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The Mirror Myth

20 Dec 2014  |  2 Comments

A dogma that has plagued the fitness industry for many years is the importance of mirrors in the weight training area. This dogma has, in recent years come under fire, with many modern health facilities removing mirrors and replacing with qualified coaches to spot and critique form. Below are a six points on a modern approach to mirrors in the weights room.

I need the mirror to see my form . . .

Actually, the exact opposite is true. You don’t need to see form, you need to feel it. This is known as proprioception, and is the body’s ability to know where it is in time and space. This is a co ordinated effort between the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system to communicate efficiently, and govern motor control as required.

There is a tone of literature in this area of sport science, dating all the way back to some of the early Russian weightlifting coaches actually training their lifters blindfolded or in a dark room (and in some cases with ear plugs also).  Some writing on the topic can be found in “Supertraining” by Mel C Siff PHD. The science shows that when we lower the input from senses like sight and even hearing to a lesser extent, the movements are actually performed with greater precision and stability.

How’s your posture?

When we are focused on looking at ourselves while exercising, our posture changes. The head and neck need to move so you can see your reflection, which in every case will result in a change of posture. This can be seen in any commercial gym, just walk into the weights room at any time of the day and look for someone doing arm curls side on to the mirror, and looking at their guns while they train.

There is a biomechanical relationship between the Jaw, Neck and Shoulder and lifting weights with your head turned to the side will result in a disruption of these structures. This will manifest into neck pain, a wry neck, shoulder and jaw pain.

The nerves that innervate the arms also run through the neck and shoulder, and by turning the head you are placing the nerves in a stretched or impinged position, this will result in less then optimal neutral recruitment.

But where will I take my selfies?!?!?!

Buy a selfy pole. Or you could try the old fashion method and have a friend take the photo.

The best way to lower your self esteem . . .

A great deal of studies has been performed on the results of exercising in front of the mirror. Many of which on woman, and the Psychological impact the mirror had.

Findings showed clearly that the mirror increased feelings of anxiety and lowering of self esteem. The presence of mirrors also leads to social comparison and results in a further lowering of self-efficacy and increased negative feelings. The results were a much higher drop out rate in fitness regimes, and poorer fat loss results when compared to a control group.

Katula et al. (1998), Lamarche, Gammage & Strong (2009), Focht and Hausenblas’s (2003), Gammage, Martin Ginis, and Hall (2004)

The world is full of distractions.

It has been postulated that we now live in the “Age of distraction”. Authors like Neil Postman in his book “Amusing ourselves to death” have proposed that human attention span is decreasing as technology increases. Studies performed by Kermit Pattison show that on average we are distracted every 3 minutes and 5 seconds, but it takes on average 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on task.

It is any wonder we struggle to complete a training session when gyms are surrounded with wall to wall mirrors, flat screen televisions and smart phones are common place.

Flow, is the mental state one achieves when you are completely immersed in a task or activity and achieve a state of full involvement, focus and enjoyment in the process. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the leading researcher and author of the book “flow” talks about the spontaneous joy and rapture felt when one achieves a state of flow. This concept has been widely referenced in a variety of fields and across the ages in various forms.

By loosing oneself in a skillful activity (like a gymnastics class for instance) one can forget oneself for a period and achieve great feelings of happiness and satisfaction. That is, unless the person gets distracted . . .

A better solution.

The best practice is to have a skilled coach giving you verbal and physical guidance and feedback on your quality of movement. It is also the only way you can focus on your proprioception while being guided by something other then your visual senses. The value of a good coach cannot be overstated.

Another modern practice is to set up a camera to record the movement, then watch the movement while resting between sets. This can be seen in many of the state of the art National level training facilities around the world, where cameras and digital screens (out of the field of vision) play on a 15 second delay.

At Lift Performance Centre we provide both. Skilled coaches always happy to help, and a Go Pro on a camera stand with a Wi-Fi connection back to an iPad with record and delay functionality.

Conclusion

Staying on the cutting edge of any industry means regularly questioning the dogma and challenging the status quo. This article is a short list of conclusions I have come too on the topic of mirrors in the weights room, up until now. The future is dynamic new information on the topic of health and wellness is always shedding new light on old questions. In the words of an exceptional Coach Christopher Sommer “If you can show me something that you do, that is better then what I do, I will change it immediately!”

Exercise Makes You Smarter

YOUR BRAIN ON EXERCISE

One of our favourite books at Lift and a highly recommended read is Brain Rules by John Medina. Dr Medina is a developmental molecular biologist focused on the genes involved in human brain development, and his book outlines the seven rules of boosting brain health as shown by scientific research. Unsurprisingly at Rule #1: “Exercise boosts brain power!”

There are many mechanisms through which exercise improves the health of the brain, and there are many areas of cognitive function that are improved by exercise. Scientists categorise some of these brain functions with names such as “executive function”, “visuo-spatial function” and “reaction speed”.

UPGRADE YOUR PROCESSING POWER!

The long and short of it is that exercise shows huge improvements in every aspect of brain function, including things that might be called in layman’s terms as processing speed, problem solving, planning, memory recall, spatial awareness and protection against disease such as Alzheimer’s. In other words, every aspect of your life is affected, because the brain is the portal through which we interpret and interact with the world around us.

 

YOU’RE ONLY AS OLD AS YOU THINK

There’s no age limit to this either! Studies have been conducted on young and old alike that show a direct effect of exercise on brain performance. Meta-analyses (the gold standard of scientific research that examines all the applicable studies in a particular area) of brain function on older populations have shown the marked improvements in all the areas mentioned above, but as Dr Medina points out in Brain Rules, young people benefit too:  “Among 27 year-olds, a 12-week exercise program was begun. Brain function rose. Exercise was stopped. Brain function fell.”

Just check out the graph!

source: http://www.brainrules.net/exercise

 

GETTING DOWN TO IT: HOW EXERCISE WORKS FOR BRAIN POWER

There are two main reasons for this improvement in brain health, each of which have a variety of mechanisms behind them.

Firstly, exercise increases the flow of oxygen through the brain. There is an interesting association in the scientific literature between oxygen saturation in the brain and mental quickness. This is mainly mediated by a reduction in free radicals in brain tissues

Secondly, exercise literally changes the structure of brain tissue. It has been shown to increase the genesis of neurons, to improve their resistance to stress and disease and also to create and maintain structural links between those neurons.

 

GAINS FOR BRAINS?

While most studies have looked at the benefits of aerobic training on brain health, some have examined the effects of a varied exercise regime. One study in particular found that performing a highly familiar and repetitive task such as cycling or running at a moderate intensity produced more alpha-wave activity in the brain – this is associated with a relaxed but alert state.

Interestingly, however, more complex tasks or those requiring higher levels of force production require greater signalling from the neural cortex in order to accurately respond to a dynamic and varied set of demands on the body. Then there are the hormonal implications of training.

 

ALL IN YOUR HEAD

In his book Spark, Dr John Ratey MD describes how “exercise unleashes a cascade of neurochemicals and growth factors that physically bolster the brain’s infrastructure”.

Exercise increases levels of neurotransmitters involved in the formation of thoughts and emotions such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Dr Ratey prescribes exercise as a treatment for mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety for this very reason.

For example, one study done on rats showed that exercise-induced elevation of IGF-1, a hormone produced in high amounts by more strenuous training modalities, increases neuron survival and plasticity (ability to adapt and change in response to demands on the brain). IGF-1 elevations are best produced by training that requires a high level of force production from the working muscles, such as moderate to heavy resistance training.

Another recent study found that endurance exercise leads to release of a hormone called irisin that promotes the development of new nerves and synapses.

 

PROGRAM YOUR BRAIN

Interestingly, correctly programmed high intensity exercise leads to similar aerobic adaptations in shorter durations of exercise – meaning that you can still reap the same benefits of aerobic training whilst improving strength, preserving lean body tissues such as muscle and challenging the brain with greater variety of movements.

Whilst aerobic adaptations are also important, long-duration exercise can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which has negative implications for brain health when chronically elevated.

Therefore, it is advisable to include training of varied modalities to optimise brain function by challenging neurological systems, activating different brain pathways such as those responsible for spatial awareness or muscular motor unit recruitment, and producing an optimal hormonal response to encourage neuron growth and reduce inflammatory chemicals in the brain.

 

REFERENCES

Chang, H., Yang, Y., et al. IGF-1 Signaling for Brain Recovery and Exercise Ability in Brain Ischemic Rats. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. May 2011.

Colcombe, S and Kramer, AF (2003) Fitness effects on the cognitive function of older adults: a meta-analytic study Psych Sci 14: 125 – 130

Harada, T. et al (2004) Jogging improved performance of a behavioral branching task: implications for prefrontal activation Neuroscience Research 49: 325 – 337

Nagamatsu, L., et al. Physical activity improves verbal and spatial memory in older adults with probable mild cognitive impairment: a 6-month randomized controlled trial. Journal of Aging Research. 2013. 2013, 861893.

Meckel, Y., Nemet, D., Bar-Sela, S., Radom-Aizik, S.  Hormonal and Inflammatory Responses to Different Types of Sprint Interval Training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2011. 25(8), 2161-2169.

Medina, John. (2009). Brain Rules: Pears Press.

Ratey, John. (2013). Spark: Little, Brown and Company.

Tanner, A., Nielsen, B., et al. Salivary Steroid Hormone Response in Trained Men to Running and Circuit Training Sessions. British Journal of Sports Medicine. December 2011. 45(15), A6.

 

Resistance Training for Longevity and Health

23 Jul 2015  |  0 Comments

Having gone through the aerobics craze of the 80s and 90s, people are once again turning to resistance training as the best way to ensure long term health and longevity. This comes at a time where the Australian government has finally officially recognized the health benefits of weight, including a recommendation that Australians perform resistance training multiple days per week as part of a well-rounded physical activity regime (alongside some aerobic activity and mobility-specific training).

There are many areas in which resistance training benefits your health, including just about every parameter of wellbeing you could imagine. Read on for a brief overview of what the scientific literature tells us about training with weights.

How more muscle mass can help you achieve health

Let’s start with describing a typical overweight profile: more body fat usually = more systemic inflammation and poorer glucose management = greater risk of diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, mental disorders and autoimmune conditions.

Now, let’s look at a quick summary of the current literature with regards to muscle mass. More muscle = greater metabolic rate (ie greater energy expended at rest), faster healing times from surgery, greater cancer survival rates, better sleep, lower incidence of degenerative diseases such as arthritis, osteoporosis and memory loss.

Why training with weights equals better health outcomes

  • Firstly, it’s important to recognize the most obvious effect of resistance training: increased muscle mass and strength. This is fundamental to your health. Greater muscle mass improves metabolic rate, enhances coordination, protects bones and joints, and provides a hormonal advantage to glucose metabolism.
  • Resistance training is also associated with greater bone mineral density, meaning you’re less likely to fracture bones or otherwise injure yourself when doing physical activity. It also means that those of you who might be concerned about osteoporosis, which affects both men and women, should strongly consider weight training.
  • Lifting weights has favourable metabolic adaptations for body composition; in other words, it helps you to stay lean and mean. We all know that higher fat mass contributes to metabolic diseases and can increase your risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression.

Building and maintaining muscle is a hugely energy-consumptive process: the protein you ingest is broken down into amino acids that are used as the bricks to build and maintain muscle mass, and the energy derived from fats and carbohydrates is selectively put to work in fueling this process. We go into this more in depth in another article on resistance training and fat loss!

  • Training your muscles helps ward off risk factors in metabolic syndrome, as well as many other diseases. It’s been shown in the literature that resistance training can be used specifically in the prevention or treatment of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, back pain, depression and obesity.There are multiple biochemical mechanisms that account for this. For example, resistance training can help prevent the onset of diabetes due to its insulin-sensitizing effects. Type 2 diabetes is caused by extreme insulin resistance – meaning that your muscle cells are resistant to insulin, which is supposed to chaperone blood glucose into your cells to be burned as energy.

Research has shown that resistance training specifically upregulates a particular type of glucose transporter called GLUT4 in the muscles – allowing blood glucose to be soaked up and used by muscle cells independent of insulin signaling. Insulin resistance is a major risk factor in cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, inflammation and obesity.

  • Strength training also shows improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol numbers.
  • Resistance training improves sleep quality, a fundamental element of health that is directly related to memory, reflexes, cognitive performance and a multitude of factors related to your perception of hunger, pain and emotions. If you’re looking to improve job performance, or even just maintain your memory and keep your mind sharp, you need to strongly consider getting in the weights room!

Sleep deprivation is a huge problem that can wreak havoc on your health. It can affect nutrient partitioning during weight loss (meaning incoming energy is more likely to be converted into fat than lean tissue), increase hunger, impair problem solving, disrupt insulin sensitivity, disrupt testosterone levels, increase stress hormone output…. the list goes on.

Long story short, weight training has been shown to improve sleep quality, which has secondary effects on just about every other health parameter you can name.

Interestingly, although the process of breaking down muscle via training is an inflammatory process, the resulting effects on the brain are actuallyanti­-inflammatory. This has vast implications for the prevention of age-related memory loss.

This article could go on for hundreds of pages, but to summarize the body of evidence, renowned exercise physiology researcher Dr Wayne Westcott says it best in his 2012 review of the literature: “Resistance training is medicine”.

Broeder CE, Burrhus KA, Svanevik LS, Wilmore JH. The effects of either high-intensity resistance or endurance training on resting metabolic rate. Am J Clin Nutr 1992; 55(4): 802−810

Byrne HK, Wilmore JH. The effects of a 20-week exercise training program on resting metabolic rate in previously sedentary, moderately obese women. Int J Sport Nutr Exer Metab 2001; 11(1): 15−31.

Ferris LT, Williams JS, Shen CL, O’Keefe KA, Hale KB. Resistance Training Improves Sleep Quality in Older Adults a Pilot Study. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. 2005;4(3):354-360.

Goldberg L, Elliot DL, Schutz RW, Kloster FE. Changes in lipid and lipoprotein levels after weight training. J Amer Med Assoc 1984; 252(4): 504−506. 16. Hurley BF, Hagberg JM, Goldberg AP, Seals DR, Ehsani AA,

Brennan RE, et al. Resistive training can reduce coronary risk factors without altering VO2max or percent body fat. Med Sci Sport Exer 1988; 20(2): 150−154.

Pollock ML, Vincent KR. Resistance training for health. The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Research Digest. December 1996; Series 2, No. 8.

Pollock ML, Evans WJ. Resistance training for health and disease. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999;31:10–11.

Prabhakaran B, Dowling EA, Branch JD, Swain DP, Leutholtz BC. Effects of 14 weeks of resistance training on lipid profiles and body fat percentage in premenopausal women. Br J Sports Med 1999; 33(3): 190−195.

Pratley R, Nicklas B, Rubin M, Miller J, Smith A, Smith M, Hurley B, Goldberg A. Strength training increases resting metabolic rate and norepinephrine levels in healthy 50- to 65-yr old men. J Appl Physiol. 1994;76:133–137.

Holten et al, “Strength training increases insulin-mediated glucose uptake, GLUT4 content, and insulin signaling in skeletal muscle in patients with type 2 diabetes,” Diabetes, vol. 53, no. 2, pp. 294–305, 2004.

Hordern et. al., “Exercise prescription for patients with type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes: a position statement from Exercise and Sport Science Australia,” Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 25–31, 2012.

Ouchi et al, “Adipokines in inflammation and metabolic disease,” Nature Reviews Immunology, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 85–97, 2011.

Phillips et al, “Resistance training at eight-repetition maximum reduces the inflammatory milieu in elderly women,” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, vol. 42, no. 2, pp. 314–325, 2010.

Seguin R., Nelson M.E. (2003) The benefits of strength training for older adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 25, 141-149

Strasser et al. , “Resistance training in the treatment of the metabolic syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of resistance training on metabolic clustering in patients with abnormal glucose metabolism,” Sports Medicine, vol. 40, no. 5, pp. 397–415, 2010.

Umpierre et al., “Physical activity advice only or structured exercise training and association with HbA1c levels in type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis,”Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 305, no. 17, pp. 1790–1799, 2011.

Wallace MB, Mills BD, Browning CL. Effects of cross-training on markers of insulin resistance/hyperinsulinemia. Med Sci Sport Exer 1997; 29(9): 1170−1176.

Westcott, W. (2012). Resistance Training is Medicine. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 11(4), 209-216.

Resistance Training for Fat Loss

Resistance training is the NUMBER ONE thing you should be doing if your goal is fat loss.

Why?

Three big reasons:

  1. It supports muscle mass, which is both an important factor in your health and the primary driver of your metabolic rate (ie how much energy you burn)
  2. It’s easily scalable to your skill level
  3. It’s efficient and safe

Let’s take a deeper look!

Point #1: More muscle mass = more energy burned

Building and maintaining muscle is a hugely energy-consumptive process: the protein you ingest is broken down into amino acids that are used as the bricks to build and maintain muscle mass, and the energy derived from fats and carbohydrates is selectively put to work in fueling this process.

More energy-expensive muscle means equals more energy is expended no matter what other activity you partake in – meaning that it’s that much easier to manage your calorie intake. Think about it: it’s way easier to manage your portion sizes when you can handle 2600 incoming calories than if you only have 1600 before you go over your maintenance level of energy intake.

Additionally, more muscle mass provides a “glucose sink” – and lifting weights or doing interval training specifically allows more glucose to be partitioned into muscle cells instead of fat.

When you perform glycolytic (glyco- = glycogen, your body’s stored carbohydrate; -lytic = latin, meaning to break down) exercise such as resistance training, your body begins to preferentially store more glucose in your muscles as a readily available fuel source. It does this through a variety of mechanisms, such as increasing the number of glucose transporters available in the muscle cells post-training.

We call this the “nutrient partitioning” effect of resistance training, and it means that incoming energy is more likely to be used to fuel and support lean tissue than fat.

Point #2: Resistance training is perfectly scalable

This means that no matter what your fitness level is, you can easily increase the volume of your training WITHOUT having to increase your training hours. The primary mode of overload for aerobic training is to increase the duration of the training bout – this means more timing pounding the pavement, which for most average Joes and Janes has a limit.

With weight training, it’s very easy to increase your total work done week by week. We calculate volume in the weight room like this: # of sets x # of reps x weight. 

To give you an example, if you lift 20kg for 3 sets of 12 reps in week one, and increase that same exercise to a mere 21kg the next week – congratulations, you’ve just lifted an extra 36kg in a session that takes the exact same amount of time, and the exact same amount of perceived effort. Now imagine doing this week by week on multiple exercises, and total workload begins to skyrocket. It is simply not possible to achieve the same level of overload performing aerobic exercise!

To add icing on the cake, several studies done over the last 10 years have shown that simply reducing rest times between sets will burn up to 37% more calories, even with matched workloads. In other words, compared to aerobic training, in some situations lifting weights allows you to burn more calories theless time you spend in the gym – not the other way around.

Point #3: Resistance training is the safest reported form of formal exercise

Did you know that the sports with the lowest levels of reported injuries are powerlifting and weightlifting?

According to research done by Hamill (1994), Stone (1990) and again, Stone et al. (1993), the injury rate for weight training is 0.0035 injuries per 100 hours. Based on this data, this is 1771 times less frequent than soccer at 6.2 injuries per 100 hours of activity.

This is not to say you can’t hurt yourself by doing the wrong thing, of course, but weight training provides a proven method of fat loss that can simultaneously improve coordination, bone and connective tissue strength, flexibility and joint integrity. Properly executed exercises allow you to work within your skill level and match your personal biomechanics in a safe environment specifically designed to reduce risk of injury. This is true even for younger trainees – a review by Faigenbaum and Myer (2012) suggests that “most injuries related to youth resistance training are a result of inadequate professional supervision, which underlies poor exercise techniques and inappropriate training loads”.

Think about it: the best designed training regime and the best intentions go completely out the window if you happen to sustain an injury that puts you out of action!

Broeder CE, Burrhus KA, Svanevik LS, Wilmore JH. The effects of either high-intensity resistance or endurance training on resting metabolic rate. Am J Clin Nutr 1992; 55(4): 802−810

Byrne HK, Wilmore JH. The effects of a 20-week exercise training program on resting metabolic rate in previously sedentary, moderately obese women. Int J Sport Nutr Exer Metab 2001; 11(1): 15−31.

Faigenbaum, A D, and G D Myer. “Resistance Training among Young Athletes: Safety, Efficacy and Injury Prevention Effects.” British journal of sports medicine 44.1 (2010): 56–63. PMC. Web. 23 July 2015.

Hamill BP. Relative Safety of Weightlifting and Weight Training. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 1994; 8:1.

Holten et al, “Strength training increases insulin-mediated glucose uptake, GLUT4 content, and insulin signaling in skeletal muscle in patients with type 2 diabetes,” Diabetes, vol. 53, no. 2, pp. 294–305, 2004.

Hordern et. al., “Exercise prescription for patients with type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes: a position statement from Exercise and Sport Science Australia,” Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 25–31, 2012.

Ratamess, Nicolas A., et al. “Acute Oxygen Uptake and Resistance Exercise Performance Using Different Rest Interval Lengths: The Influence of Maximal Aerobic Capacity and Exercise Sequence.” Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 28.7 (2014):1875–1888.

Requa RK, DeAvilla LN, Garrick JG. (1993) Injuries in recreational adult fitness activities. Am J Sports Med, 21(3):461-7.

Stone MH (1990). Muscle conditioning and muscle injuries. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 22(4):457-462.

Zemper ED (1990). Four-year study of weight-room injuries in a national sample of college football teams. Natl Strength Cond Assoc J. 12(3):32-34.

Resistance Training for Athletic Performance

There are multiple factors involved in improving athletic performance – no matter what your skill level is.

The body of research available today unequivocally demonstrates the benefits of resistance training in improving a wide variety of athletic qualities – from power to endurance, and everything in between. To quote directly from the research of Dr Young, strength training has the “potential to enhance the force-generating capabilities of muscle, increase total body mass, reduce the risk of sports injuries, and improve core stability”.

There is a reason why every sport is fighting to recruit top strength coaches, and why you see sports that previously had very little involvement in strength training starting to adopt regular on- and offseason resistance training regimes to squeeze every ounce of performance out of their athletes.

Some of the side benefits such as sleep and mood enhancement are certainly one reason why – and you can read more about this in our related article on resistance training and longevity (after all, a healthy athlete will always perform best)– but research has shown direct effects of strength training on vital performance indicators on the field.

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Some of the benefits are more obvious – greater lean body mass is clearly helpful for those involved in contact sports, and the improved bone mass and joint integrity that comes with resistance training will obviously reduce risk of injury. Lower body fat in general improves your power-to-weight ratio, and weight training is the most effective tool in body composition.

But did you know that each sport has certain movements – sometimes called ‘predictor lifts’ – that have a direct translation to on-field performance?

For those of you involved in team sports, straight line speed over short distances as well as agility and acceleration are top of the list. There have been multiple studies looking at how strength in the gym affects these qualities.

 

One study followed elite-level junior soccer players over a two-year period, and compared them to a control group who did not participate in resistance training. The strength-training groups consistently outperformed their peers in the under 15s, 17s and 19s – and the under 19s group actually even outperformed a professional adult team in their short-distance sprints! There was a direct effect of increasing maximal squat strength on their ability to change direction, accelerate over short distances, and reach higher top speeds.

There is also a frequently cited study on elite-level professional players done in 2004 that showed a strong correlation between maximal back squat strength and straight line speed, as well as vertical jump height. It’s been previously established that power is highly dependent on maximal strength.

A similar study followed amateur and elite rugby league players, measuring their times over 5, 10 and 20 metres. As their max back squat increased, their sprint times over all distances improved. The researchers concluded that based on this and previous research, “It is likely that the increased force production, noted via the increased squat performance, contributed to the improved sprint performances. To increase short sprint performance, athletes should, therefore, consider increasing maximal strength via the back squat.”

 

Resistance training also improves coordination. There are multiple neurological factors involved in strength training, and if done correctly, you can improve your nervous system’s ability to recruit, coordinate and synchronize complex movements to improve accuracy of movement and allow the maximum expression of force. You can then take these improvements into your sports training to practice your skills. This type of training can be expected to enhance intermuscular coordination and ensure that muscles are “tuned” to any newly acquired force-generating capacity.

The cognitive benefits of weight training should also not be ignored. Decision-making in the heat of competition is vital to success, and performing resistance training has been demonstrated to enhance cognitive skills and improve cognitive performance under conditions of fatigue. Additionally, improved mood and reduced pain perception as a result of resistance training are massive contributors to the ongoing commitment required to perform at your best week in, week out.

This can partly be attributed to the modulation of markers for inflammation in the body – although part of the adaptive process of training, excessive inflammation impedes recovery and can drastically reduce performance. Weight training has been shown to lower these inflammatory cytokines, allowing better fatigue management and improved recovery.

In short, taking up a well-designed resistance training regime is vital to your athletic success, no matter what level you’re at – and the reasons extend well beyond just ‘bulking up’!

 

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Chelly et al “Effects of a back squat training program on leg power, jump, and sprint performances in junior soccer players.” J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Nov;23(8):2241-9.

Comfort, P., Haigh, A., et al. “Are Changes in Maximal squat Strength During Preseason Training Reflected in Changes in Sprint Performance in Rugby League Players?” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.

Hartmann, H., Wirth, K., Klusemann, M., Dalic, J., Matuschek, C., Schmidtbleicher, D. Influence of Squatting Depth on Jumping Performance. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012. 26 (12), 3243-61.

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Sander, Keiner, Wirth and Schmidtbleicher “Influence of a 2-year strength training programme on power performance in elite youth soccer players” Eur J Sport Sci. 2013;13(5):445-51

Wisløff et al “Strong correlation of maximal squat strength with sprint performance and vertical jump height in elite soccer players” Br J Sports Med 2004;38:3