Strength Training for Runners

There are still a lot of misconceptions about running and how to best train runners to minimize injuries and enhance performance.

Part of the problem is that there is a low barrier to entry to running.  All you need to do is start running, right? No gym membership, no equipment, heck most people don’t even do anything to prepare themselves for running.  They just decide to start running.

For recreational runners, running also tends to be a fitness choice.  Many people pick a way to get in shape and start exercising, and feel like they need to choose.  Do I want to do strength training or do I want to do cardio work?

Competitive runners also have some misconceptions when it comes to training to enhance their performance.  In the past, many have believed that strength training will bulk you up too much, make you less flexible, and may even slow you down.

There is no doubt that running requires cardiovascular conditioning.  But we can’t ignore how the rest of the body is biomechanically involved.  

Let’s simplify running a little more.

Running is a series of little jumps.  The rear leg has to propel the body forward.  The stride leg has to absorb force.

To minimize your chance of running related injuries and enhance your running performance, you need to understand both of these concepts.  

The key to both of these is strength training.  We can build tissue capacity to handle these forces much more efficiently, especially if we build a specific strength training program for runners with these two concepts in mind.

Strength Training for Runners

When it comes to runners, my go-to resource for injury rehab and performance enhancement is Chris Johnson.  Chris has an excellent website and clinic that specializes in runners.  He’s helped me a ton over the years.

Chris has an amazingly comprehensive book right now, Running on Resistance: A Guide to Strength Training for Runners.

We had been talking online recently, and I thought that my readers needed to benefit from Chris’ amazing knowledge on runners.  So we sat down and talked about the book, as well as a bunch of other topics related to strength training in runners:

Running on Resistance: A Guide to Strength Training for Runners

A Guide to Strength Training for Runners CoverIf you’re interested in learning more, Chris’s book is an amazing resource for both runners, as well as rehab and fitness professionals that want to work with runners.  It is a detailed guide and program to building capacity, becoming more resilient to injuries, and enhancing running performance.

Chris was nice enough to extend a special 15% off discount just for my readers.  Check out the book below:

Does Strength Prevent Injuries?

Evan OsarToday’s guest post comes from Evan Osar.  Evan is doing a great job sharing his views and systems for corrective exercise.  He has a new program teaching you his complete assessment and corrective exercise system that he has produced with our friends from Fitness Revolution.  They have been gracious enough to offer a special discount for my readers.  More info after the article, but you can learn more here: The Integrated Corrective Exercise Approach.


Does Strength Prevent Injuries?

The goal of corrective exercise is to help our clients develop a more ideal postural and movement strategy. We strive to teach the nervous system to hold a more optimal alignment, to breathe better, and to control the body better so our clients can hold proper posture and move with greater efficiency and without so much compensation, which is a key factor in many of our clients’ problems and loss of performance.

As strength conditioning specialists, we like to believe that strength prevents injuries because we think the stronger somebody is, the better they are, and the fewer injuries they’ll have.

I’ve been working with clients and patients for the last 17 years, and some of the most dysfunctional individuals whom I assess and work on are the strongest individuals.


Strength by Itself Does Not Prevent Injuries

How, then, do we prevent injuries?

What really prevents injuries is helping your client develop an improved strategy for posture and movement. What, then, are the key components to developing an improved strategy for posture and movement?

To improve your clients’ posture and movement, you must get them to understand and incorporate the fundamental ABC’s—the fundamental principles of the Integrated Movement System™.


A = Alignment

Evan Osar Corrective ExerciseYou have to teach your clients how to develop the optimal alignment, so when they load the joint, the joint is loaded in the right direction and position.

One way to visualize this principle is to point your finger straight up. If you place the palm of your other hand on the tip of that finger (similar to a “timeout” gesture) and apply force down through the finger, you could hold your finger like this for a long time and not have any issues because you’re loading the joint in the most optimal position.

Now, bend your finger back so it is no longer straight up but is pointing as far away from its palm as it can go. If you try to make the same “timeout” gesture with your other hand and apply force down through the finger, you can’t do that for very long before your finger would be very uncomfortable because it is being bent even further back.

This same concept applies to all the joints in your body: There are maximally optimal positions for loading, and there are suboptimal positions for loading. Our goal is to help our clients align better so that they can put less wear and tear on their joint structures.


B = Breathing

We must breathe three dimensionally, or have access to our entire thoracopelvic canister, from top to bottom and from the top of our lung field to our pelvic floor.

We must be able to breathe laterally, or side to side. We must be able to breathe front to back so that we can access the entire diaphragm; all the intercostal muscles between the ribs; the deep myofascial system; and muscles like the psoas, transverse abdominis, and multifidi.

All these muscles coordinate with one another in the process of breathing, which also enables us to stabilize. The primary stabilization of our core should come from internal regulation of pressure—intrathoracic and intra-abdominal pressure. That’s what core stability is really all about.

It’s not about bracing or squeezing muscles—that’s a part of core stabilization, but it’s not the primary component of core stabilization. Therefore, it’s not strength that prevents injuries; it’s the ability to align and breathe.


C = Control

Once we align the body in the right position, and once we have proper three-dimensional breathing, we must be able to control our body positions. So whether we’re in a static position, performing a dynamic movement, or moving through the fundamental movement patterns (squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling, bending, rotating in gait), we must be able to use the right muscles at the right time in the right manner to control the joint for the activity that you are trying to do.

The “right muscles” and “right manner” will both change depending upon the different activities we need to do. For example, your clients’ resting postural strategy should be different than what they would do if they were squatting 300 pounds. Certainly, we should have alignment of the thoracopelvic canister both in quiet standing and during a deadlift or squat pattern. What changes however, is the level of activation.

When we’re quietly standing in posture, we should have very little activity of the core muscles; they shouldn’t be off, but there should be very little activity: Our glutes, abdominals, and erectors should be soft. This is similar to how you wouldn’t walk around with your biceps contracted all day long, your abs gripped up all day long, your low back tightened all day long, or your glutes gripped up all day long.

As an exercise, stand up if you are sitting right now. Feel your glutes. They should be soft. Feel around your abdomen, and feel around your lower back. They should all be soft while at rest. This doesn’t mean they’re not toned—in fact, they should be soft, just like how your biceps should be soft at rest.

When we need them to activate to lift a heavy weight, lift a child, lift a bag of groceries, do a sled push, etc., we need a higher level of activity. The key is to use the right strategy at the right time so that we have the control we need for, in this example, thoracopelvic canister.

So when I’m squatting 300 pounds, I have a nice controlled thoracopelvic canister where I’m braced up and able to use intra-abdominal and intrathoracic pressure, and I’m able to layer my abdominal muscles, my low back muscles, and my hip muscles. But when I’m done with that squat pattern, I leave the gym, and I’m living my life, those muscles should release and become soft. What we see with our general population clients specifically is they are not stopping their gripping/bracing strategy when they leave their exercise session, and that’s what starts to put wear and tear upon the joints, overuses the muscles, and creates a lot of compensation.


So what prevents injuries? It’s not about strength.

All things being equal, strength will help you prevent injuries, but all things are not equal with our clients. Most of our clients do not have an ideal or optimal postural and movement strategy.

They don’t have great alignment, they don’t have great breathing, and they don’t have great control. They default to gripping, bracing, and doing very accessory dominant breathing as their strategy, and that leads to compensation.

So what helps prevent injuries?

The fundamental ABC’s: alignment, breathing, and control, which should be 3 primary areas of focus in corrective exercise.


Learn Evan Osar’s Corrective Exercise System

Corrective exercise systemI am really excited to share that Evan and our friends at Fitness Revolution have offered my readers a special $100 off Evan’s new program, The Integrative Corrective Exercise Approach.  In this great program, Evan shares his proven system to help you assess postural and movement problems and develop a corrective exercise strategy.

The program has a special price for my readers!

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, I have a past Inner Circle Webinar 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.





How to Get the Most Out of the Start of Your Baseball Offseason Training

It’s been a long summer of baseball and it is time to start thinking about your offseason training program!

Some people think of the offseason as a time to rest, or to get away from baseball, or to do everything they can to dominate again next season. I’ve seen every spectrum of player, from the player that wants to just sit in a tree stand until February to the player that comes in to train the first day of the offseason.

Offseason training programs in baseball are now standard.  Believe it or not, this was not the case 20 years ago.  However, I think there is another golden opportunity that many players do not take advantage of at the start of the offseason.  Think of it as setting the foundation to prepare your body to get the most out of your offseason training.

Here is what I recommend and do with all my athletes at this time of year to get the most out of the start of your baseball offseason training.

Take Time Off From Throwing and Baseball

baseball offseason

Photo by Steve Garner

One of the most important aspects to the start of the baseball offseason is to take a step back and get away from baseball.  While this may seem counterintuitive, I do believe it is critical to your long term success.

For professional baseball pitchers in MLB, the start of the offseason means spending time with family, golfing, hunting, fishing, and probably taking a well deserved vacation to somewhere tropical.  It’s a long season, both physically and mentally.

I wouldn’t say that a summer of baseball is much easier for the younger baseball players, either.  Between traveling teams, tournaments, showcases, and grinding away at practice, the summer is almost as busy as the pro players!  I actually joke with some of my high school and college baseball pitchers that they can’t wait to go back to school to take a vacation from their summer baseball travel schedule!

But there are important physical benefits of taking time off as well.  Throwing a baseball is hard on your body and creates cumulative stress.  Furthermore, several studies have been published showing that the more your pitch, the greater your chances of injury:

  • Pitching for greater than 8 months out of the year results in 5x as many injuries (Olsen AJSM 06)
  • Pitching greater than 100 innings in one year results in 3x as many injuries (Fleisig AJSM 2011)
  • Pitching in showcases and travel leagues significantly correlated to increased injuries (Register-Mahlick JAT 12, Olsen AJSM 06)

I have found that my younger athletes that play a sport like soccer in the fall, tend to look better to me over time.  Sure, that is purely anecdotal.  But specializing in a very unilateral sport may actually limit some of your athletic potential, especially when you are in the certain younger age ranges where athletic development occurs.  Everything is baseball tends to be to one side.  Righties always rotate to the left when throwing and swinging, heck everyone even runs to the left around the bases!

There is plenty of time to get ready for next spring.  Take some time off in the fall and let your body heal up.  You aren’t going to forget how to pitch or lose your release point or feel.  You’ll come back stronger next season.

Regen Your Body

baseball regen

Photo by Niko Paix

Tough travel schedule, long hours in a car, bus, or  plane, cheap hotels, bad food, lack of sleep, inconsistent schedule.  Sound familiar?  That is a baseball season.  It’s tougher than you would think on your body.

All of these factors, and more, wear down your body and it’s ability to regenerate.  The constant stress to your body is a grind that drains your energy, increases your fatigue and soreness after an outing, and lengthens the time your body needs to fully recover between outings.

In order to get all that you can out of your off season training, you need to regen your body first.  This begins with the first principle above and taking time away from throwing, but there are also other things you can do to reset and regenerate your body.  You body needs to heal and sleep and nutrition are two great things to focus on at the start of the offseason.  Here are  a few things I recommend:

  • Get on a consistent sleep schedule
  • Sleep at least 8 hours a night
  • Eat a clean diet while avoiding fast food and processed foods
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Think of it as allowing your body to get back to neutral so you can start building on a solid foundation during the offseason.  You don’t want to start your offseason training with your body worn down.

Clean Up Any Past or Lingering Injuries

baseball offseason trainingI’m always amazed at the amount of people that limp through a baseball season and think that taking some downtime after the season is going to cure all their aches and pains.  What happens many times is that they take time off and then start training or preparing for next season and find out they may feel better but they didn’t address their past injuries.  They still have deficits.  If you wait until you start throwing again to find this out, it’s too late.

All my athletes start the offseason out with a thorough assessment that looks at all past areas of injury, regardless of whether or not they are currently symptomatic.

Many times, strength deficits, scar tissue, fibrosis, and several imbalances are still present after an injury, even if your are playing without concern.  Your body is really good at adapting and compensating.  It will find a way to perform.  This is likely one of the reasons that the number one predictor of future injury is past injury, meaning if you strain your hamstring, you are more likely to strain it again.  You probably never adequately addressed the concern.

You have to dig deep and find the root cause of the injury as well as clean up the mess created from the injury itself.  Remember, many injuries occur due to deficits elsewhere in the body.  Sometimes that elbow soreness is coming from your shoulder, for example.  Resting at the start of the offseason is great for the elbow, but you didn’t address the cause of your elbow symptoms.

Rebalance Your Portfolio

baseball assessmentIn the financial world, the concept of rebalancing your portfolio is one of the cornerstones of sound investing.  Essentially at periodic intervals you should assess your current portfolio balance and adjust based on the performance of your assets.  As some of your stocks go up and others potentially go down, your top performers are probably taking up a very large percentage of your portfolio and skewing your balance.

By rebalancing your portfolio at the end of the year, you assure that you redistribute your assets evenly and minimize your risk.

This same concept is important for baseball training.

After a long season of wear and tear you no doubt are going to have imbalances.  This happens even if you get through the season injury-free.  I say this often, but throwing a baseball is not natural for your body.  You’ll have areas of tightness and looseness, you’ll have areas of strength and weakness.  You’ll have imbalances and asymmetries.

In my studies on professional baseball pitchers (you can find some of my published data here and here), and an article on baseball shoulder adaptations), I have found many things:

  • You will lose shoulder internal rotation (if you don’t manage this during the season)
  • Your will gain external rotation, which isn’t necessarily a good thing and needs to be addressed!
  • You will lose elbow extension
  • You will lose shoulder and scapular strength
  • You will lose overall body strength and power
  • Your posture and alignment will change

One of the most powerful things I can recommend for any baseball pitcher is that you get a thorough assessment at the end of the season.  This serves as the most important day to me in your offseason program and the cornerstone of what I do with my athletes.  We need to find out exactly how your body handled the season and adjusted over the way.  Everyone responds differently.

Without this knowledge, your just throwing a program together and hoping everything works out.  This may work one year, but it’s going to catch up to you eventually.  Probably right in the middle of next season!

Set a Foundation for the Start of Your Baseball Offseason Training

What is the purpose of all this?  Simply taking time off after a season isn’t enough anymore.  Simply jumping into an offseason baseball training program isn’t enough anymore.  Simply performing a baseball long toss program isn’t enough anymore.

You need to actively put yourself in the best position to succeed.  Offseason training is the norm now a days.  You used to be able to gain a competitive advantage by training your tail off all offseason, but your peers are doing this too.  You can set yourself apart by setting a strong foundation BEFORE your offseason training.  This is not as common and one of the biggest mistakes I see amateur baseball players make each offseason.

Set yourself apart by starting your offseason on the right path.  Take some time off, regen your body, get your past injuries evaluated, and go through a thorough assessment to find ways to maximize your bodies potential.  Do this before the start of your offseason training so you set a fantastic foundation to build upon.

Ready to get started?  Learn more about what we do for baseball offseason performance training at Champion Physical Therapy and Performance.

Champion Physical Therapy and Performance

Transitioning From Injury to Strength Training

If you ever work with injured people, you will inevitably get the question from a patient at some point “how do I transition back into working out after my injury.”  For the person with previous fitness and strength training experience, this may not be too challenging, depending on the extent of their injury.   They may simply need guidance on how to individualize their programs to their own injury, but I also take advantage of this scenario to educate them on what an ideal program looks like.

Much more common, however, is the person that does not have a fitness or strength training background and is using their current injury as the catalyst to get off their butt and into the gym.  Fantastic.

But before any beginner to strength training or someone transitioning from an injury begins a program, I recommend you carefully assess the program and help them individualize the program to their unique injury.


Components of a Good Strength Training Program

I first assess any fitness or strength training program by looking at the general components of the program.  I want to see certain things that I know are going to put you in a position to succeed in regard to preparing, performing, and recovering from your working.

For beginners to strength training, this could be the difference between succeeding and continuing your fitness adventure, or failing and getting back on the couch.

This is even more important for a person transitioning from an injury in to training.  If the program is too aggressive, you certainly do not want to reinjure yourself.

Components I am looking for include:

  • A good warm-up consisting of self-myofasical release techniques and general dynamic mobility
  • A series of exercises designed to “activate” certain muscle groups to get them ready to fire during the workout
  • A combination of exercise types, that emphasize resistance training, but also develop mobility and coordination
  • Proper regeneration strategies, including nutritional information
  • Options to individualize the program based on your needs, goals, and experience

The next thing I assess is the actual programming itself in regard to exercise selection, sequencing, and periodization.   Any program that picks stupid exercises or structures it in a way that is going to cause you to not be able to walk for 2 weeks is counterproductive for beginners to strength training and people transitioning from an injury.

Unfortunately, there are many popular exercises out there may do more harm than good.  There are simple regressions and progressions that can be applied to assure that an exercise is both effective while not being disadvantageous to the person.  This simply takes skill, current knowledge of the science of exercises, and experience working with people to know what works and what doesn’t work.

In all honesty, I prefer simple at this point for this group of people.  If a program looks too advanced with fancy exercise variations, it may not be the best for the person looking to transition back from an injury.


How to Recommend A Great Strength Training Program

So with the above information in mind, how do you recommend a great strength training program for someone coming back from an injury?

In the past, my recommendation was to always refer these people to a great personal trainer or strength coach that can spend some time with them, assess their current fitness level and movement patterns, and then individualize a program based on their injury and experience.  This is certainly not a situation to be recommending P90X or Insanity, which is just going to beat them up.  There wasn’t really a great “do-it-yourself” option out there that I felt comfortable recommending.

Transitioning From Injury to Strength TrainingLuckily for us, my much admired friend Mike Robertson has just released a workout program called The Bullet Proof Athlete that we may be able to use to bridge the gap between injury and strength training.

Now, just to be clear, Mike did not write this program to be used as a transition program from injury to strength training.   It’s much better than that and applicable for anyone – from beginners to advanced, from coming off an injury to never been hurt in my life.  Mike’s program includes all of the components above that I am looking for, with the added benefit of knowing that it comes from a premier strength coach that understanding of the body and how to help people improve how they feel.

I did the first month of the program last fall when Mike was developing the product and really enjoyed it.  So I can easily recommend this without hesitation, as I have experienced the program.  I had to stop due to an injury (obviously unrelated to the program) so did not progress through the whole program, but I’ll be using the program myself to start over and transition back from my own injury.

The Bulletproof Athlete just launched this week and is available for $50 off between now and the end of the day Saturday.  Click here for more information.

Hopefully the information above on what I look for in a good strength training program can serve as a good starting point, regardless of which program you are looking to implement.  My goal is to get every patient into a fitness program after they have recovered from their injury.  Finding the right program to transition from injury to strength training is the trick.




Get in Shape in 2012

Each year around this time I offer an article about fitness to help those with New Year Resolutions and those that want to get in shape in 2012.  I like to update this every year as trends in fitness are constantly changing.

Why You Need to Get in Shape in 2012

I discussed this in last year’s article on How to Become Healthier, Richer, and More Attractive, but the numbers are real and worth reiterating.  Recent reports are stating that close to 75% of Americans will be overweight by 2015.  That is completely insane.  I’m going to take this directly from Men’s Health editor David Zinczenko in his new book The New Abs Diet (which I still love and you should read more about here), but here are some startling facts if you are overweight:

  • 50% more likely to develop heart disease
  • 360% more likely to develop diabetes
  • 31% more likely to die of any cause
  • 120% more likely to develop stomach cancer
  • 590% more likely to develop esophageal cancer
  • 35% more likely to develop kidney cancer

But for some reason, these numbers don’t scare us enough, maybe these next two will since no one seems to care about their health, lets focus on what really motivates us – money and…  well, you know:

  • 14% less attractive to the opposite sex
  • 37% more in expenses for prescription drugs
But there is hope.  Exercising a small amount each day has been shown to:
  • Reduce mortality by 14%
  • Reduce chance of cancer by 10%
  • Reduce chance of cardiovascular disease by 20%

So in a nutshell, getting in shape in 2012 will allow you be healthier, richer, and more attractive.  Where do we start???

Home Workouts

Like I do each year, I will start this section off by saying that I fully encourage people to go to a gym and work with a qualified personal trainer or strength and conditioning specialist.  There is NO DOUBT in my mind that this is ideal and will provide much better benefits than any home workout.  That being said, this section isn’t geared towards people that want to do that, it is geared towards everyone else.  Realistically, I know that there is a large percentage of our population that simply can’t or will not do this, so encouraging home workouts is an option for them.

In the past, I have discussed the best home workout programs and included such staples as P90X, Mark Verstegan’s Core Performance series, and Yoga (click the link earlier to read more).  I still like all of these programs but there are three programs that have been on the market since I originally published this article in 2008 that are worth mentioning.

Eric Cressey’s Show and Go Training

Show and Go TrainingI have always kept the target of these articles to programs that can be conducted at home, however Eric Cressey has released his Show and Go Training program that anyone can use on their own.  Unless you have a sweet gym in your basement or garage, you will need to get to a gym to perform these workouts.  However, this is the next best thing to working one on one with a fitness specialist.  Eric shares his acclaimed training programs and provides a comprehensive program that any can follow and any can benefit from.  This is the next step program that many of us are probably looking for to narrow the gap between a home workout like P90X and a real strength and conditioning program.

Click here for more information on Eric Cressey’s Show and Go Training.


P90X2The sequel to the original and has 12 new workouts.  I really enjoyed the original P90X programming and thought they did a good job with the production of the DVDs.  P90X2 is even better.  This time around, they took feedback from the millions of P90X users and combined it with more modern science and fitness research.  I like the added focus on recovery and mobility in this new series.  Like the original P90X, P90X2 is a very thorough program.  You won’t get bored quickly and you will be challenged.  You may still probably mute the DVDs and play your own music once you are familiar with the programs!

Click here for more information about P90X2.


I have to mention it, but P90X has had a competitor the last few years called Insanity.  I’ve taken a look at the program and it is pretty intense.  I love the marketing as well and have to admit, we tried throwing the words “insanity” and “extreme” around in rehab but it just doesn’t work as well when I tell someone to perform their “Extreme Shoulder Program” or “Range of Motion Insanity” program.  If you truly do not want to go to the gym, then P90X and Insanity may be options for you, but the programs are not quick and easy, the both have nearly daily workouts between 60-90 minutes.

Click here for more information about the Insanity workout.

Jillian Michaels

Jillian Michaels

I have to mention that Jillian Michaels can basically sneeze on a napkin and turn it into a well selling workout at this point.  One of the fitness specialists from the Biggest Loser TV show, Michaels has turned herself into a huge fitness business.  She has more DVDs out right now than I can even count, but what may be even more impressive is how many different sports bras she owns.  She is hot right now and has such a variety of home base workout programs that you should be able to find one that fits your goals.  I must admit that I cringe every time I watch the biggest loser and see the workouts they perform, so take popularity with a grain of salt.

Click here for more information on all of Jillian Michaels’ DVDs.

Home Workout Equipment

My original article on the best home workout equipment include items like the Perfect Push Up, Yoga Equipment, and the Bowflex SelectTech Weight System.  Still great products and worth pursuing.  Last year I discussed the TRX Suspension Training system.

TRX Suspension Training and the TRX Rip Trainer

TRX Rip Trainer

I really love the TRX Suspension Trainer.  Over the summer, I published a video of a new exercise I called TRX Serratus Slides to strengthen the serratus anterior.  This is just a small example of how I use the TRX Suspension System in rehab, but the programs that come with the TRX products can form a very good home workout program with minimal equipment.  Eric Cressey and I show a few techniques with the TRX products during our Functional Stability Training of the Core program as well.

TRX now has a new product called the TRX Rip Trainer, which is essentially a bungie cord at the end of a long dowel.  Like all of the TRX products, the Rip Trainer’s production quality is top notch.  TRX really does a great job putting together a great product with a great workout program included.  The Rip Trainer can be used to perform many home exercises including chops and lifts that traditionally require a Keiser or Pulley machine.  There are bunch of new uses that I come up with everyday as well.

I recommend both the TRX Suspension Training System and TRX Rip Trainer, click here for more information on both.

Xbox Kinect Workouts

ZumbaWow, I never thought I would include a video game in this type of article, sounds counterproductive doesn’t it?  The Wii was close, but the Xbox 360 with the Kinect motion sensor really does open up the possibility to offer home workout “virtual coaching” better than a pure DVD video.  The Xbox Kinect system can see you and assess the quality of your movement as you go along with the workout programs.  Games include several dance based titles that can serve as a cardio workout, but also many workout programs including:

I wouldn’t underestimate these options for home workout programs as they can be fun and motivation is the key.

Click here for more information on the Xbox Kinect Motion Sensor.

Self Myofascial Release

I really think that we are going to start seeing more of the trend towards “feeling better” in our home workout programs.  As we mentioned above, P90X2 has a new section of the program designed for recovery and mobility, and Mark Verstegan’s Core Performance programs have always featured this concept.

One simple way to start feeling better in addition to getting in shape for 2012 is self myofascial release and trigger point releases.

UPDATE:  This article has been revised and updated with newer products!  Click here to see my current list of best self myofascial release tools.

Foam Rollers

Thoracic Spine Mobility ExercisesI have reviewed many of the best foam rollers on the market right now.  I still like all my original recommendations, though one new product is also worth checking out.  I have actually gravitated to using the Grid roller myself, and I think it is great, but for those on a tight budget it is hard to justify the extra cost from the simple foam roller.

In addition to self myofascial release, foam rollers are also excellent at working on thoracic mobility, which we all really need in our society.  I showed a video of how I perform simple thoracic mobility exercises on a foam roller than anyone can perform.  Start enhancing your posture now!

Click here to check out the best foam rollers.

Trigger Point Massage Balls

Trigger Point Massage BallThe same company as the Grid roller, Trigger Point Performance Therapy, has released a trigger point massage ball that I really like.  Softer than a lacrosse ball and firmer than a tennis or racquetball with a little nub to really get into a trigger point.  This has been my go to tool for self trigger point releases over the last year or so.  I showed a technique I use for the self trigger point release of the shoulder and rotator cuff.  This is a great compliment to any foam roller you have.

Click here for more information on the Trigger Point Massage Balls.

I hope this information helps.  I am always looking for good products so feel free to comment and share your experiences too!  Good luck with your New Year Resolution to get in shape in 2012!

How to Become Healthier, Richer, and More Attractive


[box type=”note”]UPDATE:  See my latest article Get in Shape in 2012 for an update to this article![/box]

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  Welcome to 2011!  How about that for a title of an article on this site!  Can’t wait to see how many people do (or do not!) read this!  To celebrate the new year, I have published some recommendations for those just starting some new year’s resolutions to get back into shape and to workout.  Everyone knows that I am a therapist, athletic trainer, and strength coach and actively work in all 3 domains – I am very much in favor of getting personal attention from a strength specialist when it comes to workouts.

But I am also a busy professional myself that travels frequently – I know the demands many of us face and understand that “not enough time” is going to always be everyone’s number reason for not working out.  This article is for you.  Yes, I realize that a program entitle the “10 Minute Trainer” is probably not the best program in the world, but it may be a place to start for some people.  Again, this article is for you.  But more importantly, we have a huge problem with obesity in our society.  Again, this article is for you.

We have a Problem in Our Society

One thing is for certain, our culture is slowly getting more and more out of shape and in effect, less healthy.  Recent reports are stating that close to 75% of Americans will be overweight by 2015, which is completely insane.  I’m going to take this directly from Men’s Health editor David Zinczenko in his new book The New Abs Diet (more on this later), but here are some startling facts if you are overweight:

  • 50% more likely to develop heart disease
  • 360% more likely to develop diabetes
  • 31% more likely to die of any cause
  • 120% more likely to develop stomach cancer
  • 590% more likely to develop esophageal cancer
  • 35% more likely to develop kidney cancer

But for some reason, these numbers don’t scare us enough, maybe these next two will since no one seems to care about their health, lets focus on what really motivates us – money and…  well, you know:

  • 14% less attractive to the opposite sex
  • 37% more in expenses for prescription drugs

Lose Weight, Get in Shape, Become Healthier

Again, take a peek at my past articles on the best home exercise programs, best home workout equipment, and my updates from 2011 as a reference.  Not much has changed.  I still like P90X for many people (not for the really serious or athletes – you guys see below for Eric Cressey’s new program), encourage people to perform Yoga (probably because I am so tight!), and I still am a follower of the Abs Diet (not really a diet, but a better way to choose foods).  A new edition of the Abs Diet book and accompanying cookbook just came out two weeks ago, looking forward to reading them as I know the author, Men’s Health magazine Editor-in-Chief David Zinczenko, has added a ton of new research and materials to back up his recommendations, probably the main reason why I like his book so much.

This year I want to highlight two new products that I think would be a perfect addition to any home gym or independent workout program – the TRX Suspension Training bands and Eric Cressey’s new training program, Show and Go Trainer.

TRX Suspension Training Bands

imageI’ve been using TRX Suspension System for the last couple of years.  I could probably use them more, but to be honest I have access to so much equipment that I don’t always need them.  You, however, probably aren’t in the same situation.  That being said I have been playing around with some new techniques and plan on integrating them even more this upcoming year.

These bands are a great way to get a workout in at home without needing a ton of weights or equipment.  Really a great idea, one of those moments when you’ll probably say “why didn’t I think of that…”  I’ll be traveling with these this year to get some workouts in on the road in the hotel!  Well worth the small price and great quality of material and packaging, even comes with a cool DVD.  Get the door handle to you can use these anywhere.  Put this together with an Iron Gym and your upper body is and core are covered.

I’m also going to try to work on some rehab applications and post on them here in he future.

Eric Cressey’s Show and Go Training

imageFor the more serious people out there, I am actually really excited to have a “real” program to talk about this year.  The infomercial garbage that is out there has its pros and cons, no doubt, but finally there is a program out there that isn’t built for a generic workout DVD.  Eric Cressey’s Show and Go Training is a real strength training program built by a real strength coach.

The program is packed with everything  – foam rolling, mobility training, active warm-up, strength training, cardio/energy system training, even nutrition.  Plus, there are over 170 video demos of all the exercises in the program.

If you are serious about your workouts, this amount of info at this price is really hard to come by, it’s like having Eric write you a personal program!

Good luck with your goals for 2011!