Archive for athleticism

LTAD and Going Through Puberty

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , , on March 17, 2014 by razorsedgeperformance

I see a lot of parents and coaches, who concerned about the safety of ‘strength training’ for their children, choose to wait until after puberty before starting athletic development. Coaches may call this the end of Training to Train and the start of Training to Compete.

While I understand where everyone is coming from, there is a major piece to the puzzle missing. Once a child goes through puberty, coordination usually falls behind, because their limb lengths are now much bigger, and they didn’t know how to control the smaller ones!

Gaining coordination as a young child, whether resisted with external loading or not, is extremely important to avoid this awkward stage that sometimes comes about with puberty. Resistance training is not unsafe for children (assuming you are supervised by a qualified individual…) and athletic development coaches will want to see effective use of body weight first none the less.

If you want to be a well coordinated athlete who can stay injury proof through your teens, learning how to move and control your body before puberty is much more efficient than waiting!

If you want to talk performance, you are able to get strong and powerful SOONER!

Kids are allowed to run and jump all they want in sport without restrictions, so why are we afraid to allow them to learn how to control their bodies under supervision? Something is missing here…

The Combine is a Trap!

Posted in Performance with tags , , , on March 11, 2013 by razorsedgeperformance

Editors Note: This post was orginally written at http://www.fitstoronto.com, but is written by Cory Kennedy, so there is no conflict reprinting it here!

As someone who is in the performance enhancement industry (for sport that is…), combine season is kind of exciting. It’s like the little brother of Track and Field at the Olympics. This is a time for the best football players in the NCAA to take a step back from some of the skills and complexity of football, and get an opportunity to display their athleticism for all of the NFL teams. It also proves to be a money maker for supplement companies, apparel companies (Under Armour sponsors it, but Adidas is trying to get in on the action too!), and of course Athletic Performance facilities. While everyone has their eyes glued to the screen of NFL Network for the 4 days, I ask young football players (and athletes of other sports as well) to heed my warning: Forget about combines!

I know how hard it is though. Everyone wants to be associated with their numbers…I jump this high, run this fast, and change direction in under 4 seconds…It is much simpler than just saying, I am really good at football!

The problem isn’t that the combine is broken, or that athleticism is bad, it’s about priorities! The NFL pays players millions, so players need to prepare specifically for this ‘job interview’ in order to ace it. The key take-home though is that these players spent 4 years of high school DEVELOPING…then 4 years of college DEVELOPING…finally 8 weeks mastering the test. Young athletes need to remember there is more to being a great football player than mastering these tests…

Case in point, Athletes Performance, probably the world’s most popular performance enhancement facility. Every year they represent close to the top 100 athletes in the NCAA to prepare them for the combine. At the same time, they are also working with players from around the NFL and NCAA on their regular off-season development. I can’t say for certain, but I am pretty sure the pros who aren’t at the combine have their own specific program, and rightfully so. All of the combine guys though? They all do the same thing…why? They aren’t developing as football players, they are merely mastering expression  of different tests.

Proper development is about doing the things necessary to prevent injury, prepare the body for movement variability, and to build a foundation that makes it possible to continually improve. Expression on the other hand, is the end stage. This is where you put the finishing touches on a particular quality to make it come to light. Most professional athletes will aim for this expression one or more times per year as their competitive season unfolds. A developing athlete though? It may not happen for the first few years. Why? Development is the most important part.

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(***Case in point…RGIII performing a Vertical or Broad Jump at 2012 Combine…contributing factor to later injury??)

It is easy for an athlete to get frustrated when they want that 4.5s 40 in high school, or a 35” vertical. As a coach, it is important to always make sure the compass is pointed the right way, and sometimes it means holding off on EXPRESSION to really make an impact on an athlete’s overall DEVELOPMENT!

Weightlifting is the Answer! Here is why…

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2013 by razorsedgeperformance
We have spoken a number of times on this page about why weightlifting exercises (SEE Snatch, Clean, and Jerks) are awesome for developing speed and power in athletes, and thus why they should be included in many training programs.
While that is still true, I am going to discuss why weightlifting is EVEN BETTER for recreational athletes, and for that matter strength and conditioning coaches!
Let me talk about the second group first, because that is my cohort. As strength and conditioning coaches we are usually a competitive bunch (most are former athletes) and so love to compete no matter how old or out of shape we get. Add to that thought the concept of the high power output that is present in these exercises and it makes for the perfect avenue to compete in that still stays true to what we preach all day in the weight room! Wait, there is a cherry on top…these lifts are highly technical, and require a lot of practice and some good coaching. So as strength coaches, we always want to be working on our craft to provide the best coaching to our athletes. The more you can practice the lifts on your own, the better you get at coaching them and picking them apart.
Now let’s get to the recreational lifter and with that the crossfit population. I will go on record and say there are some things I really enjoy about crossfit. People seem to love it and love getting to the gym. This is great for the health and fitness of overall communities and the individuals within them. It is a system that also works well to improve overall physical capacities and body composition. So why do people hate on it, especially in the health and fitness community? Probably because they break people…some of it is from the crazy amount of volume everyone is expected to do, and some of it is just from the fact few members get taught proper technique for the weightifting exercises (let alone basic barbell exercises!!)…
Here are a few reasons why they are actually amazing lifts for the recreational lifter, even though they seem too technical and only for the ‘elite’…
Mobility! Here is the world record holder in both lifts at 77kg class, Lu Xiaojun. I have a huge man-crush on him for his weightlifting abilities. Not only are we talking about crazy amounts of power to move the bar, but he is catching the weight in a full-depth overhead squat. Even go back and see his starting position; Weightlifting requires a high level of mobility in your hips and ankles, as well as shoulders and upper back. These are the kinds of things the office-warrior loses quickly as they age, so just working on getting to these positions is highly valuable. Posture is such a large emphasis for these lifts that these muscles will get a ton of attention, and have no choice but to get their act together!
Metabolic Demand! These lifts use the entire body. So when you do a set of 8 or 10 reps at a submaximal weight, you are burning a ton of fuel. No wonder all the elite lifters are shredded (save for superheavy’s)…
Even working with a dowel (wooden stick, step 1) to get the positions and transitions correct, will be a great workout for most people as the volume is typically high and the attention to detail as well.
Cool Factor! Because they are so technical, not a lot of people do them well…walking into a gym, taking over the platform, and rocking some double body weight clean and jerks will definitely get you some attention. You will make a lot of friends that day. A lot of people can squat, but throw the same weight overhead as fast as you can? My mind just got blown.
It is with all of these reasons that we have begun a weightlifting club out of FITS Toronto where we work with weekend warriors to master these lifts, and so far the response has been impressive. If you want to really kick your training into another gear, and find something that you can really pour your focus into…then start learning how to weightlift!! (Consult a professional!!)
BONUS: Here is me hitting some PR’s yesterday as I journey to a bodyweight snatch…join me!
DOUBLE BONUS: Here’s Kyle beating Cory‘s PRs

A basket full of goodies…

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , on July 19, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

Howdy here…I decided I had a whole bunch of things in my mind that I wanted to touch on, so i’ll make a bit of a summary post with some good tidbits I hope…I’ve been working with some tweens the past few weeks running a Sport Performance camp; It has been a ton of fun, but also a little exhausting. I thought it would negatively impact my training and lean body mass, but oddly enough I’ve been adding some lean muscle lately. While I do definitely feel like my lifts are less explosive, I’ve been hovering above 183lbs lately, at a body fat around 9%. Considering I had been stuck around 179-181lbs in the last 4-6 weeks, I am definitely happy with the progress. On to the other thoughts…

– If you are a recreational weightlifter who can squat 3 plates with some good depth, HUGE thumbs up… It’s not easy to do…having said that though, if you seem to come out of the hole with decent strength BUT fold in half like a chair, giving you a ton of spinal flexion, then all is for naught. Take a plate off and make sure you are doing a proper squat. Totally unacceptable to have that kind of leg strength and atrocious technique or corresponding lack of core strength. Do your best to workout with a reliable partner, who is not afraid to tell you when your lifts look like garbage or hire a professional to put you through a workout every couple months. If they are worth the cost (which they should be!) then they can help clean up techniques or give you ways to do it yourself. I guarantee you’ll learn something, so it’s worth the price.

– I just got directed to a website made by Canadian trainer and strength coach Brad Pilon (HERE ) and it really made me think. I am not here to say one way or another whether or not this book may have some merit, especially since I haven’t read it. However, It does raise some questions with me though. I happen know a lot of graduate students, university professors and researchers who do studies on different supplement ingredients and protocols that have had positive findings and AREN’T on the bankroll of supplement companies. I wholeheartedly agree that there is no black and white as it comes to protein ingestion and how your body will respond. There are so many factors when it comes to physical adaptation that its hard to guarantee anything! From looking at the site, I just think he may be trying a little too hard to produce shock value, but I also understand he’s probably put a ton of good work into a product that he wants to sell…just something to think about.

– From the last few weeks working with kids in the 13 to 16 year old range, I can say for certain how important proper movement patterns need to be reinforced at this age. Every kid wants a chance to do bench press, squats, and deadlifts, but most of them have very little ability to control much of their body during movement.  If you are coaching kids at this age, do the world a favour and stand your ground! When they ask to try something that’s only going to build on their dysfunctions, just say NO! If they don’t care the reasons, then just don’t give them the options.

– I am really loving Cytosport right now. I am extremely glad that they have taken the initiative to be a company that provides products that athletes can count on as being 100% clean(NSF tested). There are so many supplement companies that it’s hard to say whose products are better than others in terms of quality. You’d probably have to take them all into a lab and break them down and I don’t have the resources for that…so let’s assume they are all in a similar range. Cytosport’s new line is also trying to eliminate all of their previous usage of ‘proprietary blends’ and focus on quality ingredients. This makes it much easier to qualify the expected physiological effect of its use. Between a renewed focus on quality and the peace of mind of being clean and safe, we at REP are currently on the Cytosport bandwagon, and happy to sell their line of products!! Email us if you have any more questions!

That’s it for now…It’s About Getting Better!

Speed Kills

Posted in Performance with tags , , , on March 18, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

We all know what everyone says, speed is the name of the game. If you are talking professional sports, speed can also make you millions of dollars. Unfortunately, what we see in successful athletes isn’t always speed per se but a combination of multiple factors. For some field sports that involve more space, linear speed is real and definitely valuable. In some sports, athletes never get into full sprint mechanics, so the speed and quickness is about a number of factors, like brake/deceleration mechanics, reaction/movement time, or coordination and efficient movement patterns. For the sake of simplicity, I want to talk about training linear speed.

I for one have been a big proponent of the strength model for improvements in speed. I don’t believe enough athletes have maximized strength and power in their legs, especially the posterior chain to elicit their top speed. This is by no means the be all and end all of speed training, but a very simple place to start. While i’ve found that these increases in strength have high carryover for field sports performance, i’m not afraid to say that i’m always learning and trying to get the best approach for my athletes.

I recently came across a really interesting article in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (Feb 2011) that may clarify the speed training game some more. In the study, researchers took a handful of physically active males and had them run sprints on a calibrated treadmill and track. They were able to calculate sprint times, ground reaction forces (the amount of force put into the ground by the athlete), vertical forces, and net horizontal forces. They computed ratios of the forces, then further determined a ‘force application technique variable’. What they found was that actual sprint performance was highly correlated with the variable of technique rather than the total amount of ground reaction forces.

What does this mean for coaches and athletes? Well, it means that we need to continue to spend time developing proper sprint mechanics to ensure athletes who need to work on linear speed are applying their forces in the best manner, not just the highest amount. When running mechanics are improved, then the application of greater levels of force will continue to improve sprint performance. This also tells me that the approach of running repeated sprints in order to improve speed WITHOUT supervision is not an appropriate method of improvement. You may improve conditioning, but if everyone could improve their mechanics by just trying to run fast, we would have many more athletes running 4.4s or 10s 100m dash times. I once read a strength and conditioning program for an NFL team where the approach to speed development was the repeated practice of long sprints. “In order to get fast, you need to practice moving fast’ was the philosophy. This new research tells us that unless we are actually altering our biomechanics in a positive way, we may just be tiring ourselves out.

Technique Matters!

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , on March 11, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

When training intensely, there is a fine line between challenging yourself with heavier weights and maintaining the proper technique through your lifts. I for one, recognize the importance of constantly challenging yourself with heavy weight in order to increase strength and muscle mass, but here is a quick explanation as to why technique needs to override max weight.

We all know about the dangers of injury when working out improperly so I won’t go there today. I want to address the issue of functional training. A lot of people associate this term with simulating movements from your sport in the gym via bosu balls and cable machines. This is not functional training. Functional training merely refers to the carryover of your strength work into athletic performance. This means we are focusing on development of force in the appropriate direction, by the appropriate muscles, in the appropriate sequence.

That is a very important definition. Sometimes in order to lift a maximum weight, we turn on some compensatory patterns in order to get the weight off the floor. So while you get the weight from point A to point B with a certain amount of force, you may not have recruited the appropriate muscles, and especially in the appropriate order. When we are looking at the way you move and perform in sport, we are attempting to put your body in position to be the most efficient and effective it can be. As soon as you alter some of these motor patterns in an incorrect way by altering the technique and recruitment of muscle in certain lifts, you change the way you move and react in space.

Remember, strength at the cost of technique is never OK! Lift strong, but lift right. It’s About Getting Better!!

Sport Specific Training – Are You Doing It?

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

Recently, the term ‘sport specific training’ has become a must for every athlete and their parents. Visions of having your kid become a first-round draft pick? Gotta go somewhere for some sports specific training…how else will he improve?
Well, I loved the idea of it too. It seemed to make so much sense, train the way you play and you’ll improve dramatically!

Now though, I think I know better. In fact, I think I figured it out (the concept; not all the details…yet…work in progress). Improving sports performance is about 3 things. Injury prevention, strength training, and skill training. The first two belong in the gym with your strength and conditioning coach, the latter with your sport coaches.
Injury prevention is about taking care of the little things. Self-myofascial Release (SMR) to ensure your tissue is in the proper state to do awesome things. Specific corrective exercises to ensure symmetry. Finally, proper hydration, nutrition and rest to cap it off.
The specific details are individualized but that’s the main structure.

The second part is about adding horsepower. This is the strength training component and its importance is immense. You need to get strong if you want to be fast, quick, and powerful! Don’t worry about agility ladder drills for quick feet, worry about how much force you can put into the ground. I don’t care how quick you can pick your feet up, if you can’t put force in the ground you won’t be better at your sport. Let’s take the pro shuttle for example. This is a staple in Combine testing. It involves starting in the middle with a cone on either side of you, each 5 yards away. You turn one way, run 5 yards and touch the ground, turn back and run 10 yards (touch) and return to your original spot. Done at full speed this drill seems all about quickness, and it is. The key though is taking the fewest steps possible, not the most. In order to accomplish this you need each step to have a large amount of force behind it. This comes from being strong!
Sprint work and plyometrics are also an important part of the strength program.

Finally, we have skill training. This is done often and involves drills and games of your sport. This is where you hone your skills, not in the gym on a bosu ball. Your skill work will improve a lot of things, but injury prevention or strength isn’t one of them. A good chunk of your conditioning will also come from the skill training. As an athlete, this should take up the most time. Will it be the most influential part of the process? Depends on where you are in your journey…some need the injury prevention the most, others the physical development, and some the skill work.

When you hear somebody talk about sport specific training make sure they aren’t just making a sales pitch. There is nothing sport specific about making your body more awesome and able to handle ANY sport! It’s about getting better!

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