Want to know a funny secret?
Not one athlete has come to me saying, “hey Erica, I want to train with you so I can prevent injury.”
Instead, I get things like this:
– “Erica, I want to train to become faster.”
– “Erica, I want to train be more explosive.”
– “Erica, I want to train improve my agility.”
– “Erica, I want to train to be able to outrun a grizzly bear.”
Put simply, athletes who come to me have one thing in common: they want to become beasts.
They want to be able to blow by defenders. They want to be able to rocket shots from 50-yards out. They want to brake ankles with their sharps cuts. They want to speed down the flank faster than lightning. They want to score diving headers.
This is what performance training is all about, folks: the magical moments that make the crowd “oooh” and “ahh,” the enthralling moments that make athletes unstoppable forces to be reckoned with.
And while I’ll be the first to say, yes, injury reduction is important, performance training is the most important.
Because you know what?
Good, periodized performance training already has the injury reduction stuff embedded in it.
I repeat: good, periodized performance training already has the injury reduction stuff embedded in it.
How to decelerate. How to sprint with a clean gait pattern. How to change direction. How to hold off defenders. How to run at maximum speed in the 80th minute without being gassed. How to eccentrically load the muscles with control and without blowing a knee.
Performance training = injury prevention training.
I know it may sound like a mind f*ck, but it’s true. And what’s funny is, a lot of parents and team coaches ask me ALL THE TIME what I do for injury prevention.
My response: “I walk into work every day and periodize the crap out of my athletes’ programs.”
It’s worth mentioning that all of the strength exercises in their programs attack all muscle groups in the body, and more often than not, tie the muscle groups together so they can move in a healthy and efficient manner on the pitch.
Adding on, the power and speed exercises are in there to further complement the strength component, so players are optimizing their speed, change of direction, and power potential.
I’d even go as far as to say the speed and agility days are the most important days for honing “injury prevention.” They’re learning how to sprint on the balls of their feet. They’re learning to decelerate in an athletic stance position and to recruit the posterior chain. They’re learning to accelerate and load the inside leg when changing direction rapidly.
If this isn’t performance coupled with injury prevention, I don’t know what is.
Make performance training a priority. We don’t need to baby our athletes with just ladder drills. We need to teach them how to perform, sprint fast, and build strength so they have an edge over their opponent. And as a nice byproduct, they will also be resilient from injury.
On a side note: if you think doing resistance band training only will work, it won’t.
Or taking your kid to Planet Fitness to do a few free weight exercises, it won’t.
Or doing a Tone It Up Program at home, it won’t.
Or winging a workout program without proper periodization and supervision, it won’t.
Making sound performance training a priority kills every freaking bird with one stone. The speed development bird. The strength development bird. The resilience development bird (injury reduction).
A true, high performance plan is meticulously thought through by a qualified strength coach to build the total athlete, who explodes, sprints, defends, jumps, and cuts, all while staying healthy.
Oh, and this all needs to be done more than once a week. Do you think your child would get better at math if he did homework just once a week for one month?
Get. Outta. Here.
We’re not just doing glute activation movements, while picking dandelions here.
Rather, we’re getting the hell after it. And my athletes will be the first to say after one cycle with me, “wow. That was hard as hell.”
Again, this ain’t a babysitting service. This is a beast-making service.
We’re crawling with load to hone total body strength and build the “canister” to withstand external load:
We’re max pull-up holding to build better posture and ability to defend with force:
We’re doing resisted sled sprints to produce acceleration and load the gait cycle:
We’re doing single leg jumps to increase acceleration and be better able to absorb force:
We’re conditioning at a higher intensity than the game so we outrun our opponent in the 85th minute. Oh, and not twist a knee because we’re too fatigued :
We’re warming up with explosive footwork to elicit a rapid neuromuscular response:
We’re strengthening our hips with external load so we can produce more power and be better able to stabilize our knees:
We’re performing challenging core progressions that push the envelope when it comes to withstanding force and maintaining balance:
We’re doing Zercher Lunges because, well, we’re f*cking crazy:
After reading through all of the above exercises, I’m sure you noticed I listed a performance benefit, then an injury reduction benefit.
It’s. All. The. Same. Stuff.
Other random stuff you need to know:
Conditioning players at a higher intensity than the game is sometimes the best injury preventative work out there.
Running maximal sprints a few times a week is the best hamstring strain reduction solution out there.
Deadlifting more than 1.5x bodyweight is the best ACL resilience exercise out there.
And I get by this point, you’re probably wanting to say, “show me the research, Erica!”
Although, if you’re anything like me, I doubt you’ll read those studies word-for-word. But there’s your research, you know, just to make you feel better and to prove I’m not a charlatan. ;-O
So to conclude, here’s what you need to know: performance training is injury prevention training.
When will you make it a priority?
Deeply, deeply ask yourself that question.
The college game ain’t getting any easier or any less physical, folks. And as a recruiter, girls are getting faster, stronger and more powerful, and your kid has likely gotten away with just her skills up to this point. What will she do to stand out like a beast?
Make. Performance. A. Priority.
Moreover, what will she do to be able to handle her first college pre-season with two-a-day practices? Secret: most injuries occur during the college pre-season because players cannot handle the load.
So challenge your players. Prepare them. Build them. Put them in environments that take them over the edge so they’re better able to withstand the game. Introduce them to a hardcore strength coach who cares about getting them results. Put them in a high performance gym setting to go against other athletes who want to be better.
After all, humans need challenge to progress and build resiliency.
And as sport scientist Tim Gabbett says, “athletes must load in order to handle load.”