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Texans Fitness Corner

Welcome to Dan Riley's eighth installment of Texans Fitness Corner. The response continues to be overwhelming. Dan responded to two of the questions this time around and we will continue to post selected answers to your questions throughout the year. Join in by shooting over an e-mail to

NOTE:Before engaging in any new physical activity, always consult your physician.

I wish to offer both my congratulations on your new position, and thank you for your time. I understand your focus is not on power lifting. I would however value any advice your years of experience could provide. Thank you again for your time coach, and the best of luck next season.

1. Do you find much value in single-joint movements, and if so, what are the main benefits?

2. Besides high quality protein, are there any other supplements you recommend to your drug-free athletes?

-- Tyler

Single joint movements are designed to isolate or target a muscle or area of the body. Single joint movements minimize or eliminate the use of other muscles. If you want a muscle group to reach it's full potential it must be isolated.

There are benefits to both single joint (isolation) movements and multi-joint movements. Our players will perform both. An isolation movement targets a specific area or muscle group. It forces that muscle group to perform all or most of the work and receive maximum benefits.

Isolation movements are most effectively performed with equipment designed to provide direct resistance. The resistance is applied directly to the area of the body where the muscle inserts.

A multi-joint movement for the upper back muscles would include some type of pulling movement. Traditional lat exercises are lat pull downs, chin-ups, and seated or bent-over rows. The prime movers are the muscles of the upper back, the biceps, and the forearm flexors.

The muscles of the upper back are very big and powerful. The biceps and forearm muscles are smaller and weaker than the upper back muscles. Eventually the gripping muscles of the forearms and the biceps will fatigue before the bigger upper back muscles.

An example of an isolation movement is a pullover machine. The shoulder joint is the only joint involved. The lats insert (are connected) on the back of the upper arm. A pullover machine applies the resistance to the back of the upper arm, as it must, in order to isolate the upper back (direct resistance). The biceps and forearm muscles are eliminated, forcing the powerful upper back muscles to perform all of the work.

Another example is the rotator cuff muscles. These four small but powerful muscles are indirectly involved in most upper body exercises. However, unless they are isolated they will not reach their full strength potential. Our players will perform specific exercises to strengthen the external rotators.

The number one priority in our strength program is to develop the muscles of the neck (for obvious reasons). Isolation exercise must be performed to accomplish this. During my early years as a strength coach I resisted using any machine. At West Point I placed a folded towel on the floor and had the athletes assume a neck bridge with the top of their head resting on the towel. I handed them a barbell and had them bench press it for 12 reps.

It forced the muscles of the neck to stabilize the weight of the body and the bar. It was a very ineffective, difficult and uncomfortable exercise to perform. It probably wasn't very good for the cervicals (the small bones in the neck designed to protect the spinal cord).

The Academy purchased some neck machines and I quickly learned the isolation neck exercises were safer, more comfortable to perform, and far more productive than the neck bridge.

Isolation movements are most effective when performed with equipment that provides direct and rotary resistance. If budget prohibits the purchase of isolation equipment you can use dumbbells. We periodically use dumbbells for variety.

The angle of resistance of a dumbbell is always perpendicular to the floor. When performing isolation movements the muscle contracts about an axis of rotation in a rotary manner. We modify how we perform some of these exercises to help minimize the structural limitation of the dumbbell.

We have another purpose for isolation exercises in our program. We will have one routine for our players that are composed entirely of single joint exercises. We call this routine our "No Hands Routine." During the season our players frequently break or jam a finger, wrist, or elbow. This prevents them from gripping, and they are unable to perform pushing or pulling movements. Isolation exercises allow them to continue some strength work. This will help to minimize strength losses.

View your muscles as a chain. Strengthen each link to its maximum and the chain will be as strong as it can be. There is value in performing both isolation and multi-joint exercises.

As far as your second question, I don't recommend any supplements to our athletes except a multi-vitamin. I've taken graduate courses in nutrition, have bought and read many nutrition books, receive several newsletters to include The National Council Against Health Fraud, The Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, The University of California Berkeley Wellness Letter, The Penn State Sports Medicine Newsletter, and I also belong to Consumer Labs, website at www.consumer

I am constantly searching for more nutrition information, however, I am not qualified to prescribe anything but normal foods recommended by qualified nutrition experts. The volume of nutrition information and nutrition misinformation is overwhelming. Therefore I rely upon nutrition experts from the academic community.

The nutrition academic community states that most people don't need a supplement. They state we'd be better off eating more fruits and vegetables instead of spending money on pills and potions. There are some people who need supplements. Those people would be better served to consult a Registered Dietitian.

Protein is primarily used to rebuild and repair muscle. It is broken down into amino acids for the muscles and other tissues to use. Good sources of protein include dairy products, lean meats, fish, and chicken.

Covert Bailey, an exercise physiologist and fitness expert, states, "a growing body of evidence indicates that consuming too much protein is not only foolish; it can be harmful."

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in Washington, D.C., published a report titled, "Protein for Athletes." In this report the FTC states that athletes don't need any more protein than the suggested RDA. People selling supplements tell athletes otherwise.

The FTC report says, "Many protein supplement manufacturers use such misconceptions to promote their powders, tablets, or liquids to athletes – a group that is particularly susceptible to health and bodybuilding claims. Athletes have bought the claims and the supplements. Now the FTC staff says the supplements are generally unnecessary and, in some instances, caused decreased muscle efficiency and performance."

Instead of spending money on supplements, I encourage our players to use that money to purchase lean meats, fish, and chicken. The FTC states, "Protein supplements are more costly per ounce than protein in food form." The report adds, "Supplements are, in general, of a lower quality protein."

An article appeared in the Physician and Sports Medicine magazine titled, Amino Acid Supplements: Beneficial or Risky? In the article the authors state, "Athletes who consume adequate calories generally obtain sufficient protein and amino acids. Clearly amino acid supplementation for athletes is a confusing topic – rife with anecdotal evidence. For most athletes, amino acid supplements are just expensive-and unneeded-protein supplements."

My advice to our players is to consult with a Registered Dietitian (R.D.). They are the best-educated professionals in the nutrition industry. They have completed a rigorous curriculum at a reputable institution. They have performed a practicum in a clinical setting and passed a standardized test. They also belong to the American Dietetic Association.

If you need a supplement let a professional prescribe how much and which supplement. Randomly consuming vitamins and minerals if you don't need them can create different problems for the body. Saturating the body with one vitamin or mineral can interfere with the body's ability to absorb others.

Well-respected nutrition expert Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D., states, "People who take mega-doses of vitamins and minerals should consider that the practice is similar to pumping your body full of chemicals. It may create imbalances that interfere with optimal health." Clark also states, "A diet with 1500 calories a day from appropriate foods can satisfy the RDA in most categories. Athletes who take in 2,000 to 4,000 calories daily increase their chances greatly of getting the proper nutrient amounts. They are also getting things in food, like fiber and other health protective compounds, that supplements don't provide."

You can be assured that the information you receive from the academic community is unbiased and supported with scientifically sound and reliable information.

Unfortunately there is a large amount of nutrition misinformation. The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements. You can't be assured that the items listed on the label are the actual contents contained in the bottle. Refer to some of the periodicals I mentioned above and you'll begin to get a clearer picture.

My advice to our players is to develop sound eating habits. It's not that difficult to eat a reasonably balanced diet. Our players possess a great deal of discipline in other areas of their preparation. I encourage them to do the same in the area of nutrition.

It's not like we are back in the cave man (and woman) days where we had to hunt for our next meal. We've got grocery stores, restaurants, refrigerators, and cupboards filled with food.

Last year a player in the league was suspended for testing positive for steroids. The player appealed the suspension and said his testosterone level was elevated due to a supplement he was taking. He won the appeal. The league followed with a memo to all teams. The memo warned that any coach or trainer, who knowingly or unknowingly distributes a supplement that contains a prohibited substance, would be fined and possibly suspended.

Beware of testimony. Testimony is an opinion regarding the effect a product has on the individual. It is not based on facts, research, or scientific study. Research often demonstrates that the placebo effect is the cause of these opinions, not an actual change in the physical makeup or performance of the athlete.

The strength of the placebo effect has been demonstrated many times. In one particular study a group of people were given a sedative but were told it was a stimulant. When their bodily functions were measured they responded as if they had taken a stimulant.

We had a player with the Redskins that endorsed a product. The ad had an action shot and a quote, which stated how it helped him perform better. Keep in mind this player didn't have the best eating or exercise habits. When asked about the ad our player stated he didn't know what it was or what it did, and that he never took the product. The quote wasn't even his. His agent arranged everything for a substantial fee.

There are athletes who believe in and use products they endorse. However, not many are aware of sound nutrition information and few can be considered reliable sources.

Dr. Fred Stare, M.D., and Virginia Aronson, R.D., are authors of the book, Dear Dr. Stare: What Should I Eat? They state, "Ingestion of vitamins and/or minerals in excess of the RDA will be of no benefit to ordinary individuals regardless of activity. Active men and women do not need a specially formulated vitamin and/or mineral product, or for that matter, any kind of nutritional supplement."

In closing Tyler, my advice is to refer to the academic community for reliable nutrition information. Visit a professional to determine if you have any nutritional deficiencies. Few people have deficiencies and most can be corrected with normal foods, not pills and powders.

In no other field do we ignore the facts from our scientific community like we do in the area of nutrition. It would be easy to openly promote widespread use of supplements. However, that would contradict the scientific facts that currently exist.

Before taking a supplement I ask our players to consider the following:

Do You ……

·Eat breakfast seven days a week?

·Consume at least ¼ of your daily caloric requirements at breakfast?

·Eat a minimum of three meals a day at approximately the same time?

·Consume adequate snacks to supplement the number of calories needed to generate muscular gain?

·Eat at least three to five pieces of fruit a day?

·Eat at least one vegetable a day?

·Consume 60% of your calories from carbohydrates, 25% from fat, and 15% from protein?

·Eat from all food groups?

·Consume 20 to 30 grams of fiber a day?

·Consume your necessary daily caloric intake before the day is over on game day?

·Consume 300 calories of complex carbohydrates immediately after a game to begin the reparation process?

· Drink at least eight (8 ounce) glasses of water/day, in addition to the water lost through perspiration?

· Get plenty of rest and go to bed at approximately the same time each night?

· Wake up at approximately the same time each day?

· Avoid the habit of sleeping in?

· Take a multi-vitamin pill daily?

There are worse things a player could put into his body than protein or some supplements. It's my responsibility to give them the soundest information available. What they do with that information is ultimately up to them. Thanks for your interest. Go Texans!


Aronson, Virginia, R.D., M.S., Stare, Fredrick, M.D., Ph.D., Dear Dr. Stare: What Should I Eat? A Guide to Sensible, Nutrition, Philadelphia, George F. Stickley Company, 1982.

Bailey, Covert, The New Fit or Fat, Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991.

Bureau of Consumer Protection, Consumer Education, Protein for Athletes, Release from the Federal Trade Commission, #11-215-49, August 20, 1979.

Clark, Nancy, M.S., R.D., Supplements: How Much Is Too Much? Penn State Sports Medicine Newsletter, Vol. 3, No.6, February, 1995, pg. 3.

Goldman, Bob, Death in the Locker Room, South Bend, Indiana, Icarus Press, 1984, p. 32.

Riley, Dan, Arapoff, Jason, Washington Redskins Strength & Conditioning Guide, Spring 2000.

I am considering getting my CSCS certification from the NSCA. I want to know what the advantages of holding this certification would be to my professional career? Any information would be greatly appreciated.

-- Joe

The NSCA (National Strength Coaches Association) is one of the professional organizations that provides a certification for strength coaches. A newly formed organization is the CSCCA (Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches Association).

There are very few jobs available in the Strength Coach position. More important than the certification is the information you might learn and the contacts you might make.

Some jobs may require some form of certification. I'd suggest getting any certification you believe might enhance your marketability. Best of luck. Go Texans!

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