Month: October 2011

Articles & Videos You Should See – 10/31/11

First off, Happy Halloween to everyone, I hope your weekend treated you well. Today, I would like to introduce my first edition of “Articles & Videos You Should See” – a weekly roundup of articles, videos, and any other material I believe may be beneficial to other strength & conditioning professionals and their athletes.
Articles
How to Prevent Pitching Injuries – a Scientific Approach – While I disagree with the title (it’s impossible to prevent sports injuries, you can only hope to reduce their likelihood or severity)
Sandbags for Strength – I’m a big fan of sandbag (and sandbell) training and Matt Palfrey does a good job of detailing some of the benefits and common complaints associated with this method of training.
Videos
Creating an Effective, but Imbalanced Strength and Conditioning Program – Technically a webinar, but still qualifies as a video to me. Eric Cressey has begun releasing webinars with fantastic content and I’d recommend viewing this one while it’s still free.
Stuff That Must Have Happened – This is a new video series by my favorite non-sports/training site, Cracked.com. Their articles and lists are always a good laugh, and I think they are off to a good start with this video series (they’ve released two so far, and both have been hilarious). Just a fair warning – not all of the content on the site is appropriate for everyone, some inappropriate language and references, but nothing I’ve seen as extremely insulting.
Hopefully you enjoy and pick something up from the above links. If you find anything in the next week you would like to be listed, please let me know by sending me an email.
As always, if I can ever be of assistance to you or your program, please feel free to contact me.
All the best,
Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW
480-241-4112
HenleySportsPerformance.blogspot.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley
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4 Things I Learned at the NSCA Arizona Clinic

This past weekend had two events demanding my attention – the NSCA Arizona State Clinic, and my Pittsburgh Steelers were in town (to beat the Cardinals 32-20). Since you can see highlights of Steel Town’s win on ESPN, I’ll focus more on the clinic with this post, but I do suggest you check out Mike Wallace’s 95-yard touchdown reception. With that, here are the top 4 things I took from the clinic:
1.    “Mark Verstegen” Thoroughly “Enjoys Using” “Air Quotations” – The Founder and President of Athletes’ Performance was the opening presenter for this year’s clinic and wow…does he love doing air quotes while speaking. Whether presenting, speaking with individuals, or asking questions of other presenters, it was rare to hear a sentence without seeing 2-3 air quotes. All joking aside, Mark is one of the most successful in the business, and it’s easy to see why. Mark preached “respect and humility” and genuinely displayed it at the clinic by taking time to speak with everyone who extended their hand and making every effort to learn each person’s name. While this may be considered common courtesy, it is increasingly uncommon among successful individuals, who overvalue themselves (and undervalue others).

Another important point Mark emphasized was to filter all the new tools/methods/exercises/etc. that we pick up every day and only apply what will work for your individual principles. We are constantly bombarded with these new approaches and it is our job as coaches to decide whether to integrate or avoid them. I liked Mark’s closing point – your principles should stay true to what you are trying to accomplish, and you should only add methods that work towards your principles. Do not let others’ methods dictate YOUR principles.

2.    Kinesio Capture is Amazing – Kinesio Capture is a new motion-capture software available for iPads and iPhones with incredible promise. If you’re not familiar with Kinesio Capture, you’re not alone – it’s only been available about three months – but I suspect that to change, and fast. Rob Harris was kind enough to give me a thorough explanation of the software and after testing it out myself I was blown away. I could go on and on about everything I liked about it, but I doubt I could do it justice. For more information, I recommend visiting their website, www.kinesiocapture.com, or contact Rob or any member of the Kinesio Capture team. Spend a few minutes looking into it, I promise you will be as impressed and excited as I am. Now, if I can only find someone to get me an iPad as an early Christmas gift…

3.    We Need to Rethink Coaching Cues – Dr. Gabriele Wulf presented some amazing research on utilizing external focus to improve motor skill learning and performance. Essentially, when subjects were instructed to focus on external cues (such as the floor or implement), the rate of motor learning and retention was much greater than when subjects were given an internal cue (focus on their hand, foot, etc.). To give a specific example – by instructing a novice golfer to focus on the swing of the club, rather than his arms, his accuracy improved. Given golf’s high technical demand, it is not surprising to see improvement in inexperienced subjects, however the results weren’t limited to novices. When the same instructions were given to elite golfers (split into three groups – internal focus, external focus, and control/no instructional cues), external focus was still more effective than no instruction or internal focus. Not only did performance improve, but muscular efficiency improved as well, as determined by EMG activity. The reason for this isn’t entirely clear, though the Constrained Action Hypothesis is the best bet right now. The constrained Action Hypothesis basically says that an internal focus results in an athlete consciously trying to control his/her body movements, limiting automated responses. By concentrating on an external focus, reactive abilities are allowed to properly function on a subconscious level, improving reaction speed.

What does this mean? For starters, our list of coaching cues needs to get a complete makeover. Instead of telling the athlete to drive through his legs, instruct him to drive his force through the ground. Instead of having a discus thrower keep her hand back during her spin, put the emphasis on the discus. This may be tricky at first, but after reviewing the information Dr. Wulf presented, it is by far more effective at improving motor skill learning and retention. As a coach, it is my duty to do what is best for my athletes. If that means relearning every instructional cue I’ve ever used, so be it. It benefits the athlete, improves development, and enhances performance.

4.    Escalating Density Training: Simple Doesn’t Mean Stupid – If you haven’t heard of Charles Staley’s EDT method, you can get the general idea from this original post of his from 2002. It’s an incredibly simple program that is challenging and produces results for all skill levels. It is very similar to my 60,000 pounds in 60 minutes challenge (which my good friend Alan Stein first wrote about here in 2009), only shorter in duration, volume, and exercise selection. Be sure to read both of the above articles, because both have good information and show two different models of total-volume workouts. EDT is designed to be used on a consistent basis (as the basis of a training program), where as the 60,000 in 60 is strictly a challenge and NOT to be used on a regular basis (but it is a terrific gut-check workout or plateau buster). If you work with individuals who are new to training, or just looking for a change in routine, give EDT a try. However, if you work with more advanced athletes who want a physically AND mentally demanding challenge, then try to lift 60,000 pounds in an hour. (60,000 isn’t impossible by any means, I’ve seen several work up to around 100,000, but on a first attempt, 60,000 is quite an accomplishment)
I hope you find this information as useful as I have. The information at these clinics, as well as the people and experience, is invaluable and always walk away a better coach.
If you have any questions about the above items, or if I can ever be of assistance to you or your program, please feel free to contact me.
All the best,
Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW
480-241-4112
HenleySportsPerformance.blogspot.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley
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Catching Up on Missed Reading

Sorry for the brief hiatus in posts – I was on vacation deep in the boonies with some family, far from almost any kind technology (except for chainsaws, tractors, and guns – yup, I was a hillbilly for a week and loved every second of it). During my time away, my RSS feed filled to the brim with excellent posts, research, and webinars to review and enjoy. If you don’t have an RSS feed, I highly recommend setting one up (I use Google Reader) because it saves a lot of wasted time going to EVERY site you typically read and ensures you won’t miss anything. For those of you who aren’t familiar with an RSS feed, it basically acts as your own personal set of headlines, from whatever websites/blogs you subscribe to (you can include this one by clicking on the “Posts” menu below “Subscribe To”). Whenever new content is put up, it comes up on your RSS feed, all your sites in one neat area. Like I said, I use Google Reader and recommend it because it’s simple, effective, and free. You can mark articles as favorites or share them with others, plus it allows you to see all you’ve missed if you say…went on vacation in the deep and dark for a week.
I bring all this up because I have spent the past two days going through my RSS and seeing all I missed and wow, I missed a LOT this past week. Below are some of my favorites and I believe everyone should check out.
Eric Cressey Webinars – This was pretty exciting to me when I first saw it. Eric is incredibly sharp and well rounded as a coach, researcher, writer, and athlete. When he puts up material it’s usually very high in quality, these webinars are no different. As of now, he has put up three different (and free) webinars, which you can access here.
Sports Medicine Research – Injury & Research – During my time in Lexington this season working with the Houston Astros Minor League Affiliate, I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Ben Kibler and Aaron Sciascia. The timing couldn’t have been better, as they were conducting some impressive research on shoulder health, injury prevention, and rehabilitation. SMR published a two-part article on their research on scapular function and evaluation, which is loaded with great information. Be sure to read both Part 1 and Part 2 as they both contain useful information for any coaches working with overhead throwing athletes.
Additionally, SMR produced an interesting piece on Knee Injuries and Knee Osteoarthritis, highlighting the importance of injury prevention programs for the long-term health of athletes. Even though it’s impossible to “prevent” injuries from happening, it is imperative to make every effort in reducing the likelihood of an injury occurring and protect the long-term health of athletes.
T-Nation – Maximal Strength, Minimal Equipment – If pure, raw strength is your goal, it’s hard to find better results than those at Westside Barbell. John Gaglione does a good job of detailing a Westside program in this article and shows how powerlifting guru Louie Simmons continually produces world-class powerlifters. While I would advise against using as the sole basis for an athlete’s training program, it certainly is a good tool to have for reference. You can find the article here.
Michael Boyle – Dealing with Hamstring Injury – Last but not least is this good piece by Michael Boyle on how to train to reduce the occurrence of, or recover from, a hamstring injury. An overlooked aspect of hamstring training is the eccentric contractions during sprinting and other activities. If the hamstring is unable to handle this force, a strain or tear is all but inevitable. Far too often, coaches are too focused on the concentric movement of the hamstrings – such as their deadlift strength – and not on the muscles’ ability to handle force during elongation.
These weren’t the only items to pop up on my feed, but they are the ones I feel deserve the attention of coaches. I hope you can derive the same benefit from them that I have.
If you have any questions about the above items, or if you know of a good article I missed, please feel free to contact me. If I can ever be of assistance to you or your program, please don’t hesitate to drop me an email, message on Twitter, or phone call.
All the best,
Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW
480-241-4112
HenleySportsPerformance.blogspot.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley
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Designing an In-Season Training Program for Basketball – Part II

In Part I, I provided an assessment each athlete should complete prior to beginning an in-season strength program. If you missed it, be sure to check it out here. Today, I want to discuss several considerations that will need to be taken into account when designing and implementing a strength program for basketball players. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on designing programs for players at the high school and college levels (NBA doesn’t need to worry about in-season right now, unfortunately).
Training Considerations
After completing the assessment, there should be a deficit or two that will need to be addressed in the training program. Mobility, flexibility, and balance deficits are most easily improved during the season, where as strength and power gains will be minimal (compared to off-season training, which I will cover in another post). The reason being mobility, flexibility, and balance work all place much smaller demands on the body, and can therefore be trained more frequently during the season. Because the goal of training is for production on the court (and not in the weight room), a program designed for massive strength gains will undoubtedly affect players on court performance and predispose players to overtraining. This brings me to my first training consideration:
Team Schedule – For high school players, the schedule is usually pretty standard with two games per week, with one or three on a rare occasion here and there, and a few weekend tournaments. This allows for a relatively consistent training schedule for coaches and players to get two workouts a week with ample recovery time. For college players, the schedule is slightly more hectic (more tournaments, farther travel, etc.) but still manageable as most games are scheduled late in the week, allowing Monday/Wednesday training splits. Below is a sample schedule (the game schedule taken from a high school program):
Sunday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Off
No Lift
Game
Lift
No Lift
Game
Lift
Sunday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Off
Game
Lift
Game
No Lift
Tournament
Tournament
Sunday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Off
No Lift
Game
Lift
Game
Lift
No Lift
Sunday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Off
Game
Optional Lift
Game
Game
Lift
No Lift
As you can see, basketball schedules aren’t as simple to navigate as football, but still generally allow a day between games, and two/week separated by at least a day is usually the quota. I usually prefer training players the day after a game, because it USUALLY means they will have a day of recovery before their next game, and any delayed onset muscle soreness will have dissipated. Because of the grind of tournament play, where it’s common to play 4-5 games minimum, it is very important to allow the players to recover physically and mentally.
Other Time Demands – As I said above, this article is focused on high school and collegiate players, and with that comes their academics. Most college programs require a minimum number of study hall hours per week. In high school, parents don’t want their kids wrapped up with basketball for four hours every day and watch their grades suffer. In addition to academics, many players may also have a part-time job, family responsibilities (e.g. babysitting their younger brother), etc. With that in mind, two training sessions a week is likely going to be the biggest commitment an athlete can make.
Age/Gender/Height – All three of these physical characteristics will impact the type, volume, and intensity of training, as well as require modifications to lifts (such as a 6’8” player performing deadlifts from blocks instead of the floor). Younger kids will need lower intensity lifts until they develop proper form and technique. Females will need additional knee stability work in order to protect against ACL tear due to natural position of the femur. Tall athletes, as mentioned above, will need to perform lifts through a different range of motion than their shorter counterparts, as they are at an extreme mechanical disadvantage due to longer lever arms.
Individual Deficits – This is where the results of the assessment come in. While the majority of a training program can be applied to all players, it is important part of each session is dedicated to improving deficits and correcting imbalances. If the deficit is mobility or balance related, the final 5-8 minutes of a training session should be dedicated to improve these areas. If a player suffers from a strength imbalance, this should take place earlier in the workout, primarily with modified lifts.
Training Outline
Below is an example workout program for a high school player who was revealed to have a lack of hip mobility and dynamic balance:
Workout 1
Workout 2
Workout 3
Lower
Superset
Dumbbell Lunges
Bulgarian Split Squats
Hex Bar Deadlift
3×8-10 (each side)
3×6-8 (each side)
3×6-8
Hip Ext on Stability Ball
Kettlebell Swings
Single Leg Glute Bridge
3×10
3×10
3×10
Upper
Superset
Dumbbell Incline
Single Arm DB Bench
Push Ups w/ Band
3×6-8
3×8-10 (each side)
3×8-10
Dumbell Rows
Chin Ups
Cable High Row
3×6-8 (each side)
3×6-8
3×6-8 (each side)
Core
Med Ball Wall Slams
Ab Wheel Rollouts
Pallof Press
2×5
2×10
2×8 (each side)
Balance
SL RDL/OH Press
SL Twists w/ Med Ball
SL Reachbacks
2×8-10 (each side)
2×8-10 (each side)
2×8-10 (each side)
Mobility
PVC OH Squat Against Wall
Lunge & Reach
Lunge & Twist
2×10
2×8 (each side)
2×8 (each side)
Yes, I realize I have said multiple times that two training sessions per week is the best course of action, and then provided a three-workout split. There’s a good reason, I promise – by creating three workouts (instead of two or four) is you get the most bang for your buck. By having two sessions per week, and three different workouts to chose from, you create an easy three week rotation. Instead of needing to create two workouts per week, you’re essentially making one workout per week, allowing constant change in the program (in an effort to avoid plateaus) with minimal time dedicated to program design. Plus it’s easy for the athlete to follow: Week 1 –  complete Workouts 1 & 2, Week 2 – complete Workouts 3 & 1, Week 3 – complete Workouts 2 & 3.
As far as the individual exercises, these are some of my preferences, but certainly not set in stone. Two days with single leg compound lifts to one bilateral compound leg lift because most of basketball is one leg at a time, but it is important to train both sides together as well to ensure solid neuromuscular pathways. Nearly all lifts require movement at multiple joints; this is to minimize the time necessary to train the entire body. Time is always the enemy, as I am usually limited to 30 minutes per session with my basketball players (for all the reasons listed above). As you can see, because the player had two glaring deficits (both bilateral, so he was equally deficient on both sides), the corrective portion of the workout was split to address them both. When it comes to correcting deficits, it is best to address imbalances first and bilateral deficits second, due to the heightened predisposition to injury that accompanies an imbalance.
I don’t like to include much plyometric work with my players in-season, namely because they complete enough jumps and hops during practice that additional contacts would be more detrimental than beneficial. However, if an athlete has a glaring lack of power development, plyos can be put first in the workout to ensure maximum benefit.
This is by no means a complete training program, but I hope it has given you some insight in developing one that is right for your team, players, or self. If you have any questions, or would like assistance in developing a program for your players, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
All the best,
Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW
480-241-4112
HenleySportsPerformance.blogspot.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley
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Designing an In-Season Training Program for Basketball – Part I

This is part one of two and here I’ll be discussing the initial assessment and testing all coaches and players should address prior to beginning an in-season training strength & conditioning program.
Before beginning a strength & conditioning program, it is important that all players receive medical clearance from their doctor.  Since this is for “in-season”, I’ll assume that has already happened (or they wouldn’t be allowed to participate).
Assessment
With the following assessment tools, you will be able to find any deficits a player may have, as well as any strengths that can be utilized in competition. As you will see, many tests are pass-fail. A failing grade doesn’t mean a player isn’t allowed to lift, just that he/she has a deficit that should be fixed and both the player and coach should be aware of. These are also tests which can be re-administered to determine progression during the season, or reveal signs of regression and overtraining.
Flexibility & Mobility
This is an important, and vastly overlooked, aspect of basketball performance. Poor flexibility can leave a player at greater risk for an injury such as a muscle pull and limit mobility. Mobility is even more essential as basketball players are consistently shifting body position from upright, to half squat, to triple extension. Combined with the need for rapid power development and the ability to transfer energy, mobility is necessary to make movements more efficient and allow the body to function properly.
Deep Squat – This is the most beneficial test, providing mobility information for the ankles, knees, hips, spine, and shoulders. To test, have an athlete perform an overhead squat with either a PVC pipe or wooden dowel. Have them go as deep as they can. Scoring is as follows:
Criteria
Pass
Fail
What is Tested
Heels stay flat on the floor
Ankle Mobility
Knees stay straight, don’t bow out or cave in
Hip Flexibility
Hips parallel with or below knees
Hip Extensors Mobility
Lower back stays arched, not rounded
Hip Flexor/Hamstring Flexibility
PVC pipe stays over base of neck, behind knees
Shoulder Mobility
Remember, a failing score on any of the criteria doesn’t mean the athlete can’t begin a training program, but shows a deficit that needs to be addressed by the player and coach.
In-Line Lunge – This test will address any imbalances between the right and left sides of the lower body. To begin, place a strip of tape on the floor (15” for athletes 5’8” and under, 16” for 5’8”-6’0”, 17” for 6’0”-6’4”, and 18” for athletes over 6’4”. Another method is to measure the lower leg from ground to the attachment of the pattelar tendon, however this can be time consuming with a full team of assessments). Have the athlete stand in a lunge position, with the heel of the front foot on the front edge of the tape, and toes of the back foot on the back edge, with a PVC pipe or wooden dowel across the upper back (as in a squat). The player will then lower the back knee to touch the tape behind the front foot. Perform the test on both sides, up to three times. Scoring is as follows:
Criteria
Pass
Fail
What is Tested
Feet stay pointing straight and on tape
Ankle Mobility
Back knee touches tape behind front heel
Hip Extensor Strength (Front Leg)
Minimal to no upper body movement
Hip Flexor Flexibility
PVC pipe stays parallel to ground, doesn’t dip left or right
Balance/Hip Stabilizers
Back hip is fully extended in bottom position
Hip Flexor/Quad Flexibility
Note any left-right imbalances an athlete may have and be sure to dedicate time to correcting them. These are more important than bilateral deficits because inefficiency on one side of the body is more likely to result in microtrauma.
Flexibility Tests – These are pretty standard flexibility tests that will determine any tight muscles that require additional attention. This is a very basic group of tests, namely for ease of use by a coach looking to assess multiple athletes in a limited amount of time. The three tests focus on the muscles of the leg, and are to be used in conjunction with the above mobility tests to determine program requirements
Thomas Test – Have an athlete lay supine on a training table, with edge of table at the bottom of the athlete butt. Have the athlete raise one knee and pull it to his/her chest. If the down leg raises, this shows a tightness in the hip flexors. Test both sides.
Quad Test – With the athlete laying prone on a training table, the coach will passively flex one of his/her knees, testing ROM of the knee. If the heel can touch the athlete’s butt, it is above average, within two inches is average, and if the heel can’t come within two inches, it shows tightness in the quadriceps. This is not a stretch, the coach only goes until there is resistance within the muscle.
Straight Leg Raise – With the athlete lying supine on the table, the coach will raise one leg, bracing the other above the knee. 80-90 degrees is above average, 70-80 degrees an average score, and below 70 degrees shows tightness in the hamstrings.
Achilles Test – Have the athlete stand with the balls of their feet elevated 2” (a 2×4 works well) with heels on the ground. The athlete will then flex their knees, pushing them forward as far as they can while keeping their heels flat on the ground. This is not a squat, the athlete doesn’t need to go very low, just enough to push the knees forward, there shouldn’t be more than 6” of vertical displacement. If the athlete is able to get his/her knees 2” past their toes, they score an above average, 0-2” is average, if they can’t get their knees to their toes, this shows a tightness in the Achilles tendon and soleus muscle.
Shoulder/Chest Flexibility – Begin with the athlete standing with shoulders abducted to 90 degrees and elbows flexed at 90 degrees (as if signaling a made field goal). The athlete will pull his/her elbows back as far as possible, maintaining a straight upper body and 90 degree angles at the shoulders and elbows, with forearms perpendicular to the ground throughout the test. Elbows should go back symmetrically. Any left-right difference should be addressed. If neither elbow can move backwards 2” or more, both sides should be addressed.
Performance
Because of the wide array of test scores in performance testing, many of the following tests will not have grades assigned. There are too many factors in play that have a greater impact on the results than the athlete’s readiness to train (such as age, gender, height, weight, etc.) and these fluctuate drastically from year to year, athlete to athlete. Instead, these tests will help track progress (or regression) over the course of the season, and help establish individuals’ strengths and weaknesses.
Vertical Jump – Use a Vertec or a jump mat if you have one. Begin with both feet on the ground and perform a countermovement jump. Three attempts and record the highest mark.
Standing Broad Jump – Lay a tape measure out flat and have the athlete line up toes at 0. Jump using both legs at the same time and mark where the heels land. The mark only counts if the athlete sticks the landing. Three attempts and record the best mark. If an athlete is unable to jump as far as he/she is tall, then plyometric exercises should be avoided until they improve their leg strength.
Pro Agility Drill – Set up three cones in a straight line, 5 yards apart. Have the athlete begin in a three-point stance in line with the middle cone. The athlete will start on his/her own and sprint to the left cone, to the cone on the far right, then back through the middle. Time will start at first movement and stop when the athlete breaks the plane of the middle cone the second time. Three attempts are allowed, recording the fastest time.
Push Up Test – Have the athlete perform as many push ups in 30 seconds as possible. Female athletes may perform the tests in a kneeling position in place of a regular push up. For a repetition to count, the elbows must go through a 90 degree range of motion.
Chin Up Test – This test can be conducted one of two ways. For the first method, have the athlete perform as many chin ups as possible without rest. The player should use a supinated grip with hands shoulder width apart. Only full repetitions count (a full repetition being when the athlete clears the bar with his/her head and reaches at least 120 degrees at the elbow at the bottom of the repetition). If an athlete is unable to do one repetition (or is noticeably apprehensive about attempting), then he/she can perform a timed hold at the top position (with head above the bar). The total time in seconds becomes the athlete’s recorded score. When retested, the athlete should attempt to perform full chin ups to see if enough progress has been made to complete full repetitions.
After completing this assessment, the player and coach will be made aware of any deficits or imbalances that will need to be addressed with the training program.
Friday, I will cover what considerations will need to be taken into account when designing a training program for players, as well as provide an example outline and suggested exercises.
If you have any questions regarding the assessment or any of the tests, please don’t hesitate to contact me
All the best,
Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW
480-241-4112
HenleySportsPerformance.blogspot.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley
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