Thursday, November 19, 2009

Olympic Lifting Made Easy

Like most strength and conditioning coaches, I use a variety of Olympic Lifts in my programs for athletes. The most popular Olympic Lift that is used in most school programs is the Power Clean or the Hang Clean. If you are not familiar, the Power Clean is performed with the weight starting on the floor and the Hang Clean is performed with the athlete holding the bar about knee height. I love Hang Cleans, but they are one of the most difficult lifts to teach. I usually use an 8 week progression before a high school athlete starts to Hang Clean in my program.

The Power Clean - often seen in football strength programs - is an even more complicated lift. In my opinion, its almost impossible for some athletes to get into the proper position to START a Power Clean, let alone perform the actual lift safely. The only time I have an athlete Power Clean is because I know they will have to perform the lift when they move on to play college sports. I know a number of high school kids each year experience L5 back fractures due to improper power clean technique.

The bottom line is if your athlete can't squat well, then they most definitely cannot perform a power clean. Most high school basketball players with very long femurs fit into this category. As a whole, it is difficult for any coach to teach and supervise any version of the Clean to a group of young athletes.

So here is my suggestion.....if you are not comfortable teaching the clean and your athletes just are not getting it right, then do not put them in your program. There are many alternatives to the Clean that are just as effective in developing power in athletes. So instead of spending hours and weeks trying to train an inexperienced lifter to be an Olympic Lifter, try this lift in the video below. The DB Snatch is by far my favorite Olympic style lift and most kids can learn it in 5 minutes. It's also a great lift for adults to do!

Friday, November 13, 2009

What is speed training?

100% of the people who call for information say that they want to get faster - or they want their child to get faster. Along with getting stronger, speed and agility instruction is the sure way to improve speed. But what is speed training?

Speed drills involve sprinting or multi- directional movements for a 2 - 8 second duration. Rest periods in between sets is crucial and should be at least 30 seconds. If the body does not recover, then you cannot run at top speed - then you are not getting faster. A solid speed training regimen include about 2 - 3 sessions per week for about a 45 minute duration. I highly recommend at least one full day of rest in between high intensity speed days, ideally I would like to see two. This allows not only for the muscles to rest, but also the Central Nervous System to recover. I won't bore you with a ton of scientific information, but if you want to learn how to truly train athletes for speed, then you should research how the Central Nervous System is affected by high intensity training.

Speed training is not : Running 400s or 800s

Jogging around your neighborhood

Running suicides until you puke

Running on a treadmill

I think you get the idea. The above can either be considered conditioning or long distance running. There is a place for conditioning, but don't mistake it for true speed training. In my opinion, long distance running for the speed athlete is just plain stupid. If you enjoy going on a run with the family every now and then, that's fine. But, making it a consistent part of your training week will accomplish one thing -being slow!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

No Pain....No Gain?

We have all heard the popular cliches before..."No Pain, No Gain" and "Pain is Weakness". I have heard coaches, parents and athletes say them to me all the time. Lets take a closer look at what these quotes actually mean.

First of all, let's determine what pain is. According to Webster's dictionary, pain is defined as: suffering or distress of body or mind, also : a sensation marked by discomfort. Does that sound like something that will help you gain?

Now I am not trying to create a generation of athletes that can't workout because they stubbed their finger or because their brother hit them in the hip with a whiffle ball bat. That's not really pain. That is one of the few occasions when its acceptable to utter those popular words, "suck it up". For the purposes of this rant, let's separate pain (being injured, hurt or having something wrong with the body) from being nicked up or a little sore. Let's also agree that pain is not being winded from a conditioning sprint or feeling like your arms will fall off from a set of max rep push ups.

Pain means there is something wrong that needs to be fixed.

Let's just take a look at a common "pain" we see at SOAR from our youth clients on a daily basis - knee pain. Aside from the obvious tears, sprains and strains, kids can experience knee pain from growing, from being weak in the hips or having poor flexibility. The very first thing we do is determine what hurts it and what does not. We live by a very simple principle at SOAR: If it hurts, don't do it.

Once we determine what hurts it, we begin to put a program together to help eliminate the pain. It usually involves hip, hamstring and glute strengthening and flexibility work. The exercises we usually cut out are jumping, high intensity sprinting/agility and squatting to a depth that causes pain. On a weekly basis, we ask the client how the knee feels and add or subtract exercises accordingly. The whole goal is to eliminate the pain, then build from there. The growing body is a quite a puzzle. A good trainer must learn when to its appropriate to move forward, and when its necessary to take a few steps back.

After years of training athletes, I am starting to think that "No Pain, No Gain" is possibly the most senseless thing ever said. Think about it. If you are in pain when you are training, are you gaining? No, you are making the problem worse.

So I am starting a crusade to change some of the most popular cliches of all time. How about, "Pain, No Gain" or "Pain Means There is a Weakness". You probably won't see them on a poster any time soon, but it is definitely food for thought.

Friday, November 6, 2009

In - Season Basketball Lifting

Basketball try-outs have either started or are about to begin. For my clients who play hoops, there is no need for speed and agility development during the season due to the amount of stress that basketball places on the body. We do encourage our clients to come to see us at least 1 - 2 times per week during the season. This is a template of what the workout looks like.

Foam roll - to help with recovery and flexibility
Dynamic warm -up
Hip Mobility and Ankle mobility work

Explosive exercise - depends on the kid and how they feel on that given day
Core/Rotational exercise

Upper body Push - vertical or horizontal - we alternate between workouts
1 or 2 Leg exercise - low volume - 3 sets of 4 - 8 reps

Upper body pull - same as pushing - we alternate between vertical and horizontal
Posterior chain exercise - for the glutes, hamstrings and lower back - we alternate between straight leg and bent leg

We then may add some abs or arms depending on our time frame and the athletes schedule

All sessions end with some type of flexibility work.

Monday, November 2, 2009

What can hinder multi - directional speed?

There are a lot of factors that contribute to improving multi-directional speed in athletes. Keeping the feet moving, setting up shin angles properly and turning the hips are all concepts that we teach at SOAR on a weekly basis. One component of agility that is often overlooked is the position of the shoulders.........Yes the shoulders!

This video will show you exactly what I mean.

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