Posts Tagged ‘strength’

Every time I evaluate a new client, the first thing I do is run them through a posture and movement screen. Basically, my objective is to evaluate how the athlete stands, and how they move. This gives me a jumping-off point when prescribing corrective exercises and mobility/soft tissue work. When evaluating a baseball player – especially a pitcher – the first thing I look at is the shoulder girdle.

Pictured: the shoulder girdle

More specifically, I’m looking at the scapulae – the flat bones that sit on either side of the thoracic spine. One of the most reliable indicators of future shoulder and elbow health is scapular positioning. Ideally, the scapulae should sit right up against the ribcage and glide smoothly across it. But with throwing athletes, what we often see instead is this:  (more…)

The squat is a jerk of an exercise. Just like everybody who’s ever played poker has a “bad beat” story, everybody who’s ever seriously squatted has a story about a time when the Squat Gods treated them unfairly. Hip flexor pain, patellar tendonitits, interminable plateau periods,etc. Even just learning to squat properly can take an absurd amount of time, which gets frustrating in a hurry. If you’re currently in need of a program tweak to crack through a plateau or finally achieve proper depth in the squat, try these two exercises out.

squat

(more…)

I get that lots of people are completely fine with going to the gym day after day, doing the exact same program for years, and never changing a single thing. People are creatures of habit, and change can be intimidating. But if you’re going to spend the time and money to go to the gym, you might as well be improving yourself while you’re there. Going in every day and doing the exact same exercises, with the exact same weight, for the exact same number of sets and reps is not only tedious, it’s not really beneficial after the first couple of months. If your program doesn’t change, your body won’t change. And you might actually start to regress once your body adapts to your current plan.

(more…)

One of the biggest gripes I had while playing baseball in college was that our in-season training program was trash. By the time May rolled around everybody was skinny, weak, and threw a good 4-5 mph slower than at the beginning of the season. I noticed this during high school ball too, but I didn’t understand why it was happening. I figured that if you trained all offseason, that strength would just stay with you during the season. But unfortunately, that’s not how it works.

Once I got to college and started learning about the body and training, I realized that improper training methods during the season were what was causing this steady decline in performance over the course of the year. That, combined with a hefty dose of long-distance “conditioning” runs.

Here’s 3 big mistakes that people often make when training in season. I’ve omitted “Doing Nothing” because frankly, that should be common knowledge by now.

(more…)

If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s long distance running. Especially when it’s done on treadmills. There are myriad reasons for this, but the 3 biggest are:

1) It’s boring

2) It takes forever

3) It makes you weaker

At some point I’ll surely write an entire article about my disdain for treadmills, which are the #2 worst piece of exercise equipment (#1 is the Smith machine), but I’ll focus on just long distance running in general for the purposes of this article.

Stupid...

Stupid…

Most people who jog are doing it to lose weight and body fat and “get toned”. The rest are just lunatics who somehow do it for enjoyment. But jogging burns less calories and less body fat than higher intensity activities like sprinting, and jogging also has a catabolic effect on muscle tissue (it makes muscles shrink). So if it’s not effective for fat loss and it’s clearly no good for building lean muscle, why are we doing it? (more…)

I’ve seen this topic covered on several other websites recently, but I’ve been saying this for years and I’ll say it again now: “Ladder and cone drills do not constitute speed training.”

I train a lot of young athletes for speed development, and 9 times out of 10, their parents will ask me why I don’t have their kids do more “speed work”, referring to things like ladder and cone drills. My response is simple: ladder drills aren’t speed work, and neither are cone drills. They improve coordination and footwork, but they do very little to improve sprinting speed.

So, if those two basic staples of “speed and agility training” are no good, how do we actually increase running speed? These 3 things are a good place to start:

1) Strength Training

When parents bring young athletes to me, one of the first things I evaluate is posterior chain strength. The posterior chain consists of the muscles in the back of the legs like the glutes and hamstrings, which control hip extension and knee flexion, respectively. Sprinting is accomplished primarily through powerful hip extension: the glutes extend the hips, causing the foot to push back after striking the ground, which causes the body to move forward. Many times, slower kids will exhibit weak or inhibited glute muscles, which dooms them to slowness from the get-go. If the muscles that make you move forward are weak, you have little chance of running fast. Improving glute function with deadlifts, hip thrusts, squats, and single leg variations is often the first step towards running faster.

However, just building strength is not enough, so next we move on to…

2) Power Training

“Power” is defined as force applied over time:

Where P=power, f=force, and T=time,

P=f/T

If I can apply 100 pounds of force, but it take me two seconds to reach that force, I would be less powerful than somebody who can apply 100 pounds of force in 1 second. Really, the point of strength training for speed is to increase our base of strength, which increases our power capacity.  Think about this:

If Athlete A has a maximum squat of 100 pounds, and Athlete B has a maximum squat of 200 lbs, then Athlete B has more strength, and therefore the potential to be more powerful than Athlete A. But, if Athlete A can apply his 100 pound max force twice as quickly as Athlete B can apply his 200 pound force, their power output is the same.

However, if Athlete B trains specifically to improve the speed at which he can apply his 200 lb force, he can theoretically produce twice as much power as Athlete A, since his strength base is twice what Athlete A is working with.

So what we need to increase sprinting speed is strong legs that are capable of applying high levels of force to the ground in a short amount of time. To increase the speed with which an athlete can apply force to the ground, we need to increase power.

Power training consists of exercises designed to increase athletes’ ability to produce high force quickly. For this, we use a combination of Rate of Force Development training and plyometric training, which are designed to teach your body how to generate powerful movements, and absorb and redirect energy. This is where kids start to get “bouncy.” Plyometrics exercises like skips and jumps can also teach athletes how to use their upper body better during running and jumping activities.

However, it is possible to be strong and powerful but still be a poor sprinter, which is why we have to do…

3) Mechanics Instruction

Some kids just do not know how to run properly. I don’t know how this happens. It seems like it should be written into our genetic code, but it just isn’t. Possibly because we don’t have to chase down our food and evade predators anymore (you don’t see wild animals with bad running mechanics). Regardless of the reason, nearly all of the athletes I train can benefit from some mechanical adjustments. For some college and high school athletes this can be the most important factor to increasing running speed. Often, these more advanced athletes already possess good strength and power, but they lack the proper running mechanics to put those attributes to good use. This kind of thing is also seen often with baseball pitchers. At a certain point, extra strength and power aren’t going to yield more than negligible gains on the field, so mechanics instruction is often more important for these high-level athletes. There are a multitude of drills you can do to improve running mechanics, none of which involve a “speed ladder.”

Video evaluation is also a great tool for improving sprint mechanics. It definitely helps for kids to be able to see what they’re doing right or wrong, so they can make adjustments  easily.

That’s the basic process for speed development: develop strength, increase power, and fine-tune mechanics. There are other things that go into improving sprinting speed (hip mobility, core strength, shoulder strength, to name a few), but I find that the 3 things I’ve outlined here tend to be the 3 basic building blocks of speed. So if you want to get faster, throw that nylon ladder on the roof, grab a barbell, and hammer out some heavy hip thrusts.