Are You Ready for Some Football?!


With both the NFL and the college football seasons in full swing, football fans have lots of reasons to celebrate! Favorite teams, favorite players, favorite gear, favorite coaches: the social media posts and memes are just getting started!  And if your family is involved in the sport, it’s just that much more exciting! Whether you or someone in your family plays ball, excellent training is crucial. Not only will it improve performance, but training can also prevent injury.

Specialized Training in Atlanta

For football, as with most sports, training revolves around the three S’s: Strength, Speed, and Stamina:

  • Strength is the force you generate or apply onto another object. It may be the force applied to a thrown football, or the force applied to the ground as you launch into the air to catch a pass. Either way, the stronger you are and the more control you have over that strength, the more effective you will be at football or any sport.
  • Speed is not just how fast you can run. It’s also how fast you react, how fast you move through normal motions, how efficient your movements are. The coaches at STACK help you break down your movements, and train your reactions so that your speed will enhance your strength.
  • Stamina. Endurance. Sheer Grit. The ability to keep going, channeling power after you thought you gave your last drop.

At STACK Sports Performance and Therapy, our coaches will help you develop each of these core strengths in a way that also strengthens the others! Call our Atlanta training facility to find out how we can help you!

Posted on behalf of STACK Sports Training & Therapy

Kid Athletes Can Go All the Way!


Summer season sports are in full swing for the youngest athletes. Baseball, soccer, and even lacrosse are being played on rec centers and fields across the country. Parents in the stands cover the entire spectrum of sports parenting: from amused and laid back, watching their youngsters chase a soccer ball around the pitch, casual weekend sports families, to serious, ref shaming, first string and scholarship chasing tiger moms (and dads!)

A Good Trainer Can Make the Difference

While athleticism and sports ability come naturally to some kids, others need to work a little harder and have a good coach to bring their talents to the fore. In Atlanta, the coach your child needs is at STACK Sports Performance and Therapy. We offer several levels of athletic training for ages 8 and up.

At the youngest level, our trainers focus on the gross motor skills needed on the field: running, balance, coordination, and strength. These are the building blocks we use to instill base level knowledge and mastery in our young athletes. As they grow and become more competitive, we begin working more on speed, power, and agility, fine tuning each area through practice and weight training.

At the end of each training session, we ask more than just an increased athletic ability. Our goal is to train and encourage our kids to perform well and safely. As we teach the fundamentals at the earliest stages, we train our kids to move in ways that increase stability and decrease the likelihood of injury. This is the foundation for a lifetime of participation in sports and other physical activity!

Give us a call today to help your young athlete take their competition to the next level.

Posted on behalf of STACK Sports Training & Therapy

4 myths about Muscle pliability you need to know


The term “muscle pliability” has been in the news around the NFL quite a bit recently. Tom Brady and his trainer, Alex Guerrero, claim that making muscles pliable is the best way to sustain health and performance. How true is that claim? While it’s a great descriptive term, we are going to shed some light on what it really means and how to create muscle pliability.

Our performance coaches, sports medicine specialists, and tissue therapists all find it to be a useful term to express some of the qualities of muscle. According to Miriam-Webster Dictionary here’s what pliable means:

Pliable

a: supple enough to bend freely or repeatedly without breaking

b: yielding readily to others

c: adjustable to varying conditions

That’s a pretty good description for many of the qualities we want in the tissue of an athlete (or any human for that matter). The problem is that it’s being mixed up with a lot of inaccurate and confusing statements.

Our Sports Medicine Specialist, Misao Tanioka, says that “the word pliability, in my opinion, depicts the ideal muscle tissue quality. It is similar to suppleness, elasticity, or resilience. Unfortunately, I believe some of the explanations offered by Mr. Brady and Mr. Guerrero have created some misunderstanding of what ‘muscle pliability’ really is.”

Let’s try and separate some of the myths from what is true.

 

Myth 1: Muscles that are “soft” are better than dense

That depends on what qualifies as “soft” muscle.  Tissue Specialist Cindy Vick has worked on hundreds of elite athletes, including NFL players and Olympians across many sports. “’Soft’ isn’t a word I would use for an athlete. When I’m working on an elderly client, I often feel muscles that could be called soft; they’re not dense. That’s not what I feel when working on elite athletes. Athletes who are healthy and performing well have muscles that have density without being overly tense and move freely. The tissue is still smooth and supple.”

This muscle quality is affected by many factors, ranging from stress, competition, nutrition, training, and recovery. At Velocity, maintaining optimal tissue quality is a constant endeavor.  Proper self myo-fascial release, various stretching techniques, and manual therapy are all part of the equation.

 

Myth 2: Dense muscles = stiff muscles = easily injured athletes

Relating these terms in this way grossly over-simplifies the reality and is in some ways completely wrong.

You have to start with the operative word: “dense.” Tanioka says, “Dense tissue can be elastic; elastic tissue is resilient to injury. What we have to look for is inelastic tissue.” Cindy Vick adds that “if you mean ‘dense’ to refer to a muscle with adhesions, or that doesn’t move evenly and smoothly, then yes, that’s a problem.”

Scientifically, stiffness refers to how much a muscle resists stretch under tension. It’s like thinking about the elastic qualities of a rubber band. The harder it is to pull, the stiffer it is. If a muscle can’t give and stretch when it needs to, that’s bad.

Imagine a rubber band that protects your joint. When a muscle exerts force against the impact of an opponent or gravity, stiffness can help resist the joint and ligaments from being overloaded and consequently injured.

“I agree with Mr. Brady’s statement about the importance of a muscle’s ability to lengthen, relax and disperse high-velocity, heavy incoming force to avoid injury.” says Tanioka. “However, I think that athletes also must be able to exert maximum power whether actively generating force or passively resisting an incoming stress, which requires the ability to shorten and be taut and firm as well as well as lengthen. The ability of tissue to be durable and contractile is just as important as to elongate and soften when it comes to performance and injury prevention.”

In the view of our experts, it’s not about dense, soft, stiff, or other qualitative words. Instead, they emphasize developing function through different types of strength qualities athletes need.   Athletes must prepare for the intense stress and strain their muscles will face in their sport.  They need to blend the right strength training with mobility and flexibility.

 

Myth 3: Strength training makes muscles short

“It’s an old wives’ tale that took hold when body building techniques had a big influence on strength and conditioning. A muscle can be incredibly strong without sacrificing any range of motion” according international expert and President of Velocity Sports Performance, Ken Vick, who has worked with athletes in 10 Olympic Games and helped lead the Chinese Olympic Committee’s preparation efforts for 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

“I’ll give you two great examples: Gymnasts are, pound-for-pound, very strong and incredibly explosive, yet they are known to be some of the most flexible athletes. Olympic weightlifters are clearly some of the strongest athletes in the world and are also generally very flexible. They spend practically every day doing strength training and their muscles aren’t ‘short.’”

In fact, proper lifting technique demands excellent flexibility and mobility. For example, poor hip flexor flexibility or limited ankle mobility results in an athlete who probably cannot reach the lowest point of a back squat. Our proven methods combine strength training with dynamic mobility, movement training, and state of the art recovery technology to help our athletes gain and maintain the flexibility and mobility required for strength training and optimal performance on the field of competition.

 

Myth 4: Plyometrics and band training are better for pliability

We hear these types of claims time and again from coaches, trainers, and others who are quoting something they’ve read without much knowledge of the actual training science. Our muscles and brain don’t care if the resistance is provided by bodyweight, bands, weights, cables, or medicine balls. They can all be effective or detrimental, depending on how they are used.

Sport science has shown that manipulating different variables influences both the physiological and neurological effects of strength training. Rate of motion, movement patterns, environment, and type of resistance all influence the results.

 

Truth: Muscle Pliability is a good thing

Like so many ideas, muscle pliability is very good concept. The challenge lies in discerning and then conveying what is true and what is not. An experienced therapist can, within just a few moments of touching a person, tell whether that tissue is healthy. A good coach can tell whether an athlete has flexibility or mobility problems, or both, simply by watching them move.

In either case, it takes years of experience and understanding of the human body and training science, like that which is possessed by the performance and sports medicine staff at Velocity, to correctly apply a concept like muscle pliability to an athlete’s training program.

Becoming More Agile: Teach, Train, Apply


When athletes walk into Velocity, they expect us to improve their physical performance. Their goals are often to fun faster, be more agile, or hit the ball farther. While their goals may differ, the solution is almost always the same: make their movements more efficient and their bodies stronger and more explosive.

What is Agility?

Before we can help our athletes improve, we need to measure their performance, but first we need to understand exactly what we are measuring. If we want to quantify a movement quality like agility, we need to understand exactly what we mean when we say “agile.” Let’s consider two possible definitions:

“The athletic ability to either create an elusive motion or a defensive REACTION with an emphasis on speed and CREATIVITY.” – Carl Valle

“Rapid whole-body movement with change of velocity or direction in RESPONSE TO STIMULUS”
–  Science for Sport

The most common test for agility is the 5-10-5 Pro Agility Test. If you’re not familiar with this test, it involves an athlete sprinting five yards to his left (or right), then 10 yards in the opposite direction, and finally five yards back the other direction. While this test does capture an athlete’s ability to change direction quickly, it captures nothing of an athlete’s ability to be creative or react to an uncontrolled stimulus.

In most cases, performance tests are conducted in a controlled environment for the sake of validity and so that they can be reliably reproduced. Consequently, they cannot truly measure an athlete’s creativity or reaction skills. If we accept that these abilities are essential components of agility, then we know the results of these tests will never give a complete picture of agility.

What makes good agility training?

Ladders, cones, and resistance bungees are commonly used in training drills to develop athletes’ footwork, coordination, and change-of-direction skills. If you’ve ever seen an athlete showing off their abilities with these drills, you might assume that they are extremely agile, but that’s not necessarily the case. If agility includes the ability to quickly respond to a stimulus, then we should realize that those rehearsed drills improve this skill. They can help develop quicker and more accurate feet, but every time an athlete practices that drill they are practicing it the same way. It’s like learning the alphabet: a child learns it in the same order every time and it is easily memorized – but no matter how quickly that child can repeat the alphabet, it doesn’t tell anyone anything about their ability to spell or form sentences.

Real agility is like the ability to quickly form concise, beautiful, grammatically correct and advanced sentences, only the “words” are the different movement skills an athlete has in his toolbox, and the “sentence” is the combination of how he puts those skills together. An athlete who has mastered agility is like a poet with his, or her, body on the field. It is no wonder that the best demonstrations of athletic ability are often called beautiful.

Drills are still great tools for teaching movement variations and improving their quality, but if we stop there, we have only added to our athletes’ “movement toolbox.” To make them more athletic we also need to help them develop the ability to know when to use those tools and be able to do so at a moment’s notice. This ability separates a great athlete on the field from one who is merely great at performing drills.

Velocity Sports Performance’s “Progressive Training Method”: Teach, Train, and Apply

Teach: Our coaches first introduce movement techniques to our athletes. We explain the biomechanics that make a particular movement efficient.

Train: Next we provide series of exercises or drills for athletes to practice specific movement skills.

Apply: Once they have a new movement skills in their tool box, our coaches create opportunities for them to explore their movement skills in non-rehearsed, random, and chaotic situations like mirror drills, reaction drills, or game-like scenarios.

Agility may be hard to measure, but we can still help our athletes get better at it. First, as their coaches, we need to study which movement skills are critical for success in our athletes’ sports – only then can we decide which drills our athletes need to practice and master. This is the “train” part of the Velocity system.

Next, we teach them to apply their new skills by taking them out of rehearsed patterns. We put them in situations that mimic game-like opportunities to use whichever movement skill we trained that day. The importance of this step cannot be overstated. If we skip it, all we have done is teach our athletes to be better at drills, and we have done nothing to make them move better on the field, court, ice, pitch, or any other arena of competition.

Seeing Agility

Are your athletes becoming more agile because of your coaching? You may not see it during the training session, but you will know it when you see them compete. We cannot put in the hard work required for our athletes to improve, but we can always support them by planning ahead and structuring our coaching sessions the right way.

 

Yohei Arakaki – Sports Performance Coach

8 Kettlebell exercises that will make you fit for life


If you’ve spent any time around a gym, reading fitness blogs, or even scrolling through your friends’ Instagram posts, you’ve probably seen a kettlebell (or KB). You’ve also probably heard people say it is a great tool to make you strong, lean, and fit. This is true, but how does this cannonball-looking thing work? What do you do with it? Do you just buy one watch the fat magically melt away? Most definitely not. There is no magic shortcut to the results you want. A kettlebell is a great tool to help you reach your fitness goals, but like any good tool, it must be used correctly to be effective.

Our kettlebell warm-up moves from simple to more complex exercises will help you master some of the fundamental KB movements. While you might not be able to get into some of the advanced exercises, like the KB snatch right away, with dedication and practice you will quickly feel comfortable performing them. This is what the Velocity kettlebell warm-up looks like:

  • 20 KB Swings (American)
  • 10 Single Leg RDL (each leg)
  • 10 Goblet Squats
  • 5 Presses (each arm)
  • 5 Thrusters (each arm)
  • 5 Clean & Jerks (each arm)
  • 5 Snatches (each arm)
  • 1 Turkish Get Up (each arm)
  • 20 Swings (American)

So why should you bother to learn how to do all of these exercises? The rumors about the KB are true: with a very short workout you can get incredible results. It can help you lose weight, gain weight, add strength, or just be more active, depending on how you use it.

For you to reap these benefits, you must commit. Get your own KB or go to a gym that has some. Even though we coach at a gym with a complete kettlebell setup, many of our coaches like to keep some at home so there’s no excuse not to use one every day. None of us will get any better if we are not committed to our goals. Part of that commitment is planning around what works for you, and even the coaching staff and Velocity doesn’t always have time to make it to the gym. If you can keep even one kettlebell at home and learn to use it, you have a cheap an effective home gym in your garage or back yard.

Owning a KB is the first step. The next is learning how to use it properly so you don’t hurt yourself and have a longer list of exercises from which to choose; our kettlebell warm-up is a simple and effective place to start. The focus is not just learning the movements, but mastering them. As you get good at these basic exercises and understand how best to use the kettlebell, you can begin to create your own workouts. You can combine exercises in any way you like; you can add other exercise elements in like running, jumping rope, push-ups, or anything that excites you. The possibilities are endless, but you have to earn this this freedom of movement by first learning the basic exercises. Do this, and you will always have a way to strong and fit – with just one piece of equipment.

What is a coach really looking at during the warm up?


A good warm up is an essential component of any type of training. What you may not know is that it is probably the most important time for a coach. Typically, the function of a warm up is to raise our athletes’ core temperature, which also increases their heart rates and blood circulation, decreases joint viscosity, restores joint range of motion, and prepares them physically and mentally for the upcoming workout. However, for the coaches here at Velocity, this is just the tip of the iceberg; we can learn a great deal about each athlete just by looking for the right things.

Our sports performance coaches teach athletes speed, agility, and quickness by making their movements more efficient. As in any field, teaching first begins with assessing what a new “student” does or does not already know. Furthermore, excellent teachers and coaches do their best to understand the individual in front of them. Without this knowledge, it is very difficult to know how best to coach and correct an athlete. We might be telling them what to do, but they are probably not learning or improving. In the worst-case scenario, coaching an athlete through a session without knowing their level of experience may lead to injury. The tasks we prescribe must be appropriate to their skill level. Too much difficulty and the athletes won’t get better; not enough difficulty and they aren’t challenged and still don’t improve.

How do we quickly discern how much they know and the level of their movement skills at Velocity? The warm up! Especially when it is an athlete’s first session, we pay close attentions to the athlete’s movement quality. “What is his hip mobility like?” “How’s her sprint technique during the acceleration phase?” Even though an athlete may be experienced and has trained with us for a while, the warm up is still the best place to review their movement quality and gives us tons of important information. “How much did he learn from the last session?” “Did she improve her change of direction skill since last week?” By collecting this information, any coach will be better equipped to run a coaching session more efficiently and it with better results.