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How strength training helps prevent injury, heal faster and enjoy sports uncompromisingly at all ages

How strength training helps prevent injury, heal faster and enjoy sports uncompromisingly at all ages

aybe you have noticed the campaign of "Beratungsstelle für Unfallverhütung", short BFU, in the recent days. It reads that road traffic is not the most common cause of severe injuries. Sports related injuries hold this questionable honor. In 2020 alone, 420'000 people injured themselves enjoying the sports they love. 40'000 of these injuries were of high or intermediate severity. Even helping to prevent a tiny fraction of these accidents is motivation enough for us to give you this comprehensive guide for prevention and prehabilitation based on effective strength training.

The strength to enjoy life

...in 6 minutes a week. Is the slogan we are second best known for. It's our promise to you, but what makes us so confident, we can deliver on that promise? And why are we qualified to talk about prevention and rehabilitation? To explain that we have to dive a bit deeper and reflect on our definition of fitness. Our understanding of what our workout delivers to you is complete metabolic conditioning.

Metabolic conditioning: improve every system of your body

Complete metabolic conditioning aims to improve each and every system making up your body. Complete metabolic optimization is our definition of fitness. The only way you can achieve this is through performing mechanical work with your muscles. A protocol of mechanical work with your muscle, that is measurable, safe and purposeful, and performed at progressively higher intensity each time you follow the exact same protocol, may be called exercise. Everything else is sports or joyful movement. So the mechanical work with your muscles is at the heart and center of your success. The quality of mechanical work, in exercise terms, is measured as inroad. To understand inroad, we have to understand the muscle itself. The muscle is made up of muscle fibers. There are 5 basic fiber types. The muscle will use them to meet the force requirements imposed by the mechanical work your central nervous system tells it to perform. When the muscle needs to use all 5 muscle fiber types, we call this complete inroad. The deeper the inroad, the higher the quality of the mechanical work we perform to exercise (for more about inroad, scroll to the 7 guiding science principles).

Mechanical work with muscles: guarantee best execution quality

In order to ensure the highest quality of mechanical work and safety during our workout, and progressively higher intensity, we use the isokinetic-biofeedback technology. It's not the reason why the 6 Minute Workout is so effective, we just think it's the best tool for the job. It's plausible that the higher the quality of the mechanical work you perform with your muscle, the higher the stimulus on all the subsystems. Namely, cardiovascular, central nervous and musculoskeletal system. All of you, who have tried our workout before can confirm, that you do the highest quality of mechanical work possible during each of the 6 movements. That is why we see our workout as a metaworkout to improve each aspect of your biology. Making those systems stronger not only prevents injury, it can also heal injury. With this in mind, let's dive into the specific body systems that need to be optimized for effective prehab.

What attributes do we need to improve for effective prehab?

Let's think about skiing. It's perfect for our discussion. It's very dangerous for untrained individuals, yet every coach potato thinks it's a good idea to wait all year doing nothing for their readiness for such an activity and then tie two planks to their feet and Ho-la-re-di-hi! Its obvious that with a higher skill level the risk of injury can be minimized. But skill cannot be trained all year round. The question is, which attributes support and enhance a given skill level and lead to higher levels of safety on every individual skill level? We think the most important attributes you need to improve are: 

  • Range of motion: A good range of motion for every joint is a failsafe against muscle tears or strains on ligaments. As always, one can overdo it. Don't aim to be abnormally flexible in your joints. There is a natural range of motion that is protective for the joint. We can only raise our eyebrows over comments like: "One needs to be able to do the splits" - ask those people in a few years how their hip replacement worked out...
Anatomy of muscle
Anatomy of a muscle: High Intensity Training can add sarcomeres along the axis, which enhances flexibility
  • Flexibility: Goes into the same bucket as range of motion but also takes the muscle itself into account. Muscle can grow in two directions. As a response to exercise it can add new sarcomeres (the small power-units doing the work) along its axis or add more around its axis (i.e. growing in diameter). Working the muscle out over its full range of motion, will add both dimensions to the muscle. This lengthens the muscle and gives it more flexibility.
  • Strength: At first sight, this is a rather obvious one. If you are stronger, possible shortcomings in your skill level can be overcome with sheer power. By the way, malicious gossip inside the AURUM team reveals that this is exactly my style of skiing. Well, at least this shows I am a good example of being effective but not efficient. What is really interesting though is that training your maximum strength (which naturally happens every time you come to us) also trains your nervous system to work better, which additionally helps with...
  • Balance. Balance is often discussed in the scientific community. Is it an attribute or a skill? Many people swear by their balance training on their balancing board to improve overall balance. Others say that balance is an activity specific skill and should be trained accordingly. So training on a balancing board makes you better at balancing on the balancing board but balance cannot be transferred to other activities. We at AURUM, true to our Swiss neutrality, have a more balanced view. Ba dum tsss. In order to have more balance on skis, you should go skiing more, but it won't hurt to train on the balancing board. What we think is more interesting, is the central nervous system upgrade you get from training your maximum strength. Especially on the eccentric, the resisting part. So when you do our 6 Minute Workout you have a fast and efficiently operating nervous system that can then level up the skills much faster when you stand on the skis again.

So let's look at the different body systems and how improving them will impact the four attributes we need to prevent injury and to uncompromisingly enjoy sport no matter your age.

Central Nervous System (CNS)

Symptoms of high quality stimulus during 6-minute-workout:

To understand that, we must first look at CNS fatigue, as the desired state after an effective training of the CNS. CNS fatigue is defined as a reduction in our ability to voluntarily activate a muscle in a maximal effort [1]. To understand that, think of the connection between your muscle and brain like an electrical system of a house. When there is temporarily too much voltage required in one of the circuits, the fuse will shut down an entire network of sockets. In our muscles these networks of sockets are called motor units and they are always activated in size order, this means that the highest threshold motor units (which control the largest numbers of the most highly-responsive fibers) are recruited first to meet the high force demand put forth by the first 20 seconds of each of our six exercises. Consequently, they also fatigue first, and their firing rates are reduced. Most often you can observe this during our workout when the legs start shaking uncontrollably towards the end of the leg press. It's like the flickering of a lightbulb. As always in our biology, our body will go to work during the recovery period to make sure the fuse switches off a bit later on that motor unit the next time you put the exact same demand on it. Over time this process optimizes the connection between your brain and your muscle. What were tiny ISDN cables before, have become fiber super data highways. This process is called neuro adaptation. The strength gain, you experience during your first 7-10 times with us, is mostly due to this neuro adaption. So even when you only start this week with us, you will still have the benefits of a Central Nervous System upgrade for the start of the winter sport season.

Impact on prehab attributes:

  • Range of motion: ○○○○○
  • Flexibility: ○○○○○
  • Strength: ●●●○○
  • Balance: ●●●●●

Effects you can expect and observe:

The anecdotal effects of our customers are wide ranging from a boxer that reported being faster than ever, to our clients aged 85+ that report feeling extremely secure walking down the stairs again. The best way to observe the effects for you individually is to look at the activity you care about most and see if you feel more secure doing it. As this central nervous system upgrade equips you to learn every skill faster, expect to enjoy faster progress when learning or relearning a skill. Additionally, one can expect to have more central nervous system endurance and hence feel better all day long. To return to our example of skiing, it's a widely known fact, that most severe injuries happen during the last ski run of the day, so a bit more central nervous system endurance can make the difference between après-ski or heli.

Cardiovascular System

Symptoms of high quality stimulus during 6-minute-workout:

This one is self explanatory, your body cannot distinguish between a one minute sprint and a one minute leg press on our machine. Both present themselves as high intensity mechanical work, which taxes the cardiovascular system in an identical way. The paradox is, the better you become doing the 6 Minute Workout, the harder it will be on your cardio vascular system. Experienced athletes are completely out of breath and enter the near maximal heart beat zones after each of our 6 exercises. They can feel the full effect of the high intensity interval training, which is backed into our workout method. But even if you are not completely out of breath after each exercise you still reap the benefits of higher oxygen uptake and bigger heart pump volumes over time. There is a reason tennis players take a deep breath before serving. It heightens alertness and concentration. So better oxygen uptake and more efficient delivery to the cells will for sure help you to enjoy sports more and prevent accidents.

Impact on prehab attributes:

  • Range of motion: ○○○○○
  • Flexibility: ○○○○○
  • Strength: ●●○○○
  • Balance: ●●○○○

Effects you can expect and observe:

Sorry for using skiing again to illustrate this, but it is just the perfect sport to think about because of its unique strength and endurance requirements and because it's so dangerous if both are not present. For all people familiar with skiing, the burning sensation in your thighs happens for the same reason your thighs start burning during the leg press. The reason for this is lactate that is quickly accumulating as a byproduct of sugar metabolism in the thigh muscles. If your muscle experience this on a regular basis, a new system of fine blood vessels will form deeply into the muscle tissue. These are called capillaries. Capillaries can be compared to an oxygen and nutrition transport system but most importantly also to a waste product drainage system. So with more fine capillaries you can endure peak demands on your muscles longer, keep them free of waste products more efficiently and recover faster during the recovery period. You just make better decisions if you still have some cardiovascular reserve left, a clear head and good control over you muscles. This holds true, not just in skiing. That's why upping the ante of your cardiovascular system can make the difference between "Jagertee" or surgery.

Musculoskeletal System

Symptome of high quality stimulus during 6-minute-workout:

It's time to meet the 3S. They are your friends and the reason why you become better each week you come to AURUM. They are the ingredients for every high quality strength training workout. These three applied to your musculoskeletal system through progressively more intense workouts each week will help you to reach your genetically preset optimal fitness level. They are Cardiovascular Stress, Metabolic Stress and Mechanical Stress. We talked about cardio vascular stress before, it can be observed as heavy breathing after each exercise. The metabolic stress inside the muscle can be observed by the burning sensation you get after about 20 seconds of each exercise. The mechanical stress is what you see on the screen. The numbers going up and down are forces that your body is experiencing during each rep. So for the leg press, this ranges from 3x to 10x body weight. That's a lot of force your muscles produce and your joint, ligaments and ultimately bone absorb. You can imagine that these tissues won't sit around waiting after a stimulus like this, they go straight into construction mode and start remodelling to be stronger and better for the next time they have to absorb such high loads. In fact these high loads are also observed to cure ligament disorders such as tendinopathies, and are gaining more and more popularity in physical therapy [2]. So what heals impaired ligaments can also make them stronger and more flexible. A great thing indeed for our prehab goal. On the other hand, one has to understand, that there cannot be a better stretch of a given muscle than under full load and when the exercise is performed over a sensible range of motion. The old myth, that strength training shortens muscles and ligaments has simply no solid foundation [3]. When you follow a regular routine, exposing your musculoskeletal system to such high loads, the effects on strength are enormous. There is even a word for it in professional power lifting, it is called "old strength". It's frequently observed that older powerlifters aged 35 and older still increase their personal record. This is because their ligaments, joints and bone still become stronger after years of powerlifting. You don't have to become a real life wolverine to reap the benefits though, its enough to simulate high forces on the leg press and the other five exercises once a week. Oh, you thought you could come away without a dodgy rhyme? No no no, wait for it, high loads can make the difference between Club Dracula or Traumata.

Impact on prehab attributes:

  • Range of motion: ●●●○○
  • Flexibility: ●●●●○
  • Strength: ●●●●●
  • Balance: ●●○○○

Effects you can expect and observe:

For all our ladies suffering from osteoporosis, prepare for your doctor to be speechless, the next time you do a DEXA Scan. Bone becoming denser is definitely not something they see on a regular basis. But also for men this is important. Bone, same as muscle, becomes weaker over time and its a good thing if we keep it as dense as possible. It's also highly likely that chronic pains in ligaments and tendons subside due to the aforementioned strengthening and organization of collagen structures as a direct response to the high eccentric loads. Last but not least, the strength of the muscle itself is a direct response to meet progressively higher loads. Strength is nothing else but the maximal tension your muscle can produce. The high loads lead to the formation of more strong sarcomeres, the little motor units of the muscle, and new and better neurons to fire those new motor units. Expect your maximal strength and quickness to improve. It's clear that quickness is key in any potentially dangerous situation and helps to prevent injuries.

In summary: High loads on the musculoskeletal system, in combination with the central nervous system adaptation that comes as a natural result of this, are the two main ingredients for effective prehab and rehab. It's a two legged strategy, on the one hand you are strengthening all the tissues that could break as a result of an accident and on the other hand you prevent such an accident from occurring by forcing your central nervous system to work quicker and more effective. Add in the cardiovascular capacity to perform for hours and you have a recipe to enjoy the sports you like without ever compromising again.

[1] https://medium.com/@SandCResearch/why-does-central-nervous-system-cns-fatigue-happen-during-strength-training-e0af3f5e4989

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3105370/

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3273886/

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