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Mobility, Stability & Flexibility For Elite Tennis Athlete’s

Tennis is a sport that requires mastery of a lot of variables like mental focus, confidence, endurance, speed, quickness, power, explosiveness and experience. All of these are visible on the surface, but in the underlying areas where people don’t always focus, recognize, or are aware of, are key physical necessities like proper mobility, stability and flexibility.

At the highest levels of any sport, victory and defeat come in inches, hundredths of seconds and split second reactions. Just watch an NFL football game on Sunday and witness how a wide receiver will leap and outreach a perfectly thrown and almost perfectly defended ball from the quarterback, and beat the defensive back to win the game with just enough time on the clock to kick the field goal and end the game.

radwanska

In a tennis match, there are many times when a player has to make an incredibly athletic play similar to a professional football player in the way of body control, stability, mobility, flexibility, core strength and general power. If there is any lack of one of these variables making the play can be next to impossible and mean defeat, once the opponent figures out that you can’t make that play and exposes it over and over.

djokovic

Many times athletes have to stretch the outer limit of their god given ability to make these unbelievable plays. This skill can require years of detail oriented sports fitness training in order to get into these extreme athletic positions. Once in these extreme positions, the athletes have to have enough stability and power to make an amazing athletic play from these compromised positions.

This characteristic, attribute and uncommon ability is what wins championships, creates space between rankings and can actually generate incredible amounts of revenue for the right athlete with elite god given genetics.

Most athletes focus on skill training (tennis athletes are notorious for this while neglecting many other facets like strength, diet, optimal body composition and peak athletic fitness.)

Football players are notorious for focusing solely on strength, power and explosiveness, but usually fall short in mobility, stability and flexibility.

Baseball players are like tennis players and most really miss the point on strength and explosiveness training. This is surprising even though the steroid era showed that by adding lots of power to the skill equation, this equaled a huge increase in home run production.

In tennis, Serena William’s crushing 120 plus mile per hour serves, devastating return of serves, amazing strength plus her incredible mobility, stability, speed and agility, she has a lethal combination of skills.

serena-williams

In the game of tennis, you need to have a full arsenal of training, not just more stroke mastery and match play. For instance, if you go to most tennis clinics, academies, and the like, you see a massive focus on hours…

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Newsletter : Hardware-vs-Software 6-28-13

In computer jargon, there is an important difference between hardware and software. This difference can help demonstrate how the body creates, recognizes, and refines movement.

hardware

Hardware refers to the components (ram, rom, disk drive etc.) of the actual machine; software refers to the programs (commands and instructions) that allow the machine to do the beneficial things we love like spreadsheets, games etc.

When we discuss the human body, including the muscles, joints, ligaments, and everything else physical, we are referring to the body’s hardware. When we discuss motor programs, we are referring to the body’s software.

Motor programs are simply ways that the brain stores information about movement. For example, when you ride a bike, swing a tennis racket, or shoot a free throw, you create a motor program that allows you to do this activity again without having to relearn the mechanics.

 

software

The motor program is the body’s way to conserve energy and storage space. The brain creates a specific programmed sequence of movements unique to the body and activity. That way, you don’t have to put together all the individual parts of the movement each time you want to use that movement.

For example, each time you go to the tennis court, you can access the brain file on the tennis swing without having to put together the individual parts of the swing. The more a motor program is used, the more efficient and refined it becomes. Professional athletes develop motor programs that are so refined they can perform almost perfectly under almost any condition and high levels of physical and mental stress.

tennis-player

So all practice is good, right? Not always so. If an activity is practiced with poor form, the poor form will be part of the information recorded in the motor program. Practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. Motor programs can be general or specific.

General, or basic, motor programs are almost like a common or standard operating system; specific programs relate to particular activities. Infants share common movements necessary to development their mind and bodies. Almost all infants follow the same path or sequence to move from crawling to walking.

The general motor program is common to all individuals; but specific motor programs are unique, based on age and experience. The basic motor program (general human movement) creates a platform for specific motor programs (sport-specific human movement).

 

The general system is a frame of reference for basic movement and contains such information as:

lunging
  • Maximum reach
  • Center of gravity (center of mass)
  • Limits in twisting right and left
  • Walking gate pattern
  • Running gate pattern
  • The feel of squatting
  • The feel of lunging
  • Proper balance

 

Motor programs are first used when young infant begin to move either by rolling, crawling, or…

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Use Performance Therapy To Maximize Your Athleticism

typical warm up

The difference between elite athletes and the people coaching them and normal athletes and their coaches is all in the preparation and fine tuning of the athlete’s involved. The average, run of the mill, typical trainer or strength coach brings the athlete in, does some toe touches and jumping jacks and high knees or a ¼ mile run and then starts the workout.

 

typical warm up

The trainer/performance coach who understands the value of optimal movement patterns and proper muscle tissue tonus (how tight, scarred or supple) takes the time to warm the athlete up properly with an extensive series of exercises that includes full body mobility drills and soft tissue therapy (manual or hand on). This comprehensive warm up can also be called performance therapy.

In my opinion the more advanced strength coach will get more out of his athletes in the way of increased performance, decreased of injury, less games or practices missed and improved overall confidence.

Performance Therapy can be described as an attempt to normalize-optimize athletic function by integrating the therapeutic intervention (acupuncture, A.R.T. & foam rolling etc.) into the athlete’s sporting movement (between sets of sprints, lifts and jumps etc.) - i.e. the warm-up and training session.

Together, the coach, athlete and therapist frequently interrupt training (through manual intervention) whenever a ‘movement dysfunction’ (or particular movement pattern) lies too far outside the athlete’s individual ‘bandwidth of normality’ (or - as I prefer - typicality; for ‘normal’ just doesn’t exist).  

It is important that the integration of all this is seamless, and that the athlete-coach-therapist partnership understand the specific goal of these interventions, to which I have identified three:

  1. By integrating mobility and stability intervention (‘the treatment’) into the training environment, we positively affect motor control, which can lead to permanence to the intervention that would not exist if these were treated separately. The instant feedback (better performance, less pain or greater range of motion reported from the athlete) from the treatment leads to a greater kinesthetic (feeling) awareness of how the athlete's body feels and moves. When the treatment is performed in the clinic separately from the training environment, the athlete often has trouble ‘connecting the dots’, and ‘true’ feedback (both for the therapist and the athlete) is delayed until the next training session.  With performance therapy, feedback is instant.
  2. A necessary part of the optimization of the training session. The human high-performance system has often been compared to that of a Formula 1 car where continuous ‘treatment’/tweaking is necessary for optimum performance. Most athletes receive some type of therapeutic intervention prior to a race; why would they then not receive similar intervention prior to an important training session? Both serve the same purpose (i.e. to optimize the performance). To perform a therapy intervention prior to a race, and not prior to an important training session is not logical.
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What Elite Athletes Are Doing

Have you ever wondered exactly how elite athlete train, what they eat, how they recover, how they deal with injuries, how they prevent injuries, what supplements are they really taking without being paid to do so, what they really do to get faster, how they lift weights

For the last 10 years I have seen first-hand exactly what they do. And it’s not Cross Fit, Acceleration, Asylum, P90X or Insanity.  What real elite athletes do, who get paid millions of dollars and have millions of dollars on the line is totally different than what Apollo Ohno (Asylum infomercial) is getting paid to say he does . However he may do that on the side??

The training I’m talking about is not some gimmicky supplement, gizmo or latest fad exercise.

The system I’m talking about takes into consideration every variable necessary like how their body moves correctly or incorrectly based on a functional movement screen. This system does not allow you to just go blast out some burpees, power cleans, kipping chin ups and a quarter mile run after a 5 minute warm up of toe touches and jumping jacks.

Elite athletes are taking up to 25-35 minutes of special preparation to properly warm up, work to align, test for feel then transition into their first real speed training work set.

This system takes into account that if the athlete is structurally unsound because of weak scapular stabilizers there could be an injury from a kipping pull up (which in my opinion is just a pull up where you cheat instead of truly recruiting the proper muscles to get the full benefit of the exercise and possibly risk injury) even though there is no immediate pain or significant limitation in range of motion.

This is important because if you make 5 million dollars per year and have a tight infraspinatis and subscapularis and just jump up on the chin up bar and try to rock some kipping chins and then some dips you run the risk of a rotator cuff tear. And that could mean a length injury, possibly getting cut from the team and worst of all no $$!!

In an elite athlete training program, athletes are tested systematically and organizationally to detect the small imbalances and lack of stability and mobility first with the functional movement screen and individual muscle testing.

This lays foundation for the open minded and personalized training program vs. the WOD (workout of the day) that some guy in Seattle is spitting out on his computer while listening to Metallica, thinking “WOW” 100 burpees, a 400 meter run and 20 dead lifts will be a killer workout.

All while disregarding that the person about to do this work out might have extremely tight piraformis and iliopsoas muscles that are limiting the proper and functional range of motion needed to do a 225 dead lift for 20 reps and the end result is a jacked up lower back??

Yes, that workout will make you vomit, but…

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Does Leaner And Stronger = Faster, Quicker & More Explosive??

You Bet It Does!!

I’m currently working with a middle schooler from the Desert Hills (St. George Utah) area named Konner. He plays football & baseball and his father contacted me after one of my speed training clinics to help him become a better athlete. His goals were to get faster and quicker for all his sports.

My first thought as always is, “Is this kid REALLY willing to put in the work necessary to do what it takes to make significant improvements as an athlete or is he just excited because he just watched the BCS title game and thinks he now wants to become a division 1 athlete?”

Since I’m not the cheapest trainer in the area, and to get great results both parties have to know it takes time and a financial investment to learn, incorporate and stay consistent with my program to see real results.

So when a kid does my program for 3 or 4 sessions, I feel bad taking some one’s $150-$200 and both parties get no real return on their investment when the rubber meets the road and reality sets in that this is going to take some real mental energy and the kids goes back to eating junk food (candy, white flour based products and processed foods), training at sub optimal intensity levels by messing around with their friends at practice and in the weight room and keeps developing bad habits.

But this kid hung around for the hardest part. The first 3 weeks.

That’s when you find out what the kid is made of. Is it a bunch of excuses or is it dig and grind!! Parents included. LOL!!

9 times out of ten when I tell people what to do I usually get the common replies like, “I can’t stick to this diet, There’s nothing on this diet I like to eat because I’m so used to eating crap like macaroni and cheese, cereal, white bread and pop tarts so yams and vegetables do taste weird. This happens a lot when you’re in love with and conditioned to eat junk food,

These workouts are too hard, I don’t have time, There is not enough time in the day, I’m too tired, I can only work out once a week and too many to count more.

I could give you a 100 more but I want to focus on success vs. failure.

But this kid actually did what I asked him and the results have been very impressive. It’s not like I have not seen this done before but results like these are far and few. When others can’t seem to follow my diet for a day, or can’t figure out what to eat and pack in the tent, this kid has religiously stuck to the plan for almost 4 months, never took a workout off, never called in sick, never said I have this family function and has been rewarded by some pretty impressive numbers.

Besides the fact that for…

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