- Warm-Up & Speed, Proper Cool Downs
Recently there has been a fad where warming up isn’t necessary for improved performance. Ironically most coaches and athletes who believe this end up tight and stall in overall progress or rely on God-given athletic ability only to plateau later in their years (4). Rules to follow with warming up should be dynamic, as this activates the muscle spindles. Muscle spindles are like a spring in the muscle, preparing the body for fast movements. Teaching the body how to move in multiple planes of motion during the warm-up, starting from slow to fast, will help the athlete better control their movements while priming correct neuromuscular efficiency. The planes of action that should be addressed are sagittal, frontal, and transverse (4). This warm-up should only last 10 minutes, followed by speed mechanics, games, and progressions. Calisthenics such as cartwheels and get-ups can also be progressed into the warm-up. Following the warm-up, training should include plyometrics, starting with proper landing mechanics, both unilateral and bilateral training, as well as multidirectional, accelerative, and agility work, which will aid in the overall development of a well rounded-athlete (2). The link attached will send you to our youtube page, where we discuss various progressions regarding bilateral unilateral movements, as well as mechanics and injury prevention regarding shoulder health. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hcws0PSNxs. Proper cool downs have the opposite effect of a dynamic warm up, as they actually activate golgi tendons which allows a greater passive range of motion and activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Knowing what muscles to stretch for the particular individual will only improve their recovery time.
2. Stay away from Cookie Cutter Programs.
Cookie-cutter programs are typically the cause of most problems. Not addressing training age and throwing a program on the whiteboard can cause athletes to spiral down quickly. Understanding the body and movement mechanics becomes critical at ALL stages of development (6). On the other end, programs can become too complicated, similar to how the athlete must lose the ego to see progress; the same goes for the coach. No need to make things so complicated that athletes get intimidated and can’t understand what’s on the card. Always a good reminder our ultimate purpose is to serve.
3. Train the Spine
The spine was designed in the body to be resilient and withstand incredible force production. Learning how to stabilize the spine through training the internal stabilizers will benefit the athlete on and off the field. I coach a 68-year-old, and he squats every other week. Never has he felt better when working on the farm. Training the whole core through anti-extension, rotational, anti-rotational, flexion, lateral flexion, and anti-flexion work will aid in resiliency (5). Teaching the athlete what it means to fire their glutes during lower body exercises will also stabilize the spine, reduces anterior pelvic tilt, and reduces hip shift compensation patterns in the athlete. Rotational movements need to be used sparingly, even with more advanced athletes. Mastering the sagittal plane before the others is essential to consider (5).
4. Always Train the Fundamental Movement Patterns.
Moving well takes years to master. Even then, the saying that if you don’t use it you lose it holds true in this case. Understanding how to squat, hip hinge, lunge, push press, and move the body through space without pain and load at the beginning of their training age will be critical for the long term (6). Grinding out ugly reps only aids in dysfunction; as a coach, I will not allow that to happen.
While learning the fundamental movements patterns is critical for long term development, I do want to touch base on the debate of free weights verse machines regarding training for functional performance. Really, the argument has always been that machines do not work the stabilizer muscles, when in reality this does not make sense. Particular muscles can stabilize in some exercises and a mover in other exercises. When debating in regarding to free weights verse machines, one must think in terms of how the body moves. Generally speaking, most machines are isolated, therefore allowing more targeted growth. However when it comes to functional performance the goal is to train the body as one piece, Wathen found that subjects who used explosive weight training significantly increased their power output in the vertical jump, 30 meter sprint times, and max cycle test more than the subjects who simply did weight training with machines and only plyometrics (7). Obviously, this doesn’t mean to go and start performing olympic lifts. These lifts require technique and a qualified coach to get the benefit out of them. Not to mention these exercises train the phasic muscles, which are often the first type of muscles do atrophy as you age. In a nutshell, if wanting to become more explosive and more athletic then using free weights have been found to be superior due to ones ability to accelerate the bar through mimicking more sport oriented movements, therefore higher transfer to actual functional performance, regardless if olympic lifts are performed with the bar. There is more than one way to skin a cat. Because free weights allow the athlete to imitate sports, they are also considered safer regarding sports performance as this prepares the body for the given stress in the field of play.
5. Vary Intensity
There are many more ways to load the body than simply weight. Teaching the athlete how to control the weight through tempo training, sub-maximal sets, and progressed variation will reduce burnout. Intensity needs to be seen as more of just a percentage of 1RM, but rather effort-based. How well is the athlete recovered? Are they taking care of their eating and sleep habits? These will all play a role in the intensity you choose (6).
Understanding how to design a well-rounded program includes knowing how to program overall intensity level, biomechanics, training age, and being emotionally aware of what is going on with the client/athlete you are training. Before training, we always encourage a movement assessment. This helps the athletes better understand how the body works more efficiently through proper mechanics. Establishing goals, and teaching them how to properly cool down at the end of the training session will be explained during this time. Of course, consistency is a must for any program to work efficiently.
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- Knudson, Duane V. “Warm-up and Flexibility.” Conditioning for strength and human performance. Routledge, 2018. 212-231.
- Silva, Luís Miguel, et al. “Effects of warm-up, post-warm-up, and re-warm-up strategies on explosive efforts in team sports: A systematic review.” Sports Medicine 48.10 (2018): 2285-2299.
- Herman, Sonja L., and Derek T. Smith. “Four-week dynamic stretching warm-up intervention elicits longer-term performance benefits.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 22.4 (2008): 1286-1297.
- Southwell, Daniel J., et al. “The acute effects of targeted abdominal muscle activation training on spine stability and neuromuscular control.” Journal of neuroengineering and rehabilitation 13.1 (2016): 1-8.
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