daily life doesn’t get in the way.

Training like an athlete while working a full time job or going to school is not easy, but fixing weak points in your habits and lifestyle can help avoid training setbacks and plateaus.

Alleviating Soreness and Joint Pain

Exercise causes muscle and joint pain. The severity of the soreness and how long it takes to recover depends on diet and lifestyle, as well as the kind of exercise performed.

The basics

A high-carbohydrate diet is the first step to alleviating post-workout joint pain. A low-carbohydrate diet, while potentially useful for fat loss, is not ideal for resistance training.

People on a low-carb diet should eat the majority of their carbohydrates in the post-workout period. Going into a workout with low glycogen is not ideal for strength training, but if joint pain is interfering with exercise, fixing the problem should be a priority.

Magnesium deficiencies can also exacerbate joint pain and cause muscle cramping in athletes. The lack of other electrolytes, like potassium, can contribute to pain. Potassium deficiencies must be alleviated through dietary changes, since too much potassium on an empty stomach can cause potentially fatal cardiac arrhythmia.

 

Troubleshooting Joint Pain

If dietary changes don’t alleviate persistent joint pain, anti-inflammatory supplements may be able to help.

Anti-inflammatory supplements are not as potent as pharmaceuticals like aspirin, acetaminophen, and aleve. However, curcumin and fish oil are both used to alleviate joint pain in athletes. Though the research on these two supplements is done in the context of arthritis, the benefits should theoretically extend to athletes as well. More research is needed to confirm this effect.

Cissus quadrangularis can alleviate the joint pain that results from specific injuries. If your post-exercise joint pain has persisted for years, you may want to consider consulting with a physiotherapist.

Do not supplement high amounts of anti-inflammatory supplements to dull injury pain. Continuing to work out after an injury can exacerbate tissue damage and increased recovery time, leading to overuse of pain-reducing supplements and permanent damage.

 

Alleviating Fatigue and Lethargy

There’s nothing like proper rest and nutrition to facilitate training, but sometimes you can’t avoid staying up late to finish a paper or getting up extra-early to beat the boss to the office.

 

The basics

Running a caloric deficit is great for weight loss, but not as great for energy levels. Though some people can go for long periods of time on reduced calories, a crash is inevitable. If your diet is interfering with your daily energy, consider a less drastic deficit.

The occasional all-nighter won’t have a long-term effect on gym performance, but consistently poor sleep will. Aim for six to 10 hours of sleep every night, and make sure your sleep environment doesn’t affect your recovery.

A healthy sleep environment is:

  • A slightly cool room tends to facilitate sleep, while a puddle of sweat is awful to wake up in.
  • Smart phones and tablets just before bed will disrupt melatonin secretion, leading to a more difficult time falling asleep.
  • Ears don’t close like eyes do. Even if you sleep through the night, loud noises can still impair sleep quality.
  • Caffeine-free. Any compounds that impair sleep will lower sleep quality, even for veteran coffee drinkers that can drink a pot of coffee at 8:00 p.m.
  • Where you sleep and how long you sleep for should be the same from night to night.

A good sleep environment actually makes it easier to get out of bed in the morning, since improved sleep quality leaves you feeling more rested.

 

Troubleshooting sleep quality

Some sleep issues can be alleviated through supplementation. People that have issues with sleep latency, meaning they have trouble falling asleep, can supplement melatonin or lemon balm.

Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep, but people with no difficulty falling asleep will not experience any further sleep benefits.

Lemon balm is a light sedative used to alleviate intrusive thoughts that can interfere with sleep.

Supplements that improve sleep quality, as opposed to sleep latency, include glycine and lavender.

About three grams of glycine taken thirty minutes before bed will improve sleep quality, but the supplement becomes less effective after prolonged use. To use glycine in the long term, avoid taking it daily.

Lavender, used in aromatherapy, is associated with improved sleep. Rubbing lavender oil on a pillow before bed can also improve sleep, but some people may experience skin irritation due to long-term exposure of skin to oil.

If stress is causing reduced sleep quality or poor sleep latency, supplements called adaptogens can help the body adapt to stress, resulting in fewer stress-related side effects, like fatigue and anxiety.

The most popular adaptogens are ashwagandha, Rhodiola rosea, and Panax ginseng. Ashwagandha is sometimes supplemented by athletes because it may improve cardiovascular performance and muscular strength. Siberian ginseng is another adaptogen option for people that get sick often, though it has very little effect on physical performance.

Breaking through plateaus

There’s a lot of factors to keep track of during long term training. Hitting a plateau can be frustrating because it takes time to isolate the factor responsible.

 

The basics

Daily caloric intake is the biggest influence on physical performance. Carbohydrates are more effective for strength training than fatty acids, but both are necessary for busting through plateaus.

Addressing general energy levels, fatigue, and joint pain is also a vital aspect of breaking through a plateau.

 

Troubleshooting plateaus

Supplements that improve physical performance can be useful for breaking through training plateaus. Creatine is the go-to recommendation, while caffeine (400mg) can be used once or twice a week as a pre-workout supplement.  Please note that although 400 mg is listed as a low dose in some studies, this would be a relatively high dose for someone who is caffeine naive.

There is preliminary evidence that suggests cholinergics like CDP-choline and Alpha-GPC may improve physical performance in a non-stimulatory way, but more research is needed to confirm this effect.

 

Identifying Lifestyle Weaknesses

To facilitate effective training, learn to isolate the weak points in your habits and work to improve them. Start with obvious factors, like staying up too late, and address others as they arise, whether in training, at work, or in life.

 

Examine comKamal Patel is a nutrition researcher with an MPH and MBA from Johns Hopkins University, and is on hiatus from a PhD in nutrition in which he researched the link between diet and chronic pain. He has published peer-reviewed articles on vitamin D and calcium as well as a variety of clinical research topics. Kamal has also been involved in research on fructose and liver health, mindfulness meditation, and nutrition in low income areas.

Special Offer for Inner Circle Members

Examine.com was kind enough to extend two special discounts for my Inner Circle members:

  • Examine Supplement Goals Refernce GuideExamine.com Supplement Goals Reference Guide – This is the ultimate resource on supplements, and what they call “the cheat sheet” to better health, a better body, and a better life.  They’ve done all the work and analyzed over 33,000 research studies to discuss over 300 supplements and 180 health goals.  Within seconds you’ll be browsing around, identifying health goals you want to improve, and finding supplements that will help you get there.  Best of all, this is a lifetime eBook.  Every morning the guide is updated based on the latest scientific evidence!  It’s really unbelievable.  This is normal $49 but they have a special offer for Inner Circle members of $39.99.
  • Examine.com Monthly Research Digest – For this looking for even more, Examine.com has a monthly research digest that reviews all the latest nutrition and supplement articles for you to stay on top of the evidence.  Inner Circle members get $5 off the monthly price or $50 off the yearly price.

How to access the special offers: