‘Nanny state’ is a statement we read about a lot. It is perhaps most apparent in schools and sports and athletic clubs. The concerns of health and safety people have over injury as well as miss guidance on weight training in teenagers has had a hugely departmental effect on school and club athletes limiting their performance.
Most P.E Classes Fitness Wild have observed have been a sorry show of kids running around a small hall until a little bit out of breath, something most of the children confuse with having a heart attack. The classes normally entail limply passing a ball around followed by static stretching. How is this improving performance?! If the class is lucky they learn a few ball skills which is great but in no way improves speed, agility, strength, vertical jump and hypertrophy.
One thing we can take from the states (the bad press about their obesity and dieting habits aside), they do high school and college sports right. Basketball, Wrestling, American football etc they all include an in-depth strength and conditioning program and the schools have properly equipped gyms. Not just resistance machines, treadmills and a smith machine to ‘squat in’. These kids have full access to benches, rope climbs, power racks and lifting platforms, investing in their school athletes and their athletic future.
I was fortunate enough to be invited along to my girlfriends’ mums’ school in Northern Ireland to speak to her A-level students. Their project was to write a program for one another to improve athletic performance. From what I wrote previously you can imagine my expectations.
I met the boys in a globo gym expecting them to tell me they wanted to increase their chest and bicep size for the sport of disco, and what machines should they use and how many curls should they do using the cables. I was completely wrong and utterly surprised.
When I arrived the boys were all standing in the only power rack in the gym that was banished into a dark corner. The boys were performing deadlifts with impressive technique. They then went on to tell me their sports and what they wanted to improve. I will only list 3 below;
1) Increase in vertical jump for basketball
2) Speed and agility for Gaelic football
3) Improve power in golf swing
The boys were keen to learn and took on board all of my suggestions, I have listed below some of the key points and hopefully the guys can use this as a reference point. I have briefly explained why these suggestions were made, if you would like to know more Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Vertical jump the full range back squats when your glutes cover your hamstrings. A study showed squatting to this depth increased athletes jump by 8% in 10 weeks – these can be found in The Journal of Strength a Conditioning. Although front squat will also help improve your vertical jump results are better if focus is given to the glutes and hamstrings, which the back squat allows, we also talked about why having a wider stance, more like a power lifter would increase this further as it has more of a posterior chain focus.
Speed; think about using the front squat. This takes a lot of flexibility and is great lift for form, posture and flexibility, the lift simply can’t be cheated. If you cheat, you can hurt you wrists, lower back or simply and most likely just drop the bar! The front squat is something none of them had tried and we spent a lot of time going over form using the bar and working on thoracic extension and glute activation. I suggested the front squat for speed as it takes the stress off the back and allows the drive to come mostly from the quads and glutes with a huge amount of effort going through the abdominals, allowing you to train the body to transfer through the kinetic chain.
Golf – Power of the tee; For Me this was perhaps the most interesting, as it’s an area I have never really covered before. We broke the movement down and looked at the major muscle groups used as well as the assisting muscle groups before deciding what the best exercises we would use. We went over the obvious such as core stability and abdominal strength, how they are fast firing muscle and what exercises to use to optimise that, wide grip chin ups for his back and to get the biceps and forearms going. I think the most interesting thing we talked about and maybe overlooked by most when talking about golf, was his wrists and grip strength, not saying white knuckle the club but to make a clean connection with the ball he doesn’t want his wrist being weak so that the club kinks out as one gives way slightly, meaning the connection to the ball isn’t great – taking power out. The exercise I left them to think about for this was farmer’s walks as this will tie it all together, wrists grips, abdominals and back.
The visit was a truly inspiring and a rewarding opportunity. I was generally impressed with the A-Level students. I hope more schools run programs like this and hope to see a fully equipped weights room in schools in the near future. The fear of strength and conditioning being bad for you when young will not make you a decrepit hobbit but a better athlete with a better functioning body as a whole!
Thank you Loreto Colleges A level class the teachers and to Maureen for getting Fitness Wild involved. Best of luck to the boys! Would love to know how you all get on with it.