Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Key Principle

Train to be able to absorb and apply as much force as quickly and efficiently as possible, without using range-of-motion restricting, or movement pattern altering equipment.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Path of Least Resistance

Do you ever wonder why it is so much easier to squat deep using a load than it is with just bodyweight?

The reason is because of relative stiffness. By loading the torso with a bar, as in the front or back squat, the body naturally reacts by stiffening the torso to protect the spine. The load now makes the torso stiffer than the hips, and the body always follows the path of least resistance.

To test this out, do a bodyweight squat when you are feeling "cold" and your hips feel tight. Notice how difficult it is to drop into a deep squat. Next try holding some front and side bridges (pillars, planks, whatever you want to call them) for about 30-40 seconds each. Now try the bodyweight squat again. Did you notice a difference? If you did the bridges correctly, it should have felt much easier to sit into a deep squat. Basically all you did was increase the neural signal to the torso muscles, increasing their activity, thus "stiffening" the torso, making the hips less relatively stiff than the torso.

If somebody seems to have a hip mobility issue, immediately check the stability of their torso. More often than not, their hips have become too stable, probably from sitting too much, making up for the instability at the torso.

Physics always rules.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I Love It!

I received this email yesterday from an awesome former client and even better friend.

Terry didn't start lifting weights until about 2 years ago; he's now 66. He began training with me a little over a year ago, to help iron out some back issues and improve his golf game. He's now officially a powerlifter, and his golf game is at its' best ever.

Powerlifting and golf... sounds like a perfect match to me. You gotta love it.

Great stuff, check it out:

407.5 lbs. deadlift; state record for 65-69, 110kg class


I get a chance to read your Blog ....always good stuff. I am in Florida for the winter so the weather here is beautiful ! High 70's - low 80's ..sunshine...just perfect... I'm in the Sarasota area.

Still training and pushing on ... miss your coaching though.. much tougher to discipline myself. Don't know if Steve has told you but I had a great 'first meet' at the Florida Senior Games last Saturday. It was for 50 plus year olds and they had many many different type of games for all age groups and some team sports. (Tennis doubles, etc). The oldest participant was 98. It was a full week affair held in Ft Myers Fl and ended Saturday (8th)

Anyway....the power lifting event went very well... they only had the push-pull event (bench and DL) but some real GOOD lifters. Nothing special went on in the Bench...but the DL was fun to watch...and participate in. There was a 60 year old who set a World Record at 705. I pulled 407.5 (185kg) for my PR and a NEW state record for 65-69, 110kg class. Won 3 gold medals which was a bonus. I also qualified to go to the Senior Game Nationals in Miami in May 2008.

In Feb I plan to compete in the FL State Open ...there I should also be able to beat the squat and total records. My bench is still pretty weak but I'm going to keep working on all of it Hoping with a squat suit to be in the 410-425 range.

I'm sending you the video of my DL and a pic ... note the shirt !! . Also I will send the World Record DL too. and a video of the same guy 20 years ago when he was competing in Australia. Watch the end of the video closely.

Your blog of Nov 9...good stuff. The article on lifting and age.

For us 'older' participants...

Dylan Thomas has some inspirational words for those of us who have crested the hill and find ourselves on the downhill slope ...

"Do not go gentle into that good night,Old age should burn and rave at close of day;Rage, rage against the dying of the light."--

Hope your family is healthy and enjoying the snow..... stay in-touch !!

Best Regards ...Terry H

What's your excuse?


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Evolution and Sprint Throughts

This is interesting.

Evolution doesn't just pertain to humans over the course of thousands of years, we have micro-evolution going on everyday. Since the day we are born, we are evolve, physically and mentally.

My daughter, Eva, who is 1 1/2, makes dramatic changes over the course of weeks. First, she learned to hold her head up, then roll-over, then sit-up, then crawl, and walk and so on. Now she squats, does snatches, power cleans, and even does flips. My wife, the know-it-all occupationl therapist, tells me she's just picking things up off the floor; and that flip she did the other day, wasn't a flip she claims, it was because she tripped and fell. Whatever, I know what Eva's really doing. ;)

The old adage "use it or lose it" could be as wise a quote there is. Kids use it, adults lose it. We need to just get out and move everyday. The more we do so the more we regain back those previously easy movement skills.

For example, I have done a fair job of keeping myself in shape since my college football days, which was only 4 years ago. Most of my activity has been centered around weightlifting and strength training. This has been great for maintaining a decent body composition, and I have actually become stronger than when I was playing college football.

Lately, I have gotten back into doing sprint work. Mainly because now I have access to plenty of space to run indoors. Especially because it is tough to do in the winter in the upper midwest without shrivelling the "boys" up into tiny little raisins.

When I first started sprinting again, I started off slow with just doing tempo runs of about 60 yards. The first few sprints sessions really reinforced "use it or lose it". Everything felt tight and I was slow. These first few times are enough for most people to come up with the excuse that I am just too old, or my body's to worn out to do this. However, after each subsequent sprint session my body has started to feel better. Now I am up to doing all-out sprints of 40 to 50 yards and my body has been feeling better than it has in a long time. I definately feel a lot more "spring" in my legs now. Just walking feels easier.

I think often times we, referring to those of us that lift heavy weights and possibly sprinkle some light cardio in on the side, forget what it feels like to have true power or speed, and for our bodies to feel fresh again. I think getting back to what we used to do as kids, sprinting, we can regain that youthful feeling.

If you have the space to do it, add some sprinting into your exercise routine. It's a lot easier on your body than traditional cardio (treadmills, bikes, etc.), and develops great total body power, and re-awakens the nervous systems. Power is what we lose the fastest as we get older. Use it or lose it.

The key is to start slow and progress even slower. Start with light tempo runs, to get the range of motion back in the hips. Anything from 40 to 100 yards would do. Work on your feet striking right below you on each step, concentrate on moving your arms quickly through the shoulders, and keep your face relaxed. Start out with just 1 to 2 times a week.

As you become more comfortable with your technique and conditioning, slowly integrate some acceleration work of 10 to 20 yards (or meters, doesn't really matter), while just pacing the final 20 to 80 yards. You can also start to incorporate some "ins and outs" where you jog the first 10 yards, accelerate as fast as possible for the next 20 yards, then decelerate for the final 20 meters.

These are just some ideas to incorporate speed work into your routine. Be sure to keep a good balance of hip and knee dominant work in the weight room, focusing primarily on single-leg work. Continue to work on good movement patterns and focus on recovery and regeneration, with good nutrition and plenty of soft tissue work.

Use it or lose it. Re-evolve your ability to move fast and explosively again.


Friday, December 7, 2007

Random Friday

10, somewhat random, thoughts to end the week.

1. High speed treadmills suck. Give me one example of when the ground moves for you.

2. Abduction work, such as X-band walks and mini-band side-steps, often improve squat technique, but not because of improved hip abduction activation. The improvement comes from increased hip internal rotation ability. If you lack adequate internal rotation, squatting deep will always be a problem.

3. Work capacity is often an overlooked athletic quality. It's pretty simple, increase work capacity, get more work done.

4. The greatest CNS supplement: water.

5. Sprinting is the best plyometric exercise there is.

6. Your center of gravity is almost dead center in your pelvis. Train to get this area to function well and the rest of the body to align directly under or over it.

7. Shin angle is key for quick, powerful movement.

8. Ankle dorsiflexion is very important for athletic ability. This also ties into #6 and #7.

9. The rotator cuff is rarely the problem, it's the symptomatic area.

10. Deep squatting does not cause your knees to explode or anything else bad to happen. Honestly, I've tried it. If squatting low does hurt your knees, either your hips or ankles suck. Go back and work on #6 and #8.

Have a nice weekend!


Thursday, December 6, 2007

KB Slideboard Lunge

This one comes from Mike Boyle. It's kind of "tweener" because a normal reverse lunge would be categorized as a lower body push exercise, but adding the slideboard makes it half way between a push and a pull.

The kettlebell gives the resistance a lower center of gravity and by holding just one kettlebell on the inside of the working leg, you add a rotational loading component. This forces the working leg glute and torso to increase its activity.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007


The title about sums it up. Finals, projects, papers, Christmas break programs for all the athletes, training, facility clean-up, car issues, planning for next semester, Christmas shopping to get done, and literally buried in about 10 inches of snow. I will dig myself out... eventually.

Did I mention it's freezing ass cold!


Monday, December 3, 2007

Overreaction / Underreaction

There has been lots of debate about what type of stability method should be used when controlling muscle activity in the torso. There was a large overreaction when Hodges and Richardson (1) came out with research showing the importance of the transverse abdominus in lumbar spine stability. People quickly jumped on this one, implementing all the TA and draw-in training we could handle. Problem was that the study related to people who already had back pain and there was a delayed firing of the transverse abdominus, which is actually one of the first muscles to activate upon movement in healthy individuals.

A few years later Stuart McGill, one of the top back specialists in the world, came out and said that drawing is not the best way to stabilize the spine; we need to "brace" the core. Now we fall along the line that we just need to stabilize the lumbar spine, while training the correct movement patterns of the hips, thoracic spine, and scapula.

Now we come back full circle again as a recent study (2) shows that the abdominal draw-in method is an effective method to reduce anterior pelvic tilt and help disassociate erector spinae activity from the glutes and hamstrings during prone position hip extension.

The problem I see is, we jump on a band wagon of a new and supposedly innovative idea and forget all the other effective methods there are at getting the job done. As many in the field have said before, there is always an immediate overreaction in the first few years of a new concept, then an under-reaction, and finally reaching a happy medium some years later.

With the activity of the torso, I believe, different tasks require different methods of stabilization. If somebody has low back pain, it may be warranted that they need to work on activation of their transverse abdominus as the Hodges and Richardson research showed. For maximal effort back squats, I would argue that we need to adhere to McGill's advice and "brace like hell". When lifting something directly overhead, such as a stand dumbbell press, we need to draw-in a little and activate our obliques to avoid hyperextension of the spine. Or, if your somebody like me who has tight hip flexors and an anterior pelvic tilt, the draw-in method is of high importance in limiting the use of the lumbar erectors and allowing for true hip extension.

Regardless of draw-in or brace, we just need to find the optimal method for the specific task and individual.

1. Hodges PW, Richardson CA. Inefficient muscular stabilization of the lumbar spine associated with low back pain. A motor control evaluation of transversus abdominis. Spine Journal 1996 Nov 15;21(22):2640-50

2. Oh JS, Cynn HS, Won JH, Kwon OY, Yi CH (2007) Effects of performing an abdominal drawing-in maneuver during prone hip extension exercises on hip and back extensor muscle activity and amount of anterior pelvic tilt. The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy 2007 Jun;37(6):320-4