10 Practical S&C tips

10 Practical S&C tips from the gym floor

By The Stoic Strength Coach 

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10 Practical S&C tips – Photo by Jelmer Assink 

Since many of you enjoyed my last post on the 10 S&C lessons from Academy football, I thought it would be good to post on what I have learned from the gym floor to get strong. Here is a post on 10 practical S&C tips you can apply right away. Enjoy!

Our emphasis is on execution, not winning. – Pat Summitt

  1. A wooden dowel is a great teaching tool. Simple and cheap. I have attached an amazon affiliate link of the ones I have purchased in the past. (Click here).
  2. Barbell complexes are a great way to warm up as it hits all major movements from squat pattern to overhead pressing. 
  3. Foam Rolling – No need to do more than 5 mins. You can cover the whole body in less than 5 if done efficiently.
  4. For group-based work be sure to organise your gym space before players/clients come in, as it will help your session run more smoothly. Placing exercises in certain positions is key, to reduce confusion and waiting times.
  5. Use your imagination – Utilise the equipment you have. For example, if you don’t have enough barbells and have squatting and RDL work in your program, use the barbell to squat and dumbbells to RDL. By using different pieces of kit you will reduce waiting times between exercises.
  6. If you are limited on weight, using Single leg (SL) various of exercises is a great way to load up. 
  7. Supersetting exercises is a must if you wish to use the most of your time in the gym. There are many ways you can do this from upper and lower body lift superset to linking a lower body lift with an upper body mobility or core exercise. It is important to identify what each area players need to focus on and ensure they are working on that particular area. Using the results from a players individual movement screen is a great way to identify this.
  8. Pairing athletes together is a great way to encourage communication among the team and it’s a fantastic opportunity for players to lead on certain exercises. This will also give you more eyes on the athletes that require more attention.
  9. If you don’t have the budget for gym programming software, the use of google drive is great way to link players to their gym programs without the use of sheets of paper. By doing so all they will need is a Gmail account which is free to set up.
  10. Don’t forget to put in Frontal and Transverse plane exercises. We as coaching tend to get stuck in the sagittal plane.

Food for thought. Till next time, Stay Stoic,

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Are you learning from your mistakes?

We have all heard the saying – “you should learn from your mistakes”, but are you?

By The Stoic Strength Coach 

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Making mistakes
Photo by  Sarah Kilian

Learn from your mistakes! In theory, that is excellent advice, but implementation is another thing. Looking back at our mistakes and failures can take a hit on your ego and ultimately help in the long run. The key is to shift the mistake from a negative experience to a positive learning one. 

The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything. – Theodore Roosevelt

For example, if all the data has been erased from your computer, you have no backup. 

So, what have you learned? 

That you need to back up your data regularly onto other systems, ok, this is a straightforward example, but you get the idea. Take the negativity away and bring in the learning opportunity.

A simple trick as having a little notepad to highlight these failures when they occur is a great way of learning. By writing them down, it can help in several ways:

  1. It will help you reflect, process, and move on 
  2. It can help you identify trends for the future
  3. By writing down advice, it can help guide you in the future.

Yes, this will test your ego, but it will help you in the long run for continuous development. 

Food for thought. Till next time, Stay Stoic,

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Have you gone walking today?

“It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth” – Nietzsche

Had an argument with your partner?

Tough day at work?

Feeling anxious or nervous about the latest news on COVID?

Go for a walk…get them walking shoes on.

Take advantage while you can and get outside. The key is to get out and go somewhere quiet. Get out of the loud city into the peace and quietClear that head of yours

Simple but effective, and of course, leave that little distraction device behind. 

Food for thought. Till next time, Stay Stoic,

SSC

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The Business of Core Training

As Strength and Conditioners/Sports Scientists working with athletes, we program everything from conditioning and gym-based work to core development. In theory, there should always be a rationale for anything we do based on evidence from previous experience or academic research. It has been stated that the development of the trunk region or “core” (the more common term) is ‘a vital part of strength and conditioning (S&C) and general fitness programs for athletes and non-athletes’ (1,2,3). The implementation of core training has been cited to potentially have a positive effect on sporting activities and daily living (4,5,6). Now before we dive further, we must cover the following from a business perspective as ultimately, it is our business to look after our athletes/clients in regards to physical training.

  • What is the core?
  • Why do we train it?
  • When do we look at training it?
  • Whom do we train it with?
  • How do we train it?

What is the core?

Among the research, the core has been stated as the connection between the upper and lower extremities (3,7). It refers primarily to the muscular structures around the trunk region and has been split into 3 groups: 1) global core stabilizers (e.g., rectus abdominus), 2) local core stabilizers (e.g., transverse abdominus), and 3) upper and lower extremity core-limb transfer muscles (e.g., latissimus dorsi, glutes) (8). Putting it in simple terms, the core is nipple to knee and everything in-between!

Why do we train it?

Strength and stability around the trunk region through the use of core-based training has been very popular in recent years, but are we doing it for the right reason? Research has shown that the use of such training has a potential effect on sporting performance (1,2,3), but this has been debated in a few empirical studies also (9,10). The use of core training as a method of reducing injuries of the lumbar spine and lower extremities has also been suggested (2,5,6,11). It has been noted that the use of localized isometric trunk work around the lumbar region can potentially reduce lower back pain (LBP) (3,12).

When do we train it?

In regards to when to train the core, it really does depend on your environment and circumstances. If you are limited for time, there are various options to can use to ensure you get what you require out of your athletes.

  1. Player led prehab – This is prehab work that your athletes carry out without you being present, although I would recommend that a coach is present for the first few weeks of preseason to ensure players are performing the exercise correctly.
  2. Warm-ups – You can easily implement trunk-based exercises in the warm-up, especially on lower intensity days such as MD+2.  You can also flip this and perform the exercises as part of a cool down. Literature in recent times has noted that the use of an active cool-down is largely ineffective; therefore, you can gain some valuable time here.
  3. Gym rest periods – Placing exercises in between rest periods during your gym sessions is every effective as it keeps athletes switched on for the whole course and did not take any extra time. 

Whom do we train?

This section is pretty self-explanatory, but with working with athletes in regards to core training, your focus is on all athletes but in particular those who are suffering from recurring LBP. Athletes and general populations with trunk weaknesses are your main area of concern. 

How do we train the core?

The use of isometric based core training, which uses exercises such as the front plank and the Pallof press instead of exercises that require repetitive flexions such as the sit-up or crunch, is recommended. Academic work by Stuart McGill has outlined this, and I would recommend reading into his work on this area (2). The rationale of using such exercises is to promote stability in the area and not mobility (which occurs through repetitive flexion); therefore, it would be deemed wise to use isometric based exercises such as the deadbug or front plank. Mike Boyle, in his fantastic book Functional Training for Sports, also outlined that core training is about motion prevention and not motion creation (14).

Now since we have covered which type of exercise to perform, we need to talk about where exactly. As mentioned previously the core is from nipple to knee and all around, so it is essential you target all; therefore, you must focus on the front (anterior), side (lateral), and the back (posterior). With this in mind, one must ensure they are programming at least one of each to keep the core training balanced. In regards to programming, keep it simple stupid (KISS) – meaning start easy and gradually build up.

Core training is about motion prevention and not motion creation.

Here I recommend the following training guidelines as a simple starting point:

ExerciseWeek1Week2Week3Week4
Deadbug (Anterior)10 reps x 3 sets12 reps x 3 sets15 reps x 3 sets20 reps x 3 sets
Side Plank (Lateral)20 sec x 3 sets30 sec x 3 sets40 sec x 3 sets50 sec x 3 sets
Glute Bridge (Posterior)10 reps x 3 sets12 reps x 3 sets15 reps x 3 sets20 reps x 3 sets
     

Food for thought.

Till next time, Stay Stoic,

SSC

Strength Training

What is it all about? Well, if we go to the research, the term strength means ‘the ability to apply force.’ Now you may be wondering, why does that concern me? The main reason we are recommended to strength train is to get stronger. The reason why we want to be stronger is, it aids in our ability to move freely the older we get and helps combat ageing.

Strength training helps build bone strength, meaning that it helps reduce breaks and falls later on in life. This type of training is also good for our mental health, with studies showing a positive link to our mental wellbeing.

But how?

Here are the 6 key points to need to strength train effectively.

  1. Use big compound exercises. My personal favourites are the Back Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, Overhead Press, and the DB Row.
  2. Keep the rep ranges between 4-6.
  3. Keep the set to a maximum of 3
  4. Perform each exercise with the full range of motion (ROM)
  5. Increase the weight every 3 sessions by 1.25 or 2.5kg.
  6. Ensure your technique is assessed by a trained professional to make sure you are performing the exercise correctly.

Food for thought.

Till next time, Stay Stoic,

SSC

Core training – Are we making it too complicated?

Core training or trunk training is utilized by all, from athletic individuals to general populations, but are we creating more work for ourselves when we program it?

Nevertheless, why do we program for the core in the first place?

The core has been outlined as the kinetic link between the upper and lower body, which coincides which the idea of it aiding in sporting performance (1). Performance enhancement is one side of the coin, with injury reduction being the other. Now before we go any further, the idea of ‘Injury Prevention’ is not plausible. As practitioners, we have to accept the fact that our athletes/clients may get injured at some stage. The key is to try to reduce such injuries, so they occur less and less often hence the word ‘injury reduction’.  The use of core training has been outlined as a method to address weakness in the trunk region, increasing core stability, thus reducing recurring lower back pain (LBP). So you could argue that the use of such modalities does enhance performance as it allows one to perform at their maximum, reducing the risk of injury.

Core training or trunk training is utilized by all, from athletic individuals to general populations, but are we creating more work for ourselves when we program it?

Number one, I am a firm believer in the isometric based training, which uses exercises such as the front plank and the Pallof press instead of exercises which require repetitive flexion such as the sit-up or crunch. Lots of academic work by Stuart McGill has outlined this, and I would recommend reading into his work on this area (2). The rationale of using such exercises is to promote stability in the area and not mobility (which occurs through repetitive flexion); therefore, it would be deemed wise to use isometric based exercises such as the deadbug or front plank. Mike Boyle, in his fantastic book Functional Training for Sports, outlined that core training is about motion prevention and not motion creation (3)

Now since we have covered which type of exercise to perform, we need to talk about where. Well, the core is from nipple to knee and all around, so it is essential you target all; therefore, you must focus on the front (anterior), side (lateral), and the back (posterior). With this in mind, one must ensure they are programming at least one of each in order to keep the core training balanced. Now let us get on to the programming side of things – the fun bit. In regards to programming, keep it simple stupid (KISS) – meaning start easy and gradually build up. We recommend the following training guidelines:

Exercise 1 – Deadbug (anterior)

Exercise 2 – Side plank (left and right – lateral)

Exercise 3 – Glute bridge (posterior)

Frequency (Twice per week)

Week 1 – 3 sets of 20sec

Week 2 – 3 sets of 30sec

Week 3 – 3 sets of 40sec

Week 4 – 3 sets of 20sec – change/increase exercise difficulty and repeat process.

I hope this was helpful and stay stoic,

Stoic Strength Coach.

References

  1. Willardson, J. (2014). Developing the Core: NSCA-National Strength & Conditioning Association.
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Stuart_Mcgill
  3. Boyle, M. (2016). New functional training for sports. Human Kinetics.