Characteristics of Successful AW Athletes

Success in athletics is often defined by accolades, verbal commitments, or recruiting status. I want the reader (whether you’re a parent, athlete, or coach) to take a moment to reflect on how powerful an impact sports has had on their Athlete’s development. Athletics had a profound impact on shaping me as an athlete. They transformed me into the person I am today. At Athlete Warehouse, we pride ourselves on developing youth athletes into the greatest physical performers that they can possibly be, however success in our facility is not solely predicated athletic performance. As a former AW athlete and now AW Coach, I want to share my reflections on how I’ve seen success manifest itself in those who call themselves a part of team AW.


Training during this time of year is my favorite of all the seasons. It’s an opportunity we have to work with our new greenhorn high school athletes and our veteran college athletes at the same time. As we train our elite college athletes in awe of their physical feats, academic performances, and professional success, I often forget about where they came from. They were once those same inexperienced high school athletes. I find myself so impressed by their college majors, the jobs they are pursuing, or their athletic success that I forget about the children they once were. As we begin to impact more and more youth athletes each year, we are gaining new light on the impact our training environment has on the success of so many young athletes.

So during these two weeks where I have the ability to train both our newest high school athletes alongside our veteran college athletes, I can begin to pinpoint characteristics in both populations that are indicators for success. Here are the three that resonated most with me.

CONSISTENCY: Consistency is something that will undoubtedly drive a student athlete to success. This is one of the most important lessons that can be learned through training and carried over to other areas of life. It will show an athlete of any talent level, that relentless and unwavering effort will breed success in spite of external circumstances. Training is one of the few activities in life that we have total control over. There is no teacher’s opinion grading your performance and effort. At the end of a training cycle, your success is solely based on the relentless effort you put forth. The timer, weight on the bar, or the number on the scale does not have an opinion, it solely tells you the way it is. Many times, this is the first exposure a student athlete may have to evaluating their own effort and consistency in the absence of any external factors.

POSITIVITY: regardless of an athlete’s goals, the believe that one is in an upward trajectory in their life is critical. One of Coach Cassie’s biggest pet-peeves is negative self talk. An athlete doesn’t experience the immediate feedback of a negative mindset, it just slowly breaks them down and then slowly begins to leak into other areas of their life beyond sport. Whether a negative outlook is triggered by a team coach, a professor/teacher, or a social situation, we must encourage our athletes to find positive outlooks on situations that are out of their control. Athlete’s who are able to do this rarely find themselves in a training rut or hitting a performance plateau. They find enjoyment out of the process and therefore and pulled to their goals rather than pushing towards them.

IDENTIFICATION: At the moment where an athlete finds themselves breaking through their ego, is the moment when they will find themselves maximize the benefits to training at Athletes Warehouse. As humans, we are innately pack animals. We thrive in groups and this is something that we have lost in a world that is about “me” rather than “us”.  Identifying oneself with a highly motivated group is rare in this world. All athletes experience this at different times, but this was one of the greatest benefits I found to training at AW during my time in college lacrosse. 

I have felt and witnessed the impact that training at Athletes Warehouse can have from both an athlete and coach’s perspective. As I witness our experienced athletes train alongside our new athletes, I see both the short and long term effects of success in our facility. Going well beyond sport, facilitating this process is the greatest part of working with the student athlete. Through this blog post, I hope to shed light on how impactful sport and the training process can be in facilitating success in whatever the student-athlete chooses to pursue.

Three Ways We Utilize Isometrics at Athletes Warehouse

By Stephen Portee

When a new athlete enters our doors, regardless of previous training experience, they can find themselves executing Isometric exercise variations to some extent. In turn, this allows the athlete to spend time in very specific positions of a movement. We also utilize isometrics (in a somewhat different, but similar way) with some of our most elite athletes for a wide variety of benefits that they provide. Here is an article defining an isometric contraction as well as details of the many benefits we find by utilizing these exercises for every athlete, no matter of training experience.

Intro 

Muscle contractions can be simply broken down into two different phases or types. Isotonic contractions involve muscular contractions with changes in the length of the muscle. The word isotonic indicating iso=same tonic=tone. During these types of contractions one can see both shortening (concentric) and lengthening (eccentric) of the muscle fiber. Isometric contractions are muscular contractions without changes in the muscle length. When training Isometrics, it allows us to challenge very specific positions of exercises or sports.

Before going into more detail, we must first distinguish two very important types of Isometrics. Overcoming isometrics involve applying maximal force to an immovable object (think trying to push into a building wall), while yielding isometrics involve holding a load at a specific position with the goal of resisting eccentric forces (examples of this would be holding oneself at the top of a pull up bar, or holding the bottom of a squat position). Overcoming isometrics involve recruiting the maximal amount of muscle fibers and involve a higher level of neurological demand. They are generally performed for short durations and are closely related to strength and power potential. I generally utilize overcoming isometrics with more experienced athletes who are preparing for a power and peaking phase of their training program. 

1) Yielding isometrics are closely related to eccentric strength and are less neurologically demanding so they can be held for longer periods of time. Yielding isometrics can be used to teach proper technique/positions to beginner athletes with low training ages with minimal risk. Positional holds can be mentally and physically challenging, and gives the beginner athlete a modality where they can push to a great deal of exhaustion without the risk of high loads or complex movements that they are not prepared for. It allows me to prepare a beginner athlete both mentally and physically for higher volume training, as they are going to experience immediate fatigue, but will not experience extreme soreness in the days to come following their training session. Muscular soreness is generally caused by breakdown of muscle tissue during exercise. Isotonic exercises involve repeated changes in muscle length which lead to a greater amount of tissue breakdown. Isometric exercises generate maximal muscular contractions without the constant deformation of the tissue. Minimal tissue distortion leads to less tissue breakdown, which in turn prevents soreness. This is a very important concept when dealing with new athletes.

2) Yielding isometrics can also be utilized to train the Amortization phase of HIGHLY skilled and trained athletes. We train the amortization phase of movements to help to teach the athletes to absorb and transfer of force properly through the body. Imagine an athlete performing an overhead toss with a medicine ball. They will use what we call the “stretch shortening cycle” to stretch and load the muscle tissues then rapidly shorten and contract to produce force to throw the medicine ball as high as they can. Our objective in training the amortization phase of movement is to maximize that transfer of energy from the Stretch (Eccentric) to Shortening (Concentric) muscle action with maximal control. 

3) Finally, I utilize isometric exercises at end ranges of motion, in order to create strength and stability through positions that lack active range of motion. Our bodies are capable of both active range of motion, defined as using muscular contraction to achieve positions (hip flexion), and passive range of motion, think static stretching. End range isometrics involve setting your position to the highest point then creating a concentric muscular contraction in attempt to go further into that range of motion. For example, if we take a general hamstring stretch where we will have the athlete lay supine (on their back), and use a band to pull their leg up into hip flexion (INSERT PICTURE), it’s commonly thought that this end range position is the weakest for that hamstring group. Now, if we take the hamstring to that same end range and then force the muscle to create an effortful isometric contraction, we can begin to build strength through the muscle’s weakest point.

5 Introductory ISOMETRICS that we utilize in on-boarding programs

There are a variety of educational exercises that we use in our onboarding program for athletes. Each exercise is used to teach proper positioning and muscle activation. We start with these exercises because they are easily coachable and display minimal risk to the athletes. All of these exercises generally begin with no external load, then as the athlete progresses and acclimates to training we can apply load. 

Isometric Squat

Isometric Deadbug

Isometric Glute Bridge or Hip Thruster

Isometric Lunge

Pushup Plus Plank

5 Elite Level ISOMETRICS that we utilize in Specific training phases of high level athletes.

Pin Hold Deadlift

Split Stance Unilateral Load Drop Landings

Copenhagen Plank

Long Duration Loaded Iso Lunge holds

Loaded Chin Up Isometric Holds

Two Major Improvements I can expect in my sport after doing a phase of Isometrics

  1. Increased strength and stability in less mechanically advantageous positions
  2. Increased muscular work capacity and rate of force development during athletic movements.

Concluding 

There are many applications for the use of isometrics in an athletes training program. We use them as tools of education, physical and neurological prep for a heavy lift, and ways to increase strength and stability in difficult positions. For the in season athlete, isometrics are a way we can still train hard without the same level of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that might occur with general isotonic training. End range isometric contractions are used to increase both muscular strength and range of motion.

5 Ways to Utilize The 10 Yard Dash in Evaluating Athletes

By Coach Matt June

OVERVIEW

The majority of field athletes play a sport that requires them to accelerate quickly over a short distance. This alone is a reason enough for us to test a 10 yard dash. During the assessment of athletes, we have found benefit in utilizing the 10 yard dash for every type of athlete that enters the facility. 

-In a very short period of time, a 10 yard dash test will simply tell me if this athlete is fast or not. That’s for starters. I’ve found the 10 yard dash is a fantastic tool to expose technique, for good or bad. Looking at how an athlete attacks their first 3 steps can showcase the game speed of the athlete.

-In more detail, our 10 yard dash test is used beyond a metric of speed. Often times we utilize the test as a day to day measure of training preparedness. Done on our laser timing systems, we can get an objective measure to determine the recovery level of the athlete from previous training days. 

-From a safety standpoint, the 10 yard dash is one of the safest forms of sprint training you can be doing.  Once an athlete starts getting near max velocity, they run a greater risk for injury. Rarely do I see someone get a sprint related injury in the first 10 yards.

-Finally, Let’s also not forget about the general concept of a young athlete simply having fun, running fast and getting their time.  This goes a long way and the training intent increases when you start timing sprints.  

1: Are you fast or not

During assessment of athletes, we have found benefit in utilizing the 10 yard dash from youth to professional. In a very short period of time, a 10 yard dash test will simply tell me if this athlete is fast or not. That’s for starters. 

2: Tests Daily Preparedness of the Athlete

Often times I will have athletes perform a series of 10 yard sprints immediately following their warmup. This is a tool that I use to assess how prepared this athlete is to train that day. Major decreases in 10 yard sprint time will show me that an athlete may not be prepared to train at a high intensity that day. More importantly, if an athlete is consistently getting lower and lower times on a daily 10 yard sprint test, it may be time to adjust program volume and intensity and explore recovery and lifestyle strategies that they athlete may be struggling to implement.

3: A Functional Assessment tool

By watching an athlete run multiple 10 yard sprints we can get a pretty accurate idea of what TYPE of athlete they are. Are they elastic or muscle dominant? In short, elastic dominant athletes utilize stretch in fascia and connective tissue to produce force. Muscle dominant athletes utilize the contractile properties of the muscle itself to produce force. While both types of athletes may in fact run the same 10 yard dash time, a trained coach can see and hear the difference in the type of contact the athlete’s foot makes with the ground. This tells us how we will likely have to train them in the weight room. For example, an elastic dominant athlete might not need a large volume of plyometrics in their program where as a muscle dominant athlete might benefit greatly to an increased volume of jumps and plyometrics in their training.

4: A Personality Assessment Tool

What KIND of athlete are we training.  Regardless of age or training experience, we see a broad range of competitive expression when athletes perform a sprint test. I can identify the ego-oriented competitor, who may be overly concerned with another athlete’s time in relation to theirs. On the other hand, we have the confident competitors, who regardless of anyone around them they are on a mission to breaking their previous times. Lastly, I can identify the non-competitors, and more specifically, the nervous competitors. These athletes are those who generally fear failure and therefore don’t invest emotional energy into the task.  Regardless of the type of competitor, it is critical to time every 10 yard sprint to allow the athlete feedback in the intent they are eliciting every rep. In those who may shy away from being evaluated, it is important that the coach implements specialty exercises to allow the athlete to increase their acceleration ability. 

5: Answers the Important Questions

From a technique standpoint, the 10 yard dash is going to show me how this athlete accelerates. Are they standing tall, short, hunched over? How is their head position? What do their arms look like?  Are they moving too much side to side? Is their foot getting underneath them? What does their shin angle look like? How is their foot striking the ground? All of this happens in 8-12 steps. For many of our field athletes, this is sometimes all I need to see to assess whether or not this athlete is running with the proper technique that will allow them to maximize their speed potential.

Five Drills that Can Help Improve My 10 yard Dash

1. Bounding 

2. First three steps through low hurdles (working on foot placement shin/torso angle) 

3. Hill Sprints 

4. Resisted Sled Sprinting 

5. Barefoot Sprinting


Concluding thoughts

With so many different metrics being tested on athletes with incredible new technology, do we really know if any of these tests are answering the major question… Does the measurement have transfer to the field of competition? The 10 yard sprint is a simple test that I have utilized with all athletes in providing objective information in evaluating an athlete. From tracking speed and acceleration, to determining the functional and psychological predisposition of the athlete. More and more professionals in our field work tirelessly to create amazing, in-depth movement screenings, however my message to leave the reader with is to not forget about the simple tool of putting an athlete on the starting line.