It is one of the most frustrating things in the world to feel as if you are stuck at a certain point in athletics; when you can’t improve upon a race time, your vertical jump height doesn’t increase, or you’re not able to add more weight to your back squat. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as a plateau, and a suggestion that has frequently surfaced to remedy the situation is a “never-do-the-same-workout-twice” strategy. This strategy, often called “muscle confusion,” involves doing many different types of training to keep your body guessing and “confuse” your muscles into continued growth. What people who follow this type of training often fail to realize is that our muscles receive orders from the brain and are not independent structures that become bored and stop producing results after a few weeks. We have to be smart with our training, the stressors on our body, and the stimuli that we send to our muscles. If we are constantly switching things up in a weight training program, our bodies will not have time to adapt and improve. So, how do we prevent a decline in performance? How long should we actually be performing exercises before we switch things up? If you have ever wondered about plateaus, here are a few ways to make sure that you are maximizing your training and seeing results consistently over time.
Work with a Certified Strength & Conditioning Coach
One of the biggest benefits of a proper strength & conditioning facility is that you have a coach who programs based on your individual needs. This should involve periodized strength & conditioning programming that involves a build without plateau, peaks for when you need them, and monitoring/adjustment of programming as needed. Knowing which exercises to perform, how many sets and reps you should do, and how often these variables should change is extremely important in training. Because of the importance and complexity involved in strength & conditioning programming, having a qualified professional to guide you is imperative to long-term athletic success.
Become great at the basics
You do not need as much variety in training as you think. If you consider how you train in sport, it involves repeating the important skills over and over again in practice to perfect your technique. To a certain extent, this same concept needs to be applied in strength training. Your body must learn to efficiently and safely move through basic movement patterns: squat, lunge, hinge, push, pull, and rotate. There are many different variations of exercises that fall into these basic categories, but it is important to master the basics and allow adaptations to occur before progressing to a more complex version of an exercise. You need a solid foundation for sport, and your exercises in the weight room should be selected based on function and usefulness to you as an individual, and not on the complexity or attractiveness of the movement.
Protect your body from injury
Training should be pain-free and should include movements that help protect against future injury. This includes: performing a warm-up that will prepare you for movement and is specific to your movement deficiencies, including soft-tissue work into your daily routine, ensuring that areas of the body that are supposed to be mobile are, ensuring that areas of the body that are supposed to be stabile are, etc. Your Certified Strength & Conditioning Coach will help you identify where the “leaks” in your system are and prescribe movement patterns that will increase your efficiency as an athlete and prepare you for the demands of life and sport. Preparedness is the key to injury prevention!
Train as an individual
Not everyone should be doing the same warm-up or strength training exercises, just like not every athlete will need to work on the same sport skill for the same amount of time as everyone else on the team. Your body is unique, your training needs are different, and what works for someone else will not necessarily work for you. For these reasons, it is important to listen to your body, perform the exercises that work for your anatomy and training needs, and learn what works to make YOU better. The movements you perform do not need to rigidly follow a universal model of training or even be “sport-specific.” They must be specific to you and need to be intentionally placed within your programming. Within the confines of energy, time, etc., it is important to be intentional with training to optimize opportunity for improvement.
Rest, eat properly, and hydrate
Maximizing your athletic potential involves making smart decisions both on and off the field/court/etc. You need to make sure that you’re drinking enough water, fueling your body with the proper nutrition, and sleeping/resting enough. While some may struggle with consistency and drive, others find themselves losing momentum because they are doing too much. Non-stop training, or training that isn’t done well, will eventually wear on you regardless of how accomplished you feel. Not only will you feel the physical effects of overtraining, but the mental effects as well. It is important to establish healthy habits early to set yourself up for success. The sooner you start, the sooner you will be able to reap the benefits.
In conclusion, “muscle confusion,” is not the answer to avoiding plateau. It is possible for your improvement to waver, but it is NOT possible to confuse your muscles into avoiding the drop. Your body will need to slow down or stop during your athletic career, but there are steps you can take to manage your health and prevent a decline in performance. Focus on the things that you can control and reach out to qualified professionals for the answers that you don’t have. Have you experienced a plateau before? Are you wondering what you can do to try to prevent one? Contact us and let us know how we can help!
Great athletes put in hours practicing, eating right, and sleeping for success. The best athletes, however, also spend adequate time harnessing the power of their minds. Sports go beyond physical capabilities, and often wins and losses can be traced to mental strength. Here are some tips from our very own Dr. Chris Carr regarding mental preparation:
- Begin your imagery of competition the night before; visualize success, great plays and victory.
- Focus on deep breathing during the ride to the event.
- Use music to focus and visualize making great plays.
- Keep your thoughts on the present…one play at a time.
- When you have distractions in your mind, create some type of release by visualizing yourself destroying those distractions.
- Write down a cue word that you associate with your own optimal performance and have it on your wrist or someplace easily accessible for reminders.
- Use the same routine before every game or competition.
- Love the game and enjoy playing.
INDIANAPOLIS (March 16, 2017) – St. Vincent Sports Performance (SVSP), one of the country’s leading sports performance centers for Olympians, professional athletes and everyday athletes, today announced the hiring of Dustin Williams as performance rehabilitation specialist.
Since 2011, Williams, a member of the National Athletic Trainers Association, has served as associate athletic trainer and head athletic trainer for cross and country and track and field for the University of Arizona. Before going to Arizona, Williams spent five years as assistant athletic trainer at Brigham Young University.
“Dustin has a familiarity and a deep history with college and elite athletes which makes him a perfect fit to join the SVSP team,” SVSP Executive Director Ralph Reiff said. “He has proven himself as a highly skilled athletic trainer and has worked elbow-to-elbow with some of our current team members.”
In his new role with SVSP, Williams will travel to events around the world supporting SVSP clients such as USA Track & Field, USA Gymnastics and USA Diving. He will triage injuries, assign a plan of care, begin immediate rehabilitation programs and nurture athletes back into their field of play. He will also serve as the athletes’ advocate in communicating training matters with coaches, agents and family, while based in Sacramento, California.
Williams holds a master’s degree in exercise science from Utah State University. His wife, Jillian Camarena-Williams, is a two-time Olympian in shot put, representing Team USA at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. They have a 2-year-old daughter, Miley.
About St. Vincent Sports Performance
St. Vincent Sports Performance has supported and helped develop world-class athletes since 1987. The first and largest hospital-based program of its kind in the United States, St. Vincent Sports Performance employs over 60 athletic trainers, sports medicine physicians, certified strength and conditioning specialists, licensed sports psychologists and registered sports dietitians. Together they have trained athletes at every level from middle school, to Olympians, to the NFL and NBA, to Motorsports and NCAA athletes. Learn more at definingsportsperformance.com.
Training for the NFL is no small task, a process that requires dozens of workouts and massive amounts of food. Our NFL Combine trainees just finished their eight week program, and now it’s time to prove themselves as contenders at the next level. In order to get to this point, however, they endured 88 grueling workouts and ate 3,000-6,000 calories a day. Think you could eat 6,000 calories a day? See for yourself:
-5 scrambled eggs with 1/4 cup shredded cheese and 1 cup spinach
-3 cups oatmeal with 1 cup berries
-1 cup fruit juice
-2 slices whole wheat bread with 3 tbsp peanut butter and 2 tbsp jelly
-1 large apple
-30g protein shake
-1 large tortilla filled with 1 cup rice, 6 oz chicken, 1/2 cup beans, 1/4 cup shredded cheese, 2 cups lettuce and salsa
-12 oz water
-1 smoothie with 12 oz rockin refuel vanilla, 1 frozen banana, 1 cup spinach, 3 tbsp peanut butter, 2 tsp cinnamon and 1 apple sauce squeeze pouch
-10 peanut butter filled pretzels
-1 cup of berries
-1 cup zucchini
-3 cups brown rice
-8 oz chicken breast
-12 oz water
-1 rockin refuel
-1 cliff bar
-skinny pop (100 calorie bag)
Last weekend the SVSP crew traveled to New York City for the 110th running of the historic Millrose Games. The event was filled with another list of great American athletes, many coming off a successful Rio 2016.
The week had challenges waiting for us right away because of the weather. Ten inches of New York snow threw a wrench into our travel plans. After a few re-routed flights and a medical emergency at baggage claim prevented taxis from getting to the pick-up zone, I was finally able to catch a ride and head to the venue. Other athletes weren’t so lucky, like Brenda Martinez, who was scheduled to compete in the 800 but was forced to turn around on her flight to NY.
After all of that I was quite tired and it made me wonder how the athletes deal with these types of distractions. How do they focus? Most people that travel frequently deal with these things all the time. For athletes it is no different, and there are potential distractions everywhere. Late arrivals, fans seeking autographs, no space to warm up, or a forgotten item actually happen to world class athletes.
At this meet I had the opportunity to reconnect with Indiana’s own Waverly Neer, who has recently transitioned into a professional runner. This was special for me as I have cared for her since high school and followed her career through many steps. Having access to her I asked her a couple of questions about her transition into professional running and where she draws her motivation. I also asked her how she finds focus:
What motivates me? I’m motivated by a variety of things in this sport. While I’m no longer running to score points for a team or chasing championships, in a real sense, I still have teammates in my new training partners. I’m motivated by their strengths; which sometimes are my weaknesses. Seeing them excel in a certain workout or a race shows me that things I personally find difficult can be done, and done well. At the same time, I’m motivated to give my best effort during workouts for my teammates because I want to be a positive contributor. And on top of all of that, I’m motivated by other runners and the high level, exceptional performances that pop up throughout the season. Things recently that stick out to me are Abbey D’Agostino’s story over the Olympics, Evan Jager taking home the silver, and any time Ajee Wilson races. I’m inspired by the people who are moving the sport forward, because at the end of the day they are human beings that work hard to relentlessly pursue their dreams. For me that’s relatable, and entirely motivating.
How do I focus? I think this is an evolving process for the sheer fact that life circumstances are constantly changing. Whether it’s big (moving to a new location to train), or in comparison small (it’s windy or cold the day of a big workout), as athletes we constantly have to frame and reframe our mindset to meet the demands of a workout, a race, and even life. I find what works best for me is to focus on the things I can control, and that usually boils down to just my attitude and my effort. Rather than dwelling on the negative things that pop up, or the “distractions” around me, I try to channel my energy towards creating a positive mindset and putting forth my honest best effort that day. I’ve found when I do that I’m best able to zero in on the one thing I’m really seeking to accomplish, and that’s to be a happy, healthy, speedy runner.
Find your way to focus. You will certainly have something distract you. Find something that helps you forget the issue. This applies to race day of course but I believe it also applies to training. Training with something bothering you may be limiting you from tapping into your potential. Turn the distraction off, work on the training, not the problem.
Breakfast at the hotel. Snack on the turf. Lunch. Recovery snack. Dinner. Night snack. This is a normal day of eating for the guys participating in the 2017 EXOS NFL Combine prep program. Each player has individual goals for their eight week stay in Indy and is committed and involved in their nutrition plan.
“Tell me your numbers” can be heard as the guys discuss how many servings of protein, carbohydrates, fruits and veggies are recommended per meal. Snack bags for their three daily snacks are provided, and a night snack is packed for once they leave the training facility.
Before they were sent off with serving recommendations, portion sizes were taught by Lindsey Langford, MS, RD, CSSD and Anna Turner, MS, RD, CSSD, the sports dietitians that have organized the eating schedule that each player participates in. Twice a week, nutrition education meetings take place covering topics from how to build a recovery snack to how athletic performance suffers from alcohol consumption. Each guy is heavily involved in their personal nutrition plan, and every meal they make decisions to positively impact their performance on the field.
Former Michigan offensive lineman Ben Braden says the biggest change for him is just the sheer amount of food that he is eating. When you are training as long as and as hard as these athletes are, every meal is either helping facilitate recovery or helping fuel the next workout. The importance of building a balanced plate at each meal is something fellow offensive lineman Mark Spelman says has helped him maintain his energy levels throughout the long days of training. He also understands the importance of pairing what he eats with maximizing performance. Carbohydrates play a vital role in providing immediate energy for athletes, and Marian wide receiver Krishawn Hogan says his biggest take away so far is how important carbohydrates are for performance. He feels like he has more energy, even during hard training sessions, because he has incorporated more carbs into his diet.
New Balance Indoor Grand Prix 2017
A world record in Boston. Emma Coburn, Sydney McLaughlin, Brenda Martinez and Jenny Simpson passed the baton for 20 laps of the 200-meter track in world record time. They posted a time of 10:40.31, just under the previous world record. With each pass of the baton the crowd cheered louder and greeted Jenny with loud roars as she raced for the line. It was a great atmosphere!
The day before the race I had the chance to talk with Jenny Simpson while she was preparing for the event. Last year at this time she was just beginning to train after dealing with an injury. This year is different, and she was anticipating the chance to turn on the jets during the last leg of their race. She stated something that I found very interesting.
She said that she was recently discussing goals with her coaches, with a focus on her strengths and weaknesses. Weaknesses? She won an Olympic medal last year after injuring herself during training only months before. Now she is completely healthy and strong, and is looking for weaknesses? I was baffled. But clearly she feels that there are things to work on. The body needs to be challenged.
The lesson here is: there is always something that can be improved, even if you just won a medal for being the greatest. Jenny also shed some light on why I do what I do. Improving athletes’ weaknesses is what my profession does. Finding something so tiny in movement or joint mobility and correcting it can make all the difference needed to succeed at the highest level. Looking for those weaknesses has become the focus of what I do.
This meet had a high volume of great athletes that we cared for. Please continue to seek them out on social media and show them your support. They are all great athletes, and their athletic accomplishments may not be the only activity that inspires you to discover and attack both your strengths and your weaknesses.
As the calendar turns to the new year, the 2016 Rio Olympics are behind us. The games brought USA Track and Field 32 medals, the highest since 1932 (excluding the boycotted games in Los Angeles) and St. Vincent Sports Performance had direct connection to 27 of them. 2017 looks to have that continued success.
One of the first trips of the year has us in Texas to work with Darrel Woodson (D2) and his group of sprinters. This week it’s in the high 30s, but the commitment is made and the athletes are out and working. We assess movement patterns, strength and symmetry and connect these to their events. The start of the season is a very valuable time for us. If dysfunction is ignored now and fitness is applied over that dysfunction, the risk of injury is higher and performance can be limited. No one wants to limit their potential!
Assessments are no fun in the cold. This is a picture of Sharika Nelvis beginning her Functional Movement Screen in her winter gear:
Sharika competes in the 100m hurdles, arguably the most competitive event in American track and field. At last year’s Olympic trials, she finished fourth, just missing the team. But Sharika and D2 are focused on 2017, not the past. On this assessment she looks great, moves well and is ready to put in the work to compete. We often tell athletes that when they look good on the movement assessment that it’s the time to work. Be comfortable trying something new. Let the body that moves well adapt to something new and see how it impacts performance.
This trip was pretty unique as we took the roadshow to multiple cities and had the privilege of seeing athletes from multiple disciplines. We started in Texas and Los Angeles with sprinters and hurdlers, moved to Reno to see the pole vaulters, onto Chula Vista at the Olympic Training Center for throwers and jumpers, finally ending in Orlando with Lance Brauman and his group of sprinters.
Please seek out the athletes we saw on this last trip via their social media and show them your support as they attack 2017 with their focus on competing in the many events leading up to the World Championships in London August 3-13.
Thursday January 26th
Taping and treatments started at 7am. Our last padded practice was this morning. The coaches and athletes are getting so excited for this game. Practice ends and we head back to the hotel for lunch and some down time before treatments starts. Our second practice is a helmet only practice to allow the boys to focus on attention to detail. The day ends at 9pm.
Friday January 27th
Last practice before the big game with Canada. The motto all week has been “Let’s go 1-0.” Taping and treatments start at 7am. We are really healthy right now and the boys have really listened to what I have told them to do and have followed my instructions very well. We have a great group of kids and coaches. Our last practice of the day gives the boys an opportunity to hear from a four star general about football. It’s amazing how much patriotism you have when you have the USA logo on the front of your chest. The day ends and we do some final treatments and get the boys to bed for some rest.
Saturday January 28th
Game day!!! The guys get a chance to sleep in today. We meet as a team at 9am to have breakfast and talk about the day. My day is filled with last minute treatments before we start taping at 2pm for our game. We head to the field for our game at 5:30pm. Final stretching and taping and the boys are ready to go. What a game for Team USA! We score in the first 10 seconds and that sets the tone for the game. The defense plays unbelievably and keep Canada from scoring. This is the first time the U18 USA team has beaten Canada. As we end the game, it’s a time to thank everyone and make sure everyone is safe for the trip home. What another great week with SVSP and USA Football!