Youth Fitness

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.

Agility Training For Athletic Performance

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INTRODUCTION

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Is A.M. The Best Time To Exercise?

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A.M. is the best time to exercise?

By Kevin Haag, Fitness Consultant

 

When is the best time to exercise? Whenever you can make time to exercise is the best time. For some people, it’s nearly impossible to find the time to exercise at all, and for others there’s no way they can break a sweat until the evening. But if a.m. exercise may be an option, I’ve got five reasons why working out in the morning is best.

It’s a fact that burning 500 calories at6 a.m.is no different from burning the same amount at6 p.m.So what difference does it make what time you choose to do your workout?

For you night owls out there, working out in the evening may be the best thing for you, but for the majority of people looking to get in shape, the morning looks a lot brighter for making true gains in your fitness and weight loss goals.

Why? Well, for these sensible reasons:

 

Consistency

As the day goes on you get busier and busier and your schedule can easily change, leaving you no time for exercise. How many times has that happened to you? Probably more often that not.

Get your workout out of the way by doing it first thing in the morning and you can be flexible to any changes that may pop up during your day. This way, you’ll have no excuses for not exercising, because you’ve already done it before your day got hectic. This means you’re more likely to exercise every day, helping you to be consistent with your workouts for lasting results.

Metabolism Boost
Start your day out right and you’ll reap the benefits all day long. Morning exercise will rev up your metabolism, helping you to burn more calories all throughout the day.

Ever notice that after you work out for awhile you actually feel like you have more energy than when you were taking it easy?

That’s because your metabolism kicks in and feeds your body a consistent stream of energy all day long. You would be burning more calories while reading this if you had only worked out this morning.

Healthy Routine

Your body craves routine! Waking up at the same time every day to get your workout in helps your body to regulate many different functions for optimal performance all day long. It’s known as your circadian clock, and everyone has one.

This “clock” is really the routine that your body is set to. It takes time and practice to change this internal clock, so don’t expect to be waking up cheery at first if you’re trying to wake up earlier to exercise.

As you get up earlier on a consistent basis, your body will adapt and you’ll find that it’s not as difficult to wake up at5:30 a.m.as you thought it would be. In fact, you’ll probably end up waking up at the same time every morning without an alarm clock.

Research has also shown that your body is better able to prepare for the day ahead when your sleeping routine is consistent.

Smarten Up!
Have an important meeting with the boss today? A big, scary test at school today? Exercising in the morning gets the blood flowing to your brain, circulating precious nutrients and oxygen-rich blood to your various organs. More oxygen to your brain gives you a mental boost, helping you to stay focused all day long.

Don’t let morning fog stop you from getting that promotion, or getting an A on that test. Get up, get moving and get what you want out of your day

 

You Will Look Great and Feel AWESOME!
Your body will thank you, and so will your mirror. Exercise is not only healthy for your heart; it’s also great for an ego-boost. With consistent exercise you will shed unwanted pounds that have plagued you for years, giving you a new outlook on life.

And what better way to start your day than knowing you’re doing your body good?

What’s Your Fitness Style?

Some people find it easy to set the alarm clock for4:30 a.m.and jump out of bed for a five-mile run, while others hit the snooze button so many times that the chance of a morning workout becomes obsolete. There are specific aspects of your personality that determine what kind of exerciser you are, so if you’ve found yourself in a fitness rut it’s time to put your unique interests back into the equation.

Kevin Haag is a Fitness Trainer and Consultant with the K2Performance Team, and is the founder of Summit Fitness Adventure Boot Camps. You can reach Kevin at 908-803-8019 or http://www.LiveK2.com

Your Metabolism and YOU

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Take Charge of Your Metabolism

“Love the one your with” That would be you!  You have to live with yourself 24/7/365.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you loved everything about yourself?  

If you are reading this, you have the ability to control almost everything about your life.  What you spend your days doing, who you hang out with, what you eat, what you do for activities.  The greatest thing about being you is you hold the key to happiness!  So if you complain once today, then you need to take a long look in the mirror.

Ok…Let me focus on 1 thing we all have control over – Our metabolism.

 Do you ever wonder how your friend can eat whatever he/she wants and not gain a pound, while you seem to gain weight by simply looking at food? The answer is in your metabolism—the way your body burns up all the calories from food.

Some people have a fast metabolism which helps keep weight off, and others have a slow metabolism, putting on weight very quickly. The good news is metabolic rate can be altered, and even sped up.

What is Metabolism?
Metabolism is the rate at which your body’s internal engine operates as it performs its bodily functions. The largest component of your metabolism, approximately 70%, is your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is how many calories you burn just sitting around. In other words, it is the energy used by your body to perform basic functions, such as breathing, keeping the heart beating and maintaining body temperature. As you age, your BMR decreases. Basal metabolic rates differ from person to person due to:

Genetics: A slow metabolism (you burn calories more slowly) or fast metabolism (you burn calories faster) can be inherited.

Amount of lean muscle: Muscle burns calories faster than fat. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even at rest.

Sex differences: Males generally have a 10 to 15% faster BMR than females because the male body has a larger percentage of lean muscle tissue.

Age: Younger people have faster metabolisms due to increased activity of cells.

Other components of your metabolism include physical activity, which accounts for about 20% of calories burned, and dietary thermogenesis, which is the number of calories required for digesting and processing the food you eat. This accounts for the remaining 10% of energy needs.

How Does This Affect My Weight?
Simply put, your metabolism affects weight management because it determines how many calories you need per day. If you have a high BMR (fast metabolism) it takes a lot of calories for your body to function; eating calorie-laden foods may not pack on the pounds for you. On the other hand, if you have a low BMR (slow metabolism), your body needs fewer calories to function. Unfortunately, for your sluggish metabolism, eating calorie-laden foods will result in weight gain.

How Can I Jump-Start my Body’s Metabolic Engine?
Follow these tips to naturally boost your metabolism:

Eat Breakfast. Breakfast is truly the most important meal of the day, especially for you weight loss seekers. Research shows that those who eat breakfast lose more weight than those who skip breakfast. Your metabolism slows down while you sleep and it doesn’t speed back up until you eat again. If you don’t eat until lunchtime, your body won’t burn as many calories as it could during the morning period. Kick start your day with a balanced breakfast such as omega-3 eggs and toast or a protein shake.

Eat smaller meals throughout the day. Eating five or six smaller meals rather than three large meals helps to keep your metabolism revved up! It also helps to fill you up over the course of the day, making a binge session less likely.

Don’t starve yourself. Fasting, cutting calories and skipping meals will all help put weight ON not OFF. Your body needs a certain number of calories to function. If you don’t meet this need, your body will switch into survival mode, slow down the metabolism and promote the storage of energy (calories) in the form of fat to protect itself from starvation. Be sure get the proper number of calories for an optimal metabolism.

Exercise. Both cardiovascular exercise and weight training help to improve metabolic rate and keep weight off. Cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, running, biking, swimming and aerobics, allows your body to burn a lot of calories at one time. Weight training will increase muscle mass, which burns more calories than body fat. Weight training also puts the metabolism into overdrive, so your burn calories for up to two hours after the workout.

Drink Green Tea. Research shows that green tea appears to increase metabolic rate and speed up fat oxidation. Compounds in green tea, catechin polyphenols, appear to speed up the rate at which calories are burned and therefore increase overall energy expenditure leading to weight loss!

Drink water. Not drinking enough water can slow down your metabolism. Be sure to drink at least six to eight glasses of water per day. Add a lemon slice to water for a tangy, fresh taste.

Take Supplements.  If you use make-up to look better, supplements can probably do a lot more for your appearance.  Even ugly pants look better on a nice pair of legs. The Supplement market is 50 Billion because they do work!   Visit www.khaag.getprograde.com

Eat hormonally balanced meals.  Eating in hormonal balance includes:

  • Energy-dense carbohydrates, such as whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruits that contain fiber to help regulate your metabolism by having less impact on insulin levels.
  • High quality protein, such as fish, poultry, lean meats, soy, tofu and lowfat dairy products to help build metabolism-boosting muscle mass.
  • Essential fats for good health such as olive oil, avocado and nuts.

Ask for Help.
You can contact me, Kevin Haag, with any questions you have.  I spend my days researching and practicing this stuff, so I can bombard you with enough emails to make you not want to eat.