Considerations in Athletic Performance Enhancement Training:
The Large Athlete and the Training Program Design
Robert A. Panariello MS, PT, LATC, CSCS
Professional Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy
Professional Athletic Performance Center
New York, New York
Athlete’s genetically come in all shapes and sizes. As athletes of various height’s, dimensions, and body types (i.e. ectomorph, mesomorph, endomorph) do exist, so do the “general requirements” of the athlete’s physical stature for not only specific sports of participation, but for the various specific positions of play of each sport of participation. For example, a 5 foot tall 120 pound individual would not likely be a successful center on a basketball team, just as a 7 foot tall 290 pound individual would not likely have a successful career as a jockey. In the sport of American football, a 6 foot 5 inch 325 pound athlete is not likely to be successful at the position of wide receiver just as a 6 foot 2 inch 185 pound athlete is not likely to succeed at the position of offensive tackle. If the athlete’s physical stature is a factor for the acceptable partaking of specific sports of participation as well as the specific position played during such athletic participation, is it inconceivable to take into account the athlete’s physical stature may also be a consideration when designing training programs, and more specifically, the training programs of larger athletes of heavier body weights?
The importance for the consideration of the larger athlete’s body weight, particularly in the weight room component of the athlete’s training program design was imparted upon me and my good friend NFL and Hall of Fame Strength and Conditioning (S&C) Coach Johnny Parker during our estimated 4+ years of studying together with a former Soviet Weightlifter and eventual Soviet National Level Weightlifting coach named Gregorio Goldstein. This was one training program design principle that was utilized successfully throughout the years I worked with Coach Parker and his NFL NY Giant players during their off-season training, as well as with my athletes during my 10 years as the Head S&C Coach at St. John’s University of New York and with my players during my tenure as the Head S&C Coach of the World League of American Football New York/New Jersey Knights. This consideration (principle) is one that I still utilize in the training of larger athletes to this day.
Guidelines in the Program Design of the Larger Athlete
1. The strength training exercise program design considerations for heavier weighted athletes are those exercises performed with the athletes on their feet (i.e. back squat, front squat, etc.). During the performance of these types of strength exercises the athlete will need a contribution of their entire body to ensure a success of their efforts. Since these exercise performances require the athlete to be on their feet, doesn’t the athlete not only have to lift the applied weighted implement, but their body weight (or at least the majority of their body weight) as well?
2. The S&C Professional should also be familiar with the categories of the “Zones of Intensity” (loads) that are available for selection and application during the program design and prescribed exercise performance. These program design “Zones of Intensity” are categorized as follows:
The Zones of Intensity
Zone I – 50% to 59% of the Athlete’s 1 RM
Zone II – 60% to 69% of the Athlete’s 1 RM
Zone III – 70% to 79% of the Athlete’s 1 RM
Zone IV – 80% to 89% of the Athlete’s 1 RM
Zone V – 90% to 99% of the Athlete’s 1 RM
3. “Larger” or “heavier” body weight athletes are those athletes who present with a body weight of greater than 110Kg (242 pounds).
4. The total number of specific exercise training repetitions performed is initially calculated at the “Zone of Intensity” level that is pre-determined by the S&C Professional. For example the Zone of Intensity I and/or II may be programed for the athlete’s warm-up but the first exercise set to consider (counted) for the over-all prescribed specific exercise daily training volume may not occur (begin) until the exercise efforts are executed at Zone of Intensity III.
5. The “absolute” strength quality is the actual amount of weight lifted by the athlete (Figure 1).
6. The “relative” strength quality is the absolute amount of weight lifted divided by the athlete’s body weight i.e. “pound for pound”. (Figure 1).
Body Weight Back Squat Absolute Strength Relative Strength
200 Pounds 400 pounds 400 Pounds 2 times body wt.
325 Pounds 600 Pounds 600 Pounds 1.846 times body wt.
Figure 1. Absolute vs. Relative Strength Qualities
In review of the information presented in Figure 1, during the back squat exercise performance, is the 200 pound athlete performing a back squat of 400 pounds or is the athlete actually lifting closer to 600 pounds when considering that this athlete must also lift their body weight in conjunction with the associated bar weight? Is the 325 pound athlete performing a back squat of 600 pounds or is the actual weight lifted closer to 925 pounds for the same reason stated above?
The lighter weight athlete will usually have a greater relative strength level when compared to the larger, heavier athlete. However with the exact same prescribed exercise Zone of Intensity, the larger athlete is lifting a greater “absolute” load, thus this superior “absolute” load along with their accompanying heavier body weight may result in the exact same programed back squat exercise performance to be more physically demanding upon the larger athlete. For example, a programed calculation of the exercise weight for each Zone of Intensity is based upon a percentage of the athlete’s specific exercise 1 RM performance (i.e. 75% of 1 RM is correlated to Zone Intensity III). Although the “lighter” and the “heavier” athlete’s many both have their program design intensities calculated at the same percentage of their 1 RM, the prescribed “absolute load” of 75% (Zone III) for the “lighter” athlete’s 1 RM is not the same as the “absolute load” calculation of 75% (Zone III) load prescribed for the “heavier” athlete. The greater absolute intensity (load) of the larger athlete’s 1 RM will also result in greater absolute weight loads lifted in each Zone of Intensity when compared to the absolute loads lifted at the same corresponding Zones of Intensity by the lighter athlete.
Case in point, a 75% (Zone of Intensity III) intensity of the larger athlete’s 600 pound back squat is an absolute load of 450 pounds. When the larger athlete’s absolute load is compared to the same 75% back squat (Zone of Intensity III) intensity of the lighter athlete, this same prescribed back squat exercise percentage results in a load of 300 pounds. In fact the exact same Zone III programed weight intensity of the larger athlete exceeds the 200 pound athlete’s absolute 1 RM MAX by approximately 12% (50 pounds). Considering this information how would a S&C Professional expect a program design of their larger weight athletes to be exactly the same (i.e. perform the exact same total exercise volume) in each comparable Zone of Intensity as their peers of lighter body weights throughout the training period? If the heavier athlete is prescribed the same programed accumulative work in all corresponding Zones of Intensity, how can these larger athletes possibly recover appropriately for future planned workouts to be performed over the entire prescribed training period?
Maintaining or Increasing the Athlete’s Body Mass
Additional considerations for why larger athlete’s should not perform the same amount of specific exercise repetitions in each corresponding Zone of Intensity when compared to their smaller peers is that these larger athletes need to maintain, and at times, improve their body mass. To accomplish this task these larger athletes may need to perform their “principal” and “assistance” strength exercises with higher exercise set volumes resulting in a greater amount of work performed. The larger athletes may perform a higher volume of prescribed “principle” exercise sets with 6 repetitions and may occasionally at times perform “assistance” exercises with 10 repetitions so that enough work is achieved to maintain or increase these larger athlete’s body mass (Figure 2).
“Smaller” athletes do not need the body mass of larger athletes, as the likely significant feature in their strength quality resume is speed. Greater body mass will likely result in a negative effect on running velocity, thus the smaller athlete may perform more total program design strength efforts with “principle” exercise work sets of 3 repetitions and the performance of “assistance” exercises at 5 or 6 repetitions when compared to the total program exercise design of the larger athletes. Generally speaking strength training will increase both the athlete’s strength levels as well as their muscle hypertrophy. The application of a specific program repetition set design will place emphasis based on the needs of the athlete.
Set Repetitions Exercise Set Emphasis
10 Repetitions Increased muscle hypertrophy, less strength gains
5 – 6 Repetitions Less hypertrophy vs. 10 reps but still suitable hypertrophy Higher strength gains vs. 10 repetitions per set
1-3 Repetitions Greatest strength gains, least amount of muscle hypertrophy
Figure 2. Exercise Set Volume – Muscle Hypertrophy vs. Strength Gains
Contingent upon factors such as the athlete’s age, training experience, gender, etc., the program design of both the larger and the smaller experienced athlete will likely include exercise performance volume efforts in all of the Zones of Intensity. However, when comparing the specific program design of the larger athlete to the smaller athlete, approximately 50% of the larger athlete’s total program design training volume of all exercises to be performed will likely occur in Zones of Intensity II and III, while the smaller athlete will have approximately 50% of their total exercise program design training volume performed in Zones of Intensity III and IV.
Athletes genetically derive in all shapes and sizes. When comparing the larger athlete to their smaller peer during their participation in competitive sports as well as the specific positions played in these competitive sports, there are obvious physical stature requirements and differences noted. Is it is not unreasonable for the S&C Professional to have the same considerations in the development of the larger athlete’s training program design as well?
Considerations in Elbow Rehabilitation and Athletic Performance Enhancement Training: Glenohumeral Internal Rotation Deficit (G.I.R.D.), It Affects More Than Just the Shoulder
- Robert Panariello -
Scientific investigations performed over the past few decades have recognized that the overhead throwing motion (i.e. pitching), as well as other high angular velocity overhead activities generates tremendous demands upon the glenohumeral (GH) joint of the shoulder. What should also be taken into consideration are the associated stresses that also occur at the elbow joint, and more specifically at the medial aspect of this joint during the performance of these high velocity activities. The act of pitching, and particularly the internal rotation of the shoulder that occurs during the high velocity pitching motion is the fastest human movement recorded with speeds exceeding 7250 degrees per second. It has been well documented that participation in the sport of baseball may result in an upper extremity injury resulting in the consequential loss of significant playing time with the pitcher being the most commonly injured player.
Inquiries of the source(s) of various “overhead” throwing type shoulder injuries have lead to multiple scientific investigations from numerous clinicians and professionals. The findings of many of these professionals have established a discrepancy in the measured shoulder internal rotation (IR) range of motion (ROM) of the dominant (throwing) shoulder when compared to that of the non-dominant (non-throwing) shoulder. This phenomenon has been referred to in the literature as GIRD (Glenohumeral Internal Rotation Deficit) and has been substantiated as one probable cause of various dominant upper extremity pathologies.
The work of my good friend Kevin Wilk and his associates have recognized the “Total Rotational Motion” (TRM) concept of the shoulder. This TRM concept proposes that the passive range of motion (PROM) of the shoulder is measured for both IR and external rotation (ER) at 90 degrees of shoulder abduction (with the scapula stabilized). These two ROM measurements are then added together to determine the shoulder TRM. These measurements are performed for both dominant and non-dominate shoulders and compared for any ROM discrepancies.
In review of Wilk’s research as well as our years of telephone and dinner conversations discussing various topics including the issue of GIRD, Kevin proposes, as substantiated by his research, when comparing the dominant (throwing shoulder) to the non-dominant (non-throwing) shoulder, the IR ROM deficit should not be greater than 15 degrees and the TRM should not exceed more than 5 degrees of the total (IR + ER) shoulder motion. Dominant throwing shoulder IR and/or TRM deficits of greater than 15 degrees or 5 degrees respectively, demonstrate significantly higher shoulder injury rates resulting in a loss of playing time.
The Effect of GIRD upon the Throwing Elbow
Participation in the activity of pitching or other overhead throwing type motions (i.e. javelin, etc.) subjects the elbow joint, much like the GH joint of the shoulder, to tremendous stress forces. Approximately 26% of all injuries to major league baseball pitchers involve the elbow joint. During the overhead pitching motion the elbow extends at speeds greater than 2300 degrees per second, and has both a medial shear force of 300 N and a compressive force of 900N respectively. In addition, a (elbow) valgus stress force of 64 Nm is produced during the acceleration phase of throwing, a force that exceeds the tensile strength of the Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL). To “counteract” these high stresses, the elbow joint is reliant on both bony (the ulno-humeral articulation) and soft tissue restraints (UCL) in an effort to preserve appropriate joint stability. The repetitive high valgus stress forces that occur during throwing type activities may cause ulnohumeral chrondral and ligamentous overload (UCLO) resulting in such consequences as UCL pathology/insufficiency, osteophytosis, chondral damage (chrondromalacia), disabling elbow pain, and the incapacity to effectively throw at pre-injury performance levels.
It has also been substantiated that during the throwing motion, active shoulder IR establishes a physiologic (varus) counter to the valgus load/torque generated during the late cocking and acceleration phases providing a principal protective influence against valgus loads at the elbow during throwing (pitching) type activities.
The Rehabilitation and Performance Enhancement Training of the UCL Post-operative or Injured Athlete
The rehabilitation of the post-operative or injured UCL of the elbow patient will eventually progress the athlete to the initiation of a staged throwing program during the concluding phases of the elbow rehabilitation process. This throwing program may or may not be supervised by the rehabilitation professional. Oftentimes limitations in health care benefits may influence the athlete to seek other professionals such as their athletic performance training professional and/or pitching coach to guide and/or supervise them through the “throwing program” portion phase of their elbow rehabilitation.
Mike Reinold and his associates have investigated and described that following a pitching performance a pitcher exhibits decreases in dominate shoulder IR of 9.5 degrees as well as decreases in TRM of 10.7 degrees. These documented shoulder IR and TRM variations remain for approximately a 24 hour period of time. The athlete’s throwing efforts during the initiation of a rehabilitation throwing program may not produce the shoulder and elbow joint forces seen during maximal pitching efforts from a mound during game day competition, but perhaps those athletes that initiate and progress with their rehabilitation (repetitive) throwing program would both mimic and reinforce these shoulder IR ROM deficits found upon the conclusion of a pitching performance. Therefore, establishing and/or maintaining acceptable throwing shoulder IR and TRM are paramount in reducing stress not only to the athlete’s shoulder but to the elbow as well.
The Rehabilitation and Strength and Conditioning Professional should be aware and place caution upon those athletes that present with GIRD. GIRD does not only provide increased risk of pathology at the throwing shoulder, but may significantly affect the anatomical structures of the elbow joint as well.
1. Altchek, DA, Attending Orthopedic Surgeon, Co-Chief Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, NY. Medical Director New York Mets, personal conversation
2. Dines JS, Frank JB, Akerman M, and Yocum LA. Glenohumeral Internal Rotation Deficits in Baseball Players with Ulnar Collateral Ligament Insufficiency. Am J Sports Med. 2009; 37(3): 566-570.
3. McFarland EG, and Wasik M. Epidemiology of Collegiate Baseball Injuries, Clin J Sports Med. 1998; 8(1): 10-13.
4. Osbahr DC, Dines JS, Breazeale NM, Deng X, and Altchek DA. Ulnohumeral Chondral and Ligamentous Overload. Am J sports Med. 2010; 38(12): 2535-2541.
5. Reinold MM, Wilk KE, Macrina LC, Sheheane C, Dun S, Fleisig GS, Crenshaw K, and Andrews JR. Changes in Shoulder and Elbow Passive Range of Motion After Pitching in Professional Baseball Players. Am J Sports Med. 2008; 36(3): 523-527.
6. Wilk KE, Macrina LC, Fleisig GS, Porterfield R, Simpson II CD, Harker P, Paparesta N, and Andrews JR. Correlation of Glenohumeral Internal Rotation Deficit and Total Rotational Motion to Shoulder Injuries in Professional Baseball Pitchers. Am J Sports Med. 2011; 39(2): 329-335.
7. Wilk, KE. Associate Clinical Director, Champion Sports Medicine, Director of Rehabilitative Research ASMI, Birmingham, Alabama personal conversation
Injuries to the hamstring musculature occur commonly with athletes, and are an often discussed and researched topic in the fields of athletic development, sports medicine and/or rehabilitation disciplines.
Regardless of whether or not the injury could have been prevented beforehand through better training planning and/or recovery interventions (another topic for another day), rehabilitation protocols in this area are oftentimes lacking in sophistication and are a source of great uncertainty, confusion and frustration. I am speaking from a lot of personal experience here too; prior to working with and being rehabbed by Derek Hansen, I had severe long-standing and constantly recurring hamstring issues (both muscular and neural in presentation) over a period of 3 years that never resolved despite enduring countless visits to various therapists and going through a mind-numbing array of different rehabilitation approaches.
Not only did the type of protocols outlined in this article completely resolve my issues and relieve me of a huge burden – anybody who has gone through something similar will understand what I mean -, they also provided me with a better theoretical and practical understanding of how to more effectively deal with this type of injury with my own athletes should it present itself.
It is important to remember that each injury case is individual and thus requires individually adjusted interventions and considerations. However, the fundamental principle of smooth and progressive development must always be present for entirely successful and lasting rehabilitation of hamstring injuries or any other for that matter.
The below article is a case study outlining the rehabilitation protocol constructed by Derek which I followed after my last hamstring injury, and since which I have had no further problems whatsoever. The approach is outlined in a detailed daily log format in order to give the reader a “real time” feeling for what was done and how things developed.
For more information on this topic, I can also recommend the following two articles written by Derek detailing how he rehabilitated an elite bobsledder from a medial hamstring strain with a similar approach.
My right hamstring (biceps femoris) was injured during the follow-through of a maximal kicking motion, first time this has happened, all other previous injuries occurred during accelerations or sprinting.
Day 1 (Day of Injury):
During the follow-through I felt a very sharp and painful “jolt” with a large “tug” that extended the length of the lateral hamstring (long head of biceps femoris), but I did not feel a popping or tearing sensation as has happened in the past. The injury occurred late afternoon.
The area near the distal tendon as well as the muscle belly was very tender, with palpation of the lower area referring to the higher area.
I was able to walk without a limp directly afterwards, with slight discomfort and apprehension when freely extending the leg (e.g. walking down steps). The area did not however feel weak or overly inhibited.
The injury presentation and mechanism suggested more of a neural over-stretch (or even a nerve being ripped free from pre-existing scar tissue) rather than large amounts of actual muscle tissue damage as such.
Immediately following the injury, we attached an EMS unit to the hamstring with pad placements similar to the image below, with the perceived injury site being placed in the middle of the ‘X’. An active recovery session was chosen (20mins duration of “pulsing” frequency at an intensity that shook the muscle but did not cause any pain or discomfort) in order to relax and encourage light circulation to the injury area and surrounding structures.
Crossed EMS pad placement for the hamstrings using the Globus SpeedCoach.
The EMS session was followed by light soft-tissue work (light fascial stretching, effleurage-type work and shaking) around the hamstring for the same reasons as the EMS session, as well as help determine what damage was present (the initial diagnosis of predominantly neural irritation seemed to be confirmed).
I then took an anti-inflammatory (400mg of Advil liquid ibuprofen), went home and relaxed for a few hours, before following the same EMS active recovery session after dinner. There are varying opinions regarding the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in the acute phase of muscular injuries. However, as this particular case presented itself as a predominantly neural irritation it was decided that the short-term use of NSAIDs would do more good than harm by limiting discomfort and therefore promoting relaxation of the affected structures.
Before bed I did some light stretching and rolling out of the back, glutes, hip flexors and adductors in order to help alleviate/off-set any protective muscle tension that may have developed, and limit any such reactions during the overnight period.
Discomfort during the previous night was minimal, and did not interfere with my sleep.
In general the area tightened up slightly overnight but this quickly dissipated after having a shower and walking around. There was significant tension when picking things up or sitting down, but it still felt strong as opposed to the usual weak “twingy” muscle tearing feeling that accompanies a typical strain. However, the ‘neural’ tension/tightness (I can only explain it by describing it to be similar to sciatic pain in presentation but different from local or general muscular tightness) I have felt for years has almost completely disappeared (see discussion).
I performed the same EMS session as the previous day after breakfast, which was followed by light rolling and stretching as done on Day 1.
I followed a very light A-Drill (otherwise known as ‘Mach Drills’) session which consisted of:
- 2 sets x 4 reps Marching A’s over 20m
- 2 sets x 4 reps Skipping A’s over 20m
- 2 sets x 4 reps Running A’s (very low knee lift) over 20m
The drills were done relaxed and at a slow pace, working the muscle so that there was a sensation of “tugging” but not of sharp pain or discomfort.
After each set I performed some light stretching of the glutes, adductors and calves, as well as light self-massage and shaking of these areas and the hamstring itself.
Explosive movements and lower body work were excluded from the afternoon weights session, with resistance training consisting of Bench Press, Standing Overhead Press, Lat Pulldown, Seated Close Grip Row, Single Arm Shoulder Press and Abdominals.
Another active recovery EMS was performed along with stretching, rolling and 400mg of Advil.
Same as Day 2.
The local tension was much less this morning and reduced further still after moving around and the EMS session. 400mg of Advil was also taken. The aforementioned neural tension has completely disappeared and instead there is now only local pain and muscular tension. Perhaps a nerve or scar tissue was freed/re-arranged during the injury movement itself?
Training today started with a pool session where a variety of light warmup activities were performed (gentle A-Drills, hopping, jumping, side-shuffling, cariocas) before performing the A-Drills more vigorously (looking for the same sensations as on Day 2) for 1 set x 4 lengths (ca. 25m) each.
This session really helped loosen up the whole affected area and resulted in much less inhibition and apprehension, particularly in the evening running session.
1. Warmup – 2 sets x 4 reps of gentle A-Drills (March, Skip, Run) over 10m
2. Light accelerations (concentrating on relaxation and knee/arm lift) over 10m for 3 sets x 10 reps (300m total)
The directive was to use a velocity that felt comfortable and did not produce anything more than a ‘tugging’ sensation, and stay at or very slightly above this for the entire set. In the following set if everything felt good, the pace was increased slightly after the first 2 or 3 repetitions, and then remained there for the rest of the set in order to accumulate a good volume of productive work.
In general, each repetition felt more comfortable than the last and the running in the last set was significantly more fluid and accompanied by less discomfort/sensation than the previous ones. As mentioned above, the pool session really helped to prepare for the running and resolved much of the feelings of tension and discomfort present in the morning.
The running was followed by another recovery EMS session, and the application of Voltaren anti-inflammatory gel.
400mg of Advil was taken with dinner followed by easy stretching and rolling, with a light compression bandage and heat rub (Tiger Balm Ultra-Concentrated) applied overnight to the entire hamstring area to encourage more circulation and further relaxation of the affected structures.
Same as Day 3.
1. Warmup – 2 sets x 4 reps of A-Drills done at a higher tempo than Day 3 but still relaxed.
2. Easy accelerations (same directive as Day 3) over 10m for 4 sets x 10 reps (400m total)
The runs started off feeling slightly “achy” but that cleared by the 2nd set and I was able to run more fluidly and accelerate slightly faster than on Day 3.
Weights were again upper-body orientated with pretty much the same exercises as on Day 2, did some power snatches and power cleans from a high hang with only the bar as a warm-up as well (no pain). Squats were not performed.
EMS, Voltaren gel, easy stretching/rolling, heat wrap.
Same as Day 4.
1. Warmup – 2 sets x 4 reps each of A-Drills
2. Easy accelerations over 10m for 5 sets x 10 reps (500m total)
Bit of a weird day today as the hamstring area is again much less tender during palpation and general movement, but still felt a bit achy and irritated during the first round of A-Drills and first two sets of accelerations.
I had to do a lot of driving today (work, errands) and the weather had gotten considerably colder/wetter when I started warming up so I’m sure that played a part. I moved indoors after the first set of accelerations to see if a warmer climate would help and things started to feel better.
Although the leg did not clear up as much as on Day 2 or 3 with each subsequent acceleration, I was still able to slightly increase the pace and fluidity by the last two sets whilst staying inside the sensation parameters outlined on the previous days.
EMS, Voltaren Gel, easy stretching + rolling, 400mg advil.
EMS, light stretching, no advil (don’t want to stay on it for too long).
The hamstring area is again less tender to palpate but there is still quite a bit of muscular tension when doing quick movements such as reaching to the floor rapidly.
1. Warm-Up – 2 jogging laps followed by 2 sets x 4 reps each of A-Drills
2. Gradual accelerations over 10m for 4 sets x 10 reps (400m total) – on the track
3. Accelerate to 10m and Hold for 5m for 2 sets x 6 reps (180m total) – on the track
Very “pinchy” (muscular) during jogging and in the first 2-3 sets of accelerations, did not feel great at all. I then decided to use a different approach of rolling out all the general muscle groups between in each set and this made an enormous difference. Running on the track also felt much better as there was less “give” and each step felt quicker.
The area around the quadratus femoris was particularly locked up and each time I addressed it with the rolling out (I used a piece of PVC pipe) between sets I got more relief. By the end of the 15m accelerations the pace was significantly higher, and the running much more fluid as I had practically no sensations of pinching or tension.
EMS followed by a tiger balm compression wrap combined with heat application using a hot water bottle.
Light stretching before bed (glutes, back, adductors, hip flexors).
Same as Day 6.
Everything has really improved compared to yesterday morning; there was significantly less tension and achiness upon waking and quicker movements around the flat did not cause pinching at all. The experiment of using the heat wrap in combination with the external heat from the hot water bottle seems to have made a big difference, as has the targeted rolling out of the glutes during and after sessions.
The weather this morning was very warm and sunny so decided to do the running session (all done on track apart from the jogging which was done on turf) earlier in order to take advantage of that.
1. Warm-Up – Same as Day 6
2. 10m Accels 4 sets x 10 reps, alternating between 2-Point Start (Sets 1 and 3) and Pushup Start (Sets 2 and 4) (400m total)
3. 15m Accels 2 sets x 7 reps from 2-point stance (210m total)
Everything has come on heaps overnight, with the velocities and aggressiveness (I reckon I reached about 75% today) in the acceleration much higher than yesterday’s session and the apprehension and tension being lower as well. The initial jogging laps felt much more comfortable too.
Rolling out between each set (especially the calves and the glute/quad. fem. areas) seems to do the trick, presumably because it helps “re-set” the areas that are tightening up for guarding purposes at the moment and allows each subsequent set to be of a high quality. Whatever the reason, each set felt better than the last (I’m sure the warmer weather helped too).
Again, running on the track made everything feel much more responsive, powerful and quicker – see Derek’s thoughts below for why running on this surface seems to have improved things so much over the last few days.
Harder surfaces allow you to take advantage of elastic energy from your lower legs and feet (tendons and ligaments) whereas running on a softer surface would require more strength contribution from the hips and hamstrings. This is why sprinting in sand makes your hamstrings feel like they are all pumped up.
Weights (No Squats):
- Light Power Cleans from high hang position 4,4,3,3
- Bench Press 4,4,3,3
- Overhead Press 5,5,5,5
- Assistance (all 12,10,10,8 – 5 exercises)
Same as Day 6 (heat really seems to help).
Same as Day 7.
Almost no tension on waking, anything around was cleared up with the EMS session and rolling out the glutes.
The weather is cooler than yesterday so will definitely make sure I’m warm before starting.
- Warm-Up – 2 jogging laps, leg swing circuit, roll, 2 sets x 4 reps of A-Drills
- 10 x 10m easy (2-point start)
- 10 x 10m faster (Pushup start)
- 10 x 10m faster (Pushup start)
- 7 x 15m easy (2-point start)
- 7 x 15m faster (2-point start)
- 5 x 20m easy (2-point start)
Everything went well today, no pinching or tugging at all during the A-Drills and jogging for the first time, and only light tugging from time to time in varying areas during the run (usually higher up/mid-hamstring but it hops around a bit).
Anytime I rolled out the glutes (I roll and lightly stretch between each set) the next rep was always fine, went to about 80-85% a few times today on the 15m runs.
The main apprehension or times when things tug a bit is when really driving out of a push-up start, as well as when the stride opens up/hands come out in front more.
EMS, heat wrap with hot water bottle
Same as Day 8.
No noticeable tension in the hamstring area, however my calves and hip-flexors are a bit stiff (not surprising seeing as the running velocities are increasing and I am not used to sprinting on a track this many days in a row).
Warm and sunny day again today so will do my run (followed by weights as I need to work later in the afternoon) this morning.
- Warm-up: Same as Day 8
- 10x10m easy (2-point)
- 10x10m faster (Pushup)
- 7x15m easy (2-point)
- 7x15m faster (pushup)
- 7x15m faster (2-point)
- 5x20m easy (2-point)
I reckon I hit about 85-90% on a couple of the 15m runs, in general things are feeling springy with only light tugging here and there, which loosens up as soon as I roll out between sets.
Weights (No Squats):
- Light Hang Snatches 4,4,3,3
- Bench Press 4,4,3,3
- Assistance (All 12,10,10,8)
> Barbell Overhead Press
> Bentover Row
> Incline DB Press
> Lat Pulldown
Hang snatches felt good and went further into the hang range than with the power cleans on Day 7. No problems apart from a very slight tugging when I made an explosive transition from hang to pull.
EMS, Stretch, Roll
Same as Day 9.
A little tired today and calves are still a bit stiff but no real tension in the hamstring area.
Another warm day but its supposed to worsen later on, so will run this morning.
- Warm-up: same as Day 9
- 10x10m easy (2-point)
- 10x10m faster (Pushup)
- 7x15m easy (2-point)
- 7x15m faster (Pushup)
- 5x20m fast (2 point)
- 5x20m fast (2 point)
- 3x30m easy (2 point)
Everything felt good today, and was able to be completely aggressive during the fast 10m accelerations. 15m work felt fine too, probably reaching about 90% in the faster set.
20m work went well with no real feelings of apprehension (and only very mild tugging from time to time), however general fatigue was definitely starting to creep in (especially on the 2nd set) so that naturally capped the velocity somewhat (still hit 90% a few times but the slower runs were probably around 80%) and I made sure to take longer breaks in between reps (2-3mins on the first set, 3-4mins on the second set) in order to prevent anything locking up or giving out on me.
The 30m runs felt very smooth and confident with only minimal sensations of tugging or tautness in the hamstring.
Recovery pool session (light movements such as gentle A-Drills, hopping, jumping, side-shuffling, cariocas) followed by some water basketball with the Football team – it was nice to simply play a game again and be competitive.
Swimming felt fine with only slight tugging from time to time when kicking very hard or from a very flexed knee angle/pre-contracted position.
EMS, heat wrap + hot water bottle, stretch, roll.
Same as Day 10.
No feelings of tightness in the hamstring area at all on waking, but calves are still pretty stiff and in general feeling quite flat which is understandable after a long week and accumulated fatigue.
Now that the run intensities are starting to reach higher velocities, we decided to do lower intensity tempo running today (on grass) in order to help recover from the fatigue that is starting to accumulate and also just have a bit of a mental break.
Tempo today was 3 sets of the following: 50m run @ ca. 65% followed by 50m walk (x 8 reps).
In between sets I did 15 pushups, 30 situps and 12 squats as a basic bodyweight mobility circuit.
EMS, heat wrap + hot water bottle, stretch, roll.
Complete day off any formal training to further promote full recovery from the previous 11 days. Did some light stretching before bed.
Same as Day 11.
Had a rotten sleep last night and in general feel like crap for some reason, but my legs feel good so will warm-up and decide whether or not to go ahead with today’s planned session.
Things cleared up nicely during the warmup and while I still didn’t feel 100% (a little queasy and ‘coldy’ today for whatever reason), I knew I was fine to go ahead.
- Warm-Up – 2 jogging laps, leg swing circuit, roll, 2 sets x 4 reps of A-Drills
- 10x10m easy (2-point)
- 10x10m faster (pushup)
- 7x15m faster (pushup)
- 5x20m fast (2-point)
- 4x25m fast (2-point)
- 4x25m fast (2-point)
- 4x30m easy (2-point)
- 4x30m ~20m fast, 10m maintain~ (2-point)
I was very careful to take enough rest today, using 1min for each 10m covered between reps.
Everything held up well today, especially considering how I felt this morning.
I was able to go full out with no apprehension or feeling of tightness until about the 2nd set of 25m where fatigue slowly started to set in. However, the drop-off was significantly less than on Day 10 and even the last set of 20 hard + 10 hold wasn’t bad (probably ranging between 85-95% velocity depending on rep), with just light tugging and a little bit of tightening up towards the end.
The first half of the workout was the most “care-free” running has felt things since all my hamstring problems started a few years ago.
Weights (emphasis on a shorter, lighter lift):
- Light Power Cleans 4×3
- Light Back Squats 6,5,5,4
- Bench 4×6
EMS, heat wrap + hot water bottle, stretch, roll.
The interesting thing about the hamstring rehab protocol is that you are balancing off volume and intensity very carefully throughout the entire process. On the one hand you are trying to accumulate enough volume to create a strength adaptation in the hamstring. But you are also trying to get the intensity up high enough so that you can reach full running speed in as short amount of time as possible – particularly if you are in-season and missing competitions. All the while you are making sure you don’t re-injure the hamstring by overstepping your bounds and getting away from a smooth progression.
The other thing to keep in mind is that you are doing consecutive days of repeat sprints. If you are not careful, you can fatigue very quickly – even though the initial week of sprints is very low intensity. This is why a soft-tissue therapist or massage therapist should be involved in the process (if you can afford to include them). They can not only help to monitor the muscle tone in the hamstring (which can be indicative of fatigue) but also inhibit fatigue by keeping the muscles flushed and supple.
True, this process has really helped me realise how important gradually introducing/increasing volume + intensity are to “run out” the injury and develop the appropriate muscular strength and coordination needed. The guidelines outlined in the initial days regarding how to gauge what is the “right” amount of work/intensity is a vital part in that; too much stimulus too soon or too little throughout the process and the outcome is the same: you ultimately progress very little or at worst significantly increase the risk of re-injury.
Good point regarding the importance of addressing soft-tissue. I feel that the rate of progress and how everything is feeling now has been greatly dependent on the daily combination of heat wraps, EMS loosening work, maybe the Vitamin B12 supplementation, stretching and the continuous rolling out of “guarding” areas – the latter especially in between sets in the sessions themselves as it allows each rep to be good and therefore the ‘re-education’ to be as optimal as possible. As you pointed out in a discussion we had, the ‘re-setting’ or relaxation components of the rehab protocol are just as important as the strengthening/contractile development ones.
The other thing worth mentioning is how keeping the focus off squatting during the rehab period (keeping any loading very light and only re-introducing it after a good period of time) seemed to allow an accelerated recovery compared to my previous experiences – presumably because the squatting motion tends to tighten up the hamstring/gluteal areas, which might have negative carry-over/interfere in periods where these muscles are ‘reconfiguring’ and running volumes are high.
Same as Day 13.
Hamstring feels great, I am a little run-down from work though so it’s good to have a tempo day.
Easy 50m shuttle tempo (3 sets of: 50m run + 50m run + 50m walk x 5) – Total volume = 1500m
EMS, heat wrap + hot water bottle, stretch, roll.
Same as Day 14.
Hamstring again feels fine, weather is cold/wet and don’t have access to indoor facilities for sprinting today, so will take a day off as I am still a bit run-down from work these past few days.
EMS, heat wrap + hot water bottle, stretch, roll.
Same as Day 15.
Had a good sleep, feel refreshed and everything feels good. Weather is warm and sunny so will do my running session in the morning:
- Warm-Up – 2 jogging laps, leg swing circuit, roll, 2 sets x 4 reps of A-Drills over 10m
- 5×10 easy (2pt)
- 5×10 fast (PU)
- 7×15 fast (PU)
- 5×20 fast (2pt)
- 4×25 fast (2pt)
- 4×30 easy (2pt)
- 4×20 fast + 10 maintain (2pt)
As the velocities are starting to increase, the total volume of “hard” work is now being dropped in order to allow the quality to remain high and allow further improvement. Rest times between reps are still 1min for every 10m run.
The hamstring felt fantastic today, best its felt since my hamstring problems first started. No tugging, flashing, fatiguing, tightening or apprehension during any of the run session elements.
Weights (reintroduction of intensity and pulling from floor in Olympic lifts, slight increase in squat loading but still kept very light):
- Power Snatches (from floor) 4×3
- Back Squat 6,5,5,4
- Bench 4,3,3,2,2
- Assistance (incl. OH Press) all for 10,10,8,8
I am now able to resume a “normal” training routine which sees the alternation between High Intensity Days (Sprints, Weights) and Low Intensity Days (Tempo/Aerobic work).
How is the “normal” training going for you now Cedric? I assume you are having no difficulties?
The first week back to regular training was accompanied by quite a bit of sprint-induced stiffness (especially in the hip flexors after being able to push the intensity on longer runs over 50 and 60 metres), but the hamstring itself remained loose and non-symptomatic.
I have made sure to continue all the therapeutic and recovery-orientated modalities (EMS, heat where needed, rolling, stretching, B12 supplementation) which I feel has helped keep things in order, despite being quite fatigued from work and the rehabilitation process in general. I also played touch rugby on one night of the past week (purposely held back to probably 85-90% intensity in accelerations) with no problems at all. I also did some kicking with no issues at all.
The only apprehension that remains is when cycling from a jogging start or coasting run into a full acceleration. I think a lot of that is psychological due to the persistent problems I’ve had in the past and these are the situations where injury typically occurred in the past – as we have discussed the incorporation of more speed change drills (easy-fast-easy, fast-easy-fast) in the next stage of training would represent the final piece of the puzzle so to speak as well as the use of relaxed sprinting over longer distances.
Many approaches to hamstring rehabilitation are often not as effective as they could be. Numerous protocols and practitioners place primary emphasis on modalities such as isolation training, instability training or resistance training in the form of weights of bands for example, which leave much to be desired for various reasons.
What is often evident when comparing these types of approaches with the one used in this case study is a lack of progressive and smoothly transitioned high-quality speed work/development, or even an emphasis on running in general. This is crucial as the majority of hamstring injuries occur during running-based activities, and a rehabilitation program for a return to these scenarios must re-establish the ability to perform and endure these actions.
A comprehensive and progressive running-based approach to hamstring rehabilitation is hard work and not terribly exciting as can be readily seen in the above outline, but it is very effective and saves a lot of time and frustration. From a specificity standpoint this makes sense as well; the action that “caused the problem” will also need be part of the “cure”, for both physical and psychological reasons if that action is something that must be routinely performed in a given sport or activity (e.g. sprinting for a soccer player). It seems that the sooner running motions are initiated in the rehabilitation process (and this may just be in the form of low amplitude A-Drills as utilised in the current outline to begin with) the faster the injury seems to heal, and the better the overall outcomes seem to be.
This particular case study is of course slightly different in that the injury occurred during a kicking motion, with all prior injuries occurring during sprinting/accelerating. It is reasonable to suggest however that the previously incompletely addressed problems simply left this area generally vulnerable in the first place, which is why the running-based approach covered all bases so to speak. This is reinforced by the complete absence of any previous complaints or difficulties and a complete return to uninhibited function in both kicking and sprinting since the above rehabilitation was completed.
As Derek pointed out in the log, a key ingredient in any successful rehabilitation approach (and training in general) is the appropriate balancing of volume/intensity parameters in order to allow progressive strength adaptation, but also ensure a continuous movement towards higher intensity work. When it comes to the hamstring group it seems that progressively ‘re-educating’ the muscle complex in terms of specific recruitment coordination is highly important for resolving the current injury and/or preventing reoccurrence, along with strengthening the muscle in a manner specific to the demands of sprinting. With this in mind, the primary modality that can be used to effectively achieve both these objectives simultaneously when looking to return people to running, especially in the initial stages of rehabilitation, is running itself.
Resistance training with weights is of course still important in the rehabilitation process, however these must be adjusted, adapted and utilised in a manner that supports the overall progression but does not impede or detract from the primary emphasis. This is the reason why squatting was first omitted, and then only later gradually and lightly introduced in the above protocol; the sprint program provided enough controlled stimulus for adaptation initially, and squatting itself would have only done more harm than good in this particular phase for the reasons mentioned earlier in the log. It is also worth noting that once normal squatting was resumed, I found I had essentially lost none of my squat strength during this time, presumably because the other high-intensity components present in my training (sprint work, upper body work) helped maintain this physical quality to a large degree.
Published with permission from Derek M. Hansen – Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at Simon Fraser University
Now that a new season in the National Football League is upon us, we are once again able to enjoy the feats of speed, power, strength and skill displayed by the stars of the game from week to week. Fans will argue back and forth over whose team is superior, citing the depth of their rosters, the experience of their coaching staff and the arm of their quarterbacks. The success of a team will depend on numerous factors, many of which are beyond the grasp of the average fan.
Because football is such a physical and brutal game, and played over a minimum of 16 regular season games, the physical preparation of the players will have a significant bearing on the success of the team over the duration of the season and into the playoffs. Good physical preparation will not only translate into performance gains, but also resistance to injury. Given that adequate strength and conditioning must be accumulated over a significant number of weeks in the off-season in order for the benefits to persist over the season, we must take a closer look at what players are actually doing during the off-season period.
The recent NFL players Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), however, has reduced the amount of mandatory off-season training time required for players from 14 weeks to 9 weeks. The current CBA has structured off-season training, in an effort to reduce wear-and-tear on the players, into three phases:
Phase 1 – The first two weeks of off-season training involves “strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation only.” Only Strength and Conditioning coaches are allowed to work with the team, with no live footballs, helmets or pads allowed at any time. The intent is that only conditioning activities will be permitted in an effort to progressively prepare the athletes for more intense activities in later phases.
Phase 2 – The next three weeks of off-season training permits all coaches to be on the field of practice. Permitted activities include on-field work, including individual and group instruction and drills. Practices are helmets-only, with no live contact allowed. Offensive, defensive and special teams units can work together, but not against an opposing presence, and no one-on-one offense-versus-defense drills are allowed. Strength and conditioning activities are continued through this period.
Phase 3 – The final four weeks of off-season training can include on-field work, including individual and group instruction and drills. A maximum of 10 organized team activity (OTA) days are allowed, with no more than three days during the first two weeks and no more than four during the third week. In this phase, football is the main concern for coaches, with strength and conditioning activities taking a back seat. Although one would hope that strength could continue to be developed during this four-week period, it is likely that only strength maintenance can take place given the demands of the on-field work.
With only nine weeks for supervised physical preparation in the off-season, coaches must make sure that every bit of contact time with the athletes is optimized. Players will have a minimum of 16 weeks away from the coaching staff during the off-season. A good deal of de-training can occur during such a long time period, particularly if no quality training is undertaken. Ultimately, on-field performance will suffer and the probability of injury has the potential to increase significantly.
Thus, additional work must be done by the strength and conditioning coaching staff to ensure that players are educated on what they need to accomplish on their own during this unsupervised time. However, we can only assume that a good portion of athletes may do one of three things:
1. Do nothing
2. Train inappropriately (i.e. Cross-Fit or MMA training)
3. Actually follow the prescribed off-season training plan
Given the potential for athletes to arrive at training camp out of shape or inappropriately conditioned, the coaching staff must look at alternatives for ensuring their players are ready for training camp and the regular season. The situation will vary from team to team, but there will likely be a portion of the team that needs alternative strategies for ensuring their conditioning is bolstered in the off-season, as well as accentuated for in-season. Simply slapping fines on players or chewing them out will not suffice.
The Electrostimulation Advantage
My good friend and physiotherapist at Professional PT in New York, Rob Panariello, made a very good point the other day. He noted that the contracted off-season conditioning requirements for the NFL would necessitate that teams make better use of their in-season strength and conditioning program to not only maintain strength, but also build it over the course of the season. A good in-season program may be the difference between being a playoff contender and hitting the golf course early. Given the time and energy constraints in-season, special care will have to be taken to find methods for optimizing training adaptations in-season to get an added advantage over other teams.
One effective strategy would be to implement the regular use of electrostimulation in-season for players who want to improve strength and/or supplement conventional resistance training. Electrostimulation has been repeatedly proven in scientific research to provide significant strength gains – in many cases equal to or superior to that of weightlifting alone – when used regularly with the proper protocols and intensities. Other key benefits of electrostimulation for in-season football use include:
a. Maximal strength gains via electrostimulation come at little or no stress on the Central Nervous System (CNS). Thus, athletes can put in more work and still feel fresh and alert for other tasks.
b. Muscular strength can be improved with minimal stress on the joints and associated connective tissues. Many athletes complain of shoulder, elbow, ankle, knee, neck and hip pain from week to week. While conventional resistance training may exacerbate these problems, electrostimulation can train the muscles without stressing the joints further. And, by strengthening the muscular system, joints are provided with significantly more support from game to game.
c. Electrostimulation devices with massage and active recovery settings allow players to recover faster by enhancing circulatory mechanisms and flushing out waste products that collect in the muscles after games, practices and training sessions.
d. Electrostimulation allows the team to multi-task during their strength workouts and recovery sessions, creating a more efficient environment from week to week. Players can still review their playbooks, watch film and discuss strategies with coaching staff and fellow players while a portable electrostimulation unit is connected to their muscles.
e. Work can even be accomplished during travel on an airplane or bus. A portable electrostimulation unit can be attached to players’ legs during a long flight to enhance circulation and keep blood from pooling in the lower legs. Active recovery and massage programs can loosen tight muscles in the hips and back for long periods of inactivity and sitting. This is particularly important in a post-game scenario when athletes are on the road and have to head back to the airport soon after the game. Rarely is enough time prepared for cool down and active recovery. Electrostimulation can accelerate recovery in a scenario that may initially appear sub-optimal.
f. For athletes who sustain injuries during the season, use of electrostimulation can preserve or improve their strength throughout their rehabilitation and recovery. A common injury in football is an ankle sprain. Even though some athletes may not be able to place any weight on the injured side, they can still use the electrostimulation on the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves of the injured leg. Once the ankle has healed appropriately and the athlete is ready to practice and play in games, they will have not lost any significant strength in their lower extremities. In essence, they can hit the ground running.
The benefits of an electrostimulation program for in-season applications are obvious. For the most part, a strength coach can attain significant gains in-season with his players by simply having them sit down and allow the electrostimulation units to do the work for them. In some sessions, the athletes will be improving general strength capabilities. In other sessions, the electrostimulation units will speed up recovery and loosen muscles.
Legendary strength coach, Al Vermeil, made another good point to me about introducing electrostimulation in-season for NFL athletes. The added benefit of educating athletes on the benefits of electrostimulation and taking them through the process of using a portable electrostimulation unit during the season is that these athletes will now be equipped to use electrostimulation as part of their off season training. High quality portable electrostimulation units are available for anywhere between $500 and $1,000 – well within the budgets of professional athletes who are motivated to improve off-season conditioning. In fact, a number of NFL teams and athletes are already using Globus electrostimulation devices for both in-season and off-season applications.
While the benefits are apparent, there is still the obstacle of getting players to do something new. Many players are of the mind that they want to only do what they are “required to do.” When playing football, or any professional sport for that matter, becomes a job, it is common for players to “punch the clock” when the day is over. With the average career of an NFL player lasting approximately 3.5 years, it is in the interest of the players and the team to look at simple ways to improve their chances of extending the length of their career and the overall quality of time in the NFL.
It is important to note that electrostimulation should not be relied upon as the sole source of strength training for an athlete. While electrostimulation can elicit strength gains in individual muscles equal to conventional strength training, it does not provide the inter-muscular coordination elements introduced by conventional training exercises such as Olympic lifts, plyometrics and sprinting. Electrostimulation should be viewed as a supplement to an athlete’s regular training regime.
While electrostimulation is no magic bullet, it can be a simple add-on to an existing training program that needs an edge on the competition. A simple investment of $20,000 by a team could provide them with 20-25 electrostimulation units that could be used by the entire team in an effective manner throughout the season and off-season. Given that the average NFL team is worth close to a billion dollars, $20,000 seems to be a safe bet.
In a future article, I will present strategies for implementing electrostimulation sessions during a typical in-season week for football. Due to the versatility of many of the new electrostimulation devices, with strengthening, recovery, loosening and warm-up/potentiation protocols, sessions can be performed every day of the week, leading right up to game day. The volume of use need not be high to get a profound effect, particularly if you are strategic with your application of this technology.
What followed was a comprehensive win with an excellent team performance. The conference has also been blown wide open by the upset wins of Dixie State (beating Central Washington) and Western Oregon (beating Humboldt), which puts the Clan in a good position ahead of this weekend’s crucial away game against Central.
See the video below for highlights and some additional footage of the pre-game preparation, half-time, and post-match celebrations.
I am currently in the process of making website updates, mainly with the goal of addressing logistics/function and therefore hopefully improving how people may interact with the site and its content. I will also do my best to write a short post on any major changes made so people don’t need to trial-and-error their way around.
It looks unlikely that I will have to take the website down at any point, instead I will be attempting to make rolling changes in order to keep things up and running.
As of now, the main change has been the incorporation of a subscription/following service on the side bar to the right of the page. This allows anybody who visits this site and/or wishes to stay informed of any content updates to subscribe via Email, Facebook, Twitter, Google Feedburner or other RSS feeds.
All email information is handled via Google and is therefore kept strictly confidential according to their regulations and policies, and will not be shared with third parties or used for spamming purposes.
Here is the latest article by Rob where he discusses the importance of sticking to the basics, and the reasons for doing so.
This instalment contains plenty of valuable advice that many would do well to listen more closely to.
To view the article please click the PDF link below:
We’ve just come back from Oregon, where on Thursday the SFU Football team comfortably beat Pacific University with a final score of 51-14.
The Clansmen put in a focused and mostly clinical performance, and are looking good for the season opener against Central Washington this coming Saturday.
To see the highlights and some great footage from the build-up and post-game, please view the video below.