Three Tips from IMG Academy Coach, Justin Russ

Throughout the course of my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to work within a variety of settings within the fitness and strength and conditioning industries. I’ve worked with one on one clients of all ages, shapes, sizes, and ability levels. I’ve worked with small groups and taught large classes. Currently, I work as a strength and conditioning coach at IMG Academy, with athletes of all sports, ages, and ethnicities. It’s been, and continues to be a fun journey, with past experiences ultimately making me a better coach, and my work setting allowing me to learn something new every day.
To give you an idea, the majority of athletes I work with on a daily basis are high school aged males and females who participate in team sports. These young athletes have quite the day; spending half of the day on sport practice and weight room sessions, with the remainder of the time dedicated towards school and total athlete sessions such as vision, mental, or leadership training.
Here at the Academy, we strive to not only help these young people become better athletes, but better people as well; establishing good habits in this critical period of development. In the weight room, this includes stressing the importance of taking care of one’s body in an effort to prevent injury and promote long-term progress.
One of the main ways we go about this is by incorporating TriggerPoint™ foam rolling and Myofascial Compression™ Techniques into each athlete’s program. Nine times out of ten these athletes (and their developing bodies) are experiencing some type of movement dysfunction and/or muscle tightness that needs to be addressed (ask a handful of 16 year olds to perform a bodyweight squat and you’ll see what I’m talking about) and we can attack this using specific techniques with the GRID® and Total Body Kit.
Sports teams come into the weight room and lift as a team, so all instruction is given to a group. Groups can range in size from as small as a handful to as large as 40, depending on the sport. When teaching a group of young athletes (often with shorter attention spans) how to perform TriggerPoint™ Techniques properly, I’d recommend following the guidelines listed below:
Make sure you are visible to all athletes
Most young athletes learn best from a combination of observation, listening to instruction, and performing the task themselves. Establish a presence where all of the athletes in a group can observe you and see how the release technique is performed properly.
Give clear & detailed, yet concise instruction
It’s no secret that the attention span of athletes at the high school age is short at best, so I’ve found that it’s most effective to keep instruction as concise as possible, while also being clear and specific about what you want accomplished and how to do it. Being specific and detailed during the first time explaining something will (hopefully) reduce the amount of kids asking you to repeat yourself later on.
Perform the technique with them
I like to perform TriggerPoint™ releases/techniques with my athletes for a couple of reasons: one, it keeps everyone moving at the same pace and two, it allows me to get my own soft tissue work in when time is often tight. It’s helpful to keep the group working at the same pace, to prevent side conversations and some of the kids from working ahead.
Much like working with a small group or in a group exercise type setting, it can be difficult to get everyone to do exactly what you want when giving TriggerPoint™ instruction to a large group of young athletes. It is important to note, however, that establishing this habit early on can help improve motor patterns, reduce the risk of injury, and ultimately improve performance in the long run. The techniques listed above will help you as a coach when you begin to instruct groups of athletes on how to perform TriggerPoint™ techniques properly.

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