The unprecedented boom of social media in the past decade has created a raft of unforeseen changes, both positive and negative. I can now keep in contact with overseas friends and family with remarkable ease, and I can get news about the soccer team I support in real time from journalists on twitter. However, one negative is the new call out culture, where people score points for highlighting the shortcomings of everyone else. For evidence, have a look at the standard of conversation in the Facebook comments of just about anything.
Now generally speaking, I couldn’t care less. However, this insidious concept has firmly infiltrated the strength and conditioning industry, where coaches are openly criticising the exercises, programs and even the appearance of other coaches in an attempt to score brownie points and prove that they’re the better coach.
The pitfall of this culture is the lack of knowledge surrounding the other coach’s situation and demands. Strength and conditioning, particularly in elite sport, is a difficult industry to break into. The overwhelming majority of coaches are highly knowledgeable and qualified and have valid reasons for whatever it is that they’re doing. Take, for example, when Maurizio Sarri recently publicly said that Chelsea didn’t perform weight training when he was coach because he’s never seen a weight on the field. Archaic? Yes, but he’s in charge and the S&C coach is subject to that. Atletico Madrid were also subject of extensive ridicule when a video went viral of a training circuit from their training. Again, we know nothing about the surrounding politics and how much influence is being exerted on the fitness coach by others more powerful. An S&C coach at a top six Premier League club once told me that you can never criticise a program without knowing the context in which the coach created it – the program is always a reflection of the demands of the environment.
Another particularly weird part of all this is when sport-based strength and conditioning coaches call out trainers and coaches on the general population side, as if their worlds are remotely connected. The Western world is dealing with the lowest rates of physical activity in human history. If these viral ‘influencers’ on social media are getting people to exercise, they’re doing at least some good. Yeah, it’s not normally optimal and the claims are often exaggerated, but at least some people are starting to exercise for the first time. Twilight might have been a crap book, but it made a lot of young people start reading. If S&C coaches don’t like what they’re seeing, don’t follow: it’s an opt-in service.
The reason I feel this is such a problem is the current standing of the S&C industry. Inside, people often complain about the perceived lack of respect that coaches receive and the comparatively low pay scales (which are usually dictated by people outside the industry). One easy way that we can improve the outside esteem toward our industry is to stop behaving like high schoolers on social media. Have a look at the social media discourse around strength coach Alex Spanos after he went viral for his sideline behaviour. If he wants to wear tight shirts and jump around, let him. As above, we don’t know the external influences - it’s not unknown for American football coaches to ask the S&C coach to be the ‘hype guy’. The ridiculous, childish criticism levelled at him does infinitely more damage to the industry than his behaviour ever will.
If another coach’s methods or behaviour is causing that much of a problem, maybe it’s worth reaching out and having a conversation. Coaches might even learn something, and it wouldn’t publicly devolve the industry. Every coach I’ve ever met got into the industry through passion and enjoyment. Unity around this common background and goal would go a long way towards helping us all.
Vertical Jump Training
Throughout January, we brought you some videos and information and jumps training and some of our methods at AAC. We did this because jumping one of the dominant athletic movements. Regardless of the individual sport, jumping (alongside speed, but more on that later) is one of the foremost movements that differentiates between the elite and the rest.
Explosive jumping is difficult to counter - it facilitates marking in football, headers at both ends in soccer, catches in cricket and gridiron as well as rebounds in basketball. Given the incredible value of improved jumps performance, we’ve put together a program to show how all the information we shared throughout January can be brought together into a single training phase that will leave jumping higher and further and dominating your competition.
This is a simple progression of single to multiple effort jumps, allowing the athlete to build the foundation before progressing to more complex, multiple effort plyometric style jumps. In addition, the intensity of the strength training decreases throughout the program, allowing the athlete to focus on moving the weight quickly and dynamically. Whilst the total volume of the program is relatively low, this is very much deliberate; with low volume and high intensity along with proper rest periods providing the most effective strategy for jump training.
Perform a basic warm up that works for you and has you feeling ready to jump. I highly recommend including some rope skipping in this.
Weeks 1 - 2
Drop squat 2 x 4
Drop squat 2 x 4
Vertical jump 2 x 3
Box jump 2 x 4
Broad jump 2 x 3
Hurdle hops w/ bounce between reps 2 x 6
Tuck jump 2 x 5
MB keg toss 2 x 4
Dumbbell squat jump 2 x 4 (~30 % squat 1RM)
Split jump 2 x 3 el
Back squat 2 x 5 x 70 – 75 %
Trap bar deadlift 2 x 5 x 65 – 75 %
KB swing 2 x 10
Bulgarian split squat 2 x 6 el
Weeks 3 -4
Altitude drop 3 x 3 from 12’ box
SL drop squat 3 x 3 el
Hurdle hop into box jump 3 x 4+1
Reactive drop squat jump 3 x 3
Triple effort broad jump 3 x 2
Hurdle hops 3 x 6
MB keg toss 3 x 4 (1 kg lighter than last week)
Skater jump 3 x 4 el
Barbell squat jump 3 x 4 x 20% 1RM
Trap bar jump 3 x 4 x 20 % 1RM
Back squat 2 x 3 x 80 – 85 %
Banded KB swing 2 x 8
Bulgarian split squat 2 x 5 el
Altitude drop 3 x 3 x 15’ box
SL altitude drop 3 x 3 x 9’ box
Jump shrug 3 x 4
MB granny toss 3 x 4
SL hurdle series 3 x 2 el
90o depth jump 3 x 2 el x 12’ box
Depth jump 3 x 3 x 12’ box
Tuck jump 3 x 5
Continuous squat jump 3 x 4 x 15% 1RM
Hurdle jump 3 x 6
Back squat 2 x 3 x 50% + light bands
Trap bar deadlift 2 x 2 x 50 % + light bands
RDL 2 x 5
Bulgarian split squat 2 x 4 el
The above is written for an example for an intermediate level athlete, who has solid relative strength and is competent in all planes and basic patterns of movement. Following the completion of this program, athletes at the lower end of training experience would be encouraged to repeat a similar program, whilst concurrently working on speed and agility through sport practice and other dedicated S&C sessions.
More advanced athletes will likely need to emphasise a different biomotor ability, as excessive targeting of one ability might lead to overuse injuries and/or staleness. As such, having finished this phase, they might move to another phase emphasising another ability entirely, or simply shift the focus slightly whilst maintaining some jumping work, depending on their training model. A speed phase would be the most logical progression from the above.
With regard to specific methods, a less advanced athlete has little need to change methods, as they can still easily adapt and spend longer in each training phase. More advanced athletes however, would benefit from a Triphasic approach to their training after this phase, emphasising all three phases of muscular contraction. This entails spending a phase respectively emphasising eccentric movement, with slowed eccentric tempos, then isometric movement, with paused movement and concentric movement, with an emphasis on the dynamic speed of movement. This method is also scalable to any level of experience, with inexperienced athletes benefitting from the tempos as a technical teaching tool, and more advanced athletes benefitting from the more intense stimulus enabled by their greater strength levels.
In the rare case of a particularly advanced athlete (usually track and field sportspeople), French Contrast might be a beneficial intervention, where a specific circuit of exercises is performed, in the following manner:
Heavy compound movement (i.e. back squat or bench press) at >80% 1RM
Explosive bodyweight movement that uses a similar motor pattern (i.e. box jump or clap pushup)
A weighted explosive movement that mimics the first exercise (i.e. weighted jump squat or bench throw)
An assisted explosive exercise (i.e. band assisted vertical jump or band assisted explosive pushup)
Programming - Where to start?!
One of the more common questions we receive regarding programming is setting up a full body session. Starting from scratch and trying to hit everything can be daunting, so we break the session into subunits to make the process easier. The individual, their sport or activity, the time of year and goals will all influence how the pieces are placed together, but the framework remains relatively constant. We’ll skip the warm-up as that’s for another post and assume that it’s been taken care of.
1. Explosive Work
This is one that might be dropped depending on the above factors, but if it’s included, it should almost always be at the start. There are exceptions to this, but it’s rare.
Placement here is a little more fluid than explosive work, but squatting is such a foundational movement pattern that it’s often placed towards the front of the workout. Social media is flooded with arguments around bilateral (two leg) vs unilateral (single leg) movements, but generally, most individuals will perform both at some point in their program.
For the same reasons listed as the squat, the hinge is at the front end of the session, although the order is largely interchangeable. As with squatting, most athletes will perform both single and double leg variations.
4. Upper Body Pulling
Upper body pulling can be broken into the subunits of vertical and horizontal. Arguments abound about the ideal balance between horizontal and vertical work, but the unsexy answer is that it depends on the individual in question, and it often matters less than what people might think.
5. Upper Body Pressing
In tackling and combat sports, upper body pressing strength will usually be some form of KPI. As with pulling, the balance between horizontal and vertical exercises depends, but the guiding principles should be based in adaptations, not methods.
There are arguments just around the naming of this category and especially the specifics, but it’s one the categories that’s most individualised based on sport and history, but it’s an area with a huge range of possible methods, from targeted work up to global movements like carries and crawls. 7. Conditioning The exact methods and exercises within this category warrant a post of their own, but this style of work is typically placed at the end of the session, unless it’s the main goal, when it might be a session in itself.