Frequently asked questions with educated answers
Common training questions and misconceptions are addressed. We have separated them into some categories for your ease of access!
Does fat turn into muscle if I train?
No! While building muscle will help burn fat, they are made out of totally different molecular components.
Do muscles have memory?
No! But, certain components of your nervous system, including your brain do! That's why skills you've already learned come back easily after weeks, months, or years away.
Increased body temperature makes your machinery work better. And, there is a "potentiation" effect, meaning once a muscle is activated, it is more easily activated subsequently.
Is there a difference between fitness and athleticism?
Yes! Linemen and shot putters may need very low general fitness levels to perform well. They are very fit for their sport (strong, explosive, good balance), but their cardiorespiratory should never be the same as a cyclist or distance runner. Athletes often sacrifice certain aspects of general fitness for peak performance.
Should I lift or run first within a day?
It's complicated. Two major factors are at play. Fatigue from the first activity can diminish quality of the second activity. But, the second activity is the last physiological stimulus presented to the body (the last thing it "remembers"). Just do your best to recover in between!
Will lifting make me slower?
No! Intelligently programmed lifting will make you more powerful and faster. Bodybuilding might not be the best approach for sprinters, but let our staff take care of intelligently programming your lifting program.
Lifting upper body to run fast?
Conveniently for your arms, if all you do is run or jump, the only resistance they need to move against is their own weight. Bulky arms are out.
Can I use a smith machine for squats?
To squat deep, to parallel, to 90?
For muscle growth and basic strength, squat deep. For joint angle specificity, when peaking, start going less deep, but let us show you how to do it safely and effectively!
Should I use instability training? Bosu balls? Jelly discs?
No. In short, it's ineffective.
What about Olympic lifts? Power clean, jerk, snatch?
Yes! These are great power development tools. But, they should only be done correctly!!!
Will lifting make me bulky?
Intelligent training programs can develop bulk if desired, or avoid it completely.
What is the difference between lifting for Strength vs. Power?
Power movements will be faster with slightly lower (though still heavy at times) loads. They will be explosive in nature. Strength movements will be loaded more heavily, making their velocities slower.
Can I train with just machines?
No. Results will be compromised in both strength and power improvements.
What do I eat during a game/meet?
Simple sugars, whey protein & maybe creatine.
Is a sports drink the only think that helps performance in a game/meet?
No. Whey protein may actually help your muscles recover better during rest periods.
Is a gluten free diet going to make me a better athlete?
No. With or without gluten your body needs carbohydrates and protein to function as an athlete. It's up to you whether you like gluten!
Is organic/GMO free food going to make me a better athlete?
No. GMO foods have identical nutritional content to their non-gmo counterparts. Athletic performance is largely reliant on macronutrients (carbs/protein/fat), so no matter the source as long as you are meeting those needs, nothing special is required.
Can I eat my favorite food: ______?
Yes! There is a time and place for just about everything in sport nutrition unless it's alcohol. Just remember that the negatives of any food/drink are dose dependent. Large quantities of your favorite pastry probably aren't ideal, but in moderation it could be used as a carbohydrate source, post-workout!
Can I drink? (alcohol)
If you're over 21, you are welcome to. Just remember that alcohol not only dehydrates, but also shuts down the cellular signaling that is responsible for muscle growth. And, alcohol is a great way to add fat to your body... We'll let you decide.
Do I really need to take supplements?
There are no foods that can stack up to the effectiveness of certain supplements for promoting recovery and lean muscle mass. Those certain supplements are few, and here common questions are addressed.
Does creatine enhance performance?
Yes! Throughout the offseason and pre-season we recommend its use. In-season there are special considerations. Ask us!
What type of creatine should I buy?
Creatine monohydrate without anything added. If you want to buy a micronized kind so that it's not grainy in your drink we recommend bodybuilding.com's brand. Cheap and simple. No, we have no affiliation with any supplements.
What kind of protein should I take?
Whey protein during and after workouts. Casein before bed if you want to step it up a notch. Flavors are up to you!
What else can I take?
Good question. Unfortunately most supplements aren't well evidenced and we wouldn't want you to waste your money.
Our short list of supplements you should have:
- Whey protein
- Gatorade powder
- Creatine (suggested)
- Casein (optional)
- Caffeine (for those over 18, and optional)
What about this awesome pre-workout supplement?
If you like it and it is primarily a caffeine supplement, great. If you're in high school, you can do without. If it has banned substances in it, you can do without!
Can sprinters run distance to become fit for the 400m?
No. Well, yes, but they'll be slower than they otherwise could be because of muscle fiber changes towards slower types.
Will sled pulling or over-speed exercises help me get faster?
Sled pulling may help you develop better mechanics in the drive and transition phase, which could lead to faster times. Over-speed may work, but is not well evidenced.
How many drills should I do to warm up?
Only as many as you need! And probably less than you think you need. Warming up is a function of increased temperature and muscle activation. Once that is accomplished further warm up is just fatiguing.
How much can I improve in 1 year?
Totally depends on training status. Strength may increase 30-50% in the first year of training, then only 5-10% every year thereafter. For high school athletes 5-10% improvements in performance are reasonable. For a pro, a 1% improvement is celebrated!
Will lifting slow make me slow?
No! Intelligently programmed training plans are a beautiful thing because they can elicit peak performance in an athlete by using phase potentiation, which uses blocks of strength training to precede and enhance subsequent power training blocks. See our phase potentiation article.
Do endurance athletes need to lift?
While not as critical to performance as it is for a shot putter or sprinter, distance runners can greatly improve with intelligent lifting.
Should distance runners do high rep/low intensity or low rep/higher intensity lifting?
Counterintuitively, lower repetition lifting is a better idea. Strength can be increased without overly fatiguing the athlete and muscle growth will be limited (a good thing!).
Why do endurance athletes lift?
Greater strength levels allow for injury prevention, more explosive kicks, and overall better running economy and efficiency. Running economy improvements lead to the athlete covering more ground while using the same amount of energy as it previously took to cover a shorter distance. Faster race times!
Are the supplements different for distance runners?
Nope, not really. Just more carbohydrate requirement. More calories in general. Creatine probably isn't necessary. Caffeine may be more necessary.
Should I lift or run first within a day?
It's complicated. Two major factors are at play. Fatigue from the first activity can diminish quality of the second activity. But, the second activity is the last physiological stimulus presented to the body (the last thing it "remembers"). Just do your best to recover in between with at least 6 hours between sessions.
How different do athletes train from youth to masters?
Interestingly, human physiology doesn't change dramatically from youth to masters age. The fundamentals are constant, while hormonal environments may change appreciably. This presents some minor training and nutritional considerations, but nothing is drastically different from group to group.
How young is too young to start resistance training?
Five-year-olds play hop-scotch, jump off play toys, run around the playground, squat down to dig holes and look at bugs. They resistance train every day. Maximal strength training may be ill-advised, but technical proficiency can be developed very young.
Is it safe for masters athletes to resistance train?
Yes! Intelligently programmed training is based on what the athlete is currently capable of, meaning that there is no opportunity for dangerous loading. Recovery may be slightly delayed in the masters athlete and this must be considered in micro & mesocycle planning.
Can I balance my health goals as a masters athlete with performance goals?
Yes, with the understanding that sometimes health and performance do not go perfectly hand in hand. Cardio is good for health, but there's a calculated tradeoff for speed.
Should children take supplements?
We recommend not. Training is enough!
Should masters athletes take supplements?
Yes! In fact they may need more protein than younger athletes because of their propensity for negative nitrogen balance (losing protein from muscles).
Should I ice or heat?
General rule: heat before training if needed, ice after. But evidence is very mixed on ice. Second general rule: if it feels good it's probably good.
How much should I sleep?
- Youth athletes: 10-12 hours
- High school athletes 9-11 hours
- College athletes: 8-10 hours
- Pro-athletes: 8-10 hours
- Masters athletes: 7-9 hours
What should I do right after I train?
Drink a recovery drink! Carbohydrates and whey protein is best. Only after that should you worry about ice, sleep, or anything else.
What about stretching?
Stretching is not the best recovery tool. If the goal is to increase range of motion, it actually constricts blood flow to the muscle, preventing recovery. A brief and very light stretching session can be therapeutic post-training, but should always be preceded by a recovery shake (carbs + protein).
What about massage or foam rolling?
Evidence is relatively equivocal. It may be marginally better than sitting still, though walking probably beats it. If it feels good, do it.
Are compression garments useful?
Some newer research is pointing in that direction, but the research is still inconclusive. Again, if it feels good, do it.
Are anti-inflammatories good?
It depends. For immediate recovery, yes. For encouraging adaptation in the long term, no. These include vitamin-c, NSAIDs, and fish oil.
What is the core?
The core has many definitions. We define it as including the hips. The waist is specifically the lower portion of the trunk, not including the hips. Training for the waist is probably not beneficial to performance if compound movements are being intelligently programmed.
Do I need to do crunches, sit ups, planks, etc.?
No, if you are weightlifting your core is worked every time your trunk is loaded directly or indirectly with weight.
What about BOSU ball core exercise?
No! Instability training plus useless core exercise equals double useless.
If the core is responsible for transferring all the forces from the legs to the upper body shouldn't we train it specifically?
Yes, every time an athlete does a big compound movement like a clean or squat, they are doing exactly that! Only in very specific sports does the waist need any additional overload.
Females are different from men and should train different, right?
The female athlete is fundamentally the same as the male athlete. The hormones are at very different blood concentrations and are more variable, but adaptation to training is similar to men.
Will lifting make females bulky?
No! In this regard women are different from most men. Most women would have to work on hypertrophy specific exercise for years and years to develop "bulk," not to mention needing to take drastic nutritional measures to get there.
Can women benefit from strength training?
Yes absolutely! In fact, because well trained women are still less common in athletics than men, it can provide an even greater advantage for women than for men.
Does the menstrual cycle affect performance?
Every female is different in this regard, but on average there are certain times during the cycle where a female's performance can be increased or markedly decreased. This is a topic of open discussion between coach and athlete in the more mature athletes.
How important are sprint specific spikes for a sprinter?
Very important. Distance running spikes and intermediate to lower level sprint spikes have flexible spike plates and generally result in a reduced force transfer to the ground. A rigid spike plate is desirable to decrease ground contact times.
Do I need weightlifting shoes?
Here's how our staff views it. You are going to spend countless hours training, hundreds of dollars travelling and feeding yourself appropriately, so an additional $100-200 for a good pair of weightlifting shoes that will last 4-10 years is well worth it. They help dramatically with squatting and weightlifting.
Are Vibrams and other minimal shoes good?
Everything in moderation. We recommend not engaging in high intensity activity in minimal shoes unless your feet are very well accustomed. It is unnecessary to feel the need to transition to these shoes.
How important is weight when picking a competition shoe?
The longer the event, the more important. For a shot putter or weightlifter, it isn't important. For a 100m runner, still not important. For a 10k runner, it is very important, because it is added work being done in a race where energy is the limiting factor.
Should I use visualization?
Yes, absolutely. Visualization of yourself actually doing the activity seems to be the most effective method, because it actually elicits a brain and spinal cord response that trains the skill into your nervous system.
Should I go see a sport psychologist?
Probably not unless you are in crisis about something else in your life that is distracting you from sport. If training and competition is going poorly, it might be time to examine the training program or the outside stressors in your life.
How much can sport psychology affect my performance?
It can completely ruin it if you are in a bad place mentally. Or it can facilitate the expression of your biomotor abilities to their best possible level. You are unlikely to exceed what you are physiologically capable of, but to attain it you need to be "in the zone."
Why do I need track speed or better running mechanics?
If you improve running speed by 10% in a year, then you can run at what was your old top speed for a much, much longer time without getting tired because it is a lower relative intensity. Greater speed can actually lead to much greater endurance!
Why should I strength train?
- Swing a bat and throw faster
- Kick a ball faster
- Greater body control
- Quicker change of direction
- Faster acceleration and deceleration
- Jump higher and farther
- Less energy to sprint
- Maintenance of lean mass and good body composition
- Drastically reduced injury rate
- Improved endurance
- Improved bone and cartilage health