The Magic of One Spectacular Thing

If you want to gain or lose weight, develop power or strength, or simply be a more healthy, capable and awesome version of yourself, I suggest that you focus less about body composition, 7-minute abs, or random cardio circuits. These type of interests are fine, but have limited impact. Instead, set a goal to achieve one (physically) Spectacular Thing.

Of course, spectacular is a relative termsquat-11.

What is something that you cannot currently do? Something that you would like to be able to do, and would cause you to commit to a process? If you have never exercised before and need to develop healthy habits, I would NOT suggest a “Big Bench Press” routine. That’s far too easy.

 

 

Achieve 5 full range of motion chin-ups

Complete a 5k in under 25 minutes, with no walking breaks

Then you lay it down in small, manageable increments. You work hard at the goal for 12 or 16 weeks and then allow a respite. What happens, IN THE PROCESS, is that you find yourself more interested in following through with many healthy habits. There’s a lot less internal debate on wether or not you’re going to workout on a given day. You have an agenda that fits into a bigger picture. It’s already scheduled and required of you to hit that goal.

The great “side effects” of committing to a process is that, in the mean time, you find yourself stronger, leaner, and healthier, even though you didn’t micromanage every little calorie and step count. And by the time you achieve something physically spectacular, you genuinely quit giving a damn about your small calves or muffin belly because you can DO things!

And for those really into pushing the limits in training and performance?

I do NOT recommend a constant variety of movements performed at high intensity.

I do not recommend muscle confusion.

I do not recommend making each workout a competitive event (with yourself or others).

I do not recommend pushing the limit workout. This is a recipe for getting sick or injured.

I learned some of these intuitively and as a witness of others. But one, in particular, I learned the hard way.

AN EXAMPLE:

Let’s say that you take my advice and choose a goal of Barbell Squatting 365 for 20 continuous reps. Yes! A brutal, awesome 20-rep squat plan.

Ten years ago I would have went about this by doing 20 rep squats, once or twice per week, and increasing the resistance by just a fraction during every session. Eight or twelve weeks later, I would be pushing some serious resistance, but feel back or knee strain. I would start feeling overall flat and less than enthusiastic about training days. Back then, the squat program would have looked something like this:

Week 1: (All after warm-ups) Squat 275X20

Week 2: 285X20

Week 3: 295 X 20squats-2

Week 4: 305 X 20

Week 5: 310 X 20

Week 6: 315 X 20 (increase in 5 lb increments through week 10)

Week 11: 345 X 20

Week 12: 347.5 X 20 (Yes I have 1 1/4 lb plates)

Week 13: 350 X 20

Week 14: 352.5 X 20

And so on, in ever so small increments, nudging toward 365 X 20. Sure, I would allow a week or two of a slight cut-back if life interfered. But I would quickly get back in the saddle.

Now I go about the actual squat sets/reps quite differently. I also know that in order to really pour myself into a 20-rep squat PR without feeling hung-over, there should be a few other important adjustments.

I will have to cut back on other physical stress, for example keeping a lower intensity in other serious leg work like deadlifts. Toward the end of the Squat cycle, I will significantly cut back on sprints, plyometrics, and any type of grinding workout “finishers” like farmer walks, in order to prioritize recovery. Also, now is not the time to change or get fancy with your diet.

A spectacular 20-rep squat program would look something like this:

Week 1: 285 lbs X20

Week 2: 345 for 3 to 4 sets of 5 rep

Week 3: 305 X 20

Week 4: 355 for 3 to4 sets of 5 rep

Week 5: 315 X 20

Week 6: 370  for 3 to 4 sets of 5

Week 7: Box squats with a pause at the bottom, 315 for 3 to 4 sets of 5 reps

Week 8: 325 X 20

Week 9: 385 for 4 sets of 5 repsimg_4347

Week 10: 335 X 20

Week 11: 395 for 3 sets of 5

Week 12: 345 X 20

Week 13: 405  for 2 sets of 5

Week 14: 365 X 20

Yes! I know there is a 20-lb rather than 10-lb jump at the end. BUT…you would be surprised at how this works. You see, all along, weeks 1 through13, the resistance is set at something challenging, but you KNOW that could handle a little more. Really, you are working hard and heavy, doing much more than the average fitness enthusiast, but not  approaching your maximal effort.

Weeks 1 through 13 are supposed to be TRAINING, not testing. The workload for the day should be something that is hard by most standards. You have to put your “game face” on. But if you show up, warm up, and put some music on, you KNOW that will get the reps in, and go home.

And by the time you arrive at week 14, you will be feeling good, healthy, having recently done a boatload of heavy but not maximal squats, completely ready for an Event. THIS is your test, and if you can find the right Squat Song to put on, I have no doubt that 365 will fall fairly easily!

After you hit your goal, quit while you’re ahead! Relax for a week or two, and pick a new Spectacular Goal to pursue. Maybe it’s 20-rep Squatting 400. Or 5-rep squatting 450. Or deadlift twice your body weight. Or run a sub-6 mile. Or, or, or…do one Spectacular Thing! But don’t try to achieve too many things all at once.

The above 20-rep Squat routine is just an example. Feel free to use it with the resistance adjusted down (or up). Feel free to try other “big bang” exercises. The important lesson here is not any particular sets and reps, but the value of a process of smart, structured and sustainable training rather than any kind of epic berserk high intensity exercises or techniques.

Last spring I used this type of structured programming to be able to squat 315 lbs X 10 reps on the minute, for 10 minutes (100 total reps), and in the summer I used a similar process to achieve a 400 lb farmer walk for 80 yards.

Find a worthwhile goal and stick with it for a while. Keep training as training (not testing), with one goal in mind. Then go ahead and test yourself! Rest and repeat. In the mean time…side effects include feeling good, confident, and being a healthier and more awesome version of you.

Good luck and let me know what’s happening!

 

 

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.

 

Becoming Superhuman: The Story of Emma

incredibles
This is (pretty much) Emma ; )

Having a larger “strength bucket” provides the greatest potential for…pretty much anything you hope to achieve. Most athletes, and especially young athletes, do NOT need an extreme training program that shoots the moon and stars. But they will reap enormous benefit from training that

1. corrects dysfunctional movement, asymmetry and imbalance

2. generally toughens them both mentally and physically (builds resiliency!), and

3. gives them a relatively safe and consistent path toward building superhuman strength.

In this case study, I hope to provide an example of how we may go about such things…

Emma has been training with me consistently, twice per week, for approximately 6 months. She was fairly well conditioned and had a training base prior to that. Emma was in good health. She could demonstrate quality movement patterns, had good flexibility, and showed no major alignment or asymmetry issues. With fair strength given her age and size, Emma hoped to gain some advantages in her primary sport of pole vaulting.

Six months later, and Emma is already approaching near Superhuman levels of total body strength. I mean, how many normal everyday people that weigh little over one hundred pounds can lift and carry 190??

Emm has squatted more than her bodyweight for 20 reps, is approaching a double bodyweight deadlift, and does chin-ups for reps with some weight added.

With this background information to set the stage, I want you to know, straight up, that there is NOTHING spectacular that I’m doing from a programming perspective. Emma has no major imbalances or asymmetries and she wants to be a good pole vaulter. With these things in mind, our training has focused on…

  1. More strength and core stability. Sure, we do some traditional abdominal and core exercises. But the primary stimulus for improvement is increased loading with good form in deadlifts, split-leg work like lunges, and loaded carries like farmer walks. We do at least two variations of these movements every…single…workout.
  2. Upper body strength and stability. I have Emma do a LOT of chin-ups. She does some variation, usually with intentional core involvement, every…single…workout.
  3. Her sport does demands shoulder strength with core strength in the transverse plane (think side-to-side and not front-to-back as in doing a sit-up). So she does some shoulder/core variation every…single…you get it!

Our weight training sessions are rarely what you would call epic. Sure, I push her at times in terms of loading (personal records!) or intensity of effort. But tests of this sort are the exception more than the rule. Sometimes Emma goes to vault practice after training, and there’s really no need to exhaust her with mindless grinding reps.

We focus on strength and power, doing the basics very well, far more than general conditioning. In fact, with too much endurance work, her exercise induced asthma kicks in, and it’s not exactly a fun  -or- productive work for Emma. Last time I checked, pole vaulters do not need to have exceptional aerobic or even anaerobic endurance.

But they do need a mix of good flexibility with excellent total body stability and power. And the best way to achieve this is through repeating a low variety of relatively safe, total body exercises. I’ve seen athletic girls train for years and fail to achieve the strength levels that Emma already has, in part, because they try to do too much other fluff or overwhelmingly neglect the main things that will get them STRONGER.

Ahhh…imagine if young, old, athletes, non athletes, and everyone else, could manage to set the random exercise and calorie burning aside in order to settle in to a focused, safe progression geared toward building a resilient body and a primed central nervous system.

Emma is well on her way, the story only beginning…

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.

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

Is Specializing in One Sport a Bad Idea?

“You must play only one sport.”
“You cannot play only one sport.”
 What a difference one word makes! The first statement implies that the athlete must specialize and do nothing else. The secsingle sportond statement indicates that playing only one sport is not allowed. Both statement are heading the wrong direction.
It is easy to look down upon the parent or coach who highly encourages demands that an athlete devote their life to one sport. And rightly so. We know that specializing in one sport too early can be problematic in terms of health, and potentially adverse to their ultimate peak performance (see footnote below).  This is especially the case when the child or young adult has a desire to participate in something else. Childhood is short. Life is short. Kids can and should be encouraged to do what is healthy and fun for them. Anyone who demands that someone play exclusively one sport is off the mark and in serious want of perspective.
It has become common to criticize all single sport athletes in a similar vein. But what about the serious athlete who does not want to play another sport? Now more than ever, parents and athletes are asking for one year-round sport. If an organization does not offer it, they travel elsewhere, presumably to a place that takes the sport “more seriously.”
But what if truly respecting the total athlete, including their health and recovery, will ultimately help them reach the highest level in their *focus* sport?
“Club X doesn’t play year-round, they must not be too serious.”
Needs to be changed to…
“Club X doesn’t play year-round, they must be seriously smart.”
It is ideal for a young single sport athlete to play something else as well. Taking life in seasons, with a mental and physical shift, is a good thing for anyone. A break will do wonders for perspective and physical ability. Or, to put it in more marketable terms;
 What if gaining The Edge has to do with staying active but shifting gears, experiencing a different role (possibly not the star), and generally having a rhythm to the year? I keep saying that the next “Big Thing” in sports performance is to truly, like REALLY, optimize and respect recovery rather than just giving it lip service.
But let’s say the child, carrow not linearoach, or parent is still not convinced of the value of another activity. Do we strong-arm them into it? No way! Being a single sport athlete can be done poorly and can be done well. Single-sport athlete done poorly looks like playing with intensity 4 seasons per year. Leagues, tournaments, showcases, you-name-it, YES to all’ve it. Let’s fire it up and be perpetually ahead! And if there is a week off, let’s train twice per day, three, no, four times as hard!
Again, going hard in one sport year-round is not ideal. It increases the likelihood of injury and by no means guarantees a better athlete. A component of dominating may indeed be taking a (relative) break from that sport. Ironically, Single-sport athlete done poorly may also look like sitting around for three months playing X-box. Both of these extremes result in sub-optimal performance at best.
So to answer the question, specializing in one sport is not a bad idea, so long as it’s done well. Single Sport Athlete Done Well involves:
 -Identifying a peak season or event(s) and planning a build-up to it
 -Paying great respect to the stress-recovery process
-Acknowledging that being a single-sport athlete can be an advantage (more skill work and experience) so long as there are seasons of low physical and psychological stress.
 -Focusing on moderate-intensity deliberate skill practice in the off season.
 -Filling the off seasons with ancillary activities that specifically match the needs of the athlete to the demands of the sport. May I suggest a focus on targeted resistance training and conditioning as your “off season sport?”
An example:
My sons have caught soccer fever. The free time once reserved for fishing, basketball, flag football, biking, swimming, or practicing flips in the back yard is now ALL filled with juggling, playing small-sided games, arguing about small-sided games, soccer practices, and actual league games.
 If they wish to play only soccer, I will attempt to sporadically distract them with many serious and structured training techniques such as mountain biking, hiking, swimming, and obstacle courses. Later I will encourage them to hit the weights with methods that specifically support soccer.
In summary, single sport athletes need to understand the process of consistent effort and recovery.
They need to understand specific ways that they can improve at their sport for each day and season without playing the sport each day and season.
They need to learn the value of training to build resiliency, improve movement efficiency, and work on weak areas, but without involving the exact same physical stresses of the sport.
They need reminders and perspective to keep having fun, enjoying the process of working toward a greater end, and building life skills that transfer beyond the field.

Risks of being a single-sport athlete (presumably) DONE POORLY

Adult Inactivity: A study by Ohio State University found that children who specialized early in a single sport led to higher rates of adult physical inactivity. Those who commit to one sport at a young age are often the first to quit, and suffer a lifetime of consequences.

Overuse Injury: In a study of 1200 youth athletes, Dr Neeru Jayanthi of Loyola University found that early specialization in a single sport is one of the strongest predictors of injury. Athletes in the study who specialized were 70% to 93% more likely to be injured than children who played multiple sports!

Burnout: Children who specialize early are at a far greater risk for burnout due to stress, decreased motivation and lack of enjoyment.