How Young is Too Young for Strength Training?

23 Mar

dips[1]I am frequently asked, “Is my child too young/old enough for strength training?

Research now agrees and supports that resistance exercise can be safe and effective for children.  If the child is old enough to listen, pay attention, and follow instructions, he or she is probably capable of participating in a strength training program.  However, it’s important to remember that children are not miniature adults, and should not be trained, as such.

Although preadolescent boys and girls have the potential to significantly improve their strength with resistance training, these gains are less attributable to muscle hypertrophy (growth) and more so to neurological (neuromuscular) factors — improving motor unit coordination, recruitment, and firing.

Potential benefits of strength training for children include increased muscular strength and endurance; improved anatomic and psychosocial parameters; reduced injuries in sports and recreation activities; improved motor skills and sport performance; positive effect on bone density.

Parents should be educated about the benefits and risks of competitive sports and should understand the importance of general fitness for the young athlete.

Children should participate in a year-round strength and conditioning program to enhance fitness, strength, and flexibility.  The program should vary in volume and intensity throughout the year and meet the specific needs of each athlete.

The nutritional status of young athletes should be monitored to ensure that their diets are adequate.

Youth sport coaches should participate in educational programs to learn more about strength and conditioning, sport skills, safety rules, equipment, the psychology of children, and the physiology of growth and development.

A competent — qualified and experienced — strength and conditioning professional can assist in the development of youth strength training programs that stress quality instruction and appropriate rate of progression.

YOUTH RESISTANCE TRAINING GUIDELINES (adapted from Faigenbaum et al. 1996)

  • Each child should understand the benefits and risks associated with resistance training.
  • Competent and caring fitness professionals should supervise training sessions.
  • The exercise environment, including equipment, should be safe and free of hazards.
  • Appropriate warm-up should be performed before resistance training.
  • Carefully monitor each child’s tolerance to the exercise stress.
  • Begin with light loads to allow appropriate adjustments to be made.
  • Increase the resistance/intensity gradually (e.g., 5% -10%) as strength improves.
  • Depending on individual needs and goals, one to three sets of 6 to 15 repetitions on a variety of single- and multi-joint exercises can be performed.
  • Advance multi-joint exercises, such as modified cleans, pulls, and presses, may be incorporated into the program, provided that appropriate loads are used and the focus remains on proper form.
  • Two to three nonconsecutive training sessions per week are recommended.
  • When necessary, adult spotters should be nearby to actively assist the child in the event of a failed repetition.
  • The resistance training program should be systematically varied throughout the year.
  • Children should be encouraged to drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise.

Your thoughts?

WE WILL HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER ATHLETE!

We provide motivated athletes with a simple, customized training plan to help them improve performance and reduce injury risk.

Strength Training Safety and Specificity

16 Mar

adv_benchpress_03[1]One of the goals of strength training is to reduce the likelihood of injury during training.  Compared with other sports and fitness activities, strength training is actually quite safe — if and when athletes adhere to basic safety principles.

Specificity should also be an important consideration when designing an exercise program to improve performance in a particular sport or activity.  Exercise selection should be determined to reflect and support the demands and movement patterns of the sport.  A strength training program designed around sport-specific exercise movements can improve performance and reduce the likelihood of injury.

SAFETY

  • Always perform a dynamic (movement-based) warm-up activity — or warm-up sets — with relatively light weight in order to stimulate blood flow to the muscles and improve connective tissue (ligaments, tendons) function.  Avoid static stretching as a warm-up.
  • Perform exercises through a full range-of-motion.
  • When performing a new exercise, or when training after an extended layoff (multiple weeks), use relatively light weight and gradually increase as proficiency allows.
  • Don’t “work through” pain, especially joint pain.  Working through some muscle fatigue or post-exercise muscle soreness is usually okay, but severe and persistent pain may be a warning sign to have the injury examined and treated medically.
  • Never attempt maximal lifts without appropriate preparation, (technique) instruction, and supervision.
  • Avoid “bouncing” at the bottom of the squat exercise, as this type of movement can cause muscle injury.  Observe proper squat mechanics — keep the knee in a vertical plane through the foot and hip.
  • Athletes should build adequate lower-body strength before beginning a lower-body plyometrics program.
  • Perform several varieties of an exercise to improve muscle development and joint stability.

SPECIFICITY

  • Exercise selection should reflect and support the qualitative and quantitative demands and movement patterns of the sport.
  • Joint ranges-of-motion should be at least as great as those in the target activity.
  • Utilize visual observation and video as tools to facilitate exercise selection and determine movements important to that sport.
  • Exercise selection should include the three major planes — frontal, sagittal, and transverse, in order to strengthen movements among and between the planes.
  • Training should be movement-based, and not muscle-based.

Your thoughts?

WE WILL HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER ATHLETE!

We provide motivated athletes with a simple, customized training plan to help them improve performance and reduce injury risk.

How to Improve Force Production

9 Mar

revwads18cut-1[1]There are many factors that affect force production (the amount of force produced in a muscle, or muscles).  Improvements in force production can optimize sport-specific skill performance, including running, jumping, throwing, and hitting/striking.

Lift Heavy

Lifting heavy weight (e.g, 65-80% 1RM) produces greater tension in the muscle which, in turn, leads to greater motor unit (neuromuscular) recruitment, which affects force production.  The number of active motor units is directly proportional to the amount of force production.  (It should also be noted that heavy lifting and explosive concentric training [see below] have the potential to activate more fast-twitch muscle fibers)

Preloading

Preloading is the tension developed in the muscle before you move the weight.  When you bench press, deadlift, or squat, you can’t move the bar off the rack or floor until sufficient force is developed in the muscle to overcome the inertia of the barbell.

Overload Eccentric Training

Use very heavy resistance (≥ 100% 1RM) to perform “negatives,” which emphasize the lowering phase/movement of a lift.  For safety reasons, it may be advisable to use a spotter (or spotters) for certain exercises, such as the bench press, to assist in returning the weight to the original (up) position.

Explosive Concentric Training

When training for explosive concentric movements — where the goal is generating velocity — use relatively light resistance.

Plyometrics

Plyometric exercises exploit the stretch-shortening cycle to generate maximum force in minimum time.  This involves “prestretching” a muscle immediately before a concentric action to enhance force production during the subsequent muscle action.

Rest

It’s important to incorporate rest days into your training regimen in order to allow muscles time to recover and repair.

Your thoughts?

WE WILL HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER ATHLETE!

We provide motivated athletes with a simple, customized training plan to help them improve performance and reduce injury risk.

When the Going Gets Tough…

2 Mar

the_fox_and_the_grapes_by_alexmax-d4ys8zz[1]You’re going to encounter some adversity.  You’re going to experience some hardship.  Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but it’s inevitable.

Recently, I’ve had some challenging (and enlightening) discussions with a few student-athletes that reminded me of Aesop’s “The Fox and the Grapes” fable:

     One afternoon a fox was walking through the forest and spotted a bunch of grapes hanging from over a lofty branch.

     “Just the thing to quench my thirst,” quoth he.

     Taking a few steps back, the fox jumped and just missed the hanging grapes. Again the fox took a few paces back and tried to reach them but still failed.

     Finally, giving up, the fox turned up his nose and said, “They’re probably sour anyway,” and proceeded to walk away.

The moral of the story: It’s easy to despise what you cannot have.

When faced with adversity in their sport of choice, there are some kids (and, perhaps, parents) who apparently feel that it’s better/easier to give up than continue working to improve.  I hear comments used to justify quitting, like, “There are more important things in life than sports,” and “It’s not like I’m going to be a professional athlete.”

Of course there are more important things in life than sports — and very few of us will become professional athletes, but that doesn’t mean sports aren’t important.  Using that argument, you can rationalize any shortcoming.

You can make a case that there are also more important things in life than school — studying, doing homework, getting good grades, ACT scores, etc.

I suppose there’s also more to life than working — learning a craft, managing some aspect of a business, earning money, etc.

At any given time, you can add just about anything to to the “there’s more to life” list: faith, friends, family, and any other obligation/responsibility — or choice — you care to name.

I find it ironic that you rarely hear these types of comments from people who are committed to succeeding.  Certainly, they also know that whatever they’re doing is not necessarily the defining aspect of their lives.

What these folks have learned is that success is not only about the end result.  True success is also about the process.  It’s about learning and practicing and working through adversity.

What do you do when the going gets tough? Do you rationalize failure or do you strengthen your resolve and work harder?

Your thoughts?

WE WILL HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER ATHLETE!

We provide motivated athletes with a simple, customized training plan to help them improve performance and reduce injury risk.

Aerobic/Anaerobic Combination Training Implications

24 Feb

Tire%20flipping[1]When aerobic training is added to the training of anaerobic athletes (those who participate in sports whose demands are primarily anaerobic), the resulting process can be termed combination training.

And, although lots of athletes who participate in strength and power sports also engage in some type of aerobic training, they may want to reconsider (please refer to, Why Are You Still Jogging?).

Certainly, some sports have more of an aerobic component than others, but virtually all sports integrate alternating intervals — short bursts — of high-intensity and (relatively) lower-intensity activity.  Characteristics of anaerobic training include:

  • Absence of oxygen
  • High intensity
  • Short duration
  • Develops force
  • Burns calories even when the body is at rest

Aerobic training may reduce anaerobic performance capabilities, particularly high-strength, high-power performance (Hickson, R.C. Interference of strength development by simultaneously training for strength and endurance. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 215:255-263. 1980).  High-strength, high-power performance incorporates explosive, “all-or-nothing” movements, including sprinting, jumping, hitting, throwing, kicking, blocking, and tackling.

Not only has aerobic training been shown to reduce anaerobic energy production capabilities; combined anaerobic and aerobic training can reduce the gain in muscle girth, maximum strength, and especially speed- and power-related performance (Dudley, G.A., and R. Djamil. Incompatibility of endurance- and strength-training modes of exercise. J. Appl. Physiol. 59(5); 1446-1451. 1985).

Apparently, it does not appear that the opposite holds true; several studies and reviews suggest that anaerobic training (strength training) can improve low-intensity exercise endurance (Hickson, R.C., et.al. Potential for strength and endurance training to amplify endurance performance. J. Appl. Physiol. 65(5):2285-2290. 1988. Strength training effects on aerobic power and short-term endurance. Med.Sci. Sports. Exerc. 12:336-339, 1980. Stone, M.H., et.al. Health and performance related adaptations to resistive training. Sports Med. 11(4):210-231. 1991).  In other words, endurance athletes can benefit from and improve performance by strength training.

As strength and conditioning professionals, we should be careful about prescribing aerobic training for anaerobic athletes/sports.  An athlete’s training should be designed to reflect and support the demands and movement patterns of his or her sport.  Aerobic training may be counterproductive in most strength and power sports.

Your thoughts?

WE WILL HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER ATHLETE!

We provide motivated athletes with a simple, customized training plan to help them improve performance and reduce injury risk.

Be a Possibility Thinker

17 Feb

does-positive-thinking-help-you--20120811102240[1]Are you a Possibility Thinker?

In his book, Hours of Power, Robert H. Schuller effectively describes the attributes and characteristics of a Possibility Thinker:

Possibility Thinkers look for — and often find — the good in virtually every situation, sometimes in the most unlikely places.

Possibility Thinkers look for reasons why something will work, visualizing ways in which it could work.

Possibility Thinkers explore every challenge to discover the positive opportunities that exist within.

Possibility Thinkers listen to new ideas; evaluate them thoughtfully; and recognize and seize opportunities.

Possibility Thinkers do not quit when faced with an obstacle.  They persist and persevere until they find a way over, around, or through.

Possibility Thinkers do not defend and rationalize mistakes, or make excuses for failures.

Possibility Thinkers are open to constructive criticism, sensible advice, and honest council.

Possibility Thinkers succeed because they have trained themselves to look for the positive possibilities in all areas of life.

Possibility Thinkers have faith, hope, confidenceenthusiasm, and optimism.

Possibility Thinkers are imaginative, creative, and visionary.

Possibility Thinkers are dreamers, opportunists, risk-takers, and believers.

Possibility Thinkers have a positive mental attitude; they are leaders and pioneers.

Be a Possibility Thinker!

Your thoughts?

WE WILL HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER ATHLETE!

We provide motivated athletes with a simple, customized training plan to help them improve performance and reduce injury risk.

Stand Up (more) and Exercise

10 Feb

sitting.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterbox[1]We sit too much.  We sit at work.  We sit when we drive.  We sit when we watch TV.  And, of course, we sit when we eat.

Don’t go to the gym and do more sitting.

Spend more time exercising at the gym on your feet (and don’t sit between sets, either).  You’ll burn more calories, increase core activation, and stay more focused and engaged in your workout.

Sure, there will always be a place for exercises like the bench press.  But you’ll find that you can perform virtually any exercise or movement — and work any muscle group — while standing, instead of sitting or lying down.

As an alternative to barbells and dumbbells, incorporate bands, kettlebells and medicine balls into your workout.  You can push, pull, lift, swing and throw them — and get a great workout in the process.

Push or pull a weighted sled.

Try suspension training (we like the TRX), and anti-rotational training, using equipment like the TRX Rip Trainer.

When you’re upright, the muscles that keep you balanced and stabilized work twice as hard, compared with sitting or lying down.  This strategy will also create a more efficient, effective workout… and produce results.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Improve Performance With This Training Strategy

3 Feb

hex-bar-girl[1]One of the goals of athletic performance training should be to increase athletes’ work capacity while improving (reducing) their recovery time. Contrast training is a highly effective method for improving many physical attributes involved in athletic performance, including strength, power, speed (acceleration) and agility — if implemented properly.  Contrast training involves performing a set of a heavy resistance exercise, immediately followed by a set of a biomechanically similar power exercise (for example, a barbell back squat, immediately followed by a squat jump).  Complex training is a similar approach, which involves performing 3-4 sets of heavy resistance training followed by 3-4 sets of the biomechanically similar power exercise.

The benefits of contrast training include:

  • Effective in producing results
  • Highly efficient
  • Allows for high work density
  • Time effective
  • Allows athletes to complete fewer training sessions in order to yield the same or greater results
  • May have implications for injury prevention

Here’s an example of a simple contrast model for athletes to build explosive power:

  • Barbell Back Squat — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Box Jump — 1 rep; rest 15-20 seconds
  • Barbell Back Squat — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Box Jump — 1 rep; rest 15-20 seconds
  • Barbell Back Squat — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Box Jump — 1 rep; rest 15-20 seconds
  • Barbell Back Squat — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Box Jump — 1 rep
  • Rest 2-3 minutes, then repeat for a total of 2-4 sets

Incorporate this superset into your workout for speed development:

  • Hex Deadlift — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Hurdle Hop — 1 rep; rest 20 seconds
  • Hex Deadlift — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Hurdle Hop — 1 rep; rest 20 seconds
  • Hex Deadlift — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Hurdle Hop — 1 rep; rest 20 seconds
  • Hex Deadlift — 1 rep 65-80% 1RM + Hurdle Hop — 1 rep
  • Rest 2-3 minutes, then repeat for a total of 2-4 sets

And finally, a superset using two explosive/plyometric exercises:

  • Squat Jump — 25-30% (body weight) load + Depth Jump — 1 rep; rest 15-20 seconds
  • Squat Jump — 25-30% (body weight) load + Depth Jump — 1 rep; rest 15-20 seconds
  • Squat Jump — 25-30% (body weight) load + Depth Jump — 1 rep; rest 15-20 seconds
  • Squat Jump — 25-30% (body weight) load + Depth Jump — 1 rep
  • Rest 2-3 minutes, then repeat for a total of 1-3 sets

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

EVERYONE Has Potential (including you)

27 Jan

stephencurryshooting_original[1]Not everyone can sprint like Usain Bolt, but everyone has the potential to get faster.

Not everyone can be an Olympic power lifter, but everyone has the potential to get stronger.

Not everyone can shoot like Stephen Curry, but every basketball player has the potential to become an improved shooter. (or ball-handler, etc.)

Not everyone can be Mike Krzyzewski, but every coach has the potential to be more effective in leading his or her team.

Not everyone can graduate at the top of their class, but every student has the potential to improve his or her grades.

Not everyone can be a world-renowned college professor, but every teacher has the potential to be a more effective educator.

Not everyone can be a great orator, but everyone has the potential to improve their public speaking skills.

Better parent. Better friend. Better teammate. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do.  All of us have potential, and we can all improve in some area(s) of our lives.  Talent, skill, and ability are great, but they’re useless if they’re not applied.

Potential is a double-edged sword.  Having the potential to learn, grow, develop, and improve is a blessing.  Unrealized potential is a curse.

What are you doing to unlock your potential?  What are you willing to do to improve?

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

One Day at a Time (Today is the Day)

20 Jan

Haleakala-Sunrise[1]What do you want to accomplish?  What are your dreams; your goals; your aspirations?

You can’t do anything with yesterday.  It’s gone.

You can’t do anything with tomorrow.  It’s not here yet. (although today’s choices can impact tomorrow)

Today’s the day.  Today, it is within your power to work toward your objectives.  Today, you can do something to move closer to your goals.  Today, you can take another step forward in pursuit of your dreams.

But you only have today…

Take it one day at a time.  Understand that you can’t “do” one week in a day.  Aim for incremental change.  Over time, the cumulative impact will be considerable.  Make today count.  Make today what it can be, to the best of your ability.

Be patient.  Today won’t be perfect.  You can’t control everything, but you must be committed to do your best to impact what is under your control.  Try not to allow outside influences to upset and distract you.

Be persistent.  Don’t give up.  Setbacks are inevitable — and often temporary, and can be used as valuable learning experiences.  Keep moving forward — over, around, and through.  Slow progress is better than no progress.

Be realistic.  We all have limitations.  Be honest with yourself and recognize the difference between “can’t” and “won’t.”

Challenge yourself.  If you’re doing something you already know you can do, you’re not really challenging yourself.  Push yourself.  Raise your personal “bar.”

Believe in yourself.  Have faith in the power of you.

What will you do with today?

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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