Improve Speed and Agility with These Drills

27 Apr

hqdefault[1]Here are two variations of a speed and agility drill we use with the athletes who train at our facility.  Both iterations of this drill focus on acceleration, deceleration, change of direction, and foot speed.

Sprint/Lateral Slalom-Shuffle Drill

In this drill, our athletes start with a five-yard sprint; lateral (side-to-side) slalom-shuffle five yards (cones placed one yard apart); sprint five yards; lateral slalom-shuffle five yards; and finish with a five yard sprint.

Sprint/Linear Slalom-Shuffle Drill

In this drill, our athletes start with a five-yard sprint; linear (forward-backward) slalom-shuffle five yards (cones placed one yard apart); sprint five yards; linear slalom-shuffle five yards; and finish with a five yard sprint.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Eat Clean, Get Lean, Feel Great

24 Apr

50-clean-eating-superfoods-[1]Eating clean isn’t about being extreme or fanatical about the foods you eat.  It’s about making better choices and realizing that moderation is the key.

Eating clean means opting for more of the foods we know are good for us — whole grains, leans meats, fruits, vegetables, and good fats (the kind that comes from nuts and seeds) — and less of the stuff we know is not so good — processed foods, sugar, sodium, and bad fats (for example, trans fats).

Here are some basic rules for eating clean:

Stick with the Basics

The closer foods are to their natural states, the better.  That means unsalted, without added sugar, grass-fed, free-range, meats, and whole fruits and vegetables.  Add more “real” food to your diet, and improve your overall health.

Beware of Boxes and Cans

Most foods that come in a box, and many that come in cans, are processed in some way.  They either add “bad” stuff or strip away “good” stuff.  As a rule, the closer a food is to its original form, the better it is for you.

Be a Label Checker

Try to spend a little time reading the ingredient lists of the foods you and your family eat.  Generally, the healthiest foods contain the fewest ingredients.  If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, don’t eat it.

Avoid Bad Ingredients

Trans fats, food coloring and dyes, artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, and nitrates and nitrites have been linked with everything from heart attacks and strokes to tumors and certain cancers.  Steer clear of foods that contain these ingredients.

Be a Smart(er) Shopper

Foods that are low in sugar and fat, and high in fiber, are great choices as meals and snacks.  Add to your grocery list foods like hummus, tuna and salmon, whole-grain breads and pastas, chia seeds, quinoa, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and lean meats; and spices and condiments like peppercorn, canola oil, and garlic powder.

Eat at Home

It takes a little forethought, planning, and preparation, but home cooking can help you cut calories and improve nutrition.  There are lots of online resources that can provide quick, easy-to-prepare, nutritious recipes for you and your family.  Try “one-dish” meals, which contain a vegetable, protein, and complex carbohydrate.  Use a slow cooker or Crock-Pot and program the time you want your food to be ready.  Cook large, family-sized portions and freeze leftovers for meals later in the week.  Try new foods, combinations, and preparations.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Training Variety Stimulates Strength Development

22 Apr

Football-Team-Lifting-300x200[1]“Novelty or training variety are important for stimulating further strength development,” according to research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. (Harries, et. al.)

Although this information is not necessarily new, it reinforces the fact that a good strength and conditioning program should incorporate variety of exercise selection; and be periodized and progressive, in order to ensure the athlete’s physical growth and development.

Training periodization is a program design strategy in which the strength and conditioning professional incorporates variations in training specificity, intensity, and volume organized in planned periods or cycles within an overall program, to promote long-term training and performance improvements.

An example of a practical application of training periodization to an athlete’s sport season would be to adapt his or her training to address the relative demands of the sport — over an entire year — including the off-season, pre-season, in-season, and post-season phases.

Obviously, the goal of a periodized training strategy is to help the athlete achieve and maintain optimal strength and power during his or her competition period (in-season phase).  Typically, this requires further increases in training intensity with additional decreases in training volume.

As the athlete adapts to the training stimulus, the strength and conditioning professional must have a strategy of advancing the exercise loads so that improvements will continue over time.  This is referred to as training progression.

A conservative method that can be used to increase an athlete’s training load is called the 2-for-2 rule.  If the athlete can perform two or more repetitions over his or her assigned repetition goal in the last set in two consecutive workouts for a certain exercise, weight should be added to that exercise for the next training session.  (Baechle, T. and Earle, R.; Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning)

It’s worthwhile to note that post-exercise muscle soreness is related to training variety more than intensity or volume.  For this reason, strength and conditioning professionals should be careful about adding excessive, novel training movements during the athlete’s in-season phase.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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YOU Are Your Best Motivator

20 Apr

mountain-climbing-accidents-deaths-on-lhotse-person[1]Any endeavor requires motivation in order to make it a success.  Typically, we begin the pursuit of a goal with lots of energy and enthusiasm.  Unfortunately, many of us abandon our dreams, in part because we fail to realize that this high energy won’t last forever.

We may feel highly motivated to begin a new diet or exercise plan, or perhaps a new job or other project.  We are excited about the possibilities.  Then, after a while, we become tired and our initial enthusiasm fades.

That’s when self-motivation becomes important.  That’s when we need to push ourselves.

We shouldn’t allow our motivation to be too dependent on what the scale or mirror says, or what other people say or think.  There’s nothing wrong with external (extrinsic) motivation — sometimes it can be effective — but we need to work on developing our internal (intrinsic) motivation.

Being motivated doesn’t mean we won’t have to struggle with adversity along the way.  There will always be demands on our lives and our time.  There will be obstacles and temptation to derail our efforts.  Things are rarely as easy as they initially seem.  Remember that even when your motivation is low, you are still able to accomplish something.  Low motivation doesn’t have to mean paralysis.

Conversely, when your motivation is high, take advantage of it by taking on more (or more difficult) tasks.

Occasionally, there will be a “bad” day.  There are times in all of our lives when we find it challenging to stay motivated and on course.  Don’t allow yourself to focus on the negative.  Focus instead on what really matters and learn from a negative situation in order to create a better outcome next time.

We can improve our self-motivation when we acknowledge and embrace the realization that we own our thoughts, feelings, behavior, and choices.  We are in control of what we think, feel, and do.  Reflect upon times when your motivation was high and try to determine what you did to feel that way.

Your motivation will be much stronger and consistent when you focus on making conscious choices about what you can do consistently to achieve all of your dreams and goals.

Be accountable when looking at how you define problems and situations.  Think about what you can do — given what is reasonably and realistically within your power — and do it.  Be open-minded and willing to try different things.

Preparation — and the effort you put into preparation — will make it easier for you to follow through, even when taking on more difficult tasks.  Advance planning and forethought can help you to be less dependent on extra motivation.

Focus on progress, rather than perfection.  Incremental change is the key.  Avoid alternating bouts of productivity and inactivity.  Be consistent — do what you can — on a daily basis, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you can achieve over time.  Slow and steady wins the race.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Eat More of These Power Foods

17 Apr

top-10-fat-burning-foods[1]If you’re looking to maximize the return on your nutritional investment — and I know you are — you don’t have to look much further than these power foods.

These foods will energize you; cut your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other diseases; strengthen your immune system; relieve pain and reduce inflammation; help your muscles recover after exercise; and boost brain function.

  • Apples — contain quercetin, a tissue-protecting antioxidant, and a dose of belly-filling fiber.
  • Bananas — for fiber and potassium.
  • Beans — a great source of fiber, protein, vitamin B, zinc, iron, and magnesium.
  • Berries — loaded with heart-healthy, cancer-fighting antioxidants.
  • Dark Cherries — ease inflammation, relieve pain, and can help you sleep better.
  • Dark Leafy Greenskale and spinach are great sources of iron, calcium, vitamins A, C, and K, and folate.
  • Salmon — heart-healthy omega-3s (good fats) and serotonin (a good-mood neurotransmitter)
  • Kiwi — as much potassium as a banana and more vitamin C than an orange
  • Oatmeal — add it to your protein shakes for more fiber and omega-3s.
  • Whole Grains — healthier carbs like brown rice and quinoa (a complete protein).
  • Yogurt — especially the Greek variety.
  • Spices — like ginger, mustard, garlic, and honey.
  • Black and Green Teas — can lower stress and block fat absorption.
  • Avocados — rich in “healthy” fat and powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Eggs — eat this “smart” food for the vitamin D and choline.
  • Beets — high in fiber, magnesium, and vitamin C, and may help reduce blood pressure.
  • Nuts — like almonds and pistachios, make a great snack.
  • Chocolate — the dark variety gets all the good press, but new research shows that milk chocolate also lowers risk of heart disease.

Add some of these foods to this week’s grocery list.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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About the Elevation Training Mask

15 Apr

hqdefault[1]Now there’s a way for athletes to benefit from high-altitude training without heading to the mountains.

The Elevation Training Mask is a device worn on the face to simulate high-altitude training.  The mask is based on the concept that “thinner” air forces your body to work harder, increasing your ability to process oxygen.

Athletes benefit from the effects of high-altitude training when they return to normal elevations, showing performance improvements resulting from increases in strength, endurance, and speed.

After researching the mask and consulting with a few colleagues, I was intrigued and decided to try it.  I’ve been training with it for the past two weeks.  The neoprene mask is actually fairly comfortable, fitting over the nose and mouth, and secured with a Velcro strap across the back of the head.

The concept is pretty simple: The mask restricts air flow, making your lungs work harder.  Air flow is restricted by adjustable air resistance valves, which simulate altitudes from 3,000 to 18,000 feet (I’m using the 3,000 ft. valves).

The mask forces you inhale more fully and breathe more deeply (once you get over the initial, “claustrophobic” feeling, it’s actually not too bad).

Potential benefits of training with the Elevation Training Mask include:

  • Increased lung capacity
  • Increased anaerobic thresholds
  • Increased oxygen efficiency
  • Increased energy production
  • Increased mental and physical stamina
  • Increased mental focus

Training with the Elevation Training Mask may be another way athletes can gain a competitive edge.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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You Can Go as Far as Your Belief Will Take You

13 Apr

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BELIEVE IN YOU!

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Resistance Band Warmup Can Improve Lower-Body Power

10 Apr

0809_posterA1_200x200[1]Pre-workout warmup with an elastic resistance band (band squat) is just as effective as the barbell box squat, in augmenting acute jump power, according to research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.  Both modes of warmup were superior to static stretching.

Power output significantly decreased from pre-warmup to post-warmup for the static stretch protocol.  The static stretch was detrimental to jump performance.  There is a consensus in the scientific literature to suggest a negative relationship between static stretching and acute power performance (sprinting, jumping, etc.).

The barbell box squat protocol involved 3 sets of 3RM; the band squat protocol involved 3 sets of 3 repetitions using highest resistance elastic bands; and the static stretch protocol used two 30-second stretches of muscles of the lower limbs.

Since elastic resistance bands are relatively inexpensive, portable, and accessible (compared to less transportable equipment like squat racks and free weights), strength and conditioning professionals may consider them for athletes training at various competition levels.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Success Requires Commitment

8 Apr

kid-success[1]

Some people dream of success while others wake up and work hard at it.” – Winston Churchill

com·mit·ment
/kəˈmitmənt/
noun
the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.
synonyms: dedication, devotion, allegiance, loyalty, faithfulness, fidelity

 

Everyone wants to be successful.  But not everyone wants to commit themselves to do what’s necessary to become successful.

Lots of people dream about and wish for success.  But you can’t be successful if all you do is think about it.  At some point, you have to convert those thoughts, wishes, and dreams to action.

You may be waiting for inspiration or motivation to commit yourself to your dreams and goals.  Don’t wait… just get moving and take a step in the direction of your aspirations.  It may seem counter-intuitive, but action precedes motivation.

It starts with your mindset.  You’ve got to make the decision that nothing will hold you back or stand in the way of your success.  Be determined and expect success.

Don’t be vague about what you want to achieve.  It’s hard to commit yourself to something if your vision is not clear and your goal is not specific.

Eliminate distractions and unimportant details, and focus on what’s important.

Be prepared for some challenges and setbacks along the way.  Learn from those experiences.  Focus on those areas you can control, and do your best to stay on track.

Hold yourself accountable by setting short-term (daily, weekly, etc.) goals; telling others (family, friends, etc.) about what you are doing; and surrounding yourself with like-minded, supportive people.  Keep a journal of your progress, and review it regularly.

At times, commitment requires some sacrifice.  If you believe in and are fully committed to your goal, you will be willing to sacrifice. Be willing to step out of your comfort zone.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Build Power and Speed with Horizontal Jumps

6 Apr

StandingLongJump[1]There is a positive correlation between vertical and horizontal jumps (standing long jumps) and muscular performance in athletes, according to research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (JSCR).

At our facility, we favor contrast training — a strength exercise immediately followed by a power (explosive) exercise; for example, the squat followed by the squat jump.  Our athletes perform vertical and horizontal jumps, and plyometrics as the preferred modes of lower-body power training.

In the JSCR study, both vertical and horizontal jumps showed a significant correlation to sprint speed.  Bilateral and unilateral (single-leg) countermovement jumps, drop jumps, and squat jumps improved muscle architecture and sprint performance.

Unilateral jumps appear to have an even larger correlation to sprint speed than their bilateral counterparts.

Based on this information, strength and conditioning professionals can further improve their athletes’ performance by incorporating horizontal jumps — including unilateral jumps — into their training regimen.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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