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Ask Martin Vol. 24: More on Strengths and Weaknesses

Question: Is it better to train the implements that the athlete throws best or to train the implements that the athlete struggles with? Try to improve where the athlete already throws well and improve that or attack the weak points (or balls that the athlete does not perform best with)? -Frederick Hannie

I began responding to this question last week by discussing the specific question of whether a throw should focus on throwing implements they are good at, or ones they are bad at. The short answer is that rather than making the decisions based on what hammers they are good at, they should instead focus on what hammers will help them throw further.

But after I finished the question I left open the bigger question: should training focus on strengths or weaknesses. It would be nice to focus on eliminating weaknesses and focusing on strengths, but athletes have limited time and energy and coaches must often make a tough decision between the two. In addition, strengths and weaknesses come into play not just in the training plan, but also in technique where there also might not be the choice of pursuing both paths simultaneously. My approach is to look at the problems in steps by focusing on eliminating liabilities, focusing on the transfer, and then creating your own individual mold that capitalizes on your strengths and uses creative thinking.
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Developing Athletes

athletic_developmentI have signed a contract with Human Kinetics to write a new book tentatively titled “Developing Athletes.” In many ways it is a follow-up and update on Athletic Development – The Art & Science of Functional Sports Conditioning. The goal is to take a long hard hard look at the theory and practice of long term athlete development. I intend to seperate fact from fiction and look closely at model programs that have successfully developed athletes with an emphasis on why. It is going to be a big job; I plan on starting writing in earnest as soon as I return from GAIN. It should be published in late 2014. Any ideas or input you might have would be appreciated. The following is the introduction book that I wrote in my book proposal. Read more

Functional Training – Method or Madness? Part Three

All movement is functional; it is just to what degree is it functional. Function is integrated multi-directional movement. Functional movement is meaningful movement that is part of a chain reaction, not an isolated event. Movement occurs on a continuum of function. Some movements are more functional than other based on the end object of the training. Read more

Functional Training – Method or Madness? Part Two

I have never been reluctant to challenge conventional wisdom and it was conventional wisdom that was causing us to stagnate in training. It just was not getting the job done. I felt there had to more than max V02 and other artificial measurements of performance, more than just mindlessly running straight ahead, more than excessive emphasis on heavy lifting, more than fancy machines that isolated body parts and more than static stretching. I leaned heavily on the work of Logan & McKinney and their classic text Kinesiology, Knott & Voss and their work on Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation and John Jesse and his approach to performance training and injury prevention. It was a move away from a linear reductionist and segmented view of the body to a holistic, synergistic quantum approach. In so many ways what evolved as functional training taps into old tried and true concepts and methods that were once the norm and then fell out of favor for various reasons. The saying that everything old is new again could not be truer. Read more

Functional Training – Method or Madness? Part One

As someone who is considered the father of functional sports training I think it is time to revisit the concept in order to better understand it – Where did it come from, how it evolved, where it is today and where it is going. Functional training is a label for a concept. As with any label it is subject to various interpretations. I originally conceived it as multi lateral training integrating various training modalities (medicine ball, stretch cord, weight training, dumbbells, body weight etc.) to produce significant adaptation in specific performance parameters. It trains all systems of the body while recognizing and respecting the wisdom of the body. The end result is a highly adaptable athlete who is able to perform without limitations in the competitive environment. Contrast this to biased one- sided training that results in adapted athletes who are inconsistent in performance and prone to injury. Read more

Elton John and Throwing

Last Tuesday, I worked together with Terry McHugh and the United School of Sports to bring Harry Marra to Zurich for a coaching workshop. Marra is one of the world’s best multi-event coaches and currently guides decathlon word record holder and Olympic gold medalist Ashton Eaton. But rather than focusing on the training methods he uses for his athletes, Marra presented on the art of coaching to a diverse crowd filled with coaches from more than a dozen sports including figure skating, BMX, and even fistball.

While Marra talked about several facets of being a good coach, nearly every point came down to communication. And this applies to all sports. Coaches are essentially teachers; they have to understand their topic and then convey it to athletes  The latter part is the hardest and that is where proper communication fits in.
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Vern Gambetta

WOD – Fundamentally Flawed

WOD is an acronym for workout of the day. Is a cornerstone of a popular fitness craze that needs to be totally re-examined in light of the injuries caused by it and the number of people put in the hospital with Rhabdomyolysis (That is for another blog at another time) Let’s look at WOD in the light of what training should be. The workout, the individual training session is the building block of a comprehensive training program. No one workout is an end unto itself; each workout is a means to an end. Yesterday’s workout should seamlessly flow into today’s works and today’s workout should set up and connect with tomorrow’s workout. That is sound training – simple and effective. In addition each workout is not designed to be as hard it can be. There is a rhythm, a flow of alternating hard and easy workouts all designed to achieve adaptation to the desired training stimulus. Read more

Vern Gambetta

The S&C Wasteland

Now is the time to take a step back and look at the approach to Strength & Conditioning as it has evolved. Basically what we see happening is that we have the means to an end (Strength Training) become an end unto itself. Instead of having sport demands and qualities of the individual athlete drive the training the emphasis is on chasing numbers in the weight room. Read more

Vern Gambetta

The Basics – Mastery Nothing Less!

If you don’t get the basics right then everything that follows will be compromised. In my experience the difference between good and great is that that the great ones always pay attention to the basics and have flawless mastery of the basics. They never stray far from the fundamentals; in fact no matter where they are in their career they touch the basics everyday. Sure it is mundane, some have called it boring, but to be the best requires mastery of the basics. Advanced skill and technique is built upon sound fundamentals. Read more

Ask Martin Vol. 22: Travel Tips

Question: Do you have any suggestions for getting rid of jet lag? -Greg

Suitcase-with-travel-stic-002

It’s the traveling time of the year again. Collegiate athletes in America are starting to make trips across the country for the various rounds of the NCAA Championships. The best throwers will then start their international season, demanding trips to Europe. While travel is fun, it can only hurt your performances. In the best case scenario, the travel takes nothing out of you. In the worst case, it can ruin a competition. And jet lag is just one of the things that can affect you. After more than a decade of international competitions I have a few tips that I can share that should reduce its impact.
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