Posted on

Fitting the Puzzle Piece Together

I was recently golfing with a fellow strength and conditioning coach and had a fun little statement about what is going on with my swing.  Normally, I am long with my irons.  This isn’t to toot my own horn, it’s simply because I swing out of my shoes and throw a little extra bicep curl into the swing.  Here’s the problem:  I was falling way too short.  I was making great contact with the ball and everything looked the way it was supposed to (to my own standards), but I was way short.

I know that my infrequent visits to the golf course are part of the issue.  However, I have also not worked on any piece of the spectrum of lifting except strength for the last few months.  A little bit of bench, some accessory work, maybe sit on a bike and think about cardio for a few minutes, call it a day.

In the world of strength and conditioning, personal training, physical therapy, etc. there are some potential short-comings.  With PT, the general consensus is to get them long, get them strong, then get them fast.  That’s great, but you can’t really do that with your athletes efficiently.  Especially if you’re only going to see that athlete for 12-36 weeks.

If you want to be the biggest dude to walk the planet and still not be able to pick up a spare tire for your car, go get your pump on.  If you want to move a house, go lift the heaviest things you can.  But, if you want to be fast and explosive, you better train that too.

Traditionally with strength and conditioning and personal training, you would train absolute strength to develop a base to build off.  True.  But most people coming in off the street have some strength.  Quite the assumption I know.  Most athletes, believe it or not, can already jump or run.  The idea is to make them jump higher or run faster.  Program plyometrics, speed-strength, strength-speed, and power (not all in the same day perhaps) as well as your strength.  This way you’re a little more efficient with your programming.

You can allegedly hold 98 per cent of your strength for a month of not training it.  But, those numbers drop much more significantly with power where you can hold roughly 98% for about a week before you see large drops.

Don’t throw the kitchen sink at your athletes.  Still program intelligently.  But make sure to train some expression of power even if that isn’t your emphasis.  This will allow you to not swing a golf club like a nana.

Some of the speed-strength/power exercises that I like to use with my programming include:  olympic lifts, kettlebell swings, kettlebell snatches, loaded jumps, loaded bounds

You can also place an emphasis on speed with the tempo of the lifts that you are comfortable teaching or that you’re already using.  This would simply require that athlete to explode through the concentric portion of the lift.  I like to remember the “do no harm” phrase here.

I would love to hear what other coaches are using out there.  Please share if you have a different philosophy.

 

Posted on

Coaching Cue on the Deadbug

The dead bug is a great tool to use for both rehab and for improving performance in the athletic and general population.  Creating stability with the floor will help the trunk musculature brace appropriately with virtually anyone on the planet being able to figure it out.  There are a couple different ways that you can attack this exercise and I’ll cover that in this article.

The deadbug exercise is used for a variety of reason in strength and conditioning and PT.  In PT, we can use it to help develop the trunk musculature which will potentially give us a better brace for protecting our low back.  Or a better anchor for our hip extensors to fire from (by protecting the integrity of the pelvis).  In strength and conditioning we can use it in a beginner program to help someone find their anterior core.  We can also use it as an offseason type exercise to help the athletes reset.

Generally speaking, when thinking about strengthening the trunk musculature–or core–people immediately think about the 6-pack.  Sure that is an important piece of the puzzle, however, consider all the other parts too.  If you  don’t have the ability to engage that internal Transverse Abdominus you’re going to have issues.  The idea isn’t that you want to live in the 1980’s and make each muscle fire independent of the others (impossible by the way).  Instead, find a way to coordinate all these groups together.

IMG_1927

 

A common cue that is used to train the deadbug exercise is “push your low back to the floor”.  This will certainly get you to engage your anterior core.  But is it the best way to keep you in a neutral position and bracing?

 

 

 

IMG_1928

 

Instead, try using a different line of cues.  Let the patient/client use their fingertips to feel the brace.  Simply have them find their ASIS and move in roughly an inch.  As they brace appropriately they should feel their “core” push out into their fingertips.  This is different from trying to suck your belly button to your spine though.  It is more of a hollowing effect similar to that used in gymnastics.

 

This also has an impact on the rest of your body.  If you’re cued to push your low back into the floor you will invariably drive all force into the floor.  But what happens to your upper trunk, neck, head?  If you’re bracing hard enough they’ll come off the floor similar to a crunch.  Fine, if you’re trying to get the anterior core work.  If you’re trying to get those deeper muscles to fire more effectively though, keeping neutral is a little better.  It will allow the patient to keep their head and upper trunk on the floor with the neck finding the natural, neutral position.

Give it a try in your programming and find what works best for you.  Feel free to give some feedback.

Posted on

Quick Comment About Sleep

Today is a short post serving more as an addendum to the pool of recovery that we have already dipped our toe into.

Previously, I wrote about how sleep is such a vital component to the recovery process.  I was writing it from a perspective of athlete or performance without really thinking too much about how it also impacts aesthetics.

Sure, if you’re not getting enough sleep following a training session or day, it will take you longer before you’re able to go at 100% efficiency again.  Sure, if you’re not getting enough sleep you’re going to be crabby and probably make a lot of your coworkers/friends a little bothered.  You’re physiology will be a little off because you weren’t able to clear out all the gunk from your CSF.  Common knowledge now that we revisited the idea, right?

Now consider this scenario.  An individual works out 3-4 times per week expending a stupid amount of energy.  They eat mostly whole foods because they’re allegedly allergic to refined sugars and any gluten containing product.  They supplement with BCAAs, hydrolyzed cross-flowed microfiltrated isolate whey protein, organic greens, wild salmon oil, etc.  But they still have a beer gut? How?

They neglected to say that they sleep 3-5 hours a night on average.  That doesn’t really create a great internal situation for your hormone profile.  Cortisol (stress hormone) has received such a negative rep in the physiology world mostly for good reason.  It is necessary, however, in excess can be your own worst enemy.  High cortisol levels can be the result of high stress because you work 5 jobs totaling over 100 hours of work per week–stupid student loans.  You need to make yourself dinner and attempt to go grocery shopping.  Make appearances at family/friends/athletic events.  Even if you did get a perfect 8 hours of sleep per night (56 hours a week) with the 100 hour work week, that leaves you 14 hours to accomplish the other things.  Something has to give and it’s usually sleep.

Boom! Increased cortisol levels.  Not to mention the accompanying stress that tags with all this madness.  Feedback loop says: more cortisol.  Unmanageable levels and you’re left with a petit beer gut even though you haven’t consumed a carbohydrate in about 5 years.  What the what??

Get rid of one of the jobs (as long as you can pay your bills) and start getting some sleep.  Eight hours is recommended but some people need more, some less.  You’re body will thank you, and you’re results in the gym/practice facility will get exponentially better.

Posted on

Core is more than a 6 Pack

There are certain things in the strength and conditioning/personal training field that make you cringe every time you hear them.  Core is toward the top of that list, however, sometimes living in cliche phrases is what we need to do in order to communicate better with our patients/clients.

To better define what it is, let’s describe what connects to it.

First and foremost, when we think of the core, we think of the 6 pack–known as the rectus abdominus.  The muscle is essentially a sheet that connects the front portion of your ribs to the front of you pelvis.  It gets it’s shape from a central tendon–linea alba–and tendons that run horizontally from there.

But, if that was all there was, we would be in trouble.  We have external obliques, internal obliques, and transverse abdominus that all band together to create a lattice of protection.  This is great, because without this protection we would basically rupture our internal organs housed in the area.

If we all addressed the strength and endurance of this area we would probably all be a little better off.  However, that is definitely not all that represents the core.  We have these fancy postural muscles that help hold us upright.  Commonly referred to the erector spinae group which is composed of three different pairs of muscles along the spine.  There are little tiny muscles that run between each vertebra in the spine, there is the QL, which runs from the hips to the lower ribs.  There is the iliopsoas group that runs from the lower spine to the hips.  One of the bigger players, I feel, is the lats.  They run from the upper arm and course all the way down to the hips.  They can create shoulder stability and a great extension moment in the spine.

Clearly, it is difficult to find balance.  Any imbalance, if great enough, will create movement dysfunction and surely pain.  In my experience, the majority of kids coming in can’t do a pull up or even some sort of inverted row which is essentially a lesser version.  They also present with a great amount of anterior tilt showing that their abs probably aren’t working all that well.  How do they conquer gravity then?

When taking part in a workout program, especially in the lower training ages (you haven’t worked out in a couple of months) then make sure to keep it semi balanced.  Realize that all your big lifts essentially have an extension moment on the spine, really requiring those meaty lats to hold down the fort.  I would encourage you to find some sort of flexion moment at the trunk level.

Please leave any feedback below!

 

Posted on

Two Things That Anyone Can Make Better

A common denominator for anyone and everyone walking in the door of our facility is a lack in strength or stability in particular areas of the body.  Aesthetically, people want to know if they’ll get bigger (insert body part here), but realistically, two that are tremendously important should get better.  Without further adieu, here they are:

1. Anterior Core

Almost everyone I see is tremendously weak here.  It becomes even more clear when you ask someone to perform a simple push up.  They literally just hang on the ligaments of the spine.  How have you made it this far in life without learning how to perform a proper push up???

When I say anterior core, I’m referring to the portion known anatomically as rectus abdominus.  Fancy latin.  It connects the front portion of the ribs to the pelvis and when contracting forces the hips into a posterior pelvic tilt.  Not always great to be in that position, but with proper opposition/apposition it is fairly balanced to our normal 13 degrees of anterior pelvic tilt.

When this is weak, you see a lot of extra anterior pelvic tilt.  Your body just hangs out on whatever it knows will create stability…ligaments of your hips and spine.  Is it any wonder that we have soo much low back pain!?

Strengthen the abs, it will help create stability.  It isn’t the only answer as there are a few other abdominal muscles that are needed to help create that apposition we are looking for (different topic for a different day).

2. Buttcheeks

This is something that we work on almost every day in the facility.  To create almost all athletic motion, you need the glutes.  When developed, they can also have an aesthetic side to them too.

Glutes are great players in power, stability, multi direction motion.  We all have a gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.  The hip joint (where the femur articulates with the acetabulum of the pelvis) also has a great deal of mobility, three planes actually.  Contracting here will create an external rotation element on the femur (thigh) as well as an extension moment.  It can create stability to the pelvis in a closed chain contraction taking shear off the low back.  And it gives us great power and push off in the sagittal, frontal, and transverse planes of motion.

The right side is usually a little weaker, again, different conversation for a different day.

This is anecdotal at best on my part.  When we screen our athletes and adults though, we see this to be consistent across the board.  Maybe it is indigenous to the Merrimack Valley, but I highly doubt it.  Let me know what you think by leaving a reply below.

Posted on

2017 year review

This past year has been a roller coaster for sure.  I have accomplished many life goals, changed things that I never thought I would change, and accepted life curveballs.  Here is a quick recap of 2017.

I made a couple of small life goals in 2017 that would help give me a hobby, something that was completely lacking.  Basically, I’ve spent my college and adult life to this point filling all available hours of my day with work or class.  Now that school is done and I am working a more modest schedule, hobbies will keep me sane.  First, I wanted to get to the mountains and snowboard.  2016 didn’t allow me to do that and it happens to be something serene once you get up to the mountain and check out the horizon.  Secondly, I wanted to pick up a guitar at least once per week.  This is something that is difficult to me because I feel I don’t have a musical bone in my body. I remain humbled.  That’s my personal life in a nutshell.

On a much larger scale, I passed my NPTE, the exam of all exams essentially.  This is what licenses you to actually perform your duties as a physical therapist.  Thank goodness that chapter has come to fruition.  So instead of working a modest 40 hours per week, I have decided to get a job in a clinic in addition to running a performance center.  I know, what was I thinking???

I made it a goal to get to more of my athletes games.  In 2016 I was really handcuffed with the job I had which didn’t offer much flexibility in terms of being able to see my athletes play.  Besides coaching lacrosse in the spring and seeing literally all of my teams games, I was also able to see both of the volleyball teams I work with, the girls soccer team I work with, and the ultimate highlight was being able to see Notre Dame vs. USC at Notre Dame where one of my athletes plays football.  I’m hoping that this year extends more opportunity to see the athletes in action–as well as more deep dish pizza.

Now with the new year, I would like to keep my hobbies going as well as really refine my skills in the PT arena as well as the sports performance realm.  I would like to get to do more networking this year and travel a bit more.  Kind of a rough outline for the new year, but it works.

 

Posted on

Guest Post: Time for a Change

This is a guest post from one of my interns from the summer and current sports performance coach.  Kathy is a very intelligent and driven individual who has donated her time around a hectic schedule to Young Performance.  She aspires to bridge the gap between PT and performance and has some really good ideas.  You can find more on her blog at blendingptandsc

             I’m a PT student who, like most people, has no solid idea of what field to practice in. After going on a few clinicals, I found out that my expectations of rehab didn’t really exist in the real world – at least not yet. Having this existential crisis, I decided to go figure it out. I began throwing myself into different jobs and internships in the health and fitness field. This summer alone, I’ve been a PT aide at 3 separate clinics, a personal trainer in training , a kickboxing instructor, and a strength coach intern – which has lead to the creation of this blog. There were two glaring problems that I kept noticing: 1. the health and fitness field is muddled with misinformation and 2. everyone is constantly trying to one-up each other.

1.  People are quick to believe what they hear or read without looking for evidence.

Carbohydrates are bad. All fats are bad. No rest during a workout is a good thing. There are so many health myths, so many “fads” backed with no scientific evidence, and, with the rise of social media, so much bad information posted by a lot of unqualified people. Not only is it dangerous, but it also creates another barrier for health providers who must spend their time re-educating and getting buy-in from their clients.

2. The health field, it’s a very “cut-throat” environment.

Everyone wants to have all of the credentials, the letters after their name in order to be the “best”. People also want to believe that their way of thinking is the right and only way. Hip vs foot, barefoot running vs orthotics – these topics cause a lot of frustration and bickering. It seems likewe’ve  all forgotten why we started in this field, forgotten that we are looking down on our peerswho are using their best judgement to get to the same goal. Just because their way looks different, doesn’t make it wrong. The first thing we learn is that everyone is different and something that might work for Joe Shmoe might not work for the next person – so why are we still stuck on trying to have one golden principle? It’s all theory at the end of the day and if it works, it works!

Long story short, everyone wihin the health and fitness field needs to come together and not only educate people but to encourage peers for their different perspectives and ways of thinking. Without that, we will not progress very far.Guest

Posted on

Training Youth Athletes

A common question that I hear is, “how old do you have to be to start training at your facility?”  To me this is a pretty easy question to answer, but also a loaded answer.

When we talk about athletic development, there are a few windows of opportunity that we can expect to use to enhance performance in athletes.  Just because I have a window of opportunity to advance an athletes potential doesn’t mean I need to get all sport specific with it.  In previous articles I have eluded to spending a great deal of time developing the foundation for youth athletes, or general prep if that is easier to remember.  Just because I have an opportunity to improve athletic ability in a youth athlete doesn’t mean I need to make them proficient in 1RM cleans.  I “can” hold a firecracker in my hand and light it, but it wouldn’t be very intelligent.  Just like I “can” develop maximal cleans in a 10-year-old, but that still isn’t very intelligent.

The lost art of development, playing on the playground.  There are even schools where you aren’t allowed to run!  All because there is a fear of children getting hurt.  I could jump onto my soap box and have a complete rant, but I will stay on point here.  Kids in preschool, elementary, and middle school all are allotted time to go out and play.  They jump, run, bound, throw, play tag, etc.  If that isn’t athletic development I don’t know what is.  I spend the first 30 minutes of training sessions warming up and working on running, jumping, throwing, and agility.  These are the showcase items for my older athletes.

Specializing kids too early is a sure fire way to burn a kid out from ever wanting to play that sport again.  It’s also a great way for a kid to resent their parent.  Allowing a child to participate in a variety of events allows for better athletic development.  Experiencing movements outside of what is normal in their favorite sport will allow them to become more agile and athletic.

What can a child who hasn’t hit puberty expect to do and see?  There is no reason to take a prepubescent child and load them up under the bar.  Develop their ability to perform these exercises that you want to accomplish in the long term development plan.  Squatting, hinging, pressing, pulling are all exercises that can start off with simple body weight.  Once they become proficient in these bodyweight exercises you can consider handling a light weight.  Then slightly heavier.  And heavier.  The point is that these kids will become stronger (mostly through their nervous system adaptation), but not exactly larger.  How could they? They haven’t even hit puberty yet.

Once they hit puberty, the long term plan continues.  Start adding heavier weight and adding new challenges.  They will become more powerful, faster, stronger, insert any synonym.  They now have the hormonal profile to support what you are throwing at them.  But a word of caution: don’t throw the kitchen sink at them.  Allow for normal development.  The newest, coolest thing isn’t the best option.  Often times the new workout it either a fad or a new way of eliciting a response in an athlete who has already developed their foundation.

To sum up, kids can virtually start at any age, however, I wouldn’t really recommend them starting too early.  I have nine and 10 year olds at our facility, but realistically a mentor of mine said 11 years old is a great age to begin.  I’ll stick with that.

Posted on

Long-Slow Distance Cardio

First off, it has been a little bit since my last check-in.  I have been busy with licensure testing, changing a few details professionally, and jumping right into some continuing education.  All those things, plus I have been coaching a high school lacrosse team in the area.

I was kicking back, sipping on a nice cup of coffee the other morning, reading over some “professional development” type material, when I came across a post along the lines of “why do long slow distance aerobic work?”  That  post of course got some great professional feedback, but it got me thinking too.

Most of what I was reading in terms of feedback was along the lines of: why indeed?  Now, I like bang for the buck type exercise regimens.  I feel as though we do a really good job of accomplishing both anaerobic and aerobic work in a relatively short period of time on a daily basis at our facility.  By using simple concepts like HIIT in our lifts we are able to develop strength and power via resistance training at appropriate, demanding percentages; and, also tax the aerobic system at the same time.  We also incorporate a conditioning portion after the lift that works usually on some type of lactic or alactic interval (think Certified Conditioning Coach)  in the preseason phases.

But where can we fit in the long-slow distance type conditioning???

This is where I reflect back to my magical weekend at IFAST, listening to Joel himself hurl information grenades at all of us innocent Performance Coaches.  In a very organized manner, he managed to explain to us how to use each concept that he has written about in books like “Ultimate MMA Conditioning”.  Long story short, one cannot sustain all out lactic intervals 7 days a week for very long.  This makes sense, right?!

With all the concepts in strength and conditioning regarding the importance of the nervous system, this should be a no-brainer.  Simply put, sometimes it is just better to let your foot off the gas pedal, slow down, and let your body (and nervous system) relax.  Let’s find that parasympathetic state for once in our training year.

Now that both sides of the continuum are screaming at me, let me elaborate.  First off, no, I do not think that you should be performing long-slow distance aerobic conditioning all year round–unless your sport is running a marathon or the Tour de France in which case you still shouldn’t do it on consecutive days.  Will you see strength and therefore power decrements as a result? Maybe.  Will you be introducing a new variable into your training regimen? Absolutely!  Cooling the jets for a few weeks will not have an absurd impact on strength/power/muscle fiber type.  But, it may afford you the potential to get even better because you let the body experience a new stimulus.

Personally, I don’t like long distance cardio.  I get bored with it, unless I am chasing a ball or object.  Cycling is more doable, but still, the struggle is real.  However, when no one is watching, I will jump on the Assault Bike for about 45-60 minutes and get in a good cardio sesh.

Posted on

Cueing Through the Ground With Push-ups and Planks

When working with clients, there is a tendency on planks and push-ups to just hang out on the shoulders. This is fairly incomplete and doesn’t allow us to take full advantage of the exercise. With the management of overhead athletes as well as general population clients, we all need proper coordination through our upper extremities.

At first, the thinking is everyone knows how to plank, right? Eh, not so much as it turns out. The big-ticket items are making sure that we have a neutral spine, or have manipulated the position to target what we are after. Then we want the entire body under tension; things like the six pack, quads, butt, etc. We have made sure that the eyes are lined up with our fist to protect our shoulders in the basic plank. But, we can’t stop there! Are our shoulders under tension? How can we better the time under tension?

 

A huge muscle that goes unnoticed by most people and doesn’t get the care it necessarily needs is the serratus anterior. Big Latin words. This muscle starts on the ribs just under the armpit and kind of looks like the serrated edge of a knife. Hence the name. The muscle then courses under the shoulder blade to the inside border closest to the middle of your back. It is responsible for holding the shoulder blade down flush to your ribcage as well as giving it the proper mobility it needs to reach your arm overhead. Without this muscle firing properly, we would (and some of us have) experience shoulder impingement, rotator cuff tendonitis, rotator cuff tears, biceps tendonitis, bursitis, and any other form of itis you can think of in the shoulder region.

 

Traditionally in physical therapy, we throw a patient down on a treatment table, tell them to reach for the ceiling with one straight arm, and repeat this exercise x10 multiple times throughout the day. This is called a serratus punch and is a fairly non-functional exercise. It is designed to just get the serratus working again. What if it isn’t causing trouble yet? How can we make it functional?

Here is the simple answer! Especially in the warm up when we are performing planks and push ups to get ready for the rest of the lift we can cue everyone to push their arms through the floor. Getting that little extra reach will get that muscle working really well and with repeated bouts of this, we have taken control of most of our shoulder problems.