A Simplified Approach to Conditioning

Advanced technology and sports science has taught us so much about the demands of sport and human performance.  With GPS tracking and heart rate monitors, we now know exactly how much distance is covered in a game, the intensity of movement, and the estimated recovery time before an athlete is physically ready to perform at 100%.  With devices like fit bit, weekend warriors and gym goers know exactly how many calories they are burning in each cardio session.  There is so much great information that we now have as athletes and coaches, but the application of that information is still so far behind.  With all of the research done on energy systems development, heart rate zone training, CNS fatigue and injury prevention, its a shame that we keep going back to ancient testing methods and training techniques to get “fit”.  If you’re like me and you’d like to learn more about the science behind energy systems development, I highly recommend checking out anything by Mark Verstegen and his team at EXOS.  For the purposes of this blog, I am going to simplify everything and give you some of the methods that I use everyday.  Even if you are not an athlete, pay close attention because this will help you.  Learning to train for athletic goals instead of aesthetic goals, will lead to better results and more overall satisfaction with your journey.  

Non Impact Conditioning

If you are the type of person who loves to go on long runs because it helps you relieve stress and take your mind away from daily rigors, this section is not for you, go ahead and skip to the next section.  If your goal is to maximize training results and performance on the field, than I suggest you stop running.  I know that sounds weird.  Many of you will tell me that running is a major part of your fitness program and its worked for you in the past.  That is absolutely true, I will not argue with you.  Similarly, I can put a steak in the microwave for a few minutes and it will “work”.  You can’t argue with me that its not cooked but I think we can all agree that it’s not the best way to prepare a ribeye.  The problem with hitting the pavement is that the pavement is also hitting you!  While you are running around the neighborhood, listening to your latest workout playlist from alikrieger.com, your body has to absorb each and every step that you take.  For 30-60 minutes, your ankles, knees, hips, and back are taking an absolute beating.  That wear and tear is completely unnecessary in this case.  You can get all of the same benefits of running and build a strong aerobic base while saving your body.  

For conditioning sessions that are 20 minutes or more, consider using a bike, elliptical, or rower(my personal favorite).  All of these modalities will help you build the aerobic base you are looking for and many times it’s even more effective than running.  Swimming is also a great option for those with access to a pool.  Even if you don’t know how to swim, you can grab a kick board, or do some of the simple dynamic warmup movements in the water, like high knee running or shuffling.  Whichever modality you choose, build your cardio base with a slow steady pace for 20 minutes+ or work in intervals.  

Tip #1 If you choose intervals, use a work to rest ratio that is higher on the work side, like 2:1.  So for instance, bike hard for 2 minutes, than recover for 1 minute. Repeat the cycle until you get to the desired total time. 

Tip #2 Focus on density instead of volume.  If you are biking for 25 minutes, don’t go for 30 or 35 minutes the next week.  Record the distance covered in 25 minutes and try to beat that score instead.  

**Advice for S&C Coaches

You should not be present for non-impact conditioning.  Print out the work, rest, duration, and modalities and assign them to your trusted team leaders.  Have small groups compete for the best score, winning team gets to select music for a week.  This will not only get the job done for conditioning, but it will also teach them leadership and accountability in a competitive environment.  Anytime you can get your players to compete, it's a good thing.

Game Speed Conditioning

This is the type of conditioning that separates the good from the elite.  In soccer, being fit for 90 minutes is not enough.  Traditionally, coaches have simply looked at the average distance in a game (approx. 8 miles) and conditioned their players to run that distance.  The problem is 8 miles in 90 minutes is 5.3 mph, and that doesn’t even include halftime.  If you’ve ever run next to someone at 5.3 mph, you know that’s not very fast.  Looking deeper into the numbers, you’ll find that players must be able to sprint hard for 4-6 seconds and then recover before the next sprint.  They must able to perform these sprints in the first minute and in the 88th when the game is on the line.  If you look at other sports, you’ll find a similar pattern - quick bursts of speed followed by a quick recovery.  For my gym goers, this is about the time you’re thinking that none of this applies to you.  You are wrong.  High intensity training intervals are exactly what you need, especially if you are trying to lose weight and get “toned”.  15 minutes of interval sprinting will help you burn more calories in the session and the “after burn affect” will help you burn more calories thru out the day.  Would you rather workout for 15 minutes and get better results, or waste time for 90 minutes, burn less calories for the day, and pretend like you “earned” a trip to Wendy’s because you spent extra time on the recumbent bike?

Tip #1 Sprints should last 10-15 seconds with a recovery time of 45-60 seconds.  As you improve, the sprints will actually be shorter in time and rest periods will increase.  This is the opposite of what you may be thinking.  Set the distance at 100 yards.  Run a sprint at the beginning of every minute.  As you improve, the time it takes you to run 100 yards will decrease by a second or 2, and the rest period will increase by a second or 2.  

Tip #2 Put everything into the sprint.  Don’t water it down by trying to add funky jumping jacks or burpee WODs during the rest period.  If you were truly sprinting, you shouldn’t have energy for that.  

**Advice for S&C Coaches  

Think outside of the box on this.  LITERALLY.  I see to many of the same mundane sprints and shuttle runs repeated over and over and over.  The next time you go to set up the drill, watch your players reaction as they start to recognize what you are setting up.  Think about what kind of effort you are really going to get from them.  Instead of doing the same old tired drills, think of new ones that challenge a players fitness but also they’re thinking and decision making.  The game doesn’t move in pre-determined straight lines so you’re drills shouldn’t look like that either. Running in a straight line requires absolutely zero thinking! Another tip is to stop setting up the same distances.  Your players will learn how to cheat the drill, they’ll know exactly how many steps it takes to run a 5-10-15 long shuttle. CHANGE IT! Make it a 4-8-12 or 6-6-20.   

A video posted by TrainerGorres (@trainergorres) on

This is a video I posted on Instagram.  I'm using the FITLIGHT Trainer with Ali Krieger of the USWNT.  I separated the lights at a random distance but I kept the square shape, simply because of the facility.  On a field I would set them up randomly in space with no shape.  The drill is set for 12 lights with a maximum reaction time of 2 seconds per light.  If she doesn’t get to the light in 2 seconds, it will count as a miss. The drill forces her to react quickly, execute a quick movement, and challenges her spacial awareness as she then has to quickly reposition her body to see all the lights. The information from the lights will pop up on my tablet and I can score her based on hits/misses, average reaction time, and total time.  (This is the difference between the fit lights and colored cones).  I can still use my desired work:rest ratios and the instant feedback is a motivator for her. 

Ladders, Hurdles, and Cones

Footwork drills using ladders, hurdles, and cones should be simple, effective, and purposeful.  They can be great tools for building fundamental qualities like rhythm and balance, both very important for speed and agility.  When setting up your program, it's very important to remember two key facts that are indisputable.

Fact #1 - There are no ladders, hurdles, or cones on the field 

The overall goal for any athlete is to improve performance on the field.  These tools should be treated like training wheels for a bicycle.  They can help an athlete learn the basic footwork, rhythm, and balance, which translates into overall agility and speed, but the overall goal is to execute movement patterns without anything present.  The proper progression is to remove the training devices, not add more.  Going back to the bicycle, how silly would it be to add more training wheels for someone who wants to take the next step?  Once an athlete demonstrates a grasp of the drill, it's important to translate movement patterns into applicable movement skills.  In a game, players don’t execute random patterns of movements, they have to be able to see the game, recognize situations, and move their bodies accordingly.  Agility isn’t pre-programmed or pre-determined.  Setting up random, endless drills, will only make your athlete better at random, endless drills.  Your athlete will look amazing, showing off incredible footwork during warmups, but once the game starts, they’ll be sitting right next to you.  

Fact #2 - Speed = Distance / Time

Fancy footwork drills do not make athletes faster.  The only way to increase speed is to increase the amount of distance covered in a given amount of time.  In an all out sprint, athletes should cover about 10 yards in their first 5-6 steps.  Imagine a long run made on a thru ball in soccer, or a deep pass in football.  If the player on offense and the player on defense are side by side, who pulls ahead after 6 steps?  If you can increase your stride by just 2” inches each step, you're a whole foot ahead!  Now take a look at a typical ladder drill where you will only cover about 1 yard in 6 steps.  Is that really teaching speed?

 

Why, When, How

There is still a ton of value to using these tools.  Novice athletes and general population clients will gain the most from drills using ladders, hurdles, and cones.  The training devices essentially serve as external cues.  Athletes know exactly what they are going to do and when they are going to do it.  The use of external cues has been proven to be far more effective than the use of internal cues which can abstract or hard to understand.  Weaving thru cones, or executing a specific pattern thru a ladder is a lot easier to visualize and understand for a novice athlete.  It can also be a fun and competitive environment which is much more motivating and can make for a great speed and agility session.  For the general population, this can be a great form of cardio because clients are asked to move in ways they don't normally move, increasing energy expenditure and decreasing BOREDOM!

For elite athletes, I like to use the drills as a movement prep, reminding them of a few simple coaching points before advancing them into drills that translate into sport.  I keep the drills very short (4-6 seconds) and give them a few reps to ramp up the intensity.   Elite athletes are extremely competitive so to pin them in an obstacle course of ladders, cones, hurdles, etc. would be a waste of their competitive energy.  They would quickly learn how to the “cheat” the drill to win, which pretty much nullifies the purpose of the drill in the first place.  It's important to use these tools as a reminder of 1 or 2 simple coaching points, then quickly bridge that into an applicable skills like..

Balance 

Good balance isn’t static it's dynamic.  When executing drills thru the ladder, it's important to assess balance and readiness.  The athlete should always be in a position to move in any direction at anytime.  This is a precursor for..

Rhythm/Tempo

A steady rhythm comes before a fast tempo    

Awareness

Each hurdle/cone represents a specific point in space.  It's up to the athlete to get to that point with the proper posture, flexion/extension, body lean, etc.  They also have to be aware of where they are in and what is surrounding them. 


Kettlebell Exercises

Kettlebell Exercises

There are thousands of exercise variations that can be done with the kettlebell.  It is a tool that is used by almost everyone in the industry and for good reason.  The displacement of the weight from the handle adds an extra challenge especially when performing exercises like farmers walks and swings.  “Bottoms up” exercises and carries take grip strength training to a whole new level.  My favorite reason for using the kettlebell is the integration of functional movements.  Most variations are full body exercises, crossing myofascial lines and training the body to move as one unit.  The power starts from the feet, transfers from the ground thru your core and our arms creating movement.  This is key for so many athletes because it develops so much more than just raw strength.  Powerful movements require coordination, balance, rhythm, and timing.  This applies to movements like sprinting, jumping, and changing direction.  However this amazing tool is not just for athletes.  Since most kettlebell exercises are full body, that means we are using more muscles to create movement and therefore using more energy.  For people who are trying to lose weight, this means more calories burned and in less time!  It's the perfect modality for training at home because there are so many variations and it takes up almost zero space!  With all of the different exercise variations, it's like having a full size gym that takes up less space than a pair of shoes!

2 Arm Kettlebell Swing

This is a simple but highly effective move for developing a strong posterior chain.  The swing starts from the ground but the power is created with a hinge from the hips.  Start with your feet in an athletic position and drive your hips backwards as you reach behind you.  From there thrust your hips forward without over extending your back at the top of the swing.  Although your arms swing in this exercise the power is not coming from the arms.  The backwards/forwards movement of the hips creates the momentum that transfers into the arms causing the kettlebell to swing.  

*This is a horizontal movement similar to that of a standing broad jump.  This is not a vertical movement like the squat.  The knees can bend but most of the power is coming from the flexion and extension of the hips.

*Arms should always be straight and should never go higher than eye level.  There are plenty of variations where the arms swing all the way to an overhead position.  There is nothing wrong with that variation but it does involve more risk.  By stopping at eye level, you can still reap all the rewards of this great movement without taking on unnecessary risk. 

*This is a two way exercise! By driving the hips forward and stopping the arms at eye level, the athlete now has to rapidly decelerate the momentum of the bell by engaging the core and pulling the kettlebell and down and back. 

1 Arm Kettebell Front Squat

Again this is a simple move with big time benefits.  The power starts from an athletic base position with your feet pushing into the ground.  Hold the kettlebell in a racked position, with your wrist firm, your elbow forward and high.   If you're doing this right, your fist should be touching or almost touching your cheek.  From this position, squat down as low as you can get comfortably and stand back up by pushing the ground away.  This is a big key coaching point when performing squats or really any other “pushing” movements.  Don’t think about the body moving up and down.  Instead think about maintaining a strong pillar and use your feet to load the body by pulling the ground into your center of mass.  Once you are in the loaded position, focus on maintaining a strong pillar and push the ground away from you. 

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*Loading one arm at a time challenges the core to stabilize an unbalanced position.  This will help develop the anti-rotation and anti-flexion qualities needed for powerful movement.  It's also a great way to sneak in a great “abs” routine for people who are just looking for a great workout.  

 

Active Straight Leg Raise

This looks a lot more complicated than it really is.  By holding the kettlebell bottoms up, the athlete is forced to stabilize the shoulders.  It's the ultimate “external cue”. While lying on the ground, come up into a bridge to extend the hips and activate the glutes.  Now while maintaining your bridge, completely straighten one leg and raise that leg as high as you can while maintaining knee extension and dorsiflexion.  I love this exercise because it trains flexion on one side, extension on the opposite side, all while maintaining shoulder stability.  This translates well when teaching sprint and acceleration mechanics.  


Active Techniques for a Quick Recovery after Games

*excerpt from Our Game Magazine - Winter 2015.  For the full article, including pictures and descriptions, visit http://www.ourgamemag.com/subscribe/

On any given weekend, there are thousands of soccer games being played all across the country.  In fact, on any given night, there are games being played indoors, outdoors, on turf, on grass, on courts, and even on the sand!  It’s a beautiful thing to see so many people from different walks of life, boys and girls, men and women, enjoying the game of soccer.  No matter what level you are on, recovering from these games is just as important as preparing for them.  It’s important for the youth athlete who may be playing in multiple games on a tournament weekend.  Its important for the national team player who needs to get on a plane to rejoin their club team.  It’s also important for the everyday person who just enjoys the game, but also needs to get up and go to work the next day.  Learning how to recover from games quickly will go a long ways in helping you enjoy the game, perform your best, and reduce the risk of injury.  

Here are two techniques that are extremely beneficial for any level of athlete.  They can go a long way in aiding the recovery process in between games or workouts.  You can do these anywhere, on the field, at home, or even in the airport!  

Foam Rolling (Self Myofascial Release) is a method to help relieve some of the tension in problem areas like the calves, or IT bands.   These trigger points or “knots” are developed over time with repetitive movements, strenuous activity, or even bad posture.  Releasing these “knots” is essential for any serious athlete who wants to move better and become more flexible.  It’s also very beneficial for people who just want to improve posture or move without pain. By applying pressure to these trigger points, you can aid the recovery of these muscles and restore them to their normal function.   Normal, healthy muscles are elastic and can be lengthened or contracted on demand, without inhibition.  Simply stretching these muscles isn’t enough to restore them to their original form.  Imagine a wrinkled pair of jeans that needs ironing.  Pulling on those jeans wouldn’t be enough to restore them. Other methods of self myofascial release include a lacrosse ball, rolling stick, or manual therapy.  

How to: Use the foam roller or a lacrosse ball to find these tight or tender areas.  There will be some pain but it should not be unbearable and the rewards are worth the temporary discomfort.  One benefit of self myofascial release is that it puts you in complete control of the process.  You know exactly where the spots are and exactly how much pressure you can bear. When you find a trigger point, pause for a few seconds and relax as much as possible, taking deep breaths.  You should feel the muscle release after a few seconds.  If the pain is too much, work the surrounding areas and gradually move towards the trigger point.  Remember, in the end, it doesn’t have to be the most painful experience ever to achieve the goal of restoring good movement.  Never roll over a bone or joint 

Prescription: Foam roll as much as possible, especially before AND after games or workout sessions.

Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) is another essential for any athlete or anyone serious about creating good, healthy movement.  Just like foam rolling, these active stretches can be performed anywhere, with little or no equipment.  The difference between AIS and traditional stretching is that it is performed in repetitions of 2 seconds or less, instead of holding a static stretch for 10-30 seconds.  When you hold a stretch for longer than 2 seconds, your body will trigger a “myotactic stretch reflex”.  This is an eccentric contraction that will prevent your muscle from relaxing and lengthening.  It will also deplete oxygen flow to the muscle tissue, which is the opposite of what you want when you are trying to recover faster and increase your ability to perform.  Now that you understand “myotactic stretch reflex”, the next important principle of AIS is something called “reciprocal inhibition”.   This simply means that when you engage a muscle on one side, the opposite muscle is forced to release.  For example, when you contract your quads to extend your knee, the hamstrings are forced to relax.  With a relaxed hamstring, we can now achieve and learn a new range of motion that the body will remember because you’re the one in control.  Although a therapist may be able to force you into greater flexibility, its impossible for your body to retain that mobility because you didn’t create that on your own.   I would recommend that you do these active stretches as often as possible, but consider it mandatory before every game or workout session.  When you can combine them with the foam rolling (SMR) techniques, you can develop good movements, aid the recovery process, and ultimately perform better.  

RX:  Perform these active stretches before each game or workout session.  For increased effectiveness, perform them right after foam rolling.  

Tips for your New Years Resolution

Every year in the first week of January, the gym is full with new people, energized by their goals and aspirations to get fit!  Every year in the second week of January, those people are gone and the gym is back to normal.  The selfish part of me doesn’t mind because it means that I can actually walk around the gym again without stepping over anyone, but I love my job because I have the opportunity to help people.  So here are some helpful tips for you to get back in the gym and continue your new years resolution.

Re-Evaluate and be more realistic

If you’re like most people, you probably set some pretty lofty goals for yourself and you now realize how hard it will be.  Unrealistic expectations are the number 1 reason people fail.  You set the bar too high, tried to change too much, or both.  The more you try to change, the more likely you will fail.  Try to change one thing at a time and don’t be in a rush.  Give yourself a realistic time frame for achieving your goals. If you ultimately accomplish what you set out to do a few weeks (or months) late, are you really going to be upset?  If you’re looking to lose weight, think about losing 1 pound per week.  It doesn’t sound like much when you compare yourself to tv shows like the biggest loser, but if you lost 1lb per week, by this time next year you will be 52 lbs lighter!!  In order to lose one pound, you need to achieve a deficit of 3500 calories or 500 calories per day.  This can be done by reducing the amount of calories you eat and increasing your calories out with exercise.  Take away 200 calories from your daily diet by simply saving a few bites.  Even if you don’t change your diet, eating a few bites less will result in less calories consumed.  Exercise to burn 300 calories per day.  This can be done with moderate exercise for 30-45 minutes.  These daily goals are very attainable, unlike the chia seed and coconut oil diet you thought you were doing to be able to maintain this year.  

Focus on what you can do

Aesthetic goals like weight loss and inches lost are very popular but can also be unaffective and demotivating.  Constantly peeking at the scale and the mirror isn't accurate.  Our self images are so powerful and very difficult to overcome.  You won’t notice the changes you’re looking for and you’ll start to believe that what you’re doing isn't really working. Instead of focusing on the mirror, the scale, and the measuring tape, switch your focus on what you can do and you will be happier.  Studies have shown that in the elderly population, they are generally happier focusing on their capabilities such as walking and doing daily activities without pain.  They don’t worry about the aesthetics.   I’ve seen this first hand with some of my clients.  They don’t care about what they look like, just that they were able to play with their grandchildren without getting tired.

So instead of looking in the mirror, track your workouts and focus on improving.  For instance, walk on the treadmill for 20 mins.  In week 1, see how much distance you covered.  In week 2, do the same workout, 20 minutes on the treadmill, and try to beat your score by covering more distance.  Keep doing this each week and before you know it you’ll be crushing your week one numbers.  Not only will you be happier with your results, but after a while you’ll take a peek and that mirror again and you’ll like what you see.  

Celebrate the small stuff

If you haven’t noticed by now, the goal is to do the simple things extremely well and improve a little each day.  Be happy with improvement, its better than taking a step back.  When you have a great day or week or month, be happy with it, but don’t let it trap you into thinking that it will always be like that.  You are going to have bad days/weeks.  Suddenly the small improvements are seen as failures, just because they aren’t as impressive as the big numbers you were able to achieve.  Don’t fall into that way of thinking.  Celebrate each improvement no matter how big or small.

 

The Art of Coaching

As an athlete and a coach, I've had the opportunity to experience the relationship from both sides.  When the relationship is good, the results are phenomenal and the possibilities are endless.  Both athlete and coach share in the rewards of their labor, thanking each other in the process.  When the relationship is bad, the results can be catastrophic.  Blame is passed around and it can even destroy the will of an athlete to continue playing or the will of a coach to continue teaching.  This dynamic relationship isn't just limited to athlete/coach but really applies to any relationship.  It applies to spouses, teachers and students, and even teammates.  The art of coaching really comes down the art of communication.  I've been blessed to be around some great coaches and model my own style after some of the very best.  Here are some things that I've picked up..

Speak the Language

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It doesn't matter what you're saying if no one understands you.  It would be more effective if you actually said nothing at all.  As a performance, language isn't only defined by country and region, it's also defined by sport.  Soccer has its own language.  So does football, basketball, baseball, swimming, lacrosse, tennis, volleyball, etc.  The word "offsides" means two completely different things in soccer and in football.  That's just one of many examples where words can have different meanings to different people.  Personal trainers and strength coaches also have their own language.  As a coach, I always try to speak the language of my clients/athletes.  I speak soccer to soccer players.  I speak basketball to basketball players.  I've even learned to speak swimming, and a little golf! This helps me gain  trust and allows me to communicate exactly what I'm looking for and why it's beneficial.  I wouldn't tell a basketball player we're working on amortization phase in a plyometric movement, I would tell him we're working on his ability to get off the ground quickly in between jumps.   Speaking the language is so basic but sometimes overlooked, leading to frustration and miscommunications on both sides.

Connect New Information to Old Information

Speaking the language is the first step but it isn't enough to make a connection.   Coaches have to build the bridge between old and new.  If you can connect a new concept to a past experience, that person will be more likely to retain new information.  Otherwise, it's a just a foreign thought, floating around in the brain with nothing to hold it down.  Helping a player develop, mentally and physically, has to start by developing a foundation that allows growth.  Coaching has to move from broad to specific, simple to complex.  My favorite visual example of this is the classic lego building block.  Each block is fairly simple and unremarkable.  But it's the ability to connect to other blocks that allow creativity and the construction of something extraordinary.  

Isolate, Integrate, Challenge, Step Away

As a performance coach, I will never be on the field to help my athletes make plays.  I can't train them in a way that forces them to rely on me.   My job is to simply help them develop the tools they need to be a great player.  When the time comes, its up to the athletes themselves to put it all together.  I've seen coaches who are really good at 1, 2, or even 3 of these steps.  The great coaches know how to balance all 4.

1.     Isolate - Train the movement or skill in an isolated manner to address flaws or make perfect.  Even as the athletes become more proficient, it's still good to go back and repeat.  Remember, practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes permanent.  Work on the fundamentals until athletes become unconsciously competent.

2.     Integrate - movements and skills must be integrated into a game like situation if you expect them to perform on a high level.  In a competitive atmosphere, things don't always happen in the perfect situation or structure.  Games are random at nature and athletes have to be able to recognize, anticipate, and execute movements and skills to meet the demands of their sport.

3.     Challenge - appropriate goals and challenges are necessary motivation for any athlete.  If the challenge is too difficult, it can be discouraging.   Too easy and the athletes get bored.   When the athlete is challenged appropriately, over and over again, they begin to build the physical and mental sharpness needed to succeed.  Each small victory builds self-confidence and validation, ultimately leading to big victories.  

4.     Step Away - athletes have to be given the opportunity to struggle and find themselves.  There has to be a risk of failure or there is no such thing as success.  As a performance coach, this means I do everything I can to prepare my clients for "the moment".  At this point, its up to the athlete to decide whether or not they're willing to do what it takes.  I can simulate these moments in training by asking them to do things that they didn't even think they were capable of.  It could be a weight they didn't think they could lift, or a jump they never thought they could make.  Sometimes they fail, sometimes they succeed.  When you can coach an athlete into "the moment", and allow them to find themselves, they may just discover that anything is truly possible.

Mailbag: Sets and Reps

 I am an avid follower of your instagram. I have a question I wanted to ask you but I wasn't quite sure which picture to post it on, which is why I am contacting you here! I know you work with a lot of soccer players and obviously their strength and endurance needs are a little different. I was wondering in terms of reps and sets schemes what you prefered. Do you like to do more in the 10 reps, 3-4 sets range? Obviously I know it depends on whether they are in season, off season, pre-season. But I was wondering if you could give me a general idea. Also, if you knew of any good resources for me to read regarding soccer specific training. Thanks!

Best regards,
Joelle

This was a question that was sent to me about a week ago and I thought it made for a great topic.  I'm not sure Joelle realized this was such a loaded question.  There are many things to consider, including the athlete's competition schedule, in season, off season, preseason, and practices.  This was mentioned in the original email but from there I'd like to take it a few steps further.  

1.  Training Goal  Once I know the competition schedule, I choose an appropriate phase for training...Foundation work (GPP), Hypertrophy (muscle gain), Max Strength and Power.  There are more but again I just like to keep things simple.   In a perfect world, periodization would undulate to include all of these phases or periodization could progress in a more linear fashion.  There is nothing wrong with either method, its simply choosing an appropriate plan for the time frame you have.  This leads me to number two...  

2. Training Load Each of these phases are coupled with a training load of varying intensity and volume.  Depending on the level of athlete and their current competition/practice schedule, there is only so much they can handle before jeopardizing quality.  Unless I have more than 8 dedicated weeks to just training, I typically stay away from a true hypertrophy phase because that becomes extremely intense for the athlete.  I would rather have them do fewer reps with a high training quality.   With that in mind I try to stay somewhere in the max strength and power phase as it help me keep training volume down.  

3. Training Experience After selecting an appropriate phase, I have to consider the level of athlete..novice, experienced, or elite.  These are important in selecting rep schemes because elite athletes can produce more force, more rapidly than novice athletes.  They don't need as many reps to exhaust their system in power phases, or maximal strength efforts.  I grade athletes based on their level of experience with strength training.  Just because someone is a World Class soccer player, doesn't mean they are the same when it comes to strength training.  

4. Miscellaneous ..

  • movement type - mulit joint v single joint, integrated v isolated
  • Time Under Tension (TUT) - 10 reps doesn't always equal 10 reps when considering tempo
  • Session Load/Weekly Load - sets and reps don't exist in a vacuum. They live in a workout session, and that workout session lives within a day, a week, a month, and beyond.  Not including movement prep and correctives, I try to stay between 45-60 minutes of training per session, no more than 2 training sessions per day, no more than 6-8 sessions per week.  I also try to limit the amount of loaded repetitions in a session, 60-100 per muscle group.  

The following is a chart with some general guidelines for an elite athlete.  None of these numbers are an exact science and shouldn't be followed to a "T" but this at least gives you an idea.  As I mentioned above, elite athletes don't need as many repetitions as novice athletes.  For an experienced athlete, add 3 reps per set, for a novice athlete, add 6..


Simple things done extremely well

Great things happen when you can do the simple things extremely well.   On the right is an excerpt from the bible, John 2:1-11.  It is the story of Jesus' first miracle, turning water into wine.  My goal isn't to convert you into a believer or force you to accept Jesus as your savior.  My goal is to point out my favorite line in the story, verse 7.   If those servants don't fill the jars with water, then there is no miracle.  It wasn't spectacular.  It didn't take special talent.  Just ordinary people doing ordinary things, with a little bit of faith.  

Success in sports and in life often follow this very simple formula.  Doing the simple things extremely well is something that is shared by the most successful sports teams and athletes in the world.  No one would ever call the San Antonio Spurs a flashy team.  They've won multiple championships by doing the simple things well.  They defend, shoot, and pass the ball so well, and none of that can happen without the proper positioning and spacing on the floor.  All 5 players are exactly where they are supposed to be.  It allows them to protect the rim on defense, and on offense it allows them the opportunity to display their skills as passers and shooters.  Tim Howard just put an awesome performance at the World Cup with 16 saves against a Belgium team full of superstars.  The saves themselves were of course spectacular, but goalkeeper coaches with an eye for it will tell you that his positioning was impeccable.  It was the simple movements that put him in a position to make one miraculous save after another.  Starting to get the point?  

Jesus Changes Water Into Wine
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” 4 “Why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” they did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” 11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

By doing the simple things extremely well, we put ourselves in a position for something great to  happen.  You don't need to do the spectacular things to achieve the results you want.  You just have to do the simple things extremely well.  So well in fact, that they just become automatic.  These things start to happen without even thinking about it or adding extra stress.  In fitness, its really quite simple.  

Step 1 JUST MOVE! Be active, find something fun that you like to do, and keep doing it.  You don't have to do some crazy WOD or set the all-time record for rushing yards.  Just find something enjoyable, and before you know it, you'll start to develop some good habits

Step 2 Eat/drink better!  Now I know this step isn't easy but it is still very simple in the sense that anyone can do it.  You don't need to be an Olympic athlete to drink water.  You don't need to run a sub 4.4 40 yard dash to know that you probably should eat something  that has an expiration date of more than a week.  Again, once you start to develop these simple habits, they just start to happen effortlessly.  You'll prefer water over soft drinks.  You'll crave foods full of nutrients instead of calories.  

Step 3 Try something new!  I know it can be quite scary for some people, but imagine how the servants felt bringing those jugs of water to the banquet.  They knew it was water.  They also knew that the people expected wine.  Don't you think they were a bit apprehensive about pouring them a glass?  You may discover that trying new things or re-discovering old things is actually a lot of fun!  You won't even think about the benefits of the activity health wise, you'll be too busy enjoying yourself.    

Piano Medley

A few years ago I decided to pursue a career as a trainer.  Physical fitness has always been a passion of mine, and although I didn't study exercise science in college, I knew that if I applied myself I could learn, and learn fast.  At about the same time, I also wanted to learn how to play piano.  Like fitness, I loved music and I always wanted to play an instrument.  I never took piano lessons growing up but I always had a good ear.  One year, I asked my parents if I could join the school band and learn to play saxophone.  It wasn't cheap so I had to make a choice between saxophone or football cleats.  That was a no brainer, CLEATS!!  

Over the last few years, I've noticed there are actually quite a few parallels between the piano and a training program.  A full piano has 88 keys, each one representing a different note or sound.  Even though these notes have been the same for centuries, great musicians are constantly coming up with new sounds and arrangements, new ways to play the same old notes!  On a piano, the perfect combination of notes have to be played with precise timing to achieve a desired sound or style of play. You can't just be good at playing as many keys as possible or playing one note really fast (ahem crossfit).  You have to put it all together.  Training really is no different.  Movements like the squat, pushup, and deadlift have been around forever!  Although some would have you believe otherwise, there is nothing new about dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, etc.  The best trainers find a way to put that all together, in new arrangements, to achieve a complete program that balances everything.  Athletes are artists and they step on the stage to perform just like any other rock star.  As a performance coach, my job is to support these athletes behind the scenes.  Its not about me, I'm not the one on stage.  But could you imagine how nervous John Legend would be if he went on stage knowing the piano wasn't tuned properly?  That wouldn't be a great way to start a confident performance.  For athletes, their bodies are their instruments.  Every movement as defined as the notes on a keyboard, easy enough for anyone to execute individually.  What makes them special is their ability to combine these movements, in different ways, with precise timing to create something spectacular.   I do my best to keep every note tuned properly, build confidence in their ability, and allow them to create the highlights we all admire.   

Just for fun, here's a medley I put together for you to enjoy.  Its the same exact notes thru the entire medley of songs!!  This is another parallel to training.  Even though you may be using similar techniques, you can arrange them in different ways to create something new.    

Over Use and Under Development

The 3 sport varsity athlete may soon be on the list of endangered species.  More and more youth athletes are playing one sport, all-year round.   Sports like soccer, tennis, and even basketball with AAU leagues have been this way for a while.  But now, even football, which was once just a fall sport, is year-round with 7on7 tournaments.  The type of schedule and specialization that was once reserved for college level athletes is now happening at the HS and youth levels.  

On every level, youth to pro, skill development is an important part of an athlete's growth.  An equally important part is strength development.  Take for instance a car.  You could be the best driver in the world, but if you are up against a far superior vehicle, you don't have a chance.  In many cases, this is what is happening to youth athletes.  Although the skill sets are very fine tuned, kids are generally less athletic, and overall more prone to injury because of overused movement patterns.  So much of our program is designed to undo all of the bad movements before we can even get to developing good movements.  To break this down, lets take the example of tennis.  When you first learn to swing the racquet, repetitions are important in developing the skills to strike the ball.  But remember, practice doesn't necessarily make "perfect", practice makes "permanent".  After all of those repetitions, muscles will start to break down.  Without proper recovery and strengthening, the muscles will lose their ability to perform, similar to a rubber band that has lost its tension, leading to conditions like "tennis elbow".  But this isn't just a tennis problem, this is now happening in every sport.  ACL injuries, concussions, shoulder impingements, back problems, etc. are happening more frequently and at a younger age.  Kids are more skilled but less athletic.   They're only used to moving one way.    

The other part of that is developing raw power behind the swing.  After a while, you can only contact the ball so well.  If you want to develop more power in that swing, it has to come from developing the muscles.   Speed kills, its what seperates an athlete like Serena Williams from the rest of the pack.  She has the skills to be competitive but her power and speed make her special.  Every year at the NFL Combine, all eyes are on the 40 yard dash and people aren't looking at running form.  The only thing that matters is how fast you can run, not how well.  Running form drills only go so far, if you want to run faster you have to develop that raw power.  Skills have to be at the top of the pyramid when it comes to the growth of an athlete, but in a lot of ways its been reversed.  Young athletes are specializing in one sport, developing the skills to compete at a high level, but still incomplete as a player.  They haven't developed the overall strength and agility that comes from a wide foundation of pure athleticism.

There are many different reasons for why this has happened.  Youth leagues and organizations have found a way to profit, competition is valued more than development, and parents are living thru their children.  But somewhere in there, kids actually just love playing their sport.  Many of the youth athletes training with us fall into this category.  They love playing their sport and they can't get enough of it.  Swimming, lacrosse, baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball, tennis, hockey, basketball, football.. you name it, we see it.  We don't train athletes being forced by their parents.  Its very easy to see on a kids face whether or not training was their idea and I have no problem confronting parents in this situation.  Some training programs will gladly take your money and sell you on the idea of a scholarship or even pro careers.  We simply don't do that.  For those of you who just love the game, whatever that game may be, here are 3 of my favorite corrective moves.

Minibands are a great way to develop glute strength and proper knee positioning 

Minibands are a great way to develop glute strength and proper knee positioning 

Foam Roll Angels - a great way to improve posture by actively stretch the pecs and lats, also great for developing posterior shoulder strength 

Foam Roll Angels - a great way to improve posture by actively stretch the pecs and lats, also great for developing posterior shoulder strength 

World's greatest stretch - great for building mobility and stability in the ankles, knees, hips, lumbar spine, thoracic spine, and much more.  hence the name

World's greatest stretch - great for building mobility and stability in the ankles, knees, hips, lumbar spine, thoracic spine, and much more.  hence the name

 

 

Neck Strength

Here are a few neck strengthening moves that I do with all of our athletes.  Many people will think of neck strength as something that is just for guys or just for football players.  The truth is concussions happen in every sport.  There are just a many concussions in girls youth soccer than in football. These exercises certainly don't guarantee safety but they can definitely help.  There is no risk in developing the muscles around the neck to support the head.  So worst case scenario there is no harm done, and best case scenario, the athlete is better prepared for the sudden jolts that can cause a brain injury.  This video will teach you how to strengthen the muscles in the front and back of the neck.  There is no need to work on the muscles that surround the neck on each side, as they will also be strengthen with these exercises.  The breakdown of these exercises is even for the week, so a person that trains twice a week would do front side one day, and back side on the next day.  

For more information on concussion awareness, check out this article by Kevin Boyle, Director of Explosive Performance.  

http://washingtonspirit.com/files/2013/12/Concussion-Awareness-in-Soccer-Dec-Rising-Spirit.pdf

10 Types of Speed

Its important to identify and train different types of speed for an athlete to increase overall performance.  Most sports, with the exception of track and field, require an athlete to make different types of movements depending on the situation.   These 10 different types are straight from my notes of Scott Moody's mentorship in Kansas.  Scott's program, AthleteFit, does a great job of integrating training methods to translate weight room gains into performance gains on the field. I've split up the different types of speed into 3 categories

Category 1

Acceleration

Deceleration

Change of Direction

Change of Pace

Category 2

Anticipation

Recognition

Reaction

Category 3

Player v Player

Player with Ball

Player v Player with Ball

These 10 types of speed are like the gears to an old fashion watch.  If you take out just one of those gears, no matter how big or small that gear may be, the entire watch stops working. In sports, its very easy to identify players who are great hard skill athletes.  A hard skill is a fixed movement that can be defined and measured.  There is no reaction required and there is nothing external to challenge the movement.  An example of a hard skill would be a tennis serve, a golf swing, or a free throw in basketball.  Hard skills are difficult to execute because of internal challenges like nerves or pressure.  Category 1 would fall into the hard skill category when isolated, like a 40 yard dash, a vertical jump test, or even a pro agility test.  Unfortunately, sports aren't played against cones, they are played against other athletes.  While its important to develop and strengthen the hard movement skills of speed, soft skills are the key to performance.  A soft skill requires some type of recognition and reaction.  Defending a player with the ball would be a great example of a soft skill.  When a player can put all of this together, it translates into CONFIDENCE.  This is the last component of real Game Speed.  It is something that is very hard to measure but very easy to see.   A confident player will move faster or perform better than the player that is hesitant or unsure.  A player with self-belief expects to win.  Every great athlete from every sport has this in common.  Building confidence is the true goal of a any real training program. 

Eccentric Strength

In sports and in life, many injuries occur because of the lack of eccentric strength.  Simply put, eccentric strength is the ability to resist or decelerate.  The eccentric phase of a movement is often referred to as "negative movement", where the body must absorb a force or load. An example of this would be a jump.  Injuries will typically occur in the landing phase of the jump, not the acceleration phase when an athlete is producing force to leave the ground.  Other examples include ACL injuries when an athlete is attempting to stop and change direction, or a lisfranc injury where the ligaments in the foot can no longer resist rotation and extension.  There are two key components in building eccentric strength.  The first is proper alignment.  This means your body is in a good position to react to an external force.  This includes good posture, balance, foot placement, depth, etc.  If someone was about to throw something at you, what type of position would you put yourself in?  The next key component is simply strength.  At some point, no matter how well you position your body, you have to be strong enough to absorb force.  Go back to that question of getting ready to catch something thrown at you.  Would you be ready if it was a ball?  What if that ball weighed 50lbs? This is why eccentric strength training is essential for any serious athlete.  You may not have to catch a 50lb ball but what about trying to decelerate your body at full speed and change direction?  Most athletes weigh a lot more than 50lbs.  

Now there is another type of eccentric strength that is much harder to measure.  As I said in the beginning, most injuries in sport and LIFE occur in the eccentric phase.  But we don't just absorb forces physically.  We need to also be mentally strong to endure the forces that life will bring.  Again, the two key components to avoiding life injuries are the same.  The first is position.  As athletes and as people, we have to be smart enough to avoid situations that leave us at high risk.  This will be different for each person, but we all know our challenges and what temptations we struggle with.  The first simple step is to remove yourself from a situation that puts you in harms way.  It can be something simple, like staying away from the left-overs table at the office during holiday season because you know there will be goodies there that you can't resist.  It can also be something a little more serious, like avoiding triggers to addictions such as drugs, alcohol, gambling or internet porn.  These are injuries in life that are much harder to repair than an ACL.  The second key component is strength.  This is the type of strength that truly defines someone's character.  Jackie Robinson is admired and revered because he was strong enough to resist everything that happened to him, without ever fighting back.  Nelson Mandela is admired and revered because he was strong enough to forgive the people that imprisoned him.  Now, we all can't be Jackie Robinson or Nelson Mandela.  We all can't have that type of strength. But remember, most injuries occur in the eccentric phase, the negative movement.  Its not typical for an injury to occur during the positive movement, or acceleration phase, as I pointed out in the jump.  So don't just sit there and try to resist, get out there and do something positive.  Go volunteer in the community, help a friend, reach out to a loved one that you haven't spoken to in a while.  Do something kind for a random person.  By the time you figure out how to live your life doing something positive for other people,  you won't have any time left over to be tempted, and you'll have a better chance at avoiding life's injuries.  

 

 

Validation

A performance training program is all about results.  As a former athlete, I hated doing exercises/workouts that had nothing to do with making me a better player.  So many times I feel like the coaches were just trying to make me puke, how else can you explain the benefits of log rolls over and over and over again.  Honestly, if you're on the ground,  rolling around the football field, you should probably roll straight over to the bench, stay there for the rest of the game, then watch as the coaches find someone who can stay on their feet.  Even now, I hear athletes say things like "that was a great workout, I almost puked" or "man I'm so sore".  While this may be an unintended result, puking and soreness is not the measurement of a great training program or workout.  A training program should be purposeful and precise in achieving the desired results.

Below are the pre/post testing results of a local high school boys basketball team.  This team trained with us for two months leading up to the beginning of their season.  In addition to open gym practices, these kids would train with us twice a week for 90 minutes each session. We measured Vertical Jump, Lane Agility, Pullups and Squat Power, all things that we think are relevant to a basketball player.  We followed a systematic approach, first addressing injury risks and correcting dysfunctional movements.  For strength, we avoided the traditional squat because it was too much of an injury risk (as usual).  We replaced the traditional barbell squat with a single leg version.  At the end of the 8 weeks, vertical jump improved by an average of 1.78"!

Of course, the final evaluation of any performance program is how well this translates to the field/court.  Training someone from cone to cone is not the same as preparing someone for the game. This team won the conference championship last night!  Their record is currently 16-3, and the most important result is ZERO non-contact injuries!

Test Results Fall 2013.png

Mailbag

Thank you to everyone who participated in my first ever mailbag.  I'll do my best to answer your questions and address your issues.  On this website, I describe 3 performance principles..

1. Do No Harm  

2. Reduce Risk  

3. Increase Performance

I will follow this system in that order.  

Our first topic comes from....

Keith - Bronx, NY - I played football in college and always did squats, deadlift, and power cleans.  I originally hurt my back a few weeks back doing power cleans so I laid off for a while.  Today, it came back when I did some good mornings with the bar.  Should I stay away from these exercise completely?  What would you recommend for someone looking to put on weight and size?  What can I do for my back?

First, I would definitely recommend you consult your doctor or at least a chiropractor to make sure everything is where it should be.  In regards to the exercises you mentioned, all of them can be extremely beneficial in developing strength and size, but they must be done with PERFECT FORM!  Its impossible to tell whats going on with your back without doing a full assessment but here are a few things that may help.  Even if it doesn't, at the very least it won't hurt you and it may improve something else. 

  • Core Stabilization - planks, glute bridges, deadbugs, etc.  Strengthening the muscles that surround your lower back can help alleviate some pressure.  Many times, lower back pain originates from a pattern of over compensation for weak abdominals or glutes.  
  • Hip Mobility - specifically hamstring flexibility.  Again, a pattern of overcompensation for tight hamstrings will lead to pain.  There are 3 levels of stretching that I recommend.  Start with Level1 and progress from there .
Level 1 - Static Stretching Kneeling Hamstring Stretch  

Level 1 - Static Stretching

Kneeling Hamstring Stretch

 

Level 2 - Active Isolated Stretch Straight Leg Raise

Level 2 - Active Isolated Stretch

Straight Leg Raise

Level 3 - Dynamic Flexibility Leg Swings

Level 3 - Dynamic Flexibility

Leg Swings

  • Decrease/Change Load - At least for a while, don't load anything directly onto your spine.   Instead do some single leg exercises and use dumbbells which you can drop at anytime if pain becomes an issue.  Single leg exercises will allow you train your legs heavy while decreasing overall load on your back.  Your legs may be able to squat or deadlift 300 lbs. but your back can't take it.  Instead, squat or deadlift 150 lbs, with 1 leg.  
  • STOP DOING GOOD MORNINGS...FOREVER!!!

 

Garrett - Manassas, VA - I've had the unfortunate luck of seeing multiple ACL injuries happen 1st hand while playing sport. Most of these injuries were non-contact injuries. What is your approach to preventing these injuries from happening in athletes. 

Great question Garrett.  Here are few sobering facts.  In the US, there are over 250,000 ACL injuries per year!  Half of those are non-contact injuries.  Although we can never "prevent" an injury from happening, there are some things we can do to help at least reduce the risk of injury.   First, its important to understand the primary function of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL).  It provides 90% of the stability in the knee joint.  With that in mind, its also important to understand the relationship between the knee joint, the hips, and the ankles.  If an athlete lacks the adequate mobility in the hips and ankles, something has to give.  Many times its the knee.  So the first step in reducing the risk of any knee injury, is to develop the quality of movement in the surrounding joints.  Mobilize the hips and ankles.  The next step is to strengthen the muscles that stabilize the knee.  Most non-contact injuries occur during rapid deceleration.  If an athlete can't rapidly produce the force necessary to resist movement, an injury will likely occur.  Its especially important to focus on glute and hamstring strength as most people are quad dominant.  Once we've built a good foundation for movement (mobility + stability) the next step is to develop the movement skills specific to the sport.  Non-contact ACL injuries happen during rapid deceleration and twisting of the knee.  Drills should be selected to develop proprioception and enhance body control, especially while landing or cutting.  The final step in reducing risk is conditioning.  Unfortunately, many coaches try to accomplish this first instead of last.  Building fitness on top of dysfunction is a recipe for disaster.  But, if you can build good movement first, strengthen that movement, translate it to the field, and develop the endurance to recover and repeat, you will have a better chance at avoiding serious injury, and ultimately succeed.    

 

 

The Best Abs Workout

"What's the best abs workout?" I 've probably heard this question a million times.  It happens everywhere I go.  The other question is "how do I get rid of this", usually as that person is grabbing a chunk of their belly, just to make sure I understood exactly what "this" means.  The answer is actually quite simple.  1. Eat better  2. Burn as many calories as you can.  The subject of nutrition is endless, but most people have the common sense to know what "eat better" means.  It doesn't mean you have to start making cookies with quinoa and chia seeds (GROSS!!)  It just means eat a few more vegetables and fruits, and less of the junk like potato chips, candy, or peanut butter cup pie.  Again, the subject of nutrition could go on forever so I'll just stop there.

The other part in this quest for the elusive six pack is the workout.  The goal is to burn as many calories as you can.  So lets consider two things...

1.  Every single athlete I've ever trained has come to me with a performance goal of getting stronger, faster, quicker or some combination of all three.  I've never had an athlete ask me for hips, abs, thighs, or arms.  Never.  After weeks of training, they leave accomplishing the goals that they originally had, but they also leave with hips, abs, arms, and thighs, that most people would dream of having.  That's because fitness is a product of performance and not the other way around. 

2. There is no such thing as spot reduction!!  Calories aren't just the number that's listed on the back of food items.  Calories are an energy source for the body.  When the body needs energy for certain activities, the body will burn calories.  The more strenuous the activity, the more calories you will burn both during and after that activity.  However, your body doesn't deliver this energy source based on location.  Just because you did a thousand crunches, doesn't mean your body will burn fat only from your abdominals.  In fact your wasting time. 

So now that we've established those two things, let's revisit the question "What is the best abs workout?"...

   Chris Wilson, Flint, MI    Washington Redskins, BC Lions

   Chris Wilson, Flint, MI

   Washington Redskins, BC Lions

SPRINTING!

The best "abs" exercise is a true SPRINT! I'm not talking about running at a pace for your best mile ever.  I'm talking about running as if you had 10 seconds to get away from a bomb that was about to go off.  That is a true sprint.  It involves using every muscle in your body to exert as much force as possible.  Have you ever seen an Olympic sprinter with a gut?  I'm willing to bet that if you had the body of a sprinter you'd be pretty happy.  So why not train like them?  Their bodies work just like yours.  Now of course, this doesn't mean that you can run 100m in less than 10 seconds. However, your body uses energy and creates movement the same way.  So let's break down the movement and what is demanded of the body in a sprint vs a traditional abs exercise

Sprint

Movements: Triple Flexion, Triple Extension, Shoulder Extension/Flexion, Core Stability

Muscles: Rectus Abdominus, Transverse Abdominus, Internal & External Obliques, Multifidus, Erector Spinae...... Gastrocnemius, Soleus, Rectus Femoris, Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Medialis, Biceps Femoris, Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus, Gracilis, Sartorius, Adductor Longus, Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Minimus, Illiopsoas, Latismus Dorsi, Deltoids, Pec Major, Pec Minor.....this could take the whole page but you get the point

Traditional Abs Exercise

Movements: Flexion, Extension or Rotation of the Spine

Muscles: Rectus Abdominus, Transverse Abdominus, Internal & External Obliques, Multifidus, Erector Spinae

In a sprint, you will be using your abs, but you will also be using so many more muscles, demanding more of your body, and burning more calories.   You will also be tapping into an energy system that is seldom used and extremely beneficial in burning calories, building muscle, and developing cardiovascular health.  Here is a sample sprint workout for a beginner...

  • Foam Roll, Movement Prep, Dynamic Flexibility, Glute Activation - 15 minutes
  • A skip, B skip, Power Skip,
  • Bounding 20 yards x 5
  • 50 yard Sprints, walk back to the starting line for recovery, after 5 reps, rest for 2 minutes and then do another 5. 
  • Foam Roll, Stretch

 

 

Building Good Movement - Part 2

In part 1, I discussed the components of a movement-based, performance training program.  An athlete must train for movement qualities such as stability and mobility.   Athletes also need strength training to produce force to meet the demands of sport, and move in every direction, not just forward and back.  Now, I'll break down the movement itself and go over some training tips to help boost performance.  This system will work for any movement, but today I'm going to focus on just one..

THE SQUAT

There are many different variations of the squat, barbell back squats, front squats, overhead, etc.  My personal favorite is the RFE (Rear Foot Elevated) Squat, aka Bulgarians.  In this version, the rear foot is elevated, placing the focus on one leg, with the added challenge of balance, core stability, and flexibility.  Whatever variation you choose, it still breaks down into a knee dominant movement, and the demands are roughly the same.  

Step 1 - Identify the moving parts

Movement doesn't happen in the muscles.  Muscles contract to create movement in the joints.  In a squat, those moving parts include ankles, knees, hips, and the spine.  Now take a look at what is demanded of those moving parts

  • ankles - mobility
  • knees - stability
  • hips - mobility
  • lumbar spine - stability

Step 2 - Movement Prep

This is the most important step in performance training and the key to building good movement quality.  As the saying goes, "failing to prepare, is preparing to fail".  If your idea of a warm up is a few toe touches and jumping jacks, don't be surprised when squats hurt you.  So here are some movement prep techniques that can help you get ready for a legit training session.

  • ankles - mobility: myofascial release, active isolated stretching
  • knees - stability: myofascial release, glute activation, reactive neuromuscular training
  • hips - mobility: myofascial release, active isolated stretching, dynamic flexibility
  • lumbar spine: myofascial release, core activation

Step 3 - Eccentric, Isometric, Concentric Strength and The Force Velocity Curve

Don't make this too complicated.  There is plenty to go over when it comes to these phases of training but lets just keep it simple.  Eccentric strength is the ability to decelerate a load or force in the negative direction.  In a squat, you want to be able to control the weight downward as you load.  On the field, this translates into the ability to quickly stop and change direction.  Isometric strength is the ability to hold and maintain your position without movement.  Again, a quality that translates directly onto the field.  Concentric strength is the one most are familiar with. This is the ability to accelerate or produce enough force to create movement in a positive direction.   This brings us to the the force-velocity curve which I'll break down into just two categories:  Max Load and Max Velocity.  These two qualities are directly connected and athlete needs to train both.  Max Load means moving as much weight as possible.  Max Velocity means moving a very light weight, as fast as possible. 

Step 4 - Energy Systems Development

Once again, plenty to discuss here, but lets keep it simple.  First, its important to understand there are two categories for muscle fibers: slow twitch and fast twitch.  Slow twitch muscle fibers don't produce a lot of force but last for longer durations.  Fast twitch muscle fibers can produce much more force but don't last very long.  Depending on how much power you need and how rapidly you need it, the body will use a combination of these two types along with various energy systems to meet demands.  Its similar to a hybrid vehicle that is powered by both gas and battery.  When the vehicle needs to create power during acceleration, it will use gas.  When its cruising, battery.  Still with me?  For athletes, a training program needs to address both maximum power output and the ability to sustain power over the course of a game or match.   A sprinter would lose in a marathon, but a distance runner doesn't have a chance in the 100m dash.  For a sport like soccer or basketball, both power and endurance is needed.One without the other isn't good enough.