Archive for “Flexibility” Tag

The Stretching Conundrum, Part 1

Stretching for athletes can often be a polarizing topic among rehab and performance specialists. 

On one end of the spectrum you have people who seemingly hand out stretches for every injury, and think it’s the solution to every problem. On the other hand, you have people who believe that you should never stretch, and that there are no benefits to stretching whatsoever.

Before we start talking about what is right and wrong, we first need to appreciate what stretchingstretching really is, so we can discuss the potential reasons why one may choose to stretch or not to stretch.

Ultimately, people feel the need for stretching because they feel “tightness.”

The problem here is that “tightness” is felt for a variety of reasons. There are really three reasons someone would feel “tight:”

1) A muscle is concentrically oriented, or in a state of chronically sustained contraction at low levels for a prolonged time period.

2) You just performed an intense workout, and as a result, there some eccentric microtrauma to the musculature which occurred. Your intent is that the stimulus hopefully results in recovery and a net gain of strength/hypertrophy in the long run when programmed correctly. 

3) As a protective mechanism to create rigidity or control depending on the environment, task, and situation. Example: when driving in a snowstorm, the external environment can create uncertainty or lack of control. As a means of creating a more internal perception of control, the body starts to grip the steering wheel tightly.

In all three scenarios, stretching may not be the most advantageous thing to be doing.

Perhaps the biggest issue is that many people’s current understanding is that muscles either get “long” or they get “short.” While this is a simplistic way of viewing things, it does not do the body justice, and it leads to confusion when we talk about the proper application of stretching.

Muscles are either concentrically oriented or eccentrically oriented, not necessarily long or short. 

We already knew this intuitively, with the various types of muscle contractions, but this knowledge is usually not applied properly. 

This concept makes logical sense, though.  If muscles truly got longer, then we would develop a lot of “slack” in muscle tissue because the distance between origin and insertion of the muscle does not change with static stretching. 

You certainly would not want the guidewires in a bridge to develop “slack,” as the integrity of the structural support system would be lost.

So the ability to stretch further is just building an increased tolerance to an eccentrically oriented position.  The Golgi Tendon Organs learn to accept a new position.

This happens through graded and repeated exposure to stretching. However, I see two problems with this:

1) Changes in sensation are momentary – If you are stretching to provide relief to the sensation of tightness, without addressing the cause of the tightness, you are operating at the effect level instead of addressing the cause. That’s why sensation of tightness does not always go away when gradually exposed to a stretch. Maybe it does in the very immediate short term, but you have to keep applying that stimulus in order to maintain or improve. Furthermore, because you are gradually exposing the muscle to greater and greater eccentric orientation, the muscle eventually becomes exposed to prolonged low load, long duration. This can change the passive integrity of structures responsible for stability over an extended period of time. 

2) If the sensation of tightness came from a workout and eccentric damage, it does not make much sense to aggressively eccentrically elongate the muscle as means of recovery.  Eccentric activity is what caused the soreness in the first place, so additional elongation is not the answer. Simple active movement would suffice.

3) Stretching does not take into account the orientation of axial skeletal system (origin and insertion). For example, an anterior rotation of an innominate and anterior rib flare would indicate the paraspinals and quads to be in a concentric orientation of muscle via the position of axial skeletal system. The hamstrings and abdominals would be eccentrically oriented. Note: This also happens in the frontal and transverse planes not just sagittal. 

The length-tension relationships of musculature is also important to consider. The reason for differences in length-tension relationship differences is the axial skeletal positioning. Stretching does not change the position of origin and insertion. Active contraction of the eccentrically oriented musculature does, as it provides reciprocal inhibition to concentrically oriented muscles to start experiencing eccentric control. 

So this begs the question – is stretching a complete waste of time?

No, absolutely not.

Many people simply do not understand why and when to utilize stretching, and as a result, it’s performed in a meaningless or potentially even harmful way.

Stretching does not need to be overly aggressive for most people. Before ever stretching, the position of the axial skeletal system must be taken into consideration. Establishing conscious and active exercises which force individuals to display control and competency over movement within normal ranges of movement is generally the first order of business.

If the individual still wants to lightly stretch because they find it helpful to provide “looseness” or “ease of movement” in the short term, it’s certainly fine. However, there are usually other factors to consider that will more effectively and efficiently create lasting changes within someone’s movement quality such as controlled variability, strength (eccentric, concentric, isometric), force output, and capacity.

Here are a couple examples:

Hamstring Hooklying Bridge

This activity works on controlling and improving hip extension without lumbar extension. Someone who has limited hip extension may present with the quads, paraspinals, lats in a concentrically oriented position which means that the hamstrings, glutes, and abs are eccentrically positioned. This exercise reverses that equation by concentrically utilizing the hamstrings, glutes, and abs. The purpose of the pause and breathing is to work motor control in that position with different demands placed on the musculature.

Likewise, if we wanted to work on more dissociation of the femur from the pelvis. We can try and secure the pelvis with the abdominals by performing a posterior pelvic tilt (concentric activity of the abs). Then try to hold that position as the athlete performs a leg lowering activity (eccentric activity of quads). The longer the lever arm, the more demand it places on the abdominals to secure the starting position.

Wall Press Abs Bilateral Leg Lowering

There are many different examples of the two exercises listed here. Depending on the presentation and skill level of your client, you will need to know how to alter the activity and give progressions or regressions based on motor skill level. However the concepts remain the same, and you can certainly get creative with these exercises.

In part 2 of this series, we will cover more about how you can program these concepts as well as some of your more typical methods into athletes training cycles.

 

Dr. Greg Schaible is a physical therapist and strength coach specializing in athletic performance. Greg is the owner of On Track Physiotherapy and owner of the popular online education resource Sports Rehab Expert. Greg works with athletes and active individuals of all ages. As a former athlete himself, he attended The University of Findlay and competed in both Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field where he earned honors as a 5x Division II All-American and a 6x Division II Academic All-American.

How to Build a Year Round Band Flexibility Program

How and Why to Build in a Year Round Band Flexibility Program

Athletes young and old do not like to stretch and, as a result, create unnecessary trauma to their joints and muscles by not being optimally ready to perform high intensity ballistic type movements.

Why Athletes Don’t Stretch

Young athletes are not taught why it is important to optimally lengthen out the body prior to performing high intensity ballistic type movements.

Teaching a young athlete at a middle school level why lengthening out their muscles and mobilizing their joints will enhance performance, eliminate unnecessary muscle soreness and help eliminate injury will set a standard that will stay with them as their athletic career advances.

Coaches need to stay consistent and demand that dynamic flexibility training be part of all training workouts. For most athletes, stretching before a big game is well followed.

However, to make a long-term impact on flexibility, athletes need to do it consistently before workouts. Programming this into the workout is the coach’s responsibility.

Research contradicts the importance of stretching before workouts. This contradiction of importance makes it a difficult sell to older athletes and many sport coaches.

The fact is, muscles will not lengthen out and create permanent plastic changes unless they are routinely challenged to do so. Regardless of what research says, muscles that are short will stay short unless they are both lengthened and neuromuscularly taught how to control length.

Traditional body weight stretching is boring. As a result of the prior 3 reasons, a consistent emphasis on making sure muscles are frequently lengthened out prior to working out using a body weight approach has been less than successful over time—especially if athletes are not part of a large team structure.

Why is Resistance Band Stretching Effective?

Elasticity

Being elastic, bands provide for an accommodating resistance so muscles can gradually release into the band tension. This ability to slowly release into the stretch eliminates the inhibition that comes with most body weight stretches.

Ability to Contract

Bands allow the muscles to contract into an accommodating resistance. This ability to contract allows the opposing or antagonistic muscles to relax more effectively which, in turn, allows for better stretching of the targeted muscles.

Lightweight Construction

The band’s lightweight construction allows the stretching extremity to be unweighted. This, in turn, eliminates the influences of gravity which often creates stretch inhibition when doing traditional body weight stretching.

These are more of the physiological reasons why bands are a great flexibility tool. However, there are also some practical reasons that play a significant role in band stretching.

Physicality

The band is an actual tool and for many athletes they need some type of device, ball or equipment to exercise with. The band is a physical tool that provides them with a means for which they can improve their joint mobility.

Simple body weight stretching does not provide a tool that the athletes can use to challenge themselves and, as a result, these types of stretches become boring over a short period of time.

Portability

Bands are very portable so, like body weight stretching, band training can be performed anywhere. This high level of portability allows band flexibility training to be performed on the court, field or weight room as well as on the road during competition.

Varying Resistance Levels

Bands come in various resistance levels so as with strength training, athletes can gradually challenge themselves with greater passive over pressure stretching as their muscle flexibility and joint mobility improves. For a competitive athlete the ability to measure and visually see progress is highly motivating.

How to Implement a Year Round Resistance Band Stretching Program

The most successful way to incorporate a band flexibility program is by starting to implement it prior to every off-season workout regardless if it is a strength-based workout or speed and conditioning-based workout. The initial band stretches should focus on improving the hip complex since this is the true power center of the body.

Over the years of implementing the band flexibility program into numerous athletic teams, the following sequence of band stretches should be followed to make the learning curve as short and efficient as possible.

Stretch 1 – Hamstring Series

 

Stretch 2 – Hip Rotation

 

Stretch 3 – Hip Flexor Quadricep

 

Stretch 4 – Ankle Mobilization

Allow athletes to master the position and integration of an active rhythmical-based stretching approach before progressing onto the next stretch.

A complete band hip flexibility program will require about 4 or 5 training sessions to fully implement. It will require approximately 10 training sessions before sport coaches will see a consistent flow from one stretch to the next.

Another key tip to creating early success with band stretching is allowing athletes to stretch with a band that they can easily control. Stretching with a high resistance band will quickly create muscle inhibition to the stretch and not allow it to optimally lengthen.

Once band stretching has been mastered for the hip and ankle, this sequence of stretches should be used prior to any practice, workout or competitive event.


Best Band Package for Band Flexibility Training

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The Medium Single Band Package provides athletes with 4 levels of band resistance. This will allow them to progressively improve their hip and shoulder flexibility by gradually increasing band resistance as their flexibility improves.

Medium Single Band Package

Medium Single Band Package
 

Speed & Agility Training to Improve Sport Performance

speed

Speed and Agility Training To Improve Sports Performance

by Todd Durkin

Speed kills. Speed and agility training in sport gives an athlete an edge on his/her competition. And the great news is that it can all be learned through technique training, proper drills, and hard work. If you’re wanting and willing to get faster, let’s dive (or sprint!) into the action.

In this article, you will learn all about improving your speed and agility training. You will learn about stride rate, stride length, and proper running mechanics. You will learn several different speed improvement training drills, exercises, and programs that will enable you to reach new levels in your sport.

And you will learn:

  • Best strength exercises for speed development
  • Top technique tips for speed performance
  • Power and plyometrics to develop fast-twitch muscle fiber
  • Nutrition for optimal fueling
  • Top recovery strategies

So don’t be left in the dust. Dive into the article and find out all the in’s and out’s of improving your speed and agility.

SPEED TRAINING

Speed and Agility Training

First off, let’s understand speed training and its components. Here are the phases of Speed Training:

  • Dynamic Warm-Up (see below; not really a phase of speed training but essential to include prior to speed training)
  • Mechanics
  • Acceleration (reaching maximum speed in the shortest amount of time possible)
  • Top-End Speed
  • Deceleration
  • Change of Direction (Agility & Quickness)

As we talk about speed training, it is necessary to understand the following principles:

  • “Stride Frequency”: The number of strides taken in a given amount of time or distance. This is improved via technique drills, cycling, towing, sprinting and bungee work.
  • “Stride Length”: The distance covered from one stride when sprinting.  Strength and flexibility are the most important factors to improve stride length.

All great speed and agility training programs should be preceded by a great General Warm-up and Dynamic Warm-up. A general warm-up is 5-10 minutes of exercise to begin elevating core tissue temperature, increase heart rate, and prepare the body for a workout or competition. Examples will include running, treadmill, jumping rope, elliptical, or bike.

One would then proceed into the Dynamic Warm-Up

Speed and Agility Training Dynamic Warm-Up:

Should be performed before every workout, practice or competition, and should take approximately 5-25 minutes.

The purpose of the Dynamic Warm-Up is to: Increase tissue temperature, improve flexibility, activate the nervous system, and help coordination and develop body awareness. It also lengthens fascia.

What is Fascia? Fascia is a specialized system of the body (connective tissue) which plays an important role in the support of our bodies. Fascia is a very dense connective tissue which envelops every muscle, bone, nerve, artery, and vein as well as our internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. When fascia becomes constricted, it becomes tight, creates great pressure on its structures and becomes a great source of tension to the body. 

The methods utilized to perform a dynamic warm-up are:

Movement in Space: (10-20 yards)

  • High knees
  • Butt-kicks
  • Cariocas
  • Exagerated Cariocas
  • A-Skips
  • B-Skips
  • Frankenstein Walks (& skips)
  • Lunge with rotation
  • Reverse lunge with reach over top
  • Side-lunges

Stationary:

  • Jumping jacks
  • Gate swings
  • Pogo hops
  • Seal jacks
  • Arm circles
  • Trunk rotations
  • Cats & Dogs
  • Downard Dog
  • Scorpion Kicks
  • 1 Legged Windshield wipers
  • Bodyweight Squats

Perform each movement approx. 10-20 seconds.

Before a workout or competition, the emphasis is on a dynamic warm-up.

After a workout, the emphasis should be on static stretching and myofascial release.

Speed and Agility Training Flexibility:

Speed and Agility Training

Every time after you workout, practice or compete, there should be stretching that involves holding each stretch 20 seconds to 1 minute,  and it should take 10 minutes minimally. Using a stretch rope, you should concentrate on your hip flexors, hamstrings, quads, calves, trunk and opening the chest and shoulders. The methods utilized to stretch are rope chest stretch, standing rotator cuff stretch, kneeling hip flexor stretch, cats & dogs, downward dog, lying rope hamstring stretch, lying rope lower back stretch, lying rope groin stretch, side-lying rope quad stretch, walking soldiers. Foam rolling (ie. The Grid or a foam roller) & a massage stick are essential to do on your own to promote fascia lengthening and recovery. This can be performed both before and after the workout.

When assessing speed, one of the most critical aspects is acceleration. Acceleration is defined as the ability and time it takes for the body to reach Top End Speed. 

Mechanics and technique for acceleration include:

  • Foot Contact behind hip
  • Body angle at 45 degrees/Straight line from heel to neck
  • Chin to chest
  • Head down

Some of the best technique acceleration drills include:

  • Marches along wall
  • Wall Runs
  • 3, 5, 7, 9 step wall sprints

STRENGTH, SPEED & ACCELERATION

Speed and Agility Training

A huge part of speed and agility training is acceleration, it is important to train and strengthen the posterior chain of the body—glutes, hamstrings, lower back, mid-back, and even the calves & feet. Some of the most effective methods and strength exercises to improve acceleration include:

  • Sled Drags & Sled Pulls
  • Resisted Towing
  • Tire Flips
  • Plate Pushes
  • Keiser Air Runner
  • Bullet Belt
  • Super Band Leap Frogs
  • Form running in place & move out
  • Legged Romanian Deadlifts
  • Calf Raises (Double & Single Leg)
  • Swiss Ball Leg Curls
  • TRX Hip Extensions/Bicycles, Leg Curls
  • Hyperextensions (Glute/Ham)
  • Barefoot Balance Touches (on airex pad)
  • Planks
  • Pullups

Once one achieves top-end speed (T.E.S.), the mechanics then change. Now, technique is a bit different:

  • Foot Contact now under hip
  • Body is upright
  • Upper body relaxed
  • Arms swinging 90-120 degrees from waist to chin; drive elbows back!
  • T.E.S. typically reached at approximately 20-30 yards on a linear sprint

Some drills to reinforce Top End Speed Mechanics/Technique Drills include:

  • Arm swing drills
  • Fast Claw Drill
  • Marches
  • Skipping

Some of the best exercises and methods to improve acceleration and T.E.S. include:

  • Uphill running
  • Stadium Steps
  • Resisted Speed Drills (bungees)
  • Assisted Over-speed training with bungee
  • High speed treadmill

Best Strength Exercises to Improve Overall Speed (& acceleration):

  • Squats (2 legged & 1 legged)
  • Step-ups
  • Lunges (variations)
  • Bulgarian Split Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Plate Pushes
  • Sled Drags
  • Plyometrics (squat jumps, lunge hops, Box jumps, leap frogs, vertimax, etc.)
  • Olympic Lifts (snatch, clean & jerk, clean, power shrugs) (power development)
  • Core Conditioning (ie. hyperextensions, Glute/Ham Raise, Russian twists, Bosu Core, med ball standing twists, med ball standing windmills, med ball seated sidewinders, med ball side-tosses into wall, med ball throws (straight up), etc…
  • Pullups
  • Weighted arm swings

3 Tips for Speed Performance: (credit to Patrick Beith)

Tip 1 – Drive Phase – Don’t force yourself to “stay low”

Speed and Agility Training

The drive phase happens right after you react to the starting gun. Your initial 8 -10 steps is considered your drive phase. The biggest problem seen with athletes in the drive phase is that athletes are ‘trying’ to stay too low. Keep the body angle at about 45 degrees and keep the heel of the recovery leg low to the ground during the first 8 strides. Drive the foot into the ground and explode powerfully backwards to create maximum ground reaction force. Drive your elbows backwards and keep your head down. You should be in a straight line from your heels to your head.

Tip 2 – Acceleration Phase
In this phase, you want to think “powerful.” Since the acceleration phase (0-30 yards) is associated with a higher stride frequency then at maximum speed, focus on leg drive. You want to keep the feet behind your center of mass so that you can maximize leg drive.  “Head down and drive.”

Tip 3 – Relaxation 
One of the most challenging things to do is to stay relaxed while sprinting full speed. I often look at my athlete’s cheeks to see if they are running with “puppy dog” cheeks. If an athlete is too tense, their jaw will be tight and they will be tensing their entire body.

If you see an athlete with a tight face, eyes squinting, teeth clenched, elevated shoulders, and tight fists, they are actually slowing themselves down. You have to let your muscles work for you and not against to maximize your speed potential. This is a tough concept to learn and MUST be practiced if you want get the most out of our speed.

Relax and let your speed come to you!

There is an often forgot about third component to speed and agility training – and it is quickness. Let’s look at the difference.

Agility is the ability to accelerate, decelerate, and change directions as quickly as possible in the shortest amount of time possible

  • Closely related to balance
  • Should be able to move forward, backwards, left, & right all very well

Quickness is the ability to react to a stimulus in the environment in the shortest amount of time possible (a whistle, clap, defender, etc.)

  • Closely related to reaction time
  • Could be foot quickness or hand-eye quickness

Factors affecting Agility & Quickness:

  • Ground Reaction Forces
  • Reaction Time
  • Acceleration & Deceleration
  • Starting quickness (1st step quickness)
  • Cutting
  • Cross-over ability

Drills/Methodologies to Influence Agility & Quickness:

  • Line Drills—runs back & forth, jumping jack feet, front hops, side hops, Ali shuffles, 1-legged lateral hops, 1-legged front hops
  • 5 dot drill
  • Mirror Drill
  • Tag Drill
  • Cone Drills (cone circles, box drill)
  • Bag Drills (shuffles, figure 8’s, shuffle & figure 8’s)
  • Agility Ladder drills (1 foot in each rung, sideways 2 feet in each rung, Ali shuffles, Icky Shuffles, NFL crossover drills)
  • BOSU foot Quickness Drills
  • Deceleration Drills
    • Sprint & stop
    • Sprint & stop and repeat
  • Super Band overspeed/resisted speed drills (running forward & backward or left & right with Super Band; works acceleration & deceleration)

* Incorporate hand-eye coordination into any of these drills for additional quickness/reaction time.

To include hand-eye coordination and reaction time, you can include drills such as:

  • Reaction ball drills (drops, rolls, into rebounder)
  • Card Catch drills
  • BOLA catches

Furthermore, if you are needing to increase your agility and quickness, you can use the same aforementioned exercises to improve your speed. Due to the fact that agility often is lateral quickness or involves cutting, it is imperative that the groins & hips are adequately worked also. The following exercises will augment the strength exercises found in the speed & acceleration section:

  • Diagonal Lunges
  • Slide Board
  • Lateral Band Walks
  • Side Lunges
  • Dirty Dogs
  • Horse-Back Riding

POWER for Speed and Agility Training

If an athlete really wants to reach full potential, they must be able to convert their strength into power. Power is defined as the ability of the neuro-muscular system to create a force rapidly. In its simplest term, power = strength + speed

  • Strength– the maximal amount of force a muscle can generate under a given set of conditions
  • Speed– the ability to move from one point to another point as fast as possible

Methodologies to improve power:

  • Olympic lifting
  • Plyometrics
  • Strength training with speed component

For the sake of this discussion, I am going to concentrate on plyometrics to improve power (along with strength). Plyometrics is a system of hopping, skipping, jumping, or running that works on developing explosive power and maximally recruiting fast-twitch muscle fiber by eccentrically loading a muscle and quickly producing a concentric force. Plyometrics are exercises that enable a muscle to reach maximum strength in as short a time as possible. The faster the eccentric movement (the loading phase), the more stored elastic energy will be released, resulting in a more explosive jump.

Benefits of plyometrics:

  • Improves power & elasticity
  • Trains the nervous system
  • Improves anaerobic conditioning
  • Transformation of muscle strength into power
  • Recruitment of most motor units and their corresponding muscle fibers
  • Develops fast twitch muscle fiber!!!

Rules of plyometrics:

  • Perform on soft surface
  • Do early in your routine
  • Land softly
  • Have adequate strength base before introducing advanced levels of plyometrics (approx. 10 weeks of resistance training)
  • No pain should be experienced in joints
  • Be attentive to form & technique
  • Be sure to stretch & work on strength & flexibility when using plyometrics as part of program
  • Use a 1:3 work/rest ratio for most plyometric exercises
  • Can be performed in many ways:
    • immediately after dynamic warm-up
    • Infuse it during your workout and perform immediately after a strength exercise (complex training)
    • Can be performed on speed days also performed as separate sessions

3 Basic Categories of Lower Body Plyometric Exercises:

  • Jumping—taking off on one or two feet; landing on 2 feet (jumping jacks, leap frogs)
  • Hopping—taking off on one foot and landing on same foot (single leg hopping over line)
  • Bounding—taking off on one foot and landing on other foot (alternate leg bounds)

3 Stages of Plyometric Program Design:

Off-Season (General Conditioning)—2 to 3 times per week; 80-100 foot contacts

Pre-Season (Sport Specific)—2 to 3 times per week; 100-150 foot contacts

In-Season (Sport Specific Maintenance)—1 to 2 times per week; 80-100 foot contacts

Speed and Agility Training

3 Levels of Plyometrics

Beginning

  • Jumping Rope
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Line jumps & hops
  • Squat jumps
  • Tuck jumps
  • Skater plyos
  • Overhead Medicine Ball Tosses
  • Med Ball Chest Passes
  • Plyo Pushups on floor
  • Medicine Ball rotational ab twists into wall

 Moderate

  • Box jumps
  • Lateral box jumps
  • 1 legged jumps (front & lateral)
  • Supine medicine ball push presses (to partner)
  • 1-legged lateral bounds
  • Plyo situps
  • Med ball throws into ground (with twist)
  • Explosive pushups onto 2 steppers
  • Explosive pushups onto 1 stepper
  • Med ball push press to partner into plyo pushup & repeat
  • Abdominal leg throws
  • Med ball overhead tosses, sprint, and retrieve

Advanced

  • Depth Jumps
  • Depth Jump with multiple repeats
  • Single leg triple jumps
  • Smith Machine Bench Press Throws to partner
  • Add another exercise to upper & lower body
  • Keiser Air Runner or double leap frongs
  • Increase height of box
  • Incorporate single leg movements
  • Use weighted vests

Recovery for Speed and Agility Training

With all this focus on proper training to improve overall athleticism, it is necessary to  address one critical aspect to an athlete receiving maximum benefits from their training. It is called RECOVERY & REGENERATION. The following components play a critical role in determining how quickly an athlete can recover. The quicker the athlete can recover, the quicker they can train or perform again. Let’s take a look at a couple key components of recovery:

1) Nutrition is step one

  • Protein is step one; we want to increase protein synthesis. One should consume approximately 1 g per lb. of body weight.
  • A protein and carb drink promotes glycogen recovery faster than a carb drink alone following a workout. This helps stimulate protein synthesis.
  • Good nutrition controls insulin, glucagon, leptin, and other very important hormones.

insulin—stores nutrients into cells
leptin—follows insulin & caloric intake/deposition
glucagon—releases fat
Nutrient Timing does play a role in overall nutrition

2) Flexibility (see beginning of article)

  • Static Stretching
  • Yoga

3) Foam Roller or Massage Stick (Self-Myofascial Release)

4) Bodywork (massage, Rolfing, Optimal Performance Bodywork, etc.)

5) Infrared Saunas

6) SupplementationSpeed and Agility Training

  • Fish oils & Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • Glucosamine, Chondroitin, MSM
  • Multi-vitamin & mineral Complex
  • B12

7) Sleep

During sleep, the production of growth hormone, testosterone, and IGF-1 are at their peak. Growth hormone speeds the absorption of nutrients and amino acids into your cells and aids the healing of tissues throughout the body. Testosterone and IGF-1 are anabolic hormones that are important in muscle growth and assist in recovery also. It is recommended that you get at least 8 hours of sleep when trying to optimize hormone-release and recovery.

Now that you have the tools, it’s time to implement the game-plan and begin working towards improving performance and designing a great speed and agility program. If you combine training hard, the correct methodologies, along with ample recovery & regeneration techniques, it is then that you can maximize your strength, speed, and power development. GO GET IT!!!


What to learn how to teach speed mechanics like the pros?

Check out Ultimate Speed Mechanics

 


 

About the Author

Todd Durkin is an internationally-recognized strength and conditioning coach who works with numerous NFL, MLB, and NBA athletes. He is the owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, CA, and the author of The IMPACT! Body Plan. For more information, visit www.ToddDurkin.com or follow him on Twitter at @ToddDurkin. 

Flexibility and Mobility for Young Athletes

Flexibility vs. Mobility in Youth Fitness Programs

By Mike Robertson

Mike-Robertson-headshot

What is the difference between Flexibility and Mobility?

I’ve always used the Bill Hartman definitions; they go something like this:

Mobility – Range of motion under specific circumstances (specific)

Flexibility – Range of motion about a joint (non-specific)

As you can see, mobility is specific to a certain movement-i.e., you need a certain amount of hip mobility to squat, lunge, etc.

In contrast, flexibility is non-specific-i.e. you lay someone on their back and stretch their hamstrings. This gives you an idea of their flexibility, but it’s not specific. Just because they have great hamstring length doesn’t mean they’ll be able to perform functional movements properly or without compensation.

Are both important to young athletes or is one more important than the other?

I feel that both are important, but flexibility is merely a component of mobility. I think of mobility as an equation, something like this:

Tissue length + neural control/stability + joint architecture = Mobility

Youth Fitness Programs

So my goal with youth fitness programs is to improve their mobility and allow them to perform those specific movements (squatting, lunging, etc.) without compensation from other areas (generally the lumbar spine).

Youth Fitness Programs: When should young athletes train flexibility?

There are several times throughout the day when I would incorporate specific flexibility drills into youth fitness programs:

Pre/peri-workout – I would only use this as part of an acute-corrective strategy; in other words, I don’t believe that static stretching has much of a place pre-workout. The goal here, for example, would be to statically stretch the hip flexors and pair that stretch with an activation drill for the gluteals. This will enhance motor control and function by helping restore proper length/tension relationships.

Post-workout – Here I’d use more active flexibility techniques like eccentric quasi-isometrics (EQI’s).

Before bed – I’ve always been a proponent of static stretching before bed. I think not only does it allow you to unwind and relax, but if you hop right into bed afterwards, you’re less likely to lose any flexibility gains you just worked for.

Youth Fitness Programs: When should they train Mobility?

Whenever they can! Quite simply, most people need more mobility in the appropriate areas (ankles, hips, t-spine, etc.). Especially in the beginning or foundational period of their training, more is generally better.

Getting more specific, pre-workout mobility training is a slam dunk. But if someone is really restricted in their movement patterns or movement quality, I’ll have them perform mobility drills several times throughout the day to reinforce good movement. Unlike strength training, you’re not going to over train your body by doing some simple mobility drills throughout the day.

Youth Fitness Programs 1

Youth Fitness Programs: Are there different kinds of flexibility, or is “bending over to touch my toes and stretch my hammy” all young athletes should be doing?

With the athletes I work with, we include several different kinds of mobility throughout their day.

Pre-workout, we always do a dynamic warm-up. Always. They’ve been sitting in school or class all day, so my first goal is to get them warmed up and moving through a nice range of motion.

EQI’s are a little more advanced, but they’re still working to promote optimal length/tension relationships and develop active flexibility. Once someone has been training for a few months, I like to get them doing this at the end of every workout.

Finally, we discussed static flexibility above, and I think it’s an integral component as well. Kids are a lot different now from how they were 10, 12, or 15 years ago when I was a kid! They sit more. They play more games. They have more homework. Static stretching can help get them back in tune with their bodies and keep themselves healthy.

I think all these methods are important; what’s more important is using the right flexibility method at the appropriate time.

Youth Fitness Programs: What is the single greatest mistake or myth people make when it comes to Flexibility training?

Not doing it!

Seriously, most people are so focused on their training and/or diet, they put no value or stock into recovery methods. Using the methods I outlined above in your youth fitness programs can go a long way to improving the flexibility and mobility of your body.

Flexibility and mobility are part of a complete program for athletes and in youth fitness programs. Check out the IYCA’s Complete Athletic Development 2.0 program to get the most comprehensive resource ever assembled for developing young athletes.

cad2_total_mockup850

http://completeathletedevelopment.com/

 

 

Goal Setting for Young Athletes

 

by Dave Gleason

 

Setting short, medium and long term goals is the foundation for any action plan.  Creating and attaining any goal is a process.

 

In the context of Goal Setting for young athletes, often a trainer or coach will direct the question of desired goal(s) by giving away the answers.  A typical pre-exercise questionnaire will ask the young athlete (and/or parent) to choose from a list of goals ranging from speed, agility, strength and flexibility to injury resistance and more confidence.

 

This is a terrific start but we need to reach beyond this for our young athletes.

 

Developing a specific culture in your facility or programs is instrumental in differentiating what you do from your competition.  Everything you do should point back toward the same ethos that your culture is built upon.  Goal setting is no exception.

 

For a long term athletic development program this is critical.  Can we honestly expect kids to stay in our programs for 2,3,5 or 10 years?

 

Setting up reward systems for young athletes will help them set and attain goals.  All too often children are pressured to succeed merely for the sake of success.

 

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How to Assess Young Athletes

Do you ever ‘test’ your Young Athletes?

 

Their speed?

 

Strength?

 

Flexibility?

 

If so, why?

 

You know, most Coaches and Trainers can’t answer that question.

 

They test because they think they’re supposed to.

 

That they need to in order to show ‘results’.

 

But there are other reasons…

 

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The Training Template Secret

It’s great to watch a video or DVD and see what a quality training session is supposed to look like.

 

I always enjoy having exercise photographs at my fingertips with a visual representation of what each rep should look like along the way.

 

I also adore being able to read key information about what the Coach or Trainer was thinking when they designed a particular training program, or what philosophies and concepts they feel are important with respect to Speed, Strength, Coordination, Mobility, Flexibility and Injury Prevention.

 

And I especially love being given ‘sample programs’.

 

A literal “here, just do this because it works” roadmap for success.

 

You get that and every ounce of the information mentioned above inside my ‘Complete Athlete Development’ system.

 

But do you know what my favorite part is?

 

 

The fact that I took the time to create and develop a Training Template for you.

 

(more…)

Kettlebell Training for Youth Athletes

 

 

Youth Athletes With Kettlebells

by Pamela MacElree of www.KettlebellAthletics.com

 

Kettlebell training for kids and youth athletes

There really are hundreds of ways to train youth athletes, all the way from traditional weight lifting to strongman training, and everywhere in between.  Some programs focus strictly on gaining mass, some focus entirely on sport specific practice, some can’t get enough speed and agility, and others have no real basis at all.  Implementing kettlebell training into a youth training program has a variety of complimentary benefits to existing programs.

 

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Young Athletes: Flexibility versus Mobility

 


 

Young Athletes Priorities

by Mike Robertson

 

What is the difference between Flexibility and Mobility?

I’ve always used the Bill Hartman definitions; they go something like this:

 

Mobility – Range of motion under specific circumstances (specific)

 

Flexibility – Range of motion about a joint (non-specific)

 

So mobility is specific to a certain movement – i.e. you need a certain amount of hip mobility to squat, lunge, etc.

 

In contrast, flexibility is non-specific – i.e. you lay someone on their back and stretch their hamstrings.  This gives you an idea of their flexibility, but it’s not specific.  Just because they have great hamstring length doesn’t mean they’ll be able to perform functional movements properly or without compensation.

 

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Young Athletes: The Key to Agility Is Positioning

 

 

Young Athletes Agility

 

Tony Reynolds young athletesTony Reynolds says…

Personally, I have never thought of flexibility or mobility as a factor that plays a huge role in an athlete being able to assume an athletic stance. I do not see where there is enough flexion/extension in any joint throughout the chain where this is really an issue. If you are getting that low you are never going to be overly quick out of the position.

 

For me, it has always been a matter of reeducation. Young athletes simply have no idea how to align their bodies to create the most effective angles for spontaneous multi directional movement. Often they have been coached wrong or not coached at all and have created their own interpretation of the stance.

 

So then it comes down to teaching. Therefore, one must be careful with their “selection of words” when describing movements and positions to kids and young.

 

For instance, flat back can often also mean a completely vertical torso. MANY kids will automatically make this correlation (and so do many coaches.)

 

I prefer using the terms “neutral” and “tilted.” As Kwame suggested, we work on rounding the spine, we work on arching the spine, and we work on keeping the spine in a “neutral” alignment. Then it is a matter or “tilting” the neutral spine forward as the hips move back.

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Young Athletes: Individual and Team Training – Mutually Exclusive?

 

 

Young Athletes Coaching

I have seen a fair amount of discussion on the merits of individual long term training vs. team long term training.  I will submit a later entry to compare short term vs. long term training.  My question is:  Why do any of these things have to be mutually exclusive?

 

All I want to do here is share some approaches I or associates have used in the past with my young athletes:

 

Whole team long term training:

 

The positives: There is a long term relationship where the team can get used to a certain approach.  You get to interact with the kids possibly throughout the critical athletic development years.  Additionally, kids get to train with each other, and build team camaraderie.  This approach can make training more affordable, and possibly result in more revenue.

 

The negatives (dependent on number of coaches and approach):  Less one-one attention and some movement difficulties can fall through the cracks.  There is less flexibility of routine and adjustment to routine when training a whole team (though the long term part of it helps to ease that a little).

 

Individual long term training:

 

Positives: There is a long term relationship where the coach can closely monitor the student.  Movement difficulties can be more easily addressed.  There is total freedom in adjusting to what makes this particular child “tick”.

 

(more…)

Flexibility Training for Young Athletes

 

 

Chris Blake gives answer some common questions about flexibility training for young athletes

 

What is the difference between Flexibility and Mobility?
Flexibility can have two definitions:

1.) The ability of muscle to lengthen during passive movements.

2.) Range of motion about a joint and surrounding musculature during passive movements.

 

Mobility can also have two ways of being defined. The main definition is the state of being in motion. But this state of motion can be looked at within certain joints (subtalar mobility) or as a physical whole (moving from one position into the next during a run).

 

Are both important to young athletes or is one more important than the other?
This is a great question. Both are important for the older athlete (ages 14-18+) as athletes within this age group tend to show more restrictions with both flexibility and mobility, often times once you take care of the flexibility then you improve mobility. But with the younger athlete (ages 13 and under) I wouldn’t place much importance on either one unless there has been a certain injury that limits each.

 

Are there different kinds of Flexibility, or is ‘bending over to touch my toes and stretch my hammy’ what all young athletes should be doing?
There are seven different ways of going about flexibility:

 

(more…)

Training Teaching And Coaching Young Athletes

 


 

Coaching Young Athletes

Do you Teach or Train and deliver great coaching young athletes?

 

If you are like most coaches and trainers I am familiar with, you likely ‘train’ your athletes as a means to elicit biomotor improvement.

 

You work on various forms of sprints and jumping in order to develop ‘blazing speed’.

 

You lift weights or perform bodyweight exercises to increase ‘mammoth strength’.

 

You set out cones and have your young athletes practice elaborate movement drills as a way of improving their ‘stealth-like agility’.

 

These types of exercises in themselves are not problematic or bad per say…

 

But they are only quasi-beneficial and extremely narrow-scoped if you aren’t looking to teach your young athletes the skills they need to perform these drills and set them up to improve on the next level.

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You’re Destroying Young Athletes

Young Athletes Programming

One of my favorite things to do is chat with the ‘big name’ trainers in our industry about programming, speed training, strength development or flexibility for young athletes.

 

Sometimes, in the middle of a casual conversation about nothing at all related to conditioning, I will switch gears in an instant and turn the discussion to something related to training.

 

And that’s just what I did with superstar trainer, Alwyn Cosgrove this past weekend.

 

Alwyn and I are good friends, so it’s not really unusual for us to be chatting about sports or family late in the afternoon on Saturday.

 

“Ya, baseball doesn’t really do it for me – after all, I’m  Scottish!” Alwyn was telling me.

 

“Uh huh” I replied, not really listening… I was planning my big move.

 

“It’s kinda like Cricket I guess, except for a smaller field, smaller bat, different throwing motion, different scoring system… actually, it’s not really like Cricket at all is it?” Alwyn continued on.

 

“I guess not,” I countered… about ready to evoke my patented conversation-switching technique.

 

“Ya, and besides, Cricket games can go on for like 4,000 years or something like that.  Rugby, now there’s a game. I remember…” Alwyn stopped mid-sentence – I had finally sprung into action.

 

“What’s the biggest mistake trainers are making with young athletes in this industry, Al?” I finally asked.

(more…)

Training Young Athletes: The Biggest Mistake You’re Making

 

 

Training Young Athletes Successfully

I’ll be blunt, brief and to the point with this email.

 

You’re making a big mistake when training young athletes.

 

And it’s the same mistake virtually every single Coach and Trainer makes.

 

It’s got nothing to do with speed, agility, flexibility or strength.

 

It has nothing to do with sets, reps or program design.

 

It’s got to do with assessment and training session length.

 

And I don’t mean the kind of assessment where you take your young
athletes through a specific battery of tests in order to discover any
dysfunctions or asymmetries.

 

I mean the kind of assessment in which you actually pay attention to
how they feel on a certain day.

 

That’s your mistake.

 

You don’t alter your training program on a given day even though on
most days it’s 100% necessary to do so.

 

We think that the quality of a training session is measured in sweat and
effort.

 

Lots of sweat and tons of hard work = good.

 

No sweat and minimal work = bad.

 

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

 

‘John’ came in for his training session with me this past Saturday morning.

 

Exhausted from the night before and preparing for a basketball game later
on that day, he just wasn’t ready for the training session that I had planned
for him.

 

So I scrapped it.

 

Pure and simple.

 

Of course I have an agenda for this young man.

 

Places I need to take him in terms of speed and strength, but I can’t force
him to improve.

 

More over, I have to hang in the balance the fact that my ultimate goal is
to make him a better athlete – which includes limiting any injury potential
he may be facing.

 

Here’s the advice that you simply must heed when training young athletes.

 

And it’s the mistake virtually every Coach and Trainer is making –

 

What you want to do in a training session doesn’t always matter. You have
to be sure that the organism in front of you in prepared to receive it.

 

Words to live by.

 

I will be explaining the key points of this concept at my first annual
International Summit in February of 2009.

 

Until this Friday (December 19) you can gain access to this event through a
very basic and easy payment plan.

 

With the Holidays around the corner, no one wants to shell out big bucks for
something other than presents for their loved one’s.

 

Well, I’ve taken care of that for you with this incredibly easy 3-month
payment plan to assist you with Training Young Athletes.

 

Have a look for yourself by clicking on this very exclusive link –

 


http://www.iyca.org/2009summit

 

 

‘Till next time,

 

Brian

 

 

 

 

Drills for Young Athletes

Drills.

 

Drills for young athletes.

 

How do you create them?

 

Now that’s a question I get asked virtually everyday.

 

Here are three great ones to use with your young
athletes – especially if you work with kids between the
ages of 6 – 12.

 

 

(1) Line Jumps

 

Have your athlete(s) stand directly in front of a line
either painted or taped on the ground.

 

They should be only a few feet away from the line.

 

On your cue, they will jump and try to land with their
toes as close to the line as possible without actually
touching it.

 

The purpose of this drill is not ‘maximum power’ but
rather a fine touch or precise execution of power.

 

Have them walk back to the starting point and repeat.

 

Purpose –

 

:: Kinesthetic Differentiation (coordination)

:: Bodily Control

:: Jump/Land Technique

 

 

(2) Red/Green/Yellow Light

 

With this drill, you can use any action you want such
as lunge walking, hopping, 1-leg jumping or crawling.

 

Have your young athletes move (using one of the actions
listed above) in a straight line across a gym, floor or
field.

 

When you call out ‘Red Light’, they must stop and hold
in place exactly where they are.

 

‘Green Light’ requires them to resume at normal speed.

 

‘Yellow Light’ is a command that asks them to continue
the action, but at a slow pace – as slow as possible
in fact.

 

Purpose –

 

:: Movement Adequacy (coordination)

:: Systemic Strength

:: Reaction (coordination)

 

 

(3) Monkey Tag

 

There are several variations of tag that are absolutely
wonderful for young athletes…. and this is one of them!

 

Have your young athletes start in a ‘catchers’ position
with their hands also on the floor/ground.

 

When they move to avoid being ‘tagged’ they must do
so by crawling/jumping like a monkey.

 

Purpose –

 

:: Hip Flexibility & Strength

:: Spatial Awareness (coordination)

:: Reaction (coordination)

 

 

Three great drills based entirely on fun and what
young athletes in the 6 – 12 year old range need in
terms of athletic development.

 

And here’s the thing…..

 

Within the Level 1 – Youth Fitness Specialist certification,
we show you exactly what those drills look like as well
as many others.

 

In fact, we have our entire audience playing and
participating in tons of drills so that they could get
a feel for them and you could see what they looked like.

 

"How do you create drills for young athletes, Brian?"

 

Easy…..

 

You become certified through the IYCA.

 

Become certified now and get started on a brand new
career that is guaranteed to be both rewarding and
lucrative.

 

Here’s an exclusive link to a deal I’ve put together
for you –

 

http://www.iyca.org/fitspecialist1

 

And this is a perfect time for you.

 

All IYCA Members are invited to the Ryan Lee Boot Camp
in two weeks to enjoy a live IYCA Young Athletes Seminar hosted by
myself and Pat Rigsby for absolutely no charge.

 

Here’s that link again –

 


http://www.iyca.org/fitspecialist1

 

I hope to see you soon!

 

Brian

 

Peaking for Young Athletes?

Peaking for Young Athletes. Should we do it?

 

At a seminar I presented this past weekend in Canada,
I opened my day-long presentation with an introduction
filled with passionate and thought provoking insight into
the Art of Coaching, the need to TEACH and the necessity
we have as an industry to steer the youth conditioning niche
a different direction such as Peaking for Young Athletes – specifically, to stop creating short-term
training programs within which biomotor improvement
(speed, strength, flexibility etc) is at the top of the priority
list and in lieu of developmentally sound sequences and
adequate instructional time.

 

Although largely well received, one attendee asked an
interesting question during this particular portion of the seminar:

 

‘I understand that you think we should teach more and train
less, but then how am I supposed to have my athletes peak
for the big competitions at the end of the year?’

 

Excellent question… and one of the largest concerns in our
industry!

 

Let’s go through this step-by-step:

 

Vernacular-Crazy

 

We have all read textbooks from heralded scholars and
have learned to pontificate words such as ‘peak’ and ‘periodization’.
The problem is that we have become comfortable with their
theories and have forgotten that their application is next to impossible.

 

Peaking for Young Athletes for a competition is an in-depth and systematic
process that is too involved for this article. It requires a constant
and dynamic approach to programming and necessitates that the
trainer or coach looking for this ‘peak’ have an innate understanding
of all the physiological processes that go into such an engrossed practice.

 

More over, it requires the trainer or coach to have control
over these physiological considerations – and that is simply
not possible in today’s youth sports society.

 

For instance, proper ‘peaking’ is based on nutrition, sleep,
emotional/mental stress IN ADDITION to proper training
application.

 

Not only can we not control these factors in young athletes,
most trainers and coaches who preach about such methodologies
don’t even consider the aforementioned extraneous factors
in there ‘peaking’ procedures.

 

The coach who posed this question (who for the record was
intelligent, energetic and clearly passionate) mentioned that in
an effort to ‘peak’, he would add and take away exercise stimulus
from his athletes’ training programs during the course of a season
in accordance with standard ‘peaking’ protocol.

 

Again, the problem is that multiple interactive concerns associated
with over stress (and therefore Cortisol secretion – which is
terribly catabolic and renders an organism virtually unable to get
any stronger or faster) and over training are issues that must be
factored into any training procedure that is focused on:

Peaking for Young Athletes Case Study. 

A young athlete wakes up at the crack of dawn and heads to school…

 

They sit in class all day and consume next to nothing in the way of food…

 

After school they have soccer practice for 75 minutes…

 

They come to your training session and workout for 60 minute –
because they are trying to ‘peak’ for the final track meet of the
season…

 

They come home, and eat a nutritionally devoid dinner…

 

They spend 2 – 4 hours on homework…

 

Watch 1 – 2 hours of TV…

 

They are in bed by midnight, having to wake up at 6am the
next morning to start it all over again.

 

Just think about common sense for a second… is this the kind
of organism that can be physically manipulated to ‘peak’ at
the right time???

 

Concepts such as Peaking for Young Athletes and periodization were designed for
elite level athletes who enjoyed little to know extraneous stress
outside of their sports and were often pharmaceutically
enhanced (use your imagination!).

 

These theories were never intended to be used on children
and average everyday adolescent kids.

 

The sooner we realize that our role as trainers and coaches
should be focused on enhancing self-efficacy, decreasing injury
potential and providing just enough of the right kind of stimulus
to aid in the body’s natural developmental processes, the better
off we are going to be.

 

Put down the big words and high-end theories…

 

… Think common sense. 

120 Young Athletes… 45 Minutes

 

Young Athletes Can be Coached In Big Groups

Now this is the kind of situation that baffles many coaches and
trainers.
 

But for good reason.
 

What do you do when your job is to effectively train 120 young
athletes, are only given 45 minutes and have nothing but an open
gym space?

 

It’s actually quite simple.
 

Here’s the rundown step-by-step:
 

1. Assess Your Athletes
 

Your assessment is not based on any sort of biomotor testing or
functional movement. It can’t be.
 

I was given very little warning about this contract and simply
don’t have the time or ability to perform any type of real
evaluation.
 

The assessment I’m referring to is based on knowledge
gathering in order to ascertain the ‘likelihoods’ of the
situation.
 

What many of the ‘assessment crazy’ professionals in our industry
don’t seem to understand about working with young athletes
is that you can evaluate and program for what I call the
‘likely’s’
 

120 young football players aged 15 – 17. It is likely that:
 

 

a. They are used to pounding weight in the gym so don’t have
much in the way of solid form with respect to lift mechanics.
 

b. Due to growth and other extraneous factors, they are tight
through the hip complex and weak in the posterior chain.
 

c. They don’t typical work on mobility, active flexibility or
concentrated torso strength.
 

d. Their movement mechanics have probably never even been
addressed.
 

 

In the absence of being able to truly assess, my ability to
program for these kids is based on the ‘likely factors’ of what
I know to be true.
 

 

2. Space versus Time
 

My objective here is simple.
 

Create a program that focuses on the following system –
 

 

a. Teach Effectively
 

b. Monitor Adherence
 

c. Keep the young athletes Moving
 

 

If I can’t teach proper execution, I may as well pack up and go
home.
 

If I can’t monitor to make sure execution is correct, I am doing
more harm than good.
 

If I don’t keep these kids moving, engaged and thinking relative
to the space I have them in, I should just let them have at it in
the weight room on there own.
 

The key is to factor all of these unique issues into your
program.
 

Creating effective training programs has as much to do
with intangible aspects of session flow as it does with the
exercise selection itself.
 

Here’s what I came up with given the above scenarios.
 

It’s a three tiered program that alters focus as the session
moves on –
 

 

SECTION ONE
 

Hip Circuits (hip complex)
Bridges (glute activation)
Elbows/Up (torso activation)
 

 

SECTION TWO
 

Hip/Hamstring Deep Stretch (hip mobility)
Lateral Squats (adductor mobility)
Split Squats (posterior chain activation + hip complex)
Ankle Mobility
 

 

SECTION THREE
 

Deceleration Technique (movement aptitude)
Bear Crawl (system strength)
Crab Walk (systemic strength)
 

 

120 young athletes.

 

45 minutes.
 

No equipment.
 

No evaluation.
 

No problem.
 

I’ll be hitting you with some video of these young athletes training sessions
later this week so you can see what it all looks like.
 

 

‘Till next time,
 

 

Brian