Home Posts tagged "Plyometrics"

Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 36

This edition random thoughts from around the field of health and human performance is long overdue. Fortunately, more of the world is online more than ever, so at least it'll have a good audience now!

1. Physical maturity and training experience impact pitching stress.

File this one under the "duh" category, but it's good to have a study supporting the concept nonetheless. In this study, Nicholson et al found that while pitching velocity was weakly related to shoulder distraction force, this relationship was only observed in high school (and not college) pitchers. The researchers noted, "These findings suggest that older pitchers may attenuate shoulder forces with increased pitch velocity due to physical maturity or increased pitching mechanical skill in comparison with younger pitchers."

Here's the position (ball release) to which they're referring:

I've seen research in the past that reported shoulder distraction forces were 1.5 times body weight at ball release, but those numbers never made sense to me in light of the kinetic chain concept. Wouldn't a pitcher with better front hip pull-back, core control, thoracic spine mobility, scapular control, and posterior cuff strength have a better chance of dissipating these forces over a longer deceleration arc than someone who wasn't as physically prepared? And, wouldn't different release points (as shown above) relate to different stresses? This study demonstrates that being physically prepared and mature goes a long way in reducing one potential injury mechanism in throwers.

2. "You can’t separate biomechanics from metabolism."

I remembered this quote from Charlie Weingroff years ago when I recently heard White Sox infielder Yoan Moncada discussing how he hasn't felt like himself ever since he came back to playing after having COVID-19. Obviously, this is a more extreme perspective, as we know some cases lead to myocarditis and other challenging complications. It's certainly not out of left field, though. Just think about it:

Your joints often ache when you have the flu.

Many people get neck pain when they're stressed.

And, as Charlie observed in that same presentation, the higher your free cortisol, the poorer neurogenesis is.

I don't think we have to just consider these challenges only when someone is sick or under crazy stress. Rather, we have to appreciate that optimizing our metabolic environment - whether it's building a robust aerobic system or eating well and exercising frequently to improve insulin sensitivity - likely has an impact on how our musculoskeletal and fascial systems feel and perform. And, the nice thing about a lot of these initiatives is that they aren't hard to chase: you can build your aerobic system with some low-key cardio or even mobility circuits.

3. Vary surfaces with plyometric activities.

The latest Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research featured a very intriguing study that compared outcomes of a plyometric program on grass-only versus one that was matched for volume, but spread over six different surfaces: grass, land-dirt, sand, wood, gym mat, and tartan-track. The group that performed the multi-surface program outperformed the grass-only group at post-testing even though the testing took place on grass (which means it was a better program to the point that it also outperformed pure specificity over eight weeks, a relatively short intervention).

This is great because training should always be about providing a rich proprioceptive environment for athletes while still providing specificity. The surfaces were stable and ranged in their ability to challenge the stretch-shortening cycle (i.e., it's harder to "turn over" a jump quickly in sand than it is on a track surface).

Intuitively, it makes sense: give athletes variability across similar exercises and you get better adaptation. And, you could even make the argument that it likely reduces the potential for overuse injuries. Just imagine if they'd also rotated types of footwear: barefoot, minimalist sneakers, cross-trainers, turf shoes, cleats, etc.

Suffice it to say that I'll be leveraging this knowledge heavily at our new Cressey Sports Performance - Florida facility. We've got outdoor turf, indoor turf, grass, and indoor gym flooring - and we could do all three either in shoes or barefoot. There's eight options right there, and it's not hard to get access to sand in South Florida!

4. Exercise selection is the most important acute programming variable.

When you're writing a program, the big rocks to consider are intensity (load), volume, rest, tempo, exercise order, and exercise selection.

You'll see a lot of debates about whether 4 sets of 6 reps works better than 6 sets of 4 reps, and whether you need to do one set or three sets to get optimal gains. People may argue about whether you have to train above 90% of 1RM to get strength gains. And, internet arguments are fierce over tempo prescriptions and whether you should squat before you deadlift, or vice versa.

You know what doesn't get debated? The simple question, "Does an exercise hurt?"

This is why exercise selection will always be the most important acute programming variable to consider. If it causes pain, all the other variables don't matter, because it's a harmful training stimulus. This is why it's tremendously important for coaches to not only understand progressions, but also regressions and "lateral moves."

Squatting hurts your hips? Let's try a reverse lunge with a front squat grip.

Deadlifting isn't agreeing with your low back? Let's try a hip thrust instead.

Bench press is making your shoulder cranky? Let's pivot to a landmine press instead.

These quick and easy adjustments can absolutely save a program - and make all the other programming variable important actually matter. This is a big reason why I included an Exercise Modifications Library in The High Performance Handbook; they enable an individual to keep the core benefits of the program intact even if they have to modify a few exercises along the way.

While I'm on that topic, The High Performance Handbook is my flagship resource, and I currently have it on sale at the largest discount ($50 off) that we've ever offered (though Sunday at midnight). The discount is automatically applied at checkout at www.HighPerformanceHandbook.com.

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Developing Multidirectional Power for the Baseball Fielder

Today's guest post comes from Jason Feairheller.

When most coaches think of power development for baseball, a big focus is on developing rotational power for throwing and hitting with various medicine throws. Additionally, they'll utilize lateral lower body power development to help pitchers get a better drive off the mound, or even the initial push off the ground of a base stealer. If these are the only types of plyometrics we train, there’s a missing piece - multidirectional plyometrics - that can help prepare athletes for the endless possibilities of movement for which a fielder must prepare.

Any position player may have to sprint forward or backward in any direction, depending on where the ball is hit. Although lateral movement is a huge part of baseball, and prepares an athlete for a lot of the movements they’ll see on the field, it does not account for all of them.

Just like Eric, I’m a huge fan of Lee Taft and his system for teaching and understanding speed. Lee breaks down speed into seven different patterns (detailed in this podcast). For the purposes of this blog, I’ll focus on the hip turn, and how multidirectional plyometrics can strengthen and make this movement pattern more powerful.

A hip turn happens all the time in a baseball. Whenever an infielders runs back to catch a pop-ups, or outfielders are tracking down a fly balls that are behind them in any direction, they are using a hip turn. The fielder pivots the feet and punches a foot into the ground to reposition themselves to sprint in the direction they want to go. There are lots of possibilities in terms of the angle at which the fielder might punch a foot in the ground. If I’m looking to improve this position, changing the planes of movements and angles of plyometrics can greatly improve the strength and power of this movement pattern. Think of how the swing of a batter changes slightly with different pitches and locations. The primary fundamentals are the same, but the swing will be slightly different depending on the location of the pitch. The same idea applies to developing power in all directions for a fielder. There may be slight changes in the angle of force off the ground, and we should prepare the body in training for what we will see on the field.

In the following video, I demonstrate the progression of lateral bound with a push back at three different angles, followed by hip turn at three different angles. You can see the similarities between the movements, especially when the focus is on creating a better “punch” into the ground to limit ground contact time. By limiting ground contact, an athlete is getting a more explosive first step, which can be the difference between making the play and not.

Power should be developed with two different types of focus. We are either trying to create as much force as possible with a jump or throw, or we are trying to reduce the time at which we do it. Going back to the example of a hip turn, the fielder will very rapidly punch a foot into the ground. If the fielder did this slowly with a focus only on creating force, he'd already be two steps behind; power is what matters. Plyometric drills with a focus on force should still be included in every program because they help strengthen different positions, but make sure to include some type of plyometrics with a focus on limiting ground contact. Begin with low level hops variations before progressing to more demanding exercises.

There are many different ways multidirectional plyometrics can help develop a more explosive player. Think of the movement patterns you might see on the field, and start thinking of ways you can help your athletes.

About the Author

Jason Feairheller is a co-owner and strength coach at Function and Strength in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania. Jason attended college at the University of Scranton, where he was also a member of the baseball team. Jason has lectured on strength and conditioning as an adjunct professor at Immaculata University. Recently, he was a guest on the Lee Taft Complete Sports Performance Podcast. He has also contributed articles on speed training, as well as taught the course, “Functional Speed Training for the Fitness Professional and Healthcare Provider.” You can follow him on Instagram at @FunctionandStrength, Twitter at @TrueFXS, or visit www.functionandstrength.net.

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Exercise of the Week: Bounce Drop Heiden with Medicine Ball

The Bounce Drop Heiden with Medicine Ball combines two of our favorite Heiden (frontal plane plyometric drill) progressions:

1. Dropping from elevation to increase eccentric overload (and increase storage of elastic energy)

2. Holding a med ball as a counterbalance to improve hip loading

Some key coaching points:

1. Don't let the knee slip into valgus (knees collapses in) on landing. A strong sagittal plane landing position should be following by power production laterally. You're loading the glutes in the sagittal plane and then unloading them in all three planes (especially the frontal plane). Don't put the knee in a vulnerable position to get these benefits.

2. The arms should not be rigid. In other words, holding the medicine ball shouldn't restrict a fluid arm swing.

3. Don't race through ground contact. The goal is to use the increased eccentric pre-loading to enable you to produce more force. There is a happy medium between spending too little time on the ground and shortchanging yourself vs. spending too long on the ground and wasting elastic energy. This video demonstrates that sweet spot well.

4. This is a late offseason progression for our advanced athletes. Don't give it to an untraind 14-year-old who's never lifted weights. They can start with regular Heidens (no elevation) and other landing and jumping progressions.

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Exercise of the Week: Heiden with Medicine Ball

Here is a good frontal plane power development exercise that Cressey Sports Performance - FL co-founder Shane Rye introduced recently. Because we aren’t very creative, we just call it a Heiden with Med Ball.

Important coaching cues:

1. The medicine ball (usually 6-10lbs) is held (but NOT bear-hugged) as a counterbalance that helps an athlete load back into the hips on the eccentric component. As such, this is an awesome drill for rotational athletes who tend to drift into the knee instead of loading back into the hip. This side angle should help you to appreciate it better:

2. You’ll notice that the arms still move side to side in conjunction with the lower body pushoff. If the arms aren’t moving, it’s a sign that you are holding the ball too rigidly. You should actually be able to see hip-shoulder separation.

3. Make sure that you are wearing sneakers that provide good lateral support.

4. We’ll usually program 3-6 sets of 4-6 reps, and perform these after a warm-up, but before more aggressive sprint and agility work.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/10/17

Happy Monday! I hope you had a great weekend. We missed last week's installment of recommended reading in light of the 4th of July, but today I've got a little extra for you to make up for it.

Physical Preparation Podcast with Mike Young - This was an awesome podcast interview from Mike Robertson that delved extensively into the topic of plyometrics.

Specificity, Delayed Transmutation, and Long-Term Progress - I was reminded of this video during a conversation with our CSP-MA pitching coordinator, Christian Wonders. He commented on how several coaches have remarked lately that a lot of our rising juniors and seniors seem to surge once June/July roll around. It's surprising to them, but not to us.

How to Guarantee You'll Have a Hard Time Getting Client Results - This was a great post from Tony Gentilcore on the topics of setting goals and creating autonomy and competency in clients.

Top Tweet of the Week

Top Instagram Post of the Week

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 9

Compliments of Cressey Performance coach Greg Robins, here are some random tips to help you lose fat, gain muscle, get strong, be healthy, and move well.

1. If you're tested in fitness, train the test.

If you are a powerlifter, Olympic lifter, or training for a standardized physical fitness test (such as those administered by the military/police/fire), I recommend that you keep your training specific to what you will be tested on. If you are a powerlifter, you compete in the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Therefore, I believe the majority of your training should be done using the back squat, bench press, and your deadlift stance (sumo, conventional). Variations of those three lifts may be done as a supplement to the main exercise, but should not replace it. The same goes for Olympic lifters with their specific lifts (snatch and clean and jerk).

Furthermore, not much will prepare you better for standardized tests than actually taking the test. If you have to do two minutes of push-ups, do push ups. If you have to run two miles, focus on running two miles faster, not being able to run longer distances. As far as sit-ups go, I think daily high repetition sit-ups will do a number on your body. In my experience, if you want to excel at them, you have to do them. Stick to 1-2x/week of sit-ups at most – again, only if you have to be tested on them. Attack the area with other exercises as well to supplement this specificity.

2. Cure your low-bar back squat woes.

With the back squat: there are three things I see people do that hold them back from moving appreciable weight, staying safe, and being an overall squat ninja. Oddly enough they all depend on each other, like a happy squatting family.

First, they support the bar in their hands. The wrists are mostly likely bent back, and the majority of the weight is actively supported by the arms. This is a nightmare for your squat, wrists, elbows, and shoulders. Correct this by keeping the bar lower in the hand, actively working to straighten the wrist (think: knuckles forward, or don't crease a piece of tape on the back of your hand/wrist), and literally pulling the bar down over your upper back like you are trying to break it.

Second, people try to stay too upright. The upright torso position is not what we are after. Similar to the deadlift, what we want instead is to maintain a neutral spine while the angle of the torso increases, keeping the weight over the mid-line of the body. When the bar is positioned lower on the back this equates to a more predominate forward lean; let it happen. In order to do this you need to hold the bar correctly (see point 1), brace the stomach well (draw air into the stomach, not the chest), and have a strong upper back and anterior core that can hold its stiffness.

Thirdly, many folks simply don’t “get” how to use their hips when squatting. In Starting Strength (as an aside, it's appalling how many young "coaches" haven't read this), Mark Rippetoe draws the picture of attaching a piece of string to the tailbone and pulling it straight up out of the hole. I often explain to people the feeling of using the hips out of the hole actually feels like you are pushing the hips back, not up. Imagine someone standing behind you, digging their fist into your tailbone. As you come out of the hole push back on their fist. Check out this video of me squatting 405 for 5. It's a 5RM and a good example of how the hips are going straight up out of the hole (mostly) for reps 1 - 4, but as I fatigue you can see the slight breakdown on rep 5 (of coming forward in the hole) that is common with most people.

3. Jump, jump, jump on it – and only off it, sometimes.

Jumps are a fantastic way to build explosive and reactive strength qualities. While they are not for everybody, those who are able to safely perform jumps need to consider adding them to part of their routine. In a strength and conditioning setting, they should be a staple. Jumps can be divided into a few categories. You can (in general):

• Jump Up: Box Jumps
• Jump Down: Depth Drop
• Jump Up and Down: Box Jump to Depth Drop
• Jump Down and Up: Depth Drop to Box Jump
• Jump Out: Broad Jump
• Jump Laterally: Heiden, Half Kneeling Jump

So what are the differences, and why does it matter? Jumps are more taxing on your body than one might expect. After all, in a similar fashion to lifting weights or sprinting, you are putting a ton of force into the ground as quickly as possible. Additionally, the impact of landing, and the absorption of force, is highly demanding on the body. This is why the box jump has become such a popular tool.

Now, ask yourself if I program 15 jumps for my athlete today, and he decides to jump off the box from 36" every time, what have I really programmed? Is it in line with my general approach now? Probably not. Make sure that you, and your athletes, follow a progression in jumps. Instruct them as to how to perform and dismount the jump, and use more demanding variations such as the depth jump sparingly.

4. Consider a nutritional supplement pyramid.

While perusing the latest research, I came across this case study: The Development of Nutritional Supplement Fact Sheets for Irish Athletes. While the abstract doesn't tell us much about the study in general, I was intrigued by the initiative. In particular, I was interested in how something like this might be useful for the United States. In recent years, nutritional supplementation has become quite pronounced in our country. I'm sure the overwhelming majority of folks reading this article are taking at least one supplement. This is largely in part to the poor quality of our food, the poor quality of our diets, and the mass marketing of these supplements (none of which is changing for the better). What is also apparent is the lack of quality control and general information about what supplements should be prioritized for different populations.

I know we all have our beef, pun intended, with the nutritional pyramid, but have we considered creating one for supplementation?

My thoughts are that it would be a useful way to educate the general population on what is worth taking, what is beneficial but less important, and what should be used sparingly or with caution. As the industry continues to boom, the food quality continues to plunder, and the consumption of such products becomes the norm I think a standardized table seems appropriate.

The closest thing I could find was this table by The Council For Responsible Nutrition.

Does something more in depth already exist? Is it in the works? What do you think?

5. Wall - Sled - Run.

Here is a video on a three step progression you can put to work right away to teach positive shin angle and proper acceleration mechanics with your athletes. Give it a try!



 

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The Neural Fatigue of CNS Demanding Workouts

Q: Why is it that training that is very CNS demanding requires such long recovery periods between workouts. I understand the need for long recoveries between sets, but not between workouts. So why is it that many coaches recommend training things like depth jumps, or speed and agility drills only 1-2 times per week?

A: The truth is that we really don't understand neural fatigue to the extent that we'd like simply because it isn't as easy to quantify or observe. With muscular damage, we can use biopsies in the lab and blood measures (creatine kinase, for instance). Neural fatigue is really only truly assessed by performance measures; it's why "a decline in performance" is about the only true definition of non-volume-induced overtraining.

Here's a very cool read on this front.

Some guys can train at a high-intensity more frequently, while others have to take more time between efforts. This is where it’s as much a science of interpretation as it is of experimentation and application; you’ve got to respond to how each athlete recovers a bit differently.

Eric Cressey
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Talking Plyos

I believe that during bounce drop jumps, the heels should make contact with the ground lightly. Very few athletes have the eccentric strength to land completely on the balls of the feet. You're also putting a lot of undue stress on the Achilles and patellar tendons and limiting your ability to cushion with the hip extensors. Additionally, you're really increasing the amortization phase, therefore killing the very elastic response you're trying to train.

A lot of people will argue that it's counterintuitive in light of the sprinting motion, but I don't see that argument as holding water. Vertical displacement is centimeters in sprinting, but meters in bounce drop jumps, so you're comparing apples and oranges in terms of ground reaction forces. I use different short-response tactics for using just the balls of the feet.

Eric Cressey
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Plyometrics and Growth Plates

Q: I had a question from a strength coach here regarding plyometric training and young athletes, so I thought I would shoot it off. Currently, these figure skating female athletes are 13 years old. They started with the strength coach here six months ago, working on foundational lifts (squat, clean, snatch, skip rope, jump squats, and some single leg stuff).

Another coach mentioned to their mother that they should be doing more plyometrics. Any opinions? My take based on previous reading is potential risk for growth plate injury, and that plyo's should be used cautiously until growth plate closure.


A: I don't think that there is anything wrong with plyos at such an age. Walking is plyometric, and sprinting is about the most plyometric activity you'll find. The bigger issue is why not focus on something with more return-on-investment? About the only thing you'll get from adding a lot more plyos in is an increased risk of overuse injury; they get enough jumping and landings on the ice, in most cases.

Most 13-year-olds are very weak and need to learn proper lifting technique to get ready for the day when they are ready to load the compound movements. Sure, SOME plyos have a place for such athletes, but you have to manage overall training stress; they aren't going to be able to do as much as another athlete who is in the off-season.

Eric Cressey
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Don’t Be So Linear

Got to any gym, and you’ll see loads of people doing cardio at varying intensities, with different machines, listening to different music, and wearing different exercise sneakers. While they each appear unique, the reality is that they’re all stuck in linear movements that always have them moving forward. Take any of these people off their precious ellipticals, treadmills, and recumbent bikes, and you’ll find that they lack frontal and transverse plane stability and carry their weight anteriorly. The solution is pretty simple; get them moving in different ways! The first step is to include some single-leg work in all exercise programming. This does NOT include unilateral leg presses and Smith machine lunges; you should actually be doing some of the stabilization work! Second, make sure that you’re training movements that require full hip flexion (knees get above 90 degrees) and hip extension (glutes fire to complete hip extension). Sprinting meets these guidelines very easy, but cardio equipment that limits range of motion will always fall short. I’m not saying that they don’t have their place; I’m just saying that I’d rather have people outside doing sprints and multi-directional work instead. Third, and most importantly incorporate more backwards and lateral movement in your energy systems work. Here’s an example that I used with an online consulting client of mine recently: Dynamic Flexibility Warm-up The following should be performed in circuit fashion with the designated rest intervals from below incorporated between each drill. A1) High Knee Run: 20 yards A2) Butt Kicks: 20 yards A3) Backpedal: 20 yards A4) Carioca: 20 yards to the right A5) Carioca: 20 yards to the left A6) Side Shuffle: 20 yards to the right A7) Side Shuffle: 20 yards to the left A8) Backpedal: 20 yards A9) Scap Push-up: 15 reps A10) Sprint: 50 yards Week 1: 3 times through, Rest interval: 15s between drills, two minutes between sets Week 2: 3 times through, Rest interval: 10s between drills, two minutes between sets Week 3: 4 times through, Rest interval: 10s between drills, two minutes between sets Week 4: 2 times through, Rest interval: 5s between drills, two minutes between sets Eric Cressey Improved Posture is Not Only Good for your Health, but also good for your Performance.
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