Tag Archives: squat

Add Squats to Run Faster

14 Aug

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


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Injury-Proof Your Legs With Stronger Hips

20 May

sandbag-lunge-exercise-14102011[1]Athletes spend a lot of time on their feet.  As a result of impact, fatigue, and overuse, the incidence of leg injury increases.

Research shows that hip muscle weakness increases the risk of injuries like chronic knee pain, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, and pain in the sole of the foot.  Since the muscles of the hip are important for stabilizing the leg during running, jumping, and other lower-extremity movement, weakness of these muscles can lead to less control of the legs and an increase in the risk of injury.

Hip muscle training can not only build up protection from future injuries, it can also help to alleviate pain from various running-related injuries, according to various studies.  Try hip-strengthening exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges (pictured, with sandbag), and glute bridges.


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Improve Your Speed and Agility with Jump Training

27 Mar

Lead%20Photo-1[1]Research has shown a definitive correlation between jumping ability and running performance, including speed and agility.  Generally, there is a stronger correlation based on the sprint distance.  The contribution of muscle power may be most important in shorter distance sprints (for example, 60, 100, and 200 meters), although middle- and long-distance running performance is positively impacted, as well.  Development of muscle power — via jump training — should be considered as  a component for training for most sports, including both sprinters and middle- and long-distance runners.

Running velocity, including the ability to accelerate, decelerate, and change direction quickly, has been shown to be a function of force and power production.  The high-power output associated with jumping activities has led researchers to determine that jumping tests could be used as a  predictor of running performance.

Force and power are obvious components of running ability.  Maximal squat strength has been significantly correlated to sprint performance.  So, how do you incorporate strength and power training — including jump training — into your strength and conditioning regimen in a relevant way?

Strength Training

Before you start jump training, including plyometrics, you’ve got to be strong.  In order to be safe and effective, high-intensity power training requires adequate strength.  Bilateral, lower-body strength exercises like the squat, deadlift, and Romanian deadlift will help you build a strong foundation.  Unilateral exercises like the stepup and Bulgarian split squat are more functional, requiring strength and stability

Jump Training

Plyometrics are the most effective way to build lower-extremity power.  These exercises, done correctly, are designed to help you generate the greatest possible force in the shortest amount of time.  Jumping rope and jumping jacks are basic plyometric exercises, and a good place to start.  Once proficient at these exercises, you can progress to multiple, continuous box and hurdle jumps.


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Building Muscle and Strength for the Female Athlete

7 Dec

DSCN0057Strength training can benefit everyone, male or female. And, while there are certainly some gender differences, women have the potential to build muscle and gain strength through a well-designed strength training program. Here are some tips for how to build muscle for women.

Be realistic. Think about (and write down) what you want to accomplish. Understand that progress won’t occur overnight. Set short- and long-term goals, then develop a plan that is aligned with your goals.

Be consistent. Avoid peaks and valleys that can occur as a result of over- or under-training. Commit yourself to a set schedule that fits with your lifestyle, and stick to it.

Push yourself. If you want to build muscle, you have to challenge yourself. That means using weight/resistance that challenges you through a certain number of reps and sets. Heavy weights force your body to recruit more muscle fibers, which leads to muscle growth. It’s not supposed to be easy.

Perform compound exercises — those which engage multiple joints and muscle groups — like the deadlift, squat, and bench press. These exercises are terrific for improving conditioning, building muscle, and increasing strength.

Workout at least three times a week. If you’re a novice, start with at least two times a week. Allow for a day of rest between training days.

Eat well. That means quality and quantity. Ensure that you’re getting adequate calories. Aim for 5-6 evenly-spaced, small meals throughout the day. Your diet should include lean protein, clean carbs, and healthy fats.

Fuel your workout. You need a combination of carbs and protein both before (30-90 minutes) and after (within 30 minutes) a workout. Carbs provide energy and replenish depleted glycogen stores. Protein is essential to rebuild and repair muscle.

Try a creatine supplement. Creatine monohydrate may have the ability to enhance your training — helping you workout harder and for a longer period of time. This could lead to increased muscle growth.

Track your progress. Keep a chart of every workout, including exercises, weights, reps, and sets. A nutrition journal is not a bad idea either.

Get help. Consider enlisting the services of a strength and conditioning professional, at least to get started. He or she can help you to be more effective and efficient.


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Develop Your Core to Improve Athletic Performance

29 Oct

It’s important to incorporate core (multi-joint) exercises into your Strength and Conditioning plan.  When some people hear core, they think abs.  Your core actually includes shoulders, chest, back, hips, glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings.  These are your body’s largest and strongest muscles; the muscles that initiate and generate strength and power for virtually every sport.  It won’t matter how strong muscles like your biceps, triceps, and calves are if you don’t have a strong core.

Train Movements, Not Muscles

All athletic movements incorporate the core in some way.   Very few muscle groups are isolated; the whole body works as a unit.  Core strength training should reflect the movement patterns of the athlete’s sport(s).  Benefits of core strength training include:

  • Greater efficiency of (functional) movement
  • Improved balance and stability
  • Increased strength and power output from both the core musculature and peripheral muscles such as the shoulders, arms, and legs
  • Reduced risk of injury
  • Improved athletic performance

Resistance Training Exercises

There are lots of exercises athletes can do to strengthen the muscles of the core.  Some of the most effective are exercises like the Deadlift, Romanian Deadlift (RDL), Squat, Bench Press, and Row.  Unilateral variations of these exercises (single-arm, single-leg) are also beneficial because of the way they incorporate balance and stability, making them very functional.

Do It Right

Proper technique can make every exercise more effective and reduce the risk of injury.  If you’re just starting, it’s wise to enlist the help of an experienced, qualified Strength and Conditioning professional.  Even if you’re not a strength training novice, working with a professional can focus your efforts and help you be more efficient and productive en route to reaching and exceeding your athletic performance goals.


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