Building on yesterday’s post on the impact of the interaction between conditioning and movement efficiency on performance…

Movement quality and conditioning also impact injury risk.

This 2013 study found that military personnel with slow 3-mile times (i.e. poor aerobic fitness) and poor movement quality (defined as FMS Score ≤ 14) were 4.2x more likely to sustain an injury.

A few quick thoughts on why this matters:

  • If an athlete has restrictions in mobility and/or stability, they have fewer options to absorb force/stress and are more likely to “wear out” something along the path they’re using. Increasing movement variability not only has performance benefits, it allows stress to be distributed through joints and soft-tissue structures in different ways, which is a factor in injury risk reduction (particularly in overuse injuries).
  • If an athlete is poorly conditioned (whatever that means for the task at hand), movement quality and control will break down sooner and they’re more likely to reach an injury threshold and/or rely on passive structures to absorb force, which has both short- and long-term joint health implications.
  • Regardless of movement quality and conditioning, at some point, everyone breaks. Monitoring the volume and intensity of sport demands in some capacity is crucial for ensuring you don’t overlook major spikes in either.
  • Maximizing movement variability and optimizing conditioning levels for a given sport will help improve durability across typical and atypical sport/activity demands.

Feel free to post any comments/questions below. If you found this helpful, please share/re-post it so others can benefit.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld
SpeedTrainingforHockey.com
HockeyTransformation.com
OptimizingAdaptation.com

P.S. If you’re interested in more information about how to profile an athlete’s needs and use the profile to individualize a training program, check out the videos at Optimizing Adaptation & Performance

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Great quote from Ben Peterson et al.

Efficient movement can maximize performance for a given athlete’s conditioning level. The opposite is also true. Inefficient movement can also impair an athlete’s ability to display their high level of conditioning.

Movement efficiency and conditioning go hand and hand. If a player is struggling late in shifts or game – try to decipher if it’s a conditioning issue, movement efficiency issue, or both.

Feel free to post any comments/questions below. If you found this helpful, please share/re-post it so others can benefit.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld
SpeedTrainingforHockey.com
HockeyTransformation.com
OptimizingAdaptation.com

P.S. If you’re interested in more information about how to improve an athlete’s movement alongside their conditioning levels, check out the videos at Optimizing Adaptation & Performance

Enter your first name and email below to sign up for my FREE Sports Performance and Hockey Training Newsletter!

Last week I had an opportunity to speak with the parents of two local teams with ’98 and ’97 birth-year players. After that talk, I got a great question from a well-read mom with regards to the effectiveness of training before the athlete has reached puberty. Her thought was that because the hormonal profile of the athlete isn’t conducive to adding muscle mass, it may not be worth the time.

While this is a logical thought process (and she’s correct about pre-pubescent athletes not being able to put on substantial amounts of muscle mass), it’s important to understand that the addition of muscle mass is not the only goal of training. When it comes to both performance AND injury prevention, we look at other qualities such as:

  • Movement pattern quality
  • Body awareness
  • Linear and transitional mechanics and acceleration
  • Power
  • Strength
  • Conditioning

Each of these terms is really just an umbrella-concept that encompasses many other more-specific training qualities. Importantly, none of these things manifest in isolation. A poorly conditioned athlete is more likely to default to faulty movement patterns upon the onset of fatigue. A weak athlete may not possess the strength to move with quality. Everything is inter-related.

To our hockey mom’s point, kids can condition on their own without having to spend an hour in the car getting to our facility (one of her underlying concerns in posing her question). In other words, the question comes back to, “how will training with you guys differ from training on my own?”

Benefits of Pre-Puberty Training
As the Director of Athletic Development and co-owner of Endeavor Sports Performance, it’s my responsibility to ensure that our entire staff is well-adept at spotting and correcting faulty movement patterns. This is something we take a lot of pride in and one of the things that I think the overwhelming majority of the “personal trainers” and so-called “sports trainers” (I call these guys the “guys in the field” because they tend to coach huge groups of athletes through generic “speed and agility” work in a field all at once, and are more drill sergeants than coaches) don’t know that they don’t know. A well-trained eye can go a long way in preventing unnecessary injuries.

The other important consideration is that strength is not strictly a function of muscle mass. This is a novel concept to most parents, but strength is neurally mediated. This means that, for any level of muscle mass, there is a spectrum of obtainable strength. This is why the “my legs are big enough” argument that many high school hockey players use an excuse for neglecting their lower body is stupid. Just because you’re big doesn’t mean you’re strong. Likewise, just because you’re small, or do not have a hormonal profile conducive to putting on muscle mass, does not mean you can’t get strong. Strength results from an improved neural input signal to the working muscle. In overly simplistic terms, your brain becomes better at activating your muscle’s to produce more force. This can be improved at any age.

I love this kid

Over the last several months, we’ve taken on more young athletes (middle school aged) at Endeavor. This wasn’t our original intention, but after receiving dozens of inquiries from parents of these athletes and meeting them, we decided to give it a go. These athletes tend to make extremely quick improves in motor pattern quality. Once they’re taught how they should be moving, they pick it up pretty quickly and internalize it, which provides huge performance and injury-resistance benefits. The other thing, which can’t be overlooked, is that the confidence of athletes at this age SOARS when they start training. I think this is a combination of overcoming adversity and working hard through a program AND just knowing that they’re doing things that most other athletes aren’t. Given the paramount importance of confidence in athletics, I don’t think this training benefit should be overlooked.

Take Home
The training program design and coaching style will differ for pre-puberty athletes, but the benefits of training are still substantial. Just because an athlete doesn’t have a hormonal profile conducive to adding muscle mass DOES NOT mean he can’t make considerable improvements in strength, conditioning, movement quality, and confidence. At this age, it’s extremely important that athletes train under the supervision of coaches that understand how to teach and reinforce proper movement patterns and exercise technique. It’s all about building a solid foundation for the athlete to build on in the future.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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