Tag: program

Audit Your Training Program

By Tom Sheriff, Personal Fitness Trainer Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

More and more frequently I am asked by coaches, friends and fellow gym-rats to review their strength training program. I am always happy to do so because I feel that most programs lack a simple evaluation, monthly or yearly, to ensure effective and efficient progress is being made. The following is an explanation of how to perform a simple audit of your training program.

The first question you need to answer is “Am I following a program, or am I wondering around doing whatever I feel like doing?” If you are just doing whatever you feel like, simply proceed as usual but for the next two weeks record what you are doing each day. At the end of the two weeks you can apply my auditing techniques to your workouts and go from there.

Once you have your program laid out, the first and most important step to auditing a program is to look for “gaps.” Make sure you are doing the fundamental human movements:

• Push (Bench press, military, dips etc.)

• Pull (Pull-ups, rows etc.)

• Squat (Back squat, front squat, overhead etc.)

• Hinge (Dead lifts, good-mornings, RDL’s, etc.)

If any of the mentioned movements are missing, there are gaps in your program.

Next I look for the push to pull ratio. To do this simply count the number of reps you do for each movement in a week then find the ratio of pushes to pulls.
Example:

Push: 300 reps/week

Pull: 100 reps/week

In this example the push to pull ratio of 3:1 is way off (but very common). A ratio of 1:1 would be better and ideally you would have a 1:2 ratio of pushes to pulls. The correct ratio ensures balance and promotes good posture.

I also look for balance top to bottom because people tend to slack in the leg department. If you bench press 315 pounds but shudder at the thought of a body weight squat you need to check your priorities.

Thirdly I look at how these movements are being accomplished. The main lifts of all my athletes and clients are considered core and structural lifts. This means they recruit one or more large muscle areas, involve two or more primary joints, and emphasize loading the spine directly or indirectly. If you perform all your exercises sitting or laying on a machine you are not getting the real-world application that exercises should give you.
A back squat will do a whole lot more for you than a leg press or leg extension because it more closely replicates movements you perform throughout the day.

Lastly I look for the purpose and progression of each exercise. If you cannot think of the real reason you are doing an exercise, there is good chance there isn’t one. Program progression is a topic that warrants a separate discussion but you need to make sure there is some rhyme and reason to how your program is moving forward.

I hope you take the time to really evaluate your workouts because you deserve to make progress. Just remember to look for the gaps! If you would like your training program audited please contact Tom Sheriff.

A Runner’s Guide to Maintenance

Running is a very dynamic sport that involves several different joints to function in correct alignment to absorb and react to impact efficiently. A routine that strengthens to prevent injury, creates length, reinforces proper movement patterns, and treats or prevents inflammation can help you become a stronger and safer runner.

Mobility warm ups:
A general warm up might be too limited to maintain proper strength, flexibility, and stabilizer activation. Here are a few extra movements for optimal joint function.

Ankles:

  • Using a combo balance board for ankle circles, lateral and medial motion, and forward and back wobble motion. If you do not have a balance board, you can do multidirectional toe taps, ABC’s, or ankle circles.

Hips:

  • Move from a hurdler’s stretch position to a track start position with the toes up to warm up and lengthen the front and back of the hips. An alternative is forward and back leg swings.
  • Folding forward touch down to an elevated surface like a step, or grab under the toes and transition from the forward fold to a deep squat with knees out and the heels up while using the arms to stretch the inner thighs and groin area. An alternative is a lateral leg swing, pendulum motion. Make sure that you are warmed up properly for this kind of motion.
  • Figure 8’s or circles can be done in a controlled movement or in a ballistic leg swing. Make sure to maintain a neutral spine and tight core for safety.

Spine:

  • Move from a flexed spine into extension on the floor, or use a resistance band or stability ball for added traction.
  • Lateral bends reaching up and over done in a controlled movement lengthen major muscles, such as: lats, quadratus lumborum, and the psoas.
  • Lateral twists can be done in a ballistic motion from the arms or lying down with the legs as windshield wipers.

Exercises:
When it comes to an exercise routine make sure you have these simple, yet important basics in your repertoire.

  • A leg strengthener that is general and highly effective for spinal integrity, core strength and proper length/ tension relationships of the body is a barbell squat. This can be done with light weight body bars and can progress from there.
  • An upper body strengthener that utilizes core and shoulder stabilizers is a pushup. You can do a ball pushup using the stability ball under the hands for added activation and increased difficulty.
  • Chin-ups or pull-ups counter-effect shoulder elevation that is common in runners and again integrate a lot of core and stabilization.
  • An overhead shoulder press is good not only for shoulder stability, but range of motion and health of the shoulder joint. If you are doing this correctly with complete range, you should be able to extend the elbows straight with the weights held directly above you without extension at the lower back or shoulder elevation.
  • Core or spinal stabilizers have the greatest importance for endurance athletes. A plank or leg lifts for added psoas activation are great choices for runners.

Strength and mobility aspects of fitness are important to maintain as a runner to complement your running program. In addition, proper flexibility and massage will keep the body healthy and will aid in recovery. If you have additional questions, or would like more advanced options please contact personal fitness trainer Amber Walz.

Improving Running Strength and Preventing Injuries with Resistance Training for the Seattle Marathon Series

As a runner, there are several exercises you can do to improve at your sport. A good rule of thumb is to train the weak points and correct any imbalances. There are three tiers of training that can be utilized in a resistance program: stability, strength and power.

Stability:
It’s important to focus on balance. Balance work improves activation of smaller stabilizer muscles, improves facial tension relationships and body awareness.

Knee problems can be attributed to poor hip and ankle stabilization. Hence, legs should be worked on individually. Simply doing a single-leg balance while doing an overhead shoulder press, bicep curls and overhead tricep extensions is one thing you can do with your resistance program. Challenging yourself to use a stability disc will add an extra level of difficulty.

Strength:
Strength focused exercises improve activation of large prime movers and synergists (the muscles that assist in a specific movement). An abdominal straight-leg lift or reverse crunch will be exceptionally helpful for an athlete. A weak length-tension relationship between the adductors (inner thighs) and abductors (outer thighs) is common in runners. Since there is so much single-plane movement during running, it is smart to work in the lateral plane. Some examples of this are: lateral lunges, side planks and lateral raises. The upper body should be a major focus for strength training. Doing a seated row and a chest press will help support posture in the upper body during running.

Power:
It’s important to have efficiency when running. A way to improve running mechanics is speed work. Integrating a technique in your running called surges is one way to achieve that. During a moderate paced run pick up your pace for about 15 seconds and then return to your original pace. Plyometrics (impact) drills will improve the catapult-like motion through your posterior change, which runs the length from your neck to the heel of your foot. Squat thrusts, also called burpees, are an excellent drill for runners. There are also classic running drills that you may remember from gym class such as: high knees and butt kicks.

Whatever the combination, resistance training can make you a better runner and prevent injury. Keep muscle balance in mind; compensation patterns occur when there are poorly developed or underused muscles, and when there is tight or overused muscles. Always train your weak points and listen for warning signs that a muscle needs to be stretched or massaged. Doing this will create longevity and health for a lifetime of running.

Tips to Improve Your Running Form

Getting the running shoes on and out the door is just the first step… Most people don’t realize that running is not just about putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward, there are many small nuances and techniques to running that create better run efficiency, power, and the ability to run injury free. Just sit at Greenlake one Saturday afternoon and you will see it all, the good the bad and the otherwise. Proper run form is the key to increasing your speed as well as to help you from getting injured. Here are a few proper run form technique pointers:

  1. Posture: You should run tall and erect, shoulders level, back straight with a neutral pelvis.
  2. Forward Lean: Lean forward from your ankles. Many times you will see people running hunched over from their waist or their shoulders (I blame it on computers and being hunched over at a desk all day) this can tighten the chest and restrict breathing. The other extreme is the puffed chest runner I like to call a peacock runner. They literally lead with their chest. Proper form: You want to be tall when you run while leaning from your ankles creating a light forward angle to your body. Helpful hint: think about looking forward about 20-30 feet on the path you are running, this will naturally give your body a slight forward tilt. Looking directly down will make you hunch and looking way up at the horizon can lead to almost a backwards tilt – you want to lean forward in the direction you are going, let the natural forces help you not fight against you.
  3. Relax! Relax your shoulders relax your hands! Let your body fall into a natural rhythm. Running tense is wasted energy and as you start to run long you will feel the effects whether you realize it or not.
  4. 90degree arms: keep elbows at a 90degree bend. If you are breaking this it means that you are “hammering” with your arm and loosing efficiency. Arm should swing from the shoulder joint not the elbow. Hands should brush by your waist not be tight up by your chest which can cause tiredness and tightness in your shoulders and back.
  5. Midfoot strike: (though this one is often up for debate…) Land with your foot striking directly under your center of mass and roll off the ball of your foot. Heel striking often means that you are over striding which affects run efficiency and means you are “braking” causing you to actually run “slower” and may lead to injury because of the impact on your joints. If you are running all on the balls of your feet, your calves can get tight and fatigue quickly and or you can develop shin pain.
  6. Run cadence: this is the frequency of your foot strike. Ideally run cad is around 90 (or 180 steps per minute) though many elite runners and triathletes will run at a cadence 100 this is very high for most. Running with shorter strides uses less energy and creates less stress on your muscles and impact to your joints. To count your run cadence, during any portion of your run choose one foot and count how many times it strikes down in a minute. If you are much under 90 this could mean that you are either over-striding and or your foot is spending too much time with impact on the ground (anywhere from 88-90 is great). You want to think light and airy when you run not thumping down heavy footed. Run as if you are running on a hot surface: quick, light and with short strides. NO bouncing! Bouncing = wasted energy and too much impact on your muscles and joints.

Next time you put those sneakers on and head out the door for the run think about “how you run” and how you can improve your run efficiency by following the above pointers.

Interested in learning more about running or to just have some buddies to run with? Run Club leaves from the SAC lobby every Wed morning at 6:30am!

Make Changes that Lead to Success in the First 90 Days

Many gym goers fall out of exercising within their first 90 days of joining a gym or starting a new exercise routine. One of the biggest reasons people stop exercising is because they do not have a very structured workout and/or do not know where to start with their exercising. A new and very beneficial program offered here at the Seattle Athletic Club Downtown is called “The First 90 Days of Fitness”. It’s a structured introduction to fitness involving meeting with a nutritionist to get your diet analyzed in order to meet the demands of exercising; three consultations with fitness trainer where you get measurements and body fat taken and then training session. The Fitness trainers can also get set up on a structured workout program called ActivTrax.

If you are looking for a little more structure to your workout program, there is also our 12 week Evolve program; offering personal training twice a week, fitness assessments, 5 nutritional consultations, two RMR (resting metabolic rate) tests, a shopping trip to your favorite store, educational literature each week.

One of the club’s members, Chris Davidson, has been on this program and just completed his first 90 days of fitness. During his final assessment he was pleased to find out that he had lost 7.6 lbs of fat while gaining a considerable amount of muscle and strength. The major contributing factors to his fitness achievements were that he was at the SAC every day working out or playing racquetball; and that he exercised with a workout partner. This is just one of many success stories at the club. Fitness success is more attainable if you have a structured workout routine and with someone there to keep you accountable, whether it’s a Pilates instructor, personal trainer or workout partner.