Posts Tagged ‘Muscle’

r-JUMP-ROPE-WORKOUTS-403xFBcreditBy A.C. Shilton for Men’s Journal

Forget any association you had with jump ropes and gym class. The jump rope is a powerful workout tool. It builds cardio fitness, balance, agility and bone strength. It’s also one of the best go-anywhere fitness accessories, fitting easily into even a crammed carry-on.

“It requires a lot of coordination and really works your cardiovascular system,” says Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, the women’s 2014 CrossFit Games winner. She likes to train with double unders, a common CrossFit move that requires you to jump explosively and spin the rope faster to pass it beneath your feet twice. This works your muscles harder and pushes your cardiovascular system towards its upper limit.

To get the most from your workout, make sure your rope is the right size. CrossFit HQ trainer Dave Lipson says that when you hold the rope under one foot, the handles should just reach your armpits. To maximize results, practice good form. “Hold your hands at 10 and 2 o’clock and at waist height. Revolve the rope from the wrists, not the shoulders,” says Lipson.

And if you’re shooting for double unders, we recommend buying a speed rope with bearings. Speed ropes start around $20 and spin faster than inexpensive licorice and beaded ropes.

Now here are seven jump rope workouts — most of which can be completed in a half hour or less — that will have you burning calories and building strength.

High-Speed Circuit
Fitness competitor, former ballerina and coach Dom Spain teaches outdoor bootcamp classes in Miami. She calls jump rope workouts the “no excuses” workout because, “if I have clients that say they don’t have time or don’t have the money for a gym membership, they can always do this.”

This workout is designed to give you just enough rest to keep pushing through all of the exercises, but not enough to let things get easy. It can be done in 30 minutes and requires only a jump rope.

  • Warm up by doing 30 seconds of jumping rope, 30 seconds of air squats, then a 1 minute plank hold. Repeat four times.
  • 1 minute of jumping and 30 seconds of push-ups.
  • 1 minute of backward jumping and 30 seconds of tricep bench dips.
  • 1 minute of side to side jumping (imagine your feet are bound together, and jump rope while hopping from side to side) and 30 seconds of lunges.
  • 1 minute of skipping rope (one foot lands as the other takes off) and 30 seconds of jumping squats.
  • 1 minute of single leg jumping (30 seconds on one leg, then switch), and 30 seconds of mountain climbers.
  • 1 minute of alternating high knee jumps (like the skipping rope move, but pull your knees up as high as you can), and 30 seconds of flutter kicks.

Take one minute of rest, then repeat the entire circuit. Cool down and stretch after two rounds.


rsLogoAnthony Darmiento
Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach
United States Olympic Committee

As the National Strength and Conditioning Association states in their position statement on youth resistance training, “Strength training youth athletes needs to be safe, effective and enjoyable. In order for strength training to be safe it’s more than the method of strength training, but rather how it is being implemented.”

For example, important factors such as proper form when lifting and moving are overlooked when a coach simply follows a plan on a written document or tries to implement a training program they once performed.  For this reason, Responsible Coaches seek help and guidance from qualified strength coaches to assist in the development of athletes of any level to ensure that strength training is performed in a proper and appropriate manner.  The risks of strength training are similar between youth and adults and strength training is only effective when it is done in a safe environment with proper supervision.

In order for strength training to be effective Responsible Coaches realize that strength training must complement sport training. For example, eliminating practice time to introduce or implement an effective strength program and developing basic movement skills are safe investments. The off-season and preseason are ideal times to implement a strength program. Responsible Coaches recognize athletes need to have the appropriate motor control to perform basic exercises such as a squat, lunge and pushup before progressing to loaded exercises. Although these movements and others may seem rudimentary and common most young athletes lack the ability to execute them with proper form.  Another reason for stressing the importance of such training is that these skills and movements transfer to many different sports and across all levels of sport.

In order for strength training to be enjoyable two very important factors must be considered: Athlete’s must understand and see benefits from the strength program while also training in a fun and enjoyable environment. Any athlete is more likely to continue training when they understand the benefits and see results. This highlights the importance of a sound and effective program. This is especially important considering it may take a few weeks of progressing before performance increases are seen or athletes begin to feel the positive effects of training. Until then it is important to keep training fun and enjoyable by mixing in games or challenges that keep athletes focused. For example, performing walking lunges on a row of printer paper without stepping off could be enjoyable and challenging for younger athletes.

On the other hand older athletes might enjoy keeping a log of their vertical jump height as each athlete attempts to beat their own personal records over time. Setting goals that are both attainable and challenging for the team or each individual is very important when trying to keep athletes motivated and driven. Thus coaches should be prepared with progressions and regressions for different exercises or activities based on ranging abilities of their athletes. If all this is kept in mind it shouldn’t be hard to keep things in enjoyable and fun while still performing strength training in a safe and controlled manner.


Fagenbaum, A. D., Kraemer, W. J., Blimkie, C. J., Jeffreys, I., Micheli, L. J., Nitka, M., et al. (2009). Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position Statement Paper From the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 60-79.

User:Extremepullup performing a standard dead-...

User:Extremepullup performing a standard dead-hang pull up (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David Cassilo
USA Today High School Sports
Doing a lot of heavy lifting might seem like the best way to strengthen your upper body, but sports training expert Rick Howard says that’s not necessarily the case.

We asked Howard, the founder of the Youth Special Interest Group for the National Strength and Conditioning Association, to shed some light on a few upper-body training misconceptions.

Myth 1: Focus on muscles you can see.
Athletes work muscles they can see like their chest. That’s why they tend to do the bench press, biceps and abs. To improve upper-body strength, you have to have a balance between the muscles on the front and back of your body.

Myth 2: Upper-body strength starts in the weight room.
Focus on bodyweight training before you transition to machines like the bench press. You don’t always have to use a strength-training machine. There are all types of exercises like pushups to work your chest muscles and exercises like pull-ups to work your back. It’s a long-term process to get into peak condition, and you need to progress correctly.

Myth 3: Do as many reps as often as you can.
Start with one set of an exercise for 10 to 15 reps. Progress to three sets, then gradually add weight. You don’t need to do the maximum every time. The key is to have great form, not to do as many reps as possible.

Myth 4: Every athlete should bench to build a strong upper body.
Some athletes have shoulder injuries that preclude them from doing a bench press. For others, there are different weighted bars that might be too heavy to lift. Instead, you can use a medicine ball, bodyweight exercises or dumbbells.

Myth 5: You should strengthen your upper body on your own.
A lot of times athletes go into a weight room or in their basement and work out without supervision. That, unfortunately, is where most injuries occur.

By Tommy Sutor, BS, CSCS

English: SAN DIEGO (Nov. 8, 2010) Marine Sgt. ...

Image via Wikipedia

Many track and field athletes incorporate plyometrics into their training, such as jumps, hops, bounds, or box jumps.  However many athletes only do lower body plyometrics when in fact they could also benefit from upper body plyometrics.  Throwers can benefit from upper body plyometrics since having more powerful muscles in the upper body could facilitate greater release velocities, provided their technique is sound.  Sprinters and many jumpers could benefit from a more powerful upper body as well.  Research has shown that the explosive swinging of the arms facilitates leg drive, enhances momentum and helps the body overcome inertia (the resistance to acceleration) when sprinting(1). So, what are some exercises to make the muscles of the chest, shoulders, and back more explosive?

Beginner/Low Intensity Exercises

Plyo push-ups: This is the most basic upper body plyometric exercise.  Simply perform a standard push-up, except make it quick and explosive enough to launch your hands a few inches off the ground.  A good way to make sure you’re pushing yourself high enough is to clap your hands in-between each rep.  Remember, do not stop between each rep – plyometrics are about being quick with one rep coming immediately after another!

Chest Passes: with a medicine ball, stand facing a partner or a wall.  Holding the ball at chest level with elbows out, throw the medicine ball to your partner or the wall.  As soon as the ball comes back to you, throw it again – there should be no hesitation between catching and throwing the ball.

Overhead Passes: Hold a medicine ball in both hands. Take a step forward, bringing the ball up over your head, and throw it as far as possible.  Make sure to lead with the legs and hips.  Because this exercise primarily involves the smaller muscles of the shoulders, only light medicine balls should be used – no more than a few pounds.  Stronger, more advanced athletes could gradually progress to heavier medicine balls.

Advanced/Higher Intensity Exercises

Depth push-ups: This is essentially a push-up version of a depth jump.  Start in push-up position with each hand elevated on a small plyo box (about 6″) or any surface a few inches off the ground, then drop down to the ground, landing on your hands in push-up position, and immediately pushing yourself back up on to the box.  An easier variation is starting on the boxes and just landing in push-up position, or starting in push-up position and pushing on to the boxes.  The height can be increased as the athlete becomes better at the movement.

Medicine ball drop: Lying on the ground with your arms extended up, have a partner stand above you at your head, and drop a medicine ball towards your chest.  Catch the ball and immediately throw it back to your partner.  The intensity of this exercise can be increased by increasing the weight of the ball, or having your partner stand on a box.

These are just a few upper body plyometric exercises – for more exercises, just be creative!

Work Cited:
1. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 3rd edition. Thomas R. Baechle, Roger W. Earle. © 2008 National Strength and Conditioning Association.

Usain Bolt

100m and 200m Dash World Record Holder - Usain Bolt

Developing Speed for Sprinting – If you consider what the components for speed are, they include firing frequency and muscle fiber recruitment.  Contemporary training programs work on increasing firing frequency through foot or leg drills or through repetitive running for set distances.  Muscle fiber recruitment typically is done in the weight room with explosive lifts. However, explosive lifts require proper training and supervision to avoid injury. Immediate improvements in speed usually, come from neuromuscular adaptations. Neuromuscular adaptations enhance firing frequency and muscle requirements.  A safer method of recruiting muscle fibers for the development of speed includes the addition of more balance work and conditioning program.

If you look at most movement patterns of lower body, at one point during the movement the body must support itself on one leg. However, we do not ask athletes to condition that way. We usually get on a weight machine and use two limbs; thus, never really working on the weaker limb. Each time the weaker limb steps on the ground by itself, it slows you down because, for a split fraction of a second, it must adjust appropriately during the running stride.

Balance work takes advantage of proprioception, the ability of muscle to respond to abnormal positions and situations.  Proprioception provides a sense of joint position and movement.

Doing balance work in conjunction with explosive power movements in your sprint training provides an opportunity to recruit and train additional muscle fibers. If done properly, the end result is improved speed.  The following program will illustrate how to incorporate the right blend of balance and power into the sprinting program.

  • Single Leg Backbridge (Figure 1) – Lie with your back on the ball and with one leg firmly in contact with the ground. Make sure that the leg that is on the ground is at an angle greater than 90° and your foot is pointed straight ahead. Raise the other length off the ground and maintain this position for 3 to 4 sets of 30 to 45 seconds depending on the level of the leg imbalance.
  • Balance on Wobbly Board (Figure 2) – Balance on each leg on the wobbly board. Repeat for 3 to 4 sets of 30 to 45 seconds on each leg. Ultimately build 60 seconds on each leg for 3 to 4 sets.
  • Balance on Wobbly Board with Weighted Ball (Figure 3) – Once balance work on a wobbly board has been mastered, the next level of progression is to hold on to a weighted jelly ball or medicine ball.  Repeat for 3 to 4 sets of 30 to 45 seconds on each leg.
  • Bulgarian Step Ups (Figure 4) – With a 35 pound universal bar on your back (trapezius), place the right foot on a box. Make certain that the effort is placed on the foot that is on the box to step up. Step up on the box with the trailing leg. Do 3 to 4 sets of six repetitions on each leg.
  • Jelly Ball Kickups (Figure 5) – Use a 3 to 4 pound jelly ball for beginning training programs to allow for safe progression to a heavier weighted jelly ball. Place the ball between the feet. Squeeze the ball with the feet and drive down during the preparation phase. Next, drive up while kicking the jelly ball up in the air. Repeat for 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 10 repetitions.
  • Split Squat Jump (Figure 6) – Placed one leg in front of the other leg in a split position. Drive down with the legs and arms and explode up while maintaining the split squat position. Landing should be done in the same position as the drive phase. Do 3 to 4 sets of six jumps on each leg.
  • L Hops (Figure 7) – Place one leg on a table making the hip angle about 90° to the floor. Make sure that use have a soft landing mat or floor while performing these routines. Drive down on one leg and explosively drive up on the same late. Do 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions on each leg.
  • Box Step Ups (Figure 8 ) – Place 1 foot on a box and step up on that foot while driving the other leg up. Make sure to maintain the same arm action that you would in the running motion.  Do 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions on each leg.
  • Quick Foot Step Ups (Figure 9) – Place an aerobic step on a secure floor to prevent movement of the box. On command, the athlete will step up onto the box with the leg, foot, but they normally drive off with drive off with the blocks. The athlete will step on and off the box as fast as possible for 30 seconds. Make sure to maintain the proper sequence of movements in the running motion.
  • Stadium Hops (Figure 10) – Use aluminum stadium steps to do this exercise, as it will provide a much softer landing. Place the hands behind the head and squat, and then explosively drive up to the next step. Perform this for about 10 rows and walked down and repeat the same procedure 3 to 4 times.
  • Single Leg Hops (Figure 11) – Find an area that is soft and level if you are outside. Line up six cones and practiced jumping over one or two to line up the appropriate distance between comes.  Take a running start at the cones and then single leg hop over each one. Perform this drill 3 to 4 times on each leg.
  • Granny Throws (Figure 12) – Use a 16 pound jelly ball or medicine ball. Squat down and drive straight up while tossing the ball as explosively as you can. Perform this drill 6 to 8 times.
  • Incline Sprints – Find an incline area that is no more than 4 to 5 percent grade. The distance needed should be about 25 to 35m in length. On command sprint for a set distance of 25 to 30m. Perform the Sprint 6 to 8 times.

There are many ways to train for speed, such as tubing, parachutes, and shoulder harnesses. The isolated balance work and explosive routine done by each leg as depicted in this article will target those individual muscle fibers not normally conditioned by traditional sprint training. Incorporating balance and explosive movement patterns, as it relates to sprinting with develop the sprinter into a faster athlete. By following this program during the preseason, sprinter will have an excellent base of functional and explosive strength training as it relates to sprinting. The simplicity of this training program is that it does not require an extensive weight room to get results.

Figure . Single Leg - Backbridge Figure 2. - Balance on Wobble Board and Figure 3. Balance on Wobble Board with Weighted Ball


1.       Faccioni, A. Assisted and resisted methods for speed development; Part 2. Modern Athlete and Coach 32:8 – 12. 1994

2.       Jakalski, K.  Parachutes, tubing and towing. Track Coach 144:4285 – 4589. 1998

3.       Letzelter, M., G. Sauerwein, and Burger R.  Resistance runs in speed development.  Modern Athlete and Coach 33:7 – 12. 1996

John Whyte, M.D., MPH
Chief Medical Expert and VP,
Health and Medical Education at Discovery Channel
Posted: 04/20/11 08:15 AM ET

Does your son play high school football? If so, he could be among the 13 percent of teens playing high school football believed to be currently using steroids. So your daughter is surely safe if she plays a sport like basketball, right?

Sadly, no. The rate of steroid use for females playing high school basketball is 8.8 percent. And if you think those are small numbers your child can’t be any part of, consider that 40 to 50 percent of high school and college athletes are using some sort of supplement with their workouts.

These sobering numbers are part of a scary trend among young athletes. All over the country, teenagers are looking for the best way to bulk up for a competitive advantage on the playing field, push some extra weight in the gym, or simply just to look “buff.” They are finding this in increasingly popular anabolic androgenic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs/supplements.

According to the CDC, up to 11 percent of all high school males reported trying steroids, and 6 percent have taken them for an entire 8- to 12-week “cycle.” This is a very real and dangerous problem in teens today, but where did it come from? After all, I don’t even remember hearing about steroids when I was in high school.

In some ways, steroids have been a part of mainstream media since the muscle-men of the 1970s. The lure of a “buffed body” among teens, however, is more of a recent trend. A study from the University of Michigan showed that in 1992, 72 percent of high school seniors believed that those using steroids “risked harming themselves.” In 2002, the same question found only 57 percent of the young athletes felt this way. An investigation by U.S. News and World Report found that 4 in 10 teenage steroid users were influenced by the belief that famous athletes were using them as well. That same survey found 57 percent of teen steroid users were prompted to use by reading muscle magazines — and there are at least half a dozen of these magazines nowadays.

Or maybe it’s simply the availability of steroids that is causing their use to skyrocket. One study noted that 44 percent of 12th grade students found it “very easy” or “fairly easy” to obtain steroids. That’s nearly half of all seniors at your local high school!

This represents a huge problem when you consider the abundance of possible health effects of steroid use. These include:

•Liver disease, including cancer
•Increase in bad cholesterol and decrease in a good cholesterol — a double whammy leading to heart attack and stroke
•Decreased testicular size, reduced sperm count, loss of sex drive and impotence
•Mood swings, aggression, irritability, depression and suicidal thoughts

So what do you do if you think your kid is using steroids or thinking about using them? Well, I suggest starting by simply talking to your kids about steroids today! Some studies have shown possible steroid use in children as young as 10. Educate yourself so you can give them accurate facts. Know the warnings signs. Many can be similar to typical teenage life, such as acne, mood swings and more private, secluded behavior, so it can be challenging to spot the signs.

But if these changes are accompanied by aggression, acne on the back, sudden increases in muscle mass, an escalation in gym visits and a “win-at-all-costs” attitude, then it may be time to be suspicious. I’m all for fitness, but it needs to be done in a way that promotes health, not injure it.

Remember that lifelong health and fitness patterns are established during teenage years. It’s important to be a close part of that process with your child, teaching them safe and healthy fitness habits.

1. Castillo, E., and R. Comstock. “Prevalence of Use of Performance-Enhancing Substances Among United States Adolescents.” Pediatric Clinics of North America 54.4 (2007): 663-75. Print.
2. Schrof, Joannie M. “Pumped Up.” US News and World Report, June 1, 1992, Volume 112 Issue 21, p54.
3. Gruber AJ, Pope HG Jr. Compulsive weight lifting and anabolic drug abuse among women rape victims. Comprehensive Psychiatry 40(4):273-277, 1999

Judith J. Wurtman, PhD
Co-author, “The Serotonin Power Diet, Eat Carbs, Nature’s Own Appetite Suppressant, to Stop Emotional Overeating”

The Miami Herald had a front page article about recreational baseball players who ranged in age from 69 (the baby) to 93. The men, retired doctors, lawyers, teachers, businessman and public officials, meet twice weekly to play. They divide themselves into two teams since they can’t find another local team whose ages are similar to theirs. The 93-year-old was quoted as being insulted when asked if he needed a pinch runner and had, before the article was written, just hit his first home run. They played for the joy of it; aches and pains from aging joints forgotten or endured for the sake of the game.

A recent issue of The New England Journal of Medicine published a study showing that older obese adults have to exercise while losing weight in order to maintain their physical strength. The objective of the study, authored by Dennis Villareal, M.D., was to prevent the loss of muscle and bone mass that may occur with dieting. Such losses, according to the report, could result in a deterioration of physical function and frailty and the study was structured to measure changes in a variety of physical tasks such as climbing stairs, bending over to pick up a penny, and being able to turn 360 degrees without losing balance. These may seem like trivial physical tasks to the physically capable of any age but according to the research paper, frailty among older adults is a major reason they may lose their ability to live independently.

The mostly 70-year-old volunteers in the study underwent a vigorous, yearlong exercise regimen. They had three weekly 90 minute workout sessions that included weightlifting to strengthen their muscles, as well as vigorous aerobic exercise using a treadmill, exercise bike and stair climbing equipment. In fact, these older adults probably exercised harder than many people 30 years younger. And it paid off. Not only did every measure of physical stamina and functionality increase, they also maintained their bone and muscle mass.

The results of this study are compelling. Who wants to relinquish one’s independence because of difficulty climbing stairs, getting out of a chair or being unable to put on a coat? Who wants to be prevented from strolling through a park or museum because of muscle weakness or fragile bones? Many of us may be vulnerable to nerve or orthopedic problems that limit our mobility or unhappily, degenerative disorders which reduce our physical independence. There is no fortune teller that can predict who among us may be subject to these problems. But one does not need a psychic to predict that as we age, a sedentary life coupled with obesity may cause us to enter the eighth or ninth decade of life unable to carry out the physical tasks of the day-to-day with ease.

The study was not intended as a warning to a younger population to start exercising now. Nor did it make any recommendations as to how to get older adults who rarely exercised when they were younger to start now. It did, however, point out some sobering statistics that I wish I knew when several years ago a 60 ish woman who came to me for weight loss help announced that she was too old to exercise. I would have quoted the statistics noted in the article that 20 percent of adults 65 years of age and older are obese, the obesity among older adults may exacerbate a deterioration in the ability to perform many physical functions, and the frailty that may follow can lead to nursing home admissions. Weight loss alone may exacerbate these problems if it occurs without exercise. This might have motivated her to go to a gym (or at least when she got older).

Most people don’t think of dieting without exercise as risky. We tend to think that weight loss more or less equals loss of fat. A few days ago I saw a billboard saying just that, “Lose one pound of fat a week” it proclaimed in advertising some quick weight loss plan. But is fat all that we lose? The older volunteers in this study who dieted without exercise decreased both their muscle mass and bone density. Many diet programs will tell you that you can lose weight without exercise or recommend exercising after the weight has been lost. What these programs do not mention is the potential loss of bone or muscle mass that may exacerbate fragile bones, loss of balance or physical stamina.

There is an apartment for seniors across the street from my gym. I can look out the window at the residents walking in and out of the building or sitting on the wide porch by the front door. Almost all of them have trouble walking up or down the few steps in front of the building and some have needed help getting up from their chairs on the porch. They seem to be the same age as several people I know at the health club who are in their mid-to-late 70s.

I have a friend, almost 75, who is acknowledged as the fastest spinner in her spin class and another who lifts heavier weights than most guys 30 years younger. Might they be living across the street if they did not exercise with such dedication and determination? Would they be frail and suffer from balance problems and muscle weakness? Might I if I don’t stop staring out the window and get back to my exercise routine?

Given a choice, I suspect most of us would like to enter older age with the stamina and verve of the Miami baseball team. Whether we do or not depends partly on escaping the physical disabilities associated with many medical problems. But if we are fortunate enough to have our health, then attaining a normal weight and exercise seems a small price to pay for physical independence and may be the chance to hit a home run of our own.

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