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How To Develop Optimal Physical Prowess For MMA!

by Brandon Richey

Obey the principles without being bound by them — Bruce Lee

There is no doubt that the sport of MMA is growing at a rapid rate in this day and age. I mean martial arts have played a huge part in our lives and within our cultures for centuries. I mean when it comes down to it what matters most is that martial arts can save ones life, period.

Things To Do And Not To Do in the Gym

This list of things to do and not to do is intended to give the player a quick checklist so that he or she is going to get the best from time spent in the Gym.

Things to do:
  1. Always follow a plan – best if this is put together in conjunction with a knowledgeable and qualified Fitness coach. Your plan should be well balanced and be shaped into what we call a ‘Periodised’ programme with set phases for emphasising a particular goal.
  2. Know what the goal of the programme is – are you aiming to build muscle, get stronger, get more powerful or just maintain general strength and power? Depending on your goal your programme will vary.
  3. Have a Functional screen before starting a Gym based programme – to do this you will need to contact a knowledgeable and qualified Fitness coach who should complete a number of simple functional tests to identify YOUR individual weak links and also strengths. This should become the cornerstone then of your programme.
  4. Always warm-up with the actual session in mind – As part of a general start to the warm-up but you must complete exercises similar to those you are going to use in the session. You must also mobilise any tight joints that you have with stretching exercises (preferably dynamic stretches) and you must rehearse the lifts by gradually adding more load. Plan a minimum of 10 minutes warm-up to be ready for your routine.
  5. When strength and power is the goal – Complete the strength and power exercises at the beginning of the routine. Don’t leave them to the middle or end of the session when fatigue has set in.
  6. Ensure that you take the prescribed rest between sets and exercises when strength and power is the goal. Too many athletes and players rush or reduce the recovery time in between sets and exercises in the mistaken belief that they are working hard. Yes they are working hard but if they reduce their recovery between sets and exercises (again when strength and power are the key goals) so that they cannot produce similar or greater power outputs in the next set then they are not going to get the optimal benefits. See below for clear guidelines on the rest recoveries between sets and exercises for different Gym based routines.
  7. Know how long the session will take – this is important if you are to be time efficient. Too often players go to the gym, hang about at the start the session, get caught up in idle chat and lose the key focus of their programme. Conversation can take place later over a recovery drink after the session if it is that important.
  8. Always stretch after a workout. This is just as important following a Gym routine as it is after a pitch session. Remember to stretch out those muscles that have been identified as tight during your Functional screen.
  9. Always ensure that you refuel and rehydrate immediately following the session – there is strong evidence to note that taking a combination of protein and carbohydrates immediately following  a weight training routine will not only speed up recovery but also aid in strength and muscle development.  So have your muscle or power snack prepared before your Gym session.
  10. Finally, it is vital that you have a qualified Fitness coach supervising your routine if possible. There is no doubt that if you have good supervision at all times you will progress at a greater rate and more effectively than if you train unsupervised or just with fellow players.

Now here are some No-No’s during a Gym session.

  1. Do not copy another programme – this is perhaps one of the biggest mistakes for any player. What suits the championship winning team will most likely not suit you. Copying a Gym based programme that has worked for someone else may lead to poor results. Also the current habit of getting programmes from the internet is fraught with similar problems.
  2. Do not continue a workout if you injure yourself – you may notice a slight strain for one reason or another during a workout – get ice and compression straight away and attend to it. Seek the help of a physio then as the next step in managing the injury.
  3. Do not compete with another player in terms of load lifted – if you are on a strength development programme know you own progressions and work at them. If another player can lift 20kgs heavier that you are partnering – don’t overdo it. Gradual progression will get you stronger.
  4. Do not start a programme without completing what we call a period of ‘Anatomical Adaptation’. By this we mean getting the body ready to train. Too many players launch themselves into a high intensity resistance training routine without properly setting the base or foundation for this type of work.
  5. Do not complete any more exercises than is absolutely necessary especially coming in to important games. Yes by all means get a strength training session in on the week of an important game. Getting a few key exercises completed during the penultimate or during the week leading into the important game is very beneficial but overdoing it does not make sense. ‘’Less is More’’ in this period.
  6.  Do not sacrifice technique for load lifted. Some players may attempt to lift a very heavy load and lose their form or technique in doing so. This should be avoided at all costs as injury is the most likely outcome. Always emphasise good exercise or lifting technique – never compromise this.
  7. Do not train when you know you are fatigued especially when strength and power is the goal. Strength and power gains can only occur when you are fresh and recovered for all other training.
  8. Do not fall into the trap of overwork. Take an unload week every 4-6 weeks. By taking an unload week (a week with reduced volume of training) you will be ensuring that any residual fatigue is minimised and this unload week will freshen you up for the next phase of training in the gym.
  9. Do not follow body building programmes without first discussing this with a qualified and knowledgeable Fitness coach. Remember body building is a specific ‘non-movement’ sport that does not require the individual to run, jump, twist, turn, accelerate and decelerate. Using body building techniques too often will likely slow you down and make you less efficient at moving. Now that is a real No-No!
  10. Do not be afraid to strength train – a properly devised strength and power training routine based in the gym will actually make you more mobile (and certainly not inflexible), it will help make you faster, stronger and more powerful – it is a fact! So do not head the old wife’s tale that gym based training will slow you down or make you tight. Remember the weightlifters that you will see in the Olympics are among the quickest, fastest and most mobile athletes in sport. And by the way the sport of weight lifting is totally different in programme and exercise design compared to body building.

The Rest Interval between sets and Exercises.

The rest interval is an often forgotten and ignored training variable. If you ignore this and speed up the rest interval you do so at your peril. If you need to be occupied during what may seem a long rest interval between sets and exercises in the gym then complete a core stability exercise. This is now effective use of the time spent in the Gym.

For Maximum Strength: Take at least 2 minutes between sets and up to 5 minutes in some situations.

For Power:  When maximum power is the goal ensure that you take at least 3 minutes between sets and exercises. Rest intervals of up to 5 minutes is also common for very large lifts such as explosive squats and the Olympic lifts.

For Muscle hypertrophy (muscle mass gain): Take between 30 seconds for some exercises and up to 90 seconds for others.

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The Need for Balanced and Appropriate Flexibility

Flexibility development is not only for many sports men and women but also for our children and youth a neglected component of fitness. This may be because of the seeming lack of applicability of flexibility to performance in team sports and awareness of the relevance of flexibility to better fitness and mobility in general. Whereas a Gymnast and dancer can see the immediate benefits of excellent flexibility as it is a key component in their relative activities, the game player’s need for good flexibility is less obvious. Also, a lack of flexibility can contribute to many of the hypokinetic diseases and movement dysfunction that contribute to poor fitness. A normal balance of flexibility and stability about the joints is a basic requirement not only for all sports participants but also for recreational individuals and indeed the population in general if various conditions such as back ache, knee pain and many other musculo-skeletal disorders are to be minimised (1,2,3,4)

(Hypokinetic disease – those related to general lack of movement).

What is Flexibility?

Flexibility has been variously defined as freedom to move, mobilisation or more technically, the range of motion (ROM) achievable in a joint or group of joints.  Range of motion may be measured either in linear units (e.g. inches or centimetres) or angular units (degrees).  All the experts agree that flexibility is specific for each joint (2,8).  This means that good range of motion about the hip does not ensure good range of motion about the shoulder.  Similarly ROM in one hip may not be highly related to ROM about the other hip and so on.

Flexibility in Children, Youth and Adults

While the need for normal and better than normal flexibility is quite evident in sports, the need for normal flexibility in those who are non sports active is less readily seen. However, normal range of motion about the joints of the body are essential to being able to complete the demands of daily living – moving, completing normal household chores, light physical exercise during shopping.....In fact being active is now clearly seen as a requirement for benefiting health and fitness and for ensuring that the hypokinetic diseases are encouraged
Unfortunately, from childhood the process of being more restricted in joint movement is actually taking place. This is mainly due to our children being relatively inactive. The school is often seen to be the place where every need in the developing child must get addressed.
In general it seems that the opportunity for physical play, free play and physical activity (be it sport or recreation) is limited on the school timetable for both Primary and Secondary schools. Note that we use the word ‘seems’. The reality is somewhat unclear. Studies that have been conducted and that examine the amount of time given to physical activity and play in school indicate a very limited exposure to physical activity. For example data reported from 417 principals and 405 physical education teachers in post-primary schools in Ireland showed that the average weekly time allocated to physical education ranges from 76 minutes in year 1 to 58 minutes in year 6. The average weekly time devoted to physical education in Transition year was 101 minutes (6).

Physical Activity Recommendations

The Department of Health and Children in Ireland outlines the following guidelines for physical activity (5):

‘’All children and young people should be active, at a moderate to vigorous level, for at least 60 minutes every day. Include muscle-strengthening, flexibility and bone-strengthening exercises 3 times a week.’’

Further, the 2005 National Taskforce on Obesity recommended that children should be involved in physical activity for 60 minutes a day to prevent excess weight gain (8).  Current Department of Education guidelines for primary school physical education recommend but do not require sixty minutes of physical education per week (8,9). 

Recent figures suggest that a typical primary pupil spends 54 minutes a week involved with Physical Education  (9,10). This compares to the EU average of 109 minutes and a 240 minute average reported for French children (10).

When we look at the greater picture of physical activity in Irish school children as highlighted by the studies we have noted, it can be argued that Irish primary school children do not get the recommended Physical Education time period per week but they do get good exposure to physical activity outside of the school timetable (8-10). Thus we are reliant on the practices of those adults who supervise and coach sport outside of the school timetable to foster better movement and to develop our children’s passion and involvement in physical activity.

Physical education curriculum

The department of education recently introduced a modern updated syllabus of physical education for the primary school (11). The curriculum is divided into 6 strands as follows:
  • Athletics
  • Dance
  • Gymnastics
  • Games
  • Outdoor and adventure activities
  • Aquatics
The strands cover most of the key activities and indeed sporting skills that are dominant in Irish society and from a cultural perspective it is well balanced. The actual time devoted to completing these activities is certainly one of the chief limiting factors in successfully achieving its aspirations. Of interest is the finding that a 2005 INTO survey (8,9) found that:

    • 60% of pupils rarely if ever experience outdoor pursuits or gymnastics.
    • Less than 1 in 3 get dance and 1 in 3 get swimming lessons.

Figure 1. A recent INTO study showed that 60% of children rarely experience gymnastics (8)

Given the high percentage of pupils who do not get exposure to gymnastics it is plausible that flexibility and indeed certain fundamental movement skills especially those relating to rolling, falling, balancing and getting up from the ground may not be well developed as one of the main strands that develop these fundamental skills is gymnastics and to a lesser extent dance. So while the aims of the new physical education programme emphasise a range of very laudable physical and personal traits and qualities (11) the time in which these aims can be developed is very limited. Recall that over half of the children attending Irish primary schools do not meet the recommended 60 minutes according to the Department of Children and Health and that 54 minutes is considered the typical time spent in PE for a primary school child.

Clearly, Irish school children fall well behind their international counterparts when it comes to time devoted to Physical Education in primary school.

If our weekly time in physical education is just above the recommended daily activity time then the daily shortfall in recommended activity must be completed through sporting activity and free or organised play outside of the school environment. Sadly we do come up short and meeting the daily 60 minutes of activity.

The Importance of Flexibility

The foundation upon which all physical fitness development is based is on a sound functional competence. Sound functional competence implies having a normal ROM about the joint during common functional movements that are applicable to sport. In addition there has to be a good degree of stability balancing this normal ROM about the joint.   Limitations in flexibility about a joint will impact on the efficiency of movement of an individual. On the other hand optimum flexibility helps to eliminate movement that is awk­ward and/or inefficient. This has the effect of improving sporting performance. Because of this important benefit, coaches, parents, physical education teachers should impress upon all children and not just athletes and players that flexibility practice or if you like, training, is important.

Factors Affecting Flexibility 
Flexibility is influenced by a number of factors, which include the following:

Ø  Gender plays a role. Typically, women are more flexible than men.

Ø  Age plays a role. As a child grows he/she becomes less flexible reaching a low point between 10-12 years. After this age flexibility improves but never to the level found during early childhood other than for those who intentionally develop this component of fitness.

Ø  Flexibility increases with heat and decreases with cold temperatures.

Ø  Active individuals are usually more flexible than inactive individuals. A decrease in activity will result in an increase in body fat and a decrease in the pliability of connective tissue.

Initiative for improving Flexibility

We support the notion that through education and greater awareness of the need to move more frequently but also to spend time devoted to establishing normal flexibility, our children can have the opportunity to move better. As a consequence they are in a better position to participate in general activity and recreational pursuits. Drawing attention to the importance of monitoring flexibility is one step within this multicomponent area of physical movement and fitness. Even within the limited timetable for physical education and activity in our schools awareness of the importance of flexibility can be targeted. Further, flexibility practice is relatively easy to complete within a school, home or sports club setting. It is also an enjoyable activity if coached properly.

Thus we at Setanta College support any initiative that will foster greater awareness of the need to not only improve flexibility but also movement in general.

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A Parents perspective: The Pathway of Long Term Player Development

As a spectator today watching the game you might take a moment to consider how the players on the pitch have been prepared and nurtured for this game. We are however, not going to talk about the great commitment to training and practice over the last few years, nor about the hours spent in the Gym, in the ball alley or on the practice field. The pathway or indeed the foundation for the players in front of you today was set many years ago. What you see today is the fruits of this foundation that certainly started in the very early years of their lives. But can we help our children any better along this pathway. The answer is an unqualified ‘Yes we can!’. So let us have a close look at the formative years from 5 years of age to 15 or 16.

A Parent’s key role
As a parent you will watch your child grow up, you better than anyone else are often able to see the different phases in your child’s development. You will know when your child has hit a growth spurt or when puberty has started. You have a perspective that your child’s coaches do not and this can be immensely valuable to 
the coach and to the long term development of your child physically and specifically when it comes to hurling.

The Windows
As your child develops they will go through what we call “Windows of Trainability”, meaning periods where certain physical attributes can be trained for optimal development. These areas are Movement skills, Suppleness, Speed, Stamina and Strength. In some areas there is more than one “window”. If your child is able to develop in these areas at the right time, according to their own unique physical development; this will help their progression in their sport. Do keep in mind however, that ALL areas can be trained at all times! The windows simply indicate times when training is likely to be more advantageous.

The Growing years
One practical problem that we still have to deal with and if we do so we can really help our young players to be even better later in their sport lives and that is that the “windows” are timed against your child’s PHV, or Peak Height Velocity. The PHV is different for all children but is generally between 11 and 13 for boys (with the growth spurt starting from 10 to 12 years old) and 13 and 15 for girls (starting from 8 - 10 years old). As a parent you will likely notice it first as your child starts to quickly outgrow his clothes. Also the growth spurt is associated with puberty, so other physical and emotional changes will begin to appear. The key point here is that before, during and after the PHV there are windows of trainability. 

Figure 1. The Windows of Trainability or Development as described by Balyi and Way, 2005
In the figure above you can also see that the windows are timed differently for boys and girls. As a parent you can help guide your child through this pathway of development by completing other activities outside of hurling.  This will help them become even better at their game. For example, Suppleness could be developed by enrolling your child in gymnastics or going to swimming classes. Stamina might be aided by taking long bike rides together on weekends or going for long walks. General agility and mobility can be developed by regularly using the local playground with all the frames, swings, ropes and wobble gangways. Speed of wrist, arm and foot movement could be developed by encouraging your child to play handball or badminton or tennis or even race the family pet dog!

Communication is at the heart of the pathway
Just as importantly is communication with your club’s coaches. If your child is maturing early and has started his or her growth spurt, at this stage their training might benefit from changes. At the peak of their growth spurt, boys in particular can be “gangly” and perhaps less co-ordinated than normal. At this stage skill development might be reduced in favour of sessions that are more conditioning based. This serves two purposes, it takes advantage of the stamina window and also lessens any potential negative feelings your son may develop about his hurling skills as they suddenly can find it more difficult to learn and execute skills as their body changes so dramatically. By communicating with the club coaches, you can inform them of your child’s development and they can modify the sessions such that they might be better suited to your child’s stage of development.

Physical vs Emotional maturity
As a parent you are also aware of the emotional maturity of your child. This is important to consider and does not necessarily match physical maturity. Especially with children that develop early physically. One very important factor is ensuring that just because your child has grown physically – it does not follow that they have matured emotionally. Therefore urging a 14 year old to play at minor level just because they may look physically capable is not recommended. Emotional development does not always keep pace with physical maturity. So you as a parent will know this better that the coach – the message is communicate with your club coach. Coaches do not spend the hours with your child that you do, and will notice physical size and strength before emotional maturity.  It is a challenge for you and the club to ensure that whichever team your child is in, they enjoy and benefit from their training, practice and playing. Again, good communication with the club and coaches will help ensure this happens. The word we have used is ENJOY and this is really where the players today started. They started very early in life by enjoying their involvement in sport and in physical activity. So let us look at this pathway through their eyes and recognise the ‘windows’ that we are seeing along the way.

Dr Liam Hennessy,

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What Makes an Elite Athlete?

A great athlete is more than just the sum of their attributes. A great athlete brings something beyond the average. Sport Science Lab (SSL) is in the business of making great athletes. We work on the necessary physical aspects: balance, control, flexibility, coordination, stability, rhythm. SSL also trains the mental aspects of athleticism: determination, power, and acuity. There are athletes that come along with that special something they were perhaps born with, ie genetics. But with SSL, you can reach that rarefied air where you have the chance to take that step to greatness.

Balance is vital, and a starting point for SSL. It means having proper range of motion in the key joints: toes, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and wrists. Having good balance also means you have the proper ratio of flexibility between the hamstring, opposing quadriceps and supporting groin muscle groups. Imbalances in this area are critical, and will lead to injury, and falling short of the higher levels of athletic accomplishments. This is why SSL spends so much time remediating imbalances: without improving weaknesses, you cannot reach greatness.

Control of your body, muscles, and joints...all of this is achieved through the neuromuscular system. Neuromuscular control is body-wide, and leads not only to greater ability, but greater ability to replicate sport-specific movement. It allows you to control your extremities in all ranges of motion, on multiple planes while still reacting to ever changing surroundings. This must be trained. Martial arts provide an example, beginning slowly, imprinting the proper biomechanical movements, and increasing speed and repetitions constantly, allowing the nervous system, mind, and body to work at ever-greater levels. Without this connection from the brain to the body, the athlete cannot excel.

Related to neuromuscular control is hand-eye coordination, as well as hand-foot coordination. This connection between the hands, feet and body allows athletes to do things that seem unearthly to the untrained. With Sport Science Lab's NIS protocols, this level of coordination becomes accessible.

A final expression of neuromuscular control in great athletes is rhythm and timing. This ability to know when to fire those coordinated muscle groups, based on experience, imprinting, proprioception and awareness of the world around you is often the final differentiator between a good athlete and a great athlete.

Flexibility does not mean simply reaching the greatest range of motion possible, but the most appropriate range for the specific task your body is assigned to. Too much flexibility is as bad as too little flexibility, and can lead to instability and injury in and of itself. A great athlete has proper range of motion and cannot stay on the field if you are hurt.

While the system is firing it must have a core of steel. The limbs of a great athlete radiate from a core trained to maintain posture and stability, allowing the muscles of the arms and legs to fire fast and accurately. Without this stability an athlete simply cannot move at the same rate of speed, and, improperly trained, can leave themselves open to the most debilitating injuries. SSL trains the muscles along the spine and hips to provide an integrated, rock-solid core.

A final characteristic is muscular balance. An imbalanced body, with muscle groups improperly dominant, cannot engage in sport-specific movements at maximum speed and force. Proper muscle balance allows for the proper sequential firing and relaxing of the agonist, synergist and antagonist muscles involved in athletic movement, and thus a proper and maximal generation of force and speed. This allows the athlete to perform complex actions longer, faster, and more powerfully.

Training these physical abilities with an awareness of their mental processes allows the athlete to hone and train their mind as they sharpen their body. The increasingly challenging nature of the methodology attacks the athlete's weakest points, creating mental power, and constantly challenges the mind to react faster and more accurately to stimuli. The accomplishment of gradually more difficult goals gives a positive mental framework allowing the athlete to respond to difficult situations with a will to win. All of this combines to make a determined, winning athlete able to reach those highest levels of achievement. This is what makes an athlete great. This is what Sport Science Lab does—helping you achieve what you never thought possible. 
The Early years – The Forgotten Years

In recent years the importance of fundamental movement skills has been a focus of coach education and coaching practice. Indeed most coaches especially at age grade level are aware of the importance of developing a) a greater competence in the basic fundamental skills such as in Locomotion (running, jumping, landing and changing direction…. for example), Coordination (moving efficiently, falling, turning and twisting), Manipulation (striking, throwing, catching and kicking) and finally Awareness (perception of distance, boundaries and opponents on the field of play).
However, long before the child is able to develop these fundamental skills or at least has the capacity to do so, he or she has to have travelled through the reflexive and rudimentary phase of development. Here in this blog we look at what reflexive and rudimentary phases are and what movement skills are associated with these two key developmental phases that occur from infancy through to early childhood. Firstly, we look at a key concept that is development milestones.   

Developmental Milestones

A developmental milestone is a skill that is mastered or acquired by a child within a specific period of time. For example, one landmark developmental milestone is learning to walk. Most children learn this skill or developmental milestone between the ages of 9 and 15 months. This landmark milestone occurs as the end point of the Reflexive stage of development and marks the entry into the Rudimentary stage of development. 

Milestones develop in a sequential manner. By this we mean that a child will need to develop some skills before he or she can develop new skills. For example, a child must first learn to crawl and to pull up to a standing position before they are able to walk. Each milestone that a child acquires builds on the last milestone developed. Note that the proper balance of both the tonic and phasic systems are crucial in ensuring that the child can walk (refer to Page et al 2010, p 40-41 for a more detailed description of the importance of tonic and phasic muscular systems in the development of the normal gait or walking pattern).

As previously noted, each child is an individual and may meet developmental milestones a little earlier or later than his peers. However, there are definitely blocks of time when most children will meet a milestone. For example, children learn to walk anytime between 9 and 15 months of age. So, if a child is 13 months of age and not yet walking, there is no need to worry if he or she is crawling and pulling to a stand. The child has acquired the skills needed to learn to walk and may begin walking soon.  

Reflexive Phase of Development 
The Reflexive phase or stage occurs from birth to about 1 year of age. Some of the crucial gross motor skill development milestones in this stage include:

§  Lifting the head
§  Moving the head side to side  
§  Rolling the body (between 8-10 weeks)  
§  Creeping on the stomach (between 6-9 months)  
§  Crawling (between 7-12 months)

It is from these instinctive patterns of movement that we express ourselves in our very early years. We go on to refine these basic patterns. They are the foundation from which the later Fundamental Movement Skills and indeed all sport skills are developed. Without these basic patterns, we could not move.

While Figure 7 visually describes other various and typical milestones that occur within the first year of life, the 5 basic patterns are at the core of all these milestones. 

Figure 7. The key milestones of the Reflexive Phase or Stage of Development (from Gallaghue and Donnelly 2004). The sequential development of these patterns of movement is summarised in 5 distinct patterns and outlined below

Ironically as sport coaches both at amateur and indeed professional level we are actually returning back to this early stage when preparing the physical movement and fitness development programme some of our adult athletes and players. Imagine, many of our top athletes and team players actually roll, creep and crawl as exercises to help them perform better.

Further, several researchers and movement therapists are now returning to both Reflexive and Rudimentary movements to address restrictions or in movement and sport skill development issues later in life. An interesting study by Davis and colleagues in 1998 showed that a baby’s (4-6 months old) sleep position (whether they sleep on their side and back or their tummies) resulted in a difference in the rate of attaining key developmental milestones (Davis et al 1998). For example, the Rolling milestone was achieved earlier in those sleeping on their tummies. This is a controversial area as sleeping on the tummy is not advocated by medical and paediatric practitioners. However, the key point is that ‘tummy time’ is very important for a baby and the amount of time that the baby gets in this position is related, according to Davis and colleagues, to their rate of milestone attainment. Tummy time for the child can be gained in a safe environment on the tummy of a parent during the day-time.

Figure 8. According to a study by Davis
et al 1998, babies who lie prone (on their tummies) achieve key milestones earlier than babies who spend most of their
time supine (on their backs)

The key milestones as outlined below are associated with the Reflexive phase (from birth up to standing or about 12-15 months of age) and the start of the Rudimentary phase of development. The developmental sequence is the tendency for an orderly and predictable sequence of motor and movement control (Gallaghue and Donnelly 2004). Developmental sequence during the Reflexive and Rudimentary stages can be summarised as follows:  

§  Cephalocaudal or ‘Head to Toe’ development. The head develops first and then development moves down the body to the feet 
§  Proximodistal or ‘Trunk to Extremities’ development. This refers to the progression in development of the trunk or centre of the child’s body first with control over the wrist, hand and fingers occurring later

Further the movement patterns that are honed and expanded during the Reflexive and later Rudimentary phases should result in efficient, organised and rhythmical patterns of movement. Remember these patterns all stem from the integration of both tonic and phasic systems (Page et al 2010, p 40-41). The patterns are now summarised as follows:
1.    Opening and closing (a.k.a. ‘Core to Distal pattern’ or ‘Trunk to Extremities’). This pattern is the action of opening and closing the limbs of the body.  Think of a Starfish for this action
2.    Tucking and Stretching (a.k.a. ‘Spinal pattern’ or ‘Flexion and Extension’). This pattern is one of curling up and then straightening out. Think of a Cat curling up and then stretching and arching out it’s back for this action
3.    Upper and Lower (a.k.a. ‘Homologous pattern’ or ‘Separation of upper body from lower body’). This pattern is a symmetrical action with both arms working together and both legs working together as when a child learns to push and pull. Think of a Frog moving for this action
4.    Same-side movement (a.k.a. ‘Homolateral pattern’ or ’one-sided movement’). This pattern is one where the arm and leg on the same side do the same action. Think of Spiderman for this action 

5.    Alternating movement (a.k.a. ‘Cross lateral pattern’ or ‘alternating cross body movement’). The pattern is now a complex one where the baby will connect all the preceding patterns and results in actions such as creeping on all fours. This pattern is fundamental to many movements we see in sports and recreation, such as upright walking, climbing, marching, skipping and running. Think of a Lion or a Sprinter for this action

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Q&A With Al Vermeil

By Guest Blogger Al Vermeil

Al Vermeil is the only strength coach to have World Championship rings from both the NFL and the NBA. He is also the only strength coach who has been in the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball.Al was honored by being one of the initial inductees to the Strength Coaches Hall of Fame in June 2003.His knowledge and implementation of new techniques and training methods have made  Vermeil’s programs highly visible and respected throughout the sports world. He has developed successful training programs in wide variety of sports including football, basketball, baseball and golf.

1)    How did you get your start?

I started lifting weights in 1960 as a freshman in high school. I lifted all through high school, college, junior college. When I started coaching, the first job I had as an assistant football coach, a guy asked me to run the off-season program because I had done strength training and conditioning. So that’s exactly how I got started.

 2)  Why did you decide to get into strength & conditioning?

Why I got started in to it. And then, when I was coaching high school as a head coach in Merryl high school in Hayward California then coach Walsh called and offered me the job at the 49ers and I had known coach Walsh through my brother Dick I had several other coaching offers to stay coaching football, coaching defence for several schools, but I went into strength and conditioning.

3) What’s your coaching philosophy?

My approach to coaching is that you’re never so good that you can’t get better and you keep learning. So in terms of coaching, I approach it like a football coach, where we went to coaching clinics all the time, so when I became a strength coach and even before that, when I was at Merryl high school, we flew guys in to learn from and Don Chu was right up a Cal State Hayward right above me, so I had someone there that led me to a lot of people so then when I went to the 49ers I did the same thing and at the Bulls we brought in people. So in terms of my philosophy is that you keep learning, and in terms of strength and conditioning, I don’t like to call it strength and conditioning, Its strength enhancement performance/ off-season conditioning, is if you train slow you’ll be slow, explosive power is the single most important thing in sports because you never quite use your absolute speed as much, so I think explosive power is the most important explosive strength and that’s achieved by squats, pulls, presses, Olympic lifts, medicine ball throws and then the short jumps and then sprinting. My opinion in watching American programmes today, they don’t do enough agility work and they don’t do enough sprinting. So I think you have to have all that in your program. Early on you’re working on strength and power then you don’t do quite as much sprinting, but you have some speed work all the time

4) What are the positives of being a Strength and Conditioning Coach/Trainer? 

I don’t consider myself to be a trainer. A trainer to me is not a coach, I am a coach. It means I can coach sports, I coach track and field Also when I was in high school. I coach sprinters and throwers. I think when you’re a strength and conditioning coach, anytime when you’re in a position of leadership, you must project a positive image, you must try to get people to reach beyond what they think they are capable of and you have to put demands on them, some people can handle those demands, and some cant. And I think coaching in sports and especially in the high school level is more about getting these kids to make the right decisions and some kids don’t want to pay that price. But I think in life there are achievers, and there are the underachievers and I always set my program for the achievers. It didn't matter about their ability, but they are people that are willing to pay a price

5) What are the negatives? 

No matter what coaching staff you’re on, you’re always going to kind of be the low man on the totem pole. I was fortunate enough, with the Bulls, through my association with Jerry Crokes and Jerry Reinstar to have a more, I would say, elevated position in the organization. When you’re the first guy in basketball Strength and Conditioning you always had the thing about you’re going to ruin the shot and do bad. So you go through those transitional periods, it can be difficult. But a negative experience could lead to making you a better coach so that’s my point.

6) What are some of the common mistakes that you see athletes make with regards to training?  

They spend too much time doing the ‘fluff’, you read this is a secret training for this or now we got a kettlebell like that’s a secret. There are no secrets, just stay to the basics. If you want to run fast and move fast then you have to do that, you’ll have to put force into the ground quickly and get it out of the ground quickly. Again, that takes strength, explosive power and some elasticity and obviously genetics play a huge role in it. You have to understand what the athlete can and can’t do. At a younger age you can influence things more but once you get a 23/24 year old athlete that has trained a certain way, they have so many traces on their nervous system that you can only train what they can do, especially if it’s the wrong traces. So you can’t make an apple an orange so to speak.

7)    Do you work with athletes with diet and nutrition? If so, what do you recommend?  

Yeah we worked with diet and nutrition, I’m not a great expert on nutrition and diet. I just think eat good basic food and take the proper supplements, I believe in the amino acids before a workout, protein and carbs after. At the Bulls we had a nutritionist that worked with our athletes but again, once you get an athlete that has a certain kind of diet it’s very difficult to change

8) Who are some of your mentors in the strength training field and in life? 

Some of my mentors in strength and conditioning? Well there is too many to mention but my family would be the biggest mentors and then the gentleman who thought me how to lift weights coach Bill Wood. Then Don Chu and I have been friends for almost forty years and Charlie Francais, the great sprint coach. People like Carmelo Bosco, I mean there are so many it would be unfair I’m sure I would forget some.

9)    Greatest achievements as a trainer: 

Greatest achievement again as a coach, I’m not a trainer. Achievements of a strength and conditioning coach are based on the athletes you coach, so if you’re fortunate enough to be blessed then you’re going to have some success and I was a successful High School coach. We won 3 Varsity championships and 9 championships at all 3 levels in 6 years. I was with the 49ers and we won the world championship in 1982 and then I was with the Bulls and we won 6 world championships. So all those are what I guess you would call achievements but again, it’s based on the people you coach. You’re only as good as the athletes you’re coaching and that’s one thing that really gets to me when I see all of these guys taking credit for someone. The people who should take credit for them is there mother and father for producing good athletes because it’s genetic.

10) What are some books that you recommend for athletes?

Anything written by Charlie Francais, Carmelo Bosco, Sitorski’s book I think “the principles in strength and conditioning”. There is many other books out there, so many that I’ve read but those three people, Fracais, Bosco and Sitorski.

11) If you could give one bit of advice to someone just getting into strength & conditioning, what would it be? 

It would be to realise there are no secrets and there is no magic exercise, or magic programmes. It’s a progress and a proper progression. You realise you’re going to learn something all the time, and you’re never so good you can’t get better. And if the information that you’re going to learn from people make sure it’s someone who’s played, who has been in the arena and understands it. Today in the United States we’re doing a lot of what’s called ‘safe training’, don’t do this or don’t do that but then they don’t look at the sport the athlete is exposed to. And if you've got an athlete that can’t squat then he shouldn't be playing sports. If your body can’t handle to do a normal back squat at one and a half times your body weight or a front squat of 85% of  your back squat for a couple of reps, then your body is not ready to support those loads. So when you have impacts your body is going to have a bigger chance of getting hurt and I believe in the free bar, Olympic lifts, all the basics. I think that’s the biggest thing, cover the basics and there is nothing new out there, the only thing new was what they haven’t learned already.

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