Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Need a football workout!

So my football coach has asked me to lead the off-season weightlifting as I am the most experienced at lifting weights on the team. I play for a 6-man tackle football team and we will be going to 11 man which requires a lot more strength than what we have right now. We won't start lifting weights until the off-season comes, but I'm suppose to have a workout planned and handed in to the coach by next week. I really stress proper form and taking your time to make sure you do every rep correctly I just need workouts for football, the only exercises I know that are effective are bench press, clean and press, dead lift. I'm really puzzled about how to set up this workout. Please if you know of effective exercises to gain strength for football post them. And again I'm not gonna screw up the team I know what I'm doing when I lift weights I just need workouts for the routine.

First things first; what are your qualifications to handle this program? In all honesty, if your coach is putting this job over to you, as a student/player, then he is probably not a very good coach. While you say you perform the exercises correctly, who is the one checking up on you to make sure that you are honest in your technique? Who is coaching you? Also, as an athlete, you are going to be lifting with the team. Which means you can’t be coaching. This presents a real problem. If you are a coach, then coach. If you are a lifter, then lift. But don’t do both at the same time. Nothing good ever comes of that. Also, I would make sure you have a certification and some personal trainers insurance incase something goes wrong.

That said I would start with an evaluation. You need to have some way to assess each player’s limitations and abilities. Before putting anyone under the bar and before initiating a strength and conditioning program, you must evaluate the athlete’s current level of preparedness. You are just asking for programs for football. Unfortunately, this is not as “cookie-cutter” as you are making it out to be. Different players are at different levels and some athletes progress and develop quicker than others. You need a way to figure out where everyone is.

Once you evaluate the team, you should break them into small groups depending on their levels and abilities. The kids who need the most coaching and have the most limitations are the ones that you will need to pay the most attention too. I don’t know how much time you have to devote to the weight room. I would probably stick with something that is 3x’s a week. Either a total body training program or an upper/lower/upper split works very well. The latter would be good, especially if you have to spend more time on speed and conditioning work during the week, as you are only training legs once a week and you can ensure that they will be fresh for running.

Basic exercises work. Things like push ups, pull ups/chin ups, body weight rows (supine row), squats, and deadlifts are very effective. You just have to make sure that you can coach these lifts and teach them. Just because you can perform them yourself, does not mean that you understand them enough to cue others when learning them. Power cleans are excellent but only if done properly. Again, you need to be 100% sure you can teach this lift, otherwise you will be doing more harm than good. I wrote a blog entry last month on squat progressions. This may be helpful for you when setting up your teams program. Single leg exercises like split squats, lunges, and step ups are also very good. What I would do is keep things very simple. If you go all the way back to the first 3 blog entries I have ever made here, I lay out some basic program ideas that will serve you well when setting up your teams program.

I would make sure to do some sort of abdominal work. I like things like plank and bridge exercises personally. Also, if you are going to be doing plyometrics, use the first parts of the off-season to teach deceleration and landing mechanics. Teaching landing mechanics is critical to getting the most out of your plyometric program when you move into the power phase of your training and start to do more extensive movements. Jump squat stick the landing, One-two-stick, and box jumps are all good choices.

Make sure to have a flexibility program in place for the athletes so that after training, they stretch our and make sure to have a warm up in place so that they are prepared to train when they come in. These two aspects are often over-looked.

As far as setting things up goes, look to work in phases where you are developing certain qualities. Since it sounds like these are all beginners you are working with, the first phase of training is going to be just teaching and development of basic movements/skills. Also, that phase should be one where you are developing work capacity. From there, things could look something like this:

Phase 1: teaching exercises/movement development/work capacity
Phase 2: Strength emphasis
Phase 3: Power emphasis

As you can see, this is going to be a real project for you and something that you need to sit down and think about. You have to have a really good system to make it all work and then you have to be able to run that system and actually coach the athletes.

I threw a lot of ideas at you. Hopefully you can use some of them to develop your program. I don’t know the kind of situation you are in or the background of the players, so you will have to take from this what you can use and discard that which doesn’t apply to you.

Good Luck,

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Just wanted to throw and update up here and let everyone know that Strength Coach Dave Brooks has just posted up Issue #2 of his Online Sports Performance Training Journal. Lots of good info, including an article by Ivonne on cramping and what you can do about it.

Check it out here.

Dave has a lot of knowledge and has worked with many pro athletes. Keep an eye on his site as he will be updating it with more content and photos which can hopefully help you in developing your own sports performance programs.

Keep an eye on my blog this week as I am going to put up a training offer for those in the Phoenix area that will be to good to be true. Basically, I am going to be giving a way a lot of sports training for a very very low cost. So stay on the look out!

Train Hard,

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Marathon Preparation Training In AZ and the Treadmill

I am preparing to run the PF Chang Marathon here in Phoenix. I was wondering if it would be okay to do most of my training on the treadmill since it is hot out and I don’t always have time to run in the early morning. Thanks.

While training on the treadmill can be very convenient, there are a few reasons why it may not be the best option to do all the time for an individual preparing for a marathon. Obviously, on occasion treadmill running will not negative impact on your training. However, if you do the majority of your training on the treadmill, you may have a less than pleasant marathon experience.

There are a number of differences between the treadmill and outdoor running that must be taken into consideration when preparing for an event like a marathon or a half-marathon.

1)Impact forces- Running can be looked at as a series of controlled falls. Basically, we take a step, propelling ourselves forward, and gravity pushes us back down. Every time our foot strikes the ground, our body absorbs impact forces. The impact forces on the ground are different that the impact forces on the treadmill. First of all, the firmness of treadmills can vary greatly between brands and styles. Some may be hard, and others can make it feel like you are running on the clouds. These inconsistencies can make a big difference when we finally transition our running out onto the street. The concrete has a lot less ‘give’ than most treadmills and the surfaces are always changing as we run our 26.2 mile race. Roads can be gravely, there can be gradual changes in elevation as we run and most roads are not totally flat. Being able to absorb force and re-apply force over the entire race needs to be specifically prepared for. This preparation can only come from going outside and actually running on the road.

2) Running Technique- Running is running, right? Not really! While it may seem like all running is created in equal in our minds, our bodies are always smarter than we are. The human body is an adaptive creature and able to sense subtle differences and make necessary changes to deal with those differences. A good example of this would be to go out to your local high school track and run a lap in your running shoes. Then, take the shoes off and run a lap in your socks. Notice anything different? Your body will naturally feel that that there is nothing between your foot and the ground and adjust your running technique to allow you to be lighter on your feet and prevent yourself from hitting the ground to hard! Incredible! The same holds true for the treadmill. The big difference between the treadmill and the outside is that the ground on the treadmill moves underneath us. In the outside world, we push against a fixed ground and propel ourselves forward. Because the ground moves under us on the treadmill, our body senses this and compensates by spending a greater amount of time in the air between each step. This alters our stride frequency (the number of times our feet make contact with the ground), causing us to take less steps per minute than we may normally take outside. Two things can happen when we rely on treadmill running as our main form of training. One is that the decreased stride frequency of the treadmill will not adequately prepare us for the stride frequency we will face outside. In fact, it may change the way we run on the ground all together. When we have decreased stride frequency outside, it means that we are spending too much time in the air (like we did on the treadmill because it is moving under us). When we spend too much time in the air, we increase the amount of impact force that we need to absorb, since force is dependant on MASS (our body weight) and the amount of gravitational pull acting on that MASS (so if we are spending more time in the air, the amount of pull is going to be greater). The second thing that can happen is that the treadmill can give us a false sense of pace. Due to the fact that the ground moves below us, as we speed up the pace on the treadmill, our body compensates by again, spending more time in the air and altering our stride. If you spend most of your training on the treadmill, when you get outside, that 8 minute mile that you are used to may turn out to be a pace that you can not keep up with. This can lead to form breakdown, poor exercise economy and potentially injury. All together equaling a less than pleasant marathon experience and probably a trip to physical therapy.

3)The Elements- While training on the treadmill in your home or nearest fitness facility can be very comfortable, not preparing your body to deal with the elements can have a negative impact on how well you perform come marathon day. Jogging in doors, on the treadmill, in 70 degree temperature with zero wind resistance is nothing compared to running outdoors. We live in Arizona, and let’s face it, IT IS HOT! I know that running in the heat can be very uncomfortable and at times down right unpleasant. But, if we don’t give our bodies’ time to acclimate to the climate, come marathon day we will be in for a big surprise (and not a good one). Being able to tolerate the heat and whatever else mother-nature may throw our way (rain, mugginess, etc) is a key aspect to running a good marathon. The only way to prepare for this is getting outside and actually doing it. Wind resistance is also a big concern for runners. Running on a treadmill, indoors, is very neutral. Outside, we have to deal with wind resistance which, depending if you are running into or with the wind can have an impact on how well we run, how comfortable we feel and our energy expenditure. Again, the only way to prepare for this is to go outside and experience it first hand.

As stated earlier, running on the treadmill is not going to ruin your race. But, you can’t rely on it as your primary means of training. You need to get outside and run on the ground and not only physically prepare your body for what is going to happen on race day, but also psychologically prepare your body for what it feels like to be out there on the road, against the elements, without the convenience of hitting the stop button and walking over to the water fountain when things get a little tough.

Hope that helps and good luck with the rest of your training.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Should I be using the olympic lifts with my athletes?

This is a question that gets asked all the time; a question that is constantly debated; and, a question that seems to have a lot of people confused when it comes to exercise selection for their athletes.

It is a tough one to answer. I think first of all, if you don’t know how to teach the Olympic lifts, and don’t understand them, then don’t use them. It is really that simple! You will only do more harm than good if you are trying to have your athletes go through the motions in these lifts.

I do believe that the Olympic lifts have some good applications in sports training. Aside from the fact that they teach the athlete to develop power (the second pull being extremely powerful), they also teach the athlete force deceleration and body awareness during the catch. All three of these qualities can potentially enhance athletic skill. The reason I say potentially is because again, I am a firm believer that what we do in the weight room is nothing more than general training and preparation for what we do on the field, court or track. If all we do is train in the gym and we don’t go out and practice our actual sport, we will be nothing more than bigger, faster and stronger mediocre athletes. That said, I think that the Olympic lift variations can be very good total body movements and the positive effects they have on power development have been shown in research studies over and over again.

There are some times where I probably wouldn’t want to use the Olympic lifts. One would be if I only had a short time frame to work with an athlete (< 10 weeks). In this case, there are other things that we could spend our time on to prepare the athlete for their sports season than learning how to do Olympic lifts. The variety of pull variations however can be helpful in this instance as we are stopping the bar before having to get into a catch position, which requires some technical skill.

Some have said that Olympic lifting is a sport unto itself and making athletes learn this sport in the hopes that it will enhance another sport (say football or basketball) is a waste of time. They contend that time would be better spent doing plyometrics and medicine ball work and that you can develop the same amounts of power with these modalities as you can with the Olympic lifts. They typically go on to say that in order to reap the full benefits of the Olympic lifts, one must have reached technical mastery and that only the top Olympic lifters are the ones that display the highest amounts of power in these lifts.

I do agree there are many ways to skin a cat. Certainly coaches have gotten athletes faster, strong and more powerful using a variety of means that did not include the Olympic lifts. It is not my point to argue with what they do in their programs or to criticize their ideas or ways of training. I am simply stating what I believe to be true and the benefits that I feel can be gained from using the Olympic lifts.

However, I will disagree that one needs to become a “master” in order to gain full benefits from these lifts. While Olympic lifting is a sport in itself, one does not need to develop mastery enough to be able to get on the platform and compete in this sport. Rather, one needs to develop enough skill in order to see some benefit from the lift. They do not have to have a perfectly flawless power clean or the benefits are lost. It is like saying unless you have the technique or abilities of an Olympic marathon runner, you may as well not go out and jog because you wont get any benefit from it. Certainly this is a silly statement. Olympic marathoners are on a totally different level of sport skill and mastery; however, one does not need to be on that same level in order to gain cardiovascular benefits from jogging. But, one does need to develop enough skill to go out and run safely in order to prevent injury. The same can be said for the Olympic lifts. If you have enough skill to get the benefit from a power clean, then why not go for it? In fact, rarely do I have anyone perform their cleans from the floor (unless they are specifically looking to compete in the sport of Olympic lifting) since the second pull is where all the power is coming from (the first pull sets up the second pull) and athletes in sports other than Olympic lifting may not have the proper levers which make performing a clean or snatch from the floor possible or safe.

It is a tough question. These are just some of my views on the lifts. I don’t defend the lifts to the grave like some coaches might, but I do feel that they have some benefit when used in a sports training program.

Clean and Jerks are Fun!


Monday, September 3, 2007

Squat ROM

What do you think about using a heel lift to get more ROM in squats? I used to think it was bad, but some strength coaches say it's perfectly safe, so now I'm in dubio.

H. Menno H.

Ah, the old “to heel lift or not” debate. This is a good question, and one that gets asked many times.

First, if the athlete is unable to squat down to a position of parallel, or lower, then there is a problem there that needs to be addressed. It is the role of the strength coach to assess the issue and determine where the problems lies, and then correct that issue.

I will say that I used to agree with those who said “just lift the heel and let the athlete squat.” I see where they are coming from and usually this is rationalized by stating that “we don’t have time to NOT get this athlete squatting so we will do this while we work on their flexibility/mobility in another way and in the end it should all work out.” The only problem with that is in the end, how often DOES it work out? Typically the athlete is no better off than when they started. The heel lift was the crutch that allowed them to work around their inabilities.

I think that now, my philosophy on this issue leans more towards getting the athlete to move better by correcting the problem. If we are talking about squatting, I like to use a box squat at a depth that is above parallel, where the athlete can keep good form, and then we slowly work down from there until they are at “legal” depth. Along with that, we will use single-leg work, corrective exercises and flexibility/mobility work to attack the problem and get them squatting to a solid depth with good technique.

If the athlete squats really poorly and lacks postural control no matter what, then we just use the body weight squats or medicine ball squats as a warm up and work on maintaining posture and technique until they are ready to put an empty bar on their back (or front for front squats) and do some lifting.

As far as how long it may take for the athlete to get over their inabilities and get through a full ROM is really going to depend on the individual athlete and how quickly they can grasp the concept, fix their issues and develop sound movement patterns.

Hope that helps,