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Preseason Basketball Training

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By Tim DiFrancesco, former head strength coach for the Los Angeles Lakers.

A preseason basketball workout program should prepare your body for the movement skills of the game—jumping, landing, acceleration and deceleration.

“You need to prepare your body to be fluid and able to execute those skills with repetition,” he says. “This will prepare your bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles for those types of actions, which you’ll be doing more and more of as you get into the season.”

Many basketball players fail to take this into account with their training. They fall prey to old-school preseason workouts that emphasize long-distance running to improve conditioning, but fail to address the many other aspects of the game. Worse, they often set themselves up for injury by causing their bodies to break down before the season even begins.

“A lot of players come in and are more prepared to run a marathon than to play an acceleration-, deceleration-, jump- and landing-based sport with physical contact and short-burst energy system requirements,” he adds.

Exactly as we do at K2, DiFrancesco’s solution is a workout program that pairs plyometric and strength exercises together. He explains this formula is the ideal way to improve both performance and durability, which are equally crucial to a healthy and productive season.

preseason basketball workout

Preseason Basketball Workout

DiFrancesco’s plan features three workouts per week. These workouts should be done in the four weeks leading up to your season, and can be completed if you’re currently playing fall basketball or another sport.

Each workout is broken up into two tri-sets—a tri-set is essentially a superset with three exercises. The first exercise is a lower-body strength move, which is followed by a lower-body plyometric (except for Farmer’s Walks on Day 3). The tri-sets finish with an upper-body strength or core exercise. Many of the exercises are single-arm/leg or lateral moves to prepare your body for moving in multiple directions in a game.

Here’s how to use the plan:

– You’ll notice that each exercise has four rep prescriptions separated by a forward slash (3×6/8/10/12), which indicates the number of reps you’ll perform on Week 1, 2, 3 and 4. In this instance, you’d do 3 sets of 6 reps on Week 1, 3 sets of 8 reps on Week 2 and so on.

– Perform the exercises back to back to complete a set of the tri-set. Then work your way back through the exercises for another set, and once again for a third set.

– Moving through this with minimal rest between exercises will provide an excellent conditioning effect, but make sure to rest when needed to maintain proper exercise form.

– These workouts are fairly short but that’s all you need. If you stick to the plan as written, this is more than enough to challenge your body and make you a better athlete.

– Choose a weight that allows you to complete every rep for each set with perfect form. The goal here is quality reps to build a stronger and more durable body, not to get hurt attempting to lift a weight that’s far too heavy.

– Do the workouts on non-consecutive days to allow your muscles to recover between workouts.

– Finally, stay consistent!

Day 1

1A) Barbell Rack Pulls – 3×6/8/10/12

1B) Broad Jump – 3×4/6/8/10

1C) Push-Up – 3×8/10/12/15

2A) Goblet Squat – 3×6/8/10/12

2B) Squat Jump – 3×4/6/8/10

2C) Chin-Up – 3×4/6/8/10

Day 2

1A) Goblet Lateral Squat – 3×4/5/6/8 each side

1B) Skater Jump – 3×10/12/16/20

1C) Dumbbell Single-Arm Row – 3×8/10/12/15 each side

2A) Kettlebell Rear-Foot-Elevated Split Squat – 3×5/6/8/10 each side

2B) Split Squat Jumps – 3×4/6/8/10

2C) Dumbbell Incline Bench Press – 3×8/10/12/15

Day 3

1A) Dumbbell Single-Leg RDL – 3×4/5/6/8 each side

1B) Bounding – 3×10/12/16/20

1C) Band/Cable Half-Kneeling Single-Arm V Row – 3×6/8/10/12 each side

2A) Dumbbell Hip Thrust – 3×8/10/12/15

2B) Farmer’s Walk – 3x10yd/15yd/20yd/30yd

2C) Squat Stance Pallof Press – 3×8/10/12/15 each side

How To Increase Your Deadlift

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By Bret Contreras
In the gym, the deadlift is quite possibly the ultimate test of manhood and is often referred to as The King of all Exercises. The task is simple – see that really heavy barbell over there?  Now go pick it up. Looking in from the outside, it would seem like a simple task that doesn’t require much thinking or technique. But nothing could be further from the truth. When broken down, the deadlift it a very technical lift, and is quite difficult to master. It might appear that the movement is simply a hip hinge which is present in many activities of daily living.  However, it’s not so simple under heavy, heavy loading.

 

The deadlift is a brutal movement and may be the trickiest of all in terms of programming due to its insanely high cost to the central nervous system (CNS). Heavy deadlifting is akin to bringing Everclear to a keg party; things can either end up going really well, or end up utterly disastrous. Some lifters will do best by pulling heavy every week, while others do better by pulling heavy every other week. Some prefer to mix in submaximal sessions throughout the week, while others prefer to avoid the movement altogether until it’s time to max. Finding the optimal frequency, intensity, and exercise selection that suits you best is the key to excelling in this lift. I created this guide to help point you in the right direction

deadlift snipped

Form

The first topic to address in attempting to increase your deadlift is form. It is not uncommon for novices to increase their deadlift strength by 50 or more pounds in a single session just by working with a coach who is well-versed in deadlift mechanics.

Your ideal deadlifting form will revolve around a combination of factors. For example, your anatomy will play a large role in terms of how your form looks. It should be understood that the form that allows you to lift the heaviest may not be the form that allows you to train injury-free week in and week out. Therefore, you want to find a sweet spot between the form that allows you to demonstrate your strength with the form that minimizes joint stress and CNS fatigue. Finally, your goals will influence form as well; a competitive powerlifter will likely accept more risk during the deadlift compared to an 8-figure salary athlete (especially on the platform). Here are some general recommendations.

Foot position (stance width and foot angle)

The conventional deadlift is performed with the feet around shoulder width apart (sometimes closer, and sometimes further out), with the hands placed just outside of the legs. Most lifters prefer to keep the toes pointing straight ahead while others prefer to slightly externally rotate the feet in more of a duck stance. Foot flare is influenced by hip anatomy, so it is important to experiment in order to find what works best for you. If you are having trouble finding a comfortable foot position, first try this: take the same stance you would as if you were performing a vertical jump. This may help get your body into a more advantageous deadlift position. Tinker from there.

Bar position relative to the shin

Bar position in relation to the shin is highly dependent on the lifter. Some lifters prefer to line up directly up against the bar, some approximately 2 inches away, and others 4 inches away. In general, you want the bar lined up very close to the shins at the start of the movement. When looking down, the bar should be positioned over the middle of the feet. Anthropometry will play a large factor in terms of how far away you should line up from the bar, so experiment to find what works best for you. Lining up with the bar too close to the body can limit quadricep activity, while lining up with the bar too far away from the body can impair balance and lead to excessive spinal loading. It should be mentioned that during the sumo deadlift, the bar should be touching your shins.

Grip Options

The most common grip used in powerlifting in the over/under grip or ‘mixed’ grip. This is where the lifter holds the bar with one hand in a pronated position while the other hand is supinated. There is a slight risk of experiencing a distal biceps tendon tear with the supinated arm, so be sure to alternate arms from one set to the next.

Another option would be the hook grip. The hook grip is most commonly seen in Olympic weightlifting, but can be quite painful while getting used to it. The thumb is wrapped around the bar then the index and middle fingers are wrapped around the thumb to secure it into place. After 6 weeks or so, the pain diminishes and the body becomes accustomed to hook gripping.

The double overhand grip is an additional option, whereby the palms are facing the body. I recommend using a double over have grip as long as possible during your working sets to build grip strength. However, very few lifters can rely on the double overhand grip when the weight approaches maximum or the set approaches failure.

The last option would be to use lifting straps. For powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting, lifting straps are not allowed, but straps are commonly allowed in the deadlift in strongman. Training with straps diminishes the benefits of forearm and grip strengthening that can be achieved by training without them, so use them sparingly. Grip strength can indeed be a limiting factor with regards to maximal deadlifting. If this is the case, using chalk is highly recommended, as is performing specialized grip work.

Deadlift grip pics

Hip position/height

A common mistake made by trainees newer to the deadlift is starting with the hips too low. This turns the movement into a squat-type movement which is not an advantageous position. Finding the optimal starting position will be highly dependent on your body and lever and limb lengths. The height of your hips at the time when you initiate your pull should be the same height when the bar leaves the floor. Many times you will see this position change with inexperienced lifters. Beginners will typically start with the hips low, and upon lift initiation, the hips rise considerably before the bar even breaks off the floor. This is wasted movement and should be minimized for an optimal deadlift. Find the optimal position and stick to it as the bar leaves the ground. 

In general, when looking from the side view, the hips will be right in between the shoulders and knees in terms of vertical height. Lifters with certain anatomical proportions such as short femurs or long arms will be more upright, whereas lifters with long femurs, short torsos, and short arms will be much more horizontal.   

deadlift hip height

Spinal Positioning

The spine should be kept in a neutral position throughout the lift, with the abdominals braced throughout. Some lifters feel most comfortable pulling with an arch, some in neutral, and some in a slightly rounded position.

For advanced lifters, some rounding of the upper back (thoracic spine) is usually beneficial in terms of performance for most lifters, but this is not something I would recommend for beginners. Over time, tolerance to roundback deadlifting may be something that can be trained and improved upon, as many of the top strongman competitors and powerlifters perform the movement in this manner. But there’s not good evidence to support this as of yet. According to biomechanical analysis and anecdotal feedback, the safest deadlift posture is neutral. There is certainly wiggle room, so make sure you’re keeping ROM in mid-ranges and avoiding end-ranges of motion as these ranges when combined with heavy loading can be damaging to ligaments, discs, and other spinal structures.

bad dead

deadlift spinal position

Left: Neutral Lumbar and Rounded Thoracic                      Right: Neutral Spine (Safest)

Some strength coaches feel that it is of great performance to keep the neck neutral, while others feel that neck packing (making a double chin) is the most optimal position. Personally, I feel that this debate is overrated; clips from the strongest deadlifters in the world shown HERE portray a variety of head and neck positions. However, my general recommendation would be to avoid any type of excessive overextension or flexion.

deadlift neck position

The lockout of the deadlift should be executed by extending the hips using the glutes. You don’t want the spine to be hyperextending to lock out the load; you want to push the hips forward with a strong glute contraction.

Shoulders

At the start of the movement, the shoulders should either be in line with the bar, or slightly in front of it. Click HEREto see shoulder position with elite deadlifters. This allows the lifter to get his or her body in the most advantageous position for the lift. A common mistake involves retracting the shoulders when performing the deadlift. This actually increases the distance the bar has to travel to complete the lift. Keep tension in the lats and upper back, but do not retract the shoulders blades. When the bar leaves the ground, the scapula will usually be protracted when loads are heavy.

Many lifters feel that since increased lat involvement keeps the bar closer to the body, it will improve deadlift performance, but this might be specific to the lifter. Experiment with focused lat contraction to figure out if it works for you.

deadliftshoulderpositioning

Developing Maximum Strength 

Building maximum strength refers to increasing the total poundage a lifter can move. There are several ways to go about this, but going into the gym and maxing out week in and week out is not one of them. While this may work for a short period of time for those newer to lifting, you will soon plateau or even worse injure yourself. A more appropriate plan of action involves utilizing specialized set and rep schemes to help you achieve your goal. Here are some of the most effective methods:

Tempo – I do not believe that you should be counting rep speed during deadlifts. However, I do feel that you should control the negative component rather than just dropping the bar to the ground (this is more common in gyms with lifting platforms and bumper plates). This topic has been hotly debated among coaches as the eccentric portion can be dangerous for those who aren’t well-versed in the deadlift, but the fact of the matter is, eccentrics build strength. Moreover, they can refine good technique – the lowering phase should be initiated by a strong “sitting back” action at the hips while dragging the bar down the thighs and keeping vertical shins. When the bar passes the knees, then the shins can angle forward. You don’t have to lower the bar slowly on each rep, but I feel that you should control the descent for greater strength gains.

Straight sets – For straight sets, you will perform the same number of reps with the same load for the prescribed number of sets.  I’ve found 3 to 5 sets of 1 to 5 reps to be most effective when using this method. You want to lift heavy enough so that you approach failure, but there should always be a rep or two left in the tank. It is a common debate whether or not each rep should be started from a dead stop or whether touch-and-go reps should be used.

I recommend that you start each rep from a complete dead stop. In between each rep, reset to your starting hip positioning before starting any additional reps. This is especially important when training for powerlifting where the goal is to lift as much weight as possible in a single attempt. Touch-and-go reps should be used when training for a strongman event where endurance is and specificity is most crucial (assuming of course that this type of technique is allowed in competition).

Ascending sets – With this method you will be going up in weight each set. This is highly effective and useful when trying a new weight that you have never used before. Since you are going up in weight each set you will be less fatigued as opposed to using the same weight every set and burning yourself out. The approach in this method is the same as straight sets; the sets and reps say the same, with the only difference being an increase in load each set.

Pyramid sets (ascending with back off) – Pyramid sets involve performing several sets of increasing weight while decreasing reps, with a final back off set performed at the end. The back off set is a crucial component here. After building up in weight and fatiguing the muscles you will drop the weight and do a burn out set close to failure.

Pause reps – Pause reps are performed by initiating the pull and then pausing 2-4 inches off the floor for 3-5 seconds. Once the weight is held for the specified time, you will finish the movement as explosively as possible. This pause takes away the momentum gained from pulling off the floor and is great for learning how to stay tight and under control during the lift. This makes the lift much harder, and even though you will be handling less weight than a regular deadlift, it will ultimately build more strength and develops your technique.

Partial ROM – Partial range movements allow for an increase in the amount of weight that can be used when deadlifting. This is especially useful for those lifters who have trouble at the lockout rather than off the floor. The most commonly used example of this would be block pulls or rack pulls. To the untrained eye, these two partial variations may look the same, but they do not feel the same. Block pulls have a similar feel to an actual deadlift since the plates are resting on the blocks similar to the position from the floor. With rack pulls, the bar is resting on the safety pins, and in this position the “slack’ is taken out of the bar.

Rack pulls can be performed from a variety of positions, but the most common is just below the knee caps. Blcok pulls are usually performed off of 3-5 inch blocks. Going above this will allow the lifter to use heavier weight, but anecdotally it doesn’t transfer as well to performance. Make sure to sit back and have fairly vertical shins with partials to ensure for maximal dynamic transfer to the regular deadlift; many lifters allow the knees to migrate forward and “quad” the weight up, which isn’t representative of deadlift from from that ROM.

Extending ROM – Extended range of motion movements increase the difficulty of the movement by putting your body in a disadvantageous position prior to pulling (however, some lifters actually find that their position improves with extended ROM) and requiring more work to be performed. The most commonly used example of this would be deficit deadlifts. Deficit deadlifts can be performed on a platform ranging anywhere from 1-4 inches. The movement is performed in a similar fashion to a conventional deadlift off the floor, except the hips will either start in a lower position or a higher position depending on the lifter.

Speed Work – One of the most common methods of training for increasing maximal strength and power is speed work, also knows as the dynamic effort method.  Lighter loads are used to move the bar with as much acceleration as possible while maintaining perfect technique. An example for deadlifts would be using ~70% of 1RM and performing 6 sets of 2 repetitions as explosively as possible with around 60 seconds rest between sets.

Variable Resistance – bands/chains – When pulling for a maximum attempt, lifters tend to round a bit, in which case the lift-off is easier but the lockout is harder. In this case, end-range glute strength is needed. This is where variable resistance training can be a huge help (as well as speed work, partial ROM and pause deadlifts). These tools offer an increase in load as the weight is lifted off the floor, where the movement gets easier the weight is the highest. When coupled with speed work, it increases the time spent accelerating the bar and the muscle activation throughout the lift.

variable resistance

Clusters – Cluster sets are characterized by performing heavy singles or doubles performed several times in succession but resting around ten seconds or so in between. Although this short break doesn’t allow for full recovery between the mini sets, it does allow the lifter to use a weight that he or she would normally not be able to complete the desired reps without stopping. An example of a cluster set with a 500lb deadlifter follows: 425lbs for 1 rep, rest 10 seconds and then repeat three more times. That is equal to one total cluster set. This will be repeated for 3-4 sets.

Other Factors to Consider

While the deadlift is primarily considered a lower body exercise, it strengthens a large majority of the musculature of the upper body as well. Training these secondary muscles involved is critical to improving your deadlift performance and physique and is commonly referred to as “support work.” Support work differs from lifter to lifter dependent on strengths and weaknesses and can be used to strengthen the particular region where you begin to slow down and fail (known as ‘sticking point’).

hip thrust

Volume of support work will differ depending on strength levels and general physical preparedness. A common mistake for beginners is to go overboard with support work, which impairs ability to recover, thus taking away from their ability to deadlift. Do not make this mistake!

Grip strength – When the weights start to get heavy, grip strength becomes a large limited factor for a majority of lifters. Many lifters will need to incorporate some type of grip training into their programming to counteract this. While many exericses will strengthen the grip, such as simply performing deadlift warm-up sets with double overhand grip, bent over rows, shrugs, chins, rows, and lugging dumbbells around, my favorite targeted exercises for grip strengthening include: farmers walks, bench squeezes,1-arm static hangs, and the gripper

gripper

farmers

Assistance exercises for the lower body – Assistance exercises for the lower body are used to help develop weaknesses whether it is muscle size or muscle strength. My favorite lower body accessory movements for increasing the deadlift include: squats, front squats, block pulls, deficit pulls, hip thrusts, leg presses, and heavy kb swings.

Capture

block and deficit

Methods

All the methods listed above will work for any experience level, and I recommend rotating them through and seeing what works best for you. However, there are certain methods you should focus on depending on your experience in training the deadlift, along with other factors such as your training age, anatomy and current level of fitness.

Beginners/novice – For less experienced deadlifters it is a good idea to use methods that focus on perfecting technique and building strength. Exhausting sets taken to failure is a recipe for disaster for beginner lifters.               

Straight sets – i.e. 225 for 4 sets of 3

Ascending sets – i.e 185×3, 205×3, 255×3, 275×3

Pyramid sets – i.e. 205×6, 255×4, 275×2, 185×8

Intermediate – The techniques suggested for intermediate and advanced lifters can be mixed and matched. These techniques can all be of benefit depending on a lifter’s strengths and weaknesses.

Partials – i.e block pulls or rack pulls

Extended ROM – i.e. Deficit deadlifts

Advanced

Pause reps – i.e. 365 for 4 sets of 3 reps, counting “one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand” 3-4 inches off of the ground

Clusters – i.e. 1 cluster = 405 for 1 rep, then 10 seconds rest, repeated 4 times

Speed Work – i.e. 70% of 1RM for 6 sets of 2 with 60 seconds rest

Variable resistance – i.e. bar plus band deadlift, bar plus chain, combinations of both, combinations with extended or partial range of motion

Conclusion

Some of these methods many be new to you and some may not. In the world of strength training, it is important to remember that the journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time to find out which of these techniques works best for you, and always be honing your technique.

Not only is a strong deadlift beneficial for sports performance and building an impressive physique, it also transfers to everyday activities and can prevent you from injuring yourself when moving furniture or doing heavy labor. If you’ve shrugged off the deadlift, it’s time you gave it a try. Form comes first, then load.

The Importance Of Post Workout Nutrition!

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You just finished up an awesome workout and you’re trying to decide what to eat. This article is for you! You will learn what the best things are to eat post workout!

You don’t need to be a resource management specialist to know that time is the most valuable finite resource that you have. And as you well know, there’s a very limited amount of it to go around. So if you’re smart, you’ll figure out ways to get the greatest return on the investment of your time.

While this may be well recognized and applied in many aspects of modern life, it confuses me as to why people seem to ignore this when it comes to their exercise training. From what I see on a daily basis, it’s clear to me that most people in the gym are wasting their time investment. They’re spending precious hours engaged in strength or endurance training programs that yield little or no results?

Need proof? When was the last time someone in your gym made any noticeable physical progress? In fact, when was the last time that you made any significant physical progress? Exercise training has the potential to yield huge returns on any given time investment. Isn’t it a shame that most people don’t ever see this magnitude of return?

Despite this disappointing reality, I’m here to tell you that hope is not lost. In fact, there’s a very easy way to capitalize on your investment. You see, in most cases the exercise is not the problem. The problem is that people fail to invest in the other important commodity that, in combination with exercise, yields the biggest returns.

They’re buying the cart without the horse, the lemonade stand without the lemonade. They’re spending their time focused on only the exercise program while ignoring the importance of a sound nutritional program.

Now I could write a dozen articles focused on straightening out the nutritional problems of the world. But those articles are for another day. In this article today, I intend to focus on what is, in my opinion, the most important aspect of exercise nutrition – eating during the post-workout period. The knowledge of how to eat during this time will maximize your efforts in the gym and yield the biggest returns on your time investment.

REMODELING AND THE POST-WORKOUT PERIOD

Exercise, both strength and endurance training, is responsible for countless health and aesthetic benefits. However the exercise itself is a significant physiological stressor. Perceived symptoms of this “stress” are often mild and include muscle soreness, the need for extra sleep, and an increased appetite.

These symptoms let us know that the exercise has depleted the muscle’s fuel resources, caused some minor damage, and that the muscle is in need of replenishment and repair. While the words depletion and damage may sound like negative things, they’re not if they only stick around for a short period of time. You see, these changes allow the muscle to adapt by getting better at the exercise demands placed on it.

Therefore if you’re doing endurance exercise, the muscle will become depleted and damaged in the short run, but in the long run it will super compensate, building itself up to be a better aerobic machine. And if strength training is your thing, you’ll tear down you’re weaker muscle fibers in favor of building up bigger, stronger ones.

In all cases, exercise essentially tears down old, less adapted muscle in order to rebuild more functional muscle. This phenomenon is called remodeling.

While the remodeling process is much more complex than I can describe here, it’s important for me to emphasize that this remodeling only takes place if the muscle is provided the right raw materials. If I plan on remodeling my home I can hire a guy to tear down a couple of walls, a guy to clean up the mess, and a guy to come in and rebuild better walls than the ones that came down.

But if I don’t give that guy any bricks, how’s he going to get anything done? If I don’t give him the bricks, all I’ll have in the end is a much smaller, unfinished house.

The same holds true with exercise remodeling. In particular, during the exercise bout and immediately following it, exercise breaks down our muscle carbohydrate stores and our muscle protein structures. Then, the immune system comes in to clean up the mess.

And finally, signals are generated to tell the body to rebuild. However, as I hope you can now see, without the proper protein and carbohydrate raw materials, this building can’t take place. You’ll be left with muscles that never reach their potential.

So with this analogy, I hope it’s obvious that this post-exercise period is not a time to take lightly. Remember, you spent a significant amount of time in the gym breaking down the muscle for a good reason. You want it to be better adapted to future demands.

So to realize full return on your time investment, you need to give the body the raw materials it needs, namely protein and carbohydrates.

FEEDING HUNGRY MUSCLES

As I mentioned earlier, all trainees (male or female), regardless of their chosen mode of exercise, must take their post-exercise nutrition seriously in order to provide the muscle with the raw materials it needs. As all types of exercise use carbohydrates for energy, muscle carbohydrate depletion is inevitable. Therefore a post-workout meal high in carbohydrates is required to refill muscle carbohydrate/energy stores.

However any ol’ amount of carbohydrates will not do. You need to consume enough carbohydrates to promote a substantial insulin release. Insulin is the hormone responsible for shuttling carbohydrates and amino acids into the muscle. In doing this, carbohydrate resynthesis is accelerated and protein balance becomes positive, leading to rapid repair of the muscle tissue.

Therefore, by consuming a large amount of carbohydrates, you will promote a large insulin release, increase glycogen storage, and increase protein repair. Research has shown that a carbohydrate intake of 0.8 to 1.2 grams per 1 kilogram of body weight maximizes glycogen synthesis and accelerates protein repair. However, unless you’ve had a very long, intense workout, 1.2g/kg may be a bit excessive as excess carbohydrate can be converted to bodyfat.

Therefore I recommend 0.8g of carbohydrate per 1 kilogram of body weight for speeding up muscle carbohydrate replenishment while preventing excess fat gain (van Loon et al 2000a).

In addition, since muscle protein is degraded during exercise, the addition of a relatively large amount of protein to your post exercise meal is necessary to help rebuild the structural aspects of the muscle. After exercise, the body decreases its rate of protein synthesis and increases its rate of protein breakdown. However, the provision of protein and amino acid solutions has been shown to reverse this trend, increasing protein synthesis and decreasing protein breakdown.

Researchers have used anywhere from 0.2g – 0.4g of protein per 1 kilogram of body weight to demonstrate the effectiveness of adding protein to a post-workout carbohydrate drink (van Loon et al 2000b, Roy et al 1998). As an increased consumption of the essential amino acids may lead to a more positive protein balance, 0.4g/kg may be better than 0.2g/kg.

While your post-workout feeding should be rich protein and carbohydrate, this meal should be fat free. The consumption of essential fats is one of the most overlooked areas of daily nutritional intake but during the post workout period, eating fat can actually decrease the effectiveness of your post-workout beverage. Since fat slows down transit through the stomach, eating fat during the post workout period may slow the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates and proteins.

As your post workout feeding should be designed to promote the most rapid delivery of carbohydrates and protein to your depleted muscles, fats should be avoided during this time.

Finally, another important factor to consider is the timing of this meal. It is absolutely crucial that you consume your post-workout meal immediately after exercise. As indicated above, after exercise, the muscles are depleted and require an abundance of protein and carbohydrate. In addition, during this time, the muscles are biochemically “primed” for nutrient uptake.

This phenomenon is commonly known as the “window of opportunity”. Over the course of the recovery period, this window gradually closes and by failing to eat immediately after exercise, you diminish your chances of promoting full recovery. To illustrate how quickly this window closes, research has shown that consuming a post-exercise meal immediately after working out is superior to consuming one only 1 hour later.

In addition, consuming one 1 hour later is superior to consuming one 3 hours later (Tipton et al 2001, Levenhagen et al 2001). If you wait too long, glycogen replenishment and protein repair will be compromised.

In conclusion, when you decided to start exercising you decided to give up a specific amount of time per week in the interest of getting better, physically. However, if you haven’t spent the necessary time thinking about post-exercise nutrition, you’re missing much of the benefit that comes with exercising.

I assure you that once you start paying attention to this variable in the recovery equation, your time in the gym will be much better invested.

WHOLE FOOD VS. NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTATION

Anchored firmly atop their calorie-counting soapbox, nutritionists have traditionally asserted that whole food always trumps supplemental nutrition. For them I have only one sentiment:

Always…it is a meaningless word. -Oscar Wilde

While I wholeheartedly believe that complete, unbleached, untreated, and unprocessed whole food should form the basis of any sound nutritional regimen, there are some instances in which supplements can actually be superior to whole food. In the case of post-exercise nutrition, I believe that liquid supplemental nutrition is far superior to whole food for the following reasons.

LIQUID MEALS ARE PALATABLE AND DIGESTIBLE

Typically, after intense exercise, most people complain that eating a big meal is difficult. This is understandable as the exercise stress creates a situation where the hunger centers are all but shut down. However, as you now know, it’s absolutely critical that you eat if you want to remodel the muscle, enlarge the muscle, or recover from the exercise.

Fortunately liquid supplemental formulas are palatable, easy to consume, and can be quite nutrient dense, providing all the nutrition you need at this time. In addition, since these formulas are structurally simple (I’ll save the biochemistry for another article), the gastrointestinal tract has no difficulty processing them. Your stomach will thank you for this.

LIQUID MEALS HAVE A FAST ABSORPTION PROFILE, WHOLE FOOD IS JUST TOO SLOW

The latest research has demonstrated that liquid supplemental formulas containing fast digesting protein (whey hydrolysates and isolates) and carbohydrates (dextrose and maltodextrin) are absorbed more quickly than whole food meals.

To put this into perspective, a liquid post-exercise formula may be fully absorbed within 30 to 60 minutes, providing much needed muscle nourishment by this time. However, a slower digesting solid food meal may take 2 to 3 hours to fully reach the muscle.

LIQUID MEALS TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE “WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY”, WHOLE FOODS MAY MISS IT

The faster the protein and carbohydrates get to the muscle, the better your chances for muscle building and recovery. Current research has demonstrated that subjects receiving nutrients within one hour after exercise recover more quickly than subjects receiving nutrients three hours after exercise. Liquid nutrition is making more sense, isn’t it?

LIQUID MEALS ARE BETTER FOR NUTRIENT TARGETING

During the post exercise period, specific nutrients maximize your recovery. These include an abundance of water, high glycemic index carbohydrates, and certain amino acids (in specific ratios). It’s also best to avoid fat during this time. So the only way to ensure that these nutrients are present in the right amounts is to formulate a specific liquid blend. Whole foods may miss the mark.

POST-EXERCISE CHOICES

So your workout is over and it’s time to reach for your post workout meal. What do you reach for? Here are a few examples of good post-workout choices in order of effectiveness.

REFERENCES
  1. Levenhagen et al. (2001). Postexercise nutrient intake timing in humans is critical to recovery of leg glucose and protein homeostasisAm.J.Physiol Endocrinol. Metab. 280(6): E982-993.
  2. Tipton et al. (2001). Timing of amino acid-carbohydrate ingestion alters anabolic response of muscle to resistance exercise. Am.J. Physiol Endocrinol. Metab. 281(2): E197-206.
  3. Roy et al. (1998). Influence of differing macronutrient intakes on muscle glycogen resynthesis after resistance exerciseJAP. 84(3): 890-896.
  4. Van Loon et al. (2000a). Maximizing postexercise muscle glycogen synthesis: carbohydrate supplementation and the application of amino acid or protein hydrolysate mixturesAm J Clin Nutrition. 72(1): 106-111.
  5. Van Loon et al. (2000b). Ingestion of protein hydrolysate and amino acid-carbohydrate mixtures increases postexercise plasma insulin responses in menJ Nutr. 130(10): 2508-2513.

How Survival Instincts Drive Speed Development

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Written on September 25, 2017 at 6:27 pm, by Eric Cressey

 

As a kid, I was a big fan of “The Flintstones.” I loved how Fred and Barney could run so fast. I can remember when they were chased by a Sabretooth Tiger; it was amazing how they could escape so quickly. Hmm, maybe there is something to that…

Fast forward to 2017, I still love speed. But now, I actually study it. I continually ask myself the question; “Why were humans given the ability to have speed and quickness?” This question has taken me down a road not many speed coaches travel. Many of these coaches like the traditional route of current methods of training. That’s cool, and in most cases, proves to be quite successful. But…

What if coaches would investigate more down the road of our human history? What if they allowed themselves to be vulnerable to the ways of how we escaped or attacked for survival? How would they think differently about speed?

What if we asked the question, “Why were we given the ability to have speed and quickness?” What can we learn when we venture down that path?

Here are a few of my thoughts:

1. Survival drives us through channels not so easily understood from a Central Nervous System (CNS) standpoint. We have to bow down to the subconscious effort that makes us move quickly on instinct or reflex. This is harder to understand, so we try to ignore it as a viable option for speed training.

2. Playing competitive sports actually taps into our CNS – or should I go deeper and say our “sympathetic nervous system?” This is where our heightened awareness of our surroundings kicks in. If I am caught in a rundown in baseball – or going to be tackled in football, or being chased during soccer i- it takes us to a level of effort we don’t commonly experience in our daily lives.

3. Our body kicks into what we call fight or flight: the survival mode. This occurs all the time during sports competition. It drives us to make incredible speedy plays. It forces us to react in such a way that our feet move quicker than our conscious mind can drive them. This is where I want to concentrate on for the rest of this article. I want to share with you strategies to make you faster!

Repositioning

Repositioning is a term I use to relate to how an athlete moves his or her feet quickly into a more effective angle to either accelerate or decelerate the body. Terms I have used to describe repositioning are:

Plyo Step: The plyo step is an action that occurs when one foot is repositioned behind, to the side, or at any angle behind the body. This act quickly drives the body in a new direction of travel.

Hip Turn: This is basically the same as the plyo step except the athlete turns and accelerate back away from the direction they were facing. Repositioning occurs to find an angle to push the body in that direction.

Directional Step: Think base-stealing. The athlete will face sideways but turn and run. The front foot opens to be in a greater supportive position to push down and back during acceleration steps.

The goal is to get into acceleration posture as quickly as possible to make a play when one of these repositioning steps occur.

A great drill to work on repositioning is what I call “Ball Drops.”

a. Simply have a partner or coach stand 10-15 feet away from the athlete with a tennis ball held out at shoulder height.

b. The athlete is in an athletic parallel stance facing the coach, turned sideways, or back facing- depending on the drill.

c. The coach will drop the ball and the athlete must accelerate to catch the ball before the 2nd bounce. I encourage the coach to use the command “Go” at the exact time of the drop to help when vision is not an option.

The action you will see 99.9% of the time is a repositioning or a hip turn or plyo step (the directional step is the act of preparing the front leg for push off; it angles in the direction of travel). Perform this drill facing forwards for four reps, sideways for four reps, and backwards for four reps (2 to each side for the side-facing and back-facing). Perform this drill 2-3x per week to tap into the “fight or flight” response.

Reactive Shuffle or Crossover

In this drill, the focus is on reacting to either a partner (like a mirror drill) or the coaches signal to go right or left.

a. The athlete gets in a great defensive stance and prepares to explode to her right or left.

b. The coach will quickly point in either direction.

c. The athlete will create quick force into the ground in the opposite direction of travel. Typically, there will be a repositioning step unless the athlete starts in a wide stance where outward pressure is effective in the current stance.

d. As soon as the athlete shuffles one to two times, he will shuffle back.

e. The same drill is repeated, but now using a crossover step.

Perform 3-4 sets of ten seconds of both the shuffle and crossover drill. Allow 40-60s of recovery between bouts.

Shuffle

Partner Mirror

Crossover with Directional Step

Hip Turn to Crossover

The final skill I want to write about might be one of the most important “survival” speed skills an athlete can have. It falls under the “retreating” set of skills where the athlete moves back away from the direction they are initially facing.

The hip turn can allow an athlete to escape or attack. The critical features are:

1. The athlete must “stay in the tunnel.” Do not rise up and down; stay level.

2. By staying level, the immediate repositioning that takes place allows for a great push off angle to move the body in a new direction.

3. The athlete should attempt to create length and cover distance quickly. Short choppy steps are not effective when in “survival mode.” GET MOVING!

4. In the snapshots below, the athlete is performing a hip turn based on the coaches command or signal. The athlete will perform a hip turn and either a shuffle, crossover, or run – and then recover back to the start position as soon as possible!

Perform 3-4 sets of 7-10s of work. If quickness/speed is the goal we want to do it in short bursts of time and not long duration where speed in compromised. Recover for roughly 45 seconds and repeat.

Now, I know it sounds kind of crazy to be talking about survival, cavemen, and “fight or flight” when we are referring to speed, but we have to always look at the genesis of all things. Animals that don’t have reactive speed have other ways to protect themselves. Humans have intelligence and the ability to escape or attack using systems derived out of our CNS to help us use our speed. Our job as coaches is to tap into this ability and use it to help our athletes “naturally” move fast!

How to choose the right Sports Performance Program

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In the ever-changing world of youth athletics, it is becoming more common than ever for young athletes to participate in a sports performance program. This may be done on their own, with a team or within a school setting, but most young athletes are now engaging in some type of training to enhance athleticism. These programs can have a tremendous impact on a young athlete’s overall development, but they can also be a waste of time, or even worse, dangerous. How do you know what to look for in a quality training program? With coaches hard-selling and boasting about their 

There are five key components to look for when seeking out a great sports performance program:

  • Culture
  • Administration
  • The Coaches
  • The Program
  • Your Goals

Culture
Every coach and/or training center will have a training culture, and it’s important to find the right fit. A culture will contain many things, but young athletes thrive in an environment that encourages fun, positive attitudes, respect and builds self-confidence. This is especially true for athletes under 14 years old. At this age, it’s important to enjoy the training process so athletes look forward to a more intense environment in the future. Pushing kids too hard – both mentally & physically – at an early age usually results in athletes who dislike training and will often lead to burnout and quitting. Look for a positive atmosphere where you see plenty of high fives, smiles and coaches “building kids up.” You should see positive reinforcement from the coach and plenty of teaching/instruction.

 

Between 12-14 years old, you might see a more intense sports performance program but the underlying culture should remain the same. There should always be a positive environment with coaches who serve as role models. Athletes should feel good about what they’re doing and praised for their effort. The culture is a direct representation of the coach/owner and and the overall intent of the program.

Avoid negative attitudes, high-pressure sales, or unrealistic promises. Not everyone will be attracted to the same culture, but make sure the kids feel comfortable because they’ll be spending a lot of time there.

If there are no quality trainer centers near you, or you simply can’t afford it, find a place that accommodates your needs. This may be a home gym, school weight room or local gym/recreation center. You’ll need adequate space and equipment depending on your goals, so find a place that will suit your needs.

 

Administration
How do things work with the coach or facility? How do you schedule appointments? What is the coach: athlete ratio? How are the athletes grouped?

All participants in a sports performance program should have the opportunity to thrive in a training environment, and good administration makes sure everything is well organized. This will ensure that you’re engaged with professionals who take this important job seriously.

Have you heard other people talk about training at a facility or with a coach? What was their experience? Have other athletes had success with the program? Athletes who have gone through a program should have positive things to say about it.

Do a little research to see what kind of track record a program has. Testimonials are helpful, but talking to someone you know can give you even more insight.

When observing a class you’ll want to see participants of similar ages/abilities together and interacting appropriately. This does not mean that every athlete in a group needs to be the same age or play the same sport, but the training goals should be similar or the coach should know how to modify the program for each athlete. Cookie-cutter programs aren’t always bad, but an individualized approach is always preferred.

Look for a relatively low coach:athlete ratio. A good coach can easily handle 20+ athletes in a team environment, but there should be a much lower ratio for a more individualized program. Smaller groups ensure more individual feedback, but most athletes thrive in groups. This is especially true for young athletes so that games and group activities can be utilized. A 1-on-1 session for a 9 year old has the potential to get pretty boring for the athlete. Being in groups also gives young athletes the opportunity to develop character traits such as leadership, teamwork, giving encouragement, empathy and respect. These things are much easier to address in a group setting.
The Coaches
Quality coaches are the most important thing to look for in a sports performance program. Coaches pretty much make or break a program, so make sure you’re with a good one. Not only will a good coach get performance results, but they should also address things like motivation, mindset, respect and the value of hard work.

Make sure that your coach is certified from a well known & respected organization such as the IYCA or NSCA. He/she should also have experience coaching athletes, and a proven track-record of producing results is definitely preferred. A degree in a related field (kinesiology, exercise science, physical education, etc.) is highly recommended, but there are a lot of exceptional youth coaches who got their education after receiving a college degree in an unrelated field. The coaches should have positive energy, be strong role models, and truly enjoy helping athletes develop.

Like culture, people are drawn to certain personalities or coaching styles, and it’s important you find the right fit. Have a conversation with the coach or staff to see if you get along and more importantly if your child gets along with the coach. The coach has to earn your trust as does your child. This trust will allow for proper growth of the athlete and continual trust in the program will also allow the coach to push the athlete to their potential.

Try not to get overwhelmed by past athletic accomplishments or a coach’s physique. While certainly not negatives, these things don’t necessarily mean he/she has the educational background or coaching ability to help you. It usually helps to have a coach who has some degree of athletic experience, but this should not be their #1 qualification. Some coaches are able to really utilize their experiences to benefit young athletes, while others were simply born with talent. So, take it into consideration (because it’s important), but try not to let it cloud your judgement if nothing else feels right.

If the facility has a large staff, don’t hesitate to request a coach your child loves, or ask to NOT train with someone your child really doesn’t like. This may not always happen, but a good program will make an effort to accommodate your needs.

Disrespectful or inappropriate comments or actions are a definite red flag. Having a negative coach in a child’s life can cause tremendous stress and can hard a child’s self-esteem and enjoyment of the training process. While it is sometimes necessary to be firm or have difficult conversations, good coaches can handle tough situations professionally.

Athletes who don’t live anywhere near a training facility now have online options available that will allow you to train at home. While this option may not be as optimal as having a live coach, it’s often the only option available. It can also be much less expensive and more convenient, so there are certainly reasons an athlete may choose to train alone.

Finding a great home-based sports performance program can be tricky, because every trainer with a web-site or social media presence may tell you this is an option. Just like looking for an in-person trainer, look for credentials, experience, values, and a proven track record. Make sure you have the equipment necessary to complete an at-home program. We’ll discuss at-home programs in much greater depth in the future, but consider it a second-tier option.

 

The Program
The actual training program is critical, but usually difficult for parents to truly understand. You won’t know precisely what the program will include, which is why it’s so important to find a qualified coach.

sports performance programAt a minimum, a good sports performance program should be very safe and organized. Sure, accidents happen, but a young athlete’s health is top priority, so they should never be engaged in anything dangerous. In general, if it doesn’t look safe, it probably isn’t. Kids may get sore and tired, but they shouldn’t sustain injuries from a training program.

The program should have a basic level of individualization, or at least include the opportunity for modification when appropriate. Most young athletes have a lot of the same needs, so there will be a great deal of similarity between programs for athletes, but the program should be flexible enough to address individual needs when needed. Most programs will address strength, running mechanics, jumping, fitness, mobility, agility, and coordination. Make sure the program is meeting your individual goals and that the coaches modify their program to help achieve those goals. At the very least, you should be able to receive an explanation of how and why the program will help work toward your goals.

There should be a great deal of teaching, instruction and feedback given, and there should be a progression to everything that is done. This means that the program will gradually get more demanding. The weight lifted, the volume of overall exercise and the intensity of the drills should gradually increase. We know that progressions or progressive overload is key to not only a younger athlete but more importantly to all athletes. Progressive overload is the principal in which each week you are progressively getting stronger our advancing toward a new technique. There should not be an emphasis on how much you can lift but how much progress is being made.

There is an old saying that the program should have the athlete conform to the program but the program should conform to the athlete. You want to ask questions about the program including expected results and core values in programming.pro agility shuttle

There should always be some sort of assessment to determine needs and establish baselines. This assessment will vary, but the coach should talk to you about the results and formulate a program based on those results. An assessment like the IYCA Big 5 or FMS will help find deficiencies and areas of concern, and a performance assessment will help establish baselines and give the coach a better understanding of how the athlete moves.  It’s always great if there is a movement analysis using video of the athlete performing various movements.

While the programs will vary greatly, it helps to hear about results from other athletes and ensure that the coaches are qualified.

Again, if you are looking for an at-home program, be sure you are getting what you need. Don’t try to replicate a D1 college football program with an 11-year old kid who has never lifted weights. Find a program that is specific to your goals & experience level, has delivered results, and is created by an experienced coach or organization.

 

Goals
Goal setting is crucial for any athlete, and it should be a part of a sports performance program. Make sure that your goals align with the facility and their goals for you child. Training is an investment of time and energy, and it’s not uncommon for young athletes to spend several years training at a facility. You want to make sure they understand your long-term goals, so they are invested in your success and development.

For example, there are some facilities/programs that focus exclusively on strength development. If your goal is to run faster, this is probably not the right place for you. Typically, a sports performance training program will be able to address multiple goals – speed, strength, mobility, conditioning, etc. – but you want to make sure to ask if there is a program to specifically address your goals.

Teaching goal setting, and the process of working toward goals is a skill that will serve athletes well in all facets of life. Let them dream, let them strive for success. In a world so based on technology, having goals can help set them up for success. It’s even a great idea to include non-sports related goals such as academic or personal goals. Remember, a student-athlete is always a student first, so keep that in mind when setting goals.

Selecting a sports performance program or facility is an important choice – perhaps more important than you think – and there are many things to consider. The five components outlined here should help in your decision-making process. From the culture to the facility to the coaches themselves, you want to make sure you find a place that is comfortable, fun, engaging and creates programs that help the athlete move toward their goals. Ask questions, talk to others and hopefully, you’ll end up finding a comfortable fit for a long time.

 

About the Author:  Brad Leshinske is the founder of the Athletic Edge Sports Performance program in Chicago and an adjunct faculty member at North Park University.  He has more than 10 years of experience training athletes of all ages and at every level of competition.

Becoming a Bigger, Faster, Stronger Teenage Athlete

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We work with hundreds of teen athletes every year that want to take their game to the next level. The purpose of athletic development training is to provide young athletes with a clear and proven path to athletic success.  At K2, we break athletic development training down into three areas which teens need to become better athletes.

  1. Strength…Get Stronger: Strengthen the legs, core, and upper body. This will increase joint stability and create higher amounts of force.
  2. SpeedGet Faster: Use strength and lean muscle to create speed, power, and agility.  Jumping, sprinting, reacting, and rapidly changing direction are all skills that every athlete can improve with coaching and training.
  3. Skills…Become more skilled: Practice your sport specific movement to improve technical sport specific skills such as, throwing, twisting, dodging, etc.

These all sound very simple when broken down however; the “secret” is that each one of these categories relies on the other. For example, it’s hard for an athlete to improve speed without improving maximal and/or relative strength. It’s also hard for an athlete to become more skilled without improving speed. We can say this for all the above mentioned categories. My job as a strength and speed coach is to coach athletes to become bigger, faster, and stronger and then let their sport coaches handle the skill work. Below I’m going to outline how we increase size, speed and strength in our teenage athletes.

Most new (to training) young athletes that come into our gym for an initial evaluation are way too skinny and weak. We classify this awkward, weak athlete as a “Wet Noodles”. We are not trying to be mean however; we are trying to hammer home the point that they HAVE to get bigger to have any sort of athletic success.  Wet Noodles refer to the athlete not having any sort of lean muscle and in return they have very poor joint and core stability. These athletes are very unstable, usually run awkwardly, and tire quickly because they don’t move efficiently. These athletes are also at high risk for injury because of the instability and poor movement patterns associated with being too weak and skinny. The saying “you can’t flex bone” is always true. Every athlete needs a minimal amount of muscle tissue to maximize performance. How much muscle? That depends on the athlete and their specific sport! Below are the 4 main mistakes most teen athletes make when they are trying to put on lean muscle mass.

1- Not admitting you need to gain weight – Pretty straight forward. I meet with parents, and usually female athletes, who want to see their teen athletes get stronger and compete harder but they don’t want to see them grow and gain weight! It is perfectly healthy for a teen athlete to strength train and put on some muscle!

2- Not eating enough quality calories- Again not rocket science. You cannot expect to gain lean muscle mass and perform at your peak when you’re fueling the machine with garbage. Sugar, processed foods, and fast food are unacceptable for anybody let alone an athlete. Bottom line… if you want to pack on hard, lean muscle you need to consume quality, fresh, whole foods. We start our athletes at around 20 x bodyweight in calories and break down the percentage of proteins, carbs, and fat depending on the athletes’ goals and their specific sport.

3- Lifting like a college or pro athlete- One of the worst things that a teen athlete can do is mimic the workouts that they see high level professional and collegiate athletes performing. Teen athletes need volume. They need a lot of quality reps in basic strength movements. Many times I see young athletes trying to perform lifts and jumps that are way too advanced for their strength and skill levels. Most teenage athletes need to be on a basic hypertrophy program to elicit a growth in the muscle tissue. This usually means reps in the 8-12 range with moderate weights. Most young athletes try to lift weights that are way too heavy. This prohibits them from learning motor control and also from eliciting the hormonal response needed to grow the size of a muscle. We train all our young athletes for hypertrophy. This means we want them to do moderately hard sets of 8-12 reps rather than single heavy max out sets. Training in this manner is not only safer for them but they get much better results.

4- Not being consistent- Consistency is the key! Most young athletes don’t get in nearly enough workouts to get the volume of repetitions needed to elicit the growth that they need. 1 or 2 workouts a week just will not cut it for a teenage athlete looking to get bigger, faster and stronger. We need our athletes to get a minimum of 3 sessions per week with 4 being ideal!

Getting STRONGER!

Getting bigger and stronger go hand in hand.  Even though one of our young athletes may be on a hypertrophy program (described above) with the goal of growing bigger muscles they will be getting much stronger as well. The two are not mutually exclusive. Young teen athletes will see gains in maximal strength even though they are lifting on a higher volume program aimed at growing their muscles bigger. At this point they do not need to lift like a powerlifter with 1 rep maximal effort sets. Now once we see they have developed proper somatotype (body type/muscle size) we switch them over to a program that will emphasize increasing maximal strength. When we switch to this type of lifting at the right time… the results are amazing! This is when we start to develop the type of athletic body that everybody wants! The key here is to remember that without the proper base as discussed in the “Get Bigger” section this will not be possible.

When training to gain pure strength we like our athletes to lift as much weight as possible for 1-5 reps per set but without letting form breakdown! We use this rep range with compound movements such as squats, deadlifts, presses, and sometimes even pull ups. Ideally our athletes will train like this 2x a week leaving the other 2 training sessions for explosive training and some higher rep hypertrophy training to maintain lean muscle mass. The goal with heavy strength training is to develop the CNS (mind muscle connection) to be able to produce high amounts of force. It is the high force production that helps an athlete run, jump, swing, throw, and move quickly and efficiently in competition.

Getting FASTER!

Many parents and athletes overcomplicate getting faster. Put more force into the ground at the right angles and an athlete will run faster.

SPEED = STRIDE LENGTH X STRIDE FREQUENCY

This formula is very simple. Stride length is the distance an athlete covers with each step. Usually the least amount of strides win the race (a.k.a Usain Bolt). Stride frequency is the amount of strides taken over a given distance or period of time. This is all very simple however, many coaches and parents screw this up royally by trying to verbally cue an athlete to take longer strides and/or quicker steps and this simply results in the athlete taking away from one aspect to give to the other! We don’t want to improve stride length by just over striding and reducing frequency. We want to improve stride length by improving traits like mobility and force production.

For example, many taller young athletes have a hard time accelerating over a short distance because moving longer limbs requires more specific strength and coordination than they currently possess. In this situation, many coaches will tell the athlete to take shorter choppy steps. All this will do is the screw up his footwork and timing and it will not address the underlying issue which is lack of specific strength. This athlete needs full body general strength training and some sprint specific strength work such as hill sprints and sled sprints to improve his coordination and force production while accelerating. In short, athletes need to improve physical characteristics to see speed improvements.

There are five main components that I look to improve when training athletes for speed. Below I will briefly touch on all four and explain how I see them as they relate to TEENAGE athletes.

1- Somatotype– Athletes are all born in different shapes and sizes. Without getting to deep into the role that genetics play, it is my job to make sure we maximize an athletes potential by developing the type of body that will suit him best for his sport. Basically, we need to make sure an athlete has the right weight and the right amount of muscle in the right areas to maximize their speed. This is where all the information for the Get Big section comes into play. Most athletes we see are too skinny. Occasionally, we see teen athletes that need to drop body fat. These athletes still usually need to get stronger though.

2- Mechanics & Sprint Form– I wrote above that strength and size were not mutually exclusive. Neither is strength and speed. Strength plays a major role in sprint mechanics because an athlete must have the proper strength to have good posture and to be able to hold the “sprint position” while moving at top speed. This is why many young athletes run very awkwardly. They simply lack the strength to execute the mechanics of sprinting. Many coaches and parents can’t figure out why their athletes can’t lift their knees high enough or swing the arms properly or stay off their heels even though they constantly tell them to. It’s because they lack to strength to execute what being asked of them! When training for speed it is vitally important to pick drills for young athletes that they can properly execute and will improve from. There are endless drills to improve mechanics but not every athlete is ready to do all of them.

3- Force Production– Very simple. Sprinting is based in physics. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The more force and athlete can put into the ground the more force the ground pushes back with and propels the athlete in whatever direction they push off in. Again the major factor is strength. The stronger an athlete the more force they can push into the ground with and if the angles and mechanics are good they will run faster. Obviously, there is a limit or the fastest athletes in the world would be powerlifters and strongmen. That’s where the next component comes into play.

4- Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC) (#trainfast)- Basically, we are training the body to move explosively. It is important that while improving strength we are also training explosively. The SSC is referring to the cycle of stretching and contracting. The faster a muscle stretches the more explosively it will contract. Think of your body dipping down before it jumps up. The faster it descends down the less time it will spend reversing path to come up and the jump will be higher. The principle holds true for most athletic movements (throwing, batting, jumping, running, etc). We use jump training, med ball throwing, and Olympic lifting to train explosiveness.

5-Mobility– Many people get confused and interchange mobility and flexibility. While they are the similar they are not the same. Flexibility refers to the length of tissue or the length of a given muscle. Mobility refers to the range of motion (ROM) of a given joint or movement. Mobility includes movement so it encompasses flexibility of the tissue but also core stability. Somebody may have the flexibility to squat down properly but they may not have the mobility to actually do a proper squat due the ankles, hips, or core. The same can be said for sprinting. An athlete can have the flexibility needed to sprint well however, they may not have the mobility needed to get in the proper sprint position because of host of stability issues. This factor plays a major role in speed training. If we see an athlete not able to hold the sprint position we need to ask why and include programming to correct those factors.

GET FASTER NOW

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Question:  Will interval training get you faster?
Answer: NO…….and here is why:

Interval training can help you improve endurance…which you may need trying to chase down the faster athlete before he/she scores.

Speed work is defined at 2-8 seconds of maximal intensity effort / running. An athletes body needs at least 2 minutes of recovery before energy stores are replenished enough to allow the athlete to focus on proper form and deliver maximum intensity in order to get faster. If they do not recover properly from each interval, they will not be able to replicate proper mechanics with consistency and they can not improve speed.

Now…watch this video and master these drills.  Form rules and Coach Kavanaugh makes it simple to understand.

LEARN THE 5 BEST DRILLS TO INCREASE YOUR SPEED AND AGILITY

http://www.sportandspeedteam.com/blog

Click on the video in the right hand column.