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Archive for “Sports Performance” Category

Single Leg Squat Variations – Jordan Tingman

Single Leg SquatUnilateral exercises, or single-leg squat variations, are beneficial for a variety of reasons including that they require stability, they have the potential to eliminate imbalances, and they can help create awareness of weaknesses. The single-leg squat has been utilized commonly in knee rehabilitation settings such as with individuals experiencing patellar tendinitis or going through a return-to-play protocol with knee surgeries. Considering the stress that sport has upon the knees themselves, implementing exercises that stress the knee joint is imperative when preparing the body for these demands. The single-leg squat is a great way to strengthen not only the larger muscles of the leg but also all of the stabilizing muscles of the hips due to the nature of the unilateral exercise.

Though there are many benefits of the single-leg squat, they can be fairly difficult exercises to perform. Here are some ways to progress and strengthen the single-leg squat movement pattern:

Important things to note:
Some of the variations in the video emphasize the eccentric portion of the single-leg squat.  At first, many athletes struggle to perform the concentric portion of these exercises, so performing the lowering portion will help build the strength necessary to eventually control the full range of motion.  Focusing on the eccentric portion of the exercise is beneficial not only to strengthening the muscle fibers but it creates tension on the tendon structure of the knee joint itself. Challenge the eccentric portion with time under tension spending around 3-5 seconds on the descent during the exercise vs focusing on the concentric portion.  Athletes will still reap the benefits of utilizing the variation and will eventually increase their strength to a great enough degree to perform full range of motion repetitions.

If utilizing a longer eccentric time, perform around 4-8 repetitions on each leg for 3-4 sets.

If focusing on a normal tempo, utilizing higher repetitions (8-10) may be more appropriate. Determining the repetition ranges will depend on the athlete’s ability or what phase of training they are in.

You can also perform the single-leg squat variation in multiple planes using a variation of the Y-balance test:

Performing these movements can be done utilizing sliders or standing on a single leg and tapping the toe to each of the same positions. You can challenge this position by having the balancing leg on a foam pad to add more of an ankle stability component.

Since the Y-balance test holds validity in assessing an athlete’s limb-to-limb symmetry, adding these movements into a warm-up may also prepare the body for all the different planes associated with many sports.

Utilize these single-leg squat variations in conjunction with other exercises, including bi-lateral squats, to create well-rounded programming that addresses many needs.
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, as well as a Graduate Assistantship in S & C at Eastern Washington University.  Jordan is a competitive Olympic weightlifter and is currently training athletes of all ages near her home in Seattle, WA.

 

 

The IYCA High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist is the only certification created specifically for coaches training high school athletes, and it has recently been updated!.  The course includes several hours of video instruction (including a complete Olympic lifting instructor course) and two textbooks with contributions from some of the top strength and conditioning coaches in America.  Click on the image below to learn more about how to become a certified high school strength & conditioning coach.

The Basis of All Training Programs – Joe Powell

When the human body receives a stimulus, it adapts to it in preparation to receive that stimulus again. The next time, you make that stimulus slightly stronger to continue the adaptation process. That’s progressive overload!Dumbbells

While it’s way more complicated that that, this process should be top-of-mind when choosing ANY exercise and implementing ANY strength program.  Of course, there are thousands of ways to implement progressive overload – periodized programs, linear progression, multiple-set schemes, HIT training, etc. – but the principle of progressive overload should be taught to every athlete so they understand how small improvements made over time will produce great results.

Listen briefly to what Michigan State Strength & Conditioning Coach, Joe Powell, has to say about the importance of making this a priority.

 

To learn more about progressive overload from 20 of the top coaches in the profession, check out the IYCA book Principles of Athletic Strength & Conditioning.  Chapter 5 by Arizona Cardinals Strength & Conditioning Coach, Mark Naylor, explores this topic in great depth and goes into detail on how to most effectively use this principle in training programs.

Politics and Athletic Development? – Jim Kielbaso

This election season has really gotten me to think about things in a way that relates to athletic development and the business of strength & conditioning. Now, before you get upset thinking I’m gonna talk about politics, I’m not!  Instead, I’ve noticed that the way we consume politics is very similar to the way we consume information about strength and conditioning, and it’s probably not the best way for us to make decisions.

In my opinion, one of the most important traits we can have is the ability to keep an open mind, research facts, and not get swept up in feelings, half-truths, and people saying whatever they feel like.

I’m talking about strength and conditioning right now, not politics!

I’m talking about understanding complex training concepts and knowing the facts.  But, the only way you’re going to know the facts is by digging deep and finding out what actually works, not what people SAY works or what you FEEL works.

A lot of people make programming decisions based on things like “well, so and so said this” or “I’m doing this program because this other coach or sports figure does it” or “I really think this looks cool.”  I also hear A LOT of people say things like “in my experience….” Well, experience certainly matters, but if you haven’t been in coaching for years, trusting your limited experience could be a mistake. You may want to count on the experiences of people who have been doing it for 20, 30, 40 years.

And, saying you read something doesn’t automatically make it a fact. If you read it in a magazine, on a blog, or on Twitter, that is NOT the same as reading it in a scientific journal, taking a course, or learning from a coach who has been in the trenches for 20 years. These are big differences and the election cycle kind of got me thinking about this because I’m noticing a lot of people also making both their political AND training decisions based on small bits of information without getting more details.

We see something on Instagram from someone with a bunch of followers, and we instantly think it must be the truth instead of digging deeper, doing our own research and getting the whole story.  So, whether it’s politics or strength & conditioning, it’s important to get the whole story before you make a decision.

I think we need to think about foundational concepts and ignore too much hype or what “everybody else is doing.” We don’t need to pick sides and follow people blindly based on who your friends like.  Do you really decide who to vote for by seeing signs on the road? Or do you make up your mind based on facts and digging in and actually learning about what’s going on?

Are you able to sift through the garbage on the internet? In both cases, politics and strength and conditioning, we are on absolute overload with garbage.  In politics, they call it fake news.  In S & C, it’s called bro-science.  There’s too much out there and it’s hard to sift through it all. How can we sift through it all? We can’t. It’s impossible. But you can’t check social media and call that education. It’s not. It’s just social media where there are no fact-checkers, and there’s just too much out there to keep track of everything.

It has really become a challenge for many professionals to dive deep into a topic because we’ve gotten so used to short blips of information. Many coaches make training decisions based on a YouTube video or Instagram post. If you see something on social media, that should prompt you to dig deeper into what you’re doing, what you’re thinking about, and how you’re making your decisions. It shouldn’t be your only source of information.

Unfortunately, I don’t really have a perfect way of telling you to sift through the garbage other than explaining what I do. First, I find lots of different sources of information. Of course, I use social media, but I also go to scientific journals, I take courses, I have multiple degrees, I read lots of books, I attend conferences, and I go to people who have many years of experience in the industry who put out quality information and who are in the trenches daily.  These people have been doing it for years, documenting the results, analyzing their experiences and their programs, and then making decisions based on those analytics.

I try hard to determine what the actual training effect is going to be from any exercise or stimulus.  You need at least a basic background in anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology to understand how the body might adapt to a particular stimulus, but this is very, very important.  You also need to have an understanding of HOW MUCH of a stimulus is necessary in order to elicit an adaptation.  We also know that our nervous system can learn new skills, but if we don’t know a little about motor learning, we may not understand exactly how to get the nervous system to learn quicker.

Yes, you actually need to understand the processes involved in adaptation. Otherwise, you’ll watch a cool looking exercise on Instagram and decide to use it just because it’s new.  New might look cool, but it is not always good or useful.  There may be a reason that no one has ever seen this exercise.  Maybe it’s fluff.

Along with the effectiveness of a training stimulus, you have to weigh the risk vs. benefit to help determine whether it’s the right choice to include in a program.  For example, when I see kids standing on stability balls or doing circus tricks, I feel like the training benefit is incredibly small while the risk is fairly high.  Or, I’ll see kids stacking a bunch of plates up on top of boxes to see how high they can jump.  Again, the training benefit of jumping onto a box is no greater than jumping in the air as high as you can and landing on the ground, but the risk is MUCH greater.  So, I personally don’t feel like the risk outweighs the benefit.

I will also try to determine if something is economical.  Basically, is this new exercise or training method worth the time an athlete will have to put into it?  Does it give you a good “bang for the buck” or is the potential benefit so small that it’s basically wasting time.  And, every time you choose to do an exercise, you are simultaneously deciding to NOT do every other exercise in the world.  So, it better be worthwhile.

Finally, I have to decide if a particular method is right for every athlete or just for certain athletes.

I like to find multiple people or sources to discuss training so I can understand several angles. I try to take in as much as I can and keep an open mind while I’m doing it.

It is okay to change your mind. It’s certainly good to question the validity of new things, but it’s also OK to learn something new and admit that you’re either wrong or didn’t know something.  Mike Boyle is one of the most respected coaches in the profession, and he has changed his mind many times.  In politics, it would be called a flip-flop.  In training, it’s called learning and evolving….which is good!

So, I hope you can see that this wasn’t supposed to be political at all, but the way we consume politics has many parallels to the way we have been consuming training information.  I think it’s time to take a step back, slow down, and dig deeper into topics.  We should have a thorough understanding of training methods before we use them with athletes.  If we don’t, we are walking blindly through the forest, hoping to find a path home.

And, I think we can all agree that we can be better than anything happening in politics.

 

Jim Kielbaso is the President of the IYCA and owner of Impact Sports Performance in Novi, Michigan.  He has authored multiple books, articles and training products and has spoken at events around the world.  He holds a BS in Exercise Science, an MS in Kinesiology and has gone through multiple certifications through the IYCA, NSCA, NASM and more.  Jim is a former college strength & conditioning coach and has trained thousands of athletes at every level of competition.  He runs a successful NFL Combine training program in Michigan and has been hired as a consultant for major sports programs like the University of Michigan Football Program and the University of Kentucky Basketball Program.

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

Pelvic Tilt Control for Athletes – Jim Kielbaso

Pelvic tilt control is something that frustrates both coaches and athletes, but it is often not addressed very thoroughly.pelvic tilt   Coaches may recognize an exaggerated arch in the lower back, but that’s just one part of the equation.  The ability to control anterior and posterior pelvic tilt is critical to sprinting, squatting, hinging, and a variety of athletic movements.  Many athletes struggle with these movements because they simply don’t know how to create or control pelvic tilt.

For example, when you see an athlete struggle to maintain a flat back during squatting or hinging, they may not be able to control anterior pelvic tilt.  When you see an athlete sprinting with excessive lordosis, it may look like they can’t get their knees up or they have excessive backside mechanics, but this often stems from an inability to control the pelvis and maintain a neutral position.

Coaches often want to assume that these issues stem from strength or mobility issues, so we begin with stretches in an attempt to create better muscular balance.  This is not wrong at all – tight muscles can create all sorts of issues – but flexibility may not be the root problem.  More often than not, I’ve found that athletes simply cannot control or create anterior and posterior pelvic tilt.  They don’t have the proprioception or muscular control necessary to control these motions.  If he/she doesn’t know how to fire their abs, lower back, and glutes properly, they will appear to be “stuck” when asked to perform certain motions.

When this happens, I often use something I call the “Rubber Pants Full of Water” technique to teach athletes what it feels like to control anterior and posterior pelvic tilt.  The following video goes into much greater detail on this technique and others I use to help teach athletes how to control this important motion:

Try the Rubber Pants Full of Water technique or the homework exercise described in the video to get athletes to begin controlling their pelvic tilt.  You will find it much easier to teach common movements, and it will help them develop the ability to control their posture during any kind of movement.

 

Jim Kielbaso is the President of the IYCA and owner of Impact Sports Performance in Novi, Michigan.  He has authored multiple books, articles and training products and has spoken at events around the world.  He holds a BS in Exercise Science, an MS in Kinesiology and has gone through multiple certifications through the IYCA, NSCA, NASM and more.  Jim is a former college strength & conditioning coach and has trained thousands of athletes at every level of competition.  He runs a successful NFL Combine training program in Michigan and has been hired as a consultant for major sports programs like the University of Michigan Football Program and the University of Kentucky Basketball Program.

If you’d like to learn more about developing athletes, the IYCA Certified Athletic Development Specialist is the industry gold-standard for youth fitness and athlete development.  Click on the image below to learn more about the CADS certification program.

 

Top 3 Upper Body Pulling Exercises – Jordan Tingman

Upper body pulling exercises are one of the most neglected movements in poorly designed programs, but they are absolutely vital to creating well-balanced athletes.  It’s also common to see these exercises performed very poorly with very little attention given to correct posture, control, or form.  Because many athletes enjoy pushing exercises so much (like bench press, push-ups, etc.), adequate pulling is necessary to provide balance.  Many coaches adhere to the rule that the volume of pulling should match the volume of pushing, and some like to perform a greater amount of pulling.  While vertical pulls like pull-ups, chin-ups, and pulldowns are all outstanding exercises, this article will focus on horizontal pulls or rows.

Pulling exercises can be done utilizing a variety of equipment, and changing up the implement can often keep training more interesting and engaging.  The rest of this article will focus on three pulling variations that I enjoy including in my programming.

The first variation is fairly common, but a staple in any rowing progression – the prone dumbbell row. This is a great exercise because it allows for the athlete to focus on the important upper body postural components of rowing. Telling the athlete to maintain an upright chest on the bench allows for them to naturally eliminate the use of the upper trap/shoulder. This allows athletes to squeeze the shoulder blades when pulling, which is difficult for many athletes to do when learning how to pull. Ensure your athlete is reaching a full range of motion in these exercises, allowing them to protract and retract the scapulae while rowing. This often needs to be addressed separately with specific scapular retraction reps/exercises in order to help athletes learn how to control this movement.  Cue “elbows back” and rowing “low to the pockets” to again, make sure that they are utilizing the proper musculature.  You can also place your hand between the scapulae and cue the athlete to squeeze your hand with their shoulder blades as they lift the weight.  Many athletes will actually push their shoulders forward as they row, so time must be spent on this.

Pausing at the top of each rep is also difficult for many athletes.  This obviously makes the movement more challenging, so many athletes take the easy road and neglect the pause.  This is particularly true when heavier weights are used.  Pausing at the top allows you to focus on scapular retraction and builds strength at the peak of the contraction.

The second variation I include in my top 3 pulling exercises is the single-arm ring row. This is a challenging exercise, especially with those lacking a lot of core stability or upper body strength. This is a progression of the normal ring or TRX row. Begin by making sure the athlete has adequate core and upper body stability and strength to perform the exercise. You can make this more challenging by inverting it.

The last variation I include is the half kneeling single arm banded row. This can also be done with the athlete being directly under the band, gbut can also be done with the band attached at a higher angle to create a more vertical pull compared to the variation shown. The half-kneeling position challenges posture and core stability in addition to performing the rowing exercise.

Using just dumbbells, bands, and rings allows you to perform these exercises in most settings, and they give you enough variety to keep athletes interested.  I also like using these variations to space out larger groups when super-setting exercises.  For example, you may super-set the banded row with an upper-body pushing exercise or a squat.  You can set up the band away from the other exercise to create space and to keep traffic moving.

Try these three pulling exercises in your programs to help create balanced upper-body strength and use them as part of a progression to more difficult exercises.

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, a Graduate Assistant S & C Coach at Eastern Washington University, and is currently working at D1 Sports Performance in Boise, ID.

 

 

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

Top 3 Core Exercises – Jordan Tingman

Core exercisesContinuing our Top 3 series from Jordan Tingman, these are her Top 3 Core Exercise Variations.

While core exercises are certainly necessary in a comprehensive program, keeping core exercises exciting means trying different variations.  Athletes are always wanting something new or different, but variety has additional benefits beyond keeping athletes engaged.  Because the core is so complex and supports every movement we make, using a variety of exercises creates a greater challenge for the athlete, which will in turn provide greater transfer and gains. 

The first exercises I go over in this video are various Palloff variations. As stated in the video, the Palloff variations are great because they allow for the athlete to maintain an athletic position in the lower body whilst moving the upper body. You can make the Palloff press more complicated by adding in variations including chops and rotations. Feel free to mix these up and make up combinations. You could even cue each repetition. You can say “press,” “chop,” or “rotate,” and the athlete performs each variation according to your cuing, mixing it up and also challenging their mind to respond to the directions.

The next set of exercises are the crawling patterns. Crawling patterns are an excellent challenge because they not only address core posture and stability, but also challenge proprioception and scapular stability. The athlete has to maintain the crawl position with a neutral spine with knees one inch off the ground.  Simply holding this position poses a challenge for many. Have the athlete get comfortable with holding this crawl pattern first before adding in the variations. As explained in this video, you can change the variations with the crawl patterns. You can do leg lifts, shoulder taps, forward, backward, and sideways crawls, bird dog variations and more. 

Finally, the last group of exercises that I go over in the video are the Val Slide variations. These can be performed on a slick surface in socks, or with towels below the feet on a smooth surface.  Get creative with what you can use to perform the exercises if you don’t have Val Slides.  There are many core exercises that can be done utilizing this tool, but the ones included are plank sliders and mountain climbers. Ensure that your athlete can maintain a great plank position before adding in these dynamic movements. 

Enjoy the exercises, and leave comments about different variations you come up with or different ways you utilize each exercise.

Look for more Top 3 lists soon.

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

Training the Hip Flexors for Sprinting Speed – Nick Brattain

The hip flexors are often neglected in training programs, and this article will outline the importance of training them and will give you several exercises to strength the hip flexors.

Sprinting is a movement that requires tremendous coordination throughout the body. Not only do the limbs need to move in perfect rhythm with optimal synchronization of the muscles, there also needs to be smooth transmission of the neurological signals sent throughout the body. hip flexors stretch

Unfortunately, a lot of coaches overlook important aspects of sprinting because they tend to focus on the big blocks of speed training such as technique, strength of the big muscle groups, and mobility through our major joints. 

While all of those things are important,  I want to address the hip flexor group which is one of the most often overlooked aspects of sprinting.  Hip extension has been getting a lot of publicity over the years, but many of us forget to include hip flexion exercises into our training programs.  

Understanding the Hip Flexors

The hip flexor is a muscle group made up of the Iliacus and Iliopsoas, with assistance from the Rectus Femoris and Sartorius muscles. The hip flexor muscle group is responsible for flexing the hip, or, bringing the knee up toward the shoulders. 

As you can imagine, this motion is imperative to movement. Even the act of walking requires this muscle group to lift the thigh with each step. You can also imagine the amount of work this muscle group does during athletic events. Not only lifting the leg repeatedly, but also doing so in a powerful and explosive fashion when the athlete is required to accelerate.  

More than just its ability to lift the leg, the hip flexor group is responsible for the body’s ability to slow the leg down as it passes behind the body after toe-off during a stride. The hip flexors go through a rapid lengthening followed by a rapid shortening as they help bring the leg forward during the swing phase.  

This motion requires a great deal of eccentric strength from the hip flexors in order to control the lengthening of the muscle before the explosive concentric contraction. This muscular quality can be the difference between a fast, efficient athlete and an athlete who will struggle greatly in competitive sport. 

There are multiple factors at play here including: hip orientation during movement, core strength and involvement, and the position of toe off relative to center of gravity. We’ll save these elements for another time in order to focus on how hip flexor strength affects running form and technique.

When you hear coaches talk about running mechanics you often hear them refer to front side and back side mechanics. This simply refers to what is happening to the leg on the front side or back side of the body and is an easy way for coaches to assess and cue athletes to understand their motion. As the leg passes under the body during the stance phase, it alternates from a front side to a back side position. As the leg passes under the body, the foot stays on the ground for a short period of time before it begins to travel upward and behind the hip. This backside position (circled on the photo) is the position I would like to address.

The characteristics and capacity of the hip flexor muscle group have a dramatic affect on what happens in this back side position. They will impact how far back the leg travels, the height of the foot above the ground, the path of swing back to the front side, the time is takes for the leg to travel back to the front side and eventually how high the knee travels upward in the front side before moving back down. 

Here are two examples of athletes, in stride, doing exactly what we are addressing. 

hip flexors weakness in running

As you can see with the athlete on the left, the back leg travels much further backward away from the body as compared to the athlete on the right. Also, you will notice the orientation of the leg compared to the timing of the stride. Both athletes are approaching touchdown within their stride, however, one athlete is still completely extended behind the body while the other athlete is in the mid-swing phase preparing to enter front side swing. This will obviously have an effect on the timing of the movement. For the athlete on the left, with the back leg extended at this point in the stride, she will have very little time to get the leg back into a front side position to prepare for the next stride. 

Now, as mentioned before, there could be a number of factors at play here, so I don’t want to make it seem like hip flexor strengthening will fix everything. 

Assuming the athlete is able to maintain proper posture and orient the hips in a neutral position, the hip flexor can now be evaluated in its effectiveness and control. 

When observing an athlete from the side during upright sprinting you can begin to evaluate the hip flexors capacities in movement. When you observe athletes that have an extended rear leg with a high heel kick (as you see in the athlete on the left), you can begin to assume that they likely have less eccentric strength within their hip flexors. 

As the foot travels backward under the body and into the air, the hip flexor is working to slow the limb in order to re-accelerate it forward. Athletes with good hip flexor strength will be able to move the leg back under the hip much earlier in the stride such as what you see with the athlete on the right.  

The concentric strength of the hip flexor is also very important and has the responsibility of lifting the knee upward prior to the leg driving down to the ground. However, like with the back side heel kick, there are many other factors to take into account. 

Training the Hip Flexors

Knowing the importance of hip flexor strength in running, what can we do about it? I believe one of the most beneficial and specific things we can do with athletes is high-volume form running drills. Whether it be the A series, B series, or C series, there is high demand on the hip flexors. Doing this over extended distances and/or times allows us to create a specific means of strengthening and conditioning the hip flexors. The technical benefits of these drills should not be overlooked, but the impact they have on the hip flexors is often overlooked. 

Other tools that can be used include hanging and supine leg lifts, ankle band resistance exercises, resistance band exercises, or a multi-hip machine if available. These are all very beneficial and should make their way into a training program especially when weak hip flexors are suspected. Incorporating isometric holds and eccentric resistance in the movements is also recommended. 

Here are some additional examples of hip flexion strengthening exercises that can be incorporated into your routines:

 

These are just a few examples of exercises, but how you choose to train the hip flexors will depend on how the rest of your training is implemented and the equipment available  The key is that it is being addressed.  High-volume training is unnecessary, and  you will typically train the hip flexors after your speed work and the main lower-body lifting exercises.  When athletes begin to sprint and train the hip flexors, they often get quite sore, so be sure to start slowly and give them time to recover between sessions while they adapt to the new stimulus.  

Take some time to assess your athletes running mechanics and hip flexor strength, and start to include hip flexion exercises into your programs.  You’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes as you watch your athletes improve both their mechanics and speed. 

 

Nick Brattain is the owner of Brattain Sports Performance in Louisiana. Nick is also the High Performance Coach for Isidore Newman School as well as the Louisiana State Director for the National High School Strength Coaches Association. As a graduate from the University of Indianapolis, Nick was an All-American Sprinter on the track team. Since then Nick has dedicated his career to speed development in athletes of all ages.

 

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

speed & agility certification

 

Top 3 Squat Variations – Jordan Tingman

In this article & video I go over the ways that I personally coach each of the 3 squatting variations I chose. I understand that some of these may be done by other coaches, and while I respect other coaches opinions, this article outlines how I personally like to coach these exercises. 

While most people think about the back squat as their top squatting variation, I’ve taken a slightly different approach in this article.  Please don’t take my list to mean that I don’t love the back squat, but the three exercises I’ve listed are my personal favorites, and all of them give coaches plenty of ways to coach, assess, and progress.  I’ve also decided to choose three different bilateral movements because I wanted to stick with bilateral variations rather than get into all of the unilateral options that can be done.  Of course, I love unilateral squat variations, but I stuck with my Top 3 favorite bilateral options here.

Front Squat

The first exercise in this video is the front squat.  As mentioned in the video, this is a great exercise because you get so much from just one movement. Challenging core strength, posture and position while strengthening the lower body.  The front squat is the first squat variation, other than a goblet variation, that I utilize with my athletes, because it truly develops great movement mechanics and understanding of an upright posture with a barbell while squatting. 

Barbell Box Squat

The second exercise I go over is the barbell box squat. This is an exercise that can be done so many ways, but I cue my athletes to maintain tension in the core and legs throughout the entire exercise. This can be a great progression exercise when dealing with an athlete struggling to reach depth. Have the athlete start at a higher box height as shown in the video, and then progress them downwards by using lower boxes or pads to change the height they are squatting to. Controlling the movement down to the box, pausing slightly above the box maintaining tension, then exploding out is a great way to incorporate speed training into a squat pattern. 

Overhead Squat

The third exercise is an overhead squat.  I understand that this is potentially the most advanced squat variation, and I do not use this very often in my programming, but it is another exercise that you can get a lot out of if done correctly. This challenges posture and position, upper body strength and stability. This can be used as an accessory exercise or in a warm-up if performing movements like the snatch.  It can also be utilized as an assessment as explained in the video. If programming this for your athletes, ensure that they have good quality movement before loading the exercise itself. 

Look for more Top 3 lists soon.  In the meantime, give these a try in your programming.

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

Top 3 Power Exercises – Jordan Tingman

This is the first installment of a short “Top Exercises” series from strength coach Jordan Tingman, where she will break down some of her favorite exercises from different categories.  This is more than just her personal favorites, as she’ll be providing explanations and rationale for the selections and how to best utilize each. 

Power exercises are important in any strength and conditioning program, however the Olympic lifts may not always be the correct or most effective exercises for an athlete. Though the Olympic lifts are near and dear to my heart, over the last year I have started to broaden my programming and exercise selection and focused on utilizing other exercises that may better suit the needs of a team or athlete.

Power exercises are defined as exercises where an athlete exerts maximal force in a short amount of time. Exercises that are commonly associated with power include the Olympic lifts, jumping and throwing. I have included in this video some of the exercises that I have been recently utilizing in programming with my athletes at Eastern Washington University.

Trap Bar Jump

The first variation I chose for my top 3 exercises is the trap bar jump. I have loved utilizing the trap bar because it keeps the weight in the center of mass of the athlete, and can be a great tool for overloading a plyometric movement like a vertical jump. The athlete is forced to apply maximal force in order to jump the trap bar off the ground, but also achieves triple extension. The stick at the end of the jump is a great deceleration exercise and can be an excellent reinforcement for landing. Individuals with valgus collapse of the knees can really benefit from this movement if done currently. 

Split Jerks

The second exercise I chose was the power and split jerk. These are not commonly utilized exercises, however I feel like they challenge athleticism in a great way with power, balance and coordination. Utilizing implements such as the landmine and dumbbells remove a lot of the discomfort and fears associated with barbell split jerks and power jerks. The split position requires both coordination and balance in addition to the power benefits. You can perform this exercise with the dominant leg forward, or you can change it up and have the athlete perform equal reps with each leg forward. 

Lateral Medicine Ball Rotational Throw

The third exercise I selected for my Top 3 was the medicine ball lateral rotational power toss. Med balls are such a great explosive throwing implement because they can be utilized by ANYONE! I love this exercise because it’s such a great combination exercise –  rotational core and rotational hip power in a 2-for-1 type exercise. As mentioned in the video, when performing these exercises for power, make sure your athletes are performing these exercises at MAX effort every rep in order to reap the benefits of maximal force.  

I’ll be bringing you more Top 3 lists soon.  In the meantime, give these a try in your programming.

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

A Deeper Look Into the Squat – Joe Powell

The squat is often considered the most important exercise an athlete can perform in the weight room. It’s frequently performed by world-class athletes, the most novice of lifters, and everyone in between. Strength and conditioning professionals have long relied on the squat, and its variations, as a cornerstone of their programs, but its acceptance has not always been well received outside of S&C circles. It’s not uncommon for strength and conditioning coaches to receive push-back from people trying to vilify exercises in their program, with the squat being the target of the attacks. Whether it be sport coaches, athletic trainers, administrators, parents, or even athletes themselves, the squat is always surrounded by questions and opinions. It has been blamed for unrelated issues it hasn’t caused and even termed “dangerous” for reasons that many don’t know nor care to find out. To learn where all of this came from, it’s important to understand the history of the squat in America and how one particular researcher sparked a debate that continues today.

One would be remiss to discuss the history of squats in America without mentioning the name Henry “Milo” Steinborn. Steinborn is often credited with popularizing the squat in America. Prior to his arrival in 1921, the popular lifts in America were known as “power-type” exercises and consisted of lifts like bent presses, deadlifts, two-arm presses, and curls. After arriving in America, he quickly helped popularize the “speed’ and “quick” lifts that were more commonly performed on European shores. Among these lifts was the squat. Steinborn quickly garnered attention in the public eye by performing heavy lifts that were quite impressive, even by today’s standards. While Steinborn is notable for many reasons, it’s the way in which he performed the squat that will still shock many lifters today. Steinborn performed squat sets, as heavy as 550 pounds for 5 repetitions, without having any supports, wraps and most remarkably, no access to a squat rack. He simply stood the barbell up tall on one end, leaned under it and hoisted it across his shoulders. This style of squatting is aptly known as the “Steinborn Squat”.

While Steinborn helped bring the squat to America in the 1920s, it wasn’t until the 1950s where it became widely performed by weightlifters. Up to that point, the split stance was more commonly used to lift heavier loads. The squat was used, but more as a supplementary lift to help build leg strength. After 1950 the “odd-lifts,” which are now known today as the power-lifts, became vastly popular. Squatting, of course, became one of the main lifts. Lastly, those who performed what we now think of as the Olympic lifts used split stance squatting as their main method of lower body training because the rules dictated that a lifter could not come in contact with the bar during the lift. The rules changed in the early 1960s and thus the squat style of Olympic weightlifting took over as the predominant method as it was easier to perform heavier loads and was much more efficient.

By the early 1960s, the majority of Americans still did not partake in resistance training. The small minority who actually lifted weights were most likely bodybuilders, Olympic weightlifters, and odd-lift/power-lifters. Very few athletes who participated in mainstream sports lifted weights at that time. It was actually feared that it would make them bulky, slower and less competent at their respective sport. Outside of the fear of being a performance decrement, lifting weights and performing the squat specifically was thought to be harmful.

Around that time, K. Karl Klein, a corrective therapist, led the crusade hoping to prove that squats were harmful to the body and led to an increased risk of injury. His rationale being that full depth squats would actually stretch the ligaments of the knee, making them more “lax” and thus more susceptible to significant injury.

While enrolled as a graduate student in 1959, Klein conducted a study that altered the public’s perception of the squat for decades.  Klein’s study featured 128 experienced weightlifters who included full squats as a part of their training regiment, as well as 386 subjects who did not lift weights or perform squats of any sort. Klein’s study utilized a device that was built by Klein himself and was supposed to “objectively” measure the amount of medial or lateral “give” within the knee. The device was designed to brace the lower limb/shin region while the upper portion stabilized the quadriceps giving Klein the ability to manipulate the MCL and LCL manually.

After following up on his thesis, Klein published a series of articles on his research that concluded: “Full squats (where the top of the thigh is below parallel of the floor) damages the knee by stretching the knee ligaments.” His recommendation thus became: “No more than ½ squat should be used. In squatting the thighs should be slightly less than parallel.” His study and recommendation went on to be published in some of the most recognized journals for not only coaches but medical professionals as well. Publications such as Scholastic Coach, Texas Coach, Coach & Athlete, as well as The American Journal of Surgery featured Klein’s study.

Klein’s findings led many groups to deem the squat dangerous and thus unnecessary. Sport coaches saw it as a confirmation that lifting weights, in general, would make their players muscle-bound, and become slower, less flexible, immobile and more susceptible to injury. The medical community deemed it harmful and orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists, in particular, vilified the movement. Even the US military had a negative view of squatting. A letter sent to Klein from the US Marine Corps stated: “Our consultants agree that the type of exercise you condemn should probably be eliminated from physical conditioning programs.” The Army physical fitness test omitted anything that resembled a squat, and until recently, stayed the same for decades. While Klein had convinced many communities that the squat did more harm than good, there was still a strong contingency of professionals that saw Klein’s study as more subjective than objective.

As the years started to pass, new researchers began to conduct studies to determine if Klein’s claims were in fact true. With improved technology and a better anatomical understanding, the results began pouring in that in fact, Klein’s stance on the squat was incorrect. Between the 1960s and through the 1990s, researchers were coming to the agreement that squatting (and deep squats where the femur was below parallel to the floor) did not cause laxity in the knee ligaments and were safe to perform. These findings led to position papers put out by the NSCA and ACSM to help dispel the negative connotations that were set decades prior.

The Position Paper by the NSCA (1993 Chandler & Stone) states: “There is no objective evidence that full squats are harmful to the ligaments of the knee or the patellofemoral joint. When done correctly and under the supervision of a strength and conditioning specialist the full squat is safe and beneficial to athletic endeavors.”

The Position paper of the ACSM states: “In summary, the squat exercise is important to many athletes because of its functionality and similarly to athletic movements. If appropriate guidelines are followed, the squat is a safe exercise for individuals without a previous history of injuries. The squat is a large muscle-mass exercise and has excellent potential for adding lean muscle mass with properly prescribed exercise.”

Negative perception of the squat still exists to this day, and much of that perception can be traced back to a singular study performed by a graduate student in the late 1950s. By providing factual based evidence and understanding where the misconception arose so many years ago, strength and conditioning coaches can better defend the movements, including the squat, that they use in their program. The best way to defend a program is by educating. Continuing to do so will assist in showing others the benefit that a properly performed training program has in the world of athletics.

 

Joe Powell is an Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach for football at Michigan State University.  He held a similar position at Utah State University and has been an advisor to the IYCA for several years.  Before his stint at Utah State, Joe was an Asst. S & C Coach 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 is one of 20 strength coaches who helped create the High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist Certification.   Join IYCA Insiders or get the HSSCS to learn more from Joe.

 

Metabolic Conditioning for Athletes, Part 3 – Phil Hueston

This is the last of a 3-part series on metabolic conditioning for athletes. In Part 1, we discussed what metabolic conditioning is, what energy really is and what it means for the human body and, more specifically, your athletes. I broke down the three principle energy systems in the body and how Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP,) the “secret sauce” of energy for movement and other bodily functions, is used in the body.

In Part 2, we discussed the 3 forms of metabolic conditioning and the reasons to use each of these with your athletes. (We’ll very briefly review these again.)

In this last part of the series, I’ll break down the “how-to’s,” with some detail regarding what activities to include for various sports and how to maximize metabolic conditioning for your multi-sport athletes.

First, let’s quickly review parts 1 and 2. 

In 2011, Bergeron defined metabolic conditioning as “exercises that impose a moderate to high demand on the cardiovascular system and energy metabolism of the active muscle fibers to meet with the muscles’ repeated high energy requirement.” (Current Sports Medicine Reports, 2011) Metabolic conditioning is the improvement of energy storage, delivery and usage through the application of activity to the movement system of the body.

Energy can be neither created nor destroyed, only shifted in form. It’s this shape-shifting quality that allows us to have 3 separate energy systems for activity in the human body. The key to all of it, like any good recipe, is the “secret sauce.” In this case, that’s ATP.

The 3 energy systems we care about are 1.) Phosphagen (ATP-CP) System, 2.) The Glycolytic (Anaerobic) System and 3.) The Aerobic System. To keep them straight, you can think in terms of how long your athlete can “go” and how much force can be produced while going.

The Phosphagen System allows high force production, but short duration of work. Lots of ATP being created and lots being used. Creatine phosphate plays a role here. You get massive force, but only for about 30 seconds, with a 1 to 5 minute rest phase needed to fully recover. There are no fats, carbohydrates or oxygen involved in this process. It’s an anaerobic energy system.

The Glycolytic System gives you more time, but less force production over that time. It involves the breakdown of carbs into pyruvate, then into either lactate (when oxygen isn’t plentiful) or acetyl co-enzyme A (when oxygen is available.) The latter is taken up by mitochondria for the production of ATP. The former is involved in a process which creates issues surrounding the buildup of metabolites and other cellular “trash.” (Technical term there, don’t just throw it around.) This system will give you 30 to 60 seconds of decent effort (maybe several minutes, depending on which studies you read) with a rest time of 1 to 3 minutes to refuel.

The Aerobic System will let you go long, but not hard. (Get your mind out of the gutter!) If you’re going 5 minutes or longer, this is your energy system. Of course, we’re talking about relatively low force production. 

Aerobic energy production involves ATP synthesis within muscle mitochondria and uses blood glucose, glycogen and fats as fuel. A very large amount of ATP is produced, but that production is slow compared to the other processes. Because force output tends to be low, recovery times can be short.

In part 2, we discussed the 3 forms of metabolic conditioning:

  1. Anaerobic-based – Based on muscles and systems, this form prefers ATP-CP as it’s energy source. Beginning in the Phosphagen system, there will be a slight shift into the Glycolytic system as muscle fatigue sets in. Preferential use of this system will lead to a preference for it. This form of conditioning strengthens muscles as well as improves the body’s endurance. It is peripheral in nature, creating conditioning in muscles and systems primarily, with overall endurance as a secondary benefit.
  2. Aerobic-based – This is more central in nature, providing overall work capacity and endurance conditioning for activities of varying speed, intensity and duration. It introduces cardiovascular parameters into the conditioning process, but can also be accomplished by means that are not necessarily “aerobic” in nature.
  3. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) – All energy expended for all activities other than eating, sleeping and exercise or sports. It’s both central and peripheral in nature. It’s also not what we’re concerned with in this discussion.

There are lots of reasons to do metabolic conditioning with your athletes. Among them are increased calorie burn, improved metabolic efficiency and flexibility, improved Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), improved cardiovascular capacity, quicker recovery times, improvements in lean mass, improvements in brain chemistry and cognitive function, and better sport- and context-specific skill development.

While metabolic conditioning has benefits for every athlete, from a program design standpoint, we’re largely going to be focused on what I refer to as “sprint-based” sports. Whenever I get the chance to talk to sports coaches, I like to ask them about their “conditioning.” All too often, their answers make me cringe.  We can do better.  

Even with the massive amount of evidence and information publicly available detailing the shortcomings of long duration activities at improving athletic outcomes in the majority of sports, most coaches are doing it “the way we’ve always done it.” The problem is, the way they’ve always done it has always sucked. We just know better now.

Long runs around fields, huge numbers of “sprints” with little or no rest between, agility ladder or hurdle work with no rest between reps. The list, unfortunately, goes on and on…and on.

What if we look at conditioning for sports from the perspective of metabolic conditioning for sports? In other words, let’s make conditioning look and feel more like the way the sports look and feel. And no, I don’t mean that literally. Your baseball and softball players don’t need to do rope slams with weighted gloves on to get faster hands (I’ve seen that). Your lacrosse players don’t need to carry a telephone pole around the field to “strengthen the shoulders to hold the stick up the entire game” (Yep, I’ve seen that, too). And don’t even get me started on wall sits for hockey players and gassers for football players. Ugh.

Here are the key elements to consider when designing metabolic conditioning programs and sessions for athletes.

  1. Work-to-rest ratios – what does game play look like? How much of the game is spent at full speed? How much rest does the athlete get? Is that rest on the field, waiting for the next thing to happen or on the bench? While work-to-rest ratios need not exactly match those of a given sport, getting them close brings a certain “relatability” for the athletes with whom you’re working. 
  2. Module design – Are you using circuits? Are you using cascading fatigue, wherein you stack 3-4 activities of increasing difficulty one after the other, with an extended rest period at the end? Are you using active rest? Passive rest?
  3. Sports movements – What are the movement variables associated with the sport? Rotation? Direction change? Contact? Does the sport tend to be either lower- or upper-body dominant?
  4. Key injury patterns – What are the most common injuries in the sport? Can you create higher levels of resistance to those injuries with proper metabolic conditioning?
  5. Space and equipment availability – How much room do you have to work with? What kind of equipment is available? Is there enough for all the athletes involved?
  6. Number and skill level of athletes – How many are you working with at one time? Will partner work make your program flow better? What are the athletic levels of your athletes? How variable is it from one to the other?

Let’s look at some simple guidelines for designing metabolic conditioning work for specific sports. The challenge for most of us is that many of our athletes are multi-sport athletes. Because of this, context-specificity is more important than sport-specificity. With context-specific conditioning, we would design for the types of movements most beneficial to the sport, along with a general application of cardio-respiratory, strength endurance and skill development concepts based on the sport or sports being targeted. 

For example, when training football players, a 1:3 or 1:4 work-to-rest ratio makes sense. The average play lasts about 6-10 seconds, with time between the end of one play and the beginning of the next being 25-35 seconds. Since we want maximal power and cardio output during the work phase, shorter is better here. Working for 60 seconds really doesn’t make sense and won’t give us the targeted metabolic conditioning we’re looking for.

10 seconds of all-out work, followed by 30-40 seconds of rest makes sense if we’re trying to match game conditions. Mixing up these ratios to occasionally mimic the “2-minute drill” is appropriate as well.

I prefer explosive and high-output activities. Plyometric jumps, hops and even push-ups are great for this. Try to alternate lower- and upper-body dominant activities from one station to the next. Crawl patterns are practically a must for football players. Medicine ball and Dynamax ball activities are also great for these. Hurdle shuffles, ladder jab steps and even arm shivers on a heavy bag are good, too. Sled sprints and band-resisted activities like shuffles and high knee running in place also fit. Very heavy carries like Farmer or Zercher carries are appropriate, too.

Lacrosse and soccer pose a different challenge. While a lot of coaches will tell you how much their players “run” during a game, it’s not really the case. Starting, stopping, changing directions and actual play on the ball make up a significant portion of time on the field. So does walking and standing still, even if coaches don’t want to admit that. For the record, I’m not suggesting that standing still should be part of your metabolic conditioning program for athletes. 

For lacrosse and soccer, multi-directional movements should compliment explosive and high-output activities. Medicine ball and Dynamax activities, speed and agility work as well as band-resisted activities are great here. Body weight movements like crawl patterns fit here, too, as do sled sprints and heavy carries. For these two sports, I’m a fan of variable work-to-rest ratios. When using explosive activities, I prefer shorter work periods. If agility ladders, hurdles and slightly lower output activities are on the menu, I will typically lengthen the work period to as much as 30-40 seconds. 

My personal preference is to use either high output, shorter work time programs or lower output, longer work time programs during any one session. During a training week for these sports, I will adjust these variables from one session to the next. Movement mastery is important. In my opinion, it takes time for a training effect to “stick,” so bouncing back and forth during a training session doesn’t really make sense to me.

For baseball and softball, including some rotational power development activities makes sense. Rotational Dynamax wall throws and band rotations are good choices to add to the mix.

Basketball and volleyball may warrant some added plyometric work. The caveat here is that you must be aware of the volume of plyometric work being included in regular practices. This is especially true with volleyball, where coaches regularly include (often far too much) plyometric activities in their practices.

Let’s finish off here by building out a metabolic training session for ice hockey players. This can easily be used with field hockey and lacrosse players as well. Ice hockey is an interesting application, since every coach has his/her own view on how long a shift (work time) should be. Most coaches shoot for 45 seconds to a minute, with 1-3 “shifts” in between. 

In theory, every hockey shift is played at full speed and power. In reality, that just ain’t so. As a result, we don’t need to match the exact work time. If we stick to a 1:1 rest-to-work ratio, we’ll get the job done. 

Let’s work with a 45 seconds on, 45 seconds off formula. During the “off” periods, you can choose to have your athletes perform light mobility work or do some SMR. Remember that the goal is to get maximal output during work periods and maximal recovery during rest periods. Most hockey teams have about 20 players (“-ish,”) so we’ll build 5 work stations. Total work time per circuit will be 3:45, with equal rest time. We can get 3 rounds done in about 23 minutes.

Station 1 – Lateral Hurdle Hops (1 hurdle/athlete)

Station 2 – Alternating Single Leg Push-up (regress as needed to match ability levels)

Station 3 – KB Swing (KB Squat to High Pull works well here, too.)

Station 4 – Dead Ball Slam or Alternating Rotational Dynamax Wall Toss (the latter adds an element of positional shifting and setting, since they’ll switch positions each rep. This is great for rotational sports in general.)

Station 5 – Ladder “Icky” Shuffle to Reverse Shuffle (have each athlete use 3 boxes of the ladder and you’ll only need two ladders.)

This is just one simple exercise combination. In the words of the old-time comics, “I got a million of ‘em!” And so do you – you just may not have thought about it like this before.

There’s a reasonable combination of footwork, low level plyometric work, hip drive, strength endurance and rotational power built right into this simple 5-station circuit. Certainly this will work to make any athlete better. But imagine discussing this with a hockey, lacrosse, baseball or softball coach. If you can relate this work to improvements on the ice or field, your buy-in level from that coach will increase significantly. Same for your athlete and his/her parents.

I normally advise my athletes that if they’re really getting tired or just need a drink, they can break for one station if needed. Odd that it almost never happens. But that’s the nature of competitive athletes, isn’t it?

I hope this series has helped open some eyes to the value of metabolic conditioning for athletes. While we normally think of metabolic conditioning in relation to efforts around fat loss or weight loss, the benefits to our athletes can’t be ignored. Like most of my colleagues in the strength & conditioning field, I believe strength is the key to every other athletic skill. But we need to give our athletes every weapon we possibly can. Metabolic conditioning helps provide some of those weapons.

Keep the faith and keep after it!

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

 

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

What We Can Learn About Athlete Development From Elite Athletes – Jim Kielbaso

As our NFL Combine Training program gets started, it is always exciting for me to get to know and help a group of talented, motivated athletes. It’s also a time that makes me examine athlete development in a different way.

Most coaches discuss athlete development in terms of working with young athletes in an effort to help them prepare for the future. With these guys, I get to look at the process backward and evaluate what they may have missed at some point in their development. So, it’s amazing to see these guys in the morning, watch 8-year-olds in the evening, and think about everything that happens in the years between.

Through the years, I’ve seen some interesting trends, and the training we do with the older guys always helps us train younger athletes more effectively because we have a chance to “look into the crystal ball” a little and see what they will need as they get older.

Sometimes you’ll hear coaches say things like “If he had used my methods, he would have been so much better.” I don’t look at it like this at all. So many things go into athlete development, that we don’t know exactly what would have happened if their training was different.

So, without judgment, I simply notice some trends in these guys that help me do a better job with younger athletes in an effort to clear up some issues before they are a problem down the road. While many of these guys will play professional sports, their development isn’t always as pretty as you’d expect.

Four things that I have noticed are:

  • Misunderstanding of strength & size
  • Lack of attention to movement quality
  • Lack of attention to flexibility/mobility
  • Under-appreciation for recovery

What’s interesting about this is the fact that we, as coaches, can help younger athletes avoid these errors before they become a problem. Let me briefly address each area so you understand what I’m thinking:

Misunderstanding of strength & size

Many high school and college-level athletes feel like they either need to get as big and strong as possible or they don’t value it at all. Some of that depends on the sport they play, and some depends on their environment or what their coaches value. We need to help athletes put strength/size into perspective, and teach them that these qualities should be developed as a PART of their overall development. In some cases, it’s a small part, and in other cases, it’s more important. But, concentrating ALL of your effort on lifting weights if usually not what athletes need.

Don’t get me wrong, MANY athletes lack strength, so they need to make this priority.  But, many others simply don’t understand how strength training fits into a comprehensive athlete development program, and it’s our job to teach them.

Lack of attention to movement quality

I’m always surprised at how few elite level athletes have gotten much coaching on the way they move. They often haven’t been taught footwork, running technique, or posture, and it’s incredibly rare to meet an athlete who has been coached on their overall quality of movement.

We spend a ton of time teaching acceleration and sprinting mechanics as we work on the 40-yard dash. In many cases, this is the first time they’ve ever gotten this kind of in-depth instruction.

We also give them feedback on the way they look when they move because scouts want to see fluid athletes who can move through space effortlessly. This is about footwork, posture, and the subjective qualities that make them appear to be more or less athletic. I’m talking about things like taking too many choppy steps, heavy feet, rounded backs, flailing arms, or robotic movements. These qualities need to be taught at an early age so athletes feel more natural moving this way. Trying to teach 23-year-olds how to change this in six weeks is not ideal.

This always makes me realize how important it is for us to teach kids these things when they’re younger, and I hope you do the same.

Lack of attention to flexibility/mobility

College coaches tell me all the time that their athletes come in stiff, and they wish there was more of a focus on flexibility/mobility in high school. Then, I hear high school coaches talk about how tight their kids are, and they wish they would have done something about it earlier.athlete development stretching

I see the same thing when training guys for the NFL – a lot of athletes simply don’t give enough attention to this.

So, we need to recognize this pattern and make sure we spend enough time keeping athletes mobile and supple. That doesn’t mean we need to turn kids into contortionists, but flexibility/mobility should be a part of every program. Whether that comes in the form of quality strength training, movement training, or direct flexibility/mobility work is up to you, but make this a priority before it’s a problem that affects everything they do.

Under-appreciation for recovery

Athletes often think that more is better and they believe that they can handle much higher volumes than they should. They rarely take recovery seriously. Instead, they have poor diets and severely lack sleep. The combination of high-volume training and poor recovery is a recipe for disaster.

Sometimes that disaster is obvious and athletes get sick or hurt. More often, it’s discreet and manifests itself as a lack of progress. Athletes train, train, train, but never get the results they desire because they simply don’t understand that recovery is the key to progress.

Athletes usually think that the stimulus (i.e. training) is where are of the gains take place. They don’t realize that the stimulus is simply a way to get their bodies to adapt and improve during recovery. Without adequate recovery, the stimulus won’t elicit great results.

We need to teach athletes the value of recovery, and how to schedule their training to maximize the results. We also need to teach them that all activity dips into their recovery, so their practice schedule, individual skill lessons, physical education classes, and performance training all need to be considered together not by themselves.

I hear athletes say it all the time – “I’m OK. I can do more.”

Yes, I know you CAN do more, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be helpful. Trust me, I’d rather have an athlete want to do more than one who doesn’t do anything, but motivated athletes just keep doing more until there is a problem. We can teach them the value of appropriate scheduling and how to maximize their recovery.

There are many things that go into athlete development, so I find it fascinating to examine the process from the top down just as much as from the bottom, up. We will always need to give young athletes variety, teach them a love for moving, and give them quality training at the right times throughout their development. Hopefully, understanding these trends will help you create programs that allow athletes to avoid these issues and become the best versions of themselves as they develop.

 

Jim Kielbaso is the President of the IYCA and owner of Impact Sports Performance in Novi, Michigan.  He has authored multiple books, articles and training products and has spoken at events around the world.  He holds a BS in Exercise Science, an MS in Kinesiology and has gone through multiple certifications through the IYCA, NSCA, NASM and more.  Jim is a former college strength & conditioning coach and has trained thousands of athletes at every level of competition.  He runs a successful NFL Combine training program in Michigan and has been hired as a consultant for major sports programs like the University of Michigan Football Program and the University of Kentucky Basketball Program.

 

The IYCA Certified Athletic Development Specialist is the gold-standard certification for anyone working with athletes 6-18 years old.  The course materials were created by some of the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the industry, and the content is indisputably the most comprehensive of any certification related to athletic development.  Learn more about the CADS certification here:

Foot & Ankle Strengthening for Athletes – Jordan Tingman

You may have heard that many injuries and long-term structural issues can arise from issues in the feet.  The feet and ankles are often neglected in training, but we should really be focusing a lot of our attention on the quality of movement coming from the feet. Structurally, the feet and ankle areas are comprised of many bones and ligaments, and if not able to move properly/efficiently, these structures may not function the way they should under stress, which can easily lead to injuries and compensations.

The foot contains 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments.  There are also 7000 nerve endings in each foot that not only feel different sensations, but more importantly, help us balance, move, stabilize, and sequence movement strategies throughout our bodies.  The structure is intricate because the foot has to perform incredibly small and subtle movements in order to shift weight during complex movements, remain rigid yet supple, and respond to a wide variety of stimulation.

Literally every force we deliver or accept from the ground goes through the feet and ankles.  When we jump or run, we usually think of our quads and glutes creating large amounts of force to propel our bodies.  While this is true, all of those forces ultimately have to go through the foot.  So, neglecting this area would be a major oversight.

Many coaches are intimidated by the complexity of the foot and ankle.  Doctors and therapists spend years to learn the intricacies of this area, so how could we possibly know everything about the foot and ankle?

We don’t have to.

While it would be very beneficial to have a deeper understanding of the foot/ankle, the truth is, incorporating any sort of foot and ankle prep into a program will offer benefits to the athlete. You can incorporate simple exercises into a dynamic warm-up before a practice/training session or you can incorporate them throughout a workout!

I’m not suggesting you are intentionally ignorant of the subject, but it’s not necessary to get overwhelmed and decide to do nothing at all.  Instead, gather as much information as you can, and choose some simple exercises that do no hard and can help keep your athletes healthy and functioning properly.  If these exercises cause pain or reveal more complicated issues, definitely refer them to a specialist.

Here are some simple exercises that you can add to the beginning of your workout:

Foot/Ankle Video

When considering all the different planes that the ankle works in, it is nearly impossible to train every single movement or range of motion, but we should try to provide as much variety as possible in order to strengthen them!

Banded Ankle Work

Always consider how you’ll fit these exercises into a complete program.  You probably won’t have time to perform every exercise shown, but don’t let that stop you from including at least one thing aimed at training this important area.

 

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

T-Spine Mobility – Jordan Tingman

Incorporating a small amount of mobility each day will eventually turn into great gains over time.

Mobility can be easily thrown into a complete warm-up, within the workout or at the end of a workout. It is much more important to do a little of something, than doing nothing at all.

The upper back/thoracic spine is made up of a lot of different musculature. The muscles surrounding the thoracic spine tend to tighten up, and often get neglected when working on mobility. When ignoring working on mobilizing these areas, the upper back can get tight, limiting overhead exercises and movements.

When thoracic spine mobility is compromised, athletes will unconsciously compensate by creating excess movement in other joints.  This typically means that the lower back has to create excess movement or stability because the T-spine is not functioning adequately.  It’s not uncommon for low back pain to be the result of issues in the T-spine/scapula, so taking a pro-active approach by spending a little time on this area can pay dividends you may never even know about because the athlete will be healthy.  While we’ll never get credit for it, that should ultimately be the goal of all performance coaches.

t-spine mobility

There are various reasons why we need to work on t-spine mobility:

-Overhead and throwing movements can be limited due to tightness

-Tightness can affect posture in the various squat patterns

-Mobilizing any especially tight areas can lead to injury reduction

To warm up for t-spine mobilization, foam rolling the entire upper body can be very helpful in warming up and stretching the muscle belly.

:30 seconds of each area

  • UPPER BACK-Starting with an upper back roll, crossing the arms in front of the chest
  • LATS-Roll out the lats, by keeping the hand palm up, arm by the ear, rolling all the way from the armpit to the mid rib cage area
  • PEC/SHOULDER- roll out the pec/shoulder area using either a foam roller or even better a lacrosse ball to really dig into the troubled areas
  • T-SPINE PEANUT- utilizing a mobility peanut, roll out the erectors or focus on t-spine extension using the peanut.

There are a variety of exercises that can be used to mobilize the t-spine in extension and rotation. You can use everything from foam rollers and kettlebells to bars and bodyweight exercises.

Here are a variety of exercises that can be used for t-spine extension:

Here are some exercises that can be used for t-spine rotation:

These exercises can also be used as an assessment. When you find an athlete who struggles with these exercises, you can spend additional time with them to address the issue.  If you never perform these exercises, you may never know it’s an issue.

Hopefully, this gives you several options to include in your programming.  It’s not necessary to perform all of these exercises in every session, but inserting them into an overall plan will help you address these issues in a pro-active way.

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