1-Leg Linear Hurdle Hop Progression

The goal of our ‘plyometric’ program is to first teach the athlete jumping and landing skills before we progress to what most people would consider true plyometrics. We prioritize eccentric stability before we worry about power develop ➡️ we prioritize injury prevention over performance.

Phase One: To A Box

The first emphasis is learning to land, absorbing force with your muscles instead of your joints. Learning to land and eccentrically stabilize yourself is critical when reducing potential injuries.

Phase Two: Over Hurdle with a Stick

Hops over a hurdle now adds gravity to the equation making the eccentric demand more challenging as the body gains acceleration on the way down.

Phase Three: Over Hurdle with a Mini-Bounce

Adding a mini-bounce now places an emphasis on switching from a stable eccentric landing to a more explosive concentric action. This also begins to prep an athlete for a continuous hurdle hop.

Phase Four: Continuous Over Hurdle

Finally we perform what looks like more of a traditional plyometric. The athlete now tries to minimize the time spent on the ground, training the more explosive and elastic qualities.

The Importance of In-Season Strength Training

Anyone that has spent a day as a strength and conditioning coach knows very well that in-season training is not high on the list of things to do for both athletes and sport coaches. In-season the strength coach becomes the dentist, someone that no one wants to go see.

In addition to this, during the season athletes seem to always be sore. They spend a lot of time at practice. They travel a lot. School work is starting to pile up. Stress is accumulating from many other places then the weight room.

I get it – they have a lot of demands placed on them and spending 45-60 minutes in the weight room a couple times a week isn’t their idea of time well spent.

To be honest, in-season training is probably undervalued by athletes and sport coaches. Whether they like it or not, in-season training is incredibly important for injury prevention. It’s a necessary evil.

This all begs the question, how should you program in-season? As a strength coach, how should you approach in-season training? Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

Keep Pounding the Basics

Don’t ditch your big rocks in-season. Continue to bench, continue to do your chin-ups, continue hitting their legs hard, and keep progressing your core training. Whatever you believe in, keep believing in it during the in-season. The exercises shouldn’t change, and in most cases, your big rocks should always be your big rocks.

High Intensity, Low Volume

The volume, however, should change. Whatever your big rocks are, limit the amount of sets the athlete is performing but make sure the athletes hit 1-3 heavy sets on those exercises. For example, if you are benching 1-2 warm up sets followed by 1-3 heavy sets is all you need. Believe it or not, this is more then enough to keep your athletes strong and potentially gain a little bit of strength if possible in-season. After warming up, two hard and heavy sets is probably all you really need.

Understand the Athletic Demands Placed on the Athlete

You have to understand the cost of doing business for the specific athletes/sports that you are working with. You need to understand the demands that the sport is requiring of the athlete. For example, if you are working with a jumping athlete (basketball, volleyball, ect.) you would be wise to limit the amount of jumping (maybe more specifically landing) you perform with them in-season. The reality is, they are probably (definitely) doing too much of it as it is through practice and games. Additionally, exercises like hang clean/snatch (and others) may do as much harm as they do good because of the continued pounding on their joints. Does this mean you eliminate these exercises from you program? No, but keep them short and sweet. Additionally, I am a firm believer that Kettlebell Swings are an extremely underrated in-season exercise. They are great for horizontal force production with very little if any pounding on the joints. It’s important to understand who you are working with and program accordingly.

Spend Ample Time on Mobility and/or Tissue Quality

Not stretching is a bad idea. Whatever the sport is there is a good chance that athletes are repeating the same motion over and over again. A perfect example of this is an ice hockey player – they perform the same motion, skating, over and over and over again. As a strength coach you need to spend time trying to balance out what they are doing by attacking it with mobility and tissue quality. Stretching is always time well spent.

“You stretch today to prevent injuries in the future.” – Mike Boyle

Don’t Let Them Get Sore

If your want to lose both your athletes and your sport coach, have your athletes wake up sore the days following their in-season training. When progressing from one exercise to another you have to expect a little bit of soreness, but keep it to as little as possible. The last thing a sport coach wants to hear when they are trying to win games is that their athletes are sore because of their in-season strength program. Cut out isometric and eccentric work, it’s not the time or the place. As previously mentioned, limit the amount of volume by cutting back on the amount of sets performed. They need to still work otherwise you potentially lose strength, but make sure they aren’t sore because of it. In-season may also not be the time to introduce a new exercise, it’s a recipe for being sore the following days.

Don’t Look at the In-Season as a Maintenance Phase

One of the biggest mistakes a strength coach make is looking at the in-season phase as a maintenance phase. Even with the lower volume, with less time spent in the weight room, you need to still be focusing on getting stronger. For example, if you are working with men’s ice hockey and a freshman comes to school with a 135lb bench press, the last thing I would want to do is ‘maintain’ that number throughout the season – the athlete needs to get stronger. Furthermore, if your entire team is losing a certain percentage of their strength in-season it will take you a period of time in the off-season just to get back to square one. Losing strength in-season is the worst case scenario.

Hope that helps!

Random Thoughts: November Edition

Every month I try to put out a post with 10 or so random thoughts in regards to strength and conditioning. Here is the November edition.

1. “If you are bigger and stronger but gave up movement integrity to get there, you’ll end up hurt.” Gray Cook

2. When you are a young coach, don’t worry about what teams you work with, just do a great job with those teams. Worry more about proving your worth and making yourself valuable. Good things will eventually come.

3. There is a strong correlation between the quality of the demo you perform as a coach and how well an athlete performs an exercise. The better you demo, the better they’ll perform the lift. Additionally, it is fair to think that most everyone could demo more.

4. Don’t always fall into sagittal plane exercises. Athletes need more to truly be successful. Get them into the frontal and transverse planes in some way.

5. “Three people that scare me. One, the old fashion guy. Two, the lack of science knowledge guy. Three, the guy who does it the way he did as a player.” Buddy Morris

6. Culture is everything and should be the number one thing you are trying to develop as a leader.

7. Overtraining = injured. Sometimes less is more, especially in-season.

8. Over the course of 12-16 weeks most athletes would benefit from an eccentric or isometric phase in their strength work. Its extremely important for an athlete to be strong more then just concentrically to be successful at their sport and in order for them to stay healthy.

9. A well progressed plyometric program and a well progressed med ball program are huge for athletes. They are both a great way to develop bodyweight/lighter implement power. They are both great for developing power outside of the sagittal plane. Most importantly, they are both huge for injury prevention when progressed well and intelligently.

10. “No one will admit it, but we are hurting more people then every before in the weight room.” Dr. John Rusin. Amen.

Progressions: Hurdle Jump

“We must learn to jump off the ground and properly land on the ground before we attempt to minimize the time spent on the ground.” – Mike Boyle

Most strength programs do a great job at training acceleration through speed work, traditional plyo’s and Olympic lifting, but don’t put the same amount of time and focus on deceleration even though we know deceleration (or the inability to) is typically an underlying cause in most non-contact injuries like an ACL.

One major key to developing more resilient and durable athletes is having a well planned and laid out plyometric progressions that teaches an athlete both jumping and landing skills before getting into what most would consider traditional plyometrics. Doing otherwise might develop an athlete that can jump out of the gym but is at an injury risk due to being unable to absorb force properly.

Our typical Hurdle Jump progression looks like this:

1: Box Jump: The first thing we want to teach someone is to jump and land quietly without any type of reactive component. The athlete should be able to jump and land from the same position. If you can’t do this, you aren’t ready for any of the next steps. If you skip this step you are basically asking to get hurt.

2: Hurdle Jump w/ Stick: A great way to teach an athlete to accept force and land with proper landing mechanics by simply adding the landing from our box jump. It’s extremely important to learn to develop eccentric strength and stability. The goal is to land soft and absorb the ground.

3: Hurdle Jump w/ a mini-bounce: We finally add a reactive portion to the jumping with a mini-bounce. This allows a short contact time with the ground but still not a true traditional plyometric.

4: Continuous Hurdle Jump: Finally what most people would think of as traditional plyometrics. The goal now is to minimize the time spent on the ground while maintaining proper landing mechanics as well as landing quietly.

Don’t be in a rush to get through the progressions so you can get to the most sexy jumping. Build the foundation that will lead to long term success.

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read and Listen To

I hope everyone had a great week – here are a handful of articles and podcasts you can dive into!

Articles

Is The Deadlift the Real King of all Exercises?

3 Things Every Coach Should Learn From Crossfit by Joel Jamieson

5 Ways to Improve Skating Speed by Michael Boyle

15 Static Stretching Mistakes by Eric Cressey

Podcasts

Strength Coach Podcast #194

Gym Laird with Eric Cressey

Google Talks with Gray Cook

Strength Matters with Charlie Weingroff

Enjoy!

Is the Deadlift the real King of all Exercises?

“The risk reward is just in favor of the deadlift over the squat for most people.” – Gray Cook

Sport = hip hinging. Generally speaking, if you ask someone to show you their best vertical or broad jump but have them stop in the bottom position right before they were to jump, they’ll be in a great looking hip hinge – a vertical shin with the hips going backwards and the feet positioned under their hips. Why? Because this is the position where we can generate the most power. That position is a deadlift, and what you see in the deadlift is the universal athletic position.

The deadlift sets the foundation for so many athletic movements and is huge for athletic development. In the deadlift the hips travel backwards (like jumping) whereas when we squat the hips travel straight down.

Two Pre-requisites before allowing someone to deadlifting;

1. Symmetrical 2’s on the ASLR. The ASLR simple shows that our hips can move freely in their path backward amongst other things.
2. A passing toe touch that shows no points of restriction of the posterior chain as well smooth weight shift backward and a graceful bend forward.

Furthermore, we bring the weight up to a level where the athlete has the mobility to control the weight but also allows us to keep the weight heavy and get a large training effect. Don’t try to jam a square peg into a round hole by making everyone pull from the floor.

Random Thoughts: October Edition

Every month I try to put out a post with 10 or so random thoughts in regards to strength and conditioning. Here is the October edition.

  1. As Pablo Picasso famously said, “Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.” Look at every single performer better then you and see what they’ve got that you can use. Then make it your own. Steal without apology.
  2. The most important aspect of strength and conditioning is transfer. If the exercises you are doing isn’t transferring over to the sport your athletes are playing and helping the athletes you coach get better at their sport, it might not be the right exercise.
  3. Our field is notorious for arguing over the best training practices, the value/worth of specific exercises, and basically fighting over who is right and who is wrong on every little detail in the world of sport performance. But in reality, at the end of the day the only thing that really matter are results. Are the athletes you coach healthy, successful at their sport, and getting stronger/better in the weight room and enjoying the time they are spending with you? If the answer is yes to all of those questions, I don’t know how anyone can argue with what it is you are doing.
  4. “The point of lifting weights is to force stress into movement patterns.” Gray Cook
  5. To slightly piggyback off the previous thought , so many people complain about certain exercises that hurt them, aggravate them, or don’t feel great when doing them. Here is a real simple thought: eliminate movements/exercises that bother you. People/coaches are way to stuck on certain exercises and think you ‘have’ to be doing them. Again, the point of lifting weights is to force stress into movement patterns. Train the movement pattern, progress it from week to week, and watch people get better.
  6. If a movement is something that you consider functional and you have athletes getting injured in the weight room, either the movement isn’t really functional, it is being performed with too much external load, or the movement is being performed off of a non-functional base. Either way, you shouldn’t be getting hurt in the weight room.
  7. ‘Why’ should be at the center of your circle, not ‘what’. Think about that when programming.
  8. Hamstring injuries are typically because of one of two things; one, people have a weak anterior core and two, they don’t use their glutes well in conjunction with their hamstrings during movement. Think more anti-extension core work like plank progressions, rollouts, and body saws to improve a weak anterior core. Think tennis ball hip bridge with an exhale to (in through the nose at the bottom, bridge, 5 second exhale at the top of the bridge) to improve rib and pelvic positioning (helping people bridge with the hip as opposed to the low back) along with better core contribution when trying to get the glutes and hamstrings to work more synergistically.
  9. Simplicity and systems make coaching extremely easy. Keeping things simple and having a well thought out system of progressions and regressions makes things work extremely well and smooth.
  10. Force is not just expressed concentrically. Isometric and eccentric strength is critical for overall athletic development – yet is overlooked constantly.

30 Gray Cook Quotes

Anyone that knows me knows that I am a huge fan of Gray Cook – I think the guy is brilliant. Gray is the creator of the FMS, has written a book called Movement, and is generally regarded as one of the leaders in the physical therapy and strength & conditioning professions.

Over the years I have read most of his work and listened to him speak at various conferences and on various podcasts. As a result, I thought it would be good to put together a handful of some good tidbits that have come out of his mouth. Enjoy!

1. First move well, then move often.
2. Exercise is nothing more then stress on an organ.
3. Don’t add strength to dysfunction.
4. Moving isn’t important, until you can’t.
5. Maintain the squat, train the dead lift.
6. Don’t look at my workouts, look at my outcomes.
7. Stabilizers don’t do their job by being strong, they do their job by being fast.
8. If mobility is stiff in one position or pattern but wasn’t in a different position or pattern its not a mobility issue
9. A good leg lower is a precursor to a good dead lift. A good dead lift is a precursor to a good swing.
10. Do what people need, not what they want.
11. The missing link in most strength & conditioning programs are carries.
12. Your brain is too smart to allow you to have full horsepower in a bad body position, it’s called muscle inhibition
13. If you have an issue with your active straight leg raise or shoulder mobility, you don’t have the right to go anywhere else in a corrective strategy. Don’t worry about your squat, clean up the active straight leg raise and shoulder mobility FIRST!
14. When someone leaves your weight room they should have a stamp of durability
15. Don’t rehab the injury, rehab the person.
16. When someone hits the end on a carry, the carry is over because the prime movers can’t take over
17. The best athletes are the ones that can use their resources the most resourcefully
18. Why do you need to screen? Because you need to be in-tune with the group that you are training. Not everyone deserves the same program.
19. 1 in 5 individuals have pain in a movement on the screen – that’s a health problem, not a fitness problem
20. If you can’t do a bodyweight squat or push up you shouldn’t load a squat or a bench press
21. The movement screen won’t change injury rates, it changes the way you train
22. FMS isn’t about decreasing injuries…everything we do should be about decreasing injuries
23. Pain screws everything up.
24. The more complex the movement, the easier it is to find a way to compensate
25. Elevating your heels isn’t just about giving you more ankle mobility, it gives you an anterior weight shift that makes it easier to sit back when you squat.
26. Making people use their stability muscles to keep them stable instead of their global muscles will make a huge difference when it comes to injury prevention
27. Before you worry about adding correctives, stop and figure out why/what you are doing is causing these issues
28. Loaded carries show you the limiting factors with your stabilizers instead of your prime movers – how long can you maintain postural integrity under load.
29. The KB Bottoms Up Press will be huge for shoulder health, integrity and proprioception because it is a self-limiting exercise – if you don’t control the small things you can’t perform the press.
30. The number one risk factor for musculoskeletal injury is a previous injury, implying that our rehabilitation process is missing something.

Overhead Pressing Overhead Athletes?

“Just because an exercise doesn’t hurt it doesn’t mean it’s not causing harm.” Eric Cressey

Would I overhead press an overhead athlete (volleyball in this case) with a barbell or even a dumbbell, even if it is pain free? No, the risk is not worth the reward – your probably playing with fire in the long term when it comes to shoulder health.

Would I do it with a kettlebell? Yes, we do bottoms up all the time and is a staple in our strength program.

Why the Bottoms Up KB Press:

1️) It allows the shoulder to find the path of least resistance. Not all shoulders work the same, especially overhead athletes.
2️) It helps to facilitate more rotator cuff activation. The rotator cuff is a reflex driven group of muscles built for stability, not strength. KB bottoms up press demands stability. If the rotator cuff isn’t stabilizing, the KB will fall over.

3️) It also teaches the core and the shoulder to work together as a unit. If you lose core stability, you’ll again probably lose the kettlebell.

4) Overhead athletes tend to have cranky shoulders with pain in certain positions. Simply flipping the KB over turns a typically painful movement into a non-painful movement. Training through pain is a terrible idea. On the other hand, not training through pain is always a good thing.

4 Quick Thoughts on Coaching

Over the course of the last week I spent some time reading Daniel Coyle’s The Little Book of Talent. The book is essentially 52 different tips that Daniel Coyle has accumulated over the course of his work studying how people that are exceptional talents in their field and what it took for them to get there. This sparked me into thinking what it takes for a coach, more specific a strength coach, to be great at their jobs. Here are four quick thoughts on what it takes to be great in our industry.

Connect
The first thing a coach should try to do is connect with their athletes when they first see them. The field of strength and conditioning is less about science and exercises and more about relationships, connecting with people and earning their trust.

In the world of strength and conditioning connecting with your athletes on a daily basis can be relatively easy. For example, as our athletes walk into the weight room the first thing they do is grab a foam roller to foam roll and then go through a series of stretches and mobility drills – this is a perfect and easy time to coach less and connect more. You have to show that you care before you teach and/or coach.

Be Quick & Direct
When it comes to actually giving direction make it short, sweet and direct. No one wants to hear a long winded speech or some long description of the exercise or exercises that you are about to perform – plus we know attention spans leave a lot to be desired. Explain it and explain it quickly. Explain it to them in a direct manner. John Wooden was known to show something correctly, then not what to do, then show it correctly again – a shit sandwich. Do this, not this, do this is what Coach Wooden’s philosophy was. Be quick, direct and to the point as often as you can.

Aim to be Useless
At the end of the day, I want the athletes I work with to be able to do exactly what I want, with great form/technique, without me standing by their side taking them through it. I should be able to sit there and watch them take themselves through the program and do it 95% correctly. Why do I aim for this and essentially make myself useless? Because this means I have done a great job of teaching them what they need to do to be successful and how they should be doing it. Is this every going to happen? Probably not as programs continue to evolve as we learn more about the human body as well as a new set of freshman coming into the program every year, but its still a goal that I keep in the back of my mind.

Catch People Doing the Right Thing
As coaches we are essentially around to help athletes improve both as athletes and as people. In doing so we spend a ton of time correcting what it is that they are doing wrong. If you are coaching a big group like a football team, you know you can literally walk around from platform to platform correcting something – and this is a good thing. However, I think as coaches we don’t spend enough time praising things that athletes are doing well. As hard as you work to fix things