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.

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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

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

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

Velocity Speed Training Drills: Small Time

plyometric drills for speed
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 Faster for Speed

Below we share 2 useful drills that help you develop your SMALL TIME qualities.  In essence, these are plyometric drills.  Drills where you have a ground contact that stretched your muscles, followed quickly by a contraction of those same muscles.

One of the benefits of this type of plyometric action is that parts of your muscles act like springs.  When you land they compress.  When you push they spring back and help you.

This is what we term Reactive Strength and is key for any athlete that wants to be fast.

RELATED: Sport Specific Types of Strength

Hurdle Hop Speed Training Drills

Hurdle hops are a very popular drill for speed training with good reason; they are effective.  The key is to do them well.

When your goal is to develop your reactive abilities, you need to focus on getting off the ground quick.  At the same time, you need to apply force.  Make sure you try to really project your body high into the air on each.  The speed is on the ground contact, not the movement forward.

Jump Rope Double-Unders

This is a time tested classic for foot speed.  It’s hardly new, but it works.  It should be a fundamental piece of every youth speed training program.  It’s basically a plyometric drill for speed.

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.

If you don’t want to get smacked with the rope, you need to apply that force quickly.

Double-unders are what we call a “self-limiting drill’.  This means that you really can’t perform it with bad technique.  Maybe you can get a few in without doing it well, but to string them together you need good form.  You will be in the proper body position, have the right range of motion and have a small time on the ground.

Velocity Speed Formula

Both of these are important speed training drills to develop an athletes ability to apply force quickly. They are great plyometric drills that work.   Execute them explosively and with great body position to be effective. If you perform them well and often, you’ll see the results transfer to game speed.

Velocity Speed Training Drills: Big Force

speed training drills
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

Getting Stronger for Speed

This article is focused on 2 important drills that help to develop your BIG FORCE qualities.  Although these are not weight room drills, strength training for speed development is important.  To be fast, athletes need to train in the weight room and do it properly.

These drills also develop some of the strength qualities you need to improve your speed.  They are very specific to building strength for speed.  They build speed strength and have a high carryover from training to application.

MORE FOR YOU:  The Science of Strength For Speed

Box Blast Exercise

The Box Blast is a speed training drill that lets you focus on maximum power.  The basic alignment of the limbs and torso is similar to the acceleration phase of sprinting.  Most importantly, the muscle motion is a piston-like action which we observe the acceleration phase.

Heavy Sled Runs

This is another greater drill that is highly specific to strength for speed.  Speed training drills like this need to be executed with great form and body alignment.

Velocity Speed Formula

Both of these are important speed training drills to develop the force production capabilities of athletes.  Execute them explosively and with great body position to be effective. If you perform them well and often, you’ll the results transfer to game speed.

WNAT TO GET FASTER: The Ulitmate Guide To Speed Training

Training the young female athlete – Coach Chris Rice

For female athletes, especially field athletes, improving balance and stability will be key when we are talking about reducing the risk of injury.  Today, we talk about on of my favorite prehab exercises to strengthen the hips and reinforce the knee stability, and that is the single leg star step on an airex pad

RELATED: Discover the Secret Elite Sports Organizations Know About Building Champion Athletes.

Coaches Favorite: Kettlebell Exercises

kettlebell

Kettlebells are a great tool which have been around for decades but have become popular again.  And it’s for good reason; they’re versatile and dynamic.  We surveyed some of our coaches to find out what their favorite exercises are with a kettlebell.

Coach Mike’s Pick: Double Kettlebell Clean + Squat + Push Press

The Double Kettlebell Clean+Squat+Push-Press is a full-body exercise complex that gives you a lot of bang for your buck. When done correctly, you develop power through the Clean, leg strength in the Squat, vertical pressing strength in the Push Press, and core strength throughout the entire movement.

Execution: Before beginning, you must keep your core rigid through the entire movement to ensure you don’t hurt yourself.

  1. Start with the two kettlebells of the same weight 1-2 feet in front of you and feet slightly wider than your shoulders.
  2. With knees slightly bent, keep your back flat and push your hips back to the wall behind you and grab the kettlebells tightly.
  3. Take a good breath and “hike” the kettlebells backward between your legs
  4. Stand up as fast you can to snap the kettlebells up and forward into the rack position.
  5. Clean the kettlebells to the rack position.
  6. Take a new breath, slowly squat down with the kettlebells as low as you can then drive up as fast as possible.
  7. Start to press the kettlebells above your head as you reach the top position, using the momentum of your squat to help finish the movement.
  8. Once the kettlebells are straight above your head, take another good breath and slowly pull the kettlebells down to the Rack position.
  9. Once in the rack position, reset with a good breath and prepare yourself for another repetition. Instead of starting with kettlebells on the ground, carefully let the kettlebells “fall” (while still holding them) and again hike them back through your legs and repeat the exercise for as many reps as prescribed.

Velocity Sports Performance on Vimeo.

If your goal is to develop all-around strength, use a heavy set of kettlebells for 3-6 reps. If your goal is to get a solid metabolic workout, go with a lighter set with which you can get in 8+ challenging reps.

Misao’s Pick: Halo

The Kettlebell Halo improves upper body mobility and stability. It is an overhead pattern that requires core stability as well as mobility and stability of the shoulders and shoulder blades.

Execution:

  1. In a kneeling or standing position, hold the kettlebell with both hands by the horns
  2. Brace your core and hold the bell in front of your chest.
  3. Slowly circle the bell around your head clockwise, then counter-clockwise. The movement must be slow and under control.
  4. The weight of the bell needs to be light enough so your torso does not sway side to side or arch.

Velocity Sports Performance on Vimeo.

You can easily progress this exercise by changing the way you hold the bell. Holding the weight with the bell pointing down is easier as the weight stays securely in your palms. If you grip it upside down (with the bell on top) it becomes more challenging because the weight travels farther away from your body, increasing the strain on the muscle due to a longer lever.

Coach Kenny’s Pick: Turkish Get Up

The Turkish Get-Up is great for shoulder stability, overall strength, and just plain toughness. It also can help develop a sense of body control and awareness and test an athlete’s focus.

Execution:

  1. Start laying on your back with your right knee bent and your left arm extended out to the side. Your kettlebell should be on the ground next to your right arm.
  2. Grasp the bell with your right hand and press it up so your right arm is completely straight and perpendicular to the ground.
  3. Keep your eyes on the bell throughout the entire movement.
  4. Roll up onto your left elbow, and then to your left hand.
  5. Push your hips up towards the ceiling as high as you can.
  6. Slide your left leg under your body and come up onto your left knee.
  7. Stand up.

To get back down, simply reverse the movement.

  1. Come down to your left knee.
  2. Place your left hand on the ground
  3. Slide your left leg out from underneath you so it’s totally straight, keeping your hips pressed up.
  4. Let your hips come to the ground.
  5. Lower on your left elbow.
  6. Completely lower yourself to the ground so you are laying flat.
  7. When bringing the kettlebell back to the ground, be sure to use your free hand to help guide it. Safety first.

Now do the same thing on the other side.

Coach Yo’s Pick: Bottom-Up Overhead Press

This series is great for shoulder stability, grip strength, elbow joint health, and core strength and stability based on athlete’s positioning. The Bottom-Up series gives the athlete a different stimulus since the load (kettlebell) is in an unstable position. This will improve overall proprioception (your level of awareness of where your body is in space), and by using different base positions ( ½ Kneeling, Tall Kneeling, Standing, Single Leg, etc), allows athletes to develop core strength and stability. It is a very unique exercise, and the kettlebell is an ideal tool for its execution.

Execution: Before you start, make sure that you have proper overhead mobility and stability and can do basic overhead press exercises with dumbbells or barbell. Once you have that skill, you can start by holding the kettlebell upside-down (bottom-up) right in front of shoulder. Make sure you the weight you use is not more than you can control with your grip alone. You can check holding the bell upside-down in a static position for a while without letting it drop. Ensuring you have basic stability before adding movement is always a good idea and will prevent needless injuries.

Performing the exercise in different positions will work on different elements of core strength and stability.

Coach Gary’s Pick: Split Squat KB Complex

The Split Squat KB Complex addresses muscle activation patterning, neuromuscular control, and dynamic stability of the trunk and lower extremities. This complex will challenge any athlete while reducing the likelihood of lower extremities injuries. This is valuable because more than 50% of injuries in college and high school athletics are knee injuries according to the American College of Sports Medicine. This 4-phased complex also allows coaches to progress athletes based on ability, making it excellent for novices and experienced athletes alike.

Execution:
Starting position – Kneel with your right foot flat and the right knee directly over the heel. Start with the bell on the ground in front of your left knee.

Starting Movement:
Inhale and lift the kettlebell with your left hand to the level of your forward (right) thigh.
Level your hips by pressing the hips forward and Press the forward (right) heel into the ground.
The upper body should remain tall and erect with the chest up and out and the shoulders level and stacked over the hips.

Phase 1: Split Squat – Stand up on both legs while driving your front heel into the ground. Once your legs are fully extended, reverse the motion and lower the body back to the starting.

Phase 2: Clean to Split Squat – Quickly thrust the body upward and bring the bell to the front of your shoulder. With the bell in this position, extended both legs to stand up, again driving your front heel into the ground. Once fully extended reverse the motion and lower the body back to the starting position.

Phase 3: Jerk to OH Split Squat – Quickly thrust the body upward and Jerk the bell overhead with the upper arm tight to the ear. With the bell in this position extended both legs to elevating the body upper, think about driving your front heel into the ground. Once fully extended reverse the motion and lower the body back to the starting position but remaining on the feet.

Phase 4: OH Split Squat to knee drive – With bell overhead and the upper arm tight to the ear, extend both legs to stand up. Once fully extended, quickly drive the back knee up and in front of body then back to the same spot on the ground. Once ground contact is made lower the body back to the starting position but remaining on the feet.

 

Exercise 6: Pistol Squat

The Pistol Squat is a great way to test balance and overall hip and glute strength. It also gives you a clear interpretation of your strength to bodyweight ratio. If you can easily perform the movement as a bodyweight exercise, add a kettlebell.

Execution:

  1. Front rack the kettlebell of your choice. Hold the bell with whichever hand is opposite from your “down” leg.
  2. Load your weight over one leg and slowly lower yourself to the ground on a single leg.
  3. Extend your “up” leg in front of your and keep it from touching the ground.
  4. Load your bodyweight onto one leg and as you drop down into a squat shift the loading glute back and extend the opposite leg forward in an attempt to keep it from touching the ground.

If you want to challenge yourself further, try performing the same movement while standing on some type of balance pad to give your foot an unstable surface to manage.

Coach Rob’s Pick: Single Arm Kettlebell Swing

The Swing is certainly the most ubiquitous use of the kettlebell. Once you have mastered it, try moving onto the single arm swing. This variation adds an anti-rotational component to the explosive hip drive inherent to the Swing.

Execution:

  1. Start with your feet hip-width or slightly wider. The kettlebell should be on the ground about a foot in front of you. Remember that during any weightlifting exercise, it is crucial that you keep your core tight and your back flat. Failure to do so, especially during a ballistic movement like a kettlebell swing is asking for injury.
  2. The weight you select should be lighter than you think you need until you get the feel for the exercise.
  3. Drop your butt towards to floor while keeping your chest up, grasp the bell firmly with one hand and “hike” it behind you, keeping your wrist tight to your body.
  4. Stand up quickly and let the bell rise up to about shoulder height. This part of the movement should be snappy and crisp.
  5. Keep your grip on the bell and let it fall, swinging back behind you while you keep it tight to your body.
  6. Repeat this movement for as many reps as prescribed.

Once you have this movement down, you can challenge yourself by switching hands every rep. To achieve this, let the bell swing up to its highest point, at which time it should be weightless for a brief moment. Have your opposite hand ready to grab the handle as soon as you let go with the swinging hand.

Whether you alternate hands or not, the Single Arm Swing is sure to get your heart rate up, make you sweat, and develop leg strength and core stability. Have fun!

Velocity Sports Performance on Vimeo.

 

4 Myths about Muscle Pliability You Need to Know

Trainer performing graston technique

The term “muscle pliability” has been in the news around the NFL quite a bit. Tom Brady and his trainer, Alex Guerrero, claim that making muscles pliable is the best way to sustain health and performance. How true is that claim? While it’s a great descriptive term, we are going to shed some light on what it really means and how to create muscle pliability.

Defining Words

Our performance coaches, sports medicine specialists, and tissue therapists all find it to be a useful term.  Pliable expresses some of the important qualities of muscle. According to Miriam-Webster Dictionary here’s what pliable means:

Pliable

a: supple enough to bend freely or repeatedly without breaking

b: yielding readily to others

c: adjustable to varying conditions

That’s a pretty good description for many of the qualities we want in the tissue of an athlete (or any human for that matter). The problem is that it’s being mixed up with a lot of inaccurate and confusing statements.

Our Sports Medicine Specialist, Misao Tanioka, says that “the word pliability, in my opinion, depicts the ideal muscle tissue quality. It is similar to suppleness, elasticity, or resilience. Unfortunately, I believe some of the explanations offered by Mr. Brady and Mr. Guerrero have created some misunderstanding of what ‘muscle pliability’ really is.”

Let’s try and separate some of the myths from what is true.

Myth 1: Muscles that are “soft” are better than dense

That depends on what qualifies as “soft” muscle.  Tissue Specialist Cindy Vick has worked on hundreds of elite athletes, including NFL players and Olympians across many sports. “Soft isn’t a word I would use for an athlete. When I’m working on an elderly client, I often feel muscles that could be called soft; they’re not dense. That’s not what I feel when working on elite athletes. Athletes who are healthy and performing well have muscles that have density without being overly tense and move freely. The tissue is still smooth and supple.”

This muscle quality is affected by many factors, ranging from stress, competition, nutrition, training, and recovery. At Velocity, maintaining optimal tissue quality is a constant endeavor.  Proper self myo-fascial release, various stretching techniques, and manual therapy are all part of the equation.

Myth 2: Dense muscles = stiff muscles = easily injured athletes

Relating these terms in this way grossly over-simplifies the reality and is in some ways completely wrong.

You have to start with the operative word: “dense.” Tanioka says, “Dense tissue can be elastic; elastic tissue is resilient to injury. What we have to look for is inelastic tissue.” Cindy Vick adds that “if you mean ‘dense’ to refer to a muscle with adhesions, or that doesn’t move evenly and smoothly, then yes, that’s a problem.”

Scientifically, stiffness refers to how much a muscle resists stretch under tension. It’s like thinking about the elastic qualities of a rubber band. The harder it is to pull, the stiffer it is. If a muscle can’t give and stretch when it needs to, that’s bad.

Imagine a rubber band that protects your joint. When a muscle exerts force against the impact of an opponent or gravity, stiffness can help resist the joint and ligaments from being overloaded and consequently injured.

“I agree with Mr. Brady’s statement about the importance of a muscle’s ability to lengthen, relax and disperse high-velocity, heavy incoming force to avoid injury.” says Tanioka. “However, I think that athletes also must be able to exert maximum power whether actively generating force or passively resisting an incoming stress, which requires the ability to shorten and be taut and firm as well as well as lengthen. The ability of tissue to be durable and contractile is just as important as to elongate and soften when it comes to performance and injury prevention.”

In the view of our experts, it’s not about dense, soft, stiff, or other qualitative words. Instead, they emphasize developing function through different types of strength qualities athletes need.   Athletes must prepare for the intense stress and strain their muscles will face in their sport.  They need to blend the right strength training with mobility and flexibility.

 

Myth 3: Strength training makes muscles short

“It’s an old wives’ tale that took hold when body building techniques had a big influence on strength and conditioning. A muscle can be incredibly strong without sacrificing any range of motion” according international expert and President of Velocity Sports Performance, Ken Vick, who has worked with athletes in 10 Olympic Games and helped lead the Chinese Olympic Committee’s preparation efforts for 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

“I’ll give you two great examples: Gymnasts are, pound-for-pound, very strong and incredibly explosive, yet they are known to be some of the most flexible athletes. Olympic weightlifters are clearly some of the strongest athletes in the world and are also generally very flexible. They spend practically every day doing strength training and their muscles aren’t ‘short’.”

RELATED: Why Athletic Strength Is More Than Just How Much Weight Is on The Barbell. 

In fact, proper lifting technique demands excellent flexibility and mobility. For example, poor hip flexor flexibility or limited ankle mobility results in an athlete who probably cannot reach the lowest point of a back squat. Our proven methods combine strength training with dynamic mobility, movement training, and state of the art recovery technology to help our athletes gain and maintain the flexibility and mobility required for strength training and optimal performance on the field of competition.

 

Myth 4: Plyometrics and band training are better for pliability

We hear these types of claims time and again from coaches, trainers, and others who are quoting something they’ve read without much knowledge of the actual training science. Our muscles and brain don’t care if the resistance is provided by bodyweight, bands, weights, cables, or medicine balls. They can all be effective or detrimental, depending on how they are used.

Sport science has shown that manipulating different variables influences both the physiological and neurological effects of strength training. Rate of motion, movement patterns, environment, and type of resistance all influence the results.

Truth: Muscle Pliability is a good thing

Like so many ideas, muscle pliability is very good concept. The challenge lies in discerning and then conveying what is true and what is not. An experienced therapist can, within just a few moments of touching a person, tell whether that tissue is healthy. A good coach can tell whether an athlete has flexibility or mobility problems, or both, simply by watching them move.

In either case, it takes years of experience and understanding of the human body and training science, like that which is possessed by the performance and sports medicine staff at Velocity, to correctly apply a concept like muscle pliability to an athlete’s training program.