I came across a few articles in the most recent Strength & Conditioning Journal regarding youth agility training & the factors that go into gaining and improving these abilities. It led me to an article from June 2012 that I found interesting and also encouraging in terms of the direction we’re heading regarding youth/adolescent training. Previously, most training recommendations were made based purely on age, with little attempt to quantify the true physical maturation of a child or adolescent. The old model clearly had many flaws, but this new YPD (Youth physical development) model takes a lot more factors into consideration, and is based largely on when a child reaches peak height velocity and peak weight velocity, along with puberty.
I don’t want to summarize the whole article, but I do have it downloaded in pdf for anyone that wants it [just shoot me a comment or an email]. I really just wanted to share these two graphics that help explain what areas a child’s “training” should be focused on in order to develop to their full athletic potential.
A similar chart for females:
The thing most noteworthy for trainers:
-FMS (functional movement screens / mobility) are important, but never the primary focus of a training program. Even in the early stages of development, where training has low structure, the child is learning to develop agility, speed, power and strength simultaneously – and all components are important.
-This spectrum helps trainers decide what category a late developing or early developing child would be in & what components might be more important to emphasize (vs just relying on physical age & “training age”)
-Agility is an under researched component, but may need to be trained & then re-trained after peak height velocity is reached. Agility requires a large neural component (decision making, reaction time) that develops with a child’s maturity. The patterns can be established and trained early, with repeatability helping to form those neural connections, but it may need to be re-visited later if there is a significant growth spurt or change in physical development.
-High intensity metabolic training/endurance training is very low on the priority list until later years/higher structure training. With all the bootcamp trends popping up lately, it is important to remember that children are not “mini adults” and therefore shouldn’t be trained in the same fashion. We have come to terms with the fact that strength training (when done properly) is not going to damage limbs or stunt growth, but it is important to focus on the needs of the development child/athlete and not give them a workout targeted at people looking to lose weight.
-There is predictably a shift in maturity & age when it comes to females vs. males, but the training necessities when they DO reach PHV remain the same.
I like that this model seems to have more of an individualized approach when it comes to assessing a child’s readiness for training and I hope it becomes studied more, tweaked, and eventually widely accepted as a new standard for training.
Pre-season conditioning started today for HS Lax and therefore I’m back on my blogging wagon. As you can tell from my
lame terribly witty title, I’m putting a spin on ‘Are you smarter than 5th grader’ – and essentially creating another mildly entertaining way to feel inadequate. Just kidding 🙂
The following is day 1 of our conditioning program and all you need is a track, or soccer field, and a speed ladder (or random objects that you can line up and use as such). I didn’t hold back when I wrote up this one – but my team managed to get through it. Can you?
*Pick your favorites, or use these (15-20 yards each):
Knee to chest, OH Rev lunge, Fwd lunge + hamstring, Frankensteins, Lateral shuffle (both directions), fast feet halfway / butt kicks half way, high knees halfway/ butt kicks halfway, run, backpedal, run 75% both ways, sprint both ways
Using the track lines “fast feet”- 15 sec “soccer ball” taps, 15 sec front to back, 15 sec lateral hops (x3)
Speed ladder: single foot in + run to cone (~10-20 meters) w/ jog back (x3), double foot x3, lateral both directions x4 (2 each way)
“Lane drills”: ~20-30 meters
A: Run – backpedal x4
B: Lateral shuffle to cone & sprint back x4 (2 each direction)
Rest, water, etc.
1 Mile run – timed.
Cool down & stretch.
The entire thing took about 40 minutes – it was a way to get stretching, neural prep, agility and conditioning all in one workout PLUS test mile times. I don’t really like the mile as a gauge of fitness, but I wanted times to have an idea of what pace to program when we run 400m and 800m repeats later on. I also know I’ll see improvements in it without necessarily running it all the time, so that result is something more tangible for the athletes vs adding reps to their 4o0m workouts. (What’s all this nonsense? Check out my post about track repeats here )
On Thursday we hit the weights – and I’m going from a weight room with 1 squat rack to a weight room with 6 & bumper plates. Best news ever.
I rarely do this (Actually, I don’t think I’ve done it at all) but I thought it might be fun to post my week of workouts. I’ve talked about programming & cycling & given a little bit of insight into the madness that makes up a lot of my philosophy, but I feel like a week’s worth of workouts will do the talking for me. I am also trying to avoid indulging in the pre-Olympic blog posts, since Steph did a killer job and everything I say will just be redundant. So after you read this you can head on over there & check it out.
Currently, as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, my goals are very conditioning based, with an emphasis on outdoor training. I’ve really just been in the mood to sprint, run, jump and sweat and I have lost a lot of motivation to lift super heavy (blasphemous, I know). I still weight train 2-3x a week, however, and by no means do I take it easy – I’m just not maxing out on any lifts currently. You’ll notice, however, that all the things I know and love (including Olympic lifts and the squat & deadlift variations) are all alive and well. So without further ado, here’s my week in review. (If this blogging thing doesn’t work out, I guess I’ll try poetry)
**Yes, that is a real combination of pictures from the park I took a few days ago – so you can understand why I’m extra motivated to be outside these days.
Dynamic warm up: walking lunges w/ glute stretch, reverse lunges with hamstring stretch, inchworms, spidermans, frankensteins, lateral lunge heel grabs, high knees, butt kicks, 10 yard sprints @ 50%, 75%, 100%, 100%
Squat jumps 3×8, Broad jumps x4, Lateral skater jumps 3×5 each way
50 yd sprints x 10 – all out effort, with a walk back to start as recovery
Full field sprints (~100 yds) – x5, with walk back
TRX OH Squat 3×8
Inverted rows 50 / Push ups 50
Total time: ~45 minutes
I used the little gym at the apartment, which was more than adequate when I got creative 😉 – thinking about doing a series of posts on that at a later time
Mobility: Glute mobs / Adductor mobs / Hip flexor stretch /Supine Hamstring kicks x3
3 pt extension/rotation / Spidermans / Yoga push ups x3
MB pullover sit up to stand (8lb med ball) 3×5 s/s Lateral cable squat 3×5 both sides
OH DB Kneel to stand hip drill 3×5 per side
Neutral grip chin ups 3×6
Split squat (front loaded) 3×8
Standing lat pulldown 3×8 s/s Alt shoulder press 3×8
Row machine 2×10
Total time: ~30 minutes
Back at the park
Same dynamic routine as Saturday – i really love it & it works for me, so I rarely change it
Shuttle runs (~25 yds) x3 per side, 6 total
Agility run (I used trees as markers and made a total of 6 cuts per rep) x4
Tree suicides (These would normally be called cone suicides but I use trees, haha). There are 4-5 trees, and it takes ~15-20 seconds, depending on distance. I used a 1:1 work rest ratio and went 6 times. By around rep 4, the sprints are slow and your glutes are burning.
Total time: ~25 minutes
Back at the gym – similar workout with a few differences
Glute mobs / Adductor mobs / Hip flexor stretch /Supine hamstring kicks
3 pt extension/rotation / Spidermans /Yoga push ups
MB sit up to stand 3×5
DB Power shrug 3×5
DB push press s/s Lat pullovers
DB deadlift s/s machine rows 3×8 / 8
Lateral cable squats s/s Skater jumps 3×5 per side (both)
Asym. rev lunge s/s DB rows (5 per side / 8 per side)
Glute ham raise 2×7
Chin ups AMAP + 3×8 ecc
Total time ~ 35 minutes
A few things that probably jump out: I never spend more than an hour doing anything, particularly because I rarely let myself rest during these workouts. It is simply not necessary / not part of my goal at this time. I also give myself days off between workouts, particularly after sprints because of my hamstrings. I’ve also noticed I have more energy and less soreness, which is fantastic. I know a lot of people subscribe to the school of thought where if you’re not sore, you’re not working hard enough, but that is simply not true. Sure, there will be soreness when you change the stimulus and sometimes a lack of soreness can be an indication of a plateau, but it is NOT the be -all-end-all of a good workout. I just go by what my body is telling me, and it seems to be doing well.
Hope this provided a little bit of insight. Anyone checking out the opening ceremonies tonight? We’ve got some former Hurricanes reppin the USA so I’m excited 🙂
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.
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.
- Warm up: OH reverse lunge; SL transverse rotation; Adductor windmills w/ arm to toe reach 2x through
- Line drill warm up
A march w/ ankling
B march w/ ankling
High knees/Butt kick combo
- Fwd/Back/Lateral Reaction line drill x 6 movements (3 x through)
- Tuck jumps (x8; 3 times through)
- (Arms across the chest) speed squats – no jumping, triple extension x10
- Swivel jumps x10
- Lateral jump w/ reach x10
- Box drill 3x each way (6 total) x4
- Sprint/shuffle/backpedal always facing forward around the box
- Same drill w/ change of direction on whistle
- Z drill x4 50%, 75%, 100%, 100%
- Triples x4
- Figure 8 (10 yds) – 2 loops each time; x4
- 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!
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.
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
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
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
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!
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.
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)
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 🙂
Everyone check out this great (quick) post from Julia Ladewski, a program director at one of the Parisi Speed Schools. It’s an awesome list of 9 basic movements that young athletes need to master – especially if they plan on playing sports in college.
These movements that Julia talks about, plus some others that I’d probably throw in (lateral movements, plank variations, and some single leg work) are imperative for all athletes, regardless of level. They train neuromuscular coordination, iron out the imbalances and essentially get the body prepared for whatever demand is going to be placed on it – whether that’s in the weight room or on the field. The greater the ability to recruit the proper muscles – IN THE PROPER PATTERN – the less the risk of injury. The FASTER you can recruit these muscles – in the proper pattern – the better athlete you’ll be. See the trend here?
What really gets me is that we have to teach people- especially kids- how to do basic movements like these. Really, jumping rope? And the hip hinge? Why am I showing you how to sit back without completely losing your junk? I’ll save that rant for another day, I promise. But it is definitely an issue that coaches and trainers need to be aware of – with all age groups. I’ve even had to revert back to simple variations for my high schoolers that play multiple sports!
This type of training isn’t even exclusive to athletes. As someone wisely pointed out in the comment section of Julia’s post (and no it wasn’t me) – this should really be changed to movements necessary for ANY “able bodied person”. Sadly, we tend to ignore this type of training across the board for a ton of reasons – it isn’t as beast mode as ripping some iron off the floor, and it isn’t as convenient to accomplish in most gyms. But guess what? Those are stupid excuses. Using the dynamics & agility drills as my main focus, I maintain that running line drills (A skips, B skips, lateral movements, skipping, etc) shouldn’t be stopped once you quit playing sports – and should be incorporated even if you’ve never played them. A few of my wonderful classmates illustrated this point beautifully earlier this semester. While all of them are athletic and know a thing or two about strength, they looked like a complete train wreck when trying to run through some of these drills. It wasn’t because they were out of shape – it was because neurologically they weren’t prepared for those kinds of movements. They hadn’t done them in years, and were all uncoordinated at first. It was embarrassing. How are these lean people unable to control their own bodies? Thankfully, after a few attempts, they started to get back into the groove because the system recognized the pattern.
But think about it – when was the last time you went out to a field/track to do some lateral shuffles? When was the last time you jumped rope? Do I even want to ask when you last sprinted….? (probably not). I’m not blaming anyone really, because commercial gyms don’t make these activities very convenient, but I’m the BIGGEST fan of incorporating these types of things into training. I train like an athlete so I can retain the benefits of being an athlete – the speed, the power, the fitness, and just general awesomeness for as long as possible. Use it or lose it. It is not a cliché – its just how the body operates.
Everyone that knows me is probably shaking their heads because they know I’m crazy about dynamics & sprinting. My athletes understand why they need it, because they see the direct carryover in what they do on the field. Other people? Much harder to win over. Yet I can’t tell you how many people come up to me in shambles all like “My ankle is all screwed up cuz I rolled it playing basketball the other day” or “I think I pulled something in my back when I threw a Frisbee to my dog” or “I don’t even KNOW what I did, but how do I stretch my hip flexor?” Poor neuromuscular coordination, poor posture, and muscular imbalances leave a real soft foundation for those random spurts of power production. There is no reason to be surprised, then, that something is “out of whack” if you don’t prepare your body for that movement.
SO the take home message: stop crying, start sprinting. Haha, no, not quite, but DO train more athletically. It doesn’t mean you need to train as intensely or as frequently as an athlete, but throwing in some of these simple movements can go a long way. If you prepare your central nervous system to handle more dynamic tasks, you’ll be less likely to end up a hot mess after that random game of flag football, or your Frisbee field day with Fido.
Need more examples/Not sure how to incorporate into your training? Leave a comment.