What am I doing reviewing a sport science related book that was published in 2004?
I just became aware of “Core Performance” by Mark Verstegen a couple of weeks ago. It turns out that many of the strength training exercises my physiotherapist has been prescribing for my total hip replacement rehabilitation (you can follow my hip rehab story starting here) have been drawn from Verstegen’s book – I started doing full squats and deep lunges on my operated leg at 5-6 weeks into my rehab. April Garner, my PT who is also the assistant coach for the UCONN track team, has been photocopying the exercises from the book so I decided to purchase a copy for myself – full price – but you can get a used copy from Amazon for a few dollars less.
It turns out that Verstegen (you can get a free trial membership at his fitness company’s site here) set up IMG’s Tennis (Bolletieri’s) and other fitness programs in the 1990’s:
“What started in 1999 as a parking lot, some medicine balls, and a handful of dedicated athletes and coaches has fast become an internationally renowned performance institute with cutting edge training based on the latest sports science and the best and brightest experts from all over the world. ”
While working with well known athletes is no guarantee of coaching competence, Verstegen’s recommendations mirror the latest trend towards functional training, and appear to be based on a solid foundation of sport science knowledge. It should be mentioned that Verstegen’s ideas are not totally new, and his approach reflects what has in fact become the dominant philosophy in sports training – and he has commercialized his ideas well.
My first exposure to systematic strength training was in 1970, when as a 14-year old I borrowed Lloyd Percival’s The Hockey Handbook from our high school library to set up my own personal strength training program: the Soviets used Percival’s 1951 book as the basis for their conditioning methods which were at the root of their successful overtaking of the Canadians as the dominant hockey nation.
Here are a few of the ideas from Core Performance which I think would be most useful and innovative for squash coaches:
- Many of his exercises are in fact already squash-specific, as they involve lunging, twisting and stretching movements that are common to squash players.
- He places a lot of importance on setting aside at least one day a week for regenerative activities.
- His book features adapted training plans for those short of time, poorly conditioned, old (like squash coaches), or coming back from an injury – very valuable!
- Much of his program can be done with minimal equipment at home or on the road.
- The book has some sound nutritional recommendations which are not too complicated or overbearing.
- He has set up possibilities for follow-up with a website, DVDs, and other materials – which I think is essential in today’s world.
There are a few areas in the book which I would not wholeheartedly support, or where I would want to modify his recommendations for coaches of squash players:
- In each chapter there is a Life Principle section, which as a skeptical sport scientist, I could do without – although it may appeal to some coaches and athletes.
- He recommends use of nutritional supplements for which no scientific basis has been established (although he states there is research support).
- There is very little use of medicine ball throws – throws can be very valuable to squash players and have an important place in a progression of exercises.
- As with all non-squash specific resources, the big picture of how to integrate his recommendations into on overall squash training plan is missing – but that is not his fault.
Overall I would highly recommend this book as an inexpensive, easy to understand, practical resource of highly relevant strength training exercises for squash. As a busy squash coach, it really is all about the packaging.
I am going to embark on his 12-week program starting later today to experience first hand his recommendations. Watch for a highlight video on the SquashScience Channel compilation of those exercises most suited for squash in the coming weeks on the Squash Science Channel.
Application for Squash Coaches:
- Obtain the book Core Performance or sign up for a free trial at Verstegen’s website.
- Move towards more functional or core training with your squash athletes if you have not done so already.
- In the U.S., TJMAXX is a great cheap shop for most of the fitness equipment that is used in the Core Performance routines.