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April 23, 2012
The Best In-Season Exercise
This was never an issue with our paleo ancestors because you “played” every day; your “game” was survival. The stakes and situation of today are not much different though; high school athletes play year round, and professionals fly across the country for back to back games. So if we all have to recover as fully as possible, do we A. Find the best supplement to drink? B. Hop in an ice bath? C. Get a light workout? D. Focus on some massage or myofascial release? E. All of the above Usually you cannot go wrong with (E) all of the above, but your life, and your athletic career, is all about prioritization. First goal is to replace fluids (water) and provide protein to prevent muscle breakdown and encourage muscle damage recovery/building (see Sparta Point). Do not move on without this. The only other PROVEN physical benefit is massage or myofascial release (see Sparta Point). This pressure can relieve muscle tension and trigger points to avoid excessive pressure on joints, cartilage, and musculotendinous junctions where strains occur. Do not move on without this. Option C, ice baths, was a trick. No recent studies have shown any benefit, though this intervention has received some traction because we attribute the pain of ice cold water with improvement. In fact, this cold stimulus is suggested to DELAY healing by causing the vasoconstriction, narrowing of blood vessels, to prevent the delivery of healing (see Sparta Point). Contrast baths likewise, have no beneficial effects, though have shown no negative effects either. Hopefully, I do not need to make the evolutionary point on the availability of ice to the survival of our species. Please move on without this. The last steps are more psychological recovery, to make you feel better. The general measurement is the Profile of Mood States (POMS) scores, which evaluates a host of factors including tension, anxiety, fatigue, and vigor. A study out of the School of Medicine in Hirosaki, Japan examined college athletes that incorporated low intensity exercise, actually lowered these POMS score, meaning the mood was higher in those players that performed this light movement afterwards. Light exercise does not mean jogging or “flush runs” unless you enjoy feeling and playing worse (see Sparta Point). Our favorite in-season exercise is overhead squat shown below. There is no eccentric stress to cause soreness, weight can be added each week so the athlete stays motivated, and the key benefit is mobility which is often lost from the volumes of sport. Overhead Squat from SPARTA on Vimeo. Sleep has also shown large benefits to POMS, mostly through the vigor score, the single category that has consistently been shown to be most elevated in athletes versus non-athletes. So if your test above was fill-in rather than multiple choice, here is your answer After you eat, release, and get a light workout, go to bed (preferably not in an ice bath).
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April 23, 2012
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9 thoughts on “The Best In-Season Exercise”

  1. How is there no eccentric contraction in a squat, regardless of bar position? I agree the overhead version can be a great flush/mobility movement with reduced loads, but I don’t understand how a dynamic movement has no eccentric contraction.

    1. It does have an eccentric contraction but because the load is much lighter (than say, a back squat) and the eccentric portion is much slower and less violent (than say, a depth jump) there is less eccentric stress and therefore it is a good choice for in season training.

  2. I’ve wondered why (Cal, for instance) rugby players use ice baths; maybe it makes them tougher – one reason Navy likes to recruit Seals from rugby teams.
    Just a thought.
    — Mark

  3. AIS does a great job, this link doesn’t really discuss what they do for hydrotherapy. All we can do is follow the research, which is consistently failing to support hydrotherapy, even the contrast baths.

    We can continue to emphasize the foundations of myofascial release, nutrition, and sleep for recovery as most athletes continue to fall short in these more proven areas.

  4. sorry to get slightly off topic, but noticed the guy had a little butt tuck at the bottom of his oh squat. is this a problem? if so, why and how to fix? i have good mobility (tend towards hyper-mobility) and overhead squat regularly, but often get told not to go rock bottom because i get that tuck

  5. Good observation. Generally this results in a brief release of tension (relaxation) at the bottom of the movement in an effort to get those last few degrees of flexion. In order to avoid this, focus on maintaining tension and posture while almost actively pulling yourself into a deep (not necessarily rock bottom) position.

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