Tag Archives: athletic performance

Don’t Take Yourself Out of the Game

21 Apr

As an athlete, consistency is important.  Consistency of effort, preparation, and practice leads to consistency of performance.  But, despite our best efforts, athletes at every level experience performance slumps.  There will be  some games when your shots are just not falling.  How will you deal with it?

There are some things that are under your control every time you take the court.  Attitude is one of them and, perhaps, the most important.  You decide if and how you let a missed shot or turnover affect your next possession, or the rest of your game.  Although it may be easier said then done, a positive mental approach (and, sometimes, a short memory) is critical to athletic performance success.

Effort is another area that shouldn’t be impacted by your level of play.  Keep hustling.  Continue to “play hard, play smart, and play together” (Dean Smith, former University of North Carolina men’s basketball coach).  Don’t allow a missed shot or bad pass to be an excuse to give anything less than 100% when you’re on the court.  Focus on the aspects of your play that aren’t susceptible to slumps, like defense, boxing out, and rebounding.

Don’t allow a performance slump to take away your aggressiveness, confidence, or energy.  You’ve worked hard to get to this point.  Keep believing in yourself and maintain a high intensity level.  Draw on positive past experience to fuel your thoughts.  Keep working hard, stay positive, and good things will happen.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Increase Your Vitamin D Intake

20 Mar

A lack of vitamin D can have an adverse effect on your athletic performance, according to the journal, Nutrients.  Additional research corroborates these findings, showing that there is  a positive correlation between vitamin D levels and muscle strength.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), at least 77% of Americans are vitamin D deficient.  This is especially true in the northern states, where exposure to sunshine can be scarce during the winter season (the sun plays a vital role in your body’s natural vitamin D production).

You can boost your vitamin D by increasing your consumption of whole foods like fatty fish (mackerel, salmon, and tuna), milk (and other fortified dairy products), eggs, and oatmeal (and other fortified cereals).

You can also improve your vitamin D level by adding a supplement to your daily diet.  Aim for at least 600 IU per day.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

If It’s Important, Do It Every Day

15 Feb

michael-jordan-game-winning-shot-1[1]Lots of athletes dream of sinking the game-winning shot, scoring the game-winning touchdown, or getting the game-winning hit.  It’s easy to be enamored with the romantic idea of being the hero.

But that doesn’t happen by accident.  It takes a lot of practice and preparation to put yourself in the position to perform well in a pressure situation (heck, it takes a lot of practice and preparation to perform well in normal game conditions).  That means, if you’re a basketball player with a desire to excel, you should be practicing ball-handling and shooting, or doing something to improve your strength, speed, agility, and athleticism… EVERY DAY!

And that, I think, is where there is a disconnect.  It’s one thing to express a desire to play well.  Anyone can do that… that’s just talk.  It’s quite another to do what’s necessary to play well.  That takes time and effort and commitment and dedication and focus and purpose and motivation and persistence and perseverance and… well, I think you get the point.

And, while this all may seem somewhat overwhelming, it doesn’t take a 24/7/365 commitment.  Focus on the quality and consistency of your efforts, and not necessarily the quantity.  If you’ve got 10-15 minutes to practice your ball-handling, make it purposeful and give it the best 10-15 minutes you’ve got.  Know and understand your areas for improvement and direct your efforts, accordingly.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that, since you only have limited time, improving your physical or sport-specific skills is not worth the effort.  Trust me, the cumulative effect of quality repetition will steadily improve your game.

Devote yourself, daily, to self-improvement.  Make it happen.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Maximize the Effectiveness of Your Plyometrics

3 Feb

Power-Plyo%20Box%20Starter%20Set%20-%20Plyometric%20Training%20Equipment%20for%20Football[1]Want to run faster and jump higher? Virtually all athletes can benefit from improvements in — and development of — explosive muscular force.

Plyometric training has a positive effect on neuromuscular performance, increasing explosive performance and, subsequently, athletic performance.

A new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that two factors are especially impactful and should be considered when designing or participating in a plyometric training program:

  • Training volume
  • Training surface

Plyometric training volume is usually measured in touches (for example, when you jump up on a box and then back down, that counts as two touches).  In this study, it was determined that “a high plyometric training volume (i.e., 120 jumps per session or 240 jumps per week) would be necessary to induce an increase in acceleration sprint.” (Ramirez-Campillo, et.al.)

Plyometric training surface (hard or soft landing surface) was also relevant in the study, with a harder surface — such as a wood gymnasium floor — doubling the efficiency of adaptations in reactive strength.  As a result, “a high volume of training would not be necessary to induce reactive strength adaptations when a hard landing surface is used.”

Study data indicate that “when moderate volume is used during plyometric training, a hard training surface would be needed if fast SSC (stretch-shortening cycle) muscle actions, or reactive strength, are an important objective of training.”

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Should Kids Play One Sport Year-Round?

30 Dec

youth_big[1]Do you think it’s a good idea for a young athlete (8-12 years old) to play one sport year-round?  Would you allow your child?

Sport specialization, especially at a young age, is more popular/prevalent today than ever before.  Certainly, there are more opportunities for sport specialization — AAU basketball, JO volleyball, club soccer — than existed in past decades.  But, opportunity aside, I’m not sure it’s always the kids deciding to focus on a single sport at the expense of other sports and activities.  Coaches and parents put a lot of pressure on kids to concentrate on one sport, 24-7-365.

Playing multiple sports and activities helps kids develop cross-functional skills that can improve overall athletic aptitude and performance.  Conversely, intense training in a single sport before adolescence can lead to injuries, according to a review in the journal Sports Health.  Young athletes who play one sport all year typically experience more stress-related injuries, as a result of repetitive overuse without appropriate rest and recovery time.

Expose your child to other sports and activities, and encourage participation in unstructured activities (pick-up games, for example).  Encourage effort — and not only performance — especially when they are young.

If the decision to play a sport, year-round, is the desire of the child (and not just the coach and/or parent), and if the coach builds in regular breaks to allow for adequate rest and recovery… let him or her give it a try.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Anemia and Athletic Performance

26 Sep

athlete-fatigue[1]Recently, a friend and client (and committed fitness enthusiast) shared with me her disappointment in her recent running performance.  Although she is very active and fit, she was beating herself up for “being a slug when it came to running” (believe me, when it comes to exercise, that’s the last word you’d use to describe this lady).  It turns out that there was a reason for her feeling of fatigue… her hemoglobin was 8 (hemoglobin is the iron-carrying protein found in red blood cells that binds to oxygen; the principal function of hemoglobin is to combine and transport oxygen from the lungs to all body tissues, including working muscles; the amount of hemoglobin in the blood averages between 12 and 16 grams/100 milliliters of blood in adult females).

A drop in athletic performance or a general feeling of  fatigue may indicate you are suffering from anemia, a condition in  which the production and amount of your red blood cells is below normal.  An  adequate supply of these red blood cells is essential to physical activity and overall well-being. A low red blood cell count means less oxygen is being  delivered to working muscles. Because oxygen is essential to burn the calories used by muscles in aerobic exercise, this can have a direct effect on your ability to perform.  Ultimately, anemia will impact your training and performance.

One common  cause of anemia in women is a lack of iron in their diet. Women need nearly  twice as much iron as men (18 milligrams/day compared with 10 mg/day) because of  menstrual blood loss. Heavy  exercise may also increase iron needs by up to another 1 to 2 milligrams/day.

Many  factors contribute to a risk of becoming anemic. These factors may include a diet low in  iron. To get enough iron in your diet and reduce your chances of developing  iron-deficiency anemia, you can eat foods that are naturally rich in iron, such  as red meat, fish, or beans; or consume foods that have been enriched with iron, such as some cereals and pastas. Iron supplements, along with a diet high in iron, may also be helpful to correct the problem.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Jump, Sprint Training Improves Sport Performance

14 Sep

Combined plyometric and sprint training improves skill performance in soccer players, according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

A specific combined plyometric and sprint training, within regular soccer practice, improved explosive actions compared with conventional sport-specific training only.

The combined program had a beneficial impact on sprinting, change of direction, jumping, and ball-shooting speed; as well as improvements in agility and acceleration.

The training protocol used in the study included nine weeks of twice-weekly training sessions.  The plyometric-sprint training program incorporated jumping, hurdling, bouncing, skipping, and footwork, prior to the soccer training.

Several other studies suggest that the benefits of plyometric and sprint training also apply to performance improvement in other sports, including basketball, football, and volleyball.

Based on this information, it would seem advisable that athlete sport preparation include a well-designed and -supervised, combined plyometric and speed training.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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!

Your thoughts?

You Can’t Do It All in the Weight Room

1 Apr

Speed-Resistance-Training-Parachute-1[1]Strength and speed development start in the weight room.  Stronger and faster is the foundation for athletic performance improvement.

But you can’t do it all in the weight room.  What you do outside the weight room will also have an impact on your performance.  Speed and agility training, sport-specific skill development, nutrition, rest and recovery, and mental preparation also complement and play an important role in your development as an athlete.

Speed and Agility Training

Speed development involves a combination of 3 components:

  • Technique — running form and mechanics
  • Assisted and resisted sprinting
  • Strength and power training, including plyometrics

Agility training utilizes exercises and drills that require acceleration, deceleration, change of direction, and reaction.

Sport-Specific Skill Development

Strong and fast is important, but it won’t help you overcome weak ball-handling and shooting skills.  Regardless of the sport(s) you play, skills practice — with proper technique and lots of repetition — will be critical to your progress and success as an athlete.  Time spent on the court, in the batting cage, etc. should focus on quality, and a knowledgeable, experienced coach or trainer can be a valuable resource to make the developmental process more efficient and effective.  Video is also a great tool for performance development (the camera never lies).

Nutrition

Eating the right foods — quantity and quality — is important for two reasons: energy and recovery.  Before you exercise, practice, or play, your nutritional choices help to ensure that you will have adequate energy to perform optimally.  Afterward, the proper balance of nutrients helps with your body’s recovery process, preparing your body for next time.  You should aim to get most of your nutrients from whole foods, and nutritional supplements (multi-vitamin, protein) can also be helpful — especially since active individuals and athletes have a considerably higher need for nutrients to support an active metabolism.

Rest and Recovery

When it comes to strength and speed development, more is not necessarily better.  The goal should be to avoid burnout and injury caused by over-training, doing as much as you need to do to reach your performance goals, and not necessarily as much as you can (please note this does not mean do as little as you can).  Since training places physical and metabolic stress on your body, rest and recovery is necessary for your musculoskeletal system’s regenerative process.  Generally, there is a correlation between the intensity of your training and the amount of rest required by your body to continue to perform at an optimal level.  Make sure you allow for adequate rest during and between workouts, and get a good night’s sleep.

Mental Preparation

In addition to preparing your body, you’ve got to prepare your mind.  Elements of effective mental preparation include goal setting, visualization, focus, confidence, and commitment.  Be a smart athlete — a student of the game.  Be positive and adaptable, and utilize positive self-talk as a motivator.  Expect success and prepare accordingly.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Is Flexibility Overrated?

24 Nov

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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