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  • How to Develop Long-Term Training Success for High School Athletes

    The most dedicated high school athletes aren't just looking forward to their next game; they're looking ahead to long-term athletic development. Although many factors can halt such progress in the weight room and on the field/court, there are plenty of training factors that are within your control.

    To get set up on the right path, here's a list of the most important factors that lead to training success. It may not always be easy, but following these guidelines will ensure that your progress won't stop.

    Read how here.

    Enjoy and share!

  • How to Really Improve Agility

    "We’ve all seen the endless “agility” videos on Instagram and Youtube. They go something like this…

    An athlete performs the “Icky Shuffle” through a “speed ladder,” then quickly transitions into a few figure 8’s around some strategically-placed cones…next comes the salsa-dance-looking moves around a few more cones…and finally there’s a hop, skip or a jump over a handful of perfectly-organized mini hurdles."

    Joe DeFranco has a nice write up on how to REALLY improve athletic agility, and it doesn't involve "speed ladders" or ridiculous combinations of random, predetermined drills.

    Reactive agility drills are drills where the athlete must react to an undetermined stimulus, either visual or verbal, just like during competition. Here's an example:

    Notice how the athlete has to react to multiple things: catching the ball, avoiding the exercise ball, and then avoiding the defender. He isn't simply following a predetermined course of cones or hurdles.

    Quickly avoiding live objects is a completely different animal than quickly moving through a set course.

    Changing direction in a fast manner requires the ability to absorb force in addition to producing it. Deceleration is just as important as acceleration. That's where eccentric and isometric training comes in.

    Notice how the rep is very smooth and controlled during the lowering portion. Eccentric training is simply performing the eccentric portion of a lift in a controlled manner like this.

    Adding an isometric hold would involve the athlete coming to a complete stop during the lift:

    Both training methods are excellent ways to train force absorption and deceleration.

    Training for agility is more than just doing a bunch of flashy dance moves. Implement the methods shown above to develop true athletic agility.

  • Resisted Sprinting for Increased Speed

    The development of sprint speed is an important objective for the majority of athletes. Whether it’s acceleration, maximum velocity, or both, improving speed is a common goal of athletic strength and conditioning programs. Many methods for improving speed exist and they are typically split into two categories: primary and secondary (Wagganer, Williams, & Barnes, 2014). Primary methods include technique work at various intensities, and secondary methods include resisted and assisted sprinting with various equipment.

            Resisted sprinting involves the use of equipment to provide external resistance during sprinting. The equipment used includes weight sleds, parachutes, and resistance bands, with weight sleds being the most popular. The idea behind resisted sprinting is to enhance muscular force output during movement patterns that are specific to sprinting (Cronin & Hansen, 2006). Numerous studies have been conducted to determine the effects of resisted sprinting on different athletic populations. Let's take a look through some of the recent research to decipher practical guidelines for training resisted sprints.

    1. Wagganer, J. D., Williams, R. D., & Barnes, J. T. (2014). The effects of a four week primary and secondary speed training protocol on 40 yard sprint times in female college soccer players. Journal of Human Sport & Exercise, 9 (3), 713-727.

    The authors assessed the effects of primary and secondary speed training techniques on 40-yard sprint times in female college soccer players. Primary techniques were concerned with running mechanics while secondary techniques used resisted sprinting. The researchers found that four weeks of using both training methods resulted in statistically significant reductions in 40-yard sprint times. This article shows that using both methods can be an effective way of improving speed in experienced athletes.

    2. Cronin, J., & Hansen, K. T. (2006). Resisted sprint training for the acceleration phase of sprinting. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 28 (4), 42-52.

    Researchers from Edith Cowan University in Australia and the New Zealand Warriors Rugby Club performed a literature review on several sprint training methods, including resisted sprinting. They found that resisted sprinting has been shown to result in decreases of 0.08 and 0.35 seconds in sprint times of 20- and 60-meters, respectively. They also found that combining resisted sprinting with assisted sprinting resulted in greater reductions in sprint time over shorter distances. This is similar to the Wagganer, Williams, and Barnes findings that showed resisted sprinting may produce the best results when combined with other techniques.

    3. Luteberget, L. S., Raastad, T., Seynnes, O., & Spencer, M. (2015). Effect of traditional and resisted sprint training in highly trained female team handball players. International Journal of Sports Physiology & Performance, 10 (5), 642-648.

    This article looked at the effects of traditional sprint training and resisted sprint training on sprint performance of 10- and 30-meter sprints. They found that traditional sprint training was better than resisted sprint training for improving 10-meter sprint time. Both methods lead to similar improvements in 30-meter sprint times. This challenges the results of other articles that found that resisted sprints were better at improving sprint performance than traditional sprint training alone. It’s also interesting to see how similar improvement were found in the longer distance sprint group and not the shorter distance group.

    4. Martinopoulou, K., Argeitaki, P., Paradisis, G., Katsikas, C., & Smirniotou, A. (2011). The effects of resisted training using parachute on sprint performance. Biology of Exercise, 7 (1), 7-24.

    The authors tested resisted sprint and un-resisted sprint methods on sprint athletes. The results of their study showed that sprint velocity was significantly higher in the resisted sprinting group compared to the un-resisted sprinting group during both the acceleration and maximum speed phases of a 50-meter sprint. The un-resisted sprint group showed no improvement during either phase. These findings show that resisted sprinting may improve all phases of sprint performance. The findings also challenge those of Luteberget, Raastad, Seynnes, and Spencer, who found that un-resisted methods were better for acceleration improvements.

    5. Rumpf, M. C., Cronin, J. B., & Schneider, C. (2014). Effect of different training methods on sprint times in recreational and athletic males. Journal of Australian Strength & Conditioning, 22 (4), 62-74.

    Researchers from the Sport Performance Research Institute of New Zealand performed a literature review on sprint training methods in recreational and athletic populations. Their review found that resisted sprinting alone had little effect on sprint performance in college athletes. However, like prior reviews done by Cronin and Hansen, they found that combined training methods (such as resisted sprinting, assisted sprinting, and plyometric training) elicited the greatest improvements in sprint speed in athletes.

    6. West, D. J., Cunningham, D. J., Bracken, R. M., Bevan, H. R., Crewther, B. T., Cook, C. J., & Kilduff, L. P. (2013). Effects of resisted sprint training on acceleration in professional rugby union players. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27 (4), 1014-1019.

    Researchers compared the effects of combined resisted sprinting and un-resisted sprint training against un-resisted sprint training alone on professional rugby players. Like the findings of Rumpf, Cronin, Schneider, and Hansen, they discovered that a training program that combines both resisted sprinting and traditional sprint training leads to significantly better improvements in sprint performance than un-resisted sprinting alone.

    7. Alcaraz, P. E., Elvira, J. L., & Palao, J. M. (2014). Kinematic, strength, and stiffness adaptations after a short-term sled towing training in athletes. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 24 (2), 279-291.

    The authors conducted four weeks of resisted sprint training and un-resisted sprint training on national-level athletes. Their results found that resisted sprinting enhanced sprint performance during the acceleration phase of sprinting. However, the improvements were not significantly different from the un-resisted training group. These findings align with the research from Martinopoulou, Argeitaki, Paradisis, Katsikas, and Smirniotou that stated that resisted sprinting enhances sprint speed during the acceleration phase. It also compares to the research of Luteberget, Raastad, Seynnes, and Spencer, which found that similar improvements were found in both resisted sprint groups and un-resisted sprint groups. This article provides mixed responses on the effectiveness of resisted sprinting for speed improvement.

    Conclusion

            Research on the effects of resisted sprinting on sprint speed is mixed. Some research found that resisted sprinting results in better speed improvements than un-resisted sprinting, while others found the opposite to be true. However, several studies determined that mixing both resisted sprinting and un-resisted sprinting techniques lead to the greatest speed improvements. Based on this information, it seems that coaches and athletes can’t go wrong with implementing a comprehensive approach to sprint training by including all forms of it. Using both primary and secondary sprint training techniques seems to be an effective method for improving sprint speed in athletes.

  • The Foolproof Guide to Getting Your First Pull Up

    Pull ups are awesome. They'll help you reach a ton of fitness and performance goals, whether it's primarily improving strength, losing weight, building muscle, etc. All of the best training programs will have some form of pull up in them.

    However, pull ups are generally very difficult to perform for most people, especially females. That’s why I made this foolproof guide to help you get your first one. How do I know it’s foolproof? I’ve used it with my own clients multiple times. It works.

    There’s a variety of methods that you can employ to build your pull up strength, but none of them will help much if your bodyweight isn’t in check. The easiest way to get better at pull ups is to drop excess body weight. Less weight to pull means easier pull ups.

    Once your weight is good to go you can move on to step 1.

    Step 1: Assisted Pull Ups

    The best method of performing assisted pull ups is with resistance bands. Simply loop a resistance band over a pull up bar, place a knee or foot on the looped band, and use the band to help you perform your reps. Using a band like this will allow you to do multiple full range of motion reps.

    The amount of assistance you need will dictate which band you’ll use. More assistance needed means using a thicker resistance band. The goal here is to gradually decrease the thickness/assistance from the resistance band.

    Be sure to use a full range of motion and don’t bounce excessively at the bottom of the movement.

    Here’s how they look with a thick band:

    Thin band:

    Step 2: Negatives

    Doing negatives, or the lowering portion of the lift, will help you build the eccentric strength necessary to get stronger pull ups.

    Set yourself up so that you can easily start with your chin above the bar. You may need to jump into the top position to start properly. From here, slowly lower yourself down until your arms are straight. Reset yourself and repeat for the desired reps.

    Focus on control with these. Shoot for 2-4 seconds on the way down and don’t swing wildly back and forth.

    Step 3: Partial Pull Ups

    After a few weeks of assisted pull ups and negatives, you should be ready for partial pull ups. Partials are pull ups done with a modified starting position. This modified starting position will make the actual pulling portion easier while still allowing you to do the majority of the full lift.

    Set up a plyo box or bench under your pull up bar. Adjust the height of the box or bench so that when you are standing on top of it and holding on to the bar your elbows are bent about 90 degrees. Depending on your body height, you may need to stack a bumper plate or another sturdy object on top to get the desired position.

    Place your toes off the edge of the box/bench to prevent you from jumping into the pulling portion. Execute a pull up from this position and lower yourself all the way down. Reset and repeat.

    The goal with partials is to gradually decrease where you start. After a few weeks, adjust the height of your starting position so that you’re starting lower (elbow angle greater than 90 degrees). This means you’ll use a smaller box/bench.

    Step 4: Weighted Negatives

    Weighted negatives are the same as the regular negatives mentioned above, except you’ll strap a little extra weight around your waist while doing them. Use a weight belt, weighted vest, or even hold a dumbbell between your feet to add 5-10 pounds to overload the movement and build new strength.

    Sample Program

    Here’s a sample template of how these could be effectively programmed in an 8-week cycle. This is in addition to your other upper body pulling exercises, such as rows and pull downs. Assuming that everything is followed with proper nutrition and recovery in place, this should lead to your first pull up:

    Week 1

    Day 1 – Assisted Pull Up (thick band) – 3 x 8-12

    Day 2 – Negatives – 3 x 8-10

    Week 2

    Day 1 – Assisted Pull Up (thick band) – 4 x 8-12

    Day 2 – Negatives – 4 x 8-10

    Week 3

    Day 1 – Assisted Pull Up (thinner band) – 4 x 5-8

    Day 2 – Negatives – 4 x 10-12

    Week 4

    Day 1 – Assisted Pull Up (thinner band) – 3 x 5-8

    Day 2 – Negatives – 3 x 10-12

    Week 5

    Day 1 – Partial Pull Up (about 90 degrees of elbow flexion) – 4 x 5-8

    Day 2 – Weighted Negative – 4 x 8-10

    Week 6

    Day 1 – Partial Pull Up (90 degrees) – 4 x 5-8

    Day 2 – Weighted Negative – 4 x 8-10

    Week 7

    Day 1 – Partial Pull Up (lower box/bench) – 4 x 5-8

    Day 2 – Weighted Negative (add a little more weight) – 4 x 8-10

    Week 8

    Day 1 – Partial Pull Up (same height as last week) – 3 x 5-8

    Day 2 – Weighted Negative (same weight as last week) – 3 x 8-10

    After week 8, it’s time to chalk those hands up, grip the bar tight, and knock out your first pull up(s)!

    If you’re not able to get one, don’t worry. Simply repeat weeks 4-8 until you do. Start over using the lowest height you can use for the partials.

    What happens when you get your first pull ups and want to do more? We’ll go over that in part 2. Stay tuned!

  • Best Personal Trainer in Cincinnati Award

    I'm happy to announce that Takacs Training Systems was awarded the 2015 Best of Cincinnati Award in the Personal Trainer category by the Cincinnati Award Program! Here is the full release:

    CINCINNATI June 4, 2015 -- Takacs Training Systems has been selected for the 2015 Best of Cincinnati Award in the Personal Trainer category by the Cincinnati Award Program.

    Each year, the Cincinnati Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Cincinnati area a great place to live, work and play.

    Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2015 Cincinnati Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Cincinnati Award Program and data provided by third parties.

    About Cincinnati Award Program

    The Cincinnati Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Cincinnati area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.

    The Cincinnati Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community's contributions to the U.S. economy.

    My goal is to always provide the absolute best training services for all of my clients. I hope to be your go-to source for all of your fitness and sports performance needs. Let's make the next year even better!

  • 3 Acceleration Drills to Get Faster

    Acceleration is the act of rapidly increasing movement velocity. Maximum speed in athletics is important, but the ability to quickly turn on that speed deserves just as much focus. Here are three acceleration drills that will keep you a step ahead of your opponents.

    Read my latest STACK article here. Enjoy and share!

  • 4 Variations to Build Bigger Lats

    Forging wide, thick, and v-shaped lats is a common goal among all types of lifters. A goal that is full of your basic rows, pull ups, pull downs, and pull overs (you’re doing pull overs, right?). While there is nothing wrong with the basics, it can be nice to spice your training up a bit. Here are four back training variations to add zest to your program and pump up your lats.

    1. Straight Arm Dumbbell Pulldown

    The straight arm dumbbell pulldown uses the same motion of a cable straight arm pulldown but done with dumbbells on a bench.

    Lie chest down on an incline bench. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with straight, or slightly bent, elbows. Pull the dumbbells back and line your arms up with your torso. Squeeze your lats hard and pause at the top of the movement. Slowly return the dumbbells to the starting position and repeat.

    It doesn’t take much weight to feel these. I recommend starting relatively light.

    2. Bodyweight Straight Arm Pulldown

    The bodyweight pulldown utilizes the same shoulder extension movement mentioned above. However, this one requires some suspension straps.

    Grab the handles of the straps with slightly bent or straight elbows. Lean back to load your weight onto the straps. Use your lats to pull your body up and bring your arms to your torso’s side. Slowly return to the start. Keep your hips straight and abs tight throughout. Also, be sure not to use momentum to swing yourself up. Slow and controlled movement is the key.

    You can also loop a cable attachment, such as a rope or straight bar, through the straps for a different grip. I prefer this way over the other because the grip feels much better and I feel more tension in my lats throughout the exercise.

    3. Banded Rows

    Want a way to make rows more intense? Wrap a resistance band around your wrists when doing any double arm rowing exercise. Actively press out against the band while rowing to inflict more upper back tension.

    The best bands to use for these are thinner, circular mini bands. Unless you’re using the smaller mini bands designed for hip exercises, you will need to twist the band (in the shape of an 8) then fold it over to make it less wide.

    Here are examples of how to use a band with chest supported dumbbell rows and barbell rows:

    4. Assisted Pull Ups

    Assisted pull ups are usually done with resistance bands for the goal of building unassisted pull up strength. Another way of doing them is by holding on to suspension straps and using your legs as the assistance. While this method could aid in building unassisted pull up strength, I prefer to use these as higher rep hypertrophy work.

    Set up the suspension straps so that when you’re holding on to them with straight arms your lower body is in a full squat position. Perform pull ups using your legs as assistance. Start with the least amount of assistance as possible early in the set and gradually shift to more assistance as fatigue takes over. The focus with these is time under tension with high reps. They may not look very difficult, but doing multiple sets of 15+ reps at the end of a workout will have you thinking otherwise.

    Sample Program

    How would these look as part of a full back training program? Since the focus of this article is adding size with these exercises, here’s what a two days per week program could look like:

    Day 1 Week 1

    A. Pull Ups (weighted or not) - 3 x 6-10

    B. Banded Barbell Row - 3 x 8-12

    C. Bodyweight Straight Arm Pulldown - 3 x 8-12

    D. Resistance Band Pull Aparts - 3 x 15-20

    Day 2 Week 1

    A. Alternating Chest Supported Row - 3 x 6-10

    B. Straight Arm Dumbbell Pulldown - 3 x 8-12

    C. Assisted Pull Ups - 3 x 15

    Day 1 Week 2

    A. Pull Ups (weighted or not) - 4 x 6-10

    B. Banded Barbell Row - 4 x 8-12

    C. Bodyweight Straight Arm Pulldown - 3 x 8-12

    D. Resistance Band Pull Aparts - 3 x 15-20

    Day 2 Week 2

    A. Alternating Chest Supported Row - 4 x 6-10

    B. Straight Arm Dumbbell Pulldown - 4 x 8-12

    C. Assisted Pull Ups - 3 x 15

    Day 1 Week 3

    A. Pull Ups (weighted or not) - 5 x 6-10

    B. Banded Barbell Row - 4 x 8-12

    C. Bodyweight Straight Arm Pulldown - 3 x 8-12

    D. Resistance Band Pull Aparts - 3 x 15-20

    Day 2 Week 3

    A. Alternating Chest Supported Row - 5 x 6-10

    B. Straight Arm Dumbbell Pulldown - 4 x 8-12

    C. Assisted Pull Ups - 3 x 15

    Add these to your program and let me know how they go. If you have any questions or comments about these exercises feel free to contact me!

  • The Best Conditioning Tools for Fat Loss

    There are a lot of conditioning tools available to help you lose fat and improve aerobic/anaerobic endurance. Unfortunately, most are overpriced and unnecessary. You don’t need tons of fancy equipment for an effective conditioning workout. Here are my three favorite pieces of conditioning equipment, in order from least expensive to most.

    1. Your Body – Free!

    Seems obvious, but it’s true. Your body allows you to do a plethora of exercises and combinations. You can set up a bodyweight circuit anywhere you go with no cost. Your body also allows you to sprint, which is my favorite conditioning and fat loss exercise. Want to get ripped and be more athletic? Run sprints.

    Your body is the cheapest and most versatile tool you can use. Start using it today!

    2. Jump Rope – $10 - $20

    Jumping rope is an excellent choice for conditioning, fat loss, and for improving athleticism. A good jump rope can be bought for $10-$20, so it’s also an economical option. There are many types to choose from, so you might have to try a few to see what feels best. I prefer ropes with weighted handles because the spinning motion feels smoother and faster.

    You can implement the jump rope in an interval fashion (such as 30 seconds on, 30 off), do as many jumps as you can in a given time frame, or program a certain amount of jumps. Change it up and have fun with it.

    3. Weight Sled - $150+

    Weight sleds will be the most expensive option here, but they're still way cheaper than those $1,000 treadmills with attached TVs that populate every commercial gym.

    Sleds take sprints to another level by adding weight to the movement. There's a variety of other exercises you can do with them, from heavy pushes and drags to rows. The price will depend on where you buy it from as the bigger name companies will cost a bit more. The Rogue sled pictured above is affordable at $265. No matter what you pay for it, it'll still cost less than nearly every piece of traditional cardio equipment.

    Have any questions on the equipment listed above? Feel free to contact me.

  • Exercise Spotlight: Batwing Rows

    Want an exercise that:

    Improves shoulder health and upper body posture?

    Adds muscle to your back?

    Shares the name of Batman's aircraft?

    Then add batwing rows to your program!

    Batwing rows are also known as chest supported rows. To perform them, set up an adjustable bench at an incline. Lie chest down on the bench with a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the dumbbells up to your torso. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

    They can also be done in alternating fashion by pulling both up, then keeping one up as the other goes down and back up. Here's a video:

    Batwing rows are great for strengthening the mid and upper back muscles, which can improve poor posture (rounded upper back and internally rotated shoulders). Improved posture means improved shoulder stability and improved shoulder health. Also, when programmed with adequate volume, batwing rows are an awesome exercise for adding high-performance muscle to your back.

    Everyone, from athletes to those just wanting to look good without their shirt on, can benefit from adding batwing rows into their program. Start with 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.

    Have a question about this exercise or any other? Contact me!

  • The 10 Best Exercises for Improving Speed

    My latest article for STACK.com is now up: The 10 Best Speed Exercises for Athletes

    Improving speed should be a goal for every athlete. No matter what sport you play, being faster than your opponent can be the difference between winning and losing a championship. With that in mind, I've assembled a list of the 10 best speed exercises that will leave your rivals in the dust.

    Follow the link to read the full article. Enjoy and share!