An athlete pulls a sled as part of his training regimen.
When I dabbled in prep athletics in the early 1990s, offseason training basically consisted of general weight lifting and running. Boy, how things have changed.
The evolution of fitness training is quite phenomenal. It has become so specialized and more efficient in recent years and it’s creating stronger, quicker and more explosive athletes. Many of our Greater Alton prep athletes are reaping the benefits of these workout innovations.
“Just from back when I was a (high school) athlete (in the early 2000s), it’s the importance of having a stable and strong core for your extremities to work off of,” said Kelly McCormick, physical therapist and owner of McCormick Physical Therapy and Athletic Rehab in Alton. “The importance of that has come to light, because that was never discussed when I was an athlete. It was always just throw harder. Now if you’ve got a strong base to work off of, you’re going to be a lot more efficient.”
McCormick, 31, has been a physical therapist for 7 ½ years and began her own business in January. She provides physical therapy services and injury prevention. She admitted that strengthening and stabilizing your core is a great way to combat injuries, too.
“You need to make sure your workouts are more diverse,” McCormick said. “Don’t do the same things over and over. Focusing on core stability and proper biomechanics and making sure you’re changing the way you do things will definitely help prevent injuries.”
Kolten Bauer recently completed his freshman season with the Marquette Catholic boys’ golf team and as a younger athlete he’s learning the importance of offseason preparation.
Bauer and the rest of the Explorer golf team recently began training at Nautilus Fitness Center in Alton under personal trainer Chad Campbell and he’s already noticing the benefits.
“Chad helps us a lot with a lot of TRX, core and balance workouts,” Bauer said. “I can tell a difference already. We’ve only been going to Chad for a few months, but I’m already starting to see my distance improve.”
Campbell has been a trainer at Nautilus for nearly five years, but worked there overall for almost 21 years. Besides the Marquette boys’ golfers, Nautilus trainers also work out with Alton boys’ soccer and Alton boys’ track and some individual athletes.
For golf, Campbell likes the idea of the TRX training, which uses bands for athletes to work out against the resistance of their own body weight. It promotes great balance and core strength.
“It’s pretty much balance, core, strengthening, stability exercises,” Campbell said. “I use the TRX suspension training system, which are basically straps that hang from the ceiling and I do a lot of work with them with that. They’re working against their own body weight.
“We don’t do any over-extensive weight lifting because it’s not necessary for golf.”
Allie Troeckler, who just finished her junior campaign on the Civic Memorial girls’ basketball team, trains with her teammates at Pride Fitness in Wood River.
At Pride, the focus is to make athletes quicker and more agile.
“Really we focus a lot on our speed and being explosive and I really feel that our workouts put us ahead of those who don’t work out as hard as we do,” Troeckler said. “Our bodies are more prepared for the more difficult aspects of the game. All the lifting we do definitely helps with (injury prevention), too.”
Troeckler added, “I really enjoy the sleds. You really don’t find those sled pushes in your high school weight room. Then when they have us on the ropes and we run out and they hold it, that’s a good one, too. That’s for being explosive and strong.”
Todd Laux, owner and operator of Pride, has been a personal trainer for nearly a decade. His career started training UFC fighters alongside Matt Hughes, a former 9-time UFC welterweight champion, and has now shifted to working with everyday people and young athletes.
Besides the CM girls’ basketball team, Laux trains the Alton baseball program and individual athletes from Alton, Civic Memorial, Roxana, East-Alton Wood River, Marquette, Edwardsville, Granite City and a sprinkling of other local schools.
Laux likes to focus on specialized training to help his athletes become more explosive and dynamic, giving them a competitive edge. That’s what he likes about using the sled training.
“We do a lot of sled training here, pushing sleds, dragging sleds,” Laux said. “When you push or drag a sled, it simulates great running technique and builds your running muscles. It’s like resistance running for them. You’re pushing around a sled with 200, 300 pounds, you take that sled away and that kid feels lightning fast and has built up those muscles that attack the ground.”
He added, “We do a lot of medicine ball stuff, explosively throwing it in the air, slamming it and simulating what they do in their sport, too. A football player may hold that medicine ball at his chest and explode a 20-pound medicine ball as far as he can, simulating blocking, or hitting. Basketball players may use their legs and explode it over their head, simulating going to the basket strong or rebounding.”
Troeckler can tell the difference.
“We feel that being stronger is one of the benefits our team really has that helps us with our game and we really enjoy going to Pride and doing workouts with Todd Laux,” she said.
Campbell just wishes this type of training would have been around back when he was an athlete. He implores today’s prep athletes to take advantage of doing it, not just for sports, but everyday life.
“I wish we would have had this kind of guidance growing up playing sports,” Campbell said. “I think it helps with the longevity and it gives them accountability, and it’s team building because they’re all coming together. They aren’t just individually going to the weight room and standing around.”
Meeting with a professional to assess your wants and needs and physical boundaries as an athlete are crucial to success, too.
“Consulting a professional is huge,” McCormick said. “Having a professional assess that athlete’s particular body, their posture, their strengths, their flexibility and working based on that is important. It ultimately comes back to core stability and good biomechanics.
“If you don’t have a stable base to work from, you’re going to put extra stress on your extremities.”
Laux pointed out the Average Joe should take advantage of these revolutionary training ideas, too.
“You don’t have to be an athlete to train like one,” he said.