Posts Tagged ‘Strength and Conditioning’


The whole town and his wife seems to be using whey protein.

Whey protein isolate – everybody knows – works; you know it works. It is the best protein for improving body composition (reducing fat while improving lean mass)! Or is it really?!

Whey protein isolate may be the best protein for you in most instances, that may not be the case always! Depending on your fitness goal, whey protein concentrate (and, even casein!) can sometime give whey isolate a run for its money. How is that?!

Well, read on to find out!

However, before we get into the nitty-gritty of which type of whey will best serve your purpose, let us get to know a bit more about why you should supplement with whey, in the first place.

Why should I take whey supplements?

Resistance training causes increase in muscle mass. This is due to increased muscle protein synthesis (MPS) that resistance training induces (Hulmi et al., 2009; Hakkinen et al., 2001; Hulmi et al., 2007). However, intense workouts alone are not enough to keep packing on lean muscle mass; you have to ‘stay anabolic’ most of the time to be able to keep that MPS working for you.

Without complicating matters, here’s a look at how resistance training increases lean muscle mass: a resistance training session causes muscle protein breakdown. This is then followed by repair of the damaged muscle tissue so that the muscles come out stronger the next time you hit the weights. For the muscles to get stronger, however, proteins ingestion (over and above normal needs) is crucial. Needless to say, the process of repair will suffer if you aren’t loading up on proteins.

That resistance training combined with protein supplementation causes muscle hypertrophy is well-documented (Moore et al., 2009; Hulmi et al., 2009; Cribb, Williams, Carey, & Hayes, 2006).  Ingestion of a whey protein supplement either immediately before or after a training session is – considered by some – to be the best for this purpose; also whey increases muscle protein turnover like no other protein. Furthermore, whey protein seems to work equally well in women as well (Josse, Tang, Tarnopolsky, & Phillips, 2010).

Another benefit of supplementing with whey is, improved post-workout recovery  This is likely due to the ‘anti-catabolic’ action of essential amino acids (Bird, Tarpenning, & Marino, 2006; Hoffman et al., 2010; Etheridge, Philp, & Watt, 2008).

What is Whey Protein?

You most likely know that whey is one of the 2 milk proteins – the other being casein. Casein is the more abundant of the two and it is casein that gives milk that white colour. In commercially available cow’s milk, 20% of protein is whey while the rest of it is casein (Hulmi, Lockwood, & Stout, 2010; Ha & Zemel, 2003; Etzel, 2004; Krissansen, 2007).

Whey is produced in large amounts as a by-product in the cheese industry. However, this whey has loads of fat, milk sugar (lactose) and salts in it and is not suitable for improving body composition.

During the process of whey purification, whey concentrate and isolate are produced sequentially. During the initial steps, larger molecules are separated out resulting in formation of whey concentrate. These larger molecules are proteins, lactose, immunoglobulins, amongst other less important ones. To produce whey isolate, cheese whey is passed through an ultrafiltration process (ion exchange or other methods). The ultra membrane filters fat, milk sugar (lactose), salts and other unwanted ingredients leaving behind a pure form of whey (Barile et al., 2009).

Hydrolysates, on the other hand, are formulations where large protein molecules are broken down into smaller fragments. The hypothesis is that this might further increase the rate of absorption of whey. However, this might not be totally true and hydrolysates may not offer much of an advantage over isolates or concentrates.

Types of Whey Protein

Whey is available commercially as either isolate or concentrate. ‘So, what’s the difference between them and which one should I be using’, you might want to ask?

The main difference between the two is the quality and the amount of protein content – isolate is purer and thus will contain almost 100% protein (well, 90-94% to be precise) while whey concentrate will contain protein ranging from 70-85%.

‘Well, that settles it – I am going with whey isolate!’, you might say. Hang on, not so fast! There is more to it than just protein content.

Comparing Whey Isolate and Whey Concentrate

Since whey isolate is higher in protein content, has a better amino acid ratio and thus bioavailability, it is absorbed into your system way quicker than whey concentrate (or any other protein, for that matter). That makes whey isolate the ideal post-exercise anabolic drink (Hulmi et al., 2009). Some researchers have suggested taking whey protein isolate before workouts as well in addition to your routine post-workout shake for maximum benefits (Esmark et al., 2001; Cribb & Hayes, 2006). Quicker absorption will mean almost instantaneous rise in blood amino acids which are then taken up by ‘hungry muscles’.

Having said that, the need for immediate post-workout protein supplementation in now being increasingly questioned (more below).

High protein content and higher quality of protein, however, that does not clinch the deal in favour of whey isolate. Concentrate has something up its sleeve that will make sit up and take notice!

As stated earlier, in comparison to isolate, whey protein concentrate will contain lesser amount of protein (in the range of 70-85%). However, somewhat similar to casein, whey protein concentrate will get absorbed slowly – this helps you stay anabolic for longer! Slower absorption also helps with absorption of other important nutrients from food like calcium. Not a lot of people know this but calcium plays an important role in causing fat loss (in addition to keeping your bones healthy)! Add to that the added benefit of appetite suppression for longer and casein suddenly become an important tool for your fat-loss goals or intermittent-fasting health journey…

Furthermore, whey protein concentrate is loaded with immunoglobulins – this helps boost your immune system and therefore may be beneficial in dealing with the intense stresses of training (especially if you happen to overtrain!).

Whey Isolate


    • pure; contains 90-94% protein!
    • purity means that it is great for gaining / maintaining lean mass while getting ripped (ideal when nearing competition or a photo shoot)
    • contains all essential amino acids in the best possible ratios
    • bioavailability for humans is best amongst all proteins – meaning, of the amount ingested, more is likely to be absorbed. For instance, in a scoop containing 25 g of whey isolate, almost all of the protein in there, will be going into your muscle
    • lightening fast absorption; ideal post-exercise drink – helps you get into the anabolic mode almost immediately


    • pricier than whey protein concentrate – to ensure purity, the commercial production of whey necessitates use of complex filtration procedure, hence the price
    • although whey isolate will help recovery after workouts, it loses out to whey concentrate in some respects. This is so because immune boosting constituents of milk protein like alpha – lactoglobulins and lactoferrins are removed during the purification process

Whey Concentrate


    • lot cheaper than whey isolate
    • has a slower absorption rate than whey protein isolates; thus ensures a steady state of elevated amino acids in the blood and helps you stay anabolic for longer. This also reduces the need for frequent dosing
    • slower absorption helps with absorption of other important minerals like calcium and reducing blood glucose and lipid levels
    • induces appetite suppression which may help longer fasting interval, thereby improving body composition and metabolic disease parameters
    • contains immune boosting complexes (alpha – lactoglobulins and lactoferrins) which help post-exercise muscle recovery
    • helps fight diseases – for instance, chronic hepatitis C (Elattar et al., 2010)


    • some amount of fat will be present so not ideally suited during times when keeping body fat% down is desirable
    • if you have any degree of intolerance to milk and dairy products, you might want to forget using whey concentrate on account of its lactose content – which is missing from the more purer whey isolate


In conclusion, isolate and concentrate are equally good – however, your circumstances – price, training goals and lactose intolerance – should tip the scales in favour of one or the other.

Recent developments

  1. More recently, the presence of a post-workout anabolic window (of opportunity) is being increasing questioned. ‘Not only is nutrient timing research open to question in terms of applicability, but recent evidence has directly challenged the classical view of the relevance of post-exercise nutritional intake with respect to anabolism’ (Aragon and Schoenfeld, 2013). The amount and quality of protein that you consume throughout the day is, now, thought to be more important than immediate post-workout whey ingestion.
  2. BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids – leucine, isoleucine and valine) may be overrated and ‘data do not seem to support a benefit to BCCA supplementation during periods of caloric restriction’ (Dieter BP, Schoenfeld BJ and Aragon AA, 2016).

Reference List

Aragon AA, Schoenfeld BJ (2013). Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2013;10:5 /1550-2783-10-5.

Barile, D., Tao, N., Lebrilla, C. B., Coisson, J. D., Arlorio, M., & German, J. B. (2009). Permeate from cheese whey ultrafiltration is a source of milk oligosaccharides. Int Dairy J, 19, 524-530.

Bird, S. P., Tarpenning, K. M., & Marino, F. E. (2006). Liquid carbohydrate/essential amino acid ingestion during a short-term bout of resistance exercise suppresses myofibrillar protein degradation. Metabolism, 55, 570-577.

Cribb, P. J. & Hayes, A. (2006). Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Med Sci.Sports Exerc., 38, 1918-1925.

Cribb, P. J., Williams, A. D., Carey, M. F., & Hayes, A. (2006). The effect of whey isolate and resistance training on strength, body composition, and plasma glutamine. Int J Sport Nutr.Exerc.Metab, 16, 494-509.

Dieter BP, Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA.(2016). The data do not seem to support a benefit to BCAA supplementation during periods of caloric restriction. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition;13:21. doi:10.1186/s12970-016-0128-9.

Elattar, G., Saleh, Z., El-Shebini, S., Farrag, A., Zoheiry, M., Hassanein, A. et al. (2010). The use of whey protein concentrate in management of chronic hepatitis C virus – a pilot study. Arch.Med Sci., 6, 748-755.

Esmarck, B., Andersen, J. L., Olsen, S., Richter, E. A., Mizuno, M., & Kjaer, M. (2001). Timing of postexercise protein intake is important for muscle hypertrophy with resistance training in elderly humans. J Physiol, 535, 301-311.

Etheridge, T., Philp, A., & Watt, P. W. (2008). A single protein meal increases recovery of muscle function following an acute eccentric exercise bout. Appl.Physiol Nutr.Metab, 33, 483-488.

Etzel, M. R. (2004). Manufacture and use of dairy protein fractions. J Nutr., 134, 996S-1002S.

Ha, E. & Zemel, M. B. (2003). Functional properties of whey, whey components, and essential amino acids: mechanisms underlying health benefits for active people (review). J Nutr.Biochem., 14, 251-258.

Hakkinen, K., Pakarinen, A., Kraemer, W. J., Hakkinen, A., Valkeinen, H., & Alen, M. (2001). Selective muscle hypertrophy, changes in EMG and force, and serum hormones during strength training in older women. J Appl.Physiol, 91, 569-580.

Hoffman, J. R., Ratamess, N. A., Tranchina, C. P., Rashti, S. L., Kang, J., & Faigenbaum, A. D. (2010). Effect of a proprietary protein supplement on recovery indices following resistance exercise in strength/power athletes. Amino.Acids, 38, 771-778.

Hulmi, J. J., Ahtiainen, J. P., Kaasalainen, T., Pollanen, E., Hakkinen, K., Alen, M. et al. (2007). Postexercise myostatin and activin IIb mRNA levels: effects of strength training. Med Sci.Sports Exerc., 39, 289-297.

Hulmi, J. J., Kovanen, V., Selanne, H., Kraemer, W. J., Hakkinen, K., & Mero, A. A. (2009). Acute and long-term effects of resistance exercise with or without protein ingestion on muscle hypertrophy and gene expression. Amino.Acids, 37, 297-308.

Hulmi, J. J., Lockwood, C. M., & Stout, J. R. (2010). Effect of protein/essential amino acids and resistance training on skeletal muscle hypertrophy: A case for whey protein. Nutr.Metab (Lond), 7, 51.

Josse, A. R., Tang, J. E., Tarnopolsky, M. A., & Phillips, S. M. (2010). Body composition and strength changes in women with milk and resistance exercise. Med Sci.Sports Exerc., 42, 1122-1130.

Krissansen, G. W. (2007). Emerging health properties of whey proteins and their clinical implications. J Am Coll.Nutr., 26, 713S-723S.

Moore, D. R., Tang, J. E., Burd, N. A., Rerecich, T., Tarnopolsky, M. A., & Phillips, S. M. (2009). Differential stimulation of myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic protein synthesis with protein ingestion at rest and after resistance exercise. J Physiol, 587, 897-904.


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One of the guys at my gym, who had been working out for more than 4 years comes up to me one day and says, ‘you know what, I hate saying this…but although I can push some serious weight in bench press, I can’t do any reps on the pull ups. Also, I’m afraid that I might look a bit lousy if I can’t rep out even a single pull up!’

I had a short and terse answer for him, ‘it’s time you started training for your own self, mate…rather than for impressing others…that’s the only way to improve.’

I, then, went on to explain that although he had been training for fairly long, it was not to meet his own goals but to show others how much weight he can push. I call this ‘ego training’. The best thing you can do, like I advised him, was to chuck his ego out of the window and start learning techniques that really get you strong. Did you know that chest press is a variation of the overhead press which was considered the real measure of upper body strength? But since bench press is a lot easier to perform (although quite difficult to master; I will touch upon it on one of my other articles), a lot of people bench more often than they do overhead presses or squats or pull ups. So, if you thought, bench press is a measure of your upper body strength…well, think again…IT’S NOT!

What we are going to talk about today, though, is pull-ups or chin-ups and how to master them. If you ask me, pull-ups are one of the most difficult exercises to master (guess, even more so than the squat). Again, to pull up with a correct technique requires not only strength but a coordinated use almost all your muscles – more importantly, the posterior chain. And this takes time. Unless you don’t master these techniques, you will never be able to pull up with proficiency


1. Hang from a bar, preferably at a high level (I suggest about a foot more than your height, so that you hang freely)

2. Take a medium grip; forget the crap of wider grip for more latissimus flare. If you learn to engage your lats properly, you will get a flare – NO PROBLEMS!

3. Remember, every single rep, look to come all the down so that the arms are ram rod straight at the bottom position.


From the bottom position, before initiating your movement, learn to purposely go into an isometric contraction, esp. with the glutes, hamstrings and quads. One way to do this is to place one foot over the other with a slight bend in the knees. Now (…and this is crucial), push your knees back to that it engages your glutes and hamstrings. As you start pulling up, you will feel your whole backside including your hamstrings, glutes, lower and upper back contracting


The first and most crucial things you do as you start lifting yourself up is to dig you shoulders deeper into the shoulder joint socket – pretty much like you do when you bench press; only the angle is different. This will also get your shoulder blades closer in and lower – stabilizing not only the shoulder girdle but also the whole upper back


Lean back by just about 5 to 10 degree. This will ensure you use your lower back, glutes and hams. Also, this will make the line of pull a more comfortable proposition. What’s even more important, it will engage your lats and traps more effectively.

7. Pause momentarily at the top (bar at or just under your chin) before going all the way down to initiate another rep.


1. As you pull up, keep visualizing that you are pulling the bar down rather than pulling yourself up. Believe me, it makes a hell of a difference.

2. Intense isometric contraction of the rest of the body is the key to effectively executing pull-ups. Movements will occur around the shoulder, elbow and wrist joints but the rest of the joints are also important – in that, muscle around these other joints are working overtime to keep that rigidity in the whole body


1. First of, never use those assisted pull up machines – they are worst if your goal is to get strong in the movement. Assisted band pull-ups are a much better bet. SKLZ do offer bands for strengthening your pull-ups

2. See how many reps you can do at one go. Make a total of how many you can do in 3 sets. Do 3 sets every alternate day. Try to beat the previous week’s record. If this proves tough, try to beat the record in 4 sets. When you get comfortable doing 10 to 12 reps for 3 sets, get a dipping belt and start the same routine with a 10 Kg plate

3. So, what if you can’t perform even one rep. Don’t despair; I will show you exactly how to go about things. First, you have to perform what I call the ‘hangs’. Hang by the bar for as long as possible; time yourself. Do this for 3 sets and keep a record of the total time. Try to beat the record the next time you do it (3 times a week)

4. Once you feel comfortable doing it for more than 2 min every single set, its time to progress onto what I call the ‘shoulder burys’. What this basically involves is to hang for as long as possible, pretty much like previously suggested, but this time, it involves burying your shoulders into their sockets. Again, time yourself and try to beat the record every single time

5. When you again get comfortable doing it for 2 min. For 3 sets, progress onto the ‘elbow bends’. What this involves is handing by the bar and burying your shoulders and pulling up a little to bend you elbow slightly and staying there for as long as possible. Again, build up on this like in previous stages

6. Once you master the ‘elbow bends’ (3 sets of 2 min), you are ready to move onto doing full reps. Now, it is time for you to go onto point 2. making a total of the reps done in 3 sets as suggested above.

Also, look to work on your hamstring, lower back and isometric grip strength to see massive improvements in your pull ups.

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Big Merv has a go at Graeme Hick

There is no better sight in cricket than a young, athletic fast bowler bustling in to bowl, ending up with an awe-inspiring follow-through – the additional verbal assault at the batter adds the proverbial cherry to the cake!

Cricket is one of the oldest sports known to mankind. With the advent of one day cricket in the mid 1970s and Twenty20 in the early 2000s, its popularity has soared immensely. However, due to the staggering number of international and domestic matches being played now-a-days, there is a need to focus on prevention and management of injuries to players so as to prolong careers. Fast bowlers are more likely to get injured and have their careers curtailed as a result. Ever since Dennis Lillee injured his back in the early 70s, designing effective methods to save the awesome breed of ‘tear away’ fast bowlers has been of foremost concern to sports medics, conditioning coaches and players alike.

Epidemiology of lower back pain in cricket

Researchers from South Africa, Australia, England and the West Indies have reported that lower back injuries occur in almost 60% of cricketers. The reasons attributed are – inadequate pre-season physical conditioning and psychological preparation, sudden escalation in training frequency when the season commences, unnatural biomechanics of fast bowling, long duration of bowling spells and cumulative workload over the season.

Lower back pain and injuries in fast bowlers 

Bowling is responsible for most back injuries in cricket – a longitudinal study carried out in South Africa found that bowling accounted for most of the injuries in cricket (41%) .
An interesting static is that compared to batsmen, wicket keepers, spin bowlers or medium pacers, fast bowlers are at particular risk of lower back pain and injuries. Concomitant hyper-extension of lumbar spine and rotation of the thoracic spine and lumbar spine, especially when it occurs very rapidly as in fast bowling places a significant amount of stress on the lumbar spine. This increases risk of injuries to the bones, joints, ligaments and muscles in and around the lumbar spine with resultant back pain.
Pain is gradual in onset and is characteristically described as the ‘crescendo-type’ of pain, i.e. occurring at the end of day’s play initially, then earlier the next time around and so on. Typically, lower back is sore when the player bends backwards especially if standing on one leg.

Risk factors for injury in fast bowlers

Traditionally, fast bowling lower back injuries have been thought to occur due to hereditary factors, lack of proper technique, poor physical conditioning, and lack of pre-season preparation. There are two distinct actions by which pace bowlers deliver a cricket ball, side-on and the front on – defined depending upon the attitude of the feet, the non bowling arm, the shoulders, upper torso and the follow through. A third kind of action involves some features of either of these actions. The biggest disadvantage of mixed action is that it involves greater rotation of the shoulders to realign with the rest of the body. Current view holds that a front on action is much better suited to prevent injuries. However, I am sceptical if that utilizes the full power and strength that the core has to offer.


In most cases, complete rest from the sport is the treatment of choice. During this time, a progressive rehabilitation program to strengthen the structures supporting the lower back should be undertaken. Improving trunk core stability and flexibility should be undertaken. Use of a brace while bowling to support the back proves quite helpful.

Subtle modifications to the bowler’s actions can be undertaken to reduce the stresses on the vertebrae.

Surgical intervention is rarely required.

Pre-season Conditioning

Shoaib Akhter

The aim of pre-season conditioning in cricket, as in any sports, is to get lean, strong and improve athleticism. Rather than indulging in bodybuilding exercises like bench press or arm curls – which target slow twitch muscle fibres and increase muscle size – the onus should be on improving muscle power – enhancing jump ability is a very reliable measure to go by. In addition, lateral mobility, reflexes, reaction time and shoulder, hip, knee and ankle stability should be given due importance in the conditioning program.

Olympic lifting, plyometric training, sprint interval training as well as sports specific training (bowling) with impediments like chutes, rollers, ankle weights or weighted vests helps improve sports specific movement patterns and thus reduces injuries.  Improving core power and stability, especially that during lateral rotation, will prove immensely beneficial in preventing back injuries. Boxing, martial arts as well as exercises like ‘wood-choppers’ on a cable station are some ways to bump your core power and stability.

Proper breathing technique during explosive lumbar rotation will maximize power production whilst reducing risk of injury – best way to learn this is to master the Kiai  technique from your martial arts instructor.

Download a sample strength and conditioning program for fast bowlers here.


The mechanisms underlying lower back pain and injury need to be investigated further. Designing preventive interventions for proper management of fast bowlers, especially from the early years may go a long way in allowing them in pursuing ‘pain free’ careers so we can enjoy the sights of ‘tear away’ fast bowlers in full steam!

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