Monday, November 29, 2010

1st Annual SAPT Thanksgiving Lift

Yesterday, we hosted the 1st Annual SAPT Thanksgiving Lift! It was an awesome turnout, with 25-30 people in attendance. It really struck me yesterday how incredible the atmosphere is that’s being cultivated at SAPT. Thanksgiving, to me at least, represents family, and spending time with those that we love (if we’re blessed to be able do so). The fact that 25+ athletes (middle school, high school, and college) and parents joined together – at 7AM on Thanksgiving morning - speaks volumes of the culture that exists within SAPT. After all, those few and far between weekday “off days” are extremely coveted by most, so you must really love the people you’re with if you voluntarily wake up to spend two and a half hours with them on Thanksgiving morning!

Check out the video below to catch a glimpse of the morning:

Some highlights:

-At 0:08 you can see Chris and his (relatively) new bride foam rolling together (on the same roller) to prepare for the lift. Awesome.

-At 0:52 you'll see Kayla - one of our athletes who was a high school All-American wrestler, and now is doing very well as a freshman wrestling at King College - pairing up with Sarah to battle the ropes together. Even though Sarah recently had a baby, she can still hang with the young guns!

-At 1:11 you can catch a glimpse of Chris's loaded barbell in the corner (he was showing the boys how to conventional pull 450+ with ease).

-At 1:20, Conrad, Leonard and I were rotating on the thick bar to do weighted chinups/pullups. Leonard (although it wasn't filmed) hit a +50lb pullup! He couldn't do a single proper pullup when he first showed up at SAPT, so this demonstrates enormous progress! Conrad and I battled it out working over 100lbs, and he gets the victory as his age alone (not to mention he has a torn rotator cuff!) adds at least 75lbs to his chinup, in contest against a 24-year old.

-At 1:40, Kelsey is working the posterior chain via BB glute bridges. As noted in the video, she has torn labrums in both of her hips. Typically, hip extension exercises (straightening the hips) are more friendly on the hips - compared to exercises involving higher degrees of hip flexion (ex. squatting or lunging) - when there's a labral issue involved. As you can see, it's still possible to maintain a training effect even while injured.

And, last but not least, my sister, Jenn, (returning from nursing school to lift with us) is pictured below holding Arabella. Sarah and Ryan mentioned Jenn was the first person who was able to hold Arabella without her crying (sign of a future successful nurse, anyone?). I'm sure I may lose my Man-Card for saying this, but Arabella looked insanely cute in that bear outfit:


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Q & A:60-Yard Dash Improvement

Question: My son has excellent speed stealing bases, but only has a 7.56 60-yard dash speed. Looking for training specific to increasing that speed. Tips on start/end of run, running technique, etc., not just strength training. Thanks

While the answer to this question is definitely multifaceted, I'll do my best to summarize some of the main points:

1) Don't do steady state cardio. This one should be obvious, but I continue to be astounded at the number of coaches who require their athletes to perform steady state cardio, even when the training goal is increased speed and power. Apart from the fact that distance running will negatively affect the stretch-shortening cycle (a key component in sprinting) and decrease strength and power output (again, critical to sprint acceleration and top speed), you also have mobility concerns to think about. Distance running doesn't allow sufficient hip flexion to truly activate all of the hip flexors (especially the psoas, which is responsible for hip flexion above 90 degrees). You also receive little to no hip extension during steady state cardio. By using a repetitive motion (like jogging) over a long period of time, where you're not bringing your lower extremity through a full range of motion, you're losing mobility at the hip joint - the very same mobility depended upon to generate stride length, and, in turn, velocity!
The Psoas

2) Train the first 10 yards of the sprint. When we evaluate a test like the 60 yard dash, we are really measuring a test of acceleration as much as we are a test of speed. Now, this will depend largely on the training age of the athlete, as world-class sprinters accelerate for up to sixty meters (each ten-yard split continues to get lower up to sixty meters). Novice sprinters will reach peak velocity much earlier than an advanced sprinter. Anyway, whether you are an advanced or a novice athlete, it is going to improve your 60 yard dash if you learn to accelerate faster. Work on increasing power and decreasing steps for those first ten yards. The first ten-yard increment takes the longest to complete and thus is the easiest to impact in training. Shoot for three steps during the first five-yard segment, and about five steps for ten yards. Do this by teaching PUSHING, not overreaching (don't tell the athlete to cut down steps, either; telling an athlete you're counting steps may cause over-striding). Tell the athlete to push the ground as hard as possible! Push the ground away from you as hard as you can, and minimize stutter steps. Here's a good indicator of a powerful start: the foot taking the second step does not touch the ground while the front foot is still on the line (after step one you shouldn't see two feet in contact with the ground).

Another bonus for training the first ten yards: the chance of injury is greatly decreased! Heading out to the track and running 60-yard repeats, especially if the athlete does not have good mechanics for sprinting AND hasn't had much running training prior, is a recipe for injury. How well do you think the athlete will perform in a timed 60-yard dash if he or she has a pulled hamstring, hip flexor, or adductor from training? You can train ten yard increments (focusing on increasing power and decreasing steps) with little to no risk of injury.

3) Improve Conditioning. More specifically, improve efficiency of the anaerobic alactic energy system ("the first 10 seconds") and the anaerobic lactic energy system (the "feel the burn" energy system). This will help the athlete maintain peak velocity for as long as possible during the sprint. Remember that, depending on the race distance, the winner will be the one who slows down the least at the end. There are many ways to improve conditioning for this, but one would be to begin with linear drills (ex. 110-yard dash at 80% intensity), and progress to 150-yard shuttle runs (divided into 25-yard increments). I'm a huge fan of shuttle runs as they also play a great role in injury prevention by incorporating acceleration, deceleration, and direction change. As Mike Boyle says, injuries are most often associated with the muscular stresses caused by speeding up, slowing down, or changing direction. Shuttle runs add a muscular component to the energy system program. Some heavy sled pushing/pulling will work well in a conditioning program, too. Keep the "work" duration to 30 seconds and below during the aforementioned drills.

4) Get Stronger. This should really be at the top of the list. I hate to break it to you, but your child just isn't strong enough. I know that the answer to your question was to include techniques "besides just strength training," but honestly this (resistance training) will be one of the greatest additions to your son's training. Proper strength training, utilizing progressive overload on both bilateral and unilateral lower body lifts, will help your athlete run faster. Quite simply, the stronger the athlete is, the more force he or she will be able to exert into the ground.

This is nothing more than physics. Those who can produce the greatest force into the ground (the action), will yield the greatest benefit from the ground (the reaction). In fact, The Journal of Applied Physiology published research in the year 2000 in an article called Mechanical Basis of Human Running Speed. The article synopsis begins with the line, "Faster top running speeds are achieved with greater ground forces, not more rapid leg movements." Without boring you with further writing on this matter, I highly encourage you to watch this short video in which Eric Cressey explains the continuum between absolute speed and absolute strength. Granted, he is speaking mainly with regards to throwing velocity, but the principles are the same:

(I apologize, I know the video is cut off a bit on my blog. Double click on the video to open it up in youtube)

5. Improve Sprint Technique.
Keep in mind that attaining perfect sprint technique is much more in depth than many think and it takes years to master. I am by no means an expert sprint coach, but here are a few tips to get you started:
  • Keep the hands relaxed and open, with the arms bent at 90 degrees.
  • NEVER let the arms cross the midline of the body! Arm motion should be front to back, not side to side (think about the hands passing the pants pockets on each stride). "Pump" the hands front to back as you sprint. As Jason Ferruggia says, little kids run with their arms side to side. Don't do that or we will all make fun of you.
  • Keep the shoulders, torso, and pelvis facing forward at all times. Side to side rotation at these regions is off limits.
  • Remain on the balls of the feet; the heels should never experience ground contact.
  • Think of yourself as an animal pawing at the ground when the balls of the feet make contact (rapidly pull the foot behind you as you push the ground away from you).
  • Shoulders should be down and relaxed, with the eyes down the track and the chin tucked in slightly.
  • Don't "muscle it" as you sprint. As Charlie Francis said, running takes place on the ground, sprinting takes place above it. If you do it right, you should feel minimal impact or stress and should feel like you are flying effortlessly. If you're taking a lot of pounding and and it feels like a lot of work, you're doing something wrong and should consider having someone watch or video tape you for feedback.

6. "Count Your Blessings." Recognize that your son possesses a great sport-specific skill!! If he is proficient at stealing bases, that will go a long way! Technique in base-stealing is a completely different skill set from a timed 60-yard dash in front of recruiters (not to mention the mental acuity needed during live gameplay to successfully steal a base). While improving his 60-yard dash time will certainly aid his baseball career, don't overlook the techniques he already possesses that will make him a valuable asset to a team.

One last note: remember that training for sprint speed is not a "get your sweat on" session. A proper understanding of the energy systems utilized in a max-effort sprint will go a long way in ensuring effective training sessions. If your athlete is breaking a sweat, or breathing heavily, during his sprint sessions (unless it's hot outside or he's finishing up a dynamic warm-up), this is a decent indicator he isn't resting enough between sets.

I hope this was helpful!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Client Testimonial: Guest Blog Post

Ron, one of "Oldies," is working toward improved body composition (not weight-loss, but fat loss), increased performance for daily living, and improved health and well-being. When viewing his dramatic results, keep in mind he has only been on this plan for 3-weeks!

"Miracle Workers

As many people do when they approach 50 years old, I started thinking about my health and fitness. I wasn’t happy with my assessment. Being a career military officer fitness was always important, but after my retirement and the start of a new job I had let myself go. I could barely do 10 push-ups. It was time to do something. That’s when the SAPT miracle workers took over.

After seeing the incredible progress my daughters had made at SAPT, I decided to join the SAPT “Oldies” program. My goal was simple – be the strongest I have ever been in my life and bench press 225 pounds by the time I hit 50.

The SAPT staff (Sarah, Chris, and now Steve) started me out on a program that I am convinced has saved my life (most certainly has lengthened it). The individual fitness program they designed slowly and surely started to bring me back. I got stronger, more flexible and more energetic each week. In merely 7 months working out twice a week I went from struggling to do 10 push-ups to achieving my goal of bench pressing 225 by my birthday last January. It wasn’t the most technically perfect bench press you’ve ever seen, but I got it up. I was officially stronger than I’d ever been in my life.

A few weeks ago, I started a combined fitness and diet program at SAPT to try and improve my body composition and my overall health. Steve, along with Sarah and Chris, did an initial assessment of my diet by having me keep track of everything I ate or drank for a week – a real eye opener for me and not in the good sense. Steve then provided me a diet plan including everything from a shopping list to menus and recipes. On the program I eat five meals a day (harder than it sounds) and I’ve increased the number and intensity of my workouts. In the end my goal is to reduce my overall body fat to less than 15% while maintaining my strength.

Although I’ve only been on the program for about three weeks, the results have been stunning. I have reduced my overall cholesterol in that time from around 220 to 168. My HDL (“good” cholesterol) level has increased (good) and my LDL level has decreased. My triglyceride and blood sugar levels were both good and my blood pressure went down from borderline hypertension to normal. My doctor, who had been discussing the potential need for me to take cholesterol medication, was amazed by the results. I’ve got nine more weeks to go in the initial program and I can’t wait to see what other “miracles” are in store.

The individual attention to each client’s physical condition, along with their expert knowledge and experience of working with athletes at all levels, is something that sets SAPT apart from all others. Sarah, Chris and Steve are consummate professionals. While the results I have achieved seem like miracles to me, I guess the reality is that Sarah, Chris and Steve just really know what they are doing. But in my estimation, they really are miracle workers.

Ron Reed, 50"

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Exercises You've Never Tried

The following is a BB Glute Bridge, performed against band resistance (the movement becomes more difficult as you near the top as it places more tension on the bands). This is a great exercise for athletes, runners, and and recreational lifters alike as it's phenomenal for strengthening the glutes; the most powerful hip extensors in the body!

Also, enjoy as it is shot in the HD camera I recently purchased so I can post a lot more video blogs!

However, one definitely needs to know how to properly use their glutes before performing an exercise such as this. Otherwise, the low back will take over the force production, defeating the entire purpose of the exercise and eventually leading to injury. I used a progression similar to the one featured in this article, working from bodyweight glute exercises to weighted glute exercises.

Also, just for kicks, here is Anna (one our "ankle biter" athletes) working some triple extension with a Bullseye Tire Throw!