Favourite Podcast Episodes of 2016

  Podcasts continue to be one of the best ways to consume knowledge from the great minds in the world of strength and conditioning, self-improvment, and anything really. A decade ago, you would have travelled all over the world for the opportunity to hear from the best in the business and to soak up their wisdom, now you get to stream great ideas right into your ears wherever you are, for free. The only problem now is keeping up with all the excellent content that is being put out there, as the number of good podcasts proliferate. There is a podcast for everyone.. They say that you can tell a lot about a person from their podcast feed (has anyone said that yet?), and you can see mine above. 2016 was a great year for them and here are some of my  favourite episodes. Putting the list together proved tricky enough, and was subject to me actually remembering the episodes that I have listened to (which might explain the slight bias towards episodes from the latter part of the year). There are certainly great podcasts that I don’t get around to listening to, time being finite and all that. However, in no particular order, the below episodes have all been impactful on my thinking, and I highly recommend them.   Health, Movement & Self-Improvement 1)  The Joe Rogan Experience #752 Mark Sisson I say it’s in no particular order, yet this was probably my top episode of 2016, with Joe Rogan himself saying that it was one of the most informative and interesting podcasts he has ever done (which is a pretty sound endorsement...

Is a warm-up ‘just a warm-up’ ? A quick guide to team warm-ups for sports performance

Traditionally, team warm-ups for training or competition have been a means to an end, a jog and a stretch. However, great coaches now value this 20 to 30 minute block as an opportunity to enhance movement competency and reinforce excellence, as well as the necessary neuromuscular preparation for the proceeding activities. In Athletic Development, Vern Gambetta emphasises the point that the warm-up sets the tempo for the session: It is an integral, not separate part of the workout. As a strength and conditioning coach, there is nothing you will do more than conduct warm-ups, and these should all be taken as coaching moments to be taken advantage of. As an athlete, every warm-up should be a self-assessment; how do your joints and muscles feel during different movements at varying intensities? Kelvin Giles notes that the relatively short period of 20 minutes can see over 200 ‘movements’ taking place, developing the fundamental movements by connecting from fingernail to toenail. So, over time you can progress the challenge by increasing the complexity of the movement puzzles laid out for the athletes to mechanically solve. A bodyweight squat can turn into a squat with a trunk rotation; then a combination of a prisoner squat to a duck walk, or a drop squat to drop lunge. The possibilities are endless, and the more you hear your athletes tell you that the warm-up is weird, the better. Crawling, rotating, hinging, hoping, pushing, lunging, squatting, and mixing them all together. It also makes things fun and interesting. When you introduce a movement sequence that is new to the athlete, you will witness an immediate surge...

In-Season Need-to-Do’s

In-season programming is a juggling act of so many different physical components, that I sometimes get dizzy just thinking about where to fit them all into the training week. There’s more and more information out there about what you should be doing with your athletes, but if you try to pack it all into your physical development plan, you’ll create a fine mess which will be reflected in your athlete’s performances. Vern Gambetta talks about the three types of training To Do’s:  Want To Do, Nice To Do, and Need To Do. If you commit to at the very least getting the Need-to-do’s in every week then no matter what else happens you know you’re covering the essentials. It’s too easy to get side-tracked by the fancy minutia at the expense of your bread and butter. Your Need-to-do’s should reflect your training philosophy; as we know, if something is worth doing it is worth doing consistently, not in drips and drabs. The Pareto Principle seems to be applied to every life-situation and it’s granny these days but I’m sure it is relevant here too:  20% of your efforts and resources account for 80% of your results. Apply this principle to your strength and conditioning program to figure out what you Need-to-do’s are.   Strength training Despite everything we know about the benefits of strength training for sports, I still find myself having to convince some athlete’s to commit to getting stronger. The purpose of strength training for football is not to build muscle, that is merely a potential side effect. Building strength will develop your tissue’s load bearing capacity,...

Managing the Never-Ending Sporting Season

As we move into another winter winter, we reach the period of the year for many GAA players where one season blends into the next. Whether your club is lucky enough to have navigated its way through the County championship into the Provincial and All-Ireland series, or you are a student playing for your school or college, you probably haven’t been afforded much of a break this year. Des Ryan, Head of Athletic Development at the Arsenal Academy, speaking at Setanta College’s ‘Developing and Maximizing Youth Potential’ Conference in Thurles, warned that the physical demands on young GAA players are not sustainable. He wasn’t joking. I was speaking recently to one of this year’s Limerick minor hurlers who said he could do with a break. He wasn’t joking either. Let’s take a quick look at his year so far: He started training with Limerick in January, playing through to the All-Ireland quarter final in July. Somewhere in-between he managed to win a County u21 title in April. When the minor’s season ended, he joined up with the county U21 team who went on to win the All-Ireland final in September. He played with his club in the county minor championship as far as the final in October. The club senior championship started in April and culminated in final success in October, which sent them into the Provincial championship; they won that in November. Of course, back to school in September and straight into the Harty Cup, they topped the group this week and go into the quarter final in January. A brand new year. The club’s senior team continue to...

Physical development of the young athlete: Doing it right Part 3

The first part of this series looked at the importance of providing the young developing body with lots of varied physical inputs, the pitfalls of sedentary living and early sports specialization. The second installment looked at gym training and how moving away from the conventional approach might serve us better in the long run. This third and final part will discuss nutrition; how our physical capacities are inextricably linked with what we eat. We understand that a good diet can reduce the likelihood of developing degenerative cardio-vascular diseases, but do we realize the effect our diets have on our movement? Less Grains, Please. The food we eat affects our organs, and our organs affect our movement. Paul Chek describes this connection in detail in this article: “Most people have little or no understanding of their organs in general, and because of their ignorance of what is inside them, they make diet and lifestyle choices that create stress on their organs and glands that disrupt almost every aspect of their body and mind” The practice of segmentalizing the body into separate pieces may be useful in terms of putting labels on body parts and teaching anatomy, but it has mostly served to diminish our appreciation for the oneness of the human body. Organs talk to and control muscles. Thus, Chek believes that you would be wise to look inward when dealing with chronic problems, describing how he has rehabilitated athletes with chronic muscloskeletal pain that could not be resolved until function was restored to the related glans and organs. The mechanism for this is explained as such: If an organ overheats...

Physical development of the young athlete: Doing it right Part 2

I have been taking a thoughtful look back at my athletic journey, from the day I first lifted a hurling stick as a youngster to the injury mire of recent years. Not-traumatic injuries don’t occur for no reason, so somewhere along the way my physical development was clearly hampered by some inefficient inputs to the system. Tracking back over the years to see what I could have done differently may selfishly help guide me going forward, but might also save others from making similarly perilous decisions themselves. The previous post focused on the need to supplement your sport with lots of fun and varied movement, and the injury-laden consequences of combining a sedentary lifestyle with participation in high-intensity sports.  As you become older and take your sport more seriously, naturally the more committed you are to improving, training harder and for longer. Paradoxically, in my case, that probably expedited my dates with the surgeon as I built strength on top of dysfunction. This brings me to those years between 17 and 23 where I trained the hardest and ploughed on through pain signals that were trying to tell me something, until I finally surpassed the body’s breaking point. If I could turn back the clock, here are some things I would do differently.   Body before Barbell I began to get stuck into weights when I went to College, and was lucky enough to have excellent guidance in the UL Arena. My goal was to improve my hurling by getting strong, and get rid of the crippling low chronic low back pain that had been a constant for years....