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Strength and Conditioning

Are you TRAINING or EXERCISING

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The principle of progressive overload is perhaps the most important concept for anyone to understand when developing athletes or simply getting stronger.  It is one of the most basic differences between training and simply exercising.

For both adult and youth athletes!!

Unfortunately, this concept is often misunderstood and misapplied, I’d like to simplify the concept of progressive overload and discuss how to most appropriately apply it as part of an overall training program.

The most simplistic way to explain progressive overload is to slowly challenge yourself to do more than you’re currently capable of doing.  Without some system of progression, we’re just burning calories and making athletes tired. Sure, they may benefit from exercise, but the process of training or developing athletes should be more systematic so they progress in the safest and most efficient manner possible.

The variables that can be manipulated when applying overload include:

  • Frequency – how often the stimulus is applied
  • Intensity – either the percentage an athlete’s maximum capability or the degree of effort that goes into an exercise
  • Duration – how long the workout takes
  • Volume – the total amount of work performed.  This is generally represented as the weight x reps for strength training, but it can also be represented by the total amount of sets, number of reps or distance traveled.

Most of this article will focus on progressive overload for strength development, but speed & agility will also be discussed briefly.

Linear Progression

The essence of progressive overload is that your body adapts to a stimulus and slowly grows stronger or more efficient, depending on the goal.  For example, if you can currently do 10 push-ups in a row, you would try to do 11.  You would try to complete 11 push-ups until you can achieve that goal.  The stimulus of attempting to do 11 forces the body to adapt and grow stronger.  When you can complete 11, you begin working toward 12.

This is a very simple version of linear progression.  Linear, meaning one variable, constantly moving in one direction.  Many experts turn their noses up at this basic concept because progress eventually stagnates with most people, but it is a simple way to understand the underpinnings of progressive overload.

The story of Milo of Croton is another simple example of linear progression.  Milo was a 6th-century Greek wrestler who picked up and shouldered a young calf when he was a young man.  He picked up the calf every day as it slowly became a full-grown bull.  Because he had lifted it every day, he gradually became stronger and was able to impress crowds of people by picking up bulls as an adult.  The slowly increasing size of the bull provided a constant challenge that his body adapted to, and the concept of progressive overload was born.

Many athletes were developed through rough versions of this basic concept, and this was the inspiration for the adjustable barbell where small weights could be added to a bar in order to provide increasingly challenging stress.

Many coaches still take advantage of this simple strategy with relatively new trainees as they have athletes perform as many reps as possible of a single set of certain exercises.  The results are recorded each day, and they are asked to “beat their score” in the next training session.  This has the potential to turn into high-rep sets, but it works well when there is limited equipment and/or beginner lifters who will respond to even the lowest volumes.  A basic workout for a young athlete could be one set of each of the following:

  1. Push-ups
  2. Chin-ups
  3. Sit-ups
  4. Single-leg squats
  5. Goblet squat
  6. Hanging leg raise
  7. Curl & press with dumbbells
  8. Inverted row

Something as simple as this routine could be a great way to teach beginner lifters how to slowly progress, execute quality reps, and push through the discomfort of strength exercises.  Many coaches use a “20-rep set” where they prescribe one set of 20 reps of each exercise.  Instead of giving the athlete a weight that can be lifted 20 times, they pick a weight that can only be lifted 10-12 times.  Once fatigue sets in and no more reps can be completed, the athlete puts the weight down, rests for a few seconds, then attempts a few more reps.  This is repeated until the athlete has performed all 20 reps.  Only the first “set” (when the weight was put down the first time) is recorded, but the athlete stays with the exercise until all 20 reps are performed.  If the athlete performed 13 reps on the first set today, the goal is 14 at the next session.

This is a way to utilize linear progression but also add extra volume to the workout because the athlete is essentially performing multiple sets.  When the athlete can complete all 20 reps in one set, weight is added, a new exercise is prescribed or something else changes to increase the demands placed on the athlete.

Double Progression

This system gets at the essence of the “double-progression” method of progressive overload in which the resistance is increased when a certain number of reps is attained.  A typical example would be to select a range of 8-12 reps.  You could choose a weight that could be lifted at least 8 times, but no more than 12.  Let’s say you can complete 10 reps today, but cannot do 11.  In the next training session, you attempt to complete 11 reps.  Once 11 reps can be completed, you attempt 12 reps at the next training session.  When 12 reps can finally be completed (which is the top of the rep range we selected), the weight is increased the smallest amount possible, and you start the process over again, gradually trying to perform one more rep than you were able to get in the last workout.

This is an excellent way to help young athletes choose appropriate weights for their workouts, which is actually a very common issue in many weight rooms.  Beginner lifters usually have no idea what an appropriate weight would be for each exercise, so they end up choosing weights based on what others are using.  Testing is another way to help athletes choose weights for certain exercises, where a 1RM is established and percentages of that number are prescribed.  But, this takes a lot of time, can be dangerous with inexperienced lifters, and often isn’t very accurate with young lifters.  It’s also difficult (and not recommended) to establish 1RM’s for every exercise.

So, this system of gradually increasing the number of reps performed, then slowly increasing the weight, is a great way to help athletes learn how to choose appropriate weights.

Multi-Set Double Progression

Another way to implement this system is by using multiple sets of each exercise.  Using multiple sets gives athletes more opportunities to practice technique, and the additional volume can provide a great training stimulus, especially for athletes who cannot push themselves hard enough to get maximum benefit from a single set.

In this case, prescribe a number of sets and reps for each exercise, for example, 3 sets of 8 reps or 3 x 8.  In this example, athletes will use the same weight for all three sets and attempt to perform 8 reps on each set.  When all 3 sets of 8 reps can be completed, the athlete gets to move the weight up the smallest amount possible at the next workout.  If an athlete using 100 lbs can only perform 8 reps on the first set, 7 on the second, and 6 on the third, he/she will stick with 100 lbs on the next workout.

Many coaches will encourage athletes to perform as many reps as possible on the final set as a way to challenge athletes to push a little harder.  This will also help you determine when they’re ready to increase the weight and how much the increase should be.  In the above example, an athlete who performs all three sets of 8, but cannot do 9 reps on the last set, should increase the weight the smallest amount possible.  On the other hand, an athlete who performs 15 reps on the final set is probably ready for a slightly larger increase in order to provide a more appropriate stimulus.

Different versions of this scheme have been used by intermediate and advanced lifters for many years with exceptional results.  The idea is that the first set should end up being fairly easy, and allows for some technique practice.  The second set becomes more challenging, and the third set is where the hardest work is done.

It’s also important for athletes to record their results somewhere so they can look back at how many reps they performed in the last workout as a way to set goals for the current session.  Most young athletes aren’t going to remember they did 7 reps on the second set of bench press with 115 lbs.  Most young athletes already have enough on their minds, so that needs to be recorded.  A workout card or training software like TrainHeroic are great options for recording workout results.

Super-compensation

Teaching athletes about progressive overload is also an excellent way to teach the value of slow progression so they begin to understand the concepts of gradual adaptation, recovery, and super-compensation.  Many young athletes think that they are going to get big and strong very quickly.  Teaching them the value of consistency and gradual adaptation is an excellent concept for young athletes to understand so they begin to value small gains and how to schedule their workouts.

The graph below should be drawn out and explained to every athlete beginning a strength training program so they have a basic understanding of how the process works and why consistent training is so important.

Teaching athletes about progressive overload also gives coaches the opportunity to explain the value of recovery in the process of adaptation.  Understanding how the cycle of stimulation – recovery – adaptation – super-compensation works is an invaluable lesson for athletes to learn.  Most young athletes simply do not understand this cycle, and they end up either training inconsistently or too often.  This also gives us the opportunity to explain how performance training fits into their overall schedule with sports practices, competitions, and other commitments.  They need to see that all stress should be accounted for so they can create schedules that lead to progress in all areas.

Speed, Plyometrics, and Conditioning

While most of this discussion has been about strength training, progression should also be used with speed training, plyometrics, and conditioning. With plyometrics and speed training, progression is not quite as simple and easy to explain because technique and volume are so important to progression. You’re not adding another rep in every workout or increasing the number of repetitions every day.

Conditioning programs are a little easier to quantify because coaches can easily manipulate variables such as number of reps, work;rest ratios, and total volume to gradually increase the demands placed on an athlete. It’s important to gradually build this volume rather than creating dramatic spikes just to make it extra difficult. Of course, there can always be a case made for making training difficult, but coaches need to be aware of how athletes will respond to large spikes in volume or intensity, and ensure that there is adequate recovery after this kind of session.

Periodization

As athletes get more advanced with their training, or enter their competitive seasons, we need to think about the concept of periodization.  Through the years, I’ve seen coaches try to overcomplicate periodization and progressive overload with crazy set/rep schemes, charts, graphs, spreadsheets, and percentages that require a calculator.  While certain systems of periodization can get very complicated for advanced athletes, we can (and should) keep things more simplified for most athletes who haven’t even entered college.

Most of these athletes would be considered beginners in the world of strength training, and some could be considered intermediate lifters at the very most.  These trainees don’t need overly complicated programs, but we should definitely change the demands placed on them throughout the year.  Off-season training programs (when athletes are not engaged in daily sport practice) can include a higher volume of strength training and the overall demands can be greater.  During the pre-season, the amount of conditioning and sport-specific work will increase.  Once daily practice begins during the in-season phase of the year, it’s important that we continue to train, but in a way that does not induce unnecessary fatigue.

This phase of training is difficult for both coaches and athletes to understand.  Both groups often feel like brief training sessions are difficult to schedule and not worth it.  Education is crucial here so they understand the importance of maintaining their strength gains without overly taxing their bodies.  Inducing unnecessary fatigue will have a negative impact on both practice and competition performance, so the volume and intensity will be reduced.  For example, an in-season athlete who has been training consistently for several months may still be able to squat during the season, but instead of doing multiple sets at a high rate of exertion, he/she may do only 1-2 sets, stopping each set before maximal fatigue sets in. This athlete also won’t train as often during the in-season phase. 1-2 training sessions per week are about all that’s possible during a demanding season.

Once athletes have a substantial training base, periodization becomes much more critical because experienced lifters will not make progress as easily as beginners. Complete books have been written on periodization, and many popular training programs have been devised, but most of these programs are unnecessary until athletes have trained consistently (without interruption) for at least a year and are no longer seeing significant progress. That doesn’t often happen before college, so we can do a much better with young athletes by simply monitoring training volume and intensity and understanding that strength training is meant to supplement a sport, not be the sport by itself.

Keep It Simple

When working with young or inexperienced athletes, it’s important for coaches to teach them about the training process so they have a better understanding of how they will make progress. Teaching athletes the basics of progressive overload, and using basic systems of progression, will give them an understandable framework in which to work from. They’ll be much better able to make consistent progress, choose appropriate weights, and train safely. They will also be much better prepared for more complex systems they may encounter if they advance in their athletic careers. It will also help them understand how to train for the rest of their lives.

Most coaches also see themselves as teachers or mentors, and teaching athletes the value of progression can be a gift that will pay dividends for the rest of an athlete’s life.

Periodization as a Strategy, Not a Tactic –

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By Karsten Jensen

Periodization is a controversial topic within our field and has been since I started training back in 1992.  Whether you believe in periodization or not for your athletes, this article will shed some light on the topic.  Enjoy!

 

Below are some of the critique points that I have come across in recent years:

  • Periodization is not scientifically proven.
  • Periodization is overrated and over studied.
  • Periodization is too rigid and does not work for our athletes.
  • Periodization is too time-consuming.
  • Periodization is too complex and only for people in lab coats

These critique points may be true if your understanding of Periodization is limited to Periodization as a tactic. However, Periodization is fundamentally a strategy.

From my personal experience as a strength coach, author, and lecturer over the last 25 years, I have found it incredibly useful – even absolutely necessary – to distinguish between principles, strategies, and tactics in order to really understand a particular topic.

Thus, the purpose of this article is to

  • Highlight the difference between principles, strategies, and tactics as it applies to Periodization.
  • Show that you can reject any one example of Periodization as a tactic, but you cannot reject Periodization as a strategy (and this insight will be extremely helpful)

What is a principle?

A “principle” is a basic truth, law or assumption (thefreedictionary.com).  A first principle is a basic, foundational, self-evident proposition or assumption that cannot be deduced from any other proposition or assumption.

What could be deemed the first principle of athletic development? I recommend that you answer that in detail for yourself in a way that resonates with your work.

My background is strength and conditioning, not coaching a specific sport. Thus, here is a suggestion for the 1st Principle of  Athletic Development as centered on the physical side:

Optimal development of bio-motor abilities (physical qualities) to support the ability to practice and compete (the specific sport/s) – with maximal quality – at the desired level, at a given age.

You could say that a principle is vague. However, the above phrase invites critical questions and consequences:

  • What does optimal mean? It is the balance of all involved abilities that support the young athlete’s ability to practice and compete.
  • Supporting the ability to practice and compete with maximal quality implies prevention of injury and the nourishment of motivation, joy and confidence.

Thus, the 1st Principle defines the overall objective of our work as coaches.

How are we going to achieve this objective?

principle strategy tactic

Figure 1: The overarching task is defining the 1st Principle. The strategy is chosen to achieve the 1st Principle. Tactics are used to execute the strategy.

 

A Strategy is Chosen to Achieve the Objective That is Defined by the 1st Principle

A strategy is the larger, overall plan designed to achieve a major or overall aim. The strategy will be comprised of several tactics.  A strategy is broad, big-picture and future-oriented (1)

The training literature contains multiple but related definitions of Periodization. (2)  Fundamentally, the word periodization means “a division in to periods.”

If you do a web search with the word periodization, you will find books on sports training, history and geology.

Thus, “periodization” is a word similar to “categorization” (dividing items – for example, apples divided into categories) or classification (for example dividing athletes into age groups, levels or weight classes).

From the definition of periodization as a ‘division into periods” it becomes clear that, fundamentally, periodization is a strategy for organizing long-term training by dividing the training into shorter periods.

We can take this definition a step further and suggest a more training-specific definition of periodization:

“Periodization is a division of a longer training cycle into periods with different goals, structures, and content of the training program.  When these periods are sequenced in such a way that the training adaptations in one period prepare the athlete for the training in the next period, then the selected physical abilities are optimized at the goal-attainment date.”

The above definition highlights why periodization as a strategy is virtually unavoidable unless your training programs always:

  • Are geared toward the same training adaptation
  • Have the same structure
  • Have the same content

Tactics

Clearly, there are more decisions to be made before we have a finished program. These more detailed decisions are the “tactics.” The strategy can be executed with different tactics.  Tactics are plans, tasks, or procedures that can be carried out. Tactics may be part of a larger strategy.

So far, Linear Periodization, Reverse Linear Periodization, Undulating Periodization, and Block Periodization are the only systems that have been researched in controlled studies. These systems are all periodization tactics.

I have never seen a critique of periodization as a strategy. When I have seen a critique of periodization, the critique has been of a particular periodization tactic.

As a trainer, you can look at any one of those systems and decide whether or not they are not ideal tactics for the athletes that you work.

However, once you make that choice, you still have to decide how are you going to organize your long-term training?

Conclusion

This article described a hierarchy of 1st principles, strategy, and tactics. It made the argument that periodization is fundamentally a strategy. Yet, the critique of periodization is typically centered on tactics rather than principles or strategies.

A “next step” in exploring periodization is the question about how to divide the long-term period into shorter periods as well as a deeper look into the characteristics of the mentioned periodization systems.  More to come….

  1. https://www.diffen.com/difference/Strategy_vs_Tactic
  2. Jensen, K. Appendix 1. Periodization Simplified: How To Use The Flexible Periodization Method on the Fly. www.yestostrength.com

 

Karsten Jensen has helped world class and Olympic athletes from 26 sports disciplines since 1993. Many of his athletes have won Olympic medals, European Championships, World Championships and ATP Tournaments.

Karsten is the first strength coach to create a complete system of periodization, The Flexible Periodization Method – the first complete method of periodization dedicated to holistic, individualized and periodized (H.I.P) training programs.

Karsten shares all aspects of The Flexible Periodization Method (FPM) with his fellow strength coaches and personal trainers through The Flexible Periodization Method workshop series (Levels I-VIII).  Find more information at www.yestostrength.com

Eat Big…..To Get Big

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Eating Support for Skinny Dudes
By Kevin Haag, CSCS

Rule 1:  EATING IS PRIORITY #1.  No Crying and No Excuses Allowed.
You MUST Eat!  Whatever you want…and lots of it.  I am sorry if you are “Not Hungry” or “Too Busy”.  These are the same excuses skinny dudes have been using for years and no one cares.  The jacked guy across the gym, with all the girls sitting on his lap is actually happy you look like a twig.  Not only does he get all the chicks, but it won’t hurt him when he runs you over on the field.

Rule 2:  Lift Heavy and Lift OFTEN.  Oh – you don’t like the gym”, “Your hands hurt” Wa-Wa-Wa.
You are not going to stimulate muscle growth or build strength doing push-up unless someone stands on your back as you do them.  Your goal every day is adaptation!  Your body will adapt to the heavy load by building the muscles you need to move the load!

Eat Protein with every meal
Protein Rules

Calories & Gaining Muscle

Daily calorie intake is the amount of energy ingested from protein, carbohydrates, and fat. The basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the calorie load just to keep our metabolism running. Consuming additional calories is not an option, whether you are an athlete or a computer geek.   Stress, whether lifting, sports, school, relationships, family or work further bump up calorie needs.

A starting point to gain muscle is 20 calories per pound of bodyweight. For example, a 150-pound male would need, 3000-calories a day. To gain muscle weight, eat 6-8 meals each day. You will utilize nutrients better with smaller, more frequent meals.

Every meal should be rich in protein and high-quality carbs. For a weight gain diet, I recommend 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight from eggs, beef, chicken, turkey, fish and quality protein powders.  Fat intake should be about 20-25% of your calorie intake. Good sources of fat are olive oil, omega 3 supplements, canola oils, nuts, flaxseed oil or specially blended oils, and peanut butter.  A moderate amount of fiber is essential for muscle weight, optimizing digestion. A serving of oatmeal, green beans or steamed fibrous veggies will help.

Example:

150 lbs. Need 20 calories per/lb. = 3000 calories. Of that, protein intake is 300 g/day at 2 g/lb. This provides 1200 calories a day from protein (4 calories/g). If you eat 8 times a day, you should average 40 grams of protein each meal.

This eating schedule is for the after work/sports training:

 

  • 7:00 Breakfast
  • 10:30 Mid-Morning Snack
  • 1:00 PM Lunch
  • 4:00 Pre-Training Meal
  • 6:00 TRAINING
  • 7:30 Post-Training shake
  • 8:30 Post-post-training meal
  • 10:30 Bed snack/shake
  • 3:00 Mid-sleep shake, optional. Have this pre-made and if you get up to urinate, hey, eat more protein!

 

 

 

Your 7-8 Meals

  1. Breakfast: Oatmeal and Eggs, plus a Protein Shake.  Your body has just been catabolic for 4-9 hours without nutrients (depending on if you get up in the middle of the night). I recommend.  High Calorie, weight gainer with protein for an immediate influx of amino acids and sustained slow protein absorption.
  2. Mid-Morning: A protein snack. Bar or Jerky
  3. Pre-Workout: Believe it, this is an ideal time to dose up on protein. I recommend a big protein meal (50g) before training! This can be a protein shake, (as above) an egg omelet or even meat and it should be entering your muscle cell about the time when you are just finishing training!
  4. Post-Workout: Here again, give yourself a bigger protein dose (40g) of protein, consisting mostly of quickly absorbed proteins such as whey isolate /hydrolysate. (Ask your trainer for recommendations). This is the single most important time to get muscle fuel. You can also combine glutamine, BCAA and creatine (all powerful add-ons). Try to get it down within 30 minutes post-workout!
  5. Post-Workout Meal: After my post-workout protein shake, I drive home, shower and then immediately prepare a whole-food protein meal. For me, this is roughly an hour after my post-workout protein shake. This is a surge of slow protein. Steak, eggs, cottage cheese (a great source of casein), or lean grilled hamburger.
  6. Before Bed: Before bed is another crucial time to pound the protein. You want a slow protein, either in the form of an egg white or milk protein/casein). Adding some fats to your shake (in the form of added flax oil or half-and-half cream) will give you concentrated calories for growth.
  7. Middle Of The Night: If you choose to try a middle of the night feeding, go for a smaller but nutrient dense protein with some fat (once again, flax oil or cream) added and have it pre-made.

Besides calorie load, to gain maximum lean muscle, use proteins! Additional supplements can be glutamine, creatine, BCAA, omega 3 fats, liver and a vitamin-mineral supplement, in this order.

Three For Total Thunder!

1: Whey isolate and peptides.
Whey is a fast protein. It’s absorbed quickly. Use a whey protein that contains high-quality whey (isolate/hydrolysate/ high-quality concentrate). To make sure the whey concentrate is high quality, use a ranked company in PLANET MUSCLE because they all have been tested!

2: Micellar casein, caseinate proteins, milk protein isolates and egg protein.
Micellar casein and caseinate are slow proteins, a sustained source of amino acids for growth. Micellar casein or caseinates are great before bed, on an empty stomach and middle-of-the night protein. Egg white protein powder is also a moderately slow protein.

3: Glutamine Powder.
This cell-volumizing amino acid is also a potent muscle-builder. A healthy 5 to 10g dose once or twice a day will reinforce your immune system and dramatically decrease muscle breakdown.

 

What to Eat: The best foods to choose from:

 

Healthy Protein Sources

  • Pastured eggs, poultry, and pork
  • Wild caught seafood
  • Grass-fed meats such as beef and bison
  • Organic, grass-fed dairy products (preferably from goats and sheep, in limited amounts)

 

Healthy Carb Sources

  • Yams/ sweet potatoes / White potatoes / Red potatoes
  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Gluten free oats
  • All fruits
  • All vegetables

 

Healthy Fat Sources

  • Coconut oil, milk, butter
  • Ghee
  • Butter from grass-fed cows
  • Avocado
  • Olive oil
  • Fish oil
  • Red Palm Oil
  • Organic nuts (in limited amounts- e.. a serving here and there).
  • The fat that comes with the high-quality protein you consume is where the majority of our fat intake should come from.  Use the added fats above in small amounts.

 

What Not To Eat

  • Junk food
  • Sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Poison
  • Heroin

Preseason Basketball Training

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

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

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

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

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

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

preseason basketball workout

Preseason Basketball Workout

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

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

Here’s how to use the plan:

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Finally, stay consistent!

Day 1

1A) Barbell Rack Pulls – 3×6/8/10/12

1B) Broad Jump – 3×4/6/8/10

1C) Push-Up – 3×8/10/12/15

2A) Goblet Squat – 3×6/8/10/12

2B) Squat Jump – 3×4/6/8/10

2C) Chin-Up – 3×4/6/8/10

Day 2

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

1B) Skater Jump – 3×10/12/16/20

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

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

2B) Split Squat Jumps – 3×4/6/8/10

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

Day 3

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

1B) Bounding – 3×10/12/16/20

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

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

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

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

How To Increase Your Deadlift

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

 

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

deadlift snipped

Form

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

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

Foot position (stance width and foot angle)

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

Bar position relative to the shin

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

Grip Options

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

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

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

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

Deadlift grip pics

Hip position/height

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

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

deadlift hip height

Spinal Positioning

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

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

bad dead

deadlift spinal position

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

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

deadlift neck position

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

Shoulders

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

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

deadliftshoulderpositioning

Developing Maximum Strength 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

variable resistance

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

Other Factors to Consider

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

hip thrust

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

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

gripper

farmers

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

Capture

block and deficit

Methods

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

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

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

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

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

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

Partials – i.e block pulls or rack pulls

Extended ROM – i.e. Deficit deadlifts

Advanced

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

How Survival Instincts Drive Speed Development

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

 

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

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

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

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

Here are a few of my thoughts:

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

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

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

Repositioning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reactive Shuffle or Crossover

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

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

b. The coach will quickly point in either direction.

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

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

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

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

Shuffle

Partner Mirror

Crossover with Directional Step

Hip Turn to Crossover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are You Ready For Spring Sports

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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.

are-you-ready

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.

As always, K2 is here to help you get ready for the spring season!!  You can check out our schedule  at http://www.k2strength.com/schedule.html.

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.

Kevin Haag
908-803-8019 (Call or Text)