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5 Things to Know Before Practice Starts

We are now in August and the fall season for High School sports is about to kick off if it hasn’t already. Here are a few things you should know before you start:

 

  1. Your coach will test you on the first day. It will be made very clear who is in shape and who isn’t after the first day of practice.
  • As a strength coach at the High School level I salivate waiting for the first day of practice because I want to see what my athletes can do. Not to punish them but to test them and create a baseline for where I need to take them to win a title. The better shape the athletes are in on day one the higher their ceiling is for the end of the year.

 

  1. Sometimes injuries are a freak accident but more often they also mean you need more conditioning or more strength.
  • Injuries tend to happen during deceleration rather than when accelerating. The ability to decelerate requires strength (particularly eccentric) because the body has to be able to absorb force. The stronger the athlete the less likely they will get hurt while cutting ort changing directions. Also, injuries tend to happen late in a game when an athlete is tired. When form breaks down particularly in your core is when you get sloppy on the field and put yourself at risk for injury.

 

  1. Urine Color is the easiest way to determine hydration levels.
  • When you go to the bathroom before and after practice take a quick look before you flush. Your urine should be lighter in color if you are properly hydrated. A good way to think about it is that it should look more like lemonade then apple juice.

 

  1. Food equals energy.
  • In its simplest form food is fuel for your body. The higher quality of food that you put in your body, the better your body will feel. Stay away from junky processed foods and eat real food. If you are not sure what that means remember this. Real food will go bad if you don’t eat it. If it can sit in a cabinet for a year and taste exactly the same what do you think it will do in your stomach? That includes things like protein bars that often are processed and have lots of chemicals and / or sugar.

 

  1. If it were easy everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.
  • In all of my years as a coach I have learned that there are two types of athletes. The ones who enjoy being challenged and the ones who run away from it. People make mistakes so that they can learn from them and grow. Sports are a grind and if you don’t love the grind of getting better then you will never be successful. So next time you go against a better team or are asked to do something you don’t think you can do. Embrace the challenge and learn from it. Talent is overrated. For every naturally born athlete there are ten more grinders who work their way to greatness.

 

 

  • Joe Lopez CSCS

Strength and Conditioning Coach Precision Sports Performance

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Strength and Conditioning for Field Sports

Every strength coach will tell you the same thing.  If you are stronger, you are faster.  That is a fact.  However, there is one part of that equation which is left out.  Your body weight.  If you are stronger at the same weight then you are faster.  For example, if a 200 pound athlete can squat 400 pounds he will be faster than a 200 pound athlete who can only squat 250 pounds.  Acceleration is force divided by mass.  So how does this change our training programs?  Or Does it?

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Football has always been ahead of the game when it come to strength and conditioning.  They adapted it in the 1980’s under the legendary coach Boyd Eply at the University of Nebraska.  Football athletes need to carry mass in order to take the pounding and at the same time they need to be as quick as possible. They need to take a large body and accelerate rapidly in a short amount of time.

While football set the standard other sports have slowly come along as well.  It just took them a little longer.  Sports like baseball, lacrosse, soccer, basketball, field hockey, ice hockey and many others now have combine type activities to measure levels of fitness in comparison to others in the same league.

So let’s get back to getting stronger.  Speed is required for whatever sport you play.  I can’t think of a sport where speed is a negative.  However, for several sports body mass is a negative.  You don’t often see 200 pound soccer players or lacrosse players. These field sports require more endurance and the large body mass will hurt that athlete on the playing field.  But we still want them to get stronger.  So the question becomes how do we get them stronger without adding mass and how much mass is an acceptable amount.

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Now let’s get back to football and how they are ahead of everyone in strength and conditioning because they adopted it much earlier.  There are a lot of strength and conditioning coaches that come from either a football background or a powerlifting background.  That is why training needs to be sport specific and position specific.  That is also why group classes or any gym that tries to to group athlete in large sections are missing the boat.  Let’s take hockey for example.  A defensemen might be able to carry a little more mass on his frame and does need to be adequately strong to take and dish out some hits.  At the same time the forwards want to be as quick as possible and too much mass will count against them.

As a coach I know I can put 8-15 pounds on any athlete in a short amount time who has at least one year of training under their belt.  I say one year of training because this program is going to require more advanced lifts such as squats and deadlifts.  I have to make sure that the athlete is physically prepared to undertake such a program without risking injury.    As long as I feel comfortable with that athlete alternating between high volumes of back squats and the other core lifts such as deadlifts, front squats, bench press, and pull-ups for maximum strength. 6 sets of 2 at about 80-85% seem to do the trick.  Using this formula I can easily have an athlete put on that weight in 2 or 3 months.

So what about those previously mentioned field sport athletes who need to get stronger without putting on mass?   Well there are two ways to do it in my experience:

The first is you can write long term programs into periodized blocks with an emphasis on an individual skill set for each block.  For example if you have 8 months of training.  You could do 8 periodized blocks where in two of those blocks you focus strictly on strength building.  That leaves you with 6 blocks to dedicate to speed work, injury reduction, agility, power, and all the other qualities that are needed for that athlete.  Two months out of an 8 month period will only serve to increase strength while reducing weight gain even if it is muscle gain.  Overall mass whether it is muscle or fat will slow down the athlete as previously mentioned.  Obviously muscle is the better of the two options.  These two month long blocks will also serve as a metabolic boost which will increase the athlete’s testosterone levels and allow for lean tissue gains whereas if you had the athlete in a strength / hypertrophy program like I mentioned above for more than a few weeks you run the risk of slowing down the athlete and decreasing endurance capabilities.

The second way to do this is to get rid of the high volume days and instead focus your strength training on heavy weights as long as the athlete can handle it.  Remember I recommend at least one year of training under their belt before attempting to go anywhere near a one rep max.  The high volume days will serve as hypertrophy training which is what we don’t want.  Remember we are looking for strength without size.  So in scenario two we want to focus on speed training, deceleration, agility, injury reduction, power training, and strength all at once.  On the strength days we want to be around 80% of a max and above for multiple sets of low reps.  A good programs that I like is 6 sets of 2 @ 85% then on the last set do max reps.  If you are able to get 5 reps you need to increase the weight.

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A lot of times when an athlete goes to the gym by themselves or they just enlist the help of a personal trainer who uses bodybuilding style training methods.  That athlete will often neglect speed training and conditioning.  Once you develop a tolerance it is easy to just go to the gym and lift weights and do nothing else.  However, when that happens you fall into the same trap of putting on mass and thus slowing you down.  That is why you need to look for a certified strength and conditioning specialist who can help you create the ideal program for you.  Just because a trainer is jacked and looks like a bodybuilder doesn’t mean that their training style is right for you.  Think back to the example of a soccer player.  Do soccer players need to look like football linebackers.  Of course not!

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At inception sports performance we create programs based on the individual’s evaluation as well as their sport and their positions within that sport.  To find out more go to www.MyOffSeason.org

5 Reasons I Like Training Guys Better Than Girls:

Guys are not afraid to “bulk up” With female athletes there is often a selling job that I have to give. “Lifting heavy weights will not make you bulky. In fact, if you are stronger you will become faster and leaner.” Even after explaining that there is a lot of give and take with female athletes. Guys generally don’t have a problem being told to get to the squat rack and lift heavy.

Guys usually have at least attempted to lift before coming to me. Even if their form is not great or they have no clue how to write a workout program if someone comes to me that has already been training for some time it makes my job easier. At that point we just need to tweak a few things and make some minor adjustments.

More guys think they have a chance at playing in college or professionally. Even though the percentages are stacked against them guys often grow up dreaming of playing basketball at Duke or playing football for the Giants. If they have that in them they also have it in them to work for it and do what is necessary.

Guys can survive on less.If I have a male client and all we have to work with is a giant rock, a large tire, and dirty kettlebell in a non air-conditioned hot and sweaty gym they generally will be fine with it. As long as they get results and there are no girls around.

 Guys have the pure ability to throw around bigger weights.Sometimes it’s just fun to lift big weights. Enough said

The rise of boutique fitness classes and gym culture.

As a CSCS I am good at what I do which is prepare athletes for their sports. I know what progressions need to happen for youth athletes and I know what programs need to be implemented for older athletes.   That doesn’t mean that I am not still learning and implemented new principles as situations arise. It also doesn’t mean that I am not open to new ideas and suggestions. As a fitness enthusiast I have run several marathons, half marathons, obstacle races, and the like. I have done kickboxing, yoga, and boot camp classes. I currently do CrossFit and enjoy it quite a bit. I love the fact that there are so many classes for fitness enthusiasts such as myself to choose from.  However, as a strength and conditioning specialist all of these specialty classes that keep popping up create mixed messages for athletes.   Sometimes the messages come from YouTube and social media where everybody is an expert. Sometimes the athlete’s parents go to a class and love it so they influence their children to attend. We happen to live in an area where there are lots of high process fitness optons. Things like Barre Mathod, Bari, Soul Cycle, CrossFit, SLT, OrangeTherory, Pilates, PowerFlow Yoga,, and the list goes on and on. I am not saying these are not great classes for general fitness. I am saying that they are not for athletes. Athletes need to train for a purpose with a specific goal in mind. Most often that goal is a combination of strength and/ or speed. Strength and Speed are the two most important factors in determining overall athleticism. At Inception not only will they get the program in place to help them reach their goals they will also get a program that reduces injuries. If an athlete is not on the field then nothing else matters and with the rise of year round sports injures happen at a higher and higher rate among youth athletes.   There are things that can be implemented to help reduce that risk. I incorporate ACL tear reduction drills as part of my warm up for all my athletes.   When baseball players come in I always work on arm care. The shoulder is such a complicated joint that you need to give it specific attention in order to reduce the chances of an injury. The one thing that the entire specialty classes have in common is they are group classes. When you have a group setting you automatically will not get the attention you need because everyone in the class is doing the same thing. It doesn’t matter if you are a baseball player, a soccer player, or someone coming off an injury. If you are an athlete it is in your best interest to find a qualified CSCS to work with to get better for your sport and not just rely on general fitness classes or personal trainers.

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Strength and Conditioning Thoughts

Olympic lifts are a highly technical movement and a lot of athletes use them to develop power We know that Olympic lifting develops that power in a vertical plane but are they really the end all be all for power development for athletes?   I can find you a lot of really good athletes who are division one athletes and even professional athletes who either have never done Olympic lifting like hang cleans or snatches or they’re not very good at them. There are 6’8″ basketball players at the University of Kentucky who if you watch them do a hang clean it looks really ugly.  At the same time you take a 5’9″ compact kid who played Division III football and he’s placing in the CrossFit games and competing in Olympic competitions. The second guy is a really good weightlifter the first guy is a really good athlete. So what does that tell us? That tells us that Olympic lifting and power development is a means to an end for athletes and not the ends to the mean. Olympic weightlifters who compete that is the end product.  Someone who plays basketball, football, soccer, or baseball yes we want to get them more powerful but are we going to sacrifice important time in the gym to teach the highly technical skills that the Olympic lifts require.  Some coaches will tell you that completing an Olympic lift is not that important for an athlete. So what are we trying to get out of our Olympic lifts? We’re trying to get to that triple extension position of the ankles knees and hips. So that being said all we really have to do is get to that High pull where the bar reaches your sternum before dropping under the bar. The catch is not as important to me when I’m working with athletes.  If an athlete can complete the clean yes that’s great! We’re  going to work on that but if they’re not there yet I’m not going to spend weeks or months working in the catch.  When they get to the triple extension position that’s enough for most athletes. Don’t get me wrong I am not advocating bad form. I will still stress back tight, hamstrings engaged, straight bar path and all the things that are required in a good Olympic lift. I have just found that the drop under the bar and the catch are the most difficult for a lot of people so I will not spend weeks and months drilling technique. There is some benefit in completing the Olympic lift mostly in deceleration and controlling the bar as it comes down to and you drop under it but it’s not nearly as important as that triple extension position. I would say 90% of the work is done once you get that bar up to about your sternum as far as an athlete is concerned. Remember this is a means to an end. We are training football players, basketball players, soccer players baseball players.  We’re not training Olympic lifters so if their technique is not 100% spot on as long they’re not going to hurt themselves and they are getting power development that is all we want.  Strength coaches don’t always want to hear this but our best athletes in the gym are often not our best athletes on the field.  Our job is not to create the best workout warrior but to aid the athletic process and keep the athlete on the field.

When training an athlete we try to develop the complete athlete so we work on speed. we work on injury prevention. we work on stabilization, we work on mobilization. All of  these things are important factors so do we have that much time to really go over fine-tuning the clean and power clean positions? Probably not. There’s a lot more better use of our time. So we create programs for the athlete keeping that in mind.  Remember a means to an end and not the other way around. Olympic lifts are important and we do use them but as a part of the whole overall program.

When you’re working with mostly high school and college kids their schedules are really tight. High School kids have practice they have homework they go to school all day. You don’t have a lot of time so what gives you the most bang for your buck? When working with college kids the NCAA restricts hours that the strength coach can put in with the kids so that becomes an issue as well if you are working in the university setting.  A factor in a private setting is money.  Athletes pay per session so they’re not going to come in five days a week most of the time. They’re playing in the off-season and playing in the summer so if they’re playing games two or three times a week plus they go to practice then they have to show up for the weight room there probably only with you two times or three times a week maybe four depending on the time time of year. Keeping that in mind we don’t have time to develop the weight room skills. The more important skill work has to be done within their sport working on becoming a better baseball player, fine tuning their swing and things like that. I would rather put a kid through a one hour hard workout where the kid works really hard then sit there and have them work on skills of a hang clean.  It is just more effective because you have so little time and you really have to give them a good work out that’s going to number one keep them injury free and number two improve performance.

I’ve seen trainers that can dissect anatomy, they can tell you what energy systems are being used, and they can write a program that looks like a work of art. I’ve also seen other trainers who don’t have an exercise science degree really can’t tell you why they’re doing something but their athletes keep coming back because they feel motivated, they feel inspired, they get a good workout, and they know that what they’re doing is working.  Sometimes coaches can really outsmart themselves they try to be too precise they try to get every athlete to be a carbon copy mold of the ideal standard. The reality is there is no ideal standard. Every athlete moves differently every athlete has different body types, different injuries, different pasts that are going to affect their movement patterns.

I try to learn every day. This field is always changing. As a coach if you stop learning then you are doing yourself and your athletes a disservice. Sometimes I look at my programs and wonder what was I thinking but then I remember when all else fails give the athlete a tough workout and motivate them and they’ll come back for more.
Joe Lopez CSCS

Strength Coaches vs. Personal Trainers

I have been in both industries.  I have worked with clients whose goals were to look good, lose weight, drop body fat and I have also worked with athletes looking for performance on the field.  I can honestly say that I feel like strength coaches can venture into the personal training world a lot easier than personal trainers can work as strength coaches.  I feel like it is a totally different work environment.  Strength coaches have a lot more to focus on.  They have to make sure they periodize properly as well as provide adequate recovery.  They also have to think about which exercise that particular athlete should not do based on his or her sport or body type.  They also have to think about what position the athlete plays within a sport.  A Football lineman is going to train a lot differently than a wide receiver.  So experience, education, and science play a large part in what a strength coach does.  While being a personal trainer has it’s own unique set of demands as well.  I have worked with a lot of clients with mobility issues.  These issues force you to be part physical therapist before you can begin a weight loss or a fat loss program. When you get someone who is not in very good shape the reality is anything they do will work in the beginning.  It is after that initial plate where the hard stuff begins.  Each field does have it’s own unique set of demands however, I feel that if you can train athletes you can also train general fitness.  In fact, I often used athletic protocols with my general fitness people and they saw great results.

In the past I have written about the dirty little secret of the fitness industry.  https://jerseystrong.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/why-certifications-matter/   There are so many different “certifications” out there.  Some are take home that you can send in and as long as you pay the money you are a certified personal trainer.  The industry is filled with personal trainers who don’t know and don’t use one shred of scientific evidence in their programming.   Another thing to be aware of is trainers who are more focused on being celebrity trainers than trainers who are celebrities.  Obviously we have to be market ourselves and drive business but as Martin Rooney said when I met him last year.  “The moment my career changed was when I realized that I was training athletes and that I wasn’t the athlete.”  If your trainer is more focused on his or her own success than yours you should get a new trainer.

As a strength coach I read everything and anything on the subject.  I attend conferences and clinics.  Not only do I read what my colleagues put on Twitter and their own personal blogs but as a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association I read the journals every month.  Yes people there are scientific published journals from actual research that we as strength coaches are supposed to use in our programming.  Now, some of what we do is art and not science and some is based on things like the athlete’s training age and even the space and equipment available.  That being said, if your trainer is not keeping up with up educating themselves then they are doing you a disservice.

Another difference between a personal trainer and a strength coach is the ideal body that the client is after.  As a personal trainer everyone who stepped in my door said the same things.  I want to lose weight.  I want to drop body fat.  I want to get ripped.  Or for the ladies I want to get toned and not be too big.  (More on how much I hate that later)  There is no such thing as toned ladies.  For the athlete the body ideal is often very different.  For one it depends on what sport and what position your play.  To go back to the same example I gave before a Lineman in football will have a very different body type than a wide receiver.  A lineman might aspire to become as strong as possible and not care about storing body fat as long as he can still move quickly.  The wide receiver on the other hand will need to focus on top speed, acceleration, and the ability to jump to get a ball at its highest point.  I have never once talked to my athletes about defined abs or quad separation.  If you as an athlete go to a trainer who is focused on any of those things walk away immediately.  Athletes are not bodybuilders.  An athlete should never aspire to be shredded.  Instead, the programing should be focused on performance only.  Often with this approach the athlete will get the body he or she wants or more importantly needs for their sport.

Of course I am a little biased but I believe that the National Strength and Conditioning Association is the cream of the crop when it comes to strength and conditioning and personal training.  The CSCS is the certification standard in the NCAA.  You will not find a college strength and conditioning coach without one.  Also, there is the NSCA-CPT for general fitness population which is also a great choice. Go to NSCA.com to find a qualified coach in your area.

How to pick the right gym for you. (The athlete)

In order to be athletic you have to train athletic. Training at or near your 1RM all the time doesn’t develop explosiveness or athleticism.   While maximal strength is important and is a prerequisite for power as an athlete I would not stay in that phase for too long. Instead spend a good amount of time around 60-80 % of your 1RM and think about exploding out of the amortization phase of a lift into the concentric phase. I would also choose exercises that allow you to display athleticism in a coordinated manner. Things like cleans, snatches, kettlebell swings, box jumps, plyometrics, agility work, and clapping pushups allow you to be fast while using your body in an efficient and coordinated way. These exercise because they are fast and explosive also require a great deal of core stability, which translates into on-field movements.

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As an athlete I would look for the following things when choosing a gym.

  1. Open Space: The more cluttered the gym is with fixed range of motion machines the less likely it is to produce any sort of athleticism. You are not in physical therapy. You are training for sport performance. Agility work is a skill that can be taught and developed and you need space to work on it.
  1. Qualified coaches: CSCS is the top of the line when it comes to programming and exercise selection. Pick up any magazine or read any article on sports performance and the writer is most likely to have the CSCS credentials after his name.
  1. Bumper plates: In order to attempt cleans and snatches you have to be willing to fail at an attempt. If you are always worried about dropping the weights you will never get out of your comfort zone and never grow.
  1. Kettlebells: The Kettlebell is one of my favorite pieces of equipment. Give me a kettlebell and I can give you a total body workout that will have you out of breath and lying in a pool of your own sweat.
  1. Energy: If the gym feels like a place where people are miserable you don’t want to be there. The gym should be fun. People should be pushing themselves and each other. There should be music and there should be a palpable energy inside the walls.

Book Review. The Long Run

ImageThe Long Run is a book written by Charles Butler about a NYC fireman / fitness enthusiast named Matt Long.   Matt was one of the first responders during the World Trade Center attack on 9/11.  For a while his parents thought that he and his brother, also a firefighter, might have been missing.  He was on of the heroes after 9/11 who stayed day after day and helped search for the missing. He owned a few succesful bars in NYC the most well known is Third and Long.   After long nights at the bar, no pun intended, he was an avid runner, cyclist, and swimmer.  He considered running his passion.  The book begins with him running the NYC Marathon in the annual battle between the NYPD and the NYC Firefighters.  He finished 4th among all of the Firefighters and set his new personal record for the marathon.  In doing so he also qualified for the Boston Marathon which is an amazing feat.  Any recreational runner will tell you how hard that is.  Matt Long also ran the Lake Placid IronMan and planned on one day qualifying for The IronMan in Kona, Hawaii.

The book goes into great detail on his upbringing from a large family raised in New York.  The author does such a great job painting the picture of Matt as a family man and a firefighter than when his accident happens you really feel for him as if you know him personally.  He seems like the kind of guy who you want to have a beer with and just share some stories/

During the NYC Transit strike  in 2005 Matt was supposed to meet some buddies for an early morning workout.  Because of the strike he has no way to get across town and knew that he would never hear the end of it.  So despite it being Winter time he hopped on his bike and headed across town to meet his workout buddies.  On his way a city bus made an illegal turn from the wrong lane and without seeing Matt he crashed into his bike.  Matt was pinned underneath bleeding profusely with broken bones in his legs, hips, and shoulders.  He need almost 70 pints of blood just to keep him alive and the doctors told his family that he had a 5% chance to live and if he did live he would never walk again.

The book then follows his amazing recovery with something like 30 surgeries to follow.  The severe bouts of depression that follow and of course the moment almost 3 years later where he finally accepts that he will never be the person he once was.  The book even gets into the fact that he wasn’t married and his coming to grips with the fact that he now has serious doubts that he ever would be because of his disability that left him unable to have children.

If the book ended there it would be pretty depressing but the amazing recovery of Matt Long bring him from being completely immobile for almost 3 years to running the NYC Marathon again.  It was a roller coaster ride of a book and is a great read for any runner and any person who is suffering from a lack of motivation.  If Matt Long can run a marathon after the setbacks that he had than I honestly believe anything is possible.  It is a true case of mind over matter.  Matt’s mindset that made him a great athlete before his accident as the same determination that made him a Marathon finisher after the accident. This book was a great read for me and I highly recommend it for any weekend warriors like myself.

The Long Run can be found on Amazon.

1 Rep Max

A strength coach can’t just assign sets and reps to his or her athletes. The coach should also mandate the load as well.  Anyone who has coached knows that a good coach can get his or her athletes to overpeform.  When left to their own accord athletes might not get that extra push.  Everything should be based off of a 1 rep. max and then the coach should assign a percentage of that max.  The core exercises can be 1 rep max tested but for the ancillary exercise you can estimate using charts like this.

http://www.nsca-lift.org/fly%20solo%20program/1%20RM%20Poundage%20Chart.pdf

For the sake of this article let’s say that we are training a High School football team starting in the off-season. You would try to create different workouts based on positions but in a High School that is often tough to do.  Players can switch positions quite often and many times their bodies are not developed enough to elicit much change in workouts types. Because you will be spending a lot of time on instruction in a High School setting it might be better off to create a uniform workout with the exception of the upper class-men who are more advanced in their training and have a clear position on the field.

On day number one I would test all my athletes in the squat, bench press, deadlift, and power clean.  Of course this all depends on previous experience.  If I felt a kid was not properly trained to perform these lifts then other precautions would have to be used.  However, for athletic performance let’s assume that the athletes have experience and can safely perform the exercises given.  If a kid is underdeveloped but has the lifting background then you could use a 3 rep. max to ensure safety.  For example, in a High School setting before an off season program you 1 rep max test the Juniors and Seniors.  However the freshman and Sophomores might not be able to handle the heavy loads and they could potentially injure themselves.  For the younger kids you would have to separate them into trained and untrained.  The untrained kids need to be taught biomechanics while the trained kids  can proceed to testing.

The ancillary exercises that I had mentioned might be things like a bent over row or  triceps extensions.  These exercises don’t need to be tested and can be assigned a number of sets and reps with instructions of when to progress and when to back off.  Remembering that not all training is linear.  Sometimes a recovery workout is the best workout.  If you continually increase the volume from week to week eventually gains will be compromised.

The further out from the season that lighter your 1 Rep max percentage can be.  For example if you are in a 8 week macro-cycle and this is week 1 you might start at 60% of that 1 rep max. The athletes should do 10-15 reps with no more than 30 seconds recovery.   Building up muscular endurance early on in the off-season will help the athletes to not burn out too quickly.  In weeks 3-5 you can increase towards more of a strength workout.   In a strength workout you would assign maybe 80-90% of the 1-rep. max.  During this phase the athletes might do 6-8 reps for multiple sets with full recovery in between sets.  In weeks 5-7 the athlete should adopt a power component to include lower reps.  They might do 3-5 reps at 70-80% of the 1 rep. max with again full recovery in between sets.  In the last week leading up to the season would be a good week to begin those recovery workouts that I previously mentioned.  In this week the athletes would begin to perform their maintenance workouts.  The intensity would decrease in order to prepare for the increased time spent with skill work in their respective coaches.  This would also be a good time to add plenty of foam rolling and flexibility work to help the body recover fully.

As you can see that 1 rep max determined the loads of the exercises which determined the volume for each athlete.  It is a vital factor to improve performance leading up to the season.

Why certifications matter

There are a lot of options out there for people who want to bring their fitness to the next level.  There are personal trainers, strength coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, and even speed coaches.  One of the things about all of these options that a lot of people don’t know is there are literally hundreds of certifications that will give these coaches their license to train you.  Most of these certifications require you to do nothing more than pay a fee and they will send you a take home test with the text book.  Once you pass the easiest test in the world you are a certified personal trainer.  I would say that most personal trainers at one time had a certification.  However, most of them are not current.  They expire from year to year so if a trainer doesn’t want renew by taking continuing education credits then the certification will expire.  Why does that matter to you?  Well the fitness industry is always changing.  There is new science and research all the time which should change the way a trainer approaches his or her clients.  If a trainer is not staying current with their certification then they are probably using out of date procedures and potentially putting your health at risk.  Or at the very least putting your progress at risk.

The first thing you should do when you sign up with a trainer is to ask the gym do they require their trainers to be certified.  A little known dirty little secret in the fitness world is most “trainers” have no such type of current certification.  A gym who employs trainers should pay for their continuing education credits or at the very least check annually.  It is kind of don’t ask don’t tell because the gym owners don’t want to pay the extra money and neither do a lot of trainers.  The general public has no idea what the “good” personal trainer certifications are versus the “bad” ones.  So in most trainers’ eyes why should they be certified.  I wouldn’t even take the trainer’s word for it.  I would actually ask to see the sheet of paper that says they are certified.  If you are paying good money you want every reassurance that your money is being spent on a quality professional who is dedicated to the study of anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and the exercise sciences.

Now that you know about the dirty little secret that is rampant in the fitness industry you should be aware of which certifications to look for.  These certifications are strenuous in nature and the exams are taken across the country at independent sites without the use of any study aids.  Some of them have a prerequisite of a Bachelor or Science in a health science related field.  Basically you need four years of undergraduate education to even take the test.

1.  NSCA  The National Strength and Conditioning Association has two distinctions.  CSCS for training  athletes and the NSCA – CPT for training the general population.

2.  ACE  American Council on Exercise.

3.  ACSM.  American Academy of Sports Medicine.

4.  NASM.  National Academy of Sports Medicine.

5.  CI  Cooper Institute.

Keep in mind even if your trainer says that they are certified in one of these categories, don’t hesitate to ask them to see the certification card.  While it is impressive that they at one point passed these test and became certified they still should be staying up to date with their research.

Major League baseball recently mandated that all of their minor league strength coaches be certified CSCS and RSCC.  No doubt this is to attempt to eliminate some of the shady characters who lurked around their clubhouses during the “steroid era.”  Most of the Universities have full time strength and conditioning coaches for their athletic programs.  The CSCS distinction is one of the largest governing bodies to certify these coaches.  If a coach has two years working with and designing programs for athletic teams then he or she can earn the distinction of RSCC.  There are also separate distinctions for ten years of staying current in that distinction and twenty.  The trickle down effect has brought strength and conditioning to the High School level.  During these years it is probably even more important to have a quality certified trainer working with these kids.  Unfortunately, many High Schools just have a weight room supervisor or a member of the coaching staff supervising.  If you suspect this is the case then you might be better off finding a facility near you that specializes in athletic performance.  These facilities have popped up all throughout the country.  Just make sure you ask to see that certification before signing up.

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