Should You Train Through Soreness?!

 

By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

 

Whether you have been in the training game for a while, or just recently started training, it is likely that you have experienced (or will soon experience!) Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), or the soreness 24-72 hours post training.

 

 

DOMS is a natural part of training and occurs when your body has been stressed past a point of its current threshold (which is the goal of training). Training that surpasses your current threshold provides a mechanical and metabolic stress that results in a multitude of factors that have been said to cause DOMS. These include lactic acid build-up (this has actually been proven incorrect), damage to the muscle cells themselves (mirco-tears), damage to intracellular organelles and more.

What truly causes DOMS is still up for debate and is not the focus of this article.

Rather, the focus here is whether or not you should train when DOMS rears its little ugly head…and like most questions involving training, the answer is it depends.

To illustrate this, let’s go over a couple different scenarios that involve DOMS, and how to handle them.

 

Scenario 1: “I’m a little sore, but not too bad”

 

If you wake up the next day after a training session and you find yourself a little “stiff” and feel like you just have to “stretch it out” (and you can move around without any range of motion limitations) you are good to get after training once again.

 

 

While I wouldn’t suggest completing the same movement patterns and exercises, especially at the same intensity, I would not keep you from training the same muscle groups (legs, back, chest, shoulders, etc.) again if you are working them in pattern/region specific splits.

For example, if you are working on a full body routine, you could again complete another full body routine using different exercises, but still stress some of the same muscles. If you squatted the first day you could deadlift the next. If you benched the first day, perform a push up the next.

Although you will be utilizing many of the same muscle groups (legs, chest, shoulders, etc. in the above example), you are stressing a different pattern, and the soreness you experienced from day 1 is not significant enough to compromise form or exacerbate the possibility of injury (remember this is the “not too bad” soreness scenario).

I would actually suggest that training the same muscle groups in a different pattern would be beneficial as it would provide a form of active recovery, as well as enhance your proprioceptive abilities.

Promoting blood flow to the region of soreness helps to transport the necessary nutrients that will help with recovery. And if you have any difficulty feeling an exercise in the muscle groups that are supposed to be working, training with a little soreness will help you more easily target that muscle (although we should be training movements and not muscles, we also definitely want certain muscles working over others in most cases).

A little soreness should not keep you from a training session and in fact could help speed recovery as well as allow you to better feel the activation of the targeted muscles. So as long as you are ready to train again (central nervous system is not compromised, nutrition and hydration status is adequate, mental state is on point, etc.) go ahead and get after it.

 

Scenario 2: “I can’t even walk up the stairs”

 

If the day after a training session you find yourself unable to walk up or down stairs, or when you go to sit on the couch it feels like something may actually rip off the bone, you have likely stressed the tissue to a point that you do not want to again stress to any significant level.

 

 

Not only is stressing a tissue that is already compromised more likely to result in an injury, but trying to properly execute a movement that stresses said tissue is near impossible because of pain. And while pain itself is no good, it is not actually the pain I worry about, but rather the faulty movement it promotes. Faulty movement is going to improperly load a joint and the muscles that surround it, which can often times result in an overuse injury.

So if you find yourself cursing with every movement, and the tissue itself is sore to the touch, do not try to perform any form of intense activity that stresses the same tissue. That doesn’t mean you can’t train other unaffected regions/movements, but if you are training on a full body routine that may be difficult.

Instead, active recovery such as a nice walk, light conditioning session or if you can tolerate it, a much lighter resistance training session, is a better way to go. But if you know that no matter how bad you hurt, if you were to step inside the gym it is all or nothing…well, stay out of the gym!

 

To Train or Not to Train?

 

The bottom line is that if you are sore, you can still train, but you must first determine how sore you truly are and go from there.

If you fall under the “Ehh, it’s not so bad” scenario, get after your training. With that said, I’d encourage you not to stress the same movements at the same intensity. Choose different movements from the previous session and make sure the intensity is appropriate, and you will reap the additional benefits of the session (active recovery and enhanced proprioception).

On the other hand, if you find yourself needing an IV of liquid Advil just to get out bed in the morning, you will want to stay away from stressing the same tissue to any significant degree. Active recovery, foam rolling, a lighter conditioning session or a session that stresses different tissues can be completed.

 

 

And if you do decide staying away from the gym is best, don’t fret about not training that day. If you train and you stay sore for days on end, you will not only be limiting the quality of your training, but you will also be limiting your results and risking injury…which will keep you from the training game for a much longer period of time than is required to recover from some DOMS!

I hope this article helped clear up the question of whether or not you should train with soreness!

Know Your Protein

By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

A while back I wrote a post called The Truth Behind Protein Shakes. The reason for this post was that many athletes were still confused as to why they were guzzling a/1/uno protein shake daily but still not adding slabs of rock hard muscle and torching massive amounts of body insulation (fat is great at keeping heat in!).

If you did not read that that post I would encourage that you do so. As for right here, right now, I wanted to provide a quick, bullet point style overview about the main concepts behind protein and its role in a high performing body, the myths behind protein and its consumption, as well as make a few recommendations.

So let’s do this so the next time you find yourself puzzled as to why after downing a protein shake your biceps didn’t grow like Pop-Eye’s did on spinach, you’ll better understand why.

Is protein important?

–          Protein is important, and many times protein is thought of as the most important of all macronutrients (fat, carbohydrate, protein, water).

–          While I would argue that all are equally important, protein definitely plays a key role in almost every bodily function including structure (muscle building anyone?!), muscle contraction, immune system function, hormone production, nutrient transport, energy and more. So ya, it’s important.

–          Without adequate protein available, the body will breakdown stored protein (again, muscles anyone?!) in order to complete the functions previously mentioned.

Will protein alone make my muscles HUGE and my stomach RIPPED?!!

–          NO!!! Protein alone will not make your muscles grow. You must apply a stimulus to the body (training) that breaks down the system and requires the body to adapt and grow stronger. Then, protein can be utilized to help repair and grow tissues, including muscle tissue.

–          NO!!! Protein alone will not incinerate fat. While protein is more metabolically active (it requires more calories to utilize protein vs carbs or fat), protein will only help you lose weight when you are in a caloric deficit. With that said, for many replacing processed carbs with protein (less pasta and more chicken for example) will help you consume less overall calorie as well as consume more high quality nutrients, which will aid in losing the midsection jiggle.

–          Protein is a nutrient, not a steroid. While it plays an important role in anabolism, protein will not provide you will slabs of rock hard muscle without the hard work…sorry bro!

–          Ladies, protein will not make you gain manly muscle and neither will training heavy or intensely! So eat some steak, crush some weight and get off the damn elliptical!

Where can I get protein?

–          There are many sources of protein which include animal based proteins (beef, chicken, etc.), fish based protein (salmon, haddock, tuna, etc.), dairy based proteins (milk, yogurt, whey, casein, etc.), egg based protein and vegetable based protein (tofu, soy, protein, etc.).

–          As you can see, there are many foods that contain protein, and also protein supplements such as protein powder.

When should I eat protein and how much should I eat?

–          Protein should be consumed with every feeding (meal, mini-meal, snack) and a good way to measure how much to consume is by using your hand. Click HERE for a guide and visual.

–          The old standby for how much total daily protein to consume is 1g per pound of bodyweight. A better guideline to follow is one that I first heard from Alan Aragon. Alan recommends consuming 1g of protein for every pound of your ideal weight. That means if you are a 150lb male looking to gain 20lbs, you should be consuming at least 170g of protein daily. If you are trying to go from 200lbs to 180lbs, it is recommended to consume 180g of protein daily. Whatever your target weight is in pounds, consume that many grams of protein daily.

There are so many protein powders. Which one is best?

–          Whey stands out as the most versatile protein powder.

–          Casein is another dairy based protein and digests slower than whey making it a decent option when you know you are not going to be eating for a little while (before bed, etc.).

–          For those who don’t tolerate dairy well, egg or vegetable derived protein powders can be used (pea protein, etc….stay away from soy!).

–          No matter the source, make sure that the protein powder is made from whole, natural sources and not loaded with hormones, processed sweeteners or other ingredients that you can’t pronounce. And stay away from weight gainers…just eat more whole food!

–          I like Biotrust Low Carb as it tastes great and is made from quality sources. Other good sources include Jay Robbs and if you don’t have the funds available, Dymatize All Natural Whey is a decent option.

What can I use protein powder for?

–          Protein shakes, DUH!…check out this Protein Shake Construction Guide (your welcome!).

–          Other than shakes, great ways to use protein powder include powering up oatmeal, cottage cheese or Greek yogurt, putting it on popcorn, flavoring coffee, making homemade protein bars and more.

–          *Protein powder is a supplement and should be used as so. Think of protein powder as an additional (and sometimes more convenient) way to get your daily needs, not as the primary source!

So there you have it, a short, a simple overview of protein along with a few recommendations. This does not even scratch the surface of details surrounding protein, but hopefully you can see that protein is important, and alone is not going to give you the body of a Greek god or goddess!

Make sure you get enough high quality protein, continue to work hard and…just don’t get sucked into thinking protein is the end all when it comes to achieving results!

Posture is Everything…Here is How to Correct It!

 

By: Kyle Arsenault CSCS

 

The other day I was having a conversation with an athlete.  This athlete was concerned that he was not getting the results he expected from the training, specifically regarding his posture.

He felt stronger, moved better, had more energy throughout the day and experienced a host of other positive results from training, but still walked around closely resembling one of my all-time favorite animated characters, Sid the Sloth (Yes, I am a fan of animated movies and I am not afraid to admit it!).

My first reaction was, “Great, this athlete actually cares about his posture!” Too often athletes just wanted to get after it, feel the “burn” and finish a session hunched over the trash can.

While I am all for getting after it, moving heavy stuff and ending a couple of sessions a month trying to fight back your upchuck reflex, if an athlete does not work to correct static posture, then an athlete is “starting the race behind the line.” Although I all for a challenge, if an athlete starts behind the line, my bet is they will not finish at the front of the pack (i.e. get the results they want and need).

But this athlete was working to correct his posture, and doing a damn good job at it…during training!

As we continued to talk about his concern and how he felt with the performance and understanding of his “corrective exercises” I couldn’t help but smirk as throughout the entire conversation this athlete was standing in the exact posture that we were trying to correct.

I let him finish his little rant (a rant that I was glad to hear) and then walked my way closer to him, placed him in the position/posture we wanted and asked, “How often do you stand like THIS during the day?”

“Umm…”

That’s all he had to say.

After I let him know that I had not done my job in making sure that he understood that this was what he had to do throughout the day in order for the training to “stick,” I asked him if he could try to achieve this posture throughout the day.

**A coaching/motivation side note; although I KNOW I had mentioned numerous times to him to try and be conscious of his posture, if I were to come at this athlete as if he were doing something wrong, his motivation would be shot and my position as a role model and authority would be compromised…so I took blame and responsibility.

After asking this athlete if he could be more aware and try to achieve the optimal posture more throughout the day, he replied, “Ya, I can try but it is almost impossible.”

I agreed with him that it would take a lot of effort to continuously find himself in a better posture, but I did not give in. Instead, I gave him a few tips on how to make it easier to remember.

Try the following tips to help you spend more of your day in a posture that will help lead to greater gains from training (strength, power, etc.) as well as a lower incidence of overuse injury from both training and “chilling” in a bad position.

Also, you will find yourself exuding more confidence as you walk around like you have an S on your chest rather than a shy, self-conscious school girl who wants nothing to do with anyone or anything.

Better Posture. Better Performance. Better Looks…But First…

In order to achieve a better posture, and make it stick, you must discover what your ideal posture is and how it feels. From there you must try to sustain that posture as often as possible and encourage adaptations of certain muscles to help you maintain that posture passively (meaning hypertrophy/stiffen certain muscles to help “hold” you in that posture). The passive maintenance will come from specific corrective exercises, that when performed correctly, will create the necessary changes.

Although everyone has specific needs when it comes to posture, some of the most common considerations include:

1)      Head and chin position: Many of us find ourselves with a forward head posture and jutting chin. To correct this think about “tucking your chin” or making the backside of your neck (cervical spine) “long.” Both of these cues will help you achieve a neutral cervical spine and make for a better chin position.

2)      Scapulae (shoulder blades): The majority of athletes/clients that I coach present with anteriorly tilted and depressed scapulae. For this reason, it is common that I cue the scapulae to come “up and back” which creates a proud/athletic chest.

3)      Lumbar spine (low back): Lumbar extension, or more accurately, excessive lumbar extension, is a common postural flaw. This causes unwanted compression of the spine as the “overarching” of the low back causes the vertebrae to become compressed. Cueing an athlete/client to “tuck their tale” or “bring your zipper to your ribcage” helps to reduce the excessive extension and bring the low back into a more neutral position.

While this is by no means an exhaustive, or in many cases a complete list, these 3 points are the most commonly found. Others include hip rotation issues, knee and foot positioning, etc.

One “exercise” I like to give to my athletes to help them achieve a better posture is to have them put their back against a wall with their feet 6 inches from the wall. I ask them to keep soft knees as they work to bring their low back, scapulae and head to the wall focusing on tucking the chin and keeping the neck long. I then ask them to come off of the wall while holding that position…this is a good start for an ideal posture.

Once you understand and achieve a better posture (neutral positioning), it is your job to try and keep this posture throughout the day, which is hard because it takes conscious awareness and focus. When your attention is elsewhere (work tasks, on the teacher, Facebook, etc.), posture is often the first thing to become compromised.

To help increase conscious awareness of posture, I encourage athletes to do the following.

1)      Set an alarm: Whether it is on your phone or a watch, set a timer to go off every 20-30 minutes so that when it goes off it reminds you to check posture. You can set it for a standard beep or make it so it vibrates (the phone anyway).

2)      Use sticky notes: Wherever you find yourself most of the day (in front of the computer, at a desk in school, on a beach chair in Hawaii…I’m shooting for the last option someday!) place a sticky note so you will see it often. Write anything such as “posture / proud chest / tuck tail / cut the S*&T”…whatever it is that will help remind you to check your posture.

3)      Object in your pocket: If you are on your feet and constantly moving most of the day (performance coach anyone?!), using a well-placed sticky note may be difficult. Instead, place an object in your pocket (the smaller the better) that when you touch will remind you to check your posture. Try a paper clip, rubber band, marble, etc.

4)      Enlist the help of a friend: Most of us spend much of our day around the same people every day…whether we like it or not! Take advantage of this and ask one or more of your friends/family/colleagues/teammates to remind you about your posture when they see you falling out of it…just remember, you asked them to help you so when they remind you, you cannot get annoyed or upset.

The Wrap Up    

Many athletes/clients find themselves training 2-4 times per week. While this is sufficient for many positive adaptations, when it comes to fixing posture it takes much more.

Performing corrective exercises each day will help, but if you spend 23 out of 24 hours in a posture that is creating pain, limiting performance outcomes or having people wonder how the hell you survived the Ice Age, it is going to be extremely difficult to make postural changes and have them stick.

Most of the time you just need a little reminder. Try the tips above and enjoy a body that feels better, performs better and looks a whole lot more confident and attractive.

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