In addition to the previous tissue regeneration post, some new hope on cartilage regeneration and the fight against arthritis

Link | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment







The world through Tony Parker’s eyes

Neuroscience and sports. Great blog.

Link | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Obesity genes: predispositions can be fought

Some make it against the odds...Muggsy

Some make it against the odds…Muggsy

Been ‘predisposed’ to fat gain is a common conundrum of the planet. Some perceive fat accumulation like an inevitable and relentless happening dooming to a conclusion, giving up all the efforts.

Genetics indeed does play a worth-of-notice role in obesity, as it does in many of our lives troubles. Just like in sports, genes seem to create a solid background that determines the path of our dreams; the same applies to our looks, IQ, you can blame genes for whatever you like.  But as the most talented kid does not always make a good player, the opposite can sometimes be true.

If indeed genes can be used to make predictions of one’s life, science shows that will is more important.

A big cluster of genes has been identified which is linked to obesity, the mean fat genes.

One large study screened for such genes in a 20 thousand people population to identify genetically-at-risk subjects. They monitored the sample for almost four years, assigning a lifestyle modification to some of them.

Not surprisingly, the odds of increased obesity risk were reduced by 40% in the active vs inactive individuals. Reduced obesity incidence was relevant even at low levels of physical activity in these obesity susceptible people.

This study is important because it sheds further light on how important the environment is on our features and that what we do defines what we are, been this our shape, our skills and even our persona.

So keep fighting.




Li et al 2010 Physical activity attenuates the genetic predisposition….PLOS MED

Posted in health, Sports medicine, Sports science, Training | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Testosterone boost and customised training: future?

t_in_the_park_logoFirst and foremost, this article is not about T supplementation, but on how we can use T to design workouts.
Testosterone, the big T, is the manly hormone for excellence. We know that ‘The T’ has a powerful impact on the neuromuscular system, tends to get trainees bigger and more powerful. A long history of drug abuses and its anabolic effects draw attention to its connection with exercise and performance.
Curiously, its potential is not restrained to enlarging muscles but it possibly acts to improve contractility and nervous activation, by affecting motor neurons and pathways in the muscle cell. So T might enhance performance regardless of a size gain, ie independently of its hypertrophic effect.
Can we use testosterone to improve performance without getting into ethical troubles and health risk?
Training as a function of T peaks: this was tried in a study and is based on the assumption that serum T levels are altered by resistance training. Problem is that the latter does not follow a one size fits all principle, and there’s a marked variability in individuals fluctuations of T after working out. This is due to countless factors such as genetics, training history, exercise volume….
The investigators approached the problem individually, using 4 different protocols of resistance training to see if these produced different T responses in the same subject. Interestingly, subjects showed different T responses to the protocols and each subject had a maximal or minimal testosterone response to a particular workout.
This shows that each subject has a protocol(s) which produces the highest T release (T max). The opposite was also true and each individual had one of the four protocols consistently producing the lowest T response (T min).
The useful bit is that they designed a training plan with each subject alternating a period at their respective T max protocol with a period at T min. The T max protocol produced the highest increases in size and strength, while improvements blunted with T min protocol.
So this study used testosterone response to exercise as a marker to tailor an individual exercise plan and the one producing the highest T response was actually the one that produced the highest training gains.
Bottom line, this interesting piece of research confirms the intricacies of training because of the variability in the trainee’s response.
Besides, it might suggest testosterone as one of the markers to take into account when designing a training plan, periodization and perhaps its use as an overtraining marker.
If T sampling sounds like a conundrum when training non-elite athletes or local gym communities, in this study this was achieved as salivary measurements which are not invasive and might not be as far-fetched in the future as you may think.

Other details of this study, this nice article and the study:

Beaven et al 2008 Significant strength gains observed in rugby players after specific resistance exercise protocols based on individual salivary testosterone responses.

Posted in doping, health, Muscles, Sports medicine, Sports science, Training | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

BBC Horizon shows support to minimalistic training

Here’s a nice documentary provided by the top national broadcaster.
Dr Timmons tells the nation how little you need to get fit.
Want to know more? Check this previous post.
Not enough? Andy Magness discusses how he trains for ultra endurance, Iron man events, with a minimalistic mindset. It’s all possible.

Posted in conditioning, health, Sports medicine, Sports science, Training | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Speed Freak Football: practice faster than game-speed to get match-specific conditioning and avoid injuries

Dodgers getting some ‘conditioning’ in sunny Florida: still want to do it like 1949?

Training serves to prepare one to a situation where one will have to display a certain set of skills to accomplish a result. Whether it’s a game, a speech or a drama, practice should get one accustomed to a particular environment which includes rules, tempo and emotional involvement that are specific to that performance.

On the physiological side, one wants his body to be prepared to what the feat requests. If one needs to climb the Everest he better be ready to the cold, if a singer has to scream for three hours he better have his vocal folds ready to do it. So if one plays for a team sports and needs to sprint, stop, catch, shoot, fly back to the defensive half court for the chasedown, reverse again his direction after a steal and take off for a dunk, why would he train running loops?

I think this topic enters the training myths and beliefs on the index. This is true at all levels. Countless are the accounts from local basketball teams starting their season with long, slow-paced runs along the river. For how romantic and good for the team chemistry this might sound, I guess we might have unveiled the common high % of injuries at season start of such teams. Shifting to higher levels, things get only partially better. Teams get involved in some strength training which has the potential of decreasing injury rates by making the body more ready to absorb game shocks. Bad luck, this is often coupled with ‘general aerobic preparation’, conditioning which does not resemble the on-court environment.

Game time finally comes and at the end of the day the coach concludes that the team is not yet in full shape and needs to adjust to a full-game pace. Needless to say, one should ask ‘why’?

More important, not only a performance specific practice regimen would improve on-court results, but could finally stop the higher injury chance found at the beginning of a season. Epidemiological data suggest that this occurs for the same reason why one does not perform well early in the season, he is just not accustomed to what and how things happen on the battlefield.

Again, specificity is what acts to promote body adaptability to a stress. That’s why an Olympic endurance swimmer is likely not to be a good marathon runner. The body use its adaptation energy and channels it towards the specific stressors it encounters.

A recent display of game specific practice and its success comes from an American football team, University of Oregon. Their positive 2010 season was often paired to the team’s amazing execution speed. Apparently the Ducks’ amazing conditioning would force the opponents to fake injuries to get some rest in-between the plays, as reported in a NY Times article, with the Oregon crowd continuously booing these acts of the other team. This speed freak football is not a gift of the team but comes from preparation.

The Ducks don’t do line to line or full court sprints during practice. Rather, they run the game at a speed which offsets that of real games. ‘The practice itself serves as conditioning. Just like they do during games, Oregon’s players run play after play…but at a pace that exceeds what they can achieve on Saturdays’.

Practicing plays at such high speeds involves all real-game moves like catches, jumps, coverages and makes the players ready to sustain the specific demands of the match. Better, it allows the team’s players to set the match speed themselves, outrunning the poor opponents.

Specificity and preparation applies not only to team sports but to any performance. Bear it in mind when getting ready for something and do not fall off the track. Time is running.



NY Times – Speed freak football

Verkhoshansky – The GAS concept

Posted in conditioning, health, injury, Muscles, Sports medicine, Sports science, Training | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 MINUTES A WEEK MUSCLE: Minimalistic training part II

Train minimal and you’ll have time to relax if you like

I discussed in the past how you can boost your endurance and improve metabolic health with only a few minutes of training a week. Now it’s time for the second chapter of the minimalistic series: I’ll give you some scientific background on how you can become stronger and bulkier with a few reps a week.

First, how is a muscle stimulated to grow and to become stronger? I won’t annoy you too much. It needs to produce tension at high levels. This happens with a high threshold of neural activation which produces the action of the contractile machinery in your muscles. When the load is high, the mechanical stress on the muscle fibres produces some damage, which drives muscle repair and enlargement.

At the same time, neural activation is improved. This shows how the body adapts to the external stresses in order to withstand them, in this case muscles adjust to the mechanical stimuli they themselves produce. This mechanism is what makes the human being trainable, in a ‘adapt or die’ fashion.

Muscle growth needs tension. How to get max tension in minimum time?

By increasing training intensity! This the keyword for minimal training. Few reps at a % close to your 1 repetition maximum work well and are time efficient against lower loads for more reps. But we can do much quicker!

You might have heard of eccentric movements, aka negatives, for example lowering the bar in the bench press. That also feels much easier then pushing the bar, doesn’t it? Yes, although muscles are resisting the same weight as in the concentric (the positive) push. Due to muscle architecture, muscles generate more tension during muscle lengthening (eccentric) than shortening (concentric) and such contractions require also less neural activation to generate the same absolute tension. Therefore in eccentric movements (muscle lengthens) we can generate the same amount of force with a smaller effort, but also a higher max tension.

This is the plan: train with eccentric movements using 100-120+% of your concentric max. So if you can bench 100 in the pushing action, load the bar with 100+ or above and perform a few eccentrics. This allows you to overload the muscle much quicker than in traditional concentric reps.

This means that fewer reps are required to get the training stimulus.

Some more scientific proof? A recent meta-analysis compared traditional resistance training with eccentric protocols. Out of 20 studies taken in consideration, eccentric training was found to produce the larger gains in size and strength, accounted for the higher level of tension involved.

Warning: Take it easy. At the beginning muscles are not accustomed to this mechanical stress and you’ll get soreness and strength loss for a few days. Later on with practice, your body will learn how to deal with it. So start easy for just a few reps and increase as you feel confident with your capacity.

As an example of an exercise that gives extreme eccentric overload, take the one-arm negative chin ups. These are usually performed in the progression to learn full one-arm chin ups (super hard), as lowering your entire bodyweight with one single arm off the bar will teach you how to deal with enormous mechanical stress. It was very hard at the beginning and you might need to hold something with your free hand to assist the movement. I experienced huge soreness, especially on the bicep myotendinous junction, the region where muscles bind to tendons, which is more fragile due to its anatomy. This extent of muscle damage is probably not required to promote growth but was a collateral damage of the learning period. As said earlier, you’ll became better at sustaining the ‘fall’ by producing more tension and your muscles will learn to deal with eccentric stress, resulting in less soreness in the days after the workout.

Bottom line, by learning how to increase the intensity of muscle work, i.e. tension produced, you can dramatically reduce the duration of your workout to a few super intense reps. Due to the degree of muscle damage that one can produce in one session, I think two but perhaps only one micro-workout a week could stimulate a stronger and bigger muscle, although there’s a need of a scientific trial that uses super-minimal (once a week) volume to be sure of this.

I suggest you make your own experimentation in the meantime.




Br J Sports Med 2009;43:556–568. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2008.051417



Posted in Muscles, Sports medicine, Sports science, Training | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments