The ABCs of Smart Training: Part 1

The ABCs of Smart Training: Part 1

The ABCs of Smart TrainingWhen designing a training program, it is wise to follow the concepts outlined in the ABCs of smart training. Apply them during all training and encourage them in daily activities. Following the ABCs will help increase training potential, improve skills, decrease recovery time, and minimize potential for injury.

If you are new to exercises or have any injuries or aches and pains it would be best to get clearance from your Physician before beginning this or any other exercise program. The exercises may look easy but when you are beginning they may be more difficult than you thought.


Proper athletic stance means being prepared for the sports activity ahead.

Think of keeping the knees soft (slightly bent), lower abdominal tension should be cued with. Examples are switch on the core (pelvic tension like a dimmer switch) (1)(Petersen, 2006) or keep tummy thin (2) (King, 2003 ) and keep shoulders relaxed and down with head neutral. Correct anatomical alignment must be attained and maintained to allow for proper force distribution upon the weight-bearing structures during activity. This can be facilitated by actively stretching muscles that are usually short and stiff (e.g., hamstrings, hip flexors, calves, and pectorals) and actively strengthening muscles that are usually long and weak (e.g., lower abdominals, upper back and posterior shoulder girdle muscles [infraspinatus], and hip external rotators [gluteal muscles]).

Proper alignment starts with excellent spinal alignment. Imagine someone pulling your client by the top of the head, lengthening the spine. The neck should be long and the shoulders relaxed, back, and down. Emphasize correct knee alignment, with knees always tracking over the toes but avoid going past them. Lunges or split squats should  keep the line of gravity through the pubic bone of the pelvis to avoid shear forces on the pelvic joints.

Training tip: Knees should track in line with the toes but never go past them. Squeezing a ball between you knees activates the medial quadriceps and stretch cord retractions work the upper core.


Balance exercises are a fundamental component of functional mobility and dynamic activity and should be a part of everyone’s training routine. Working on balance training is even more important as you increase strength and speed because you want to continually reset the balance clock and have the opportunity to practice and play with your newly adapted and strengthened muscles.

Training tip: You do not need fancy equipment to challenge balance a rolled towel or a phone book rolled and taped will do.


Training tip: Use a variety of equipment to optimize your balance training in different positions.

Work on joint sense (proprioception) and reset the balance clock with a variety of exercises. Balance work will stimulate the complex interactions of the neuromuscular system when incorporated with closed chain and functional exercises. This especially important after injury where there is any joint swelling and decreased proprioception. Balance exercises should be included as part of the daily training plan as most activities depend on an element of coordinated balance in many planes of movement.


You must train your clients ability to stabilize the core and generate power outward to the limbs. Core musculature helps create movement at the spine and also exerts a stabilizing muscular force to maintain a neutral spine and pelvis. Use a variety of movements and training types to ensure a balanced approach to core training. Always cue them to switch on the core (low background tension—like a dimmer switch of the pelvic floor and lower abdominals) during all exercise and activity.

Upper and lower core stability is important to give you the strong platform to execute movements with the extremities. In health, there is a pre-anticipatory contraction, but with dysfunction, there is a timing delay or absence, (3) (Richardson & Jull, 1995), so the muscle must be actively switched on by appropriate exercise.

Remember, efficient movement needs optimal stabilization and requires intact bones and tissues and efficient and coordinated muscle action as well as the appropriate nervous system firing.

Training tip: This bridging exercise with a ball squeeze helps you to gain control of the pelvic floor and lower abdominal (transversus abdominus). Start with 2 sets of 5 (4 second hold) and build up to 3 sets of 15.

Training tip: This hip hike drill with a stretch cord pull will challenge balance on the stance leg, add a rotational strength component and connect the upper and lower core. Start with 2 sets of  5 and build up to 3 sets of 15.


Sports require control during high speed movements to allow you to quickly stop on a dime (decelerate) and then explode laterally or forward (accelerate) . Deceleration control occurs during quick stops and starts, direction changes as well as follow through in throws or racquet sports. Muscles provide deceleration control by creating counter-force by lengthening (eccentric “contraction”).

Training tip: By slowing the tempo on the way down it forces you to control deceleration as the muscle lengthens. Start with 2 sets of 5 and build up to 3 sets of 15.


Hip-extended strength is the position of function for all sports. The competitive posture as well as seated office posture shortens anterior muscles so athletes must have strength and stability into hip extension. Training should include exercises that promote both dynamic flexibility and strength. These types of exercise improves general fitness and helps in normal activities of daily living, such as lifting, stepping, carrying, pushing, or pulling. Utilize exercises that focus on connecting the core to the activity and that combine upper body, lower body, and core moves in hip extension. This is crucial to optimal functional movement.

Training tip: Start with a physio ball overhead and squeeze it with arms and pull down partially closing the kinetic chain through the arms. At the same time do a rotational hip hike. Try 2 sets of 5 and build up to 3 sets of 15.


Training and playing with different exercises are, by their very nature, fun. Improvement is fun. Challenge your clients with hard training that is safe and makes use of natural movement patterns allowing improvement in performance. Remember that they train and play sports to achieve success, but also to be with friends and have fun.

Keep it fun! Training should be fun and stimulating, both physically and mentally. If its not, why are you doing it?


1)Petersen, Carl. & Sirdevan, M. (2006) Core Training to Hold Neutral In C. Petersen & N. Nittinger-Fit to Play-Tennis’High Performance Training Tips’ Racquet Tech Publishing, Vista, California, USA. Page 351.

2)King, Ian (2003) The Book of Muscle 162-163. Rodale Inc. St. Maartens Press.

3) Richardson, C.A., Jull, G.A. (1995). Muscle control-pain control. What exercise would you prescribe? Manual Therapy 1995;1:2-10.

Vancouver Health Coach