Wednesday, 29 January 2014


The English Institute of Sport (EIS) defines Strength and Conditioning as the physical and physiological development of athletes for elite sport performance. The role of the S&C coach is to bridge the gap between the theory of training and applied training, helping athletes to become faster, stronger and more flexible and to build their muscular endurance so they perform better and remain injury free. Strength and Conditioning is about more than just lifting weights - it encompasses the entire development of the athlete and what is needed to improve physical performance. This includes plyometrics, speed and agility, endurance and core stability, with strength training being just one piece of the jigsaw.

At the time of writing this, more than half of Team 2ndskin athletes have undergone their initial assessment session with GetActive, who are the team’s Strength & Conditioning Partner for 2014. The results of the assessment were an eye-opener for all of us in the team as we were made aware of the components of fitness that we were lacking and those that we could improve on.
Eugene tells us in depth about his experience in the first session with head coach of GetActive, Chloe Lai.
Get Active, Strength & Conditioning Specialists
I made my appointment for the initial fitness assessment with Chloe a week prior. She mentioned some fitness tests and that made the whole team kinda nervous. It didn’t get any better when she hinted to me that she was pretty sure all of us would fail the test, Ironman or not! :p
The morning of the assessment (my appointment was made in the evening after work), I emailed Chloe some information that I thought would assist in the assessment, like my vital stats, medical history, my goals and targets for 2014, my supplement intake as well as some personal thoughts of what I am lacking in fitness-wise (ie, weaknesses).
As I stepped into GetActive Studio (also known as The Base), Chloe was there to greet me and took me on a quick tour of the place. It was a cosy setup and immediately you feel comfortable and not intimidated, unlike some franchise gyms that “scare” you with rows and rows of heavy iron and equipment. The layout of The Base caters more for individual and specialized attention for the client, with a good expanse of space for movement, bodyweight exercises and rehabilitation. Adequate cardio equipment, multi-functional weight machines and comprehensive range of free weights lined the sports performance room.
Roy filling up the questionnaire at the start of the assessment
We kicked off the session with me filling up the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire. It mainly concerns current and past health history, including some family history as a reference. Since I had already furnished Chloe earlier with my medical history and goals for 2014, we proceeded to get started with the physical assessment. The rest of the team (in their individual sessions) went through an oral interview with Chloe asking the questions to gauge what was needed for each individual athlete. Questions ranged from medical problems, to food intake, training type and intensity, injury history as well as improvement areas each athlete was looking for in 2014.
First up, was the Functional Movement Test. Simple tests conducted showed that my left upper back was tighter than my right side and that contrary to what I had thought all this while, it wasn’t my hamstrings that were tight, but actually my glutes and lower back. Glutes are a short representation for the gluteal muscles (Gluteal maximus, medius, minimus and piriformis) that make up the buttock muscles. I have always thought that it was my hamstrings that were inflexible, spending hours driving in the car and sitting on my office chair everyday. It was a surprise to realize that the range of motion in my hamstrings was quite good, but that my frequent hamstring strains, and inability to sit cross-legged for long periods was due to a hampering in my posterior chain mobility by my tight gluteal muscles and lower back. I was told, in Chloe’s words, “to activate my glutes and release my lower back muscles”.
Deo going through a roller-coaster of emotions (and pain!)
To further confirm the “diagnosis”, we worked on my glutes with the foam roller and trigger point ball to identify the points where the muscles were knotted and needed work. She also demonstrated and taught me several stretching and yoga movements that targeted the specific muscle groups (that I needed to focus on) to increase flexibility in my range of motion.
Next we proceeded to the strength assessment test. I have been cross-training in the gym with some machines and free-weights for the past few years but mainly focused on endurance with higher repetitions and lower weights. My normal gym workouts would entail more upper-body work to balance out all the running and cycling workouts that I do. I went through a series of strength tests which Chloe mentioned they only use on athletes and those who regularly workout. The 3 tests involved the squat (2x BodyWeight), bench press (1x BW) and deadlift (2x BW), with the benchmark of strength capability to strive for in brackets.
I was surprised when Chloe told me that we should be performing strength training with higher weight loads and lower repetitions that what I was used to doing as I mentioned above. When I questioned the opinion, Chloe shared some findings with me. Here, I share an excerpt from a journal by the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) who is the worldwide authority on strength and conditioning. They support and disseminate research-based knowledge and its practical application to improve athletic performance and fitness. By the way, Chloe is a NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist.
“For years the standard recommendation for endurance athletes has been to use weights that allow relatively higher repetitions (70% 1RM for 10-15 reps/set) than normally performed in strength training. Now researchers at University of Rome have released the outcomes of their study showing that masters endurance runners are better served by training with heavier weights (85-90% 1RM for 3-4 reps).

They concluded the following.

Taken together, the results of this preliminary study indicate that master endurance athletes seem to benefit from concurrent strength and endurance training because the rate of force development may be crucial for RE (Running Economy) improvement, one of the major determinants of endurance performance.

The use of heavier weights was thought to result in greater neurological adaptation, as opposed the creation of new muscle tissue, allowing the subjects to use more of their strength potential.

Those lifting heavier weights in the study didn’t gain any more weight than those lifting lighter weights. In fact, neither group saw a change when compared to the control group, who didn’t weight train, but continued running. The majority of us simply don’t possess the genetics to gain appreciable muscle while maintaining our diets and continuing endurance work.”
 Irene working with resistance bands
I fell short of the prescribed benchmark. No excuses, no reasons. I needed to incorporate more strength training into my routine if I wanted to achieve my targets for 2014. For the record, I have some specific speed goals for running that I want to hit this year, and by increasing strength in my lower body and core, I would be able to power through hills faster.
During the strength assessment, I also realized that my form while performing squats was incorrect and that I have been squatting with weights with the wrong movement for as long as I remember. Honestly, if you are serious about improving yourself, you need to get a specialist to correct your technique so that you are utilizing your muscles properly and avoiding the dreaded injury. After monitoring my form while going through the full range of squat motion, Chloe noticed that I tend to rely heavily on my quads (quadriceps muscles at the front of my thigh) and not activating my glutes properly. I was not pushing up with my heels as much as I should and therefore not maximizing the benefits of the workout. Form correction was necessary and I had to relearn how to squat properly. I also had another drawback in terms of doing the deadlift. Now, the deadlift is an excellent posterior muscle chain strengthener, if done properly with the right form as it targets the glutes, hamstrings and hips. With the history of my lower back immobilization previously due to acute injury, I was very apprehensive to perform the deadlift, and I feel it was more a mental block rather than a physical limitation. Chloe understood that, and demonstrated another move which also simulates the workout of the deadlift but with additional stability aspects incorporated. As this move used lighter weights, I was more comfortable and able to apply it to my regimen.
Single leg movements train stability, balance and iron out muscle imbalances
Chloe prescribed 2 single leg movements which I should make part of my strength training routine. I will share these 2 workouts here for the benefit of everyone as that is how we at Team 2ndskin work; we learn and share. These 2 routines work the glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings and quads, making them stronger and giving you the benefit when running or cycling, climbing hills and stairs. The added benefit is of course training your stability and balance, which helps prevent injury and increasing your core strength.
For both workouts, warm-up using your bodyweight with about 10-15reps before you start with weights. If you find balancing an issue with weights, then practice without weights until you are strong enough to proceed to the next level.
Hold a dumbbell / weight on the opposite side of your front leg and keep your body straight with chest proud and shoulders square. Go through the entire motion in a controlled manner and keep note of your posture. Key takeaway here is not how heavy the weights you can manage, but getting the form right to activate the right muscle groups for maximum results. Once you start with weights, work with one that allows you to complete up to 10 reps without losing form. For best results, you should perform stretches and rolling of your glutes, hamstrings and lower back before each session. The 2 routines are the
Single Leg Squat Back Foot Elevated (
Romanian Deadlift Single Arm/Single Leg Contralateral (
Try them out and incorporate into your regular workout routine. I found them to really target my glutes as the day after the session, I was sore in places I have never been sore before (even after a 42km!). In the meantime, before I go for my next session with Chloe to improve on other aspects of strength and conditioning, I will be applyin these plus the other rolling and trigger point techniques that would help keep injury at bay. Note that it is not adequate to just learn the techniques, but more importantly, to put them to use, because knowledge is useless without application.

If any of you are interested to get yourself assessed to understand more of how you can improve on your chosen sport, or how you can beat that recurring injury or to achieve your fitness goals, do get in touch with GetActive. Drop Chloe an email at chloe(at)getactive dot com dot my and mention Team 2ndskin. Make an appointment at a special rate and be on your way to a better, fitter, stronger you this 2014!

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