“Always seek perfection. You will never attain it, but if you try, you may pass excellence along the way.” – Vince Lombardi
The Hall of Fame football coach and teacher believed no detail was too small or unimportant. His favorite play was the “power sweep,” which he once discussed in a lecture attended by another Hall of Fame coach John Madden.
Madden recalled “Lombardi spent eight hours talking about this one play. He talked for four hours, took a break and came back and talked four more. Then I realized then that I actually knew nothing about football.”
Unfortunately, it often seems training programs have slowly evolved into a provision of pure entertainment. Elaborate warm-ups and exercises exist in a program just to keep things “fresh.” The rationale is that by constantly changing exercises, and sometimes even renaming old movements to make them seem “new”, you can increase and maintain motivation…
The reality is that training should be about progress towards a goal, not entertainment.
Step 1 – Keep the Goal the Goal
After initial screening and subsequent evaluation using our force plate scan, we always sit down with each athlete to review the results and plan the next phase.
After sitting down with hundreds if not thousands of athletes, we can often predict the first question out of their mouth. It is a question that seems to be ready before we have even reviewed the results, explained their improvements, and presented injury risks. The answer all athletes seek is in the future, specifically, “How will my workout change?”
However, this is where goals become the critical first step in motivation. For athletes, the goal should be to improve your movement efficiency, which can both enhance your sport’s performance and reduce your injury.
Step 2 – Mastery of Movement
When programming exercises, we look at the neuromuscular effects of a movement and the power of each training movement to provide a specific stimulus. The subsequent neuromuscular adaptations involve a learning curve, with the neural changes often occurring first. It is interesting to note that baseball players rarely get bored with a repetitive drill like hitting off a tee, just as quarterbacks never get tired of working on their drops because these are such complex skills requiring repetitive rehearsal. If the goal of the exercise is to enhance movement efficiency, then shouldn’t the concept of repetition be the same? This efficiency is best enhanced with more consistent focused practice, not simply new practice.
We are frequently asked about why we don’t perform different movement screens for a return to play and to reduce future injuries. The answer is simple, every repetition of every set is a movement screen… it’s called coaching. You would be surprised how much you learn from repeating the same exercise each week, getting deeper and deeper into an appreciation of the movement, like a sommelier with wine.
You must feel the movement in specific places while performing the exercise, taste the sticking points, and then be aware of its finish (i.e. the muscle soreness or neural fatigue).
Step 3 – Progression & Choice
Despite the improvements, often times, movement signatures do not change over an athlete’s season or off-season. The sport stimulus is so strong, anthropometrics are extreme, or previous training history was so focused that the pattern remains. Athletes can be “sentenced for life” to a set of movements. Therefore, we vary the loading schemes (sets/reps/weight/speed) of these exercises as an athlete progresses.
In-season presents more of a challenge because intensity (speed, weight, etc.) is limited due to the higher priority of playing your sport, especially in professional seasons of more games. However, we have a found an effective solution for these environments, a flexible framework. The framework is a software term we use describing the workout structure, yet flexible refers to providing options. The athlete has presented 2 options based on their movement signature need. While one option may provide a greater, proven physical stimulus, we cannot underestimate the power of choice.