Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Strength and Conditioning Considerations for Volleyball Players

Some of my favorite athletes I've worked with over the last 20 years are volleyball players. Volleyball requires the development of many physical qualities including strength, power, speed, and aerobic capacity. In addition appropriate levels of mobility and flexibility are required as well. Out of all of the physical requirements required of these athletes, the biggest issue I see is lack of strength and implementing too much aerobic work. Regarding energy systems, in the book "Supertraining", Mel Siff states that volleyball has 90% short term system requirements and 10% intermediate system requirements. Aerobic capacity is required for recovery but this is not marathon running.
I worked with Jennifer throughout her high school and club career where she played for A5, the top club in Georgia. Due to the huge progress she made working with me at my training center, I ended up working with her high school team to help them develop a program they could implement for their school season. She went on to play at Harvard.
Unfortunately it has been my experience that most middle school and high school volleyball programs are just an afterthought when it comes to strength and conditioning, usually taking a backseat to the school's football team. This is a shame because I've seen some of these young girls deal with unnecessary injuries.
Kennedy was a club teammate of Jennifer's at A5 who I worked with her senior year. She had experienced many non-contact injuries that could have easily been avoided through proper strength and conditioning at a young age. She went on to a great career at Virginia Tech and has been playing professionally since 2016.
Strength and power training is crucial as it will allow the athlete to produce greater force, to hit harder, to jump higher, to move more explosively, to become more resilient and reduce the likelihood of injuries.

While every athlete is different in their individual strengths and weaknesses, a good training program should include maximal effort exercises to develop absolute strength; dynamic effort exercises to develop power, explosive strength and a fast rate of force production; repeated effort exercises to build muscle mass and strengthen weak points; light weight high repetition exercises to strengthen the connective tissues and build joint integrity; aerobic and anaerobic energy systems development to build specific conditioning and help with restoration and recovery; and flexibility and mobility exercises to allow the attainment of the proper positions required of the sport, to help with recovery and restoration as well as injury prevention.

Maximal effort training should be done with compound, multi-joint lifts that allow for the greatest possible loads to be used. Exercises like squats, deadlifts, presses and variations of these exercises should be used with loads at 90% or greater of a 1 rep max.

Dynamic effort training can be done by performing a wide variety of jumps and throws with medicine balls or other weighted implements. In addition, barbell exercises with submaximal loads performed explosively can be used as well. It is recommended the athletes use accommodating resistance methods (attaching chains and/or high tension bands to the barbells) as well. Accommodating resistance allows for a contrast in the load being lifted (generally speaking the load is lighter in the weaker position and greater in the stronger position of the lift due to the unloading / reloading of the chain and the bands shrinking and stretching) and eliminates bar deceleration when the lifter achieves a more mechanically advantageous position in the lift. Louie Simmons of the world-famous Westside Barbell Club in Columbus, Ohio deserves the recognition as being the person who popularized the use of accommodating resistance methods in strength training as we know it today, as well as coming up with the idea on how to combine the various training methods into an organized weekly, monthly, annual and multi-year training plan.

Audrey, an NCAA volleyball player I've been working with since her high school and club career, performing box jumps as part of her strength and conditioning program. In addition to a 43" box jump, she squats over 2x her body-weight and bench presses over 1x her body-weight. Both strength and power training methods are essential for optimal physical development.

Repeated effort training should be done with smaller, single joint exercises. This allows you to isolate weak muscles to strengthen weak points and build muscle mass where needed. Most young athletes I train need to build muscle everywhere due to the lack of focus in strength training through their school and club programs. Particular attention should be paid on the muscles of the torso, shoulders, lower back, glutes, hamstrings and calves.

In addition to repeated effort exercises we use for building muscle, exercises done for very high reps with very light weights or bands that focus on promoting blood flow to the joints should be used for joint health and strengthening connective tissues. These exercises should be done with a quick, controlled pace with little emphasis on the eccentric, or lowering phase, of the movement. Pay particular attention to the knees, ankles, shoulders and elbows with these movements.

Both anaerobic and aerobic conditioning methods need to be implemented. While volleyball is a sport requiring short, powerful bursts, the aerobic energy system should not be neglected. An aerobic base allows the athlete to recover between training sessions and during matches and tournaments. Most aerobic training for volleyball could be accomplished in a more beneficial manner. A heart rate monitor is essential to ensure the athlete stays in the appropriate heart rate zone during exercise, which for most will be around 130-150 beats per minute. Any activity that allows the athlete to achieve, and maintain, the proper zone for the correct duration will provide benefit. This is where the athlete could get the benefit of practicing sport drills or pulling / pushing weighted sleds to strengthen muscles while developing the aerobic energy system. Just going out and running is a good option, but is usually the only method I see being used. Anaerobic conditioning can be accomplished through the sport practice itself, along with implementing various sprinting drills and other exercises done for short bursts.

Adopting a series of mobility exercises to develop active range of motion and contribute to joint health is important as well. Shoulders, knees and ankles can take a beating in this sport and joint health should not be overlooked. In addition a solid flexibility program is great to help with recovery, to keep muscle tissue healthy, and to help prevent injuries. Stretching should be implemented to ensure the athlete can attain the correct positions required of the sport as well.

Unfortunately there is no cookie cutter training program that is beneficial for every volleyball player out there. A good coach or trainer needs to be able to assess their athletes individually to determine what to prioritize and how to implement the various physical development methods into the athlete's physical training.

I have worked with many volleyball players in the 20 years I've been in the industry and many of played at the highest levels of club volleyball and gone on to great NCAA and professional careers. These athletes are some of my favorite to work with as they are usually highly motivated and want to learn and get better. With proper programming and a little bit of time in the gym I usually see fast progress and the newfound strength, power and conditioning translates on the court immediately.

If you are a volleyball player, coach or parent of a player, please don't hesitate to contact me if you, your team or your athlete is ready to take things to the next level. I offer both private and semi-private training options at my facility, consulting services, and will be starting a hands on series of clinics to bridge the gap between school and club seasons.

Stay Strong!

(770) 403-1363

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Importance of Indicator Lifts for Combat Athletes.

One of the most important things in any strength and conditioning program is the proper use of indicator lifts. Indicator lifts are the testers that allow you to monitor an athlete's strength progress. I choose indicator lifts for my athletes based on both the sport and the individual.

For my combative athletes I generally track a variety of explosive movements, maximal or near maximal strength exercises and relative strength exercises as each are of great importance for their discipline.

For explosive strength and power I look at various jumps, usually a box jump or a broad jump done for a max height on box jumps or max distance on broad jumps. For lower body strength I use a parallel box squat performed in our belt squat machine usually for a 1 or 3 rep max. I like to use a block deadlift done with a sumo stance and the plates on 2", 4" or 5" blocks done for a 1 rep max. This is a great display of hip strength, something very important to all athletes not just fighters and grapplers. For upper body strength I use floor presses done for a 3 or 5 rep max. I also use pull-ups performed with body-weight for max reps as an indicator for relative strength. By tracking my athlete's progress with these indicator lifts I can ensure that they are progressing in all of the types of strength important to their performance.

Jumps can be done with body-weight or with added resistance by holding dumbbells, kettlebells or wearing a weight vest. Regardless, you should try to break a personal record in box height or broad jump distance about once every 4-6 weeks. It is important to note that if you are improving in your jumps and max effort strength work simultaneously, your training is on track. If your strength lifts are going up but your jumps are stalling or worse, regressing, you need to prioritize dynamic effort work in training.

BJJ athlete Chris Jones performing box jumps with a 40lb weighted vest.
Squats and deadlifts should be the cornerstone of any athlete's strength and conditioning program. These two compound exercises deliver the most "bang for your buck". For my combat athletes, particularly those who have mileage on, or injuries to, the shoulders I prefer squats with either a safety squat bar or belt squat machine as this keeps the stress off the shoulder joints unlike squatting with a regular barbell.

Chris Jones performing box squats in the belt squat machine at the Team EPTS training center. He has done 585 for a 3 rep max.
For the deadlift we tend to favor the sumo deadlift done with the plates resting on blocks (2"-5" blocks usually) as this minimizes leg drive and places a great emphasis on the hips and back.

Chris performing the sumo deadlift off 2" blocks, and has made 2.5 times his bodyweight for a 1 rep max. Notice he is sporting what the late Mel Siff referred to as the "best shoe for weightlifting".
I am not a big fan of regular bench presses, particularly for 1 rep maxes, for my combat athletes. The majority of our pressing is done with dumbbells or kettlebells, but we've found the barbell floor press done for a 5 rep max is a great indicator lift for our fighters and grapplers. Be sure to stick the legs out straight to take leg drive out of the exercise. This is very similar to how the combat athlete uses their upper body pushing strength in training and competition when working from guard.

Chris performing the floor press. He regularly does his body-weight - 205-225 - for sets of 5+ reps.
For upper body pulling strength nothing beats the pull-up. There is no better exercise for developing upper body strength. Pull-ups should be performed strictly with NO kipping. We use a variety of grips - underhand, overhand, parallel grip, staggered grip, fat grips, and one of our favorites gi pull-ups.
The gi pull-up is hands-down one of  the best upper body strength exercises a grappler can add to their training plan. Team EPTS athlete Chris Jones easily bangs out sets of 10+ reps at a body-weight of 205-220 lbs.
A final note about indicator lifts, just because the typical strength coach here in the US has some sort of fatal attraction to ass to grass front squats, bench press and power cleans doesn't mean that you have to. When working with athletes you have to consider the demands of their sport and their physical constitution when selecting their lifts. Athletes are not weightlifters or powerlifters, they are not being judged on their technical performance of the snatch, clean and jerk, squat, bench press and deadlift. Use exercise variations that allow them to get strong through the joint angles and positions they need to use in there sport. All that matters is their sporting result, not the lifts or numbers they do in the gym. Choose the exercises that best suit your individual athlete and focus on making them strong, explosive, and resilient. While this article focused only on the strength and power exercises I use with my combat athletes, aerobic capacity and other conditioning modalities need to be addressed, as does mobility and range of motion.

When an athlete develops a high level of physical preparedness and approaches their specific sport preparation with laser-focus, their results will be nothing short of impressive.

Chris Jones, Creighton BJJ brown belt and owner of Nucleus Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, won gold at the 2017 IBJJF Pans, Masters Worlds, Nogi Pans and Nogi Worlds and is currently the #1 ranked brown belt in his division in the IBJJF!
Stay Strong AND Healthy!


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

My Top 3 Exercise "Playlist".

I often get asked what my favorite exercises are, and while there are too many great exercises out there to choose from, if I had to narrow down my favorites, these would make the top 3 list!

1. Deadlift:

In my opinion this is hands down the best exercise you can do. It requires a lot of coordinated muscular effort to perform properly, is fantastic for strengthening the entire backside of the body and torso and requires no special equipment – just a bar and a bunch of iron plates. In addition, the deadlift is a very safe lift to perform as missing a deadlift has far fewer potential dangers than missing a squat or bench press. Plus, there is just something raw and awesome about ripping a heavy barbell off the ground!

2. Pull-Up:

The pull-up is king of the upper body exercises as far as I’m concerned. I see way more people opting for the easier to perform pulldown. Pulldowns will not give you the same mid- and upper-back development as the pull-up. If you want to jack up your pull-up numbers here’s a simple plan. Test your max number of reps. Now do a set of half your max in-between sets of all your other exercises in your workout. If you can only do 4 pull-ups in a row, do a set of 2 between sets of all your other exercises. If you have 20 sets of exercises in your training session, you will end up knocking out 40 pull-ups throughout your workout. Do this for a few weeks then retest your max, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

3. Kettlebell Clean and Press:

The kettlebell clean and press can be performed with 1 or 2 kettlebells and is one of the biggest “bang for your buck” kettlebell exercises you can do, as it works almost every muscle in the entire body. Kettlebells are a great addition to any strength and conditioning or fitness program and can be used almost anywhere. Sometimes I drag a kettlebell or two to the park and do a lighter weight conditioning workout outside if I want to get out of the gym for a bit. Kettlebells are great to keep at your house too in case you can’t get to the gym and need an efficient and effective full-body workout.

While these are the exercises that made my top 3 list, I certainly wouldn’t neglect exercises like squats, various presses and pulls, and direct abdominal work; but putting a lot of hard work into my top 3 favorites will provide huge improvements in your strength overall.

Stay Strong AND Healthy!


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

My Appearance on the Grappling Central Podcast.

Huge thanks to my buddy Ryan for having me as a guest on his show the Grappling Central Podcast!
Ryan’s Strength & Conditioning coach Scott Shetler joins the show to talk about catering your lifting to meet your grappling needs, the impact of time limits on athletes, cardio vs muscular endurance and nutrition.
Click here to listen now:

-Changes in strength training over time
-Why he enjoys working with Jiu-Jitsu athletes
-Formulating sport specific training for Jiu-Jitsu
-Why strength training is so valuable for grapplers
-Strength IS a factor
-The impact of time limits on athletes
-Cardio vs muscular endurance
-Why he doesn’t believe in static stretching or prolonged warm ups
-Building physical preparedness
-The Pummel
-Being a Vegan athlete
-Kettlebells for grapplers
-His books and consultations
-Books mentioned in the interview: The 5 Rings and Dokkodo by Miyamoto Musashi

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Indian Club Training Tips for Grapplers & Fighters.

In this video I present some of the Indian club training exercises I have found to be beneficial for shoulder strength and health for the combative athletes I work with at my gym. I incorporate both light and heavy clubs into our training program as both offer great benefits to the combat athlete. These exercises are a must for shoulder health, strength, and mobility. I hope you enjoy this video and please leave any questions or suggestions for future video topics in the comments section below.
Click video below to watch now:

Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for updates on future videos. Stay Strong AND Healthy! -Scott

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Neck Training Tips for Grapplers & Fighters.

Creighton BJJ athlete, Noah Wilson, training his neck as part of his strength & conditioning program at EPTS Gym.

In this video I talk about some of the various neck training exercises the grapplers and combat athletes I train utilize in their strength and conditioning programs. Neck strength is essential for combat athletes and should be developed through a combination of both static and dynamic exercises. Hopefully you enjoyed this video and if you have any questions or suggestions for future video topics please leave them in the comments section below.

Stay Strong AND Healthy! -Scott

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Grip Training Tips for Grapplers & Fighters.

Creighton BJJ athlete, Chris Jones, building a strong grip with gi pull-ups.
In this video I talk about, and demonstrate, some of the grip training exercises I utilize with my grapplers and fighters at the EPTS Gym in Atlanta.
We break our grip exercises up into two categories. 1. Compound exercises that stress the grip. Here we take compound pulling movements like pull-ups, pulldowns, and rows and add a Jiu Jitsu gi or something similar to challenge the grip on these movements and perform them as part of the regular training session. 2. Direct grip exercises. Here we use mostly static grip exercises that isolate the grip. Exercises such as plate pinches, hub lifts and Rolling Thunder lifts are some of our favorites. In addition I talk about some basic hand health strategies to implement as part of your grip training as well. I hope you enjoy this week's video and if you have any questions or topic suggestions for future videos please leave them in the comments section below. Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel to receive updates on future videos.

Stay Strong AND Healthy! -Scott