By Kyle Decker, FAST Facility Manager, ATC, CSCS (Glendale Location).
The importance of daily functional movements becomes amplified when wanting to achieve greatness in your sport. In this article, you’ll discover essential movements to serve as the foundation for building the strength, agility, and mobility needed to excel in any sporting endeavor.
A Functional Approach to Training
For years, we were conditioned to believe we must spend countless hours in the gym doing strength training and cardio exercise to achieve most fitness goals. However, discoveries in science and fitness have been uncovered in the last decade. For example, isolation exercises that work for only one muscle group at a time have become the norm. We now understand that the body works through a chain of movements rather than one isolated movement at a time. As a result, more people have begun performing functional training programs that work the entire body.
Functional training programs offer a fantastic solution for individuals with limited time but still desire to improve their fitness and strength levels. These programs engage the muscles to elicit increased effort, resulting in heightened strength and a boosted metabolism. By committing to a routine of functional movements, athletes cultivate a mindset of continuous improvement, setting the stage for long-term success.
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5 Functional Movements
If you incorporate just five different functional movements in every workout, you engage multiple muscle groups throughout your body, infuse diversity into your routine, and effectively alleviate exercise monotony.
The five movements I recommend performing daily are: push, pull, hip-hinge, squat, and plank. Each of these movements requires multiple joints and body systems to work together, and they are also incorporated into activities we do every day. When you pick something up off the floor, you squat down to pick it up, pull it towards the body, and push it away to place it somewhere. A plank strengthens your abs, helping you maintain core control while lifting and carrying.
Suggested exercises: push-ups, incline press, single-arm kettlebell or dumbbell press, push press
Suggested exercises: dumbbell rows, cable rows, pull-ups, lat pull downs
Suggested exercises: Kettlebell swing, Romanian deadlift, deadlift, glute bridge
Suggested exercises: Body weight squats, dumbbell goblet squats, weighted front/back squats, lunges, split squats
Suggested exercises: plank for time, plank with movement, bird dogs, side planks, heavy carries (farmer and suitcase)
If these exercises are done correctly, every movement will work the part of the body it is focused on and other systems simultaneously. However, like most things in life, you can do too much. This program should only be followed three or four times a week: more than that would be overtraining and would not allow the body to recover fully.
Creating a Customized Functional Program
- Pick an exercise from each of the five functional movement categories
- Perform 3 to 5 sets of exercises during every workout.
- Follow the push, pull, hip-hinge, squat, and plank pattern
- Choose different exercises for movement patterns during the week.
- Boost your metabolism: add cardio to the end of workouts. Make it fun by doing hill sprints, rowing machines, climbing rock walls, or jumping rope.
Every total body functional workout should incorporate these five movements. This programming technique will help you spend less time at the gym, increase strength, and add variety to your activities. Find a FAST location near you to learn more about sports performance and personal training techniques today!
Foothills Performance Training is a group of locally-owned Phoenix personal training facilities that help people all over the valley reach their fitness goals. We provide hands-on, individualized training plans to clients of all ages and athletic abilities. We also offer a free assessment to evaluate your needs.
By Kyle Decker, ATC, CSCS | FAST Glendale location
“My kid runs funny” is a common thing I hear from parents looking for speed training. At FAST, we look at each athlete individually, breaking down running mechanics and eliminating bad habits. In this article, I’ve listed 10 of the most common running issues I see when speed training young athletes.
1. Poor head positioning
Most kids run with their heads looking forward, tilted forward, or leaning back. We have also seen kids swing their heads side to side, looking at fellow competitors or even at mom and dad. To avoid excess movement, I teach our athletes to look forward or to the finish line; we call it “eyes on the prize.” With eyes forward, the ears align with the shoulders, and the chin is pointed down. Great posture starts at the head.
2. Excessive leaning (forward or back)
We see kids leaning forward more often than leaning back, but both are common issues. Leaning forward can impede the hips as they drive forward due to the athlete bending at the hips, restricting the available range of movement. Likewise, leaning back can give the appearance of getting the knees high enough. It drastically changes the center of mass and can take the spine out of neutral. A slight lean forward putting the athlete on the ball of the foot, is the correct positioning for running and sprinting.
3. Too much movement at the torso
With every action in the body, there has to be a counter-movement. Young athletes with excessive torso rotation will see excessive movement in the lower half. All of this excess movement will cause the dissipation of forces and cause young athletes to be imbalanced.
4. Swinging arms across the body
Many young athletes run with their hands or arms swinging across the body’s midline. This can cause poor placement of the elbows, leading to torso rotation. We like teaching our athletes to “reach for your pocket and drink water.” This linear arm swing from hip to ear allows them to keep the momentum moving toward the finish.
5. Straight arms
Like the above topic, young athletes will run with straight arms, causing torso rotation. I like to teach a 90-degree elbow, using the corner of a square analogy. Elbows bent at 90 degrees will allow the arm swing to occur at the shoulder rather than the elbow.
6. Posture or “sitting posture.”
Most young athletes will sit on a run. This will cause the lower legs to feel tight or lack the room to run/extend. A tall posture will allow the leg’s drive to fully extend and push appropriately off the ground. A great cue to use is to ask your athlete to run with “high hips.”
7. Full knee drive
Many young athletes leave their knees low when running, allowing a full knee drive from the hips allows for a full and powerful stride length. Unfortunately, little to no knee drive shortens the stride length, thus making the athlete work twice as hard as their competitors.
8. Not running in front of themselves
Most young athletes will bring their heel toward their backsides while their knee is still pointed to the ground. The heel should be pointed towards the backside as the knee is lifted in front of them. This issue is commonly seen with excessive forward lean as well.
9. Turned out feet
This is a common issue with young athletes. I will use video to determine if an athlete is running with their feet turned out. Athletes who demonstrate a gate pattern like this will often dissipate forces away from their running direction. Athletes twist their feet back towards the front as they push off the ground. This movement pattern is highly inefficient. This will also cause concerns about injuries.
10. Asymmetrical movement
Watch your athlete run, and pay attention to both sides. You will often see a difference from one side to the either. One hand will drive higher, one leg will go higher, or a heel will swing out on one side. These are all dysfunctional movement patterns that will affect efficiency and balance. I prefer to coach my young athletes with consistent cueing and corrective activities to build the correct patterns.
When choosing a performance coach, ensure they are aware of these issues and how to correct them. Make sure that the work is age-appropriate, to their skill level, and most of all, fun! If you’re interested in training at FAST and becoming a better and faster runner, schedule a FREE performance session!
At FAST, our Youth Sports Performance and Training Program runs annually and is designed to take athleticism to the next level regardless of sport, age, or ability. We believe every child should have the opportunity to play a sport. Sports help us develop social and problem-solving skills, a healthy team mentality, and, most importantly, build athleticism and a healthy lifestyle. As leaders in functional training and performance, we aim to assist athletes and parents in navigating the road to development.
The Advantages of Playing Multiple Sports
Today, we see more specialization in youth. Kids are playing one sport on multiple teams for an entire year, which can lead to frequent overuse injuries and burnout. Playing multiple sports will help develop physical advantages such as improved motor skills, strength, and aerobic fitness. This will also enhance socialization skills by meeting new kids and learning to cope with unique personalities.
Most fitness and medical associations recommend:
- Playing a specific sport for less than eight months out of the year
- Playing on one team at a time
- Maintaining proper recovery time for the athlete’s body.
At FAST, we help develop a youth sports training program that is safe, scientific, and designed for the individual to ensure the best outcome and long-term success. Our goal is to help youth learn the skills and fundamentals of being an athlete, such as agility, balance, coordination, power, and endurance. Athletes should also run, jump, crawl, and climb as much as possible. These skills will set them up for long-term success.
Maximizing Athletic Performance While Reducing Injury
Performance Coaches should develop a program to maximize an athlete’s performance while reducing the risk of injuries. Professionals will oversee the athlete’s progressions and ability to withstand the program and fitness regime’s demands. A performance coach will set their athlete up for long-term success and lifelong healthy habits using evidence-based training methods and current research. Building a well-rounded athletic base will, in return, make long-term success for the athlete. Too often, success is measured in playing time and winning. I measure the success of my coaching in long-term changes in the athlete’s health and habits.
Train With a Purpose
According to the National Alliance for Sports, 70 percent of children quit organized youth sports by 11 years old, spending less than three years playing. The number one reason kids stopped is they are no longer having fun. At FAST, we ensure athletes get the most out of their experience. We try to be a mentor as well as a coach to keep athletes engaged while having fun.
No matter your child’s sport now is the perfect time to develop their skills and learn the fundamentals of being an athlete by improving strength, speed, agility, and power. Since 2003, FAST Performance Training has offered a summer sports performance program for kids ages 8+, college and professional levels. When choosing a summer training program for your child, we advise a properly designed and supervised organization to help young athletes build confidence, reduce injuries and build social and problem-solving skills.
Want a stronger core? Are you crunched out? Don’t know what exercises to do next? I have the answer. Core exercise programs are not the same as “doing abs.” This article is here to help you get off the floor and perform a crunch-free core exercise program that can be achieved by performing a plank series and adding rotational and anti-rotational exercises to strengthen the core.
What Makes Up Our Core
First, let’s talk about the core and what makes up our core. The core, in my opinion, is anything attached to the pelvis, assisting in maintaining a neutral spine and pelvis. This includes the pelvic floor, transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, longissimus, glutes, and diaphragm. The body works like a system or a chain, working together, not individually. While each muscle of the core has a unique responsibility, they work together with other groups to make up the core. While crunches have stood the test of time, they are only focused on one other many muscle groups of the core. So how do I work all these muscles at the same time as a system?
What is a Plank?
Second, everyone knows what a plank is. Planks are a great core strengthening exercise when done correctly, but ask yourself this, are you doing them correctly? How long should you hold a plank? How do you keep it fresh so you don’t sleep through your planks? A plank is a simple form of a pillar exercise that is to hold the spine in neutral while keeping your core tight for a period of time. Keeping the spine neutral can be difficult for many. Simple mistakes include drooping heads and, more commonly, the sag of the lower back when fatigue sets in. Remember that quality movements are always better than quantity. Following these simple rules when beginning a plank regiment.
How to Perform A Plank
Start from knees and elbows. If you are able to hold for a minute, progress to elbows and toes. Work your way to a minute-and-a-half hold, then add movement. This can be as simple as arm movements, leg movements, both extremity movements, and then you can add slides and walks and such. Don’t forget that side planks are a great way to add variety as well. Remember, you must maintain a neutral spine in order to progress; otherwise, the exercise is worthless.
And don’t forget to get up off the floor! Performing rotation and anti-rotation exercises are very important. Working all three planes of motion available is vital. The spine is a series of joints working together to not only act as a supportive structure but also allows movement in the three planes of motion. Rotational exercises include cable chops (up and down), lawnmowers, battle rope rainbows, rotational swings with sandbags or dumbbells, lunges with a rotation, landmine rotations, and Turkish get-ups.
Anti-rotational exercises are less traditional but equally important when improving core strength and conditioning. These exercises are fondly referred to by myself as pillar exercises, designed to build stability and strength to prevent injury with everyday types of activities. Preventing rotation means that you are able to resist forces acting on the body that will try to rotate or move it in ways that may not be safe. Examples of pillar or anti-rotational exercises are Single leg deadlifts (both stiff leg and traditional deadlifts), Single arm inverted rows off a suspension trainer, anti-rotational push-pulls with a cable or band, anti-rotational plank pulls, Palloff press with cable or bands, and weighted carries for a distance over time.
Crunches have been the go-to for many when trying to improve core strength but these only work one plane of motion. I advise you to get off the floor and add these types of activities to your core exercise program and work all three planes of motion to help prevent possible injury. A strong core will assist you when carrying heavy items, lifting items, pushing or pulling heavy items, or simply performing your favorite fitness activities. And if you’re looking to get one-on-one personal training or sports performance coaching in the West Valley, contact the FAST Glendale today.
This article is dedicated to one of our talented athletes here at the FAST Arrowhead location, Brooke McGlasson. Brooke has been training with our facility for over a year to better her golf game through our sports performance program.
Kyle and his team at FAST have created a unique program to help Brooke improve her strength, mobility and power—as well as continue to maintain her flexibility and core strength. Her drive and commitment to bettering herself shows through each time she’s at our facility.
We would like to wish Brooke luck as she plays in the AIG Academy Junior World Championships in San Diego, California from July 10-14th, 2017. She will be competing against 11 and 12 year olds from all over the world as she battles for the top spot. Players must qualify in a qualifying tournament in the state that the athlete wishes to represent in the championships. Bring home the gold, Brooke!
Interested in upping your golf game? Contact the team at FAST Arrowhead to learn more.
In honor of National Athletic Training Month, we’re highlighting FAST facility manager and athletic trainer, Kyle Decker. Athletic trainers are crucial to the healthcare industry and help ensure athletes of all levels and ages are safely preventing and recovering from injuries. Read the Q&A to learn more about Kyle’s background and advice for future athletic trainers!
Q: How long have you been an athletic trainer and what’s your background in athletic training?
A: I have been an athletic trainer for 17 years. I have spent time in a variety of settings including; major/minor league baseball, the NBA, junior college athletics, high school and clinical.
Q: Why did you become an athletic trainer?
A: As a college athlete, I found my interest in athletic training after suffering from a major injury. Through my recovery process, I ended up spending a lot of time with the athletic training staff. Being exposed to this setting, I saw all the potential avenues I could go down and I knew athletic training would be the perfect career path for myself.
Q: What role does an athletic trainer play for sports teams?
A: Athletic trainers pay a pivotal role for sports teams. We work with athletes to keep them on the field, rehabilitate when needed, as well as assist in performance training which helps with injury prevention. Athletic trainers work with the entire sports medicine team to keep teams, athletes and coaches going strong.
Q: Where do you see the profession of athletic training going in the next 5 years?
A: Athletic trainers have been integrated into healthcare more now than ever before. You can find athletic trainers in traditional roles, corporate health, dance companies (like Las Vegas shows), and on research and development teams for athletic safety equipment. As the profession continues to grow, so will the trend of integrating athletic trainers into other areas within the healthcare world.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue athletic training as a career?
A: Know the profession—athletic training isn’t for everyone but can be extremely rewarding. If you’re interested in this career path, speak or shadow with an athletic trainer to learn more about the role.
Interested in learning more about athletic training? Contact us here and we’d be happy to help any questions regarding the athletic training profession. Happy National Athletic Training Month!
As your race approaches you ask yourself one question, “how do I get in all my miles and still have time to strength train?” When mileage gets high, most runners will drop strength training to make sure that they are getting in enough miles. This is when you start to feel a little stiff, a twinge or something starts to hurt, and the body breaks down. There are two types of runners—those who just run and the well-balanced athletes who cross-train/strength train. Those who strength train are usually stronger, suffer fewer injuries and reach new levels of performance over those who just run.
The stronger you are, the more your body can handle the demands of running. When your body is strong, it decreases the chance of injury and minimizes preexisting issues. A proper strength training program will improve structural weakness in muscle tissue and bone, and help to improve joint movement, which will decrease many common running injuries.
Of all the factors that can influence your running, strength training is the biggest. Strength training can impact your health, fitness level, and overall performance. But in some running circles, strength training is a dirty word. Runners have been taught that they just need to run or that strength training will “bulk” them up and slow them down. This is false.
A runner-specific strength training program is one of the best ways to use valuable training time while preparing for your race. Remember, you don’t have to spend countless hours training every muscle group individually, or lift so heavy that you can’t run for days.
How do I strength train during high mileage?
Strength training while in a high mileage phase doesn’t take much. You can participate in a park, parking lot or at home. Find a great place that will allow you to focus. Strength training can be added after a run, depending on the distance, effort, goal or training day. Here are five of my favorite movements that every runner should perform in their strength training program: squats, lunges, eccentric step dips, pushups, and planks. Please note that all exercises are best implemented into a strength program by an experienced strength coach.
- Squatting increases overall lower body strength while targeting the glutes. Body weight squats are a great way for runners to maintain their strength training during a high mileage phase. Squats can be performed in many different styles including body weight squats, back squats, front squats, goblet squats, overhead squats and split squat.
- Lunges improve unilateral strength if there are deficits as well as improve balance as we load one side at a time. They are also very good for change-of-direction activities. Runners typically stay and live in one plane of movement. Lunges force them out of that repetitive motion by performing lateral, rotational and reverse movements. This movement can be performed with multiple systems to get in more work in less time.
- Eccentric step dips are a great loading exercise that has a tremendous impact with little movement. Eccentric movement is the motion of an active muscle while under tension and is also referred to as brake contractions, negative work, or negatives. Step dips are performed by lowering the body from a single leg stance, against gravity. Your goal is to maintain a pelvic neutral position as well as maintain control as you lower your body from a park bench, curb or step. This can be performed in many different planes of movement.
- Pushups are one of the best exercises that can be done. Most are under the belief that the pushup is directly related to the upper body, chest and arms. That is correct, but keep in mind that if your core is not firing properly, neutral spine achieved, then this exercise is pointless. There are many types of pushups including neutral, incline, decline, plyometric and single arms types.
- Planks are a harder core activity than most people give them credit for. They are also one of the most improperly performed activities in gyms and homes across the country. The position that is optimal requires a neutral spine and pelvis, glutes to fire and the head neutral. After achieving this position for a duration of 90 seconds, think about adding movement and changing position. Here are some examples of the many types of planks that can be completed: prone planks, plank reaches with arms, plank leg drivers, side planks and roman twists (prone position to side plank).
In summary, a well-designed strength training program will take an oft injured, slower athlete and make them a faster, healthier athlete. Focus on the hips and glutes, but don’t neglect the other systems as they too have importance with the sport of running. When mileage gets high, stay true to your strength program as it will keep you from falling victim to over-use injuries and help you ultimately race FASTer.
If you are a runner searching for the right strength training program to fit your needs, please contact your local Foothills Acceleration and Sports Training facilty for more information.
Post Attributed to Kyle Decker, ATC, CSCS and FAST Facility Manager at our Arrowhead Location.
It happens every season. An athlete gains strength and mass over the summer, only to watch it diminish slowly during the season due to a lack of training. This is because most athletes do one of two things: they either stop training altogether because they feel they cannot handle the demands of practicing 5-7 times a week as well as training, or they attempt to continue to gain mass, strength, and speed, but experience decreased performance as a result of overtraining (which can and will lead to injury.)
Both of these paths can result in diminished strength and a greater chance of injury. Athletes should not, and cannot, train with the same intensity and frequency year-round, so it is extremely important they train during the off-season to prepare for the demands of preseason, training camps, practices, and games. But what about training during the regular season itself?
An appropriate in-season training program can be the key to maintaining the performance gains made in the summer, while avoiding overtraining when sports start back in the fall. Your in-season training program’s goals should be to preserve strength gains while controlling volume and frequency.
Athletes are not content with just making the team, they want to perform at a high level and contribute throughout their season. If athletes want to be at their peak performance when playoffs arrive, practices and games are simply not enough to carry them through a season.
So how does an athlete maintain their strength and performance? What does it mean to perform a maintenance program in-season? First, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist will cut back the frequency and volume of the athlete’s off-season program. Off-season programs require more days of training to get desired results, whereas in-season programs only demand one or two hours 2-3 times per week. An athlete should be recovered and even able to perform well in competition the following day after an in-season training session.
Since gym time is reduced, speed, agility, and jumping activities are cut from the training program, as most sports already hone these skills during practices. This allows the athlete to focus purely on the strength component. Athletes need to lift challenging weights at full speed to maintain gains and they should train on the days they feel the most energized. This requires the athlete to be responsible about knowing and listening to their body.
While performing lower volume strength work, it is very important that athletes keep up with injury prevention and recovery methods such as mobility training, stabilizing muscle groups, and myofascial work. This will build a favorable platform for the individual to continue to perform at a high level throughout the season. In-season training also allows for the athlete to enter the off-season training program needing minimal remediation.
If you or your child is an athlete looking to gain an additional edge this season, contact the Phoenix personal training experts at FAST.