Latest Blog Posts
How Do I Stop this Knee pain?
We can experience knee pain for a variety of reasons. Some injuries will require rest, ice, compression, or further treatment from a medical professional. Most times, though, the mild pains we experience can be self diagnosed and treated at home. Using simple rehab/prehab exercises, as well as training all parts of your legs in a balanced plan, will help you prevent or eliminate most common causes of knee pain.
Step one is taking preventative measures.
- Foam roll daily, stretch, and do your mobility exercises.
- Train your hamstrings enough to keep up with all the work you give your quads. If the quads (front) of your leg pull harder than your hamstrings (back), then your joints may be pulled out of alignment in a way that could cause pain/injury.
- Develop strong VMO; this teardrop shaped muscle above your knee cap is responsible for your knee tracking straight. Try Poliquin Step-ups or Reverse Sled Pulls.
- Develop strong glutes and hip rotators. Everything is connected. Strong glutes and hip rotators will ensure that your knees don’t fall inward, and they will help you avoid the dreaded “knee valgus”. Try Clam Shells and DEEP SQUATS.
Step two is troubleshooting the problems that do pop up.
- First, try foam rolling and stretching. Again. Often, minor knee pain is being caused my muscle tightness or fascial adhesions that are pulling your knee joint out of its proper alignment. Unless you already know that you’re injured, try your foam roller. If your symptoms are relieved by 10 minutes of foam rolling, you’ll know that you’re dealing with pain caused by tightness; and not a traumatic injury. Roll, stretch, and rest for a day or two, but you’ll be back in action soon.
- If you have an injury, and not just tightness, you’ll need to rest. Stay off of your feet for long enough for the injury to heal. All injuries vary, but use this as a general rule of thumb:
- Strains: 3 days
- Sprains: 3 weeks
- Full Tears: 3 months
- When rehabbing an injury, it’s important to do more than rest. Apply ice for 15 minutes on/15 minutes off, every evening (full submersion works better than ice packs, if you’re brave). Elevate your leg when you rest, to aid circulation. Use a compression sleeve, crutches, or other equipment as needed throughout your day. Put some work into your recovery.
Step three is returning to full health after a knee injury.
- As you rehab, build back to full strength slowly.
- Regain full range of motion with gently progressive mobility work
- Then rebuild stability and introduce light weights
- Rebuild strength last
Stick Assisted Hip Flexor stretch + Shoulder Press
Glute activating Groin Stretch
How can I manage my time Better?
I’ve read tons of self improvement essays, self help books, and watched 100’s of YouTube videos on time management. Still, I tend to procrastinate or lose track of time. Here are some of the best tips that I’ve found for staying on track and on schedule.
The biggest battle for a lot of people is their phone. It’s scary how much time can be wasted staring at the screen of a smart phone. Most smart devices automatically track your usage, so you can easily see how much time you’ve lost to your technology. I was the worst, so I’ve been trying to limit my screen time in the following ways:
- Uninstall social media apps. I’ve been trying to access social media for only a few minutes per day, and only on my laptop. By eliminating mindless minutes of scrolling through timelines, the screen timer on my phone started to drop immediately.
- Keep your phone on Silent or Vibrate, and don’t keep it in your pocket. This made a huge difference for me. Rather than taking out my phone to check every notification, I started putting my phone in my bag. Since it’s always on vibrate, messages won’t easily disturb me when I’m focused on another task. I can check my phone at designated times, and I only turn the ringer on when I’m available to answer phone calls or reply to messages, immediately.
- I don’t use the calendar in my phone. Your mileage may vary here, but this works for me. Instead of getting lost in my phone, answering old text messages, etc., I’ve switched back to a paper day-timer. I keep my schedule on a paper calendar, with a pencil.
- Whenever possible, switch to hard copy books as well. Reading on your iPhone or Kindle can lead to other distractions; emails and text messages can extend your screen time, and sidetrack you from finishing your reading.
Aside from limiting your screen usage, another one of the most impactful ways to be more efficient with your time, is to wake up early and get stuff done! It’s easy to sleep in. Sometimes, if you’re not careful, it’s even easier to trick yourself into thinking that you got up early. I used to wake up at 6:00, but not really get much work done until about 9:00. If I had early training clients, I half-slept through their sessions. I experienced a huge boost in productivity when I started to use those extra 3 hours every morning. For me, that means about 5-10 minutes of deep breathing, meditation, or reading to get in a positive and productive mindset. Immediately after that, without hesitating, I jump into my tasks for the day. If you tackle the hard stuff first, you’ll be amazed how much you can accomplish before 9:00 AM.
It also helps to:
- Keep daily and weekly to do lists.
- Say “no” to unnecessary commitments, and leave room for what you need to do.
- Face your problems, first. Putting things off often allows issues to snowball, and the resulting mess can cost you way more time, later.
- Build in time for self care and personal development. You won’t be able to manage your time well, if you are burned out.
- Try hiring a coach. You can get accountability and regular help with time management in my online coaching program: https://joetoproathlete.com/product/online-trainer
Just like with training, and every area where you seek to improve, tracking progress will help you be more successful. Take notes on what saves you time, and on what makes staying organized easier. Taking notes will also keep you more focused on your goal. It all comes down to how much you want to be successful here; as always.
Should Athletes Cross Train? Or Specialize?
Sometimes, for young athletes especially, competitors are pressured to specialize in a certain sport or event. When an athlete is very gifted, this is often thought to be the best advice; but are we robbing our stars of key opportunities to get better?
“Focus on basketball,” a Varsity coach tells a star Freshman recruit; “you’ve got the height and talent to earn a scholarship.”
Athletic development models, though, show that might not be the best plan for success. The more sports scenarios a player experiences, the more movement patterns he/she can master. This is especially true for developmental, youth athletes. Track sprinters might learn the best methods for building straight line acceleration, but the basketball player will master lateral agility, and the baseball player will develop elite hand-eye coordination.
Even as adults, cross training has a ton of value. Still, even in a fully developed body, mastering new movement patterns or sports techniques increases neural drive. Basically, that means that learning new skills makes you stronger and more athletic. Also, changing up your routine can be key to long term and sustainable fitness; you’ll work out more if you’re not bored!
It’s true that it’s important to train for your sport. However, there are limits to that. Trying to be too specific in your training can cause you to miss out on a lot. That’s true of general S&C as well as cross training. If my sport requires me to be strong, like football, then squats are pretty sports specific (even if you’ll never squat in a game); because they make you stronger! In the same way, if increased sprinting speed will help me in my sport, then cross training in things like track events will make me better!
I knew one athlete that wouldn’t even go outside for a walk, because she was always “saving her calories and effort for training”. Wow! While I admire that kind of dedication, how long can a person function like that before getting burned out?
If you want to be successful in anything, it will take lots of dedicated focus on that one thing. You’ll have to be a little obsessive. In the case of sports and training, though, be sure not to neglect variety! The next time that you need to do some conditioning, try a game of basketball, instead of the treadmill. If there’s a cross training activity that you really love, share it with the rest of us in the Members Forum!
Leaders are always Readers
Do MMA Fighters Lift Weights?
Believe it or not, this was one of the most asked, and least answered S&C questions on Google. As a strength coach for many pro and amateur fighters, I’ve watched dozens of combat athletes improve as a result of strength training. I’ve also competed in MMA, and have trained martial arts both with and without supplementary weight lifting.
Not all fighters lift weights, and not all those who do lift weights, do so correctly. All fighters, though, could benefit from getting stronger 100% of the time.
After a ton of real world testing, here is why I believe all fighters should participate in an organized strength training program.
MMA athletes use their bodies as weapons, and it is their job to sharpen those weapons daily. Most fighters, especially at the highest levels of the sport, are working hard to gain strength in the weight room. While weight room records aren’t everything, it’s like I tell my clients; “When everything else is equal, the stronger athlete wins.”
Why It Matters—-
- Strength will help you win grappling exchanges by moving your opponent with force, or allow you to inflict more damage with powerful attacks.
- Strength training will lead to improved structural integrity around your joints, and reduce the likelihood of injuries.
- Increased core strength will allow you to absorb more damage from your opponent’s attacks.
- Strength training will help you to develop speed and explosiveness, to beat your opponent to the punch.
- Strength training properly for your sport will lead to increased anaerobic endurance. You won’t get tired as fast in a fight.
- Strength training with full range of motion, in many cases, will create functional mobility. You’ll be strong from more positions, and less likely to be injured.
Believe it or not, there is a “wrong” way to work out for every sport, even if it is the “right” way for another sport. Fighters can’t train like bodybuilders or football players, and expect great results. They also have to balance their strength workouts with the rest of their training.
How to Do It—-
- Train in cycles, focusing on different parts of performance on different days/weeks/months. Include training for corrective exercise, endurance, strength, and speed.
- You can’t train at red-line all year ‘round, or you’ll burn out. In general, the intensity of your training will increase the closer you get to fight time. You’ll rest to recover and “peak” just before a fight, rest again after, and then start building intensity again towards your next competition.
- Get strong from the middle out. A strong core will allow greater mobility and strength in your whole body.
- Focus on explosive compound movements like Cleans or Snatches. Include major staples like squat, pull-ups, and some pressing.
- Focus corrective exercise work on shoulders (external rotators and rear delts), knees (strong VMO, strong hamstrings, avoid tight quads).
- Since fighters put so much energy into their skills training, sparring, and conditioning, you won’t have enough bandwidth left over to lift 6 days per week, like a bodybuilder. I suggest lifting weights for strength training twice per week, and doing two conditioning sessions per week. Much more than that, and you’ll risk over training quickly.
- To gain speed, lift heavy to get strong… then decrease your weights, and lift FAST. Try this over a period of several weeks, in cycles.
Follow these rules, and you’ll definitely gain an edge on your competition. Strength training will make you stronger, faster, and more athletic. Keep everything in perspective, though. The purpose of Strength & Conditioning is to improve your ability to execute in your sport; and your training to execute those skills in practice will always be the most important thing. If S&C is leaving you too sore to practice, getting you hurt, or taking away from practice time… it’s time to back off. Until then… grab a bar and go!
DIY Garage Gym Guide
Building a garage gym can be a great experience. It’s rewarding to see the results of your hard work come together, and to create a sanctuary in your home; one where you’ll spend hours loving yourself through fitness and discipline. As I, and a few of my friends, built out our garage gyms this year, I learned a few things that might help you during your build. Read this article for tips on how to save money, space, and aggravation.
- Use Recycled Materials. My brother used reclaimed plywood from shipping boxes to build handsome walls for his small garage gym. I, myself, used scrap pieces of lumber to build a climbing wall in my garage.
- Stay Comfortable. If you’re building your gym in a garage, there’s a good chance that your space is not heated or cooled. Will you need to insulate it? Will you need to add heat? Will you add A/C for cooling, or will air-flow from open garage bay doors do the trick?
- Consider Future Operating Costs. After you build your garage gym, you’re going to have to keep it functioning. Plan ahead before you install features that will include extensive or costly maintenance. You can use fluorescent light bulbs, insulate well, and try to save power. While this idea might not work for everyone, I chose to install a wood burning stove in my garage, instead of an electric heater. I can cut my firewood for free, and have a low cost way to heat my space all winter.
- Protect Your Floors. Even if the floor of your gym is concrete, it will need some protection from hard use and dropped weights. Otherwise, your concrete foundation can start to crack and crumble over time. I covered my floors with a laminate faux-wood, and then used rubber horse stall mats ($99 each) for weightlifting platforms. The rubber flooring is needed where you’ll drop weights. If you don’t want to use horse stall mats, commercial rubber flooring for gyms is widely available online for about $1/square foot.
- To Maximize Space, Hug Your Walls. Most garage gyms aren’t huge. You’ll have to make the most of the space you have. To do that, you can build shelves for storage on the wall. Hang bars and weights flat against the wall. Some equipment, like certain treadmills, will even fold flat to store against the wall.
- Used Is OK! A lot of the equipment I used to build out my garage gym was used. I spent a fraction of the money, and still got some really good stuff. Be prepared to take your time and shop around for the best deals. I was able to buy these used wrestling mats from a local high school, for 10% of what they cost new!