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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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?
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.
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.
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!
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
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
I just ran the Spartan race super at Mountain Creek in Vernon, NJ and it was every bit the challenge I was expecting and more, I am not sure what I was expecting considering it is a race on a ski slope called MOUNTAIN Creek but I have to admit there were times I thought it was too difficult. But at the end it was exactly the physical challenge I wanted and often need to prove my fitness level.
The race was very well run. When I got o Mountain Creek I had no problem finding parking and there were plenty of buses to take me immediately to the starting area. If I do have one complaint it is that I it was so well organized that I didn’t need to be there an hour and a half before my race time like the website suggested. After getting there I checked my bag, which was 10 dollars and enjoyed the atmosphere while the opening climb just past the starting line taunted me. There was plenty of water for the racers and bathrooms as well. The area was very muddy but I suppose that can’t be helped because of the downpour the day before. During the race there were plenty of people guiding you where to go and sometimes how to complete an obstacle. I maybe could have used a few more water stops but there were at least 4 on the course. When the race ended it was a smooth finish when I got my medal, my t shirt, and of course my free beer and then was directed to the hoses to hose myself off from all the mud and filth I had gathered on the course. At the festival areas there were cool spots to take pictures, plenty of reasonably prices Spartan race apparel, and food and rink to go around. It was the easiest and stress free obstacle race I have done from an organizational standpoint.
The race itself was anything but easy and stress free. But before I get into the course itself let’s talk about my preparation. I signed up for this race probably about 6 months ago. I always like to do a fall race because it allows me the summer to train. Then a few months after signing up I kind of forgot about it. The friends and co-workers who were thinking of doing it with me bailed out one by one so I kind of put it on the backburner. Not to say that I was out of shape. I just didn’t directly train for a Spartan race. Although looking back now I am not sure anyone can train to conquer the terrain that Mountain Creek provided. I decided my summer was going to be spent following Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 program plus doing CrossFit a few times a week. t did increase my squat by 15 pounds, my deadlift by 25 pounds. and my bench by 10 pounds. That is quite a lofty workout regimen but doing a max squat or deadlift doesn’t exactly help me climb a rope or scale a wall. I like to think I am always in pretty good shape. In fact, the last two challenged I have done I didn’t really train for. Last October I ran a half marathon with zero to no training. The Spartan race if you don’t know is a 8.8 mile trek through rough terrain with obstacles along the way. The ideal Spartan racer is probably lean, quick, and able to cover ground quickly but also is very strong particularly in his or her upper body compared to their body weight. Think Ninja Warrior with much better cardio. Pretty much all my weak spots when I do CrossFit. I am a heavier guy who struggles with the rope climbs, pull-ups, muscle ups, and things like that. But, as I preach to my athletes you can’t just accept the challenges that you are good at. You have to be able to attack and conquer your weaknesses as well. So I went for it.
The race itself was very challenging particularly the hills and the rough terrain. The very beginning of the race there was a hype guy who got us all pumped up and we ran through smoke to start the race and I ran about halfway up this giant mountain then it hit. The walking begins. The run turned into more of a hike. The fact that it poured the day before probably didn’t help. To be honest there wasn’t that much running throughout which kept the race quite slow. The uphills were too daunting to run and the downhills were just as steep with rocks and mud that you couldn’t really run those either. There was one long section of some good trail running which was challenging but manageable and that was actually quite fun. I haven’t trail run in a while but it reminded me of Lewis Morris Park in Morristown where I used to trail run all the time. It was up and down with rocks and tree roots Trail running has a totally different style than road running. You can never zone out or you might find yourself face first in a pile of mud and rocks. There were probably 5 severe climbs where running was not an option except for the elite’s I suppose. Let’s put it this way, I didn’t see anyone running around me. The obstacles themselves were challenging in their own right. Some of them I surprised myself with how well I did it. The traverse rope I have never done before so being able to do that with no problem was a lot of fun. I went for the supine approach. Then there was the typical scaling of different sized walls. Some were harder than others. On one of the bigger walls a fellow Spartan helped me get over by letting me use his knee to get a boost. Being only 5’9 and my shoes and socks weighed down with mud and water didn’t allow me to get the vertical enough to get up and over the large wall. There were several mud pits culminating in one where you had to go under a wall underneath the mud which of course they had a photographer waiting as you popped up on the under side. Smile!
There were carrying challenges as well. The atlas stone carry was a fun one where you had to pick up an 80 pound atlas stone covered in mud then carry it about 15 yards. Do 5 burpees and repeat. The Log carry was similar but more challenging. I noticed some of the logs had holes cut out for grips and some did not. Of course mine did not. Mine was also a lot thicker rather than longer which didn’t allow me to put it on my shoulder like some other people did. It wouldn’t fit. I had to carry this heavy ass log in front of me fatiguing my biceps the whole time. Of course right after the log carry was the sandbag pulley. Those two directly after each other was cruel and unusual punishment. I attempting the pulley but with the combination of my hands being wet, my grip and biceps being shot I couldn’t quite get it up. I teamed with another Spartan who as a team we were able to get the sandbag all the way up and down. Thank God Spartans stick together. The two consecutive obstacles right after each other seemed to be a theme for this course because another extremely challenging set happened earlier ion the race. The first was the stone carry. Basically you had to fill up a large bucket with stones. Had to be above the holes punched on the top inch of the box they said. Then you had to carry the bucket up a large hill and turn around. This was extremely difficult. I was forced to put the bucket down several times.
At the bottom of the hill you dumped the bucket out back into the pile with your forearms and hands throbbing they sent you right to the vertical rope climb. Not only were my hands dying and my arms shot but now we immediately had to jump into waist deep water and climb a rope. I can do a rope climb no problem. This rope even had knots in it which made it much easier. But again the course got me here. Jumping out of water to climb a wet rope was just too much. I actually got about halfway up but just couldn’t go any further. If I had sat there for 10 minutes or so I could have gotten it but I didn’t want to hold everyone up who was waiting behind me. So I jumped out of the water, did my 30 burpees and moved on. Just when I thought it was time for a little running to give my hands a rest next up was the true Ninja Warrior special. Climbing horizontal on a wall with little sections for your hands and feet. Think rock climbing wall but instead of moving up you are moving sideways. I took about 4 falls on this one but since there weren’t a lot of people behind me I eventually got it. I was pretty pumped because I surprised myself on this one. Once that was over my hands felt like curled up balls on knotted muscle.
There was one more obstacle again where I surprised myself. It was a large up and over wall. The bottom section was a flat wall then above that there were horizontal beams. I knew I could get up and over the beams but the wall was high and at this point I wasn’t sure I had the energy or the grip strength to get up there. I sat for about 2 minutes watching others then finally made my jump and on the first try got up and over. I was pumped about that one. That’s why these races are so much fun because you get challenged and end up doing things you didn’t think you could. There were a lot more obstacles and stumbles along the way. Of the 25 obstacles I was unable to do 4 of them and on two others I got help from another Spartan. The 30 burpee penalty for each failed attempt was not fun but sometimes saved me time. The last major uphill then down was soul crushing. It ended basically where the ski lift drops off skiers. This ended up with the best view of the course. I actually stopped for a second partly because I sucking wind but also because I wanted to take in the view from the highest part on the course and enjoy it for a second. That last downhill was brutal. It was a decent of loose rocks and gravel, which made my quads burn like never before. I saw several people wipe out and one man actually just take a seat. After all that there was only about 50 yards on crawling under barbed wire on mud and more rocks down another hill to get to the finish. Of course there was the last obstacle of the hanging rings, which I got two rings deep and had to bail out. 30 burpees later I was able to jump over the fire logs and pose for my picture as best I could and it was over.
The course took me 4 hours and twelve minutes. If you had told me before it started that the 8.8 mile Spartan race would take more almost 20 minutes longer than it took me to run the New York City Marathon I would never have believed it. I might not have taken on the challenge. However, sometimes that’s where greatness lies, going into all challenges blindly and dealing with the next obstacle in front you one at a time until you are finished. Would I do it again? I don’t think I would attempt it again without training specifically for it. I feel like I could do the sprint but as I sit here two days later with my entire body still sore I wouldn’t say I would attempt it again in such a manner. Is this my last Spartan Race? Absolutely not! I now have a base of knowledge and know what it takes. I have a time to beat and a goal for next time. I will be back! Arooo!
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
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.
One of the questions I get a lot is how do I write programs for my athletes. Most people don’t seem to understand how much effort goes into this. There is a lot of research involved when you work with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. I read the journals every month to keep up with the latest information that is currently in the field. I am not going to pretend I read every article every month but I pick out the ones that I am interested in or that pertain to an athlete I am working with and make sure I read it. I also like to read blogs of other coaches I respect and websites like T-Nation to keep up not just with the science need of things but what is actually going on in the field. So creating a program for an athlete is not just throwing a few exercises together and see how much they can lift and help them get stronger. One of my favorite quotes I have heard is “Anyone can make you tired. A strength and conditioning coach teaches movement and improves performance.” So this post is about exactly what goes into writing a program for an athlete.
What Sport and what position does the athlete play: This is a crucial first step not necessarily because of what exercises you are going to do but also because of what exercises you are not going to do. For example, I will place a lot of restrictions on an overhead throwing athlete such as a baseball pitcher, volleyball player, or a swimmer. The Shoulder is the most complex joint in the body and it has to be treated with care. I also look the sport to see what type of metabolic demands it places on the athlete based on their sport but also their position. Take Football for example. A Wide Receiver needs to train differently than a lineman. If you were to give the two the same workout plan. Chances are the wide receiver would be getting slower or the lineman would be getting weaker. With metabolic demands I have to consider is the sport highly aerobic or more anaerobic in nature. Baseball players for example don’t need much in terms of aerobic conditioning but a Field Hockey player would need quite a bit more. Within aerobic and anaerobic constraints there are also different energy systems that come into play. The ATP-Pc or phosphogen energy system allows for approximately 12 seconds or less of work capacity. An sport where this is the primary energy system would be softball. A softball player would never have to work for more than 12 seconds at a time during a game. The glycolytic energy system is one of moderate power and moderate duration. After 12 seconds peak power drops and some amount of aerobic capacity is needed. A sport which demands this energy system would be soccer. The soccer player needs short bursts of sprinting speed but also a continious motor throughout the game. Lastly is the Oxidative system which is your highly aerobic athletes. An example of this kind of athlete would be a cross country runner. In plain English there is no need for a football lineman to run 2 miles during training just like there is no need for a cross country runner to work on his or her 1 Rep. Max Squat. Each athlete has different needs in training.
Think about the Individual: I evaluate every athlete who steps in the door. Whether that means a formal evaluation before training starts or just by watching them complete the dynamic warmup. Movement quality is so important not just in term of injury prevention but for growth within training. Movement quality can mean an injury that is not quite healed or it can just be a result of years of pervious poor movement patterns. From the ages of 1-5 almost all humans move in similar ways. These dysfunctions occur later in life from the lives we lead. So when I write a program for an athlete who has a poor movement pattern I will try to correct that first before I overload that movement pattern with weight. If an athlete can’t get his shoulders to full flexion overhead. I wouldn’t have that athlete do heavy shoulder presses. To be honest an athlete with a poor movement pattern probably would not be able to execute a dynamic and coordinated movement in that pattern under load anyway. This is something called muscular inhibition. The brain simply won’t allow the body to put itself at risk of injury. The second part of the evaluation is athleticism. Is the athlete strong? Are they quick? Are they explosive? My general rule of thumb is to attack weaknesses with training. For a strong kid who has heavy feet I would program a lot of speed drills and a lot of plyometrics. For a kid who can run all day and has a high motor I would train strength.
Exercise Sequence: I always start with a thorough and lengthy warmup that includes dynamic movements, injury prevention drills, core, and glute activation exercises. Then I have the athlete work on corrective exercises if there are any. These will include specific mobility or flexibility work that is geared toward the individual. Finally I will almost always have the athlete perform a core lift first. I believe bench press, squat, and deadlifts are every athlete’s foundation for strength. On 90% of my programs written the athlete is doing one of those three exercises first or at least a variation of them and doing multiple sets of at least 4 or 5. If the athlete is doing an Olympic lift I may substitute that for one of the core lifts as well although some athletes don’t olympic lift and others are just at the point of working on olympic lifting skills. That first core lift is the only one where I have the athlete complete all of the sets without starting another exercise. I think this sets the tone as to how important this is and requires the athletes full attention. I also try to incorporate all of the basic movement patterns into the programs. I believe that for a complete strength training program you need to incorporate squats, presses, pulls, hip hinges, and carries in a equal fashion. I think this creates a balanced athlete who has total strength and makes them less likely to get hurt. After the initial core lift all of my strength training is usually done in circuits that may include a mix strength training, conditioning, skill work, and mobility. I will most often save anything that is high intensity for the end of the workout as to not fatigue the athlete for strength training. So if I program a high intensity interval of wallaballs and burpees or I have an athlete push a sled I will make sure those are done towards the end of the program. I usually save my core and abs work for a period where I want a programmed break to help the athlete recover and catch their breath. Sometimes this is in the middle or sometimes it goes last. At the end of of the workout I have the athlete foam roll and static stretch for at least ten minutes.
Periodization: Traditionally as a CSCS you are taught that to have an athlete peak for a season you need to follow a linear periodization model that might look something like this: General Prep period where the athlete is introduced to the basics and is usually performing a mix of strength training work while being re-acclimated to training. That would be followed by a hypertrophy / endurance phase lasting anywhere from 3-6 weeks. During this phase the athlete would be performing 3-6 sets of 10-20 reps at 50-75% of their one rep max. Then a basic strength phase where the athlete would perform 3-5 sets of 4-8 reps between 80-90% of their one rep max. That would be followed by a strength and power phase where the athlete would perform 3-5 sets of 2-5 at 75-95% of their one rep max. Then there would a transition period during pre-season followed by peaking where the athlete will perform 1-3 sets of 1-3 reps at 93% and above. Then in season the athlete would be doing maintenance work at 2-3 sets of 6-8 at 80-85% of their one rep max. Lastly that would be followed by another transition period of active rest during post season. This sounds all well and good if I am training a one sport athlete with a training age of at least two years with no movement deficiencies and lots of free time to dedicate to training. However, that is not often the case. An athlete who is new to strength training no matter their chronological age might be better served in a general prep period for maybe almost a full year. Within those first two years of training I will often program a less traditional non-linear training approach. I will use those same phases as the linear approach but instead change them from week to week. The non linear approach instead of building towards a season will have the athlete go up and down throughout. For example one week the athlete could be in a strength power phase and the next week in a hypertrophy / endurance phase. This non linear approach allows for athletes to deload from time to time and it allows for active recovery which might be necessary for an athlete who is new to training. The research shows that non-linear training programs are effective but there is also more research needed. You can also work your way up to a peak in the non-linear approach as well because your peaking and transition periods would still be written into the programs.
So there it is. Everything that I take into consideration when writing an athlete’s workout program. There are a lot of trainers who just show up to the gym and wing it and perhaps this can work for a young athlete for a short period of time. If you want to find a coach who will use scientific principles, practical information, and has the experience to create a thorough workout program for you as an individual come see us at Inception Sports Performance in Madison, NJ or go to NSCA.com and find a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist in your area.
Lacrosse is a game of athleticism. The athletes who play lacrosse have to be quick, agile, and powerful. It is a largely anaerobic sport where there are bursts of speed followed by downtime. In order to play this way the athlete has to train this way as well. In the game you need to be able to change directions quickly. Good footwork and flexible hips are important. Speed ladder drills and change of directions skills are excellent for improving these qualities.
Strength is needed in the hamstrings, glutes, core, and forearms in particular. Posterior chain strength is important for sprinting speed. Deadlifts are a great exercise for strengthening these areas. The core and forearms are important to release powerful shots on goal. One of the best exercises to strengthen these muscles is called a farmer’s walks. For an added core challenge perform single arm farmer’s walks.
Power is a combination of strength and speed. In order to change directions on a dime and fire balls into the back of the net you need an explosive and powerful core. Medicine Ball slams and rotational throws are great for building a powerful core.
Training should also depend on what position you play because each position on the field has unique demands.
If you play attack then you need to be quick, powerful, and have the ability to twist and turn in various directions to get off your shots. You also need to have strong legs to sprint at top speeds. The Prowler push is a great exercise to develop this top speed.
Middies need more endurance than anyone else on the field. In order to cover both ends of the field you need the most aerobic capacity of any position on the field. 400-meter repeats are a great drill for midfielders. Run 400 meters or one lap around the track as fast as you can. However long it takes you, rest that same amount and then repeat until your time decreases by more than 10 seconds.
Defenders need to be the strongest on the field. They need a strong upper body to slash opponents to try and loosen the ball. Defenders also have to backpedal quite a bit and open up their hips in order to recover quickly to protect the goal. Sledgehammer swings on a large tire are a great exercise for defenders.
Goalies need excellent hand eye coordination and quick reactions. While they also need strong hands and wrists, the eyes are perhaps the most important muscle a goalie can strengthen.
At our facility in Madison we have a vision coach board. It works on exactly this. It quickens reaction time via neural pathways. We also have Certified Strength and Conditions Specialists who can help you train the way you should for your sport and your position. We can help you reach that next level of performance. Visit www.MyOffSeason.Org for more information.
1. I am going to be really sore for a while
2. Overall they do a nice job teaching the movements.
I joined CrossFit to see what all the hubbub was about. I have always wanted to give it a shot because I did admire the shear intensity of the workouts that I saw posted on their website. www.CrossFit.com. I have also seen the CrossFit games on TV. Everyone I see who does CrossFit seems to be in incredible shape and something has to be said for that. In the end I was curious and just needed a change of pace. I like to be challenged physically and this seemed like the place to do that.
When you sign up for CrossFit they require a two week and 4 classes intro class. I attended the past two Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. Each class follows a simple format. Explanation of the workout of the day. They use a white board to explain what the day’s plan is and how it is going to be done. They might mention a few keys to look for or a tip of the day regarding nutrition. Then a warmup which might be a dynamic warmup or a mobility drill but most likely a little of both. Then the W.O.D. which is the Workout of the day. The actual workout is usually short but quick and high intensity. Their mantra is Constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements. They openly tell you that if you do CrossFit you will be good at everything but great at nothing. It is a well rounded fitness program. You will develop some speed, some strength, some endurance, and some power. There is nothing that you will not be able to do. Climb a mountain? o.k! Run a 5k? no problem! Hop a fence? easy! Kill Zombies? Any day!
The four workouts that I did lasted no more than 10 minutes each. They said that 85% of the workouts are between 5-15 minutes but some go as long as 40 minutes. When the workout is done there is a cool down and a recap. You always write your score or time on the white board when you are finished. It feels like a community but there is also competition which I like. It is so different from my old gym where I would put my headphones and and do my own thing. Here it is like everyone is suffering / achieving together.
My workout of the days were as follows:
Day 1: Kattleball swings and box jumps timed. You had to complete 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 of one alternating with 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 of the other. I completed the workout in 5:16 seconds and I was more winded and more sore than I had been at my own gym in months.
Day 2: Thrusters and jumping pull-ups. A thruster is a front squat into and overhead press while a jumping pull-up is off of a box and jumping up to the bar and fully extended the arms each time you come down. The workout was to do 5 rounds of 10 Thrusters and 10 pull-ups.
Day 3: Deadlifts for 5 reps. 10 Burpees and 250m Rowing. As Many Rounds as Possible in 10 minutes.
Day 4: OverHead squats for 10. Pushups for 5 and full range sit-ups for 15. AMRAP in 12 minutes.
The coaches are there the whole time coaching technique and stopping you to correct and teach if needed. The technique and the range of motion took priority over the workout. All workouts could also be modified or scaled as they called it to fit your needs. If you couldn’t do a full pushup you would drop to your knees or add a pad under your chest to decrease range of motion while still working on technique.
The 4 days were very logical and sequential. They went with a top down approach which I would always recommend. They started with Overhead squats which led to Front squats, High Pulls, Jerk snatches, Hang Cleans, and eventually Deadlifts. Every movement was taught with an excellent sense of functional anatomy and how the body was designed to move.
If you were teaching these movements to High School kids or really anyone you could no doubt spend more than 4 days drilling them. Some people spend years trying to perfect their technique. But you have to remember that everyone comes in at different skill levels plus the fact that people joined a gym because they want to work out so you can’t keep them out of the regular classes forever. I commend them for making everyone attend the 4 intro classes before entering the regular gym atmosphere. From all the negative things that I heard about CrossFit I have to say that my experience at Guerilla CrossFit in Morristown, NJ has been overall positive so far.
There are a few negative but not from a standpoint of coaching or knowledge or anything like that. Just the programming risks. I still feel that plyometrics and olympic lifts are not meant to be endurance lifts. They are meant to develop power which is a combination of strength and speed. When you make these lifts endurance based people can easily lose their technique due to fatigue or just the pounding on the body can result in injuries even if technique is sound. If the coaches are willing to stop and correct during the actual workouts like they were for the intro workouts than I think this problem can be negotiated to an extent. The one thing I am not sure of is how many coaches are on the floor during a typical session. In the intro classes we had a 5 to 1 ratio. If it is a 20 to 1 ratio then that might be risky.
Bottom line is if you are an athlete who needs a programmed sport specific workout for your sport then I would NOT recommend CrossFit. There are just too many programming flaws and too much variety to really develop sport specific power. There are risks involved in all activities and if you think of CrossFit like a sport then you realize that no matter what you do there are risks involved. If a football player gets fatigued in the 4th quarter and lowers his head then he runs the risk of having another player hitting him in the back of the head and possible breaking his neck. CrossFit is the sport of fitness so If you want to get into great shape and really challenge yourself in all aspects of fitness then I WOULD recommend CrossFit for you. I know I am going to have a blast with CrossFit and I can’t wait to experience the community of CrossFit and really suffer / achieve together.
We didn’t have strength coaches when I was a kid. That’s just a bunch of B.S. Why does every kid have a personal trainer? Why do schools need strength and conditioning coaches? I could maybe understand at the elite college level but High School? Are you kidding me? Well let me tell you:
1. When you were a kid you climbed trees.
2. When you were a kid you on the weekends you didn’t want to stay inside all day because that’s where the parents were. You wanted to go outside and be with your friends.
3. When you were a kid you didn’t have play dates, you just rode your bike over to your friends house and knocked on the door.
4. When you were a kid you played a sport even when coaches weren’t around to run practice.
5. When you were a kid you would occasionally get in a fight and no parents would ever be called.
6. When you were a kid you may have climbed over a fence or two.
7. When you were a kid video games just weren’t that good.
8. When you were a kid you played pickup games without referees or umpires.
9. When you were a kid you had playgrounds that were open to the public.
10. When you were a kid you had P.E. class every day.
11. When you were a kid getting hurt meant a broken bone.
12. When you were a kid you played football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball in the spring.
13. When you were a kid meals at restaurants were 33% smaller.
14. When you were a kid you could do 5 pullups.
15. When you were a kid staying home was boring.
16. When you were a kid if you got cut from the team that didn’t mean you gave up athletics.
17. When you were a kid (depending on your age) girls didn’t work out.
18. When you were a kid you didn’t need the best equipment to try a sport.
19. When you were a kid you walked to school instead of having your parents drop you off and pick you up.
20. When you were a kid lacrosse was for non-athletic kids or you had never heard of it.
(Sorry. I had to throw that in there)
The fact of the matter is that today’s kids are so unprepared to play sports that they need a strength and conditioning coach. All of the physical strength and stamina that you would gain from your upbringing, today’s kids have none of it. Yes we all have accepted the fact that today’s athletes are bigger, stronger, and faster than your grandfather’s generation. What we also have to accept is that tendons, ligaments, and soft tissue injuries are happening at a much greater rate than your grandfather’s generation. Kids tear ACL’s and sprain ankles. Kids are suffering from injuries as a direct result of their lack of physical activity growing up. ACL and meniscus tears are happening at an increasing rate of 11% over the past 15 years. When a kid plays a sport now he or she usually plays it year round. This is leading to over-use injuries. Because of the lack of physical activity as a youngster the child’s body is not equally balanced enough to withstand what they are currently being asked to do. Kids need to develop a more well-rounded physicality in order to stay injury free. They need to work on muscular imbalances and correct them. They need proper instruction on how to land in a correct position. This is something your generation might have just known from jumping over fences and out of trees but today’s girls are tearing up their knees at an alarming rate because they have no idea how to land correctly. A strength and conditioning coach will keep in mind the total athlete and not just train them as if they were college athletes or professional athletes. A strength and conditioning coach would have progressions starting with body weight exercise and functional exercise that your generation learned in a P.E. class. If you can’t do a pushup then you should try bench pressing. If you can’t perform a overhead squat without corrective measures than you shouldn’t be doing a clean and jerk.
Today’s High School athletes need a strength coach because of the way they were raised. It is a job that is out of necessity rather than luxury.