Chris Vu: Maximizing Performance & Minimizing Injuries for Return to Play

We hosted a live webinar with Chris Vu, Strength and Conditioning Coach at Training Matrix to plan how best to help your athletes maximize performance and minimize injuries when returning to play. States are beginning to lift some restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic allowing athletes to hit the sand after a few months off. His biggest advice is to regain, adapt, and pace yourself! Here’s a recap of his session:

Chris reviewed the important physical qualities of a beach volleyball athlete:

  • Mobility: Range around joints
  • Flexibility: Length/elasticity of muscles
  • Stability: Rigidity, ability to offset oncoming forces
  • Balance: Ability to maintain a line of gravity
  • Strength: How much force we can produce
  • Power: How fast we can produce those forces
  • Speed: Bi-product of combination strength/power
  • Agility: Ability to react

He shared that when there is inactivity for a prolonged period of time these qualities drop off (listed in order of dropoff from earliest to diminish to longest lasting): 

  • Cardio
  • Speed/Power
  • Strength
  • Stability/Balance
  • Mobility

Here are some tips from Chris to keep your athletes on the right track as they return to the sand.

 

1. SYSTEMATIC WAYS TO REGAIN AND IMPROVE

GROUND-UP APPROACH

Why this approach? Beach volleyball is a dynamic sport with a lot of direction changes. Athletes are constantly jumping, landing, and taking a lot of arm swings.

To set training goals start with stability, balance, and mobility. This allows for better movement quality which translates into an ability to express strength. When athletes improve strength, they want to be able to perform through a wide range of movement patterns. This is also the case with producing speed and power. This creates a more versatile athlete.

When looking to train from the ground up, athletes should focus on high reps with light weights that are easy. Once athletes have control they can move to more strength-based and heavier loads.

Remember to encourage athletes to always utilize a wide range of movement patterns. They can continue to build strength which will lead to a greater ability to produce force.

 

PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD

Athletes will build their way up to heavier weights. Since strength and power are interdependent, a mixture of plyometrics and strength training with heavier loads is needed. We are looking to promote the long-term health of an athlete and improve how they perform.

There are different qualities of strength and power. When working on reactive strength, light loads are the best. When working on explosive power, large amounts of force moving as fast as possible are important. Training these in balance is key. Sometimes we need to be explosive while at other times we need to be reactive. 

Again, athletes should always be training through a wide range of movement patterns. They need to be able to get in AND out of many different positions and movements in beach volleyball. This will help them best prepare for the demands of the sport.

 

2. UNDERSTANDING THE ADAPTATIONS OF MUSCULOSKELETAL & TENDON STIFFNESS

Muscle size can vary at this time from atrophy, a decrease in size and density of muscles, to hypertrophy, an increase in size, and density of muscles.

There are also ‘slow-twitch’ and ‘fast-twitch’ muscle fibers that are at play. When going slow the small fibers are engaged. When going faster, the bigger fibers are turned on. But when an athlete stops, they turn off. 

The more an athlete trains, the stiffer their tendons and muscles get. This is due to the athlete taking on a lot of force that they are producing and absorbing. The tendons and muscles will adapt over time and become more resilient. This helps to maximize performance. It will also help the athlete become more efficient and to safely absorb force when landing and in jump mechanics. 

It is important for athletes and trainers to understand the importance of ‘load to explode’ which includes absorption of force and proper landing mechanics. This will ensure that the tendons being trained will have long-term health and performance.

It’s also essential for athletes to do both high and low amplitude plyometrics. Low amplitude plyos stress muscles and tendons minimally, such as with jumping rope. High amplitude plyos place a lot of stress on the downward movement, such as with max jumping.

 

3. PACING FOR LONG-TERM HEALTHY PERFORMANCE

There are other body parts that an athlete needs to train other than their bigger muscle groups as they return to play. Their core/abs will protect the back and help to transfer high levels of force throughout the body, centralizing force production. Their hips will determine how well they can produce force and extend their range of mobility. An athlete's shoulders, at any age, are hugely impacted. Their shoulders need to be strong and resilient with a variety of exercises in different directions. When transitioning from hard surfaces back into the sand, ankle mobility plays a big part. 

It is important for athletes to remember to pay attention to the thoracic spine (or t-spine). Mobility here will translate into the longevity of their career without injuries. There are three different movements an athlete should focus on: extension, rotation, and lateral flexion.

Those who support an athlete during their return to play on the sand should be mindful of progressive overload, overtraining, and burnout which may increase the possibility of injuries. Sometimes this may present as low motivation, ‘off’ eating patterns, sleep issues and mood changes.

Athletes benefit from developing and mapping out a daily or weekly routine that provides structure. Prioritizing nutrition, recovery, and quality sleep around training will also aid their overall performance. Stress. Rest. Repeat. 


DO YOU NEED TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR ATHLETE AS A PARENT, COACH, OR CLUB DIRECTOR? BOOK A ONE-TO-ONE SESSION WITH CHRIS VU AND GET THE INSIGHT TO HELP MAKE YOUR ATHLETE(S) DREAMS A REALITY. ATHLETES LOOKING TO CONTINUE THEIR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT SHOULD CONSIDER THE ACCELERATE PROGRAM AS AN INDIVIDUAL, SMALL GROUP, THROUGH OUR LABS, OR AS A CLUB. SERVICES

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *