Conditioning in The Pro Locker Room

Chiropractic's Integral Role

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Strength and Conditioning Program

Also discussed in the article Raising Chiropractic's Value in Pro Sports was The Pyramid System (See Fig. 1), which is a conditioning program designed by Coach Al Vermeil, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Chicago Bulls. This system is the backbone of the conditioning program for the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Falcons.

The Pyramid System

The Pyramid System is a calculated individualized approach which brings each athlete along at a rate they are capable of handling. The desired goal for everyone involved is to push an athlete through a conditioning program as hastily as possible, but never at a pace that will produce injuries.

Work Capacity - 1st Phase

Keep in mind that the best players in almost all sports are your fastest and most explosive athletes. The lower the conditioning level of an athlete, the more time they need to spend in the work capacity phase.

In this phase, there are many different types of exercises done. Medicine balls are used for abs and total body work. These can also be used with tempo runs. For example, an athlete can do 100 yards of underhand/overhand throw with 6 kilos, 10 kilos and 15 kilos. Once they reach 100 yards, they'll run 200 yards of tempo work, come back, throw it 100 yards and walk to the ball. Other exercises used could also be teeter boards for the lower body and physio balls for the upper body. All of these exercises are very important in preparing the body for overhead lifting.

The Work Capacity phase of the Pyramid System, for the most part, is done without the use of added weights to an athlete's program. There are six sub-categories, and each one provides immeasurable benefits in the final quest to get and keep an athlete conditioned. No athlete should go to the second phase of conditioning (Strength) until they are fully capable of performing all six sub-categories of Work Capacity.

1) Anaerobic Capacity - In basketball, the furthest distance you can run is 90 feet. In football, the furthest you'd ever run at one time is 110 yards. Anaerobic capacity is the athlete's ability to explode for periods of 5-6 seconds at a time with rapid recovery. This type of conditioning requires serious training, as the body's oxygen utilization system must dramatically improve as well as the recovery ability of the athlete. The athlete will ultimately need to perform the same task 10-15 times with a rest of about 40 seconds, which is the same as the time clock in football.

2) Body Composition - Today, there are extremely sophisticated means of detecting body fat that can come within a half-point of accuracy, plus or minus. Depending on the sport and position the athlete plays, the ideal body composition is critical for success of that athlete. The program is designed to help the athlete reach close to ideal body weight and composition before moving on to the second phase of the Pyramid.

3) Joint Mobility - As Chiropractors have known for years, full and unrestricted joint mobility is critical for maximum performance and ultimate prevention of injuries. Joint mobility is influenced by the tendons of a muscle, the tension of supportive muscles, surrounding ligaments and biomechanical defects of an athlete. This area is especially important for Strength Coach and Chiropractor to work together on. For example, an increased sacral base angle will alter an athlete's ability to either flex or extend at the hips and waist. Without the knowledge and correction of this structural defect, an athlete may be pushed beyond what he's capable of handling.

4) Strength Endurance - This category works hand in hand with Anaerobic Capacity. This is an athlete's ability to apply a given force time and again, play after play for 50-70 plays per game. The strength aspect is recognized by an athlete's ability to show absolute strength, or the ability to exert force without the equation of time being a factor.

5) Core Strength - This is one of the most important categories in the Pyramid. Core strength refers to abdominal strength. This ranges all the way up to the thoracic cavity and down to the pubic crest. Core strength is critical for full body stabilization. If a body can't stabilize, an athlete will have a difficult time exerting force into the ground while moving fast. This will translate into an inability to take on blockers or playing against other players. This also requires strong low back muscles, such as the gluteals, lumbar erector spinae group and other pelvic muscles. This area of development is critical as it is one of the strongest parts of the body and the strength here will permeate out to the rest of the body.

Much abdominal work is done either on the floor or on physio balls. There is also an ab bench that is used, both with and without weights. The lumbar area is initially worked by performing hyperextensions without weights, or with pauses. This must be mastered before an athlete can ever add weights on their backs or over their heads.

6) Aerobic Capacity - This categoy is usually acquired if the anaerobic capacity is done correctly. For athletes such as football players, too much distance work should never be done, as that will retard both strength and speed.
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