Core Performance & TRX: A New Strength Training Paradigm for College Coaches

December 1, 2011

On November 4th, I gave a two-hour workshop to 22 local coaches and graduate students at Smith College in Northampton, MA- the outline is here:

Workshop Outline

   I.   Overview of the Core Performance (CP) Training System

  • Training Philosophy – rehab & strength specialist designed “functional” programs:  “Train Movements not Muscles”
  • “The medium is the message” – CP integrated system resources:  books, video, web, social media, home fitness (GoFIT)
  • Advantages of CP (and TRX): time, $, professionalism (improved coach knowledge, enhanced communication & athlete autonomy)
  • The CP workout design – five basic parts.

II.   Key Background Concepts/Terms a Coach Should Know

  • Periodization – annual plan & phases: general, specific, competition, transition (and related training exercises)
  • Energy systems and muscle fiber types
  • Principles of Training

III.  Practicum 1 – Prehabilitation & Movement Prep

  • Exercises from CP L1, L2, L3

IV  Core Performance Sport-Specific “Individualized” Programs

  • CP vs. “traditional” (e.g., Bompa, 2010) periodization

V.   Practicum 2 – CP Workout via iPhone/iPad/Laptop

  • In pairs (athlete/coach) or trios (athlete/coach/observer) complete the workout

VI.   TRX – Fitness Anywhere!

  • Training philosophy and marketing highly similar to Core Performance
  • Brief description of TRX apparatus and installation

VII.  Practicum 3 – TRX

  • TRX alternatives to traditional exercises
  • TRX progressions and adaptations

VIII.   Practical Tips

  • Challenge stability – don’t pile on the weight!
  • Implementation for every budget: free, cheap, reasonable
  • Try it yourself for your own fitness
  • Become independent and self-sufficient with CP & TRX
  • Fitness Builder iPhone app (and web version) highly recommended

IX. Questions & Discussion

X.   References

Baechle, T.R. & Earle, R.W. (Eds.) (2000). Essentials of strength & conditioning.  Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics

Bompa, T. (1999). Periodization:  Theory & methodology of training.  Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

TRX (http://www.trxtraining.com/)

Verstegen, M., & williams, P.  (2004). Core performance.  Rodale.  (http://www.coreperformance.com/)


30% Discount Code for Squash Anatomy Book for Squash Coaches!

July 14, 2011

Ok – if you have been following out Squash Science blog for the last few years you will be aware that there are very few (if any) published sport science resources for squash coaches – the cost of doing business in a tiny, elitist sport (of course all that may change if we get into the Olympics).

The good news is that with the changes that have taken place in tennis over the last 30 years, an intelligent squash coach can adapt the numerous tennis sport science publications for their use in squash coaching.  The two major changes that have taken place that allow this adaptation are: a) the now  multi-segmented tennis forehand  – a “hitting” action similar to the full squash drive, versus the “stroking” action of the 70’s tennis forehand; and b) the physiological profile of elite tennis – especially on clay now approximates the duration and explosiveness (especially on the men’s side) of the average squash rally (with squash moving to PAR scoring and a lower tin, at least on the men’s side).

I just finished purchasing my first E-Book, Tennis Anatomy by Paul Roetert and Mark Kovacs a few minutes ago – I used a Human Kinetics 30% off discount code, so the total cost of my purchase was $15.36 – the code is B770.  I met Paul back in the late 1980’s when the USTA head office was in Princeton – coach Bob Callahan took me out to say “hello” – and I ran into Mark Kovacs in a hotel elevator at the ITF coaching conference in Valencia two years ago – he said to get in touch about doing some work with the USTA (but I prefer to specialize in squash:).  You can download the Adobe Digital Edition reader (to read the E-Book) here.

Although I haven’t read the book yet – here are a few adaptations that the squash coach should note in order to apply the information:

  • the squash forehand is biomechanically similar to the flat tennis serve (it just takes place in a different plane – overhead versus at the side of the body);
  • most of the volley information will apply to squash, as the tennis continental grip, similar to the squash grip, is used for most (but not all tennis volleys);
  • the tennis slice approach shots are similar to the squash mid-court squash drop shot (both feature a stroking action primarily from the shoulder).

Here is Roetert discussing the book:

In conclusion, this is a great resource for squash coaches willing to do a little bit of “mental work”:)


Avoid Overtraining Your College Squash Team!

March 26, 2011

My college squash team at Smith College is currently the only U.S. College Squash team practicing and training. According to NCAA Rules (after August 1st squash will no longer be an NCAA sport) each team is allowed an official season of 19 weeks, with 15 days of competition (the rules do vary slightly for Division I and Division III teams), and with careful planning (paying attention to overtraining) college coaches can increase the time period in which they are able to  influence their athletes’ training.  Unbelievably, the NCAA forbids coaches from conducting developmental activities with athletes outside of the official 19-week season – especially difficult to comprehend in the many sports (like squash) where athletes do not attain their optimal performances until their late 20’s.

With the U.S. College squash season just ending (for most:) at the Individual Championships on March 6 – now is the time that College squash coaches should be turning their attention to planning out the 2011-12 season. Hopefully coaches will be mindful of longterm planning considerations and use a periodization planning approach to structuring their annual or seasonal plan.  Here is a copy of our Smith College Squash Team Four-Year Plan (we get a lot of novices and very few experienced players) and also an example of an annual periodized plan.

One of the primary purposes of a periodized squash plan – in addition to assuring a peak at the most important competition of the year – is to avoid overtraining (other related terms include staleness, overreaching or unexpected underperformance syndrome).

Although training volume and intensity are the most important factors to control in avoiding overtraining, a college coach must also take into account a student-athlete’s academic schedule and their related academic stress.

I have observed three periods of academic stress on my squash team:

  • beginning of the semester as students struggle to transition to school and sort out their choice of courses;
  • mid-semester due to heavier workloads and midterm evaluations;
  • end of semester papers and exams.

Lack of sleep due to studying, and poor nutrition (rushed eating, missed meals, unhealthy snacking and excessive caffeine consumption) are also contributing factors to the “psychological” load of academic work.  This contributes to the imbalance in the training-recovery cycle.

Here are three main planning strategies we use at Smith College college to help avoid overtraining:

1) Build periods (days and weeks off) of recovery and regeneration into the team’s competitive schedule. If there is a college holiday (e.g. MLK day) we take the day off and do not practice.  If there is a college holiday of a few days – we take the entire week off and add the “extra” week either to the start or end of our schedule (this year it was the end – next year it will be the beginning).  Ideally, we try and construct our macro-cycles (planning units of 4-6 weeks), so that we build volume and or intensity for three weeks – then have an easier “unloading” week (e.g., Bompa, 2009; Sleamaker, 1989).  Here is the draft of our season schedule next year showing weeks of built around the Smith College academic calendar.

2) Build regeneration activities into every practice.  For the last two years we have been following the CorePerformance training philosophy closely in planning the strength and conditioning part of our squash practices.  Every Core Performance workout ends with several regeneration and recovery activities.  Here is an example workout (Core Performance – Sun. feb. 20) and a short video of some example activities:

3) The last strategy simply involves closely observing the team for signs of fatigue, injury and attention, and watching their response to training exercises and being ready to modify practice plans or a week’s schedule (including giving unplanned days off) on short notice.

Application for Squash Coaches:

1.  Plan rest and recovery into your season schedule.

2. Monitor your athletes for signs of overtraining.

3. Be aware of the additive effects of academic stress to the overall training load.


Squash Scientist wins Core Performance T-Shirt!

December 13, 2010

If you are a regular reader of this squash coaching blog you will know that I wholeheartedly support the CorePerformance.com approach to training – it is a perfect fit with competitive squash – a blend of well-conceived exercises to complement the demands of squash – perhaps the most demanding sport in the world (based on the number of coaches with hip replacements – I know of at least 40!)

Anyway, CorePerformance ran a “submit your best CP photo” contest on their Facebook Page – and I got a free t-shirt for doing so!  Here is the photo I submitted – I was visiting a Smith College alumna in Hawaii ( I may run a squash camp in Honolulu next summer – what a great place to train!):

If you get a chance sign up to follow Core Performance on Twitter – they send out at least one exercise each day – and often some other health and nutrition tips as well!

I re-tweet the most squash-specific of their exercises through my own SquashScience Twitter account.


Core Training for Squash

October 12, 2010

This month’s NSCA Performance Training Journal (one of the benefits of membership) just appeared in my inbox.  There is a great article on Core Training for tennis with Mark Kovacs as the first author (ran into Mark and chatted with him in the elevator at the ITF Conference in Valencia, Spain last November where I was presenting on mental training at each stage of an LTAD).

The article presents a solid rationale for current functional training thinking versus traditional bodybuilding methods.  Obviously the part of the article relating to the serve and overhead training is less important for squash players, so I would recommend reducing the volume and sets of exercises relating to overhead training.

You can access the journal on their website or I have put a copy here for you (copyright and Fair Use restrictions apply):  Core for Tennis and Squash?


New Aerobic Training Tool For Squash Coaches: miCoach iPhone App!

August 4, 2010

Regular readers will know that I have been singing the praises of CorePerformance.com for squash strength training since I learned about them while doing the rehab for my hip replacement.  One of the strengths of Core Performance is that if you sign-up as a member ($9.99/month) you can download daily, somewhat individualized workouts to your iPhone – which always includes an “energy systems” (their term for aerobic training) component – usually not that long (e.g., 14 minutes).

Now Core Performance has teamed with adidas to develop an aerobic training tool (free iPhone App and website) called miCoach.  Although the probable goal of adidas is to get consumers to purchase a $139 Pacer which includes a heart rate monitor and stride counter, I think the real value for squash coaches are the well designed and neatly packaged training plans – which do not require a purchase.  Web site registration (which I just completed) and the app is free. There are no plans for squash so I would recommend the tennis or soccer plans – slight edge to the tennis as being more specific to our PAR modern attacking game.

Your athletes will have a chance  to individualize somewhat by selecting their initial starting level or doing a 12-minute self-assessment.  If you are working with more than one athlete great packaging is absolutely key in saving time and communicating and monitoring training plans clearly – this is an area where Core Performance excels.  I will report back after trying out a few weeks of training using the app with my team – in the meantime here is a short review of the iPhone app and a video review of the Pacer:


“Twisting” Exercises for Squash

April 2, 2010

I have already blogged about that fact that traditional “bodybuilding” exercises like the biceps curl, bench press, and squats have limited value for squash players, if they form the major component of a supplementary strength training program.  I have also suggested that squash coaches visit Core Performance as they represent the latest thinking in strength training.  Their programs incorporate injury prevention, core and functional exercises, and sport-specific exercises as part of the “train movements not muscles” philosophy.

A sport-specific exercise is defined as an exercise that mimics, or has some (or many) characteristics of a sport’s skill(s).  For example a medicine ball side throw has many of the same elements as a squash forehand drive – a ground up kinetic chain action involving the legs, hips, torso and finally the arms and hands.

Here is a short program of twisting exercises that could be considered squash-specific.  An ideal time to do these would be in the off- or pre-season when athletes are not speeding a lot of time on the court – or they could be added to your current routine if you have not already incorporated “twisting” types of movements.  I have divided this short program into the same sections as a Core Performance Program.  The  videos examples are from a variety of sources – each of which leads to other examples and variations.  Tubing can be substituted and used for the cable exercises – and perhaps a good idea for those coaching juniors as it minimizes risk of injury.

Section 1 – Prehab

Exercise 1:  Hip Crossover

Rationale: Dynamic stretching of lower back, hips to prepare for more vigorous twisting exercises.

Sets: 1  Reps: 5 each side  Rhythm:  Slow

Section 2 – Movement Prep

Exercise 2:  Carioca

Rationale:  Dynamic stretching of torso, raising body temperature (like jogging), while working on foot agility and dynamic balance

Sets: 1   Reps:  10 yards in each direction  Rhythm: start slow and increase speed while maintaining form

Exercise 3:  Reverse Walking Lunge & Twist

Rationale: Dynamic stretch of lunging and twisting muscles while working on balance with some strength-endurance

Sets: 1   Reps: 6 each leg     Rhythm:  slow

Section 3 – Medicine Ball

Exercise 4:  Side Throw

Rationale:  Works the squash hitting muscles used in a full drive.

Sets: 1    Reps:  8 each side   Rhythm:  Moderate to explosive based on experience

Exercise 5:  Lunge Throws

Rationale:  Works twisting muscles used in squash drives from a lunge position and lunge muscular endurance.  If you are training alone you can throw against a wall.

Sets: 1    Reps:  8 each leg   Rhythm:  lunge slow, throw moderate.

Section 4 – Strength

Exercise 6 – Standing Rotational Push-Pull

Rationale:  A great squash-specific alternative to bench press and seated row – the squat like position mimics that of a squash drive, and the rotational movement works the squash core and twisting muscles.

Sets: 2     Reps: 10 each arm   Rhythm:  slow to moderate

Exercise 7:  Keiser Standing Cable Twist

Rationale:  Works the squash core and twisting muscles used in squash drives.

Sets:  2   Reps: 10 each side  Rhythm:  slow to moderate

Exercise 8: Rotational Row – 1 Arm Cable Standing (No embedded video – click on the link to view video!)

Rationale:  Use of one arm is very squash specific, and explosive action ensures correct use of kinetic chain used in full squash drives.

Sets:  2   Reps:  10 each side  Rhythm:  Moderate to explosive based on experience.

Application for Squash Coaches:

  1. Integrate squash-specific twisting exercises into your program.
  2. Avoid time-wasting uni-joint, body-building exercises.