Summer Review – What Matters In Training

8A79A6CC-3EF1-4773-86BE-DBE8CC36D411I recently came across a video of a coach romping around a massive high school stadium. His head was forward, neck veins popping, arms flailing, demanding the best effort from his athletes. Later, I saw a peppy personal trainer dressed in much tighter clothing than I’ve ever worn, bounce around a state-of-the-art gym while blabbing motivation and no-pain-no-gain.

These gave me a slight sinking feeling. Then I remembered How It Actually Is.

I chose to spend a significant portion of my life at Full Reps Training Center and in my basement and backyard helping a hand full of like-minded athletes, young and old. I drive a 2004 Mid Size SUV, do what I love for a living, and get to spend a reasonable amount of time with my family.

So many choices…

Over the past several weeks, many if not most of the athlete who regularly train with or around me have broken through barriers.

They have achieved new heights of throwing velocity on the radar gun, pushing into the 80- and 90-mph range. Throwing in the 80s is a big deal when you’re an adolescent. Hitting the 90’s even more so, at any age, when you’ve sat in the mid 80’s for years. Any improvement that can be attributed to the “natural adolescent growth spurt” has long dried up.

My athletes have become stronger than ever. The baseball guys know what it really means to do 20-reps squats. I have a handful of 14-year old female soccer players that easily press 80 lbs overhead and can bring nearly twice their bodyweight off the ground.

Most of the crew has lowered their 40-yard dash by 2- to 3/10ths of a second. They explode out of the gate, run with powerful pushes and improved stride frequency, and lay on the effort without their form falling apart.

Most of them work with me only twice per week; three times per week at most. Sure, they also practice, play and train on other days within their sport. But all of them were away playing in games or on vacationing for some period over the summer.

How did all of these athletes transform their bodies and performance -despite- these interruptions to their training time?

And where was the yelling and arm waving?  Where were the “ass whoopings,”  the nasty attitude  in their face, pushing high intensity all-out 120% all out effort? Sure, we push hard at times. I’ve been told that I have a skewed sense how much weight a human can push and pull and lift. But we pick our battles. Where were the daily epic workouts that leave them rolling on the floor fearful and nauseous?

Any half-rate inexperienced trainer can come up with a “workout” that leaves you in a heap on the floor. But we’re primarily after PROGRESS. Progress in training is often challenging and sometimes boring, but not often crushing.

How in the world did they show up for the workout without the peppy and/or high-strung trainer and strength coach to motivate them?

I know how. I know -exactly- how. And it wasn’t just the killer playlist! : )

All

these

gains…

despite only working with me a few times per week, having typical summer interruptions, and not having a high-strung or over-the-top fitness caricature to guide them.

  • Expectations: The athletes -knew- from the beginning, that it was on them. It was never my job to motivate them. Sure, I speak up and get excited when it’s called for. But I never play televangelist or cheerleader or army sergeant. Boot camp is now the industry standard. Why did those in the sports performance and health/fitness industry ever think it was appropriate to treat -everyone- like they are dealing in the literal life-or-death situations of the military? Gaining velocity or running speed or strength and winning games and losing fat is most definitely not “Do it correctly as a unit or you and your comrades actually die.”
  • Sweat is good; knowledge is better: I always thought that it would be a shame to just provide “workouts.” Trainers and physical therapists who truly want to help usually go out of their way to educate rather than just provide exercises.
    • “This is challenging yet reasonable progress in weight on the bar.”
    • “This is the rhythm of work and rest and recovery.”
    • “This is what your squat form should look like, and you can use these cues and corrective exercises to eventually make it easier.”
    • “Progress is not linear…nonlinearity.  Sometimes you push aggressively. But other times you get the moderate or low intensity work in because it’s essential to setting up the next push.” You accept that you are human and sometimes life deals you a tough run, sometimes you just feel flat or over- or C0DAC487-3601-4B3B-9416-3F3133A5E856under-worked.
    • You listen to those who have gone before you. But also to your own body.”
  • Inspiration comes first: Sure, I help them improve by identifying the root of the problem behind weak and painful areas. I provide some basic gear, training protocols, and culture to train in and with. But more than any of that, they are inspired to own it, keep at it over the long haul, and create margin – time to get the work in. The discomfort is tuff but reasonable and worth it. I love  to see someone who I have not worked with in weeks or months come back and crush their personal records. We learn something together, including what they have been up to. Personal records don’t just happen.

I know they were inspired to move and improve because many of them straight-up told me. And I’m truly grateful.

So…how was your summer?

Bicep Truths

The title isolates biceps because guys be lovin’ them some bicep training. Among bro-sciency meat head weight routines, training for ginormous, mountainy biceps comes in second place only to chest training. The old “Chest and Bis” is the Monday of every bro worth his weight in protein canisters.

Somehow, this trait is passed down through the generations. Most of the young guys I deal with STILL want to include loads of bicep curls. So to connect with them, I’m going to attempt to communicate in their style.

Biceps are always small. An entire training day, devoted to THIS??

 

Truth is…

biceps-3
Even this guy has small biceps.

Your biceps are small. And that’s okay. Technically, the biceps are ALWAYS small. The triceps and the brachialis muscle deep to the biceps are what really fills out the arm.

Hitting your biceps with 3 sets of 5 variations of bicep curls is complete overkill. I don’t care what you read about long versus short head of the biceps, we are talking about a VERY small amount of tissue here. I assume that you’re already performing heavy rowing type movements (chin-ups, lawn mower rows, etc) and exercises involving gripping. If you want to grow and get better, you probably should be doing another set of deadlifts, squats, or farmer walks (loaded carries).

Truth is…

Having huge biceps truly does not impress most ladies. Most of us should be working on our ability to pay attention, our sense of humor and humility FAR more than our biceps.

Truth is…

You probably don’t really want huge biceps anyway. As an athlete, having strong arms is important, but having huge arms (or huge anything) can work against you. If you are interested in moving body segments or your entire body with speed and precision, you want peak power, not peak size. I challenge you to show me one fast and spry athlete with huge calves or arms.

Arnold will always be the aesthetic ideal to men. He could out-lift you. But you could probably easily beat him in a race to the water fountain.biceps-2

Truth is…

It’s okay to train your biceps. Just don’t over-do it, because you (hopefully) hit your arms with heavy back and grip type work. Throw in two to three sets of direct bicep work toward the end of the workout.

You want in on a little bicep secret?

If you DO want size and strength added to your arms, (whispers) bend…your…elbows. Yeah, imagine that. Bicep curls!  Take the arm from a straight to a bent position. Add weight. Quit messing around with 30 lb dumbbells and add some weight just like you would any other exercise. See the video at the end for a stunning performance of this highly technical [sarcastic] move.

You want to train biceps?

“Okay then here ya go.”

I invented the “Bicep Curl 3-Step” to break out for the occasion that an athlete repeatedly asks about training their arms.

Fine. Do some bicep curls. While walking with a heavy weight ; )

Jake here was not pestering me about bicep training. But for demonstration purposes…

With this exercise, it is obvious to the athlete that he’s “hitting” the bis. Curling the weight every third step effectively causes the athlete to perform the lift on alternate legs, balancing out the intense stress through the core and lower body.

So you STILL feel like you need to train biceps?

Here are a few of my favorite things that hammer the biceps. Try them-try them-you will see. Check the video for some bicep training that is actually worthwhile and seriously beneficial to developing a complete athlete.

 

Speed and Knots: The Story of Austin

This is the first in what may become a series of case studies. 

Story – because I see my work as playing biomechanical detective, taking a history, doing an assessment, and spending time with the person in order to come up with more than a diagnosis of a sore body part. A compelling story makes for a more holistic perspective on the “Why” of someone’s physical strengths, weaknesses, triumphs and defeats. Hopefully, these stories will illustrate how -targeted- rehabilitation and performance training makes a difference in…life!

I’ve written two stories so far. First up is a friend who trains in my little home gym (the BLC!) while in the soccer off season. I hope readers will appreciate how athlete-specific training takes precedence over typical sport-specific training. Lean how a few basic but key adjustments to a typical training program can make an outstanding athlete even better and healthier over a hopefully longer career.

austin-pic

There is an outlier among us at the Bonny Lane Club. I would say “It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy,” but that’s wrong. Martz has EARNED each step of the journey to the MLS (pro soccer) level.

Austin’s acceleration and speed are quite literally world class. Watch the highlight reel. Seriously. Witness professional athletes, grownass men, appear to be running in mud next to him. When they realize they are getting beat to the ball or a key spot on the field, they desperately swipe at him with their arms.

Austin has been granted a mix of fast twitch muscle fibers and joint stiffness. That’s right, stiffness. The stiffness is prominent but not severe. It allows him to move with practically zero “energy leak.” Most of us have some degree of “internal” muscle force generated simply to stabilize our bones and fine-tune joint mechanics. But for people like Austin, every twitch of muscle fiber is efficiently translated to real world, freakishly quick liaustinpic2mb movement. It’s like the difference between pedaling a bike with a loose chain and cracked frame versus a carbon fiber frame and tight chain tension.

Of course this is a blessing and a curse.

Tight hip joints lend toward muscle strains. And with the stabilizing muscles in the spine called on to do so little work, the “prime movers” are overworked, huge and tight. They gradually arch his back and tip his pelvis. By the size of his superficial back muscles (lats and erector spinae), it appears as if Austin performs deadlifts and back extensions 8 days per week. He does not. The guy moves like the flash, can handle a soccer ball with precision, but struggles to lay down and move at the hip without arching or twisting his spine.

In this instance, here are a few things that are NOT likely to cause much long-term relief of chronically stiff and sore back muscles:

  1. Minerals, gels, rubs… (These are fine, but treat the symptoms and not the cause. The muscles are sore and tight from being worked in an altered length/tension relationship).
  2. Ultrasound and massage (Definitely helpful to “quiet things down” but again, definitely short-term effectiveness).
  3. Stretching of the spine/joint manipulation (We are currently doing some of this as well. But Austin’s spine segments move fairly well when muscle tightness is removed from the picture).

With these things in mind, how should Austin (or someone like him) train? I mean, are we really going to try to increase his strength or speed?

Yes! I’m hopeful and stubborn like that. However, the main goals for Austin are

  1. Show up to training camp well conditioned for the demands of soccer.
  2. Show up without injury and  resilient to the physical stress to come (hopefully 5-6 rather than 2-3 years ahead of him).

A second-tier goal includes:

3.  Improve acceleration and speed. Yes, I do believe that even Austin can improve these to an extent. I almost always find that athletes are leaving something on the table when it comes to peak performance.

How is this going to happen? Should Austin be lifting weights at all?

Again, heck yeah! Although at least half of his “lifting” session includes flowing, almost yoga type movements with emphasis on various manners of moving THIS and not moving THAT. Austin will deadlift, but rather than grinding out sets of 3 to 5 reps, he will be pulling modest weight, and focus on finishing each rep with full hip extension rather than lumbar spine extension “arching.”

Austin will be doing a LOT of hip range of motion, with special attention given to positioning of the lower back and pelvis. Mindless or traditional hip stretching are likely to  cause arching of the lower back or impingement of the femur and pelvis (both bad). I would not say that his glutes are weak, but they are definitely outpaced by his quadriceps.

Imagine, if in three months Austin can increase his usable hip range of motion by even 10%, gluteal strength and anterior core strength by 5% each!

Other big-picture, long-term helpful training recommendations include:

  1. Yoga once or twice per week – not random yoga, but with careful attention to gently moving through and not around hip tightness and maintaining proper joint congruency.
  2. Deletions: Remember, what a person is not doing is sometimes more important than anything he or she can add. I’ve encouraged Austin to be satisfied with mediocrity in endurance running. Austin already has well above average middle- and long distance running capacity. His “aerobic base” is absolutely there. Although his speed and acceleration are off the charts, he will never be world class at long distance running. He doesn’t need to be. Therefore, “conditioning” preparation should include intense interval sprints, sled pushes, and other alternatives to grueling mid- and long-distance runs.

Do you think Austin will be an even faster, less knotted up, and more resilient soccer player?

MANY people in this community are quite eager to see how the story unfolds!

 

“As time goes by and the story unfolds

You can take my life,

You can take my soul.”    -21 Pilots

Training the upper body for soccer – why bother?

Conventioupper-bodynal soccer training usually involves a lot of running. This is for good reason, as soccer obviously involves a LOT of running. Even the line judge, if he’s doing his job well, breaks a sweat on a fall afternoon. One study that followed World Cup Soccer found that mid-fielders (at that level of play) cover 7 to 9 miles of ground per game. You don’t achieve that degree of fitness by eating hot dogs during half time.

With all the leg work that soccer demands, why would a soccer player bother with training their upper body? Other than the sporadic throw-in, athletes don’t have to throw, swing, strike, or lift with the upper body.It’s not as if large pecs and biceps are going to help haul them up and down the pitch.

Well, here are a few reasons why training the upper body is an unorthodox but effective means to giving athletes an edge for playing soccer.

  1. Soccer is a contact sportronaldo39

There is, in fact, pushing, pulling, and bracing for impact. These are involved with all contact sports, and always begins with the ground and usually end with the hips and shoulders. There’s no polite way to put it; the smaller players, no matter their quickness, frequently get trucked by larger, stronger athletes. Well, until they learn to shy away from contact, becoming less effective players. Now, carrying a solid upper body does not mean looking like Larry the Lobster. But carrying a solid core and a strong push and pull of the upper body are critical for the punishment  tactful- aggression demanded in soccer

2. It’s better to spring from a rock than from mushlarry-lobster

What I’m describing here is a midsection that is strong and stable from which the muscles of the lower body work most efficiently. Imagine the difference between sprinting through soft sand versus firm ground. Well, that’s what the hip muscles are dealing with when you have a strong, firm core versus a soft or hypermobile (overly flexible) core. This is also why athletes who already possess adequate hip and spine flexibility should not be doing yoga or Pilates type movements that demand extreme range of motion. More flexibility is not always better. Developing peak power is a delicate balance between mobility and stability. Involving the arms and torso muscles in direct upper body work is an essential part of creating a fast and explosive athlete.

3. Soccer mileage is a lot different than typical running mileage

For example, a 5- or 10K race is linear and sustained. These require endurance and a certain amount of grit to maintain a fast but efficient pace. But an equivalent number of soccer miles involves much player-to-player contact with acceleration, deceleration, and movement in every direction. There is REST as well as intense bursts of sprinting where the athlete has absolutely zero concern regarding efficiency and pacing.

That’s why I think that we should be less concerned with training these athletes like track and field distance runners, and more concerned with making them super efficient, effective, and explosive in their acceleration and deceleration, their change of direction, and their short-to intermediate sprinting ability. Strong and efficient lats, obliques (the side abs), and abdominals are all critical for explosive multidirectional movement, and easily accessible through smart upper body training.

4. There’s much to be gained from relatively little time and effort

The upper body training that I speak of does not have to be extensive in time or complexity.  It can serve as a relative rest or light day from all the lower body conditioning and tactical training. Soccer players do not need to train like bodybuilders or Crossfit competitors. Most are already highly fit in terms of endurance, so don’t confuse the resistance strength and power movements with merely giving them more endurnace work with weights. Soccer players would benefit tremendously from getting brutally (relatively) strong in just a handful of upper body and core exercises. They should not miss out on this chance to legitimately improve their overall performance.

An upper body training program for soccer should include two to (at most) three days per week of the following

-an overhead press variation for anterior core and shoulder strength

-a dead lift variation for hips and lower/upper back strength and stabilization, building the hips and lats

-a chin-up and rowing variation for upper back and arm strength

-push up variations for core and chest strength

-Rotational movements (tubing, medicine ball, etc)

-Loaded carries.

 

This may appear to be a lot. The devil is in the detail, of course, but training can and should be as simple as:

Monday

Push up variation (or yeah, you may substitute a bench press variation here if you must)

Deadlift

Single leg squats or lunges

Rotational ab work

Thursday

Chin up variation

Overhead press variation like Dumbbell clean and press

Dumbbell “lawn mower” rows

Farmer walk variation or step-ups

 

Be consistent and don’t add a lot of variety to the exercises you pick. One or two warm-up and three to four “work” sets usually does the trick. Get strong and efficient in a few movements, keeping the reps relatively low while maintaining good form. Many athletes will benefit from adding some size to their upper body. But at some point, you are training the nervous system rather than trying to gain a lot of upper body mass.

Heel pain in soccer players



Heel pain is a common problem in any “cleated” athlete, and something often treated at my physical therapy office. This essay will focus on the most common cause of heel pain in young soccer players.
—–
Differential diagnoses includes Achilles tendinitis, stress fracture, recurring ankle sprain, nerve entrapment, and plantar fasciitis. Please do not assume that your Google degree has enabled you to reliably determine Severs disease from a stress fracture or achilles tendinitis.
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This problem is most often a condition known as apophysitis of the calcaneus (heel bone) or Sever’s Disease. This label describes a repetitive overuse injury, with inflammation of the growth area of the calcaneus which has not completely closed. It is most commonly seen in boys and girls between the ages of 10-15 who frequently participate in sports that involve running and jumping. The pain is usually present in the back and bottom surface of the heal.

Causes of Sever’s Disease Include:


1. Training Errors

The issue often occurs abruptly after a period of inactivity, when the athlete resumes running, cutting, and jumping activities too frequently or intensely. Other times, the condition develops gradually as the athlete continues to pound their joints with insufficient time for recovery between games and practices.

2. Footwear

Soccer cleats are intentionally created to minimize interference with foot feel and function. This is great for quick cuts and precision touches to the ball, but leaves very little between the foot and the ground. Cleats that are too small are often a culprit, as are shoes with less than four cleats in the heel area.

3. Foot Structure and Function

Biomechanical imbalances such as high or low arches, or very stiff or loose joints, can be the root cause of the abnormal strain across the Achilles tendon insertion point on the heel bone. The details are beyond the scope of this writing, but you should realize that the heel may be overloaded due to too much or too little movement in other areas of the leg.

Treatment: Beyond rest and heel cups

The most effective treatment usually includes measures to address some combination of the above problems.

1. Systematically apply stress to the body.

Plan ahead to gradually apply more stress to the foot and ankle before jumping into a lot of repetitive agility and sprint work. At least initially, apply a limited number of high impact activities to build resiliency in the foot and ankle.

Wear cleats around the house for “everyday life” and light skill work before using them for more intense training.

2. Address issues with foot structure

The details of foot structure and function are beyond the scope of this essay. This is highly individual, and demands a thorough orthopedic evaluation of the entire athlete (not just the foot). Not all “low arch” feet need orthotics. They may respond well to a few exercises and shoe modification. But some athletes certainly do require an appropriate off-the-shelf or custom orthotic device.

3. Modalities

Applying ice and massaging the calf muscles and the area around (but not directly to) the tender area often helps. I’ve found Ultrasound treatment to be worthwhile to decrease pain and inflammation. While these do indeed help manage the symptoms, they don’t address the root cause.

4. Taping Techniques

There are a few flexible- (aka kinesiotape) and traditional taping techniques that effectively reduce the overload of the heel bone. Sometime this is enough to get the athlete outside of the threshold of injury. Which technique and type of tape may work best depends on the static and dynamic (movement) patterns the athlete displays.

5. The quick fix. ***

I’ve hit upon a quick fix (of sorts), and will usually try this in combination with a few targeted exercises and temporary activity modification prior to considering an orthotic or other more intensive intervention.

The quick fix is a 1/4″ semi soft heel lift that runs from the heel and gradually tapers to the ball of the foot. This works far better than Dr. Scholls type insole because they don’t take up room in the toe box area where the athlete is accustomed to a form fitting shoe. And unlike gel “cushion” heel cups, they don’t slide around in the shoe. They also provide more lift than squishy gel. A quarter inch is usually enough to lift the back half of the foot and lessen the Achilles tendon pull on the calcaneus.

I make these in the orthotic lab and they often do wonders for athletes stuck in a rut of heel pain.

Try these tips and let me know if you have any questions.

Hell Week Survival Guide: Does standing tall help recovery?

tired sprints

 

This time of year finds nearly every athlete being pushed and tested by their coaches. There is nausea, gasping of humid August air, and bent over stances under blistering sun.

Tis the season! Hell Week is fine and well, to an extent. Team sport athletes need to bond and gain mental toughness. For coaches, interviews and tryouts provide little of the insight or natural selection process that comes respiration3from a few gut-busting conditioning workouts. Severe shock to the system can usually be minimized with a little off season training.

But here we examine the point in time immediately after the sprint, when the coach leans in to a small sea of dazed athletes and starts talking.

I’ve been there on more than a few occasions, utterly exhausted, trying to get my life together, when the coach delivers a nugget of inspirational advice or a scatterbrained diatribe. I’ve heard both. But one bit of barking from a particular coach stands out.

“Get your hands off your knees and stand up.”

“Stand up and breath, ya bunch of pansies.”

Yes, coach Painter repeatedly referenced pansies and advised rode us regarding standing tall when trying to recovery from strenuous activity. I’ve heard variations of this, minus the pansies, repeated by a handful of other coaches in the years since. Nobody ever questioned it. Does standing tall during recovery really achieve anything?respiration2

To say that recovering tall may score you a psychological victory over the opponent is one thing.  Feeling exhausted in a late-game situation and looking up to see the opponents showing no signs of fatigue can be mentally defeating. But what about the claim that standing upright is better for recovery because you can take in more air than leaning over?

It’s time for a lesson from Anatomy & Physiology 101.

The primary muscles of breathing (respiration) are the diaphragm, the internal intercostals, and the external intercostals. These muscle are active when you are resting and under light exertion. Some physical therapists and trainers go into great detail regarding the effects of spine position on the diaphragm, and this is true to a degree. But the leverage of the primary respiration muscles changes minimally with acute changes in torso position.

The accessory muscles of breathing do not play a significant role during normal breathing. These muscles around the upper neck and chest wall help move us around and generate significant forces on the neck, shoulder, and scapula. But when the neck, shoulder, and scapula are fixed, as when standing leaning forwardrespiration1 with hands on knees, these muscles essentially reverse their function, pulling the clavicle and ribs up- and outward. Viola, greater rib cage expansion and greater volume of air entering the lungs.

Side note: People with emphysema and other diseases of respiratory distress often sit and stand with hands planted on their thighs or a table. They naturally assume a posture that is most efficient for their struggling lung capacity.

The bottom line is that standing upright to recover offers no special physical benefits. When your legs are spent, it feels good to take a portion of your bodyweight through your arms. In fact, as compared to leaning forward, standing upright may effect a slight decrease in recovery and performance for the next physical effort. Coaches should consider, at least at times, allowing athletes to choose how they recovery. Slump, kneel, or lay down…let performance do the talking.

“I don’t care how you recover, let’s see who can complete a 3rd or 4th line drill in under 26 seconds.”

I have no doubt that coach Painter meant well. As much as I would like to go back and hand him a textbook or bouquet, I should also thank him. If you’re a team sport athlete, simply do as the coach says (within reason.) Stand on your head between sprints if he or she tells you to, with the understanding that optimal physical recovery may not be the main point.

 

Soccer: Save the knees

Today I learned that two players on one soccer team suffered ACL (knee ligament) tears in one day. The athletes will be having surgery and miss the fall season. This did not occur during intramural or middle-aged pick-up soccer, but in an NCAA D1 womens soccer team. Two major knee injuries in one day seems stunning. But according to the data, this truly is no surprise.

I have nothing against this university. In fact, I’m well aware that this particular university happens to be at forefront of teaching and research regarding musculoskeletal injuries. I understand that injuries in sports are inevitable. Accidents occur despite the most well laid out precautions and planning.

But I have some observations to offer. I’ve seen a fair share of collegiate soccer players over the years, in the clinic and around the house. Not hundreds of them, but plenty enough to notice patterns.

Fact#1: Soccer is a game of repeated cutting, sprinting, accelerating various directions, and even jumping.

Fact #2: Since the knee joint is the largest lever in the body, situated between the two longest body segments, the brunt of high stress tends to fall there. In soccer players, knees and ankles are by far the most common injured part of the body.

How are these athletes preparing for the demands of fall soccer practices and the upcoming season? They are jogging. Jogging long and slow. Jogging somewhat fast (yeah, I cannot run a 5-minute mile either). They are doing tedious interval sprints, mostly in a straight line. They are fearful of failing the timed mile, two mile, or other gut-busting tests of endurance and grit.

They choose not to do much in terms of plyometric or resistance training due to lacking the time, know-how, or means to build up gradually, and high intensity plyometrics and weight training leaves them too sore and tired for the running protocol. I don’t blame them. People are not machines. Who has the energy for resistance training, cutting, jumping, and quality-of-movement work, when they need to drop a minute off their timed mile?South Africa's Refiloe Jane, left, controls the ball challenged by Sweden's Fridolina Rolfo during the opening match of the Women's Olympic Football Tournament between Sweden and South Africa at the Rio Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

For more than a few years, we have known many of the risk factors to look for, and specific interventions that have been proven to lessen the risk of ACL tears. We know the demands of a typical soccer match, such as those found here and here. 726 turns during a single match, and still we have athletes focused on jogging. There’s a better way to do summer!

 

5 KEYS FOR PRESEASON SOCCER PREP

  • Sprint and change-of-direction/acceleration training, beginning with moderate speeds focusing on movement QUALITY, and gradually increasing in speed, impact, and repetition.
  • Plyometric training, with jumps, hops, striders, tuck jumps, etc, focusing first on movement QUALITY and gradually building in speed, impact, and repetition.
  • -Intelligent- application of strength training, building a base of hip mobility, leg and core strength, with gradual transition to fairly heavy/low repetition total body exercises. We’re not talking about nauseating cross training with weights. Neither do we speak of the typical leg curls and power cleans, which are completed on no legs or two legs. Most high level athletic movements (and virtually every non-contact ACL tear) takes place with bodyweight on one leg. Most soccer players will drastically improve performance and decrease risk of injury when they focus on strength and power in single leg movements in multiple directions.
  • Proprioception training. The literature states that not all athletes are lacking in their ability to feel and control body movements. But the ones who are lacking in this regard stand to benefit greatly from a handful of activities that fine-tune balance and body awareness.
  • Movement Screen (Assessment) While not being predictive of who will suffer injury, this is invaluable for determining exactly what the athlete should be doing and where they can enter in to the consoccer cut 3tinuum of strength training and conditioning.

Truly, it’s not difficult to include these in a weekly and monthly training regimen. Keep it simple and abbreviated. Quality trumps quantity, so resist the temptation to simply add these components to the status quo running protocol. An athlete’s time and ability to adapt and recover is finite, so something has to go.

I’m still relatively new to soccer culture. But I would love to see coaches adjust their preseason conditioning tests to reflect lower body power, and short bursts of multidirectional movement. A grueling test of endurance is absolutely called for in the preseason to use as a gauge of work ethic and grit. But this should not be the emphasis. Do not let the demand for running endurance rob the entire team of time and energy better spent elsewhere.

And the few high level players who show up to fall practice “out of shape?” Let them run distance with a ball, after practice. That’s the time to tack a mile or three of endurance work on to the athletes who need it. It should only take 15 minutes or so ; ).

soccer cut 2

 


Here are a few of the risk factors for ACL tear

  1. dry weather and surface
  2. artificial surface instead of natural grass
  3. generalized and specific knee joint laxity
  4. small and narrow intercondylar notch width of the femur (ratio of notch width to the diameter and cross sectional area of the ACL)
  5. pre-ovulatory phase of menstrual cycle in females not using oral contraceptives
  6. decreased relative (to quadriceps) hamstring strength and recruitment
  7. muscular fatigue by altering neuromuscular control
  8. decreased core strength
  9. decreased proprioception
  10. low trunk, hip, and knee flexion angles, and high dorsiflexion of the ankle when performing sport tasks
  11. lateral trunk displacement, hip adduction (collapse), increased knee abduction moments (dynamic knee valgus
  12. increased hip internal rotation and tibial (lower leg) external rotation with or without foot pronation