To Prehab or Rehab?

Prehab

If I had one Rand for every time someone asked me why I was in rehab, I would have eight Rand… Just kidding, or am I?

But seriously the amount of times clients have asked me for movements to rehab an injury or a niggle is countless. Now I know, all to well, that things happen and injuries occur and that you cannot prevent everything, however I am a firm believer that most injuries can be prevented if the correct measures are put in place from the beginning.

Looking at the human body we have three main components that allow movement to occur. Firstly the nervous system, this is the information highway that allows the message from the brain to be transported to the muscular system which in turn initiates the movement. Now as you may have guessed the second is the muscular system. Muscles are the elastics, bands, pulleys and ropes of the body. They lie over joints and pull the levers of the skeletal system, which allows movement of the limbs. Last you have the skeletal system, which is the bricks and mortar of the body. It is the structure that keeps us upright and gives the body form. The skeletal system is made up of bones, cartilage, tendons and ligaments.

Most injuries occur due to functional mobility or instability issues and weaknesses. So if that is the case, identifying the imbalances first and prehabbing them can and will prevent these functional injuries from happening.

A comprehensive screening system is needed to be able to identify any functional issues such as asymmetries and imbalances, mobility and stability issues and weaknesses. Using a movement screen will enable you to prescribe corrective movements that should level out asymmetries, mobilize and stabilize any problematic areas.

Being proactive rather than being reactive is far better and takes much less of your time and energy. Once you have an injury it will take around six weeks depending on the severity of the injury and the actions taken to rehab it. Not to mention the time off training. Regularly checking your movement patterns and correcting the issues will save you a ton of work and pain -it will keep you in the gym and on the field doing what you love.

Stay Strong.

Choosing the Right Facility.

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Unfortunately in the past, here in sunny South Africa we had only been subjected to lame commercial gyms that look pretty but aren’t equipped for performance or real results. But luckily things have been changing in the last 5 years with some really smart, inquiring trainers and coaches. People that are looking at what really works and taking cues from where real results happen and that’s from athletes.

Athletes train for performance and not for physique. The aesthetic side happens but its not the goal, the goal is to improve movement, power and speed. When looking for a facility, choose one that is geared towards athletic performance as mentioned above and not ones that are packed with useless machines, mirrors and treadmills.

Here is what to look out for when deciding on a training facility.

 

Open space is key, moving your body through space has more impact and will yield far greater results than any seated cable machine… Ever! Look at any athlete, they move their body through space to achieve their goals.

 

Mobility tools. You can’t move if you are not mobile. The foundation of strength is mobility, stability and then strength in that order. So check for foam rollers, bands and space for mobility drills.

 

Power Racks. You will have a hard time squatting without these. I don’t care if they are half racks as long as they are in the gym.

 

Quality Olympic bars are not negotiable. If the facility is prepared to spend the money on proper bars then you know that they are serious about performance. Cheap bars break and wont be able to handle big weights or being dropped.

 

Plyo Boxes are essential for explosiveness and activating your central nervous system (CNS). Padded ones are best as I have personally witnessed many shredded shins on the wooden ones.

 

Kettlebells are extremely versatile in their application and are a must for building ballistic power, an iron core, shoulder health and strength.

 

Suspension training, whether it be TRX, Jungle Gym XT or rings they can be used for any and all body weight movements, corrections and Isometric holds.

 

Pushing and dragging sleds are conditioning tools that I believe every facility should have. No questions!

 

Alternative bars such as Trap Bars, Safety Bars and Smith Bars are imperative for people with poor mobility or people learning new movement patters. They will ensure your movements are safe and you will still be able to load the bar.

 

Proper Flooring, this goes without saying if the surface is not flat and secure it is not safe. Rubber matting and turf is preferable.

 

No mirrors as these will distract you from what you are doing. You must learn how to feel the movements by sensing the position your muscles and limbs in relation to strength, balance and power throughout the movement. It’s called proprioception. The facility should also have someone around to make sure that you are keeping form so in fact they will be your mirror.

 

Firm, adjustable benches that can be used for strength and correctives.

 

Movement Screening is something that is normally overlooked by most gyms but it is crucial to program planning which will align your asymmetries and ensure that you stay injury free. The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) by Gray Cook is at the top of my list.

 

A friendly and helpful atmosphere. This sounds strange but if there is a good vibe and people are chilled and willing to help, you will feel happier and more confident in what you are doing. However is the atmosphere is tense and people are rude and arrogant, you will be more stressed and won’t be focused on what you are doing.

 

Knowledgeable and passionate trainers will make or break a facility. You can have the fanciest and most jacked gym in the universe but if the trainers are not passionate and not willing to learn then the training is going to be sub-par and your performance is going to suffer.At the end of the day a gym should be offering you everything that will improve your mobility, strength and physical fitness. There should be no bullshit equipment or gimmicks only the tried and tested.

 

Stay strong.

 

What is strength?

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Strength is essentially the ability to force an element of ones self to be better, whether it be physically, mentally, spiritually or emotionally. Being able to push yourself beyond your previous achievements and setting new benchmarks is no small feat. It takes discipline, consistency, faith, an able body and an iron will. No matter if it is in business, in the gym, on the track or life, it takes ones strength to be able to achieve and break boundaries.

You may think that we all naturally have strength and that we are born with it but I would beg to differ. Like anything that you want to improve, you have to practise strength in order for you to reach your true potential. Once you have learnt and practised it over and over it becomes a skill that you can use.

As a new born child you are completely defenseless and can not even hold up your own head. With time and the will to look around you are able to hold your head up on your own. Then you start to roll and are able to push your chest up off the ground. It takes months of practising this and then you are up on your knees. Holding this position strengthens your core and with your determination to be mobile, you push yourself to move and so you begin to crawl. Crawling is great and you start moving around happily but the need to be upright urges you to get up. Falling down is a given but getting up is what keeps us moving. This process varies in time and everyone is different but as you can see one of the first things we learn as a human is the strength of will and determination. By practising everyday to move we finally build up the strength to stand up and walk.

Take someone who is learning a martial art, if he has had no previous exposure to any combative sports he would have to learn the basics first like being able to throw a punch while keeping his hands up for defense. This may seem quite simple but it takes time and practise, punch after punch, to ingrain the pattern until it becomes second nature, until it becomes a skill. It was Bruce Lee that said “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Now if you want to get your squat up from 80kg to 150kg you will need to get the basics right, practise your form and keep checking your technique, making adjustments to improve how you move the bar. With time the numbers will improve and you will get stronger but only if your will is set and you are consistently practising.

This being said and knowing that strength is a skill, you need to look at your weaknesses and start from the bottom. Practise them over and over, until they become your strength. This stands true in every facet of life. To strengthen your mind you will need to meditate, control your mind form bouncing to random thoughts and focus it on one thing without letting your thoughts stray. Trust me this sounds much easier than it is. To strengthen your will you must put yourself in challenging situations and get out of your comfort zone, strive on until you complete whatever it is that may bring you down.

Strength is a skill and you need to practise it to be a better human being.

Stay Strong, Stay Athletic

 

Self Myofascial….What? Foam Rolling..!

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Back in the day we were always preached at to warm up and stretch before training and to be honest it was mind numbingly boring. It almost always went something like this… A few jumping-jacks, try and touch your toes and we’re done.

 Somewhere along the line we smarted up and realised that there is a better and far more effective way of getting nutrient rich, warm blood to our muscles, by stretching and loosening all that encapsulates them… Enter the fascia.

 No, Fascia is not a plain pizza base with out toppings. I mean really, who would not want any toppings?

 Fascia is a tough, elastic, soft tissue that binds and supports the muscular and nervous structure of the body. It is a clear membrane that encapsulates the muscle and allows the muscle to keep its form.

The problem comes in when the fascia is tight. This restricts blood flow and in turn binds the muscle fibers together… Hello painful knots or trigger points.

 Now we would all love to be able to go for daily massages to stretch the fascia and break down these adhesions however our bank balance would disagree.

That’s where Self Myofascial Tissue Release comes in. In essence it is giving yourself a massage. Just without the petroleum jelly.

Foam rolling, as it is more commonly known, is the smart (read: poor) mans massage. There are many different tools that can be used effectively such as foam rollers, PVC pipe, lacrosse balls, tennis balls, golf balls and various different sticks.

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 Now just as there are many tools there are also different applications of foam rolling. The most common use is for warm up prior to training. Here you will be stretching the fascia and allowing for good blood flow to warm up the intended muscles. 10-20 Long strokes is more commonly used for this application, if you identify any trigger points, you will stay on that point giving it a few smaller, slightly more pressured pumps. Remember this is for warming up so you don’t want to spend too much time releasing these points, just giving them good blood flow.

Another use of rolling is for self massage therapy. Here you will find those nasty little knots and trigger points and you will live in that space for around 30-45 seconds. Once on the adhesion I would recommend oscillating the relative limb to get deeper into the muscle fibers. I warn you though this is no picnic. In the beginning of this process, depending on how tight the fibers are, you may wonder why the hell you would put yourself through this self-torture. I would urge to literally push-on. The pay-off will be life changing. Now before I turn the little foam-rolling masochist inside you into a monster, this kind of therapy should not be done daily such as the warm up. This deep tissue release will cause some inflammation that should dissipate within 48hrs. What I would suggest is to split this therapy into a lower body and upper body treatment, releasing any points on your lower limbs on one day, giving yourself a day or two to recover and then hitting your upper half. Doing each half once a week will be sufficient and vastly improve your mobility and reduce the chance of injury.

 At first it is best to start with a soft foam roller or tennis ball. You will soon get used to this and it will no longer be very effective and targeting those beastly triggers. You can then move onto something a little harder, such as the Grid, a PVC pipe, The Rumble Roller, a lacrosse ball or my favorite, The SupaNova.

These will target the adhesions more effectively and get in deeper which is always better… Phrasing!

So in conclusion, start foam rolling, get mobility back, feel great and become a better human being.

 Stay Mobile and Stay Athletic.

 

Don’t Overcomplicate Speed and Plyometrics.

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In our current world of information overload, technical gadgets and high performance lifestyles we are constantly looking for the best, sexiest and most overcomplicated ways to improve our own performance.

When it comes to speed and explosive output this is the biggest mistake you can make to screw up your speed and plyomeric gains.

Fisrtly, you need to ask yourself what is speed and plyometrics?

Speed is the quickest time it takes from point A to point B.

Plyometrics is the maximum output in an upwards vertical direction.

So now you may ask, how do I improve my speed and vertical jumps?

The answer is quite simple.

Improve speed.. Sprint

Jump higher.. Jump

Now of coarse there are many different protocols for sprints and jumps. Varying sets, reps, rest periods, ect. Which we will get into but firstly lets look at what a sprint or a jump is.

Both movements are simply the application of force in a downward motion into the ground, therefore propelling you upwards or forwards. This application of force is produced by relative strength.

Strength is a skill that can only be improved and perfected by doing big compound movements such as Squats, Deadlifts, Glute Ham Raises.

Work hard on these and your sprint and vertical jump numbers will soar.

Since Plyometrics and Sprints are highly central nervous system (CNS) dependant, you will want to perform them either before your strength training or on separate days from your strength days. This will ensure that your nervous system is fresh and firing on point that will allow you to execute clean reps.

Plyo’s can be split into two levels. Jump training such as box jumps, hurdles and broad jumps. And then we have true Plyometrics like depth jumps.

Start simple, performing 3-5 sets of 5-1 reps of box jumps. Box jumps will have the least impact on your joints and are easily learnt by beginners. A 60cm box will be good to perfect your form, making sure that you do not land on the box in a deep squat position. Your knees should be no deeper than 120 degrees.

Rest periods are extremely important, they will ensure that your firing patterns are correct and that you can be explosive. You should give yourself 90sec to 120sec rest between sets and increase the rest the higher the jumps.

For sprints I like to start easy with 8-10 sets of 30-40m’s. Your rest should be enough for your central nervous system to be completely recovered before attempting another set. Usually if you allow your heart rate to recover to it’s resting state and then wait another 20-30sec, your nervous system will be ready for the next sprint.

If you train these systems twice a week and incorporate them with a sound strength program to improve your maximum output, your speed and general athleticism will rocket.

Stay Strong, Stay Fast.