Blog Archives

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.

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 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!

My favorite sprints

Just finished a chaotic but awesome week of practice with the lacrosse team.  I finally have all the girls back from their various other sports, and we are preparing for our first game next Tuesday (wish us luck!).  I should also start a book with all the things they say, because it is solid gold…but that’s another day 😉

Anyway, this will be a brief post, but last week I talked about barbell complexes and their awesomeness in the conditioning department.  Continuing with that theme, I want to share one of my favorite conditioning “drills” that I’ve used for the past few years as a staple in my own training, and also for the teams I coach.  Its hard as hell, replicated almost anywhere (treadmill/bike/field) and yields fantastic results. Drum roll please….

 

120’s.

These bad boys are full field sprints combined with active recovery.  A standard soccer field/football field/lacrosse field is 120 yards in length (if you run from back of the endzone to back of the endzone).  The goal is to sprint from one end to the other as fast as possible (usually in 15-20 seconds).  Then you take the rest of the minute to get back to the start.  As soon as the time is up, you go again.  The trick is to get back as quick as possible so you have time to “rest” but you really end up moving continuously for the entire duration.  Like I said, you can replicate it anywhere just by using the 20:40 work:rest ratio, but the sprint variation is the best.  If you want to try it on a track, use the straightaway and just go back and forth.

A standard women's lacrosse field!

I keep my reps between 5-8, which might seem surprisingly low, but there’s a method to the madness.  I’m really familiar with how challenging these are, and 5 is a good starting goal.  I progress with reps as long as a change in speed is still possible.  If the clock catches up to you and you’re not sprinting anymore, the drill is over.  I’m also very conscious of how fast that sprint is.  Most of the time, the first 2-3 will be consistent at 15-17 seconds, but as soon as it starts to drop to 25-30 seconds, I make a note of it and know what to look for next time.  I’ve seen most people try to get kids to do 10, 12, even 15 – which is definitely achievable – but you have to watch the clock.  Finishing all of those is one thing, but I’m more about the quality of the sprint than the quantity.

Like I mentioned, these create a15-20s work:40s recovery interval – and I’m a huge fan of it. Without getting too much into “training zones” and heart rates and all that, I’m just going to share some simple observations.  High school kids (especially girls) notoriously go on long runs and prefer distance over sprinting.  They rarely do any high intensity work that will force them to improve their buffering capacity (outside of the sports they play).  Knowing this, and using 120’s in combination with the other work they do, I see HUGE improvements in their game endurance.  It is also very sport specific for activities like soccer and lacrosse – ESPECIALLY for midfielders who literally need to have the ability to sprint from sideline to sideline multiple times a game.

The girls ran their first 120s this week (and loved them, by the way – haha, ok, not really).  I used it as a test to see where they’re at… Most of them did well – and a few actually impressed me.  They’ll continue to perform them at least once a week (depending on our game schedule) throughout the season and we’ll see how they improve.  I’d like to see us get to 8 pretty consistently, but we’ll see!

Do you guys have any conditioning drills/workouts that are staples in your programs? What interval (work/rest ratio) do you like to use?