The Crossover Step Myth: “Don’t Cross Your Feet”

Is a crossover step bad in sports

Whether it is, basketball, football, or soccer you can easily find coaches extolling the dangers of using a crossover step.  “You’ll get beat if you cross your feet” is still a common mantra for many coaches.

However, when we watch many of the best defenders in these sports, we see them cross the feet often.

So are they just doing it wrong?  Or maybe they are just gifted athletes the rest of us mere mortals shouldn’t try to copy?

We would argue that they have developed the athletic movement skills to use their feet, legs, and hips effectively.  They developed a wide enough range of motor programs that they can cross their feet, rotate hips, and reposition efficiently to move well.

The Crossover Step

A crossover step is used when an athlete wants to move a bit faster or cover longer distances, approximately 4 yards or more. If you are doing a crossover to the left, you lift your right leg and cross it in front of your body. Your right foot will land in front of your left foot. (To see this, view the videos below.)

This is the way that the body naturally wants to move because it allows better force production and vector than a shuffle. 

If you watch athletes, you’ll notice that players will do this movement without instructing them.

Defenders and Hips

The concept coaches are trying to teach when they say “don’t cross your legs” may be that they want the defender to stay “squared up” to the opponent.  They want the defenders’ hips facing the opponent so they can go left or right easily at any moment.  

This makes sense.

If a defender turns their hips early, the attacking player can exploit this by changing direction.  With the hips turned one way, the defender is going to be slower because they have to turn their hips 180 degrees to get after the opponent.

So in a sport like basketball, the defender may want to be able to shuffle their feet to move left or right and cut off the attacking player. 

By shuffling, they stay squared up and can quickly react to either the left or right.

Speed and Distance

Let’s imagine we line up two players with the same speed for a race of 5 yards.  However, we let one sprint straight ahead and the other side shuffle.  Who is going to win?

The sprinter.  Running straight ahead is more biomechanically effective than shuffling.  There is a speed limit on the shuffle.

Now, what if we let the second athlete do a crossover run for those 5 yards?  Not a full turn and run, but staying hips square to the other, but letting their legs cross the midline of the body.  

In equal athletes, it is now going to stay really close.

So the crossover run can be effective. When a higher speed or distance is covered and the defender needs to stay square in case the opponent stops or changes direction.

Let’s take this further and make them go about 15 yards.  

The athlete using the crossover run may stay even initially. But they will start to fall behind as the other athlete keeps increasing speed.  Spriting straight ahead is just faster because of better biomechanics.

So at farther distances and higher speeds, the defenders need to turn their hips and run otherwise they will be beaten.

Situational Needs

What those examples highlight is that the “best” way to move depends on the goal.

  • Stay alongside the opponent
  • Keep hips square and ready to change
  • Move at different speeds
  • Cover short, medium, and long distances

That is why we want athletes to develop all of these movement skills.

It’s also why we want them to develop the coordination to effective change between them including opening the hips or crossing the feet.  

They need both linking skills so they can react instantaneously.

When a sport requires athletes to react to changing opponents, ball movement, and tactics it is considered an “open” sport.  The decisions and patterns are open to change.

Any defender in these sports has to possess a variety of ways to cover ground, change direction, and do these things while watching the game in other directions and dodging obstacles.

In the video linked below, watch as Kobe Bryant (recognized as a very good NBA defender) uses shuffles, crossovers, and slides to manage varying speeds and distances.

Training Crossed Feet

In our movement methodology, we develop several movement skills that help an athlete effectively cross their legs.  We teach them to do this to both move and transition between movements.

A variety of carioca drills are used to form a base of coordination with the legs crossing the midline of the body, both in front and in back of the torso and the other leg.

While these are seemingly remedial drills, they are very effective at helping an athlete get comfortable both turning the hips and crossing legs.  While the carioca isn’t a movement pattern they will use in transit during their sport, they give lots of repetition to develop proficiency.

The crossover drills are used both as the crossover run for transit and the crossover step to transition between movements. Crossover drills are combined with lateral or linear movements. The movements include: sprints, shuffles, and backpedals.

Finally, it is critical to use open, applied drills where athletes have to react to opponents, stimuli, or commands to change between speeds and directions.  They have to learn how to combine these hip, leg, and foot positions efficiently.

Building Athletes That Can Cross Their Feet

While the goal of not crossing the feet and staying square often makes sense, the reality of reacting in open sports means the best athletes learn to do it well.  

Instead of trying to coach athletes to stop using these natural movements, we work to make them more efficient and have a bigger skillset.  We want them to become proficient in using a variety of movements and transitions and reacting instantaneously to their opponents.

Training effective crossovers are key in building better athletes in many sports.

3 Ways To Train Like An Athlete And Thrive In Life

Train Like An Athlete

If you have played sports you might have fond memories of training like an athlete.  For many of us, one of the great things about when we trained for sport was how well we felt and functioned.

We were in great shape and felt like we could do anything.

We can take some of the lessons from training elite athletes and apply them to lifelong human performance as well.  If you train like an athlete with these 3 tips you can get more out of life.

Training With Purpose

Workouts are great.  You sweat, get endorphins, share the struggle and energy with the group, and keep your fitness up.

Across your lifespan, you’re going to do a lot of workouts.  A random mix of things in a workout can be fun.  There are times you just want to mindlessly sweat.

But athletes don’t work out.

They train. 

You see, the difference between working out and training is two-fold;

  1. There is a specific goal
  2. Each training session is part of a bigger plan.

We can make the case that workouts can have a goal.  Lift heavy, burn calories, sweat, and struggle.  All of those are could be goals.  But they aren’t part of a specific performance goal. 

Athletes train so they can improve things that help them reach their performance goals.  Build power to run and jump higher.  Get stronger to improve joint stability and reduce injury risk. Improve VO2 max so they can race at a higher pace. And so on…

Planned, Not Random

For an athlete, each workout is designed to be part of the overall plan and progression.  The workouts aren’t just a random collection of hard stuff. They compliment each other to increase your results. 

When you train like an athlete you stop just doing random things that are hard.  You know what you want to get better at and then you follow a plan to achieve that.

This is not just true in sports performance, but human performance as well.  If you want to run the Spartan Race faster or be able to play 18 holes on back-to-back days without pain, you have a specific goal.

Your training should help you achieve that.  It should progress through phases that build the right physical qualities so you can get better.

Having a specific goal, progressive variation exercises, and loading to pursue it, and training sessions that compliment each other is training like an athlete.

Movement Patterns

When it comes to strength & conditioning for sports, the goal is to improve the sport.  Sports are about movement not muscles, so we should train that way.

Yes, it’s your muscles that generate force and make you move.  But if we try to break the human body down into individual muscles, joints, and tissues we are missing the athleticism.

What you need to understand is that the brain doesn’t organize muscle by muscle, it is organized in movement.  When researchers observe brain activity through EEG they recognize that the brain activates by the movement pattern.  The same muscle can light up different parts of the brain in different movements.

So if we want to move and function better, we better make that the basis of our strength programming. 

This wasn’t always the case in strength training for sports.  For many years (and still today), bodybuilding influenced athletic strength training.  One of its basic approaches is a focus on isolating individual muscles to add maximum stress and growth.  That’s great if we are only trying to build muscle.  But if we want to improve movement, we need to train the muscles and the brain.

Isolation work has its place, but most of your workout program should revolve around the 7 foundational movement patterns.

Multi-Segmental Extension

The basis of most sporting movements is the coordinated extension of multiple joints and muscles of the lower body.  Just picture a sprinter simultaneously extending their hip, knee, and ankle joints as they propel their body forward out of the starting blocks.  You can also imagine a volleyball propelling themselves upward by extending hip, knee, and ankle to jump high and make a block.

Single-Leg Stance

Another fundamental human movement pattern is the single-leg stance.  Because human gait involves single-leg support variations, we find this everywhere in sports where athletes are moving over the ground.

Hip Hinge

Another lower body action we see is hinging at the hip.  This might also combine with some extension at the torso. 

In sports, we might see examples in a wrestler bridging, trying to get their shoulders off the mat, or standing trying to throw an opponent backward.  Or if we observe a track athlete sprinting at full speed and focus on how their leg moves backward to hit the track by extending at the hip.  In other parts of life, this might be lifting furniture to help a friend or picking up the kids.

Upper Body Push

When we have a coordinated extension of joints in the shoulder, arm, and wrist, we consider this a push. We can classify these as vertical or horizontal push motions based on the plane of movement. 

In sports, we see athletes pushing against opponents and it’s part of swinging and throwing motions.  It’s also common when we have to put something up on a shelf or push ourselves up off the floor.

Upper Body Pull

This is the inverse of the push and is the coordination of flexion in those upper body joints. While it’s slightly less common than pushing, it’s critical in many sports.  The “pull” in swimming strokes is what we would consider a vertical pull.   It could also be a rock climber or gymnastic pulling their body upward.

Horizontal pulling occurs in wrestling and grappling sports as opponents battle for position.  Another common horizontal pull would occur in rowing, kayaking, or canoe.

Bracing

This isn’t a movement pattern at all.  Bracing is actually an anti-movement pattern.  In their core, athletes need to control and transfer force from the upper to the lower body.  

The efficient transfer of force often means limiting motion so that force isn’t lost.  Resisting flexion, extension, and rotation in the pelvis and the spine is critical for efficient and explosive movement.

This is a key function to bulletproof your back and hips.  Since you experience the transfer of force through your spine in so many activities, it needs to be up to the task.

Multi-Segment Rotation

Finally, we have the coordinated rotational action that builds up from the lower body, through a stable core and transfers into the upper body.  It is easy to picture this in sports from a batter swinging to a quarterback throwing.  Sports such as golf, tennis, and hockey all involve rotation to swing an implement.

Move

Athletes move faster, farther, higher, and stronger.  But most of all they move.

Often in fitness, people keep working out, but they stop moving.  They end up doing a lot of lifting in the sagittal plane of motion.  People end up on spin cycles, treadmills, and machines.  They stay in one place and use cables, bands, and weights repetitively.

There is a place for all those things, but it’s missing athletic movement.

Athletic movement includes moving our body through space.  Coordinating to move faster and slow down.  Jump and land.  Move sideways and twist.  But most of all, to challenge our coordination in dynamic and changing ways.

That’s what we do in sports.  It’s what we should do as humans.

Athletic movements that involve coordination, different speeds and direction of movement, changing orientation in space, and lowering our center of mass have benefits for human performance and heath as well.

This doesn’t mean we have to go full speed into contact to improve performance.  But those who want to improve their human performance and health do need to move dynamically.

Moving at faster speeds, and decelerating is a unique load for our tendons and connective tissue.  Sports science has demonstrated that for optimal tendon health we need to regularly expose our tendons to fast stretch-shortening cycle movements. 

These are movements where we quickly load our muscles and change from flexing to extending or vice versa.  Think of dipping down before a jump in basketball.  Or the backswing in driving a golf ball. 

When we aren’t used to doing those things, they start to cause tendon pain when we go do them.  That’s when people get tendonitis problems like jumpers knee or tennis elbow.  Small doses of fast stretch-shortening movements can help your tendons stay ready for the weekend activities.

There’s also growing research that shows challenging your coordination can benefit lifelong brain health.  Moving the center of mass, changing your orientation in space, tracking moving objects, and coordinating body movements all can contribute to a better quality of life and improved memory and cognitive function.

If you can sprinkle in actual dynamic movement with these challenges, you are training like an athlete. You likely perform better in your sporting activities, have a lower risk of injury, and improve your overall health along the way.

Train Like An Athlete For Human Performance

Whether you want to run a better race, be a weekend warrior, or just feel better and eliminate pain, training like an athlete can help. 

Start by changing your mindset from working out to training with purpose. 

Then makes sure you think about movements and not just muscles when you pick up the weights. 

Finally, move more and move better.  Dynamic, challenging athletic movement will change the way you function and feel.

Strategies To Improve Your Acceleration Mechanics

Strategies To Improve Your Acceleration Mechanics

Athletes and coaches know that you can gain an advantage in just a few steps when you have a better burst of speed.

Getting even a little bit ahead of an opponent means you can get to the ball first or cut the other player off. That helps you dominate the competition and is often decided in the first steps.

For pure acceleration, you need both great mechanics and good power. The Velocity Speed Formula is:

  • Body Position
  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion

LEARN MORE: The Formula For Speed

You improve your acceleration mechanics so you can apply the components of the formula better.

Here are two strategies that have been successful with elite athletes including top draft picks preparing for the 40 yd Dash at the NFL Combine.

You can use these strategies to improve your acceleration mechanics.

Self-Limiting Exercises

Coaches can give you cues and feedback, but a great drill provides a lot of intrinsic feedback. The feedback that you feel and reinforce when you are doing it right or when your arent.

Drills that have constraints so you have to do them properly to be successful are “self-limiting.” You won’t be able to do it with the wrong technique.

Hill sprints fall into this category. The angle of the hill means your force vector (BIG FORCE and PROPER DIRECTION) will be right. To keep from catching your toe on the ground or falling onto your face, you will use an OPTIMAL RANGE OF MOTION.

Contrast Training

Contrast training is a strategy that takes advantage of both neuromuscular and motor learning.

First, you use a drill that stimulates the neuromuscular system to generate more force. By going uphill you have effectively changed the angle of effect of gravity under your feet. You have to apply more force to get up the hill.

Then you go to a drill that removes that additional force requirement and let your body apply it in a free movement. After the hill sprints, you go and do the sprint on flat ground.

Now your body is primed and applying the same force in a horizontal vector on the ground to propel you forward faster.

Contrast training takes advantage of your physiology and motor control to make faster improvements in your acceleration mechanics.

Check out the video to see it being applied by Velocity’s Global High-Performance Director Ken Vick. Then go use these strategies to improve your acceleration mechanics.

What It Takes To Be An Olympian: 3 Common Myths

With the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games going, Coach Ken Vick hits an amazing mark.  He’s now had athletes in eleven Olympic Games.  It’s been across countries and sports, giving him a unique view of Olympic athletes.

A Diverse, Global Sports View

Ken Vick started as a performance coach almost three decades ago and worked with his first Olympic athlete preparing for the Sydney Olympic Games. Vick’s first exposure to Olympic athletes was as a coach in the sport of weightlifting.

“Olympic sports were always a passion for me.  I was a Weightlifting coach for several international level lifters. The intensity and passion of athletes pursuing their Olympic dream is unique,” says Vick.

That passion continued as his career in sports performance progressed.  He’s coached athletes that have gone on to 11 different Summer and Winter Olympic Games.  And it is not just individual athletes he’s had experience with. 

He’s also been the Global High-Performance Director for Velocity Sports Performance overseeing the training of national teams and even entire Olympic Committees.

Team Great Britain Volleyball needed to prepare for the 2012 London Games and Velocity was tasked with helping them in the year leading up to them.  “Starting to see the differences in Olympic systems was revealing,” says Vick

The Chinese Olympic Committee had been a top nation in the medal count, but in 2013 they started working with Velocity in a few targeted sports and several of their provincial programs.  A few years later Velocity had deployed its systems and staff of performance coaches and sports medicine specialists to the other side of the globe to prepare for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Coach Ken Vick reviews training data with an athlete preparing for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

“The experience of deploying Integrated Support Teams on the ground in China and advising their teams was incredible.  There were incredible cultural and systemic differences, but we had a unique perspective on the athletes themselves. It really highlighted commonalities among elite performers,” comments Vick.

Velocity has worked with Olympic athletes in 32 different sports from 17 countries.  This has provided Coach Vick with a unique perspective on what it takes to be an Olympian.

Myths About Olympians

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about Olympic athletes. A lot of people will assume it’s all about genetics and talent.  While that’s clearly a part, Coach Vick thinks there is much more.

Here are some of the myths he hears when talking about Olympians with others.

To Be An Olympian You Must Specialize Early

During any Olympics, it is common to see videos of the athlete in their sport. These stories of athletes starting their sport at a young age are often equated with early specialization.  Meaning they start focusing on their sport and serious training at an early age.

There is no doubt some do.  They find a passion for a sport they love early on. 

In other parts of the world, athletes are almost entirely developed in national Olympic programs. These usually force them to specialize in one sport from a very early age.  “I’ve worked with athletes in other countries who moved away to a regional training center and started getting paid by the age of 10 years old.  Training day in and day out is almost all they’ve known for their whole life when they hit a high level,” shares Vick. 

This approach derives from a nation trying to be efficient and targeted in building as many Olympic Champions as possible.

It’s also helpful in sports like figure skating and gymnastics where athletes have traditionally peaked at a young age.

The Multi-sport Olympian

However, many Olympic athletes actually play multiple sports for quite a while.  According to a 2012 study by the US Olympic Committee, the majority of US Olympians played multiple sports into their teens. 

What it takes to be an Olympian; Team USA
The reality that Olympic athletes don’t all specialize early is a surprise to most people.

According to Vick, there’s a reason why a diverse early sports experience are part of what it takes to be an Olympic athlete. “There’s a major downside to specializing early.  It limits the overall athleticism of the athlete and puts repetitive mental and physical strain on an athlete early.”  This can lead to injury and burnout.

“One of the very reasons we’ve worked in some other countries is to solve this problem.  They have too many athletes achieving an elite level only to end up hurt and out of competition.  The wear and tear on them from early specialization has been obvious to our sports medicine staff and the lack of overall developed athletic skills is clear to our performance coaches.  They are clearly skilled in their sport, but they made too many with drawls and not enough deposits in their athleticism bank account, so to speak”

THE REALITY:  While starting in the final sport early is helpful, athletes benefit from diverse athletic experiences into their teen years.

Olympians Are Fearless

Imagine walking out into a crowded stadium with the pressure to perform to perfection in a physically demanding event. You represent your family, community, and the nation whose colors you wear.  All after a lifetime of training, sacrifice, and dreams.

For most mere mortals, this would overwhelm our ability to focus and cope.  The stress and anxiety levels would be off the charts.

So to be an Olympic athlete you must not feel this way, right?

Wrong

It’s not that Olympic athletes don’t have these feelings (and more), it is what they do with them.

Returning to sports after covid

Managing Fear and Anxiety

“Where ever I’ve been in the world, and in any sport, the top athletes learn how to manage these emotions.  They have developed a perspective that makes it bearable.  They embrace it as part of the process and maybe even something they can enjoy in some way.”

The training for many Olympic sports is a long grind.  They are physically demanding, have little financial or technical support, and they are seen until the Olympics rolls around every 4 years.

What keeps them going?  Optimism and enjoyment of the process.

“ I remember being in another country where the athletes were selected at a young age and moved away from home.  Sport for them was a job and had been for most of their life.  At the time the US women’s team was there training with them for a joint camp for two weeks. 

On a training day, I was observing our performance coach and physical therapist getting the team ready.  Most of the athletes in the training hall were sullen and lacked energy.  Then we heard some noise.  It slowly built from a low rumble into some music along with the sound of voices laughing and joking.  The energy was clearly high.  You could hear the positive vibes. 

Then walks in the US squad.  They had a spring in their step and smiles.  They were enjoying the process even in the middle of a grinding training camp.  One of the other athletes asked, why are they so happy.  She lost that and though one of the top-ranked athletes in her sport, wouldn’t go on to make it to the Olympics.”

To handle the stress of competition and the grind of training, athletes need to have optimism they can improve and make it.  This comes from their personal outlook and what they’ve experienced along the way.

THE REALITY: A sense of optimism and a belief that they can improve and make it is required to become an Olympian.

Olympians Were Always Great At Their Sport

When someone ends up at the pinnacle of their sport it is easy to believe that they were always good at it.  You’d think they were always the best from a young age and excelled.  Turns out that’s not exactly the case.

“Yes, most athletes had some success at their sport early on.  It’s part of why they decided to do it; because they were good at it or their family’s supported their effort.   But that they were always the best and highest-ranked is false.  In fact, evidence in a lot of sports shows that athletes who were junior champions, don’t make it to be elite or Olympic champions later. ”

Part of the reason is that development is not always linear.  Whether it’s learning techniques, tactics, or physical development, there are periods where most athletes struggle.

Vick agrees, “The struggle itself might be part of what builds Olympians.  Almost every Olympian I’ve know has had plateaus, obstacles, and setbacks.  How they preserve and continue to work and learn, that’s the mark of a champion.”

One of the most common setbacks is injury.  Whether minor or major, injury is a part of high-level sport.  You cant push the human body to its limits of performance without occasionally going too far.

“Coming back from injuries is one of the biggest places we see that resilience is a required quality for Olympic athletes,” says Vick.  “I’ve seen far too many high levels and extremely talented athletes who don’t have the mental, emotional, and physical grit to come back from injury”

THE REALITY: Success is rarely a linear growth path.  There are obstacles and setbacks which require mental, emotional, and physical resilience to become an Olympian.

USA Olympic athlete Maddie Godby works through a strength training session at Velocity Sports Performance.

More Than Just The Obvious

Vick concludes, “I think the biggest myth is that these are just genetically gifted and uniquely skilled athletes who are expressing their go-given talents.  In fact, they are athletes who conquered a challenging path physically, mentally, and emotionally.”

And that’s part of why we are all so inspired by watching these Olympians.

Team USA Olympic Athlete Talks About Her Training at Velocity

Team USA athlete Maddie Godby is the latest Olympian and track cyclist training with Velocity.  The 28-year-old international competitor came to Coach Vick with the goal of getting stronger and more explosive.

Training 2-3 days a week in the gym, she’s used that same Gymaware technology to monitor and prescribe highly specific training that fits her unique needs as an individual and as a sprint cyclist. 

“We are fine-tuning at this stage so there are targets and we want to hit the right zones.  Just to have that feedback is really helpful.  Sometimes that means adding more weight and other times it means less.” comments Godby.

So far, it’s working.  In May, she performed at a high level in Hong Kong at the only international event in over 14 months.  She spent most of that time off the velodrome track since they were closed in the pandemic.  However, putting in the time, training in the gym has made her much stronger and explosive.  Qualities she’ll put to use in Tokyo. 

But there is more than just training according to Godby. “I’m really good at pushing myself and training hard. So in order to do that I needed to find ways to recover better. So that’s a really big part of what I’ve been doing at Velocity.”

Hear her share more in the video below…

Velocity Sends Athletes To Olympics For Unbelievable 10th Time

Velocity Sends Athletes To Tokyo Olympics

While the sports and fitness industries are filled with hype, flashy social media accounts, and short-lived personalities, Velocity Sports Performance is quietly continuing 2 decades of excellence by sending athletes to another Olympic Games.

When Velocity was founded in 1999 outside Atlanta, Georgia, Olympians from 5 countries were working with legendary coach, Loren Seagrave. Seagrave was an elite track coach and the founder of Velocity Sports Performance.  In that very first Velocity facility, USA Bobsled athletes worked with Coach Seagrave to improve their speed for the 2002 Winter Games.

That tradition of working with elite Olympic athletes continued as Global High-Performance Director Ken Vick set up shop in Redondo Beach in 2005.

“Olympic sports were always a passion for me.  I was a Weightlifting coach for several international level lifters and the intensity and passion of athletes pursuing their Olympic dream is unique,” says Vick.

He’d know something about that as he coached multiple athletes going to the Games and directed the high-performance team behind many others, even whole Olympic Committees. In the last decade under his watch, Velocity has supported 54 medal winners across 13 different sports.

Measured Performance

In Vick’s view “For a performance coach, one of the unique aspects of many Olympic sports is that they are measured objectively.  We time how fast someone runs, cycles, swims, or paddles.  You measure how far they throw or jump, or how much weight they can lift.”

This means that the results of training programs are much more visible.  “You can see if what you are doing with them is working.  You can’t hide bad training behind a great team or tactics,” he adds.

This has been a major influence on Velocity’s methodology in training, sports medicine, and recovery.  “Since we have always dealt with these Olympic athletes, we put added emphasis on measuring training variables and exploring the methods that produced the greatest results.  Velocity’s methods have been based on science, proven in the field, and continually refined to stay on top.”

Today Velocity has brought many of these training technologies and methods to the average high school athlete walking through their doors.  The elite-level devices, monitoring systems, and training methods are accessible to all.

Velocity has supported National teams and Athletes at the Olympic Games in these sports

  • Athletics (Track & Field)
  • Badminton
  • Beach Volleyball
  • Boxing
  • Diving
  • Fencing
  • Freestyle Wrestling
  • Indoor Volleyball
  • Modern Pentathlon
  • Rowing
  • Soccer
  • Softball
  • Sprint Kayak
  • Sprint Canoe
  • Swimming
  • Synchronized Swimming
  • Table Tennis
  • Track Cycling
  • Weightlifting

Supporting Athletes Around the Globe

International Olympic sport has a history of top coaches being recruited to countries with budgets and looking to improve their performance.  Working across borders is part of the game and one of the great opportunities to have a lasting impact globally.

Aspiring athletes and pros in the US weren’t the only ones to notice what Velocity was doing.  With a steady international clientele, the word was getting out.  Countries looking for better performance noticed.

In their build-up for the 2012 Olympics, Team GB brought their developing beach volleyball program to Redondo Beach and asked Velocity to help.  It made sense since Velocity had experience training so many top AVP and international players.  Now Velocity was tasked with helping them raise their game as the London Olympics approached.

The Chinese Olympic Committee had been a top nation in the medal count, but in 2013 they started working with Velocity in a few targeted sports and several of their provincial programs.  A few years later Velocity was working alongside another performance company called EXOS preparing athletes across the entire Chinese Olympic Program.

Velocity coach Mark Williams working with the Chinese Womens Wrestling Team that included two 2016 Rio Olympic Medalists.

“The experience of deploying Integrated Support Teams on the ground in China and advising their teams was incredible.  We had challenges that we never imagined but an incredible opportunity to have an impact,” reflects Vick.  “Making sure we could coordinate the sports medicine, strength training, speed work, conditioning, and recovery was a task.  There was an outdated system there, language and cultural barriers, and we were trying to make a major shift.  That’s a tall order, but we were able to see results.”

Years of working with elite performers have driven a methodology based on integrating these different domains.  When the entire integrated support team works together to support the effort of the athlete and the plan of the sports coaches, the results speak for themselves.

Velocity Supports Olympic Teams and Athletes around the globe

Winter Olympics Too

Velocity’s expertise doesn’t stop when cold weather hits.  Athletes and National Teams from the Winter Olympic Games have relied on Velocity as well.  Olympic hockey players, speed skaters, bobsledders, skiers, and snowboarders have all been trained by Velocity.

“Many of the winter sports have incredible demands on the athletes. Take slopestyle and halfpipe events.  The forces these athletes experience on jumps and landings are enormous,” says Vick.  “We have to not only train for the event but sometimes, more importantly, to be durable and healthy.  If you cant practice and develop your skills on the snow because you’re hurt, it doesn’t matter how good you are.”

That’s why Velocity has hosted several national teams in its elite centers.  The impact was so visible that they’ve also deployed coaches and sports medicine professionals to work with teams and travel around the globe.

Elite Technology

Managing Velocity staff working with teams all around the world in different time zones presents challenges.  One of the solutions for Velocity is taking advantage of cutting-edge technology.

“Technology like our Athlete Management System brings together data from multiple sources so we can use our Integrated Support Team to assist those professionals out in the field.  Those coaches and sports medicine professionals aren’t on their own.”

One of the tools that they have used for years is a device from Australia called Gymaware.  Its measures vary biomechanical properties of athletes when they are jumping or lifting weights.  This highly scientific data can be sued to make programming decisions or day-to-day adjustments. 

“The Gymaware tool is a scientifically proven device that’s completely portable.  While I love using force plates, they are big and bulky so not great for a  team going from country to country every weekend,” laughs Vick.  “We get to use the same device to both test and train the athlete and the data feeds right into our athlete management system automatically.”

Today this same technology that was refined and proven with the world’s most elite athletes, is being used in Velocity centers for athletes of all levels.  Its also be used remotely by some athletes who follow digital training programs on their own.  This lets coaches monitor their training and make precise adjustments to the plan.

Road to Tokyo

One of Velocity’s US locations is an 11,000 sq ft facility hidden away in El Segundo, CA.  Once a site that once housed engineers helping send the mercury and Apollo astronauts to space, the spirit of innovation continues as athletes prepare for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The sprint events in track cycling aren’t well known in the US, but they are known at Velocity.  After hosting training camps for the US team before the 2008 Bejing Olympics, they’ve now helped cyclists from 4 different countries.  One thing remains consistent for these athletes, being strong & powerful.  Track sprinters need strength to get the fixed gear bikes up to speed and power to sustain the high speeds attained on the velodrome track.

In 2012 Velocity supported the US Sprint team as well as Trinidad & Tobago athlete Njisane Phillips. Then for the Rio Olympics, they supported the entire Chinese team including the eventual Gold medalists in the Women’s Team Sprint.  They also hosted the Australian team in their Redondo Beach for a 1-month holding camp right before the Games.

Athlete Maddie Godby is a Team USA Sprint Cyclist who will compete in Tokyo. She has been training at Velocity Sports Performance with Coach Ken Vick.

Team USA athlete Maddie Godby is the latest track sprinter training with Velocity.  The 28-year-old international competitor came to Coach Vick with the goal of getting stronger and more explosive.

Training 2-3 days a week in the gym, she’s used that same Gymaware technology to monitor and prescribe highly specific training that fits her unique needs as an individual and as a sprint cyclist. 

“We are fine-tuning at this stage so there are targets and we want to hit the right zones.  Just to have that feedback is really helpful.  Sometimes that means adding more weight and other times it means less.” comments Godby.

So far, it’s working.  She performed at a high level in May in Hong Kong at the only international event in over 14 months.  She spent most of that time off the velodrome track since they were closed in the pandemic.  However, putting in time, training in the gym, has made her much stronger and explosive.  Qualities she’ll put to use in Tokyo. 

But there is more than just training according to Godby. “I’m really good at pushing myself and training hard. So in order to do that I needed to find ways to recover better. So that’s a really big part of what I’ve been doing at Velocity.”

Other Athletes in Tokyo

Like many Americans, Velocity will also be excitedly watching the Men’s Basketball competition in Tokyo. This location and its Redondo Beach predecessor have also trained USA Basketball team members Kevin Durant and Draymond Green in past off-seasons.

Swimming will also be high on the list.  Velocity was also under contract to support the Chinese Swimming Association for 2 years up to the Olympics Games.  Unfortunately, with the pandemic, that plan got cut short in early 2020 after over a year of work put in.  Still, several former Velocity staff members including Coach Zach Murray stayed behind to continue working all the way up to the Games.

The Olympic Dream

In the USA many athletes in smaller sports struggle to survive as they pursue their dreams.  Velocity has made it part of its mission to support these incredible athletes who are willing to dream.  Every year they provide sponsorships for athletes in smaller sports to help them on their journey.

According to Vick, this is something he thinks is important as a coach and as the CEO.  “The Olympics, but more so the journey and pursuit of that goal, is inspiring.  Athletes like these give us insight into the human spirit and what’s possible.  That goes far beyond sport.  That’s why we love doing what we do and want to give back to those who inspire all of us.”

How Much Protein Do Athletes Need After a Workout?

how much protein do athletes need

It’s never been easier to get a quick bite of protein after a workout.

Between shakes and bars, it seems like there is a protein snack everywhere you turn. You’ll probably find a high-protein snack in the bag or every serious athlete at the gym. In general, this can be a good thing, but just how much protein do you need after a hard lifting session or practice?

“The right post-workout nutrition gives our muscles and body what they need to recover, rebuild, and stop muscle protein breakdown,” explains nutrition coach Kris Wilkins.  “Protein is an important part of that plan.”

When you work out or practice intensely, you damage tissues on a micro-level. You also use fuel.

Ultimately, this is what makes us stronger, more fit, leaner, and more muscular. However, in the short term, it requires repair.

So, what exactly is a good post-training snack, and how much protein should be in it? Here’s what you need to know.

How much protein do you need after a workout?

“Protein is the building block of our muscles and other tissues so we need it to be there when our body starts repairing any damage from training,” says Wilkins.

As to how much protein you need, it depends on what kind of workout you were doing. If you just finished a high-intensity practice with lots of sprinting, running, or swimming, you’ll need a bit more than if you just did yoga.

In general, studies show that getting about 20-40 grams of protein after a strenuous workout is recommended.

To get more specific, research suggests that you should consume between 0.14–0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight after a workout. An athlete doing more intensive training may lean toward the higher side of this recommendation.

What Protein Is Best For Athletes After A Workout?

Protein contains amino acids, which are the building blocks of our muscles and are necessary for energy and proper bodily function. However, not all proteins are created equal. Some foods are more complete sources of protein and others don’t contain all of the amino acids your body needs.  

Complete proteins naturally contain all the essential amino acids and varying amounts of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).  The BCAAs are important to support muscle protein synthesis.  Complete proteins include sources like animal-based products such as meat, eggs, dairy products, and plant-based products like soy.

Protein quality doesn’t only depend on the amino acid profile.  How easy it is to digest and how quickly those proteins are available to our body is important.

Some proteins are more readily digested than others, and your body can generally access all of the amino acids from animal sources, such as milk. Generally speaking, animal sources of protein are more readily digested, compared to plant sources.  Whey protein is a common choice.

Athletes Need Carbs With Their Protein!

While protein is pivotal, it doesn’t act alone. Carbs are also required post-workout because they help replenish your energy. Wilkins says, “Consuming 3-4 times as many grams of carbs compared to protein post-workout is a good rule of thumb.”

Your body needs fuel to repair those tissues and use the amino acids. It also needs to restore its stores for the next practice or training session.

Another benefit of adding carbs is that the combination of carbohydrates and amino acids after exercise stimulates growth hormone and testosterone. That helps you recover and rebuild faster.

what type pf protein do athletes need

What To Eat To Get Protein Post Workout

The main goal of your post-workout meal is to supply your body with the right nutrients for recovery and to maximize the benefits of your workout. Choosing easily digested foods will promote faster nutrient absorption.

This list contain examples of simple and easily digested proteins:

Protein

  • Animal- or plant-based protein powder 
  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Salmon
  • Chicken
  • Protein bar
  • Tuna

Sample Post-Workout Meals

Here are a few examples of quick and easy meals to eat after your workout:

  • Recovery shake with carbs and protein
  • Protein shake and banana.
  • Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables.
  • Salmon with sweet potato.
  • Tuna salad sandwich on whole-grain bread.
  • Tuna and crackers.
  • Cottage cheese and fruits.
  • Pita and hummus.
  • Whole grain toast and almond butter.
  • Greek yogurt, berries, and granola.

Athletes Need Protein After Training

Whether a recovery drink or a whole food meal, you want to eat something within 30-60 minutes after you finish training or practice.  That’s when your body needs recovery the most.

It is particularly important to eat both carbs and protein after your workout.

Doing this helps your body:

  • Decrease muscle protein breakdown.
  • Increase muscle protein synthesis (growth).
  • Restore glycogen stores.
  • Enhance recovery.

References

 

 

 

 

 

Improve Your Speed By Looking Under The Hood.

high performance engine

When it comes to improving an athlete’s speed, many trainers just stick to their preferred methods. Maybe they have a bunch of go-to speed and agility drills. Others may mostly use strength training with their athletes. For another, it may be technical track drills.

All of these can be effective and have a place in building better athletes.

However, having just one training solution for every athlete will fail many. It leaves many poorly served because, after the foundation, every athlete doesn’t have the exact same needs.

Coaches, athletes, and parents are often confused about whether they need more speed training or more weight room time. Unfortunately, too many trainers skip the actual analysis to find what’s really needed.

Formula 1 car time trial

Time Trials

To help understand why we need deeper analysis, let’s look at auto racing. I can go out to the race track and do time trials. I can see how fast we can finish a lap, what the top speed is, or how fast we can accelerate.

These are all performance measures.

We’re measuring the performance of both the car and driver.

The car has to produce engine torque, grip the surface of the track, and steer effectively.

Additionally, the driver needs the skill to properly utilize those capabilities. Without those skills, he can’t optimize the performance.

Those performance measures of time, distance, and velocity can give us insight into opportunities to improve. However, they don’t specifically tell us how to improve.

First of all, they were measures of the combined systems of the car and driver.

The times alone can’t tell us if the driver or the car is the limiting factor.

Going further, if it was the car, we still don’t know which components of the system need improvement.

speed skating start sprint
start athlete speed skater sprint race at competition

Performance Testing in Sports

In sports, we do very similar things. We test athletes on how fast they can sprint or do an agility drill. We see how high they can jump or throw an object. It is just like timing the car on the race track.

It requires the driver (like the athlete’s motor control system) to use the race car’s physical performance capabilities (like the athlete’s body) to perform the test well.

Performance testing can help us set goals, see where we can improve, and give us feedback if our training programs are successful.

However, it doesn’t necessarily tell us HOW to improve.

Improving Performance

So what do you do when you want to improve that speed on the race track? Do you jump straight in and upgrade the engine, or maybe the transmission? Maybe change the tires or the cooling system? Maybe you fire the driver and hire a new one.

Any of those may help. But without looking deeper and performing diagnostic tests, you may be wasting time and money on the wrong factor.

If we have a great car, but a poor driver, we won’t get much better by upgrading the engine torque. The driver isn’t good enough to use the existing power on the track right now. Improving the engine and power won’t change that.

On the flip side, the best driver in the world cant take a honda civic and win a professional race. The car just doesn’t have adequate mechanical capabilities to keep up.

In sports, we have to consider whether an athlete needs to improve their speed by upgrading their physical capabilities or their motor control. Coaches do this by analyzing techniques and seeing if they have the basic strength & power qualities needed.

If one of these is the clear limiting factor, then they know where to spend time and energy.

Professional car mechanic working in auto repair service.

Looking Under the Hood

If a race team wants to win they don’t stop at how the car performed on the track. The crew takes it into the garage, looks under the hood, and does diagnostics.

It is not enough to only know WHAT the car can do in terms of power or efficiency. They need to analyze HOW its being accomplished.

That’s what we do when we use Strength Diagnosis with an athlete. We are going beyond the performance tests by looking under the hood at their strength and power capabilities.

After all, there are very different types of strength needed to improve linear sprinting, change of direction, or jumping height. Even within a sprint, different types of strength influence initial acceleration versus maximum velocity sprinting.

athletic strength signature

Strength Signature

The Velocity Strength Signature is a method developed over 20+ years to identify sport-specific strength qualities. By measuring the kinetics in 5 different movements, we can quantify all six types of athletic strength.

An athlete’s unique profile across these six types of strength is what we call a Strength Signature. Just like your written signature, it is unique.

It also tells us a lot about how we can help you improve through training. By considering your specific goals, and evaluating your Strength Signature, coaches can help you target the right type of strength.

Then you can continue to train hard, but now you’re doing it smarter.

Summary

Whether it’s a race car on the track or an athlete in the gym, performance testing shows us what’s possible and how we are doing.

However, in both cases, performance testing doesn’t necessarily tell us why we are performing that way or how to improve it.

So with our race car, we look under the hood and diagnose the limitations of the car.

With athletes, we look under the hood with Strength Diagnosis to find out what types of sport-specific strength they need to improve and stay healthy.

Which Is The More Effective Coaching Behavior- Praise Or Criticism?

Coaches are always looking for the most effective coaching behaviors. But there is often argument about the importance of positive reinforcement, praise, and negative feedback. 

There are different outlooks on which behaviors are the most effective in coaching young athletes. 

So, what works best? 

Let’s look to a great coach and teacher for some insight.

Coach John Wooden

John Wooden is a coaching legend. 

He is one of the greatest coaches in basketball history. He coached his UCLA teams to 10 national championships in 12 years. That included seven in a row and a record 88-game winning streak.

He’s also heralded for his ability to teach his athletes.  Teaching them on the court, and teaching lessons they took through life.

With that success, you might think that he always had the most talented players.  However, by most accounts, you’d be wrong.

Some of his teams only had average talent.   Many had notable weaknesses.

Still, year after year, he was able to elevate their level of play and get them to perform at a championship level when it mattered most.

So, coaches are naturally interested in his coaching. What was it about his coaching style that led to such unprecedented success? Was it his careful use of criticism?  Was he masterful in using praise?? Or maybe both it was both?

How did this master coach teach?

With that very question in mind, some researchers set out to study how he coached. During one season psychologists, Roland Tharp and Ronald Gallimore observed and analyzed Coach Wooden’s teaching methods. Interested in education and learning, they thought that his teaching methods might deepen their understanding of learning.

So, during the 1974-1975 season they sat, watched, and tracked Wooden’s specific coaching behaviors during practices.

For 15 practices, cataloged 2326 “acts of teaching” in total.

So how much of this was praise? And how much was criticism?

Top coaching behaviors

Coach Wooden employed his top behavior more than 50% of the time.  He used it four times as often as the next highest used technique.  It would seem, this was the bedrock of his coaching.  So was it praise or criticism?

Turns out, it was neither.

Over half (50.3%) of Wooden’s behaviors were just pure instruction. These were specific statements about what to do or how to do it. There was no judgment. No approval or disapproval. Just information.

Many coaches believe that one of the most important things to communicate is what you want the athlete to do.  What is the intent you want them to do it with? 

This aligns with Coach Wooden’s number one tactic.

The next most frequently occurring coaching behavior (12.7%) was called a simple effort cue, the researchers called a “hustle.” For instance “Drive!” or “Harder!” and, of course, “Hustle!”

It was a cue or reminder to act with effort on some previous instruction.

The researchers aptly named the third most frequent (8%) coaching behavior a “Wooden.” This unique feedback technique was a combination of scolding and re-instruction.  He made it clear that he was not satisfied but immediately reminded them of the correct way to do something.

For example, “How many times do I have to tell you to follow through with your head when shooting?” or “I have been telling some of you for three years not to wind up when you throw the ball! Pass from the chest!

The remainder of his coaching behaviors after that were roughly balanced between praise and criticism of some sort.  Here’s the list of the coaching behaviors demonstrated by Coach Wooden;

  • Instruction (50.3%)
  • Effort Cue (12.7%)
  • A “Wooden” (8%) – scolding + reminder how to do something
  • Praise (6.9%)
  • Scolding (6.6%)
  • Positive modeling – how to do something (2.8%)
  • Negative modeling – or how not to do something (1.6%).

Information is king

If we add this up, we can see that ~75% of Wooden’s teaching acts contained specific information.  This information was designed to provide the athlete a clear picture of what to do or what not to do.

Simply knowing that something is good or bad is not especially helpful. It is more useful to know what exactly should be repeated or changed the next time. Without that specific information, praise or criticism can be easily misinterpreted by the athletes.

The researchers felt that this was a key contributor to his coaching success.

Wooden’s modeling formula

Another of the researchers’ observations was of how Wooden modeled behavior.

If he saw something he didn’t like and stopped practice to correct the mistake.  He used a correct-incorrect-correct demonstration that was usually quick and succinct.

He would immediately demonstrate the correct way to execute the technique, then show everyone the incorrect way the athlete just did it, then model the correct way again.

This correct-incorrect-correct demonstration was usually very brief, rarely lasting longer than 5 seconds.  However, it made it very clear what his expectations were, and how to meet these expectations.

You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.

~John Wooden

More Effective Coaching Behaviors

There is a lot we can take from John Wooden’s coaching methods.  He focused the majority of his coaching on providing his players with information and context.  He helped them to understand what he wanted them to do, and how to do it.

You can do the same.  Help your athletes learn what to focus on and the intent to bring to each repetition.

At the end of the day, we don’t need tons of cheerleading and high fives. Nor repetitive punishments and expletives for making mistakes.

In the weight room, clinic, or on the field, it’s less about whether athletes are perfect or imperfect. It’s more about making sure they’re progressing and learning from day to day.

The only way they can progress is to refine the way they are performing with information on what to do and how to do it. 

Check your cueing and feedback and see how your coaching behaviors measure up to John Wooden.

5 Important Rules In Dryland Training For Swimmers

dryland training for swimmers

These are the 5 “rules” we consider when we’ve designed training programs for swimmers. No matter whether we are talking about the developing swimmers, Collegians, or Olympic Gold Medalists we’ve trained at Velocity Sports Performance, these rules always apply.

Swimming Is Unique

An elite competitive swimmer is like any other athlete in many ways. They need a good foundation of coordination and basic strength throughout the entire body. This base of athleticism is useful for coordinating general motion and basic physical health.

However, swimming is unique among athletic movements. No other sport is performed in another substance and without contact with the ground.  

Yes, there are sports like rowing or kayak which propel a vessel through water. There are also sports like skiing or snowboard where athletes ride over snow. Or speed skating, hockey, and skeleton which slide over ice.

First, in all those other sports you get to breathe. You have to get your face out of the water to breathe in swimming.

Second, there is the fact that almost everything else has movement produced or controlled by producing force and directing it through the feet into the ground.

A swimmer propels themselves through water primarily with the upper body instead of through the legs into the ground. They have to manage the laws of not just physics, but specifically hydrodynamics to swim.

1. The Pool Rules

Since humans are not native to the water, swimmers need to spend a lot of hours in the pool. They need to be in the water developing and maintaining their feel for the for it and efficiency moving through it.

For all training, that becomes the priority. They need to be in the pool.

While an athlete’s sport is always the priority, it’s even more true for a swimmer. It is more important than any dryland, core, conditioning, or strength program. They don’t get the same “cross-training” benefits from doing something on land.

Other ground-based athletes have the advantage that daily locomotion and lifelong development give them. 

It’s an added foundation for most athletes’ sporting movements. They are used to being on the ground, with-in gravity, and producing forces, and getting kinesthetic feedback.

Swimmers aren’t that fortunate. To get those benefits, they have to be in the water.  

Hours upon hours in the pool are required for developing the movement skill and specific conditioning need to excel in the sport. When designing and delivering performance training for swimmers, this always has to be kept in mind.

One of the strongest Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for swimmers can be as simple as healthy hours in the pool swimming.  

That brings us to the 2nd priority. Keeping them healthy.

2. Stay Healthy

If a swimmer is injured and can’t swim, they have broken rule number one. Keeping them in the pool is the priority but keeping them injury and pain-free goes beyond just being in the pool.

Shoulder Pain In Swimmers

Shoulder pain, injury, and dysfunction are prevalent in swimmers.

From a study; Epidemiology of Injuries and Prevention Strategies in Competitive Swimmers :

“Shoulder pain is the most frequent orthopedic injury in swimmers, with a reported prevalence between 40% and 91%… Swimmers at the elite level may swim up to 9 miles per day (more than 2,500 shoulder revolutions). Muscle fatigue of the rotator cuff, upper back, and pectoral muscles caused by repetitive movement may result in microtrauma due to the decrease of dynamic stabilization of the humeral head.”

Epidemiology of Injuries and Prevention Strategies in Competitive Swimmers
Sports Health, May 2012

These microtraumas, in turn, can lead to a swimmer’s shoulder symptoms.

LEARN MORE: FUNCTIONAL ANATOMY OF THE SHOULDER

Upper Body Propulsion In Swimming

That’s because the majority of propulsion in swimming strokes is from the upper body. Only the breaststroke or the underwater dolphin kick (the fifth stroke) have significant contributions to propulsion from the lower body.

A ground-based athlete produces a ground reaction force with the lower body. It is directed through the center of mass to take sports actions.  

A swimmer instead will generate forces against the water that must propel them. In most strokes, the majority (80-90%) of propulsion is generated by the upper limbs.

The shoulder is unique. It has a huge degree of mobility. In fact, the shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body. 

This allows for an extensive range of motion through multiple planes of motion. Unfortunately, the shoulder is also inherently unstable due to this mobility.

Conversely, since it’s highly mobile, this joint also needs lots of stability. The shoulder complex has to transfer all the force generated in the upper extremity into the torso. That means all of the small muscles that stabilize the glenohumeral and scapula-thoracic joints need to function well.

For a swimmer’s shoulder to function well those muscles need to fire in a coordinated manner, have enough strength to stabilize and transfer force, and the endurance to do it for thousands upon thousands of repetitions.

That’s a big ask and part of why there are so many painful shoulders in swimmers.

3. Streamline

training for a swimming streamline
Dryland training for swimmers should emphasize torso and pelvic control to maintain a streamline position

Athletes and coaches need to understand that technique trumps strength. The amount of drag in the water is a bigger factor in swimming velocity than propulsion.  

Think about that for a moment. Minimizing drag, which requires maintaining the body’s streamlined position, is more important than propulsion.

Hydrodynamics tells us why. 

The faster a swimmer goes, the more drag there is. It goes up exponentially. So anything that breaks the streamline and creates drag has an exponential impact to slow the swimmer.

On the other side of this problem, is the fact that propulsion gets harder as you swim faster. 

The faster a swimmer’s hand moves through the water, the more resistance the water creates. It’s also exponential.  

So the faster you go, the more drag slows you down and the harder it is to push the water.

Training for A Swimming Streamline

To minimize drag in the water, athletes should strive to maintain an elongated spine and streamline position, as well as display advanced lumbopelvic control.  

Staying streamlined and minimizing drag in the water is primarily the realm of the pool and the swim coach. 

However, on dryland, we can create the prerequisites the swimmer needs for this.

For the prone strokes of freestyle, butterfly, and breast, this requires the entire posterior chain to help the lower half of the body from dropping. The posterior chain includes all the muscles along the back of the body from toes to the head.

Exercises that link the entire posterior are key for swimmers.

Swimmers also need a foundation of strength and stability in their pelvis and torso.  

The “core” of the body can be defined in many ways. For the purposes of the swimmer, we are defining it 360 degrees from the pelvis through the scapula.

During each swimming stroke, they have to manage rotational forces from the upper body and into the torso. They have to keep their streamline from the head, through the torso, and down into the pelvis and lower body. Any break in this chain will lead to increased drag.

This is why comprehensive core training is key. There is a place for isolated exercises of the core and pelvis, but it’s the multi-muscle/joint exercises that build connectedness need for swimmers.

4. Starts/Turns

training for explosive swimming start
Starts are an important part of the race that dryland training can greatly influence

Whether it’s swimming, sprinting in track & field, or a BMX event, everyone wants a great start. 

In swimming, the opportunity to push off the blocks, overcome inertia, and generate horizontal momentum can be incredibly important.  So we need to consider this when designing training programs for swimming.

Turns are the same. 

Each turn is an opportunity to use the large muscles of the lower body to generate propulsion and build speed. Unlike sprint distances that have few turns, long-distance races have many, each an opportunity to gain speed.

Entering the water off the start, and coming off the turns are the fastest velocities during any event. 

Starts are the fastest, and turns are second. To maximize the benefit, swimmers need power in their lower bodies to be explosive in both.

For sprints, the start (to 15m) makes up a large portion of the entire race and drops as the distance increases. In shorter sprints, this can be over 25% of the race so you better get it right.

Turns on the other hand (5m in, 5 m out), take up a larger portion the longer the race is. This makes sense because the longer the race, the more total turns there are. In a 1500m race, the turn time can be 30-40% of the race.  

So making the most of these is critical in a sport where hundredths of a second make a difference.

Explosive Training For Swimmers

The swim start, and a good turn, require the athlete to explode from a static or relatively static position. In this position, the ankle, knee, and hip are all bent and ready to explode off the wall. 

Although the swimmer is horizontal in the water, their alignment and force vector is like a vertical jump.

During turns the position and biomechanics are very similar to a vertical jump

We need to highlight the static position here because there are differences in the strength qualities required when exploding from static positions.

The static muscle contraction

In many athletic movements, the athlete will perform a counter-movement first. This is the bending of the knees and hips while they dip down before a vertical jump. This occurs before they begin pushing back up explosively, and it gives them added force into the ground.

For a start, the swimmer is in their start position, knee and hips bent, and muscles tensed ready to fire. They need to immediately explode forward on the gun so they don’t waste valuable time.  

It’s a static position. 

They cant take advantage of that added force from the countermovement.

A turn is essentially the same. If they execute the flip turn well, their feet are near/touching the wall, with the knees and hips already bent. They don’t perform a countermovement sinking closer into the wall.

When they have contact with the wall they need to instantly generate high levels of force to explode off the wall. All of this has an impact on their training needs.

This lack of countermovement means when training for explosiveness in the lower body means they will need to have a high rate of force development.

Rate of force development is the ability to turn on the muscle quickly to achieve high forces in a small time. It can be developed with explosive exercises including plyometric jumps, medicine ball throws, and explosive weight training.

5. Propulsion

Ground-based athletes develop forces from the ground up, in a coordinated extension of the hips, knees, and ankle. The summation of these forces propels them forward.

Similarly, swimmers must develop a coordinated, multi-segment flexion from the upper body through the hips to summate the highest propulsive forces.

The dryland training of swimmers needs to include elements that emphasize the coordinated application of strength from the fingertips through the core and to the toes. 

This is the “tip to toes” connected concept.

A key feature of “connected” exercises for swimmers is that the core and hips are controlled for stability at the same time while the upper extremity generates power in pulling and pushing moments. This goes back to the earlier rule that streamline is more important than propulsion.

So in dryland training, we shouldn’t sacrifice core control and body position for more power. We also strive to develop the forces and power with full-body control.

For an exercise to develop “connectedness” the following qualities need to be developed;

  • Athlete exhibits pelvis and spinal control during movement
  • Athlete demonstrates scapular control during strength application
  • Athlete develops pulling tension across multi-segmental, muscle/fascial lines

To achieve this swimmers should emphasize multi muscle/joint exercises. Gymnastic type fundamentals on rings and parallettes are a great way to build a solid foundation and always connect the core and shoulder complex.  

Kettlebell exercises also are a great tool to emphasize the connection and develop stability in the shoulder girdle.

Training Smart for Swimmers

To design an effective training program for swimmers, you have to first understand the demands of the sport.  Many of the same training methods used for other athletes will pay dividends for swimmers as well.

However, there are unique aspects to swimming we have to consider as swimmers reach higher levels.

Hydrodynamics are the driving factor and only when we understand their impact on the swimmer can a program be “swimming specific”.

The key concepts are;

  • The time in the pool rules all else
  • Healthy swimmers are in the pool and capable of efficient technique
  • Maintaining a streamline is more important than greater propulsion
  • The starts and turns are the faster parts of the race and make up large portions of it
  • Propulsion in swimming develops from the fingertips and connects through the core

Building training for a swimmer begins at a young age by developing all-around athletes. On top of that athletic foundation, dryland then continues to become more swimming-specific by following the rules above.

There are many ways to train swimmers, but to be effective, the rules need to be followed.