How to Increase Athleticism… Develop Efficient Movement

By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS)

On any given day you can log into your daily feed on Twitter and scroll through a plethora of verbal grudge matches between strength coaches, pitching/hitting coaches and movement gurus arguing.  Yes, arguing and criticizing each other’s ideology about athletic performance and how to improve it. These verbal assaults are usually fueled by the fact that one individual’s concept, theory, protocol or whatever you choose to call it may not line up with another’s. In other words, “it’s different”.  For those of you that have the insight to be able to “discuss” and not argue, this blog is not targeting you, however you may want to come along for the ride.

The truth is, I’ve spent over 20 years helping athletes become more efficient and perform better in their sport, most of the time with great success. But sometimes, guys have actually gotten worse and anyone that tells you that’s never happened to them, either hasn’t trained enough athletes or they’re selling you a bottle of snake oil.

The reality is that the body has its own language and agenda, and you can’t learn it by only learning 3 or 4 words. There are many pieces to this puzzle and helping to improve an athlete’s performance capability requires different combinations and covers multiple disciplines integrated into one cohesive program. And while “there are no absolutes” in regard to the ultimate way of chasing athleticism, there is one concept I believe to be fool proof.

Give the athlete what he needs to move more efficiently!

So, what does the athlete need to move more efficiently? Well, this is where the s—- usually hits the fan on social media. The truth is every athlete, and every situation is different.

Movement, what does it mean? Webster provides several definitions, but this probably applies to us the most:

Movement – The moving parts of a mechanism that transmit a definite motion.

So, what does it take to move efficiently? In my two decades of training athletes, that answer is different day-to-day and athlete-to-athlete. There are many different traits that can be used as tools in creating great movement. And any great coach should be able to access all of them in their toolbox.

    • Strength (different types, tensile strength (early on), max strength-foundation)
    • Power
    • Power Endurance
    • Recovery
    • Mobility / Fascial network
    • Stability

Let me say that again…

There are many different traits that can be used as tools in creating great movement. And any great coach should be able to access them all in their toolbox.

Which of these traits we choose to focus on, or train, is what makes each of us unique, but what makes us effective is the ability to select the right tool for the job at hand.

Establish a Starting Point

Even though different athletes come in with different goals, we have to establish a starting point through assessing, and align that with the athlete’s goals. We can then see where the biggest changes need to be made to help get to that goal and start with the lowest hanging fruit.

There can be many parts to consider when determining an athlete’s starting point, none of which give you a complete picture on their own, but each being extremely relevant. The value of utilizing science and the ability to apply it will only occur if testing encompasses all aspects of training. This includes the human element as well.

It is only when you have gathered as much information as possible that you can really begin to figure out the inhibitors.

However, incorporating multiple types of data upon initial testing whether it be driven by strength, mobility, or data allows ALL of the information to talk to each other and to me as the coach as well. Here are some of the main methods we utilize to test and develop a starting point with our athletes:

    • Movement Screen
    • Strength and Power Testing
    • Motion Capture Data
    • Video Analysis / Live

Let’s quickly review each…

Movement Screen – These screens are an integral part of how we evaluate our players movement strategies and can tell us a lot about an athlete’s mobility, strength, ROM and even fascial issues. Many times, it can even tell us what we’re more than likely to see on video and/or Mocap. This is ground zero for us and in my opinion without one, you’re basically flying blind and NOT maximizing your athlete’s potential, or yours. We use our movement screen to develop most of our athlete’s pre-workout mobility work/warm-ups.

Strength and Power Testing – No one can debate that a good solid base of strength is the foundation for any young athlete.  But, as athleticism reaches more elite levels, the right type of strength adaptation is needed in order to improve peak power output and performance for that particular athlete and their sport.

Testing can give us some great insight into the type of strength and power training our athletes are initially producing and help create the blueprint for their strength training programs. The ability to re-test helps tell us if current programming in the weight room is moving us in the right direction to ultimately enable our athlete’s to produce more power on the mound / field.

Motion Capture Data – While our motion capture system and K-Vest don’t give us the complete picture, they do give us information that we may not be able to see as accurately with our eyes. This includes a full kinematic sequence including such key-point indicators (KPI) as deceleration and angular velocity both which are major players in an athlete’s ability to transfer force up the chain and have high correlations to velocity. It also provides us with physical “data” that we can use to create sample sizes to help create baseline measurements and correlations to velo and injury.

This information, COMBINED with information from the other previous tests mentioned as well what can be seen in video and/or live can be used to implement desired training protocol such as throwing drills or even simple external cuing that goes into the athlete’s overall training plan.

(Step Back w/ Core Velo Belt)

Video Analysis / Live – I still am a firm believer in seeing things in real-time with my own eyes as well. There are times I have read a Mocap report and negated what it was telling me based off of what I was seeing with my own eyes live or on video. Many times, I use the concept that if

    1. It looks athletic
    2. The end result is being attained
    3. There is no pain involved
    4. LEAVE IT ALONE

OK, Now what?

Whichever method you choose to use to assess your athletes, make sure it gives you a clear picture of the athlete’s starting point. We then have to provide them with the motor skills needed to reach their desired goal based off of the assessment information collected. This could be through prescribing extra mobility, throwing correctives, adjusting strength, or simply providing some effective external cues.

If the end-goal is being attained, you’re obviously doing something right and what works for me may be slightly different than someone else. It may be different, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong.  Of course, that’s unless performance goals are not being achieved. If that doesn’t work for someone on social media, Sorry!

Building a great business through getting athletes better is the bottom-line, and if the process is not broken, I’m not trying to fix it!

And if, after sifting through different assessments and data I’ve still got some questions, I’ll pick up the phone and hop on a phone call to some of my peers, whose opinions I value and that I speak to from time-to-time, in order to get a bit of a different perspective. No egos here, I just want my athletes to get better. It’s great for them and great for my business as well.

Summary

There is a critical mass of information that is needed and attained through multiple methods of testing. Once this information is acquired, only then, can we start understanding things better and applying possible solutions more diversely and efficiently.

I genuinely believe that most of my peers have the “intent” to make athletes better at their sport. They may go about it differently than I would, and that’s ok. And while there are many different athletes with many different goals, there are also many different ways to help your athletes get there.

See ya’ in the gym…

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