XL Sports Acceleration Program began about 10 years ago on the University of Northern Iowa campus. Since, the membership has grown by leaps and bounds. The training space has gone from about 4,800 square feet to over 11,000 square feet. It now is located at 3109 Venture Way in the Cedar Falls Industrial Park.
XL Sports is designed to improve an athlete’s ability to win. Athletes develop skills such as explosiveness, speed, agility, jumping and mental skills. All coaches are certified and experienced.
“We train athletes mostly from middle school and high school,” says Director Armand McCormick. “We do have a lot of college athletes who come back during the summer. We’ve been pretty successful with our high school athletes. We just had a class of six who went off to play college sports.”
No other gym in town does what XL Sports does. Coaches take a multi-tiered approach to increasing performance and maximizing potential.
The bronze level at XL Sports, for example, teaches technique and builds strength while developing coordination and speed. It is built for athletes who may not be beginner athletes but are beginners to advanced in their training.
The silver level coaches speed, power and strength. This intermediate level helps athletes become more familiar with specific weightlifting techniques and advancement to moderate intensity plyometrics. It is designed for athletes who have previously participated in, and who have completed, the bronze level, or who have been assessed by XL staff.
The gold level coaches power and explosive speed and strength. Athletes work to improve their overall explosive technique. They should be familiar with Olympic lifts and have a strength base that allows them to participate in the highest-intensity plyometrics. This level is designed for athletes who participated in the previous two levels.
Training regimens at XL Sports are sport-specific, whether it be football, volleyball, basketball or wrestling, which makes the given program very relevant to the athlete. Also included in the training is the opportunity to learn about proper nutrition. Reaching full potential requires adequate fuel. The food an athlete eats — the quality, the quantity, the carb-to-protein ratio — is important. XL views diet as another facet of training.
A newer addition to XL Sports is CrossFit Kids, a version of adult CrossFit but meant for kids and teens. It’s a strength and conditioning program meant to help develop a lifelong love of fitness.
No other gym begins training kids as early as XL Sports. McCormick and Coach Travis Hansen have developed three levels of CrossFit Kids, beginning with preschool ages three to five.
“We teach real basic movements,” Hansen says. “It’s more just to get the kids in here. Their parents were bringing them in while they worked out, and you could tell the kids wanted to do something too.
“The classes are only 30 minutes long because it’s difficult to keep them engaged for 10 minutes, let alone 30. We work on things like somersaults and simple squats.”
There also are classes for ages six to nine and for ages 10 to 12. “Each class gets progressively harder,” Hansen explains. “We work on the foundations of CrossFit and fitness in general while playing games and incorporating simple movements.” McCormick says most of the kids who started in the youngest age group have continued on to the higher levels.
XL is not designed to be a program for post-surgical athletes. McCormick says they still should attend the physical therapy sessions as advised by their doctors.
“PTs (physical therapists) do a lot more with measurable data as far as knee range of motion and other post-surgery measurements,” he adds. “We do a lot of data collection with numbers as far as jumping, running — the progress numbers.
“What we really want to do is get the athlete into an athletic pattern again. We want to bring them back to the ability to get back into sport — putting them back on the field.”
McCormick says athletics “any more is very one-dimensional. In other words, if I play football, I play football. So you have a lot of kids who just get beat up year-round by sports. Their joints aren’t strong enough to take the activity they are doing.”
XL Sport provides outreach training to area high schools. McCormick and Hansen traveled to La Porte City, Waverly and Denver during the summer, assisting with the schools’ weightlifting programs by teaching proper form and technique and providing a workout schedule.
Other programs offered by XL Sports include military career preparation and general adaptation training. The former is an intensive six-week course which prepares an individual for military service. Activities include rope climbing, hiking, push-ups, pull-ups and fireman carries.
The latter class is based on the principles and philosophy of CrossFit for adults. It is meant to tax the body’s energy systems with each workout.