Here's a brand new article series I just started about the importance of training those lesser-used muscle groups. I thought some of you might find it interesting:
Sweat the Small Stuff Training smaller muscles groups can lead to big gains. by Mike Mejia, CSCS
Lacrosse, like many sports, is a game of inches. Sometimes being half a step quicker, or having the ability to shoot just a little bit harder, can be the difference between you ending up as the hero, or the goat. This is exactly why coaches are always preaching about the importance of doing "all the little things" to make yourself a better athlete. So, why is it then that when many of you hit the gym, you devote almost all of your time to training your biggest, strongest muscle groups?
Don't get me wrong, exercises like squats, dead lifts, presses and Olympic lifts should indeed comprise the bulk of your program. It's just that seeing as how a chain is only as strong as it's weakest link, you're going to need to spend at least some time training those smaller muscle groups that often get neglected. Here, I'm referring to things like the muscles surrounding your neck, wrists and ankles, as well as the chronically underworked medial glutes.
Deficiencies in one, or more of these areas can set the stage for injuries that can keep you sidelined indefinitely, regardless of how "big and strong" you might be. So, in this first installment of a four part series, I'll be showing you some great strengthening exercises for your neck.
Given the dramatic rise in head injuries in recent years, you'd think that neck strengthening exercises would be given greater priority in the athletic conditioning hierarchy. After all, not every concussive injury is the result of a direct blow to the head. Often times a hard upper body check can cause a whiplash like effect that can result in mild trauma to the brain. And while it's true that having a stronger neck may not completely prevent this type of situation, it stands to reason that it would at least help reduce both it's severity and occurrence.
The following five exercises offer a quick, easy way to address this critically important area. Done a couple of times per week, they'll not only help increase the strength and stability of your neck, but they can also help improve posture in general. Start out with just one set of 6-10 repetitions of each of the drills shown below- making sure not to add any additional resistance until you can easily perform two sets per.
Here's one last article and video for 2012. Hope you all find it useful!
Sweat the Small Stuff Part II: The Wrists by Mike Mejia, CSCS
In part one of this series, I wrote about the importance of strengthening the muscles that surround the neck, as a means of helping reduce head trauma from intense hits, as well as promoting better overall postural alignment. This time around we'll move down the body a bit to the wrists. Though often overlooked, having good mobility and strength in the muscles surrounding your wrists is crucial in a sport like lacrosse. Not just because of the important role they play in cradling, facing off and shooting; having a strong grip so that you can hold on to your stick is absolutely essential to you being able to even do any of these things in the first place!
So, in this second installment of my series, I'll be showing you some great mobility drills, strengthening exercises and stretches for the muscles surrounding your wrists. If you thought wrist curls and reverse wrist curls were the be all, end all of forearm training, you're in for a big surprise! Check out the video below and if you have any questions or comments, be sure to drop me an e-mail at Mike@basesportsconditioning.com
Found a great post that I wanted to share from renowned strength and conditioning coach MIke Boyle.
I love doing plyometric work with athletes (so long as they've been properly progressed physically and possess the coordination, strength and mobility to execute them effectively), but always cringe when I see kids jumping up onto huge boxes and platforms.
Coach Boyle does a great job of explaining why this is such a bad idea:
Check out part three on my "Sweat the Small Stuff" series. Make sure you don't overlook those hip abductors!
Sweat the Small Stuff Part II: The Hip Abductors by Mike Mejia, CSCS
If you've been following along with this series from the beginning, by now you should have a pretty good sense that the exercises it features aren't your typical weight room fare. In fact, some may have already earned you some rather confused looks from your fellow gym rats. Don't worry; this is a good thing. It means that you have enough common sense to not just blindly copy what everyone else is doing and instead, take a real interest in keeping your body properly balanced to help avoid injury.
In keeping with that theme, we'll continue working our way down the body towards the hips. Aside from the powerful gluteus maximus and hip flexor muscles, there are also some smaller, lesser known muscles that play a major roll in helping keep your knees in proper alignment during exercises like squats, deadlifts and lunges; as well as while you're out on the field sprinting and making raid changes of direction. Chief among these are your medial glutes- which are responsible for taking your leg out away from the midline of your body.
Failing to spend at least some time strengthening this decidedly unglamorous area, can set you up for all sorts of problems down the road. For starters, weakness in these muscles can adversely affect the ability of your knees to "track" properly- causing widespread misalignment during weighted exercises in the gym, as well as when landing from jumps and other explosive movements while you''re playing. Reason enough why you'll want to incorporate drills like the one's featured in the video below into your training regimen several times per week.
Last edited by CageSage; . Reason: Embedded Video Into Article
Here's the final installment of my series "Sweat the Small Stuff", dealing with ankle mobility. Hope you find it useful.
Sweat the Small Stuff Part IV: Ankle Mobility by Mike Mejia CSCS
As we come to the final installment of this series, my hope is that it's given you an appreciation for the tremendous impact that training some of the lesser-worked areas of your body can have on your overall athleticism. Although it may not be as glamorous as doing things like heavy squats, flipping tires and flinging medicine balls, making a concerted effort to strengthen your neck, and deep hip musculature, as well as improving mobility around your ankles and wrists, can go a long way towards improving performance and preventing injury.
Take the present topic for instance. Ankle mobility (or more accurately, a lack thereof) is a huge problem for many young athletes. When you lack proper range of motion (and strength) of the area surrounding the ankle joint, you leave yourself much more susceptible to injury. This holds especially true in a sport like lacrosse with all of its quick starts, stops and rapid changes of direction.
The important thing to realize, however, is that while ankle mobility has gotten the lion's share of the attention in recent years, as an athlete, you also need a certain amount of stability to exist in the joint as well. After all, it does you no good to have an ankle that's hyper-mobile which can lead to more frequent strains and sprains; yet you also don't want the joint to be so stable that it makes it difficult to move efficiently.
So in essence, there's really a continuum that exists between ankle mobility and stability that is constantly changing, depending on the types of movements that you're executing at the time. In the videos that follow, you'll find a variety of drills designed to address this fact.
After starting off with a great drill to improve soft tissue quality, I'll go on to show you one of my favorite ways to increase range of motion around the joint, that you can do right on the field as part of your pre-game warm-up. I'll also feature some easy to execute, yet brutally effective strengthening drills that will help lessen your likelihood of suffering an ankle injury.
In the end, I think you'll find that adding these drills to your current training program a few times per week will pay huge dividends. After a while you should find that you're not only moving faster and with greater efficiency on the field, but you should also see an improved ability to perform exercises like squats, olympic lifts and various types of lunges when training in the gym.
Not bad for targeting an area that many of you may have previously regarded as being relatively insignificant.
Strength & Conditioning 101 College prep isn't confined to the classroom. by Mike Mejia CSCS
Now that spring sports have started up, high school seniors are undoubtedly looking forward to finishing their varsity careers on a high note. And while graduation will signal the end of competitive athletics for most, others will move on to compete at the collegiate level. It's what awaits them there that's often the problem.
Besides having to deal with homesickness, intense academic demands and fitting in socially, incoming freshman athletes will also get their first taste of a collegiate level strength and conditioning program. For a few, this won't pose much of a problem; as they'll have trained intensely for several years leading up to this point. For others though, it will prove to be the ultimate reality check.
It's one thing to excel athletically at the high school level, where commitment to physical conditioning runs the gamut from "gym rat" to "forget that". Once you get to college though, keeping yourself in the best shape possible is considered a prerequisite to even being able to step onto the playing field.
In my years as a strength and conditioning coach to high school aged athletes, I've seen this more times that I care to remember. Talented kids, with absolutely no work ethic when it comes to putting in their gym time. It's a phenomenon that holds especially true for female athletes, who ironically often need this kind of training as much, if not more than their male counterparts, due to an increased propensity for injury.
Many avoid the weight room and track like the plague, fearing it will "bulk them up", content to let practices and game participation serve as their sole means of keeping fit. Imagine their surprise when they show up for the first day of workouts with their college team, only to be thrust right into a 4-5 day per week program chuck-full of Olympic lifting, plyometrics and heavy weight training!
They're not the only one's who get caught off guard, though. Many of the aforementioned "gym rats" also struggle; do in large part to the fact that the bodybuilding inspired training most teens tend to favor is nowhere near adequate preparation for the likes of cleans, tire flipping, battle ropes and the other forms of functional training that are such a big part of collegiate strength and conditioning programs today.
Add in the fact that all of this is typically accompanied by a radical increase in practice intensity and it's easy to see why so many freshmen struggle. There is a way to avoid this scenario, however and get yourself prepped and ready for whatever your college strength coach will throw your way!
1. Improve mobility around the ankles, hips and shoulder girdle: One of the easiest ways to get hurt in the gym is attempting to execute Olympic lifts, or other advanced free weight exercises when you're tight as a drum! Lacking the lower body mobility to get down into a proper squat, or being unable to get the bar in a good "rack" position during cleans is a recipe for trouble. So, before you just start loading up, take the time to increase your range of motion with some non-traditional mobility drills specifically designed to address these areas. The high kneeling hip flexor and thoracic mobilization, shoulder dislocates, barbell roll unders and the dowel ankle mobility drill are a few that immediately spring to mind.
2. Strengthen everything you can't see: Protecting your shoulders, lower back and knees from all of that heavy weight and increased practice intensity requires strengthening everything on the back side of your body. This will lead to much more balanced physical development and better structural support for your joints. Be sure to include plenty of rowing variations, reverse flys, glute ham raises and other exercises that target these often neglected areas. I'm especially fond of drills like the squat to row and the TRX unilateral squat with reverse fly, that work lots of muscle mass by combining several motions at once. They also work on integrating the movements of the hips core and shoulder girdle.
*For a video of the drills mentioned above, make sure to check out our facebook page early next week!
3. Gradually increase the volume of your workouts: You can't go from hitting the weight room 0-2 days per week and jump right into training 4-5. Start out slowly and look to increase your workout volume over time. If you're currently training 2 days per week for 45 minutes at a time, shoot for three for the next few weeks. Then, try and extend the workout duration to a full hour for a while, before adding a fourth day and so on. Even if you're currently not doing anything besides playing your sport, if you start now, by the time September rolls around you should be ready for just about anything.
Keep your eyes open for a special program coming to B.A.S.E. this summer that's specifically geared towards helping high school seniors prepare themselves for training in college!
Far beyond a simple workout, this interactive program will provide student athletes with a learning environment, where they'll gain in depth knowledge on topics including:
Improving flexibility and mobility Strength and power training Proper postural mechanics Speed development and agility training Optimizing nutritional habits Improving soft tissue quality and more!
So, be sure to check the B.A.S.E. website for updates, as well as the program start date!