Archive for the Z.S. Basketball Training Category

Are You Recovering From Your Training?

Posted in Z.S. Basketball Training, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , on April 18, 2013 by zenithstrength

intensity

Recovery seems to be the most under utilized aspect of training programs. Working with youth athletes in today’s reality means that most kids are balancing their schedules between homework, practice, training and maintaining some form of social life. In addition, with the explosion of cross fit and its many spin offs,  it seems that everyone feels they need to do more with their training with the attitude of having to “kill” yourself each session to feel like you got a productive workout.

And here’s the news flash the may irk a lot of peeps out there.  Going balls to the walls every training session will hinder your long-term progress. If you’re an athlete looking to get stronger or bigger and your coach keeps running you to the ground in practice every day with liners or suicides up the wazoo, he is making it that much harder for you to achieve your goals.

I want to be clear on this. I’m not saying that hard work is bad. You have to bust your butt in the gym with focus and purpose to achieve results. But, there is a difference between training to improve sports performance and using the session to demonstrate your performance abilities. Improving sports performance involves varying intensities throughout the week, and month and takes time and patience to see the results. The second involves maxing out, either with weights, jumps or an extremely taxing workout that drains the nervous system and leaves you feeling wiped out.

In addition to poorly planned training sessions, there are a lot of showcase camps that are sabotaging these kids potential to get better by instilling the notion that they need to play their sports 7 days a week year round to get a division one scholarship.

This is the reality that strength coaches are dealing with at the high school and middle school level.  Kids specialize early and no longer have off seasons to work on getting stronger and improving for their sport. A lot of quality training occurs in the off-season, not while someone is playing on 3 AAU teams after finishing up the high school season. As a result, the training program has to be modified if the parents are unwilling to compromise for the betterment of their children.

Monitoring Training Stress

The focus needs to be on educating parents and coaches on proper ways to improve athletes without grinding their nervous systems to a pulp. I had the opportunity to talk with Mark Uyeyama who is the strength coach of my favorite NFL team the 49ers, and he mentioned that he foresees a paradigm shift in the strength and conditioning towards a more holistic approach, integrating and tracking recovery instead of just blasting out more squats, deadlifts and plyos. This definitely caught my attention as we have slowly been shifting our approach and integrating different methods such as breathing techniques in our sessions.

These recovery techniques are no longer just available for professional athletes. HRV or heart rate variability is technology that is available to the amateur athlete to monitor stress and recovery. Here’s an article talking about HRV as well as why pro athletes recover better than average joes.

Joel Jamieson is the man when it comes to conditioning, and he originally brought the concept of recovery and the ability to monitor it to my attention with his HRV system. Here’s a great post by Joel on recovery and maintaining balance between the sympathetic and para sympathetic nervous system.

Jaguar

Stress is one of the big culprits for nervous system burnout and over reaching and needs to be managed. Essentially everything you do will evoke a stress response. Thoughts of worry, anxiety, intense training sessions, reacting to crazy drivers on the road, studying for a big test, relationship troubles,  all have an effect on the body’s nervous system, specifically the sympathetic nervous system. The great thing about HRV is that you can monitor how your body responds and modify your training session accordingly. This is huge in regards to the information you have at your disposal and no longer having to go on feel as to whether you should go lighter or even take a day off.

Mark Uyeyama had a great analogy when he talked about managing the training process for his pro athletes.  Imagine  you have a cup and it fills up with everything you do that involves mental or physical stress, such as training, sports practice, studying, etc. Throw all that in the cup but the key is to make sure the cup never over flows. That folks is managing the training process. Making sure the cup never over flows is an art, and involves tracking and knowing how your athletes are feeling as is, getting improvements of your athletes without working them to them point that they stop making gains.

Summary

Whether you’re an athlete looking to get a division 1 scholarship or someone who trains and plays basketball a few days a week, you should strongly consider using HRV to monitor your training and recovery. As the paradigm shifts towards integrating more holistic approaches with training, hopefully we as strength coaches, can also have an effect on the health implications related to stress that go beyond the scope of this article.

SS

Which Squat Variation Should Athletes Use?

Posted in Z.S. Basketball Training, Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2013 by zenithstrength

I remember seeing Mike Boyle at the Perform Better Summit a few years back and he turned a lot of head’s when he stated that he didn’t back squat athletes. He preferred the front squat variation to the back squat. He eventually added the front squat to the list preferring to go with single leg variations instead. A lot of coaches took issue with his view-point which was that the low back was the weakest link in the bilateral squat lift and he could get better results with heavy single leg training.

I agree with his assessment that the low back is a limiting factor and if you have someone lift a lot of weight in a single leg stance it doesn’t necessarily correlate to bilateral lifts. For example if you can get an athlete to lunge with 225lbs it doesn’t mean that he can necessarily squat 450lbs.

As strength coaches, our job is to teach movements and while there are an infinite number of ways to  improve strength, I feel that there is tremendous value in using the squat while training athletes. Ultimately, it comes down to which variation of the squat front or back, limits the amount of risk while still providing a training effect.

In my opinion, the front squat is the safer choice for the majority of athletes and while also improving movement and performance markers implications such as the vertical jump and broad jump.

back-and-front-squat

There is a great series done on Ben Bruno’s blog written by Jim Reeves comparing the front and back squat in-depth.

He analyses joint motion at the hip knee and ankle and compares the two lifts and the data might surprise you.

Joint Motion/Alignment Front Squat Back Squat
Hip Flexion 56.1 43.8
Ankle Dorsiflexion 69.2 70.4
Knee Flexion 63.4 69.0

 

 

  • There is more hip flexion in the front squat vs the back squat while reducing low back shear. Basically the front squat allows for more hip motion while maintaining a relatively safer, more upright low back position vs the back squat.
  • There is more movement in the knee-joint during the back squat than the front squat which might be contrary to what most people think. That’s interesting to take in terms of knee pain and while squatting for some with knee pain won’t be an option it seems that the front squat is the more knee friendly of the two.

Now obviously there can be discrepancies between two people and what their squat looks like but in general the front squat allows you to keep the upper back more upright and its easier on the low back because of the reduced torso angle.

Core Strength

anterior-core

One benefit of the front squat is that it hammers the anterior core and works the obliques and rectus abdominis.  The load shift to the front forces a posterior tuck of the hip to engage the abs and glutes to keep the hip neutral. Most athletes generally are weak in this area so anytime you can shift the load to the front during an exercise you should.

During the back squat, it is much harder to keep a neutral spine and it will force more compression in the low back as you arch our back. Arching the low back disengages the abs and glutes and puts you in a mechanical disadvantage and puts a lot more work in the low back instead of having the glutes and abs help out.

This isn’t to say that back squatting will lead to low back issues but keep in mind that for the majority of athletes who “live” in extension the back squat reinforces the pattern and might not be the best variation for them.

Squats and Shoulder Health

Both the front and back squat can put stress on the shoulders. The front squat can put stress on the A/C joint with the front loaded bar position while the back squat forces the client to externally rotate the humerus which can be an issue for certain training populations.

We don’t back squat our overhead athletes, mainly because of the position it puts the athletes shoulder in. Since most throwers/tennis players need external rotation range of motion and generally have more range on their dominant/throwing side, putting them in that position can cause some instability in the joint and we feel there are “safer”  options such as the front squat.

While the front squat is a great variation for throwers, if they have A/C joint issues or injuries the pressure of the bar can aggravate that. In these cases use the safety squat bar for either front or back squats. We also have harness front squat variations as well.

I’ll put a post up of some different variations we use at Zenith Strength in a future post.

There is a more research needed to fully examine which squat helps improve vertical jump and broad jumps the most. However, if the goal is to minimize risk while improving performance I feel like the front squat is still the safer option.

Conclusion

While I have talked about the benefits of front squatting this isn’t to say that I don’t like back squats. Most athletes need to work on improving movement patterns, and again the goal should be maximizing performance while minimizing risk of injury.

I think it was Charlie Weingroff who said something to the effect of how you train your athletes and how you train yourself should not be the same. Just because you may have a bias towards a particular system or a set of specific exercises doesn’t mean your athletes need to train that way. Be diligent and match exercises appropriately to athletes who can perform them with solid technique.

Minimizing risk includes appropriately pairing the squat variation with the athlete while considering multiple factors. This is why we assess athletes and while we like the front squat there still may be instances where squatting might not be the best option for them. The last thing you want to do as coach is have an athlete tweak or injure something while lifting in the weight room.

 

Should You Static Stretch to Improve Flexibility?

Posted in Z.S. Basketball Training, Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2013 by zenithstrength

Toe touch

Should you static stretch to improve flexibility?

The answer will depend on which expert you ask.
The debate about static stretching and the potential pros and cons is still hotly contested among coaches and rehab experts today. Some will swear by it, such as those who practice yoga. While there are others such as sport performance coaches who will avoid static stretching like the plague because of fear that it will reduce power output and potentially lead to injuries. I tend to take the middle of the road approach and feel there is a place for static stretching but like most things related to training it largely depends on the individual.
If stability is your issue then static stretching isn’t for you until you address that first. There are two types of individuals that should put heavy static stretching on the back burner, at least temporarily. One case is someone who has mobility restrictions. Dean Somerset talks about how stability can affect your flexibility in his article Stretching Doesn’t Work. He goes over why stretching a tight muscle doesn’t work and the relationship between stability and mobility. I can relate to this with my myriad of hip mobility issues. I would stretch my hips with countless figure four stretch variations, groin (adductor) stretches, hip flexor variations and hold them for 30 secs to as long as 5 minutes. While I definitely noticed more range of motion after, it was always short-lived never lasting more than a couple of hours. I would get into a cycle of stretching, feeling good and then feeling tight again.
I figured something was going on and it was related to other issues such as how I was moving and how my nervous system chose to “protect” my body by tightening up certain muscle tissues. And here’s the deal, no amount of static stretching will change this. Going back to Dean’s article the reason this is happening is because there is probably an underlying stability issue which is not allowing the CNS to release that muscle tension.

anterior tiltThink about someone who has an anterior tilted pelvis. Typically this is associated with tight hip flexors and the hamstrings may feel tight as well. Most people will stretch what feels “tight” so they add a few runner/lunge stretches and hamstring stretches but nothing changes. However, if you address the issue of the anterior tilt by strengthening the glutes, hamstrings and obliques which helps the client/athlete control lumbar extension, the hips will be in a more neutral position and that chronic tension/tightness in the hamstrings should lessen based on the change of the pelvic position.

There’s another group who should hold off on static stretching and they are the hyper mobile clients such dancers and yoga instructors. Many times these folks already have extreme ranges of motion as they keep pushing the end ranges of the muscle to “feel” a stretch. They need to control that excessive range of motion and have their stability “catch up” with their flexibility. Once they can resume static stretching. Essentially, it is about creating a balance between stability and mobility as the inability to control excessive flexibility is a recipe for an injury down the road.

Dancer

Get Assessed.
How do you know if you need stability?

There are a few ways to address stability issues to help improve your mobility. The functional movement screen is great way to gather information on what the client needs and is something we use with our athletes. Tests like the overhead squat, hip lift variations and a plank hold with a dowel will give clues about someone’s stabilization patterns.

overhead squat

Postural Restoration Institute has tests to check hip positioning with more complicated issues such as anatomical restrictions like hip capsular stuff. They also assess breathing which can be associated with muscular tension especially in the neck and upper back. The assessments don’t have to be complicated but they can help with getting answers regarding how you move which will help to determine your programming needs.
Once you address any underlying causes of stability and hip positioning you will get much more out of your static stretching sessions. Basically, the more balanced you are with regards to stability and mobility around given joints, you can stretch to your heart’s content and see better progress with improvements in flexibility.

Make sure to add mobility sessions before workouts or on recovery days which are different from static stretches. While there is a correlation between passive flexibility and mobility, mobility will always be more important for athletes and individuals because it is demonstrated through movement.
Mike Robertson goes through a good warm up circuit here.

So, is static stretching for you? If you don’t have major stability needs and if you plan on hitting the splits or just feeling good, you need to add static stretching into your daily routine. However, if stability is lacking in the core or hips, you need to address that first before adding a ton of static stretching.
Leave your comments below and let me know what you think.

Shyam

Strength Training for Youth Athletes Part 1

Posted in Z.S. Basketball Training, Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , on September 7, 2012 by zenithstrength

Our goal as coaches/trainers is to educate and obliterate the myths that exist in our industry pertaining to training specific populations, proper nutrition habits and teaching proper lifting mechanics.

Since most of our clients are athletes , the focus is on educating parents on the benefits of strength training for youth athletes and dispelling the myths that still exist regarding training this population.

Myth #1:  Strength training will stunt my son’s/daughter’s growth.

This belief has been around since the 70’s and funnily enough I remember worrying about the consequences when I first started lifting weights. It wasn’t until I attended a conference early in my career and heard Dr. Avery Faigenbaum present that I had anecdotal studies to prove that this myth was indeed just that.

Strength training can come in many forms but when most parents talk about it they are usually referring to their child lifting heavy weights. It’s also difficult for coaches to ease parent’s concerns when they have been exposed to watching gymnastics during the Olympics, seeing muscular athletes perform ridiculous feats of strength who also happen to be on the shorter side.

In fact, the original study came out in the 70’s in Japan, when researchers noticed that there was a correlation between the youth laborers moving heavy objects and their short stature. They essentially attributed the short statures of the kids with lifting heavy “stuff” and concluded that lifting heavy objects stunted a child’s growth. Unfortunately this myth has grown into coaches, pediatricians and other medical proponents preaching that kids don’t get stronger lifting weights and they are probably going to hurt themselves.

Luckily more studies have been published refuting the notion that lifting weights is dangerous and citing the benefits of strength training including this one by Beringer et  al. (2010). According to the New York Times article, the study was very comprehensive covering 60 years of collected data with boys and girl ages 6 to 18.They concluded that children and adolescents benefited from weight training but, maturity had a role in improved strength gains. However, there wasn’t a noticeable boost of strength during puberty which was surprising since the gains were linear for different ages groups participating in a strength program.

Furthermore, Dr. Avery Faigenbaum has been a huge in producing research, articles and books on the safety of strength training for kids. His website StrongKid.com is full of research based evidence of the benefits of weight lifting.

So, what does this all mean?

All the research and proof is great but ultimately, parents are paying coaches for results so proper programming is key. The coach needs to use appropriate progressions and often times that means starting out with a lot of bodyweight movements such as squats, hip hinges, lunges, bear crawls, and in many cases regressing movements such as push ups and pull-ups. In addition, younger athletes (6-10) should be involved in more discovery and play sessions. I see too many coaches who train little kids like they are young adults and I’ll admit that I have been guilty of that in the past. Discovering movement is essential for motor development and as kids age and demonstrate proper movement patterns you can begin to appropriately load them with med balls, bands or other forms of external resistance.

If the result of training is to produce faster, quicker, stronger athletes strength training principles must be used to increase force production. Make sure appropriate loads are used and that the athletes clearly demonstrate the ability to perform the body weight variations of the movements.

In part 2 we will go over progressions for a few of the lifts once the child masters  the basic movement patterns.

References:

Michael Behringer, Andreas vom Heede, ,Zengyuan Yue, et al. The Effects of Resitance Training in Children and Adolocents: A Meta Analysis, Pediatrics Vol. 126 No. 5 November 1, 2010  pp. e1199 -e1210  (doi: 10.1542/peds.2010-0445)

Gretchen Reynolds, (Nov 2010). Phy ED: The Benefits of Weight Training for Children. NY Times.
Retrieved from  http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/24/phys-ed-the-benefits-of-weight-training-for-kids/

Getting Back to Basics

Posted in Z.S. Basketball Training, Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2012 by zenithstrength

There have been quite a few articles from some highly respected coaches talking about getting back to basics and working on their own limitations to improve and progress with their training:

Its My fault Too by Tony Gentilcore

Back to Basics: A Challenge for Myself by Molly Galbraith

And another article on why you should not write your own program by none other on Tony G’s blog.

Noticing a theme here? I decided a few weeks ago that I had reached a breaking point  with my training, frustrated with my lack of progress; it was time to hire a coach to help me reach my goals.

I have quite a few movement “issues”  that I have been trying to address with some success. But with my goals of getting stronger in the front squat , barbell deadlift and just feel like a “bad ass”, I knew just lifting heavy was going to lead  to trouble. Now I am not as eloquent as Tony who talks candidly about his SI joint issues but basically what I have going on is the lack of ability to control my T/L junction. In addition, I have limited T-Spine extension despite my daily routine of soft tissue  and mobilization work….. In English all it means is that it is very difficult for me to arch my mid back without arching my low back and its hard to keep my low back neutral when I squat and deadlift with light weight. Of course as the weights get heavier the compensations become more noticeable.

As you can see on the left there is much more of an arch vs the more neutral start position on the right.

Now before I accidentally set off a controversy on whether or not to arch, it really depends on the client and what you are trying to accomplish. But from my understanding and what I have learned from some of the best coaches, you do not want to rely on passive restraints for support when you lift. In this case that would be crushing your spine if you arch too hard. There needs to be support from active restraints with minimal help from the passive restraints.

Anyways, getting a little side tracked here…. to work on my goals I hired Mike Robertson to help me get on track and back to feeling good about lifting. I have quite a few products from Mike including Assess and Correct and wrote a review on Bullet Proof Back and knees so I had a strong feeling I would be working on the basics such as doing a ton of half kneeling/tall kneeling movements and goblet squats to box for the first part of my program

As Mike says it’s not sexy and I would concur,  I think he forgot to mention it is also humbling since it has definitely been much harder than I thought to perform planks and birddogs correctly with a neutral spine and proper alignment. Ultimatel,y as a coach, I understand you have to get this stuff  down and learn to control your spine before advancing to the heavy/fun stuff…after all this is what we want to achieve with our athletes.

It’s almost been 2 weeks and I am already  noticing better control of my low back with the movements and a ton of oblique activation when I do the exercises correctly.

I’ll start updating my training more often as I continue with Mike’s program.

Remember that in order to progress, many times you have to take a few steps back and work on the basics but in the long run the results are well worth it.

Train Hard!

Shyam

It’s All in the Coaching

Posted in Z.S. Basketball Training, Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , on April 9, 2012 by zenithstrength

I’ve had a lot of training related stuff on my mind lately. I think that’s what happens when you immerse yourself in the field and attend a ton of seminars to learn from the best in the field. I was lucky enough to see Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson speak on the shoulder and core training and I realized that no matter how much you learn, in this industry it seems the more you know the less you really know.

I’m not afraid to admit that. It is definitely a humbling experience especially when I see a ton of coaches locally try to hook people by  guaranteeing x amount of inches in vertical jump improvement or y amount of lbs lost in 2 weeks or promising something along those lines. Everyone wants to workout balls to the walls but it seems no one wants to hear about how that ankle mobility problem or t spine rotation left unchecked can cause serious amount of time off playing a sport you’re trying to make waves in.

I feel that our job as strength coaches is to coach basic movement patterns and then load them appropriately once a standard has been demonstrated. Regardless of what assessment you use, FMS, DNS, overhead squat and or Thomas test, what really is the point of pushing an athlete with heavy deadlifts or squats if doesn’t look right. I guarantee most people don’t look like the pic below (courtesy of David Lasnier ) below when they get in the starting position of the deadlift.

I remember Mike Robertson saying to “trust your eyes”, if it doesn’t look right something is going on and we should try to figure out why that is, especially if you’re dealing with an athlete where performing at a high level is at stake. Weights need to pushed and doing it the right way is of the utmost importance.

Fortunately, there are people we can turn to resolve these issues.

Tony Gentilcore talks about the fixing the tuck under which is very common and needs to be addressed . Zach Moore writes his take on fixing the bottom position of the squat.

Here’s the reality that most people don’t want to hear and its the theme that I’ve picked up from people like Charlie Weingroff, Mike Robertson and Eric Cressey to name a few, I usually don’t name drop this much unless I’m trying to get into a hot club in Vegas,

and that is injuries are caused by repetitive movement breakdowns. Or to put it another way, there is an underlying movement issue or two that has been put under repeated stress. So if you’re a tennis player chances are poor t-spine rotation and extension plus poor core stability probably had a lot to do with stress fracture in your back. Or the volley ball player who has very limited ankle mobility, poor hip extension and has knee pain.  The more skillful the practitioner/coach the more  they will be able to help address what is going on.

In regards to my own training I have been guilty of ignoring many of these factors(core stability, hip strength and mobility)   which is why I’ve had a history of knee issues and some low back issues. But, here’s the good news. At 33, my knees are pain-free,which isn’t something I could say during my teens and most of my 20’s. More importantly I can enjoy lifting and training again so I can tell you first hand that this approach of addressing mobility issues and stability stuff that the top coaches in the industry talk about works.

If you’re a coach or trainer I would highly recommend anything by Mike Robertson and Eric Cressey to get started. These guys are two of the best and you owe it to your clients and athletes to make sure you are coaching your clients correctly.

In health,

Shyam Soin

Back Friendly Core Variation

Posted in Z.S. Basketball Training, Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , on February 28, 2012 by zenithstrength

There is so much core training on the internet its enough to make your head spin. One article talks about how flexion is going to break your back followed by a different post arguing the benefits of flexion. I try not to get caught up in the heated core debate. I listen to what the best in the field talk about, using research to validate their claims and make decisions based on what makes the most sense to me.

I used to avoid flexion when I injured my back a few years ago and then came to the realization that avoiding flexion is why I hurt my back in the first place as I didn’t  have a whole lot of lumbar flexion to begin with. What many doctors won’t tell you if you hurt your back is whether you have flexion intolerance or extension tolerance. There is a difference and each pathology has a different rehab protocol.

Now before I get side tracked I’ll let some coaches and rehab pros who are way smarter than I am talk about the difference between the two. Here’s an article by Eric Cressey that covers quite a bit regarding the low back.

I wanted to share a back friendly core variation that in my opinion strengthens the obliques safely and additionally adds anti rotation stability as well. Working with a ton of athletes the one thing that I’ve noticed is anti rotation and anti lateral flexion deficits seem to be high. I’m not sure why this is but there is a correlation between the body’s ability to stabilize anti rotation and reducing back pain occurrences, especially in rotational sports.

Here’s the video below

I call it the curl up with band anti rotation. Not the most creative name, but if anyone has a better one I am all ears.

Its very similar to the McGill curl up and for those for aren’t familiar with Stu Mcgill, he is one of the premier back specialists in the world.

Make sure to avoid crunching/rounding the upper back excessively especially if you have a ton of T spine extension limitations. The key is to reach up a couple of inches instead of crunching. I also use the ab mat which is great to add a little more range of motion.

Bret Contreras has a nice video talking about the ab mat and demoing the eccentric portion of the crunch.

I prefer the curl up variation over the more popular russian twists pictured below. In my opinion putting someone into flexion and then rotation is asking for disc issue down the road especially since most people can’t avoid excessive lumbar flexion at the top of this position.

The curl is much safer and adds the benefit of additional rotary stability which rotational sport athletes lack.

Give the curl up a try and let me know what you think.

Train Hard and Smart!

Shyam