Thursday, March 26, 2015

Squat vs. Deadlift: The Leg Day Showdown

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 squat and deadlift are both key components to any athletes training program, but the deadlift tends to get the short end of the barbell.

If your leg day does not include squatting, you need to re-evaluate your training program as I believe an athlete’s muscular strength foundation is built in the squat rack. I believe this because the squat is a synergistic, simultaneous movement; in other words the hip, knee and ankle extend together to complete the movement. Thus, it most efficiently mimics the explosive movements of an athlete.

That said, I think we can sometimes develop tunnel vision in the gym. Over training the squat can lead to lower body muscle imbalances – such as the quads overpowering the hamstrings. This in turn can lead to common volleyball-related injuries in the knees and hips as the hamstrings are directly related to knee flexion and hip extension. Therefore, I would like to give some special attention to the Stiff or Straight Leg Deadlift, a compound movement which engages the core and entire lower body with an isolated emphasis on the hamstrings and glutes.

The Stiff or Straight Leg Deadlift should make a semi-regular appearance on leg training days as well; it is the most dominant exercise to simulate powerful hip extension.



Stiff/Straight Leg Deadlift Breakdown:

1. With the barbell placed on the ground in front of you, place feet a little wider than shoulder width apart with toes pointed straight ahead.  Bending your knees, squat down and grab the bar just outside your body line using an overhand grip (some people prefer a split grip with one overhand grip and one underhand grip).

2.  Remove the slack from the bar, to do so you must engage your back (latissimus dorsi), pretend as if you are crushing oranges in your armpits and pull your lats toward your low back (or back pockets). Keeping a flat back, bring the bar up to a standing position. 

3.  Perform your first rep by breathing in and keeping your spine in a neutral position, hinge at your hips to slowly lower the bar toward the ground. As you lower really focus on – pressing your hips towards the wall behind you, keeping the barbell close to your body and slowly lowering down on a 4-6 count. 

4.  As you lower, there should be a very soft or no bend in your knees (straight legs) and you should begin to feel a stretch in your hamstrings and glutes.



5.  Gently touch the bar/weights to the ground, breath in and explode upright using ONLY your hamstrings/glutes and NOT your back/shoulders.  Drive your hips forward, keep your chest pushed open and keep your spine neutral throughout the entirety of the movement. 

6.  To finish the move, drive your hips forward, fully extended your knees, pull your shoulders back and squeeze your glutes/hamstrings.

7.  Complete the desired number of reps and sets with rest times that align with your strength training goals; see below for my recommendations. Remember to work on proper deadlift form first and then increase weight.

   a. Muscle Endurance/Stabilization: 12-20 Reps; 1-3 Sets; 50-70% of weight max (in season training)

   b. Hypertrophy (Muscle Growth): 6-12 Reps; 3-5 Sets; 75-85% of weight max (off season training)

   c. Maximal Strength: 1-5 Reps; 4-6 Sets; 85-100% of weight max (off season training)

*Note it is important to make sure your muscles are warmed up before you jump into your working sets.

*Also, females particularly can struggle to hold onto the barbell as weight increases. Lifting straps are great to take the stress off the grip/forearm and allow athletes to focus on the muscles they are training, hamstrings/glutes. My favorite lifting straps/hooks are LPG Muscle Haulin' Hooks (http://www.lpgmuscle.com/product-category/weight-lifting-gear-hooks-straps/haulin-hooks-weight-lifting-hooks-straps/).
 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Rest, Recovery and Sleep Ratios for the Athlete



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.

Are you getting enough rest but still dragging when it comes to your workouts? Rest and recovery are two very different words. Make the most of your rest time with recovery actions like sufficient sleep.

In our seemingly ‘always-on’ and ‘always-connected’ society, there can be great temptation to shortchange the importance of rest and recovery. Yet, athletes performing at a high caliber level know how critical these big R & R words are to any successful training program, as well as, general health and well-being.

Rest and recovery, two similar, yet very different words when implemented correctly in my opinion. Let me break it down: 
1.       Rest – a combination of time spent sleeping and not training (example - if you train for 10 hours per week, you have 158 non-training hours or 95% of your time).
2.       Recovery – this word is a very active verb in my mind; refers to the actions taken to maximize your body’s ‘rest’ time.  Recovery actions include: sleep, hydration, nutrition, posture, heat, ice, stretching, self-myofascial release, stress management, compression, and so forth.
* Note muscles recover the quickest because they receive direct blood flow. Tendons, ligaments, and bones receive indirect blood flow, and therefore can take longer to recover and be more susceptible to overtraining stress.



Throughout the next couple weeks, inter-mixed with strength training blogs, I’ll be going more in depth on some of the active forms of recovery such as hydration, self-myofascial release (foam rolling), stretching and more nutrition for recovery from the inside out.

This week, I would like to briefly touch on the importance of sleep (seeing as March 2-8 was National Sleep Awareness Week, it seems fitting).  

Recovery Exercise: Sleep

In the same way athletes need more calories when they're in training, they need more sleep, too.

Sleep is the time when the body repairs itself; providing mental health, hormonal balance, and muscular recovery. The ideal hours of sleep varies from person to person based on lifestyle, genetic makeup, training regimen and so on; however, most athletes need between seven to ten hours of sleep per night.

Sleep should be considered an active part of your athletic training, and taken just as seriously as your workout (if not more seriously). In fact, a 2011 study tracked the Stanford University basketball team for several months. Players added an average of almost two hours of sleep a night. The results - players increased their speed by 5%, their free throws were 9% more accurate, they had faster reflexes and felt happier. Other studies have shown similar benefits for other athletes.

Sounds worth the extra zzzz’s to me! Remember, recovery is an active verb what are you doing with the 158 hours a week you’re not training?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Core Strength: Powerful Piking for big Blocks at the net


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.

Small stabilizing muscles run throughout our bodies, attaching to our low back, abdominals, hips, pelvis, ribs, shoulder blades and more. These small, core stabilizing muscles are the foundation of all athletic movements, and should be trained often in your volleyball training program. Not only are these core stabilizer muscles important for improved sports performance, but they are crucial for injury prevention.

In my opinion, one of the best ways to train your core and engage your entire body is via the traditional plank. The core does not exist to contract or bend over and over again (like most traditional ‘core exercises’ such as sit-ups or crunches require); our core is meant to resist force. In my opinion, the best way to train core is via the standard plank. Think about it, you are forming an immovable, stiff plank with your entire body. From toes to head, you must be firm.
This video on core strength will take you through a variety of plank progressions, specifically focusing on the ‘pike’ motion required of blockers at the net.



  Standard High Plank:

1.    In pushup position, your wrists should line up directly underneath your shoulders. Toes on the ground.
2.    Tighten your abdominals while engaging your whole body, squeezing your glutes and quads. Creating a straight, strong line from head to toes with heels pressing toward the wall behind you.
3.    Keep a neutral neck in line with your spine, gaze slightly in front of you.
4.    Micro-bend in your elbows and weight evenly distributed amongst all 10 fingers on the ground. **Do not let your hips/low back sag down towards the ground. Sagging hips makes the exercise initially easier, but it’s not a plank and it defeats the purpose of the exercise. When your form begins to suffer, pull the plug. You’re only benefiting from the plank by actually doing the plank.

Standard Low/Forearm Plank:

1.    Exact same as the Standard High Plank only put your forearms on the ground instead of your hands so your elbows should line up directly underneath your shoulders.

Low/Forearm Plank Dolphin:

1.    Perform Standard Low/Forearm Plank outlined above.
2.    Press the front of your thighs (quads) up toward your chest while lengthening your tailbone toward the ceiling, performing a ‘pike’ movement.

High Plank Glider Pikes:

1.    Perform Standard High Plank outlined above.
2.    With toes on gliders/towels pull your toes up toward your chest while keeping your legs straight. Again, pressing the front of your thighs (quads) up toward your chest while lengthening your tailbone toward your ceiling, performing a ‘pike’ movement.

High Plank Stability Ball Pikes:

1.    Roll out on Stability Ball so shins are on the ball while performing the Standard High Plank outlined above.
2.    Pull your shins/toes up toward your chest while keeping your legs straight. Thus, rolling from your shins towards your toes on the Stability Ball. Again, pressing the front of your thighs (quads) up toward your chest while lengthening your tailbone toward your ceiling, performing a ‘pike’ movement.
*Note, this is a more advanced movement as you are adding an unstable surface with the Stability Ball.

High Plank TRX Suspension Pikes:

1.    Place feet in the TRX suspension training straps and walk out into the Standard High Plank outlined above.
2.    Pull your toes in the TRX straps up towards your chest while keeping your legs straight. Again, pressing the front of your thighs (quads) up toward your chest while lengthening your tailbone toward your ceiling, performing a ‘pike’ movement.
*Note, this is a more advanced movement as you are adding an unstable surface with the TRX suspension training.

Medicine Ball Squat to Pike:

1.    Perform squat while holding weighted Medicine Ball at chest.
2.    Exploded up into a full body reach, extending weighted Medicine Ball overhead. With ball overhead perform a ‘pike’ hold – contracting all muscles from head to toe, especially the abdominals. Very similar to mimicking a blocking movement.
3.    You can repeat this reaching slightly off to the right, center and left.

As previously mentioned, core body strength is important for athletic performance and injury prevention, specifically in volleyball. When you are able to keep the middle of your body, or core, strong and steady you have better body control specifically when in the air. These piking planks not only help build core strength, but will help your front row blockers better penetrate to the other side of the net to set up a solid block – not to mention dominate every joust that comes their way.



Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Five Tips to Acheiving Work-Life Balance in Coaching



by Lindsey Vanden Berg - Associate Women's Volleyball Coach, UW Milwaukee

We all strive for some type of balance between our life and career. Whether you're single, in a relationship, raising a family, or just need some "me" time, finding that balance in this demanding coaching career is not only difficult, but may seem impossible at times. We each have our own opinion of what is ideal, but here are some tips to help you get closer to achieving the work-life balance that is acceptable for you.

1.      Prioritize
Complete necessary tasks first.  Unexpected issues come up throughout the day (i.e. student-athlete impromptu meeting), so you want to be sure you complete tasks that are of utmost importance.

2.      Be Efficient
Work from a to-do-list.  It will help keep you on track and focused on what needs to be accomplished each day.  More hours in the office doesn’t translate to success.  Know what your boss’ expectations are.  If he/she doesn’t require office hours, don’t just sit in your office to “put your time in.”  Get things accomplished and leave early once in a while.  Make recruiting calls or talk to your boss during your commute to work or when traveling for a recruiting trip.  Babysitting a recruit’s court isn't always necessary for many of us.  Evaluate what you are trying to accomplish.  Once you accomplish it, moving on is sometimes okay!

3.      Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Your house may not always be clean.  The mess will be there tomorrow to clean up, but spending time with friends, family or your kids is something you can’t get back.  If you didn’t get a chance to watch the 15th game film on your upcoming opponent that you received from a friend of a friend of a friend, trust yourself in that you are truly prepared and you prepared your team effectively. 

4.      Take Time Off
I have found that early January, May and late July after camp is a great time to get away.  Dead periods are your best friend, take advantage!  You can plan a vacation or just time away knowing that you cannot be off-campus recruiting during this time. 

5.      Communicate with your Significant Other
Communication is key in knowing what is ahead.  Expectations that March and April will be heavy with recruiting, but then knowledge of a break in May will help you both get through it. 

There are many facets that go into achieving an acceptable work-life balance.  Hopefully these tips will help you achieve some balance in your lives so you can continue down a successful career path and positively impact the lives of your student-athletes.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Three Simple Strategies to Stay in Touch with Recruits

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


Every year, as the season approaches, a recruiter’s job becomes that much tougher. Here are three simple strategies for staying in touch with your recruits:

1. Team update:  How’s the team doing? Send out a team update including brief news on the team’s activities, a season outlook, and a spotlight description of a day in the life of a team member during preseason training.

2. Let them know you are there:  Invite out-of-town recruits to attend a match when your team is competing in their area. This is a great way for your recruits to feel connected to you and your program.

3. Keep organized:  Prepare three to five form emails before the season begins. Schedule dates to send out these missives to ensure your recruits are hearing from you throughout the season. For those who subscribe, some of the newer recruiting database services function nicely for this purpose.

By adopting some or all of these suggestions, you will be able to better connect with your prospects, and provide the much-needed correspondence required to demonstrate that your program remains firmly interested in them as future student-athletes at your institution.
 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Slight Change to your Typical Squat

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.


Add an isometric hold to the standard squat to increase time under tension, muscle recruitment and ultimately increase muscular strength for explosive activity. 

There are numerous variations that an athlete can apply to a traditional squat to help improve their power, efficiency and technique. What I believe to be one of the most straightforward yet effective variations to the squat is the pause squat.

During a pause squat, the athlete comes to a complete stop at the bottom of the movement, performing an isometric hold in the bottom position (also known as in the ‘hole’) for X time (1,3,5 or 7 seconds). Subsequently, the athlete explodes out of the ‘hole’ to complete the squat. This can be performed with the front, back, dumbbell and/or kettlebell squat. For the sake of this demo we are going to stick to the standard back squat.

Perform standard back squat, but it is important that the athlete uses a lighter weight as it is much harder to come out of the ‘hole’ from a stationary position than it is from one fluid motion in a standard squat. Execute the squat and come to a complete stop in the bottom position, below parallel. At this point one, can play around with the pause time under tension, from 1,3,5 or 7 seconds. When holding the pause, it is very important that the athlete remains tight in the hole. Getting loose or losing form, in the hole can lead to lower back rounding and falling forward during the concentric aspect of the squat. After the hold the athlete will explode up to the starting position - that is one rep.



Benefits of the Pause Squat
The primary benefit is building muscular strength and power out of the hole. In volleyball, athletes are commonly exploding upward from a bent-knee position.

Additionally, stopping the squat at the bottom causes the legs to have to work much harder to push back to the starting position. This is because a pause gives the legs greater time under tension, and increases muscle recruitment. As the fast twitch fibers continue to fatigue during the pause, slow twitch fibers are recruited in order to help stabilize the body in the ‘hold’ position.

The more one performs pause squats, the body and brain will adapt to recruiting slow twitch muscle fibers and one will continue to build strength in the supporting squat muscles - lower back, hips and abs – this bodes well for an athlete’s overall squat numbers and strength in other movements.

Furthermore, because holding a pause takes away the stretch reflex (that ‘bounce’ felt when one drops down and explodes up rapidly). Ultimately, the combination of time under tension and muscle recruitment results in greater strength and more POWER from having to drive out of the hole. This will
translate well to an athlete’s explosive abilities on the volleyball court.


Recommended Reps, Sets and Pause Variables
Start by doing less weight and holding the pause for longer, then slowly increase weight and decrease pause time.

Week 1-2: 3 sets of 5 reps, 50% (1 rep max/weight) using a 7 second pause
Week 3-4: 3 sets of 4 reps, 60% (1 rep max/weight) using a 5 second pause
Week 5-6: 3 sets of 3 reps, 70% (1 rep max/weight) using a 3 second pause