Archive for January, 2017
4.5 forties, 300 pound bench presses, dunking a basketball, starting on varsity, a full depth squat, moving pain free- whatever the objective, chances are it requires some degree of sweat equity to achieve it. Furthermore, it make take some time. Long, arduous, self-doubting time.
Trouble is, in our instant gratification society, we want it yesterday. We want it to be easy and we often complain if we don’t get it. Not starting? Must be the coach’s fault. Came up short on that rebound? Must have been wearing the wrong type of sneaker. Didn’t get the test score you wanted? Must be the teacher’s fault. This reactionary, finger pointing mindset laughs at the “process” and puts the onus on others.
To me it’s a dangerous philosophy that discounts the value of hard work, and emphasizes looking for the easy way out. But, here’s the great thing about those who take the easy way… they get exposed. You can’t pretend to be strong or fast or lean or any other physical trait in competition. Fake it till you make it doesn’t fly in the world of W’s and L’s.
The majority of clients that I train are in high school. Anyone who has lived through that hormonal quagmire can attest that those four years can be crucial in defining who you are as a person going forward. I have the absolute privilege of working with some amazing teens, and have been wowed by the effort, commitment and care for others I see in the sessions they attend.
That being said, many lack the life experience to properly put athletics into perspective. Hot and cold? How about surface of the sun vs. absolute zero. I’d see a kid hit a big dead-lift and I’d swear he turned into Apollo the Sun God. Fifteen minutes later, he comes up short on his previous chin-up effort and his body language turned into Eeyore in a rainstorm.
There will be difficulty and there will be setbacks. It’s inevitable. However, it’s in these moments that one must accept this is part of what you signed up for. One must learn to use difficultly as feedback, not as a stopping point. Embrace that slow, challenging process.
This “embracing the process” phrase has caught on like wildfire in the past year or so. Check Instagram, tune in to a NFL game, or watch a Joel Embiid (who has actually gone as far as nick naming himself “The Process”) interview, and folks are embracing this idea wholeheartedly.
Part of it is marketing. Like most things marketing related, some find it cheesier than a Sunday in Lambeau. Others repost, reshare and are inspired like never before. Neither outlook is right nor wrong. For me, I just think it’s cool that people are starting to openly discuss that there is a whole lot of work required to gain anything of substance.
I had an athlete hit a PR yesterday that he had failed on a couple times before. He was disappointed in his previous attempts, but stayed patient and used his failure as fuel. I congratulated him today via text. His response, “Thanks, was so happy when I got it.” He worked hard, the process was embraced, and eventually he hit his goal.
That right there is exactly why I do this.
Now a days, you can’t keep that kid away from training. Lifting, running, jumping, visual work- he does it all with a purpose. He’s always 15 minutes early and is a great example for the young athletes that work out with him. Beaury’s hard work has paid off. Last summer he played with Reading United, a professional development affiliate with the Major League Soccer team the Philadelphia Union. This fall Beaury was named to the NSCAA All America Third Team. Beaury was kind enough to do this interview with me.
Brian: How has strength training influenced you as an athlete?
Ben: Strength training has really helped me prevent injuries and improve my athletic performance. Brian: Have you seen any big athleticism, strength or size gains from training?
Ben: From when I first started lifting to now, I have definitely gained strength and size, and with that I have also become more athletic.
Brian: You have played soccer at many different levels- from high school to elite travel ball to college to professional development. What are the main differences you see in each level?
Ben: As you move up levels the main differences would be the speed of play and the IQ of each player. It’s amazing.
Brian: You never miss a workout and are ALWAYS early. How did you develop that work ethic?
Ben: I love to get after it and get better whenever I can. I do whatever I can to avoid missing.
Brian: Has your training philosophy changed throughout the years?
Ben: As I have gotten older I’ve learned to truly value training. If you want to perform at a high level, you have to train and prepare at a high level.
Brian: How important is your mental approach to your sports performance?
Ben: Mental approach is very important. You could be having a tough day in the classroom, but then you have to walk down to the locker room and go out to practice and prepare for a huge game on the next day. You have to turn the switch on and be focused and forget about everything outside the lines.
Brian: Take us through a day during the season.
Ben: Go to class, eat lunch, back to class, down to the locker room, and head out to training. Practice would last for about two hours or so. Then I’d go eat dinner with the team. Then it’s back to your room to do homework, study, or relax. Each day is somewhat the same, unless we are traveling. When we travel each school is at least four hours away, unless we are playing against St. Rose.
Brian: What are your thoughts on vision training for goalies?
Ben: Vision training for goalies is huge. We have to pick up the ball as soon as we can and watch it all the way into our hands, so our eyes are very important.
Brian: You were a pretty good basketball and baseball player. Do you ever miss it?
Ben: I do miss basketball and baseball. Only playing one sport in college is different than playing many in high school. It’s still kind of weird finishing the soccer season and not preparing for basketball season.
Brian: Who wins in a grappling match- you, or your brother Brian (who just happens to be a world class Jujitsu competitor)?
Ben: I give myself five seconds before I can’t breathe in a grappling match with him. Haha.
Brian: What drives you to do well?
Ben: I’m addicted to winning and I want to be the best. My father instilled a desire to be mentally tough from a young age and I think that has stuck with me. I got some pretty cool awards this off-season, and I am driven to stay focused and win them again.
Brian: What do you need to improve upon?
Ben: I have never been a vocal person. Most keepers are crazy and yell a lot. I need to be more vocal and demanding of my teammates. To take my game to the next level I need to improve on owning the goal box. Crosses, corners, through balls, they are all mine. I also need to become a better leader. Going into my senior year next season and having started every game of my career, a lot of younger players will look up to me and I need to be ready for that.
Brian: What does team USA need to do to be competitive in international play?
Ben: Team USA should be very competitive this upcoming year. Bruce Arena has experience as the USMNT coach and was successful, so he knows what it takes. The group of players he invited to the January camp was interesting. He left out players that I thought would be there and added some new faces. There is a lot of talent and it will be exciting to see if they can come together as a team and win.
Brian: What are your goals for the upcoming college season?
Ben: I want my team to win the regular season. Every year we have moved up in the NE-10. Last season we finished third. I also want to make the NCAA tournament for a third straight year, and get past the first round. I would also like to be NE-10 goalkeeper of the year again, and win All-Region and All-American honors again.
Brian: Who is the biggest freak you have played with or against?
Ben: This past summer we did a lot of training with the Bethlehem Steel of the Unites Soccer League. Every player there was a freak. One guy that stood out was Derrick Jones. He has gone on to sign with the Philadelphia Union at age 19.
Brian: What does the future hold for Ben Beaury?
Ben: I think the future looks very bright. My coach this summer told me that if I clean up a few things I will be doing this for a living. It is my dream to continue playing soccer after college. If soccer does not work out, I have been working hard in the classroom as well and will graduated with a business management degree.
Brian: Thanks Ben. All of us in the 518 are rooting for your continued success!
The climate of upstate New York has a little bit of everything. Summers on the lake, winters on the slopes, and the transitional 60 degrees of the spring and fall. For those of us trying to increase speed, the winter months can prove challenging in finding adequate space to open it up and do some serious sprint work. But, fear not! There are alternatives to developing and maintaining speed in these indoor-centric days. The following can help you get faster even when the weather isn’t syncing up with your speed goals.
Running is both breathtakingly simple and mindbogglingly complicated. With the improvements in sports science technology allowing for even more in depth analysis, this is an exciting time for running aficionados. However, some of the big brains out there (PHDs and sports scientists in labs) still can’t seem to agree if vertical forces or horizontal forces are more important in human locomotion. I am a mere practitioner in this realm and lack the lab coat background necessary to get caught up in that battle. But, I have some practical experience that can help you clean your technique up and make your running movement more efficient.
We can break sprinting down into two basic components: the knee drive and the paw back. They are the cyclical yin and yang in running, and both can be improved with proper training. All you need is a set of active cords (or some rubber tubing variation), and a little bio-mechanics background and you are ready to go. I use active cords on a daily basis in our speed classes, and believe they should be as big a part of an athlete’s physical prep as a barbell is.
Jumping metrics are huge in profiling athletes. There isn’t a professional sports franchise in the world that doesn’t look at different jumping numbers in analyzing prospective draftees. The gold standards are generally a broad jump variation (2 leg, 1 leg), and a vertical jump variation (2, 1, standing, running). While the jumping numbers don’t tell EVERYTHING about an athlete, they sure tell a good amount.
Jumping numbers can be used as a fatigue/over-training indicator. If jump numbers are down, it might be time to focus more on recovery. Jumps can be analyzed on a Bosco Jump Mat to determine different reactive qualities (ask my buddy Jeff Moyer more about this). But primarily, jumps are used to see what kind of force an athlete can generate to fling their body through the cosmos. The better the push with the jump, the better the athlete can get up and out.
I have seen and recorded hundreds of high school and college athletes throughout my years in this profession. I have yet to see an athlete I’d consider “fast” with less than a 7 foot broad jump or a 20 inch vertical jump. Their run technique can be impeccable but if they lack the ability to put any real force into the ground, then they are like a Lamborghini with a 4 cylinder, all show and no go.
In the world of high level football there are 300 pound men that routinely broad jump over 10 feet and vertically jump over 30 inches. Scary, freaky, and true. For the high school athlete, a broad jump over 8 feet and a vertical in the mid 20s is usually enough to find your way on the field or court SOMEWHERE. And generally speaking, the bigger the athlete with those numbers, the more likely they are to secure a starting spot. After all, 250 pounds jumping 8 feet is more impressive than 150 pounds jumping 8 feet. Lastly, I have yet to see an athlete with a broad jump over 10 feet run a 5 second or more 40 yard dash. It just doesn’t compute. The athletes who jump better, run faster.
Arguably the most important feature of zipping around the field or court, an athlete who accelerates well can simply get to where they need to quicker and get themselves into position to do something awesome. Depending on the athlete, true top end speed gets tapped into anywhere from 40-60 meters. While that 40-60 mark is covered in some team sports, it is much more likely that shorter, quicker bursts will be the bread and butter of your athletic arsenal. All you need is a good 20 yard strip of real estate, your body, and a willingness to run as hard as you can. Throw in some video analysis and you can really get an understanding of how your body should drive away from the ground in an acceleration pattern.
There is an ancient study from the catacombs of Soviet sports performance that featured Olympic lifters hanging with Olympic sprinters for the first 10-15 meters of a 100 meter dash. Several coaches have used this study as a reason for including Olympic lifts in their athletic programs. Unfortunately, finding this study isn’t the easiest task and my attempts were fruitless. But, rest assured it exists somewhere out there and has served as an anecdotal piece for including Olympic lifts in athletic programs for decades.
And why not? World Champion Olympic lifters usually have a tremendous blend of relative strength, mobility, and jumping abilities. All features that anyone attempting to get faster should strive for. However, we run into this pesky thing called context that muddies up the situation. The time spent perfecting this craft to achieve expert level is nothing short of legendary. These lifts are highly time intensive, with a steep learning and neuromuscular curve.
Most high school and college sport and strength coaches aren’t reviewing technique and slowly progressing the way it should be approached. And in their defense, why would they? What’s more important, knowing where to line up on the field or proper hip position on the first pull of a clean? Having both would be nice no doubt, but prioritizing what’s more important for that particular athlete’s sport usually takes precedent.
I think Olympic lifts are a tremendous way to make an athlete more powerful and explosive… if the athlete can do them well. If a kid really wants to learn Olympic lifts, has adequate physical characteristics to even attempt them, and is coachable then I think they’re a great option. But I’m also a realist and think that blanketing CLEANS FOR EVERYONE is setting certain athletes up for frustration, pain, and potential injury.
Velocity Based Training
Velocity Based Training (VBT) is becoming more of an en vogue method in athletic performance circles. For the design of this article I won’t go into the ideas today. But, feel free to check out this video from Dr. Bryan Mann on some VBT principles.
Hopefully this winter is kind to us folks in the great northeast. If so, we can get outside and be flying around in no time. If not, these options can help tip the speed needle forward even when it feels like the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back outside.