NOT JUST STRONG—STEADY
You cannot build a house until the foundation is strong and steady. Similarly, you should not add sport-specific skills until the aerobic base is strong and steady. A good VO2 max, improved lactate threshold, etc., all are indicative of a strong aerobic base. But what is steady? An often overlooked athletic necessity, is the topic of our discussion.
Consider this, if you asked a marksman to hit a target, you would not want his body shaking as he aimed. We want the same accuracy for our athletes. Tell a pitcher to hit the outside corner, or the shooting guard to take the three-pointer, you want them to be steady, even as they are in motion. (Dancers have extreme proprioceptive ability. Their muscle memory teaches their brains to know spatial arrangements for their body.)
How can we test for steady or wobble? Very simply – have the athlete stand on one leg. With good proprioception and core, standing erect should not be a problem. If shake or wobble is detected, check for basic flaws:
1) Pronation, supination – remember, the kinematic sequence starts at the ankle, not the pelvis. The ankle supports the body above.
2) Apparent muscle weakness – for some reason, right psoas involvement is a common find.
3) Proper breathing – do not pull your stomach in as you are breathing; let it relax instead. Think about it – your lungs are trying to expand; why pull your stomach against them.
4) Core strength is imperative. Enhance it with a pelvic tilt until full development is achieved.
Remember, all athletes have different levels of ability, as we test, we should assess different levels of difficulty. The next level is to repeat the above with the athlete's eyes closed. If this can cause unsteadiness or wobble, spend time on correction. Flexibility, strength and balance must be symbiotic. This relationship is critical for any sport. It amazes me how many sport lessons are given before the foundation is steady.
Open chain proprioceptive work is a good choice to help remove the wobble and make the foundation steady. Many times just repeating the task will self-correct the problem. A good routine is to have the athlete stand on one leg for 1 minute, first eyes open then eyes closed. Repeat each side 3 times for a total of 6 minutes. Do this routine each day. Biochemically, it helps to remove the refined sugars and caffeine from the diet.
As the athlete improves with this 6-minute routine, add levels of difficulty. Remember, the goal is we want our athletes to be in motion without shake or wobble. Instead of just standing, start having them move side to side. As the athlete improves their balance, employ more sport specific positions into the routine. If your pitcher is good at stance (no wobble) let them move toward toe touch. Make sure the athlete is always breathing properly with control. This work is not easy, it is mentally frustrating and physically demanding, but oh so rewarding, if accuracy is your goal.
Once you see the athlete doing all positions, eyes open and closed, shake it up a bit—literally. Here's where we start using a Bosu™ ball—an amazing training tool. I turn the Bosu upside down, so that the athlete is standing on a flat base. The level of difficulty increases dramatically from standing on the floor. The technique of open chain proprioceptive work is now magnified. Start off easy, as the athlete becomes more confident and agile all sports positions can be displayed. Do not add levels of difficulty until the wobble at an easier position is corrected. This intrinsic proprioceptive muscle work will enhance core and make a true difference with agility. The other day I had 2 athletes who actually had difficulty standing on one leg, eyes closed, on the floor. After three weeks of this training, each athlete was on the Bosu, standing on one leg, with their lacrosse sticks, showing various positions to throw and catch from, eyes open and closed.
How do we graduate from all this work? Let the athlete join OPEC. No, not those guys that sit around deciding how much you and I must pay for oil and gas. But Open Chain Proprioceptive Endurance Conditioning.
I now employ Open Chain Proprioceptive Endurance Conditioning, or OPEC to all training programs. Depending on their level, start your athlete on the floor or Bosu for 6 minutes doing their position work. The 5-dot drill is a good follow-up; say, 3 sets with 2 minutes of rest between sets. After that, bungee running to a platform jump, carioca running, ladders, low hurdles, etc. round out a good workout for OPEC. Make sure the athlete warms up and cools down properly. At least 10-15 minutes for each is the rule.
Yes, Heart rate monitors are important here! Whatever the training technique, you must control intensity and chart progress. If you want an aerobic workout—you must work in the aerobic zone. Same goes for anaerobic. Always chart progress to ensure increasing fitness. For example – let's say that the athlete can do the 5-dot drill in one minute with a maximum HR of 150. With training, the same 5-dot drill in one minute should produce decreasing max HR.
I also employ the heart rate monitor when standing on the Bosu. It is amazing how many athletes elevate their heart rate just trying to stand there. They elevate even further when they perform their positions. This becomes a good time to teach the athlete how to relax. Using the HR monitor as a biofeedback tool, teach proper breathing as various positions are employed. The athlete will relax, breathe properly, and actually see their HR stabilize and go down. When game day arrives the athlete will have a better understanding in controlling their HR and in effect their emotions, so that optimal performance can be achieved.
1. Before building your great athletic house, get your foundation strong and steady, no wobble.
2. Open Chain Proprioceptive work will get your intrinsic muscles ready and core conditioning will be enhanced.
3. Do not force results, take your time, the wobble will go
4. When you are ready join OPEC and chart your results—the well conditioned athlete is here
I Juice, and I am proud.