Sports Performance Training
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.”
“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.
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!
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
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
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
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 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.
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!
The crack of a baseball blasted over the fence; the whack of a golf ball blasted off the tee; the sound of lacrosse pads smashing against each other. These are all signs spring is in the air, and with it, spring training for many of our children.
Are you ready? Are you physically ready for the season? Not just ready to run sprints on the first day of practice, but strong enough to complete day-in and day-out for the next 3 months.
We’re encouraging our student-athletes to follow their training guidelines, eat healthy meals and drink plenty of fluids, and most importantly, listen to their bodies. Minor aches and pains from training and activating those dormant muscles are normal, but prolonged pain that causes difficulties with your training regimen is not and may be a sign of injury.
More than 2.6 million children are treated in the emergency department each year for sports and recreation-related injuries.
Sadly, many of these injuries can be prevented through proper training, which MUST include muscle prep activities such as foam rolling and stretching.
Athletes must listen to their body as spring training gets underway and see your healthcare professional when those minor aches persist. There are so many treatment options as basic as the use of ice packs and cold compresses to myofascial release which will improve your injury recovery.
These are a couple steps to stay healthy during spring training and through the season:
- Get a physical. Ask your primary care physician to give you a physical exam. He or she can then clear you for participation in your sport.
- Seek support. Your school has athletic trainers, use them. They can guide your training efforts and help you safely prepare your body for your sport.
- Protect yourself. Use the correct protective gear for your sport – helmets, knee and elbow pads, goggles, ankle braces, etc. Make sure your protective gear fits, is worn correctly and is in good condition.
- Practice your form. This can prevent many sports-related injuries resulting from improper swings, kicks, throws and other sports mechanics.
- Make sure you hydrate. Prevent dehydration by drinking lots of fluids, preferably water. Sports drinks are OK, too.
- Get enough rest. Your muscles need some time off to heal and ultimately help you get stronger. Plus, resting prevents your muscles from becoming overused which can lead to injury.
- Take care of your head. All concussions are serious. They can lead to a host of problems including, but not limited to, nausea and vomiting, headache, mood swings, altered sleep patterns and more.
Spring training brings with it renewed championship hopes and dreams. Do your part to make sure you perform your best this season without having to experience an avoidable injury.
If you are looking to take your game to the next level and stay strong all season long…… K2 is the place to be!
Please call me if you have any questions and / or concerns. I look forward to hearing from you.
908-803-8019 (Call or Text)
by Michael Boyle, MS, ATC
A decade ago, strength coaches and athletic trainers would have looked quizzically at a 36-inch long cylindrical piece of foam and wondered, “What is that for?” Today, nearly every athletic training room and most strength and conditioning facilities contain an array of foam rollers of different lengths and consistencies.
What happened to bring foam rollers into prominence? The change has been in our attitude toward massage therapy. We have been slowly moving away from an injury care mode of isokinetics and electronics to more European-inspired processes that focus on hands-on soft tissue care. We now realize that techniques like massage, Muscle Activation (MAT), and Active Release Therapy (ART) can work wonders for sore or injured athlete.
In addition, the understanding at the elite athlete level is: If you want to stay healthy, get a good manual therapist in your corner. Thus, athletes at all levels are starting to ask for some form of soft tissue care.
What does all this have to do with foam rollers? As coaches and athletic trainers watched elite-level athletes experience success from various soft tissue techniques, the obvious question arose: How can I make massage available to large groups of athletes at a reasonable cost? Enter the foam roller.
National Academy of Sports Medicine (www.nasm.org) President Michael Clark, DPT, MS, PT, NASM-PES, is credited by many-this author included-with exposing the sports medicine community to the foam roller. In one of Clark’s early manuals, he included a few photos of self-myofascial release using a foam roller. The technique illustrated was simple and self-explanatory: Get a foam roller and use your bodyweight to apply pressure to sore spots.
Since then, many of us have discovered more uses for foam rollers, including injury prevention and performance enhancement. We’ve also moved away from the accupressure concept and now use them more for self-massage. And we’ve come up with specific protocols for different situations.
Essentially, foam rollers are the poor man’s massage therapist. They provide soft tissue work to the masses in any setting. But you need to know their nuances to get the most out of them.
What, How & When
A foam roller is simply a cylindrical piece of extruded hard-celled foam. Think swimming pool noodles, but a little more dense and larger in diameter. They usually come in one-foot or three-foot lengths. I find the three-foot model works better, but it obviously takes up more space.
They are also now available in a number of densities from relatively soft foam (slightly harder than a pool noodle), to newer high-density rollers that feel much more solid. The denser the athlete, the more dense the roller should be. Large, heavily-muscled athletes will do better with a very high density roller whereas a smaller, younger athlete should begin with a less dense product.
The application techniques are simple. Clarke’s initial recommendation was based on an accupressure concept, in which pressure is placed on specific surfaces of the body. Athletes were instructed to use the roller to apply pressure to sensitive areas in their muscles-sometimes called trigger points, knots, or areas of increased muscle density. The idea was to allow athletes to apply pressure to injury-prone areas themselves.
The use of foam rollers has progressed in many circles from an accupressure approach to self-massage, which I’ve found to be more effective. The roller is now usually used to apply longer more sweeping strokes to the long muscle groups like the calves, adductors, and quadriceps, and small directed force to areas like the TFL, hip rotators, and glute medius.
Athletes are instructed to use the roller to search for tender areas or trigger points and to roll these areas to decrease density and over-activity of the muscle. With a little direction on where to look, most athletes easily find the tender spots on their own. However, they may need some instruction on the positioning of the roller, such as parallel, perpendicular, or 45 degrees, depending on the muscle.
The feel of the roller and intensity of the self-massage should be properly geared to the age, comfort, and fitness level of the athlete. This is one of the plusses of having the athlete roll themselves-they can control the intensity with their own body weight.
There is no universal agreement on when to roll, how often to roll, or how long to roll, but generally, techniques are used both before and after a workout. Foam rolling prior to a workout can help decrease muscle density and promote a better warmup. Rolling after a workout may help muscles recover from strenuous exercise.
My preference is to have athletes use the rollers before every workout. We also use them after a workout if athletes are sore.
One of the nice things about using the foam roller is that it can be done on a daily basis. In fact, in their book, The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, Clair Davies and Amber Davies recommend trigger point work up to 12 times a day in situations of acute pain.
How long an athlete rolls is also determined on a case-by-case basis. I usually allow five to 10 minutes for soft tissue activation work at the beginning of the session prior to warmup. If my athletes roll after their workout, it is done for the same length of time.
While the foam roller can be used on almost any area of the body, I have found it works best on the lower extremities. There is not as much dense tissue in the upper body and our athletes are not prone to the same frequency of upper body strains as lower. The hamstrings and hip flexors seem to experience the most muscle strains, so we concentrate on those areas.
Here are some protocols I use:
Gluteus max and hip rotators: The athlete sits on the roller with a slight tilt and moves from the iliac crest to the hip joint to address the glute max. To address the hip rotators, the affected leg is crossed to place the hip rotator group in an elongated position. As a general rule of thumb, 10 slow rolls are done in each position (although there are no hard and fast rules for reps). Often athletes are simply encouraged to roll until the pain disappears.
TFL and Gluteus Medius: The tensor fasciae latae and gluteus medius, though small in size, are significant factors in anterior knee pain. To address the TFL, the athlete begins with the body prone and the edge of the roller placed over the TFL, just below the iliac crest
After working the TFL, the athlete turns 90 degrees to a side position and rolls from the hip joint to the iliac crest to address the gluteus medius.
Adductors: The adductors are probably the most neglected area of the lower body. A great deal of time and energy is focused on the quadriceps and hamstring groups and very little attention is paid to the adductors. There are two methods to roll the adductors. The first is a floor-based technique that works well for beginners. The user abducts the leg over the roller and places the roller at about a 60-degree angle to the leg. The rolling action begins just above the knee in the area of the vastus medialis and pes anserine, and should be done in three portions. To start, 10 short rolls are done covering about one third the length of the femur. Next, the roller is moved to the mid-point of the adductor group and again rolled 10 times in the middle third of the muscle. Last, the roller is positioned high into the groin almost to the pubic symphysis for a final set of 10 rolls.
The second technique for the adductors should be used after the athlete is comfortable with the first one. This exercise requires the athlete to sit on a training room table or the top of a plyometric box, which allows him or her to shift significantly more weight onto the roller and work deeper into the large adductor triangle. The athlete then performs the same rolling movements mentioned above.
Although I primarily use the rollers for athletes’ legs, they can also be used with upper extremities. The same techniques can be used for pecs, lats, and rotator cuffs, although with a much smaller amplitude-making the movements closer to accupressure.
Foam rolling is hard work that can even border on being painful. Good massage work, and correspondingly good self-massage work, may be uncomfortable, much like stretching. Therefore, it is important that athletes learn to distinguish between a moderate level of discomfort related to working a trigger point and a discomfort that can lead to injury.
When an athlete has completed foam rolling, he or she should feel better, not worse. And the rollers should never cause bruising. Ask the athlete how his or her muscles feel after each session to assess if the techniques are working.
I also judge whether foam rolling is working by monitoring compliance. If I don’t have to tell athletes to get out the foam roller before a workout, I know the techniques are working. Most do it without prompting as they see the benefits.
Rolling vs. Massage
The question often arises: “Which is better, massage therapy or a foam roller?” To me the answer is obvious: Hands-on work is better than foam. Hands are directly connected to the brain and can feel. A foam roller cannot feel. If cost was not an issue I would have a team of massage therapists on call for my athletes at all times.
However, having an abundance of massage therapists on staff is not in most of our budgets. Therein lies the beauty of the foam rollers: They provide unlimited self-massage for under $20. Sounds like a solution to me.
World famous strength and conditioning coach Mike Boyle is Director of Elite Conditioning in Boston, MA. He is author of numerous videos and books and a featured speaker at seminars throughout the U.S, including Perform Better “Learn By Doing” Functional Training Seminars.
By: Coach Lee Taft
Exercise #1 Medicine Ball Side Throw Progression:
A. Standing side throw– The athlete will face sideways to the wall in an athletic stance with the ball at chest height and elbows out. (stand roughly 10-12 feet away depending on the bounce of the ball)
- Using the backside leg to drive the hips forward and taking a small step toward the wall with the lead leg…
- Explosively drive the ball, keeping the back elbow up so the shoulder doesn’t get injured, into the wall.
- The focus of the exercise isn’t so much on throwing, it is on understanding being in the best stance to drive the off the back leg like a lateral shuffle.
- If the athlete is too narrow in stance or standing too tall the power production will be limited.
- This exercise needs to be done on both sides
B. Forward shuffle side throw– The athlete will back away from the wall roughly 6-8 feet further. The exercise will be performed the same as the standing side throw but the emphasis changes to lateral speed:
- The athlete will shuffle one to two times staying in a good stance and then driving off the back foot and transferring the speed into the throw.
- The athlete must use the back foot to push down and away to generate more speed on the throw.
- If the athlete does not have a good athletic stance (foundation) they will not generate enough force to gain benefits.
C. Backward shuffle side throw– Same exercise but now the athlete will shuffle away from the wall. Start the athlete only 6-8 feet from the wall.
- The athlete will shuffle aggressively one to two times away from the wall and plant aggressively to throw the ball.
- This is the most important exercise of all to reinforce the athletic stance and the importance of plant leg angles.
- If the plant leg of the back leg is too narrow when attempting to stop the throw will be weak.
- The athlete wants to still get forward movement when throwing. I like to do 2-4 sets of 3-5 reps on each side. The exercise has to be intense. The wt of the ball, experience of the athlete, and skill level determines the sets and reps.
This is the stationary version of the Side Medicine Ball Throw. The forward shuffle throw and backward shuffle throw would still get the athlete back to this position. The backward throw crucial for teaching deceleration angles. If the plant is poorly done the throw will show it. Great feedback drill.
Excerise #2 One arm One leg tubing row
This is a great speed exercise because it focuses on both deceleration (which is what most quick athlete do better than other athletes in athletic speed) and acceleration.
a. The initial position is having the athlete squat/bend on one leg and resist the pulling action of the tubing. The decelerators are kicked on.
b. Then the athlete quickly stands and pulls on the tubing while driving the knee up. This recruits the accelerators.
c. The extra benefits of the this exercise is the balance and stability ttraining.
We normally do 2-4 sets of 5-8 reps per side. Slow down into the squat/bend and explosive up.
Exercise #3 Reactive Shuffles and Crossovers
In this shot the athlete is ready to react and shuffle or crossover in the direction the coach points. This is a real live setting for athletes to develop their skill and for coaches to use great feedback.
a. The athlete will get into a loaded athletic stance and be prepared to shuffle or crossover (already determined by the coach) and react to the coaches point.
b. This type of exercise is great for athletic speed development because the athlete must randomly react. The athlete will use his or her innate abilities. If a mistake is made the coach can easily correct and have the athlete reproduce a better pattern for many reps.
I normally will do 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps. The athlete will react out to the cone and get back as quick as possible for one rep. Because I am after speed I will allow decent rest so the athlete isn’t completely pooped out.
Exercise #4 Resisted power skips
I like resisted power skips for speed because it increases force production and extension of the hips.
a. The athlete must learn to drive hard to move the resistance of the tubing yet maintain good posture for acceleration.
b. The athlete will learn to coordinate the arms and the legs during this exercise. It isn’t easy at first.
c. The biggest benefit is that more muscle fiber gets recruited when attempting to power skip. This is the goal to generate more acceleration speed.
I like to perform 3-6 reps for 20 meters. This is enough distance to get enough quality push offs yet not too far to get overly fatigued and change mechanics.
Exercise #5 Pure acceleration starts
To increase the mechanics and efficiency of accelerating from various starts you must practice them.
a. I will use falling starts, get ups, box starts, parallel stance starts, and many other variations so I can coach the athlete on the proper technique.
b. The goal is to be consistent with leg and arm action as well as acceleration posture.
c. If the athlete has breaks in his or her form they can be addressed quickly.
I like doing 2-3 different stances and 3-4 reps of each. Plenty of time is available to teach the form well.
Exercise #6 Cutting skills
Teaching cutting is a great way to improve the efficiency of the athlete in athletic speed. Most court and field sport requires so much in regards to change of direction it is important to address it.
a. The first thing I want my athlete to understand about cutting is the reactive nature of it. There is not enough time to think about the cut. Just do what comes natural and we can correct mistakes if they present themselves
b. The athlete must learn to make the cut by re-directing the cutting foot outside the width of the body that meets the angle they cut will be made at. I do not want the athlete to purposely drop low with the hips if the cut must be quick and not real sharp.
c. If the cut is sharp and the athlete must come back then the hips may lower slightly but only enough to control the center of mass.
d. The key to cutting is to create separation if an offensive player and to close the gap if a defender. The better body position you have and foot placement the better the results
I like to do 3-6 reps of 2-3 different variations of cutting:
a. Speed cuts
b. Sharp cuts
c. Rehearsed cuts
d. Random cuts
e. Jump stop cuts
f. Spin cuts
Yours in Speed,
READY TO PLAY – How Nutrition may be the key to staying in the game.
Yes, injuries are often an unavoidable part of sports. And to recover fully, whether from a minor strain or major surgery, you must meet certain specific nutrition needs. The physical damage caused by training or injuries is the same as any other trauma. Even if sport trauma is anticipated and intentional, the body needs to repair and recover from that damage before it can handle more stress.
LET THAT SINK IN!!!
The body needs to repair and recover from that damage before it can handle more stress!
Recovery from injury is a complex process that involves fueling the healing process, removing damaged cells, managing inflammation and repairing damaged tissue.
- Fueling Healing
One of the most common errors in recovery nutrition is misunderstanding calorie needs. Many athletes underestimate how many calories it takes to heal. Depending on the severity of the injury, calorie needs can increase by up to 20 percent above baseline. Injured athletes should also realize they are often significantly reducing calories expended during activity. By accounting for both decreased activity and the increased healing factor, athletes are able to fuel recovery without promoting negative changes in their body composition.
Protein is often the focus of recovery, as it plays a major role in tissue regeneration and repair. Athletes must consume enough protein. General recommendations for protein are between 0.8 and 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight, but injuries can push the need up to 2.0 grams per kilogram.
Injured athletes can often meet their additional protein needs though dietary changes. Many add whey protein isolate or a vegan protein option to help support their diet.
- Managing Inflammation
Swelling, pain, redness and heat are signs of inflammation that most athletes readily identify following an injury. Inflammation is an important and necessary part of injury recovery. It is triggered by the body’s need to clear dead and dying cells and to start the process of new cell development. For as many as four days post-injury, it’s important not to attempt to decrease this inflammation phase because it can impact recovery time. Following this initial stage, the focus should shift to managing inflammation.
A diet rich in fats knowns as omega-3s can help maintain the body’s normal inflammatory response to activity and injury. Research has shown that consuming 2-3 grams of omega 3s daily can positively influence markers of inflammation in the body. Athletes can consume this amount through a diet containing two servings of fish per week combined with increased intake of nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, chia and flax seeds—or through the addition of a fish oil supplement.
Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple, has been shown to promote reduced swelling and bruising after surgery by helping to maintain a healthy inflammatory response to exercise and injury.* Bromelain is recommended in amounts between 150 and 500 milligrams per day. Although all parts of the pineapple contain bromelain, it is most abundant in the stems, leading many people to add a bromelain supplement to their diet.
- Repairing Damaged Tissue
The final piece of recovery nutrition involves supporting the creation of new tissue to replace the tissue damaged by injury. While many vitamins and minerals are needed to support recovery, vitamin A, vitamin C and zinc get the most attention.
Vitamins A and C help support the first few days of a beneficial inflammatory response and assist in the formation of collagen, which helps provide the structure of connective tissues such as tendons, ligaments and skin. Vitamin A has also been linked with a decrease in immune suppression normally seen after an injury. Research has shown that a vitamin C deficiency can lead to irregular formation of collagen fibers, and hence to decreased stability of the tissues and abnormal scar formation.
Zinc plays a role in new DNA creation, the ability of cells to multiply and protein synthesis.* Zinc deficiency, which is fairly common, can inhibit wound healing. Recovering athletes might consider a multi-vitamin containing vitamin A, vitamin C and zinc to assist in the recovery process
Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are the last area of consideration for the recovering athlete. In times of stress and damage, the body has an additional need for some amino acids. Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the bloodstream. It is considered conditionally essential in times of trauma or damage as an important source of energy in recovering cells.
Leucine and its metabolite HMB have been shown to help slow muscle breakdown and nitrogen loss in injured patients.
Arginine can increase nitric oxide production, which can improve blood flow to damaged areas, providing important nutrients and promoting removal of dead and damaged cells. Amino acids are part of complete proteins in the diet, some athletes prefer to take them directly in supplement form.
Understanding what is happening in your body following an injury can help ensure that your diet supports a full recovery so you can get back on the field or court quickly. The above recommendations are guidelines. It’s always best to consult a registered dietitian or your health-care provider when making significant dietary changes or introducing nutritional supplements. When choosing a nutritional supplement, it is imperative to look for a brand that has been certified for safety and is free of banned substances, as determined by a third party such as NSF Certified for Sport.
Special Thanks to Stack.com and Exos Performance for providing the information for this article.
By Nick Tumminello
The goal of exercise programming for enhanced human performance is to maximize training transfer. Put simply, some exercises provide obvious and direct transfer to improved performance in sporting actions and overall functional capacity, whereas others provide less obvious transfer—that is, indirect transfer.
Since bodybuilding workouts do not necessarily reflect the specific force-generation and neuromuscular coordination patterns of many common movements in athletics, their positive transfer into improved performance potential is less obvious. This fact has led some personal trainers and coaches to mistakenly label them as “nonfunctional” and therefore not valuable. That is a false belief.
Granted, the further an exercise gets away from replicating the specific force-generation patterns of a given movement, the less directly it carries over to improving the neuromuscular coordination of that movement. However, as this article will demonstrate, this fact doesn’t make an exercise bad, and it certainly doesn’t make it “nonfunctional.” It simply means the less specific an exercise is, the more general it is.
With that said, since it’s well established that getting stronger can help sports performance, this article provides three ways in which using bodybuilding workouts to get bigger—that is, to increase muscle size—along with strength training concepts, can transfer to improved sports performance.
1. Better Ability to Dissipate Impact Force (More Body Armor)
Physics tells us that a larger surface area dissipates impact force and vibration better than a smaller surface area of the same stiffness. In athletic terms, bigger muscle mass better dissipates the impact force and vibration caused by events such as falling, getting punched, and taking or delivering a hit (as in football or hockey.)
To go into more detail, the way to better dissipate force is to spread it out over a greater area so no single spot bears the brunt of concentrated force. One good example is an arch bridge. Accordingly, those who wish to improve functional capacity and participate in impact sports should consider bodybuilding exercises—both for the physique benefits and as a way to build the body’s physiological armor. In fact, a larger muscle not only helps dissipate external impact forces, but also sets the stage for increased force production (by upgrading your hardware), provided that your central nervous system (your software) can muster the neural charge to maximize it!
2. Stronger From Your Feet
Unless you’re a race-car driver, it is crucial for you as an athlete to be strong from a standing position. More specifically, a study that compared the Single-Arm Standing Cable Press to the traditional Bench Press not only showed that the two actions involve very different force-production and neuromuscular-coordination patterns, but it also demonstrated that in a standing position, one’s horizontal pushing force is limited to about 40 percent of body weight.
This tells us that it’s mathematically and physically impossible for anyone to match, or even come close to replicating, what they can bench press in a push from a standing position. It also tells us that the heavier you are, the more horizontal and diagonal pushing force you can produce from the standing position (regardless of your weightroom numbers), because you have more bodyweight from which to push.
Although it’s clear the Bench Press is one of the most overemphasized and misunderstood exercises in the sports performance world, this isn’t to deny that developing a stronger Bench Press can help your standing push performance. Rather, these results indicate that also getting bigger (gaining weight) can help you better use your strength by providing a greater platform from which to push against your opponents. It can also give you a better chance to avoid getting knocked over or knocked off balance. So, putting on 20 pounds of muscle mass—it is rarely good to gain weight in the form of extra body fat—though hypertrophy training (i.e., bodybuilding workouts) can give you more push-force production ability (i.e., strength) from your feet.
3. Harder Hitting
In a similar vein, another study, this one focused on baseball pitchers, found that increased body weight is highly associated with increased pitch velocity. In other words, pitchers who weighed more tended to throw the ball faster than those who weighed less.
Since throwing and striking are similar total-body actions—both summate force from the ground up—this finding about pitching correlates with what we see in combat sports. All other things (e.g., technical ability) being equal, bigger athletes simply tend to punch (and throw) harder than their smaller counterparts, because they have more body weight behind their punches (and throws). This gives them a greater platform (more weight into the ground) from which to generate force and use their power.
If you’re someone who worries about gaining too much muscle, here’s something to think about: Although a gain of 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of muscle mass constitutes a significant increase, that additional muscle is not so noticeable if it is spread throughout the body.
Training Methods Aren’t Mutually Exclusive
As I said in my book, Building Muscle and Performance, “It’s not that bodybuilding workouts (i.e., size training concepts) make you less athletic; rather, it’s that if all you do is bodybuilding, then you’ll become less athletic simply because you’re not also regularly requiring your body to do athletic actions. As the old saying goes, ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it.’ However, you won’t lose athletic ability if you regularly do athletic actions while integrating some general bodybuilding concepts.”
The arguments about specific versus general exercise (i.e., movement-focused versus muscle-focused) are ridiculous. They’re like arguing about whether you should eat vegetables or fruits. Avoiding one or the other will leave your diet deficient. That’s why nutrition experts always encourage eating a “colorful diet,” with a variety of both vegetables and fruits, because they all have a different ratio of vitamins and minerals.
Similarly, a training plan that exclusively focuses on either general or specific exercises leaves some potential benefits untapped, since each method offers unique training benefits the other lacks. In contrast, a training plan that combines both specific and general methods enables you to achieve superior results by helping you build a more athletic body that’s got both the hustle and the muscle you seek.
1. Santana, J.C., F.J. Vera-Garcia, and S.M. McGill. 2007. “A kinetic and electromyographic comparison of the standing cable press and bench press.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 21 (4): 1271–77.
2. Werner, S.L., et al. 2008. “Relationships between ball velocity and throwing mechanics in collegiate baseball pitchers.” Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery 17 (6): 905–8.