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The Best Athletic Training Exercise You’re NOT Using

Athletes must be able to move with complete body control. Learning to squat correctly is a prime example of what we mean.

If, to achieve proper hip depth in a squat, you must drop your chest towards the floor, you’re essentially shutting off your athleticism. Think about how often sports require you to “Get Low” – AKA squat. If you lose control of your upper body when dropping hip level (which is paramount in most any athletic movement in any sport), you’ve essentially shut down your next move. Eyes are in the dirt, momentum is into the ground which eliminates subsequent lateral movement, you’re off balance, and you cannot apply any motion or strength with the upper body. BUT, if you keep that chest proud, thoracic (upper) spine stable, and lumbar curve intact, you retain all the mobility of an athlete. You can move in any direction and still use your arms.

Knowing this, it behooves us to teach such full-body control to all of our athletes. The overhead squat is the PERFECT way to do so. Using only a PVC pipe, the overhead squat requires the athlete to develop shoulder mobility and stability, extreme core strength, and forces a disassociation of the lower and upper body, while still creating maximum hip and ankle range of motion by performing the perfect squat.

It doesn’t always take heavy weights and powerful movements to build better athletes!

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Hang Snatching For Athletes

All too often we run into coaches and athletes hesitant about utilizing hang snatching in their programs. At PLT4M, we believe it is an excellent accessory piece that develops a number of important things:

  • Increased proprioception through the use of an awkward movement
  • Shoulder mobility and stability
  • Explosiveness through active recruitment of the hips and core
  • Metabolic gain through high reps at lightweight loads

Whether you are a student or an active athlete, these benefits are relevant to your progress. The important thing to remember is that it is the snatch movement that is our aim, not loading up a barbell. The gains we seek are just as attainable from using a PVC or empty barbell as with a heavy load. There is no need to put more weight on the bar than you can handle with perfect form. Take a moment and watch Coach Max talk through some of the basics surrounding the Hang Snatch, most notably the “Jump” position – where you initiate movement of the bar upwards, and the “Catch” position – where you punch under the bar with locked elbows and hips dropped into a quarter squat. Work on your movement and get better!

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How to Teach the Push-up

As teachers and coaches, we are given the responsibility of educating our students and athletes on proper movement and technique in the gym. Often, this is a much more difficult task than it first appears. Take the push-up for example: one of the most basic strength movements out there, it can still be difficult to teach the push-up to an audience with a wide range of abilities and experience.

First, how do you describe the movement and its standards so that everyone understands proper form from the beginning? This is where coaching cues come into play. As Coach Max describes in the video, we are looking for non-internally rotated shoulders – so he uses the cue of “elbows back, not elbows out”. This gives the athlete understandable cueing that he or she can actually use while performing the pushup.

Beyond cueing for perfect technique, you must provide scaling options for athletes of different ability. What if an athlete cannot do more than one perfect rep, how do you scale the movement in order to accomplish the appropriate volume? Providing alternatives is key, just as Coach Max does by utilizing a box of varying heights to adjust difficulty without altering the foundational movement itself. Here are a few scaling variations.

When it comes to coaching and teaching fitness, even the basics can seem difficult. But, with proper cues and scaling options you can safely and efficiently teach any movement to any audience.

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Trouble With the Front Rack?

Many athletes have issues with the front rack position – most notably, being unable to keep your elbows high during heavier reps of the front squat or clean. High elbows means a better shoulder shelf for the bar, as well as a taller, prouder chest. Together, these two things make any rep much easier to complete as it stacks the musculature of the body upon itself, allowing you to support more weight. Once the elbows drop, we lose this rigidity and our ability to support heavy loads.

If you are having trouble getting your elbows up to that perpendicular position, add this quick band stretch after your warm-up and prior to your work sets any time your are utilizing the front rack in a lift.

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Explosive Lateral Movement

Athletes have the very important and very unique need of being able to move laterally with quickness and power. Often neglected in many training programs, lateral movement is a foundational part of sport. Moving well in every direction takes practice, so at PLT4M we make you learn the economic way of initiating or changing direction.

For example, learning to run laterally from a static athletic position (with efficiency) takes reps. Thus, we drill the Lateral Sprint Start. To initiative movement in the lateral plane, it requires good foot positioning and proper mechanics. With the weight on the balls of the feet, toes pointed just slightly inwards, the athlete uses the lead leg to drive force into the ground and bring the back leg across explosively. This is what we call the crossover step. Notice that the athlete does not turn then run. Instead, the athlete creates momentum from the power position before transtioning the body into a normal linear sprint.

A simple drill, the Lateral Sprint Start will help you with the explosive crossover step that is ubiquitous throughout athletics and help you perform better on the field.