The Importance of In-Season Sports Performance Training: Part 2

By: Tim Hanaway

Sports Performance Director, Velocity Norwood

In part one of this installment, I set the landscape as to why in-season training was so necessary for youth athletes. In a nutshell, the answer boils down to two main points:

  1. One, in-season practices are often far less physically demanding than off-season practices, which leads to drastic de-conditioning
  2. for athletes who did not maintain adequate strength training in-season for as little as one to two days per week, most strength gains made in the off-season will decrease massively!

Nevertheless, in looking at the other effects of in-season training, or more specifically, a lack thereof, it is essential to note that lack of physical preparation during in-season periods often results in significant increases in injury rates.

For example, in a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, a group of British researchers noted that when looking at in-season resistance training on youth professional soccer players, English Premier teams that employed in-season strength and conditioning programs with their athletes spent nearly $494,000 less on sports medicine costs than programs that did not use in-season strength training!

Furthermore, in using one of the teams from the research design as a case-study, the Premiership team in question rose their player availability to 95% (compared to other teams) meaning the coaches could basically pick from their best players throughout the season!

Finally, in adding even more metrics back to the original points listed in installment one of this article, performance metrics increased by as much as 5% when athletes trained as little as 1x per week, compared to nearly doubling (11.6%) when athletes trained 2x per week.

Call to Action:

As a result, the above findings highlight the fact that in-season training reduces the risk of injury drastically, while also providing coaches with the chance to field their best team at all times. Furthermore, athletes who participate in in-season strength training can actually improve their performances throughout the season anywhere between 5 and 12%!

Therefore, for athletes and coaches that are serious about taking team and individual performances to the next level, there is no substitution for in-season training.

Up to this point, in-season training for youth athletes has proved crucial for a multitude of reasons:

  • In-season practices are often far less physically demanding than off-season practices, which leads to drastic de-conditioning
  • For athletes who did not maintain adequate strength training in-season for as little as one to two days per week, most strength gains made in the off-season will decrease massively!
  • Research has shown that at the professional level, in-season training reduces injury risk significantly, enhances individual playing time within squads and actually leads to in-season performance gains as opposed to pure maintenance.

However, in spite of all these positive in-season gains, much confusion still exists with in-season training compared to off-season training! For instance, a question I get asked by parents often is “what is the difference?”

Understanding Your Bank Account

In providing an easy-to-understand analogy, I like to explain to parents that off-season training is very much like opening an ‘athletic savings account.’

With every resistance training, speed, agility, and conditioning session an athlete participates in during the off-season, the athlete is effectively depositing into their personal ‘athletic bank account,’ growing their own personal ‘spending’ power on the field, court or ice in the process.

In other words, off-season training is all about maximizing physical preparation. Given that here at Velocity we train our athletes for speed using our ‘Big Force, Short Time’ formula, using the off-season to build strength and power through resistance training and Olympic lifting allows our young athletes to change their bodies by improving coordination and re-training their nervous systems so that their muscles can produce more force in less time, resulting in quicker reaction times and more explosive skill execution.

As a consequence, the more training an athlete has in the off-season, the more physical ‘currency’ they can draw upon during the competitive season to maximize performance!

Hence, a robust off-season program is characterized by the following:

  • Strength and Power Training using full-body, free-weight movements
  • Speed & Agility Training o improve first-step quickness and top speed mechanics, to enhance coordination, multi-direction reaction times and straight-line speeds.
  • Conditioning Training to fuel performance and reduce recovery times so that athletes can go harder for longer.

Finally, because athletes performing off-season programs do not usually play as many competitive games means more significant time, attention, and detail can go into the off-season program.

How to Withdraw from an Athletic Bank Account But Not Go Broke In the Process!

Given that in-season training is all about putting as much physical preparation currency into an athlete’s ‘bank account,’ competition is where an athlete makes their withdrawals.

For example, every time an athlete goes hard in competition, their muscles and body break down a little bit due to a host of physical processes and microtraumas. Muscle soreness, for example, is often attributed to small microscopic tears in muscle cells that take time, hydration, and proper nutrition to heal.

When an athlete performs in-season training, they continue to ‘top-up’ their athletic bank account, meaning they can continue to go harder, for longer in the season. Athletes that fail to perform in-season training; on the other hand, effectively ‘run out of money,’ they don’t recover as well and instead become more susceptible to injury.

However, because in-season training needs to be balanced with competition means it is characterized by the following:

  • Less training volume: In other words, instead of doing 5 exercises, athletes might instead do 3 to preserve more energy.
  • Less focus on conditioning: Even though practices aren’t necessarily as intense, competitions still are so athletes in-season will condition but not to the same extent as in the off-season.
  • Less focus on speed and agility: Like conditioning, athletes can get plenty of agility and speed work during games and practices. However, certain times they won’t so supplementary speed and agility training will feature, albeit in a reduced format.

In closing, the main difference between off-season and in-season training primarily comes down to emphasis and volume. Like a savings account, off-season training allows athletes to open their own ‘athletic bank account’ of physical skill and preparation that they can withdrawal from all season long.

Failure to perform off-season training (opening the account) and maintain it with fresh deposits (in-season training) leads to significant reductions in sports ability. As a result, it is imperative that athletes train during the off-season and in-season to maximize performance, as well as make continued gains every year.

Is Youth Strength Training Safe?

Strength Training Is Injury Prevention

The Importance of In-Season Sports Performance Training: Part 1, If You Don’t Use It You Lose It!

By: Tim Hanaway

Sports Performance Director

Velocity Norwood

Strength, in my opinion, is the single most important physical attribute that an athlete can possess as strength is literally the precursor to all forms of athleticism. Want to get instantly faster, more agile, quicker, more explosive, and maintain more endurance? Strength training will significantly enhance all of them. Adopting a ground-based, functional strength-training program that utilizes upper and lower-body, compound movements is genuinely the key to athletic success and longevity in my humble opinion.

The biggest challenge with strength and power training is that all the amazing benefits we associate with it from a scientific standpoint (i.e. increases in force production, speed of muscle contractions, inter-muscular coordination, enhanced ground-reaction time, etc.) are in fact reversible. Yes, you read that, right! All the hard work and performance gains an athlete makes during the off-season, or pre-season can, in fact, go away when this type of training is not maintained for prolonged periods.

The realities of In-season:

The above fact is one that I find often takes young parents and athletes by surprise. “How could this be?” A father might ask, as they then explain that their son or daughter plays for 2 travel teams, a rec team and their school team. “Surely, all that practice and hard-work would go a long way towards enhancing fitness?”

The truth is that more often than not, practices are simply not focused or intense enough in-season to stress a young athlete’s body to develop or maintain strength or fitness levels.

To illustrate this point, let me give you some perspective: A head coach is more often than not focused on their own “one thing” during the season, which is winning. Simply put, priorities change once the season starts! Head coaches are instead more focused on tactics, plays and improving all the areas of need highlighted in the previous week’s game, compared to fitness and strength gains.

In using basketball as an example, if the team didn’t get enough rebounds during the last game, you better believe the coach is going to have the athletes perform lots of ‘box out’ drills in order to re-enforce technique and try to remedy the situation. Likewise, if the team’s offense wasn’t functioning properly, chances are that same coach is going to spend a significant amount of time in practice that week walking through/going over all the plays at a moderate pace/intensity in order to “iron out the kinks” and fix any confusion.

So what does this mean from an observational/practical standpoint? Well, it most likely means that the 5 starters on the team will go through the plays at a moderate intensity (at best), with the remaining 10 players standing around and watching from the sideline for prolonged periods of time. Yes, the truth is, go to any team practice in-season and chances are that you are going to witness a significant amount of standing around, talking, and direction from the coach, with much less time dedicated to all-out scrimmages or drills attempting to simulate game-day conditions, compared to pre-season activity. This same trend is far from uncommon and readily identified within a scientific study conducted by Wellman and colleagues (2007) that looked to compare the differences between pre-season and in-season practices and game-times among NCAA Division I football players.

The fact is, whether discussing the height of collegiate sport or your average middle-school or high school team, studies like this one show that athletes simply do not experience the same kind of workloads during the in-season period compared to pre-season, as much more time is instead dedicated to tactics. So, what is the outcome of this rather apparent paradox if an athlete is no longer strength and power training, while simultaneously experiencing even less fitness training within a typical in-season practice?

In a study performed on elite male rugby and football players, McMaster and colleagues (2013) found that strength levels have a tendency to decrease after a three-week period when no form of strength activity is maintained. In addition, according to Meylan and colleagues (2013), the decay rates of strength parameters for youth athletes can show an even more marked difference, especially for those athletes who have not yet hit their growth spurt. According to the researchers, these athletes lost more strength and forgot it even quicker compared to their peers who have had already hit their growth spurt!

The Good News:

As dismaying as this information may be, the good news is that there are some very practical solutions that athletes can undertake in order to mitigate the negative effects of the paradoxical in-season strength and fitness loss. For example, If the mantra ‘use it or lose it’ is clearly relevant in this case, the simple solution, of course, is to ‘use it’ by strength training in-season! However, in speaking with the same parent from the above example that is already questioning how they could possibly train 4x per week in-season, when they are already juggling so much between the numerous teams and practices their son/daughter is already participating in, the good news is that you do not need to train nearly as long or as frequently in-season in order to maintain all the performance gains made in the off or pre-season!

To illustrate, in a study conducted on male handball players (Hermassi et al. 2017), researchers found that in as little as two sessions per week athletes were able to maintain their performance gains, while another study found that so long as intensity was kept high, athletes (in this case rowers) were able to maintain their performance gains in as little as one session per week (Bell et al. 1993).

Call to Action:

So now that the negative effects of training cessation have been presented, and the fact that as little as one session per week can effectively maintain strength and fitness gains throughout the course of a season, the question beckons, what can you do to safe-guard and maximize your son or daughter’s performance gains?

The answer is

Maintain an in-season strength and conditioning routine that can be executed in a little as one hour per week.

Our experience – and the experience of the athletes who train with us – confirms that this is all it takes to make sure they finish the season just as strong as they were at the start. In addition to meaning these athletes perform well during the season it also means that their strength improvements do not have to be regained at the end of each season, effectively accelerating their performance at a rate greater than their peers.

References:

Bell, G. J., Syrotuik, D. G., Attwood, K., & Quinney, H. A. (1993). Maintenance of Strength Gains While Performing Endurance Training in Oarswomen. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology,18(1), 104-115. doi:10.1139/h93-010

You need to know: strength is more than just weight on a barbell

Mobility vs Flexibility: They Are Different And Why You Care

mobility vs flexibility

People are often confused about the differences between mobility vs flexibility.   It matters because it affects your athleticism and injury risk.  Hope that gets your attention because it’s often the neglected and mis-understood step-child of training.

You probably recognize that athleticism has multiple facets.  Strength, speed, and stamina are a few.  To be fair, most people would probably include flexibility in there as well. 

Maybe you were taught to stretch in gym class back in the day.  Maybe you’ve read enough articles from trainers to know about foam rolling.  How about endless pics of yoga and mobility work on social media?

You know there’s something that you should probably be doing, but why are some people talking about mobility and others flexibility.  Aren’t these the same thing? 

Mobility vs flexibility: Is there really a difference?

Yes.  Mobility and flexibility are related but different things.

However, as you scroll through feed and listen to trainers talk, they are often used interchangeably.   Most trainers in the fitness and performance training fields don’t even know they are different.

Traditional definition in sports medicine they would be;

FLEXIBILITY: The ability of a muscle to be lengthened.

MOBILITY: The ability of a joint to move through a range of motion

However, this is not what we are discussing here.  We are not as interested in the traditional definition. We are more interested in the modern concepts that apply to injury prevention and performance.

Modern concept definition:

FLEXIBILITY: The ability of a muscle to be lengthened.

MOBILITY: The ability to control movement through a range of motion

Similar, but some key differences.  The concept of mobility incorporates flexibility, but not necessarily vice-versa.  The key for athletes is mobility.  Flexibility isn’t enough.

Mobility is a term and concept that encompasses a range of factors affecting your movement including:

  • The tissues ability to lengthen
  • The joint ability to move
  • The nervous systems ability to relax and allow movement
  • The neuromuscular systems ability to activate muscles and control movement through all ranges of motion.

Flexibility is Important for Mobility

You do need enough flexibility in your muscles to obtain functional and sport specific mobility. This matters, as you are considering whether to work on mobility vs flexibility.

Flexibility is passive. It’s your ability to move your connective tissue with the help of another person or tool, or gravity.  Your muscles passively allow the movement to happen. 

muscle are elastic and should stretch like a rubber band

Think of flexibility like a rubber band. When you pull both ends, it stretches.  It’s flexible. If it doesn’t stretch, it’s inflexible. If it’s too inflexible, it could even snap. It’s the same thing with muscles.  They have elastic components and are designed to move through a stretch.

Flexibility also requires your joint capsule have a full range of motion as well.  It doesn’t matter how stretchy your muscles are if the joint itself won’t allow the movement.

Since. mobility includes moving through a full range of motion, you are going to need to have some flexibility in those muscles to be mobile.

Mobility for Better Movement

The problem comes in when people think being flexible is enough.  Sure you can stretch your body into all kinds of positions.  Your muscle clearly have flexibility, but can they control it?

A person with great mobility is able to perform movement patterns with no restrictions. The movement is efficient and there aren’t any compensations.  They have the range of motion and the neuromuscular control and strength to move through the pattern.

athletes need mobility to move efficiently

On the other hand, some people can perform a movement pattern successfully, but they compensate.  They may fire some muscles in a different sequence, use different muscle for stability or avoid certain joint position.   

A flexible person may or may not have the stabilizer strength, balance, or coordination to perform the same functional movements as the person with great mobility.  This goes back to some of the fundamental differences of flexibility vs mobility.

Control.  Control comes through the strength in your muscles.  Control comes through coordination of those muscles.  Control comes from properly functioning stabilizers.

RELATED: 4 Myths About Muscle Pliability You Need To Know

How Do You Improve Mobility?

Mobility is important, and flexibility is a part of that. That doesn’t usaully mean you need to spend an extra hour in the gym every day.  Incorporating a steady stream of exercises for both flexibility and mobility into you training plan will go a long way.

In addition to a general approach you should prioritize extra time for certain areas.  You may already know the areas or your body that need to improve.  Or maybe its specific to your sport.  A comprehensive profile from a professional goes a long way towards targeting the areas that will get you the most bang for your buck.

Methods To Increase Mobility

  • Self Myo-Fascial techniques: Sometimes these may be excruciating but can be very effective.  Foam rolling, lacrosse balls and other tools are basically a type of self-massage. These techniques help you release tight spots in your muscles.
  • Mobility Drills: These are exercises that are specifically geared towards training your range of motion around joints. They involve actively moving, contracting and relaxing muscles through the joints range of motion.  Some of these may isolate, while others involve multi-joint movement patterns.
  • Stretching: This may or may not be necessary. If you’re naturally a very flexible person, stretching can make your joints more vulnerable to injury. However, if you’ve always been stiff, and it’s stopping you from moving well, you may benefit.  Some targeted stretches may be enough both as part of the warm-up and separate from it.
  • Dynamic Warm-Up: Whether its 5 minutes or 30, a good dynamic warm-up can work wonders.  This type of warm-up does more then only increase muscle temperature and blood. It incorporates all of the above with movement.  You actually prep the elements of mobility as you prepare for the workout or competition.

Mobility Matters

Most athletes need to work on maintaining or improving their mobility.  The strains and stresses of playing a sport add up.  Repetitive motion puts uneven stress on your body and it adapts.

Mobility allows you to move as efficiently as possible.  That means better performance and less risk of injury.  In the end it not a question of mobility vs flexibility, but how you are going to maintain or improve them.  Get it right so you can move your best.

Research Proves How Faster Sprinters Use Strength For Speed

SMU Sprint Research

Research from the world’s leading sport scientists proves that faster sprinters need strength for speed. They are able to apply more force to the ground than slower runners. Studies from institutions including Harvard University and SMU’s Locomotor Performance Laboratory have shown how these forces are the difference between faster and slower sprinters.

They’ve proven that if you want to maximize your speed, you need to apply big forces to the ground quickly. This is one aspect of strength that includes two different types of strength.

The Velocity Speed Formula has 4 main components and two of those are BIG FORCE and SMALL TIME. Now researchers have confirmed that these 2 components of the Speed Formula are a big difference between faster and slower sprinters.

RELATED: Learn Velocity’s Proven BIG 4 Speed Formula

Biomechanics of Sprinting

Sprinting has been studied for decades. However, most of this was done using video to analyze how sprinters moved. Using video gives you a picture of the kinematics. This is how we measure and describe motion through body position, joint angles and movement velocity.

This kinematic research has given us a lot of useful information. Still, there is another component to the biomechanics that hasn’t been looked at much, and that’s the kinetics.

These are the forces that are used to create that motion and body position. It’s a lot harder because you need a track full of force plates and moving cameras or a specialized research treadmill. Yet, it’s critical to understand the needs of strength for speed.

Kinetics of Speed – Force

To propel your body forward, and to keep you upright, your leg has to produce a lot of force into the ground on each step. That’s what builds your momentum during acceleration phases and keeps it going during your full speed sprinting.

You create that big force, by first getting your leg up into the right position on each stride. Picture a sprinter with their front thigh up high, about parallel with the ground. Then you use the explosive strength in your glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings to generate power and drive your foot down into the ground.

“The top sprinters have developed a wind-up and delivery mechanism to augment impact forces. Other runners do not do so.” Ken Clark, a researcher in the SMU Locomotor Performance Laboratory

https://blog.smu.edu/research/2017/01/30/new-study-connects-running-motion-to-ground-force-provides-patterns-for-any-runner/

Driving the leg down and back into the ground is going to create a big impact on each step. The peak force during that ground contact is gong to be 4-5 times bodyweight when sprinting. Now imagine a 200lbs athlete, that’s 800-1000 lbs. on a single leg, each step.

Kinetics of Speed – Time

Your linear speed dictates why the big force you generated has to be applied in a small time. The faster you sprint, the faster you need to apply that big force.

Think about it. As you sprint faster, your body is moving over the ground with greater velocity. You’re moving faster over that part of the ground under your foot. The faster you sprint; the less time your foot is in contact with the ground. That’s just simple physics.

When your foot hits the ground, it’s driving down with a lot of power. There’s only 90-130 milliseconds of time to get all that force into the ground.

To realize how fast that is take out your phone. Open the stopwatch. Try to hit “start”, then “stop” as fast as you can.
What did you get?

Most people will get between 00.12 and 00.15. Some may beat that. This should give you some perspective; it is a small time to apply that force of 4-5 times bodyweight.

Strength For Speed and Stiffness

Now let’s combine that big force with the small time. This is the hard part, and where some athletes fail. You need the explosive strength to get the leg attacking down at the ground as hard as possible.

And you need the reactive strength and kinetic chain “stiffness” to not collapse on contact. Only when you have the reactive strength to provide the stiffness can you fully benefits from those big forces of the leg swing. This is a key part of understanding strength for speed.

Your ankle, knee or hip all have to stay “stiff” enough to apply the force of 4-5 times bodyweight and not bend or absorb it. If they cushion it like a shock absorber, some of the force is wasted.

This doesn’t mean stiff as in lack of flexibility. It means that the muscles and tendons in your lower body can hit the ground and deliver all your power without stretching or relaxing.

The Bouncing Ball Analogy

An analogy to help visualize this is to picture 2 bouncing balls. One is a bouncy, superball made of a “stiff” rubber. The other is a beach ball, soft and compliant. Throw them down with as much force as possible. Which one bounces higher off the ground?

The stiffer superball bounces higher. Why? Because it stores elastic energy and applies the force back into the ground. The beach ball absorbs some of the force and doesn’t have the elastic energy to rebound.

That superball is like reactive strength. Your muscles and tendons don’t relax and absorb the force. They store elastic energy and use it to help you go faster.

“We found that the fastest athletes all do the same thing to apply the greater forces needed to attain faster speeds. They cock the knee high before driving the foot into the ground, while maintaining a stiff ankle. These actions elevate ground forces by stopping the lower leg abruptly upon impact.” Peter Weyand, director of the Locomotor Performance Lab

https://blog.smu.edu/research/2017/01/30/new-study-connects-running-motion-to-ground-force-provides-patterns-for-any-runner/

Sprinting Fast Requires Strength

The research on faster sprinters shows why you need strength for speed. And we are not just talking about weight on a barbell.

To generate a big force with your lower leg you will need explosive strength. To apply it you need reactive strength for stiffness. The good news is that research has also shown that getting stronger generally correlates with getting faster.

You can develop these specific strength qualities by working in the weightroom using traditional and Olympic lifts. You do it using plyometrics properly. Especially single leg plyometrics with an emphasis on reactive strength.

You create that stiffness building core and hip stability to transmit and control those forces. And most importantly, you develop it by sprinting with good mechanics.

We know you need strength for speed. The Velocity Speed Formula is built on science and proven in sport. The research is starting to catch up and show why it works and can help you get faster.

TO LEARN MORE: The Ultimate Guide To Speed Training

Selected References

  • Faster top running speeds are achieved with greater ground forces not more rapid leg movements Weyand, et. al , J Appl Physiol 89: 1991–1999, 2000.
  • Are running speeds maximized with simple-spring stance mechanics?Kenneth P. Clark, Peter G. Weyand, Journal of Applied Physiology Published 31 July 2014
  • Relationships Between Ground Reaction Impulse and Sprint Acceleration Performance in Team Sport Athletes, Kawamori, et. al, The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 27(3), April 2012
  • Increases in lower-body strength transfer positively to sprint performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis, Seitz, et. al., Sports Med. 2014 Dec;44(12):1693-702
  • New study connects running motion to ground force, provides patterns for any runner. SMU Research Blog, January 30, 2017. https://blog.smu.edu/research/2017/01/30/new-study-connects-running-motion-to-ground-force-provides-patterns-for-any-runner/

Who Is To Blame for Kevin Durant’s Injury: What We Can Learn About Injuries In Youth Sports

Kevin Durant's Injury To Achilles Tendon

In the immediate aftermath of the injuries to the Golden State Warriors, the finger was being pointed.  Being pointed with blame.  Whose fault is a major injury like the Achilles tendon rupture of Kevin Durant? 

However, instead of focusing on the chatter about blame, what can young athletes, their parents and coaches take away from this?

I’d say it’s responsibility and perspective.

Blame for Kevin Durant’s Injury

Whose fault is it?  After all it must be someone’s, right?

Maybe KD himself?

Is it the Golden State Warriors staff? The team’s coaches or management?

What about the press and sports talk media, or just plain old social media?

Opinions aren’t hard to come by right now.  Sports talk shows and twitter are pointing fingers.

In the end, 99% of these guesses (and that’s all they are unless you were part of that process) are clueless. 

Velocity Knows About Injury Decisions

We are routinely part of these decisions in elite sports around the world.  We’ve seen both sides.  We’ve been part of the team or organization and on the outside as independent consultants for players.  We’ve had to give depositions on player/ management issues.  We’ve seen teams that are trying to better protect players and one’s that are just trying to win now.

Velocity’s staff has trained KD himself in the off-season.

I’ve also personally watched an international player go down with an Achilles tear in our own training facility.  Devastating when it was just 6 months before the World Cup.  The player had no history, no symptoms. 

It made no sense.

Until we learned a few weeks later that several other of the national team players also had recent tendon and ligament injuries in a few weeks span.

Turns out, the team doc used a particular anti-malaria medication for a trip to a third world country.  That medication put them at a higher risk of that type of injury.  The players weren’t informed of the risk.  That’s not cool.

Sports Injuries Are Complex

So from our elite sport perspective, here’s what you should know when it comes to answers why it happened; it’s complex.

Nobody likes to hear that.  They want black/white answers and someone to blame.  There could be someone to blame, we don’t know from the outside.  More likely, it’s a complex mix of factors.

Diagnosing and managing injuries has many factors and we are dealing with humans who don’t all go through the same process.

Most of the people we know on the staff of NBA teams are good practitioners working hard to help their athletes.

Most athletes are trying to balance their competitive drive, social pressures and the goal of preserving their financial future.

The Responsibility For Preventing Injury

Players have to make choices about whether to play or not.  Although many people would paint athletes as spoiled, undeserving millionaires playing a kids game, that is an unjust portrayal. 

A player like KD loves the game.  He’s a competitor.  He wants to be competing on the biggest stage injured or not.  He want his team to win. 

He also wants to protect his family and their future.  He wants to protect his greatest asset, his athleticism, skill and body.

Injuries are part of sports and they are a threat to any athlete pro of amateur.  For talent pros and amateurs, injuries are a threat to financial stability from pro contracts, endorsements and college scholarships.  If you get hurt, you could lose it.

It’s also a threat to lifelong health and function.  Injuries can take a lifelong toll on your physical well-being.  They can threaten your enjoyment of a sport and physical activity.

So, on every level players need to also take responsibility for themselves.

RELATED: Here’s A Proven Way To Reduce Injury Risk

Athlete’s and Self Reliance

But any athlete can be responsible.  It’s one of the great lessons sports can help teach.

Of course this is different for a highly paid pro who comes to us and spends thousands of dollars on training, rehab, recovery and more.  That’s basically a business investment.

Want to play better and recover faster, be responsible and get to sleep. 

Want to be a little bit more fit or gain more muscle, eat better.

RELATED: The Most Important Strategy So Athletes Can Recover Better

In fact, this is one of the most rewarding things we see working with young athletes.  The choices they make, on their own to be self reliant.  Young men and women being proactive in their life.

Not blaming, and not waiting.  They start eating a little better at school.  They go out for that extra run on their own.  They put down their phone and go to bed a little earlier than their peers.

The types of injuries that struck Golden State were devastating.  The fear is that the team didn’t do enough (which appears unfounded from our knowledge).  This should be a reminder or wake-up call that you need to be responsible to take care of yourself. 

Don’t count only on your team, your staff, your school, etc…  Be proactive in taking steps to reduce your risk of injury.  Be proactive if injured in managing your treatment and recovery.

KD’s Decision To Play Injured

Whether or not the risk was worth it for KD to go into that game can truly only be answered by KD.  What was the importance of competing to win versus the risk of injury to his career? 

Did pressure from the media or team mates sway his decision?

Did he just want to be the hero?  The one we idolize in sports for overcoming pain and injury.

Even the most rational person would be hard pressed to not absorb some of that pressure.

We don’t know.

Young Athletes Need Perspective On Playing Injured

However, I’d like to see this as a lesson for young athletes.  For their parents and coaches. 

We are questioning if it was a good decision for him.  He’s an adult and one who has experience.  He has advisors and got outside opinions.  He’s won before and financially sound. 

Yet, too often, young athletes feel that same pressure.  Kids, high school and college players.  They don’t have the same experience tor wisdom to draw from.  They don’t have millions in the bank already.  They haven’t reached the pinnacle of their sport.

I’ve watched as we evaluated young athletes for functional after returning from injury.  They were clearly not ready to go back. 

But they did…

Because the parent really wanted them to overcome and play. 

Because a medical professional was negligent in confirming if this player was functional, didn’t and cleared them anyway. 

Because the team, teammates or even other parents pressured them.

Some of them were all right.  Some ended up with another surgery.

So how come there is so much outcry and questioning of KD’s decision, when we see young athletes risking so much all the time?

Let’s improve the conversation about risk.  Young athletes don’t have the perspective that parents and coaches should.  All of us can improve this.

What Next For Youth Sports Injuries

The injury to Kevin Durant is horrific and has made people speculate and talk about responsibility.  Let’s use this as an opportunity to expand the conversation about responsibility and perspective in youth sports injuries. 

There are serious risks when playing hurt and trying to compete when the body isn’t ready.  Every young athlete, coach and parent have a responsibility to truly consider this as well as being proactive in lowering the risk of injury.

Youth Sports Injury Resources:

Positive Coaching Alliance

Stop Sports Injuries

HealthyChildren.org

Very Well Family

To the social media training gurus…

social media training gurus

Stop it! Please, just stop! 

To social media training gurus, movement ninjas, and speed wizards, in youth training;

You’re doing yourself and so many young athletes a disservice. Hurting kids. Ruining athleticism. You’re embarrassing a profession. It needs to stop.

I can’t look at social media without seeing it. The cool looking video clip with a shredded, athletic 20 year old. They’re doing this combination of fast, athletic looking movements. It is impressive.  It gets lots of likes. 

Unfortunately, it’s also a total waste of time. It’s teaching the wrong movement patterns and actually puts that young athlete at a higher risk of injury.

…but hey, it looked really cool.

training guru
hi…I’m completely unqualified, but my drills look cool on social media!

Then they start offering their “training” expertise to others and charging for it.

But, the problem is not him, or his tribe in the fantasy world of social media. It’s us in the profession and it’s the very parents being ripped off.

Sure, they can do some awesome combinations of movements, plyo drills, yoga moves, gymnastics and whatever. Looking good in little, to no clothing is a pre-requisite as well. They take great videos and selfies in the gym, at the field and places you want to be.

Maybe it’s inspirational. That’s ok. Sometimes its educational, and that’s good too.

But what about when people start listening to them and trusting them with their health or performance?

Does that person actually have an education? Are they qualified? Do they know when they aren’t qualified and to refer to a professional?

Have they put in some years of doing it, apprenticing under masters of the craft and making the mistakes we all do along the way?

All these social media training experts aren’t necessarily bad people. But we are letting too many unqualified, uneducated and inexperienced ones doing damage.

As professionals, too many of us let them get away with it. We shake our heads, or we just laugh at them behind their backs. We know that some might mean well, but they don’t see the danger.

The danger of misleading people to trust that they have real knowledge and understanding of health, fitness or performance. The time, money and effort people may waste under their direction. The violated trust of a coach to an athlete.

And worst of all, the real danger of injury caused by these gurus ignorance. That lack of understanding of biomechanics, injury, adolescent physiology.

RELATED: Discover The Secret To Building Champion Athletes

And why do parents settle for it? Sure it’s inspiring to see the picture and videos of workouts and drills. It’s hard to know how to find a good coach. But why are you trusting your kids health to this person?

Next time you encounter a social media expert, speed guru, kettlebell rockstar, or former athlete, ask them to prove they are qualified to guide your and influence your child!

I only took a weekend course, but I look good, right?

Do you just trust your kid to anyone who looks good on social media?

Would you choose your airline pilot by their awesome social media profile? “Hey, I’ve only flown a Microsoft flight simulator once before, but don’t I look good as a jumbo jet pilot? Come fly with me!”

And parents continue to feed the growing trend, by wasting their money without checking that these people know what they are talking about. More growth for the mythical social gurus and self-titled experts.

They’re all over out there.  Social media experts expounding knowledge and answers.  Yet they are still in school (if they even went) or in their first job.  They didn’t apprentice or learn their craft.  No formal training.  Do they even know what to do in an emergency or CPR.  

But hey, they did do that weekend certification that everybody passes…

When I see it, I pray.  Pray they don’t do any significant damage. That they realize when they are in over their heads.

Next time you encounter a social media training guru, speed expert, kettlebell rockstar, or former athlete, ask them to prove they are qualified to guide your and influence your child!

Not by showing you what they can do, but showing what their clients can do. Did their clients improve?

How do they handle athletes that aren’t as talented? What about ones with injury? What do they know about building a winning mindset?

Let’s raise the bar. Make them prove they are qualified to train your child.

GET THE PARENTS GUIDE TO SELECTING A PERFORMANCE COACH

Olympic Lifting for Youth Athletes: Providing the Ultimate Performance Advantage

Olympic Lifting for youth athletes

Olympic Lifting for Youth Athletes: Providing the Ultimate Performance Advantage

By Coach Tim Hanway CSCS. Sports Performance Director – Norwood
 
Every four years without exception, the world is treated to the Summer Olympic Games. The world’s best athletes assemble and compete for national honor, prestige and glory.
 
It’s Usain Bolt shattering preconceived notions of speed. Simon Biles combining all elements of strength, power, poise and grace in what can only be described as gymnastics masterclass. The level of athleticism at the Olympic Games is truly inspiring.
 
From a sports performance standpoint, coaches like myself view the Olympic Games through a different lens. Specifically, those displays of incredible athleticism stimulate our appetites and thirst for knowledge.
 

Olympic lifts are a common denominator

As coaches, we look at the performances of world-class athletes and ask ourselves; how can we reverse engineer the training process? What allowed these athletes to hit such peak form? How can we also improve own athletes’ performances?
 
I have found that there is a common denominator when looking at the training systems of all athletes. That is, the successful integration of Olympic Lifting into the athlete’s respective training programsOver the years, I have spoke with countless coaches and athletes alike. Reviewed training logs of professional, collegiate and other national level athletes. The Olympic lifts are almost always there.
 
To be successful in the highest level of any sport, athletes need to reach their maximal levels of strength, power and speedOlympic lifting for youth athletes is one strategy to achieve this.
 

Is Olympic Lifting For Young Athletes; Is It Good?

The beauty of Olympic lifts is that they are hands-down the single-best method for developing the many aspects of strength, power, speed and total-body athleticism.
 
However, Olympic lifts have a highly technical in nature. Sometimes they get a bad reputation from athletes, parents and even strength and conditioning coaches. They can have a perceived difficulty and/or danger.
 
However, when Olympic lifting is one of the safest, most versatile and effective methods of training sport-specific athleticism. When they are taught and executed properly.
 
Like so many elements of training, it can be misunderstood. Which is why the purpose of this article is to shed light on Olympic lifting.
 
For young athletes there are many benefits. Incorporating them into your training program can help you achieve newfound levels of performance and enhanced athleticism. So we are providing a general overview of these lifts.
 

The Snatch and Clean & Jerk

The Olympic lifts are broken down into two main categories. These two categories are called the “Snatch” and the “Clean & Jerk”.
 
power ouptut of olympic liftsAs portrayed in the following diagrams, the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk lifts are very similar in that in both instances, the movement ends when the bar is successfully lifted over the athlete’s head.
Sports science research shows both have very large power outputs.  Much larger than classic compound strength exercises.

The Snatch

The Snatch, according to world renowned Performance Coach, Clive Brewer, is the “most powerful, whole-body human movement possible in sport”. It requires a tremendous explosive effort to move that bar from ground to overhead in one movement.

Technical breakdown of snatch olympic lift
Figure 1: Demonstration of the Various phases of the “Snatch”

The Clean & Jerk

The Clean & Jerk on the other hand, is a two-part exercise where the Snatch ends when the bar is successfully lifted over the athlete’s head. Although nearly identical, the position of the bar and segmented nature of the Clean & Jerk allows athletes to lift even heavier weights than when performing the Snatch.
 
However, because of the heavier weight and greater distance of bar travel, the speed of execution for the Clean & Jerk is slower.

Technical breakdown of the clean & jerk olympic lift
Figure 2: Demonstration of the Various phases of the “Clean & Jerk”

With that, the emphasis of power in training (i.e. speed vs. force) becomes the key element in executing the two lifts and more specifically, successfully training the body when performing the Clean & Jerk.
 

Big Force, Small-Time: The Basis of Athletic Power

 
Drilling a soccer ball 50yds from midfield. Soaring through the air to dunk a basketball. Making bone-shattering hits as an offensive lineman. Each of these illustrates the concept of power application.
 
However, as alluded to above when discussing the difference between the Snatch & Clean and the Jerk, each of the above three scenarios illustrates different types of power. To understand the difference between the three, we must first discuss what power exactly is:
 
In its simplest terms, power can be described in the following mathematical equation:
 
Power = Force x Velocity
 
“Force” in this equation can be broken down into equaling the product of Mass x Acceleration. Producing force is the application of “strength”.
 
“Velocity” on the other hand, can be described as equaling the distance an object travels divided by the time it takes to get there (Velocity = Distance/time). This is commonly called “speed”.
 
Jumping, sprinting, cutting and exploding from a three-point stance are all examples of sporting skills that each require a high degree of force generation, in the shortest time possible (Force x Velocity).
 
Hence, the mantra ‘Big Force, Small Time’ perfectly captures the essence of optimal sports performance training. Most sports movements require an optimal combination of force and velocity. to be successfully executed at the highest level.
 

The force-velocity curve

Either Force or Velocity can be emphasized in the above equation to maximize power output. Depending upon the task at hand, you might want one more than the other.

 
This concept is best illustrated in the following image, which depicts what is commonly known as Sports Science circles as the “Force-Velocity Curve”.
 

the force velocity curve
Figure 3: Illustration of the ‘Force Velocity Curve’

In the diagram you can see the inverse relationship between maximal force and maximal velocity. In a nutshell, the laws of physics state that when resistance or force levels go up, speed of movement goes down and vice-versa.
 
Let me illustrate this concept into force and velocity components. I often ask my athletes; “Which would you rather: Be hit by a cement truck going 10 mph or be hit by a bullet going 1,700 mph?” The look I typically get in return tells me that neither option is considered ideal.
 
In each instance, both the cement truck and fired bullet are considered extremely powerful from a physics standpoint. In the truck scenario, what makes the truck so powerful is the sheer weight and force of the truck of question. What it lacks in speed, it more than makes up for in mass.  Getting hit by a truck is very unpleasant!
 
The bullet on the other-hand, is tiny. The mass of such a small object is practically inconsequential on its own, but when traveling at such incredible speeds, represents a powerful and equally dangerous scenario.
 
In conclusion, when it comes to developing athletic performance, not all power situations are created equal. This is part of the reason Olympic lifting for youth athletes is a great way to train power.
 

The Best Athletes “Surf the Curve” In Their Training:

 
I learned the phrase “surf the curve” was one when reading an interview by Nick Grantham and Neil Parsley. They are both highly acclaimed Strength and Conditioning Coaches from the United Kingdom.
 

velocity based strength training
Velocity Sports Performance applies strength training across different parts of the force – velocity curve to optimize athletic performance.

Nick and Neil expressed that for a majority of athletes, in order to achieve optimal power training, there are times in their respective training plans where they have to train more like a “truck”, less like a “bullet” and vice-versa.

 
The reason for this is that for so many sports, both elements of power (i.e. Force and Velocity/Speed emphasis) are present when describing the skills and abilities necessary to attain peak performance.
 
Take our football player as an example: the football player making a tackle represents a skill with a high force component. Whereas, that same player exploding off the line of scrimmage to beat his man and chase the opposing quarterback, represents a skill with a high velocity component. Therefore, both elements of power (i.e. big force and big velocity) are necessary to compete at the highest level as a football lineman.
 
Strength and Conditioning Coaches describe this point of emphasis when it comes to training power as either a “Strength – Speed” or “Speed – Strength” emphasis. 
For example, let’s look at two different strength types in the same basic movement pattern. A bench press executed with explosiveness, could be considered a “Strength-Speed” exercise. Whereas a light, fast medicine ball chest throw could be considered an example of a “Speed-Strength” exercise (greater speed or velocity emphasis).
 

Olympic Lifts: Giving Athletes the Best of Both Worlds

 
Now that power has been clearly defined, and the relationship between force and velocity clearly understood, one can start to fully appreciate the ‘complete package’ of Olympic lifts.
 

Olympic lifts aren’t the only way to increase power

Let’s be clear, medicine balls, plyometrics, and speed work are also essential to overall athletic success. Anyone that has sat through my podcast of maximal speed training has heard how much I value focused, precise and biomechanically sound speed work.
 
The truth is that each of the above three classifications of exercises represent focused training strategies that are scientifically proven to maximize peak power output, especially from a speed-strength standpoint.
 
Conversely, I also love the regular incorporation of heavy, key compound lifts, including overhead and horizontal pressing movements like the military press and bench press, upper-body pulling movements and classic lower-body strength exercises.
 
What each of these broad categorizations of lifting movements have in common, is the high degrees of coordinated, muscular-strength efforts necessary to complete each of these lifts successfully.
However, Olympic lifts provide athletes with the best of both worlds.  To illustrate, in revisiting both the Snatch & Clean and the Jerk, one can appreciate the degrees of power necessary to navigate the bar overhead from a stationary floor position.
 
What is not captured in the static images for either the Snatch & Clean and the Jerk however, is the requisite strength, explosive power, precision, and total-body coordination necessary to successfully navigate such impressive weights from the ground to an overhead position.
 
It is only through such highly precise, coordinated muscular efforts where high levels of athletic power can be achieved to successfully attempt either of the two types of Olympic lifts.

Olympic lifts provide one type of sports specificity 

Arguably, from a ‘sports specificity’ standpoint, the Olympic lifts successfully capture the rapid triple-extension qualities of the ankles, knees and hips so often encountered in sports (see below images):
running  
arm care program for baseball and softball players building young athletes female goalie elite training
Each Demonstrations of the rapid ‘Triple-Extension’ of the hips, ankles and knees as they relate to sport
 
Virtually all sporting actions require a forceful triple-extension of the hip, knee and ankle. Whether sprinting, cutting, making a tackle, or attempting to jump for a serve, triple-extension is there.
 
Plyometrics, speed work and heavy compound lifts, are tools that represent invaluable components of my own coaching ‘arsenal’. Utilizing a combination of these tools throughout a training plan can lead to substantial gains in performance. There is no question that even in the absence of Olympic lifting, athletes can still achieve increases in athletic power.
 

Training efficiently

Athletes and coaches have limited time and effort to spend in the weight room. The question I usually ask myself as a coach when creating a program is; what types of lifts and activities are going to give my athletes the most ‘bang for their buck’. What will give them the greatest return from their training investment in the weight room?
 
The answer is Olympic lifts. Programming olympic lifting for youth athletes combines high levels of strength, speed, power and total-body coordination. 
 
Let’s return to the key distinction between the two lifts as well as our ‘Force-Velocity’ Curve.  By nature the Snatch is considered by many coaches to be more of a ‘Speed-Strength’ exercise. Whereas the Clean & Jerk is considered more of a ‘Strength-Speed’ exercise. This due to a combination of factors which includes the bar speeds and degrees of resistance encountered in both lifts.
 
Overall, both versions of the Olympic lifts in a training program allows athletes to effectively ‘surf the curve’ in their training. These lifts rely on the successful application of high force and high speeds. It is impossible to attempt either the Snatch or Clean & Jerk slowly.
 
Unlike plyometrics or medicine ball work, Olympics lifts can have a very wide range of resistanceInstead of relying on either body weight or small, weighted implements, Olympic lifts us adjustable barbells and weight. A coach can adjust the plates in order to achieve optimal resistance levels.
 

Summary:

There are numerous benefits that strength and power training has on sports performance. Speed training, plyometrics and classic strength training exercises can all provide athletes with exceptional gains in performance and athleticism.
 
Olympic lifting for youth athletes provides athletes with the ultimate “X-Factor” when it comes to training.
 
These lifts closely mimic the force and velocity demands of sport. As a result, they allow athletes to make monumental both strength and power gains in the weight room. They are efficient. One exercise gives multiple strength benefits.
 
Still the argument persists that these movements too technical for some athletes.  The truth is that once mastered, Olympic lifts provide young athletes what’s needed.  An array of exercises and drills that transfer to on-field performance.
 
Youth athletes that can learn Olympic lifts at a young age benefit from a superior training stimulus. Their successful incorporation also adds the confidence to execute one of the most common lifting skills in the sports world.

Youth Speed Training Tips: Technical + Applied Drills

Tips for training speed in youth athletes
The Velocity Speed Formula (read more about it hereuses proven speed training drills to make athletes faster.  However, it’s much more than just drills.  How different drills are combined affects learning.  For youth speed training to carry over to the game you need to learn this tip in the video.

Velocity Speed Formula

Combining technical and applied drills is an important part of youth speed training.  It’s one way we make sure athletes can apply the speed in the game.  This is just one part of the Velocity Speed System.  It’s built on the science of biomechanics and motor learning.  Learn more about the Velocity Speed Formula

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide To Speed Training

Velocity Speed Training Drills: Optimal Range of Motion

Speed training drills: optimal range of motion
The Velocity Speed Formula (read more about it hereuses proven speed training drills to make athletes faster.  Whether its elite speed training or youth speed training, the Formula always has the same 4 parts;
  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion

Apply Force in the OPTIMAL RANGE OF MOTION

The range of motion your limbs and joints travel through while sprinting is a Goldilocks scenario; not too big, not too small, but just right.

If the limbs are traveling through too big a range of motion you may be wasting time and energy.

If the range is too small, you wont generate the power you need.

RELATED: Sport Specific Types of Strength

Optimal range of motion is developed by acquiring good motion through stretching and mobility work combined with dynamic mobility drills.  Below we have a few of the speed training drills that help athletes develop the optimal range of motion for sprinting.

Kneeling Arm Action Drill

This drill to reinforce arm action has been around for a long time.  The reason; it still helps athlete work on understanding the arm swing range of motion while running.  One of the keys is that you want athletes using this drill to feel good spinal alignment with relaxed shoulders and neck.

Use this drill through various speeds, push faster until form, coordination or body position start to suffer.  Then back the speed down and regain the form.  Make sure the motion is from the shoulder.  No “karate-chop” actions at the elbows.

Fast Leg Drill

There are many useful variations of the Fast Leg speed drill and multiple benefits.  The one we are focusing on here is the range of motion.  Specifically the range of motion when the leg recovers from behind the body and the thigh lifts in front.  The higher the thigh lift, the more power the drive down and back can be.

This drill breaks up the sprinting motion so athletes can focus on the technical aspects.  As always, great core posture is important.

Velocity Speed Formula

Both of these are important speed training drills to help athletes ability to apply force in the proper direction. These drills reinforce basics physics so athletes can accelerate faster.

RELATED: Velocity Coaches Favorite Speed Drills

Velocity Speed Training Drills: Proper Direction

Speed Training Drill for Proper Direction
The Velocity Speed Formula (read more about it hereuses proven speed training drills to make athletes faster.  Whether its elite speed training or youth speed training, the Formula always has the same 4 parts;
  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion

Apply Force in the Proper Direction

Force is a vector which means it has a direction as well as quantity.  Efficient and effective movement requires not just the right amount of force, but applied in the right direction.

Proper direction is achieved through the right motor pattern (technique) and the stability of the body to apply it that way.  When the structures of joints, muscles and tendons aren’t up to the task, we have what we call “energy leaks.”

Below we share 2 useful drills that help you develop your PROPER DIRECTION qualities.  These drills are designed to reinforce and help the athlete self-regulate the direction they apply force to the ground.

RELATED: Sport Specific Types of Strength

Harness Resisted Sprints for Acceleration

To accelerate an athlete need to apply more force horizontally.  Thats how they increase their movement velocity. This drill reinforces horizontal force application.

The harness allows additional horizontal force to be applied to the athlete. Using a belt, it’s applied near the center of mass to be more biomechanically correct.  As the athlete feels that added force, they will tend to automatically apply force in a more horizontal direction

 

Wall Drills

This is a classic speed training drill that has survived the test of time.

Trying to drive the legs backward and push into the wall reinforces the horizontal force direction for acceleration.

To project your center of mass in the air high enough for the rope to go around twice, you need to apply a big enough force.

It’s very effective but has a problem; it get boring quickly.  So make sure you use it as a prep or reinforcement drill.  Don’t do it for a long time.  It’s also bets used in quick contrast with a drill where the athlete gets to apply that force moving and reinforce the proper direction.

Velocity Speed Formula

Both of these are important speed training drills to help athletes ability to apply force in the proper direction. These drills reinforce basics physics so athletes can accelerate faster.

RELATED: Velocity Coaches Favorite Speed Drills