Monthly Archives: May 2012

What makes a program “sport-specific”?

Summertime & the living’s easy….unless you’re an athlete.

For most athletes, the summer is actually the busiest and most crucial time of all. Off-season strength & conditioning programs are where a lot of athletes have the time to focus on their bodies and make huge gains in strength- more so than any other point in the season.  With that in mind, it got me thinking about all the components that go into planning for performance enhancement & how to evaluate if a particular program is appropriate for an individual’s sport.

For most people just looking to lose weight, or incur some type of body composition change, this type of evaluation might not be necessary. It doesn’t matter WHEN certain phases occur throughout the year [speed, hypertrophy, strength, etc], and the exercise selection isn’t as narrowly focused. But for an athlete, planning every step of the way is crucial. It is essentially like comparing cooking to baking. With cooking, you can experiment more freely – you can add ingredients, deviate from a recipe, get downright crazy and still probably achieve greatness. Baking, on the other hand, is a whole different ball game. There is a reason for everything in the recipe – deviate from the proportions and you’re going to have one dried up cake. But if you plan and you are exact with the measurements, everything will come out balanced and delicious.

Sometimes, however, athletes get so caught up in the little details of the program that they don’t stop to think  “why”. Why certain exercises are included in certain phases (or at all); Why intervals are run with a particular work:rest ratio; Why this program is better suited than that one, etc. It is very rare to come across anything that steps back to really discuss the “big picture”. So this evaluation is to help athletes analyze their sport a bit more, and for coaches to make sure they’re considering all the variables when programming.

There is still some crossover with personal training here, i.e. assessing an athlete for individual goals, physical limitations, previous injuries, training history, etc – because you never want to lose the individuality component.  But what makes a program ideal for a particular sport vs just a really great workout?

Categories of Evaluation

1. Requisite movements by position (the endurance of a point guard is > than a center in basketball, for example. or a midfielder vs an attack player in lacrosse)

2. Energy systems and related dynamics (primary contributors?)

3. Dominant/minimal speeds and related factors (sprinting? long, steady pace? varying intervals?)

4. Force/velocity factors (high speed movements? repeat submaximal efforts?)

5. Factors that determine success outcomes (is flexibility important?, endurance? conditioning?)

6. Factors that limit success (injuries, etc)

7. Morphological relevance (body comp – does the player need size? strength? speed?)

These are just the broad categories to consider when analyzing a particular athlete & their sport. To get more specific, we have the movement analysis that breaks down the sport into specific components to ensure that a program is balanced and focused, the physiological analysis that looks at all the metabolic components, and the limitation analysis that considers the barriers and differences in levels of success.

Movement Analysis

1. Movements used during the activity

2. Speed or rate of movement & frequency

3. Directional/plane variations/speed

4. Muscle-joint considerations and efficiency or resistance to economy

5. Muscle balance, stability, acceleration, deceleration and force couples

Physiological Analysis

1. Energy systems used

2. Duration of power output

3. Magnitude of force demands

4. Frequency of force/recovery

5. Additional physiological demands (i.e. total caloric output)

Limitations Analysis

1. Common injuries in the sport

2. Difference between “good” & “great” (for example, it has been shown that the velocity around the elbow joint is what separates the elite pitchers from the non-elite. other characteristics might include VO2max, or simple body composition factors like height & weight)

3. Recovery/fatigue

4. Flexibility, body fatness, strength/power weight ratio

With all that said, a pre-conditioning evaluation (or fitness assessment) would take into consideration the following:

1. Identify all deficiencies

2. Injury analysis – a past history of the athlete

3. Training history/tenure

4. Training status

5. Physiological assessments

6. Identification of neural efficiency/aptitude

7. Program level decision (beginner, intermed, advanced)

Secondary considerations:

1. Limitations first – flexibility, distortions

2. Minimal strength needs – at least enough

3. Force rate development – power/speed

4. Neural efficiency – skill specific overlap

5. Metabolic conditioning – conditioning vs weight training

As you can see, it is more than just becoming “bigger, faster, stronger”. There is a lot that goes into evaluating an athlete – both at the individual level & for sport application. Using this checklist will help ensure that the program you’re following (or creating) makes sense.

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SPARQ – Part 3

Finally coming off the high of birthdays, graduations, mother’s day, etc. If I was in the NFL this time in my life would be flagged for Excessive Celebration.

As promised, here is the final installment of my posts on agility training & conditioning workouts. The sample I have involves lacrosse, but it provides some insight into the training phases & concerns for a particular sport. Often times in strength & conditioning, a ton of emphasis is put on the strength part – what rep schemes, rest periods, and exercises fit into a particular phase, etc. But there is definitely a lack of information for the same type of programming on the conditioning end. For example, if an athlete is in a “hypertrophy” phase of training in the weight room, does that affect how many times a week he/she conditions? Do the number of drills within a session change? What kind of drills should be emphasized? AKA: How do you make it all fit together?

Truth be told, (and even contrary to the title of my blog) the way I like to program SHOULD be called “Conditioning & Strength” – I think conditioning is extremely important & often underemphasized in certain cases. I’m not saying S&C coaches don’t know how to program for it, because they do, but the information reaching the masses very rarely discusses conditioning as it applies to the particular “phases” of training.

So first of all, here are some of the basic concepts & their order of operations when it comes to conditioning.

Conditioning Concepts

A. Speed foundation: flexibility, muscle balance, dynamic balance

B. Speed technique: form, coordination, technique, ROM

C. Speed strength: metabolic efficiency, speed loading, MD efficiency

D. Speed power: neuromuscular efficiency, MD efficiency

E. Sport speed: preseason and practice; sport efficiency, metabolic efficiency

Order of operations

In a particular workout, this is the structure you’re shooting for

1. Injury related issues (corrective exercises)

2. Dynamic warm up (line drills)

3. Technique drills (acceleration, landing drills, med ball work, etc)

4. Speed of movement drills (ladder drills, agilities)

5. Metabolics (the main conditioning portion with key emphasis on energy system development & the goal of the phase)

6. Cool down

Breaking down the “phases”

So how do you put it all together?

A. Speed foundation: Warm up, dynamic flexibility, Circuit 5-7 exercises. Glycolytic power for 20 minutes [transitional rest – building a base]

B. Speed technique: 3-4 technique drills [10-20 yds, 1:3 rest], 3-5 speed drills [15-20 yds, 1:5 rest]

C. Speed strength: 2-3 technique drills [15-60 yds, 1:3 rest], 5-7 movement drills [20-120 yds, 1:5 rest] 6-7 minute sport specific distance drills

D. Speed power: 1-2 technique drills [1:3], 7-10 movement drills

E. Sport speed: Sport specific drills 15-20 yds; 10-15 sets metabolics 20-30 yds

Training example – Prep phase

This would be an example for a lacrosse player in the beginning phases of a program. Its okay if you don’t know the particular exercises, but its just to get a sense of how the program flows & what some of the major points of emphasis are. In this case, all of the technique drills are focusing on form & landing mechanics. Later phases will involve more ballistic movements, med ball throws, and power development.

  1. Warm up: OH reverse lunge; SL transverse rotation; Adductor windmills w/ arm to toe reach 2x through
  2. Line drill warm up

A march w/ ankling

A skips

B march

B march w/ ankling

B skips

Hip abduction/Adduction

Frankensteins

Mid-High knees

Butt-kicks

High knees/Butt kick combo

Lateral shuffle

  1. Fwd/Back/Lateral Reaction line drill x 6 movements (3 x through)
  2. Tuck jumps (x8; 3 times through)

Technique drills

  1. (Arms across the chest) speed squats – no jumping, triple extension x10
  2. Swivel jumps x10
  3. Lateral jump w/ reach x10

SAQ

  1. Box drill 3x each way (6 total) x4
    1. Sprint/shuffle/backpedal always facing forward around the box
    2. Same drill w/ change of direction on whistle
  2. Z drill x4 50%, 75%, 100%, 100%
  3. Triples x4
  4. Figure 8 (10 yds) – 2 loops each time; x4
  5. Over – back – over partner sprints [1/2 gassers using width of the field] x5

So there you have it. This goes for any average joe working out as well. If you’re following a strength program that’s pretty heavy on the weight side (pun completely intended) but you try to fit in some conditioning on the other days, do you really know what you should & shouldn’t be doing? Countless fitness books have the weight training down to a SCIENCE – and then leave about 1-2 chapters going over all the different little cardio options. “Light cardio” “no impact” “moderate” etc. What does that even mean? Too many times people are unaware of the effect conditioning has on the CNS – they try to run 400m repeats on their “off” days because they think its a suitable option (PS if done correctly, those suck. i do them far too often. they are NOT a light activity).While everything I’ve written applies directly to sports performance, the same concepts can be taken. If you know you’re in a strength phase, then your conditioning, while not the main focus, should still help with that goal. Sled pulls, med ball work, metabolics, etc – all can help boost your program while still falling into place with what you are truly trying to accomplish.

Hopefully this has provided some insight into the conditioning madness. Now head over to my homegirl’s blog over at I Train Therefore I eat & check out her conditioning workout for the day!

Time out – 24!

Yesterday was my 24th birthday & today I’m celebrating with my 24th post! And in 24 hours (a little less, but we’re sticking to a theme here) I’ll OFFICIALLY be a “Master” of strength & conditioning. That, by the way, is THE fiercest master’s degree title out there, I don’t care what anyone says. I can’t wait to rock it.

I know I owe you guys a final installment of SPARQ training and I promise its coming, but this is a celebratory check-in post filled with random updates that I figured I’d share with you all 🙂

Training updates:

As I posted about a month or so ago, I officially accomplished the 10 pull ups that I set out to achieve as part of my new year’s resolution in January. I plan to do a post all about how I FINALLY got over the hump of 6-8 reps and how it can apply to most exercises. I experimented A LOT, but finally seemed to find an approach that worked for me. Hopefully some of you find it helpful!

Lately, [and somewhat surprisingly], I’ve been focusing most of my training around various types of running – different interval lengths, sprint repeats, agility drills and just general conditioning. I do this every so often to change up my routine & to tweak my work capacity. I struggle to get super motivated for these workouts sometimes because they’re brutal but they’re worth it in the end. Even if I go home and do this:

Completely accurate.

Don’t worry though – I’m definitely not neglecting the weights – that would go against all I stand for 😉 – But right now I’m just focusing more on some power stuff & metabolics. I’m keeping a lot of the load submaximal & only putting in about 2 lifting days per week. My strength has remained relatively constant, & I’m not worried about losing too much. After a few more weeks of this running stuff I plan to change it up again. I’ll be due for some corrective work definitely- the extra running always throws a few things out of whack no matter how much I try to keep it balanced, so its important to cycle through phases.

Life updates

The only thing worth mentioning is I’m looking for a full time job like every one else in the free world so I don’t have to live in a cardboard box with my silly diploma and certifications to keep me company. AKA: living in limbo until further notice. Early 20’s is a fun time.

But thankfully its my fave time of year – NBA PLAYOFFS, so we’re good.

 

Good reads

With everything ending, I’ve finally had time to catch up on some reading. Even though I tweet up a storm whenever I read something worthwhile, I figured I’d post some of the ones I’ve come across lately. Enjoy!

Top 10 Movements to Build Explosive Power in Athletes – Wil Fleming

SI Joint Dysfunction – Dean Somerset

5 Great In-Season Lower-Body Strength Exercises That Won’t Make You Sore – Eric Cressey

The Real Deal on Adrenal Fatigue – Robb Wolff

SPARQ part 2!

So it hasn’t stopped raining here since I last posted – which is ironic considering my enthusiasm for outdoor workouts & agility drills was semi-based on great weather and sunshine.  BUT, as promised, here is part 2, and when the skies clear up, we’ll be back in business.

The only “equipment” you need for these are some cones – and if you’re not a nerd like me who keeps things like that in her car for just this sort of thing (what?) then don’t worry.  I can’t even list all the times I’ve used random objects for markers – extra sneakers, water bottles, backpacks, a jumprope, a beach towel, and even an umbrella have all made appearances in my park workouts.  Just this past Saturday, in fact, my TRX, t-shirt and medball all made a fascinating box drill. As long as you can clearly identify the points, its fine. You just might want to hold off on putting that particular work out on YouTube 😉

Here are just a few drills that I tend to use the most – I like them mainly because they’re easy to set up, applicable to various goals, and don’t require a ton of technical skill practice.

1. Box drills & all their variations.

Standard Box Drill

The box drill can be set up in various sizes. I tend to keep it smaller ( < 5 yds) if I use it earlier in the session to work on faster changes of direction and I’ll make the box bigger if I’m going for more conditioning.  I usually do 3-4 “reps” in a row before resting, but you have a lot of flexibility when it comes to how many you do. The key is to be explosive, however, so going around too many times will just negate the training stimulus.

You can also change the sprint/backpedal/shuffle parts – it can be all sprinting, all shuffling, all facing one direction around the outside of the cones, etc. There’s no “wrong” way.

2. “L” drill

Standard L Drill

This looks way more complicated than it really is, but essentially it incorporates quick change in direction (Cone 1 – 2) and then weaving around cones 2-3 (balance, flexibility, speed, etc).

Here’s a [hardcore & therefore awesome] example of what this looks like – NFL combine guys will start in a 3 point stance, but for general training, you can start in a simple athletic position

3. Figure 8’s

Figure 8s

These can also just be set up with 2 cones at various distances – similar to the 2nd half of the L drill, the main goal is to keep your hips centered and your feet moving while weaving as close as possible to the cone(s). You can run through 1-2x in a row, or change direction in the middle – again, very flexible with how you want to do it.

4. T drill

T drill

This is typically used in a lot of s&c programs as a speed/agility/quickness fitness test, but I also like to use it for conditioning. It is just another variation that incorporates lateral agility with sprints and can be very applicable to any sport. Sprint from A-B, Shuffle from B-C, Shuffle across from C-D, Shuffle back to B, and backpedal to A.

5. Shuttle runs / Suicides

There are a million variations to this type of run – I usually put these at the end of a workout for strictly conditioning. You can vary the # of times you change direction or keep it very simple and just run through it multiple times. Here are a few examples:

So there you have it – some awesome ideas to get you started. I really hope you guys give these a try – it breaks up the monotony of the treadmill & turns you into an all around fierce specimen….& lets be honest, isn’t that always the goal?

Part 3 will have a full sample work out & some energy system concerns for various sports. I know I said I’d do it in this post, but this one got a bit lengthy and I’d rather build up the suspense. 😉

ALSO shout out to “The Varsity Zone” since I stole your videos – I am not affiliated with them in any way, just thought they were useful for this post. Thanks!