Month: June 2011

Agility Training For Athletic Performance

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INTRODUCTION

Generally, agility can be defined by the ability to explosively start, decelerate, change direction, and accelerate again quickly while maintaining body control and minimizing a reduction in speed. Universally, agility can often be described as an athlete’s collective coordinative abilities. These are the basic elements of technical skills used to perform motor tasks spanning the power spectrum from dynamic gross activities to fine motor control tasks and include adaptive ability, balance, combinatory ability, differentiation, orientation, reactiveness, and rhythm. Coordinative abilities are often recognized to be most easily developed in preadolescence, which is considered to be an important time period for skill development. This period often changes focus during adolescence when the shift from general to special preparation should begin.

Most athletic activities that utilize agility occur in less than 10 seconds and involve the ability to coordinate a few or several sport specific tasks simultaneously (like catching a football and then making a series of evasive moves and cuts to avoid being tackled in order to advance the ball further down the field (6). With the exception of skills specific to the sport, agility can be the primary determining factor to predict success in a sport. Sports inherently require changes of direction in which lateral movements are used in the several planes of movement simultaneously. Sports regularly are played in short bursts of 30 feet (10 yards) or less before a change of direction, acceleration and/or deceleration is required. Because movements can be initiated from various body alignments, athletes need to be able to react with strength, explosiveness and quickness from these different positions.
Some people in sport may believe that agility is primarily determined by genetics and is therefore difficult to improve or enhance to any significant level. Sport coaches often become enamored with an athlete that possesses natural physical attributes (physical size, strength, vertical & horizontal power, ideal body composition) that are generally associated with a successful performance in sport.
However, many coaches often find these attributes alone will not guarantee success in sports that require agility. Unfortunately, because of the focus placed on physical attributes the focus on off-season programs often revolves around strength training and conditioning. Often agility and speed development at sport-specific speeds are neglected or only focused upon during small blocks of time in the preseason. Agility is a neural ability that is developed over time with many repetitions. The nervous system, motor abilities and sport specific movements at sport-specific speeds will have little time for development if not addressed throughout the off-season. It takes athletes weeks and months to see improvements in speed and agility. Agility should be trained as an important component of the annual training program.
Athletes who train for power oriented sports by only strength training and not incorporating sport-specific agility training are making a mistake in reaching their absolute best performance enhancement for sport. Whether it is a basketball player cutting toward a pass or a football lineman pulling to trap a defensive lineman, agility is a “critical” and often overlooked component of athletic performance. In sports such as baseball lateral speed, agility and quickness can be just as essential as strength and speed. The performances of athletes in sports today have dramatically elevated the level of agility necessary for performance success. There is a direct correlation between improved agility and the development of athletic timing, rhythm and movement.
The key to improving agility is to minimize the loss of speed when redirecting your body’s center of gravity. Drills that require rapid changes of direction forward, backward, vertically and laterally will help you improve your agility as well as coordination by training your body to make these changes in movement more quickly.ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE BENEFITS OF AGILITY TRAINING


Sport coaches may have difficulty bridging the gap between the application of strength, power and metabolic conditioning developed with strength training and conditioning to sport performance. Even for the athlete who will never make that Koby Bryant type move and bring the viewing audience to its feet, agility training has many benefits. Neuromuscular adaptation, improved athleticism and injury prevention and decreased rehabilitation time are three critical benefits that an athlete can receive with agility training (10).1. Neuromuscular Adaptation – Agility training may be the most effective way to address the neuromuscular system and sport-specific skills necessary for sport performance, since agility training most closely resembles the sport itself . Training at sport-specific metabolic training speeds enables athletes to train at a level that most closely resembles the intensity, duration, and recovery time found in sport during the off-season. The use of agility training in an annual training cycle provides a critical link for athletes to apply their strength and conditioning program gains to the competitive athletic arena.

2. Improved Athleticism – The most critical benefit of agility training is increased body control resulting from a concentrated form of kinesthetic awareness (10). Athletes that incorporate effective, consistent agility programs into their training often talk of the stunning gains in athleticism, no matter what the sport. It teaches the intricacies of controlling small transitions in the neck, shoulders, back, hips, knees and ankle joints for the best postural alignment. Athletes gain a sense of control to the task of moving faster. This can be seen in a greater sense for the uncoordinated athlete who learns more about him or herself through agility training then the coordinated athlete.
3. Injury Prevention & Decreased Rehabilitation Time– While it is virtually impossible to eliminate injury from sports, agility training improves athletic injury management. Injuries are not just a result of bad luck. By possessing the ability to control the body during that split second, critical instant of impact, an injury can often be prevented or have its severity reduced. This means preparing the body for the awkward movements, which can occur in sport and may result in injury. By imitating sport movements under low to moderate stress levels in practice situations and through training, the athlete’s body becomes better prepared for sport movement and injuries can be prevented or greatly reduced. When athletes utilize agility drills, they develop neuromuscular awareness and thus are better able to understand the movements of their bodies. The rehabilitation process can then proceed much more rapidly if the injured athlete possesses such neurological awareness.COMPONENTS OF AGILITY TRAINING


A comprehensive agility program will address the following components of agility: strength, power, acceleration, deceleration, coordination, balance and dynamic flexibility. When designing an agility program for athletic performance enhancement a strength & conditioning coach should incorporate the following components of agility (5,6,10,11,12,14,15):
1. Strength – Strength refers to the maximal force that a muscle or muscle group can generate at a specified velocity (distance ¸ time). When an athlete is in contact with an opponent the addition of their opponent’s resistance plus their own body weight is the resistance. Research has demonstrated a strong correlation between lower body strength and agility. The more emphasis the sport has on strength and power the greater the need for strength training, particularly the Olympic lifts, where the rate of force development is most similar to that of agility movements on the field or court.
2. Power – Power is rate at which work is completed (force X velocity). The faster an athlete gets from one point to another, the greater his/her power.
3. Acceleration – Acceleration is the change in velocity per unit of time. It’s an athlete’s ability to go from a starting position to a greater velocity and then change from one speed to another.
4. Deceleration – Deceleration is recognized as the ability to decrease speed or stop from a maximal or near maximal speed. Deceleration can be in various forms from using single or multiple footsteps, backpedaling, shuffling, or using a crossover step to slow down or stop completely.
5. Coordination – Coordination is referred to as the ability to control and process muscle movements to produce athletic skills.
6. Dynamic Balance – Dynamic balance is the ability to maintain control over the body while in motion. When the body is in motion, various feedback from the body, such as sight, kinesthetic awareness and perturbations, are made by the nervous system to adjust the center of gravity. Agility is closely aligned with balance by requiring athletes to regulate shifts in the body’s center of gravity, while subjecting them to postural deviation.
7. Dynamic Flexibility– Dynamic flexibility is the range of motion at a joint during active movements. These are generally activities utilized as a part of the warm-up designed to increase flexibility, coordination, speed and balance.TECHNIQUE

When instructing athletes on the execution of agility exercises it is critical to instruct athletes on technique. Visual focus, arm action, deceleration, recovery and biomechanics all play a valuable role in the proper technique of agility drills (6,10).
1. Visual Focus – The athlete’s head should be in a neutral position with eyes focused directly ahead, regardless of the direction or movement pattern being used by the athlete. Exceptions to this guideline will occur when the athlete is required to focus on another athlete or object. Additionally, getting the head around and finding a new focus point should initiate all directional changes and transitions.
2. Arm Action – Powerful arm movement during transitional and directional changes is essential in order to reacquire a high rate of speed. Inadequate or improper arm movement may result in a loss of speed or efficiency.
3. Deceleration – The ability of an athlete to decelerate from a given velocity is essential for changing directions.
4. Recovery – When training athletes to enhance their agility it is important to ensure that drills are performed at work and rest intervals consistent with the sport the athlete is training for. Partner athletes with other athletes of similar ability. Perform drills in a competitive atmosphere with technique always being more critical than the speed the drill is performed.
5. Biomechanics – When it comes to biomechanics and agility training three interrelated considerations should be taken into account:
A. Body Alignment – Maintaining a lower center of gravity enables the athlete to move more quickly, decelerate, and reaccelerate especially when needing to overcome the resistance of an opponent or object. The maintenance of core stability (maintenance of a neutral spine through the use of the musculature that supports the spine of the body) and the athletic position (perfect posture with the shoulders pulled back and down and abdominals tight, knees slightly bent with hips back and down and bodyweight forward on the middle of your feet) will enable the athlete to supply maximum power.
B. Movement Economy – Athletes should be educated as to the most efficient movement patterns and develop the required skills necessary to reach their performance objective. These patterns and skills may include movement patterns or skills that include side shuffling, backpedaling, use of a crossover step, turn and run or combinations of these patterns and skills.
C. Acceleration & Deceleration– Most sports require athletes to have the ability to accelerate, decelerate and reaccelerate. The more efficient an athlete becomes the better the athlete becomes at creating space between an opponent, move more quickly to a space or object and enhance performance potential.SUMMARY

Outside of sport specific training, agility training may be the primary determining factor to predict success in a sport. Sports are not straight ahead, but require changes of direction in which lateral movements are used in several planes of movement simultaneously. Because movements in sport are initiated from various body positions, athletes need to be able to react with strength, explosiveness and quickness from these different positions. Unfortunately, because of the focus placed on physical attributes in sports the focus on off-season programs often revolves around strength training exclusively. Often agility and speed development at sport-specific speeds are neglected or only focused upon during small blocks of time in the preseason. Agility is a neural ability that is developed over time with many repetitions. Research has shown that an increase in speed and strength was not as effective in developing agility as participation in activities specifically designed to develop agility.
The performances of athletes in sports today have dramatically elevated the level of agility necessary for performance success. Agility training provides the athlete with performance benefits: neuromuscular adaptation, improved athleticism, injury prevention and decreased rehabilitation time. A comprehensive agility program will address components of agility such as strength, power, acceleration, deceleration, coordination, balance and dynamic flexibility. When instructing athletes on the execution of agility exercises it is critical to instruct athletes on technique as a priority and speed of movement only after technique has been mastered.

Boost your metabolism all Day

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Boost Your Metabolism all Day!!

Upside down at K2

When you want to create a lean, firm body, the best way to accomplish it is with an effective workout program and a healthy eating plan. But that’s not the end of the story . . . . Because no matter how much you’re putting into your exercise sessions, practicing a range of healthy habits the rest of the time can give your metabolism an even bigger kick.

 

So here’s a full day’s worth of metabolism boosters. Any one of them may have a relatively minor effect, but when put together, they’re bound to help your body burn fat more efficiently. Add these tips to your weight loss arsenal, and you’ll get the results you want as quickly as possible.

Morning

  1. Get some sun. A little outdoor time in the morning can help you slim down in three ways. First, bright light helps regulate your body clock, so you’ll be more energetic during the day and sleep better at night. Second, during the winter months, sunshine helps ward off SAD (seasonal affective disorder), a condition that can lead to uncontrolled food cravings. And third, sunlight on your skin increases your levels of vitamin D, which are associated with a higher metabolism and a lower risk of obesity. (While sunscreen cuts down on your natural vitamin D production, experts warn that you shouldn’t spend much time outside without it. You can also get more D by taking multivitamins, drinking fortified milk, and eating fatty fish.)

 

  1. Eat a good breakfast. Research has shown that a filling breakfast that includes both lean protein and complex carbohydrates helps you burn fat all day (and keeps you satisfied longer, too). In a study presented to the Endocrine Society, dieters who ate hearty breakfasts stuck to their food plans and ended up losing more weight than those who didn’t, despite the fact that their daily caloric intake was actually slightly higher.
  2. And add some grapefruit. There’s a reason grapefruit diets have never gone out of fashion. In a recent study in the journal Diabetes, mice on a high-fat diet that were given naringenin—a flavonoid chemical that gives grapefruit its slightly bitter taste—didn’t gain weight, while others on the same diet did. And a study conducted at the Nutrition and Metabolic Research Center at Scripps Clinic found that half a grapefruit before each meal helped obese people drop more than 3 pounds over 12 weeks. (Consult your doctor if you’re taking any medications—large amounts of grapefruit can change the way they’re metabolized by your body.)
  3. Have a hot beverage. As you’ve surely heard by now, regular consumption of green or oolong tea can raise your metabolism by as much as 5 percent. But plain old java gives your fat-burning ability a boost too. Green coffee beans have been found to boost your metabolism through the combination of caffeine and something called chlorogenic acid. While roasting lowers the amount of this chemical, according to the Coffee Science Information Centre, a light roast retains more than a dark roast.

Whatever you drink, don’t overdo it, and keep the additives to a minimum—the calories in cream and sugar, or a coffeehouse latte, can far outweigh any fat-burning benefits.

Midday

  1. Take the stairs. Your daily workout will do more than anything else to burn fat and build lean muscle. But that doesn’t mean you should be a slug the rest of the time. A highly publicized British study found that kids who were very active during physical education classes were that much less active throughout the day, which suggests that you may need to make a conscious effort to move your body when you’re not working out, including taking such simple steps as walking everywhere you can and using stairs rather than elevators. Even relatively brief periods of exercise will help keep your metabolism revving at a higher level.
  2. Snack on nuts. All nuts (including peanuts, which aren’t technically nuts, but whatever) are fairly high in calories, but they’re also full of nutrients, especially protein and healthful fats. In a study at Purdue University, when people added 500 calories of peanuts to their daily diets, they ate less during meals and increased their resting metabolic rates by 11 percent. You don’t need to eat so many, though. Just an ounce at a time will go a long way toward boosting your metabolism and keeping you satisfied.
  3. Shop in the outer aisles of the grocery store. Most supermarkets are laid out in similar ways: produce, meats, fish, dairy products, and other fresh, whole foods are along the outside edges, while processed, boxed, and canned foods are in the inner aisles. Shop on the perimeter first, and you’ll end up with nutritious ingredients that will fuel your muscles while keeping you full—and because they’re higher in fiber and protein and lower in starch, you can eat more of them and still lose weight.
  4. Take time to relax. Stress can take a toll on your metabolism. When scientists at Georgetown University fed two groups of mice a high-fat, high-sugar diet, the ones under stress gained more than twice as much weight as the low-stress group. If your job (or any other part of your life) leaves you feeling like a mouse in a cage, try to find ways of cutting down on stress. At some point during the day, take a break for meditation, yoga, or just sitting in a peaceful place and thinking about something pleasant.

Nighttime

  1. Watch your eating. If you’re like most people, your activity level slows down at night, and so does your metabolism. And yet there’s also a tendency to eat a lot at this time, either by having a big dinner or snacking in front of the TV, or both. If you’re overeating due to stress or boredom, the evening is a good time to concentrate on healthful dietary habits.
  2. Hold the hooch. Your body loves alcohol—so much so, in fact, that it’ll burn its byproducts as fuel before anything else. That means that while you’re processing alcohol, you’re not burning fat. Of course, alcoholic beverages also have calories, virtually none of which are good for anything other than helping you gain weight.
  3. Turn off your screens. At least 2 hours before bedtime, dim the lights, put away your computer, and turn off your video games. Bright lights, including those from computer screens, can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, an antioxidant hormone that builds up in the evening and helps you sleep. Research has shown that higher levels of melatonin are associated with lower levels of body fat.
  4. Catch your z’s. While you’re asleep, your body is hard at work producing hormones responsible for weight loss, muscle gain, and glucose metabolism. Studies have found that consistently getting less than the optimal 8 or so hours per night leads to a lower metabolism and a higher body mass. If you find yourself getting sleepy during the day, going to bed just an hour earlier could make a significant difference in your waistline.