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.
In honor of the Tokyo 2020 (2021) Olympics, this post is dedicated to a personal favorite of mine: the power clean. I get asked by many athletes, “how do I get stronger, faster, and more powerful?” First, we need to define “power.” Power is force over time. So, the more force produced in less time equates to more power. In the weight room, this can be achieved by developing type II fibers (fast-twitch) in the muscles. These fast-twitch fibers produce greater and quicker force.
What exercises help build type II fibers?
Compound exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, bench press, and split-squats are great places to start. However, there is one move above all else that will provide you with the most bang-for-your-buck when it comes to power development, the power clean.
What defines a power clean?
The power clean is the pinnacle movement for power production because it includes full-body and multi-joint movements. It’s a combination of a deadlift, high pull, shrug, and squat. That’s a lot of movement to cram in such a short amount of time (remember, less time & more force = more power). Because of the intricate nature of the power clean, it can take some practice to maintain proper form. This blog will provide a step-by-step guide to the movement and how to perfect it.
Step 1: pull
The first movement of the power clean is picking up the bar. This step will take place from the ground to the knees. Before you begin, keep your feet hip-width apart and have the bar directly over the base of your toes. Position your shoulders over the bar with your shoulder blades pulled back to help create tension through your back. As you pull, it is imperative that you have your hips and knees extend in one synchronous motion. This is where some athletes fault in their technique and can cause more problems later on in the move.
Step 2: pull again
This action will occur when the barbell passes the knees. The goal of the second pull is to get your hips to “drive” forward and help move the barbell in a straight vertical path. This is where you transition to the “triple extension” position through your ankles, knees, and hips. If one joint is not in an “extension” position, you are limiting your ability to produce power through the second pull. As you begin to maneuver yourself around the barbell to receive it in the “power position.” This is where athletes may fault while performing a power clean. Many try to move the bar around them when they should be moving their body around the bar.
Step 3: catch and receive
As the athlete performs the second pull, they will “feel” the weight of the bar traveling upward. This is a critical moment where the athlete will pull themselves under the bar to catch it in the “receiving” position. In many instances, coaches will tell their athletes to “jump” during the second pull to help achieve the “triple extension.” Coaching an athlete to “jump” during a power clean will often have the athlete spend more time in the air and limit their ability to pull themselves under the bar. I like to coach my athletes to “pull and drop” when receiving the bar. As the athlete drops to receive the bar, they will shoot their elbows forward, parallel to the ground, to catch the bar on the top of their shoulders in the quarter-squat position.
The complexity of the power clean may seem intimidating, but when performed properly it can provide a training stimulus nearly unmatched by any other exercise. It’s one of the best training tools to teach athletes and everyday gymgoers to become more powerful. If you want to improve your performance, strength, and explosiveness, contact one of our FAST locations today!
To start with mastering your core for golf, get comfortable with controlling your upper body and its strength. Do this without moving your hips and vice versa. Being able to create hip and torso dissociation is key to having a great swing. There are a few ways we can hone this skill. First, we want to practice the movement, then move onto controlling that movement with strength and intention. Lastly, add a dynamic piece like the golf swing or something similar to put it all together.
Controlling the movement of your core will take the most time because it is the base to the swing. It is also re-teaching us how to move the way we want. One way we can do this is by using a band and strapping it around our hips while in the golf ready position (fig. 1). After getting the band set up we are going to rotate the hip left and right without moving our torso. This will help to create dissociation and take control of the trunk/hips.
Adding strength to the movement that we have just mastered is our next step. I like to use the ½ kneeling position because it’s a nice stability component on top of the band we will use for resistance (fig. 2). Get into a ½ kneeling position with the band perpendicular to yourself. While using what we gained from controlling the movement, press the band in and out while not moving the hips at all for this step.
Our dynamic component should simulate our golf swing as close as possible. I love the medicine ball scoop toss for this one. It will allow us to produce some power and strength in the torso, hips and core. This involvement of the body mimics features of our golf swing. It is good to use a light ball around 6 pounds so that we can throw it hard and fast, reinforcing swing speed (fig. 3).
Looking for a personal trainer to improve your golf game with golf specific workouts? Contact FAST for a free fitness assessment today.
With the World Series coming up, were going to look at a few things that can help with training for the greatest sport of all, Baseball!
First off, we know that there is a lot of rotation that takes place in baseball.
Even though there is a lot of rotation that takes place in this sport while throwing and hitting, this does not mean that we should solely work on exercises that include rotation. Mobility, strength, and power are also major aspects of the sport and its demands.
Think of a pitcher’s hips and thoracic cavity during the pitching delivery. During this movement, both the hips and shoulders must be able to rotate and even dissociate from each other in order to develop the most amount of power. In turn, it will create more velocity on the pitch.
Pause the television next time while watching a baseball game at any point before the pitcher delivers the pitch and look at the hips and the shoulders. There is a lot of separation that takes place throughout the pitching delivery. Moreover, there is a lot of stress placed on the shoulders and elbow if you are a baseball pitcher. Knowing that throwing a ball overhand is not easy on the shoulders, and being able to maintain or gain mobility through the thoracic cavity will help not only increase velocity but help maintain good shoulder health too.
Pitchers do need to develop strength in addition to mobility to be able to reach top velocity.
The power comes from the ground up. If we can develop a good lower body strength, the pitcher will be able to produce more power and velocity on the pitches. A great strength training exercise that can help with this is the deadlift.
Lastly, pitchers are not the only players on the field who need to keep their shoulders in mind while training.
If you really pay attention to a player when they dive, you will notice quite a few arm angles that may look like they hurt. Thus, our training program needs to include not only complete shoulder strength and stability but mobility as well. Including this into our training programs will allow the body to withstand these awkward positions that the body takes on during a game or season.
When creating your exercise programs for your sport, try to think of all aspects of the game including the minor details. By doing so we can hopefully improve your ability and your durability to play longer with fewer injuries. Come in for a free fitness assessment at your nearest FAST location and gain the competitive edge that you desire.
Improve your golf swing from the comfort of your home with these 3 exercises
The golf swing is one of the more complex movements in sports, but it can easily be improved with a combination of strength and mobility exercises. These exercises should focus on thoracic spine mobility and core strength. Below are 3 exercises that can be performed anywhere you have floor space.
- High Plank With Thoracic Rotation: Start in a push-up position with your shoulders directly over your hands and your feet hip-width apart. Push your right hand into the ground as you lift your left hand to the sky and rotate your body into a “T” position. Both feet should now be pointed to the left. Hold the “T” position for 5 seconds and return to your starting position. Repeat on the opposite side.
- Glute Bridge: Lie on your back with arms at your sides and knees bent so that your feet are flat on the floor. Push your heels into the ground and raise your pelvis as high as you can while actively contracting your glutes. As you improve, try keeping one foot in the air while performing a 1 leg bridge.
- Supine Spinal Twist: Lie on your back with your knees raised at a 90 degree angle so your calves are parallel with the floor. Place your arms out to the side so they’re extended away from your body. Slowly lower your knees to the right while keeping your shoulders flat. As soon as you feel your left shoulder begin to come off the floor slowly rotate your knees to the other side.
Suggested sets and reps for these exercises vary greatly depending on your current fitness level. I would suggest beginning with 2 sets of 8 for each exercise and gradually increasing until you can perform 3 sets of 15.
Looking for a personal trainer to improve your golf game with golf specific workouts? Contact FAST for a free fitness assessment today.
The weather is cooling down in Arizona, which means golf season is upon us! Follow along with this article to give yourself the upper hand and prepare to hit the course in optimal shape with the fundamentals of golf training. Fitness has exploded in the world of golf and people are seeing the bountiful benefits working out has in their game. From the pros to the average joes, everyone playing golf needs to continually work on their bodies in order to keep playing the amazing, frustrating, simple yet complex sport–golf.
Golf is a summation of mobility, stability, coordination, power and strength produced one swing at a time. If one of these is off, your swing suffers and your score card increases! We need mobility in our ankles, hips and shoulders, stability in our knees, back and core, strength in our legs and power throughout our whole-body system. This mobility allows us to put our body in the proper positions throughout the swing. Stability allows us to stay lined up, on track and on time. Strength allows our body to produce force and finally power is our ability to transfer that force from the ground through the body and out of the club connecting it to the ball.
As you can see, each piece of our fitness is important and has a responsibility to serve a purpose for us. Therefore, we need to treat and train each of these fundamentals, mobility, stability, coordination, strength and power. Now onto the exercise that help break down the fundamentals of golf training.
- Lay on your side with your top knee making a 90 degree angle in front of your hips
- Reach behind you, bending your bottom knee to grab the foot
- Pull your foot towards your glutes with your top arm, twisting your shoulders to the ground
- Look at the ceiling and continue to actively pull your bottom foot towards the glutes and top shoulder to the ground
Stability: Wall T-Hip Rotations
- Grab a wall or box slightly above hip height
- Rotate your hips, opening your body to look like a “T”
- Then tuck your hips, rotating your pockets under each other
- Laying flat on your back, tighten your abdominals, pushing your lower back into the ground
- Have your hands above your shoulders, knees bent above your hips
- Moving your opposite hand and opposite leg away from each other, extending them outward
- Return to the start position and repeat on other side
Strength: Bulgarian Goblet Squat
- Holding a weight near the center of your chest, put your foot behind you on a bench/couch
- Have your shoe laces on top of the bench and the other foot few feet in front of you
- Balancing on the front leg, lower your hips straight down, maintaining a nearly vertical front shin
Power: MB Golf Groove Swings
- Set up into your normal golf stance, head down and knees bent about shoulder width apart
- With nice tempo, bring the ball into the back swing, then the forward swing NOT RELEASING it
- Now the movement Is grooved, repeat, bringing the ball back with nice tempo and this time releasing the ball like you do with your club
Implement these exercises into your current fitness routine or seek a FAST trainer to complete your fundamentals of golf training! These exercises will help prime your body for golf but are encouraged to see a golf professional for specific instruction! Golf uses your entire body so make sure you train your entire body.
A typical day for many student athletes is filled with a busy morning, school, practice followed by homework—all to wake up and do it again—day after day. To keep student athletes focused both on and off the court, we’re sharing some tips that can be used every day to help improve their game and grades.
Have a routine. A good solid routine gives you and your body structure for a healthy day to day life. Try things like always going to bed at the same time each night, making sure you always eat breakfast or getting your school work done before practice.
– Wade Haras, FAST Old Town Scottsdale
Remember it is STUDENT athlete, emphasizing student first. Take care of your school work and home work before you train, practice or compete. You will feel better being stress free from having your school obligations done and therefore perform better on competition day.
– Greg Stein, FAST North Scottsdale
Attention athletes—don’t worry about that new supplement or protein powder, sleep is the most beneficial thing you can do to improve athletic qualities. If you want to get stronger, sleep. If you want to get faster, sleep. If you want to succeed, sleep. It will enhance your recovery and allow you to train harder and more efficiently day in and day out.
– Shane Anderson, FAST North Central Phoenix
Visualize every scenario. Go through exactly how you would react and perform during in-game situations, how you would work through an injury, and how you will handle a heavy school load with competition. If you can mentally visualize the situation and create a plan before physically experiencing it, you will feel more comfortable and be better prepared for the event. You can’t predict what will happen, but that shouldn’t stop you from being prepared for whatever comes your way.
– Kyle Schneider, FAST Ahwatukee
Remember that the student comes before athlete. Get your work done in the classroom so you can reap the rewards of playing on the field. Set yourself up for future success and become a model for your younger teammates. Prioritize your education before your athletic career.
– Jeff Placentia, FAST South Gilbert
- Perfect a warm up process
- Perfect drills for your sport
- Move weights fast
- Crush real food
- Dominate sleep
– Kyle Decker, FAST Arrowhead
“Every time you stay out late, sleep in, miss a workout, don’t give 100%, you make it that much easier for me to beat you.” – Anonymous quote
– Brandon Wood, FAST Litchfield Park
Make sure you get adequate sleep. Teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep for adequate physical and mental recovery. There are new studies showing that sleeping 8 hours increases your memory, and boost’s your critical thinking and decision making skills. Sleep also plays a role on the field. Athletes who sleep more have faster reaction times, sprint faster and make fewer mental errors. Sleep is one of the most underrated performance enhancers out there and the best part about it is its free.
– Travis Cummings, FAST South Chandler
If you’re a student athlete that is looking for more guidance both on and off the court, contact our team of Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists today. Many members of the FAST staff have been in your shoes before—trying to juggle school, sports and life—either at a high school or collegiate level.
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.
Goal setting is one of the most important factors pertaining to the success or failure of a new exercise program. This is especially true when starting a new running program. Whether this is your first-time training for a race or you’re a seasoned distance athlete, setting a goal can be the difference between a personal best and injury.
The most important thing to remember when setting a goal this running season is to be S.M.A.R.T.
Too often we set very general/vague goals. Focus on developing a goal with defined metrics. In terms of running program goals, setting a specific distance you’d like to finish and/or time you’d like to finish in helps to create accountability as you progress through your running program/season. When goals are specific, it’s easy to determine if you are on-track, ahead, or falling behind where you should be in your training.
Part of being specific is setting details which can be measured. Easy things to measure are distance (miles), pace (mph or minutes/mile), or elapsed time (length of time you’re running). GPS devices (watches, phone apps, etc.) make it very easy to track your progress in terms of measurable data. Knowing your numbers help to keep motivated and accountable. Also, it’s a great way to create friendly competition amongst fellow Ahwatukee runners!
While setting difficult goals can give you motivation to work hard, having too lofty a goal can actually be detrimental. You will want to set a goal that pushes you to stay disciplined, but not require complete lifestyle changes or extreme measures. Look at what you’re currently doing and take it a step or two further. If you’re used to running 5 or 10k’s, maybe shoot for a half marathon. If you’re a beginner, running a marathon or six-minute miles might prove to be too much. It may be difficult to stay committed if your goal is too difficult and feels out of reach. Chance of injury rises as individuals push too far outside of their abilities, as well.
Your goal needs be important to you. Disregard the goals others are setting and figure out what will motivate YOU to stay committed. It is your running program goal and no one else’s. Running programs, done the right way, require an ample amount of time to increase distance and this can become a bit monotonous at times. What is it that will get you out of bed on the weekends or to fit in a run after work when you’re tired and tempted to skip?
Setting a timeframe to complete you goal in is a great way to stay motivated and on schedule. It helps if your goal is six-months to a year away as this allows you to set mini-goals to accomplish along the way. If a goal is too near, it may be very hard to properly train to complete and if it is too far away, it can be hard to stay motivated. Signing up for a race is a great way to set a deadline to meet your goal. This way you know exactly how much time you have to achieve success and adjusting the timeframe is outside of your control.
Starting a new running program is a big step and can be a difficult decision to make. Setting a goal is a great way to create accountability, stay motivated and prevent injury. Starting this journey on your own can be difficult. I highly recommend joining a local running group or signing up for a race with a friend. This will give you a support group to help keep you motivated, accountable, and celebrate in your success!
For more information on joining the Foothills Running Group or to get more advice on starting a running program, please contact Kyle at FAST Ahwatukee or visit our website today.