#63: How To Improve Strength and Speed with Strength & Conditioning Coach Erica Suter

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Do you think there’s a difference between a female and a male athlete in terms of speed and strength? Do female athletes improve strength and speed differently from male athletes? How?

It’s not a question of what a girl can, or can’t do. It’s a question to know the perfect training that best suits the conditions of a female athlete.

To answer that, we are thrilled to have these professional insights from Conditioning Coach Erica Suter, a female athlete performance coach. She’s highly experienced in training young soccer players, both female and male athletes. And she went to graduate school and studied exercise science. Erica got her Master’s in performance and injury prevention. And she loves to give back and educate parents on what their female athletes need to stay healthy, get faster and get stronger.

Erica Suter’s insights:

There’s not too much of a difference between the male and female training because everyone overall has the same needs to meet. The training is overall similar but the biggest difference I’ve seen with girls is the emotional and hormonal changes. Especially during the growth spurt. Female athletes go through their menstrual cycle, and that can change how we talk about recovery, and how much extra they need to focus on during certain phases of life. 

Girls tend to be more tired and moodier, and that’s normal. That is why it is important to focus on the right way for female athletes to stay in shape.

Here are some key points for female athlete moms out there! 

Consistent training year-round

One of the key drivers in developing the strength and speed of female athletes is consistency. Developing muscle strength and speed is a consistent year-round commitment to performance training.

Sports-specific workouts.

In building strength, every training is pretty the same regardless of the sport. We want to support our daughters in strengthening every single muscle group and building their bodies as armor. It is indeed necessary to be able to handle the high-velocity movements or strong impacts while playing. What’s going to be different is the types of energy systems to be used. So like a softball player, it wouldn’t make sense to do long-distance running, it would make more sense to do more power development and explosive work, accelerations, and shorter sprints from base to base. It is important to know the specific energy system used in your daughter’s sport because that is where their training varies. 

Not extensive in-season workouts.

The in-season is the one where people kind of freak out. It is when athletes practice three to four times a week and compete. During in-season it’s okay to do strength training for no longer than 20 minutes. Just make sure that inside the 20 minutes, you’re hitting your main muscle groups. It includes your hamstrings, your quads, and then a chest and then back. It’s highly recommended for parents to make sure that they find a performance coach who understands that these in-season workouts don’t need to be extensive. 

Strength workouts at the end of practice.

If the coach is well versed in performance and can incorporate a good warm-up, or any sort of hip or core work at practice, that would go a long way. It’s better than nothing. And as far as just the order of exercises, you could do a lot of the strength work at the end of practice because that involves a lot of thinking and focus. Ideally, core strength workouts at the end of practice would be 10-20 minutes long.

Building up focus on strength and speed. 

A lot of girls have extremely weak muscle groups that play a big role in explosive power, speed, and also stability of the knee. To prevent ACL injuries, it is best if we build up the girl’s mindset first. Instead of focusing on the possible injuries, focus on the possibility of being stronger and faster. 

We focus on enhancing rather than avoiding. Because if they focus and enhance their strength first, they’re going to be preventing those injuries. Let’s help them avoid any hesitation when it comes to enhancing strength and speed. 

Rest & recovery 

What’s the importance of rest recovery?

The recovery we’re talking about is not putting the ice on a strained muscle, but proper nutrition, sleep, breathing, and more. 

Protein. Protein is the building blocks of our bodies and our muscles need it for recovery. After working out, our muscles break down fast so we need to get that nourishment back to avoid getting fatigued the next day. It is advisable to have a healthy amount of 25 to 30 grams per meal. 

Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates help with our energy.

Healthy fats.  Healthy fats like avocados, fish oils, and nut butter help relieve joint pain.

Beyond food, sleep is also essential for the muscles to repair themselves. Your brain also resets when you have enough sleep and it is good for decision making. The brain must be rejuvenated so that you can think sharply and you can react quickly. 

How you breathe also helps with recovery. Nose breathing is something to be curious about regarding body recovery. You can check out James Nesta and Patrick McKellen’s work for nose breathing. The whole idea is breathing through the nose with the mouth closed. Your body can recover and get into that rest and digest state when you do this. The right way to breathe according to their work is by making sure that you’re getting oxygen back just through your nose. The reason is that you’ll be going to fill your lungs with more oxygen that way, and your body needs more oxygen to recover. 

Breathing is the icing on the cake to recovery. With the right breathing technique, you’ll fix your endurance. 

Avoiding red flags

Before enrolling your daughter in a training program, you must be aware of the red flags. 

The first one is if the performance coach doesn’t do any sort of initial assessment on your daughter. That’s a red flag because how are they going to track the progress of your daughter while taking up their program? It may sound so simple, but there are a lot of people out there that don’t do that. And they’ll just give your daughter random workouts before assessing what’s best for her. 

Number two, make sure they communicate with you. You’ll know they’re dedicated to improving your daughter’s ability if they ask, practice their schedules, and work around it. 

Also, if they’re saying they’re a speed trainer and they’re doing drills that are longer than 10-30 seconds, that’s not true speed training. So make sure that the speed trainer is doing sprints that last less than six seconds only, tracking records, and improving sprint times. 

Overall, a coach who doesn’t listen to the special needs of the female athlete is a big red flag.

The key to performance training is:

  • Consistent training year-round.
  • Building up focus on strength and speed. 
  • Rest recovery.
  • Avoiding red flags.

So if your daughter looks out of shape or is becoming slower in their game, avoid rushing them into extensive physical training.

 Consider these factors.

  • Are they eating right?
  • Are they having enough sleep?
  • Are they breathing right?

Look at these things first, before running her to the ground and potentially giving her overuse injury or just making things way worse when there are other solutions that you can focus on.

Erica has some awesome resources for moms with female athletes to read on. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @fitsoccerqueen. You can find a ton of free content, tips, and videos on her social media accounts. 

I do recommend starting with her Strong Female Athlete book if you want to start your journey toward improving your daughter’s strength and speed. It outlines things that you could do at home. And some of the basic everyday workouts for your daughter. There’s also a fitness test in the book for you to see how fit your daughter is. You can do these workouts and tests together with your daughters. It is proven to be more effective to show support through bonding with them rather than watching from the sidelines. 

And if you want to reach out on Instagram or Twitter, send Erica a DM. She does remote coaching as well! 

I hope this blog encourages more moms to support and help out their daughters. Inspire them to work on their health and strength both physically and mentally. 

Your daughter needs your full support to reach her full potential.


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