Today I just wanted to post a quick video about a common t-spine extension compensation pattern that you’ll notice with a lot of your clients and athletes. This is something that can go unnoticed because it’s pretty subtle, but the outcome can be drastically different. You’ll want to watch this one!
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That’s the first thing that came to mind when I wrote the title of this post. Hopefully you can appreciate.
Aaaaand just so you know I didn’t write this title just to plug a wrestling reference! I promise.
In fact, I was at the BSMPG summer seminar this past weekend and I had a blast. I got to spend some time with the smartest minds in the business including Patrick Ward, Sean Skahan, Cal Dietz (University of Minnesota), Joel Jamieson, and Jim Snider (University of Wisconsin) just to name a few.
The recurring subject that came back with a lot of these guys during conversations is that…well…you have to know your role! What I mean is that as a strength coach you need to recognize your area of expertise, and more importantly you need to know where that area of expertise stops.
It’s really cool to learn about the SFMA, DNS, ART, Graston, Mulligans, all the rehab protocols, but we need to recognize that a lot of these things are not our job to do. There is nothing wrong with learning from different fields, but not with the mindset of doing everything yourself! As Patrick Ward was telling me himself: “we need to know just enough about everything to know where to refer our clients to and when”. I couldn’t agree more with this statement. Joel Jamieson was also telling me that coaches get too caught up sometimes trying to fix people, and their sessions turn out into an hour of corrective exercises.
Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s extremely important to be able to bridge the cap as a strength coach because there always will be some grey area, and we can’t send every one with a mild discomfort to physical therapy. Which is why we need to understand how the body works, what is good movement, how to identify dysfunctions or imbalances, and how to use corrective strategies efficiently. But our job is still to TRAIN ATHLETES!
I will be the first to recognize that there is a lot of incompetent health practitioners on this planet, but it doesn’t mean that you should try to fix everyone yourself.
Our job is to make athletes and clients feel better, improve their performance and lower their risk of injury. If they’re in pain, that is not our job to take care of them and fix them. And that’s the bottom line.
Another wrestling reference. Sorry.
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When dealing with high level athletes, you need to make sure they get the right amount of training stimulus. Too little will end up not producing any significant training effect, and too much will overtrain your athletes.
When you’re dealing with high school athletes or athletes with very little lifting experience, you can get away with pretty much anything and overtraining them is virtually impossible.
It’s a whole different story for college, junior and pro athletes who have a significant training background. This is where periodization, volume and load management, and recovery strategies come into play. When planning a training year, an off-season or an in-season plan, it’s always very difficult to know exactly how much volume your athletes need.
The truth is that there is simply too many variables that come into play:
individual recovery capacity
stress (physical and psychological)
Writing down a periodization, planning for deload weeks and trying to stay on top of how athletes feel have been the best ways to make sure the training stimulus we’re giving them is in that fine zone between undertraining and overtraining.
I blogged about heart rate variability (HRV)a couple months ago. I believe that the use of HRV and the devices available to track that will drastically change our industry in the next few years.
For the last decades, the only tool available to measure HRV was the OmegaWave, which is a 35,000$ machine, which basically means that it wasn’t accessible to most people.
But in the last couple of years, we’ve seen some smaller, more affordable devices make their appearance on the market. If you’re interested in using HRV with your athletes (which you should) to manage training stress I would strongly encourage you to consider of those devices. Here’s an overview of some of the devices used to measure HRV:
Like I just mentioned earlier, this is the original heart rate variability system. I had the chance to try it once and it gives you tremendous information about your recovery, your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, your anaerobic threshold and a lot more. The only problem? Well, the cost! So unless you’re in a pro sports organization, I doubt that you can justify (or even afford) such an expense.
This is Joel Jamieson’s product that he created after over 10 years of training MMA athletes and making experiments with the OmegaWave system. All you need is a Polar heart rate monitor and an I-Phone or an Android because it comes in the form of an app on these 2 smart phones. I’ve tried it a couple times and it’s very simple and easy to use. The price is extremely cheap compared to the OmegaWave; you can get it for $200.
Polar Heart Rate Monitor RS800CX
Polar makes a bunch of different heart rate monitors with different functions. The RS800CX offers a HRV measuring system with the watch. Although I have never tried it myself I heard that’s it’s not the most user friendly HRV system. It’s still pretty affordable compared to the OmegaWave; you can get it for just a little over $400.
Similar to the Bioforce HRV, it’s an app you can get on your smart phone. Although I’ve never used this one either I have heard mixed feedback on it. I’ve heard that’s it’s not the most accurate, but the price is extremely cheap. You can get it for a little over 50$.
This is really just the beginning as I think HRV monitoring devices are literally the future of strength and conditioning for high level athletes. Most of the smaller, more affordable devices are still in an early developmental stage and they will only become better as time goes by, and we will use a lot more companies come out with their own HRV device.
I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years HRV monitors become a staple in any training program. The information it provides is invaluable and couldn’t be obtained any other way.
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Groin pain, adductor strains and sports hernias are becoming an epidemic among athletes today, and especially among hockey players. Playing the same sport year-round, poor training protocols (or simply no training at all), over-training and faulty movement patterns are all perfect set-ups for groin pain, especially for hockey players because of the nature of the sport.
Before I go any further with my recommendations, I will say this: it is very important to clear out any other possible underlying issues in the first place. Groin pain may be caused, for example, by Femoral Acetabular Impingement (FAI), which would warrant the subject of a whole book in itself. In short FAI is an abnormality (usually a bony lesion) on either the femoral head or the acetabulum itself that creates impingement and may translate into groin pain. But I digress. What I’m saying is to get checked out first to make sure the issue is not coming from somewhere else.
The first step to take with groin pain problem is to stay away from anything that hurts for a little while. If you’re a hockey player and have some groin pain while skating, the first step to take is to stop skating, and I mean completely. I know it sucks being forced to stay away playing, but this is a necessary process to follow, and it will all be worth it in the long run. If you think the injury is not that bad and you’re just going to suck it up and keep playing until it goes away, it’s a BIG mistake. First of all, groin pain, groin pulls and adductor injuries don’t magically disappear, especially if you keep doing the same thing that’s been causing the pain (skating, in this case), and first thing you know is the pain is going to get worse and worse and you’ll have to suffer for months. So as much as it sucks, you need to take that time off.
Foam roll your adductors and your hip flexors. Most of the time, athletes will have scar tissue built up in their adductors and some kind of soft tissue limitation in their hip flexors.
Stretch your hip flexors, glutes and hip external rotators. Because of the nature of a sport like hockey (repeated hip extension, abduction and external rotation), athletes will have a loss in adduction and internal rotation, as well as hip extension range of motion.
Rectus Femoris Stretch (Hip Flexor)
Prone 90/90 Glute Stretch
Strengthen the adductors and the psoas, which is usually the weakest of the 3 hip flexors. These 2 muscles usually are very weak because they are underutilized in different sporting motions, especially the skating stride.
Lying Med Ball Crush
Seated Psoas Lift (make sure the thigh is above 90°)
Using this approach, you want to make sure to use these strategies at least twice a day, everyday (foam rolling, stretching and activation drills). We’ve had hockey players (and many of them) with pretty bad groin pain getting back on the ice totally pain-free in as little as 2 weeks after they start applying those exact recommendations. The key is really just to stay away from anything that hurts and be consistent with the exercises, and chances are you’ll be back on the ice (or the field) in no time.
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Here’s something we don’t talk about much: where should you stand when you coach exercises? Although there is not one correct answer to this question, most coaches would agree that coaching from the side gives you the best perspective on most movements.
Squats, deadlifts, lunges and rows are all exercises that should be coached mostly from the side. This lets you see if the spine is neutral, if the hip hinge is good, if the knees come forward too much, if the chin stays packed, etc.
I definitely agree that it’s the most efficient angle to coach from. But it doesn’t mean that you should coach exclusively from the side. There is valuable information that you can collect from the back or from the front that is pretty much impossible to identify from another angle.
The knee valgus collapse for example is something that’s pretty hard to spot if you’re only coaching from the side. Moving around a little bit will give you that additional information that is hard to identify from observing from the side.
I posted a video a couple weeks ago on box jumps shot from the back. You can see the knees collapsing in during the loading phase of the jump with that angle. I am not sure that it would be as easily identifiable from the side.
Same thing for a deadlift or a squat; a knee valgus, unless extremely bad, is hard to identify from the side. In this video you’ll see that the form looks good from the side, but as soon as the camera gets behind the athlete, you immediately notice the feet being a little too wide, and the knees collapsing in.
Another thing that can be spotted from the back is the feet position. Without going into too much details, as this could be the subject of an entire article, a foot that looks flat in a standing posture, or when lifting weights doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s structurally flat; it can be the result of a collapsed arch (similar to the knee valgus collapse, it’s something that can be coached and/or corrected).
Standing from the back, you’ll notice immediately when the feet lose their arch during a deadlift or a squat. (Whether the problem is structural or the result of stability problem in the weight bearing position is something you should assess early on.)
The take home point is that you shouldn’t just be standing still watching things from one angle when coaching athletes or clients, whether you do group training or one-on-one training. Seeing things from different angles will give you more information on the exercise or the movement you’re coaching, and it’ll help you see everything that’s going on in the execution of said movement.
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Third round of this series of interview already. Patrick Ward, strength and conditioning specialist and massage therapist, was kind enough to give me a couple minutes of his time to answer my questions. Here we go:
What does your current training look like?
My current training is pretty darn boring. I lift 3 days per week and perform total body workouts. I do the same four exercises each day 3 sets x 5 reps and currently work below 80% intensity for all sets. I do some form of cardiovascular exercise at least 3-5x/week usually consisting of either consistent work in the 120-150bpm range or some form of extensive tempo work. I’ll do this for about 3-5 weeks and then begin to focus more on some specific lifts, increase the intensity, etc…
What’s your favorite song to lift heavy things to?
I can’t say that I have a favorite song to lift to but I do enjoy putting country music on the radio. Sometimes I even listen to sports talk radio when I lift. I try not to blast realy intense music and hype myself up for lifts in the gym unless I am testing something and I am trying to get really gassed up. Otherwise, I try and keep my cool.
What would be your best advice to an up-and-coming strength and conditioning coach who wants to make it in this business?
Read as much as you can, ask a lot of questions of others and of yourself, and never take anything anyone says as gospel – be open to many possibilities.
What’s your passion, or second passion in life after health and fitness?
I like jazz music a lot and actually my undergraduate degree was in jazz guitar from Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA.
Who are your 3 most influential mentors?
Charlie Weingroff, Willem Kramer, and Judith DeLany are up there as far as people that have influenced me professionally that I have been able to have some form of personal communication/relationship with. Also in that list I would have to include Don Miller, Jeff Cubos, and Dave Tenney.
What’s the biggest mistake you see athletes who want to make it to the next level make?
Doing too much. Most athletes crush themselves with insane amounts of either volume or intensity (or both) setting themselves back from further progres and decreasing their level of readiness, causing them to have inconsistent results when they compete.
What’s your favorite supplement?
I am not a huge supplement guy. I like fish oil and protein powder (muscle milk chocolate is my favorite). After that if you want some creatine or a multi-vitamin go for it. In general though I am a whole foods guy and feel that people should dial in their diet before they try and SUPPLEMENT it with anything.
What’s the most overrated exercise?
Every exercise has its place in a program and it is not my job to tell people what they should or should not use as every situation is different and every individual is different. I try not to get enamored with too many exercises or exercise variations. I see a lot of people creating new exercises for the sake of doing something “new”. I still like to stick with the basics and just focus on that.
What’s the most underrated exercise?
Don’t know if there is an underrated exercise. I try and focus on very basic compound exercises and they aren’t exercises that most people aren’t already doing – bench press, chin ups, rows, push ups, deadlifts, squats, lunges. Perhaps an exercise that I do like to use that I don’t think too many people use is the step up. I think it is a great exercise for the lower extremity and find that most people seem to shy away from it for one reason or another.
What book are you currently reading?
I usually have a few books going at the same time along with the countless studies that flood my desk. Currently the three books I have been concentrating most on are:
Soft Tissue Pain and Disability by Rene Calliet
Foundations for Osteopathic Medicine
The Science and Practice of Manual Therapy by Eyal Lederman
It has been said that 80% of the American population is going to suffer from lower back pain at some point in their life….That’s A LOT of people! The sedentary lifestyle of most human beings in 2012 is probably one of the main causes. If you’re a strength and conditioning professional or a personal trainer chances are you’ll deal with a good number of people suffering from low back pain throughout your career.
The first thing to do is assess the client or athlete and identify where the problem lies. You should also decide if referring out to a another health professional is appropriate. Either way, you’ll want to use appropriate corrective strategies, if appropriate, to make the person correct the source of the problem.
What you won’t want though is to turn the training session into a rehab session. You still want your clients or athletes to feel like they can get a training effect. They definitely shouldn’t feel like a patient; that’s not your job. You want to make them feel like athletes and you should focus on what they can do, rather than what they can’t do.
The big problem with most low back pain is that it limits your lower body exercise options quite a bit. Most of the time any variation of bilateral squat or deadlift will be out. So where does that leave us?
Although every person is different, there are options that are generally going to be safer than others. The first thing I would tell you to do is stick to the “do no harm” rule: if it hurts don’t do it. As simple as that.
That being said here are some options to consider with your low back pain clients and athletes:
Depending on the type of back pain and how severe it is, your athlete might be able to get away with lunge variations using a front squat grip or a back squat grip, but usually DBs are going to be a safer alternative.
Rear Foot Elevated (RFE) Split Squat
In the video above, coach Dan Gabelman demonstrates a bodyweight RFE split squat. If your athletes are pain-free and strong enough, you can load them with 2 DBs or with one DB in the goblet position.
This one might not be an option in some low back clients, but is usually OK with most if you keep a neutral spine throughout the range of motion, even if it means limiting that range of motion. Someone who’s flexion intolerant and has limited hip mobility might round at the back in the bottom position, which could exacerbate the problem. Usually just bodyweight is plenty hard for most people, so you don’t even have to use any external load to make the exercise challenging.
What I really like about sled drags for athletes or clients with low back problem is we can use so many variations of them, and also still load them pretty significantly without any negative effect on the low back.
Again, the “do no harm” rule is king. Make sure you don’t do anything that hurts your athletes. You should also be smart about what you prescribe them, make sure it’s not making their problem worse, and when in doubt refer out!
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We’re always taught in life to believe in ourselves and be confident. It usually starts with our parents at an early age, and as we grow up and take on new challenges in life we’re told to be confident. They’re teaching us to put in the effort, trust our potential, and eventually we’ll succeed. If you’ve had really good teachers or coaches throughout your life, chances are that they tried to send you the same message.
Having confidence in ourselves make us achieve things we would have never been able to achieve if we would have never believed in ourselves in the first place. Perhaps it might have helped you become a great athlete, a great student or a great professional in whatever field you are working in.
Confidence is essential to build new relationships, make new contacts and get people to buy into whatever you’re saying. It is a big part of human interaction.
As a strength and conditioning professional, personal trainer, or just as someone who trains yourself, confidence plays an important part of the training programs your write or follow. Believing in your training programs, believing in your system is important to get results and achieve success.
But is it possible to be too confident?
When you think that what you’re doing, the methods you’re using are the end all be all, you probably never question yourself.
Do your system really work that great? Are your athletes and clients achieving optimal results? If you always follow your own system and the same methods, how do you know your athletes couldn’t achieve better results faster? Do you ever try new things? Do you question your methods? Do you reach out to other people and ask them questions?
I can easily see how over-confidence can become your own worst enemy. I guess you could also call that having an “ego”.
Either way, having insecurities and questioning yourself from time to time is not a bad thing. Putting things in perspective, being open to try new methods and accepting that other coaches somewhere in the world might achieve better results than you, will only open the door for potential improvements.
And all due respect to all the coaches who’ve become famous on the internet, there is probably a lot more coaches out there who are just as smart or even smarter who just aren’t interested in promoting themselves on the web. If you can find these people, more power to you. Chat with these guys, listen and compare how their system and methods differ from yours.
I have met my fair share of over-confident coaches in my life. One thing I have noticed about most of them is that this over-confidence also comes with a distorted vision of reality; they have a tendency to perceive things in a way that ultimately makes them feel better about themselves. Why did your athletes not improve as much as expected? “They didn’t work had enough…They don’t get it…etc…etc”. Sometimes those reasons are legitimate, but sometimes it might be good to question yourself.
Earning a college degree builds confidence. Gaining experience builds confidence. And most importantly, getting results builds confidence.
But never be too confident to the point of never questioning your methods. There is always a better way to do things, a way to improve.
Be open minded. Question your methods. Always re-evaluate your system. And even doubt yourself from time to time, it’ll only help you become better at what you do.
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With any exercise, at any point, form is everything. It’s basic concept behind weight lifting. If you’re not lifting with good form, you increase your risks of injuries, not only in the weight room, but also on the field. Getting stronger without consideration for perfect form is really just reinforcing bad movement pattern.
The major lifts are all occasions to reinforce good movement. This is really what the premise of strength training is about; improve the way you move, and get strong in those “good movement patterns”. All the mobility work, corrective exercises and foam rolling are tools to help you achieve that very goal. But it doesn’t need to get more complicated that that.
Whether it’s because of the physical stress that life puts on us, the overuse trauma that certain activities exert on our bodies or the sedentarity of our lifestyle in 2012, our bodies build up dysfunctions. Playing sports definitely increase the overuse stress on our body, and is really good at making dysfunctions worse. Displaying maximal effort and energy at high velocities as it is commonly seen in sports, will make your body use the path of least resistance; your body doesn’t “think” about good movement. It just does whatever it is asked to do. That’s why it’s something that needs to be reinforced.
Achieving good movement and understanding it is the first step, then you perform repetitions, and lastly you start loading to solidify those movement patterns. With practice and added strength, your brain will start to make the connections, and the automated response of quality movements under high velocities will happen.
That’s what strength training is all about. It’s not about who’s going to be able to jump on the highest box. It’s not about who can perform 50 snatches from the floor the fastest. And it’s definitely not about pushing yourself when your form becomes shitty.
I’m not pointing any fingers here.
Or maybe I am….
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