3 Tips to Help You Keep Your Weight Under Control This Holiday Season


The holidays are here and so are the added pounds.  This time of year brings on the temptation of overindulgence.  It can be hard to maintain your composure when you’re surrounded by eggnog, pumpkin pie, turkey stuffing, and mashed potatoes covered in gravy.

Before you know it – you’ve gained holiday weight. It could take months to undo what you did in a matter of weeks. Don’t overdo it this holiday season.  Here are some tips that will help you stay in control of that number that shows on your scale.

    1. Weigh yourself every day

Keeping track of your weight will do two things. First, if the number’s steadily rising it doesn’t mean the scale is broken.  It means you need to pass on the next offering of sweet potato pie. The second thing the scale does is show you that your efforts are working. If you’ve been controlling your appetite, then it’ll show in the number. You’ll feel proud of yourself and want to continue doing well.

    1. Bring your own healthy dish

If Thanksgiving dinner is going to be at your southern grandma’s home this year – you could offer to bring your own dish.  Make it something fresh and healthy so that you know you have better options than those calorie filled dishes.

  1. Eat healthy things first

Serve yourself a plate and make at least two-thirds of it with healthy foods. Eat these things first – that way you get full off of them – and you won’t eat as many coma-inducing foods.

STACK Sports Performance & Therapy in Atlanta has fitness classes available to help you stay healthy. If you need some help to stay in control of your cravings, then check out what advice our athletic specialists have to offer. Call today.

Posted on behalf of STACK Sports Performance & Therapy

Coach’s Favorite: Bodyweight Exercises


Coach Kenny’s Pick: The Burpee

Why:  It teach’s efficiency, mental toughness, attention to detail, and endurance. As an added bonus, you need zero equipment.

When do you use it?

It’s hard to beat as a basic conditioning tool: you don’t need anything but your own body and gravity, but boy do burpees get the heart going. Furthermore, to do this movement well, you have to to be efficient and move in rhythm. If you’re not very good at these things to start, after practicing burpees you’ll get better.

There’s also some nice symbolism about getting back up when you get knocked down.

Coach Brandon’s Pick: The TRX Body Saw

This is a challenging abdominal exercise that requires you to keep your entire core tight and contracted for the whole set. While many people think to do things like sit-ups and crunches for abdominal strength, exercises that emphasize control and stability are more much useful and important, especially for an athlete.

Athletes need to manage forces from all angles and in unpredictable positions, therefore challenging the core to remain stable with a moving base of support is an excellent exercise.

When do you use it?

Anytime you are looking to burn out your abdominals in a short time period. Many other abdominal exercises require a lot of reps before your core reaches fatigue, three sets of 10 reps of this exercise is sure to get the job done!

Coach Yo’s Pick: Single Leg Box Squat Series

Why: These exercises expose any weaknesses in an athlete’s unilateral strength and let the athlete work on strength at a specific range of motion.

This series is an especially good tool for those athletes who struggle with single leg balance and stability. It can also be a good way to see how much “functional strength” they have. As a coach, it is very important to understand and see if your athletes have good control (strength and stability) during a movement as well as good range of motion (mobility).

When do you use it?

When someone struggles with any of the following:

  • basic squat pattern (depth, posture, and lumbopelvic control)
  • Single leg stability and balance
  • Change of direction at a sharp angle (like 5-10-5 agility test)
  • Coming back from ankle/knee injuries

Do athletes need a bigger engine or better brakes?


When it comes to training for performance, many, if not most, people immediately thinking about being faster and more powerful. After all, victory often depends on getting to the ball, finish line, goal line, end zone, or basket before your opponent. This is the same as buying a new car with only one concern: How big is the engine? How fast can it go? How quickly does it get to 60mph?

This is, of course, very important to athletic performance. However, if we stick with our car metaphor, what’s going to happen if you buy a brand new Ferrari but the breaks don’t work? It won’t matter how fast you can go, because, without breaks, you can’t control all that speed. In fact, the majority of non-contact injuries happen in just this way: athletes can’t manage stopping because they don’t have strong enough brakes and something, well, breaks.

So which one should you pick? The answer is that it depends. If you’re an explosive athlete who can’t change direction quickly, then you probably need better breaks. If your top speed blows away your competition but it takes you too long to get there, then maybe you need a more powerful engine. The first step is to assess where you are now and where you need to be.

At Velocity, we use a battery of tests to see where our athletes are strong and where they need to improve. Based on this and other information, like injury history and goals, our coaches can make smart decisions about what our athletes need in order to improve their performance.

If you want to see how your brakes and engine are working, contact us and schedule testing!

TRAINING: 3 drills to help you stop on a dime


Almost every sport is about more than just running fast or a huge vertical. Pick one, and we’ll bet that most of the action happens around changing direction. For the majority of the athletes with whom we work at Velocity around the country, this means they have to be just as good at stopping as they are at starting. Without good brakes, they simply can’t control their speed.

Three of our coaches have chosen their favorite drill to help their athletes have strong, fast brakes so that they can stop on a dime.

Level Lowering Ladder

One of the most basic skills an athlete needs to change direction is the ability to maintain proper position during deceleration. One of the tools we like to use at Velocity is the agility ladder because it helps focus the athlete on foot position and accuracy in addition to whatever skills we choose to address that day.

To do these drills, athletes first need to have the coordination to perform basic ladder drills well, such as swizzle, scissor switches, and the icky shuffle. Once the athlete can perform each of these without difficulty, they can modify the drill and pause as they drop their center of mass, stopping themselves in the proper position. The most basic, and therefore most important, positions in sports are the square, staggered, and single leg stance. A mini-band can be placed around the athlete’s knees to create awareness of proper knee position.  If the athlete adds a medicine ball into the drill, they can work on more ballistic/dynamic eccentric movement with a different stimulus.

The athlete needs to lower his/her center of mass to create “triple flexion” in lower extremity joints: hip, knee, and ankle. The center of mass, knee, and ground contact must be in a good alignment to keep the movement safe and efficient.

Most importantly, the athlete must achieve proper hip hinge and dorsiflexion of the ankle. The vast majority of non-contact injuries occur during deceleration, often at knees or ankles. Learning how to absorb (load) force with proper body position (hip hinge, stable knee, and dorsiflexed ankle) will help prevent these injuries.

Springs and Shocks Ladder

The agility ladder is a great tool to help our athletes develop their shocks and springs.

When it comes to speed, athletes need to be springy and quick off the ground. When we talk about “springs,” we mean our athletes’ ability to be faster by using the elastic properties of their muscles.

“Shocks” means having the ability to absorb impact and force so our athletes can stop safely and quickly. This drill emphasizes both abilities and applies to any sport.

How to do the drill:

through the ladder try to be a quick as you can off of the ground. This is where we focus on our springs. When we land we want to land and be under control. The more control we have when decelerating the safer our body will be when changing direction. Most important part of the landing is keeping the body in proper position and not allowing a valgus knee.

Important details to watch are: position and control. We want an athlete to be able to develop the strength and control through the proper range of motion. This is especially important as we begin to add not speed or distance. Do not let athletes progress unless they can properly and effectively let control their landing for at least 2 seconds.

Resisted Deceleration March Series

Slowing down is often the most challenging aspect of changing direction and requires the athlete to absorb more force than at any other phase of the movement. This series of drills teaches athletes to keep good posture and body-alignment during deceleration. When we add a concentric movement (explosiveness) immediately followed by a deceleration phase the drill also develops reactive strength and power in the athlete.

How to do the drills:

  1. Position the athlete in a good athletic base with a resistance band or bungee cord around their waist. The partner holding the band increases resistance by pulling toward the direction where deceleration needs to occur.
  2. The athlete controls their posture while moving toward “the direction of pull”. Their shin is a very important detail and must point away from the direction of pull. This helps their foot dig into the ground and resist the momentum that is trying to keep them moving in their original direction.
  3. The ground contact, knee, and athlete’s center of mass should be in alignment and proper posture maintained.
  4. If you want to incorporate an explosive moment, have the athlete perform any form of change-of-direction movement, such as a lateral push, crossover step, or jump.

Important details to watch are:

  1. Make sure the athlete understand the basic athletic base position. Hip-hinge and dorsiflexion of the ankles are very important.
  2. The level resistance needs to be appropriate to their strength and ability. You may adjust this by using a different size resistance band or the distance between the athlete and partner.
  3. Ground contact, shin angle, knee position, and the athlete’s center of mass stay aligned (away from the direction of pull).
  4. Make sure the athlete is not leaning on the band.
  5. Eccentric control first, then concentric! Make sure your athletes understand how to use the brakes before they hit the gas pedal.

The Best Way to Train


Baseball is historically the national pastime. While it is no longer the most popular sport in the country -football holds that spot- at least half of the US adults still follow the sport. The professional spring training season has been going since the end of February while Little League and various other recreational leagues will start up again soon. It’s a great time to pick up a bat and ball and get out to the field!

When you’re getting ready for the season, you have to have the right training. Speed and strength are important, but so is learning to move your body without injury. In Atlanta, you can find all of these things and more at STACK Sports Training & Therapy.

Time to Move

In baseball, playing offense means running the diamond, and if you want to score, you have to move fast. Getting your speed on means running drills. But you also have to work on your agility to be able to turn on a dime.

Throw It to First!

One of the first things kids learn when playing the field is to “throw the ball to first;” your coach would hit a ball, and you would catch it and throw it in. As you begin playing older, stronger, and more highly trained players, you get need to develop your arm for throwing further. The farther you have to throw, the more strain you put on your shoulder; you’ve got to know how to move correctly to avoid repetitive injuries.

Whether you are working on a youth league, high school, college or for the major leagues, we can help you get in the best condition to play injury free. Contact STACK Sports Performance and Therapy for more information on training and sports therapy.

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.

Here’s Why Athletes Need Yoga, Too


Set aside any misconceptions of Instagram girls posting yoga poses alongside their makeup demos and snaps of their coffee.

Yoga has benefits for even the most serious endurance and recreational athletes.

How can it enhance your high-intensity routine?

Take a look at these benefits of yoga for athletes.

Boost Body Processes

Your performance depends on the optimum functioning of processes like breathing, circulation, and digestion. Yoga improves all of those for more efficient energy use.

Better Channel Your Energy

Power leakages lead to wasted energy and effort. If your body is as perfectly aligned as it can be, you’ll make every single shot/punch/kick/run/ride/whatever count.

Improve Focus

Yoga is a practice in breathing and meditation. When you learn how to control your mind and emotions, you’ll be able to better focus on your goals.

Enhance Strength

Yoga won’t add bulk like weights do. But you will gain an agile kind of strength since the various poses have you supporting your body weight on different muscles.

Reduce Chances of Injury

As you strengthen your core, you will draw on the right muscles for power in more intensive maneuvers. Yoga can keep your spine flexible to help you avoid injury.

Get Better Balance

What sport discipline does balance not matter in? Yoga is a gentle yet powerful way to fine-tune your center of balance.

Recover Faster

Here’s where that stretching comes in handy. Most athletes turn to yoga with good reason while recovering from an injury.

Take yoga with our team where we harmonize it with performance and sports training. Get your first yoga class in Atlanta on the house when you sign up with STACK Sports Performance and Therapy.

Posted on behalf of STACK Sports Training & Therapy

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.

3 ways to get an edge this summer: hockey specific training


Summer is the off-season for hockey, but it’s a great opportunity to get an edge over other players. If you want to get ahead and not fall behind the competition, here are three keys to your summer training.

Get Stronger

Summer is a great time to get strong. In-season you can do it, but it’s a lot tougher. The off-season offers a chance to get in the gym 3-4 days a week and see some gains without tiring you out before games.

Strength has a correlation with reduced injury risk, lower-body power, and on-ice speed. To get these benefits, a hockey player needs to increase his or her athletic strength. This means your strength training must be ground based, use multi-muscle/joint exercises, and include elements of both force production and rapid muscle contraction.

Build Athleticism

While it may seem to be counterintuitive, training to improve your hockey game doesn’t always mean more hockey drills. When you increase your overall athleticism through dynamic movement training or even playing another sport, you challenge your coordination, functional strength, and have fun at the same time.

Building a broad base of athletic skills can help reduce the risk of overuse injuries and increase your long-term potential. When an NHL team has a choice between two equal players, they typically pick the one who is more athletic across a broad spectrum.

Get Fit

The season might be a few months away, but don’t lose your fitness. No one wants to go into the new season and be dragging in the first few weeks. A fit player has more confidence in training camps.

Keeping up your base of aerobic and anaerobic fitness is key even if you’re not on the ice. For the summer off-season, two days of longer aerobic work build a good base and help you recover from the strength and power work. Another 2 days can be used for higher intensity intervals and circuit style workouts.

Use the summer to get an edge. If you’re fast now, you can get faster. The strong can be stronger, and the fit can be fitter. Imagine where you want to be at the start of next season and get to work!

4 Important Things You Need to Know Before You Do High-Intensity Workouts


High intensity interval training, CrossFit, and bootcamps are all popular and effective ways to exercise. While they are great methods to improve your fitness and performance, there is also a risk of injury if you don’t approach it intelligently.

Results and Risk

These programs often include skilled movements and explosive exercises like plyometrics and other high-intensity movements. Olympic lifts, sprints, power lifts, and variations on gymnastics are also common.

The benefits of these types of exercises are that they stimulate maximal muscle engagement and quickly take joints through their full range of motion. However, the same qualities that make these movements so effective also makes them very challenging if you haven’t been doing much fitness training.

“They are great exercises to get results because they are ground-based, engage multiple joints and muscles groups, and have high intensity” says Coach Ken Vick, high performance director for Velocity Sports Performance. “They are more athletic, but with that comes some risk of injury just as in sport. The key is to know your limits and follow good coaching.”

Keys to Success

Vick says for those who are interested in training this way, there are Four Steps for Success:

  1. Assess your own readiness.Have you done these types of workouts in the past? Do you have past injuries? Do you have limitations in your joint range of motion?

    If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need to get some guidance before you start. A qualified coach can help assess if you’re ready, and a sports medicine professional can help identify any injury risks and how to alleviate them.

    You don’t have to be in great shape before you can start taking these kinds of classes, but you do need to realistically assess your readiness with the help of professionals. They can give you a roadmap to a safe starting point.

  2. Check your ego at the door.One of the benefits of these programs is the energy and intensity that comes from training with a group of people all pushing through a challenging workout together. Be wary that you don’t let pride and ego tell you to push yourself farther than you should, lest you pay some painful consequences.

    “I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard someone say: I knew I was pushing myself too far,” says Coach Vick. “There will always be others better than you at any given exercise or workout. They may be younger or older, male or female.”

    The key is to change your focus from competing with others to competing with yourself. Focus on improving your skills, technique, results, and your own PRs and you will not only get better, but you will stay safe.

  3. Find an onboarding classwith a coach who can get you involved safely rather than joining an advanced, competitive class. A good coach teaches you the correct mechanics and form for exercises and has variations to adapt them to your needs and skill level.
  4. Know when to stop. Severe pain is always a red flag. While soreness is normal, the amount of soreness you experience with workouts should decrease as your body adapts over the first few weeks.

    If you experience joint pain, swelling or instability, stop. See a sports medicine specialist for evaluation. They can figure out how to eliminate the pain and how you can correct the underlying causes. They should work with you and your coach to adapt your training so you can keep building fitness while fixing your injury.

    Research has shown that when an experienced coach or trainer is involved, the rate of any kind of injury decreases dramatically.

    To prevent injury from happening in the first place, it’s very important to perform an active or dynamic warm-up to prepare the muscles to work at high speeds or under heavy loads. Some programs incorporate a warm-up into the workout, while others will show you what to do and give you time to do it beforehand.

Train Harder, and Smarter

Adding the intensity, motivation, and fun of these kinds of programs can inject new energy into your fitness regimen. All of these elements can help you work harder and push your fitness to a higher level than ever before. If you’re smart and follow these four keys, you can reap all the benefits and avoid injury.