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NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
Feature: Cross-Training
How to Cross-Train Your Way to Greater Fitness
By Patrick S. Hagerman, Ed.D., CSCS*D, NSCA-CPT*D
Dr. Hagerman demystifies cross-training, and explains how you can push yourself to new levels of overall fitness by incorporating cross-training into your program.
Flexibility Training for Range of Motion
By Allen Hedrick, M.A., CSCS
This dynamic flexibility program is designed to increase functional range of motion in everyone from athletes to couch potatoes.
Cross-Training for Endurance Athletes: A Super
Set Machine Program
By Keith Cinea, M.A., CSCS
This weight training program can help prevent overuse injuries while maintaining fitness.
Share your questions and comments. We want to hear from you. We will choose one question
each month for the “Ask the Experts” column. Write to Performance Training Editor, NSCA,
1955 North Union Blvd., Colorado Springs, CO 80909 or send email to [email protected]
Ask the Experts
Where do I fit in on the BMI charts?
Mind Games
Goal-Oriented Training
By Suzie Tuffey, Ph.D., NSCA-CPT
Enhance your performance—in sport, business, academics, or other life pursuits—through
effective goal-setting.
Fitness Frontlines
Your Body
Strength Across Limbs
By Edmund R. Burke, Ph.D., CSCS*D
By Lee E. Brown, Ed.D., CSCS*D
Lee explains how the brain regulates strength to produce side-to-side balance.
Peak Performance
Sticking with Your Workouts on the Road
By Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D.
Don’t let travel interfere with your workout routine—Dr. Bryant shares tips for working out
on the road.
“I am a 28 year old woman, I belong to a gym and work out
between 5 to 7 days a week. I do between 20 and 40 minutes
of cardio all of those days plus an extensive weight lifting
program 4 days a week. My body fat is at 20%, I weigh
168lbs, am 5' 5", and my BMI is at 28.
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal is a publication of
the National Strength and Conditioning Association
(NSCA). Articles can be accessed online at
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Editorial Office
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Colorado Springs, CO 80909
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[email protected]
Editorial Review
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As the worldwide authority on strength and conditioning, we support and disseminate research-based
knowledge and its practical application to improve
athletic performance and fitness.
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
“Looking at the weight to height charts, my ideal weight
range should be between 130 and 145lbs. My question is, is
there any way to measure lean muscle and take that into
account when deciding what would be a healthy weight for
me? No one at my gym has a direct answer for me. They just
say I should be happy with the fact that I can now wear a size
8 (I used to be a tight 16) and that I am physically fit. If I am
so fit why am I at 20% body fat and at a 28 for my BMI which
is considered at moderate risk for all heart disease? How can
I be at a realistic yet healthy body weight for me and still read
okay on all the charts?”
Congratulations on your progress! To drop down to half
your previous clothes size is quite an accomplishment! Since
muscle weighs more than fat, consider the body fat assessment and how your clothes fit, rather than what the scale
tells you. All of these assessment numbers are just ways of
tracking your progress, anyway.
One weakness in using the BMI for assessment is it doesn’t
take into account the amount of muscle mass weight, which
means it has no use for people who are very fit and muscular.
Finally, 20% body fat for a female is excellent! Women need
more body fat than men for hormonal functions, among other
physiological purposes.
Since every single person is different, it’s impossible to say
what the ideal weight is for you; as others have told you, it’s
how you feel, rather than an “ideal” number on a scale.
Two other things to keep in mind: First, make sure to take 1
to 2 days off per week, and don’t work the same muscle
group two days in a row, at the least. Second, make sure that
your diet helps complement your exercise. Eating adequate
low-fat calories and whole grain starches will actually help
your body burn maximum body fat during exercise and help
you build muscle.
Marjorie Geiser, RD, NSCA-CPT has been involved in fitness training and nutrition counseling since 1982, and is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer through ACE and
NSCA. She is the owner of MEG Fitness, which provides inhome nutrition and fitness counseling. Primary clients involve
those with post-rehab needs, and those who need medical nutritional therapy or sports nutrition counseling.
Volume 1 Number 2 |
Goal-Oriented Training
Suzie Tuffey, Ph.D., NSCA-CPT
Create a Goal
ike most
Suppose you live in Raleigh,
NC, and I told you that your
goal was to get to Boise, ID,
by driving your car. What do
you need to get there? Put
another way, how are you
going to achieve your goal of
getting to Boise? Well ...
first and foremost, you need
a map. With this map, you
can figure out the roads to
take, markers along the way,
distances—in short you can
plan your path to Boise.
yo u ’ ve
probably heard of goal setting. Right? Goal setting is
promoted as a tool that can
be used to enhance
performance — performance in sport, business, academics, and other life pursuits. In fact, research provides overwhelming support for
the effectiveness of goals. The setting of goals relates to improved performance. BUT (and this is really critical) just any goal and any goal setting
process will not do. There are specific guidelines that should be followed to ensure that your goals are
going to positively impact your performance. These include
creating a goal map, focusing on the process, and inking it.
Let’s look at how you can start using goals to enhance your
athletic endeavors.
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
Let’s now apply this same
idea to sport as a means of
illustrating effective goal
setting. Most athletes, competitive and recreational
alike, have goals indicating
where they want to be—20
lbs lighter, able to bench
240lbs, run a 10k under 40
minutes. Such a goal is a
long-term goal. But equally,
if not more, important is
knowing how you are going to get there. These short-term
goals serve as your road map to achieving your long-term
goals. Short-term goals tell you what you need to do or skills
you need to develop along the way to achieving your longterm goal. These short-term goals can then be broken down
to the daily goals we discussed in the last issue—goals that
tell you what you need to work on today to improve yourself
as an athlete.
Volume 1 Number 2 |
Focus on the Process
Outcome goals relate to the “end result” you desire to
achieve, such as a goal time, place or weight. When setting
goals, most athletes set only outcome goals. But, it is valuable to also set process goals—goals that relate to the process
of your performance. For example, with the outcome goal of
running a 10k under 40 minutes, a process goal could be to
negative split the race. Process goals are important because
they help you stay focused, as you should, on the process of
performance. Additionally, they are more under your control
than outcome goals (i.e., focusing on correct technique as
opposed to how much weight you are lifting; attending to a
fluid backswing in golf as opposed to hitting par).
Additionally, by setting appropriate process goals you put
yourself on the path to achieving your outcome goals as well.
If you don’t know where you are going or how
to get there, you are bound to get lost.
Ink it
“Don’t just think it, ink it.” In other words, write it down,
as written goals seem to be more effective in enhancing
performance. This also lends itself to evaluation, which is
a critical aspect of effective goal setting. A useful strategy is to keep a training log. Write your long-term goal at
the top of each page to keep you focused on where you
want to be. Then, write down and address in training the
immediate short-term goals that tell you the steps you
need to take to get to your destination. Evaluate your
progress towards the goal. Once achieved, move on to the
next step that is critical in the achievement of your longterm goal. Without such a process, it is easy to get sidetracked, to get stuck along the way, or to lose sight of
where you are going.
About the Author
Suzie Tuffey received her Master’s and Ph.D. in Sport
Psychology/ Exercise Science from the University of North
Carolina-Greensboro. She has worked for USA Swimming as the
Sport Psychology and Sport Science Director, and now is Associate
Director of Coaching with the USOC where she works with various sport national governing bodies (NGBs) to develop and
enhance coaching education and training. Additionally, Suzie is an
NSCA-certified personal trainer.
“If you don’t know where you are going or how you are
going to get there, you are bound to get lost.”
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
Volume 1 Number 2 |
Edmund R. Burke, Ph.D.
Mode of exercise affects calorie
burning . . .
Niall M. Moyna, Ph.D., of Dublin City University, Dublin,
Ireland, examined the difference between energy expenditure
on six exercise machines. The results of the study show significant differences among exercise machines and between
men and women, which may have implications in terms of
modes of exercise and in promoting health by staying with
an exercise program. Dr. Moyna recruited nine physically
active men and ten physically active women, all in their early
to mid-twenties and classified as light to moderate recreational exercisers. Caloric expenditure was determined during exercise on a rowing ergometer, rider, cross-country ski
simulator, stair-stepper, treadmill and cycle ergometer.
Caloric expenditure during exercise at the same perceived
effort differed significantly between men and women and
among machines. Caloric expenditure at several exercise
intensities was highest on the treadmill and ski simulator in
men, and on the treadmill, ski simulator and rowing ergometer in women. Because lack of time is the most commonly
cited reason for not exercising, the researchers calculated
how long it would take men and women to burn 200 calories
while exercising on the six different machines at each intensity. The estimated time for men required to burn 200 calories at an intensity of effort that was perceived to be fairly
light was 15 minutes on the treadmill and 31 on the cycle
ergometer, whereas women would have to exercise 21 minutes and 44 minutes respectively. This indicates that based on
weight, women have to exercise longer for similar caloric
Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise. 53:1404-1410, 2001.
HMB increases strength and
reduces cholesterol . . .
HMB (B-Hydroxy-B-Methylbutyrate) is a supplement that
has been used by many to potentially increase strength; however, there may be additional health benefits from this supplement. Researchers C. Coelho and T. Carvalho, from Gama
Filho University, San Paulo, Brazil, reported in Medicine and
Science in Sports and Exercise the effects of HMB supplementation on changes in cholesterol, strength and body composition in subjects with high cholesterol. The thought was
that if HMB enhanced training adaptations, it might promote greater effects on cholesterol. In the study, 12 males
between the ages of 50 and 72 with high cholesterol ingest-
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
ed either a placebo or HMB (three grams/day) for four weeks
during a standardized training program three aerobic sessions and two resistance training sessions per week. Results
revealed that subjects ingesting HMB experienced a significant decrease in low density (LDL) lipoproteins, known as
the "bad cholesterol" (172 to 123 mg), a significant increase
in lean body mass (about 5 pounds or six percent), and significant increases in leg press, lat pulls and biceps curls
strength. These findings suggest that HMB may be particularly beneficial in middle-aged individuals with high cholesterol who start a training program.
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 33:S40, 2001.
Do you have social physique
Do you find yourself feeling self conscious about your
physique when in public? You may not be alone many bodybuilders and strength athletes feel the same. Researchers
from Staffordshire University in the United Kingdom asked
35 experienced bodybuilders and 31 inexperienced bodybuilders and 23 weightlifters to complete a bodybuilder’s
dependence scale, a social physique anxiety scale and an
adapted version of a social support survey-clinical form. The
scientists discovered that experienced bodybuilders had significantly higher scores on tests linking their social identity
and dependence on bodybuilding than their inexperienced
counterparts. While experienced bodybuilders show more
exercise dependence, they feel less anxiety about their physical appearance than the other two groups of athletes. The
authors concluded that experienced bodybuilders exhibit
more exercise dependence, show greater social support
behavior, and experience less social physique anxiety than
inexperienced bodybuilders and weightlifters.
British Journal of Sports Medicine. 34:431-435, 2000.
About the Author
Edmund R. Burke, Ph.D., CSCS, is Professor and Director of the
Exercise Science Program at the University of Colorado at
Colorado Springs. He served as Coordinator of Sports Sciences for
the U. S. Cycling Team leading up to the Olympic Games in 1996
and was a staff member for the 1980 and 1984 Olympic Cycling
Teams. Dr. Burke is a Fellow of the American College of Sports
Medicine and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
(CSCS) with the NSCA. He has authored or co-authored fifteen
books on training, fitness and nutrition.
Volume 1 Number 2 |
Lee E. Brown, Ed.D., CSCS*D,
Strength Across Limbs
here are two interesting phenomena that
occur when engaging in resistance training with both limbs of a pair, such as the
arms or legs. They occur because of the
synchronization between the body and the brain, which work
together to produce strength as it is traditionally measured.
Muscular strength is really more accurately termed “neuromuscular” due to this coordination between body and brain.
The brain sends electrical signals to the muscles, which in
turn causes them to contract and produce force. This neuromuscular system is thereby limited at each end by either the
brain’s ability to send signals or the body’s available muscle
mass1. The relationship between size and strength is fairly
straightforward with more muscle mass resulting in more
force production. However, the brain’s influence on strength
is not as well understood but may involve a side-to-side ratio
or balance component.
Cross Education
Upon initiating a resistance training program, the brain
increases signal output and force is increased in the absence
of increasing muscle mass (see the January 2002 Your Body
column). This implies that the brain “learns” from training
and is able to activate muscle mass with greater efficiency. An
interesting phenomenon that accompanies this “learning” is
that the brain applies it to both limbs evenly, even if only one
limb is trained. Housh and colleagues3 had 16 subjects perform dynamic resistance training for eight weeks with the
non-dominant limb then measured the strength of both
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
limbs at the conclusion of training. They found, not surprisingly, that strength in the trained limb increased approximately 42%. However, what was remarkable was that
strength in the untrained limb also increased by 15%. In this
manner, the brain was able to transfer the “learned” behavior
of muscle activation to the untrained limb, which ultimately
demonstrated greater strength in the absence of any resistance training. This type of training may have implications
for people who are incapable of training one limb due to an
injury but can still train the non-injured side and thereby
maintain muscle balance.
Bilateral Deficit
Another interesting phenomenon that occurs within the neuromuscular system is associated with performing exercises
with both limbs simultaneously, and is referred to as the
“bilateral deficit.” Simply stated, it demonstrates that the sum
of the right and left limb force outputs, when worked individually, is greater than that of the bilateral limbs when
worked together. This bilateral reduction in force is primarily due to reduced strength in the dominant limb and may be
a protective mechanism associated with the brain’s need to
maintain a symmetrical system4. However, this symmetry can
be trained out as Weir and colleagues5 demonstrated when
they had 16 subjects perform eight weeks of single leg training. Prior to the start of the program, subjects demonstrated a bilateral deficit, but after training it disappeared. This is
generally seen in athletes who regularly perform balanced
bilateral movements (e.g. soccer players and weight-lifters).
In another experiment2 the bilateral deficit was measured
from slow to fast speeds. As the speed of the activity
increased, the bilateral deficit decreased and actually turned
into a facilitation at very high speeds—thereby demonstrating that the brain activates muscle differentially as velocity is
The link between muscle mass and brain activity results in
the neuromuscular aspect of strength. The brain may, at
times, suppress or enhance signal output in an attempt to
Volume 1 Number 2 |
maintain symmetry of force production across the right and
left sides of the body. Brain signals are at the core of all
resistance training exercises and the brain activates muscle
mass in a specific manner in direct proportion to the training
stimulus. Therefore, it is important to remember that training should be specific to the activity but that the brain and
body function as a coordinated tool and they may alter their
combined force production as is required to protect the body
from imbalance.
1. Baechle TR, Earle RW. (Eds). Essentials of strength training and conditioning. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
2. Brown LE, Whitehurst M, Gilbert R, Findley BW,
Buchalter D. Effect of Velocity on the Bilateral Deficit
During Dynamic Knee Extension and Flexion Exercise
in Females. Isokinetics and Exercise Science, 4(4):153-156.
3. Housh TJ, Housh DJ, Weir JP, Weir LL. Effects of unilateral concentric-only dynamic constant external resistance training. Int. J. Sports Med., 17(5):338-43. 1996.
4. Howard, JD, Enoka, RM. Maximum Bilateral Contractions
Are Modified By Neurally Mediated Interlimb Effects. J.
Appl. Physiol.., 70(1): 306-316. 1991.
5. Weir JP, Housh DJ, Housh TJ, Weir LL. The effect of unilateral concentric weight training and detraining on joint
angle specificity, cross-training, and the bilateral deficit. J.
Orthop. Sports Phys. Ther., 25(4):264-70. 1997.
About the Author
Lee E. Brown, Ed.D., EPC, CSCS,*D, is Assistant Professor and
Director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Arkansas State
University. He received his Doctorate at Florida Atlantic
University, where he was Health Sciences Lab Coordinator. Dr.
Brown is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, a
USAW Certified Club Coach and a Certified Strength and
Conditioning Specialist with Distinction (CSCS,*D) with the
NSCA. He will be exploring topics of human physiology each
month in this column.
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
Volume 1 Number 2 |
How to Cross Train Your Way to
Greater Fitness
Patrick S. Hagerman, Ed.D., CSCS*D, NSCA-CPT*D
hile shopping for a new pair
of shoes the other day, I
noticed that there were tennis shoes, basketball shoes,
running shoes, walking shoes, and cross-training shoes. I
asked the salesman what activities cross-training shoes were
appropriate for. He didn’t know. I thought back to last summer’s Olympics. Was there a cross-training event? Is there a
cross-training national championship? What exactly is crosstraining?
The term “cross-training” started appearing in magazines
and shoe stores several years ago, but was never defined.
Simply put, cross-training is using more than one form of
exercise or training to meet your goals. Cross-training can be
done with resistance exercises, aerobic exercises, or a combination of both.
Why Cross-train?
The idea behind cross-training is based on the principle of
specificity. Specificity means that the way you train determines the results you get. For instance, if you perform bicep
curl exercises, your biceps will get stronger, but your calves
won't benefit at all.
The result of the training is directly related to the type of
exercise you perform. If you spend all your aerobic training
time on the treadmill, you will become a better runner; but
you will not become a better swimmer. Cross-training fixes
this problem, allowing you to develop strength, skills, and
endurance over a wide spectrum of exercises and movements.
The greatest benefit of cross-training is that the body will be
better able to handle a variety of stresses. Your muscles may
be great at pushing weights through a set pattern of movement on an exercise machine; but are they ready to transfer
that strength into playing softball on the weekends, or running the 10K at the corporate Olympics? Since life is full of
different physical stresses, our bodies should be trained to
handle whatever comes our way. Unfortunately, we often get
Table 1: Four Different Resistance Training Programs
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Dumbell Bicep Curls
Barbell Bicep Curls
Machine bicep curls
Preacher curls
Overhead Tricep Press
Cable Tricep Press
Tricep kickbacks
Dumbell Bench Press
Barbell Bench Press
Dumbell Incline press
Dumbell Rows
Seated Cable Row
Lat Pulldown
Squats w/dumbbells
Leg Extension
Leg-press machine
Abdominal crunches
Leg Curls
Reverse crunches
Oblique crunches
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
Volume 1 Number 2 |
stuck in a particular exercise routine that only prepares our
body for specific movements. This becomes particularly
apparent when you think about how often in life we are
attached to a machine and asked to do some physical task.
The answer is rarely if ever. Most of life’s tasks come when
we least expect it, before we can warm-up, get in the proper
position, and be ready to handle them. By cross-training, you
prepare your body for many different uses. The second big
benefit of cross-training is that it allows you to utilize all of
There is an even better way to incorporate cross-training
into a resistance training workout. Perform different exercises and combinations of exercises each time you train. Too
often, we get caught in a routine that we feel works best for
us. You end up doing the same exercises, in the same order,
every time you workout. By mixing up your exercises each
workout, your muscles receive a different stimulus to promote muscle growth.
Table 2: Four Different Aerobic Training Programs
Day 1:
Day 2:
Day 3:
Day 4:
10 minutes each
5 minutes each
10 minutes each
20 minutes each
Track jogging
Stair machine
Stair machine
Roller skating
Stationary bike
Arm ergometer
Stationary bike
the muscle fibers in your body, not just particular ones. The
body contains different types of muscle fibers within each
muscle. Some of those fibers are designed to produce a lot of
force in a short amount of time (fast-twitch fibers), and others are built for providing a small amount of force over a
longer period of time (slow-twitch fibers). Basically, you use
your fast-twitch fibers during resistance training and exercises that last less than 20 seconds. Slow-twitch fibers are
most important during endurance activities such as running,
biking, or swimming. When you use all of the muscle fibers
(fast and slow twitch), your body becomes a more efficient
machine. Cross-training will push you to new levels of overall fitness.
Resistance Cross-training
A properly designed resistance training program is actually
a form of cross-training. If you perform different exercises
for different muscle groups, you are cross-training. When
you look at which muscles are involved in a group of exercises, you often find that you are training muscles that you
were not trying to train. For instance, during the execution
of a lat-pulldown exercise designed to work the back muscles, you are also working the biceps as your elbows are bending. This exercise is an additional stimulus for the biceps in
addition to the curls you do, so this qualifies as cross-training.
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
Change the angle of pull, the machine used, or the number of
reps or sets completed each time you workout. The added
effect of “shocking” the body by not letting it get stuck in a
routine will create more adaptation, which means greater
gains. Table 1 provides four different workouts that cover all
the major muscle groups. Rotate through these workouts,
allowing a day of rest between each one, and you will be
You can also get away from weights altogether. Cross-train
by adding calisthenics, medicine ball exercises, stability ball
exercises, and isometrics.
Aerobic Crosstraining
Cross-training is most often considered in terms of aerobic
conditioning or cardiovascular exercises. Once again, we
often find the aerobic exercise we like best and stick with it.
Cross-training is important because there has been a lot of
research into which aerobic exercise is the best, and the
answer is still not clear. The exercise you like best may not be
the best one for you. Again, because your body is made up of
many different muscles that do many different things, performing one exercise does not thoroughly work your entire
muscular system.
The goals of most aerobic training programs are to burn
Volume 1 Number 2 |
calories (weight control), improve the heart and lungs, and
possibly to train for a competitive event. There are not any
rules set in stone for aerobic training, just as there aren’t any
for resistance training. Just because you have been told to do
30 minutes of cardio training four days a week does not mean
that the entire time each session, or that every session, has to
be on the same machine. Again, the more you mix things up,
the more your body will respond to the training.
For instance, if you do 30 minutes of cardio four days a week,
do a different exercise each time. There are a huge variety of
cardio machines that can be used, aerobic classes you can
take, and outdoor exercises so experiment with each of them.
The main difference between each exercise will be which
muscles are used and how. Riding a stationary bike is obviously different than running on a treadmill, which is different
from climbing on a stair machine. Jogging outside is different
from using a treadmill, and riding a bike outside is different
from riding a stationary bike. I particularly encourage you to
use those exercises that you find difficult. When you find one
exercise easy and another hard, it is a sign that your body is
not used to this new form of exercise, and has the capacity to
cises is what cross-training is all about. You will find that you
have a huge capacity to train in ways you never thought of, if
you get out of the same old routine and start mixing things
up every chance you get.
About the Author
Patrick Hagerman, Ed.D., CSCS*D, NSCA-CPT*D, USAW
Club Coach, teaches in the department of Athletic Training and
Exercise Science at the University of Tulsa, and owns Quest
Personal Training Inc. in Oklahoma City, OK. He trains clients
from all walks of life, from the high-school athlete to the stroke
survivor. Dr. Hagerman edits the One-on-One Column for the
Strength and Conditioning Journal, and is a contributor to
Personal Fitness Professional, Pure Power, and Men’s Health
He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]
You may also mix up a single exercise session between
machines. One of my favorite workouts is doing 5 - 7 minutes
of aerobic exercise on each of the different machines in my
gym. There are nine different types of cardio machines, so
five minutes on each one and I have done a 45-minute cardio
workout and haven't become bored from doing the same old
Finally, never forget outdoor and swimming exercises.
Outdoor exercises are different from the similar exercise
machines because you have to content with the environment
(temperature, wind, obstacles, etc). Going for a walk or jog
outside is just as beneficial as the treadmill. Riding a road
bike or going mountain biking is just a good as the stationary bike. Swimming is a great exercise that far too few of us
take the time to learn well. Swimming is a great form of cardio exercise and can be a good way to mix things up, especially on hot days when the water feels great. Roller skating
and inline skating are very similar to elliptical machines and
are another great cardio exercise. You can mix up a program
of outdoor exercises on days when it is too nice to be stuck
on a treadmill indoors. Table 2 shows four different aerobic
exercise routines you can try.
The main thing you want to achieve on each cardio exercise
is getting your heart rate into your training zone. The exercises that are harder for you will push your heart-rate up
faster and higher, so you will need to start those exercises at
a lower level until your body adapts to them.
You don’t have to be great at everything the first time you try
it. Learning how to use your body to perform different exer-
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
Volume 1 Number 2 |
Flexibility Training for Range of
Allen Hedrick, M.A., CSCS
training may be the least
understood component of fitness. Much controversy has
occurred because of the idea that athletes must
become contortionists in order to prevent injuries and
move efficiently. This is a gross misrepresentation of the
role that flexibility plays—to be most relevant to
coaches and athletes, flexibility can be thought of as
the ability of a joint to move through an optimum
range of motion (ROM).
Benefits of Flexibility
Optimum flexibility helps eliminate movement that is
awkward and/or inefficient and also provides increased
resistance to muscle injury1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9. The general rule
regarding the relationship between flexibility and
injury is that a normal ROM in each muscle group will
protect against injury. If you are involved in a sport or
activity that requires extra ROM, then you will need a
higher level of flexibility to guard against injury.
Factors Affecting Flexibility
Flexibility is influenced by a number of factors. Training
cannot alter some of these factors, such as joint structure,
age, and sex. The factors that can be influenced by training
include core temperature, activity level, participation in a
well-designed strength and conditioning program, and participation in a flexibility-training program.
Flexibility increases with heat and decreases with cold.
Range of motion will also be positively affected with an
increase in external temperature. This is why it is so important to warm up prior to stretching.
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
Activity Level
Studies show that physically active individuals
tend to be more flexible than inactive individuals.
This is because connective tissues become less pliable
when exposed only to limited range of motions, which
would be seen in people with sedentary lifestyle.
Weight Training
Although a well-designed resistance-training program
can increase flexibility, heavy resistance training performed through a limited range of motion may
decrease flexibility. To prevent loss of ROM, an athlete should perform exercises that develop both agonist and antagonist muscles and exercise through the
full available ROM of the involved joints.
Connective Tissue
Target Area When
When stretching, the most important target of ROM exercise is connective tissue (muscles, ligaments, and tendons).
Although muscle is not considered a connective tissue structure, evidence indicates that when a relaxed muscle is
stretched, perhaps all of the resistance to stretch is derived
from the extensive connective tissue framework and sheathing within and around the muscle. ROM is primarily limited
Volume 1 Number 2 |
by one or more connective issue structures, including ligamentous joint capsules, tendons, and muscles.
Flexibility is Joint Specific
point of motion just short of pain, then ease back slightly. Hold for 10 seconds as you breathe normally, then
exhale as you slowly stretch farther, again just short of
pain. Hold again for 10 to 20 seconds. Repeat three times
and focus on staying relaxed.
Flexibility is normally highly specific to the joint being evaluated. It is possible to have a high level of flexibility in one
joint and have limited ROM in another. This means that flexibility does not exist as a general characteristic but instead is
specific to a particular joint and joint action.
3. No pain. If it hurts, or if you feel a burning, you are
stretching too far.
Types of Flexibility Training
6. Do not lock your joints.
A variety of stretching methods are used to maintain or
increase flexibility. The three most common methods for
increasing flexibility are ballistic, static, and proprioceptive
neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) techniques. Dynamic flexibility techniques, while less common, are particularly applicable for functional increases in range of motion. Regardless
of which flexibility-training method you choose, the most
important factor is to perform the exercises correctly.
Ballistic (bouncing) stretching is a rapid, jerky movement in
which the body part is put into motion and momentum carries it through the range of motion until the muscles are
stretched to the limits. Because of this, ballistic stretching is
not recommended.
Static stretching is perhaps the most common method to
increase flexibility. Static stretching is performed at a slow
constant speed, with the end position held for 30 seconds. A
static stretch includes the relaxation and simultaneous
lengthening of the stretched muscle. Because it is performed
slowly, static stretching does not activate the stretch reflex of
the stretched muscle; therefore, the likelihood of injury is
less than the risk during ballistic stretching, which does activate this reflex.
Increasing the duration that the stretch is held is not always
better. Increasing the stretching time to 60 seconds does not
improve flexibility any more than holding a stretch for 30
4. Stretch your tight side first.
5. Stretch only to your own limits.
7. Do not bounce.
8. Try to stretch large muscle groups first and repeat the
same routine every day.
9. Stretch daily and be consistent with the time of day you do
your stretches. Remember, you are least flexible in the
10. The ideal time to stretch is after aerobic activity.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation
Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching
was originally developed as part of a neuromuscular rehabilitation program designed to relax muscles with increased
tone or activity. It has since expanded to the conditioning of
athletes as a method of increasing muscular flexibility.
Typically PNF techniques are performed with a partner and
involve both passive movement and active (concentric and
isometric) muscle actions. Although there are various PNF
methods, the most common technique involves slowly placing the muscle/joint in a static stretch while keeping the
muscle relaxed. After about 20 seconds in this static stretch
position the muscle is contracted for 10 seconds with a
strong isometric contraction against an external force acting
in the direction of the stretch. This force should be sufficient
enough to prevent any movement in the joint. The
muscle/joint is taken out of the stretched position briefly and
a second stretch is performed, potentially resulting in a
greater stretch.
Achieving the static stretch should be done slowly and only
to a point where minor discomfort is felt. The feeling of tension should diminish as the stretch is held, and if it does not,
the stretched position should be reduced slightly. This
method will likely avoid activation of the stretch reflex.
While some studies suggest that PNF produces better
results than other types of stretching, the technique can be
impractical to use. Part of the difficulty of using the PNF
method is that a partner is often needed. This partner has to
be very careful to not over stretch the muscle. This stretching method can be dangerous unless each person is familiar
with the appropriate techniques3.
Done correctly, there is little or no danger of soreness from
static stretching. The procedure for static stretching is as follows10:
1. Warm up for 3 to 5 minutes, until you have begun to sweat.
2. Emphasize slow, smooth movements and coordinate deep
breathing. Inhale deeply, then exhale as you stretch to the
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
Dynamic flexibility has been used for some time, but it is not
common knowledge to many coaches. Dynamic stretching is
similar to ballistic stretching in that it utilizes speed of
movement, but dynamic stretching avoids bouncing and
includes movements specific to a sport or movement pattern.
Volume 1 Number 2 |
There is some controversy surrounding dynamic flexibility.
However, if you accept the “specificity of training” principle,
and apply that to flexibility in the same way as you would to
strength, it may eliminate some of that controversy. For
instance, no one would consider using only isometric contractions to develop strength in athletes. Instead, coaches try
to devise strength exercises that are as specific as possible,
both in terms of speed and mechanics, to the sports-specific
Flexibility is often measured statically by tests such as the
sit-and-reach test. However, experience as well as research
has shown that there is no relationship between static flexibility and dynamic performance. Although dynamic flexibility training is not as commonly used as the three methods
previously discussed, there are some unique aspects of this
method that may warrant its use. Because of the principle of
specificity, dynamic flexibility may be more applicable to daily
life because it more closely duplicates normal movement patterns.
Dynamic stretching consists of functional based exercises.
As training progresses, dynamic stretching exercises can be
made more effective by progressing from a standing position
to a walk and then into a skip or run. Replacing static stretching exercises with dynamic ones is not difficult. Many times,
the actual stretching exercise is the same, but it is preceded
and followed by some form of movement.
Based on the previous information, dynamic flexibility training is the recommended stretching mode if your goal is functional increases in range of motion. Dynamic flexibility
training is primarily associated with training athletes.
However, increasing flexibility is of value only during movement, and it does not matter if that movement is occurring
during an athletic competition or while performing the multitude of movements that occur during daily life.
You should begin to implement a dynamic flexibility with
low volume, low intensity training. Because dynamic flexibility exercises require balance and coordination, some muscle
soreness may occur initially.
Dynamic Flexibility Training
Because dynamic flexibility exercises are based on movements that occur in sport or daily life this is not an all-inclusive list of dynamic stretches that can be used. The number
and types of stretches used is limited only by your creativity.
There is little published information providing guidelines
specific to dynamic flexibility training. However, it would
seem that many of the guidelines provided for static flexibility training programs would be applicable to dynamic flexibility training programs as well. First, a warm-up period
should precede any flexibility training. Frequency of trainNSCA’s Performance Training Journal
Flexibility Guidelines
Recommendations to be used when implementing a
dynamic flexibility-training program4:
! Use moderation and common sense. Flexibility is
only one component of fitness—do not overemphasize it
! Do not force a stretch. If it hurts, don’t do it
! Flexibility and strength training should be com-
! Be joint specific in the development of flexibility
! Do not use bouncing ballistic stretches
! Orient the body in the most functional position rel-
ative to the joint or muscle to be stretched and relative to the athlete’s activity
! Use gravity, body weight and ground reaction
forces as well as changes in planes and proprioceptive demand to enhance flexibility
! Develop a flexibility routine specific to the demands
of the sport and the qualities of the individual athlete.
! Unlike other physical qualities, flexibility can be
improved from day to day and once range of
motion is increased or developed to the desired
level it is easy to maintain that range of motion.
Less work is needed to maintain flexibility than is
needed to develop it.
! Warm up prior to stretching
ing should be two to five times per week, depending on both
the type(s) of activities for which you are preparing and the
amount of flexibility you have already developed. All of the
exercises described here should be performed while walking
over a distance of 20 - 30 yards.
Arm Circles
While slowly walking over the prescribed distance, alternate
performing arm circles with the right and left arms. These
arm circles should be performed with the arm straight, progressing from a position of having your arm directly at your
side to a position where your arm is directly over your head.
These circles should be performed in both a forward and
backward direction through a full comfortable range of
motion (Fig. 1a and 1b).
Volume 1 Number 2 |
Lunge walk
Clasp your hands behind your head. Step forward and then
drop into a lunge position. Do not allow the knee of the forward leg to drift forward of the toes, the back knee should be
just off the floor. The head is up and the back is arched, the
torso should be leaning back slightly. Pause for a count in the
bottom position and then repeat with the opposite leg, progressing forward with each step (Fig. 3).
Figure 1a and 1b: Arm Circles
Arm Swings
While slowly walking over the prescribed distance, keep the
arm straight and lift to shoulder height, alternate performing
arm swings with the right and left arms. The hand should be
pointing directly lateral to the shoulder. Keeping the arm
straight and at shoulder height, first swing the arm across
the chest and then as far back as possible through a full comfortable range of motion (Fig. 2a and 2b).
Figure 3: Lunge Walk
Lunge walk/palms to floor
With the hands at the side step forward and then drop into a
lunge position. Do not allow the knee of the forward leg to
drift forward of the toes, the back knee should be just off the
floor. At the bottom position place each palm on the floor
with the fingers pointing forward. Pause for a count in the
bottom position and then repeat with the opposite leg, progressing forward with each step (Fig. 4).
Figure 4: Lunge Walk/Palms to Floor
Figure 2a and 2b: Arm Swings
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
Volume 1 Number 2 |
Twisting lunge walk
Clasp your hands behind your head. Step forward and drop
into a lunge position. As you drop into the lunge position
twist the upper body so that the left elbow touches the outside of the right (forward) leg. Pause in that position for a
count, and then twist so that the right elbow touches the
inside of the right leg. Do not allow the knee of the forward
leg to drift forward of the toes, the back knee should be just
off theground. Repeat with the left leg, touching the outside
of the leg with the right elbow and the inside with the left
elbow. Progress forward with each step. (Fig. 5)
Reverse lunge walk
Clasp your hands behind your head. Step backwards and then
drop into a lunge position. Do not allow the knee of the forward leg to drift forward of the toes, the back knee should be
just off the ground. The head is up and the back is arched,
the torso should be leaning back slightly. Pause for a count in
the bottom position and then repeat with the opposite leg,
progressing backwards with each step (Fig. 7a and 7b).
Figure 7a and 7b:
Reverse Lunge Walk
Figure 5: Twisting Lunge Walk
Hockey lunge walk
Clasp your hands behind your head. Step forward, placing the
front foot about 8" - 10" wider than shoulder width, and then
drop into a lunge position. Both feet should be pointing
directly forward. Do not allow the knee of the forward leg to
drift forward of the toes, the back knee should be just off the
ground. The head is up and the back is arched, the torso
should be leaning back slightly. Pause for a count in the bottom position and then repeat with the opposite leg, progressing forward with each step (Fig. 6).
Reverse twisting lunge walk
Clasp your hands behind your head. Step backwards and then
drop into a lunge position. As you drop into the lunge position twist the upper body so that the left elbow touches the
outside of the right (forward) leg. Pause in that position for
a count, and then twist so that the right elbow touches the
inside of the right leg. Do not allow the knee of the forward
leg to drift forward of the toes, the back knee should be just
off the ground. Repeat with the left leg, touching the outside
of the leg with the right elbow and the inside with the left
elbow. Progress backward with each step (Fig. 8).
Figure 6: Hockey Lunge Walk
Figure 8: Reverse Twisting Lunge Walk
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
Figure : Twisting Lunge Walk
Volume 1 Number 2 |
Walking side lunge
Turn sideways, with the right shoulder pointing in the direction you are going. Take a long lateral step with the right
foot. Keeping the left leg straight, sink the hips back and to
the right. Do not allow the right knee to drift forward of the
toes on the right foot, keep the back arched. Pause for a count
at the bottom, stand back up and then pivot and repeat the
movement with the left leg leading (Fig. 9).
Walking knee tuck
Step forward with the left leg and then, using your hands to
assist you, squeeze the right knee up and to the chest. Pause
for a count, then step with the right leg and repeat the action
with the left leg. Try to pull the knee slightly higher with
each repetition (Fig. 11).
Figure 9: Walking Side Lunge
Lunge out on all fours/walk hands between
Lunge out on all fours, with the body extended out and supported on the hands and feet. Keeping the hands stationary
walk the feet up between the hands. The legs should be kept
straight. At the top of the movement lunge out on all fours
again and repeat the movement. Attempt to get the feet
slightly further through the hands with each repetition (Fig.
10a and 10b).
Figure 11: Walking Knee Tuck
Walking over/under
Turn sideways, with the right shoulder pointing in the direction you are going. Imagine a series of high and low hurdles
progressing down the track. First swing the right and then
the left foot up and over the first high hurdle. After clearing
the first high hurdle drop into a squat position and move laterally under the first low hurdle. After moving under the low
hurdle pivot so that the left shoulder is now pointing in the
direction you are going and repeat the movement, first going
over and then under the next two hurdles.
Figure 10a and 10b: Lunge out on all fours/ Walk hands
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
Volume 1 Number 2 |
Walking knee tuck/lift the foot
Step forward with the left leg and then, using your hands to
assist you, squeeze the right knee up and to the chest and
then pause for a count. While remaining standing on the left
leg move your right hand to your right foot and pull your leg
back and up, trying to pull the foot to shoulder height behind
you while standing tall. Pause for a count, then step with the
right leg and repeat the action with the left leg (Fig. 12a, 12b
and 12c).
Walking leg swing to opposite hand
Take a step with the left leg and then swing the right leg up
and over shoulder height touching the left hand. Keep the leg
straight during the swinging motion. Repeat with the opposite leg and hand, attempting to swing the leg slightly higher with each repetition (Fig. 13).
Figure 12a, 12b and
12c : Walking knee
tuck/ Lift the foot
Figure 13: Walking Leg Swing to Opposite Hand
Walking knee over hurdle
Imagine a line of intermediate hurdles running down the
track, alternating to the right and left sides of the body.
Leading with the right knee lift the right leg up and over the
first hurdle. Place the right foot down and repeat the movement with the left leg. Attempt to get the leg slightly higher
over the hurdle with each repetition (Fig. 17).
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
Volume 1 Number 2 |
57(2):150-153. 1986.
6. Hedrick, A. Physiological responses to warm-up. NSCA
Journal, 14(5):25-27. 1992. 1992.
7. Hedrick, A. Flexibility and the conditioning program.
NSCA Journal, 15(4): 62-66. 1993.
8. Karp, J.R. Flexibility for fitness. Fitness Management, April:
52-54. 2000.
9. McBride, J. Dynamic warm-up and flexibility: a key to basketball success. Coaching Women’s Basketball, Summer: 1517. 1995.
11. Sobel, T., T.S. Ellenbecker, and E.P. Roetert. Flexibility
training for tennis. Strength and Conditioning Journal,
17(6):43-51. 1995.
Suggested Additional Reading
Baechle, T.R. and R.W. Earle, eds. Essentials of Strength
Training and Conditioning. 2d ed. Champaign, Il: Human
Kinetics. 2000.
Bompa, T.O. Total training for young champions.
Champaign, Il: Human Kinetics. 2000.
Figure14 : Walking Knee Over Hurdle
As you become proficient at performing each drill, the basic
exercises can be combined into more complex exercises. For
example, you can perform a knee tuck to a lunge walk, alternating legs after each movement has been performed. The
possible combinations of exercises are nearly limitless. There
are two primary advantages of combining movements. First,
it becomes a more sport specific way to train because in most
sports, you do not perform the same movement in a repetitive
fashion. Second, it becomes a more time efficient way to train
because a larger number of muscle groups are stretched.
1. Bandy, W.D., J.M. Irion, and M. Briggler. The effect of
static and dynamic range of motion training on the flexibility of the hamstring muscles. J. Sports Phys. Ther. Sect.,
27(4):295-300. 1998.
2. Brandon, R. What science has to say about the performance benefits of flexibility training. Peak Performance.,
Sept: 6-9. 1998.
3. Franklin, A.J., C.F. Finch, and C.A. Sherman. Warm-up
practices of golfers: are they adequate? British Journal of
Sports Medicine, 35(2):125-127. 2001.
4. Gambetta, V. Stretching the truth; the fallacies of flexibility. Sports Coach, 20 (3):7-9. 1997.
5. Hardy, L. and D. Jones. Dynamic flexibility and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. Res. Q. Exerc. Sport,
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
Bompa, T.O. From childhood to champion athlete. Toronto,
ON: Veritas. 1995.
Bourne, G. The basic facts about flexibility in a nutshell.
Modern Athlete and Coach, 33(2): 3-4, 35. 1995.
DiNubile, N. ed. Scientific, medical, and practical aspects of
stretching. In: Clinics in Sports Medicine. Philadelphia, PA:
William B.Sanders, pp. 63-86. 1991.
Gesztesi, B. Stretching during exercise. Strength and
Conditioning Journal, 21(6):44. 1999.
Hedrick, A. Volleyball coaches guide to warm-up and flexibility training. Performance Conditioning Volleyball, 8(3):1-4.
Hedrick, A. Dynamic flexibility training. Strength and
Conditioning Journal, 22(5):33-38. 2000.
Ninos, J. When could stretching be harmful? Strength and
Conditioning Journal, 21(5):57-58. 1999.
Ross, M. Stretching the hip flexors. Strength and Conditioning
Journal, 21(3):71-72. 1999.
About the Author
Allen Hedrick, M.A., CSCS, is the ehad strength and conditioning
coach at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has been in that position
since June of 1998. Prior to that, he was the assistant strength and
conditioning coach at the Academy for three years. Allen is a frequent contributor to Strength and Conditioning Journal.
Volume 1 Number 2 |
Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D.
Sticking with Your Workouts on
the Road
or exercise enthusiasts, traveling—for
and fitness facilities have affiliate branches or have cooperative arrangements with similar organizations in other
business and social purposes—may
present difficulties in maintaining reg-
Check with the hotel/motel in which you will be staying
to see if they have a workout room and what type of aerobic equipment they have. Most hotels in larger cities
have facilities with a modest array of aerobic equipment.
Since the type and specific brand name of the equipment
that is available tends to vary from one hotel to another,
it may be worth your effort to check with two or three different hotels to see which one has the specific fitness
amenities you desire before making reservations.
Call the local Chamber of Commerce of the town or city
to which you are traveling to see if they have information
available regarding fitness and recreational activities.
Check with your local YMCA, Jewish Community Center,
etc. to see if they have an affiliate branch in your travel
“Let your fingers do the walking.” When you arrive at
your destination, check the yellow pages. Contact several
health and fitness facilities and inquire about their policies for guests, fees, and available equipment.
ular workout programs. In fact, the
added stress of being away from home—sleeping in strange
beds, meeting new clients, putting together big money
deals—may make the need to work out more important, both
physically and psychologically. In general, the problems
many exercise enthusiasts face while traveling can be
grouped into two basic areas: logistical and environmental.
Logistical Issues
When you’re on the road, the main logistical challenge you
may face is finding a place to work out. Depending upon the
type of aerobic exercise you prefer, you may or may not be
fortunate enough to find a place with the equipment you need
to do your customary workout. However, if you’re a jogger,
you can run almost anywhere. Most cities or towns have a
park, a jogging or biking trail, or simply a network of sidewalks and streets to accommodate your urge to exercise outdoors.
However, if you prefer to exercise indoors (on a treadmill,
stair climber, exercise cycle, or an elliptical cross-trainer),
you will need to do some planning. To improve the chances
of being able to engage in aerobic training using the type of
equipment you prefer, use these suggestions:
Check with the staff at your local fitness facility to see if
they have a recommendation regarding where to work
out in the area in which you plan to travel. Many health
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
Environmental Issues
A change from the environmental conditions you are used to
may present a problem for you when you work out on the
road. The nature of the problem is related to the nature of
the change. Some changes may simply affect your level of
enjoyment of the activity, some may adversely affect performance, and some may pose potential dangers to your
health. The best way to deal with the effects of these possible changes is to be aware of the relevant environmental considerations and to plan accordingly. The five most prevalent
environment-related conditions that require some sense of
precaution are altitude, cold, heat, air pollution, and jet lag.
Volume 1 Number 2 |
Exercising at high altitude is
more physically demanding
because the partial pressure of
oxygen is lower than at sea level.
The low oxygen pressure at high
altitude can stress the oxygen
transport system of even the
most fit individuals. The primary
difficulty you encounter while
exercising at high altitudes is the
diminished rate of diffusion—the
movement of oxygen from the
alveoli in your lungs to your pulmonary capillaries. As a result,
your hemoglobin saturation (oxygen loaded red blood cells) is
drastically reduced, which, in
turn, decreases your level of
maximal oxygen uptake (physiological index of aerobic-fitness
capacity). This means that a given
workload is more difficult at high
altitude, and you will need to be
cautious. For this reason, it is
advisable that you reduce your
Exercising in the cold is obviously only a problem if you prefer to
exercise outdoors. Remember that
cold temperatures can numb the
flesh and sometimes suppress cellular metabolism to dangerous
levels. Possibly the easiest way to
prepare for exercising in the cold
is to dress appropriately.
Most experts suggest wearing
several layers of clothing so that
the articles can be removed—a
layer at a time—as you become
warmer while exercising (due to
increases in metabolic heat production). In general, the following
guidelines are recommended with
regard to clothing:
Avoid heavy, bulky garments.
Use up to four layers of clothing in severe weather.
Wear an absorbent, non-irritating material for the first layer of
Most cities or towns have a park, a jogging
or biking trail, or simply a network of sidewalks
and streets to accommodate your urge to exercise outdoors.
level of aerobic activity (duration and/or intensity) during
the first few days at a high altitude. Your body will acclimate
to the altitude within the first few days of exposure.
In general, with every 1,000 feet, ambient temperature
decreases 2°C. Thus, additional risks of cooling (wind chill
and hypothermia) are present. In addition, the risk of dehydration is higher at altitude. Water loss is increased, and
water intake is often reduced due to limited availability. The
former is due to both the decrease in the amount of water
vapor in the air with altitude (increased evaporation) and
increased diuresis (urine production). Thus, you should drink
more than normal (> 2.5 liters/day) when at high altitude.
Finally, at high altitude the amount of UV-radiation is much
stronger than at sea level. As a result, you should take precautions with respect to sunburn and snow blindness while
exercising outdoors.
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
clothing, such as a polypropylene-type wicking fabric.
Wear socks made of an absorb-ent, breathable material.
Protect your hands—wear cotton or wool gloves.
Wear a hat—a large amount of heat can be lost from an
uncovered head.
If necessary, keep your facial area warm—preferably with
a wool scarf.
When the wind chill index is low, special precautions
should also be taken to protect any areas of the body that
are exposed to the air while exercising in order to prevent
Exercising in an area where the ambient temperature is relatively hot is obviously not a problem if you’re working out in
an air-conditioned, well-ventilated gym. If you prefer to
exercise outdoors, hot temperatures can result in competition
Volume 1 Number 2 |
for blood between the skin and the active skeletal muscles,
severely limiting your physical performance and subjecting
your body to possible thermal injury. The following steps can
help to minimize the effects of heat while exercising:
Wear loose, light-weight clothing. Such clothing facilitates
air movement near the skin and the evaporation of sweat.
Wear white and light-colored clothing that reflects more
heat than dark colors.
Wear a hat because it reduces the amount of radiant heat
you gain through your head via the sun’s rays.
Cover less of your skin surface in hot humid environments
in order to enhance your thermal regulatory system.
Wear fabrics that wick moisture away from your skin (e.g.,
cotton, as opposed to polyester).
Drink plenty of fluids—while traveling to and from and
while at your destination.
Be sensitive to the physiological warning signs of thermal
distress (chills, lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea, etc.)
and respond accordingly.
Air Pollution
Air pollutants are common (and potentially serious) environmental stressors in most of the urban centers of the world.
Smog can have an adverse affect on you because it causes
tightness in your chest, difficulty in deep breathing, eye irritation, headache, nausea, and dryness of the throat, among
other factors. In fact, the effects of air pollution are even
more exaggerated while exercising since more smog actually
enters your lungs and respiratory system. In addition to the
physiological effects of air pollution, considerable evidence
indicates that smog severely limits an individual's motivation
to exercise.
When exercise is to be performed in a high pollution area,
valuable information may be acquired from local meteorologists. In order to minimize potential problems, you should
carefully plan your activities, taking into consideration daily
and seasonal fluctuations in pollution:
Avoid exercise during rush hours when pollution levels
Avoid high cigarette smoking areas prior to and during
Avoid combinations of high temperature, humidity, and air
pollution (high heat and humidity worsen the deleterious
effect of air pollution).
Limit the amount of time spent in high pollution areas to
a minimum (physiological effects of air pollution are both
time and dose dependent).
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
Be aware of seasonal variations in pollution levels. The
pollution level is usually low in winter, increases during
summer with a daily peak around 3pm, and reaches maximal peak values in early autumn.
Jet Lag
Traveling across time zones can cause fatigue and lower performance capabilities. Research has shown that a variety of
physiological functions (e.g., sleep, body temperature, heart
rate, blood pressure, metabolic rate, and menstrual cycle) and
performance characteristics (e.g., strength, power, reaction
time, perceived exertion, and pattern recognition) follow a
rhythm that varies approximately every 24 hours, weekly,
monthly, and yearly. Traveling disrupts your natural adherence to your biological rhythms. Jet lag is characterized by
fatigue, malaise, sluggishness, diminished reaction time, and
a sense of disorientation. To minimize the effects of jet lag,
follow these tips:
Schedule eastbound flights in daylight hours.
Make westbound flights late in the day.
Drink plenty of water.
Eat light meals.
Keep your intake of fatty foods low.
Get up from your seat at regular intervals to stretch or
Staying on the Road to Good
The human body is extremely adaptable. You are capable of
not only surviving in different environments but of exercising—in fact thriving—in a wide variety of environmental
conditions. Traveling to a different or faraway destination
should not (under most circumstances) deter you from adhering to your normal workout routine. The road to fitness and
good health is relatively straightforward. Don’t let traveling
prove to be an insurmountable detour. Do what you have to.
Stick with your workouts.
About the Author
Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D., has served on the exercise science faculties
of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Penn State
University, and Arizona State University. He lectures nationally
and internationally on many topics related to exercise, fitness, and
health. Dr. Bryant is an accomplished writer, having authored 14
books and over 180 articles in a variety of sports medicine and fitness journals, including Fitness Management, IDEA Personal
Trainer, the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation,
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Muscular
Development, and Shape.
Volume 1 Number 2 |
Cross Training for Endurance
Athletes: A Super Set Machine
Keith Cinea, M.A., CSCS
ross training involves training in one
mode, to improve performance in
another—for example cycling to
improve running performance. Cross
training can be used to maintain physiological adaptations if
the intensity of the training is high enough, and is an effective method to avoid overuse injuries. During transition periods in a periodized program, you can continue to work out;
however, you should use different modes of exercise—along
with different muscle activation patterns—from those seen in
competition or training. This can help prevent overuse
injuries while maintaining an increased activity level.
The following program is a super set program for distance
runners, however it can be applied to almost any predominantly aerobic sport in transition. The program is designed
to help build total body muscular endurance. The intensity of
the exercise will not be enough to maintain aerobic fitness, so
aerobic work should be performed by cycling or some other
non-running mode. This program is designed for use with
machines, but most of the exercises can be performed with
free weights if you prefer.
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
Warm up
Perform a thorough warm up before beginning any training
session. The warm up should consist of 5 - 10 minutes of
light activity, such as cycling, rowing, stair climbing, etc.
Once the warm up is completed, you should stretch all the
major muscle groups.
Super Set Program
A super set is a combination of two exercises using the agonist and antagonist muscles of one body part. Perform one
set of each exercise, moving rapidly from one machine to the
next, then repeat for the prescribed number of sets. Do not
rest between sets. Machines are better than free weights for
this kind of program because they can be set up quickly.
Program Design
Perform two to three sets of at least 12 repetitions for each
exercise. Performing this volume (sets x repetitions) of
resistance training will emphasize muscular endurance. The
exercises are ordered from large to small muscles and multijoint to single joint exercises.
Chest Press
Leg Press
Seated Leg Curl
Shoulder Press
Lat Pull Down
Tricep Extension
Bicep Curl
Abdominal Crunch
Back Extension
Volume 1 Number 2 |
Exercise Descriptions
Chest Press
Leg Press
Seated Leg Curl
Adjust the seat so that the handles are about even with the
nipple line. Using a pronated (palms facing forward or facing
in) grip, push the handles away from the body, using the chest
(pectoralis) muscles. Stop short of full extension at the elbow
joint. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat, but
do not let the weight stacks touch.
Adjust the chest pad so that when seated upright and the
handles are grasped, the weight stacks do not touch. Adjust
the seat so that the arms are parallel to the ground. Begin the
movement by pulling the shoulders back. Next, using the
back muscles (latisimus dorsi and trapezius), pull the handles
toward the body. Squeeze the shoulder blades together at the
top of the movement. Slowly lower the weight and repeat.
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
Adjust the seat and/or footplate according to body size. Use
a lower foot placement on the footplate, but make sure that
the knees do not reach past the toes. Push the footplate out
using the leg muscles (quadriceps and gluteals). Stop just
short of full extension. Slowly lower the weights, and repeat.
Adjust the seat back so that knee is in line with the machine’s
axis of rotation. Adjust the leg pad so that the pad is just
above the heel with the achilles tendon resting on the pad.
Contract the hamstrings, bringing the foot pad down.
Perform this exercise through the complete range of
motion—greater than 90 degrees flexion. Slowly return to
the starting position and repeat.
Volume 1 Number 2 |
Shoulder Press
Adjust the seat so that the handles of the machine are even
with the shoulders. Grasp the handles with a pronated (palms
down) grip and push the handles up using the muscles of the
shoulders (deltoids). Stop just short of full extension at the
elbow joint. Slowly lower the weight and repeat.
Lat Pull Down
Grasp the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder width grip.
Sit on the bench with the pads slightly above the knees on the
thighs. Using the muscles of the back (latisimus dorsi) pull
the bar down to the front of the shoulder. Lead the pulling
movement with the elbows. Slowly return to the starting
position and repeat.
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
Tricep Extension
Adjust the seat of the machine so that the arms rest comfortably on the pad, and the elbow joint lines up with the
machine's axis of rotation. Grasp the handles with a neutral
or palms facing in grip. Extend at the elbow joint, pushing
the arm of the machine down. Complete through a full range
of motion, before returning to the starting position. Be sure
to keep the upper arm on the pad.
Bicep Curl
Adjust the seat of the machine so that the arms rest comfortably on the pad, and the elbow joint lines up with the
machine’s axis of rotation. Grasp the handles with a supinated or palms up grip. Using the biceps, curl the bar towards
the body through a full range of motion. Do not initiate the
movement with the back or the shoulders.
Volume 1 Number 2 |
Abdominal Crunch
This exercise can be performed without a machine. Lay flat
on the ground, with the feet on top of a stability ball or
bench. This should create a 90 degree angle at the hip and
knee. Place the hands behind the head but do not interlace the
fingers. This will help prevent pulling on the head. Rotate the
hips, pushing the low back into the ground. Perform the
crunch by bringing the shoulder blades off the ground, and
bringing the chest toward the thighs.
Back Extension
Lie face down on the stability ball, with the legs extended
back and supported on the floor. Place the hands behind the
head and contract the back muscles to extend the body.
Extend until the body is in a straight line, do not over extend.
Slowly return to a relaxed position, then repeat.
About the Author
Keith E. Cinea, M.A., CSCS, earned his B.A. and M.A. from the
University of Northern Colorado. He is currently the Educational
Programs and Products Coordinator for the NSCA. Before taking
this position, he was the Strength Training Coordinator for the
Central Denver YMCA, and worked as an adjunct faculty member
at Front Range Community College in Westminster, Colorado.
Photos for this article were supplied to the NSCA by Life
Fitness and are used with permission. All rights reserved.
Machine Exercise Techniques
Perform all movements in a full range of motion.
Perform both the concentric and eccentric (or raising and
lowering of the weight) phases in a slow and controlled
fashion. Each phase should take about two seconds.
Once the set has begun, do not allow the weight stacks to
touch. This provides a constant resistance on the muscles.
Contract the muscle at the end of the movement. This
adds an additional stress to the muscle, and helps focus
the lifter on the muscles being used, not the movement.
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal
Volume 1 Number 2 |
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