Posted on: July 9th, 2018 by Natalie Dymkowski No Comments
Physio Ball Exercises – The physio ball is an extremely versatile piece of equipment that is used for a multitude of purposes across a broad range of professional fields. It is commonly referred to by a host of different names which is fitting given its wide range of usage. You may know the physio ball as an exercise ball, swiss ball, balance ball, or therapy ball, among many other names depending on its intended use. Within the strength and conditioning field alone, physio ball exercises can be used for a wide range of purposes. The versatility and practicality of a physio ball, paired with its relative affordability for large quantities, makes it a staple in many weight rooms.
Purpose and Practical Uses:
For S&C practitioners, physio ball exercises are most commonly used for improving stability, balance, coordination and even strength training. Due to the fact that it is a ball, and thus an extremely unstable surface, it is not an ideal piece of equipment for improving general strength and power for an athlete. However, the physio ball can still be used for strength training by focusing on the core and its associated muscles, as well as improving posterior chain and inner thigh strength.
Athletes undergoing rehab assignments often benefit from using a physio ball, as the unstable surface helps activate deep or weakened musculature from injury or infrequent use. It is also used as a prehab or injury prevention tool when placed into a training program. The physio ball relies on the athlete to activate specific musculature used for balance and stabilization and therefore, can be used for pre-activity activation as well. Common musculature that can be activated via stabilization are the transverse abdominis, multifidi group and the hip rotators.
General Physio Ball Exercises to Perform:
Core exercises: rollouts, circles, alphabet, numbers, knee tucks, pike-ups, V-ups, back extensions, oblique crunches, oblique iso-holds, P-Ball exchanges (hands to feet) and prone marches
Upper-body Physio Ball Exercises: Upper back work (I,Y,Ts) (thumbs up raise for mid trap, pinkies up raise for rhomboids), partner movement stabilization high plank, and wall slide shoulder activation
Modifications for usage:
The physio ball may be used in conjunction with other equipment (i.e. dumbbells), however, just because it is possible does not necessarily mean it is always appropriate. Whenever using another piece of equipment with the physio ball, be very cautious of problems that may occur because of its unstable surface. The physio ball is not recommended for use to gain absolute strength or power, however, it can be used as a means to sub-maximally resistance train.
A great modification for usage is to teach certain exercises such as a squat. When the physio ball is against the wall it allows for a beginner, or someone who needs no added resistance, to achieve appropriate depth while still being supported by the ball.
As previously mentioned, the physio ball is not the ideal tool to build absolute strength and power for athletes, so basing your entire program around it is not recommended if those are your goals. However, physio ball exercises can serve a great purpose and are an excellent supplement to most workout programs. Based on their low cost, a physio ball is also a great way to add programming options on a limited budget. They also give coaches the opportunity to develop young athletes without traditional weights.
The most practical usage of the physio ball will typically be late in the workout after any explosive lifts or multi-joint strength/power exercises are completed. Physio ball exercises are typically reserved for accessory work, placed within super-sets or monster-sets, and are great for any type of circuit training. The majority of the exercises utilizing the ball will be bodyweight, and experienced athletes can do higher-rep schemes to reach volitional failure. Depending upon training age and caliber of athlete, the physio ball may be purposefully used earlier in a workout to fulfill needs that benefit proprioceptive qualities.
As with any piece of equipment, the sky is the limit in terms of usage. Be creative and imaginative with its use, but always make sure to have a valid reason behind anything you do with an athlete.
Joe Powell is an Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach at Utah State University. He formerly held a similar position at Central Michigan University where he also taught classes in the Department of Health and Human Performance. Joe is a regular contributor to the IYCA Insiders program and has been a huge part of bringing the Behind the Science series to the IYCA. He is also the author of the IYCA Guide to Manual Resistance Strength Training. Get more of Joe’s contributions in the IYCA Insiders membership.
Posted on: June 20th, 2018 by Natalie Dymkowski No Comments
Multiple-sport athletes in the high school setting are extremely common. However, coaches may find it hard to create a training program that can cater to the various requirements each sport demands.
As strength and conditioning professionals, our job is to create a comprehensive training program for these athletes. The goal is to build their baseline of training, make them fundamentally sound and progress their movement throughout their program. Multi-sport athletes should be able to learn their weaknesses, balance them out structurally and exercise different degrees of motion to become a better overall athlete. These concepts are key when creating a program that will increase performance but also decrease the likelihood of injury.
As you get started with a new, multi-sport athlete, ask these questions:
What have you done to train in the past? What sports do you play? Have you ever worked with another strength and conditioning professional/had any formal training outside of your sport?
No matter the age of the athlete, it is important to consider the training age of the individual that you are working with to help you gauge the intensity of the program. More often than not, the high school athlete has limited resistance training experience, speed and acceleration work or conditioning anywhere outside of their school sport coach.
Asking what sports they play can help you understand the demands that are being placed on them and the types of movement preparation or accessory exercises you may want to incorporate into their training program.
What injuries or structural issues have you had in the past?
Many athletes have experienced some sort of pain or injury throughout their young career and need help regaining strength or motion, so it is important to create programs that will aid in resilience. Having a complete knowledge of their injury history allows you to prepare for specific imbalances or overcompensations that we can help fix.
What are some things you would like to improve?
Try to have the athlete get specific. Drill down by asking follow-up questions like “Are their plays you feel like you can’t make that you’d like to be able to next season?” Depending on their goals, they may want to focus on gaining greater performance in specific areas and you must create a program that can cater to those needs.
If they’ve trained in the past, what kinds of training have they enjoyed/hated in the past?
Incorporating their interests is a great way to engage and empower an athlete. If they have had no formal training, ask what types of things they enjoy doing in their sports practices or have a list of ideas ready to discuss with them to gain a better idea of what they like.
How often can they train with you each week? What is their practice schedule?
This will help you know how long you will be training with them, what your program goals can be and how to program around the demands of their practice schedule. Athletes often forget how much they’re doing outside of training and don’t understand how it all affects their results. As a professional, you’ll have to explain this to them and help them balance all of their competing demands.
Before starting any training program, you’ll want to have an assessment session to help you parse out any glaring concerns. You can not build a program for an individual before you have watched them move and observed their limitations. This can be a formal assessment or simply an observation during a dynamic warm-up. Here are some things you can do to see how the individual moves:
Take them through a basic dynamic warm up:
High Knees, Butt Kickers ,High Knee Hugs, Pendulums, Quad Stretch and Reach, Runners, Lateral Lunge and Pivot, Figure 4 + Air Squat, Carioca, Skips, Backward Run, Side Shuffle, 2 10 yard sprints
Watching an individual move through a dynamic warm-up can help you spot imbalances or movement deficiencies immediately.
Squat Assessment: Air Squat, PVC Front Squat, Back Squat, Overhead Squat
Press Assessment: PVC Overhead Press
Lunges: Lunge in place, forward lunge, backward lunge, side lunge
Mobility/Flexibility: Ankles, Hamstrings, Hip Flexors, Back, Shoulders
These are just a few exercises that can be used to spot imbalances/deficiencies before you start a training program. Understanding their needs and limitations will help you create a program that will build a better athlete.
Once you have all of the things you need to know about your athlete, you can start programming. Considering that the individual has most likely never trained outside of their sport, we need to build up their base of strength, mobility, stability, speed, change of direction and conditioning. Because you’ll probably have very limited time with a multi-sport athlete, keeping introductory programming simple and straightforward is the most effective way to make progress. If you plan on working with this athlete throughout the year, you’ll want to keep the volume relatively low so they can make progress without creating unnecessary fatigue.
The goal should be to elicit a training response without compromising their performance. This can be tricky, so you’ll want to have an open line of communication regarding their competition and practice schedule. Working them extremely hard right before an important competition can ruin their performance and possibly set them up for injury. Instead, you’ll want to time the training sessions in a way that doesn’t overly interfere with important events. For example, if games are played on Tuesday and Friday, training sessions would probably take place on Wednesday and Saturday so there is ample time to recover before the next competition. Not only will this help the athlete, it will keep you in good graces with the sport coach.
It’s especially important to balance the fatigue of areas that are used heavily in a sport. For example, you don’t want to use high-volume lower body training on an in-season track or soccer athlete who is running every day. Similarly, you don’t want to get a baseball pitcher’s upper body sore/fatigued when they have to throw a lot the next day.
Dynamic Warm up: Get their blood flowing. Whether or not they are currently in season for a specific sport will change the way you approach the dynamic warm up. You can make it extremely basic or add elements that relate specifically to the sport they are currently playing.
Movement Prep: Use belly breathing, flow progressions and stretch variations that move through a range of motion focusing on structural imbalances, glute activation and activation of specific muscle groups desired. Pick specific exercises that the individual can work on to increase their range of motion in troubled areas. Your assessment will reveal these areas and allow you to pick the most important exercises for each athlete. There are a million exercises to choose from, but you need to be extremely efficient with multi-sport athletes because they don’t have a lot of extra time and energy for training. Address the “big rocks” first by picking the exercises that are most important.
Speed/Change of Direction: Footwork of any sort is always beneficial. Incorporating reaction drills, line drills and change of direction/acceleration drills can help prime the nervous system for training. Communicate with the athlete and/or coach to ensure you’re not doubling up on drills that may be done during practice. For example, a soccer coach may do a bunch of sprint work in practice. If that “box is checked,” don’t spend as much time on linear speed work. Instead, you may want to include more agility or reactionary work.
Resistance Training Elements: Hinge, squat, push, pull and core are simple highlights of a training program that can be done easily and efficiently. You can use dumbbells, medicine balls, kettlebells and resistance bands to build up strength before loading an athlete with a barbell. Examples include:
Hinge: Power Exercises, Kettlebell Swings, Trap Bar Deadlift
Squat: Squats, Lunges, Single Leg Variations
Push: Overhead Presses, Bench
Pull: Row, Pulls, DL
Core: Pick exercises such as anti-rotational, core Stability, anti-extension core work.
Assistance Exercises: Include any-sport specific exercises each season that you would like to work on or movement correctives that you see fit for the individual. Fixing imbalances and utilizing smaller muscle groups can help achieve correct functional movement.
The goal of resistance training for multi-sport athletes is to focus on building up the overall strength/athleticism, not building up a sport-specific athlete. Focus on joint stability and mobility through different exercises without creating unnecessary fatigue. You’ll want to stick with moderately heavy weight, but not take sets to failure very often. An example would be using 80-85% of a 1RM for just 3-4 reps. Not all exercises need to be done with heavy weight, but using a relatively high intensity with low rep ranges allows the athlete to maintain or improve strength without creating excessive fatigue. Higher-rep lower body training, for example, can cause excess fatigue that may be great in the off-season, but can over-tax an athlete during a season.
Simple plyometric exercises: Hops, bounds, skips, pogo jumps, jump to stick, squat jumps, single leg variations, vertical jumps, medicine ball throws and tosses.
Conditioning (if necessary and time allowing): Depending on the time you have with your athlete in a training session, conditioning may or may not be a priority. Challenging your athlete with various types of conditioning that they have not been exposed to is a way to train them differently, build up their work capacity and can be a great finish to a training session.
Mixing up the Training Stimulus
Try to stay away from solely using barbells and dumbbells for every exercise. For example, instead of a walking lunge using a kettlebell in a goblet carry or various carry, try a medicine ball held to the chest, or in a different position, or using a weighted vest. Changing it up can also be beneficial when working with younger athletes because it keeps them interested and focused on the task when it’s something they haven’t done before. The body doesn’t care if it’s a 15 lb medicine ball vs a 15 lb weight vest, but this can keep an athlete engaged in the training because it’s interesting.
Key Notes When Training the Multi-Sport Youth Athlete
• Build up the athlete as a whole from the bottom up, build a sound-moving body, not necessarily a better football, softball, baseball, soccer player.
• Find movement or muscular imbalances that you can fix that will help them perform better in all of their sports
• Mix it up often, using various training stimuli to better train the overall movement
• Teach them to move through a full range of motion and slow things down to emphasize proper musculature firing and technique.
• Proper core stability and firing, joint stability and strength are important when it comes to injury reduction and should be highlighted in every program
• Teach healthy recovery protocols early on
• Create enough stress to stimulate adaptation without inducing unnecessary fatigue
Allowing athletes to play multiple sports is a great way to prevent overuse injuries, but training them to become better all-around athletes can be the best way to produce long-term health and success.
Jordan Tingman – CSCS*, USAW L1, ACE CPT, CFL1 is a graduate of Washington State University with a B.S. in Sports Science with a Minor in Strength and Conditioning. She completed internships with the strength & conditioning programs at both Washington State University and Ohio State University, and is currently a Graduate Assistant S & C Coach at Eastern Washington University.
The IYCA’s Principles of Athletic Strength & Conditioning textbook covers how to train the multi-sport athlete in great depth as well as many other topics related to developing athletes. The PASC book includes contributions from 17 top professionals including college, high school and professional-level coaches. Click on the image below to learn more: