Squat and dead lift vs stability ball exercises for core activation

Unstable Surface Training (UST) has moved from being used almost exclusively in rehabilitation to becoming common place among personal trainers and strength coaches. One can’t go to a gym and not see somebody training on a Bosu ball, stability ball, wobble board or foam pad. It’s so popular entire books have been written on this type of training. But do not be fooled by its popularity.

UST is not popular because it works, but because of a tremendous media campaign. The fitness industry is always looking for something new. They know here’s huge money in marketing a piece of equipment and/or workout program.

Performing exercises on unstable equipment can be challenging no doubt, but research has not shown that the type of balance, and core stability developed through UST will transfer to any sports skill. Performing exercises on unstable equipment will make an individual proficient at performing resistance exercises on unstable surfaces but will not improve sports performance. Is UST training even necessary?

Researchers from Appalachian State University compared trunk muscle activity during stability ball and free weight exercises. The stability ball exercises utilized were the quadruped, pelvic thrust and ball back extensions. The free weight exercises were the squat (SQ) and deadlift (DL). During all exercises muscle activity was collected using electromyography (EMG).

During the study trunk muscle activity during SQ and DL’s was equal to or greater than which was produced during stability ball exercises. This was true even when 50% of the 1 rep max was used during SQ and DL. The role of UST is again shown to be in question.
(Journal of Strength Conditioning Research 22:95-101,2008)

  

KISS for improving soccer performance

These days it?s becoming common practice to start sports earlier and earlier in a child?s life. Soccer is no exception. In the United States the popularity of soccer has exploded along with strength and conditioning camps focusing on sport specific programs. Unfortunately many coaches do not train their players correctly because they do not look at the metabolic demands of the sport.

Research on soccer players has shown, to the surprise of many, anaerobic as well as aerobic power are prerequisites to success. More-over, it?s been reported that 96% of the sprints in a soccer game are shorter than 30m, and 49% are shorter than 10m. It?s becomes obvious that strength and power are important aspects of a player?s development. As soccer becomes more competitive, becoming faster and stronger to get to the ball before your opponent by jumping or sprinting is becoming more important. As a strength coach the question is, how do we develop a player to their optimum ability?

A study by Chelly et al recently reported the effects of a back squat training program on leg power, jump performance, and field performance in junior soccer players. Twenty two male soccer players were divided into two groups a resistance training group (RTG) and a control group (CG). Both groups completed tests before the start of the program and after 2 months of strength training twice per week with heavy loads (80 ? 100% 1RM). The tests included a force velocity test to evaluate power, 3 jump tests, a 40m dash, and a 1 RM back half squat. (J Strength Cond Res 2009;23(8):2241-2249)

No significant changes were noted in leg or thigh muscle volume after the 2 month training period between the 2 groups. However, the RTG showed significant improvement over the CG in leg cycling power, jumping and sprinting. This is another example of the value in sticking to the basics. Too many coaches try to reinvent the wheel while training their athletes. There is no need or value in complicated, high volume strength training programs. KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid and train according to the athletes needs

  

Sex differences in the gym

Weight training can elicit numerous benefits including injury prevention. However, weight lifting has it’s share of injuries and according to a study in Cincinnati Ohio, which examined a sample of 3713 patients, these injuries vary between genders. The objective of this study was to examine the differences in injuries associated with strength training in adolescents and young adults.

Comparisons of accidental injuries between the sexes revealed that women had significantly greater odds while strength training when compared to men. Women had higher foot, trunk, and leg injuries, where as men had higher arm, hand, and head injuries. Men had a much higher percentage of their injuries in the form of strains and sprains compared to women, but there was no difference in reported fractures. The trunk was by far the most commonly injured body part for both men (36.9%) and women (27.4%).

The findings of this study show that men are at far greater risk for exertional types of weight training injuries than women. However, women had significantly higher odds of accidental weight training injuries compared to men, which researchers say is of particular concern. Common accidental injuries include dropped weights, improper use of equipment, or tipping over of equipment. Does this really surprise anyone?

  

Best exercise for building big lats

Over the years it has been well established that performing exercises behind the neck, like lat pull downs, is detrimental to the shoulder joint. The unnatural movement pattern of bringing the bar behind ones head causes external rotation combined with horizontal abduction, which places the shoulder at a great risk of injury. However, when the lat pull down is performed to the front of the head, there is a lower stress on the shoulder joint because of a higher degree of stabilization by the rotator cuff muscles.

Not only is the front of the neck lat pull down (FNL) a safer exercise, but it allows for a great range of motion. Despite the amount of empirical and anecdotal evidence illuminating the possible negative effects of behind the neck pull downs (BNL), proponents tout is greater efficacy for building bigger lats. But Is there a difference in the activity of the primary movers during different lat pull down exercises?

A recent study analyzed the electromyographical (EMG) activity of 3 different lat exercises. The exercises used where the BNL, FNL, and V-bar behind the neck lat pull (V-bar). Twenty four experienced weight lifters participated in the study performing 5 reps with each exercise, with electrodes positioned over 4 muscle bellies (pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoid, and biceps brichii). Although a previous study (J Strength Cond Res 16:539-546) showed a greater activity of the latissimus dorsi muscle using FNL when compared to the BNL, this was not the case with the present study. (J Strength Cond Res 2009:23(7);2054-2060)

If your objective is to build bigger lats, than any of the 3 exercises in this study can be used with equal activation. However, with no advantage being found in this or any other study to date performing the BNL, one should question it’s use. There is no movement in sport or daily activity that the BNL mimics. Conversely, the FNL mimics movement patters in sports and daily activities helping to reduce injury and improve function.

There are a few concerns I have with this and previous studies analyzing prime mover activation in lat exercises. The distance between the hands, which were the same for this and other studies, has a huge impact on the range of motion, the load used, and EMG activation. The closer the grip one uses performing a lat pull down, the greater the range of motion and load, which consequently yields a greater activation of the prime movers.

Changing exercises alters movement patterns and muscle recruitment, which can increase or decrease the load used. A greater load, which elicits a greater EMG activation, can always be achieved with movements to the front of the neck as opposed to the back of the neck. For this reason, using the same load for all 3 exercises doesn’t show the true ability of an exercise to activate target muscles. The correct load used would be such that each exercise was performed with maximum intensity. Only then can there be an apples to apples comparison.

  

Partial reps are equal to full range of motion reps.

Most experts have long held that partial repetitions provide no benefit to the serious weightlifter. This was not the finding of a study done at the University of Southern Mississippi compared using partial range of motion (ROM) repetitions and full ROM repetitions in the development of strength in untrained males. As far as the development of maximal strength was concerned, partial and mixed repetitions were found to be equally as effective as full repetitions.

This study was conducted over 10 weeks and used the bench press as criterion for measurement. Fifty six subjects were divided into three groups: the first group used three full ROM sets; the second group used three partial ROM sets; the third group used a combination. The researchers found no differences between the three groups. However, they do point out that this study does suggest partial reps can be a benefit to a person?s maximal strength. (J strength Cond Res 18(3), 518-521, 2004)

Does this mean partial reps should be the major component of a strength training routine? Absolutely not. As with all studies concerning progressive resistance training, there were too few subjects, and the length of time involved was too short in duration. However, this study does find support in using partial reps in addition to a traditional strength training program. This is especially true for power lifters and other athletes who need to ?lock a weight out? at the top portion of the lift.

  

Related Posts