1. Pretty much every team does sprints and other similar drills for conditioning their athletes. Imagine if there was a shift towards quality over quantity in conditioning? What if getting athletes to the point of throwing up wasn’t the goal, but rather the point was to improve your technique while still getting more fit?
Here’s one example. Instead of running 20 sprints to gas their players, a coach spends a few minutes working on running (or skating) technique and prompts their players to use this technique in the following drill. Then they do 15 sprints (instead of 20) with a little time in between spent on technique tips.
The long term result will be more efficient movement, meaning with less energy expended athletes can play harder for a longer period of time. Plus you still get 75% of the energy system development, AND almost certainly far more buy in from your athletes as to the benefits. It’s a win-win-win scenario.
2. I’ve heard a lot of people who want to train their ‘lower abs’ over the years. In some cases that can be extremely beneficial, but maybe not for reasons that are obvious at first.
The athletes (kids and adults) who need lower abdominal work are those who have a hyperextended lower back, meaning it curves forward more than it should. This leads to chronic lower back pain, makes it much harder to run at top speed as efficiently as possible, and can radiate out to create other chronic issues.
Lower ab and proper breathing exercises should focus on reversing this overextension in your spine by re-positioning your pelvis back under your rib cage (as opposed to rotated slightly behind it) There are many challeinging exercises that can do this.
And if you are someone who wants lower ab work because you want to see the bottom half of your six-pack? Focus on the nutrition side, you’ll have more success there.
3. Pointing your feet forward while standing, walking, and during most fitness drills is a simple way to reduce pain and improve performance. This simple adjustment re-positions your hips and allows your powerful glute muscles to work more efficiently.
In everyday life this can mean less back pain. It can also cut down on knee and ankle injury risk.
For strength training, activation of your glutes on exercises like squats and deadlifts will increase your strength in those lifts. You’ll need to make sure that changing your foot alignment does not change your positioning anywhere else (namely knees caving in), but with all else being equal it can have a very positive effect.
And for sprinting, reducing a toes out foot strike allows you to place more force into the ground, leading to longer strides and faster sprints.
4. Have we heard of intermittent fasting? It has become popular on the nutrition side of fitness the last five years, and with good reason. It works.
You are essentially cutting out food for a day or two in order to clean out your system and re-set your appetite. It has been proven to lower eating by 20% on non-fast days by those who do it regularly. In short, it is a powerful health and weight loss strategy.
Not eating for a day or more is almost unthinkable for most of us, in fact the first time I did it I didn’t think I’d last the whole day. But we use it as part of our new nutrition program and it hasn’t been anywhere as difficult as it seems. And your energy levels rise, which is a very valuable ‘side effect’.
5. It’s human nature to want results RIGHT NOW, but adaptations that come from training do not always work that way.
A young athlete whose body is physically mature will need at least 6 months of real weight training before they’ll see significant muscle building. The reason being that stronger muscles pull on tendons, ligaments and bones which can cause major injury if those connective tissues don’t get stronger first. And that all takes time.
Flexibility, conditioning and even weight loss (when done correctly) can improve much more quickly than muscle building can. But it doesn’t mean it won’t happen, with the right combination of hard training and proper nutrition.
6. One of the most interesting topics I’ve come across in years is the idea that how you breathe can contribute mightily to your flexibility issues.
Similar to topic #2, this has a lot to do with an overextended posture. Your rib cage is supposed to sit directly above your pelvis to reduce stress from gravity, and misalignment in there can cause some muscles to work overtime to keep you upright all day long.
How you breathe actually plays a huge role in creating or fixing an overextended posture. Working to pull your ribs back down with full exhales, and breathing in by pushing air into spaces you haven’t gotten air into for years (most of us inhale and expand our stomachs only, creating more extension in our backs) are the two biggest ways to reverse the problem.
Re-alignment through better breathing can ease tight hamstrings, hip flexors, shoulders, and a host of other areas that are hard to permanently fix through stretching alone.
7. The two biggest predictors of a future injury are:
– A previous injury
– Lack of symmetry in strength and/or flexibility from one side of the body to the other
There isn’t much you can do about the first one after it’s happened, but there’s a whole lot you can do about the 2nd.
To know if you have less strength or flexibility on one side of your body vs the other, you’d start by accurately testing for it. From there, exercise programs can be written to target any difference in symmetry until it becomes minimal or non-existent.
This is a major reason why we are 100% against the old-fashioned ‘bench and squat’ programs that so many of our local teams implement. It does a total disservice to kids who may have the injury equivalent of a ticking time bomb that could easily be defused with proper training.
8. Should you be doing long jumps or vertical jumps in your workouts? If you’re an athlete, it depends on what part of your game you need to work on.
Long jumps correlate most closely with starting speed, so if you have trouble accelerating long jumping improvements will best fix the issue. Vertical jumps match more with overall speed, especially top speed. So if you are ‘quick but not fast’ focusing on VJ improvements makes the most sense.
9. People who first meet us often ask “Are you like Crossfit?”
That’s a tough one to answer. We are not part of their franchise at all, but there are some clear similarities. The concept of ‘Forging Elite Athletes’ is something we believe in, and in a lot of respects the training is quite similar.
But there is a huge difference that makes me always answer that question by saying, “Not really.”
We do not have a one-size-fits-all Workout of the Day, and I believe as strongly as anything else in coaching that this is a major, major mistake when it comes to working with kids. They are all so unique in their developmental stages, sports, injury histories, and deficiencies that even with some slight tweaks there’s no way one workout works for everyone.
Our entire Power Source philiosophy revolves around personalized training, hitting the specific needs of each person so they maximize what little time they have to devote to training.
It is not a knock on anyone else’s approach at all, but we are definitely not the same.
10. We are in the middle of our quarterly performance combine for all our athletes, and there is an interesting trend that appears to be popping up regarding shoulder mobility.
About 5% or more of our overall population is showing one shoulder having trouble pulling back into what would commonly be referred to as ‘good posture’, yet they check out just fine on their other shoulder.
In each case there is a definite cause. For some it is their throwing shoulder, for others they hold a stick with this arm (lacrosse mostly), or they play a contact sport and take on contact more often on the bad shoulder side.
The odd thing is that almost none of them report having pain currently, even if they did back when they first hurt it.
My point is that with shoulders, or any joint that is injured, once the pain is gone it doesn’t mean everything is fine from then forward. There is a reason why past injuries often lead to future ones, and why some kids become ‘injury prone’.
The only solution is to fully fix the issue and restore proper movement if you want to avoid future injury.
11. I’m still amazed at how many athletes focus on arm and leg strength more than hip strength and power in their training. Athletes who literally just trained to develop stronger, fully flexible, and more powerful hips would see enormous changes in their performance without ever doing any other exercise.
Am I saying that arm and leg strength, flexibility and power are irrelevant? Not at all, but it’s not your primary source of success when it comes to training for sport. It’s probably the biggest reason why sports performance training is so much more beneficial than the old-fashioned bodybuilding style workouts that we used to follow back in the 80’s and 90’s.
12. What motivates an athlete will define their future more than anything else. No coach can create that motivation, but they can absolutely help them to tap into it.
University of North Carolina basketball star Brice Johnson is having an amazing senior year, but it comes after 3 seasons when he appeared to be unmotivated and was playing below his potential.
Assistant coach Hubert Davis really got to know Johnson over the summer and learned a lot about his story. With a bond built and trust in place, Coach Davis suggested he play his senior year in memory of his mom.
Bryce’s mom passed away when Johnson was in middle school, an event that I’m sure we all realize can cause a kid to withdraw as he struggled to express the pain he continued to feel years later.
Not only did this coach help to ‘motivate’ a player to become one of the best in the country, but he gave a kid an outlet for a pain that sat inside him for so many years.
Coaching the right way is so important for so many reasons. If you really want to motivate a kid don’t go about it by yelling at them and treating them like they’re there for you. Start by getting to know their story, earn their respect first, and from there you’ll be far more likely to make a real, lasting impact on that individual.