Author: Jason Anderson

Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Working Through Injuries

Living long and staying healthy are two common goals I hear as a personal trainer. It is great to see people of all ages heeding their health professionals’ advise to get active for all of the benefits exercise has to offer. But for some people, who may overdo or who do not properly train or warm-up, exercise can cause injuries.

Maybe you have done your training to prepare yourself for the demands of your sport or activity but still ended up sustaining an injury. Don’t worry it’s not the end of the world – just the beginning of a healing/learning process. Injuries can be annoying and inconvenient but sometimes they can be a blessing.

An injury to one part of your body can be an opportunity to focus your training efforts to a portion of your fitness that you may be deficient in. The idea here is to not do the usual routine of completely stopping all exercise when experiencing an injury. You do not want to waist all the hard work you have done to get to where you are. Yes you will need to still go see the doctor and go through the recovery process recommended by the doctor but just because you may need to give one particular body part a break it does not mean you need to let the rest of your body go to waste. Once you have started your treatment process for your injury you can give some good thought into what other parts of your fitness you would like to improve and if you have a hard time deciding what your options are maybe its time to talk with a personal trainer to get some new ideas on how to keep your level of fitness while letting your injury heal. Here are a few areas of fitness you could start to work on:

  • Strength
  • Power
  • Flexibility
  • Endurance
  • Speed / Coordination
  • Balance

If you have sustained an injury to your lower body maybe it is time to focus on upper body strength. The gym has equipment to accommodate just about any injury. Machines such as the upper body ergometer can be used for sustaining your cardiovascular conditioning when healing from a lower body injury. Maybe you have been restricted to light exercise only, which would be a good time to focus on flexibility through pilates or yoga. To keep your conditioning level you might add swimming to keep resistance low but allow a full body workout to increase blood flow to promote healing.

What ever your case may be, the personal training staff at the Seattle Athletic Club can be of great assistance. The next time you find yourself with an injury try to think of it as a time to improve a different area of fitness. The change in your routine just may help you break any of the unwanted plateaus occurring with your regular workouts.

Rock-solid on the ski slopes

Every ski season brings the opportunity to be better than the last. If you continually tell your self you will get into ski condition but wait till the season actually starts you will end up in the same rut as last year, and not finishing out the whole ski season. If you give your self enough time, and with a proper foundation in fitness, you can make this ski season one of your best and longest.

The first step to ramping up your fitness starts with a solid strength training program. The first six weeks of a strength training program should be spent building a foundation. Start light and focus on proper form. Lift twice per week, with 48 hours of rest in between each session. To see significant results, put in and hour per session, in which you do two sets of 12-15 repetitions each, resting only 30-45 seconds between each set.

Because skiing is a whole-body sport, you’ll want to do whole-body strength workouts. Thinking of your body as a series of components simplifies planning a workout. Target the following muscle groups: Legs (ankles, calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes), torso ( chest, back, and abdominals), and arms ( biceps, triceps, and shoulders).

Also keep in mind that muscles don’t work independently. Each muscle group has an opposing group and can only lengthen when the other one contracts, so it’s important to develop both equally. For example, the quadriceps extends the leg (straighten the knee), while the hamstrings flex it (bend the knee). If only one group is strengthened, the imbalance can lead to injury.

After six weeks, crank the workouts up a notch. Try to do three sets instead of two, start lifting to failure (the point where you can’t lift any more) and incorporate eccentric lifting. Each weight lifting move has two parts: the concentric (lifting and shortening) part of the motion and the eccentric (releasing and lengthening) component. In an eccentric move, you add 10 pounds to the maximum weight you can do 15 reps. A training partner helps you lift the weight, and then you slowly lower – or resist – it on your own. This method helps simulate the forces your body has to deal with while skiing. As you ski your body is resisting forces during turns and bumps more than it is trying to produce force. So when you put on a huge amount of weight that you can’t push, that you just have to resist, it trains the muscles and allows you to be so much more efficient that you don’t get tired.

After 10 weeks of lifting , add ski specific exercises that demand not only strength, but balance and quick reflexes, too. Plyometric jumping exercises and training on unstable surfaces are often added in to workout routines twice a week with two days of rest between sessions to ramp up your intensity. Plyometrics will make you quicker, more balanced and lighter on your feet. Plyos include any exercise, from jumping rope to tossing a medicine ball, in which a muscle is contracted eccentrically and then immediately contracted concentrically. To picture it, think of the muscle as a rubber band that is stretched and then released. The faster you can switch from a stretch to a release, the greater your explosive power and the better your reaction time on the hill. This would also be the time to add in unstable surfaces such as bosu balls or gymballs to increase activation of stabilizing muscles. Most strength workouts are done on a firm surface, giving the stabilizing muscles a break but if you move your workout to exercise balls or unstable balancing surfaces this will force the smaller muscle to work during your workouts similar to the demands of skiing. Plyos will make sure you are not fazed by powder, crud or anything else mother nature throws at you.

With the ski season right around the corner it is time to get started with your conditioning program. The Seattle Athletic Club offers a ski conditioning class right now on Mondays at 6 pm with Joel Mitchell (jmitchell@sacdt.com) or for more information on sports training please feel free to contact any of the training staff at the Seattle Athletic Club to help get the best out of your next season of skiing.

Rock Solid on the Hill this Winter

Every ski season brings the opportunity to be better than the last. If you continually tell your self you will get into ski condition but wait till the season actually starts you will end up in the same rut as last year, and not finishing out the whole ski season. If you give your self enough time, and with a proper foundation in fitness, you can make this ski season one of your best and longest.

The first step to ramping up your fitness starts with a solid strength training program. The first six weeks of a strength training program should be spent building a foundation. Start light and focus on proper form. Lift twice per week, with 48 hours of rest in between each session. To see significant results, put in and hour per session, in which you do two sets of 12-15 repetitions each, resting only 30-45 seconds between each set.

Because skiing is a whole-body sport, you’ll want to do whole-body strength workouts. Thinking of your body as a series of components simplifies planning a workout. Target the following muscle groups: Legs (ankles, calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes), torso ( chest, back, and abdominals), and arms ( biceps, triceps, and shoulders).

Also keep in mind that muscles don’t work independently. Each muscle group has an opposing group and can only lengthen when the other one contracts, so it’s important to develop both equally. For example, the quadriceps extends the leg (straighten the knee), while the hamstrings flex it (bend the knee). If only one group is strengthened, the imbalance can lead to injury.

After six weeks, crank the workouts up a notch. Try to do three sets instead of two, start lifting to failure (the point where you can’t lift any more) and incorporate eccentric lifting. Each weight lifting move has two parts: the concentric (lifting and shortening) part of the motion and the eccentric (releasing and lengthening) component. In an eccentric move, you add 10 pounds to the maximum weight you can do 15 reps. A training partner helps you lift the weight, and then you slowly lower – or resist – it on your own. This method helps simulate the forces your body has to deal with while skiing. As you ski your body is resisting forces during turns and bumps more than it is trying to produce force. So when you put on a huge amount of weight that you can’t push, that you just have to resist, it trains the muscles and allows you to be so much more efficient that you don’t get tired.

After 10 weeks of lifting , add ski specific exercises that demand not only strength, but balance and quick reflexes, too. Plyometric jumping exercises and training on unstable surfaces are often added in to workout routines twice a week with two days of rest between sessions to ramp up your intensity. Plyometrics will make you quicker, more balanced and lighter on your feet. Plyometricss include any exercise, from jumping rope to tossing a medicine ball, in which a muscle is contracted eccentrically and then immediately contracted concentrically. To picture it, think of the muscle as a rubber band that is stretched and then released. The faster you can switch from a stretch to a release, the greater your explosive power and the better your reaction time on the hill. This would also be the time to add in unstable surfaces such as bosu balls or gym balls to increase activation of stabilizing muscles. Most strength workouts are done on a firm surface, giving the stabilizing muscles a break but if you move your workout to exercise balls or unstable balancing surfaces this will force the smaller muscle to work during your workouts similar to the demands of skiing. Plyometrics will make sure you are not fazed by powder, crud or anything else mother nature throws at you.

With the ski season right around the corner it is time to get started with your conditioning program. The Seattle Athletic Club offers a ski conditioning class right now on Mondays at 6 pm with Joel Mitchell or for more information on sports training please feel free to contact any of the training staff at the Seattle Athletic Club to help get the best out of your next season of skiing.

Is Your Conditioning Program Helping or Hurting Your Squash Game?

I have been in the fitness industry for over 14 years and witnessed people fall in love with squash everyday. Some people play squash strictly for the great workout while others to compete. No matter what your reasons are for playing, when beginning a conditioning program it is important to fully understand the demands. Squash requires the aerobic capacity to run and swing a racquet for 20-60 minutes, the flexibility to reach for deep rails and tight drop shots, and enough strength to forcefully start and stop while controlling a racquet. A good squash conditioning program should help strengthen your aerobic fitness, flexibility, strength, and mental focus.

One of the major misconceptions about improving your squash performance is that simply playing the game will get you in better shape. This thought will only keep you at a stationary level of ability and performance. To get better at an activity, your conditioning should closely resemble the movement patterns, ranges of motion, speed of movement, as well as the coordination in which you perform in the actual activity. When planning a conditioning program for beginners as well as professionals I have three major rules:

1. Stay off selectorized (sit-down) machines
2. Use integrated movements
3. Move in multiple planes

Stay off the sit down machines! In squash, you are moving in multiple planes of motion which requires balance, coordination, and activation of your core muscles. Using selectorized machines will prevent the activation of your core muscles and remove any balance or coordination. If your conditioning program consists of bouncing back-and-forth between seated machines you are training your body one way and asking it to perform in another (on the squash court).

Use integrated movements that get muscles to work together rather than isolated movements that focus on one muscle working independently. In squash, you are lunging in multiple directions while swinging a racquet. This is an integrated movement of your lower and upper body. Your conditioning program should be as similar to the demands of squash as they can be. Doing lunges with rotation using medicine balls or cables is an easy way to integrate the muscles in your upper and lower body.

Move in multiple planes such as forward and backward, side-to-side, and rotation. If your conditioning program consists of sitting on a stationary bike and seated machines pushing and pulling in one plane of motion then it is time to try something new. You do not need to get rid of all of your favorite exercises but try to add in some squash-specific movement patterns. Try lunges in multiple angles, cable chops from multiple angles, push-ups with one hand on a medicine ball. Get off the sit down bike and get up and try running some stairs or skip rope to increase your aerobic conditioning. Moving in these multi-planes will keep your stabilizer muscles running well and prevent pattern overuse all while making your conditioning program more “squash specific”.

Try to add a few of these exercises to your routine:

Stair Running


Starting Position: Start at the bottom of a set of stairs with multiple flights.

Action: Run up stairs touching every stair. Walk back down the stairs. Maintain proper form by leaning slightly forward and striking each stair with the balls of your feet.

Special Instructions: Progress to running every other stair.

Muscles Worked: Glutes, Hamstrings, Calves

Jump Rope


Starting Position: Begin with jump rope relaxed behind your legs touching the floor. Keep core tight and posture up straight.

Action:
Begin by rotating the jump rope up and around your body while timing your jump with both feet at the same time. Try to stay on the balls of your feet.

Special Instructions: Progress by changing your jumping action. Try alternating feet while you jump or even adding in two rope rotations per jump.

Muscles Worked: Shoulders, Arms, Legs

Step Ups

Starting Position: Begin by standing in front of the step or riser (8-12 inches tall) facing forward.

Action:
Place right foot in the middle of step and step up as you balance your body for 1-2 seconds on the right leg. Your left leg should be behind your body to help stabilize your weight as it is shifting. Step down with your left leg first and continue on down with your right. Try for 2 sets of 10-12 repetitions for each leg.

Special Instructions: If you don’t feel comfortable with a riser or step height between 8-12 inches, start out at a lower height.

Muscles Worked: Quads, Glutes, Calves

Lunge with Medicine Ball Twist

Starting Position: Begin this exercise by standing upright while holding the medicine ball out in front of you just below chest level. Your elbows should not be locked.

Action:
Step forward with one leg and lower your body to 90 degrees at both knees. Don’t let your knees go past the plane of your toes. Your thigh should be parallel to the floor at this point in the exercise. As you step forward, rotate your torso to the same side you step to (right leg forward then twist to the right) with the ball, keeping arms straight out in front of you. Push back to an upright position with your forward leg and bring arms back to the center of your body. Try doing 2 sets of 10-12 repetitions for each leg.

Special Instructions: Progress with a heavier medicine ball.

Muscles Worked: Quads, Glutes, Shoulders, Obliques

Push-up on Medicine Ball

Starting Position: Begin by kneeling on a mat (not pictured) with your legs together, hands about shoulder-width apart and directly beneath your shoulders, and one hand on top of a medicine ball. Extend one leg at a time until you are balanced on the balls of the feet in the start (“up”) position of a pushup. Make sure your abs are engaged and your body forms a straight line from the shoulders to the hip, knee and ankles.

Action
INHALE: Bend the elbows as you slowly lower your entire body–not just the chest–toward the ground. EXHALE: Straighten the arms and push back up to the starting position to complete one rep. After one set, switch the medicine ball placement to the other side to perform another set.

Special Instructions: Keep your abs engaged and your spine neutral. Look at the floor about a foot in front of you to help maintain a neutral head and neck position. Make sure you are able to maintain a straight line with the body while lowering toward the floor. Don’t lock out the elbows completely at the top. Only lower as far as you can in good form.

Muscles Worked: Chest, shoulders, triceps, abs

Wood Chop with Medicine Ball

Starting Position: Hold a medicine ball and stand tall with your legs straight, feet hip-width apart, hips centered and abs engaged. Keeping your lower body planted, twist from the waist toward the left and extend your arms overhead and toward the left side of your head (pictured).

Action:
EXHALE: Keep your arms straight and your Feet planted as you twist your torso toward the right and lower your straight arms on a diagonal across the body and down toward your right foot, slightly bending both knees and pivoting on your left foot. INHALE: Reverse the movement, twisting your torso toward the left, straightening your legs and lifting your arms back up toward the left side of your head to complete one rep. Perform all reps on this side and then switch sides to complete on set.

Special Instructions: Keep your arms as straight as possible at all times and relax your shoulders away from your ears. Pull your abs in tight to protect your back while you twist side to side.

Muscles Worked: Abs, Obliques, Shoulders

Hamstring Curls with Gymball

Starting Position: Lie on the mat, with your arms at your sides. Place your heels on the Stability Ball with your toes pointing upward. Raise your hips from the floor.

Action:
Bend your knees and pull the ball toward you. Keep your arms on your sides and your hips off the mat while flexing your knees. Roll the ball out to starting position then repeat 10 times.

Special Instructions: Tighten your glutes and core so you can keep your hips off the mat while doing this exercise. To make it more challenging, do this one leg at a time.

Abdominal Crunch on Stability Ball

Starting Position: Begin by sitting on top of the Swiss ball. Roll in the direction your head is pointed until your lower back is supported by the curve of the ball. You can either cross your arms over your chest or place your hands behind your ears. Do not put them behind the head or clasp them together behind your head.

Action:
EXHALE: Crunch forward, using your abdominals, until you are at approximately a 45 degree angle to the ball. Keep you neck in a neutral position.

INHALE: Lower yourself back to the starting position, where your head wraps back around the ball. Try doing 2 sets of 15 crunches.

Special Instructions: Keep space in-between your chin and chest, so your spine stays in a neutral position. Balance yourself on the ball with as much upper body weight off the ball as possible without falling over backwards.

Muscles Worked: Abs

Balance on ½ Foam Roll

Starting Position: Begin by standing on ½ foam roll with one foot in front of the other about 10-12 inches apart. Keep chest up and core tight to maintain upright posture.

Action:
Lower your body by bending both knees. Only go down as far as you have good control of your balance and posture.

Special Instructions: Keep your core tight and posture up straight.

Muscles Worked: Glutes, Hamstrings, Quads, Calves