As I’ve mentionned often in the past, I’m a firm advocate for single-leg training. I believe it is truly one of the most important part of lower body training, especially for athletes. It’s more functional, more sport-specific and better for injury prevention purposes. At Endeavor, we use a ton of single-leg lifts with all our athletes, and most of the time we use these single-leg lifts as our main lower body strength exercise.
Some of you might wonder what type of exercise we’re using, because let’s face it, you can’t DB reverse lunges all the time. So here’s a little insight to the progressions we use with our single-leg lifts.
- The DB reverse lunge is the first variation we use 99% of the time. Dumbbells keep your center of mass low, so therefore it’s not too hard on your balance compared to other variations.
A reverse lunge will allow you to use a good push off your back leg, so it is easier for athletes and clients who don’t have a lot of single-leg strength. A reverse lunge is also easier than a forward lunge because you don’t have a big deceleration component on your front leg like you have with a forward lunge. This deceleration component makes it much harder to keep a proper upper body posture throughout your set.
- The second one on our progression list is still a reverse lunge, but in which we will change the center of mass by using a back squat grip or a front squat grip with a barbell. Since the load is much higher, the center of mass moves up and it makes it harder to maintain your balance.
Another variation we use to make it harder by moving the center of mass higher is to use dumbbells overhead. This is a variation we will use more in conditioning circuits or to unload the joints, because the overhead position makes it very hard on the core and shoulder muscles. So what happens most of the time is the core and shoulder muscles will be the limiting factors before you get to a weight that’s going to be heavy enough to be challenging for your lower body.
- Third on the list would be the rear foot elevated (RFE) split squats with dumbbells (a.k.a. bulgarian split squats). Having your back foot on a bench makes it harder to get help from your back leg compared to a lunge; so, more weight is supported on your front leg. Some beginners don’t have the strength to do a RFE split squat; they need to do lunges for a little while to get their strength up before they can progress to a RFE split squat.
- Then, of course, you can progress the RFE split squat with dumbbells to a RFE split squat with a back squat grip or a front squat grip with a barbell. Once again the center of mass is shifted higher, so it makes the exercise more difficult.
- Once you’ve mastered the reverse lunges and RFE split squat variations, you can progress to a slideboard reverse lunge. Don’t let the name fool you, because it is much harder than any other lunging variation. The reason is that because of the nature of the slideboard (slippery…duh!), you can’t really use your back leg to help you much; putting more weight on the back leg would make your foot slide away from your body and dangerous things could happen. Just keep in mind that you have very little support from your back leg and you’re using mostly your front leg to pull yourself up, so you need a decent amount of single-leg strength before you try it.
- Last on the list is the single-leg squat and its variations. The main reason why it’s the hardest one is because the leg you’re not using is totally unsopported, therefore it can’t help you at all. You need very good single-leg strength in order to do this one; especially when you perform it with a full range of motion.
All in all, this might not be the exact same progression we use with 100% of our client because there is many factors to consider when building a program; how old is the client? how much lifting experience does he have? how strong is he? does he have any restriction or injury? etc. All these factors will dictate the progressions we’ll use with everyone of our athlete. Also keep in mind that there are many other ways to progress single-leg lifts and make them more challenging, but this is a basic progression that should give you a pretty good idea on where to start and how to progress athletes and clients from there.
Funny story. Actually, it’s a pretty shocking story…
I was at a U-16 hockey game this past weekend at the rink close to where I work. I like to watch pretty much any hockey game at any level, as I just loved that sport no matter if I’m watching an NHL game or if I’m watching a squirt team. I witnessed what was the most ridiculous thing ever, and quite frankly, I just couldn’t believe what I saw. The home team was up 5-3 going in the 3rd period, and just like in many other minor league game, parents were yelling at the referees because he blew a couple of calls. The visiting team then came back and tied the game with 2 quick goals. Needless to say that the intensity was ramping up on the ice….and in the stands. Parents were cheering louder and louder on both sides and parents from both team kept yelling more and more at the referee for blown calls (in their totally un-biased opinions, of course). After the referee called a penalty on the visiting team, one of the dads from the home team and one of the dads of the visiting team started arguing with each other while being seated 2 sections appart. These guys (both clearly over 45 years old) were going at it, calling each other out, like 15 year old kids would do. I just couldn’t believe it.
This stuff really is happening!
Fast forward to the end of the game; the visiting team is winning 6-5, the clock runs out and the kids on the ice all start fighting. As the referees was trying to separate everyone, one of the kids from the home team comes out of the the pack holding a kid of the other team by the head in a choke-hold, turns around to face the crowd and waves to his parents…and his parents actually cheered while the kid was still holding the other kid in a choke-hold. Remember, this is a U-16 team, and what makes it even worse is that it was a Tier 2 organization!
Ridiculous. Plain and simple.
Seriously, where is that going to end? We’ve been hearing for many years now how parents don’t always behave when attending youth hockey games, but I guess I just never realized how bad it is now. How are kids suppose to behave when they see their parents being aggressive and immature in the stands while they’re playing? I just don’t get it. Acting like a moron when you attend your kid’s minor league hockey game is not going to make them better; it’s not going to make them a better athlete and it certainly is not going to make them a better person. How do you think your kid will see your behavior? He will think that it’s acceptable to act like an asshole; he will think that offensive language and violence are the way to solve problems.
We have a problem as a society. Sports are supposed to teach you good behavior, discipline, sportsmanship, respect and most of all the fun of playing sports. With the way parents are acting more and more, none of these values are being transmitted to kids playing sports. Where is that going to lead us when these kids grow up and have kids themselves? We need a serious reality check. Something is wrong right now in youth sports that needs to be fixed.
Being involved a lot with kids and sports as a strength coach, I am very concerned with that situation. In what we do as strength coaches, we want to help kids become better athletes, but whether we like it or not, we have a responsibility to transfer good values to these kids. Discipline, sportsmanship and respect; those same values they are supposed to learn in their sporting organizations and at home, we are responsible to reinforce during all the time we spend with these kids. But if they’re not even getting those values from their teams and parents, we have a tough situation to overcome.
Let me spell it for you: E-A-T. What? That’s not a secret? You already knew this? Possible. But a wise man named Stephen Covey once said “Knowing and not doing it is not knowing”…or something like that. And it couldn’t be more true. For all of those of you out there who are trying to add muscle mass to their frame and have a hard time doing it, this tip applies to you. And please do me a favor and stop thinking you’re so special and that the problem must be something else because you think you’re eating enough. I don’t know you, but if you’re not gaining muscle, you’re not eating enough. Period. Stop blaming your fast metabolism, your genetics or anything else for that matter. You’re not eating enough!
Yeah, yeah, you have a fast metabolism…now go eat a sandwich
I’ve heard it so many times: “…but I eat all the time; it would be impossible for me to eat more than that. I’m sure that’s not the reason why I’m not gaining weight.” Eat more. You are not special; your metabolism is not preventing you from gaining muscle; your genetics is not limiting you. You’re not eating enough, plain and simple. Eat more and I’ll guarantee you you’re going to put on some weight, and way faster than you think. I’ve actually witnessed gains as fast as 6-8 pounds a month with clients and athletes who really make a dedicated effort of taking in large amounts of quality foods. And no, none of them were on performance enhancing drugs. Stop being jealous and making excuses for yourself. Just eat more!
Mandatory sandwich eating for everyone!
The truth is that there are in fact many factors to account for that are responsible for increasing muscle mass. Things like: an appopriate training program, the intensity you put in your training, the quantity and quality of your sleep, the amount of time allowed for recovery, your stress level, your genetics and your testosterone levels are all important factors that contribute to gains in muscle mass. But don’t think you’re so special that it might be one of these things that really is limiting your progress.
Simply, put it this way: if you are lifting on a regular basis and you are eating more calories than what you burn in a day, you will gain muscle. Guaranteed.
Enough said. Now, go eat!
P.S. Do me a favor and send this information to all the hard gainers around you.
If you have been following my website for a while now, you probably know that I’m a big advocate of an appropriate long term development plan for every athletes. I strongly stand against early sport specialization and I honestly think that if we would get away from that, we would have a lot less of injuries in sports and surgeries related to overuse. It is very hard to get people to understand that when you have 90% of people involved in sports training (parents, coaches and trainers) that advocate the exact opposite: if you want to get better in a certain sport, you need to play more and more and more and do it year-round as young as possible so you can develop better.
I went into great details in previous blog posts why this is a totally retarded way of thinking. By doing so, you’re not developping better athletes, you’re actually developping patterns for overuse injuries. That being said, it is our job as strength coaches to educate athletes and parents on why this is so bad and how they should go about training the right way and following a good development model for optimal development and long career as injury-free as possible.
The first step to take in that direction is obviously to have the different national sport associations to endorse a good development model and help promote that to organizations, coaches, parents and players. The big problem we have right now is that these organizations don’t get it. So when you see steps taken in the right direction, it’s really satifying to know that they start to get it and want to help change the trend that is currently poisoning most sports. Mike Boyle gave a presentation about the long term athletic development for hockey players to USA Hockey a couple of days ago. Coach Boyle is one of the smartest, most experienced strength coach out there; he has seen it all in his long career and he has probably trained more hockey players than anybody else in the world. Most athletes he trains, if not all, turn out to have long careers and very few injuries; so, there’s gotta be something he’s doing right. Here is the video of the presentation. I need to warn you that it is an hour and 20 minutes long, but make sure you listen to it; it’s all really worth it.
To me, to know that USA Hockey actually took a step in the right direction and took the time to listen what coach Boyle had to say, tells a lot about the organization and where they’re headed (they also made several changes within the organization and to their development model recently). Don’t be surprised to see more and more American hockey players emerge at the pro levels in the next decade or two.
Please, if you know anyone involved (closely or not) in sports, you need to forward this blog post or just the video to them, whether they’re parents, coaches, athletes and anyone else.
I know there is a book out there with the same name, and apparently it is really good.
It has been recommended to me by a couple of persons but I have yet to read it (shame on me). But just by reading the title, I’m sure I will agree with what’s in the book and I definitely believe that quote to be true.
I have worked with many athletes so far in my career, and every kid is different; every one has a different level of talent, every one has a different attitude, a different work ethic, a different interest in getting better. Simply, they all are very different. And when you train them to become better athletes, you notice things in the way they behave and how much effort they put in.
Some of them are very talented and work very hard, some of them are average players and work hard, some of them are not very talented and goof off all the time. But what really strikes me is that even at a very young age (10-12 years old) kids start making excuses for not working hard. I’ve worked with many, and I mean MANY kids over the years that don’t work hard. Some of them it’s because they’re very good and they think they don’t need to improve since they are already the best player on their team and they have the talent to make up for the lack of effort. I totally don’t agree with that mindset, as I think this is wasted talent, and worse of all, it’s going to catch up to them sooner than later. But what’s even worse are the kids that are less talented who make up excuses for not putting in the effort. Most of the time, it’s the ones who are scared to be embarassed of not being as good as the talented kids, so they don’t even try. At such a young age, they don’t realize that even if they are not currently the best player on their team right now, it doesn’t mean they won’t be the following year, or the year after, or in two years. Eric Tangradi has been told at age 12 by a well respected coach that he was not good enough and that he could never play high level hockey because he didn’t have what it takes! Yes, that’s right at 12 years old! For those who don’t already know, Eric scored his first NHL goal a couple of weeks ago! He is one of the best example of determination I know, because he pursued his dreams no matter what people told him.
This simply amazes me: how can you tell a kid at 12 years old that he doesn’t have what it takes? Especially as a coach! You simply don’t have the right to destroy a kid’s dream at such a young age.
I have been working with a group a very young hockey players (under 12) for the last couple of months and we had our last session togheter yesterday. My words to them was:”Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re not good enough. If you want to become a better hockey player, you can. At your age, if you dream of playing in the NHL one day, you can. Each and every single one of you can. Whether you’re the best player on your team right now, or not. It might not be easy, and you WILL need to work hard and give all you have in every game, every practice and every training session you will have. Anything is possible. Anything is possible if you work hard. You need to stop comparing yourself to your teammates and the guys you play against, and focus on yourself and do the best you can do to become the best you can be. There is no limit to what you can achieve if you really want it. You have the potential, just use it.” As I finished my speach I looked at them and saw one of them drawing an imaginary picture on the wall with his finger. He probably didn’t get it. In fact, a lot of them probably didn’t get it or didn’t even pay attention. But if only one really got it and he makes the most out of it, I will be more than satisfied.
Talent is not what will get you to the top in the long run. Hard work and dedication will. It’s our job as coaches, trainers and parents to make kids realize that they have what it takes to get where they want; they just have to work as hard as possible every single day to get there.
One thing that people overlook too often is the reason why they’re training in the first place. I see too many people who don’t keep their goal in mind when they train. And I’m not only talking about the athletes or fitness enthousiasts themselves here, I’m also talking about the coaches and trainers. Everybody wants to workout hard and do unique style training using all kinds of fancy equipement that they perceive as being magical tools to achieve their special needs.
Too often people will judge of the training they’re doing by how tired they are at the end of the session and how sore they are the next day. How ridiculous is that? A wise man once said:”every trainer can make you tired, not every trainer can give you results.”
Google “workout tired”….this is what comes up
This couldn’t be more accurate. Whatever you do, make sure you ALWAYS keep your training goals in mind. Never judge your level of fatigue after a workout as an accurate measure for your goal achievements. Never use soreness either as an indicator of your progress.
If you’re training to improve speed, it doesn’t make sense to do interval based work with short rest periods; you will get tired quickly and you won’t be able to give a 100% on every effort. Same thing goes for people who do crossfit type training (as it seems to be the new trend) and are looking to increase their strength and power for sports peformance.
What’s all the hype with that crossfit stuff anyway?
I do think that there are many pros and cons to consider with this crossfit thing before you get into it, but using crossfit for sport-specific performance is totally ridiculous; doing tons of reps with minimal rest is not going to improve your strength and power for anyone with more than 2 years of lifting experience. Also the risk to benefit ratio with crossfit is not worth it if you’re an athlete, as you often perform complex movements with a high level of fatigue. And as I’ve mentionned times and times before, doing distance running or aerobic based training to improve sport-specific conditioning for anaerobic sports like hockey, football, soccer, lacrosse and the like is equally idiotic.
But I’ll stop here as I feel I’m starting to bitch a little too much here. The take home message is this: always keep your training goals in mind whatever you do. Consider what you really want to achieve; whether it’s to increase your speed, increase your power and strength, lower your body fat or gain muscle. Plan your training in a smart way and be consistent with your goals and train accordingly. Also accept the fact that it’s ok to leave the gym not tired sometimes, and it might actually be more beneficial to your results.
Today is just a quick blog post to point out a couple achievements from Endeavor.
1. After being the last defenseman cut at training camp with the Colorado Avalanches, Colby Cohen was called back this past week end from the Lake Erie Monsters; so he played his first NHL game on Saturday in a convicing win for the Avalanches 5-0 over the Stars. Congrats Colby, we’re very proud of you!
2. In the last 6 months, we’ve been working with a lot of baseball pitchers at Endeavor. Most of them were going on their senior year in high school with expectations to play college next year, but none of them was approached by any school. In the last couple of weeks, one of our pitchers, Matt Rakus just got offered a scholarship with a D-1 team in New Jersey. The very next week, Trevor Connors, another one of our pitcher who wasn’t expecting to be looked at, was actually visiting a D-1 college in Maryland! Seems like everything is turning out pretty well for them. But I have to admit that they truly deserve it because they have been busting their ass in the gym in the last couple of months. Apparently hard work does pay off!
3. I just established a personal best by pulling 385 for 5 reps this past week end.
For strong people it’s not that much, but for me it’s actually really good as my all-time PR is 435 for a single. That 385 for 5 reps would have gave me something to cheer about…..if only this bastard wouldn’t have pulled 425 for 5 reps right before me…
As a strength coach, you will face the same question everyday: What supplement should I take to improve my performance? I really don’t like this question, as most of time I feel like what athletes are really asking is: What magic pill can I take to replace the benefits I could have from good nutrition since I’m too lazy to eat well?
It really comes down to the fact that I really don’t recomment any supplement to anyone unless they at least make a conscious effort of eating well. Supplements should be used to give an edge on your performance when you already have a proper diet or to help you recover better in times of more intense training/practice volume. I don’t think supplements should ever be used to compensate for a shitty diet and lifestyle.
Does this look like your lunch box? If so, supplements are definitely not what you need
The first step to make to help you improve your performance and recovery is by making sure you have a good diet. What I mean by this is: eat enough protein, eat every 3-4 hours, eat mostly whole foods like fruits, vegetables and meat, stay away from food products as much as possible, etc. Most young athletes don’t realize how much of an impact nutrition actually has on their performance. It’s really important to make them realize it and help them improve their diet before we recommend any supplement.
That being said, I am not against supplements at all. It’s just about which one to take because there is so much crap on the supplement market; I would easily say over 90% of the supplements out there are totally worthless and they do nothing but making you waste your money.
Most useless supplement ever?
Here is a list of the supplements I feel comfortable recommending because they have proven effective by the research out there and by the athletes to whom I’ve recommended these supplements.
- Fish Oil. This is a staple supplement for everyone. Numerous studies have proven it is effective for a number of things including: improving memory and fighting Alzeimer, reducing cardiovascular disease risks, maintain joints health, helping improve body composition and the list goes on and on.
- Vitamin D. Another staple, especially in the northern regions because we are rarely if ever getting enough vitamin D from the sun. Helps prevent different type of cancers, reduce risks of diabetes, help prevent chronic fatigue and depression, etc.
- Multivitamin. Unless you’re eating all organic food, I definitely recommend taking a multivitamin because the quality of the food we eat in 2010 might not that great with all the pesticides, chemicals and preservatives that are used.
- Greens supplement. The reason I feel this is a staple is that even if you eat well there are very little chances that you match your fruits and vegetables requirement every single day. I personnaly use it on days I don’t get enough fruits and veggies, but I would also recommend it to someone who’s always on the road from playing a high level sport or just because of work.
- ZMA. Improves your sleep quality BIG time, improves your recovery and increase the production of testosterone and growth hormones. Simply awesome. Nothing else to say about it.
- Creatine. Not necessarily a supplement I would take year round, but I like creatine once in a while to improve recovery. It can be very useful in times of high and intense training volumes.
- Beta-Alanine. Similar to creatine, beta-alanine helps improve recovery. It acts differently than creatine as it allows you to do more work in the same amount of time. It’s really effective for everything that’s anaerobic lactic based (20-90 sec). Hockey players love it.
I have to admit it. I am not perfectly healthy. I actually have a disease. It’s a very rare disease and we don’t know much about it; I don’t even think doctors know what it is. It’s called the strength coach disease. Fortunately it’s not fatal and I don’t think it’s contagious…but I really don’t know for sure. This disease is horrible. Only strength coaches and trainers can have it. It makes you see things diffently, it changes your perspective on a lot of things humans do and that might even lead you to judge people on their behavior or their appearance.
The strength coach disease affects every area of your life. Of course, since we work in gyms, weight rooms and training facilities we look at the way people train. We analyze the workouts they’re doing, the way they perform movements, and pretty much everything they’re doing. And everybody that is trained by us have very good chances of being judged when doing something that we don’t agree with. I don’t like to judge people, actually I am not usually the type of person that will judge others at first sight…but I need to admit it, in a gym it might happen. If you’re a guy with a sleeveless shirt, with huge arms, shaped like a light bulb (read: no lower body development) who does curls in the squat rack, you will be judged!
You know exactly what I think about this guy…
If you’re an woman over 40 that will ride the elliptical for 40 minutes and won’t ever pick up a weight heavier than 10 pounds, you will be judged! I am sorry, I don’t like it, but I have a disease; you need to understand this.
If that was only a problem in my work environment (gyms and weight rooms), it wouldn’t be that bad. But this disease is affecting me way beyond the gym. Every time I see people bending forward to pick up something with a rounded back, my first reflex is to look at their butt; do they have gluteal definition? In most cases, the answer is no. And when that happens, hypothetical thoughts start invading my mind and I can’t help but think: “this guy’s doesn’t move from the hips, his glutes don’t fire properly, he’s compensating with his lower back, if he doesn’t already have back pain, I would bet my car that he will sooner than later.”
I don’t even care how nice this lady might be; I’m just concerned about her back
Every time it happens, I try to take deep breathes in, look somewhere else, think about something else, but I can’t avoid it. It’s not my fault it’s a disease; please don’t judge me for it.
The same thing happens when I see people running outside, or even on a treadmill. I can’t help but analyze the way they run; are they forefoot dominant? do they land too much on their heels? how long are their stride? etc.
This is all I can see when I see people run
And why do most people run anyway?? Do they not know that there are better ways to condition if they want to lose fat? I see so much people with such horrible running technique…they should know that the’re probably doing more harm than good to their body by running like a wounded animal. Don’t these people know anything about lifting weights, foam rolling or dynamic stretching to improve their overall health? Aaaaahhhhh…this disease is making me crazy! I’m sorry. It’s not my fault.
And when I see fat people….that’s even worse! I can’t help but think that they probably don’t exercise at all, eat KFC and McDonalds all the time and probably make excuses about why they don’t exercise or eat well. I will often label them as being lazy people who don’t have any will.
Aaaaaahhhh….so hard not to judge right now!
The truth is that there might be a lot more goin on than just that with some fat people, but I can’t help it but judge them. It’s not my fault, I have a disease.
It even affects my relationships with the opposite sex. I am only attracted to fit girls; I have absolutely no attraction for girls who are overweight or overly skinny. I just couldn’t see myself dating someone who doesn’t care about her health and her body. Some might think I’m superficial and I don’t see the inner beauty of certain girls, but I wish it was that simple….seriously. It’s really not my fault I have a disease.
I really don’t know if there is any way to cure this disease, or if it will affect me for the rest of my life. All I know right now is that it affects almost every aspect of my life. Maybe someday I’ll be cured, but for now I’m just a strength coach with the strength coach disease; I analyze and judge people more than I would like to….Sorry, it’s not my fault…it’s a disease.