Variable Resistance Training (Bands and Chainz)

If you follow my personal instagram page, you will notice I am a big fan of utilizing bands and chains as alternative resistance methods, but what’s the point? Yeah, they look cool, and sure they provide a little more resistance to the exercise (at certain points) but what’s really going on when you load up 50lbs of chains to the bar, or add 50lbs of tension with some bands? 

VRT provides altering amounts of external resistance throughout the movement. Bands are more versatile compared to chains in this aspect, due to the fact that they can resist or assist the movement. In a squat, with the bands pulling the bar to the floor, lowering the bar will result in a decrease in stretch of the band and a decrease in resistance. Standing up will stretch the band, thus increasing the resistance of the band. Bands hanging above the bar does the opposite. Do not over think these mechanisms! Chains provide no elastic qualities, so they only provide added resistance in this instance. When lowering the bar, the chains will coil on the ground and resistance from the chains decrease. Standing up will uncoil the chains and provide added resistance to the movement. 

There are parts certain points of every exercise that require the most effort to complete the task. Referring back to the squat, just above the bottom of the movement is the “sticking point” of the movement. This is where you feel the most amount of resistance, and this is where the majority of failed reps occur. Once you pass the sticking point, the ability to complete the movement is almost a given. Why attempt to make this more difficult by adding chains and/or bands? 

Of the many goals associated with strength training, one of them is to improve inter/intra muscular coordination. Intermuscular coordination is the coordination of contraction between different muscles, while intramuscular coordination is the coordination of the individual muscle’s firing pattern. Traditional free weight training (FWT) will provide the required stimulus to improve the neural adaptations listed above. However, let’s go back to the squat. The time between the “sticking point,” and the completion of the rep. The mechanical advantage we gain during this segment of the exercise is such that our muscles do not require the same amount of force production to complete the rep! This is where chains and bands come into play. They provide the extra resistance through the easier portions of the lift. So, this gap of mechanical advantage is now filled with added resistance that provide a greater stimulus, and inter/intra muscular coordination between these two points will increase as a result. 

This blog barely scrapes the surface of VRT implementation. This modality of training is a personal favorite of mine due to the fact that; VRT provides variation to commonly completed movements, and bands and chains are not expensive relative to other resistance mechanisms. I hope to dive deeper into this form of training and the role it plays in previously discussed topics, like plyometrics. 


-Thank you for your time! If you have any questions please let us know!


Coach Nate Garcia 

nate@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

scott@tpstrength.com 

914-486-7678

Instagram: tp_strength



Self Myofascial Release-Foam Rolling and its Effect on Training

Self myofascial release (SMR) is a popular method used by people to recover from, or prepare for training. Whether they are foam rolling, utilizing a lacrosse ball, or their own hands, the goal is the same; but what is really going on when we foam roll? Why do we do this? What are the effects of this self massage? Is there an increase in performance? Better range of motion? Do we just like how it feels? There are a ton of unanswered questions with SMR, professionals across the board cannot seem to come to a consensus on whether or not this is a useful technique to prepare/ recover from work. 

Let’s look at the phrase “Self Myofascial Release.” Myofascial tissue is a strong, thin connective tissue that provides protection to muscles and bones. Over time, adhesions can build up from improper overuse of the muscle, or the muscle belly is excessively shortened/ lengthened and this causes flawed force transmission. Massaging, foam rolling, etc are suppose to “release” these adhesions amongst other things. Self implies that you are performing this treatment ... on yourself. 

According to (Weerapong, Kolt 2005) there are 4 mechanisms behind SMR body alterations: biomechanical, neurological, physiological, and psychological. Without going too deep in these mechanisms, the changes that occur aim to enhance the body’s preparedness for training. Whether we increase the blood flow to the working muscle, altering nerve excitability, or we just “feel better” at the end of the day we are preparing to train. 

The importance of a warm up cannot be overstated; it is just as- if not more important than the actual training itself! But Coach Nate, Tigers don’t warm up and you see how they work! Well, we ain’t tigers for one, and for two we are training for the long haul of life, not taking down an animal for a meal. At TP, we treat foam rolling as a part of the warm up. A study looked at that very idea and compared foam rolling to walking. What they found was the foam rolling group out performed the walking group in a few performance measures: range of motion (ROM) via the sit and reach test, and counter movement jump (CMJ) (Erick, Brian, Clayton 2019). HOWEVER, when they combined dynamic stretching with both the walking, and rolling groups, there was a negligible difference in performance. What I take away from these findings is that SMR does a better job of preparing the body for work when compared to walking, but nothing tops completing a dynamic warm up before a session. 

We require our athletes to foam roll for a few reasons. One, as mentioned previously, it seems to do a better job in preparing the body for work. Two, we do not have the facility size to tell our athletes to walk or jog for 5 minutes. Three, it gets the athletes comfortable with the setting of the weightroom. We are able to chat with our guys and roll at the same time, get a feel for how their day went and what they are feeling like before we start; which gives us a chance to make mental modifications to program if needed. 

We are training for the long haul. It is not about the “now” for the majority of our athletes. Training is not going to be successful if it is only completed every so often. You have to be consistent to see improvements. Overtraining, lack of recovery, and lack of preparedness are  all factors that will prevent training from taking place. This will subsequently result in stagnant training or detraining. SMR is a mechanism you can use to prepare for, and recover from training. I really do not care if there is a debate on whether it actually does what we think it does. As long as there is no detriment to performance, it’s not illegal, and the athlete likes it, I am all for it. 


-Thank you for your time! If you have any questions please let us know!


Coach Nate Garcia 

nate@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

scott@tpstrength.com 

914-486-7678

Instagram: tp_strength


References: 


Richman, E. D., Tyo, B. M., & Nicks, C. R. (2019). Combined Effects of Self-Myofascial Release and Dynamic Stretching on Range of Motion, Jump, Sprint, and Agility Performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33(7), 1795–1803. doi: 10.1519/jsc.0000000000002676

Weerapong, P and Kolt, GS. The mechanisms of massage and effects on performance, muscle recovery and injury prevention Sports Med 35: 235-256, 2005. 



Post Activation Potentiation "PAP"

In training for sport performance, we are always looking for a way to enhance the effects of training to better optimize sports performance. One of those methods is post activation potentiation. This topic can get a little tricky, and the variables that go with PAP can be numerous. So, try to stay with me here as we dive into the effects of PAP. 

Physical performance is affected by the muscle’s contractile history. Most people will think of the decreased performance associated with muscle fatigue, well PAP aims to increase performance. We are attempting to prime the working muscle group, typically in preparation for dynamic movement like a jump, or sprint. There is no concrete evidence that gives us a clear look into what works, and what does not work when referring to improved performance. With that being said, I will go over a few variables people have looked into, and discuss what potentially went right and/or wrong. 

First and foremost, the only athletes that should attempting to potentiate should be experienced athletes with a training age of more than 5 years, and post pubescent biologically. Typically, PAP involves near maximal loading of an exercise, followed by a dynamic movement. If an athlete can not adequately perform a loaded pattern such a squat, I will not waste their time trying to prime their muscles for elevated performance. Research agrees with me. The novice athlete’s body simply isn’t ready to complete this type of training. Too much fatigue is often induced, and there's little to no benefit seen when attempting to potentiate the muscles. A solid foundation of strength needs to be formed first, then the athlete is physiologically ready to undergo this advanced style of training. 

Secondly, the loaded movement you are completing needs to be similar to the movement you attempting to elevate in performance. If my goal is to jump higher, a heavy bench press wouldn’t help me much.. Or would it? Anyway, a study attempted to elevate athletes change of direction ability by pairing the 5-10-5 drill with a maximal isometric voluntary contraction of the lower limb musculature in a squat pattern. The results indicated no improved performance in the change of direction drills. They speculated variables such as training age, rest periods, and movement specificity could all be involved when deciding how to potentiate properly. (Marshall, Turner 2019)

Another variable that must be considered is rest time. There is a small window of opportunity we have when trying to utilize the effects of PAP.  Immediately following a loaded movement, we experience fatigue, the greater the intensity of the movement, the more fatigue we experience. If the rest period is too short, we are just performing the dynamic movement fatigued and it will result in a decrease in performance. If we rest too long, the priming effect of PAP is lost, and it is like nothing happened in the first place. So far, it has been stipulated that a rest window of 3-7 minutes is optimal. But, a 4 minute difference in rest time is massive! For the purpose of weight room flow, and the limited time frame we have to work with our athletes at Total Performance, we typically allot for about 1-3 minutes of active recovery to take place before attempting the dynamic movement. At the end of the day, we have limited time to work with our athletes, and there is no research confirming a ratio of intensity to rest to optimize performance. So, we do what is best for our facility and our athletes. 

I want to touch again on the subject of athlete experience. The less experienced athlete will not need as much stimulus to see the effects of PAP, but they will need a greater rest time to allow for proper priming of the muscle. This is compared to the experienced athlete who requires a higher degree of stimulus, and rest time doesn’t need to be as long comparatively. This could be due to the fact that the motor unit threshold attempting to be reached is way higher in the experienced athlete compared to the novice, and the experienced athlete's enhanced ability to recover from work. 

I can discuss post activation potentiation for another 100 blog posts, and I might just do that. However, at the end of the day we don’t know the full risks/benefits of PAP. The variables are still too wide to come to a conclusion. I personally use PAP in my training, but I do not measure my results; but I can tell when I haven’t allotted enough rest or I have rested too long. TP’s athletes complete a variation of contrast training blocks with loaded pattern followed by the matching dynamic pattern. The degree of intensity, the rest time, and the volume is determined by the athletes training age, and the stage of their annual plan they are in. Hopefully we discover the full mystery of PAP in the near future to better harness its ability to improve performance! 

-Thank you for your time! If you have any questions please let us know!

Coach Nate Garcia 

nate@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

scott@tpstrength.com 

914-486-7678

Instagram: tp_strength


Strength Training for Youth Athletes

I cannot stress the importance of strength training for the youth athlete enough. People have been misinformed in the past when it comes to exposing their kids to a strength training program. There is a fear of “stunting” their kids growth, or fatiguing the child to a point where their school work or sport performance decline. The truth is a properly executed strength program will not have any effect on the height of a child, and not only will strength training aid in improved education and athletic performance; it will also create positive lifestyle habits that they can take with them once their athletic career is over. 

What baffles the strength coach community is the willingness to let kids play sports year round’ (which is great, don’t get me wrong) but they do not feel the need to prepare the athlete for that type of competition load. Too often I have seen burnt out youth athletes due to throwing a baseball 365 days a year, and NO time dedicated to recovery or preparation. “Children cannot ‘play’ themselves into shape, the loads and demands of the sport activity do not stimulate improved muscle and connective tissue growth and strength.” - (Zatsiorsky, 2006) Just like any athlete, at any level, the athlete must be physically prepared for the demands of the season. Just because the athlete is young, it does not mean that their body can handle the demands of long term competition. One of the greatest benefits of organized strength training is its ability to better prepare the youth athlete for sport and reduce injury; which subsequently allows for the athlete to spend more time playing their sport! Funny how that works out. 

Now, training youth athletes isn’t as easy as it seems. Extreme caution must be taken when considering the variables for a youth program. The prepubescent stage of an athlete’s life is crucial for laying an athletic foundation for the future. At this point, any improvement in performance is predominantly neurological; meaning the kid isn’t getting bigger, rather they are improving their efficiency of completing the movement. Variables such as load, volume, duration of the session, type of exercise, and frequency of training all must carefully thought out to prevent overtraining and fatigue. Typically the movement is completed with body weight resistance, but as the athlete progresses the load will be adjusted accordingly. Volume parameters of 1-3 sets x 6-20 repetitions with 8-10 exercise variations will stimulate positive adaptations. The duration of the session should not exceed an hour, and a frequency of 2-3 non consecutive sessions per week will allow proper recovery from the sessions. As the athlete progresses, these variables will be increasingly similar to an adult program, but this is after puberty has taken place. The biggest variable is consistency! Children have no training age, this means whatever they gain from training can quickly disappear with a cessation in training. I would much rather see a kid once a week for a year, more than 3 times per week for 3 months. 

On paper it may seem like youth training requires a ton of structure. But, in reality it is about the child figuring things out on their own in a supervised environment. The younger the athlete, the less structure and coaching there is to the session. Prescribing games that incentivise total body movements and activity thinking works wonders for athletic development. The end goal of any youth training program should be long term athletic development, they do not need to peak in grade school! The last thing we want the kids to think of training is another chore they must complete. Training should be challenging and fun, the weight room can teach a lot of life lessons. Finally, it is not all about sport performance, training is meant to build a foundation for a healthy lifestyle as well. The sooner we can instill positive habits into children, the better the chance they have to sustain those habits throughout life. 


-Thank you for your time! If you have any questions please let us know!

Coach Nate Garcia 

nate@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

scott@tpstrength.com 

914-486-7678

Instagram: tp_strength

References:

Zatsiorsky, V. M., & Kraemer, W. J. (2006). Science and Practice of Strength Training. Champaign, ILL.: Human Kinetics.



Plyometrics in the Sand

As we continue to dive into the intricacies of plyometrics, we are going to come across a wide variety of scenarios when training the stretch shortening cycle (SSC). One of the most important variables is the surface on which the training takes place! Plyos in the sand highlight certain qualities of the SSC, and play down the effects of others. 

Why would you want to be jumping and landing on a softer surface in the first place? Well, the first benefit is the reduced impact on the joints compared to landing on hard surfaces. If one of the goals of the session is to protect the athlete from the rigors of hard landings, while still accomplishing quality work, plyos in the sand does that. Mirzaei and company looked at muscle soreness and how plyometrics in the sand affected it. Their study mentioned  that the sand work resulted in decreased muscle soreness, which in turn allowed for more work to be accomplished. (Mirzaei, 2014)

But coach Nate! What about the increased time spent in the amortization phase of the SSC, and the subsequent loss of elastic energy stored because of the increased time spent on the ground when stretching the muscle!?? Don’t worry my readers, it all depends on the goal of the session! The SSC in totality is one of the most powerful mechanisms we humans have that allow us to exert extreme amounts of force. If you take away the ability of one component of the SSC, in this case the eccentric component, the concentric component has to do some work to get the same task completed. This is similar to the max strength phase of training. The movement is slower, the benefit of the SSC is blunted, and a greater emphasis is placed in the concentric ability of the muscle. In the same study I referenced earlier, Mirzaei and company also mentioned that a 6 week plyometric program completed in the sand resulted in increased vertical, static, and long jump with increases in maximal strength, and decreased sprint times (Mirzaei, 2014).  All good things right? But, the study was completed on untrained individuals, and many of those adaptations could be accredited to neural adaptation, which increases the efficiency of the body completing the task. 

In my professional opinion, I do not have a problem with plyometric sand training. It is another stimulus you can expose an athlete to that still promotes quality training while protecting the body from hard landing. As long as the reason behind this training is sound, go ahead! If you goal is to focus on decreasing the amortization phase and getting off the ground as quickly as possible, then the sand is not the place to be. 


-Thank you for your time! If you have any questions please let us know!


Coach Nate Garcia 

nate@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

scott@tpstrength.com 

914-486-7678

Instagram: tp_strength

Reference

Mirzaei, B., Norasteh, A. A., & Asadi, A. (2013). Neuromuscular adaptations to plyometric training: Depth jump vs. countermovement jump on sand. Sport Sciences for Health, 9(3), 145-149. doi:10.1007/s11332-013-0161-x





Concurrent Training: Aerobic and Strength

The active stereotype for the weightlifting community is that cardio is the devil that must be avoided at all costs to ensure the best gains, and to an extent, they would be correct. However, just like any training plan, if the variables of the training are manipulated appropriately then you can see benefits on both sides of the spectrum. 

We have discussed the energy systems with some detail in previous posts. If you haven’t had the chance to review them, now we be a good time to scroll down and take a look. We have three primary energy systems (phosphagen, anaerobic glycolysis, aerobic glycolysis) and all three of those systems play into each other and we use all three systems everyday. In my opinion, to neglect one system in totality is a poor decision and it can lead to a plateau in training effects or even detraining. If you have a goal in mind that you are training for, then your training focus should aim to accomplish that goal. A first baseman does not have to be able to run 1600m as fast as possible, but they do require the ability to play 162 games in roughly 170 days. 

Aerobic training is not just running miles on end and puking from exhaustion. It serves a greater purpose than bettering the ability to run long distance, it is a pillar in the ability to recover. When planned appropriately, cardiovascular training can facilitate strength and power advancements for the strength and power athletes. If that is the case, what does appropriate planning look like? It depends! If you are participating in a power dominant event (baseball, long jump, 100m sprint) training in the aerobic zone should be accomplished at different points in your annual plan. The further away from the  competitive season, the more aerobic based training you can include. Also, including aerobic conditioning in the middle of a competitive season can be appropriate in order to facilitate active recovery between events. These particular athletes require low level aerobic conditioning (50-70% BPM of HRmax) that does not interfere with strength improvements. Not only does this modality not interfere with strength training, but the athlete was able to simultaneously improve cardiovascular and strength abilities. The time between these two sessions was a key variable, and the overall consensus was a minimum of 6 hours between training bouts of strength and aerobic conditioning. 

Keeping the goal of training in mind, a stimulus that promotes a person’s recovery ability is something that cannot be ignored. The metabolic adaptation that occurs with aerobic training is an adaptation that lasts much longer than the adaptations of power and speed training, so once a foundation is established, it does not take much to maintain this adaptation. The improved cardiovascular ability facilitates blood flow to working musculature, the more blood that is pumped through your skeletal muscles, the greater the ability to resynthesis necessary energy substrates needed for explosive movements, improvements in fat utilization as an energy source so that carbohydrate utilization can be reserved for highly intense work, and increased clearance of biochemical stressors associated with strength training. I can write a book on the benefits of aerobic training, but to see advancements in your training goal, variables such as: frequency, duration, intensity, and modality must be planned carefully. 

Looking at this topic from the other side of the training spectrum, the long distance athletes that also strength train. Essentially, the training considerations of the strength/power athlete flip. The endurance athlete can benefit from strength training as long as it is planned appropriately. These athletes often see immediate improvements in performance because they are often not exposed to strength training. These improvements are due to the body's improved ability to absorb and redistribute force when running, and prevent injuries. Strength training the endurance athletes is not something I have spent a lot of time doing, but avoiding hypertrophy to keep the necessary body composition for the sport, and not spending too much time in the weight room to prevent unwarranted soreness, are two general rules I would use when training these athletes. 

I touched on the idea of plateauing and detraining in the introduction. This is because the body requires a different stimulus every at certain points to allow for recovery. Even the elite powerlifters do not lift heavy weight (90% 1RM <) all year round. Their body would never be allowed to recover and would never have to adapt to a new stimulus. I will discuss this topic in greater detail in the future. 

In conclusion, aerobic conditioning can do wonders for athletes and non-athletes alike. Rather than avoiding aerobic conditioning, it should be planned for accordingly in order to enhance your body's ability to accomplish the goals you have set for yourself. Recovery is just as important as training, and the better your body is at recovering, the greater the demand you can place on your training. 


-Thank you for your time! If you have any questions please let us know!

Coach Nate Garcia 

nate@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

scott@tpstrength.com 

914-486-7678

Instagram: tp_strength



Training the "Core"

In my own experience, a lot people have similar goals in mind when they join a gym or hire a trainer. They want to look better and feel better about themselves. As we all know, one muscle in particular is often displayed as a sign of fitness superiority… rectus abdominis better known as: abs, 6 pack, etc etc. But, there is much more that goes into having a solid core than a 6-pack. Many people strive to attain this look in their work outs, but often do not succeed because there is a misnomer in the community that people continue to fall for, and that is the more isolated core work you do the stronger and leaner you’ll get. However, research has proven time and time again this modality of training is...eye wash. The term “core” is a relative term and really can be placed on any body part, so I will use “trunk” when referencing the muscles associated with trunk movement.  

Firstly, you cannot target fat areas with exercises, that is not how the process works. Fat is an energy source stored in the body. It is accumulated when our caloric consumption exceeds our caloric expenditure. So, when someone does crunches, they are not targeting belly fat, and belly fat does not magically turn into muscle. The muscle is there currently, and has always been there (unless there’s a problem), it is just covered by a layer of stored energy. In order to remove these excess energy stores, you must burn off the energy! This is accomplished by doing a healthy mixture of activities, and the more of the body that is involved in the activity, the more energy you’re burning (for the most part). As we have discussed previously, there is a ton of variables that will decide how much energy will be burned in the activity.

Secondly, completing isolated trunk movements is nowhere near as beneficial as completing externally loaded, total body movements that teach the body to work in unison. With that being said, I do use isolated trunk movements in my “trunk and spine” warm up before lifts. I do this to “turn on” smaller muscle groups, work in different planes of movement (sagittal, frontal, and transverse), and prepare the body for the real work of the day in an unloaded fashion. For example, the deadlift is a total body movement that requires massive amounts of trunk strength from the entire system to prevent unwarranted flexion of the trunk. Before I attempt this exercise, I will complete a circuit that mimics the requirements of a deadlift and promoting rigidity of the trunk, but I will be on the ground which is a regressed position. It gives the body an opportunity to wake up before asking it to accomplish a heavy task such as the deadlift. The reason I use isolated trunk movements is to prepare the body for the focus of the day, while others will dedicate a whole work out (ab day) when in actuality they can spend their time more efficiently completing total body movements like a squat, lunge, deadlift, or step up.

Crunches, planks, and the ab wheel all have their place and can be challenging to perform! But, if the goal of your program is to actually develop trunk strength and lose fat, those exercises do not hold a candle to total body movements mentioned previously. Plus, in every exercise there is a way to get the trunk more involved. Shifting from bilateral exercise to unilateral exercises to narrow your base of support, and uneven loading of movements will place a greater demand on the trunk musculature. Isolated trunk exercises have a place in my programming, and they should in yours as well, but they should not be the focus of a session… unless you’re coming back from injury, then that is a whole other can of worms.


-Thank you for your time! If you have any questions please let us know!


Coach Nate Garcia 

nate@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

scott@tpstrength.com 

914-486-7678

Instagram: tp_strength



Instability Training... Why?

There seems to be an increased popularity in the utilization of unstables surfaces in the weight-room to improve balance, strength,  core strength, and sports performance. Why add another variable to a skilled movement? What does training on an unstable surface enhance, and/or hinder? To what capacity should you incorporate this modality in your own training regimen?

In the rehab setting, when an individual is returning from injury, it is very common for the usage of unstable surfaces to strengthen all muscles associated with the area being rehabbed. Without going too far out of my scope of practice, the unstable surface promotes co-contraction of agonist and antagonist muscle groups to stabilize the joint and prevent future injury. 

Once someone is cleared from the rehab setting, the capacity to which someone would use instability training methods vary quite a bit. As I have discussed in previous posts, it all depends on what the goal of your program is! Let's look at two people: 1- a sprinter who has 5+ years training experience, 2- an average person not training for competition with < 5 years training experience. 

The sprinter has one goal in mind, and that is to get from point A to point B faster than everyone else. Peaking for these events require detailed programming in order to get the best out of the athlete at the time of the event. A sprinter needs to the ability to put a high amount of force in the ground in a very short amount of time. To aid in force absorption and redistribution, sprinters have the ability to disinhibit the natural inhibitors of muscle contraction. This is part of the reason why they look so fluid running down the track! This has a lot to do with co-contraction of muscles, sprinters want agonist muscle groups to shorten rapidly while the antagonist muscle groups relax. This increases the range of motion of the movement, allowing more time for force generation, and shortens the amortization phase of the stretch shortening cycle. I say all that because unstable surfaces promote co-contraction, thus fighting the results we are looking for! They also limit force production in one direction, meaning as you put force in to the unstable surface like sand, or a bosu ball, the force is distributed across the platform rather than back into the movement. Training to improve balance focusing on the usage of unstable surfaces for the sprint athlete would not be recommended. 

As an average person looking to improve overall fitness, I see no problem with using instability training as long as it’s performed safely with a purpose. Exercise should be fun for people, and if someone is inclined to use a bosu ball to do push-ups because they like the challenge… why not? Sure, they might be emphasizing efficient strength development, but there isn’t strength competition to prepare for either. Instability training provides a unique challenge, and easy way to track improvement with added variables to the exercise. As long as someone has a general strength foundation, and demonstrates that they can do the movement safely, I say go for it. BUT, you should know what instability training promotes if you are utilizing it in your program. If the goal of your program is to increase maximal power output, and one of your programs pillar’s is the utilization of unstable surfaces… I will shake my head in disappointment. 

People use unstable surfaces to promote balance ability, core development (abs, obliques, erectors, etc), a warm up to “activate” muscle groups before the session, rehabilitation from injury, and sometimes just to show off! These are all true statements, but are there better ways to accomplish these goals? For example, nothing has been shown to better develop core strength than performing standing, total body movement with an external load (LIKE A BACK SQUAT), and that includes the 30 minute crunch class. There is a time and a place for unstable surfaces, and IMO that is in the rehab setting, a warm up, a new challenge for someone not training for a competition, and to only be attempted safely by someone with training experience. 


Thank you for your time! If you have any questions, please reach out to us!


Instagram: tp_strength

train@tpstrength.com (Coach Nate)

scott@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

Phone: 914-486-7678



The Importance of Skill Levels

This may seem like an obvious title, of course skill level matters in anything we do in life. Do you expect the same work output from a seasoned professional compared to the wide-eyed intern? The world in the weightroom is no different. As I scroll through social media, an obvious title considering skill level is often neglected when training people. Too often are people thrown in the fire and expected to perform without a negative consequence, and if the individual happens to fail they are often labeled weak, and/or lazy. This is not the case for most situations, and the actual cause for failure is a poorly executed program that failed to be modified to the individuals needs. 

I want to exclude military/special forces training right now. I do not have any experience working with armed forces, and the purpose of their training is to weed out people in order to find the elite of the elite individuals. In my line of work, I am not trying to weed anyone out of the program. The goal for the population I most often work with is to get them to a baseline of performance in order to better prepare them for the rigors of their sport, and future training. With that being said, the population I most commonly work with is the novice population, whether they are young athletes, or general population groups that haven’t spent a lot of time training. 

The phrase “baseline of performance” can be generic, but I believe every coach should attain to get their clients to their baseline before creating a more specific program can be implemented. For example, if an athlete struggles control their landing from a jump I am not going to demand them to land a jump and immediately perform second jump. They do not yet possess the ability to efficiently absorb force from the ground, which means they would not be able to redistribute that force in any controlled manner. There are certain thresholds that individuals must cross before reaching that next level of training. Once they check these boxes, I can confidently increase intensity, variability, etc. 

In the beginning, adaptation is almost guaranteed. Taking someone from 0, and performing any training, you will see great improvements almost immediately across all areas of ability. After a few years of consistent training, those big jumps of improvements have disappeared and one must be particular with their variables in order to accomplish their goals. Accumulating 10+ years of training and so on, the improvements become dependent on a person's ability to plan their variables appropriately to peak for performance, and continually push past their current ceiling. The focus shifts from generic capabilities to emphasizing exactly what the client needs in order to get the best possible performance. 

Be careful scarrowing the internet, looking for new methods of training for you or your clients to perform. One, you don’t know the context of the content unless you communicate with the creator of the content; only then can you pass judgement of the content. Two, know how to dissect what you are looking at in order to decide whether or not you should include the modality, or some variation of it in your training. Three, know the current status of the client being trained! No one should get hurt when training, so when creating a program for anyone, take into consideration these three principles and disaster will be avoided. 


Thank you for your time! If you have any questions, please reach out to us!

Instagram: tp_strength

train@tpstrength.com (Coach Nate)

scott@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com

Phone: 914-486-7678



The Aerobic/ Oxidative System and Training Implications

The final energy system we will cover is the oxidative/ aerobic system. This is the system we use primarily throughout the day. Most of us are at a low level activity during the day, sitting at a desk, writing a blog post, driving to work etc. These activities are low intensity in nature compared to repeated hill sprints. Because of the relatively low energy demands, your body has time to deliver oxygen to the working muscle, and the rapid anaerobic generation of ATP is not required by the phosphagen or fast glycolytic system. 

Training this system does not mean you get to sit on the couch all day! Activity with a low enough intensity that can be sustained for over 90 seconds is when this system really gets to work. After a couple minutes, your body should have reached a steady state of work. This means your oxygen consumption and heart rate have both leveled off, you are officially in the groove! There are a few different ways to train the oxidative system: Long slow distance, Pace training, Interval training, and high Intensity Interval Training. 

Long slow distance (LSD) training is a form of aerobic conditioning that is low intensity, but the distance you complete is longer. Heart rate should not exceed 80% of your estimated max or what’s known as conversational exercise (you can talk without struggle). The distance completed during conditioning should be longer or at least the duration of training should be longer than the race. People often use this form of conditioning to allow active recovery between intense bouts of training, while still receiving the benefits of training the aerobic system like: improved cardiovascular function, thermoregulatory ability, increased mitochondrial energy production, enhanced fat usage as a fuel source, and increased aerobic capacity of working muscle. All this means is that you become more efficient with energy production, and blood flow. However, using this training technique too often may detrain the body’ ability to kick into high gear towards the end of a race, or cause the athlete to perform a slower pace during their race. 

Pace training requires you to perform at the intensity of your race. You are pushing yourself to your lactate threshold (the point at which lactate starts to accumulate). Steady pace training is performed at lactate threshold for longer durations. This provides the athlete with the appropriate amount of stress in order to prepare them for their competition. Interval pace training shortens these bouts, and provides a short rest between each bout of activity. The goal is to get the body familiar with pace they need to run at in order to compete. This type of training improves the lactate threshold, and running economy. 

Interval training places the intensity of the intervals at or slightly above the athlete’s VO2 max (volume of oxygen consumed) which is related to the max heart rate. The individual bouts of exercise are shorter, but as mentioned previously, the intensity is through the roof. The work to rest ratio is around 1:1-3 depending on work time and goal of the session. The work time is anywhere between 30 seconds and 5 minutes. What this allows the athlete to accomplish is more time training at peak levels, compared to steady state at the same peak level. The allotted rest time gives the athlete a chance to recover, replenish energy storage and do it again. Increased VO2 max and improved anaerobic metabolism are benefits seen from this type of training. 

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is performed at or above max capabilities for short bouts, followed by rest. The rest durations are the key variable that must be prescribed correctly in order to get the most out of the session. Rest periods that are too short will cause the athlete to fatigue rapidly and injury could follow. Rest periods that are too long will remove the benefits of performing intervals. There are long form and short form intervals, and each side of the spectrum should be taxed in order to see improvements anaerobically and aerobically. This type of training will allow an athlete to have an improved final push at the end of the race. 

A hot topic of conversation is whether or not to combine aerobic training with strength training (concurrent training). From poking around the rabbit holes of research articles and textbooks, there has been consensus around one topic. Aerobically dominated athletes such as runners, cyclists, rowers, etc. all show enhanced performance when adding strength training to their program. This is due to improved strength which improves the efficiency of the activity. Flipping to the other side of the spectrum is where things get hairy. Power dominate athletes like football, baseball, and hockey players seem to shy away from aerobic conditioning. People fear that the effects of power and strength training can be negated from aerobic conditioning. There have been studies that suggest it all depends on rest time between sessions. People have seen benefits of concurrent training when allowing at least 6 hours between the two types of training. In my opinion, having the ability to recover faster from sessions allows a greater volume of training to be completed. The aerobic system is an enhanced recovery machine when trained correctly based on needs. If an athlete has a solid aerobic base, the other two energy systems can only benefit from enhanced recovery ability. The effects of aerobic training last much longer than those of sprinting, or other power oriented exercises. This means that once a based is formed, you will not have to continue to train the aerobic system as often as the other two systems. When, how long, and how much aerobic conditioning taking place depends on what the goal of the program is. But, completely neglecting this system can spell trouble for work capacity ability in the future and hender recovery. 


(Posts with a little more controversy in the training field are soon to come) 

Thank you for your time! If you have any questions, please reach out to us!

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Phone: 914-486-7678



Training Implications of the Fast Glycolytic Energy System

Training the fast glycolytic energy system can be tricky, and not as straightforward as the phosphagen system discussed previously. As we know, the fast glycolytic system “takes over” after about 10 seconds of work. Depending on the intensity of the work, this system can continue to dominate for up to 90 seconds. The variables of volume, rest, frequency, and exercise type seem to have more room for manipulation compared to the other energy systems in my opinion. For example look at American football, the average play duration is about 4-6 seconds with the occasional break away play. The time between plays is roughly 40 seconds, so the means the work to rest ratio 1 : 6-10. The sport is very anaerobic in nature and the body never reaches a steady state of work. Shifting gears to a soccer athlete, they also require short bursts of highly intense work, but they also require the ability to sustain this work for longer durations with shorter rest periods. At certain points, they may even cross the threshold into the aerobic system, and their conditioning will vary greatly from the American football athlete.

Working in this anaerobic zone leads to the accumulation of lactate within the working muscle (latic conditioning). No, this isn’t what causes muscle soreness, but it does create an acidic environment in the local muscle, making continued contraction difficult. Lactate has many functions in exercise training, one of which is to aide in the production of energy to continue work, and another is to serve as a biomarker of training intensity. As training continues, the body will become more efficient at clearing blood lactate, and have an increased tolerance for higher blood lactate levels. Other adaptations that occur with training of the fast glycolytic energy system is muscle fiber type conversion, increased muscle glycogen storage, and improved levels of anaerobic energy substrates (such as CP).

Training this system is extremely taxing to the body, both mentally and physically. To prevent overtraining, and chronic fatigue, one must consider the rest time and frequency to get the best out of the individual. To put it simply, the greater the intensity and the longer the duration, the more rest that is required before performing another session. The consequences of overtraining can be detrimental not only to sport performance and strength gains, but overall health as well. The immune system is weakened, loss of sleep, and increased stress levels are all signs of overtraining, and they will continue to compound the problem if rest is not allowed.

Recommended Parameters:

Work to Rest- 1 : 3-10 (10 sec < work time < 90 sec )

Frequency- 2-5 days/wk

Rest between sessions- 48-72 hrs

Intensity- 80-100% Heat rate max

**Training goals will dictate the overall focus of conditioning**

In my opinion, the benefits of improving the capabilities of the fast glycolytic energy system can be tremendous in relation to repeated force and power output, and increased anaerobic endurance. For the average Joe, throwing in some interval runs or circuits can be a great way to improve these qualities as well, while improving overall health. In the world of sport, this type of training should be reserved for those who need it. The needs of an American football player are vastly different than those of a baseball player. The football player requires the ability to repeat maximal effort on short rest working within the lactic zone, while the baseball player has a longer rest period and does not require the same anaerobic capabilities because they primarily work in the alactic zone→ (discussed in the previous post :) )

Thank you for your time! If you have any questions, please reach out to us!

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Training the Phosphagen Energy System

The phosphagen energy system is how we get moving, especially when moving with a great amount of effort. When one attempts to jump, sprint, or lift a heavy object the energy system that dominates these activities is the phosphagen system. The system is anaerobic, meaning it does not require oxygen to function. This is an extremely important detail because without this energy system we would not be able to operate with any sort of speed or immediate strength. The fuel source of the phosphagen system is the direct use of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and creatine phosphate (CP). At any given time we have enough ATP stored in our muscles to supply 4-6 seconds of highly intense movement. PC stores are about quadruple this amount and facilitate the rapid replenishment of ATP for usage. We can generate enough energy to do incredible things, but sustaining this effort is not possible for long. Strength training can increase the amount of force generated and the ability to sustain the force generated over a longer period of time.  

Training to increase strength, and power requires specific considerations. Variables such as intensity (% load), frequency, rest period, speed of movement, volume, and duration all need to be manipulated appropriately to accomplish these goals. When training for maximal strength and power the conditions one puts their body through is taxing to say the least.

If someone has a goal to lift a heavy object 1 time, or perform an olympic style, power oriented lift, their plan should have the following parameters:

Volume: 3-10 sets x 1-5 reps

% Load: 0-50… 85-100 (0-50%.. Seems a bit low? If the goal is to move fast, train to move fast with lighter loads and HIGH SPEED)

Rest: 2-10 minutes

Frequency: 3-6 days/ week

There is a lot of wiggle room with the suggested parameters. This is because it all depends on: your training age, what plan you’re following, and what stage of the plan you’re in.

Outside of the weightroom, one way you can train the phosphagen system is maximal effort sprinting. Similar considerations must be made if one has a goal to improve overall speed and quickness. From research I have obtained, and my personal experience, the three biggest considerations for improving speed is: volume of sprinting, rest periods between sprints, and training method. When training, a common mistake made is treating sprinting as conditioning. Sprinting is a highly intense, single leg plyometric, and it requires max effort. If the true goal is to improve speed, one must not shorten rest periods, or maintain a high volume of sprint. Simply put, the training turns into a conditioning session where the athlete performs repeated submaximal runs and speed improvements do not occur. The method of sprint training is just as important. Breaking down the phases of sprinting, focusing on those phases, and putting them back together to perform the sprint is one way to improve speed.

Who needs this type of training? Anyone who has a goal to move heavy things fast, run fast, or send nukes into deep center field. When the goal of training is to increase speed, strength, or power, one must train within the framework of the phosphagen energy system. However, the ability to have enhanced recovery ability via increased cardiovascular function is another way to facilitate the achievement of these goals. Having increased recovery ability allows someone to train harder, more often, which results in increased ability. So, I might suggest some extremely light cardiovascular work every so often to improve these qualities. Maybe a day or two where the athlete hops on the bike and gets their heart rate up a little bit to about 50-60% of their max heart rate for about 10-15 minutes. There can be several benefits to properly prescribed aerobic conditioning, the main reason would be facilitate recovery ability. As mentioned in the previous post- all three energy systems play into each other, and without proper functioning of one the other two might suffer.


Thank you for your time! If you have any questions, please reach out to us!


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Phone: 914-486-7678



Energy Systems

-In the world of training, there are numerous forms of conditioning that can benefit performance. In order to get the most of out training one must know which conditioning method is most appropriate, in order to achieve their training goals. When training you can target one of three energy systems: the phosphagen system, anaerobic glycolytic system, or oxidative (aerobic) system. I use the term “target” loosley, this is because we use all three energy systems all day, no matter if we are training or not. All three systems play into each other, but focusing on one system specifically will primarily improve the performance of that system.


-After reading this blog, you decide to get up and sprint as fast as you can for 40 meters. How did you come up with enough energy for that activity? You just utilized the ability of phosphagen system. This system is a fast acting system and it does not require oxygen to generate energy for work, so it falls under the anaerobic training umbrella. Any activity performed for 1 to 10 seconds relies on the immediate functioning capability of the phosphagen system. The direct breakdown of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and utilization of creatine phosphate (CP) are the primary suppliers of energy. The supply of ATP at any given time is enough to sustain activity for a few seconds. Introducing CP allows the replenishment of ATP to match energy demands without the need for oxygen. This is important because the utilization of oxygen for energy production takes a relatively long time. The cost of rapid ATP production to match high energy demands is substantial, and can only be maintained for a few seconds.  Without the phosphagen system, we would be unable to perform explosive movements such as: short sprints, weight lifting, swinging a bat, and throwing a ball.


-After your 40 yd dash, you decide you want to run 400 meters as fast as possible. It is a little more difficult, the ability to maintain absolute maximal velocities starts to decrease, and when you stop you are probably winded. The world record for the 400m is 43 seconds, but for most of us, we can accomplish that task in about 60 seconds or longer. Either way, oxygen intake still hasn't caught up to meet energy demands of the run, so you are still performing under the anaerobic umbrella. However, the ATP used during the first few seconds has been “used up” (at least what our body allows us to use), so how do you continue to run without collapsing after 10 seconds? Well, you can thank the anaerobic glycolysis system for your continued running capability. Fast (anaerobic) glycolysis breaks down carbohydrates without oxygen to produce ATP. The rate at which this occurs is not as fast as the phosphagen system, but the amount of energy produced is much higher. This system takes over after about 10 seconds of work, and will continue until ~ 90 second mark, depending on intensity. Pyruvate is a product of glycolysis, and if training intensity is high enough, it will be converted to lactate as another mechanism to help replenish ATP faster. Carbohydrates, CP, and lactate are the primary sources of fuel for the anaerobic glycolysis system. Training this system requires repeated bouts of high intensity work such as: repeated moderate distance runs, a gymnastic routine,  a shift on the ice for a hockey game, or a 100 m swim.



-Now that you have sprinted 40m , ran 400m, you are feeling extra ambitious. So, you decide why not run a mile (1600m). The training intensity has decreased, and you are sustaining work for a extended period of time. Oxygen has time to be delivered to working muscle, and is in sufficient quantities to aide in the production of ATP. Slow (aerobic) glycolysis is the breakdown of carbohydrates into pyruvate, the difference between fast glycolysis and slow glycolysis is training intensity. If intensity is low enough the pyruvate is shuttled to the mitochondria of the cell, and uses oxygen to resynthesise ATP. The process takes longer, but can be maintained for a much longer duration. The yield of ATP synthesised is much greater, and more efficient, but as mentioned previously it is a slower process that requires several more reactions to occur. Carbohydrates, and fats are the primary source of energy in this energy system. Training this system requires longer durations (90 seconds and beyond) of a  steady work rate such as long distance running, swimming, or biking.


-This is a general overview of the primary energy systems utilized throughout the day and in training. Each is required by the other to function appropriately. There is much more that comes with the description of these systems, and there are many variables that must be accounted for when targeting a system to improve its capabilities. The adaptations that happen as a result of targeting each system is specific to what you target. A marathon runner will not have the same training regimen as a baseball player. The primary energy system used for each athlete is different and the required adaptations to perform at their sport is different. Moving forward, the next few blog posts will dive deeper into each energy system. I will pick the brain of a few strength professionals, and break down some current research into the hows and whys of training each system to help you make more informed decisions when choosing how to train for your goal.


Thank you for your time! If you have any questions, please reach out to us!


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train@tpstrength.com (Coach Nate)

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tim@tpstrength.com

Phone: 914-486-7678



Jumping, its Role in Training!

Coach Nate Garcia

Plyometrics is an intense exercise training method. The reason someone trains with plyometric exercises is to improve the “stretch shortening cycle” (SSC) of the muscle system. Similar to the energy stored when stretching a rubber band, when you stretch your muscle energy is stored and if the stretch is followed rapidly by muscle shortening action you are able to use this energy to your movement advantage. Whether you know it or not, the SSC is used throughout your daily motion. One example of your daily utilization of the SSC is the use of your calf musculature when walking. Striking the ground with your heel creates a pre-stretch of the muscles that stores some elastic energy. The energy is released as you propel yourself forward off your toes.


A common example of a plyometric exercise is jumping. Jump training is often looked at as an activity reserved for the sports that primarily involve jumping (such as volleyball or basketball). However, what a lot of people neglect to acknowledge is that jumping relates to numerous activities that people perform, like sprinting. When utilized properly, jumping can be used as an efficient and safe way to improve power and sprint capabilities. However, jumping shouldn’t just be reserved for athlete training. The benefits of having the ability to jump not only means improved athletic ability, it also means improved efficiency with everyday tasks such as: traveling the stairs, preventing a fall, picking up objects from the floor, and running!


Just as with any exercise, in order to see progress in jump ability, you have to properly plan for your goals. Total Performance uses various different jumps in order improve power development. Youth athletes, or those with a small training age, must have their volume of plyometrics closely monitored. A high volume of plyometric training can result in overtraining and ultimately be detrimental . Since jumping is an implication of power, and power is defined as work divided by time, in order to train safely, you need to be strong. Research recommends reserving high volume lower body plyometric training for those who have the ability to squat at least 1.5 x your body weight. If one is unable to accomplish this, it doesn't mean you shouldn’t jump, it just means you need to be extra cautious with your volume of jumps. Advanced athletes have the ability to handle a high volume of plyometric training due to their ability to handle intense training activities. Manipulating jump movements is one way to increase difficulty of the movement. For example; requiring the person to jump and land on one foot, jumping backwards, side to side jumping, and a depth jump from height. There are infinite ways to increase the difficulty of a jump and it all depends on the goal of the training.


What is a “high” and “low” volume of plyometrics? As defined by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), lower body plyometrics are measured via contacts. A contact is defined as contact with the ground. So, after one jumps and lands, that contact is counted. Beginner contact volume is recommended to be between 80-100 contacts, intermediate contact volume between 100-120, and advanced between 120-140 contacts. Again, the actual amount of plyometrics you complete all depends on your ability, your training goals, and what other training is being performed with plyometrics.


The volume of plyometrics is one of the several variables that can be manipulated in order to achieve training goals. To be discussed in future posts: what those variables include, how to manipulate those variables, and what those manipulations mean for training goal achievement.


Thank you for your time! If you have any questions, reach out to Total Performance!

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train@tpstrength.com (Coach Nate)

scott@tpstrength.com

tim@tpstrength.com



Proper Use of Over Head Movement and Rowing Techniques for Baseball and Softball Athlete’s

For a long time there has been the stigma that you should never use exercises that go above your head when training baseball or softball players.  To a degree this has some merit but, isn’t exactly true.  All rotational athletes have high repetitions of overhead movements within their practices so to say that they may be in that position too often is worth considering.  During periods of practice where volume of overhead movement is high I would avoid these types of exercises but, what about outside these times?  Off-season training is the time to work on skills that make you stronger for your season.  Being strong in overhead movements and rowing variations is the key to having a healthy shoulder.  Common questions we get are, when to do these exercises, what are the exercises and what is the proper technique.

When should I Incorporate Most of my Overhead Movements?

I already semi answered this question but I will reiterate it.  In general you want to work on qualities that enhance performance in the off-season and do the opposite in-season to keep athletes strong and healthy.  The reason for the switch is during periods of high volume is when fatigue can set in and athletes become susceptible to injuries.  The majority of their overhead work in-season will be coming from their sport (practice and games).  For example we may do overhead work and rotational work off-season but switch to anti-rotational movements, stability or horizontal rowing variations for in-season.

What are the Exercises and what is the Proper Technique?

In my opinion there are not a lot of exercises you can rule out because any exercise can be potentially harmful if not done with good technique.  This would be predicated on the individuals’ mobility, strength and motor control just to name a few factors that could potentially make an exercise harmful.  These will dictate which type of exercises would best benefit the athlete.  Some athletes may have great positions during overhead movements and can handle more complex exercises, others may have terrible T-Spine mobility and would be better suited with mobility exercises, it’s really an “It Depends” type of scenario.

As far as technique is concerned this is also an “It Depends” scenario.  If an athlete has kyphosis (Shoulders rounded forward) than we would work on getting more use of his scapula by retracting his blades together during rowing variations.  This is harder said than done.  Most people think they are rowing correctly but lack posture which negates any scapular movement and causes common problems such as excessive shrugging or rowing in that rounded position.  These athlete’s need to understand how to depress and retract there shoulder blades when they row.  On the other end, athletes that are over extended (big chest, arched low back) need to row in a more organized position.  Athlete’s that are overextended are usually very lat dominant so cue that can be ineffective for them is the “Big Chest” cue.  These athletes live in extension and getting them into more extension leads to a very lat dominant row and creates an anterior shoulder glide (Humorous coming forward excessively) during rowing variations.  This is extremely important to watch for baseball and softball players because most throwers are lat dominant already and have shoulders that are overly stretched anteriorly, so doing more of this could lead to shoulder problems.  If we want the shoulder blade to move well we need to maintain a neutral posture and row until our elbow is equal or slightly behind our body.

When referring to any overhead movements when the scapula upwardly rotates it needs to sit tight on the ribcage to move properly.  If our athletes have kyphosis or lordosis (shoulders rounded forward or over arched lower back) than we know that they will compensate when the arm goes above the head.  To help athletes move overhead properly they have to understand what correct posture is and learn how to move proximally to distally (Core to outside the body).  Mobility drills will help but if the compensation isn’t terrible we may look at loading them with lighter weights, splitting there stance during overhead pressing and giving them movements without fixed positions (Dumbbells instead of barbells).  Any rotational athlete needs to be strong overhead to remain durable through a season we just have to take a case by case approach to help certain athlete’s with movement restrictions.

Conclusion

All athletes’ need to move in organized positions to reduce compensation patterns.  The better the position the more efficiently you can move and produce force and any movement in the gym is no different.  We need to constantly be cueing our athlete’s about position first, load second and especially with baseball/softball players because the shoulder has become such an issue.  At Total Performance we try to put our athlete’s in the best position possible by taking a case by case basis when referring to any overhead movements.  These need to be done but, when to do them is critically important for the health of our athletes.

Speed Training with Limited Space, YES IT CAN BE DONE!

Stop Making Excuses

There is this myth that you have to have fancy equipment or tons of space in order to make athlete’s faster.  To some degree this may be true with professional athletes but with youth athletes speed is 100% trainable.  Now, I am not saying that we can develop everyone into Usain Bolt, what I am saying is if you are willing to put in the time and effort coaches can help you can become faster.  There are plenty of exercises that could have increase RFD (Rate or Force Development) without space, you just need some creativity.

Differences Between Acceleration and Max Velocity

To understand how to train someone to get faster we must first understand the difference between acceleration and max velocity (For the sake of simplicity we will not talk about the start).

Acceleration is the part of the sprint that happens right after the start and is usually maintained for the first 10-30 yards (Depending on the athlete this could be as little as 10 or as long as 60).  This part of the sprint is looked at as the most important skill to learn as an athlete because field/court sports are played in acceleration with rapid changes of direction.  Acceleration is very joint angle specific because if the certain angles are not achieved by the body we can’t project ourselves forward efficiently.  This part of sprinting is taken place at roughly a 45 degree angle (If looking at the body from the side). If angle that is missing, we can’t apply force properly and we start the sprint standing up which is ineffective.

Acceleration could be defined as the horizontal, non-time dependent part of the sprint because you need to spend a little more time on the ground in order to cover distance.  This part of your sprint would involve more of a “pushing” action as we are trying to apply as much force as possible (As quickly as possible)before reaching top end speed.  This is in my opinion the most trainable because there are a lot of principles that apply to strength that help in acceleration.  Most athletes who are slow will have trouble getting out of their own way when they run because they lack strength.  The stronger the athlete the easier it is to get faster when it comes to acceleration.  Some exercises that help are Squats, Deadlifts, Olympic Variations, Lunges, and Jumps.  The most specific exercises we have are heavy or light sled work (Push or drag).  If you remember reading acceleration is very joint angle specific which would mean those two exercises would be considered as “specific” as you can get.

Max velocity would be considered more of the vertical component of speed because of its vertical positioning of the body.  This involves running in an upright, tall position to properly utilize the hips to propel your body forward.  The leg mechanics are cyclical in motion and involves more of an elastic foot contact rather than a push when striking the ground.  Like in acceleration, posture is critical to maintain in order to run fast.  Unlike acceleration, max velocity is more “Time Dependent” because the longer you have contact with the ground the less elastic you are, which results in slower times.  Depending on the athlete ability to accelerate, max velocity can start from 15-40 yards.

To increase top end speed you would want to use exercises that are reactive, ballistic or fast.  Any exercise that would involve multiple responses (One movement quickly followed by another) would be able to simulate muscle contractions that would simulate max velocity.  Pogo jumps for height, Hurdle hops, box jump variations, any movement with timed sets and extremely light loads and exercises that involve intense hamstring recruitment are a couple that would benefit top end speed.  Training elasticity is another simple way to increase joint stiffness qualities and improve max velocity.  Simple drills such as hopping on and off and plate or tiny pogo jumps would help joint stiffness qualities so when you apply force into the ground you have a better chance of an elastic return (Mechanics depending).

Conclusion  

Coaches need to stop making excuses about training top end speed even if they don’t have the room to run.  Would it be ideal, yes it would however there are ways to elicit responses without ever having to run.  Simple doing multiple response jumping or hurdle hops are just some ways to make our athlete faster.  I find at first athletes need to have a foundation of strength and good mechanics which improves speed in the first 20 yards.  We need to understand that youth athletes are novice lifters and just by getting stronger we will improve sprinting potential tremendously.  Don’t over complicate it; work hard and the speed will come.

Do physical sport tests (I.e., 60 time) actually indicate sports performance?

Dilemma

Each sport has its own set of tools for evaluating athletes.  This can range from just a simple measurement of anthropometry, or strength movements like the 225 bench test or a speed test like the 60 yard sprint.  The unfortunate reality is that these tests are indicators for the coaches to see if the athlete has qualities that would lead them to being proficient at playing the sport. However, most, if not all, of these tests for field and court sports have little or nothing to do with the skill of the athlete inside the sporting event. Unfortunately, we have to “play the game” of being great at these tests because they help us get noticed. Baseball players rarely, if ever, have to run 60 yards in a single play, and if they do ever have to run 60 yards in a single play, it definitely wont be in a straight line. Therefore, how could it be an indicator of potential baseball performance? The 225 bench test in football is by definition, a strength endurance test. However, the sport is really based on horizontal power which has little to do with upper body endurance.  Do you see where I’m going here?

Regardless of the reality, you still have to do the test. So now what?

To be better at your sport you need to practice your sport to improve the skill of it, just like anything else.  In the weight room, the more reactive the training the more carry over to the sport (just one example).  Now the tricky part is to become better at certain tests you have to practice the test if you want to improve. This is where we come in… Improving your 60 time is not as simple as just running a 60 yard sprint every day. Rather, as strength coaches we work on force production, single leg strength, running mechanics, acceleration drills, your first 10 yards of the sprint, and so on, breaking the test down into parts that will improve relevant sport related qualities of the athlete, while also providing significant improvement in the actual “test”.

Take Home

We all have to show that we have put in the work for the up and coming season, so performing well at these tests will help you, but if you don’t have a great 60 time or weak numbers for other tests, don’t get discouraged. Nowadays every coach is obsessed with providing some metric or score to quantify the athletes or prospects ability, so all you can do is do your best and if you truly want to be noticed, make sure you put your best foot forward on film or during the actual sport related drill (like fielding, hitting and throwing).  If you hit 10 home runs in batting practice during a showcase but your exit velo was not off the charts, you will still get noticed.