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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.

Developing Speed And Vertical Jump!

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By Kelly Baggett

One question I’m probably asked more than any other is, “What is the best exercise to improve my vertical jump?” Or, “What is the best exercise to improve my speed?” A lot of people think there’s some secret exercise or movement that will turn them into explosive superstars overnight. In truth, there is and that exercise is called consistency and hard work!

If you aren’t willing to put forth consistent effort no single exercise will give you what you want. Having said that, there are many quality exercises that will enable you to focus on the specific targets that your workouts must hit and save you gobbles of time in the process of achieving your performance goals.

In this article I’ll attempt to shed some light on these questions and help you avoid going round and round playing a game of pin the tail on the donkey searching for that elusive magic bullet. I’ll give you some of the top proven exercises for both speed and vertical jump improvement.

Instead of wasting your time I’ll break speed and leaping ability down and show you the exact qualities your workouts must target and then give you the secrets, or exercises, that will enable you to hit those targets and make the most of your training time.

A lot of you may wonder if the exercises to improve one area (speed or jump) work to improve the other. In fact, the ability to accelerate quickly and jump high correlate well with each other.

This is because the qualities of strength required are similar. In fact, due to this, you can many times get faster without running, and jump higher without jumping, as long as you’re enhancing the type(s) of strength required in each through your training regimen.

To prove this all you have to do is take a look around. Have you ever seen a good sprinter who can’t jump high and a good leaper who’s slow as molasses? Me neither.

First understand that there can’t be a single best exercise for everyone because different training has different effects and the type of strength that one person needs to improve his or her speed and jumping ability may be the opposite of what another needs. For example, someone who’s lacking in basic strength will get great results with common strength exercises such as the squat.

Another person might have plenty of strength, but not enough “spring”, so an exercise like depth jumps will be his best training tool while the squats will do far less.

Understand that different training means have different influences on speed and vertical jumping ability. Speed and jumping ability both require an athlete to display large amounts of power. If you’ve read the power training article you know that power is a combination of strength and speed.

POWER = STRENGTH X SPEED

When performing a sprint, you can think of power as the amount of force that you apply into the ground with each stride. Obviously the greater the force, the more ground you’re going to cover with each stride. This is what is responsible for your stride length. Your stride length is then combined with your stride frequency or the speed at which you cycle your legs when you sprint, to determine your running speed.

So, you can increase your speed by either increasing your stride length or increasing your stride frequency with the largest potential increases coming from an increase in stride length, where power is of utmost importance.

In the vertical jump, you can again think of power as the amount of force you put into the ground at toe-off, which is responsible for the speed at which you leave the ground and the height that you jump. The more power you apply with respect to your bodyweight – the higher you’re going to go – and with respect to technique – that’s about all there is to it!

TIME OF FORCE APPLICATION

Realize in a sprint you have anywhere from .10 to .20 seconds to apply maximal power with each foot-strike. As you accelerate you have about .20 seconds but as you gain top speed and your stride frequency increases your legs naturally move faster so you only have about .10 seconds when running at top speed.

In the vertical jump you only have about .20 seconds to apply max power. This is why the ability to jump high and the ability to accelerate quickly have such a good correlation.

STRENGTH QUALITIES

In order to display optimal levels of power you obviously must have good levels of strength and speed. This is influenced by the following strength qualities.

LIMIT STRENGTH

This is the amount of force you can apply irrespective of time. Limit strength can also be thought of as the strength of your muscles when speed of movement is of little consequence. Lifting maximal weights such as performing a 1 repetition max in the bench press or squat will test your limit strength capacity.

Attention should be paid to developing limit strength in the muscles of the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, lower back and calves, as these are the most important muscle groups for sprinting and jumping.

The muscles of the hip extensors should be given special attention because they are usually the weak links in the large majority of athletes. These muscles are the glutes, hamstrings and lower back.

EXPLOSIVE STRENGTH

Refers to the ability to develop max force in minimal time without the use of the plyometric stretch-reflex. Jumping from a paused position and sprinting out of the blocks both require nearly pure explosive strength because you don’t have the luxury of winding up and utilizing plyometric ability like you would if you took a big run-up before jumping or a lead-in to a sprint.

Explosive strength relies on starting strength, which is the ability to “turn on” as much force as possible in the first .03 seconds of movement.

In order to develop maximal force in minimal time you obviously must have enough raw force or strength to draw from or to tap into quickly. This is why limit strength serves as the foundation for explosive strength. A rocket capable of 100 pounds of force isn’t going anywhere!

REACTIVE STRENGTH

Is displayed when your muscle/tendon complex is stretched prior to contracting and is otherwise known as plyometric strength, reversal strength, reflexive strength, rebound strength etc. This type of strength is evident when you perform a quick countermovement (bend down) before jumping. You can jump a lot higher that way then you can by pausing and then trying to jump can’t you?

Here’s why. The countermovement quickly stretches the tendons throughout your lower body. This allows your muscles and tendones to gather energy and create recoil like a rubber band. This reflexive/reactive response occurs quickly whereas a voluntary response to muscle stretch would be too late. Reactive ability enhances the force you can generate in the first .10 seconds of movement by anywhere from 200-700%!

With each stride and foot contact of a sprint the same thing happens as your achilles tendon stretches and recoils back like a spring or rubber band. The stretching reflex responds to the speed at which your muscle/tendon complex is stretched prior to movement. Try to slowly bend down before jumping and you’ll see what I mean. The faster and greater the stretch the greater the corresponding reactive force.

This is why you’ll notice people with excellent leaping ability descend down quickly and sharply in their countermovement. They create greater force in one direction that can then be transformed into force in the other direction. When your reactive ability is good the more force you can take in the more force you can put out.

Guys with subpar leaping ability have a hard time utilizing reactive force in the hips and quads so they don’t perform the countermovement with near the velocity, smoothness and proficiency. Fortunately this can be improved.

Most of the force generated from reactive contractions is involuntary, that is, you don’t have to think about it. This is why you can bounce a lot more weight when doing a bench press then you can whenever you pause a maximum weight on your chest before lifting it – even without really trying to.

We tend to use reactive force naturally whenever we are given the opportunity to do so and do it without thinking about it. In fact, one of the ways you can improve reactive ability is simply to avoid screwing it up. It’s there naturally and all training should enhance it and not detract from it.

One of the ways you can screw it up is with bodybuilding style training – which basically teaches your body to do the reverse of what it’s programmed to do. This is going to go against what you’ve heard but cheating, bouncing and accelerating a weight through the sticking point are all natural occurences and utilize and enhance reactive ability. You can detract from this with an over-reliance on prolonged eccentric training and slow training.

So, to quickly recap, the power in the vertical jump and sprint come from a combination of explosive strength and reactive strength – with limit strength serving as the foundation for both. When you put the 3 together you get what is known as your static-spring proficiency. A static-spring proficient athlete is otherwise known as a spectacular athlete.

Think of basic strength as the unseen concrete foundation of a house and your reactive strength and explosive strength as the result of that foundation (your beautiful home) that everyone sees. In a static-spring proficient athlete you see the end result, the ease of movement, speed, and jumping ability, but you don’t necessarily “see” the foundation behind that.

If you’re someone without a solid foundation you must train with slow heavy weight strength exercises to build that foundation, along with using explosive strength and reactive strength exercises to enhance power or the display of your foundation.

If you are already fairly advanced then all you have to do is determine which part of your power pyramid is the weak link (limit strength, explosive strength or reactive strength), and address the deficiency accordingly.

Now I’ll break the training methods down into categories of limit strength exercises, explosive strength exercises, and reactive strength exercises and show you the top exercises from each category. Really there are countless exercises that are all effective, but these exercises will give you a lot of value for your training dollar.

LIMIT STRENGTH EXERCISES

The goal of limit strength exercises is to simply increase the force or strength producing capabilities of your muscles. Progress will be evident in the amount of weight you can move in basic movements. The goal here is not to try to necessarily “mimick” sports movements, but rather just to increase the contractual force producing capabilities of the muscles that are involved in the sporting movements.

Whenever you perform limit strength exercises the repetition scheme can vary, but in general, the total length of the set should be kept under 25 seconds.

Full Back Squat – There should be no real reason to have to describe this exercise but make sure you descend down to parallel or below. This exercise works all the major muscle groups we need for speed and leaping ability. Perform for 3-8 repetitions per set.

Deadlift – Simply load up a bar and bend down, grab the bar, and pick it up while keeping your back straight and using the power of your glutes and hamstrings to initiate the movement. Deadlifts are a superior strengthening exercise for the glutes and hamstrings and also develop whole body power through their influence on the traps, grip and upper back. For extra hip and hamstring recruitment try performing deadlifts with a wide grip while standing on a box. Perform 3-8 repetitions per set.

1/2 Deadlift – This is like the deadlift but instead of starting from the ground you place the bar in a power rack or on boxes set just below the knee level. Again grip the bar and keeping your back straight or arched concentrate on squeezing with your glutes and hamstrings to pull the bar up. It also helps if you think of yourself as a bull pawing the ground down and back with your feet. Your feet won’t actually move but thinking of this action will correct your form and make sure you place stress on the appropriate musculature.

Split Squat – This is basically a single leg squat, with the non-working leg elevated on a bench behind you. Perform this exercise by holding a dumbell in each hand or with a barbell on your back, descend until the back knee touches the floor and then explode back up to the start position. This exercises torches the glutes, hamstrings and vastus medialis while also developing flexibility in the hip flexors. Perform 5-15 repetions per set.

Good Morning – Start off in a squat position with a barbell on your back placed down low on your traps – next arch your back keep your chest up and push your hips back as far as possible. As you do this your upper body will descend forward and you will feel a stretch in your glutes and hamstrings. Dig down and back with your feet to rise to the starting position. Perform 5-10 repetitions per set.

Glute Ham Raise – If you don’t have a glute ham apparatus you can always do these the old-fashioned way. Find someone or something to hold your feet down while you place your knees on a pad of some sort. Next starting from the top arch your back, keep your chest out and control the downward descent. You will feel this extensively in the hamstrings. Next, try to pull yourself up with your hamstrings but assist yourself with your hands as much as you need. Perform 5-15 repetitions per set.

EXPLOSIVE STRENGTH EXERCISES

The goal of explosive strength exercises is to either perform the movement with more speed, or with more height. Generally, speed of movement, especially the beginning of the movement, is more important than the load involved when it comes to these exercises.

Explosive strength movements focus on developing maximal starting and explosive strength, without much involvement of the reflexive stretch-shortening cycle (reactive strength). They inherently make you focus on applying max voluntary force as quickly as possible.

Box Squat – Using a wide stance sit back on a box just below parallel and pause before each repetition. Use a load equivalent to 50-60% of your best back squat and explode up trying to use your hips and hamstrings. You can also execute these with bands and chains for added effect. Perform anywhere from 2-5 reps per set.

Paused Jump Squat – Use a load of 15-30% of your max squat. Descend down just above parallel, pause for 3 seconds and then jump as high as possible. Perform 5-10 reps per set.

Jump Shrug – This is a lead in to a clean or snatch movement. Starting from either the floor, or from the “hang” position, explode up initiating the movement with your legs and hips. As you extend your hips and start to leave the floor follow through by shrugging your shoulders up. Re-set in between reps. Perform 3-6 repetitions per set.

Clean And Snatch Variations – These movements are explosive by nature and in order to perform them correctly you must instantly be able to develop maximum force. They also heavily involve the hip extensors, which are key for speed and jumping ability. Explaining the movements is beyond the scope of this article but if you can perform them correctly you can work them into your program. Perform 2-5 reps per set.

Standing Broad Jumps – Simply jump as far out as you can for distance and try to have a mark to shoot for. Pause momentarily between repetitions. Perform 3-5 reps per set.

On-Box Jumps – Find a box, stand in front of it, and then jump onto it and then step off and repeat. You can challenge yourself 2 ways on these. Either jump onto a low box trying to bend the legs as little as possible, or find a high box that requires you to really give it all you’ve got. Perform 3-8 reps per set.

1-leg Split Squat Jumps – Stand to the side of a box with one leg on the box and the other leg on the ground. Next, quickly straighten the leg that’s on the box and attempt to elevate yourself as high as possible by pushing off with the lead leg. Pause momentarily between repetitions. Complete all the reps for one leg before moving on to the other leg. Vary the height of the box to focus on different areas. You can also add weight to these by holding light dumbells. Perform 5-10 repetitions per leg.

Hurdle Jumps – Line up a row of hurdles or other barriers and jump over them one after the other, pausing momentarily in between each repetition. If you only have one such hurdle or object you can simply jump then turn around and jump again etc. Perform 3-8 reps per set.

REACTIVE STRENGTH EXERCISES

The goal with the reactive strength exercises is to execute the movements with either less time spent on the ground or more height. Each exercise and repetition places a premium on stretching of the muscle-tendon complex, which will boost your reactive/reflexive capacities by increasing your ability to absorb force, stabilize force, and reflexively react to that force. These movements allow you to take advantage and build upon the reflexive forces that come from the plyometric effect.

Ankle Jumps – An ankle jump is performed jumping off of the ground in rhythm by just springing off your ankles. While you’re in the air you want to pull your toes up. You also must prevent your heels from ever touching the ground. The key to this exercise lies in your ability to keep your knees locked while jumping and landing on and off the ground, as well as spending the least amount of time on the ground as possible. Perform 20 reps per set.

Shock Jumps – Also known as depth landings or altitude drops. What you do here is find a box equivalent to about the height of your best vertical jump. Next, step off the box and upon contact instantly try to absorb the impact without any movement and without letting your heels touch the ground. Picture a gymnast landing from a vaulting maneuver. You want to land in a powerful, yet quiet manner. You can continue to increase the height of the box until you can no longer land smooth and quiet. You can perform these by landing in a slight knees bent position, or by landing in a deeper squat position. The more knee bend the more the hamstrings and glutes are involved. Reactive strength improves as the speed of stretch increases, so you can increase the effectiveness even more by attaching elastic bands to the ground which then attach to your belt. Perform 3 reps per set.

Depth Jumps – A depth jump is a carryover from a shock jump and is performed by stepping off the box and then exploding upward upon ground contact. Try to keep the ground contact time short. To find the correct height for you simply find the height that allows you to jump the highest. So if you jump 22 inches from a 12-inch box, 30 inches from an 18-inch box and 28 inches from a 24-inch box the 30-inch box would be the correct height. If you find you can actually jump higher from the ground then you can by preceding your jump with a depth jump then you need to spend some time engaging in shock jumps before you perform this exercise. An advanced form of depth jumps calls for attaching stretch-bands to your body to increase your velocity as you descend, and then having the tension released as you begin your jump. Recall that concentric force increases as the speed of the stretch increases. This is probably the ultimate reactive technique but is an advanced exercise. Perform 3 reps of depth jumps per set.

Reactive Squats – This is a rhythmic jump squat variation. From the upright squat position pull the bar securely down on your shoulders and quickly descend down into a 1/2 squat position and bounce back up attempting to jump. If you do the movement correctly you should feel a stretch on the muscles of your quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes as you absorb, stabilize, and react to the oncoming force. Use weight anywhere from 15-50% of your maximum squat. Perform 5-10 reps per set

Reverse Hyperextension – This movement works hip extension hitting the hamstrings, glutes, and spinal erectors all during the course of one rep. If you don’t have a reverse hyper device you can get backward in a back raise or glute-ham machine and apply load by placing a rope or chains strung through weights around your ankles. To initiate the movement raise your legs up to parallel. You should feel a strong contraction in your glutes and hamstrings. Next, quickly allow your legs and the weight to fall and then about 2/3 of the way down regather tension and explode back up. This creates a reactive contraction in the hip extensors. Perform 8-15 reps per set.

Sprints – Very few exercises are as inherently as reactive as sprints and if you’re wanting to increase your speed you’re going to need to work on your sprinting technique. I recommend you sprint with maximum speed only once per week. On one other day go out and warm-up and build up to about 70% of your max speed and work on some technique drills. Just don’t strain too much during your “easy” session. To increase your acceleration perform 3-5 sets of 3-5 30 yard sprints. To improve your maximum speed perform 3-5 sets of 3-5 60-yard sprints.

Vertical Jumps – There should be no real need to explain this one, but one of the best ways to improve your vertical jump is to practice vertical jumping! You can use the vertical jump in place of a reactive exercise. I like to use a “3-steps plus jump” approach. Find a high object you can use as a goal or mark to shoot for. Next take 3 quick steps, jump stop and attempt to touch the object. Perform 3 reps per set with maximum effort.

THE RECIPE FOR SUCESS

A surefire method to quick progress is very simple and consists of 3 things.

  1. Get your limit strength exercises heavier.
  2. Get your explosive strength exercises faster.
  3. Get your reactive strength exercises higher.

If you do all 3 of these you can’t help but improve at a phenomenol rate! If you do even one of them you will still notice substantial improvement.

STRUCTURING A ROUTINE

If you want an idea how to set up a convenient training split simply select one exercise from each category at each training session for a frequency of twice per week. Just make sure you have one weighted squat variation in either the limit strength or explosive strength category each workout.

Limit Strength Exercise

Pick 1 and perform 5-6 sets of whatever repetition scheme is outlined for the particular exercise.

Explosive Strength Exercises

Pick 1 and perform 6 sets of whatever repetition scheme is outlined for the particular exercise.

Reactive Strength Exercises

Pick 1 and perform 6 sets of whatever is listed for the particular exercise you choose.

If you wish to address certain deficiencies you can simply increase the volume for a particular strength quality. For example, if you know you’re strength deficient, instead of performing 1 limit strength exercise you might perform 2, and then only perform 1 reactive strength exercise and eliminate the explosive strength exercise. This will leave you with the same volume but a different training effect.

If you know you’re reactive deficient you can perform 2 reactive exercises along with 1 limit strength exercise and eliminate the explosive strength exercise.

These are just a few simple ways of incorporating these exercises. Any of these exercises can be incorporated into any training split with great efficiency and a big boost in your training economy, and I hope an even bigger boost in your training awareness.

You can contact us at K2 Strength and Conditioning with any question.

908-803-8019

Speed Exercises for Elite Athletic Performance

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The 10 Best Speed Exercises for Athletes

Todd Durkin -May 4, 2015

Improving speed should be a goal for every athlete. No matter what sport you play, being faster than your opponent can be the difference between winning and losing a championship. With that in mind, I’ve assembled a list of the 10 best speed exercises that will leave your rivals in the dust.

Although these are the best exercises for improving speed, they should not be the only exercises that you do. Be sure to have a total-body strength and conditioning program in place, as well as proper nutrition and recovery protocols, to maximize your results.

1. Power Clean or Clean Pull

To be fast, you need to be powerful. A good way to build power is by training the Power Clean (or any Olympic lift variation).

  • Starting with your feet hip-width apart, grab the bar with an overhand grip.
  • Keep your back flat and chest tall as you pull the bar off the floor.
  • After the bar passes your knees, sweep the bar into your hips (making contact at mid-thigh/the hip crease).
  • Aggressively extend your hips, knees and ankles to catapult the bar up to your shoulders.
If you cannot perform a clean correctly, replace it with a Clean Pull. A Clean Pull is a clean performed without catapulting the bar onto the shoulders (think Explosive Deadlift).

2. Squat

The Squat is one of the best exercises no matter what your goal is in the gym, so it’s an obvious pick for being one of the best for improving speed. There are many squat variations that are excellent choices. We will focus on the Barbell Back Squat.

  • Grab the bar with a grip that’s comfortable for your shoulders.
  • Unrack the weight, brace your abs and push your hips back to descend into the squat position.
  • Squat until your thighs are parallel (or slightly below parallel) to the ground or slightly below parallel.
  • Keep your knees in line with your toes, chest up and back flat as you push through your heels to stand up.

3. Deadlift

Like the Squat, the Deadlift is a clear choice for this list because it increases the amount of force you can put into the ground.

  • With your feet about hip-width apart, grasp the barbell with an overhand or over/under grip outside your knees.
  • Keep your chest up and back straight as you pull the bar off the floor by fully extending your hips.
  • Keep the bar close to your body throughout the lift.

4. Sled Push/Sprint

Incorporating sled work into your program is a great way to build strength and speed for sprinting. It’s especially valuable for accelerations because of the forward body angle. I recommend doing both heavy Sled Pushes and lighter Sled Sprints.

  • For a heavy push, load a sled with a weight that’s challenging to push for 10 to 20 yards.
  • Push the sled forward, keeping your elbows straight and your back flat.
  • For sled sprints, lighten the load to a weight that will allow you to sprint with the sled for 10-20 yards.
  • You can even pair both exercises in a contrast set.

5. Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat

Many athletic movements take place on one leg, including sprinting, so it’s a good idea to utilize single-leg exercises in your training. There are a ton of single-leg exercises to choose from, but my particular favorite is the Rear-Foot-Elevated Split Squat.

  • With dumbbells at your sides and your back foot elevated on a bench, squat while keeping a straight back and tall chest.
  • Push through your heel to extend your front knee and hip back to the starting position.

6. Single Leg Romanian Deadlift

The Single-Leg RDL is another great single-leg movement, but it focuses on your hamstrings and glutes, or your “go” muscles.

  • Hold two dumbbells in front of you, and balance on one leg.
  • Slightly bend the knee of the balancing leg and begin to push your hips back toward the wall behind you.
  • Be sure to maintain a flat back position as the dumbbells reach knee/shin level.
  • Extend your hips to go back to the starting position.

7. Broad Jump

No list of the best exercises for improving speed would be complete without some plyometrics. This move teaches your muscles to contract explosively, an essential trait of speed.

 

  • Set yourself up with feet hip-width apart.
  • Perform a quick counter movement by pushing your hips back to the wall.
  • Quickly extend your hips, knees and ankles to jump forward for distance.
  • Land softly in a squat position.

8. Single Leg Hurdle Jumps

Single-Leg Hurdle Jumps train quick single-leg movements and deceleration, important for multi-directional speed and quickness.

  • Standing on one leg, perform a quick counter squat and immediately extend your knee and hip to jump over the hurdle.
  • Land as softly as possible on the same leg.

 

Both the Broad Jump and Single-Leg Hurdle Jumps can be done by going into the next jump immediately after you land or by pausing yourself in between.

9. Depth Jumps

This is one of the best exercises to increase explosive power needed to sprint.

  • Stand on top of a bench or plyo box.
  • Step off the edge and immediately jump as you touch the ground.
  • The jump performed as you land can be a vertical jump or a broad jump.
  • Use a small to medium size box/bench to minimize the force that is absorbed when landing.
10. Pallof Press

Sprinting takes a tremendous amount of core stability, so it makes sense to involve core stability exercises in your training.

  • Set up the cable handle at chest level.
  • Take a few steps away from the machine to unrack the weight.
  • Press the handle away from your chest and hold it at arm’s length.
  • Pause for 3-5 seconds as you squeeze your abs to stabilize your torso.
  • Return the handle to your chest and repeat.
  • Complete the exercise on both sides.

True Functional Training for Lacrosse

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True “Functional” Training for Lacrosse

By Brian Yeager

The term “functional” training has become a very trendy method of training over the last few years. In both the fitness and sports conditioning fields, many so-called experts have stretched this idea to the point of my great amusement. I realized that the industry had gone over the edge when I attended a seminar and the speaker outlined how he trained a motocross racer to perform better off jumps on the track by having him leap onto boxes while swinging heavy dumbbells upward as if pulling on handlebars. Now I’m not a mechanic, but I’m pretty sure that the bike is largely responsible for the jumping part. So in this article, I would like to introduce some techniques I have used successfully with my athletes that have produced greater levels of “functional” performance.

All of us have seen the large Nordic men on ESPN pulling trains, throwing cars, and picking up small buildings. They are examples of what being truly strong looks like. If these men did not have “functional” strength, the would be quite incapable of performing in the events that they do so well. Over the last several years, modified exercises that closely emulate much of what they do have found their way into the strength and conditioning programs of progressive thinking coaches in a variety of sports. These training exercises provide greater levels of overall strength and conditioning as well as mental toughness and what I view as real core strength. You often hear about core strength in relationship to the abdominal region, but I feel that as an athlete, if your ankles, knees, and hips are not strong, you will be unable to generate force from the ground to reach the midsection. The strongman exercises do just that. Upon adding these to your training routine, you will feel much more powerful and grounded on the field and you will definitely notice the ability to display force over the course of a game.

The first exercises is the farmer’s walk. This is very simple to perform and I believe very underrated as a tool for improving sports performance. It will improve your anaerobic conditioning dramatically, increase grip strength, as well as strengthen the ligaments in your ankle and knees. The easiest way to do these is just by grabbing a really heavy pair of dumbbells and walking with them, either for distance or time. I suggest that if you are in great condition you use heavier dumbbells and aim for short distances with explosive speed. If you are really strong but are carrying around some extra insulation, you will benefit greatly from lighter weights and carrying them for distances anywhere from 50-100 yards. Two or three workouts of this a week, and you’ll be ripped in no time at all. When training the farmer’s walk, always look in the direction you are heading and take short, choppy steps. One variation you might want to try to increase abdominal strength is to use one dumbbell heavier than the other and alternate sides each set.

The next exercise is my favorite, sled dragging. The sled is an excellent tool for developing explosive leg strength and power. As with the farmer’s walk, it can also serve as a fantastic method for raising an athlete’s level of conditioning while improving strength levels. There are also many variations that can be done with the sled to work the upper body. The main two exercises that I use with my athletes are forward and backward sled dragging. Forward dragging with the sled attached via a belt around the waist really targets the hamstrings. You want to keep an upright posture and walk with powerful, driving steps. Using an attached rope, you can also drag the sled backwards. Driving explosively backwards, taking short steps, pull the sled backwards. I like to tell my athletes to visualize punching the ball of the foot into the ground. Again for stronger athletes in need of conditioning, this can be an excellent tool when used for moderate to longer distances of up to 100 yards. If your strength is lacking, load up the weight and go for explosive pulls of no more than 20-30 yards. I purchase my sleds from EliteFTS.com as they have been using them with athletes for years and make a sturdy, durable product that should last for a long time. One other variation that I like to use with my players is lateral sled dragging. You can purchase two dog collars at your local pet store and attach them to the dragging rope that comes with the sled. Putting the collars around your ankles, you can pull the sled sideways stepping first with the outside foot and them with the inside leg. This will improve your ability to explode laterally past your opponents or stay in front of them when on defense.

Next, we are going to discuss improving balance and core stabilization. I promise that you will not be required to stand on one leg while juggling lacrosse balls. The strongman event that is my favorite for improving these qualities is the Super Yoke. If you can picture that yoke that farmer’s used to use to carry heavy buckets of water, you’ve got the right idea. Because the weights will begin to sway as you walk, you can see right away how this would work the core and your ability to stay vertical. There are many ways to utilize this implement including intentional stopping and starting, moving side to side, and backwards. One of the most challenging drills with the Super Yoke is to set up a slalom course and have your athletes manipulate the course, either for time or distance. The Yoke is a good tool for correcting strength imbalances in the legs.

And now the king of all strongman events, tire flipping. I have found no better tool for developing explosive strength in my athletes, regardless of their sport than with a good old hunk of rubber. Tire flipping is an excellent tool for conditioning during intensification and accumulation phases of training. Tire flipping has a great transfer of power to most combative sports, and the last time I checked, lacrosse falls into that category. When flipping tires, be sure to focus on driving through the tire explosively, rather than trying to deadlift it. With the tire lying on its side, position the feet about one foot away from the tire. You should feel like you’re falling into the tire. Your grip width will depend on the tread, but the wider your hands are positioned, the higher your hands will be on the tire when you flip it up on end. Have your chest pressed against the tire with your chin resting on top. Then, imagine driving the tire up and forward at a forty-five degree angle. Your shoulders and hips should rise at the same time. If not, then the load is too high. Perform the movement as explosively as possible to build that ability to crush an attacker on defense or blow by a stunned defensive player en route to the goal. Make sure to use cleats when training on grass and be careful that if you miss a lift, the tire does not fall back on the knees. If you need to develop strength, use heavier tires and perform a high number of sets for low reps. If you want to improve strength endurance, use a smaller tire and go for distance or time.

As far as periodization goes, I like to use strongman training in two different ways. At the very beginning of an athlete’s general physical preparation, these exercises serve as a great tool for building overall conditioning and stamina. In this case, you would keep the loads relatively low and use an accumulation of either distance or reps. This will improve your anaerobic conditioning and tolerance to lactic acid. When used closer to the season, keep the volume load and slow build intensity to maximize your ability to display your hard earned strength on the field. You can choose two exercises and perform one of them every five days on a alternating schedule. For example, on Monday you could do the Farmer’s Walk and on Friday, flip tires. Change up the movements every 3 weeks to avoid plateauing and keep yourself mentally fresh. These drills are very taxing and the last thing you want is to dread the workouts due to boredom. Try incorporating these exercises into your off-season training and I can guarantee you will see and feel a difference on the field. And more importantly, so will your opponents. Remember, train hard or go home.

Prevent Knee Pain…Now

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When spring sports starting TOMORROW, I figured I would give you a few exercises to help strengthen your knee joint.  We ask a lot from our knee joint. It’s a movement stabilizer that connects the foot and ankle to the core. Knee pain can limit movement and reduce mobility and agility and lead to injury.

Too many corrective knee exercises focus on strengthening the VMO—the teardrop muscle on the inside of the knee. But the VMO actually plays only a small role in controlling movement of the kneecap. You really need a mix of exercises that strengthen both your hips and your thighs.

Try the following exercises to develop a strong and stable knee for all activity.

Single-Leg Squats (Figures 1a and 1b) and balance exercises (Figure 2) work the gluteus medius, the muscle just above your hip bone. When this muscle is weak, the knees fall inward and put stress on the inside of the knee joint.

 

Single-Leg Squat

Single-Leg Squat – Figures 1a and 1b

 

Balance Exercise

Balance Exercise – Figure 2

Supine Bridge (Figure 3) and different Lunges strengthen the extensors such as the gluteus maximus and hamstrings—important muscles used in acceleration movements like running. Lunges also put the body in a similar position during deceleration. These will make you more athletic during cutting and changing direction activities.

 

Supine Bridge

Supine Bridge – Figure 3

Reactive Neuromuscular Training is a technique that requires a high level of body awareness. AnInline Lunge with low-resistance tubing (Figures 4a and 4b) basically tells your body to correct bad movement habits. Use resistance that gives you the feedback without fighting the exercise.

 

Inline Lunge with Resistance Tubing

Inline Lunge with Resistance Tubing – Figures 4a and 4b

References:

Kushion D, Rheaume J, Kopchitz K, Glass S, Alderink G and Jinn JH.  “EMG activation of the Vastus Medialis Oblique and Vastus Lateralis during four rehabilitative exercises.” The Open Rehabilitation Journal (2012): 5, 1-7

Cook G, Burton L, Kiesel K, Rose G, Bryan M. “Anatomical Science versus Functional Science Movement.” Functional Movement Systems (2010).

Why Eat Breakfast

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Yes, you will live without it, but why? Why would you do something, or in this case…..not do something that is healthy and improves every aspect of your life. The few times I didn’t feed my girls breakfast, not only did they pay dearly, every teacher, parent and friend also suffered the wrath!

 

You say you can’t stand breakfast.  Well, I will bet my liver that not feeling the need for breakfast is indicative of other lifestyle problems, such as eating large meals late at night or snacking throughout the evening, which would make anyone opposed to eating breakfast in the morning.

 

I have seen the benefits of instituting a regular breakfast habit after years of skipping. It takes lots of discipline to make it part of a daily schedule, but it is really not an option if you want to life the best life possible.

 

You may have heard the old saying, “Eat like a king at breakfast, a prince at lunch, and a pauper at supper.” The idea behind it is that your body and brain need nutrients to function, and by literally ‘breaking the fast’ in the morning, you’re fueling your body to take on the day. If you care to read what you already know, I have listed a few benefits and studies to help motivate you to wake up!

 

Better academic performance: 
Thousands of studies showed that those who ate breakfast had better grades, perform better and are more likely to graduate.

 

Healthy body weight: 
Skipping breakfast makes it more likely for a person to crave snack foods later in the day and eat a disproportionately large supper. An article in the American Journal of epidemiology showed that people who skip breakfast are 4.5 times more likely to be obese.

 

Better food choices: 
Breakfast is a good opportunity to take in important nutrients such as calcium, potassium, and fiber. It also sets a good nutritional tone for the rest of the day. A person who skips breakfast eats 40 percent more sweets, 55 percent more soft drinks, 45 percent fewer vegetables, and 30 percent less fruit.

 

Happier disposition: 
Breakfast-skippers are grumpier.  Hungry kids are apathetic and irritable when confronted with challenges at school. Skipping breakfast often makes a person feel tired, which affects one’s mood.

 

Healthier all around: 
Eating breakfast reduces likelihood EVERY DESEASE!  Type 2 diabetes, brain disorders, cardiovascular disease, according to Dr. Mark Pereira of Harvard Medical School. A study in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people who eat breakfast also have better cholesterol levels and aren’t as sensitive to insulin, WHICH MEANS LESS FAT-STORAGE. High-energy breakfast foods might help with short-term memory, according to the Journal of Adolescent Health.

 

The important thing is to find what kind of healthy breakfast works for you. Whether you stick with the traditional cereal or oatmeal, or go ‘Paleo’ with high-fat nuts, eggs, fruit, and meat to avoid the insulin spike that comes from eating bread, or even drink a simple protein-based shake, (I personally do all 3), it’s a good idea to get something in your belly to start your day off right. Just keep away from that sugar and white bread!

 

Creatine Myths

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Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid-like compound used by tens of thousands of athletes worldwide to increase their strength, power, muscle mass and explosive performance.

Despite this, creatine is still shrouded in mystery and rife with misinformation—often thanks to irresponsible journalism and media hyperbole. So, buckle up. Your previous notion of creatine is about to be blown out of the water.

Myth: Creatine is just for weightlifters and football players.

Athletes competing in sports like soccer, hockey, lacrosse and basketball can benefit from creatine, as it has been shown to reduce fatigue during repeated bouts of intense exercise. Even endurance athletes can benefit from low-dose creatine supplementation (3-5 grams per day), because it helps muscles store more glycogen, a readily available source of energy.

Myth: Creatine causes muscle cramps, pulls, strains, kidney damage and dehydration.

Not a single placebo-controlled, double-blind study of healthy athletes has ever demonstrated that creatine consumption produces these effects. In a three-year study of Division I football players, the incidence of muscle cramps, pulls/strains, tightness and dehydration was generally lower (or no different) in players taking creatine compared to those not using it.

As a side note, if you frequently cramp, eat foods rich in magnesium, potassium and sodium (especially on the day of the event), and stay hydrated.

Myth: Creatine is just for muscles.

Simple logic: creatine is found mostly in meats, so if you don’t eat meat regularly—or (gulp) not at all—you will have sub-optimal levels of creatine in your muscles and brain. According to an Australian study, vegetarians given 5 grams of creatine per day for six weeks experienced notable improvements in working memory and intelligence after the “deficiency” was corrected. In addition, at least one study suggests that creatine can improve the mood states of people who are sleep-deprived.

Also, recent research at Yale University’s School of Medicine demonstrates that creatine increases the overall energy capacity of the brain. Since a concussion often leads to a temporary alteration in the energy metabolism of the brain, athletes who supplement with creatine may reduce the severity of, and/or improve their recovery from, a concussion.

Personally, my kids use creatine and fish oil as their “nutritional headgear” during their football and soccer seasons.

Myth: Creatine monohydrate has not been studied for long-term safety.

Since 1992, hundreds of studies have been published demonstrating the safety of creatine monohydrate supplementation. My personal favorite is Creapure, which I take immediately after I work out (I take 5 grams along with a post-workout meal or shake). Use any other type of creatine that is claimed to be “superior”—for example, creatine ethyl ester, creatine malate, creatine citrate, creatine orotate—and you’re swimming in uncharted waters with no long-term safety data (insert Jaws soundtrack).

References:

  1. Greenwood M., Kreider R.B., Melton C., Rasmussen C., Lancaster S., Cantler E., Milnor P., Almada A. “Creatine supplementation during college football training does not increase the incidence of cramping or injury.” Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, 2003 Feb;244(1-2):83-8.
  2. Rae, C., Digney, A., McEwan, S., Bates, T. “Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial.” Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 2003 October 22; 270(1529): 2147–2150.
  3. McMorris T., et al. “Effect of creatine supplementation and sleep deprivation, with mild exercise, on cognitive and psychomotor performance, mood state, and plasma concentrations of catecholamines and cortisol.” Psychopharmacology (2006) 185: 93-103.
  4. Pan, J.W and Takahashi, K. “Cerebral energetic effects of creatine supplementation in humans.” American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. 2007 April ; 292(4): R1745–R1750.