Sports and exercise have come a long way, thanks to science. We train better and smarter because of the scientists who study to learn more about the human body and how to improve athletic performance.
However, not every sports science experiment needs to be done by specialists in a lab with fancy equipment. Give these experiments a try and learn by doing!
Eat donuts instead of your regular pre-workout meal
If you’ve ever wanted to be an amateur nutritionist, here is a super easy way to try a little sports science yourself: Instead of eating something you trust to give you energy, like fruit, scarf down a couple of donuts before practice or the gym.
All the fat and sugar will surely slow you down, increase your fatigue and make you weaker. You may find you need a nap after your workout that day. From personal experience, I can say that every time I tried to run or jump, it felt like I had cement in my shoes.
Do not conduct this experiment before an important game. After this experiment, you will surely have a much better appreciation for clean eating and how it relates to sports performance. It will be a lesson better learned from experience that by simply reading about it.
Work out barefoot
Next time you do Squats, Deadlifts, Lunges or other leg exercises, ditch your shoes. Your feet have over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments in them, and a typical pair of workout shoes limits their use in a workout. You may also notice an increased range of motion, because your shoe likely has a built-in heel lift, restricting your ankle from moving freely. Working out without the support of the shoe forces your body to use more muscles and create a bigger challenge. Because most of the muscles are underdeveloped, pay attention to how your balance is affected when you perform single-leg exercises like Lunges. Do not expect to be as strong without shoes either, because the support of the shoe boosts strength.
Compare how your heart rate responds to different exercises
Everyone knows heart rate increases during physical activity, but have you ever thought about how different exercises affect your heart rate? Use a heart monitor or just count manually to get a resting heart rate as your baseline.
Perform the following exercises, check your heart rate and compare your results. Rest between tests so you always start from your original resting heart rate. See which test puts your heart under the most stress. Think about which exercise cause the biggest jump in your heart rate. Were you surprised at all by any of the results?
- One set of Squats with moderate to heavy weight.
- Run a series of 20- to 40-yard sprints, rest 10 to 15 seconds and repeat five to eight times.
- Run a mile.
Test your balance
The body has a system of proprioceptors to maintain balance. By manipulating each one, you can test your balance without each proprioceptor.
- Stand on one foot. This shifts your center of gravity, and your body must work to stay balanced.
- After you balance on one foot, tilt your head and look up. This changes the position of the sensors in your inner ear. When the sensors turn like that, the body reacts and adjusts to its new position to maintain balance.
- Raise your hands over your head. Touch one hand to your nose, then extend your hand out to your side and touch your nose with your other hand.
- Close your eyes. Everyone has trouble with this one, because we use our sight to remain steady and balanced. When you suddenly take away your sight, your body loses awareness and senses trouble, causing a natural reaction to fall or reach out for a stable surface.
Try each step in this progression together or one at a time. As a bonus challenge, try it barefoot.
Try different tempos during weight training
The speed at which you raise or lower a weight is often overlooked, but it can affect your training outcome. The eccentric phase of a lift, in which the muscle lengthens while contracting, is rarely done correctly. If you a person who gets to the top of a rep, then drops the weight back to the starting position, try some extra tempo training. Using a Bicep Curl for example. Curl the weight up to your shoulders, then slowly and with control lower it back down over a three-second count. By the end of the first set, you will feel a burn like no other.