At SPU we value the basic needs that occur when training functional fundamental movement patterns. And when we say functional, we mean the way that your body would naturally work in a vertical, horizontal (through pronation/supination) rotational, and stabilizing aspect. Understanding how the body works fundamentally and applying that knowledge to our training programs is a huge part of what makes us different. All individuals are built differently, so does it make sense to have machines that primarily isolate joint function? Is that the way the body would function in its natural state nevertheless on the field performing?
For those who neglect the functional/fundamental training concept, it will always look normal to them that locking themselves up in a machine to isolate a specific joint during a workout is fine. For instance, sitting in a leg press machine to work the quads and glutes or laying on the stomach to perform hamstring curls in the machine is not as functional as you would think it is. Rather those vague choices can lead to injuries that you may recollect came from bad exercises. In the real world our joints don’t have all that leeway. The body works in unison which means that all the muscles are passively and actively working together to move us. Whether one is working concentrically while the other does all the eccentric stabilizing work, it all connects.
Ultimately, in prioritizing the way we naturally move, we can target what we’re lacking to improve whether in strength or mobility. If you have a core, ankles, or shoulder issue, working out in machines that takes away the function of those body parts won’t get you where you should be when you focus on treating your functional and fundamental needs.
- Coach Andy Louis
Scapula health is important to the longevity and resilience of an athlete, especially in overhead athletes. Almost every sport requires the athlete to use their arms but without healthy scapulae the chances of injury increase. Overhead athletes who lack scapular control may be at an increased risk of tearing their ulnar cruciate ligament (UCL), better known as Tommy John. They may also experience pain in both their glenohumeral joint and elbow joint due to increased demand on the muscles surrounding both areas. Learning to control the scapulae will lead to improvements on the field and a decrease in injuries. To first understand how healthy scapulae can improve the ability of an athlete, one must first understand how the scapulae work.
There are six ways that the scapulae (shoulder blades) move. The act of retraction occurs by squeezing the shoulder blades together towards the spine. Retraction is controlled by the rhomboid major/minor muscles, the trapezius, and the latissimus dorsi. Protraction is the opposite of retraction, where the shoulder blades move away from the spine. This movement is controlled by the pectoralis major/minor and serratus anterior. Elevation is raising the shoulder blades as if you were to shrug your shoulders. This motion is controlled by the levator scapulae and the upper trapezius. Depressing the scapula is bringing the shoulder blades down which is controlled by the latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior, pectorals major/minor muscles, and the trapezius, but is also aided by gravity naturally depressing the scapulae. The last two motions are upward rotation controlled by the trapezius and serratus anterior and downward rotation controlled by the rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, and pectoralis muscles with the help of gravity.
Before an athlete can improve upon their strength in the weight room, they must first learn to control these specific functions of the scapula. A great way to learn scapular control is to perform the six motions with added resistance. Resistance bands, body weight exercises, and light weights are great tools to teach the proper mechanics of shoulder blades. Exercises like scapula pushups teach protraction and retraction, chin-ups place the scapulae through all six motions and weighted carries can help improve the stabilization of the shoulder blades. Performing a proper warmup can also help improve the function of the scapulae making pushing and pulling exercises feel more natural and limiting the over-activation muscles. Once an athlete has mastered scapular control they will start to see an improvement in the weight room and a carryover to their sport. Eventually, pain will subside and movements will feel more fluid.
- Coach Matt Smith
To understand deceleration in sports you must first understand how it works in regularity. Deceleration/slowing down means an increase in speed opposite to the initial direction the body was moving. This occurs in running, throwing and kicking. In running, the body would have to initiate force production against the ground the opposite way to counter the given speed the body was moving at. Now when we look deeper into the biomechanics behind deceleration, we can see a high correlation to eccentric, concentric strength and ground force production and vice versa for other movements. As we already know Newton’s 1st Law of Inertia, both eccentric strength and concentric strength acts together on the body to initiate that change in direction otherwise you can not slow down efficiently. Outside of sports, deceleration happens all the time through the eccentric movements we do on a daily basis, like going down a staircase. However, in sports, specifically multi directional sports, efficient deceleration is a must skill.
When an athlete performs in a particular sport, the ability to increase speed then to spontaneously cut and turn for either recovery on defense or juking through a defensive back is a skill that will 100% bring the spotlight on you. That is called being agile, and to get agile you need to work on getting that quick force production and deceleration to be able to cut efficiently. To enhance your agility skills you would have to include both power and strength training in your routine. That would help the muscles in your body learn how to recruit more motor units for that power output that you need. However there is a big factor that is the muscle fiber types that the body comprises. The athletes with fast twitch muscle fibers will look quicker when doing the same movements compared to the slow twitch muscle fibers. The reason behind that is because fast twitch fibers are quick at recruiting all the motor units in your muscles to create either positive or negative force that you need for acceleration or deceleration.
For kickers, throwers, baseball, tennis, golf players and so on, the follow through of the swing is very important. The deceleration of the limb while transitioning the rotational force produced to the ball will not only equate to a better throw or swing but also prevent you from getting injured. You can easily hurt the vertebrae when twisting without good eccentric strength. This is where proper biomechanics training with stability becomes super important and a huge part of it includes decelerating in the transition when transferring power. When those factors don’t align, you will see athletes go all over the place with their body with no stability, trying to compensate for the intense movements they have to do.
- Coach Andy Louis
Generally speaking we often hear certain myths about resistance training and we tend to take that information out of context. All sorts of rumors about resistance training go around and it’s usually from people who did not get a proper introduction and just don’t know anything about it. Like, resistance training will stunt your growth/kids should stray away from lifting weights too early, or even adolescent girls and grown women thinking they’ll get too bulky. Now you can say there can be truth to some of those statements but the truth that we need to focus on are not even in our perspective.
When parents come to us professionals, they often worry about the system we utilize in the weight room with their kids. They’re worried about their kids squatting, deadlifting etc… Those moments are when we get that opportunity to break down our system to them and show the real truth behind resistance training. Resistance training at a young age won’t stunt your growth but it can damage your body with injuries if not done properly. Every kid grows differently and they all can be at different stages while being the same age. When we’re training kids we don't just give them a program full of exercises that aren’t tailored to their own body’s capabilities. We assess their movements on a fundamental basis prior to starting their program. Then we address the red flags by giving them movement prescriptions they need the most. Another thing we focus on is their level of maturity. Do they have that level of autonomy to start taking resistance training seriously? Are they at a stage where they’ll mostly benefit from a fundamental training environment and learning basics or are they going through puberty and growing superfast and need a mobility/balance based program? These thoughts really matter when we’re talking about kids doing resistance training and issues would only occur when the professionals don’t follow the right protocol. If you have that goal for your kids whether in sports or overall health then you can’t let word of mouth stop your kids from getting the advantage of being a step ahead.
In the women population, we often hear them worrying about bulking up and looking too muscular. Some women see the advantages of being strong and healthy, some are badly informed and focus on the wrong things. Resistance training for women is as good as resistance training for men. It’s not rocket science just because it’s women working out. There are hormonal and fundamental body structure differences to consider but that’s less than the other things you need to know/achieve just to bulk up consistently. Your physique is not just the result of the work you put in the gym, you have to consider how much work you put into nutrition and recovery/sleep. So yes, you can get bulky from working out but only if those other factors are not in check and if it’s not your goal then you’ll be far from being bulky. The choices you make are accountable for your results. When you set a goal, whether it’s losing weight, staying fit or bulking up, you will be the one making the choices that can lead you to that goal.
Ultimately, it’s all in the process. It’s always easy to assume and not choose to know the process when others are telling you the answers. Once you choose to know the process, you can save yourself time from focusing on the wrong side of things.
Coach Andy Louis
Athletes, have you ever considered why your body can perform nearly the same load that both limbs can do with just one? Or even consider why the sum of the loads done on each limb individually can add up to more than the sum of the load done when both limbs work together? That is the definition of the BLD (bilateral deficit).
Oftentimes when we’re training on two different squat or deadlift progressions, the BLD occurs. People are able to lift at least 60% of their overall bilateral strength unilaterally. This means that an athlete’s regular max deadlift load might be 315lbs but then can lift 190lbs on a single leg deadlift. The same thing can happen on squat progressions. The neuromuscular necessities when performing a bilateral exercise is much greater than unilateral exercises, which means the brain works much harder for exercises that ultimately give you less output. This is one of the reasons why sports’ fundamental movements are trained. Unilateral strength and conditioning training prepares you better for your particular sports, hence why it is prioritized over bilateral training.
Bilateral strength and conditioning training is not forgotten. We utilize different variations in exercises to train for bilateral strength and power based on an athlete’s position in their particular sport; we consider which movements mainly occur in that position. When we look at an ice hockey athlete versus a track and field sprinter, or a defensive lineman in football versus a soccer midfielder, they will require different progressions of both unilateral or bilateral exercises. However, from the movements that occur most in a game, we know that bilateral power and strength based exercises for a defensive lineman might be more beneficial than training unilateral exercises and so on.
When we think of strength and power activities we also need to think about proper nutritional intake. Every athlete needs to focus highly on their diet in order to perform within their expectations. It is a very important part of performance enhancement and recovery. Dieting can easily become complicated when overthought, however, generally speaking, having tight control over your macronutrients is key. High performing athletes should always make sure that 55-60% of their daily energy intake are clean carbohydrates, 15% from animal derived proteins and 25-30% from clean fat intake. These percentages can be distributed throughout the day by frequent meal servings and snacks in between meals.
Carbohydrates are the number one source of energy in the body, which is why the quality of which one’s you are eating is so important. When dieting, always try to focus on eating less processed sugars and heavily starchy foods. Try to substitute more fruits, vegetables, or whole grains in big portions to help curb cravings. Blood glucose levels are important for better performance in the gym and on the field, so try having some fruits or mineral induced drinks about an hour before exercising instead of drinking caffeine or sugar. Athletes that want to gain weight should focus on a caloric surplus: intaking more than you’re expending in energy. If losing weight is your goal, you’d want to be in a caloric deficit: expending more energy than you’re intaking. But remember - don’t starve yourself!
Proteins, formed by amino acids, are the building blocks of the body. Therefore, proper protein intake leads to faster recovery and better gains. When dieting, focus on getting proteins derived from animals/dairy products. For athletes with different lifestyles who focus on plant based proteins, supplementation may help with getting more complete proteins: proteins that carry more essential amino acids. When training, the timing of protein intake is very important. Having a light source of protein 30 minutes before and after exercising will help with proper muscle growth and recovery. Athletes that have hypertrophy goals should be very wary of their protein intake timing and serving size (0.9 - 1.8g of protein per pound of body weight), however, for strength maintenance and recovery, about 0.7 - 0.9g of protein per pound of body weight post training is recommended.
Lastly, fats, also known as the energy storer, are very important for the body. Fats are broken down into three types (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated). Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oils, peanut oils, and avocados. Although labeled as fats, these fats are considered healthy for intake up to about 15% on a daily caloric scale. Polyunsaturated fats are found in nuts, seeds, salmon, tuna, and corn. They can be great options to implement into your diet up to about 15% on a daily caloric scale. Saturated fats are found in animal products such as dairy, beef, and poultry. Generally speaking, saturated fats are most likely to be naturally in your diet. However, it’s only recommended to have up to about 10% of these kinds of fats on a daily caloric scale.
Now, there is one more type of fat that all populations should be wary of… and that’s the big ol trans fat. Everyone loves trans fats. The packaged cookies and chips, candy, fried food, fast food, huhh love it!!! BUT, stay away from it!!! Unless you want a first class ticket to diabetes, cholesterol, or other chronic diseases later on in life.
Coach Andy Louis and Coach Katie Sailer
One of the most frustrating things I hear coaches asking their teams to do is jogging during their off-season conditioning. Traditionally, coaches say to run a mile, then build up to two, or something along those lines. And, at the beginning of training camp, they do a “conditioning” test that uses a long, slow run as a barometer of conditioning. In actuality, this is one of the worst things you can do for performance.
The vast majority of sports value explosiveness, agility, top end speed, and maximal outputs. I call this “moment of truth” sports. Think of baseball - it’s all about how much force you can create at one, singular moment: hitting or throwing the ball. The same is true in most sports - in lacrosse, how quickly can you make that cut and fire off the shot? In football, how quickly can you get to the spot and then explode through the tackle? In soccer, how well can you manuever the ball through traffic then drive your leg through the ball? Perhaps they aren’t as singular as baseball, because they require a bit of movement before the “moment of truth” but they still require what we call anaerobic capacity.
Anaerobic capacity helps us fire up our maximal strength and power movements. And this is how we need athletes to condition for their sport. A good example would be sprint intervals - burst for eight seconds, then rest for, say, twenty two. Then, repeat that pattern for, say, five minutes. As that is easy, extend the time, so repeat the pattern for ten minutes, then twelve. We can also decrease the rest period, provided the athlete is still sprinting during the work period, so instead of a 8:22 ratio, we can go 10:20, then 12:18, etc. Alternatively, we can introduce resistance, so add a sled or parachute, and keep the pattern going. In this way, we simulate the demand of our sports. Think of soccer, where an athlete bursts for 5-10 seconds, then slows down to a light jog, walk, or perhaps even pauses all together. This pattern is the same in lacrosse, football, field hockey, and most team sports. Baseball and softball have an even more stark interval, where rest periods are very long and active periods are sometimes less than a second.
If you want to train for performance for your sport, don’t go jogging. As we’ve just noted, that’s a terrible simulation of the needs of your sport. Even more importantly, jogging may actually be HURTING your performance.
Jogging uses a lot of slow twitch muscle fibers, portions of the muscle that don’t create much output from a strength, power, or speed perspective. They are designed to use minimal energy, creating an efficient way to move for a long time continuously. We all have slow twitch muscle fibers, as well as fast twitch. We’re all born with some proportion of slow twitch to fast twitch fibers. What we need to realize and apply is the fact that we can change that proportion, and train our body to be more effective at one type of twitch over the other. If we do a lot of fast twitch movements, we can help ourselves be more explosive and “twitchy,” but if we do a lot of slow twitch movements, like jogging, we can quite literally train ourselves to be slower.
If you look at olympic sprinters, they’re massive. Immensely strong and powerful, shredded with muscle, and the ability to impart a great deal of force at that moment of foot contact with the ground. In contrast, you can look at olympic marathoners, and see a very different type of athlete, one that has trouble creating significant ground force in a sprint or explosive movement. This is partially what they are genetically better suited for, but also a result of their training. They have taught their bodies to work in slow twitch or fast twitch environments, and their body has adapted to that demand. So, an athlete who needs to play in a fast twitch, anaerobic, explosive sport, like most team sports, actually trains themselves to be slower by running long distances. Additionally, jogging does have a high prevalence of overuse injuries due to the repetitive nature.
So the final question is: why jog? There aren’t many groups who I would recommend jogging to, but there are some. The first group are people who participate in endurance sports. Since they are indeed working in long, limited explosion sports like cross country, then jogging makes sense. The second group is people who run for fun and who don’t need conditioning for another specific sport. If someone simply enjoys taking a long run, then they should continue to enjoy it. It’s still a good exercise, strengthens the heart, and improves overall health. And while yes, I do believe there are much better exercise regimens, if someone enjoys it and is working out for their long term benefits, then by all means, go take a jog.
Strength and conditioning in sports is highly beneficial for athletes in order to see better results. Sports training will implement the different fundamental movements required when performing in the sport you compete for. When we take a look at sports such as baseball, basketball, lacrosse, & football, they all live in the rotational, power, max strength, & speed realm, requiring great control of your body while moving either on a linear plane or lateral plane. Now, if you neglect training those aspects, you may be hindering your peak performance potential.
In strength and conditioning, we break it down into many different segments of fundamental movements that target speed, plyos, agility, maximal power output, strength, and muscular endurance. From each of those segments we go further to pinpoint the athletes fundamental pattern imbalances through a biomechanical integrity analysis then we address the imbalances through correctional exercises that help the athletes to progress. Then based on the sport we’re working with, (ex: track and field) the athlete will have a speed/ agility/plyos section training the movements done in their sport such as a “half kneeling band resisted start” which focuses on the acceleration aspect of sprinting. Then we’ll move down to strength and muscular endurance based exercises after the speed training. In other cases if we’re training a football athlete (ex: Quarterback), we’ll need to address all his shoulder mobility and scapular strength and we’ll have to make sure to add a triple flexion variation for power output, and both anti-rotational and rotational exercises in both power and strength section.
In all, athletes must not neglect doing strength and conditioning for their particular sport because it is tailored to help them improve wherever they’re lacking for better performance.
Coach Andy Louis
Coach Tyler Curtin
When we think of training the core through functional movements, it means we’re targeting that muscle group in the way it is supposed to work to stabilize the body either from a standing position, pronated, supinated, and seated position. There are various functional exercises that hit the core with just the right intensity when performed with proper form. Exercises such as a pallof press challenges the core from an anti-movement point, stability plank circles work the core both linear and rotationally and these can be great examples of functional core work. Functional core exercises emphasize both endurance and strength.
Aesthetic core work involves more isolation of the muscle group while doing a fixed movement. Doing aesthetic core training emphasizes size and strength more. The exercises options vary on which specific parts you want to target. Ex: Seated Crunches, Leg raises, Decline crunches, side planks.
As an athlete, functional core training is more beneficial because it simulates the way we move throughout performance. A weak core will increase the injuries to lower backs due to lack of core muscular endurance.
In the digital age, with endless information available at our fingertips at all times, how do we make sure we’re following the right path to improvement in our training program? The truth is, that immediate information isn’t always a good thing. It’s led to what I’ll call “copycat training,” where an athlete sees something cool on social media or after a google search, and decides to copy whatever that model is doing. Here’s a few thoughts on copycat training:
1. Each person’s body, goals, and training capabilities are different. Copying what you see someone else do is doing what is right for someone else, not necessarily what is right for you. From an even higher perspective, there’s no guarantee that what they’re doing is even right for them.
2. Many young athletes look to copy their favorite professionals. But, kids are not just little adults. You can’t just pick all the same lifts and try to max out like you see your favorite professionals do. Professionals generally have a much higher degree of neuromuscular control and stability, which plays a role in their ability to effectively do advanced training programs. Most developing athletes are not ready for much of what they see their favorite stars doing.
3. Social media is unregulated, meaning anyone can post anything. If some random workout junky calls themselves an “expert” and posts a bunch of exercise instructional videos filled with terrible advice, there is no oversight for that page. And, if the host of that page is a good talker and looks good doing those exercises, chances are that he or she will get followers and seem credible, even if the content is inaccurate.
4. Just because an athlete looks good doing a move, doesn’t mean that’s the move that made them good. I see this one all the time - someone who is very athletic does a drill, and looks good doing that drill, so viewers think that the drill is what made him or her good. Truth be told, a good athlete can probably make most plyometric drills look impressive and fast, but they didn’t do that drill alone to get good. Imagine an elite soccer player doing a 3-cone agility drill - they might look fast, but that drill isn’t what made them fast, and if a younger athlete just does that drill, they probably aren’t going to get the results they want.
Ultimately, copycat training presents the same issue that anecdotal evidence does - limited sample sizes from uncontrolled studies often create misleading conclusions. Take, for instance, the example of the 90-year old smoker. You might know someone, who at age 90 continues to smoke, and has no history of lung disease or other health issues. From that small sample size, you might draw the conclusion that smoking doesn’t create health issues. What you might not see if you’re looking at that one example is the larger abundance of truly empirical evidence that shows us that smoking does, in fact, have associated health risks. Looking at the way one person or a few people train acts much the same way - it isolates one anecdotal story in lieu of actual research or data, and misses the big picture.
If you want a truly good training program, you need one that takes into account your own biomechanical integrity, training experience, goals, injury history, etc. Social media and google are terrible places to get a training program from, as they can do none of those things. In fact, even if you are going to a personal trainer or participating in a team program, if your training regimen doesn’t include those items or more to individualize to your needs, then your program is coming up short.