Monthly Archives: April 2012

Light the SPARQ

I’m baaaaaaack (for real this time)

The blog & I have done a lot of soul searching recently and have decided to rekindle our relationship.  Actually, my final semester of grad school is coming to a close, the lacrosse season is over, and I’ve found a way to stay healthy for a full week. All the awards!

Since all the chaos is winding down, it is a perfect opportunity to kick those workouts into high gear again.  It is also a great time if you’re from up north because the weather is FINALLY starting to become manageable.  Time to take our talents outside & get crazy.

The major benefit of living in Miami is the ability to train outside all year round.  That definitely doesn’t mean I do it every single day because I’m as big a gym rat as they come, but it is always great to have the option when you’re looking for something outside the box.  I try to carry minimal equipment on these days & just post up at a park or a field and go to town.  Most of the time I only need a med ball, some cones, and possibly my TRX if I’m feeling really ambitious. [Shameless plug – but I’m a major fan of the TRX. I don’t use it exclusively, or even THAT often, but I love the variety it provides and the convenience of being able to put it anywhere. Its also insanely durable, which means a lot coming from me since I have a talent for destroying just about everything]

I should be paid for that ad. TRX get at me.

Anyway, since my main specialization is sports performance, I tend to program that way for myself.  As such, agility drills and sprints are something I incorporate into my outdoor workouts on a consistent basis.  Agility training is something I love because its fun, quick, useful, and the only real limit is your creativity.  I know a lot of people shy away from it because they don’t feel like its necessary, but I assure you, there are some serious benefits that come from these drills.  It requires skill, coordination, balance, strength, power and endurance – and that’s only the beginning.  Since you are forced to use your dynamic stabilizers in multiple planes at a rapid pace, it is more demanding than simply running.  I also enjoy scaring away everyone at the park by setting up cones and acting like I’m training for the NFL combine. I really am though, it’s fine.

Can you seem the resemblance?

This also goes back to some earlier posts where I discussed neuromuscular training.  Preparing your body for movements by practicing these movements greatly reduces the risk of injury when you go to attempt similar tasks.  AKA: if you practice changing directions occasionally, you’re far less likely to roll your ankle playing basketball than if you consistently stand around doing calf raises before a hoops game.  Makes sense.

Usually I make these workouts go for about 30-40 minutes with very minimal rest. I’m not a huge nazi about the work/rest ratios because I’m not training for a particular sport – I just try to pick a variety of drills with multiple changes in direction and I rest enough so that I can perform them with the most technical skill as possible.  I promise you, it really is THAT simple.

Here is the fool-proof formula for a great agility session:

Dynamic warm up (we all know the importance of this – start general, get specific, lateral movements, add speed/power. boom.)

Neural prep (short bursts of power: squat jumps, lateral hops, sprint starts, tuck jumps, etc)

General agility (speed ladder, forward/backward movements, lateral movements @ 50%)

Specific agility (drills with sharp cuts or varying changes in movements – short cone suicides, T drill, figure 8’s) – pick 2-3 of these

Conditioning gross agility (more for the conditioning effect – shuttle runs, suicides, longer figure 8s, etc)

Cool down

If you’re new to agility training, you don’t have to go at 100mph right from the start.  In fact, when do we ever recommend starting as fast as possible?  Focus instead on technique and getting used to stabilizing your body through the different changes in direction.  When you become more efficient, the speed will increase naturally.

In my follow up post I’ll have a few agility drill examples, some considerations if you ARE training for a particular sport, and a sample workout 🙂

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Cadbury & Contrasts

Sorry for another long break between posts – but I am FINALLY back to normal after one hell of a sickness. I hope you all had a great Easter for those who celebrate, and don’t beat yourself up if you ate one too many cadbury creme eggs – they’re worth it. 😉

yum

Along similar lines of this ballistic training stuff I’ve been talking about, I thought I’d talk about something we incorporate into a lot of our workouts.  “Contrast sets” are something most people are familiar with, but many don’t know how to program correctly.  They’re ideal for bridging the gap between strength & power, and they help the neuromuscular system fire key muscle fibers despite fatigue. They’re killer, and there are a lot of different combinations you can use to achieve optimal results.

Contrast training essentially takes the same movement pattern and muscle groups for 2 exercises but varies the speed and intensity in the same set.  An example of this is seen when a lifter performs a barbell back squat followed immediately by box jumps.  The recommended reps can fall anywhere between 5-10, depending on the goal, but for athletes trying to achieve explosive power under fatigue, they want to stick to the 5-6 range.  Time under tension is important here, and using any more than those 6 reps during the strength movement will push away from the proper metabolic response.  It is also key to use enough weight to elicit a STRENGTH response, because too light will defeat the purpose.  Shooting for 85%-90% 1RM (for a seasoned lifter) is the goal.

When it comes to programming these, if you are using a TRUE contrast set in the proper % of 1RM, it is important to put them at the beginning.  They are very neurologically demanding & require the most amount of energy.  Usually picking 1 or 2 exercises to contrast per workout is sufficient.

Nick Tumminello has a great article with more examples on contrast training HERE – I don’t want to copy any of his stuff, so check it out.  He also provides great examples for just about every movement.

I tend to use front squats & lateral jumps the most, but I’ve tried a lot of the ones Nick suggests.  Anyone use contrast training in their programs?