Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Thinking LTAD

With this new role now in full swing at Eastbourne College, I've been thinking a lot into how to best develop the kids to help them grow as athletes.

I'm hoping that this role will continue to grow, and that in time it will become full-time and I will have the opportunity to put a Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) plan into place to progress students through from Year 9 through to Year 13.

Now this is nothing new, and what I'm going to speak about with my plan will also be nothing out of the ordinary, but I wanted to put pen to paper (well ... fingers to keyboard) to detail what's going through my head.

Currently I get 1 hour a week with the individual sports scholars, and I also have my own S&C section of Games sessions, where I am currently working largely with Rugby but this will change after Christmas.

I am planning to stick to what a lot of people use for LTAD:
Age 6 to 10 - FUNdamentals
Age 10 to 15 - Training to train
Age 15 to 18 - Training to compete
Age 18+ - Training to WIN

Now I will only be working with students from the age of 13 to 18, so the FUNdamentals and Training to Win will not be part of my remit, but I aim to push the Training to Compete relatively hard because I will exposure to the kids twice a week; scholar and games sessions.

The reason for wanting to stick to this plan is that I am a firm believer against early specialisation. For a child to be able to fully develop in a sporting sense, they should be exposed to plenty of different training stimuli, and with that have the opportunity to grasp things from several different training situations.
A balance of invasion games versus non-invasion games for example can give a very big benefit to how an athlete may be able to view things once they finally settle on a sport.
It also means that they are much less likely to fall into the trap of over-use injuries; which are becoming an increasing problem.
Early-specialisation is thankfully being recognised as a problem, so much so that some major Colleges in America will not take athletes on Scholarship if they have only played one sport for more than one year.

Outside of this, I plan to develop it further by putting in a layering system, or block system, for how to take students through from arrival at age 13, to leaving at 18. The aim is that during their sixth form years (16-18) they are largely able to take charge of their own training; I will still do the programming, but they should by that point have an understanding of what it all means and why they are doing it.
By age 18 I want for them to move on to wherever they head next, University for example, and have a very solid foundation of strength and conditioning to be able to build upon and give them the best chance for sporting success as they develop further towards their prime years as athletes.

Now I haven't completely finalised my plans for the layering/block system, but it essentially build upon itself term after term.
For example:
Year 9 Term 1 - Movement fundamentals
Year 9 Term 2 - Developing strength through movement
Year 9 Term 3 - Developing power through movement

Nothing groundbreaking, like I said at the start, but it's a step in the right direction for a school which has the opportunity to develop some fantastic athletes if taken through an athletic training process.

--

So, this summarises the kind of plan that I am hoping to put into place and shows, in some way, the kind of steps that it would have as part of it.
Taking an athlete from Point A to B is massively important as part of this, not just trying to skip ahead to Point Z! If they can't move properly, then why add external stress to a poor movement pattern?

I hope this makes some sense.

Feel free to contact me or leave any comments/thoughts.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Eastbourne College - Building the process

As many of you will know (because I posted it all over social media ... as always) I have recently taken up a new job as Head of Strength & Conditioning at Eastbourne College.

This has been really amazing so far. It's a totally fresh challenge because I haven't worked with kids for over 4 years so it's tough at times but worth it. I'm still part time at the moment (15 hours per week) but I'm getting handed more and more each week, and I've got more people asking to do this or that so it is gradually expanding which is very exciting.
I'm hoping that it will continue to build to eventually become a full-time role within this year, and if not then hopefully the 2017/18 academic year, as long as I can show my worth and they want to keep me on.

So I just anted to put pen to paper and speak about the process that I am trying to put in place and build at the College.
There has been an S&C program there before, but the person in charge was also a lecturer so couldn't give all his attention to it to allow it to develop. This is my only position at the College so I am trying to give it all my attention whenever I am away from Esher things or Online Coaching with TBB.

Again, working with youth is something that I haven't done for a long time, and something that I don't have a lot of experience with from an S&C standpoint. So I've been thinking about it a lot; how to develop the Under 14s differently to the Under 18s. Or do I need to do it differently at all?
How do I differentiate between sports? What age do I start getting sport specific in the weight room? Which exercises to do, or not to do? And probably the most important of all of them ... how do I educate these kids along the process so that they understand the "why" as well as the "how"?

Let me try to break down what I'm going to try to put into place:
Year 9s - lots of bodyweight based exercises and low level plyometrics. There will also be an introduction to the fundamental lifts but only when under instruction.
Year 10s - more development into fundamental lifts but with a basis of GPP.
Year 11s - continuation of the fundamental lifts and start to train with some kind of focus towards sports performance rather than GPP.
Year 12s & 13s - continue to develop the fundamental lifts and start to coach more technical aspects. Focus on sports performance, injury prevention and mobility.

That's how I have things in my head at the moment. The idea is then that once I have been around for a year or two (here's hoping) then the plan will start to follow through - the year 10s will already have a good level of gym experience and technical background ready to progress into the more intense training sessions.

In terms of education the main aim is basically to just always be available to answer questions, and to explain to students why we are doing certain exercises, and how they can impact them.
It is also going to be a constant focus point to keep the students mobile and paying attention to correct form and movement patterns throughout. I don't ever want them sacrificing form for weight, so they are told to always leave 2 reps in the tank rather than push too far.

Essentially - my aim for all the students is that by the time they leave Eastbourne College they are able to head to their next destination with a good knowledge of what to do in the gym, and also why they are doing those things. I never had the opportunity to have S&C support at any point until I started doing it myself, so I want these guys and girls to have a step up. Starting in the gym with real focus from Year 9 ... if only!

Hopefully this gives some kind of idea as to what I'm trying to achieve and how I'm looking at doing it. Feel free to get in touch.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Breaking Athletes

Whilst I was working for Northland, I had the pleasure of sitting down and having a conversation between myself, Tim Hurst (the Northland head S&C) and Mark Drury, who is the Head S&C for Canterbury Crusaders.

Tim and Mark are good friends, they used to work together at the Crusaders so Mark was basically up in Whangarei to have a bit of a catch up, and also to check up on one of his players, Jone Macilai.

Whilst Mark was about, we started just generally chatting shop about S&C whilst I was getting our GPS done for the day, and one part of the conversation that really stands out in my mind is something he said about S&C coaches in recent years:
- Are we too concerned with keeping people injury free?
- And does this fear of breaking players limit our ability to enhance their performance?

Mark has been in the game for a while, and, working at one of the most successful rugby teams in recent history, works with some of the best athletes that New Zealand has to offer. So when he spoke about this, I pretty much just stopped what I was doing and got involved in the conversation without distraction.

So his point was basically that not too long ago, the head coaches at professional rugby teams didn't necessarily have a great understand of S&C. They would sort of know that we can get the players to perform better than before, and that we could bring people back from injury etc but didn't necessarily have the greatest depth of knowledge of the whole subject.

He said back then he had almost a free reign and could do what he wanted with the players, to achieve the desired results. Injury prevention was a key factor, as were the more highly acclaimed physical attributes of strength, speed, power and conditioning. But as long as he was achieving his goals of having some of the best athletes in the Country, and some of the best rugby players ever to walk the face of this Earth, he was able to keep the majority healthy, and bring back guys from injury to pitch-ready - then his job was done. The head coach would be satisfied, leave him to it and see him in the next meeting.

But nowadays head coaches have a deeper understanding of what we can, and are trying to achieve. Now don't get me wrong, sometimes this still leads to a coach who will just leave you to do your business as long as he has a squad for match-day, but oftentimes this now means that coaches have an almost farfetched view of what they want from the physical development side.

Mark said he was sat in a pre-season meeting, where it came up that the head coach wanted there to be zero players out of action due to hamstring injury. He said "I know that we can work to prevent hamstring injuries so this year I expect no players to miss games due to this" ... (note: it probably wasn't those exact words but to that effect)

Now if I was sat in a meeting and this came up, I think I'd be a little stunned and confused. Anyway, Mark went on to fight his case and sort of explain how that is a little bit of an exaggerated target etc etc.

With this now being said it leads back to our original point - coaches are wiser to our ways, our goals, and effectively they are still in charge of what we try to achieve. After all, we are building up their players to play the type of game that they want them to play. If they want lighter but faster players, we can do that. If they want big, battering ram 2007 Springboks type game-plan, we can do that too (hopefully not).
But now they want to have no injuries. "Ok guys, so yeah this year I want my whole 36-man squad to be available for every single game of the season ... Go get it!"

If this is the case, where even after pleading your case to whoever else happens to be sat in that room the outcome is still the same, where does it leave us?
Cautious is probably the word I'd use. And this is what Mark explained also. He said that coaches now have such a high importance on keeping players healthy, that they wince at the sign of them doing anything particularly taxing. Heavy squats and max effort sprints give these guys the goosebumps at the thought of what could go wrong.

So does this then effect how we program? And how that program get's delivered to the athletes? Are we being too cautious? Does being cautious stop us from truly pushing these athletes to become more physically capable than they were before?

Before the coaches got involved we could push the boundaries a little - if we break one of our 7 back row players by trying to get them to the next level, it's probably ok in the long run because we've got 6 more to cover those 3 spots. Then during the re-hab process we can try to build that player up to higher than they were before, in the hope of stopping it from happening again.

Now we may be limited by coaches, which means that yes we can still make progress with players, but have to do so in a much different environment by looking at a longer-term approach. The fear of having a player inactive due to injury, seems to be out-weighing our desire to push the limits and see what these athletes are capable of.

Another interesting side note - freak incidents are still going to happen. So you could do all the pre-hab you want, but at some point it's pretty likely that someone might blow their knee-out, or get a concussion or whatever else. Sure we can minimise the likelihood for soft tissue injury, but freak accidents happen.

Make of this what you will, I just found that it was a very interesting conversation about how our profession is changing, and will continue to change. You never know, maybe at some point it will have gone full circle, but we'll have to wait and see.

So for now - where do you want to be? Pushing those limits to create the best athletes that you can, or limiting the potential for progress by the over-bearing threat of injury? Maybe the head coach will make that choice for you.

Thanks for reading,

Rob Nitman.
BSc (Hons). ASCC.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Creating your own "Movement Menu"

If you are a regular gym user, whether for the purpose of strength, aesthetics, or sports performance, you no doubt at some point get confused with all the do’s and don’ts, and the variety of different styles of training you can use, fancy new tools and whatever else may pop up in the media.

A lot of this can get simplified by taking programming out of your own hands by employing a coach, or by following a program written out in your favourite magazine or website.

But for those of you who enjoy being in charge of your own training, it is important to know two things:
1 – What your goal is
2 – How best to achieve that goal

Knowing your goal is hugely important to anyone who trains. Whether you want to deadlift 350kg, complete a 90 minute game of football without your lungs feeling like they’re going to explode, want to lose excess body fat to look better in a bikini, or simply try to stay healthy for longer, keeping that goal firmly in your sights is key.

Knowing how to get there is the tricky part. A lot of people know the destination, but there will often be forks in the road along the way where you don’t know whether to go left or right.

The majority of my work is done with strength athletes and sports people, and whether I work with them in a team setting, one-to-one, or through online coaching, my principles stay the same.

I’m a big believer in keeping things simple, doing the basics to a very high standard, and then building from there. If you don’t have a solid base of foundations, then you’ll never be able to build a high peak.

And from those principles I think it is important for athletes to always complete a comprehensive total body program that incorporates various different movements, to develop complete strength and power, whilst limiting the risk for injury.

So, without further ado, here is my personal Movement Menu:
-       Jumps – Box Jumps, Broad Jumps etc
-       Leg Push Movement – Squat, Front Squat, Leg Press etc.
-       Leg Pull Movement – Deadlift, Sled/Prowler Pull etc
-       Hinge Movement – RDL, Good Mornings, Kettlebell Swings etc
-       Upper Body Vertical Push – Overhead Press, Push Press, Jerk etc
-       Upper Body Horizontal Push – Bench Press, Floor Press etc
-       Upper Body Vertical Pull – Chins, Pull Ups, Lat Pulldowns etc
-       Upper Body Horizontal Pull – Bent Over Row, Seated Row, DB Rows etc
-       Stabilisation – Plank, Rollouts, Dragon Flags etc
-       Rotational – Russian Twist, Med Ball Rotational Throws, Pallof Press etc
-       Carries – Farmers Walks, Yoke, Overhead Walks etc
-       Uni-Lateral – Lunges, Bulgarian Split Squats, One Arm Presses & Pulls

Now obviously it is going to be pretty tough to fit all of these into a single session, and this isn’t my point. I try to include an exercise from each category into a weekly, or fortnightly program for my athletes. This can help to develop a better-rounded athlete, with strength front to back, and head to toe.

I haven’t included any direct speed, conditioning, or pre-hab/injury prevention work, as I think these come in separately in the whole program. I am purely talking weight room with this menu.

To decide what should be on your menu, have a look at your sport. Do a bit of a “needs analysis” to see if any of these things could be taken out, or if anything else needs to be added in.

From this needs analysis you can then decide how best to target the other areas such as speed; what distance is most important for you sport, or conditioning; work/rest ratios and intensities for your sport.

If you’re not training for sports performance, then break it down by what you want to achieve. If you’re body building, make sure you are adequately training each muscle group to develop total symmetry. If you are after fat loss, your menu may not be for movements, but will likely include resistance training, cardiovascular training, and nutrition as 3 of the biggest components to success.

Piecing this altogether will make for a very substantial, and complete program, allowing development of the entire body, and, if you’ve completed the needs analysis well, it will be specific to your sport and you will reap the benefits.

So go ahead, create your own menu and build a recipe for success.

Rob Nitman.
BSc. ASCC.

Twitter - @nitman89        |        Instagram - @rob_nitman        |       Facebook - facebook.com/NitmanPerformance

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Creating a Winning Habit & Understanding The Sub-Maximal

I recently posted on The Bending Barbell page about creating a winning atmosphere, and how both winning and losing are habits.

If you haven't seen it:
1 - Go like the "The Bending Barbell" Facebook page (and "Nitman Performance Training" while you're at it)
2 - here it is ...

"Success is a habit. And so is losing.
So why would you want to engrain losing as a habit in your training? It's something that confuses me personally - because when it comes down to it, whether you compete on a field or a platform, you want to win. And if not win then at least be successful in terms of your performance. 
With strength sports it is all down to your performance on competition day. It doesn't matter what you do in the gym if you compete - it only matters on the 1 day that you put all that hard work into practice. 
Chad Wesley Smith always preaches about "training is for building, not testing". Meaning that the time you spend preparing for a meet is used to BUILD your lifts to be better than they were before.
This way when you get out on the platform you can break PRs. The test is on the platform.
For strength a failed lift won't make you stronger. You want your body to be engrained to succeed every single time you hit a lift.
In terms of hypertrophy it can be a little different, as to stimulate muscle growth you need to break down the muscle fibres. BUT there are other ways - drop sets, rest pause etc. Which still allow you to practice succeeding. 
I'm going to go a bit more into depth on this in a blog post, I'll post the link in the comments once it's online, but for now here's the take home message:
Make your lifts count.
And more importantly -
Make Your Lifts.
Coach Rob Nitman - TBB Team"

I just want to expand about what I spoke of in this piece.

As I stated, winning is a habit. Losing is too. So how can we re-inforce a good habit of winning, and how can we break a bad habit of losing?

Well to re-inforce winning I believe you have to practice it all times. In team sports - play competitive games regularly to keep your players intent on winning at all costs. If you are a strength athlete and you compete on a platform (powerlifting, strongman, weightlifting etc) then during your training cycle you should (in my opinion) only allow yourself to complete successful lifts. Don't fail. Ever. It is not something you want your body to become accustomed to. The only time that failing is relatively understood is when you're attempting max effort lifts which should be left til competition day.

If you are losing in team sports - then again I believe that by making smaller parts of the everyday routine competitive re-instates the natural instincts of humans. As humans we are designed to be competitive, to want to win. Many moons ago we used to have to fight for our food - us against an animal. The winner stays alive and gets to eat. Simple. 
We had to fight to eat, to have shelter, to stay alive. This is in our blood. I don't care who you are - you are competitive. I used to have friends who claimed they don't care if they won or lost at sport, but then as soon as they got home they were furious if they lost to their friend in Cyber-Space at Call of Duty. It's the same damn thing. We all want to win at what we love, or what we're good at. The smart people want to be the smartest, the athletes want to be better than their opponents, Apple want to come up with the next big thing before Microsoft. It's all winning.

I got side tracked sorry.

Create a competitive atmosphere in smaller areas. In team sports - play games with a "it pays to be a winner" type attitude. Every successful team I ever played in or coached we spent a lot of time training in a competitive atmosphere. Win everyday. 

Now on the never failing thing, in strength sports especially, there is a type of programming a lot of people use to help this. It's called sub-maximal programming. Essentially instead of basing all your percentages or work sets of 100%, your true 1RM for example, you use, for example, 90% as the top limit instead. This way you are never truly going to your absolute max. 

This can be good for a few reasons:
1 - it helps engrain technique with weights you can hit
2 - it creates an environment for repetitive success
3 - it's safer, especially in the long-term

I work with a professional rugby team at the moment, and when I do programming I base it all off 90%. It means the players stay fresher, they never fail lifts, and it minimises the opportunity for injury.
I also do online coaching, and throughout all the various different programs I may use with any given client (dependent on the person) they are ALL based off 90%. For the same reason - training is for building. It may not make you hit a PR in 3 weeks time, but in 13 weeks, 23 weeks, or longer - you'll be using your old max for warm ups. 

Also by using sub-maximal it allows you more room to play around with the variables of programming; frequency, intensity, and volume. 

--

That's pretty much all I wanted to say (I think) so I'll leave it at that. 
A bit of a mixed bag this article, but still I think I covered some pretty good topics really, and two that inter-link of the world of sport.

Thanks for reading, check back for more soon.

Rob Nitman.
BSc. ASCC.
Twitter - @nitman89        |        Instagram - @rob_nitman        |       Facebook - facebook.com/NitmanPerformance

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Are you in control?

Quite a philosophical title I know, and a relatively philosophical topic, but I stay true to my point.

Are you in control?

Let us discuss.

In life, you cannot control everything to the finest detail. There'll always be something that comes up to put a halt to things - whether it be a colleague at work, stress at home, or those lovely London Underground workers forcing everyone to use their road bikes (and wear horrible lycra).

But let's be honest, I'm not here to talk about life control right now. Maybe one day, but today I want to talk about what I know, and, more importantly, what I can influence.

In sport, there are external factors that you cannot control (or at least not fully) such as:
- The weather conditions
- The knowledge and performance of sports officials (referees, judges etc)
- The ability of your opposition
- The tactics being employed by your coaching team (potentially but not in all cases)
- The performance of your team mates (in team sports)

Now, before I get started on any those topics and get majorly side-tracked, I want to move on to my main point of this article.

I once watched a video of an elite level athlete, I believe it was a UFC fighter, preparing for the biggest event of their career. It was a fantastic, in-depth look into their preparation covering the physical training, nutrition, technical practises, and down-time during the lead up to this occasion.

Honestly I can't remember which fighter it was, but one quote stood out from this short video series:

"I do everything I can to have control of the things that I can control. And being in the best physical condition is something I have 100% control over. Being the strongest, fastest and fittest version of me, is all in my hands."

That's probably not it word for word, but it was along those lines. 

You can't control what kind of shape your opponent will be in, you can't control the weather, you can't control their tactics, you don't know whether the referee is going to be good or bad on the day.
So why spend your time worrying over it?

Your time can, and should, be best spent preparing for those things that you CAN control!

Your physical performance is 100% in your hands. Only you control what food goes in your mouth, how much water you drink, and how hard you work in preparation. 

You could have the best damn physical preparation program written on the face of this Earth. All of the greatest strength coaches in the World could come together and give you the ultimate physical plan - but if you don't execute, or you go through it half-arsed, then it's all a waste.

Before I go on a rant about people who blame others for their own poor performance, I'll finish this off.

Take control. 
Be the best that you can be. 
If you don't have the knowledge, speak to someone who does. 

Put in the work, prepare as best you can, and leave the day with a smile knowing you gave it your best. 

Thanks for reading,

Rob Nitman.
BSc. ASCC.
www.nitmanperformance.co.uk
Twitter - @nitman89  |  Instagram - @rob_nitman  |  Facebook - facebook.com/NitmanPerformance

Monday, 15 June 2015

Working out when you’re away

So many of you will be aware that I am currently off on my travels, at the moment of writing this I’m sat in a 10-bed dormitory in Wanaka, New Zealand, after just getting back from a bike ride.

This bike ride was my first real “exercise” for almost two weeks. In the week leading up to going away I had a migraine for 4 days and could barely stand without wanting to throw up let alone train, and now I’m a bit here there and everywhere.

So currently I’m trying my best to make do with what I have.

I imagine this is a very similar situation for a lot of you, you’ll go away on holiday and either not want to work out because, after all, it is a holiday, or if you do want to you may be under pressure from a loved one to not spend time with your beloved iron (the manly kind … not those that make shirts look pretty) but spend it with them instead.

Both of these are completely valid reasons to skip working out whilst you are aware, but beware … If you are anything like me you will begin to miss working out, and also being to lose those precious gains we all seek.

So what can we do about it? Well I for one tried to plan ahead a little bit and came up with a quick and easy Plan B.  What is this plan b? It is a little piece of rubber called a resistance band. The smallest of the 3 I own cost me about £5, the largest, which I use for mobility, around £10 I think, and I also have one that sits somewhere in the middle.

With these resistance bands I can do all sorts. I can use them for mobility, especially the stronger ones, and the smaller are ideal for isolation exercises around the body. They’re cheap, lightweight, and take up next to no room in luggage.

Apart from these little life savers, I do bodyweight work as and when I can (i.e. without looking like a right prick in front of the other 9 people in my dorm … including my girlfriend). Press ups, squats, lunges, Bulgarians, pulls/rows. Whatever you are able to do around the space you may have available to you, make the most of it and get moving about.

It may not be enough to get you more progress and make you stronger, but it won’t send you rocketing backwards like doing sweet FA would. I mean look at prisoners – even though Hollywood portray them even larger than they really are, a lot of prisoners are in good shape. And besides the obvious steroid trade through the guy to know on the inside, the only other route is simply to do. And in a 5x5 box you’re fairly limited.

Now – I am also going to go a little outside of my comfort zone here … I’m going to compliment CrossFit.

I know, I know. I feel dirty just saying that, but they’ve definitely had a positive impact on the amount of facilities available with bars, and weights. You can count on them always having some barbells, and some weights of some kind – although if they are those super huge “make me look strong when I’m weak” rubber bumpers then you monsters out there may struggle to get anything over 200kg on the bar.

But even if you can’t lift heavy, who cares? Get outside of your comfort zone and hit some reps, hell go crazy and do some really high rep sets! Stimulate those muscles in a way they’re not normally used to.

So yeah anyway back to my point – CrossFit boxes are like McDonalds or Starbucks, they’re EVERYWHERE! If you go to a legitimate city then you’re pretty likely to find a Box somewhere near there to work out.

So go on that magical thing called the Internet, have a search on your favourite search engine, and if you find something nearby just send them a friendly email and see if you’re able to stop by and steal all their plates for 90 minutes.

I think that’s about all I wanted to say on this, so go buy yourself a resistance band, and hit up a Google search (shameless sponsor plug … I wish), then enjoy getting some kind of exercise whilst you’re off on vacation that involves keeping your pants on.

Cheers,
Rob Nitman. BSc. ASCC.
www.nitmanperformance.co.uk
nitmanperformance@gmail.com
Twitter – @nitman89          |         Instagram – @rob_nitman