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!


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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!



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 to share his tips on senior fitness.