Five Powerful Ways to Improve Performance

It seems everyone is looking for ways to improve performance. You can be a high school, college or professional athlete, it doesn’t matter, we’re all looking to get better. The same holds true when it comes to our diet and working out. There are many ways to optimize performance such as fueling your body with high octane fuel. If nutrition is not your goal, it may come in the form of recovery aids like an ice bath after a workout, mobility work before a workout or simply getting more uninterrupted sleep. The following five methods may lend some insight into this topic.

Improve Performance with Caffeine

A simple yet effective way to elevate performance is having caffeine prior to exercise. A good recommendation is between 3 to 13 mg of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight. For a deeper look at the benefits of caffeine on exercise performance, check out the International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand on caffeine and performance.

Enhanced Mobility is Key

Mobility refers to a joint moving through its full range of motion, unrestricted and without pain. When you’re unable to do this, its dysfunctional movement. The end result is inefficient range of motion which prevents optimal performance. Moreover, the body does not work to its full potential because of this restricted movement. Simply put, improving mobility will make you stronger, run faster and jump higher.

Try Nasal Breathing Over Mouth Breathing

Something top athletes have known when trying to improve their performance, that it’s better to breath through the nose versus the mouth. This may sound trivial but trust me it’s not. There are many scientific research papers and books published on the topic. The book, Breath by James Nestor, talks at length about the importance of nasal breathing. Check it out to learn about the history and additional information on the benefits of nasal breathing.

Nasal breathing, as opposed to mouth breathing, offers a wide range of advantages, especially when it comes to more efficient exercise. It basically allows more oxygen to get to your active tissues when you exercise. Exercise stimulates nitric oxide production just like nasal breathing does. Nitric oxide is also involved in bodily processes like widening blood vessels, known as vasodilation. This, in turn, increases delivery of oxygen to working muscles during exercise. The by-product of all this is enhanced exercise performance.

Avoid Stretching Prior to Exercise. Do a Dynamic Warm-up Instead

Stretching prior to exercise is not beneficial unless you’re looking to decrease power output. Rather, perform a brief (5-10 minute) dynamic warm-up before any running or strength training session. Dynamic warm-up exercises are usually bodyweight exercises like lunges, squats, push-ups, hops, inchworm, shoulder rolls or leg swings, to name a few examples. The research all points to using dynamic warm-up over static-type stretching before athletic competition or exercise in general.

Recovery (More Sleep) Improves Performance

When adequate recovery between workouts, does not occur, the body will invariably have trouble adapting to the demands of training. Shifting mindset, making sleep a top priority, will go well beyond just lifting more weight in the next workout. A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed individuals getting less than 5.5 hours of sleep a night, lost 60 percent more lean muscle that those who got adequate sleep. Additional research from the University of Chicago showed subjects who monitored their caloric intake and averaged 5.5 hours of sleep had more body fat compared to subjects who were consistently getting 8.5 hours of sleep.

We know losing lean muscle and gaining body fat is never a good mix, especially if you’re looking to improve the way you do things. The book, Biological Rhythms and Exercise, looks at the relationship between performance and sleep. The author, Thomas Reilly, states, “weight-training exercises may be unaffected by partial sleep loss early on in a training session, but the performance suffers due to lack of drive and concentration as the (exercise) session continues.”

There are many healthy ways that someone can improve performance. Hopefully, one of the ways mentioned will do just that.

Simple Body Hacks to Improve Performance

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The majority of people who exercise or engage in individual or team sports often looks for ways to improve performance. With that, brings us to how we can better “hack” our body to improve performance, some also call this DIY science….biohacking. Dave Asprey, a biohacker who created the company Bulletproof, defines biohacking as “the art and science of changing the environment around you and inside you so that you have full control over your own biology.” 

Why Try to Hack Your Body Anyway?

There are many people out there who try to hack their body to improve performance, on some level. They do this basically because they have a strong desire to feel better and to see just how far they can push the human body. A lot of people are hacking their body essentially to try and live as long as possible. Dave Asprey as an example, has been quoted as saying he wants to live to 180 years old.

Another well-known body or bio hacker is Tim Ferris, author of the best-selling book, The 4-Hour Body. Ferris has a well known reputation for trying to hack just about everything related to his body. Why does he do it? This Wired interview explains why.

Now that you have a better understanding of what trying to hack your body is all about, check this out.

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Mindful breath work effects everything from mediation to sports performance.

Breath Work: An Easy Way to Improve Performance

We all know how to breath intuitively and how importance breathing is since it gives us life. Go beyond this for a moment and listen to this great Wild Ideas podcast from REI. The podcast, comes out every other Monday, and just featured author, James Nestor, author a new book, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art. The book comes out in May. The podcast talked about his years of doing research and talking to medical experts on the science of breathing. He offers up some great easy-to-follow tips that you can use right now. I actually tried his 6-second breath technique on my morning walk today. You can try this when seated (or like me, walking). Take in a long, slow breath through your nose only, for 5-6 seconds. Then exhale slowly for the same amount of time and try this for about 6 repetitions. The goal of this type of breathing, is to help more nitric oxide enter your body and tissues. It’s been reported that when you breathe through your nose, nasal resistance increases by 200% and this helps the release of oxygen. If you were wondering, mouth breathing does not let your body take advantage of the sinuses production of nitric oxide.

Nasal Versus Mouth Breathing

Try closing your mouth and just breath slowly in/out through your nose for about minute. According to a lot of the science out there, “breathing through your nose is one of the most beneficial things you can do for the overall health of your body and for your longevity.” This is what Nestor talks about in his book and in the podcast. You may already know the value of breath work, if you practice yoga on a regular basis. Think about this for a minute. How great would it be if we could get a legitimate boost in performance by simply breathing slowly through our nose? Listen to the podcast and give it a shot. For additional reading, check this great article out on the science of breathing by Sarah Novotny and Len Kravitz, Ph.D. and this research paper on effects of nasal breathing in runners.

There are many experts and researchers who think breath work should become a component in health & fitness model. Meaning, you work on strength, flexibility, cardio, nutrition, etc. – why not also incorporate breath work as part of your daily routine?

Mobility: Unlock Tight Hips to Improve Performance

We typically spend a great deal of our time in the gym pushing weights or doing cardio. One key area that often gets overlooked is mobility. Mobility can be defined as freedom of movement without pain through a full range of motion. Mobility exercises can be done as a warm-up if you’re always rushed for time. They are great for reducing joint pain, improving a fuller range of motion and can even reduce the chance of injury. We all know tight muscles and connective tissue are an accident waiting to happen.

When you want to squat, lunge, or lift weights better, mobility work is key, especially when it comes to the hips. You may have limited hip mobility because of an old injury, you don’t work on mobility or you may sit or drive all day for work. In any event, tight hips can cause, over time, a chain reaction resulting in dysfunctional movement. Over time your hip joints will become tight if not addressed appropriately, you’ll begin to notice issues when performing exercises like Squats and Deadlifts.

What are Some of the Better Hip Exercises to do?

There are a lot of different directions you could go here. This is an opportunity to use the Jefit app and perform this series of exercises. Complete each exercise below slowly, working through a full range of motion. Perform each exercise as a hip and glute warm-up prior to working out and you’ll eventually see an improvement in hip mobility. Some may not be pure hip mobility drills but doing these will in turn improve glute/hip function. Perform each exercise for 30-seconds then move to the next and repeat the circuit twice.

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