Tag Archives: agility

Boost Your Performance with Contrast Training

19 Apr

There are various differences in the physical demands of sports, based on factors such as the sport, itself, and positional differences among and between athletes.  Different sports require athletes to move through unique movement patterns which, for training purposes, can be categorized into vertical, linear, and lateral.  Exercises that focus on strength and power development, in these three areas, should be at the forefront of every athlete’s training program.

One of the goals of athletic performance training should be to increase the 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 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

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Dynamic Warmup is the Most Effective Pre-Activity Strategy

5 Apr

You can add another study to the overwhelming and growing mountain of research supporting dynamic (movement-based) warm-up — and not static stretching — before engaging in competitive power sports.

This study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, sought to compare and quantify the effects of static stretching and dynamic warm-up on jump performance in NCAA DI female college volleyball players.

As expected, dynamic warm-up was found to result in a significantly higher level of jump performance than static stretching, especially when performed closer to the time of competition.  Athletes’ subsequent jump performance was better when the dynamic warm-up was done within 5-10 minutes preceding competition compared to 25-30 minutes prior to competition.

Hundreds of studies corroborate dynamic warm-up’s similar impact on strength, power, speed, and agility performance.  Athletes, coaches, trainers… get with the program.  Improve performance by eliminating pre-activity static stretching and implementing a dynamic warm-up that reflects the demands and movement patterns of the activity – before workouts, practices, and games.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Speed is Good, Quickness is Better

3 Mar

072613Athletes1_t670[1]Speed is a difference maker in virtually every sport. For an athlete, it can mean a competitive advantage. For a team, it can mean the difference between winning and losing.

But, as important as speed is (and it is important), very few sports require only straight-line speed. Change of speed and direction, and the ability to react quickly, are critical to athletic performance, and as important as — if not more important than — linear speed.

Quickness (agility) is the ability to react and change speed — accelerate (speed-up) and decelerate (slow-down) — and change direction quickly and effectively. Agility is a skill that can be developed through a variety of drills, which should reflect the demands and movement patterns of the sport. Since most sports require reaction and agility, an athlete’s training plan should incorporate some type of agility training.

  • Agility training should involve movement in all directions, and require the athlete to alternate among forward running, backpedaling, and lateral movement.
  • Drills that require the athlete to alternate between acceleration and deceleration should be a component part of agility training.
  • Agility training should also incorporate an element of reaction, with the athlete being required to react to a verbal or visual command, or mimic/mirror the movement patterns of a training partner (reflective drills).

There are lots of great resources for agility training. I like Developing Agility and Quickness, part of the NSCA’s Sport Performance Series, by Dawes and Roozen.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Improve Your Life with Core Training

20 Feb

side-plank-mel-1-crop1First of all, understand that when I refer to your core, I’m not only talking about your abs (although your abs are certainly part of your core).

Everybody thinks they want six-pack abs… I get it.  You may be one of those people who suffers through endless sets of planks and situps to achieve your dream of washboard abs.  Good luck with that.

Actually, your core musculature extends from your shoulders through your hips, and contributes to sports performance, balance, posture, strength and power, mobility, and longevity.

Here are some of the benefits of core training – and a strong core:

Be a Better Athlete

Core training can improve your performance in virtually any strength or speed sport.  A strong core allows you to transfer more power to your limbs, which translates to more powerful throwing, kicking, running, jumping, etc.

Better Balance

A strong core is important – whether you’re an athlete or not – because strong core muscles keep your torso in a more stable position whenever you move, whether you’re playing sports or just doing everyday activities.  Core strength helps you avoid injury by making your movements more efficient.

Alleviate Back Pain

Core training can both prevent and control lower-back pain, according to Canadian research.  For individuals with back pain, core exercises that emphasize isometric contraction (exercises that keep you still, like planks, side planks, etc.) are good choices.  At our facility – in addition to those types of exercises – we also favor rotational and anti-rotational exercises.

Better Posture

Stop slouching! Simply stated, core training can help you stand up straight by improving your postural stability.

Improve Your Agility

Research shows that core training – and improvements in core strength – translates to better performance on agility tests (acceleration, deceleration, change of direction) than traditional body-building moves.  At our facility, we focus on training movements – not muscles – for all of our customers, athletes and non-athletes.

Reduce Inflammation

Scientists have found that core training can reduce inflammation markers by as much as 25 percent – not far from the result you’d get from anti-inflammatory medications – including enhanced recovery, well-being, and general health.

Live Longer

Mayo Clinic researchers concluded that increased waist circumference is associated with an increased risk of premature death.  In a review of several studies, they found that men with waists of 43 inches or larger had a 52 percent greater risk of premature death than guys whose waists were 35 inches or smaller; and each 2-inch increase in waist size was associated with a 7 percent jump in death risk.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Mental Preparation is the Key

8 Feb

joey-votto-smi2[1]Every athlete knows that physical tools are important.  Strength, speed, agility, and athleticismand the commitment to the development of each — are integral to success in virtually every sport.  Factor in sport-specific skill development (for example, basketball ball-handling and shooting), and you’re on your way to building a strong foundation.

Equally important is your mind, and its ability to drive your body.  Mental preparation, focus, and confidence are all implicated in your success and attainment of your goals.  Generally, your limits will be those you set for yourself.  Here are some tips to improve performance and push through those self-imposed limitations through mental preparation.

Have a plan

I’m always surprised by athletes, especially at the higher levels, who “just play.”  That is, they don’t really have a game plan.  Situational preparation leads to successful execution.  A baseball player should go to the plate with a plan, depending on the score, inning, opposing tendencies and trends, number of outs, baserunners, pitch type and location, etc.  Having a plan — and working your plan — will help build your confidence, which fuels a positive mindset.

Stay positive

A negative attitude and focus won’t help you or your team.  When I train athletes, we don’t talk about the negative.  Sure, there will be times when you face less-than-desirable circumstances and conditions (inclement weather, an injured teammate, etc.)  Your attitude is contagious and it will impact the people around you.  Do your best to maintain positive words and body language.  Expect to win.

Be adaptable

There’s a lot you can control, but not everything.  You have to practice being adaptable, and believe you can do anything.  Train yourself to overcome obstacles, and not concede to them.  For example, a basketball point guard should anticipate the defense taking away his/her strong hand, and should practice and develop capable ball-handling skills with his/her “off” hand.

Focus on small goals

Rather than focusing on winning the game, direct your focus on each individual at-bat or offensive possession.  Your goal should be to win each inning, quarter, or period.  Successful attainment of each small goal will lead you, ultimately, to your larger goal.  Looking too far ahead to the outcome can dilute your focus.  Do your best to impact the present and the future will take care of itself.

Talk to yourself

Positive self-talk is a strong motivator.  External motivation is great, but it’s also inconsistent — you can’t always count on others to motivate you.  Find quotes, sayings, or slogans that motivate you.  Visualize yourself succeeding (and celebrating).  Learn to communicate with yourself in a way that is positive and motivating.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Add Squats to Run Faster

11 Nov

squats-strength-training[1]At my facility, we encourage squats— and squat-type exercises — to improve sprint performance.  Research has also shown that squats can improve vertical jump and agility performance in athletes who perform the exercise regularly (athletes who swim, throw, and swing can also benefit from squats, which covers just about everyone).  Squats are a great choice to build the strength and power necessary to generate force against the ground, which is integral to speed, agility, and jump performance.

Recently, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research further corroborated the relationship between squats and sprint speed.  In their study, researchers found that athletes who did squats increased their sprint speed by 10% compared with those who did not do the exercise.

In addition to the Barbell Back Squat (pictured), try these squat variations:

  • Dumbbell Goblet Squat
  • Split Squat
  • Sumo Squat
  • Front Squat
  • Single-Leg Squat

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Speed Development Starts in the Weight Room

26 Aug

squats-strength-training[1]Every summer, I get scores of calls and emails from athletes (and parents of athletes) asking me if I can help with speed development in preparation for fall and winter sports.  Invariably, they all want me to focus on the same thing — running form, mechanics, and technique.  They feel that if I can correct and improve mechanical shortcomings, speed will improve.

I don’t dispute that running form is important, but it should be viewed as the “fine-tuning” and not the main area of focus.  I train some very fast athletes whose technique isn’t exactly “textbook” perfect.  Same goes for my highest vertical jumpers and quickest, most agile athletes.  But all the fastest athletes I train have something in common: Strong, powerful hips and legs.  They all have the ability to generate a lot of force against the ground to propel themselves forward (upward, laterally, etc.).

In his article, Why Power Development Must Come Before Speed Work, strength coach Rick Scarpulla asserts that “Power can overcome a lack of technique to an extent, but technique cannot overcome a lack of power.”

If you want to lay the groundwork for speed development, start in the weight room.  Once you have built a solid foundation of functional strength and power with exercises like squats, deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, glute-ham raises, and plyometrics, then it’s time to break out the cones, hurdles, and ladders, and hit the track or turf for your field work.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Improve Your Agility with Balance Training

13 Apr

airex_balance_beam_square[1]Balance should be considered as a potential predictor of agility, according to a new Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study.  The article also cited speed and power development as having an impact on agility; and gender-specific influences  — power development having a greater impact on agility in women, and balance training having a greater impact on agility in men.

Agility isn’t simply how fast you move.  It refers to your ability to accelerate (speed up), decelerate (slow down), and change direction; and how quickly you can recognize and react to a stimulus.  We also acknowledge that agility is contingent upon ground displacement: The stronger you are through the lower extremities, the more force you can generate against the ground.  With practice, increased ground force generation equals improvements in agility-related performance.

Balance training should include unilateral lower-body exercises, such as the single-leg squat, Bulgarian split squat, stepup, single-leg Romanian deadlift; and ankle, knee, and hip balance and stability exercises (pictured).

Speed training should incorporate max effort sprints, and assisted/resisted (uphill, parachute) running.

To increase power production, perform Olympic lifts (for example, the hang clean), squat jump, single-leg squat jump (also incorporates balance), and plyometrics.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Don’t Confuse Motion and Progress

11 Apr

tumblr_m1bwfq9uOV1qi2f8bo1_500[1]“Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.” – Alfred A. Montapert

“Don’t mistake activity for achievement.” – John Wooden

Some players — and coaches — are enamored with “hustle” — bodies flying all over the court or field with reckless abandon.  To some, it looks like a lot of effort is being expended.  Unfortunately, as I observe scholastic sports, much of this activity lacks purpose… there’s no rhyme or reason to it.  Some of it is nothing more than a lot of frenetic energy that, ultimately, doesn’t accomplish much.

Whether you’re practicing, playing, or training… have a goal.  Understand what it is you want (need) to accomplish and what is required of you to achieve the desired result.  Think situationally about the “why,” “what,” and “how.”  Your practice, game-play, and training should be purposeful.

For example, when you practice ball-handling and shooting, don’t just randomly dribble and throw the ball at the basket.  Work on your “off” hand, and practice moves that help you create your own shot (hesitation, step-back, etc.).

When you take batting practice, don’t just swing the bat to make contact.  Practice bunting, hitting behind the runner, hitting to the opposite field, and hitting the ball in the air (sac fly).

When you train, don’t just do random exercises.  Perform exercises and drills that are aligned with your goals, and reflect the demands and movement patterns of your sport(s) — whether they be strength, speed, power, agility, etc.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

By Failing to Prepare, You Are Preparing to Fail

20 Jan

smb_081022_gjw_practice[1]“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

Successful performance requires purposeful preparation.  This is true in school, sports, business, and life.  As an athlete, your preparation should be year-round, and include sport-specific skill development (for example, basketball ball-handling and shooting); strength and conditioning; and nutrition.

Sport-Specific Skill Development

The first step toward improvement is gaining an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses (I like to refer to them as “areas of opportunity”).  If you have access to video footage of your games, watch it — video doesn’t lie.  Sit down with your coach and have a discussion about what he or she thinks you do well and the areas in which you can improve.  Your goal should be to become a better all-around (complete) player.  The more you can contribute — on both sides of the ball — the greater your value to your team.  You want to be an asset to your team when you’re on the field or court… not a liability.  Don’t get caught up comparing yourself to teammates and/or opponents.  Focus on self-improvement — be better today than you were yesterday.

Strength and Conditioning

Improvements in strength, speed, agility, and athleticism can only benefit you as an athlete.  A strength and conditioning professional can help you develop a plan that is tailored to your needs and goals as an athlete.  Your strength and conditioning plan should be periodized, with phases to address the off-season, pre-season, and in-season.  Generally, as your sport-specific activity increases, your strength and conditioning activity should decrease (taper), and vice-versa.  Your strength and conditioning plan should also be progressive, gradually increasing in intensity over time to ensure improvement.  Don’t take the in-season phase off — it’s important to maintain what you’ve developed!

Nutrition

Learn how to fuel your body for optimum performance.  You can refer to several of my previous blog posts that discuss the importance of breakfast, pre- and post-workout nutrition, and sports performance nutrition.  Don’t underestimate the impact proper nutrition can make — it can affect your metabolism, energy level, and mental focus.

Goal Setting

It’s important to set some challenging but attainable (realistic) goals.  You’re probably not going to go from being a 50% free-throw shooter to an 80% shooter, overnight.  It’s fine for your ultimate goal to be 80%, but set incremental goals along the way.  Develop a plan (in writing) that incorporates lots of purposeful practice and repetition.  Decide how you will measure success, then align your plan with — and channel your efforts toward — your goal.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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