Monday, May 6, 2013

5 Things the Average Athlete Program is Lacking

5 Things The Average Athlete Program is Lacking

I have seen hundreds of high school and college lifting programs over the last 10 years.   90 % seem to consist of the usual blend of speed, strength and power exercises.  The same 90% of programs also seem to lack some concepts that I feel are very necessary for the team sport athlete.  Below are 5 things the average athlete  program is lacking.

  1. Ankle Mobility

If you lack mobility in the ankle joint, then you are leaving yourself open  to non – contact  knee injuries.  This is exactly why I am not a big fan of the healthy athlete bracing and taping their ankles.  In addition, improving your ankle mobility will make you a better squatter and dead lifter.  At Soar, we start every warm – up with ankle mobilizations over the middle toe, big toe and little toe.   Keep your heel on the ground and push your knee towards the wall.  It is so simple, but very few athletes do it.

  1. Lateral Plyometrics

If you play any team sport, you are going to  move in all directions  - not just straight forward.   But, the average high school lifting program consists of only vertical and horizontal power exercises such as broad jumps, box jumps and power cleans.   These are all great exercises, but what about creating power in the frontal plane?   Aside from the benefits to your speed and power on the field, lateral plyometrics will help keep the ankles, knees and hips healthy.  

Here are a few examples of 2 and 1 leg Lateral plyometrics we use at Soar:
-          Lateral quick feet plyos in an agility ladder
-          Lateral bounds
-          Lateral hurdle jump and hops
-          Lateral broad jumps
  1. Bent Leg Hip Extension Exercises

The glute is the king muscle when it comes to speed, but very few programs utilize exercises that specifically target it.   Glute ham raises and RDL variations are great for the hamstrings, but do not recruit the glutes in the same manner that a lot of bent leg hip extension exercises do.   The best thing about them is all you need is a bench or box to do them.  

Here are a few examples of Bent Leg Hip Extension exercises we use at Soar:

-  Back on Bench  (BOB)  1  and 2 leg hip extensions.     We weight single leg ones with chains and 2 leg ones with a barbell.
-  Forward sled marches
- Half get ups with hip lift
-BOB glute bridges

In addition to the speed benefits you will get from adding these to your program, they will go a long way towards preventing nagging hamstring injuries, back pain and knee pain.   The average high school kid that has knee pain or “glute amnesia” will benefit greatly from a few sets per week of these exercises.   Consult the Bret Contreras, aka “The Glute Guy” for an in depth look at glute training.

  1. Weighted carries

A strong athlete has a strong grip  - and weighted carries are some of the best ways to improve your grip strength. Don’t have farmers walking handles?   KB’s DB’s or anything heavy will work.   The key is to mix up the kind of carries that you have your athletes do.  At Soar, we have a “Weighted Carry of the Week”.   We rotate through a variety of carries with heavy handles or KBs.  Here is a list of carries we rotate through:

-Heavy carry  - same weight in each arem
- Offset carry   - load is heavier in one arm
- Suitcase carry  - weight is only in one arm
- Heartbeat carry  - hold KB at chest height and press is out as you walk   - Thanks Dan John!
- Bottoms up carry  - Hold the KB upside down and keep elbow bent at 90.
-Suicide walks  - any of the above carries but changing directions  - like a basketball suicide.
  1. Rotational Training

The term “functional training” has become a fire starter for many arguments in online forums.   Some trainers have taken it way too far by having their clients do everything with a wobble board.  Then there is the coach who thinks that anything that doesn’t involve a bar is for pussies.   I would say I fall somewhere in between.   This is where diagonal chops come in.  A lot of sports are played in the transverse plane and this is why rotational training is ‘functional” for most team sport athletes.  The problem is that most coaches fail to understand that rotational training is NOT explosive twisting of the lumbar spine.   It is learning how to rotate the hips and upper back while the center of the body stays relatively stable.

A sound rotational training progression begins with learning how to resist rotation.   We start all our athletes with chops in Half Kneeling position where the goal is to brace the core and resist the forces that the cable is putting on them.  We then progress to rotational MB throws and standing chops where the hips and upper back produce the power.   Two sets of 10 reps in each direction 1 – 2 times per week serves as sufficient rotational training in my experience.

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