Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Benefits of the Bear Crawl

I can still recall the hatred I had for the Bear Crawl exercise in full football pads during August high school practice.  We used to start each practice with agility/warm up sessions with two cones ten yards apart.  The only drill I still remember with great disdain is the bear crawl.  Why?  It was hard, uncomfortable and when you do it all out, super taxing.  I was a fast sprinter.  Slow bear crawler.

Lately, I've been reading a lot about the Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization technique.  Really cool stuff.  Pavel Kolars work.  To dumb it down, they look at the bodies innate reflexes that we all are born with. Baby has no problem crawling and squatting and reaching and rolling.   Pain, posture and bad exercise selection can start to mess with these reflexes and we lose the ability to squat, lunge, reach ect.

By relearning some basic moves we are carving out better movement and pain free movement.

Back to crawling.  When was the last time you did a crawl?  It may have been high school for me.  I know I'm going to start playing around with them again.  It will reinforce cross crawl patterns and provide some core work and shoulder stability.  Regardless, there are performance carry overs.

I asked Stuart McMillan about it.  Stu is a tremendously smart strength coach that works in the UK with their track and field federation.  He works with the worlds best, 10 seconds 100 meter guys.  He uses it to increase work capacity.  The video below is them towing a sled.  How's that for a kicker, hard made harder.  It builds the work capacity without sacrificing quality of your next day efforts.  Sleds are great in that they are concentric exercises so you don't get sore.  He also stated you can't neglect the mental aspects of it.  It's hard and builds that tenacity, won't quit spirit.

Insert the bear crawl back into your exercise rotation.  Even if it's just part of your warm up, I think you will find some athletic and movement benefits from it.    PS:  Keep a look out for Stu's Blog to be hitting the internet soon!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Latest Service at Train Out Pain Chiropractic: The Watt Bike

After months and months of debate, I decided to go ahead and purchase The Watt Bike.  In a few weeks it will be another service offered.  You will be able to test your peak power.  How many watts can you generate?

Why is this important?  If you are trying to improve as a power athlete you should be able to improve your power score.  If your training program is going well, your scores should increase.  If your training program doesn't improve, you need to switch up your training!

Insanity, by definition, is doing the same thing and expecting different results.

You will also be able to see which leg is doing more work.  Do you pedal more with your right leg vs your  left leg?  This is vital information.  The overworked leg is the leg that will over time develop more tightness and potentially more injury.

You will see this with a graph that is running right as you pedal.

You can try different positions and see what decrease or increases your power.  Real time results.

The picture I took was after my first 1000 meter time trial.  1 min 15.24 seconds.  Power avg was 423 watts.  Left leg was 51%, not to bad.  Cadence was 87 revolutions/per minute.  Not shown, was my peak power test that I did before this.  I maxed out at 1370 watts.

The Watt Bike, I believe, will become a vital training partner for cyclists.  I think it will also be able to measure important variables for non cyclists as well.  It's endorsed by UK Cycling and has just started to hit the United States.  Crossfit is actually starting to use them for some testing and competitions.

Aerobic capacity, max power, average power and pedaling technique, test yourself.  Simply put, are you getting better?  Measure it.  I always hear the old line by Peter Drucker, "What gets measured gets done."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's Not About the Saturated Fat

For the longest time you and I have been lied too.  Saturated fat is bad for you and will lead to heart disease.  How many times have you heard this?  How many times have you said this?  It has been a few years since I first came to the realization that fat is actually good.  It does good things for the body. (Vit A,D,E,K can only be absorbed with fat) Cholesterol isn't the enemy it's made out to be. (a different post)

These "facts" on the dangers of saturated fat were first came to fruition from some badly reported, some say made up, reports by a guy named Ancel Keys in the mid 50's.  Poor research at best.  He confused saturated fat with trans fat.  Trans Fat is evil.  So saw some health issues.

Saturated fat has no link to cardiovascular disease.  A new report from the Netherlands, "Saturated fat, Carbohydrates and Cardiovascular Disease," explores the dynamics of this.  Essentially, saturated fat didn't have the impact on CVD.  It raised serum cholesterol slightly.  The carbohydrates (high glycemic) are the real CVD culprits.

So those low fat chips/crackers/cookies that are sold as a health food, not so much.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Is Stretching Just Wasting Your Time?

You will not find a more heated debate then stretching.  Friends, family, athletes, patients other therapist, they may swear by stretching.  Some will swear against it.  I personally find myself assigning less and less stretching for flexibility.  I'm starting to believe most stretching is just increasing sensory input to the muscle.

List your reasons for stretching.  If warming up, injury prevention, be less sore (delayed onset muscle soreness  DOMS), or increase in flexibility were on your list, you may be wasting your time.  All of these reasons have been firmly debunked with science and experiments.

That doesn't mean stretching doesn't have a place or have value.  It looks like stretching can make you feel better.  That is a great reason.  Stretching may decrease pain by increasing sensory input to the muscle.  The article that prompted this blog post is linked at the end. It is a great read that walks you through your thoughts, opinions and your personal dogma on stretching.  The article is called,  "Quite a Stretch."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lisfranc Injury Explained

If you follow sports, you may have heard the term Lisfranc Injury thrown around recently with the injury to Houstan Texans quarterback Matt Schaub.

Lisfranc is an often misdiagnosed injury because of its rarity.  It essentially is an injury to the 2nd metatarsal head.  Often times the metatarsal head is displaced dorsally.  There will be swelling, pinpoint tenderness along the tarsometatarsal joint and the inability to bear weight.  When these three symptoms are present, be suspicious.  Another good guideline is that these three are still present 5 days after initial injury.

The Lisfranc joint complex is very important as this transfers energy from the midfoot to forefoot.  Without a stable midfoot you will not be getting up on your toes and plantar flexion will not be effecient.

On evaluation, besides palpating for tenderness along the tarsometarsal complex, check the dorsal pedis artery as it passes over this area.  The forefoot can also be pronated while the hindfoot is stabilized. This will cause pain. The athletes/patient ability to get up on their toes should also be checked.  When xrays are warranted, a weight bearing radiograph should be used as a non weight bearing xray will often not show any displacement.

The mechanism of injury is often a fall.  There can also be a strike or impact to the foot.  Indirectly, the foot can be stationary but the force of the body produces enough torque through rotation into the Lisfranc complex.

There can be various grades of injury from mild sprain to and avulsion fracture.   The treatment is anything from non weight bearing boot for 6-8 weeks to surgery where a screw is put in.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What Do You Need Coaching In?

This article called "Personal Best," in the New Yorker was sent to me by a friend and strength coach.  It's a bit long, 15 min read, but well worth it.  It talks about how top level performers from athletes to musicians have coaches and ask the question why not you and why not me.

Often times, when school or professional training is done, you're done with having someone tell you what worked or needs working on.  Whether you are a teacher, doctor or a councilor, this article paints a poignant picture  how we keep getting better with the use of a coach.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Is the Back Squat Breaking your Kids Back and Athletic Career?

Mike Boyle has advocated the use of single leg squats over traditional back squats for years.  An interesting article entitled  "Squat Lifts likely the cause of of stress fractures in Young Athletes."  just came out.  I couldn't find the actual research the article was based on.

My personal opinion.  I don't think 13 year olds should be back squatting.  I started at 14 and by my senior year of high school at 163lb could squat 465 for a single.  I think it had direct correlation to improvement in sprint times and in football performance.  I think it has a lot to do with later episodes of back pain in my 30's.

At the time I had no strength coach and no Internet back then.  I had Muscle and Fitness.  I had never seen a split squat or a trap bar.  No one did heavy sled toes.  No one did deadlifts where I grew up.

Looking back I can see all the benefits and all the consequences of squatting.  What I would do different if I could send my younger self a message.  Learn to deadlift with perfect form, don't max out.  Quit benching (another article).  Trap bar deadlift.  Do lots of single leg work.  Spend lots of time pulling a sled.  Only start back squatting in college, if you hit a plateau with your other lifts.  I managed to squat 515 for 3 as a senior in college.  Not much improvement in four years.  Go to the well to early and you eventually will run out of adaptations to make for continual improvement.  (Jim Wendler recently talked about the use of bands and chains in lifting only if you stalled)  Same reasoning.

Squatting isn't evil.  There are just potential consequences to it.  I don't think it's healthy to heavy back squat.  But, playing football isn't healthy, rugby or bobsleigh.  But they are awesome, and to me were worth it..  Back squatting has a heavy cost/benefit potentially on both ends.  Read the article and interpret the info as you see fit.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why You Get Muscle Cramps

This past weekend, I did a race known in Michigan as "The Iceman." It is a 28 mile mountain bike race through Traverse City, MI.  It was a lot of fun and we were all lucky with an amazing 50 degree sunny day.

My race ended up bringing back back memories from high school.  Memories of painful cramps.  Growing up, playing sports, I would always got painful muscular cramps in my calves during the first few football games every year.  It also applied to playing rugby during the summer during grad school.  I had forgotten how bad I cramp up.  First my calves, then my quads, then my adductor magnus.

Everyone always had their own special cure for cramps.  Drink more water, stretch more, drink Gatorade.  I saw the Philadelphia Eagles give their players pickle juice one year in hopes of preventing them.  I took some pickle juice to a rugby game with me after that.  I didn't think that it would get warm.  After drinking it, running around for a bit, I threw it up.  End of my personal pickle juice experiment.

Reading through the literature and doing a google search, muscle cramps still remain an unsolved problem.

There are a few theories.  First, dehydration.  Drink more water.  Stay hydrated.  While this prevails, they have studied athletes that cramp and found that many were still very hydrated.

Second, electrolyte theory.  You have to have the correct sodium/potassium balance.  Hence,  the Gatorade revolution.  On a side note, if you go lift weights for 45 min, you don't need to slug down a 32 oz bottle of Gatorade.  This hypothesis suggests that there is an imbalance between sodium/potassium around the nerve fibers that excite a muscle.  This makes them hypersensitive.  Cramps first start as a twinge.  They have measured electrolyte levels in Ironmen in those that had suffered cramps and those that did not.  No difference in their electrolyte levels.

Another theory states that cramps come from an imbalance between the signals that excite a muscle and the signals that relax a muscle.  This imbalance comes from fatigue.  No studies have been done on this last theory.

So no true scientific evidence has emerged yet in the cause of muscle cramps.  While I can't offer any suggestions besides to try to do the activity your going to do with same intensity and duration as your activity.  I can suggest you leave the warm pickle juice alone.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Waterloo's Dr. Spine, Stuart McGill

Listen and Learn! There is such good info in this little snippet. This is stuff I try to teach (preach) daily. Someday this will be pretty common information.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Parkinsons Disease, Biking and Awesome Improvements

In 2003, somewhat by accident, a Dr Jay Alberts was riding a tandem bicycle across Iowa.  On the back was a friend with Parkinson's Disease.  Quite by accident, Dr. Alberts ended up having his friend pedal about 30 pedal strokes faster per minute then normal.

The Parkinson's disease symptoms improved dramatically.  With in a few hours of pedalling, all the hand tremors that had been present before the ride, had left.

This got Dr. Alberts attention.  He repeated the "experiment" with forced pedaling again with a different patient that had a surgical implant to help with Parkinson's symptoms. They turned the implant off and pedaled for 50 miles.  All the symptoms went away.

He set out to conduct a real study that was complete in 2009.  You can read the full post here.  It's Not About the Bike, It's about the Pedaling.  In the study, he took two groups of Parkinson's Patients and assigned them to Voluntary Exercise or Forced Exercise.  Voluntary pedaled for an hour, 3x a week for 8 weeks, at a pace they picked.  Forced did the same time and frequency but at about 80rpm on a tandem bike.

The Forced group saw 30% improvements in symptoms compared to the Voluntary group.  What was more encouraging, the improvements were still there (about 20%) 2 weeks after finishing.  Dr. Alberts explained that with medications, you may get 30% reduction, but the symptoms start to reappear within hours of stopping them.  (they also carry some side effects)

They are currently in the midst of expanding on some of these findings at the Cleveland Clinic.  How cool is this potentially?  If you know of someone with Parkinson's, please share this info!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Probiotics in Health and Athletic Performance

I've been doing some more reading on the use of probiotics lately.  Interestingly enough, a few cool new reads have popped up that I have linked at the end.

The use of probiotics is now standard issue when you are taking an antibiotic drug.  (Hint:  You MUST take probiotic when taking an antibiotic)  It is also being used and it seems successfully to help out with IBS and gastro intestinal problems.

The use of probiotics as a pure athletic enhancement supplement doesn't look to hold much water.  This doesn't appear to be any type of ergogenic aid, like a creatine.  It does seem to offer some immune boosting support though.  Think of it as a secondary aid.  If you can recover faster and stay healthy, you can train more consistently.  That in itself is awesome.  I have used it as a supplement to my hard/long sessions.  Two hours or longer on a bike or any workout that leads me wiped out as examples.

This study showed that a certain type of probiotic boosts the immunity response to the flu.  It can be read here at Post Graduate Medicine.

Charles Poliquin just put out an article about the use of probiotics and belly fat.  I had never read this take on the use of probiotics, but found it interesting.  Anything that helps control cortisol, will essentially help control belly fat.  Tip 199:  Probiotic and Belly Fat.

Found this article from Conditioning Research blog.  They studied how the probiotics in yogurt altered gene expression and metabolism.  Pretty Interesting.  Read here in The Scientist.

To sum up,  the use of probiotics is worth exploring.  If your taking an antibiotic, probiotics are a must.  If you got some gastric issues, it's definitely worth trying.   If your a big endurance athlete that does lots of hard training, it is worth  experimenting with.  In the end I think it will turn out to be a great immunity booster.