As I’ve mentioned previously, the purpose of this weekly page is to give you information you can use…NOW…on key topics of interest in the field of performance and physique training.

I will touch briefly on the “why?” ,and follow with information, and examples, of the “how to” part of the solution equation. There are plenty of reliable informational resources available on the “science” of what I present so I’m going to focus on what I specialize in– the applications of sound, and proven, training principles, techniques, and their many variations and combinations.

Now onto this week’s topic: One of the most often neglected aspects of an otherwise solid strength training program is the implementation of single-side, or unilateral lower body training (ULBT). Even with the more frequent coverage of the topic via training blogs and other articles on the Internet, there remains a lack of understanding of its value, and application in a large percentage of training programs, especially at the high school and collegiate levels.

In actuality, it can be argued that ULBT is more important than performing exercises with both legs at the same time (re bilateral). (For the contrarians: YES, I know there’s some definite benefit at certain stages to load the body in bilateral fashion as “part” of an optimal training program)

Most all sports, and their specific demands, are unilateral of the lower body, or alternating, in nature. When there is a significant ‘imbalance’ there is at least some degree of compromise. That known, in reality, there likely does not exist a perfectly-balanced pair of limbs on any individual. However, that fact is not justification for ignoring the benefits of striving for as much balance as can be attained.

The benefits of minimizing single leg strength differential include both injury-prevention and performance. There’s plenty of science to back up the issue of ‘bilateral deficit’. This is where the force produced by each leg individually, added together, surpasses what the force would be with both legs working together. No matter if training to increase speed, enhance agility, or heighten jumping ability, ULBT is an invaluable component to a training program for any athlete. And this does not even take into account the inestimable benefits regarding less compression of the spine, and the potential decrease of joint and connective tissue stress.

Beyond just plain old “traditional bias”, the typical rationale of forgoing ULBT exercises in favor of more traditional bilateral drills is: “it’s too time-consuming” or “we can’t use as much weight”. Translation: “I’m too lazy to teach the new exercises”, “I’m too impatient for my athletes to do 2 sets for every 1 they’d do otherwise”, or “my job is to get my athletes’ numbers up… lifting as heavy as possible and they can do more with 2 legs than with 1”.

Obviously there is a practical aspect to how much time is available for training but with unilateral ULBT being such a valuable modality in an overall training program, there needs to be some allowance for any extended time a unilateral exercise may take. In regards to the other “excuses”, I’ll refrain for now and leave that for an upcoming topic of the week.

Below I’m including several video clips demonstrating key variations of progression in ULBT. The first 2 drills are utilizing resistance bands that I prefer to start athletes with in developing key mechanics for the higher-load exercises to come.

Band Overhead Split Squat

This application helps identify, then resolve, weak links in the mechanical chain that would otherwise impair performance in other unilateral LBT drills. The integration of the hips and scapulae builds a foundation for all the higher loads to come.

Band Unilateral Glute/ Ham Deadlift

This drill assists in learning optimal hip hinge that is essential to optimal performance in all lower body training. The resistance is less where most people who have difficulty…have it: the bottom 1/3 of ROM. The resistance increases the remainder of the ROM making this drill an excellent “teaching tool”.

Rear-Foot-Elevated Split Squat

A now-popular exercise that is probably the most common of all of these drills listed. Single leg strength is the priority here as the drill lends itself to higher loading capabilities. Adding intensification techniques such as “1 1/4’s” make this a standard single-leg strength exercise worthy to be in any effective program.

Unilateral Good Morning-to-Reverse Lunge Hybrid

A posterior chain all-star. This exercise hybrid combines an optimal hip hinge with a hip-dominant (re neutral spine while leaning forward) lunge. Utilizing the ‘Ultimate Sandbag‘ in the Zercher position is optimal here due to the engagement of the core region, and thoracic extension, throughout. One of McConnell Athletics’ go-to lower body exercise combination.

Alternate Front Lunge w/KBs in Rack

Many of the benefits of the previous exercise with added emphasis on quad region as the lunge has you stepping forward into a deceleration for the quadriceps. Holding kettlebells (or sandbag) in the “rack” position engages the entire core region for stability throughout spine. Make certain to “make a footprint” with each rep to ensure proper muscular involvement and less demand on knee joint.

Sandbag/ Band Lateral Lunge contrasted w/ Lateral Bounding

A frontal plane combination that employs contrast of higher load with the Ultimate Sandbag with a less-loaded, yet more explosive, band drill which includes a “plyo effect”. Excellent combination for athletes whose sport has lateral, change-of-direction demands and for any rotational sport.

Even with the above demonstrations, this only scratches the surface of valid possibilities in single leg training. Give these exercise applications a legitimate trial and see for yourself the benefits to health, performance, and development for you and/or your athletes or clients. As always, your comments and questions are welcome. As well, any topic you’d like to see covered in future articles please shoot me an email at mcconnellathletics@gmail.com

And, another reminder to check out MOVEMENTLECTURES.COM where you can find my audio lecture The Role of a Personal Strength & Conditioning Coach

In health, performance, and physique–

VM

http://www.mcconnelltraining.com

Posted: July 10, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Celebrate 4th…For Less than $1

To celebrate Independence Day, Laree Draper has extended a $5.00 coupon to purchase any lecture at MOVEMENTLECTURES.COM

If you haven’t already, please check out my lecture, “The Role of a Personal Strength & Conditioning Coach” by clicking link at TOP of this page.

Simply put the lecture in your cart, and while checking out put July4 in the coupon code box to get lecture… for LESS THAN 1 DOLLAR!

There are many other great topics, and lecturers, to choose from as well so I hope you’ll take advantage of this great service for the best in information you can use relative to health, fitness, performance, and physique.

For everyone ordering my lecture, send me an email with order confirmation and you’ll get one of our new (cool, new design) McConnell Athletics t-shirts for only the cost of getting it to you!

Everyone have a safe, and Happy 4th of July!

In Health, Strength, & Performance,

VM

http://www.mcconnelltraining.com

Link  —  Posted: July 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

It’s unlikely that ‘sprint work’ will be eradicated from team sports training programs any time in the near future. There’s little doubt about the benefits of performing sprints for conditioning purposes (NOTE: this is different than sprints performed in speed training where the volume of work SHOULD be considerably less).

With little argument, winning programs and elite athletes have proven ‘running sprints’ (i.e. 110’s, 40’s, gassers, etc) “works” time and again. With that being known, however, it must be acknowledged that there are some liabilities to this particular application when done with little regard to the specific demands, and stresses, placed on the athlete’s specific muscles and soft tissues.

At McConnell Athletics (MA), we spend a significant amount of time on mobility and activation drills prior to each workout. However, even with such diligence to preparing joints and soft tissues, the specific wear on an athlete’s body from a given workload must be taken into account.

With the higher rate of occurrence of ‘overuse’ injuries (i.e. sports hernias) in high school and collegiate athletes due in large part to high-volume linear sprints, adding a slight variation can go long way in eliminating these issues.

We, at MA, implement a variety of drills in addition to ‘sprinting’ to create the necessary demand on an athlete’s energy systems to achieve the desired training effect for optimal performance in athletic competition. However, I also understand that when looking at a team environment with up to 100 athletes working in the same session it’s not always practical to include other drills that may require equipment, and not to mention set up time.

I’ve found a simple alteration with sprint training that serves our needs extremely well on both ends by keeping the sprint training intact while giving just enough variation to minimize the “negatives” of repetitive work in the saggital plane. By performing sprints on a slight incline, itself,can lead to less specific tissue stress in the hip flexor area while placing more demand of the posterior chain. And, by also implementing a ‘downhill’ lateral shuffle as an “active recovery” we are working in the frontal plane which, to the soft tissues, is a healthier manner of dealing with the stress of rep after rep of high exertion linear sprinting.

This is a brief clip of this particular variation in action (NOTE: stay low on the lateral shuffle deceleration and avoid crossing feet, keeping hips and shoulders squared to front):

In Health, Strength, & Performance–

VM

McConnell Athletics
http://www.mcconnelltraining.com

Band Intensity

Posted: October 28, 2009 in Uncategorized

One of the many effective ways to place necessary demands on muscles for the training effect we need for muscles strength increases, muscle hypertrophy, metabolic enhancement, etc is via the use of  high quality resistance bands.

However, one of the primary reasons for “band adversaries” to not take band training seriously is due to the misconception that we cannot generate enough intensity/workload via the bands alone.

To learn more about the various ways to regulate intensity/workload, and confirm the validity of resistance band training, read my friend, and fellow strength coach, Dave Schmitz’s comprehensive article on that topic:

http://resistancebandtraining.com/blog/resources/6-ways-to-progress-with-resistance-bands/

Till next time—in dynamic strength and health,

Coach Vince