Warmup Overrated???

There was an interesting article a few weeks back in the New York Times titled The Right Way to Warm Up Is (Your Answer Here)

In it there are several varying opinions on the necessity of a warm-up.  Exercise researchers weigh in through the article stating that there is really little to no research available to prove that warming up has any real benefits when it comes to sports performance.  Later in the article it is said that the benefits to warming up are only “theory.”

Not our kind of warming up!

I’m not sure who these researchers are but I’m certain they have no experience in real world performance training.  They go on to say how many athletes warm up for long periods of time even going into high intensity zones of their sport, and how this may be counterproductive. 

This got me thinking about the warm-up and how I honestly believe the warm-up is one of the most important parts of a training session.  Multiple tasks can be accomplished through that 10 or 15 minute time period.  It can and should be much more than just trying to break a sweat.  Each of my warm-ups has specific objectives with four different aspects that are included in each. 

1. Mobility

It’s important to prepare joints and tissues for the loading and the range of motion that occur in the following training session.  Increasing mobility throughout the warm-up can and should help athletes attain proper positions throughout their workout such as performing ankle, or hip mobility prior to a squat session. 

2. Activation

We all know the importance of the glutes in preventing hamstring and low back injuries, as well as the VMO’s importance in knee health.  Include activation for inhibited area’s prior to heavier training to help get these muscles firing throughout the main training session. 

3. Injury Prevention

Training the small muscles of the hip, and rotator cuff / scap can easily be lost when it comes to training.   Sure squats, pulls, lunges, chin-ups, etc should take up the majority of time in a weight room session, but all too often these muscles get neglected due to time constraints.  I place work for these groups everyday in some part of the warm-up.  By doing so you get a fairly large weekly volume of work, and guarantee yourself that you won’t run out of time and forget to implement work for these important areas. 

4. Movement Skills / Patterning

Actually teaching and training movement is one of the most underutilized aspects of training that I see in weight rooms across the country.  Movements don’t happen only in the main training session they occur in every aspect of a workout.  Teaching athletes proper athletic positions during lunge patterns, lunge patterns with rotation, sprint warm-ups, etc. throughout the warmup can greatly benefit kids.  A lot of coaches may only do an exercise one time per week during the main training session but athletes warm-up everyday prior to training.  In essence teaching and training movement patterns in the warm-up gives athletes exponentially greater retention rates and creates stronger motor patterns in those movements.  I squat, lunge, rotate, and teach athletic positions in every one of our warm-ups.  

Don’t neglect the value of a good warm-up.  The warm-up can still constitutes a large percentage of your weekly time.  Too much can be achieved in that time period.   Just having them jog 800 yards and do crunches should go by the wayside.



Strength coaches doing heavy lifting

Here’s a good article on strength coaches in the college setting.  They talk a little bit about salaries but these are far from the norm.  I wish it were that way everywhere. 

As most of you probably know I’m with the TCU Baseball team in Omaha, Nebraska.  We won Friday against Florida State 8-1 and lost last night against UCLA 6-3.  We are in action again Wednesday at 6pm against Florida State in an elimination game. 

The trip has been great so far.  Here’s a pic from our Friday autograph session after our practice.  We had the longest line at Rosenblatt.  Over a hundred yards long and they had to cut it off after 2 hours of signing. 

After our banquet dinner we made a little time for dessert at the famous Zesto’s across from home plate. 

Ya I’m a fat kid.  Everybody on the bus had to get one.  And this is the smallest size they have if you can believe it. 

Opening ceremonies may have been the coolest thing I’ve been a part of.  We got the chance to meet Barry Bonds, Nomar Garciappara, and Will Clark.  The Omaha fans treated us like we were their own. 

Hopefully, we won’t be home for another week.  I’ll try to get a few posts in during the week in the mean time.   GO FROGS!!!


European Model of Sport Selection – GREAT READ

If you haven’t noticed the World Cup is in full swing right now.  I’m sure the only people who don’t know the Cup is going on are living in cardboard boxes under bridges because we seem to get bombarded with highlights from it every two minutes of the day on all 8 ESPN channels.  Anyway, the NY Times had an interesting article on the famous Dutch Youth Soccer Academy, AJAX.  It’s a long article but it gives great insight in the pros of the European model of athlete developement against some of the cons of the American model of sport, that we don’t actually have.


The academy doesn’t accept external applicants to their program.  They send out coaches who scout the top talent in the area and through strict screening and selection process invite only the highest level athletes to join their developmental program.  Athletes start at the age of 7 and usually train through their late teens if they continually advance through the program.  This is something that is completely foreign to the American style of sporting development.   

I thought that I’d point out a few of the highlights of the article. 

Athletes and parents don’t pay to be part of the multi-year developmental academy.  They are by invite only and the academy picks up the bill for everything that goes into the process.  AJAX has hopes of developing each one into a top world athlete and their payment comes from teams signing them away from AJAX.  Of course this happens very infrequently, but when it does, payments over $10 million can be the norm. 

The actual training of the athletes is done without overplaying them.  To put this in perspective it isn’t unusual for American kids in select baseball to play 10-20 games on any given weekend.  Athletes at AJAX, especially the younger ones, are not overplayed.  They generally have only one competition throughout the week and that falls on the weekend if at all.  Training is only done three days per week with sessions being short in time.  In the article one of the coaches stated what they consider a training session is often a warmup for American children.   For younger athletes especially, playing at home with friends is just as important as any of the training that takes place.  There is importance in letting a child play on his own without coaches and parents hovering over them telling them what to do.  

Only the highest level coaches are part of the academies staff.  This is how it is in European models of sport development, especially with soccer.  Youth levels require the best coaches.  In America anyone it seems can coach and ruin athletes. 

The entire system is based on DEVELOPMENT, not competition.  They change and create more effective motor patterns in their athletes instead of having them compete day in and day out at a young age resulting in burn out.  By the age of fifteen, training steps up to five days a week, but competition is still put on the back-burner.   They are developing skills and mention repeating motor patterns over and over. 

In one section they talk about utilizing heart rate monitors for any type of “conditioning” work.  The real emphasis of their training though lies in acceleration over 5-10 meters, which I was happy to see.  They stated this is the most important ability for a soccer athlete to possess as it occurs over and over and over in a match.  Having great initial acceleration is what separates athletes on the pitch. 

One other major point I took away from this article is they aren’t in the fantasy business.  In America anybody can pay to play.  Athletes at the academy either have it or they don’t.  They have to be invited back each year based on their progression, ability, and development.  They aren’t there to give a false reality about an athlete’s talent or lack thereof to keep athletes in the program. 

The article does a good job of pointing out the advantages of  their system of training athletes.  There are some negatives along with this but I feel it is far and away above the system that we have in the U.S.

Umpires!!! and a good article!

With baseball in mind this week I’ll think we’ll stick to that theme.  The following video is great.  I think umpires can make us all feel like this on certain days.  If you’re not a fan of foul language this video probably isn’t for you.  It’ll give you a little insight as to what happens on the field during an argument.  This video is hilarious, and the best part is “Let’s go have a beer, Doc!”  Enjoy!!!

While we’re on the topic of umpires the ump that missed the call in the Armando Galarraga perfect game attempt two weeks ago was voted the best umpire in the game by a random poll of 100 Major League players.   I have heard that Jim Joyce is one of the game’s best and I think being voted as such by your peers says a lot about the guy.  There are still a few good one’s out there. 

The Week in Review

On the flip side of that poll, Joe West was voted the second worst umpire in the league which is no surprise.  He’s notorious for trying the make the game about himself.  He was the umpire who tossed Mark Buerhle a few weeks back for tossing his glove. 

I found this article in the latest issue of the NSCA Strength and Conditioning Journal.  It’s actually a pretty decent article on the screening of upper body movements.  They use two of my favorite upper body movements in the pushup and the row / horizontal pullup.  They give some good information on the scapula and upper trap dominance in many athletes and how this can wreak havoc on the shoulder.  I talked a little bit about this topic a while back in Are Your Scaps Working???  They have listed progressions for each exercise, the pushup, and horizontal pullup.  Each progression starts from a somewhat unloaded position and moves through increasing the load to increasing the speed and finishing with plyometric type work.  I thought the progressions were done pretty well.   I’m a big fan of developing movement in athletes and this whole piece speaks to the fact of implementing correct movement patterns and eliminating incorrect compensations.  To see the article full size click on the link below it. 

Frogs make the CWS!!!! and the shoulder

It’s a big day for Horned Frog baseball.  Yesterday, we beat Texas in Game 3 of Super-Regional to advance to our first ever College World Series.  It was an incredibly hard fought series with outstanding pitching.  As of now we play the first game of the 2010 CWS against Florida State on Saturday, June 19th at 2 p.m. 

TCU basks in glory of first-ever CWS trip

As far as our training goes, nothing will change in preparation for Omaha.  We will still have our position players get their normal 2 lifts in this week on Tuesday, and Thursday.  Pitchers will lift three times according to their rotation, and throwing schedule.  The only change I have in store is we will deload this week.  Our pitchers will continue their lifting schedule during our trip to Omaha as well. 

One thing that I see often in baseball is training is thrown by the wayside once the season begins.  We put an emphasis on keeping our guys strong and fast.  Of course recovery is always our primary goal during season play, especially with our starters, but we don’t miss or shuffle our training around.  Too often a team might have games on Tuesday, and Wednesday during the week and decide they don’t want to lift all week so their guys aren’t sore.  Then they might travel Thursday for a weekend series and end up going 10 days without a lift.  So the next stimulus they receive makes them sore as hell.  Then, the coach says we gotta cut whats making them sore in the weight room.   It’s a never-ending cycle of de-training. 

I had a question posed to me the other day at strengthperformance.com from a fellow strength coach.  He wanted to know a little bit about the shoulder and whether I utilized overhead work for my baseball guys.  Here was my quick response. 

I don’t do any overhead work with our baseball / throwing athletes.
The way the shoulder is designed to function doesn’t lend itself well too much overhead. Now, many athletes will never have any problems with overhead work and would probably be able to overhead press forever without issues. But at the same time overhead pressing could set in motion a whole host of problems in the future. I could write a book on this topic so bear with me a lil and I’ll try to keep it short.

Baseball athletes throw year round these days. Adding in overhead work where there is an approximation force (pushing the humerus down into the glenoid) can cause bone spurs over time. The bone spurs can form on the acromion process essentially turning into a type 3 (beaked) acromion. Having a type 3 acromion is bad news for a throwing / overhead athlete. I am always trying to increase the sub-acromial space, so performing overhead work is somewhat counterproductive in my opinion. We don’t ever want that gap to be closed or small.

The only overhead work we perform sometimes is light overhead shrugs with a mini band generally. I do these in small blocks with long periods between re-introducing them again. 

I understand what you’re trying to achieve with your exercises in the realm of stability patterns. However, I would recommend performing dynamic stability work without loading them overhead in the form of an approximation force. To give you an example of dynamic stability, the body blade is a form of it, although it really only utilizes one plane at a time.

For shoulder health train the scapula to depress and retract. Also train for upward rotation without using overhead movements. We also do no “deltoid” work so to speak. All of our shoulder work comes from training the scap, rotator cuff, push-ups, pressing, pulling exercises, etc.

The Other Shrug
Protraction and the Bench Press

The Box Jump

So for quite a while I’ve had some issues with the box jump.  I know many coaches who use the box jump extensively as a training exercise, as well as a form of testing.  In healthy athletes it may not be as much of a problem, but anyone who has had any type of  lower back disc issues high box jumps should be contraindicated.  The real issue isn’t necessarily the jump itself but the landing.  It’s athletes trying to achieve greater and greater heights when their vertical jump truly doesn’t allow it.
Neutral Spine?!?!?!

Yes, box jumps just like any other jump take explosiveness but where a lot of athletes appear to achieve this is really just high levels of flexibility, and not always where we want it to occur.  I’ve seen athletes who had lower standing vertical jumps, when measured on a vertec, achieve much greater heights than their counterparts when box jumping.  This is possible through greater flexibility.  Where does this flexibility generally occur?  Most athletes aren’t able to touch their knees to their chest with a neutral  spine.   Here is where the lumbar spine has to become mobile and add to the flexibility that hips can’t achieve at that particular box height.   The exercise becomes who can get their feet the highest and not who can jump the highest. Just because we jumped up doesn’t mean we should throw out everything that happens after the initial explosion.  I would never let an athlete squat or pull with that technique so why would I let an athlete do a jump where they land with that technique. 

The above video is a good example of what I’m talking about.  Coach DeFranco is a huge proponent of the box jump and I believe he uses them as a testing method.  Joe is a big time coach and trainer and I’m sure he has his reasons as to why he utilizes them.  I have all the respect in the world for Coach DeFranco but in this one instance I disagree with him in the application of the box jump.  I’m not saying that box jumps are a means that coaches shouldn’t use.  I’m saying that I don’t believe trying to jump on higher and higher boxes are the answer.  I’ve had and still have back problems including a bulging disc and a box jump that requires me to lose my neutral spine position is incredibly painful and leads to problems.   WheThe box jump as well as any form of standing long jumps were the first to get cut from my program. 

I do utilize box jumps but we don’t use boxes that are so high as to limit an athlete’s ability to achieve a proper athletic stance when landing.  Athletes can still jump as high as possible but are now required to develop proper deceleration, and landing mechanics.

Interview w/ Dr. Stuart McGill

Joe Heiler posted another good interview on his website sportsrehabexpert.com with Dr. Stuart McGill.  As always with Dr. McGill it’s worth the time to take a listen. 

Interview with Dr. McGill – The Ultimate Back:  Enhancing Performance

Dr. McGill talks about the information contained on his new DVD in the interview.   The DVD  contains footage working with professional athletes including Georges St. Pierre and some of the progressions he utilizes to increase stability in the lumbar spine as well as super-stiffness. 

Other topics include why the quadratus lumborum is so important for torso stability and progressions to increase the ability to stabilize, low bar position in the squat, as well as how the back is perfectly designed to resist the shear forces associated with big forward lean back squats.  The following are past posts I’ve done on some of  topics Dr. McGill talks about. 

Single Leg Exercise
Suck In???