How to improve your conditioning levels...

Hi everyone, Donogh here from PFP. In this blog I am going to focus on how to increase fitness or conditioning. We have wrote quite extensively in the past via blogs or on our social media about various ways to improve strength through differing methods, exercises or rep schemes, so now it’s time to talk about conditioning. This is quite a broad topic that I will try to make as simple as possible but due to the vastness of the topic, I will split it into 2 parts.

When training to improve conditioning, you are effectively training the heart. You are trying to train the heart to be able to pump blood around the body fast enough to maintain the activity you are doing (walking, working, training etc.). When designing a conditioning programme, coaches need to know the ultimate goal of the person. In this blog, the focus will be on the person who is looking to improve their lifestyle.

When training to improve conditioning, you are effectively training the heart. You are trying to train the heart to be able to pump blood around the body fast enough to maintain the activity you are doing (walking, working, training etc.). When designing a conditioning programme, coaches need to know the ultimate goal of the person. In this blog, the focus will be on the person who is looking to improve their lifestyle.

Improving your conditioning, much like improving strength, can be done in a variety of ways. The first thing that you need to ask yourself is what exactly you want to improve. Do you want to improve it to play your sport? Is it to improve your quality of life? For example, you struggle to do everyday tasks due to a lack of fitness.

In this scenario, it is likely that adding conditioning exercises at the end of a structured weights programme will help them. We would recommend a form of high intensity interval training. This will usually last up to 15 minutes with interspersed breaks throughout some high intensity exercise, for example: prowler pushes.

Here at PFP, we try to incorporate weights training into all programmes as we believe this is the most efficient way to lose body fat or gain muscle. Increasing your conditioning levels can have a direct impact on the amount of weights training you can do. If your heart is capable of pumping blood around your body at an efficient rate, it will allow you to recover optimally between sets.

If weight training isn’t your thing, and you still would like to improve your conditioning levels, a combination of low intensity steady state training and high intensity training can be a good way to reach your goals. This could be done by going for a brisk walk, slow jog, consistent speed cycling or rowing where you can keep a steady heart rate at around 120-140 beats per minute (this will vary depending on age and fitness levels). Perform this steady state training for 20-60 minutes to improve your hearts ability to pump blood around the body.

 Note: The time above varies quite alot again based on age and fitness levels, you could also go longer than an hour.

Combine this training with some sort of high intensity training on different days with exercises such as burpees, sprints, jumping jacks, mountain climbers etc. for a better conditioning regime that will provide the heart with a different stimulus to improve its function. Try following a time on, time off ratio where you do more work than you rest, for example: 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off.

Hopefully, after reading the above you’ll have a bit more of an understanding on how to improve your conditioning levels. If you are looking to improve your conditioning for sport, stay tuned for our next blog.

Thanks,

Donogh

 

Shoulders and T-spine Health

Opening up the shoulders and Thoracic spine

Hey everyone coach Ev here, following on from my previous blog, I said I would write a blog on how to free up the shoulders and thoracic spine.

Many of us have developed bad habits that have led to restrictions in our movement ability in our shoulders and t-spine. My experience of coaching has shown me that those who play hurling or rugby usually have greater shoulder and t-spine mobility in comparison to Gaelic footballers and soccer players. And those who sleep on their shoulders often have a huge imbalance in their shoulder mobility when both sides are compared. This could potentially lead to an injury over time which may vary from minor muscle strains to more severe disk issues etc. Almost all of the exercises below can be done at home and can hugely help in creating a little extra mobility.

T-spine

Side lying windmills

Get a foam roller and place this under your top knee whilst lying on your side. Bring your knee to 90° angle. Start by having your hands together with your arms straight. With your top hand, use your thumb like a pencil and draw around your body as you exhale. Keep your thumb in contact with the ground at all times. Your top shoulder will drop towards the ground during this process. Also keep your knee in contact with the foam roller throughout the movement. If you have never completed a movement like this before you may feel ‘popping’ or cracking in your t-spine and this is normal.

 

Bretzel

Whilst lying on your side, bring your knee to a 90° knee angle. With your top hand, grab your lower ankle and with your lower hand, grab your top knee, take a deep breath, on the exhale press your top shoulder back towards the ground. As with the side lying windmill, you may hear or feel a ‘popping’ sensation in the t-spine.

 

Quad t-spine rotation

Whilst in an all-fours ground position. Press your hips back and keep a neutral spine. Grab the back of your neck with one hand, fix your eyes to that elbow. As your externally roatate your arm outwards, keep your eyes on your elbow and maintain the neutral spine.  As with the 2 previous exercises, you may feel ‘popping’ in your t-spine if you have poor mobility.

 

Shoulders

Wall slides

Sit into a quarter/half squat against the wall, press your lower back into the wall. Place your hand and elbow in conatct with the wall, run your hands and elbows up and down the wall. This may be difficult if your mobility is very restricted. Throughout the movement keep your lower back in contact with the wall. A good cue for this is to keep ribs down.

 

Bench shoulder flex

For this you'll need a bench/chair and a dowel. Start with your knees dircetly beneath your hip, a dowel held by both hands behind your head/neck and your elbows at shoulder width on a bench. Take a deep breath, on the exhale press your hips back while keeping your elbows in contact with the bench.

 

Shoulder rotations/dislocations

For this exercise all you will need is a dowel/band/rope. Initially I would recommend for someone with poor molility to start wth as wide a grip as possible. Keeping your arms straight. Rotate over your head and backward. As you progress narrow your grip.

For those with severe lack of mobility I would recommend starting these execises at home on top of any training they may already be doing. 2-3 sets of 6+ reps is a decent rep and set range to start with. And remember, when it comes to mobilty and flexibility work, quality over quantity.

As always, if you have any questions, call in and ask or pop us a message here at PFP.

Thanks,

Ev Hennessy B. Sc

 

 

So you want to be more powerful...

Hi everyone, Donogh here again and this time I’m going to tell you how you can get more powerful without learning the Olympic lifts. What??? But how?? Just listen 😉

Olympic lifts are excellent for power output, research has shown us that. But from my experiences with teams, the time taken to teach the technique eats in to a lot of time where you can be getting faster or more powerful or doing curls 😊

When we train for power, what we are essentially looking for is big extension through the hips and glutes and explosive power right up from the ankles which we call triple extension. Improvements in power will come by moving weight very very fast.

These are 4 exercises that I recommend for power that are easy to do and come very close to Olympic lifts for power output.

1.       Loaded Squat Jump – The most similar exercise to an Olympic lift without the complications. I like to hold 2 dumbbells by my side weighing about 40% of my body weight. Get into a quarter squat and jump as high as possible. This exercise gets you into a similar triple extension as the Olympic lift but eliminates the catch. You still produce a lot of power and when landing correctly you receive force too which is crucial for contact sports. Very simple to do and I would recommend 3-4 reps, 3-4 sets with about 90 second rest between sets.

2.       Prowler Push – This exercise when done correctly can produce great amounts of force. You can do this exercise 2 ways, pushing off one leg at a time like a running motion or 2 legs at a time. Either way you will want to ensure that you push your legs back as far as you can to get into that triple extension. I personally like pushing off 2 legs explosively driving the prowler away from you and ending up lying face down on the floor in a push up position (just remember to put your hands out as you fall). I would recommend 50-60% of your body weight and about 10-15m of reps and 3-4 sets again with about 90 seconds rest.

3.       Hip Thrust – Research has suggested that hip thrusts can increase your vertical and horizontal jumps while decreasing your 10m and 20m sprint time. If that’s not a reason to be doing this exercise more than I don’t know what is. I would recommend working at around 70-75% of your 1 rep max and moving the bar as fast as possible getting into hip extension. Again 3-4 reps and 3-4 sets would work well with about 90 seconds rest.

4.       Kneeling Med Ball Wall Slam – This exercise works on upper and lower body. The key to making this exercise worth adding in to your power program is exploding through the hips as you throw the ball and again ending up lying face down on the ground. This will work on extension through the hips and power through the upper body. 4-5 reps and 3-4 sets with around 90 seconds rest will be enough.

So that’s 4 great exercises to add to your program to get more powerful which will lead to increases in your speed and in your jump. And who doesn’t want that?

Here at PFP we have a jump mat that can give an accurate measurement of jump height and speed gates that give an accurate measurement of speed. So why not call in and test yourself before trying these out and then re test after 4 weeks to see if they work.

As always, if you have any questions pop in and ask or leave a comment underneath.

Talk soon

Donogh

 

Lower back pain? 5 core exercises that may help!

Hi everyone, it’s Donogh here, I’m delighted to have recently joined the team at PFP as strength and conditioning coach.

At some point in your life you will most likely have suffered from lower back pain. I want to talk about my 5 go to exercises that helped me eliminate the lower back pain that I suffered from for quite a few months.

Before I get into it, I know low back pain can come from multiple sources but I also know the main source of low back pain is often from either a weak core or a poorly controlled core. I have a background in sports injuries and so have helped many people get over back pain, most of the time fixing the core helps.

I designed this core circuit for myself but have since given it to a lot of my clients and with proper technique it has reduced pain in every instance and eliminated it completely with a few. These 5 exercises cover every direction of movement and targets each of the main muscles of the core. The idea behind it is to learn how to switch on the core repeatedly and to teach the core not to allow movement in the trunk while other movements are occurring – this is called anti rotation. Anti-rotation for me is a crucial part of creating an efficient core. Whether you’re a footballer bracing for a challenge or a block layer shovelling cement, your back will not like the pressure of constant twisting. Learning how to control the core and getting it strong at limiting movement in the trunk will prevent back pain.

Everyone who is a member in PFP will know these exercises and those of you that aren’t a member (shame on you!) should know them too. There is nothing fancy to it but it’s about consistency and challenging all areas. Too often I see people training core either with poor technique (which can put added pressure on the low back) or not training the entire core.

The first thing everyone must know about the core is how to properly switch it on. If you can imagine having a beer can under your rib cage and trying to squash that can with your ribs, you will have switched on your core. Every core exercise should be done “squashing a beer can”.

The 5 exercises are done in a circuit for 3 sets with a 1 minute rest after all 5 are done.

The exercises are:

1.       Plank

2.       Side Plank

Everyone knows what a plank and side plank are but not everyone can perform them correctly. I would suggest videoing yourself doing it to provide visual feedback or to ask a qualified trainer how to do it. If you were to look at someone doing a plank they should be completely straight (like a plank). A lot of people do planks for long reps (60secs), what I suggest is more reps but shorter time (6x10sec with 1 sec between reps). You still get the 60 seconds of work on your core but instead of long shakey reps, you instead teach your body how to go from a relaxed state to an engaged state in the core. I have found this method helps more with low back pain because throughout the day we go from a relaxed state to needing our core (picking an object up).

Key Points for plank and side plank

·         Squash can

·         Body in straight line

·         10 seconds on 1 second off, 6 reps

 

3.       Deadbug – The deadbug is my favourite core exercise, it teaches core control while moving the limbs. This closely mimics running and if done properly can take a lot of pressure off the low back. It also teaches coordination between arms and legs which some can find challenging. To do this exercise correctly, lie on your back, drive the back flat into the floor, squash the beer can and allow no movement from the trunk for the entire exercise. With straight arms point your hands to the sky, bring your knees up towards your chest with your hip and knee angle at 90 degrees. I perform 20 reps per set, 5 dropping the right arm behind your head while dropping your right leg straight down to the ground. Repeat on your left. I then perform opposite hand to leg on each side. Each of these challenges the core in different ways and provide great stability.

Key Points

·         Back flat against ground, squash can

·         Arms pointed towards sky directly over shoulder

·         Knees directly over hips and knee angle at 90 degrees

·         5 reps with same sided movement and opposite side movement – 20 reps total

·         Avoid trunk movement

 

4.       Landmine Rotations – Another exercise that works on anti-rotation by preventing movement in the trunk while movement is occurring. With the bar either fixed in a landmine fitting or in the corner of the wall, pick up the bar and lock both arms straight out in front of you. Drop the bar to one side keeping your trunk steady in one position. The only movement should come from your arms and a little from your upper back. Your low back and hips should stay locked in the starting position. Repeat these 10 times on each side.

Key Points

·         Squash can

·         Movement from arms and upper back

·         10 reps

 

5.       Barbell Rollouts – These can be done band assisted or without the band depending on your ability. Again, squash the beer can while doing the exercise and roll out until your body is fully straight, then roll back to the start position. Rollouts, again, are providing movement while your core fights to stay stable.

Key Points

·         Starting from your knees with or without a band

·         Squash the can

·         Roll out until fully straight but without touching your body off the floor

·         Roll back to start position

·         10 reps

 

So, they are my 5 go to exercises for low back pain. Before doing this circuit, make sure you know how to do each exercise properly. Any questions don’t hesitate to come in and ask.

 

Donogh Flannery

 

Bad Hamstrings?...Our top tips...

Hi everyone,

Coach Ev here again.

This blog post is aimed towards those who complain of having ‘’Bad Hamstrings’’, and who are wondering how they can fix this. 

 

Here are my 4 tops tips for developing and strengthening those hamstrings.

1)      Flexibility

This is a simple one, you don’t need much on this and there are many ways you can work on hamstring flexibility. Here at PFP we keep it simple with toe touch progressions and leg lowers. For the toe touch progression. Start with your knees straight and feet hip width apart, toes elevated (on a rope or small block of wood), and in a controlled manner walk your fingers down your legs, then try with heels elevated. Again, keeping it simple can be most effective. With leg lowers all you need is a band or piece of rope, lie back on the ground with the end of the rope etc wrapped around one foot keeping your leg elevated but knee straight. Raise the other leg to the same to the same angle as the leg being held by the rope. Even at home using static hold stretches can help. However, before a gym/pitch/class session I would strongly recommend using more dynamic movements.

 

2)      Mobility

It may not be your hamstrings that are the problem but rather poor mobility or movement from the ankle or hip. Working on simple mobility exercises can aid in the movement in these joints thus helping the hamstring lengthen. For ankles, I would always recommend a simple exercise known as ‘’knee to wall’’. Where you place one knee on the ground, like a lunge position, keep your front heel flat and press your knee forward. Over time you’ll find you’ll get further and further away from the wall. For hip mobility, the list is almost endless ranging from goblet squats to front foot elevated split squats to fire hydrants and to more lateral squats.

 

3)      Glute Activation

Poor glute activation is often a factor when athletes or gym goes complain of tight or sore hamstrings. Mini bands are an easy and effective method of activating the glutes in a warm up and go a long way to rectifying the problem. Getting a band around the knees and working on walks, clams and side lying leg raises will guarantee those glute are firing, in addition work on glute bridges and hip thrusts.

 

4)      Eccentric Strength

(Eccentric strength has been highly backed up by research as a valuable tool in preventing hamstring strains. Eccentric strength is where you slow down the lowering portion of a rep e.g. RDL deadlift with a 5 sec lowering on a rep and then explode up)

RDLs!! Nordic Curls! And Glute Ham Raises!

Using tempo work for these can put the muscle under eccentric tension. For an RDL or Romanian deadlift, I would use at least 3 seconds eccentricly or on the way down. This puts the muscle under tension whilst lengthening it. Having good eccentric strength aids in reducing your chance of injury but for athletes also helps with deceleration during speed and agility work.

So, there’s my top tips for helping those dodgey hammys. Any questions as always call into PFP or give us a shout.

Ev Hennessy B.Sc