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Coach Willis Invited to Meet the Hungarian National Football Team

Coach Willis Invited to Meet the Hungarian National Football Team

While I was recently on vacation in Hungary with family, I had a tremendous opportunity to meet the Hungarian football team that will represent the entire country in next year’s International tournament, where they will face teams from the USA, Mexico, Canada, and several others.

In the midst of their first week of training camp, I got to meet the coaches, put the entire team through several warm up drills, look on as they executed practice and offer some insight to the coaches and players as needed, and share some words about my personal journey with football and inspire some of the players.

I was literally honored to have been invited to meet the team and even more impressed at the culture of football that they are building not only in that city but in the country. American football is not necessarily the most watched sport there, but they are building a great foundation for the future. I look forward to a continued relationship with the coaches, team, and staff, and bringing the WPT philosophy global.

I apologize for the vertical horizontal video 🙂

 

 

 


Is Stretching Really Good Before Working Out?

Is Stretching Really Good Before Working Out?

We have all experienced at some point tightness. Whether it be from a previous workout that has made you sore, or just naturally lacking “limberness”.

However, for a long time there has been the adage that you should be stretching before workouts, but what you will see most commonly are people holding static stretches before activity as a part of their warmup.

But is this really good?

Before delving into the question it is necessary to get a better understanding of exactly what flexibility means, the different types of flexibility, and the anatomical components that collectively make up flexibility.

The Anatomy

In simple terms, flexibility is the gross range of motion across a joint. However there are multiple factors that contribute to being flexible. One is basic joint mobility which plays a significant role in flexibility.

Joint mobility is heavily dependent on joint capsule integrity and the corresponding ligaments of the capsule.

The capsule surrounds a synovial joint and is comprised of two layers, with the innermost layer being the synovial membrane.

Capsule mobility will adapt based on an individual’s activity and is a necessary response to capacitate the demands of activity, especially for athletes.

Another factor is muscle length and tone. Muscle is a contractile tissue also significantly involved in flexibility.

Within each muscle are sarcomeres that contain proteins called actin and myosin that slide past each other during contraction. Through different chemical reactions, these proteins bind to each other causing contractions and relaxation of the muscle.

Thus, optimal contractile ability ultimately depends on the length-tension relationship of the muscle and muscle cells, including the sarcomeres. The overlap of these protein filaments in a lengthened or shortened state are less efficient than when in mid-range, thus bringing into question the benefits of static stretching before explosive activity.

Another component to flexibility is fascia mobility. The glue that holds all other tissues together, the fascia is made up of adjacent layers of collagen fibers, intertwined with elastic fibers and layered with adipose tissue.

Its composition of collagen and elastic fibers makes it resistant to traction, but adaptable to stretching. Thus fascia is extremely pliable and resistant, and almost inextensible.

This rare physiological makeup makes the fascia interesting in its role in flexibility and the techniques to stretch it as research continues to discover it’s full capabilities.

Anatomically, these factors collectively contribute to overall flexibility.

So Is Flexibility a Benefit To Overall Performance?

Research on this topic has been contradictory with parties divided saying both yes and no.

Some studies have shown that the acute effects of stretching can be detrimental to performance and static stretching can reduce muscle stiffness, reducing its ability to quickly contract.

To better understand, we have to consider the basic physiology of the muscle and the sliding filament theory. This is where actin slides across myosin, grabbing it to create muscular contraction. When the muscle gets to stretched out, those actin fibers get far apart from each other, making it less efficient to grab the myosin filament decreasing the muscles ability to contract.

If a muscles’ contractibility has been compromised, then its strength and power generation potential decreases having a negative impact on performance.

Dynamic vs Static Flexibility

Research has however proven that there is a clear advantage in doing Dynamic stretching versus static stretching before performance and training.

Dynamic stretching involves more movement of joints, muscles, and tendons preparing the body for specific movement as well as elevating internal temperature.

Dynamic, or active stretching has been shown to improve immediate power and agility as long as it is performed within 60 minutes of activity.

Static flexibility (standing still and touching your toes) has been shown to have negative acute effects on performance, but beneficial long term effects on overall flexibility and joint health.

Static, or passive stretching reduces rate of force development by compromising the viscosity of muscle tissue, furthering the argument on its effectiveness immediately to performance.

For this reason it is recommended that static stretches be reserved for post workout cool down and done on off days.

So is flexibility beneficial?

While research is still ongoing, the short answer is yes depending on your lifestyle.

For the active person or athlete, dynamic stretching is more appropriate immediate to performance and activity while passive stretching better for afterwards or off days because of the physiological properties of muscles.

Both provide benefits both short and long term when used accordingly.


Connecting: The Hidden Key in Effective Coaching

Connecting: The Hidden Key in Effective Coaching

Performance enhancement. The key reason why any athlete decides to partake in this activity to make the necessary gains for their sport.

From a coaching standpoint, this is a great opportunity to apply the science and principle of strength and or speed training.

However, I have a saying that it does not matter how much you know as a coach, if you are not able to motivate an athlete to take action and be dedicated.

There are plenty of performance coaches who have, and should, devote so much of there time and effort into educating themselves on the right training strategies and principles to apply the science of training towards their athletes.

But a key area that is often overlooked  but necessary in bringing out the absolute best in athlete, young ones especially, is the behavioral science behind effective coaching.

This has much to with being able to find common ground with athletes and tapping into their minds to be able to motivate them and give them an understanding of what they need to do to get where they want to go. And with so much focus being spent on just the scientific component of coaching, it is easy to forget that you are not just dealing with athletes, you are dealing with humans.

If an athlete does not buy in to what they are doing, then 1 of 2 things will happen. They will not give full effort, or they will not stick with the program.

The key to having a successful training  program that deals with athletes is not only being on top of the most current training research and applying where necessary, but knowing how to influence an athlete so that they are committed to that program.

You must be able to connect with people effectively, and then know how to tailor that program accordingly to what they need.

In his book Conscious Coaching: The Art and Science of Building Buy In, Brett Bartholomew describes this type of coach as someone who,

“understands that successful training is more than just the sum of various physical drills and exercises. Success depends upon the interactions of the physical, psychological, emotional, and social components of a training program.”

Its a mixture of knowing WHAT drives an athlete and using an EVIDENCE based program with that information in mind and communicate so that you stroke a chord with that athlete.

The bottom line is that an athlete will be more motivated when there is a solid line of trust between athlete and player. And as a coach or trainer, if you are not taking the time to continually develop and improve your rapport with your athletes, then you can not channel your athletes as best as possible.

Successful training interventions begins with successful interactions. Connection is key.


4 Simple Tips You Probably Never Thought of To Improve Your Eating Habits

4 Simple Tips You Probably Never Thought of To Improve Your Eating Habits

What kind of diet should you be on?

Keto? Low Carb? Intermittent fasting?

While each of these can have there place in the committed person’s dieting routine, often time when you take a look at the root cause of the current eating patterns that make you want to try any of these in the first place, we see that you can make some small tweaks to your habits.

If you are trying to simply lose weight, or just trying to improve your overall eating habits, here are a few places to start.

1.) Plan Ahead

One of the biggest reasons that “busy” people have for eating out at restaurants if because of lack of time. Poor time management accounts for poor food choices. When you take some time each week to prepare a menu of foods ahead of time, you eliminate the need to want to go to that fast food restaurant to satisfy your appetite.

Make a list of foods that you enjoy, create a grocery list, and take an hour or so on Sundays to prepare your meals for the week. This will not only save you poor food choices, but will save you money in the long run.

2.) Eat in Peace

Are you watching tv while you eat? Are you on your phone scrolling through you timeline? If so, you are not eating mindfully. You are distracted.

When this happens, you are not as aware of your body’s fullness ques that let you know when it does not want any more food. After a certain point, you just keep eating past your hungers limit, causing you to eat in excess.

When you eliminate these distractions, and eat mindfully, then you are more in tune with your body’s fullness cue and will eat less. Try keeping the TV off, and putting your phone away when you eat.

3.) Get to Bed On Time

When you go to bed later, you are doing more than just setting yourself up to have a lower energy day. The longer you stay awake, the more opportunity you create to eat those midnight snacks. As you ease past your body’s natural sleep times, your brain literally craves food since it is past it’s bedtime. It sends signals to you to replenish it with food for energy, specifically sugars since they absorb the fastest and can be used more quickly.

This is why you may tend to crave sweets later in the night.

When you are in bed on time, you don’t give your brain the opportunity to crave foods.

4.) Prepare Healthy Snacks

So you literally may NOT have the time to prepare the foods on the weekend, or you could just be a terrible cook.

One strategy that can help you is to create a roster of health snacks that you enjoy, and keep them handy. It can be fruits, trail mix, nuts, seeds, as long as its something that you actually enjoy, and its versatile enough to have close by when you need some extra fuel.

When you create a list of foods that you already enjoy, and are easy to prepare, you are setting yourself up for success.

 

Notice anything about these 4 tips?

They don’t mention calories, they don’t mentions carbs, and they don’t mention starving yourself before your next beach vacation.

Each of these addresses fundamental behaviors that when followed consistently, can drastically improve your eating habits, which in turn can help you achieve your desired goals.

Try implementing at least one of these behaviors for 3 weeks, and then try another. You don’t have to rush all of them at once. Just start somewhere!

If you would like more information on how we help people improve their eating habits, check out our nutritional coaching program here!


Female tennis player on the court.

3 Simple Exercises to Improve Your ALTA and USTA Tennis Game

Over the years, I have learned that city tennis leagues like the Atlanta Lawn and Tennis Association, and the United States Tennis Association have some of the most competitive athletes I have ever worked with.

Women ranging in age from their early 40’s to their mid 70’s, who are very active, and who simply put, like to win, and don’t like to lose.

Just as any other elite athlete has a specific training regimen to give them a competitive advantage on the courts, there are specific training measures that you can take as well if you are in that age bracket and are still competitive in your tennis league.

Regardless of age, the motions of tennis, joints used, muscle contraction forces are the same, just maybe at different velocities.

Training the joints and muscles involved in creating and ACE serve, or running to the ball to return a volley can not only improve your efficiency of movement, but can also help reduce nagging injuries that you may be dealing with.

The below exercises address strength at the ankle, trunk and spine (core), and knee strength.

Here are three simple exercise that you can implement into your off court training routine to improve your tennis game and leave your competitors wondering how in the world is she moving so well:

 

1.) Dorsi Flexion: Ankle Strength

It all starts at the feet and ankle. One of the more common injuries among tennis players are rolled ankles, and calf strains. This can happen for multiple reasons, such as stiff ankles, “tight” calves, even the type of shoes you are wearing. One thing that is certain is that training the ankle joint, specifically ankle flexion, can help prevent injury, and help you to change direction more quickly.

All you need is a light kettle bell, and a bench.

Intention: The purpose here is to strengthen the flexors of the foot. This motion is important for the initial “push off” when accelerating, and also decelerating. The stronger the flexors are, the more force you can generated, and the more force you can stop, like your body weight.

This exercise can also be done by securing a resistant band around a solid point, and looping it around the distal part of your foot.

Kettel Bell Dorsi Flexion from Coach Willis on Vimeo.

 

2.) Reverse Band Lift

Having a strong core comes into play when not only hitting a tennis ball, but running as well. In order to be able to connect solidly with the ball, you should have good rotational strength.

The reverse band lift is one of the many rotational exercises that we utilize for our tennis athletes, as well as general fitness members in order to strengthen the trunk rotators. All you need is a light resistant band, and a solid anchor point.

Intention: Th purpose of this exercise is to strengthen the deeper muscles involved in rotating from a low to a higher level. This not only works the muscles closer to the spine, but also the glute and lower back muscles, which play a key role in stabilization throughout the movement.

Make sure to concentrate on keeping your elbows locked in order to isolate the trunk, and inhibit use of the arms in moving the band.

3.) Split Squat with Anterior Pull (Deceleration)

Sprinting, getting to the ball, slowing down to position your self lower to hit the ball involves rapidly moving and stopping your bodyweight. The primary areas responsible for that are the ankle, glute, knee, and quads.

The split squat is a great exercise to do in order to train those muscles involved in rapid deceleration.

Here is a variation using a light resistant band using accommodating resistance and providing an additional force to work against during the movement. The purpose is to simulate the additional forces across the targeted muscles and joints that are at work when coming to a rapid stop.

The second variation targets the same, with an additional “push off” and stabilization action to train better reacceleration after stopping.

Intention: More control on deceleration, and redirection. Strengthen quad, glute, knee, and ankle.

 

Try implementing these at your gym, or at home for a few weeks to help get you a competitive edge in your tennis league. Play to dominate!

If you or a friend play at a competitive level in your ALTA and USTA tennis league, have minor injuries you deal with, or want to sharpen your competitive edge, visit our Athlete Development page here to learn more, give us a call at this number 770-691-1392, OR email me at coachwillis@willisperformance.com.


Male athlete sitting on bench

3 Things to Know If You Are A High School Athlete Stuck in Bad Coaching System

You know you have the work ethic.

You know you have the potential to be a contributor on your team.

You see other athletes who work nowhere near as hard as you, but coach stays patting them on the ass.

Your coach doesn’t take you seriously. He looks right by you and seems to always criticize you before sharing any positive reinforcement.

You have thought about quitting. A sport that you were once passionate about is now void of any passion, and you dread going to practices, and hate the game because you barely get any playing time. It’s embarrassing.

I personally understand your situation. It is a roller coaster of emotion that can leave you so drained, it’s borderline depressing.

BUT, while some of these things are out of your control, here are a few things that you can do to prevent discouragement, boost your own self-esteem, and help you to improve as a player AND person.

1.) Focus on what you CAN control

Who the coach decides to make his favorite, or how his politically driven coaching system operates is not immediately in your control. It sucks, yes it does. But if you make a mental shift, and view it as an opportunity to work harder, then instantly you change the outcome of your emotion.

When you fret and dwell on things that are out of your immediate control, it’s like running in quicksand.

When you set foot onto the practice field, or the basketball court, lacrosse field etc, make it a point to get better at ONE aspect of your game every single time. No one can affect that process but you.

Regardless of whether you get time in with the “ones”, you still got better. Imagine doing this for a 3 month long season, 30 days in a month, you can potentially be 90x better than you were at the beginning.

Believe me when I tell you that others will take notice.

Control what YOU can control.

2.) Try to get Feedback

This one might put you in an uncomfortable position and may take a little bit of time to build up to, but I strongly recommend it.

Approach your coach one day after practice or pull him or her aside and ask if they have just 5 minutes to meet with you.

When you meet with them, ask them this:

“Coach, what specifically do I need to do to get an opportunity to prove myself on the field?”

This is a straight shot question that will force the coach to be as direct as possible.

This question is powerful. Essentially what you are doing is asking for your coach’s advice to give you your opportunity. If he intentionally gives you instruction on what do to, but still does not give you your opportunity, then he has to come to terms with the fact that he is dishonest. He told you what to do, and still didn’t give you your shot.

I don’t care how untrustworthy a coach is, from outside looking in, they never want to look like a flat liar IN FRONT of others.

When you ask this question, he may say, “Just keep working hard, and be patient.” Something along those lines. And hey, if this is really the case, sometimes you DO just have to be patient. However, if you feel like the coach is blowing you off, then ask a follow up question:

“Thanks coach. Can you be more specific. What’s one thing that I should work on to increase my shot?”

Here they should literally tell you what it is, and you work at it with insane focus to improve.

Again, it might take a little courage to approach your coach with this question, but any feedback you can get to streamline your improvement and chance of getting on the field is huge.

3.) Get A Strong Support System

This is probably one of the most important aspects of this journey to understand.

Have someone in your corner who encourages you and understands what you are going through. That may be family, another teammate, or even an assistant coach on the team who recognizes what you can do, but does not have the power to make the change.

Get with them.

They will be the ones who will keep you up when you are at your lowest. They will also help keep you accountable.

Don’t go it alone.

There will be times you will feel like you are on a lonely island. Having a strong support system is key in keeping you moving forward.

If it weren’t for my best friend in high school, who is to this day my best friend, I would not have gotten through it.

Find someone.

****

It’s not the easiest thing to go through, but if you trust in and follow these 3 steps, the journey will not only bring you closer to opportunity, but will make you an incredibly stronger, more perseverant person in the end.


Your Telomeres and Your Lifestyle: Slowing Down the Aging Process

Your Telomeres and Your Lifestyle: Slowing Down the Aging Process

One of the most accurate biological markers that can tell us how long we will live are called telomeres. They are the “end caps” of our chromosomes that keep them from breaking down and fraying.

As you begin to age, segments of your telomeres begin to get clipped off until eventually there is nothing left, and cellular material begins to breakdown.

In a very simplistic sense, this is what the aging process looks like.

It is a daily process, but happens slowly over the years. However, certain lifestyle practices have proven to either slow down the loss of telomere length, or actually speed it up (Who wants to get older faster?)

One of the biggest factors in speeding up the shortening of telomeres?

Research done by the University of California has shown that sleep deprivation is one of the biggest triggers for accelerated loss of telomere length.

This further highlights the importance of quality sleep.

The average American who works an 8-5 job gets just at the border line of enough sleep, which is at approximately 7 hours. A good amount of sleep allows you to get in deeper, restorative sleep, which is the cycle of sleep where the body is able to repair from daily stressors.

When you fail to get into this zone of sleep, the repairs can not fully happen.

HOWEVER, research has also shown that people who exercised an average of 100 minutes per week had telomeres like those of people 5-6 years younger.

Taking it a step further, having periods of lifting heavy resistance stimulated hormones that enabled better restorative sleep, enhanced fat loss, and improve telomeres.

In short, if you want to stay feeling younger for as long as you can, INVEST in quality sleep, exercise at least 3 days per week, and incorporate resistance training.

  •  GET QUALITY SLEEP!
  •  WORKOUT!

Which of these is your biggest challenge?


6 Resistance Band Exercises You Can Do At Home

6 Resistance Band Exercises You Can Do At Home

It does not take much to get an effective workout.

Resistance bands are a staple in our training programs not only for our elite athletes, but our general fitness clientele. They are a great tool to have at home when you don’t necessarily have access to a full gym, but you still want an effective workout that can target multiple muscle groups.

Bands are inexpensive, you can travel with them easily, are great because of the accommodating resistance, and also they don’t stress the joints as much as traditional weights but still are an effective way of training.

Below are 6 exercises that we use at our training facility often, and that you can do right from home!

The Pallof Press

This is a great exercise for “core” strengthening and also the hips. This exercise is also a great one to do before heavy structural exercises like squats as it gets the deeper muscle surrounding the spine working.

Pallof Lift

A slightly different version of the Pallof press, only lifting the band instead of pressing. This engages the shoulders more than the standard press.

Chop

A great rotational exercise for the core and the hips. You can vary your positions to increase the challenge, and isolate the trunk more by doing it from kneeling, staggered stance, half kneeling. We use this very often.

Lateral Band Walk

Great exercise that strengthens the hip and abductors of the legs.

Band Squat:

A different variation of the traditional squat. Using the band in this sense loads the quads and hips slightly more, creating more stimulus to gain strength.

Banded Deadlift

Another variation of the traditional deadlift, taking more stress off of the joints but still engaging the hips, glutes, quads, and hamstrings.

Try incorporating these exercises into your training regimen to have a more complete in home or gym program. You can increase the sets and reps, or the actual speed of the exercise to increase or reduce the challenge of the exercise!

If you are interesting in having us create a custom training program for you, let’s set up call and see how we might be able to help you!

Train hard. Enjoy !


The Neglected Piece to Better Distance Running Performance

The Neglected Piece to Better Distance Running Performance

Running can be one of the most beneficial exercises that you can do to stay in shape, and stay strong. Some people do it recreationally, competitively, to relax, meditate, or just to maintain or stay in shape.

Running too excessively can cause muscle pain, achy joints, stiff tendons, which will ultimately lead to a decreased performance in your runs.

Aside from just getting rest where needed, one modality that can reduce the negative effects of too much running is strength training.

A true structured program that progressively cycles between strength, power, even maximal strength is enough to not only improve your running times, form, energy preservation during your runs, but also create stronger joints and tendons that will be able to maintain and manage heavy volumes of running.

If I Want to Get Better At Running, Shouldn’t I just Run More??

No not quite. A question that I get asked quite often.

Even for distance runners, there are several forces at work as you run that slowly over time wear down the joints and muscles, that strength training can reduce.

Yes running more can absolutely make you a more efficient runner. After all, practice makes “better”. Your running form, stride and speed technique are aspects of the run that must be done through running.

However, creating the forces that propel you forward, and absorb your weight each and every step can directly be enhanced through weight room work.

There are 3 phases to a run:

  • Propulsion Phase
  • Flight
  • Recovery (Absorption)

There is force that is generated to propel the body forward, and there is a reversal force used to stop and quickly redirect the force.

In a freeze frame , you will be able to see that runners will be in the air for a split second immediately following the propulsion. If your are 170lbs, that mean every step, your foot and ankle (knee, hip, trunk included) have to catch that weight and keep it moving forward.

Thus, if you are not as strong as you CAN be, then the effect of the distance can wear you down more quickly since your muscles and joints aren’t primed to generate and absorb the running forces, whether at low or high speeds.

How Strength Ties In

When we talk strength, thinks in terms of generating force.

What resistance training does for the body is stress it temporarily so that later on, the body can handle those stressors more efficiently.

Exercises like squats, lunges, even dumbbell rows are allowing the muscles to not just increase in size, but contract and generate the forces necessary for better movement.

Thus, an untrained (gym) distance runner with 3 years experience may run 5 miles at a certain time, but a runner that is versed in the weight room with the same running experience could be able to have a better time because his muscles won’t wear down as quickly throughout a run.

Because of his training, his joints and muscle can better propel him forward, absorb better the constant forces happening across the joints, and literally use less energy during the run. (I will not that strength training IN CONJUNCTION with good technique is the ultimate way to best use energy.)

In addition to this, when you incorporate strength training into your training regimen, you will also help reduce injury incidence and those nagging pains.

Again, if you are a “weaker” runner, because your muscles and joints are only able to handle a certain amount overtime, those running forces will travel through the body and carried over area that aren’t necessarily supposed to be taking on as much of a load, causing compensation patterns, aching muscles, and injury.

A “stronger” runners muscles will be able to absorb the forces throughout the movement chain more efficiently and better avoid energy leaks and the compensatory patterns since the joints and muscles are able to take on the load.

You will be able to run farther, burn less energy, and reduce injury risks.

Conclusion:

Even though weight training isn’t usually what comes to mind for most distance runners, the science benefits are undeniable.

Again, if you are a 170 pound runner, pacing at 45 miles per week, that is 170 pounds you are moving for 45 miles.

Training the muscles to be stronger allows the body to work less and be more efficient at moving that weight. With training, it will take less forces to generate and move overtime.

So, if you want to improve your running, or stop being in pain, incorporate a resistance training strategy into your regimen to get bettert results.


25 Things to Remember When Beginning Your Fitness Journey

25 Things to Remember When Beginning Your Fitness Journey

Here are a few guidlines that you can follow to ensure that you make the most of your fitness journey.

  1. Set a clear, definable goal. I want to lose X weight, by X months
  2. Break the larger goal down in to smaller manageable ones
  3. Drink a lot of water
  4. Expect setbacks, but keep on with the process
  5. Have a good support system. Surround yourself with people who will support what you are trying to do
  6. Aim to work out at least 3x per week
  7. Add diversity in your program and use more than a single mode of training. Mix cardio, strength, explosive, endurance
  8. Minimize processed foods, eat more whole foods
  9. Do not measure your success only by the scale
  10. There is no perfect diet. Eliminate the “I need to burn off the bad meals I ate over the weekend” mentality
  11. STRENGTH TRAIN
  12. Plan your week ahead of time, and schedule your workouts in advance. Time management is key
  13. Incorporate speed agility training if and when possible
  14. Change the tempos of your actual lifts to create different responses within the body
  15. Definitely incorporate sprints into your training
  16. Find a work out partner
  17. Schedule “cheat” days
  18. Record your workouts, and keep track of your progress
  19. Establish “non-scale” victories. Increase in strength, decrease mile time, jeans size dropped
  20. Hire a coach if you feel like you need more accountability
  21. Have a proper warm up. Include foam roll, light cardio, stretches post workout
  22. Use variable intensities during your workouts. Not every workout should have you crawling out of the gym
  23. Incorporate at least 2 cardio days if you train 3 days per week. More if you are trying to lose weight or tone
  24. Have a balanced program. Work in different planes of motions. Train the posterior chain as well. INCORPORATE A LOT OF ROTATIONAL MOVEMENT WHERE POSSIBLE
  25. Make it fun