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May 07, 2018

Can an Athlete be too Strong?

Gaining strength and size is the main goal of many athletes when they're in the weight room. But some coaches raise the question of whether or not an athlete can be too strong.

The answers vary quite a bit depending on who you ask. In theory, the stronger you are the more potential you have to generate more force and become more powerful.

On the other hand, if you're very strong but lack speed, flexibility, and coordination, how well you can use your strength in athletic competition is limited.

Ives, a motor behaviorist, points out that the strongest athletes are not necessarily the best athletes. He says that strength gains in the weight room are often wasted on the field if strength doesn't transfer to sport skills and movements.

So, it's not necessarily how strong you are, it's how well you can move with added strength. As a thrower way back in the day, I came to realize that how much weight I could lift explosively in a speed squat or power clean was more important than the absolute maximum I could squat.

Today, one of the best high school throwers in the country is Josh Sobota. He's thrown nearly 68 ft. in the shot put and 195 ft. in the discus. His 325 lb. back squat is far less than some of his competitors who squat close to 500 lbs., yet they struggle to break 50' in the shot.

Josh's coordination, height, and great genes (rather than strength) have elevated him to elite status. Plus, future strength gains generated into his technique make for a very promising future.

So, can you be too strong? It's possible, if you don't channel it into athletic movements and skills.

In Josh's case, his coaches have followed the LTAD (long-term athletic development) model of emphasizing the development of skill with strength. They focused on building a better athlete, than building the strongest athlete. It's worked out pretty well!

LTAD Position Statement: https://www.nsca.com/uploadedFiles/NSCA/Resources/PDF/Education/Tools_and_Resources/NSCA_position_statement_long-term_athletic_development.pdf

Apr 24, 2018

Why Functional Movement Screens?

One area that some coaches take issue with is the use of functional movement screens (FMS), so I want to talk about them today.

Functional Movements Screens (FMS) are used as indicators of readiness to train for sports. They typically include basic tests, such as a deep squat without weights, an active straight-leg lift, or a trunk stability push up.

The validity and usefulness of such screens have been questioned by coaches. Indeed, research has shown that the FMS is not associated with previous injury or risk of injury in athletic performance. It is not related to postural stability, movement efficiency, level of athletic performance, or ability in athletic tasks, such as sprint running, agility or jumping.

Gray Cook, creator of a well-known FMS, and colleagues explain that the FMS was never meant to do any of these things. They emphasize that the FMS is simply a screening tool that operates at the lowest level of movement competency, or functional movement. In contrast, skill is at the top of the performance pyramid. It's like a math teacher seeing if you've learned your numbers before teaching you arithmetic.

So, if you have tight hamstrings you're probably not ready to do back squats or perform a pulling movement from the floor. Identifying where weaknesses lie through movement screens will set the stage for performing lifts and sport skills more safely and efficiently. In some cases, they may indicate movement issues that need further testing.

I screen every athlete I work with, and I firmly believe these simple tests are weight room essentials that come before finalizing an athlete's training program.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4127517/

Apr 17, 2018

It's Me! 50 Years Later

I'm Denise Wood. You can read my author bio and the pages on my site, but they really don't tell you as much about sports training as I'd like to share at this stage in my life.

A long time ago, I remember Olympic hurdler Lacey O'Neal say that not enough athletes pass on the benefit of their personal experience to young, rising athletes.

I've always remembered that. And while I've spent a lifetime teaching and coaching, I really want to get my personal thoughts and experiences out there, just in case I've learned something you can use.

So, I decided to post blog entries about where I am and what I've learned in over 50 years of experience.

Yikes! 50 years!

2018 is special to me because it marks 50 years since my first national championship and Olympic Trials in track and field in 1968. 1968 was a landmark year because it opened doors that changed my life forever. I'll tell you about bits and pieces now and then, but let me get to today.

Life is great because I'm doing what I've loved during my entire career--teaching and coaching, learning and giving back.

My day job is at Huntington University of Health Sciences, where I teach courses in exercise science, nutrition and CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) research, and psychology.

Part-time, I'm the Head Strength Coach and Assistant Throws Coach at South-Doyle High School in Knoxville, TN.

What's really exciting about this is that I'm working with a few teams I've never trained before--football, rugby, wrestling, for example, and lots of other sports I have coached before.

I'm designing programs with the sport coaches using a combination of current techniques, and some tried-and-true methods I learned from athletes of different countries during my athletic career. I balance that out with strategies from motor behavior research. It all makes for some interesting and unique programs.

Well, more to come....the day job calls. :-)

I hope you'll check back to see what's going on when you get a chance. I have lots to tell you.

Mar 09, 2015

Strength Training: What to do about Unexpected Breaks

Athletes often encounter unexpected breaks from strength training. At our local high school, several of the teams trained in a conditioning program for six weeks and were about to test their maximums when they missed two full weeks due to the weather. What to do!

After talking with the coaches, we agreed that testing maximums after 2.5 weeks without any activity could cause injuries due to detraining. Plus, maximum lifts would not be very good.

Three of the track athletes, who are also football players, competed in the Indoor State Games at the end of the two-week break. No athlete performed well. Not only did they feel like the lacked muscle tone, but for the throwers, technique was also "flat". Their timing was off even though the correct movement patterns were mainly intact.

The issue is reversibility. We decided to continue conditioning for a short time. We did not test maximums and, instead, transitioned straight into the intensive period to save the time that would have been taken up to test maximums (usually an additional week).

We're using the number of repetitions that correspond to loads at specific percentages for the intensive cycle. We may test maximums for some teams, depending upon their schedules and when they plan to peak.

The bottom line is safety. The athletes' perceptions of how much they lost in 2.5 weeks, their extent of muscle soreness upon returning, plus the research on detraining were a good basis for continuing conditioning, then transitioning to intensive training over the next few weeks.

Feb 27, 2015

Follow Your Heart

When someone asks me to help them make an important decision about sports, school, or anything else, my bottom line answer is “follow your heart”. Here’s why.

When I was a kid, all I ever really planned on doing was what I loved—being an athlete and working to be the best I could at it. I never dreamed that athletic competition could open so many doors later on, but it did. Throughout my life I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, doing what I loved and not knowing where it would lead.

It’s been some 30 years since I was immersed in training and competition as a member of the USA Track and Field Team, but my love of sports always gave me direction.

It all started in high school when one of the new teachers decided to take some kids to the Wayne Elks Club Track Meet. I won, and that inspired me to love track.

Two years later, I met Dr. Richard Willing, a college professor and coach, who recruited me to compete for his AAU team, the NJ Striders. When I qualified for the National Championships and Olympic Trials in 1968 in my senior year in high school, he saw to it that I got to Denver and Los Angeles to compete. What an experience for a kid who never really left the NJ area—competing against top athletes that I had read about and crossing the country by car all in one trip!

It was also because of Dr. Willing that I entered Montclair State that year. And it happened that the first college national championship for women was held in San Marcos, Texas the following spring, where I won 3 national titles in 1969 and over the next 15 years made many USA Teams.

I was the only athlete Dr. Willing ever coached in his 41-year career to make a USA Team, but he did not live to see it. Sadly, Dr. Willing passed away on his way to the Mexico City Games, so he never knew what I accomplished and what a difference his passion for coaching track made in my life.

I will always be grateful to Dr. Willing for setting the stage for years of international competition, which later opened more opportunities into a fulfilling career as a professor, coach, and sport scientist. Best of all, I have wonderful memories of a great role model and mentor whose influence has lasted a lifetime.

It all started because I followed my heart and did what I loved, not knowing where it would lead. I think of Dr. Willing whenever I coach kids, and I hope that sharing my passion for sports will make some positive difference in guiding the direction of their lives.

That's why my advice is to follow your heart and let your passion about whatever you love guide you. You never know what doors will open.

Dec 16, 2014

Body Coordination: The Key to Sport Fitness

Body coordination is specific to each skill. Smooth, efficient movements indicate that an athlete has mastered sport skills.

Continue reading "Body Coordination: The Key to Sport Fitness"

Dec 16, 2014

Sports Training Adviser: Practical Training Tips Based on Sport Science

Sports Training Adviser presents practical scientific sports training techniques and coaching methods that accelerate learning and performance.

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Jun 02, 2014

Competitive Anxiety and How to Control It

Most every athlete faces competitive anxiety at some time. Knowing the causes and how to control it can help to achieve optimal performance even under stressful conditions.

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Jun 02, 2014

Athlete Motivation

Athlete motivation is the intensity and direction of one's efforts. Understanding motivational theory can help athletes be more successful for longer periods of time.

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Jun 02, 2014

Applied Sport Psychology

Applied sport psychology offers coaches many coaching tools that relate to the athlete's mental training.

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Jun 02, 2014

4 Cs of Sport Psychology

The 4 Cs of sport psychology are concentration, confidence, control and commitment. These are considered to be essential mental qualities that are important for successful performance in sports.

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Sep 06, 2012

Sports Training Adviser: About the Author

Sports Training Adviser was created by Dr. Denise Wood, former elite athlete and outstanding educator with professional expertise in the sport sciences who has coached beginners to Olympians.

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Mar 30, 2010

Types of Fitness Training Exercises for Sports

Numerous types of fitness training regimens can improve performance in sports. The correct balance of exercises and regimens must match the demands of each sport.

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Mar 17, 2010

Muscular Power Development

Developing muscular power for any athletes requires the right balance of speed and strength. Weight training can make a profound impact on power and acceleration for sports.

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Mar 14, 2010

Warm Up Activities for Sports

Warm up activities prepare athletes for the demands of practice and competition. It prepares athletes both mentally and physically for practice and game play.

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