Accommodating Resistance

Chains and other forms off accommodating resistance can be used for more then just speed work. The most important thing is stressing movement patterns and chasing the adaptation, not necessarily the specific exercise you chose.

In this case the instability of the chains add a shoulder stability component that stresses the rotator cuff in a way that regular bench press won’t. Plus it’s a nice change a pace and challenge for athletes.

Shown is 100 w/ 32lbs of chains.

1-Leg Hang Clean?

“The most dangerous phrase in the language is “we’ve always done it this way.” – Grace Hopper

Hockey, more specifically the skating stride, is essentially a single leg sport/movement. As a result, we tend to think 1-leg plyo’s are important/beneficial. We tend to think 1-leg strength exercises are important/beneficial. So why wouldn’t we think that 1-leg Olympic lifts are important/beneficial?

Yes, we do appear to not get as much triple extension when compared to traditional 2-leg hang cleans, but is the point of Olympic lifting to create full hip extension or to create the power to move a load at a high rate of speed? Though both are important, I’d argue it’s more important to create the power to move a load at a high rate of speed.

Additionally, I’d argue that there are also many added benefits to the 1-leg clean that you don’t get with a traditional 2-leg clean, like;

✅ Uni-lateral power production
✅ Uni-lateral lower body force absorption when landing in one leg
✅ Uni-lateral core force absorption when landing on one leg
✅ Potential increase in the rate of force production

Don’t be afraid to think differently. Following the herd often just leads to the slaughter house.

The New KISS Principle

“KISS. Keep It Simple & Safe.” – Joe Kenn, Strength Coach, Carolina Panthers

As a strength coach you should ask yourself one simple question; what is the best exercise(s) to SAFELY get the adaptation that you are after? Whatever the answer is, do that.

For many of the athletes I work with it’s very simple and there is always a reason for the things that we do or don’t do. There is a ‘why’ for everything that we do. Our ‘whys’ also change depending on who we are working with. Training an overhead athlete is different from training a hockey player. Additionally, depending on the time of the year and the injury trends and demands that a specific sport we might change what we do. The ‘what’ part of our ‘why’ changes at this point.

“Don’t fit athletes into programs, fit programs to athletes.” – Eric Cressey

We also choose exercise/movements that train the quality we want, trying to get the biggest return on investment as we can without burying an athlete. This is especially true during the in-season period. Charlie Weingroff wrote something along these lines called The Concept of Lowest System Load. Essentially, Charlie advises to pick movements that train the adaptation that you are after while keeping the stress to the system as minimal as possible, if you can.

“The point of lifting weights is to force stress into movement patterns.” – Gray Cook

A few real world examples of this;

Volleyball
For our volleyball team the majority of our lower body work revolves around a handful of lifts. Without a doubt the Dead Lift is the lower body lift that we will push the most from a strength perspective. Yes, we focus more on the dead lift then we do the squat. For starters, many overhead athletes don’t have the requisite shoulder mobility to place a bar on their back. Second, if you analyze the dead lift what you will see is a bilateral hip hinge. Sport = hip hinging. If you ask an athlete to show you their best vertical or broad jump but stop them in the bottom of the movement before they actually jump, you will see a perfect hip hinge 99% of the time. Another benefit to dead lifting is that it demands the athlete be strong in their upper back and works on grip strength, something that an overhead athlete like a volleyball player will benefit from. Additionally, the Trap Bar has the lower barrier of entry when compared to a bilateral squat or a straight bar dead lift. We train the adaptation we are after, in a simple and safe way.

Women’s Hockey
In the off-season the RFE Split Squat is our biggest lower body lift with women’s hockey. However, once we reach the in-season we slowly get away from the movement as it demands a high degree of hip flexion. Deep hip flexion is something that many hockey players don’t handle well especially in-season when skating has picked up due to FAI issues. Even if RFE Split Squat is something that the athlete can handle during the in-season period, it’s a very demanding lift that can really chew someone up. At this point we will toss the RFESS out and focus more on 1-Leg Squats, Split Squats, Dead Lifting. These exercises the require much less hip flexion to perform properly and as a result are much more user friendly for a hockey player in-season.

The moral of the story is this; remember what is really important and how you can be the biggest asset to your teams/athletes as possible. The number one reason athletes come to the weight room is to develop physically in order to reduce the potential for injuries – and no one should ever get hurt in the weight room.

“Getting hurt training to not get hurt is as stupid as it sounds.” – Mike Boyle

Yes, there are certain qualities that we as strength coaches and sport performance coaches need to develop in our athletes. It is our job to not only help to develop strong athletes that are able to perform well on the field/court/ice, but our job is to build resilient athletes that can withstand the rigors of their sport. Because of this, we need to pick exercises/movements that will not only train the quality that we are trying to develop, but pick exercises/movements that will develop these qualities in the safest manner possible. The best teams at the end of the year are usually teams that have their best players playing.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Frontal Plane Power Development

“Power development is extremely plane-specific.” – Eric Cressey

Research has shown that sagittal plane power production doesn’t carryover to frontal/transverse/rotational power nearly as much as people would like to think. To develop power outside of the sagittal plane and have it carryover to sport, you need to specifically train it.

The sport of hockey is a great example of this. The skating stride in hockey is a frontal plane dominant movement that is extremely single leg in nature. Goalies live in the frontal plane by explosively going post to post.

So how do you develop this hockey specific/frontal plane power? It’s not rocket science  train both frontal plane power and single leg strength.

Frontal plane power: Lateral bounds

One of the ways we training frontal plane power is through a simple lateral bound. The lateral bound allows for specific frontal plane power development, something that you don’t get from traditional power exercises like cleans or snatches.

Frontal plane power: Cross-Behind Side Toss

You can also develop a great deal of power outside of the sagittal plane with medicine ball work. Generally speaking, many different med ball exercises are phenomenal for developing power in non-traditional ways. A Med Ball Side Toss are great at accomplishing this.

Single leg strength: 1-leg Squat

Finally, single leg exercises are also key when developing strength and power in the frontal plane. At first glance, many people believe that single leg exercises are performed in the sagittal plane, but in reality you are asking the hip to perform quite a bit of stabilization in both the frontal and transverse plane. A true single leg exercise like the 1-leg squat (completely unsupported) or split squat variations (single leg supported) are two of my favorite single leg exercises.

Our ‘Core’ Training

Our ‘core’ training. No crunches. No sit ups. No leg lifts. No quick “core/ab” session to start or finish a workout.

We use exercises that resist extension, flexion and rotation, loaded carries (suitcase/farmers) and get ups. We use exercises that demand core stability not core strength, exercises where the goal is to not move the presence of movement…which is the same demand placed on the core during sport.

Like everything else we do, the overall goal is that these exercises will help build a resilient athlete that can withstand the demands of an entire season…then we progress the exercise in some way each week.

Top Left: DB Plank Row
Top Right: Anti-Rotation/Belly Press
Bottom Left: Body Saw
Bottom Right: KB Drag