We’re engaging in the home stretch of the youth hockey seasons for most kids in the country. All my athletes within Team Comcast have worked extremely hard all year, and most of them have made very good gains even though it’s in-season lifting, where our main goal is to make sure we don’t lose strength.
At this time of year though their schedule is getting a little crazy. Club team practices, club team games, high school team practices, high school team games, and school on top of their own family and personal lives. Not sure many of us would last long with that type of schedule!
Crazy schedule…just like what CM Punk’s new t-shirt says.
That being said, because of all that craziness going on this time of year, we often opt out of the scheduled lifting session and switch that to a recovery workout. This doesn’t need to be fancy, but most importantly it needs to stay short. My goals with these workouts are:
Get the blood flowing while keeping the intensity pretty low
Work on range of motion, which seems to be lost for a lot of players as the season goes
Include some soft-tissue work
Include injury prevention strategies
Keep it short
Keeping these goals in mind, here is what a sample recovery session might look like with one of my youth hockey teams:
- Foam roll
- Dynamic warm up
- Short circuit;
A1- Lacrosse ball on posterior hip 3 x 30sec/side
A2- Glute bridge squeezing foam roller 3 x (6 x 5sec)
A3- Seated psoas lift 3 x (4 x 5sec)/side
A4- Lateral miniband walk 3 x 10/side
- Static stretching
This seems pretty short, and quite frankly it is! The whole workout may take about 25 minutes including warm up and everything, and that’s exactly what they need sometimes. It will help recharge their battery, while still gaining some mobility and preventing injuries.
Give this type of circuit a try in-season with the teams you work with; you’ll see that it’s very beneficial, and the kids appreciate it a whole lot when they feel beat up.
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It’s no surprise that playing sport at a high level takes a toll on your body. Sports with a particularly long competitive season like baseball, hockey and basketball are even more subject to leading to overuse injuries and causing shoulder, hip, knee and lower back issues, and decrease in performance as the season progresses. If you did things the right way growing up, you didn’t specialize too early in your sport, and you played a variety of other sports and activities. If that’s the case you’ve definitely done your best to avoid overuse injuries while developing general athleticism.
General athleticism: being able to give the Attitude Adjustment to a 500lbs giant
At the higher level though it becomes more important to focus on one sport. More often than not it means a lot of practices, a lot of training, and a lot of games played. To ensure optimal performance during long grueling seasons, you must do the right things. Here are 5 very important things to care of during the season.
1. Maintain your range of motion. This means a LOOOOOOOT of mobility work, and stretching. Putting yourself through the same repetitive motions for full seasons over the years will create some serious imbalances that need to be taken care of to stay away from overuse injuries. Way too many athletes consider hip flexor, groin and shoulder pain “normal”. It’s not. Your body is trying to tell you something is wrong and if you don’t take care of it, it will turn into an injury that’s gonna keep you on the sideline.
2. Take care of soft-tissue quality. This goes hand in hand with the previous point. I always go back to Mike Boyle’s band analogy. If you try to stretch a band that has a knot in it, it will only tighten up the knot. That’s why you need self soft-tissue work on a daily basis. And getting manual work done by a professional on a regular basis becomes increasingly important as you play at a higher level. It’s not a coincidence that every pro sport organization have manual therapists on their staff.
NOT that kind of manual therapy
3. Keep you strength up. As the season progress, everything usually go downhill– energy level, performance, etc. One of the reasons is that athletes lose strength throughout the season. Why even work on getting stronger during the off-season if you’re going to lose it all during the season? That’s why maintaining your strength is very important during the season; it will be a big factor in minimizing any decrease in performance. For younger athletes with less strength training experience you can even expect gains in strength during the season.
4. Nutrition. As the season progresses, a lot of athletes get more and more tired, they don’t have energy, they’re weak, etc. Is it a coincidence that most of them hardly eat 1 serving of vegetables per day? When you have to get up early for practices, you’re on the road a lot, and with everything else you’re trying to juggle with in your life, nutrition takes a back seat more often than not. That translates into a lot of “quick fixes” when it comes to eating. If you don’t fuel your body right, you can’t expect it to perform at the highest level; it’s direct correlation! Given that traveling doesn’t help an athlete’s cause at all, your best friends during the season should be: a good protein powder, nuts, fish oil, and a greens supplement. Also try to opt for healthier options when it comes down to restaurants.
5. Sleep. That seems to be another thing athletes don’t see too much of during the season. With the crazy schedule it’s not always easy to get enough quality sleep, but this is another factor directly related to performance. Your body needs 7-8 hours of sleep per night. If you get any less than that because of your crazy schedule, consider taking naps. This is a very efficient way to make up for the lack of sleep in your life. You could be surprised at how energizing just a 30 minute nap can feel. You might also want to consider natural sleep enhancers such as ZMA and Z-12. This is not something you should be taking every night, but when a much needed quality night of sleep is required, they might provide some help.
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Warm ups have been an important part of any training program almost forever. Warm ups have also evolved since the classic “just go for a 10 minutes jog” that most coaches and trainers used to recommend 20 years ago. I do realize that it’s still common practice by highly uneducated personal trainers and coaches around the world, but I’m not going to get into this…
Mobility exercises, activation exercises, movement pattern training, dynamic stretching, foam rolling and the dozen of others soft-tissue work modalities are usually some of the components we can include in a good warm up. Depending on your own situation, it might not be possible to include all of the above, and in fact, for some it might be possible to include only one or two. The amount of time you spend with each client or athlete is going to dictate what your warm up is going to look like. But it doesn’t mean that your warm up should take 30 minutes when you have more time with your clients and athletes. The reason I say this is because there are many different components (as I mentioned above) that can fit into your warm up and it’s easy to get caught trying to include too much, and your warm up routine might end up taking forever to perform. The warm up is essential to improve range of motion, increase blood flow to the muscles, increase heart rate and body temperature and decrease tension in stiff muscles. But it’s also called a warm up. It shouldn’t take half the time of your total session. You want to choose the things that are going to be the most bang for your buck, get it done and be ready to attack your training.
Here’s the way I structure my warm ups in order to make them as effective as possible without taking forever:
- Self soft-tissue work: 5 min- Working on tight areas, usually 4-5 different areas (might different ones every day, depending on how I feel)
- Specifc warm up: 3-4 min- this is the time where I work on personal weaknesses or corrective work (this can include FMS correctives, correct a dysfunctional movement pattern, etc). Currently I use this time to do PRI breathing drills.
- General warm up: 3-4 min- this will include more general movement patterns that will help improve dynamic range of motion and body temperature at the same time (combination of lunges, inverted reach, push ups, etc)
- Movement preparation: 3-4 min (if needed)- if I’m going to do any kind of dynamic work like sprints or plyometrics I will always include some sort of skips, cariocas, shuffle, back pedal, hops, etc. If I only lift, I’ll usually just skip that part.
Following this model, a good, complete warm up would take you about 14-15 minutes (10-12 if you don’t do any movement prep). It really covers everything and it’s not too long!
If you want more details on self soft-tissue work, enter your info below to get FREE instant access to the soft-tissue routine I use with all my athletes
If you haven’t heard about the benefits of foam rolling to improve soft-tissue quality, you have probably been living under a rock for the past 5-10 years. Even with all the benefits of foam rolling though, sometimes it’s just not enough to take care of your soft-tissue quality.
There are a couple reason why foam rolling might not be enough:
1. The trigger point is too hard to reach with a foam roller
2. The pressure applied by the foam roller is not enough to effectively target the trigger point
3. The trigger point area is just too stubborn and won’t go away
Let’s go into a little more details for each of those 3 reasons and see the possible alternatives:
1. Sometimes, you’ll want to foam roll an area of your body that’s not exposed as much as your quads and upper back for example. Getting to smaller areas, close to the joints and the mid-line of the body can be a difficult task. A couple example could be the pecs, the high adductors, the long head of the triceps, the plantar fascia, the levator scapula and upper trap among others. These areas are located in spots where it is difficult to access with a foam roller. A good alternative would be to use a smaller surface like a medicine ball or a lacrosse ball. The lacrosse ball works particularly well on the pecs and the plantar fascia, and the medicine ball work really well for the high adductors.
2. When you’ve been foam rolling for a decent amount of time (usually 6 months or more), you’ll find that the traditional foam roller will not work your trigger points as hard as you would like (a.k.a. it doesn’t hurt anymore). There are a couple different ways to solve this problem. The first one would be to move to a denser foam roller; they sell rollers of different densities, with the foam roller plus (a PVC pipe warpped around a thin layer of foam) being the hardest one. If you feel really tough, or if even the foam roller plus doesn’t do anything for you, you can try a straight PVC pipe (which ends up being really cheap if you just get it a your local hardware store) or the rumble roller. I have yet to try the rumble roller, but I have had great comments on it.
Are you game?
Using a smaller, denser surface like a lacrosse ball might be appropriate in this situation as well. You’ll have more pressure applied on a smaller surface, which will increase the pain factor for sure!
3. That happens very often that all self soft-tissue tools won’t work to get rid of a trigger point. In this case the only option left is to consult a qualified massage therapist that will work your trigger points more in depth. An ART or Graston certified practitioner is recommended, as I feel it 2 of the most efficient soft-tissue methods available. A couple of visits might be necessary to get rid of your tight spots. And if you’re a high level athlete that imposes a lot of stress on his body, I would even recommend that you go see one on a regular basis, at least once a month; that will help keep you healthy in the long run.
If you want a complete soft-tissue routine you can use in your training, simply enter your info below and you’ll get my “Self Myofascial Release Routine” for FREE!
Sometimes we get too caught up in looking at the shoulder itself only and we forget what’s happening around and further down the chain. We all know that soft-tissue work, internal rotation ROM, scapular stability and flexibility are all important factors in shoulder health. But in my experience, the thoracic spine is by far the most overlooked aspect of shoulder health. It usually affects everything around. If you take the joint-by-joint approach to training, one general take-away you can get is that a lack of mobility at one joint (or lack of stability, if we’re considering a stable joint) will generally affect it’s neighbor joint (i.e. the one closer up or down the chain) in an unfavorable way.
The Joint-by-Joint Approach
Using this approach, every joint has a neighbor up the chain and one neighbor down the chain (e.g. the hip joint is connected with the lumbar region above it and the knee below it). When taking the thoracic spine and taking this approach one step further, we realize that the t-spine, as opposed to most other joints, has 4 neighbors instead of just 2. In fact, the t-spine is directly linked to:
the lumbar region
the cervical region
the scapula (and the clavicle)
Because of this, the implication of the thoracic spine are major ones, as it can affect scapular positioning and stability, gleno-humeral positioning and range of motion, breathing pattern, lumbar stability and neck function. And guess what? all of these things affect your shoulder’s function and health in general!
A lot of people will benefit greatly from t-spine mobility drills to improve extension and rotation ROM, especially people with kyphotic posture because they are stuck in thoracic flexion and it will affect the whole shoulder position and how the humeral head sits in the glenoid fossa.
Many times just incorporating t-spine mobility drills will greatly improve your shoulder function and health. I’ve seen this happen on multiple occasion with someone with shoulder pain, where incorporating a couple t-spine mobility drills in his program got rid of his pain in a matter of 1-2 weeks.
Here are 2 of my favorites:
Seated T-Spine Rotation:
Prayer Position T-Spine Rotation
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I will be the first one to admit that this is something I’ve been fighting against for years. We all know that it was common practice among lifters and athletes through the 70s and the 80s to static stretch before a training session or playing a sport.
This was almost a whole warm up right there!
And that was accepted as a typical injury prevention strategy before an activity. That concept has been challenged a lot in the last decade and a half or so. Many researches came out suggesting that static stretching may negatively impact force production output (read: strength and power). The idea that static stretching by itself as a warm up procedure was a good injury prevention strategy has also been challenged a lot. The result of this being that strength coaches and fitness professionals alike who stay current with the literature have abandoned the static stretching concept as a warm up procedure almost completely. I, myself, have been supporting this theory that static stretching as a warm up is not appropriate.
But in the last couple of years, different strength coaches, like Mike Boyle have been trying to re-introduce the concept of static stretching as being part of a warm up (as opposed to being a whole warm up in itself). Knowing what we know now about static stretching it seemed kind of counter-intuitive to me to do that.
After resisting to the concept, I finally gave it a shot. Now I embrace it.
There’s a couple of things to take into account though, when using static stretching before training or sport:
Even if there might be some benefits to doing static stretching before training, it cannot be used by itself as a complete warm up. Soft-tissue work, mobility, dynamic stretching and movement preparations are all important parts of a warm up, as well.
You don’t want to stretch for too long. It’s called a warm up, not a cool down, so try to avoid spending over 10-15 minutes static stretching where your body might fall in sleep mode.
Try to avoid static stretching the areas/muscles you’re going to involve in your training activity, because of the possible force production loss linked to static stretching. Mobility and dynamic stretching drills might be better suited for these areas.
The whole reason to re-incorporate static stretching in the warm up, in my opinion, is because we spend so much time sitting in a day that there are many muscles and joint that suffer from that. Therefore it’s important to give them length back before a training session; the last thing we want is to feel stiff and restricted from sitting all day before an activity.
Personally, I have been feeling so much better since re-incorporating some static stretches in my warm-up, and I definitely don’t feel as stiff when I train. Here’s how you might want to incorporate static stretching in your pre-workout routine:
Soft-tissue work (foam rolling, stick, lacrosse ball, etc)
Static stretching circuit (4-5 stretches that don’t target muscles involved in your training for that day)
Dynamic stretching/mobility (6-8 movements that will target joints involved in your training for that day)
Movement preparation (If you do any kind of sprint/plyo/power exercises you’ll want to do movement prep)
After fighting against the concept of static stretching as part of a warm up for so long, I now embrace it. You should definitely give it a shot if you’ve been in the same boat as I was for the last couple of years.
I want to start things off by wishing all of you a great year 2011, and may this upcoming year bring you health, joy and success!
And now off to my special announcement I’ve been talking about for the last 2 weeks.
If you haven’t already noticed, there is a place on the right side bar of my website that says “Sports Training Secrets Revealed” and a place to sign up. I am officially launching my DavidLasnier.com newsletter! What it means for you, is that you will get updates directly by e-mail on sports training and athletic development tips and secrets! That makes it a lot easier for my readers to follow my work. I’m also going to have some exclusive tips in my newsletter that you won’t see anywhere else.
But the best part of all this is that by signing up for my TOTALLY FREE newsletter, you get 3 FREE gifts! That is a way for me to say thank you to my readers for following my work since I put up my website last year. I really appreciate all the support you have given me and all the great feedback I got from you.
So, what you get by signing up for DavidLasnier.com’s newsletter is 3 FREE reports on athletic development:
- 5 Secrets to Improve Maximum Acceleration: A report on how to drastically improve speed and agility through no-nonsense training. Too many athletes make BIG mistakes when training for speed; don’t be one of them!
- Shoulder Injury Prevention Strategies: The shoulder is one of the most complex joints in the body. There are many factors to consider when trying minimize the instance of injuries around that joint. Make sure you are aware of all the strategies I mention in this report to keep your athletes’ shoulders and yours healthy!
- Self-Myofascial Release Routine: The use of the foam roller has become more and more popular with the athletic population, and for good reasons; it’s so important to take care of your muscle tissue quality. This report is the exact same pre-workout soft-tissue routine we use with our athletes at Endeavor. Check it out to see what other tools than the foam roller we’re also using with our athletes!
Make sure you sign up for my FREE newsletter to get instant access to all 3 of these FREE reports!
I will be back on Thursday with some fresh content on sports training. Have a great year 2011!
Whether you’re a high level athlete, a professional bodybuilder, a recreational lifter or just someone trying to lose a couple lbs, you need to include soft-tissue work in your workouts/training sessions. Everybody and I mean EVERYBODY in the entire world has soft-tissue limitations in the form of trigger points, adhesions or knots as it is most commonly referenced to. By moving everyday (daily tasks or sporting events), by holding positions for prolonged periods of time and even by slouching on your couch for hours, your body will develop trigger points that will cause some sort of restriction in your muscles. Whether that translates into a restricted range of motion in your joints or by referred pain to other areas of your body (the most common one being headaches associated with trigger points in the upper back and neck region), trigger points affect your daily activities and your workouts, so it is very important that they are taken care of; otherwise that could lead to bigger problems like tendonitis/tendinosis, busitis, joint pain, pulled and strained muscles and so on.
The number one option and obviously the most effective one would be to get manual therapy work done. But the problem is that I don’t know too much people that can afford manual therapy 1-2 times a week! Therefore, self-usable tools are a valuable thing to have at your disposal; this way you can take care of your soft-tissue quality by yourself and not spending thousands and thousands of dollars on manual therapy. I still encourage everyone to get some manual therapy done every once in a while (once every 1-2 month if possible). As valuable as these tools are, they don’t do the same job a qualified professional will do.
That being said, there are tons of soft-tissue work tools available on the market, with the foam roller being the most common one.
I really like the foam roller, but let’s face it: when someone has been foam rolling on a daily basis for over 6 months, these things don’t do much. With that in mind, here’s my top 3 soft-tissue work tools:
1. PVC Pipe
Probably one of the cheapest options available, but also one of the most painful (read: effective) tool you can use. The PVC pipe is basically a logical progression from the foam roller. This is definitely not an option for beginners who have never used a foam roller as you will cry for your mom the first time you try it! The PVC pipe is best used for quads, IT band, calves, glute maximus, adductors and lats.
2. LaCrosse Ball
Another very cheap, yet effective tool. The lacrosse ball will do a very good (read: painful) job, just like the PVC pipe. The lacrosse ball is better suited for smaller muscles hard to target with a PVC pipe or a foam roller. As a fair warning, you should try a tennis ball first and progress to a lacrosse ball when it gets too easy. The ball is best for plantar fascia (bottom of foot), calves, glute medius, TFLs (hip flexor), infraspinatus and teres minor (rotator cuff) and pecs.
The thera-cane is definitely a more expensive option, but still under 40$, and totally worth it. With its very unique shape the thera-cane is built to work on muscles usually hard to access, like the ones in your upper back and neck region. It’s probably the most addictive soft-tissue work tool ever; I have one in my living room, and every single time I watch TV, I end up using it for 10-15 minutes. The thera-cane is best for rhomboids, levator scapulaes, supraspinatus, teres majors, pec minors and upper, middle and lower trapezius.
Give all of these a shot if you haven’t already, you will feel the benefits immediately!
Unless you have been living in a cave with no internet access for the past 6 years, you have probably heard of Eric Cressey before. Eric is one of the industry’s leaders in strength and conditioning. He is a well established coach, writer and business guy as he’s been owning his own facility for the last three years and has been coaching thousands of athletes in different sports. Eric is also an accomplished lifter himself as he used to compete in powerlifting and he still deadlifts well over 600 pounds to this day.
Eric is also a VALUABLE source of information with all the material he’s written. I would recommend all of his articles and products to anyone trying to become a better strength and conditioning coach. To say that I have learned A LOT from Eric during the past few years would be an understatement. Here is just a couple of things I have picked up from him lately. Enjoy!
1. Taking care of shoulder health is more than just strengthening the rotator cuff.
If you want to have healthy shoulders, you obviously need to take care of them in your training. If you do some stretching and some strengthening exercises for the rotator cuff and think it’s taken care of, well, the sad truth is that you are leaving out a lot of very important factors that play a huge role in shoudler health. Here is a list of all the things you should consider when working with people with bum shoulders or when trying to keep shoulders healthy:
1. Soft-tissue quality (primarily pec major and minor, levator scapula, scalenes, lats and rotator cuff)
2. Scapular stability
3. Thoracic spine mobility (in extension and rotation)
4. Range of motion at the gleno-humeral joint
5. Tissue length of the following: pec major and minor, levator scapula, lats and biceps.
6. Rotator cuff strength
7. Hip and ankle mobility of the opposite side (as the shoulder have fascial connections with these 2 joints)
8. Breathing patterns (as breathing through your chest instead of your belly can lead to over stressing muscles like the pecs and scalenes)
As you can see, there is a lot to address to prevent/treat shoulder injuries, and these factors happen to be even more important when dealing with athletes from sports like baseball, swimming and basketball, as these athletes put tremendous amounts of stress on their shoulders.
2. Soft tissue work and flexibility work go hand-in-hand.
Almost everyone by now knows that tissue length and tissue quality are of paramount importance to stay away from imbalances and injuries. But did you also know that these 2 need to be combined for optimal results and lasting changes. Once you work on your soft-tissue quality, whether it is with foam rolling, ART, Graston or just good ol’ massage, you should work on tissue quality right after.
Once you have removed the adhesions (or knots) in your muscles, doesn’t it make sense to stretch them right after, before you have new adhesions/knots reappear? In fact, right after soft-tissue work, your muscles are more pliable and less resistant to any change in length, so you should take advantage of that time to “re-educate those tissues on how to deform properly” as Cressey put it himself.
3. Get out of those high heels!
Wearing conventional “high heeled” sneakers with a lot of cushioning and support around the ankles are probably the worst thing you can do to your feet and ankles. It limits your range of motion at the ankle (especially in dorsiflexion) and it modifies the way you walk and run as you don’t have to absorb ground forces as much as all the padding in the soles is doing the job; your feet are basically becoming lazier. You are also losing a good amount of proprioception in your feet as they are separated from the ground by a 1-2″ cushion. And as Cressey said it himself: “…wearing sneakers has really screwed up the way people run, and in my opinion, has caused the exponential rise in injuries among distance runners.” That doesn’t mean we should all ditch our sneakers, but I think we should definitely make better footwear choices. Nike Frees, Puma flats and Vibram Five Fingers are all better options as they keep you closer to the ground.
Although not yet socially acceptable, this is probably the best footwear choice you could make!
Doing more barefoot stuff (like warm ups and deadlift) in our training is another way to go as it will reestablish proprioception in our feet.
If you’re interested to learn more from Eric Cressey, I would suggest you check out his website and sign up for his FREE newsletter!