Why the secret to getting results with children is having fun

Today’s blog comes from APA coach Patrick Waplington.  It is very relevant as I posted only a few weeks ago on the principles of training junior athletes in terms of hours.  This blog focuses on what to do during those hours of training.   I will start us of by giving an example of a programme for a typical 60 minute squad for our 12-16 years old athletes.  Then Paddy will give us some information about the work he has done with our slightly younger Junior Academy, 8-11 years old athletes.

Below is an example of what I call a complex session, because it basically covers a little bit of everything.  For a developmental level athlete you can still make great gains in all the biomotors even when they are trained at the same time.

Theme: Multi-Directional Speed & Agility & Strength Development

Foam Roll – Issue areas: Quads/Glutes/Calves/Hamstrings


Lateral Mini-Band Walk x 10m
Monster Walk x 10m
Hip Flexor Activation x 10/leg
Shoulder Taps x 10/arm

Movement Prep:

x 10 reps per exercise

Glute Bridge / Cook Hip Lift
Overhead Squat
Full Spiderman + Press UP
Forward Lunge
Side Lunge
1 Leg SLDL
1 Leg Squat


Leap & Stick (In Place) 1 x 5/leg
Leap & Stick (Linear)  1 x 5/leg
Leap & Stick (Lateral)  1 x 5/leg

Hop & Stick (In Place) 1 x 5/leg
Hop & Stick (Linear) 1 x 5/leg
Hop & Stick (Lateral) 1 x 5/leg inside & outside

Multi-directional Speed & Agility:

Week 1: Cutting

Lateral Shuffle x 3
Rehearsed Cut x 3
Random Cut x 3
Spin Cut x 3
Speed Cut x 3

Strength & Power Development:

Clean from Thigh 2 x 6
Squat or Deadlift variation
DB Bench Press or DB Overhead Press
Split Squat or RFE Split Squat
Feet elevated TRX Row or Pull Up

Year 10 = 3 x 10 reps
Year 11 = 3 x 6-8 reps

Plank Combo – Left, Right & Front
Skydiver (Prone AW – Scap Retractions)


Full Chain Glute
Hip Flexor Lunge Sequence
Prayer Stretch
Pec Stretch
3D Calf Stretch

So how might we tweak things to work with the slightly younger athletes?  Well, over to Patrick to answer that!



APA Blog – The use of Games with Junior Athletes

Everyone loves a game! And this is something I have used to my advantage over the last year. A big part of my work with APA is working with the Junior Academy. This is a squad session that runs Monday – Friday and regularly has between 15 – 20 young athletes taking part. Whilst there is a ton of S&C literature, with plenty of advice for training programmes for youth athletes, it can be a completely different story when trying to implement this in the real world.

Check out the video below for an example of a ‘Game’ that could be used for Multi-directional Speed:

Ask under 12s to run a multi-directional speed drill whilst displaying the correct turning mechanics and they can lose interest before they’ve even started! Challenge them to compete against one another or in teams and suddenly they have a reason to perform well and want to. This is where the coach can use their creativity to put their own mark on the session. I use a lot of games to promote the athletic skills I am trying to develop. This immediately adds fun to the session and engages the participants. This “fun factor” is of huge significance and not often mentioned in the literature.

How about this challenge to work on ‘Strength’ in a fun competitive way?  Who can be the first pair to get up?

Manipulating the rules or scoring of the games to promote specific athletic skills is a fantastic way of keeping the fun element while still getting your coaching message across. I use various methods to do this, such as awarding bonus points or even all the points for displaying good technique, or changing the space or boundaries players have to work in. These methods start to create a level playing field for mixed ability groups, as you can raise the expectations or difficulty level for the more committed athletes while still challenging the others in the group.

I have a number of games I use to promote different athletic skills. I get the game started and observe, pull the group in and run some drills to work on a specific element relating it to the performance in the game, then get the game up and running again, hopefully with an improved performance.

Participants will feel like they’ve played games throughout, but the coach will see how they’ve improved athletic performance. By the end of the session the athletes will have had some of what they want and some of what they need. Getting this mix right is part of the art of coaching.

Paddy Waplington

BSc (Hons), ASCC

Why bread is bad for you!

This week I have been on my travels.  I went to watch the ATP Challenger Tennis at Surbiton where several APA athletes were competing.

Then today I was at the Elite Sport Performance Expo where I met a few cool people.  Not only did I find out about some of the latest technology innervations in the sports performance field I got a few free assessments done on myself that I might integrate into our athlete profiling at APA.  I did a sweat test with Precision Hydration, a body fat assessment with a bioelectrical impedance company, and a hip and shoulder joint assessment with Biomechanics Education.


My changes in body fat have been the inspiration for a few blogs over the years but my trip to the expo has inspired me to write another one. Click here, here and here for some of the previous nutrition posts. Today’s bodyfat measure showed me my body fat has been creeping back up to where I started when first approached Ultimate Performance.  It’s now 17% again so that was my kick start to get back towards 10%.

This post is also inspired by one of my pro athletes who coincidently asked me about whether bread is good for athletes to have.

What is bread?

  1. flour- a powder obtained by grinding grain, typically wheat, and used to make bread, cakes, and pastry.
  2. Bread is usually made from a wheatflour dough that is cultured with yeast, allowed to rise, and finally baked in an oven. Owing to its high levels of gluten (which give the dough sponginess and elasticity), common wheat (also known as bread wheat) is the most common grain used for the preparation of bread.

Some people have been eliminating foods from their diet that contain gluten in the belief that it is damaging their health.  For more information about this read here.


What is gluten?

  1. a mixture of two proteins present in cereal grains, especially wheat, which is responsible for the elastic texture of dough.
My take is that foods that contain gluten including bread (and pasta) are part of a normal healthy balanced diet.  However, I definitely support the principle of being strategic with your starches.  Bread can certainly be part of your diet, but just like any carbohydrate it’s about the timing of what type and when you eat it.

What do the experts say?

Dr. Mike Rousell has recommended to have around 60-80g (up to 100g in large athletes) per Starch meal on training days. These meals will take place at breakfast, during workout shake, and in two meals following the workout.  So you’re looking at recommendations of about 240g-400g on training days depending on size of athlete.


On non-training days he advises a starch meal at breakfast (60-80g) and five further non starch meals at all other times (20g) so around 180g per day on non-training days.


He also advises around 50g of protein per meal, eaten at each of the 6 meals in the day.


But don’t just count calories!!!!


If you use Apps like My Fitness Pal to count how many calories you eat but you don’t pay attention to what type or when you eat them you’re missing a big piece of the puzzle.  For a great blog on why ‘A Calorie is Not A Calorie’ click the link.  This blog talks about calorie counting but also when to have Carbohydrates.


What type of Carbohydrates are best?


There are two main types of Carbohydrates:


1. Whole grains (starches): also know as ‘complex carbohydrates:’


Include foods such as porridge oats, wheat based cereals, rice, pasta and potatoes and can be consumed when the demand for energy from the body is high.  They release their energy more slowly.


Whole grain

-A whole grain is a cereal grain that contains the germ, endosperm, and bran, in contrast to refined grains, which retain only the endosperm.(Wikipedia).  


Vegetables– are also a form of complex carbohydrates but can be eaten in abundance because they contain only around 26 calories/100g so should be eaten at lunch and dinner!


2. Simple carbohydrates: 


Simple carbohydrates are sugars. All simple carbohydrates are made of just one or two sugar molecules. They are the quickest source of energy, as they are very rapidly digested.  Think sports drinks, confectionery, cereal bars, and fruit.


Fruit– is technically a simple carbohydrate — but it also contains fibre, vitamins and antioxidants. The fibre in fruit helps slow the digestion of carbs, which is why your blood sugar doesn’t spike as much after eating fibre-filled fruit like it does when you gulp down a fizzy drink or a chocolate bar.


As you will see below you can eat all of the different types of carbohydrates but it’s about eating them at the right time!


When should you eat Carbohydrates?


Most experts now agree that nutrient timing places a big role in weight management.  It is generally agreed that the best time to eat carbohydrates is:


1.  Breakfast- complex (60-80g) 

2.  Snacks- simple (fruit) 

3.  Workout-simple (50g workout shake)

4.  Post-workout Meal-simple (within 30 minutes) and complex (60-80g within 2 hours) 


Training days:


So on training days you will have complex carbohydrates at breakfast and in one or two meals following your workout.


Non-training days:


On non-training days you just have complex carbohydrates for breakfast!!

The rest of the day can be fruit for a snack and vegetables at lunch and dinner!!


Food Types Medium


The key take away message is to make sure you are strict with your intake of complex carbohydrates and simple sugars on non-training days!!!!!  It really is the key to stay lean over Christmas.  If you want to pig out a bit more on Carbohydrates then make sure you do some training before your Christmas dinner.

So going back to the pro athlete’s question about bread, he would be fine to have it at breakfast on a training day or a non-training day.  But on a training day you could also have it as a post workout meal. Don’t do what I sometimes get lazy doing and always have sandwiches at lunch!!

Why our tennis players aren’t using Olympic lifts

Why our tennis players aren’t using Olympic lifts

This week the athletes I spend the majority of my time coaching came back from half-term and were due to be progressing into the final phase of their peak performance training plan.  They were supposed to be realising the training effects of their strength and power phases by working under conditions of fatigue- what I refer to at APA as Power endurance.  For me this is really the goal of where I want to get to- at least in this population of Tennis players.  And my intention was to use Olympic lifts for timed reps to achieve this.


Disclaimer alert:  To quote Eric Cressey from his excellent book, The Ultimate Off-season Training Manual, ”There is a noteworthy difference between “conditioning” sessions and “speed” training.  The former serves only to enhance short-term metabolic preparedness, while the latter seeks to effect favourable changes in the powerful neuromuscular system that governs performance via long term adaptations.”


Peak Performance Body Pyramid


So this phase was really more focused on end stage conditioning to enhance short-term metabolic preparedness closer to the important tournament block.  In my mind we had already got some good neuromuscular adaptations and they had earnt the right to endure those qualities under fatigue. However, with Eric’s words of caution about just doing stuff to get children tired rather than getting them moving well, I had to stop right in my tracks and question whether Olympic lifts were a good fit for the athletes in front of me.  Were they moving well?


I decided they weren’t and here are my reasons for why they were going to stop doing Olympic weight lifting for power endurance for the current block.


I’m the biggest fan of Olympic lifts and I have written several blogs (here and here) about power development and why I thing the derivatives of the Clean and Snatch are the king of power development exercises.


Suffice it to say Olympic weightlifting is very popular as a tool to promote power.  Why is this so? Because Elite level Olympic weightlifters are capable of snatching over 150 kg and can clean and jerk over 200 kg. It is impossible to perform Olympic weightlifting movements at a slow speed.  So you get a great combination of strength and speed. You get the same amount of power generated as with a plyometric bodyweight jump, but you also get strong at the same time!


The most powerful of all movements is the Olympic weightlifting action of the second pull of a Clean, peaking at 55.8 Watts/kg (Garhammer, J. J. Strength and Cond.Res. 7(2): 76-89. 1993).


But………………. common sense tells me that if you can’t perform a movement pattern efficiently then you can’t load it and you certainly can’t perform it under fatigue.  The simple truth was my athletes were getting too tight around their thoracic spine and shoulder internal range of motion, and couldn’t pull with the proper movement mechanics.  This was a relatively recent development where we were probably putting too much responsibility on the athletes themselves to take care of their stretching and mobility needs.  This on top of the fact their tennis training volumes were pretty high putting a lot of stress on the anterior chain.  So while they were okay for a few reps in our power phase I felt I was pushing the envelope in this phase as they seemed to be getting tighter around their backs and shoulders.


Olympic Lifts – Considerations for Tennis Players


With respect to the Olympic lifts, I know Eric Cressey is not comfortable with the amount of forces the snatch puts on the ulnar collateral ligament, which takes a ton of stress during the valgus-extension overload cycle that dramatically changes the physical shape of most pitchers’ elbow joints.  I’m not so sure the tennis elbow is subjected to quite the same elbow stresses and I actually like dumbbell power snatches for tennis players as I think the freedom of movement afforded by the dumbbell automatically reduces the amount of load you can lift.


However all the research suggests that virtually all baseball players have some degree of labral fraying (and I’d imagine it’s similar for tennis players). The labrum deepens the shoulder “socket” to mechanically provide stability in a joint that is designed for mobility. Without optimal labral function, going to the extreme demands of stability – overhead movements – is not ideal, especially under load.  So I would still be cautious with how much Snatch work you do with tennis players.


The catch on the clean isn’t something to which I’m going to subject to valuable wrists and hands that go through some serious abuse with every ground stroke although I see no problem with high pull variations, though, unless the athlete is getting a bit tight around the traps.


For this reason I thought about keeping the mid thigh clean pull in but even then I just thought it was working to amplify an over dominant front side posture and I wanted to give the upper traps and anterior deltoids a break.



Topped off by the fact that these teenagers were also in class every day and can never get off their phones and tablets, I just made the decision we needed to make some changes for this block.

 bad posture

Here was my solution:


My inspiration was to go back to the basics and look for other ways I could get some power endurance using patterns that wouldn’t require as much upper body mobility.   So my key aim was to get more mobility around the thoracic and hip on my recovery days and go after the posterior chain on the power endurance days using kettlebells.


1.  Focus on Hip mobility and thoracic mobility


I suggest you check out this article on how to improve rotation while protecting your lower back.  Also check out www.redefiningstrength.com for some excellent blog posts that I used to create my Supplementary myofascial release and mobility drills for foot and leg, knees, lower back and hips, and neck.


Also check out this nice hip flow series which is a bit more dynamic and can be used to warm-up for the kettbell workout.



2. Focus on posterior chain hip power using kettlebells



I suggest you pay attention to the cues here as otherwise you can end up doing something like this.  I am not a fan of doing what looks to me more like a squat swing with a lot of focus on the arms.  This would just be like throwing the baby out with the bath water and replacing one exercise (Olympic weight lifting) that aggrevates anterior shoulder region with another.





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