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Strength and Conditioning

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)

 

A Low Carb Diet Meal Plan and Menu That Can Save Your Life

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A low-carb diet is a diet that restricts carbohydrates, such as those found in sugary foods, pasta and bread. It is high in protein, fat and healthy vegetables.

There are many different types of low-carb diets, and studies show that they can cause weight loss and improve health.

This is a detailed meal plan for a low-carb diet. What to eat, what to avoid and a sample low-carb menu for one week.

A Low Carb Diet Meal Plan

What foods you should eat depends on a few things, including how healthy you are, how much you exercise and how much weight you have to lose.

Consider all of this as a general guideline, not something written in stone.

The Basics

Eat: Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, high-fat dairy, fats, healthy oils and maybe even some tubers and non-gluten grains.

Don’t Eat: Sugar, HFCS, wheat, seed oils, trans fats, “diet” and low-fat products and highly processed foods.

Foods to Avoid

You should avoid these 7 foods, in order of importance:

  • Sugar:Soft drinks, fruit juices, agave, candy, ice cream and many others.
  • Gluten Grains:Wheat, spelt, barley and rye. Includes breads and pastas.
  • Trans Fats:“Hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils.
  • High Omega-6 Seed- and Vegetable Oils:Cottonseed-, soybean-, sunflower-, grapeseed-, corn-, safflower and canola oils.
  • Artificial Sweeteners:Aspartame, Saccharin, Sucralose, Cyclamates and Acesulfame Potassium. Use Stevia instead.
  • “Diet” and “Low-Fat” Products:Many dairy products, cereals, crackers, etc.
  • Highly Processed Foods:If it looks like it was made in a factory, don’t eat it.

You MUST read ingredients lists, even on foods labelled as “health foods.”

Low Carb Food List – Foods to Eat

You should base your diet on these real, unprocessed, low-carb foods.

  • Meat:Beef, lamb, pork, chicken and others. Grass-fed is best.
  • Fish:Salmon, trout, haddock and many others. Wild-caught fish is best.
  • Eggs:Omega-3 enriched or pastured eggs are best.
  • Vegetables:Spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and many others.
  • Fruits:Apples, oranges, pears, blueberries, strawberries.
  • Nuts and Seeds:Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
  • High-Fat Dairy:Cheese, butter, heavy cream, yogurt.
  • Fats and Oils:Coconut oil, butter, lard, olive oil and cod fish liver oil.

If you need to lose weight, be careful with the cheese and nuts because they’re easy to overeat on. Don’t eat more than one piece of fruit per day.

Maybe Eat

If you’re healthy, active and don’t need to lose weight then you can afford to eat a bit more carbs.

  • Tubers:Potatoes, sweet potatoes and some others.
  • Non-gluten grains:Rice, oats, quinoa and many others.
  • Legumes:Lentils, black beans, pinto beans, etc. (If you can tolerate them).

You can have these in moderation if you want:

  • Dark Chocolate:Choose organic brands with 70% cocoa or higher.
  • Wine:Choose dry wines with no added sugar or carbs.

Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants and may provide health benefits if you eat it in moderation. However, be aware that both dark chocolate and alcohol will hinder your progress if you eat/drink too much.

Drink

A Sample Low-Carb Menu for One Week

This is a sample menu for one week on a low carb diet plan.

It provides less than 50 grams of total carbs per day, but as I mentioned above if you are healthy and active you can go beyond that.

proteinrules

 

Monday

  • Breakfast:Omelet with various vegetables, fried in butter or coconut oil.
  • Lunch:Grass-fed yogurt with blueberries and a handful of almonds.
  • Dinner:Cheeseburger (no bun), served with vegetables and salsa sauce.

Tuesday

  • Breakfast:Bacon and eggs.
  • Lunch:Leftover burgers and veggies from the night before.
  • Dinner:Salmon with butter and vegetables.

Wednesday

  • Breakfast:Eggs and vegetables, fried in butter or coconut oil.
  • Lunch:Shrimp salad with some olive oil.
  • Dinner:Grilled chicken with vegetables.

Thursday

  • Breakfast:Omelet with various vegetables, fried in butter or coconut oil.
  • Lunch:Smoothie with coconut milk, berries, almonds and protein powder.
  • Dinner:Steak and veggies.

Friday

  • Breakfast:Bacon and Eggs.
  • Lunch:Chicken salad with some olive oil.
  • Dinner:Pork chops with vegetables.

Saturday

  • Breakfast:Omelet with various veggies.
  • Lunch:Grass-fed yogurt with berries, coconut flakes and a handful of walnuts.
  • Dinner:Meatballs with vegetables.

Sunday

  • Breakfast:Bacon and Eggs.
  • Lunch:Smoothie with coconut milk, a bit of heavy cream, chocolate-flavored protein powder and berries.
  • Dinner:Grilled chicken wings with some raw spinach (salad) on the side.

Include plenty of low-carb vegetables in your diet. If your goal is to remain under 50 grams of carbs per day, then there is room for plenty of veggies and one fruit per day.

If you want to see examples of some of my go-to meals, read this:
7 Healthy Low-Carb Meals in Under 10 Minutes.

Again, if you’re healthy, lean and active, you can add some tubers like potatoes and sweet potatoes, as well as some healthier grains like rice and oats.

Some Healthy, Low-Carb Snacks

There is no health reason to eat more than 3 meals per day, but if you get hungry between meals then here are some healthy, easy to prepare low-carb snacks that can fill you up:

  • A Piece of Fruit
  • Full-fat Yogurt
  • A Hard-Boiled Egg or Two
  • Baby Carrots
  • Leftovers From The Night Before
  • A Handful of Nuts
  • Some Cheese and Meat

Eating at Restaurants

At most restaurants, it is fairly easy to make your meals low carb-friendly.

  1. Order a meat- or fish-based main dish.
  2. Ask them to fry your food in real butter.
  3. Get extra vegetables instead of bread, potatoes or rice.

A Simple Low-Carb Shopping List

A good rule is to shop at the perimeter of the store, where the whole foods are likelier to be found.

Organic and grass-fed foods are best, but only if you can easily afford them. Even if you don’t buy organic, your diet will still be a thousand times better than the standard western diet.

Try to choose the least processed option that still fits into your price range.

  • Meat (Beef, lamb, pork, chicken, bacon)
  • Fish (Fatty fish like salmon is best)
  • Eggs (Choose Omega-3 enriched or pastured eggs if you can)
  • Butter
  • Coconut Oil
  • Lard
  • Olive Oil
  • Cheese
  • Heavy Cream
  • Sour Cream
  • Yogurt (full-fat, unsweetened)
  • Blueberries (can be bought frozen)
  • Nuts
  • Olives
  • Fresh vegetables: greens, peppers, onions, etc.
  • Frozen vegetables: broccoli, carrots, various mixes.
  • Salsa Sauce
  • Condiments: sea salt, pepper, garlic, mustard, etc.

I recommend clearing your pantry of all unhealthy temptations if you can: chips, candy, ice cream, sodas, juices, breads, cereals and baking ingredients like wheat flour and sugar.

Foam Rolling for Athletes

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by Michael Boyle, MS, ATC

anna-on-roller
Anna working on spine mobility

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.

Some Specifics

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.

Assessing Effectiveness

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.

6 Amazing Exercises that Will Improve Athletic Speed

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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

g. More…

Yours in Speed,
Lee Taft