One of the first things I learned was that our primary job as Strength and Conditioning Coaches is to prevent injury. When I was working in professional sports, my athletes were getting paid a lot of money to perform every single night. A lot of people's jobs were on the line when the lights came on and the guys needed to be available to play. Injuries are a big deal. Many training staffs have been discarded due to high injury rates and I don't want that to happen to you.
Regardless of what setting you train in, here are four things that should be included in everyone's training program.
1. Nordic Hamstring Variations: This is one of the few times I like to go bilateral and I don't care a whole lot about form. The number one goal with this exercise is to BLAST, and I mean FREAKING BLAST, good quality tone into your hamstrings. Hamstrings are one of the most vulnerable muscles in the body. They are typically overstretched, tight and in a bad position to work properly. As an added bonus, hamstrings are sneaky hard to train. There aren't a lot of ways to truly blast great tone into them so you can't afford to skip out on one of the few definitely great exercises for the hamstrings. I don't care if you do oscillations, just eccentrics or any other variation, just inject some resiliency into your hammies.
2. Eccentrics: This is an easy follow up to Nordics. Most non-contact, soft tissue injuries happen during the eccentric motion so you better be able to manage an eccentric muscle contraction (If you don't know, eccentric contractions are when the muscle is lengthening. So if you are doing a bicep curl, and you go slow on the way down, that's called eccentric control, or an eccentric muscular contraction). The beauty of eccentrics is that, in addition to the injury prevention benefits, it also has a tremendous amount of positive impact on your power and explosiveness. If you want to take this to the next level, you can start talking about asymmetries and which side of the body may be more vulnerable to eccentric strain. For example, in right handed baseball pitchers, the right abdominals lengthen during the throwing motion, so they probably need a little more juice than the left to stay healthy. Here's one of my favorites...
3. Specific Conditioning: I've covered this topic many times. Nothing screams injury prone like an athlete who has thrown form and control to the wayside and is simply digging deep to get through the rest of the competition. The better shape they are in, the more control and resiliency they will possess and doesn't that sound lovely? But I'm not just talking about some wind sprints after practice. You have to be laser focused with your conditioning. When training, you only get the adaptations to the muscles you are training, so if you're not conditioning your arms, you're missing a large chunk of the puzzle. Make a list of the muscles that your athletes use, how they use them and how much conditioning they need.
4. Recovery: You didn't think you were getting out of here without me talking about the brain did you? A classic sign of poor recovery is stiffness. Stiffness is a sure fire way to launch your athletes into the danger zone. So is strained mitochondria. So is a stiff rib-cage. So is overstimulated visual system. So is a body that never shuts off. Should I keep going? These are all components of your recovery. It's really easy to make someone stronger. Your grandma can probably figure that one out pretty quickly. But granny may need to brush up on how best to undulate a program to best match recovery needs or how she can be proactive about promoting recovery in her down time. There is a lot more complexity here than you think. You have to be a sharp coach. This is why I created an entire two-day workshop around it. If you don't think this is that big of a deal, just look at the "Load Management" debacle that the NBA has found itself in. They are resting star players more and more to be ready and fresh when it really matters in the playoffs. The future of performance training is going to be heavily focused on recovery. Don't be left in the dust.
There are obviously a lot more items we can add to this list but these are the ones that will give you the most bang for your buck. Excluding any of these four will absolutely prove consequential in one way or another.