Built for Show – And for Go

There seems to be a school of thought when it comes to resistance training that you’re either training for performance or for aesthetics. It’s either bodybuilding or strength and conditiong. Built for show or for go.

It was as though the two goals were mutually exclusive and could not overlap.

Meatheads would mock those who couldn’t build 20 inch arms. And athletes would point out all the gym rats that trip over their own feet during a game of football.

But is that the case?

If you train for hypertrophy i.e. size, does that mean you’ll be useless on the playing field?

New research says that’s not the case.

The study look at muscle volume and strength and compared this among three groups 1) elite sprinters n= 5, 2) sub-elite sprinters n= 26, and untrained controls n=11. All study subjects were male. Elite sprinters were defined as though that could run a 10.10 second 100 meter and sub-elite as though that could run the 100 m in 10.80 seconds.

To put in perspective how fast a 10.10 second 100 metre is, only four Canadians have ever run a sub 10 second 100 m including Olympic champion Donovan Bailey and Olympic bronze medallist Andre De Grasse.

The study subjects underwent MRIs to determine muscle volume of 23 lower limb muscles and 5 functional muscles. These were then correlated to 100 m times and isometric strength.

What they found was that the muscularity of elite sprinters was greater in elite sprinters than sub-elite and both were greater than the controls. In particular the hip extensors showed the biggest difference among the groups and this accounted for 31-48% of the variability in 100 m times.

Of the hip extensors it turns out the gluteus maximus alone accounted for 34-44 % of variance in 100 m sprint time.

There is substantial difference in the size and volume of the gluteus maximus in elite sprinters compared to sub-elite sprinters and even moreso with untrained controls.

In terms of isometric strength, plantar flexors, or the muscles we use to point our toes, showed no difference. Both sprint groups were stronger, isometrically, but this was not related to sprint times.

The take home message is that you can train to be like J-Lo and Usain Bolt at the same time. Building a bigger backside helps fill out your favourite pair of denim and sprint faster.

Miller, R., Balshaw, T. G., Massey, G. J., Maeo, S., Lanza, M. B., Johnston, M., & Folland, J. P. (2020). The Muscle Morphology of Elite Sprint Running. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

What To Do About a Tight Hamstring

Have you ever experienced a pulled hamstring?

If you haven’t consider yourself lucky. It’s not much fun at all.

How to Distinguish Lower Body Exercises

Lower body training can get kind of confusing sometimes.

We hear a variety of different ‘rules’ about training such as:

‘don’t let the knees go past the toes’,

‘don’t do deadlifts if you have back issues’ and

‘don’t train your legs if you don’t want to get bulky’.

Why Trail Running Doesn’t Give You a Nice Butt

Ask most women what they’d like to work on in the gym and they’ll say they like to tone certain areas of the body, increase their strength and flatten their midsection.

Believe it or not guys want the same things.

But they’ll word it differently. Guys will want to build and define, have a six packed or ripped abs as well as big arms.

And often times for flat stomach or ripped abs there’s a knee jerk reaction to doing some form of cardio. Which doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. I’m just saying this is where many people turn to when they want to burn some calories and shed some fat.

So how is that getting outside and running trails won’t give you glutes of steel?

Well they won’t if you sprain your ankle.

Can you picture someone walking around with a sprained ankle? The ankle is in a plantar (or toes pointed) position usually, isn’t it?

We avoid walking in a heel-toe type manner because we don’t want to put additional strain on the injured joint.

So we hobble around on the ball of our foot. Or maybe we use crutches but we’re still only applying weight to the ball of the foot.

And guess what happens?

We stop using our glutes and we reply instead on our calves, quads and hip flexors.

Why does this happen?

Because we fire our glutes maximally when we push through our heels (planted into the ground) and drive the hips forward.

Think there might be some glute activation going on here?

Now imagine how hard it would be to achieve this same level of glute activation standing on the balls of the feet? To save you the time of trying this out on your own, it would be impossible.

But it gets worse.

How much running, sprinting, rope jumping etc do you do when you have a sprained ankle?

Pretty much zero, right?

You’re either on crutches, in a wheel chair or on the couch watching 2OT with your foot elevated on ice.

Why does this matter?

Because standing allows you to extend the knees and hips and activate the glutes as we mentioned.

But it gets worse.

As long as you are in a sitting position the hips are in a flexed position. This means the muscles that help raise the raise the leg and bend the body forward are working almost all of the time.

And they get fatigued and tight. Try doing a straight leg raise on your back and you may notice your hip flexors cramp up as you try and raise your leg as high as possible.

Just another confirmation that while the muscles on the backside of the body (your glutes) aren’t working to capacity the muscles on the front side are working overtime.

And as soon as you test these muscles they may demonstrate this overload by cramping or fatiguing quickly.

So, if you are looking to tone your glutes this summer make sure to include a variety of exercises to accompllish this. And to recap, I don’t mean trail running is a bad idea. But if you do sprain your ankle you will need to have a number of contingencies in place to address your injury and prevent weak glutes.

Not sure how to do this on your own?

We have a solution (for as little as $8/session) but is very time sensitive. We may still have a spot for you. Call today.

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 okanaganpeakperformance.com ‘always moving forward’

A Quick Low Back and Deadlifting Fix

I like simple things.

Simple fixes. Simple solutions.

I think this is what Occam’s Razor is all about. That the simplest solution is often the correct one. Well that’s the way I understand it.

And I like when simple things transfer over to other things.

Consider for example in day to day life how a solution makes your life better and it helps in more than one way.

Below I’ve added a video for you.

And it has to do with helping alleviate low back pain and improve your posture.

The video only runs a few minutes so have a quick watch.



To recap the points from the video:

* slide to the edge of your seat

* split your feet wide into a V position

* grab the seat between your legs

* push your chest tall as you drive your heels into the floor and pull with your arms

***really fine print…guys I assume no responsibility if you should wreck your wife or girlfriend’s favourite chair


Here’s where this gets really cool.

If you can repeat these points on your deadlifts you will instantly improve your deadlifts.

Why is this so?

Because many deadlifts start with a collapsed chest, a relaxed low back or by pulling with the arms instead of driving through the heels.

So if you have:

* poor posture

* especially while sitting

* low back pain

* a goal to improve your deadlifts

Make sure to incorporate this tip into your day to day occupation as well as your workout routine.

All the best.

Chris                                                                                                                                                                    okanaganpeakperformance.com ‘always moving forward’

Corrective Exercise Gone Bad

Did you ever watch those tv specials ‘When Animals Go Bad’?

You know the ones I mean? They show video footage of a normally docile and affectionate pet or animal that just snaps and some poor unsuspecting soul pays the price for it?

I remember seeing an animal handler have a koala bear freak out at Busch Gardens in Tampa once. The little kids that were so curious to see this cute bear all rushed the handler and surrounded him quickly.

And if you can imagine to a koala bear seeing all these little monsters running at it and screaming the koala bear thinks it’s getting attacked.

So the koala starts clawing at the handler to get away. The bear doesn’t want to be held by the handler while all these little people are charging forward.

And up until that point I never realized that koalas have sharp claws. But after seeing the handler get sliced and diced by the koala I don’t think of these animals as cute and cuddly anymore.

Long story short the koala ended up back in its habitat. And the handler was taken away on a stretcher for stitches and medical treatment.

So what the heck does this have to do with training and fitness?

Well just like at the zoo sometimes we have different intentions of the final outcome.

In this case the koala bear, the handler and the little kids all hoped things would have turned out a little differently.

The handler probably didn’t forsee a trip to the hospital for stitches and maybe a shot.

The bear didn’t forsee what it perceived as an apparent attack.

And the little kids didn’t realize they wouldn’t be able to pet the bear and were a little distraught to see the bear attack the handler and be wisked away shortly after still snarling and trying to defend itself.

Now back to the gym.

Imagine you have an assessment performed by a fitness professional who identifies a weakness in your body. And this weakness is causing you pain and an inability to perform certain activities and sports. Further this deficiency is causing you to compensate, because other muscles are trying to help out, creating even more problems and dysfunctions.

If you’re like most people you’d want to fix this weakness.

So maybe your fitness professional shows you the perfect exercise to address this issue. Or maybe you pick up a book. Or find a video that shows how to do the exercise.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Well here’s the problem.

When you are dealing with weakness the body is very good at finding alternate ways to get you from A –> B.

For example if someone lacks lateral glute strength they may reach for a piece of tubing or a band and perform clam shells or some lateral band walks.

Which would be a great exercise. Provided it is done properly.

And that’s the catch.

Most people compensate when they do these drills. They recruit neighbouring muscles beside the ones that are weak and this allows them to get from A–>B.

But while they may stimulate the weak muscle slightly the bulk of the load is picked up by the adjacent muscles. (synergistic dominance)

So instead of eliminating a dysfunction by strengthening a weak muscle, we have put increased demands on the neighbouring muscles and made the situation worse.

Case in point…have you ever heard of someone going for rehab for an injury, being given some exercises to do but saying they didn’t notice much difference or relief?

So what’s the take home message from all this?

Use the services of a top notch fitness professional, especially when working on corrective exercise.

And don’t rush the koala bear at Busch Gardens.

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                             okanaganpeakperformance.com ‘always moving forward’

Lessons Learned from Mike Robertson – Part II

In the last post I introduced a discussion about body awareness. And what I meant by this was understanding which muscles were firing, when they are firing and how they are firing. The reason this is so important is that many of us having compensations or deficiencies of some type.

Think about it. The aches and pains that we get from time to time are partly due to the strain we put our body under when it is out of alignment. And when we live with these aches and pains for long enough we can sometimes become a little bit desensitized to the feedback our body is trying to give us.

For example if you’ve had a chronic low back problem you may not think about it all the time. But if someone asks you how it is and you stop and think about it for a second you’ll realize it simply hasn’t corrected itself but instead you learned to block it out somewhat in order to get through the day. And you aren’t consciously thinking about it until someone asks you about it or it gets worse.

So let’s jump ahead and assume that someone was able to point out where it is that you’re out of alignment and how to correct this alignment issue. Perhaps it’s a lack of frontal plane (think side to side) glute activity and by firing this muscle helps to restore your alignment and take stress off your joints that were ‘picking up the slack’. As well, you were also made aware of how you will alter your body position to cheat when your glutes get tired and you don’t want them to work anymore.

This would all be very useful info to you. So how do you make sure to ingrain this process and ensure that you can repeat it at will? I believe there are 3 aspects to mastering this.

1. First you need to understand and feel what it is like to fire the appropriate muscles. While there is benefit to using a mirror to notice your posture and appearance there may also be some benefit to closing your eyes and paying attention to what you feel. Where do you feel the contraction? Is it deep or superficial? Is it localized to a specific area or general and covering a larger area? Does it fatigue quickly or feel like it could last for a while?

2. In addition to the muscles that are being activated think about other areas of the body. Particularly think about the opposite side of the body and determine if there is a stretch. Where do you notice this stretch? How is this stretch influenced by increasing the force and or duration of the contraction?

3. Lastly you need to be very aware of when this activation or stretch changes. Do you feel your body position change? Do you feel new muscles helping take on some of the load? Do you notice any type of strain develop over time? At the point when you notice these things happening it is important to pause, come out of the position you were attempting to maintain, rest and then resume from a new position once again.

In the next post I’ll give you an example of a drill you can try to test this out.

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       okanaganpeakperformance.com ‘always moving forward’

5 Tips for Better Step-Ups

Today we’re celebrating Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. So with the indulgence in turkey, gravy, potatoes and of course some pumpkin pie the mind tends to shift towards thinking about ways to burn all these extra calories. Plus as the seasons change our activities move from links and lakes to the hills for winter fun.

So with this in mind I usually like to incorporate more step-ups in the workout. Step-ups are great in that they work well for all levels, they allow you to get in some quality single leg work and with a few changes in the acute variables of sets, reps and rest you can train for a variety of different purposes.

But before you jump in and start with the step-ups there are 5 technique points that will help you perform this lift more safely and effectively.

1. Maintain a neutral foot. Many of us tend to roll into pronation when we bend at the ankle-knee-hip. Imagine your foot collapsing towards the arch when you take a step. If this happens you will disrupt the chain reaction that occurs with ground based motion and have altered mechanics as you step up. Keep a neutral foot and watch that the knee is in line with the 2nd/3rd toes.

2. Paw the bench. With the foot that is on the bench imagine pulling the bench towards yourself. This loads up the glutes and hamstrings which many of us have difficulty recruiting during our leg training.

3. Take a larger step. This ties in with the previous point of trying to engage the posterior chain. Many of us are quad dominant and look to use our quads first and glutes and hamstrings, second, if at all. With a larger step you open up the angle at the knee and hip which takes load off the quads and transfers it to the glutes and hamstrings.

4. Stay tall. Imagine a string through the top of the head pulling you tall. At the same time imagine pushing the chest tall. Both of these actions help set your posture, allow your core to fire more effectively and assist in proper execution of the lift. As well when you set up in this way the hands naturally hang by the body rather than drift out in front pulling you off balance. A common cheat in this regard is allowing the trunk to fall forward onto the lead leg during the up portion of the lift and then completing the rep by extending at the low back.

5. Control the step down. This is where most people fail on performing ideal form on this lift. We are all very good on the concentric part of the lift i.e. when we shorten the muscle and count a rep but sometimes get a little lazy during the eccentric part of the lift. Imagine stepping down onto thin ice at the completion of each lift. Unless there is control of the descent you will break through the ice.

Look to incorporate step-ups into your workouts for the benefits listed above. Make sure to keep these 5 technique points in mind to do them as safely and effectively as possible.

okanaganpeakperformance.com ‘always moving forward’