SLEEP: THE NEXT FRONTIER
CHRIS’ Top 3 Reads on SLEEP
Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, Phd (and Director for the Center of Human Sleep Science at Cal Berkeley)
The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington
Sleepyhead by Henry Nicholls
Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, Phd (and Director for the Center of Human Sleep Science at Cal Berkeley)
The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington
Sleepyhead by Henry Nicholls
Welcome to our new and updated Workout Structure website! After saying goodbye to what was a very challenging year for us all in 2020, we hope that many of you have learned the value that staying healthy and strong can offer for the body’s immune system and overall physical well-being.
Since our launch in 2017, many resources for sports nutrition, injury prevention and recovery, sport-specific strength training, speed, conditioning and agility, and rehabilitation (‘prohab’) exercise resources are now available – with various levels of customization. My ‘TOP’ priority is a series of programs designed especially for the military special operators, firefighters, law enforcement agents, and first responders that sacrifice daily to protect and defend our freedoms and liberties in the USA. However, many different athletes (and other active individuals) can also benefit greatly from this site’s resources.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have, and I thank you for visiting and evaluating your own Workout Structure!
– CHRIS BORGARD
“As we move forward with our new site and a host of recently improved wellness and training products, I want to personally invite you to build (or repair) your body’s foundational structure by discovering several workout resources that I have constructed over the last decade and beyond while working with the bodies of hundreds of athletes!”
– CHRIS BORGARD
Amidst the lockdown and shut-down restrictions imposed on Americans during the 2020 COVID pandemic, along with fearful doom-and-gloom news headlines about infection rates and casualties, this quarterly blog will focus on a topic you have probably never heard mentioned during these trying times…the power of a healthy immune system to ward off a potentially harmful virus.
THIS JUST IN: Regular physical activity and/or frequent structured exercise diminishes the risk of contracting a range of communicable diseases, including viral and bacterial infections. Sounds like common sense, right?
In the 80s and 90s, some research – which has since been contradicted with new evidence – found that periods of very vigorous bouts of aerobic exercise could increase cortisol levels while suppressing immune activity, leading to the “open-window” theory causing concern about compromised immune response in the hours following exercise. Yet very few of these self-reported symptoms (many on issues such as the common cold) were confirmed by laboratory testing, and many could be attributed to allergies and or asthma on a race day.
The most abundant immunoglobulin in mucosal secretions is called IgA, with its principle role is the inhibition of invading pathogens. Early studies had reported a 20% decrease in IgA secretions post-exercise, but a major research review in 2018 of some 250 articles determined that, in Lehman’s terms, exercise to exhaustion has an “effect on the quantity of saliva, but not the quality of saliva.” (1)
The authors acknowledged that lymphocytes levels dip in the 1-2 hour “open-window” period immediately following exercise. But their study suggests that these immune cells are redeployed to peripheral tissues like mucosal surfaces, as well as the gut, lungs, and bone marrow.
The body’s immune system is its first line of defense from such threats: it’s outer walls and gates fortified by the largest organ in the body (skin). In their comprehensive review, the above researchers cited data from at least 8 vaccine studies exploring the effects of regular physical activity or frequent exercise training on the immune response to vaccination.
The authors provide robust support for the argument that exercise enhances, rather than suppresses immunity, stating “strong evidence implies that a reduction in the frequency and function of lymphocytes (and other immune cells) in peripheral blood in the hours following vigorous and prolonged exercise does NOT reflect immune suppression. Instead, the observed lymphopenia represents a heightened state of immune surveillance and immune regulation driven by a preferential mobilization of cells to peripheral tissues.”
They concluded that exercise “does not heighten the risk of opportunistic infections, and that exercise can, in fact, enhance immune responses to bacterial, viral, and other antigens in living persons.”
Another recent and relevant study by MXM, a technology and data transfer company specializing in fitness industry member tracking, found that out of more than 49.4 million health club visits over three months, 0.0023 percent tested positive for COVID-19, which is more than 500 times less than the current estimated U.S. national average (2)
“Regular physical activity and/or frequent structured exercise diminishes the risk of contracting a range of communicable diseases, including viral and bacterial infections.”
(see sources below)
The general assumption is that elderly individuals are far more susceptible to bacterial and viral illness. And yet a sedentary lifestyle without exercise (and its accompanying excess weight gain) is well-known to introduce a host of problems with one’s health and well-being.
It has been found that among both the young and elderly, an active lifestyle is generally linked to higher numbers and proportions of naïve T cells in peripheral blood at rest. In their systematic review, the researchers took it a step further by suggesting that “alterations in tissue-resident cells with advancing age are very likely a result of adipose tissue accumulation and dysfunction that also occurs in parallel with aging.” Indeed, obesity has been linked with impaired lymphocyte proliferation as well as oxidative stress, and several inflammatory cytokines are produced in adipose tissue.
So why are we closing gyms and health centers? Whether you view it as a medically-justified preventative measure, or merely as an overreaction by folks with their heads in the sand – the facts remain. Gyms and recreation areas are an essential part of keeping – and staying – healthy
– CHRIS BORGARD
For much of the last generation, carbohydrates have been demonized as the main culprit behind unnecessary weight gain by proponents of fad dieting. Their basis is the tired, antiquated carbohydrate-insulin obesity model – which assumes that hyperinsulinemia leads to a surplus of calories in fat cells overriding lean tissue metabolism. In the last few years, Dr. Kevin D. Hall and researchers at the NIH have flipped these theories upside down using studies that measuring the weight loss of subjects who experimented with isocaloric diets restricting both carbohydrates and fats. Hall and his associates found that while the reduced carb groups (RC) lowered RER and insulin as expected, it was the reduced fat (RF) who lost more body fat and maintained a higher metabolism (total daily energy expenditure).
In a follow up study over a longer term, subjects tried more extreme versions of each diet (RC and RF) while being permitted to consume as many calories as they needed. Once again, the RF group had much higher levels of glucose and insulin, but ended up consuming 700 kcal/day less than the RC group (every single subject ate less when on the reduced fat diet vs the reduced carb diet) and dropping more bodyweight and fat. The same research confirmed that long-term low-carb dieters (10% or less from CHO) have quickly gone into a state of ketosis, where the body uses it’s amino acids (muscle) for gluconeogenesis (energy), resulting in a decreased nitrogen balance (muscle loss).
Dr. Hall and his team also performed a research review of over 30 similar studies experimenting with CHO and fat restriction, and their findings reaffirmed that diets reducing fat instead of carbohydrates maintained a higher energy expenditure (~150 calories per day) with greater losses in body fat. One must remember that in addition to its role in maintaining a healthy skeletal frame, muscle is more metabolically active and burns more calories.
In summary, it can be concluded that patients who already have type 2 diabetes can benefit from low carb diets that help keep insulin levels controlled, whereas other people who are overweight or obese should instead focus on reducing fat and highly-processed food from their diets; while remembering that carbohydrates have their place in promoting high levels of metabolic energy, preventing nutritional deficiencies, and promoting healthy brain function.
– CHRIS BORGARD
Sources: KD Hall et al. Cell Metabolism. 22: 427-436 (2015).
Hall & Guo; Gastroenterology. 152: 1718-27 (2017).
As the current global COVID-19 pandemic closes gym facilities and cancels group exercise sessions, many people are turning to outdoor hikes as a means to stay healthy.
While jogging produces 3-5 times the normal ground reaction forces (GRF) of walking, hiking (especially if downhill) can easily produce twice the GRF of normal walking. The majority of these forces end up getting transferred into the knees, so it is very important to keep the quadriceps AND hip abductor muscles strong (the latter act to limit unhealthy excessive internal rotation of the femur).
In particular, steep downhill hiking also produces a physical effect called DOMS (delay onset muscle soreness) because of intense eccentric muscle-lengthening contraction that can last for 48-72 hours.
Long, super steep half-day descents of over 5 miles losing well over a mile in elevation can absolutely wreck your lower body (ex: Kaibab Trail in Grand Canyon, Sol Duc Trail in Olympic National Park).
The author seen above hiking Wedge Mountain in British Columbia
When hiking uphill, it is very important to have strong glutes and adductor (groin) muscles to contribute to climbing efforts – especially if there are large steps or stone stairs on the trail. (ex: Mist Trail in Yosemite National Park, Grouse Grind in North Vancouver, B.C.)
Making sure the lower leg stabilizers (soleous, gastrocnemius, tibialis anterior, posterior tibialis, etc) muscles are strong and well-conditioned to fatigue is extremely important too…these muscles act as your shock absorbers and function to decrease the ground reaction force transmitted into the joints further up the kinetic chain.
Strong hamstrings help reduce the risk of knee ligament injury during a slip or fall, and a sturdy abdominal core/lower back help to safely bear the weight of a heavy pack over long distances.
In our present-day culture where big health corporations can overshadow the hidden potential of preventative wellness, it is easy to forget about one of the greatest assets to good health: flexibility.
Improving flexibility can improve muscular balance, joint alignment and structure, and postural breathing. Yoga styles (ex. Hatha, Vinyasa, Bikram) can also help promote relaxation while improving peripheral muscle endurance – some even using hot and humid environments to increase the pliability of muscle tissue.
For over 10 years I’ve led students and athletes through many intense stretch sessions, and in terms of injury prevention, I believe stretching to be just as valuable as time spent engaged in weight training or cardiorespiratory conditioning.
Research has shown that prior to exercise, the most effective means of stretching is dynamic (or ballistic) stretches performed with a body in motion to help increase muscle temperature and facilitation. Static (or mostly stationary) stretching with hold periods is most beneficial when performed after exercise, but it can also be helpful when needed at times prior to physical activity.
Below are a few of my favorite stretches; I encourage you to make time to stretch at least 3x/week and you will feel the difference!
– CHRIS BORGARD
Start close to a wall lying on your back. Place one foot up on the wall with the tailbone staying on the ground. If you are a proper distance from the wall the knee of the wall leg will be bent to 90 degrees.
Place the ankle of your other leg just below the knee of the wall leg. You should feel a stretch near the outside of your hip. Enhance this stretch by gently pressing the crossover knee towards the wall.
Lie on your right side with right leg and right arm extended. Flex your left knee, grabbing the ankle. Slowly try to work your heel to touch your butt.
Stay perpendicular to the ground lying on your side and try to keep the hips forward during the stretch.
Start on your back with both legs straight.
Bend your right knee 90 degrees and bring it across your body. Keep your right shoulder on the ground with right arm extended, looking in that direction.
Hold this position with slow relaxed breathing, using your left arm to put pressure on the outside of your thigh. Once you are no longer feeling a stretch, you may extend the bent leg, making sure the other leg also stays extended and in line with the spine.
Lean forward with arms extended pressing into a wall or fence.
Place one foot forward with knee bent and foot flat on ground.
Keep back foot in line with spine and press back to feel stretch through the lower leg. Keeping the back heel flat on the ground with knee extended stretches proximal calf muscle; bending the back knee and lifting the heel stretches lower.
Start close to a wall lying on your back.
Extend both legs up on the wall with soles of the feet facing up. The tailbone should stay in contact with the ground – right up to where the wall meets the floor. Keeping legs extended, spread them as wide as comfortably possible. After a period of time, try to work the feet wider apart. Enhance this stretch by pressing on the tops of your thighs.
Simple questions – that unfortunately yield some not-so-simple answers – depending on many factors in which individual circumstances may be different.
However, at any professional venue where the athlete’s training and performance is the top priority (such as an Olympic training center), I would expect to see a daily schedule similar to the following in order to optimize physical growth & recovery:
ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: Foam rollers are a great tool used early in the day to help increase soft tissue pliability. Short daytime naps can elicit anabolic hormone secretions similar to REM sleep cycles. I was fortunate to work with legendary Hall of Fame outfielder Rickey Henderson (who played pro baseball into his 50’s) and credited his longevity to a devoted nightly routine of stretching before bed – claiming that it always helped him wake up feeling much more loose the next morning.
– CHRIS BORGARD
by CHRIS BORGARD
People often ask me, “Who do you think are the best athletes in the world?” The answer requires much careful consideration; Is the questioner prioritizing athletic versatility? Recording breaking achievement? Does superior mental toughness factor in? How about an impressive array of rare skills?
The correct answer to their question – or so I would like to think – would be decided by factoring in ALL of these qualities…and with this in mind I came upon my TOP 5 greatest athlete groupings as follows:
#5 – Ironman (or Ironwoman) Triathletes
Before you can object to this selection, hear me out: these ultra-endurance specialists are well trained in THREE different aerobic sports that don’t always crossover well – with many biomechanical and body composition differences between swimmers and runners, plus added training needed to cover 112 miles on two non-motorized wheels in between a 2.4 mile open-water swim and a 26.2 mile marathon run . In addition to having remarkable aerobic efficiency, these fat-burning fiends showcase some of the highest VO2 max values in the world, second only to cross-country skiers.
#4 – NBA basketball players
Besides being able to jump out of a gym as if their legs were outfitted with springs, some of these genetically endowed athletes often appear to “hang” in the air. And while many of them are simply built for their sport with advantageous biomechanical levers or thick tendons, others are just incredible all-around athletes who happen to spend most of their time on hardwood. Allen Iverson, Andre Iguodala, and Russell Westbrook are just few examples of especially explosive hoopsters who could have been (or were) exceptional performers on the football field, track, or in any other sport arena they may have chosen to compete in.
#3 – Female gymnasts
Every 4 years when the Olympics roll around, we all marvel at the amazing combination of flexibility, power, and strength relative to body weight that these diminutive but rock-solid young women put on display for the world. No one truly knows the physical sacrifices or the toll that the training takes on these young women’s bodies – stunting of growth and sexual characteristics is common – which are NOT designed to handle the stresses that are routinely place on them in order to accomplish such impressive athletic feats such as seen on the bars, beam, vault, and floor exercises. In addition to long term dedication, the acute mental focus required in their craft is exemplary.
#2 – Decathletes
In all of exercise and sport, there exists a non-negotiable give-and-take relationship between aerobic capacity and force production, as well as between the body’s different energy systems. Decathletes (who specialize in 10 events which require them all) are an ideal blend of all the ingredients in the recipe for “the perfect athlete” – factors such as high lactate thresholds, large phosphocreatine stores, and efficient oxidation of fats. Add in some courage, pain tolerance, and mastery of highly technical events like discus, hurdles, and pole vault, and it’s easy to see why Reebok was justified in hyping their corny 90’s commercials deciding between two American decathletes for the title of “Worlds Greatest Athlete.”
#1 – NFL cornerbacks
As impressive as all the athletes on this list may be, anyone who has seen these specialists in live action is able to put this debate to rest almost immediately. NFL corners are little bundles of fast-twitch muscle fiber that must be in incredible cardiovascular shape AND be able to change direction at full speed – on a dime or in a phone booth. Isolated on a hands-off island, they are tasked with shadowing the fastest players on the field: equally athletic receivers who know both where they are going and how they intend to get there. All cornerbacks not nicknamed “Prime Time” must also have sufficient strength and physicality to tackle bigger, stronger players who are also fast – ever stood in front of a moving train? While working one NFL training camp, I noted that we had 3 or 4 CBs who had medaled in sprint races during college…at major conferences like the Big 12 or SEC! Watching their incredibly quick directional changes in real time must be like catching a glimpse of one of the Air Force’s new secret jets out on maneuvers – with mouth agape, stopping to question if what you just saw was real!
Tip #1 – Maintain Adequate Flexibility
This doesn’t mean that you have to be a certified studio yoga instructor; in fact too much stretching can reduce strength and power. But if you can spend a few months creating lasting gains in flexibility and joint mobility to reach what I refer to as an EIPT (Elastic Injury Prevention Threshold), you can enjoy a decreased likelihood of injuries caused by tight or immobile muscles and joints.
Tip #2 – Keep Muscle Balance In Check
Be sure to include lower intensity, light weight, isolation exercises (sometimes bodyweight only) for both contralateral and opposing muscle groups in order to prevent strength imbalances. A few examples could be trunk rotation on a physioball or single-leg raises, etc. Much like flexiblilty training, athletes can use the offseason to increase the volume of this this “prehab” exercise work.
Tip #3 – Lift Heavy
Perform resistance training with as heavy loads as possible – while still yet being able to continue strength gain adaptations. Good strength coaches can design a periodized program to incorporate this style of training at many various points in the year. It should be no surprise that a bigger, stronger body is more resilient to injuries caused by greater external forces on the field of play.
Tip #4 – Be Eccentric
Expert strength coaches realize the role of eccentric (muscle-lengthening) loading contractions in training and movement. It kills me to watch lifters perform an Olympic lift and then allow a weight to drop to the floor from a great height. Why not take the opportunity to set the core strongly in place under a load at the end of each rep while slowly return the bar to its starting place? I also emphasize eccentric movements in my agility drills – a method I call SIM (or strength in movement) training.
By Chris Borgard
Tip #5 – Cut the Tape
Taping and bracing around a joint can ultimately act as a crutch and leave muscles, tendons and ligaments weaker over time. After a short initial period of support, get away from taping and bracing as extra support and work on re-strengthening the muscles, tendons, and ligaments around a compromised joint. An athlete’s goal should never be simply to return to competition; but rather to stay out there performing to their very best physical potential.
Tip #6– Think Like A Gimp
Research the movements that most frequently cause acute or chronic injury (this is ultimately the responsibility of a trainer or coach). Be familiar with both contact and non-contact injury mechanisms, and then train the muscles in their role to stabilize or decelerate those body segments.
Tip #7 – Optimize Your Nutrition
Educate yourself on superfoods and other nutrient dense morsels that aid recovery and minimize production of stress hormones and free radicals. Also follow guidelines for hydration and re-hydration (including electrolyte content) to prevent muscle cramping or excess fatigue, both of which can lead to muscle strains. Timing of nutrients is just as important and quality and quantity; see Chris Borgard’s Practical Sports Nutrition Guide for more help!
With spring training right around the corner, baseball fever will soon be spreading. America’s pastime continues to grow in worldwide popularity. For those who have never been involved with the sport, some key questions may remain regarding the physical fitness demands placed on baseball players. In this blog, I will attempt to knock a few baseball training-specific myths out of the park!
Myth #1: Baseball players are not really athletes.
As someone who has been in a dugout next to athletes like Ricky Henderson, Billy Hamilton, Sonny Gray, Manny Ramirez, etc., I can tell you that there are many fine athletes on a baseball diamond with a special combination of raw speed, quickness and raw power. Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, Brian Jordan are some great examples; as well as many high draft picks that gave up baseball and went on to excel in other sports. One of my mentors was a strength and conditioning coach at the University of Texas who could verify that Roger Clemen’s legendary squat workouts were a huge component to his exceptional velocity early in his career. As a former football player (and from my experience training them) I would estimate that a baseball position player needs to run below a 4.6 40 yard dash in order to be a legitimate base-stealing threat. Mike Trout is a great modern-day example of such an athlete. And even the players who may not seem especially athletic when compared to sports like football, basketball, etc. possess superior hand eye coordination to almost any other sport.
Myth #3: The human arm was not designed to throw a baseball at nearly 100 miles per hour.
The body was not necessarily designed to perform many of the impressive tasks that highly trained athletes demand of it – across a multitude of sports such as gymnastics, track & field throws, weightlifting, etc. However, with advances in human performance and education training – to include injury prevention exercises incorporated into a good training program and performed regularly – the arm can withstand excessive biomechanical forces time after time if proper muscle balance is achieved. (Ex : – relative strength of internal vs external rotators within the rotator cuff). To remain healthy, pitchers must spend hours each day properly warming up the arm, stretching and strengthening it along with its stabilizing and decelerating muscles on an almost daily basis.
Myth#5: Baseball players don’t like to train hard given the relaxed nature of their sport.
I have found the complete and total opposite to be true. Some of the best work ethics I have seen belonged to professional baseball players. Many have no problem putting in the extra work, even is season. In the offseason (typically November through February) baseball players enjoy pushing their body to the limits and watching the adaptations grow. As a general rule, many of them are highly self-motivated and extremely competitive, so they react well to a periodized plan with suggested loads, or timed agility and conditioning drills.
– CHRIS BORGARD
Stay tuned for future blogs, to include:
Myth #2: It doesn’t take much skill to hit a ball.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Batters have less than two-tenths of a second (from the moment the baseball leaves a pitcher’s hand off an elevated mound just 60 feet away) to perform all of the following tasks at a minimum:
-recognize the spin of the baseball near the point where it was released
-determine whether the ball is hittable -i.e., a strike or a ball – and determine whether to start their swing of a weighted bat
-summon a perfectly timed equal inertia from the body in order to meet the ball and counter its momentum (average incoming speed nearly 90 mph) with clean bat contact right at the moment it crosses the plate.
Myth #4: Baseball players do not have to be in shape to play the game.
To counter the velocities mentioned above, baseball players must possess and maintain impressive strength and incredible power through the legs, hips, and stabilizing core muscles. The abdominal core must be strong and well balanced to resist injury while torquing at high speeds under extreme rotational strain. The forearms of baseball players (including pitchers) must be exceptionally strong to grip the bat and the baseball at high velocities. I have worked with several baseball players who could max out the measuring pin on the highest setting of a handgrip dynamometer.
In terms of cardio, baseball pitchers average HRs are routinely at or above the 170s (beats per minute) while pitching; in fact, starters often throw up to 100 pitches or more at max intensity. And position players? In addition to being agile enough to accelerate quickly around the bases and get a powerful start out of the batter’s box or a jump into stealing a base, one must remember that over the course of a long summer season they play 160 games in a six month span – often getting no more than 3 off days each month. To be able to go out and perform each night even when the body may not be feeling the best is a total war of attrition, and it takes much time and effort to building and maintaining a strong body resistant to injuries over such a long time span.
Below are some recent questions that I will attempt to answer on this blog! -CB
I have heard that quite frequently in the exercise world that short bursts of extreme energy (such as sprinting or weight lifting) kind of “jumpstarts” your metabolism allowing you to burn fat faster. It is difficult to differentiate between what is true and what is false. Ultimately I would like to know how short, burst activities affect the human body [metabolic rate]?
There are a couple of very plausible explanations to add substance to the notion of high-intensity exercise “jump-starting” metabolism. One deals with a physiological factor known as EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), and the other with a general knowledge of the bodies limited energy systems. While it would be difficult to explain in an email, I can tell you that the culminating effect of weight training on fat metabolism cannot be ignored. In fact, there was a sustained period in my life where I was eating 9,000 calories a day training to play college football, and yet during this time neither my body fat or overall weight were increasing in the slightest – this despite the fact that I was doing virtually no cardio-style training, and was ONLY lifting weights or doing high intensity sprints and plyos.
Is maximal lifting (100% of PR) recommended for high school aged student athletes, or should they be more focused on light weight, high repetition workouts?
In my opinion, assuming technique is being taught properly, the loads that a high school athlete trains with can (and should) vary greatly on an individual case-by-case basis. Some high school boys, for example, are nearly fully developed by age 16-18, whereas many others are still virtually pre-pubescent at age 15-16; and the latter should not be lifting weights heavy, if yet at all. However, if these teens are sufficiently fully developed, recovery hormones secreted at rest by young men and women in this age group are usually higher than at any other time of their life, enabling them to train very hard with less physical hardships.
Currently, my weight lifting weekly routine has me hitting one major muscle group a day (e.g. back day, chest day, etc.). I’ve been doing this routine for the past 6 months and have seen great results in overall body composition and increase in maxes. Currently, my goal is to decrease overall body fat percentage and maintain strength. I know many people recommend hitting major muscle groups two times a week to see better results. In order to achieve my fitness goals, would you recommend hitting major muscle groups twice a week?
The best answer probably depends on what is most important to your fitness goals. If overall strength is your priority, a transition to working major muscle groups twice weekly will produce exponential increases. However, I know that bodybuilders prefer to devote an entire day to a single muscle group since it allow them to focus more attention on developmental gains or changes in appearance for vanity purposes. Unless you are interested in doing bodybuilding show competitions, I encourage you to graduate to the twice-weekly approach and discover new-found strength in areas that you haven’t realized before!
– CHRIS BORGARD
“Is maximal lifting (100% of PR) recommended for high school aged student athletes, or should they be more focused on light weight, high repetition workouts?”
One of the most overlooked realizations in today’s fitness and wellness realm is the forgotten fact that athletes calorie needs are different than the standard population. Fad diets (often ill-advised even for the sedentary people that they are marketed to) have no place on the athletes plate. Rather, they must adhere to a much higher caloric intake, with higher levels of all macronutrients; not just protein, but fats as well, and especially carbohydrates.
For a better understanding of these principles, see below for a link to an interview I did earlier this spring – hosted by my friend and former tennis professional Andy Gerst, on his ‘Everything About Tennis’ podcast:
Recently I submitted a research experiment I conducted at Cal Poly State University: the study attempts to offer a new equation for the exponentially higher resting metabolic rate of [college] athletes when compared to more dated prediction equations used for other more normalized populations. My research showed a difference of over 400 calories in this RMR value, which is only a small fraction of total daily caloric expenditure even before exercise is accounted for!
Also this past summer, I released a sports nutrition ebook that serves as a practical, quick reference guide to the athlete who seeks more new and healthy options in their diet for good sources of fuel. My hope is that the ebook serves as a basic but much-needed summary of the sometimes intimidating and broad spectrum of sports nutrition for an athlete who is bombarded by uneducated opinions and just doesn’t know where to start!
– CHRIS BORGARD
Fad diets have no place on the plate of an athlete.
In this day and age of fitness fads, it is easy for the lines to be blurred between calorie-burning crazes and fundamental strength and conditioning training tailored to sport-specific needs. That isn’t to say that cardio machines, jump ropes, agility ladders, punch mitts, battle ropes, tires and hammers, etc. can NEVER play a part towards purposefully training an athlete. But too often in the strength and conditioning profession, we see coaches or trainers waste valuable square footage space in the weight room with movements designed to improve cardiovascular fitness. This also takes away from time that could be dedicated to an athlete actually getting STRONGER and more POWERFUL with more equipment designed and housed inside the weight room for those purposes. Remember, if an athlete does not have a good base of cardiovascular fitness in the first place, then chances are they are not yet ready to accomplish much in the weight room; and most of that preliminary CONDITIONING can take place elsewhere first (or during other coordinated training periods).
Coaches or trainers that can help improve cardio fitness and calorie burning are a dime a dozen, but strength and conditioning coaches that are able to prioritize gains in strength, power, speed, and agility – all while safely developing bodies more resistant to injury – are best qualified to be working with athletes. These are some good related qualities to look for in a competent strength coach or high-performance trainer:
EXPERIENCE WITH PROGRAM DESIGN:
Can they structure a workout routine in order to maximize growth and physical or performance gains? Is the workout challenging but still capable of allowing you to recover fresh and get progressively stronger on a weekly basis? Often times a coach who has once trained as a high-level athlete themselves will write the best training program simply because they know how it feels to perform one.
EXPERIENCE TEACHING THE MOST EFFECTIVE METHODS:
Are they capable of really coaching with good results? Can they take multiple athletes and provide real-time feedback and expert instruction to create bigger, stronger, faster, more agile bodies? Simply look at the physical capabilities and the injury history of the athletes they have closely worked with for the answer. Some coaches may even have adequate knowledge to teach these effective training methods, but refuse to incorporate them in their program because they consider it “too risky” for their skill set.
EXPERIENCE LEADING BY EXAMPLE:
Do your coaches look the part as fit and healthy human beings themselves? Can they command respect and successfully impart an unlimited amount of training knowledge without yelling, screaming, threatening, or being unprofessional? Athletes are very high-functioning technical beings – meaning they are quick to pick up on and emulate what an example does versus what that example or role model might simply say…and actions do speak louder than words.
Remember: Conditioning is easier to develop than acquired strength, power, speed, and quickness. Make sure to develop the latter skills first – do not impede athletes’ development by wasting time trying to build the former in the weight room setting. Conditioning cannot guarantee any of the latter skills; but improving these skills can greatly contribute to an athlete’s conditioning.
– CHRIS BORGARD
(seen above in blue at 2018 USATF meet)
This past weekend, I want to recognize the remarkable achievements of two elite athletes that I have worked with for years now in the weight room: Derek Thomas and Phil Reid – both of whom recently ran to top-15 finishes in the 800 meters and 5,000 meters (respectively) at the 2018 USATF Championships held in Des Moines Iowa. These two have much in common: they both currently run for the same professional running club, both ran in the same college program, and they are both enjoying success well after college.
The similarities don’t end there: Like many members of the HOKA (formerly ASICS) Aggies, both Derek and Phil work full-time jobs in the same town, jobs which don’t afford them the bona fide “professional” luxuries of big sponsors and endorsement contracts, or the perks of elite pro running clubs that pay for housing, meals, training & massage services, etc. In spite of this, the fact that they continue to run (and run well) several years after college shows their biggest shared trait: PERSEVERANCE
(seen winning the 2017 L.A. Rock and Roll Half Marathon)
Per . se. ver.ance (n). 1. Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success
I have known and worked with these two athletes for years…long enough to witness many obstacles that stood in both of their paths – whether it was finances, injury, or sometimes life just getting in the way. Difficulty…and delay. And yet still these two have persevered against long odds to continue to do the most they could with what they had…knowing that they still had more than most. They have often made sacrifices with family, career, and even their own health to keep their dream alive. If SUCCESS = HARD WORK + PERSEVERANCE, I can vouch for how many times I have seen Derek and Phil display both of the latter traits…and I look forward to helping them both in any way I can as they continue to enjoy the former. – CHRIS BORGARD
People ask me all the time, “Who are your favorite athletes to train?” While I enjoy training athletes from all sports, I have a special affinity for pole vaulters. I have worked with a number of great ones, to include school record holders at Cal Poly and Duke universities. A couple of traits all pole vaulters have in common:
#1: PHENOMENAL CORE STRENGTH
It takes great full-body strength just to get up in the air and bend the pole prior to being slung skyward, but it takes exceptional core strength to control the body’s inertia and positioning during the slingshot sequence involving swinging, piking, inverting, rotating and pushing off over a bar that rests higher than your pole.
#3: GOOD FOOT SPEED
Among other things, a vaulter’s momentum into the pole at takeoff corresponds with speed down the runway. A pole vaulter must be powerful enough with sufficient runway acceleration and turnover – especially if they aren’t very tall.
#1: NERVES OF STEEL
Vaulters must be fearless, and must not have even the slightest trepidation about launching their body upside down approximately 15 feet or more up in the air, all the while at the mercy of whiplash from a giant fiberglass pole.
The training programs I engineered for pole vaulters might be my absolute best (and favorite) works – all of our vaulters got stronger as the season progressed from March-May towards reaching their peak heights. Obviously good coaching (which we had) was the main factor in this highly technical event, but these athletes would never be able to transition towards bigger poles and longer takeoffs without gaining strength and power when it matters most. Even during season, there was no exercise that I considered too tough or risky – or that I didn’t think my vaulters had the strength to handle. This hard-earned confidence is the same feeling you want your athlete to have during the critical part of their season, especially in the pole vault.