Posts Tagged ‘Strength training’


By K. Aleisha Fetters, 

Exercise machines are simple — too simple, in fact. According to metabolic training expert BJ Gaddour, C.S.C.S. owner of, “They’ve been dumbed down to the point that they just don’t do your body much good.” Besides parking you on your butt, most machines isolate a single muscle, meaning you’ll burn fewer calories and gain less muscle mass rep for rep.

Most importantly (at least as far as medical bills are concerned), exercise machines can lead to injury. Even with their adjustable seats and pegs, finding the proper position can be close to impossible — and even then the movements just aren’t natural. “Free weights and bodyweight exercises allow your body to move in a natural range of motion,” Gaddour says. “When you fix it, it results in a limited and improper movement pattern that can be dangerous.”

Here, Gaddour shares five exercise machines you should swear off — and all-star alternatives that will give you better, faster fitness gains.

1. The Machine: Lying Leg Press
Your legs are strong (after all, they carry your body around all day), so if you lie down with your legs above your head for a leg press, you have to load more than the equivalent of your bodyweight onto the machine to achieve significant resistance, Gaddour says. Problem is, all that weight goes straight to your lower back, which flexes under the pressure. The risk? A herniated disk. Plus, the move doesn’t even work any of the stabilization muscles in the hips, glutes, shoulders, or lower back. The result: All pain and barely any gain.

Try This Instead: Goblet Squats
Apart from working just about your entire lower body in a single move, this squat variation involves holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your chest to keep your form in check and the weight off of your lower back. Sometimes, a lighter load delivers a better burn.

2. The Machine: Seated Leg Extension
Since the weight is placed so close to your ankles, the machine puts undue torque on the knee joint, which can wear down cartilage and cause knee pain, Gaddour says. Plus, the common gym contraption is built around a motion that has little real-life benefit.

Try This Instead: Step Ups
Besides working your quads far better than any machine, step ups also train your glutes, hamstrings, and calves. By calling up more muscles, your knees are actually strengthened, not worn down.

3. The Machine: Seated Chest Press
While sitting is less than useful, the bigger problem here is that the machine can cause lopsided muscles. How? If one arm is weaker, the stronger one can end up doing all the work — and getting all the benefit, Gaddour says. To make sure both sides of your chest are strengthened equally, you need to load them separately.

Try This Instead: Pushups
An oldie but a goodie, pushups equally engage both sides of your chest. If it didn’t, you’d fall right over onto your side. What’s more, they tap your core for support and balance. After all, hot bodies aren’t built on chests alone.

4. The Machine: Hip Abductor/Adductor
If it looks ridiculous, it probably is, Gaddour says. And squeezing your thighs together — or pushing them apart — over and over definitely counts. Besides actually working very few muscles, it also strains the spine and can make the IT band so tight it pulls your knee cap out of place — not a good look for anybody.

Try This Instead: Single-Leg Squat
When you’re not in the gym, your inner and outer thighs largely work to maintain stability. So they should do the same thing when you’re in the gym, right? Single leg exercises — like the single-leg bodyweight squat — require those muscles to brace your body and keep you upright, all while putting your quads, glutes, and hamstrings to good use.

5. The Machine: Loaded Standing Calf Raise
While the idea here is to lift weight with your calves, the machine’s setup — specifically the shoulder pads — means that all the weight presses down on your spine before it ever reaches your legs. If it doesn’t turn you into a hunchback, it’ll at least cause you some back pain.

Try This Instead: Bodyweight Standing Calf Raise
If regular standing calf raises don’t have the resistance you need, try standing on one foot during your next set. Besides doubling the weight each calf has to lift at a time, it also puts your legs’ smaller, stabilizing muscles to work.

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Shirtless Nick Jonas Explains How He Got His New Body

The Hottest Vanity Muscles–And How To Get Them



Middle-aged Couple Running on the Beach

By: Lisa Best MBA, Ph.D in Holistic Nutrition, CCN

In addition to a enjoying a nutritious diet, we all know that exercise is important for cardiovascular health, weight maintenance, and lymph movement throughout the body. And the most important part about exercising is picking something you like that fits your style, so you will stick with it. Just like fad diets, there are tons of fad exercise programs out there too, and it’s hard to know which ones to try.

But I must confess, interval training is my personal favorite form of exercise, not just because it’s quick and powerful, but because I can still smile while doing it.

I wrestled with writing generically about several types of exercise, but ultimately decided to turn this topic over to an expert, Dr. Al Sears, the doctor whose protocols I both recommend and have followed myself for more than 10 years.

Dr. Sears is a progressive physician in the forefront of anti-aging medicine, natural cures, and optimal heart health. He has written extensively about his formula for interval training called PACE®, which he developed after studying Olympic athletes. Many other physicians and exercise specialists have copied Dr. Sears’ programs over the years, but his was the original.

I was initially attracted to PACE® because of the short 12 minute time commitment, in contrast to the hours I’ve logged running 2-4 miles 4 or more days a week for 30 years prior to switching to intervals. I started PACE® over 10 years ago because it made sense, but I’ve stuck with it because it works.

I usually do PACE® every other day, alternating with strength training (weights) and flexibility exercises (Yoga) on the days I don’t do interval training. I’ve also encouraged nutrition consulting clients, and my whole family to try it, since the benefits are so great and the time required so minimal.

For those of us who have passed the magical half-century mark, it is especially important to minimize the loss of flexibility and strength that can often accompany aging. So I do push-ups, and squats as part of my PACE® workout in addition to sprinting or swimming to add variety. But the magical part about PACE® is you can do it with any type of movement that gets your heart rate up. The choice is yours.

Plus other major benefits I’ve noticed since I started doing interval training, is I don’t feel exhausted from my workouts anymore, and I don’t get exercise injuries. Focus is on short bursts of intense energy instead of prolonged, repetitive stress.

If you are a marathoner, tri-athlete, or one of those mud wrestlers, I’m not trying to talk you out of your sport if you love it, as long as you stay mindful of the stress you are putting on your system. I think the thrill of competition and personal sense of accomplishment are good reasons to do extreme sports short-term if you enjoy them.

But for heart health, long-term health, and long-term injury prevention, interval training is tops.

Even I was worried in the beginning that I might lose strength or stamina by cutting back my running time. So I test it intermittently by doing a 4-mile run every now and then, just to verify I can still do it.

I’ve been amazed to discover that not only can I still do it, but I also have way more energy when I do. Plus, I’ve noticed I rarely get sick anymore, so my immune system has recovered from the stress of running with interval training too.

To tell you about his plan personally, I’d like to introduce you to Dr. Al Sears, and an article he’s written on the heart healthy merits of interval training:

Man Dies after Taking Bad Advice

“Dr. Sears, my internal medicine doctor wants me to exercise for an hour a day. Sometimes I get so tired, I feel like I’m going to collapse. How could this be good for me?”

This patient recently asked me this right after I had read about a man who died while driving back from a 2,400 mile bike ride. I began thinking if that’s not enough cardio to protect your heart what will?

Many of my patients report this bad advice. That’s too bad. Traditional cardio actually makes your heart and lungs smaller. Today I’ll show you why PACE® exercise will energize your heart. You can do it in as little as twelve minutes a day.

The Problem with Long Distance Cardio

This man died of a heart attack shortly after riding his bicycle across the continent.(1) He reportedly undertook this extreme durational cardio to re-strengthen his heart.

Yet I’ve been saying for years, long duration cardio will not protect you from heart disease or heart attack. It actually makes your heart smaller and weaker.

To protect and energize your heart, you need to build your heart’s reserve capacity.

Have you ever noticed that long distance runners look thin, weak and out of shape? Watch any marathon on TV and you’ll see what I mean. To compare, watch a track and field event and see how muscular and fit the sprinters look.

The interval training the sprinters practice boosts your heart’s reserve capacity. This is what your heart needs when it gets stressed. A heart attack will hit you when your heart needs extra energy but has nowhere to go. A small heart, streamlined from years of jogging will not have the extra capacity for stressful situations.

The Secret to Heart Attack Prevention

The good news is that interval training takes as little as twelve minutes a day. You can do it on any machine at the gym. You can even run or bike outdoors. Start at a slow easy pace. Then pick up the intensity for two minutes. Afterwards, go back to a slow, easy speed. Repeat this process and increase the intensity each time you do a faster interval.

As you become better conditioned, you’ll be able to exercise in short bursts of intense intervals. After each interval, you’ll actually feel yourself start to pant. This means you’re doing it right. When you pant, you are asking your lungs for more oxygen than they can provide in the moment. This is an oxygen deficit.

This tells your body to increase your lung volume. It also builds the critical reserve capacity you need to prevent heart attacks.

Here’s an added bonus: PACE® exercise is your most reliable way to burn fat. Not only will you protect your heart and lungs, your fat will melt away.

For more information on PACE®, see Health Alerts 28, 58, 147 and 270.

To your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

(1)Associated Press. Heart patient dies after 2,400-mile ride. May 2, 2005.

The best part about PACE® is you can start it no matter what your current level of fitness, since the idea is to slowly add intensity each time you work out. And since you are always increasing your intensity, those nasty workout plateaus are a thing of the past.

You don’t have to buy Dr. Sears’ books or workout tapes to try this concept at home, but he surely makes exercising easy for you if you want to take advantage of his expertise. 

Until next time .  .  .

youth-sportsby Rick Howard, MEd, CSCS,*D

Providing a safe and effective youth strength and conditioning program is only the foundation of their long-term athletic development.

The Path to Performance

All athletes have one thing in common – they either are, or were, youth. The youth strength and conditioning programs in which these athletes participate have long-term performance implications. So, whether you are a RSCC, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, sport scientist, or other allied strength and conditioning professional, here are three important youth strength and conditioning concepts:

  1. Develop physical literacy for youth by promoting a long-term approach to quality daily physical education and daily intermittent moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.
  2. Promote positive mental and psychosocial development as well as physical development with a properly designed strength and conditioning program.
  3. The Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position Statement Paper from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (2009) for guidelines on strength and conditioning programs that emphasize a long-term approach to developing strength and power.

A Model for ALL Youth

At the foundation of training youth is the philosophy that ALL children should be provided the opportunity to develop their physical, mental, and social skills. These physical, mental, and social skills must be considered simultaneously. Coaches must be aware of the nonlinear path of youth development and how this considerable variability of developmental stages has physical, mental, and social implications.

Training strategies for youth must be carefully planned based on the dynamic interrelationships of numerous variables such as number of sports being played throughout the year and during the same season, environment, ethnicity, self-efficacy, focus, etc. Strength coaches need to keep abreast of best practice and research-based program models for promoting the continuum of lifelong physical activity and sports participation for youth.

The Long-Term Athletic Development Model

The long-term athletic development (LTAD) model is a generic guide that can be used to plan the sport/activity specific plan. LTAD heightens coaches’ awareness that the focus should not be on early sport specialization but that a plan should be implemented to meet the individual needs of young athletes as they develop. LTAD is based predominantly on biological (physical) development and suggests training and competition strategies based on developmental and chronological age.

The LTAD-type program should contain developmentally-appropriate strength and conditioning as well as important elements of positive conditioning, active play, and unstructured play. Proper ratios of conditioning-to-practice and practice-to-competition are suggested and have been customized by national governing bodies to meet the needs of their sport (youth hockey and soccer, for example). Youth should participate in a wide variety of sports and activities that develop their physical, mental, and psychosocial skills– early sport specialization is discouraged.

Looking at the Individual Needs of Youth

Within a quality youth long term developmental program, differences in biological and developmental age of youth must be considered. Key measures of developmental maturation must be incorporated into the strength and conditioning program. This requires a cooperative team effort among coaches, parents, youth, physical educators, and strength and conditioning professionals to safely and efficaciously train youth along the developmental continuum.

Children will be at various points along the developmental continuum, even children of the same biological age, and those that excel at an early age need to be diversified to minimize overuse and burnout and those are considered “late bloomers” must be encouraged to continually improve. This will maximize the number of youth that are proficient in movement skills and can make their own choice to be active in sports and physical activity.

The environment in which training occurs needs to be proactive: fundamental motor skill development must be taught, coached, and assessed; positive feedback must continually and honestly be provided to youth so that skill acquisition and the positive benefits of strength and conditioning are always reinforced, and never should children be given exercise as punishment.

Strength coaches must focus on developing coaching cues for excellent lifting technique (and never sacrifice technique for increased resistance). Youth athletes must not be trained past the point of physiological benefit (e.g., making athletes vomit is not an appropriate measure of intensity).  The optimal balance of challenge and success leads to youth embracing the benefits of strength and conditioning programs (and sports programs too).

Resistance Training and LTAD

Resistance training for youth is safe and efficacious so long as important NSCA guidelines are followed. For example, participants must be able to listen to and follow directions, there must be quality supervision at all times, and exercise progressions must be developmentally appropriate. The focus of the prepubescent resistance training program is on the development of healthy habits of safe resistance training and the focus on technical performance (technique) over amount of resistance lifted.

Exercise technique is developed through body weight exercise, dowels, and light (2-3kg) medicine balls. Some youngsters that are very overweight or obese will need to use light weights before body weight, as their body weight is a significant challenge. Developmental progressions for a variety of strength and power exercises should be taught. Beginning resistance training is not sport-specific, but designed to develop health-fitness and skills-fitness attributes, which matches the philosophy of the long term development model.

What Can You Do?

NSCA-certified strength and conditioning professionals are uniquely qualified to provide properly supervised, developmentally appropriate strength and conditioning programs for youth of all ages and abilities. By following the guidelines listed in the NSCA Position Statement on youth resistance training and adapting an LTAD-type model to the specific youngster or team, you will provide a healthy, positive strength and conditioning experience that will benefit youth dually as exercise enthusiasts and athletes.

Multidisciplinary, longitudinal research is needed on LTAD, physical literacy, windows of opportunity, assessments, and dose response of strength and conditioning programs at various developmental stages. Furthermore, strength and conditioning programs should be evaluated based on whether they enhance performance for only the short-term or whether they promote long-term elite athletic development. Remember, the work you do to promote quality strength and conditioning programs for youth will have long-term performance implications.

About the Author

Rick Howard is a founding member of the NSCA Youth SIG, Immediate-Past Chair of the NSCA Youth SIG, and the Mid-Atlantic Region Coordinator for the NSCA State Provincial Director Program. Howard also serves on the NSCA Membership Committee.

User:Extremepullup performing a standard dead-...

User:Extremepullup performing a standard dead-hang pull up (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David Cassilo
USA Today High School Sports
Doing a lot of heavy lifting might seem like the best way to strengthen your upper body, but sports training expert Rick Howard says that’s not necessarily the case.

We asked Howard, the founder of the Youth Special Interest Group for the National Strength and Conditioning Association, to shed some light on a few upper-body training misconceptions.

Myth 1: Focus on muscles you can see.
Athletes work muscles they can see like their chest. That’s why they tend to do the bench press, biceps and abs. To improve upper-body strength, you have to have a balance between the muscles on the front and back of your body.

Myth 2: Upper-body strength starts in the weight room.
Focus on bodyweight training before you transition to machines like the bench press. You don’t always have to use a strength-training machine. There are all types of exercises like pushups to work your chest muscles and exercises like pull-ups to work your back. It’s a long-term process to get into peak condition, and you need to progress correctly.

Myth 3: Do as many reps as often as you can.
Start with one set of an exercise for 10 to 15 reps. Progress to three sets, then gradually add weight. You don’t need to do the maximum every time. The key is to have great form, not to do as many reps as possible.

Myth 4: Every athlete should bench to build a strong upper body.
Some athletes have shoulder injuries that preclude them from doing a bench press. For others, there are different weighted bars that might be too heavy to lift. Instead, you can use a medicine ball, bodyweight exercises or dumbbells.

Myth 5: You should strengthen your upper body on your own.
A lot of times athletes go into a weight room or in their basement and work out without supervision. That, unfortunately, is where most injuries occur.

Usain Bolt

100m and 200m Dash World Record Holder - Usain Bolt

Developing Speed for Sprinting – If you consider what the components for speed are, they include firing frequency and muscle fiber recruitment.  Contemporary training programs work on increasing firing frequency through foot or leg drills or through repetitive running for set distances.  Muscle fiber recruitment typically is done in the weight room with explosive lifts. However, explosive lifts require proper training and supervision to avoid injury. Immediate improvements in speed usually, come from neuromuscular adaptations. Neuromuscular adaptations enhance firing frequency and muscle requirements.  A safer method of recruiting muscle fibers for the development of speed includes the addition of more balance work and conditioning program.

If you look at most movement patterns of lower body, at one point during the movement the body must support itself on one leg. However, we do not ask athletes to condition that way. We usually get on a weight machine and use two limbs; thus, never really working on the weaker limb. Each time the weaker limb steps on the ground by itself, it slows you down because, for a split fraction of a second, it must adjust appropriately during the running stride.

Balance work takes advantage of proprioception, the ability of muscle to respond to abnormal positions and situations.  Proprioception provides a sense of joint position and movement.

Doing balance work in conjunction with explosive power movements in your sprint training provides an opportunity to recruit and train additional muscle fibers. If done properly, the end result is improved speed.  The following program will illustrate how to incorporate the right blend of balance and power into the sprinting program.

  • Single Leg Backbridge (Figure 1) – Lie with your back on the ball and with one leg firmly in contact with the ground. Make sure that the leg that is on the ground is at an angle greater than 90° and your foot is pointed straight ahead. Raise the other length off the ground and maintain this position for 3 to 4 sets of 30 to 45 seconds depending on the level of the leg imbalance.
  • Balance on Wobbly Board (Figure 2) – Balance on each leg on the wobbly board. Repeat for 3 to 4 sets of 30 to 45 seconds on each leg. Ultimately build 60 seconds on each leg for 3 to 4 sets.
  • Balance on Wobbly Board with Weighted Ball (Figure 3) – Once balance work on a wobbly board has been mastered, the next level of progression is to hold on to a weighted jelly ball or medicine ball.  Repeat for 3 to 4 sets of 30 to 45 seconds on each leg.
  • Bulgarian Step Ups (Figure 4) – With a 35 pound universal bar on your back (trapezius), place the right foot on a box. Make certain that the effort is placed on the foot that is on the box to step up. Step up on the box with the trailing leg. Do 3 to 4 sets of six repetitions on each leg.
  • Jelly Ball Kickups (Figure 5) – Use a 3 to 4 pound jelly ball for beginning training programs to allow for safe progression to a heavier weighted jelly ball. Place the ball between the feet. Squeeze the ball with the feet and drive down during the preparation phase. Next, drive up while kicking the jelly ball up in the air. Repeat for 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 10 repetitions.
  • Split Squat Jump (Figure 6) – Placed one leg in front of the other leg in a split position. Drive down with the legs and arms and explode up while maintaining the split squat position. Landing should be done in the same position as the drive phase. Do 3 to 4 sets of six jumps on each leg.
  • L Hops (Figure 7) – Place one leg on a table making the hip angle about 90° to the floor. Make sure that use have a soft landing mat or floor while performing these routines. Drive down on one leg and explosively drive up on the same late. Do 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions on each leg.
  • Box Step Ups (Figure 8 ) – Place 1 foot on a box and step up on that foot while driving the other leg up. Make sure to maintain the same arm action that you would in the running motion.  Do 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions on each leg.
  • Quick Foot Step Ups (Figure 9) – Place an aerobic step on a secure floor to prevent movement of the box. On command, the athlete will step up onto the box with the leg, foot, but they normally drive off with drive off with the blocks. The athlete will step on and off the box as fast as possible for 30 seconds. Make sure to maintain the proper sequence of movements in the running motion.
  • Stadium Hops (Figure 10) – Use aluminum stadium steps to do this exercise, as it will provide a much softer landing. Place the hands behind the head and squat, and then explosively drive up to the next step. Perform this for about 10 rows and walked down and repeat the same procedure 3 to 4 times.
  • Single Leg Hops (Figure 11) – Find an area that is soft and level if you are outside. Line up six cones and practiced jumping over one or two to line up the appropriate distance between comes.  Take a running start at the cones and then single leg hop over each one. Perform this drill 3 to 4 times on each leg.
  • Granny Throws (Figure 12) – Use a 16 pound jelly ball or medicine ball. Squat down and drive straight up while tossing the ball as explosively as you can. Perform this drill 6 to 8 times.
  • Incline Sprints – Find an incline area that is no more than 4 to 5 percent grade. The distance needed should be about 25 to 35m in length. On command sprint for a set distance of 25 to 30m. Perform the Sprint 6 to 8 times.

There are many ways to train for speed, such as tubing, parachutes, and shoulder harnesses. The isolated balance work and explosive routine done by each leg as depicted in this article will target those individual muscle fibers not normally conditioned by traditional sprint training. Incorporating balance and explosive movement patterns, as it relates to sprinting with develop the sprinter into a faster athlete. By following this program during the preseason, sprinter will have an excellent base of functional and explosive strength training as it relates to sprinting. The simplicity of this training program is that it does not require an extensive weight room to get results.

Figure . Single Leg - Backbridge Figure 2. - Balance on Wobble Board and Figure 3. Balance on Wobble Board with Weighted Ball


1.       Faccioni, A. Assisted and resisted methods for speed development; Part 2. Modern Athlete and Coach 32:8 – 12. 1994

2.       Jakalski, K.  Parachutes, tubing and towing. Track Coach 144:4285 – 4589. 1998

3.       Letzelter, M., G. Sauerwein, and Burger R.  Resistance runs in speed development.  Modern Athlete and Coach 33:7 – 12. 1996

Travis Brown, MS, CSCS, D*

Speed: Definition and How to Develop It

Speed is simply stride length (SL) x stride frequency (SF), or how far you step by how quick you step. No matter what height, weight or size an athlete is, to improve speed one must maximize each step for stride length and stride frequency.  In order to do so, an athlete must be trained with different drills specific to each.

We can accomplish this by working through five different progressions level, what is left we use in the speed to when curriculum five levels of progression are as follows;

  • Pre-Conditioning Aerobic Base
  • Build Sprint Form and Anaerobic Base
  • Develop Stride Length
  • Develop Stride Frequency
  • Addition of Power and Acceleration

In the Pre-Conditioning level, the goal is to get in aerobic shape, or to develop an aerobic base so sprinting can be taught to the athlete.  We can accomplish this by doing specific dynamic warm-up drills such as high-knee grabs, high-knee walks, ankle-quad grabs (Fig 1) butt-kick walks, butt kicks, and more.  We also incorporate long bungee cords while doing backpedals and sprints for about ten yards. The athlete should also developed his/her aerobic base by jogging short distance and distances

In the next level, we focus on building sprint form and anaerobic conditioning. We implement this by increasing flexibility and form is used of speed warm-up and various strides strengthening drills. We also incorporate heavy sled pulls. This forces the athletes to stay low coming out of their stance and to drive the knee high and increase stride length, thus working on sprint form.

During the next level, focus is on developing stride length. We continue to apply the basic dynamic warm-up exercises, with the addition of a high-knee grabs, toe touch-skip, front lunge and press.  This will help to increase flexibility and recruitment of the muscles which will help with the increase in stride length.  And perhaps one of the more important components in increasing stride length is to implement the use of short bungee cords: to work hip flexor (lying on your back) and hamstrings (lying face down).

While developing stride frequency, in next level, we simply learn how to turnover adequate stride length. We incorporate more advanced dynamic warm-up drills such as 1-2-3 skip with a high knee grab and toe touch and flatten (Figure 2-6). A toe and front leg kick (Figure 7-8) would be another ideal warm-up drill to incorporate. This is also where the athlete learns how to increase stride length and stride frequency.

With the addition of power and acceleration, we apply sled pulls, the mule cords and push up starts. It is during this period the athlete learns that in order to accelerate and use power, a forward lean must be created.  Many times coaches focus on this phase, before developing most or any of or any of the other phases the sled pulls were used in previous levels are now much lighter.  This forces the athlete to practice accelerating 0 to 10 yards, transitioning to top speed between 10 and 20 yards, and continuing to sprint at top speeds for another 10 yards. It is a 30 yard sprint working on 40 yard dash technique.  We also concentrate on the mule cords with a partner. As one athlete is pulling against their partner, which is working on deceleration, the other partner is working on acceleration with resistance. Then they switch after 20 yards.

In conclusion, it’s important to remember that all of the levels overlap somewhat. For example a simple high knee drill will and can develop aerobic conditioning, Sprint form, and stride length. A simple butt kick drill can do the same, and if the heel snapped quickly, stride frequency will be improved.

Agility: Definition and How to Develop It

Agility can be simply defined as change in direction. In other words, quickness is controlled deceleration. In order to improve agility, and athlete must increase acceleration, increase deceleration, and then increase change of direction. Too many times we see an increase in acceleration targeted without an additional effort to increase deceleration. This is a major mistake.

Let us think about the heavy/fast athlete.  In sports today, we see a number of non-contact injuries, from torn ACL‘s two sprained ankles and sprain knees. In today’s world, athletes are like a high-performance sports car. Very fast and agile, able to turn corners at high speeds and stop on a dime. However, we are adding more and more muscle and body mass to the same frame that has supreme acceleration. It’s like increasing the horsepower of that same sports car, without improving the brakes and framework of the car. And much like an athlete who tries to stop on a dime after accelerating, and ends up tearing up their ankle/knee, the same would happen to the sports car. When attempted to stop, the body tear right off the frame. We can avoid this by working through five different levels of progression, and ensuring deceleration is stressed as much as acceleration. Five levels of development are as follows:

  • Pre-Conditioning Agility
  • Improve Footwork and Deceleration Strength
  • Footwork Patterns -Learn How to Accelerate and Decelerate
  • Change of Direction and Conditioning Drills
  • Develop Explosive Ability to Change Direction

In the Pre-Conditioning level,  you implement various lateral movement conditioning drills, such as over-under walks, cariocas, side bounding, etc. In this level athletes must learn how to stay low, turn their hips and move laterally. This is the base of agility and must be set as the foundation.

The next level, we focus on improving footwork and deceleration strength. While you’re working on improving agility, were also working on improving speed. Therefore, a lot of agility work beginning is teaching the body to stop. It is during this level that we implement proper footwork and change of direction spots with the ladder. The athlete works on this by doing a series basic ladder drills, such as a straight one foot in every hole, side two feet and every hole, one-two-three cuts (a.k.a. Icky Shuffle, figures 9 through 12)  and one-two-three-four in and outs. We also incorporate the same ladder drills with low hurdles. This forces the athlete to change direction around an obstacle (the hurdle).  And finally, we increase strength and change of direction spots with change of direction strengtheners, which is simply starting from a lunge position sprint forward, stopping at 5 yards and backpedaling back to the beginning and then starting over.

For the next level, we focus on footwork patterns and learning how to accelerate and decelerate. The athlete accomplishes this by implementing straight ahead and lateral stop and go drills. This can be accomplished through five yard sprints and stopping (going forward, as well as moving laterally).  And to work on footwork patterns, we add in more advanced ladder drills, such as two feet in every hole going forward, one foot in every hole moving laterally,  one-two-three spin cuts (Figures 13- 17) and one-two-three-four in and out of the ladder moving laterally. These would be in addition to the other ladder drills in the previous levels, therefore increasing intensity. We also incorporate the same ladder drills with the combination of low and high hurdles, thus increasing intensity

In the fourth level, we work on changing direction of conditioning drills. It is during this level that we implement even more advanced dynamic warm-up drills, such as opposite elbow to ankle lunge and toe touch-hand walk-hurdler stretch (Figure 18-21). Remember, our lateral movement drills, change of direction strengtheners, and learning how to start and stop are what teaching us how to change direction.  We also add cone drills, such as the W drill, outside foot cuts and shuffle-sprint-shuffle. Now athletes are ready to condition themselves but actually changing direction

In the final phase, we develop explosive ability to change direction. Here is where the athlete should be able to put together everything for agility (acceleration, deceleration, and change of direction). This can be done by practicing the five-ten-five pro agility shuttle and the three-cone drill. We also incorporate more advanced cone drills, such as backpedal-sprints and spin cuts.

Keep in mind, just as we just as with the speed levels, the agility levels do sometimes overlap. Many of the base dynamic warm-up drills are key components in the foundation for becoming more athletic. This is thoroughly accomplished in both “Speed to Win” curriculums, by overlapping speed agility, and explosion to become a more explosive athlete that is extremely quick

For the complete file of the drills mentioned above click…

An exercise ball allows a wide range of exerci...

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Marjorie J. Albohm, MS, ATC
Posted: March 21, 2011 08:39 AM

As a member of the Baby Boomer generation I know that nothing is more important than maintaining youth and vitality. And, maintaining fitness is a way to contribute to that! Physical activity is a part of our lives and we don’t want to stop now. Unfortunately, years of wear and tear on our musculoskeletal system have caused some issues that make the way we used to train and condition, when we were in our 20’s and 30’s, not as easy today.

For example, osteoarthritis is on the rise. More than 27 million adults, 1 in almost every 10 American adults, have OA (1), a number expected to increase dramatically as the 78.2 million Baby Boomers age (2). OA limits physical activity and complicates management of other chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease. And, many Americans with OA face chronic pain and functional limitations, which often result in job loss and reduced quality of life. Evidence shows that physical activity can reduce the symptoms and progression of OA. But, it must be the right exercise prescription because done incorrectly physical exercise may increase symptoms and disability.

A customized fitness program, with a focus on modification of exercises, is essential to continuing a physical fitness regime that we know yield great benefits. Modifications may vary, based on current physical and musculoskeletal conditions, but it’s important to accept that modifications are necessary to continue to maintain and achieve your fitness goals. A customized fitness program incorporates the modifications that are right and best for you and your musculoskeletal history.

The program goals of a customized fitness program are to maintain and increase fitness levels, prevent new injuries, and, stop the progression of old injuries. This is best accomplished by modifying your activities, emphasize integrated links, and make lifestyle changes. The key conditioning parameters to focus on are flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, and balance. These are the core components of any fitness program and all must be included to provide a well rounded program and all important results.

It’s important before beginning or modifying any fitness program, to receive medical clearance by your physician and, an accurate diagnosis of any previous musculoskeletal problems by a musculoskeletal specialist. This is the essential first step to achieving your fitness goals.

Strengthening your “core” is a must! We know that core muscles provide stability to the trunk and total body. They aid in improving strength and balance. A strong core protects you from potential extremity injuries. And, we must view the body as an integrated whole, not separate individual parts. Our core is the center of that.

There are many exercises that develop core strength. Remember that variety is the key to having fun with your fitness program, ensuring compliance, and, preventing burn out! Abdominal exercises are popular and effective. Abdominal curl up’s done on an exercise ball, sit up’s with cross over to include the oblique muscles, and the all popular plank exercises are an example of just a few.

Balance activities are also excellent to develop core strength and are important as their own fitness essential. These may include a seated stork position on an exercise ball, using a balance ball, or participating in the activities of yoga, pilates or qigong. These classes are extremely popular and incorporate many different core strengthening exercises in one class session.

Flexibility is also a key component to a fitness program and increasingly important as we age. Often stretching exercises are boring and feel like they always take too much time. So, incorporate stretching into your everyday life activities. For example, reach for that item on a high shelf rather than getting a step stool. And use yoga and pilates to really make your stretching fun and effective.

Customizing your program must also include recognizing your musculoskeletal “weak links”. These include areas that have been previously injured and vulnerable to re-injury or vulnerable areas due to musculoskeletal changes. Modifications are necessary to protect these areas from re-injury or further injury.

Strength training is another essential component to a fitness program. Modify strength training activities by using lighter resistance and doing more repetitions. Elastic bands and rubber tubing are excellent for this. Gradually increase resistance over time. And remember, always listen to your body!! When you feel a twinge of pain or discomfort in a weak link or vulnerable area, decrease your resistance and number of repetitions. You should never feel pain in any specific body part or area when you exercise.

Weight bearing activities, running, jogging, jumping, to increase cardiovascular fitness, put a tremendous load on our knees. And, if you’re one of the 10 million Americans with OA, these activities will make your symptoms worse. Non-weight bearing exercises MUST be incorporated in your customized fitness program. Cycling, swimming, spinning (my personal favorite!) are all excellent cardiovascular endurance exercises that will increase your fitness. You don’t have to pound on hard pavement to get your heart and lungs strong!

Exercise frequency is a key component in customizing your fitness program. We all remember those compulsive seven days a week (or more!) workouts. Exercising three to five days a week, with an average of four, accomplishes the same thing, and, gives your musculoskeletal system a much needed break. Remember, more is NOT necessarily better.

Lifestyle changes are essential to a successful customized program. Focusing on proper diet and nutrition, maintaining appropriate body weight (you know that exercise is a great way to burn calories to allow you to eat those few special things that we all often crave!), and, choosing supplements carefully are good guidelines to follow. Always read the scientific literature, published from reliable sources, regarding supplements that you’re considering. Not just the commercial, sales literature. You can end up spending a lot of money on supplements that really don’t do what they say.

One of the most common questions asked is “who should I ask for professional assistance if I want some help in setting up and overseeing my program”? My advice is to always select a health care professional, with a bachelor’s degree minimum, trained in fitness and wellness and, in the recognition and management of musculoskeletal issues. You’re entrusting your most valuable possession — your body! — to someone, so chose carefully. An example is a certified athletic trainer whose skills apply to physically active people of all ages, because as the theme of this month’s National Athletic Training Month says, “Not all athletes wear jerseys: athletic trainers treat the athlete in you.” (3)

The NEW Fitness program for Boomers is one that must be customized to continue to maintain and improve fitness levels. And, to continue to enjoy the life of physical activity that Boomers have grown up with. Listen to your Body! And Modify!

(1) Arthritis Foundation: A Public Health Agenda for Osteoarthritis 2010.
(2) U.S. Department of Commerce. Facts for features — January 3, 2006
(3) National Athletic Trainers’ Association. Dallas, TX