Speed Development 101

29 Sep

t1_darius[1]Here’s a nice article from STACK expert, John M. Cissick, titled, Get Faster With 3 Essential Speed Training Strategies.  John’s article echoes the same advice and guidance we’ve shared with our clients and readers.

STRENGTH

Strength training provides the foundation so, first and foremost, get in the weight room.  As stated in a previous blog post, Speed Development Starts in the Weight Room.  You’ve got to get stronger in order to improve your ground reaction force and, ultimately, your speed.  Lower extremity strength exercises that focus on the hips, quadriceps, and hamstrings should be a part of each and every workout.

POWER

Plyometrics are exercises that “teach” your muscles to generate force quickly.  They are the most effective way to build lower-extremity power.  It’s important for young athletes to build a strong foundation, first, before proceeding to plyometric exercises.

SPEED

Speed training is an important part of the process, because you have to learn how to use the strength and power you’ve developed.  Quality repetitions, technical correctness, and adequate rest intervals should be factored into your training plan.

For more information, please refer to Speed Training and Development (get faster!), Key Elements of Speed Training, and Maximize Your Speed Workouts.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Jump-Landing Training for Female Athletes

26 Sep

1(491)[1]Vertical jump performance is important in several sports — basketball and volleyball being two team sports that come to mind.

Previously, we’ve discussed jump performance in our articles, 6 Ways to Jump Higher, and Improve Your Vertical Jump Performance with Jump Training.

Additionally, we’ve established that Jump Training Should Include Landing Mechanics.  This is especially important since jump landings are associated with high ground reaction forces.  Incorrect landing technique, insufficient muscular strength, and lack of balance place the lower extremities at risk for injury.

Female athletes are known to have a higher risk of injuring their anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, while participating in competitive sports. The chance of ACL tear in female athletes has been found to be 2 to 10 times higher than in male counterparts.

Recent research points to differences in the biomechanics (the way our bodies move) of male and female athletes.  Although it’s impossible to prevent every injury, the good news is that we have the ability to change the likelihood of ACL tear, and jump-landing mechanics/training is at the top of the list.

Jump-landing training should focus on the following areas:

  • Optimizing movement efficiency
  • Building foundational muscular strength
  • Development of balance and coordination
  • Plyometric exercise technique
  • Proper hip, knee, and ankle alignment
  • Sport-specific jump-landing ability
  • Injury prevalence reduction
  • Performance improvement

An effective jump-landing program starts with education, and — as shown above — includes a variety of components.  Additionally, to ensure athlete compliance, the training program should be designed to equally address performance and injury prevention.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Is Strength Training Good for Endurance Athletes?

24 Sep

361012_orig[1]Most experts recognize — and relevant literature supports — that endurance athletes benefit from both heavy resistance and endurance training.  Maximal strength and power training have recently gained attention as a potential strategy for increasing endurance performance.

A recent review of the literature concluded that concurrent training (the simultaneous training of resistance and endurance exercise) has a positive effect on endurance performance.

One determinant of sport performance is the ability to appropriately and effectively exert force into the ground (e.g., running, jumping) or an apparatus (e.g., cycling).  When all other factors are equal, the athlete with a greater ability to exert force will perform the best, as they will cover more distance per muscle action.  Therefore, even endurance athletes benefit from increases in force production.

According to a recent Strength and Conditioning Journal article, strength training improves motor recruitment patterns, which lowers energy expenditure at any specific submaximal intensity because fewer motor units (and therefore muscles) are activated. Any adaptation that allows an athlete to use less energy at a given speed will decrease the oxygen requirement and should therefore increase athletic performance. Moreover, less muscular contraction leads to less blood flow restriction, which allows greater delivery of fuels and removal of waste products. High-intensity power training (such as plyometrics) offers extra benefits, as it enhances efficiency of elastic energy by increasing musculotendinous stiffness (a measure of how readily tissue reforms after being stretched, compressed, or twisted). This shifts energy production from active (muscular contraction) to passive (elastic rebound) sources.  (Martuscello, Jason MS, CSCS, HFS; Theilen, Nicholas MS)

Please see related article, Plyometric Training Benefits Distance Runners.

The addition of strength and power training should be done with caution, in order to avoid overtraining.  Strength and conditioning professionals need to be aware of proper periodization principles and specifically control volume and frequency throughout the training cycle to reduce this risk.  The relationship between strength training and endurance training should be inverse.  The addition of strength and power training should be countered with the subtraction of some endurance training, and vice-versa. For example, replacing approximately 1/3 of endurance volume with explosive strength training has been shown to improve leg strength, speed, power, anaerobic capacity, running economy, and most importantly 5k running time.

Strength and power training has many benefits for endurance athletes, including improved force output, musculotendinous stiffness and elastic energy efficiency, running economy, and race performance. In order to minimize the risk of injury, proper monitoring of program design and exercise technique should be closely observed.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

It’s Consistent Effort That Counts

22 Sep

basketball-skills-main-pic[1]Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.” – Unknown

Effort is important.  If you want to improve your performance, in any area of your life, you’ve got to work at it.  Whether your goal is to be a better basketball player or math student, practice is an integral part of the process.

But effort alone is not enough, especially if the effort is only occasional (anyone can do that).  Practicing once or twice, or once in a while, won’t get you very far.  Skill-building and mastery require consistency and quality of effort.

Additionally, you can’t count on team practices or math class to be enough to make you better.  Individual work, outside of and in addition to those areas, will make a big difference in your performance.

Top performers know that success requires daily (or, almost daily) practice, including the following components:

  • Attention to detail — technical correctness; diligence for each step of the process.
  • Purposeful repetition — don’t just go though the motions; follow your plan.
  • Goal-oriented — your practice should reflect your desired result.
  • Quality — give your best effort — aim for excellence — each and every time you practice.
  • Learn — watch and listen to others with experience and expertise.

When it comes to practice, you can’t wail until you have time… it’s up to you to make time.  Don’t forego practice just because you can’t dedicate a large chunk of time, on any given day.  Some practice — as long as it’s high-quality and purposeful — is better than none at all, even if only for 5-10 minutes.  The cumulative benefit of even small “doses” of practice will be significant, over time.

Get STRONGER, Get STRONGER!

Your thoughts?

Exercise Spotlight: Weighted Lateral Speed Shuffle

19 Sep

q-a-lateral-speed-for-basketball[1]Lateral movement is important in most sports.  It is complemented by speed and quickness of both movement and change of direction.

The ability to move laterally — side-to-side — in response to the movement of a ball, puck, or opponent, is one that can be practiced and developed.  Agility drills — those that emphasize acceleration, deceleration, change of direction, and reaction — should be components of every athlete’s performance training program.

This video shows one of our athletes — a basketball player — performing the weighted lateral speed shuffle.  This is just one of the many drills we use to improve agility, quickness, endurance, and conditioning.  We especially like exercises and drills that reflect the demands and movement patterns of the athlete’s sport — in this case, basketball defense (although shared by many other sports).

Here’s how we do it (you can vary it to meet the athlete’s needs):

  • Set up two cones, 4-yards apart
  • Have the athlete assume a relaxed, athletic stance
  • Feet positioned slightly wider than hip-width
  • Holding dumbbells (we used 5-lb. dumbbells for this drill), palms up, hands outside the body
  • Shuffle quickly, from side to side
  • Don’t let feet touch or cross
  • Do as many repetitions as you can in 30-seconds
  • Perform 3 sets, with a 30-90 second rest interval between sets (depending on the athlete’s level of conditioning)

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Add Cherries to Your Healthy Diet

17 Sep

cherries-08[1]You can add cherries to the list of foods with a plethora of health benefits.  More specifically, tart cherries are another of nature’s “superfoods,” with beneficial effects for insomnia, joint pain, or belly fat.

Here are some of the (surprising) health benefits of cherries:

  • Cherries help reduce belly fat.  They also help reduce levels of certain inflammation markers linked to heart disease and diabetes, and lower blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Cherries reduce your chance of getting gout, especially when combined with the uric-acid reducing drug, allopurinol.
  • Cherries can ease post-workout soreness.  When consumed immediately after a workout, cherries (or tart cherry juice) significantly reduced muscle inflammation, pain, and soreness.
  • Cherries are a natural arthritis remedy.  Researchers have found that drinking tart cherry juice twice daily for three weeks led to significant reductions in important inflammation markers.
  • Cherries reduce stroke risk.  Tart cherries provide cardiovascular benefits equal to some medications, and can improve the result even when taken with prescriptions.  Anthocyanins — the pigments that give the tart cherries its red color — may help regulate fat and glucose levels and thereby reduce risk factors for high cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes.
  • Cherries may help you sleep.  In one study, there were significant increases in time in bed, total sleep time, and sleep efficiency total with cherry juice supplementation.

Who knew?

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Increase Time Under Tension to Get Stronger, Build Muscle

15 Sep

squat-a-ex_0[1]There are lots of strategies for getting stronger and building muscle.  One such strength- and muscle-building strategy is a concept known as time under tension (TUT).  The rationale for this approach is that the longer you can keep tension in your muscles during a set, the more you’ll exhaust them, forcing them to get stronger and grow to adapt.

How to Increase Time Under Tension

There are a few ways to increase the amount of time your muscles spend under tension:

  • Do more repetitions
  • Increase the amount of time you take to lower the weight
  • Pause an exercise at some point in its range of motion and hold it for time

(also see related articles: Get Stronger with Isometric ExercisesAdd Isometric Exercises to Your Training Regimen, and Take the Negative Chinup/Dip Challenge)

How it Works

Doing a lot of repetitions — 12-15 or more — is great, but there are also some potential problems that accompany this approach.  The more reps you perform, the more likely it becomes that your form and technique tend to break down, increasing your risk of injury.  More repetitions also forces you to use lighter weights, sacrificing muscular tension.

Time under tension can be increased, for virtually any exercise, by increasing the time of the eccentric (lowering) phase of the exercise, or by incorporating isometric “holds” (pausing during a movement), effectively creating a longer-lasting set.

For example, when doing the squat or bench press exercises, you could lower the weight to a six-second count, for each repetition; or you could pause at some point during the eccentric phase of the exercise and hold for 3-4 seconds before continuing the movement.

Try to incorporate this strategy into your workout routine and you’ll see how more tension in your life can actually be a good thing.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Are Parents Ruining Youth Sports?

12 Sep

6de7b653395b255e431287bfe42fa7a2[2]It’s important for parents to support and encourage their children’s interest and participation in sports (or any other endeavor).  Sit in the stands and cheer for your kid(s).  Provide the means — within your means — for their participation based on their interest.  Be a conduit to their learning and having fun playing the game.

And, while most parents (and coaches) “get it,” there’s a growing vocal minority whose behavior is ruining athletics for everyone involved.  These obsessive, over-involved adults have unrealistic expectations of their children’s ability and potential, operating under the misguided notion that their kids’ games are a miniature version of grown-up competitions, where the goal is to win.

Some families are overly preoccupied with finding a private batting instructor, a summer hockey program, an expensive soccer camp, or that special coach who can help their pre-pubescent child improve their jump shot.  This is often an ill-advised attempt to accelerate a process that may not even be occurring, since most young athletes will never reach the elite level.  The fact is, only about 1% of high school athletes will receive a Division 1 scholarship.

You can hire private coaches, but you can’t buy love.  Kids who passionately love their sport are children who won’t have to be nagged to practice. They’ll go out and shoot basket after basket, simply because they want to. That can’t be bought or forced.

Some parents “volunteer” to help their child’s team — keeping stats for the team, spotting for announcers, etc. — in a thinly veiled attempt to gain closer access so they can yell instructions to their child, which usually conflict with the coach’s.  They call, text, and email coaches about their child’s playing time and blame everyone else if their child fails.

Part of the problem is that these parents are living vicariously through their children and their expectations are unrealistic.  They also may feel entitled because of the investment they’ve made in their kid’s sport participation.  And, of course, they think their child is better than they actually are.  They become so emotionally invested in their child that their own identity is linked with their children’s athletic endeavors.

Ultimately, the biggest contributing factor is the financial and emotional over-investment some parents have with their children.

Because youth sports have become about everyone getting an orange slice and a participation ribbon, parents aren’t used to seeing their child on the bench. They expect them to start because a parent usually thinks their kid is better than they really are. They see another player getting a scholarship to a college and think their kid should too.

Youth sports are expensive.  When participation becomes year-round, they’re even more expensive.  When parents invest a considerable amount of their disposable income in their kid’s athletics —  and expect a certain return on that investment (playing time or scholarship) — they’re setting themselves up for disappointment.

The emotional over-investment is a big problem.  Since youth sports have become this year-round “industry,” parents spend years shuttling their kids to practices, games, and tournaments.  All of their free time is consumed by their child’s sport. Their identity is linked with the child, and they spend most of their time with parents in the same situation. They live in a bubble with blinders on. So when their child is benched or cut it’s the coaches fault. It’s impossible for them to believe that their child has athletic shortcomings.

As parents. we all want the best for our children. But there are ways to do that other than making everyone else’s life miserable. If most of these players knew how their parents were acting, they’d be embarrassed.

A child gains nothing if they’re playing because of their parent’s influence.  They benefit more if they’ve earned it. In fact, perhaps they could gain even more if they don’t start. Life is that way. It’s unfair at times. It doesn’t always reward hard work. It doesn’t entitle anyone to anything. You don’t always get what you want.

To exert your influence and prevent your kids from experiencing this early in their lives will almost certainly handicap them in the real world where, more often than not, it doesn’t matter who your parents are.

If you don’t allow your child to fall, how will they ever learn to stand on their own two feet?

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Gluten Sensitivity: Fact or Fiction?

10 Sep

Bread groupRecently, I’ve had a few customers inquire about the potential benefit of a gluten-free diet.  The gluten-free market is supported by billions of dollars in sales, very little science, and a lot of hype.

Ultimately, there are very few scientific studies supporting a gluten-free diet for individuals who are not afflicted with celiac disease (gluten intolerance) or wheat allergy.

What is gluten?

Gluten is protein that is found in wheat and related grains, including barley and rye.  Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape, and often gives the final product a chewy texture. In addition to being found in breads, cereals, etc., gluten is also used in cosmetics, hair products, and other dermatological preparations.

Gluten sensitivity

There are very few (3) actual gluten-related disorders: wheat allergy, celiac disease, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).  In terms of prevalence, About 0.1% of the population has a wheat allergy. Wheat allergy is most prevalent in children between 3-5 years old who have other food allergies. Often, the children outgrow it.  Approximately 1% of people in Europe and North America have been diagnosed with celiac disease.

Symptoms

Wheat allergy, celiac disease, and NCGS all share the same gastrointestinal symptoms: cramps, bloating, nausea, flatulence, diarrhea or constipation, and abdominal pain, especially after exposure to wheat or gluten. After gluten ingestion, symptoms can present between several hours and several days later.

Treatment

For any person diagnosed with a gluten-related disorder, it is important for them to adhere to a gluten-free diet in order to prevent gastrointestinal disturbances, optimize nutrient absorption (thereby reducing risk of anemia and osteoporosis), and, in the case of celiac disease, reduce the risk of intestinal lymphoma (cancer related to elevated inflammation.

Considerations

Many nutrition experts consider the gluten-free diet a fad.  It has also been strongly suggested that the benefit of going “gluten-free” is actually derived from reducing carbohydrates, especially refined grains.

A “gluten-free” label does not necessarily equate to “healthy.”  People can improve the quality of their diet by substituting baked goods with healthier options, in general. For example, choosing salads and fruit instead of pizza and brownies will lead to an increase in the consumption of essential nutrients and better control of caloric intake.

Studies have shown that the gluten-free version of a food is almost always more expensive; food “staples” such as bread and pasta are approximately twice as expensive as the traditional version.

A diet that increases energy and focus and helps prevent gastrointestinal distress is appealing. However, there is currently no support for a gluten-free diet in people who have not been diagnosed with gluten sensitivity. Eating a healthy, balanced diet that is abundant in nutrient-rich foods and low in highly processed food will fuel your body for optimal health and athletic potential. If you experience symptoms that are compromising your performance, you may consider getting tested for gluten sensitivity and other minor allergies/intolerances/sensitivities.

Don’t be too quick to jump on the gluten-free “bandwagon.”  If you want to “clean up” your diet, start by reducing/eliminating processed foods, refined grains, food with added sugars and saturated fat.  Eat whole grain/high-fiber carbs; lots of fruits and veggies; unsaturated fats; and lean protein.  Maintain a reasonable daily caloric intake, based on your target weight and activity level.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Winners Never Quit and…

8 Sep

quitting[1]“Winners never quit and quitters never win.” – Vince Lombardi

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” – William E. Hickson

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” –  Joseph P. Kennedy

I’m sure you’re familiar with these quotes.  They all speak to the same concepts — persistence, perseverance, and overcoming adversity.

Here’s some advice: Forget all that stuff.  Accountability, self-development, and self-improvement are overrated.  And, it takes a lot of work to make yourself better.  Why expend all that effort?  I’m pretty sure no one ever improved their lot in life — academically, athletically, personally, or professionally — by working hard to make themselves better.

Are you a student who doesn’t care for a teacher, classmate, or class?  Don’t particularly like homework and studying?  Struggling with a certain subject or course? Are you just plain tired of school?  Just quit.

Are you an athlete whose coach is not giving you the playing time you feel you deserve?  Teammates not helping you get the exposure and recognition to which you’re entitled?  If you’re not satisfied with your playing time — or any other aspect of your sport participation… walk away.

Are you a business professional who’s just plain tired of the day-to-day grind?  Experiencing difficulty with a job-related role, responsibility, or task?  It may be time to put in your notice.

Having trouble communicating, interacting, and coexisting with family and friends?  It’s obviously their problem (no matter how many of them there are) because it certainly can’t be you.  You should suggest to all of them that they “look in the mirror” and engage in some serious soul-searching and attitude adjustment, and learn to adjust to your perspective.

And another thing: I’ve always encouraged my kids to talk directly with adults — teachers, coaches, supervisors, etc. — to discuss and resolve any issues that may exist, before I got involved.  I wanted them to deal with differences of opinion and adversity, and learn to “fight their own battles.”  But maybe I had it wrong.  Why should a kid have to swallow his/her pride and check his/her ego when a “helicopter” parent, living vicariously through their kid, is willing to confront his/her “tormentor?”  It’s much easier just to let mommy and daddy fight that battle for you.

Let me know how that works for you.

On a serious note, NO ONE should EVER tolerate verbally and/or physically abusive behavior from ANYONE!

Quitting is becoming an epidemic.  Are you infected?

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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