Amir Eid is a former professional basketball player from Lebanon who suffered several ACL injuries, leading him to pursue a career in physical therapy and then continue with a specialized master’s degree in strength and conditioning from the University of Miami. Amir interned with NCAA Division 1 teams during his stay at Miami, then returned to Lebanon and founded the Miami Fitness Factory. Amir has worked as a strength and conditioning coach for the Lebanese and Saudi Arabian basketball senior national teams. He currently works with the Saudi Olympic Training Center, where he coaches weightlifting, fencing, and swimming.
In addition to his coaching work, Amir is an international lecturer and developed the FIBA Asia SPS program, which focuses on developing strength and conditioning in the 44 countries under FIBA Asia. He also lectures as part of the National Council on Strength and Fitness, a U.S.-based certification that certifies personal trainers and strength and conditioning coaches. Amir’s dedication to the world of sports and helping athletes achieve their full potential has made him a highly respected coach in the Arab S&C industry.
Freelap USA: Though you’re currently a strength and conditioning coach at the Saudi Olympic Training Center, working with Olympic sports like fencing, your background is in basketball, and you have mainly provided S&C support for national teams in the past. As fencing is a new sport for you, how did you familiarize yourself with it, and what are your tips for S&C coaches who start working with different sports they have no prior experience with?
Amir Eid: As a strength and conditioning coach at the Saudi Olympic Training Center, transitioning from basketball to fencing has been a significant challenge. However, I have familiarized myself with the new sport through the following four steps:
- Research: I have conducted some research on fencing to understand its specific physical demands, including the movements and skills required, the energy systems used, and the common injuries associated with the sport.
- Observation: I have observed fencing matches and training sessions to see the sport in action and understand the sport’s specific physical demands in more detail.
- Consultation: I have consulted with fencing coaches, athletes, and other experts in the sport to gain a deeper understanding of the specific needs of fencing athletes and learn more about the sport.
- Practical application: I have applied my knowledge to design and implement specific strength and conditioning programs for fencing athletes, closely monitoring their progress and making adjustments as necessary.
For coaches who are new to working with a sport, these seven tips may be helpful (and some are repetitive from above):
- Research the sport: Understand the specific physical demands of the sport and the movements and skills required to succeed.
- Observe the sport: Watch the sport in action and pay attention to the specific physical demands.
- Consult with experts: Talk to coaches, athletes, and other experts in the sport to gain a deeper understanding of the specific needs of the athletes.
- Be flexible: Be prepared to adjust your approach as you learn more about the sport and the specific needs of the athletes.
- Keep learning: Continuously learn and seek new information, methodologies, and technologies that could benefit the athletes and the sport.
- Communicate with athletes and coaches: Talk with them regularly to understand their needs and goals and adapt the program accordingly.
- Collaborate with professionals in the sport: Collaborate with sport coaches, physiotherapists, sport scientists, etc., to gain a comprehensive understanding of the sport and the physical demands of the athletes.
Remember, every sport is unique and requires a tailored approach. Be open to learning and adapting, and continuously monitor and evaluate the progress.
Freelap USA: What are the key strength and fitness components for peak performance in fencing? What’s your approach to identifying and analyzing the physical demands of the athletes you work with?
Amir Eid: Fencing is a sport that requires a high level of skill, athleticism, and endurance. To achieve peak performance in fencing, it’s essential to focus on the following key components:
- Cardiovascular endurance: Fencing bouts last for nine minutes, and each round is three minutes with a one-minute break (with an exception if there’s a tie and fencers enter sudden death overtime). Fencers need to have the endurance to maintain a high level of intensity throughout the match.
- Muscular endurance: Fencing requires the use of several muscle groups, including the legs, core, and upper body. To achieve peak performance, fencers must have the endurance to maintain a high level of muscular activity throughout the match.
- Speed and agility: Fencing requires quick and explosive movements, such as lunges and parries. To achieve peak performance, fencers need to have the speed and agility to execute these movements quickly and effectively. Training for speed and agility should include exercises such as sprints, plyometrics, and agility drills.
- Power and explosiveness: Fencing requires the use of explosive power, particularly in the arm and hip flexors, to execute quick and powerful strikes. To achieve peak performance, fencers need to have the power and explosiveness to execute these strikes effectively.
- Flexibility: Flexibility is also important for fencing, as it allows fencers to perform movements such as lunges and parries with proper form and avoid injuries. Flexibility training should include stretching and mobilization exercises for the main muscle groups used in fencing.
It’s important to remember that a well-rounded training program should include a balance of endurance, strength, power, and skill-based training. Recovery and rest are also crucial elements for peak performance. It’s also wise to consult with a coach and a sports-specific trained physiotherapist to design a specific training program based on the individual’s needs.
As for the second part of the question, you can take several steps when identifying and analyzing the physical demands of the athletes you work with:
- Conduct a physical assessment: This involves testing the athlete’s physical characteristics, such as strength, power, speed, agility, endurance, flexibility, and mobility. This information will help you identify weaknesses or imbalances that need to be addressed in their training. Lots of details could be elaborated on here; for instance, under power, we have hip flexor (iliopsoas explosiveness), and under speed and agility, we’ve got how fast the fencer can change direction based on a stimulus.
- Observe the athletes in action: It’s important to observe the athletes while they are participating in their sport or activity to identify the specific movements, skills, and physical demands of their sport. This will help you understand the sport’s specific physical demands and how they relate to the results of the physical assessment.
- Gather information from coaches and athletes: It’s important to gather information from coaches and athletes about the physical demands of their sport or activity. This information can include the duration and intensity of training and competition, as well as the required movements and skills.
- Analyze the information: Once all the information has been gathered, it should be analyzed to identify any specific physical demands that are unique to the athletes or their sport. You can use this information to design a training program that addresses the specific physical demands of the sport or activity.
- Monitor progress: Regularly monitoring the athletes’ progress throughout their training program will help you evaluate the program’s effectiveness and make adjustments as necessary.
- Communicate with other professionals: Collaborating with other professionals such as sport coaches, physiotherapists, and sport scientists can help you to get a more comprehensive understanding of the sport or activity and the physical demands on the athlete.
It’s important to remember that the physical demands of sports can vary significantly between individuals and even within the same sport; thus, regular monitoring is important to adapt the program accordingly.
Freelap USA: What are common injuries in fencing, and how do you target them in your strength training programs?
Amir Eid: Fencing is a sport that requires a high level of skill and athleticism, and as a result, fencers are at risk of certain types of injuries. Here are some common injuries in fencing and how to target them in strength and conditioning (S&C) training.
- Knee injuries: Fencing requires a lot of lunging and pivoting, which can put stress on the knee joint. To target knee injuries in S&C training, focus on exercises that strengthen the quadriceps and hamstrings, such as squats and deadlifts. Additionally, exercises that target the muscles that support the knee, such as the glutes and the adductors, can also help prevent knee injuries.
- Shoulder injuries: The repetitive motions of fencing can put stress on the shoulder joint, leading to injuries such as rotator cuff strains or impingements. To target shoulder injuries in S&C training, focus on exercises that strengthen the rotator cuff muscles, such as external and internal rotation exercises. Additionally, exercises that target the upper back, rhomboids, and mid-low trap—such as rows and pull-ups—can help improve posture and reduce stress on the shoulder joint.
- Lower back injuries: Fencing requires a lot of bending and twisting, which can put stress on the lower back. To target lower back injuries in S&C training, focus on exercises that strengthen the core muscles, such as planks and deadlifts. Additionally, exercises that target the muscles that support the lower back—such as the glutes and the hamstrings—can also help prevent lower back injuries.
- Hand and wrist injuries: Fencing requires a lot of gripping and hand movement, which can put stress on the hand and wrist. To target hand and wrist injuries in S&C training, focus on exercises that strengthen the hand and wrist muscles, such as grip strength exercises and wrist extensions.
Freelap USA: You developed a basketball-specific sports performance certificate for coaches in cooperation with the International Basketball Federation in Asia (FIBA Asia) and delivered several educational workshops in the Middle East in the last year. Where do you see the biggest gaps in coaches’ education, and what was your motivation to design a sports performance certificate course specifically for basketball in Asia?
Amir Eid: Writing and lecturing a strength and conditioning program for FIBA Asia that covers 44 countries in Asia is a monumental achievement. It helps spread a deep understanding of the physical demands of the sport and the specific needs of elite basketball athletes in the region.
The program is a recognition of the importance of strength and conditioning in achieving peak performance in basketball and the knowledge and expertise necessary to design and deliver a program that will help the athletes reach their full potential. The program is a measure of the ability to work with different cultures, understanding and taking into account their specific characteristics and needs. It’s a great responsibility and an honor to be trusted with the physical preparation of some of the best basketball players in Asia. It’s also an opportunity to bring the latest training methodologies and technologies to the Asian basketball federations, coaches, and athletes, helping them to improve their performance and avoid injuries.
This S&C program is a chance to contribute to the development and success of basketball in Asia, positively impacting the sport and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in basketball performance, raising the bar for the whole sport. Furthermore, it’s an opportunity to lecture for some of the best coaches, strength coaches, sport scientists, and physiotherapists in the field, learning and growing as a professional. It is an achievement that can be remembered for years to come and will have a lasting impact on the sport of basketball in the 44 countries under FIBA Asia.
Freelap USA: When working with a national basketball team and preparing them for an international FIBA tournament, what physical qualities do you focus on in a training camp? Can you share your approach with us?
Amir Eid: I will mention below the majority of points I want to target, yet the top priority for me during camps is injury prevention and applying the ideal load management to the team. That would be big as you try to factor in all kinds of stresses, from flights to training volume, sleep quality, and heart rate variability, to name a few.The top priority for me during camps is injury prevention and applying the ideal load management to the team, says @amireidofficial. Click To Tweet
Second is pushing my team’s fatigue index on repeat sprints to improve dramatically. Basketball is a game of repeat sprints, and we need to get our players ready for that at a high level.
Other major points that matter to a basketball team:
- Agility: Quick, explosive changes of direction based on a reactive stimulus are essential in basketball, so you would want to incorporate drills to improve agility.
- Speed and quickness/acceleration: Players need to be able to get up and down the court quickly, so speed and quickness work is important, including sprints, jumps, and plyometric exercises.
- Strength: Players need to have good strength to play effectively and stay healthy.
- Power: Explosive power is vital for jumping, shooting, shot blocking, rebounding, and dunking.
My approach would likely involve a combination of strength and conditioning work and skill-specific drills focusing on basketball-related movements. Additionally, you would want to incorporate injury prevention techniques, such as corrective exercises, foam rolling, mobility work, and other forms of soft tissue work.
Finally, it is important to make sure that the players are properly fueled and hydrated throughout the training camp to optimize their performance and recovery.
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