Thursday, July 10, 2008

Enhancing Athleticism with Plyometrics

Speed and strength are essential fitness factors found in different degrees of virtually every athletic movement. For many athletes, the ideal level of speed is equivalent to power. For years, athletes have sought to enhance their power and speed to improve their athleticism. Fitness experts have discovered that jumping, bounding, and hopping exercises are effective means of achieving this feat. In recent years, this distinct method of training for power or explosiveness has been termed plyometrics.

This kind of training seeks to enhance the explosive reaction of the individual through powerful muscular contractions because of rapid eccentric contractions. Plyometric training moves the muscles to attain optimum strength in the shortest time possible. It develops muscle strength, which then leads to muscle power. In general, this kind of training works out the neuromuscular system, enabling them to respond more rapidly to increased loads. This is achieved by making use of the inherent natural elasticity of the muscles and other neuromuscular reflexes.

Examples of plyometric exercises with intensity level:

  • Standing based jumps performed on the spot (low intensity) - Tuck Jumps, Split Jumps
  • Jumps from standing (low-medium intensity) - Standing long jump, Standing hop, Standing jump for height
  • Multiple jumps from standing (medium intensity) - bounds, bunny hops, double footed jumps over low hurdle, double footed jumps up stepsMultiple jumps with run in (High intensity) - 11 stride run + 2 hops and a jump into sandpit, 2 stride run in + bounds
  • Depth jumping (high-very high intensity) - jumps down and up off box (40 to 100cm), bounding up hill
  • Eccentric drop and hold drills (high-very high intensity) - hop and hold, bound/hop/bound/hop over 30 meters (athletes stop and hold on each landing before springing into the next move), drop and hold from a height greater than one meter
  • Jumping onto and down from objects
  • Bounding up and down stairs on one or both feet
  • Running, jumping, catching, or throwing
Individuals who want to engage in plyometric training should bear in mind that this kind of training may heighten the risks of injuries because it puts a great deal of unnecessary stress on the body. For this reason, this training technique should only be done under the guidance of those with knowledge and experience of this particular training. Several precautionary measures should be taken to achieve the benefits of plyometric training. These measures may include training on an appropriate surface, using proper footwear and equipment, and proper technique.

Plyometrics should not be performed on hard surfaces, like concrete, or even soft surfaces, like sand. Grass fields and wrestling mats are recommended surfaces for plyometrics. However, wrestling mats should not be thicker than 15 cm because it may increase the amortization phase and lead to loss of stored energy, therefore defeating the purpose of engaging in plyometric training. Recommended shoes are those that provide proper arch and ankle support, and lateral stability. Medicine balls are equipment that are commonly used for many plyometric exercises. This ball weighs no more than 10 percent of the body weight of the individual performing the exercise. Like other exercises, proper execution of technique should always be maintained. Fatigue from this kind of training may compromise technique and cause injuries.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Different Training Methods for Different Health Goals

Athletes are individuals who workout and train to be the best they can be. This is necessary to be on tip-top shape for competition and other important events. There are different methods of training that are designed to improve the overall fitness of athletes. Without proper training, the risks of developing injuries may be heightened and fatigue may be easily experienced. Here are some scientifically-approved training methods that are done by world class athletes.

Interval Training

Interval training is composed of sets of exercises that are broken with rest or relief periods which include mild to light exercise. Engaging in this kind of training allows individuals to exercise at higher intensities and in extended periods. In addition, both aerobic and anaerobic metabolism can improved by this kind of training.

Sprint Training

Sprint training is a fitness regimen that helps develop speed and increase muscle strength. Medical studies show that individuals who want to improve their speed and muscle strength should sprint repeatedly at maximum speed, while allowing for complete recovery between sprints.

Interval Sprints

Interval sprints help develop aerobic capacity and involves alternate sprinting for 45 to 50 meters, and jogging for 55 to 60 meters in a distance of about three miles.

Acceleration Sprints

Acceleration sprint training develops strength and speed. This is achieved by gradually increasing speed while running. For example, from jogging to striding to sprinting, followed by brisk walking. Intervals usually range from 50 to 100 meters each.

Fartlek or Speed Play

This training method is designed for general conditioning and provides variety for different workouts. It involves running at fast and slow speeds on courses that are both leveled and hilly. This is different from interval training because it does not involve specific exercises and rest periods. Individuals who want to engage in this training regimen may run at a slower pace for a few minutes and then run fast again for as long as they want—it’s like engaging in a speed workout without a specific structure.

Continuous Exercise Training

This kind of training is necessary to build endurance and is performed with distance that can be executed at a slow or fast pace. The aerobic system is the main energy source for this type of training.

Additional benefits of benefits of these types of fitness and training methods may include the following:
  • Helps to strengthen many muscles, including skeletal and cardiac muscles;
  • Helps to increase your heart rate and improve your health;
  • Focuses on problem areas such as your abdominal region and thighs.
The types of fitness training programs and routines that are available to people are many. Unfortunately, different types of training may also deliver different results. For this reason, the help of health and fitness professionals is necessary to achieve the desired results. This is important in making sure that these training methods are done properly and with the right intensity. Doing this may lessen the risks of developing injuries and other conditions, that may be detrimental to one’s health and well-being.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Upside and Downside of Steroid Use

Sports culture has changed in the 21st century. Gone are the days where hard work and training brings an athlete to victory. Today, more and more athletes are indulging in many substances to improve their athletic performance and stamina. News about athletes and performance enhancing drugs, primarily steroids, seem to become regular items in the news. It is no secret that a number of professional wrestlers and some hard core body builders are steroid users. But now even runners, swimmers, baseball players, and cyclists are accused of abuse. In some cases, they have admitted to having used steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. These individuals admitted that they took these substances to have an edge in competition.

Steroids, one of the most abused performance enhancers, are powerful drugs that work by increasing protein synthesis within the cells. By doing this, steroids may enable individuals to run faster, hit harder, lift heavier weights, have more endurance and stamina, react faster, and achieve better than peak performance. In addition to this, steroids may also increase the body's production of testosterone, a naturally occurring hormone in the body. Testosterone enhances male characteristics like muscle mass, facial hair growth, and deepening of the voice. Steroids are banned substances and specialists are still puzzled at how ordinary people get a hold of it. Reports say that one can actually purchase steroids over the Internet. Steroid users are rampant nowadays, such that people may not readily recognize them if they are not aware of what to look for as physical signs.

Steroids may improve one's physique and increase physical performance. However, in the long run, it can greatly damage one's health, especially if taken in large doses.

Steroids taken for an extended period of time can lead to the following health conditions:
  • stunted growth in teens (by causing bones to mature too fast and stop growing at an early age)
  • liver tumors
  • abnormal enlargement of the heart muscles
  • violent, aggressive behavior and mood swings
  • blood lipid abnormalities that contribute to heart disease
  • acne (or a worsening of acne)
  • increased breast growth in males, especially teens
  • irreversible stretch marks
  • a heightened tendency for hair loss and male-pattern baldness
  • muscle aches
Teen girls and women risk these additional side effects:

  • male-type facial and body hair growth and male-pattern baldness
  • deepening of the voice
  • enlargement of the clitoris
In addition to these effects, many steroid-users have died in the past; the causes being strongly connected with taking steroids. They are not good for one’s heart tissue, and may lead to the development of many health complications. Steroid users may also develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and tumors of the kidney or liver. Athletes who abuse steroids have been known to suffer heart attacks and strokes before they turn 30.

Clearly, the ill-effects of steroids outweigh its benefits. Individuals who want to improve their physical performance and stamina should bear in mind that the risks in taking these drugs are great and are not worth it. Hard work and dedication should be prioritized, rather than taking substances that may help one gain a temporary edge in the sports field.