Training Edge

Industry News, insights & tools

by Laura Quaglio

Physical conditioning can help prevent injuries in pitchers.

Throw Baseball Injuries A Curveball

Physical conditioning can help prevent injuries in pitchers.

If baseball games seem to fly by more quickly, there's a good reason: In recent years, rule changes in Major League Baseball have shortened game time. Among the repercussions: Players now must deliver pitches within 12 seconds instead of 20. According to research in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise [2016; 48 (12), 2512-16], this shorter rest interval affects game performance and results in increased inflammation and muscle damage for 2 days after game play. The American College of Sports Medicine reports that, over time, this wear and tear may result in "more severe overuse-type injuries throughout a pitcher's career."

Providing your ball-playing clients with a well-conceived exercise program may help reduce their risk of overuse-related injury. Here are some recommendations from Kenneth Miller, MS, a NASM-CES, PES, and biomechanist for the National Pitching Association:

Assess and reassess. Assess the player in the preseason and throughout play to identify postural and movement deficiencies, and to address compensations or restrictions, using the NASM Optimum Performance Training (OPT) model.

Address compensations. The NASM Corrective Exercise Specialization provides additional assessments and strategies that focus on impairments to specific body parts, including the ankles, shoulders and hips. "Corrective exercise in-season is almost a necessity," says Miller. The stresses of practice and game play are likely to lead to compensations. (Learn more at

Keep tabs on the player. For example, a pitcher may experience tension in the hip, but since his elbow and shoulder feel fine, he keeps throwing. This lack of hip flexibility can create compensations through the body leading up to the shoulder or elbow. Players may brush off such cues, so be sure to stay updated by assessing and asking questions about things like tightness, soreness and/or weakness-anywhere in the body.

Be a team player. "Work with the player's sports coach and sports medicine team," says Miller. "Make sure you know when he is throwing and how much so you don't overuse the player." Miller starts the dialogue by reaching out first. "I'll let them know what I see and how I'm going to deal with it on my end," he says. "Often they'll reciprocate." This means Miller can work on issues the coach identified during a game or practice session, so it's a win-win situation.

Minimal Shoes, Maximal Gains

Switching footwear may impact strength, safety and race times.

Three recent studies report potential perks for choosing minimalist running
shoes (MRS):

Stronger leg and foot muscles. A study of 38 runners conducted by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Harvard Medical School showed that running in MRS can increase muscle volume in the extrinsic foot muscles (those attaching
the leg to the foot) and intrinsic foot muscles (which connect the heel and toes). This is likely because MRS provide less stability and cushioning, and no arch support, thereby increasing strength demands on both groups of muscles, according researchers at PolyU.

A reduced risk of injury. Researchers at the University of Exeter in the UK and Harvard Medical School studied 29 runners to compare the loading rates (the speed at which force is applied to the body) associated with different types of running shoes. They found that running in MRS and landing on the ball of the foot (which is typical for barefoot and MRS runners) results in significantly lower loading rates than running in traditional running shoes (which is usually associated with landing on the heel). Lower loading rates may reduce the risk of running injury due to the reduced demands on the body, the researchers reported in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise [2016; 48 (12), 2462-68].

Faster race times. Researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder's department of integrative physiology tested 18 runners with sub-20-minute 5K times while running in three types of shoes: one that was unweighted, one that contained 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of lead pellets and another with 300 grams (10.6 ounces) of lead. When the runners completed three 3,000-meter time trials, they ran about 1% slower for every 100 grams of added weight, reported Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise [2016; 48 (11), 2175-80]. Though the study was not specific to minimalist shoes, its findings imply that the lower weight of these shoes could help runners improve their times.

What Millennials Want From a Gym

Express yourselfie: This generation wants a workout that's unique, not cookie-cutter.

Novelty. Entertainment. Adventure. New experiences. Individuality. A fitness tribe to call their own.

These are some of the "wants" topping the list of the Millennial generation gym-goer. In the past few years, boutique fitness studios have noticed a surge in membership, largely from this generation, because they cater to specific, unique interests. Even so, more than 85% of boutique-goers belong to multiple studios, which further highlights the Millennials' desire for newness and variety.

These findings are among those reported in a Club Intel e-booklet on Back So We Can See Forward-which shares industry insights from the 2016 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report. With 75-80 million Millennials in the U.S. alone, these 18-to-30-somethings have the power to "change the industry," says the Club Intel report.

Fitness professionals looking to appeal to this demographic might benefit from shining some light on what makes them, their facility and their programs unique and entertaining…or by beginning to offer unique, targeted options to round out their schedule of more-traditional classes. Also try to change up routines to keep them interesting, and make time to connect with clients: A true tribe has members who know each other well.

In an article at that shares these and other tips for boosting Millennial membership, Brian Kane of the Precor marketing research and commercial management team writes: "Boutiques are a reminder of the need to be different and focused. Being all things to all people is a strategy that is unsustainable in a mature industry where competition is greater than it has ever been." In other (very Millennial) words: You do you.

The Security Risks of Wearable Tech

Health information on trackers may not be as secure as you'd like.

A new report warns that wearable tech that tracks health and fitness data may put consumers' health info at risk. Researchers from American University and the Center for Digital Democracy note the lack of adequate safeguards protecting the confidentiality of this data. While the report's authors assert that policy makers must take action to protect consumers in "today's Big Data era," you may want to read over companies' privacy policies before letting them mine your data. You'll find an analysis of the privacy policies of "some of the leading wearable providers" in Appendix B of the report Health Wearable Devices in the Big Data Era: Ensuring Privacy, Security, and Consumer Protection , available on

Myth: Body Builders Have Stronger Muscles

Can you spot the strongest athlete here? Neither can we.

Curiosity about the connection (or lack thereof) between muscle hypertrophy (size) and strength has been around since as early as 1955. Though many people believe that long-term adaptations in strength depend upon gains in size, there is remarkably little evidence to support that. When a team of researchers examined the evidence last year, they found a weak correlation between changes in muscle size and muscle strength after training. That's not so surprising when you consider that muscle mass is lost during detraining, while strength often remains steady. Further, low-load and high-load resistance training each can trigger similar growth in muscular size, though the strength gains from each of these differ.

"As the story goes with exercise-induced changes in strength, neural adaptations are contributing first, with muscle growth playing a more prominent role in the latter portion of a training program: However, there is little direct evidence that this is actually true in an adult partaking in a resistance training program," explains Jeremy Loenneke, PhD, senior author of the article, published recently in Muscle & Nerve [2016; 54 (6), 1012-14]. "Our paper highlights many potential issues with how we think about changes in strength following exercise."

Exercise Amps Up This Fat-Shedding Hormone

Irisin is a proven fat-burn booster.

Here's a research finding that could inspire clients to break a sweat: Exercising the body's muscles boosts production of the hormone irisin. Why is that so great? Recent groundbreaking research from the University of Florida found that exposing samples of fat tissue to irisin resulted in a 20-60% reduction in mature fat cells. The researchers reported in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism [2016; 311 (2), E530-41] that irisin helps quash fat-cell formation while encouraging the transformation of white fat cells (which store calories) to brown fat cells (which burn energy).

Power Down to Power Up!

Cellphone calls can thwart fitness gains.

Theaters and automobiles aren't the only places a cellphone should be O-F-F. Two recent studies warn against talking or texting during workouts, too, Science Daily reports. These actions lower exercise intensity and impair posture and balance. Using your cell solely for workout music, though, is A-OK.

To Work the SA, Subtract the Plus Phase

The highest EMG activity in the SA occurs during a traditional pushup's concentric (not plus) phase.

If you're using the pushup-plus exercise to activate the serratus anterior, recent research concludes that traditional pushups work just as well. In a small study published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders [2015; 16, 23], researchers studied the effects of PUP variants on (among other things) the electromyographical activity of four shoulder muscles, including the SA, during concentric contraction. They found that the highest EMG activity of the SA occurred at 55 degrees of elbow extension during the concentric phase of the PUP and not at the plus phase.

One note: If, however, your clients are doing a modified pushup, add in the plus. This study found the highest SA activity during the plus phase of hands-and-knees pushups.

Another way to increase SA activity? Place the hands wider apart. A study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science [2016; 28 (2), 446-49] reports that SA activity was greater during traditional pushups performed with palms spaced farther apart (150%) than when in neutral (100%) or narrow (50%) positioning.

Motivation Showdown: Competition vs. Friendly Support

Want to exercise more? Go head-to-head with one of your peers.

And the winner is … competition. In a randomized controlled trial, researchers examined several methods to improve attendance in workout programs via an online social network. The study published in Preventive Medicine Reports [2016; 4, 453-58] found that competitive ranking features (leader boards, anyone?) provided greater incentive than did pep talks (via an online chat tool) from supportive peers.

The Sweet Smell of Success

A whiff of Citrus sinensis flowers and Mentha spicata may improve performance.

Spearmint and orange essential oils were found in a very small study (of 20 physical education students) to improve lung status when administered via nebulizer (diluted with saline) before a 1,500-meter running test, according to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition [2016; 13, 36]. The students who nebulized also showed significant reductions in average running time. Researchers recommend further investigation due to the small sample size, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy a whiff of one these scents before your own workout (consult your physician regarding nebulizer use).

The information provided is without warranty or guarantee and NASM disclaims any liability for decisions you make based on the information. Learn more