Each offseason athletes come into PSP with the mindset of being the hardest worker to achieve whatever goal they are trying to obtain. Working hard in the gym is an important part of developing athleticism and improving your play on the field, but a common misconception is that training is the most important part of improving performance. Although training in the weight room is important, your training sessions are only a small part of your day, what you do during your time away from the gym can be the difference between success and failure. The time outside of training is your recovery period and it is an important part of optimizing your performance and reducing your chance of sustaining an injury. Enhancing your recovery can help reduce muscle soreness, increase performance, and improve mental focus to ensure you get the most out of your training sessions at PSP. When people think of recovery most people think of stretching, foam rolling, and ice baths but these practices only have a small influence on your recovery. The biggest factors influencing your recovery are nutrition, sleep, and stress. In today’s post we will be tackling how each of these factors affect recovery and ways to improve them.
Most athletes fail to properly fuel themselves to get the most out of their bodies and maximize recovery. The biggest question we get at PSP is “what should I be eating?”. Now that is a loaded question, and in short it depends on the person but check out the PSP nutrition guide for a full list of recommended foods to eat. As athletes, we need to remember that our bodies are like a machine and what we eat is our fuel. If we don’t fill ourselves up with the high-quality foods to use as energy, our bodies won’t be able to perform at the highest level possible. High quality foods are foods that are minimally processes, use minimal ingredients, and provide important nutrients to the body. I always say that if there are a bunch of ingredients on the label that you can’t read then you should probably look for a better alternative. If you are having trouble deciding what a high-quality food is the app Fooducate is a great app to use, as it gives a quality score from A-F and tells you about the ingredients used in the product. The amount of food you need to eat varies from person to person but it is important to listen to your body. When your body tells you its hungry then feed it, if your body tells you its full then don’t. Eating enough high-quality foods will help the body better repair muscle damage from exercise, improve performance, and increase mental clarity.
Sleep is one of the most important factors that influence athletic performance, yet 73% of high school students fail to get the 8-10 hours of sleep recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). While we sleep important processes that improve cognitive function, increase muscle growth, and promote proper recovery, such as an increased release of human growth hormone, are carried out. When you are missing out on sleep your decision making, energy, endurance, reaction time, and athletic ability become diminished and your risk of getting injured or sick increases. Getting enough sleep is important, but the quality of your sleep is just as important for helping you maximize your training and recovery. Some simple ways to help improve the quality of your sleep include:
Whether you are an adult or a student athlete we all have a lot on our plates. While its easy to get wrapped up in our stressful lives it is important that we take time for ourselves to relieve our stress. Stress can affect the body in several ways such as increasing muscle soreness, increasing anxiety, disturbing sleep patterns, reducing mental focus, changes in mood, and GI issues, all of which will affect recovery. It is important that you set aside some time each day to allow yourself to unwind and destress. While coming to PSP and getting in a killer workout is a great way to reduce some stress, there are other ways to reduce stress. Some tips and techniques to help you manage stress include:
It is important to remember that everyone’s recovery process will be different, what works for one person may not work for another. With all the information in the article it comes down to how you use it. It’s important to remember that small changes can go a long way in improving yourself as long as you stay consistent and are committed to changing for the better. I look forward to contributing to the PSP blog and hope you enjoyed this article.
Written by: Jen Boyle
I am sure we have all been told at one time or another that “Posture is Key” but what does this really mean?
Well let us tell you!
Over the past two years our lives have been turned upside down and we have been forced to adapt to a new lifestyle. Changes such as working/schooling from home, increased sitting time, decrease in activity level and so much more. We here at PSPT have been seeing a steady increase in neck, shoulder, upper back and lower back pain that are heavily linked to- you guessed it- Posture! In a post - pandemic world we are seeing a new pattern of injuries due to underuse, overuse and inappropriate movement patterns getting back to normalcy following the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions. Adapting and educating people on combating newly sedentary habits, appropriate return to sport and activity protocols, and proper work-from-home ergonomics have been crucial in reducing injury.
Poor posture and body mechanics are typically contributing factors as to why other body parts such as your neck, shoulders, upper back and even your low back could be in pain. This is referred to as interregional dependence which means that seemingly unrelated body regions can contribute and be associated with a person's primary area of symptoms. In the case of posture, people tend to gravitate toward an “upper cross syndrome” presentation that accentuates a forward head and rounded shoulders type of posture typically seen when we lose the fight against gravity. From a Physical Therapy standpoint this means people presenting this way tend to have a tight pectoralis, upper trapezius and levator scapula muscles and weakness in their deep neck flexors and rhomboids, middle trapezius and serratus anterior.
So the big question now is how can we combat this?
Simple put- we want to stretch what is tight and strengthen what is weak. Stretches such as an upper trapezius and pectoralis stretch and strengthening exercises such as rows and push up plus are a great starting point to help combat this type of posture. There is also an overwhelming amount of evidence that supports increased thoracic spine mobility being linked to improvements in neck and shoulder pain/dysfunction- so get those foam rollers out for some thoracic spine hinging! There are many more exercises and techniques to be performed to help combat our new lifestyles such as rearranging our desks, getting a standing desk and taking frequent breaks. As much as
we would like to generalize these exercises to help with posture - everyone is different and may require a different approach. To know exactly what your body needs come see us for a postural screen!
Despite often being lumped together strength and conditioning coaches and personal trainers are vastly different. Though they are in the same industry nearly every aspect of their education, experience, and methodologies oppose one another. The most obvious difference between the two is in their clientele. Strength coaches deal almost exclusively with athletes while trainers deal with the general population.
Training for sports performance must be highly specific to the sport the athlete participates in. The success or failure of training is ultimately determined by performance on the field. If the coach is able to improve the athlete’s 40 time but that speed does not transfer to game speed it is all for not. Along the same lines small improvements in physical characteristics, even if they seem to be insignificant, can result in large improvements on the field. Training for sports can be less exciting because the types of workouts that are most effective utilize a long period of time in order to produce more effective adaptations to sport.
When training a general fitness client, improvements in physical qualities are the goal in itself. Where sports performance is specific general fitness is just that, general. This allows for more variety in training and more variation in training philosophies. Being able to vary training greatly makes for greater enjoyment in training which keeps clients motivated which makes up for the lack of competition motivators that athletes have.
Athletes have very concrete goals which include games and competitions. This provides a strong extrinsic motivation. On the other hand general fitness often lacks the extrinsic motivators that sports naturally incorporate. Non-athletes need to find a unique intrinsic motivator in order to have success within any exercise program. When clients enjoy the process itself greater results are achieved in a shorter period of time.
To sum up, any type of exercise training the coach/trainer must understand that goals are what dictate the training. Only through knowing the athlete’s/client’s goals can they determine the most effective training program.
any strength and conditioning coaches will claim that training an athlete is more art than science. While there is some truth to this, having a sound rationale for the contents of a training program can not be undervalued. Knowledge of the research and practical experience need to work hand in hand in order to provide the best results for an athlete.
An unfortunate but not uncommon response by strength coaches when the topic of research is brought up is "I coach on/in the field/weightroom not in a lab". What they are forgetting is that practical advancements have come as the result of laboratory based research whether they know it or not. For example it is common place for coaches to use programs that involve 3 sets of a given exercise. Where did 3 come from, why not just 1, or 5, isn't more better? The truth is that a study was done to determine the optimal number of sets for strength training. The results showed that comparing 1 set to 2 sets the subjects that performed 2 sets showed a 50% high improvement in strength, and when comparing 2 sets to 3 sets the subjects performing 3 sets showed a 33% higher improvement in strength. They continued to compare higher numbers of sets but it was clear that after 3 sets the results started to show diminishing returns.
With that being said the reverse is just as dangerous. Coaches must also avoid falling into the trap of taking what they read at face value. If a study sounds too good to be true it probably is, one publication does not constitute evidence. Research of a topic must be replicated and verified before it can be considered valid. Only when there is an accumulation of evidence on a topic should it be incorporated into a training program.
To sum up, a coach is responsible for every aspect of their athlete’s training program. They need to have sound rationale for the contents of a training program, which should be based on a large body of scientific evidence.
Strength training is often viewed as a single thing both in sports performance training as well as in general fitness training. People say things like " I do strength training once a week." or "Can strength training benefit me?" this demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what strength training is and how it is applied.
The NSCA breaks down strength training into several different "goals" which are as follows.
Block style training matches up well with this type of breakdown of training goals. In this style of programming your training cycle is broken up in to sever different blocks that consist of multiple weeks of training. Each block has a specific goal and physiological adaptation that it is trying to accomplish. Take for example an athlete who needs to increase muscle mass and build size in the off-season. Hypertrophy would be a large focus of their overall training program. Their first off-season training block would be with the goal of hypertrophy. As stated earlier, this goal will determine all factors that go into training, length of the block, which exercises, number of exercises reps, sets, rest intervals, etc.
The main advantage of this style of training is focus. Each block improves on physiological trait before moving on to another. Often times strength training programs can try and do multiple things at a time and fail to be productive as a whole. For the athlete example above, the first block is hypertrophy so once progress in that area is achieved then they can move on to the next block which may be something like strength, in which case the goal of building strength will dictate the training variables.
Having a focus allows the maximum amount of progress to be made by allowing the appropriate amount of time for development before variation is added to the program. This should be demonstrated by tangible progress within each individual training block.
Coaches at almost every level eventually get hit with the numbers problem. One coach may be responsible for numerous teams or extremely large teams. I know several college coaches that handle 20+ teams as the only coach. I also know other coaches who work with football programs that need to handle groups as large as 50 at a time.
One thing that I don't think gets stressed enough to new coaches is the value of simplicity. They are bombarded with information and are eager to implement what they know. The problem comes when their program is not doable given the numbers of athletes/teams. In this situation the coach needs to look at these situations the same way a doctor looks at an emergency room. The most important thing become triage, what is most important and how can I get the most progress out of the most athletes without risk of injury.
The most effective approach to running individual workouts is to know how you are going to organize the athletes. This is mostly done through stations, grouping, and timing. Keep the exercise selection simple to minimize the amount of teaching or corrections that will be needed. One of the best ways to manage a room that often gets left out is having a pre-workout meeting. Before they start, get the entire group together, explain how they are going to be split up, how and when they are going to move from exercise to exercise, thoroughly but briefly explain the entire workout, and quickly demo each exercise. This type of meeting will solve most issues that would arise and prevent problems before they happen. It also give the athletes a chance to get any questions answered ahead of time.
Doing these simple things can make a world of difference in the effectiveness of strength and conditioning training sessions. Just remember the best strength coaches are the most organized ones.
Based on the title it probably sounds like I'm about to write about the pitfalls of blaming yourself for failures and how it can be detrimental to your development as an athlete. I am not. In fact I plan on outlying how blaming yourself can be both beneficial and empowering.
There is a primary rule within the field of fault analysis that can be summarized as "Never assign blame to a part of a system that you don't have any control of". Assigning blame to something you have no control over will not promote any change that could lead to a different outcome next time. Take for example a soccer player who slips on a muddy section of grass causing them to miss a shot and lose a game. Some people may simply say "it's not your fault" or "it's just bad luck", but if you do that next time you are in a similar situation you are going to get the same bad outcome. A more productive line of thinking would be to say I missed because I was not aware of the environmental factors, which will lead you to account for this next time and hopefully create a better outcome.
Do not take this the wrong way and believe that you need to berate yourself for every mistake of instance of bad luck, but simply figure out what you could have done better in that situation and resolve to do better next time. There is ALWAYS some thing you could have done better. In this way blame can become a positive call to action.
By taking on this way of thinking it empowers the athlete and gives them a feeling of control over their success or failure. "I make things happen" rather than "Things happen to me". The primary rule is that there are NO excuses. Other players are not an excuse, officials are not an excuse, not even trying your best is an excuse. There is always something you could have done better, something you could have though of, some preparation that you failed to do. Taking ownership forces you to take action and improve yourself rather than deny blame and remain the same.
Hopefully knowing this will allow you to take control and ownership of both your athletic career and all other aspects of your life leading to better outcomes.
Many people have heard or even repeat the phrase "speed kills" when it comes to sports. This is true, but often it is being said to demonstrate that speed training is more important to strength training when it comes to sports performance. Speed and strength are certainly linked, but it is absolutely not a zero-sum contest between the two.
Running speed ultimately comes down to two variables, stride length and stride frequency. Increasing one or both will produce an increase in speed. Stride frequency is determined by how fast your muscles can activate and cycle through the running motion while stride frequency is determined by, first limb length, but also how much force can be put into the ground to propel the body forward as far as possible before the next step. These two factors are where muscular speed and strength meet.
Knowing how running works the next question is how do we improve it. First muscle firing speed is largely determined by muscle fiber type distribution, which unfortunately is largely genetic, but can be altered in a limited capacity by consistent high velocity training. Next we can improve the coordination of muscle firing when running. This is where running technique comes into play. Learning proper running mechanics allows the athlete to move at optimal efficiency to move as fast as possible. When muscles fire in a highly coordinated fashion the body is able to maximize the resultant speed. Last comes strength, which is the primary point of this post. Several studies examining how to improve running speed have determined that increases in speed can be improved most by increases in strength. By increasing the force put into the ground when running increases the force with which the athlete can propel their body forward. Strength as a physiological characteristic is also highly trainable so athletes are able to make strength improvements that result in speed improvements as well for most of their athletic career before they start to plateau, while on the other hand maximum muscle firing speed is reached much earlier in an athlete's career.
During the early days of strength training in sports coaches noticed that people with a lot of muscle mass were slow, inflexible, and poorly conditioned. They came to the conclusion that large amounts of muscle mass was the cause. This could not have been further from the truth and this myth has been toxic ever since. The true reason was that most of the people observed to have large amounts of muscle mass at the time were body builders that did not train for speed, flexibility, or conditioning. Fortunately we have seen the competition results and the truth is obvious. Look at the fastest people in the world (100m sprinters), nearly all are built like body builders.
To close out, the belief that improvements in strength create improvements in speed is well supporting in both the research and practical cases of competitive athletes. When done along with proper running mechanics improvements in strength will directly produce improvements in speed. And like the title says strength = speed!
One of the fundamental pillars of spots performance training is sport specificity. Training is most effective when the training most closely mimics the sport you are training for. This is why sport specificity is a core value at PSP when working with our athletes. Having said that, one thing that is forgotten is that specificity exists on a continuum and like all things it must be utilized properly and with moderation.
When putting together a training program several factors determine what level of specificity is needed. On a long-term scale younger athletes need less specificity than older athletes. Youth athletes are constantly in the process of building motor patterns and acquiring physical coordination therefore having them do a variety of movements will produce the most well-rounded athlete as they get older. Additionally, having a high level of coordination and physical competency makes them highly resistant to injuries of all kinds. If an athlete only trains very specific movement patterns any deviation will likely result in injury. This is the reason single sport athletes often burn out at a young age or are frequently injured.
Training periods closest to competition should involve the highest level of sport specificity while further out from competition should involve more generalized physical training. For the same reason as youth v. advanced athletes, further out from training you are looking to make large improvements in physiological factors (e.g. speed, strength, power) and as you get closer you will apply those qualities to your sport specific movements. This concept of “build then apply” is critical and often overlooked when training athletes.