The split stance perpendicular medicine ball scoop is one of my favorite medicine ball (MB) exercises for developing sport specific power. It is a great movement because it relates so well to most sports and is very specific to how athletes produce power during competition.
· Assume a split stance with the back heel off the ground.
· Begin by slightly dropping the front knee towards and ground.
· As the knee is dropping start rotating your thoracic spine (upper back).
· Keep your eyes on the medicine ball the whole time.
· After the slight knee drop and thoracic spine rotation explode up by driving through the front heel and forcefully extending the hips.
· Scoop the medicine ball into the wall and be ready to catch it on the bounce back.
Picture a hockey player skating up ice, a baseball player stealing 2nd base, a basketball player dribbling by an opponent, it is going to look very similar to this specific MB exercise. Each player will load their posterior chain by making a slight dip and then explode out of that stance.
Any athlete that moves their feet into a split stance can use this exercise to develop sport specific power. Try doing 3 sets of 6-8 repetitions per side to develop sport specific power.
Power is a quality that every great athlete needs to possess in order to excel at their sport. It is the final touches that propel good athletes into great ones. Without a doubt, this is an area that an advanced athlete needs to pay great detail and attention to. The questions that have to be asked are how and where does this power need to be applied. Does it involve rotational or linear movement? Those will be the questions that I look to answer for sport specific power development.
first things first, the greatest amount of power that can be produced is transferred through the ground up through the lower body. When an athlete exhibits a tremendous amount of power, whether throwing, kicking, hitting, tackling or any other form, that power is produced by applying explosive force through the ground. Power and force are inversely related but are still components of one another.
Bottom Line: Develop strong explosive wheels to produce tremendous amounts of power.
What you need to produce the power against will usually dictate what direction you need to train power. If you are tackling an opponent you will most likely train power in the sagittal plane or perform a linear movement. If you are moving an object such as swinging a racket or throwing a football you will be training power in the transverse plane which is a rotational movement.
Bottom Line: Power development should be sport specific for the advanced athlete.
Ok, so we answered the how it needs to be produced and where it has to be applied. How about what should we do to train those sport specific power movements. Training power in the sagittal plane could involve movements such as box jumps, power cleans and snatches. These movements are all preformed in the sagittal plane and would be great exercises for a hitter (volleyball), power forward (basketball) or offensive guard (football). Athletes that need to train power in the transverse plane would use a variety of medicine ball rotational throws, scoops and slams. These would be great for our pitcher (baseball), quarterback (football) or golfer (golf).
Bottom Line: Power exercises should be selected based on the sport and position you play.
Remember this topic is about advanced athletes. There is nothing wrong with a twelve year old quarterback working on rotational power, but let’s not get carried about getting to sport specific at a young training age. Let the athletes develop and learn, then master the basics. As for our advanced athletes sport specific training is key to their success.
The power clean is a staple in most high school and collegiate training facilities. In my opinion it is the best option to develop explosive power while training with everything else being equal. Unfortunately it is a very coaching intensive exercise that requires a qualified coach to make the exercise useful and safe. Here are five coaching cues that will help you teach your athletes to perform the power clean more efficiently.
1. Do Not Start With The Power Clean. There has to be a teaching progression when coaching any new exercise, especially one as complex as the power clean. Does the athlete have a hip hinge, great, then how about learning the power shrug, how does that look?, good, great, how about teaching the squat jump next. Have they learned how to catch yet? That is important too. Start with the bar in the hang position first and not from the floor. Again, everyone wants to put the carriage before the horse. SLOW DOWN! Take your time teaching your athletes the proper way to do things.
2. Tell Your Athletes To Wrap Their Wrists Around The Bar. This cue helps tremendously with the athletes learning to pull the bar into their body. When the bar drifts out in front of the body you have to jump forward to catch it. This will also limit your ability to produce power because you are likely bending your elbows to soon, which leads to tip #3.
3. Once The Elbows Bend The Power Ends. This is why it is so important to teach proper progressions. A perfect time to work on locking the elbows out is when the athlete is practicing their power shrug or jump squat. This is huge for not leaking out energy during the 2nd pull.
4. Punch The Elbows Up As You Catch The Bar. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen athletes catch the bar with their elbows pointed down to the ground. This is an easy way to stress the delicate structures surrounding the elbow and put a great deal of stress on the wrist as well. The upper arm should be parallel to the floor when the catch is completed.
5. Catch The Bar In An Athletic Stance. For some reason most athletes when learning the power clean do a great job at getting their knees and hips in front of them. If you cannot picture that, imagine someone doing the limbo and trying to get under a rope. Cue your athletes to finish in an athletic stance, with a little bend in the knees and hips.
If you put these five tips into coaching your athletes to perform the power clean I promise you will see results.
Let me know if there are any other tips for the power clean that you incorporate into your teaching methods.
If you are an athlete you must understand the difference between performance training and working out. If you do not know how to answer the question that is fine, I am going to go over it. There is just a slight difference in terminology, which most people will pay no attention to, but this difference will produce greater results in the training facility.
When I use the term performance training I am referring to an actual program or plan that is put together for a certain athlete to accomplish their specific goals. It can be a weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly or even a multi-yearly training program.
If you are just starting out begin with a weekly or monthly training plan. Focus on movement quality and getting stronger. Map out what your goals are each time you walk through the doors, what exercises you are going to do and the set & rep scheme you are going to use, among others things. There is a set of goals and plan to get those goals accomplished.
On the other hand, if an athlete goes to a training facility to get in a workout, there is no plan. It is total randomness. Sure you might know what exercises you like to do so chances are you will do them again, with the same reps, sets and weights. This will work for the novice that is just starting out, pretty much anything will. Then what? After awhile you stop seeing results and get discouraged. The results stop coming and you wonder why squatting 135 lbs for 10 over the past 6 months has not promoted any changes.
Let’s stop with all the working out and guess work and get on a properly designed training program that works!
A performance training program gives us direction and tells us what we are trying to accomplish in a certain time frame. For example a college football player in part of his off-season might be in a hypertrophy phase, where he is trying to add muscle mass. Depending on the time of year there will be certain focuses for higher level athletes. These athletes are most likely on a yearly training program.
In its simplest terms when there is a training program there is a plan. There are a set of goals that you are trying to accomplish each and every time you walk into the training facility. There is progress being made, even though at times it can be slow, it will take place.
When you go to school or work there is a plan and set of goals that need to be accomplished over the day, week, month, quarter and year. A performance training program is no different.
If you are serious about being the best athlete you can be, having a performance training program is a must. Set goals, map it out and get to work!
First off, before I get into the reasoning of why I think no athlete should clean from the floor, I would like to clean up the terminology that is often butchered by many sport coaches and performance coaches.
An actual clean that is preformed during an Olympic lifting competition is known as a squat clean or clean for short. It is when an athlete pulls the bar from the floor and catches the bar in a squat position. A power clean is when an athlete pulls the bar from the floor and catches the bar in a slightly athletic stance with a slight bent in the knees and hips. They are not the same exercise and cannot be used interchangeably. Either of these exercises can be done from four positions, the floor, mid-shin, right above the knee or mid-thigh.
There are times when the clean can be broken down to work on certain aspects of the lift. For example an athlete can perform a clean pull. The clean pull is a great exercise in itself that lets the athlete focus on developing a big pull and getting triple extension. The catch is left out of this exercise and a larger load is usually used. This can be used with a beginner to really focus on teaching triple extension or an experienced lifter that wants to work on pulling heavier weight, usually right before they perform their cleans.
Now that that is out of the way, let’s talk about why athletes should not be cleaning from the floor. If you think about it objectively, you will probably agree that an athletic stance looks very similar to the hang power clean. This is the clean variation that is performed from right above the knees in which you perform the catch in an athletic stance. Think about Tiger Woods, Derek Jeter, Ray Lewis and LeBron James for instance. All of who are amazing athletes. What do you visualize when you think of those athletes on their respected field of play? They are probably in a slightly athletic stance doing something extremely explosive and powerful. This is the stance that most athletes are going to be in when they are performing their sporting event. Why then would you have an athlete clean from the floor?
On that statement alone I think all athletes that are going to be performing the clean should be doing the hang power clean, but here are three additional reasons for good measure.
1. Most high school athletes lack the proper mobility and stability to get into the correct position to pull from the floor. So when a coach is telling an athlete that is physically incapable to get lower so they can get down to the bar bad things are going to happen. This athlete might not get injured that day, month or even year but repeatedly doing a complex exercise such as the clean wrong will catch up to everyone.
2. Let’s assume that a certain athlete can get down to the bar in the correct starting position. Highly unlikely, but let’s go with it to use as the next example. The transition from the first pull to second pull is something that most high school athletes struggle with. This transition takes place when the bar passes the knees. It is a coaching intensive part of the clean, which takes time away from other things that could be done that are probably more productive for an athlete focused on excelling at their sport.
3. The hang power clean produces almost TWICE as must actual power then the clean from the floor. Based on the work of Dr. John Garhammer the clean produces 2950W while the hang clean produces 5500W! This exercise is done to produce explosive power. The science not only backs it up, it blows it out of the water!
If you look at the information that I just presented objectively you will have to agree that your athletes should only perform the hang power clean. Once your athlete is done playing field sports, if they would like to compete in the sport of Olympic lifting, then by all means they can start working on learning the full squat clean, until then let them focus on what is going to make them a better athlete on the field which is the hang power clean.
The Need for Speed
Speed is the most sought after commodity in the sport world. There is not a single athlete to have ever played sport that did not want to get faster. No matter the sport, they all wanted to increase their speed. I am still waiting for that first athlete that asks me to make them slower, that will be an interesting day. All kidding aside speed makes a huge difference in sport. It can be the difference between making the high school team, getting a college scholarship or signing a multimillion dollar contract. Speed is what separates the good athletes from the great athletes.
It seems that everyone wants to be faster, but there is some confusion about how to get it. So the question remains, how do we improve speed? I’m going to start with some basics physics to start answering that question.
Force=Mass x Acceleration
Force is the ability to accelerate an object.
Power=Force x Velocity
Power is how quickly we can accelerate an object.
Speed is how long it takes you to travel a certain distance.
Athletes that do not develop their ability to produce force and power will never be as fast as they would be otherwise. The greater your ability is to push into the ground (force production), the faster you will be. The faster you can apply that force into the ground (power production), the faster you will be. Developing the ability to produce force and power is what is going to make you a faster athlete.
All of these training qualities can be developed simultaneously to an extent; it is always on a spectrum no matter what the focus is of the training cycle. Force and power output should be developed significantly in relative terms before any large amount of time is spent on speed training.
So how do you as an athlete develop greater force and power production? Your training sessions should focus on multi-joint exercises such as squat, lunge and deadlift variations. It should also include clean and snatch variations, swings, medicine ball work and explosive jump variations. This is taking into account that you have been properly progressed to a point where you can perform these exercises.
Once force and power production is at a point where speed training should be focused on more heavily it is time to bring a more sport specific training protocol to speed development. Most athletes perform both linear and lateral speed specific movements during competition; the only athlete that focuses solely on linear speed would be a sprinter for track and field. Otherwise lateral speed most be developed.
Linear speed is pretty straight forward, run as fast as you can in a straight line. It can also include the ability to stop and start continuously with either a focus on a forward or backward run or both. Lateral speed involves the ability to change direction, make sharp cuts, and stop and start. Sprinters are the only athletes that will use linear speed a 100% of the time during their competitions. Everyone else will need to possess the ability to do both.
Training for linear speed could involve sled pushes, harnessed sled pulls and resisted sprints whereas lateral speed development would include lateral bounds, slideboard lateral sprints and crossover runs. These are just a few examples of what would separate our linear and lateral speed work.
Another interesting topic as far as sport specific speed training is that all speed specific work is done as a unilateral movement. There is never a time when both legs are producing an equal amount of force or power because only one foot is ever in contact with the ground. There is NEVER a moment when both feet are on the ground when we are sprinting, sure there are times when an athlete is making a cut or changing direction where both feet will be in contact with the ground for a split second, but when that happens there is still never a time when an equal amount of force or power is given by both legs.
So if the holy grail of sport training is speed why would we ever train in a bilateral pattern if we are seldom on two feet and never producing an even amount of force or power from both feet? There has been debate over this topic for years and will continue to be for some time. I am not going to dive into that debate today, but I will say I am not against bilateral training by any means. Unilateral and bilateral training are both training tools that should be used when appropriate.
Speed development will always be the first thing that an athlete wishes to improve upon, mainly because that is all they know. They do not understand that increasing their ability to produce force and power will in turn make them faster than any speed specific training program could. Specific speed training should be limited until the athlete develops the ability to produce a relatively significant amount of force and power. At that point a greater amount of time can be focused on speed specific training. Work on getting strong and powerful and your speed will increase!
Swimmers perform the same movements, day in and day out, without as much as an after though. This is true for most athletes, but most athletes are not training year round and focusing only on one sport in the way that most swimmers do. It is great when an athlete is passionate about the sport they participate in and I fully support their decision to do so. When it takes place at a young age, as is usually the case with swimming, it can lead to overuse injuries if the right measures are not taken to prevent them.
When an athlete performs a movement repeatedly there should be a performance training aspect that assists in improving swim performance while reducing the chance that chronic injury develops. Swimmers are notorious for developing knee and shoulder injuries throughout their swimming careers. This is unfortunate because reducing and in most cases preventing an injury from ever taking place is possible, but it involves both the swim coach and performance coach doing their jobs both effectively and efficiently. Most of all, it involves both coaches being on the same page as far as training inside and outside of the pool.
There are going to be repeated movements that take place in sport, which is understandable and expected. There has to be an action plan that prevents these repeated movements from leading to chronic injuries. Swimming injuries are for the most part due to chronic overuse without having a properly designed performance training program. And no, running does NOT count as performance training!
The goal of the sport performance coach is to increase performance while minimizing injury. Knowing what the physical demands of the swimmers are gives the performance coach the ability to program a training plan that will strengthen their movement patterns, while continuing to give them the best shot at reducing their chance of injury. The sole goal of the swim coach is to increase performance while minimizing injury. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? For the swim coach to do these things there needs to be a well programmed training year, which includes recovery. When both coaches get on the same page great things start happening.
Everyone has to be involved in helping these young athletes become strong, powerful swimmers, while reducing their chance of injury and making sure that they are having fun. The parents and the coaches have to both do their part in making this an enjoyable and successful experience.
A key component in a strength and conditioning program is training specificity. Training should be specific to the athlete’s needs, goals, and sport. There are many components to consider in the realm of training specificity. The adaptations that occur from a training stimulus are specific to the mode (type), the intensity, and the duration of the training stimulus. In the Book Physiology of Sport and Exercise specificity of training can be defined as the principle that physiological adaptations in response to physical training are highly specific to the nature of the training activity. To maximize benefits, training should be carefully matched to an athlete’s specific performance needs.
Applying the specificity principle appropriately to a training program can help maximize the benefits of the program, and carry over to the performance of the athlete in their specific sport. One thing to look at when making a training program specific to an athlete is the movements to train. The types of movements that are used while playing should be closely mimicked in the training program. If an athlete needs to be strong unilaterally then the training program should include exercises performed unilaterally. If there is a lot of lateral movement in the sport, then train lateral movements. Along with the movements to be trained, the muscles and joints that perform the movements need to be taken into consideration.
Another important aspect of training specificity is the energy system or systems used by the athlete. If the athlete plays an anaerobic sport they are using the phosphagen system and the anaerobic glycolytic system. For an athlete that uses these anaerobic energy systems, in order to condition for this sport then the energy systems used in conditioning need to be the same ones used while playing the sport. One way to train for these systems is to alter the work to rest ratio. Athletes that compete in an anaerobic sport should condition by running shorter intense sprints. The length of the sprints, and the amount of rest in between sprints will be specific to that sport. Distance swimmers should condition mostly by doing distance swimming, and should include some swimming sprint work to aid in the all-out completion of the race.
Specificity of training is a very comprehensive approach to training, which can maximize the benefits of a program. It is a key component of any training regime, and should not be over looked when putting together a routine for anyone.
Written By: Joe Carillo, SportPerformanceU's Athletic Performance Intern
Dealing With Injuries
A great performance training program will reduce the chance that you sustain an injury, but sooner or later, if you have not already, chances are pretty good that you will be injured. It is one of the most defeating experiences an athlete will deal with during their career. If you have ever had an injury that has kept you sidelined for an extended period of time you know how it feels. All your focus is on returning to the game as soon as possible.
Let’s ask two very important questions to the sport medicine staff to see what approach should be taken with the injury. The first question would probably be how long am I out for and then a close second should be what can I do to get better while I’m injured? Is there a way to design a performance training program around an injury? The answer unfortunately is it depends on the injury, but for most injuries an experienced performance coach will be able to put together an appropriate program that keeps you strong and motivated! Trying to keep your training program on track will pay huge dividends when your injury has healed and it is time to return to play.
Let’s go over an example where our athlete has a right lower leg injury. Let’s assume this athlete will probably be sidelined for a few weeks. Here is a look at a program that might be appropriate for this athlete.
Single Leg Overhead Medicine Ball Slam 3x8
Three Point Prone Plank 3x60s.
Single Leg Deadlift 3x5
Alternating DB Press 3x6
Single Leg Band Push-Pull 3x10
Single Leg Squat 3x5
Chin Up 3x8
½ Kneeling Lift 3x10
Again this is just a hypothetical example; much thought has to go into writing performance programs, especially for an injured athlete. This program allows the athlete to work on power and strength, while staying off that injured foot. Yes every exercise is performed only on the healthy foot and yes if you did asymmetrical training forever it would be bad. For a short term training program this would not negatively affect you. It would have a tremendously positive effect and get you back into “game shape” sooner. Each training program should be individually programmed so these exercise movements have to be appropriate and beneficial to this athlete.
Each injury is a setback, some longer and some shorter than others. It is how we deal with those injuries that will decide how well we play once it is time to return to the game. The ability to train and stay in the right mind set will set us up for success in the future. Do not let an injury stop you from accomplishing your goals. Continue to train using appropriate modifications, attend practices and be a supportive teammate at games.
Keeping It Fresh
As strength coaches we all unfortunately know for many novice athletes there has to be a feel that they are doing something new and exciting …. It has to be fresh. I’m sure everyone that has coached has experienced it too many times to count. One of your athletes comes to you and asks “what new exercises am I going to be getting in my next program”? Well we know what our answer should be, which is explaining to them that training is a process that takes time, dedication and hard work. That they must learn the basics, groove the patterns, and become efficient with the movement. Mastering the basics is what is going to lead to gaining the most strength and power gains possible. Variety comes from changing angles, sets, repetitions, time under tension, rest periods, etc. This is what every athlete should be taught when they begin a training program.
Well as perfect as that sounds, it doesn’t always sound new and exciting to the athlete. The solution…a properly designed set of progressions for an exercise will make up for the variation that is desired when an athlete starts a training program for the first time. You might not be able to integrate the next progression quickly, but letting the athlete know that once they master the exercise they are working on at the moment they will get the next progression. This helps them stay focused on the task at hand.
An example of a four step lunge progression would be performing a reverse lunge, forward lunge, walking lunge, and finishing the progression with the slideboard reverse lunge. The athlete gets four “different” exercises while continuing to work on the on the same movement. This is a great example because the athlete is following a proper progression that pleases the need for something new and exciting to do. Honestly it is usually the athlete that is new to training that thinks variety, as far as exercise selection goes, should be part of a training program. An intermediate or advanced athlete would look at adding variety quite differently. They think about a training program as something that is going to help them reach their goals. This will come with time for the novices that stay dedicated to the process of training.
So the first thing to do is make sure that there is a proper progression, which will lead to a bit of variety for our novice trainee. It does take a little bit of creativity, but for the most part if the athlete is training hard and consistently they will be progressing to a point that the challenge of training far weights the desire for something fresh. This will lead to greater results which make both the athlete and coach happy.