Tag Archives: balance

Improve Performance With Single-Leg Exercises

6 Oct

Bulgarian Split Squat (down)

Bulgarian Split Squat (up)

At Athletic Performance Training Center, we know it’s important to incorporate single-leg exercises into an athlete’s training regimen.  We alternate, weekly, between bilateral and unilateral exercises, to improve strength, power, mobility, and balance/stability.

A new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that all athletes might need to do more single-leg exercises.  In the study, researchers discovered that both jumpers’ (e.g., basketball, volleyball) and nonjumpers’ legs were not equally strong.  The natural tendency is for athletes to shift their weight, to some degree, to their dominant leg.  According to the study, that contributes to a strength imbalance that can hurt performance and lead to injuries.

Try different single-leg exercises, like lunges (stationary or walking; forward, backward, or lateral).

At APTC, we favor the single-leg squatsingle-leg pressstep-up, and Bulgarian split squat (rear foot elevated).  Perform 2 or 3 sets of 10 repetitions with a weight that is challenging but reasonable.

As you might imagine, the same principle applies to upper-body strength training.


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.


Your thoughts?

Find Your Groove

6 Nov

Kids-Lemonade-Stand[1]Find something you do well, and do it.

Find something you love to do, and do it.

Find something you do well and love to do, and you’ve found your groove; you’ve got it made.

Easier said than done… right?

How, exactly, do you find your groove?

How do you find “IT?”

Here are some thoughts:

  • Experiment with it
  • Learn everything you can about it
  • Be comfortable with it
  • Be enthusiastic and passionate about it
  • Have fun with it
  • Find balance
  • Take a break, once in a while
  • Believe in yourself and your abilities
  • Be positive and optimistic — expect success
  • Bounce back from setbacks
  • Appreciate what you have
  • When it’s time to be productive… be productive
  • Focus — don’t try to multi-task
  • Enjoy the journey
  • Celebrate small victories — something is better than nothing
  • Be thankful


Your thoughts?

Plyometric Training Improves Joint Stability

16 Sep

Plyos[1]Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are common in basketball athletes, with a reported incidence as high as 1.6 per 1,000 player hours.

An efficient plyometric training program within basketball practice can improve lower-extremity postural control and stability, according to a Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study.

In the study, plyometric (jump) training was associated with a decrease in ACL injuries by enhancing “joint awareness” — postural control and/or balance.

Improvements in balance, stability, and postural control with training has positive effects on lower-extremity injury reduction.

Obviously, ACL injuries are not limited to basketball players, as athletes who participate in sports that involve contact, and require jumping, quick starts and stops, and change of direction, are also at risk.

A well-designed and -supervised plyometric training program — one that incorporates appropriate intensity and volume; and teaches and emphasizes the importance of proper jump and landing mechanics — can help athletes improve performance while reducing the risk of injury.


Your thoughts?

Core Strength and Stability is the Key

15 Jun

bosu-ball-exercise-ball-elevated-push-up_-_step_2.max.v1[1]If you’re an athlete training to improve your performance, developing a strong, stable core — shoulders through hips, and not just abs — should be a priority.

Since every athlete’s strength and power are generated from the core musculature, movement-based, multi-joint exercises — including rotational and anti-rotational exercises — are important components of a well-designed strength and conditioning plan.

Here’s an article from EXOS titled, Why a Strong Pillar is Critical for Soccer, that discussed and simplifies the benefits of a strong, stable core, including:

  • Balance and stability
  • More effective and efficient movement
  • More muscular endurance/less muscular fatigue
  • Injury risk reduction

Although the article addresses soccer, the principles apply to all athletes and sports.


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.


Your thoughts?

Improve Performance With Single-Leg Exercises

2 May

Bulgarian split squat (up)


Bulgarian split squat (down)

At Athletic Performance Training Center, we know it’s important to incorporate single-leg exercises into an athlete’s training regimen.  We alternate, weekly, between bilateral and unilateral exercises, to improve strength, power, mobility, and balance/stability.

A new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that all athletes might need to do more single-leg exercises.  In the study, researchers discovered that both jumpers’ (e.g., basketball, volleyball) and nonjumpers’ legs were not equally strong.  The natural tendency is for athletes to shift their weight, to some degree, to their dominant leg.  According to the study, that contributes to a strength imbalance that can hurt performance and lead to injuries.

Try different single-leg exercises, like lunges (stationary or walking; forward, backward, or lateral).

At APTC, we favor the single-leg squat, single-leg press, step-up, and Bulgarian split squat (rear foot elevated).  Perform 2 or 3 sets of 10 repetitions with a weight that is challenging but reasonable.

As you might imagine, the same principle applies to upper-body strength training.


Your thoughts?

How to be a Better Basketball Defender

29 Apr

Basketball-Pressure-Defense[1]I’ve heard it said that offense wins games, but defense wins championships.  Your shots may or may not be falling, on any given day, but defense shouldn’t be susceptible to slumps.  And while you have to score to win, I can tell you this with certainty:  If you can make it difficult for your opponent’s offense to operate and score, you’ll always be in the game.

Defense may not be as glamorous as scoring lots of points, but there’s nothing more important — and gratifying — than being a “shut-down” defender.  Here are some basketball defensive tips to help you become a better defender:

Keep your balance. Maintain a low, athletic stance with a wide base (don’t let your feet get too close together or crossed).  Your weight should be over your mid-foot — avoid being back on your heels.  Stay on your feet… don’t go for shot fakes.

Move your feet.  Don’t reach or lean.  Playing defense with your hands invites foul calls against you.  Anticipate the offensive player’s move and beat them to the spot.

Watch your opponent’s chest, and not their head, feet, or the ball.  They can try to deceive you with a jab step or ball fake, but their chest will always tell you where they are going.

Get a hand in your opponent’s face.  Distract them from focusing on their shot or pass.

“Force” them where you want them to go.  Understand your defensive strategy and where your help is coming from.  As a rule, position yourself between the person you’re guarding and the basket, especially on the perimeter.  Take away your opponent’s dominant hand.  Most players can’t use both hands equally, so you usually want to force them to go to the hand they don’t want to. Overplay their strong hand to make them use their weak hand.

See the person you’re guarding and the ball, at all times.  Position yourself appropriately.  Be ready to help.

Observe your opponent’s patterns and trends.  Learn and understand what they like to do — their “go-to” moves — in certain situations.

No open looks or layups.  Actively defend every dribble, pass, and shot.

Communicate with your teammates.  Always talk on defense.  Call out screens and switches.  Basketball defense is played as a team.

Box out and rebound.  Limit your opponent’s second chances.

Hustle at all times.  Defense is about effort.  You’ve got to give 100% effort when you’re on the court.


Your thoughts?

3 Pillars of Athletic Performance

3 Aug

At APTC, we believe there are three (3) essential pillars to athletic performance:

  • Sport-Specific Skill Development
  • Strength and Conditioning
  • Diet and Nutrition

This list is not meant to be all-inclusive – and I’m sure others could make a case for adding to it – but it provides a reasonable foundation.

When I talk about sport-specific skill development, I’m referring specifically to the skills necessary to play a particular sport.  For example, a basketball player’s sport-specific skill development would focus on ball-handling, shooting, passing, defensive stance and footwork, etc.

I would describe Strength and Conditioning to include the following:

  • Strength and Sport-Specific Power
  • Speed, Agility, and Endurance
  • Balance, Coordination, and Flexibility
  • Injury Prevention Strategies

I have also witnessed that confidence is a by-product of both sport-specific skill development and Strength and Conditioning.

Nutrition Education is also important to athletic performance.  Pre- and post-activity (workout, practice, game) nutrition are important for fuel, as well as recovery, repair, and regeneration.  A healthy, nutritious diet can help support energy level, metabolism, and weight management.

But back to Strength and Conditioning.  When two athletes/teams compete – all things being relatively equal from a “skill” perspective – the stronger, faster athlete/team usually has an advantage.  Strength training can give you a competitive edge… it can be a “difference maker.”

Staying competitive means more than just adding another layer to your offensive and/or defensive schemes.  Skills practice, in and of itself, is not enough.

Continuous improvement in athletic performance, through the development of strength, speed, agility, and athleticism, will make the difference in playing time for individual athletes, as well as wins (and championships) for the team as a whole.  Programs that win year in and year out know that superior athleticism is the key to becoming dominant… and maintaining it.
Your thoughts?
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