Strength is the missing component in many young athletes’ movement qualities. The most requested topic we get from parents about their children’s athleticism is to make them faster. “If you could make my child faster, he would get more playing time” is commonly expressed to our coaches.
Our first step is to do our FAST athlete assessment, where we look at performance tests such as the 10-yard dash, pro-agility test, vertical test, and some bodyweight strength tests for elementary and middle school kids. Finally, we’ll do barbell strength tests for athletes who are older and more experienced with a barbell.
After doing the tests, we have consistently found that the athletes in desperate need of getting faster are also usually the weakest. They can do 25-35 squats in a minute compared to our faster athletes, who do 50+ squats in a minute. The most squats I’ve ever done in a minute is 84 by a kid who went on to play D1 soccer, and guess what—he was one of the fastest kids on his teams.
Why is Strength Important?
Why is strength so critical to running fast? It’s so crucial because strength is a massive component of force. The force you can put into the ground is what propels you forward. But, more importantly, the greater a kid’s strength-to-weight ratio, the faster he’ll be.
One study at SMU demonstrated that elite sprinters (Olympic-level sprinters) put five times their body weight into the ground on each stride. Compare that to elite soccer players (D1 college level) who put three times their body weight into the ground on each stride. So, to run fast, you must be strong enough to put a LARGE force into the ground.
A lot of youth athletes don’t have the strength to be able to withstand those large forces into the ground. If a weaker kid tried to put that much force into the ground, their body wouldn’t be able to withstand it after some time.
If you’re a parent of a kid or a youth coach, look at the fastest kid. 9 times out of 10, that kid is usually the kid who is stronger and leaner than the others. But of course, there are exceptions, but most of the time, this is the truth.
So, one of the best ways to help your young athlete get faster is to get him stronger first. Once he has sufficient strength, the next step would be to ensure he’s using his strength as efficiently as possible. This is where he will be taught the proper running mechanics and plyometrics to increase his power or rate of force development.
Luckily at FAST, we do the assessment first, so we know what aspect of their athleticism is missing and design our programs to help the youth athlete get ahead of the competition.
This article is mainly about speed, but strength is just as crucial for jumping high. You can read more about that in this article here.
With the Waste Management Open and Spring Training right around the corner we thought it’d be a great idea to show you a few of our favorite rotational exercises. These exercises are great for the golf or baseball player that is trying to add more distance consistently to their ball. When we are strong and powerful through the entire range of motion the ball will fly farther more often.
The first two videos show a couple medicine ball exercises. The reason we like using the medicine ball so much is because you can throw the ball with as much force and power as possible. I really like using the D-Balls because they don’t bounce, so you don’t have to worry about it bouncing back at you really hard. This exercise allows us to train at a high intensity that mimics the swing very well. Remember to push off your back foot and rotate at your hips first before you throw the ball straight into the wall. Do 2-3 sets of 6-10 reps on each side.
The next 3 videos demonstrated are done with a cable column. They are all done very similarly by initiating the movement by pushing off your back foot, rotating your hips and finishing with the arms. The power to hit the ball far is generated by your hips so the initial push off the ground and rotation of the hips is very important. Putting the pulley high and low will give you different angles of the swing and will mimic either the start or finishing parts of your swing.
Here is a sample routine we typically would do with one of our golf/baseball clients. We will typically start them off with the lower number of sets and reps if they are a beginner and add more as they progress in their training.
A1- Medicine Ball Scoop Throw – 2-3 sets of 6-10 reps each side – Rest 30 seconds
A2- Medicine Ball Reverse Scoop Throw – 2-3 sets of 6-10 reps each side – Rest 1 minute
B1- Squat – 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps – Rest 1 minute
B2- Lat Pull Down or Pull-Up – 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps – Rest 1 minute
C1- Reverse Lunge – 3 sets of 6-10 reps each side – Rest 30 seconds
C2- Inverted Row – 3 sets of 6-10 reps – Rest 30 seconds
C3- Cable Chop – 3 sets of 6-10 reps each side – Rest 1 minute
A1- 1 Arm Rotational Row – 2-3 sets of 6-10 reps each side- Rest 30 seconds
A2- Bench Press with Dumbbells – 3 sets of 6-10 reps – Rest 1 minute
B1- Barbell Romanian Deadlift– 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps – Rest 1 minute
B2- Dumbbell Shoulder Press – 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps – Rest 1 minute
C1- Leg Curl with Physioball – 3 sets of 6-10 reps each side – Rest 30 seconds
C2- Pushups on TRX – 3 sets of 6-10 reps – Rest 30 seconds
C3- Cable Lift – 3 sets of 6-10 reps each side – Rest 1 minute
The rotational exercises are italicized. We, of course, want to be strong throughout our entire body to hit the ball far, so this is why we recommend more traditional exercises (squat, pullups, pushups, bench press, deadlifts, etc.) along with the rotational exercises.
Try these out for at least a month in your upcoming workouts and let us know if you notice any difference in how you’re hitting the ball. And if you’re looking for further guidance, contact the team at South Chandler today!
Do you, or does your child play a competitive sport? If you answered yes, then training during the sport’s season is crucial. As a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists, it’s unfortunate to see athletes lose strength and mobility and, sometimes, get injured, simply because they stop their training program during their sport’s season.
Unfortunately, there’s a stigma with training during the season, it’s viewed as overkill and detrimental to the athlete since they are already doing practices, training, and games with their sports team. While this is a valid concern, if the training program is managed correctly it will actually benefit them in the long run.
We train a lot of soccer players and soccer teams here at the South Chandler FAST location so I’ll mention soccer a few times but the material translates to every sport. Year after year, we see athletes or teams return to us weaker, slower, and less powerful after their school season is over compared to when they left us at the beginning of the season. Of course, this is usually right after they just had high school playoffs and when most athletes should be at their strongest, fastest, and overall best physically.
Most sports are year round and soccer is no exception. The club we work with goes from August to May, and sometimes into June if they make it to regionals or nationals. If athletes are only training during the off-season, then that would mean they only have two to three months (during the summer) of the year where they actually are working on improving their bodies. Their time is further restricted during the summer as most athletes take vacations with their families or have camps that take up a lot of their time during this season.
The bottom line? At FAST, we make great improvements in strength, speed, agility, and power with our athletes during our summer training programs, but we’re often missing a lot of gains that could happen throughout the year. Below are three reasons to train during your season.
1. Increase Your Strength
If you’re already in a training program and continue a sound program of strength training into your season, you’ll definitely maintain your strength, and, typically, at the end of your three-month season, we’ll actually see an increase in your strength.
Think about this scenario: you’re playing your rival team late in the season and you see them across the field, looking very tired. You think to yourself, “I just had my last workout three days ago. They had their last workout three months ago.” This thought gives you that extra boost of confidence and ultimately ends with you playing your best and your team sealing the victory.
2. Achieve Higher Levels of Mobility and Recovery
The recovery is just as important to prevent a breakdown or injury as a warm-up is to prepare the body to do work, but, unfortunately, most athletes will immediately walk to the car and head home after a tough game or practice.
An in-season training program will have time allotted for foam rolling, stretching, and mobility exercises, all items that aid in athletes staying mobile and stable in the right areas.
3. Prevent Injuries
While avoiding harm from contact injuries is, unfortunately, difficult to avoid, you can lower the risk of non-contact injuries by staying strong and mobile. An example of a non-contact injury is when an athlete tears their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) after landing from a jump or changing direction. Most soccer players are quad dominant due to the demands of their sport. If the last time you did a posterior chain (low back, glutes, and hamstrings) exercise was two to three months ago then your muscles are not going to be firing in the proper sequence.
I consider this the most important impact from continuing your training program through your season because it can impact the future of a high school athlete. The athlete with fewer injuries or no injuries is going to be more valuable to college scouts compared to a kid who has had to miss games or seasons due to major injuries.
In conclusion, continuing your training program into your sport’s season is important because it allows our athletes to maintain or increase strength, mobility, and recovery. Also, the athletes are less likely to get injured. Find a FAST location near you and schedule your training with one of our 10 valley-wide locations today!
Hesitant to load up that sled? Hesitate no more, the benefits are proven.
Research shows that sprinting while pulling a heavy sled is actually superior to lighter loads in improving athlete speed. So guess what we’re going to be doing more of on our acceleration days? You guessed it… heavy sled runs, up to 80% or more of your bodyweight.
Resisted Sprinting and Improved Acceleration
The study used 80% of body weight to demonstrate the benefits. The theory behind the outcome of this research is that a heavy sled run should not affect an unresisted sprint performed later. It should, however, teach the athlete how to produce force in the right horizontal direction—compared to vertically—in order to move their body forward more efficiently. Thanks to Chris Beardsley for putting together this infographic and breaking down the research articles.
Most of us understand that acceleration is king for any sport. If you can accelerate to the ball or past your opponent, you’re more than likely to gain a competitive edge.
The Research Supports Our Existing Training Programs
We’ve been doing resisted sprints at South Chandler FAST since I started here over nine years ago. We’ve worked with hundreds of athletes that have improved their speed and acceleration over that time period.
I was fortunate to first learn the technique during my internship at Athletes Performance (now known as EXOS) back in 2007. If you’ve ever been to our South Chandler FAST gym, you’ve seen us dedicate a lot of time working on acceleration mechanics with our athletes, in addition to some form of resisted sprinting (sleds or resistance bands).
Horizontal Beats Vertical
This new research has also shown that heavy horizontal resistance in the form of sleds or bands is superior to vertical resistance in the form of vests worn by the athlete. Since sprinting is done horizontally it makes sense that learning how to apply force into the ground in a horizontal fashion would be superior.
If you want to get faster and train with coaches who stay up-to-date with the current research, schedule a session today (first one is on the house!). You won’t be disappointed.
This article is dedicated to one of our amazing clients here at Foothills Acceleration and Sports Training’s South Chandler location, Mary Beth Burke. Her hard work, dedication and drive for success are truly astounding.
Her results over the past two years of training:
- Down 22% Body Fat
- Down 38 pounds
- Lost 5 dress sizes
In January of 2015, Mary Beth had completed a series of nine major hip operations over a span of 35 years and had just finished physical therapy for a total hip replacement. To continue her recovery, the team at Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy suggested she work with Travis at FAST.
Mary Beth recalled, “I hadn’t stepped foot in anything that even remotely resembled a gym for over 30 years. I knew I needed more work but, being grounded in reality, was sure that Travis would more than likely kill me.” While she had visions of militant trainers that would make her throw up, she said she had a great deal of respect and trust in the team at Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy and made that first phone call.
Mary Beth started training at FAST on January 4th, 2015 scared to death but reminding herself that she only had to stick it out a few times a week for a month. Travis turned out to be kind and gentle, taking his time to listen to her concerns and creating an exercise plan just for her. Her next visit, she recalls, she was handed off to Chris, who was “not so gentle….”
This January 4th, 2017 marks Mary Beth’s 2-year anniversary at FAST. She continues to work with Chris five days a week, saying, “I block this time Monday-Friday and aggressively protect it, I can’t imagine not working out as part of my daily routine.” She has come to trust Chris and respect his knowledge and experience as a personal trainer. She appreciates that he never pushes her to the extent that he breaks her down or hurts her, and he pays attention and has a vested interest in her progress. “My workouts are never boring and we work on muscles I didn’t know I had.” She continues, “Today I am stronger than I’ve ever been. I feel healthy and full of energy and my hip can support 300 lb. glute bridges and 200 lb. dead lifts, something I would not have accomplished without Chris’ guidance and support.”
During her time at FAST, she has enjoyed watching the trainers work with clients of all ages. “They are simply amazing and two of the nicest men you will ever meet. Travis, Chris and I have come a long way together and I’m blessed to have found them.”
We’re very thankful for Mary Beth and are proud of her accomplishments through training with us at the FAST South Chandler location. We’re eager to witness as her fitness and health journey continue.
Travis Cummings is the facility manager of our South Chandler, Arizona sports training clinic. He is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and former college athlete, and he has a decade of experience as a trainer. Here, he discusses how to train for power and strength to increase your speed as an athlete.
The most common request we hear from the young athletes at our FAST Arizona sports training facilities is to help young athletes become faster. After taking them through our initial fitness evaluation, it usually becomes clear that they cannot achieve the level of speed they want because they don’t have the strength required to move faster.
Impact of Strength on Speed
So how does strength relate to speed? In order to move your body easily through space, you need to have a great strength-to-bodyweight ratio.
The formula for strength is Strength = mass x distance.
So moving heavy weights from one place to another requires strength – and the more strength you have relative to your size, the easier it will be to move your body.
In my ten years of training experience, I’ve realized that athletes who can perform traditional strength training with the most ease are also the fastest, can jump the highest, and usually see the most playing time. In any sport, the fastest athletes are also usually the leanest, meaning their body fat percentage is lower.
How Does Strength Affect Power?
Strength is a component of power – so if your strength is low, your power will also be low.
The formula for power is: Power = strength/time.
As an athlete, it takes a certain amount of strength to overcome a stationary position. The faster you can display that strength, the better – and this is what is called power: the ability to generate the most force as fast as possible.
A vertical jump, a baseball or softball swing, and an Olympic clean and jerk are all examples of power. Imagine someone trying to hit a baseball while swinging slowly – the ball wouldn’t go very far.
Examples of Strength and Power in Athletes:
Imagine two athletes with the exact same weight. Both are instructed to do a 100-pound squat and lift the weight as fast as possible on the way up. They cover about 3 feet of distance during the squat. Athlete 1 performed the squat in 3 seconds, and Athlete 2 performed it in 1 second.
Strength = 100lbs x 3ft = 300 units of work
Athlete 1 = 300 units of work/3 seconds = 100 units of power
Athlete 2 = 300 units of work/1 second = 300 units of power
As you can see, Athlete 2 is faster than Athlete 1 – and they are 3 times more powerful. Athlete 2 will most likely be able to jump higher, accelerate more quickly, and be more agile because he or she can express strength faster.
So How Should Athletes Train?
Athletes should train with the goal of becoming more powerful. More power will allow you to excel in your sport, and you will also increase your strength along the way.
During workouts, try these power exercises:
- Plyometrics: repeated jumping, hopping, or bounding
- Olympic Lifting: clean and jerk, snatches, and other variations
- Medicine Ball Throws
After you complete 3-4 sets of 1 or 2 of the options above, move on to exercises specifically for strength training. Helpful examples of exercises to perform can be found here.
FAST Arizona sports training clinics are dedicated to helping you reach peak performance and become the best athlete you can be, in whichever sport you play. Our hands-on, individualized approach to fitness is guaranteed to deliver results. Schedule a free evaluation of your fitness strengths and weaknesses online here, and check out our blog for more training tips.
Post Attributed to Travis Cummings, CSCS (South Chandler Location).
Post Attributed to Travis Cummings, CSCS, FAST Facility Manager
FAST provides Personal Training in Phoenix to athletes of all ages and skill levels. Our certified trainers create personalized workout plans that allow you to target specific areas and achieve your fitness goals. You can schedule a free assessment of your current abilities by simply going online here. To learn more about Personal Training in Phoenix, visit our blog!
Travis Cummings is our South Chandler facility manager. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from Arizona State University, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He is passionate about helping his clients achieve their goals, and today he shares helpful tips on how to become a faster runner.
As a high school football player, I remember having a coach who had some serious wheels playing scout team quarterback. He outran the defense while yelling, “You can’t coach speed!” That was the mindset back then, but now I guarantee we actually can coach speed. The Strength and Conditioning Specialists at FAST have been helping young athletes of all abilities get faster through training and coaching. Here are five tips to keep in mind while accelerating your top speed.
- While accelerating (any time trying to get to top speed) lean forward about 45-60 degrees.Leaning forward will help make sure that when you push off the ground, you push your body forward, not upward.
- Keep your ankle dorsiflexed, or pulled up towards your shin. Doing this ensures when you strike the ground you have a more forceful and powerful stride, and less ground contact time. Greater force and less contact time equal a faster athlete. If this still doesn’t make sense, think of punching with a strong wrist versus a limp wrist. More force is going to be transferred to whatever you’re hitting with the strong wrist.
- Maintain powerful arm drive. A powerful arm drive will help your legs move faster and propel your body forward. Make sure your arms aren’t moving across your body, but rather from your hips to your lips.
- Minimize heel recovery (backside mechanics). Think of your leg drive while accelerating as being more piston-like, rather than cyclical. After you strike the ground, bring your foot forward as fast as possible. This will enable your foot to strike the ground again. You generate speed when your foot is in contact with the ground, not while you’re in the air.
- Think about pushing the ground back and away. A great coaching cue we use to help runners understand acceleration is telling them to think about pushing the ground back and away as they strike the ground. Doing this enables you to produce force in the correct direction to move forward faster.
Remember these tips while you’re accelerating and you’ll see noticeable differences. If you want someone to analyze your running form, and teach you how to maximize your running mechanics, contact your nearest FAST location!