My last post discussed how far strength training for athletes has come since the days where many athletes didn’t lift weights. In that post, I briefly discussed Frank Stranahan, a successful golfer and weightlifter from the 1940’s – 50’s. That post got me thinking some so I decided to research info about strength training for golfers. I came across an article from the Annual Review of Golf Coaching (2007) that includes a piece by Harvey Newton and responses to it from several other individuals. Having spent time talking to Harvey in the past, I have great respect for his opinion and knowledge and I knew that this article would be a great place to start my research. In this piece, Newton give some facts about Stranahan. When you read this, keep in mind that Stranahan won 6 PGA events and 50 amateur tournaments.
Stranahan had experience as a competitive weightlifter, having officially lifted
235 lbs in the Press (no longer a competitive lift), 225 lbs in the Snatch, and 300 lbs
in the Clean-and-Jerk. In powerlifting, minus the Bench Press, his best was 410 lbs
in the Squat and 510 lbs in the Deadlift.
Does that sound like most modern golf training? No. What many people seem to be doing for golf specific training includes unstable surface training and lots of core training. These programs tend to avoid heavy lifting and Olympic lifts. The thinking is that golfers need to focus on developing their core muscles and that heavy lifting will cause them to become “muscle bound” and inflexible. But is this the correct approach?
To decide, we need to take a look at the benefits of Olympic lifting:
Increased core strength
Improved flexibility and stability
Of course the primary benefit of lifting heavier weights is increased strength. With all of the benefits of heavy lifting and Olympic lifts, why wouldn’t an athlete want to do them? Aren’t the goals of training programs for golfers to improve core strength, flexibility, stability, and be able to generate more power for longer drives? It seems like Olympic lifts can help accomplish all of these. I can understand if an athlete isn’t ready for this type of training, but why would you want to just automatically exclude them from a program? Much like the authors of the articles previously I mentioned, I believe that if a golf athlete is physically ready, there is a definite place for heavy lifting and explosive training in golf training. I know that this goes against the common line of thinking of many in the golf industry, but the goal of coaching is to help an athlete perform at their highest level. These types of exercises have been shown to be beneficial for golfers and they do have a role in a strength program designed for them.
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:
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.
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.
Is it time to scrap the old program for one that is better?
As the high school football and volleyball seasons wind down in many places, I thought that this would be a good time to address program design. After a season, most strength coaches look back and see if there is anything that they should do differently the following season. This evaluation process often forces coaches to look at the physical preparation of their athletes and their off-season programs. Many times a team will have a series of injuries to it’s players and often many of these will be similar injuries. Some seasons a team is hit with a rash of ankle injuries, sometimes it’s shoulder injuries, and other seasons it’s another body part. Regardless, it forces the staff to evaluate their program and decide if changes need to be made to help prevent more injuries. This is a great example of how strength programs should always be evolving. There is no perfect program. If there was, everyone would use it.
Evaluation Leads To Evolution
What things should you look at in your program? While every sport & situation is different, you should evaluate your program for each of the following:
Injury prevention exercises
Muscular strength exercises
Sport specific conditioning
In your particular sport or situation, not all of these may apply. However, in most sports you should address each of these items to ensure that your program is complete. So sit down and take an honest look at your program for the last few months and the last year. How does it address each of these areas? Do you spend too much time/effort in some areas and not enough in others? If so, make adjustments for the next year. It will make your program better and your athletes better.
In my previous post on post-season recovery, I discussed why it is important for athletes to recover after their season concludes. Now lets discuss some guidelines for how to accomplish sufficient recovery.
First off, remember that these guidelines are based on an ideal situation. As we all know, those rarely happen in the sports world. Since the NBA Finals are going on right now, we’ll use them as an example. In case you’re not paying attention to the finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder are playing the Miami Heat. If that series goes the full 7 games, their season won’t finish until June 26th. Obviously making the finals is a great achievement and no team would trade that for anything. At the same time, teams that didn’t make the playoffs finished playing their last games on April 26th. That’s two months before the Heat and Thunder will be done. To fully put things in perspective, last year NBA training camps were originally scheduled to open October 3rd. That was before the lockout ended up shortening the season. If the dates stay similar in 2012, that means that the teams that didn’t make the playoffs will have as much as two extra months to strength train for next season. It also means that they will have more time to recover from the rigors of the 2011-12 season. The odd twist is that the teams that had the best seasons and played the most games will have the least amount of time to recover. As a strength coach you have to be prepared to work around multiple issues, especially if the length of your off-season can be drastically shortened by your teams success.
So what guidelines should you follow during your recovery?
Heal Up – during a season, almost every player ends up with some bumps and bruises. No matter how my we work to prevent them, it’s going to happen. Many of these can be healed up with some rest. For more significant injuries, make sure to continue rehabbing them. With no time devoted to practice and games, you should be able to make some serious headway towards getting well.
Check For Imbalances – Checking for imbalances ties in closely with rehab. Over the course of a season, players can develop numerous strength and flexibility imbalances. As an example, baseball pitchers tend to develop greater external rotation in their pitching shoulder during the season. Some people believe that this can lead to other problems if it is not addressed in the off-season. Step one to solving these problems is to identify them right after the season. Then the player can begin to work on them during the recovery phase.
Stay Active – This phase is a recovery phase, not a sit on the sofa and be lazy phase. In many of the publications on periodization, this phase if called “active rest”. Athletes need to stay active to some extent, even during recovery. Staying active doesn’t mean going to the gym for a two hour lift-a-thon. It does however mean doing something physical. This is a great time for athletes to participate in other fitness or sports activities that they enjoy. I read once that Arnold Schwarzenegger used to enjoy riding bikes and playing volleyball after he competed in the Mr. Olympia each year. I believe that it can be beneficial for athletes to follow the same sort of plan. Find one activity (or several) that you enjoy doing that will help you to exercise. Then participate in this activity several times a week. The idea is to keep yourself active, break a sweat, use your muscles, and get your heart and lungs going. If you do choose to lift weights, keep things light – 3 sets of 10-12 at bout 70% of your one rep max is a good guideline.
Rest – Yes, you should rest your body during this recovery time. Get plenty of sleep and relax some. This is not the time to stay out until all hours of the night partying it up. Enjoy time with your family and friends but just remember, the crazier you get with your lifestyle, the harder it will be to get back into peak shape later.
The big question now is, how long should the recovery phase last? Periodization models tend to recommend 1-2 weeks. I have always like Arnold’s recommendation. He said that he would stay out of the gym until he really got the itch to go back. He figured that was his body’s way of telling him that he was ready to start training again. I believe that two weeks is a good starting point. If you communicate with your athletes, you may find out that some of them need more time and some need less. You can always tweak the length of time if you need to. If you are dealing with younger athletes, it may be necessary to provide some structure for them during this time. If you tell them to “go rest but stay active” you will have athletes doing all sorts of things based on their own interpretation. A structured plan may be better for them. That way you can have some control over what they are doing for recovery.
Regardless of what the circumstances are, a post season recovery period can be very beneficial to your athletes. Make sure to include one in your planning.
Sometimes sports coaches amaze me. Over and over again, I see them emphasize the off-season training program. They push the kids to lift, run, and lift some more. While most of these programs are “voluntary”, participation is always highly encouraged. So what about once the season starts? That’s a different story. Guess what the first thing to get cut out is? Yep, the strength program. During the season, the priority is to spend time practicing and prepping for games. However, why does the strength program always seem to get cut out? Take a look at the average sports practice. How much time is wasted due to poor planning & coaching? A lot. Yet instead of making practices more efficient so that a coach can fit in the in-season strength program, they just eliminate it. So what does this do for the kids? Nothing positive. The two major things skipping the in-season program does are both huge negatives:
Decrease in strength – During the season, an athlete is going to get worn down, banged up, and possibly lose some strength. If they don’t lift during the season, they will definitely lose strength. So what do you do? Keep them lifting. While the kid may lose some strength during the season, the stronger they stay late into the season, the better that they can play late in the season.
The injury factor – It’s widely accepted that lifting weights helps to decrease the chance of injury. Guess what? It may also help to decrease the time missed if a player does get an injury. Research on high school football players compared time missed by players who received similar injuries. It was found that those who were participating in an in-season strength program missed 1/3 of the time of other players with similar injuries. Not all injuries can be prevented, but most coaches, players, and parents should be willing to take steps to limit the time lost from injury.
I think that these two factors are good enough reasons to make the in-season program a priority. Why don’t sport coaches feel the same? I guess that S & C coaches just have to keep looking for opportunities to educate sports coaches. Maybe one day things will change.
Check back next week for more on how to design a good in-season program.
The May issue of the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research has an excellent article called “The Junction Boys Syndrome”. The syndrome title is based on the book and movie called “The Junction Boys”. These both tell the story of the year that “Bear” Bryant took over as head coach at Texas A&M. He took his players off-campus for a brutal pre-season camp. Numerous players were injured and/or quit the team during the camp.
The article by Scott Anderson discusses the fact that modern football “training regimens are too often built on tradition versus based on science and place players at-risk”. He then gives us information and facts about the 21 nontraumatic deaths in NCAA FBS football since 2000. Sixteen of these deaths occurred during strength and conditioning activities.
Is Anderson right? Yes, Are many of these deaths caused by the “tradition” of intense work making tougher and better football players? Unfortunately, yes. Why is this? There are numerous resources available to help people design safe and effective training programs. There are also qualified Strength & Conditioning coaches to design and implement the programs. We even have Certified Athletic Trainers who can help monitor athletes for signs of medical problems during workouts and then care for them if necessary. So why do we still have deaths? I think that there are three main reasons:
Influence of the Football Coaches – The S & C world is full of stories of sport coaches dictating how they want the strength and conditioning program run. While some of this has to do with trust and respect, if the S & C Coach is qualified and competent, let them do their job. If they aren’t qualified and competent, then hire someone who is.
The “I’ll Make You Puke Mentality” – While I understand the get tough mentality, I think that if a S & C Coach uses puking as the goal for the workouts that he designs, it’s sad. With all of the research and knowledge at our disposal, there should be a better goal that they can come up with. Vern Gambetta has discussed his thoughts on work and makes a good point “…puking at the end of a workout is not the measure of a good training.”
Tradition – It is true that in some instances, football training is still in the dark ages. Top this with the fact that there are still numerous veteran coaches who believe in doing things traditionally, and it leads to problems. New research is published all of the time to help show what works and what doesn’t. S & C Coaches should constantly be trying to learn and use this knowledge to make their programs better. As for the football coaches, see #1 above.
Should we still have nontraumatic deaths during football training? No. 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. Scott Anderson ends his article by saying that it is time for these deaths to stop. I don’t see how anyone could disagree.
P.S. If you want to know how we believe that training should be, click here to find out Sports Upgrade
Have you ever been several weeks into a team’s off-season training program a new kid suddenly shows up? Sometimes its a kid that has moved into the area, but a lot of times it’s a kid who is coming from another sports season. He or she has been playing sport B while his teammates in sport A have been putting in time and effort in their strength and conditioning program. We all like working with multi-sport athletes, but it does create some interesting challenges for us as coaches.
Things To Consider
There are several things to keep in mind while trying to get these “newbies” up to speed with the rest of the group.
Recovery – If these athletes are coming in from another sports season, they are probably already tired, worn down, and “dinged up”. Oftentimes these kids are rushed into the off-season program for another sport. As a coach, I’d rather give a kid a few days off before they get started on their training program with me. An athlete who is worn down can’t give 100% and is more likely to get hurt. Giving them even just a week off between seasons can be beneficial.
Differences in training levels – Even if these athletes are “in shape” for the sport that they just finished, they won’t be in shape for the sport that they are going to. Each sport has different physical and physiological demands. These athletes usually can’t be expected to start off at the same level as the athletes who are currently in the off-season program.
Adjust the plan – When we create an off-season plan, we put all of our knowledge and know-how into it. And now we have to change it because of one kid? Yes. To build on the previous point, an athlete that is coming into your program will need to be eased in ,unless he is coming from a sport that has a solid in-season program. He won’t be able to complete the same sets, reps, and intensities as the other athletes. Just remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. He or she will catch up to the other athletes soon enough.
Focus – While it is sometimes difficult to do, try to find a way to focus on these kids. If they haven’t been lifting regularly or doing the same program, there should be an emphasis placed on technique. That way once they catch up to the other athletes, their technique will be good. This is especially important in lifts such as the squat, clean, and snatch. You should also get plenty of feedback from these kids on how they feel.
What To Do?
When you have a large group of athletes, it becomes difficult to integrate a new kid into the mix. However, for the good of the athlete, you must pay attention to these “newbies”. All too often they show up and just get tossed into the mix with the other athletes. While it may take some creativity to integrate them properly and at the right pace, it will benefit them in the long run.
For the football fans in the U.S., our glut of football excitement is about to run out. The NCAA football season ended when Alabama beat LSU. The NFL playoffs are in full swing and soon the Super Bowl will be played and over. So as to not forget our neighbors to the north, the CFL offseason is well underway. Of course, just because the season is over doesn’t mean that things are any less hectic for the coaches, players, and support personnel. No matter what level you are at, this is the period to get better. Coaches are looking for better players through scouting and recruiting. Even high school coaches scour the hallways looking to encourage a “diamond in the rough” to play next year. As for players, they are all (or should be) working to get better. This is the time of year to improve strength, power, and athletic skills so that they can be a better player. This can be just in preparation for next season, or it can be to get ready for various combines and tryouts. It is a very busy time of year for all involved.
If you are a player, right now you should be on a solid program to develop you strength, power, speed, agility, flexibility, balance, and coordination. If you aren’t, you are going to miss out. You will miss out on the chance to excel on the field and possibly miss out on a scholarship or pro contract. Years ago most players didn’t train during the off-season. Nowadays, if you don’t train during the off-season, you probably won’t see the field during the season. If you ask the guys from Alabama, LSU, or any other major college football program, this is when they start to get ready for next year. It doesn’t start in August, it starts now. They lift weights, run agility drills, and do anything else that is necessary to get better. So what should you (or your players) be doing during January?
3 Keys During The Off-season
Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate – Every player should be evaluated at this time of year. It is true that it helps to re-test them in their 40, vertical jump, clean, etc. In addition, it is a good time to eval individual players for lingering injury issues, strength and flexibility imbalances, etc. Whether you use a formal system like the Functional Movement Screen or do something different, you need to try to pinpoint any problems that each individual may need to work on. If you don’t do it while you have time to, you won’t do it at all. If these problems don’t get fixed, they will limit the development of the player.
A solid program – Every player should be placed on a solid strength and conditioning program. It should be well thought out and should include phases that will develop hypertrophy, strength, and power in the weightroom. It should also include plenty of flexibility, speed, and agility work. Just lining up to run sprints isn’t really speed work. I mean form and technique work. It takes a lot of reps to make a change permanent. Get started now.
Team bonding / competition work – This is also the time to begin to include some team bonding activities. They don’t have to be every day, but there is a long time from now until August. Start to include them now to help your team develop the chemistry that the need to succeed. As for competition, that can be worked into drills and other off-season activities. Some kids don’t have the competitive fire that they should. This can be developed but again, it should start now.
Keep these keys in mind while you plan your program.
I’ve written previously about training barefoot and the possible benefits. It seems like the concept is becoming more popular lately. There are more books being published and the concept is getting more coverage in the mainstream media. Recently an article on barefoot training appeared in the Huffington Post. With all of the recent interest, I thought it might be a good idea to mention a few tips before throwing away all of your training shoes.
What shoes to wear for training today? How about going barefoot!
Tips for Barefoot Training
Ease into it – Most of us haven’t spent lots of time barefoot since we were kids. Keep this in mind when you start training barefoot. Our feet have become used to the support and protection of shoes. Since your feet will probably have to go through an adaptation process, don’t try to do everything barefoot right off the bat. It might be a good idea to start going barefoot more around the house,if you don’t already. Then start by doing your warm-up without shoes. If you are doing a proper dynamic warm-up, it should take you 10-15 minutes to complete. This should give your feet a chance to begin to get used to going without shoes. After this, gradually add in more barefoot time.
Choose soft surfaces – Ok, maybe this one is common sense but I still thought that it was worth mentioning. Soft surfaces give you cushioning when your feet land on the ground. They also help to limit the amount of surface damage (small cuts, scrapes, etc) to your feet. While this is a good idea in general, it is especially important when first starting out your barefoot adventures.
Be selective in your activities– Continuing along with the general idea of safety, you should probably choose activities that are fairly safe for your feet, especially at first. This probably isn’t the time to work in some depth jumps, for example. Stick with easier activities and remember that there are still some things that it might be a good idea to wear shoes while doing (e.g., weightlifting).
I’ve been wondering what the new training “fad” will be for 2012. Maybe barefoot training will be it. Ok, maybe not if Nike has anything to say about it haha. Regardless, give barefoot training a try. It will help your feet to gain strength and movement that they haven’t had since you were a kid.