Archive for “Programming for Young Athletes” Category

Sprinting Mechanics – How to Run Faster: Paul Aanonson

Coaching Sprinting Mechanics must not be ignored in speed training!

SPEED’, the buzzword in the world of sports. Those who have mastered the art of sprinting dominate those who have yet to develop it. Speed wins, every time.

Top speed sprinting is one the most complex, high-velocity human movements in sports. Top speed means 10+ yards after acceleration. Sprinting is a skill and it CAN be learned. To coach a skill, you must first seek to understand the movement and then master the mechanics.

True speed can be an elusive skill to master, and as a result, is often not strongly emphasized in programming. All too often, I hear the phrase, ‘you can’t coach speed’. This statement is likely made because many coaches simply don’t know how to train speed, never mastered the skill themselves, don’t seek to understand its full value or have never been properly educated on how to include proper sprinting mechanics and athletic movement in their coaching. More familiar methods, such as strength training, provide visible weight room results and PRs that look good on paper and pass the ‘eye test,’ but don’t always translate to the field. An athlete with impressive weight room stats, who can’t move quickly and efficiently, will not succeed on the field.

Why does learning sprinting mechanics matter?

As coaches, we need to create well-rounded programs that focus on all aspects of athletic development. Sprinting is a pillar of sports performance. The foundation for ALL my performance training is ‘Building Better Athletes, Not Weight Room All-Stars’.

Teaching Sprinting MechanicsWhen developing athleticism, one question must be answered. What type of movements are performed during the sport and how can we develop speed, power and explosiveness within these skills? Once we determine this, then we can program to improve movement skills, like sprinting, with drills and exercises focused on mechanics, mobility, power and strength.

Unfortunately, lost in the obsession of building bigger and stronger athletes, is the mastery of skills like sprinting, jumping, cutting and improving overall movement. An athlete’s ability to squat 400 lbs (even if the bar speed is explosive), only matters if they can actually apply their strength and power to on-field movements. If it doesn’t transfer, it doesn’t matter.

I’m certainly not here to say that strength doesn’t matter. Strength training is undoubtedly another pillar of athletic development. Speed and strength go hand in hand to create a successful athlete. Instead, I’m here to challenge and bring awareness to the amount of energy and importance our industry places on strength. Think about the amount of training time that is allocated to learning Olympic lifts like the power clean. Compare that to the amount of time spent on coaching and developing movements like sprinting mechanics. One skill (sprinting) is performed on every play of every game, and one is not (i.e. power cleans). If the time dedicated to learning how to properly move and sprint does not outweigh, or at least equal, the time dedicated to learning Olympic lifts, we are failing our athletes.

Learning how to sprint requires breaking down the movement into steps (as seen in the video below), developing good habits and efficient fluid movements. SPEED CAN BE LEARNED by training posture, body position and mechanics and utilizing specific drills, along with teaching athletes how to efficiently produce force during the action of sprinting. Drills help athletes simplify the complex skill, allowing them to focus on just one aspect.

The goal when coaching sprinting mechanics is not perfection. Every athlete will have slightly different quirks and movements, but the question to always ask is whether or not they are moving efficiently.  Perfection is the enemy, while efficiency is the ally. Everything from how and where the foot lands, to the position of the head, must be performed with intent and purpose. Most athletes never learn to run correctly and the result creates bad habits during their developmental years. It is our job as coaches to determine if they need to relearn the skill of sprinting or just improve a few aspects, then communicate it with simple cues during speed workouts.

Not every athlete is born with equal natural abilities and each individual has a genetic ceiling. As coaches and mentors, it’s our responsibility to help athletes reach their full potential by providing the tools, confidence, and skills to reach peak performance on the field. I have successfully coached the art of sprinting to well over 2,000 athletes. It is a process, it takes time, and you must be confident and able to break down movements and sprinting mechanics for each individual.

Teaching proper sprinting mechanics does not have to be intimidating. Take the time to fully understand the movement and break down the individual steps. Like any other skill, the more you practice, the more confident you’ll become coaching, cueing and helping your athletes develop into proficient, powerful sprinters.

Along with the Simple Speed Coach ‘How to Sprint’ video, I’ve included a simple overview to help you follow my 9 coaching cues shown in the video.

How to Sprint Video Overview:

Step 1: Neutral Head: Chin neutral, eyes up.

Step 2: Sprint Posture: Neutral pelvis w/ forward lean, rod from ear through hip.

Step 3: Hip Flexion: Thigh slightly below parallel to the ground.

Step 4: Knee Extension / Flight Phase: Violent motion of leg extending towards the ground.

Step 5: Ground Anticipation: How the foot strikes the ground.

Step 6: COG: Where the foot lands.

Step 7: Recovery Leg: Action of the leg as it drives up and in front of the body.

Step 8: Arm Action: Powerful and efficient arm swing.

Step 9: Relax: Utilize only the muscles needed for fluid motion, breathe.

*STRIDE TO TURNOVER RATIO

Stride is determined by recovery leg action (Step 7) into Hip Flexion (Step 3). Turnover is the velocity through the leg cycle.

Teaching sprinting mechanics can be an incredibly enjoyable and fruitful process as you develop athletes.  Take the time to thoroughly understand sprinting mechanics before you begin your instruction, and enjoy watching your athletes get faster and faster.

 

Paul AanonsonPaul Aanonson, MS, CSCS, FMS – Paul is the owner of Simple Speed Coach and has directed the sports performance program for North Colorado Sports Medicine since 2008, training over 2,500 athletes. He oversees the return to sport rehab program and has mentored and prepared over 130 collegiate graduates through his internship program. Aanonson graduated from South Dakota State University with a B.S. in Exercise Science and received a M.S. in Sport Administration from The University of Northern Colorado. He was a four sport all-state athlete in high school and a FCS All-American return specialist for the South Dakota State University football team.

 

For even more detailed information about sprinting mechanics and speed development, check out the IYCA Certified Speed & Agility Specialist course.  The CSAS is the most comprehensive and scientifically sound speed certification in the athletic development profession.  It truly prepares you to teach and develop speed.  Click on the image below to learn more.

speed & agility certification

 

Metabolic Conditioning for Athletes, Part 2 – Phil Hueston

In Part 1 of this series on metabolic conditioning, I explored what energy is and how the body’s energy systems work. In this article, let’s have a practical look at what metabolic conditioning is and why we should do it with athletes.

The 3 Forms of Metabolic Conditioning

Metabolic Conditioning comes in three basic forms, two of which relate directly to exercise and training:

1. Anaerobic-based – According to Plisk, this is “Motor unit activity, substrate flux and force-speed production patterns such that anaerobic bioenergetics pathways are preferential.” (1) In other words, this form is based on muscle and system functions that prefer the ATP-CP system. Using it preferentially tends to lead to further preference. Your systems will get better at using this form, with a preference for it.

It’s peripheral in nature. We’re talking about muscles and the movement systems of the body. This includes voluntary and involuntary movement, so that twitch or tic you get is also dependent on this system. Think of it as the conditioning that strengthens muscles as well as the endurance of the body.

It buffers the hydrogen ions that accumulate in cells via the production of lactate (not lactic acid, as most folks like to say.)

As fast-twitch, or Type 2X fibers begin to fatigue, we see a slight transference from the ATP-CP system to the Glycolytic system. So, you can remain in an anaerobic metabolic conditioning state even as the principle energy system begins to fail.

2. Aerobic-based – Aerobic energy production is more “central” in nature and provides overall work capacity and endurance for activities of varying speed, intensity, and duration. While arguably more critical to quality and span of life, it can be accomplished through means that are not traditionally “aerobic.”

Aerobic metabolic conditioning integrates cardiovascular parameters into the conditioning process. These include heart rate, cardiac output, blood flow distribution, arterial pressures, total peripheral resistance, left ventricular stroke volume and arterial & venous blood oxygen content.

3. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) – All energy expended for all activities other than eating, sleeping, and exercise or sports.

According to Levine “changes in NEAT accompany experimentally induced changes in energy balance and may be important in the physiology of weight change.” (2)  It can account for 270 to 480 calories per day, on average.

Energy. Metabolism. Energy metabolism. They’re all neighbors. Co-workers. You get the idea.

Why metabolic conditioning for athletes, anyway?

Yeah! Isn’t metabolic conditioning really for older, chubby people who are sick of looking like whales at the beach?

Yes and no. Yes, it helps with fat loss. No, it’s not just for the crowd trying to avoid the Porky Pig look.

What are the real benefits of metabolic conditioning for athletes?

Let’s take a look.

For a lot of coaches, metabolic conditioning is just a way to “kick the asses” of their athletes. Some athletes have even been conditioned to buy into this idea. I, for one, would greatly appreciate if those coaches would find work in another industry. Waste management, maybe.

Metabolic conditioning can be tough, and it probably should be, if it’s really going to be effective. Your metabolic conditioning program should challenge your athletes, but it should also make them better!

A quality metabolic conditioning program can provide the following benefits to athletes:

1. Serious calorie burning – While probably a bigger concern for the fat loss athlete than for competitive athletes, it’s an important consideration. While calorie burn during your training session is important, it’s really the boost in metabolic rate after the session that’s important.

Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) contributes to the “afterburn effect.” This occurs because the body is in an oxygen debt after intense exercise and is in the process of repairing muscle tissue. Add to this the lactate factor and EPOC becomes a pretty big deal. Metcon can enhance EPOC and keep the metabolism jacked.

Improvements in lean mass for athletes come with several other benefits. When an athlete’s metabolism is more efficient, he/she uses nutrients more efficiently. Protein and nitrogen uptake are improved and the rate of calorie expenditure per unit of work performed is positively affected.

Athletes can also become more “metabolically flexible.” (3) This means their bodies become able to perform at high levels using either carbs or fats for fuel. Conversion of fats to usable fuel gets more efficient and energy levels don’t vary as much.

2. Improvement to cardiovascular capacity – While steady state, low intensity exercise like jogging or a bike ride can have real impact on cardiovascular function and aerobic capacity, metabolic conditioning has been shown to improve VO2 max better than traditional aerobic exercise.

Perhaps more important, recovery times from high-intensity activities improve. That means when your athlete goes all out, they recover the ability to go all out again in a shorter time.

3. Improvements in hormonal profile – Metabolic conditioning has been shown to improve the profile of hormones that are involved in lipolysis, or fat burning. Metcon seems to intensify the positive hormonal profile results from just strength training. Recent research has shown an improvement in free testosterone in men who perform HIIT, or high-intensity interval training. (4)

4. Improvements in lean mass – Metabolic conditioning can help spur dramatic improvements in lean mass. While you’re unlikely to see large-scale increases in total mass or muscle size, metabolic conditioning contributes to reductions in body fat.

One benefit of the lean mass changes resulting from proper application of metabolic conditioning is one that many athletes understand, but few really talk about. After all, it’s become a little bit politically incorrect. I’m talking, of course, about the intimidation factor.

Few things are more intimidating to a less-conditioned athlete than the raw, hungry look of a lean, muscled athlete. Even athletes who aren’t “huge” look far more intense and scary when their muscles are showing. Any football player who has lined up across from someone whose muscles are on full display can attest to that…

5. Sport – or context-specific skill development – Especially with metabolic conditioning targeting the ATP-CP system, sport- and context-specific skills are often ideal for inclusion in programming. Because the work time is relatively short and the rest time fairly long, athletes can focus on perfecting skills like jumping, landing mechanics and direction change without losing any of the other benefits of metabolic conditioning.

If you have athletes preparing for combines, showcases or other recruiting-related or similar events, using metabolic conditioning to improve those skills is ideal. Drills like the Pro Shuttle, 40/60 yard dash starts, 10 yard splits, L Drills and others can be connected with other activities to increase metabolic conditioning while perfecting important skills.

You can even tie in sports skills like hitting a ball, ball handling skills, shooting or sprawling for wrestlers or shooting for soccer, lacrosse or hockey players with other conditioning activities to achieve the desired met con effect.

6. Improvements in brain chemistry – After accounting for stress and other life factors, we know that intense exercise like metabolic conditioning will improve the neurotransmitters in the brain, CNS and even the gut. Endorphins are released during and after intense exercise. Serotonin and dopamine levels are improved through exercise that pushes us near the point of physical exhaustion.

With regard to gut hormonal health, metabolic conditioning may be just what your athlete needs. Shorter duration, higher intensity exercise is believed by some alternative medicine doctors to “shock” serotonin receptor cells in the gut lining and improve the flow of gut serotonin. Long duration exercise, however, has been shown to damage gut linings and potentially lead to leaky gut syndrome. (5)

7. Improvements in cognitive function – There is so much research showing how exercise, particularly intense exercise, improves the cognitive function of the human brain that it should be a “no-brainer” by now. Sorry, bad joke. Neural pathways involved in working memory, recall, analysis and problem-solving all benefit from exercise. Some of the influence is hormonal, while some is structural and energy-related.

Another important way cognitive improvement happens is via an increase in Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, or BDNF. BDNF is a brain protein which acts on specific neurons to improve long-term memory. It also has positive effects on the hippocampus, cortex and forebrain. All these areas are crucial to learning, memory and higher thinking. BDNF also has the ability to stimulate neurogenesis, or the growth of new brain cells from stem cells.

Moderate to intense exercise has been shown to have a positive impact on levels of BDNF in the brain and blood. This indicates a neuroprotective function for metabolic conditioning. (6, 7)

Are you with me that metabolic conditioning isn’t just for overweight, swimsuit model wanna-bes yet? You should be, or at least open to the idea.

Metabolic Conditioning workouts should be designed with the needs of the user in mind. The activities in which the exerciser will engage outside the gym should influence what is included in the training program. In the next part of this series, I’m going to show you how I use metabolic conditioning in my athlete’s programs.

We’ll review some general guidelines for designing these modules. I’ll also give you some sport-specific examples of skill-building through metabolic conditioning and a few ready-to-use programs for you to swipe and try.

Bio: Coach Phil Hueston is not just another pretty trainer. With over 18 years of in-the-trenches experience with athletes ages 6 to 60, he brings a unique skill-set to the improvement of his athletes. The author of the Amazon best-seller “Alchemy; Where the Art and Science Collide in Youth Fitness,” his client list includes professional athletes, collegiate athletes as well as thousands of youth athletes. Phil has been the co-owner of All-Star Sports Academy in Toms River, NJ, one of the largest and most successful youth and family fitness centers in New Jersey since 2008. He was named “Coach of the Year” by the IYCA for 2012-2013.  A contributor to IYCA.org and coach to other coaches, Phil provides unique insights and ideas that can help other coaches accelerate their clients’ progress and performance. Phil is married to the woman responsible for his entry into the fitness profession, MaryJo. Between them they have 2 grown children, Nate and Andrew, and 99 problems.  Phil’s personal website is coachphilhueston.com, and he can be contacted at phil.hueston@hotmail.com

 

The IYCA High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist is the only certification created specifically for coaches training high school athletes.  The course includes several hours of video instruction and two textbooks with contributions from some of the top strength and conditioning coaches in America.  Click on the image below to learn more about how to become a certified high school strength & conditioning coach.

 

  1. Plisk, S.S. (1991). Anaerobic metabolic conditioning: A brief review of theory, strategy,
    and practical application. Journal of Applied Sport Science Research, 5(1), 22-34
  2. Levine, J.A. (2004). Non-exercise activity thermogenesis. Nutrition Reviews, 62(7), S82-S97.
  3. Brooks, GA, and Mercier, J. Balance of carbohydrate and lipid utilization during exercise: The “crossover” concept. Journal of Applied Physiology 76(6): 2253-2261, 1994.
  4. Herbert, P., HIIT produces increases in muscle power and free testosterone in male masters athletes. Endocrine Connections, Vol 6, Iss 7, Pp 430-436 (2017)
  5. R. J. S. Costa, R. M. J. Snipe, C. M. Kitic, P. R. Gibson. Systematic review: exercise-induced gastrointestinal syndrome-implications for health and intestinal disease. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 2017
  6. Szuhany KL, Bugatti M, Otto MW (January 2015). “A meta-analytic review of the effects of exercise on brain-derived neurotrophic factor”. Journal of Psychiatric Research
  7. Phillips C, Baktir MA, Srivatsan M, Salehi A (2014). “Neuroprotective effects of physical activity on the brain: a closer look at trophic factor signaling”. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience.

#1 Predictor of Coaching Success – Karsten Jensen

This brief article is inspired by a recent newsletter posted by Jim Kielbaso on the topic of diving deeper with respect to educational knowledge.  If you’re not getting the newsletter, sign up HERE.  

For some individuals, diving deeper into a topic appears as natural as walking. If you fall into this category, you may question the usefulness of an entire article on the topic.

At the other end of the spectrum, however, are coaches and trainers for whom diving deeper does not seem to come as easy. How can that be?

There appear to be at least two pre-requisites to diving deeper.

  • Motivation and willingness to learn and grow – without this element diving deeper will not happen.
  • Skills to ask the questions that guide the process (the dive) – without this skill, there might be uncertainty about what books to read, which courses to take, etc.. Trainers/coaches might feel that they read a lot but that it is not helpful in their work.

This article discusses practical tools to: 
1: Increase motivation to learn and grow as a coach or trainer.
2: Determine how to dive deeper.

1. How to increase motivation and willingness to grow

A component of my work is to teach a fundamental certification course for the Certified Professional Trainers Network in Canada. Within the first hour of the four-day workshop, I typically mention the following quote:

I jokingly say, “If you truly live and apply this, then we can all go home.”

Do you accept the idea that a willingness to learn is a powerful attitude? If so, consider the following statement that takes Zig Ziglar’s quote one step further and applies it in a training context:

Make the next program better (than ever before).
Make the next session better (than ever before).

If you truly live this attitude, you might experience a couple of really cool benefits:

  • Your growth as a coach/trainer skyrockets from daily incremental improvements. It is really the law of compound interest applied to the learning process.
  • Your motivation during program creation and the sessions with your athletes may increase. It is no longer: “I have done this before.” It is now, “What am I going to learn today? How am I going to grow today?”

If you are still not–on a visceral level–excited and committed to the idea of constant learning and growing, then fill out a pain-pleasure diagram. This form of diagram relates to the saying:

“If you have a big enough WHY, then you will figure out the how.”
Jim Rohn
(Please check the work of Anthony Robbins for more information).

To execute the exercise, make 4 big squares on a sheet of paper, and label them as in the example below. Begin by writing the components that come with the strongest emotional drive. Next add elements that you intellectually agree with, but do not necessarily feel on an emotional level.

Your goal is to reach a point of an emotional shift that “locks you in” to constant learning and growing. Below is an example:

Learning Just showing up
PLEASURE
  1. Faster growth as a trainer
  2. Increased motivation
  3. Potentially higher compensation due to increased skills
  4. Increased referrals due to better client experiences
  5. Learning skills that might be useful if you ever leave training/coaching
  6. More fun
  1. It is easy
  2. More free time in your schedule to do other things
PAIN
  1. Time commitment
  2. Cost of books,  workshops, etc.
  1. A subtle feeling that you are winging it
  2. Frustration because you don’t understand why the athletes are not motivated to follow your program
  3. Frustration because you don’t understand why the athletes cannot execute the cues you give
  4. Lack of results and lack of promotions
  5. Boredom during sessions because you feel it is just a chore and you don’t really know how to be involved
  6. Frustrated with program design because you feel it is just about getting it done

One of the big challenges for many self-employed coaches is that they have to be both a coach and a business person. On one hand, they want to learn and grow as a coach. On the other hand, they may find their coaching growth is sacrificed in order to stay on top of the business side of things.

Personally, the coach/business dichotomy has never really sat well with me. On the deepest level, I feel like a coach or a teacher. For that reason, I absolutely love the following sentence that merges the objective of the coach and the businessperson into one.

“Be so good that they (the athletes) can’t stop talking about you.”

I first heard this quote ascribed to Disney and I do know a couple of very successful businesses that are built completely on living that statement.

Let’s assume that you are motivated and locked in on learning. The last part of the article discusses a process for actually doing it and diving deeper.

2. How to Dive Deeper and Learn Every Day

In some of his workshops, Paul Chek talks about how his career in fitness and healing began.

He was stationed at Fort Bragg as (I believe) a paratrooper and was simultaneously boxing and doing triathlons. He did well and his superiors said that if he trained the other soldiers he would get extra time to train on his own.

He accepted that premise and started training the other soldiers, even though he had no formal education at the time. Thus, during this early stage in his career, the sequence he experienced was:

1: Someone presented him with a specific problem.

2: He had to figure out how to fix it.

The point is not that learning in advance (such as through longer formal education) is not useful. The point is, regarding your continued education, one of the best approaches is to choose education (books, workshops, conferences) based on where your biggest questions are with respect to working with your athletes.

The approach is the opposite of trying to “stay updated” (impossible) or to follow what is “new” (big risk of wasting time). To help you determine your areas of focus, download my continuing education self-assessment here.

The 5-hour rule

With the overall approach laid out, the first thing to do is to schedule time weekly to learn. The 5-hour rule is great, but something is better than nothing.

Whatever time you assign should be divided between:

    1. Reading
    2. Thinking about and structuring what you read so you are able to apply it to your program design, sessions and career

Learning during sessions

From my experiences, there are three sources of learning during the session that can be used as guidance for how to dive deeper:

    1. Direct questions from athletes or clients.
    2. You instruct an exercise in a certain way and the athlete is not able to execute it correctly.
    3. The session goes as planned but you get a subtle feeling – or you consciously ask the question, “What could be improved?”

Always take quick notes and address them during the designated learning time.

Learning after the session

The following questions tie into the three areas above. However, additional insights may arise when you sit down with time to think. The sooner after the session you get the time to sit and contemplate, the better. Ask yourself:

  • Is there any aspect of the program that did not work and must be adjusted?            
  • Is there any aspect of the program that is not adequately defined and should be refined?                                                           
  • Is there any aspect of the program that works but could be improved?       
  • Are there any questions that could provide the basis for future research?

If it is not natural for you to ask questions, you might not feel that there are any answers to the questions listed above. If that is the case, you must be more aggressive and put your subconscious mind to work.

Ask the following questions with complete awareness, but don’t force an answer:

  • What is the most important question about < insert topic> that I have not asked yet?
  • What is the most important insight about < insert topic> that I have not had yet?
  • What is the most powerful strategy or tactic with respect to <insert topic> that I haven’t applied yet?

The answer will appear as an idea popping into your head seemingly out of nowhere, from a fellow trainer mentioning a specific book or workshop, or a Facebook post that “magically” seems to be just what you were seeking.

When you read, watch videos or attend workshops, one of the easiest traps to fall into is the thought that I have heard this before. I know it already.”                                                        

If you feel that this applies to you, then contemplate the following:

  1. Does the fact that I have heard something before make my programs better? (No.)
  2. Does the athlete/client benefit from me having heard something or “know” something? (No.) 

Only information that is applied to creating, supervising, instructing or evaluating training programs is beneficial to your work and to the client. Therefore, after reading material/attending lectures or workshops, ask yourself:

  1. Have I heard this before?
  2. If I have heard this before, am I applying the principles, and if so, how well am I applying the principles?  
  3. How can I apply these principles better?

Don’t ever accept the idea that you can’t execute a particular element of your work better. One of the worst situations you could be in is to not have a clear vision and plan of action for how to get better.

There is a great story told about legendary Spanish cello player, Pablo Casals. At 86, he was asked:  Why do you still practice?

He answered with the trademark of a true master, “I think that I am still improving.”

We find the same type of thinking within our own field. I spoke to Dr. Stuart McGill after the recent SWIS Symposium in Mississauga, Canada. He said:

The best assessment that I will ever do is the last one before I die, because I will be the wisest and most experienced.

Karsten Jensen has helped world class and Olympic athletes from 26 sports disciplines since 1993. Many of his athletes have won Olympic medals, European Championships, World Championships and ATP Tournaments.

Karsten is the first strength coach to create a complete system of periodization, The Flexible Periodization Method – the first complete method of periodization dedicated to holistic, individualized and periodized (H.I.P) training programs.

Karsten shares all aspects of The Flexible Periodization Method (FPM) with his fellow strength coaches and personal trainers through The Flexible Periodization Method workshop series (Levels I-VIII).  Find more information at www.yestostrength.com.

Metabolic Conditioning for Athletes, Part 1 – Phil Hueston

Metabolic conditioning has been a “buzz phrase” in the fitness profession for many years now. Before that, it was the subject of research dating back at least 40 years.

So when I hear a certain “Biggest Loser” trainer telling the world she coined the phrase, I just have to shake my head.  Ummm, yeah….I’m gonna need you to stop that. If you could just go ahead and remember it’s a science phrase, that’d be great. Thanks!metabolic conditioning

Metabolic conditioning (metcon) has been defined as the use of exercise to increase the storage and delivery of energy for any activity.

Bergeron defined it in 2011 as “exercises that impose a moderate to high demand on the cardiovascular system and energy metabolism of the active muscle fibers to meet with the muscles’ repeated high energy requirement.” (Current Sports Medicine Reports, 2011)

Essentially, metabolic conditioning is the improvement of energy storage, delivery, and usage through the application of activity to the movement system of the body.

What is energy, exactly?

We’ve all felt a little less than energetic. We’ve probably all been in a room full of people brimming with energy. Little children seem to have endless amounts of it.

But what is energy as it relates to the human body? Where does the energy to run our body systems come from? What fuels movement? When we run low or need more, where does it come from?

The truth is that energy is all around us. All matter is energy, in all its forms. We use energy to workout and we use energy to drive our cars and heat our homes.

The first law of thermodynamics says that energy can be neither created nor destroyed. It can only change phase or form.

Einstein figured this out when he postulated his theory about energy. He used the formula E=mc² to explain it. E is energy, m the mass of an object while the c² represents a constant, in this case, the speed of light in a vacuum. By his formula, we can ascertain the amount of energy inside any mass. A change in the energy of an object would result in the mass changing and vice-versa. He created his now-famous formula to quantify the way in which mass releases energy, and how a huge amount of energy can be released from a relatively small amount of mass. He also realized that there is a lot more energy inside an atom than in its valence electrons (unpaired electrons in the outer shell of an atom.) So if you split an atom, you release an amount of energy many times that contained in the electrons in the shell.

But, let’s talk about how this applies to us and the energy our athletes need – the energy for movement and cellular activity. To better understand metabolic conditioning and its impact on energy storage, delivery, and usage, let’s, as the King said to Alice, “begin at the beginning.” 

Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is the secret sauce for physical activity. It’s been called the “molecular unit of currency.”

Nucleoside. Ribose.

All energy in the human body comes from the conversion of this high-energy, badass phosphate to lower energy, less-badass phosphates. In the simplest form of energy transfer,  a hydrolytic process takes place (meaning water is required,) and ATP is converted to ADP (Adenosine Diphosphate) or AMP (Adenosine Monophosphate – this occurs with far less frequency.) Some energy, some heat, and one proton are released. Then, the ADP molecule connects with an inorganic phosphate to resynthesize the ATP molecule.

Here’s an easy way to put it. A ball with 3 legs and a hat gets splashed with water. A spark flies out (energy,) there’s a short burst of flame (heat) and the hat (hydrogen) and one leg (phosphate) fall off. After the water clears, the ball goes looking for a fresh hat and a new leg, which are apparently pretty easy to find. And just like that, we have another 3-legged ball and the whole dance starts again.

But even with a cool, easy visual like that, the process of energy production is not that simple. Since we use muscle and body systems in different ways and for different periods of time, using different muscles and types of muscles, we need different energy delivery methods to match the needs of each.

There are 3 different energy systems we work with. Which one takes the lead depends on how long, and how hard, we ask the body to go.  Let’s explore how these work and how they relate to metabolic conditioning.

Blast off – Phosphagen (ATP-CP) System

If you want to go hard and fast, but not very long, it’s all about the ATP-CP. The ATP-CP system, also called the Phospagenic pathway, is the system of choice when full power or intensity is needed for a short period. When maximal or near maximal power is needed by muscles, the demand for ATP goes through the roof. Just gotta have it and gotta have it now!

The ATP-CP system is the quickest way to resynthesize ATP and deliver the goods. Creatine Phosphate, or CP, is stored in muscle and is happy to donate a phosphate to the cause in order to facilitate the resynthesis process. At least, nobody’s heard CP complaining about it to date. When muscles use ATP for energy and leave behind ADP, CP provides a phosphate so ADP can become ATP. So, ADP + CP = ATP + C. That Creatine molecule will then pick up an inorganic phosphate and re-form CP.

It’s a real Jerry Maguire kind of moment…

This is an anaerobic energy system, as no oxygen is needed to resynthesize ATP. No fats or carbohydrates are required, either. Because of the speed of the process, it is ideal for high-intensity activities lasting no more than about 30 seconds. But there is also a limited supply of stored ATP and CP in skeletal muscle, so fatigue hits fast, and often hard.

To recap, the Phosphagen energy system is ideal for short-duration, high-intensity muscular activity because:

  1. It requires no oxygen for completion
  2. The ATP resynthesis is rapid
  3. All the components required are stored in the contractile proteins of muscle (but in limited quantities), and
  4. Few chemical reactions are required to split off the phosphate groups from either Creatine Phosphate or ATP to fulfill the energy requirements of the cell.

Sprints, Olympic and maximal lifts come to mind. Sports like football, baseball, softball and track and field events like the 100m dash, throws and jumps also fit this pathway. Due to the massive, rapid power output here, recovery can be anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes, depending on the current conditioning level of your athlete or client.  Typically, coaches refer to this kind of training as more explosive in nature, but it can have a role in metabolic conditioning if programmed correctly.  

The “in-betweener” – Glycolytic System

But what happens when we want to go at it a little longer, but still put some oomph in the work? Well, we have an app for that. Okay, an energy system.

The Glycolytic energy system is designed for activity between 30-60 seconds and up to 4 minutes, depending, of course, on which studies you believe. It’s the next fastest method of resynthesizing ATP.

Here, carbohydrate is broken down through a series of chemical reactions to form pyruvate. The first of these is a process called glycogenolysis, where glycogen is broken down into glucose. Each molecule of glucose that is broken down to pyruvate in this process yields 2 molecules of ATP.

metabolic conditioning for soccer

The trade-off here is that not a lot of energy is really created, but the process is pretty fast. When glucose breaks down to pyruvate, it can go one of two ways: it can be converted to lactate or converted to a metabolic intermediary known as acetyl coenzyme A, or acetyl-CoA. Acetyl-CoA is sucked up by mitochondria for oxidation and production of more ATP.

The conversion to lactate happens when the need for oxygen is greater than the supply, like during anaerobic exercise. When oxygen is plentiful and muscles are oxygen-happy, like during aerobic exercise, pyruvate (as Acetyl-CoA) enters the mitochondria and goes through aerobic metabolism.

Sometimes, though, this method of energy problems has issues. When oxygen isn’t supplied to muscles el rapido, anaerobic glycolysis takes place. Anaerobic glycolysis is a dirty slob. It leaves behind a mess of hydrogen ions, causing muscle pH to drop. This is known as acidosis. But that’s not all. We also get a buildup of other metabolites like ADP, inorganic potassium and free Potassium ions.

As you might imagine, all this metabolite trash causes trouble. Here’s some of what can go wrong:

  1. Inhibition of specific enzymes involved in muscle contractions and in metabolism
  2. Inhibition of calcium release from muscle storage sites. Problem! Calcium is the trigger for muscle contractions
  3. Interference with the electrical charges in the muscles

This all contributes to a reduction in the ability of muscles to contract effectively. As a result, muscle force production falls and exercise intensity decreases. In other words, you lose strength and power.

Working sets of weightlifting, jump rope sets and running distances of 400m and up come to mind as representative of activities needing this energy system. Sports like hockey, soccer, lacrosse and basketball also fit this pathway. Recovery time here is generally 1 to 3 minutes.  When most people talk about metabolic conditioning, it is usually the anaerobic energy system that gets challenged.  

Going the Distance: Aerobic System

The aerobic system is quite complex, the most complex of the three systems. This is likely an outcropping of the long-held understanding that the human body evolved for aerobic activity. Aerobic metabolic reactions, which happen with oxygen, are the genesis for the majority of cellular energy in the body. This form of ATP resynthesis is the slowest of the three types.

The aerobic system does its work in muscle mitochondria. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as mitochondrial respiration. Blood glucose, glycogen and fat fuels are used to resynthesize ATP within the muscle mitochondria. The aerobic system includes the Krebs cycle (Citric Acid or TCA cycle) and the electron transport chain.

(Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Here’s how it happens:

For carbohydrates, glycolysis metabolizes glucose and glycogen into pyruvate. This is used to create acetyl-CoA, which makes its way to the Krebs cycle. The resulting electrons are transported along the electron transport chain, with ATP and water being produced.

When glucose is completely oxidized via glycolysis, the Krebs cycle and the electron transport chain, the resulting yield is 36 molecules of ATP for every glucose molecule metabolized. So for those of you keeping score at home, that’s 18 times the amount produced by anaerobic glycolysis.

When the aerobic system relies on fat for energy, things are a little different. Fat is stored as triglyceride and can be found in skeletal muscles, where it’s called intramuscular triglyceride, and in adipose tissue under the skin. Fat represents the most plentiful source of energy in the body. Yes, even if you’re not “fat.”

Triglycerides are broken down through lipolysis into free fatty acids and glycerol. The free fatty acids are shipped off to the muscle mitochondria, where carbon atoms swing into action to produce acetyl-CoA in a process called beta-oxidation. Once acetyl-CoA has been formed, fat metabolism looks just like carb metabolism. Electrons go to the electron transport chain and form water and ATP, acetyl-CoA gets crammed into the Krebs cycle.

The result? Fatty acid palmitate produces 129 molecules of ATP. This helps explain why low-intensity activity in the “aerobic zone” can be continued for such long periods, often until the exerciser nods off and tumbles off the treadmill…

For activities lasting longer than 5 minutes, the Aerobic system is the energy provider of choice for the body. Capable of handling easy to moderate intensity activity for hours, it can generally also recover quickly.

Coming next…

If we’re going to use metabolic conditioning with our athletes, I think it’s important to have a basic understanding of energy systems and their application for our athletes. In the next part of this series, we’ll take a look at some of the questions and issues surrounding metabolic conditioning as it applies to athletes and their training.

In Part 3 of this metabolic conditioning series, we’ll put it all to use. We’ll explore sport- and context-specific programming variables for metabolic conditioning and other concepts that may just put your athletes “ahead of the game.”

Bio: Coach Phil Hueston is not just another pretty trainer. With over 18 years of in-the-trenches experience with athletes ages 6 to 60, he brings a unique skill-set to the improvement of his athletes. The author of the Amazon best-seller “Alchemy; Where the Art and Science Collide in Youth Fitness,” his client list includes professional athletes, collegiate athletes as well as thousands of youth athletes. Phil has been the co-owner of All-Star Sports Academy in Toms River, NJ, one of the largest and most successful youth and family fitness centers in New Jersey since 2008. He was named “Coach of the Year” by the IYCA for 2012-2013.  A contributor to IYCA.org and coach to other coaches, Phil provides unique insights and ideas that can help other coaches accelerate their clients’ progress and performance. Phil is married to the woman responsible for his entry into the fitness profession, MaryJo. Between them they have 2 grown children, Nate and Andrew, and 99 problems.  Phil’s personal website is coachphilhueston.com, and he can be contacted at phil.hueston@hotmail.com

 

The IYCA High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist is the only certification created specifically for coaches training high school athletes.  The course includes several hours of video instruction and two textbooks with contributions from some of the top strength and conditioning coaches in America.  Click on the image below to learn more about how to become a certified high school strength & conditioning coach.

Top 10 Tips for Training Young Athletes – Jim Kielbaso

The IYCA has produced hundreds of articles and dozens of courses/certifications on important topics related to training young athletes.  There is a lot to know and understand about long term athlete development (LTAD) and creating exceptional training experiences for young athletes.  While it’s impossible to have a full understanding of everything involved in this process, this article boils it down into the Top 10 tips for training young athletes.
Whether you’re a trainer, coach, administrator or parent, this list will give you a basic understanding of the most important concepts involved in training young athletes.  training young athletes
1.  Progress over Performance: Focusing on wins and losses is like fools gold.  You may have won the game or race, but that doesn’t mean you made progress or performed your best.  Celebrate progress rather than performance.  Have a plan and goal for training, and don’t let unimportant competitions get in the way of sticking to the plan.  For young athletes, competitions should be viewed as opportunities to use what has been worked on in practice rather than judging who is good or bad.
2.  Think Long-Term:  Rather than taking shortcuts to see some short-term success, build a strong foundation that will allow an athlete to build upon. Young athletes need to develop fundamental motor skills, coordination and all-around athleticism that will enable them to perfect sports skills later in their development.  Athletic development takes time and can’t be rushed.  The goal shouldn’t be winning the game this weekend.  Instead, build athletic qualities that will allow for continued growth.
3.  Balance General & Specific:  Many coaches want to focus exclusively on one sport or event in order to achieve early success.  While this may help children perform well at a young age, you cannot go back and develop foundational skills like coordination and motor control once the window has closed.  While sports skills certainly need to be taught, be sure to include “general athleticism” drills when training young athletes to build a stronger capacity to learn and perfect skills later.  These two concepts should not be mutually exclusive.  It’s absolutely possible to use the warm-up period to enhance athleticism by including fundamental motor skills, plyometrics, coordination activities, strength development, and mobility work.

kids meeting athletes

4.  Ignite a Fire & Develop Confidence: The goals of every youth sports coach should always be to inspire a desire to excel and to keep kids coming back for more.  Give them examples of what they can be by introducing them to older athletes, taking them to events, and painting mental images of what their future may hold.  Get them to see where they could be someday.  Keep dreams alive in every child until they decide to move on.  Many athletes mature late, and just need to stay with a sport long enough for their strength, size, and power to develop.

5.  Teach Young Athletes More Than Sports: Sports are metaphors for life.  Use sports to teach lessons about the value of hard work, listening, cooperation, repetition, and other life skills.  If all you focus on is the sport, you are missing an opportunity to make a much larger impact on a young athlete.
6.  Focus on the Nervous System: While young athletes can improve strength and endurance, their hormones and anaerobic energy systems are not fully developed yet, so they will not see major improvements in muscular size or anaerobic capacity until adolescence.  Before that time, focus on developing the nervous system by training technique, coordination and fundamental abilities like balance and kinesthetic awareness.  Gradually change the focus over time as the athlete matures.
7.  Balance Variety & Repetition: Variety is an excellent way to stimulate the developing nervous system, but repetition will develop technique.  Young athletes need both and should be taught the value of repetition and the enjoyment of variety.
8.  Basic Scientific Principles Apply: The two most important scientific training principles to understand when training young athletes are Systematic Progression and Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands (S.A.I.D. Principle).  The S.A.I.D. Principle states that the body will adapt very specifically to the stimulus it encounters.  In other words, we get better at what we practice.  For example, if we want to increase strength, we must consistently put the muscle under tension with intensity.  It will respond by adding more protein strands which will eventually manifest as a stronger, larger muscle.  On the other hand, performing low intensity, high volume exercises will increase muscular endurance rather than muscular strength.  Both are good, but you need to understand the goal before you choose the training method.
progressive overload for training young athletes
Systematic Progression is the concept of systematically increasing the demands placed upon the athlete in order to stimulate constant adaptation.  As a very simple example, if an athlete wants to increase her pull-up strength, and can currently do 5 pull-ups, she should eventually strive to get 6 reps.  When six reps are achieved, she should try to do 7 reps.  This is a very basic example, but the point is that athletes should constantly be challenged to do that which they are not currently able to do.  This concept holds true for all physical attributes.
9.  Slight Overreach:  This concept works hand-in-hand with Systematic Progression, but can include practices and competitions as well.  The idea is to push athletes barely out of their comfort zone – both in training and competition.  Have them compete against opponents that are slightly better than them so they are always striving to improve.  Be very careful not to put them in too many situations that are completely out of their reach as this often leads to frustration and decreased self-esteem.  It’s also important for young athletes to feel successful, so give them opportunities to succeed as well.  There should be a healthy balance between a young athlete feeling confident and knowing he/she can improve.  Great coaches are able to keep confidence high while helping the athlete work toward larger goals.
10. Use Volume, Don’t Abuse It:  The volume (or amount) of work is one of the most misunderstood concepts in athlete development, and it can be highly individualized.  A volume of work that is too low will not elicit progress.  On the other hand, a very high volume of work is often unnecessary and leads to injuries, boredom, and burnout.  An athletes biological age, training age, genetics, nutrition, sleep patterns, and outside activities are all factors in how much volume is appropriate.  Coaches and parents need to constantly monitor a young athlete’s physical, mental and emotional well-being, and be prepared to make adjustments at any time.
These 10 tips provide an overview of the most important concepts to understand when training young athletes.  For more in-depth information on the concepts and specifics on how to implement them, the IYCA encourages you to go through the Youth Fitness Specialist Level 1 certification and look into the Long Term Athlete Development Roadmap.
Jim Kielbaso is the President of the IYCA and Director of the Total Performance Training Center in Wixom, MI.  He has authored multiple books, articles and training products and has spoken at events around the world.  He holds a BS in Exercise Science, an MS in Kinesiology and has gone through multiple certifications through the IYCA, NSCA, NASM and more.  Jim is a former college strength & conditioning coach and has trained thousands of athletes at every level of competition.  He runs a successful NFL Combine training program in Michigan and has been hired as a consultant for major sports programs like the University of Michigan Football Program and the University of Kentucky Basketball Program.

You Can’t Microwave an Athlete – Jim Kielbaso

Note: This article was originally intended for parents and/or coaches, but it can be helpful for anyone who helps develop athletes.  The IYCA encourages you to share this with parents or other coaches to help them understand the process of long-term athletic development.  Please feel free to copy & paste this into an email to parents, for use on your website or to share on social media.  It may be a little long for newsletters, so please divide it up however you feel is your best opportunity to spread the information.  It’s important for us to work together to educate the public about this process, and we can’t do it alone.

I talk to parents and coaches all the time who want to take short-cuts and rush the development of athletes. The most common belief is that if you just practice your sports skills (dribbling, shooting, setting, hitting, fielding, etc.) enough, you’ll be a great athlete.  

Unfortunately, that’s just not how great athletes are developed.

Take a look at who dominates most youth sports – it’s usually the fastest, strongest kids. Because they’re faster and stronger, they are almost always more coordinated which makes learning sports skills much, much easier.

Sometimes, kids with amazing skills rise up at an early age, only to be overtaken by the bigger, faster kids down the road. Rarely do you see a slow, weak athlete rise to the top of any sport.  I’m not even talking about being the best in the world. Just take a look at high school sports. Faster, more explosive kids are almost always dominating kids who have good skills but just can’t use them because they’re too slow.

Talk to just about any coach, and they’ll tell you that faster, more explosive athletes dominate sports and have a much higher athletic ceiling.

There is plenty of research supporting this concept, and just about every national governing body (i.e. US Hockey, US Lacrosse, etc.) is trying to implement long-term athlete development systems that don’t focus exclusively on sports skills. They know that the better all-around athletes end up enjoying sports more and eventually out-perform those who focus exclusively on skills, but our microwave mentality often gets in the way of this process.

So, what are you supposed to do about it?

The answer depends on where the athlete is in his/her development.  Let me give you some guidelines and practical tips that you can apply.  The age ranges below are not set in stone (developmental age is more important), but they give you a framework to work from.

Under 8 years old:  For athletes under about 8 years old (every kid is an athlete at that age), parents should expose them to as many different activities as possible. This is a critical time to “lay down the circuit board” for an athlete and develop a large movement repertoire. Practice what we call “Fundamental Motor Skills” like hopping, skipping, throwing, catching, climbing, tumbling, balancing, etc. Do the things that were taught in gym class back in the 60’s and 70’s. Make up fun games or obstacle courses and get kids to learn what their bodies can do.

8-11 years old:  For kids about 8-11 (who have decent motor development), it’s time to expand their “physical literacy.” Physical literacy is the new term for “all-around athleticism,” and it’s basically all about enhancing those fundamental motor skills by adding speed and complexity to them while sport-specific skills start to take shape. Certain sports like gymnastics and figure skating require a much earlier commitment to skills, but just about every other sport relies more heavily on the “slow-cooking” approach. At this age, athletes should still participate in multiple sports/activities, and overall sport specializationathleticism should be the focus. Teach athletes how to run, jump, catch, kick, throw, etc. with more power and accuracy, and begin to develop strength & speed by teaching mechanics and body weight exercises. Exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, lunges and jumping activities should gradually be incorporated into an athlete’s routine, but not so much that the athlete dreads them. 2-3 days a week of 20-60 minutes is more than enough to supplement what is probably not being addressed in gym class or sports practices.

Have athletes practice sports skills they show interest in, but encourage work in multiple sports throughout the year.  Allow kids to concentrate on a sport while they’re in-season, but move on to a different sport to keep things fresh.  Allowing kids to play on teams with their friends and coaches they like is very important at this age because it makes sports more fun.  Igniting an inner desire to play and improve is important at this age, and fun is an ingredient you can’t use too much of.  Of course, there are always exceptions to this with kids who absolutely love one sport and don’t want to do anything else.  Those kids should still take breaks so they look forward to coming back for more.

The most important goal at this age is to make each season or experience enjoyable enough that they want to come back for more.  Try not to get sucked into too much seriousness yet – there’s plenty of time for that later.

11-14 years old:  The ages of 11-14 are critical for speed & agility development because these traits are more easily developed before the massive growth spurts during adolescence. This is the age when more focused training can take place as long as the foundation has been laid. If athletes at this age are still struggling with fundamental motor skills, more time definitely needs to be spent on these skills. It’s always a good idea to take one step back in order to take two forward, so don’t be afraid to work on fundamental movement skills and keep things fun.  Development over competition should still be the guiding theme at this time.   Many athletes need considerable work on running mechanics at this age because they simply have not been properly addressed yet and parents/coaches start to notice a lack of speed. Growth spurts can also disrupt movement patterns, and once-coordinated kids can lose some of their smoothness.  Good training can usually avert this.

Most of this can still be corrected/improved, but it will usually take a more structured approach to make up for what was missed at an earlier age. Unfortunately, most athletes in this age range are already so over-scheduled that parents find it difficult to fit in this kind of training. Parents/coaches need to find windows of opportunity during the year to focus on physical literacy and athleticism. The off-season is the best time to address these traits, but athletes should gradually move to a year-round approach that includes brief exposures to training multiple times a week.

Sports are definitely getting more serious during these ages.  Kids start to gravitate to a sport, they start to notice who’s good at sports, and they usually decide how badly they want to pursue a sport during this stage.  Many kids will start to ask for more help or they’ll begin to practice more on their own.  Put kids in situations that gently challenge them without making it so difficult that they feel completely incompetent.  A little struggling helps athletes grow, but emotional development is important to understand at this stage.  Some kids are ready for more than others.  Some will step up to large challenges while others need a little less pressure.

By the end of this stage, kids on a path to great sports success will start to concentrate on one sport.  This is OK, but a secondary sport is still encouraged to keep things fresh and encourage competition is multiple ways.  “Early-recruiting sports” will add another level of complexity to high-performers, and these athletes will be put in high-pressure, competitive situations.  Try to wait as long as possible to take part in these events, but there is no way to avoid them in certain sports when an athlete is on track to being an elite performer.  These events will start to reward achievement over development, so waiting as long as possible for this extends development.

Athletes who are not on a high-performance path should be encouraged to continue improvement and find enjoyment in sports.  For some, that means pulling back on a busy schedule.  For others, that means adding more activities that promote athletic growth and confidence.

The goal is still to make sports/activities enjoyable enough that they want more.  For competitive, high-performers, the term “enjoyable” will mean getting better and they will thrive in competitive situations that stretch them.  For less-competitive athletes, enjoyable is still about developing competency, but pressure should be lessened in order to maintain confidence and the desire to continue.

There should never be a time where we “de-select” kids or encourage them to quit.  While it’s obvious that not every kid will be elite, there is much more to sports and athletic development that being a professional athlete.

15 years old & up: Athletes 15 and up have often concentrated their efforts on one or two sports, and competition takes on a larger role. This is usually the time where the faster, stronger athletes really begin to excel whereas the slower, weaker athletes lag behind, get injured or quit sports altogether.  Speed and strength can still be addressed at this age, and most serious athletes are now engaging in some sort of structured training program to enhance their strength, speed, and power. Athletes who have not developed the foundation can still improve their physical literacy, but they are at a distinct disadvantage if those traits weren’t addressed earlier. Much more concentrated efforts to develop strength and power should be applied in this age range because athletes are better able to adapt to more intense training.

Squat spot

Photo Credit: RENEE JONES SCHNEIDER

High-performers will usually start to concentrate on one or two sports because their busy schedule will not allow for too many additional activities.  Competition and exposure events will take on greater importance for these athletes, but development should still be the priority.  Very few athletes have reached their full potential at this point, so we should strive for constant improvement even for elite performers.

Non-elite athletes should be encouraged to learn the process of maximizing their potential and being the best they can be.  This is an important lesson and will make their sporting experiences much more valuable and enjoyable.  Many non-elite 15-year-olds still end up being elite at some point or in some sport, so it’s important to encourage constant improvement.  There are countless stories of kids getting cut from a sport as a freshman and eventually becoming professional athletes, so we shouldn’t de-select kids from the high-performance track if they have the desire to continually improve.  A single summer of development can have a profound impact on a young athlete, so continue to support these young athletes to take full advantage of what is available to them.

I hope this helps you understand the process of long-term athletic development and gives you some practical ideas for how to help your athlete/s. There is not a cookie-cutter approach to developing an athlete, so it’s important to give each athlete what he/she needs and avoid experiences that lessen their desire to excel.

Comment below so we can talk about the best way forward.

Jim Kielbaso is the President of the IYCA and the Director of the Total Performance Training Center in Wixom, MI where he helps develop athletes of all ages and ability levels.  He a former college strength & conditioning coach and also works with many elite athletes.  He also has three boys of his own, so he has seen athletic development from every angle.

 

For more detailed information about Long-Term Athlete Development, get the IYCA’s LTAD Roadmap – the most complete and practical guide to enhancing athleticism through every stage of development.

 

Skill Reinforcement: “Ooh, Shiny” Doesn’t Work – Phil Hueston

Skill reinforcement. That’s the name of the game for real, sustainable training.

Whether your goal is multi-sport fitness, high-level “sport-specific” athletic performance, or general physical preparedness, reinforcing movement and athletic skills makes all the difference and delivers results.

Every. Single. Time.

Too often we blindly pursue the “new, cutting-edge” fitness program, modality or tool. As a result, we fail to master the basics or fully appreciate their huge impact on health, fitness and performance.

One risk of this approach is that clients don’t benefit from the metabolic and performance boosts that come with movement mastery. Another, is the higher risk of injury associated with never really creating foundational levels of stability, strength and durability.

Your athletes will develop better metabolic response, higher performance levels, deeper levels of physical skill-to-game transfer, and body shape improvements via fuller movement mastery. Better yet, they’ll be able to repeat and sustain those benefits over time.

Now, those are outcomes you (and your athletes) can believe in!

A few tips to help you recognize when your client is mastering a movement or exercise:

  1. Form – Duh. If it looks like a train wreck, it’s unlikely to be going well in your client’s neuro-muscular system. Cue adjustments according to what your client can handle and in ways that match their learning/communication style.
  2. Rate of Perceived Exertion  (RPE) – If your athlete looks good doing the activity and isn’t completely out of breath, mastery is likely present, or shortly on the way. Even with higher intensity, the brain’s ability to create efficient movement reduces output stress on the body as a whole, making the exercise seem more physically manageable. You’ll notice more comfortable conversation during execution from clients who are mastering an exercise or movement. We know from research that better movement economy and improved motor control means a lower energy requirement for completion.
    So while several variables (pain tolerance and the athlete’s communication style come to mind) mean RPE probably shouldn’t be your key indicator of mastery, you may be able to use it to corroborate your assessment of mastery based on other indicators.
  3. Questions – When your athlete has questions that go beyond basic execution, you’re making mastery progress. If your athlete or client is asking “why does that happen,” chances are they haven’t mastered the movement in question. When your athlete’s questions change from execution-oriented to outcome-oriented or even to progression-related, you’ll have a good idea that they’re mastering the movement being performed.

Execution-oriented: “How do I do this?” “How do I make ‘X’ happen?”

Outcome-oriented: “What does this do?” “If I do ‘X,’ what will that do for me?”

Progression-related: “Can we try it like this?” “Can this be done (single-leg, one arm, on an unstable surface, with a higher load)?”

  1. Crossover effect – If you notice mastery at a quicker pace in other activities with similar challenges (balance, deceleration, multi-directional movement), and a quicker acceptance and application of new skill patterns, that can mean a step towards mastery.

The crossover effect extends beyond the gym too. Your client may tell you they are doing “X” better. Whether that’s throwing a 95 MPH fastball to a 2 square inch spot on a catchers glove 60 feet away, or getting from Point A to Point B smoother and faster, you’ll know it (or hear about it) when it happens!

Add accessory tools, equipment, movements and even alter vectors when mastery of the essential movement pattern has occurred, even under substantial load (where loading is appropriate and beneficial to the movement or its progressions). Avoid “ramping it up” or “taking it up a notch” just for the sake of the “cool factor” or because you want to throw a fresh challenge at your athlete. The lack of mastery and the resulting neural disconnects won’t be a fresh challenge, they’ll create a “fresh hell,” and may set your athlete back without you even recognizing it.

A compensation pattern which allows for completion of a movement under an unfamiliar or inappropriate load, vector or equipment application can undo progress in movement mastery and create problems in neuro-muscular patterning of the base movement pattern. This is similar to the disruption caused by tight or weak muscles or by a structural injury like a broken bone or ligament tear. Movement is sub-optimal and proprioception is altered. The brain perceives an insurmountable challenge to completion of the movement pattern. A compensation pattern develops to complete the voluntary movement within the environmental restrictions and within the conscious targeting and task completion framework provided to the brain by your athlete.

In other words, overloading, overcomplicating or overstepping movement boundaries during an athletes movement can confuse the brain and screw things up.

Skill reinforcement. Such a simple concept that can deliver huge results and major improvements for your clients. Stop chasing the latest “ooh, shiny” program or toy and get back to the basics – then layer them up and reinforce them!

 

Bio: Coach Phil Hueston is not just another pretty trainer. With over 18 years of in-the-trenches experience with athletes ages 6 to 60, he brings a unique skill-set to the improvement of his athletes. The author of the Amazon best-seller “Alchemy; Where the Art and Science Collide in Youth Fitness,” his client list includes professional athletes, collegiate athletes as well as thousands of youth athletes. Phil has been the co-owner of All-Star Sports Academy in Toms River, NJ, one of the largest and most successful youth and family fitness centers in New Jersey since 2008. He was named “Coach of the Year” by the IYCA for 2012-2013.  A contributor to IYCA.org and coach to other coaches, Phil provides unique insights and ideas that can help other coaches accelerate their clients’ progress and performance. Phil is married to the woman responsible for his entry into the fitness profession, MaryJo. Between them they have 2 grown children, Nate and Andrew, and 99 problems.  Phil’s personal website is coachphilhueston.com, and he can be contacted at phil.hueston@hotmail.com

 

The IYCA High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist is the only certification created specifically for coaches training high school athletes.  The course includes several hours of video instruction and two textbooks with contributions from some of the top strength and conditioning coaches in America.  Click on the image below to learn more about how to become a certified high school strength & conditioning coach.

Athlete Development Model – Jim Kielbaso

Athlete Development ModelLong term athlete development has been discussed for years, but the concept is still incredibly confusing for practitioners.  Part of the reason for this confusion is that the models are missing details and coordination of efforts between coaches, trainers and parents.

At the 2018 IYCA Summit, Jim Kielbaso offered a new way of thinking about athlete development and offered a solution for how we move forward.  He spoke about where we’ve been, what has been done and outlined a model that will add to the already existing LTAD models.

While most of the theoretical models have great thoughts and rationale behind them, we still find that professionals hide inside their own “silos” without coordinating their efforts with the other important parties involved.  If a S & C Coach can’t coordinate with the sport coach, the athlete is ultimately going to suffer and results will not be optimal.

Youth sports has become a business that is often more about the adults involved than the kids.  Because of this, early specialization gets shoved down everyone’s throats, and complete athlete development is ignored.  Numerous articles, books and videos have been produced describing the problems associated with the current sports industry.  But, instead of making changes, we seem to be stuck in a rut of complaining.

We also know that most athletes don’t start a formal performance training program until they have already shown some athletic promise or strong interest in improving.  Instead of waiting, what can we do as a profession to help enhance the opportunities and experiences of all young athletes?

We may not love the systems that are in place, but we need to be pro-active and work towards changing youth sports systems from the inside instead of complaining that things “aren’t the way they should be.”

The video above is meant to get coaches to think about how we can begin working together to create exceptional experiences for athletes and help them reach their true potential.  Most coaches have great intentions but get stuck in their own silo because there is so much to be done in their area of expertise.  It’s time to make a change.  Watch the video and leave your comments below on how we can make this happen.

 

The old “windows of opportunity” Long Term Athlete Development model doesn’t explain what to actually do at each stage of development.  Learn the truth about long term athlete development and how to approach athletes at every level in the IYCA’s LTAD Roadmap.  This is the most comprehensive approach to long term athlete development available.  Click on the image below to learn more.

Also visit http://LongTermAthleteDevelopment.com for more information on Long Term Athlete Development.

Rethinking Long Term Athlete Development – Jim Kielbaso

The concept of long term athlete development (LTAD) has been around for several years, but it has more recently become a hot topic amongst youth sports and training organizations.  It seems that everyone now needs a formula for how to develop great athletes so they can represent their countries and succeed as professionals.  Several academicians have taken the lead on reviewing the relevant literature and have written articles and books about the topic.  They have used this literature to create several different models for developing athletes.  While these models were a great start, their oversimplification of athlete development seems to be steering coaches, trainers and parents in the wrong direction.    

To begin, the entire premise of LTAD theory needs to be examined.  When it originated in the late 1990’s, academician Istvan Balyi identified some very important issues in many countries and sporting organizations, so he created a 3-stage model that emphasized long term athlete development over winning competitions.  This premise challenged the approach of many coaches and got a lot of people to open their eyes to the problems in youth sports.   

Balyi’s original model included three phases – Training to Train, Training to Compete and Training to Win.  A few years later, he realized that a fourth stage – FUNdamentals – should be added to address the fundamental motor skills that should be developed early in a child’s life.  

Sporting organizations latched on to this theory and quickly started talking about it as a formula that would create great athletes.  As these theories picked up steam, other academicians decided to jump on the train and create their own models.  They included talent identification, more in-depth discussion on early childhood, and there was a strong emphasis on taking advantage of hypothetical “windows” of opportunity where different training methods would supposedly have a greater impact. The models told coaches when to emphasize strength training, speed training, endurance training and when to emphasize competition vs. training.  

Eventually, some groups realized that an LTAD approach may also give children great sporting experiences that would lead to lifelong enjoyment of physical activity.  Because of the childhood obesity and physical illiteracy epidemics, this idea seemed very attractive.  

A few organizations came out with their own versions of LTAD that included 7-9 stages of development, and they felt good about adopting this approach because they believed it was the “right thing to do for kids,” even though it was nothing more than words on paper for most groups.  These organizations would hire an expert to put together a model, but they didn’t seem to put much effort into the actual implementation.  Education and coordination of efforts were left out of the models.

Eventually, the stages looked like this:

  • Stage 1 – Active Start (0-6 years old)
  • Stage 2 – FUNdamentals (girls 6-8, boys 6-9)
  • Stage 3 – Learn to Train (girls 8-11, boys 9-12)
  • Stage 4 – Train to Train (girls 11-15, boys 12-16) 
  • Stage 5 – Train to Compete (girls 15-21, boys 16-23)
  • Stage 6 – Train to Win (girls 18+, boys 19+)
  • Stage 7 – Active for Life (any age)

More in-depth models described when each training method would elicit the best results.  USA Hockey did a much better job with their American Developmental Model that looked like this:

Still, a lot was left out, especially any details on implementation.  For the most part, LTAD has remained theoretical, and implementation has largely been missing.  

To be clear, the models aren’t necessarily “wrong” as much as they are incomplete and misleading.  Most of them give the reader the impression that they have been thoroughly tested and proven, and that they contain a formula for success.  This may not have been their original intent, but that’s how it has been taking by the sporting world.

The strength & conditioning/sports performance profession has taken notice more than just about any group because a lot of these models talk about “training” and “movement.”  The term “athlete development” resonates with these professionals, so this is where many of the thoughts have become popularized.  

These professionals have tried to implement these already-flawed, theoretical models by attempting to use different training methods at certain times to take advantage of the “windows of opportunity” outlined by academicians without coordinating their efforts with other important players in this process.  This is one of the biggest mistakes made today, and the lack of integration with other groups has stymied progress and severely limited outcomes.  

While the theory of long term athlete development is well-intentioned, the models have yet to produce exceptional athletes in real life.  In fact, even the researchers admit that there was no real data to support any of the models.  In a great review of some of the relevant literature, Guy Razi and Kieran Foy showed that the data does not support these models.  It was all a great idea, but these models were nothing more than theoretical. To this day, no athlete has gone through the entire model the way it was originally laid out, and achieved a high level of success.

The models are also not very realistic in many situations.  For example, the models include a lot of talk about peak height velocity (PHV) as the optimal time for the adaptation of certain traits.  What is not addressed is how coaches are supposed to know when an athlete is experiencing PHV.  In most sporting situations, kids’ height is not constantly monitored by coaches, and most of the training decisions described in the literature are related more to strength & conditioning than sports skills.  Sports coaches might have contact with kids year-round, but most kids are not engaged in year-round strength & conditioning at an early age (this can be because of money, availability, beliefs, time restrictions, etc.).  So, how would the strength coach know when PHV is occurring?  It may not even matter since most performance coaches only see young athletes in limited spurts.  Typically, parents come to a performance coach after PHV when they recognize altered movement.  

If every child was in a “sporting academy” situation from a young age where they were constantly coached, trained and monitored, this may be possible, but it’s not realistic in most cases.  An argument could be made that we should move toward these type of year-round academies so that everything can be monitored, but that’s beyond the scope of this article and it carries as many negatives as positives.  

The most popular LTAD models propose “windows of opportunity” in which certain athletic traits may respond better to specific kinds of training.  For example, it has been theorized that speed is best trained just before PHV, and that strength is best trained directly after PHV.  These models lead many coaches to believe that worthwhile adaptation only occurs during these periods, and that is absolutely not true.  Young athletes are always open to adaptation and can always enjoy the benefits of proper training no matter where they are in their maturation.  

Every physical attribute can be trained at any time.  Most practitioners just need to understand how to best address each attribute during maturation to achieve the best long-term and sustainable outcomes.  

So, “missing” a window of opportunity does not mean progress in certain traits cannot be made.  On the contrary, long term athlete development is much more individualized than these contrived models suggest.  

Even more concerning is the fact that long-term implementation has not been thoroughly studied, which is ironic given the name of the theory and the fact that academicians created it.  It is typically written/spoken about by people who do not coach athletes, have not successfully developed great athletes, and many don’t even have children of their own in which they’ve tested their theories or developed athletes into champions.  

There are far too many factors involved in creating a great athlete to boil the process down to a few simple steps, and several key ingredients have been missing from the recipe.  Developing athletes is highly individualized, and included many factors beyond those that are described in the current literature.  These missing factors include:

  • The child’s interest/passion for sport
  • The psychological approach used with each athlete
  • Parental support and their role in the process
  • Environmental/societal influences
  • Access to the coaching/training at the right time
  • Genetic factors & talent identification
  • Coordination of development with all parties (parents, coaches, trainers, etc.)
  • Having the “right coach at the right time” or at least the right approach at the right time

Some of these factors cannot be easily controlled by coaches, rendering them “too messy” for academics to even attempt to address.  Yet, these factors will determine the long-term outcome to a much greater extent than any theoretical model of when to train each physical component.  

Kids are not robots, and developing athletes is not a science experiment.  long term athlete development

We don’t need models – we need coaches….great coaches.

If we’re truly interested in developing great athletes and/or adults who enjoy physical activity, we cannot do it alone as strength & conditioning professionals.  We must look at the entire picture, address physical, psychological/emotional and social aspects and include everyone involved in the development of the athlete – coaches, trainers and parents.

Much has already been addressed regarding the physical training of young athletes.  The materials available through the IYCA and others are exceptional and give in-depth information on strength development, speed & agility training, flexibility/mobility, conditioning and even skill development.  Rather than summarizing these methods, let’s explore the missing factors listed above and how each may be addressed.

Before we do that, two things need to be made clear:

  1. The term “youth” refers to anyone 18 and under.  When people are first introduced to the International Youth Conditioning Association, they often assume we are focused on very young children.  The process of athlete development begins at a very young age and continues until at least 18 years old, so it’s important for us to understand how to properly address each stage of maturation. Of course, athletes continue to develop past 18, but the process changes dramatically at that time.  
  2. Great training and coaching are absolutely essential to the process of athletic development.  This should be obvious, but it needs to be stated since it will not be addressed here. Training and coaching are addressed in many other IYCA materials and this is well beyond the scope of this article.  Athletes need physical development, so speed, strength, sports skills, etc. are critically important.  These topics are what most LTAD models focus on exclusively, and they should not be ignored.  

Now, let’s examine the aspects of long term athletic development that are NOT included in most models, but must be understood if we are truly interested in overall development:

Passion

Enjoyment of sport is one of the most important underlying factors in long-term athletic success.  If a young athlete does not find joy in a sport, the likelihood of him/her giving the long-term effort to excel is very small.  He/she may go through the motions and experience some level of success, but it is very difficult for a young person to stay motivated to excel in a sport if passion is not part of the equation.  

Without passion, the entire LTAD model comes to a grinding halt, so this cannot be ignored.

At some point, a child has to be willing to pursue a dream for themselves, not simply because he/she is talented or others want the success.  In most cases, there needs to be a burning desire within a person if high levels of success are going to be achieved.  Even more importantly, that passion needs to be fueled in order to sustain it long enough to achieve any real success.  Playing for the wrong coach, not getting enough playing time, having poor teammates, lack of parental support and year-round play are some the reasons the flame burns out for many athletes. If the sport is no longer fun for a young athlete, it’s almost impossible to expect continued progress.  

In his book The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle refers to a concept he calls “Ignition.”  Essentially, this is what creates a deep passion for sport in an athlete.  It might be exposure to a particular person, participation in an event, watching a sport, family involvement or something else.  It will be different for every person, which is why this isn’t a formula.  But, that ignition needs to exist if long-term success is the goal.

Parents, family and friends typically play the largest role in establishing a love for sport.  Exposure to sports (live or on TV) and attitudes toward sports often start in early childhood.  They can establish emotional feelings before they ever participate in a sport.  There’s no right way for parents to approach sports with their children, but positive exposure to a variety of sports seems to be optimal.  

As stated earlier, children are not robots, so there is no single formula for producing passion about a particular sport.   Intense parental feelings about sports have the potential to influence children in both positive and negative ways.  Some parents actually push kids away from sport because they are so passionate about it, while others create a healthy feeling of excitement.

Coaches and trainers often don’t even meet an athlete until some amount of exposure to a sport has been made, so feelings have often been established to some degree before a child’s first practice.  Youth coaches, however, play an enormous role in whether or not that passion continues.  

A child’s early exposure to sports and coaching often influences their desire to continue participating.  Early coaching needs to be both positive and effective.  Coaches need to balance making practices/games fun and improving athletically so the child develops feelings of self-efficacy associated with the sport.  Few things are more motivating to children that the feeling of proficiency – when a child thinks he/she is good at a sport, they enjoy it more.  

This can be a very delicate balancing act, and factors like stature, enjoyment and fundamental movement skills (FMS) play large roles in developing feelings of proficiency.  Typically, athletes who have good FMS’s excel early on, and have greater early enjoyment of sports.  Parents can greatly assist this process by working on FMS early in a child’s life and providing positive exposure to sport.  

Coaches can recognize the importance of establishing passion by making sports enjoyable and productive.  Possibly the most important goal of a youth sports coach should be to make each season so positive that the kids want to play another season.  This keeps them in the “system” and allows them to progress.  

Coaching

Having great coaches should be the first thing mentioned in any long term athlete development model.  Unfortunately, it is not. Great coaches trump theoretical models every time and should be discussed before anything else in this process.  

The approach used with each child may have more to do with long-term athletic success than any physical training method.  Yes, the right training methods will elicit positive physiological responses, but the wrong coaching approach can make the athlete lose interest, confidence, and enjoyment of the sport.  

Getting this wrong will render LTAD models useless, so having the right coach at the right time is essential to the process of athlete development.  The right coach will be different at each stage of maturation and for each athlete, so there is no single solution.

The right approach, however, has the potential to increase self-efficacy and passion, and can establish positive traits such as work ethic, perseverance, coachability, and a healthy outlook toward sports.  These positive traits and feelings may be the keys to sticking with a sport through tough training and the ups & downs associated with sports later in their development.  

Great coaching should be used by both sport coaches and strength & conditioning professionals (SCP) alike.  A SCP has the ability to balance out a poor coach and vice versa. Optimally, all coaches will be positive influences and contribute to the success of an athlete by teaching skills and making the process enjoyable enough to keep the passion burning.  

The importance of having the “right coach at the right time” cannot be overstated in the development of an athlete.  The right coach at 8 years old probably won’t be the right coach at 18, and the right coach for one athlete may not be the right coach for all athletes.  

Typically, young athletes and parents don’t even know which coach is the right fit or if that person is even available.  More often, we realize the negative experience when it’s too late and the damage has been done.  For example, a young soccer player can be on a terrific path of development from age 8 to 14 until a poor coach absolutely ruins soccer for her.  This can occur when athletes change clubs, move to a different age group, or have a coach who is simply a bad fit. This has the potential to make athletes lose passion/interest, decrease confidence or quit the sport altogether.  Anyone who has been involved in sports for any length of time has seen this over and over again.

Coaches who value winning above development too early in an athlete’s career can stifle the developmental process and get athletes to focus on things that limit long-term success.  These coaches often play favorites with young athletes and push certain athletes to excel (often their own child) while relegating others to less-important roles on the team.  While this may work for some athletes, it can also have a negative effect on overall development.  The “favorite” child may have false confidence in their early success and he/she may not learn how to work hard for that success.  Other children may feel decreased confidence and end up quitting because the sport just isn’t fun anymore.  

Unfortunately, high-quality coaches often feel compelled to work with older, more developed athletes because that’s what society deems as “better.”  To be sure, some coaches are simply better-suited to work with older athletes, but a great youth coach has the potential to be one of the most influential figures in a child’s life.  A year, early in life, with a bad coach could have easily derailed the careers of great athletes like Wayne Gretzky, Magic Johnson or Lionel Messi.  

If we’re truly looking to develop great athletes through a long-term process, we must encourage great coaches to spend time with young athletes.  This means that quality coaches may need to volunteer their time to work with young athletes, knowing that the payoff may not occur for many years.  

It also means that SCP’s need to be aware of how each child is being coached and approach them with what they need.  A child who has a negative sport coach may need a more positive approach from the SCP. Conversely, a talented child who has been coddled his whole life may need a hard-nosed influence to push him to be great.  

Social/Environmental

It is impossible to ignore the fact that a child’s surroundings influence his/her sporting experiences, but this is also ignored by every LTAD model available.  Spending time with friends is very important to most children.  Sometimes, kids may be better off playing a sport with their friends than on a travel team comprised of kids who don’t know each other.

Geographic location will also influence long term athlete development.  For example, a young child with a passion for lacrosse, but who lives in an

Members Of Female High School Soccer Team

area with limited coaching/competition, will probably not have the opportunity to reach his potential like he would if he grew up in Maryland.  A young gymnast may be identified as a potentially great diver in middle/high school.  If she doesn’t like the coach or the other athletes on the diving team, she may never even give it a chance, and a potential Olympian may never try a sport.  How many exceptional rugby players, fencers or team handball players have been born in America and were simply not exposed to these sports?

Access to quality experiences and identification of talent plays a huge role in the long-term success of an athlete.  

Strength coaches may not have much control over this, but it’s certainly something we need to consider if the goal is to develop great athletes and achieve long-term success.  Even if the goal is to create enjoyable experiences, the fact that opportunities are often limited should not be ignored.  

An experienced coach may be able to suggest sports and/or coaches to families when talent is identified.  While there is no guarantee that these suggestions will be acted upon, we should always think about what we can do rather than complain about a problem after the fact.  

Parental Support

Parents have more of an influence than anyone in the process of long-term athlete development, and both sports coaches and SCP’s may need to step in to help guide them when appropriate.  Some parents push too hard, while others expect too little. This is a delicate balancing act that must be considered as part of any long term plan.

Simply providing transportation to great coaching/training may be the difference needed to keep the flame burning in a young athlete.  Conversely, negative conversations after a game may poison the well and create negative emotions related to a sport.

Sports satisfaction surveys reveal that “having fun” is the main reason that most children like to participate in sports; however, the parents’ perception of why their children like to play sports is to “win.”

SCP’s and sport coaches can help create balance when support is not present.  By making practice/training an enjoyable, positive experience, a child’s “emotional bank account” can be built up.  Coaches may also need to have hard conversations with parents sometimes or at least talk to the athlete about how to communicate with the parent.  

Coordination

With all of these factors in mind, it appears as though long term athlete development is much more complex than just the training methods used at different points in the maturation process or how many games to play each year.  Of course, great training and sport coaching are necessary. That should be painfully obvious by now. But, besides great training and coaching, it also appears that many critical factors need to come together in a coordinated effort if we are truly looking for optimal development and great sporting experiences.

We have created “silos” that don’t have enough interaction with each other.  Parents, sports coaches, and strength & conditioning specialists each have their silos where they do their work independently.  This approach creates a lack of continuity for the young athlete. Sports coaches don’t know what kind of training is occurring outside of their practices.  SCP’s have no input on the number or duration of practices, and parents often don’t know what’s best for their child, so they simply drop them off with a coach and hope he/she is doing the right thing.  

Unfortunately, many adults seem to think that “their way” is the best approach, so there is little coordination between parents, coaches, and trainers.  

It also goes without saying that the entire youth sports system is broken and has become more about the adults than the kids.  Many books and articles have been written on this topic. Web sites have been created and Ted Talks were given. Even the US Olympic Committee is now supporting pediatric sports psychologists to help young athletes deal with the stresses of youth sports and to help parents and coaches deal with the challenges.

The problems are obvious, and rehashing them here seems pointless.  

We are not going to fix this problem by complaining about it or attempting to tear it down.  

In order to fix this broken system, a much more coordinated approach needs to be taken.  Someone must intervene and change the system from the inside.

Most parents simply don’t know how to handle this overall development, so guidance is needed.  Sport coaches usually have great knowledge of a sport, but lack knowledge in the area of complete athlete development.  Many strength coaches are aware of the needs, but don’t have enough influence over the process, aren’t involved until later in an athlete’s career or simply want to stand on the outside and complain about it.  

It is time for strength & conditioning professionals to step up and become coordinators of athletic development.  

The SCP is armed with the knowledge to coordinate long term athlete development.  It is up to this group to take a more active role in the education of parents and coaches.  We need highly-qualified professionals who can effectively communicate and coordinate the “silos” in an effort to create positive experiences.  

complete athlete development

The SCP can teach coaches and parents how each aspect of athleticism is linked, and plans can be put in place to create well-rounded athletes.  

This shift will require the SCP to get out of his/her comfort zone and think about athlete development as more than just lifting weights.  The SCP will need to work within the structure of youth sports by educating parents and coaches, and taking their own egos out of the equation.  We need to spend time teaching parents and coaches about fundamental motor skills, skill acquisition, strength and speed development, and all-around athletic development rather than specialization.  With overuse injuries ranging from 37% to 68% depending on the sport, we can help reverse this trend.

This education will not put us out of jobs.  On the contrary, educating coaches and parents about how to properly integrate strength & conditioning into a long term athlete development plan will secure our places in every organization.  More coaches and parents will understand the need for training which will increase the demand for our specialized services. More trust will be placed in our hands because we will be viewed as allies rather than adversaries.  

Without this coordination, the important people in this process will remain in their silos.  But, a collective approach will yield far better results for everyone involved.

As you can see, long term athlete development cannot be distilled down to contrived models.  The process is more complicated and many factors need to be addressed.

We have a great opportunity to influence a broken system from within, and make the changes that are needed for long term success.  We need great coaches and coordinators to help develop athletes. It’s time to stop complaining and take action.

Jim Kielbaso is the President of the IYCA and Director of the Total Performance Training Center in Wixom, MI.  He is a former college strength & conditioning coach and the author of Ultimate Speed & Agility as well as dozens of articles published in various publications.  Jim is also the father of three boys and has helped coach all of them in different sports, so long term athlete development is very important to him.

The old “windows of opportunity” Long Term Athlete Development model is a thing of the past.  Learn the truth about LTAD and how to approach athletes at every level in the IYCA’s LTAD Roadmap.  This is the most comprehensive approach to athlete development available.  Click on the image below to learn more.

Practical is the New Functional – Jim Kielbaso

I love innovation.

I love new exercise variations. I love learning new methods. I love new technology. It’s fun for me to watch new trends come and go, and I enjoy trying to predict what’s coming.  People love throwing around the term “functional” and seem to use it as a blanket reason for anything in their program.

Over the past year, however, it’s been hammered home time and time again that, while function and creativity are great, practicality is one of the most important – and neglected – factors to consider in programming. This is especially true when working with groups, which I do a lot. You can design the greatest program in the world, but if it isn’t practical – if it can’t actually be implemented – it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.

Here is an example. I’ve had a few young coaches contact me about looking at their programs for high school teams before they implement them. I’ll see stuff like this:

Power Clean 5 x 5

Front Squat 5 x 5

RDL 5 x 5

Bench Press 5 x 5

Barbell Row 5 x 5

Machine Front Neck 2 x 10

Machine Back Neck 2 x 10

At first, it looks like a nice, straightforward program, but things start to look a lot different when I find out there will be 40 athletes in the weight room with three racks, five barbells, and just one neck machine. There’s going to be a line out the door waiting for a barbell or the neck machine. It’s going to take two hours to finish a workout that should take less than 60 minutes. It’s not practical. It’s going to be a mess and the coach is going to look like a total amateur.

I also look at that workout and think about where the coaching energy is going to be placed. I would consider every one of these a “high coaching-demand” exercise. High school kids are going to struggle with several of them, so you’re going to be running around trying to correct poor form all day. You’ll have no time to help them understand how to progressively overload each movement or simply motivate the kids. It’s a recipe for disaster and will become a complete cluster based on the exercise choices. It’s a perfect example of a good program that’s simply not practical.

 

Here’s another example I’ve seen for a workout at a private training facility:

6 x 10 yards acceleration mechanics work

6 x 10 yards sled sprints

3 x 10 squat jumps

3 x 10 split squat jumps

Tabata set of something each day

Clean 3 x 5

Dumbbell Press 3 x 8

Chin ups 3 x 8

Single leg squat 3 x 8

RDL 3 x 8

Core work

Flexibility

When I first saw this, I thought it looked good.  I felt like the coach had a good plan….until I started asking questions.

It turns out that he runs 60-minute sessions, there are typically 6-8 athletes in a group and he only has one squat rack and one speed sled.

Uh oh.

Then I found out that he also does a 10-15 warm-up at the beginning of each session.  There’s just no way to get all of that done in one hour.  Something has to give.

When creating programs, it’s critical to think about how you’re actually going to get it all done.  You can’t fit everything you know into one hour (at least I hope not), so pick a few things and get your athletes great at them.

Early in my career, I always wanted to fit everything in and come up with new stuff to show off my creativity. I prided myself on being able to come up with a great workout no matter where I was. While I still think that’s important, I’m now drawn to fundamentals more than ever. I see so many young coaches trying to make their mark on this field by coming up with something new instead of mastering fundamentals. What I’ve learned is that, without mastering the fundamentals, there is no basis for innovation. It’s almost like saying “I’m not very good at the basics, so I’ll come up with something different so nobody will notice.”

I don’t need 50 variations for every movement. I need a couple and I need to understand the most important concept in strength training – systematic & progressive overload. Pick a movement, and get stronger with it.

The basics are not broken. They never were. We’ve just become so used to being entertained, that we’re constantly looking for something new. Our athletes aren’t bored. We are. And, who cares about us? We’re not the focus of the training – our clients are.

If you and your athletes aren’t exceptional at the fundamentals, take a step back and think about what you’re doing. You owe it to yourself, and your clients, to help them develop a sound foundation before moving on to new tricks.

In my world the most important program equation now looks like this:

Practical = Functional

Powerful Play in Sports Performance, Part 2 – Brett Klika

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the physical and neurological benefits of facilitating play in your work with young athletes.  In case you missed it, here’s the Link to Part 1.  In Part 2, we’ll delve into some simple framework to make gamifying drills and activities quick and easy.

As performance coaches, we are often well versed in the pedagogy of teaching specific movement skills.  We’ve acquired a few fun-yet-fruitful activities and games along the way, but we can exhaust these rather quickly when working with kids on a daily basis.

The good news is that in order to maintain and build an arsenal of fun, engaging, and effective play-based activities, there’s no need to study and memorize the sacred almanacs of kids games.  With some simple guidelines, you can take the activities you’ve already had success with and make them a new, novel, and fun challenge.


While these guidelines tend to work best for grade school aged children, they are also effective for high school, college, and even adult populations.  


Consider the following game creation guidelines in order to engage your young athletes and develop the “intangibles” that play such a tremendous role in long term athletic development.

Guided Discovery- The Movement Variables

Play is a great teacher.  When we as coaches can guide play a bit, we can use it as a strategic tool to develop important skills.  

Guided discovery is the process of providing just enough direction so kids can experience not only the skill, but the process of learning.  During guided discovery, the focus is not so much on the precise development of a skill, but in the actions taken during the learning of that skill.  

Take a movement like a “skip”.  As a coach, we have a checklist of what a proper skip movement should entail.  However, instead of barking these commands to our athletes, guided discovery would walk them through the process of developing the skip movement on their own.

In order to do this, we would use “movement variables” to help them establish an internal context for the parameters of the movement.  “Walk with your knees high. Now walk with your knees low.  Walk like you’re on the moon reaching your hands up to the stars when you step.  Now leave the ground with every step, but keep your arms at your sides”.  

Through this “abstract” process, kids are developing an internal sense of movement efficiency and effectiveness.  They realize when they keep their arms at their sides, it’s harder to move.  They develop a feeling for the advantage of high knees.  

Instead of constant external correction, they are able to internalize and modify movement to make it better and more efficient.  

Infusing movement variables into warm-ups and familiar games not only makes them novel and fun, it further develops the body/brain connection within young athletes.  

To do this simply and quickly, merely take an established fundamental movement skill (squat, skip, lateral shuffle, push up, etc.) and pair it with 1 or more variables for effort (hard, soft, fast, slow, etc.), space (limbs, movement path), and/or relationships with people and objects (over, under, around, etc.).  

For example:

Fast-crawl backward while matching a partner in a zigzag path

Or

Play Tag while skipping backward, arms remaining wide

Or

Play dodgeball from the knees, crawling to the ball, only throwing with the left hand.

In both instances, a familiar activity is combined with a novel demand. The kids are learning context and parameters for movement while having fun with something “new”.  

Consider how this could be integrated into the activities you already do to increase engagement and coordination.

Watch guided discovery in action!

Creative Discovery- Word Adventures

While guided discovery activities have general parameters for movement, during creative discovery, no guidance is provided as children are free to discover different movement parameters on their own.  

Consider the words hop, roll, and explode.  How could each of these words be represented with movement?  How could they be combined in smooth transitions? What would adding punctuation do to the transitions between words?

For example: Hop. Roll, Explode!

Allowing the kids to interpret these movements and transitions on their own (with a general understanding of the vocabulary and punctuation conventions) combines powerful coordination and cognition.  

Since the concepts are completely novel and unfamiliar, kids must manually develop new movement patterns.  More learning, more coordination, more sensory awareness.  

And lots of fun!

With young kids, consider telling a story where they interpret movement words as part of an adventure.  Use nonsense or completely unfamiliar words to challenge them during warm ups or other activities.  Instruct them to move like animals, cartoon characters, or other objects.  

Realize the complex inner workings of a young child’s neuromuscular system when they have to create a new movement pattern from scratch.  

Powerful stuff!

Watch creative discovery in action!

Object Modification

While guided and creative discovery work best with grade school aged children, object modification is a simple game creation strategy for all levels of children (and adults)!

Consider games that require a ball or implement.  Merely by changing the size, shape, or other characteristic of the ball or implement, a whole new set of neuromuscular demands is created.  

For example, think of your favorite team “keep away” game.  How would the parameters of the game change with different implements? A tennis ball? Soccer ball? Frisbee? Balloon?

With young or uncoordinated children, this could give them a greater opportunity for success (i.e. balloon volleyball, beachball baseball).  For more advanced kids, this could highlight certain game tactics, improve conditioning, and/or develop additional skills sets.

A few years ago I was working with a women’s soccer team, I was playing a team keep-away game similar to soccer, but they were throwing a tennis ball to one another.  I replaced the tennis ball with my baseball hat.  

Immediately, they had to change tactics.  While they could look for a long shot with the tennis ball, they had to move constantly in close quarters with the hat. Successful exchanges required quick decisions, anticipation, and field movement.

Not only did it increase the conditioning demand, the coach loved the tactics it highlighted!

Consider how familiar games could be modified with different objects!

As you know, gamifying activities and drills can be a powerful way to increase athlete engagement while enhancing skill development.  Creating new games and activities does not have to be complex.  

The suggestions above provide a quick and simple framework to create games and other fun, novel activities to develop lifelong athleticism with your young athletes.   

 

Brett Klika is the CEO of SPIDERfit Kids and is an expert in Youth Development.  He was named the 2013 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year.

Brett is giving away a free pocket-guide with hundreds of movement variable combinations for warm ups and other activities,

CLICK HERE to get SPIDERfit’s Ultimate Youth Warm Up Cheat Sheet.

10 Mistakes of Program Design

Program Design Mistakes to Avoid

Program design is tough! There’s no getting around the fact that it takes years of practice writing hundreds of programs to get “the feel” for writing great programs. Just consider all the variables that go into writing a great program

  • the age of the athlete…
  • the sports they play…
  • the experience of the athlete…
  • the equipment they have…
  • the number of days they train with you…
  • the other activities they have…

 
The list goes on and on!

business-idea-1240825_640That’s why the best of the best use a program design system to accelerate their learning, and make writing great programs more efficient. There is a goal and a plan to achieve success.

Mistakes to Avoid

If you want to create a great system, here are the 10 mistakes you need to avoid:

  1. Treating every athlete like they are an all-star, future pro with individual needs
  2. Training too much sports skill and not enough strength & conditioning for performance
  3. Writing programs that are too long and time intensive
  4. Adding in advanced exercises too early
  5. Missing critical performance components at specific times of the year
  6. Adding in too much variety
  7. Using the wrong training order for exercises during each training session
  8. Basing your programs on methods not principles
  9. Not having a system, just writing workouts
  10. Trying to reinvent the wheel

 
While these mistakes are easy to avoid and correct, I still see too many coaches making them with their programs! What challenges do you have with programming?

Ryan Ketchum


About the Author: Ryan Ketchum

Ryan Ketchum 2After his time as an All American Track and Field athlete at Indiana University, Ryan Ketchum launched his own training business from nothing and eventually grew it into what is now Force Fitness and Performance/Athletic Revolution Bloomington with his business partner Wil Fleming.

While building one of the most successful gyms in the country, Ryan has also become one of the leading business coaches and experts in the industry. He speaks around the country about building a successful fitness or sports training business, leading several of the most successful coaching programs in the industry and consulting with countless fitness pros.

He also serves on the leadership team for Athletic Revolution, Fitness Revolution and Fitness Consulting Group.


Special Offer: Get the IYCA Program Design System Today!

Dominate your Program Design by grabbing the IYCA’s Program Design System today and save $50…this offer does expire so act today!

 

Regressions and Progressions in Multiple Training Blocks [Part 1]

Regressions and Progressions

Introduction

soccer-1341849_640Team training can be challenging. There are a variety of factors that have to be taken into account when working with large groups and sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming.

When programming for a diverse population, it is important to account for the various needs of the group in order to ensure success. Injury history, physiological age and ability level are just a few of the factors that need to be considered when developing your training programs.

These factors become even more important when you will be working with the same group for an extended amount of time. This will be a 2-part blog series that will explain this process.

This blog post will focus primarily on what must initially be considered in order to program for the long-term effectively. The second post will focus on specific examples of progressions and regressions and how to utilize those in LTAD programming.

#1 Backward Design

It is important to begin with the end in mind. As the coach, you must determine what your top tier exercises will look like in your program. A top tier exercise should be the most advanced exercise your athlete will reach while training.

After determining what your top tier exercises are, you will work backward to determine what exercises you need to help your athletes reach the top tier of your program.

Pro Tip: Begin with your most advanced exercise and work backward.

Squats

#2 Developing Multiple Training Blocks

Developing multiple training blocks is necessary to implement regressions and progressions effectively in team training LTAD models.

A 9th grade 14-year-old athlete is much different from an 18-year-old athlete physically, psychologically and emotionally. You must also account for the junior in high school who has never lifted weights.

Differentiated training blocks will allow you to do this effectively. You must develop training blocks that set them up for long-term success. One of the most effective ways to do this is to implement a model that utilizes progressions and regressions of the same type of exercise.

Developing this type of program will allow you to differentiate for large groups of athletes while keeping your athletes on a similar plan.

Pro Tip: This is an example of a lower body squat emphasis day for these athletes.

Developmental Level Exercise
Blue (Seniors – 17-18 years old) Back Squat
Gold (Juniors – 16-17-years old) Front Squat
Gray (Sophomores – 15-16 years old) Overhead Squat
White (Freshmen – 14-15 years old) Kettlebell Goblet Squat

#3 Developing a Deep Toolbox

Developing a deep exercise toolbox is a must if you want to meet the individual needs of your athletes, while at the same time setting them up for long-term success.

It is important to evaluate your athletes in order to determine the correct exercise for each individual athlete. An athletic profile should be developed from the assessment process, which will aid in exercise selection for your athletes.

Use a method which determines a baseline exercise every athlete should be able to complete before progressing forward. Look for a couple of progressions forward and several regressions backward.

There should be a reason and defense for all of your progressions and regressions in your programming. Develop a deep toolbox, but do not get too far out there in your programming for developmental athletes. Master the basics with this age group.

Pro Tip: Here is an example of progressions and regressions on a lower body squat day.

Progression & Regression Levels Exercise
P2 Barbell Back Squat
P1 Barbell Front Squat
Baseline Exercise Barbell Overhead Squat
R1 Kettlebell Overhead Squat
R2 Kettlebell Front Squat
R3 Kettlebell Goblet Squat
R4 Bodyweight Squat

Conclusion

This is the process to use to begin plugging progressions and regressions into your developmental blocks in an LTAD plan. Part 2 of this blog will get very specific with real life examples of what this looks like at Battle Ground Academy.


About the Author: Fred Eaves

Fred EavesFred Eaves
– Ed.S, M.Ed, CSCS, RSCC, IYCA, USAW, USATF
– BIOFORCE Conditioning Coach Certified
– 2015 NSCA H.S. Strength Coach of the Year
– 2013 Samson Equipment & AFM H.S. Strength Coach of The Year


Prepare Your Athletes To Perform

Learn how to leverage the Long-Term Athletic Development Model to ensure your athletes are prepared to perform. In expert Wil Fleming’s free 7-minute video and PDF checklist, he covers how to create a training system that prepares young athletes to move better, get stronger, and enhance their performance.

Learn More

 

Kettlebell Complexes for Conditioning: Important Factors

Kettlebell Complexes for Conditioning

Pamela MacElree provides us with a lot of content on kettlebell training for kids. She mostly talks about kettlebells being a great tool for introducing strength training to athletes and learning movement mechanics.

In her recent INSIDERS EXCLUSIVE post, Pamela spoke about how easy and simple it is to switch from one exercise to another, providing a great avenue for complexes and challenging all ranges of abilities and levels.

She mentions, that “there are many different ways to program conditioning into athlete workouts but adding in kettlebell complexes is a great way to get a lot of work completed in a short period of time. There are two distinct ways to do complexes and they each have their own level of difficulty.”

Check out the complexes in Insiders today!

IYCA-Insiders-Blog-ad-V5

Important Factors for Kettlebell Complexes

Here are important factors to “check off” and consider when applying kettlebell complexes in your programs:

  • Transitions are important – One kettlebell exercise should put you in a good position for the next kettlebell exercise in the complex.
  • Athletes should be proficient in each exercise in the complex – You do not want to introduce new exercises in a complex. Be sure that the athlete is proficient in individual exercises prior to putting them back-to-back in a complex.
  • Ability to recall exercises – Complexes should make sense to your athletes. You don’t want to compile a boat-load of exercises into one complex. They will spend most of the time trying to remember what is next, losing focus on the form and mechanics.
  • Find the balance – Balance the number of exercises in the complex with the complexity of the exercises themselves. Keep it simple.

Pamela has provided our Insiders with exclusive videos on two complexes. If you are currently an Insider, log in and check them out! If not, you can snag them for a month at only $1.


About Pamela MacElree

Pamela has owned and operated her own fitness business in the Philadelphia area for the last decade. In addition to training clients, she has spent the past 4 years coaching other fitness professionals through FR Nation.

Pamela has her Masters degree in Sports Performance and Injury Prevention, and also has expertise in kettlebell training, women’s fitness training, time management, goal setting and accountability. Pamela lives in Mt Airy, PA with her husband and their three furry, four-legged children: Bella, Leo & Max.

Overcome Summer Programming Hurdles [High School]

Overcoming Summer Programming Hurdles

Programming for the high school athlete during the summer has its challenges. Does it seem like the summer is getting shorter and shorter?

Here are 6 hurdles you will see if you work with high school athletes. More importantly, check out the Pro Tips for ways to overcome them!

Hurdle #1: Vacations

Families want to use the summer for vacations and let’s face it, they can’t always plan it around a strength and conditioning program.

Often they are planned around work schedules and other siblings. As a performance coach, it is challenging to adjust for every athlete when there are 30, 40 and up to 100 kids involved in summer programming.

summer-814679_640Pro Tip: Set the expectations at the beginning of the program. For example, expect athletes to make a certain percentage of the summer workouts.

You can also give athletes a supplemental workout for vacations, so they are still getting the benefits of your program, even if they can’t attend.

Hurdle #2: Sports Camps

It’s summer camp season, which is not a bad thing. However, it can have its challenges for the performance coach. Consulting with parents and players about which camps the athlete attends is very important.

Too many sports camps can have a negative outcome, not because they are a “bad camp”, but because it can be too much in combination with a summer strength & conditioning program. There is a balance, which will reduce the risk of over-training and burnout.

Pro Tip:  Work with the athlete and parents to find the balance, be flexible and do your research on opportunities that are appropriate for your individual athletes. Be sure to know when the athlete will be gone and adjust for that in their programming.

Hurdle #3: Lifestyle

Summer days often take kids out of any sort of routine. Sleeping habits, eating habits, etc. can all change. Let’s face it, it can get pretty sloppy.

Pro Tip: Provide morning workouts! Athletes that train in the morning will start their day off on the “right foot”. This “Get Up and Train” mentality will ultimately provide athletes with a structured morning routine that will also prep them for their respective sports.

Hurdle #4: Summer Teams

catcher-377677_640Summer travel teams are full-force right now. It is necessary that it is acknowledged. This will be a challenge in respective athletes’ programming, but don’t fight it…look at it as an opportunity to educate parents and players!

Pro Tip: EDUCATION! This is the most important thing you can provide your athletes in their programming. They will play on travel and club teams, but do they understand how to balance practices, games, skill and their strength & conditioning? This is where you provide valuable insight and knowledge.

Don’t be a “my way or the highway” coach. Communicate and educate athletes, parents and even other coaches on the value of athletic development as they progress through their high school careers.

Hurdle #5: Summer Jobs

Summer jobs are something to encourage. This is a great time for athletes to get a glimpse of the real world. They will learn to balance their time and set priorities.

Pro Tip: Help athletes find the balance between work and training. This may mean they need to leave early or come late. Don’t discourage this opportunity, they can do both.

Hurdle #6: Transportation

Lastly, some will have transportation issues. If they can’t drive themselves, they have to rely on someone else.

Pro Tip: Suggest car-pooling and have flexibility.

Summary

There are many challenges that performance coaches can face during the summer months. These 6 show the possible hurdles in participation, and ways that they can be overcome.


About the Author: Joshua Ortegon

Joshua OrtegonJoshua Ortegon
Joshua currently consults and programs for athletes of all levels. He operated Athlete’s Arena for 10 yearsa sports performance and fitness center in Irmo, SC and sold that business in 2015. Josh is currently Director of Performance at Dual Threat Training Group in Albany, GA.

His career highlights include training over 100 athletes who moved from high school to college and 15 professional baseball athletes. He also developed 36 return to sport programs to help bridge the gap between rehab and performance for the athlete. He can be reached at JoshuaLOrtegon@gmail.com.


Need Help With Your Summer Programming?

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Monitoring Part 2- Monitoring Tools That Every Coach Needs

In Part 1 of this blog I discussed why we monitor and considerations for monitoring your athletes.  Part 2 is going to deal with how we monitor at the high school level.

Monitoring can be an expensive venture, but there are also less expensive ways that can be implemented by virtually anyone at any level.

This blog will detail two practical and inexpensive ways in which, monitoring can be implemented to help you make decisions, allowing you to meet your athletes where they are at on any given day.

#1 Surveys

Having your athletes take quick daily surveys can help create awareness regarding their habits.  These surveys can be simple  and ask as few or as many questions as you would like. Keeping it simple is best. Here is an example of some of the questions to ask:

  • How many hours did you sleep?
  • Did you eat breakfast?
  • How many bottles of water did you drink?
  • How tough was practice yesterday on a 1-5 scale with 5 being the hardest?
  • How tough was your workout yesterday on a 1-5 scale with 5 being the hardest?
  • How do you feel overall 1-5 scale with 5 being the hardest?

You could make a survey through excel pretty quickly and log your information there to keep track of long term trends with your athletes. There are a couple of ways in which this can be beneficial for you.

  1. Make educated adjustments to your plan dependent upon feedback from the athlete
  2. Identify, where you feel they are at from a readiness standpoint that day.
  3. Look at long-term trends both individually and globally to make better decisions in programming for your athletes.

Individually, you may find that your athletes do not get enough sleep on Monday nights due to practice and academic obligations. Globally, you may find that the football team’s toughest day is on Tuesday every week. Knowing that your athletes average 6 hours of sleep on Monday nights and also have their toughest day on Tuesday allows you to adjust and make the best decision for your athletes that day.

It is very important that you use the data that you collect!

Pro Tip: Collecting data for the sake of collecting data is counter-productive. The adjustments you make off of the data collections is what is of real significance.

You can also up the ante and implement technology to take surveys. There are programs that exist where athletes can enter survey information into their phones, and it collects and organizes the data. This is a real time saver for busy trainers.

Here is an example of a survey:

Monitoring Part 2 Image- Fred Eaves

#2 Autoregulation (APRE-RPE Scales)

A second cost-effective way to monitor your athletes is by using an APRE/RPE scale in their strength training programming. APRE is defined by Dr. Bryan Mann as Autoregulatory Progressive Resistance Exercise.  APRE is a method that takes the daily readiness of the athlete into account through adjustment protocols that dictate working sets.  

There are two warm up sets, and then the third set is a set to failure at a prescribed rep max (RM). The results of the third set dictate the weight used on the fourth and final set.

As a coach, this can be used to help the athlete train to the highest level possible for that specific training session according to the physical state of the athlete.

We do not use strict percentages in our program but rather we use them as a guide.

Use this auto-regulation method to dictate our training loads for the day.

Pro Example:

I always use the example of the athlete who slept 3 hours the night before a hard training session that is under tremendous personal and academic stress when describing the need for this type of training. This athlete may have a prescription to hit 2 reps at 95% that day, but due to his physiological state that 95% is really more like 105% that day. This is why autoregulation can play such a key factor in the development of your athletes.

Dr. Mann from the University of Missouri has done a tremendous amount of work in this area, and has written an E-book specifically on APRE methods. 1

Mann’s Example:  

Here is what typical APRE protocol according would look like:

2016-02-29_1609

SET 4 ADJUSTMENTS- REFER to this chart after set 3

2016-02-29_1611

An RPE scale in conjunction with APRE methods is another effective manner in which to implement RPE. RPE  stand for rate of perceived exertion.  Athletes use this rating scale to rank the difficulty of a set in training.

Pro Example: Sample RPE rating scale

2016-02-29_1607

Pro Example:

An example would be an athlete does 155lbs. for 10 reps. When he finishes this set on set three, he rates whether or not he had one rep, two reps, or multiple reps left in the tank. Then picks an appropriate weight to finish his fourth set, using the adjustment chart below.

Here is an example of what this looks like:

2016-02-29_1604
SET 4 ADJUSTMENTS- REFER To This Chart after set 3

2016-02-29_1603
Look at long term trends when recording their numbers to make sure there is consistent progress.  Do not worry about disp as this is common due to the variable nature of the high school athlete.

Conclusion

Two simple and cost-effective measures in which to monitor and adjust for your athletes have been outlined.  Use these tools to tremendously impact your athletes in way that is both feasible and practical.

 


Are your athletes prepared to perform?

Download our free PDF and Overview video on the long term athletic development model.

WFIYCA


About the Author: Fred Eaves

Fred Eaves, Ed.S, M.Ed, CSCS, RSCC, IYCA, USAW, USATF, BIOFORCE Conditioning Coach Certified,  2015 NSCA H.S. Strength Coach of the Year, 2013 Samson Equipment & AFM H.S. Strength Coach of The Year
References

  1. Mann, B. (2011). THE APRE: The scientifically proven fastest way to get strong.

 

Monitoring Readiness in Athletes: Part 1

Athlete monitoring has risen to the forefront of the physical preparation industry over the last several years. Monitoring and readiness is part of a continued evolution in a field that is never static. Athlete monitoring is a way in which sport scientists and coaches are using information gathered from the athlete to gauge how physiologically, psychologically, and emotionally ready their athletes are for training and competition.

Sport scientists and coaches are relying more and more heavily on both objective and subjective measures to help adjust and determine training protocol for both athletes and clients. There has been a steep rise in the implementation of monitoring technology in physical preparation from the professional all the way to the high school level. GPS units, heart rate variability monitors, velocity based measurement, and multiple phone apps have become an integral part of physical preparation programs across the United States. We are going to take a look at monitoring in three distinct parts:

  1. Why we monitor and considerations for monitoring
  2. How we monitor at the high school level
  3. What difference can monitoring make in the development of your athletes?

Capture

Part 1 of this blog is going to focus on why we monitor and considerations for monitoring. The “why” is the most
critical component of any method that you may choose to implement in your program. If there is not a clear understanding of why something is being implemented into your program, then I would advise you to immediately pause and determine what that “why” is for you.

I am going to be giving a high school perspective as to why we believe that monitoring has become extremely important with our athletes. The “why” for why we began to monitor became very clear for us before we began to implement any monitoring strategies at Battle Ground Academy.

The demands on today’s high school athlete are tremendous. Many of these athletes are participating in rigorous academic programs, highly competitive high school and club athletic programs, as well as consistent physical preparation training. It has been my observation that this athlete’s readiness levels are some of the most variable a coach will experience. These athletes rarely experience true off-seasons due to multiple sport participation, private skills training, and club participation. This leaves this athlete under a tremendous amount of stress on a routine basis, and it puts the physical preparation professional into the role of a stress manager.

My concern for my athletes ultimately came from growing to understand the intense physiological, psychological, and emotional demands that not only came from their sports, but the chronological and developmental age of the athlete. An athlete’s high school years can be some of the most stressful and challenging of their lives. Once again, they are experiencing rapid changes physically, mentally, and emotionally that can make the demands placed on them through athletics participation a daunting task. Expectations, realistic or unrealistic, have also become a major stressor for these athletes. Our society has set the bar high in term of expectations both academically and athletically during these formative years.

Through the data tracking of our athletes, we would see a great amount of variability in the strength levels on a regular basis. All of our long term trends would be very solid, but we could see that at times there could be as much as a 17% fluctuation either positive or negative in a core lift from one week to the next in what we measured from an athlete!

Capture2

This was not the standard fluctuation of course, but it was not unusual to see significant weekly fluctuations in strength levels. Looking at this data ignited the “light bulb” moment for me. Most of us who have been in the profession for a while most likely came out of programs with a strict percentage based mentality that did not really take the daily readiness of the athlete into account. We programmed volume and intensity into the program, and hopefully it lined up with where our athletes were that day.

Throughout this process the “why” for us became this: we want to meet our athletes as close to where they are as possible from a readiness standpoint on a daily basis. We want to do what is best for our athletes, and also what will help them achieve their goals in the safest and most efficient manner possible. I typically find that this is the goal of any coach who wants to implement a monitoring program with his or her athletes. The next step was to discern how we were going to implement a monitoring program that can be executed in an efficient manner. We first needed to consider what some challenges or limiting factors may be at the high school/youth level.

The most obvious challenges for most are going to be financial cost, time expenditure, and athlete compliance. All of these can be difficult because they are outside of your control for the most part. Finances are usually set at a certain point by a multitude of different factors dependent upon the situation. Time can be limited by access in an educational and private setting for different reasons as well. Finances and time are usually very scarce commodities in the world of physical preparation, and it must be taken into account to understand what type of monitoring program is right for your situation. Athlete compliance is the third area that is very important. Monitoring and measurement can be useless if the athlete’s in non-compliant. Non-compliance can be a lack of reporting or dishonest reporting by your athletes. There has to be athlete buy in to make all of this work!

Another factor to consider is making sure that data collection is in line with the amount of data that you can manage successfully. Collecting data for the sake of storing data in your computer is a futile exercise at best. There needs to be a plan in place to both collect and use the data.

It is important to implement any change in your program in stages, and implementing a monitoring program is no different.

It is important to implement any change in your program in stages.

It will be an adjustment for strength coaches, sport coaches, and athletes.

It is important not to place excessive demands on all involved in the early stages of building your monitoring program.

It is also important to help your athletes correctly understand the information you are asking for as well as explain the relevance of the information being collected.

It is vital that you repeat this process with everyone who is going to be involved in the process to ensure its success. This includes sport coaches, administrators, as well as parents.

Part two of this three-part series will look at methods from technology to programming that can be implemented at the high school level to monitor, evaluate, and adjust to help your athletes achieve optimal results.


 

Check out our Youth Athlete Assessment Certification to begin evaluating and monitoring your athletes.

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About the Author: Fred Eaves
Ed.S, M.Ed, CSCS, RSCC, IYCA, USAW, USATF, BIOFORCE Conditioning Coach Certified, 2015 NSCA H.S. Strength Coach of the Year, 2013 Samson Equipment & AFM H.S. Strength Coach of The Year

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What Coaches Must Be, Have, & Do to Make a Difference

There are many reasons to become a sport performance coach. Whether it is an undeniable passion for working with kids, a need to fulfill a void that you never had during your athletic years, an experience with a great coach, or even an experience with a bad coach….

…whatever the reason, the kids in your community need a strong, confident leader and an educated leader. It is the “educated leader” that I think we miss the most. It concerns me. Does it concern you?

Unfortunately, the uneducated performance coaches aren’t likely reading this blog, so my question is…what can we do to educate more coaches, more trainers, more parents and more athletes so that we can have a bigger impact, reduce injury and create strong, healthy athletes?

What Coaches Must Be

Education begins with an individual: an open mind to evolve, grow, forego past assumptions and adopt new ways (or improve upon old ways). Leading by example is a surefire way to educate those that you come in contact with.

Providing informational sessions, newsletters and a strong culture, based in the concepts that you can find in the IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist Credential, will give you the confidence and courage to program & teach all athletes.

What Coaches Must Have

It is really easy to get side-tracked and pulled into multiple directions. The best performance coaches know their vision, and it’s a compelling and powerful one!  When you have a compelling vision, others will believe in you and ultimately follow you, not the other way around.

The best performance coaches know their vision

When we look at the latest trends and fads, one thing stands true—they are all temporary. Build a vision that can last. Invest yourself in your vision. Live it. Love it. Learn to say NO to the paths that do not lead your in the direction of your vision.

What Coaches Must Do

Knowledge is power…right?  So why do we so often keep it to ourselves? One of the biggest challenges that you may face, is educating others who may/may not be open to it.

That high school coach who has been doing the same routine for 30 years, or that volunteer parent who played Division I athletics and trains the kids like mini-adults, they may need a voice of reason when it comes to coaching youth.  

Share your knowledge, but do it gently. In order to educate, sometimes it’s more important to listen. Find a common cause or purpose that we all can rally behind.

Here at IYCA, we love the saying, “A high tide raises all ships.” Take that approach to coaching. Do your part to raise the tide and make the industry better, and our athletes better.

With a common purpose at the forefront, work on gently integrating your techniques, thoughts and vision. It isn’t about trying to be “right” or the “best” coach for the job. Don’t try to compete, work along-side them, and watch the tables turn.

You will win some over…but then again, there will be some that you won’t. Let that go.

And…Never Quit Learning.

It is easy to throw your hands in the air and stop trying to educate others. Understand that not everyone will be receptive to the concepts that we teach here at the IYCA, and that you teach in your programs.

Remember, for every one coach/trainer that you get to impact, there are potentially hundreds of kids that they may coach in a lifetime, so keep educating yourself and others, the kids need you, we need you.


Want to get started on your path to Youth Fitness today?

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Author: Julie Hatfield

Julie Hatfield (1)Julie is the Executive Director of the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA). She grew up as an athlete and played collegiate softball at Juniata College. She currently owns and operates her own youth fitness business pouring into young athletes. Her areas of expertise are youth sport performance, youth fitness business and softball training/instruction. Julie grew up on a dairy farm and can challenge the best of the best in a cow-milking contest. 😉

5 Easy-to-Remember Aspects of Program Design

The best youth coaches are always looking for ideas, tips and tricks to improve their program development. Maybe it’s because they are the “never settle for anything less than perfection” type personalities, or just because they are getting bored with their current programming.

Either way, we have found some great techniques for how to approach program development, that will help you improve your programming, mix up the mundane, and continue to get great results with your athletes.

Pro Tip: When developing a program or improving an existing program, think of the acronym P.L.A.C.E. to make sure that you are delivering an extraordinary experience.

Plan & Prepare

Every program needs a good amount of planning and preparing. It is no secret that the best performance coaches in the industry have a tried & true system when it comes to planning and prepping their sessions.

What is your plan? How do you prepare?

Quality planning and preparation will take your training to the next level


Learn how to prepare your athletes to perform and to design programs that fit within a model of long term athlete development.

Watch Video


Lifelong Lessons

You have an amazing opportunity to simulate and help athletes overcome many barriers and obstacles. Find ways to relate training back to life and make it a part of each program.

Overcoming barriers, fears, weakness and obstacles can easily be brought into a training program in a non-threatening, manageable way. It is a great moment for you to impact that athlete for life.

On a similar note, when you program from the long term athlete development model and principles, not only do you get to spend many years with a single athlete, you also get to implement a rock-solid foundation in movement that will change their life.

Never lose site of the bigger picture: lifelong health & happiness.

Application to sport

It is an unfortunate reality that many athletes are defined by the sports that they play. Educating them on the need to be well-rounded, foundationally sound and the concepts of long term athlete development is essential.

But the reality is still there. That is why “application to sport” is still an important part of your program. Don’t over-emphasize this topic, but give your sport-athletes as much as they they need when it comes to relating components of your program to their sport.

Confidence Building

Confidence building should be an integral part of each and every session when working with athletes. Providing a platform for confidence building will allow your athletes to achieve goals and perform at a higher level.

How will you help your athlete(s) mentally? Whether it’s in the confidence that you have in them, or the way that you play to their strengths and build their weaknesses.

There are many ways to instill confidence as a coach, so make it a priority.

Evaluate

There are two pieces to the evaluation part of your program:

  1. Evaluate the athletes
  2. Evaluated by the athletes

Every time you see an athlete, there should be a constant evaluation process that takes place. How are they feeling, how is school, how busy are they, how do they look when they move?  

Much of this evaluation should occur in your warm ups and before they start working.

Secondly, they evaluate you. At the end of each session, you can ask for feedback. How did they rank the session? How did they rank their performance? (I use a # system, 1-10)

Summary:

The good news is that the acronym PLACE is easy to remember, and will help you think through the basics of what to include in your program design.

What others tips, tricks and recommendations do you use? We’d love to hear!


Want to help make sure your athletes are prepared to perform for the long-run and not just for next week’s big game?

Download our FREE Prepared to Perform Video to hear youth coaching expert Wil Fleming break down critical aspects of the long-term athlete model.

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Author: Julie Hatfield

Julie Hatfield (1)Julie is the Executive Director of the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA). She grew up as an athlete and played collegiate softball at Juniata College. She currently owns and operates her own youth fitness business pouring into young athletes. Her areas of expertise are youth sport performance, youth fitness business and softball training/instruction. Julie grew up on a dairy farm and can challenge the best of the best in a cow-milking contest. 😉