Tag Archives: balance training

An Injury Prevention Program for Athletes

10 May

The physical demands of sports increase as the frequency and intensity of participation increase.  A structured injury prevention program should be a component of every athlete’s strength and conditioning training.  And, while it’s impossible to prevent every injury, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (among others) supports preventative training as a way to potentially reduce the incidence and severity of sports related injuries.

Balance training can be performed, in socks, on a stable (floor) or unstable (Airex balance pad) surface.  Athletes should balance on one leg, with no knee flexion (and no movement in the upper body), for 30 seconds, then switch leg after 30 seconds.  Balance training should progress by increasing the amount of time spent balancing on each leg or adding an activity like catching and throwing a ball with a partner while balancing on one leg.

Functional (movement-based) strength training for athletes should incorporate agonist-antagonist paired sets (opposing muscle groups) to strengthen and stabilize joints.  In addition to more traditional lower-extremity exercises, like the squat and leg press, posterior chain exercises that focus on the lower-back, glutes, and hamstrings can easily be added to any athlete’s strength training regimen.  At Athletic Performance Training Center, we favor bilateral exercises like the glute-ham raise (Nordic hamstring curl) and unilateral exercises like the single-leg Romanian deadlift.

Core stability training is useful to develop strength and stability through the entire core — shoulders through hips.  Exercises like the 4-point plank, 3-point plank (arm or leg raised), and side plank can be performed with minimal space and do not require any equipment.  We also like rotational exercises like medicine ball throws and kettlebell swings; and anti-rotational exercises, which require dynamic limb movement with isometric core contraction.

Mobility training is important to develop and increase range of motion, especially through the core and lower-body.  Exercises like linear and lateral leg swings, forward and backward walking lunges, and hurdle walks (alternating legs, forward and backward, over a hurdle) are recommended as an adjunct to traditional strength training.

A well-designed Yoga program can incorporate all of the aforementioned training components, improving balance, functional strength, core strength and stability, and mobility.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Jump Training Should Include Landing Mechanics

1 Jul

bootcamp-jump-squat[1]A few weeks ago I posted an article about jump training, which generated some commentary, particularly in the area of landing mechanics.  To clarify, at Athletic Performance Training Center, we incorporate landing mechanics training into all of our plyometric (jump) training.  Research shows that most non-impact knee injuries result from landing and/or cutting instability.  There is a higher prevalence among female athletes, especially those who play sports like soccer, basketball, and volleyball.

Biomechanical considerations, such as knee flexion (knees should be bent and not extended/straight upon landing); knee alignment (knees should not point inward or outward upon landing but, rather, point straight ahead); and hip motion (jump should begin with hip flexion — hips back; extend hips through the jump; and flex hips upon landing) should be closely observed.

There are also some neuromuscular considerations, as strength and conditioning professionals must ensure that athletes possess adequate quadriceps and hamstrings strength to accommodate muscle co-contraction and balance in force.

Plyometric training involves multi-directional consecutive jumping.  Technically correct posture and body alignment are emphasized, and athletes are instructed to land softly with knees and hips flexed while immediately preparing to jump again.  However, plyometric training alone may not reduce the risk of ACL injury, but it may be more effective when combined with other types of training.

Resistance/Strength training increases strength in the muscles that support movement of the skeletal system, specifically joints.  When muscles are consistently and progressively overloaded, the result is an increase in muscle size, increased motor unit recruitment, and improved coordination — all of which influence muscle strength.

Neuromuscular training, a comprehensive approach that incorporates plyometric training, strength training, balance training, and proprioceptive training (the body’s reaction/response to external stimuli), is a sound training strategy for athletes.

Training should begin with a movement-based warmup and conclude with appropriate stretching and flexibility exercises.

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?

Balance Training and Injury Prevention

29 Feb

airex-balance-pad-471910[1]Ankle injuries are among the most common injuries, across all sports, and lower limb instability plays a significant role in these injuries.

In addition to the development of lower extremity muscle and connective tissue strength, an effective injury prevention strategy is the development of proprioception.

Proprioception can be defined as the ability to sense stimuli arising within the body regarding position, motion, and equilibrium; the normal awareness of one’s posture, movement, balance, and location based on the sensations received by the proprioceptors (sensory receptors that receive stimuli from within the body, especially one that responds to position and movement).

“Improvements in proprioceptive control (balance) in a single stance may be a key factor for an effective reduction in ankle sprains, knee sprains, and low back pain,” according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. (Riva, D, et.al.)

At Athletic Performance Training Center, virtually all of our athletes finish their workouts with an ankle stability exercise, performed on an Airex balance pad.  The exercise is performed in socks, to eliminate the stabilizing effect of the soles of their shoes.

We start with 30 seconds on each foot, with a still, “quiet” upper body (athletes can’t use arms and upper torso to assist in balance).  Once our athletes become proficient, we add increments of 15 seconds, eventually aiming for 2-3 minutes on each foot, twice a week.

Related articles:

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Balance Training is for Everyone

30 Sep

airex_balance_beam_square[1]At Athletic Performance Training Center, we like balance training for all of our athletes.

Balance training improves neuromuscular communication and coordination; increases musculoskeletal strength and stability, especially around the joints; enhances strength and stability of connective tissue (ligaments and tendons); improves core strength and stability; and helps to reduce injury by “teaching” the body to adapt to instability.

And, although balance training is a valuable training strategy for athletes, everyone can benefit from balance training.

There are several tools — such as balance pads (pictured), discs, and BOSU balls — that allow for a variety of exercises performed with different degrees of instability.

Add balance training to your current training routine, allow for progression of difficulty over time, and improve your performance and overall physical functioning.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

6 Ways to Jump Higher

19 Feb

highjump[1]The ability to get up off your feet is obviously important in sports like basketball and volleyball.  But what about other sports?  Well, since your vertical jump is an indicator of your lower-body explosive power (and since lower-extremity strength and power is important for virtually all sports), it’s in every athlete’s best interest to develop his/her vertical jump performance.

Here are 6 ways to improve your vertical jump:

  1. Get stronger.  Jumping is about pushing your body away from the ground.  The stronger you are through the hips and legs, the greater the force you can generate against the ground.  Exercises like squats, deadlifts (we like using the trap bar), glute-ham raises (on the bench or manual resistance), and Romanian deadlifts should be incorporated into your training plan.
  2. Develop your “fast-twitch” muscle fibers.  Your fast-twitch muscles are your body’s largest and have the most growth potential.  They are responsible for maximum effort jumps, sprints, and lifts.  However, to produce movement, your body recruits muscle fibers in an orderly progression from smallest to largest.  That means, in order to activate your fast-twitch muscle fibers, you must work at about 70% or more of your capacity (we benchmark at about 80% of an athlete’s 1RM) – heavy weight, low repetitions for most exercises.
  3. Contrast training.  This strategy will help you accelerate the development of lower-extremity strength and power (and it will also wear you out!).  Contrast training involves performing a strength exercise, immediately followed by an explosive movement.  An example would be to do a set of squats and proceed, without rest, to a set of squat jumps.
  4. Push the Prowler.  We love the weighted sled for the development of hip/leg drive, strength, and power.  You can push it and/or pull it, and adjust the weight to the needs and abilities of each individual athlete.  We use the Prowler as a workout “finisher” for many of our athletes, especially during their off-season training phase.
  5. Plyometrics.  Once you’ve built a strong foundation through strength training, it’s time to add plyometric exercises to your workout.  Plyometric training involves exercises that enable a muscle to reach maximum strength in as short a time as possible, using something called the Stretch-Shortening Cycle (SSC).  SSC is basically an eccentric (lengthening) muscle movement rapidly followed by a concentric (shortening) contraction.  Examples of plyometric exercises are box jumps, depth/drop jumps, hurdle jumps, and even jumping rope.
  6. Steer clear of injury.  Vertical jump training should include landing mechanics, since research shows that most non-impact knee injuries result from landing and/or cutting instability.  Balance and stability exercises are important additions to any vertical jump training program.  Biomechanical considerations, such as knee flexion, knee alignment, and hip motion should be closely observed.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

An Injury Prevention Program for Athletes

6 Jan

maxresdefault[1]The physical demands of sports increase as the frequency and intensity of participation increase.  A structured injury prevention program should be a component of every athlete’s strength and conditioning training.  And, while it’s impossible to prevent every injury, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (among others) supports preventative training as a way to potentially reduce the incidence and severity of sports related injuries.

Balance training can be performed, in socks, on a stable (floor) or unstable (Airex balance pad) surface.  Athletes should balance on one leg, with no knee flexion, for 30 seconds, then switch leg after 30 seconds.  Balance training should progress by increasing the amount of time spent balancing on each leg or adding an activity like catching and throwing a ball with a partner while balancing on one leg.

Functional strength training for athletes should incorporate agonist-antagonist paired sets (opposing muscle groups) to strengthen and stabilize joints.  In addition to more traditional lower-extremity exercises, like the squat and leg press, posterior chain exercises that focus on the lower-back, glutes, and hamstrings can easily be added to any athlete’s strength training regimen.  At Athletic Performance Training Center, we favor bilateral exercises like the glute-ham raise (Nordic hamstring curl) and unilateral exercises like the single-leg Romanian deadlift.

Core stability training is useful to develop strength and stability through the entire core — shoulders through hips.  Exercises like the 4-point plank, 3-point plank (arm or leg raised), and side plank can be performed with minimal space and do not require any equipment.  We also like rotational exercises like medicine ball throws and kettlebell swings.

Mobility training is important to develop and increase range of motion, especially through the core and lower-body.  Exercises like linear and lateral leg swings, forward and backward walking lunges, and hurdle walks (alternating legs, forward and backward, over a hurdle) are recommended as an adjunct to traditional strength training.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Jump Training Should Include Landing Mechanics

17 May

bootcamp-jump-squat[1]A few weeks ago I posted an article about jump training, which generated some commentary, particularly in the area of landing mechanics.  To clarify, at Athletic Performance Training Center, we incorporate landing mechanics training into all of our plyometric (jump) training.  Research shows that most non-impact knee injuries result from landing and/or cutting instability.  There is a higher prevalence among female athletes, especially those who play sports like soccer, basketball, and volleyball.

Biomechanical considerations, such as knee flexion (knees should be bent and not extended/straight upon landing); knee alignment (knees should not point inward or outward upon landing but, rather, point straight ahead); and hip motion (jump should begin with hip flexion — hips back; extend hips through the jump; and flex hips upon landing) should be closely observed.

There also some neuromuscular considerations, as strength and conditioning professionals must ensure that athletes possess adequate quadriceps and hamstrings strength to accommodate muscle co-contraction and balance in force.

Plyometric training involves multi-directional consecutive jumping.  Technically correct posture and body alignment are emphasized, and athletes are instructed to land softly with knees and hips flexed while immediately preparing to jump again.  However, plyometric training alone may not reduce the risk of ACL injury, but in may be more effective when combined with other types of training.

Resistance/Strength training increases strength in the muscles that support movement of the skeletal system, specifically joints.  When muscles are consistently and progressively overloaded, the result is and increase in muscle size, increased motor unit recruitment, and improved coordination — all of which influence muscle strength.

Neuromuscular training, a comprehensive approach that incorporates plyometric training, strength training, balance training, and proprioceptive training (the body’s reaction/response to external stimuli), is a sound training strategy for athletes.

Training should begin with a movement-based warmup and conclude with appropriate stretching and flexibility exercises.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Improve Your Agility with Balance Training

20 Mar

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?

Improve Your Ankle Strength and Stability

24 Oct

Ankle injuries are among the most prevalent of all sports injuries.  Development of ankle strength and stability is important for most sports, especially those that require running, jumping, lateral movement, and quick change of direction.  Athletes who play basketball, football, soccer, and volleyball (among others) are examples of those who routinely use these movement patterns.  Ankle strength and stability (balance) training can be easily incorporated into your training regimen.

Strengthen Your Ankles

Calf raises (heel raises) are effective exercises because they strengthen the muscle and connective tissue around the foot and ankle.  Perform them on a calf block (you can also use weight plates) to increase the range of motion required by the exercise.  Position the feet so that the front half of each foot is elevated.  Push down on the ball of the foot while lifting the heel.  Find a weight that challenges you through the suggested number of repetitions.  At ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE TRAINING CENTER, we alternate among four (4) different variations of this exercise:

  • Up and down pause.  Lift and hold in the “up” position for one (1) full second; lower and hold in the “down” position for two (2) full seconds (don’t allow heels to touch the floor).  That’s one (1) repetition.  Perform three (3) sets of fifteen (15) repetitions, with one (1) minute rest between sets.
  • Single-leg.  Perform three (3) sets of fifteen (15) repetitions (steady pace; no pause), each leg, with one (1) minute rest between sets.
  • Rapid Pace.  Perform three (3) sets of twenty-five (25) repetitions (no pause on the up or down phase), with one (1) minute rest between sets.
  • Isometric.  Lift and hold in the up position for thirty (30) seconds.  Perform three (3) sets, with one (1) minute rest between sets.

Balance Training

Most of our athletes end their training sessions on the Airex Balance Pad.  It’s a rectangular foam pad, about 2.5″ thick (pictured).  Not to worry if you don’t have access to a balance pad.  Simply use a bath towel (prepare it by folding it in half, three times, to create a raised, unstable surface).  Balance training should be done in socks (or bare feet) to eliminate the “stabilizing” effect of the soles of your shoes.  Keep your upper body “quiet.”  Don’t use your arms for balance; keep them down at your sides.  Start by balancing one (1) minute on each foot, and gradually increase (15 seconds at a time) to 2-3 minutes per foot.  Perform this exercise 2-3 times per week.  This exercise works by “teaching” your ankle to adapt to instability (a roll), and has demonstrated the potential to reduce athletes’ ankle injuries up to 40%.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

%d bloggers like this: