3 Foods to Avoid Before a Workout

Food is what fuels your human machine. Choosing the right kind of fuel can go a long way towards optimizing your performance. This article focuses on things to avoid before your workout.

Too much protein

Protein is, of course, an important part of any athlete’s diet. Getting the right timing around your workout is important. Too much of it before a workout or a game can leave you feeling too full or lethargic – neither of which you want.

Fried and Fatty Foods

Any food with a lot of saturated fat should be avoided. This type of fat molecule takes a long time for your body to digest. It stays in your digestive system longer, and can lead to bloating, cramping, or diarrhea.

Foods high in fiber

Even though your doctor might want you to up your fiber intake, don’t do it pre-workout. Doing so right before you want to break a sweat might have some unpleasant consequences. Fiber certainly gets the digestive system moving, but you don’t want that during a hard training session.

There’s a lot more to be said about nutrition before, during, and after training or competition.  Check back for more in the future, and if the topic interests you, start researching!

Sources:

http://www.health.com/weight-loss/foods-to-avoid-before-a-workout

https://blog.myfitnesspal.com/9-foods-avoid-workout/

https://blogs.usafootball.com/blog/1078/3-foods-to-avoid-before-practices-and-games

Do athletes need a bigger engine or better brakes?

When it comes to training for performance, many, if not most, people immediately thinking about being faster and more powerful. After all, victory often depends on getting to the ball, finish line, goal line, end zone, or basket before your opponent.

This is the same as buying a new car with only one concern: How big is the engine? How fast can it go? How quickly does it get to 60mph? This is, of course, very important to athletic performance.

So, if we stick with our car metaphor, what’s going to happen if you buy a brand new Ferrari but the breaks don’t work? It won’t matter how fast you can go, because, without breaks, you can’t control all that speed.

In fact, the majority of non-contact injuries happen in just this way: athletes can’t manage stopping because they don’t have strong enough brakes and something, well, breaks.

So which one should you pick? The answer is that it depends. If you’re an explosive athlete who can’t change direction quickly, then you probably need better breaks. If your top speed blows away your competition but it takes you too long to get there, then maybe you need a more powerful engine. The first step is to assess where you are now and where you need to be.

At Velocity, we use a battery of tests to see where our athletes are strong and where they need to improve. Based on this and other information, like injury history and goals, our coaches can make smart decisions about what our athletes need in order to improve their performance.

If you want to see how your brakes and engine are working, contact us and schedule testing!

TRAINING: 3 drills to help you stop on a dime

Better Agility: Stop on a dime

Almost every sport is about more than just running fast or a huge vertical. Pick one, and we’ll bet that most of the action happens around changing direction. For the majority of the athletes with whom we work at Velocity around the country, this means they have to be just as good at stopping as they are at starting. Without good brakes, they simply can’t control their speed.

Three of our coaches have chosen their favorite drill to help their athletes have strong, fast brakes so that they can stop on a dime.

Level Lowering Ladder

One of the most basic skills an athlete needs to change direction is the ability to maintain proper position during deceleration. One of the tools we like to use at Velocity is the agility ladder because it helps focus the athlete on foot position and accuracy in addition to whatever skills we choose to address that day.

To do these drills, athletes first need to have the coordination to perform basic ladder drills well, such as swizzle, scissor switches, and the icky shuffle. Once the athlete can perform each of these without difficulty, they can modify the drill and pause as they drop their center of mass, stopping themselves in the proper position. The most basic, and therefore most important, positions in sports are the square, staggered, and single leg stance. A mini-band can be placed around the athlete’s knees to create awareness of proper knee position.  If the athlete adds a medicine ball into the drill, they can work on more ballistic/dynamic eccentric movement with a different stimulus.

The athlete needs to lower his/her center of mass to create “triple flexion” in lower extremity joints: hip, knee, and ankle. The center of mass, knee, and ground contact must be in a good alignment to keep the movement safe and efficient.

Most importantly, the athlete must achieve proper hip hinge and dorsiflexion of the ankle. The vast majority of non-contact injuries occur during deceleration, often at knees or ankles. Learning how to absorb (load) force with proper body position (hip hinge, stable knee, and dorsiflexed ankle) will help prevent these injuries.

Springs and Shocks Ladder

The agility ladder is a great tool to help our athletes develop their shocks and springs.

When it comes to speed, athletes need to be springy and quick off the ground. When we talk about “springs,” we mean our athletes’ ability to be faster by using the elastic properties of their muscles.

“Shocks” means having the ability to absorb impact and force so our athletes can stop safely and quickly. This drill emphasizes both abilities and applies to any sport.

How to do the drill:

through the ladder try to be a quick as you can off of the ground. This is where we focus on our springs. When we land we want to land and be under control. The more control we have when decelerating the safer our body will be when changing direction. Most important part of the landing is keeping the body in proper position and not allowing a valgus knee.

Important details to watch are: position and control. We want an athlete to be able to develop the strength and control through the proper range of motion. This is especially important as we begin to add not speed or distance. Do not let athletes progress unless they can properly and effectively let control their landing for at least 2 seconds.

Resisted Deceleration March Series

Slowing down is often the most challenging aspect of changing direction and requires the athlete to absorb more force than at any other phase of the movement. This series of drills teaches athletes to keep good posture and body-alignment during deceleration. When we add a concentric movement (explosiveness) immediately followed by a deceleration phase the drill also develops reactive strength and power in the athlete.

How to do the drills:

  1. Position the athlete in a good athletic base with a resistance band or bungee cord around their waist. The partner holding the band increases resistance by pulling toward the direction where deceleration needs to occur.
  2. The athlete controls their posture while moving toward “the direction of pull”. Their shin is a very important detail and must point away from the direction of pull. This helps their foot dig into the ground and resist the momentum that is trying to keep them moving in their original direction.
  3. The ground contact, knee, and athlete’s center of mass should be in alignment and proper posture maintained.
  4. If you want to incorporate an explosive moment, have the athlete perform any form of change-of-direction movement, such as a lateral push, crossover step, or jump.

Important details to watch are:

  1. Make sure the athlete understand the basic athletic base position. Hip-hinge and dorsiflexion of the ankles are very important.
  2. The level resistance needs to be appropriate to their strength and ability. You may adjust this by using a different size resistance band or the distance between the athlete and partner.
  3. Ground contact, shin angle, knee position, and the athlete’s center of mass stay aligned (away from the direction of pull).
  4. Make sure the athlete is not leaning on the band.
  5. Eccentric control first, then concentric! Make sure your athletes understand how to use the brakes before they hit the gas pedal.

Be safe! Bulletproof your shoulders for baseball

Bulletproof your shoulders

Its springtime and that means it’s time for Baseball and Softball. Players and coaches know that maintaining shoulder health is important for these sports, but they don’t always know what to do about it. Use these simple exercises to bulletproof your shoulders and stay in the game.

In this video, Coach Kenny Kallen shares two exercises that help improve posture and increase mobility in the thoracic spine and latissimus dorsi. Using these exercises in your warm-up will increase functionality, stability, strength, and power in the shoulders. The ultimate result will be better-throwing mechanics and less pain.

Next, Coach Ken Vick explains why shoulder stability is so important for baseball players. He demonstrates the Band Y, T, and W exercises to be used in any warm-up or workout routine. Improve your baseball throwing mechanics by stabilizing your scapula and rotator cuff to control your follow-through. Improvements in this area translate into increased speed, functionality, stability, strength, and power in the shoulders.

Sports Medicine Specialist Wes Rosner shows you how the 1/2 Turkish Get-Up can help bulletproof your shoulder.  It can strengthen and stabilize the shoulders, back, and core to help prevent injury. You want all these strong and stable when it’s game time.

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.

 

Are your offseason gains lost when it matters most?

Tim Hanway MS, CSCS, ASCC, ACSM

Sports Performance Director
Velocity Sports Performance - Norwood

As a professional coach, I have written extensively on a multitude of topics related to strength and conditioning. Whether I am talking about programming, the emotional aspects of training, or the nuts and bolts of coaching, I always come back to the importance of strength.

Strength is, in my opinion, the single most important physical attribute that an athlete can possess; it is quite literally the precursor to all expressions of athleticism. Speed, agility, quickness, explosiveness, and endurance all require strength in different forms. Strength training greatly enhances all of these qualities, which is why adopting a strength-training program that utilizes upper- and lower-body compound movements is perhaps the most effective path to athletic success and longevity.

One of the biggest challenges athletes encounter with strength and conditioning programs is that all the benefits they gain from training are reversible. All the hard work and performance gains an athlete makes during the off-season or pre-season can evaporate when this type of training is not maintained for prolonged periods of time.

The realities of In-season:

People are often surprised and have trouble accepting that they can lose their gains, especially young parents and athletes. The cold, hard truth is that more often than not, practices are simply not focused or intense enough during the season to stress a young athlete’s body enough to develop or maintain strength and fitness levels.

A head coach is, more often than not, focused on his or her own “one thing” during the season: winning. Simply put, priorities change once the season starts! Head coaches are instead more focused on tactics, plays, and improving whatever deficiencies were revealed in the team’s last game than they are on fitness and strength gains.

Let’s consider a basketball team: If they did not recover enough rebounds during the last game, that coach is definitely going to have the athletes work on lots of ‘box out’ drills in order to re-enforce technique and try to remedy the situation. Likewise, if the team’s offense wasn’t functioning properly, chances are that same coach is going to spend a significant amount of time in practice that week walking through all the plays at a moderate pace in order to “iron out the kinks” and fix any confusion.

What does this mean from an observational and practical standpoint? Most likely, the five starters on the team will go through the plays at a moderate intensity (at best) while the remaining 10 players stand around and watch from the sideline for prolonged periods of time. The truth is, almost any team’s in-season practice is going to consist of a lot of standing around, talking, and direction from the coach, with much less time dedicated to all-out scrimmages or drills attempting to simulate game-day conditions. This is supported by a scientific study conducted by Wellman and colleagues (2007) that compared the differences between pre-season and in-season practices and game times among NCAA Division I football players.

Whether discussing the height of collegiate sport or your average middle-school or high school team, studies like this one show that athletes simply do not experience the same kind of workloads during the in-season period compared to pre-season. The result is that players get weaker – literally losing strength.

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

The Good News:

There are some very practical solutions that athletes can employ in order to mitigate the negative effects of the paradoxical in-season strength and fitness loss. If the mantra ‘use it or lose it’ applies – and it does – the simple solution is to ‘use it’ by strength training in-season. This does not mean that an in-season strength program should be the same as an off- or pre-season program. We know that athletes are spending a lot of time in practices and games, all of which require physical resources and take a toll on the body.

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

Call to Action:

What can you do to safeguard and maximize your son or daughter’s performance gains that they worked so hard for during the off- and pre-season?

The answer is this:

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

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

References:

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

HOCKEY TRAINING: Five Exercises to Help you Battle in the Corners

Hockey training

We’ve been doing more and more work with hockey athletes here at Velocity, and one thing they all share in common is that they are ready to work. Hockey has a long tradition of grueling training, and that’s because being on the ice is a fight (sometimes literally, though that’s not what we’re talking about here).

As performance coaches, we love athletes who aren’t afraid to get after it – the ones who are going to leave a trail of sweat on the gym floor when they’re done. Hockey players always fit this description, so we wanted to give all of you ice-warriors a few exercises to help you win when you’re up against the boards, fighting it out in the corners.

Add these to your training program and we bet you’ll win more of those corner battles on your way to winning the war.

Exercise 1: The Burpee

For such a simple exercise, few movements forge mental toughness and an unbreakable body like the burpee. With little more required than “get down to the floor and get back up,” it develops a mindset and work ethic that won’t quit, which is critical for winning the battle of the boards during all three periods and beyond. If you want to learn how to bend but not break, all while preparing your body for grinding competition, then burpees are for you.

To begin, drop your chest to the ground as quickly as you can while under control. Maintaining tension through your midsection during the descent is critical to a clean, efficient burpee. Next, push away from the floor, snapping your hips up so your feet land under your hips and jump. Spend as little time on the ground as possible – if you want to build a better motor you have to practice going as fast as you can. It’s that simple: get down, get back up! This simple exercise is a fantastic tool for the body and the mind because you have to keep your body moving even when it wants to give out – a skill every hockey player needs.

 

This physical and mental strength will serve you well the next time your opponent picks your most exhausted moment to come after you. If nothing else, the burpee teaches you how not to give up.

Exercise 2: Keiser Pulley Push-Pull

This cable exercise is a great way to build whole-body explosive power in a rotational pattern.  When you are fighting along the boards, it’s not just about pushing or pulling in one direction. When you need to knock the other guy off his skates, rotational movement from your skates all the way through your upper body makes the difference. Build this type of explosiveness and you’re sure to win more battles.

We like to use the Keiser trainer for this exercise because its unique air resistance lets us move more explosively and measure an athlete’s power output, but you can use any cable trainer that has two arms.

In a good athletic stance, use your legs and hips to rotate your body. Transfer that power to an explosive pulling and punching motion with the arms. Control it on the way back to the start position.  

 

Exercise 3: Double Kettlebell Front-Rack Position Lateral Lunge

This exercise is designed to strengthen the legs and core in the frontal plane of movement (side to side). It challenges the athlete’s ability to resist and absorb lateral forces as well as produce force coming out of the lunge. These abilities are critical not only for general skating but also for staying on your skates while pushing back against your opponent as you fight for the puck.

To do the Double Kettlebell Front-Rack Position Lateral Lunge, you need to:

  • Hold two kettlebells in the front-rack position with elbows forward and not to side
  • Maintain a rigid torso
  • Take a large step to the side with toe pointed forward (not to the side) while keeping the other foot in place
  • As you lower yourself to the side, keep your chest up, core tight, and feet flat
  • Push your hips backward
  • Get as low as possible while maintaining posture
  • Push back to original standing position with speed and continue to maintain posture
  • Repeat on the opposite side and continue to alternate for the prescribed repetitions

Exercise 4: Anti-Rotational Stability Chop

This exercise is designed to improve athletes core control in different positions. It teaches the athlete to engage and brace his or her core while the rest of the body is doing other tasks. This ability is critical for all movements on the ice, but especially at the point of contact.

To do the Anti-Rotational Stability Chop, you need to learn basic breathing technique and lumbo-pelvic control. Then you can apply the exercise to different base positions, such as: Tall-Kneeling, Half-Kneeling, Split Stance, and Standing.

 

Exercise 5: Airex Pad Single Leg Stability

The is a simple exercise that can be performed with or without equipment. It forces the athlete to focus on balance and stability at the hip, knee, and ankle of the working leg. Even though it doesn’t involve any weights or powerful movements, the improved balance and stronger stability you will gain will make you a tougher skater to knock down.

To perform this exercise, stand with both feet together and one small ball of any type in each hand (LAX ball, baseball, tennis ball, whatever you have). Start with your feet on the ground and progress to standing on a balance pad when you need more of a challenge. While hinging at the hip and keeping your back flat, bring your chest forward and down by bending one knee while keeping the opposite leg straight. Reach across your body with the right hand, placing the ball on the ground. Return to standing position and try to maintain your single leg stance. Next, reach across your body with the left hand to place the ball on the ground. After you’ve stood back up, repeat the process to pick up the balls. Small cones may also be used: instead of setting something down and picking it up, you have to touch the cones.

Velocity Coach’s Favorite Speed Drills

Speed training is fundamental to the Velocity system. We asked four of our coaches which drills were their favorites – a kind of “desert island” scenario for speed training. If you don’t have much time, or maybe just don’t know where to start, try these.

Coach Kenny’s pick: The Single Leg Tuck Jump

Reason
Every athlete needs to be quick and powerful on just one leg. Whether it’s cutting, jumping, landing, or sprinting, sports are mostly about exploding, stopping, and exploding again as quickly as possible.

Focus
This drill requires athletes to generate as much force as they can while getting their foot off the ground as quickly as possible.

Execution
While in a single-leg stance, jump as quickly as you and tuck your knee up toward your chest as soon as your foot leaves the ground.

Sets & Reps
As many reps as you can on one leg for 20 seconds.

60 seconds of rest.
As many reps as you can on the other leg for 20 seconds.

Repeat this series three times and you’ve done some respectable speed training in under four minutes.

Coach Yo’s Pick: Build Your Brakes! (Level Lowering Series)

Reason
In addition to being a place where many athletes can make a meaningful difference in their on-field or on-court speed, the moment when an athlete needs to change direction or decelerate is where the majority of non-contact injuries occur. This is due to lack of strength, poor posture or position, or a combination of both.

Fortunately, these types of injuries are easily preventable by learning good base position and improving eccentric strength.

Focus
Learn what good base positions are and how to get in and out of them quickly.

Execution
Work on your base positions:

  • Practice the Square Stance
  • Next try the Staggered Stance
  • Advance to the Single Leg Stance (on each side)

Next, you need to learn the “Loading Position.” At Velocity, we often refer to this as Level Lowering. While you can do this without any equipment whatsoever, we often use the following tools to help with these drills:

  • Agility Ladders help with your tempo and target ground contact time.
  • Minibands are fantastic for activating and keeping athletes’ glutes engaged.
  • Other variations include adding anti-flexion and anti-rotation elements to target different muscle groups and strength qualities.

Sets & Reps
Level Lowering is about posture and position before it is about volume. Therefore, going through a certain number of reps if the correct posture cannot be maintained is at best unhelpful and may be dangerous. The best way to approach these drills is to work until you master the positions.

 

Sports Medicine Specialist Misao’s pick: 5-10-5 Change of Direction Test

Reason

The movement patterns involved are simple, excellent for training specific movement, and are common to any sport that involves more than running straight ahead.

The test is very short, lasting at most six seconds. This means that an athlete’s performance is determined by their foot quickness and ability to change direction, not by endurance.

Another benefit of this drill is that it’s not a drill – it’s a test. Athletes get timed, so not only do they tend to push themselves harder than they would otherwise, they also get direct and immediate feedback as to whether they are getting faster or slower.

Focus
This test is about how quickly and athlete can change direction, plain and simple.

Execution:
Place three cones (or something similar) in a line with five yards between each cone. The athlete starts in the middle in a square stance, facing directly ahead, with one hand on the ground. The athlete sprints five yards one direction, then ten yards back the other way, then turns around to sprint back through the middle.

Time starts as soon as the athlete makes his or her first move coming out of the square stance and ends when the hips cross the middle line.

Sets & Reps
We suggest giving an athlete one or two test runs at about 80% to get a feel for the movement and decide which direction they want to start running. After that, more than three or five times through the test is adequate. If you are looking for a change-of-direction drill for conditioning purposes, we would suggest something like suicides or the 300-yard shuttle.

Coach Rob’s pick: Jump Rope

Coach Rob spends a lot of time with our Youth athletes, whose ages range from about 8 to 12. While simplicity is valuable regardless of your athletes’ ages, its importance increases with younger athletes, whose attention spans and motor control are not yet fully developed.

Reason
Part of the Velocity Big Four Speed Formula is small time, which is purely about getting your feet off the ground quickly. Jumping rope correctly teaches athletes how to get their feet up quickly and improves their ability to do so. It gives them immediate feedback as to whether they are getting better at being quick – they get over the rope or they don’t.

The coordination required to jump rope is another reason it work so well. Many of our young athletes need work in this area, and when they can coordinate their jump roping, it usually translates in to an improvement in overall coordination. This helps with running technique and a wide variety of other movements.

This drill requires a lot of focus, and nearly all of our youth athletes need more of that. In fact, our coaches know the quality that determines which athletes excel is often not talent or strength, but the ability to focus. We’ve found that giving our athletes drills that force them to lock in their attention to the task at hand is a great way to develop that ability.

Focus
Developing quick feet, coordination, and focus.

Execution
Jump over the rope by picking up your toes, not by bending your knees.

Sets & Reps
Set a goal for your athletes to be able to do 100 jumps in a row without stopping for any reason. Beginning with just five minutes of practice every day will yield great results. Once they can do that, move on to single leg jump rope, and then to double-unders.

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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 recently. 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.

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.’”

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.

8 Kettlebell exercises that will make you fit for life

If you’ve spent any time around a gym, reading fitness blogs, or even scrolling through your friends’ Instagram posts, you’ve probably seen a kettlebell (or KB). You’ve also probably heard people say it is a great tool to make you strong, lean, and fit.

This is true, but how does this cannonball-looking thing work? What do you do with it? Do you just buy one watch the fat magically melt away? Most definitely not.

There is no magic shortcut to the results you want. A kettlebell is a great tool to help you reach your fitness goals, but like any good tool, it must be used correctly to be effective.

Kettlebell Warm-Up

Our kettlebell warm-up moves from simple to more complex exercises will help you master some of the fundamental KB movements. While you might not be able to get into some of the advanced exercises, like the KB snatch right away, with dedication and practice you will quickly feel comfortable performing them.

This is what the Velocity kettlebell warm-up looks like:

  • 20 KB Swings (American)
  • 5 Single Leg RDL (each leg)
  • 10 Goblet Squats
  • 5 Presses (each arm)
  • 8 Thrusters (each arm)
  • 8 Clean & Jerks (each arm)
  • 5 Snatches (each arm)
  • 1 Turkish Get Up (each arm)
  • 20 Swings (American)

So why should you bother to learn how to do all of these exercises? The rumors about the KB are true: with a very short workout you can get incredible results. It can help you lose weight, gain weight, add strength, or just be more active, depending on how you use it.

Buy A Kettlebell

For you to reap these benefits, you must commit. Get your own KB or go to a gym that has some. Even though we coach at a gym with a complete kettlebell setup, many of our coaches like to keep some at home so there’s no excuse not to use one every day.

None of us will get any better if we are not committed to our goals. Part of that commitment is planning around what works for you, and even the coaching staff and Velocity doesn’t always have time to make it to the gym. If you can keep even one kettlebell at home and learn to use it, you have a cheap an effective home gym in your garage or back yard.

Master the Kettlebell Movements

Owning a KB is the first step. The next is learning how to use it properly so you don’t hurt yourself and have a longer list of exercises from which to choose; our kettlebell warm-up is a simple and effective place to start.

The focus is not just learning the movements, but mastering them. As you get good at these basic exercises and understand how best to use the kettlebell, you can begin to create your own workouts. You can combine exercises in any way you like; you can add other exercise elements in like running, jumping rope, push-ups, or anything that excites you.

The possibilities are endless, but you have to earn this this freedom of movement by first learning the basic exercises. Do this, and you will always have a way to strong and fit – with just one piece of equipment.