By: David Larson, MS, CSCS*D, Pn1
Icing after a workout will speed recovery
Athletes and celebrities around the world are constantly hopping into ice baths after a practice or hard workout. After all, everyone knows this speeds recovery and reduces muscle soreness – right?
Not so fast. Recent research actually indicates otherwise. One study found that 20-minutes of cryotherapy was “ineffective in attenuating the strength decrements and soreness seen after muscle-damaging exercise”.
Okay, so jumping into ice after a tough workout might not help – but it feels good. Is this reason enough to keep icing? It doesn’t look like it. Recent research from The Journal of Physiology evaluated the effects of post-exercise cold water immersion on acute anabolic signaling and long-term adaptations in muscle to strength training. Essentially, researchers wanted to know if icing after a workout would help or impair gains in muscle mass.
The conclusion? Post-exercise cold-water immersion attenuated both short- and long-term gains in muscle mass and strength. It appears that the cold water immersion may disrupt the series of molecular events in the body that lead to muscle growth following exercise. Thus, those who use strength training as a method of improving athletic performance or physique should reassess whether post-exercise cold water immersion is an appropriate recovery technique.
Unstable Surface Training is More Functional than Stable Resistance Training
Every gym has them…that trainer that places their client on an unstable surface and has them struggle to perform basic exercises. Chances are their intentions are good. Most likely they are assuming the increased neuromuscular challenge associated with the unstable surface will activate more muscle fibers and increase their functional ability and balance. The reality is the research on unstable surface training doesn’t support this claim.
For example, one study found that 5-weeks of unstable surface training do not appear to increase balance capabilities in older persons with normal balance.
Another study found that unstable surface training was inferior to stable surface training at increasing measures of athletic performance. Further, substituting stable surface training for unstable surface training attenuates performance improvements.
Lastly, it has clearly been shown that stable surface training has a profound effect on functional capacity. Even the most “non-functional” of exercises (3×8 reps of seated knee extensions) have been shown to improve functional test scores by 48% and quadriceps strength by 174%.
The take away? Unless balance is your biggest limiting factor, ditch the circus act and focus on building raw strength and muscle with properly loaded stable surface training.
Squats are the best exercise to grow glutes and increase athletic performance
Squats are constantly being touted as the best way to increase glute size and increase athletic performance measures. After all, there is nothing more inherently hardcore than heavy back squats.
What is often overlooked, however, is the fact that squats aren’t ideal for preferentially activating the glutes or hamstrings.
A recent study compared the muscular activation of the glutes, quads, and hamstrings during both a 10RM back squat and a 10RM barbell hip thrust. The results indicated that the barbell hip thrust resulted in higher mean and peak activation of the glutes and hamstrings. Interestingly, the back squat was only slightly superior to the barbell hip thrust in quadriceps (in particular the vastus lateralis) activity.
The practical application? Hip thrusts appear to be better at activating glute and hamstring muscle fibers than squats. Does this mean to replace squats with hip thrusts? No. It just means that they are both important exercises to be used when attempting to MAXIMIZE glute hypertrophy and athletic performance.