The Daemon Vs The Resistance

‘Linchpin’, written by Seth Godin, is a book I wish every high school and college student in America would read.

It talks about how to achieve greatness in any field while navigating through the challenges of our 21st Century world.

In one critical part of the book, Godin talks about how we all struggle with the internal battle between the daemon and the resistance:

“The Daemon is a Greek term (the Romans called it a ‘genius’).  They believed the daemon was a separate being that lived inside of us.  The genius living inside of us would struggle to express itself in art, writing , or any other endeavor.”

The daemon’s enemy is the resistance.  It will invent stories, illnesses, emergencies, and distractions in order to keep the genius bottled up.  

The resistance is afraid.   Afraid of what will happen to you (and to it) if your genius gets out, if your gifts are received, if the magic happens.

You know the resistance is there.  You’ve felt it.

The resistance is nefarious and clever.  It creates diseases, procrastination, and most especially rationalization.  Lots and lots of rationalization, some of which you may be experiencing right now.”

I’m sure you can relate to this as well as I can.

Everyone has some type of genius skills within them, whether they be academic, athletic, artistic, or any other form.

And it can be scary to let it out, because we are all hard wired with this ‘resistance’ feeling deep inside of us.  For millions of years it was necessary for human survival.

When taking this concept specifically to athletic development, it is my firm belief that for every 1 athlete who reaches an elite level in their sport, there were at least 100 others who could have been just as good.

So what happened to everyone who didn’t make it?

They all gave in to the resistance.

They allowed it to create endless distractions in their lives.

It made them consistently take time off to attend to an endless series of minor ailments & illnesses for months and sometimes even years.

It let others cause them to lose faith in themselves.

It told them it was OK to put off until tomorrow, next week, next season, next year, what they should have been working towards right now.

And then it rationalized all these decisions so that it all made sense in their head, that never letting their genius shine had a perfectly defensible explanation.

If you know you have something better inside you than what is currently showing today, and you only need to continue developing that genius skill in order for it to flourish, then stand up to the resistance

Fight through all the things that knock everyone else off course, despite that powerful voice telling you its OK to give in this time.

Because once you start standing up to the resistance some of the time, it begins to weaken.  And before you know it, the daemon starts winning the battle.

And you will have overcome the largest obstacle on your way to reaching your true potential.

(‘Linchpin’  can be found at many online bookstores, including here: Amazon.com )

Filters To Athletic Success

Back in my college days I remember one of our engineering labs using this giant machine to filter sediment.

Essentially what it did was, after we’d pour a mixture of dirt and rocks into the top of the machine, separate the pieces by size.  It did this by falling through a series of grated trays, each one with progressively smaller holes than the one above it.

The bigger rocks would catch and stay on the top filter, the next biggest pieces would catch on the next one, and so on.  So the only sediment that made it through all the filters were the finest grains of sand.

In many ways, this is similar to how athletic development sorts itself out over time.  Each level of success seems to have its own key filters as kids go from youth leagues to high school, college and beyond.

Not every sport is exactly the same, but there are some clear filters to athletic success that span over a large number of them.   There are certain ‘big rocks’ that need to come first for early success, with a series of more refined skill sets that are necessary as you climb the ladder over time.

Parents and coaches who are drowning in the sea of athletic opportunity for their young athletes these days should keep in mind that what your kids need at different age levels will vary, but those needs are often more predictable than you think.

 

The Biggest Rock – General Coordination and Movement Skills

Go to any youth sports league and watch the kids who rise above the rest.  Almost certainly it will the the ones who have the best coordination.  They can shoot balls or pucks with more accuracy, square up on fastballs better in baseball or softball, and do many other skills that require basic coordination better than their age-level peers.

Coordination in running technique will also allow them to move better too, making the need to develop more fluid and athletic movements the first filter to reaching success in sports.

The early years where this dominates will last somewhere until around 10-12 years old.

 

The 2nd Biggest Rock – Bodyweight Strength & Its Impact On Speed

At the next level you’ll find that most every top player has passed through the coordination filter, so now the ability to cover more ground will take on greater importance.

Passing through this filter is a bit trickier, because it could be a need for strengthening, weight management, or both.

Poor nutrition habits or a lack of activity outside of their sport may lead to problems with excess weight gain.

Alternately, some kids grow taller at a rapid rate but their strength levels do not keep pace.  This creates a scenario where they will appear to play slower in relation to peers who used to be equal or behind them speed-wise.

These concerns typically first maifest themselves during the middle school years, and based on sports dropout and obesity rates for this age level, it is the hardest filter for young athletes to pass through.

 

The 2nd Smallest Rock – Technical Movement, Strategic, and Sport-Specific Skills

With initial speed, strength and coordination needs met at this point, most kids will find that the technical side of athletics begins to take on more and more importance.

Team strategies and playing beyond oneself become more essential as athletes seek to thrive in the systems of established high school or AAU programs.

More refined sport-specific skills (puck handling, dribbling, passing, etc), forged through countless hours of practice are necessary to separate a player from all the other coordinated, fast kids at this stage.

And as the game once again speeds up, more advanced speed & agility technique provides another critical advantage for those who wish to slip through to the next filter.

 

The Smallest Rock – Body Composition & Power Maximization

Regardless of sport or gender, the clear trend in athletics over the last 20 years is for bigger and stronger athletes to reach the pinnacle of success.

What makes this such an elite challenge is that getting bigger and more powerful cannot interfere with the coordination, flexibility, or speed skills previously built.    This is an incredibly fine line to walk.

And when you add in that you’ll have to have your nutrition and recovery streamlined as well, succeeding at this stage requires an almost round-the-clock commitment to success.

 

Keep in mind that none of the previous filters ever go away completely, in fact often times they require advanced strategies too as you reach higher on the ladder of athletic success.

But the biggest takeaway for coaches and parents is that every piece of the athletic puzzle has its time and place, and there are different areas that are most likely to cause challenges for your kids to be addressed at each level.

Those who take a smarter long-term approach are far more likely to see the ultimate success they dream of.

Is It Really Speed That You Need?

In talking to prospective new participants in our youth training programs, I’d say about 90% of the time they immediately mention speed as a skill they want to improve on.

Without a doubt speed is a critical piece of the puzzle in most sports.  Typically it is one of the bigger factors in players moving up the ladder of athletic success as they get to high school and beyond.

But is speed development as it is typically understood (“Go run sprints!”) what you should focus your time and energy on?

In many cases there are other ways for younger athletes to get faster.

Unfortunately being fast is a more complex skill to develop.

If you want to be more flexible, you stretch.

If you want to get stronger, you lift weights or something else that provides resistance.

But for speed, there is a set of ‘puzzle pieces’ that have to be put together.  And without all the pieces in place, you’ll never see the complete picture.

The Speed Puzzle Pieces:

  • Fast Twitch Muscle Fiber Ratio.  There are different types of muscle fibers (Type I and Type II plus some subcategories), Type I designed for endurance and Tyle II for faster, short duration movements.  People have different percentages of each, and much of this is genetically determined.However, there is much evidence now to support the fact that explosive training exercises (Olympic Lifting, plyometrics, quickfoot drills, etc) can expand your Type II fiber capability, improving your ability to accelerate.
  • Strength To Body Mass Ratio.  By either getting stronger without gaining more size, or by getting leaner without losing strength, you can make yourself faster.   In pro sports you typically see the ‘get leaner’ side of this equation when players come back faster, but in younger athletes it is usually the ‘get stronger’ side that has the greatest impact.
  • Foot skill Technique.  There is a definite technical element to sprinting and cutting most effectively.  Often times there are a handful of mistakes a slower athlete is constantly making that limits their ability to cover more ground.  By identifying and eliminating these footwork errors, speed improves.
  • Being Active.   Sometimes it is as simple as getting out and running, either in a team setting or practicing on your own.  History has shown that the most active people, especially when younger, grow up to be faster than those who are less active.
  • Flexibility.  This helps in two main ways.  First, it will allow you to maximize the distance you cover with each stride so you get from Point A to Point B in fewer steps.  Second, it allows you to better position your hip level to create a ‘load & explode’ aspect to your change-of-direction ability.
  • Stability.  Probably the most overlooked part of speed development, and likely why youth sports injury rates continue to climb, as well.  Being stable in your ankle and hip joints, plus being able to control your upper body movements with a stable core, will let you maximize the speed and power you currently possess.
  • Coordination.  An athlete who can skip well is almost certain to have great arm drive in their sprint technique, while those who struggle with skips and other basic coordination skills are most likely going to play unathletically, too.This is compounded by the fact that when kids are growing their limb lengths constantly change, making coordination come and go.  But consistent work on many basic movement skills can accelerate the coordination development learning curve.

Can you see where your current gaps are?

Every athlete who knows they need to improve their speed is deficient in at least one of these areas, possibly even a majority of them.

For some people it will be as simple as going out and running sprints, but in many cases there are other pieces to connect that will provide much greater impact.

Many of these components require a lower amount of energy to develop, like coordination, flexiblity, footskill technique and stability.  They are things you can work on year-round even if you are already active and playing sports most of the time.

Just remember that with the complexity of speed development it is important to understand that patience and persistence are critical to long-term success.  There just isn’t an overnight solution to it.

However, when you find your real needs and begin hammering away at them, you’ll see progress that can’t ever be taken away from you.  And all the kids who only went out to run some sprints (or did nothing at all) will be left scratching their heads at how you can now blow by them on the field!

Important New Feature For All Of Our Athletes

We are always looking to give our athletes the greatest advantage in their workout programs compared to their competition, and recently we’ve added a new feature that we believe will do exactly that.

 

This past week we have concluded our first season of performance combine testing in our group personal training classes.  Using tests commonly run at college and pro prospect combines held around the country, we now have a system in place to accurately track changes in both our middle school and high school athletes.

 

Testing can be time consuming and a bit boring, but the benefits are just too great to pass up.  Consider all that our athletes will gain from this new system:

 

  • It allows us to accurately track your improvement in a range of skills (balance, flexiblity, speed, agility, strength, power) over time, to see where you are getting better and where you have hit a plateau.

 

  • We can use this information to create even more targeted workouts for each participant in our program, speeding up your results on the field, ice, or court.

 

  • With such a large part of our population in the growth spurt stage, we can see how movement skills change and stay ahead of some common issues that cause injury at the high school and college levels.

 

  • Since we took commonly used tests, it gives our kids a window into where they rank vs. elite competition from around the country.  As an example, if one of our athletes runs the Pro I agility test in under 4 seconds they will know they have developed elite level speed and cutting skills compared to anyone, anywhere, in any sport.

 

  •  It will teach our kids that talent is earned, and nothing stays the same over time.  Hard work and smart programming will lead to improvements in specific areas of need, while a step back in intensity or poor planning can show you very quickly that there is no guarantee you’ll become the complete athlete you hoped to be.

 

Between this tracking system and our Champion skills development system, I am very excited to tell you that every single athlete working with us now has a clear and comprehensive road map for their long-term development.

 

How To Become A Complete Athlete

Kids come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities.

Some make huge progress in their sports over time, but others do not.

Many have the drive to succeed but get frustrated over time because they don’t see progress in their performance.

Unfortunately, becoming what we refer to as a ‘Complete Athlete’ has many facets.  It’s not as easy as everyone going out and taking a few more shots or doing a few more pushups to reach the top.

But if there is an overall formula for excelling in athletics over time, it would be this:

STEP 1 – Honestly assess what your strengths and weaknesses are as an athlete/teammate

STEP 2 – Work diligently do shore up all of your weaknesses

STEP 3 – Continue to work on growing your strengths, especially those that will allow you to achieve high levels of success in your specific sport or activity.

Simple, right?

No one can do Steps 2 & 3 for you, but to complete the first step you’ll need to know all the variables that come together to create the Complete Athlete.

So here is your comprehensive checklist, broken down by category, of all the attributes you’ll need to become elite in almost any sport.

PERFORMANCE SKILLS
The more glamorous category of physical skills typically advanced through training.

STRENGTH –Just about every sport these days emphasizes getting stronger more than ever before.  Why? Because strength leads to being faster and more powerful, plus it will help you play a more physical game.

POWER – Explosive bursts are what sports are all about – kicking, throwing, shooting in stick sports, and many other movements require a potent combination of speed and strength.

SPEED – The faster players and teams cover more ground and make more plays.  This is the most coveted skill by scouts and coaches, although it is important to remember it is still just one of many pieces of the puzzle.

AGILITY – Cutting skills, often going hand in hand with speed but has more technical parts to it than simply sprinting.  Not to mention you can add defensive footwork skills like shuffling, crossover runs, and backpedals here too.

BALANCE/COORDINATION – An underlying group of skills that is best described as being ‘athletic’ in your movements.  Balance and coordination are key factors in helping you make jaw-dropping moves while also keeping you injury resistant.

SPORT SPECIFIC CONDITIONING – You need to be in good enough shape to play a complete game consistently throughout the season.  This varies widely by sport, as a soccer player needs more continuous conditioning compared to the stop and start sports like baseball and softball.

 

SKILL DEVELOPMENT
The actual skills you need to express your athleticism.

GENERAL – Running, skipping, jumping, throwing, catching, kicking, spinning and all the other fundamental movement skills.  This wide range of general skills is best developed by age 13.

SPORT SPECIFIC – The skills you’ll need to put your 10,000 hours of practice in to as you get older.  It could be chipping if you’re a golfer, taking slap shots for hockey, or free throws for basketball.  There are too many to list here.

 

INJURY RESISTANCE
Does it really matter how good you are if you’re always hurt?
(Likely the most neglected category in sports right now at all levels.)

MOBILITY – Can your arms, legs, and upper torso move through full ranges of motion?  If not you may be susceptible to deceleration injuries as you become more powerful, as your body has less time to ‘brake’ before coming to a complete stop.

TISSUE QUALITY – Muscles and other connective tissue lose their elasticity due to intense exercise, which can come from workouts or the demands of in-season game/practice schedules.  Any type of soft-tissue massage, typically from a foam roller or massage specialist, allows joints to continue to move through full ranges of motion and receive the vital nutrients they need to regenerate.

STABILITY – Sometimes you need to be able to resist motion in order to avoid moving too far.  Particularly through your midsection, lower legs and shoulders, creating maximum stability without sacrificing mobility will lower your injury risk.

SYMMETRY – Other than having a previous injury, the greatest predictor of your future injury risk is an imbalance of strength and/or flexibility from one side of your body to the other.  Imbalances are trainable when workouts are designed properly.

 

MENTAL PROFILE (definitions from Jeremy Boone’s Athlete Mindset course)
The intangible category that is impossible to improve unless you are willing to confront your weaknesses.

SELF CONFIDENCE – Do you believe in yourself and your ability to achieve your goals?

FOCUS – How well do you maintain concentration on the details of the task at hand?

COMPETITIVE FIRE – Is your desire to succeed greater than your fear of failure?

SELF DISCIPLINE – How well do you adhere to a practice and training routine to control your behavior and desires in order to achieve your goals?

SELF MOTIVATION – What is the quality of your present desire to improve?

COACHABILITY – How well do you take instruction from those who can help you raise your game?

GAME INTELLIGENCE – How well do you understand the tactical aspects of your sport, and position?

MENTAL TOUGHNESS – Do you have the ability to cope with the present in order to accomplish your future objectives?

TEAM PLAYER – Do you put the team’s needs ahead of your own when necessary?

PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY – How well do you face up to and address your personal strengths & weaknesses?

 

PHYSICAL PROFILE
Often times the hardest to change, but can be adapted to better fit your sport and position.

HEIGHT – Other than nutrition factors in your younger years, this is pretty much out of your control.  But it should match the demands of your sport.  If you’re 7’ tall your odds of excelling in basketball are much better than in gymnastics.

WEIGHT – Through proper eating and training you can gain or lose weight to match the needs of your sport and position.  However, some of this is genetically determined…not everyone can become an NFL lineman.

BODY COMPOSITION – Going hand in hand with weight is the ratio of muscle to fat that you carry, and is also adaptable based on nutrition and training.  Most roles in sports, but not all, require you to be lean in order maintain your speed and conditioning.

 

Do you see where your strengths for your sport & position lie?

These are the things that are fueling your current athletic success, but for now they should not be the primary focus  of your training and development time.

 

Can you identify 3 to 6 areas from this list where improvement would raise your game?

Be honest and face up to those needs.

Then go out and start working on them!

Excellence Or Mediocrity?

We will relentlessly chase perfection, knowing we’ll never reach it,
because in the process we’ll catch excellence
.’
- Vince Lombardi

Training programs for young athletes have certainly caught on nationwide, fueling not just programs like ours but also team-wide and even school-wide development programs.

This can add another advantage for athletes who have the opportunity and desire to use it for improvement.

But with the onslaught of coaches at all our local schools trumpeting the ‘you better get in the weight room!’ approach, it might be a good time to step back for a second and ask what is being accomplished by it all.

More specifically, is your program leading to excellence?

It’s easy to say yes to that question with teams or schools touting the number of wins they had last season, or the weights their kids can lift, or how many kids are ‘voluntarily’ taking part in off-season training.

But developing excellence is about far more than winning records, or a 300 lb bench, or anything like that.

Excellence is a habit, a way of approaching everything you do in order to maximize the opportunities at hand. And because it’s a habit, it spreads to other aspects of life, like academics and job performance.

Training programs, for all their physical benefits, are even more effective at instilling the habits of excellence.

  • They can teach you to find a way to get a little better today than you were yesterday, and give you a blueprint to know how exactly you can do it.
  • It can help you develop an almost obsession-like approach to perfecting every last detail of a skill..
  • They can teach you to become fully immersed in the task at hand.
  • It can show you immediate benefits to being receptive to coaching advice from those whose experience can speed up your path to the top.
  • They can help you find the courage to work on the things that are hard for you, taking risks by stepping out of your comfort zone and expanding your abilities.

 

Having been a strength coach for over 16 years, my biggest concern with teams and schools implementing workout programs right now is not that kids will get injured, because weight training is a relatively safe activity compared to most sports.

My concern is that these programs are instilling the habits of mediocrity in our local athletes, when so many have the potential to reach far, far higher.

Based on feedback from hundreds of kids over the years (and having coached in high school weight rooms for many years myself), typically they are more about:

  • Training with friends while ½ focusing on training and ½ focusing on social issues.
  • Following workouts targeting just a small handful of skills (guaranteed to revolve around bench pressing and squatting while avoiding the other 95% of athletic needs)
  • Athletes not taking small steps forward every day. Or worse, taking too big of a step forward too quickly in the pursuit of instant gratification.
  • A complete lack of attention to detail in the execution of lifts.

Every coach, athlete and parent wants to experience success, to be on top. But very few actually achieve it.

With the ups and downs of a sports season it can often be hard to tell if a team is on the road to greatness, or not.

History shows us who has mastered the habits of excellence with their teams, and where it took them.

Football coach Vince Lombardi, quoted earlier, certainly did. So did legendary basketball coach John Wooden.

Wooden won 10 NCAA National Championships in just a 12 year period. Yet his focus was always on attention to detail, running highly structured practices that were all about habit-building.

As Coach Wooden said himself,

It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen. 

Every practice, training session, game, or other performance-related event we ask our young athletes to take part in should always be judged on one simple question:

Did that lead me and our team closer to excellence, or mediocrity?

When you can honestly answer ‘excellence’ to that question on a regular basis, good things will happen over time.

When Sports Drinks Help & When They Don’t

Sports drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, etc) have become so popular, especially among kids, that to some they are part of their daily diet.   This is an incredible transformation for a beverage that was originally created for performance under the most extreme circumstances.

Certainly there are times that its use is critical for both performance and energy levels.  Hopefully the recommendations below will help you see when it is the right time to turn to a sports drink, and when it isn’t.

When Sports Drinks Help  

Sports drinks are essentially a supplement, something you add to your diet when you are running low on a specific nutrient.

For example, if you lack Vitamin B12 in your diet, a B12 supplement will give you more energy.  If you don’t eat enough protein, a protein shake or bar will speed up recovery and growth.  But without the deficiency, the supplement will do absolutely nothing for you.

Sports drinks are a supplement that quickly re-stocks your glycogen (i.e. sugar) and electrolyte (mostly sodium) supplies when you are exhausted.  Used at the right time, it can re-energize an exhausted athlete or exerciser.

Those times usually happen when:

- You exercise or play a sport for more than 60 minutes straight.

- You exercise or play a sport multiple times in the same day (sports tournaments are a perfect example)

- You are outside on a hot, sunny day for an extended period of time.

When Sports Drinks Do Not Help  

They are not a substitute for fresh fruit or even juice (fresh fruit is better), as it has no other nutritional value.

You will not become super-hydrated by drinking them in excess.  Your best bet to stay fully hydrated is to eat right and drink the real ‘sports drink’ (see below) all day long.

More simply, sports drinks do not help AT ALL unless you have already been active for a long period of time, and/or are in extremely hot weather.

Which means consuming a sports drink usually does nothing for you other than add more sugar and sodium to a diet that is likely too full of both already.

Why?  Your body is already excellent at converting food to glycogen, and as Americans our diets are already filled with sodium.

The only remaining ingredient in a sports drink is the liquid part, which is the part you should be consuming instead of that sports drink…

Water  (If you’ve trained with us before, I’m sure you saw that coming…).

Can You Touch Your Toes? Why It Matters

‘I’m not flexible at all, I can’t even touch my toes!’

There are many facets of total-body flexibility, but this one example seems to have become the universal test for whether a person is or is not flexible.  It is so common that most people reading this probably already know if they can touch their toes or not.

Why should you care?  I mean, many great athletes struggle to do it.  Many very out-of-shape people can without any problem at all.

Well, it definitely matters, but not quite how you think.

WHY TOUCHING YOUR TOES MATTERS FOR ATHLETES

One of the tests we use in our initial assessments is the Active Straight Leg Raise, where you lie on your back and raise one leg without letting the other move at all.  This is essentially touching your toes, except you bring your toes to your hand instead of the other way around.

Strength coach Jared Woolever explains the value of this test very well.

He says, “The Active Straight Leg Raise is looking to see if you can control your spinal position while you flex (bend) one hip with the opposite hip staying in extension (straightened). This is exactly what running is, except on the ground. When we run, one of our feet will strike the ground, apply force into the ground, and finally transfer the force from the ground into speed by extending through the ankle, knee, and hip simultaneously. In order to be fast, we need to be able to flex one hip while keeping the other in extension without moving the spine.

If the athlete has a straight leg raise dysfunction, they will have a difficult time moving from the hips without losing energy through the lumbar spine. This wasted energy will slow them down, increase the likelihood of an injury, and limit them from using the true potential of their current strength level.”

So really, it is the ability for one leg at a time to move up towards the hands that is the key skill here.   Done lying on your back, it forces the movement to come from the lower body and not your back.

With good control through your core combined with flexible hips and hamstrings, an athlete will maximize their ability to run and jump.

 

WHY TOUCHING YOUR TOES MATTERS FOR AGING ADULTS

Consider these three common dysfunctions older populations face:

- Sciatic nerve pain
- Lower back pain
- Degenerative hip conditions

As we age, both flexibility and postural stability decrease.  This is particularly true either if we are not active, or if we take part in repetitive movements at our jobs or recreational activities (bending down to pick up boxes and distance running are two common examples).  This can create over-tightness in some muscles that are used all the time, while weakening others simultaneously.

The results is not only the flexibility issue, but the secondary effect of the unwanted motion through the lumbar spine, or lower back.  Repetitive, unwanted motion through the same area eventually leads to a breakdown, typically falling under one of the conditions above.  And one of the simplest ways to determine if you are prone to one of these problems is to perform the Active Straight Leg Raise test.

 

WHAT TO DO IF YOU STRUGGLE ON THE ACTIVE STRAIGHT LEG RAISE

Well, you are not doomed!  There are corrective exercises you can do to improve your flexibility and strength in this critical area.

Here are 4 simple suggestions you can do without any equipment:

 

wall hamstring

1. WALL ‘HAMSTRING’ STRETCH
As shown to the left, you’d brace one leg on the edge of a doorway while the other lies on the ground.  Depending on where tightness may come from you could feel this in other places besides your hamstrings.

Keys are to make sure your down leg is fully extended with your toes pointed straight up.  Also make sure you are slowly increasing the angle between the two legs as often as they allow.

You’re looking to achieve 90° of separation between feet…ideally :)

Hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds, performing 1-4 times per leg as needed.

 

 

3d hip flexor2. NASM 3D HIP FLEXOR STRETCH
One of my all-time favorite stretches.  Between sitting and walking the hip flexors, small but powerful muscles on the front of your hip joint, often become extremely tight.  Tightness in these muscles alone can lead to low back pain.

Its a complex stretch, so let’s take it in steps.

1. The stretch starts in the 1/2 kneeling position.
2. Reach back with the arm that is on the same side as your trail leg and lean back with your shoulders (more than this picture shows).
3. Then lean to the side away from your trail leg, and finally
4. Rotate your shoulders opening up towards your trail leg.

Hold each leg for 10-30 seconds, performing 1-4 reps per side.

 

swimmers plank3. MODIFIED SWIMMER’S PLANK
Now we get into the stability side of things.  This drill has levels of difficulty, so start where you can and move up when you need a greater challenge.

LEVEL 1 – Hold a basic pushup position for 30-90 seconds focusing on perfect stability through your midsection

LEVEL 2 – Add alternating single leg extensions (as shown to the left) and hold each for 5 seconds.  Perform 6-12 reps per side

LEVEL 3 – Raise both the leg and opposite arm to create a greater level of instability through your core that you must fight.  Again, hold for 5 seconds and do 6-12 reps per side.

 

1 leg glute bridge

4. GLUTE BRIDGES
Hitting the back side is critical to activating the often underutilized hip muscles, which sometimes cause overtightness in the hamstrings or instability through the core.

Here we’ll start with a 2 legged hip lift, looking to get the hips fully extended at the top and held for 10 seconds.  Do 4-8 reps of this version.

Then move to the 2 leg hip lift with alternating extensions of each leg for a second or two.  Same deal, hips up for 10 sec X 4- reps

Finally, move to the 1 leg hip lift as shown to the left.  Hold for 5 seconds, doing 4-8 reps per leg.

 

The old belief that touching your toes is critical to flexibility is true, but in a slightly different way than you may have guessed.

Being able to do an Active Straight Leg Raise with control and full range of motion will lead to more speed in athletics, and more pain-free living in the long run.

 

 

4 Critical Tips For Pre-Season Conditioning

The time of year where fall sports teams get back on the fields and begin preparations for what hopefully will be a successful season has begun.  Step one for almost every sport is to work on conditioning.

At the younger levels taking a lap and running basic drills constitutes conditioning, but as athletes advance up the ladder the specifics of conditioning take on greater importance.

And coaches who understand how to effectivly create conditioning plans for their teams that revolve around the following 4 principles will not only make their own lives easier, they will see dramatically better results than those who do not.

1. Know Your Athletes Heart Rates

   An athlete doing conditioning may get up to about 95% of their maximum heart rate (roughly 220 beats per minute minus their age), and should recover to about 65-70% before doing their next repetition.  In a perfect world athletes would all wear heart rate monitors and complete conditioning drills when they achieve full recovery.  That is unlikely to happen due to financial reasons, but learning to check your pulse and get an estimated heart rate would be better than not knowing at all.

Coaches can use this information to assess which kids might be at risk for overheating very early in the process, and can avoid potential disasters while also putting those kids on a regimen that will get the ready at a pace that makes more sense for them that day.

2. Recovery Times Are The #1 Factor In Desigining Conditioning Programs
Conditioning drills leading into the season should mostly be done at game speed, with gradually decreasing recovery times in between repetitions.  This means that you are looking to see your athletes get back to their 65-70% range in shorter amounts of time as the days of pre-season go on.  It is important to note that getting your heart rate to drop quicker after a bout of intense exercise is the one and only goal of conditioning.

The exact work and rest times are highly dependent on the way your sport is played.  Baseball, soccer, and football players, for example, should have very different work-to-rest ratios.

3. Gradual Increases Of Intensity Are Crucial To This Process

The human body is an adaptive mechanism, but it takes time for changes to occur.  Fortunately for most young athletes, changes in conditioning take place relatively quickly.  But they do not happen overnight, so coaches need to increase workloads over many days and reduce rest times between bouts progressively.

Crushing kids on Day One to ‘get in shape’ is physiologically impossible, and potentially very dangerous for the kids taking part.  At minimum, you will end up with really sore and sluggish athletes for the next few practices who will learn to hate conditioning and in the long-term will have many more problems maintaining the workloads they’ll need to achieve elite success.

4. Variety avoids overuse problems and increases enthusiasm.

    If you want your players to really dread conditioning, make it repetitive and tedious.  Remember, it’s already a painful and miserable process!

Mix up your drills, move in multiple directions, and make it competitive and fun at times.  Your players may never love conditioning,  but if there is something enjoyable or different about it they will likely put a little more energy into it.

For coaches who design their conditioning around gradually decreasing recovery times that match the demands of their sport, they will end up with more fit teams that train safer in warm weather, and are likely to practice with more energy over time.

Think Big

We’ve reached the time of year where many of our athletes begin leaving for college. Some have been with us for years, and going to play a college sport is the fulfillment of a dream they began working towards many years ago. They are field hockey, ice hockey, track, football, and baseball players but are united with the knowledge that they worked as hard and as wisely as they possibly could to prepare for this moment.

But did they all reach such a high level, while other fell to the wayside, by luck?  Was it simply their work ethic?  According to author Gary Keller, who wrote ‘The One Thing‘, probably not

One thing this group has in common is they think big, a trait Keller believes is necessary for high achievement.

He states, ‘Don’t fear big.  Fear mediocrity.  Fear waste.  When we fear big we either consciously or unconsciously work against it.  We either run towards lesser outcomes and opportunities or we simply run away from the big ones.

If courage isn’t the absence of fear, but moving past it, then thinking big isn’t the absence of doubts, but moving past them.’

Over and over we see that the kids who start with big dreams and are willing to do the work necessary get to the highest levels.

Consider the 12 year old who started with us nearly a decade ago.  Back then he was just another good athlete training with his friends, but he was extremely dedicated and always believed he could go as far as his work ethic and energy could take him.

Last week he left us to start his 2nd season as a professional hockey player in Finland, playing on a top line for one of the better teams in Europe.

Many times we put limits on our own expectations and never reach the heights we could reach by ‘Winning the Day’ and believing anything is possible If we win enough of them.

Why do so many young athletes do this?

Keller reasons that a fear of failure plays a huge part in why so many of us, kids especially, do not think big.

Keller offers this advice:

‘Don’t fear failure.  It’s as much a part of your journey to extraordinary results as success.  

In fact, it would be accurate to say we fail our way to success.  When we fail, we stop, ask what we need to do to succeed, learn from our mistakes, and grow. 

Don’t be afraid to fail, because you’ll go nowhere without it.’

Another of our athletes spent the last year recovering from Tommy John surgery, which for a baseball pitcher like him could mean you never pitch again.  After a decorated high school career and experiencing the joy of being drafted by a major league team, his future at that point was likely to end in failure.

So did he give up in the face of this monumental setback?

No chance.  He went through his rehab, spent 6 months getting in the best shape of his life, and is off to play college baseball for a new team this upcoming year.

He kept thinking big even when it seemed unlikely, and because of that he put himself back on track to success.

Last week we discussed Winning The Day and how to work every day to get a little better.  But to do so you’ll have to have a reason, and that means thinking big.

We are extremely fortunate to have not only those two athletes here, but literally hundreds more whose stories are just as impressive.  If those younger kids continue to do what our older role models have done, who knows how far they will go?