Knee Pain: 7 steps to promote healing

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Shit Happens! Knee Pain Happens!

Covid-19 has changed my lifestyle, and along with this change came some knee pain.  Yes, it sucks….but because I understand that it was not an acute injury, I can hopefully fix the condition as quickly as it came.

Knee pain is a common condition that can be caused by both short-term and long-term problems.

Many short-term knee problems do not need any help from doctors and people can often help with their own recovery.   That is what this article will focus on.

First, understand your knee is telling you something through the pain.

It may be saying, “I am overworked”.  It may be saying “I do not like the support your shoes are giving me“; it may be saying “your muscles are too tight and not moving me correctly.

Since we are unsure what it is telling you, we are going to try everything… SO this is where you need to start.

1. Protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation (PRICE)

Use compression
Use compression to support the knee and relieve pain.

Rest, ice, compression, and elevation may help treat mild knee pain that results from a soft tissue injury, such as a sprain.

Protection refers to protecting the knee from further injury, for example, by taking a break from the activity that caused it.

Rest can reduce the risk of further injury and give tissues time to heal. However, stopping all movement is not advisable, as this can lead to stiffness and, in time, muscle weakness.

Ice can help reduce swelling and inflammation. It should be wrapped in a cloth and applied for 20 minutes several times on the first day of injury. Never put ice directly the skin, as this can lead to further damage.

Compression with a knee support, for example, can increase comfort levels. The support or bandage should be firm but not tight.

Elevation, or keeping the leg raised, will encourage circulation and reduce swelling. Ideally, the knee should be above the level of the heart.

 

 

2. Foam Roll and Massage.

Massage, including self-massage, may relieve knee pain.  Start massaging the area around the knee, then work on the entire lower body.

These should be done in a seated position with the knees pointing forward and the feet flat on the floor.

  1. Loosely closing the hands into fists, tap the upper, lower, and middle thigh 10 times with both hands. Repeat three times.
  2. Sitting with the feet flat on the floor, place the heel of the hand on the top of the thigh and glide it as far as the knee, then release. Repeat five times. Do the same for the outer and inner sides of the thigh.
  3. Press four fingers into the knee tissue and move up and down five times. Repeat all around the knee.
  4. Place the palm of the hand on top of the thigh, glide it down the thigh, over the knee and back up the outer thigh.

Massaging the thigh muscles will have a beneficial impact on the knee.

Next move to the entire lower body.  Any muscle can be leading to joint pain.

lower body foam rolling

 

3. Posture and Support…..

“I had heal pain for the past few weeks.  Finally I bought arch supports, which immediately made my heal feel better. 2 days later threw my back out.  So always be aware of how influential your gait patterns are on your body”

It may be you are standing longer, sitting longer or an increase/decrease in exercise

  • Wearing new pair off shoes and throw off your entire gait.  When this happens, your knee tell you .  Wearing supportive shoes and avoiding those with broken arches, as they can result in abnormal force and wear on the knee.
  • Try arch supports and rolling your arches with lacrosse ball.
  • avoiding prolonged sitting and long periods without moving, as joints may become stiff and painful without movement.
  • Checking that you have a good sitting posture, without slouching or leaning

4. Strengthening exercises

Rest isn’t always the solution to pain.  Sometimes weak muscles caused by neglect or be the cause.  Individuals can work with a strength coach or physical therapist to identify the best exercises and programs for their needs.

Strengthening the upper leg muscles—the quadriceps muscles—through exercise can help to protect the knee joint. These muscles are at the sides and front of the thighs.

I recommend start with isometric movement such as bridges and wall sits.  There is no movement of the joint and therefore will not induce inflammation if the joint is damaged.  also exercise such as straight leg raises (straighten and raise a leg while lying or sitting down), or Fire hydrants are also great places to start.

5. Medications

I will add this because drugs work and if we are looking at short term solutions….why not

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and other medications can help with knee pain caused by arthritis. Some of these need to be given in a doctor’s office, but some can be used at home, either with or without a prescription.

Medications that may help manage pain include:

  • oral or topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • topical creams such as capsaicin
  • steroid injections into the joint
  • Acetaminophen or other over -the-counter meds such as NSAIDs ibuprofen and naproxen.

 

6. Heat and Cold Combo:

Be careful!!! Heat works to relax a muscle, but I do not recommend putting heat on a joint.  So this is what I would try.

Heat relaxes muscles and improves lubrication, leading to a reduction in stiffness. Use a hot water bottle or a warm pad on the muscles such as the quads, hamstrings and calves.  This may relax the pull on the knee joint.

Then use Ice, wrapped in a cloth, or an ice bath if you can deal with it.  This will reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling.

Some people may use heat to improve mobility in the morning and then ice to reduce swelling later in the day.

 

7. Acupuncture

In 2017, a study involving 570 people found evidence that acupuncture might help people with knee pain.

I am not an expert on Acupuncture, but it has helped me in that past, so I know it helps.  To my knowledge, this is what it does is releasing tension in a muscle, which can lead to decreased pull on a joint such as the knee.

Good luck!

 

 

What Athletes (Young and Old) Should do About Coronavirus COVID-19

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With the ongoing COVID-19 (formerly known as the Coronavirus) outbreak, do not take anything lightly.  COVID-19 will continue to affect athletic events in the US and abroad; and there’s a real chance that the virus could spread into our communities, impacting day to day life and your training.

So what should we athletes do? Pack up and head home? Run on a sanitized treadmill or ride the indoor trainer for the next 9 months? Build a fortress, dig a moat, pull up the drawbridge and live off of canned beans and MREs for the next 12 months? I am not a doctor or epidemiologist, but from a coaching standpoint I have got some sane, rational and at times boring advice for you to stay healthy and sane during this outbreak.

Rule #1- (as always) don’t panic

Outbreaks like this tend to bring out the worst of our fears. It’s difficult to count how many cases there are, the future spread of the virus is unknown and tuning into more than a few minutes of the 24-hour cable news cycle will make you think the COVID-19 outbreak is going to be next level apocalyptic. Be careful about where you are getting your information. If you want reasonable, rational information about the virus and up to date advice on travel and precautions go to the World Health Organization or the Center for Disease Control. This is not a time for ‘news by Facebook’.

Also, I would be willing to bet the vast majority of people reading this article are not in one of the high risk categories, such as the elderly or people with compromised immune systems. This being the case, realize that if you do get sick, your job is to not infect other people who may be more vulnerable. Your life will likely be miserable for a period of time, and you should take the illness seriously, but recognize that it is likely more dangerous for others. Although we have already seen deaths in the US from COVID-19, consequences are unlikely to be that extreme among this readership.

Don’t forget to train

You’d be surprised how many people are looking at this situation and saying “Is it smart to train”?  This is a fool’s guessing game and a surefire way to get caught behind the eight ball with your training.

Be Smart, Safe and Sannitized!

So what can I do to prevent getting sick?

This is the best question to ask. The COVID-19 virus is just that, a virus. Meaning, protecting yourself from contracting the virus is similar to preventing yourself from getting sick from similar viruses. Fortunately, we have good blueprints for that from the common cold and flu.

Take Standard Precautions 

What were the last 5 objects or surfaces you touched? When was the last time you touched your face or put something in your mouth? How long has it been since you washed your hands? See where we’re going with this? If you’re like a lot of people, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what you’re touching from moment to moment, but during cold and flu season these habits can make a big difference in your ability to stay healthy.

You have an immune system for a reason, and it generally works well. That said, COVID-19 will still attack your immune system, so a bit more vigilance is a good idea. As an athlete, training sessions can suppress your immune system, making you more susceptible to infection for a day after training or up to 3 days following harder, more stressful training sessions. Hard training blocks can have the same impact, even if the individual workouts are relatively short (1-2hrs each).

Here’s a list of day-to-day precautions you should take

  • Wash your hands frequently, especially before eating. Regular soap and water work wonders.
  • Use hand sanitizer if you can’t wash with soap and water.
  • Minimize time spent in crowds, especially indoors and in small spaces.
  • Try not to touch your face or put your fingers in your mouth or nose.
  • Don’t share food or drinks with friends, and avoid communal foods (chips, dips, nuts, candy, etc.)
  • Stay hydrated. Mucus membranes in the nose and throat don’t work as well when they’re dry, so staying hydrated helps your natural defenses work better.
  • Sleep more! Even if you can add one more hour of sleep to your normal routine, the added recovery makes you less susceptible to infection.
  • Reduce lifestyle stress. All stress (training, lifestyle, nutrition, etc.) takes a toll on immune function, so if you’re training hard make an extra effort to reduce stress in other areas.

K2 “Pro-Level” precautions

  • Don’t shake hands, bump fists and get to close.  We are asking all clients and members to aviod contact.  better safe than sorry
  • Don’t share equipment.  We are having each client use the same equipment for the entire session.  After each session we thoroughly wipe down everything and sanitize it before the next person touches it
  • Get plenty of fresh air.  We are keeping the windows open and moving part of each workout outdoors.
  • Drink bottled beverages you can open yourself, which can include a reusable bottle of your own. Drink straight from the bottle to minimize contact with reusable glassware.

What about nutrition?

Nutrition plays a role in protecting you from getting sick, but mostly from the standpoint of supporting your activity level so that you’re not energy deficient. Athletes who are proactively trying to lose weight can be at particular risk because they are often training hard and restricting calories, which can negatively impact immune system function.

How about supplementation?

So, should you supplement with mega-doses of Vitamin C and Vitamin D? In principal (and for the reasons discussed below) I would rather athletes increase their intake of vitamin-rich foods. Consuming more foods rich in Vitamin C – including citrus, peppers, kiwi, strawberries, and dark green leafy vegetables like kale – also mean an increase in your fruit and vegetable intake. Vitamin D is primarily found in seafood, particularly salmon, sardines, cod liver oil, and oysters. Eggs and fortified dairy products are a good source for lacto-ovo vegetarians, and vegans can consume Vitamin D in fortified foods as well as mushrooms. A 2018 review study showed exposing mushrooms to UV-B radiation – including sunlight – can generate a nutritionally useful amount of Vitamin D. Some brands of store-bought mushrooms may also be irradiated to increase Vitamin D content.

If you do get sick

In light of the warnings above, the best things an athlete can do to combat the common cold and COVID-19 are get more rest, stay well hydrated, avoid contact with other people, and wait it out. In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the CDC recommends calling ahead before going to see your doctor or hospital. If you have a fever or are ill enough to consider taking cold medication, rest is going to do you more good than training. Return to light training once you’re asymptomatic for at least a full day, and in the days following that don’t try to make up for lost time by piling on extra training volume or intensity. Too much workload too soon after an illness puts stress on an already overworked immune system and you’re more likely to get sick again.

A Middle School Athlete’s Guide to Being Ready for a High School Weight Room

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Updated: June 21, 2019 from Stack

So, you’ve graduated from middle school and will soon be stepping foot inside a high school weight room.

Although you might think you’ll be doing a lot of the fancy exercises you see your favorite athletes and influencers doing on Instagram, hopefully, you won’t be. Because a lot of that stuff is crap. A good high school weight room will have athletes doing simple, straightforward workouts that have plenty of both scientific and anecdotal evidence behind their ability to get you stronger, more resilient and more athletic.

I am writing this mainly for incoming freshman, but the same ideas apply to anyone who hopes to soon become a regular in a high school weight room. You might be a high school junior who’s simply never lifted before but who wants to start now.

A high school strength program is more than just lifting weights and running. Of course, that’s a huge piece of it, but this is also a great time to build camaraderie with your teammates and coaches. You can develop your leadership skills here. You can find out your strengths and weaknesses outside of sports here. This is where you assess the character of your peers, and they assess yours. This is where you become a better athlete, but also learn life lessons that will stick with you forever.

Sure, you want to lift to get stronger and ultimately maximize performance while controlling what you can to prevent injury, but you also want to take advantage of the experience that is being offered. Because it is like none other, and if you take full advantage of it, it’s something that can truly shape the course of the rest of your life!

Start Preparing Now

You do not and should not wait to enter high school before you start engaging in some sort of meaningful physical training.

After talking to some of my friends and colleagues in the high school setting, there are some trends and common themes they talk about when it comes to incoming freshman. First and foremost is that they can quickly tell who’s had some training experience and who hasn’t.

According to Mitch Gill, head athletic trainer at Dacula (Georgia) High School, athletes who have some training experience prior to high school are “typically light years ahead from their classmates” compared to those who do not.

Not sure what kind of training you should be participating in? Below we have what we call our “Foundational Movement Skills.” We implement them with athletes ages 11 and up. Working with a certified fitness professional at ages 11-13 can give you a major leg up when you hit high school. Instead of having to learn these movements as a freshman, you’ll already be familiar with them and can hit the ground running. Our Foundational

Movement Skills include:

Squat: Your knee-dominant, lower-body focused movement. The Goblet Squat is a great squat movement for beginners.

Hinge: Your hip-dominant, lower-body focused movement. The Barbell RDL is a quintessential hinge movement.

Push: Pushes work your anterior (front side) upper-body muscles. The Push-Up is a simple yet highly effective example.

Pull: Working your posterior (back side) upper-body muscles. The Cable Row is a classic pulling exercise.

Run/Lunge: Moving dynamically from one leg to the other, as illustrated by the Reverse Lunge.

Jump/Land: Not just being able to jump high or far, but being able to properly absorb the forces landing from those jumps create. The Broad Jump is one example.
Carry/Rotate/Resist: Being able to handle load while controlling your torso/core is a huge part of athleticism. The Farmer’s Walk looks simple, but there’s a lot of core strength and stability happening there.

Throw/Slam: Being able to propel an object explosively but also safely and with control. The Med Ball Slam is a fun way to learn how to transfer energy throughout the body and channel it into an implement.

All of the above videos are ground-level functional exercises you can use to start mastering each movement. If you can squat, hinge, push, pull, lunge, jump, carry and throw proficiently, you honestly will enter high school with an awesome foundation of movement.

These exercises aren’t fancy, but they are phenomenal for building strength. If you’re entering a good high school program, these will be the foundations of the weight room. Strength is the building block to pretty much all other athletic traits. If you want to get faster, jump higher or move quicker, there is a good chance that at the ages 11-18, simply gaining strength or higher quality movement can help you do it.

Worry About YOU

According to Coach Gill, many of his incoming freshmen are “too worried about how much weight the person next to them is lifting.”

Competition is good, but when you’re just starting out in the weight room, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of keeping your ego in check. You need to focus on your own goals, your own abilities, your own needs and your own training program.

Should you push yourself? Heck yeah. But you’ve got to be smart about it. Don’t be reckless and try doing 90 pounds more than your last one-rep max just because you see one of your older teammates doing it.

Remember you can’t compare yourself to a senior who has been lifting for four years when it’s your first month in the weight room. That’s apples to oranges. Instead, focus on building the best quality movement that you can while consistently getting stronger and staying away from injury.

The kids who go after lifts they have no business pursuing are the ones who end up injuring themselves and making zero gains. Crummy form does not get you stronger!

Will You Slack or Will You Lead?

There is often a lot of freedom in the high school weight room. Some classes may have 75-plus kids lifting at once with just a few coaches supervising.

This means you can easily blend in and be average by doing things like skipping reps, giving low effort and not cleaning up after yourself. Or you can step up and be a leader by showing others the right way to work.

That’s the decision you have to make every time you step in the weight room. Do you just want to go through the motions and maybe see a little benefit, or do you want to train with intent and leave no doubt you’re improving?

This is your shot to become a better leader and a trusted athlete by teammates and coaches. Don’t wait until you’re a senior to start working hard. Set the standard for yourself and for others from day one and you’ll be amazed at what you can do. Again, this doesn’t mean you have to lift the most of anyone in the weight room. But it does mean you have to bring great energy, focus and encouragement to each session as well as being respectful of others in the weight room and cleaning up after yourself.

Get Your Mind Right

Speaking of leadership, one of the greatest benefits of the high school weight room is the mental side of things. Every day you have the opportunity to enhance two characteristics about yourself.

Those are your attitude and your effort. There are many things in life you can’t control. These are two things you can and should control daily.

These don’t just inherently make you a better athlete. These inherently make you a better human being. Every day at the end of a training session, you should ask yourself two things:

  1. Did I approach this with the right mindset? (attitude)
  2. Did I try my hardest? (effort)

If either of the answers are no, you’ve got some work to do. Or you can continue to remain the same while others surpass you.

Understand Why

Understand why you are even in the weight room as well as why you’re doing what you do there is extremely important. If you’re doing something with no purpose behind it, you’re just going to go through the motions. If you know your purpose, you’re going to bring the passion.

According to Human Kinetics, “Strength and conditioning coaches have two primary goals. The first is to improve athletic performance, which usually means improving athletes’ speed, strength and power. The second primary goal is to reduce athletic injuries.”

The reason you are performing exercises in a very specific order, using a very specific amount of weight for a very specific amount of reps is to accomplish these goals. All training is not created equal.

Good coaches are not afraid to hear the question, “Why?” If you truly don’t understand why you’re doing something, ask your coach. If they’re a good coach, they can help put a purpose behind it. When your understanding of that purpose matches the coach’s, then you have the recipe for a great weight room culture.

I hope this has given you a snapshot of what’s to come for you in the high school weight room. Here are the five major takeaways you can start using right now to make sure you get the most out of your freshman year (and beyond) in the weight room.

Work on your foundational movement skills prior to high school. Ideally, with the help of a certified fitness professional.

  1. Set your own goals and work towards them.
  2. Take ownership of your time and purpose.
  3. Check your attitude and effort daily.
  4. Think big picture and strive to understand the purpose.

Good luck!

5 Ways Field Athletes Can Get Faster

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How many times have you, as an athlete, been just one step behind an opponent who outran you, or just one second too late for a chance, a shot, a pass?

Seemingly everyone’s first reaction to such a situation is a socially less-acceptable variation of “oh no!” and the second one is “wow, need to be faster next time.”

Everybody needs more speed.

That is not up for debate, as there are few sports that do not rely on power and speed!

Field sports like soccer, lacrosse, football, hockey and basketball obviously require speed and power as an entry point for the game.

Less commonly considered sports like tennis, dancing, swimming and diving all demand power and speed as well. As these sports are more technical, however, speed and power may not present themselves the same way as in field sports, where opponents face off against each other and the faster one usually wins that moment-long duel. But these skills are most certainly needed!

So how DO we get faster?

As a performance coach for mostly field sports, I may be biased, but many experts in our field seem to agree: Speed is perhaps most purely expressed in its truest form—sprinting.

Sprinting is one of the most aggressive things the body can do. It’s also a “hindbrain” activity, meaning your thinking brain—the “executive” or prefrontal cortex, literally the front part of your head—needs to be turned off to do it well. Sprinting is a natural, instinctual act.  This seems perhaps like a contradictory dilemma: If you should not think while sprinting, but you are not already fast, how can one get faster?

Before we address how to increase speed, let us break down the common ways we keep ourselves from it.

How Not to Get Faster

“The more, the better” is not true when sprinting. Because expressions of speed and power—sprinting being the purest expression of this—is exhausting to the central nervous system (CNS), less is actually more.

Overdoing conditioning work will not help you get faster. Wearing yourself down with high doses of speed and power work, called “high CNS fatigue,” is not a good plan either; it just make you tired and sweaty, and not want to train tomorrow. At the same time, training at a low intensity or effort is clearly not beneficial for speed gains!

Contrary to some “sport experts,” permanently breaking up with strength training also does not result in more speed. Neglecting your recovery, diet and sleep is also detrimental to improvement, as the nervous system must recover for the body to heal and repeat speed and power skills.

Lastly, one surefire way to keep yourself from increasing speed and power is to not listen to your coach. If your coach is competent and you have discussed your need for speed, then athletes need to buy into their knowledge and trust the plan. Adding or skipping sets and even workouts is definitely not going to bring quick returns!

How to Get Faster

Sprint fast and often

Does this seem counterintuitive? Did I not just say that, in fact, less is moreThe primary message here is to, above all else, be consistent in a speed program and manage your volume according to your training and competition schedule.

Sprinting more often—increasing speed sessions to twice a week from once a week, for example—can certainly help you get faster. However, that does not mean you should lace up and sprint 15 sets of 40 yards at 100% effort every day of the week. That is too much!

It does mean that you should purposefully vary your sprint workouts across different distances, at different velocities, at different levels of effort, with a phase focused on Acceleration in the first 10 steps and a phase of Maximum Velocity. This calculated, purposeful training will make maximum-effort sprints in games much more manageable when the body is used to completing them several times a week.

The central nervous system is sensitive but it can also adapt incredibly well with the right amount of stress and recovery. Starting to sprint more often and in a controlled environment that allows rest, instead of just in competition, is a great way to improve the body’s ability to run faster with less effort and more often.

Train at Appropriate Intensity

Although similar to the last point, it is worth reiterating: To get fast, you do not need to sprint at maximum effort for 100 reps per day. But when you do sprint, you need to make it count.

Again, listening to a competent coach and program is important. Does your workout say 90-95% effort on 5 sets of 20m today? Or is it 5x30m at 70%? Either way, all reps need to be focused and executed with proper technique, with appropriate rest between, and hitting that prescribed intensity every time.

It does not take a high dose or a million reps of sprinting to make an athlete fast. It just takes many small, intense, well-timed and recoverable doses.

Lift

Do not stop lifting weights.

In working with teams as a performance coach, I have heard every variation of “I’ve never seen an athlete get faster by lifting weights” and “weights make you slow and heavy!”

Although the equation Speed + Weights = Heavier Player = Less Speed may appear to pass the logic test, it skips over some key factors.

If lifting weights makes you slow, you are lifting wrong. Strength training for performance sport is not bodybuilding or powerlifting; those kinds of lifting do indeed add mass and restrict mobility, which can make an athlete slow.

By the time you are in the preparation and competition phases, when you need speed and power, your “strength phase” is over. You do not need to be lifting maximally four times per week or put on mass with intense soreness after every workout.

Mass makes athletes slow. But lifting weights does not necessarily equate to adding mass!

Another complaint I hear regarding strength training and speed is that athletes are too tired to be fast after lifting.

This equation does make sense.

Every stress we put on the body, including training, taxes the CNS. Some movements and types of lifts tax the CNS more than others, such as Olympic lifting—that’s why you do not need very many repetitions in a session. The Shoulder Press, though, is a low-CNS movement—if you complete 3 sets of 6 reps, you might be a little gassed, but you will not be wiped out on the floor as if you Clean-and-Jerked 3×6.

But that is not the only way to lift weights!

Lifting with speed can help.

Heavy lifting to maintain maximal strength is important, as are hamstring-specific accessory lifts to keep your legs in top condition for sprinting. Depending on your sport and its demands, you can also work on upper-body lifts because this will not tax your nervous system heavily enough to detract from your speed gains.

However, lifting below your 1-Rep Max, around 60-70%, and moving at a higher velocity is essentially “weighting” your speed in the gym, with the goal of moving faster when the weights come off.

There are also other training methods of getting faster, such as ballistic training and the ever-famed plyometrics. A competent coach knows how to program these into a speed and strength program so that all exercises contribute to your power, velocity and resilience.

Power training—sprinting, throwing, jumping—and speed lifts should come before the lifts in a workout. You do not need to stop going to the gym to get fast, but do not spend your whole week there powerlifting either.

The Other Stuff

This might sound basic, but you need to focus on your recovery. Again, speed requires a healthy, regenerated, and adaptive CNS. That means between workouts you need quality sleep, appropriate food intake and to keep your stress low. Just keep your recovery a high priority.

Listen to Your Coach

Speed training has to fit into your training schedule, right?

If you are just out there sprinting every day with no guidance or idea of how to progress, the truth is that you will get slower because you are tired, taking on too much training volume. This translates to the CNS as stress—throughout your whole week with games and training sessions—and not recovering enough to improve speed in games.

If your strength or speed coach is competent, it is worth listening to him or her and trusting the program. They know how to manage your body’s stress and fatigue, your load, and how it all fits together with the rest of your performance.

Final Thoughts

Speed is awesome, and everybody needs it. It is a requirement for most sports!

It also seems like gaining speed should be easy and intuitive, but it actually is not!

Speed and power are very fine balances that require attention to fine details—your CNS, your recovery and your schedule.

Always keep in mind the following tips, which I hope make speed training more accessible to you:

  • Sprint, jump and throw more often, but know that less is also more!
  • Sprinting is perhaps the best tool for training speed and power.
  • Take your recovery seriously. Speed and power training is hard on the CNS, and regeneration time is when you heal and adapt.
  • Continue lifting. Weights do not make you slow; they make you strong and resilient.
  • Listen to your coach! They wrote your program that way for a reason.

Good luck, and sprint hard!

Does A Multisport Background Improve An Athlete’s Opportunity For Success?

Posted on Updated on

Written by FMS

After every championship game or major sports draft, data emerges supporting the benefits of a multi-sport background.

While multi-sport athletes aren’t nearly as prevalent in high school as they were a few decades ago, the voices and anecdotes around the virtues of sampling vs specialization are growing.

Hall of Fame athletes like John Smoltz and Wayne Gretzky are using large platforms to advocate against early sports specialization.  Famed-surgeon Dr. James Andrews cautions parents and kids against the perils of playing one sporteven backing an awareness initiative.

Before becoming Masters champion and golf’s next megastar, Jordan Spieth played point guard and was a standout pitcher.  Tom Brady was drafted as a catcher by the Montreal Expos out of high school.  LeBron earned all-state honors at wide receiver as a sophomore.  Physical traits like size, speed, explosiveness, coordination and kinesthetic awareness transfer from sport to sport.

While the justification for a multi-sport approach is sound, it’s important to acknowledge the data is probably a bit noisy.  Did these athletes become great because they played multiple sports?  Or did they play multiple sports because they were great athletes?  Probably a little of both.  Think about it.  If wide receiver is running by DB’s on the football field, the track coach will probably be interested in having him on the 4 x 100m team.  The size or athleticism that allows a volleyball player to play above the net would be useful on the basketball court.  Endurance developed playing soccer will likely carry over to cross county. And so on… Gifted athletes have early success which likely encourages greater participation and recruitment.

That said, we do believe there are benefits to having a broad sports background that relate to the FMS philosophy.

 

1) Injuries Related To Overuse

Of all the potential pitfalls of early specialization, exposure to overuse injury is arguably the most perilous.  A widely publicized study of 1,500 high school students in Wisconsin found that athletes specializing in one sport are 70 percent more likely to suffer an injury during their playing season than those who play multiple sports.  The potential exposure is even greater in rotational sports like baseball and golf.  It should be said, however, that the vast majority of studies don’t take into account the number of games an athlete is playing in a year or how they are training.  Those are HUGE factors.  An intelligent training program and reasonable competition period can go a long way in reducing exposure to overuse injuries (well said by Driveline Baseball here).

 

2) Movement Competency

A precursor to owning movement patterns is exploring those movement patterns.  Youngsters who participate in a wide variety of activities are exposed to a wide variety of movement patterns in comparison to kids who are specializing in one sport (or, even worse, are sedentary).    The association between movement variability and movement competency is observable at a young age too.  A 2016 study found that gymnastics-like movement training improved stability and object control in kids with an average age of 8.

Additionally, limitations in mobility or stability may impede skill acquisition.  As Dr. Michael Chivers states:

“If there are structural and/or physiological deficits in the joints involved in the skill to be learned, the process of motor learning cannot happen to the fullest extent. Skill acquisition is not about grooving a repeatable, symbolic representation of the skill. It’s about building the physical capacity first and then the coaching and technical applications of the skill based cognitive learning can aid in the acquisition process.”

 

3) Athletic Capacity

Want to increase your vertical?  Try jumping more.  Want to drop your 40 time? Research indicates that the best way to improve sprint speed is to practice sprinting.  Again, it’s a bit of a chicken and egg conundrum, but one reason why basketball players jump well is because they jump a lot.  Even if an athlete doesn’t end up playing competitive basketball, they will benefit from the explosiveness they learned from it, even if the sports look nothing alike.  For example, Dr. Greg Rose and TPI have found that vertical leap is one of the athletic indicators of potential swing speed in golf. What’s one thing that some of the longest hitters in pro golf have in common?  They all have a basketball background.

In conclusion, encouraging young athletes to play multiple sports won’t guarantee success or eliminate injuries, but encouraging kids to play multiple sports has the potential to improve movement quality, limit overuse and increase athletic capacity.

Let Your Kids Struggle

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Dear Parents of Young Athletes,

One of the most important skills your child can learn from sports and training is how to struggle with something and eventually overcome it.

Unfortunately, it can be pretty difficult for us to watch our kids struggle, and our natural instinct is to help them so they don’t have to experience that pain.  Trust me, I have a hard time with this as a dad, too, so I understand. It’s hard to watch my kids struggle and fail because it breaks my heart. But, kids grow exponentially faster, and become more resilient, when they learn how to work hard and struggle for something they want.

I recently heard Olympic figure skating champion Mark Hammill talk about the years leading up to his massive success.  He said that all anyone ever wants to talk about are his successes, but he talked about how important it was for him to lose and fail over and over again before that.  He talks about how it developed tenacity and a thirst for success because he hated the feeling of losing. The struggles are what turned him into a champion.

If we rush in to rescue our kids from every obstacle in their way, they’ll never learn how to do it for themselves, and they may never develop the grit it takes to succeed in any endeavor.  We all know that life is full of obstacles, so we better help them learn how to overcome them.

As hard as it is to watch your child fail, teach them how to turn setbacks into comebacks.  Michael Jordan often talks about how impactful it was for him to get cut from his high school basketball team.  That year, he probably grew more than any other year of his life because he wanted to prove his coaches wrong. That setback helped him develop a mindset, attitude and work ethic that propelled him on to become one of the greatest basketball players of all time.  Had he made that team, it’s possible that he would have never developed that spirit, and we might not even be talking about him.

There is a saying in sports that pretty much sums it all up – “skills from struggles.”

Growth comes when people are challenged just above their skill level.  This forces us to learn something new, try a little harder, and understand things more thoroughly because we have to keep up with those around us who can already perform the task we’re struggling with.  Of course, putting a child in a situation where they are completely over their head can be demoralizing, so it’s important to give kids appropriate challenges so they can feel a sense of accomplishment as they improve.

Kids who achieve early successes without having to work hard will often get passed up later in life as others learn how to work hard and overcome setbacks.  Early achievers need larger challenges than others at a young age to keep them constantly improving rather than being satisfied with simply being better than kids on their team.

I’ve seen this happen many, many times in my career, and I even see it in very talented high school athletes who struggle mightily in college because they have never had to work extremely hard to keep up. They get very discouraged, their confidence drops, and they often end up giving up on the sport they were so good at when they were young.

I also see the parents of these kids get very frustrated and wonder what happened to their super-talented child.

The same principle applies to other areas of our lives such as academics, work, and social situations.  We don’t necessarily need to “encourage” mistakes, but we often learn much more from difficult situations than when things are easy.  Let your kids learn that they may fail a test if they don’t study. Let them have friends get angry if they aren’t good friends. Let them get fired from a job for not working hard.  Let them sit on the bench when they don’t practice hard. Let them experience painful feelings.

And, don’t rush to rescue them from these difficult situations.  You don’t have to pile on and ridicule them for making mistakes, but try to look at these struggles as opportunities for your kids to learn valuable skills.  Just try to balance being “there for them” with letting them struggle.

So, while it may tear your heart out to watch your child struggle, it’s probably exactly what they need once in a while to help them learn how to dig down and figure out how to get better.  This is probably going to hurt you more than them, so good luck with this….and wish me luck too.

Sincerely,

Jim

Hockey Strength & Speed

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This Post is for all you Hockey coaches and parents out there.

I never cared for the term “sport-specific.”  I feel its a slick way to market strength and conditioning programs to parents who don’t know any better.  There are really no unique or individual exercises or movements specific to one sport.

With that being said, I do believe there are certain areas that must be addressed in order to improve performance and reduce the likelihood of injury in every sport.  In order to effectively prepare an ice hockey player for the season, it is necessary to have a thorough understanding of the specific demands of the sport.  The main differences for ice hockey reside in the playing surface, biomechanics of skating, and the substitution patterns. These differences require special attention for optimally preparing an athlete for the competitive season.

I have had the opportunity to work with some of the areas great ama

Specific Demands for Hockey Players

Energy System Considerations (this is way to geeky for most, but call if you have questions)
The energy system demands of ice hockey are unique from many sports due to the substitution patterns seen during game play. The game is played at a fast pace and players substitute “on the fly” during gameplay. This is in contrast to most sports where substitutions take place only during stoppages in play. Recent data reports that forwards average shifts about 45 s in length while resting 57 – 90 s between shifts. This results in about 6 – 8 shifts per period for a player. It is estimated that players spend about 23 s in some form of high-intensity activity (sprinting, striding, skirmishing, etc.) during each shift.

When looking at adenosine triphosphate (ATP) supply from individual energy systems, the phosphagen system is the dominant system for short, high-intensity activity lasting 0 – 30 s. After 20 – 30 s, the glycolytic system becomes the dominant supplier, while the oxidative or aerobic system supplies ATP for long duration, low-intensity activity. Comparing this information to the time and intensity demands of the hockey player, it can be inferred that the phosphagen and glycolytic systems supply the majority of ATP during a shift. During rest between shifts, the oxidative system is relied upon for clearance of hydrogen ions accumulated during anaerobic glycolysis and regeneration of ATP and creatine phosphate.

An hockey player with a large aerobic base may recover faster and more efficiently between repeated, high-intensity efforts, allowing them to skate harder and longer on the ice. Therefore we utilize high-intensity interval training to improve ice hockey performance and improve Vo2Max.

We always train all three energy systems in order to maximize on-ice performance.  We vary our methods by utilizing different modes (e.g., skating, cycling, running, rowing, slideboard work, etc.), work times, rest times, and volumes.

Strength Considerations

Skating requires powerful legs, strong hips, and a stable torso to allow efficient transfer of force from the body to the ice. Performance differences between lower and higher level hockey players of the same age group are suggested to be primarily due to disparities in rate of force development. This could be because athletes rarely have enough time to produce maximal force in most sports movements. In theory, an ice hockey player with a greater RFD will therefore be faster and more powerful than one with a lower RFD. This highlights the importance of training RFD for ice hockey athletes.

For these advanced ice hockey athletes, greater focus is given to explosive training to increase power and RFD. Power and RFD can be trained with many methods, including weight training with submaximal weights (40 – 80% one repetition maximum), plyometrics, sprinting, and Olympic-style weightlifting. Advanced athletes with sufficient levels of maximal strength can shift more of their training to focus on maximizing RFD and speed.

Injury Reduction

In order to prepare a hockey player, it is important to understand common injuries and causes of injury in ice hockey. Injuries during competition cannot be fully prevented as many injuries occur because of the inherent contact in ice hockey. Research shows that over half of all injuries during a game are caused by contact. Injuries to the knee, shoulder, head (including concussions), and face are commonly caused from contact. The most common injuries occurring in practices are non-contact soft tissue injuries including strains of the hip and pelvic muscles.

It is unlikely that injuries occurring from contact can be entirely prevented by any specific training. We spend extra time training the muscles of the head and neck to reduce the risk of concussions.

Hip and pelvic strains may be reduced by strengthening the hip flexors, extensors, abductors, and adductors. Along with strengthening, it is necessary to ensure ice hockey players have adequate hip mobility for all exercises in the weight room and for on-ice skating demands. Ensuring that the hips are both strong and mobile will allow the ice hockey athlete to perform proper and efficient skating mechanics on the ice.

Joint mobility drills for hockey

Ankle mobility is extremely important for hockey players, especially at the high school level if they are multi-sport athletes. I have several athletes who play hockey in the winter and lacrosse in the spring. These kids are basically going from having their foot and ankle in a cast (i.e. ice skate) every day for four months and then asked to sprint on the lacrosse field. This is a disaster waiting to happen. Our ankle mobility work typically consists of dorsiflexion and plantar flexion drills, which we perform during almost every session.

Hip Rotators

Hockey players have a tendency to develop tight external hip rotators, resulting in a toe out gait.  Joe Defanco’s Limber 11 warm-up along with Hip and Glute activation exercises usually works wonders for our Hockey players.

Movement drills and core work

The warm-up portion of each training session consists of basic movement drills such as skips, side shuffles with arm and leg movement, and cariocas. These drills serve to increase body temperature and ready the athlete for the work ahead. Warrior lunges and lateral lunges may be performed in addition to these drills on lower body days to work on dynamic flexibility prior to squatting or cleaning.

After the movement drills, we perform our core work. We all know that the core is important. This is the transfer station between the upper and lower extremities. I have been using core circuits as part of the warm up for my athletes for quite some time with great success.

Our core circuits typically consist of three or four exercises including Palloff cable press outs, anti-rotation landmines, front/side plank variations, barbell rollouts, and hanging leg raises.

Strength training template

Here is a variation of what I have used as a three-day strength training template for my hockey players. Again, nothing is set in stone and it isn’t uncommon to make some adjustments on the fly.

Workout 1

  • A1 Power clean, 5 X 3
  • B1 Front/back squat, 3 X 5
  • C1 Reverse cross-over lunge, 3 X 8 ea. leg. (Skate Speed)
  • D1 Glute Raise /Posterior chain, 3 X 8
  • D2 Single Leg/Arm cable row (Balance and Power)
  • E1 Med-Ball Push-ups, 3 X 6 Each Side
  • E2 Row variation, 3 X 12

Workout 2

  • A1 Pull-ups, 3 X 5
  • A2 Rotational Med-Ball 3 x 8 (Increase Shot Power)
  • B1 Incline bench dumbbell press, 3 X 6
  • B2 Rear delt rows, 3 X 8
  • C1 Elbow flexion, 3 X 8
  • C2 Elbow extension, 3 X 10
  • D1 Forward & Side cross-over sled drag, 8 X 50 feet

Workout 3

  • A1 Trap bar deadlift, 3 X 5
  • A2 Jump Lunges 3 x 5 (Dynamic Leg Movement)
  • B1 Weighted push-ups, 3 X 8
  • B2 Single arm dumbbell row, 3 X 8
  • C2 Landmine rotations 3 x 6 each side
  • C2 Dumbbell step-up, 3 X 8

Each of these strength training sessions ends with flexibility work. I typically have my athletes perform a combination of lower body and upper body stretches. This is also the time where we work individual movements and stretches into the program.

This article isn’t to market myself as some kind of hockey expert but a way to offer a glimpse at what I have used with some success with my athletes. I understand this isn’t the only way to approach it, and when I come across something I feel would better my programs, I make the necessary adjustments.

As always, feel free to contact me directly anytime

Coach Kevin Haag
Kevin@K2Strength.com
908-803-8019

 

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