For Field Coaches everywhere - some practical tips to help your people get more athletic and enjoy their sports more, be more competitive and stay injury free!!!
1. Warm Ups
Use warm ups for Development of good movement, running technique and strength.
While I hear many people bemoan and ridicule excessive warm ups (and often they have a point) it is also true that a warm up can be used to develop areas of absolute importance that you may not be certain are addressed elsewhere.
I start virtually all warm ups with some form of a strength-Stability Circuit. I call it Global Movement Circuit, call it what you want, it’s a way of getting the people you are coaching from the stresses physically and mentally of life more ready to actually take part in training. A bridge you could say. Remember many will have been sat at desks or driving in traffic to get to training. They need to readjust. But by doing this you will have more attentive people, and their body more woken up. This means a higher quality session. It means less likelihood of injury. All these things without any conditioning will make someone more athletic.
An example of one I am using recently with a team
Global Movement Prep x1-2 sets
- Lunge Matrix x1 - Lunge In 5 directions
- Down Dog to Rotate x4 e/s
- Inchworms to Push Ups x4
- Nordics x4
- Reverse Nordics
I will generally change this up somewhere between 4 and 8 weeks depending on training age and profile of team.
Another part I feel is critical to Field Sport is Acceleration, Deceleration and running technique. Most field sport athletes do not get good technical track training when they are young (the ones that have stand out a mile). So a simple circuit of access/decels, A/B Marches and Skips is a staple in early season or if I am new with a team. We adjust and will add complexity as we go, but the changes I have seen over the years with teams in their running ability just from these 2 circuits or variations of is quite pronounced.
The next piece of this jigsaw is to hand ownership to the players themselves. After initially teaching they should be able to run this part themselves. We all know a team that feels they are invested in and own their training will buy-in and likely perform better.
Generally after this you can go into some sprints or more game based warm up activities. Very often we will throw in some agility game like bib tag or knee tag or anything really that gets them moving, raises temperature and also has a fun element. This is bringing everything to a pitch so they are ready for the main parts of the session.
Some coaches like to create a warm up, leave the players run it, but then insist it remains the same for the entire year and every session. I certainly disagree with this approach. I don’t think you have to keep changing just for the sake of change but that it evolves while maintaining all our fundamentals and non-negotiables. Staleness may be an issue but also can a lack of adaptation.
Small adjustments along the way (that do not mean a huge re-learning process) can make a nice change up and develop a broader range of movement skills.
Helping an athlete to move better means they will expend less energy within games. Less wasted energy means automatically a team will be fitter as a whole. Again without any specific conditioning.
Recently I have been putting a lot of time into working on assessments that really give us feedback on where an athlete is and where they are going as relevant to field play as possible.
Multi Directional sports like Hurling/Camogie and Gaelic Football are games where explosive bursts are followed by slower periods of movement and recovery. One of the key components to field performance is your ability to recover from those explosive movements like accelerations, tackles, shoulders etc. this is largely underpinned by our aerobic system. Faster we recover the more explosive bursts we can make is the theory.
I have adapted this test and the training somewhat from the work of Joel Jameison and his Explosive Repeat method.
I am using the Med Ball Shot Toss as the exercise to measure. This has a horizontal hip drive and is a full body ballistic throw Essentially you need a base line.
So you will have 2 scores now, single max throw and your ability to repeat it. The ability to repeat it we can call your Explosive Repeat Capacity.
For training then I use a 12:48 second split. That’s our work:rest ratio. We know that most “all outs” have an 5-12 second window. I have gone high because this is not quite a continuous repetitive movement, it has a throw and a sprint and changes of direction.
o enhance our aerobic system and our ability to recovery quickly we use active rest. Anything really that’s not too intense but will keep HR above 120. Skipping, running technique drills, mobility work and maybe some easy push ups and BW Squats or lunges work well. But not too many. I find skipping the best. Skipping is an immediate reporting system. Skipping has a skill element and very much a timing element. Those factors alone make it neuromuscular. If your easy skipping is going to pot then there is a good chance you are reaching fatigue and the quality of everything drops. I use skipping as a regulator a lot with active rest. As sure night follows day when I miss a few skips or trip up in some way I will struggle shortly with my explosiveness.
You could do the training in blocks. Maybe 5 reps, rest 2 mins and repeat for a number of sets. That may be very suitable to combat sports for instance. Or you can just build you ballistic power endurance by repeating it till you lose 3 lives on your throws (as in not reach the buffer zone). My gut tells me this may be the way for a middle 8 player in Gaelic Games to train and probably all Basketball players. There may be an argument for a full back/full forward line player in Gaelic Games doing heavier ballistic exercises and straight line accelerations alone as the science is telling us this is mostly what they do on the field. Or maybe a mix as very often, particularly in football, those inside players do a lot more than that these days as well. It really depends on the team you are working with and the tactical approach of management.
Other versions of this test is using repeated broad jumps in the same measuring system. Start with one fresh repeated bounds tined for 8 seconds, that’s your mark, active rest for a minute and repeat. Keep going until you cannot make your first distance. I would suggest (having done it quite a lot) that there is even more metabolic demand and fatigue from this approach. So this may not be as good in a team setting on the field unless the field coach is prepared to give 5-10 minutes total recover afterwards. Not to mention the fact players will finish at different times. However if well organized then this can work. The other benefit to the broad Jump approach is you do not need any equipment other than markers.
In the video you will also see I did some vertical explosive training. This was on the same day after about 10 mins of mixed active/passive rest. Not totally sure about the transfer of this yet.
Other methods that may suit some sports or an individuals weaknesses are Sled Sprints, Sled Pulls or Prowler Pushes.
Hopefully this will get coaches and athletes thinking more about what exactly we are measuring and training and is it really telling us what we need to know and transferring to the pitch
We do not really look at anything in terms of weight loss or fat loss anymore. We have changed the language of our programs and website to reflect this. In ways this is not good marketing or great for business as the general population expects this and understand the language (that is used to play with their emotions). But we, along with a growing number of peers and other professions, want to change this. But we decided we didn’t want to be involved with the nonsense of bullshitting the public and playing on people’s emotional states in any way whatsoever.
What wins is ;
What we have found is that turning up is the no.1 hurdle. Do it for 3 weeks and it’s likely someone will stay 3 months. Stay 3 months and 90% of our clients reach many of their goals.
What we also noticed is people who engaged outside the 2-3 hours they were in the gym were the most consistent and in turn successful.
And finally the very most successful people???
They walked daily and slept well. That definitely seems to be the key part with those who make the effort and train and adjust diet etc.
Walking and sleep divide the good from the great!!!
But maybe you do not walk now and cannot sleep well, we’ll help you build those habits too. Sleep seems to underpin everything - stress, decision making, eating habits, mood, performance, recovery. What we have also found is that when we really bury down into it what people think is good sleep is, it really isn’t. We have started to learn ourselves more about the science of sleep and are helping our clients with that as well. Sleep 7 hours a day minimum - naps do help if you can get them to lessen effects of loss of sleep, however it’s not quite the same as getting significant deep sleep. Just a sample of what can help.
People that are successful believe in us and the process. They trust us and they realize that we will give as much as what they like as we can sprinkled with some of what they need as well. Buy-in, determination, an intrinsic motivation to succeed (driven by clear goals) and belief in the system is what successful people have in any process.
But yes we do also lift some weights and throw some medballs and swing some kettlebells. It all helps greatly!!!
There is the real secret - That’s how you lose Body Fat…..and stay healthy while doing it.
What many people perceive as the path to a healthier life, leaner body and consistent habits is largely well off the mark. The media, certain fitness “celebs”, marketing guru’s and many others are selling a lot of bullshit to people playing on the sometimes weak emotional state of people on certain issues around health and themselves.
Even as a practitioner i have been encouraged to bullshit to the public to make sales and use the emotional states of people to convince them to come in. Everybody is in on it and trying to make a buck off your health but very often they are not really adding any real long term value to your investment. We are determined to leave our clients educated and self sufficient when they leave us or take a break for whatever reason. What we have also found is you do not lose any clients from telling them the truth, you lose them because they were not ready for the changes they thought they needed to make or we were not able to completely motivate them (and that can happen, we will not get through to everyone).
To be honest, for many of the reasons stated above, we get a lot of people who have “tried everything else” be it solving back pain through the same Physio for 3 years or trying to lose weight by taking part in very fatiguing high intensity circuits and wondering why they are not getting very far after the initial 4-6 week burst where it seemed to work. Thing is absolutely anything works with someone new to training or has been away from it for an extended period. Hill walking will work as well as spinning which will work as well as strength training which will work as well as couch to 5KM. But then most will stop having an effect if not manipulated to deliver more challenges and further adaptation. Further to that injury is more likely in high intensity classes, spinning, circuits and running than in walking or strength training. So maybe that’s a good place to start.
However that’s not what’s sold to the ordinary folk on the street.
Our approach to changing body composition does not include any of the following;
What we believe works best is;
I have started using Cluster training more and more for general population clients, and even some (in-season or time constrained) athletes. Basically I pull it in and out with anyone I think is “strong enough”.
There is a point of diminishing returns on some forms of weight training. However maintaining the big moves on some kind of regularity is critical.
My approach to anyone, especially those of low Training age is;
- get them right along the mobility-Stability healthy joint continuum. - ramp up strength training using all the common compound human movements
- Hit some endurance and aerobic work by doing that in continuous circuits.
- reduce that to working on 2-3 main movements for a bit of volume and real strength development. - add in Specific conditioning relative to what the person has a deficit in or their sport needs.
But at some point people will reach a point of diminishing returns. This does not mean we abandoned traditional strength training, we just prioritize other modalities of fitness and maybe add some variety.
For 30 or 45 minute session though I have found cluster training to be ideal.
What clusters are essentially is density training. We shorten the rest periods and stick to one exercise for a number of sets.
I use 2 methods generally, Max Strength 4-8 rep range or Hypertrophy/Endurance in the 8-15 rep range. For general population you can swap in and out of these.
But what might be different about my approach is we do not have a set amount of sets. The truth is we never really know day to day what someone has in the tank. We generally stick to compound exercises like Deadlifts, Squats, Bench Press, Chins, Rowe, Swings etc.
If we pick 3 to do in a 30 minute PT session then in 10 mins we could get through a huge volume of Strength training which allows us 20 mins to work in many other aspects that may need addressing.
So what you do is;
- pick an exercise like Back Squat at lets say 75% of your max
- Do as many good reps as possible
- Put it down and rest 20 seconds
- Go again, and max out
- Repeat until you drop below 50% of your 1st set
And that’s it. For clients it is challenging and for coaches time efficient
And for most of us this is as good as it will get as anything more accurate is expensive and for pro sports. If you have nothing at all available, well I think 8.5/10 in terms of RPE (rate of perceived exertion) might be a good barometer.
This type of training I also believe could be of huge benefit to combat athletes who very often rely on a really efficient aerobic system to recover from flurries or high intensity bursts and also to stay fresh and sharp. But it’s arguable they spend a huge amount of time at or around Lactate Threshold within the sport itself. Wrestling and other close contact drills may well suit this approach as well but would need heart rate equipment.
Within field sport there are game based possibilities too but again heart rate monitoring and careful planning of game constraints might be needed. The problem with games based approach in a lot of cases is work rate and the variance of physical attributes and abilities. That’s why despite the rush to do absolutely everything with the ball these days, sometimes practically you are actually better off developing more rounded athletes and skills through more rudimentary means. A games based approach is very do-able but will take careful planning. You will need to constrain the game sufficiently to make players engaged. A game possibly where players are monitored for involvement and must get on the ball within 20 second blocks or a run to a corner pole must happen after some marker decided by the coach.
However I think something like using these Med Ball/Jump Circuits could hit a few birds with one stone. Seeing as we are always looking for “bang for buck” this may be an approach worth exploring further. These can also be utilized on the field. You can even play games or have relays etc to add some intrinsic motivation.
I would really love comment, critique and thoughts from sports scientists, S&C Coaches or anyone at all that may have a view or interest in this subject. I am always looking to merge athletic development, sports specific fitness and skill acquisition together to provide more efficient solutions for my teams and athletes alik.
So with Threshold Training we are building our resistance to fatigue by improving our ability to produce lactate more efficiently.
So while aimless and endless laps were and still are pretty silly for most field sport, there were elements that were somewhat useful. The problem with a lot of field sport training is coaches would bring players too quickly over the lactate Threshold and not give them enough time to recover. As I have mention many times before and still see at the highest levels, this often manifests itself in teams being slow starters (lack of sharpness and residual fatigue) but coming strong mid way through 2nd halves. I have even heard head coaches and fitness coaches alike being congratulated on the teams fitness because “ they finished strongly”. Finishing strong is not the only sign of a well conditioned team. In fact for me if that’s the only string to the bow then it’s a negative and a sign of a poorly conditioned team.
And not everything we do has to be short to medium intervals or HIIT. It just needs to be controlled and given the usual sensible treatment of layering up and suitable recovery times.
Threshold Training is athlete relevant, but I also think sport relevant. For a distance runner it might be 20/30/40 min runs. However for field sport I start with 3 sets of 5 mins with 3 min breaks.
One thing I noticed about the explosive approach as opposed to the bike approach is within the 3 mins rest I was recovered quicker, looking at my watch and wanting to go again with the explosive method. Is this physiological or psychological? Is my dislike of the bike a factor? Or am I hitting my Threshold hard enough with the explosive method? My heart rate levels are the same. So I probably do need to go deeper on measuring. However this study ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4831896/ )
amongst others indicate HR is a good barometer and correlation of Lactate Threshold.
To be continued......
I am using moderate to heavy med balls and some basic Skips to keep the heart rate and power output up. I started with reactive box jumps as they drive the heart rate and system up quickly. The aim then is to stay at 145-165 bpm heart rate. This is my zone, but that may vary for different people. There are many ways of keeping the heart rate at a certain point, but I want a certain amount of power output as well which we believe will transfer well to the pitch.
Lactate is about more than heart rate, so this can only be an accompanying guide really.
Lactic acid has been for a long time seen as the enemy. However we now know we were very wrong about it. Lactate just rose in correlation with fatigue, it was not the particular cause, so we misunderstood it.
In “Science of Running” Steve Magness said the following;
“The revelation that lactate is not the enemy doesn’t mean that our training needs to be thrown out or that all of the research based on lactate should be banished. While lactate does not directly cause fatigue, it highly correlates with it, so that as fatigue increases lactate increases. This is partially due to the linear relationship between by-products such as H + increases and lactate increases. One of the keys to running performance is to delay the buildup of these accompanying products. If the rate of accumulation of those products can be decreased, fatigue can be delayed.” “While lactate itself may not cause fatigue, it corresponds with other products in the body that may contribute to fatigue, thus lactate can still be used in studies as a marker of fatigue.” Another way of answering what lactate Threshold is?
“it is the fastest speed (we can maintain) in which lactate production and clearance are in equilibrium.” To be continued....
This is a version of Threshold Training I am playing around with. Physiologically I am not absolutely certain where this sits, but let’s look at what Threshold Training is:
The purpose of this method is to train at or around the anaerobic threshold in order to:
1. Improve the amount of power generated at threshold
2. Increase the ability to maintain good posture, range of motion, and technique under fatigue
During anaerobic metabolism, the body burns stored sugars to supply the additional energy needed, and lactic acid is produced faster than it can be metabolized. Muscle pain, burning and fatigue make anaerobic energy expenditure difficult to sustain for longer than a few minutes. This is what we want to develop some capacity to resist and help with our overall capacity to recover from multiple “Power Plays”. But what’s important to know is that it’s not lactic acid (and we now change to Lactate) that causes the burn or fatigue.
Many people use the term Anaerobic Threshold. Another term we can use, which I prefer, is Lactate Threshold Training.
You will need to find out what your Threshold is. The most common test and safest from a wear and tear POV is probably the 30 minute cycle test. Go as hard as you can for 30 mins and take average HR for last 20 mins. That’s an estimate of your Lactate Threshold. It’s not perfect but really we just need an area. What we are really measuring is blood lactate, and there are more accurate but expensive and time consuming methods of taking that.
This approach is born out of 2 things:
- boredom, most approaches to Threshold Training is about working consistently at 65-85% of your max for 5+ mins on a bike or running. Bike training can be ferociously boring, running for distance is not suited to a lot of field sport athletes and many at low levels may even have to slow down to a trot or walk to maintain the level.
- Trying to include movements that might be a bit more field sport transferable
To be continued......
Personally I use this potentiation method (priming/activating) for coaching. I tend to go with the morning of a game within 4-6 hours. The session will be less than 20 minutes and will involve very simple stability-mobility warm up and maybe 2-3 exercises of 1-3 sets each and is completely done by feel. Any tiredness, loss of technique or bar speed whatsoever and I will stop.
I generally use exercises like Deadlifts, Bench Press, Back Squats or Olympic variations. The point of this is to stimulate my body and mind for watching the game, being ready for players and their readiness and just being really switched on. I have definitely noticed the difference between doing it and not doing it. Is there some form of bias or placebo? Possibly, but the difference is too pronounced in my opinion to not be of significant help. The only trade off is after the game being pretty useless for anything meaningful.
Again these methods will vary for the person who are more parasympathetic or sympathetic dominant. As a more sympathetic person this high CNS System stimulation prepares me well.
However anyone should get some advice on this approach but also realize trial and error is a must and finding what works for you is critical. Maybe nothing at all is best, it really depends on you, your life, facilities and training history.
I also believe these methods could be of great use to people in their professional working lives as well. Preparation for important meetings or bid decisions could be greatly enhanced by a balanced approach like this to training.
That’s the end of this series on Conditioning for Life (and some Sport). We hope you enjoyed it and got some take away.