Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Why Max Testing Lifts is a Waste of Time for Athletes

Hello Everyone!

Even though max testing lifts like the Back Squat, Bench Press, and Clean is a common practice in many weight rooms I believe it is a waste of time of what otherwise could have been a great lifting/training session. 

Max Testing, for those that are unclear, is often where you have athletes buildup to a weight that they think they could do for one good rep and that's it. Hence their max weight in that exercise.

Many coaches argue that this process is necessary in order to figure out what weights an athlete should be lifting with later on in their program. But if this was true, then shouldn't the coach max test EVERY lift for the athlete? If they have to have this max number to figure out their training weights then they must be max testing every single exercise that the athlete is going to be doing in the upcoming training program right? Wrong. These same coaches only test certain, what I like to call, "big boy exercises" like the Bench Press and Back Squat. Please don't lie to me and tell me you need to max test these lifts in order to actually create a working lifting program for the athletes. I'd rather these coaches be honest and just say that every once in awhile they like to let the egos fly, grunt, stomp their feet, and turn the weight room into a high-energy rodeo where everyone that is not lifting stands around and yells and cheers on the lifter going for that 8-second ride with a bull known as the 500 lbs Back Squat.

Look at all those athletes standing around not getting better.
Photo Credit: youtube.com
To be fair, if coaches want to use max testing days to motivate athletes through the sometimes long grind of the off-season, that's understandable. But I have never resorted to this form of motivation and never will, it is not worth the risk in my opinion.

There are many other ways to motivate your athletes.
This is a huge waste of value time, one athlete lifts while the whole team watches.
Photo: powerathlethq.com 
What risk am I referring too? The risk of injury. No matter how well an athlete warmups, when you have athletes going all out with heavy weights you certainly increase the risk of injury. One miss-timed breath, one over zealous athlete, one off-balance setup can mean long term disaster for an athlete. To me this risk of serious injury just for a number to tell your friends, family, significant others, and anyone else that cares to hear how much you can lift, is just not worth it to me. And this is assuming that everyone lifts with good form! It is hard enough to coach athletes to lift with proper form with sub-maximal weight, let along coach them on safe, proper form when they go all out.

This is NOT how you catch a Clean. The spotter can not save this athlete's knees.
Photo Credit: bretcontreras.com
So if you don't need to max test to be able to program training weights for athletes, and if you put your athletes at a high level of risk just for a number, then why not just go with a great, regular training session that will add repetition to your athletes' bodies, increase their experience, and continue their overall strength development? That's what I prefer. To focus on training, repetition, and development! A good program will have the athletes work up towards their 85-90% effort, notice I didn't say 85-90% of their max, perceived effort of exertion is a powerful enough tool to get athletes results.

I understand I may have ruffled some feathers with this post. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments in the section below!

Keep Training!
Coach Amanda Kephart

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Your Speed and Agility Needs Some TLC

Hello Everyone!

Here's how you can set up your speed and agility training to maximize results and actually see your training efforts improve your game!

Give your speed and agility training some TLC!


I've spoken often about how speed and agility are skills and therefore can be improved. Yet, most athletes and coaches don't know how to design an effective speed and agility training session.

Like any skill, to improve your mastery you must first TEACH the skill. If our speed skill is acceleration (your initial sprinting mechanics) you need to teach yourself the proper form to accelerate for maximum impact. One part of this proper form is high knees. Achieving full range of high knees stretches the glutes and hamstrings ensuring full power output of each strike into the ground. To teach yourself high knees, practice standing with one knee all the way up so the thigh is parallel with the ground.

Now that you've taught yourself what a high knee looks and feels like, you have to LEARN how to apply this form. A way to learn high knees is to practice high knee speed skips focusing on consistently reaching full range on each skip. After skip work it's best to LEARN how high knees feel when sprinting. From a controlled start, when ready, sprint 10 yards as fast as possible while focusing on high knees.

Photo credit: Nike.com
Once you've learned how to sprint with high knees, it's time to COMPETE. Most team sports have athletes competing not only against themselves, but against opponents and uncontrolled stimuli (like a bouncing loose ball). So for your speed and agility training to actually impact your game performance, you have to practice competing with your skill. In this example, a simple, yet powerful way to compete would be to race another athlete for 10 yards. But don't limit your races to static, controlled "ready, set, go" kind of races, make them more game like.
   Here's a couple of ways:
   1) Toss a ball in front of you. Wait until it bounces twice before sprinting after it.
   2) Have a partner hold two balls, one in each hand, about 5 yards away from you, as soon as he/she drops the one ball, sprint as fast as you can towards it, trying to catch it before it bounces a second time.
Photo credit: stack.com

Whatever speed and agility skill you are trying to improve, remember to approach it with some TLC!

Keep Training!
Coach Amanda Kephart

Interested in getting some TCL with me? Visit my CONTACT INFO page!

Monday, February 8, 2016

The 80/20 Rule for Training

Hello Everyone!

NEWSFLASH: Most sports have nearly 80% the same needs and therefore 80% of the training should look the same for athletes, regardless of sport. 

Yet, most athletes and coaches spend too much of their training time focusing on the 20% intricacies.

To understand what I mean, can you tell which one of these successful athletes DOES NOT need to be fast, strong, and powerful?
All of these athletes need to be fast, strong, and powerful!

Regardless if it is football, basketball, baseball/softball, volleyball, soccer or (insert sport here) athletes need to be fast, strong, and powerful That's why 80% of many great training programs are very similar looking with similar exercises that produce the results of speed, strength, and power.

Does your training include the 80% exercises that great athletes need or does your training have too much of the 20% intricate exercises that won't matter if you aren't getting faster, stronger, and more explosive??

That's the problem with the 20% intricate exercises that vary between sports. They are great compliments to the main focus of developing more speed, strength, and power, but they in and of themselves don't impact your performance results like the 80% exercises do.

For example, regardless of sport, 80% of athletes' training should include exercises like the following as these exercises will make you fast, strong, and powerful!

- Olympic Lifts (clean, snatches, etc)
- Squats
- Lunges
- Pullups
- Pushups
- Glute Bridges & Bucks
- Short Sprints
- Short Shuttles

So what are some 20% exercises?

- box jumps, depth jumps, ankle mobility, single leg jumping
- core work in the transverse plane (think seated medicine ball twists), hip mobility, rotator cuff work
Football (varies on position, but in general): 
- bench presses, cutting drills, sagittal jumping (think long jumps)
- low back work, box jumps, single leg jumping
- long distance speed work (greater than 400 meters), patella tracking exercises, split-stance jumping exercises

Improve your training by following the 80/20 Rule.
80% of your exercises should be spent on the ones that will make you faster, stronger, and more powerful. 20% should be the intricate exercises that make your sport unique!

Keep Training!
Coach Amanda Kephart 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

What College Coaches Look For At Games

Hello Everyone!

Recently, I attended a great local girl's high school basketball game where I was able to see many of my former athletes compete. At the game were two area Division III Head Coaches watching girls that they thought could be potential good fits for their programs. I had a chance to chat with both of them and learned what they were looking for from the girls. To my surprise, there were two main things that the Head Coaches were looking at.

One of the head coaches, sitting on the edge of her seat, said,
     "You know Amanda, a lot of times these girls think I am here to see how many points they score and how many rebounds they pull in, but if I wanted to know those things I would just stay home and read the stat sheet. I'm looking for the things that the stat sheet can't tell me. I'm looking for the things that greatly impact my team's culture and my program's overall success. I want to see their mistake-response."

I asked if she could elaborate on what a mistake-response is.

She sat up a little straighter and said,
     "Let's face it Amanda, no one plays a perfect game, even the pros make multiple mistakes throughout the course of a game. I'm here to see if she hangs her head and pouts when she makes a mistake, or does she act like nothing happened and stays in the game both mentally and physically. The game of basketball is so fast paced I can't have girls pouting for even a moment about something they can't change. I need them to stay focused on what they can change and that's the next play."

Let me mention that this Head Coach has won multiple championships, both conference and tournament. Hearing her share this reminded me that champions stay "in the game" no matter how well or how badly they are playing.
How is your mistake-response?

I didn't get to talk to the other coach until after the exciting game ended. She was standing in the stands with a big smile on her face.
     "Did you see her hustle?! I loved seeing her defense create turnovers and her diving on the floor for loose balls! She's exactly the type of player my program is made of. Her passion matches my current girls' passion. She'd be great."

The athlete that this head coach was referring too was also the game's leading scorer, but she didn't mention that once. She saw what she wanted, what she needed, and that's hustle.
Hustle is a skill, and therefore, can be improved.

How often do athletes get nervous and worried when they realize College Coaches are there to watch them? Sure it is natural to get nervous, but isn't it a relief to know that the coaches are there in person to see the things that the stat sheet can't show them? Mistake-responses and hustle?

Good mistake-responses are:
  • staying calm
  • no sign of sadness or disappointment
  • extra hustle to try to help correct the mistake
  • no signs of dwelling on the mistake 
  • staying focused on the next play
  • lifting up their teammates with positive energy

Hustle is a skill. Hustle is a choice. Hustle takes no talent. Hustle can happen every night no matter how much you score or don't score. Hustle is something that makes you stand out. 

Regardless of anything else, make sure every game you focus on your mistake-responses and your hustle.

Keep Training!
Coach Amanda Kephart