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Increased Strength and Power vs. Improved Aesthetics: Who Wins?

  |   Injury Prevention and Care, Performance Training   |   No comment

When preparing for an assessment of any kind, one has to take into consideration the goals, abilities, and functional needs that the an athlete may have. When Walter came in to Accelerate Sports Performance, he was looking to rehabilitate a bulging lumbar disc, rebuild a slowly atrophying body due to his movement limitations, and reach levels of elite performance. We knew that meant having to increase his strength and endurance in order to relieve the compressive forces on his spine. Walter is an intelligent athlete, and he knew that gaining size was not the answer to getting stronger. This is not to say that gaining size means that one cannot get stronger, rather much could be done with his current physical stature via mitochondrial plasticity.

 

 

An article on heavy resistance training explains that “Heavy resistance training is associated with increased body weight, lean body mass, and muscle cross-sectional area. The increased muscle cross-sectional area is mainly brought about by hypertrophy of individual muscle fibers” (Tesch, 1988). However, one does not need to only look for size in order to gain strength.

 

 

Here at Accelerate, we know that packing in strength, increasing mitochondrial density, and enhancing neuromuscular adaptations  is the real key to making an athlete stronger without necessarily having to increasing mass dramatically. Our goal was to achieve these goals without adding further unnecessary compressive forces to his spine via body wieght.

 

 

Another article describing the plasticity of mitochondria explains that “Mitochondria in skeletal muscle tissue can undergo rapid and characteristic changes as a consequence of manipulations of muscle use and environmental conditions (Hoppeler & Fluck, 2002). They also explain that “Strength training has a major impact on muscle myofibrillar volume” (Hoppeler & Fluck, 2002).

 

 

Walter’s first assessment here at ASP was on 7-7-14, and his re-assessment was on 10-8-15.  Due to Walter’s lumbar impingement, we did not prescribe a strength assessment. Therefore, in order to create the strength assessment data needed for comparison to his re-assessment, we gathered Walter’s prescribed programs created by our strength and conditioning staff and estimated his 1 rep max based on his 3 rep recorded numbers. This was quite essential in Walter’s case. It would have been a contraindication to max load him or prescribe common baseline testing exercises for that matter. Below are some examples of compressive forces and the direction of forces on the lumbar spine:

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 8.34.17 AM

(Normal discographs under increasing pressure)

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However, we did need to increase his core strength, stability, and create a good zone of apposition (and related imbalances) in order to release those compressive forces from his lumbar spine. When Walter came in for his first assessment, he could not stand in work functions for long periods of time, as he would experience lumbar pain and radicular down his legs. Now, he has the core strength, stability, and diaphragmatic adaptations to stand in work functions for long periods of time. Even more impressive, his new overall strength has released those compressive forces from his lumbar spine and he no longer experiences the previous symptoms he experienced during his first assessment. The question becomes: Could Walter have had those strength gains, without actually increasing his mass and size? We decided to answer this question by gathering the data from Walter’s first assessment and his re-assessment, and translating them into readable graphs below.

 

 

 

 

Raw Data:

 

Re-Assessment Comparision Chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we have Walter’s raw data gathered from his first assessment at ASP, his previous programs, and his re-assessment. Due to a possible bulging disc in his lumbar spine, strength testing was terminated during his first assessment. Instead, we focused on his lower body elasticity and cardiac output. The numbers we have gathered for his strength were based off of previous programs that were prescribed to Walter during his time here at ASP. Included in this raw data, we also have the percentage increase from his first assessment to his second assessment, and the integer increases within the various tests

Lower Body Elasticity:

 

Vertical Jump (Inches) Graph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Here we have Walter’s vertical jump, measured in inches on our vertical jump mat. The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents inches measured. This graph allows us to see the linear progression Walter has achieved from his first assessment to his second assessment here at ASP. Located at the bottom of the graph are the dates from his first assessment and his second assessment, demonstrating the timeline between prescribed strength training.

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 4.12.05 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we also have Walter’s vertical jump, measured in inches on our vertical jump mat. However, it is demonstrated as a column of percentage increase to better visualize Walter’s achievements during his training here at ASP. The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents the percentage increase. This graph allows us to see the tremendous improvement in his vertical jump from his first assessment to his second assessment. Located at the bottom of the graph are the dates from his first assessment to his second assessment, demonstrating the timeline between prescribed strength training.

 

 

Broad Jump (Inches) Graph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we have Walter’s broad jump, measured in inches using a measuring tape. The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents inches measured. This graph allows us to see the linear progression Walter has achieved from his first assessment to his second assessment here at ASP. Located at the bottom of the graph are the dates from his first assessment to his second assessment, demonstrating the timeline between prescribed strength training.

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 4.15.01 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Here we also have Walter’s broad jump, measured in inches using a measuring tape. However, it is demonstrated as a column of percentage increase to better visualize Walter’s achievements during his training here at ASP. The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents the percentage increase. This graph allows us to see the tremendous improvement in his broad jump from his first assessment to his second assessment. Located at the bottom of the graph are the dates from his first assessment to his second assessment, demonstrating the timeline between prescribed strength training.

 

 

Left Leg Lateral Bound (Inches) Graph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we have Walter’s left leg lateral bound, measured in inches using a measuring tape. The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents inches measured. This graph allows us to see the linear progression Walter has achieved from his first assessment to his second assessment here at ASP. Located at the bottom of the graph are the dates from his first assessment to his second assessment, demonstrating the timeline between prescribed strength training.

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 4.17.49 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we also have Walter’s left leg lateral bound, measured in inches using a measuring tape. However, it is demonstrated as a column of percentage increase to better visualize Walter’s achievements during his training here at ASP. The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents the percentage increase. This graph allows us to see the tremendous improvement in his left leg lateral bound from his first assessment to his second assessment. Located at the bottom of the graph are the dates from his first assessment to his second assessment, demonstrating the timeline between prescribed strength training.

 

 

Right Leg Lateral Bound (Inches) Graph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we have Walter’s right leg lateral bound, measured in inches using a measuring tape. The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents inches measured. This graph allows us to see the linear progression Walter has achieved from his first assessment to his second assessment here at ASP. Located at the bottom of the graph are the dates from his first assessment to his second assessment, demonstrating the timeline between prescribed strength training.

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 4.23.39 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we also have Walter’s right leg lateral bound, measured in inches using a measuring tape. However, it is demonstrated as a column of percentage increase to better visualize Walter’s achievements during his training here at ASP. The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents the percentage increase. This graph allows us to see the tremendous improvement in his right leg lateral bound from his first assessment to his second assessment. Located at the bottom of the graph are the dates from his first assessment to his second assessment, demonstrating the timeline between prescribed strength training.

 

 

Strength:

 

Hex Bar Deadlift (lbs) Graph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we have Walter’s hex bar deadlift, measured in pounds. The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents pounds measured. This graph allows us to see the linear progression Walter has achieved from his first assessment to his second assessment here at ASP. Located at the bottom of the graph are the dates from his first assessment to his second assessment, demonstrating the timeline between prescribed strength training.

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 4.26.55 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we also have Walter’s hex bar deadlift measured in pounds. However, it is demonstrated as a column of percentage increase to better visualize Walter’s achievements during his training here at ASP. The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents the percentage increase. This graph allows us to see the tremendous improvement in his hex bar deadlift from his first assessment to his second assessment. Located at the bottom of the graph are the dates from his first assessment to his second assessment, demonstrating the timeline between prescribed strength training.

 

 

Neutral Grip Bench Press (lbs) Graph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we have Walter’s neutral grip bench press, measured in pounds. The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents pounds measured. This graph allows us to see the linear progression Walter has achieved from his first assessment to his second assessment here at ASP. Located at the bottom of the graph are the dates from his first assessment to his second assessment, demonstrating the timeline between prescribed strength training.

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 4.29.09 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we also have Walter’s neutral grip bench press measured in pounds. However, it is demonstrated as a column of percentage increase to better visualize Walter’s achievements during his training here at ASP. The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents the percentage increase. This graph allows us to see the tremendous improvement in his neutral grip bench press from his first assessment to his second assessment. Located at the bottom of the graph are the dates from his first assessment to his second assessment, demonstrating the timeline between prescribed strength training.

 

 

Safety Bar Squat (lbs) Graph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we have Walter’s safety bar squat, measured in pounds. The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents pounds measured. This graph allows us to see the linear progression Walter has achieved from his first assessment to his second assessment here at ASP. Located at the bottom of the graph are the dates from his first assessment to his second assessment, demonstrating the timeline between prescribed strength training.

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 4.32.08 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we also have Walter’s safety bar squat measured in pounds. However, it is demonstrated as a column of percentage increase to better visualize Walter’s achievements during his training here at ASP. The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents the percentage increase. This graph allows us to see the tremendous improvement in his safety bar squat from his first assessment to his second assessment. Located at the bottom of the graph are the dates from his first assessment to his second assessment, demonstrating the timeline between prescribed strength training.

 

 

Pull-Up (lbs) Graph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we have Walter’s pull-up, measured in pounds. The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents pounds measured. This graph allows us to see the linear progression Walter has achieved from his first assessment to his second assessment here at ASP. Located at the bottom of the graph are the dates from his first assessment to his second assessment, demonstrating the timeline between prescribed strength training.

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 4.33.47 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we also have Walter’s pull-up measured in pounds. However, it is demonstrated as a column of percentage increase to better visualize Walter’s achievements during his training here at ASP. The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents the percentage increase. This graph allows us to see the tremendous improvement in his pull-up from his first assessment to his second assessment. Located at the bottom of the graph are the dates from his first assessment to his second assessment, demonstrating the timeline between prescribed strength training.

 

 

Conventional Deadlift (lbs) Graph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we have Walter’s conventional deadlift, measured in pounds. The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents pounds measured. This graph allows us to see the linear progression Walter has achieved from his first assessment to his second assessment here at ASP. Located at the bottom of the graph are the dates from his first assessment to his second assessment, demonstrating the timeline between prescribed strength training.

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 4.35.33 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we also have Walter’s conventional deadlift measured in pounds. However, it is demonstrated as a column of percentage increase to better visualize Walter’s achievements during his training here at ASP. The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents the percentage increase. This graph allows us to see the tremendous improvement in his conventional deadlift from his first assessment to his second assessment. Located at the bottom of the graph are the dates from his first assessment to his second assessment, demonstrating the timeline between prescribed strength training.

 

 

Woodway:

 

Woodway (Speed Protocol) - Speed Per Round Graph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we have Walter’s Woodway speed protocol, measured in miles per hour. The X-axis represents each round Walter successfully completed, and the Y-axis represents the miles per hour measured. This graph allows us to see the linear progression Walter has achieved from his first assessment to his second assessment here at ASP. Located at the bottom of the graph are the dates from his first assessment to his second assessment, demonstrating the timeline between prescribed strength training.

 

 

Woodway (Speed Protocol) - Average Speed Graph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we have Walter’s Woodway speed protocol, measured in miles per hour. The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents the miles per hour measured. This graph allows us to see the linear progression Walter has achieved from his first assessment to his second assessment here at ASP. Located at the bottom of the graph are the dates from his first assessment to his second assessment, demonstrating the timeline between prescribed strength training.

 

 

 Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 4.39.04 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we have Walter’s Woodway speed protocol, measured in miles per hour. However, it is demonstrated as a column of percentage increase to better visualize Walter’s achievements during his training here at ASP. The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents the percentage increase. This graph allows us to see the tremendous improvement in his Woodway speed protocol from his first assessment to his second assessment. Located at the bottom of the graph are the dates from his first assessment to his second assessment, demonstrating the timeline between prescribed strength training.

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 4.40.03 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we have Walter’s Woodway speed protocol during his first assessment, measured in minutes. The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents the minutes measured. This graphs allows us to see how long Walter performed total work, and how long he performed total work with the added rest periods at the end of each round, which can be translated to cardiac output. Located at the bottom of the graph is the date from his first assessment here at ASP.

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 4.41.00 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we have Walter’s Woodway speed protocol during his re-assessment,  The X-axis represents the time frame of each assessment, and the Y-axis represents the minutes measured. This graphs allows us to see how long Walter performed total work, and how long he performed total work with the added rest periods at the end of each round. When comparing this to the graph above, we can see that Walter performed total work for a longer duration, which correlates to having a greater cardiac output. Located at the bottom of the graph is the date from his second assessment here at ASP.

 

 

Woodway (Speed Protocol) - Total Work vs. Rest Ratio Graph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we have Walter’s Woodway speed protocol during his first assessment, graphed as a pie chart. This pie chart demonstrates Walter’s work to rest ratio during his first assessment here at ASP. The blue pie represents the total amount of work completed in minutes, and the red pie represents the total amount of rest accumulated at the end of each round in minutes. Located at the bottom of the graph is the date from his first assessment here at ASP.

 

 

Woodway (Speed Protocol) - Total Work vs. Rest Ratio #2 Graph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we have Walter’s Woodway speed protocol during his re-assessment, graphed as a pie chart. This pie chart demonstrates Walter’s work to rest ratio during his first assessment here at ASP. The blue pie represents the total amount of work completed in minutes, and the red pie represents the total amount of rest accumulated at the end of each round in minutes. Located at the bottom of the graph is the date from his second assessment here at ASP.

 

 

 

 

Conclusion:

 

When Walter first came into Accelerate Sports Performance, he came in looking to relieve a serious ailment. He could not stand for long periods of time during work-related functions, nor could he put any load through his spine. Fortunate for our unimpeded implementation, Walter was an intelligent athlete that understood that increasing body mass and size was not going to align with our goals, as this would only exacerbate the already serious problem. Now over one year later, Walter is exceeding his performance goals at a functional size. He no longer experiences pain-like symptoms from his bulging lumbar disc, nor does it hold him back during any lifestyle activities. His success was largely due to focused work on centralizing his L4-L5 disk by prescribing core strengthening, stability, postural, and respiratory exercises and integrating strength him proximally to distally.

 

 

So the question remains: can one demonstrate increases in power and strength, but not see it physically? Based on the evidence gathered from Walter’s re-assessment here at ASP, we can confidently answer “yes” to that question. The graphs and data shown above demonstrates the answer to that question in tremendous form; that just because one may not see massive gains in size during strength training, doesn’t mean that they are not increasing their strength and power during the process.

 

 

 

 

References:

 

Hoppeler, H., & Fluck, M. A. R. T. I. N. (2003). Plasticity of skeletal muscle mitochondria: structure and function. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 35(1), 95-104.

 

Roaf, R. (1960). A study of the mechanics of spinal injuries. Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, British Volume, 42(4), 810-823.

 

Tesch, P. (1988). Skeletal muscle adaptations consequent to long-term heavy resistance exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 20(5 Suppl), S132.

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