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Jump-Landing Training for Female Athletes

11 Feb

Vertical jump performance is important in several sports — basketball and volleyball being two team sports that come to mind.

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

Additionally, I’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!

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Is Strength Training Good for Endurance Athletes?

4 Feb

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 against 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 an article from the Strength and Conditioning Journal, 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!

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Happy New Year! (it’s resolution time)

7 Jan

Happy New Year, once again, and welcome to the end of the first full week of 2016.  Although I’m not a big proponent of annual resolutions, this time of year certainly lends itself to that process for lots of people.  If you’re one of them, here are some considerations in your quest for self-improvement:

  • Upgrade your pantry and fridge.  Replace the high-sugar, refined, processed, and fried foods and snacks with healthier options like nuts, fruits, and veggies.
  • Schedule your workout.  You’re more likely to commit to a regular workout if you schedule it as part of your day/week as you would any other appointment or obligation.
  • Train with a buddy to keep you motivated and accountable.  Research shows that you’re more likely to stay on task if you workout with a partner, especially if he or she is more fit than you.
  • Try new foods.  Experiment with new recipes and try to avoid stuff that comes out of a bag, package, or box.
  • Get your sleep.  You’ll feel and perform better when you are well-rested.  Aim for 7-8 hours of shuteye per night.
  • Try a new activity.  If your current routine is getting stale, move on.  Finding an activity you enjoy increases the likelihood that you’ll make it a priority.
  • Take a break.  Set aside time in your daily calendar for two 15-minute breaks — one in the morning and another in the afternoon.  Go for a walk, listen to music, or grab a healthy snack to improve productivity.
  • Get more color in your diet.  Try to include at least three colorful fruits and vegetables on your plate at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Colorful meals are packed with antioxidants and nutrients to help fight illness and decrease inflammation.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Increase Time Under Tension to Get Stronger, Build Muscle

17 Dec

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!

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Are You Overtraining?

1 Oct

A well-designed, periodized Strength & Conditioning program directs training strategies and recovery activities throughout the athlete’s off-season, pre-season, and in-season phases, to optimize performance and minimize fatigue.

But training doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and athletes often have to balance other factors, such as school-based team training/workouts, open gyms, etc. (not to mention family obligations, homework, studying, and part-time jobs)

Currently, my high school boys and girls basketball players train with me 2-3 days a week.  They are also expected to participate in “voluntary” team-based Strength & Conditioning activity at their schools (a discussion for another day) – usually 2 days a week – and 2-day-a-week open gym workouts.

So how much is enough and how much is too much?

Here’s a resource – An Overtraining Scale – from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Strength and Conditioning Journal that provides some insight into the subject of overtraining.

 

It’s important to understand that you shouldn’t “pre-determine” your training activity, relative to time off training.  For example, don’t make a decision to skip your Saturday workout just because you have a practice scheduled for Friday, without knowing how you’re going to feel Friday or Saturday.  This is where mental discipline becomes important.

Also understand that you’re going to have to work hard to achieve your goals.  You’re going to have to (reasonably) work through some fatigue – both mental and physical.  That’s how champions are made.  If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Take Your Plank to the Next Level

24 Sep

At Athletic Performance Training Center, we really like the plank exercise and several of its variations.  Unlike traditional crunches and situps, the plank — done correctly — engages, strengthens, and stabilizes your entire core, shoulders to hips (and they’re easier on the back and hips).

I recently found this article titled, 47 Plank Variations for a Killer Core, which provides beginner, intermediate, and advanced level variations of this versatile, bodyweight exercise.

Check it out and give ’em a try.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Build Strength with Training Volume, Not Frequency

3 Sep

More is not necessarily better, especially as it relates to training frequency, according to recent research from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

In the study (Training Volume, Not Frequency, Indicative of Maximal Strength Adaptations to Resistance Training; Colquhoun, Ryan J., et. al.), the authors determined that “6 weeks of resistance training led to significant increases in maximal strength and fat-free mass.  In addition, it seems that increased training frequency does not lead to additional strength improvements when volume and intensity are equated.  High-frequency (6x per week) resistance training does not seem to offer additional strength and hypertrophy benefits over lower frequency (3x per week) when volume and intensity are equated.”

Bottom line: When you’re at the gym, train hard.  Push yourself.  Get your work done.  But don’t underestimate the rest/recovery process that follows.  There’s no need to be in the gym every day to get results.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Strengthen Your Hips and Glutes with the Mini-Band Lateral Shuffle

27 Aug

If you want to increase your lower-body strength and powersprinting speed, and vertical jump, don’t underestimate the beneficial impact of strong hips and glutes.

When you don’t work your glutes, you miss out on working the largest muscle group in your body and burning a ton of calories and fat. You also aren’t as powerful or strong, since the bulk of your strength and power emanates from your core musculature — of which your hips and glutes are an important part — and not your extremities.

Additionally, when you’re not performing exercises that activate your hips and glutes, you also run the risk of injury because other muscles, that really can’t handle the load, take over.

The Mini-Band Lateral Shuffle is a great exercise to get your hip and glute muscles activated and firing.  Here’ how to do it:

  • Place the mini-band around both ankles (if you place the band higher up the leg, the exercise will be easier; if you place it around your ankles, it will be more difficult)
  • In starting position, your feet should be about hip-width to shoulder-width apart; toes should both be pointing forward and your feet should be parallel
  • Keep your hips low (butt down) and knees bent; you should assume a half-squat position
  • Step laterally with one foot, as far as you can (stretch the band), and then step in with the other foot (resist the band); always keep tension on the band when you are stepping and don’t let the feet come together
  • Remember, every time you step try to step as far apart as possible to really work the glutes
  • Do not drag the back foot when you step back in (also, try not to rock as you shuffle)
  • Perform 10 repetitions in one direction, rest 30 seconds, and repeat in the opposite direction

You can do one set or multiple sets.  We like our athletes to do one set of this exercise (both directions) as a “finisher,” at the end of each workout.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Complement Your Bench Press with the Inverted Row

6 Aug

Everybody loves the bench press.  It’s a great exercise for building upper-body strength, engages multiple joints and muscles, and can be performed with several different variations.

But many athletes neglect the equally important opposing muscle groups engaged by upper-body pulling exercises, like those that employ the rowing motion.  This “push-pull” strategy — also known as agonist-antagonist paired sets — is beneficial because it improves strength development, joint stability, musculoskeletal balance, and injury prevention.

The inverted row is a multi-joint, upper-body exercise that can improve and increase shoulder and back stability, upper-body muscular pulling strength, and relative upper-body strength.

The inverted row is a versatile exercise that can be modified in intensity to accommodate athletes of varying training experience and proficiency.  It can be performed with a straight bar or with suspension-type exercise equipment (TRX), and can be regressed or progressed by changing feet position, elevating the feet and/or adding weight via weight belts, vests, etc.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Exercise Spotlight: Kettlebell Thruster

30 Jul

The kettlebell (KB) thruster is a total-body, multi-joint exercise designed to improve strength and power performance.  This exercise can improve your ability to transfer energy from the lower to upper extremities, and serves as a great general muscular conditioning exercise for the whole body.

Because many sports involve multiple movements that require high-power output, the application of the KB thruster into an athlete’s training program may be beneficial.  Additionally, KB training is a space- and time-efficient method of training that can be used with a variety of age groups and experience levels.

The benefits of the KB thruster include:

  • combines two multi-joint exercises
  • provides more of a challenge (greater muscular demand) than if each exercise was performed alone
  • mimics sport-specific and functional movement patterns

Here’s a video that demonstrates proper exercise technique for the kettlebell thruster exercise.

Variations of the KB thruster exercise include performing the exercise with two kettlebells, dumbbells, or resistance bands with handles.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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