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The Youth Physical Development Model

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.

Strength & Conditioning Journal: June 2012 - Volume 34 - Issue 3 - p 61–72

Strength & Conditioning Journal:
June 2012 – Volume 34 – Issue 3 – p 61–72


A similar chart for females:

Strength & Conditioning Journal: June 2012 - Volume 34 - Issue 3 - p 61–72

Strength & Conditioning Journal:
June 2012 – Volume 34 – Issue 3 – p 61–72


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.


Boston strong & Monday Motivation

First & foremost, I’ve been a little quiet since this all went down, but I want to just take a few moments to thank the first responders and all the unlikely heroes that helped take down the Boston bombing suspects. It frustrates and saddens me that we can’t even enjoy an athletic event – and one of the most historical, at that – without worrying about safety and security. But, on a positive note, Boston is definitely not a city that will stay down for long, and if anything, I know next year’s marathon will probably be bigger, better and more emotional than ever before. I might even have to make a trip just to witness it myself. And even though any other day it would pain me to say this, this week we are definitely all Boston fans.

On a related note, because of everything my little mini trip to Boston got canceled since I was going to drive out there on Friday and spend the weekend. I am fairly certain the conference went on anyway, but I just wasn’t able to get out there. I’m bummed but I know I’ll get to CP performance one of these days.

So today, instead of recapping some knowledge bombs, I am lucky enough to still have a gem to share withe everyone. I have an awesome little post from Juliet at Hey Joob! that really struck a chord with me, so I hope she doesn’t mind me throwing in my 2 cents (Check it out here )

I posted something a few months back that kind of referred to the hard work & dedication it takes to get to a certain level of fitness (or anything, really) and how it frustrates me when people shy away from wanting to learn from me or work out with me because I’m “intimidating”. First and foremost, I was in your shoes once. In fact, dramatically so, since I once spent an entire summer bedridden recovering from major knee surgery. Talk about starting from square 1. I also didn’t just hit the ground running with an abundance of fitness knowledge. I tried things, I learned, I failed, I succeeded, I did things that didn’t work, I did things that did, I mixed and matched and ultimately changed. The main thing, though, is that I was out of my comfort zone and still went for it….and I still do.

I love this part in Juliet’s post:

“I’m sorry, I can’t write because I’m not as good as JK Rowling.”

“I don’t want to snowboard because I’m not as good as Shawn White.”

“Nooooo, it’s okay. I’m not Gordon Ramsey so I’ll order a pizza.”

I’m not even competing in lifting or doing anything remotely competitive other than being a bad ass… but that’s the beauty of it all. You don’t HAVE to be the LeBron James of fitness in order to achieve personal goals.

I think this is a great kick in the pants for a Monday so whatever it is that you’re going after today, leave caution to the wind and attack it. You don’t have to be elite, you just have to try to be better than you were yesterday.

Using the Olympic Lifts as Corrective Exercise

There are so many terms in fitness/training/strength & conditioning that are getting to be taboo. The most cringeworthy being “muscle confusion”, “functional training” (As opposed to dysfunctional training) and “core”….but the newest term to add to my list is “Corrective exercise”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about correcting muscle imbalances and I start all my programs with circuits that address individual issues. However, I believe we are getting so caught up in being pseudo “physical therapists” that we forget the point of a work out: to do WORK.

One of the first days of grad school, (After already achieving a few training certifications at this point) I had a class strictly dedicated to programming. We were given a case study, and told to address the concerns & come up with a program for the particular athlete. I remember being pretty pleased with my corrective exercise strategies, but when my professor looked at it, he laughed and asked me, “so… when do they actually lift weights?”. I was taken aback for a few minutes because I felt like I had included some good stuff: a variation of the back squat, lateral lunges, inverted rows, etc. Excuse me, what???

I had been familiar with the Olympic lifts and used them in a lot of my own programming, but didn’t particularly know how or when to program them (and all their variations) into a solid training program, particularly in an early phase of training. So, when I was given a case study of a typical basketball player, with a variety of issues (tight lower back, tweaked hamstring, tight external rotators, susceptible to ankle rolls…) I could really only focus on a corrective intervention. Isn’t that what everyone says? “You’re only as strong as your weakest link” “Do no harm” “[Any other cliche comment about correcting problems here]”…and all I knew was that the Olympic lifts are really freakin’ hard…even for someone with great mobility.


Always misunderstood and abused

Eventually, as we got deeper into the semester, it occurred to me, most exercises we have were originally designed to help with dynamic flexibility, stability and strength IN ORDER TO complete the Olympic lifts to their full potential. Understanding this mentality helped me to design better programs with more lifting work being done, because I could understand how these exercises related to a higher goal (not just a body part). Even if you do not subscribe to the Olympic lifting school of training, or your athletes never progress to doing full power cleans or clean/jerks (which is completely fine, because you may decide it just isn’t worth the time to teach), you will still use a variety of exercises that are just Olympic lifting regressions (OH squats/lunges, RDLs, Deadlifts, Shrugs, Split Squats, just to name a few…)…so it’s cool to know why they exist and where they belong.

What’s the point of all this? Basically, don’t be afraid of higher work. Do your assessments, figure out your limitations (or those of your clients), but don’t get so caught up in simple correctives. I know some will argue that corrective exercises are difficult, and I completely agree (we had a class where we only did correctives for about 2 hours – I was so stiff the next day I felt like I had run sprints)– but if you could combine interventions (flexibility & stability) with your strength & power work – you would, right?

Check out Wil Fleming (the Olympic lifting guru) ‘s DVD ‘Complete Olympic Weightlifting’ – I love his system because it is simple, effective, and for all athletes. It is similar to the way I was taught to approach teaching and performing the lifts and I think it’s useful for just about everyone. Contrary to learning the style of Olympic  lifting for actual Olympic lifters (which, remember, is a true sport, and the %’s and volumes are usually written as such for those looking to compete) or Crossfit that simply abuses my beloved O Lifts, this shows a great progression from soup to nuts.

I’m splitting the post up to let this idea marinate, but in part 2, I will break down the components and show how to classify these exercises for use among all types of lifters and athletes.

Are YOU fitter than a high schooler?

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?

Best show ever.


*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

Neural prep

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.

Main conditioning:

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.

The fitness shortcut

I usually keep my blog posts pretty upbeat (albeit sprinkled with sarcasm) but today I feel the need to vent. This is directed at mainstream media for perpetuating the idea that sustainable weight loss can happen overnight and that SKINNY = healthy. Particularly now, with the end of the Olympics and everyone suddenly convinced they can be Greek gods in 2 weeks, I feel this is a great time to be blunt. So read on & consider this some “realistic motivation”.

First & foremost, shout out to Erika for posting this on facebook a few days ago – this is an article on “extreme conditioning” (like INSANITY, P90x, etc.) – it warrants a read for anyone looking to break into these types of programs, and provides a word of caution for the TOO MUCH TOO FAST mentality.

Along the same lines, people constantly ask me for advice on training or nutrition, and for good reason. Normally, if someone approaches me with a question, I’ll dedicate the time and effort to help them make sense of some of the really confusing concepts out there. I get that the fitness industry has become so muddled lately with the arrival of various forms of Crossfit, the ‘GET THIN QUICK’ schemes, and the Tracy Anderson’s of the world preaching their “women shouldn’t lift weights greater than 3lb” shenanigans. It is constantly evolving, sometimes for the good, mostly for the not-so-good, and it can be a very hard and daunting task to embark on a fitness/weight loss journey for the first time (or any time). What I don’t understand, however, is the reaction I get when people come to me for advice and leave utterly disappointed with what I have to say.


I get it. You think fitness professionals with our various certifications and degrees in college make us some kind of guru with a magic spell that can provide results. Trust me, if I had the secret to easy, fast and cheap weight loss, I wouldn’t be living in my aunt’s basement and applying for jobs every minute of every day. But whenever I’m asked “Hey, how can I lose some extra pounds?” or “Hey, what’s a super food I should eat every day that will make me leaner?” or “What’s the ONE exercise I should be doing to tone up (insert problem area here)?” everyone looks absolutely flabbergasted and downright disgusted when I tell them the truth. You want to lose some weight? You have to work at it hard and consistently. You want a “super” food? There is no such thing. Too much of a good thing is a tragedy. You want ONE exercise? Why limit yourself?

*End conversation & Insert awkward “this girl doesn’t know what she’s talking about face”*

For those of us that really make it a habit and a priority, and our results are obvious, don’t be shocked when I tell you the truth. Why am I stronger than I look? Because I lift heavy weights. Why am I able to sprint on a surgically repaired knee? Because I rehabbed hard and I sprint consistently. Why am I not overweight anymore? Because I stop eating when I’m full. There isn’t anything ground breaking here. There also isn’t anything glamorous. I have tough work outs when no one is looking. I spend more time doubled over trying to breathe than reading magazines at the gym. I try my best. People don’t see that part though. They only know I studied strength & conditioning and therefore probably achieved my goals by default. Let me tell you – it’d be pretty awesome if I got fit just by studying. But there’s a practical application side that needs to be recognized here.

Honestly – we all start somewhere. We all fail and start OVER somewhere. Myself included. Everyone always thinks “yeah, but this is your life’s ambition and you know what you’re doing so how hard can it really be for you?” and “YOU MUST HAVE A SECRET!!!”. Just because I know HOW to program doesn’t mean I always WANT to follow my own ambitious guidelines. Granted, I try to be a living example of what I constantly preach – but I could easily expend my energy searching for an ‘easy out’.  I’ve just decided that it’s not my style – and it shouldn’t be yours either. I have had MULTIPLE set backs where I gained weight and had injuries. I’ve had days where my workouts thoroughly kick my butt, and I have days where I don’t feel like getting off the couch so I don’t. I even have days where I eat McDonalds TWICE in one day. My weight randomly fluctuates because I’m a female and that’s just how we roll. So really, I’m no different from anyone else trying to achieve consistency in their health. But mentally, I know it takes much more than mediocrity.

So, sorry to disappoint you, but if you want to results, you have to be willing to take the time to earn them. I am almost insulted by people that think they can take a shortcut to look like an Olympic athlete. Does that really make any sense? You know how hard they train and the type of motivation they have. If you were so genetically gifted and could look like them in half the time, don’t you think you’d be a medalist by now?

So the moral of the story: it took more than a day to put it on, it is going to take more than a day to come off. Simple as that.

Week in review

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)


Who wouldn’t want to work out here?

**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.

Cool down

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 🙂


Fitocracy & random updates

Earlier this week I finally jumped on the Fitocracy app bandwagon – and I’m happy about it. For those of you that aren’t familiar, Fitocracy is a website/app that helps you track your workouts while simultaneously earning points for your activity. It is also a social media site similar to facebook that concentrates solely on fitness and connecting with like-minded individuals. It also has some fun “quests” to complete if you’re running low on workout motivation or just need a change of pace. I’m really liking it just for something different. I know I’m a little late to the party but if you guys haven’t checked it out, go here

I decided to attempt the intermediate widowmaker the other day, just for fun (backsquat with 80% of your bodyweight on the bar for 20 reps). Haven’t been squatting consistently lately but still managed to complete 2 sets of it. I probably won’t ever walk again, but that’s fine.

What I really like about the whole thing is the idea of getting points for activity & achieving new levels – like a game – vs tracking workouts & obsessing over calories. I’m also really impressed with the exercise selection – I didn’t think I’d be able to find any of my weird exercises on there, but I was pleasantly surprised. They even had some of my dynamic reach movements which I’ve never seen on any other website.

Anyone that trains clients might want to recommend this to them to keep them motivated. I’m also happy to have a reason to log my workouts again. I’ve been getting a bit lazy when it comes to keeping track lately, and my notepad on my iphone is a sad little excuse for programming. This amps things up a little.

Another fun thing I thought I’d share is a version of the GHR (Glute ham raise) that can be done in any gym with a lat pulldown machine. The GHR is one of the best exercises out there for the posterior chain – but very few commercial gyms have a specific machine for it. It can easily be duplicated using this method – I do it all the time and have great results with it. Be prepared, though. People will think you’re nuts. The other day a lady came up to me after I finished my workout and told me it was the “coolest, scariest & craziest thing” she had ever seen. I love it.

It looks a little something like this:

*Credit to Ellisonfitness for this video

He uses a BOSU ball to push off of – I use a low plyo box. If you have access to an adjustable step, a bench, a plyo box, or a BOSU ball, use any of those. Start with something higher and gradually progress down. These are BRUTAL – and a lot of people can’t get them right away – but they’re worth working toward. The GHR is ideal for the hamstrings because it is more true to running form (hip extended/knees flexed vs hip flexed/knee flexed that you see during a seated hamstring curl). If you can’t get 1, put a resistance band around the lat pulldown machine and around your chest and it will assist with the concentric portion of the movement. Enjoy!

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. 😉


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?

Sick day

A few things for you guys today!

Regarding my last post, there was an article by Cal Dietz on Elite FTS the other day concerning “Antagonistically Facilitated Shock Training” which is just a fancier term for ballistics.  I thought it was pretty cool, & it provides a few videos with more examples, so check that out here:


Now, since everyone & their mother has the cold from hell lately, it was only a matter of time until my glands started to swell & that tickle in my throat would demand some attention.



The thing about colds – they’re really just annoying.  No energy, can’t breathe, can’t taste, and they seem to linger for days and days like an unwanted guest you can’t get rid of.  Everyone has a go-to remedy, but the only thing that really works is time – something we have very little of.

I read this article on T-nation a few months ago regarding the start of “flu season” & training – check it out HERE

The author makes some great points about how to keep yourself healthy & when to know if you can still push through and get some solid training done.  While I agree with most of his points, I get frustrated with people that push through hell & high water to get a lackluster workout in.

Here’s the thing: if you’re under the weather, and your energy level sucks, chances are, your performance will suffer too.  Unless you have no choice and you’re training for the Olympics, or you have a competition while you’re sick, the best thing you can do is back off for a minute.  Everyone is so afraid of “detraining” or losing the results that they’ve worked so hard to achieve – which is completely understandable – but the concept of rest & recovery is more important than a lot of people realize.  Even at the very early stages of a cold, where you know you’re just “off” – you’re better off just taking the time to hit the brakes.  Too often this scenario occurs: you don’t feel 100%, but you push yourself to get to the gym, and after a pretty decent warm up, you feel a little more like yourself and you end up overreaching beyond what you had intended.  While this is normally a good thing, and probably leaves you feeling super accomplished, the next day you wake up feeling like a truck ran you over twice.  Would this have happened without the overachieving training session?  Maybe, maybe not.  But if you’re so busy fighting off a cold, is your body really recovering properly for you to gain the benefits from that amazing work out?  Not likely.

A cold is just one of many ways our bodies tell us that we need to relax.  A forced “deload” week, really.  When you’re sick, your immune system is in overdrive – so there is no point in creating MORE stress on your body in the form of exhaustive exercise.  It will delay recovery, prolong symptoms, and create a domino effect of poor training and low energy.  Not worth it.  Take the week off & get yourself together.


In fact, if you’ve never taken a full week off from training, sick or not sick, then I suggest you try it.  There might be some SLIGHT detraining that will occur – mainly in the cardio area after around 4-5 days – but nothing significant enough to warrant a panic.  Most of the time, taking a complete recovery week allows your body to catch up and reset – and if you’ve recently hit any plateaus, this can sometimes help bust through them.


The most challenging thing about a recovery week is mentally allowing yourself to take time off and understanding that it is NEVER as hard to get something back as it is to get it in the first place.  Also, 7 days is hardly enough time for your body to make any drastic changes: just think how hard it is to “reset” your metabolism, or lose any permanent weight.  Same thing goes for keeping your fitness level.


So while I’m recovering from this monster, tell me: do you guys take full weeks off with NO training whatsoever? What are some of your recovery techniques? OR – do you have a fool proof method for the common cold?

Going Ballistic

Just finished another whirlwind week complete with two games, 3 midterms, and lots of chaos in between.  Sorry for the lapse in posts BUT no one can be mad at me because I also finally achieved 10 neutral grip pull ups in a row after programming massive amounts of them into my lifting days.  Best feeling ever. I’m really just trying to force my lats to help me fly. To be continued…

Anyway, it is officially SPRING BREAK, so you know what that means…..

party party party

Actually, no. It just means I’ll have a little extra time to write.  Since I live in Miami, sunshine blogging is a 24/7 thing 😉

This week’s topic is actually inspired by one of my recent midterms – get excited.  But really, it has become one of my favorite types of training.  In my grad program, a lot of our philosophy on strength & conditioning is based on ballistic training.  If used appropriately, this serves as a key element in improving athletic performance.  I want to go over briefly what it is, how to use it, and offer a sample workout that includes some ballistic drills.

Most people, even fitness professionals, shy away from the term “ballistic”, because it has a bit of a negative connotation associated with it.  Traditionally, you hear people get all up in arms about slow and controlled movements – and they say that the WORST thing you can do is bounce around.  If you are static stretching, then yes, bouncing through movements is counterproductive because you will change the neuromuscular response.  [Enter the image of the middle aged guy with or without 80’s style sweatband at the track bouncing through all of his stretches because he has zero range of motion – YUM] But in terms of training, a ballistic movement can bridge the gap between strength & power like nothing else.

Ballistic training is a form of training that involves acceleration and speed of movement. Similar to max power training, the muscle is forced to remain stable, but also produce the greatest amount of force in the shortest amount of time.  In order to be effective, the lift should propel you through the fullest range of motion before releasing (aka: no partial rep nonsense or “pulses” in short range – we’re talking dynamic ROM).  Ballistic training also takes advantage of the stretch shortening cycle, (the eccentric contraction of a muscle followed by an immediate concentric contraction of the same muscle) which is extremely important in terms of power output.  This is all crucial when considering the dynamic effort that goes into playing sports.  The pace at which athletes have to generate force and the dynamic stabilization and energy transfer required to perform ballistic movements go hand in hand.  When it comes to training, this is sport specificity at its finest.

So what’s the difference between ballistics & plyometrics?  Ground contact time.  Traditional plyometrics involve a VERY short amortization (landing) phase – and the quicker you’re able to overcome it, the more improved the reflex becomes.  Ballistics have a longer amortization phase and are more about dynamic stability, energy transfer, and force output.

Normally, the best time to add these into a training program is with a more advanced lifter transitioning from a strength phase to sport specific or power phase.  I say “advanced” because you always want to ensure that technique is sound and muscular imbalances are corrected before attempting to accelerate movements – even if you’re only using body weight.  Including ballistics, even if they’re only in a dynamic warm up, will help ease the transition from strength to power by keeping a lot of the traditional moves while simultaneously adding elements of force output (rebounds, hops, skips,).  This sets up a great base for max power efforts later on.  Adding ballistics is also a great way to maintain total body power while limiting intensity.  Despite the fact that plyometrics aren’t apparently fatiguing, they are very demanding on the neuromuscular system and therefore can only be used so often in a training session.  Ballistics help to bridge the gap and keep an athlete/lifter neuromuscularly conditioned for their sport.

Here is an example of a traditional workout:


Bulgarian Front Squat

DB Box step ups


Glute ham raise

Kneeling plate raise

Plate trunk rotation


Here is the same workout made more “ballistic” for a transition from strength to power training

Deadlift (or Clean pulls, High pulls from the floor, Trap bar DL’s with shrug, etc)

Front loaded bulgarian power skips (essentially a bulgarian with a hop)

DB box step ups w/ rebound (step ups with speed)

Plate blocks (video here:  )

^ Enjoy the amazing narration, it kills me every time.

Dips to knee raise (knee raise for energy transfer & trunk connectivity)

MB lateral swing to jump (energy transfer w/ hops)

Kneeling plate raises

Plate trunk rotation

Essentially all we did was add some kind of speed component to a few of the lifts while keeping the base of the workout very similar.  When adding ballistics to my workouts I’ve noticed that not only have I had some improvement in the bigger lifts (squats, deadlifts, etc) – I’ve also improved my speed.  The other awesome thing about adding these into a program is it helps periodize sessions & control volume.  I’ve been able to maintain strength with fewer workouts, which enables my body to recover better and therefore continue to improve when I go heavy.

Anyone else familiar with this type of training?