Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Off Season Training: Bottoms Up Kettlebell Press for Shoulder Stability and Strength

by Lindsey Smith, Founder of Moxie Strength & Nutrition

A former libero at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, I am a wellness activist, personal trainer, group fitness enthusiast, clean eating advocate and fanatic of life. I created Moxie Strength & Nutrition as a platform to share my group fitness teaching schedule, but as my passion for health & fitness grew so did Moxie. I am on a mission to partner with small to medium sized corporations to bring uplifting wellness habits to work; creating rejuvenated employees, vibrant work cultures and healthy bottom lines.   

The purpose of this blog is to train outside the standard, straight path overhead press with the kettlebell to increase muscle recruitment, shoulder stability and athleticism. 

Shoulder strengthen exercises are crucial to any athletes training program. However, the conventional overhead pressing movements are not always safe for athletes; especially if the athletes back arches when their arms move overhead which signifies limited external rotation capabilities. 

Think of the shoulder as a spiral, diagonal rotational joint; in other words, it likes to move in rotation and not necessarily fixed into a straight path like a barbell is going to force it to do. This is why I like to introduce the kettlebell for overhead pressing. The kettlebell press, specifically the bottoms up kettlebell press, is unlike a normal barbell or dumbbell press because of the offset nature of the kettlebell. 
Here are two variations of the kettlebell shoulder press that are safe for all athletes – The Bottoms Up Kettlebell Press and The Standard (external rotation) Kettlebell Press.


Bottoms Up Kettlebell Shoulder Press:
1.    Assume athletic position, grasp kettlebell by the handle with the round part of the weight pointing upward, or in an inverted position (upside down). Holding the kettlebell in an upside down position forces stabilization of the core musculature to prevent the kettlebell from flopping or changing position.
2.    Hold the handle with a strong grip to prevent the kettlebell from falling to the side. Gripping recruits the rotator cuff and fires up all the shoulders small stabilizing muscles.
3.    Slowly and controlled, press the kettlebell up until your arm is fully extended.
4.    Slowly return to the starting position - that is one rep.

Athletes can perform the bottom up kettlebell press single or double arm, as well as, standing or taking a split stance on one knee. If you want to take this even further you can make it a functional exercise by adding a reverse lung to press.
Think of this as a two-for-one bonus exercise because the athlete is getting a great shoulder stability workout and the rotator cuff has to work overtime to counteract force of the kettlebell. 

Standard (External Rotation) Kettlebell Shoulder Press:
1.    Assume athletic position, grasp kettlebell by the handle with the round part of the weight resting on the forearm.
2.    Hold the handle with a strong grip to prevent the kettlebell from changing positions.
3.    Slowly and controlled, press the kettlebell up until your arm is fully extended, allowing external rotation (or for the palm to face away from the body).
4.    Slowly return to the starting position - that is one rep.

Similar to the bottoms up press, but here you are going to see more of that spiral, diagonal rotation towards the top of the movement. The additional weight of the bell helps produce an external rotation force, which has to be countered by internal rotation force – in other words, the subscapular firing up to keep the humeral head down in the socket where it belongs which is great for injury prevention. 

Perform exercise for desired number of reps and sets that align with goals; I recommend 10 reps per arm x 3 sets. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Seven Tips to get you to the Top of your Recruiting Game in 2015!

by Jon Newman-Gonchar, Assistant Coach at Iowa State University

Believe it or not, recruiting season is upon us. Like it or not, May is four months away...

The concrete floors you all live on are the same ones we will spend between 8-to-32 hours per weekend for the next 16 weekends traveling on, and they are highly anticipating your company. They're ready for you, and the question is are you ready for them?

Here are seven tips to get you ready for the grind! (Editor's note: No companies have paid to be in this blog.)

 1. Stay in the game longer with specially designed orthotics. For some, the grueling days on your feet go unnoticed, and for others, their lower backs start talking to them before mid-morning whistle blows.  Have a look at this alternative.

2. Give your back a break. We all know how long it can take to get used to being on our feet non-stop. This recruiting season take a new approach and mix in some of these great movements to give your back the support it needs!

 3. Roll it out. The long flights, the frustrating delays, and the crammed cab rides all leave us feeling less than perfect. Check this link out of for an awesome way to recover from the perils of travel this recruiting season.

 4. Turn down for what. Let’s face it. We all know how important sleep is, but how many of us are sleeping to allow ourselves the chance to awaken feeling rested and ready to jump out of our hotel beds and back to the concrete for a day in the convention center? Follow this three-step guide to maximizing your Z’s.

5. Prep your feet. It is often the first thing you feel after a long day, and the last thing you take care of. Mix it up and give your feet some attention with this great list of foot exercises to keep you from reaching for the Advil after a long day.

6. Be the star of the morning. As you and your colleagues arrive to the gym with coffee and iPad in hand, be the first to greet them with a combination of vitamins and breathe freshening goodness.

 7. Stay powered up. We all know the feeling of disaster we get when looking at our phones at the lunch break and realizing the red warning light is on at 14% battery life! Consider making a recruiting investment and picking up a handy portable power supply!

Hope this helps you get ready for opening weekend. See you on the road!

Friday, December 19, 2014

NCAA Championship Match Preview

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

NCAA Semifinals Preview + Prediction

 by Deb Kniffin

NOTABLE NEWS: The unseeded BYU Cougars pulled off a pair of upsets and punched their ticket to the 2015 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championships being held December 18 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Good jumping gee willikers.

REGIONAL RECAP: I batted .500 in my regional predictions. Upsets and heading into the final weekend of play, my record is 66-38 (scroll down to bottom of article for recaps).

Texas vs. BYU
Thursday, December 18 @ 7:00 PM ET


Texas and BYU have met just 15 times in program history. The all-time series record slants in BYU’s favor (9-6), but Texas has won the two latest matchups (2001 and 2008). Going into this NCAA Semifinals matchup, they’re the better team this season, both on paper and in practice. But the underrated Cougars proved they don’t just hang with top-tier programs; they beat them in big moments. I’ve got no idea what to expect from this one. I know what my gut tells me. But my gut also told me BYU would get smashed way before reaching the Final Four.

Record: 27-2 overall, 15-1 in conference
Conference: Big 12

This weekend, the Longhorns will compete in their third-consecutive NCAA Semifinals. As a program, they boast 10 Final Four berths, including six in the last seven years. Can you say dominant? The Longhorns’ all-star cast is led by Haley Eckerman (Sr., OH) and Khat Bell (Sr., MH/OH). They’re physical hitters that contact the ball well above the tape and know how to swing for points. In addition to their power-packed offense, Texas has another point-scoring tool in their arsenal. Their defense doesn’t just provide opportunity for additional swings. Their defense scores points directly. Against North Carolina, Chiaka Ogbogu (So., MH) and Molly McCage (Jr., MH) combined for 13 blocks. 

Record: 29-4 overall, 16-2 in conference
Conference: West Coast

The Cougars advance to their second-ever NCAA Semifinals (the last trip was in 1993). BYU competes in an okay-but-not-great conference and subsequently flew largely under-the-radar all season. Yes, they were ranked. But no one (including me) really had them in the conversation of potential semifinals squads. I’ve described them as sneaky good in the past. As they prepare to compete on college volleyball’s biggest stage, I’d say they’ve officially graduated out of the sneaky phase.  Jennifer Hamson (Sr., OPP) lends her cannon of an arm and 6-7 frame to the cause—she’s killing it on offense and tearing it up behind he service line. Her counterpart, Alexa Gray (Jr., OH), contributes a solid chunk of offense as well. Like Texas, BYU can score points with their block—Amy Boswell (So., MH), Hamson and Whitney Young (So., MH) have amassed 1.67, 1.35 and 1.92 blocks per set this season. The Cougars actually lead the nation with a collective 3.87 blocks per set.

Like I said, these are two very proficient blocking teams. While Texas is traditionally considered one of the most physical teams in the nation, BYU has the size to keep up with and potentially neutralize the high-flying Longhorns. Texas has very few chinks in the armor, but they do exist (note: Oklahoma and Florida)—mainly in the form of chemistry and composure. BYU will need their unabashed confidence, why-not-us attitude and nothing-to-lose mentality soundly in place if they hope to expose these chinks. It’s tough to say whether that’ll be present when they run into the semifinal-savvy Longhorns. If it is, BYU could play with reckless abandon, start strong, rattle Texas and extend the match to extra sets (I see no scenario where they sweep). If BYU does all that and throws in some career-best performances, it will put them in position to pose the upset, but it doesn’t guarantee an outcome. Texas is that good. And if BYU doesn’t come out with all guns blazing, the match could quickly get away from them. 

My Pick: Texas in five

Stanford vs. Penn State
Thursday, December 18 @ 9:30 PM ET


These top-10 programs faced off during pre-conference play, and Stanford claimed the five-set victory. But Penn State had a slow start to the season. They’ve gotten progressively better over the course of the season and are playing really high-level volleyball right now. Stanford has not gotten worse this season, but they didn’t significantly improve over the course of the season either. In fact, they started showing signs of mortality toward the end of Pac-12 play. I expect this match to be even tighter than the pre-conference bout. That’s saying something.

Record: 33-1 overall, 19-1 in conference

This year marks Stanford’s 19th trip to the NCAA Semifinals, most recently advancing in 2008. The Cardinal claimed the title in 2004 and will look to repeat history ten years later. Stanford spent most of the 2014 season ranked No. 1 in the nation. Stanford—led by lights-out hitters Inky Ajanaku (Jr., MH) and Jordan Burgess (Jr., OH)—is one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country (ranked No. 3 behind Penn State and Florida). This is just a savvy team. Yes, they’re big. Yes, they touch high. Yes, they scramble in the back row. But more importantly, they make volleyball plays. 

Penn State
Record: 34-3 overall, 18-2 in conference
Conference: Big Ten

The defending national champions know what it takes to win. As they’ve improved and hit their stride throughout conference play, they’ve sharpened their skills and subsequently figured out a ton of ways to score points. They’re deadly serving and efficient offense top the charts nationally. Micha Hancock (Sr., S) is a key player in that success—she set her team to a .348 hitting efficiency and produced 124 service aces this season. A fierce competitor, Hancock shined in last season’s title match. I expect her to really lead her squad this weekend. She’s got the pieces to succeed—Ali Frantti (Fr., OH) and Aiyana Whitney (RS Jr., OH) are more than capable of carrying the offense, while Dominique Gonzales (Sr., DS) holds her own in the back row.

This matchup will add fire to the season-long debate over which conference reigns supreme in 2014. Early-on, the Pac-12 seemed to boast the best volleyball. In the NCAA tournament, more Pac-12 teams made the cut (though Purdue should have made the cut over some of them in my opinion). But when the field whittled down to 16 teams, the conferences were equally represented. With just one team left standing from each conference, bragging rights are on the line in addition to a championship berth. I doubt that dynamic is on either team’s mind right now, though. So. Moving on. While they’ve got size and athleticism, neither team really scores points with their block. Expect both teams to bury some balls on offense. I think that this is a great matchup—these teams are ridiculous on offense, volleyball savvy, experienced in big moments, okay at blocking and scrappy on defense. I think if Penn State gets Stanford into longer rallies and knocks them out of rhythm with their serving, they’re in good shape to win. 

My Pick: Penn State in five (and probably extra points). 

Last week recap:

My Pick: Stanford def. Oregon State in four
Reality: Stanford def. Oregon State in four
Recap: This one went exactly as expected. Stanford continues to look like a championship program as they head into the final stretch.

My Pick: Illinois def. Florida in five
Reality: Florida def. Illinois in five
Recap: The No. 8 Gators and No. 9 Illini were as evenly matched as expected--Illinois didn’t fall till 16-14 in the fifth set. What a match.

*****Elite 8: Stanford def. Florida in three

My Pick: Washington def. Nebraska in five
Reality: Nebraska def. Washington in four
Recap: Injury played a role in this upset. I feel for Krista Vansant & Co. They had the talent to win it all, but unfortunately talent isn’t the only factor at play when it comes to winning the final match of the season.

My Pick: Florida State def. BYU in four
Reality: BYU def. Florida State in four
Recap: BYU’s “why not us” approach to postseason play apparently paid off. They played fearless volleyball. Florida State crumpled under the pressure.

*****Elite 8: BYU def. Nebraska in three

My Pick: Penn State def. UCLA in four
Reality: Penn State def. UCLA in three
Recap: This Penn State team is playing like they’ve got a title to defend. They barely missed a beat against a very strong UCLA squad.

My Pick: Wisconsin def. Ohio State in three
Reality: Wisconsin def. Ohio State in five
Recap: Wisconsin chalked up two authoritative wins over Ohio State during conference play but lost their composure last weekend and barely escaped with the win.

*****Elite 8: Penn State def. Wisconsin in four

My Pick: Oregon def. North Carolina in five
Reality: North Carolina def. Oregon in four
Recap: Seniors Chaniel Nelson (OPP), Ece Taner (L) and Lauren McAdoo (OH) weren’t ready for the Tar Heel’s history season to end. And they played like it.

My Pick: Texas def. Colorado State in three
Reality: Texas def. Colorado State in three
Recap: The Longhorns blazed through their first three playoff matches without dropping a set.

*****Elite 8: Texas def. North Carolina in four

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Deb Predicts Every Round of 16 Match

by Deb Kniffin

Notable News: The Sweet Sixteen conference breakdown looks like this…
Pac-12: 5 teams 
Big Ten: 5 teams 
ACC: 2 teams 
SEC: 1 team 
West Coast: 1 team 
Big 12: 1 team 
Mountain West: 1 team

All Round of 16 matches will be broadcast LIVE on ESPN3 except Washington vs. Nebraska, which will be on ESPNU. All NCAA Quarterfinals matches will be on ESPNU.

My Picks: I went 24-8 in my first-round picks. I feel like in bracket selections, you have to throw in that one wild upset that no one else will pick. I went with Santa Clara over Oregon...and was dead wrong. Some lucky gun out there went with UALR over Kansas and was spot on. Ah well. Maybe next time. Anyway. That first-round record bumps my season record to 62-34. On to the Round of 16.

Stanford vs. Oregon State
Friday, December 12 @ 6 PM ET

*Stanford defeated CSU Bakersfield (3-0) and Michigan State (3-1)
*Oregon State defeated Creighton (3-1) and UALR (3-2)

During conference play, Stanford defeated Oregon State twice (3-0 and 3-1). The difference maker wasn’t Stanford’s sizable block--it was their back row defense. Oregon State did a nice job avoiding the block, they just couldn’t put a ball down. Stanford, on the other hand, had no problem siding out or putting the ball down in transition.

Scobel Wiggins/Oregon State Athletics

My Pick: Stanford in four

Illinois vs. Florida
Friday, December 12 @ 8 PM ET

*Illinois defeated Murray State (3-0) and Iowa State (3-0)
* Florida defeated Alabama State (3-0) and Miami-FL (3-1)

In this first meeting of the season, we’ll see which physical squad reigns supreme. Florida’s athleticism is displayed in their offense--all their hitters are high above the net and putting the ball down with pace. Illinois’ athleticism is displayed in their defense--they’ve got a lot going for them in the back row, and they score points with their block. I am flat out dreading predicting this match. Considered leaving it blank and allowing for an editor's pick, but that feels like a cop-out.

My Pick: Illinois in five

Washington vs. Nebraska
Friday, December 12 @ 9:30 PM ET

*Washington defeated New Hampshire (3-0) and Hawai'i (3-1)
*Nebraska defeated Hofstra (3-0) and Utah (3-2)

Nebraska is young, talented and volatile. Washington is old, talented and poised. As long as Washington’s veteran all-stars aren’t worn down, the old thing will be an advantage, thinking specifically about Katy Beals (Jr., S).  I think that defensively, Washington is in a great space right now. The Huskies blocked Hawai'i off the court last week.

My Pick: Washington in five

BYU vs. Florida State
Friday, December 12 @ 7 PM ET

*BYU defeated Seton Hall (3-0) and Arizona (3-1)
*Florida State defeated Jacksonville (3-0) and Alabama (3-0)

These teams meet for the first time this season. BYU can best be described as sneaky good. They tend to be forgotten because their conference is average, but they took Washington to five sets earlier this season. They’re legit--and they’ve got a bomb of an arm at opposite in Jennifer Hamson. Florida State is not-so-sneaky good. They’ve also got a bomb of the arm in Nicole Walch (Jr., OH). And they’ve got great defense to match. I think that’s their edge.

My Pick: Florida State in four

Penn State vs. UCLA
Friday, December 12 @ 7 PM ET

*Penn State defeated Siena (3-0) and Dayton (3-0)
*UCLA defeated LIU Brooklyn (3-0) and Long Beach State (3-0)

UCLA started out the season hot, but they’ve lost steam in recent weeks. Karsta Lowe (Sr., OH) is still crazy good, but as a team they aren’t playing better volleyball than they were three months ago. Penn State started out the season cold, but have done nothing but improve throughout the season. They’re looking unstoppable.

My Pick: Penn State in four

Ohio State vs. Wisconsin
Friday, December 12 @ 5 PM ET

*Ohio State defeated Lipscomb (3-0) and Kentucky (3-1)
*Wisconsin defeated Western Kentucky (3-0) and Illinois State (3-0)

Speaking of teams that are looking unstoppable--Wisconsin isn’t slowing down either. They know they’ve got the team to finish what they couldn’t last year and claim the title. Ohio State barely hung with Wisconsin during conference play. I think that’ll be the same story this weekend.

My Pick: Wisconsin in three

North Carolina vs. Oregon
Friday, December 12 @ 7 PM ET

*North Carolina defeated Hampton (3-0) and USC (3-1)
*Oregon defeated Santa Clara (3-0) and LSU (3-1)

North Carolina looks really strong right now--they managed to significantly out-block a physical USC squad. They looked shaky on offense and struggled to get their middles clipping at their usual pace. For Oregon, Liz Brenner (Sr., OH) never got hot against LSU---she was key to their success when they made the finals two years ago. The potential is there, and once it shows this team could be nasty to play. I feel like I owe Oregon the pick in this one. I did wrongly predict a first-round upset. Oops.

My Pick: Oregon in five

Eric Evans/Oregon Athletics

Colorado State vs. Texas
Friday, December 12 @ 5 PM ET

*Colorado State defeated Denver (3-0) and Colorado (3-2)
*Texas defeated Northwestern State (3-0) and Arizona State (3-0)

Colorado State just barely snuck past Colorado--the final frame closed at 16-14. I predicted that Colorado would come out victorious. They had their chances, but didn’t close. Anyway, I’m still not overly impressed with Colorado State--especially when compared to the elite teams remaining. I think Texas handles them in a heart beat. They Longhorns are flat out pummeling everyone that gets in their way right now.

My Pick: Texas in three