Gym Closed? It’s A Good Time For Working Out(doors)

running in nature

Gyms and fitness studios across the country are closing, and it’s a good time for training outside.

Even if your gyms not closed, you should probably be avoiding big groups to practice social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak. In addition, there are big benefits to exercising outside!

No Gym, No Problem

No, you don’t have the machines, or the group energy, or the coach encouraging you.

So is that going to be your excuse? It might be harder in some ways and different now that you aren’t going to the gym.

No gym, now is a good time to workout doors
There are added benefits when you train outside.

This doesn’t mean you can’t keep exercising. Use this as a chance to explore the fitness and strength you’ve been building in the gym in new ways. You’ve already been training in the gym, so now it’s time to get outside and play.

During the coronavirus outbreak, you can combine the benefits of the outdoors with exercise while keeping a responsible distance from people and improving your mindset.

Boost Your Mood

People are experiencing new stresses daily with Covid-19. Stress and isolation like that aren’t great for the psyche.

One solution, training outside, has been proven to boost your mood. 

A 2015 study from Stanford University found students just walked through a campus park for an hour were less stressed than those who didn’t.  There is a lot of compelling evidence that getting outside makes us happier.

Get outside around some green, and you’re likely to feel better.

Outdoor exercise monkey bars

Build Your Immune System By Training Outside

Reducing stress and anxiety helps boost your immune system.  Plus, sunlight can help kill viruses! However, it’s even more beneficial when you are training outside

While the exact mechanics remain a mystery, research has shown a wide range of health benefits to being outdoors.  From the Vitamin D boost of the sun to additional ions and phytochemicals from plants, they add up to a stronger immune system.

How To Workout Outside

When it comes to outdoor exercise, the first thing that pops into most people’s heads is usually running.

running in nature is a great way for training ouside
There’s more to exercising outdoors than just running.

And if you love running, that’s great—but if you don’t, there’s a whole lot more for you to discover.

Whether it’s your own yard, a park, or larger greenspaces and nature, everyone can find something fun and challenge outdoors.

The key to finding the right outdoor workout for you is to engage.

Listen to your body and how you’re feeling. Find what enjoyable for you to do. Look for ways to and play to your workout. Try new things, vary it through the week, involve your kids as well.

Tips For Training Outside

  • Ease into It.  Outdoor exercise is adaptable to everyone’s level of fitness, but it might be different than what you’re used to in the gym.  
  • Exercise early. It’s easier to find excuses to avoid exercising outdoors at the end of the day.  In the morning you have more energy, the air is generally cleaner, the temperature tends to be lower.  Plus, you’ll get to enjoy the post-workout benefits of less stress and a better mood throughout the day.
  • Avoid temperature extremes.  Your body adapts to colder or warmer weather, but you should still avoid exercising outside in extreme heat or cold if not acclimated to it. In warmer temperatures, watch for signs of overheating. 
  • Don’t get burned. The sun is good for you, but too much sun is not. Protect yourself with a good sunscreen.  You can also wear sunglasses and a maybe a hat.
  • Drink enough water. “Drink 8 to 10 ounces of water in the 30 minutes before exercising outdoors. Then steady hydration through the workout should suffice. Remember that you can lose water through sweating even in cooler weather.

Workout Ideas

Training outside workout ideas
Just a few ideas of workouts you can try outdoors.
Better yet, lose some of the structure and just play around with this stuff outside!

Make outdoor exercises part of your lifestyle 

Many of us are conditioned to think of exercise as something we do in a gym.  With the gym closed and a need to stay away from groups, it’s a good time for training outside.

Get back to nature and start adding some outdoor variety to your training routine even when the gym opens back up.

What Is Sport Specific Speed?

sport specific speed training
Everyone knows speed is an important part of performance, but what is sport specific speed?   As an athlete reaches higher levels of sport, the speed of the game increases.  However, the type of speed can also become more specific.
 
It doesn’t take a pro coach or biomechanist to see that sport specific speed is more than running in a straight line.
 
Accelerating, stopping, quickness, agility and change of direction are important parts of game speed.
 
Depending on the sport and position, athletes will use different speed skills including; linear sprinting, agility and multi-directional speed. How often and how far they go each time varies a lot. Still there are some foundations of speed we can begin with.
 

Linear Sprinting

 
Sprinting has two main components; acceleration and max velocity. Acceleration is speeding up rapidly, and maximum velocity is sprinting over ~75% of full speed. Since sprint distance varies from just a few yards to the length of field, athletes typically need both acceleration and max velocity skills. Science tells us that the biomechanics and technique for each are distinctly different.
 
Two clear differences you can see between acceleration mechanics and max velocity mechanics are; body angle and leg action.
 

Angle

 
Draw an imaginary line through the foot contact with the ground and the center of mass (a few inches behind your belly button), this is the Powerline. If the power line is efficient there will be a straight line that runs through the shoulders and head as well.
 
During acceleration the angle is smaller. Somewhere between 45°- 60° from the ground. Compared to max velocity sprinting where the powerline is nearly vertical or 90° from the ground.
 

Action

 
It’s also easy for the untrained eye to see a clear difference in the action of the legs. In max velocity mechanics the athlete uses a cyclical action, with a “butt kick” and “step-over the knee”. In acceleration efficient mechanics are more of a “piston” action with the knee punching forward and then driving backward.
 

Muscles and Strength

 
The differences in the motion and the body positions affect which muscles contribute most. Although most of the body’s muscles are always used in sprinting, some contribute more to acceleration or max velocity running.
 
 

Agility

 
While sprinting speed is very important, most sport aren’t a track meet. Team sports aren’t linear and elite players have great agility as well. Agility can be looked at in two key components, Quickness and Change of Direction. Sprinting speed is great, but if you cant change direction, you’re going to get burned.
 

Quickness

 
Lightning fast movements in 1-2 steps can make all the difference in reacting to an opponent or leaving one on the ground.
 
These are the body fakes and quick re-positioning movements that happen in attacking and defending through-out most sports. Picture and ankle breaking move in basketball or a fast juke by the running back in football.
 
Quickness requires the reactive strength to apply force to the ground quickly, and the body control/balance to make it efficient.
 

Change of Direction

 
On the field or court the game constantly changes direction. Athletes are already moving in one direction when the play changes, then they have to slam on the brakes, and get moving a different way. Players need to change direction in fewer steps and faster than the opposition to have an advantage.
 
change of direction
When the opponent changes from going one way to another, the ball changes areas of play after the pass, or a rebound sends players scrambling after the ball
. These are all cases where change of direction skill will make a difference.
 
To be efficient in change of direction you need great eccentric strength abilities to decelerate, power to reaccelerate and the movement mechanics to apply it at the right angles. Stability in the joints and core also ensure efficient transfer of energy, and prevention of injury.
 

Improving Your Sport Specific Speed

 
Now that you have a clearer picture of what it means to be fast, and a little of what each means, it’s important to know how to improve it.  The Ulitmate Guide To Speed Training is a resource where you can learn all about speed training.
 
For all of our movements, we have the formula for speed. Proven by decades with elite athletes across 27 different sports. This is the biomechanics of speed, simplified.
 

The Big 4 are basically the “formula” for speed. No advanced degree in physics or neuroscience necessary.
 
  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion
 
That’s what we coach. It’s true for building the foundation or for sport specific speed. (You can read more about it here)
 
This formula has all of the complexity underneath, but it‘s simple to apply and understand. It can also save you decades and help you achieve better results with your athletes. That’s why I use it.
 
“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” ~ Albert Einstein
 

Big Force

 
You have to apply force to the ground to go somewhere. The faster you want to go the more force you have to apply.
 
Observing the difference in muscular development between a sprinter and a marathoner should give you a clue.
 
This doesn’t mean you need to be just bigger or become a powerlifter, but biomechanics research tells us very large forces have to be applied by the athlete to move fast.
 
The Big Force you need is developed by sprinting fast, using specific sprint and plyometric drills, and getting in the weight room. There are 6 different strength qualities we train, and focusing on Max strength, Strength-speed, and Speed-strength are keys here.
 

Small Time

 
In sports, speed counts so applying that force in a small time, while in contact with the ground, is critical.  You don’t often see the opponent saying, “sure, take all the time you need to generate that force, I’ll wait.”
 
Yes you need a Big Force, but you have to apply it to the ground in a (very) small time. This requires the right strength and motor control qualities. We develop those through technique drills that reinforce a small ground contact time and through plyometrics and strength training drills that develop Rate of Force Development and reactive strength, instead of Max strength or Power.
 

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.”
 
The motor control to create Proper Direction is developed through technical drills which teach athletes to move optimally. The stability to transfer those Big Forces comes through specific training drills, while developing strength with resistance training and in our functional strength components.
 

Optimal Range of Motion

 
Goldilocks had it right, not too much, not too little, but just right. We need optimal range of motion in our joints, muscles and tendons. In some movements we need large range of motions, and in others we need smaller. The key is that the athlete can move without restriction or compensations.
 
Many of our technical exercises and dynamic warm-up drills develop this range of motion. In addition we use mobility work such as self-myofascial (foam rollers, balls, etc..) in conjunction with stretching techniques or working with a tissue specialist.
 

Sport Specific Speed

 
To play your best game you need several kinds of speed. The exact mix depends on both your sport and position. However, every player needs to start with speed fundamentals before moving to sports specific speed.
 
By creating a foundation of speed and agility, athlete have more tools in their toolbox. As their training becomes more sport specific they have more to draw upon. Players all have strengths and weaknesses, but you can’t afford any glaring holes. As an elite player you need:
 
  • Acceleration
  • Maximum Velocity
  • Quickness
  • Change of Direction
 
You don’t’ have to leave this to chance. While you may need the right genetics to be the fastest in the world at these, through the right training you can improve. Improve both your physical attributes and your motor control and you’ll be faster.
 
Speed is a skill, and like any skill it can be taught.

Tips to help you eat better when you travel in 2020

travel food

Travel is a necessary component of competitive sports that can start as early as middle school. When you’re on the road, all the careful planning and meal prep you do at home to guarantee your body get all the nutrition it needs for optimal performance suddenly disappears. Your body already has to contend with a host of challenges that can’t be helped – jet lag, long periods of time spent sitting on planes, strange beds, etc. – so change something you can control and make sure you’re still fueling your body well.

Prepare for Success

First and foremost, plan ahead. How long is the trip? How much of that will be spent traveling? Are you likely to need food on the plane? Can you make arrangements ahead of time for healthier in-flight eating? What kind of food will you have access to wherever you’re going? Answering these questions will help you form a plan and avoid the trap of grabbing whatever is easiest because you’re hungry.

Stay Hydrated

The recycled air on planes and in airports is dry and will dehydrate you faster than normal, thus requiring you to replace what you’ve lost more frequently. You can’t bring bottled water through security, but you can bring an empty, reusable bottle and fill it up at the bottle-fillers most airports have these days. You’ll feel better when you land and won’t feel any of the cravings that dehydration can cause.

Bring Your Own Snacks

Probably everyone who has ever traveled regularly has fallen into the trap of grabbing whatever is most convenient. Your flight might be boarding in the next two minutes, or maybe you know you’re about to be on a long flight and that bag of chips or candy bar looks like the bit of comfort you need to make it a little more tolerable.

We’re not here to say you shouldn’t ever have indulgences, but bringing your own, healthier snacks will help avoid impulsive choices that you will regret later. Below are a few nutritious options to keep you fueled and feeling good.

  • Fresh fruits and veggies: When you’re traveling, something you can eat with one hand is always welcome. Baby carrots and grapes fit nicely in a small plastic bag, and bananas and oranges come in their own container!
  • Almonds: Pack them easily into a small container for a protein-packed snack.
  • Pre-Packaged Single-Serving Options: These days there are plenty of snacks already packaged into a convenient travel size. Hummus cups go great with your baby carrots, and single-serving peanut or almond butter makes a nice addition to your banana or apple slices.
  • Make Your Own Protein Bars: A quick internet search will turn up far more recipes for protein bars than you will ever need. Make them in bar form or roll them into balls for a handy, nutritious snack.

All you need is a little planning and you’ll never have to wonder how you’re going to avoid hunger on the go again.

Are your Fitness Gains being Stolen in 2020?

Stop Having Your Fitness Gains Stolen

From pro athletes to weekend warriors, training hard is a strong part of the culture of competition.   If you want to improve, you train hard, so your body and mind can adapt.

But what if your gains are being stolen and part of that hard work is being wasted?

In a lot of cases, it is if you aren’t managing your recovery for fitness.

Stress Can Hold You Back

Among coaches in the world of elite sports, many know that a player that is too stressed won’t recover.  Physically or mentally.  This means so much of the time and energy put into practice and training end up wasted.

Just as an athlete has a training program, they also have a recovery program.  It’s based on individual profiles and coordinated with training and competition.  Its not static either and often changes through the season, month or even week to week.

Sport science backs this as well.   A 2012 study in the respected journal, Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, demonstrated that psychological stress from life reduced recovery of muscle function.

In 2014 the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research published a paper showing that the more a subject experienced stress, the worse their recovery.  In this study participants with more stress had worse recovery of muscle function, as well as how their body felt.

This is not exactly what you are going for in your training.

Measure and Manage

Today in elite sports, teams have a sport science and/or recovery staff dedicated to this. In many, systems are used to measure the player’s status on a daily or weekly basis.  One of the most advanced is called Omegawave and has a history of several decodes in settings like Olympic teams and military special forces.

Systems like this provide information tells you about your recovery through both the autonomic and central nervous systems.  It provides feedback on your level of recovery and how much “adaptation potential” your body has.

In other cases, good old fashioned self-reports provide a lot of insight.  Usually, in apps or online, players can rate how they feel and are performing in various measures. Although relatively simple, if the questions are right, they can be incredibly helpful and scientifically valid feedback.

Take Action

What can you do to get the most benefit from your training?  The first step is to recognize that recovery is an important part of the training process.  The training is the stimulus, but adaptation happens during recovery.

The next is to learn how you are adapting.  Whether it’s getting Omegawave readings or just a self report, you need to start evaluating how you recover.  Guidance from a knowledgeable performance coach or recovery specialist can guide you to the recovery methods that are best for you.

Measure your recovery, manage the process, and stop having your fitness gains stolen.

References:

J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jul;28(7):2007-17.

Chronic psychological stress impairs recovery of muscular function and somatic sensations over a 96-hour period.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Nov;44(11):2220-7.

Psychological stress impairs short-term muscular recovery from resistance exercise.

How to get an edge: better recovery between soccer games in 2020

faster recovery between soccer games

Part of being a fit soccer player is being prepared to perform at 100 percent. Making sure you take care of recovery will ensure your hard work does not go to waste. For faster recovery between soccer games, you need a solid recovery plan. 

A recovery plan means you will be able to train harder, maintain peak performance longer and prevent injury. Don’t fall into a common trap, recovery is not only rest. Recovery is the work you do after you play to prepare yourself for your next challenge. When done right, it gives your body the edge to perform better, for longer. 

Great recovery equals optimal performance potential. That means you can be your best when you are ready to compete.  There are different types of recovery for athletes and here’s a checklist with some of the key strategies to use between games.

Soccer Recovery Checklist

  • REFUEL
  • FLUSH
  • RESET
  • MOBILIZE
  • SOAK
  • RELAX
  • SLEEP

Refuel:

Recovery begins as soon as your workout ends. Start with a recovery shake within 15-20 minutes to replenish your energy stores. A good shake will have carbohydrates and rebuild your damaged tissue with protein.

Don’t make a mistake and skip the carbs. Soccer players expend a lot of energy during a game covering the field. You need to refill your energy stores with carbs for the next game.

Flush:

If you just go and sit down on the field, or in the car on the way home you are hurting yourself. You haven’t given your muscles a chance to move fresh blood and pump out the waste products.

Spend 7 – 10 minutes with a light jog after the game or practice. By working at a low intensity you will clear metabolic waste accumulated in your muscles.  

Reset:

When you get home, spend 5-10 minutes focusing on resetting your muscle tissue. This can include foam rolling and trigger point work on target areas and massage. The front of the thighs and calf muscles, along with the bottom of your foot are good targets. 

Mobilize:

After you reset the muscle tissue, you have to mobilize it so it stays supple and recovers quickly. Techniques can include active isolated stretching, yoga or band stretching. Make sure to focus on the lower leg and hip flexors. They are areas that get stressed by the kicking and sprinting during a soccer game. 

Soak:

Sitting immersed in water can do some great things for recovery. The most common question for immersion is hot or cold? The answer depends on the timing of your next bout of training.  

If you’re not training again until the next day, go hot (hot tub, Epsom salt bath). If you’re training again within the same day, go cold (ice tub, 10-12 minutes).

Relax:

One of the most important parts of recovery is the ability to shut down. It’s easy to get fired up, but the best soccer athletes can power down just as quickly. Meditation, deep breathing and massage are all techniques to help bring you back down, and let your body do its work rebuilding.

RELATED: Meditation to optimize your life and performance 

In a tournament setting, with multiple games in a day, spending even 3-5 minutes to calm your mind can help your body recover faster.

Sleep:

Sleep is the most powerful recovery method for humans. It helps both your body and mind. Getting 8-10 hours of quality sleep improves sports performance. Make sure you turn off your phone and electronic devices early, shut out light, and get a good night’s sleep. RELATED: 4 Reasons You’re Not Sleeping Better

The Complete Guide To In-Season Hockey Training 2020

Complete Guide to in-season hockey training

Whether players should lift during their hockey in-season training is often confusing. The proven benefits of developing strength for athletes are significant. It’s beneficial for injury prevention, speed, power and more.

There is no question that young hockey players need to be developing strength.  Many make this the focus on their offseason.

After offseason gains are in the books and the season is underway, what should a young hockey player’s in-season training look like?

After all, you only have so many hours and so much energy.  Isn’t the in-season just a time for maintaining the strength you built in the summer?

NO.  If you treat it this way you will fall behind and never reach your potential.

But can you really improve strength when playing a full hockey season? 

YES.  You can increase a lot.

Here’s the key.  Young players need to strength train if they really want to continue improving, but if they train like it’s the off-season they’re doing it wrong.

MYTH: Hockey Players Can’t Lift Heavy Weights In-Season

Decades ago the thought for coaches & players was that during offseason you built strength & power.  In-season you just tried not to lose too much. 

Back in the day, a lot of the training methods came from bodybuilding where it was all about gaining size.  Strength and power were a side-effect.

Bodybuilding methods to gain muscle size are traditionally based on a high volume of exercises and inducing muscle fatigue.

In the off-season, they were grinding to build muscle and strength.  Bodybuilding techniques are great for building muscle mass, and they are built on lots of sets and repetitions.  Lots of time with the muscles under tension. 

In strength training terms; Volume.

Because of this, a common approach to in-season training was built on the idea that lifting heavy would make players too tired. 

The thinking went that if they spent too much energy training, they would be sore and tired.  That would interfere with playing well and skill development.

Instead many people jumped to the conclusion that lifting lighter weights was the way to go.  And if you have a lighter weight, you naturally can do more reps.

The problem is that lowering weight and increasing reps can lead to more fatigue, energy expenditure, and even soreness. 

In elite hockey, that idea was losing steam when mandatory helmets were introduced. 

Now to be fair, it’s true that if you spend in-season doing 2-hour, grinding workouts with high volume, you’ll be fatigued.   As a coach or player that’s not ideal.

On top of that, it also won’t stimulate the neuromuscular system enough to maintain or gain strength.

The reason this approach was abandoned; it didn’t work

Players were fatigued and sore but, they still lost strength.

Even Pros Can Get Stronger In-season

Many people think the demands of a youth hockey season are too much to gain strength. Here’s some perspective; even young pros can still improve strength & power during their season. 

That’s right.  Although they may be in the NHL or the minors playing a full season, many players haven’t fully developed their strength yet.  In their late teens through early twenties, they still have a window of opportunity to improve.

We know because Velocity coaches have done it time and again with individual players and teams.

The key is that they stimulate their nervous system enough to improve.  That’s hard because it takes high intensity and power output to stimulate adaptation.  So how do they do it?

Micro-dosing Training

Hockey in-season training is all about stimulating the central nervous system and muscle, not grinding down the body and tissues to grow muscle.

Fast, explosive and heavy movements are what stimulate that type of adaptation.  They do take focus and a serious effort. In strength training terms; Intensity.

The good news though is that you don’t actually need a lot of it.

You see, it’s the intensity, not the volume that stimulates the change. 

Getting 2-3 small doses of intensity every week will do the trick.

This is what we see with pro and Olympic athletes at the pinnacle of sports.   When they have a demanding schedule they can’t spend the time or energy on long grinding workouts like the off-season.

On the flip side, they also can’t afford to lose strength & power.  That just leads to poor play and injury.  It’s the player who can be at their best-come playoff time who shine.

If You’re Not Gaining You’re Falling Behind

Here’s the scary part; if you get stronger and bigger every off-season, but don’t train in-season you are falling behind.

That’s right, other players who train in-season are getting an edge and developing further. As a really young player, your strength levels will continue to improve just out of natural development. You keep pace.

However, as you hit middle school and older things start to change. Even with great gains in the summer, if you don’t train in-season at best you’ll gain slower. Worse, you can actually be losing strength.

That’s right, getting weaker through a season. For a high school player who has a few years of training under their belt, they can really make gains during the off-season. Yet, once they stop and the stimulus goes away the body will readapt to a lower strength level.

A good hockey in-season training program will stimulate that improvement and stop them from falling behind.

in-season strength training
A player who trains in-season will continue to improve strength. Not as fast as they do in the offseason, but they continue to improve. A player that eliminates strength training, or just does lightweight will slow their gains or actually get weaker during the season. After a few years, the small differences add up to a big advantage to players who train smart!

Get Stronger With the Right Hockey in-season training

So the key is to stimulate the neuromuscular system with small doses of intensity.  What does that mean?

Well, it depends a bit on the developmental level of the athlete.  This means their biological development as well as training experience. 

Get this straight, it’s not about their level of hockey skills. Some very skilled players have barely learned to train off-ice.  Others may hit puberty earlier and some later.  The right training is based on evaluating these factors along with their current strength & power levels.

Middle School Years 

For a middle-school-age athlete, they are approaching or in early puberty. They probably don’t have a lot of strength training experience yet.

An athlete at this age also can recover and adapt quickly.  Plus, they don’t actually have the skill to recruit all their muscle fibers so they never hit the true high intensities.  So overtraining them is really unlikely.

This means they need to be doing some explosive plyometrics, speed drills, and basic strength training.  Because they have such a big window to improve, and a low-level experience, it doesn’t take a lot.

In practice hockey in-season training this age could look like;

  • 2 -3 sessions per week
  • 60-90 minutes
  • Dynamic warm-up for injury prevention and movement fundamentals
  • Athletic movement, speed, and plyometric drills
  • Two-three basic explosive and strength lifts with kettlebells, dumbbells or barbells.
    • Olympic lift fundamentals
    • Squat, deadlift
    • Bench, chin, and rows
  • Compound free weight movements that involve multiple joints.
  • Low reps 3-8 at most.  Sets of 3-5 on basic lifts

In fact, the bigger benefit of in-season training for this age of athlete is that they are learning to train.  Learning how to do the exercises right.  They are building the neuromuscular foundation for when hormones kick-in later.

High School or Higher Training Age

For a hockey player of high school age, their physical development is further along.  They may have some experience with strength training now.

For this type of athlete, the requirements go up.  Now they can recruit more of their fast-twitch type muscle fibers.  They can coordinate the movements a bit better.

Therefore, to generate enough intensity they need combinations of two things;  Speed and force. 

Speed

Fast, explosive movements are one way to stimulate the neuromuscular system.  This means things like Olympic lifts with high velocity and power output.  Explosive medicine ball drills.

The muscle needs a high rate of force development to create this stimulus.  Lifting light weights, moving slow, won’t do it.

Traditional strength lifts like the bench, squat or deadlift only move between 0.5 and 0.8 m/s.  That’s just too slow.  Explosive lifts with medium weights should generate movement velocities between 1.0 and 2.0 meters per second.  That’s the stimulus needed.

Force

To really stimulate the fast-twitch fibers and the central nervous system, basic strength lifts need to be heavier.  That requires a higher level of force production.  This stimulates the central nervous system as well.

It also requires multiple muscles and joints under tension.  Isolation exercises just don’t give enough bang for the buck.  Whole-body exercises stimulating lots of muscle groups and joints are the way to go.

Weights need to typically be 85% or more of 1 rep max.  That gets the nervous system fired up.  It also means to avoid fatigue only 2 – 3 reps are needed.

High School hockey in-season strength example

For a developing athlete a hockey in-season training program may look like:

  • 2 -4 sessions per week
  • 30-60 minutes
  • Dynamic warm-up for prep and injury prevention
  • Two-three basic explosive and strength lifts with kettlebells, dumbbells or barbells.
    • Olympic lift  
      • velocity of 0.75-1.6 m/s
      • 3-5 sets or 1-3 repetitions
    • Lower body lift – squat, deadlift, step-up, lunge
      • 85% or more of 1RM
      • 2-4 sets of 1-4 reps
    • Upper body lift – press, row, pull-up
    • 2-3 Injury prevention exercises

Sports Recovery

The off-ice training is the stimulus for the body and neuromuscular system to change.  Improvements come for the body and brain’s process of adaptation.

Here’s the thing to take note of; adaptation happens when the athlete recovers.  The work is the stimulus, the recovery is where adaptation happens.

What Is Recovery

Recovery is a term used for the processes every athlete goes through after some type of stress or fatigue.  The return to their previous normal state or slight improvement. 

This recovery process is specific to the type of stress the body experience.  In sports, we classify four types of stress.

Faster Recovery for Hockey Players

When looking at how a young hockey player can recover faster, there are some key strategies we know work. 

The body recovers in all four areas of stress during sleep.  That’s why sleep is the foundation of all recovery.   If you’re not sleeping enough, anything else you do is just a band-aid.

We’ve witnessed the benefits of sleep in athletes for decades with measurable changes in their readiness when they sleep better.  Following a routine and some basic tips can really help athletes sleep better.

Training, practice, and gains create fatigue. During recovery, your body returns to baseline or improves. Over time if you don’t recover you may over train.

The second foundation in sports recovery is basic nutrition.  We aren’t talking in-depth diets or loads of supplements.  Just getting enough of quality foods at the right times.

After these, it becomes about the specific needs you have.  It could be more mobility to help your muscles and joints.  Types of flushing like compression, e-stim or cycling can be great when your legs are heavy after a grinding on-ice session or game.  Or maybe it’s learning to reset mentally with breathing, visualization, floatation or other methods.

Start with the foundation of sleep and nutrition.  Then you can add specific recovery methods to meet the rest of your needs.

Take Your Hockey In-season Strength Training Seriously

Unless you want to fall behind other players, you should take your in-season strength training seriously.  If you are not getting stronger and more powerful in-season you are falling behind.

You can’t train with the same grind of high volume as in the off-season.  However, focusing on consistent training every week and small doses of high intensity will make you better.

The science backs it, decades of experience have shown, and it’s practical to do.  The only question, is why aren’t you training smarter during the season?

Is Weight Training Good for Kids?

strength training weights

People ask us almost daily, “is weight training good for kids.”   

Let’s cut to the chase; It Is.

Velocity coaches from Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System instruct young athletes on proper technique

We believe in using strength training of various methods to increase neuromuscular recruitment, increase bone density, increase range of motion and strengthen the tendons and joints of the body.

Don’t just take our word on whether weight training is good for kids, ask the medical experts. According to a 2018 MAYO Clinic statement

“Done properly, strength training can:

  • Increase your child’s muscle strength and endurance
  • Help protect your child’s muscles and joints from sports-related injuries
  • Help improve your child’s performance in nearly any sport, from dancing and figure skating to football and soccer
  • Develop proper techniques that your child can continue to use as he or she grows older

And hen it comes to answering why strength training is good for kids they add;

“Keep in mind that strength training isn’t only for athletes. Even if your child isn’t interested in sports, strength training can:

  • Strengthen your child’s bones
  • Help promote healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Help your child maintain a healthy weight
  • Improve your child’s confidence and self-esteem

In a New York Times article on the issue they said:

“Kids, in other words, many of us believe, won’t get stronger by lifting weights and will probably hurt themselves. But a major new review just published in Pediatrics, together with a growing body of other scientific reports, suggest that, in fact, weight training can be not only safe for young people, it can also be beneficial, even essential.”

What is “strength training”?

This is one of the key questions we need to understand.  Lot’s of confusion starts with the concepts of strength training versus weight training.

When people say strength training, they often imagine someone in a squat rack lifting barbells. 

olympic weightlifting clean and jerk
People often imagine Olympic weightlifting when strength training is brought up

Or maybe that weightlifter at the Olympics performing at the edge of human capacity.

Yes. Those can be strength training, but there’s a whole lot more.

Strength training is basically any exercise that relies on some form of resistance to stimulate your body to get stronger. 

This includes:

  • Body weight
  • Elastic resistance bands
  • Sandbags
  • Medicine Balls
  • Free Weights
  • Resistance Machines
  • Barbells
  • Dumbells
  • Kettlebells

Why so many different things?  For one, to do it properly we need a range of resistance levels. 

We need things that are light so we can learn to do it properly and start at the right level.

We need things that are heavy so we can progress and stimulate the body to adapt.

Are bodyweight exercises safer?

So, when they are wondering if weight training is good for kids, many people look at bodyweight exercises as inherently safer.  After all, you don’t have that extra weight to lift.

Except they forgot about the bodyweight. A coach using proper exercise selection and regressions can actually allow an athlete to lift less than bodyweight.

kids strength training push-ups
A push-up is 64% of your bodyweight. Sometimes that’s too much for a young athlete.

Have you ever watched young athletes struggle to do a push-up well? Their bodyweight is just too much for their strength level. It’s no different than lifting a barbell that’s too heavy.

When doing a push-up, an athlete is actually lifting about 64% of their body weight. For a 120 lb. young female, that would mean they are lifting 77 lbs.

Imagine if the athlete was laying on a bench press, struggling with 77 lbs. Its the same with a push-up. In this case, if the coach gave the athlete two twenty pound dumbbells or an empty bar, the weight would be significantly less.

Who knew? bench pressing weights is a regression. Push-ups are actually more advanced and heavier!

Don’t even get started on pull-ups.

Is weight training necessary?

This question doesn’t come up often, but it’s in the back of a lot of people’s minds.  The reality is that the data, the medical experts and decades of experience tell us it’s safe. 

However, to be honest, we often follow our preconceived ideas.

If you’ve believed strength training with weights is dangerous for decades, it’s hard to instantly change that.  And that’s fair.

So then the question is; can you get better without lifting weights?

Yes, you can. 

However, you can’t stimulate the body to adapt as efficiently or as much. 

  • You don’t stimulate the neuromuscular system to recruit muscle and protect the joints and ligaments as well.
  • Athletes won’t improve the tendon tissue as well to reduce the risk of tendonitis and overuse injuries.
  • They won’t stimulate bone density during this crucial youth growth period and have the same life long positive effects.
  • You won’t build the same level of explosive strength
  • Young athletes won’t learn how to do the movements and be prepared if you start training with your team
  • You will miss out on the proven reduction in overall injury risk for athletes

How can kids train the right way?

Here’s the key to safely strength training for young athletes; Do It Right.

That means learning the movement patterns and habits that lead to safe weight training.  Have a qualified coach teaching it.

That’s not necessarily a bunch of kids in the garage with the weight bench trying to max out.  It’s not joining an adult class with a weekend certified coach who is cheering them on to do more. 

coaching youth strength training basics
Teaching the fundamentals of good body positions is part of Velocity coaching.

It’s also not about moving “perfect”.  Young athletes need to learn proper movement patterns.  However, trying to enforce a robotic standard of “perfect” actually takes away from the learning. 

This is where professional coaches standout.  They know how to put the athlete into positions where they are safe to learn how to move. 

Coaches use regressions of exercises to teach.  These are simpler movement patterns that reinforce the right movement safely.  They lead to a progression in movement patterns or weight lifted.

Is Weight Training Good for Kids; YES

Strength training for youth is endorsed by all major medic and professional organizations.  While the old myths of it stunting growth or being dangerous slowly die, it is understandable that some people are hesitant.

The benefits are large and necessary to prevent injury in athletes.  Weight training is an efficient and effective method for athletes.   Do it right and reap the benefits.

Should Youth Hockey Players Lift Weights?

Young Hockey Player Lifting Weights

Every year as a new season rolls around or the offseason begins, we get some version of the question; 

Should My Kid Be Lifting Weights? 

What age is it safe for a child to lift weights?

Will weight training stunt my player’s growth?

etc.…

These are essential questions that we get asked a lot.  Should a young hockey player lift weights? The short answer; YES!

However, at Velocity Sports Performance, we seek to empower and educate you,  so let’s go a bit more in-depth.

Is Lifting Weights Dangerous for Young Hockey Players? 

Not inherently.  Now, if you let a bunch of young kids fool around in the basement or garage with a typical “bro” style workout, there are some risks.  In fact, data suggests that is where most weight training accidents occur at home.

Under the guidance of a qualified professional, supervising technique, and applying  a sound program, weight training is very safe.  Who says?  Well, here are some resources to help convince you if needed.

This has been extensively researched, and the myths that it will stunt a child’s growth or is dangerous have been disproven.

Like other professionals, our coaches take pride in providing a safe and effective training environment for our young athletes.  We want them to master the movement patterns and find satisfaction in seeing that their effort can lead to improvement.  The last thing we want is for them to ever be hurt.

Can Strength Training Help Lower Injury Risks for Hockey Players?

With so many young hockey players specializing at young ages, the risk of overuse injuries can increase.  More practices, more tournaments, and more games all add repetitive stress in the same hockey movements.

This isn’t just a hockey problem; it’s happening across youth sports.  While it may help in some skill development areas, the downside is the increased risks of overuse injury and burnout.

Overuse injuries occur when the musculoskeletal system is loaded repetitively, and the rest/recovery periods are not adequate.  They are too short for structural adaptation to take place. Overuse injuries in young athletes include apophyseal injuries, tendonitis/osis, bursitis, and bone injuries.

VIDEO: Strength training has been shown to help lower the risk of injury in sports.

Two of the ways to protect against many of these injuries can be achieved through strength training.  

  1. Build proficiency and strength in a wide range of movement patterns
  2. Strength the connective tissues and increase the stress they can tolerate

These are two of the reasons resistance training is a foundational part of Velocity programs for young athletes.  

Can Young Hockey Players Really Gain Strength From Lifting Weights?

When you think about the fact that young hockey players may not yet have the hormones circulating to really build muscle, you have to ask if they can benefit. 

At all levels of sport, resistance training is about more than building muscle. Pre-adolescents gains strength by improving motor control and neural signaling.  Improved neuromuscular coordination and recruitment lead to increases in strength, without increases in muscle size.

Building more efficient neural pathways leads to faster and better recruitment of muscle fibers during sporting movements.  Not only are the athletes improving strength now, but they are also laying down the neural pathways that will help them reach their athletic potential later.

Will Strength Training Help Young Hockey Players?

So even if it’s not dangerous, and they can get stronger, that doesn’t mean it’s useful.  Is it worth the time and effort to strength train?  Will it improve their hockey game?

Yes.

Improved strength helps to improve sports performance and reduce injury risk.  That’s a benefit for every young hockey player.  

Physical performance measures like vertical jump, sprint times, and maximal oxygen consumption have been shown to improve with increased strength from resistance training.  These are all good for a young hockey player when the puck drops.

And ultimately, performance is improved by lowering injury risk.  After all, you can’t perform at all if your sitting on the bench hurt.

Can Lifting Weights Increase A Hockey Player’s Potential?

You need hockey skills and IQ to succeed on the ice, and just being a great athlete won’t be enough.  Keep in mind that a lack of physical literacy can limit your potential to improve those hockey specific skills.

This problem occurs across many sports when a player specializes early.  A young hockey player only builds the movement patterns they repeat on the ice.  

At first, this may sound great, but in reality, elite teams and coaches know it limits the player’s long-term potential.  

The best players are also good athletes.  They have a more extensive library of broad movement skills to draw on when building their hockey skills. Athletes can’t build a complete movement library on the ice alone.

We use resistance training to help young hockey players develop effective movement patterns, which will be the basis for advanced movements later in their development.

At the earliest ages for our hockey players, the focus is on building movement competencies in 7 fundamental movement patterns.  When athletes have developed the necessary proficiency, we focus on increasing the resistance.

Learn More: 7 Strength training movement patterns athletes need to master

Young Hockey Players Should Strength Train

Despite the old myths, young hockey players should use strength training to improve their performance and long term potential and to reduce the risk of injury.

To sum it all up, we know strength training:

  • helps reduce the risks of overuse injury
  • can help young hockey players develop movement patterns
  • can improve physical qualities needed in ice hockey
  • will not stunt their growth
  • is not dangerous for young players

When it’s supervised and athletes are taught properly, weight lifting is safe.

To get these benefits, experts say that young hockey players need to be taught proper technique and be supervised by trained professionals.

2020 Essential Guide to Sport-Specific Training

guide to sport-specific training

Sport-specific training is a constant topic of discussion among athletes, parents, and coaches. For our team at Velocity, it comes up daily in settings from local performance centers to our coaches at Olympic training facilities.

While some performance coaches scoff at the idea of sport-specific training, we think it’s a great thing to discuss.

It just seems like commonsense after all.

  • It’s based on you competing in a sport.
  • You want to improve performance in that sport.
  • You have decided to spend time and energy on training other than sport/skills practice.
  • Therefore, it’s perfectly logical that it should be specific.

In this article, we are going to cover the essential things you need to understand about sport-specific training. This includes:

  • Why you want sport-specific training
  • What sport-specific training is
  • Transfer of training
  • How sport-specificity affects Long term Athletic Development
  • How do you figure out what’s specific for your sport
  • Sport-specific speed, strength, stamina, and mobility

Why Do You Want Sport-Specific Training?

Whenever an athlete wants a training program, one of our key questions is: Why Do You Train?

It’s at the foundation of how Velocity approaches athletes. We need to understand an athlete’s WHY? Their deeper motivation.

How does this have anything to do with a specific training program?

Context and coaching

See, as coaches, our responsibility is to help guide you to the right solutions. If we don’t have any context to your question about sport-specific training, we are making assumptions.

Those assumptions could be wrong.

Do you want sport-specific training because you have potential in the sport and want to play at a high level? Some athletes are just trying to make their team or get playing time.

Maybe you want to train specifically so that you can reduce your risk of injury. Or perhaps you’ve had an injury and are trying to get back to your performance level before.

Perhaps you’ve tried some training that wasn’t “sport-specific” and you didn’t see results, or worse it had a negative effect on your game.

All of those goals may, in fact, require some type of sport-specific training. However, they are also different.

A coach needs to understand this. After all, when we look deeper, sport-specific training is really; your goal specific training.

If a coach doesn’t really understand your goals, then your training might be off-target.

Most athletes seek sport-specific training to meet their sport-specific goals. If your coach doesn’t try to understand you and your goals, then they might be missing the mark.

That’s bad coaching.

So let’s start by redefining the underlying motivation for sport-specific training;

  • You want results in your sport.
  • You don’t want to waste time and effort on training that doesn’t contribute to those results.

The purpose of sport-specific training is to use training to effectively and efficiently reach your goals in the sport.


What Is Sport-Specific Training?

Since we know what the purpose of sport-specific training is; what is it?

When we discuss “sport-specific” we hear a lot of different concepts. Often it’s based on doing things that look like the sport. Drills that use the sports equipment; balls, bats, gloves, sticks, etc…

Other times it’s practicing sports skills with rubber bands on, wearing weight vests, or hooked up to bungee cords and devices.

At the elite level those ideas occasionally come up, but the discussion tends to get more straight to the point. Our Olympic teams and pro athletes want results. In their sport. Period.

swimming specific training
With a small margin of error in many elite sports, training has to be specific

Elite athletes face heavy physical and mental demands. The margin for error can be incredibly small. In some of our Olympic sports hundredths of a second are the difference between a Gold medal and not being on the podium at all.

An athlete facing that can’t waste time or energy. They can’t add wear and tear to their body if it doesn’t give them better results in return. Their coaches care about the same thing.

Sports specific training transfers to better performance, lower injury risk and increased competitive longevity.


Transfer of Training

This brings us to the concept of “transfer of training” in sports. Is the training you are doing transferring to improved performance in your sport? Is it transferring to lower injury risks so you can be in the game competing? Is it helping to extend your career for more years?

Those are the questions that we ask of every component of training at the elite level. As an athlete has more years of training, this becomes harder and harder to achieve. This is related to their “window of opportunity” for different qualities.

Windows of Opportunity

An athlete’s opportunity to improve a skill or ability is not infinite. A human will never run 100mph or vertical jump 20 feet. There are limits to human performance. So let’s apply this concept to a physical ability. Sprinting.

To make our point let’s get a little extreme. A 3 year knows how to run. They won’t be that fast compared to an Olympic sprinter.

If we consider the Olympic sprinter near the top of human potential, then the 3 year has a huge window of opportunity to improve. The Olympian is nearing human limits, so their window of opportunity is very small.

usain bolt sprint start
An Olympian has developed to such a high level, their room for improvement is usually very small.

This concept has a profound effect on the transfer of training. At early levels, doing general things will bring big dividends. A soccer team of 8-year olds will improve their soccer skills just by becoming more coordinated. Doing things like skipping, jumping hoping and running will increase their basic athleticism.

They get a lot of “transfer” (improvement in their sport) from that unspecific and relatively less intense training.

General Athleticism Helps Young Athletes

That general athletic training also doesn’t overstress the body. It doesn’t limit the skill set being developed later. Maybe at 8, they are playing soccer, but by 10 they decide they like volleyball. That library of basic athletic movement skills can be drawn on for most sports.

However, that high-level athlete is entirely different. Just doing general skipping, jumping and hopping won’t improve their performance. Our Olympic athletes generally have a decade or more of training. Their window of opportunity to improve is much smaller than that 8-year old.

Sissoko Tottenham Hotspur
Fundamental athleticism is great to keep elite players functioning, but it won’t help them improve sports skills.

Whereas a little training effort may have lead to 75% sports improvement for the 8-year-old, the elite athlete has to put in a lot of work to even improve 1%.

They have to put in more effort, endure more wear and tear on their body and manage large emotional and mental stresses. There is no room for waste, so training becomes more and more specific. Sport-specific training is essential for efficiency and effectiveness at the elite level.


Long Term Athlete Development Model

Velocity employs a long term athletic development model that helps address the need for specificity. It builds specificity from the ground up through a foundation of athleticism. At the early stages, this provides the transfer of training without the repetitive stress and strain of high specificity.

As an athlete progresses, they continue to benefit from the transfer of training. They accomplish this by focusing on using different types of strength and building athletic movement skills. This gives them a larger library of skills to take to sports practice and put into their technical skills.

As they gain some additional training experience, they can start to become more specific to their sport, their position, and their individual needs.

Long term athletic development velocity programs

READ: How Elite Organizations Use A Long-Term Model To Build Champions

So, start at the start. To use an analogy, we don’t start future professional drivers in Formula 1 cars at age 8. It’s specific, just not effective. You start them on a far more basic type of car and track. Any young athlete training outside of their sports practice should employ an LTAD model of sport-specific training.

Athletes should progress from general to specific based on the years of training experience of the athlete.


Understanding Your Sport

As an athlete, you don’t have to be a sport scientist. Still, you should be learning about your sport as you train. Hopefully, you are getting that in part from your coaches. That means both your sport and performance coaches.

To determine what IS specific to a sport we strive to understand sports. The Velocity High-Performance Team utilizes experts in performance, sports medicine, biomechanics, sports science, and more to determine this along with the sports coaches.

While there can be thousands of components to elite performance, they can be grouped into some big buckets to understand.

Sports Skills

When it comes to the actual competition, it’s the athlete’s technical and tactical skills that clearly rule the day.

Technical skills are what we typically think of as their sport skills. Dribbling a ball, executing a gymnastics routine or hitting the ball. These skills are developed through thousands of hours of deliberate practice.

wrestling sport-specific skills
Sport skills include both technical and tactical skills. For instance, a wrestler needs the skill to exact a move, but also needs to know when to choose that move and use it.

Tactical skills are the athlete’s abilities to judge and analyze elements of the game. It’s also their decision making in those moments.

Can the linebacker read the lineup of the opposition and the strategic situation to diagnose what play is most likely?

Can the rower recognize the other boat picking up the pace and consider the distance left and their own energy reserves?

Awareness of what’s happening, analyzing it, and making a strategic decision is an often under-appreciated skill in sports. However, it can make the difference between being a Hall of Famer and not even having a career.

Physical Abilities

When the sports skills are equal or close it may be physical skills that separate athletes. In fact, at some point, their ability to develop technical skills can be affected by their physical abilities.

For instance, consider a quarterback or pitcher trying to perfect their throwing technique for more velocity. As they work with sports coaches they may be trying to move through new ranges of motion for better movement efficiency. However, if their underlying mobility isn’t adequate, they won’t be able to execute that technical model.

The same could be true for strength or movement skills. Athletes need a foundation of physical abilities to build on. This is what we often refer to as “athleticism.”

Mindset

The third component of sports competition is the athlete’s mindset. We use this term to encompass their cognitive processes and brain’s physiological processing. When we ask world-class athletes and coaches how much of the game is mental, they typically respond anywhere from 50% – 99%.

nick foles
A winning mindset includes the resiliency to overcome obstacles.

Of course, you can’t win mentally if you don’t have sports skills or physical ability. What this tells us is that those things will lose importance if your mindset isn’t right.

With this model of performance, you can begin understanding what is needed in your sport.

You can begin looking at what you need as an individual to succeed. If sport-specific training is about achieving results in the sport, then you need to know what leads to success in the sport.

READ ABOUT IT: Resiliency Is A Key Part of An Athlete’s Mindset. Here’s How To Build It.


Sports Training Is The Truest “Specific” Training

In the end, the thing that tends to increase your sports skills the most is playing and training your sport.

Now a lot of performance coaches hate to hear this, but it’s true. Playing your sport and training your technical and tactical sports skills is as specific as it gets.

However, there are often limits on this. Physically from energy systems and repetitive motion. Access to coaching time or field/court space. Weather. Ability to use deep focus on the same skills.

These are all things that can limit the ability of the athlete to just practice more for continued gain. When you cant do the sport more it makes sense that other training could help you get better.

Specific To Sport, Position or You?

So if we are talking about sport-specific training that is not just practicing the sport itself more

With the goal of improving performance, you need to start considering how specific to get. Is sport-specific training really enough?

For instance, a lineman and defensive back in football are both in the same sport. Do they have the same specific demands?

Not even close.

That’s an extreme example but it carries over into a lot of sports. Different positions may have some unique specific requirements.

Then we can take this further to be more specific. If we look at different players in the same position, they may have different styles. Let’s say the soccer forward who is all finesse and amazing moves versus the power player who relies on speed and jumping higher to win in the air. Same sport, same position, different styles.

Go a step further and we can start to look at your individual genetics and predisposition. What about your unique history of injuries and physical qualities. When that window of opportunity gets smaller, these things come into play.

In the end, the level of specificity in training is inverse to the level and training age of the athlete. The younger and more developmental the athletes, the more benefit from general training.

The more elite the athlete with years of training, the more specific training need to be.


Sport-Specific Training

We have already acknowledged that skills and tactics are best improved in sports practice. However, we are focused on determining what type of physical training will be the most specific for your sport.

Training that leads to better performance. Less injury. Longer careers.

So. what physical qualities are specific to any sport? Let’s start by defining some broad categories; speed, strength, stamina, mobility, and resiliency.

What Is Sport-Specific Speed?

Speed and agility are valued in almost every sport. To et specific, you can start understanding different aspects to speed in sports.

As you try to understand what makes speed specific to your sport you can start by thinking about how much of the movement is straight ahead versus laterally and diagonally?

That’s an important factor. Is there a lot of straight-ahead sprinting like a wide receiver in football or a soccer forward? Or is it more sideways or mixed movements? The type you see in sports like basketball and tennis as examples?

Athletes developing the fundamentals of acceleration at Velocity in Greenville, SC.

There is a lot of crossover in training these. It’s especially true at earlier stages of sports development, but as you go up in level the difference is greater and training techniques more specific.

How often do you change directions in your sport? That’s another way to determine your sport-specific training needs. A player reacting to opponents or trying to lose them may make a lot of change of direction movements.

What Is Sport-Specific Strength?

Too often athletes think that strength is how much weight you can lift on a barbell. For an athlete, strength is so much more than that.

That big lift barbell strength is often useful and represents one type of strength. You need to understand that there are different types of strength and which you need in your sport.

Strength is simply the act of applying force. Applying force to the ground, ice or water. Force applied to your bike, bat, racquet or a ball. Applied force to move your bones and joints into different positions.

Strength not only moves you, but it also holds you together. Your muscles, fascia, and connective tissue use contraction to make you function. Strength protects you when you absorb impact. Impacts from striking the ground when running. Internal stress from decelerating your arm after throwing or swinging the stick. Impact from opponents or landing on the ground.

Every Athlete Needs Strength

So EVERY athlete needs strength. The devil is in the details.

Strength is simply about generating and applying force. Athlete’s need to develop several types of general and sport-specific strength

Those details are about how fast it’s applied. The direction and motion. The muscle groups. And it’s the transition from one strength type to another. This is what defines strength for an athlete.

To help illustrate this, let’s consider the strength needed by an NFL lineman and a tennis player. Do both need to be strong?

Many people may jump to the conclusion that a lineman needs strength and a tennis player doesn’t. After all the lineman is pushing around another 300lb human who is really strong. The tennis player is only moving their body and swinging a little racquet.

If we are thinking in terms of something like a 400lb back squat this might be relatively accurate. That is what we would call Maximum Strength. The ability to contract slowly (compared to many sports movements) and at very high force levels.

The tennis player does need some of this strength type, but they also need to cover the court really quickly. The tennis player is lighter and goes side to side changing directions. Those changes are going to require more eccentric strength. The ability to absorb their momentum going one way, stop and go back the other.

This is also strength, but a different type. Sports generally requires multiple types of strength, with some more important than others. Strength training starts to become specific when you train for specific types of strength.

READ MORE: There are specific types of strength for athletes.

What Is Sport-Specific Stamina?

For many people, this may be one of the most obvious. A marathon runner needs different stamina than a 100m sprinter. The Olympic weightlifter has different energy needs than the 1500m freestyle swimmer.

It does get harder as we move to team sports and activities that are not steady-state or really short. The body essentially has 3 main energy pathways and it uses them in different ways for the sport.

To condition for this type of sport, we can train multiple energy systems together so it mimics the sport. At other times we focus on building up one more than others.

It’s not only sport-specific but position, style of play and individual specific. Even in a sport like basketball, two teams may need very different conditioning based on their style. A high pressure or fast-break style will require different conditioning than a slower tempo, ball control focused team.

What Is Sport-Specific Mobility?

To produce your sports technical skills, your body needs to achieve certain body positions. You need to move your joints and muscles efficiently through specific ranges of motion.

If you are limited by the flexibility, stability or mobility of your body, you might not be able to effectively develop that sport skill.

Most people can understand the difference needed in mobility between an elite gymnast (huge mobility demands) compared to a cyclist (only a few specific areas need mobility).

During training, sport-specific mobility comes from more than only stretching certain areas. Even effective dynamic warm-ups and full range of motion strength training help.

mobility vs flexibility
Athletes need mobility, flexibility, and stiffness in different amounts based on their sport.

RELATED: Mobility and flexibility are different. Athletes need to understand how.


How to Use Sport-Specific Training for You?

First of all, understand you are right to want sport-specific training. Which means reaching your goals and improving performance in a sport.

Why wouldn’t you want that?

Sports specific training transfers to better performance, lower injury risk and increased competitive longevity.

Therefore, you need to find training that will get results and not waste your time and energy.

1. Your Athletic Development Level

  • That means to first consider your level. A young athlete will get an effective transfer from developing all-around athleticism. Start at the start if you haven’t been training for years.

2. Your Sport Demands – Speed, Strength, Stamina

  • Next, you need to understand what your sport demands. A good coach and performance system should actually help teach you this and guide you to a better understanding of your sport.

If you are training right, you’re going to see a lot of benefits for a long time. Moreover, this requires the right;

  • type of movements
  • strength qualities
  • energy systems development
  • needed mobility

3. Your Individual Needs

  • Finally, if you want to see benefits, your training needs to address your specific needs. If you’re slow, get faster. If you get injuries often, become more resilient physically.

This is particularly true when it comes to sport-specific strength training. Everyone can get stronger, but are you building the right type of strength? Do you know your own genetic disposition and what type of strength will help you on the field?

Sport-specific training is needed. Just make sure you know what that means and when. Ask questions to make sure your coaches do as well.

What Is Sports Specific Training?

what is sport specific training

Sport specific training is a constant topic of discussion among athletes, parents and coaches.  For the Performance Team at Velocity, the question of what is sport specific training comes up daily. It happens in local performance centers as well as with our coaches at Olympic training facilities.

When we discuss “sport specific” a lot of different ideas emerge.  Doings things that visually look similar to the sport are often called sport specific.  Maybe they are drills that use the sports equipment; balls, bats, gloves, sticks, etc… 

For others, they think of examples of like practicing sports skills with rubber bands on, wearing weight vests, or hooked up to bungee cords and devices.

Still, some coaches think of trying to duplicate the sport in the weight-room with the reps, weights, and muscles used.

So, with these competing ideas, what is sport specific?

Sport Specific Training for Elite Athletes

At the elite level there is a lot of talk about sport specific training. This isn’t just a discussion with developing athletes and their parents. 

Those examples of sport specific training do occasionally come up in our elite teams. However, the discussion tends to be more focused.  The administrators, coaches and athletes care about one thing; results.

swimming specific training
With a small margin of error in many elite sports, training has to be specific

The margin for error in elite sport can be incredibly small.  Hundredths of a second can be the difference between a Gold medal, and not being on the podium at all.

An athlete facing that can’t waste time or energy.  They can’t add wear and tear to their body if it doesn’t give them better results in return.

Sports specific training transfers to better performance, lower injury risk and increased competitive longevity.

Transfer of Training

This brings us to the concept of “transfer of training” in sports.  Is the training you are doing transferring to improved performance in your sport? 

Is it transferring to lower injury risks so you can be in the game competing?

Is it helping to extend your career for more years?

Those are the questions that we ask of every component of training at the elite level.  As an athlete has more years of training, this becomes harder and harder to achieve.  This is related to their “window of opportunity” for different qualities.

Windows of Opportunity

An athlete’s opportunity to improve a skill or ability is not infinite.  A human will never run 100mph or vertical jump 20 feet.  There are limits to human performance.  So, lets’ apply this concept to a physical ability.  Sprinting.

To make our point let’s get a little extreme. 

A 3 year should know how to run.  Of course, they won’t be that fast compared to an Olympic sprinter.  

usain bolt sprint start
An Olympian has developed to such a high level, their room for improvement is usually very small.

If we consider the Olympic sprinter near the top of human potential, then the 3 year has a huge window of opportunity to improve.  The Olympian is nearing human limits, so their window of opportunity is very small.

This concept has a profound effect on the transfer of training.  At early level doing general things will bring big dividends. 

A soccer team of 8-year-olds will improve their soccer skill just by becoming more coordinated.  Doing things like skipping, jumping hoping and running will increase their basic athleticism.

They get a lot of “transfer” (improvement in their sport) from that unspecific and relatively less intense training.

Sissoko Tottenham Hotspur
Fundamental athleticism is great to keep elite players functioning, but it won’t help them improve sports skills.

That general athletic training also doesn’t overstress the body.  It doesn’t limit the skill set being developed later.   Maybe at 8 they are playing soccer, but by 10 they decide they like volleyball.  That library of basic athletic movement skills can be drawn on for most sports.

However, a professional player is entirely different.  Just doing general skipping, jumping and hopping won’t improve their performance. Our pro athletes generally have a decade or more of training.   Their window of opportunity to improve is much smaller than that 8-year old.

Whereas a little training effort may have lead to 75% sports improvement for the 8 year old, the elite athlete has to put in a lot of work to even improve 1%.

They have to put in more effort, endure more wear and tear on their body and manage large emotional and mental stresses. There is no room for waste, so training becomes more and more specific.  Sport specific training is essential for efficiency and effectiveness at the elite level.

Long Term Athlete Development Model

Velocity employs a long-term athletic development model that helps address the need for specificity.  It builds specificity from the ground up through a foundation of athleticism.  At the early stages this provides the transfer of training without the repetitive stress and strain of high specificity.

Long term athletic development velocity programs

As an athlete progresses, they continue to benefit from transfer of training by focusing on using different types of strength and building athletic movement skills.  This gives them a larger library of skills to take to sport practice and put into their technical skills.

As they gain some additional training experience, they can start to become more specific to their sport, their position and their individual needs.

How To Use Sport Specific Training

Start at the start.  To use an analogy, we don’t start future professional drivers in Formula 1 cars at age 8.  It is specific, just not very effective.  Any young athlete training outside of their sport practice should employ an LTAD model of sport specific training. 

Begin by building physical literacy and then basic athleticism. As the years of training increase, make the specific qualities more specific. Only at high levels should highly specialized training to mimic sports movement be used.

Progress from general to specific based on the years of training experience of the athlete.

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