Category Archives: Functional Training

HIIT…Is it safe for youth soccer athletes?

HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a type of training that mixes shorts bursts of activity with even shorter rest periods. The athletes are asked to give an all-out, one hundred percent effort through quick, intense bouts of exercise. Recovery periods are also very brief and the aim is to elevate the athlete’s heart rate and burn more calories in less time.

Youth TrainingThere are many benefits to HIIT. First of all, it is quick and convenient. HIIT workouts can be done anywhere: at home, in a park, at the gym, etc. and because the athlete is pushing their limits, these workouts tend to be shorter and most are 30 minutes or less. There is also no equipment necessary and HIIT workouts generally incorporate bodyweight exercises since the focus is on getting the heart rate up and keeping it there. Combining high intensity training with interval training also results in an elevated metabolic rate that burns fat.jump2

However, there is debate on when HIIT is appropriate for youth athletes. If proper form isn’t emphasized with this type of exercise, there is a greater risk for injury due to its intense nature. Individuals should be proficient in plyometric exercises if high-impact, explosive movements are utilized. HIIT can be a safe mode of training as long as the program is conducted by a qualified coach and is prescribed to the right individual.

At Champion’s QUEST, we use HIIT in our Champion’s Challenge clinics to increase an athlete’s work rate while minimizing their rest. HIIT is also used to mimic the demands that a short burst athlete, like a soccer player, might face out on the field. The short work interval, followed by a shorter rest period, can develop sports-specific fitness more effectively than running for distance or time. If safety of the athlete and proper form is emphasized, then HIIT can be an effective type of exercise for anyone.

About the Author:CQ headshot

Coach Kyle Ertel, Soccer Performance Coach, CSCS USA-W USSF

Kyle@ChampionsQUEST.com       562-598-2600

 

 

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“The Process” : Mental Approach on the Diamond Part 3

In our last article, we had an in depth look at what the “process” looks like for a ball player. To recap, “the process” is all about controlling only the things that you can control. By understanding that results are out of their control, the athlete can focus in on the things that are important. These things that are important are hitting the ball hard, making quality pitches, putting their bodies in the right position to field on defense, and ultimately, staying completely aggressive with their approach and effort. clayton-kershaw9

Baseball was never designed to be a sport based on accuracy and analytics. If pitchers were only required to throw strikes, and hitters were only required to hit the ball into permanent unchanging gaps, then we could maybe put the heavy emphasis on stats that we do. However, Baseball is so much more than just ERA, batting average, hits, walks, strikeouts, on base percentage, and everything else we obsess over! This game is an art form, and chess match that pins competitors against each other in a ballistic, fast paced, ever changing setting with strict guidelines and a human umpire who can determine their fates. With this thought in mind, how do we set up a pitcher to have the best possible chance of success on the mound? 635982535697601028-ap-rangers-tigers-baseball-m

If you are a pitcher, it is not rocket science to know that “better stuff” (i.e. velocity, movement, spin, etc.) equals a higher likelihood of getting the batter out. This also means that a pitcher that is throwing 95MPH versus a pitcher that is throwing 85MPH can get away with way more mistakes, because the batter is stressed with reaction time. If a pitcher that throws harder can get away with more mistakes, from an odds perspective, doesn’t he have a better chance of getting the batter out? You may be saying to yourself, “well yah of course, unless he’s really wild.” Ok, well now let’s imagine this is the same pitcher that has the ability to throw 95MPH but the coach has asked him to “tone it down” and throw 85MPH with more strikes.

First of all, he is now trying to do something which he has never done in his life, which is throw the ball with less than 100% effort with high pressure to a small target. With that his mechanics will change, his approach will change, and ultimately he will lose confidence in throwing the ball over the plate with conviction. This is because he is now solely thinking about just throwing strikes, rather than competing as an athlete. This leads me to the big take away. The pitcher, no matta0qcber how hard he throws, will compete at a higher level and have higher success, if he is trying to put a hole in the catcher rather than just getting it to the glove. This is because…

  1. His “stuff” is better and therefore the batter has less time to react and adjust.
  2. He is allowing himself to throw the way he has HIS ENTIRE LIFE of playing the game. From an early age, he has honed his craft of playing quality catch in a relaxed state of mind without conscious thoughts, and the demands of high achievement and pressure. So quite simply, practice like you play, and play like you practice. 

I have said it before and I will say it again, baseball players are gymnasts on a diamond. This means that ballplayers have to play the game instinctually with full trust that their countless hours of preparation have established their skill set. If you go out onto the field and try to do something different, by appeasing a voice that is telling you to play it safer, you are only setting yourself up for frustration and suffered performance.

It is time to take a step back as a culture, and not only look at how we are mentally developing our youth ball players, but also how we choose to coach our older elite ball players. Next time we will talk about this mental approach from a position player/ hitting perspective.

Coach Kyle Richter, CSCS, USAW, TPI

USC Baseball Alumni, BA Human Performance

 

Athlete Success Story: Lauren Willingham

Los Alamitos High School has produced many athletes and scholars in the past years. This year there is a sophomore that is bound to be another great athlete and scholar will graduate a Griffin.  She is a member Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 2.18.34 PM.pngof the Los AL Track & Field team, just like her record breaking older sister and she is on a course to do just the same.  Now that Lauren Willingham has gone through one season of Track & Field, she has become more controlled over her hurdling form and has been developing her strength in our weekly training program. The gains that she will be achieving form the Strength Clinics will not only help her through the season but will provide a base for any college program that she will attend in her future.

Lauren is not only a hurdler for Los Al, she also has been dancing for the Center Stage Dance Academy in Long Beach. She has been dancing since the age of three and is planning to continue through the rest of her high school years. With her dancing starting at a young age it has helped her with the flexibility needed in the hurdle races. Lauren has a very strong academic course load at Los Al, which will put her as top contender to any school she chooses to continue her education at. She is also a member of the California Scholarship Federation which will help guide her in a positive direction for higher education and she also has the potential of receiving up to $5000 in a scholarship fund.Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 2.32.42 PM.png
Since July of last year Lauren has dedicated herself to increasing her strength which will help her speed and power on the track. Now she has transitioned into the power phase of her training program for this season and it will provide her the ability to increase her power through the hurdles. This year she has set her goals at 16.83s for the 100m hurdles and 48.87s on the 300m hurdles, both of these goals are challenging for her but she has the ability to reach them. Once she has gained a strong step in between the hurdles then she will see her times drop and will be able to inch closer to the school records before the end of her senior year. I feel that if continues to grow in strength and power with our program along with a solid base of self-confidence she be able to have a couple of Los Al records with her name just like her older sister.

Go Griffins!!!

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Article by,

Coach Derrick Campbell, USTF-L1

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Why is “Core” So Important? Part 3, Muscular System Development

Where we left off in the series of “Why is Core So Important,” we dove head first into a discussion centered around the bare bone essentials of functional joint mobility, and how it applies totrout rotational athletes. Now that we have an understanding of how to safely isolate the core in a transverse plane, let’s talk about the approach to building the athleticism of the muscular system in a more general sense. After understanding this process, we can then go into further depth for programming core training exercises.

Elite athletes have many similarities to high performance automobiles. For starters, both require proper fueling, equipment, and multi-faceted maintenance. As the “horsepower” of the athlete/ car increases, there is an absolute need for a stronger braking system. In the car world this means forking over 4 to 6 thousand dollars on top shelf brakes. For athletes this means developing the muscles responsible for deceleration. It is vital that the decelerators match the power output that the accelerators produce.

With these primary similarities in mind, let’s talk about how we “build” the muscular system from a car perspective. The first thing we have to do is build the engine, and brakes. Of course, we are going to build a V8 engine. The first step is to develop the coordination and mechanics of the movement pattern. This provides the athlete with the first wave of athletic gains. Coordinated movements not only increase the efficiency of speed and agility movements, but also the strength. Once we establish a foundation of coordination in the athlete, the next step is to establish a base layer of strength. The strength building phase is vital for the athlete, as it provides the ceiling for power development. During this strength building phase we have to pay critical attention to training the accelerator and decelerator muscle groups equally. This balance will set the athlete up for success, and injury free performance.

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The athlete can only increase their power to the level that their strength will allow. Once the athlete has built this strength foundation, and increased their ceiling of potential, the engine building phase has been completed. Next on the agenda, is to supercharge the V8 engine that was masterfully crafted. While the V8 engine is fast by itself, and has already provided a large increase in athleticism, there is still more horsepower to be gained! The athlete is now ready to be wired for power gains. Power training is best exemplified by quick bursts of movement with high force production. The objective of power training is to re-wire the muscular and nervous system to become highly efficient together. This involves training the athlete to produce a higher amount of force at a faster rate. Some examples of power training include olympic lifting, plyometrics, counter-movement drills, resisted ballistic movements, and assisted ballistic movements. Once the athlete has built their supercharged engine, and powerful braking system, they are a force to be reckoned with.

Although there are many similarities between athletes and cars, here is one big difference. The athlete can always continue adding to the strength, and power that they have already developed. The work never ends for the athlete, because we never settle for good, or even great. It is about utterly maximizing our full athletic potential! As you strive to achieve greatness, and maximize your abilities as a person and athlete, remember, the joy is in the journey.

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Kyle Richter, CSCS, USAW, TPI

USC Baseball Alumni- BA Human Performance

Why is “Core” So Important? Part 2

Where we last left off, I introduced the topic of Core training, and why it is so important for rotational based athletes. The idea is that we use the body as a “giant whip” from the ground up to propel ourselves or an object with maximal force. The legs can be considered the big “V8 engine” that is responsible for starting the acceleration process. This emphasizes that a large amount of force is being pushed through the ground. From there, the core is next to engage and represents the connection point between the lower and upper extremities. Without a strong connection point, the energy will sub-maximally be transferred, and thus the athlete will not maximize their potential power.

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At 5’10” 170 lbs, Jamie Sadlowski is a prime example of how a powerful core can propel an athlete. He has won two World Long Drive Titles, despite being “under-sized” for the sport. 

Before we touch on the specifics of proper rotational strength training, however, we have to understand how we approach this from a functional standpoint. The “Joint-By-Joint Approach” is something I explicitly follow when it comes to training athletes to be functionally stronger. This approach explains how each joint from the ground up must alternate between mobility and stability. For instance, the ankles must be mobile, the knees stable, the hips mobile, etc. When an imbalance occurs in this chain and a joint inappropriately either loses or gains mobility, the other joints in the chain will inappropriately have to compensate for the imbalance. This, undoubtedly, can lead to injuries. With this in mind, as we work up the chain, this approach demands that the Lumbar Spine must remain stable, while the Thoracic Spine must exhibit mobility.

This is such an important concept when it comes to rotational strength development. It is all too easy to put an athlete in a position where they are putting rotational stress through the Lumbar Spine. A prime example of this is a “Russian Twist.” How can the athlete possibly complete this drill without mobilizing the Lumbar Spine? The emphasis of tapping each side of the body forces the athlete to reach, round the shoulders, and inherently round their spine. The stress and “work” of the movement works its way down the rounded spine and falls directly on the Lumbar section. Even worse, the athlete is usually encouraged to use a medicine ball, which creates an added load and adds to the stress of the Lumbar Spine. So, while the athlete is gaining strength in the appropriate rotational based core muscles, they are promoting an imbalance in their mobility.0

This leads us to the absolute truth, that rotational based core training must promote rotational specific strength, AND promote the combination of lumbar stability and thoracic spine mobility. Strength without range of motion is useless! In fact, strength without range of motion, is an injury just waiting to happen. Next time, we will continue to dive into the specifics of this very particular type of training. Every athletic movement pattern can be classified by both the strength of the movement, and the speed of the movement. Stay tuned as we go over progressions, and how to effectively program for power gains.

Coach Kyle Richter, CSCS, USAW, TPI

USC Baseball Alumni- BA Human Performance

Increase Hip Mobility to Generate Power

The Hip

It is the most important joint that we have to generate power throughout our body. The Hip or the hip girdle area is a very anatomically complex with over  that are associated with the area. All of these muscles work together to gain mobility and transfer power from the hip to the extremities. The more elastic or mobility you can create within the hip, the greater force production you can generate as you produce power. The power in your hips could be easily restricted if there were a group or one of those muscles did not have the elasticity needed in order to take the hip into a complete range of motion to generate maximum amount of force.

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Pre-Loading

Being able to pre-load the hips is crucial if you want to be explosive as an athlete in all planes of motion. In my years of training youth athletes, I have seen so many athletes demonstrate the inability to hinge at the hip correctly which leads to other areas to produce power or, in some cases, it will not be created at all. Being able to gain the hip mobility in order to hinge is important to all athletes that need to generate power. Also, having enough strength to aid in joint stability, especially in the lumbar area of back will help lead to the ability to display that force quickly through the body. The hip hinge is a movement that all athletes need to learn and master. There are drills that will help increase the mobility of the hip and there are other drills that will help teach you to hinge properly at the hip. If you need to help with taking strength and applying it quickly to generate power you can add these exercises and drills in your training regimen: Olympic lifts, Romanian DeadLift, Good Mornings, medicine ball ball throws, sprinting, jumping, hitting and throwing.

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Hip Mobility

Mobility = tissue length + neural muscular control/stability + joint structure. One big goal as a youth Athlete Performance Coach is to not only teach my athletes about their bodies but also to help them improve their mobility in all areas of the body to prevent injury. Having increased mobility is an aid to gaining the strength needed to generate power and assist with their recovery. Many athletes lack the flexibility in their gluteus and hamstrings in order for them to correctly squat, lunge and hinge at the hip. With the lack of mobility their stress will transfer into other areas such as the lumbar spine. This could be one of the reasons why we have youth athletes that suffer from lower back pain and injuries, not limited to the hip or lumbar spine areas.

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If you were asking yourself, when should I add in flexibility training in my workout, practices and competition. It’s simple: everyday and all day. In order to gain mobility you need to train your muscles to be mobile as much as possible because of the amounts of stress that you are applying to them on a daily basis. Do not limit the different types of mobility drills that you can apply to your flexibility training everyday. Unlike strength training, you are not going to over train your body by doing simple mobility drills throughout the day.

Pre-activity – focus on having an acute-corrective strategy to your flexibility training. That means to focus on the areas that may be limited in range of motion or may be compensated due to an injury. Also focus on more stretches that are more dynamic or ballistic in nature and stay away from a static stretch or limit your static stretches to under 8-10 seconds each. What you want to promote pre-activity is optimal length/tension relationships and develop active flexibility.

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Post-activity – your focus is more centered on recovery and tissue regeneration. Adding in myofascial tissue release into your cool down will help aid in tissue regeneration and recovery. Once you have completed your myofascial tissue release set then the ability to statically stretch your muscles will be more affective in gaining the necessary range of motion to aid in developing power and help decrease recovery time. One routine that you can add into your day is to have a static stretching protocol just before you get in bed. This not only will this help you unwind and relax, but it also helps you maintain any flexibility gains that you have worked on throughout the day.

Article by: Coach Derrick Campbell, USATF-L1

The “Athlete” Pitcher: A Look at the Modern Power Arm Part 2 of 3, Scientific Basis

Where we left off, we talked about a pitcher’s general strength needs and how that ceiling correlates to Power development, which leads me to my next question…Why have we insisted on training pitchers for decades as endurance athletes? We are truly stuck in the stone-age when we send our pitchers out on a three-mile run, or tell them to go “run some poles.” We should demand more excellence in our approach going forward, and base it on scientific facts. The human musculoskeletal system is a true miracle. It adapts, reacts, and improves itself based on the demands we ask of it. Science shows us that it even displays the ability to become more proficient in the ways we train it. Don’t take my word for it, but rather take the word of the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Three primary muscle fibers account for our skeletal-muscle system.

Muscle Fiber Composition Can Change Depending Upon the Needs of the Athlete

Type I- high level of endurance, while sacrificing the ability to produce high power.

Type IIa- balance of endurance and power, but lean slightly towards the side of endurance.

Type IIx– highest level of power output while sacrificing endurance in the long run.

NSCA Statement

“There is little evidence to show that Type II fibers change into Type I fibers as a result of aerobic endurance training, but there may be a gradual conversion within the two major Type II fiber subgroups-of type IIx fibers to Type IIa fibers. This adaptation is significant, in that Type IIa fibers possess greater oxidative (endurance) capacity than Type IIx fibers and have functional characteristics more similar to those of Type I fibers” (Essentials of Strength and Conditioning 129).

LHP Tyler Skaggs of the Angels hard at work in the gym.

In writing, and through research this shows that endurance training can actually change the physiology and structure of muscles. While they gain muscular endurance, they lose some ability to produce power. This is exactly the reason why we should go back to the chalkboard and re-assess the needs for a pitcher who is trying to develop velocity, aka power!

Coach Kyle Richter, USC Baseball Alumni, BA Human Performance, USA Weightlifting

Please contact me with any comments, questions, or inquiries!        Champion’s QUEST Baseball Academy