4 myths about Muscle pliability you need to know

Trainer performing graston technique

The term “muscle pliability” has been in the news around the NFL quite a bit recently. Tom Brady and his trainer, Alex Guerrero, claim that making muscles pliable is the best way to sustain health and performance. How true is that claim? While it’s a great descriptive term, we are going to shed some light on what it really means and how to create muscle pliability.

Our performance coaches, sports medicine specialists, and tissue therapists all find it to be a useful term.  Pliable expresses some of the important qualities of muscle. According to Miriam-Webster Dictionary here’s what pliable means:

Pliable

a: supple enough to bend freely or repeatedly without breaking

b: yielding readily to others

c: adjustable to varying conditions

That’s a pretty good description for many of the qualities we want in the tissue of an athlete (or any human for that matter). The problem is that it’s being mixed up with a lot of inaccurate and confusing statements.

Our Sports Medicine Specialist, Misao Tanioka, says that “the word pliability, in my opinion, depicts the ideal muscle tissue quality. It is similar to suppleness, elasticity, or resilience. Unfortunately, I believe some of the explanations offered by Mr. Brady and Mr. Guerrero have created some misunderstanding of what ‘muscle pliability’ really is.”

Let’s try and separate some of the myths from what is true.

Myth 1: Muscles that are “soft” are better than dense

That depends on what qualifies as “soft” muscle.  Tissue Specialist Cindy Vick has worked on hundreds of elite athletes, including NFL players and Olympians across many sports. “Soft isn’t a word I would use for an athlete. When I’m working on an elderly client, I often feel muscles that could be called soft; they’re not dense. That’s not what I feel when working on elite athletes. Athletes who are healthy and performing well have muscles that have density without being overly tense and move freely. The tissue is still smooth and supple.”

This muscle quality is affected by many factors, ranging from stress, competition, nutrition, training, and recovery. At Velocity, maintaining optimal tissue quality is a constant endeavor.  Proper self myo-fascial release, various stretching techniques, and manual therapy are all part of the equation.

Myth 2: Dense muscles = stiff muscles = easily injured athletes

Relating these terms in this way grossly over-simplifies the reality and is in some ways completely wrong.

You have to start with the operative word: “dense.” Tanioka says, “Dense tissue can be elastic; elastic tissue is resilient to injury. What we have to look for is inelastic tissue.” Cindy Vick adds that “if you mean ‘dense’ to refer to a muscle with adhesions, or that doesn’t move evenly and smoothly, then yes, that’s a problem.”

Scientifically, stiffness refers to how much a muscle resists stretch under tension. It’s like thinking about the elastic qualities of a rubber band. The harder it is to pull, the stiffer it is. If a muscle can’t give and stretch when it needs to, that’s bad.

Imagine a rubber band that protects your joint. When a muscle exerts force against the impact of an opponent or gravity, stiffness can help resist the joint and ligaments from being overloaded and consequently injured.

“I agree with Mr. Brady’s statement about the importance of a muscle’s ability to lengthen, relax and disperse high-velocity, heavy incoming force to avoid injury.” says Tanioka. “However, I think that athletes also must be able to exert maximum power whether actively generating force or passively resisting an incoming stress, which requires the ability to shorten and be taut and firm as well as well as lengthen. The ability of tissue to be durable and contractile is just as important as to elongate and soften when it comes to performance and injury prevention.”

In the view of our experts, it’s not about dense, soft, stiff, or other qualitative words. Instead, they emphasize developing function through different types of strength qualities athletes need.   Athletes must prepare for the intense stress and strain their muscles will face in their sport.  They need to blend the right strength training with mobility and flexibility.

 

Myth 3: Strength training makes muscles short

“It’s an old wives’ tale that took hold when body building techniques had a big influence on strength and conditioning. A muscle can be incredibly strong without sacrificing any range of motion” according international expert and President of Velocity Sports Performance, Ken Vick, who has worked with athletes in 10 Olympic Games and helped lead the Chinese Olympic Committee’s preparation efforts for 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

“I’ll give you two great examples: Gymnasts are, pound-for-pound, very strong and incredibly explosive, yet they are known to be some of the most flexible athletes. Olympic weightlifters are clearly some of the strongest athletes in the world and are also generally very flexible. They spend practically every day doing strength training and their muscles aren’t ‘short.’”

In fact, proper lifting technique demands excellent flexibility and mobility. For example, poor hip flexor flexibility or limited ankle mobility results in an athlete who probably cannot reach the lowest point of a back squat. Our proven methods combine strength training with dynamic mobility, movement training, and state of the art recovery technology to help our athletes gain and maintain the flexibility and mobility required for strength training and optimal performance on the field of competition.

 

Myth 4: Plyometrics and band training are better for pliability

We hear these types of claims time and again from coaches, trainers, and others who are quoting something they’ve read without much knowledge of the actual training science. Our muscles and brain don’t care if the resistance is provided by bodyweight, bands, weights, cables, or medicine balls. They can all be effective or detrimental, depending on how they are used.

Sport science has shown that manipulating different variables influences both the physiological and neurological effects of strength training. Rate of motion, movement patterns, environment, and type of resistance all influence the results.

Truth: Muscle Pliability is a good thing

Like so many ideas, muscle pliability is very good concept. The challenge lies in discerning and then conveying what is true and what is not. An experienced therapist can, within just a few moments of touching a person, tell whether that tissue is healthy. A good coach can tell whether an athlete has flexibility or mobility problems, or both, simply by watching them move.

In either case, it takes years of experience and understanding of the human body and training science, like that which is possessed by the performance and sports medicine staff at Velocity, to correctly apply a concept like muscle pliability to an athlete’s training program.

3 Effective exercises to make you explosive without a barbell

exercises for explosiveness

 

3 Effective exercises to make you explosive without a barbell

Athletes need power, which means a combination of strength & speed.  The reason Olympic lifts are so popular among elite athletes around the world is that they are really effective.  However, what if you don’t have a barbell and bumper plates, or no coach to teach you the technique?

While Olympic lifts are great, they aren’t the only way to train your explosiveness.  Here are 3 exercises that are really effective and don’t require the barbell.  You still need to use good form; it just may be a bit easier to get it even without a coach.

Standing Broad Jump

There is nothing new about this one, but it’s been around a long time for a reason.  Like any jumping exercise it combines the speed of rapid muscle contraction, with the application of large forces into the ground.  It also takes coordination through multiple joints in the body.  That’s a great recipe for athletes wanting to improve explosiveness.

Using a rapid counter-movement, you put the muscles around the hips, knees and ankles on stretch, then explosively contract them to get full extension in all 3 joints.  This “triple extension” action is key in many sports and why this exercise pays dividends.

An important added benefit is in the landing.  By focusing on landing soft and balanced, you are training explosive deceleration.  That’s the ability to absorb forces rapidly and it’s critical in most sports.  Its also a huge help in preventing injury.

Jumping on turf or grass surface.

3-5 sets

3-5 jumps

Skater Jumps

Another tried and true favorite, skater jumps have all the advantages of the standing broad jump, while adding a lateral movement component as well.    These might have you looking like a hockey player jump sideways from one foot to the other, but they benefit athletes in so many sports.

In addition to generating explosiveness in the take-off leg and eccentric power in the landing leg, they are really functional.  Functional, because you’ve added the challenge of moving on a single leg.  This is needed in so many sports.

Add in the the lateral movement and you are really working on all the stabilizers of the hip and some aspects pf balance.  All combined, these are things almost every athlete needs.

Jumping on turf or grass surface.

3-5 sets

3-5 jumps on each leg

Depth Jumps

Not for the beginner, depth jumps are an intense plyometric exercise guaranteed to stress your body.  That stress, when done in small doses, can have a big impact on increasing strength and power.  This is the plyo exercise where you step off a box, land and then go right into another explosive jump.

The benefits in this jumping drill are magnified because of the step off the box.  Dropping from a height lets gravity accelerate you towards the ground.  When your feet make contact all the involved joints and muscles must absorb and then generate even higher forces.  To protect yourself, the body is going to do this reflexively and you’ll put more force into the jump that immediate follows.  The key is to not overdo it.

Jump from a box 12-36” high

2-5 sets

2-4 jumps.

No Barbell, No Problem

While Olympic lifts and their variations are great for athletes wanting to build power, they may not be possible for everyone.  These 3 classic exercises have been proven for decades to help athletes improve their power.  They are also a great addition when you can do Olympic lifts.  Give them a try and see some gains.

Research Proves How Strength Can Make You Faster

agility

 

Research Proves How Strength Can Make You Faster

Research from the worlds leading sport scientists at places like Harvard University and SMU’s Locomotor Performance Laboratory have shown that faster sprinters are able to apply more force to the ground. They’ve proven that if you want to maximize your speed, you need the strength to apply big forces to the ground quickly.

The Velocity Speed Formula has 4 main components and two of those are BIG FORCE and SMALL TIME. In multiple studies over the last decade, researchers have confirmed that these 2 components of the Speed Formula are a big difference between faster and slower sprinters.

To propel your body forward, and to keep you upright, your leg has to produce a lot of force into the ground on each step. That’s what builds your momentum during acceleration phases and keeps it going during your full speed sprinting.

You create that big force, by first getting your leg up into the right position on each stride. Picture a sprinter with their front thigh up high, about parallel with the ground. Then you use the explosive strength in your glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings to generate power and drive your foot down into the ground.

Your speed dictates why the big force you generated has to be applied in a small time. Think about. As you sprint faster, your body is moving over that piece of ground your foot hit faster. The faster you sprint; the less time your foot is in contact with the ground. That’s just simple physics.

Now let’s combine that big force with the small time. This is the hard part, and where some athletes fail. You need the explosive strength to get the leg attacking down at the ground as hard as possible AND you need the reactive strength to apply it efficiently and quickly.

When your foot hits the ground, it’s driving down with a lot of power. There’s only 90-150 milliseconds of time to get all that force into the ground. Your ankle, knee or hip all have to stay “stiff” enough to apply the force and not bend or absorb it.

This doesn’t mean stiff as in lack of flexibility. It means that the muscles and tendons in your lower body can hit the ground and deliver all your power without stretching or relaxing. An analogy to help visualize this is to picture 2 bouncing balls. One is a bouncy, superball made of a “stiff” rubber. The other is more like a beach ball and soft. Which one bounces higher when it hits the ground?

The stiffer superball does because it applies the force to the ground and stores elastic energy. The beach ball absorbs some of the force and doesn’t have the eastic energy to rebound. That’s like reactive strength. Your muscles and tendons don’t relax and absorb the force. They store elastic energy and use it to help you go faster.

To generate a big force with your lower leg you will need explosive strength and to apply it you need reactive strength. The good news is that research has also shown that getting stronger correlates with getting faster. You can develop these specific strength qualities by working in the weightroom using Olympic lifts, doing plyometrics properly, and learning the optimum mechanics for sprinting.

The Velocity Speed Formula is built on science and proven in sport. The research is starting to catch up and show why we can help you get faster.

Selected References
Faster top running speeds are achieved with greater ground forces not more rapid leg movements
Weyand, et. al , J Appl Physiol 89: 1991–1999, 2000.
Are running speeds maximized with simple-spring stance mechanics?
Kenneth P. Clark, Peter G. Weyand, Journal of Applied Physiology Published 31 July 2014
Relationships Between Ground Reaction Impulse and Sprint Acceleration Performance in Team Sport Athletes, Kawamori, et. al, The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 27(3), April 2012
Increases in lower-body strength transfer positively to sprint performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis, Seitz, et. al., Sports Med. 2014 Dec;44(12):1693-702

 

30 BIG REASONS NOT TO SPECIALIZE EARLY. FROM THE NFL.

youth training and specialization

 

30 BIG REASONS NOT TO SPECIALIZE EARLY. FROM THE NFL.

30 Big Reasons Not to Specialize Early. From the NFL

The debate over specializing in a single sport at an early age, isn’t a debate. The ones who think you should specialize in one sport are parents who mean well but, who are uninformed.

The 2017 NFL draft just helped reinforce that fact.

In the 2017 NFL draft, teams put their money behind multi-sport athletes, showing that the idea of young athletes giving up other sports to just play football was a bad idea. Take a look at the numbers;
• 30 of the 32 players were multi-sport athletes in high school.
• All of the top 20 played at least 2 sports.
• 14 of the players played 3 sports in high school.
• 92% of the 107 players taken in rounds 1 through 3 were multi-sport athletes.

Yes, there are some sports where you will have to specialize early to be elite. Think about gymnastics or figure skating for example. However, in team sports, such as football, this is not the case. Yes, you probably need to be exposed to the sport or develop some of the skills early, but you don’t need to give up every other sport and just play one.

It’s understandable how people could think early specialization would be good.

How is a parent, or a maybe a local travel coach supposed to know better? There is the popular myth about having to specialize for 10,000 hours to be elite. On the surface, it also seems to make sense that if you start specializing in one skill early, you’ll be better at it. Then there’s the fears of falling behind or getting shut out if you take time to do another sport.

What a lot of individuals do not know is that team sports and athletic development are far more complex and dynamic. We have motor learning, motivation, repetitive injuries, movement dysfunction, cognitive development and just plain fun that all need to be part of this equation.

Some will of course continue to make the case for picking one sport early. The science of development and motivation, the experience of successful coaches, and the choices of NFL teams, all say “don’t specialize!” Instead go play multiple sports if you want to increase your chances of having an athletic career.

Want to be fast? Learn this simple drill.

 

Jumping Rope

Short Time

Time is short we don’t have a lot of it, and most parents want to know something their athlete can be doing every day to help them get faster. To be a faster athlete, you have to focus on one of Velocity’s speed formula principles: short time. The longer an athlete is on the ground the slower they will be.
What is the best way an athlete can practice this at home to help them get faster and improve their coordination?

JUMP ROPE!

We have our athletes jump rope in our warm-ups all of the time. We love this exercise because it teaches our athletes about ground contact time and coordination. When it comes to running faster you need to have both coordination and quick feet. The jump rope helps us to practice how our feet strike the ground, how we absorb and push off the ground. What forces are involved and what muscles are used. It also forces us to pay attention and focus.

The most important thing when starting to jump rope is to make sure that you have the right size jump rope. If it is too short then you will have to jump really high or have a large arm swing making it inefficient. If it is too long it drags on the ground longer and usually whips you in the legs, which is also inefficient and painful. We never want that. We want a rope that when we stand in the middle of it we are able to pull it up between our armpits and our sternum.
Once you have the right size jump rope we can start. I tell my athletes to pretend they are a popsicle, they can only move their wrists to spin the rope and feet to jump up in the air. Everything else needs to stay tight. Doing this creates tension throughout the body making it spring like. This spring like effect is what we want. We want to keep the body as straight as possible to be efficient.

Start with the rope behind you. Don’t jump rope. Rope jump. Spin the rope with the wrists over your head and jump over it as it passes. Try to keep the feet together when you start to teach your body how to be one strong piece.
If you mess up trying its ok. You won’t be perfect the first time this is part of the learning process. Spend at least 10 minutes a day practicing jumping rope. Here are some goals for you to work towards start with the first one and see how many you can do. Remember start at the top and work your way down. Master the basics first. Just like with running you have to walk before you can sprint.
100 jumps in a row
25 single foot jumps each
20 yards Jump rope 2 feet together (no misses)
20 yards Jump rope single leg (no misses) each leg
Double-Unders
Single Leg Double Unders

Flexibility & Range of Motion, Do You Have Any?

flexibility arms raising

 

Flexibility, do you have any?

Flexibility: the ability to flex bend and move through a full range of motion. As humans, all of our bodies are designed for the most part the same. With a few differences between men and women obviously. Why then if all bodies are the same can some bodies move better than others?

Let’s ask Aristotle. “We, are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act but a habit?”

If all our bodies are the same, then the difference between flexible people and inflexible people are their habits!
I imagine during Aristotle’s day there were not many issues with flexibility because back then people moved around more. Today in our society we sit. When we sit down for hours at a time we are constantly telling our body that this is the position we want to be in. Then gravity takes its toll on us. We round our shoulders, and hunch forward making us less mobile in the t-spine. Sitting tells us to shorten the hip flexors, and turns off the glutes because we are sitting on them.

Sitting is human nature now, and is a bad habit that has consequences. We don’t make this connection that sitting is making us immobile. We just assume that our bodies don’t move through full ranges of motion anymore as we age! Or when we move it hurts because we have created muscle imbalances from all that sitting!

We wake up one day and everything hurts when we move because we are not movers anymore we are sitters. We want to get up and move because we know it is good for our health, but our limited range of motion makes it hard.
So what do we do to help restore our flexibility? Well we need to move! We need get up out of our chair and relearn how to move our body through a full range of motion. We have been inactive so long that a full range of motion is no longer achievable and some muscle groups are then forced to work harder than normal to compensate! How can we fix this limitation we have placed on ourselves?

Everyone knows the answer to how to get more flexible, and that is to STRETCH! We pick an area that is tight and we stretch it painstakingly for 2 min a side and viola! We are magically fixed. WRONG! Stretching for 2 minutes never helped anyone get more flexible. Think about it how many times have you reached down and tried to touch your toes hoping that they would come closer? It just doesn’t happen. The 2 minutes you spend on each side stretching, even if it is daily, will never add up to counteract the hours of sitting we do each day!

So then how do we become more flexible? By moving. By getting up and taking your body through a full range of motion! You need to move everyday through a full range of motion. Now be warned it is going to take time to get back to where your body used to be just as it took years of sitting to get you where you are now! But, by moving and doing something every day you can start the good habit of getting back to being flexible.

What should I do then to help improve my flexibility? I really suggest everyone learn how to squat properly. Dr. Kelly Starett says everyone should try to spend 10 min in the bottom of a squat every day. Your body knows how to do this it has just forgotten! You need to reteach it how to be mobile and move through a pain free full range of motion. You can use some assistance with weight to help you get all the way down there or hold on to a chair to get into a good position.

So you’re saying I shouldn’t stretch at all? Now, stretching can facilitate moving better, and there are plenty of good stretches that can help you relearn how to squat by bringing awareness to a certain muscle group by stretching it for a bit. But, if we never actually squat and move, all the stretching in the world won’t help us understand how to move better because we are not moving.

If you want to be more flexible try to sit less and move more. Re-teach yourself how to squat properly and use stretching to help this endeavor. It will take time but it is time you are investing into yourself to make you a healthier more mobile you!

What is Visualization?

visualization

 

What Is Visualization?

Visualization

We all do it as kids. We imagine it is the bottom of the ninth, we are down by 1 run, bases are loaded, and we are up to bat. We imagine ourselves blasting a home run clear out of the park. We can see it so clearly its almost real.

We don’t realize the power in this visualization until we make it happen! Visualization is a very powerful tool to help athletes learn and refine their skills, as well as mentally rehearse for a performance.
What it is going to feel like, smell like, taste like to be there? Who is there cheering them on? What time of day is it? What color jersey is the opponent wearing? The more real an athlete can make it feel in their heads the better the positive outward effect.

Positive visualization can help an athlete be mentally ready for a big competition because they have gone through scenarios in their heads already. This means the athlete will know exactly what to do in each situation, and will know what to expect, feel, and they will have no surprises.
Your brain doesn’t know the difference if you are doing an action or if you are thinking about doing the same action. Meaning the same areas in the brain that are active when you think about the movement, are also active when you actually do the movement. Visualization helps athletes learn faster by having them just imagine in their mind doing the movement. Again, the more the athlete can really “see” themselves doing an action the more likely they will perform that action better because they have already done it in their head.

Here is an example from one of our Velocity coaches.

“When I was younger and playing baseball I had some bad hitting days. My dad suggested I try to close my eyes and imagine myself seeing the ball leaving the pitchers hand. Then follow it all the way to the bat, and visualize where it was going to land. So before my next game, I did exactly what my dad had taught me. I imagined watching the ball, and how far I was going to hit it. I was mentally rehearsing all of this in my head before my next game. When my next game rolled around I had two hits, and each hit landed close to where I had imagined hitting the ball.”

Visualization isn’t a quick fix magic pill, and that will be the only thing you will need to do. However, visualization is a powerful tool that all athletes need to add into their toolbox to help improve performance or learn new complex skills!

Those interesting looking tools & Graston Technique

graston technique

Graston Technique

Ever Wonder What the Graston Technique is?

The Graston Technique® is an innovative, evidence-based form of instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization that enables clinicians to detect and effectively break down scar tissue and fascial restrictions, as well as maintain optimal range of motion.

The unique protocol uses specially designed stainless steel instruments, along with appropriate therapeutic exercise, to specifically detect and effectively treat areas exhibiting soft tissue fibrosis or chronic inflammation. The instruments also are used diagnostically to follow the kinetic chain, to locate and treat the cause of the symptom as well as the specific area of pain. Graston Technique® is also frequently used as an effective protocol to maintain range of motion.

Graston Technique® does not need to be considered “painful” to be effective. Please inform your clinician if you are experiencing discomfort anytime during treatment. Patients usually receive two treatments per week during a four-to-five-week period. Most patients have a positive response by the third to fourth treatment. Graston Technique® is accepted nationwide by elite athletes and everyday patients, as one of the most effective treatments for rehabilitation and range of motion maintenance, especially when combined with other treatment modalities such as exercise.

Graston is just another effective way for athletes to recover faster. Combined with other recovery techniques, athletes can return to play much quicker than with traditional rest and icing techniques. If you are interested in Graston contact your nearest Velocity Sports Performance.

Is your injury ready for the GAME READY system?

game ready system

 

Game Ready Technology

The Game Ready system and getting you back to competition.

Game Ready’s innovative ACCEL® Technology (Active Compression and Cold Exchange Loop) sets a new standard in injury and post-op treatment, integrating active pneumatic compression and cold therapies in one revolutionary system. The system progressively increases and releases pressure while also rapidly circulating ice water through separate wrap chambers.

Until now, the RICE (Rest–Ice–Compression–Elevation) principles have been used only to passively control symptoms, moderating pain and swelling. But Game Ready® does more. Going beyond static cold and compression applications, ACCEL Technology mimics natural muscle contractions while cooling the tissue, helping the body to proactively aid lymphatic function, encourage cellular oxygen supply, and stimulate tissue repair. That is, it helps accelerate and enhance recovery.

Technology is advancing, and that means your recovery should be too. Don’t be scared of trying new things, and learning to be healthy.

What is the NormaTec?

NormaTec

 

What is the NormaTec?

You have probably seen thousands of pictures of individuals sitting in a chair with giant pants that look like balloons. They claim they are working on recovering their muscles, but what exactly are they using? The Normatec.
NormaTec is the leader in rapid recovery—the system gives a competitive edge to the world’s elite athletes, coaches, and trainers. The NormaTec Recovery Systems are dynamic compression devices designed for recovery. All the systems use NormaTec’s patented PULSE technology to help athletes recover faster between training and after a performance.

So how does the NormaTec actually work?

The systems include a control unit and attachments which go on the legs, arms, or hips. They use compressed air to massage your limbs, mobilize fluid, and speed recovery with the patented NormaTec Pulse Massage Pattern. When you use the systems, you will first experience a pre-inflate cycle, during which the connected attachments are molded to your exact body shape. The session will then begin by compressing your feet, hands, or upper quad (depending on which attachment you are using). Similar to the kneading and stroking done during a massage, each segment of the attachment will first compress in a pulsing manner and then release. This will repeat for each segment of the attachment as the compression pattern works its way up your limb.

The NormaTec is used to help athletes recover as quick as possible to get them ready to train again. Are you interested in trying a NormaTec? Call your local Velocity Sports Performance!