Appropriate shoulder rotation is essential for overhead athletes; I want to discuss this in the context of volleyball. My bread and butter. Think of a volleyball player hitting a cut shot or winding up to swing away at a set. You will see a great amount of external rotation during the cocking phase (the middle frame in the photo above). The greatest demand for internal rotation range of motion would be the follow through for a cut shot or “thumb down” (as in the photo below).
The amount of shoulder rotation range of motion for a volleyball player is that of a normal individual but you need a balance of range of motion, strength and control.
A quick side note worth mentioning: as an overhead athlete, you are likely to have greater range of motion in external rotation and less internal rotation. This is normal due to the demands of your sport. The baseline that we look for is that total range of motion side-to-side is the same. So you may look like the guy on the right in the picture below. It is also common for volleyball players to demonstrate greater internal rotation rather than external rotation strength, which may lead to injury down the road if the ratio becomes too skewed.
Let’s go through the steps of an arm swing and see where a weakness may be and how to address it:
Check your external rotation by laying on your back, arm out to the side and elbow bent. See how far you can drop the back of your hand down to the floor. Lacking here? Try this out: Subscap Smash
The shoulder joint is one of the most complex in the body due to its high mobility demands that compromises the stability. For volleyball players, shoulder maintenance is key for longevity, pain-free function, power and control. I broke the attack down very simply to highlight a few major areas of weakness that is often found in volleyball players. Give these mobility and strengthening exercises a try and see what works best for you.
At Athletes’ Potential, we believe that self-maintenance should be the first step toward managing pain and recovering properly. But if you have a nagging volleyball shoulder and cannot seem to find that silver bullet, give us a call!
Thanks for reading,
This used to be me, minus the 16 year old Asian kid part.
Like most kids in the United States, sports were a huge part of my life growing up. If you would have asked the 10-year-old me what I wanted to be when I grew up, it wasn't a physical therapist, it was a professional baseball player (that obviously didn't happen).
When I do look back on my athletic career (I guess you could call it that), it's riddled with injuries. Here's a list of the major injuries I have sustained playing sports to include, football, baseball, basketball, soccer and dabbling in military combatives.
-Broken right ankle at the growth plate age 15.
-Non-contact related right meniscal tear requiring surgery age 16.
-SLAP labral tear right shoulder age 18.
-Torn disc lower back L4-5 causing nerve root compression for 6 months age 24. (High volume deficit dead lifts with poor technique, my own damn fault)
-Torn disc neck C5-6 causing nerve compression for 3 months age 26.(Army combatives, accidents happen)
Looking back all the injuries that I have sustained it's a fairly long list. Some people would say that I'm injury prone, others may blame it on my genetics. I blame it on my horrific lack of mobility!
When I was in elementary school, I can remember taking the President's Physical Fitness Test. It was a big deal to me back then, mainly because I was sure I would be a professional athlete one day. I did great on all of the events and went into the last event with my confidence at an all time high. The last event was the sit and reach and I failed it! I could not for the life of me reach forward and just touch my damn toes. I was an emotional train wreck, my whole life revolved around sports and I couldn't even pass a national standard. That's a tough pill for a 10-year-old to swallow.
I think back to that test and I think of something different that could have come out of that. An educator, my parents or a coach could have seen that as a red flag or a warning sign. Sadly, the reality is that mobility is often overlooked and brushed aside as just being "tight". If you are making all-star teams and progressing in your athletic skill sets, who cares if you are a little on the tight side, right? Wrong, that's a big mistake and it needs to change.
We as coaches, parents and physical therapists have to prioritize movement first. That comes down to two components, motor control and mobility. Motor control is the ability to perform a movement correctly aka technique. Mobility is having enough available range in your joints and tissues to perform that movement optimally and safely. You need both to have proper movement, one without the other is worthless.
For me, mobility was my greatest obstacle to achieve better movement. Working on mobility sucks! I know, both as an instructor and from personal experience. Shit, two years ago I couldn't even touch my toes and now I teach Movement and Mobility courses across the country. It's very humbling for me to teach these courses for CrossFit and it's because I know first hand how much it can change people's ability to perform at a high level and stay injury free. Since adding MWOD concepts into my training I have not been injured once. I did get hit in the face with a surfboard that broke my nose a couple years ago but no amount of mobility/technique would have changed that. Some injuries are unavoidable but they are very rare.
Here's my advice for all my CrossFit athletes in Atlanta. If you suck at something, you need to focus on trying to improve that weakness everyday. This is not what most people want to hear. If you're flexible, you will enjoy yoga. If you're strong, you will enjoy powerlifting. The reality is, that super flexiblity yoga practitioner would benefit a hell of a lot more from doing some heavy squats than working on her pigeon position.
Find your flaws, chase them down, go for the throat and don't let go until your weakness becomes an asset!
Let’s recap from last week:
Your ankles drive the squat bus and your knees are along for the ride. Unfortunately, the hip is often overlooked when pain or dysfunction with squats occurs. Strengthening targeted to the hip will improve knee position during the squat. If it hurts your knees to squat, it is likely a faulty movement pattern causing the issue.
When there is pain, do not push through. Jane Fonda might have said “no pain, no gain” during her abs, buns & thighs workout but this does not apply. The feeling of an ice pick jabbed in your knee cap is not normal. Pain with a back squat does not mean you can’t squat at all! Try these first:
I eluded to different flavors of squats in the last post. Is high bar back squat bothering the knees today? Try a low bar position, front rack or squat to a box. There are so many options! It is nearly as exciting as picking a flavor of ice cream.
Check out Noel showing us some variations of squats! Pay attention to her ankle and shin positions.
High Bar Back Squat a.k.a Traditional Back Squat
The bar rests across the top of the upper trap, on the shoulders. Throughout the movement, the torso remains upright. With this set up, the knees tend to move more forward than in other squat variations so adequate ankle mobility is essential!
Remember, those with significant ankle mobility issues will have trouble maintaining the upright torso and may try to sidestep the issue by turning the toes out wide. Another squat flavor will allow you to move in less compromising patterns while still gaining strength. Don’t forget to work on ankle mobility every day!
The bar rests across the front of your shoulder, elbows are high and in front. The torso is the most upright in this squat flavor to keep the barbell over the midfoot. Again, ankle mobility is key here!
For those who do not have glaring mobility restrictions, the front squat is a great exercise to carry over for the clean.
Low Bar Back Squat
The feet are in a wider stance than for the traditional squat. The bar rests lower across your shoulders, elbows are back and high to help create a shelf for the barbell. The torso maintains more of a forward inclination to keep the barbell over the midfoot.
This flavor of squat decreases the torque at the knees by allowing the tibia, or the shin, to remain more vertical. (Go back and look at her shin-to-foot angle in the traditional squat and compare!) More torque is placed at the hip, so the hammies and glutes are targeted. If you feel a pinching at the front of the hip, vary your squat width and work on that hip flexion mobility!
The feet are in a wider stance, similar to the low bar set up. The bar rests across your back in either high bar or low bar position. A sturdy box is behind the lower legs. The hips are allowed to travel further posteriorly during this movement which allows the tibia to remain vertical.
The box squat is great for all athletes to include in their workouts. It is helpful when just learning how to squat or trying different foot positions. After a knee or ankle injury, it is a good way to decrease torque at the knee and demand on the ankle joint. Box squats are also used for power athletes as it has been shown to increase the rate of force development, or explosive strength, more than other squat flavors.
Each of the squat flavors has something different to offer for your health and athletic development. If you are recovering from an injury or lack mobility in the hips or ankles, there is still a flavor for you! Grab an empty barbell and try each of the variations. Don’t be afraid to vary your stance width. Start with a taller box and gradually work your way down as you get comfortable.
Taking a video of yourself moving is the cheapest and quickest way to find faults and underlying mobility issues. Once you work through each squat flavor, you will have a better idea of which mobility drills to introduce daily. Get your squat moving correctly and cut out that knee pain! After all, it’s not your knees’ fault!
Thanks for reading!
Swinton P, Lloyd R, Koegh J, Agouris I, Stewart A. The biomechanical comparison of the traditional squat, powerlifting squat, and box squat Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012;26(7):1805-1816.
Simply put, no. Squatting, specifically deep squatting, is actually beneficial for your muscles and tendons. If you simply wanted to know the answer to the question, that is the abridged version. But those “why” people (it’s ok, I am one too!) should continue reading.
Research tells us:
The Knee, the Middle Child
In my experience, the knee joint seems to be the most baffling to folks. So much emphasis is put on knee position during workouts that other (more important, in my opinion) joints are virtually ignored. It may be more beneficial to understand this joint if you view it as the middle child.
The ankle is like the oldest child. It sets the scene for how the other joints are allowed to act. If the older child is rebellious and does not behave as expected, the middle and youngest child will imitate the older sibling. Without the proper ankle mobility and foot strength, who cares what your knee and hip joints can do? The foundation for these multijoint movements is already the weakest link.
The hip joint is the youngest child. By this point, the parents are exhausted from the rebellious older child who influenced the middle child into its rebellious ways. The youngest child can get away with anything. Our hip joint is a large, strong joint complex that should be the prime mover during squats. Unfortunately we get so focused on the knees and ankles that we overlook the hips and allow them to “run free”. This presents in the form of decreased pelvic control during large movements like the squat.
Finally, the knee joint is the middle child of the family. It gets pushed and pulled by its siblings but never has a moment when it’s all about the knees. During foundational weightlifting movements, the knees never work alone. They are guided by their neighbors.
So what does this mean? The ankles are the steering wheel. If you do not have sufficient mobility in your ankle joint, your knees are predisposed to faulty movement patterns. But it’s not your knees fault!!
Sad stick man on the right does not have great ankle mobility which causes his femur, the thigh, to be pushed backward. From this position the torso has nowhere to go but forward if he wants to remain standing. Throw a barbell in the front rack and the stress in concentrated on the knees, low back and upper body. With a barbell on the back rack, it will be harder to maintain spinal alignment, particularly in the bottom of the squat. This is often the position athletes attain when their hips raise well before their knees begin to straighten in a squat.
I don’t know what to do with my knees!
“Knees out!” is one of the most over-coached cues. Sure, it is a quick and easy fix in the middle of the workout but it is important that athletes understand what this means. If your knees are crashing in during a workout, the weakness is at your hip. A weak gluteus medius is often the culprit but it has an accomplice! If your hammies and glutes are weak and you attempt a heavy squat, your adductors are going to kick in to assist with hip extension. But the primary motion of these muscles is hip adduction, or knees together. Thus, crashing ensues. So strengthen your hip muscles and your knee position will improve.
If squatting is not bad for my knees, why do they hurt?
Undoubtedly, this will be the next question. There are several reasons that your knees may hurt during a squat. Some irreversible arthritis or previous injuries may be contributing but even these populations should be able to return to pain-free squatting. They just may need to try a different flavor than the traditional back squat.
Essentially, squatting is not bad for the knees but it is how you are squatting!
Do I squat through the pain?
No! Our body is very good at letting us know when something is not right. Now, I am not referring to muscle fatigue pain but true pain. If the back squat is causing knee pain today, try another variation. There are plenty of flavors of squats that can be used for training while you work on mobility or strength deficits. Be sure to look out for my next article about finding the best squat flavor to suit you!
Moral of the story: squatting, even below parallel, is not bad for your knees. The squat is a fundamental movement pattern that all humans should be able to attain. If pain arises from this movement, remember it is how you are moving. Decrease the weight, video yourself performing a squat and pay attention to which muscle groups are doing the work. If you continue to have pain, contact us at Athletes’ Potential so we can watch you move and delve deeper into your individual movement patterns! Most importantly,
Thanks for reading,
Hi, I’m Dr. Danny Matta DPT. I’m a Physical Therapist/Strength Coach and I’m the founder of Athletes’ Potential. Our company helps people just like you live higher quality, higher performance lives. That could be running your first 10K, competing in the CrossFit Games or getting rid of that lingering back pain so you can start getting back in shape! Dry needling is a technique we use frequently. I hope you have a better understanding of what it is after this article. Please email us if you have any other questions and we’d be glad to answer them for you.
When I was in the Army as a Physical Therapist, I remember first hearing about dry needling and thinking how crazy it sounded. I remember thinking PTs that were doing dry needling were searching for some kind of voodoo treatment that only had placebo effects. I actively stayed away from learning it because at the time I was a new graduate that thought I knew everything and was going to set the world on fire by getting everyone better.
Well, things changed one morning when I wrecked my back after a ruck march training session. I hurt my back so bad I could barely drive home and had to cancel all my patients that day. I threw everything at it that I knew and even enlisted the help of a few of my colleagues. Six months later, my back still hurt to pull weight from the ground, back squat or run (that was literally 80% of my training at the time!).
About that same time, a new physical therapist named Dr. Emmanuel Easterling moved to where I was stationed. Dr. E, as we called him, was a certified dry needling ninja. I reluctantly let him perform his voodoo on my back and I'm so glad that I did!
Within 2 days of Dr. E dry needling my back for the first time, I was running with no back pain. After the second time he did it, about a week later, I was squatting and deadlifting again. That was it- I was hooked and not only did I drink the Kool-Aid but I chugged it! I dove into dry needling head first and learned as much about it as possible.
So what does this technique do and why is it so effective? That’s a great question and the answer is we don’t fully know. Frankly, medicine is constantly evolving and we are always using our best evidence/knowledge at that time. Dry needling is the same way so as I answer this, understand there is probably way more to this than we even know.
First, dry needling involves placing small needles into strategic spots in the muscles. These spots were recognized and mapped out by a physician named Dr. Janet Travell, MD. She was an incredibly smart lady and was even John F. Kennedy’s personal physician during his presidency. Did you know he had chronic back pain? Yep, and what did she use to alleviate the back pain? You got it- dry needling!
The points Dr. Travell mapped were called trigger points. This trigger points in the muscle actually refer pain, not just where the “knots” in the muscle are, but to other areas of the body. Here’s an example of a trigger point in the upper trap. The X is where the trigger points are typically found. The dotted red areas are where the trigger points refer pain. Have pain on the inside of your shoulder blade? It could be just an irritated trigger point in your upper trap that dry needling would help fix really fast!
So how does a needle in a muscle cause pain to resolve quickly? There are a few theories on why this happens and I like to explain it in terms most of us understand: Think of a trigger point like a glitch in your computer. Something isn’t working right and it’s causing other things to have issues as well. What fixes most computer problems? You got it- the restart!
Dry needling is like the restart for the musculoskeletal system. If we have a irritated trigger point and we put a needle in it, it resets. This reset occurs at the muscle with what’s called the wash out effect. This basically means that a needle in a muscle causes increased blood flow to the area. Increased blood flow causes increased oxygen/healthy blood to shunt to the area. Local inflammation/stagnant fluid gets “washed out” by this effect.
There has also been evidence to support the theory that dry needling has a strong effect on the nervous system. Basically, placing a needle in a trigger point causes local opioids (our bodies own natural painkillers) to be released. This also causes a positive pain relieving effect on the spinal cord. This means we can get a local and central pain relieving effect from this technique.
Yes, most people are sore for a day. It feels like you worked out hard and the muscle is fatigued. In addition, you have to perform self-treatment work to really get the best benefit from dry needling. Picking the right home exercises and doing the right technique is where the magic is.
If you’ve been struggling with an injury or pain that’s stopping you from the activities you love, this might be a very effective treatment option for you.
You have a choice. You don’t have to wake up every morning and hope that this is the day your shoulder/back/neck or whatever areas stops hurting. It’s sad how many people are in pain daily. It stops them from playing with their kids, walking 18 holes in golf, staying in shape and living overall happier lives.
If you’re in the Atlanta area and you’d like to talk with one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy to find out if our approach is right for you, contact us. We’ll set up a free 10-minute phone consultation at your convenience.
Thanks for reading.
Sign up for our first Recovery Night! Click here to learn all the details (a doughnut is involved!).
Recently, our company has made a major addition to what we offer our athletes. It’s a big chamber that you stand in and it gets filled up with a gas form of liquid nitrogen. If that doesn’t sound weird enough yet, it gets to -200 degrees fahrenheit and you stand in there in your underwear for 3 minutes.
As ridiculous and crazy as that might sound, we pulled the trigger on adding this to our new facility in Decatur. We had plenty of skeptical friends and family members ask us why and I wanted to take the opportunity to address “the why” with all of you as well.
First I want to define our goal as a company. We are here to help everyone achieve their athletic goals, period. That could be through physical therapy as we get an injured person back to training. Developing strength programming for a runner to help them stay injury-free. Even taking someone post rotator cuff tear repair back to competitively performing the Olympic lifts again. If you have a body, you’re an athlete in our eyes.
A trend over the past few years in professional athletics has been the addition of Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) to the training regiment of these professional athletes. I’m fortunate as an educator with the MobilityWOD group that I get exposed to cutting edge technology that these professionals seek out for an advantage. WBC is something I kept seeing over and over at pro/division I college teams.
The last straw for me was when I saw Dr. James Andrews, MD had agreed to come on as the chair of the advisory board for Impact Cryotherapy. He had added these WBC units to his performance and rehab facility in Florida as well.
Dr. Andrews is one of the most well respected Orthopedic Surgeons in the US and has become famous for his Tommy John elbow surgery that he’s performed on countless professional MLB players.
At the time of me finding out about Dr. Andrews I had started doing my own research review on WBC. Like most things the research was mixed both showing positive outcomes and stating that more research was needed. As somone one that has been a part of big research studies, I can tell you more research is always needed! I can also tell you that research is typically 5 years behind what very progressive strength coaches and practitioners are doing. We want to be on the cutting edge and we want to give our athletes every advantage out there.
In regards to the science we do currently know about WBC, it’s very promising. Some of the interesting effects we are able to get with WBC exposure are:
The second approach we use this for is the accelerated treatment of post-surgical patients. This is one of the ways they are using cryotherapy in professional teams, with very successfully results. Essentially, if we can expose our athletes to this stimulus early on and often we can expedite the rehab process. What if your doctor told you that you could expect 9 months before returning to sport activities after a shoulder surgery. That’s a long time to be inactive. Well, what if we could cut that down to 6 months? That’s what we are doing with this technology!
I think in the next 3-5 years, you will see many more clinics like the one we have established in Decatur. This technology is the real deal and we are so excited to be able to help our athletes on a whole new level. It’s one thing to read about it but it’s an entirely different thing to experience it yourself!
If you’re interested in trying this out yourself, give us a call. We’d be happy to answer any questions you have. We’ll make sure you’re a good fit for what we do and can get you set up with an appointment.
All too often the answer is “I just run my first half mile slower and then get into my running pace”.
Paula Radcliffe, one of the greatest female marathoners in English history, does a warm up for 45-50 minutes before a marathon race! That’s longer than most of us will run for our work out.
So why is it that elite runners and athletes put such an emphasis on warming up and we do not? There are a few factors that can lead to the lack of using a warm up.
We’re going to try and solve these issues with the warm up and put something together that you can do in a short period of time (15 minutes) before your next run.
Here’s the strategy in a nutshell: we need to get tissues opened up that can be primary limiters of running mechanics and we need to get muscles firing that need to be working for proper movement. Let’s start with opening up the tissues we need for running.
One of my favorite pre-run mobilization for runners to do is a quick pressure-based technique for the bottom of the foot. All you need is a lacrosse ball, baseball or some other type of hard ball to step on. Do not use a racquetball or a tennis ball, it’s a waste of your time because it’s not enough pressure. We want to open this area up before running because every little bit of increased ankle dorsiflexion will be a mechanical advantage for us in particular on hills.
Do this technique below for 1 minute on each foot
Next, we want to open up the hips, in particular hip extension. This allows us to get our leg behind us while we run without having to compromise our back to do so. This is also a huge area of emphasis because of the amount of time most of us spend sitting. When we sit we are in a hip-flexed position. When we run, we drive into the opposite range, hip extension. If you sit all day in hip flexion, your tissues get tight in that range and cause you to lose hip extension.
This is essentially a hand brake that you have with your forward movement. By opening up your hip extension, it allows increased ease of movement in the running gait. Here is what you’re going to do. This stretch is called the world’s greatest stretch and it really might be!
Perform this sequence twice on each side. It should take you about 1 minute to go through this sequence on each side. This gets things moving at the upper back, front of the hip and hamstring/calf. It’s really a catch all for many athletic movements but in particular running.
Alright, we should have those done in about 5 minutes. On to the priming of the movement that we want to perform.
I’m a big fan of working on the skill of running. That’s right, running is a skill and if you treat it that way your body will thank you and your finish times will be better. Practicing certain movement prior to running can help us ingrain good moving patterns while we are running.
The first drill is a pulling drill that I use all the time with my athletes. Do 1 minute of pull drill work like Nate explains in the video. After that, run for 1 minute trying to emphasize the same exact pull feeling that you got doing the drill.
The last drill will be to work on your cadence. Cadence is how many foot strikes you have in a minute. Coaches and researchers have found that having a cadence around 180 foot strikes per minute is a very efficient place to run. This allows for you to pull your foot quickly off the ground and minimize some of the elongated ground reaction force that happens with a very slow cadence.
Download a free metronome app on your phone. Put the beats per minute at 90. You’ll try and have your right foot hit the ground every time it bets. This will equal 180 foot strikes per minute since you’re only counting the one side. Run for 1 minute at this cadence but try and keep a slow to moderate pace. Don’t go bananas and try to run a 4 minute mile because you’re increasing your cadence. Stride length plus high cadence is what allows us to run really fast efficiently. Shorten your stride and keep your cadence high during this drill. You should imagine you’re running on hot coals.
In summary your warm up should look like this:
Don’t be surprise if you’re breathing a little harder after your warm up. That’s why it’s called a warm up! You’ve got to prime your body for what you’re about to do. This could be the single most important thing you can do to maintain your body as a runner and improve your skill of the movement.
If you’re a runner, triathlete or CrossFitter that wants to improve your running or are dealing with a run-related injury let us know. We’ve literally helped thousands people with knee, foot, hip and back issues related to running. Don’t wake up every morning wondering if this is the day your knee will stop hurting when you run. There are answers out there and we can help.
Contact us below if you would like to set up a free talk with one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy to see how we can help you run pain free
Thanks for reading,
“Optimal sleep is the most anabolic thing you can do for your body.” Dr. Kirk Parsley, MD
Last week I wrote a blog post about some blood work that I had recently had drawn. I was shocked to see how I was trending in a very unhealthy direction internally. I was feeling poorly for a while but I just pushed through the fatigue because work had to be completed and we had a business to run. The realization that something was wrong came to me while I was teaching in Boston over the summer.
The evening after I taught at CrossFit Reebok One, I decided to go on a run on the Charles River. I enjoy running around new places as a way of seeing the sights and it’s typically a very stress-relieving activity for me. As I ran back toward my hotel I passed two guys and a girl walking a dog. I ran around them and as I passed them one of the guys yelled at me “Alright, you can do it man!” I immediately stopped, turned around and said “Are you fucking mocking me you skinny hipster?” He looked completely surprised and said “No, it’s a great night for a run I was just encouraging you.” I didn’t say anything after that, I just turned around and continued my run back to my hotel.
When I got back to my hotel I sat there and tried to figure out what was wrong with me. I literally just tried to fight a small group of hipsters walking their dog while engaged in an activity that was supposed to be stress-relieving. I’m not a violent person and for me to be so short tempered from a misconstrued comment was just not me. I had turned into an asshole but I guess sometimes it takes a near fight with a hipster to figure that out.
Two things needed to change: Stress management and more/better sleep.
When I ran my blood tests I initially decided I would change only 1 or 2 things to gauge the effect on my overall retest. As previously noted in last week’s blog, dramatic decreases in testosterone and increases in HbA1c as well as HS-CRP can be directly attributed to stress and sleep deprivation.
My plan was to force myself to sleep 7.5-8.5 hours every night. I also added in 3 minutes of mindfulness meditation everyday. This was really for stress management and to help keep my mind clear in both my personal and business life.
Within 3 weeks I noticed a huge difference. First, when I woke in the morning I actually felt rested and damn near jumped out of bed, even if it was 4:30 in the morning. My strength started to steadily increase and I was recovering twice as fast as than previously between training sessions. My productivity increased significantly with business and content creation. Most importantly, I wasn’t an asshole anymore. I didn’t have a short temper with my family and I hadn’t tried to fight anyone out walking their dog!
When looking at the changes I made, it’s pretty cool to see the difference. Here’s a partial breakdown of the poor biomarkers compared to where they are now.
July 2015 October 2015
Testosterone- 421 Testosterone- 576
HbA1c- 5.7 HbA1c- 5.4
HS-CRP- 2.6 HS-CRP- 0.5
From a performance standpoint, the most dramatic change is the over 150 point increase in my testosterone levels. That’s a huge jump just by increasing my sleep and working on mindfulness meditation 3 minutes per day. I would say sleep was the biggest reason that number increased as much as it did.
It’s crazy to think that something so simple like sleep can have such a dramatic effect on one of your most important performance hormones. It seems like common sense and it’s a really enjoyable activity as well. Why is it that people neglect sleep? The most common reason is being too busy or having too much work to do.
Like many of us I’ve been there, waking at 430am then working to 11pm and thinking I can just adapt and push through. I was wrong and the worst part is that you’re actually making yourself less athletic and productive by neglecting sleep.
Here’s my challenge for you: Try and get 8 hours of sleep for a solid week straight. If you haven’t been sleeping much you will be shocked at how amazing you feel.
In some cases it takes seeing the bad data to really get us motivated. I know it was like that for me; I had to get some pretty significant blood panel work before it really motivated me to make some much needed changes. If you’re not tracking your blood markers and you’re trying to live a high performance and pain-free life you’re missing a massive opportunity. You should be testing yourself at a minimum twice a year and really more like 3-4 times per year to accurately track your internal functionality.
“Experts often possess more data than judgement.” General Colin Powell
Everything is data-driven these days. We track things so we can make better and more accurate decisions. This makes a ton of sense if you think about it. If you don’t have great data to back up a decision you’re pretty much guessing.
In a previous blog post, I wrote about my blood test work results. This data I’ve been tracking for a few years now and was shocked when I saw the negative trend my blood data had taken. I retested my blood work on a Monday which was about 3 months after my last test. I typically recommend blood testing every 3-6 months to keep an eye on your internal data.
I’ll honestly be shocked if my data isn’t significantly better. I feel better now than I have in the past 18 months. Much of this I attribute to making much needed changes in sleep and training. The only reason I made these changes was because I saw the raw data in my own blood work.
If you don’t think full panels are necessary for you every 3-6 months, that’s fine. I would recommend that you at least look at these 3 blood biomarkers next time you have your annual physical with your physician. They will at least help you catch the low hanging fruit and keep you functioning at a high level.
Vitamin D- Researchers estimate that almost two-thirds of the population is deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is pretty important and has an effect on overall health, the immune system, bone density, muscle strength and recovery. That’s some pretty important reasons to want to make sure this one vitamin is at optimal levels in your body. Researchers have even shown that VO2max (a test of oxygen consumption that correlates with cardiovascular endurance) peaks when Vitamin D levels are above 50 ng/ml. When getting this vitamin checked, make sure you get a Vitamin D 25-hydroxy test. This is the most accurate way to test your Vitamin D levels.
Magnesium- “Magnesium is a co-factor in over 350 enzymatic reactions in the body. It is necessary for the transmission of nerve impulses, muscle activity, heart function, temperature regulation, detoxification factors and improving insulin sensitivity.” Charles Poliquin
Magnesium is ultra important and the reality is that most of the foods we eat that should have magnesium in it, don’t. Many of the foods that are leafy green veggies have high amounts of magnesium. These veggies get the magnesium from the soil they are grown in and mineral deficiency is soil is a very common problem. It sucks, you can eat all the healthy green veggies you want and still be magnesium deficient. Knowing if your magnesium levels are low is step one to figure out if you need a supplement which most people do. Lastly, magnesium has a calming effect on the brain. For those of you that have difficulty with falling asleep, this could be the cheapest and safest way to help fix the problem.
High Sensitivity C Reactive Protein (HS CRP)- HS-CRP is a blood biomarker that is typically used to gauge someone's risk of heart disease. Most recently it’s been used as a gauge for global inflammation and to determine sleep deprivation. This marker is increased by a number of poor activities; eating a ton of sugar filled foods, having a sensitivity to gluten and pounding pizzas, or working at a high stress job can all increase your HS-CRP level.
Recent studies by sleep researchers reveals HS-CRP is a biomarker to track sleep debt. If you don’t sleep enough or you aren’t getting beneficial sleep this number will be elevated. We like to see our athletes under 1.0 and ideally closer to 0.5 on this test.
Getting your primary care physician to order these tests can be a bit difficult at one time. The problem is that you technically are supposed to be symptomatic for specific condition for your physician to justify ordering and insurance reimbursing for testing. Also, if you really want to keep an eye on your internal data, there’s no way you’re going to sweet talk your physician into ordering an in-depth blood panel for you 4x per year.
Stop guessing and start getting some tangible data on how well you’re really functioning internally.
Dr. Danny and Dr. Jackie's views on performance improvement, injury prevention and sometimes other random thoughts.