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Youth Performance Training

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

FAST FOODS for High Performance Athletes

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Fast Foods – 10 Eating Rules

  1. START YOUR DAY AT THE FUEL PUMP

When you wake up in the morning, your body hasn’t received any nutrients for roughly eight hours. Trying to perform without eating breakfast is like a NASCAR driver trying to win the Daytona 500 on an empty tank—it simply isn’t possible.

An ideal breakfast for an athlete delivers a balance of carbs (your muscles’ preferred fuel source), protein and healthy fats. If you don’t have an early workout, you can go big at breakfast. Opting for something like a veggie omelet accompanied with peanut butter on whole wheat toast, a piece of fruit, yogurt, and oatmeal with berries and nuts, can kick-start your day. But even if you do have a morning training session, you should still eat something. A banana with peanut butter or an apple and string cheese are light snacks that can help your body wake up and give you a boost heading into the gym.

  1. TOP OFF THE TANK BEFORE YOUR WORKOUT

What you eat in the two-hour window before your training can have a huge impact on your performance. Not eating at all is one of the biggest mistakes you can make, because training on a completely empty stomach often results in the wheels coming off in the middle of a workout. But if you chow down on the wrong things, your body will be stuck in park when you need to be in drive.

Fuel up with a snack or small meal one to two hours prior to your workout so your body is primed to perform. Your focus should be on taking in simple, easily digested carbs—which your body uses for fuel. (For examples of simple and complex carbs, see the sidebar “Fueling Field Guide: Simple Vs. Complex Carbohydrates” on page 15.

  1. REFILL THE TANK AFTER YOU TRAIN

Your workout isn’t finished when you walk out of the gym or off the track. Training, especially strength training, breaks down the muscles in your body so they can grow stronger and more powerful later. Following an intense workout, the goal is to switch your body into muscle-building mode (called the anabolic state) by consuming nutrients that will help repair muscle fibers, making them thicker and stronger. The ideal way to do this is to eat within a half-hour of the end of your workout. (You definitely don’t want to wait longer than an hour.)

A good post-workout snack provides you with 4 grams of carbohydrates for every gram of protein it delivers. Many post-workout shakes deliver this ratio, making them a convenient way to get the nutrients you need to stimulate muscle growth. Aim to consume 20 grams of protein and 80 grams of carbohydrates following activity.

  1. MAKE PIT STOPS EVERY THREE HOURS

The “three-meals-a-day” schedule isn’t ideal for athletes, who tend to have higher metabolisms and burn through calories fast. Instead, eat four to six small meals and snacks throughout the day, aiming to take in a balance of all three macronutrients—carbs, proteins and fat—at every meal. This approach will provide you with more sustained energy throughout the day and ensure you’re getting the amount of nutrients you need without having to stuff your face at a single sitting.

  1. CRUISE WITH CARBS

Carbs are your main source of fuel during exercise. Having too few carbs in your system will leave you feeling like you’re moving under water—slow and plodding instead of fast and explosive. Broadly speaking, carbs come in two forms: simple and complex. Complex carbs, which break down slowly and provide a long-lasting energy supply, typically come from whole plant foods. These carbs are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, and confer a huge number of long-term health benefits, including a lowered risk of obesity and disease. Simple carbs tend to be high in sugar but low in nutrients and fiber. Your body digests them faster, so they deliver energy very quickly.

FUELING FIELD GUIDE: SIMPLE VS. COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES Complex carbs take your body longer to break down than simple carbs, which makes them a good choice for long-lasting, sustainable energy with no crashes throughout the day. Simple carbs are a better choice shortly before a workout, when they can give your body a blast of easy energy to help power you through your training session, or immediately after training when they can help quickly refuel your muscles. Eating simple carbs at other times throughout the day isn’t a great idea, however, because they induce fat storage. Opt for simple carbs if you’re within 30 to 60 minutes of a workout and complex carbs throughout the rest of the day.

Complex Carbs include:  Whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa and oats Foods like pasta, breads and cereals in whole grain form. Look for the words “whole wheat flour” to be high on the ingredient list to ensure you’re getting a food high in whole grains. Starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, corn and pumpkin Beans and lentils Green vegetables

Simple Carbs Include: Fruits like bananas, oranges, apples and grapes White bread Fruit jellies or jams Honey Dried fruit Pretzels Crackers

  1. POWER UP WITH PROTEIN

Unless you eat enough protein, you won’t build muscle. Without muscle, you’re like a car with no horsepower—you simply won’t have the raw power needed to go fast.

Aim to eat roughly one gram of protein for every pound of body weight per day. For example, if you are a 175-pound athlete, take in about 175 grams of protein throughout the day. How do you know how much protein is in the foods you’re eating? A good guideline is that a palm-sized portion of lean meat contains approximately 30 grams of protein.

When picking your protein, remember that grilled beats fried. Fried foods are laden with more calories and fat, which will slow you down over the long haul. Try to keep your protein clean and simple—for example, opt for a grilled chicken breast over one that’s battered and deep fried.

FUELING FIELD GUIDE: PROTEIN CONTENT OF POPULAR FOODS People commonly associate protein with meat, but there are other ways to get protein. Certain vegetables, grains, legumes and nuts all pack solid amounts of protein.

  1. RACE WITH A RAINBOW OF FRUITS AND VEGGIES

In the race to fuel your body for speed, fruits, vegetables and legumes are neck-and-neck with protein sources in terms of importance. Fruits and veggies are nature’s nutritional powerhouses. They’re stuffed with vitamins, minerals and fiber and they’re low in calories.

The average American, however, eats far too little produce. Between 2007 and 2010, only one in every 10 kids in the U.S. ate the recommended amount of vegetables per day, and only four in 10 consumed the recommended value for fruit. This is a problem because athletes cannot reach peak performance on protein alone. Micronutrients

4 ounces of skinless chicken (about the size of a deck of cards): 40 grams of protein 6 ounces of cod or salmon: 40 grams 6 ounces of tuna in water: 40 grams 4 ounces of lean pork: 35 grams 4 ounces of lean red meat: 30 grams 6 ounces of tofu: 30 grams 1 cup of cottage cheese: 28 grams

1 cup of black, pinto or garbanzo beans: 15 grams 1/2 cup of whole almonds: 15 grams 1 cup of quinoa: 8 grams 2 tbsp. of peanut butter: 8 grams 1 cup of milk (fat-free, 1%, 2%): 8 grams 1 cup of peas: 8 grams 1 egg: 6 grams 1 cup of spinach: 5 grams

such as the vitamins and minerals provided by produce help support important functions within the body, including the delivery of oxygen to hard working muscle tissues during activity.

Simply put, there’s no better chef than Mother Nature. Naturally occurring foods are incredibly nutrient-dense, meaning they serve up a ton of vitamins, fatty acids, protein and fiber with a small amount of calories. Sure, some processed foods have some of these same nutrients, but your body is generally better able take in nutrients from whole food sources. Try to “eat the rainbow.” Consuming fruits and vegetables of different colors provides you with a wide range of nutrients.

  1. SUPPLEMENTS AREN’T A SHORTCUT

Popping pills and downing powders can’t make up for a poor diet. If you’re pairing vitamin pills with a double-bacon cheeseburger, your body won’t be fooled into thinking you’re eating a balanced meal. Your body isn’t as effective at drawing in nutrients from supplements as it is nutrients from real food. Furthermore, supplements aren’t well-regulated in the U.S., meaning there’s a good chance that what you put in your body when you pop a pill won’t match up with what’s advertised on the label.

SUPPLEMENTS CAN BE VERY USEFUL when used to supplement a good diet.  Protein powder is a convenient way to reach your daily intake goal, and most are generally seen as effective. Some athletes are deficient in important micronutrients like magnesium and omega 3 fatty acids, so the use of supplements to get on track with those nutrients is fine. The bottom line: A cabinet full of supplements will never beat a fridge full of healthy food, but can be a difference maker to very active athletes.

Visit My ARBONNE page (http://KevinHaag.arbonne.com) if you are interested in purchasing nutritional supplements.  I have tried them all and stay affiliated with Arbonne because I believe they are the healthiest and most trustworthy company out there.  I recommend the protein Power and The PhytoSport Line for Athletes.

  1. WATER KEEPS YOU RUNNING

You’ve probably heard that your body is roughly 65 percent water. That alone should tell you how important H20 is to your health and wellbeing. And though every living being on earth needs this magic fluid, it is especially important for athletes. It transports oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, aids in muscle contraction, fights fatigue and regulates body temperature. Being even slightly dehydrated can have a direct and profoundly negative impact on your performance. Studies have shown that just a 2-percent level of dehydration (i.e., losing 2 percent of your body weight in water) is enough to impact how you feel and play. And the more dehydrated you become, the more your performance will nosedive.

A good goal is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day. If you weigh 160 pounds, you should take in 80 ounces of water during the day. While that sounds like a lot, it’s just the equivalent of 10 small glasses. To get there, get in the habit of drinking water with every meal, and carry a water bottle with you throughout the day. Sip it when you feel thirsty, and refill it when it goes empty. Several containers include fluid markers on them, so you can know exactly how much water you’re taking in. Soon you’ll be hitting your hydration goal without a second thought.

  1. PICK THE 85-PERCENT BLEND

Nobody’s perfect, and trying to eat 100 percent healthy 100 percent of the time is a recipe for a breakdown. You’ll be more susceptible to getting overwhelmed and giving up on eating healthy altogether.

That’s where the 85-percent rule comes into play. If you can eat the right foods 85 percent of the time, that’s good enough to have a huge impact on your performance and body composition. The other 15 percent of the time, you can sample different foods and indulge in some of your not-so-nutritious favorites. That way you’ll get most everything you need, most of the time—including an occasional reward for all of your hard work.

You don’t have to beat yourself up just because you had cake and ice cream at your friend’s birthday party. Healthy choices should make up the majority of your meals, but you can still enjoy your life and the role that food plays in it!

 

THE FEED FOR SPEED: WHAT TO PUT ON YOUR PLATE

Foods that are high in valuable nutrients are supercharged for speed, and are great choices for fueling your tank on a regular basis. Other items should be seen as an occasional treat, otherwise you should toss ‘em to the curb

TANK ‘EM EAT THESE FOODS

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Beans and lentils (black, brown, garbanzo)
  • Whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, amaranth, brown rice, millet and couscous
  • Peanut butter and other natural nut butters
  • Lean jerky
  • Healthy oils such as coconut oil and extra-virgin olive oil
  • Whole wheat and whole grain items such as pastas, breads, cereals. Look for the words “whole wheat flour” to be high on the ingredient list.
  • Fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel
  • Whole eggs
  • Unprocessed or low-processed nuts Greek yogurt
  • Lean chicken, beef and pork

TOSS EM – EAT RARELY IF EVER

  • Soda (both diet and regular)
  • Fast food
  • Potato and tortilla chips
  • Deep fried foods (donuts, General Tso’s chicken, onion rings, etc.)
  • Snack cakes
  • Candy bars
  • Ice cream
  • Overly-dressed proteins (cheesesteaks, country-fried chicken, bacon cheeseburgers)
  • Sugary cereals
  • Alcohol
  • Baked goods high in sugar

 

phytosport nutrition

BASIC STRENGTH REQUIREMENTS FOR YOUNG ATHLETES

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As a father of two young athletes and professional iPhone users,  I often hear parents say “my child is not that athletic” or “my child was born without the speed gene”.  Ok, you know your child best, so this may be true; however, sometimes just the most basic strength training can make an enormous difference in your child’s on field performance and success in sports.

I am talking basic!  5-10 minutes a day.  Make it a family workout.

First, let me explain how the body works.  You must possess “good” relative body strength (strength in relation to your body weight), in order to perform basic athletic movements including running, stopping, change of direction, acceleration, rotation, etc.

This is due to the fact that all aspects of proper athletic movements require high levels of muscular strength. In other words, if you can’t achieve the proper knee drive, arm swing, posture and push-off, you can’t be fast! And this is just one example.

There is a direct correlation between an athlete’s athletic ability and agility in relation to their relative body strength. What this means is that an athlete who is strong for his/her bodyweight will possess the ability to run faster, jump higher and move quicker, compared to their weaker counterparts.

Blame your brain which is too smart to allow you to perform these athletic movements and possibly injure yourself.  So basically, I am telling you that you can increase your speed and overall athletic ability exponentially by doing planks and crunches alone.

So what are basic strength requirements for young athletes?

  • 1 minute plank
  • 1 minute wall sit
  • 5 push-ups for girls / 10 for boys
  • 20 sits-ups without using hands to pull yourself up.
  • 5 seconds stiff hang for girls/ 10 seconds for boys.
  • The ability to jump rope.

There is no app for this, so stop looking.  You are actually going to have to spend 5 minutes a few times a week to do this.  The good news is, the body wants to develop basic strength, so these benchmarks can be accomplished in a few workouts.    On a personal note, I have seen strength training change young athletes attitude towards sports completely around when they feel they are good as their counterparts.

Remember that only muscle can cause movement. The stronger the body’s 600+ muscles are, the more forceful the muscular contractions, the faster the athlete will run, higher they will jump, further they will throw/kick, and harder they will hit. It’s that simple!

And because I am focusing on performance, I haven’t mentioned the most important reason to stay strong, which is injury prevention. Athletes who strength train tend to have fewer injuries. This is because strength training strengthens the muscle attachments and increases density of bones at the sites of muscle origins and insertions. And if an injury does occur to an athlete who has been strength training properly, it will probably not be as serious and will tend to heal faster.

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.

Boost your metabolism all Day

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Boost Your Metabolism all Day!!

Upside down at K2

When you want to create a lean, firm body, the best way to accomplish it is with an effective workout program and a healthy eating plan. But that’s not the end of the story . . . . Because no matter how much you’re putting into your exercise sessions, practicing a range of healthy habits the rest of the time can give your metabolism an even bigger kick.

 

So here’s a full day’s worth of metabolism boosters. Any one of them may have a relatively minor effect, but when put together, they’re bound to help your body burn fat more efficiently. Add these tips to your weight loss arsenal, and you’ll get the results you want as quickly as possible.

Morning

  1. Get some sun. A little outdoor time in the morning can help you slim down in three ways. First, bright light helps regulate your body clock, so you’ll be more energetic during the day and sleep better at night. Second, during the winter months, sunshine helps ward off SAD (seasonal affective disorder), a condition that can lead to uncontrolled food cravings. And third, sunlight on your skin increases your levels of vitamin D, which are associated with a higher metabolism and a lower risk of obesity. (While sunscreen cuts down on your natural vitamin D production, experts warn that you shouldn’t spend much time outside without it. You can also get more D by taking multivitamins, drinking fortified milk, and eating fatty fish.)

 

  1. Eat a good breakfast. Research has shown that a filling breakfast that includes both lean protein and complex carbohydrates helps you burn fat all day (and keeps you satisfied longer, too). In a study presented to the Endocrine Society, dieters who ate hearty breakfasts stuck to their food plans and ended up losing more weight than those who didn’t, despite the fact that their daily caloric intake was actually slightly higher.
  2. And add some grapefruit. There’s a reason grapefruit diets have never gone out of fashion. In a recent study in the journal Diabetes, mice on a high-fat diet that were given naringenin—a flavonoid chemical that gives grapefruit its slightly bitter taste—didn’t gain weight, while others on the same diet did. And a study conducted at the Nutrition and Metabolic Research Center at Scripps Clinic found that half a grapefruit before each meal helped obese people drop more than 3 pounds over 12 weeks. (Consult your doctor if you’re taking any medications—large amounts of grapefruit can change the way they’re metabolized by your body.)
  3. Have a hot beverage. As you’ve surely heard by now, regular consumption of green or oolong tea can raise your metabolism by as much as 5 percent. But plain old java gives your fat-burning ability a boost too. Green coffee beans have been found to boost your metabolism through the combination of caffeine and something called chlorogenic acid. While roasting lowers the amount of this chemical, according to the Coffee Science Information Centre, a light roast retains more than a dark roast.

Whatever you drink, don’t overdo it, and keep the additives to a minimum—the calories in cream and sugar, or a coffeehouse latte, can far outweigh any fat-burning benefits.

Midday

  1. Take the stairs. Your daily workout will do more than anything else to burn fat and build lean muscle. But that doesn’t mean you should be a slug the rest of the time. A highly publicized British study found that kids who were very active during physical education classes were that much less active throughout the day, which suggests that you may need to make a conscious effort to move your body when you’re not working out, including taking such simple steps as walking everywhere you can and using stairs rather than elevators. Even relatively brief periods of exercise will help keep your metabolism revving at a higher level.
  2. Snack on nuts. All nuts (including peanuts, which aren’t technically nuts, but whatever) are fairly high in calories, but they’re also full of nutrients, especially protein and healthful fats. In a study at Purdue University, when people added 500 calories of peanuts to their daily diets, they ate less during meals and increased their resting metabolic rates by 11 percent. You don’t need to eat so many, though. Just an ounce at a time will go a long way toward boosting your metabolism and keeping you satisfied.
  3. Shop in the outer aisles of the grocery store. Most supermarkets are laid out in similar ways: produce, meats, fish, dairy products, and other fresh, whole foods are along the outside edges, while processed, boxed, and canned foods are in the inner aisles. Shop on the perimeter first, and you’ll end up with nutritious ingredients that will fuel your muscles while keeping you full—and because they’re higher in fiber and protein and lower in starch, you can eat more of them and still lose weight.
  4. Take time to relax. Stress can take a toll on your metabolism. When scientists at Georgetown University fed two groups of mice a high-fat, high-sugar diet, the ones under stress gained more than twice as much weight as the low-stress group. If your job (or any other part of your life) leaves you feeling like a mouse in a cage, try to find ways of cutting down on stress. At some point during the day, take a break for meditation, yoga, or just sitting in a peaceful place and thinking about something pleasant.

Nighttime

  1. Watch your eating. If you’re like most people, your activity level slows down at night, and so does your metabolism. And yet there’s also a tendency to eat a lot at this time, either by having a big dinner or snacking in front of the TV, or both. If you’re overeating due to stress or boredom, the evening is a good time to concentrate on healthful dietary habits.
  2. Hold the hooch. Your body loves alcohol—so much so, in fact, that it’ll burn its byproducts as fuel before anything else. That means that while you’re processing alcohol, you’re not burning fat. Of course, alcoholic beverages also have calories, virtually none of which are good for anything other than helping you gain weight.
  3. Turn off your screens. At least 2 hours before bedtime, dim the lights, put away your computer, and turn off your video games. Bright lights, including those from computer screens, can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, an antioxidant hormone that builds up in the evening and helps you sleep. Research has shown that higher levels of melatonin are associated with lower levels of body fat.
  4. Catch your z’s. While you’re asleep, your body is hard at work producing hormones responsible for weight loss, muscle gain, and glucose metabolism. Studies have found that consistently getting less than the optimal 8 or so hours per night leads to a lower metabolism and a higher body mass. If you find yourself getting sleepy during the day, going to bed just an hour earlier could make a significant difference in your waistline.

The Speed Training Secret

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The Speed Training Secret

I received this great question from one of the coaches I work with earlier this week, and I thought it was worth sharing with parents and coaches of young athletes because it is very important:

“Hi Kevin. When training young athletes 8 – 12, what are the most important concepts of speed and acceleration to teach or stress?”

The answer, my friends, is none of them…

… Well not really, anyways.

If I were to look solely at speed and acceleration development with pre-adolescent athletes, my suggestion would be strength. Strength is an often forgotten variable in the speed and power equation and quite a critical component to the matrix of developing young athletes.

But the actual answer is deceleration skills.

If you learn to decelerate well, you will be in a position to re-accelerate effectively.

It means that you are likely one of the ‘fastest’ kids on the field (remember – it’s not who runs the fastest… it’s who can change direction quickest and with the most ease).

It means that you are likely injury-free (a combination of strength and quality mechanical understanding are the two greatest factors I have seen in terms of reducing the likelihood of knee and ankle injuries).

Now when teaching proper deceleration skills, it is critical that you move from Closed to Open Habits.

Closed Habits – skills being executed in a static environment.

Open Habits – skills that are adaptable to varying conditions and situations.

Closed Habits remove the external concerns of adjunct movement, opponents, teammates, speed and objects like a ball or puck.

In essence, Closed Habit skills are taught in the beginning stages of learning a given movement or series of movements. You need to teach both linear and lateral deceleration skills starting with repeating the motion from a static environment.

Eventually, you move into more advanced variations of learning and mastering these skills, such as repeating them in harmony with a random cueing from a coach or trainer.

At this level, the skills are known as Open Habits.

It is the progression of learning quality deceleration skills that make young athletes truly ‘fast’, ‘quick’ and ‘agile’.

Not the answer you were looking for, perhaps

 – Kevin