As anybody who’s experienced it knows lower back pain can be debilitating. It’s also a pretty common health complaint—around 80% of adults have experienced back pain in their lives.
As excruciating as lower back pain can be, there are ways to manage it. Many people find relief from engaging in certain stretches and physical positions to ease the pain. However, before you jump to fix a symptom, it’s helpful to find the actual source of your lower back pain. That will ensure that you’re taking the proper steps to prevent future pain and staying on top of your physical health.
What Causes Lower Back Pain?
Before you address your lower back pain, try to pinpoint why it’s happening. Here are some of the common causes:
If you feel that your lower back pain has increased since starting a new job where you sit a lot, you might be onto something. Prolonged periods of sitting down have been shown to increase lower back pain. We’re not just talking about hours spent at the office, either. If you’re constantly sitting behind the wheel of a car or spend all of your free time on your couch, this type of pain may affect you as well.
In some cases, lower back pain can be attributed to a physical strain. This can either come about as a one-off or it can become a chronic condition. Chronic lower back pain is common in those who perform repetitive actions in their daily lives, either through work or physical activity.
As if abdominal cramping wasn’t enough, many women experience lower back pain during their monthly menstrual cycle. Though this is common, it’s best to see a doctor if the pain is consistently excruciating, as it may indicate a larger gynecological issue.
Sometimes lower back pain can be indicative of a larger health issue, like fibromyalgia or kidney stones. If you can’t seem to kick the pain, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor.
When your center is unstable, things start to feel out of whack. One of the most common causes for lower back pain is a weak core—that’s actually great news, because it’s something you can easily fix. Working with a fitness coach to strengthen your core won’t just help your lower back pain, it’ll set you up to succeed in other physical environments.
An injury can certainly contribute to lower back pain. Perhaps you lifted something wrong, took a spill, or had an accident on the playing field.
Is Lower Back Pain Harmful?
Unless it’s persistent and severe, lower back pain generally isn’t indicative of anything too terrible. However, as we outlined above, it can be connected to health issues like fibromyalgia; it can also be a warning sign of impending kidney stones. If you cannot find relief from your lower back pain, it’s recommended you seek medical help.
Can Stretches Ease My Lower Back Pain?
Lots of people suffering from lower back pain find relief from certain stretches. Regularly practicing these stretches can also help to prevent future pain. Here at Jack City Fitness, we’re pretty well-versed in the practice of targeting certain areas through stretching and exercise. Here are some of our tried-and-true stretches for easing lower back pain:
This move is one of our favorites, as you can do it while standing. That makes it a great quick stretch when lower back pain hits while you’re on the train, at work, or out with friends. It’s also a great preventative stretch; it engages and strengthens your core and will contribute to better posture.
To perform this stretch:
This stretch is fantastic for easing and preventing lower back pain, as it is a brilliant core-strengthener.
To perform a bridge:
This stretch really does work magic when easing lower back pain. It elongates the back, and can even be a useful sleeping position for those who experience pain when they’re trying to sleep. With that said, if your pain worsens while performing this stretch, stop immediately.
To perform this stretch:
Whether you prefer canines or felines, the cat scratch stretch will be your new secret weapon for back pain relief and prevention. This move, which gets its name from—you guessed it—the elaborate stretches performed by our furry friends, strengthens and lengthens the (human) back, and helps ease muscle tension. Meowing is optional!
To perform this stretch:
This stretch works your hip flexors, which affect your posture and ultimately your lower back health. Performing kneeling lunges will also help your mobility, thus reducing soreness after you hit the gym. Win-win.
To perform this stretch:
Be your own hero by practicing a stretch that helps ease and prevent your lower back pain. The superhero stretch is a great exercise for this particular area, as it strengthens your back extensors.
To bring out your own super-strength (and alleviate lower back pain), follow these steps:
If lower back pain hits while you’re sitting down, there’s no need to suffer in silence. A seated lower back stretch can be done from anywhere: your cubicle, an airplane seat, during jury duty— wherever you’re stuck in a chair.
To perform this stretch, get into an armless chair and:
Yoga enthusiasts may recognize this pose from some of their sessions. Unlike the other stretches we’ve covered here, the Sphinx pose is one that you’ll hold for a couple of minutes rather than perform in reps. It’s a great way to both relieve lower back pain and unwind after a tiring day.
Those with chronic injuries should check with a professional before engaging in this particular pose.
To perform this stretch:
The stronger your abs are, the happier your lower back will be. The pelvic tilt is a fantastic stretch for your abdominal muscles, hamstrings, and glues. Performing this can really help loosen up your back.
To try the pelvic tilt:
These are some of our favorite stretches for lower back pain, but they’re not the only ones. The world of stretches and exercises is so vast. Every athlete we know has their own favorite workout or pose, and we encourage you to try new stretches to find some that work for you.
Here at Jack City Fitness, we’ve got a team of experts with a passion for fitness and nutrition; we even have a specialist yoga instructor. With our combined knowledge and experience, it’s easy to create a workout plan that suits your individual needs. Whether that’s strengthening your core to avoid pain, learning a new athletic skill, honing your sports performance, or something else entirely, we’ve got your (lower) back.
If you’re in the city, we’d love for you to come and visit our fitness center in Boise Junction. Once you arrive, we can give you a tour of our innovative facility, introduce you to some of our specialists, and let you peek into some of our classes. We’ll even invite you to try your own fitness consultation for free, so it’ll be easier to make you a custom plan.
If you decide to join us and become a partner, you’ll have instant 24/7 access to our gym, as well as a fantastic schedule of classes to try. We even offer custom training options, like online coaching and team sessions. Best of all, we’re always here to offer support and suggestions.
The bottom line? If it involves movement, you can count on us, so get in touch today. You can call (208) 999-1111 or drop us a line right here online. We’ll get back to you ASAP—we can’t wait to help you meet your goals.
Going to Jack City Fitness for your next training sesh? Don’t forget to warm up! We’re utilizing our favorite yoga poses to warm up for our days at the gym. Check out our handy guide for a few of our favorite ways to get the blood flowing, yoga style. 
Best Yoga Poses to Do Before Working Out
Ready for your best workout yet? Why not take a page out of the book of your favorite yogis? Swap these poses for your regular warm-up routine and you’ll be surprised by how ready your body feels to hit the gym.
Start your warm-up with this classic pose to get your blood flowing, your spine lengthened, and your body moving.
Begin this pose with your hands, knees and toes on the ground. Your arms should be straight and shoulder-width apart. Push your hips skywards, lifting up your knees and putting your weight onto your toes and hands. Engage your core and keep your arms straight, but legs can be bent.
Beginning a workout with the Dolphin Pose will give your hams, calves, shoulders, and arches the stretch they need.
Begin the Dolphin on your elbows and knees, with your hands interlocked. Tuck your toes and lift your hips and knees away from the ground. Keep your head facing your mat.
Time to open up those hips and give your legs another stretch with the fundamental Triangle Pose.
Begin by planting yourself into a wide standing position on your mat, with your body rotated to the right and your right foot pointed out. Spread your arms so your wrists are above your feet, and pull your hip bone towards the right side— your right hand should hang down while your left hand extends skywards, creating one long line. Slowly reach your right hand towards your foot and grab your toe. Look up at your left fingers. Come up to the center and repeat on the left side.
Give yourself another stretch and open up your chest and shoulders with Warrior 1, among the most fundamental and recognizable of all yoga poses.
Begin with a Mountain Pose (feet planted together, hands together and to the chest.) Step your left leg backward and bring your hands down to your hips. Bend your right knee and bring your left hip forward. Lift both arms upwards on an inhale. Hold. On an exhale, bring your arms back to your side and step back into Mountain Pose. Repeat on the other side.
Now that you’re a posing pro, it’s time to get moving! Your workout will thank you…and in turn, so will your body.
If these yoga poses have inspired you, there’s plenty more where that came from! Our team at Jack City Fitness is thrilled to announce that we now offer yoga classes as a part of our weekly class schedule. Come visit us today to learn the basics, hone your skills, or continue to fall in love with the practice, just like our talented instructor, Mackenzie.
Aside from fantastic yoga instruction, our state of the
art fitness center offers 24/7 gym
access, personal fitness and nutrition coaching, and even customizable online courses. We work with your needs, not the other way around—and
we can’t wait to show you what we have to offer! 
Looking to step up your physical form? There are countless ways to stay fit, healthy, and active— something for every body type or workout style imaginable. Though exercise spans hundreds of activities, there’s one in particular that seems to define fitness and workout culture. We love weightlifting for its accessibility— it attracts people from all walks of life, and can easily be tailored to an individual’s needs— as well as its ability to make a person look and feel incredible.
Whether it’s rippling muscles or better bone health that you’re after, weightlifting is likely your best choice. Curious about the many benefits of this diverse and effective workout? Read on.
For many, this is the primary reason to start lifting weights. After all, weightlifting is essentially strength training! Maintaining healthy muscle strength is incredibly important, especially as you (and your body) ages. Every year, those with weak muscles may find daily activities more difficult than in the past. You can’t reverse time, but with weightlifting, you can prepare your body for more wear and tear by keeping your muscles powerful and healthy. Weight training is a tried and true way to do that.
The secret to a jaw-dropping weight-loss transformation is actually pretty simple. Weightlifting is an incredibly straightforward form of exercise, especially under the guidance of a good fitness coach.Once you get the hang of it, you’ve unlocked a myriad of ways to reduce your body fat.
As it turns out, weightlifting builds a certain type of muscle fiber: type II.These fibers actually increase your whole-body metabolic rate. Scientific research has shown that an increased whole-body metabolic rate can result in fat reduction and weight loss without any changes to the diet.
Weightlifting requires dedication, structure, and patience. Though you may not think you hold these traits, you’ll find that they might become more present as you begin regularly lifting. After all, every weight training session that you finish was likely accomplished by having a plan and sticking to it. When you build muscle mass, that’s because you were patient and stuck to your plans. It connects your mind and body in a really important way; by planning your lifting workout, you are enabling them to work as one.
All of this can easily be applied to your everyday life. Whether it’s related to your job, your love life, your family, your travel plans, or even what you’re cooking for dinner, the organization, patience, and “can-do” attitude that lifting has given you will translate to those endeavors.
Many people think that fitness is purely physical. While a large amount of our world revolves around body health, it’s crucial to look after your mental health— and weightlifting is a great way to do so.
Actually, for many athletes, the endorphin-producing abilities of exercise are one of their main reasons for staying active. Though aerobic activity gets much of the glory for this, strength training has been proven to be just as effective in terms of battling depressionand is a known stress-reduceras well as an effective form of managing anxiety.
Changing your eating habits is so difficult. Often, what we eat is tied up with a number of other elements, like your colleagues ordering delivery every afternoon, the limited palate of your picky kids, or a decades-old habit of eating junk food in front of the TV in the evenings. In these cases, temptation often prevails over the special diet you’re currently keeping.
By maintaining a regular weight training schedule, you actually might find that you’re more motivated to stick to your diet. In a University of Pittsburgh study, researchers found that those who stuck to a regular exercise schedule also were able to maintain a daily calorie count of 1,500.
Weight lifting is known to be beneficial for your cardiovascular system. The improved blood pressure that your body will enjoy from regular weight training will keep your ticker in top shape. It’ll help you avoid developing heart disease, as well as hypertension, which in turn will help to prevent a heart attack or stroke down the line. 
Everybody has a different preference for getting fit. Many of us live for exercising in a group setting, some prefer one-on-one sessions with a coach, while others prefer to work out entirely on their own. Everybody is unique, and weightlifting suits many workout types. However, for people who prefer to exercise solo, weightlifting can be especially appealing.
With weightlifting, you can work as quickly or slowly as you want— and on your own schedule. Because of this, it’s a workout that can be easily threaded into your own schedule and lifestyle, no matter how that changes over time. Some athletes prefer to lift alongside a qualified fitness coach; they will work at your preferred pace and schedule while making sure you are hitting the appropriate milestones and using correct form.
We all have goals, and likely, not all of them are fitness-related. Though muscle gain might be on your goal list, weightlifting will help you achieve far more than that. After all, your weight training experience has perfectly prepared you to go about your life in a goal-oriented manner. This happens for a couple of reasons.
First, your refreshed mind and body will be working more effectively due to your increased fitness. A study has found that, on gym days, professionals are more likely to be 15% more productive at work than the days that they skip it.Your higher productivity levels will make goal-setting and reaching much more palpable.
Second, you will feel more comfortable with goal-setting once you are in a regular lifting routine. After all, every workout session that you undergo is the result of goal-setting. Every time you gain muscle mass, you’re hitting a longer-term goal. This is something you can do in your gym life, so it’s something you can do in your daily life. Setting long-term goals for your future, like buying a house, nailing your dream job, or learning a new skill, can all be treated with the same attitude as your workout.
Tired of being tired? Nodding off at work and feeling too sluggish to participate in your favorite activities? Feeling too exhausted to function all day, but suffering from disjointed sleep at night?
Weightlifting is your solution in more ways than one. After all, any form of exercise is a known provider of energizing endorphins. This certainly applies to weight and strength training! Not only does this workout pump extra energizing endorphins through your body, but studies have proven that it will also provide a more peaceful and less disruptive night’s sleep.
When we think about weight training, muscles tend to be the first thing that people think about. Though it’s an accurate image— as weightlifting can provide you with some pretty impressive muscular definition— it’s not the whole story. The truth is, many parts of your body will benefit from this form of exercise. As we mentioned earlier, weight training is bound to help your heart, your mind, and weight. But the benefits don’t stop there. Weightlifting is great for your bone health. By practicing weight training, you are improving your body’s bone density, as well as their structural strength. This is a particularly important benefit to pay mind to as you get older; after you turn 30, your bone density production begins to taper off, which can eventually result in pain, breaks, or osteoporosis.
Want to step up your game? No matter what your sport or exercise of choice may be, there’s always room for improvement. Weightlifting can be a fantastic resource for this type of training.
Weight training improves your athletic performance by strengthening other skills, like:
The less physical pain you feel on a daily basis, the more motivated you’ll feel to exercise, right? Luckily, regular weight training can actually help to avoid certain common pain areas.
Back pain, in particular, is a familiar source of bodily discomfort for many— especially those who sit at a desk or counter all day for their job. Weight training is a great way to strengthen your core, which in turn supports your back during long periods of sitting.
Why try to put it any other way? Weight lifting has been reigning as fitness royalty for decades. Why? Simple: because people love how it feels.
Ever heard of “tension and release?” It’s a music term that refers to instrumental or vocal “tension” building throughout a song. When the beat drops, the tone changes, or the rhythm resolves, that musical tension is released. As a result, the listener is satisfied. It’s part of what makes music so compelling.
Tension and release is also a perfect way to think of and describe a great weight session. Lifting and holding a heavy set of weights is tough work, no matter how often you train— and the release always feels absolutely incredible. Enjoy that feeling. You’ve earned it.
What are you waiting for? It’s time to get lifting!
At Jack City Fitness, we have everything you need to maintain the perfect weightlifting routine, whether you’ve been doing it for years, or are excited to try for the very first time. Want to learn more? Come and say hello! We’re located in the heart of Boise, Idaho— and we’re a favorite among the locals. But don’t just take our word for it. Give us a call today, and we’ll set you up for a complimentary fitness consultation and tour of the fitness center. Once you’re ready to sign up, you’ll become a Jack City Partner— and that includes all kinds of perks! With a Jack City Fitness Partnership, you can expect:
We’re waiting for you! Come visit Jack City Fitness today and see how weightlifting can up YOUR game.
Your Guide to the Muscle and Mind Connection
What is it, and how can you get started?
Are the Rumors True?
Your favorite bodybuilder has been tweeting about it all week. Your fitness coach casually mentioned it in passing this morning. Your gym buddies have been talking about it constantly. The muscle and mind connection has certainly become a hot topic in the fitness and bodybuilding world. However, for many, it’s a new concept that needs to be learned and understood.
In a nutshell, the muscle and mind connection is pretty similar to what it sounds like. Essentially, it’s the concept of harnessing the potent strength of your own brain, and using it to enhance your physical abilities. More specifically, the MMC theory involves focusing specifically on a certain body part or muscle while undergoing training. According to enthusiasts of the technique, thinking about a specific part of the body while lifting or training can activate the targeted muscle, allowing it to be more receptive to the exercise.
It’s an appealing theory, and it does make sense. But is it actually true in practice? As it turns out, the answer could very well be a yes. According to research done by Brad Schoenfeld and Bret Contreras, a pair of Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists, there is quite a bit of validity to the supposed power of Mind and Muscle Connection.
When Schoenfeld and Contreras conducted their research, they found that, especially when lifting lighter loads, it was indeed possible to use your mind to “increase activation of the target muscle.”
The Power of a Focused Mind
Most fitness centers are bustling and busy places. That’s part of why so many people chose to join one instead of working out at home. It’s energizing, social, and inspiring to work out amongst your peers. However, it can be distracting— and focus is key for the Mind and Muscle Connection. From overhearing the strains of an enticing looking class, or the laughter of a few gym friends catching up after a session, to the lure of whatever soap opera is playing on the overhead television sets, there are plenty of ways to get distracted while training.
If you’re ready to try your hand (and muscles) on the MMC theory, it’s entirely possible to accomplish at a buzzing gym or fitness center. As we’ve learned more about the power of the Muscle and Mind Connection, we’ve come up with a few helpful hints for staying focused, even when it feels practically impossible:
There’s a reason that humans have been using mantras (like the famous “om”) for centuries to focus their minds, spirits, and bodies. Chanting “om” has a long spiritual history in the Hindu tradition, and is often used in yoga practice. However, it can be used in plenty of other situations, including weight training. In fact, it can be a powerful tool in harnessing the power of the Mind and Muscle connection.
When you chant “om,” you will begin to feel a physical vibration in your chest and throat. These vibrations are thought to produce a deep sense of focus. Really, it’s a very similar concept to that of MMC, but it’s been flipped and reversed.
The less thought you need to put into the logistics of your routine, the easier it will be to keep your mind focused on one particular muscle. After all, how can you expect to fully concentrate if you have a million concerns swirling around your brain?
A helpful way to ditch some of the background noise is to get into such a solid workout routine that you don’t even need to think twice about what comes next. You’ll just let your muscle memory do the work— it’s a symbiotic relationship, really.
Let’s try something, just while you’re sitting and reading this. Take a moment to breathe properly. Take in a big steady breath through your nose, as deeply as you can. Hold it for a moment, and then breathe out, slowly and deliberately, through your mouth. Repeat that process for a full minute.
Do you feel a bit steadier than you did before? Calmer? More focused?
When you truly focus on your breathing, you are giving your body a special gift. Concentrated breathing is a great way to soothe a scattered mind— it increases focus and calms the body; it can release tension and relax your muscles, hence making them more receptive to the powers of MMC.
Grab your favorite pair of sweat-proof headphones, because it’s time to let the power of sound enhance your workout. Whether you choose a specialized workout meditation track, utilize a focus-based binaural beat, or enjoy your favorite chilled out songs, you’ll be able to unplug from your surroundings and fall deeper into a sense of concentration.
Slow and Steady Wins in the Long Run
Your physical training routine is a personal journey, not a race. There is absolutely no reason to rush your fitness process, and that applies even more so when you are practicing the Muscle and Mind Connection theory.
As you develop your relationship with MMC, you will likely find that the more intentional and slow your actions are, the easier it is for you to connect your internal movements and thoughts with your physical ones.
This may not be what you’re used to. If you need help slowing down, it can be helpful to take advantage of the following tips:
Between sets, it’s helpful to actually flex the muscle that you’re working with. By doing this, you’re increasing blood flow to your muscles, allowing them to pump up to their fullest ability. Once they’ve been pumped up, they are thought to be more receptive to the focused, targeted MMC thinking you’re engaging in.
When you’re lifting, there’s no reason to tear through your reps. In fact, we would advise against that. Instead, take a break between each of your sets. Not only is it easier on your body, it gives your brain a much-deserved chance to reconfigure and take a break before buckling down to focus on your next set. Likely, you’ll find that taking a breather between your hard work encourages you to actually continue with the intense mental activity that you’ve been engaging in, instead of letting your concentration levels taper away.
This is a great tip for those training with lighter weights. As you work with your weights, try to take 4-5 seconds for each movement. Finally, when you hit your max contraction point, give your pose a pause. You’ll certainly feel it— and so will your growing muscles.
Rethink Your Loftier Goals…and Aim for Attainable Victories
For many lifters, fitness enthusiasts, and athletes, one of the most appealing elements of the Muscle and Mind Connection is its ability to hone in on specific targets and goals, and how it helps to reach them.
Look, we’re all for dreaming big and working towards hefty goals. However, it’s important to be realistic about the expectations you’re giving yourself. Having an ultimate goal is great, but it will be a smart idea to break your process down into smaller, more attainable targets.
When it comes to fitness, weight training, and bodybuilding, many people walk into the gym with a specific long term result in mind. Maybe your goal is to lose 50 pounds. Maybe it’s to easily lift 150. Perhaps you want a perfect six-pack or bulging pectoral muscles. That all depends on your personal needs— but the truth is, those specific goals are not actually what matters. It’s also going to be different for every person.
No matter what your goal may be, by breaking it down into manageable and accomplishable victories, you are more able to achieve them in a successful and healthy manner.
If you’ve never broken down a set of goals before, it might seem like an overwhelming process. However, it not only can be very clarifying and a helpful way to work on achieving your targets, but also it can be fun.
This logic can be applied to anything in your life, from finishing a massive project for school or work to learning a new skill, like an instrument or a language. No matter what the final goal may be, that’s for the finish line. Before you can hit that, you need to start brainstorming some “milestones” to hit.
What do you think you could realistically accomplish with one week’s work? One month? One year? Map it out and be honest with yourself—there’s no point of setting unrealistic milestones, as they won’t do anything to deliver you to your final target.
When it comes to fitness goals, this can be done in quite a few ways. Start thinking of small ways to work up to your big goal. So, if that means lifting twice as much as you currently can, try working up a few extra pounds every week— and keep track of them. If your goal is shedding a few extra pounds off your own figure, give yourself a weekly weigh-in, with a small goal to hit each time. It’s important not to beat yourself up if you don’t hit your weekly goals every time— that’s why you’ve broken it into smaller pieces. Try again next week. Don’t give up— that’s never going to bring you to the finish.
As the old adage says, “if you give a man fish, he’ll eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat fish for the rest of his life.” There are plenty of ways to quickly build muscle or lose weight, but these techniques aren’t always very long lasting. It’s far wiser to hone a performance skill that can bring you to a long-term fitness goal, rather than just trying to find a quick fix.
Utilizing the Muscle and Mind Connection technique is a great way to put this concept into practice. By giving individual muscles special attention in each training session you undertake, you are honing your individual performance— not just trying to accomplish a “big picture” goal. In turn, you’ll be developing tools and strength that can and will bring you across the finish line to your final goal.
When it comes to your body, it’s best not to take any chances. If you have a question about the best way to strengthen your body, whether it’s through the Muscle and Mind Connection, or another fitness technique that speaks to you, it’s a good idea to speak with a professional. After all, they’re the experts.
In bustling Boise, there’s no better place to meet your fitness goals and hone your Muscle and Mind Connection than here at Jack City Fitness. By signing up for one of our exclusive partnerships, you are joining a special group of like-minded individuals who want to feel their best in a supportive and inspiring environment.
Jack City Fitness partners are invited to have full access to our sparkling, modern gym facility—24 hours a day! That’s right; with us, your workout can revolve around your busy life— not the other way around. But that’s certainly not all. We offer a large selection of group workout classes, one-on-one training sessions, nutritional counseling, and even online coursesfor when you’re on the go. Best of all, we offer a complimentary fitness consultationsession to every new partner. It helps us to determine your health and fitness goals, and help you achieve them in a way that works for you, your unique lifestyle and body.
Are you ready to let your mind and body work to their fullest potential? Allow us to help make your goals a fully attainable reality! Get in touch with our team at Jack City Fitness today, and we’ll ensure that your muscles and mind are in tip-top condition. We can’t wait to show you everything we have to offer!
It was just this morning. I was in my usual morning daze, coffee in hand. Focused on making my way to the break room, I overheard a conversation that immediately provoked me from my coma-like state. “I can barely walk because my legs hurt so bad,” they said. It was not that I wanted to eavesdrop on the conversation, but it was my client participating in a group class. In that moment, I certainly hoped I was not the cause of the alleged leg pain as it had been at least three days since we last trained. Naturally, I tuned into the remainder of the conversation. Long story short, the culprit was a ridiculously high volume of back squats the day before. OUCH! The inadvertent eavesdrop session left only one question: why?
Throughout an individuals’ life, and regardless of professional athlete, exerciser, or straight-up gym enthusiast, everyone has a goal. A reason they do what they do. Maybe it’s dominating Boise’s 13-mile uphill race, Robie Creek, a little faster this year. Perhaps that next powerlifting or weightlifting competition has your name on it. Or maybe, you just want to feel and move better.
Nevertheless, a goal has been established and you have given yourself a reason, a why. One thing I want to make clear: goals are not without challenge. Goals are not without pain. Having said this, how can you not only reach your goals but continue past them without injury? Have a plan and STAY IN YOUR LANE.
Personally, I love competition. Training for something specific not only gives me a goal but drives me to better myself. It challenges me to make specific sacrifices. One of my favorite quotes comes to mind. Stay the Course! Specifically, train like your favorite athlete would.
Something I believe most individuals miss is that even pro athletes must take rest days. Even Elite Level Crossfitters must follow a periodized (rest time included) training regime. How else did they get that strong? That fast? That conditioned to stop failure in its tracks?
Train hard so that you can rest hard. And before completely destroying yourself, have a reason. Give yourself a why!
Jack City Fitness Fitness Coach
As parents, we want what is best for our kids, right? If your son or daughter’s dream is to play college sports, professional sports, or to be the best they can in their specific sport, their training needs to match that goal. They need training that is smart and safe in order to become elite athletes.
More and more I see kids playing a sport multiple times a day, every day of the week, with no real offseason. On top of that, they are also incorporating strength training as well as speed and agility. This idea that more training and playing year-round is going to help them become better athletes is not always true.
What is Smart Training?
We need to shift our thinking to smarter, more efficient training and recovery for young athletes. This is going to be the key to your child’s success. It’s time to let go of the idea that destroying them anytime they walk into a gym or onto the field is going to improve their performance. This also means letting go of the idea of early specialization. Early specialization is when your child is intensely training year round for one sport. Contrary to most beliefs, delaying this will reduce injury and lead to further success.
Take a Look at the Pros
Some of the best professional athletes were playing multiple sports growing up. They weren’t focused on just one sport. What does that tell us? It means that early specialization isn’t the recipe for success, and it won’t take that kind of approach for your child to become an elite athlete.
Cons of Early Specialization
Early specialization in a sport will most likely lead to injuries due to overuse, which will setback your child’s athletic career. This can cause psychological stress that leads to burnout and possibly even quitting the sport they loved.
Overuse injuries occur from doing repetitive movements and participating in too much activity too quickly. Overuse injuries unique to young athletes include apophyseal injuries (inflammation at the site of a major tendinous insertion onto a growing bony prominence) and physical (growth plate) stress injuries.
According to a study done in 2017 on the association of sports specialization and training volume with injury history in youth (where over 2 thousand kids ages 12-18 were questioned) recommends playing in a specific sport less than eight months out of the year and limiting participation to fewer hours per week than the child’s age.
So What’s Best for Young Athletes?
Having your child play in a variety of sports is recommended in order to develop the diverse skills they need. We need to educate parents and coaches about the risks of overuse injuries. Training needs to be foundational. Young kids working on sport specific training such as speed and agility work, ladder drills, etc. does not lead to better performance.
Youth athletes working on speed and agility will eventually plateau and not improve without first building a foundation of strength. You must be able to generate high amounts of force against an external load to be fast. The stronger you are, the more force that will be applied. This will improve their acceleration, speed, and agility.
Here’s the Key
Becoming stronger is the key factor in building a foundation and improving your power, speed, and agility. However, adding weight too quickly while neglecting form and technique will lead to plateaus and even worse, injury. Youth athletes should be developing proper movement patterns and motor control. Remember, the quality of training is highly favored over quantity. A well-supervised program will lead youth athletes to success.
Also, making sure that your child is getting adequate time between practices and training, quality sleep, and sufficient hydration are all equally important. Dehydration leads to poorer cognitive function and motor skills that lead to poor training and sports performance.
Physical, cognitive, and social maturity, as well as proprioception, play key roles to determine when it is a good time to start strength training.
What’s the Ultimate Goal?
The goal is to train your child for the longevity of their athletic career and their life. The chances of your child playing professionally, unfortunately, are slim. To put this into perspective, there are 8 million kids playing youth sports while less than 500 thousand are going to play for college. There is only a little over one percent that play professionally in basketball, football, and soccer. Nine percent end up making it in baseball, and six point four percent make it in hockey. So let’s not hurt them in pursuit of a dream that may or may not come true. We should be more focused on long-term health and development.
Jack City Fitness
Determine Your Tomorrow
I think the famous quote by Jerry Rice goes something like, “do today what others won’t so that tomorrow you can do what others can’t”. In a town nobody cares to remember, with a population of next-to-nothing, Matt Paradis grew up playing 8-man football. Those facts alone, I would say he started at a bit of a disadvantage.
In 2008, Matt graduated high school with aspirations to continue his athletic career at Boise State University. But as one might assume coming from such a tiny team, Matt did not receive any scholarships or even an invite to check out the Boise State Football facility. Apparently he was all but laughed away when he attempted to walk on with the team.
It was certainly not because Boise State could not use him. The problem was that enough time simply did not exist for Matt to learn 11-man football at a level enabling him to play at the collegiate level. Every attempt was made to get Matt to quit, to walk away. The word “grit” may be the only way to define how Matt Paradis stuck out this situation. Grit is defined as courage, resolve or strength of character. It is a relentless pursuit and will to be the best.
Two years as a Red-Shirt and three seasons as Boise State’s Starting Center, Matt received several prestigious awards before the end of the 2014 season. With several injuries that would undeniably retire anyone from football, Matt’s dreams proved much larger.
Invited to participate in the 2014 NFL Combine as well as Boise State’s pro day, Matt finished in the middle of the pack. Again, something that would make everyone else question their own ability. Then in the 6thround of the NFL Draft, Matt was picked up by the Denver Broncos. The fact that Matt never quit still blows my mind to this day.
However, after a short training camp, Matt was dropped to Training Squad then again to Reserve. It would not be until the following year that Matt would get another shot at earning his place on the roster. In 2015, Matt started as the Center for the Denver Broncos. That year, the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl. Matt was ranked as the Best Center in the NFL and earned the largest performance-based bonus of any player in the NFL for 2015. Matt is still the Starting Center for the Denver Broncos to this day.
Breaking it Down…
It’s true none of us are competing for a spot on the football roster, although, stories about struggle and sacrifice always seem to hit home. Especially when the story is true. The question is, why does one goal have to outweigh another?
It is said that making it to the gym is the hardest part. But if that were true, you should have just stayed in bed. Sleep is much more important than a mediocre attempt at reaching for your goals. What if it means more than just simply exercising? Reaching for your goals means you, and only you, must make the decision to train.
Training means showing up, even when you don’t want to. It means showing up, even when the programmed training session is the last thing you want to do.
I often wonder how Matt made it through all those grueling practices and training sessions knowing that he probably wouldn’t get to play any time soon. Was it that he loved the game or was it because he fell in love with the process? (The process that made him the Most Valuable Center in the NFL.)
In the end, he found that the result was worth the process. Unfortunately, many of us fail to value the result enough to fall in love with the process. Many of us avoid the process because it means hitting the time cap after you chose to work through full range of motion rather than just getting through it. It means slowing down to do it right and possibly getting last place because of it. It means listening to the person you hired to get you the result, your coach. J.P. Auclair said, “If the process is what you love most, every expedition is successful whether you get to the top or not”.
What you do today, determines your result tomorrow.
Photo Credit: USA TODAY
I watched a video yesterday about Professional triathlete Jan Frodeno, the reigning Ironman World Champion. It was a video outlining “a day in the life” of an elite triathlete’s training regimen. In my own pursuit of professional status in triathlons, I figured it would be a good indicator of where I need to end up. The volume of work he put out in a single day was extremely impressive, and I couldn’t help but be a little humbled as to my own physical limits and the long journey that awaits me to get there. This got me thinking about a very important aspect to any athlete and their ability to get to the next level of training… their work capacity!
Work capacity is the determining factor of what someone can and cannot do. The difference between the amateur and the professional athlete is often shown by the amount of effort they can do and the time they are able to sustain a certain intensity during training or a competition. The greater an athlete’s capacity to do work, the greater their potential to improve. Work capacity can be manifested in a variety of forms: lifting a heavier load, maintaining a certain intensity over time, repetitions of maximal effort in a certain amount of time, etc. Developing a greater work capacity is a key component to improving athletic performance across any discipline. The more someone can do in training or in competition safely, the better.
Being able to do more work comes at a certain cost. When trying to develop higher work capacity, you are pushing the body’s limits; because of this, peak performance will tend to suffer from the greater need of recovery and breakdown being experienced during periods of training to improve this aspect of athleticism. Training to develop work capacity is difficult to do. Pushing the envelope of physical capacity requires digging deep and doing more than what you have done before, mentally and physically. Needless to say, it is a strenuous process that if not balanced correctly can do as much harm as it’s potential for good. There is a fine line between training to improve work capacity and causing harm to the body. Without proper recovery and nutrition during these periods of training, the body will only breakdown and get injured rather than experience positive adaptations that will result in greater work capacity.
Increasing the total volume of work you can handle is key in continuing to see progress and elicit physical adaptations. If you only do a specific amount of work day in and day out, your body eventually will regulate itself and its recovery rate in order to not waste excess energy. This is when the body has adapted itself to make it more efficient at performing certain amounts of work and creates a threshold. If this threshold is never tested, the body will not continue to build and improve, performance will suffer, and strengths gains will stagnate. The body builds muscle and adapts to greater physical capabilities not to be able to lift more weight or run faster, rather, these adaptations are a result of the body trying to more easily support the daily stresses placed upon it. When given the chance, it will adapt extremely well, and the body will do everything it can to use as little energy as possible to function at it’s minimal capacity necessary to live. The way to increase work capacity comes in the form of remembering the principle of Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands; in other words, your body will adapt specifically to the resistances and workouts you put it through. Increasing work capacity comes in changing the imposed demand to a greater amount than previously experienced.
One big problem with athletes trying to improve their work capacity is that they do too much too soon and get injured as a result, losing a few weeks of training. It’s important to remember that the closer you reach to your current threshold, the smaller the amounts of improvement are going to be. This is why a new lifter is perhaps able to improve their lifts by 10’s or 20’s of pounds every month, or a runner is able to shave off minutes from their race times each race, where the professional athlete is happy to improve a single pound on their total lifts, or run 0.1 second faster than last year. When you reach towards that limit of intensity you are currently at, you can’t approach the improvements and weekly progressions the same way. With that in mind, training at your threshold to force the body to push beyond that limit requires careful tracking, increased time of recovery work, specific nutritional practices, and slow, measured, and controlled increases to the load. Remembering that the amount of weight on the bar is not the only way to show improvements is important in order to develop a proper training program to improve work capacity. Doing more sets, more reps, less rest in between sets, and any combination of this can also be indications and tools to be used to improve.
A general scheme to increasing work capacity comes in a progressive manner slowly introducing higher intensities, resistances, and durations of work.
Week 1: Establish a beginning intensity, 70% of the maximal effort (1RM, Pace Per Mile, etc).
Weeks 2-6: Increase training zone at start of week 2 (75%) and slightly increase every week through week 6 to 95%. Remember to include increases in sets, reps, or decreases in rest during training. Volume is just as effective as anything else to improve.
Week 7: Taper and recovery week, return to beginning training zone (Week 1).
Weeks 8-11: Slightly increase training zone from week 6 and slightly increase every week through week 11, Work to 105%.
Week 12: Taper and recover (just above beginning training zone).
(Re-test maximal effort numbers and reset the training loads to start the 12 weeks over again.)
I recommend not doing more than two 12-week-cycles training work capacity to avoid any injuries and also prevent any stagnation in your progress. Even when training at threshold, the body will find a way to adapt and minimize the energy demands to grow and improve. It’s always good to change things up after a program has done its job.
Every Day… A Little Stronger
By: Sam Winston, M.S. Human Performance Coach
There’s a number of qualities required to be able to reach the ever-so-sought-after “next level.” We all recognize them in our role models and in ourselves when we exhibit them. These characteristics are useful because their application induces a lifestyle conducive to the desire to become stronger every day. To name a few, we have Determination, Motivation, Confidence, Perseverance, Strong-Will, Proactivity, Hard Work, etc etc. Just mentioning these things creates a need to go accomplish something before the day gets started. Each of these qualities brings something important to the application of athletic routines and reaching the goals you have for yourself.
Out of all the qualities that one SHOULD possess to pursue athletic goals, there is one that is immensely under-appreciated. After having the opportunity to work with and witness some of the greatest athletes in the world, they all seem to exhibit this particular ability more than anyone else around them…
It may seem like a small and insignificant skill, or even one that is just assumed to exist. The unfortunate truth is that we as athletes and people going after greater goals apply this important characteristic far too little. Focus is not a given. Just because you go to the gym and get your routine done doesn’t mean you are focused. Focus is not small and insignificant; this is how you ensure each step taken is taken in the right direction. Focus is not easy even though it may seem so. Proper focus takes time and effort to develop and apply, and when you are truly focused, the process of achievement produces greater gains (intellectually and physically).
Focus is an application of complete concentration of the task at hand. None of the following occurs: distractions, interruptions, deviations, variations, or change. When proper focus is performed, things take a state of consistency and remain that way until the task is accomplished.
All of the greatest athletes in the world know how to focus. They understand the need to be able to shut out the world and envelope themselves in their training, dedicating their efforts to a complete execution of the skills being performed. They understand that without this skill, they cannot apply the proper intensity, mindset, or adjustments needed to make themselves better. How can someone possibly expect to maintain a high level of performance when their minds are not directed to a singular purpose? How can they even imagine understanding the fine details of their training if they have the rest of their worries and lives intermixed in their thoughts while they practice? Focus is a very important cognitive skill that athletes need to dedicate more time towards mastering. Guaranteed, if you learn how to properly focus in your workouts, you will train better and improve more. Here are some very useful tips on how to practice and develop better focusing skills.
1) Keep a journal about your training sessions, update, and study them every night. This will encourage your mind to focus on analyzing the skills you practiced and how you performed on a more cognitive level because you will be describing them through writing. Do this every night and you will create a daily habit of focusing solely on your training.
2) Create a playlist that inspires you to train, and listen to it every time you are about to workout. And DO NOT CHANGE IT. This will create an association with your mind that when you hear this music, you are getting ready to change; your body will begin to unconsciously prepare itself mentally and physiologically, creating a base for good focusing.
3) Meditate and visualize your training environment. Picture your facilities, the area, the smells, the feelings, the sounds. Be very detailed and visualize a training session, step by step. Visualize yourself from various angles, visualize your movements, and make the image as vivid as possible, concentrating on the different senses. The more you do this, the easier it will become to concentrate on these qualities of your training sessions when they are happening in real life.
These are just a few tricks to help you develop greater focusing skills. Apply them and reap the benefits!
Every Day… A Little Stronger
As an athlete training for certain goals, one of the things that I am constantly monitoring and gaging are the numbers that I am producing during sessions. Measurements are an important part of tracking progress and checking your training’s efficiency. Every level of fitness or sport has a need to take measurements. However, the kinds of measurements and how often they are taken provide a great deal of influence on the approach and goal setting for your routine. It is important to understand the pros and cons of measurements as well as the benefits and problems they bring to a training program.
There are various ways to measure a person in regards to fitness or sport. Weight, circumference, skin folds, one-repetition maximums, VO2 max, lactate threshold, ten-repetition max, biomechanical analysis, bioimpedence, hydrostatic weighing, flexibility tests, reaction time, resting heart rate, maximum heart rate…etc. In general, there are lots of ways to measure two different things: body composition and physical performance.
Body composition brings a lot of benefits to program planning. The majority of people who go to a gym or begin exercising do so because they want to lose weight, look better, or something along the lines of aesthetics. Body composition is directly related to the way the body looks. The benefits of measuring body composition come in the form of visual progress. Because it’s a clear number that is written down and tracked, there’s little room for interpretation and it’s a good indicator of nutritional and physical efficiency. The cons of body composition are numerous. Principally in that body composition only indicates progress in a single sense; weight is weight and weight is not body fat percentage, skeletal muscle mass, or any other item. It can also be a poor indicator of good health as most guidelines for body composition measurements are based on a very general population and often neglect to address outlying issues such as genetics, chronic disease, age groups, and previous health history.
Performance measurements are a method of determining the body’s capacity for specific types of work: cardio, strength, speed, agility, flexibility, etc. Performance measurements are taken for a different aspect of fitness programming, which ignores body aesthetics and focuses on what the body is able to accomplish with movement. The benefits of measuring for performance tell more than just a single aspect of your fitness. For example, if you have increased your one-repetition max for a lift, you have increased mental confidence, muscular strength, muscular efficiency, proprioception, and other factors. Performance measurements also compliment other facets of your training; as performance increases, the body naturally changes to become more efficient at performing various activities. The disadvantages of performance measurements are that it is very easy to create excuses to justify a lack of progress. There’s a lot of interpretation and factors involved with performance and completion of fitness activities. It is not straight forward, making it easy to take less seriously.
The aspects of your fitness that you wish to measure depend greatly on what you are hoping to accomplish. A good piece of advice is to not completely depend on performance or composition measurements independently. Each has their benefits and their disadvantages, making them strong compliments to one another. With proper guidance on how to interpret any of these numbers and figures involved in your fitness journey, the efficiency of your training and success of your program will rise to new levels and produce even greater results in your performance and composition.
Every Day… A Little Stronger
By Sam Winston, Strength and Performance Coach