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Sprints & Hamstring Health

With summer FINALLY upon us, and amazing weather to take advantage of, most of us are ditching the dark gym for the outdoors. And, with everyone jumping on the HIIT and sprint bandwagon, that means lots of ugly track workouts and soccer fields being used for the first time in….ever.

I’m a huge advocate of getting outside and running around like a lunatic, but there are a few things to keep in mind when making the transition from treadmill/weight training to outdoor running & conditioning.

1. If you tend to program a lot of Romanian deadlifts (and also Good Morning’s) in your workout, you’re going to want to decrease these a bit and start adding some more glute/ham raises & leg curls. The RDL specifically targets the high hamstring, but tends to leave the belly of the hamstring neglected. If there is too much emphasis placed on this movement, it tends to create an imbalance.  The result? The first time you go to run might just be the last of the summer. Be sure to adjust accordingly.

Hamstring complex

A little Anatomy note: As you can see, the biceps femoris is right in the middle. One head stretches from the ischium to the sacrotuberal ligament, and the other stretches from the linea aspera near the adductor to the high insertion near the glutes. It is the most commonly injured portion of the hamstring, particularly at that high insertion point.

2. If you haven’t been sprinting in awhile, start with stairs and/or hills. It sounds ridiculous, but hear me out. The hill doesn’t need to be dramatic, just a slight incline (~ <12% grade). The incline shortens the stride length which will protect the hamstrings and let them work up to full sprint capacity. Also, don’t worry about sprinting down the hill or down the stairs. The eccentric stress is too great & trust me – you’ll still feel it in your legs if you slow down your pace to walk down.

3. Not every workout has to be an all-out max sprint effort. In fact, it shouldn’t be. 1-2 of those a week is sufficient because they’re extremely taxing on the nervous system, even if you’re only out there for 20 minutes. It is the same as strength training. You’re not always lifting at your max, so don’t sprint at it either.

4. Stride workouts are pretty awesome. A lot of people have heard of 400m repeats, which are usually all-out sprints performed in a 60-90sec time frame with a large rest period (3-5 minutes). But for a lot of people I like using 400m repeats a bit above their mile pace with a 1:1 rest. Just take your mile time (for example: 8 minutes). This means each lap (400m) would be run at a 2 minute pace. Shoot for 2 minutes at first, with a 2 minute rest (4-6 reps).

It is less taxing on the hamstrings, helps build work capacity, and improves overall conditioning and running pace. Obviously, adjust for your goals, but if you’re just looking to improve body composition and get in running shape, these are great.

5. A dynamic warm up is important for running workouts. Get the body going & the hamstrings prepared with some drills and leave the static stretching to recovery days. Find a routine that works for you and that doesn’t take too much time. 5-7 minutes should be enough.

And last but not least..

6. RECOVER. Even if you aren’t as sore as you would be from lifting, let your body recover. You are hitting your body with a new (and intense) stimulus, and it needs time to adapt. Space out your lifting sessions and give yourself some time off. Your body – especially your hamstrings – will thank you.

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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.

Dynamics

*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.

Track workout

My favorite week of the Olympics is almost over, so in its honor, I am providing a track workout.

This may come as a shock, but I run a lot. Not the traditional running (I have a horrible knee & and some ADD that only kicks in when workouts last longer than 60 minutes), but conditioning is still a major priority for me no matter what my other goals are. Most people like the simplicity of running – there isn’t someone over their shoulder judging their form, they can enjoy beautiful weather, and they don’t need kettlebells/sleds/ropes or other awesome metabolic conditioning tools. All it takes is some motivation, some sneakers, an ipod, and the open road. I think that’s awesome and I will never knock someone for trying (I’ll just beg that they lift weights once in awhile and show them a lot of pictures of sprinters….ahem…)

Gold medal winner Allyson Felix

 

BUT for those that want a change of pace, or are looking to improve body composition/increase endurance, this type of workout is for you. The best part about it: you can tailor it to your level & modify it any way you’d like. For athletes looking to maintain sports shape during an off-season period, this is also a great option because you can stay game-ready while still giving your body a break from your sport. In my opinion, this is a moderate workout for field sports like soccer and lacrosse, and great base conditioning for court sports like basketball.

Before beginning, you may want to have an idea of your 1/2 mile time, and your fastest 400m (1 lap) time. This will help to gauge the intensity for repeat runs. For perspective, elite Olympic sprinters will finish a lap in < 50 seconds. Most of us will be in the 1:30-3:00 range. So, for example, if you’re at the 1:30 mark for your best lap, you’re going to want to start this workout at a slower pace (~2 minute laps).

The workout:

Dynamics – pick any 3 mobility drills (inchworms, spidermans, hip flexor mobs, glute mobs, etc) and perform a circuit 2x

Line drills – A march, B march, A skips, B skips, Lateral shuffles, Frankensteins, Hurdlers, backpedal, butt kicks, high knees, easy sprint starts

Optional: Here is where you can include things like burpees, squat jumps, bounds, plyos or shuttle runs if necessary for your training. If you’re experienced with sprinting, you can do some short speed work here. 5x50m with walk back, for example.

Conditioning: 400m at designated pace for the day with same recovery. (1:1) so if you’re trying for 2 minute pace, then you get 2 minute rest. — Be cautious because 2 minutes might feel easy and you might hit the finish faster than expected. Really try to stride and pace yourself because you’re repeating the interval 5-7 times.

Ways to progress/modify: I do this workout 2x a week to start, keeping it constant (possibly adding a lap or 2 until I hit 7). Then I start changing up the interval times (faster pace (1:45) with same 2 minute rest, then faster pace (1:45) with same rest (1:45), etc until I get back to my fastest pace for repeats. Then I retest my fastest pace and see where I’m at.

I’m a fan of treating my running the way I treat reps in the weight room – I like counting them instead of just steadily staring at the clock. This approach works for me because I can periodize and see my progress, but it might take some getting used to for others. Either way, it is a great change of pace (literally ;), so give this a try and let me know your thoughts.

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)

Saturday

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

Monday

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

 

Wednesday

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

 

Friday

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 🙂

 

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!

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!

Light the SPARQ

I’m baaaaaaack (for real this time)

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

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

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

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

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

Can you seem the resemblance?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cool down

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

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