Is Flexibility Overrated?

12 Aug

USA Basketball Senior National Team Training Day 1Is there a relationship between flexibility and athletic performance?  And, if there is a relationship, is more necessarily better?

Flexibility and Performance

There’s a difference between movement quantity and movement quality.  Speed, strength, power, balance, and stability are qualitative aspects of movement.  For functional movements, i.e., sports performance, quality of movement is more important than quantity.

Most elite athletes have extraordinary levels of strength, power, endurance, or balance.  And, while there are elite athletes with exceptional flexibility, there are others with only average flexibility.  Ultimately, it’s less about the extent of your range of motion (ROM) and more about how you use (what you do with) what you have.

The average person probably has the necessary range of motion to execute most sports movements.  Their deficiencies usually have little to do with range of motion.  The issue is typically attributable to strength, power, mobility, or coordination, not flexibility.

Iashvili (1983) found that active (dynamic, movement-based) ROM and not passive (static) ROM was more highly correlated with sports performance.  Arguably, any further passive static ROM developed through passive static stretching will not provide any extra benefit.

There is a considerable body of research that discourages pre-activity static stretching — due to its potential to reduce strength and power output — in favor of dynamic warmup.  Studies show that flexibility in the muscles of the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings) is related to slower running and diminished running economy.  Interestingly, it has been shown that stiffer leg muscles in endurance athletes may make them more economical in terms of oxygen consumption at sub-max speeds.

Flexibility and Injury Prevention

The relationship between flexibility and injury prevention is mixed, at best.  Two studies involving soccer and hockey players revealed that players with more flexible groins do not suffer fewer groin injuries, while players with stronger adductors had less strains.  There is actually more evidence to support that lateral imbalances in strength and stability are a better predictor of injury than lack of flexibility.

There are some studies suggesting that musculoskeletal tightness may be associated with an increased likelihood of muscle strain injury.  Other studies, including Knapik, J.J. et al. 1992, found that subjects in the least flexible and most flexible quintiles were equally likely to get injured — 2.2-2.5 times more than subjects in the middle quintile (average flexibility).

The reality is that sports injuries are produced by a lot of different factors, and flexibility (or lack thereof) is only one of them.  It would be inappropriate to assign a level to the importance of flexibility as it relates to injury prevention.

For most athletes in most sports, there is probably little to be gained by increasing flexibility or range of motion.  Athletes are better off developing additional strength and stability within a particular range of motion.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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16 Characteristics for Success

5 Aug

San Antonio SpursOnce again, this is borrowed from a poster I found hanging on the wall of a high school weight room where I work with an area swimming and diving team.  Another gem.

ALWAYS Compete!

Do EVERYTHING to the best of YOUR ability!

Practice is EVERYTHING — How we practice defines who we are.

Always protect the TEAM

No Whining, No Complaining, No Excuses!

If you’re 5 minutes early, YOU’RE LATE!

16 CHARACTERISTICS FOR SUCCESS:

  1. Make a commitment
  2. Be unselfish
  3. Create unity — come together as never before
  4. Improve every day as a player, person, and student
  5. Be tough
  6. Be self-disciplined — do it right, don’t accept less
  7. Give your best effort in everything you do
  8. Be enthusiastic
  9. Eliminate mistakes — don’t beat yourself
  10. Never give up
  11. Don’t accept losing
  12. Permit no self-limitations — expect more of yourself
  13. Expect to win
  14. Be consistent
  15. Develop leadership
  16. Be responsible

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

5 Levels of Player Commitment

29 Jul

201401042048749303103-p5[1]I found this, recently, hanging on the wall of a high school weight room where I work with an area swimming and diving team.  Good stuff.

WHAT LEVEL ARE YOU?

Five Levels of Player Commitment

  1. Compelled:  Team goals are of the utmost importance. Players feel a true sense of mission and purpose.  They enjoy extra work and team accomplishments.
  2. Committed:  Team goals are of high importance and a player is willing to do whatever is necessary.  Puts in extra time and effort to win.
  3. Compliant:  Team goals are important.  Player will do whatever is asked to achieve goal.  Will do no more, no less than what is asked.
  4. Reluctant:  Player is hesitant, or afraid to commit to team goals.  Will cut corners when they can get away with it.
  5. Resistant:  Player has not bought into the team goal, usually because he has his own agenda.  The player is selfish.

Which of these describes you?

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

How “Hip” is Your Workout?

22 Jul

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Barbell Hip Thrust

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Barbell Hip Thrust

Hip drive, which initiates the triple extension movement, is important for virtually every sport, regardless of whether it involves running, jumping, throwing, swinging, or kicking

Here’s more support for adding “hinge” (hip flexion and extension) exercises to your training regimen:

Strong hips can help you become strong all over, according to a Men’s Health article.

Researchers in New Zealand and the U.K. found that, as you increase the weight in lower-body exercises like the squat and deadlift, the muscles around your hips carry a larger proportion of the load.

“Your hips are the most powerful part of your body, so they take over as exercises become strenuous,” according to the study’s lead author.  “Working them directly can enhance your overall strength.”

In addition to “hinge” exercises like squats and deadlifts, kettlebell swings and barbell hip thrusts (pictured) are great additions to any workout regimen.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Improve Speed and Power with Posterior Chain Exercises

15 Jul

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Glute-Ham Raise, with Spotter

Improvements in athletic performance begin with lower-body strength and power development.  Hip/quad exercises, like squats and leg presses, are great but, if you’re not working the muscles of your posterior chain, you’re only doing half the job.  (please refer to, Don’t Neglect Your Glutes and Hamstrings)

Your posterior chain includes the muscles of the glutes and hamstrings.  Your glutes are responsible for hip extension, while knee flexion is a function of the hamstrings.

Why is it so important for athletes to perform exercises that focus on the glutes and hamstrings? Here’s the deal: The glutes are a primary muscle group involved in virtually every sports movement — including sprinting, jumping, throwing, kicking, and swinging. The hamstrings are important for eccentric muscle movements, like decelerating when you slow down, stop, or change direction; or land after jumping.

Glute-ham exercises should be incorporated into your training regimen, every time you workout.  Working these two important muscle groups can help athletes improve speed and power; enhance balance and stability; and reduce the risk of injury.

Two of our favorite glute-hamstring exercises are the Glute-Ham Raise and Romanian Deadlift (RDL).  We like our athletes to perform them as an agonist-antagonist paired set (superset), combining them with a hip/quad focused exercise like a squat or deadlift.

A typical superset might look something like this:

  • Barbell Back Squat, 6 reps at about 80% 1RM
  • Body-weight squat jump, 6 reps (more advanced athletes can hold dumbbells at their sides when doing this exercise)
  • Body-weight Glute-Ham Raise, 6 reps (focus on lowering movement; lower body to a 4-second count; assist to upright position; this exercise can also be weighted, for more proficient athletes)

All three exercises should be performed consecutively, with little or no rest between them.  Rest for 10-15 seconds between sets (after Glute-Ham raise).  Perform 3-4 sets.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Remembering Dad

9 Jul

fatherson[2]This week marks what would have been my Dad’s 84th birthday and, sadly, 26 years since he passed away.  I also lost my Mom, eleven years ago this month.

My Dad never got to see most of his nine grandchildren, including 3 of my four.  But, for a short time, he sure did love and dote on the grandkids he was able to see.  I often think about — and talk with my kids about — how much I imagine he would have enjoyed watching them grow up.

In his younger days, my Dad was a pretty fair athlete, having been an all-state caliber high school basketball player and minor league caliber baseball player (athleticism that obviously skipped a generation).  Given my kids’ involvement in sports, I imagine him taking great pleasure and pride in watching them progress as athletes.

My Dad loved sports, and would watch almost any sporting event.  But what I remember most about him was his knowledge of sports.  He was a real student of the game, and had an encyclopedic knowledge and memory of the history of the game, regardless of the sport.

My Dad had a unique sense of humor, and always enjoyed a good prank or practical joke.  When he wanted to, he could be very engaging and entertaining.

My Dad wasn’t very good with names, which is why he referred to just about everyone as “pal,” “buddy,” “babe,” or “honey.”

My Dad loved to do the daily crossword in the local newspaper.  I can remember him sitting in our living room — pen in hand — almost every day after work, when he had finished dinner, working on that puzzle.

My Dad was also pretty good at imparting life’s lessons.  He had a way of communicating his point that was candid and sometimes a little harsh.  But he always got his point across, loud and clear.

I’m sure I could ramble on for a good while about all the memories I have of my Dad.  Mostly I guess I’m just thinking about him and missing him this week…

Strengthen Your Core With Anti-Rotational Exercises

1 Jul

DSCN1370Since strength and power are generated “from the inside out,” improving core strength and stability is important to athletic performance.

Most sports require rotational movement (swinging a bat or hockey stick, throwing a baseball or football, etc.), so the development of rotational strength and power is an important consideration when training the core. Rotational exercises – e.g., medicine ball twists and lateral throws, kettlebell swings, and other “twisting” exercises – are training program components of virtually every athlete with whom I work.

Anti-rotational exercises require athletes to resist rotation when executing a specific movement while the application of an external force attempts to push or pull them laterally (rotationally).  Anti-rotational exercises are important because, in many sports – especially contact sports (football, basketball, soccer, and hockey come to mind) – it’s necessary for athletes to be able to maintain directional movement while resisting opponents’ contact forces that have the potential to “knock them off course.”

At my facility, I use the TRX Rip Trainer for most of the anti-rotational training. It has a safe and simple design, and is very user-friendly and versatile.  However, there are other exercise equipment options, and you can even make your own.

I incorporate a different anti-rotational exercise into every athlete’s training program, each week. Typically, my athletes perform 1 or 2 sets of 10-15 repetitions, from each side.

Here are a few sample exercises, with instruction and demonstration:

Anti-Rotational Press

Anti-Rotational Straight Arm Squat 

Standing farther from the anchor point increases the resistance and, subsequently, difficulty of the exercise. Moving the anchor point higher or lower helps the trainer target different areas of the core, and can also simulate a more “sport-specific” exercise (e.g., lower anchor point for hockey; middle anchor point for baseball; and variable anchor point for lacrosse).

Exercise selection can be varied, as many exercises can be performed with the addition of lateral resistance (there are also lots of TRX Rip Trainer exercises you can find on their website and elsewhere, online). Other examples are the standing row, military press, and straight-arm lunge; as well as “swinging” and “chopping” exercises.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Get In the Weight Room, Ladies

24 Jun

spartacus-workout_1[1]At Athletic Performance Training Center, our fastest growing client segment is female athletes and women interested in improving their fitness.

There’s virtually no difference between the way we train women and their male counterparts, and lots of relevant research supports this approach.

Forget all the myths and misinformation, and get the facts.  Strength training won’t make women “bulk up” — it can’t happen without lots of testosterone, which the female body doesn’t have.

The benefits of strength training, for men and women, athletes and non-athletes, are compelling.

Here’ a good read from Women’s Health titled, 6 Reasons Women Should Strength Train Like Men.

Check it out.  Then, get in the weight room, ladies.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

The 3 H’s for Athletes

17 Jun

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There are lots of qualities and characteristics that are important elements of athletic performance and achievement.  Ability, skill, and talent are — obviously — what every athlete aspires to develop.

But there are also intangible — effort-related — attributes that can improve any athlete’s performance.  Every team needs these athletes.  Persistent kids who work hard to get the most out of their talents and abilities.

Here are three of those attributes that will make any athlete hard to beat.

The 3 H’s for Athletes:

  1. Hard Work.  Get in the weight room.  Improve your strength, speed, agility, and athleticism.  Practice your sport-specific skills.  Improve your ball-handling, hitting, skating, foot skills, or whatever your sport requires.  Have a plan and work smart.
  2. Heart.  Believe in yourself.  Play with aggressiveness, confidence, and energy.  Hard work begets confidence.  Be confident, but not cocky.  Be positive, and have a “can-do” attitude.  Expect to succeed every time you’re on the field or court.
  3. Hustle.  It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re the most talented player on the field or court.  Never allow yourself to be out-worked.  Whatever your 100% looks like, give it.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Train Hard, Eat Well, and Get Some Sleep

10 Jun

Boy sleeping with basketballAs an athlete, you prepare by working hard in the weight room and being disciplined with your nutrition.

Don’t sabotage your efforts with bad sleep habits.

“Elite athletes now understand that ignoring their sleep can be as detrimental to their performance as taking to the field drunk,” says W. Christopher Winter, M.D., president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine and a consultant to several professional football, basketball, and baseball teams.

Athletes and active individuals should aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep, every night.

Here are some tips to stay on track with your sleep:

  • Boost your vitamin D.  During the winter, as sunlight exposure decreases, so do levels of vitamin D.  It’s an important nutrient for good sleep.  Get more vitamin D by eating salmon or other fatty fish, or by taking a supplement.
  • Eliminate distractions.  Don’t take the cell phone, computer, or TV to bed with you.  Try a sleep mask, earplugs, and lavender oil (research shows that the scent of lavender eases anxiety and insomnia).
  • Don’t “over-nap.”  Limit naps to 30 minutes to avoid sleeping too deeply and waking up groggy.  If you’re tired, go to bed earlier, and keep your wake-up times consistent.  Allow yourself to sleep in for 60-90 minutes on the weekends, but don’t sleep away too much of the day and deprive yourself of light exposure.

Also see related articles: Get Some Sleep, Improve Performance and Improve the Quality and Quantity of Your Sleep to Feel and Perform Better.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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