All posts in Strength Training

Power is in the Hips

Posted in: Speed Training, Strength Training

DX3L1 (49 of 73)Do you want your athletes to run faster or jump higher? Then get their hips right. Do you want them to hit farther or kick harder? Then get their hips right! It’s all in the hips. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to dunk or spike, go yard or upper 90, if an athlete wants to get up, they’ve got to get down (load the hips).

Developing the hips in the athletic context is about developing power. If power is the rate of doing work, or for athletes strength times speed, then we are trying to go as fast as we can, as hard as we can. An athlete has to be able to transfer power from the hips. If an athlete can’t transfer power, then they will struggle to deliver their skill.

The glutes are the key part of the hips. The gluteus maximus is the most powerful hip extensor. Too many athletes fail to utilize their posterior. This could be a strength deficiency issue or a technique issue and these deficiencies lead to sub-maximal play and possible injury.

Ensuring athletes understand that their hips need to go back as well as down will help with technique issues. Proper lifting technique is crucial for athletes to understand how to more effectively use their hips on the field or court. Be sure to teach good technique and be cognizant of it while training.

Remember the 4 T’s: Take Time to Teach

If it’s a strength deficiency issue, one way to develop the hips inside the weight room is through power lifts like squat and dead lift. Some coaches avoid putting a barbell on a girl’s back altogether. However, like most lifts, just teach properly then use moderately. Deep squats with light weight while focusing on exploding up under control can improve vertical.

The dead lift is simply lifting dead weight, whether a barbell, kettlebell or dumbbells the technique is the same. Coaches tend to like this because it is about as safe as power lifting gets. For those who avoid it due to lumbar worries, we promote teaching the lift properly first and then using your discretion as to how you wish to proceed. Just follow the principle “use it, don’t abuse it.”

There are several ways to develop the hips outside of the weight room. Body weight exercises, mini-band work and change of direction (COD) drills can all be used to strengthen the hips and increase explosiveness. But with all exercises be sure to teach proper technique. When changing directions athletes should squat as they stop which teaches them to sink their hips and transition their body weight efficiently. However, COD drills are more intense than most linear speed drills and the reps should be counted accordingly.

Sometimes, your athletes just need a coaching cue. Tell them something to the effect of, “you need to bend to extend” or “you need to load to explode.” Keep them conscience of their technique until it becomes second nature. Then watch as their added strength and proper technique take their play to the next level. Just imagine if your athletes ran faster and jumped higher.

“Skill is important but the speed and strength it is delivered with determines the level of play!”

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Connecting Training to Sports

Posted in: Speed Training, Sports Training, Strength Training

Perception is reality, youth athletes often lack the passion for training. And often females struggle more with the training aspect of playing a sport than males.

Two of the biggest challenges we see in athletes during training:

  1. The Question: “Why are we doing this, we would never do this in a game?”
  2. Lack of effort in a training exercise due to lack of understanding of its role in a game.

Both of these are obviously of the same nature yet sometimes as coaches we lose sight of the importance of understanding why we do things and how athlete’s psychologically choose to apply their efforts accordingly. In other words, if an athlete doesn’t see how a particular training element applies to their sport they are more likely to not try hard. youth strength training

Remember when you were in school, or in a professional development class, and you thought to yourself that whatever you were learning was a waste of time and stupid because it would never be used in your life or job? Well, athletes are no different when it comes to training. They feel they just need to practice and play more to be better at their sport.

Athletes should be taught with vertical, horizontal and synergistic alignment for both clarity and motivation. Just as we hope the middle school and JV coaches are aligned with specific varsity skills coaching (for a smooth transition, reduced learning curve time and increased IQ) the same thing applies in Athletic Development.

It is our job as coaches to teach our athletes the importance of training so they become passionate about it as part of their athletic career. Most athletes love to play their sport(s), great athletes love to train because they understand the benefit and they have made it an important part of their program.

Some aspects of training are obvious yet others are seemingly just unnecessary work… and sometimes they are if the program curriculum has not been appropriately planned according to need. We call all aspects of training and practicing “stress” bouts. If each of these bouts of stress are not calculated and playing a role in reaching a goal, they are a waste of stress and should be re-thought.

In 2016 we are now seeing a tremendous shift in the paradigm of training and how important the role of year-round athletic development is for youth athletes. It is crucial we properly educate athletes to understand the benefits of training to remain healthy, reduce the risk of injury and adequately progress athletically to simply keep up.

Here are a few simple techniques we have found extremely beneficial when teaching the correlation of training to sport application:

  1. Language: Use language that correlates certain movements directly to a movement in their sport, even using the same coaching cues you would use in practice.
  2. Time: Use time periods of rest-work ratios that are directly proportionate to those in a game.
  3. Dexterity: Associate dexterity in training to that of an offense/defense position to better understand the deficiency of being dominant on one side or losing the directional first step.
  4. Repetition: Explain that practice makes permanent, training multiple reps instills the neurological movement pattern to ensure the 1, 2, 3, or more times they may have to execute a movement in play they will be perfect at it.
  5. Speed: Again, practice makes permanent and the only way to go fast is to train fast so if your kids are jogging or only giving 50% effort during training drills, that is how they are training to execute.

Remember, the more creative you become in teaching your athletes why and how training is important, the better, healthier athletes you will have.

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Pre-Pubescent Athletic Development and YES…Strength Training!

Posted in: Strength Training

The paradigm of the past said pre-pubescent children should not perform strength training due to the load, risk of injury, spinal compression and fears such as stunted growth or damaged joints. Even further back it was thought that strength training was not good for certain athletes as it would actually hinder their ability to be athletic and perform certain ranges of movement.

pre-pubescent athletic developmentAll of this can be true or false depending on how, what, when and why you are training. The difference today is the amount of research, development and practical knowledge we have gained in truly understanding biomechanics and the role they play in all stages of a child’s life. What we know now is that when Athletic Development training is done safely and age-appropriately, it can be extremely beneficial to children long term.

The Mayo Clinic, an authority in health research, has stated that kids should start age-appropriate strength and Athletic Development training as early as 7 or 8 years of age. (www.mayoclinic.org, Tween and Teen Health, January 2015, Strength Training) Beginning Pre-Pubescent Athletic Development training at these early ages will have a longer positive effect on a child than just playing sports. Why? Because not only is the child developing appropriately physically, but they are instilling habits and a positive association to training early on which will continue in their life, long after sports have ended.

If we think about the physical development of a toddler, we as parents are continuously stimulating their motor skills and physical activity to advance their neurological movements, hand-eye coordination, balance and physical strength. The mobile in their crib, their bouncing walker, climbing and jumping off obstacles, and banging on things, are all Central Nervous System (CNS) and physical developmental exercises.

Food for Thought: Jumping off a chair 18” high and landing with bent knees yields an impact of 1.3Gs to the body. Jumping off the same chair landing with locked knees yields an impact of 4.2Gs. (www.deusrescue.com, June 2011, Understanding Shock Load, part 2) Change that chair height to a swing, fence, roof, etc. and the results of improper technique become more apparent and dangerous.

The need for proper technique and training applies to running, stopping, changing directions, lifting weights and many other athletic movements that involve gravity, force, momentum and impact. With pre-pubescent athletic development, if a child is taught proper mechanical movements and has increased strength, they develop efficiency and with efficiency comes speed, agility and reduced traumatic impact.

So why do we lose sight of these activities as our children get to the next early stages of their lives? We become dependent on their day to day activities, recess, PE, sports and outdoor play to fulfill this need. Unfortunately, in this day and age kids are not getting enough activity. We must understand that sports and athletic development are two very different things with different demands, modalities and progressions.

pre-pubescent athletic developmentWe have reversed the process of development. Think about it, we have our kids play sports starting as young as 2 years old and as they reach a level that becomes more competitive or challenging, we then decide maybe training will be a good idea. Now we are faced with the reality that our child’s mechanics, strength and movement is poorly developed with terrible habits that need correction. That’s like sending soldiers to war and when they start getting their tail kicked we bring them back and train them.

It only makes sense that pre-pubescent athletic development occur when kids’ CNS is the most active, receptive and developmentally capable of instilling process. Understanding early child development accentuates the importance of training before, during and after sports to make training a staple in their lives. These early habits will properly prepare, develop and continue to advance their bodies physically, mentally and neurologically to adapt to the conditions they face.

Parents always say, we are too busy with sports to train. Unfortunately, it isn’t until their child is no longer able to compete at a desired level that they then make training a priority.

The reality is pre-pubescent athletic development and strength training should be viewed as the staple of safe, proper and effective long-term development. This includes several key factors such as:

  • Establishing the importance, benefits and fun of training
  • Building confidence and empowerment through healthy physical activity
  • Taking advantage of the most crucial time of CNS and muscular development
  • Mitigating the risk of injury due to weakness or improper movements
  • Teaching proper neurological movement patterns instilling good athletic habits
  • Improving athletic IQ for continued correct repetition
  • Safely preparing the body to perform and develop most effectively
  • Giving your child the greatest chance for athletic success

If we invest the time to properly teach, train and develop our children now, we are maximizing their chances of long-term physical, mental and developmental success. When puberty, competition and challenge comes into play, your child’s mind and body will be prepared.

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Rotational Athlete Development

Posted in: Off-Season Training, Speed Training, Sports Training, Strength Training

Proper Training Programs for the Rotational Athlete (ex. baseball, softball, tennis, golf, swimming)

Athletic Development and Sports Performance has to be approached from a developmental standpoint based on level, age, gender and purpose. It must be age-safe and age-appropriate. Basic Athletic Development fundamentals remain constant yet there are specific factors to be considered directly related to individual sport demands. These factors should be calculated and strategically implemented in order to safely meet the demands for the current and upcoming activity.

Training athletes for rotational sports requires a greater emphasis on balance in the development of the limbs, joints and core. Power is generated from the hips yet delivered to and by the limbs through the core and joints, which has to be accounted for when implementing a strength and speed training program.

We must keep in mind that different sports have different requirements to meet the specific rigors of that sport. Athleticism and speed can be taught, learned and practiced just as any motor skill yet the process of development should be carefully implemented based on anticipated competition, tests or performance.

The directional rotation adds another specific element of challenge for the rotational athlete as he or she becomes imbalanced due to the nature of their “one sided rotation” (right or left focus). This MUST be calculated and addressed through training protocols that begin with the proper warm up transitioning into training variations that build the necessary rotational capacity. Balancing rotational bouts and load has to be directly compensated for by performing equal and proportionate work on both sides of the body.

What all this means is if a baseball player throws and/or hits 200 times on their right side we absolutely must balance the body on the left side with adequate preparation, load and repetition. Injury frequently occurs for two primary reasons, overuse or lack of balanced training (undertraining) creating weakness and deficiency on one side of the body or a particular area. Over compensation due to weaknesses can be directly linked to overuse and/or opposing failure.

All of these factors must be considered when designing and implementing a training program for rotational athletes. Programs for the rotational athlete (baseball, softball, tennis, swimming, etc.) should include:

  • Proper Warm Up – addressing the entire body
  • Consistently developing fundamental strength and flexibility
  • Dynamic Stretching – maintaining correct posture and rotation
  • Start with the core, joints and fundamentals
  • Rotator and scapula emphasis prior and post-training – rotations with bands
  • Alternating position angles and stressors during training – front/back, left/right, push/pull
  • Balancing single/double limb exercises – avoiding overloading
  • Unloading the hips and shoulders post-training
  • Weak-side compensation – addressing weak-side rotation with additional bouts as needed
  • Wave loading periodization while maintaining year-round strength and conditioning
  • Diversified training – keeping it interesting while training all aspects of the body thoroughly
  • Maintaining athleticism during training at all times

At the end of the day, take time to teach, train smart and develop athletes with proper timing, form and progression understanding their exact needs. “It’s not about how much you know, it’s about how much you don’t know that is the issue.”

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In-Season Strength Training

Posted in: Strength Training

Understanding Athletic Development is about understanding progression, regression, anatomical adaptation and recovery cycles. Too often coaches alleviate or minimize their strength training during season because they feel it takes away from their ball time and/or will adversely affect their player’s performance. This is actually quite contrary to the facts. In strength training, science has shown that in approximately 96 hours the body will begin to regress in strength if muscles are not adequately stressed. However, cardiovascular de-conditioning doesn’t begin until after approximately 12 days without direct activity.

“A good athlete is born good, a great athlete is trained great.”

When addressing in-season training it is crucial to remain conscious of all stress bouts accumulated leading up to competition in addition to the type of training performed (practice, conditioning, lifting, competitive play, disciplinary activity, etc.). Coaches have to be conscience of not over-training athletes, the goal is to train them safely and appropriately year round. Athletes should improve each year, and attempt to maintain throughout the in-season with minimal loss.

Too often a player will work extremely hard in the offseason only to lose it during the season. This cycle leads to poor development and means there is a deficiency in the training program. Strength training should ALWAYS be part of a program year round to continue the player’s development, minimize risk of injury and continue positive progress.

A strength training program should have many facets with different levels of intensity to match the desired objective. The periodization process, or objective based segments, should be tailored to provide development year round while taking into account the demands of the current season. Segments will have different areas of emphasis such as heavy, light, Olympics, progressive, functional, conditioning, etc. but should work together for maximum benefit.

When you provide year round strength training your players will continuously advance and remain strong as they mature and become more skilled. Remember:

“Skill is great but the speed and strength of that skill determines the level of play.”

Important determining factors of that speed or performance are: muscle activation, range of motion and speed of contraction. All of these are positively affected by proper strength training coinciding with neuromuscular activity which trains the voluntary and involuntary response mechanisms of the body. By performing strength training you are able to activate these sensory mechanisms that will help prepare the body to perform higher, faster workloads in the weight room and in competition.

Generally in-season training consists of a 2 day per week lift schedule. One of the days is moderately intense early in the week and the second day is an “unload” day. Intensity can be determined by weight, rest periods or volume, and should be based on training schedule, work load and time until competition. An “unload” is a session performed 8-48 hours prior to competition involving primarily low weight, double-limb compound lifts and auxiliary lifts. The focus is on range of motion and contraction to unload the joints and activate the muscles. Additionally a post competition workout can be used as a third day of strength training. It is always a great idea to perform an unload day of stretching, yoga, range of motion and unload-lifting the day after a competition.

Coaches must understand that you only need 15-30 minutes of lifting to maximize the benefits of strength training and see real gains. At DX3 our programs efficiency and effectiveness accounts for one set per minute, so 15-30 minutes = 15-30 sets. Even on the 15 set day you are working five body parts for three sets of each in less than 20 minutes.

In conclusion, by incorporating in-season lifting, athletes will continuously develop, decrease risk of injuries, stay better tuned to training and not suffer such dramatic acclimation periods when transitioning season to season, or sport to sport. It is a FACT: Strength training is more beneficial to a developing athlete during and long after their career than the actual playing of the sport. (visit http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/strength-training/HQ01010 for supporting information)

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