What’s The Best Shoulder Exercise?

Your shoulders – or deltoids – are extremely important muscles regardless of your chosen sport or daily routine. Unfortunately, the delts are also a commonly neglected muscle group. So, what’s the best shoulder exercise?

As it turns out, that’s a pretty difficult question to answer. The deltoids are actually an extremely complex muscle group that, unlike many muscle groups, can perform flexion, extension, rotation and other movements. To accomplish this remarkable range of motion, the deltoids are actually made up of three difficult muscle groups – the anterior, medial and posterior deltoids – that work around a ball-and-socket joint. Because of this commonly unappreciated complexity, many people tend to have an unbalanced training program that usually just focuses on the anterior delts – those in the front that we see when we look in the mirror. Those are the show-delts.

To help sort through all this, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) sponsored a study that examined how a number of popular shoulder exercise activate this essential muscle group. Their results are useful, eye-opening and a little frustrating.


A Complicated Answer

Specifically, the study used 10 of the most common shoulder exercises. The list included:

  • dumbbell shoulder press
  • push-up
  • cable diagonal raise
  • dips
  • dumbbell front raise
  • battling ropes
  • barbell upright row
  • bent-arm lateral raise
  • 45-degree incline row
  • seated rear lateral raise

Each of the 16 participants in the study performed 5 reps of each exercise at 70 percent of their 1RM (except in the case of battle ropes, push-ups and dips). During the sets, the subjects wore electrodes that monitored how thoroughly each exercise activated the various parts of the deltoid group.


What They Found

Here’s where things get irritating: there’s no one exercise that effectively works all three parts of the delts. And this is a problem since – as with any muscle group – training imbalances can cause some significant problems and even injuries.

The real question, then, is which exercise works best for each deltoid portion? For the anterior delts, it seems like the dumbbell shoulder press is the best option. The 45-degree incline row was most effective for the medial group. Finally, the seated rear lateral raises were best for your posterior delts.

What we see, then, is that a complete shoulder routine cannot consist of just one exercise – which is actually pretty common. To be a solid workout, you really need to include several exercise that work your shoulders from different angles. That being said, this study did show that the medial deltoids get worked along with the anterior or posterior in several exercises.

According to these findings, a balanced shoulder routine would consist of the dumbbell shoulder press and either the 45-degree incline row or the seated rear lateral raises. While the 45-degree rows do not activate the posterior delts as well as the rear lateral raise, they have a greater effect on both the medial while still significantly working the rear delts. Also, many people find the 45-degree rows more comfortable – which is worth considering when it comes to exercise choice.

So, there you have it: There isn’t a best shoulder exercise because the shoulders aren’t just a one-directional muscle that can be totally worked with a single movement. To get the greatest benefits, while preventing injury, design your workouts to challenge all aspects of your delts.






Do Foam Rollers Help Runners?

It might not seem like it, but the warmer days of spring are quickly approaching and – with them – the start of training season. We’ve talked a lot in past posts about managing and reducing the amount of pain that athletes deal with during training and now we’re going to cover a technique that has been rapidly gaining popularity over the last few years: foam rolling.

Proponents of foam rolling – more clinically called self-myofascial release – claim that it can reduce soreness after a workout as well as improve athletic performance. So, do foam rollers really help runners and other athletes?


What Exactly Is It?

First, though, let’s make sure that we’re clear about what foam rolling is. Fortunately, it’s pretty straightforward; Foam rolling involves rolling a foam cylinder over various parts of your body. The idea is to use the pressure of your body weight against the roller to work out any knots in the muscles or connective tissue that surrounds them (fascia). In theory, this could increase flexibility and help to prepare your muscles for activity.

But, doesn’t static stretching do that? To an extent, yes. The issue with static stretching before a workout, when your muscles are cold, is that it can actually reduce your strength and power once the activity begins. Exercise physiologist Mike Ross from the Gottlieb Center for Fitness compares the muscles to shoe laces with a knot in them. If you pull on the laces – stretching – the knot will only get tighter. Foam rolling, however, allows you to kneed the knots out of your muscles.


Does It Work?

On paper, this makes sense. But how does it hold up in practice?

First, we’ll focus on the claims of reduced pain and soreness. It seems, at least in early studies, that there’s some promise here. A 2014 study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that foam rolling did successfully relieve pain and soreness when performed at the end of a workout. Interestingly, this study also reported that the subjects performed better on subsequent workouts.

Does this mean, then, that foam rolling can help improve athletic performance? Probably not. Another study published around the same time in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research switched things up and had participants foam roll before their workouts. There was no effect – positive or negative – on their workout performance. However, this study did find that the subjects experienced less fatigue after foam rolling.

Taking the two studies together, it seems like foam rolling can increase recovery rates and help you make more significant improvements during workouts. While it might be disappointing that foam rolling has no immediate performance-enhancing benefits, remember that static stretching decreases performance. Through that lens, foam rolling has a clear advantage.

A third study confirmed that foam rolling does not decrease performance while also showing that the practice can increase range-of-motion.


The Bottom Line

Foam rolling, then, has some pretty sturdy science behind it. A few minutes before and after your workouts can help to speed up recovery times while simultaneously decreasing pain and fatigue. In a future post, we’ll cover specific foam rolling exercises that you can incorporate into your routine.









Isometric Exercises for Runners

Your muscles are a lot more complicated than most people give them credit for. In fact, just about every movement you make is comprised of three distinct phases which are characterized by a different type of contraction. If we think of a classic bicep curl, these movements become extremely clear. First, there is the concentric movement wherein your muscles shorten to move the weight closer to your body. Then there is the eccentric contraction that sees your muscle increase in length to move the weight down or away from you.

Somewhere in the middle, though, there is an isometric contraction. This is the phase during which your muscles are contracting and working but do not change in length. To emphasize what an isometric contraction really is, imagine if you paused in the middle of that bicep curl so that you held the weight with your elbow at a 90 degree angle for a few seconds.

Isometric exercises, though, focus on this specific part of the contraction but holding it for an extended period of time. What are the benefits of this type of exercise? Is there a reason that runners specifically should use them?


General Benefits

Before we get specific, though, what are some of the overall benefits of using isometric exercises?

While you aren’t likely to see huge improvements in strength by strictly using isometrics, they will help to improve your balance – which is a somewhat ignored form of strength. I don’t care how many sit-ups you can do, if you’ve never done it before you will get floored by a plank workout.

Because of their stable nature, isometrics also have a very low risk of injury. There are no impacts putting pressure on your joints or repetitive movements irritating them. Just strike a pose and hold it.

But the benefits go beyond athletic pursuits. In fact, a recent review published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings looked at the effects that isometric training can have on high blood pressure or hypertension. After comparing a number of studies on the subject, the researchers concluded that regular isometric training for as little as 4 weeks can improve all measures of hypertension.


Just For Runners

Running is clearly a dynamic sport, but balance and stability are just as important on the track as they are in any other sport. By using isometric exercises, runners can strengthen very specific parts of their regular movements.

In principle, this applies to virtually any sport. Regardless of your activity, you can dissect your movements down to their various phases and use isometrics to build the muscles needed in each. For example, football quaterbacks sometimes practice their throws by using band-resisted isometric exercises that mimic the various portions of their throw.

Runners can do the same.


Exercise Ideas

Once you have this basic principle in mind, get creative.

Wall sits are a classic isometric exercise that can build strength and endurance in your thighs and glutes. Simply sit with your back against the wall so that your thighs are parallel to the ground and hold this position for as long as you can. Gradually build on your time.

Using a resistance band wrapped around your waist and anchored firmly behind you, you can perform deep lunges to target your hips and thighs. Hold the lunge position for at least 20 seconds on each leg and make sure that the band is short enough to provide resistance. This can also be done without the band.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a discussion of isometrics without at least mentioning the plank. But, instead of the classic form use the one-leg versions. Both the plank and the side plank can be adapted to provide a special challenge for runners. By lifting one leg, you put a greater strain on your balance and also engage you hips in the movement.

What isometric exercises have you used in your workout? Please share them in the comments.



Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2014;89 [3], 327-34

Our Obsession With Intense Exercise

“No pain, no gain.”

“If you aren’t hurting, you aren’t working out!”

Slogans like this are plastered all over the internet in the form of forum posts, blogs and those “fitspo” posters that have all-too-quickly gone viral. But, of course, this is nothing new. And this type of motivation isn’t limited to the internet. Trainers, class instructors and coaches have been spouting these phrases for decades. Most recently – and most notably – entire training styles, like Crossfit, have been built on this philosophy. While many people have latched on to this thinking, and have made undeniable progress because of the determination it instills, many experts worry that there is a darker side to approaching your workouts in this way.

What are some of the potential concerns? Is there a better way to go about your training?


Discouragement, Plateaus and Burnout

Admittedly not as frightening as some of the other issues that we’ll cover later, pushing yourself too hard can simply sap your mental energy. This could even happen in the first couple of workouts, when you discover that your body just isn’t yet capable of what you’re asking it to do. But, your workout routine requires you to lift this specified weight. So, what are you supposed to do if you can’t?

Hitting this wall, especially early on, has the potential to make you feel like a failure and leave you totally discouraged.

Consistently working out at extremely high-intensities without proper fuel and rest will also make your progress stall. Remember, your body does not change during your workout; Improvements happen during rest. If you deny yourself the opportunity to recover, you won’t progress past your initial progress. In fact, if you continue to workout at the same intensity after you stop making improvements, you will probably even notice a lack of energy and strength.

That’s right, if you push yourself too hard, you could work against your goals.

In part, this is because of the hormone cortisol. Generally vilified as the “stress hormone” cortisol is released when your body is under intense stress and feels like you are in danger for one reason or another. Included in the list of things that your body perceives as “stressful” is intense exercise. Studies have found that cortisol levels spike after just 30 minutes of exercise performed at 60 percent of your maximum heart rate. Levels of the hormone steadily increase based on the intensity of your workout. Of course, a few spikes of cortisol are normal and your body can handle them in a healthy way. Consistently working out at a high intensity, though, can chronically elevate your cortisol levels.

Among the variety of not-so-desirable effects of chronically high cortisol you will experience increased body fat, decreased lean mass, increased appetite depression and lack of energy.


Overtraining Injuries

The effects of pushing yourself too hard can also be much more visible, though. Often, people who take this approach to exercise will push through the pain. Which is a very bad decision. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong; it’s a warning signal. Just like ignoring the lights on the dashboard of your car will eventually lead to problems, it’s better to stop and check on why you are in pain.

Not only could you experience muscle or joint damage by ignoring the pain you get during a workout, but more serious complications could arise. Particularly in the Crossfit community, there’s the fear of rhabdomyolysis or Uncle Rhabdo. This condition, which can be caused by over-exertion, is marked by a rapid breakdown of muscle tissue and resultant kidney damage.

Staying Balanced

But you have to push yourself to make improvements, right? So how do you know when you’ve found the right intensity?

First of all, do not go by sweat. The amount that you sweat has very little to do with how hard you’re working out and much more to do with the environment.

You also need to consider your goals. If you’re working to increase your endurance, you will understandably find yourself more winded than someone who is trying to gain strength or muscle mass.

If you are working for gains in strength, use your lift numbers to tell you how you’re performing. Similarly, you times can tell you how effective your runs have been.

Other useful tools include your heart rate or even a perceived exertion scale. Depending on your goals, you will want to keep your intensity within a certain window on either of these measures.


How have you found the balance in your workouts? Please share your tips in the comments.








Vibram Lawsuit: An End To Minimalist Running?

The fitness world is, sadly, influenced to an extreme degree by fads. Supplements appear that will dissolve your fat and coat you in bulging muscles. Exercises shove their way to the forefront by provide insanely powerful, and previously unknown, muscle contractions. And, of course, there’s the ever-changing market of workout gear.

Several years ago, barefoot running took the fitness industry by storm. While many adventurous runners were choosing to go totally barefoot, the prospect of running without any protection scared many athletes away from the trend. Enter minimalist running shoes, with Vibram’s line of FiveFingers leading the charge.

Despite their odd, glove-like appearance, these shoes really didn’t take long to catch on. The claims, made both by the manufacturer and by other expert sources, stated that these FiverFinger shoes allowed you to adopt a more natural gait. Specifically, the thinking was that the light, “barefoot” nature of the shoes would teach runners to shift to a forefoot strike and avoid injuries associated with high-impact exercises.

Personally, I bought my first FiveFingers in early 2010. Since then, I have had nothing but positive experiences with them. But some other runners were not as satisfied and, recently, a class-action lawsuit has been filed against Vibram on the basis that the company made unsubstantiated claims and used false advertising to sell the shoes.

Although Vibram maintains that the charges are untrue, the company settled.

So, the big question is: Should you stop using your FiveFingers or another similar shoes? Are the products a waste of money?


Existing Research, Evidence and Just Plain Logic

Among the claims that the lawsuit labeled as false were the following:

(1) Strengthen muscles in the feet and lower legs

(2) Improve range of motion in the ankles, feet, and toes

(3) Stimulate neural function important to balance and agility

(4) Eliminate heel lift to align the spine and improve posture

(5) Allow the foot and body to move naturally

It is true that there isn’t an overwhelming amount of research regarding this type of footwear but, a huge amount of information can be gleaned from one existing study. The research in question – which played an important role in the lawsuit – was sponsored by the American Council on Exercise, an independent organization.

The study looked at several effects of running in Vibrams, including impact forces, strike style and knee flexion. The idea was to determine the likelihood of injury associated with Vibrams when compare to more traditional running shoes.

When running in standard shoes, all of the 16 female subjects had a heel-strike. Once they put on the Vibram’s, though, only half of them switched to the appropriate forefoot strike pattern. This is the first point worth considering because making this change is vital to barefoot running. Without the padding of traditional running shoes, a heel strike in minimalist shoes can dramatically increase your risk of injury. Clearly, not everyone will find it easy to make this change. In fact, the subjects had two weeks to get themselves accustomed to running in the Vibrams  and still only half adopted properly.

The few runners who did successfully change their gait in the Vibrams also developed a great range of plantar flexion on contact with the ground. This allowed them to absorb the impact better, an adaption that is associated with a lower risk of injury. All of the subjects, regardless of their gait, showed less knee flexion while wearing the Vibrams. This is also a beneficial change that can lower injury rates.

Essentially, the researchers concluded that Vibrams (and similar shoes) do have distinct benefits if they are used properly. Unfortunately, the changes required to make proper use of the minimalist shoes can be pretty difficult to achieve without proper coaching and time to acclimate. One of the leaders of the study, John Porcari, Ph.D said “People may need very explicit instruction and time spent practicing how to land on the ball of the foot. Otherwise, they may be doing themselves more harm. Simply switching to Vibrams doesn’t guarantee that a person is not going to experience more injuries.” (Emphasis ours.)


The Takeaway

So, will I stop using my Vibrams? No.

Will I participate in the lawsuit? No.

Granted, some of the claims made by Vibram were not explicitly backed up by the research but they were inferred. Sure, the manufacturer may have taken some things out of context to sell their product, which is an extremely common marketing practice. Ultimately, though, the fact remains that the end-user is responsible for the way that they chose to use the product.

Beyond that, if you haven’t experience problems with your current shoes or strike, there’s probably no reason to change. As we’ve seen, that’s a very difficult – and potentially risky- swap to attempt. On the other hand, if you’ve been using Vibrams and had a good experience, why stop now?

What are your thoughts on the Vibram lawsuit? Please share them in the comments.





Recovering From Your Race

Recently, we’ve discussed tips for both pre- and post-race nutrition, but your fuel really only part of the equation. While the temptation might be to sit down or – more likely – collapse once you’ve blown across the finish line, this will eventually backfire. Sure, many other athletes may immediately sit down to a big recovery meal but this really isn’t an effective strategy. In the piece about post-race nutrition we discussed the digestive problems that come along with these big meals but the very act of sitting could be an issue as well. These runners will have an extremely difficult recovery, I promise.

So, how should you handle yourself after your race? Is there something you can do to speed up recovery? How long should you give yourself to recover?


Immediate Care

After a short race, like a 5k or 10k, give yourself a chance to cool down. This is an extremely necessary and woefully neglected step following both workouts and competitions alike. Especially during a run, your blood is being rushed all throughout your body. When that activity stops abruptly, like when you cross the finish and vow to never run again, your blood has the unfortunate tendency to pool in your legs. Blood-flow to your upper-body and brain is then slowed to a glacial pace that is to blame for the dizziness and lightheadedness that you might feel after your workout.

This isn’t such a high priority following a marathon, though. After such a long, demanding race, you need food and water as soon as possible. Your cooldown can wait until you are properly refueled.

Your cooldown doesn’t have to be anything elaborate and should, actually, be pretty easy. Walk around at a slow pace, pause every once in a while to chat with other runners; Just don’t stand still.

Now you should stretch. Your muscles and connective tissue will still be warm and limber, so this is the  perfect chance to do some light static stretches. Of course, your legs should be the focus here – you did just run, after all – but don’t forget other muscles that commonly tense up during runs. Many runners tighten their shoulders and back while running so neglecting these muscles after a race will leave you feeling even more stiff then normal in the days that follow.

While your cooldown and stretching will help alleviate some of your soreness, it won’t eliminate it. You are going to be sore after a race and there’s just no way around it. Taking these steps, though, will help you to be significantly less sore than if you have skipped your immediate recovery.

Later That Day

A few hours after your run, make time for a so-called “shake-out” run or walk. Even if you’ve flushed your system by chugging several gallons of water and lovingly cooled down, your muscles are going to be stiff later in the day. This is especially true if you took a nap or step a long period of time in your car driving home from the even.

Essentially, this “shake-out” is meant to just loosen you up. It is not a workout. Take it easy and slowly walk for no more than 20 minutes.

Recovery Days

So, you’ve followed all these steps and want to know when you get run again? That all depends on you, actually.

Specifically, the answer depends on what kind of race you just finished and what sort of workout you’re itching to do. Following a 5k, for example, you should wait 2 days before performing an easy workout and 5 days before tackling a hard workout.

For a marathon runner, though, these numbers shoot way up. You should give yourself 9 recovery days before even an easy workout and a full 27 before going out for a hard workout.

Pain Management for Runners

We’ve talked plenty about pain in past posts. Specifically, we’ve dealt with preventing and treating all sorts of acute physical pains that afflict all endurance athletes. But, in your training and competition, you’ve likely faced pains that weren’t covered in those articles. Maybe you’ve been overcome by self-doubt or mental and physical exhaustion mid-race. Or perhaps it was emotional stress gearing up to an event. Either way, athletes force themselves to work through thins that would stop many people in their tracks.

How do they do it? What are some strategies that you can use in your training?


Get Used to It

I know it sounds harsh, but getting used to pain is one of the best pain management strategies there is. A recent study published in the journal Pain set out to understand the extraordinary coping skills of triathletes.

The subjects used in the study competed at an elite level, including the notorious Ironman Triathlon which consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 miles of cycling and a complete 26.2 mile marathon. Clearly, these individuals are used to pain.

Also observed in the study were non-athletes who exercised casually, acting as the control group. Both groups were exposed to controlled pain sensations and given a series of questionnaires designed to rate the subject’s attitude towards pain.

The athletes and the non-athletes both experienced the same amount of pain, but the athletes were able to cope more effectively. Not only did the triathletes demonstrate an increased ability to mentally moderate the amount of pain that they felt but they also reported being less afraid of experiencing pain than the control group.

The exact mechanisms at work here aren’t fulling understood yet but, several theories have surfaced. Specifically, there are two thoughts that emerged from this study that can be useful for everyone, even if you never plan on running a triathlon.

First, it seems like the reduced fear of pain allows athletes to cope better. Working yourself up and being stressed will only worsen any pain you’re experiencing and lead to feelings of doubt.

But the researchers also notes a more physical cause of these observations. The intense training that the triathletes subject themselves to on a regular basis could be teaching them how to respond to pain.

For the rest of us, the application is frustratingly simple: Deal with it. The more you train, the better you’ll become at understanding and coping with any pain you face. You’ll also be more confident and less likely to experience stress or fear.


Don’t Push It

But you shouldn’t just plow through all pain. Generally speaking, pain is a useful sensation that allows your body to let you know when something is wrong.

If you experience sharp, sudden pains in your feet, hips or shins that worsens as you run, you should stop immediately. This could be a sign of a small break in the bone called a stress fracture that shouldn’t be ignored.

Any pain that makes you limp or change your stride could be your body letting you know that you’ve torn something and should stop.

Also, any sudden chest or stomach pain, especially when coupled with a fever, shallow breathing and extreme sweating should take you out of the race immediately.

Careful training and experience will teach you individualized coping mechanisms that can help you deal with the pain that comes along with your sport. However, make sure you aren’t pushing through serious pains that could be the sign of a major injury.

Have you developed coping mechanisms in your training? Please share them in the comments.






Exercises to Prevent Shin Splints

After months of forced inactivity, pushed on you by the cold, dark winter, you’re doubtlessly thrilled for the upcoming start of track and field season. Unfortunately, your excitement to get back to the track could greatly increase your chances of injury, especially from pesky shin splints. To keep you mobile, a proper warmup is incredibly important.

For some detailed information about the causes and treatment of shin splints, see this past post. In the meantime, here are some easy exercises that you can include in your warmup to help ward off the splints.

The Exercises

The basic principle at work when it comes to preventing shin splints is that of balance in your lower-leg. Your connective tissue and muscles need to be properly stretched and conditioned in the full range of motion that you’ll require of them during the actual activity. To that end, try adding these at the end of your warmup, when everything is already lose.

  1. Walk On Your Toes- For about 20 to 30 meters, raise yourself up on the balls of your feet. Walk slowly and focus on maintaining your balance. Trying to do this one too quickly could be counterproductive. As you walk, life the active leg high enough that your thigh is parallel to the ground.
  2. Walk On Your Heels- Go another 20 to 30 meters on your heels. Again, move slowly through this drill so that your heels don’t aggressively strike the ground. Keep your toes flexed upwards throughout the movement. Continue to lift your leg high to place your thigh parallel with the ground.
  3. Toe Lifts- Stand still, with your big toes touching and your heels wide apart. Slowly lift yourself up onto your toes and lower back down again. Repeat this a total of 10 times.
  4. Heel Lifts- Reverse the placement of your feet so that your heels are touching and your toes are pointing away from each other. Lift yourself up onto your heels and slowly lower back down. Repeat this for 10 reps.

Remember, even though the most common cause of shin splints is overtraining, they can also be a sign of stress fractures. If you have any persistent pain after your workouts, you should see a doctor. It’s important to note, as well, that shin splints appear after exercise rather than during. Sudden, sharp pain while you’re running could be a symptom of something else and you should stop that activity immediately.

What are some of your tips for preventing shin splints?





Does Compression Clothing Work?

Compression clothing is sort of a fixture at endurance events. Athletes wear them during training, while competing and during recovery. All this is done based on the belief that those skin-tight socks or stockings or sleeves or cuffs will help improve performance and speed up recovery. But, is there any truth to this? Does compression clothing work?


The Short Answer and Slightly Longer Answer

In short, the answer is a resounding “Maybe.”

Research regarding the effectiveness of compression clothing is confusing and the results are mixed. Part of the problem with deciphering all this information is due to the fact that compression clothing was intended as therapeutic device for treating edema, varicose veins, thrombosis and other vein disorders.

Since the original purpose of compression clothing was to help unhealthy individuals, most of the definitive research out there is focused on that specific application. When it comes to athletes, though, the issue gets complicated even further depending on when you’re thinking about using compression clothing.


Compression Clothing for Performance

There are very few studies out there that have tried to answer the question about whether or not compression clothing can improve performance in healthy individuals. Keep in mind, though that “athletes” and “healthy individuals” are two very different populations in the lab. The circulatory and cardiovascular systems in these two groups will very likely responded differently to stimuli.

So far, we have no solid answer. A few studies have found that wearing compression clothing during exercise improved blood flow in patients with unhealthy veins, while other studies produced conflicting results.

The good news is that no study has shown that compression clothing produces bad results when worn during exercise. So, if you want to wear it while training or competing, there’s no reason not to.


Compression Clothing for Recovery

A recent study, however, offers a glimmer of hope. This study, in a unique turn, tested compression clothing worn after high-intensity running workouts. Experienced runners performed a series of intense running drills and then were given either compression clothing or a placebo.

The placebo outfit was made out of similar materials to simulate the feel of real compression clothing. Both of these groups wore their garments overnight.

The next day, each group was asked to perform more drills. Surprisingly, the compression group put in improved times after wearing the clothing.

This study not only suggests that, when used properly compression garments can actually speed recovery but it also hints to a particular use in multi-day events. If you take part in competitions such as tournaments, which require you to push yourself day after day, wearing compression clothing while your sleeping might give you an edge the next day.

As a word of caution, though, remember that this is just one study. The researchers behind these findings don’t fully understand the mechanics at work and, as we discussed, other studies have produced conflicting results. Ultimately, more studies are need to really know whether or not compression clothing works.

That being said, there’s no harm in trying!

Do you have any experience with compression clothing? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments.






Rest and Recovery

Although it can be pretty difficult to get a workout routine started, it can be just as challenging to stop once you pick up momentum. Frustratingly, though, making sure that your body has time to fully recover between workouts is just as important, if not more important, than the workout itself.

The fact is that those bicep curls is wasn’t going to get you big arms, that’s just the stimulus. It’s the reaction to those curls that builds the muscle, and that only happens during recovery. But you have to give your body a chance to do its job and repair the damage you did while working out. That’s what makes you stronger.

And the same principle is true of cardiovascular training. Your heart is a muscle and it needs to recover, just like any other muscle.

So what’s the difference between rest and recovery? What counts as quality rest? How can you make sure that your body is getting enough time between workouts?


Drawing the Line

Simply put, rest is just one aspect of recovery. The actual process of recovery is, in reality, pretty active and involves making sure your muscles are rebuilt to prepare for the next challenge while delivering the needed nutrients.

Rest is specifically any non-training day that gives your tired muscles the opportunity to recuperate. That means that you could be active in some other way, as long as it isn’t training. This may come as a shock to many people who view rest as sleep or just general inactivity.

In fact rest can be really active.


Not Just Laying Around

If, for example, you’ve just spent your workout targeting your arms, your rest day could involve an easy game of Frisbee. A light walk or easy bike ride could also be acceptable ways to spend your rest days.

While it might not seem very fair that you have to spend your rest days being active, it’ll help you in the long run. As mentioned, an extremely vital part of recovery is making sure your muscles are properly fed. Your blood has to being moving to deliver those nutrients where they need to go. So, slightly elevating your pulse will help your muscles get fueled even more efficiently.


When and For How Long

Rest when you need to; it’s that simple. If you’re having muscle soreness or just feeling generally exhausted take the hint and take some time off. Give your body time to completely recover and don’t get back to your regular routine until the muscle in question is no long sore.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t workout at all. Just favor the sore muscle. For example, if you worked your chest on Monday and are dealing with soreness, you can work your biceps, shoulders or legs in the meantime.

While many workouts get you to push yourself so hard that your muscles are sore for five day to a full week, some experts say that this type of workout is just too challenging. Celebrity trainer Jonathan Ross, writing for the American Council on Exercise, advises that any soreness should only last about one or two days.