Quality Strength and Conditioning versus CrossFit

Quality Strength and Conditioning versus CrossFit

Quality strength and conditioning versus CrossFit

Patrick Casey is a freshman athlete of mine.  His mother hired me during 8th grade to work with him in hopes of preparing him for his upcoming hockey season in the 9th grade.  I’ve had a lot of success with various athletes throughout my years as a coach, and it always has derived from an individual assessment.  From there, the program I write is based on the information gathered in the assessment.  I’ve seen successful assessments take 10 minutes and some take a few sessions to conduct.  In Patrick’s case, I took a few sessions to “figure” him out.

Patrick has a rectus diastasis.  In other words, the tissue that all his core muscles essentially connect to was torn. Believe it or not this is more common than people realize.  I’ve seen it in baseball players, tennis players, golfers and even fitness athletes.  Contrary to popular belief, this has more than just a “rehab” implication to training, but it’s a huge performance limiter.  After all, if you can’t drive power through the midline, how do you expect to hit the slap shot, throw a baseball at 98 mph, snatch 120kg, or drive 340 yards?  Maybe you actually can do these things, but how long will it last until something acts up?  So the first step for Patrick was to teach him how to properly control his core.  A good principle to remember is go from proximal to distal.  In other words, go from the “inner units” to the “outer units” when helping develop athleticism in any athlete, regardless of age or sport.

Patrick’s assessment went pretty smoothly as far as assessing 14 year olds can go. He presented with winged scapulae, anterior tilt to his scapulae, and a rectus diastasis.  He was very flexible, to the point he couldn’t actually squat because he had no concept of how to control his mobility.  Interestingly though all of these things had a core dysfunction in common.  So back to thinking about proximal stability into distal stability, we focused the first few weeks on closed kinetic chain exercises such as bird dogs, side plank clamshells and bear crawls.  Then after we knocked those out of the park we would hammer out goblet squats, split squats, and various hip hinging exercises.  For many of my athletes I give core training in the beginning of their training not the end, after all, we want their core strong and ready to rock just like we want glutes strong and ready to rock.  A general skeleton I use is as follows:

Foam rolling; 3-5 minutes

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Core activation

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Locomotion work – ladder drills, skipping, etc.

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Plyometrics

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Strength Training

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Conditioning

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Recovery

This basically is a skeleton I use with almost every athlete I work with.  Some areas of the skeleton I emphasize more in certain athletes than others, but for the most part it can work with just about anyone.  Core activation to me also means glute activation, because in my eyes the glutes are a part of the core.  Remember, the core is a cylinder; there is a top, a bottom, and 4 “sides” to it.  The bottom part of the core is where the glutes are.  So depending on the athlete I might work more on glute activation than anterior core activation.  I don’t work a whole lot on posterior core (lats, paraspinals, etc.) work in the warm up, as they tend to get a ton of it in strength training.  Though I have been known to use some lat activation for certain athletes.  From there, instead of giving someone a 5 minute row for their warm up I would rather work on some level of athletic development and turn it into a warm up.  This might look like various ladder drills, or skipping drills.  For my athletes that sprint a lot, we’ll focus more on this because mechanics in running are hugely important.  This might mean giving someone some skipping drills while holding a light ball over their head so they don’t tip forward and they create and keep great angles conducive to explosive starts off the blocks or sprinting down the field after a ball.  Plyometrics come next, and sometimes that might take the form of Olympic style weightlifting or more bodyweight oriented plyometrics.  Again, always just depends on the athlete.  Next is probably the most obvious part of it all.  The strength training aspect is obvious but what goes into strength training isn’t always obvious.  For Patrick, he plays hockey and tennis.  This makes him unique as he is sort of an overhead athlete but also has a propensity towards adductor issues.  So developing Patrick means making him optimally strong for his sports, but also carefully selecting exercises for him that help create resiliency simultaneously.  As Dr. Evan Osar says, “Corrective exercise should enhance and not deter from developing greater strength, mobility, endurance, or other objective outcome.”

As far as Patrick’s daily program might look like, a snapshot of his day is as follows:

Foam Rolling – no more than 5 minutes

    • Inside, front, outside thigh
    • Calves
  • Lats

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Core strength – 3 sets not for time

  1. Wall Deadbugs x10 – alternate legs per rep
  2. RKC Hard Plank x10 deep breaths – in through nose, out through mouth, push floor away from sternum
  3. Side Plank x10 deep breaths – curl toes in towards shins, reach hand towards ceiling, push floor away from ribs
  4. Glute Bridge with band around knees x10 deep breaths
  5. Floor side with exhale as you reach x10 reps

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Ladder Drills – 2 sets not for time

    1. 1-2 stick x3 frontwards and x3 backwards
  1. Cross overs x3 frontwards and x3 backwards

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Skips – 2 sets not for time

    1. Front skip with 10# medicine ball overhead 2×10 meters
  1. Backwards skips with 10# medicine ball overhead 2×10 meters

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Plyometrics – 3 sets not for time

    1. Box jump x5 @ 20-24”
  1. Lateral hop with band around knee x5 per direction

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Strength Training

    1. Front Squat @30×1; 4-6×3; Rest 2 minutes
    1. Half Kneeling landmine press; 4-6/side x3; Rest 60 seconds between sides
    1. Half Kneeling Cable 1-arm lat pull down @30×1; 4-6×3; Rest 60 seconds between sides
  1. Side Plank clamshell with rotation; 3×5/side; Rest 60 seconds between sides – focus on driving elbow and knee into ground to lift body, reach under body and stay active in the shoulder

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12 minutes @ very tough but sustainable effort

5 sandbag power cleans

10 alternating sandbag anti-rotation reverse lunges

150-foot versaclimber

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Recovery

5 minute easy assault bike @ 35-40 rpm pace

5-10 minute crocodile breathing

As you can see a lot can go into designing a program for a team based athlete but it’s actually not all that different than a fitness athlete.  Most fitness athletes will do some foam rolling before they train, then they’ll generally do some form of activation, maybe glute bridges, or they put a band around their knees and squat a bit.  Then generally in an off season based program they work on Olympic lifting type exercises or developing power, and then they get their big lifts out of the way for the day such as deadlifts, squats, bench pressing, or positional work if that’s their focus.  Then comes skill work and/or conditioning.  For someone who can’t do muscle ups when fresh, then perhaps giving them 21-15-9 of muscle ups and deadlifts isn’t wise.  For a high-level fitness athlete though 21-15-9 might be an easy aerobic piece.  As always, it “depends” on the athlete.  What is a major difference for sport performance training versus fitness training is the exercise selection and assessment protocol.  Different athletes have various adaptations to their sports that are required in order for them to be successful at their sport.  Olympic style weightlifting is probably not the best option for baseball players, except maybe a first baseman who doesn’t throw as much, but even then, they have adaptations that warrant a different type of strength speed exercise selection.  As the creator of “Training Equals Rehab and Rehab Equals Training” Charlie Weingroff said the other day, “ACL rehab and prevention are just smart training”.  Your program should fix issues in your athletes, regardless of sport, and simultaneously allow them to improve performance in the gym and on the field.

If you’re interested in working with Coach Michael Bann, please contact him at michaelbann@opexfit.com!

Coach Michael Bann

CrossFit® is a registered trademark of CrossFit, Inc. OPEX Fitness’s uses of the CrossFit® mark are not endorsed by nor approved by CrossFit, Inc., and OPEX Fitness is in no way affiliated with nor endorsed by CrossFit, Inc.

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