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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 2/29/16

Written on February 29, 2016 at 8:05 am, by Eric Cressey

Happy Leap Day! Here's some recommended strength and conditioning reading to help you make the most of your "extra" day:

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World - Adam Grant (author of "Give and Take) released this earlier in the month, and I just wrapped up the audiobook and enjoyed it. If you like Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin, Chip and Dan Heath, Daniel Pink, etc., you'll like it, too.

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Carb Controversy: Why Low Carb Diets Have It All Wrong - Brian St. Pierre makes an appearance in our recommending reading two weeks in a row. He's been on fire with great content for Precision Nutrition. Speaking of Brian, don't forget that he'll be delivering a one-day seminar at Cressey Sports Performance in Massachusetts on April 10. Click here for more information.

You Need a Reality Check - Todd Hamer is a great strength and conditioning coach and writer. He offers some great perspective in this piece. In short, it's very easy to criticize when you aren't willing to think critically about someone's rationale for programming as they do.

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4 Ways Hypermobile Clients Can Improve Their Training

Written on February 24, 2016 at 11:01 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach, Laura Canteri.

From super tight to super loose, people can fall at any point on the laxity continuum. Most women fall under the more hypermobile side of things, but there are a surprising amount of women who are nonetheless unaware of their extreme laxity. As a hypermobile female who learned the hard way, I want to share my knowledge and experiences with you to help improve your training and long-term health in four simple steps. While I'll focus my attention on females in particular, the overwhelming majority of these lessons hold true for hypermobile males as well.

1. Create Self Awareness.

What is Hypermobility?

Each joint has a certain amount of laxity and can be either congenital (you were born with it; thanks, Mom and Dad) or as a consequence of repetitive activities (e.g., swimming).  It shouldn't be confused with instability, which would result from an injury that leads to excessive, uncontrolled range-of-motion. With that said, hypermobility is excessive laxity at a joint. If you often feel “tight” and don’t think that this article pertains to you, I encourage you to keep reading.

How Do I Know If I’m Hypermobile?

At Cressey Sports Performance, we like to use the Beighton scale to assess joint laxity and hypermobility. The screen is scored out of nine points in which there are five tests (see below). Unilateral tests should be scored on both sides with each positive test counting as one point. The higher the score, the higher the laxity.

1. Extend the pinky to >90° angle with the rest of the hand (left and right sides)
2. Flex the thumb to contact with the forearm (left and right sides)
3. Elbow hyperextension > 10° (left and right sides)
4. Knee hyperextension > 10° (left and right sides)
5. Toe touch with knees straight, touch the palms flat on the floor

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2. Remove Static Stretching From Your Routine.

From youth to college basketball, I had my fair share of injuries - from sprained ankles to dislocated shoulders -but despite having such loose joints, I would always feel “tight.” I couldn’t touch my toes, clasp my hands behind my back, or do any “cool” tricks. So, I incorporated static stretching before and after every game/practice to decrease my risk for injuries. Good news: I was eventually able to touch my toes and clasp my hands behind my back. Bad news: I continued to have even more shoulder instability issues, which resulted in surgery.

So, what gives? I wouldn’t feel “tight” if I was hypermobile, right? Wrong. Let me explain. When other structures aren’t working properly (i.e. your ligaments and tendons) to support a joint, the surrounding muscles work overtime to stabilize and protect it. This mechanism is known as "protective tension" and is the reason why someone who is hypermobile may feel “tight.”  Our body creates trigger points as a strategy to create stability where we don't have it. It may feel good to stretch in the moment, but stretching muscles around an already lax joint capsule will only lead to more instability and greater risk for injury.  It's like picking a scab; you feel better in the short-term, but wind up with longer term problems.

Long story short, if you're looking for a quick reduction in tightness, get rid of the static stretching and grab yourself a foam roller instead - and then follow that work up with some good stability exercises.

3. Stay Away From End Ranges.

Women who have a lot of joint laxity tend to stand, sit, and train in extreme end ranges (see pictures below). When joints are constantly loaded beyond normal range, the ligaments will continue to become more lax and the joint will experience more wear and tear overtime. Here are a few examples:

Hyperextended Elbows During a Push-up

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Hyperflexed Lumbar Spine and Hyperextended Cervical Spine During Sitting

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Hyperextended Knees During Standing

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Hyperextended Knees and Right Hip Shift During Standing

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Whether you are sitting behind a desk at work, attending a yoga class, or lifting weight, it is important to be aware of your body position and stop just short of end range.

4. Improve Motor Control.

Generally speaking, women have greater Q-angles (measured from hip to patella along femur) and a higher predisposition to joint laxity compared to men. Looser joints require more stability and motor control; therefore, learning better movement patterns is critical for improving long-term health and joint integrity.

For example, if you are experiencing discomfort in the front of your shoulder, one exercise you could incorporate is the standing external rotation. This is a great exercise for hypermobile individuals to increase posterior rotator cuff strength, increase shoulder stability, and improve motor control by learning how to keep the ball centered in the socket.

Regardless of what exercise you perform, in order to improve motor control you must:

a. Be present:  Eliminate distractions (e.g. texting, Facebook, etc.). If you are not focused, you will naturally fall back to your compensatory movement patterns

b. Maintain a neutral spine: It is common for hypermobile women to overextend their lower back and rely on bony stability; therefore, learning how to execute and maintain a neutral spine is important in every exercise in order to set a foundation for better alignment

c. Slow down: Perform each rep in a controlled manner, and emphasize quality over quantity.

d. Train in non-fatigued state: Be aware of how you feel, as fatigue will negatively affect your ability to learn new movement patterns

Conclusion

My personal experiences have led me to believe that hypermobility, especially for women, is more common than one might think. Creating awareness for yourself or your clients is the first step in the right direction. As Eric always says, “Assess, don’t guess.”

Happy training to all my hypermobile readers out there!

About the Author

Laura Canteri (@LC_Canteri) heads up strength camps (group training) at Cressey Sports Performance – Florida. She completed her master’s degree in exercise physiology at Florida Atlantic University, and also is Precision Nutrition certified. In addition to her work at CSP, Laura works with folks from all walks of life through her distance-based consulting. You can reach her at l.c.canteri@gmail.com. 

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Cressey Sports Performance – MA Spring Nutrition Seminar: April 10, 2016

Written on February 21, 2016 at 6:57 am, by Eric Cressey

We're very excited to announce that on Sunday, April 10, we’ll be hosting the CSP Spring Nutrition Seminar featuring a day of learning with Brian St. Pierre. This event will take place at our Hudson, MA location. Brian was CSP’s first employee and has since moved on to be the Director of Performance Nutrition at Precision Nutrition.

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Here’s a look at our agenda for the day:

8:30am: Registration

Morning Session – Laying the Foundation

9:00am: Human metabolism and the calorie conundrum
10:00am: Protein: the magical macro
10:30am: Carbs: the misunderstood macro
11:00am: Fats: the mystery macro
11:30am: Supplements: what works, what doesn’t, and what might
12:00pm: Q&A
12:30pm: Lunch

Afternoon Session – Practical Application

1:30pm: How to assess and where to begin
2:30pm: Controlling portions and making adjustments
3:00pm: Dietary adjustments for advanced muscle gain and fat loss
3:30pm: Problem solving and case studies
4:00pm: Why consistency is king
4:30pm: Q&A

Location:

Cressey Sports Performance
577 Main Street, STE 310
Hudson, MA 01749

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Cost:

Regular Rate – $149.99
Student Rate – $129.00

*The early bird registration deadline is 3/10/16.

Date/Time

Sunday, April 10
Registration 8:30AM
Seminar: 9AM-5PM

Continuing Education

0.7 National Strength and Conditioning Association CEUs Pending (seven contact hours)

Click Here to Sign Up (Regular)

or

Click Here to Sign Up (Student)

We’re really excited about this event, as Brian is a polished presenter and always on top of the latest and greatest research on optimal nutrition practices. Space is limited and we expect this event to fill up quickly, so don’t delay on signing up!

If you have additional questions, please direct them to cspmass@gmail.com. Looking forward to seeing you there!

PS - If you're looking for hotel information, Extended Stay America in Marlborough, MA offers our clients a discounted nightly rate. Just mention "Cressey" during the booking process in order to secure the discount. Their booking phone number is 508-490-9911.
 


Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 2/20/16

Written on February 20, 2016 at 7:08 am, by Eric Cressey

We're wrapping up the week with some good recommended strength and conditioning material. Check these reads out:

Can Eating Too Little Actually Damage Your Metabolism? - This was an absolutely outstanding article on energy balance from Brian St. Pierre for Precision Nutrition. Suffice it to say that it's much more complex than "calories in vs. calories out."

6 Questions to Ask Before Writing a Strength and Conditioning Program - Greg Robins wrote this article up for my website almost two years ago, but the useful messages strongly endure!

Why Our Gym Has No Mirrors - Tony Bonvechio explains CSP's rationale better than I ever could! 

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Exercise of the Week: Resisted Scapular Wall Slides

Written on February 17, 2016 at 6:31 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's "Exercise of the Week" guest post comes from Lee Boyce. Enjoy! -EC

One of the basic exercises that people are taught to practice for improved shoulder rotation, upper back activation, scapular mobility and anterior muscle release as a by-product is the standard scapular wall slide. To do them, a lifter would simply stand with the heels, butt, upper back, shoulders and full arms and hands against the wall, reduce the lower back arch, and slide the hands up and down, mimicking a full shoulder press movement pattern.

Regressing this movement is as simple as taking the feet a few inches away from the wall and assuming position otherwise. Progressing this movement, however, is another story.

The problem is that people adapt quickly to an unloaded mobility drill, and because of this, the wall slide can become another non-transferrable “skill” that doesn’t carry over to generally improved posture or performance. Moreover, depending on whether the humerus is properly nested in the glenoid fossa to begin with, the wall slides themselves may always pose a problem from a biomechanical perspective. To help this cause, adding some mild resistance can “remind” the muscles of the rotator cuff to center the humeral head in the socket and create a much more effective external rotation position. Plus, using a neutral grip via ropes (as compared to a palms-forward grip) creates a much more ideal (and shoulder friendly) environment for external rotation that can act to counter anterior shoulder glide.

For resisted scapular slides, I like using a cable pulley, and performing the lift from a seated position. It’s a bit easier for a lifter to focus on avoiding back hyperextension, which is a common compensation pattern when lifters have insufficient shoulder mobility.

This movement creates a force angle that works against the standard slide pattern, so keeping the hands and arms moving along the same plane becomes a much more challenging task for the scapular muscles. It’s easy to “let up” and allow the hands and arms to drift forward. To view the movement in action, watch the video below.

Coaching Cues

1. Have the athlete sit squarely on a box or bench. The closer parallel the box puts him in, the better.

2. Set up the cable pulley and ropes in a position just above head level. This way, at the top position, the force angle won’t be strictly downward, and there will be ample tension throughout.

3. If the lifter is still novice or intermediate level as far as shoulder mobility and control goes, a neutral grip is recommended for reasons mentioned above. If the lifter is more advanced, he can feel free to pinch-grip between the thumb and first finger, and face the palms forward.

4. During the movement, avoid slipping into lower back hyperextension; maintain thoracic region extension; and be sure to maintain neutral head posture. Also, avoid letting the elbows fall out of line with the hands in the vertical plane.

5. Your target areas are the rotator cuff muscles, rear deltoids, and lower traps (as you raise the weight further overhead). When you start feeling this in other areas like the biceps and upper traps, readjust positioning and continue.

6. The exercise is very specific, so it shouldn’t take much weight for it to be effective. 15-20lbs of resistance on most machines is usually plenty.

7. The movement won’t work if it’s done in a rush. Think of a 2121 tempo as a solid guideline.

8. Use higher reps to build up the muscular endurance of these muscle groups.

9. Your range of motion should replicate your typical dumbbell shoulder press – meaning the rep begins very close to the shoulder level, and ends at a full arm extension overhead.

10. Through the movement, remember to keep the hand separated (pull the rope handles apart) as much as possible. Doing so keeps the upper back engaged, avoids internal rotation, and keeps the hands stacked over the shoulder, where they belong.

About the Author

Lee Boyce (@CoachLeeBoyce) is a strength coach, writer, and former collegiate level sprinter and long jumper, based in Toronto, Canada. In 2013, he was named to the training and treatment staff for team Jamaica at the Penn Relays . He’s regularly featured in the largest fitness publications as a writer. Visit his website at www.LeeBoyceTraining.com or check him out on Facebook.

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5 Strength and Conditioning Exercises that Overdeliver

Written on February 9, 2016 at 7:31 am, by Eric Cressey

With this week's $30 off sale on The High Performance Handbook, I thought I'd highlight a few of my favorite exercises that are included in the program. I like these, in particular, because they're "anti-isolation" exercises. In other words, they deliver multiple training effects to give gym-goers more efficient training outcomes. Keep in mind that just because I don't include classic compound lifts like squats and deadlifts in this discussion doesn't mean that they aren't absolutely fantastic; I just want to give you a little exposure to some different drills in this post.

1. Kettlebell Crosswalk

Because of the asymmetrical loading, you get some great rotary stability work at the core - on top of the anterior core stability work you get from holding a weight overhead while resisting too much arching of your lower back. You get some outstanding shoulder mobility and stability benefits, as getting the top arm up requires a lot of scapular upward rotation and rotator cuff activation. Finally, an overlooked benefit is the opportunity to reaffirm good neck positioning. A lot of athletes will want to shoot into forward head posture, but if you pack the neck correctly, you'll be able to avoid this.

2. Positional Breathing

I use a wide variety of positional breathing drills as part of The High Performance Handbook program, so this is really more of a "category" than a specific exercise. When you put athletes (especially those with more "extended postures) into a more flexion biased position and encourage them to full exhale, you are effectively training both mobility and stability simultaneously. When you exhale, many of the muscles of inhalation - scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, lats, pec minor (not surprisingly all muscles that have chronic tissue density in many individuals) - all are forced to relax. Concurrently, the rectus abdominus and external obliques fire to get air out - and in the process, establish better anterior core stability.

Here are a few examples:

3. Dumbbell Reverse Lunge to 1-leg RDL

Whenever I put this in an athlete's program, I go out of my way to warn them that they'll be pretty sore in the days that follow. Lunging and 1-leg RDLs constitute different kinds of single-leg work with different training effects, but when you combine them, you can get the best of both worlds.

This can also be done with one dumbbell at a time. As athletes get more proficient with the drill, I look for more "fluid" transitions, as opposed to a lot of stop-and-go movements.

4. 1-arm KB Turkish Get-up

This one is just too obvious. To do a good get-up, you need everything from a hip hinge, to anterior core control, to shoulder mobility, to single-leg stability.  

 

Not bad for a crafty lefty. #CSPfamily #100lb

A video posted by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

If you're looking for a great coaching resource on Turkish Get-up Technique, check out Greg Robins' article, 6 Common Turkish Get-up Technique Mistakes.

5. Combination Mobility Exercises

Let's face it: nobody really enjoys mobility warm-ups. Fortunately, for those of you who dread these drills and prefer to get to the lifting as quickly as possible, there are some combination drills that speed up the process a bit. Check out these two examples from the program:

Wrap-up

If you're looking to learn more about how all these different pieces fit with an overall strength and conditioning program "puzzle," then I'd encourage you to check out my most popular resource, The High Performance Handbook. It's on sale for $30 off this week, and offers programs versatile enough to accommodate a wide variety of training goals.  

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Exercise of the Week: 1-arm TRX Row with Offset Kettlebell Hold

Written on February 2, 2016 at 7:29 pm, by Eric Cressey

We're long overdue for a new installment of my "Exercise of the Week" series, so here's one of my all-time favorite drills. The 1-arm TRX Row with Offset Kettlebell Hold affords all the shoulder health and postural benefits of horizontal pulling, but also trains thoracic (upper back) rotation, and both anterior and rotary core stability. In other words, it delivers some fantastic bang for your training buck. Check it out!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 2/2/16

Written on February 2, 2016 at 9:35 am, by Eric Cressey

Happy February, everyone! Let's kick off the month with some good reading from the strength and conditioning world:

Why Rehabilitation and Fitness Should Be Delivered in Parallel - I thought this was a fantastic article from Charlie Weingroff.  Collaborative efforts between fitness professionals and rehabilitation specialists always make for better patient outcomes.

Captivology - I just finished up this book from Ben Parr, and there are definitely some useful lessons for coaches looking to maintain athletes' attention and avoid "desensitization" to important messages. 

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My Favorite Thing About Owning a Gym - Here's another awesome post from my business partner at Cressey Sports Performance - Massachusetts. Pete always delivers unique insights when it comes to the business side of fitness.

Speaking of CSP, just a friendly reminder that we just announced the Cressey Sports Performance - Florida spring seminar, which will take place on March 13 at our Jupiter, FL facility. You can learn more HERE.

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Register Now for the 1st Annual Cressey Sports Performance – FL Spring Seminar!

Written on January 31, 2016 at 12:21 pm, by Eric Cressey

We're very excited to announce that on Sunday, March 13, we’ll be hosting our first spring seminar at Cressey Sports Performance in Jupiter, FL.  This event has been a big hit at our MA facility, so we decided to bring it to our FL location as well. This event will showcase the great staff we're fortunate to have as part of our team. As always, we want to make this an affordable event for everyone and create a great forum for industry professionals and fitness enthusiasts alike to interact, exchange ideas, and learn.

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Here are the presentation topics:

Eric Cressey – Bogus Biomechanics and Asinine Anatomy

The strength and conditioning and rehabilitation fields are riddled with movement myths that just never seem to die. Drawing heavily on case studies, scholarly journals, and what functional anatomy tells us, Eric will “bust” some of the common fallacies you’ll encounter in the strength and conditioning field today. Most importantly, he’ll offer drills and strategies that can be utilized immediately with clients and athletes in place of these antiquated approaches.

Shane Rye (CSP-FL Co-Founder) -- The Hip-Knee Hierarchy

In this presentation, Shane will summarize the current research and anecdotal evidence surrounding the interaction between hip function and knee pain. More importantly, he'll provide training strategies for preventing knee pain - or training around it if pain is already present.

Brian Kaplan (CSP-FL Co-Founder) -- Explosive Control: Making Medicine Ball Drills Work for You

Medicine ball exercises may only be a small percentage of a client's program, but they have a large effect on applying learned functional movement and strength to athletic activities. Coaching and cueing the exercises require an understanding of clients' compensation issues while harnessing their unique movement patterns and current fitness levels.

Pete Dupuis (CSP-MA Co-Founder) -- Business Before Branding

All too often, business owners put the cart before the horse by concerning themselves with branding before establishing a tried and tested business foundation. Before you worry about creating the most memorable hashtag on Twitter, you need to be certain that your systems are efficient, your team is sound, and your business and/or training philosophies are concrete. Anyone can convince a client to hand over their money once, but it is the business owner who delivers a consistent and predictable service that retains clients and truly experiences the lifetime value of a customer. In this presentation, Pete will take an in-depth look at the core values, systems and principles that helped to create the foundation of our success at Cressey Sports Performance.

Tim Geromini (CSP-FL Coach) -- Piecing Together the Back Pain Puzzle

At some point in their careers, all fitness professionals will certainly encounter clients suffering from acute and chronic low back pain. The presentation aims to help you understand the complex origins of that pain to assist clients move pain free again. Tim will give special consideration to the collaborative efforts between rehabilitation specialists and fitness professionals.

Laura Canteri (CSP-FL Coach) -- Joint Distraction Exercises: Friend or Foe?

Joint distraction has recently become a more popular form of mobility in the fitness community. This technique provides new ranges of motion by creating more “space” inside a joint complex and stretching the surrounding tissues. Most people find immediate, short-term improvements in their range of motion and pain through joint distraction. This quick fix may result in more harm than good; therefore, Laura will take a closer look at some common band distraction exercises that you may want to reconsider.

Tony Bonvechio (CSP-MA Coach) -- Creating Context for More Efficient Coaching

Coaches put endless focus into what they say, but this presentation will illustrate the importance of how they say it. Creating context with your clients goes beyond internal and external cueing, and the ability to create "sticky" teaching moments will get your athletes moving better and more efficiently. Tony will discuss different cueing approaches, how they resonate with different learning styles, and how to say more with less to help your clients learn new movements with ease.

Location:

Cressey Sports Performance
880 Jupiter Park Dr.
Suite 7
Jupiter, FL 33458

cspfl11

Cost:

Regular Rate – $149.99
Student Rate – $129.99 (must present valid student ID)

Date/Time:

Sunday, March 13, 2016
Registration 8:30AM
Seminar 9AM-5PM

Continuing Education:

0.7 National Strength and Conditioning Association CEUs (seven contact hours)

Click Here to Sign-up (Regular)

or

Click Here to Sign-up (Students)

We’re really excited about this event, and would love to have you join us! However, space is limited and each seminar we’ve hosted in the past has sold out quickly, so don’t delay on signing up!

If you have additional questions, please direct them to cspflorida@gmail.com. Looking forward to seeing you there!

PS - If you're looking for hotel information, The Fairfield Inn in Jupiter, FL offers our clients a discounted nightly rate. Just mention "Cressey" during the booking process in order to secure the discount. Their booking phone number is 561-748-5252.


4 Strategies to Improve Athletes’ Innate Acceleration

Written on January 23, 2016 at 2:39 pm, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from Lee Taft, who just released his Certified Speed and Agility Coach (CSAC) course.

We often hear or read about coaches and athletes bragging about the “40” time. To be honest, it is an impressive event to see an athlete rip off a 4.3 or better time in the 40. Sensationalism aside, though, a 40-time is probably a lot less important than the ability to travel 10 feet to make a game play.

You see, most court and field sports require athletes to move in such an extreme array of directions in such a short time that training for the 40 needs to have a specific reason (i.e., the combine) for doing so. With that said, I want to share with you my four top strategies for improving an athlete’s innate acceleration. What is so cool about these strategies is they will make a baseball player better at getting an incredible jump when stealing. These techniques will make an infielder snag more broken bat bloopers over their head. Basketball players, soccer athletes, football players, and tennis athletes will also increase their acceleration with the strategies.

So what do I mean by innate acceleration? Well, the body was built with a pretty smart design. It has the ability to feel fear and either attack it or escape from it: the Fight or Flight response. I have learned to tap into this to make my athlete faster. Because this response is innate, all we have to do as coaches is put our athletes in situations that bring out this attack and escape approach. Here are my top four strategies.

#1: Directional Step

The directional step is an “action” more than a strategy by a coach or athlete. It would, however, be considered a strategy the body uses to become more effective at acceleration. Let me explain…

Imagine a baseball player in his “athletic position” that makes up the base stealing stance; he needs to accelerate quickly to the right. The legs each have an important job. The backside leg has the job of pushing the center of mass of the body in the direction of travel (laterally). While this pushing of the body is occurring, the front side has an awesome opportunity to take advantage of the moving mass. It knows the best way to keep the mass moving (accelerating) is to push down and back under the body. By doing so, the front leg can continue to accelerate the mass of the body. This is where the “Directional Step” comes into play.

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If the body wants to push down and back, it makes sense to the neuromuscular system to use the posterior chain muscles (glutes, hamstrings, calves) to do so. The creative strategy devised by the body is to have the lead foot turn out so that it is facing the direction of travel. This, in essence, allows the athlete to be like a sprinter coming out of the blocks: pushing down and back with that powerful lead leg. What a great strategy!

To take it a bit deeper so that you understand the reason the Directional Step matters, let’s consider what the action really is. When the body wants to accelerate from a lateral stance to a linear run (base stealing jump) the external rotation of the lead leg to turn the foot toward second base actually aids in the pushing action by the back leg; it is called “action-reaction.” So, when the lead leg turns out (an action) there is a force that goes back into the back leg while it is still on the ground (reaction). To make a long story short, the Directional Step is a really great innate strategy by the body to become quicker.

Try this:

Have a partner stand in front of you prepared to point either to your right or left. When they do point, you are going to turn and accelerate for 10 yards in that direction. Do this 6-8 times so you can build on your ability to accelerate, using a Directional Step, out of an athletic stance to your right or left.

#2: Hip Turn

The Hip Turn is a great strategy the body has given athletes. That said, some athletes aren’t very proficient or smooth with it. Fortunately, with some corrective approaches and drills we can fix that. The Hip Turn is a way for the athlete to get out of an athletic stance (a parallel stance, like an infielder or tennis player) quickly and retreat or move away from the direction they were facing.

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In basketball, coaches often teach pivoting. The problem with pivoting is that it requires friction as the foot turns while in contact with the ground; this is not good for quickness. Luckily, the body once again has this innate ability to make the athlete perform escape or attack movements quicker. During the Hip Turn, the feet lift ever-so-slightly off the ground and the hips and legs turn quickly in the air in order to allow the backside leg to push down and away into the surface. It’s important to recognize that the athlete does not elevate his or her body; rather, the hips and legs simply rotate as they clear the ground contact. Imagine a tennis player turning quickly to chase down a lob over their head. The action they use is a Hip Turn to get into acceleration after the ball.

Basically, the Hip Turn is a way for the athlete to get their legs and feet into a better acceleration angle. This is a great built-in strategy by the body, as when the hips and leg whip around, the back leg actually starts the extension “pushing” just before it hits the ground. There is a resulting impulse or stretch reflex of the muscles that allows the athlete to start accelerating quicker. Again, the rear leg/foot is actively driving into the ground; this causes a “plyometric” response and greater starting speed.

Try this:

Have your partner stand roughly 12 feet behind you, holding a tennis ball out to the side at shoulder height. You will be standing in an athletic stance, but facing away from your partner. Your partner will yell “GO” and drop the ball at the same time. You must react and accelerate after the ball and catch it before it bounces twice. This drill is a great drill for refining and improving the Hip Turn and acceleration. Perform it 5-6 times turning to the right and left.

#3: Crossover Run

As a kid, did you ever hear your coach yell; “Don’t cross your feet when you move laterally!” If so, they were pretty much wrong in telling you that. Athletes don’t actually cross their feet; they simply turn their hips and run with the lower body and shuffle with the upper body.

What does this mean? Let’s consider a basketball player or a baseball infielder having to shuffle to the right to make a defensive play. If the ball is moving at a speed where the defender can use the shuffle to make the play, it should be used. However, if the ball is moving at a speed and distance that won’t allow the athlete to use a shuffle, the Crossover Run will naturally be used. This techniques is so much faster, yet allows the athlete to keep the head and shoulders somewhat oriented to the ball or the play in front of them. This is why I say the Crossover Run is a run with the lower body and a shuffle with the upper.

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The reason I say this is an innate movement is because athletes instinctively perform the crossover action immediately upon the perception of the speed of the play and the distance that must be traveled.

Try this:

Have a partner stand 10-15 feet in front of you with a tennis ball in hand. You are facing your partner and in an athletic stance. The partner is going to toss the ball up in the air, but to the right or left of you so that you have to move to catch it. The rule is you must shuffle when at all possible to catch the ball. However, if you perceive the ball is out of range for a shuffle to get the job done, then a Crossover Run is allowed. You’ll likely be amazed at how you will naturally do it anyway when it is out of reach. Perform 10-15 times, mixing up the direction to which you move.

#4: Linear Repositioning Step (Plyo Step)

I can still hear my high school football coach yelling at us for taking what he called a “False Step.” A False Step by most people is when an athlete takes a step backwards before moving forward. This action occurs in virtually all sports where the athletes have to react and move in a straight forward or angled movement. What has boggled my mind over the years is in spite of the fact that athletes very commonly take this step, very few coaches have bothered to ask, “why are they taking this step?” Let me explain…

Going back to our fight or flight survival response we are designed to move quickly to attack or escape. In order for this response to be realized into fast acceleration, the body must have proper alignment to do so. In order to accelerate, we must push the ground away from the direction of travel. When an athlete is in an athletic stance, the feet are directly under the center of mass – which, unfortunately, is not a great position from which to accelerate. We need the push-off foot to be behind the body. Well, when a stimulus occurs and the athlete reacts and now knows the direction of travel, one foot will instinctively reposition in order to create a proper angle of force application into the ground. I call this a Plyo Step.

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The Plyo Step or Repositioning Step occurs not only to have a better and immediate angle with which to push, but also to give an impulse or stretch reflex to the neuromuscular system. This makes the ground contact time quicker and more explosive.

This directly competes with the idea of a false step being problematic. There is a reason the body repositions the feet upon a quick recognition to accelerate: it needs a more efficient acceleration angle and quicker ground reaction time once the foot strikes the ground.

Try this:

Stand side-by-side in an athletic parallel stance with your partner. Your partner and you are going to race for 10 yards to see who wins. Your partner is the one who says “GO.” When he or she says “GO,” you both are taking off and racing. Because you don’t know exactly when you are moving, you will most likely take a Plyo Step – and so will your partner. Perform this 6-8 times.

Wrap-up

Because athletes are designed to move quickly, I use drills to bring out the innate abilities they already have. This strategy has allowed me to polish the mechanics and postures they use while making them accelerate quicker.

Note from EC: If you're looking to learn more about Lee's approach to programming and coaching speed and agility work, I highly recommend his Certified Speed and Agility Coach course. I'm finishing it up now myself, and the information has been top notch. It's on sale at an introductory $100 off price through Friday, January 29. You can learn more HERE

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