There are a lot of different approaches to individualizing training in group settings.

First, it’s important to recognize that attempts to improve the program shouldn’t get in the way of being able to run it. There are very real logistical and cultural barriers to running what you may envision as the most “optimal” program. The goal here is to start making SUBTLE adjustments to address individual needs.

Here are a few strategies I’ve used in the past:

  • Systemize “corrective” work. Post sheets on the wall or on a digital display that has the individuals name (or jersey number) with a list of what you want them to do, and another sheet with pictures to serve as cues.
  • Make any exercise selection adjustments you want on the actual program display, and reinforce that the athletes should reference that (not just follow someone and do what they do)
  • If your facility requires progressing through set stations like an assembly line, divide the stations up by goal (e.g. strength emphasis vs. speed emphasis) and program goal-specific exercise variations that can be performed in the same areas.
  • Teach A LOT up front, and then encourage the members/athletes most experienced in your system to teach newer/younger athletes. This provides built in support for you and a leadership/growth opportunity for them.

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

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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What a stretch. With Endeavor closed today for the 4th of July, this is the first time I’ve had to sit down to write in about 2 months.

Over that time, I flew to Colorado Springs to help with the US Women’s National Team Camp, then straight to Provo, UT for an on-site learning week as part of the doctorate degree I started the month before, home/Endeavor for a week (literally drove from the airport straight into work), then back to Colorado Springs to speak at the NSCA Training for Hockey Clinic, then straight to San Antonio to lab assist a PRI course for the NHL ATCs, then caught up on work for a few days before speaking at the first ever NHL Strength and Conditioning Coaches Conference in San Antonio.

Paddle Boarding

Quick paddle boarding break in Utah. I was fortunate the camera wasn’t out when I belly flopped onto the board 3 seconds after standing up for the first time!

It’s been a busy stretch, but very educational and a lot of fun.

Today’s post is going to be short and sweet. Almost two years ago, a kid, we’ll call him Jack…because that’s his real name, that I had trained while he played in the OHL decided he wanted to hang up the skates and pursue another passion of is: becoming a Navy SEAL. This type of training was an adjustment for both of us, as the focus transitions from speed, power and repeat sprint ability, to a much heavier endurance emphasis to develop the capacity and durability to sustain bootcamp and BUDs (“tryouts” for the Navy and SEALS, respectively).

Jack absolutely CRUSHED about two years of training programs, each phase of which was moderately more unpleasant than the one before. And after a long process of submitting paperwork and repeatedly testing, he’s finally shipping out to bootcamp next week. I couldn’t be more proud of how hard he’s worked and am excited to watch him embrace the grind as he attempts to join one of our country’s most elite units.

In recognition of Jack and in celebration of America’s birthday, I’m running a special one-week sale (ends Friday, 7/10) on three of my products, all of which are around 50% off. If you’re interested, click the links below to grab your copy:

  1. Ultimate Hockey Training ($35.95 $19.95)
  2. Ultimate Hockey Transformation (Pro: $147 $77 Elite: $117 $57)
  3. Optimizing Movement ($97 $47)

As always, I appreciate your continued support. Happy 4th of July!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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When I was growing up playing hockey, at least once every season I’d have some sort of left groin or hip flexor issue.

None were ever significant enough to keep me off the ice, but they were always enough that I was constantly “aware of it”, which is not where you want your focus going while you’re playing.

I always wondered if there was something I was doing, or not doing, that was causing these injuries.

Now that I’ve made the transition from player to S&C coach, I’m thankful for my long list of injuries as they’ve motivated me to learn more about functional anatomy, biomechanics, and a number of other injury risk factors.

Naturally, one of the major goals of every program I write is to reduce my athletes’ risk of injury. As a result, it’s important to understand what factors may predispose an athlete to injuries in the first place, and then make decisions about what I have the ability to influence.

With the increasing popularity of PRI and FMS courses over the last several years, a lot of attention is being paid to the potential for faulty movement patterns to contribute to breakdown. This is obviously an area I subscribe to, as I’ve taken FMS Level 1&2, the SFMA course, and spent over 100 hours in PRI courses, in addition to becoming PRT-credentialed a couple years ago.

Postural Restoration Institute

With that said, purely postural/biomechanical approaches to injury risk have been appropriately questioned in the research, as these are really just one piece of the puzzle. In an effort to perfect movement, coaches may be inadvertently increasing their athletes’ risk of injury.

Identifying Injury Risk Factors

The most effective approach to injury risk reduction is to attack it from all angles. While this topic can get pretty complex, I generally think of risk factors as falling into these major buckets:

  1. Postural/Biomechanical: Determines length/tension relationships, how mechanical stress is distributed during movement, and movement efficiency in general
  2. Neuromuscular Abilities: Force production, rate of force development, and timing of force production
  3. Conditioning/Fitness: The ability to repeat the sport-specific movement demands at a consistently high level and recover appropriately, both in a short-term perspective following a work bout, and at the conclusion of a training session/practice/game
  4. Stress Tolerance: The resiliency of the body to the accumulation of stressors from within and outside the training/sports paradigm. This also determines the individual’s adaptation capacity at any given period of time
  5. Accumulated Fatigue: Related to stress tolerance; influences all of the above factors

Each of these areas is an important contributor to injury risk and needs to be considered in a training program.

When Corrective Exercise Goes Wrong

A couple years ago, I remember hearing people talk about how some personal trainers and strength coaches were taking some of these movement-based courses and basically not letting their clients/athletes do anything except corrective work until they met some standard. At the time, as I would now, I remember thinking “people actually do that?”

As time has gone by, I realize this is more common than I would have ever thought.

If you come back to the list above, focusing on movement capacity to the exclusion of other qualities will only improve that one injury risk factor. An argument can be made (that I’d agree with) that improving movement quality can improve stress tolerance by reducing unnecessary tension/tone resulting from a compensatory attempt to produce the desired movement, but not to the same degree that also addressing fitness/conditioning and accumulated fatigue would.

Probably the biggest oversight in an overly “corrective” approach is that the athletes actually detrain. Having slow, weak, and poorly conditioned athletes that move well doesn’t only neglect many key areas of injury prevention, it makes them worse at their sport.

A Better System

Even in the presence of movement limitations, athletes need to train to improve, or at least maintain, their performance capacities. The key here is to pick exercises and methods that are best suited for the athletes based on their current movement abilities. This is one of the major topics I discussed in in my DVD Optimizing Movement, as having a system for what to do in the presence of specific movement limitations makes it easy to individualize training, even in a group or team setting.

Optimizing Movement Cover-Small

Assessing factors that influence movement, and demonstrating how to use them to drive your training approach

It’s important to recognize that slow, weak, poorly conditioned, stressed out, and/or tired athletes are all at a greater risk for injury. With this in mind, training programs should be designed to develop physical capacities using individual-specific exercises/methods while also improving notable movement limitations, with coaches monitoring stress and accumulated fatigue to make any necessary adjustments to training loads or recovery strategies on an ongoing basis.

Wrap Up

Looking back on my own injuries, I can remember that some happened when I just didn’t feel right (possibly an alignment issue), some were the result of overuse, and others were simply because I was too weak.

As strength and conditioning coaches, our job is to deliver highly trained, injury resistant athletes to our coaches. As more emphasis is placed on assessments and corrective work, it’s important to not lose site of the importance of continuing to develop the speed, power, strength, and conditioning of our athletes, while also monitoring fatigue. Ultimately, a more comprehensive approach will not only improve their durability, but also their performance.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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“…one of the best DVDs I’ve ever watched”
“A must for anyone interested in coaching and performance!”

Optimizing Movement DVD Package

Click here for more information >> Optimizing Movement

In an effort to constantly improve, one phrase that I often repeat to myself is:

“If you want better answers, you have to ask better questions.”

With this in mind, I enjoy reading articles and listening to presentations that are more theoretical in nature and pose a lot of questions, but don’t necessarily provide the answers.

This, I suspect, is very frustrating for others as most people tend to take the “just give me the fish” option, when available. This isn’t always a bad thing, as having practical applications can often help a coach envision how they can manipulate their own programs for the better.

That said, blindly following another coach’s suggestions without a full understanding of their philosophy, supporting theory, rationale, etc. can be foolish, if not dangerous.

Last week I came across an article on velocity based training, that I enjoyed reading. For those of you that aren’t familiar, velocity based training, in this context, is simply tracking/manipulating the speed of bar movement in various exercises to elicit specific training responses (e.g. improved speed).


Image from:

This is becoming an increasingly pertinent subject, as technology is making tracking bar velocity much easier/less expensive. However, as with any technological advancement, the ease of use will quickly lead to a complication of interpretation.

This article from Carl Valle poses a lot of good questions about the transfer of this type of training to actual speed changes, and makes a few suggestions on how to make better use of the thought process, as well as the technology. Check it out at the link below!

Improve your programs >> Velocity Based Training

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. I’ve always said, before you do anything faster, under more load, or for greater duration, you must first learn to do things well. This is the system we use to create a broad foundation of functional movement in our athletes: Optimizing Movement

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“…one of the best DVDs I’ve ever watched”
“A must for anyone interested in coaching and performance!”

Optimizing Movement DVD Package

Click here for more information >> Optimizing Movement

Last week I spent a few minutes talking to a goalie scout for USA Hockey about what limits performance, and therefore what we must assess and train. This will be the first in a series of posts, in which I hope to present our approach to training and how our underlying philosophy of assess-train/monitor-reassess influences our programming and results.

Understanding Range of Motion

Range of motion (ROM) is often referenced using other words like mobility or flexibility. It’s also largely viewed as a “more is better” quality and increasing ROM is often misunderstood as being protective from injury, despite research evidence to the contrary.

In order to understand whether it’s necessary or desirable to improve ROM, it’s first necessary to understand what can limit it. Each of these could be the topic of their own post (or book), but in the interest of providing a broad overview, ROM can be limited by:

1) Bony Structure
The shape and contour of articulating bones (e.g. the bones meeting at a joint) can influence ROM. As one example, I’ve written a lot about how the shape of the femoral head and/or hip socket can influence hip flexion and therefore squat depth (among other patterns): Training Around Femoroacetabular Impingement, Performance Training: Adaptations for Femoroacetabular Impingement. For another good example, check out this article from Dean Somerset on how pelvic structure can influence lateral movement (See: Pelvic Arch Design and Load Carrying Capacity

Femoroacetabular Impingement

You can’t stretch your through bony blocks.

2) Passive Restraints
Every joint, to some degree, is supported by ligaments that “check” ROM in certain directions. For example, the MCL of the knee helps prevent the inside of the knee from “opening” too far. Collectively, the surrounding ligaments help create some stability around a joint, and also provide feedback to the brain about where the joint is, how it’s moving, and how much load is being distributed across it. It’s quite possible, albeit almost never desirable, to stretch these restraints to allow more range of motion. This is extremely common in athletes like figure skaters and gymnasts.

Unfortunately, when these passive restraints are compromised, accessory joint motion is increased, meaning there is a little more sliding, gliding, and rolling within a joint, which ultimately increases the stress placed across other structures meant to improve joint congruency like the knee meniscus, hip and shoulder labrums, spinal discs, etc. This is one of the reasons why there is such a high incidence of osteoarthritis among these sporting populations, especially at young ages (e.g. <35 y/o); they’ve compromised some of their passive restraints so there’s more progressive erosion-like wear and tear across the joint.

3) Active Restraints
The muscles around joints provide active support. There are many reasons why a muscle/fascia may restrict motion around a joint, but I generally think of them in two simple buckets:

  1. The muscles aren’t strong enough to maintain stability in a certain range
  2. The brain interprets a certain position/motion as threatening or dangerous.

While very different, both of these buckets provide very simple explanations for why the various PNF methods work for improving ROM. Whether you view it as strengthening a muscle in a specific ROM, or simply demonstrating to the nervous system that producing force in a certain ROM doesn’t necessitate a painful/threatened response, the end result in situations where this is indeed the restriction is improved ROM.

The Big Picture
Hopefully, from this discussion, it’s apparent that improving ROM isn’t always desirable. Simply, there is always a cost to making improvement in any quality, and restrictions in ROM need to be interpreted on an individual basis based on what their structure allows. Attempting to force improved ROM beyond an individual’s structural capacity will necessarily lead to ligamentous laxity, excessive accessory joint motion and inevitably breakdown/degradation in the future. This may be the necessary cost of doing business for certain sports that require hypermobility (e.g. gymnastics, figure skating, etc.), but it’s advantageous to be aware of whether you’re increasing ROM beyond an individual’s capacity because it’s necessary to be successful in the sport or simply because you associate more as being better. In the case of the latter, if the improvements aren’t absolutely essential to the individual being competitive in their position within any given sport, the pursuit is not only a waste of time, it’s deleterious to their progress.

Excessive Flexibility

This is rarely the goal.

More specific to the origin of this conversation, careful attention needs to be paid to whether a goalie’s performance is actually being limited by their lack of ROM and whether this limitation is structural or functional, or whether the desire to improve ROM is based simply on the assumption that, within this position, more is better. Every individual brings different strengths and weaknesses to a position; maybe one individual’s strength is ROM, another’s is his/her ability to read the play and to position appropriately. I think we enter a dangerous situation when athletes and/or their coaches try to make improvements in any given athlete based on the desired profile of another without consideration to the structural and physiological strengths and weaknesses of the given athlete and the “role model”.

To be clear, I don’t think this is an easy distinction for athletes or sport coaches to make. Frankly, I don’t think most S&C coaches understand the difference. That said, one red flag to suggest you’re stealing ROM from an undesirable place is if you feel a restriction on the opposite side of the joint you’re stretching. For example, when you’re stretching your adductors/groin, if you feel a restriction on the outside/back of your hip, you’re not stretching anything, you’re jamming against your own joint’s restriction.

Optimizing Movement DVD Package

Optimizing Movement: Our System for Assessing Movement Capacity and Programming

This can be a tough distinction to make. If you have questions about your own personal situation, please feel free to post them below!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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