This week I’m on vacation and will give you links to stuff you should definitely read! There has been some great material on the internet the last couple of weeks, and I think you shouldn’t miss out on it. So without further ado, there it is:
Lose Tension to Get Quick – Kelly Baggett. To be quick, the focus is often on stiffness and rate of force development, but in this blog post featured on Eric Cressey’s website, Kelly touches an important, yet almost always forgotten point, on the importance of being able to relax to be able to get quicker. Confused? Read Kelly’s post!
In-Season Hockey Training – Kevin Neeld. My friend and colleague Kevin Neeld wrote a great piece about in-season training for hockey players. Now is a great time for everyone involved in hockey to read this post because hockey players across the country are starting training camps and getting ready for the next season. Kevin addresses what should be the focus of an in-season program.
Getting Into Your Toes – Charlie Weingroff. Yet another brilliant post from Charlie on the importance of the foot/toes complex. It is a very overlooked area of the body among the strength and conditioning crew. In this one, he talks about foot and toes position during various exercises, namely exercises that are performed in the 1/2 kneeling position.
Inverted Face Pulls – Ben Bruno. Just another creative exercise from Ben Bruno. Ben has been posting many new innovative exercises through his blog and his YouTube channel. He deserves some recognition for that! Aaand he’s been linking to my blog for a long time now, so I kinda owe him too!
I will admit that sometimes I like to use catchy titles for my blog posts, so it makes people curious and catch their attention. But this one might just be accurate, and nothing else! The credit goes to my friend and colleague Kevin Neeld for coming up with this one. This is probably THE hardest exercise ever!
RFE (Rear Foot Elevated) Split Squat + Belly Press Hold with Perturbation:
So what this do (beside making you want to throw up)?? It definitely improves single-leg stability (and possibly endurance, depending how long you hold it for) because of the rear foot elevated position. There is also a pretty big core strength/endurance involved since your resisting the rotation from the band, and the added manual perturbation just makes it insanely harder on your core! If you’ve been looking for an extra challenge for your single-leg stability and core training, this is exactly what you need. A good place to start is 20 second holds per side and you can work your way up to a minute, if you dare!
A quick warning though: anybody who wants to try the RFE split squat + belly press hold with perturbation should have a significant level of experience with the split squat iso-holds (for time) and the belly press. Anyone trying this exercise without mastering the split squats iso-hold and the belly press first will fail miserably. I think it really is THAT hard!
Give it a shot if you’re game!
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I don’t think I’ll surprise anyone by saying that I’m a big injury prevention guy. I do think that addressing muscle imbalances, posture and reinforcing good movement patterns are a crucial part of any training program. Think about it: does it really matter that you get your athletes stronger and faster if they don’t play half of the season because of a hamstring pull, or whatever other injury? No. That’s why it should be the priority of a strength coach to address these things.
But it’s also very easy to get caught in the injury prevention mindset and focus on nothing else. It’s important to help our athletes prevent injuries, but we’re not physical therapist. We shouldn’t treat our athletes like patients, and they should never feel like they’re coming in for a treatment when they walk through your door, no matter what. We have our own skill set as strength coaches, and physical therapists have theirs. What we really need to do is bridge the gap between strength training and rehab, and not do both. We can’t send everyone who have a slight pain in their shoulder to physical therapy. We can however, and should be able to assess them and identify dysfunctions and/or muscle imbalances, but we shouldn’t try to “treat” someone who has all the symptoms of rotator cuff tendinosis. That’s not our job, we need to refer out! That’s why it is so important to have a good network of professionals around us. But I digress.
Unless you can do it all like this guy, you probably need a good network
Despite the little aches and pains of our clients and athletes, we should always keep their goals in mind. Foam rolling, mobility exercises, activation drills should be important tools in our toolbox, but never the bulk of our training programs. When foam rolling turns into a 25 minute deep massage session before training and when your fat loss clients are doing more scap wall slides and ankle drills than exercises that will actually make them burn some calories, that’s when we start overdoing the injury prevention side of things.
Dude, seriously just take the roller out on a date!
This obviously applies to relatively healthy clients and athletes. It’s a different situation when one of your athletes comes back from a sports hernia surgery. But I think you get the point.
Make your athletes better, stronger, faster and injury resistant. Don’t be a physical therapist. Be a strength coach who knows something about functional anatomy.
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Mid-August just rolled around, which means that here at Endeavor, and for most hockey players training for the next season it’s the last stretch of the off-season. Different phases of an off-season plan focus on different goals. Early off-season usually focuses on recovery and regeneration and trying to undo most of the damage done during the season. The mid off-season, which is usually the phase most of players enjoy the most is the time to get big, fast and strong.
The late off-season phase focuses more on moving quicker (agility and transitional speed), work capacity and conditioning. The goal is to get guys in “game shape” as much as possible before they head back to camp. (On a side note, it’s interesting to see how the culture in hockey has changed in the last couple of decades, where players used to use the pre-season/training camp to “get in shape”. and now it’s the exact opposite; if you don’t show up to camp in the best shape of your life you don’t have many chances of making the team!)
What this means concretely from a program design standpoint is that:
- Your speed work is going to be comprised mostly of transitional sprints and drills
- Your conditioning volume is going to be much higher and as specific as possible to the game of hockey (energy system wise)
- The lifting part of your training is going to focus on work capacity, i.e. done mostly in circuit fashion.
So the lifting part of a lower body day (for a 4x/week program) might look something like this:
A1- KB swings 3 x 15
A2- Bunkie Side Plank (top leg only) 3 x 15sec/side
A3- 2-Way Skater 3 x (2 x 6)/side
A4- Split Squat Iso-Hold 3 x 30sec/side
A5- Stability Ball Knee Tucks 3 x 10
A6- 3-Way Split Stance Stability Ball Hold w/ Perturbation 3 x (3 x 10sec)/side
This is actually a circuit that comes from one of our late off-season program at Endeavor. The goal is really just to give an example of a lifting circuit might look like. The circuit concept would also apply for upper body days, just with different exercises.
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I’ve written in the past how much I like smoothies as post-workout nutrition. It’s much easier and involves a lot less planning than having an actual meal; and let’s face it, when you push yourself a little bit when you train, you usually don’t feel like eating whole food. It’s also a much better option than just having a protein and carbohydrate drink because it gives you more nutrients and it’s more complete than just having some powder mixed in water.
If your goal is gain muscle here ‘s a simple, yet delicious option for a post-workout shake and there is a decent amount of calories in it too!
- 2 cups organic whole milk
- 2 scoops chocolate protein powder
- 1 cup frozen mango
- 1 cup frozen dark cherries
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1 handful spinach (trust me, you won’t taste them at all!)
- 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
45g of protein
96g of carbs
37g of fat
Another good post-workout option if you’re in a rush or forgot to make a smoothie is to look into the Generation UCAN products. It is a recent company on the market and they have developed a special type of carbohydrate that’s a complex carb and not all made of sugar. Their protein and carb powder is definitely a good alternative too for post-workout, although if your goal is to gain weight you might need more than just one serving. Make sure you look into their products!
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Well that’s a very revealing blog post title, isn’t it? You now know that breathing is important. You need to breathe in order to live (you might want to read that last phrase again, it’s very philosophical). And I also just came across some research stating that breathing might even be associated with brain function and physical performance.
All joking aside, breathing is an important part of any training programs. I have been guilty as charged for way too long for ignoring the importance of breathing in training. When I first started in this industry and was working in a commercial gym in my hometown, I would often have questions from the older crowd about what the right breathing pattern is when they lift weights:
“- Am I supposed to breathe out when I lift the weight and breathe in when I lower it? Or is it the opposite?
- Who gives a shit. Just use heavier weights, anyway. Passing out while lifting is overrated.”
OK, I didn’t really say that ever, but for a lack of better understanding of how the breathing system works, I just didn’t think it was that important. And when I got much stronger (relatively speaking, of course) I realized that holding your breath in can be more than useful to lift heavy weights and it can improve core stability (when you brace and hold your breath), I was ready to be done worrying about any type of breathing other than just bracing when lifting heavy in my training and the ones of my clients. Big mistake! I still don’t think I ever jacked up any of my clients for not teaching them proper breathing patterns, but I do realize that it has its place in any training program.
The diaphragms (yes I put an ‘s’ because you have 2, one on each side) are the most important breathing muscles in the body. And one thing that’s really important to acknowledge is that the diaphragm is part of a bigger picture. Through fascial connections, the diaphragm connects with the psoas muscle, which attaches to your vertebraes of your lumbar spine and also crosses your hips. Through other fascial connections there are other muscles that “connects” to this same line all the way down your legs. This is part of what Thomas Myers would refer to as the deep front line.
Because of all these fascial connections, the diaphragm muscles and training breathing patterns are both very important. Stability can be gained through proper core activation. And I’m not just talking about bracing and holding your breath when lifting heavy weights. Of course being able to brace your core, create intra-abdominal pressure and holding your breath is part of getting maximum stability under heavy loads and I believe this is something that you need to learn to do. But this can also create other problems when this is the only way you know how to stabilize your core muscles and your trunk. When bracing hard, you have a maximum engagement of your rectus abdominis, your external and internal obliques and your spinal erectors. Your inner core muscles don’t necessarily get activated in those circumstances. Your inner core muscles, which includes your diaphragms, your pelvic floor, your multifidi and your transverse abdominis are also important stabilizers of your spine. Under heavy loads and brace your outer core muscles (rectus, obliques and erectors) can take over and your inner core muscles can get shut down. That’s why these muscles need to be trained.
There are many different ways to attack this. Addressing breathing patterns is one. A general concept you want to keep in mind when training your diaphragms and inner core muscles is the one of a neutral spine. Whatever drill or exercise you use, you want to maintain a neutral spine from your pelvis all the way through your skull (the neck/cervical region often gets neglected, but needs to be in line with the rest of the spine). That will put your body in a position that will facilitate proper breathing patterns. When you’re able to maintain a neutral spine through different movement patterns and breathing through that neutral spine, you can start incorporating these breathing patterns into low load core exercises. The most basic one is obviously a simple plank. Trying to maintain a neutral spine and breathing through a plank might be harder than you think. The goal is really not to brace hard nor get maximum core activation, but rather just owning the position, breathing deeply into it and letting the inner core muscles do their job. Same thing applies if you incorporate the concept with any other core exercise, you’ll want to keep the load relatively low.
There might be more to this position than you might think…
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Kevin Neeld is definitely one of the smartest strength coaches I know; he has a lot of knowledge, he knows how to apply that knowledge and he really understands how to train athletes as he’s well aware of the demands and reality they’re facing from competing at a high level. Kevin is also an incredible person to talk to, and he is very generous of his time; he kindly accepted to contribute to my website and share his knowledge with you, my readers.
Knowing that groin injuries are growing at an alarming rate in the athletic population, especially in hockey players, I asked Kevin what 3 tips he would give to athletes trying to avoid groin injuries.
“It’s a great topic and one that I think more athletes need to familiarize themselves with. I’ve written a lot about specific strategies on how both prevent and deal with these injuries, but over the last year I’ve discovered that there are a couple more basic messages that athletes need to understand first.
1) Take time off Most groin strains come about because of overuse, or probably more accurately, under recovery. The prevalence of groin strains amongst all athletes, but hockey players especially has drastically increased over the last 10 years. Not coincidentally, so has the emphasis on year-round sports participation and early specialization. It’s imperative that athletes play at least two sports WITH DISCTINCT OFF-SEASONS up through high school. Pairing up sports like hockey and baseball, football and lacrosse, or basketball and soccer allow athletes to benefit from the different movement strategies used in the two sports, force them to take a break from one sport while they pursue the other, and provide time for actual training (e.g. strength and conditioning) during the “third” part of the year.
Far better option for young hockey players during the summer instead of hockey summer leagues
Vladimir Issurin, world expert on block periodization and consultant to the Soviet and Israeli Olympic programs points out that we’ve replaced preparation time with competition time. No training and no rest is a recipe for groin strains.
2) Train Year-Round
This may seem counterintuitive based on the previous paragraph, but hear me out. Most groin strains come about as a result of a stiffness or an activation/strength imbalance across the hips. In the off-season, it’s important that athletes train to improve their overall athletic capacity (strength, speed, power, conditioning) to prepare for the demands of their sport. In-season athletes need to train to maintain (or continue to improve depending on the athlete) their athleticism. If athletes get weaker as the season goes on, then they will need to play at a higher percentage of their total capacity to maintain the same performance level as early in the season. Ultimately this means that athletes will have a diminished ability to perform at a high level at the end of the season, when perfect performance is most important. They also need to train in-season to REVERSE some of the undesired adaptations that result from playing their sport so much. As an example, as the season goes on some hockey players have a tendency to lose hip internal rotation ROM. An internal rotation deficit is associated with hip labral tears, and can put constant (and unnecessary) strain on the groin musculature.
The labrum is the ring of cartilage that surrounds the hip joint socket. It prevents the femural head from moving out place.
By focusing on maintaining strength and balance across the hips, we can help maximize performance and minimize injury risk.
3) Don’t be a hero in the 1st half of the season When athletes don’t prepare or prepare insufficiently for the start of a new season, it’s pretty common for a few to suffer slight groin “tweaks” during pre-season camps and early on in the season. This is simply the result of a huge increase in the volume of high velocity movement without adequate preparation. These injuries tend to go away in a couple weeks if they’re handled the right way. By “the right way” I mean by taking time off from anything that causes it pain, stretching the glutes, doing psoas activation work, and strengthening the adductors in a shortened position using exercises like the 2-Way Med Ball Crush.
Preferably done with a shirt on…
I’ve seen too many athletes, high on their own enthusiasm, fight through the pain/discomfort and keep playing. I know how difficult it is to take time away from your sport when 95% of your body feels great, but it’s a necessity. Groin “tweaks” become mild tears, which become sports hernias if unaddressed. The time to fight through pain is the playoffs, not the first half of the season. An extra week off could be the difference between your tweak healing stronger or laying the foundation for surgery in the future.”
Thanks Kevin for your words of wisdom! Make sure to check out Kevin’s website HERE.
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Stability is often perceived as a good thing; single-leg stability, core stability and scapular stability are all terms that are commonly referred to when we’re talking about functional training and we see those things as being positive outcomes we want to get out of our training program. Referring back to the joint-by-joint approach popularized by Mike Boyle and Gray Cook, some joints in the body should be geared more towards stability and some others should be geared more towards mobility.
The Joint-by-Joint Approach
But this doesn’t mean that those joints should have only one of the two (mobility OR stability). Every joint in your body needs a healthy balance of both; some just need more of one than the other. It’s also important to acknowledge that every joint in your body needs some sort of stability. As physical therapist Charlie Weingroff puts it: “you need stability before mobility”. In other words, if you can’t stabilize your joint, taking it into a full range of motion might not be a good idea.
When this guy talks, I listen
Stability is very important per se. But stability is not always good. Confused? Perfect! Let me explain: as I just mentioned, you NEED stability in every joint in your body, but if you can’t get stability with proper muscle activation and balance around a joint, most of the time your body will find a way to get that stability. This is when compensation patterns occur; you have the wrong muscles trying to stabilize your joints because the right muscles that should stabilize aren’t doing their job. Some other times, when the muscles’ contribution isn’t enough your body will look somewhere else to find stability. This is when passive structures like ligaments and bones are being used for stability purposes, and that’s when things start to get pretty ugly.
When a baseball pitcher throws a baseball at 90mph and his arm rotates at 7,000°/second at the shoulder, if the the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizer muscles can’t control the deceleration, something else in your body will, because I can guarantee you that his arm is not just going to rip off his body and go flying in the air!
That means that something somewhere is stabilizing the arm at the shoulder in the deceleration phase. And again if it’s not the right muscles doing it, it might mean some added stress on the ligaments of the shoulder, some irritation to the labrum, compensation patterns taking place by stabilization from the wrong muscles, etc. There are plenty of examples like this one in athletic performance.
Always keep in mind that stability will happen one way or another. We just need to make sure it’s happening at the right places with the right structures. Otherwise we’re setting ourselves up for injuries.
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2 things today I wanted to bring to your attention. First one is a pretty unconventional plyometrics exercise that we’ve been using quite a bit lately at Endeavor with our athletes. The unloaded squat jump is a pretty unique exercise in that you use the assistance of bands to jump, and because of it you jump much higher. What’s the purpose of using the bands? It’s not so much about the jump, but the rebound or landing part of the jump. Because you so much higher than you would normally do, the forces you need to decelerate and re-accelerate to jump back up are much greater and that’s the biggest advantage of this exercise. Another thing is that’s really fun to do. Not that it’s that important, but our athletes love it! Check it out:
Secondly, I wanted to bring to your attention a really cool seminar that’s coming up in 2 weeks. Pete Friesen, the Carolina Hurricanes strength coach, is hosting a seminar August 13th in Raleigh, North Carolina. If you’re not too far from North Carolina, I would highly suggest you go because the line-up of speakers is pretty impressive and the price of this 1-day seminar is even more! If you’re a strength and conditioning coach, you can attend for only 50$! If you’ve been going to seminars, you probably know that you don’t find that many quality seminars you can go to for this price. I was there last year, and I can tell you that it was totally worth it. Check out the link below: