Top 10 Gifts Ideas for Athletes & Fitness Fanatics (+ 1 Extra!)

There is SO much to love about the Holidays: delicious food, the much-needed break from work or school, and time with family and friend. With the Holidays may come the pressure to get the perfect gifts for your friends and loved ones.

While we may not be able to force you to hit the gym over the winter break or keep your hands off the cookies, we can ease the stress of finding a gift for your fitness-fanatic girlfriend, beer-loving brother, CrossFit-obsessed buddy, and new-to-it-all parent!

Check out our Holiday Gift Guide to help make your loved one’s workouts awesome this year!

1. Foam Roller 

Foam rollers are great for EVERYONE on your fitness gift wish list. Self-myofascial release (the technical name for ‘rolling’). Is a safe, inexpensive and VERY effective technique that involves applying sustained pressure into the body’s connective tissue to help improve flexibility, recovery, and athletic performance.

Foam rollers, roller strips, rumble rollers, roller balls, peanuts are all inexpensive and make GREAT stocking stuffer!

2. Bands

Strength bands, minibands, bands with handles, ALL THE BANDS!!Bands are inexpensive a great addition to any athlete’s gym bag.

Bands are a great way to take your dynamic warm-ups to the next level. Bands allow you to warm-up sport specific muscles groups and movements like pitching arms before you throw, glutes before you hit the ice, hip flexors before you hit the track. They are light-weight, inexpensive, portable and great in a Christmas morning stocking!

3. Better Nutrition

Athletes are no different from anyone else—eating properly is tough. It’s a never-ending battle to keep ourselves fueled up and eating well, while also doing our best to fight off temptation.

Better nutrition impacts athletes in a number of ways—improved energy levels, a stronger immune system, faster recovery, and of course, better performance.

While nutrition fads come and go, the basics of good, solid nutrition remain. Investing in nutrition counselling, meal prep supplies, recipe books, and even cooking classes is a great way to help your athlete performance their best!

4. Supplements

Supplements are essential to any athlete or individual looking to get the most out of their workouts and bodies. Protein, weight gainer protein (for those who need it), BCAA’s,

electrolytes, creatine and omega-3 fish oils are the supplements that will give you the best results, have the  scientific backing and will aid in performance and recovery.

Come into SST Mississauga to check out our AWESOME Holiday Supplement bundles and deals! (Sorry, shameless plug!)

5. Shaker Bottle

Shaker bottles do not just have to be for the gym , I use mine every day, everywhere I go! They are great for supplements and your daily water intake at work, gym, or on the go!

Some great feature to look for are separate compartments to store supplements, blender lids, and clips that make it easy to attach to your gym or work bag.

6. Lifting Straps

Lifting straps are a great addition to any athlete’s gym bag. As an athlete gets stronger they may begin to find that the strength of their legs or arms starts to surpass the strength or endurance of their grip. Straps are used to support grip and allows an athlete to hold more weight than their grip can handle or can assist when grip has been exhausted in previous working sets.

Personally, I prefer a Lasso style strap made of a strong cotton or nylon. Leather, figure 8, single loops, and hook straps are also options available.

7. Bluetooth Headphones

If you have EVER done a workout in silence you know how awful and unmotivating it can be. Music is a way to shut the world out and get you focused on what needs to get done…LIFT!

Bluetooth headphone are a great innovation for any gym goer as it keeps the pesky cord out of your way while you are trying to lift, run, stretch and even bust the odd move!

8. Music Streaming Subscription

A great addition to those awesome headphone your already have wrapped and under the tree is a music streaming subscription. Apple Music, Spotify, Google Play are all great options to bring some excitement and motivation to your loved ones workout AND everyday life!

9. Fitness/Workout Journal 

A workout journal is a great way to help your loved one set goals, keep them accountable, track their progression, and help them reach their goals. A workout journal does not need to be complicated, a lined notebook can work great.

 

But if you’re looking to get them something a little more detailed there are great athlete and fitness specific journals on the market. They help track sleep quality, nutrition, workouts and more.

10. Gym Bag

Now that you have outfitted the athlete on your list with the great gear above they are going to need something to store and carry it to the gym in! A gym bag is essential to hold an athletes workout gear, recovery tools, supplements and water, pre/post-workout food, extra socks, headphone, training journal, etc.

Some features to look for are easy to use zippers, external pockets to for easy access and storage options, over the shoulder strap, light weight and durable material, and size big enough to hold everything they need!

Plus one Extra AWESOME gift for those on your list

An SST Gift Card

Shameless plug alert!! If your loved one looking for an advantage to their athletic performance or is new to the whole workout thing, an SST gift certificate is a great way to get them started or push them to their potential.

We have programs for every age and every fitness level. Gift certificates can be used for SST memberships, supplements, assessments, nutrition consultations, Butts and Guts, FAST Camp, and even personal training sessions.

Get yours before December 25th and get a FREE one-on-one personal session with one of our incredible SST Coaches; that’s a $120 value!

Check out our Facebook & Instagram pages for the latest SST news and more great Holiday & New Year deals!

Courtney Plewes BSc. Kin, CSCS

Director of Sport Performance /

Lead Strength & Conditioning Coach 

Sports Specific Training Mississauga 

1081 Brevik Place

Mississauga, ON L4W 3R7

P: (905) 624-6240

 

Quarterback Vs. Pitcher Vs. Bench Press

We had a great question come in regarding our Blog last week; why we exclude bench press in our Baseball players’ strength programs (if you missed it, check out that Blog here)

The question was: Was having a similar conversation today about QBs and bench press. What do you think?

Here is my response:

While quarterbacks have similar stresses on their shoulders as pitchers, those stresses are a lot less than that of a pitcher. The record velocity for a quarterback throw is ~60mph whereas the highest recorded MLB pitch is ~105mph; they are in completely different ballparks (pardon the pun!). Because of this, throwing injuries are also a lot less common in quarterbacks. If we look at a study by Dodson, C.C; ET. Al  there are only 10 reported cases of UCL tears in NFL quarterbacks between 1994-2008 vs. 36 UCL tears in MLB pitchers in the 2015 & 2016 seasons alone! The majority of injuries NFL quarterbacks sustain occur through direct contact, ~82.3% (according to a study by Kelly, B.T.; ET. Al.) while overuse injuries account for less than 15% of injuries.

Another thing we have to consider is that most quarterbacks take long breaks from throwing in the off-season while pitchers (especially younger ones) have a tendency to jump the gun on their throwing programs and (in my opinion) on average do not let their shoulders recover long enough in the off-season.

What this tells me is that the durability of a quarterback’s shoulder is much higher than that of a pitcher’s and can more than likely sustain higher stresses off the field in the gym. While it may be a good idea to avoid bench press for similar reasons as our baseball players do (exacerbates negative adaptations from throwing, too far away from throwing motion on force-velocity curve, and failure on a heavy rep puts the shoulder in a vulnerable position), having bench press in a quarterback’s program is probably less likely to causes negative performance outcomes on the field. Which is, arguably, the most important thing to look for when choosing exercises for your athletes.

Keep an eye out for Part 2 of our Bench Press vs. Baseball Blog where we will show you pressing exercises much more suited to overhead throwing athletes, quarterbacks included!

If you have any questions or comments about this or any of our other blogs let us know in our comments section or send our author an email directly (cplewes@sstcanada.com)!

 

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3 Reasons Why Bench Press and Baseball Don’t Mix

Bench Press and Baseball are like Oil and Water; they do not mix.

Working with mainly male, High School and College age, Baseball players, I get a lot of grief about not including Bench Press in programs. Especially, when they see the Football and Hockey players doing it.

When I ask them why they want to bench press so badly I get answers such as; “it’s fun”, “I like lifting heavy” and my personal favourite, “it looks cool”.

It is widely accepted in the baseball world that the reward of getting strong on Bench Press is outweighed by the risk the exercise poses to the shoulders and elbows. My exclusion of Bench Press is not because I want to keep you from ‘looking cool’ at the gym. There are specific and scientifically proven and accepted reasons as to why overhead athletes should avoid this exercise.

Hopefully, this blog will also reach some of the NCAA college programs down south. It BOGGLES my mind when Baseball players in Division 1 Baseball programs come back with Bench Press in their strength programs! No, I am not kidding. It happens…all the time…

Here are 3 reasons Baseball athletes should avoid Bench Press:

  1. It Exacerbates Negative Adaptations Acquired from Throwing

When you throw thousands of baseballs every year there are a few things that typically happen to the body:

  • Increased glenohumeral (shoulder) external rotation
  • Decreased glenohumeral (shoulder) internal rotation
  • Decreased elbow extension
  • Decreased scapular (shoulder blade) upward rotation
  • Decline in the quality of the tissues surrounding the shoulder girdle
  • Abnormal spinal curvature (usually in the thoracic and lumbar areas)
  • Decreased hip mobility

In laymen’s terms:

  • Your shoulder gets loose in the front
  • Tight in the back
  • Elbow doesn’t straighten all the way
  • Your shoulder blade doesn’t move well
  • The tissue around your shoulder is gritty
  • Your spine it hyperextended
  • And your hips don’t move

Not a pretty picture. And how does Bench Press help this situation…

IT DOESN’T!

Bench Press actually causes stresses to the body that are extremely similar to those found during a throwing motion:

  • Spinal extension
  • Scap retraction and depression
  • Humeral (upper arm) movement without scaps
  • Heavy loads placed on the shoulder girdle

In any sport we use the off-season to re-establish proper movement patterns and mobility, give our arm/shoulder time to rest and correct instabilities and dysfunctions. So why would we want to perform an exercise that does not allow this to occur and can actually exacerbate these dysfunctions?!

Much of exercise selection for athletes comes down to a risk vs. reward. Is the reward (strength gains) worth the risk the exercise places on my athletes? When it comes to Baseball players and Bench Press the risk FAR outweighs the benefits.

  1. There is Little Direct Transfer to Playing Baseball

Another factor in exercise selection is specificity to the sport. Does this exercise mimic anything the athlete is doing while they are playing? To decide this we need to look two things:

  1. The plane of movement of the exercise
  2. Where the movement falls on the force-velocity curve.

Research shows us that power development is highly plane-specific. Meaning that many traditional sagittal plane power movements (vertical movements such as; jumps, sprints, cleans, snatches) have little transfer into throwing. Frontal and transverse plane movements (lateral and rotational) have much more correlation (skaters, medball throws and banded rotations). So, while Bench Press may be a great exercises for an athlete in shot put or kayaking it has little use for a Baseball athlete.

Thanks to our hunting ancestors, humans have mastered the throwing motion. And it has been widely recognized that pitching is the fastest articulated motion a human can produce! This puts throwing a ball at the velocity end of the force-velocity curve. It is a very light load moved incredibly fast. Whereas the Bench Press movement is at the other end; a heavy load moved slowly. The movement is too removed from any movement that occurs in Baseball and therefore, will have little impact on performance.

 

  1. The “Meat Head” Factor

Let’s go back to the reason’s my Baseball athletes give for wanting to Bench Press:

  • It’s fun
  • I like to lift heavy
  • It looks cool

People (especially young, hormone driven males) have a tendency to overestimate their strength capabilities while Bench Pressing. I have done it myself and I have seen countless others do it as well.

 

If my number one goal as a Strength Coach is to keep my athletes healthy and second goal is to improve their performance then I need to choose exercises that are going to keep their inner meat head at bay!

Bench Press done with heavy loads and poor technique can put their most prized possession, their shoulder, in a very vulnerable position. Yes, people will argue that any exercise done with high load carries risk. However, a failed rep in a Push-up has less risk than Bench Press. Risk vs. reward!

“So, watch your athletes and make sure they use proper technique”.

Okay, valid point. However, have you ever tried to coach multiple athletes at one time? Even on my best day it is impossible to see EVERYTHING on the gym floor. And any coach that tells you different is lying.

As a coach I have to pick exercises that are self-limiting, safe and effective, whether I am watching them every second or not. This can mean different things for different sports, positions and individuals. Hence, why I may program Bench Press for a Football athlete versus a Baseball athlete. Have I mentioned risk vs. reward yet?!

The exclusion of the bench press in our baseball programs goes beyond “it’s dangerous for your shoulders.” Even if coached and performed perfectly, our athletes won’t get as much transfer from it as they would from other pressing exercises.

Check back for Part 2 of this Blog where I discuss pressing exercises that are much better suited to baseball players and other overhead athletes!

If you have any questions about this blog series or any of our other series contact Courtney (cplewes@sstcanada.com) at SST Mississauga [contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]