Crossfit – As Seen On TV

There's a right way, and there's a wrong way....

There’s a right way, and there’s a wrong way….

 

The Film Doesn’t Lie

Last night I was flipping around the TV looking to see what was on.  I only had a few minutes so I didn’t want to get too involved in anything. I came across a show about the 2012 Crossfit Games.  I’ve watched a few minutes of these shows in the past but never really paid much attention to them.  During last nights show, one of the events included female athletes doing pull-ups.  When I started to watch the pull-ups, I was left almost speechless.  Their legs were swinging with each rep.  Actually, swinging is an understatement.  Their form was horrible.  It almost reminded me of a gymnast swinging on the parallel bars.  During the same competition, the athletes had to complete a combo lift that included a front squat.  They had judges observing the squats to ensure that each squat was to parallel depth.  What amazed me was the fact that they cared so much about form on one exercise but not the other.  While many people know what Crossfit is, many others don’t.  These national shows are a chance for them to reach a lot of people and show off what they are all about.  Unfortunately, what I saw is more likely to scare people off.  It scares potential clients because it seems unsafe.  It scares Strength Coaches and Personal Trainers because we can just see injuries waiting to happen.  I know that Crossfit has a lot of fans out there.  It also has a lot of detractors.  From what I saw, I can understand why it has so many of the latter.

 

Mark

 

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You Can Write It On The Board, But You Still Have To Coach It

Plate Push Pic

A few days ago, a friend of mine started an online discussion about coaching.  He made a statement that criticized coaches who just write the strength workout on the board and then don’t actually “coach” it.  He was referring primarily to high school sport coaches.  In an ideal world, this wouldn’t happen.  Unfortunately, it happens much more often than most people realize.
So why does this happen? Usually it’s due to at least one of the following reasons:

  • The sport coach does not have a great strength training background.  He/She knows that their players should lift weights but they don’t understand all of the details about technique and program design.
  • The coach is overwhelmed with the duties of their sport and uses the class to plan for practices and games, make phone calls, etc
  • The ratio of players to coaches makes it difficult to truly instruct the athletes in proper training techniques

While all of these do make things difficult for the coaches, it still shouldn’t excuse them from just writing the workout on the board and trusting the kids to follow it correctly.  So what are the drawbacks for the kids involved?

  • Safety – As we all know weight rooms can be dangerous places. Poor supervision greatly increases the chances of something bad happening.
  • Not following the plan – As most of us know, teenagers all think they have a better way of doing things. In many instances, they will choose to follow their own plan rather than the ones they are given. This can create problems related to recovery among other issues
  • Effort Issues – Obviously some people are not nearly as motivated as others. Without someone watching over them and pushing them a little bit, they will never achieve what they’re fully capable of. Of course the other side of things is that some people are super highly motivated. Sometimes somebody has to hold these people back a little because they don’t understand the big picture of the training plan.
  • Fails To Prepare Them For College – Besides the fact that the athletes are missing out on proper physical conditioning that will benefit them at the college level, they are missing out on even more.  They are not being taught that strength training is important.  They also are learning that minimal effort is acceptable.  I’m sure that their college coaches will just love that.

While there are possible solutions, I won’t go on a rant about the most obvious one – putting a qualified person in charge of the S & C program – or any other ones.  I will say this, it’s a shame that it happens.  In the end, it affects the kids negatively.  Hopefully this is a trend that will change sooner rather than later.

 

Mark

P.S.  Be on the lookout for our mobile site www.sports-upgrade.mobi to debut soon.

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Balanced Training

Scales pic

Is your training program balanced?

Let Me Count The Ways…

How many different ways are there to draw up a training program?  How many different things influence a program?  Some programs are written up based on powerlifting concepts, some are more Olympic lifting based, some are written based on other concepts, and some are combinations of all of the above.  So which one is the right one?  Well that’s easy to answer:  the one that works best for the individual athlete.

Is there one perfect program?  No.  If there was, everyone would be using it.  That’s one of the neat things when training athletes:  based on what the athlete needs, we are all allowed to use our background and beliefs to design a program.  Regardless of what influences you in your program design, you need to keep one key thing in mind when designing the program.  What’s that?  You must keep the program balanced.  What has to be balanced?  Everything does.  What does everything include?  Check the list below to find out:

Balance This:

  • Push Exercises  & Pull Exercises – This should be common sense but some programs are loaded too much in one direction.  Remember, the object of training is to make the athletes better, not create imbalances.
  • Power & Strength Exercises – While there are different types of programs, there does have to be some sort of balance.  I don’t believe that a program can be based entirely on strength  or on power.  While I don’t necessarily think that it has to be a set amount of either type of work, both areas need to be addressed.
  • Prehab/Corrective Exercises & Training Exercises – Is there a place for prehab and corrective exercises?  YES!!  Do I like to see an entire workout based on them?  No.  I believe in trying to find ways to incorporate prehab and corrective exercises into the training plan.  At the same time, as long as it isn’t going to injure the person, I want them to be able to get in some “traditional” training during the same workout.  There is a place for both and they should coexist in the plan.
  • Flexibility & Strength/Power Exercises –  We’ve all seen the stereotypical “muscle bound” guy walking down the beach.  They’re strong as an ox.  Unfortunately, they are so inflexible that they can’t even move.  This is the last thing that we want in our athletes.  It is just setting them up for an injury.  Therefore, we need to make sure that there is an adequate amount of flexibility work included in our programs.  By in our programs, I don’t mean as a “homework” assignment for the athlete.  As we all know, in reality, they probably won’t do it (or will do it halfway).  Therefore, it needs to be included in the daily plan.
  • Speed/Agility/Conditioning Work – Do athletes need to work on speed?  Yes.  Agility?  Yes.  Conditioning?  Yes.  No matter what level they are, there needs to be some work in each of these areas.  Of course, it doesn’t have to be an equal split between the three.  The program should be based on the individual athletes needs.  But no matter how much they need conditioning work, speed and agility can still be integrated in to the program.  No matter how much they need to get faster and more agile, they cannot forget about conditioning.

Where does this leave us when we plan programs for out clients?  It generally leaves us with a multitude of things that we can choose to work on.  Unfortunately, none of us have the time needed to do all of those things. That is what creates the balancing act when planning a program.  We have to find time and ways to incorporate strength, power, speed, agility, conditioning, and flexibility exercises into our programs.  We also have to create a program that is based on individual needs, strengths, and weaknesses.  That is the challenge that we are all faced with.  Of course, putting together a good program and coaching the athlete through it makes all of the challenges worthwhile when you see a great end result.  That is the reward for the challenge.

 

Mark

 

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Combine Prep Isn’t Just Physical

Lacrosse Faceoff Pic

 

Combine Prep Opportunity

I recently trained a high school athlete for a lacrosse combine.  While I haven’t trained lots of lacrosse athletes previously, I was excited by the opportunity.  Besides, most of the training was focused on the combine events and not the sport itself.  We had about 2 weeks to prepare so we mainly focused on fundamental speed and agility skills .  We covered all of the basic things like arm drive, body position, accelerating, decelerating, etc.  Over the two weeks the athlete made numerous improvements in his physical skills and I felt sure that he would make a good showing at the combine.  Since he had never participated in a combine before,we also talked about everything from getting proper rest to how the combine would probably be run.  We he showed up on combine day, I wanted him to be prepared for every possibility that he might face.

The Result

A day after the combine, the athletes father called me to give me the results.  First, the father informed me that the coaches had told the athletes that they weren’t concerned with how fast they ran at the start of a game.  They wanted to see what they could do when they were tired.  Because of this, the combine participants all had to run multiple gassers before they did any combine drills.  While this was something that was certainly different from most combines, the athlete ran the gassers and still had an outstanding day.  He ended up impressing a lot of folks.  When the father told me the story and gave me the results, I was very happy with what the athlete was able to accomplish.

Mental Preparation

Just like all Strength and Conditioning Coaches, I always want my clients to do well in their sports, combines, tryouts, pro days, etc.  However, the father made one comment that made me realize how well prepared his son was for the combine.  He said that when his son showed up to the combine, he was “comfortably confident”.  To me this meant that he was confident in his physical skills, but that he also felt comfortable with everything that he was about to experience.  Those comments, plus the gassers that the kids had to run, made me realize how important it is for athletes to be prepared for all aspects of tryouts, combines, etc.  That should help them to perform better but should also help them to handle anything unusual that happens (like the gassers, rain, etc).  While I normally try to work in some mental preparation when I train athletes for these events, I really emphasized it with this athlete.  Primarily that was because he had never been to a combine before.  However, after his experience, I make sure to cover any details that I can with all of my clients.  This applies even to athletes that have been to multiple combines/tryouts.  While veteran athletes may have lots of good info, they may have picked up some bad “tips” also.  There is no telling what info that have gotten from other athletes, coaches, the internet, etc.  Because of this, sometimes it is necessary to do some “damage control” and make sure that they have good info to follow.  I probably put more emphasis on this part of the preparation than other people do.  The thing is, if I train someone, I want them to do their best.  I’m not just there to go through the coaching motions and take their money.  To me it doesn’t matter if it is a high school kid hoping to perform well at a combine, or a pro athlete prepping for a pro day or tryout.  Yes, if the pro athlete gets signed, it’s a great feather in your cap.  However, to the high school kid, his performance is just as important.

So, what’s the take home message?  Don’t forget to emphasize mental preparation with your athletes.  It can help your athlete to be better prepared.  It can also give them a huge advantage when things don’t go exactly as planned.

Mark

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Top 10 Posts of 2012 – Part 1

2012-13 PicSorry that it’s been a while since my last post. I’m finding out that having a new baby in the house tends to make things somewhat hectic.  It also tends to alter any type of normal routines that you have.

Since we’re at the end of the year, I thought it would be a good idea to look back at some previous posts from Sports Upgrade.  In case you missed any of them or want a second look, here are our most popular posts during 2012.  Today we’ll give you # 10 – # 6.  Check back tomorrow for # 5 – # 1.

Enjoy!

10.  More Isn’t Always Better – Monitoring For Overtraining – How can you monitor your athletes for overtraining?  Here are a few methods that you can use.

9.  Female Strength Training –  Why is it important to get high school female athletes into the weightroom?  Here is a list of reasons.

8.  Why Junction Boys Syndrome Still Exists – The last thing that any of us want is for one of our athletes to die due to the training program that we have designed and overseen.  But it still happens.  Why?

7.  Good Nutrition is 24/7 – What can be done to help your athletes to eat smarter?  Here are some ideas.

6. Don’t Skip The In-Season ProgramWhat happens to an athlete if he doesn’t lift weights during his/her sports season?  Here are 2 big negatives.

Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for the top 5.

 

Mark

 

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The Right Way

I have been very fortunate to have some great influences in my life.  I have had numerous family members, friends, and others help me out and show me the way.  I was also blessed to have several incredible coaches when I was younger.  They not only taught me the sport, but they taught me about  life.

There are two coaches that I will probably always remember.  One was a youth soccer coach and one was a high school football coach/ strength coach.

The soccer coach taught me two important lessons:

  • Work hard – As young kids, we probably ran more sprints than other teams that we played against.  While hard work isn’t always fun, it is necessary to get you better.  We learned to accept that and we had good teams as a result.
  • Nothing is given – I had my first sports injury experience while playing soccer.  I hurt my knee and the doctor had me sit out for two weeks.  I had been a starting forward before the injury.  My first game back I was told that I was going to be a starting midfielder.  I said “Coach, I’ve never played midfield.  I play forward.”  His reply, “You’ve been out hurt and you lost your spot.  You have to earn it back.”  That may have been the hardest I ever played in my life.  By the second half, I had my spot back at forward.  Lesson learned.

From the football coach, I learned too many things to count:

  • Hard Work – As a player, I learned even more about the importance of hard work and never slacking off.  I also realized how many people don’t like hard work.
  • Structure – I was also very fortunate to be part of a well-structured strength training program.  There was an intelligent plan and we followed it.  It took me awhile to realize how rare this is in high school programs, even today.
  • Program Implementation – Later in life, I got to work with my former coach for 8+ years.  He taught me an incredible amount about designing and implementing programs as well as many of the finer details of strength training.  He did a great job teaching and explaining why certain exercises should be done a certain way.  He also made sure that the whole program was sound and done correctly.
  • Working Around Injuries- One of the greatest things that I learned was how to work around an injury when training an athlete.  I really learned to look for alternative exercises instead of just having an injured athlete sit out.
  • Faith – I also have to give him credit for teaching me about many things other than coaching.  Tops on the list has to be all that I learned from him about my faith.

After thinking through all of the things that I learned from these coaches, what is the most important life lesson that I learned?  It has to be to do things the right way.  In life and in coaching, it is important to do things with integrity, to work hard, to not slack off, and to do your best.  Every day we can find examples in the news and in our own lives of people not doing things the right way.  It’s easy to avoid adding your name to that list – just do things the right way.

Mark

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Video Analysis & Coaching

Do you use technology in your coaching?  How often?  To what extent?   One of my favorite uses of technology is to use video analysis.  I think that it really helps me to see what the athlete is doing in a new light.  It also enables you to give feedback to the athlete in a different format.  As we all know, their are three types of learners:  verbal, visual, and kinesthetic.  The use of video definitely helps those visual learners to see what they are doing right and wrong.   I really believe that video helps a large number of athletes and is a tool that needs to be used even more.  That being said, I also think that just like any good thing, it is possible to go overboard.  Do you have to video every single rep or drill?  No.  Integrate video into the program at regular intervals.  Use it initially to get a baseline idea of how the athlete does on a particular skill.  Use this info to help teach the athlete and then give them a chance to improve the skill for several session or weeks.  Then get some new footage and let the athlete see the comparison.  This should be often enough to gain the benefits of video without turning every day into a video day.

I know that Dartfish just released some info which stated that over 400 medals were won in the London Olympics by users of their software.  I’m sure that many other athletes used some form of video analysis to perfect their performances.  If video can help that many Olympic winners, it can help athletes at other levels too.  Make sure to find ways to integrate it into your coaching.

Mark

For more info on video analysis, check out the Sports Upgrade Video Analysis Page

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Coach In Motion

Coach Pic

When you’re coaching, do you stand still?  Do you sit?  Do you always view things from the same angle?  Why???  First off, you are coaching.  Coaching = Teaching.  For teaching math you might be able to stay fairly stationary.  For teaching a sport, you need to be on your feet.  It lets you do a better job.  Plus, it sets a better example for your athletes.

There are three major reasons that it helps to be on your feet.

  1. It keeps the energy level higher and the focus better for you and the athlete.
  2. It makes it easier to demonstrate and make corrections.
  3. It makes it easier to see.

While all of these are important, the last one may be the biggest reason to move around.  Some coaches have a favorite place to stand when they watch an athlete do a particular skill.  Some like to stand directly in front, some to the side, etc.  They feel that this gives them the best position to see the skill and correct mistakes.  Personally, I try to move around some and view the athlete from different angles  This gives me a more complete view of what is going on.  It lets me see things in different ways and sometimes leads to a better understanding of how the athlete is executing that particular skill or drill.

Are you stationary when you coach?  Have you fallen into the rut of watching from the same place every time?  Shake things up and move around some.  It will give you a better view of the whole picture.

Here’s another post of mine on coaching.

Mark

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Smart Work

I spent the past week working at a sports camp for young kids.  The camp used a large local park that was open to the public. During several of these days, I saw a local Strength & Conditioning coach working privately with a young athlete (about 13 years old).  During my breaks I tried to sneak a peak at what drills they used.  While I didn’t see anything new, what I saw did make me think about working smart vs just working hard.  What I saw each day wasn’t smart work, it was just hard. I saw lots of repetition of drills, but very little teaching and correction.   While working hard can be the focus of certain days or certain drills, it seemed to be the focus of every day for this athlete.   While I wasn’t close enough to hear what the coach was saying to the athlete, I didn’t see the coach trying to demonstrate or correct any technique. What I saw was a series of drills run over and over until the kid was exhausted. Most of the young teens that I have trained need a lot of fundamental drills and a lot of technique work so that they can develop their basic athletic skills. That is working smart. That is also smart coaching. S & C coaches get paid to develop athletes. Yes, sometimes that involves working them hard. However, when dealing with young athletes, there should be a lot of smart work. That should be what differentiates a S & C coach from the average person – the ability to teach an athlete, not just run them through some drills. A great coach is a great teacher.

Mark

Here are 2 other related posts that you might enjoy:

Coaching = Teaching

Why does junction boys syndrome still exist?

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