Hello all, my name is Jesse Hutchins. I am from a small rural town in southern Maine called Sebago. Growing up in Maine, I was a three season athlete participating in soccer, cross country running, alpine ski racing, and specialized in softball. This spring I graduated from the University of Southern Maine, where I was an Exercise Science major with a coaching minor, and I also completed my final year of collegiate softball as the starting pitcher and first baseman for USM. Sports have always been a significant part of my life as both a fan, and an athlete.
Before transferring to USM after my second year of undergraduate, I attended Emannuel College in Boston as a biology major. Because it was a very small school, there were not strength and conditioning coaches on staff at EC, so I found myself making training programs for many of my teammates. This was when I knew that I had found what I wanted to do for a career.
While at USM, I had the privilege of completing my practicum experience with the strength and conditioning department at the University of New England. During my final year, I had the opportunity to work at a private baseball and softball training facility in Portland called The Edge Academy. Here I gave pitching, hitting, fielding, and throwing lessons to mostly high school-aged athletes from the southern Maine and New Hampshire areas. This job gave me great exposure and experience to the art of coaching that I find transfers seamlessly to strength coaching.
Northeastern University strength and conditioning was a place I knew I wanted to be from very early on in my internship “hunt”. The reputation of athletics in Boston is second to none, and NU is yet another example of that. I feel extremely fortunate to have the opportunity of being part of the strength and conditioning department here, as well as the opportunity to learn from those on the staff.
Greetings, my name is Jared Hatz. I originally hail from a small town just outside Rochester, New York. While in Rochester I started my formal educational journey into the world of strength and conditioning at a local junior college, Monroe Community College. While attending I studied Physical Education. Upon completing my last semester at MCC I was exposed to an internship that pulled me into the direction of developing great athletes. At this point I knew I needed to continue my education and went to study for my bachelors degree.
After graduating MCC in May 2009, I was accepted to the State University of New York at Cortland to start in the Fall of the same year. At SUNY Cortland I studied Kinesiology. Even with the little knowledge I had in the area of training athletes, I had the passion to get better. Graduating in the summer of 2011 from SUNY Cortland it landed me in New York City to train with a company based out of Manhattan.
During my time in NYC I worked both one on one and in small group sessions with the privilege to work with collegiate and professional level athletes. After just over 10 months while being in Manhattan I decided that the public sector had been a better fit for me. I wanted to work specifically with athletes and as a result, my quest to attend Springfield College, MA for my Masters began. I just recently concluded my second semester, wrapping up my first year as a graduate student at Springfield College. Within just the last year at Springfield I have had the opportunity to receive certifications in sports nutrition from the International Society of Sports Nutrition, USA Weightlifting, and FMS level 2. In conclusion of interning opportunity with fellow graduate students with the Springfield College athletes, it has further solidified my desire to work in the strength and conditioning setting.
That brings me to where I am now, Northeastern University working alongside their great sports performance staff. The sheer knowledge that resides within the collection of everyone on staff is remarkable. Not even after the conclusion of the first week I have been blown away with how the NU system and how it is implemented. Being accepted into this internship program is a true honor.
My name is Daniel Buck. I am currently a graduate student at Springfield College studying Strength & Conditioning. Prior to studying for my Masters degree I received my Bachelors degree in Exercise Science from Colby-Sawyer College in New London, NH where I played one year of varsity soccer as well as trying various other club sports such as lacrosse and volleyball. Since I was little I have always been interested in sports of all kinds and used to play tennis as well as being part of the equestrian team in my hometown. I also currently play ultimate Frisbee for Springfield College.
Entering college at Colby-Sawyer I was studying Athletic Training with the intent to head to chiropractic school upon finishing my degree. That changed after my rotation with the soccer team during my sophomore year which made me realize that I really wanted my career to focus on working with athletes. At this point I changed my major to Exercise Science but still had not figured out what direction I wanted my education to take me. It was not until I completed an internship working with the athletes at Boston University after my junior year of college that I decided strength and conditioning was what I really loved doing.
My reason for being at Northeastern this summer is obviously to work with a very well known school with a highly reputable program and learn from highly knowledgeable staff. I would also like to broaden my range of knowledge, learn about various coaching styles and programming philosophies, and make professional connections in the field. The act of coaching is also a strong focus of mine, as I would like to learn how to coach in a more proficient manner. Overall I would like to get as much experience and exposure as possible during my time here at Northeastern.
Different types of conditioning (and conditioning standards/tests) are ideal for different sports. Conditioning should be sports specific. For example it is never useful for a baseball player to run long distance, when in games the most running the are doing is around the bases or as a fielder running to get a baseball. Therefore, distances that should mainly be focused on in terms of training are very short distances. It may be helpful to look at the average duration of a game/time an athlete is in the game for before a rest, and use that as a basis for what type of conditioning you should should be prescribing (or building up to).
Another major thing to take into consideration in terms of coming up with a conditioning program is what’s being done in practice because a lot of times coaches over condition their athletes in practice. If so, there is no point in adding additional conditioning. It may be best to talk to the coach if you feel like too much conditioning is being done and may be interfering with recovery. Coach West at UCONN bases his conditioning/lifting sessions on the heart monitor data for each individual athlete. By using this, he can determine when an off day is needed and when a recovery day should be instated. Lifts/conditioning sessions are divided into different types of days; green, yellow, and red, based off of training load, where green is low, yellow medium, and red high. Just because green means low training load, does not mean that the pace has to be slow and everything is super easy. Instead it means that you can do sprints and high intensity stuff, there just has to be the proper amount of recovery. RECOVERY is key, especially with conditioning. Coach Sarah Cahill at Northeastern even has her athletes log how many meals they have eaten, and how much sleep they got, both contributing factors to recovery.
Coach Sarah Cahill says she starts conditioning programs out with tempo runs, and then I’m guessing goes into shorter distances progressively at a faster pace…..again the progression depends on the sport. At a youth sports performance camp I worked at, various types of conditioning were used such as sleds, prowlers, sprints, shuttles, and hill sprints. Different variables were manipulated as the summer progressed; weight was added, distances increased, and forward, backward, and sideways movements were incorporated with sleds and prowlers, shuttles got longer, and more hill sprints were added. At UCONN, Coach Butler had her athletes doing competition days once a week during part of the off season, to work on various aspects of conditioning and promote team camaraderie. She mixed in things like prowlers, stairs, move the mountain with olympic plates, over unders with a med ball, and so on. Coach Kimball does a lot of circuits with her women’s basketball players during preseason and mixes some similar things in like prowlers, move the mountain and over unders, and also incorporated things like tire flips and rope pulls with the rope attached to a weighted sled. Coach Kimball’s circuit conditioning workouts were for points and a certain time duration at each station.
For conditioning tests, Coach Kimball timed the distance it took the softball players to run from one base to the next. One test I remember Coach Butler having men’s hockey players do if they couldn’t do shuttles, was one the airdyne bike, and to complete 10 miles in 30 minutes. I was there shouting out the time for that as each minute went by, and all the hockey guys were yelling and screaming for their teammates, it was pretty crazy. Coach Sarah Cahill tests her men’s and women’s soccer teams fitness with the beep test. At UCONN, Coach Butler also has a lot of bike conditioning workouts for her athletes to use depending on their needs (especially if they need to lose weight), and sometimes leads her teams through spin workouts. Most of the workouts are some combination of intervals and done on a spin bike. One of them that I have done a few times is called the mud ride, and the athletes hate it. It is for 25 minutes, and is divided up into levels where level 5=stuck in the mud, so where you can barely push the pedals, and the other levels are based off of that gradation. If I remember correctly it goes like this:
Level 2-moderate pace 2 mins, sprint 1 min
Level 3-moderate pace 2 mins, sprint 1 min
Level 3-moderate pace 2 mins, sprint 1 min
Level 4-moderate pace 2 mins, sprint 1 min
Level 4-moderate pace 2 mins, sprint 1 min
Level 4-moderate pace 1 min, sprint 1 min
Level 5-moderate pace 2 mins, sprint 1 min
Level 5-moderate pace 2 mins, sprint 1 min
2 mins recovery
One of Coach Kimball’s conditioning days for women’s basketball she even had the girls doing swimming relays. The possibilities for conditioning variations are endless.
Conditioning should be periodized in different phases based around the competition period. A great basic video on conditioning by Joel Jameson can be found here; http://www.8weeksout.com/2013/03/22/general-vs-specific-conditioning/ . He speaks about conditioning being a year round process, and not just something you do a few weeks before a season. It should also progress sequentially and methodically. The phases he mentions are; general preparatory, preparation phase, before the competitive season, and during the competition period. If you don’t follow the correct order, everything is going to be messed up. If you skip the general preparatory phase, you risk burnout later on, and the heart and cv conditioning is the precursor to developing musculature in later on phases, which may be compromised if you skip this phase.
The GENERAL PREPARATORY PHASE is right after the season, shouldn’t replicate sport movements, should be seen as a break from the stress of the sport where injuries are allowed to heal, focuses on developing the heart and cv fitness, should incorporate a variety of power outputs, shouldn’t mimmick the work to rest ratio of the sport, and should be simple. Swimming, biking, jogging, jumping rope, or shooting hoops/playing some light basketball (if the athlete is not on the basketball team of course). Depending on how long the sport lasts, this phase is usually around 1 month.
The PREPARATORY PHASE uses the same major muscle groups that are specific to the sport itself, and can use pieces and various ROMs used in the sport, uses the same energy system as the sport, SOME of the same movements as the sport, and not the exact work to rest ratio of the sport. Depending on how long the sport lasts, this phase is usually around 1 to 2 months.
The next phase is one or 2 months before the competitive season, BEFORE COMPETITION and drills of the sport are the main form of conditioning. This phase uses a MORE SPECIFIC work to rest ratio to the sport, more so matches the energy systems, but doesn’t have to exactly match the work:rest or the energy systems. During this phase, Coach Kimball added conditioning days on the court and added things like shuffling and passing drills with medballs, ladder drills with catching tennis balls, suicides, and 3 man medball weaves.
The last phase is the COMPETITIVE phase, where the competition and conditioning sessions closely mimmick the sport/game, and are the main forms of conditioning. The conditioning during this phase is as SPECIFIC as possible, to the energy system, and work to rest ration. In MMA, Joel describes conditioning during this phase to be as specific as preparing differently for each individual fighter, just like a sports team may prepare differently for each team. Conditioning during this phase may not be necessary for a college athlete depending especially if the game schedule is jam packed, and even more so if conditioning is implemented in practice.
Administration is a major aspect of the S&C business, but it’s not always something that people take into consideration, because it’s mainly the behind the scenes stuff that a lot of people aren’t exposed to. A major thing to prioritize between colleagues working at the same facility is COMMUNICATION. It is so important to make sure there is an effective and efficient form of communication that is instated so everybody is on the same page. This can be done with weekly staff meetings or one on one meetings with a boss. One thing I didn’t realize had to be checked so frequently is inventory, especially in a college setting. At a lot of places monetary resources are limited, so equipment has to be constantly counted to see what is disappearing or breaking, and then if it can be replaced. This is all incorporated into a budget. Sometimes the coach has to prioritize what equipment to get because there isn’t enough money to get everything, actually I would say this is mainly the problem. When faced with a situation like this, look at what will benefit the most athletes, and keep in mind what will last longer, how much maintenance it will need, how much space it will take up, is it practical, etc. Cleaning of the entire facility also needs to be done regularly. I think that it is important that benches be cleaned at least daily. At Northeastern, we clean the racks, benches, bikes, windows, mirrors, plyo boxes, vacuum the turf, and mop the other floor areas. Keeping the weight room looking tidy and professional helps to boost the reputation of the facility, especially when prospective clients/athletes visit the facility. Set protocols/progressions/guidelines also need to be set into place. I know at Northeastern, sharepoint (online) is used as a key administrative tool and is a great online resource for movement progressions, testing devices, scheduling, and team workouts.
There are many different ways to program, and one way isn’t necessarily wrong and one right. I think it is more so the style of the coach and the ages/type of athletes you are working with and their skillsets/athletic abilities. More important than the program is how well the coach does their job. You can have a really bad program, but a really great coach, and the athletes in this situation will show more improvement as opposed to a really great program with a really bad coach. Depending on the faults of the coach, the athlete could become more injury prone down the line, or they may even get an injury due to stuff done incorrectly in the weight room and the coach not making the proper corrections.
The first and foremost thing to take into account when writing a program, as stated by Mike Boyle, should be INJURY REDUCTION. Reduction is said because one can’t really avoid injury in sport, and it is probably going to happen on the field as opposed to in the weight room. I personally haven’t been injured a ton compared to most people in sport; when I was younger I jammed different fingers multiple times playing basketball, in highschool tennis I somehow got golfer’s elbow, in volleyball dislocated my finger, after running consistently for a while was diagnosed with itb friction syndrome..probably from the half marathon I didn’t quite train correctly for, in college tennis strained my groin, and in college rugby strained my rotator cuff and got two minor concussions…on second thought maybe I acquired a decent amount of injuries over the years…Perhaps if I had somebody in the weight room that could have advised me on common injuries and specific exercises to do that would have helped to prevent some of this stuff, they may have not occurred. Reducing the likelihood of injury will not only increase the longevity of the athlete’s sports career, but it will also improve their quality of life. The second goal of a program also stated by MB should be to improve sports performance.
It is important to first identify common sports injuries, or if evaluating the athletes individually, which injuries they may be more prone, and incorporate this into the program. If the “athlete” isn’t training for a specific sport, you can take a step back and be more general with what injuries they may be prone to or what areas are going to be weak that should be strengthened. For example, MB mentions in his book, “Advances in Functional Training”, that he kept noticing when he sent his athletes to physical therapists, they kept finding the same muscles were weak; hip stabilizers, spine, and around the scapular thoracic joint, meaning weakness in the abdominals, hips, and scap muscles. It is interesting how where the pain is coming from may not necessarily be the problem. When I interned at a Physical Therapy Clinic a few summers ago, the guy there said that he rarely finds the area where the patient has pain in to be the problem, instead it is the segment above or below where the issue lies. For example if there is back pain, the cause may be a hip problem. Lower back pain could mean weak abdominals, knee pain to weak hips, and weak rotator cuff to scap issues.
I will mention a few more programming thoughts/ideas from MB’s “Advances in Functional Training” (I am only 25 pgs. in so far, and I highly recommend the book). A program should incorporate Functional Training, which is practice/preparation for handling bodyweight in all planes of motion. FT=PURPOSEFUL TRAINING, and in general every element of a program should have a PURPOSE. FT is essential because it allows one to use stabilizer muscles which are one of the main contributors to injury. FT doesn’t have to be some elaborate exercise that sounds ridiculous, but should instead be basic and make sense. MB advises to not “fall in love with exercises” but do “pick exercises that choose results.” Although, I feel like certain S&C facilities will have exercises that are almost always incorporated into programs such as at Northeastern, the main three exercises are the bench, squat, and clean. I guess these can also be cycled in and out and be done in different various like incline bench, one arm bench, db bench, bb bench, fr. sq, back sq, single leg, bulgarians, bulgarians from a deficit, and the clean can be cycled in and out with high pulls, jump shrugs, snatch, db snatch, or perhaps at the lower level, box jumps.
If you are not consistently getting results, you need to REEVALUATE and CHANGE/FIX what needs to be fixed. MB advises it is fine to experiment, then one should evaluate their athlete’s progress, and either reject it or keep it. One thing MB said that really made me think is that you shouldn’t just copy the best programs, because those aren’t necessarily going to work well for your athletes. The athletes and population that each strength coach/personal trainer is going to work with are different, so it doesn’t make sense to copy somebody else’s program. Just because the athletes are the highest caliber, does not mean their program is also the best one out there. It also doesn’t make sense to use a program for elite athletes for beginner athletes. Instead, INDIVIDUALIZE a program to the needs of your own athletes. A great quote by MB is,” Seek techniques of those who consistently produce great results in less than ideal situations.” Again, RESULTS are key, because that determines the success/failure of a program.
Progressions are also key when programming. An athlete should never be allowed to further progress until they can perform the previous movement flawlessly. Regression to get something perfect, is always better than progression without mastery. For example, before an athlete squats they should be able to perfectly do a BW squat, and if they can’t do that correctly, an assessment should be done on what they need to work on to be able to do that correctly. Possible things to work on are ankle mob, hip mob, or lateral hamstring stretching.
It’s helpful when programming to have a go to exercise pool with progressions, regressions, and exercises divided up into categories such as LB push (knee dominant), LB pull (hip dominant), UB push, UB pull, core, olympic lifts. It’s important to make sure the program is balanced in terms of movements; pushes and pulls, LB and UB, abduction, and adduction. It may be beneficial to pair mobility/prehab exercises with lifts to show the immediate benefit in order to gain trust from your athletes, such as the hang clean with a t-spine rotation. The lift/conditioning should be efficient. On average an athlete may only be in the weight room with you for 4-6 hours a week in season, so it’s vital to make the most of your time with them. You must note that if you push heavy and hard frequently you have to deload frequently. At Eric Cressey’s facility, his athletes cycle through different loads depending on the week; week 1 heavy, 2 moderate, 3 very heavy, 4 light/recovery week. One sample model for the main part of a 4 day lift could be LB push/UB pull day 1 and 4, and LB pull/UB push day 3 and 5. There are many different ways to program, these are just some ideas of things to incorporate and guidelines to follow and take into consideration.
My name is Emily and I am currently a graduate student here at Northeastern studying Exercise Science. I am originally from a small town in Connecticut but just moved to Boston in the fall after completing my undergraduate degree, also Exercise Science, at Hofstra University on Long Island. I have always been an avid sports fan and enjoyed participating in as much as I could. It wasn’t until high school when I was thrown into the competitive side. Running on both the cross country and track teams sparked my interest in the fitness industry and lead me to pursue a career in the field.
After some debate on where I ultimately wanted to end up I was introduced to CrossFit which completely changed the path I wanted to take. I became a coach for a while but I always felt that I wanted to do something more. During my senior year I interned at a private strength and conditioning facility and this was the turning point. I enjoyed working with motivated athletes, building up strength and performance, and seeing them improve in their sport.
My goal this summer is to increase my knowledge in the strength and conditioning field, especially with programming and becoming more comfortable training. I also hope to obtain the CSCS and USAW certifications.
“Five Hidden Signs of Instability” by Perry Nickelson
Dysfunctional movement patterns are a lot of times overlooked with athletes. Some red flags of underlying dysfunction are; foot stability, breathing patters, jaw clenching, grip, and rolling patterns.
FOOT STABILITY: the foot should look stable when the athlete is in a single leg stance position without shoes on, excessive pronation or supination, clawing the ground or extensor tendons popping out = stability dysfunction
BREATHING: increased effort to breathe = dysfunction, other dysfunctional patterns = shoulders and chest move up and abdominal walls hollows when breathing in deeply, breath holding…have the athlete get into a seated position with arms crossed and rotate to the left, do the same thing and rotate right, if it’s harder to do on one side or breathing is irregular it may indicate dysfunctional thoracic rotation
JAW CLENCHING: athletes most often clench their jaw doing challenging core work to compensate for instability, if they are doing so, tell them to open and relax the jaw
GRIP: clenching the bar too tight in power movements indicates dysfunction of the psoas, the psoas can’t provide stability so the hands must grasp the bar tighter to compensate, making fists during isometric movements, elbow tendonitis or shoulder injuries may indicate poor upper body muscle sequencing
ROLLING PATTERNS: athlete should lie supine on the floor with arms and legs extended and roll over to a prone position using one side of the upper body, movement should be smooth
This article made me think of one of the concepts that was hammered in my head when I interned at a physical therapy clinic a few summers ago, which is you must move correctly first before trying to gain strength. If you have poor movement patterns and you are following a strength training program, you are just strengthening faulty movement and reinforcing the pattern of poor movement. Optimally, it is best to fix all of your poor movement patterns and dysfunctions first before beginning a strength and conditioning program, but this doesn’t seem realistic. There simply isn’t enough time for a college athlete to fix all of their movement patterns first before beginning a strength program. With college athletics we must pay attention to compensation, poor movement patterns, and dysfunction, and do our best to make sure these issues get addressed while the athlete is following a strength training program, as well as adjust the program to each individual athlete’s needs.
Full body lifts such as the clean, snatch, and jerk will take some time to master, but the time and effort put in to master these lifts will definitely be worth the benefit. These lifts involve the entire body, and demand explosive power and close attention to proper technique. Getting the technique down for these movements before loading up the bar is crucial to reduce the risk of injury. A lot of people may say to load up the bar initially, for example when learning how to clean, because they think that correct technique is hard to do with light weight which is false.
I think the clean should be mastered first before any other olympic movement. The catch is one of the most important parts of the lift. The clean can also be done with a jerk after, but it is not a good lift for a beginner unless they have the clean mastered. At Northeastern, athletes don’t normally clean from the floor because of the stress it places on the lower back, and also due to the fact that it’s one of the hardest lifts to do well. The risks of it outweigh the benefits in a college setting where one coach is responsible for many athletes at a time, however; if you were working with a beginner one on one and had the chance to coach them on it, it may be okay. Cleaning from the floor is one of the best lifts for total body strength and mobility.
It’s always important to train like it’s your max weight no matter how light the load is, so when you get to your max weight you are mentally and physically prepared. The end position of the clean is the front, so it’s vital the athlete knows how to correctly perform a front squat first before they can take on the clean. It is important to never progress further unless the athlete can master the previous movement first. Moving on without mastery creates a recipe for disaster. It is better to go backward and get it perfect than to go forward just performing the movement at a decent standard.
The FIRST PROGRESSION OF A CLEAN is a hands free front squat. It is important to be right up against the bar. Have your arms straight out and let the bar rest on your shoulders and chest, and have the bar be right up against your throat. It should feel a bit uncomfortable. Walk the bar out keeping it against your throat. Go down into a front squat, sit back, knees out, keep your weight on your heels, and come up. The SECOND PROGRESSION OF A CLEAN is like a front squat, keep your finger tips on the bar, and keep the elbows high. keeping the elbows high is a major issue because if you catch the bar with your elbows low it will be really hard to support the weight, and it also places more stress on the wrist. Pairing some type of thoracic mobility exercise with the clean is a good idea because it helps you to keep your elbows up. It may even be a good idea to do a thoracic mobility exercise before you start the clean so the benefit can be seen throughout each set. The THIRD PROGRESSION OF A CLEAN is to show the athlete how to do it and have them try it. You may be saying to yourself, “What, how does that work out,” but from Sarah’s point of view, it works out well because people tend to be visual learners, and if you give them too many components to focus on it will be too overwhelming. For the first three weeks just pick out little things for the athlete to focus on, mainly just getting the catch correct. It will take a while to get the motion down, but once they do, they will be more responsive to critique. No load should be put on the bar until the athlete can do everything perfectly. When cleaning from the floor, it’s important to distribute weight equally throughout the whole foot. It is taught with a three pause system, one being below the knees, 2 above the knees, and 3 at mid thigh.
The squat and jerk should be learned before the clean and jerk. For the squat and jerk, the landing should be one foot in front of the other with a decent amount of space between both. The landing should be low, so a wide base of support is in place. To come up from a squat and jerk, the 1st foot moves back, and then the 2nd foot moves in. The back toe should be in a press the whole time. Start in a squat position with the elbows up, dip and drive. The bar should finish over mid foot, and important things to note include a wide landing base, no hip hinge, staying tall, and keeping elbows tall the whole time during the dip.
The snatch is the most explosive lift. Where as in the clean the bar comes in contact with the thigh, with the snatch the bar is in contact with the waist. When doing the snatch, the safety racks should be up high. For the snatch progression, start with dowels. The progression goes as follows; 1. OVERHEAD SQUAT, 2. SQUAT AND PRESS up with dowel and land in a squat underneath the bar, 3. ADD A FOOT SHUFFLE to the previous step, 4. WHOLE MOVEMENT. Keep the bar close to the body then throw the weight overhead. For beginners, or if somebody can’t perform the movements correctly, it may be best to start with a dumbbell snatch. For teaching this, show them how it looks a few times, and then have them perform the movement and see how it looks. Correct a few major things and let them run with it, as they will get the hang of it with practice.
The bench press I feel like is one of the most overemphasized lifts by recreational lifters (mainly men), but it is one of the main upper body lifts, and a standard component of most strength and conditioning programs. The bench is also very important because it drives the numbers for all upper body lifts, in other words weights for all other upper body lifts can be calculated by the bench number. The bench press works the pecs, deltoids, lats, and triceps. Some variations of the bench press include; standard with the bench level, at an incline, at a decline, or with a bar or dumbbells. The bench press is also one of the 3 lifts in the sport of powerlifting, the others being the squat and the deadlift.
Unfortunately, bench is one of the most dangerous exercises, so it is absolutely essential to have a spotter, no ifs, ands, or buts. If something happens in the weight room, and the athlete didn’t have a spotter, you will most likely be held liable. Having a spotter will also help to reduce injury in the sense that the lift off minimizes the risk of injury to the rotator cuff. It is important to make sure that both the athlete and spotter are mentally there before the liftoff, and once the spotter feels like the athlete has full support of the weight, they can let go. The goal of the push off is for the athlete to feel stable. The spotter can also follow the path of motion with an alternate grip just in case something goes wrong at any point in the lift, they are there.
Bench should be done with the strength bar since it doesn’t spin. In terms of body position, the five points of contact should all be in place; both feet planted on the ground, and the glutes, shoulders, and head in contact with the bench. The forehead should be under the barbell (or the bar should be right above the eyes), and the athlete should have a closed grip. For more advanced lifters, the back can be arched, but this should not be practiced by beginners as it places more stress on the back. Grip 1 is an appropriate bench grip, where the pinky should be at least on the outer ring, though most females have a narrower grip. This can negatively effect the lift because the muscles will not be activated correctly. If somebody has a back issue, the feet can be placed up on the bench with the knees bent. It is okay to arch the back a little bit, as it helps to engage the lower body.
Once the spotter has let go of the bar, and the bar is over the chest, the bar should be lowered to the sternum with a controlled movement, touch the chest with a slight pause, then press the bar straight up, equally with both hands. In terms of breathing, the way down should be accompanied by an inhale, and the way up with an exhale. The pattern of the upward movement should be toward the head, and the bar should stay over the elbows. Some cues going along with the bench are “punch the bar up”, or “flare up.” If the glutes are coming off of the bench, the angle of foot placement can be increased. It is also important on the way up to drive through the heels.
If the athlete has a shoulder injury it is good to limit the range of motion by adding a board on the chest. This may also be a good thing for baseball players to do in order to prevent injury. Close grip bench press involves the deltoids and the triceps more. For close grip, grip should be an inch or two closer or about a thumbs length away from normal bench grip. Bench from the floor stresses the pecs more.
Due to lateral forces involved in bench pressing, people aren’t able to dumbbell press as much as they can bench with a barbell. The dumbbell press requires more stabilization, and doesn’t have the same lateral forces or else the dumbbells would move away from each other. The dumbbell bench also uses the biceps more than the triceps. The speed of the bar will slow down as the athlete progresses throughout the reps of the bench. The bench can be made more difficult with added chains or resistance bands. A study in 2010 by Garcia Lopez et al., found that velocity decreased when performing static stretching between sets but it was unaffected by ballistic stretching. Ballistic training between bench sets such as medicine ball chest passes may increase bench press performance. (Contreras, B., & Leahey, S. (2011). “The Best Damn Bench Press Article Period.” T Nation. 15 December 2011. <http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/the_best_damn_bench_press_article_period.)
The two full body movements that are used widely in strength and conditioning are the Snatch and Clean. These two movements are used to create explosive movement patterns through the hip, knee and ankle. All three of these joint actions are used when we run, jump and participate in a variety of sports. This is why these exercises have become the best in this regard.
Many people who have been taught the clean have been taught incorrectly. It is important to implement the exercise in a manner that is safe and effective. The first thing that the athlete must be able to do is hold the weight in a front rack position. This involves the humerus of the arm staying parallel to the floor during the catch and through the end of the movement. The first exercise that can be implemented to test their front rack ability is the hands free front squat. This is a front squat with the bar in the front rack position, but the forearm pointed straight out in line with the humerus. The athlete must then be able to squat the weight in this position without the bar rolling forward, down the arm.
Once this can be successfully completed, it is time to do a regular front squat, which involves the bar to remain in the front rack position while keeping the bar in the fingertips. It is important to make sure the athlete is not holding the bar with a full hand. They should allow the bar to roll into the finger tips on the catch.
Next, I will have the athlete perform a hang clean. This means the athlete will lower the bar just above the knees, with their chest over the bar. Next the athlete will extend through the hip knee and ankle joints (Triple Extension) to propel the bar up into the front rack position. On the catch, the athlete should be in a quarter squat positions, known as a power stance. As the weight comes in contact with the shoulders, depending on the weight being used, the athlete can lower themselves into a full front squat from the quarter squat position. This will allow the athlete to absorb the weight on the eccentric movement. The most important thing to watch for is keeping the elbows up on the catch. Dropping the elbows will limit the amount of weight they can do and puts them at a much greater risk of a wrist injury. This is as far as we would like to progress the athlete in a college sports performance setting. The full clean involves the athlete pulling the weight from the floor, but in our case, the greater risk of pulling from the floor does not outweigh the additional benefits it might hold.
The other Olympic lift used is the hang snatch. The hang snatch is when the athlete pulls the weight from a hanging position, just above the knees, to an overhead catch. The catch should be in a quarter squat position, with the bar overhead and the palms facing the ceiling. The progression we like to implement for this exercise is a bit different. Before we have an athlete do any kind of snatch with a barbell, it is important that we first teach them with a dumbbell. This is typically called a one arm dumbbell snatch. The first progression with a barbell is getting the athlete to complete an overhead squat with perfect form. This can be first practiced with the dowels and then progressed to the barbell. The next movement in the progression is the when the athlete starts with the bar in the back rack position. Next, they will push themselves underneath the bar, without bending at the hip or knees before the movement. The feet should start in the finish position (a little wider than hip width apart). The third progression is a snatch balance. This is much like the previous movement, but there will be a quick dip before the athlete pushes themselves the bar. The feet also start under the hips, and shuffle out on the drop movement. The athlete then overhead squat the weight up into a standing position. Finally we will have the athlete perform the movement to the best of their ability. From there we will correct the form until it is safe.
Both of these movements can be very beneficial if they are done correctly. As a coach, it is important to watch the athletes form and make sure that they are maintaining a neutral spine throughout the movement. If the athlete does not look ready to perform any step of these progressions, they should be going back a step in the progression. The weight room is a place to build strength and reduce risk of injury. If a movement is putting the athlete at a greater risk of injury, it should be taken out of their program.