3 Reasons Why Bench Press and Baseball Don’t Mix

Bench Press and Baseball are like Oil and Water; they do not mix.

Working with mainly male, High School and College age, Baseball players, I get a lot of grief about not including Bench Press in programs. Especially, when they see the Football and Hockey players doing it.

When I ask them why they want to bench press so badly I get answers such as; “it’s fun”, “I like lifting heavy” and my personal favourite, “it looks cool”.

It is widely accepted in the baseball world that the reward of getting strong on Bench Press is outweighed by the risk the exercise poses to the shoulders and elbows. My exclusion of Bench Press is not because I want to keep you from ‘looking cool’ at the gym. There are specific and scientifically proven and accepted reasons as to why overhead athletes should avoid this exercise.

Hopefully, this blog will also reach some of the NCAA college programs down south. It BOGGLES my mind when Baseball players in Division 1 Baseball programs come back with Bench Press in their strength programs! No, I am not kidding. It happens…all the time…

Here are 3 reasons Baseball athletes should avoid Bench Press:

  1. It Exacerbates Negative Adaptations Acquired from Throwing

When you throw thousands of baseballs every year there are a few things that typically happen to the body:

  • Increased glenohumeral (shoulder) external rotation
  • Decreased glenohumeral (shoulder) internal rotation
  • Decreased elbow extension
  • Decreased scapular (shoulder blade) upward rotation
  • Decline in the quality of the tissues surrounding the shoulder girdle
  • Abnormal spinal curvature (usually in the thoracic and lumbar areas)
  • Decreased hip mobility

In laymen’s terms:

  • Your shoulder gets loose in the front
  • Tight in the back
  • Elbow doesn’t straighten all the way
  • Your shoulder blade doesn’t move well
  • The tissue around your shoulder is gritty
  • Your spine it hyperextended
  • And your hips don’t move

Not a pretty picture. And how does Bench Press help this situation…

IT DOESN’T!

Bench Press actually causes stresses to the body that are extremely similar to those found during a throwing motion:

  • Spinal extension
  • Scap retraction and depression
  • Humeral (upper arm) movement without scaps
  • Heavy loads placed on the shoulder girdle

In any sport we use the off-season to re-establish proper movement patterns and mobility, give our arm/shoulder time to rest and correct instabilities and dysfunctions. So why would we want to perform an exercise that does not allow this to occur and can actually exacerbate these dysfunctions?!

Much of exercise selection for athletes comes down to a risk vs. reward. Is the reward (strength gains) worth the risk the exercise places on my athletes? When it comes to Baseball players and Bench Press the risk FAR outweighs the benefits.

  1. There is Little Direct Transfer to Playing Baseball

Another factor in exercise selection is specificity to the sport. Does this exercise mimic anything the athlete is doing while they are playing? To decide this we need to look two things:

  1. The plane of movement of the exercise
  2. Where the movement falls on the force-velocity curve.

Research shows us that power development is highly plane-specific. Meaning that many traditional sagittal plane power movements (vertical movements such as; jumps, sprints, cleans, snatches) have little transfer into throwing. Frontal and transverse plane movements (lateral and rotational) have much more correlation (skaters, medball throws and banded rotations). So, while Bench Press may be a great exercises for an athlete in shot put or kayaking it has little use for a Baseball athlete.

Thanks to our hunting ancestors, humans have mastered the throwing motion. And it has been widely recognized that pitching is the fastest articulated motion a human can produce! This puts throwing a ball at the velocity end of the force-velocity curve. It is a very light load moved incredibly fast. Whereas the Bench Press movement is at the other end; a heavy load moved slowly. The movement is too removed from any movement that occurs in Baseball and therefore, will have little impact on performance.

 

  1. The “Meat Head” Factor

Let’s go back to the reason’s my Baseball athletes give for wanting to Bench Press:

  • It’s fun
  • I like to lift heavy
  • It looks cool

People (especially young, hormone driven males) have a tendency to overestimate their strength capabilities while Bench Pressing. I have done it myself and I have seen countless others do it as well.

 

If my number one goal as a Strength Coach is to keep my athletes healthy and second goal is to improve their performance then I need to choose exercises that are going to keep their inner meat head at bay!

Bench Press done with heavy loads and poor technique can put their most prized possession, their shoulder, in a very vulnerable position. Yes, people will argue that any exercise done with high load carries risk. However, a failed rep in a Push-up has less risk than Bench Press. Risk vs. reward!

“So, watch your athletes and make sure they use proper technique”.

Okay, valid point. However, have you ever tried to coach multiple athletes at one time? Even on my best day it is impossible to see EVERYTHING on the gym floor. And any coach that tells you different is lying.

As a coach I have to pick exercises that are self-limiting, safe and effective, whether I am watching them every second or not. This can mean different things for different sports, positions and individuals. Hence, why I may program Bench Press for a Football athlete versus a Baseball athlete. Have I mentioned risk vs. reward yet?!

The exclusion of the bench press in our baseball programs goes beyond “it’s dangerous for your shoulders.” Even if coached and performed perfectly, our athletes won’t get as much transfer from it as they would from other pressing exercises.

Check back for Part 2 of this Blog where we discuss pressing exercises that are much better suited to baseball players and other overhead athletes!

Email Bskinner@sstcanada.com to book your personal training sessions and shake off quarantine!

In Season Training Tips To Prevent Injury

In season training is so important to on field performance, we all know that. One of the most overlooked aspects of training hard during the season is it recoups the muscle fibers you break down during competition. Athletes who do not take in season training seriously are subject to an increase of one thing, injury!

There is a direct correlation between athletes who don’t train hard during the season and their increase risk of injury! Football being a collision sport, injuries are very common. Below are three ideas to keep you off the training table and on the field.

Split Squats ;The most important lift in the book. At SST this is a day one deal, we’ve been doing this with our athletes for over 20 years and for good reason. One of the most common injuries in football is a knee injury, most commonly an ACL tear. Doing split squats all year will improve your range of motion and will allow you to be strong in the knee over toe position. Performing the split squat is also a very effective way to train the VMO, which is a very important muscle to have a strong health knee.

Pulling Lifts; I’ve been around football so long and later in the season  athletes start to get banged up backs and shoulders, because of all the collisions that happen on a daily basis. This happens very easily because, young athletes that don’t have proper training knowledge think that they need to be benching and pressing to stay strong in the upper body. There is some merit to this being that football is a sport where a lot of “press action” happens but, to stay strong and healthy the posterior chain in the upper body needs to be taken care of. My favorite one would be a simple as a chin up or any type of row. This will keep your back strong and your spine protected!

Conditioning;  Football is a multi direction sport! Way to often we condition just going straight! IT IS MADNESS!!!! When conditioning athletes make sure that you are doing different things, such as shuffles, cross overs and change of direction. For example, a running back (RB) in football spend most of his time going forward in a game, rarely does he go back wards. During the season condition him going backwards so when it happens during a game, his body is used to it! BIGGEST CONDITIONING TIP! Make your guys back pedal, it’s way harder to pull something going backwards in a back pedal than it is going forwards!

Hopefully these three tips help you stay strong during the season, but more importantly help you stay on the field!

Email us at SST@SSTCANADA.COM to schedule your free demo today!

Three Tips To In-Season Training – Football

In season training is a must for ALL sports! One of my biggest pet peeves is when athletes train SO HARD during the off-season but then they do nothing to maintain their hard work during the season! You are wasting all the hard work you’ve put in! Listen I get it…. lifting during the season is a very tough task both mentally and physically but it needs to be done so you can maintain your strength and speed that was developed during the course of the past off season. Most people do not understand how to properly train during the season, here at SST we can help guide you through the course of the off-season and your in season maintenance!

Here are my three biggest inseason traning tips that will definitley help your performance!!!

Lift The Heavy Barbell

Don’t be afraid to lift heavy during your athlete work week. This will keep you strong! Ever notice why muscle pulls and joint tweaks happen in the later parts of your season??? Its because most athletes are not keep their bodies strong! In the football season most high school and university players are playing on Friday or Saturday. There is no reason why early in the week, Monday and Tuesday you cannot be lifting in the 80% max load range.

Active Recovery Day –  Post Game

THIS IS SO IMPORTANT!!! If you play your game on Friday night, there is no doubt that you are going to wake up Saturday sore as heck. The worst thing you can do is just sit around on the couch feeling sorry for your body. My suggestion is you do something active to get the lactic acid out of your body. What I like to do with my football guys is the day after the game we get out on the field and run 10 fifty yard tempos at half speed, just enough to get the blood moving. After that is complete I make them walk for 15 minutes. This works perfect, and you wake up Sunday feeling 10 times better.

Streching – Hip Flexors and Glutes

Football is played in a low crouched position a lot of the time. The first thing that usually goes on Football athletes are their backs from the constant collisions and the positions they are always in. I highly suggest that you take 15 minutes out of your day, every day to give your Hip Flexors and Glutes some love. There are 1000’s of different stretches that can be performed depending on your flexibility.

Give these three tips a try when thinking about your in season training, they will definitely help you. All athletes out there that feel they need a little more direction in their training swing by SST Burlington and let us help you. We have been in this business for 20 year and have help 1000’s of athletes!

Dropping Dimes

In the last month I have been fortunate to have two of my Qb’s receive D1 FBS scholarships.  This is amazing when you realize in the state of Ohio (717 schools play football) and only 2 Qb’s received D 1 scholarships!

I am so proud of these two fine young men!!  I have been blessed to train 1000’s of great Qb’s over the years. With the CFL adding the Canadian QB to the ratio there is no better time to be a Canadian QB!

 With all this new info – It has me thinking – what made these two Qb’s so good other than their dedication to hard work and their HATRED to lose?

Two main attributes stuck out:

  1. Accuracy
  2. Athleticism

As we all know it is very difficult to project success at any level especially at the NFL. The one attribute that seems to predict success is QB accuracy through his high school and college careers.

With players getting bigger and faster – Qbs needs to be athletic in the pocket and to extend plays and make something happen.

With this in mind I have created a NEW CAMP for QBS- DROPPING DIMES!

This camp will still focus on Qb technique and skills (footwork and eyes- 2 huge skills- will discuss the importance next week) and Athleticism!

Start Date: July 4th, 2019

Qbs will train 3 times per week – for 4 weeks!

Breakdown

  • Monday – skill training and Plyometric/ Strength training
  • Tuesday– Speed and Strength training
  • Thursday– skill training and Plyometric/ Strength training

A total of 36 hours training in one month!

Here is what to expect:

  1. Refined technical skill so you can be more accurate
  2. Reshape your body ( nutrition plan included)
  3. New found speed
  4. Strength training SPECIFIC for QBS!
  5. FUN!

Here is a video of Callum Wither (class of 2022) Dropping DIMES!

I am excited to run DROPPING DIMES this July! Unfortunately I will only take 8 QBS to MAXIMIZE their results ( a few spots have been taken).

What do you need to do?

Please email me directly at ljusdanis@sstcanada.com and state –

“Coach I want to DROP DIMES!”

Also, don’t forget about our Summer Camp 2019.

Come in for a FREE demo with our MaxFit class!

To book please email us at sst@sstcanada.com and we’ll get you scheduled for your demo.

Resistance Training for Acceleration

Sprinting has been described as consisting of a series of phases: an acceleration phase (typically the first 10 metres), a transition phase, and a maximum velocity phase.  For sports such as soccer, rugby, football and basketball, maximum velocity is not always attained, and repeated short sprints are more common.  Taking this into consideration, the ability to develop speed in as short a time as possible (acceleration) may be of high importance to many athletes.  It has been proposed that acceleration and maximum velocity are relatively separate and specific qualities.

An athlete’s ability to accelerate his or her body during sprinting is dependent on several factors.  These factors include technique and the force production capability of the body, in particular the leg muscles.  It has been shown that the technical aspects may have less importance for the acceleration phase of performance than for a typical sprinting event.  For example, in many sports the athletes have to accelerate from a lying or crouching position, from landing on 1 leg and pivoting, from catching a ball, and so on.  Therefore, the force capability of the muscle may be more important in improving acceleration of the athlete.  This point was supported by R. Mann in his publication titled “The Elite Athletes Project: Sprints and Hurdles.” which stated that the ability to perform well in sprints over short distances is dependent on the ability to produce large amounts of force at crucial times.

A variety of methods are used to enhance force output.  These methods include resistance training, plyometric training, and assisted and resisted sprinting techniques.  For this article we will focus on resisted sprinting which involves athletes sprinting with added load.  This load can come in different forms: weighted vests, sled-sprints, uphill sprinting and limb loading.  More specifically, this article will focus on the towing of weighted devices such as sleds which is the most common method of providing towing resistance for the enhancement of sprinting.

It has been shown that the use of towing as a form of resistance may increase the load on the athlete’s torso and therefore require more stabilization.  This training stimulus may increase pelvic stabilization, leading to a positive effect on sprint performance.  Increased torso loads also cause an increased upper-body lean and increased thigh angle at both the beginning and the end of the stance phase.  This increased thigh angle reflects the increased need for force production during the prolonged stance phase.

It is important to note that sprinting speed should not be decreased by more than 10% when adding resistance; adding too much resistance may alter running kinematics in ways that are not desirable.  It is also maintained that sled-sprinting should not be employed when the desired training effect is neural (i.e. maximal velocity).  Sled-sprinting is an effective method for a metabolic training effect (i.e. acceleration).  Due to evidence that only the first 10 metres of a sprint have been designated as the acceleration phase, it is suggested that sled-sprints should be performed for distances no longer than 10 metres.

S.S.T. holds that a well implemented speed program should include a variety of methods to achieve desirable results (i.e. resisted sprints, assisted sprints, unassisted sprints and resistance training).  Also, methods such as resisted and assisted sprints should be used sparingly, such as in the final or next-to-final block of an athlete’s periodized program.

To find out more information regarding SST’s upcoming Lightning camp please visit our website at www.sstcanada.com

 

SST Q&A- Short Hockey Stride

Question:  My 14 year old son is a good hockey player, but as he is getting older, his skating strides are becoming short.  Why would this be? And how can he improve his stride?

Answer: This is a good question.  I have been around the rinks for about 20 years now, and that is something I notice a lot of in young hockey players. A short skating stride can come from a number of things.

First thing, take notes:  What is the position of his upper body? Which way does he shoot?  What does he do for warm up?

For Example:

If his upper body is bent over = tight hip flexors

If he shoots left = Tight right Hip (must be balanced) (and vice versa for a right shooter)

Warm up is Crucial for effective stride length so make sure you are including an effective dynamic warm-up before you get on the ice.

 

If you are still having issues with stride length look to tackle to following through myofacial release,  proper stretching, and off-ice training:

  • Tight Hip Flexors– Comes from too much skating, riding the bicycle (amazes me how many pros I see still riding the bike after games!), not enough stretching, computers and TV etc. Look for warm-up exercises that extends the hip and lengthens the leg.

 

  • Tight Hamstrings: same as above.

 

  • Weak Glute Muscles: Glute Med, Glute Max, Piriformis  muscles which extend and abduct the hip.  These muscles are neglected off the ice.  If these muscles are not strong, power can not be generated to get a full stride. Weak glutes often cause the common hockey groin injury as a direct result of the groin being overworked.

 

  • Tight IT Band – Abducts the hip. Tightness in the IT band causes knee tracking problems causing Patella Femoral syndrome. Use myofacial release to help reduce tightness.

 

  • Tight/Weak Adductors: Commonly neglected.  Athletes tend to stretch this muscle a lot, however neglect to strengthen them.  This affects the recovery phase of the skating stride. Due to the imbalances of the Glutes the groin is an overworked muscle.

 

  • Upper Body Posture: Tight anterior muscles can affect the stride length as well. When a player strides, the opposite arm cocks back as well.  Being tight can cause the leg not to extend to its full potential.  Most hockey players are tight in the Anterior Upper Body (chest region).

 

  • Weak Core Muscles: Especially Back Extensors.  Weak low back causes a hunched position which decreases stride length.  SST has found that strengthening the Lower Back will increase stride length.

 

These weak areas can be improved by:

  1. Stretching the hip flexors and hamstrings, strengthening the glute muscles, strengthening the adductor muscles.
  2. A mixture of dynamic stretching, static stretching, foam roll self myofacial release.
  3. A proper warm up before training, practice and games is also very important.

 

EXERCISES PERFORMED AT SST

Split Squats, Lunges, Walking Lunges and other forms of Lunges, Glute Ham Raise, Reverse Hyper Extension, Deadlifts and all variations,  Resisted Hip Adduction, Y,T,W,L Shoulder Circuit, Back Extension and a variety of speed, agility, quickness and power exercises.

A player with a long fluent skating stride will be more effective and efficient during a game.  He/she will not use as much energy, will be stronger on his/her feet, and will be less likely to become injured.

To recap:  Stretch hip flexors, IT band and chest muscles.  Strengthen glutes, adductors, back extensors and upper back.  SST recommends doing this 3 x a week and watching the difference in your stride and your game.

 

For more great articles and videos please visit www.sstcanada.com

 

 

Did You Waste Your Time With Your New Years Resolution – Part 2

If you missed our first 5 tips to keeping your New Years Resolution, click here to check them out

6. Keep Track of Your Progress

One of the easiest way to keep you motivated on your way to your goals is to track your progress. Track your workouts and weights you used, track your weight and body composition, track your nutrition. When you’re in the thick of it you do not always see the progress you’re making, however, if you keep track of what you are doing day to day and look back in a couple months you will be surprised at how much has changed!

Tracking your progress will also allow you to see things such as a tendency to eat too much at dinner, missing more workouts as the week goes on, you haven’t increased the weights you are using at the gym. Seeing what you are doing on paper (or an app) will allow you to make adjustments to your plan and give you a better chance of sticking to your resolution

7. Celebrate your Progress

A great way to keep yourself motivated towards your goals is to celebrate the smaller victories along the way. Lost 5lbs?! Treat yourself to a new workout outfit! Added 10lbs to your squat, go for a massage (your sore muscles will thank you!). When you celebrate the steeping stones you will be more likely to want to keep pushing for the next one, making your ultimate resolution easy to maintain.

8. Reward Yourself with Non-Food Items

When you celebrate your progress, make sure to avoid doing so with food! Using food to reward your fitness or dietary progress is undermining your ultimate goals and may reinforce an unhealthy relationship with food. Instead celebrate with self-care (massage, pedicure, a bath), treating yourself to something you normally would not (a new outfit, a new book), or a trip or activity you have wanted to do.

9. Make Adjustments

As you progress, you should check back on the goals you wrote down from time to time. This will allow you to tweak your goals if needed. For example, if your goal was to lose 10lbs by the end of March and on February 5th you have already lost 8lbs, you should try making your goal more difficult! You can also look to add more detail to your goal, instead of just squatting 135lbs, how many reps do you want to do? In order to make your resolutions sustained behavioral changes you must be able to self-reflect and be flexible.

10. Know that Set Backs are Normal

You are human, you are going to make mistakes and the world will not end! Going to a birthday party and eating some cake or missing a few days in a row at the gym should not be enough to derail all your hard work. DO NOT GIVE UP THAT EASILY!

Allow yourself some freedoms and guilty pleasures now and then, not only will this allow yourself some sanity but it will also make big setback less likely to occur. For example, if you LOVE chocolate do not deny yourself chocolate altogether, switch to dark chocolate and allow yourself a couple pieces on Sunday evenings as you prepare for your week. Allowing yourself this small treat once a week will make you less likely to gorge yourself on the plethora of chocolates around on Valentine’s Day.

With the help of these tips you will be well on your way to your goals for 2018! Let make this year your best year yet.

If you need some extra help sticking to your resolution, enlist the help of our SST coaches and our incredible Adult fitness programs. We have a program for every fitness level and every goal!

Check out our incredible 2 for 1 deal we have going on in February!

Did You Waste Your Time With Your New Years Resolution?! Part 1

So the first month of 2018 has come and gone; how are those New Year Resolutions treating you?

If you’re like the majority of people, when the New Year comes along you start making resolutions. Promises to save more money, keep in touch with friends and one of the most popular, get in better shape! Well, the resolution part is easy but sticking to your goal, that is the hard part!

According to some research, upwards of 92% of New Year resolutions do not succeed!! With the odds stacked against us, the easy thing would be to join the masses and just give up, but my resolution was to make sure YOU stick to your resulution. So, I put together my top 10 tips to help you stick to those resolutions and be a part of that illustrious 8%! IT’S NOT TOO LATE!

1.Make sure your Resolutions are Realistic

Haven’t been to the gym in a couple years? That’s okay, but your resolution probably shouldn’t be to start going to the gym 7 days a week. Not only is that a really daunting task (even for someone who goes to the gym regularly!) but it sets you up for failure. What happens when you miss one day? It makes it easier to talk yourself out of the next, and the next, and next thing you know your resolution is down the drain!

Rather, aim for something that is more realistic and maintainable. Start with aiming to go 2 or 3 days a week (if it’s been a while you will be sore and you will be happy to give your body some extra rest!). Once you get into the swing of things add an extra day, a couple weeks later add another. Before you know it, it will become second nature to get to the gym on a regular basis and you will avoid feeling overwhelmed and defeated by the gym

2. Be Specific

Vagueness is the enemy when it comes to goal setting. If you don’t know exactly what you’re working towards how will you know when you’ve attained it?

Instead of saying you want to lose weight or get stronger make specific, measureable, time-bound goals for yourself. For example:

– I want to lose 10lbs and 7% body fat by March 31st, 2018

– I want to back squat 135lbs by May 1st, 2018 (I’m well on my way!!)

Are making statements like this scary? Yes.

Is there a chance you may not meet this goal? Yes.

However, giving yourself something specific to work towards will make it more likely for you to stick to your goals.

3. Go Public

Making a silent promise to yourself will not cut it, tell the world! Tell your partner, your friends, make a statement on social media; making your goal public gives you accountability. Yes, telling people about your goals may make you feel vulnerable but it will also push you to stick to your goals.

 

4. Enlist a Friend

Having a gym buddy will make you, and your friend, more likely to stick to your plan. If you know you are meeting someone at the gym you are less likely to skip going and if you want to cancel you have someone asking you why. Accountability is key!

Can’t find someone who wants to go to the gym with you or your friend lives far away? Have a friend check in with you and ask how things are going periodically. Having someone to answer to increases the likelihood that you will stick with it.

5. Plan Ahead

In order to stick to your resolution you need a plan. If you have no idea what you are going to do to achieve your goal then how are you going to get there?! Take some time each week to plan out your upcoming week. Pick the days and times you are going to go to the gym, plan your meals for the week, make a shopping list, prep your meals, put together healthy on-the-go snacks.

It may sound like a lot, but taking an hour or two once a week will make it SO much easier to stick to your goals as your busy week gets rolling. You are less likely to make a quick stop at the drive-thru when you know you have dinner prepped in the fridge or you have healthy snacks stored in your car. Having a shopping list at the grocery store will make you less likely to throw the unhealthy foods in the cart. If your gym time is in your schedule, you are more likely to go! Planning gives you direction!

 

If you liked our first 5 tips, check back soon for Part 2!

If your resolution need an extra helping hand, check out SST’s incredible Adult Fitness Programs!

With supportive coaches, encouraging training partners and an energetic environment; the results you want are not out of reach!

Check out our incredible 2 for 1 deal we have going on in February!

 

Are you Slow? It Could be Your Nutrition! Read Larry’s Tip!!

Running (Speed) and jumping (Power) are skills necessary for successful performance in sports, and must therefore be prioritized during training. We have previously covered how to increase your speed and vertical jump through training. However, much like the way you look, nutrition will also impact your ability to run faster and jump higher.

 

 

An article published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research studied the effects of a 4 week energy restricted diet on sprint & jump performance, body composition, and hormone profiles in elite male track athletes… the results were amazing!

A caloric restriction of 750 calories per day (carbs & fats reduced, protein held at 2g/kg/day) combined with regular training resulted in:

  1. Significant reduction in body mass and fat mass. Athletes lost about 1lb a week.
  2. Maintenance of lean muscle mass.
  3. Improved 20m sprint and countermovement jump.
  4. Unaltered testosterone levels.

How can this be explained?

Increased power-to-weight ratio. Reducing body weight while preserving muscle allows you to still produce the same amount of force but now you have less weight to move around, resulting in faster, more explosive movements!

Taken together, this research further supports what we focus on at SST: getting athletes leaner and stronger to improve their speed and power.

Are you in need of some speed training, or getting ready for your season and feel like you need that extra help….For a limited time SST is offering a first time offer:

 

8 PRIVATE ONE ON ONE SESSIONS – NORMAL VALUE $899.99

For the month of February only- ONLY 399.99! 60% off!

Quite a few of you have taken advantage of this savings!

Thus we only have 7 packages left due to our limited capacity

If you truly want to get better this is the time

Please contact Larry ASAP and state “I am in Big Dawg!”

 

How to improve your 40 yard dash- Part 1

If you want to go places in football, then you had better work on your 40 yard dash. While the forty yard dash is probably the most overrated test, it’s also the test that most coaches rely on when scouting a player. Given the emphasis that is placed on this one test, I am surprised at how many athletes come to combines and camps unprepared. I see athletes wearing the wrong shoes or the wrong clothes and I can tell that many of them don’t know the proper starting technique or running mechanics. Furthermore, it’s obvious that most players haven’t done any effective speed or strength training leading up to the big day. I tell my athletes that they have to consider the forty yard dash as a job interview that could land them a scholarship or millions of dollars when their stock goes up in the draft. Remember that first impressions mean everything, so plan ahead and be prepared to run like a professional. Don’t get me wrong, running a great 40 yard dash doesn’t mean that you’re automatically a great football player, but it will turn heads and give you the chance needed to show universities or professional teams what you can do on the field.

When training for the 40 yard dash, players tend to forget how important it is to be STRONG! I have yet to see a weak player run a great forty yard dash. As a Sports Performance Coach I know through personal experience that players who speed and strength train on a continuous basis will experience dramatic gains over those who only focus on speed training. One athlete who followed SST’s 12-week speed and strength training program went from a 5.05 to a 4.62 at the National football combines this year.

There are three main factors that SST considers when designing a strength training program for football players who want to decrease their forty yard dash time. First, we assess the player’s experience and abilities. Factors such as age, previous training experience, fitness level and amount of time available for training are considered. Next, we evaluate the player’s 40 yard dash to determine weaknesses. Do we need to improve his start, decrease his ground contact time or work on reaching maximum speed? Lastly, we focus on strengthening the player’s weakest muscles. As a general rule SST has found that football players tend to have weak lower back, hamstring and VMO muscle (VMO, or vastus medialis, is the teardrop muscle found on the inside of the quadriceps), therefore for the purpose of this article we will highlight , what we believe to be, the top six exercises designed to strengthen these muscles.

In Part I of this two part article, I will explain the first three exercises: snatch grip dead-lifts, tire flipping and Olympic lifts and their derivatives. These exercises strengthen lower back and hamstring muscles which are key components for achieving maximum speed.

Exercise #1 – Snatch Grip Dead-lifts

If I had to choose only one strength training exercise to improve a player’s 40 yard dash time, I would pick snatch grip deadlifts because they work the entire posterior chain (lower back and hamstrings). Snatch grip dead-lifts are a bit different than your traditional deadlift in that they recruit more of the hamstrings due to the angle of the trunk and a wider grip.

Results: improve start, increase maximum speed

Description: Starting position- feet are shoulder width apart. Grip is wider than your traditional grip. Elbows are turned out. Shoulder blades are retracted. Knees over the bar. Chest and shoulders over the bar. Lower back is arched. Initiate lift with hamstrings and lower back. Maintain lower back arch throughout. Keep bar path straight.

Variations: snatch grip dead-lifts off a podium, snatch grip dead-lifts with chains and traditional dead-lifts.

Exercise #2 – Tire Flipping

Tire flipping is not your traditional weight room exercise but it’s a functional way to develop the posterior chain (lower back and hamstrings). This is a grueling exercise that has lot of return for its effort.

Results: improve grip strength, decrease 40 time (after 12 weeks SST athletes decreased their 40 time by up to 3 tenths)

Description: Start in a deadlift position and grab the tire from underneath (fingers under the tire). Lift the tire using your legs and pop your hips forward. Flip your hands around (palms on the tire) and push the tire away from you in an explosive manner. You must keep your back arched throughout the entire movement to prevent lower back injuries.

Exercise #3 – Olympic Lifts and Derivatives

Olympic Lifts consist of power cleans, hang cleans and snatches. These exercises must be done explosively which means as fast as possible. The amount of weight doesn’t matter as much as the speed of the bar. Of all the Olympic lifts the snatch uses the most muscles in the body. People tend to shy away from this exercise but I have found it to be the most effective and easier to teach than cleans. In order to achieve maximum results and avoid injury it’s important to employ proper technique and use the right weight when performing Olympic lifts. If you are not familiar with Olympic lifting and their derivatives call your local weightlifting club or email me at sst@sstcanada.com

Results: faster starts and less ground contact time

Description: An explanation of hang snatch from thigh will be provided because it is the most applicable. Starting position – feet are shoulder width apart. Grasp bar with hook grip. To determine the distance between hand placements measure your elbow to elbow distance with arms straight out to sides. From this point move the bar explosively from thighs by extending the hip, knee and ankle joints in a jumping action. This is also known as “triple extension” of the joints. Keep the bar close to the body. This is a very important element and should be perfected. At maximum plantar flexion (up on the balls of the feet), shrug the shoulders, flex and pull with the arms. Pull the bar as high as possible. As the bar reaches maximum height, flex and then rotate elbows around and under the bar. Then fully extend the elbows and lock the bar overhead. Catch the bar with knees and hips flexed and squat down slowly and under control. The hang snatch is a complicated exercise that should only be performed in the presence of a qualified coach.

In Part II, I will explain the remaining three exercises that focus on increasing VMO strength: squats with chains, wobble board split squats and sled dragging. Strengthening the VMO muscle will help decrease ground contact time which is vital in order to increase speed. The less time a player spends on the ground, the faster he’ll be!

Larry Jusdanis is the owner of Sports Specific Training Inc. SST has trained thousands of athletes from a variety of sports. SST’s no nonsense approach to training has been used by thousands of athletes’ from a variety of sports all over the nation!

Larry Jusdanis

Owner, Sports Specific Training

Sstcanada.com

Director of the National Association of Speed and Explosion (NASE)

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