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by Miller Chandler ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Owner of Foundation Wellness, LLC
We tend to associate certain positive outcomes with yoga, right? Improved flexibility always makes the list, as does lower stress and anxiety, the so-called “mind-body” benefits. But what about the just plain old “body” benefits? What can yoga do for things like muscle tone, weight loss (or healthy gain), and increased physical stamina? According to the experts, quite a bit. Yoga may not take the place of throwing around free weights, but it definitely can complement and enhance your gym workout.
There are three main types of muscle contractions. There are concentric contractions (muscle contracts as it shortens), eccentric contractions (muscle contracts as it lengthens), and isometric contractions (muscle contracts with no change in length). And for the latter, you are simply holding a pose, or pushing against an immovable object. Sound familiar, yogis? The static strength required to hold myriad yoga poses absolutely does enhance one’s muscular health. And it does so in a way that is more sparing to the joints than pumping iron.
Mary Irby, E-RYT 500 and Owner of White Crow Yoga, puts it this way:
“While our first thought of yoga benefits may lean toward creating mindfulness and increasing flexibility, practitioners are also presented with a great opportunity to build strength. When we incorporate poses such as the plank, 4-limbed staff, side plank, bridge, and locust, we introduce strength work into our practice. There are even ways to create strength in poses we may think of as traditionally used for flexibility. For example, in a standing forward fold, if we place our hands on a block or the floor and alternately abduct the leg straight out toward the side, we will definitely feel the strength building benefits in the legs and hips! Yoga provides a great way to increase strength throughout the body and the only equipment needed is a yoga mat, so it is a great way for all of us to add some strength training into our day.
So, it’s not a question of do I do my strength workout or my mind/body work today. In yoga practice, one can have both.
Master of Public Health and RYT-500 Melissa Shah, who regularly leads classes at Vanderbilt’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine and studios such as Liberation Yoga and Blooma Nashville agrees:
“A regular yoga practice, often seen as solely “stretching,” offers so much more for body, mind, and spirit. Our body is a vessel for transformation, and yoga is an incredibly valuable tool for strengthening our vessel . . . Many of the clients I see suffer from some degree of joint pain. Yoga offers tools to build muscular strength around the joints to reduce pain and prevent further injury. Since almost every yoga posture requires some degree of both strength AND flexibility, it makes it an ideal method for building strength through the entire body in a way that is sustainable.”
In addition to the aforementioned misconceptions, there is also a disparity between the sexes when it comes to yoga participation. More specifically, there seems to be an opinion shared among many of my brethren that yoga is a “woman thing.” Well, I have to tell you, fellas, that this is just flat wrong. Yoga is challenging and fruitful physically for a variety of reasons, and there have been more than a few professional football players over the years, including Ray Lewis and Nashville’s own Eddie George, who have counted themselves as yogi practitioners. Again, this is because yoga manages to be both physically challenging and relaxing and therapeutic all at the same time! It’s a tough workout, but in a way that actually leaves you feeling better when it’s over.
My hope is that some of you who are still hesitant to hit the mat and give yoga a try will now open yourselves up to the possibilities. And for those of you who are already yogis, please remember that on some days, your practice should emphasize the more challenging, muscle-building aspects of yoga. Along with the mind/body benefits. Yoga can count as part of your regular strength work, too. Be well, Nashville, and Namaste.
Fitness June 28, 2019
Blood flow restriction (BFR) is an evidence based exercise training method for the widespread population that combines tourniquet technology and lite intensity resistance training to build muscle mass, strength, cardiovascular capacity and bone density that is similar to higher intensity training.
BFR training is performed by applying an inflatable tourniquet to the upper arms or upper legs (never all 4 at once), that is calibrated to the individual user by technology from a certified BFR specialist.
Reducing blood flow to a limb while performing lite intensity cardiovascular exercise or resistance training has shown to increase muscle oxygen demands in muscle, which encourage larger and greater force producing bundles of muscle fibers to become active.
These higher thresholds, fast twitch muscle fibers are quite particular and during normal conditions require heavier weight or near absolute muscle fatigue to be recruited; which is often difficult or not advised pre competition, during in-season competition, post injury/surgery, or within the aging community. In each of these cases, maintaining or increasing in muscle mass is critical for health and injury reduction, as per the American college of sports medicine. BFR has shown to positively influence similar high-intensity benefits while lifting loads as lite as 20% to 40% or a single repetition max, which commonly are not enough resistance or intensity.
Similarly, BFR has shown to be beneficial to cardiovascular capacity or VO2max adaptations in young, elderly and professional sports players who are unable to use high-intensity training like running due to cardiovascular restrictions, bone density, joint health, or are just limited in time. Typically, higher intensity exercises are needed to encourage positive cardiovascular changes, such as running within the 60% to 80% of heart rate reserve (HRR), with required durations of 30 to 45 minutes.
Findings with BFR have shown to increase cardiovascular capacity, circulatory fitness, and increase in muscle mass and strength while at intensities as low as 45% HRR. These outcomes appear to be explained by studies that have shown reductions in blood flow to the heart via tourniquet use, can be used to safely increase heart rate and arterial adaptations while using treadmill walking, riding a bike or even walking in a pool that can be beneficial for lower bone density/post injury/post-surgical patients.
BFR research began nearly 50 years ago, by Dr. Yoshiaki Sato, who was curious to explore why muscles burned when they became fatigued. His early curiosity led him to use an innertube from a bike tire to reduce blood flow to a limb. Since then, the US military, NASA, Sports Orthopedic surgeons, Biologist, Cardiovascular specialist and Neurologist from around the world have participated in over 1000 peer reviewed studies to peer further into the safety, benefits, and population specifics for applying BFR training in hospital settings, outpatient, and in the training room. What the studies have demonstrated so far, is that BFR training can be a game changer for many people wanting to get back to what they love to do and perform better.
As of 2018, BFR training became part of the American Physical Therapy association practice act, and since 2014 has been adopted into nearly all US professional sports rehab teams, Olympics, special forces rehab units, top orthopedic groups and with the help of other fellow researchers and educators such as myself, is now growing abroad in Europe, Australia, Ireland, and South America.
As a sports medicine/exercise physiologist lead Physical Therapist at Lifters Clinic here in Mount Juliet TN, a researcher in BFR here at our very own Belmont University, and co-founder of The BFR Pro’s, an unbiased BFR continuing education company; BFR has made up my life for the better of the last 5 years.
The amazing anecdotal stories that I have seen, in cases where fractures finally closed, muscles bounced back after an ACL surgery, reduced knee pain for osteoarthritis/rheumatoid arthritis patients, faster recovery periods post sport-related injuries; and elderly patients making leap and bounds to positive muscle mass, strength, and cardiovascular changes have all been a humbling life-changing experience.
For many of my patients, BFR directly helped lower the threshold and barrier of entry to experience positive change and a path forward.
BFR training is easy to use, hard to misuse, safe, effective, and becoming mainstream. We in the field say that BFR is better for results, backed by science, and changing people’s lives.
by Ross Gentry SPT, CF-L2, CSCS
A pull-up is pretty simple. You hang from a bar and pull yourself up to that bar. However, with the rising popularity of the kipping pull-up, often associated on social media with CrossFit gyms and various fitness competitions, battle lines seem to have been drawn with one side pledging allegiance to the strict pull-up, and the other advocating for this newer variation. To someone unfamiliar with the movement, kipping pull-ups may seem fairly nonsensical. With so many moving parts, can we even call them “pull-ups” at all? The debate has surged, but clarity still seems to be lacking. The two pull-ups are very different, and, the truth is – one of them is better.
A strict pull-up is marked by an individual keeping the midline of their body, or “core”, rigid and unmoving as pulling force is generated from the upper body and arms alone. Classically, most gym-goers use this as an effective exercise to develop strength in the lats (latissimus dorsi), biceps (biceps brachii), and in hand grip.
A kipping pull-up is distinct in that one will see the individual utilizing a swinging motion at the bottom of the movement to generate additional upward force toward the bar, thereby reducing the pulling strength required to bring the body up to the bar. These pull-ups often allow athletes to perform more repetitions at a faster rate.
Are kipping pull-ups even real pull-ups?
A. By the simple definition of a pull-up, of course kipping pull-ups are real pull-ups. You start at the bottom, and you pull your way to the top. Pull-up.
So which variation is better?
In order to improve your fitness, one of these two pull-up variations is the better option for you as you get in the gym and start putting in the reps. The catch is, the variation you need to work on in order to get better may not be the same variation your gym buddy needs. Both movements have important aspects of fitness to offer. The answer simply lies in what an individual’s current needs are.
As stated earlier, one would be hard-pressed to find a better movement than a strict pull-up for developing compound strength of upper body pulling motion and core stiffness. Not the mention the fact that if you ever find yourself precariously hanging on fingertips off the edge of a cliff, you’ll be glad you got those extra reps in at the gym.
If you are a person who struggles with general upper body strength, strict-pull ups should definitely be one of your biggest time investments in the gym. Can’t get that first strict rep yet? Grab some bands to assist you, place a stool under you to lighten the load, or knock out some horizontal rows on a TRX
trainer or some gymnastic rings. There are plenty of fantastic strict pull-up progressions out there. Find one (preferably one that uses compound, multi-joint exercises), and get to work.
Kipping pull-ups aren’t fantastic for developing strength. They do allow you to do more reps, but if strength is your goal, it would be more prudent to spend extra time under tension with strict pull-ups. There is a lot happening in a kipping pull-up. Arms, torso, hips, legs – everything is moving, and that’s partially the point. The best way to sum it up is this: The kipping-pull up is not a strengthening exercise, it is a gymnastic movement.
Gymnastics is about body control. If a person doing kipping pull-ups seems to be flailing wildly, they are probably still working toward more efficient reps, or at least we hope they are. In order to perform any gymnastic movement, an athlete must possess a certain consciousness of where their body is in space and also have to ability to make corrections if anything is out of place. A kipping-pull up is, comparatively, a simple gymnastic movement and provides beginner athletes with a great opportunity to get exposure to this type of athletic demand.
Gymnastics is also about core-to-extremity power. Core-to- extremity describes an athlete’s ability to generate most of the power of a movement from their torso and hips and translate that power to their arms and legs which finish the work. For example, to swing a baseball bat, an athlete generates most of their power from the fast rotation of their core (abdominal obliques and spinal erectors) and the arms follow through with the swinging motion. In a kipping pull-up, an athlete must use two quick instances of core and hip generated power to effectively drive their body up toward the bar.
The first instance is at the bottom of the kip swing. Once the athlete is hanging from the bar, they initiate a swing from their shoulders that pulls their head and chest in front of the bar and feet behind the bar. With the body now in this “C” shaped arch, the athlete must maintain tightness in their abdominals and use them to store elastic energy from this position. They can then use this elastic energy to forcefully swing into an opposite arch that mirrors the first – with their head and chest behind the bar and feet in front. This is similar to if you took a wooden ruler, bent it back slightly, and then released it with a quick “thwack”.
The second instance is when the athlete, now in this reverse “C” position, rapidly extends, or straightens out, their hips, creating an upward thrust power. This drive from the hips may make the athlete feel weightless for a moment, which is a great time for the arms to take over and pull the body up the remaining distance to the bar. The end result: Pull-up.
If an individual lacks this global (total) body coordination, kipping pull- ups may be a helpful way to create body-awareness and control. Additionally, if an athlete wants a higher overall intensity and work output in their workout, there is no doubt that the increased reps and speed kipping pull-ups afford you will accomplish the task.
There is one caveat to kipping pull-ups. Most well-informed gymnasts, coaches, and trainers do agree – an athlete should be able to perform at least one strict pull-up before attempting a kipping pull-up. Possessing this requisite strength and stability helps to ensure that when an athlete does attempt their first kip swings on the bar, their shoulders will be better adapted to this new dynamic movement.
So yes, to all you pull-up fans, there is a better pull-up for you. What’s best for you depends on your goals and your current ability. Get that first strict pull-up under your belt. Get multiple. Load some extra weight on your back and do a few more. Don’t, however, forget or underestimate the benefits of the increased control, coordination, and work output that the kipping pull-up has to offer.
Now, go forth and pull-up.
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