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

 

One size fits some...

Hey everyone, Donogh here again. In this blog, I’ll talk about the importance of an individualised program to reach your goals. One of the services provided here at PFP is an assessment through Functional Movement. Based on your results and your needs we then design a program.

Image via Google

Image via Google

The aim of this is to turn your weak links into less of a weak link while also focusing on the importance of turning your strong links into even stronger links, therefore it is important to have an individualised program. We are all different, two people may have the same goals but they will have completely different strengths and weaknesses. Through the assessment we also get a picture of your lifestyle and other factors that can affect your training such as work, nutrition and sleep. Again, no two people will be the same here.

I have worked a lot with various rugby teams and I have seen first-hand a one size fits all approach, in reality it’s a one size fits some. Through the assessment we can identify where you have issues in your mobility or stability while also checking previous injuries and then implementing corrective strategies individual to you. These strategies will make your movement better, reduce your risk of injury and give you a better chance of your program being a success.

My most used phrase as a coach is “it depends”, it always depends on something. “How do I get stronger?”. It depends on what you have done before, injury history or movement quality. “How do I get fitter?”. It depends on your body composition, nutrition or sleep quality.

Once we have a snap shot of your lifestyle, movement, strengths and weaknesses we can give a very good go at designing a program specific to you. Without knowing all of that, the program’s success will depend…

Hopefully that gives you an insight into the importance of individualised training and if you have any questions call in and have a chat with any members of staff here at PFP.

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

 

Fats and Immune function

In this third and final installment of the role of macro-nutrients on the immune system, we are taking a look at the role dietary fat plays in immune response and function.

Fats are powerful mediators of the immune system, and they may modulate the immuno-suppressive effects of strenuous exercise. Dietary fat plays a role in some key functions in the body, which all contribute to immune function, namely:

  •  Hormone regulation and production, especially testosterone and oestrogen
  • Transport of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), to the liver for storage and utilisation.

Dietary fats play an important role in numerous physiological functions and therefore a low fat diet can pose health problems. Additionally, a low fat diet does not guarantee weight loss if calories aren’t appropriate.

Both the amount and type of fatty acids in the diet influence the growth and activity of immune cells. Proper functioning of the immune system depends on adequate amounts of each essential fatty acid.

Essential fatty acids such as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), are the precursors of substances that can promote or restrain inflammation. Essential fatty acids cannot be synthesized in the body and thus, must be taken in via the diet. Essential fatty acids are intricately involved in the immune response, and regulate cytokines, which are released from immune cells in response to injury, infection, or exposure to foreign substances, as previously mentioned in our protein and immunity article. Amongst the fatty acids those from fish oil (EPA and DHA) are more biologically potent than alpha linolenic acid.

Studies in athletes have shown that a low-fat diet (15% of total calories), increases inflammatory and decreases anti-inflammatory immune factors, depresses antioxidants, and negatively affects blood lipoprotein ratios. A critical analysis of a large number of studies, demonstrated that there is a number of potential benefits to consuming unsaturated fatty acids on the immune system. This analysis showed that fatty acids play an important role in immune system regulation and may therefore be classified as holding the ability to modulate immune response. http://www.nature.com/icb/journal/v78/n1/full/icb20006a.html

Increasing your omega 3 intake (specifically EPA), and decreasing your omega 6 and saturated fat intake can have positive health effects and decrease inflammation. Omega 3 sources include salmon, mackerel, eggs and red meat. Omega 6 sources include sunflower oil, corn oil and safflower oil.

 

Foods: 
• Saturated Fats: Usually solid at room temperature and are primarily from animal sources, such as, dairy and other meats.
• Unsaturated Fats: Usually liquid at room temperature and can be further divided into mono and poly unsaturated fats.
• Mono-unsaturated fatty acids include: olive oil, avocado and peanut butter. 
 

http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/10910295

https://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/00007256-200232050-00004

http://advances.nutrition.org/content/6/3/293S.full

http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v56/n3s/pdf/1601478a.pdf

 

 

Why the site of your pain is not necessarily the source of your pain...

When we have pain, the usual reaction is to assume some sort of injury or issue at the site of the pain and so we normally set about getting treatment to this area in order to eliminate the pain.  

But this may not be the only answer to your problem.

Treating the site of the pain is fine, but the site is not necessarily the primary source of your discomfort. Many people don't know that a dysfunction at one joint can cause over-use at another, and eventually lead to injury.

The body is just like a stack of joints. Each joint has a specific function and if it fails to do its job, then the joint above or below must pick up the slack. This can lead to injury.

So what are the functions of our various joints? The ankle’s primary job is mobility, the knee’s function is stability, the hip is concerned with mobility, the lower back’s purpose is stability and the upper back is mobility.

If you are getting a common pain - such as knee pain, where might it be coming from? There are many potential answers to this, but it could very well be that your ankle or hips (or both!) are lacking in mobility meaning that your knee has had to compensate for this, and so resulting in knee pain. 

I regularly get asked about the difference between mobility and stability with regards to joints - mobility is the ability of the joint to move through a preferably full range of motion; stability on the other hand is the opposite. A stable joint needs to resist motion; not produce it. If your hips or upper back fail to move properly, your lower back will become mobile. So when your lower back is in pain, it can be due to a lack of range of motion in the hips or upper back.

Bottom line is that if you are in pain - STOP. Pain is a sign something is wrong and you shouldn't try to train through it. That's why I particularly DESPISE the sort of quotes bandied about below - they perpetuate the idea that you should be in pain in the gym . Let's be clear - you shouldn't be in pain. Yes, it may be uncomfortable and sore; you may feel 'the burn', but actual pain in any joint or muscle shouldn't be happening!

If an exercise hurts, then don’t do the exercise. With an appropriate gym program you can train the joints to enhance mobility and stability and to then eliminate any joint pain you may be experiencing.  

As always please get in touch if you have any questions  - I'm more than happy to help. 

Nigel