Keeping Up with Current Research (Feb)

February 23, 2015 | John Paul Catanzaro

golden athlete ahead of the pack

Research can provide golden information to health & fitness professionals. If you’re a personal trainer, here are some recent findings to help you get ahead of the pack:

Recruit Fast-Twitch Muscle FIbers for Rehab and Performance

“Lovering performed muscle biopsies of the rotator cuff and found the muscles to be comprised of approximately 55-60 percent FT [fast twitch] fibers. Furthermore, Irlenbusch performed muscle biopsies of the rotator cuff in patients with rotator cuff injuries and found that the FT fibers were most affected. Consequently, when trying to selectively activate FT fibers in rehabilitation or performance enhancement the therapist needs to perform activities to recruit the FT muscle fibers. There are generally three ways to recruit FT fibers: 1) maximum intensity effort, 2) electrical stimulation, and 3) fast movement patterns like plyometric exercises.”

Note: High-rep protocols that develop the type I and IIa muscle fibers are often used during injury rehabilitation, but athletic injuries usually occur to the type IIb fibers. The training must be appropriate in a rehab situation in order to access the right motor units. You can read more about this concept in my 5-part article series Heal Like Wolverine.

Muscle Atrophy Due to Chronic Disuse Rather than Aging

“This study contradicts the common observation that muscle mass and strength decline as a function of aging alone. Instead, these declines may signal the effect of chronic disuse rather than muscle aging. Evaluation of masters athletes removes disuse as a confounding variable in the study of lower-extremity function and loss of lean muscle mass. This maintenance of muscle mass and strength may decrease or eliminate the falls, functional decline, and loss of independence that are commonly seen in aging adults.”

Note: As I discuss in Injury Prevention Strategies for Aging Athletes, the concept is simple: Use your muscle or lose your muscle! I’ll be giving a talk on this subject for the Ontario Society for Health and Fitness in Toronto on May 14 and for Masters Swimming Canada in Etobicoke on May 22.

Resistance Training to Improve Flexibility

“While resistance training (RT) is recommended for older people for the development of muscular strength, some studies have indicated that regular participation in RT programs may also contribute to increased flexibility. In fact, there is evidence that regular RT serves as an active form of flexibility training and can improve range of motion to a similar extent as typical static stretching protocols. Regular performance of RT may improve flexibility by reducing passive tension and stiffness of the tissues surrounding a joint. Thus, from a time-saving standpoint, RT is a good way to develop both strength and flexibility as well as achieve improvements in body composition within a single session of training.”

Note: Resistance training can improve both active and passive flexibility if you balance agonists and antagonists and train in full range of motion. You can learn more about this concept in my article Flexibility 101: The Do’s And Don’ts Of Stretching.

Consume Creatine Post-Workout, Not Pre-Workout

“Creatine supplementation plus resistance exercise increases fat-free mass and strength. Based on the magnitude inferences it appears that consuming creatine immediately post-workout is superior to pre-workout vis a vis body composition and strength.”

Antioxidant Supplements Before Training Interfere with Muscle Cell Adaptation

“A popular belief is that reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS) produced during exercise by the mitochondria and other subcellular compartments ubiquitously cause skeletal muscle damage, fatigue and impair recovery. However, the importance of ROS/RNS as signals in the cellular adaptation process to stress is now evident. In an effort to combat the perceived deleterious effects of ROS/RNS it has become common practice for active individuals to ingest supplements with antioxidant properties, but interfering with ROS/RNS signalling in skeletal muscle signalling during acute exercise may blunt favorable adaptation.”

Note: A great way to quench free radicals produced during a workout is to walk barefoot on grass directly after training. Do that instead of taking antioxidants before training. Also, many people complain about cramping when using creatine. This is usually remedied with proper hydration and taking creatine after training, not before. I discuss both these concepts in my book Mass Explosion.