Quick Hand Touches

I thought I would post one of my new favorite exercises called Quick Hand Touches.  We found this exercise about 6 months ago and have been incorporating it ever since. 

It’s a great exercise because it combines torso stability in a dynamic environment.  The hands are moving as quick as possible while the torso’s job is to stay as rigid as possible.  This is the exact task we always want the torso and especially the lumbar spine, performing. 

During the setup, make sure athletes have a wide base as far as the feet go.  We d0n’t want any movement or rotation of the hips throughout the exercise.  Athletes are trying to touch their opposite hand. 

Try placing tape on the floor, or have a visual cue for athletes to put their hands.  If not, as the athlete fatigues they will begin to bring their hands in closer and closer negating the effect to have to stabilize the hips while in a single arm stance.  Generally, I begin younger athletes at around 20 seconds, and progress up to 30 seconds.  Another progression that a coach can use, is to widen the hands out further and further.

Gorgeous Spotting Videos

Since Friday is upon us I thought we’d have a little bit of fun.   Here’s a few videos to cheer you up for the weekend. 

Just listen to the spotter after the lift.  Haha.  Classic. 

I loved the part where the guy says “that s*** don’t look like fun.  I didn’t wanna grab you and then have you come back up…..”  Haha. 

The second video is even better.  It came to me from one of our staff members Missy Mitchell.  Nice work by the young lads in the video.  What I’d like to know is where the hell their coach is!

Does anybody actually think this 100 # 13 year old is going to squat this weight.  He was close to having an epileptic seizure just unracking the weight.  It was clearly obvious something bad was going to happen.   His spotter is doing his best Michael Jackson routine while waving to the ladies good-bye as 315 engulfs the little fellow with a great eccentric good morning.  Hope everyone has a good weekend. 

Rotational Movement Series

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately from high school coaches about our baseball training.  The number one thing is how to implement rotational work into their training.  Most small schools and high schools don’t have access to cables / bands, or they have so many kids that due to time constraints they wouldn’t be feasible anyway. 

I’ve uploaded three of our plate rotation series that can be implemented with large numbers of athletes and are great for beginners in teaching rotational movement patterns.  I utilize these a lot with our younger athletes at TCU, especially in our freshmen prep program.  These are great for teaching athletes hip rotation and t-spine rotation while locking in the lumbar spine.  Being able to do that is foundation to virtually all rotational movements, especially swings as in a golf swing, baseball swing, etc.

Thoracic Spine Mobility

Hip Flexor Steps w/ Rotation – Thoracic Spine Mobility

Beginner T-Spine Mobility

T-Spine Mobility Videos

The foundation of all these movements is a square lower half at the bottom of each exercise.  We don’t want the knees to collapse in.  At the bottom, emphasize rotating the shoulders while keeping the hips and knees square.  As we rotate up, we don’t want the spine to do all the rotation, ie: keeping the feet in place.  We want to emphasize blocking the front hip and rotating / following thru with the back hip.  I cue the athletes to rotate around the front hip.  These are great exercises to get the rotators of the hip firing as well increase hip internal rotation without actually stretching or even having athletes know about it. 

With plate rotations, we want to keep the arms straight and rotate up diagonally.  The biggest problem I see here is athletes loading up with too much weight, then not being able to hold it.  We don’t want much weight here.  The other movements can be loaded more significantly, but for this one I want the pattern done correctly regardless of weight.

The second movement in this series is plate stamps.  With plate stamps the foundation of the movement stays the same again.  The hips stay square, with the shoulders rotated at the bottom.  The difference being we break the arms and pull the plate into the chest, then drive it up diagonally as we rotate.  This is second in our series because we have trained the rotational pattern with light weight, now we can increase the weight and begin utilizing our hip and leg drive.  We really want our athletes to drive the plate up with the back side hip and leg. 

The last movement in the series, alternating plate rotations, can actually be loaded the most and can help teach explosive hip rotation.  I would compare it to a kettlebell swing of sorts.  The difference being in the starting position.  The athlete holds the plate between the legs in a squat instead of being rotated at the bottom.  As we come up all rotation stays the same.  We still block the front side leg, and rotate around it by following through with the backside.  The arms stay straight in this exercise, and we utlize the hips and legs to forcefully drive the weight up.  Athletes shouldn’t get tired in the arms, or shoulders here.  If they do they’re doing it wrong.  Remember according to Chubbs, “It’s all the hips!”  That’s Happy Gilmore for those of you wondering. 

In all of these movements we’re not trying to duplicate swings or any type of sport activity.  We are teaching and training rotational / diagonal movement patterns that involve hip and thoracic spine rotation.  Too often, athletes think we’re trying to reproduce some type of swing in the weight room.  This isn’t the objective and isn’t good for anybody’s swing mechanics.  Leave the weight room for teaching and training general movements, patterns and the field for teaching and training sport specificity.

More is better???

So today I thought I would share one of my favorite quotes applying to the sports training process.  It comes to us from Thomas Kurz and his book the Science of Sports Training. 

“Training is efficient if the highest sports result is achieved with the least expense of time and energy.”

I think this is one of the most important concepts that any coach, strength and conditioning, or sports coach, can adhere to.  Go look at any football practice that is about to start up at NCAA schools all over the nation and ask yourself if they are following this philosophy.  How many times do we see a coach do something only because that’s how they did it, or that’s how it’s always been done.  I actually think this is one of the dumbest things I see in sports.  If you have no purpose for something being included in a training session or practice, then why are you wasting your kids’ energy doing it.  I’ve been told before by coaches to run athletes during practices so the coaches some more time with another group of athletes. 

When programming an athlete’s training everything in the plan should have reason and a purpose with the end result being an increase in their sport.  The sports training process isn’t about random exercises throughout a week with little thought as to the endpoint.  Saving the body’s energy by eliminating excess training becomes paramount for the adaptation process to occur. 

One reason Charlie Francis, famed sprint coach, loved the olympic lifts was due to the high amounts of motor unit activation.  Instead of spending an hour or more in the weight room after a sprint training session with exercise after exercise, Charlie felt they could hit the majority of the motor units within the body with a few olympic movements and get out quick.  This way the majority of their time was devoted to adapting to their speed sessions, with the weight room serving as an accessory to the ultimate goal of being faster.  He didn’t want to impede results by fatiguing athletes even more in the weight room.  Often times, they might only perform one or two exercises depending on how their track session went.  But in the end it he still utilized minimal volume that could produce the results he was after. 

Hypothetically, if an athlete can achieve the same goal necessary with a 50% reduced workload then it is a far more efficient route to take.  Not doing so takes much more energy.  We don’t want this when that energy could’ve been used for the adaptation process. 

Athletes adapt to a stimulus away from the training arena.  When too much stress is created without enough time for recovery the body cannot compensate and becomes further depressed.  Over time an athlete becomes overtrained and proper adaptation cannot take place, as well as delays future adaptation.  Recovery and restoration is just as important as the training means themselves.  Too often athletes, and coaches forget this important fact.  It is simply the “more is better” attitude.  More isn’t always better, and in fact in sports performance training I would generally say less is better.  I would rather undertrain an athlete than overtrain one. 

Many times coaches, and athletes inability to properly ration training means, sports training, rest, recovery, and nutrition is where breakdowns occur.  I’ve been ridiculed before for my approach to training athletes.  I don’t frequently use a high volume because the weight room is only a supplement to their sport.  I have always believed in having a rhyme and a reason for everything that gets placed in a program.  The energy one spends in the weight room takes away from the actual sport itself.

Soccer and Energy Systems

Many of you probably saw a few of the games of the past World Cup this summer.  As I was watching the Cup this past month a few thoughts popped into my head. I should’ve posted on this earlier in the summer during the actual play of the World Cup but due to the College World Series and a few other things I didn’t get to it until now. 

Everyone always wants to train soccer with loads and loads of running.  It’s not uncommon for coaches to implement 2 mile runs, 3 mile runs, repeat 300 yard shuttles, etc. for soccer athletes.  After all they run non-stop all the time for their sport. . . right? 

If anybody truly watched the Cup with a critical eye as a sport performance coach you would have noticed that the athletes aren’t running all that much.  Now I know somebody is going to blow my words out of proportion and be all over me for that statement but hear me out on this one. 

When you watch what most of the athletes are doing during play, the general majority of them are in a walk or very slow recovery jog.  The ones playing the ball are working, but the vast majority of team sits back somewhat.  They aren’t continuously running around in circles or up and down the field like I think a lot of coaches believe.  This is especially true when the ball is in the middle of the field.   The majority of the athletes are in a walk or slow jog.

I wanted to post a few videos of play during the World Cup to illustrate what I was talking about but they aren’t that easy to come by.  Most of the videos only show goals so it isn’t a great example but you still see what I’m talking about in a few of the shots, but if you actually watch the athletes that aren’t around the ball you can see the type of recovery they get. 

Soccer isn’t a continuous 3 mile run like coaches repeatedly try to train it.  It bouts of high intensity sprints (cutting, acceleration, deceleration) combined with bouts of low intensity recoveries.  When we look at the total of running volume in a match we find that the high intensity volumes actually make up a small percentage of the total volume of movement that occurs.  What we also find is that the vast majority of the volume is at a walk or slow jog emphasizing recovery.  They don’t continuously sprint either, such as a 300 yard shuttle.  The majority of sprints in a match are 10-20 yards with bouts of recovery. 

According to Withers et al., (1982) 26.3% of total play time is made up of phases of walk, 64.6% of slow jog, 18.9% of quick runs and sprints, and 1.1% of phases of possession of the ball. In (1985) Mayhew and Wenger established that during his game a soccer player walks 46.6%, runs slowly 38%, runs quickly or sprints 11.3% and stands without moving 2.3% of total playing time.

If this is the case why do coaches train soccer players in a lactic environment as such with 300 yard shuttles, or continuous runs as in a 2, or 3 mile jogs.  Shouldn’t athletes utilize short bouts of high intensity sprints followed by recovery walks, slow jogs, etc.  Soccer athletes are rarely in a lactic environment, and when it happens it is for a very short time.  Coaches shouldn’t waste time training the glycolytic energy system to a high degree when they can achieve the results of increased lactate threshold with lower intensity aerobic work, and high intensity sprints, agility movements, etc. 

The following link is a great resource for anyone training soccer athletes.  It gives great insight into the energy system demands that are required during a 90-minute bout on the pitch. 

Energy system requirements of soccer player. Correlation between game analysis and aerobic/anaerobic power test

This statement from the above article summarizes the sport of soccer and what is truly required as far as aerobic / alactic requirements. 

Soccer requires intermittent physical activity in which sequences of actions requiring a variety of skills of varying intensities are strung together (Cometti et al., 2001). The exercise pattern is characterized by repeated short duration bouts of high intensity exercise interspersed with longer periods of lower intensity exercise and passive recovery (Balsom et al., 2001). Although the total duration of high intensity exercise performed during a multiple sprint sport only accounts for a very small proportion of the total game time, such periods are most often instrumental in determining the outcome of the game. Many activities in soccer require forceful and explosive bursts of energy including tackling, jumping, kicking, turning and changing pace. The power output during such activities is critical in determining the overall success of performance (Strudwick et al, 2002). In order to cope with the physical requirements for elite soccer match-play, it is important that the players have a high level of speed, agility, muscular strength and anaerobic power.

The quality that truly separates soccer athletes is acceleration in sprinting.  An article I posted a few weeks ago on the AJAX Academy in Europe states that 10-20 meter acceleration is the most important quality that an athlete can possess. 

European Model of Sport Selection – GREAT READ

In all this I’m not saying that soccer athletes don’t need high levels of aerobic endurance because they do.  A highly developed aerobic system will help to buffer lactic acid at a higher rate, and emphasize the ability for athletes to recover faster in between high intensity bouts of sprints, and cutting.  What I am saying is that coaches should look at their sport critically and truly determine what energy systems are required and at what dosage and not just assign random conditioning drills because that’s what others do.

Strength Coaches

A few weeks back during the College World Series ESPN.com had a week of several articles, and interviews with strength coaches from around the nation. It was good to see the field of strength and conditioning getting a little recognition.

Follow these rules … or else

Strength coach Q&A: Oregon State’s Bryan Miller

A chat with Florida’s Marotti

In Coach Marotti’s interview he states how we are with the kids much more than anyone else on the staff. This statement is so true. He also goes on to essentially say while the coaches are off on vacation during the summer, the strength staff is grinding it out in the heat working for the upcoming fall. The problem with the picture is that a strength staff is just as important as any position coach on the team in my opinion. Obviously, I have a skewed opinion, but what high level program would eliminate their strength and conditioning program. No one would because it’s too important. So why is it that strength staffs are among the lowest paid members of an athletic department? I do understand that is about the athletes you get, but it’s also about the athletes you develop and injuries you prevent. Someday strength coaches will be looked upon as equals when it comes to coordinators or other head coaches, and not just as lowly meatheads yelling at kids to bench press more.

Another quick article I found online was an interview with newly hired Central Michigan University coach Dan Enos.  Coach Enos brought a new staff in including my mentor and college strength coach Rick Perry.  Here are Coach Enos’ words so far on the strength program.  Coach Perry does a terrific job and is the reason that I am a strength and conditioning coach today. 

Ask Enos: New CMU coach answers questions from the fans on the state of the program

Dan Enos: “The strength and conditioning program has been outstanding. When I say that, I get my feedback from the players. I have met with all the guys and part of what I talk about with them is the strength and conditioning program. When those guys come in and tell me that they love it and they never have had these types of gains before and they are stronger than they have ever been, I think the proof is in the pudding there.

I love what Coach Perry is doing. There are a lot of things that come into play in the fourth quarter of a game. Coach Perry wasn’t calling plays in the fourth quarter for Notre Dame and he wasn’t tackling anyone on the field.

I think like everything in our program, we have incorporated some things we have all learned through the years. Rick is incorporating some things he has learned at Notre Dame, but he has his own ideas as well. But, so far the feedback from the players has been unbelievably positive and that has us excited.”

APRE Method

Today’s post comes to us from our friends at the University of Missouri.  Bryan Mann is behind the article and is a good friend and colleague of mine.  We actually went to school together and he was a strength coach of mine during my college football days.  It’s my second post this week from the MIZZOU strength staff which means I believe they’re doing things right in Columbia. 

They have an article in the upcoming Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research on Autoregulatory Progressive Resistance Exercise, or APRE.  For those of you who have been around my programs you will know that  I’m a huge fan of the APRE method and we utilize it every year with our baseball athletes for strength development. 

There is very little information out there about the APRE method.  This article helps to break it down and compares how effective it is vs. a linear periodized program working up from 70%.  It’s well thought out and is actually something that strength coaches can use, unlike most of the information found in the NSCA Research Journal. Give it a read as its well worth your time. 

The Effect of Autoregulatory Progressive Resistance Exercise vs. Linear Periodization on Strength Improvements in College Athletes.

I believe it is one of the best methods in gaining strength quickly, and especially in re-gaining lost strength.  Collegiate baseball athletes have a much longer playing time than most people realize.  Kids often play from January through June for a collegiate season then leave immediately and report to summer ball for another 8-10 weeks.   When athletes play 7-8 months straight through this doesn’t always bode well for improving or even maintaining strength. 

One of the best methods I’ve found in re-gaining that lost strength is 4-6 weeks of using the APRE.  One of the biggest drawbacks to the method is that I believe plateaus are experienced relative quickly.  It seems that each time we use the APRE method it becomes less effective for the athlete.   So for our seniors that have possibly used the APRE method 3 times, they seem to hit plateaus in under 3 weeks, whereas our younger guys will still have success into weeks 4, and 5.   All in all it’s a great tool for increasing strength quickly.