Monthly Archives: January 2017

“Run ‘Em ‘Til They Puke!”


How simple is it for a coach to run players until they feel nauseous or actually get sick? This takes no coaching ability, discourages kids from participating, and gives sports a bad name. Not only that, it’s a poor method of conditioning and a bad example of coaching. Anyone can make athletes sick—the real question is, can you make them better?!

Improving performance takes an understanding of pediatric exercise science, growth and development, and pedagogy, in order to plan and implement a strength and conditioning program for kids of a broad range of abilities, varying levels of interest in being there, and wide-ranging parental expectations. Too often we witness parents who pull their kids from programs because they feel the coach isn’t punishing the kids into shape. WRONG!

A well-designed strength (oh, by the way- I do keep using the term strength, as strength and motor skill development are inexorably linked, and strength and motor skill mastery are what lead to athleticism) and conditioning (yes, speed, agility, endurance, power and balance are essential, too) program includes the following elements:

  • Focus on the process of developing aspiring athletes to perform to the best of their ability
  • Structured coaching plan from A to B to C
  • Periodized (matches sport seasons and performance goals) plan and includes progressions and regressions (taking a 30-second plank to a 2-minute- to a 5-minute plank is NOT a progression!)
  • Capable, qualified, credentialed coach with not just experience working with kids but a passion for doing so

So, “run ‘em’ til they puke!” is one of the worst things coaches can do (yelling, using exercise as punishment, and not paying attention to technique are also high on the list of bad coaching). Be sure to ask coaches to share their performance plan, their coaching philosophy, and their professional development experiences before entrusting your kids to them.

ABCs of Movement: Develop Fundamental Movement Skills

Once the ABCs of movement have been established, we can start the process of applying the ABCs. The foundation of this process is developing fundamental movement skills. Fundamental movement skills are those movements that have been identified to support movement mastery. There are a couple ways to differentiate these skills but this one seems to be the most common: Body Management (Part of the ABCs), Locomotor Skills, and Object Control.

This table delineates which motor skill corresponds to which category:

Body Management– ability to balance your body while still, and in motion Locomotor– transport body in any direction Object Control– controlling implements
Balance (dynamic) Crawling Bouncing
Balance (static) Dodging Catching
Bending Galloping Dribbling (feet/hands)
Climbing Hopping Kicking
Landing Jumping (distance/height) Striking
Rolling Leaping Throwing
Stopping Running  
Stretching Skipping  
Swinging Swimming  
Turning Walking  


Of these fundamental motor skills, eleven have been identified as most essential for transfer to sports skills: Bouncing a ball, catching, dodging, forehand striking, kicking, leaping, overhand throwing, punting, running, two-hand side-arm striking, and vertical jumping. Be sure to incorporate these skills regularly in your sports practice and strength and conditioning program.

Fundamental movement skills and muscle strength are inexorably linked, so it is important to include strength training for all youth programs. Calculating maximum loads is inappropriate for beginning exercisers of any age. While there are prediction tables based off of the number of repetitions that can be completed (5, 8, or 10 repetitions, for example), the NUMBER of reps is not nearly as important as the QUALITY of the repetitions. I like using the 1-10 Scale RPE. Find a beginning weight that gives an RPE of 4-6. I have found that one set of nine exercises (rotating lower, core, upper) works best.

The ABCs of Movement: Cardinal Planes of Motion

We know that for fitness and athletic endeavors we can use the Athletic stance as our reference starting point. From this position, we can observe how the displacement of a limb, repositioning of the Body or a limb, or movement from the athletic stance affects the center of gravity in relation to the original base of support.

The C in the ABCs of Movement is the Cardinal Planes of Movement, which helps us identify in which direction(s) we are moving, what joint(s) of the body are being acted upon, the muscles responsible for the joint actions, and the awareness that we need to program movements in all three planes of motion.

The following table shows the three cardinal planes of motion, how they are defined in relation to the body, primary joint actions, and sample movements in that plane:

Cardinal Plane of Motion How the Plane is Defined Primary Joint Action(s) Sample Movements in the Plane
Sagittal · Divides body in left and right halves

· Movement occurs primarily forward and back

· Flexion (two joints getting closer together)

· Extension (the return from flexion)

· Walking

· Running

· Squatting

·  Nodding

Frontal aka Coronal · Divides body in front and back halves

· Movement occurs primarily side to side or to the side

· Abduction- movement of limb(s) away from the midline of the body

· Adduction- return from abduction

· Lateral flexion- movement of head or trunk to one side or the other

·Side bends

· Side steps

· Arm flapping (airplanes)

· Putting in golf

· Pitching a baseball

Transverse aka Horizontal · Divides body in top and bottom halves

· Movement occurs primarily across the horizon

·Rotation trunk, hip, and/or shoulder · Swinging a bat


· Flyes

· Cable Rotation



Movement programming would be easy if we moved in one and only one plane but that is most often not the case. This provides the strong argument to train movements, not muscles. I agree to an extent, but as with everything in strength and conditioning—it depends! Our task is to understand on what it depends in order to make the best programming decisions for our clients/athletes.

Since we are focusing on the ABCs of movement, the movements I choose to focus on are single-planar and start form the athletic stance. Once we master single-planar movements, we can progress to moving in two and then any combination of planes. The goal is movement mastery, which includes physical, cognitive, and proprioceptive components. Our next segment on the ABCs of Movement is on Developmental Progressions.

The ABCs of Movement: Body Management

The ABCs of movement begin with the Athletic Stance. The athletic stance helps us establish our starting position. But, it does more than that—it helps us understand and recognize where our body segments are in relation to other body parts and where our body is in space, which is body management.

Starting from the athletic stance, raise your right hand. How did that change your center of gravity? How did you adjust? Move your feet farther apart. How did that affect your center of gravity? How much effort does it take to sit and stand? How do you swing your arms without coming in contact with anyone else in the room? These are examples of body awareness.

Many movement professionals advise young athletes and those beginning an exercise program to begin with body weight exercises. My recommendation is to be sure they first can understand how their bodies move before instructing an exercise. Once body management is achieved, movement fundamentals are more developmentally appropriate. For some, moving an external object may be more appropriate than trying to move body weight, especially for those that are overweight.

Body management is one of the three categories of fundamental movement skills (locomotor and object control being the other two). There are three types of movement awareness:

  1. Effort awareness: how much muscular effort is needed to initiate, sustain, and stop movement. Examples include climbing, lifting relative (your body) and absolute (external load) weight, stopping, and balancing.
  2. Space awareness: how much personal or shared space is needed for successful movement. Examples include how turning, spinning, and moving with others in a confined space without making contact.
  3. Body awareness: how your body movements relate to other movements around you. Examples include following the leader, raising your arms overhead, and dodging.

Body management skills can be promoted by applying balance, postural control, and equilibrium in a variety of settings using a variety of implements under a variety of conditions, matching the tenets of physical literacy. Physical Literacy is the “mastering of fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills that permits us to read our environment and make appropriate decisions, allowing us to move confidently and with control in a wide range of physical activity situations.”

The application of all three categories of fundamental movement skills will be further discussed in the next segment, The ABCs of Movement: Cardinal Planes.


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