Monday, March 21, 2011

Off-Season Update


Over the past few months, it has been a very busy time with training various teams, people, and reading. Now that Spring Ball has started it is time to look back and analyze the progress from the previous off-season programs.

What Was New?
Through new experiences, reading, and research it is expected that programs, methods, and progressions will change. Here are some of the changes we made this off-season in attempt to yield better performance and decreased injury potential.

1. Team FMS
One of the tools that I was able to get implemented school wide with all sports teams was FMS screenings. By partnering with the athletic training department, one of which has been through a mentorship for SFMA, we did all our preliminary screens this winter.

What we noticed was, a majority of the female athletes performed poorly in Stability push-ups and In- Line lunge. Of them, a majority complained of hip pain. For the football team, following the season, performed poorly in the Shoulder and Rotational tests. Of them a majority had anterior shoulder pain.

→Corrective approach
Following is an example of what was required for the athletes whose programs I was in charge of (Football, Volleyball). These would be typical of what we would do prior to team warm up for a shoulder priority.

Also for active rest, certain exercises were paired with corrective stretching to increase relaxation between sets as well as serving to reinforce the postural corrections. The subjective feedback has been great. Many are gradually being alleviated of tightness and the follow up to the test will be performed as they go through athletic physicals in a couple weeks.

2. Speed/Plyo Progressions
This off season I focused a particular amount of attention to our anaerobic power sessions, which were in separate session Monday, and also Wednesday mornings we would have a session completely dedicated to developing this capacity. We then would be transitioning into anaerobic capacity. Our session would mirror what was being reinforced in the weight room such as Starting strength, acceleration mechanics that were utilized heavily and with great success during our emphasis on anaerobic power (AP). AP plays and especially important role the shorter the competitive distance, which is enhanced while developing maximal strength and reactive ability.

Example of exercises for this development of anaerobic power and reactive ability:
→Resisted running from Crouch/Split stance start.
Keys: powerful take off using active movement of swing leg. This reinforces the flexion/extension reflex (Bosch), which will greatly enhance starting power.
Distance/Time: 25-35yds depending on position. Nothing over 8-10 seconds.

→Jump Training divided into “short” consisting of 4-6 maximum force take offs. We used a progression of Non-Countermovement, Countermovement, Double Contact, Continuous, Depth Jump (depth never exceeding jump height).

→Jump Training divided into “long” consisting of moderate take offs with emphasis on advancing ahead as fast as possible. Distances usually 40-80 yards. Jumps used were six fold leg to leg and bounds.

3. Paying more attention to the specialized strength training (SST) of specific groups of athletes.
It is well known that movement pattern specificity has a great deal to do with transfer of training (Stone). This is realized by how intramuscular and intermuscular movement pattern specificity is accounted for. The functional roles of groups of muscles can change in various multi-joint movements and needs to be considered in various kinetic and kinematic roles during performance tasks. This basically meant simple emphasis on certain means for a particular position. Take into consideration a lineman who is static from start of position. Requirements would yield highly toward starting and yielding strength. This opposed to a linebacker who engages an opponent following a countermovement.

→ Special consideration should take place to emphasize Movement pattern specificity:
- Type of muscle action (eccentric, concentric, stretch shortening)
- Accentuated regions of force production (accommodating resistance)
- Complexity, Direction of Movement
- Ballistic vs. Non-ballistic


Developing athletes does not rely solely on the development of muscular strength. Performance outcomes are by far the most reliable way to tell whether or not a program is successful. This involves longevity, speed of execution for a given motor system, and ability to recover is factors that you should use to determine the ultimate success of your athletes improvement from a yearly cycle. For now however, seeing improvements of certain test are a reliable why to determine if certain means are achieved to set up the potential for subsequent training. I am satisfied with average from the first 5 weeks of the Winter sessions. Here are average increases from testing after 5 weeks:

→Bench- Avg. 30# increase
→Hang Clean- Avg. 20# increase
→Squat- Avg. 30# increase
Thrown out were some outliers that test increased above 50.

These are pretty constant with the average increases from the previous testing after our post season lifts before this 5-week block. Strength values are where they need to be and should result in a good transition into a greater emphasis on explosive abilities leading into the summer months.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Plyometrics, more than jumping onto a box Part 2

Part one we discussed that basic mechanics of what is shown during a SSC. Now in Part II we will look at the optimal ways in which you can train this quality.

What does this say about training reactivity and explosiveness?

The impact of external forces upon ground contact causes a rapid lengthening leading to a stretch reflex. If the muscle is increasing in stiffness (acting isometrically, contracting) but you are still gaining range of motion, then the tendon is what is lengthening. The external forces that cause the body to produce force in this way come in several forms. These all require short ground contact and pretension (muscle rigidity). When the body drops before foot placement, the anticipatory reaction pretenses the muscles witch puts the SEC at somewhat of a pre-stretch. Indicating that drills to develop this capacity should be following a brief landing. Drills that fall in this category:

Double contact jumps: Perform 1 or 2 quick taps with both feet before performing jump.

Continuous jumps/bounds: performing a sequence of jumps with as little ground contact time as possible.

Depth Jumps: Performing a jump from an elevated box with as little ground contact as possible. Box height should never exceed jump height.

What about the good ole’ vertical jump (countermovement)?

In this case, the impact of external forces occurs slowly. This allows the muscle to act eccentrically not allowing the tendon to lengthen as much. This jump would have little to do with reactive explosiveness. In many sports, the case is getting into the air from a running start or rebounding back into the air following a jump, utilizing the methods discussed previously. In many respects the countermovement jump isn’t nearly as “functional” when determining an athletes reactivity and explosiveness.

A Word About Strength
Readiness to perform this type of plyometric work requires a pre-requisite of strength development. In order to get the most stretch out of the tendon the muscle must be strong enough to hold itself isometrically. On a more serious note, if you perform depth jumps and the force greatly exceeds the muscles isometric ability, you will end up with a tear. Again it all comes down to readiness and how advanced you are in your training. A good way to tell if you should progress to the next level is whether the athlete can maintain relatively small hip and knee angles upon landing or rebounding (more upright).

Benefits of progression

This isn’t to say that the countermovement or static jump should be thrown out. These do a great service to build coordination and landing mechanics. An adaptation that reduces co-contraction of the antagonist also occurs. Finally, a static jump is a great companion to starting strength.

Final Note

I hope what you get out of this information is the need to expand across several methods or ways of developing reactivity and explosiveness. By keeping to one method or worse, not doing any plyometrics at all, you are stripping the athlete’s ability to perform at the highest level. Progress, be smart, and stay healthy.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Plyometrics, more than jumping onto a box Part 1

Part I will discuss the basic biomechanics of what goes on during plyometrics.

Reactivity, elasticity, and sometimes referred to as buoyancy, plays a very important role in all sports and running. The ability to change direction, sprint, and jump rely heavily on the body’s ability to produce force, relax, and repeat force production.

Taking a look at common practice through visiting professionals, reading material, and learning from other great coaches, a very common variation in each persons approach to development is how they incorporate plyometrics. I hear a common phrase; “most athletes aren’t strong enough so I don’t do them.” Which I will expand upon more later. Some think it is all about how many inches you can jump onto a box. Opposite of that some think it is all about jumping off the tallest box you can. I will also explain why the common test for explosive power (vertical jump) doesn’t quiet tell the whole story.

What Happens When You Jump?
First and for most lets take a look at the biomechanics that come into play when performing a jump in relationship to the stretch shortening cycle (SSC). Taking a look at Hill’s model, two of the three components make a serious contribution. The contractile element (CE) composed of muscle fibers, and the series elastic component (SEC) mainly being the tendon. When performing a jump, these components are stretched, allowing them to store energy, and this energy is released upon rapid contraction. The tendon has the greatest capacity to store energy with little stretch do to it being a rigid structure. Unlike the muscle, which is supple, can stretch much further without storing the same amounts of energy. This would promote the concept that a greater the ability to stretch the tendon during a SSC, the more energy that can be released. This stretch in the tendon would be optimal if the muscle does not stretch. Basically, the more eccentrically a muscle acts within a SSC the less stretch you get out of the tendon.

In part II we will look at how you can apply this information and the specific exercises that utilize this component of the SSC.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Building a Foundation

Building the foundation for subsequent training means can not be neglected. Being so far away from the next season, it is no better time than now to begin expanding the potential for the work to come. This involves extensive conditioning, tempo work, and assessing postural imbalances very intensively.

The aim of the tempo work is to increase the aerobic capacity for Type II fibers as well as hypertrophy of type I. Here is an example of an upper body tempo exercise protocol we use.

D-Lineman: 6'2" 240 lb
Tempo: 2/0/2
Duration:2-3 series of 3 x 40 sec or 8-10 reps
Rest: 60 sec between sets, 5-8 min active recovery between series

This is his last set. It is very hard for them to control the concentric portion when fatigued so constant supervision and cueing is important to maintain protocol. Always have a stop watch in hand. You can do this after high intensity strength work or in series for a workout on its own.

It is important to remember that this is also the best time to reinforce proper mechanics especially scapular. Important cue to really condition the lower fibers is to make sure athletes are relaxing the upper trapezius. It is key to be hands on so you can feel what they feel. Here is a defensive lineman utilizing these scapular cues during a pull down, ensuring proper activation of the lower fibers.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Optimal Hypertrophy

Size equals strength right? If we get bigger then we are gaining cross sectional area, which is a foundation for strength development aren’t we? Yes and no.

It is very true that increasing the amount of contractile tissue, you will have a greater potential for strength development. But when you gain mass, muscle tissue isn’t the only substance that has ability to grow.

Two types of Hypertrophy

Sarcoplasmic: the volume of sarcoplasmic fluid in the muscle cell increases.

Myofibril: The increase contractile proteins, increase of sarcomeres in series etc…

Any type of hypertrophy is individualized but should never come at the expense of performance. If added mass is essential for an individual, then a balance between both types is optimal. If athlete is already at desired weight or size then any hypertrophy that would be developed should be that of contractile proteins. Lets take a look at the variables that come into play when looking to develop these qualities.


Mechanical: Any method that challenges High force or High Acceleration. Goal is to utilize high threshold recruitment (size principle).

Methods: Powerlifting and weightlifting (Olympic)

→Preference for increased size of type II fibers. Heavy eccentrics allow for most muscular damage and highest mechanical stress so don’t limit yourself concentrically.
→Max effort methods offer percentages that yield increase size of high threshold motor units.
→Dynamic lifts will allow you to activate very high threshold MU’s which can be utilized in subsequent strength training.

Metabolic: Methods that induce a local fatigue that will stress aerobic enzymes and substrate causing a reduction as an acute adaptation. During recovery a surplus will be produced as a long term adaptation causing increased size of sarcoplasmic material.

Methods: Bodybuilding, HIT

→Inducing as much fatigue to the muscle is a must. As Zatsiorski would say, if it is not fatigued it was not trained (will not grow).
→Repetition method as seen in Westside Barbell.
→ Timed sets or high intensity training will induce as much metabolic stress with short rest periods. This leads to a beneficial increase in muscle building hormones

As you can see, there are benefits to a variety of methods. It all comes down to what the individual needs. Some athletes fiber composition my lead them to develop hypertrophy better with some methods rather than others. A great way to tell whether or not the size you are adding is beneficial is relative strength.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Random Resources

INTERNETThere is a site that I was told about a while back that basically has me listening, watching, and reading everything it has to offer. The Canadian Athletics Coaching Centre. This has some great articles from many of the greatest minds in the industry like Verkhoshansky, Viru, Zatsiorsky, and Pfaff just to name a few. Much of it is free articles and podcast as well as some amazing videos well worth the money. I urge anyone to check it out for some serious research and programming from every realm of performance enhancement!!

LITERATUREA book that has been around for a bit that I continuously find myself looking back at is Running by Frans Bosch. Bosch has great insight on many aspects in developing, cueing, and training anyone who runs. He is of course a track coach but much of what he has to say can easily be related to any athlete who makes a living on their feet. Especially his work with plyometrics and observation are priceless.

NUTRITIONThe latest from Michael Pollan, Food Rules, is a great gift idea for the health conscious or someone you know that is trying to eat more clean. It is split up into simple sections and does great job at taking simple concepts that often are confused into complexity by the media. Even for those of you who consider themselves having a strong grasp on their stomach my find some of his outlooks as a reminder of some obvious things you are neglecting.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Educational Road Trip

Today I had the pleasure of dropping in at the Sanford Running Injury & Performance lab and The National Institute for Athletic Health & Performance in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Each of these places offer unique equipment and are heading some great research involving individual assessment through gait analysis and fatigue related stability issues.

At the running lab they had a force plate treadmill with Zebris software. What this allowed them to do was match slow motion video analysis with an individuals foot strike. Along with this they would hook up EMG to get a look at specific firing patterns up the chain. Take away message:

* The individual may display similar areas of stiffness and/or firing patterns but treatment is different based on the way in which this stiffness occurs. This is based off roll off patterns in the foot, heel motion, and foot structure.
* Single leg stance is still one of the greatest assessments for stability. But with this tool you can measure the parameter in which your center of gravity is displaced. This with EMG can show the degree in which you compensate and with which specific muscles your relying on.
* Many people strike hard on the outside of the heel and almost immediate go to big toe after a hard pronation.

Overall like you would assume, many of these people were stiff anteriorly and externally rotated.
These guys had a fellowship with Gary Gray and use some very integrated corrective strategies as you would guess with Gray.

At the NIAHP, they have easily the best environmental chamber in the US. Here they have done wonders with hydration study and stability.

* Almost everyone losses sweat at different rates. With that, what is lost (different electrolytes) varies quiet a bit person to person. People perform at a substantially higher rate when they replace what is really needed and not as much of what is not.
* After fatigued, athletes showed highest differences in stability in the frontal plane when landing, and in step-downs.
* 50 % of athletes are in a dehydrated state throughout the day. (DRINK SOME WATER!)

A great experience overall. Once again these are just tools. You can come to the same conclusions with different means. These tools however provide a great deal of information allowing you to obtain results with the ability to compare with computed numbers. I see these sort of tools as a use em' if you have access sort of thing.