Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Choosing an athletic Shoe

Todays shoe market is overwhelming for the average athlete.  Whether you are trying to pick a basketball, soccer, volleyball or running shoe, having information about the make up of a shoe can help you choose the right shoe.   Check out the following information to guide you through the process of picking your next athletic shoe.

3 - D static stretches

 One of the most important things you can do to develop a healthy athletic body is maintain your muscle flexibility.  Everyone is genetically set with different levels of flexibility.  We migrate towards sports and activities that fit our bodies flexibility.  For example, someone who tends to be less flexible typically moves away from gymnastics fairly quickly because of their lack of success in the sport secondary to the huge flexibility requirements.  This same athlete may find great success in soccer, which requires much less flexibility.  Anyway you look at, setting and maintaining normal flexibility throughout the body is important throughout life.  Static stretching has gotten a bad wrap over the last 10 years.  There is a place for static stretching in sport.  The following stretching program is different from the typical static stretching.... It involves loosening the muscle 3 dimensionally while at the same time using muscle groups on the opposite side of the stretched muscle to stabilize.  This is the way muscles are used in sport, and therefore a great way to statically stretch them.  Check out this UTube video and try these 3-D stretches before your next work out and sporting event.

Core Strength Training Part I

     Today one of the hottest words in the fitness industry is CORE.  What is the core?  How do you correctly train the core?  And, why is core training important to athletic performance?  The following article will attempt to answer these and many other questions on the core.

     The core is where the body’s center of gravity is located, and it is where movement begins.  In standing, the body’s center of gravity is located approximately two inches below the navel.  Because all movement begins at the core and then progresses out to the arms and legs, core strength is essential.  This is why coaches emphasize watching your opponent’s navel while playing defense.

     Many of the major muscles of your shoulders, arms and legs are attached to the pelvic bones and/or the spine, the core.  Greater core strength increases the stability of the pelvis and spine and improves body control or balance during athletic movements.  This helps the athlete generate greater power, not only from the core muscles, but also from the shoulder, arm and leg muscles because they are anchored to the core.  If your core muscles are well conditioned, you will enjoy optimal transfer of energy from large muscles to small muscles when you run, jump, twist, lift, throw, and perform other movements in your sport.  Based on this it is essential to develop core strength before arm and leg strength.

     Anatomically, the core consists of the muscles of the hips, abdomen, and low back.  These trunk muscles can be further divided into two categories: (1) Global muscle system and (2) Local muscle system.  The global muscle system is the large, force producing muscles (rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques and back extensors).  These are the muscles we usually train during exercise programs.  The local muscle system is the deep small muscles (transverse abdominis and the multifidus).

     The transverse abdominis and the multifidus have a unique function because they are the first to activate in the core, even before movement occurs.  For this reason core training must begin with these muscles.  Precise contraction of the transverse abdominis and multifidus must be gained independent of the global core muscles.

     How do you know if you need to train your local abdominal muscle system?  Try these two tests.  The abdominal drawing-in test: Lay on your stomach.  Place a blood pressure cuff under your stomach so your navel is in the middle.  Pump up the cuff to 70mmHg and allow it to stabilize as you are laying on it.  Breathe in then out once.  Immediately after you breathe out, pull your navel slowly inward toward your spine.  Resume normally breathing as you keep your navel pulled in.  The blood pressure cuff should drop 10mmHg (reading should now be 60mmHg).


     You have good strength if you are able to keep the gauge at 60mmHg while breathing regularly for ten seconds and NOT allowing your back or hips move.  If the gauge drops less than 10mmHg or if your back and hips move, your transverse abdominis is weak.  If the pressure increases above 70mmHg this may indicate you are using improper global muscles, rectus abdominis for this test.  The endurance of the musculature can also be assessed by repeating the ten second holds ten times.  If you are unable to complete any part of this test begin your training program here (1).

 (1) Lay on your stomach with blood pressure cuff under stomach 70mmHg  (2)  Draw your navel in toward your spine  (3) Look for a 10mmHg drop to 60mmHg (4) Breathing “normally” for 10 seconds while maintaining drawn in navel (5) Rest 10 seconds and repeat 10 times.

     Leg loading test / exercise: Lay on your back with your knees bent.  Place a blood pressure cuff under your low back / tail bone area.  Inflate the blood pressure cuff to 40mmHg.  Tighten the pelvic floor muscles by imagining you are slowing the flow of urine and then perform the navel draw in as above.  Watch the pressure change and hold this contraction.  The pressure should remain at this level.  Now progress the test through these phases:

(1)   Slide your left heel along the floor. Return to the start position.  Slide your right
heel along the floor.  Return to start.  Alternate left and right legs for a total of 40 repetitions.

(2)   Straighten your left knee out with your foot about 12 inches off the ground (right foot remains on the ground).  Keep the pressure reading at 40mmHg (NO INCREASE OR DECREASE).  Return to the start and perform with the right leg.  Alternate left and right legs for a total of 20 repetitions.

(3)   Bring both knees up toward your chest.  Set the blood pressure cuff at 40mmHg.  Activate the pelvic floor muscles and draw in the navel.  Slowly straighten the left leg out not allowing the pressure to change.  Bring the left knee in and then slowly straighten the right knee out, maintaining the same pressure.  There will be a tendency for the pressure to increase as you move your leg out.  Contract your local core muscles to prevent this increase in pressure.  Repeat 20 times on each leg.

     Proper core training can improve all aspects of athletic performance and reduce the risk of injury.  For greatest success begin working the local core muscles first and progress to the global core muscles.  Next we will discuss how to train the anti-extension core muscles.  Start here so you will be prepared for the next phase!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Nutrition - Iron Deficiency

     As strong as today’s female athletes are, it is not unusual for them to develop iron deficiencies.  Studies are showing higher rates of depletion among athletes, especially female athletes, compared to sedentary populations.  Even with knowledge, the performance effects and causes of anemia still remain unclear.

     Iron plays a number of important roles in the body, including oxygen transportation, metabolism and immune function.  Despite wide spread use of iron-fortified foods and iron supplements; iron deficiency remains one of the most common nutritional deficiencies.

     The term “iron deficiency” can be confusing because it is used to describe a range of conditions related to iron status.  In scientifically correct terms, full-blown iron deficiency anemia, which takes a long time to develop, progresses in three stages:  (1) Iron Depletion; (2) Iron Deficiency; and (3) Iron-Deficiency Anemia.

     Stage one, iron depletion, is signified by a serum ferritin level below 12ug/l.  Athletes can often function with no problems at this early stage.  In the most advanced stage – iron deficiency anemia, symptoms may include fatigue, weakness, pallor, breathing difficulty, heart palpations, and poor body temperature regulation.  While the first and last stages are clearly defined, stage two is more difficult to diagnose.

     From a practical standpoint, it isn’t really necessary to pinpoint the stage of iron depletion / deficiency, but rather to monitor athletes with depleted stores.  Most physicians will test athletes annually at their physical and flag anyone with levels below 12ug/l.  The signs and symptoms of anemia should be reviewed with the parent and athlete to see if there is any evidence of anemia.  If there are symptoms of anemia, further blood testing may be indicated and dietary measures to boost iron stores are initiated.

     Full-blown iron-deficiency anemia is relatively rare among athletes and the general population.  However, the prevalence of iron depletion and iron deficiency is much higher.  Population groups that are at higher risk of developing iron deficiencies include women, children, adolescents, and athletes.  During any period of growth, such as the adolescent growth spurt, the demand for iron is high due to increased blood volume and lean muscle.  Menstruating women lose approximately 0.6 mg of iron per day on average, with loses of 0.9 mg/day occurring in 25 percent of women.  Among endurance athletes, iron depletion is reported to be as high as 82 percent.


     The most common cause of iron deficiency is related to inadequate dietary intake.  Iron is NOT very abundant in the diet – every 1,000 calories contain an average of 6mg of iron.  Women who are on calorie restricted diets frequently fail to meet their requirement of 15mg/day.  Since men have higher caloric needs and a lower iron requirement (10mg/day), it is easier for them to avoid iron deficiencies.  Athletes who participate in weight-restricted sports such as wrestling, gymnastics, and dance may not consume enough iron.

     The emphasis on a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet for athletes can also contribute to low iron intake.  Red meat, a food avoided by many athletes who strive for a low-fat diet, is one of the richest sources of iron.  Non-meat, high carbohydrate foods, on the other hand, tends to be lower in iron content.

Food Sources of Iron
Food                                                                                   Iron Content (mg)
Animal Sources
Liver, chicken (3 oz.)                                                                   8
Liver, beef (3 oz.)                                                                        7
Pork Chop (3 oz.)                                                                        4
Beef (3 oz.)                                                                                  3.5
Chicken, dark meat (3 oz.)                                                          1

Vegetable Sources
Cereal, ready-to-eat, fortified (1 oz.)                                           4.5
Lentils, cooked (1/2 cup)                                                             3.5
Spinach, cooked (1/2 cup)                                                           2
Raisins, (2/3 cup)                                                                        2
Apricots, dried (10 halves)                                                          1.5
Rice, enriched, cooked (1/2 cup)                                                 1.8
Bagel (1)                                                                                      1.5

     Dietary factors appear to play a much larger role than exercise factors when it comes to iron deficiencies.  The most frequently cited cause of exercise-induced anemia is foot strike hemolysis, which is the destruction of red blood cells from the impact of the feet striking the ground during running.  However, the body has a mechanism to recycle the iron when red blood cells are destroyed in this manner.

     What is the recommended treatment for iron deficiency?  Most physicians recommend using iron supplementation as a last resort, only after a period of monitoring and dietary intervention to increase food sources of iron.  There are a number of risks associated with iron supplementation.  In addition to the risk of toxicity, iron is associated with increased free-radical production.  If supplements are taken they should be combined with other foods to enhance iron absorption.  For example, vitamin C enhances iron absorption; therefore drink orange juice, not coffee with an iron pill.

     Iron supplementation will have no performance enhancing effect for athletes with normal iron status and results are inconclusive on whether athletes with depleted iron stores benefit in performance.  We do know that iron supplementation alone for anemia is not beneficial; it must be combined with healthy eating.  First and foremost, the athlete should be monitored and advised on healthy food choices to maintain iron stores throughout their life time.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Why so many ACL knee injuries in the female athlete?

The passage of title IX in 1972 substantially increased the opportunities for girls and women in sports.  As their numbers have increased, female athletes have been observed to sustain more knee injuries more frequently than their male counterparts in similar sports.  Serious knee injury rates are 5 times greater in females participating in basketball, volleyball, soccer and gymnastics.

What is the reason for this gender inequity?
     According to the research these are non-contact deceleration injuries which occur during change of direction, cutting or landing from a jump.  The mechanism is multifactorial.  There are anatomical factors which we may or may not be able to affect.  These include:
  • Notch size within the knee joint
  • Ligament size
  • Pelvic Width
  • Hormonal influences

Other factors which we CAN affect include:
  • Lower Extremity Malalignments
  • Muscle Flexibility differences in females vs males
  • Muscle Strength differences in females vs males
  • Balance deficits in females
  • Sport Technique errors in female athletes
Girls Can JUMP has developed a ONE of a kind assessment tool to determine the likely hood of a female to have an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury while involved in sport.  Interested in this screening tool?  Contact us.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Upcoming Information

This is my second post.  Just getting started with our blog page.  Look for great new information in the next  day!  We specialize in training the FEMALE athlete.