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Why you need to start Squatting in your workout.

If you are looking to get stronger legs and develop total body coordination, then you need to be squatting.

Many of us are just finishing up our High School seasons and starting to think about getting ready for what’s to come next. This means starting our off-season training to get us to the next level. If you are looking to get faster, jump higher, and simply just develop lower body strength, then we need to work on building a foundation. This means developing not only our big muscles like our quads, hamstrings, and calves, but also improving our ankles, hips and the rest of our leg muscles. The greater we can develop these areas the better chance we have at developing more force which will optimally lead to faster sprint times and a greater ability to jump into the air. Squats are considered one of the most functional and efficient weight bearing exercises whether an individuals goals are sport specific or are for an increased quality of life (2).

Squats are a movement that we do everyday and we often are not doing it correctly. Think about how many times you sit down in a chair. Do you crash down? Does your chest fall over your knees? If this is how you are teaching your body to move then what do you think you are going to revert back to when that movement happens in a game? Learning the proper way to squat will help you develop your lower body muscles in motions and angles that lead to more power and also help keep them protected while playing. Moving to free weight allows the athlete to learn to coordinate their movements to be successful in the exercise and helps teach awareness. Wirth et al., found that the squat increased performance in the squat jump, countermovement jump, and drop jump more effectively compared with the leg press in short-term strength training (6). Machines will dictate your movement path making it harder to recruit muscles that will need to involved and work in sync with the leg muscles.

Squatting is not overly difficult. Simply stand with your feet shoulder width apart and slighting point your toes outward. If your legs are locked out and straight up and down, simply unlock your knees and allow them to bend slightly. The next movement will be at your hips. Push your hips back slightly then sit down. Think about sitting into a chair and you do not know where it is. You are sitting your hips back trying to find it. Your feet should remain flat on the ground and drive through your heels. Go down until the tops of your thighs are parallel with the ground. Rise back up to a standing position.

With younger athletes picking the right squatting techniques is huge. Start with goblet squats to teach the movement. Once the athlete becomes efficient at that transition them into a front squat in a rack. These movements teach the athlete that the upper body needs to be active in the movement and not relax. These movements also require more activation from the abdominals to keep the chest up and weight over the bodies center of gravity. There are multiple variations of the squat that we will go into in future posts that benefit the athlete in many different ways.

Incorporating other forms of squatting is also beneficial to athletic growth. Doing single leg squats will help reinforce ankle strength and balance that will set optimal positions for the knee in athletic movements. Nunez et al., found that just 6 weeks of unilateral/bilateral training with an eccentric overload training, improved limb muscle volume, power, countermovement jump performance, change of direction at 90-degrees and decelerating change of direction at 90-degrees in sport athletes (5). Learning to control our movement in these positions is also very beneficial as we learn to reabsorb and then redistribute forces in another direction. Unilateral (single) limb training provides a better change of direction at the 90-degree transition phase than did bilateral (multiple) limbs training (5). Controlling our descent and lowering ourselves slowly for a set time will aid our ability to transition from one movement to the next and gives us that agility and change of direction that make us unstoppable on the court.

Squatting is a movement that we cannot overlook or put on the back burner. These exercises teach the athlete to control their body while also strengthening the lower extremities. Developing lower body strength is crucial if you want to run faster and jump higher. Your body must be strong enough to produce the forces that will help you fly through the air for a dunk. Incorporating squats into your workout routine will not only help you develop as a basketball player but as an athlete overall.

Reference:

1. Esformes, J. I., & Bampouras, T. M. (2013). Effect of Back Squat Depth on Lower-Body Postactivation Potentiation. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27(11), 2997-3000. doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e31828d4465

2. Gullett, J. C., Tillman, M. D., Gutierrez, G. M., & Chow, J. W. (2009). A Biomechanical Comparison of Back and Front Squats in Healthy Trained Individuals. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,23(1), 284-292. doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e31818546bb

3. Williams, M. J., Gibson, N. V., Sorbie, G. G., Ugbolue, U. C., Brouner, J., & Easton, C. (2018). Activation of the Gluteus Maximus During Performance of the Back Squat, Split Squat, and Barbell Hip Thrust and the Relationship With Maximal Sprinting. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 1. doi:10.1519/jsc.0000000000002651

4. Askow, A. T., Merrigan, J. J., Neddo, J. M., Oliver, J. M., Stone, J. D., Jagim, A. R., & Jones, M. T. (2019). Effect of Strength on Velocity and Power During Back Squat Exercise in Resistance-Trained Men and Women. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33(1), 1-7. doi:10.1519/jsc.0000000000002968

5. Núñez, F. J., Santalla, A., Carrasquila, I., Asian, J. A., Reina, J. I., & Suarez-Arrones, L. J. (2018). The effects of unilateral and bilateral eccentric overload training on hypertrophy, muscle power and COD performance, and its determinants, in team sport players. Plos One, 13(3). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0193841

6. Wirth, K., Hartmann, H., Sander, A., Mickel, C., Szilvas, E., & Keiner, M. (2016). The Impact of Back Squat and Leg-Press Exercises on Maximal Strength and Speed-Strength Parameters. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 30(5), 1205-1212. doi:10.1519/jsc.0000000000001228

How Do I Get Faster?

As athletes we are always trying to get better and make ourselves better than those around us. One area that we always look to to solve this problem is speed. If I can get faster, I will be a better player or a better athlete. Athletes and coaches are always chasing the skills needed to become faster to help improve their chances of being successful. When looking at speed development it is important to look at three main areas; stride length, stride rate, and rate of force development (RFD). Developing each of these areas will help us not only run more efficiently but move at greater speeds.

Running speed is simply the product of stride rate and stride length. Looking at stride length, this is the ability of our legs to cover as much surface space while still maintain optimal body position. Stride length is responsible for increasing speed up to 90% of an individual’s maximum speed [1,2,3]. This makes since, if we want to move faster we need to cover more ground in less time.  This does not mean taking ridiculously long strides. We need to develop a movement pattern where we can optimally cover ground while still maintaining control. When we start moving out of control we become off balanced and look uncomfortable. Teaching athletes the proper way to accelerate and move into these movement patterns will not only make them run faster, but will allow us to build on these skills and increase their ability to run with longer strides.

Stride rate or frequency needs to be improved as well if we want to gain faster speeds. How do we this? Stride rate is the ability to decrease the contact time of the foot as it impacts the ground. The longer our foot remains on the ground the more force we are losing into the ground that could potentially be transferred into the next leg drive. Now this does not mean we are staying on our toes and trying to tip toe through the movements. We want our feet to impact the ground and be able to transfer forces through the whole foot as quickly as possible before it cycles through. This can be a little tricky at times because in some cases you have to learn to absorb force before you can learn to redirect it. The athlete needs to know they can handle or support the force that is being applied in this area. Learning to absorb these forces can be done through speed and drills, but also through strength training. Being able to control the eccentric (lowering/absorbing) movements, we can learn to redirect these forces in the direction we wish to go (3). Training these areas will allow us coaches to know they will be in a safer position to handle these forces as we transition to the next movement.

Finally, the last component we will look at is the rate of force development that needs to created and transferred in every aspect of the run. Rate of force development is simply a person’s ability to create force in the muscles and transfer them into the movements we are performing. To get a better idea of this, think of when we are running and what is going on in order to perform this movement. The muscles in the glutes, hamstrings, gastrocnemius(calf) and ankle have to contract and transfer force into the direction the person is wishing to go. This area can be developed by simply strength training. By stimulating these muscles through strength training, we can see an 80% increase in rate of force development (4,5). Though we may not be able to train these muscles in the exact circumstances as sport, we can aid them in how they recruit muscle fibers. Through training we can teach the body to recruit large muscle fibers to activate quicker to aid in the movements we are wanting to perform.

Everyone wants to get faster. It is in our DNA, that one aspect that we all at one time in our lives have strived for. By increasing our stride length, stride rate, and our rate of force development, attaining greater speeds are possible no matter who you are or your sprinting abilities. Combining sprint and strength training are tested and proved ways to increase sprint speed.

Work Cited:

  1. Luhtanen P, Komi PV. Mechanical factors influencing running speed. In: Asmussen E, Jørgensen K (eds). Biomechanics VI-B. Baltimore, USA: University Park Press, 1978: 23 – 29
  2. Mero A, Komi PV. Forve, EMG-, and elasticity-velocity relationships at submaximal and supramaximal running speeds in sprinters. Eur J Appl Physiol 1986; 55: 553 – 561
  3. Weyand PG, Sternlight DB, Bellizzi MJ, Wright S. Faster top running speeds are achieved with greater ground reaction forces not more rap- id leg movements. J Appl Physiol 2000; 89: 1991 – 1999
  4. Cronin, J, and Hansen, K. (2005). Strength and Power Predictors of Sports Speed. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 19(2), p.349
  5. Nummela, A., Keränen, T. and Mikkelsson, L. (2007). Factors Related to Top Running Speed and Economy. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 28(8), pp.655-661.

 

When is the Best Time to Start Resistance Training?

Resistance training has been around for a long time, and is not going anywhere anytime soon. With athletics on the rise and getting more competitive year after year, athletes are looking for ways to set themselves apart from those around them. One of these ways is resistance (strength) training. Resistance training has a lot of benefits associated with it when done correctly, however it has been pegged as inappropriate or harmful for some populations. Bringing up the ever popular questions, is weight lifting safe for my child or will lifting weights stunt my child’s grow? All of these risks and concerns are important to look at and not simply swept under the rug. There are a lot of benefits that can come from resistance training even at a young age.

One of the biggest concerns, is resistance training safe especially for my 4th grader? No matter how old or how experienced someone is there is always the risk of injury especially in the weight room. Many injuries happen due to lack of supervision, inappropriate training techniques, excessive loading, poorly designed equipment, and access to the equipment (1). Even with all these factors present, injuries can still happen. However, there have been only three studies published that have reported resistance training injuries in children (a shoulder strain that resolved in 1 week of rest (6), a shoulder strain that resulted in 1 missed training session (3), and a nonspecific anterior thigh pain that resolved in 5 minutes of rest (1,4). Many people see the weight room as a dangerous place that should only be used by adults. However, we do not take into consideration the ramifications of playing organized activities. Sports are played at extremely high speeds (relative to age and experience) and can cause injury just by playing them. However, no one says I don’t want my child playing this sport or this sport because it is dangerous to their health or may effect them later in life. In a study that evaluated the incidence of sports-related injuries in school aged youth over a 1-year period (5), resistance training resulted in 0.7% of the 1576 injuries whereas football, basketball, and soccer resulted in approximately 19, 15, and 2% respectively of all injuries (2,7,8,9). When a strength and conditioning program is set up with the health and safety of the child and age group in mind we can effectively train youth athletes.

Resistance training has received a bad reputation in the youth population because more and more athletes are getting injured. With these increasing injuries there is a concern that young athletes will harm their growth cartilage which will effect their ability to grow and fully develop. This is a huge concern especially in the sport of basketball where we can use all the height we can get. Through countless articles I have found there to be no detrimental effect of resistance training on linear growth in children and adolescents (10,14). Meaning children are still growing normally with resistance training being incorporated into their daily routines.  Children as young as 5 and 6 years have benefited from regular participation in a resistance training program (12,15, 16). If resistance training isn’t causing harm or effecting our children’s development, why aren’t we doing it. These myths or stereotypes are coming from a few incidents where there was no supervision or loading these athletes too quickly to get the results now. In a lot weight rooms numbers are king. No one brags about how flawless their technique is. Whoever has the heaviest squat or bench is king and looked up to. Childhood and adolescence may be the opportune time for the bone modeling and remolding process to respond to the tensile and compressive forces associated with weight-bearing activities (1,13,17,18,19). We need to get out of thinking that results need to come now and start focusing on the process of learning these skills to be able to transfer them to our sport. It does not matter if you squat twice your body weight and can jump the highest if your sitting on the bench. Resistance training is crucial during these times of growth because it allows the athlete to navigate through these times of change and keeps them safe and healthy.

As a strength and conditioning professional it is our responsibility to implement sound programs that provide safety and continued growth to everyone that works through our doors.

Resistance training has plenty of benefits that outweigh the negatives and I believe is crucial to a young athlete’s development. As humans we are becoming more sedentary and finding ourselves in front of screens rather than outside moving and being active. When we sit for extended periods of time we alter our movement patterns and our posture. We start to limit our ability to obtain a full range of motion. Through athletics and resistance training we can start to correct these poor postures and movements. Young athletes can see positive benefits to their strength and overall development from getting into a strength performance program.

Strength gains up to 74%(20) have been reported after 8 weeks of progressive resistance training, although gains of roughly 30% typically observed after short-term (8-20 weeks) youth resistance training programs. Reported relative (% change above initial levels) strength gains achieved during preadolescence are equal to if not greater than the relative gains observed during adolescence (1,21,22,23,24).  When athletes get stronger we generally see less injuries because the athlete can more effectively absorb the forces being produced or acted upon. Resistance training teaches the muscles around a joint, ligament, or tendon can respond to these outside stimuli and protect them through different ranges of motion. Starting a resistance training program is great for muscular and neural development but it can provide so much more to our young athletes. Resistance training can improve one’s cardiovascular risk profile, facilitate weight control, strengthen bone, enhance psychosocial wellbeing, improve motor performance skills, and increase a young athletes’ resistance to sports-related injuries (1). All of these help shape our athletes into the athletes we are hoping they will become. It will teach them proper movement techniques that they can carry over to whatever they do in their lives.

 

Resistance Training is much more than getting someone bigger or stronger, it is about facilitating an athletes’ development as they grow. At M14Hoops, our goal is to provide an injury free environment that helps support athletic development. By implementing age appropriate and science backed programs we can help increase a person’s athleticism, while also aim to reduce the chances of injury or at least reduce the severity if one does occur. Our first priority is safety followed by execution and then performance. We will teach and expect everyone that walks through our doors to perform in a safe and technically sound manner that will be developed over time to help their performance out on the court.

References:

  1. Faigenbaum, Avery D, et al. “Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position Statement Paper From the National Strength and Conditioning Association.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 23, 2009, doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e31819df407.
  2. Brady, T, Cahill, B, and Bodnar, L. Weight training related injuries in the high school athlete. Am J Sports Med 10: 1–5, 1982.
  3. Lillegard, W, Brown, E, Wilson, D, Henderson, R, and Lewis, E. Efficacy of strength training in prepubescent to early postpubescent males and females: Effects of gender and maturity. Pediatr Rehabil 1: 147–157, 1997.
  4. Sadres, E, Eliakim, A, Constantini, N, Lidor, R, and Falk, B. The effect of long-term resistance training on anthropometric measures, muscle strength, and self-concept in pre-pubertal boys. Pediatr Exerc Sci 13: 357–372, 2001.
  5. Zaricznyj, B, Shattuck, L, Mast, T, Robertson, R, and D’Elia, G. Sports-related injuries in school-aged children. Am J Sports Med 8: 318–324, 1980.
  6. Rians,C,Weltman,A,Cahill,B,Janney,CA,Tippet,S,andKatch,F. Strength training for prepubescent males: Is it safe? Am J Sports Med 15: 483–489, 1987.
  7. Brown, E and Kimball, R. Medical history associated with adolescent power lifting. Pediatrics 72: 636–644, 1983.
  8. Gumbs,V,Segal,D,Halligan,J,andLower,G.Bilateraldistalradius and ulnar fractures in adolescent weight lifters. Am J Sports Med 10: 375–379, 1982.
  9. Ryan, J and Salciccioli, G. Fractures of the distal radial epiphysis in adolescent weight lifters. Am J Sports Med 4: 26–27, 1976.
  10. Andersen, L, Wedderkopp, N, and Leboeuf-Yde, C. Association between back pain and physical fitness in adolescents. Spine 31: 1740–1744,2006.
  11. Malina, R. Weight training in youth-growth, maturation and safety: An evidenced based review. Clin J Sports Med 16: 478–487, 2006.
  12. Annesi,J,Westcott,W,Faigenbaum,A,andUnruh,J.Effectsofa12 week physical activity program delivered by YMCA after-school counselors (Youth Fit for Life) on fitness and self-efficacy changes in 5–12 year old boys and girls. Res Q Exerc Sport 76: 468–476, 2005.
  13. Australian Strength and Conditioning Association. Resistance training for children and youth: A position stand from the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association. 2007. Available
  14. Annesi, J, Faigenbaum, A, Westcott, W, Smith, A, Unruh, J, and Franklin G. Effects of the Youth Fit for Life protocol on physiological, mood, self-appraisal, and voluntary physical activity changes in African American preadolescents: Contrasting after- school care and physical education formats. Int J Clin Health Psychol 7: 641–659, 2007.
  15. Faigenbaum, A, Westcott, W, Loud, R, and Long, C. The effects of different resistance training protocols on muscular strength and endurance development in children. Pediatrics 104: e5, 1999.
  16. Weltman, A, Janney, C, Rians, C, Strand, K, Berg, B, Tippit, S, Wise, J, Cahill, B, and Katch, F. The effects of hydraulic resistance strength training in pre-pubertal males. Med Sci Sports Med 18: 629–638, 1986.
  17. Hind, K and Borrows, M. Weight-bearing exercise and bone mineral accrual in children and adolescents: A review of controlled trials. Bone 51: 81–101, 2007.
  18. Turner, C and Robling, A. Designing exercise regimens to increase bone strength. Exerc Sport Sci Rev 31: 45–50, 2003.
  19. Vicente-Rodriquez, G. How does exercise affect bone development during growth? Sports Med 36: 561–569, 2006.
  20. Faigenbaum, A, Zaichkowsky, L, Westcott, W, Micheli, L, and Fehlandt, A. The effects of a twice per week strength training program on children. Pediatr Exerc Sci 5: 339–346, 1993.
  21. Lillegard, W, Brown, E, Wilson, D, Henderson, R, and Lewis, E. Efficacy of strength training in prepubescent to early postpubescent males and females: Effects of gender and maturity. Pediatr Rehabil 1: 147–157, 1997.
  22. Nielsen, B, Nielsen, K, Behrendt-Hansen, M, and Asmussen, E. Training of ‘‘functional muscular strength’’ in girls 7–19 years old. In: Children and Exercise IX. Berg, K and Eriksson, B eds. Baltimore, MD: University Park Press, 1980. pp. 69–77.
  23. Pfeiffer, R and Francis, R. Effects of strength training on muscle development in prepubescent, pubescent and postpubescent males. Phys Sportsmed 14: 134–143, 1986.
  24. Westcott, W. Female response to weight lifting. J Phys Educ 77: 31–33, 1979.
  25. Quote from Corey Schleslinger, Stanford University- Men’s Basketball, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach

 

The Importance of Evaluations

As humans we are evaluated for everything we do. Whether it be in school, at work, or in athletics, we are always being tested and compared to others. Evaluating someone’s abilities can shed light on what a person’s strengths and weaknesses are. It allows us to see where they are at and what needs to be done to get them to the next level. We all want to know we are getting better, but we can’t get evaluated every single day. This will only show us small progress if any from day to day, rather than seeing what we have accomplished in a month. It is important to understand why we get evaluated and when we should get evaluated to show true benefits of all the work we have done.

In athletics we strive to be the best player on the court or the field. You can generally see skill levels of athletes at practice or in games, but that does not tell us where the athlete truly excels. This just shows us how they can combine these skills and apply them to the sport or drill they are doing at that time. Through evaluations we can look at athletes individually and assess them in specific areas. Now we can break down their skills into different areas such as strength, speed, agility, or jumping ability. This will show us exactly what the athlete may need to improve on to carry over into their sport to make them better. Some athletes possess great speed but lack the strength to go up strong under the basket. While others have a hard time of reacting and getting out to cover a defender as soon as they get the ball. All of these areas can be assessed in an evaluation. Putting athletes through specific drills that will highlight these skills can allow us to design and implement programs that will improve these weaknesses and still build upon their strengths. At the end of the day evaluations are just tests that are used to see where someone is this very moment in time.  

Getting evaluated should not become an everyday thing. An evaluation is just an initial assessment that will help highlight the areas that we need to work on that will help increase our performance in the future. For any sport, athletes should get evaluated any time they are starting something new. This could include a new performance training class or trying out for a new winter team. Getting an evaluation done could also be beneficial after a long demanding sport season where you might have had some injuries. This will show how your body adapted over the season to support the demands you were placing on it or the lack there of. In the case of an injury we tend to lose range of motion due to it being uncomfortable and stop utilizing the area to its full capability. An evaluation would show us where we need to start the offseason program so we can get back to full health and a proper range of motion to play our sport. An evaluation is not an end all be all, it just gives us awareness of where the athlete is coming in at.

Evaluations are important for us to complete with anyone that is new to our program or starting something new within our program. It gives us a clear understanding of the athlete’s abilities and where they need to be placed to further their development. We do not want to get in a pattern of evaluating our players ever week or every month. They may have gotten better but chances are it may not be significantly. We want to be able to look back and say a few months ago that wasn’t possible but after following and trusting the process we are now capable of not only performing the task but can now consistently perform the task. Trust the process and in the time your athlete will grow and develop into a well rounded athlete we are now they can be.

Performing the Perfect Push Up

At one time in our lives we have all had to perform a push up. Either in a gym class, for a sport, or even for a job. The push up is an excellent way to evaluate the muscular endurance of someone and where their fitness level is at. The push up test is a quick and easy assessment that any age can do with a very low risk of injury. Just by watching someone do a push up you will start to see some imbalances or weaknesses the person may have. Such as weak core stability or we may favor one side more than the other. From this test we can develop a plan that will help correct these deficiencies that will help develop your physical fitness.

Performing the push up is a relatively easy task to accomplish.

  1. Start by lying on your stomach with your toes pointed to the ground.
  2. Place your hands just under your arm pits. This will put you at shoulder width apart to allow a full range of motion.
  3. Once your hands have been placed, tighten your core and begin to press up. Tightening your core refers to squeezing your abdominals and your glutes. This will keep your body flat and stable through the entire movement.
  4. Your head should be in a neutral position, so looking slightly in front of you.

5. Using your triceps, shoulders, and chest muscles lift your body off the ground until your arms are fully extended. While at the top your body should be able to support your weight. This is the starting position.

6. Once at the top now you can lower back to the ground. Lowering should be in a slow and controlled manner.

7. Our goal is to keep your elbows tucked in and to bend them to a 90-degree angle before we can return to the top position. ***If you fall to the ground the repetition will not count.

8. You will hold the bottom position for a second before returning to the starting position.

 

That is how to perform a perfect M14Hoops push up. During evaluations the goal will be to repeat this as many times as possible before technique breaks.

The exercise or repetition will not count if:

  1. The hips/butt are held higher that the whole body.
  2. The athlete does not go all the way down either to the floor or 90-degrees and hold for a second.
  3. They fall straight down and do not control the descent
  4. They do not return to a fully extended position at the top

This should give you a better understanding of how to perform a perfect push up. The push up is not an end all be all movement. It is a body weight exercise we have chosen to use as an assessment to gauge where your fitness level is at.