Have you ever suffered a serious knee injury? If so, what steps are you currently taking to ensure that you reduce your chances of hurting that same knee again? The unfortunate part of training and competing in sports is that injuries are a part of the game. Even athletes with the best training program suffer season ending injuries.. A hot topic over the past few years has been knee injuries and in particular ACL injuries. This year alone it’s estimated that 100,000 people will suffer an ACL tear with 30,000 of these people being high school athletes. We often hear how females are six to eight times more likely to suffer an ACL injury when compared to male athletes. Having worked with several high school female athletes, I definitely agree that they are at a higher risk due to their lack of stability as well as their overall strength when compared to male athletes. However, I think everyone should make it a point to implement their own program to ensure that they REDUCE their chances of suffering a knee injury.
I stress the word reduce because often time’s coaches and trainers tell players that they need to implement an ACL prevention program. Personally I don’t like to use that phrase because unfortunately there is no way that you can prevent an injury but you can greatly reduce the chances of suffering a season ending ACL injury with a solid training program. I believe Coach Mike Boyle said it best when he said that ACL reduction is simply “good training”. By this what I believe he meant was that a solid year round program is the best medicine for reducing your chances of injury.
When it comes to reducing your chances of suffering an ACL injury here are a few key points that I believe need to be addressed in a solid training program. The tips and videos below do not cover everything when it comes to ACL reduction but if you follow some of these tips you will see good results in your training and more importantly your performance on the field, court or track.
1. Get an assessment from a qualified coach
I would recommend before you start a training program that you get an assessment to see if there are any exercises that you should not be doing. There are many assessments to choose from. Here are a couple that I recommend that you check out:
FMS (Functional Movement Screen)
PRI (Postural Restoration Institute)
If you live near Sewell, New Jersey I would check out endeavorfit.com for your assessment. Kevin Neeld and his staff are excellent when it comes to doing assessments.
2. Start every training program with a good warm-up
A solid warm up should include the following:
Do your best to train in a neutral (pelvis) state. I learned these exercises from PRI (posturalrestorationinstitute.com).
Foam Rolling and movement
Mobility work for your ankles, hips and shoulder
Linear and lateral movements that progressively get faster as you progress the warm-up.
Anterior core training
A good warm-up could be accomplished in as little as eight to ten minutes if done properly. What I tell the athletes and weekend warriors that I work with is that this part of the program sets the stage for the training session. If you have been sitting at a desk all day long and then drive to the gym and jump into a “metabolic class/workout” without a proper warm-up you’re asking for trouble. Spend ten minutes warming up to reduce your chances of suffering a knee injury.
3. Learn to land and decelerate properly.
Most non-contact knee injuries happen when we stop rather than when we “take off” (Here is a video of a high school girl jumping at her assessment. Watch as she lands and notice her lack of stability as well as her shin angle when landing (Poor landing mechanics-knee). Before you start any advanced plyometric drills (i.e. repeat box jumps, single leg hurdle hips) I would recommend that you learn to land and stop properly. Here are three exercises that I teach early on in a training program.
It is very important that you learn to absorb force when jumping and landing. The coaching cues that I use for line hops and box jumps are “land soft” and “stick the landing”.
4. Improve your overall strength
Most people would see tremendous benefits in their performance by simply implementing weights/bands into their program. I hear it all the time from athletes as well as weekend warriors the reasons why they can’t implement strength training into their program. Excuses like “it makes me sore” or “I don’t have the time because I am playing five travel games this weekend (that’s a problem in of itself and I will talk about in a future blog). I’m sorry I am not buying any of these excuses. Strength training for the average person who is looking to get strong and reduce their chances of knee injuries does not need to be complicated. A solid strength program will include single leg training as well as bilateral lower body movements and upper body movements. For someone looking to start a strength training program here are a few exercises that would lay the foundation for a balanced and strong body.
- Split squats
- Sprinter step up
- Trap bar deadlift side view
- Inverted reach to med ball reach
- Good KB swing
- Push ups
- band pull ups
Knee injuries can change your career in an instant. Even if you have no intentions of ever playing a sport again I would highly recommend that you implement some of the strategies mentioned above. If you are a high school coach or athlete I want to challenge you to take a look at your current training program and see if there are any “holes” in your system. A key point to remember is that you have to go through the proper exercise progressions when training. Personally, I am always looking for ways to make my programs better for the athlete’s that I work with. I know I can improve and most good coaches are always looking to get better results for their clients. I challenge you to take your training to the next level and give yourself the best chance to stay injury free.
After a good win at home the week before against Chivas USA, we were going to play another game at home against the Portland Timbers. The Timbers are a very good team this year. They had only lost two games before coming to PPL Park, so we wanted to give them their third loss. In what was a hot and humid night, the score stayed at 0-0. We got some chances to score but their goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts made lots of big saves, and kept us off the scoring sheet for this game. It was still a good point for us to take and continue to move forward in the standings.
Next was a game that I had circled on my calendar this year. We faced up against the Vancouver Whitecaps, my old team from last year. I was very happy to travel back there for the first time since I got traded to the New York Red Bulls. During my time there I met lots of nice people, and it was nice to see them again. But what’s even nicer is to win against your old team inside their stadium. And that’s what I wanted to do the most coming into this game.
The game started very fast and in the first 10 minutes it was pretty physical. My ex-teammate and friend, Jordan Harvey, tackled me a few times and made me remember that I don't like to fall on turf fields. A red card was given to Whitecaps player Jun Marques Davidson for a head butt on Keon Daniel. I was very close to the play, and after the incident I quickly grabbed Keon before he could retaliate and kept him away from all the Whitecaps players. This red card helped us during the rest of the game. With one man up, we kept the ball very well, making the opposite team run a lot. In the last 25 minutes of the game, Coach decided to put Antoine Hoppenot and Aaron Wheeler into the game. This gave us fresh legs to attack and at the 85th minute, Hoppenot started a rush with the ball from the midfield, did a one-two with Wheeler and blasted a left-footed shot into the net. His goal gave us the win, 1-0, and made the trip even sweeter. It was another great performance away from home for everyone.
The following weekend we were back at home to face the Chicago Fire. The Fire changed a lot since we played them few months ago, adding lots of talented players such as Mike Magee and my ex-teammate Bakary Soumare. We started this game very sleepy, and after 10 minutes, Chicago took the lead, 1-0. This goal made us wake up and play better. We came back in the second half with more desire and created opportunities to score.
At the 60th minute, I took a free kick on the right side of the field. I tried to deliver a strong ball in the six-yard box, and Sheanon Williams met my cross and scored a goal in a fantastic acrobatic way. This goal put us back in this game and with the help of our fans, I felt that we could win this game. But Chicago continued to give us problems, and after a loose ball in the midfield, they counterattacked and Magee scored in the 75th minute. This goal really took us by surprise, because we were putting lots of pressure on them and were close to scoring our second goal. But their goal really cut our legs out from under us and we were unable to respond and tie the game. This was our first loss at PPL Park in a while, and we knew that we had a quick turnaround for the next home game against D.C. United. A win was the only thing we thought about during the preparation for this game.
The day after the Chicago game I was back at PPL Park for the Le Toux Sweepstakes with PPL EnergyPlus®.I met lots of incredible kids and we all played games and worked on our technical ability on the field of PPL Park.It was a gorgeous day and I had lots of fun doing it. Playing with those kids that day made me remember how lucky I am to be a professional soccer player, and the fact that I love sharing this with them. I try to be a good example.
The D.C. United game was a must-win for us to stay on top of the standings and in playoff contention. This team had nothing to lose, so it was pretty hard to play against them at the beginning of the game. It took us a few minutes to be totally in this game, but at the 35th minute, Sheanon Williams received the ball on the right side and put in an early cross. I was on the top of the box, and the ball came in my direction. I sprinted a few steps to beat my defender, flicked the ball and it went right at Conor Casey. He took a great touch and scored, 1-0 Union.
Our second goal took a while, but at the 75th minute, I passed the ball to Fabinho on the left side, and with his first touch he crossed the ball to the second post. Conor was at the end of it again, and hit a nice volley in the back of the net. We practiced this action a lot with Fabinho during the week and I am glad it paid off. We won 2-0 and I added my 11th and 12th assists of the year. I am very glad to participate in the goals my team scored.
San Jose is next, but we have lots of big games coming up against Eastern Conference teams. Hopefully, in my next blog post, I will have lots of good results to report on.
Talk to you soon.
Sebastien Le Toux, No. 11
PPL EnergyPlus, LLC is an unregulated subsidiary of PPL Corporation. PPL EnergyPlus is not the same company as PPL Electric Utilities. The prices of PPL EnergyPlus are not regulated by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. You do not have to buy PPL EnergyPlus electricity or other products in order to receive the same quality regulated services from PPL Electric Utilities.
I recently gave a survey to clients that I have trained in the past asking them what are some of the biggest challenges they face when it comes to sticking to a training plan. The number one reason why people fail to stick to a plan, according to this survey, was their inability to find the time to exercise. After reviewing the results I can’t say that I was surprised. Our lives are busy. Between parenthood, work, school, social obligations as well as the stressors of daily life it can be difficult to find the time to fit in training.
This week I would like to share with you one of my favorite ways to train if you are pressed for time. This type of training is fantastic for both athletes as well as people looking to lose some fat. The type of training I am talking about is resistance band training. I was introduced to this type of training a few years ago from Dave Schmitz of Resistancebandtraining.com
As a parent of three children I have limited time to train so I was looking for some new ideas when it came to my own training. I enjoy lifting weights as well as running but I was looking for something that could offer both the benefits of strength training as well as provide a metabolic training effect for me. That is when I came across some videos showing the benefits of resistance band training. After watching several videos from Dave I decided to purchase my own set of bands to give this type of workout a try.
After a couple of workouts I was instantly drawn to this type of training. I immediately saw the endless ways that you could incorporate resistance band training into your own program. I also began to feel more athletic with this type of training. The bands that I was using are not your ordinary bands that you see at the gym with plastic handles and thin tubing. These bands are of the highest quality and they offer a training effect that, if you have never used them, will challenge even the best of athletes.
After using the bands for a few weeks I realized that this type of training offers the following benefits. Click the link below to watch the videos for each exercise:
1. The benefits of strength training without having to go to the gym every day.
2. The ability to train at your house, track or park.
Video: Band assisted push up
3. You can perform multi joint strength training movements with just one band.
Video: Band squat and row
4. Fantastic tool for total body power training.
Video: Band front squat
5. Bands offer several ways to incorporate metabolic training into your program.
Video: Band Mt Climber
6. Easy on the joints.
7. Instead of sitting down on a piece of equipment you can perform exercises while standing which will force you to learn to stabilize and move more efficiently.
8. A wonderful tool to teach young kids (as well as adults) to learn to decelerate and then accelerate properly.
9. Offers the best way to do pull-ups if you are unable to currently do pull-ups. Video link:
Video: Band pull ups
10. Tremendous tool to use if you need to work on your mobility and flexibility.
Video: Band single leg lowering
Resistance band training offers so many benefits to both athletes as well as weekend warriors. However, like any form of training it’s a “tool in your tool box”. I still love lifting weight as well as doing other types of training but bands offer a nice change of pace. If you are pressed for time adding resistance bands into your training can offer some unique challenges to your training. If you are just getting started I would recommend that your start off with the single band training package that will provide you with four bands for $52.00 (Click here to purchase the bands: https://rbt.infusionsoft.com/go/bd/kevinm/).
Good luck with your training and if you have any questions or comments feel free to send me an e-mail at email@example.com
“Union strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller is also a featured panelist in the Sports Doc blog http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc on Philly.com. For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: http://www.philly.com/philly/health/
If you were to ask most people what are some of the key factors that determine whether or not their body will respond to their particular type of training you will often get several answers. The majority of individuals would we say that you need to focus on the following:
- Strength training
- Aerobic training
- High intensity intervals
I am sure we could add a few more items to the list above but you get my point. I agree that the items that are mentioned above do play a pivotal role in your training as well as your ability to improve your health and transform your body.
However, one of the key areas that is often overlooked by most athletes as well as people looking for peak health is RECOVERY. Over the past couple of years there has been a greater emphasis among coaches to find the best recovery techniques for their athletes. For years athletes have implemented recovery techniques like cold plunges or contrast baths. Runners as well as multisport athletes have reaped the benefits of receiving post workout massages by skilled therapists.
In my opinion, having a strategy that addresses your recovery for every session is just as critical as the workout itself. When we are in the gym we are imposing a stress (i.e. weights, running, etc.) on our body in an effort to change the way we look or feel. Once we leave the gym or finish the workout we often neglect our recovery because “we have to get to work” or “I don’t have time to stretch because I need to get to a meeting”. All of us are guilty of this and at times it’s okay to allow this to happen however, if you really want to maximize your results it’s time to implement a recovery plan.
Here are a few of my favorite recovery strategies for both athletes as well as weekend warriors.
Post workout breathing: Instead of using every minute of your workout to spin on a bike or run that last interval cut your workout short by five minutes and perform 10-15 deep diaphragmatic breaths at the end of your workout. The goal here is to go from a sympathetic state (fight or flight) to a parasympathetic (rest and digest) state before you jump in your car to head home. By doing this simple task you will kick start your recovery process and allow your body to return to homeostasis.
Have a post workout drink/smoothie: This is a topic that continues to be debated by coaches and athletes. Does drinking a protein shake immediately after a workout speed up the recovery process? For me, I believe the benefits of having a quality protein and carbohydrate shake after a workout (10-20 minutes post workout) does have benefits in terms of carbohydrate recovery as well as hydration. I also believe it has psychological benefits as well. A simple way to implement this is to either make the smoothie the morning of the workout or make one the night before and freeze it if you prefer to have it cold. Either way the smoothie is a much better option than ice coffee and a muffin on the ride home.
Massages: I am big believer in manual therapy. If you listen to experts like Patrick Ward (www.optimumsportsperformance.com) he will tell you that tissue quality is critical to recovery and performance. If you have ever had a massage you know that there are several different kinds to choose from. For starters, I would recommend that you find a skilled manual therapist who can determine what state your nervous system is in (i.e. sympathetic or parasympathetic) and decide what type of treatment is best for you. Most professional athletes have the ability to get a massage 2-3 times per week. If you are on a budget, like most people, try and block out a massage once a month if possible. Another good option is to contact a local massage school and ask if their students have to do clinical hours. This option can be a great way to get a massage once a week.
Epsom salt baths: When I tell most adults about this the first thing they say is “My grandmother use to tell me to do this”. The reason your grandmom knew about this is because chances are she was a lot healthier than we are right now and she knew the benefits from a warm Epsom salt bath. The benefits we receive from this are an increase in magnesium (this is good since most of us are deficient) as well as a calming effect to our body. A great time to implement this strategy is before you plan to go to bed. This will help you relax and I can almost guarantee that you will have a great night’s sleep by implementing this simple strategy.
Mobility circuit: The majority of men reading this could benefit tremendously from this tip. Instead of heading to the gym and jumping on the treadmill for 45 minutes I want you to focus on a total body mobility program. Chances are if you sit all day at a desk you have back as well as neck pain. I can also guarantee that your hamstrings feel tight all the time. A good mobility circuit can take as little as 10-15 minutes. Here is a sample routine
Warm up with 10 deep diaphragmatic breaths (prone or supine)
- Ankle mobility (Wall ankle dorsiflexion)
- Hip mobility (Groiners)
- Shoulder mobility (Push up w/ T-spine rotation)
- Movement (Single leg A-skips)
Performing a good mobility circuit is a great way to speed up the recovery process as well as reduce DOMS (Delayed onset muscle soreness).
Meditation: If you had told me a couple of years ago that meditation could help you speed up your recovery I probably would have laughed at you. However, having done a better job of being open to new ideas and educating myself, I now believe that mediation can have a big impact on your ability to recover. Most of us are always on alert. Our minds are always racing from one idea to the next (myself included). In her book Mind Over Medicine, author Lissa Rankin M.D is quoted as saying “When our beliefs are hopeful and optimistic, the mind releases chemicals that put the body in a state of physiological rest, controlled primarily by the parasympathetic nervous system, and in this state of rest, the body’s natural self-repair mechanisms are free to get to work fixing what’s broken in the body”. If you speak to an expert on mediation I am sure that his/her idea of mediation may be different than mine. I am new to the process and like anything it takes time to master this type of treatment. What I would recommend is start with 1-2 minute segments both in the morning as well as the evening before bed. Do your best to focus on your breathing and try clear your head of any negative thoughts. At first this will be very hard to do but as you become more comfortable with your breathing you will start to see the benefits and you can than increase the time spent meditating. The best time in my opinion to do this is first thing in the morning before your day gets too hectic.
A final point to remember is that your body is very smart. It will adapt to the stress placed upon it. So, you need to switch up your recovery techniques every couple of weeks. If you get a massage every day using the same technique although it will feel good it may start to lose some of its benefits. I always recommend that you cycle through your favorite techniques every couple of weeks. I realize that some people will read this and say “Recovery is for wimps, all you need to do is work harder”. I honestly use to think that as well, however, trust me when I tell you that having that mindset was one of the worse decisions I ever made. Your body will eventually shut down and if this happens you may eventually find yourself in a deep hole and your chances of injury and illness skyrocket. Be smart with your training. A key phrase that I live by now is “Train hard when your body is ready and rest hard so you can reap the benefits of your hard work.”
“Union strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller is also a featured panelist in the Sports Doc blog http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc on Philly.com. For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: http://www.philly.com/philly/health/
When it comes to your training you should always be looking to finds ways to improve. Many of us who train have a tendency to get stuck in the same old routine. We do the same exercises day in and day out and wonder why we stop seeing results. This week I want to share with you TEN WAYS that you can improve your training.
1. GET TO SLEEP BY 10:30
When I ask most people when they fall asleep the majority of people respond by telling me they are unable to fall asleep before midnight. It’s very common for people to tell me that they are unable to fall asleep before 2 a.m. This is a growing problem for a lot of people today. Research has shown that when we sleep our body begins the process of repairing itself. If we are unable to get an adequate night’s sleep how can we expect to feel alert and energize for the next day?
2. FOCUS ON POST WORKOUT RECOVERY
One of the easiest ways in my opinion to improve your overall training as well as your body composition is to put an emphasis on your post workout nutrition. A simple way to make this a part of your training plan is to have a protein smoothie already made for when you finish your training session. You can either bring it with you to the gym (freeze it before you come) or have one made when you get home. Whatever you decide adding some protein, carbohydrates and fat to your post workout nutrition will give you a leg up on your competition. I would recommend that you try and drink your shake within 15-30 minutes of completing your workout.
3. GET A TRAINING PARTNER
Plain and simple, people train harder if they are working out with someone. Find someone (ideally a friend, coworker or neighbor) who is looking to get in shape and is willing to train with you. Talk about your goals together and make a commitment to train with one another a few days a week. By doing this you will feel a stronger commitment to your training and someone will hold you accountable to your program. Other options include hiring a personal trainer or working out with a small group (i.e. semi-private training)
4. ADD SOME WEIGHT TO THE BAR
If you are currently lifting weights than you are one step ahead of a lot of other people who are missing out on one of the best ways to change your body. However, I would be willing to bet that the majority of people who are lifting weights right now are happy with the weight they have on the bar. Instead of being satisfied with the weight on the bar, I challenge you to increase the weight on some of your big lifts (i.e. front squat, bench press, overhead press, etc.) by 5 lbs. this week. The following week shoot for 10 pounds. It goes without saying that you should always focus on good form, however, increasing the weight in small increments is a great way to add some strength as well as some muscle.
5. DO A PROPER WARM UP BEFORE EVERY TRAINING SESSION
I see it all the time. I watch people walk into the gym sit down on the peck deck machine or flat bench and start their chest workout. No warm up just straight into their routine. If there is one thing that I am adamant about it is making sure that all of my athletes and clients perform a proper warm up. The excuse that most people give is “I don’t have time”. I look at them and say a good warm-up can be completed in as little as 5 to 10 minutes if you do it correctly. The warm-up sets the tone for the training session. Ideally I like to see the following categories covered in a warm-up:
- Alignment (neutral pelvis)
- Proper breathing
- Foam rolling
6. ELIMINATE PROCESSED FOOD THIS WEEK
One of the easiest ways to feel better with in and out of the gym is to reduce the amount of processed food that you consume on a daily basis. I am going to challenge you this week to eliminate all processed food this week. I am willing to bet that if you do this you will see an increase in your overall energy as well as your ability to recover from one workout to another.
7. GO FOR A LONG WALK OUTSIDE
One of the best ways to relieve stress as well as improve your cardiac output is to go for a long brisk walk. Ditch the cell phone and headphones and get outside. The sun on your face as well as the fresh air will do wonders for your body.
8. MAKE A POWER SMOOTHIE
Most smoothies you buy at a smoothie store are loaded with sugar as well as fruit substitutes. Instead of wasting your money on high sugar/low protein smoothie try this recipe instead:
- ½ banana
- 1 cup of strawberries
- ¼ cup of beets
- ½ cup of kale
- ¼ cup of frozen mangos
- 1 tbsp. of melted coconut oil
- 1 tsp. of spirulina (This can be purchased at most health food stores)
- 5-6 ice cubes
- Blend for 30-45 seconds and drink up
9. FOCUS ON YOUR HEALTH RATHER THAN WEIGHT LOSS
This week put away the scale and focus on improving your health. Dropping 20 lbs. of weight does not automatically make you healthy. Instead, focus on habits that you can sustain. Examples include getting quality sleep, eating a balanced diet as well as finding ways to manage your stress.
10. TRAIN LIKE AN ATHLETE
All of us have an athletic side. As kids we use to run and jump; but as we grow older many of us have a tendency to lose our athleticism and ability to generate power. Training like an athlete will automatically increase your power. Here are three exercises that you can do to help you feel like an athlete:
1. Box jumps - Start with a very low box if you have never done this before land soft.
Video: Box jumps
2. Medicine ball throws - I always recommend that you start with a light (2-4 lbs.) medicine ball.
3. Transition runs -These runs are best done on a track or a turf field. Start slow and progress.
Video: Shuffle to sprint
If your results have stalled and you want to jumpstart your fitness this month, try adding some of these options to your training plan. You don’t need to all of these recommendations at once. Start slow and progress. Remember proper form and progressions are critical when it comes to your training.
“Union strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller is also a featured panelist in the Sports Doc blog (http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc) on Philly.com. For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health
Each year the number of female athletes who are participating in high school sports appears to be growing. With sports like soccer, basketball, field hockey, crew, lacrosse, track and softball, athletes are now given the chance to play their sport almost year round. For the past several years I have had the privilege of working with several female athletes and I think this trend towards females playing more sports is fantastic. However, one trend that I have seen with high school female athletes is the increase risk of injury. It’s very common for me to speak to a parent and have them tell me that their daughter has suffered one of the following injuries:
- Torn ACL
- Multiple stress fractures
- Torn rotator cuff
- Plantar fasciitis
- Hip/low back pain
The list above is just some of the more common injuries that I see with females. The truth is there is no way to prevent an injury. Injuries are a part of the game. However, I do believe that if athletes are trained properly they can greatly reduce their chance of injury. If you are a parent of a female athlete one question that I think you should ask yourself is “What steps can I take in order to reduce the chance of injury for my daughter."
Here are a few suggestions on how I believe you can reduce injuries in sports.
1. Stop playing year round: I understand that this may frustrate some parents and coaches but high school athletes need an off-season. I know there is a desire to increase your skill as an athlete, however, if you play the same sport for 11-12 months a year with a short break your chances of developing soft tissue injuries as well as muscle imbalances increases dramatically. I would recommend that 2-3 months out of each year females take a step back from their main sport and develop some new movement patterns. A question you have to ask yourself is if professional athletes have an off-season why don’t high school athletes have an off-season?
2. Improve your nutrition: It’s very rare that I work with a female athlete who is eating a well-balanced diet. Most females would benefit by simply adding more protein and fat to their meals as well as focusing on a quality post workout meal. A typical breakfast for a female athlete looks something like this: plain bagel & a glass of water or orange juice. A much better option would be the following: 2 eggs, banana and a glass of orange juice. Small changes in nutrition can have a dramatic effect on performance.
3. Learn how to decelerate: Most athletes have no problem running. Sure some kids are much more efficient at running than others, however, one area that needs to be addressed when training females is teaching them how to stop and control their body. This takes time. However, athletes who are stable and understand where their body is in space (proprioception) are less likely to suffer an injury than those who are unstable.
4. Improve your overall strength: One thing that I tell all of the female athletes that I work with is if you want to reduce your chances of getting hurt improve your overall strength. Most high school females have never touched a weight in their life and they are intimated by the thought of lifting weights. I can respect this but if taught correctly this can be a game changer for female athletes. An increase in strength will mean a more stable base of support which results in a more stable body. When a female athlete increases her strength so many positive things happen on the field or court. Here are just a few of the benefits:
- Increase in speed and power.
- Improvement in their posture.
- Increase in their confidence.
- Increase in their bone strength.
Note: The off-season that I mention above is the PERFECT time to implement a proper strength training program. You don’t have to stop playing your sport completely in the offseason just reduce the volume and implement strength training 2-3x per week.
Here are a few exercise videos that if performed properly under the proper supervision can reduce the chance of injury. Please note that in each clip I show two exercises. The first exercise is the easier (regression) of the two. Please make sure that the first exercise is mastered before attempting the second exercise.
- Kneeling push to regular push up
- Body weight squat to box jump
- Band deadlift to KB deadlift
- Inverted reach to med ball reach
- Skate hop bounce to skate hop
As an athlete when you step on the field or court you can’t worry about getting hurt. However, you can do something about reducing your chances of getting hurt. I think it’s fantastic that female athletes are playing sports and doing things on the field /court that people never expected them to do. Just make sure that you have built a solid foundation and take a look at the big picture to see what areas you need to improve upon in order to stay on the field and play an entire season injury free.
A topic that has been debated over the years by both coaches and athletes is whether or not field and court athletes need to develop an aerobic base for their particular sport. When most people think of aerobic training the first thing that comes to their mind is long slow distance (LSD) running. The majority of field and court athletes that I have worked with despise this type of training (Unless you have a cross country runner that also happens to play field hockey). For most coaches and athletes this means running 4-6 miles at a slow pace. They believe that if they train slow they will be slow. On one hand I understand exactly what they mean. On the flip side after reading "Ultimate MMA Conditioning" by Joel Jamieson I developed a deeper understating of energy system training and in particular cardiac output training.
You may be saying to yourself I am sprinter why would I need to increase my cardiac output? All I need to do is sprint for 6-8 seconds, rest and then repeat it again 30-90 seconds later. The reality is your cardiac system is the "power plant of aerobic energy production" (Ultimate MMA Conditioning-Jamieson). The cardiac output method is a method that will improve the amount of blood that your heart can pump for each beat. As a field or court athlete this is critical to your ability to perform repeat sprints as well as have the endurance to play an entire game. A key component that I believe most athletes neglect is their ability to recover from a play or a sprint. In a perfect world I want a team full of athletes that can sprint, rest and repeat another sprint with the same intensity as the first sprint. By developing your aerobic system you will be able to perform more repeat sprints during a match or game.
In order to use the cardiac method you need to follow some guidelines in order to reap the benefits. Here is a list of what you need to follow in order to ensure that you’re training the right energy system.
- Maintain a constant heart rate in the 120-150 bpm (beats per minute) range.
- Each session should last 30-90 minutes.
- Start with 30 minutes and increase the volume each week.
- Start with two (2) sessions per week and increase to as many as three (3) sessions per week in the off-season.
- This type of training should be done in the off-season to help develop a solid foundation to build upon.
- If your resting heart rate is above 60 bpm you will benefit from 4-6 weeks of this type of training. You goal should be to have a resting heart rate of 55 or lower. If your resting heart rate is under 50 bpm than you can limit this type of training to 1-2x per week in the off-season and progress to more advanced styles of training.
I would highly recommend that you pick up a good heart rate monitor to use. You can purchase a good one for under $125 from a company like Polar (www.polarusa.com)
Note: These guidelines are from the book Ultimate MMA Conditioning (Joel Jamieson)
When most athletes hear about this type of training they instantly think they will be asked to run miles upon miles. While I personally like to run and I believe every field and court athlete should incorporate some type of longer running in the off-season, there may be some alternatives for athletes. The first type of training that comes to mind for me is circuit training.
The reality is a soccer player needs to train differently than a football player, however, if their goal is to develop their cardiac output in the off-season they could follow a similar plan for 2-3 days per week to develop an aerobic base. The great news for athletes about this style of training is that there is no need to log 45-90 minutes of LSD running. Instead you can set up circuits either in the weight room, outside on the track/field or at a park. You’re only limited by your imagination as long as the guidelines above are followed. Below I have put together a series of videos that can help you get a better understanding of some of the exercises that you can implement into your training program.
Video exercise clips:
Watch: Cardiac output intro
Watch: Cardiac output thunder bands
Watch: Cardiac output post workout
Click here if you want to buy thunder bands: https://rbt.infusionsoft.com/go/bd/kevinm/
I personally think this style of training works best in conjunction with 2-3 days of strength training. Remember you are laying the foundation for future more advanced training methods. Without a solid foundation you are setting yourself up for potential injury and disappointment. When it comes to this type of training I personally like to use the following types of equipment.
- Body weight
- Jump rope
- Medicine balls
- Jungle gyms at a park
For additional information on cardiac output training I would recommend that you visit www.8weeksout.com
Good luck in your training.
“Union strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller is also a featured panelist in the Sports Doc blog: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc on Philly.com. For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: www.philly.com/philly/health/
Coming back well rested from a few days off, we had an important game to play against the NY Red Bulls. Not only are they in our conference, but by far our biggest rival. In the first half, we attacked very well, with a goal scored early on by Conner Casey. About 30 minutes into the first half, the Red Bulls were given a red card for a bad tackle on Danny Cruz. This gave us an advantage playing 11v10 for the rest of the game. After halftime, big man Conor Casey scored his second goal of the game putting us up 2-0. Nearing the end of the game, the other Frenchie, Antoine Hoppenot, scored our third goal – making the score, 3-0. I was very happy to be able to give the assist on Antoine’s goal. On this play, Antoine passed me the ball at the midfield line. Seeing no one attacking me, I decided to dribble towards the goal at a fast pace. When I arrived inside of the box, the Red Bull defense was sprinting back to cover their goal. I saw Antoine coming into the top of the box to my side, giving me a chance to play the ball back to him for a perfect shot into the goal.
Next up was FC Dallas, home again at PPL Park. This game was not going to be an easy task with FC Dallas leading the Western MLS Conference. The score was 1-1 at halftime with our first goal being scored by Amobi Okugo off a long throw from Sheanon Williams. The last five minutes of the second half were very exciting with us taking the lead back with a goal from Aaron Wheeler. This was Aaron’s first ever MLS goal! We thought we had handled the most difficult part by taking back the lead, but FC Dallas came back to score the equalizer in 97th minute of extra time. Even ending with a tie, this result felt like a loss for the team.
Our road trip over the Independence Day holiday was going to be tough one. With games at Real Salt Lake and in Houston, we had our work cut out for us. First up was Real Salt Lake. The coaching staff gave us great direction for this game to produce a positive result and I think we responded very well. I scored the first goal of the game in the 13th minute, giving us momentum early on. This is my third goal of the year with the assist from Conor Casey. I have to give lots of credit to Conor for this goal because he set it up so perfectly - my only job was to be ready to call for the ball at the right moment.
And then the 97th minute arrived again...Real Salt Lake was credited with a PK from a hand-ball inside of the box. They scored, making the final result of the game 2-2. I really felt that we were going to have a win that night, but it did not happen for us. We had to rebound very quickly after the game at Real Salt Lake to focus on our upcoming game 3 days later in Houston.
Back home! Next up was Chivas USA. We needed a win to get back on track after our disappointing road trip. In this game, the rain wouldn’t let up, which became a big factor in play. At half-time, Chivas was winning with a score of 1-0, which surprised all of us – but showed us that we needed to step it up as a team. In the locker room, we reunited as a team and told ourselves that we needed more on offense to be able to win this game. And that’s exactly what we did. Attacking in the second half, Michael Farfan played it short to me off of a corner kick. I crossed the ball into the box, Conner Casey headed toward the goal, and Brian Carroll came in to finish it off. Our second goal came off of an indirect free kick inside the box of Chivas. I set the ball up and passed the ball back to Michael Farfan, and he shot it right above the defenders standing on the line. We took the lead 2-0. This was my ninth assist of the season and brought me back to tops in the league for assists – pretty cool!
It felt great to get another win at PPL Park in front of our amazing fans who came out in torrential downpours and crazy wind. We need and want to continue on this path to clench our spot in the play offs this fall. I will keep you posted on our journey in my next blog entry!
Talk to you all soon!
Sebastien Le Toux, No. 11
For the majority of high school athletes who are playing a fall sport, summer camp officially starts in two weeks. I can think back to when I was in high school and this was a very exciting time for athletes. If you are a freshman you have no idea what to expect as you make the jump to high school sports; if you are going to be a senior you have a very good idea of what your coach will expect from you on day one of camp. With that being said, in order to ensure that you are ready for “two-a-day” practices, I would like to share some tips that may make the transition smoother from summer vacation to practice.
I understand that teams have been “training” for most of the summer. Some kids have been participating in voluntary practices as well as team “speed camps”. If you have been training all summer then the transition to mandatory summer camp will be easier. However, even the best athletes still need to plan for day one of summer camp.
Here are some training tips that may help you stay healthy as well as get the attention of the coaching staff:
Tip No. 1. Plan out the next two weeks: Look at the calendar and even if you are on vacation you still need to train as well as rest. Most teams will start their workouts on Monday, August 12. Take a look at what you have planned and set up a schedule that has you training every other day. There is no need to train every day before camp. However, I would recommend that you spend this time on conditioning as well some extra skill work for your sport.
Tip No. 2. Test yourself before camp: Most high school coaches require that their athletes complete some type of conditioning test. Some teams require their athletes to run 1 mile in under 7 minutes. Other coaches set up a series of tests to complete (i.e. shuttle runs, vertical jump, lifting test). Whatever test you are expected to perform do test this BEFORE day one of camp. I would recommend that you test yourself this week to see how you do. Be honest with yourself. If you are required to run a 7 minute mile and you test out by running 7:20 per mile than you know exactly where you stand and what you need to do in order to pass the test. Don’t let the first day of camp be the first time you do the required testing.
Tip No. 3. Train the appropriate energy systems for your sport: If you are a soccer player focus on repeat sprints as well as shuttle runs. Assuming you have developed a good aerobic base (i.e. endurance) this is a good time to focus on speed work as well as some lactic capacity (i.e. 1-2 minute high intensity runs w/ 60-90 seconds of rest). If you are a football player focus on repeat sprints. An example would be to head to the track or field and after a good warm-up complete the following workout.
- Set(s) of 15 x 25 yd. sprints with 45 seconds rest in between. Each run is done at 100 percent effort.
- Rest five (5) minutes.
- Set(s)10 x 20 yd. runs with 45 seconds rest in between. Each run is done at 100 percent effort.
- Cool down
Note: Feel free to add in a change of direction (i.e. agility/transition) run for either of these options. Here is an example of a transition run: Lateral crossover continuous and sprint
This is the time to focus more on specific energy needs rather than general physical training.
Tip No. 4: Wake up early and train: The majority of high school athletes I speak to tell me that their training camps will be held in the morning (7 or 8 a.m.) If this is the case then you need to make sure that you start to wake up early and train at this time. If you have been sleeping in every day this summer until 10 a.m. you will have a rude awakening on day one of preseason camp. I would recommend that you do the following assuming you start camp at 7:00 a.m.:
6:00 a.m.- Wake-up
6:10 a.m.- Big glass of water with a light breakfast (I would recommend that you add some seal salt to a drink if possible)
6:20 a.m.- Pack up some water along with a sports drink and head out to the track, field or beach (wherever you will do your training)
6:30 a.m.- Start your warm-up routine: Dynamic warm-up
6:50 a.m.- Start the main portion of your workout
7:45 a.m.- Head home and eat a good breakfast
Tip No. 5: Have a nutrition and hydration plan for camp. Most sports will require that the kids train twice per day. Some coaches will allow their athletes to go home between sessions. Other coaches require that the kids stay at school all day for the workouts. Whatever the case may be have nutrition and hydration plan in place.
List of foods & drink I would bring to training in a container/bag:
- Two (2) bananas
- Protein shake (freeze it the night before)
- Grilled chicken sandwich if you have to stay between sessions. Add sea salt to the sandwich.
- Two (2) large water bottles
- Bag of regular potato chips (eat a handful if you have lost a lot of sweat during the workout. A handful is okay at this time)
Note: You don’t need to bring all of this food however, I would recommend that you have a lunch bag and have several options to choose from especially fruits as well as some protein.
Tip No. 6: Buy a foam roller. I can guarantee that after the first session kids will be sore. They will complain of their hamstrings, quads and adductors being sore. Several kids will develop shin splints after the first week. Although this is not as good as a manual therapist, I would recommend that you purchase a foam roller. The foam roller that I like is called the GRID. Ideally this would be used both before as well as after the workout. If you do not want to take the roller with you to training then at the very least I would get up a little earlier and do this before you leave the house as well as when you get home. It’s also great to do before you go to bed to help alleviate some muscle soreness. Spend 5-10 minutes each time you use the foam roller and make sure that you are breathing properly (diaphragmatic) as you do this. Here is one movement that you do with the foam roller. Make sure that when you do this particular movement that you do not place the foam roller on your low back. Stay in the middle to upper portion of your back.
One final point I want to make is that during these final two weeks I want you to enjoy some time away from your sport. You absolutely need to train during this time, however, keep the sessions short and allow a day in between for recovery. By now you should be in good shape. Use this time to implement some high intensity work as well as some vacation time with your family and friends. The key thing to remember is that on day one you want to make a good impression to your coaching staff so take the necessary steps to ensure that you leave a positive impression.
Union strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller is also a featured panelist in the Sports Doc blog: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc on Philly.com. For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health: http://www.philly.com/philly/health/
When it comes to training, people like to debate about what is the best way to increase an athlete’s power and explosiveness. Some people believe Olympic lifting is the best tool to increase an athlete’s power output. Others believe CrossFit or kettlebell training are the most effective way at increasing an athlete’s power. We can argue this point all day long and the reality is I don’t believe that there is one single way to increase your power. However, I do believe that there is a very effective tool for athletes to use when it comes to increasing power output and that tool is a medicine ball.
Most coaches know that in order to increase power a lot of factors must go into the equation. Here are just a few of the things that we need to do in order to increase power output:
- Increase your force into the ground.
- Increase total body strength.
- Increase the speed of movement.
- Ensure proper alignment while we train.
- Focus on ways to properly decelerate our body.
- Maintain proper breathing patterns.
- The ability to stabilize under load.
As much as I like Olympic lifting and kettlebell training, I believe the best tool for teaching power output at the beginning of a training program is to use a medicine ball. A few reasons why I prefer to use a medicine ball at the beginning of an athlete’s training program are:
- For most people throwing an object comes natural.
- It’s fun. People like to throw things and this gives them the license to throw an object as hard as possible once they have good form.
- It’s safe. Instead of lifting a weight over your head with the fear of dropping it on your head a medicine ball is a great tool to teach the mechanics of several more advanced lifts.
- You can take the medicine ball anywhere and train on your own.
- With this one tool I can work on speed, power, deceleration, change of direction, endurance, proprioception and mobility.
These are just a few examples of why I like to use medicine balls in a training program. The reality is a number of elite athlete’s use these in their everyday training program. As I stated above, I use this at the beginning of a training program with new athletes, however, elite athletes use these daily for incredible results.
When it comes to training with medicine balls there are so many exercises to choose from. You are only limited by your imagination. Below are five exercise video clips that I have put together for you to review. As always ensure that you use proper form and start slow. If you have any pain (shoulder, back, etc.) back off of these exercises and consult with a medical professional.
Regardless of your sport medicine ball training is a fantastic way to increase your power. Athletes from every sport can benefit from the rotational power as well as well the increase in aerobic output that they will see from this type of training. If you have kids this is a great way to slowly introduce them to the world of training. I guarantee that if you start slow and use a very light medicine ball kids will enjoy this type of training. Adults, if you are looking to drop a few pounds or increase your running speed implement medicine ball training into your routine.
Have a question for Union strength coach Kevin Miller? Leave it in the comments below.