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Longevity with Traction Training

I have spent a ton of time researching training techniques and methods that will increase performance, decrease injury rates, and increase one’s longevity performing activities that they love the most.  Manual after manual, world champion coaches, and world champions themselves led me to exploring the world of traction based training; so much so that my wife and I began adding traction equipment to our facility. 

Here is the gist of it, our way of life is compression based.  As we walk through life, go to work, place loads on our shoulders, or even lift loads off the floor, we compress our spines.  Decreasing spinal flexibility to less than optimal ranges will lead to injury. 

Certain issues plague people in our society today, even me.  It is on each of us to experiment and find what will produce the best desired results.  In my scenario, I have overdeveloped hip flexors, anterior rotated hips, and underdeveloped low back musculature.  I attribute these issues to time spent in the military, jumping out of airplanes and carrying loads over long distances.  Here are three exercises I have found to be very helpful to my development and growth as an athlete and coach.

1.       REVERSE HYPER.  This was the first exercise I incorporated to help my back perform better during snatches, cleans, jerks, squats, and deadlifts.  This is an open chain exercise that allows me to move my lower half to increase the work capacity of my low back, glutes, and hamstrings.  It is very important to focus on increasing work capacity of tissues especially for individuals that have had an injury.  Tissues have limits.  You must stimulate these tissues to improve to stay healthy in a safe manner.

2.       BELT SQUAT.  How have I gone so long without using this machine?  Here is a device that allows you to increase the strength of hip extension while forcing your hips into a posterior tilt.  Traction of the spine begins as soon as you are standing with the belt around your waist.  My back has never felt better than when I step out of a belt squat and my spine has been stretched to an optimal length.

3.       45° BACK EXTENSION.  I have underused this exercise in the past.  Learning from some of the best coaches and athletes in the world, I have added it back into my routine for high volume.  Even at body weight, the eccentric portion stretches the spine and activates into low back.  High volume promotes blood flow to the lower back tissues which will lead to healthy tissues that can handle stress.

Over 70% of our American population deals with some sort of low back pain.  Utilizing the right techniques and increasing the work capacity of the posterior chain makes this type of pain PREVENTABLE. 

These machines and ideas have been tested for years by the likes of Louie Simmons, Charles Poloquin, and Travis Mash to name a few.  Credit deserves to be given to these coaches, as their work with athletes has helped to formulate some of our own successes.

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Why Middle School and High School Athletes Need The Weight Room

What is the difference between the body of a college freshman and the body of a high school senior?  Maybe a year of growth, maybe little to no difference at all.  College athletics stress the importance of athletes training in a weight room.  The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) requires division I programs hire Strength & Conditioning Coaches that have at a minimum:

·         a college degree

·         a nationally accredited certification

·         first aid, CPR, and AED certification

High school athletes are under the very same stress as those playing at the higher levels.  Due to the difference in standards however, these athletes are just not as prepared to handle the stress placed on their bodies. It is this lack of preparation that leads to injury.  Here are several reasons why younger athletes need to be in the weight room!

PERFORMANCE

In a progressive training program, athletes can tackle weak muscle groups, improve inter and intra-muscular coordination, and learn to generate greater forces in a safe setting.  Increasing absolute strength is a great way to improve explosiveness, speed, and overall athletic conditioning.  Every athlete is looking for an edge on the playing field, you can get that edge utilizing the barbell.

INJURY PREVENTION

Injuries happen over time.  Muscle imbalances can cause poor athletic postures that will lead to ineffective joint function and pain.  Strengthening weaker tissues will decrease the development of muscle imbalances and therefore promote healthy joint function.  Simply put, healthy athletes play, injured athletes can’t play to their fullest potential or don’t play at all.    

MENTAL TOUGHNESS

Competition does not always go as planned.  The weight room is no different.  Again, in a safe environment, athletes can learn how to function in sub optimal conditions.  Learning and understanding your strength can be extremely beneficial, allowing a mental edge and increased confidence during competition.

World renowned Strength Coach, Charles Poliquin recently said in an interview, “Improving your squat, improving your deadlift, improving your chins, and improving pressing will take care of 80% of what you need.” We are in complete agreement with this statement.  Getting more middle school and high school athletes into the weight room will better enable them to achieve success despite the stress of sport.

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ACL Injury Prevention for the High School Athlete

An injury to the anterior cruciate ligament is one of the most devastating injuries that an athlete may suffer due to the frequent need for surgical repair as well as the lengthy rehabilitation process.  Unfortunately for a large population of High School athletes, the rate of this type of injury has increased over the last twenty-five years. 

FUNCTION OF THE ACL

The National Academy of Sports Medicine states that the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is essential for normal knee function and stability. The ACL prevents excessive anterior translation of the tibia on the femur (keeps the shin bone from moving too far forward), excessive internal rotation of the tibia (inward rotation of the shin bone), and knee hyper-extension. It also prevents the knee from excessive valgus forces (bending the knee sideways toward the body).

Non-Contact Soft Tissue Injury

70% of ACL injuries are attributed to non-contact incidents.  This means an athlete’s muscle imbalances have become so detrimental that they can no longer produce the correct biomechanical forces to perform their sport.  It also means that this type of injury can be avoided! 

Strength & Conditioning Coach Notes

Ligaments and tendons grow at a quarter of the rate that muscles do.  As coaches and athletes, we need to focus on correcting muscle imbalances and strengthening the soft tissues (ligaments and tendons) in order to minimize the potential for injury.  A few methods that we use with our athletes to help strengthen their knee stability are:

1.       Strengthen Hamstrings to Prevent Quadriceps Dominance.  ACL injuries have been noted in many athletes that have a higher ratio of quadriceps strength to hamstring strength.  Utilizing exercises like an inverse curl or glute hamstring developer can create increased hamstring strength that will help athletes prevent soft tissue injury.

2.       Unilateral Strength Exercises.  An exercise such as a single leg deadlift would promote posterior chain strengthening as well as stability.

3.       Low Intensity, High Volume Exercises.  Exercises such as prone hamstring curls utilizing ankle weights for high repetitions reduce the stress on the joint while increasing blood flow to the posterior chain.  This will aid in increasing the cross sections of the soft tissue fibers and therefore strengthen the stability of the associated joint.

4.       Banded, High Volume Exercises. Utilizing the principles of Accommodating Resistance, we can teach the athlete’s body how to handle increased muscle speed while promoting increased blood flow to the posterior chain.

Closing Thoughts

If athletes in any program are experiencing non-contact injuries, that program must be evaluated for deficiencies in addressing muscle imbalances.  Soft tissue injuries are preventable when athletes take part in effective strength programs.  Too many young athletes suffer career altering injuries; this no longer can be accepted as the norm.  Let’s do better for our athletes and provide them the scientific strength programming that will help them reduce their risk of injury.

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Widest Base Leads to the Tallest Pyramid

High School athletic programs tend to focus on squats, deadlifts, bench press, and power cleans.  I have even seen "Lifting Awards" given to athletes that have the best cumulative numbers in the four lifts.  But how are these athletes preparing for increasing the loads for these lifts?  Directly from their mouths...by squatting, deadlifting, bench pressing, and power cleaning.  I find this method of training to be not only ineffective but also dangerous to the athlete's well being.  

Check out this article by Louie Simmons, DON'T DEADLIFT!  

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Coaching From The Stands Is Confusing For Athletes

Kevin Eastman, VP of Basketball Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Clippers, shares his drill for teaching athletes and parents communication skills.  This was shared with us by our friend Chris Perry!  Thanks for the information.  It can be viewed by clicking HERE!

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