There are two things I really enjoy about going to fitness conferences. First is the opportunity to attend presentations and learn cutting-edge info from those in the field whom I respect and admire. And second is to meet up with other fitness pros in a conversational environment and discuss topics of interest. There is no better venue to accomplish these dual objectives than an NSCA event–particularly the NSCA National Conference. Presenters are consistently the top guys in the field and the NSCA membership is as dedicated and knowledgeable about fitness as any you will find. The 2012 NSCA National Conference, held at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence from Wednesday July 11th to Saturday the 14th, did not disappoint!
Given my involvement with the NSCA (I had several meetings as well as two lectures to present) I unfortunately was unable to attend several presentations that I’d really looked forward to seeing. These included talks by Eric Cressey, Lou Schuler, Nick Winkelman, JC Santana, Jay Dawes, and others. That said, I did manage to find the time to catch a few select talks. Here’s a brief overview of these seminars:
1) Dr. Bill Kraemer: For those of you who do not know, Dr. Kraemer is the pre-eminent researcher in strength and conditioning. He’s probably published more peer-reviewed papers on the topic than anyone in history and serves as the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. He’s been a mentor to me and I have the utmost respect for his accomplishments. Dr. Kraemer lectured on concurrent training which, simply stated, is the performance of both resistance exercise and aerobic training during a given time period. His lecture highlighted research on the topic showing an incompatibility between the two. The technical detail was well balanced with practical application. Interestingly, Dr. Kraemer pointed out that research shows that running has a significantly greater negative effect on strength and hypertrophy compared to cycling. “Exercise antagonism” was discussed, where the anabolic stimulus of resistance training is countered by the catabolic effects of aerobics. Dr. Kraemer proposed that this incompatibility can be minimized by careful periodization that allows sufficient rest and recovery. Lots of great take-home info.
2) Dr. Michael Roberts: I was not familiar with Dr. Roberts until this conference, but came away very impressed with his knowledge and professionalism. His topic delved into the effects of physical activity on disease prevention. Dr. Roberts presented research from his lab showing that when rodents were kept sedentary (their lab uses a cool device that locks the running wheel so the rats cannot run), they rapidly develop all sorts of cardiovascular and metabolic complications. Dr. Roberts showed correlative evidence that this occurs in humans, too. His take home message was to get at least 10,000 steps a day. He pointed out that modern hunter-gatherer populations accumulate twice this amount and have almost no lifestyle-related disease. A powerful presentation! Made me want to get a pedometer
3) Dr. Jacob Wilson: Dr. Wilson is a friend and colleague. He is quickly becoming one of the most respected researchers in muscle hypertrophy and supplementation. His presentation was on the supplement HMB–a metabolite of the amino acid leucine–and its effects on strength and body composition. Coming into the lecture, I had been skeptical of the supplement based on the limited data that I’d seen. Jake gave me reason to reconsider my position. He presented research, mostly from his lab, showing that HMB can promote significant and meaningful increases in muscle and strength. He pointed out that many of the studies not showing effects for HMB were due to the use of low-intensity training protocols. His presentation was smooth and systematic. One of my main issues with many of the amino acid-based supplements is that protein intake is generally not controlled. Jake stated that his lab carefully equated protein consumption amongst subjects at 25% of total calories. This makes a strong case that the data should be taken seriously.
4) Dr. Mark Peterson: Dr. Peterson has already established himself as one of the leading researchers in sarcopenia (i.e. the age-related loss of muscle) and obesity with publications in many of the top journals. He also serves on my doctoral dissertation committee, so as you can imagine I hold him in very high regard. This lecture focused on the obesity epidemic and the potential application of resistance training as a remedy. There was a great deal of high level info as well as some good humor interspersed in between (always good to have some levity in a high-level discussion). Mark debunked the claim that muscle significantly elevates resting metabolic rate (by his calclulation, the amount equates to about 5 calories for each pound of muscle). That said, he pointed to the fact that resistance training substantially increases in energy expenditure following exercise (i.e. EPOC) as a primary reason why lifting weights can have a major impact on weight management. There also is good evidence that resistance exercise improves various meatoblic and cardiovascular markers (i.e. glucose tolerance, lipid profile, etc) even in the absence of weight loss. The take home message was that lifting weights was particularly important for the obese and can be one of the keys to improving health and wellness in this population, but that optimal results are best achieved by combining such training with regular aerobic exercise.
As an aside, this event had special meaning for me. The highlight came at around 2:45 pm on Friday afternoon–15 minutes before I was scheduled to speak on Metabolic Resistance Training–when I was informed that I’d been elected to the NSCA Board of Directors. The NSCA is the world’s leading authority on strength and conditioning and I’m humbled and honored to be involved in shaping its future direction. A heartfelt thanks to all of you that supported my candidacy. Know that I will work diligently to further the NSCA’s mission, which is to bridge the gap between exercise science and application. I am particularly focused on elevating knowledge in the field of personal training, and hope to expand the growth of the NSCA in this area. Very excited to take on the challenge!