Can we Improve your Speed in 1 session per week?

imagesIn an April, 2012 issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, a research article supports an answer to a question that many parents and players have asked us for years. Can you improve speed and agility performance within a program by just coming to train 1 x per week?

Although I find the rates to purchase the rights to post the full article on this website are ridiculous and you would be bored to tears while reading it, I have added a lay summary and the link to the abstract for you here: long website address. The title of the research article is “Effect of Short Burst Activities on Sprint and Agility Performance in 11- to 12-Year-Old Boys”, by Pettersen and Mathisen.

The premiss of the article is to extract evidence on whether coordinative sprint drills and maximal short burst activities affects children’s sprint and agility performance. The testing groups consisted of dozens of soccer players separated into a Training Group set up with an additional 6-week, 1-hour-per-week, training program and a Control Group that did no additional training, other than their weekly team sessions. In the Training Group sessions, the boys ran through different short burst competitive sprinting activities very similar to the one’s within our programs at Performance Unlimited. Both groups were evaluated through pre- and post testing of linear sprints and agility. Although there were no differences in the pretesting between the groups, the Training Group showed significantly better performances in both linear sprint and agility tests after the training period. The only test that did not show a positive correlation of training progression for the Training Group was in the 10m sprint test.

The most interesting aspect of the research, to me, was the fact that they chose to do this “in-season”, during the times of competition and training for the players…and that they conducted one session for one hour each week. It surprises me, because the typical researcher wants to show absolute effect and does not want outside influence (weekly training/competition) to disturb the research outcomes. Nonetheless, it does reinforce the notion that a training program that follows research based, sports science systems can produce results with just a small amount of time given. I believe that the effect was due to consistency and a quality training program, much like the effect that we see from so many of our players.

Could the players have had additional effect if the frequency was upped to 2x per week or they added strength training? Oxyzoglou et al. “Velocity, agility, and flexibility performance after handball versus physical education program for preadolescent children” found significantly better agility test results in preadolescent boys engaged in 6-months, 3-hours·week, specific handball training compared with a mainstream physical education program. So the question remains, is more better?

Let’s take the following graph as an example of what players go through, in order to achieve performance results. This example can be similar for any learned skill, be that physical or cognitive.

On the bottom of the graph is the progression of stresses being put on the body. This can come in many forms, through social anxieties, training volume and intensity during a given time period, or even academic stresses from school. On the left side of the graph is the progression of the desired performance outcome…let’s assume that the desired outcome is in the form of increased power and thus sprint speed. So our goal is to become a more explosive athlete.

The traditional assumption is that our bodies react and adjust to stresses linearly, thus assuming the harder and more we work, the more results we get…right? This graph (used commonly in academic settings) shows that there is a fine line of increased performance, from the correct amount of stress, to the decrease in performance due to too much stress. Therefore, we can not ignore the holistic understanding of the athlete’s total stresses (in every form) throughout each week, to ensure the best program for increased performance.

I have often had clients come into our program that are playing club soccer (2x week training + 1-2 games on weekends), middle school soccer (3x week training + 1-2 games per week), as well as wanting to enter into our group training 1 x per week. Is it beneficial for the player to come into our sessions and for us to treat them as if they were not approaching or already beyond the peak of the bell curve seen in the graph? Absolutely not! Instead, our mission for every athlete is to do what is best for their increased improvement…therefore we automatically adjust these players’ training curriculum to recovery based training.

By introducing recovery techniques (flexibility, foam rolling, nutrition, etc…) we can increase the lateral size of the curve, so that the “sweet spot” for performance enhancement is larger.  At the very least, we can move the player back towards the left side of the curve, knowing that they will be put under more stresses with their teams, throughout the week.

This is what separates our programs from many of the other, general athleticism, programs in existence. We are all players and coaches of the game of soccer. We understand the weekly process of being a student athlete and have direct empathy through a relationship within every club. Do not…I repeat, do not let your player workout with programs that have no understanding or do not care (more likely) what season you are in or what you are doing the rest of your week. Specific training yields specific results. Do not get better by accident.

Thanks

John

Posted in Blog, Culture, Fitness, injury prevention, Mental, Nutrition, Recovery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How US Soccer is killing your development and having you injured in 1 easy step

Step 1: NO OFF-SEASON, no rest, no recovery…just continue to compete or train with programs that have no concept of periodization.

There is not 1 professional or elite athlete, never mind 1 soccer player, that would be crazy enough to skip their most precious portion of the athletic year. Not 1..I dare you to find 1.

Oh wait, here are a few examples of professionals that did not get an off season in 2010, as the World Cup prevented the top flight players throughout the world to skip their time off and push through fatigue from the already exhausting regular season.

robben-brazil-298 world-cup-injuries 0,,17231831_303,00

“The structure of football in England means that a player can play 38 league games, 14 domestic cup games (excluding replays), and between 15-19 European games – totalling a potential 67-71 games in a season. That is a very heavy schedule…In a World Cup year, the number of games a player plays is even more crucial. “

world-cup-statistics.com

Which led to the following:

“The website physioroom.com’s Premier League injury table on the weekend of 4-5 December recorded there were 108 top-flight players out of action.

On average, that is 5.4 players for each Premier League team or a fifth of each club’s designated 25-man squad, with Aston Villa and Tottenham each having as many as 11 players on the treatment table over the weekend.

It is not just in England that clubs are having to juggle their resources due to injury. On the weekend of 20-21 November, 124 players were unavailable to play in Italy’s Serie A due to injury.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/9239342.stm

Less rest = more injuries

For those of you who are not familiar with or just don’t care about international soccer, a typical top youth club in the US plays anywhere from 15-25 games per season. However, when we factor in all the additional competitions that most young players are involved in (high school, ODP, 3 vs 3, NPL, ID Camps, ect…) we can push that total from 20 to 50 or more games per year, without a break (note that in north carolina, clubs only play 1 season then high school in the opposing season). And that is not even factoring in the notion that some teams that win, play more.

So why is youth soccer in the United States continuing a “more is better” pattern and creating more games, offering less practice, having no emphasis on quality physical training, and creating a new league every time there is an open weekend? Profit my friend!

From ODP, to the Academy, ECNL, High School, 3vs3, Region III (here in NC), etc… What makes us think that this recipe is going to produce quality results in our players? When are the clubs going to step up and live up to their mission statements? Investment in PLAYER DEVELOPMENT, not the pockets of the coaches. note: not all clubs are pushing there players in the manner that I am referring, I am making a summarization of the majority of teams that I see across the country and not just in one location.

Here’s how I see it:

Less Practice + More Games = less skilled + more injured

The first thing that I want to know, as a performance coach that is looking to get you to your goals, is to get an idea of what you are doing now.

I regularly encounter high school aged, as well as 11 or 12 year olds, that are simultaneously playing for a club soccer team,  basketball team, 3 vs 3 team, middle school/high school team, an ODP team, AND trying to fit in 1 or 2 sessions per week of work with me. You say you have knee pain? Not sure why (sarcasm)…It is often that I have players that try to schedule as many as 9 training sessions, per week, between all of the aforementioned organizations. Sometimes, I feel worse for the mom who has to drive to all of these locations than I do the kid who has to train this often. This is insane! I WILL turn away a client that I believe has too much on their plate, rather than take this player into our program.

Sticking to the theme of my last post (go ahead and read it here, if you have not already: http://www.theperformanceu.com/?p=264)…we, meaning US soccer, are doing our youth players an injustice  by producing all of these money making schemes, otherwise known as “leagues” with empty promises of high quality competition. We are pushing our players to strive towards perfection without giving them quality instruction…as if we are pushing them out the door of a plane without a parachute to guide them down.

Prevention of injuries by providing ample recovery time is only one advantage of an off-season.  The best players utilize down time to progress their skill sets. Not one of these additional leagues has proven to consistently generate players that can play at a high level, but instead has produced a multi billion dollar orthopedic and physical therapy field that many people are most thankful, all the way to the bank. The majority of players that do manage to come out unscathed and on top of their game tend to come from the clubs that limit the number of competitions, offer proper physical training programs to their players, and play a more possession styled game.

We are pushing our players to do more and are conditioning them to rest less, so that a player develops only 1 speed of play…hard. I find this ineffective both tactically and physically. The outcome is a player that does not know how to change pace and a body that can not reach top speeds, resulting in an athlete that runs constantly at 3/4 maximum.

So what is the solution?

We have to take advantage of the time that is given to us between seasons and competitions to recoup from injuries, rejuvenate our love for the game, and refine our skills and strength for the upcoming competitive months of soccer. We have to coach our players to relax, not just off the field, but on the field to create a rhythm within the game.

Our young players are too weak for long seasons, too unskilled for the practice to game ratios, too unclear about themselves to be confident, and never given time to understand how to play the game effectively.

Here is my list of parachutes vital for the youth soccer player’s long term development

1) Recovery

2) Proper Movement Patterns

3) Strength

4) Soccer Specific Rhythm

5) Mental Clarity

I will talk specifically about our solutions, in the next post.

Thanks

John

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5 Myths in Youth Soccer Development: Part 4 – Fitness

5 myths about physical development in youth soccer

Part IV

After some time between the last few parts of the series, I want to pick back up with our 4th myths by inviting you to go back and read our first three here: (Cross Training, Speed, Strength). As always, feel free to post your comments and questions below.

Myth #4 – Soccer fitness comprises of long distance and slow running. Youth players should run extensive miles to get fit, just like older players do.

Photo-Fitness-TestThis myth can take quite a few angles and I believe that fitness is still to be considered individualistic (especially when referring to youth players in developmental ages) and relative to situations. It is never a black and white discussion about what is best for youth players and fitness, but the stance has to be one that is researched and follows physiological logic and never detrimental to performance. The common theme that still exists in youth clubs is the lack of progression and understanding of fitness from coaches and clubs.

As I have said many times, training (especially physical training) of the individual athlete should largely reflect the biological age of the player and what is best for their long-term development. If you do not understand what I am referring to, refer to our Philosophy of Training.

I will try to stay away from too much science…however, it is very important to state that, in order to fully get a grasp of why coaches and parents should not push the general conditioning of the young athlete, you must understand three specific facts:

  1. The term fitness needs to be defined appropriately.
  2. Fitness for soccer performance demands specific parameters for best practice.
  3. Every young player is effected by training differently…especially in growth phases.

Soccer Specific Conditioning?

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Which type of athlete would make a more effective soccer player?

One of the most basic yet most important principles in sports performance is the SAID principle. Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands is the reason that soccer players may not be the best swimmers and ice hockey players are not meant to run marathons. You must train for the demands of soccer (time, intensity, movements, frequency) in order to achieve an adaption in the body that produces effective results in any skill set, especially fitness.

lance_armstrong

Think of it this way…Lance Armstrong has one of the worlds highest recorded VO2max scores (debatable, yet most accepted score testing fitness capability) in history and is considered one of the most fit athletes to ever compete in cycling. However, in 2007 Lance Armstrong finished 232nd in the Boston Marathon, after removing himself from cycling and focusing on training for marathon running with some of the great runners of our time. 231 people finished ahead of Armstrong, although he is largely considered the most fit athlete in the world. It justifies that no matter fitness levels, you must train for the demands of the performance. Cross country running does not = soccer fitness.

As I stated in point #1, soccer is referred to as an alactic-aerobic sport, which basically means that it is an intermittent activity or consists of many intervals of high intensity movement with long bouts of rest or low intensity. This lends a never-ending debate, from PhDs, of what form of conditioning is best for soccer players. What we can take away from the term, soccer specific, is that the aerobic system (the form of conditioning we often see by long slow running over long distances) is only a portion of the specific energy utilized within the game. The remaining parts are shared by the other two dominating anaerobic energy systems:

  • Phosphogen System – dominates movement that lasts a very short duration (up to 10 second). Examples are lifting weights, 100% sprinting less than 100yds, etc…
  • Lactic Acid System – dominates movement that last a medium duration (~less than 2:00). Examples are 400m sprinting, grueling training that all out effort as long as possible is expected.

*Note: there is never a real separation of energy systems, as they all combine at certain times to create movement at most every intensity and duration. To give the best idea of which system is dominant, it is most often simplified to the duration of training listed.

Research and statistics show us that professional soccer players are covering around 6-7 miles per game, and youth elite playersFitness-test-001 (under 18) are covering almost the same (~5.8 miles). I would expect that the younger players are moving much less than this number and potentially working at a higher % of intensity*. The interesting point is that the specific numbers within these movement statistics include players making 700-900 changes of direction per game, and 5-9 repeated sprint bouts per game (100% intensity, ~3 sprints per bout, with ~5 seconds between sprints). Between these bouts of intense sprinting there is vast majority (96%) of movement at a very low intensity.

*The high work rate of young players is due to the notion that youth teams do not have the skill and experience to understand how to be efficient with their movement, therefore resorting to “outworking” other teams, as well as the typical win at all cost of youth clubs encourages the more direct and physical style.

bleeptestThe traditional mistake made by all soccer coaches, not limited to youth, is that we do way too much of the Aerobic conditioning (long and slow) and Lactic Acid conditioning (work as long as you can and as hard as you can). A lack of an understanding in energy metabolism would suggest that these are the best ways to train, since the description of the game is defined by these two speeds. Aerobic conditioning (at appropriate ages) has its place and is necessary for absolute effectiveness in recovery between high intensity sprints. However, when you look closer, training primarily aerobically does not prepare us for the parts of the game that make the biggest difference, namely increasing the speed within the repeated high intensity sprinting. Additionally, when breaking down how the body responds to aerobic progressions, we can see that the vast majority of practices (1.5-2 hours at <60% intensity) could suffice for the majority of aerobic work.

We do not need research to tell us that the most decisive parts of the game is made through movement at high speeds off the ball.  If players can move faster, they are able to create more dangerous opportunities more often. The body learns to progress this speed through a fine combination of correct timing with aerobic training and a consistent effort at speed development (100% effort and long rest). Beyond this training, coaches need to better understand the need for the body to recover between bouts of movement and between intense training sessions. This is the only way for the body to not break down to injury, but instead create a positive effect that puts a player in a better opportunity to execute technical ability.

Youth Conditioning

The cardiovascular aspects of a young player must mature, just as the other parts of the body have to mature. Everyone is aware of the false notion that young players should not lift weights, because of the inability of the body to be able to handle the stress…yet we are putting young players in a considerable amount more stress (5-7 x body weight on joints in every step, during jogging) when we have them repeatedly running countless miles.

We can see, through research, that the “sweet spot” for aerobic training in youth players is during their Peak Height Velocity (PHV) where the aerobic systems are more developed. You can read more about PHV, here.

Physiologically, there is not much evidence that Vo2Max (quantifiable test that is most often considered the scale for “fitness”) increases with training, before PHV. After the peak velocity of growth, there is considerable effect of this type of training.

Before this PHV “window”, conditioning for young players should be prioritized through the technical demands of the game.  what aerobic conditioning that can be gained is more likely to be progressed by consistently performing the nature of the sport. Namely, technical work and game-like scenarios.

However the PHV is individual, this should not excuse coaches to blanket training for all of their players. Understanding that PHV usually does not occur in girls before 12 and boys before 13/14 years old, there is no reason to do endless running drills for young players. The result will only cause injury instead of huge conditioning effects. What we do see, with this training is a high increase in “overuse” or chronic injuries that are caused by too much unspecific conditioning with little rest that tend to be common amongst young teams (have heard it from players as young as 8 years old).

The one aspect of specific running that should be prioritized and shows results through conditioning is speed development. This window (there are 2) is shown at 6-9 years old and 11-14 (girls), 13-16 (boys). Speed is largely dependant on a genetic number of fast twitch fibers, however there are a large number of fibers that are awaiting the body to transition them to slow or fast. Long, slow, aerobic conditioning will force these fibers to slow twitch and lose the ability to create fast movement later in the athlete’s career.

For more info on how you can apply these principles for your player or team, email us at info@theperformanceu.com

IMG_1545IMG_1583

John

Posted in Blog, Coaching, Fitness, injury prevention, Recovery, Speed | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Myths in Youth Soccer Development: Part 1- Cross Training

5 myths about physical development in youth soccer

Part I

youth-1

One of the many reasons that I love working in the sports performance industry is because the field is expanding and improving, daily. With new research and world-class coaches readily available, I can honestly say that I am learning new information that I can practically apply, every day.

Conversely, one of the most frustrating aspects of this industry is how much of the training by current coaches, players, and parents are detrimental and uneducated.  Most coaches and trainers do not seem to follow the same continuing education path that is necessary to work with young soccer players. So much has changed in what we know about the how the body responds to specific training stress, yet I continue to see the soccer culture making the same mistakes  from coaches decades ago.

With this being said, over the next 5 posts, I have decided to touch on 5 of the biggest and most detrimental misconceptions and myths that I commonly hear from soccer parents and see from youth coaches within the development of young players. I want to keep this short and not get carried away in any sports science jargon, but I believe each one of these aspects deserves an entire post. All points made are generalized and are not directed to any one club or coach.

Myth #1 – Playing multiple sports (cross-training) is always good for Long Term Athletic Development and will keep my child from incurring injuries and “burnout”.

It is believed that playing 1 sport, too early, does not allow the maturation and development of specific muscle groups and coordinated skills, therefore creating susceptibility to chronic injuries due to repeated stress on the same part of the underdeveloped body. For young soccer players, we see this manifest itself in such ways as: plantar fasciitis, Sever’s disease, Osgood Schlatter’s disease, jumpers knee, spondylolysis, and hip flexor/quad/groin strains. It is amazing that I regularly hear of 10 year olds with chronic injuries that should be more commonly found in middle-aged long distance runners. This has become more of the norm than an anomaly.

Resource of interest: http://www.stopsportsinjuries.org/overuse-injury.aspx

PlayersYoga

Due to the repetitive skill sets in soccer and the recurring stress due to similar movements throughout the game; youth soccer players are commonly asymmetric, with extremely strong and tight quads and hip flexors and adversely weak glutes and hamstrings. The constant change of direction and jumping creates a ton of stress on the body, and the asymmetries aforementioned can wreak havoc on the body and create these overuse injuries. This, coupled with the long competitive soccer seasons and imprudent practice to game ratio, has youth soccer organizations mixing a cocktail of inevitable issues that parent and coaches are calling “just a part of the game”. It may be part of the game today, but does it have to be?

Resource of interest: http://www.pediatricsdigest.mobi/content/119/6/1242.short

The “cross-training” rationale, of playing multiple sports, is intended for young players to create an aptly prepared body forthe rigors of soccer (or whatever sport they choose), by changing the nature of the sport and skill sets while developing strength in the typically weak areas of the body. This should, in theory, give the overstressed muscles and joints a recovery period, whilst still being active and developing athletic skill sets, and discovering the sport of choice. This model has been shown only to be successful if some very important principles are followed.

  • Appropriate strength and flexibility training is developed along with the sport skills, throughout all ages of soccer development.
  • 1 sport is played at a time. Never play multiple sport seasons or play on multiple soccer teams at the same time. 
  • Intermittent months throughout the year must be utilized to separate the player from COMPETITIVE soccer. This means taking a second look at participating in winter indoor leagues, 3vs3 leagues, endless camps in the summer, or using soccer as a means of babysitting when your child has nothing else scheduled, unless the programs have an understanding of how to properly develop players for long term athletic success. 

Facility-pullup

I believe that this argument for “cross-training” was valid (and still can be), a decade ago, however the competitive nature of youth sports today has far exceeded the recreational nature it once had and is not a valid justification for injury prevention. Nowadays, competitive soccer starts at 7 years old and often plays the traditional 2-season (spring and fall) club year. The pressure and demand that parents (therefore clubs) put on these young players is immense, while commonly having as many games on the weekends as practices during the weeks. When players continue to play other sports, each respective sport and their teams are equally competitive and do not care nor take into consideration that these kids are going from competitive sport season to competitive sports season, without rest. More often, I find that young soccer players are playing in two different competitive sports in the same season or on two different competitive soccer teams (club and school, multiple clubs) and are moving from practice to practice, sometimes in the same day.

“I often see the best athletes, at young ages, being the players that are suffering the most. Every soccer team wants them to play as many games as possible and other sports try to draw them into their respective seasons. It’s a recipe for disaster.”

What was once a great way to develop a myriad of sport skills may end being more detrimental on the body than ever realized. The absence of an off-season, or more relevant, the absence of lower intensity and appropriate general preparation training, within the soccer season, accumulates fatigue in the central nervous system and trauma in the soft tissue and muscles. This is when injuries start to occur. The developing joints, bones, and circulatory systems are not able to rebuild as fast as the player is breaking down, causing the body to induce inflammation and pain in order to force the body to slow down. Players, at the advice of parents and coaches, tend to play through these pains. Too many games and not enough practice then throw the overly fatigued and underdeveloped players to the “wolves”, where 1 false move/tackle/run can mean trouble.

SONY DSC

So what are the solutions? I think that there are many ways to solve this problem, but it has to be done with education on your goals within youth soccer participation and following some strict guidelines. I am not in the opinion that youth players should avoid playing other sports, actually I think it is extremely beneficial. The point is that parents need to be careful of over doing the competitiveness of multiple sports and avoiding portions of the year when they are able to separate themselves from the competitive game. We need to understand the collective work volume that a player is putting in, each week, that leads to injury and “burnout”. Coaches need to be empathetic with players that are playing several sports at the same time and need to dial it down a notch on the competition and demands at young ages. Here are some guidelines that, I believe, would allow the benefits of multiple sports without the potential for injury.

  • Play one sport at a time and change the sport each successive season
  • When sport seasons overlap, avoid over competing and under training. Also avoid conditioning for 1 team and training for another. They do not compliment each other. 
  • Avoid coaches and teams that tend to spend time “conditioning” players off the ball, before age 13.
  • Players that just play soccer (really all athletes) should participate in athleticism programs to develop necessary skills that are not commonly developed by the sport or club and necessary strength and flexibility that will keep the player injury free for the long term.
  • Make sure that young players are keeping their sport environment recreational, until it is appropriate. That means, club soccer is not best for players that share sports in the same season until after 13 years old (or biological age equivalent).
  • If you do seek out an athletic development training program, make sure that they understand biological age vs. chronological age, training history, injury history, and soccer-specific needs and seasons. It may be just as detrimental to throw your child to programs that train your player like every other sport, regardless of season. Especially at the high school ages.

In every other country, around the world, soccer has been the only sport played by nearly every youth player that develops within the game. Are overuse injuries as prevalent? Although I do not have any research or numbers to back it up, I would say yes and no. No, because of how much training and developing foreign clubs tend to do with their players. They have complete control over the nature of their training, at youth ages, therefore the technical development is priority and the competition is not.  Clubs around the world are beginning to put in physical development programs in with their technical programs, and understanding the importance of developing athletes to physically peak at 26-29, not 17-19 years old. Yes, because these physical programs have not reached the vast majority of clubs, so players are breaking down there, just as they are here.

Below, I’ve listed the topics that will be discussed in the weeks to come. I welcome your thoughts on this subject and look forward to the next blog.

John

Don’t forget to like us on facebook/theperformanceu and follow us on twitter @theperformanceu. 

Myth #2 Speed cannot be taught.

Speed and conditioning is the same thing and trained the same way.

Myth #3 Soccer players should not strength train.

Players should not begin a strength program until 16 years old.

Myth #4 Soccer players need to run long distances.

Young players should run to get fit.

Myth #5 Injuries are a natural part of the game.

There is nothing you can do to prevent injuries.

 

Posted in Blog, Coaching, Culture, Fitness, injury prevention, Nutrition, Recovery, Speed, Strength | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Top 10 ways to maximize your recovery

6394893-road-to-recovery-green-road-sign-with-dramatic-clouds-and-sky

 

“Your body is only as good as it’s ability to recover”
-Verne Gambetta

We all know the value of hard work and it’s benefits on soccer performance. The research is endless on how consistent effort and diligent work yields various results and how these positives may play into your ability to perform your best, but when are the results actually taking place? Cardiovascular conditioning, strength training, power development, mobility, and all the other physical training that your body goes through each week has a profound effect on our success, but are we actually getting better while we train or is it the result of the time after we walk off the field or out of the gym?

I believe that this question can be answered by saying “both”, but let me explain further. The different ways we can get better, as players, come through various “channels” that may happen instantly and/or over a certain period of time. Exercise scientist call these channels immediate recovery (between reps or repeated sprints in a game), short term recovery (between sets or reps of speed work), and training recovery (between practices or games). For instance, when we train on a technical skill, our coach may give us insight on a new and better way of achieving the end result. This instant realization immediately makes us a more efficient and more effective player on the field. The benefit of practice and refining that skill, however, will take thousands of repetitions and hours of work until it can be consistently made a tool during competition.

The same can be assumed with speed, agility, strength and stamina. The skill sets that we learn in acceleration and deceleration are, sometimes, instantaneous; such as correctly using our arms while sprinting. However, the majority of the physical benefits of training do not happen until we are long gone from the training pitch. It is in this “down time” or recovery process that our body begins to adapt from the stresses of training and becomes stronger and more capable of working at higher levels of performance (also known as supercompensation). This process is where I feel most  players do not understand or take advantage when working to improve their game, and where I want to spend the rest of this post talking about.

Recovery is one of the least understood and most under researched constituents of the training-adaptation cycle, however it is the most important part of our training routine. It may be the very reason that you are not continuing to get better, fitter, and more explosive…but instead find yourself plateauing and injured.

“We define recovery, from a practical perspective, to mean the ability to meet or exceed performance in a particular activity.” Meaning that if we have just finished an hour and a half of intense training, then our body’s ability to perform will be reduced for some period of time. We all know that we can not play another 90 minute game at maximum intensity within 2 or 3 hours of the last, but what about 2 to 3 days? And what about intense training on back to back days…back to back weeks…back to back months? How does this effect us?

“It is well accepted that over-load is necessary for improvement, whereas overtraining results in a breakdown at

some level, thus impairing, rather than improving, performance. Overtraining is usually thought of strictly in terms of training, yet overtraining might also be expressed as under-recovering. If the recovery rate can be improved, greater training volumes would be possible without incurring the negative of overtraining.”

- Recovery From Training: A Brief Review; Bishop; Jones; Woods; Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 22(3): 1015-1024, May 2008

Let’s look at a simplified graph of how our bodies and performance can benefit from the proper training to rest ratio. As  you can see below, the stimulus (in our case would be any type of intense training) causes stress that decrease the bodies ability to perform at a given level. If the proper amount of recovery does not take place (shown as recovery), the adaptation ability of the body does not return above original form before the next stimulus. This is can be hugely detrimental, especially if we continue this pattern throughout a training period (week) leading up to a game (competition). As you can see, the athletes ability to perform is far less capable than when they first started.

recovery-graph

This trend is often seen in youth soccer, when a coach or player has the “no pain, no gain” mentality and decides to work as hard as time will allow every time training occurs. The unfortunate part is that this does not only lead to ill-fated performance, but also injury.

On the other hand, a proper recovery can have the opposite effects on a players performance, if done correctly. Looking at the same graph, we can see the opposite trend where the player is now getting adequate and proper recovery and is making progress, which we call super-compensation.

So how long does it truly take to adapt to training (to perform better/be in better playing shape) and can we decrease the time necessary? In a summary answer to both questions…no one knows. There is very little research that has consistent results from valid populations to credit one answer, however there are many favorite recovery rituals and habits that thousands of athletes apply every day, and swear by them. So, I will list them below and let you get an idea of what works for you.

All of these have been researched and shown some value of success, even if it is just anecdotal and has not been proven by real numbers…

1) Proper Nutrition – research has shown that the timing of nutrient dense foods that are rich in Carbohydrates + Protein/Amino Acids immediately after exercise and is most beneficial. For exercise of high intensity > 90 minutes, choose one of the following to consume within :30 minutes after training/game: Turkey Sandwich on whole wheat bread (WW) or WW bagel, Bowl of cereal w/skim milk, Pasta w/chicken (or lean protein source), Tunafish sandwich on WW bread or WW bagel,Oatmeal w/skim milk or H20 w/2 T Peanut Butter, or a good ‘ol fashioned Peanut butter and Jelly Sandwich on WW or WW Bagel.

2) Rehydration – Research is good on this one. You must do it to recover well. Studies recommend the inclusion of a liquid that contains sodium (50 mmol/L) along with some potassium and carbs (sugar). Plenty of sports drinks out there will suffice, but make sure that you are getting enough, meaning that you have to intake as much fluid as you lost. One 16oz sports drink directly after training/game + another 75-120 ounces of water throughout the day.

3) Tapering – this is the preferred method of recovery tactics by most coaches and clubs around the world, as this will allow for consistent training and improvement without breaking a rhythm that players may have in mid season. Tapering is the idea that reducing training volume (total time/length) or intensity (%max effort) a certain amount during concurrent training sessions will allow for consistent recovery throughout a given week. All coaches and teams should be doing this in their respective training weeks, and can result in up to a 6% training improvement during that same week.

4) Compression – Ever seen Allen Iverson and all those other NBA players wearing tights and long sleeves under their uniforms…or how about the runners that wear the socks that only cover their calves? Well, as cool as they look, they do serve a purpose. These compression sleeves and shorts (most often used by soccer players) are great for fending off strawberries while slide tackling and lending support to the muscles, in order to eliminate swelling. This reduction of an inflammatory response does wonders for staying away from soreness and getting back into game intensity in back to back days.

5) Cool Down – I know, you never stretch after you train. You are tired, dirty, hungry, and couldn’t care less what your coach has to say about the missed shot you had inside the six yard box. Well, this is going to be the very best, and easiest way to ensure you are recovering properly. All of the processes and chemical releases that occur during intense exercise leave micro tears and damage throughout your muscles. Your hammies are in dire need of adequate blood flow to give them the nourishment to get better and the very thing that they want to do is to contract to a shortened length. Stretching passively (someone else) or actively (by yourself) shows great effect to give your muscles exactly what they need for immediate relief.

6) Ice baths – also known as cryotherapy, is a favorite way for college players to get the biggest bang for their buck between 2-a-days. As much as it is horribly annoying, dunking your legs in a bucket of ice for 15 minutes has shown great effect for reduction of swelling and soreness, as well as keeping you awake faster than a Starbucks vente with 6 shots of espresso.

7) Hyperbaric Chambers - this is for all of the million dollar players out there that do not have a claustrophobic  tendency. The idea that creating more oxygen and atmospheric pressure in the air around you forces your body to intake and use the benefits of oxygen has some pretty awesome results. Just 10,000 dollars and a good nights rest in a coffin like chamber will have you playing your best for the next high school over time thriller.

8 ) Massage Therapy – a whole new industry has popped up around this idea. Hands on therapy used to manipulate the muscle and soft tissue that were damaged from training, making it possible for swelling and destructive elements in the local area to leave and the good stuff to get in quicker. If it doesn’t work, don’t tell anyone, because this just feels so good that I am willing to over look it.

9) Ergogenics/Supplements – Creatine, amino acids, Flinstone vitamins, and ginseng have all been researched and shown mixed results. My advice is to stick with something inexpensive, easy, and at least shown some good potential, such as taking a good quality multi-vitamin containing iron and folic acid a few hours after training.

10) REST – doing nothing may be the toughest thing to include in your routine, but just may be the best for you. Some studies show that the body is not able to recover fully from intense exercise for up to 72 hours or more. The modalities above will shorten this process, but you can never go wrong by just relaxing and letting your body do its thing.

My advice and the best recipe for the most effective recover would be, as follows: Post Training, in order to be ready for the next day…stretch while drinking a Gatorade before leaving the field, all while wearing compression shorts during the session. 3o minutes following training, eat a meal that includes whole wheat carbs, a lean protein, and 16-14 oz. water while submersing your waist down in 15 degree water. 2 hours following training take a multi-vitamin (with iron), stretch, and foam roll all lower body muscle groups. Lastly, probably the most important aspect of recovery and training progression is to track your readiness to train. We advise our athletes to work with RestWise (www.restwise.com) in order to get an accurate picture of how the body is reacting from training and lifestyle habits to create a super athlete.

Till next time

John

Posted in Blog, Coaching, Fitness, injury prevention, Nutrition, Recovery, Speed | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How to prevent injuries and increase performance in 6 weeks

 

“Ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – Ben Franklin

“The function of protecting and developing health must rank even above that of restoring it when it is impaired” – Hippocrates

 

The ACL injury rate with female soccer players is at an epidemic rate. We all know that…but I am calling out all the parents and coaches that read this and do nothing about it. If you are not helping your player to resist these injuries, you are accepting that this is just a part of every athlete’s journey. I strongly disagree with that rationale, and for those who are already in a strength program, you may want to question everything that your son or daughters trainer is doing and seriously begin to inquire about the effectiveness of their program. I am in constant reminder that players are moving more and more into the notion that they need programs that will work on the physical aspects of the game, but not all programs are created equal.

  • Does your physical program know the demands of soccer?
  • Does your program understand the culture of soccer (seasons of competition)?
  • Does your program understand your individual needs?
  • Does your program include movement quality with strength gains?
  • Is it correctly progressive?
  • Is it grounded in research?
  • Does it force the player to work on cardio conditioning (trust me…most young players do not need it and older players get too much of it)?

My point is that it is up to you, as the consumer, to ask these questions and get to know what the program itself is really doing for your performance.

Here is a letter that I wrote, back in 2010, to a large club, after I witnessed 6 knee related injuries and/or surgeries on 1 team within 12 months. The club gently told me that they already had plans to install a proper warm up for all club teams. I agree that this would be a great step towards injury prevention and enhanced performance…but I am still waiting for that warm up to show up. I have inserted _’s to keep the identity of club and persons involved anonymous.

Thanks _,

I appreciate your concern for the subject and your efforts, so far.

_, thanks for taking the time to listen in on some thoughts/concerns that I have for the female soccer players in this area and throughout the country, as well. Obviously, the direct (or indirect) influence(s) that we may be able to have in regards to creating insight and attention into this epidemic of sorts could have profound effects on a players future objectives within soccer. In turn, this will have an effect in her choice of possible opportunities to study, as well as keeping them away from long term health issues and procedures that may be avoided.

I am close to this matter, only as a coach that has and currently is working with players that have returned to play from knee reconstructions, various soft tissue problems, chronic pains, compartment syndrome, and too many other sports related injuries that _ knows too much about already, as a prominent _ business. It is not just the frequency of injuries that have occurred, but the lack of action taken by clubs and coaches and lack of questions asked by parents and players, that have me a bit confused about the situation.

Why is everyone in the soccer community just considering this part of the game?

_, your daughter is 6 times more likely to tear an ACL than the boy that is playing at her age. As I am taking stock in the number of surgeries that have occurred within the top female teams from U15-U18 at _, it will show up to 1 in every 6 players. WITH THE U16′s HAVING 5 IN THE LAST YEAR AND A HALF! That is a staggering number, and I know that I would want to know how I could keep my daughter away from being one of the 2-3 players PER TEAM that will be having surgery. This is also knowing that 70% of ACL injuries occur in non-contact situations. So, we are not speaking about the “freak” incidences when players collide or a bad tackle happens. These are the avoidable one’s.

I have taken the liberty of going to all area clubs within the Charlotte vicinity and read their mission statements. Every single club, that I have seen, has the player’s “best interest” or “development” as the center piece, but I don’t hear about the ways that they are working to keep each player safe from injury. I apologize if any club (_) is taking measures that I do not know about, however if they are it must be minimal; because I have players at every level at every age group that say otherwise (other than the _ teams going through the _).

I know all that has been written here gives no solution, only a problem that may already be known. I would disagree, but for arguments sake, let’s say that it is being ignored or not being handled. I propose a first step to finding the solution is to give a questionnaire (separate from Performance Unlimited or any profit entity) to each player at the top team at each age group (14-18) that would begin some formal research on what patterns may be causing these injury prevalences.

For instance:

-I know that clubs are creating games for teams to play solely for the sake of the club’s profit, not allowing substantial recovery between competitions.

-There is no such thing as a true off season for soccer players, and the clubs are not helping by creating new leagues and games for profit.

-There are no (to my knowledge) formal physical programs for Pre-hab/injury prevention instilled as mandatory for all players (studies show an 88% reduction in knee related injuries from a neuromuscular program called PEP). Coaches will not institute this, as I know from experience as the Performance Director at Charlotte Soccer Club, because they feel that they do not have enough time already.

-There is no (to my knowledge) formal coaching education on how to instill proper physical conditioning or training to prevent injuries, as mandatory for each director (at least) to go through.

There are patterns to these injuries, and I believe that we may be scared to find out what they are. However, we have to get to the bottom of a solution and keep these girls away from ruining their athletic careers. The research for this injury is monotonous, at the very least, anyone can see what a problem it has been in the past 30 years since Title IX. However, nothing hits home like numbers from your backyard! I am only concerned for Charlotte, and that is why I only care to do a small population review of the female soccer within this city. My issues may come with my ties in a Performance company and my “viewed” ulterior motives being profit driven and looking for a conspiracy theory against some club. I can tell you that neither is in my sights for the end result. I want to see these players succeed, and they can only succeed when they are playing.

Hopefully, you guys can help me

I look forward to your thoughts

Update to 2014…

Nothing has changed, except that clubs are hiring “speed and agility” coaches and letting sports performance companies that know jack about soccer, come in and work with the kids for 1 hour every month. 90% of players never show up and 100% of coaches don’t care. When will we wake up? Probably only when its your child that is on the surgery calendar.

Posted in Culture, injury prevention, News, Recovery, Strength, Uncategorized, Video | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment