Category Archives: Fitness

The Myths Regarding Male and Female Players

Strength and Fitness Training has always been a point of contention among soccer players and coaches, alike. For years the argument went, “Soccer is played with the legs, and we run enough. Nothing else is necessary!”

Well, to that I say, “Beans!”

As you are by now well aware, the contention regarding whether soccer players should engage in soccer-specific strength and fitness training goes much deeper than whether soccer players need strength training or not, the argument as to whether female athletes would benefit from such training has also been hotly debated. Their can be little doubt, given the findings of several recent studies by such prestigious institutions as the Cleveland Clinic, that the benefits are many and there are really no disadvantages whatsoever!

The fact is, the belief that soccer players were fit enough and strong enough without soccer-specific strength and fitness training was completely wrong. It has been proven, not only in the lab but on the pitch, soccer players play better, are more fit, are a more formidable force on the pitch, play with more confidence and assertiveness, and can do things they couldn’t do before a strength and fitness program was integrated into their training routine; and, they are less injury prone!

It is a well known fact that female soccer players suffer a greater number of knee injuries than their male counterparts. There are myriad reasons for this difference and we will address many of them as we progress. The interesting thing about this, as it pertains to this article, is that female athletes who have engaged in a regular, supervised soccer-specific strength and fitness program were 73% less likely to sustain a career shortening or career ending knee injury! The statistic, supported independently by several studies, is staggering and puts to bed once and for all the notion that soccer players, male or female, need not engage in regular strength and fitness training.

The data supports the notion that sex-specific and soccer-specific strength and fitness training not only helps the athlete develop into a better athlete but it keeps the athlete playing longer by significantly reducing the incidence of injury. There can be little doubt that such a training strategy benefits the players, the coaches, and even the fans by keeping their favorite players on the pitch that much deeper into their careers.

Specific Strength and Fitness Training Part III

I want to admit to you right up front that I know this article is a bit long but this is probably one of the most important aspects of the entire soccer-specific strength and fitness training program. Like diet and nutrition, if you miss this, you will not perform at peak levels. And that is what this is all about, optimal performance on the soccer pitch next season. So, take the time to read this, weigh the information, apply what you need and what will serve you best, which I believe will be most of this, and look for the next article in the series on stretching and flexibility. Keep in mind that as you implement this program, you should be journaling everything, not only to track results but so you know what to adjust and what to work on. In other words, so you know what is working and what isn’t. This is your program and your soccer career, regardless of level of play, so make it your best!

We have reviewed the first ingredient required for an effective off-season, soccer specific strength and fitness training program…nutrition and diet. While they are two separate and distinct subjects, they are inextricably linked, you can’t have one without the other. It is important that, if you haven’t reviewed the introduction into diet and nutrition, and the first article, an overall introduction to this soccer-specific and sex-specific strength and training program, you do so before going any further. The next step in designing and implementing an effective training regimen, the next ingredient, equally important to diet and nutrition, is an understanding of just how crucial hydration is; and, not only hydration but optimal fluid intake and replacement. If you wish to have a real performance edge, peak performance in training and competition, you must be properly hydrated before, during, and after strength and fitness training. A proper hydration strategy is a vital component in any sport, in any region of the world, and in all climate conditions. In fact, proper hydration may be more important during conditions not thought of as being related to, or linked to, hydration. An example of such a condition is cold weather. During cold weather training and competition fluid intake may be neglected or even ignored, yet it is just as important to be well hydrated during such periods. Ultimately, hydration is crucial in any situation, during training and while competing.

Performance and hydration have been linked in study after study; and, there is a positive correlation between hydration and performance, a causal relationship. There can be little doubt as to the importance of hydration, neglecting it can lead to diminished performance and, in the severest of instances, death. We have all heard stories of athletes who have died crossing the finish line or after an incredibly brutal training session. I have personally witnessed the catastrophic effects of severe dehydration. I have watched as athletic trainers and EMS personnel attempted to save the life of a young soccer athlete who had taken salt pills, a terrible “old school” strategy, while failing to drink fluids, a recipe for disaster. The young man died, a boy actually, and all because of inadequate fluid intake combined with the loss of electrolytes. What we don’t hear about, because it is so difficult to track and quantify, in any athlete is diminished performance, the performance that “could have been,” if only the proper hydration strategy had been suggested and adhered to.

Hydration is the Key! Hydration is not only important in the waning moments of an all-important soccer match, it is also important for peak performance during training and to regulate and even enhance the body’s overall capacity to work. The body is made up of approximately sixty percent water, it is very important that an athlete and his or her trainer and/or coach be aware of the need for proper fluid intake. The body requires water for a number of functions and processes, including the proper uptake of nutrients, as an aid in the breakdown of food (digestion and absorption of nutrients), making food available for energy and muscle building and rebuilding, as a transport mechanism for various materials throughout the various systems, eliminating harmful waste material and toxins, regulating the body’s temperature, and for energy, both production and output. In fact, there is not a single system in the body that doesn’t rely on water. Hydration is required for life!
How Much? For Whom and When? Many authorities propose the average person consume a minimum of eight, eight ounce glasses of water per day. The amount varies from one individual to another, with size, activity level, weather, and athletic performance all affecting daily requirements. Ultimately, water intake should be based on size, activity, and atmosphere, with more being better, within reasonable limits, of course. Women also carry more water than men, thus requiring more per pound of body weight than men. However, for our purposes and during strength and fitness training, the average athlete, male or female, should increase fluid intake by at least 15% and more if training outdoors and at high temperatures. Wet bulb also should be considered; and, at high wet bulb readings, a high temperature and humidity combined to set the reading, care should be taken to replenish fluids often.

Water Intoxication and Hyper-Hydration! Because we here in the States have a culture of “if one is good, ten is fantastic,” I must at least touch on two conditions, inextricably linked, often mistaken for one another, that may have catastrophic results. I will speak to these conditions as they may relate to athletes, not to the general public. The first of these is known as “water intoxication,” or “hyper-hydration,” also known as “water poisoning.” Most individuals with water intoxication are completely asymptomatic, meaning they present with no symptoms whatsoever. However, hyper-hydration or water poisoning may be fatal, the result of an osmotic imbalance and a drop in electrolytes. The condition usually occurs when individuals consume water large amounts of water, while failing to take in inadequate amounts of electrolytes lost during extreme exertion. This is why, in certain circumstances, various electrolyte replenishing drinks can be a good thing.

Hyponatremia! Interestingly, a related condition also caused by taking in too much water, any fluid for that matter, may contribute to a condition known as hyponatremia. Hyponatremia is also attributed to an electrolyte imbalance, one that may result when sodium levels in blood plasma drops too low. Symptoms of hyponatremia may be mistaken for drunkenness, diabetic complications, and/or even being “on something.” The symptoms include: muscle cramps, particularly of the feet and legs but also of other large muscle groups, and even the hands and fingers; nausea and vomiting; confusion, disorientation, fainting, and in severe cases, blacking out; slurred and rambling speech; and, inappropriate actions and behavior out of the norm. As with water intoxication, its sister condition Hyponatremia is often more dangerous, more life-threatening than dehydration, it is vital to balance water and electrolyte intake. The balancing act between hydration and hyper-hydration is one every athlete needs to be aware of, taking into consideration the risks of both dehydration and hyper-hydration; and, achieving a personal water and sport drink intake balance in order to reach peak performance on and off the pitch.

To Drink or Not to Drink! It must be noted, in preparing you for a soccer-specific, sex-specific strength and training program, particularly when dealing with hydration, you must also recognize what not to drink. While some of the sports drinks may have their time and place, and I do mean some, the newly emerging sports drinks with protein are definitely worth considering, particularly after training sessions. Significantly, many of the current quick energy drinks are nothing short of pollution to your system, contrary to your goal of peak performance. While I won’t mention any of them by name, you know certain drinks claiming to do everything from keeping the away the doldrums to allowing you to fly. Remember one thing, when you are flying and run out of fuel, you will most certainly crash, wings or no wings. The so-called energy drinks are loaded with chemicals and caffeine, combined with various herbs and unknown ingredients, almost every one counter to a good training program. Other drinks you should consider avoiding include carbonated beverages or all kinds, that’s right pop (soda if you are from back east) is out, coffee and tea as well. Juices are good but only in moderation, and any other sort of empty calorie, high-sucrose, is inappropriate; and, caffeinated beverages not covered above are out, too. Yes, you can treat yourself once in a while, we all need our little bonuses, but ask yourself this first, is the person competing for the same spot you are hoping to own next season “cheating” or are they totally committed to making it, with that serving as the ultimate reward.

The fact is, every athlete, and your soccer-specific, sex-specific strength and fitness training coach, if you are fortunate enough to have one, should monitor their own hydration program. There is a balance that must be achieved between too little and too much. The challenge is that what is too little for one athlete is nowhere near enough for the next. And, as stated above, sex, size, weight, atmosphere, and even musculature and previous training habits will all come to into play and should be considered. Water versus sports drinks is an issue and when training hard and/or under extreme conditions, sport drinks that replace key electrolytes and minerals may enhance performance. Various sugars, namely glucose, fructose and sucrose, along with various electrolyte minerals, particularly sodium, are necessary and even vital, in the true sense of the word. However, water is still the most important ingredient, and one every athlete should make sure they have plenty of. There is a debate raging right now as to just how much, when, and even if water, as opposed to other drinks, should be taken in. This debate while interesting is not really all that important to the overall program, which is to get you into shape, into peak performance through a soccer-specific sex specific strength and fitness training program.
Water: The Essential Nutrient! As stated above, water is and essential nutrient for the transportation of vital nutrients, ease of digestion, ridding the body of toxins and waste products, proper function of joints and connective tissue, and even thermo-regulation, the regulation of your body’s internal temperature. Soccer athletes should maintain proper hydration for normal body function, optimal physiology, and also for peak, competitive performance. Proper hydration during training also helps to regulate and control the volume of blood in the body, circulatory function and cardiac output, muscle hydrodynamics and blood flow, skin condition, tone, and blood flow, and core physiology. Significantly, proper hydration, and fluid intake generally, is crucial for anatomy, physiology, and performance. The duration of individual training sessions, how intense the training is, determine how much to drink, the proper amount and kinds of fluids.

Dehydration! Current research on peak performers indicates that decreasing blood volume due to intense exercise and sweating causes an athlete’s heart rate to accelerate. An accelerated heart rate, combined with sweating the the resultant loss of bodily fluids may result in fatigue, dizziness, and muscle cramps. Dehydration and its symptoms can be avoided by replacing body fluids lost during training. Dehydration is often caused by improper and/or inadequate fluid replacement; profuse and excessive fluid loss, sweating; neglecting to replenish fluids lost during and immediately after training; training in arid, high temperatures; and, drinking when thirsty rather than on a specified schedule before, during and after training sessions. The degree of fluid loss and dehydration is made worse by intensified heat stressors, length of training sessions and the amount of time between sessions, and training severity or intensity.

The Ultimate Hydration Program! Most soccer athletes should use this program, follow the guidelines above and below to replenish and replace fluids lost, and modify it to meet your individual requirements:
Hydration Prior to Training
* Take in 15 to 20 fluid ounces 2 to 3 hours prior to training sessions.
* Take in 8 to 10 fluid ounces 10 to 15 minutes prior to training sessions.
Training Hydration
* Take in 8 fluid ounces of your favorite sports drink, I prefer Gatorade for a number of reasons (try a 1 to 3 ratio Gatorade to water) 3 to 4 times per hour during training.
Post Training Hydration
* Take in 20 fluid ounces of fluid, preferably water, but a mix of 1:3 Gatorade to water is OK, for every pound of body weight loss to sweat. Make sure you weigh yourself prior to and after training in order to track the number of pounds lost and fluid replaced

The Key to Success? Implementing the strategy laid out for you above; and, making sure you are taking in adequate amounts water and sports drinks prior to, during, and after training sessions. This will reduce the risk of dehydration and may be the easiest and most direct strategy for maintaining and improving bodily functions; and, increasing performance levels. Next? We begin stretching and flexibility training!

Soccer Fitness Training Tips

Soccer fitness training will help your players optimize their overall strength, speed and stamina. Such training plays a very major role in soccer and is in fact an essential component when it comes to coaching soccer. Let me give you a brief insight into different types of fitness training for soccer players.

  • Maximal Strength Fitness Training

In one momentary contraction, there is a specific level of force that a muscle group can generate. This optimum force of a muscle group is termed as maximal strength. Maximal strength plays a very important role in the game of soccer.

It helps the players hold off opponent and steal the ball from them. However, the objective of the maximal strength fitness training should not be just to enhance the maximal strength. Instead, the training should focus on enhancing both power and speed to optimum level.

  • Power Training – Plyometrics

This fitness-training program for soccer is highly effective in building both strength and speed in the players. What is more, unlike most people think, it is not a very difficult training process. The training becomes much easier when both the coach and the players follow the guidelines associated with the same religiously.

Plyometrics exercises are designed in a way to stretch the muscle of the players before the contraction and this simply results in more forceful and instant contraction. For example, one easy way to do this exercise is to keep jumping off the ground without bending the knees. However, one good way to maintain the speed and flexibility of the players is simply to follow a specific weight routine.

This is the best way to enhance as well as maintain the speed and strength of the players. Last, but not the least, there are certain cautions that you must take note of while you are doing the Plyometrics exercises. For example, it is not good to use weights – no matter how light it is – while doing this exercise.

  • Some Examples Of Plyometrics Exercises

The simple yet best example of Plyometrics exercises is that you should run in slow motion, jumping on alternate feet. While doing this exercise, the players should aim to achieve as much height and distance as possible at each step.

Overall, there are various ways in which soccer fitness training can be organized. However, the only thing that both the coach and the players must keep in mind is that they have to follow the guidelines religiously.

The Best Fitness Training Information

Why Fitness Training? I am passionate about sports. I have studied, learned, practiced and coached a lot of it. I still do it. I decided to share my passion and knowledge with those that have an interest in that. The subject of sports, alone, is huge. I can not even think of ever being able to cover it.

People’s health and general well being is dramatically improved by fitness training. Every individual should have it in his or her life.

It is usually performed in a gym or club, but it may very well happen (sometimes with much better results) in a Track and Field Center. A home (that has proper fitness equipment) can sometimes be used as a training facility.

Fitness training requires commitment, discipline and patience to see results. Different people train at different paces. Anybody following the requirements and instructions will see positive results. The higher the motivation level is, the stronger a training program can be. For some people, especially those who have not done any physical training in a while, the beginning of a new fitness program may be hard. However, achieving your goal is much more rewarding, and motivating for future sessions. Besides any goals people may have, their health improves in so many areas, that it is impossible to not feel and enjoy it.

People may need fitness training to become good or better in sports or to make them be and feel healthy, strong, thin, lean, flexible etc. Based on people needs and goals there are lots of different fitness programs. For every program there are specific workout routines, exercise programs and equipment. Every program should start with a warm-up period and finish with a cool-down period. The routines and exercises involve (but are not limited to) running, weight lifting, stretching, jumping etc.

Fitness classifies into physical and performance related components. All the components have to be considered when assessing an individual’s training needs and goals, to create an adequate program. The job of a trainer/coach should be to create a program with the right composition for each specific individual.

Please, feel free to leave your comments, thoughts or suggestions, as they are really valuable for me. Thank you for reading this article and stay tuned for many more to come.

Functional Fitness Training

WHAT IS FUNCTIONAL FITNESS TRAINING?

Functional fitness training can be described as any program that includes exercises designed to mimic and/or help you to perform daily tasks or activities safely and efficiently. Examples of these types of tasks or activities include loading and unloading furniture from a truck, or picking your kid up and carrying them up the stairs.

Functional exercises are generally multi-joint movements that involve using both upper and lower body muscle groups simultaneously while engaging the core.

For example, while an exercise like a dumbbell curl ONLY works the bicep and is performed in most cases for aesthetic purposes, an exercise like a dumbbell farmer’s walk trains the body to lift heavy objects properly off the ground, engaging the core, driving through the heels, then moving those heavy objects from point A to point B. Muscles worked: glutes, quads, hamstrings, upper traps, forearms, and core. In addition, it’s not a bad high intensity cardio workout either. In a real world scenario, an exercise such as this is much more likely to transfer over to a common task such as carrying two heavy grocery bags from the store to your car.

SHOULD YOU BE INCORPORATING FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENTS IN YOUR EXERCISE PROGRAM?

Everyone can benefit from performing functional movements. Don’t wait until you slip a disc in your back trying to pick up that 50 pound bag of dog food before you decide it’s time to learn how to deadlift properly. Lower back injuries are the most common, nagging, reoccurring injuries in our society today. In fact, 31 million Americans experience low-back pain at any given time.Experts estimate that as many as 80% of the American population will experience a back injury at some point in their lives. Knowing the reasons why people experience these injuries and training your body in ways that will help you to avoid them is something everyone can and should do.

If you’re a bodybuilder, does it make sense to perform only functional movements in your routine? No. You’ll most likely be going with a split routine of some sort. However, for most everyone else, whether you’re a stay at home Mom with two kids, or the owner of a refurbished vintage furniture store (had to throw some of my real life client examples in here), you need to know how to properly squat down and pick up your kids or your furniture, then properly lift them up and carry or load them off somewhere.

The answer for 99% of us is yes, at the very least, the two foundational functional movements, the squat and the deadlift, should be incorporated in your program somewhere.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF FUNCTIONAL FITNESS TRAINING?

  • Reduced risk of injury.
  • Improved ease of daily tasks.
  • Safe, efficient and effective performance of common activities.
  • Improved balance, agility, and strength.
  • Improved quality of life.

EXAMPLES OF FUNCTIONAL EXERCISES

  • Squat, deadlift, lunge (all variations)
  • Push-up, pull-up, dip
  • Kettlebell swing
  • Dumbbell carry
  • Medicine ball slam
  • Box jumps
  • Sled push
  • Battle rope
  • Core rotation exercises
  • Cable machine
  • Medicine ball
  • Resistance bands
  • Body weight
  • TRX Rip Trainer

Specific Strength & Fitness Training

Soccer-specific strength and fitness training for soccer players is a hotly debated topic. Off season strength training for soccer athletes has been the source of debate for many years and it still unresolved. The first question to be addressed is whether there really is an off season for top flight soccer players? At any level? Male or female? In my opinion the answer is no! Should there be? Well, that’s a topic for another article or series of articles and is part of an ongoing and intense debate.

For the purposes of this article, let’s assume there is something of an off season, even if it is simply a period when a soccer player plays less often. Once established, then the next issue to be addressed is: What sort of training will provide the greatest edge when the next season begins? The answer is complex but, in addition to continuing to keep your foot on the ball, and yourself on the pitch, at least a couple of times a week minimum, it is time to hit the gym!

I receive interesting questions and comments from time to time on this topic. Interestingly, many soccer coaches are still in the Dark Ages when it comes to strength training for soccer players.

I routinely receive and letters from colleagues and the information I receive generally falls into three categories:

1) The old soccer training school: “All you have to do is play soccer!”

2) The conservative soccer training school (usually voiced by parents): “My child is already doing too much, he (or
she) doesn’t need any more training!”

3) The informed soccer training school: “I realize the players are bigger, stronger, and faster than ever before and if I want to compete at the highest levels, I need an edge!”

It shouldn’t take a genius to guess which position I take on this subject? Yup, number 3!

The most misinformed comment I have received to date came from a “coach” who was critiquing an article I wrote on leg training is illustrative of the first school of thought, the old school. The coach maintained that because soccer players do not engage in muscle movement similar to the muscle movement used in the performance of a specific exercise, or use the muscles to prompt such movements in exactly that way on the pitch, there is no need for leg extensions and leg curls!

WRONG!

That’s like saying football players don’t need to bench press because there isn’t a bench on the fifty yard line or goalkeepers don’t need to be aerobically fit because they almost never leave the box! I could go on for days on this one but you get the message…I hope? It is old school and misinformed.

The old school point of view not only neglects to take into account the synergy between muscle groups and their actions, it fails to take into account that muscle movement is complex and not only involves other muscles, other than the ones you are working, it impacts the connective tissue as well.

And where do most profound and career ending soccer injuries occur? The knees! And what portion of the knees are most profoundly affected? The connective tissue! And how do we strengthen the connective tissue? By engaging in strength training directed at strengthening the muscles and the connective tissue associated with those muscles and the adjacent, synergistic musculature!

The fact is, if you do not strengthen the overall musculature, and the associated connective tissue, you are more susceptible to injury and, and this is the big one for this article, for the soccer players who are engaging in strength training? They are going to be what? Yup! Bigger! Stronger! Faster! And, if not faster…certainly more…Powerful!

So, hit the gym but do it right. Find a knowledgeable strength and fitness coach, someone familiar with sport-specific, and, in particular, soccer-specific strength and fitness training, and start hitting the weights and the machines (there are benefits to both).

Ultimately, it depends on how far you want to take it but competition is intense and to play at the highest levels, you need an edge.

Just go to any soccer complex in almost any city or town across the US, and certainly abroad, on a Saturday morning and ask yourself these questions:

1) What makes me so special?

2) How am I going to stand out against all of this competition?

3) What do I have to do to gain an edge?

The answer is quite simple really and is two-fold:

1) Play often and at the highest level possible.

2) Find a competitive advantage and then work at it until it separates you from the pack!

The combination of the two will pay dividends you can only hope for at present but from one who has coached soccer athletes at every level, on the pitch and in the gym, you have to remember that one question: “What makes me special?” Answer that and you will be among the top 1% and will have an opportunity to play when everyone else is sitting on the bench or in the stands.

Sport-specific training programs to be effective must be tailored to an individual’s needs. I have had over 30 years experience training athlete at all levels, amateur to top-level professional. I hope the article above helps or at least informs you. Perhaps it will also inspire you to take action.

Good Instructor For Personal Fitness Training

Getting your dream figure without a personal fitness coach is difficult to accomplish. Giving your body the desired shape is not as easy as most people presume it to be. Experience and expertise is required to decipher your body type and its particular needs.

Our body is our most precious possession. Each one has different physiological characteristics. This calls for a personal fitness coach, who gives special attention to each client and ensures that his/her goal is achieved.
Often people crave for a toned body but the lack of motivation prevents them from turning their desire into reality. We need a push to ward off the laziness. This much-needed motivation will be provided by the fitness coach.

We are aware of the perfect workout regimes that are needed to achieve our goal. Fitness instructor has the unbeatable knowledge about the right positions and instruments required during workouts. Fitness instructor helps us to focus on specific body parts and giving them an enviable shape.

A professional fitness trainer will provide you with the necessary equipments and the appropriate way of working with them. A physical fitness trainer will also take care of your diet.

Rather than wasting your time by experimenting with different diet plans and workouts, hire a certified personal fitness trainer / coach. The knowledge and assistance of a professional fitness trainer is unparallel. The fitness tips that you will receive during the personal training sessions will help in extending the horizon of your knowledge about fitness.

Sport-Specific Strength and Fitness Training

I have built many sport-specific strength and fitness training programs for top-caliber athletes over the years…I hope this works for you. Remember, you need to vary your workouts to match the intensity of your other training. Cross-training is difficult but vital to your success. The main issue with sport-specific strength and fitness training at any level, but particularly when first starting to train, is overtraining. Overtraining can derail the whole effort. You can run into problems with connective tissue, illness, excess weight loss, and malaise…all related back to overtraining, simply doing too much, too soon, and not in the right balance.

That being said, your goal must amazing, it must excite you…the hurdles are immense but not insurmountable, you simply must have a plan.

The first part of any sport-specific strength and fitness program is the evaluation. You must have an honest, heart-to-heart with yourself and with your team to access where you are now and where you want to end up, relative to fitness. You also need to establish incremental goals along the way, as well as the ultimate goal. In other words, you need to know where you are and where you are going…where you want to end up! That being said, you must do it the proper manner, progressing in just the right way, and timing it all just so…so you peak at just the right moment.

You are about to embark upon the journey of a lifetime and the program, the timing, and the overall coaching is crucial. One component ignored or mishandled will result in a less-that-desired effect. As in business and in life, planning and timing are everything. You are basically embarking upon a launch, a product launch, and you are the product…or will be!

So, here’s what you do:

1) Physical assessment. Know exactly where you stand on a variety of tests, all sport-specific. Test and measure everything, just as in business!

2) Have an honest discussion with your trainers after the testing to assess weakness and strengths.

3) Develop a plan of attack, and here is the most important aspect, trust your coaches with your
development…completely! Even Michael Jordan has a coach. You must turn yourself over to your coach and if he says “S*#t bagels in the parking lot!” You say, “How many and how big!” He’ll tell you for how long…until he says stop!

4) Get started!

5) Assess often but not too often, as that may be counter-productive. Some gains will come fast and others will need constant attention and prodding for you to get ultimate results.

Now, how do you work out?

Based on the tests, the assessment, the discussion, and keeping the ultimate goal in mind, the training should be varied and should follow an adaptable and forward-thinking plan.

1) You need to vary eccentric and concentric (negative-based and positive-based) activities. The negative will allow you to get to muscle fibers and to a degree impossible with a concentric only or a concentric-based routine. But you must vary the attack, one day concentric, two days later eccentric. And so on! Too much of one or the other will lead to minimal gains, no gains or, worse possible scenario…you will go backwards and lose strength and muscle, finally getting sick.

Balance in sport-specific training is everything!

2) You must have a cross-training, anaerobic/aerobic fitness approach…always pushing the boundaries of what is anaerobic and what is aerobic. As your fitness level increases and improves you will find what was once anaerobic is not aerobic…then you push again!

Always push the boundaries!

3) The balance between circuit training and conventional weight training is crucial. You need to push the aerobic/anaerobic envelope by increasing the intensity of the circuit, while balancing weights and machines.

Once again, the proper balance is everything!

Penn State, many years ago (late 70s and early 80s) had an awesome football program, in large measure because of Papa Joe Paterno…but also because of their strength and fitness program. However, as with human beings everywhere, they were looking for ‘something better!” Enter Nautilus! Penn State changed over their entire system to accommodate this new fitness machine, all the rage at the time. They almost completely eliminated the free-weight, power aspect of their training in favor of Arthur Jones’s new claims that a 30 minute workout was all anyone needed…that…

“To do more was like tenderizing hamburger!”

Well, Penn State and Papa Joe bit and changed their program. In one year their program tanked! Joe Paterno is no dumby, and he certainly didn’t have to be hit over the head to know he’d been wrong, the next year the reintegrated the weights and two years late they were national champions!

Enough said!

The balance was everything, that and working out in a sport-specific manner.

You see, it is not just “muscle-heads” in the gym pumping up for a Friday night date, what I used to call the PPP or pre-party pump. You can’t train like a bodybuilder preparing for a bodybuilding contest or powerlifter preparing for a powerlifting competition.

The workouts I use for my clients, the ones Penn State uses, and used back them, are sport-specific…in this case football-specific in nature.

The right ratio of machine to free weight workout is essential. Significantly, it is also very important which machines are used and which free weight exercises are applied to your sport-specific strength and fitness program.

I tell my students, particularly the football athletes I train, because they all thought you just “had” to bench, just like you may believe a certain nutritional supplement is the best, that the first time they put a bench on the 50-yard line I would let them bench. Of course, I used the same analogy for every athlete, in every sport I trained.

The message is the same, sport-specific exercises, integrating the proper motions and/or movements is of greater significance than how much one can bench.

Interestingly, we have all been taught that you exercise in a certain way, and that certain exercises should be integrated into any workout program. That sort of thinking is, quite simply, wrong!

Additionally, machines in and of themselves are just as bad. Again, there must be a balance between machines and free weights in any exercise program.

Now, make sure that at least one day a week your exercise program, at least the sport-specific weight training portion is a negative or eccentric workout. The eccentric or negative workout should be a high intensity, heavy, free weight workout.

Additionally, one workout should be what I refer to as a “coning” workout, meaning that you work from the heavy to light and finally to complete failure.

A third workout, and each one of these workouts should be a same body part workout, should be a “pyramid” workout, and should go from light to heavy.

The same body part or combination of body parts are worked 3 times a week.

As in:

Monday morning: Upper body “coning to failure” (chest, shoulders, triceps, abs, calves, forearms)
Monday late afternoon: Upper body “coning to failure” (back and biceps, abs, calves, forearms)

Tuesday morning: Legs “coning to failure” (Quads, glutes, abductors and adductors, calves, abs, forearms)
Tuesday late afternoon: Legs “coning to failure” (Hamstrings*, calves, abs, forearms)

Wednesday morning: Monday morning body parts “pyramiding to failure”
Wednesday late afternoon: Monday late afternoon body parts “pyramiding to failure”

Thursday morning: Tuesday morning body parts “pyramiding to failure”
Thursday later afternoon: Tuesday late afternoon body parts “pyramiding to failure”

Friday morning: Monday morning body parts “negative”
Friday late afternoon: Monday late afternoon body parts “negative”

Saturday morning: Total leg blowout! “negative”

Sunday: The Day of Rest from all things!

*Hamstrings, leg biceps or biceps femoris, are the muscles at the back of the leg. Significantly, as you may already be aware, it is one of the most neglected muscles in the body. The proper strength ratio, quadraceps to hamstrings, can make a huge difference in your success as an athlete and also may play a big role in whether or not you have a hamstring injury at some point in your training. The hamstrings are also a key component in power and quickness…and well as in explosiveness (related to power) and speed!

Every workout, you need to do abdominal work, lower back exercises, obliques, calves, and forearms (alternating exercises and intensity)

Every morning your need to be doing very specific neck exercises, most being exercises your trainer can with you with a towel and their hands! Nothing is ever needed beyond that, at least in the early stages, as your neck just isn’t that strong…but needs to be!

As Woody Hayes once told me, “As the neck goes, so goes the body! Work the neck constantly!”

There are a number of exercises I use with my clients that would help but the key is to use the right balance! Additionally, dumbbells OVER barbells, and machines in concert with free weights is key. The free weights offer real world, synergistic benefits machines alone cannot. Dumbbells and single-side exercises are more effective than barbell exercises for sport-specific training…and for competitive results.

I have trained athletes at every level, I know this program works, I hope you will incorporate my ideas if you are in need of an edge, they will help you achieve your goals. If not, I still wish you every good thing, and a place on the team to boot!

Virtual Fitness Training

We all know the deal – watch what you eat, follow a fitness routine, and, if it is within your budget, join a gym or hire a personal trainer and you will lose weight, look good, and feel great. Often this will work, at first. The problem is, most of us have a hard time sticking to this ideal. Busy lifestyles, lack of sleep or energy, or loss of motivation usually kick in at some point to throw us off our accomplished health routines. What does it take, most of us wonder, to achieve results that can last, and not break our budget?

Welcome to the world of virtual training. With today’s ease of technology and mass of social networking sites, in addition to the need for budget-friendly options, the next step in fitness is virtual training. What is virtual training? Virtual training is doing a fitness routine with your fitness coach from the comfort of your own home, or anywhere you have a computer, without the burden of paying high fees for your trainer to come to you. One of the top fitness trends for 2010 is cost-conscious workouts using limited equipment. How is that accomplished? Directly through your computer and Internet service! Simply set up convenient times to meet with your fitness coach, set up the free computer program Skype™, make sure you have a video camera and microphone with your computer (most new computers come already equipped with these features), grab your workout sneakers and you are ready to go! A full workout routine can be accomplished in a small space using your own body weight, or a set of dumbbells, for equipment.

Virtual training has all the benefits of in-person fitness training without the drawbacks of having to physically leave your home or office. Accountability is the most critical factor for maintaining an exercise routine and continually making progress towards your goals. Regular virtual appointments with your fitness coach keep you on track, pushing you with ongoing support and encouragement to achieve desired results, without ever having to leave your home! Safety is another key factor in exercise, and your credentialed fitness coach will ensure that you make safe exercise progressions based on your health and level of ability and that you use good form for each exercise. Motivation is yet another essential element to fitness success. A fitness coach trained in behavior change techniques will ensure you overcome your personal hurdles and set-backs along the way with strategies that work specifically for you.

Hiring a high quality fitness coach is essential. Before making a commitment to working with a particular fitness coach, review his/her credentials. Look for a fitness certification from a respectable organization in the fitness industry that has received accreditation from the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), and the American Council on Exercise (ACE) are a few that are accredited by the NCCA. Also look for a college degree in an exercise or health related field and for experience. Many experienced fitness coaches will provide references or testimonials. And, finally, many fitness coaches go through additional training in behavior change principles, which helps clients like you to move past personal barriers that may have been delaying progress. Wellcoaches® is a corporation, endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine, that trains health and fitness professionals in coaching competencies. Ask your potential fitness coach what training he/she has had in behavior change or coaching.

Soccer-Specific Strength and Fitness Training

An adequate warm-up program is an important part of any stretching and flexibility regime. The right balance of warm-up and stretching an integral part of any soccer-specific strength and fitness training program. Injury prevention is a crucial consideration and and important reason for an individualized warm up, stretching, and flexibility program. Prior to initiating a workout program, a routine soccer practice or a match, the soccer athlete must be warmed up and have stretched for a period of between 15 and 30 minutes, not only to reduce the risk of injury, but to improve training results and match performance.

The proper warm-up routine has several important elements. The elements of a properly structured warm-up and stretching regimen must be integrated into a holistic strategy designed to properly engage all of the various muscles of the body in such a way as to be ready for peak performance prior to the workout, practice or competition. Every muscle and muscle group must be working together and fully warmed up in order to reduce the chance of injury, regardless of whether it is due to stress, strain or trauma.

Why is warming up so vital to the overall success of a training program?

Proper warm-up before training is important for a number of reasons and is responsible for a myriad of benefits. The properly designed warm-up routine prepares the athlete, physically and mentally, for peak performance and for strenuous, physical and mental exertion. While there are many reasons for this, the most important may be the fact that warm-up increases the body’s metabolism and core temperature. As a consequence of an overall increase in temperature, there is accordingly an increase in the temperature of the various muscles involved in training and competition. Increased muscle temperature, and the associated increase in blood flow, allows for muscles that are ready for strenuous activity, being oxygenated, fully fueled, and supple. Additionally, the warm-up will also have a positive, overall cardiovascular effect, increasing both heart and lung function and allowing for more complete delivery of oxygen and energy-providing nutrients to the musculature during periods of peak demand. Once again, this has a ripple effect and the connective tissue, so at risk during periods of strenuous activity, to be warmed up and prepared for activity prior to the workout or competition. The latter is vitally important, as many sports-related injuries are connective tissue based, as in ACL injuries!

How to Develop a Warm-up Program for a Soccer-Related Strength and Fitness Training Program

There are several factors and considerations that come into play when designing a soccer-related strength and fitness training program. Along with diet and nutrition, warm-up, stretching, and flexibility are crucial to the overall success of the program. For that reason, we will spend quite a bit of time on the proper warm-up design and integration in this article.

It goes without saying, or should anyway, that it is very important to begin with the simplest and gentlest movements and tasks first. The idea is to move from one motion and movement to the next, an overall build taking place, and once again a ripple effect leading to a fully engorged and oxygenated musculature prior to strenuous activity. The process of easy to difficult, slow to faster motions and activities, each building and compounding upon the other, fully engaging the athlete’s body and optimizing performance regardless of the task involved.

The body, if properly engaged and warmed up, will be at its mental and physical peak prior to strenuous activity and the demands of soccer-related performance, whether for strength and fitness training, practice or match play. With the body at peak readiness, optimally engaged mentally and physically, the likelihood of soccer-specific, sports-related injuries will have been minimized and the soccer athlete can continue into the training or the competitive area fully prepared. The next step, now that we understand why…is how!

The Four Components of an Effective Soccer-Specific Strength and Fitness Training Warm-up

The first stage is a general, overall warm-up program. The second stage is static stretching and differs from the third stage, that of soccer-specific stretching and warm-up. The fourth stage is dynamic stretching, stretching used to engage and involve the entire musculature, synergistically. The four components are equally crucial to the overall success of the program, one building upon the other, all equally vital. The components come together, in very much the same way as muscles do, synergistically, all four working in unison to prepare the body, physically and mentally; and, also preparing the soccer-athlete for whatever is to come. Once again, this process is designed to ensure the soccer-athlete has minimal exposure and consequently risk of sports-related injuries.

Stage One: Overall and General Strength and Fitness Training Warm-up

The overall, general warm-up consists of mild, minimally demanding physical activity. I recommend jogging, no faster that a brisk walk, generally for 400 meters or one-quarter of a mile. We then jump on the stationary bike, increasing the intensity and duration from a low tension setting and a duration 2 minutes, to a high of medium range tension for up to 20 minutes; and, in winter we start off with the stationary bike. The level of difficulty and the length of time on the bike is usually determined during testing and is determined by the soccer-athlete’s overall level of fitness. A good indicator that the athlete is starting to warm-up is a moderate sweat and perhaps an elevated heart rate and respiration. The heart rate and respiration are usually tracked by chart at the onset of the program and then weekly; this will help in establishing overall training results, and also will aid in watching for signs of overtraining.

The primary goal of stage one is to increase the pulse and respiration, an indication that blood and oxygen are being moved at a faster rate through the body. As stated, increased heart rate and respiration will thus increase blood flow to the muscles and provide for oxygenation and energy supply to the muscles during strenuous physical training. The increased blood flow and nutrients to the muscles also helps elevate the overall body and muscle temperature; and, this in turn will provide for a better static stretching stage.

Stage Two: Stepping it Up and Static Stretching

Stage two is the static stretching phase and is really the basis for overall flexibility. Given the importance of the static stretch, and of flexibility in general, it is always interesting how few soccer-athletes engage in it…or any other stretching routine for that matter. Static stretching is slow, easy, and constant stretching of the various muscles groups and is usually quite safe; and, it is a very efficient and effective means of achieving overall flexibility. The biggest issue with stretching is in the form and the carry out, how the stretches are actually carried out. The proper way is in a long, ballistic-free motion, one of constant and applied pressure to a specific muscle or group of muscles. If done properly, the static stretch is very safe and quite beneficial. During the second stage of the warm-up and stretching program, the static stretch must include the various major muscle groups, working from largest to smallest muscles groups and then back again. The entire regimen will generally last from five to fifteen minutes, at first; and, taking somewhat less time as training progresses.

In order to properly stretch the muscles during the static phase of stretching, the athlete’s body must be in a position in which the muscle or muscle group is under constant, applied tension. To begin with, the muscle or muscle group to be statically stretched is relaxed. Additionally, the opposing muscles are also relaxed. The opposing muscles consist of those muscles “in front of” and “behind” the target muscle or muscle group. Then, carefully and with deliberation, the athlete slowly and carefully places the body under pressure, with emphasis on the area to be stretched, increasing overall tension to the muscle, or muscle group. At the point of greatest tension, the stretch is held in place, allowing the muscles, tendons, and ligaments to stretch and, when possible, to lengthen. This stage of the soccer-related, strength and fitness training program is extremely effective in advancing flexibility. Stage two assists in lengthening muscles and tendons, and in a synergistic fashion impacts ligaments too. The static stretching allows for a greater degree of movement and range of motion. This stage is crucial in sports-related injury prevention, as it, once again allows for a strengthening, as well as the aforementioned lengthening of muscles and tendons.

Stage one and stage two form the foundation for what will follow. The first through fourth stages form an overall and effective soccer-specific warm-up and stretching program. The overall warm-up and stretching program thus laying the basis for the training to follow. It is crucial that the first two stages be completed completely and in the proper fashion before increasing the intensity and moving into stages three and four. The correct implementation of stages one and two will provide for safe and effective exercise in stages three and four.

Stage Three: Soccer-Specific Stretch and Warm-up

Generally, if the focus of the warm-up and stretching was on practice and match play, we would now move to paired stretches and various warm-ups designed to be competition-specific. However, because this is primarily focused on strength and fitness training for soccer-athletes, we usually up the level of the stretching to include another round of static stretching, followed by a number of isotonic-related stretches. The primary focus in stage three must be inside out, largest to smallest and back in. That is, for the upper body a series of stretches including the back, chest, shoulders, triceps, biceps, forearms, wrists, and hands. The neck is very important and great care must be taken when stretching the neck for obvious, and not so obvious reasons. The neck has a number of very small muscles and muscles groups but, as Woody Hayes once pointed out to me, “as the neck goes, so goes the body.” While Coach Hayes is obviously a legendary football coach, but his lesson was not lost on his student (yours truly). The neck should always get special attention and, as a soccer player, the neck plays so many roles, its importance cannot be overstated. After the upper body and the neck, the lower body is next. Included in the lower body are stretches for the gluteus maximus and minimus, the hips, quadraceps, hamstrings, calves, ankles, and feet. Finally, the abdominals must be focused on, and they get special attention because, like the neck, they are a determining factor in the overall performance of the body.

Obviously, the stretching program can and often does take up an entire workout session, particularly at first and until the routine is set. There are myriad stretches available and any number of them will suffice. However, if you would like to have a personalized program, one effective and designed just for you, you must engage the services of an experienced, and knowledgeable (they are not always the same), strength and fitness coach, one experienced in dealing with soccer-athletes, in particular.

By the time the athlete has completed stage three, he or she should be perspiring and their heart rate and respiration should be significantly elevated. The idea is to integrate the warm-up and stretching into the overall conditioning program is such a way that it has a number of cascading affects and effects on the body of the athlete, all with one thing in mind, optimizing overall development and match performance gains. In other words, it is my desire to see them be able to put it on the pitch!

Stages Four: Soccer-Related Strength and Fitness Training, Warm-up and Dynamic Stretching

Ultimately, the proper warm-up must culminate in a series of exercises known as dynamic stretching exercises or simply as dynamic stretches. Significantly, dynamic stretches often result in injury. The main reason for the high incidence of injuries due to dynamic stretching has to do with athletes who are not trained properly by coaches who are experienced in working with soccer athletes, or athletes in general, or the athletes themselves simply do not adhere to training guidelines. For the reasons stated above, dynamic stretching should only be engaged in when training with a competent strength and fitness instructor; and, not just someone who likes to work out and thought it might be a great business to get into! Dynamic stretching has to do with what I refer to as neuro-muscular coordination and is about muscle conditioning, rather than simply flexibility, as the name would seem to imply. The dynamic stretch regimen is usually designed and best suited for top-level amateur and professional soccer-athletes, those individuals who are well-trained, and are highly-conditioned, competitive athletes. A dynamic stretch routine is usually implemented as a final, ultimate step in a flexibility program adhered to for quite some time and it is obvious to trainer and trainee that the “next-level” is appropriate.

Dynamic stretching usually involves controlled movement, a bouncing or pendulum motion, forcing the muscle beyond its normal range of motion. Gradually and over time the degree of bounce and the range of the swing is heightened and increased to achieve an exaggerated range of motion and enhanced flexibility. The best example of this done in an incorrect fashion may be when young athletes attempt to stretch their hamstrings, one foot crossed in front of the other, bouncing up and down to stretch the biceps femoris. Done in this fashion, the young athlete may cause a micro-tearing of the hamstring and risk serious injury. But they see others do it and they model the behavior. A recipe for disaster…or at the very least a blown hamstring! During stage four, it is crucial that the athlete integrate dynamic stretches that are soccer-specific. Stage four the culmination of the soccer-specific, warm-up, stretching and flexibility program and will result in the soccer-athlete achieving peak mental and physical preparation prior to training and/or match play. At this point in the training session, the trainee is prepared for the what will come next, the rigors of an intense soccer-specific, strength and fitness training program.

Finally, the most neglected aspect of any training regimen, the warm-up and stretching, must come first. Without adequate preparation, both physical and mental, the soccer-athlete cannot hope to achieve peak performance and optimal training gains. The four stage training program is a workout in and of itself and will generally take between twenty-five and forty-five minutes to work through. As the trainee becomes used to the routine, its system and its rigors, the amount of time it takes to get through it is lessened. Interestingly, as time lessens, intensity increases…but so does the fitness level of the athlete. So, when integrating and off-season, soccer-specific strength and fitness training program into your training routine, it is imperative you recognize the importance of diet and nutrition, combined with a proper warm-up and flexibility regimen. With the above two components in place, we are ready to move on to the next ingredient, the actual soccer-specific strength and fitness training program.