MLS Regular Season

19 August 3:58 pm

Rest assured…all is well with new Union net minder Rais Mbolhi.

Following practice Tuesday, Union interim manager Jim Curtin confirmed rumors that Mbolhi, 28, the club’s latest signing was involved in a minor car accident during a return trip to France to button up personal affairs.

The accident, was minor in nature and found Mbolhi suffering no injuries.

The two-time FIFA World Cup veteran is scheduled to board a flight to return to Philadelphia, where he will train for the first time alongside his Union teammates later this week. According the Curtin, there are no issues remaining with any of Mbolhi’s paperwork that includes a work visa and international transfer certificate (ITC).

“Seems like everything is okay with him and he’ll be in, we expect, by tomorrow (Wednesday),” said Union interim manager Jim Curtin.  He’s on a flight now; [his initial flight] got rescheduled and missed because of a car accident.  It's the kind of the news we got at 4:30 in the morning [from our team coordinator]. Unfortunate for [Rais], obviously safety is first and we’ll get him back as soon as he gets in. But he’s okay and there was no injury or anything like that.”

It’s unknown whether Mbolhi will get his Major League Soccer debut this Sunday when the Union return to PPL Park to take on the San Jose Earthquakes (8 p.m., purchase tickets) as Curtin mentioned that they want to be both cautious and methodically calculated with his first MLS start.

“We’ll see where Rais is at and we’ll talk with him – have a good honest talk,” said Curtin. “ If I had to guess from the last time when he came back and trained for four days, he was coming off of a pretty long layoff and he still kind of has been, He wants to be 100 percent before he goes out there and I as a coach can appreciate that. I will not speculate, but I’ll tell you that we’re preparing now as if Zac [MacMath] is going to start.”

Right now, both Union goalkeepers in camp are riding high with MacMath helping the Union capture its first trip ever to the U.S. Open Cup final while rookie goalkeeper Andre Blake is an MLS Save of the Week candidate following this acrobatic save to deny Houston's Will Bruin during the club’s primetime matchup last Friday.

Cristian Maidana: Feeling better

It’s a “wait and see” on midfielder Cristian Maidana, who again aggravated a hamstring injury and was forced to fly home following the team’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal victory. But after a minor procedure, Maidana has returned to training with his teammates and participated in full training Tuesday.

“The medical staff determined that he was not up to where they wanted him to be physically [following the Open Cup semifinal], so they sent him home,” said Curtin.  He had a [platelet rich plasma] injection in the hamstring and that’s settled down now.  He feels very good today. We have to be cautious with him because we know what it took to get him fully going and acclimated and fit and we don’t want to have any more setbacks.”

Curtin his hopeful that he’ll have Maidana back soon, which is a plus considering he is currently among the League leaders in assists with eight.

PPL “Park-ing” updates and practice stuff

Located on the Union website is a detailed rundown of the rearranged parking lot structure  given construction for the club’s brand new practice facility is currently underway. Keep an eye on philadelphiaunion.com in the coming days ahead for a detailed feature on the practice facility complete with images and renderings of the finished product. If you have yet to read it, a good informational piece regarding the facility was featured on Philly Soccer Page last week.

Each week, we’ll send out a video of how construction is moving along as this project is scheduled to be completed in October. Here's the first:

The possibilities of the finished product are endless.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com    

25 March 2:55 pm

All of us are pressed for time. Between work, family, social obligations and finding time for ourselves it’s hard to find the time to fit in a good workout. I get asked this question a lot. “How long do I need to train in order to see some benefits”. That is a tough question to answer without knowing the person and having a good understating of their goals as well as their current level of fitness. With that being said, I want to share with you three of my “go to workouts” when I am pressed for time.

Workout No. 1: Hill Repeats

When I think of hill repeats I think of Walter Payton wearing a “Roos” headband crushing hills while other guys are lagging behind sucking wind. Athletes have been running hills for years but it’s that image in my head that motivates me to get out and run up and down a hill.  Hill running is a great way to get ready for speed training and harder workouts that will happen down the road. It’s a great way to “strength train” your legs without the weights. Here is one workout you can try. Ideally you would run on a soft surface but if you are unable to find a gradual soft hill you can run these on the street.

Week 1: 5 repeats x 15 seconds (Rest 60 seconds)

Week 2: 6 repeats x 15 seconds (Rest 50 seconds)

Week 3: 7 repeats x 15 seconds (Rest 45 seconds)

Week 4: 8 repeats x 15 seconds (Rest 35 seconds)

Week 5: Omit. No hill running this week.

Note: Start with a gradual hill with a slight incline. If you are a beginner do not go and find the steepest hill in the neighborhood. Find a gradual climb and start with five (5) runs and progress to eight (8) over a four (4) week period. As you get stronger increase the work time until you reach 45-60 seconds.

Workout No. 2: Kettlebell circuit

Just for the record I am "not a kettlebell guy." I am not certified by any organization however, I really enjoy using kettlebells with the athletes and clients that I work with. It’s simply one of the many “tools” that I have in my toolbox to help people obtain the results that they are looking for. I think with the proper coaching they can add tremendous value to your training program. Please note that I would recommend that you work with a qualified coach who can assess/screen you and can teach you the basics of how to use kettlebells. Like all strength training exercises start light and perfect your form before progressing to heavier weight.

Set the timer for 10 minutes and perform the following circuit. Rest as much as you need to in order to maintain good form.

1. Kettlebell swings: five (5) reps

In order to do a proper swing you must learn how to hinge at your hips. The mistake most people make is that they squat instead of hinge. Let your legs do the work and guide the “bell” with your arms.

2. Kettlebell goblet squat: five (5) reps

Hold the kettlebell close to your body and squat as deep as you comfortable can. Push the knees out, keep your chin tucked and stand tall at the finish of the movement. Don’t allow the weight to drift to far from your body.

3. Push ups: ten (10) reps

Maintain a flat back, elbows in and push away at the finish. If you are unable to do a full push up than drop to your knees and perform a modified version.

Rest for 15-30 seconds depending on your fitness level. Repeat for 10 minutes. At the end of ten minutes  record the amount of the completed rounds and the weight lifted.

Workout No. 3: Head to the park

If you don’t belong to a gym however you want to challenge yourself head to your local park and give this circuit a try.

  • Monkey bar pull ups: 5 reps
  • Body Weight squats: 10 reps
  • Resistance band 2 hand presses: 5 reps
  • Single leg squats to a park bench: 5 reps/side
  • Bear crawl for distance (30 yds)
  • Rest and repeat for time (10-20 minutes)

If you do this workout people will look at you funny and some people will ask you what you are doing. My response is normally “I am training”. The next question is normally “How are you exercising without any equipment” to which I respond “ I have all the equipment I need at a park. It’s one of the best places to train”.

It goes without saying. Before you do any workouts you need to warm up properly. For some people that may be 5-10 minutes. For others like me I need 10-15 minutes to get moving. The key point to remember is when you are pressed for time there are several  ways that  you can train. You just need to make health a priority and stop making excuses!

Train hard and train smart!

Union strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller is also a featured panelist in the Sports Doc blog (link: 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

 

 

10 March 4:41 pm

In preparation for a Major League Soccer season, a lot of time and consideration goes into what the players need to play at such a high level each and every week.  As fans you see the finished product but as coaches we have to assemble a plan that gives our players the best chance for success.  During the preseason we have several things we want to work, some of the key areas that we focus on are the following:

  • Building a strong aerobic base and alactic energy system
  • Improving movement quality off the ball
  • Building a strong base of strength
  • Implementing a solid nutrition program
  • Focusing on acceleration and deceleration (both with and without the ball)
  • Implementing a recovery plan
  • Stress and fatigue management
  • Assessment and movement screening for each player

It’s naïve to think that every player is going to arrive in camp in great shape. One of the great things about preseason training is that you get to spend quality time (5-6 weeks) on the road with the players and find out what they excel at and what areas they may need to improve upon. Every athlete I have ever come in contact can improve in at least 1-2 areas.  As the fitness coach it’s my responsibility to work with the coaching and medical staff to try to identify what areas may be lacking and develop a   plan to ensure that every player is progressing towards the end goal which is the chance to play at a high level each and every week.

Below are five (5) key fitness/training related areas that we focus on during the preseason:

1. Individual screening, assessments and testing for each player

One of the first things we do is look at each player individually and screen them.  It is my job along with the medical staff to screen each player so we can assemble an individual plan for the guys. To accomplish this we came up with the following plan:

Functional Movement Screen

This is a seven point screen that was created by Gray Cook and Lee Burton. This has been around since 1998 and is currently being utilized by thousands of coaches across the world. The goal is to look at fundamental movement patterns to identify what areas players may be deficient in and to identify any major asymmetries that may exist. It’s simply a screen to try and identify any limitations in movement that may cause an injury down the road.

Additional Screening/Assessments

  • Breathing patterns
  • Pelvic alignment
  • Omega wave testing: This provides detailed information on players cardiac, metabolic and central nervous system readiness.

Speed

  • 10 meter and 30 meter sprint times

Power

  • Vertical Jump testing
  • Transition speed: Change of direction drill (30 yd. test to assess transition/change of direction speed)

Aerobic system

  • Beep Test

Upper Body Test

  • Pull-ups
  • Lower body assessment: single leg squat test

2. Developing the aerobic and alactic system

During the course of the game certain players can run as much as 6-7 miles. In order to be able to sustain this kind of effort a strong aerobic base needs to be in place to play at this level.  In order to progress the players each week we attempted to develop their aerobic system by incorporating as much movement with the ball as possible. We did not go out and run at a steady state for 60-75 minutes but rather the technical staff did an excellent job of incorporating as much work with the ball as possible.  Players really like this because they are working on their skill with the ball while at the same time we are building their aerobic base. We have to remember we are training soccer players not cross country runners.

An efficient aerobic system is critical for the success of our players.  To accomplish this we monitored the players by watching their heart rate as well as their recovery between movements and drills. An addition to making sure that the players have a strong aerobic base it’s critical that we make speed (alactic system) a priority in the training. A strong aerobic system will help the alactic (speed) system work efficiently.  In order to do this, players need to be alert and fatigue needs to be low to improve speed.  All of our speed work is done in the beginning of the training session after our movement prep and before fatigue may set in. Intensity is high (runs of 10-30 yards) and recovery is long (1-2 minutes) when we try and improve a players speed. As the season progresses we will increase the distance of the run (30-60 yards) and manipulate the recovery times to get the adaptations that we are looking for.  

When it comes to speed players will run faster without the ball than with the ball so implement speed training early in the session without the ball to ensure that players are running at top speeds.

3. Build a solid base of strength

As a strength coach I am always looking to make our players stronger.  I believe it’s one area that is often overlooked with soccer players.  During preseason there is so much to accomplish in a short time that strength training can sometimes be pushed to the side. I am very fortunate to have a coaching staff that understands the role that strength training plays in the development of our players. With that being said we try to focus on BASIC movement patterns that would allow our players to build a solid foundation for the season that we can build upon.  Below are some of the basic movement patterns that we try to focus on during preseason.

Single leg strength

  • Body weight squats to a bench
  • Hip hinge pattern (deadlifts, reaches)
  • Rear foot squats
  • Hip extension patterns

Squatting patterns

  • Goblet squats
  • Front squats
  • Pulling patterns

Pull-ups

  • DB rows
  • Band rows
  • Pushing
  • Several variations of push ups
  • DB bench press variations
  • Overhead pressing

Lunges

  • Reverse
  • Lateral
  • Core

Anterior core training: Roll outs

  • Turkish Get Ups (Starting with the lowest progression and advancing)
  • Rolling/Crawling
  • Supine (lying on your back) to prone (stomach) to quadruped (all fours)

Note: We do not perform any crunches with the players.

Deceleration

  • Jumping
  • Linear/lateral

4. Nutrition and Hydration

At the end of the day nutrition and the quality of food that our athletes consume plays a critical role in how they will recover and perform on the field. I truly believe that if you have two athletes with the same skill and aerobic system the one with the better nutrition will outperform the other athlete on the field.

I try and keep it very simple for the players when it comes to nutrition. Everyone is different and my goal is to provide simple yet effective recommendations based off of what I have been able to learn from experts in the field of nutrition. Experts worth reading, in my opinion, include Robb Wolf, John Berardi, Brian St. Pierre and Catherine Shanahan to name a few.

  • Eat real unprocessed food as much as possible
  • Learn to cook simple nutritious meals
  • Consume quality meats, fats and carbohydrates on a daily basis
  • Buy local food whenever possible
  • Make hydration a priority by limiting the amount of sport drinks and energy drinks
  • On a daily basis consume 5-6 servings of vegetables and fruits.

Always have good healthy snack options with you for when you get hungry. This can be as easy as having a bag of homemade trail mix with you in case you get hungry.

5. Recovery

At the end of the day training is easy. I don’t mean it is easy to train for 2-3 hours each day but rather when we train we cause a disruption on our body that signals a response. It’s that response that helps us grow and adapt. If we want to reap the benefits of a particular training session we MUST develop a good recovery plan for our players.  As I have stated above everyone is different and some players respond to one recovery method while another player may not respond to that particular stimulus. To keep things simple we try and provide a few options to the players.  Here is a short list of some of the strategies that we implement with the players:

  • Massage
  • Post workout nutrition
  • Chiropractor treatments
  • Breathing techniques
  • Quality sleep every night
  • Contrasts in water
  • Foam rolling/stretching

The MLS season is very long and demanding. Injuries can‘t be prevented but we can reduce a player’s chance of getting hurt.  As the fitness coach my number one goal is to do everything possible to keep the players healthy and provide to them the necessary tools that can keep them on the field. I truly believe what the players do off of the field is just as important as what they do on the field.  If you are a coach at the high school or club level don’t try and implement all of the strategies above right away. Educate yourself on a few of the tips listed above and read as much as possible from experts in their field. The more we can educate our players the better off they will be when it comes time to play the game.

 Good luck with 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

11 November 2:41 pm

After our last regular season game against Sporting Kansas City, we unfortunately didn’t make the playoffs this year.

We were so close but we missed the final sprint to get over the hump. This difficult ending will really motivate us more to redeem ourselves and be in the playoffs next season.

So, enough about talking of the past, now I am focusing in the present and this offseason. What are my plans during this offseason?

We are now at the beginning of November and our preseason should probably start around mid-January so I have two months to prepare myself for the next season.

The most important thing right now for me is to get healthy. At the end of the season, I got an injury in my right foot. I need to recover from this injury before I start any running. So to begin my offseason I am going to rest my body. It’s important to stop playing for a little bit, but with my injury I didn’t even think about it. I am going to start working out probably at the beginning of December. I usually do a gym workout 3-4 times a week with some running. When we get closer to the preseason I will try to go out on the field and have some fun with the ball, probably go out there with some of my teammates who are already in town.

For most of the time during this offseason I will be staying in the Philadelphia area. My fiancé is from Philadelphia, so I am going to spend both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays here. I already planned to go to France for just few days in November. I will have just a quick visit to see my family and friends.

Our offseason is always during the winter, so I like to find a sunny destination for a week of vacation. I don’t know yet where I will go this year but I am planning on it.

I wish you a wonderful time during the Holidays, a happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas!

Thank you for all your support during this season.

Talk you to you soon.

Merci Beaucoup

Sebastien Le Toux  No. 11

04 October 4:36 pm

In this edition of my blog, I am going to look back on the regular season and the best highlights of my team -- and some of my own.

I am going to talk also of the playoffs push for our last for games of the regular season.

It has been a long season and we are now in the last two months of it and it is all very close in the standings.

But let’s start from the beginning. First home opener at PPL Park and my comeback in this beautiful stadium playing in my favorite jersey. I could not have dreamed of a better scenario than scoring the opening goal in my first game. This moment will be always in my memory because it was a beautiful feeling that I missed the previous year.

We started the season with a loss at home but got back on track right away with our first win in Colorado. Nobody was betting on us to have a great season and make the playoffs this year after losing our home opener against Sporting Kansas City but I think after winning this away game, lots of people were probably surprised and it gave us lots of positve energy to continue playing this way. In my experience, the way your team kicks off the new season always points to how well you do during the course of it, and after three games we had two wins and just one loss.

During the whole season , we always stayed in the top five of MLS' Eastern Conference standings, which as you know are the spots for the playoffs. And what helped us doing this was to be consistent. We had our best result of the year in the month of June. We were undefeated; in four matches we amassed two wins and two ties. One of those wins was against our big rival the New York Red Bulls.

It was a long time since the Union had beaten New York. It was a great game and we beat them, 3-0. I was very happy after this game, of course because of the win but also because I provided the assist on the last goal by Antoine Hoppenot. Antoine sits next to me in the locker room and is a personal friend of mine.  

To see him score his first home goal and be able to give him the assist was fantastic.

This season did not always go the way we wanted, and between the middle of August to the middle of September our results were not the best and we didn't get lots of points. For the first time we lost two games in a row, first in San Jose and the following weekend at home against Houston. Those unfortunate results put us in a bad position and out of the playoffs position.

After the Houston game, the team had a weekend off to recharge our batteries and start the push to finish strong in these last games of the regular season.

And the first of those five games was away in Kansas City. Since our last two bad performances, nobody pictured us winning this game. But all of us in the team knew that we were capable of beating Kansas City on their home field. If we wanted to be a part of the playoffs we needed a positive result here. And that's what we did. We won 1-0. This result put us in the playoff but it is not over yet. There is still a long way to go.

This next home game against Toronto is huge. And after that we are going to D.C. United and Montreal and then the rubber match as it's called at PPL Park on Oct. 26 against Kansas City -- again.

We are going all your support for this final sprint to the playoffs. I know I want to make it and say I helped the Philadelphia Union qualify for the second time.

Talk to you all soon...hopefully at playoff time.

Merci Beaucoup

Sebastien Le Toux, No. 11

24 September 9:19 am

Coming off a home win against D.C. United, we traveled to New York. It is our last meeting with the Red Bulls in the regular season and we needed a great performance against a direct opponent for the playoffs. I thought we had one of our best collective performances on defense against one of the best teams in the league. The final score was 0-0. I had a good opportunity in the second half. I received a loose ball in the air, took a good first touch on top of the box and shot from distance. The ball smashed the crossbar but didn't go in. It was our best chance but unfortunately we share the points at the end.

The next weekend we were again on the road. This time we played in New England. We played a very poor first half and New England was in leading, 1-0. We attacked much stronger the second half and quickly tied the game with a goal from Danny Cruz. This goal gave us more energy to continue to attack and after a shot from Sheanon Williams who hit the post, the ball came back right at my shin and I scored. Unfortunately, I was called offside by a foot. After my goal was called back, Conor Casey scored another one. He got to a loose ball in the box after the goalkeeper and their defender collided and found the net. Surprisingly the referee whistled for a foul on the goalkeeper and didn't allow the goal, which in my opinion was totally a good goal.

This wrong call was the turning point of this game and New England took advantage of our team frustration to score few goals. Final score 5-1, this was our worst result of the season.

Back home against Montreal. It's our second meeting versus the Impact. We lost the first 5-3 earlier in the season so everybody was hoping for lots of goals. But the opposite happened, and the game ended 0-0. We had some good combinations offensively but didn't find the net. The highlight of this game for me, was when the Montreal defender, Hassoun Camara, elbowed me in the face 10 minutes into the game. It is the first time that this happen to me, and I was close to getting a concussion, but luckily for me just my jaw and teeth were touched. I remained in the game but felt sore for few days.

Next game was our last long road trip to the west coast in San Jose. It's never easy to play far away from home with three hours difference but we needed to get points here. We didn't get off to the best start and the Earthquakes took the lead early, courtesy of former Union player Shea Salinas. We didn't have much opportunity in the first half but came back more offensive in the second half. Shortly after the half, San Jose midfielder Baca received a red card for a hard tackle. This call helped us to get more opportunities to score but the woodwork was not our friend this game. Twice we hit the post, first with an effort by Keon Daniel and after a header from Sheanon Williams. San Jose stayed strong defensively and we could not score and lost this game.

This was a disappointing result and we needed a big response at home against Houston Dynamo.

We played a very good first half, answering the physical plays form Houston who decided to make this game ugly. But in the first half we should have been up, 1-0. Keon Daniel took a fantastic free kick which went straight into the net, but the referee deemed there to have been a foul on the Houston goalkeeper. It's not the first time this season that we had a goal called back and it changed this game again. Houston scored a header in the second half, off of a free kick. We were unable to respond and lost this very important game.

We are not in the best position right now, tied for sixth in the Eastern Conference. Everything is still possible, but we need a big reaction in the final five games of the regular season to make the playoffs.

I hope I will give you some great news in my next blog.

Thanks for following me and supporting the team.

Merci beaucoup !!

Sebastien Le Toux No. 11

16 September 3:22 pm

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.

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.

Good luck!

04 September 2:14 pm

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.

Merci beaucoup,

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.

 

04 September 6:43 am

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.

Video: Band chest press (split stance)

8. A wonderful tool to teach young kids (as well as adults) to learn to decelerate and then accelerate properly.

Video: Band lateral step and decelerate

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 kmiller@philadelphiaunion.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/

27 August 9:36 am

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
  • Mobility
  • Flexibility
  • Aerobic training
  • Nutrition
  • High intensity intervals
  • Supplements

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.

Video: Supine breathing /alligator breaths

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)

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 weeksI 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.”

Good luck!

“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/