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Deceleration Drills for Athletes

These days, it seems that everyone is infatuated with speed. So many coaches ask how can they build faster athletes. Athletes spend dollar after dollar going to “speed” coaches. It’s all about 40 times.

Here’s the rub, though – athletics aren’t just about accelerating quickly and top-end speed. Sports are just as much or more about an athlete’s ability to stop and change direction. Despite this, very few people focus on the deceleration aspect of training. It takes as much work learning how to stop quickly and efficiently as it does to start. Here we have a simple deceleration progression that can be used to develop the type of dynamic athleticism that can truly set an athlete apart.

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Training the Multi-Sport Athlete: Part I

As coaches and educators, we all want the same thing. We want to develop more dynamic athletes and better teams. But, training high school athletes is a highly unique endeavor. Athlete schedules are vast and varied, experience levels differ greatly, and building universally prepared athletes is a daunting task. One must consider all of these factors when deciding on the most efficient and effective way of training our athletes.

Here at PLT4M, we answer these considerations by employing a holistic approach to athletic development. We believe in training the multi-sport athlete year-round as opposed to utilizing sport specific programs. Our belief is that we can, with one well-built and well-run program, build better overall athletes in the gym, which coaches can then turn into better players on the field of competition.

The Physiological Reasoning

Our aim here at PLT4M is to develop well-rounded and dynamic overall athletes. Why do we avoid programming “sport-specific” workouts? Our reasoning is threefold.

  • Training Age
    • We tend to forget that, when it comes to performance training, the athletes in question are just plain young and inexperienced. For the overwhelming majority of your athletes, their 2 underclassmen years will be the first time ever involved in an athletic strength and conditioning program. High school students lack a solid foundation of functional fitness on which to specialize. It is absolutely imperative these athletes are all given a comprehensive program that works to build a complete athlete from the ground up.
  • Multiple Sport Demands
    • Perhaps more importantly, high school athletes are NOT specialists. Beyond a lack of experience, our athletes have immensely varied physical demands. As football coaches, basketball coaches, lax coaches, etc…it’s easy to forget that your athletes exist beyond and outside of your sport. An overwhelming majority, though, of high school athletes compete in multiple sports (as they should!). If we have an athlete that plays 2 or 3 different sports throughout the year, how do we justify them specializing in their training at any point? Juggling various programs with differing physical goals simply leads to a lack of overall progress.
  • Imbalance = Injury
    • Worse than hindering progress, we can inadvertently lead to an increased incidence of injury. By definition, “specializing” in something must come at the expense of something else. What results, is a guaranteed imbalance. Imbalances are often the root cause of injury. You cannot be specialized and well-rounded at the same time, that’s not how exercise adaptation works.

What results, is a very clear need to approach athlete development in a holistic way – train to build the COMPLETE athlete that can be productive and successful in any endeavor they choose.

Scheduling

Not only does sport-specialization present some physiological issues, it can also be an administrative nightmare. Consider scheduling workouts for hundreds of athletes on dozens of teams within the same school – it’s far from a clear and easy picture when you try to employ sport-specific programs.

Take, for example, the Junior football captain who also plays lacrosse in the spring. When does he do the football workout? Just during the summer after Lacrosse? How about the Lacrosse program – only during the winter in preparation for the spring season? If we follow this system over the course of a high school career, this athlete will only ever train with any given program for maybe 2-3 months per year. This is FAR from efficient at providing positive results.

Additionally, when it comes to scheduling these sport-specific programs, it is almost inevitable that it will result in some animosity between teams and coaches. The football coach feels like he is losing his athlete in the winter and the lacrosse coach feels the opposite. Instead, a consistent and progressive program that continually develops an all-around athlete throughout his or her career can better serve everyone involved. The athlete is committed and engaged year-round, and both coaches receive a developed athlete to turn into the best player they can. All parties involved have thus unified in an effort to achieve success. 

Culture

Perhaps the most important piece of the training puzzle is this concept of shared culture. Schools that develop a winning culture throughout all of their teams and programs do so by approaching success as a unified front.

Power lies in numbers. When teams and athletes train together, they work harder and have more fun. When they work harder, they see better results. When they see better results they buy into the system and the process becomes cyclical. You can very easily begin to develop a winning mindset throughout your school’s athletic programs. Athletes will begin to take pride in their efforts year round. This is what it takes to WIN.

We are firm believers in the power of culture. If coaches and athletes work together, it breeds success.

*Continue reading Part II. Our next article on the multi-sport athlete in which we discuss how to approach building a comprehensive training program.*

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Everything You Need to Know About Muscle Soreness

Everyone’s felt it – the stiff, painful condition that results in your muscles the day after a tough workout. It makes you waddle up the stairs, sit gingerly on the toilet, or cry if someone pokes you in the chest. Within the fitness and performance training world, this pain is referred to as the DOMS, or “Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness”. As the name suggests, soreness is typically felt most between 24 and 48 hours after the training session has been completed.

The DOMS – What is muscle soreness?

Where does this pain come from? So often, we hear people exclaim that Lactic Acid is to blame. This really couldn’t be further from the truth. Lactate, a byproduct of one of the metabolic energy pathways, is actually a positive mechanism, one that serves as a control against your muscles becoming too acidic during intense exercise – the burning sensation you sometimes feel during high intensity work.

In fact, post workout soreness is actually a result of microtrauma (aka small tears) within the muscle fibers and surrounding tissue. When you engage in physical training, you place stress upon the muscles (especially during the eccentric phase of any movement). If muscles are challenged to operate outside of their existing capacity, it will result in damage to the cells. This sounds negative, but it’s the trigger for adaptation within your body. When your muscles are being repaired after a workout, they are made bigger and stronger as a response. Your body works to prepare itself for the demands you place on it. This is the principle that directs all athletic training – your body will get better at whatever you consistently ask it to do.

Treatment & Prevention

We should be entirely clear – there is no proven way to cure or prevent the DOMS. That being said, in our own personal experience, there are a number of ways to alleviate muscle soreness and help keep it from happening too frequently or severely during a training regimen.

  • Ice and Ibuprofen
    • Inflammation is the root cause of your pain. Dealing directly with the symptoms by icing and or using NSAIDs can certainly help. Do please keep appropriate pain-reliever use in mind!
  • Massage
    • Massage & self myofascial release (foam rolling/self-massage) has been known to help treat muscle soreness. It increases blood flow to damaged areas, delivering nutrients, clearing waste, and speeding up recovery.
  • Contrasting Temps
    • Going back and forth from hot to cold (showers, sauna & pool, etc), shrinks and expands muscle fibers, forcing a flushing of blood through affected areas. (Read More Here)
  • Sleep
    • Your absolute best friend when it comes to recovery! Sleep is the time your body runs internal diagnostics, rebuilds damaged structures, and prepares you for further action.
  • Proper Post-Workout Nutrition
    • Often overlooked, the nutrients you feed your body after a bout of training is essential to your ability to recover quickly and perform at intensity again the next day. (Read our take here)
  • Post-Workout Cool Down
    • Our biggest recommendation for spurring recovery and preventing excessive soreness is a deliberate cool-down period after training. Light cardio, mixed with mobility work and static stretching can help both in the short term and long term.

The best way to combat muscle soreness? More exercise. With gradual and deliberate warm up, another bout of training can help flush the muscles and speed up recovery. Just be sure not to jump in too hard or too fast. Listen to your body, it will tell you how things are going and how to proceed.

When is it bad?

Despite how it feels, the DOMS aren’t inherently a bad thing. For the most part, it is physical confirmation of hard work and progress. On the other hand, though, it doesn’t mean that only workouts that result in soreness are good workouts. More importantly, there is a point where soreness becomes the enemy. If you are reaching the point of pure pain as opposed to discomfort, pain lasts longer than a few days, or serious symptoms such as heavy swelling and darkened, discolored urine appear, you should consult a doctor immediately! These can be signs of a rare, and much more serious condition called rhabdomyolysis.

Bottom line – you should neither love nor hate the DOMS. They are an inevitable part of the training process, but they are certainly not the only gauge of progress. In the end, you’ll see far better results if you allow your body to recover fully between efforts. The goal is consistency and continual work!

MetCon Workouts: Building Mental & Physical Toughness

What is MetCon?

With the advent of Crossfit, training terminology has exploded – for better and worse. You’ll often hear buzzwords thrown around like stimulus or capacity without knowing quite what their true meanings are.

“MetCon” is another of those terms thrown around quite a bit, but what does it actually mean? For starters, it is an abbreviation for “Metabolic Conditioning.” To understand what that really implies, let’s break it down into its two parts.

Firstly, “Metabolic” refers to the 3 distinct energy pathways in which your body can produce energy for use in physical activity. These are the ways in which your body keeps the engine running, depending upon the requirements you place on it. Each of the three pathways is roughly tied to a time and intensity domain. Roughly speaking, lifting heavy weights requires one pathway, high intensity work requires another, and long duration, low intensity work another. To complicate matters, all 3 of them overlap one another.

Secondly, conditioning simply refers to improving the efficiency of these pathways in order to increase work capacity. For lack of a better explanation, it simply means “Getting in Shape.” Put these together and you have a concept of improving the different ways a body responds to physical stress. Long story short – can you be strong at high heart rate?

What does a MetCon workout look like?

A MetCon workout can take on many different shapes and sizes. For the sake of clarity, let’s use PLT4M’s approach to MetCon training through the “Pillar” workout as an example.

Our Pillars are programmed using lightweight and bodyweight exercises, to be done for time or for reps. We aim to use compound movements, and large ranges of motion. The barbell thruster, for example, is a great tool. Using an empty barbell (at most!) we can work strength, mobility, and endurance all at once. Couple that with pull ups of any kind, plus some basic running intervals and you have an intense, full-body workout that challenges the athletes to move well even when tired.

What is the purpose?

MetCon workouts, if programmed correctly, can be advantageous in a number of ways when training athletes. The benefits go far beyond sweat and hard work, so let’s drill down into the 3 most basic, beneficial results.

  1. Physiology – MetCons force athletes into conditioning the 3 metabolic energy pathways through body-weight (or lightweight) strength movements as opposed to traditional “cardio.” Total strength, power, size, or even mobility is great, but if an athlete cannot repeat dynamic, athletic movements with the same discipline over and over at high heart rate and general fatigue, their value on the field of competition diminishes as the game wears on.
  1. Mentality – One of the least touched upon parts of an athlete’s ability to compete is their mental toughness. Most young athletes are afraid of “the wall.” MetCon workouts are designed to push athletes to the point where they would normally quit. But, having teammates that rely on them, having the motivation of winning a workout, or the fear of losing one – this forces them to bear down and fight through the pain. Thus, we train that winning, “4th Quarter” mentality. Frankly, MetCons can help teach kids what it takes to win.
  1. Culture – Though hard to prove and quantify, one of the biggest goals of any off-season training program is to grow your team’s chemistry and culture. What do we mean? Weekly competition breeds accountability, buy-in, and drive. Soon you have kids pushing themselves and one another year-round. Other kids see the fun, the progress, and your team commitment grows. Over time, what you get is that energetic, rah-rah attitude even on a random Friday workout in April. When it becomes more than just working out, when kids are truly training for a purpose, training to win – that’s when you succeed as a team. This is our ultimate goal, and MetCon workouts can be a big part of this, perhaps even the biggest.

Once you see 20-30 of your athletes competing with themselves, with each other, and pushing the limits of both their bodies and minds, you will understand the power of competitive MetCon workouts!

Want to see how we incorporate MetCon workouts into a full athletic development program? Schedule a Demo!

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The Pro-Agility Drill

One of the most widely used agility drills, the 5-10-5 or “Pro-Agility Drill” is a great way to develop lateral quickness and change of direction. As with any agility drill, it’s all about maximizing your movement efficiency. Athlete’s should be less focused on energy output (going “hard”) than perfecting the way in which they initiate movement or change direction. The keys here, are the crossover start and lateral change of direction. Take a minute and watch our quick video outlining the basic approach to the Pro-Agility Drill.

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What if not everyone has a phone or I don’t want 30 phones in the weight room?

With Rackview up to 5 students can share 1 device and still get their personalized workouts and weights.  

Rackview is great for every type of school partnering with PLT4M because it gives flexibility for different students to work together any workout of the week.

Rackview  also fosters accountability among the students working together. Students know they must use the phone/device as a tool and not get side tracked by texts or other apps, because they all need to get their workouts completed. It keeps kids moving and on task, all while sharing one phone!