As a strength and conditioning coach who works with a lot of teenagers, I am often asked by parents how much faster is their kid going to get by training with us. This seems to be one of the major concerns of a lot of parents who bring us their kid to train. It is mind boggling to me, mostly because the kids of the parents that come up to me to ask that kind of question are usually 13 or younger. Am I the only one who thinks there’s something wrong with that?!?
But regardless, I usually give a multifaceted answer to those parents. The points I’m trying to get across are:
- Despite what other sports training facilities might try to sell you, becoming lightening fast doesn’t happen in 6 weeks.
- At such a young age, there are a lot of things happening in a kid’s body. Getting faster will have a lot to do with the physiological development that happens when you’re a teenager. There are a lot of things happening in their body (hormones, growth spurt, etc) and these things will influence athletic development a lot. Before puberty though, you can’t expect drastic changes in a kid’s speed or strength. The changes you’ll see, even with good training, are going to be on a smaller scale until your kid hits puberty.
- Related to the last point, it’s important to realize that not all kids will hit puberty and develop at the same time. Because of that, you can’t expect your 4’8″ 12 year old son to be as fast on the field or on the ice as the one year older kids who are 5’6″ and hit their puberty earlier. Those are transition years; it’s hard, if not impossible, to compare kids to one another.
- Getting faster is about moving better (movement quality) and improving your strength to bodyweight ratio. Doing endless numbers of sprints and running the kids to the ground will not help them get faster. Improving the way you move is a process, just like improving strength. Overtime it will lay the foundations for your kid to truly become one the fastest and most dominant player on the field or on the ice. Just don’t expect that to happen overnight. It might take a couple of years…yes, I said a couple of YEARS.
- Consistency and hard work are going to be key to achieving athletic success. Just because you subscribed your kid to a sports training facility, doesn’t mean that results will magically happen. Your kid needs to be working hard and be dedicated to getting faster and achieving athletic success; and not just in the gym, in the practice of their sport(s) as well.
- Related to the last point, kids are kids. Internal motivation at a young age is not always very strong; a lot of it is going to be coming from the parents. Kids need to be supported and encouraged in what they do. That’s how they will develop that internal motivation to achieve their athletic goals, or whatever else it may be. Kids don’t need to be told “you’re not fast enough”, “you’re so slow compared to your teammates”, “are you even trying?”, etc. Positive reinforcement and encouragements will make your kid want to keep getting better, even in a period of transition when they happen to be smaller and slower than some other kids they play with. That’s when they need the support because they can become discouraged very quickly.
Speed, like athletic development in general, is a process. It’s important to see it as a long term project that you need to be working hard for throughout the years. Work hard, be consistent, don’t give up when you’re faced with obstacles, and most importantly BE PATIENT. This is a message that kids, AND especially parents must understand. Getting faster, or quicker, or stronger, or a better (insert sport) player takes time. Going to a sports training facility to achieve your athletic goals is a smart move because we are there to help, but it is NOT like going to the doctor for a sinus infection; there is no quick fix or magic pill. Parents need to understand that.
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I just wanted to write a quick post today to let you know that my friend and colleague from Endeavor, Kevin Neeld just posted a free webinar on transitional speed for hockey players. Kevin will be releasing his long awaited book, Ultimate Hockey Training next week, and he put up a webinar about speed training for hockey for you to watch completely free. This video will be leading up to his book launch next week. In the webinar Kevin discusses:
· Why most hockey players are doing the right speed training for the wrong sport
· Why hockey players shouldn’t do “agility” training ever again
· How to progress speed training exercises to make them more hockey-specific
· How speed training fits into a complete training program
You can check out this FREE webinar by clicking on the link below:
I’m working with Kevin on a day-to-day basis, and I can tell you he put an incomparable amount of work in the writting and publishing of his book. The results will speak for themselves when you see the book when it comes out next week. It is something like I’ve never seen before when it comes to hockey training. It will definitely raise the bar in terms of hockey products out there. I’ll just put it this way: the information you’ll find in that book will blow your mind away!
In the meantime, Kevin is offering you a free webinar that will get you thinking about the speed and agility work you do with your hockey players. Definitely a must watch! Here’s the link again:
Today I bring to you a guest blog post from my colleague Xavier Roy from Quebec. Xavier is a very smart guy, he has a no-nonsense approach to strength and conditioning, and he has the experience to back it up. This is a great post he originally wrote for his own blog, but since Xavier’s blog is in French I asked him if he wanted to translate his post and send it my way so I could feature it here for those of you who are not fluent in French, and he gladly accepted! So without further ado, enter Xavier:
This saying is used constantly by sport coaches and strength coaches in order to encourage athletes under their supervision to follow a training program and become more successful in playing the game (which is not necessarily a measure of success in sport by the way!). But does an athlete who is bigger, stronger and faster will have a marked advantage over his opponents and even teammates?
The answer is neither white nor black. It is certain that an athlete who spent the entire off-season lifting weights and running is more likely to see his performance improve compared with the previous year. However, it is possible that, despite all the effort he’s put in, he finds himself injured because of this training. Agreed, he’s bigger, stronger and faster, but was that done at the expense of his health? Does the athlete in question has self-limiting abilities that can negatively impact the long-term practice of his sport and that the training prescribed did not take these limits into consideration?
For my part, I often refer to a quote from Mike Boyle, who questioned whether it was better to have a Kevin Garnett with a vertical leap of 40 inches on his team (focus on performance) who is always injured or a Kevin Garnett with a vertical leap of 33 inches, but who is dressed for every game and contributing to his team’s success (focus on health). As a strength and conditioning professional and football coach, I’m in a good position to answer this question. My goal as a strength and conditioning professional is to enable athletes to optimize their preparation, which includes improving their movement health first to reduce the chances of injuries and then improve their performance. Often, the mere fact of restoring muscle balance and improving one’s performance in one or various motor patterns will be sufficient to improve performance. As a coach, I want to give the players under my tutelage a chance to learn and understand the game of football. If an athlete is sidelined due to a non-traumatic injury, I did not get to do my job.
In this regard. I think it would be more accurate to change the original adage Bigger, Stronger, Faster for Healthier, Stronger, Faster. Let’s define each component in detail.
* Note that in some cases, muscle mass can be useful and even essential. Take for example a football or rugby player looking a little frail. To successfully compete and go through a season during which he receives his fair share of hits, this athlete will increase his muscle mass to protect himself. A gain in muscle mass is also required for the aging population. Sarcopenia is a loss of muscle mass in favor of increased body fat that is present in aging people. These gains in muscle mass will therefore slow this process.
Healthier to characterize an athlete whose movements are fluid, an athlete who has no physical limitation which may result in compensation to other joints and body parts. The prescribed exercises are chosen based on the ability and level of skill of the athlete.
Stronger because I think it is a necessary step in the development of athletes and the general population. A stronger person will be able to produce more force in activities like weight training, she will be able to propel his body with greater ease when running and be able to perform her daily tasks without excessive fatigue (household chores, carrying bags, etc). Force development is also the prerequisite for the development of muscle power.
Faster in successfully completing movements like Olympic weightlifting. At even strength, the athlete who will move the load faster is going to express more power. Faster in a running a sprint, faster in his ability to accelerate his body while in a static position. An athlete being able to efficiently and rapidly transition from an eccentric to concentric action (i.e. ability to use the stretch-shortening cycle) will have a distinct advantage over the expression of muscle power. In technical and tactical sports like team sports, the ability to rapidly analyze the situation developing in front of you and react with an appropriate response to this situation will give the participant a clear advantage over his opponent.
So, Bigger, Stronger, Faster or Healthier, Stronger, Faster? My choice is clear. What about yours!
Xavier Roy (B.Sc, CSCS, HSSCS) is a strength and conditioning coach at Centre Performe+ Joel Bouchard and the owner of XR Performance. As a kinesiologist and strength and conditioning coach, he specializes in the athletic development of a vast array of athletes, ranging from teens to college players, who are engage in sports like football, basketball and lacrosse. Since 2009, Xavier has been the strength and conditioning coach, as well as defensive coordinator, for the Triades de Lanaudiere, a men’s CEGEP football team near Montreal. Starting in September of 2011, Xavier will also take charge of McGill University Men’s and Women’s basketball teams as strength and conditioning coach.
If your French is good enough make sure to check Xavier’s blog HERE!
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.
I often get question on what a typical training session looks like for the athletes I train, especially in-season; how is the program structured, how much volume is included and how different it is based on the sport played. Depending on the sport, the program will in fact look a little different. But at the same time, most athletes in most sports need to improve speed, power, strength and conditioning while preventing injuries. So in that sense, programs do vary some sport to sport, but probably not as much as you would think. That’s going to be especially true with somebody who’s just never lifted before.
When it comes to in-season training, volume is going to be fairly low so fatigue and soreness are minimized. As I’ve mentioned before, the goal of in-season training is to maintain gains made in the off-season. That being said here is an example of a basic program that could be used with an in-season athlete:
Dynamic warm up
A1- 10-Yard Sprint (2 point start) 3 x /side
A2- Glute Bridge Iso-Holds 2 x 20sec/side
B1- DB Reverse Lunges 3 x 6/side
B2- DB Chest Press 3 x 6
B3- Front Plank 2 x 30sec.
C1- Seated Cable Rows 3 x 10
C2- Slideboard Hamstring Curls 3 x 10
C3- 1/2 Kneeling Belly Press Iso-Holds 3 x 20sec/side
Conditioning- Bike or Slideboard Intervals 6 x (30sec ON/60sec OFF)
As you can see it is a pretty short and basic training session (probably more geared toward a young athlete with less 2 years of lifting experience), but the point is that in-season lifting shouldn’t be longer and not much more complex than that. As simple as this program is, it accomplishes what it’s supposed to do: maintaining gains from the off-season while avoiding overtraining.
Sprints are a very good way to develop speed for athletes from almost every sports. With sprints, you can use a whole variety of starting positions as progressions to improve agility and reaction time in different sport specific positions.
This one is coming from my good friend and colleague Kevin Neeld, and it is called a Side Falling Lunge Start. We use this starting position for sprints with a lot of our athletes.
You want to take a big step forward, drop as low as possible into a lunge position and immediatly explode out of the lunge position into a sprint in an opposite direction. We usually cue the athletes to make the transition as quick as possible.
It is a great way to improve their reaction time, their agility and their transitional speed as it teaches them to quickly change direction as they need to move to one plane of motion to another. And when you think about it, it is as sport specific as it gets, as almost any team sports requires athletes to quickly change direction.
I’ve had a few colleagues write about this in the past, but since it’s my first official post on my website, I figured that I’d start with the essentials. The reason is simple: you should know where to start and what to include when designing a training program. So here is a list and description of what I feel like every training program should include.
1. Soft-tissue work. Every training program, whether it is for an athlete or a non-athlete, should include some form of soft tissue work. It could be done with a foam roller, medicine ball, The Stick, a Thera-Cane, a Lacrosse ball or any other tool you feel will help work on trigger points and adhesions. Soft-tissue work will further help improve tissue flexibility and muscle function, as a muscle with many trigger points might not contract in an optimal way.
2. Mobility/Dynamic flexibility. The point has now been made through research that dynamic and static stretching are totally different in nature, and in the way they affect the muscles. Dynamic stretching is more specific to training and activities, as it improves range of motion during movements. Dynamic stretching also improves stability in that newly gained range of motion, which is CRUCIAL in every sports. For more information on mobility and dynamic flexibility, and also for a ton of great drills to include in your warm ups, you should definitely get Assess and Correct, which is an incredible resource made by 3 of the best in the business.
3. Speed/Agility work. Every athlete that competes in a team sport needs to improve his speed, transitional speed and reaction time. Speed is improved mostly with sprints on various distances (usually from 10 to 60 yards) using different starting positions that will reflect specific positions of your sport. Transitional speed and reaction time is usually improved through agility drills and plyometrics. Agility drills could include sprinting, shuffling and back pedaling as well as changes of directions. Plyometrics are generally more jumping based drills that focus more on improving the stretch-shortening cycle of the muscles.
4. Power training. Power is the ability to develop the greatest amount of force in the shortest amount of time possible. In other words, power is the combination of speed and strength and is obviously of great importance in most team sports. Power is usually developed through Olympic Lifts and medicine ball throws. Power development exercises usually include whole body movements and are great at improving the force transfer from the lower body through the core to the upper body.
5. Strength training. This is something that is essential to developing stronger athletes. Strength is a very important component of athletic development. Strength development improves muscle coordination and helps recruit more muscle fibres within each muscle. This will later transfer to more power and more speed, as more muscle fibres are recruited when sprinting, throwing, jumping, etc. Typical strength training exercises include lunges, chin ups, chest press with dumbbells, etc.
6. Core training. Let’s make one thing clear: crunches are worthless and won’t do anything for you, from an athletic standpoint. If you’re still not convinced, let me ask you this question: when in any sport activity are you lying on your back and crunching up? You already know the answer. Core training should include two components. The first one would be to develop the ability to resist movement through anti-flexion, anti-extension and anti-rotation exercises. The first function of the trunk musculature is to stabilize the spine in all three planes of movements to prevent it from shear forces applied to it by going in too great range of motion. Let’s put it this way, the lower spine is pretty much the only joint where you don’t want range of motion. So it would make sense to limit the torque forces applied to it. The second component of a good core training program would be to improve the rotational movements. As I just mentioned, you want to limit the range of motion at the lower spine, but rotational movements are inevitable and even essential in many sports like hockey and baseball. So what’s the right thing to do? You want to teach the body to rotate from the good regions. And that would be from the hips and thoracic spine. So, you would want to include in your programs rotational core exercises that will reinforce the pattern to rotate at the right joints.
7. Injury prevention exercises. Whether that is to reinforce good movement patterns, to activate weak muscles at the hips or at the shoulders or with simple stretches to improve posture or range of motion, injury prevention exercises are one of the most important components in a training program. Keep in my mind that if your athlete is injured, he cannot improve his performance; this is why reducing the risks of injuries should be your number one priority as a strength and conditioning coach.
8. Specific conditioning. I wrote here specific because I feel it is very important that your conditioning program reflects the demand of your sport. Conditioning, for most sports should be in the form of interval training BECAUSE IT IS THE WAY SPORTS ARE PLAYED. Pretty much every team sports are played in some sort of interval based effort where a short to moderate effort period is followed by a rest period of some sort. Depending of the sport your athletes are playing, you should play around with the work/rest ratio to match the specific demand of the sport. Pretty much no team sports are played in a long continuous effort for many minutes. That is way I feel aerobic training is completely retarded for most sports. The only reason people are still doing it is mainly because their coaches or trainers used to do that when they were athletes 20 or 30 years ago and have not been educated on the true functions of the aerobic and anaerobic systems. If you are still doing that, you need to realize that you have far better options to condition your athletes that will bring you far better results.
9. Static stretching. I do think that dynamic stretching is more specific to sports training than static stretching is. But that is not to say that I don’t believe nor use static stretching. In fact, I think that static stretching is truly valuable when used appropriately. Static stretching is great at restoring muscle length after a training session. I also think that it is great to use to stretch an antagonist muscle before using an activation drill with an agonist muscle.
There it is, the 9 key components that I feel should be included in every training program. I hope it helped some of you, and feel free to post your comments below!