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Internal Program Review: High School Swimmer Pre-Season Strength Training – Day 2

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With the vast expanse that is the winter swim season raipidly approaching, I wanted to take the time to yet again detail one of our swimming programs. In this particular case, we’re going to explain the Ruthless Performance methods that made this program so effective.

To provide context for this case study, we will be talking about a male swimmer, approaching the end of his high school career, who specailizes in short to mid-distance freestyle and butterfly…

We’ll be looking at ‘Day 2’ of his 3-day program, and what we’re doing to get him in-shape for the upcoming swim season.

Preseason Prep Internal Program Review
1. Emphasising Both Activation & Mobility as Needed

1 Preseason-Prep-Internal-Program-Review.jpg

Like most other programs we run our athletes through, this workout begins with a comprehenisve warm-up. Athletes are compartmentalized into a warm-up by age, ability, past injuries and training history. From there, we specialize and individualize the workout starting at our ‘A’ Exercises which are very rarely similar from one athlete to the next.

Landmine-based exercises have recently become a frequent addition to our programs because of the unusual loading parameters we see with this exercise variation. As opposed to a traditional barbell exercise, landmine exercises get lighter as the angle of the bar approaches 90 degrees; this has a wide array of benefits, but here we are using this to maximally loading the shoulder at the bottom of the press, while ensuring a greater ROM (range of motion) as we near the top of the exercise. Beyond just encouraging more ROM, this also assists in activation of the Serratus Anterior — a troublesome area for many athletes, which in the case of swimmers can be career ending.

In addition to creating muscle activation in the shoulder, we’re trying to use this ‘A’ circuit to enhance hip mobility. In our A1, the Half-Kneeling Overhead Landmine Press assists in creating hip mobility via Rectus Femoris Stretch caused by the Half-Kneeling position. Though this is a secondary component to the A1, hip mobility is the primary element of the A2 –the weighted cossack squat…

Because this swimmer is primarily a freestyler and butterflier, the hip is exposed to a relatively small ROM. By expanding this capacity in a structured and controlled training environment, we can help minimize injury (while maximizing power output) via enhanced ability of the hips to absorb and generate force outside of the saggital plane.

 

2. Creating a Neutral Spine Where and When Possible

In a previous article, I explained the differences between flexion and extension intolerant back pain, this particular athlete sits closer to the extension-intolerent end of the spectrum. To mitigate this, we’ve added Band Pull Aparts and 180 Degree Back Extensions as part of his ‘B’ exercise circuit.

1 Preseason Prep Internal Program ReviewBand Pull Aparts are one of the most common exercises within any of the Ruthless Performance programs, regardless of sport; but in the case of swimming, these provide countless benefits. Beyond the primary benefits to swimmers, like scapular control and improved stroke efficiency, we’ve added this as a means of minimizing kyphosis. Like many high school athletes who sit behind a desk for 6+ hours / day, this athlete demonstrates an internally rotated and kyphotic posture. The solution to these problems almost universally starts with a very high volume of band pull aparts.

Though the ‘B2’ is listed as 180 Back Extension, it is talked about and referred to internally as a 180 Hip Extension. Though this may seem semantic it is not. I won’t go into detail here again, though you can find more in our first installment of our Internal Program Review, where we go over this difference in detail.

The video below from our instagram also explains this to some extent with yet another one of our swimmers performing this exercise.

 

3. Enhance Cardiovascular Capacity, But do so Efficiently

The primary purpose of the off-season program should be to build up strength and other various capacities that are often neglected during the regular swim season. Going into the season, however, should at least provide some basic framework for sport-specific work capacity.

Another one of my frequent rants is that about the purpose and function of the rotator Preseason Prep Internal Program Reviewcuff… 4 anatomically independent muscles grouped together because of their function (physiology) with regards to the shoulder, which is simply to maintain the position of the humerus. With this in mind, any time we spend engaging and maintaining a stable shoulder, we are inherently training the rotator cuff. Here, we’re doing so concurrently with a few other goals in mind, enhancing cardiovascular capacity (as mentioned), but also encouraging overhead ROM with the slam ball, generating force outside of the saggital plane, and developing abdonimal activation/ trunk stability during both the C1 and C2 exercises.

Though these aren’t traditionally exercises performed for energy system training, we can manipulate the variables to ellicit this desired response. Rather than simply adding in more sets or extending the length of time to complete the exercises, we’ve focused in on the density component, which is simply the ability to do more work in the same period of time. A 5-minute time cap ensures that from weeks 1-4, the athlete is developing his work capacity, in a manner condusive to short to mid distance swimming events. As opposed to conventional wisdom, maintaining a high level of force output and muscular endurance over this relatively short period of time is all that we need for this particular workout going into more sport-specific pre-season swim training.

 

 

Internal Program Review: Collegiate Swimmer Off-Season Strength & Conditioning Program – Day 1

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The strength and conditioning community is far too fractioned; proprietary training programs and secrecy hide the inner workings of many sports performance coaching theories and facilities. At Ruthless Performance, we find this idea entirely backwards—this mentality is a sign of some fragile egos and insecurity within the industry. To do our part in mitigating this, we’re going to start a new on-going series where we’ll deconstruct some aspect of a selected program from one of our Ruthless Performers. Hopefully this will help coaches and athletes get a better idea of programming and the science of sports performance, regardless of their affiliation with Ruthless Performance.

Our inaugural installment of our Internal Program Review begins with a look at Day 1 of a male, college swimmer’s dryland training program. First, we’ll provide some context…

This swimmer is in between the freshman and sophomore season of his collegiate swimming career. Currently, we’re training him 5x per week. Most workouts have their own day of the week, but occasionally he’ll do doubles if schedule conflicts are present.

As you can see in the figure, his programming is currently changing every 4 weeks and his workout week can most easily be broken down as follows, note that each day is not specifically ‘upper’ or ‘lower’ but rather these ideas denote the dominant exercises for that particular day:Internal Program Review-1

Day 1 – Lower Body

Day 2 – Upper Body

Day 3 – Conditioning

Day 4 – Upper Body

Day 5 – Lower Body

For our Internal Program Review, we’ll examine day 1…

 

1. Box Squat

More than 80% of athletes that we see on a regular basis have some box squat variant somewhere in their training macrocycle, usually this is on a recurring basis as well. The box squat provides a variety of benefits, going into detail here would be too great for the scope of this article. If you’re interested in learning more about how to box squat as well as their benefits, I would recommend performing a quick search for Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell and the Box Squat.Internal-Program-Review-1-2232796486-1528147415624.jpg

In this case, we’re slowly reintegrating the squat into his program after having some time off following his long swim season. Here, we’ve added the box squat as a means to help assist in developing leg strength, posterior weight shift (integral to developing a proficient and technically sound squat) and building muscle to subsequently assist in force production coming off of the blocks and during turns.

 

2. Hanging Straight Leg Raises

A crucial component to any strength and conditioning program developed by Ruthless Performance is a substantial element of force transfer in various planes. In our A2, which is paired with the A1 (Box Squats), we’re emphasizing this force transfer, and we’re doing so specifically in the Sagittal Plane.

With the Hanging Straight Leg Raises (HSLR), we’re also building the anterior chain, specifically the abdominals. Though swimmers are no stranger to ‘core’ exercises, they can be unfamiliar with lower-repetition strength-dominant work in the abdominals like this. Whether its poolside after practice or at-home at the behest of their coaches, swimmers frequently train with high repetition crunches, sit-ups, or poorly performed planks.Internal-Program-Review-1-2.jpg

Exercises like the HSLR are rarely given at Ruthless as these can place too much emphasis on the Rectus Femoris which already receives ample stimulation during regular swim practice. But unlike with Bent Leg Raises, the straight leg variation provides more stimuli to the abdominals, which can partially explain why it is much harder than bent leg variations (also worth searching, but beyond the scope of our review: passive insufficiency).

Something also worth noting with the HSLR is how we manipulate this to maximize efficacy. With most weighted exercises, this is done via an increase in resistance. With a bodyweight exercise like this, we are slightly more confined in our ability to progress this over a 4-week period. Therefore we’re slowly adding more repetitions to each set throughout the program.

 

3. 180 Hip Extension

If you’ve never trained with us, you’ve likely gotten familiar with this exercise being referred to as a ‘back extension’. This is partially a misnomer, specifically at Ruthless Performance as we actively coach a rounded upper back on this exercise to maximize glute input, while minimizing lower back activation.Internal-Program-Review-1-3.jpg

The erector muscles already receive a great deal of stimulation any time the back/hips are being used as a fulcrum (which is close to any time you are doing a non-isolation/machine exercise). Additionally, the capillary network of the low back is rather poor, causing a slow recovery time. Doing low-back work in addition to all of this could be a decrement to performance rather than performance enhancing.

This can be progressed with weights or bands as needed, but a large emphasis should initially be placed on glute activation during this exercise rather than on a large range of motion (ROM). We typically encourage an external femoral rotation when possible, which further activates the glutes on this. When the glutes can’t contract any more on the hip extension, there is no reason to add more ROM.

 

4. Calf Raises

One of the benefits of working with an athlete with such frequency is that we can get into some details holding them back that would otherwise be unachievable on a 2x or 3x /wk program. With this athlete, poor calf hypertrophy is likely a weak link holding back lower body development. From a physics standpoint, mass can’t be added without a broad base of support.  Consider the tyrannosaurus rex, with its massive legs serving as a point of contact and base of support, or in engineering the structure and shape of the world’s largest buildings.

Specifically, to build mass in the calves without taking too much time away from more pertinent programming, we focus on density. Through the course of the program, we’re trying to have this athlete perform more reps with the fewest amount of sets possible. It is very rare to manipulate the volume so drastically from weeks 1 to weeks 4, but this is precisely what is needed in this situation.

Internal Program Review-1

 

5. High Handle Sled Push

We rarely have our swimmers perform energy system training, but in this case, the athlete is out of season and will need to preserve some basic level of cardiovascular conditioning for when he returns to college in the fall. You can learn more about our theories and thoughts on energy system training for swimmers in our article aptly titled “Why Ruthless Performance Doesn’t Emphasize Energy System Training for Our Swimmers”.

The sled provides an opportunity to help generate greater ROM between the legs, build concentric strength, increase hip and ankle mobility, and is just a generally versatile conditioning tool. You’ll also notice that the distance is relatively short. He’s been performing these bouts between 6-10 seconds. This by no means will provide an amount of conditioning conducive to in-pool training and performance, but will help maintain and improve ATP usage at the end of a long workout, which transfers nicely into a strong finish in a mid-distance/distance event.

 

Have any questions about what you see or would you like further clarification? Send us your questions at info@RuthlessPerformance.com. Your question may even turn into inspiration for a blog or social media post.

A Quick Guide to Hydration for Performance

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The weather is warming up which means dehydration sets in faster. Dehydration has major effects on the body such as electrolyte imbalances, cramping, headaches, and reduced athletic performance, potentially leading to heat stroke and even death. Dehydration varies widely amongst individuals based on their hydration status prior to training, practice gear body composition, type of training, and an individual’s heat acclimation.  Therefore, rehydration should be tailored to one’s specific hydration status either pre, during, or post-workout. If you’re feeling bold, here is a formula from the NSCA to determine your sweat rate:

 

  • Step 1. Weigh yourself naked before exercise (e.g., 180 lb).
  • Step 2. Exercise for 1 hour (drink normally during exercise but avoid eating) and track your fluid intake (e.g., 4 oz)
  • Step 3. Weigh yourself naked post-exercise (e.g., 178.5 lb).
  • Step 4. To calculate your sweat rate simply subtract your post-exercise weight from your pre-exercise weight then add the weight/volume of any fluids you consumed.

 

Example

180 lb (pre-exercise) – 178.5 lb (post-exercise) = 1.5 lb (sweat loss) + 4 oz (fluids consumed during exercise) (0.25 lb) = 1.75 lb of sweat lost per hour

 

Knowing your sweat loss can give you an idea how much water should be replaced but most importantly it can be indicator of heat acclimation. Training in hot environments can lead to adaptation thus potentially resulting in a decline in sweat loss. A simple and effective way to check to hydration status is by the color of urine. An easy way to remember is by distinguishing two colors; Apple juice color (urine) = dehydrated, Lemonade color (urine) = hydrated.

 

Here some general quick tips for proper hydration:

 

  • Before workout, check the color of urine. If dehydrated drink, until the color of Hydration Statusurine looks like lemonade.
  • If workouts are less than 1hr, water is sufficient. Recommendations are 3–8 oz. every 15–20 minutes (a gulp is about 1–2 oz.)
  • If workouts are more than 1hr, you should drink liquids with the combination of carbs + electrolytes, 3-8 oz. every 15-20 minutes.
    • Note: Fluids may vary depending on intensity of temperature, altitude, and/or humidity.
  • After workouts, weigh yourself and for every 1lb lost, rehydrate with 16-24 oz. of water.
  • More than a 2% weight loss post workout indicates dehydration so replenish soon.
  • Its key to make sure you are replacing not only water, but sodium from sweat loss.
  • Its recommended to rehydrate with a carb + electrolyte drink.
  • Continue to check hydration status with the color of your urine.

 

By Jesse Rodriguez

Jesse’s focus and emphasis is on Sports Nutrition. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science with the addition of a CSCS certification from the NSCA. Jesse swam for the El Salvador National Team and competed at the international level. Jesse has worked at USC with the Strength and Conditioning program and UCLA as the lead intern for Sports Nutrition. He is currently a dietetic intern to complete requirements for the Registered Dietitian exam and obtain his professional license. During his free time, Jesse continues to strength train, Olympic lift, and stay up-to-date on the latest nutrition trends. Lastly, Jesse is a member of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, National Strength and Conditioning Association, and Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association.

Nina S. Stachenfeld, PhD. Assessing hydration in the laboratory and field. February 2013. http://www.gssiweb.org/en/sports-science-exchange/article/sse-111-assessing-hydration-in-the-laboratory-and-field#articleTopic_1
https://www.nsca.com/education/articles/trainer-tips/hydration/
https://www.hprc-online.org/articles/hydration-basics

Lecture Takeaways: Ruthless Performance Methods & Practices for Peak Athletic Function

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Its easy to imagine how a lecture scheduled for 30 minutes, on a topic as encompassing as optimizing performance, could end up being an hour and 6-minute open-ended discussion. This is precisely what happened this past week at Bloomsburg University during our guest presentation on how Ruthless Performance trains individuals to achieve high performance.

The content of this lecture ranged from specific exercises to an exploration of the Central Nervous System; similarly, questions ranged from the efficacy of BCAA’s to proper running gait—all of which led to an extremely informative and productive talk, filled with content and subsequent questions.

Below is a summary of some of the most important takeaways from this lecture. Remember, human performance is a broad topic, but the information below meets some objective criteria for significance within the theories and practices we endorse at Ruthless Performance.

 

First, a Definition of Terms

Because there is not one set definition of ‘high performance’ across sports and fitness endeavors, let’s assume the definition is as follows: high performance is the ability to perform within the top 10% of your own ability within any fitness doctrine.

For a 5K runner, this means being able to run a 5K within a margin of 10% of your best time at your current state of training. Similarly, for a weightlifter, this means being able to Clean & Jerk or Snatch within 10% of your current capacity for a 1RM. This is not to dismiss linear periodization (though Ruthless Performance typically does shy away from this style) nor is this a sleight on tapering for a significant bout or competition.

During a high-mileage segment of a marathon runner’s training regimen, she may be outside of this 10% margin from a previous race or time. The 10% margin of performance as defined here is referring to a precise training state. In the case of the marathon runner, her ability to complete a half-marathon trial within 10% of her previous season’s high-mileage training cycle is what we are referring to. The closer the training variables are, the more applicable this rule becomes.

 

The Motivational Training Montage is Just the Icing on the Cake

The significance of training to perform is predicated on fundamental health and wellness practices. A 6-hour a day training program would get world-class athletes no where were it not for a broad base of fundamental behaviors.Basics of Health & Function

These behaviors are known universally at some intuitive level, but not always acted upon. What could be viewed as boring and frivolous can make the difference between 6 more weeks of training and 6 weeks of sitting out with the flu while your competition trains because you didn’t get a flu vaccination from your primary care provider.

A similar situation could be ignoring the necessity for injury care work and corrective exercise during the early onset stages of shoulder pain or movement dysfunction as presented in a movement screen. The examples here are limitless, suffice it to say that all of the traditional variables of wellness like sleep quality, nutrition, lifestyle stress, and on, are all predecessors to your ability to train and compete within our newly defined parameters of ‘high performance’.

 

More to Come…

This just grazes the surface of the lecture but provides valuable insights into some fundamentals of high performance. First, high performance must be defined; when a term is open-ended, its implications are only speculative and unattainable. Second, high performance is the sum of the boring but necessary components of life that makes an athlete healthy enough to train and compete within their specific doctrine.

As we continue to review the Ruthless Performance Methods & Practices for Peak Athletic Function lecture, we’ll cover nutrition for high performance, ‘anti-specificity training’, universally essential exercises, and the role of the central nervous system in high performance.

Have a question on this topic or want to train with Ruthless Performance? Contact us via email at info@RuthlessPerformance.com, RuthlessPerformance.com/contact, and be sure to follow us on social media at @RuthlessPerform on Twitter and Instagram.

Featured Fitness Content: Volume 44

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View the last edition of ‘Featured Fitness Content’ here.

Personal Training, Coaching, and Strength & Conditioning

Performance Programming Principles: Installment 2  By Eric Cressey

The 3 Main Goals of an Assessment By Dean Somerset

Step-by-Step Glute Training By Mike Robertson

 

Weight Loss, Nutrition, and General Health

Why You Might Not Need to Learn More About Nutrition By Mike Roussell

Carbohydrates – My Take on Carbs By Charles Poliquin

The Greatest Public Health Mistake of the 20th Century By Joseph Mercola

Honey Lemon Water: An Effective Remedy or Urban Myth? By Jillian Kubala via Health Line

7 Science-Based Health Benefits of Selenium By Jillian Kubala via Health Line

 

Strength Training, Powerlifting, and Bodybuilding

Are You Making These Strength Training Mistakes By G John Mullen via COR

Complete Core Questions By Michael Boyle

Get Tough: A Beginner’s Guide To Impact Training By Walter Dorey via Breaking Muscle

 

Motivation, Business, and Success

The Power of Accepting Personal Responsibility By Jen Comas via Girls Gone Strong

Truth: Half of What We Call ‘Fitness’ Isn’t Fitness at All By Lee Boyce

Before you design a chart or infographic By Seth Godin

Don’t create new content. Repurpose content. By Sol Orwell

 

Physical Therapy, Alignment, and Injury Prevention

[VIDEO] Recent Training and Evaluation Insights By Charlie Weingroff

Research

Science Is Self-Correcting – The Case Of The Hip Thrust And Its Effects On Speed By Bret Contreras

Featured Fitness Content: Volume 39

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View last week’s edition of ‘Featured Fitness Content’ here.

Personal Training, Coaching, and Strength & Conditioning

Interview with Lee Taft on Coaching Agility, Speed and Athletic Movement By Joel Smith with Lee Taft

Why I Don’t Like Scap Push-ups By Eric Cressey

 

Weight Loss, Nutrition, and General Health

How Much Cardio Do You Need To Get Ripped For Summer?  By Sean Hyson via Onnit Academy

A Really Bad Long Term Strategy for Weight Loss By Mike Roussell

Doctors should emphasize exercise, not weight loss By Buddy Touchinsky

 

Strength Training, Powerlifting, and Bodybuilding

8 Mobility Moves For Better Squatting, Pressing, and Pulling By Mark DiSalvo via Onnit Academy

7 Tips for a Bigger Bench  By Bret Contreras

3 Ways to Reduce Stress and Improve Recovery During Your Next Workout By Harold Gibbons via Mark Fisher Fitness

28 Years of Lifting: Strength Training In Your 40s & Training As You Get Older By Zach Even Esh

 

Motivation, Business, and Success

5 Powerful Life Lessons From the Book Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss By Liam Seed via Addicted 2 Success

How To *Not* Be A Spineless Leader By Tim Denning via Addicted 2 Success

How to Build a Fitness Practice that Brings You Joy  By Elizabeth Stacey via Mark Fisher Fitness

Waking up to life By Kim Lloyd

 

Physical Therapy, Alignment, and Injury Prevention

6 Hip Mobility Drills Everyone Should Perform By Mike Reinold

[VIDEO] Communicating with Docs, PTs working as Strength Coaches & Essential Reading for Students With Mike Reinold

Stretching Isn’t Bullshit  By Jasper De Coninck via Dean Somerset

 

Research

Fact check: Is boxed macaroni and cheese actually toxic?  By Kamal Patel via Examine

 

Ruthless Performance Coaches’ Content

Why Do We Need Fats in Our Diet? By Jesse Rodriguez

How Vitamins Effect Sports Performance

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By Jesse Rodriguez

An apple a day keeps the doctor away right? Not quite since dietary guidelines recommended us to consume ~3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Vegetables, specifically, are overlooked but they shouldn’t as they are superfoods. Mom was right when nagging us about eating our veggies at the dinner table.

Vitamins are our main focus here and how it can help performance. There are two types of vitamins:

  • Water soluble – Vitamins B and C
  • Fat soluble – Vitamin A, D, E, and K
*Vitamins A, C, and E have antioxidant effects

The difference between the two are the elements of metabolism. Some water-soluble vitamins require digestion while some don’t, however, they are all absorbed in the small intestine then transported through the blood to their target areas. Similarly, some fat-soluble vitamins require digestion while some don’t. In order to get absorbed, it must be incorporated into a micelle with the help of bile. The micelle then gets absorbed into the intestinal cells by passive diffusion in the small intestine. Those with diseases or complications may have trouble absorbing vitamins or producing the necessary enzymes for metabolism.

Vitamins help performance in many ways such as serving as antioxidants to reduce inflammation or working with minerals such as calcium to promote bone strength. Furthermore, some fruits can serve as a pre-workout packed with carbohydrates with a low glycemic index providing a steady dose of carbs throughout the workout. Additionally, fruits contain fructose, a simple sugar, that is digested quickly aiding in glycogen replenishment. Because vitamins have various benefits, I will cover only a handful of fruits and vegetables that can help your health and performance.

  • Fish, Beef, Yogurt, Milk, Chicken – Vitamin B12
    • Helps formation of red blood cells
    • Maintain brain function
    • Create and breakdown protein and fat
  • Pears – Vitamins C, K, B3, B6, B9
    • Increase energy levels
    • Aids in digestion
    • Decrease blood pressure
  • Cucumbers – Vitamins C, K, B1, B7
    • Aids in protection of brain
    • Increase digestive health
    • Decreases stress
    • Freshens your breath!
  • Milk, Eggs, – Vitamin D
    • Increase bone strength
    • May increase musculoskeletal health
    • May improve muscle efficiency
  • Oranges, Carrots, Milk – Vitamin A
    • Aid in vision and cellular differentiation
    • Promotes eye health
    • Antioxidant effects helping in muscle recovery

To summarize, vitamins are imperative to our health and can aid in performance. Add a banana or apple to your mid-day snack. You can also try things like carrots with hummus, celery sticks with peanut butter or steamed broccoli with your dinner. Eating your servings of fruits and vegetables doesn’t have be boring so mix it in with your daily foods. Eating a balanced diet includes all food groups containing vitamins which are important for different functions in the body

 

Jesse Rodriguez is a nutritional science major with an emphasis in sports nutrition. Jesse swam for the El Salvador national team and competed at the international level. Jesse is currently working towards a CSCS and registered dietitian license. He currently works at UCLA as a sports nutrition intern assisting both dietitians with meal plans, body composition, and education materials. Jesse is a member of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association.

Strength Training Considerations for Youth Swimmers

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Strength Training is an emerging field in the sport of swimming. As more and more coaches, parents, and athletes begin to understand the extent to which a strength training program can help drop swim times and reduce injury, the more I’m approached by a growing and widening audience about, not only the Ruthless Athletic‘s Dryland Training for Swimmers Program, but also, general tips for using land-based techniques to get better in the pool.

As this audience widens, the frequency of parents approaching me to develop programs for their age-group swimmers increases as well. There’s a great deal of misinformation in the mainstream media about various forms of strength training for swimmers in general, but even moreso for youth athletes and youth or age-group swimmers.

The information herein are some quick tips and answers to some very frequently asked questions which I receive from both parents, coaches, athletic administrators, and even these young athletes themselves.

Strength Training is NOT Detrimental to Youth Athletes

The idea that strength training is detrimental to prepubescent and pubescent athletes transcends the sport of swimming. Parents, coaches, and entire athletic staffs may fall prey to this line of thinking.

As mentioned in this fantastic piece by Mike Robertson: “the stresses in sport far exceed what happens in the weight room!” Mike goes on to say “For example, in strength training a good measure of strength would be if you could squat or deadlift 2x your body weight. In other words if you weighed 175, if you could squat and/or deadlift 350, you’d be considered strong…

…And then follows with some information that most people intuitively understand, but seem to ignore with regards to strength training…

However, the forces that you see in everyday events like running (4-6x body weight) and jumping (6-10x body weight) far exceed anything done in the weight room.

Speed and Agility Drills are Overlooked for Swimmers

Injuries in the pool are actually rather rare. Swimmers may develop chronic, or overuse injuries from their time in the pool, but the likelihood of sports injuries increases as an under-prepared swimmer finds themselves in a precarious position on land.

Often times, swimmers may find themselves in a pick-up game of football, volleyball, or some other higher-impact land sport where an injury could occur. Because these swimmers are so unprepared for this medium (court, field, track, etc.) they run a higher risk of injury than their friends who may participate in some of the various land-based sports.

While preparing for these kind of extenuating circumstances may seem like overkill, the number of coaches who’ve showed up to practice to then be faced with an injured star swimmer from similar circumstances to the aforementioned example is astronomical.

The Goal of Strength Training is Not the Goal of Swimming Practice

Swimming coaches tend to have misconceptions about the goals of strength training; a problem propagated extensively within the field. Coaches tend to want land-based exercise to replicate what is done in the pool, however, while the goals of both are the betterment of the athlete, the applications are entirely different.

Because pool workouts develop skill work and energy system development, coaches mistakenly believe strength training should be done in a similar way, usually with little rest, high heart rates, and in a manner which replicates the actions of sport; this view is plainly wrong.

Land work should help restore optimal function to the various joints and postures which the swimming strokes can hinder. By spending hours in the pool completing high yardage training, then coupling this with ‘sport specific work’ (such as swim cable trainers), you are effectively exacerbating shoulder and hip ailments common to overuse injuries.

To have the most effective ‘sport specific’ strength training, a program should consist of various counter measures. This ensures a neutral posture onto which the swimming coaches can pack on yardage and intensity. Doing so in addition to more of the same exercises on land will definitively lead to pain, burnout, and injury.

 

Consider the above when trying to formulate a program for your youth athletes. Remember, Ruthless Athletics does offer coaching services to individual athletes, as well as, entire sports teams. For more information on these services, swim team consulting, details on any of the various other services provided, or to simply ask a general question, feel free to reach out at RuthlessAthletics@gmail.com.

 

Takeways from the ‘Future of Fitness’ Lecture

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In early October, I was fortunate enough to present to a group of students for the BU Strength & Fitness Club at my alma mater, Bloomsburg University. It was a mixed crowd, with some planning on creating a future for themselves in the field of health and wellness, while others were business students looking to learn more about the future of sports administration, and some were just gym attendees interested in the general direction fitness will be taking over the next decade or so.

From this lecture, I’ve compiled some of my thoughts and materials here. The information enclosed is just my thoughts on the state of fitness and the direction in which I think the industry will proceed.

The Future is Bright for Strength & Conditioning

Athletes, parents, administrators, and coaches across the board are rapidly accepting and implementing strength & conditioning programs. While there’s no doubt this is good for the S&C industry, this influx of demand is changing the game at light-speed.

This demand is changing the job market completely. Highly-educated and experienced coaches are being sought-after like never before. At high schools and universities, these coaches are being paid top-dollar to ensure athletes are stronger, faster, and better able to handle the demands of sport. Many of the programs leading the pack in this regard are also using these strength coaches to avoid regulations imposed by high school state and collegiate national governing bodies.

With this in mind, it is possible to achieve the role of a collegiate strength & conditioning coach and be salaried similar to that of a sport’s head coach. But job market competition for these positions is fierce. Those best qualified for these positions are individuals with:f-of-f-s-and-c

  • Extensive experience within the sport
  • Graduate-level training in a related degree
  • Previous on-the-job experience coaching similar populations
  • Those with extensive knowledge of the rules and regulations of the sport’s governing body

Beyond college and high school, such positions are still available at private facilities. Because these are usually for-profit, the benefits and pay will likely be considerably less (at least to start). To be best prepared for these positions, individuals will benefit by:

  • Being comfortable coaching in small and large group settings
  • Demonstrating above-average communication skills
  • Proficiency in various training techniques and movement screens
  • Possessing a certification from a nationally accredited S&C or CPT program

Again, the future is bright here, but the amount of candidates for these jobs still exceed the positions available, making the job market fierce. Volunteering with teams and undergoing an educational internship make for stand-out entrance-level candidates.

CrossFit is a Toss-Up

Many industry insiders may have lost a few bets by now about the continued success of CrossFit. Those who still call CrossFit a “fad” are losing touch with reality. This is not to say that CrossFit is still without problems. In fact, there are one of two ways that CrossFit can go from here; luck, circumstance, and strategic business maneuvers will define CrossFit’s place in the fitness realm for years to come.

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Firstly, for CrossFit to have some level of continued success, the company will need to address their plateauing membership and the simultaneous influx of CrossFit “boxes”. More and more of these gyms are opening up, paired with this membership flat-lining is creating internal competition. In essence, this means that moving forward without a change in the CrossFit hierarchy and new gym requirements will allow CrossFit affiliates to eat each other alive.

Like many other companies, CrossFit will need to diversify to ensure financial health. This may include something like CrossFit branded supplements, which may be a hard sell, given the companies affiliation with some supplement brands.

CrossFit’s best bet for market expansion at this point would likely be additional specialty certifications. This move will allow CrossFit to tap further into their existing consumer base, creating specialty gyms and experts, which may help differentiate some of the higher-end CrossFit gyms from the rest of the pack (thereby perpetuating their business model and simultaneously filtering out the gyms giving CrossFit a bad image).

Something that may be CrossFit’s worst nightmare would be the emergence of a new training model which could cut into CrossFit’s market share. While I don’t know what this training model may be (if I did, I’d be a very rich man), CrossFit’s appeal as cutting-edge and different may be lost to its audience when there is something more cutting-edge and more different.

Bodybuilding is a Likely a Thing of the Past

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that follows the sport of bodybuilding even remotely. The majority of revenue from the sport is attained through supplement sponsors, etc.. As less and less individuals idolize the figures of these individuals and turn to athletes like CrossFitters, more and more sponsors are beginning to bail–not the best situation for these federations to be in.

One of the few things that could redeem the sport, is natural bodybuilding. As the ‘un-tested’ athletes grow away from the figures and physiques of classic bodybuilders (i.e. the Golden Age Arnold-type physiques), natural bodybuilders may be the sports final stand and last chance as a mainstream and profitable sport.

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Personal Training is Changing Rapidly

The idea of the 1-on-1 personal training model is losing its edge in the fitness community. Not only is 1-on-1 less profitable than small group or semi-private models, it is likely overkill and hugely inefficient.

This is not to say that 1-on-1’s will not stick around. It is likely that we’ll see these for a long time to come, but offered as a more premium service for higher-paying clients or elite athletes. In fact, rather you currently implement a 1-on-1 service or not, having this available as a ‘top-tier’ package may help funnel more clients into the aforementioned small group or semi-private classes.

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SEO is Changing the Information Game

It’s likely no surprise that fitness information is getting muddied in an effort to reach the widest audience possible. Many of the large fitness publications are in business simply to create revenue by f-of-f-seoselling advertising space in their magazines or sites. This not only means that providing information in contrast to the mission of the advertisers (whether the information is scientifically viable or not) will not get published, but this also means that the publishers are trying to reach the widest audience possible.

To reach this audience, writers must adhere to strict editorial guidelines which are intended to maximize the likelihood that the publication will yield the highest result possible on a search engine’s web page.

This creates a system where those who are SEO savvy can market themselves much better than experts in the field who are trying to provide more pertinent and detailed content.

This idea applies within this lecture because this is not a trend that is in any way slowing down. Click-bait articles are becoming more and more prevalent, and content which intermediate or advanced fitness trainees can use and apply are becoming more and more scarce.

As we’ve seen over the past few years, there has been a rise of paid/membership sites. The growth of these will likely parallel the growth of SEO and its significance in growth of online media.

Challenge Races are Indiscernible

Initially in this presentation, I didn’t even make reference to the idea of challenge/ obstacle course races; this would have been a mistake and done this presentation a disservice.

Challenge races are on the rise as individuals look for new and different ways to challenge their fitness in an environment packed with like-minded individuals. These include Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, etc.. Many of these have a niche following, but not enough to set themselves out among the pack.

As time progresses, I expect one of these to somehow create a greater sense of brand-loyalty than the rest. This will likely tip the balance of power in their favor, giving that particular challenge race greater market share and brand recognition among outsiders making them the ‘go-to’ for challenge races (much like CrossFit has done in the cross-training niche).

Psych 101 and Sports Business Success

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This is yet another point which I would be remiss not to include. While I primarily used this to demonstrate the success of models like CrossFit or semi-private training, this idea has implications across the board in the fitness industry.

If you’ve been in the field for any length of time, you know how volatile the fitness market is. During recessions, fitness spending is one of the first things to get dropped, but during economic recovery it is quick to rebound.

One way to tell how a sports business will fare throughout changing economic conditions, is where the business falls in a group of individuals hierarchy of needs. For most recreational gym goers, training (and therefore spending) is limited to the top 1 or 2 tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy (see picture above). This means that individuals are more likely to train to find fulfillment by developing their esteem and find some sense of self-actualization.

What the best fitness companies have done is tap into the love/belonging tier; ever hear of CrossFit being called a cult? By creating an environment which fosters belonging, people are less likely to forgo membership because they are meeting a wider base of their psychological needs (i.e. sense of community — think CrossFit gyms or something with a unique brand identity like Mark Fisher Fitness).

The Future is Mixed, but the Fitness Industry Only Grows Stronger

If time has taught us anything, it’s that as we move forward as a society and more and more needs are met, fitness in some form or fashion grows as a mainstay in our day-to-day lives.

The remaining questions are more about how people will aspire to feel healthier from day to day rather than if. Aligning your brand to help individuals meet these needs in an innovative and fun way is a recipe for success. Maintaining recognition as an innovator can be problematic, but keeping these ideas in mind should provide a likely framework for the future of fitness.