Proper hydration is essential for athletes. Extended periods of time training and performing a sport can lead to dehydration if not addressed. Dehydration is defined as losing fluid in a greater amounts than 2% of body weight. When dehydration occurs, the physiological strain on the athlete, as well as the athlete's perception of effort needed to perform an exercise task, increases. It can cause deterioration of the mental and cognitive performance, too. The decline of performance is relative to the magnitude of heat stress, exercise and the individual's unique biological characteristics.
Early signs of dehydration can be general: fatigue, headache(s) and confusion. Eventually, it can become a risk factor for heat exhaustion and heat stroke, according to The Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness.¹
Hydration needs vary from athlete to athlete. Different environments and physical activities require different hydration needs. Sweat contains electrolytes and water - both must be replaced! Also, prolonged exposure results in sodium loss through perspiration. It is important to replenish your body’s fluids, electrolytes and sodium levels.
The American College of Sports Medicine has developed the following fluid replacement recommendations:²
Individuals can monitor their hydration status by employing simple urine and body weight measurements.
Fluid replacement before exercise, if needed, is meant to start the physical activity at “normal” body water and electrolyte levels.
Fluid replacement during exercise is meant to prevent excessive dehydration (weight loss greater than two percent from baseline body weight) and to avoid excessive changes in electrolyte balance in order to avert compromised performance.
Fluid replacement after exercise is meant to fully replace any fluid and electrolyte losses.
The above list is the main reason we have our athletes weigh-in and weigh-out each and every day. Whatever weight you lose during a workout is water weight that needs to be replaced. For every pound of weight you lose during a workout, you need to replenish with 16 oz. of water.
Your choice of beverage will also affect your hydration status. Depending on your sport and exertion, water will not satisfy your body's true needs. Many “sports drinks” on the market are formulated to easily deliver electrolytes, fluids and carbohydrates to the body. According the the The Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness*, “studies have shown that athletes, including children, consume more fluids and stay better hydrated when the liquid is flavored.” Not all sports drinks are created equally, though! Athletes should always research what they're putting into their bodies.
We Want To Know: Are you loyal to a particular brand like Vitamin Water, Gatorade or Powerade? Or do you prefer just water?
The wall drill is a drill we use with all of our athletes. It emphasized body position and leg action during the Acceleration phase of sprinting. Here are simple coaching cues for the wall drill.
Physical Principle: Dynamic Correspondence
By Lee Fiocchi
The basic idea behind what we call Dynamic Correspondence is that an athlete's training off the field should translate to an athlete's performance on the field. Let's look at speed as an example.
Not all speed training is created equally. The common mantra that “you have to train fast to be fast” is very important but not entirely true. The last couple years in research -- largely elucidated by JB Morin and his research group -- is that direction of force is critical, which really isn’t the biggest nugget that we learned from the research. Most effective coaches know and purposely design their training to achieve improved position and posture to help athletes perform more effectively in acceleration. The myth that I fell for is that loaded sprint training with loads greater than 10% of body weight can have a negative affect on performance. As it turns out, loads should be tailored to the individual's body and their goals. This thought process is true of almost all training: strength and speed training should vary depending on how it will impact the athlete in their sport and for their position.
DST Exercise of the week is the Glute Ham Raise (GHR). In this video, we’re going to go over just the hamstring portion of the full Glute Ham Raise.
We’re going to start by making sure the athlete's knees are up on the pads. Some things to look for are to have the glutes and the core tight. A cue for creating tension in the core is to tell the athlete to think about bringing the rib cage and the pelvis together. When first going out, some athletes will try to just tip straight down. But that movement leads to a bit of a hip hinge, and we want to eliminate that. We’ll coach the athlete to take their heels and push them through the platform, and that’s going to force the athlete to extend their legs straight out. Pushing through the platform, you want the athlete to keep tension through the hamstrings, avoiding relaxation of the back.
They’re going to go down to about a flat position, then, before coming back up, they’re going to want to think about kicking their heels to the ceiling and attacking with the hamstrings, never losing core engagement. Once again, we’re not relaxing at the bottom, we want to make sure there’s tension through the hamstrings throughout the entire movement.
This exercise is shown on a GHR machine. The Glue Ham Raise can also be done with an athlete using a pad on the floor. In this scenario, the athlete's knees would be resting on the pad and they would need something or someone to keep their legs and feet from coming off the ground when extending their body down to the floor. Both versions of this exercise are equally effective and will target the hamstrings and posterior chain.
Recovery is a difficult topic to research. Often times, there are conflicting studies and conclusions, because so much of the recovery process is measured anecdotally. So what’s one to do? For one, start with defining the terms. Next, read the methods of the study to see if they are actually addressing the topic at hand. From there, we can get a better picture of truth outside of the spectrum of opinion.
Defining RecoverySo what is recovery? Is it at the cellular level? Is it in reference to perceived soreness or recovery of specific and relevant range of motion? Is it recovery from an injury? Is it recovering strength? For this blog we will define recovery as being at the cellular level, referencing perceived soreness decreases and strength recovery. Relevant range of motion is a tricky topic to try to throw in here because of all the factors and mechanisms that could lead to lost mobility and the reacquisition thereof. It would be irresponsible to reduce that topic to whether or not cold-water immersion aids recovery of that nature. Same goes for recovering from injuries.
Finding Applicable StudiesWhile researching this topic, you will find numerous studies pointing in all different directions, most of which deal with recovery from highly metabolic activities like running or playing soccer. We acknowledge these, but for our purposes, we want to look specifically at resistance training. With how much traction cold-water immersion has had for decades and with the more recent surge of cryotherapy, one would think resources would be plentiful on this topic. This is simply not the case. Very few research papers and studies get into the specifics of recovery, especially as it relates to resistance training. I was able to find some, however, and they are cited throughout this blog.
Effects on Perceived Muscle SorenessMuscle soreness is a common, yet not always a reliable, indicator of recovery. However, the effects of cold-water immersion therapy are pretty clear. Pretty much every study ever done on this topic has shown that cold-water immersion significantly aids in a reduction of muscle soreness. However, there are very few studies that even attempt to find out why this is the case. There needs to be more research on this topic, but I believe there hasn’t been because we already have a decent hypothesis on this. The cold has the ability to numb the area and provides relief of pain. In-short, if you only care about reducing soreness, then cold-water immersion or cryotherapy is definitely a viable option for you.
Muscle Recovery at the Cellular Level
This topic specifically lacks applicable studies to indicate viability. However, a 2016 study by Peake, et al. does a pretty good job of attacking this. They used single-leg resistance strength training in three groups. One performed cold-immersion, another group performed active recovery and the third group used a passive (sedentary) recovery. The study controlled nutrition and even bathing schedules to eliminate the heat from the showers and baths from affecting the results. They monitored the results using muscle biopsies and blood work. Without getting into the entire study that you can read yourself, the results were not necessarily what you might expect.
Cold-immersion therapy showed no significant (statistically, not my determination) difference in muscle recovery when compared to active recovery. One could stop there and make a claim that active recovery would be superior because of its ability to be broadly applied in a group setting. It also comes with zero monetary cost. Not so fast. The study also showed that the benefits of either method were minimal when compared to the passive or sedentary group. So now what? Is this a referendum on all recovery methods? Well, not exactly. Methods are important.
The active recovery method was pedaling on a stationary bike, so all we see here is that, for recovery purposes, hopping on the bike for a warm-down seems to be a waste of time. It is not an indicator of the effectiveness of other active recovery modalities. Each would need to be studied or observed independently. In fact, I read another study that showed tremendous backing for active recovery over static or passive recovery. The problem is that they do not detail what the active method consisted of. My opinion is that it more than likely depends on the method itself.It is important to note there are many studies that seem to indicate real benefits with cold-immersion. However, they don’t really apply very well to strength training. The studies base the findings on activities with a high metabolic stress and moderate mechanical stress. When it comes to strength training, we typically see a reduced metabolic stress with a heightened mechanical stress. That is an important difference. In the end, this study shows that the biological indicators at the cellular level do not support cold-immersion being used as a primary recovery method.
**Note: The study also references a 2003 study by Roberts, et al. that seemed to show a loss of muscle mass and force production when cold-emersion was implemented post-workout over a 3-month period. That is significant.**
Strength RecoveryThis is where people could easily get lost. The studies seem to show contradictions rampant, but when observed more closely, there seems to be more of a bell curve. One study by Pfeiffer, et al. seemed to show drastic decreases in strength when using cold-immersion methods. However, the method to determine this was repeating high-intensity exercise with a quick turnaround (within an hour). As I stated before, there is a 2003 study by Roberts, et al. that indicates a loss of strength over a 3-month period of using cold-immersion in comparison to other recovery methods.
ConclusionPlease make your own determinations. Don’t blindly listen to what I’m saying, but these are the conclusions that I’ve come to with the current information available. There are simply not enough studies out there on this topic. The ones that are out there, when looked at as a whole, do not seem to support to the use of cold-immersion as an efficient or effective recovery method post-workout. This is especially true when it comes at a monetary cost to you. Alternatively, active recovery is going to depend on the specific method.
Angus Lindsay, Sam Carr, Sean Cross, Carl Petersen, John G. Lewis, Steven P. Gieseg, The physiological response to cold-water immersion following a mixed martial arts training session, Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism , 2017, 42, 5, 529
Pearce, et al. Journal of Physiology . Volume 595, Issue 3 1 February 2017 Pages 695–711
Ever had the unfortunate experience of leaving your shins on the edge of a plyo box?
Trust me, it isn’t fun. In this article I will tell you how to properly implement a box jump into your training program.
The box jump is a great tool to use for improving athletic performance. This exercise is very effective at improving explosive power of the lower body. The purpose of the box in the box jump is to lessen the impact on the body by reducing the distance the body has to travel prior to landing, not to see how high one can jump. This works to limit wear and tear on the joints when teaching a young athlete still learning proper landing mechanics, as well as for the pros when managing the stress their bodies are under.
With that being said, of course jumping on the highest box is still pretty cool. And I’m all for it. Competition is essential for getting the most out of your training, and setting PR's (personal records) are great. One thing that needs to be stated, however, is a standard to judge a properly executed box jump. Just like in powerlifting where there are standards that must be met to achieve a “good lift” verdict, there should be the same for box jumps. In the powerlifting squat, the athlete must achieve full depth with the crease of the hip below, or at the very least in line with the top of the knee. I believe the box jump should be the opposite. If you don’t land a box jump with your hip crease even with or above your knee, it should not be considered a good box jump.
Why? Let’s break the exercise down:
Goal #1 : To improve explosive power of the lower body.
Goal #2 : To not take any unnecessary damage - this should be a lower impact jumping exercise.
Looking at the picture you will see the boxes are two different heights. Landing on a higher box means I jumped higher, right? Wrong. Notice the crease of my hip did not travel any higher when compared to my jump onto the lower box. I simply landed with straighter legs. Therefore the higher box, in this case, did not improve my explosive abilities, rather it matched what was accomplished with the lower box, forcing me to use the flexibility in my hips to rapidly pull my feet up as high as possible to land on the box.
Why is this an issue? Aren’t flexible hips a good thing?
Yes, having flexible hips can be a great asset for an athlete. However, this is not how I want to build it or test it. If the main goal is to improve lower body power, and limit risk and impact on the joints, why would I choose a box height that didn’t require improvement in vertical power? Why would I choose a height that forced me to land in a compromised position, with poor joint angles and posture? Not to mention the dreaded bloody shins that comes from missing on non-forgiving boxes. I wouldn’t recommend a higher risk choice with no added benefit, besides maybe a few more Instagram likes. With that being said, know why you’re using the box jump, have a standard to judge good technique, and swallow your ego.
The Romanian Deadlift (RDL) is one of the most productive movements in strengthening what we call the “GO” muscles. The “GO” muscles are the muscles usually overlooked on the posterior side of the athlete -- the hamstrings, glutes, lats, etc.
The RDL can be used as a great teaching tool for younger athletes because it’s a hip hinge/posterior chain movement. Many times coaches don't emphasize the basics, so it’s a good idea to keep it simple with younger athletes by establishing a solid foundation early on. Coaches need to figure out how well the athletes can push, pull, hinge (RDL etc.), squat, and carry before progressing to more advanced movements. Teaching the hip hinge/RDL not only builds a strong backside, but it also creates the primary hinge movement for the deadlift, clean pull, clean, snatch, etc., as well as builds your deceleration muscles ("GO" muscles - catching on yet?).
The hamstrings and glutes play an important role in almost every sport. Strong hamstrings and glutes are a vital component in improving speed, as well as deceleration, and also help maintain good knee joint and hip stability. Having the ability to engage and properly activate your glutes will provide stability through the various movements of the hip.
Tall posture and neutral spine (feet hip width apart, hands slightly wider than shoulders)
Push the hips back
Keep the bar close (sliding against the thighs)
Back is engaged and flat while spine stays neutral.
Overextending lumbar and/or cervical spine
Non-vertical shin angle
Rounding of shoulders and Back
The question of showcasing is a topic I tackle often in talks with both players and parents. There seems to be an acceptance of the status quo when it come to showcases. People have bought in to the notion of "if there's a showcase, I need to go". In reality, showcases are unhelpful and, often times, actually detrimental to the majority of athletes. This statement comes from experience having been around and participating in showcases for several years. I've seen the inner workings of showcases from every angle: I’ve participated as an athlete, observed as a collegiate baseball coach and have worked several showcase events as a coach and trainer. It is my position that showcase events serve a small minority of the athletes who attend while the majority of participants won't realistically be seen by coaches. To help explain, I’ve put together a list of three problems with showcasing.
Problem #1: Showcases are Self-Serving
Showcase companies are generally not in it to help all athletes. Instead, I would argue any athletes they do help are just a by-product of chasing what these events are actually all about - MONEY
. And I'll gladly give showcases their due here: they are wildly successful as a for-profit business, because there is almost no substantial overhead and a large cash flow comes in a short period. Allow me to break it down:
Let's say a showcase charges $500 for a weekend and they get 300 kids to show up. Not unreasonable, right? That is $150,000 . They can easily get away with paying 10 coaches $200 each for the weekend. Usually, big showcases get a discount with facilities because they know showcases bring in a large number of people and that brings credibility to their business. So lets say the showcase pays $5,000 for field use (Spoiler: They Aren't). The company still ends up with $143,000 for the weekend. Do ten showcases a year, and you’re talking about $1,430,000 . All they have to do at this point is pay a couple guys to maintain their web databases. Let’s say they pay three guys $100,000 per year (Another Spoiler: They don’t). Now, the company is left with a measly $1,130,000 in profit. I'm leaving a few things out, but you get the point. It's a racket.
As I stated earlier, I've worked some of these showcases myself, and I can tell you the emphasis is not primarily focused on helping these kids. The emphasis is on making the kids feel helped. Here's an example: I was working one particular showcase as a coach of a team when a Division-I coached asked if one of my pitchers could pitch earlier because he couldn't stay to watch him pitch at his scheduled time. Seemed reasonable to me and it was a great opportunity for the pitcher! What happened? The showcase administrator refused to change the showcase schedule even though he knew full-well that meant preventing a kid from getting Division-I exposure. Doesn't seem consistent with someone who wants the best for their athletes, does it?
Problem #2: Showcasing (A Lack of) Tools
I don't want to tell you that showcases absolutely never help kids, because sometimes they do! It is just absolutely the VAST minority. Ninety percent of the athletes who show up will not benefit at all from the experience. Once again, if they were all about helping the kids, why wouldn’t these showcases turn away kids without real ability? Any guesses? Money.
The purpose of showcases is for athletes to show off their tools. For those of you who don’t know, a 'tool' refers to speed, power, arm strength, bat talent and glove talent. There are various standards for these tools as well.
Most of these athletes don’t have even one tool that meets the standards. As a pitcher, you’ll need to throw at least in the mid-to-upper 80’s. Position players, you need to run under a 7.2 second 60-yard dash. Outfielders, you need to throw upper 80’s to low 90’s. Infielders, you need to throw in the mid 80’s. These standards are the MINIMUM. If your goals are to play D-I or pro, the standards are even higher. If an athlete can’t meet ALL the standards required of their position, attending a showcase is completely useless.
Unfortunately, most athletes roll out there and showcase substandard tools. You wouldn’t sign up for a car show and bring a stock Ford Mustang, much less a beat up Corolla, but that is precisely what most athletes are doing. I tell my guys that it’s better to not participate than to put bad numbers on paper. If you want to showcase, take the time to develop some tools first.
Problem #3: Showcasing Too Early
Here's the deal: The standards are the standards regardless of how old you are. No college will sign you when you hit 84 mph as a freshman if you’re still 84 mph as a senior. Likewise, no college is going to turn down a 92 mph arm, because they were only up to 74 mph a year before. The same goes for the other tools. But now 8th graders are showcasing? It doesn't make sense. The player rankings they put out are to fuel more participants in their camp. Why? Money. There is absolutely zero benefit to showcasing before your tools are ready.
The Role of Athletic Development
With so much emphasis on showcasing, parents and athletes are neglecting crucial times in the athlete’s development. People don’t balk at $1,000 for a showcase or $60-$80 per lesson, but for some reason $50 per week of athletic development seems unaffordable. This also stems from the industry's status quo and doesn't take into account the actual value of the services. Whether we are talking about throwing velocity, speed or power, working on force production and rate of force development is 100% essential.
Let's use the example of sprinting. Let’s say we have a 170-pound kid who’s running a 7.5 second 60-yard dash. All the technical work in the world may not help this kid. If he doesn’t even have a base of strength, I don’t care how technically perfect he is. He can’t apply force to the ground. He can’t absorb the ground reaction forces and overcome them quickly and efficiently. He won’t get faster. You see, speed is trainable. Velocity is trainable. Power is trainable. Maybe it’s a force problem keeping you from improving. If so, we need to build your strength. Maybe it’s a lack of rotational power holding you back. If so, maybe we need to work anti-rotation strength and rotational medicine ball work. Maybe its specific mobility (not the same as flexibility) that is holding you back. I don’t care how many times a pitching coach tells an athlete to "get into their back hip". If they have a limitation, they won’t be able to get there. Still, parents will pay for lesson after lesson in vain where a coach flips them balls over and over or tells them to balance more.
Here's my suggestion: prioritize athletic development at least as highly as skill development. Athleticism enhances skill. This creates tools. Once again, don’t spend money on showcases that won't further your career. Focus on developing tools first.