Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Increasing Ground Force Production For Athletic Performance.

I was watching a video of MMA fighter Jon Jones skipping and shuffling on a treadmill the other day and laughed to myself about how over the next month “MMA conditioning experts” will be talking about the latest secret to dominate your opponent in the ring. Prepare for the onslaught of YouTube videos and E-Books, “Fight Training’s Forgotten Secret – THE TREADMILL”!

BJJ brown belt Chris Jones uses heavy deadlifts to build enormous hip, back, torso and grip strength.
While that short video was just a snapshot into Jon’s training and was likely him just warming up for his training session, it did get me thinking about the sport performance training industry. There are so many experts hocking gimmicks and methods everywhere you look. It’s big business. Most of it is just that, a gimmick.

The biggest thing that can help an athlete is increasing ground force production. This will impact all sports. In a recent blog I pointed to two studies that show how increasing ground force production impacted runners, both sprint and distance runners, but this would be a huge benefit to every athlete. Swimmers will be able to get off their blocks faster, fighters will be able to strike harder, grapplers will be able to shoot faster, throwers will be able to throw harder and further and so on.
Every athlete can benefit from building absolute strength, power and speed, even elite swimmers!
The two most effective ways to increase force production are to become stronger and faster. Sorry football players, but dancing through agility ladders may give the illusion that your moving faster but it’s doing squat to improve your ground force production. Speaking of squat, that is a far better choice than skipping through a plastic ladder.

I don’t mean to single out football players, but over the last 20 years I’ve been in the training industry, many of the football players I worked with were surprisingly weak, especially for a sport that is supposed to be dominated by some of the strongest and most powerful athletes out there.

I recently worked with a defensive lineman from a D2 school here in Georgia. I spent the summer training him and noticed from day one his lower back was incredibly weak. Our first training session had him squatting 50% of his max for 10 sets of 2 reps and doing sumo stance rack deadlifts with 50% of his estimated deadlift max (he didn’t know what he could deadlift, go figure) for 10 sets of 2 reps. An additional 25% band tension was used on both of the lifts on top of the barbell weight. By the second set of deadlifts his lower back had locked up and he was on the ground. He struggled to do reverse hypers for 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps with half his squat max as well. 

In comparison, I had a female powerlifter I was training at the time who used the exact same weight on the deadlift workout as this football player. She was twice the age of the football player and had some pretty jacked up knee issues. She could crush that deadlift workout in about 5 minutes and move on to reverse hypers with 50% of her squat max for 4 sets of 20 reps with no issues. I’m sorry, but a female masters division powerlifter should not dominate a collegiate football lineman in the weight room.

How To Increase Ground Force Production.

Get Stronger
Elite BJJ athlete Chris Jones developing strength by doing Zercher squats w/ 205lbs on the bar and 225lbs on the belt squat.
Stick with your basic exercises that lend themselves to heavy loads. Squats, deadlifts, and variations of those lifts rule here. I can hear the sport specific coaches now, “But where are the 1-leg exercises at? Most sports are no bi-lateral and require uni-lateral loading for improved performance.” 

Improving athleticism happens during practice where athletes learn to play their sport. The goal in the weight room should be to make the athlete strong, more explosive, and more resilient. The primary strength exercises should be the multi-joint compound lifts that allow the athlete to handle the greatest loads through joint angles required in the sport. The maximal effort method, lifting weights in the 90% or greater range, should be utilized here. Single leg exercises are great and should be incorporated with the accessory exercises after the main lift.

Get Faster
High school running back Noah Venable developing explosive power doing kneeling power cleans.
Louie Simmons talks extensively about the importance of training all velocities of strength. This was one of the many concepts I learned from him that really made me question how I was training people. I always thought of weights as heavy and light and he said, “No, heavy and light is different for everyone. Weights are fast or slow.” Because of this I follow his recommendations of breaking training up by speed. Regardless of the load used the goal should always be to move the weight as fast as possible.
  •         Power training – jumps, other explosive bodyweight exercises and throws
  •          Dynamic effort training – submaximal weights lifted with maximal acceleration

o   Explosive strength – 30-40% loads plus accommodating resistance
o   Speed strength – 50-60% loads plus accommodating resistance
  •        Maximal effort training – handling loads 90% or greater

Using these methods to improve strength, speed and power will have a very positive effect on an athlete’s performance. I recently started working with an up and coming MMA fighter and after only a couple of weeks using these methods he reported that he is hitting a lot harder without “trying to hit harder”.

I worked with a college football player when he was preparing for his pro-day and in 6 weeks with no running, just working on his maximal strength, speed strength and power his vertical jump went from 29.5” to 39.5”, his 40-yard dash went from 4.85 seconds to 4.60 seconds, and his squat went from 535lbs to 600lbs. In nearly 20 years I’ve seen nothing but exceptional results with all of my other athletes including grapplers, powerlifters, swimmers, tennis players, volleyball players, wrestlers, and many more.

If you want further reading about the importance of increasing ground force production for athletes I strongly recommend picking up Barry Ross’ book Underground Secrets to FasterRunning, it was recommended to me by Louie Simmons and is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

Stay Strong AND Healthy!


-Scott

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Keep Your Nutrition Plan on Track with Healthy Snacks.

Due to my crazy work schedule I find myself working through normal meal times. With nearly 20 years in the fitness industry I've discovered there really is no such thing as a "normal time" for anything actually!

Healthy eating is not difficult but does require a little advanced planning. Fortunately I have a refrigerator at my gym that makes it easy for me to keep my favorite healthy snacks ready and available.

Most of the time I only have a few minutes to eat in between my athlete's and client's training sessions, so I need stuff that is healthy and able to be devoured quickly.

I usually keep a lot of fresh fruit in the refrigerator and bags of mixed nuts and trail mix in my office. Fruit is my favorite, it tastes awesome and is very refreshing, especially when training during a hot summer day in Atlanta!

I also rely on nutrition bars as part of my emergency snack kit. Nutrition bars are great because they are not messy and are easily portable. I usually keep a few in my back pack and gym bag. I find them particularly valuable when travelling. There's nothing worse than being a vegan and stuck in the middle of a long road trip with no healthy, plant-based options available, and the junk that is available on most flights? I'll pass.

Even though they are incredibly convenient, the downside is that most nutrition bars are not much healthier than a candy bar. Most are loaded with sugar and processed crap. One of my favorites is the GoMacro bar. These bars are organic, vegan and sustainably sourced. They are not loaded with weird ingredients, contain no refined sugars, and the ingredients are from healthy food sources. They have a chewy texture and taste great - the peanut butter chocolate chip are my favorite!

Click here to check out GoMacro bars!

Snacking on junk is the easiest way to sabotage healthy eating. Be sure to plan ahead and have your emergency snack kit ready for when you are stuck in the office, on the road, or just looking for a healthy option at home!

Stay Strong AND Healthy!

First-Time Marathon Runner? Tips to Make It to the Finish Line. By, Jason Lewis

Thanks to Jason Lewis for being a guest on my Strength & Health blog and sharing this article he wrote for first-time marathon runners. Enjoy!

-Scott

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First-Time Marathon Runner? Tips to Make It to the Finish Line.

Photo By: Pixabay

Over half a million Americans run marathons each year, and that number is steadily rising. With time and preparation, you can put your first marathon under your belt and join the ranks of even the most seasoned marathoner. Check out these tips to put you off to a good start come race day.

Find the Right Plan

The first step on your journey is to find a training plan that meets your needs. A quick Google search of beginner training plans will leave your mind spinning with all the possibilities, variations, and recommendations. One says to always wear a red headband while the other says wear blue. Rather than get lost in all the information, think of training in terms of how it will fit into your current schedule. For example, maybe the kids have soccer practice Thursday afternoon and date night is Tuesday. The best training plan will fall in line with your routine.

Take a look at your current running experience too. If the word run isn’t even in your vocabulary, opt for a program that starts out with walking and gradually builds to running. If you are an experienced runner, look for a plan that is similar to your current runs. For example, if you’re already running three times a week for three to four miles, find a training plan that starts out similar to that to avoid injury and burnout. The key for any runner is to gradually increase your mileage.

It’s Not Just Running

You’ve found the perfect spot for your run, but as crazy as it sounds, preparing for a marathon requires more than just running. Your joints need a break, and increasing your balance, strength, and endurance will be beneficial to you in the long run. Cross-training is a great way to rest between strenuous runs, and according to marathon coach Patrick McCrann, sometimes running is the worst thing for both your body and your running goals, especially if you are nursing an injury.

“Most athletes identify problems simply as hurdles to be overcome, [but] the smart runner recognizes his or her limitations and finds a better way,” McCrann said. Replacing running days with cross-training will not only allow your injuries to heal, but prevent them by giving your muscles and joints time to recover. So, what can you do on your cross-training days? Biking, swimming, rowing, and yoga are just a few of the options. As long as it doesn’t involve actual running, you are golden.

Make a Fashion Statement

The most fashionable runner is a comfortable runner. You might be tempted to wear a brand new pair of shoes on race day, but one of the biggest mistakes you can make is wearing new shoes or clothes. You’ve worked hard to break in your shoes, and you know from experience they don’t pinch or rub. You’d hate to be sidelined halfway through the race because of a raw blister. Wear the same shoes and clothes you trained in so that you know without a doubt there is no risk of chafing or rubbing. If it helps, think of your practice runs as rehearsals. Adjust what doesn’t work and keep what shines.

As you decide which outfit to make your go-to, avoid cotton, as it is the least breathable. Cotton holds sweat in, leaving you feeling damp and bogged down. Opt for lightweight clothing with moisture wicking technology. Don’t forget that you’ll heat up as you run, so although the morning may be a little chilly, your body temperature will rise in no time. A good rule of thumb is to dress 20 degrees warmer than the weather.

By remembering these tips, you’ll pass your first marathon with flying colors. Remember, marathons aren’t all about winning. The best part is knowing that you did it. Even if you finish dead last or have to walk the last few miles, you won’t be able to stop the smile from spreading across your face when you pass through that finish line.

Jason Lewis is passionate about helping seniors stay healthy and injury-free. He created strongwell.org to share his tips on senior fitness.



Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Developing the Athlete: Build Strength in the Gym, not Skill.


Every so often I still see comments about “sport specific training”. This whole idea has led to the creation of many products, programs and facilities dedicated to this niche.

I have trained many athletes, of all levels, from a wide variety of sports in the last 20 years and I can say I’ve never met one that had too much strength, too much speed, too much power, or too much endurance.

There are two types of preparation that apply to athletes, general and specific. For simplicity’s sake, we can say that specific preparation is what the athlete does in the practice of the sport and general preparation is everything else. The trick for the athlete is to ensure that the general preparation enhances the specific skill. Due to this the line between general preparation and physical preparation becomes blurred to the point that strength coaches try to mimic specific skills in the weight-room. This is a big mistake.

I believe it is the sole responsibility of the strength coach to focus on the development of all the physical requirements of the athlete, not specific skill development. There are position coaches and skill coaches to fill those roles. To do this effectively it is imperative the coach has a thorough understanding of all the physical skills required by the athlete, and properly assess where the athlete is currently and where they need to be at the start of the competitive season.


The physical skills required of an athlete, and in what concentration vary sport to sport. They include, but are not limited to, strength, speed, power, endurance, mobility, and flexibility.

Usually the topic of debate centers around strength training, and rightfully so. Since force development is critical for sport performance, the development of strength in all velocities is essential for the athlete. Again, I have yet to see an athlete that is too strong for their sport, yet many strength coaches seem to live in fear of this daily. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard an industry professional at a conference or seminar say something to the extent of “we are not training weightlifters or powerlifters, we are training athletes”. This is true but unfortunately it has resulted in athletes that do not come close to their strength potential.

I worked with a D1 football player who, while doing a set of kettlebell swings with a 24kg kettlebell, was hit with a massive back spasm. Here was a college senior who played outside linebacker. He weighed 236lbs, had a 40-yard dash of 4.85 seconds, a vertical jump of 29.5”, and a parallel free squat of 535 lbs. All that and swinging a 53 lb kettlebell made his lower back lock up. This is what a program of front squats, bench presses, power cleans and no direct lower back work resulted in. I see this in virtually every athlete I’ve worked with. Apparently, sumo deadlifts are cheating, wide stance back squats are somehow less athletic than front squats, and direct low back and neck work is to be avoided at all cost. This is also why some of my female powerlifters ran circles around another collegiate football player I worked with recently.

To fix this I switched him to wide stance box squats, sumo deadlifts (both of these exercises are fantastic for developing hip strength) and we attacked his lower back with Louie Simmon’s Reverse Hyper Extension machine for tons of reps, 80-100 per workout with 50% of his squat max were the norm. In addition, we did a ton of glute / ham raises, good mornings, back extensions, and kettlebell swings.

My approach to programming is heavily influenced by the work of Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell Club. We did maximal effort work one day a week where we worked up to a max single in a squat or deadlift variation, or a 3-5 rep max in a good morning followed by the accessory work listed above, reverse hypers plus 2 or 3 more exercises for hamstrings, low back and abs. We did dynamic effort work one day a week where we did box squats with average bands for 10-12 sets of 2 reps with 50-60% of his squat max and speed pulls with 50% of his deadlift max and doubled mini bands for 10 sets of 2 reps followed by the reverse hypers and other accessory work. We did a lot of walking with the sled, heavy weight for shorter distances and lighter weight for longer distances. Jumps and bounding drills were done on the lower body days as well. Two other days of the week were devoted to a maximal effort upper body and dynamic effort upper body training session.


After only 6 weeks of training like this we had raised his parallel squat from 535 lbs to 600 lbs, his body-weight was up from 236 lbs to 247 lbs and he made these official results at his school’s Pro Day scouting event, his 40-yard dash dropped from 4.85 seconds to 4.60 seconds and his vertical went from 29.5” to 39.5”. Strength and power training lead to these results, not running and agility ladders.
Strength and power training improves force production. People love to say in athletics speed kills. You want to get faster? Increase ground contact force. 


A study done by Weyand titled “Faster top running speeds are achieved with greater ground forces not more rapid leg movements” confirms this. All those ladder drills may make it look like you’re moving fast but if you want real speed you may want to “in out, in out” your way to the deadlift platform and squat rack. Click here for Weyand’s study.

This general approach to strength and power development is not just for power athletes. According to a study by Leena Paavilainen titled “Explosive-strength training improves 5-km running time by improving running economy and muscle power” an experimental group of endurance runners who replaced 32% of their running training with a strength training program showed a statistically significant drop in running times when compared to the control group who did their normal running training only. What’s interesting here was the experimental group showed no improvement in VO2 max and their improvement was attributed to increased ground force production and decreased ground contact time. Click here for Paavilainen's study.


This is about that time when many strength coaches love to reiterate “we’re training ATHLETES, not powerlifters and weightlifters. Train athletes like DAMN ATHLETES!” I get lost on this statement. Since when has lifting barbells been the sole right of powerlifters and weightlifters? Just because strength development is most often sorely lacking in athletes, form youth all the way up to professionals, doesn’t mean other physical qualities should be ignored. All athletes require strength, power, endurance, flexibility, mobility, etc. Some are quick but weak, some are strong but slow, some are hyper-mobile and some are wound tighter than a drum. No athlete can get by on a cookie cutter program and it is responsibility of the strength coach, or I guess physical preparation coach is the cool new term, to determine the individual needs based on the sport, the athlete’s position within the sport, and their current level of readiness. I have worked with climbers, football players, baseball players, volleyball players, combat athletes and strength athletes; to name a few; and none of them train the same way. Ever.


Do not waste time on the fads in the sport specific industry. Athletes need to be as strong as they possibly can while at the same time developing the appropriate energy systems and establishing the appropriate range of motion needed for the sporting form. So yes, train athletes like damn athletes but do not neglect strength and strengthen the muscles that they need. This will likely mean deviating from the typical front squat, bench press, and power clean protocol that is easy to plan for a large group, but that’s ok. As trainers and coaches it is our responsibility to program the most effective, efficient and safest means so the athlete is at their strongest, most resilient, and best conditioned state when we turn them over to their skill development coaches for their specificity work. 

P.S. If you haven't read Barry Ross's book, "Underground Secrets to Faster Running" you should fix that. Click here to check it out on Amazon.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Strength & Health TV - Episode 49: Tips To Improve Your Sumo Deadlift.

In this video I discuss training tips and ideas to improve your sumo deadlift. These are things I've applied, and seen success with, many of my athletes including fighters and combat athletes, powerlifters, football players, volleyball players and more.

In addition I go over a couple of things that can be holding back your sumo deadlift, and look at a couple different ways to properly set up for a big pull.

I hope you enjoy this video and if you have any questions or suggestions for future show topics please leave them in the comments section below.




Stay Strong AND Healthy,


-Scott

Follow me online:
scott@extreme-fitness.org
http://www.scottshetler.com
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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Strength & Health TV - Episode 48: Building Your Deadlift With Rack Pulls.

The rack pull gets a bad rap as a deadlift exercise, in fact it's almost as looked down upon as the sumo deadlift. I've found the rack pull to be an effective lower back builder when done correctly.

Louie Simmons told me that when you do rack pulls you need to make sure to eliminate the leg drive you get when pulling from the floor. If you set up for a rack pull like you're pulling off the ground you'll be using a ton of leg drive and lifting a lot more than you can pull. What we've found is by doing them the way he suggests it often allows you to use less than you deadlift from the ground. The only time I've found this not to be the case is with my lifters who pull conventionally and use a ton of back - you've seen them - they basically stiff leg the bar off the ground.

I hope you enjoy this week's episode and if you have any questions or suggestions on future show topics please leave them in the comments section below.




Stay Strong AND Healthy,


-Scott

Monday, May 15, 2017

Strength & Health TV - Episode 47: Three of my favorite exercises for healthy shoulders.

In this week's episode I look at three of my favorite exercises for shoulder health and strength; the Bandbell bar bench press, the circle lateral raise, and Indian club swings.

These movements are great for promoting healthy shoulders and are excellent for pre-hab exercises and extra workouts. I've found that as I've gotten older extra workouts are crucial for restoration and these three movements are some of the ones that I, as well as the majority of my athletes and clients, prefer.

I hope you enjoyed this video and if you have any questions or suggestions for future episode topics please leave them in the comments section below.





Stay Strong AND Healthy,

-Scott

Follow me online:
scott@extreme-fitness.org
http://www.scottshetler.com
http://www.extreme-fitness.org
http://www.facebook.com/sshetlerfitness
http://www.twitter.com/sshetler