So, in my earlier post, I was singing the praises of the Olympic lifts & making bold claims that all their variations/regressions are the total package when it comes to training. Most coaches will gripe that the learning curve is simply too much and outweighs the benefits of the lifts. To an extent, I understand, particularly when it comes to full power cleans and snatches from the floor. But in this post, I’ll get into the specifics regarding certain lifts and how/where they would fit into a training program and still provide benefits.
(Again, if you’re more inclined to follow the Olympic lifting school of thought and want more, check out Wil Fleming’s new DVD – he’s the pro, I’m just an Olympic lifting minion in comparison)
Typically, after an initial assessment using whatever strategy you employ (that’s another post in and of itself) the most important movement to teach is the hip hinge – this is the foundation for all of the lifts and has to be perfected before anything else can be taught. Even if Olympic lifting isn’t on your agenda, all hope is lost if a proper hip hinge isn’t the goal of your program. This is accomplished in a variety of ways, but my favorite is using a PVC pipe and an RDL movement. The PVC pipe is great because it isn’t loaded, but when you’re forced to hold something and keep it close to (or, in this case, touching) your body, the movement pattern is much easier to accomplish. Once this is mastered, I like to throw in variations like KB hip hinges, band pull throughs, kettle bell swings, etc.
[See http://articles.elitefts.com/training-articles/teaching-the-hip-hinge/ for more on teaching the Hip hinge movement]
Another movement that is very telling as an assessment but that I like to keep in programs no matter what is the Overhead squat. This can be particularly unforgiving if you’re lacking flexibility or stability, but is a crucial movement should your athlete/client progress to catching a load overhead. If they are particularly lacking in the skills necessary to make this movement worthwhile, assisted variations should be used (cable or TRX OH squats) and unilateral work should be emphasized. For one, you can load the hell out of it, and two, you will see significant progress vs forcing a movement pattern that just simply isn’t there. This is where you can employ the use of OH bulgarians, OH lunges, and some of the TRX Y’s & T’s. In most cases, a lack of core stability is a problem as well, so your plank variations and roll outs are useful here too. Again, it is worth noting, that even if your athlete never needs to catch a load overhead, the ability to progress to a solid OH squat is a great goal because it corrects imbalances, improves posture, and makes you closer to being an actual human being (instead of a version of real life version of the QWOP game)
The front squat is probably the most useful component to teach for a variety of reasons. It is my favorite to work with because it builds a solid foundation, is easy to monitor (if an athlete is ever struggling, it is much easier to drop a bar from the front than the back), and demands excellent form. With the load in the front, the body is forced to maintain a neutral spine and upright chest, which is sometimes hard to constantly cue when using another variation. The learning curve can be tough, particularly for females who find the bar placement on the chest slightly uncomfortable and/or the stress on the forearms to be painful, but it does not take long for them to get used to it – plus there are a ton of variations in grip to use. To progress to the bar, front loaded KB squats/Goblet squats can be an option (to teach stabilization with a front load) and the PVC pipe can be used to teach that hand placement. Again, even if this is as far as you go, a solid front squat can be loaded substantially for awesome strength gains in a later phase of training.
Proper landing mechanics will need to be enforced simultaneously before loading the clean movement. I find it is really easy to teach the hip hinge, but once it needs to be done at speed (i.e. the catch portion of the clean), the athlete/client defaults back to a quad dominant pattern. In this case, I like using drop squats (that’s what I call them – essentially you start in an athletic position and drop into a squat as fast as possible. The key is to drop down without jumping first. The hips flex rapidly and the athlete gets comfortable sitting back). Once that is mastered, box jumps and plyo variations are awesome. Emphasis on landing silently through the heels will help enforce the proper hip hinge. Not only is this great prep for an eventual hang clean, but these exercises are neuromuscular necessities for athletes to improve speed and reduce the risk of injury. Doesn’t seem like a waste of time to me….
Finally, a full clean cycle will be used. This will be the 3 components that make up the hang clean and can be used as a neural prep once the athlete has mastered it. They start with the clean pull (a rapid jump shrug), then a high pull, and finally the full hang clean. This is usually done with just the bar for 2-3 sets of about 5 reps each. Eventually, you can start loading the cycle and emphasizing the clean pull and high pull in this phase.
There are also variations you can start to use – RDL with a hang clean receive, hang clean to step up, SA snatch, just to name a few. These are great total body “connector” exercises that improve athleticism immensely.
As you can see, a beginner is still doing a whole lot of work and getting stronger, more flexible, and also improving power using this method. Most of these exercises can be used in the beginning of a workout, and other movements, like loaded pushes/pulls and other circuits will complete the workout. As I mentioned earlier, the hip hinge/landing mechanics/and core stability are all components that need to be taught and emphasized ANYWAY – so that whole ‘learning curve’ thing is really just a poor excuse. Even if you stopped here, and didn’t emphasize heavy cleans or full snatches, the Olympic lifts still create a perfect base for most of the training. From there you can go on to teach some pretty awesome deadlifts with athletes that actually have the capacity to pull from the floor.
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!