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Strength Training for Cyclists: Injury Prevention and Performance

Cyclists, as with all athletes, need to ensure a level of robustness able to withstand the maximal demands that the sport can (and will) throw at us. Appropriate physical preparation programs have been shown to reduce modifiable injury risk factors while improving our performance (1); both clearly important facets in success. Previous debates have suggested that strength training may not benefit endurance performance and indeed prove detrimental, however, modern research has quashed this, noting that a combination of endurance training as well as maximal strength and power training can result in up to a 5% increase in time trial performance (3). Maximal strength training sees us lift heavy loads for low reps at near maximal efforts, while ‘power’ training utilises a continuum of light to heavy loads with an emphasis on moving with intent (i.e. high speed) in accordance with the load (2). These qualities go hand in hand; if we can improve our maximal strength, we will have a greater platform to develop our ‘explosive power’ – important for those hills and sprint finishes.

Road cycling is a demanding, repetitive sport that can take its toll on the body. Having a solid strength base can aid in our ability to perform these repetitive, cyclic movements time and time again. Further to this, it can help to improve the amount of power produced per pedal stroke, increasing the speed, and therefore distance at which we are able to move at a given work rate.

To help reduce your risk of injury and improve cycling performance, we have developed a list of 5 exercises that you can use at home or on the road with minimal equipment required. 

World’s Greatest Stretch

  • Standing up tall, hug one knee to the chest.
  • Release, step out and lunge into a push up position, with the lunging leg in line and outside of both arms.
  • Rotate the arm closest to the lunging leg as far as possible, keeping the back/base leg knee straight. Rotate back into the pushup position.
  • Rock back onto the back leg keeping the front leg straight for a hamstring stretch, holding for approximately 5 seconds. 
  • Complete 3 full cycles each side.

Side Lay Leg Lift

  • Lay on your side bending the bottom knee at 90 degrees, forming a straight line from knee to shoulder.
  • Bridge up using the bottom knee and elbow as the 2 points of contact with the ground.
  • Keeping the top leg straight, raise from the hip by contracting the glute, bringing the foot up to level with hip height.
  • Lower with control and repeat.
  • Complete 3 sets of 10 each side.

Double Leg Hamstring Bridge

  • Lay flat on your back, with roughly a 100 degree bent at the knee.
  • Press the back of your heels into the bench, raising your hips to a position which sees a straight line from shoulders to knees.
  • Hold with hips bridged for 2 seconds before lowering with control.
  • Repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps.

Lunges

  • Stand with feet in line and shoulder width apart. Step forward with one foot and lower the back knee to the ground, staying tall through the body.
  • When lunging, aim to keep the lunging knee in line with the toes, avoiding collapsing in. 
  • Press through the front heel to raise yourself back up to neutral and repeat with the opposite leg. 
  • 3 sets of 15 each side. 
  • To increase difficulty weight can be added (be creative by utilising full milk cartons). 

Dead Bug

  • Lay flat on your back, raising legs to a tabletop position with a 90 degree bend at both the knees and hips.
  • Always maintain contact with the ground with your lower back, avoiding arching up and losing contact.
  • From here, lower one leg out with control (3-5 second lower) while the opposing leg stays still in the tabletop position, before returning and alternating legs.
  • Lowering the leg while maintaining a bent knee will make the exercise easier, extend the leg fully for a more difficult exercise.
  • Repeat 3 sets of 6 each side.

Logistics and Summary

Complete the World’s Greatest Stretch as a mobility drill at the start of the session before rolling through the remaining exercises back to back in a loop until you have completed 3 sets of each. Look to perform this session twice per week to improve performance and resilience to injury. As always if you have any questions or would like some Information on a program tailored to your needs, get in touch with the team at RAD today.

References

  1. Bazyler, C. Abbott, H. Bellon, C. Taber, C. & Stone, M. Strength training for endurance athletes: Theory to practice. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 37(2): 10-22, 2015.
  2. Hoff, J. Gran, A. Helgerud, J. Maximal strength training improves endurance performance. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 12: 288-295, 2002.
  3. Sunde, A. Storen, O, Bjerkaas, M, Larsen, M. Hoff, J. & Helgerud, J. Maximal strength training improves cycling economy in competitive cyclists. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 24(8): 2157-2165, 2010.
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Cycling – Injury Prevention

With the FedUni Road Nationals on in Ballarat this week it is the perfect time to talk cycling with many of us inspired to jump on the bike ourselves. For those of us however that perform cycling as a competitive sport, injuries can always be a worry that is at the back of your mind. As cycling is a very repetitive sport by nature, overuse injuries are unfortunately all too common. These types of injuries are generally far less debilitating than the acute injuries that can occur, however they can still affect training and ultimately race day performance. Broadly speaking, overuse injuries in cyclists have two common causes; bike positioning alongside lack of strength in certain areas. Let’s have a look at what some of the most common overuse injuries are in cycling and what we can do to prevent them. 

Neck Injuries

Neck injuries account for the biggest proportion of overuse injuries in cycling as often a cyclist’s neck can be placed into excessive hyperflexion for extended period. It is therefore important that we take note of a few things including handlebar and seat positioning. We can then also look at strengthening through the upper back, not only the strength but the conditioning of these muscles to hold this position for long periods of time too. There are a few upper back exercises we can do to help reduce the risk of this including: 

  • Ring row
  • Banded pull apart 
  • Dumbbell bent over row
  • Cat Camel stretch

Knee Injuries

The next most commonly injured area is that of the knee with an array of different overuse injuries that can occur, however the main ones being patellofemoral pain (PFP) and iliotibial band syndrome (ITB syndrome). Due to the high demand that is placed on the quadriceps during the downstroke of cycling (where the knee is extending), this leads to a large amount of force being translated to the patellofemoral joint. This reaction is said to be the cause of PFP, while ITB syndrome can be better accounted for through the repetitive nature of the sport. As with the non-specific neck injuries that cyclists can have, the set up of the bike is a large contributing factor to the occurrence of these injuries. Other factors include a rapid increase in training volume and an increase in hill work performed. It is therefore important that we be mindful of this as a cycling community and prepare our bodies appropriately to be able to withstand the increase in load. It is important that our increase in load is no more than 10% per week and we are not increasing both volume and hill work at the same time. It is also then important that we strengthen our bodies to withstand this added volume. For this it is important that we improve the strength in our glutes and stabilizing muscles through the hip. A few key exercises that we can use to aid in this include:

  • Banded glute bridge 
  • Side lay leg lift 
  • Split squat

Lower Back Injuries

The last injury we will talk about is that of chronic lower back pain. This type of non-specific pain is generally caused by the prolonged flexed position that the athletes are placed in, resulting in a flexion/relaxation inhibition or fatigue of the erector spinae (lower back) muscles. Again, preventing this type of injury can be attributed to making sure that the athlete has the correct set up of their bike. It is also important however that we look to improve our lower abdominal and general core strength, to offset any weakness through the erector spinae muscles. There are a few key exercises that we can use to help target these areas. 

  • Dead bug 
  • Swiss ball crunch 
  • Bretzel

Summing it up…

In summary, if you are a keen cyclist there are a few very important things that you will need to take note of in preventing any chronic overuse injuries from occurring. Firstly, making sure that the bike is fitted correctly to you, correct seat type and position and correct handlebar position. It is then important that we don’t increase the amount of training that we are doing too quickly (10% at a time) and only in one form at a time whether that be increasing volume or hill work. Lastly it is important that we perform some strength work to off set any injuries that could occur. 

Happy cycling 😊

References

  1. Schwellnus, M,P. & Derman, E,W. Common injuries in cycling: Prevention, diagnosis and management. South African Family Practice. 47(7): 14-19. 2005.
  2. Visentini, P. & Clarsen, B. Overuse injuries in cycling: The wheel is turning towards evidence-based practice. Aspetar Sports Medicine Journal. 8: 486-492. 2019.
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Top 5 exercises for Netball

Netball is a sport played at high intensities with many accelerations, decelerations, changes of direction, jumping and landings performed by players throughout the game. No matter what position you play on the court you need to be able to jump, catch the ball and often land on one leg before passing it off again – but do you have a solid strength base to be able to perform this over and over again in a game?

If we look at the most common injuries in Netball, it is evident that a very high percentage occur to the knee and ankle as a result of a poor landing – whether that be because of contact or not. Completing a structured strength training program can help to reduce the risk of the injuries from occurring.
In addition to the normal skills training, physical preparation for netball should contain elements of:
• Balance and proprioception
• Total body strength but most notably the lower body and core
• Agility
• Power
• Endurance

To help decrease your risk of injury but also improve your performance on the court we have come up with a list of our top 5 exercises for netball. We have also made it so the exercises can all be performed at the court with minimal equipment.

Check out our NETBALL TRAINING PROGRAM full of: Warm up protocol / speed / change of direction / passing drills / running sessions / strength work. 

Top 5 exercises for netball

Top 5 exercises for Netball:

1. Single leg Landing
• Start with two feet together, stand up tall on your tip toes, arms reaching for the sky.
• Quick drop and stick on one leg
• Nail the landing, “attack the ground”
• Keep the knee in line with the foot – don’t let the knee drop inwards
• 3 sets of 6 landings each leg
Progression:
• Step off a box or step then stick the landing on one leg

2. Single leg squat
• Best performed balancing off the edge of step or ledge, looking for ¼ squat depth.
• Keep knee tracking in line with your foot, do not let your knee drop inwards
• Control movement down until opposite leg touches the ground
• 3 sets of 15 reps each leg

3. Single leg RDL/Arabesque
• Starting one on leg
• Extend one leg backwards, and both arms forward or out to the side to help balance
• Bending from the hips, keeping your back straight and hips level
• At the top position we want a straight line from head to heel.
• Then control the return back to the start position – try and stay balanced for all 6 reps
• 3 sets of 6 reps each leg

4. Glute Bridge
• Lying on your back, feet shoulder width apart, heels close to your finger tips
• Drive through your heels, lifting your hips towards the sky
• At the top position, after a straight line from knees to shoulders – squeeze your bottom at the top position and hold for 2 seconds
• 3 sets of 15 reps

5. Side plank
• Lying on your side with legs out straight, forearm/elbow placed directly under your shoulder
• Lift your body up off the ground, pressing through the forearm and feet
• Maintain a straight line from head to heel, try and keep your hips high
• 3 x 30 secs each side

Conclusion

By performing this batch of top 5 exercises for netball twice per week it will play a role in decreasing your risk on injury and increasing on court performance. Improving your ability to land and balance on leg, as well as increasing your strength in the contest.
Completing a structured strength training program is essential to your development as a netballer, especially if you are looking to take your game to the next level.

Bonus resources:

Check out our NETBALL TRAINING PROGRAM full of: Warm up protocol / speed / change of direction / passing drills / running sessions / strength work. 

Netball Training Program

Top 5 exercises for netball

 

Check out our FREE – Netball Warm Up & Recovery Guide

https://radcentre.com.au/product/free-netball-warm-up-recovery-guide/

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Injury Prevention for Rowers

With rowing pre-season schedules starting to heat up it is important that we acknowledge the potential increased injury risk that athletes may have. With the increased workload and the repetitive nature of the sport there are some common overuse injuries that can occur. To understand the injuries we first need to understand the sport. As with many sports technique in rowing is paramount to not only performance but also to the prevention of potential overuse injuries. We must also note that there are two types of rowing; sweep whereby each person has one oar and sculling where each person has two oars (pictured below). There are four phases of the rowing stroke (3), comprised of: 

  • The catch; the start of the stroke where the rower’s legs and back are fully flexed and the oar is square. 
  • The drive phase; where the legs extend first followed by the back beginning to extend, this is where the most power is produced for the stroke. 
  • The release; where the elbows draw the blade through the water as the handle lightly brushes the abdomen, the blade is then feathered across the water. 
  • The recovery; where the drive phase is reversed until the arms are fully extended to prepare for the next catch phase. 

Now that we understand the basics of rowing, let’s have a look at the common overuse injuries that can occur and what we can do to help prevent them. 

Back Injuries

Firstly non-specific lower back injuries account for 15 to 25% of injuries in rowers, with it more common among females due to hip muscle imbalance, and those starting training prior to the age of 16 (3). These injuries are generally chronic by nature and are caused by excessive hyperflexion and/or excessive twisting forces applied on the lumbar region (3). This is generally exacerbated at the catch position as the lower back muscles (erector spinae) can be relatively relaxed, whilst having great loads (up to 4 times body weight) placed on them during the drive phase (3). Other causes include fatigue and breakdown of technique due to increased volume and intensity, as well as varying training methods, compounding the muscle fibre contractility (3). However there are ways we can manage this as training volume starts to increase, including:

  • Improving hip flexor strength whilst improving hamstring length.
  • Improving endurance in the lumbar extensor muscles. 
  • Improving abdominal and gluteal strength. 
  • Maintaining length in the gluteal muscles. 

Exercise we can do to help reduce this risk include (1):

  1. Back extension
  2. Good morning
  3. Crunch
  4. Hip thrust 
  5. Hip flexor stretch
  6. Inch worm (dynamic hamstring stretch)

The Ribs

The next common over use injury for rowers is rib stress fractures, a less commonly expected injury however due to the excessive repetitive force that is exerted by the muscles around the ribs (serratus anterior and external obliques) with every stroke, it can lead to a weakness in the bones (2). This loss of strength in the bones can lead to a decreased shock absorption ability and increase the stress placed on the ribs at selected focal points (2). The incidence of this injury is up to 22% higher in female athletes due to often decreased bone density (2). One of the key factors that we can target in the gym to help reduce the risk of this occurring is working to reduce the imbalance between the serratus anterior muscles and the external obliques (2). Some exercises targeted towards reducing this risk include (1):

  • Push ups 
  • Bench press 
  • Push up plus

Shoulder Pain

The last two injuries that we will speak about are a little less common however are still very important to consider when looking at injury prevention. Non-specific shoulder pain can be caused by many factors however the most common includes overuse, poor technique and tension through the upper body (3). To reduce the risk of this injury occurring we can improve strength through the lower traps, serratus anterior, and shoulder girdle (3) by implementing exercises such as (1):

  • High cable row
  • Shoulder Y, T, W 

ITB Friction Syndrome

Finally, Iliotibial band friction syndrome is an overuse injury felt as a pain on the lateral side of the knee, commonly as a result of the full knee compression that occurs in the catch position (3). It is associated with tightness in the Iliotibial band (ITB) and weakness through the hip abductors (3), therefore it is important that we work to improve hip abductor strength as well as stretch and lengthen the ITB – this might involve (1):

  • ITB stretch 
  • Banded clam 
  • Cable abduction

Summary

So there you have it – the repetitive and demanding nature of rowing results in high risk of injuries, however, with some critical planning and programming including strength training and mobility we can help to reduce the risk of these injuries occurring. 

References

  1. Gee, T. I. Olsen, P. D. Berger, N. J. Golby, J. & Thompson, K. G. Strength and Conditioning practices in rowing. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 25: 668-682. 2011. 
  2. McDonnell, L. K. Hume, P. A. & Nolte, V. Rib stress fractures among rowers. Journal of Sports Medicine. 41: 883-901. 2011. 
  3. Rumball, J. S. Lebrun, C. M. Di Ciacca, S. R. & Orlando, K. Rowing Injuries. Journal of Sports Medicine. 35: 537-555. 2005. 
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Junior Athlete Development

As professionalism in sport continues to grow in Australia, greater demands flow through to youth athletes in order to raise the standard and produce ready-made stars upon entering the elite sporting arena. While it is fantastic to see continually rising expertise and commitment by both coaches and athletes in this space, sometimes the boundaries are pushed too far in order to progress the athlete for success in the immediate term, rather than a long-term vision of what the athlete wants to attain.

Within the weight room a prime example of this is an athlete rushing into a barbell back squat before progressing through the necessary steps to become proficient in this lift. Moving through a series of progressions to gain competency in the squat may look like this:

These progressions should correspond with athlete movement ability; being able to nail each version prior to moving through to the next, rather than on an age basis and thinking ‘they’re 16, they can back squat’. Athletes progress and develop at different ages and rates, thus applying a blanket rule in accordance with age is simply wrong. 

The beautiful thing about an athlete that is yet to perform a lift is the opportunity to avoid learning a poor pattern. Using the above example, if an athlete jumps straight into a barbell back squat – a complex lift – it is likely that the athlete will adopt a technique which will see them compensate in key areas to get through, potentially involving multiple flaws. Unfortunately, if a pattern is learned it takes a lot longer to re-learn it in the appropriate manner. 

If you’ve got a spare 8 minutes, this fun video demonstrates the theory perfectly:

Of additional concern is the prescription of variables such as weight, volume and tempo.Manipulating such variables may prove as a stepping stone to the next variant – i.e. attempt different tempos before moving on to the next level.

What’s missing?

The number 1 rule – have FUN! While there needs to be aspects of training which are strict, measured and difficult, adoption to training will be much greater if the athlete enjoys it, also going a long way to reduce monotony, burn out and fatigue. 

Summary

  • Avoid learning poor patterns.
  • Don’t compromise long term success for short term gains.
  • Make fun the focus – why did they start playing in the first place?
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Returning to Pre-Season Training: 5 Key Exercises

Pre-season training is nearly back – that time of year where local footy and netball club’s gruel it out and seem to destroy their body on the back of no training. Unfortunately, given the circumstances which see most players go from 0-100 in a small amount of time, this is a period where susceptibility to injury is high. 

RAD has put together 5 key exercises for athletes to complete prior to returning and throughout the pre-season period, with a view of increasing strength and resilience in critical areas required for both football and netball. 

Exercise 1 – Groin Squeeze

3 sets of 5 (5 second squeezes)

The adductors are critical in aiding any lateral movement. The groin squeeze can be completed with any form of ball placed between the knees. From here, draw both knees in to squeeze the ball, holding the squeeze for 5 seconds. It is important to build intensity to prepare the adductors; on the first set build in with intensities of 80% effort, 90% effort, before squeezing the ball as hard as possible for the remaining reps. 

Exercise 2 – Single Leg RDL

3 sets of 8 each side

The eccentric contraction of the hamstrings during the single leg RDL is a great tool for preparing for high speed running. Stand on one leg with a soft knee (i.e. knee not locked out), keep your torso up tall, and drive the heel of the free leg towards the sky, attempting to make a T like shape with the body. Move nice and slow through the range, trying to avoid any bending of the knee or back. 

Exercise 3 – Split Squat

3 sets of 10 each side

The split squat will allow us to load up the quads which will receive a lot of use during any jumping, running or kicking. From a split stance, keep your body up tall and lower the back knee towards the ground, always thinking about the majority of your weight being placed through the front heel. 

Exercise 4 – Single Leg Calf Raise

3 sets of 12 each side (2 sec squeeze)

Standing on one leg with some balance support (i.e. next to a wall), push right up onto your toes and tense your calf. Hold for 2 seconds at the peak of the contraction and control down before moving into the next rep. 

Exercise 5 – Side Plank

3 sets of ~ 30 – 60 seconds each side

Lie on your side in a straight line, bridging up with your elbow and feet as the two points of contact on the floor, or alternatively regressing the exercise by bridging from bent knees. Maintain a straight line through the body from shoulder to ankle, avoiding sagging or bending at the hips.

How often?

Completing these exercises two times per week will be a massive help in preparing your body for the demands of pre-season. You can complete them as a session all at once or spread them throughout the week – whatever fits you schedule.

Questions?

As always if you have any questions regarding these exercises or anything physical preparation, get in touch with the team at RAD today.

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Jump Specificity – Understanding Different Vertical Jumps

Vertical jumping or jumping for height can be seen in a range of sports. Think of a basketball player jumping for a dunk, a netball player jumping to intercept a lob or a soccer player jumping for a header. They all require the ability to jump high or at least higher than your opponent – however, not all these jumps are performed exactly the same. Vertical jumps performed in sports can be broken down into three categories: standing vertical jump (SVJ), running vertical jump with a 1-foot take-off (RVJ1) and running vertical jump with a 2-foot take-off (RVJ2). These different jumps can be seen across different sports and even within the one sport. Basketball for example, can involve a SVJ when rebounding, a RVJ1 when doing a lay-up and a RVJ2 when dunking.

Masters Research Study

I have recently completed a master’s research study which looked at determining the relationships between these different types of vertical jumps. The findings of the study are highly relevant to athletes and strength and conditioning coaches as they help us to understand how much difference exists between these jumps and what qualities influence them.

While it is clear there are different types of vertical jumps, they tend to be thought of and tested as one physical quality. Therefore, my study aimed to determine how these different jumps relate to one another and to different jump tests which are commonly used to measure speed-strength qualities. The tests of speed-strength qualities were a squat jump (SJ), countermovement jump (CMJ) and a drop jump (DJ). The SJ is a measure of pure concentric leg power with no pre-stretch movement. The CMJ measures leg power with a slow stretch-shortening cycle. Without getting too technical, a stretch-shortening cycle is when the muscles perform a small pre-stretch movement and then contract. For example, when you do a little “dip” before you jump maximally. Lastly, the DJ measures leg power with a fast stretch-shortening cycle (better known as “reactive strength”).

To summarise the main findings from the study, we found that:

  • The three types of vertical jumps shared strong correlations, but there was still a considerable amount of uncommon variation between them.
  • The RVJ1 and RVJ2 shared the lowest amount of commonality, while the SVJ and RVJ2 had the highest.
  • The RVJ1 had a very large correlation with the DJ, but only moderate with the SJ and CMJ.
  • The SVJ and RVJ2 showed similar correlations with each of the SJ, CMJ and DJ.

What does this mean?

It shows that while the three types of vertical jumps share similarities, they are also quite different and should not be considered the exact same quality or skill. This means that testing and training for the different types of jumps should have differences. For example, the CMJ is a commonly used jump test when assessing jumping ability; however, it may be more appropriate to use a DJ if the sport requires athletes to perform running jumps from one foot as opposed to the other two vertical jumps.

For coaches and athletes looking to improve jumping performance, it is important to consider the different types of vertical jumps. The first step is to determine which of these jumps is most common or most important for your given sport. If all of them are required, then you should train to develop each type of jump and if one is more important than the others then maybe you should devote more time to developing that jump. Some sports may only require one type of jump and in that instance, you should focus on training to improve that jump. For example, a high jump athlete will always jump off one foot and from a run-up; therefore, their training should reflect that.

Reactive Strength for Running Jumps

Based off the findings of the study, it appears that reactive strength is the predominant quality that relates to RVJ1 performance. This means that we should aim to enhance reactive strength when the goal is to improve RVJ1. Plyometric training is a common method for improving reactive strength. It is important to ensure that the plyometric exercises you select incorporate a fast stretch-shortening cycle to target reactive strength. Some examples of these exercises are: drop jumps, repeated hurdle hops, bounding and ankle jumps. The goal when performing these exercises is to jump/bound as high or as far as possible while being as quick off the ground as possible. This should be cued to the athlete to ensure that they are performing the exercises optimally.

This does not mean that general power training with a slow stretch-shortening cycle should be ignored. There is definitely still a place for exercises such as weightlifting derivatives, resisted jumps and assisted jumps in programs aimed at developing vertical jump performance, especially when the goal is to improve SVJ or RVJ2. However, plyometric exercises should also be a part of these programs and – according to the research findings – it appears that they are even more specific to RVJ1 performance.

Key Take Home Points

  • Different types of vertical jumps should be treated as different skills or qualities when it comes to training and testing.
  • Reactive strength seems to be the predominant quality for performing running vertical jumps with a one-foot take-off.
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Travelling Athlete Tips

Want to travel as an athlete?

As a young athlete today the lure of travel can be quite compelling when finishing school or university; the excitement of discovering the world that is around you, meeting new people, and breaking that potentially dull routine. You may be reluctant to take that jump as an athlete because you are worried about your training and how it may be affected while you are away; feelings that are common among athletes, particularly when their world revolves around their sport and performance. There is however no reason to worry – overseas travel does not mean that the training and hard work has to stop.

As a keen runner and strength and conditioning coach it was definitely a concern of mine when deciding to travel overseas this year. I may not be an elite athlete but training, competing and staying in shape are engrained into me so it was difficult to think that I may not be able to maintain these. Too strong though was the lure of discovering the world around me while I was still young, thus I decided to take that metaphorical leap. Being a runner made maintaining my training a little easier given that all I needed was a pair of runners and a map… don’t want to get lost in a foreign city. Strength training would prove a little more difficult to adhere to, but given my work as a coach this was something I wanted to maintain as best as I could whilst away. With a little imagination and a keen eye there was no need to worry at all. Creativity is imperative on occasions when a gym is unavailable, however resistance bands, a bench, stairs or any other structure can serve as an able replacement.

Resistance bands are a fantastic tool for adding difficulty to an exercise when conventional weights are not available, while they are also super light weight and easy to pack. Further, many fantastic body weight exercises are effective at building strength and should be staples even when you have an abundance of equipment.

An example program is outlined below:

Warm-up (2 sets only)
1. Banded lateral walk/monster walk x10 each way
2. Banded fire hydrant x 10 e/s

Workout (3 sets ea.)
A1. S/L Squat x 10 e/s
A2. Push ups x 10
A3. SL hamstring bridge off bench x 10 e/s

(3 sets ea.)
B1. Reverse lunge x 10 e/s
B2. Banded rows x 10
B3. SL calf raises x 15 e/s

(2 sets only)
C1. Side plank x 45sec e/s
C2. Banded dead bug x 10 e/s



Keep in mind this is just an example which you can change depending on your sport/injuries/ability and what facilities you have around you. What else can I do? Bikes are in abundance around the world and are a fantastic cross training tool, while serving as an inexpensive way to see a city that you may be in. Pools are also universally available and generally quite affordable, again offering a cross training option with low impact which is ideal when away from your routine.

Flexibility is key when on holidays – be creative with your routine, and be open to change, i.e. planning training around activities. Diet structure may provide additional concerns when travelling; again look to be creative and cook yourself, or alternatively head out for a meal, researching establishments that sell freshly made dishes with an abundance of nutrients, although this may cost a little more. The occasional treat will not affect your training as long as a consistent diet is maintained, so go out and indulge in that local delicacy you’ve been eyeing off, and the mental benefits that come from this will likely outweigh the negative of the potentially poor nutritional value. Personally, I struggled thinking that if I tried too many of the unhealthy local dishes, my training would be impacted. With a little persuasion at the start of my trip and a conscious effort not to have too much, I have managed to try different foods from the countries that I have visited, all without it impacting my training.

If you are an athlete finishing school or university and dreaming of a big adventure overseas, but are a little anxious about how it may impact your training – prepare, be creative, have an open mind and you will manage to smash your training. When you are young with few commitments it is the perfect time to take that leap, so my advice is go out and explore, learn and develop, and most of all enjoy yourself!

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Work Station Stretches

‘Sitting is the new smoking’. Not only is sitting terrible for your posture, however it has been proven to increase your risk of chronic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, alongside noted detriment to your mental health. For office workers and students alike – particularly leading into exam period, the postural integrity of the public is in danger. How often is it that you find yourself hunched over a computer screen, perhaps even experiencing tightness or pain? You  might stand up tall, do a few spins from side to side before resuming your slouched posture thinking you’ve ‘reset’; unfortunately, that’s not going to cut it, but we’ve got some exercises, when paired with periods of standing and an awareness of sitting with appropriate posture that will. 

Hip Flexor Stretch

Two main areas cop it during prolonged periods of sitting – the hips, and of course the upper back/neck. Looking to the anatomy of the hips, maintaining constant flexion puts the hip flexors in a shortened state which due to their attachment points over time will pull the pelvis into an anteriorly tilted position. This can lead to a pronounced lower back curve which often results in lower back pain. The apparent fix to this is avoid the hip flexors shortening, or if this is already occurring, aim to provide them with some lengthening strategies. A method of doing so is the classic ‘hip flexor stretch’, however we have a few cues which will maximise the effectiveness of this. 

Looking to the above photo, some vital points are:

  • Stay tall through the body
  • Contract the glute of the straightened leg
  • Rather that pushing your hips through and over stretching, try to ‘tuck your tailbone’
  • To feel a greater stretch, reach your arm up on the lengthened side, and while keeping your chest tall, lean across your body

Where possible, complete 2 reps on each side, holding the stretch for at least 30 seconds. 

Reach Through

In a prolonged hunched posture, the muscles around the thoracic spine become stiff and will struggle to maintain range in both brining your chest up tall and achieving rotation. A remedy for this is the ‘reach through’ exercise.

Important notes for the reach through are:

  • Keep the body square (i.e. hips stay level)
  • Keep the non-moving arm straight with your chest up tall
  • Reach through as far as possible
  • Rotate away from the body thinking about these points as well
  • Follow your hand with your eyes
  • Move through the movement nice and slow, looking to reach a little further each rep

Complete 2 sets of 4 reps each direction.

Cobra

Our third and final exercise is the ‘cobra with lat walk’, which provides some additional mobility around the both the pelvis and thoracic spine. 

We suggest:

  • In the cobra position, look upwards and show your chest to the sky
  • Slowly rotate the body side to side 2 times each way
  • In the puppy position get your chest and elbows as low to the ground as possible
  • Walk hands around to the side while maintaining this low position to feel a lat stretch, holding for 5 seconds 

Complete 3 reps each side in each position. 

While these mobility drills may seem taxing or silly, completing these 1-2 times per day could save your posture, improve your mental state and decrease the risk of chronic disease. This will help you perform better as not only an athlete, but as a person – that’s worth it, isn’t it? If you have any questions or would like some further stretches tailored to your needs, get in touch with the team at RAD.

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Recovery Essentials

Recovery is an important consideration for athletes at any level, whether you are an Olympic athlete representing your country or a community level player with your local sporting club. Being able to recover more efficiently means that we can reduce the effects of fatigue and therefore perform better in subsequent training and competition. The main aims of recovery are to:

  • repair muscle damage
  • reduce muscle soreness
  • clear metabolic waste
  • refuel energy stores.

The three most crucial components of recovery are things that we do in everyday life: sleeping, eating and drinking. While we may do these all the time, we need to ensure that we do them well!

Sleep

Sleep is essential for our bodies to function and the negative effects of having a lack of sleep are well documented. In terms of recovery, ensuring that we get adequate sleep is of paramount importance. The exact amount of sleep that we need each night can differ between individuals; however, the recommended amount for healthy adults is 7-9 hours with adolescents generally needing a bit more. The time we are sleeping is when our bodies have the best opportunity to recover. Sleeping for longer enhances the body’s resistance to fatigue and improves markers of recovery in the blood. In contrast, a lack of sleep can impede the repair and adaptation of our muscles.

Try and keep a set routine for your sleep:

  • Go to bed at a similar time every night
  • Wake up at a similar time each morning
  • Have a set pattern before going to sleep to help wind you down and become relaxed

More information on the importance of sleep for athletes is available in our earlier blog post at https://radcentre.com.au/why-sleep-is-so-important-for-athletes/

Nutrition

After a game or training session you have began to ’empty the fuel tank’ – therefor it is super important to refuel and put some ‘good petrol’ back in the tank. Eating a meal or snack that is rich in protein and carbohydrates is important for recovery following fatiguing exercise. Consuming carbohydrates helps to replenish our energy stores that are used during exercise, meaning we can have the energy needed to exercise again sooner. Protein is essential for repairing and building our muscles. Having enough protein available in our bodies ensures that these processes can work effectively. Getting our recovery nutrition right is especially important when we need to perform exercise again the next day.

Some food options post training/game:

  • Lean chicken and salad roll
  • Bowl of muesli with yoghurt and berries
  • Fresh fruit salad topped with Greek yoghurt
  • Spaghetti with lean beef bolognaise sauce
  • Chicken burrito with salad and cheese
  • Small tin of tuna on crackers plus a banana

More information on nutrition and hydration for recovery can be found at https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/factsheets/fuelling-recovery/recovery-nutrition/

Hydration

Re-hydration is another key component of recovery. During fatiguing exercise, especially in warm conditions, the body loses fluids and electrolytes through sweat. It is important to replenish these in the early stages of recovery to prevent dehydration and to ensure that we are adequately hydrated if we are exercising again soon. The recommendation for how much fluid you should intake after exercise is that it should be greater than the amount of weight that is lost through sweat. A general guide is about 1.5L for every 1kg of body weight lost.

Water alone is an adequate source of re-hydration and paired with a snack or meal can be effective to meet your recovery nutrition needs, however it may be helpful to include a sports/dairy drink if food is not available or practical.

Additional Methods

Other common practices that can enhance our recovery include stretching, massage, hydrotherapies and compression garments (this can include commonly worn garments such as tights as well as modalities such as Normatec Boots). These are extra things we do to provide an added benefit, but they should not form the base of our recovery strategy.

We will discuss all of these additional methods in further detail in an upcoming post. Diving into the finer details of how each method works and if it is the right fit for you.

Take home message

As a general rule, our recovery practices should be treated just like any other aspects of our training and performance. The main priority should be to ensure that we are doing the fundamentals right first (sleep, nutrition and hydration) and then we can include the additional things that help to give us extra benefits.

References

  1. Maughan RJ and Shirreffs SM. Recovery from prolonged exercise: Restoration of water and electrolyte balance. Journal of Sports Sciences 15: 297-303, 1997.
  2. National Sleep Foundation, Sleep needs across the lifespan. http://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/files/pdfs/Sleep-Needs-Across-Lifespan.pdf
  3. Samuels C. Sleep, recovery, and performance: The new frontier in high-performance athletics. Neurologic clinics 26: 169-180, 2008.
  4. Sports Dieticians Australia, Recovery nutrition. https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/factsheets/fuelling-recovery/recovery-nutrition/
  5. Versey NG, Halson SL, and Dawson BT. Water Immersion Recovery for Athletes: Effect on Exercise Performance and Practical Recommendations. Sports Medicine 43: 1101-1130, 2013.