Archive for “Uncategorized” Category

5 Great Movements for Reversing Extension Postures in Athletes

By Eric Cressey, MS, CSAS

One of the biggest mistakes coaches make in training young athlete is just treating them like they’re adult clients. Obviously, this line of thinking is incorrect for a variety of psychological, physiological, and biomechanical reasons, but perhaps none stands out as more significant as their different postural demands on a daily basis.

Adult clients spend a big chunk of their days sitting in flexion, and often need more extension – especially through the thoracic spine – in their daily lives. Many trainers are, as a result, terrified of including any flexion-based core training in their programs.

Conversely, kids spend a ton of time standing and moving around. When combined with athletics, you realize that the majority of young athletes absolutely live in extension.

If you take this same flexion-aversion to a young population, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to help them. Why?

Flexing from an extended position toward “neutral” is different than flexing from “neutral” position toward end-range lumbar flexion.

With that in mind, we incorporate a ton of flexion-bias exercises with our young athletes to get them out of extension. Here are five of my favorites:

Suspension Trainer Deep Squat Breathing with Lat Stretch

Bench T-Spine Mobs

All Fours Breathing/Belly Lift

Back-to-Wall Shoulder Flexion

Bear Crawls

While this is certainly not an exhaustive list of the exercises we’ll use with athletes who are in a heavily extended posture, you can definitely easily incorporate these five movements into warm-ups with young athletes with great results.

Taking it a step further, I include both extension-bias and flexion-bias 16-week training programs as options in The High Performance Handbook. This versatile training resource provides a glimpse into how we program for our athletes at Cressey Sports Performance, and includes 2x/week, 3x/week, and 4x/week programming options that are derived from a preliminary easy-to-apply self-assessment. Click here to learn more:

How would you like a quick and easy-to-apply – but very effective – self-assessment component to add to your training program? The High Performance Handbook gives you the tools that you need to personalize each and every program. Featuring over 200 exercises, each with a 30-120 second coaching tutorial and over three hours of videos that will give you everything you need to become a High Performance Coach, long after you’ve completed the program!

We all know the importance of Nutrition with any Youth Training Program. Dr. John Berardi’s High Performance Handbook Nutrition Guide will give you everything from menus, recipes, nutrition application to the eye-opening expose on all of the chemicals in our environment and how you can take steps to limit exposure and improve health!

Get the GOLD Package today!

Why Children NEED Structured Strength & Conditioning

by Shane Fitzgibbon, B.Sc., NCSC, FMS, YFS, HSCS, YNS, YSAS
Taekwon-do Instructor & Strength & Conditioning Coach


This blog post is being written as I reflect on all the recent articles I have read about youth obesity spiralling out of control in Ireland, as well as the reports on young athletes being burned out at ever- increasing rates from exhaustion and/or injury. While these are opposite extremes of the scale, I believe they are opposite sides of the same coin. The issue is lack of education (or perhaps even lack of caring) on what exercise professionals can offer. While both are pressing issues, this feature is aimed at why active children need some amount of professional attention—even in amateur/hobby sports—if they are to minimize injury risk.

While it is essential that children engage in regular exercise for numerous health benefits, it is also important to recognize that exercise and sport is not necessarily the same thing. One key difference is that sport is, by its very nature, competitive and therefore more demanding and rigorous than exercise for its own sake. It is also not realistic to expect a local, unpaid, volunteer, amateur coach (no matter how well-meaning) to be an expert in nutrition, injury prevention, injury rehabilitation, strength, speed & agility, etc. His or her expertise is in the game, not in determining the physical capabilities or limitations of the players (unless they also happen to be a professional trainer). Let’s consider the benefits of children participating in structured strength & conditioning, should their local clubs or parents be forward-thinking enough to provide it.

Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS)

Children are entering sports with less physical literacy than ever before due to, among other reasons, the amount of time spent indoors instead of involved in free play at home. This is exacerbated by the massive reduction of P.E. and free-play in schools. This has huge implications on childrens’ competency of fundamental movement skills, such as object manipulation, hopping, jumping, squatting, etc…not to mention hand-eye coordination and more. When a child joins a new sport lacking competence in essential FMS, is it asking far too much of the child to develop competency of intrinsic sport-specific skills?


Humans aren’t designed to spend long hours in the seated position. It drastically alters the tone of our muscles – shortening and tightening some, while lengthening and weakening others, to the detriment of posture. Ask someone to run or jump with poor posture and he or she will certainly make an attempt, but will typically lack efficiency due to the inability of certain muscles to fire in the correct sequence or with optimum force production. At best, performance is reduced. At worst, the child eventually gets injured. A professional strength and conditioning coach recognizes these issues with the squad and is able to intervene with appropriate corrective exercises, thereby dramatically reducing the risk of injury.

ONE CHANCE to get it right….

Prior to puberty is the best time for children to develop many of their fundamental movement skills, such as locomotion. Given that these FMS are the building blocks for athletic skills, then the strength of this foundation is linked to athletic success later in life. You may think that they have plenty of time to learn this. WRONG! If a child is not exposed to various movements in the early developmental stages, the brain undergoes a process of synaptic pruning, whereby underutilized motor pathways in the brain are trimmed away. Exposing the child to these movement patterns later in life provides no guarantee of learning, as it means that all new motor pathways need to be created in the brain. Children literally have ONE CHANCE to effectively learn fundamental movement skills well1.

Resistance Training


The benefits of resistance training are numerous. These have been documented extensively in my free eBook on youth conditioning, so I won’t revisit them here. (If you want to pick up a copy use this link:

According to Lloyd and Oliver “ if a child is ready to engage in sport activities, then he or she is ready to participate in resistance training2,”. Knowing that resistance training for children is both beneficial and, indeed, recommended, then why should parents or sports coaches seek a strength coach to teach the children? The answer is because children should not be treated like adults when it comes to ANY kind of training. A suitably knowledgeable coach understands what various modalities of resistance training, e.g. body weight, resistance bands, dumbbells, etc… are appropriate for a child depending on experience, age, etc… The youth fitness coach understands that there are differences in approach needed for boys versus girls, and that a growth spurt changes the rules.

Injury reduction

One of the most important roles a strength and conditioning coach performs is that of the assessment. Poor posture and previous injuries can both influence the readiness of a young athlete to participate in sport, often leading to additional subsequent injury. An assessment early on can identify risk factors which can be mitigated by intervention from the coach. Experienced strength and conditioning coaches should be adept at spotting fatigue and overtraining symptoms in young athletes. Frequently children get overtrained from participating in multiple sports, each one with a coach who may fail to realize that the child has little left to give. Naturally, every coach expects the best from each child on the squad. One area requiring particular mention is anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries in field and court sports. Teenage girls suffer five times more ACL surgeries than boys3. There are a few potential reasons for this, including weak hip stability, quadriceps muscle dominance, and other factors. It takes a specialist to know these risks, to identify them in players, and intervene to reduce the likelihood of such injuries occurring.

Long-term development

I hear from many parents about the fitness activities that their children are doing as part of their particular sport. Frequently these are random, inappropriate, and sometimes just make no sense whatsoever. They may be age inappropriate and have no bearing on what was done the previous years, or to be done in the following years. A youth strength and conditioning coach should plan for the future and design age-appropriate and experience-appropriate programs for young players, with a plan for where they are going and where they need to be.

A child’s age isn’t necessarily his or her age

Children should be prescribed exercise and have expectations based not on their chronological age (years since birth), but on their biological age (developmental or maturation age).

Case study: John and Michael both join the U12 soccer team. John is 11 and is an early bloomer. Michael is 10 and is a late bloomer. Because children can seem up to three years younger or older depending on whether they are early or late bloomers, John can have a biological age of 13, with Michael having a biological age of only 8. In this scenario you have two boys with biological ages of 13 and 8 on the same team. Should they be expected to have comparable levels of strength? Speed? Cognitive awareness? Of course not. Specialist youth strength and conditioning coaches will have a whole sequence of progressions and regressions that are suitable for the more or less advanced child.

Any team fitness activities must take into account the difference between biological and chronological ages. To determine your child’s biological age, visit


Given the evidence available, it seems prudent to offer active children a variety of movement-exploration experiences, whether through sports or structured physical education classes. In the early developmental stages, children should be encouraged and given the opportunity to develop physical literacy to the maximum. Parents and sports coaches can only expect their children to massively benefit from availing of the knowledge of the specialist youth fitness coach.

To discuss workshops or training programmes for an individual or team, contact me at or visit


  1. Parents – you have one chance to do this right” Greg Rose, Functional Movement Systems
  2. High Performance Training for Sports, Joyce & Lewindon, Human Kinetics, 2014
  3. Kelvin Giles,



Shane Fitzgibbon is a Strength and Conditioning coach, based in Galway, Ireland. He is a professional martial arts instructor and, as a retired athlete from this field, is a 6-time World Champion in Taekwon-do & Kickboxing. Representing Ireland in European, Intercontinental, and World Championships, Shane has competed all over the World, e.g. Ghana, South Korea, Nigeria, Canada, Croatia, Germany, etc… amassing an impressive twenty World-medal tally. The 6th degree black belt in Taekwon-do has coached numerous Irish, British, European and World champions to success.

Holder of a B.Sc. from National University of Ireland, Galway, Shane has  always had a passion for exercise and qualified as a gym instructor with ITEC in 2001. In the years that followed, Shane has been busy coaching his martial arts students as well teams and individuals from other sports. As well as obtaining National Certificate in Strength & Conditioning, Shane is Functional Movement Screening (FMS) certified and a member of the prestigious Register of Exercise Professionals Ireland (REPS Ireland). Shane is a also a member, in good standing, of the Irish Sports Coaches Institute (ISCI). Shane came across the IYCA two years ago while researching educational sources to further his knowledge in the area of youth coaching. He is currently a Youth Fitness Specialist Level 3, Speed and Agility Specialist, Kettlebell Instructor, Olympic Lift Instructor, Youth Nutrition Specialist, Resistance Band Instructor, and High School S&C Coach, as certified by  the IYCA. Not one to be satisfied with his current level of knowledge, Shane has enjoyed attending seminars and learning directly from two key IYCA contributors, Mike Robertson and Wil Fleming, as well as Mike Boyle, and others.

As well as teaching martial arts classes, Shane coaches young people from a wide variety of sports. He is very diligent in improving their fundamental movement skills and physical literacy, as this has a direct bearing on all movement capacities and sporting attributes.

In 2012, Shane authored the highly acclaimed book, “Training and Optimal Health for Sports”, which is available from Amazon, and the dedicated site In it, he has shared twenty years of experience training and competing at the highest levels of his sport as well as the secrets of his longevity, not having retired from competition until 38, a double World Champion that year. Shane’s dedication and skills have recently come to the attention of, not only the IYCA, but also the NSCA, who have invited him to present at a symposium in 2016.

Shane’s S&C website is and his facebook page is


The FAST Program

Fun Agility and Strength Training

by Shawn Manning

Movement is crucial for these kids as they sit daily for long periods of time. So we feel that it is our responsibility to give these youth athletes the opportunity to move, and more importantly teach them to move correctly. In that movement comes positive coaching. Helping classmates in school, on the bus, at practice or anywhere. Our goal is to not only help these youth athletes create a healthy lifestyle, but to help them realize that they can make a positive impact on anyone. “Be the good in the world that you wish to see”.   These kids are awesome, and this class serves as a unique opportunity to leave a positive impact in the youth fitness world.


1. Movement Prep
Forward Jogging 2x 20 yards
Backward Jogging 2x 20 yards
Skips AMAR
Hurdles 1x 10 yards
Walking Knee Hugs 1x 10 yards
Walking Quad 1x 10 yards
Cradle Walk 1x 10 yards
Inchworm 3x
Static Mountain Climbers – Vertical Shins 2x 10 seconds
Athletic Stance – Leads to Power Jumps
Ladder 2 linear and 2 lateral
2. Speed Skills
Knee Extensions 4x each leg
Wall Drill March Switch on coach’s command ex.1-1-2-1
Arm Swings Switch on coach’s command ex.1-1-2-1
Right & Left Leg Bounding 2x each leg
5 Yard Sprint from forward facing start 6x
3. Strength Skill Practice    
Squat Hip Hinge Movement – ‘Shut the car door’ ‘Knock the wall down’‘Athletic Stance’ Back and down; Weight in Heels; Vertical shins; Stand up like a superhero
Pick Ups (Deadlifts)6 lb Medicine Ball 4 Step DL
-Stand directly overtop
-Put your hands on it
-Squat down
Reps and time allotted determined by coach
Broad Jump  
4. Obstacle Course
5 yard sprint with tennis ball
Drop off tennis ball in hula hoop – used points if tennis ball stayed in the hula hoop
15 yard bear crawl – High Knees in Ladder in Day 2 of Week 1
Pick up (DL) medicine ball
Crab walk to hula hoop – High Knees in Ladder in Day 2 of Week 1
Pick up tennis ball
Sprint back to partner


1. Movement Prep
Forward Jogging 2x 20 yards
Backward Jogging 2x 20 yards
Skips AMAR
Hurdles 1x 10 yards
Walking Knee Hugs 1x 10 yards
Walking Quad 1x 10 yards
Cradle Walk 1x 10 yards
Inchworm 3x
Static Mountain Climbers – Vertical Shins 2x 10 seconds
Athletic Stance (The Everything Stance)
Ladder (Specific Drills)
2. Speed Skills
5 yard sprint 4x with no arms
Arm Swings Switch on coach’s command ex.1-1-2-1
5 yard sprint Concentration Arm Swings
Wall Drill March Switch on coach’s command ex.1-1-2-1
Hip Turn, Push & Go 3x each leg (Drop step)
3. Strength Skill Practice    
Squat Hip Hinge Movement – ‘Shut the car door’ ‘Knock the wall down’‘Athletic Stance’ Back and down; Weight in HeelsVertical shins; Stand up like a superhero
Kettlebell Deadlifts 4 Step DL
-Stand directly overtop
-Put your hands on it
-Squat down
-Lift with arms straight
Reps and time allotted determined by coach
Depth Squat Landing position  
Box Jump Power up & landing position  
Broad Jump 4x  
4. Obstacle Course Day 1
  • 3 squats then pick up tennis ball
  • Side shuffle, switch tennis and place the original in cone
  • Sprint to the next cone and place your second tennis ball in
  • Bunny hop through the ladder to the medicine ball
  • 3 ball slams
  • Skip on outside of ladder, pick up tennis ball from blue cone, switch at orange cone and sprint to finish
5. Obstacle Course Day 2
  • 1 rep of 1 pood Kettlbell
  • 10 mini hurdle jumps
  • Fireman pull down
  • 3 squats
  • Fireman pull back
  • 10 mini hurdle jumps


1. Speed Skills
Crossover Step 3x each way
Foot Pop & Go 3x 5 yards (reaction)
Backpedal-2-Sprint 2x 10 yards
Pro Shuttle 2x timed
Frisbee Hip Turn & Go 3x each angle
2. Movement Prep
Forward Jogging 2x 20 yards
Backward Jogging 2x 20 yards
Power Skips 1x 10 yards
Side Shuffle 2x 10 yards
Athletic Stance 1x 10 yards
Depth Jumps 1x 10 yards
Side Shuffle Jumping Jacks 1x 10 yards
Wall Drill 3x
Arm Swings 3x
Step Outs 2x 10 sec.
Static Mountain Climbers – Vertical Shins 2x 10 seconds
Clock Drill
Open & Go 2x 5 yards
Ladder (Specific Drills)
3. Strength PODS for Day 1
1A. Kettlebell Deadlift 3×3
1B. Bench Push 3x 10 yard
2A. Bodyweight Squat 3×3
2B. Box Jump 3×3
1A. Rope Pulls 3×3
1B. Hurdles 3×8
4. Obstacle Course Day 2
  • 3 squats then pick up tennis ball
  • Side shuffle, switch tennis and place the original in cone
  • Sprint to the next cone and place your second tennis ball in
  • Bunny hop through the ladder to the medicine ball
  • 3 ball slams
  • Skip on outside of ladder, pick up tennis ball from blue cone, switch at orange cone and sprint to finish

F.A.S.T. – Week 4: Importance of the Crossover Step

1. Movement Prep
Forward Jogging 2x 20 yards
Backward Jogging 2x 20 yards
Power Skips 2x 10 yards
Side Shuffle 2x 10 yards
Athletic Stance 1x 10 yards
Depth Jumps 1x 10 yards
Side Shuffle Jumping Jacks 1x 10 yards
Wall Drill 3x
Arm Swings 3x
Step Outs 2x 10 sec.
Static Mountain Climbers – Vertical Shins 2x 10 seconds
Clock Drill – Hip Turn
Front Medicine Ball Slams 5x
Plank Holds 1x 20 sec.
Ladder 2 linear and 2 lateral
2. Speed Skills
Crossover Step 4x each way
Foot Pop & Go 4x 5 yards
Backpedal-2-Sprint 2x 10 yards
Rt. Leg & Lt. Leg Bounding 1x each leg
Frisbee Angle Sprints 3x each angle
Depth Jump-2-Sprint 3x 5 yards
3. Strength Skill Practice    
Squat Hip Hinge Movement – ‘Shut the car door’ ‘Knock the wall down’‘Athletic Stance’ Back and down; Weight in HeelsVertical shins; Stand up like a superhero
Pick Ups (Deadlifts)6 lb Medicine BallKB Deadlifts 4 Step DL-Stand directly overtop-Put your hands on it-Squat down


Reps and time allotted determined by coach
Sled Push  
Box Jump Power up & landing position  
4. Obstacle Course Day 1
Speedy Strongman
  • Crossover sprint
  • Drop off tennis ball in cone
  • Sled Pull with rope
  • Medicine ball deadlift
  • Put on top of box
  • Kick soccer ball into goal (3 attempts)
  • Sled Push back
  • Tennis ball pick up and handoff to partner
5. Obstacle Course Day 2
  • Bear crawl to ladder
  • High knees through ladder
  • 3 box jumps
  • 3 squats
  • 3 box jumps
  • 10 mini hurdle jumps
  • Bear Crawl to finish


1. Movement Prep
Forward Jogging 2x 20 yards
Backward Jogging 2x 20 yards
Power Skips AMAR
Side Shuffle 2x 10 yards
Athletic Stance – Incorporate Jumps
Depth Jumps 1x 10 yards
Side Shuffle Jumping Jacks 1x 10 yards
Wall Drill 3x
Arm Swings 3x
Step Outs 2x 10 sec.
Static Mountain Climbers – Vertical Shins 2x 10 seconds
Clock Drill
Medicine Ball Slams 1×5 front
Plank Holds 1x 20 sec.
Ladder 2 linear and 2 lateral
2. Speed Skills
Hurdle Jumps, right, left & both feet 4x 10 seconds
Hurdle-2-Sprint 4x 5 yards
Depth Jump 2×5
Drop Step-2-Crossover 2x
Lateral Box Jump 2×6 each way
Frisbee Angle Sprints 2x each side
Stop & Go Sprints 3x 10 yards
3. Strength Skill Practice
Kettlebell Deadlifts
Ring Pulls
Lateral Lunges
4. Obstacle Course – POD Day 1 4. Obstacle Course Day 2
Rescue Team – Sled Push/Pull
1A. Kettlebell Deadlift – 4×3

1B. Box Jump – 4×3


2A. Blue Saucer Sled Push – 10 yards

2B. Squat – 4×3


3A. Ring Pulls 3×2

3B. Lateral Lunges 3×2 each leg

10 yard sled pull with rope
10 yard sled push

10 yard sled pull with rope

10 yard sled push

Teammate repeats

*We use a flat bench that is flipped over as the sled. The athletes push the legs of the bench.


1. Movement Prep
Forward Jogging 2x 20 yards
Backward Jogging 2x 20 yards
Power Skips AMAR
Side Shuffle 1x 10 yards
Athletic Stance 1x 10 yards
Jumping Jack Shuffle 1x 10 yards
Side Shuffle Jumping Jacks 1x 10 yards
Wall Drill 3x
Arm Swings 3x
Step Outs 2x 10 sec.
Static Mountain Climbers – Vertical Shins 2x 10 seconds
Clock Drill (Hip Turn) 2x
Front Medicine Ball Slams 5x
Plank Holds 1x 20 sec.
Ladder – 2 linear and 2 lateral
2. Speed Skills
Side Shuffle Back to Sprint 2x 5yards
Sleeper Sprints 2x 5yards
Backpedal-2-Sprint 2x 5yards
Open & Go Sprints 2x 5yards
Frisbee Angle Sprints 4x Distance varies
Drop step-2- Crossover 2x 5yards
Pass Sprints w/ Coverage 4x Distance Varies
Push & Go (push over standing tire & sprint) 4x 5yards
3. Strength Skill Practice
Kettlebell Deadlifts
Push Up
Box Jump
4. Obstacle Course Day 1
Fireman Fun – Rescue Medicine Ball
2 Throwers with soft dodgeballs in each corner2 runners at the start behind L screen4 others screens are set up in various positions to serve as cover for 2 runners. Runners can only stay behind screen for 3 seconds. Burpee penalty2 Medicine balls are to be recovered at the safe spot and brought back to the start.

If a runner is hit by a ball they are out of the game

Teams switch once med balls are returned or runners are knocked out with dodgeball

Play as many innings as you wish

Ladders and hurdles were used to add a level of difficulty

5. Obstacle Course – The Finish
Junior American Gladiator
2 Throwers with soft dodgeballs in each corner2 runners at the start behind L screen4 others screens are set up in various positions to serve as cover for 2 runners. Runners can only stay behind screen for 3 seconds. Burpee penalty2 Medicine balls are to be recovered at the safe spot and brought back to the start.

If a runner is hit by a ball they are out of the game

Teams switch once med balls are returned or runners are knocked out with dodgeball

Play as many innings as you wish

Ladders and hurdles were used to add a level of difficulty






Squatting for Female Athletes

by Wil Fleming

Female athletes are one of my favorite “subsets” of athletes I get to work with. The reasons are plenty but in no particular order:

  • They are typically less tied to the egomaniacal pursuit of more weight.
  • They have usually less experience with “bad” training.
  • They are typically better movers at a young age compared to males at the same age.

Most importantly is the recipe for a young female’s success is quite simple, keep them moving well, and get them strong. I first learned this as a collegiate athlete, where the females that came to the track team would all have exceptional talent, and had incredible accomplishments (most were all-state, or state champion athletes), but many had never been in the weight room before. Once exposed to some high quality strength training their performances exploded! It was like adding gas to a match.

This recipe does not hold just for high level collegiate athletes, it holds for the middle school volleyball player, and high school basketball player too. Strength is the great equalizer in female athletics.

Adding Strength

With any young athlete, nearly everything they do can help them add strength. That is why so many disparate programs can be seen at the high school level, and so many of them work. Young athletes are very pliable to the demands you give them, and adaptation can occur to nearly anything.

The key though to adding more strength, more quickly, is to teach your young athletes, and especially females big compound movements early and often.

The most important among these compound movements is the squat.

Squatting Coaching

First and foremost, squatting should be simple. Do not over complicate and make a basic movement pattern a high tension high threshold movement. Do not over coach this (this goes for all athletes).

  • Feet Flat
  • Stand up straight (means no anterior tilt, and no rib flare)
  • Hips first
  • Knees over small toe on the way out
  • Push the knees out on the way up.

Every person’s squat will look different, but remember if it doesn’t look athletic it probably isn’t. Every squat though, from an individual person should look very similar, goblet, to front, to back should all look very close to the same. Try not to coach this as a “lift” but as a “movement”.

The caveat for coaching females is that a great deal of them will likely have a valgus collapse on the way up. In most instances this isn’t something you need to “coach them out of,” instead make them aware of it and then help them train their way out of it.

Training their way out of it means more work on glute development, and more single leg work. Awareness and strength will eventually make this a non-issue.

The bigger concern when it comes to injury prevention is valgus collapse on the way down. While this is rare, if this occurs the athlete is not yet ready for squatting the current load and should spend more time on single leg work and go down in load.

Squatting Progression

For female athletes the progression will be exactly the same as for any athlete.

  • Goblet Squat or Bearhug Squat
  • Racked KB Squat
  • Front Squat
  • Back Squat

The cool thing about this progression is based on bodyweight alone most female athletes will immediately see a large return in strength even while doing goblet and bearhug squats.

Check out this video to see an example:

Programming Squatting for Females

Squatting is certainly an important movement, and will deliver an enormous return to the athlete, but is only one part of a complete program. Athletes should squat 1-2x per week with a variation in the placement of load. The coach should take care to balance the demands of squatting with an equal or greater amount of posterior chain work (hamstrings and glutes especially). While a full depth squat will certainly help the athletes develop in the posterior chain, a squat is not a panacea to all that female or any athletes need.

I have found good success with using an alternating linear type of periodization with female athletes, where in 3 week blocks are dedicated to reps of 8-10, 5-6, 6-8, 3-5 respectively. Each individual block can focus on one or multiple types of squatting movements.

Return on investment

Females that are coached to squat the right way will see an enormous improvement in performance markers like 10 yard sprint, standing long jump, and vertical jump.

With proper mechanics the squat can also assist in preventing non-contact knee injuries by strengthening the major muscle groups around the knee.

A Coaching Tip from Jim Kielbaso

By Jim Kielbaso

Because acceleration is such a vital part of most sports, plan on devoting a significant amount of practice time to developing this trait. Always explain that a drill is intended to work on acceleration and that adequate rest periods will be given between sets. During speed and agility training, some athletes will simply try to get through the workout rather than giving 100% intensity on each drill. While this kind of pacing may get an athlete through a workout, it will never allow for optimal speed development. If the athletes understand that this particular portion of the workout is not “conditioning” work, they will be much more willing to give 100% on each repetition.

Click on the picture below to get your free Speed and Agility Gift.


Of course, it is up to the coach to keep the drills fresh and always allow plenty of time to recover between sets. Athletes may actually seem a little bored, but it is important to explain what they are working on, why they are resting so much and that performing the acceleration drills with sub-maximal effort will severely limit the training benefits.

When you notice an athlete giving sub-maximal effort, talk to him/her about how the nervous system will never learn how to perform optimally if the athlete does not consistently give maximal effort. It is also useful to ask the athlete why maximal effort is not being given.

Speed and agility for athletes 3

An example of what to say is, “It looks to me like you’re not running as fast as you possibly can. I think you are capable of more. Is there a reason you are not pushing yourself right now?”

This puts the responsibility on the athlete, and forces him/her to think about why 100% effort is not being given. Asking this question is also a good idea because there may actually be something limiting the athlete. There could be an injury or emotional issue that needs to be addressed, and the only way to find out is by asking a simple question. If done tactfully, without demeaning the athlete, this kind of discussion will also tell the athlete that you care and want the best for him/her.

If the athlete tells you there is nothing wrong and has no reason for the lack of effort, consider asking whether or not he/she wants to improve. If the answer is “no,” a more in-depth discussion needs to take place. If, however, the answer is “yes,” then all of the responsibility falls on the athlete’s shoulders. If the behavior continues, you can remind him/her of your conversation and explain that the lack of effort is not acceptable.

When these steps have been taken, athletes are apt to give excellent effort on each drill, thus enhancing the training benefits.



Click on the picture above to grab your free Speed and Agility Gift.

Running Your Own Coaches Speed & Agility Clinic


by Julie Hatfield, BS, YFS1, YSAS, YNS, ISSA FNS
IYCA Brand Manager

As a coach and trainer, I spent years looking for ways to educate more athletes, more coaches and more parents. As my business grew, so did my reputation for being a softball coach and youth fitness specialist. Proof came in the results: athletes running faster and quicker and ultimately feeling stronger and confident. It wasn’t long before I knew that I had to take my game to the next level and start educating the coaches of my athletes. After all, their athletes were only with me one or two times per week, but were with their coaches for 3-5 times per week. Sport coaches spend hours with their athletes, so why not join forces?

I found that my annual coaches’ clinic became a great forum to do this. Not only was it my direct link to hundreds of athletes (for every one coach there are 10-20 athletes connected to them) but it was also a way to bridge the gap between coaches and trainers. We now work together for one common purpose: to give the most and the best for the athletes that walk into our programs.

In this post, I want to talk about the two different kinds of speed clinics that you can host, when, where and how to go about getting your first coaches clinic underway. Essentially, I want to give you my coaches’ clinic template.

There are many different kinds of clinics beyond these, but this is what I will touch on today.

  1. Speed & Agility Clinic
  2. Speed & Skills (Combination Clinic)

Personally, #2 has always been my choice, but #1 is effective as well. If you do know skills of a particular sport, you can usually play to that strength and draw more coaches. Here are some steps when setting up your own coaches’ clinic:

High school summer conditioning program

Determine What Kind of Clinic You Will Have

What will you cover in your clinic?

  • Speed? Skills? Drills?
  • Sport specific? General?
  • Olympic lifting? Lifting mechanics, etc?

Figure out where your strengths in knowledge are, and play to those. If you are an excellent baseball coach and know how to teach skills and speed, build your clinic around those to aspects. Coaches love sport specificity. When marketing your clinic, you want to be able to relate the name of your clinic to your market.

Naming your clinic:

When naming your own coaches’ clinic, think simple. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Game Speed Coaches’ Clinic
  2. [Insert Sport] Coaches’ Clinic
  3. Speed & Agility Coaches’ Clinic
  4. Making Athletes Faster Coaches’ Clinic
  5. Strength, Power and Quicker [Insert Sport] Coaches’ Clinic

Try to include a few things that play on the “needs” of your target market. For example, if you have softball athletes- “Increasing your athletes’ hitting power” plays to an aspect of the sport that all coaches want to coach to. Ask yourself, what does your target market want?

Pick a Date/Time:

When setting the specifics of your coaches’ clinic, remember that these are adults, not kids. Many meetings for them occur between 7pm-9pm M-Th, do focus on those times. Providing a two or three week-long clinic is also valuable and can allow you to cover topics each session.

Be sure that you pick a day of the week that is not a holiday.


Plan for at least two months of marketing for this clinic.



2 hours

Again, if you have more content to cover, do it over a couple weeks, rather than a 4 hour clinic.


Generally $10-$20 per hour for clinics is a good rate.

So, you have decided on all of these things, here is an example of what it would look like:

Example Details for Flyer/Email:

Sport Specific Example

Title: Softball Speed, Skills & Drills Coaches’ Clinic

Time: 7-9pm

Mondays in February (4 Days, 8 Hours of Coaching Instruction)

Location: Add your facility location name

Rate: $80.00 per coach/parent

Student Rate: (14+ athletes): $15.00 per athlete

Speed Only Example

Title: Game Speed Coaches’ Clinic

Time: 7-9pm Tuesday January 13th

Location: Add your facility location name

Rate: $30.00 per coach/parent

Student Rate: (14+ athletes): $15.00 per athlete


Now that you have the details of your clinic, it is time to start marketing your clinic:

Marketing Your Own Coaches’ Clinic

There are a number of ways to market your own coaches’ clinic:

Work with multiple local recreation teams, little league teams, travel teams, etc.:

In this situation, if you connect with the president or director of the organization, you can offer organizational rates. In many cases, different leagues promote learning and education, so if that director feels that their coaches can benefit from your clinic, they may just do the marketing for you. If you have a parent of an athlete that plays in an organization, this is one of the best ways to leverage your efforts.

Email your list:

Allow all customers 14+ to join, this includes parents. Many parents just want education on this, so do not limit your clinics to coaches only. Open the door to athletes, parents, and coaches. Again, this helps bridge the gap.

Press Release:

Reach out to your local media channels, including local newspapers, television stations, and any other outlets that can possibly grab this story and run with it.

Offer Group & Early Bird Discounts:

The great thing about this is that there are a number of ways to offer discounts. If a league brings multiple coaches, they can get a discount. Early bird discounts are possible, too. This will help you determine your baseline, as well. Be creative here. Give incentives (especially for your first clinic). Once you get them in the door, then you can work your magic.

Structuring your clinic:

They walked through your door. Whatever way it happened, you now have coaches sitting in front of you, waiting and willing to learn. What do you teach them? Well, that is up to you, but this is the template that I suggest. Remember to keep it interactive. Get them up and get them moving. Coaches need to “feel it” to “get it,” too.


Template 1: Speed-Focused

Introduction and Overview of Clinic and Your Business (10 Minutes)

Prepare to Move by Moving to Prepare (10-20 Minutes)

  • Perform and teach a thorough team warm-up (let coaches participate)
  • Allow for Q & A during this time

Foundations of Speed (10 Minutes)

  • Discuss the importance of mobility, range of motion, etc.

Mechanics of Speed (10 Minutes)

  • Break the mechanics of speed down in this section. Take them through drills, as if you are first teaching your athletes about the mechanics.
  • Have attendees do it/feel it

Speed Drills (Pick your #) (60 Minutes of Content)

  • Name it
  • Demonstrate it
  • Break it down and teach it
  • Have attendees perform it
  • Show 1 or 2 variations
  • Indicate application to different sports (or specific sport that you are doing the clinic for)

Repeat this process for as many speed drills that you would like to cover.

Q&A (10 Minutes)


Template 2: Sport/Skills-Focused

Introduction and Overview of your Business (5 Minutes)

Prepare to Move by Moving to Prepare (10-20 Minutes)

  • Perform and teach a thorough team warm-up (let coaches participate)
  • Allow for Q & A during this time

Teaching Speed (10 Minutes)

  • Briefly discuss the mechanical breakdown of speed (have attendees do it/feel it). This is foundational to any sport, so allowing your coaches to learn HOW to teach it (focus on cue words and form) is key.

Drills & Skills (Pick your #) (75-90 Minutes of Content)

  • Name it
  • Demonstrate it
  • Break it down and teach it
  • Have attendees perform it
  • Show 1 or 2 variations
  • Indicate application to different sports (or specific sport that you are doing the clinic for)

Repeat this process for as many speed drills that you would like to cover. Allow for Q&A during this time.

Q&A (10 Minutes)

These templates can work with almost any coaches’ clinic. Be sure to fill in the blanks with activities, skills and drills that are unique to your facility and business. Give the coaches and parents a “taste of your culture” and I would highly recommend giving them an offer at the end. In our businesses, it is important to get kids through the door. Offering a team training session, a discount and/or something specific to that clinic will allow you to successfully get more athletes through the doors.


  • Be sure to collect all contact information for your list.
  • Extend a “Thank You for Attending” email after your first clinic.
  • Plan an annual clinic to add consistency and enable time for growth (I have little league directors that expect coaches’ clinics annually).
  • Have your “plan”.
  • Have opportunities for their athletes (make the offer at the clinic).
  • Find what works for you in terms of duration: one day or multi-day clinics are effective.
  • Elicit the help of your young athletes to help demonstrate in real-time.
  • Bring your “A” game to every clinic.


Good Luck!

How To Push Through Your Fears, Insecurities, And Threats

Dr. Haley Perlus

by Haley Perlus, PhD

Author’s note: When you read this article, in addition to enhancing the performances of the athletes you coach, relate the information to your personal performance and success in sport, health, and business.

There’s a fabulous video being shared online right now about a high school girl, named Kayla Montgomery, who is an award-winning long distance runner even though she’s battling Multiple Sclerosis. MS is a disease of the central nervous system that disrupts information between the brain and body. It’s basically your body’s immune system attacking it’s own nerve cells. MS symptoms include fatigue, gait difficulties, numbness, and muscle spasms – not exactly helpful for a runner.

The video circling the web is of Kayla Montgomery running – running and winning! Even more impressive, during the state championships, Kayla falls during the race, gets back up, and continues to pass all of her opponents to win the race. I also want to point out that, at the finish line of every race, Kayla falls into her coach’s arms in such agony and fear because she can’t feel her body. You see, Kayla’s body needs to be at cool temperatures in order for her to feel her limbs. When she runs, similar to you and me, her body temperature increases leaving her numb.

Looking at Kayla’s entire story thus far, there are so many inspiring and energizing mental toughness moments to focus on. I could focus on her ability to take control of her MS instead of it taking control over her life. I could talk about the truly wonderful relationship she has with her coach. I could concentrate on her fall during the state champs and discuss why it is important to always get up and keeping moving forward. These all target mental toughness. What I have chosen to focus on for this column is something else Kayla demonstrates – something that every high achiever has figured out.

Crossfit to Fight

In its simplest explanation, when it comes to motivation, people either aim to seek pleasure or avoid pain. One inevitably takes precedence over the other. However, after researching high achievers in both sport and business, pain and pleasure are not mutually exclusive. High achievers have figured out that you can’t have ultimate pleasure without enduring some pain. Pain is any physical, emotional and/or psychological struggle. It can be anything from muscle soreness to performance frustration. For Kayla Montgomery, her struggle is the numbness she experiences every time she runs. To win her long distance races, she literally runs towards physical numbness to the point where she can no longer feel her body starting at her toes all the way to her waist. Then, when the race is finally over, since she can’t come to a coordinated stop, she needs her coach to catch her. At this moment, she is helpless. She goes through even more discomfort while she waits in fearful anticipation for somebody to place ice all over her body in an effort to bring back her physical sensations.

What makes Kayla mentally tough is that she embraces the intense discomfort of numbness in order to win her races and literally outrun the disease. When asked why she takes on the struggle and discomfort of running, Kayla says it’s the cost of competing and she’s willing to pay it. Running makes her feel happy, normal and whole. When she’s running, she feels like she’s battling the disease. “As long as I’m running, everything is fine.”

To realize your true potential, there will be struggle along the way. You’ve got to be okay with moving towards it and then surpassing it to realize your ultimate success. Barbara Sahakian, professor of clinical neuropsychology at the University of Cambridge is quoted in Steven Kotler’s new book, The Rise of the Superman. She says, “Once danger becomes its own reward, risk moves from a threat to be avoided to a challenge to be risen toward. An entirely new relationship with fear begins to develop. When risk is a challenge, fear becomes a compass – literally pointing people in the direction they need to go next. You have to learn this lesson. To really achieve anything you have to be able to tolerate and enjoy risk. It has to become a challenge you look forward to. In all fields, to make exceptional discoveries you need risk – you’re just never going to have a breakthrough without it.”

This quote introduces two words: fear and challenge. Remember this:

Fear makes us retreat;
Challenge makes us defeat

What I propose is following in the footsteps of Kayla Montgomery and turn your fears (including insecurities and threats) into challenges. Whatever obstacle you are facing, focus on one aspect that can become your challenge to overcome. For example, the box jump is used in many conditioning programs to develop explosive power, but is often feared because of the cuts and bruises it leaves if the athlete fails to perform the movement correctly. To help the athletes you coach turn their fear of the box jump into a challenge, instruct them to focus on extending their hips while they jump in an effort to get the necessary height for landing on the box. Directing their attention to technique distracts them away from any fear and enhances their performance.

I’d like to leave you with one more quote from Kayla Montgomery. She said, “…if I’m not able to run at some point down the road, then at least I can look back and know that, when I could, I gave it my all.” Effort is the only thing we 100 percent control. Know that you’re probably going to experience some struggle, but also know that, when you exert every ounce of effort to conquering your challenges, you’ll be exactly where you need to be in order to give yourself the best shot at peak performance and the most awesome experience you can have.

How to Effectively Navigate the Medical Response of “Well, It Depends…”

by Keith Cronin

If you are a coach or trainer you have probably heard this answer from a healthcare provider when you ask a question as simple as, “How hard can I push an athlete after rotator cuff surgery?” And whether it is a rotator cuff, a patellar tendon, or perhaps a strained neck muscle, you probably want to know more about your athlete’s injury and what you can do to help prevent problems in the future. Seems like a simple answer. Right?

The problem is “Well, it depends…” takes a long time to explain if you are a physician, athletic trainer, or physical therapist. What the patient is usually met with is a couple of quick sentences or an extensive anatomy, biomechanics, or physiology lesson that he or she should be getting continuing education credits for. So in this article I am going to break down some of the important things that a physician or rehabilitation specialist wants you to know about pushing an athlete that recently had an injury.

Everyone is Unique…Is Some Way, Shape, or Form

Probably the most difficult part of “Well, it depends…” is the individual history and make up of the athlete you are working with. Remember your last visit to the doctor? Remember all those forms? Aside from simply irritating you, there is a reason for all that information. Medical history plays a big role in what a healthcare provider will say an athlete should or should not do!

Consider the following: when a young athlete arrives in my office, aside from the injury and pain (to be discussed in a little bit), here are all the things that I take into consideration over the course of five minutes:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • General well-being
  • History of Pain conditions (ex. Complex regional pain syndrome)
  • Body type / Stature
  • Family dynamic
  • Previous injuries
  • Attitude
  • Previous sports experience
  • Level of competition
  • Previous strength and conditioning history
  • Previous medical treatments
  • Surgical procedures
  • Anatomical abnormalities
  • Medications
  • Risk Factors (ex. Type II Diabetes, Genetic disorders, neurological disorders)

This is a short list, even before getting to the objective and subjective assessment. A 14-year-old female cross country runner with good family support, no current medications, generally good body conditioning, no bony or anatomical abnormalities, and a good attitude when it comes to rehab with an Achilles tendon strain is probably going to work back just fine. That same 14-year-old female cross country runner that has had five Achilles tendon injuries, barely stretches, has a painful “pump bump” on the back of the heel, and parents who never speak to the healthcare provider is not likely going to return to sports or start training as fast as the previous example.

Not all Injuries are Equal

Once an athlete is discharged from medical care, there are several considerations when it comes to returning them back to field.

  • Nature of the Injury – Was this injury due to overuse, a random accident, or because of poor body mechanics? Overuse injuries require particular attention to avoid causing the same situation that got the athlete there in the first place. Acute injuries, such as a sprained an ankle, may return faster—particularly if the swelling, pain, and limited motion and strength are no longer a problem. But what if that ankle has been sprained for the fifth time? Maybe there is some sort of mechanical issue or balance deficiency going on. The athlete may seem fine but really, 14 years old and five ankle sprains? More time and attention may be needed to keep this athlete off the injured reserve list
  • Location of the Injury – In the young athlete, joint pain is particularly concerning. With adults, the effects of time and high mileage tend to wear away cartilage, causing more bouts of pain, instability, or weakness. But with a 12-year-old female lacrosse player? Not so much. Pain and injuries associated around joints—particularly that still present with swelling—need to be treated with great attention. While muscles are forgiving, the articular surfaces of say the patella are not. A mid-shaft humerus contusion is much less concerning than say medial elbow pain with throwing.
  • Severity of the Injury – Are we talking a grade I ankle sprain versus an ACL tear? An athlete who sprains an ankle and is walking normally within a few days is far less of a concern than an athlete that has been on crutches for three weeks. Children tend to heal faster than adults, but please note while there is greater capacity for improved physiological turn over of tissue from good to bad, don’t simply just say, “Eh, she will be fine.”

Tell Me Where it Hurts?

Pain is probably on every trainer’s and coach’s mind. Pain, honestly, is probably what you are concerned about most. These questions go through your head:

  • How much pain is okay?
  • Squats are okay, but lunges hurt a little. Is that normal?
  • If her knee hurts, should I let her run?
  • When my athlete lifts 10 pounds overhead, there is a little ache. Is that okay?
  • There is a some pain with throwing. Should I have my pitcher stop?

Pain is not as simple as “yes or no.” Why is that? Because honestly, if athletes were to stop when faced with any pain with anything then sports would not exist. When it comes to pain, there are a several factors to consider

  • Frequency – How often does the pain occur?
  • Duration – When it hurts, for how long does the pain persist?
  • Intensity – Barely hurts, causes me to stop what I am doing, where is the paramedic?
  • Onset – Time of day or activity?
  • Quality – Burning, stabbing, radiating, pinching, catching, numbing?
  • Location – Does it hurt on the side of the knee, under the knee cap, or above the knee joint?
  • Activity of Daily Living – Does it hurt to walk, sleep, go up and down stairs, squat?
  • Sports Mechanics – Hurts the elbow throwing after 30 pitches and causes the arm to drop below the shoulder plane

An athlete who has no problem with stairs but some knee pain after 45 minutes of running is more likely a conditioning issue. An athlete who is dying to get back on the field and can’t squat, has burning pain to the foot six times a day, and cannot go up the stairs is another issue.

Putting the Pieces Together

Now looking at the information above, you can probably conclude there are an infinite number of possibilities when it comes to the question, “How hard can I push an athlete after rotator cuff surgery?” I imagine what you are experiencing now may be something along the lines of “How am I going to figure this out?” Here’s the great news: You don’t have to!

As a coach or trainer, what you do need to know is what questions to ask. Unfortunately, getting a physician on the phone is sometimes difficult. Once you do, getting to the point is critical. Generalized questions lead to rambling, non-specific answers. Next time you speak with a healthcare provider about your athlete, stick to this script:

First, before anything else, you have to get consent from the parents. This may involve a parent sending an email or signing something that allows you to speak directly with the doctor. It’s HIPPA. It’s the law. To me, this is where a lot of information is lost due to this legal hurdle. If that is not possible, then you must give the script to the parents to ask. Unfortunately this can be a “telephone game” situation where some information is lost along the way. Do the best you can.

The Script: Your Three Questions

“I am a (coach/trainer) that is working with your patient to get (him/her) back to playing (fill in sport). She was recently released from your care and before starting a regimented return to sport program I had three questions to ask you. Do you have a few minutes to speak?

— The healthcare provider may ask you to email your questions or call back at another time but stating there are three questions lets him or her know that you have a game plan. Likely in the end, it will lead to more questions and talking.

1: “Specific to this athlete, is there any information, concerns, or medical background that would prevent progressing safely towards returning to (insert sport) over the next (pick time frame…say six weeks)?”

— Here you have asked about anything that is particularly concerning and believe me if there is something off the wall, that info is coming out. You suggested a time frame and given the practitioner a chance to alter that time frame. If you do not give a specific time frame, then you will get another generalized “Well…it depends” answer.

2: “Specific to this injury (or surgery), is there anything that I should watch out for to refer back to your care?”

— You have now offered the healthcare provider a chance to offer their advice or guidance. There may be a specific procedure done to reconstruct a knee that the physician may inform you about. The athletic trainer or physical therapist may be concerned about that same knee but now tells you about some other concerns with the opposite foot. Again, this gets the conversation going.

3. “Are there any sport-specific training regimens that you would prefer? Are there also any that you recommend this athlete not participate in?”

— For example here, if an athlete had severe patellar tendonitis and was a catcher, I would inform the youth fitness specialist, strength coach, or sport coach to stop all weighted squats. Even if the athlete was pain free with catching, I still wouldn’t want that added back in until after baseball season. Remember, your healthcare providers hear the same stories everyday of what gets people into medical care. This is a great time to share this information.

Healthcare providers are seeing more people in less time every single year. Believe me, we care about everyone that comes through the door and sometimes information falls in the cracks. As a youth fitness specialist, strength coach, or sport coach, you want what is best for your athletes. In order to best facilitate that, having a game plan when it comes to addressing injured athletes is important. In healthcare, once a patient is good enough to discharge, it is common that it is on to the next individual. Its not because healthcare professionals are interested in an athlete’s return to sports, but frequently another patient is awaiting care.

Hope this helps.

Keith J. Cronin, DPT, OCS, CSCS

On the Field, Away from the Doc

by Keith Cronin, PT

No one likes being injured. Every fitness professional, strength trainer, and coach is intimately aware of this fact. Hurt clients are not showing up for training and injured athletes are “riding the pine.” Your job most likely revolves around a lot of “P” words:

  • Supporting the possibility of winning the big game.
  • Progress towards achieving a clients desired weight goal.
  • The potential of making someone healthier or more athletic.
  • Being a part of an individual’s perseverance to be happy in all their fitness or sporting endeavors.

And then someone gets hurt. Oh no, now everyone is unhappy…except perhaps me. My job does not revolve around the fun “P” words, they are more concentrated on two concepts: problems and pain. As a physical therapist, I see many unhappy individuals everyday who have been sidelined by pain and injury that prevents them from doing what they love. Understand that when someone is in my office, it is because they have to be there. When they work with a trainer or coach they want to be there.

After all the co-pays, deductibles, and hardship, my job is to get a patient back to you. Occupation aside, I enjoy watching people get back to the lives and activities they love. I played collegiate baseball and was a human injury magnet. I know the pain, the psychological distress, and the negative impact injury has on the daily flow of life. I do not want that for me, I do not want that for my family, and I do not want that for my patients. So how do you keep someone on the field, in the gym, or out on the road running?

Here’s the status quo. So much of medicine is about telling you what you are doing wrong.

  • “Exercise more.”
  • “You eat too much.”
  • “Your posture is terrible.”
  • “Get more sleep.”
  • “Stop stressing out.”

And too often, so is the tone of the medical field towards that of strength trainers and coaches.

  • “Why would you have a 70-year-old woman with osteoarthritis lift dumbbells overhead three days a week? That’s why she is hurt.”
  • “Why do you put your kids in 10 tournaments over the summer? That’s why we are seeing so many overuse injuries.”
  • “Why don’t you all work on squats as part of strength and conditioning with the team?” Athletes show up to therapy and can’t do a proper squat. That’s why they are hurt.”

This type of message is crap. This helps no one. Barking about what everyone is doing wrong or judging the end result just falls on deaf ears. Pointing fingers for what has gone wrong only makes people feel bad and internally they will shut down. The reality is that people like myself—whether they are physical therapists, athletic trainers, chiropractors, primary care physicians, or orthopedic surgeons—are paid to treat problems. We talk a big game about prevention but outside of talks or talking to patients after the fact, we are not on the front lines making change. You all are! We sit in offices and wait for the inevitable train wrecks to show up while you all interface with athletes and exercisers of all ages, sizes, and shapes.

Whether you are a personal trainer, fitness professional, team coach, specialty sports instructor, strength and conditioning specialist, or athletic trainer, reducing the number and severity of injuries in sports and fitness is paramount. It is important to your clients, to your team, and to your business. Its time you know what I know about the unfriendly side of pain and problems.

Over the course of the next few months, I am going to provide essential information on how to “stay on the field and away from the doctor.” TO BE VERY CLEAR…I am NOT going to be providing information about how to diagnose and treat injuries. Above is a picture of the books I have read through, studied, and been licensed in on the topic of treatment of musculoskeletal injuries. These are just the ones in the office!

What I will do is provide you information to support your profession. If you are interested in topics such as:

  • Common traits of injury susceptible athletes
  • Reducing knee joint compression to reduce patellofemoral risk
  • Importance of long term athletic development
  • Warning signs of a developing injury
  • Biomechanical breakdown of healthy joints
  • What is the best way to complete a lunge
  • Stretch or not to stretch?
  • Neurodynamic warm-ups
  • Five easy ways to prepare any athlete for play
  • Stamina vs. strength…which is more important?
  • Importance of a balanced body
  • Controlled use of plyometrics for reduce risk of injury

This blog is for you. Have questions? Email them in and perhaps I can make an article out of it.

I honestly believe for people to be happy, healthy, and getting the most fulfillment out of anything they do requires strong communication between the worlds of medicine and coaching or fitness professionals.

Let’s start talking.

Keith J. Cronin, DPT, OCS, CSCS

Programming for Speed and Agility


by Wil Fleming, CSCS, YFS

For most coaches, if you give them a goal—whether as different as fat loss, strength, hypertrophy, or vertical jump improvement—that individual can quickly come up with a program that will lead a client to that particular result.

We know the sets and reps. We know the rest times. We know the movements that can get an athlete or client to those goals. It is part of our profession and likely something we learned fairly early on in our college or post-collegiate education.

Say that goal is not fat loss or hypertrophy, but improved speed. Then what?

Yeah, we all know that the quickest way to improved speed is through better strength and power. But after that part, then what?

From my own experiences as an athlete and a coach and in my observations of other professionals, speed is a goal that leads many to forget about programming. Instead of programs, we get workouts with the drill du jour or something cool we saw on the internet.

We need programs not workouts

Developing speed is no different than developing any other quality or skill. Certainly there is a technical aspect that must be coached, but in general, the route to get the desired result is the same. It comes by way of a program, not one workout.

Not any of us would say that any of our athletes are markedly better after one single workout. They are not markedly stronger. They are not leaner. And they are certainly not faster due to the results of one workout. It is only after a series of planned training sessions and the rest periods between the training sessions that we find improvement in our athletes.

Training for speed is no different. We must prepare a long-term plan to help our athletes improve speed.

How to plan for Speed and Agility

Planning your speed training comes down to breaking it into the characteristics associated with improved speed. For me, the easiest breakdown is to create programs based upon three areas in which the greatest improvement can be made:

  1. Technique (both linear and lateral)
  2. Power/acceleration
  3. Strength

Athletes training to develop speed and agility.


This includes all aspects of speed technique (starting mechanics, arm swing, knee drive, and foot strike) as well as lateral techniques such as change of direction mechanics and re-direction mechanics.

A technique focus should occur at the start of any speed training session. Doing so at the beginning of a session will set the anchor points for the entire session and allow athletes to crisply focus on technique while fresh.


The quickest way to see improvement in timed sprints (combine drills) is to help the athlete improve the first 10 yards of any sprint. We focus on using resisted acceleration in our training. We use resisted starts (with weight vests, bands, or sleds) extensively in both our strength training and speed training programs.

Power focus should occur after the technique portion of training and should emphasize the technique that we taught at the beginning of a session. Following up the resisted portion of training we will move on to pure acceleration work, without the use of resisted techniques.


Any good speed training session will have a portion of the training devoted to developing strength. This does not necessarily mean a weight room session (although that is necessary). In the purely speed development realm, we use simple strength exercises like lunging (lateral and forward/back) and squatting to help the athletes develop the ability to both accelerate and decelerate.


If you are struggling on how to put together a comprehensive plan for speed and agility at any age (6-18) then be sure to check out the IYCA’s new Certified Speed and Agility Specialist (CSAS) course that will be out this January. This is one of the most comprehensive resources available to coaches today.

Developing Speed in Younger Athletes 6-13 Years Old

3 Keys to Developing Speed in Younger Athletes 6-13 Years Old

Dave Gleason 2

By Dave Gleason

Speed is an absolute game changer. No matter the age or the sport, faster young athletes can vary the course of any contest. The discussion of genetics versus trainability is undeniably not an “either/or” question any longer. The conversation now becomes how to maximize athleticism in a young athlete as they potentially gravitate toward what activity they are naturally adept at in the realm of athletics.

It has been said that roughly 20% of all young athletes who are particularly proficient at age 10 are also dominant later in life as they near and enter young adulthood. My experience over the past 21 years tells me this percentage may be inflated.

“My son/daughter was the fastest on field two years ago. Now he is at the back of the pack. He needs more speed.” This is not an uncommon lament for the parents of young athletes.

This is not to say that speed training is not important. It is, and it has its place. As coaches, it is paramount to keep the big picture in mind in relation to speed training.

Educating parents on the basics of the human development continuum can fall on deaf ears. Yes, growth spurts and peak height velocity combined with puberty can wreak havoc on a young athlete’s ability to perform; this is not new information. That said, how do we promote more speed for young athletes?

There are several strategies that all lend themselves to faster, more agile young athletes on the field, court, and ice. It is paramount that your programming be rooted in a comprehensive approach to training the entire individual. Due to the growing and changing nature of a younger child, almost anything you do (within reason) will show increases in force production, explosiveness, agility, and top end speed.

While it is likely all “effective,” all approaches are not necessarily optimal.

Three keys to developing speed in younger athletes 6-13 years old

  1. Discovery – allow your youngest athletes to continue to discover movement by giving them opportunity to do so. Create situations for them to explore movement with as little cueing as possible.
  2. Skill it, Drill it, Thrill it – Cone drills are great—if the boys and girls you are coaching have acquired the skill sets to run them. Break down the skills first, and follow that up with some fun drills. Anchor those skills with a game that reinforces the skills you were working on.
  3. Game Play – Athletes must be given the chance to use the skills they are working on with you in a game situation BEFORE they go back to their respective teams. Bigger engine, new tires, and new brakes on your race car would not be followed by a 300 mile race as the first test drive. Let your kids rip it up in focused games that will allow them to experiment with their new-found skills.

Developing speed in younger athletes 6-13 years old requires gameplay

Example: Teaching Arm Mechanics

Have your athletes practice swinging their arms while seated on the floor. Use cues like “your hands will move from cheek to cheek.” In a seated position, your athletes will be forced to flex the elbows in order to swing.

Now use silly runs to allow for exploration and discovery.

  • 1st run – have your athletes run with fast arms and slow legs.
  • 2nd run – have your athletes run with slow arms and fast legs.
  • 3rd run – have your athletes run with fast arms and legs, yet swinging their arms side to side.
  • 4th run – have your athletes run with fast arms and fast legs utilizing the arm skills they learned while seated.

After each run, ask your athletes how it felt. Ask them if they were running as fast as they wanted to.

Finally, play a game or have a competition where the kids can use their new-found mechanics in a game or competition. Relay races and tag are two of my favorites.

Employing these strategies to teach speed should augment a well-rounded and comprehensive program that fosters movement exploration, integrated systemic strength, muscle activation, active range of motion, coordination, and character shaping.

As stand-alone drills or activities for speed on a short-term basis, these methods will have a diminished effect. Long-term athletic development is the optimal tactic for the children you serve and in the end will lead to a faster, more injury resistant young athlete, which is why this process is the key to developing speed in young athletes 6-13 years old.

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Non-contact knee injuries in the female athlete

Non-contact knee injuries in the female athlete: A practitioner’s desktop meta-analysis


By Dr. Toby Brooks, IYCA Director of Research and Education, Associate Professor, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

This will be a bit of an abnormal article for me. My job is to regularly review pretty much every contribution that comes to or through the IYCA and to edit, approve, or in some cases reject any submission prior to publication in any and all of our available media channels. Consistently, I tell contributors to back claims up with peer-reviewed literature and to substantiate any controversial claims or pull them out altogether. I do the same with my students. Any claim based on scientific fact or published research should be identified and cited.

However, I wanted to veer from our normal course here just a bit and discuss a topic that is germane to many of our coaching membership: ACL injuries in female athletes.

The thing is, I thought it would be best to take the view from 30,000 feet. Rather than dissecting each and every study and determining how they might apply to the training and conditioning of young athletes, I thought it might be best to analyze the major themes that have emerged from the literature over the past three decades. And just to keep it interesting, I am not going to specifically cite one article. Those are for you to find.

acl knee

We have long known that ACL injury rates among female athletes are significantly higher than their male counterparts. Many medical professionals suggest that females are anywhere between 2 and 10 times more likely to sustain an injury to the ACL that requires surgical management. Seven out of ten of those injuries are the result of a non-contact mechanism of injury. These are established, accepted facts. However, what is not as widely accepted or agreed upon is the reason for the disparity.

Intercondylar notch width, an anatomic variant, has been investigated. Endocrine-mediated factors have been investigated. The ACL actually has estrogen receptors that can, in theory, alter tensile strength depending upon where a female is in her menstrual cycle. Q-angle and the relationship of pelvic width to knee varus (“bow-leggedness”) or valgus (“knock-kneed”) have been examined. And lastly—and in my opinion most importantly—neuromuscular factors related to strength and proper landing mechanics have also been studied.

After more than a decade as an athletic trainer and strength and conditioning specialist working with athletes from middle school to professional sports, here’s my personal opinion: only one of those suggested mechanisms should really be of concern to the Youth Fitness Specialist: motor control.

And here’s why: it is the only one that is trainable.

All the other suggested sources for the differences between males and females—while fascinating—are scarcely alterable in a practical sense.

Notch width is what it is. No amount of intervention on my part as a coach is going to change that. The same goes for endocrine-mediated differences, too. I spent two years working with an NCAA Division 1 women’s gymnastics team. Trust me when I say if I could have intervened to reduce the influences of the semi-regular hormonal swings of the team (women who spend considerable time together tend to cycle together, in case you didn’t know. I didn’t until then.), I most certainly would have. Q-angle might be slightly modifiable if we get the athlete on an aggressive hip mobility program. But for the most part, those three potential sources provide little for the coach or YFS to do to truly intervene and minimize risk of injury.


On the other hand, neuromuscular control IS modifiable. Heck, it is what we who are blessed enough to get to work regularly with developing athletes are striving for in the vast majority of our training. An athlete who is weak and doesn’t yet know how to land properly is at risk of injury. The role of the ACL is to prevent the tibia from moving forward relative to the femur. It is what is referred to as a “static” restraint, meaning it does not require volitional control to get the ACL to do its job.

Before the ACL is ever called into action, the hamstring group functions as a “dynamic” restraint. Unfortunately, in full extension, the hamstring has next to no mechanical advantage through which to stabilize the tibia from moving forward. For example, the force vector of hamstring contraction in full knee extension is more likely to simply compress the joint rather than prevent anterior tibial translation.

However, if an athlete possesses adequate eccentric muscular control in the quads, glutes, and hams, landing with a “soft” flexed knee not only absorbs shock, it positions the knee such that hamstring contraction prevents the tibia from moving forward and thereby prevents the ACL from being loaded. As a result, landing with a flexed knee provides both dynamic AND static support. Unfortunately, landing with a “stiff” extended knee provides only static restraint. The ACL is effectively “hung out to dry” and the hamstring cannot effectively assist.

Case (or in this unfortunate example, cases) in point, two different NFL football players (1 & 2) have recently sustained season-ending ACL injuries due to the performance of a celebratory “sack dance” popularized in response to an insurance company’s “discount double check” ad campaign. Both athletes are world-class and undoubtedly have incredible hamstring strength. Strength is not the problem. However, when performing this move, both athletes landed from a jump with an extended (or at least extending) knee. Without the hamstring able to provide a first line of defense against anterior tibial translation, the duty fell to the ACL. In both cases, the ACL failed. In both cases, the athletes will undergo surgery and have been lost for the season.

So the bottom line for the YFS, whether working with young athletes, male athletes, female athletes, or some combination of the above, is to teach and train athletes to learn to land. Low-level plyometrics and simple motor control drills are critical. Strength is important, but strength without neural control is dormant and ineffective in the moment of potential injury.

Countless training resources have been developed to help train young athletes to prevent non-contact knee injuries. Dr. Frank Noyes of the Cincinnati Sports Medicine Foundation and physical therapist and researcher Holly Silvers of Santa Monica Sports Medicine Foundation have both spearheaded impressive efforts to change the way athletes train and even warm-up in order to protect them from injury.

So while other suggested reasons for the difference between male and female knee injury rates are interesting, none are as readily modifyable as neuromuscular control. And teaching a young female athlete how to land properly is probably one of the most important things you can do to protect her from injury.

So the next time you decide to celebrate a new client, an unexpected bonus, or some other fortuitous piece of information by cranking out a discount double check of your own, modify it slightly with a flexed knee. Teach your athletes to do the same; your anterior cruciates will thank you.

Motivating Female Athletes To Be More Aggressive and Exert Maximum Effort

Dr. Haley Perlus

By Dr. Haley Perlus

Many coaches seek me out to offer guidance on motivating female athletes to be more aggressive and overall competitive. Today, although there are many examples of females reaching new athletic heights and gaining respect in sports, certain codes of acceptable behavior and gender norms still exist. For many female athletes who still aren’t sure what they want to achieve in sport, to avoid social repercussions, their motivation to fit in overpowers their desire to perform at their peak.

As a comparison, in and outside of sports, male athletes are valued for being brave, risk-taking, competitive, assertive, and strong. Conversely, female athletes often feel they need to balance the traditional feminine expectations about appearance, demeanor, and behavior, with the mental and physical strength needed for success. It’s a tough situation, but there is hope.

Now that you understand the possible challenges facing your female athletes, there are three things that have been shown to motivate and positively affect their efforts in training and competition. It doesn’t matter if you are a conditioning or sport coach, these three methods are applicable.

Strength Training Program for Young Athletes

#1. Take advantage of social support.

Fitting in and being accepted are strong motivators for athletes. When you provide an environment where teammates can band together and support each other, your athletes will start fighting to uphold team values as supposed to western values. One way to do this is to distinguish your team from other groups. This works to enhance team pride and increase feelings of self-worth. We all want (actually need) to feel worthy and a highly committed and cohesive sport team provides self-worth to its athletes. When your athletes feel worthy and are a valued member of their team, they will care a little bit less about feeling worthy elsewhere.

#2. Motivating female athletes to share and collaborate.

Ask your female athletes what reputation they’d like to have. Then, as a team, you can brainstorm about how to enhance or sustain the identified characteristics. For example, you may collectively choose new words, other than aggression, that encourages maximum effort. Your athletes may set goals they happily agree to strive for, producing your (and their) desired outcome.

#3. Strategically choose leaders your athletes can model.

Bring out team leaders who can reinforce appropriate behavior in sport, but who are also valued outside of sport. These leaders may already be part of your team or you may have to search for athletes who have been there, done that, and can be an inspiration to your athletes. The idea here is to give your athletes people to model who are not only successful in sport, but also have the confidence and self-worth to be their best selves outside of the sports arena.

Reference: Group Dynamics In Exercise And Sport Psychology (2nd Ed) by Mark R. Beauchamp and Mark A. Eys

Optimizing Your Team’s In-Season Training Program

Jared Markiewicz shares how to effectively train athletes at an early age with tempo training.

by Jared Markiewicz, YFS, ACSM-CPT

If you have ever been a part of or watched a high school team for an entire season, I am sure you have experienced this scenario: the team starts strong and looks great only to finish the season clinging on for dear life with half the team sidelined at one time or another with injuries.

However, some teams seemingly always finish the regular season at their peak and then continue to improve in the post-season. They are, for the majority, healthy and their energy levels alone help them to crush their opponents.

Why does this happen and what are the latter teams/coaches doing right?

Answer: Some coaches are far more effective in managing training stress and utilizing effective in-season strength workouts.

I am going to talk specifically about high school based sports programs. The principles I discuss below apply to club seasons and off-seasons. But, high school athletic programs have to smash five days per week of practices plus games plus other academic responsibilities into a 10-16 week window. This is an incredible burden on the athlete but also on the coaches. With properly managed training stress and workouts, though, the injury-riddled team can become the perennial post-season powerhouse.

There are two different groups that can affect an athlete’s in-season success and I want to discuss both.

  1. Private sector coaching individual athletes who are in-season
  2. Team sport coaches working with a group of athletes over a brief high school season

Exercises for Athletes

Private Sector Coaches

This is where I spend my time since I own a private sector performance facility not directly affiliated with any local high schools.

Our biggest in-season conflict is the lack of contact we get with our athletes due to the massive time commitment associated with high school sports. Therefore, our time with them is precious and we need to do as much as we can to assess and increase performance during the one or two times per week we see them.

The ultimate goal with each of our athletes is making sure they are working hard enough through the season to peak at the end of season. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are lifting heavy weights and trying to set personal bests in our gym. Instead, this means they are working on getting faster and more balanced within their Central Nervous System (CNS) without overstressing their aerobic/anaerobic energy systems so they can practice and perform normally.

Dr. Mel Siff once said, “To me, the sign of a really excellent routine is one which places great demands on the athlete, yet produces progressive long-term improvement without soreness, injury, or the athlete ever feeling thoroughly depleted.”  His statement embodies our exact goal with all high school athletes, in-season or otherwise.

Unfortunately, the more common scenario we come across is making sure our athletes aren’t overreaching and heading towards overtraining. This is typically something that is completely out of our hands but we have come up with some unique strategies to combat overreaching and overtraining when we catch it.

In-Season Training Program Strategies in the Private Sector

If you read my previous article about tempo training, you realize I am a big fan and utilize this strategy for every athlete at some point of his or her training. By incorporating long eccentric periods and explosive concentric periods we can improve an athlete’s deceleration patterns while improving acceleration congruently. Think 30X or 31X (3 counts on the eccentric, no hold or 1 second isometric hold and then explosive concentric return to start).

This accomplishes our first mission, which is making sure our athlete is getting stronger as the season wears on. It won’t force the athlete to overexert with massive load but the CNS will learn how to load the body, increase the stretch reflex, and release tension sequentially for maximal force production.

Our super-secret strategy to monitor and manage our athlete’s in-season training stress is…..drumroll please……self-limiting exercises.

Okay, so it is not THAT super-secret but it really does work great as a secondary assessment tool for us.

When we write an athlete’s in-season training program, there will be at least one self-limiting exercise as well as one accessory single arm and single leg lift.

To understand the source of stress on young athletes you need to look for insights in how they perceive the world.


  1. Self-limiting exercises: jump rope, Turkish get up, bottoms up anything, crawling patterns
  2. Single arm: alternating dumbbell bench press, single arm row, landmine pressing
  3. Single leg: split squat, lunge, single leg RDL

We program these at the start of the season and use our eyes as the assessment tool. If we see that split squats or single leg RDLs have suddenly become difficult to balance, the athlete’s nervous system is likely overburdened and likely to get worse if we don’t take action.

At that point we can either regress the movement or substitute a recovery position. If we recognize CNS fatigue in our athlete, our goal is to reset them back to neutral and leave our gym more recovered than when they entered.

Sometimes it is important to just talk with your athlete and ask them how they feel. Most high school athletes that train at a place like ours aren’t looking for a way out, so if they tell us they are beat up, they most likely are and need some recovery.

In our ideal situation, every athlete we work with in-season finishes stronger than ever, is able to play the entire season and peak when it matters most.

Team Sport Coaches

I want to start this part of my article by admitting that I don’t have a lot of experience on this side of the coaching line. However, I have talked with many team coaches over the years from the professional ranks on down to high school coaches.

As with any profession, there are very good coaches out there raising the bar daily and there are many who have fallen behind the times, so my objective here is to raise the level of awareness and generate some discussion about how to improve in-season training at this level.

Team coaches must deal with many athletes that have different personalities and motivation levels. Coaches at this level must recognize which athletes fall into high skill/low skill and high motivation/low motivation categories. There are optimal ways to manage each different category of athlete, which the IYCA does a great job of identifying in their Youth Fitness Specialist certification.

For our sake today, I am going to assume the coach has a good grasp of these concepts.

In-Season Team Sport Programming Strategies

Speed and agility for athletes

When a coach decides to dive into strength training for his or her team in-season, the goal should be to decrease injury risk and bring the entire team’s strength and confidence up as the season progresses.

By focusing on these qualities in a strength program, the coach has the best chance to keep their top athletes injury free and increase younger or less talented athletes confidence and strength to drive competitiveness during practice. This ultimately increases the chances of winning and develops a culture of strength and success.

One of the most important parts of injury risk management is recognition of and adjustment to each individual’s training stress, particularly during conditioning.

Again, I recognize I don’t have a lot of experience in this field but I do understand energy systems and what is required of athletes in different sports. Very rare is the case where an athlete needs to do long, sustained conditioning. Most high intensity events in sports last no longer than 10 seconds.

So if I have 10 minutes of conditioning with a soccer player, I would much rather do 20 sec ON/40 sec OFF of 10 yard change of direction sprints for 10 reps than 10 minutes of running laps around a soccer field. The carryover to sport is substantially greater.

When coaches condition like this, three things happen:

  1. It becomes more fun for the athlete rather than seen as a punishment for not paying attention, etc.
  2. Athletes are faster and better conditioned during games
  3. There is far less opportunity for burnout or overtraining

So a team coach does not necessarily need to individualize conditioning programs for each athlete, but rather re-think the way they approach their conditioning.

As the team moves into the weight room for their strength portion of the practice, there are some simple methods that can be used to individualize the training while getting everyone better:

  1. Movement training
  2. Progressive overload
  3. RPE scale

Movement training means doing things like squats, hip hinges, lunges, pushing, pulling and carrying exercises. Simple alternatives are usually the best and most effective. Even top-level athletes constantly work on the basics to become the best at what they do and a team is no different. Strength doesn’t need to look sexy to be highly effective.

Progressive overload is something the coach needs to program before the season starts. The in-season training plan should be created so the athletes have a period where they are pushing harder than usual in the weight room. This typically coincides with the regular season winding down so they have time to recover and feel as strong as ever heading into the post-season.

Finally, a rating of perceived exertion (RPE) (i.e. 1-10) scale of difficulty makes it easy to program design for a large group of athletes. When an exercise that is supposed to be a 7 or 8 on the difficulty scale becomes a 6, the athlete needs to add weight or make the movement more challenging.

For a team coach, the ideal outcome of an in-season strength program is seeing the entire team get stronger, faster, more bulletproof over the duration of the season, and have a rejuvenated, healthy team heading into the post-season.

ADAPT and Conquer,

Coach Jared

Using Equipment to Train Young Athletes 6 to 13 Years Old


by Dave Gleason, IYCA Director of Youth Fitness

With the rapid rise of youth fitness and sports performance training options, programs and businesses popping up these days, it is important to discuss a very important topic as well as answer an extremely common question.

What is appropriate equipment for training youth athletes?

Before we dive into what can be deemed appropriate versus what equipment should be cautioned against—and certainly before I disseminate a broad list of equipment or once more include descriptions on how to use it—we need to put some parameters around a few things first.

For the purposes of this article, the term “young athlete” refers to boys and girls ages 6-13.

Developmentally appropriate fitness equipment is a loose term. We will discuss the needs of young athletes FIRST and how any piece of equipment can be considered as such.

Stop thinking “appropriate” and start thinking “optimal” for long-term athletic development.

My first point (chronological age) is pretty self-explanatory. However, what should be considered developmentally appropriate fitness and sports performance training for young athletes ages 6-13? The following is based off of tenants of the IYCA Level 1 Youth Fitness Specialist Certification and by extension, the programming templates we use in my facility (samples can be found in the programming section of the IYCA of Youth Conditioning and Fitness text book). 1

Guided Discovery: 6 to 9 years old

  • Movement exploration/discovery
  • Object manipulation
  • Coordination training
  • Cooperation/gameplay

Exploration: 10 to 13 years old

  • Muscle activation
  • Active range of motion
  • General preparation
  • Coordination training
  • Systemic strength
  • Gameplay

Your equipment is not your program. The relationships and connections you make with your young athletes combined with your programming will create the experience and culture you need to grow a strong business. If your main selling point for your program or business is equipment, you are setting yourself up for short term success at best.

Many types equipment can be utilized in a program if you have your template set correctly. For example, the novelty of a high-speed treadmill will eventually wear off for most young athletes. A piece of equipment such as a treadmill has room for only one user at time. Once more, not ALL young athletes will find it fun.

When I look to make equipment purchases for our facility, the first two factors I think about are a) how many users can participate with the equipment and b) how many purposes can it serve for my young athletes.

I caution against equipment such as scaled-down or miniature selectorized type equipment, exertainment equipment, and conventional weight training equipment such as straight bars, dumbbells, and the like, because most times they don’t pass my initial two questions. Although, most equipment can have its place in the programmatic structure of training young athletes, an increase of physical literacy and physical culture is the number one priority.

Here is a short list of appropriate equipment for this age group:

  • Free weights
  • Battle ropes
  • Dodge balls
  • Dynamax balls
  • Plyo boxes
  • Bosu balls
  • Mini hurdles
  • Agility ladders
  • ValSlides
  • Sandbells
  • Tires
  • Jump ropes
  • Foam rollers
  • Mini bands
  • Resistance bands
  • Monkey bars
  • Climbing nets
  • Balance beams
  • Hula hoops
  • Cones
  • Railyard Fitness System
  • Lebert Equalizers
  • Balance pods
  • Agility discs

Use of these types of tools should be done with the goal of increasing movement capability. For example, agility ladder training for the sake of becoming better or more capable of performing with the agility ladders should not be the goal. Transference to sport and life is the ultimate purpose. Being able to incorporate tools such as an agility ladder can add short-term fun as well.

All of the above equipment choices can have a positive impact, if used correctly.

Think outside the box!

If you have battle ropes in your facility you need not only have your young athletes attempt waves, snakes, or hip tosses to promote object manipulation, spatial awareness and systemic strength.

Equipment for Training Youth Example 1 – Battle Rope Relay

Organize your young athletes into two “teams,” each standing in line behind one end of the battle rope (placed on the ground in a straight line). The first athlete in line picks the rope up and holds it like a baton. On your command, each athlete runs to the opposite line and hands the battle rope off to the next athlete in line.

If the two rope ends find themselves on one side, the game is over. This is opaque competition because there is no clear-cut winner or even delineated teams once the game begins.

Equipment for Training Youth Example 2 – Giant Letter Game

Have each young athlete hold the battle rope. Every athlete must have at least one hand on the rope at all times. On your command, the “team” will create a giant letter or number on the ground with the battle rope. Begin with a simple letter such as the letter “O” and progress as far as you feel your young athletes can go.



1. Brooks T PhD, Stodden D PhD.  Essentials of Youth Conditioning and Fitness, Second Edition. Lubbock TX:  Chaplain Publishing; 2012.

Six Plyometric Training Progressions

by Brad Leshinske, BS, CSCS

In the sports performance industry, there are many facilities that offer jump training specifically for volleyball and basketball athletes only. The truth is that jump training is universally beneficial for most every sport. While some movements may be specific to a particular sport, it is crucial that athletes learn to land, jump, and produce force. The big reason for doing jump training is learning to create power through triple extension. Triple extension refers to the ankle, knee and hip in full extension. Triple extension readily apparent in nearly every form of sport, such as a basketball exploding upward to snare a rebound or a football player jumping to catch a pass. Learning to create power in from the triple extension movement is a critical skill for any athlete and is one of the main reasons why plyometric training is so valuable to an athlete.

Plyometric training, commonly referred to as “jump training,” is important because it requires the athlete to not only learn to be powerful and create force, but also teaches him or her how to land and absorb force, as well. Many injuries in sports occur in the landing position. Not many athletes get injured during the jump phase, which is why it is important to teach the landing first. Another reason why plyometric training is great for all athletes is because there is direct correlation to becoming faster. This is because the production of force used to overcoming gravity is related to the force required when sprinting and overcoming that inertia, as well. Learning to apply and direct force downward will teach the athlete to apply that force in other manners.


So what is the progression for teaching jump training? Here are the six stages of teaching proper jump training protocol:

  1. Landing technique – Learning to absorb force and ensuring proper alignment with the ankle, knee, and hip is great for injury prevention. Correcting these problems will help the athlete avoid serious landing injuries. Exercises that may be utilized to improve landings include:
    — Drop squats: starting in a standing position, drop down into a squat with arms back.
    — Depth jump holds: from a 6-inch box step off the box with 1 foot and land into a squat position with arms back. Hold the position for 2 seconds.
  2. Jumping with a landing “stick” – Learning to jump and “stick” a landing is the next thing that we teach. Once the athlete has a grasp on landing and absorption, we then let them jump and absorb the landing. We might use a low box or hurdle. We avoid repetitive jumping in this phase and work on power development and absorption.
  3. Jumping with a mini-hop – Once the first two phases are complete, we then go into some repetitive jumping. We do this in a controlled manner and generally start with lower hurdles. The athlete will jump and land, do a mini-hop in place then repeat the jump. This does a few things. First it teaches the athlete to react and then it works on the athlete’s stretch shortening cycle, which is a key to creating power.
  4. Jumping with counter-movement – This is when true plyometric movements take place. Repetitive jumping generally over hurdles is a great way to not only work on the stretch shortening cycle but the reactivity of the athlete.
  5. Depth- jump to box or hurdle jumps – Utilizing the progressions above, the final stage is combining movements. For example, depth jumps combine the beginning phase of teaching a landing then incorporating a box jump, hurdle jump or any modality you see fit based on the athletes.
  6. Single-leg jumping – The utilization of single leg training is crucial for overall performance and most importantly injury prevention. With the same guidelines as mentioned above, you can and should incorporate single-leg jump training. Using modalities such as boxes, hurdles, and even just a line on the floor, single-leg training should be a part of your program.

There are other modalities to plyometric training, but the above progression is a basic rendition of how it should be taught. From simple to complex, plyometrics are great for all athletes provided that the YFS understands how and when to progress or regress training appropriately based upon the athlete’s developmental level and abilities. Plyometrics can be used to reinforce proper landing and proper power output, which can help a young athlete become stronger and more reactive.

A phase 1 plyometric training cycle for beginner athletes

Movement Sets  Reps  Modality 
Drop Squat 3 6 Bodyweight
Box Jump 3 3 Box 12-18 inch. Hold landing for 2 seconds
Single Leg Hurdle Hop 3 4e Mini hurdle or line on floor pause between each movement


A phase 2 plyometric training cycle for beginner athletes

Movement Sets  Reps  Modality 
Box Jump 3 4 Box height of 18-24 inch hold landing for 2 seconds
Hurdle Hop NC (non counter movement) 3 4 Use hurdle of 12in. Jump and stick each landing re set and repeat
Single Leg Hurdle Hop 3 4e Mini hurdle or line on floor pause between each movement


With the examples above, notice the relative consistency throughout. There is not that much “going on” with regards to the program, but the athletes is learning to generate power at the correct rate. It is also suggested to have the athlete perform linear jumping twice a week and lateral jumping twice a week. Lateral jumping is excellent for all athletes in getting more production in unfamiliar directions and learning how to accept load on the body in different positions. Lateral plyometric training is far more simplistic and some of the exercises mimic linear jumping (for example, lateral box jump, lateral hurdle hops, and lateral single leg jumps). The above guidelines stay the same in terms of progression.

Plyometrics are not only a great tool to teach power and force production but also a key in injury prevention. Having the appropriate progression strategy and employing it consistently is a valuable skill when programming for athletes in various sports, ages, and abilities.