Does Stretching Help?  Answer: Yes, And No.

Last week I wrote about increased risk for knee injuries with poor form on squats and lunges, and unaccustomed plyometrics. The fact is that increasing strength is a critical component of injury risk reduction, it’s just that you have to do it correctly.

This week let’s look at another controversial topic. Does stretching help? Between increasing strength, improving balance, and increasing flexibility is one better than another? It turns out that the most effective way to reduce injury risk is through increased strength, followed by improved balance.

Surprisingly, stretching to improve flexibility has not been shown to reduce injury risk. It doesn’t seem to be harmful so do it if you enjoy it or if you feel it improves your sport and fitness performance.

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How To Hurt Your Knees

There’s quite a bit of controversy between fitness professionals and medical professionals about the safety of various lower extremity conditioning activities. As an orthopedic surgeon, I typically see folks in the clinic after something has gone wrong so it’s a skewed population. But over and over again I see common themes emerge. I think of these as three easy ways to hurt your knees.

Deep squats (thighs below parallel), lunge with a short stride, and unaccustomed plyometric activities are more likely than not, in my opinion, to land you in the orthopedic or sports medicine specialist’s office. I suggest below some modifications to help you avoid trouble.

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Too Much Of A Good Thing?

During the new stay-at-home normal you’ve been doing your absolute best. You’re following all of the recommended safety precautions to avoid contracting the virus. You’re staying socially connected to your friends and relatives while maintaining a safe physical distance. You’re trying to exercise. And you’re trying to eat healthy.

But could you be doing too much of a good thing? I’ve written previously about overuse injuries or unaccustomed use injuries from exercises you may have recently started. And so it is also with the foods we eat. While many foods are nutritionally healthy, they may also be packed with calories and at some point you’ll need to figure out how to say “no”.

Author Tim Ferriss calls these “domino foods” because you can’t eat just one. Learning how to limit your consumption of domino foods is a useful skill.

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Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S): An Under-Recognized Sports Health Disorder

We previously wrote about the Female Athlete Triad, and provide below an update. While most commonly found in female athletes, it’s been discovered that male athletes can also have a form of this problem. So a broader term has been in use recently, Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S).

RED-S is a serious health condition typically affecting teenage athletes. It’s made up of three key components (“the triad” for female athletes):

Low energy availability, sometimes associated with an eating disorder (females and males)
Abnormalities in the menstrual cycle (females)
Low bone mineral density, sometimes leading to stress fractures or osteoporosis (females and males)

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Low Load Resistance Training For Strength And Bulk

It’s commonly believed that the best way to build strength and increase muscle size is to use heavier weights and a small number of repetitions, with multiple sets. While we believe that’s an effective strategy for active and healthy young adults, it can pose some problems for adolescents and adults age 50+.

Research shows that contrary to the popular belief, resistance training with lower loads and higher repetitions is also an effective way to gain strength and muscle bulk, but with the advantage that it can be very joint-friendly.

For adolescents with open growth plates and active older adults perhaps with arthritis, the lower load training is an attractive option.

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Post Workout Protein: What Your Muscles Need

Continuing our theme of return to sports and fitness after the coronavirus layoff, we’d like to briefly touch on the usefulness of dietary protein after your workout as a key factor in assisting your strength gains.

There’s some difference of opinion on this point, but we believe that taking in about 20gm of protein within the first 30 minutes after finishing your workout is the best time to take your protein.

Further, we believe protein intake after a workout becomes even more important as we age, and there are several natural food options available to help you.

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Active Recovery: The Next Piece In Getting Back To Sports

I wrote last week about some simple strategies to ramp back up to fitness and sports activity after a Covid-19 layoff. This week I’ll briefly discuss another important concept in your road back, active recovery.

Active recovery is a process through which you use light exercise, tissue mobilization techniques, and even sleep to improve your recovery from more intense exercise sessions.

When done correctly, active recovery will lessen muscle soreness and improve your energy levels heading into the next day.

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Why “Load Management” Matters. Ramping Back To Sports After Covid-19 Layoff.

I’ve been writing about trying to keep up with some amount of exercise during our stay-at-home limitations. While many of you have found ways to maintain- and even improve- your fitness levels, the reality for many folks is that there was simply no way to keep up with fitness levels during our recent restrictions.

So now as we start gradually easing restrictions on outdoor sports and fitness you’ve got an opportunity to get some of your lost fitness back. But a few words of caution are in order here: getting back too fast, with too much load, and too soon is a recipe for an injury.

A sensible approach calls for a restart at about half intensity from your previous level, and then ramping up each week. In professional sports the phrase used for this type of limited activity is “load management”. It works for all of us.

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Sunshine’s Magic

The days are getting longer, the weather is generally decent, and many states are starting to ease restrictions necessary to limit the spread of coronavirus. This means that for many of us it’s possible to spend a little bit more time outside now in sunshine.

There are many positive benefits from appropriate amounts of sunshine, including improved mood and likely benefits on your immune system.

By following outdoor precautions it’s possible for many of us to now start feeling sunshine’s magic.

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A Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Last week several states announced that they will gradually start reducing the physical and social distancing measures currently in place. That means that there’s the possibility of return to fitness and sport activities. No one has a playbook on exactly how to do this, so you’ll likely find many different state and local regulations on how this will be done.

We should all be aware though that this won’t be like flipping a light switch and turn everything back on the way it was before the virus restrictions. No, much more likely are modified restrictions on physical distancing and strong attention to hygiene.

How fast gyms reopen and team practices resume will be complicated, but for everyone who’s been going a bit bonkers there’s now a light at the end of the tunnel.

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