What A Training Session Is Like

What To Expect In A Training Session

This is a standard training session, in this particular day with our soccer girls.

These girls have worked hard to demonstrate that they can hip hinge properly and perform neutral spine, and therefore have continued to advance to more resistance based exercises. In this case they were using a single kettlebell. They spent a lot of time with basic plank movements and nuetral spine patterns to get where they are now, and this was their first day performing the kettlebell movements.

When dealing with our strength work, I generally look to incorporate full body power movements. I want athletes to develop a tight, rigid body that has tension throughout. I also like to include exercises that involve pushing through the ground and that use explosive hip power.

The following is a list, and description, of each exercise performed in this training session.

Warm Up

The warm up usually lasts around 15-20 minutes and acts as a warming up of the entire body, mobility work, and activation or strengthening (stability work) of specific muscle groups We will generally target our hips & glutes, ankles & knees, thoracic spine area, shoulders, & core stabilizers.

Foam Rolling – Most all our training sessions begin with foam rolling. Basically foam rolling is a deep tissue massage. It smooths and lengthens the muscles, and breaks up adhesions and scar tissue. With the high level of activity combined with sitting in a classroom, all young athletes need to roll.

Dynamic Swings – Trying to move only through the hip, the leg swings are a good warm up tool and strengthener of the hip flexors and hamstrings.

Single Leg Hops – Balance & coordination are often a result of strength. We do a lot of single leg work to strengthen the overall foot,  ankle & knee, as well as the glute and hip flexor. We want to train the foot to be rigid when it strikes the ground, where no energy dissipates. That’s why I often say punch the ground when performing these drills.

Stability – Squatting on the Bosu ball is a great way to get the entire foot to work hard to stabilize the body. The unstable surface forces the feet, ankles, & knees to stabilize and balance. It is also an action where we want to drive the feet through the ground in order to better stabilize. The slosh pipes are pipes half way filled with water. One of the pipes is not very big and not very heavy. We use that to squat down on one foot, pick the pipe up and overhead while maintaining on the one foot. The shifting of the water weight forces not only the entire foot to work hard and balance, but the entire mid section and shoulder area has to balance and stabilize. The heavier pipe is much thicker. We want to squat down on one foot maintaining a proper hip hinge, and pick the pipe up to our waist. Again, the foot has to work extremely hard working the entire floor, as well as the knee, hip, and midsection. The slosh pipes are a great way to identify muscle imbalances, as well as fix any imbalances.

Thoracic Mobility / Activation – Like I mentioned earlier; with the often overwhelming schedules full of activities combined with 6 hours of sitting in a classroom, thoracic mobility may be one of the most important things we do. Not attending to thoracic mobility may result in both poor static and dynamic posture. Our purpose is basically to activate the stabilizer muscles deep within the thoracic spine and shoulder glenohumeral joint.

Strength & Power Circuit

This circuit consisted of 3 exercises back to back, with minimal rest in between. They would rest 2 minutes in between sets.

Dead lifts – are one of the best exercises for increasing speed. Speed is force production into the ground. When we dead lift, we focus on pushing our feet through the floor, which also mimicks that force production from running. Done correctly dead lifts are an entire body exercise. The entire body should remain tight and the movement should come through the hips.

KB Swings – although the swing does create tension through the entire body, this exercise is about the hips and the hamstrings. We want to drive the swing with an explosive hip thrust. As athletes progress and eventually get into Olympic lifts, most everything they do will involve an explosive movement through the hips. It also takes a lot of strength and tension to stop the kettlebell as it passes through the legs and is fantastic for developing hamstring strength. I would like to get the girls to perform these with more hip thrust.

Box Jump – After 10-12 dead lifts, followed by 10-12 swings, performing an explosive box jump is not easy. The box jump is a fantastic bodyweight explosive exercise that again utilizes the entire body. We want them to use powerful arms and to explode through the hips, again actively focusing on pushing through the ground.

Speed & Agility

You cannot cover everything in a single training session. In my opinion, you cannot significantly improve your speed and agility without improving your strength and power. But we still definitely work on it. I like to incorporate reaction and response training into the drills when I can. Both are skills that need to be, and can be developed. Reaction time is simply how fast your brain can process the information it is given, and response time is how fast your body then reacts to that. For example: reaction time is the time it takes a soccer player to process that she needs to accelerate forward to the ball, and response time is how quickly she actually accelerates to the ball. Both go hand and hand, and are a huge part of being a good player or athlete.

Reaction + Acceleration – First off, the girls did struggle with this first drill.  The girls were directed to jump to the left or right, and then eventually to accelerate out. Like I mentioned earlier, it is difficult to process the direction you need to go, particularly when I am purposely commanding fast. The acceleration phase is simply about re-positioning the feet, or finding the proper angle to put your body in the position to accelerate in the direction you want to go. I like to utilize the agility ladder in this case for several reasons: foot eye coordination, quick feet, and the short quick steps act as gather steps (or shuffle stop steps) and train the feet to gather themselves in deceleration.

Side to Side Jumps + Acceleration – When the athletes are commanded to accelerate to the left or the right (or fwd or backward) while their feet are in a narrow position; they want to re-position the drive foot finding the proper angle to push off and into the new direction.

Lateral Movement w/ Forward Acceleration – we train the foot eye coordination, as well as quick feet by moving laterally through the ladder. The girls then react to a whistle and accelerate forward. Again, the forward acceleration is all about footwork & angles – repositioning the feet to accelerate out as fast as possible, with a forward lean.

Forward Movement + L/R Directional Acceleration –  moving forward with quick feet, the girls react to a whistle, re-position the drive foot or find an angle, and push the body into the new direction.

1st Step Explosiveness / Acceleration  – We finish off the session with a few explosive 1st step accelerations with the resistance bands. I like the resistance bands because they force the body to get into a strong forward lean and they have to drive through the ground in order to accelerate. If they don’t, then they won’t be able to accelerate over the hurdles as the bands would just prevent them. We used two different bands. One is thicker and stronger. We want the girls to get on the thick band first and really feel how they have to drive out. We want that first step to be explosive, driving their hips forward past the first hurdle and then to be able to strike the ground below and slightly behind their hips, thus accelerating them forward. This drill focused on just the 1st and 2nd step. After the heavy band, they went through the lighter band where we focused on the exact same principles. The first few accelerations the girls were a little passive. Then they realized they really had to drive and use all their power.

Conclusion

The girls have worked real hard, primarily focusing on developing a stronger core and just their overall strength in general. The difference in power from just a month ago is obvious. They have cleaned up any faulty hip hinge patterns, or any collapse in their abdominal and lower back area that they may have had at the beginning. I am proud of their efforts and their patience in starting out with some basic movement patterns and developing themselves into the position where they can perform dead lifts and box jumps safely. There is still a lot of work to be done, particularly with striking the ground instead of tapping it and finding angles and such. But, there will always be more work to be done.

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