Sunday, December 21, 2008

Diagnostic Inhibition

Here is a good article from the New York Times regarding issues with the excess use of diagnostic tools and methods in coming to inaccurate conclusions for treating pain issues.

The Evidence Gap.

.... and another semi-related topic regarding breat cancer,

Screening for Breast Cancer May Spur Unnecessary Treatment.

... and one more thought provoker,

New study proves that pain is not a symptom of arthritis, pain causes arthritis.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Exercises and Coaching

Recently, there has been a lot of advocation of front squatting being the choice of exercise over the back squat. Carl Valle has outlined some issues with the debate here.

To continue, I've seen, and talked with coaches who have also seen, more issues come about with the front squat than with the back squat. Additionally, I think the front squat, in many cases, may add to glute/hip dysfunction seen in many of today's athletes. The front squat places the bar on the front of the shoulders, anterior to the neck. Looking at the mechanics of this, without absolutely great spinal posture and mobility throughout the shoulders and hips, the moment arm of the bar in relation to the working muscles of thoracic spine, puts these weaker spinal erectors at a tremendous disadvantage. Any time the load gets heavier (must honor the principle of progressive overload) without the said posture and mobility, things get pretty shady and can begin to do some serious numbers on the thoracic and cervical spine and shoulders, even though the lumbar spine has potentially been spared. Which as I have seen again and again, poor thoracic postural alignment seems to often correlate with poor hip function.

So what could be the next option if #1 we threw out the back squat, and #2 decided that the front squat wasn't getting it done?

Now it has become the next and final option when it comes to progressive overload work for strength; single-leg training.

However, what about the issues of fascial winding/asymmetries between right and left? Single-leg work may spare a few things but could it potentially just be giving bad backs and asymmetrical movement a larger stage to continue to present themselves. Does performing single-leg exercises on asymmetries guarantee automatic balancing and injury prevention?

What the hell is one to do?

What it comes down to is cutting the umbilical cord to any one method and only certain exercises, getting into the mud of the trenches, using all available artillery and COACHING.

"I (standing up out of my chair and holding up my right hand) use the back squat, front squat, and all the single-leg exercises. I also use the deadlift and have athletes olympic lift from both the floor and the hang position."

There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these particular exercises or nearly any other exercise, it's just that when all you have, or choose to have, is a hammer, everything does begin to look like a nail. Yes, there are some exercise options which are easier to teach, but that doesn't necessarily make them right.

Hick's law is nice for speedy program design, but having more choices leads to better program accuracy. Accuracy usually hits the target faster then speed anyway.

So coach, coach, and coach some more.

Coach movement, use exercises to enhance those movements.

Oh... one more thing; even more important than coaching movement is coaching the athlete.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008


The fundamental rhythm is the heartbeat, all other rhythms cognate off of this.

One can postulate many theories related to the effects of good rhythm. Good rhythm is critical in good movement and is important to follow in training. Rhythms are also important in all aspects of life: biochemically, physiologically, and behaviorally. Abiding by these takes care of some very basic survival needs, opening the doors to improved human performance in all facets of life, especially athleticism.

I don't think it's a coincidence that societies that put a large emphasis on music and dance seem to evolve some very athletic individuals. Rhythm is highly emphasized in these societies.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008


A few points about movement and breathing Also follow this link to some very good, recent blog posts by Carl Valle.

-If you don't have the motor skills to actively move a joint, then you for sure won't have the skills to control and "stabilize" that joint. If you look at all forms of motor development, it starts with learning how to move it first, then control and "stabilize" it second. Movement precedes all else.

-If we are concerned about where the motion is occuring in a particular exercise, then it needs to be coached well. I think we need to demand athletes to learn how to move correctly, instead of avoiding certain exercises and then just opting for easier exercises to teach. The arguments will invariably come up that it is just too hard for the athletes to learn; my question, 'is it really, or is it that we just don't want to take the time to make them learn it correctly'. Again, if we can not actively create a movement or move a specific joint, then how can we effectively stabilize it.

-Good dance choreographers get it and have been getting it for a long time. A lot of the good movement training info I have come across has come from dance. Good track and field coaches have great movement training techniques, their jobs rest on teaching efficient movement. Sometimes the best movement info comes outside our "normal" realm, so don't discredit anything.

-What leads to movement dysfunction in the first place? Lack of movement. What is going to get you out of dysfunction? Movement. Contracting muscles in static positions, is not movement training and most likely will not transfer. It sure would be nice to train static to get dynamic, but I don't believe it is going to happen.

-Every moment with an athlete is an assessment.

-We all know the importance of proper breathing patterns. Addressing breathing is a good start in improving overall health, but the evaluation needs to be made as to why an altered breathing pattern is present in the first place. Psychological factors play a large role in this, both conscious and sub-conscious. Stress factors, in any form, must be controlled to maintain any effects of respiratory re-training. It would be like doing an hour or two of mobility work, but then sitting at a desk for another 8 hours in the day. In other words... beating your head against a wall.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Judge for yourself

This and a couple other videos, which Martin Rooney posted on, has caused quite a stir on a well known forum recently.

I think people see, but aren't listening. Listen carefully to what Martin is saying before judging.



Here are the other two videos:
Video 1
Video 2

Please feel free to discuss.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

movement yin and yang

It's easy to teach someone to contract muscles to create movement, but the real key rests in the ability to relax muscles through movement.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What's been going on

Been a long time since I've updated, so to fill the world in on my happenings as of late and a few notes:

- School is in session; I am teaching a class this fall (actually 2, one is a strength training class) titled Fundamentals of Physical Conditioning. These students are going to get a HEAVY dose of training principles and practical application, plus probably a few "rants". I am 1 for 1 in the "rants" department as we have had only 1 class thus far. I'll keep you posted on my percentage as the semester roles along.

- Attended Z-Health I-Phase (which is level 2) this month. Great information. The thing that I am continually impressed with, is Dr. Eric Cobb's ability to take a bunch on complex concepts and tie them together into a system grounded on solid principles. While attending Z-Health, I stayed at Dr. Mike T. Nelson's Canapé Inn, where we once again solved the world's problems. Now to just find a way to get the message out...

- Football is in the air, gotta love it!

- From a discussion with Dr. Nelson: "Failure is feedback with an emotional attachment" or something like that. Either way, learn from it.

- Excess tension inhibits performance. Tension is psychosomatic. Tension is activity in the body and mind. How can we effectively learn and improve other activities when we are already doing another activity (excess tension).

- "Adaptation doesn't have an off switch." -Frankie Faires


Wednesday, August 20, 2008


There was no shutting it down early this time.

He did it into a slight headwind of 0.9m/s as well...


Saturday, August 16, 2008


Done. Usain Bolt is the fastest human in the world. Ever.

1. Usain Bolt 9.69
2. Richard Thompson 9.89
3. Walter Dix 9.91
4. Churandy Martina 9.93
5. Asafa Powell 9.95
6. Michael Frater 9.97
7. Marc Burns 10.01
8. Darvis Patton 10.03


USA Weightlifting and the 100 meter dash

Kendrick Ferris put together a great performance to set two U.S. records in the men's 85kg class. Ferris totalled 362kg and beat his own record in the clean and jerk with 202kg. Ferris ended up finishing 8th, but nonetheless, represented the U.S. very well in what has been typically an area of weakness for the U.S. in weightlifting.

You can watch the replay of his performance here.

An interesting note: Farris has changed his jerk technique from his 'odd' half-split/half-squat to a full-squat jerk. Obviously an improvement, but I have heard conflicting viewpoints on the full-squat jerk, which has been made popular by the Chinese and the legendary Pyrros Dimas.

Track and Field

Tyson Gay (10.05 semifinals, 5th) missed qualifying for the finals of the 100 meter dash. Not too sure if it would have mattered as both Asafa Powell (9.91 semifinals, 1st) and Usain Bolt (9.85 semifinals. 1st) have looked very good in the prelims. I think it is Bolt's race to lose. If he puts together a good start, I don't think anyone will be able to touch him.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Supertraining Insights

A couple of interesting paragraphs from Mel Siff's Supertraining:

"The importance of ballistic activity to humankind recently has been shown to extend far beyond the realms of sport. Neurophysiologist, William Calvin, has proposed the fascinating hypothesis that the brain's planning of ballistic movements may have played a major role in the development of language, music and intelligence over the ages (Scientific American, Oct 1994). He makes this proposal, since ballistic movements and language processes involve some of the same regions of the brain, in particular those associated with sequencing and planning. In reaching this conclusion, he emphasizes that ballistic movements, unlike cocontractive slower movements, require a great amount of planning and problem solving. Slow movements may be corrected readily by ongoing feedback information, but ballistic movements require the brain to determine every detail of the action in advance by mentally planning the exact sequence of neural activation for numerous individual muscles.

Apparently, parts of the language cortex of the brain serve a far more generalised function than previously suspected. It is implicated in the production of novel sequences of sensations and movements for both the hands and mouth, so that ballistic arm actions may play a role in mental development. Calvin adds that improvements in language skills might improve dexterity and vice versa. The emphasis placed by Russian coaches on athletes being able to accurately describe, draw and visualise sporting movements woudl appear to correlate with this proposal. Instead of simply executing entertaning plyometric drills like biological robots, athletes would be wll advised to integrate cognitive processes mroe actively into the training programs."

Cognition is a very important aspect of training.

If I understand why, I am more apt to do...


Monday, July 28, 2008

More stuff

Vern Gambetta has a great post today on the difference between training and coaching. Great insights and distinctions...

Few more random points

1. The spine needs good mobility. As we age this is one of the first areas of the body to lose mobility; this causes problems. The key is increasing the proprioceptive awareness of the entire spine and the only way to do this is through moving the entire spine through full ranges of motion. If we have great spine awareness and mobility, things tend to function very well.

Mike Nelson wrote a good article about lumbar spine mobility about a year ago. A very good read.

Professor Serge Gracovetsky, who proposed the spinal engine theory, has a good interview here on the movement of the spine.

2. Watch any great dancers and they have tremendous spine mobility, and my guess is most don't have back issues... Just tremendous spine proprioception.

3. Anything that has a nervous system is designed for movement. We were not designed to not move...


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

5 Randoms

1. If you move well you most likely won't have pain or injury, and if you don't have pain or injury then you'll be more likely to move well.

2. One thing I really like to watch is how 2 and 3 year olds walk; very minimal force impact at heel strike (they basically just lay the foot flat on the ground each step), smooth rolling of the hips, completely relaxed arm swing, etc.

3. In many athletic movements (key: well performed athletic movements), the hamstrings and rectus femoris perform more as isometric muscles, allowing the tendons of these muscles to create and transfer force.

4. This is a huge problem and it affects EVERYONE.

5. Movement is improved through motor learning. The key is focus and specific control. I can't learn something without focus (motor LEARNING), and I can't use something if I can't control it (motor CONTROL). Motor learning takes focus and practice. If the correct movement is performed, the muscles will do their job.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Movement Lesions

Many stroke victims can potentially restore most, if not all, function of affected limbs through a method called constraint-induced movement therapy.

Many of these stroke victims have brain lesions, some massive, in the areas that control their movement; these victims have brain damage yet they can learn to move again! Most athletes don't have brain damage... so why can't athletes learn to move well... VERY well?

There should be no reason "healthy" athletes can't drastically improve movement control and mobility to unforeseen levels, when many stroke victims can restore much of the motor control of their limbs, minus certain parts of their brain.


Monday, June 30, 2008

Fastest 100m Ever

Last night Tyson Gay ran a 9.68 at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, OR. The time was wind-aided so it is not an official world record, but it is the fastest time ever run in 100 meters.

The wind was at 4.1 meters per second, over the allowable 2.0 mps. I don't think Gay would have run faster than Usain Bolt's 9.72 without the wind, but 9.68 is still pretty fast; faster than anyone has ever gone...


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Deep squatting and lumbar flexion; a good thing?

There's always been lots of discussion about the lumbar flexion that may occur at the bottom of a deep squat. Most of the discussion/arguments are against allowing any lumbar flexion in this position.

For example, if an athlete back squats (loaded with a barbell) to top of the thigh parallel and can maintain a "neutral" spine, but going any deeper creates lumbar flexion (posterior rotation of the pelvis), then the athlete should squat no deeper than the position in which they can maintain the neutral spine position. The thought is that any lumbar flexion under load may be bad.

In my situation, I have always had athletes squat as deep as possible (maintaining proper foot pressure, and in neutral spine). Many times, as the athlete drops the top of the thighs past parallel, the pelvis basically 'tucks' under, creating some lumbar flexion. I've always coached the athletes to maintain a tall spine, but have never really worried too much about this little bit of lumbar flexion at towards the end range-of-motion... maybe I should, but I have yet to see it cause any issues.

And most of the time, this little bit of lumbar flexion, actually brings the lumbar spine closer to a more true "neutral" position or just slight flexion, as back squatting with load tends put the athlete in more of a lumbar extension position to start with.

Anyway... just the other day, I came across this interesting paragraph in Functional Anatomy of the Spine by Middleditch and Oliver:

"Tension in the thoracolumbar fascia can also be increased by motion of the arms, legs and trunk. Posterior rotation of the pelvis causes an increase in flexion at he lumbosacral junction and hence increases tension in the thoracolumbar fascia. Lumbar spine flexion also passively increases tension in the thoracolumbar fascia. Competitive weightlifters may flex or 'round out' the lumbosacral area and it is suggested that this affords some protection by increasing tension in the thoracolumbar fascia and posterior ligamentous structures, thereby contributing to stability in the low lumbar area (Dolan et al, 1994)."

Maybe that little bit of lumbar flexion under load is ok.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Breathing and the Spine

Brett Jone's wrote an excellent post, Thoracic Mobility..., on June 14th.

To add to it:

Range of motion of lumbar and thoracic spine

The lumber spine has greater flexion/extension range-of-motion (ROM) based on disc height and spinous processes which project almost straight posteriorly, while the thoracic discs are smaller and the spinous processes project more inferiorly, which decreases flexion/extension ROM.

The architecture of the thoracic spine lends itself to greater rotational ROM based on the position of facet joints, and the lumbar spine's facet joints decrease rotational ROM when compared to the thoracic vertebrae. (check out a good anatomy/biomechanics text)

With less flexion/extension ROM in the thoracic spine, there needs to be optimal alignment of the lumbar spine, so thoracic extension end ROM isn't limited by the spinous processes and anterior connective tissue structures. Which then lends itself to optimal pelvis, hip, knee, foot, and ankle alignment.

All this is obvious when you understand the cascading effects of every anatomical structure's alignment on every anatomical structure's alignment. The important thing is to have adequate coordinated mobility to allow for quality movement and positioning...


Breathing is something often taken for granted, which it probably should be ok, but...

As Brett said in his post,

"...if we are breathing correctly and using the diaphragm and intercostals for respiration there is a tremendous amount of movement in the thoracic spine. However, most people breath through their traps and upper chest which facilitates the development of kyphosis (rounding of the upper back) and a rigid rib cage."

This creates a "flip-flop" of what is supposed to occur. We breathe through the chest/thoracic region which "tenses" all the surrounding muscles which are supposed to be used to control movement of our arms, shoulders, scapula, and neck.

How can this happen? We have been breathing our entire life, how can it change?


This can be stress in any form, both psychological or physical. Don't forget that LACK of movement is also stress to our bodies. When we are under stress we go into what is called the startle reflex; our "fight or flight" response of the sympathetic nervous system. What happens when we are under stress, acute or chronic, is we tense up the muscles of the upper body, shrugging the shoulders, bringing the head forward, etc, basically going into the fetal position. Let me be clear however, the startle reflex usually isn't as blatantly obvious as a full grown adult going into full fetal (Lloyd Christmas in the rest stop bathroom when C-Bass stops by)... most of the time it is shrugging of the shoulders and bringing the head forward, or more often just "tensing" of the muscles which create those actions.

Regardless, from this position our breathing gets altered. We begin to use our diaphragm and intercostals less and less, as Brett stated. What happens from here could potentially be a cascade of effects that may potentially lead to everything and anything that could go wrong in the body.

For example:

When we have good diaphragmatic breathing, the diaphragm (again, refer to a good functional anatomy text) pushes down on the viscera. This "pushing" down creates pressure on the pelvic floor, which creates reflexive activity of the deep abdominal muscles... something to think about. From this we potentially improve:

1. Lumbar spine muscle function and control leading to:
2. Improved hip and lower body function
3. Increased thoracic spine ROM leading to:
4. Improve scapula and glenohumeral function and ROM
5. Improved function of all muscles, especially scapular, shoulder, and hip muscles
6. Improved movement efficiency

Not to mention all the other systems affected by increased sympathetic nervous system activity: cardiovascular, endorcrine, immune, etc., ... Focused Breathing techniques can also reduce the sympathetic nervous system effects, and as with anything, proper breathing can be relearned.

I guess you could say breathing might be kind of important. No wonder the upper body muscles start to limit range of motion of the thoracic spine, scapula, and shoulder, think of how many reps these not-for-breathing muscles might be getting; we breathe every second of our life!


Friday, June 13, 2008

2 Important Points

1. A true athlete is not a 2 hour per day athlete. There are 24 hours in a day. An athlete needs to be aware of what they are doing to themself every hour of the day. Being an athlete isn't like hitting the "on" button on the Playstation 2; the body isn't just waiting around to be used.

An athlete's state one minute may change in the next minute. The body and mind is rewiring and evolving every living second. One set, even one rep will change an athlete to a different state than prior to the set or rep. What an athlete sees, hears, feels, eats, and drinks will change the mind and body's state. Nothing is constant, everything is always changing. Awareness is key.

2. Program sequencing is vital. Every workout, exercise, drill, set and rep needs to be sequenced to elicit a specific response or even avoid certain responses. As a coach, this is the ultimate challenge.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Things to Consider

A list of things to ponder.

1. The lumbar spine should have good mobility... "What did he just say?!"

2. The mobility/stability continuum is a good generalization and I really wish it was that simple, but it's not.

3. The thoracic spine: anatomical architecture limits it's mobility compared to the lumbar spine. T1 through T7 are "locked" into the ribcage, limiting their mobility. T8, 9, and 10 are attached to "false" ribs, increasing their mobility, and T11 and 12 are attached to "floating" ribs, giving them the greatest mobility of the thoracic spine. Plus the further up you go on the thoracic spine, there is a decrease in disc height, when compared to lower vertebrae, again decreasing some range of motion.

4. Is lumbar flexion always bad?

5. Many folks could probably use some good mobility work at the lumbar spine. "Has this guy fallen off his rocker!"

6. Little kids don't breath through their chest and shoulders. SERIOUSLY stop and think about that for a moment...

7. Irradiation works the other way as well. Hence why "stability" work may not... well... work.

8. Dr. Eric Cobb said something this weekend (Z-Health R-phase) that really made me think. "The best in the world are really the best at slowing down." He wasn't talking about deceleration.

9. We also had a good discussion at Z-Health regarding feet. The feet don't necessarily need a "good" arch, they just need to be able to move (mobility).

10. The stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) needs to be trained. Yes it is a reflex, and "just" happens, but it needs to be trained.

11. Specificity. It is a principle, not "just" a method.

12. Boston in 7. KG has earned it.


Sunday, June 1, 2008

A New World Record

Usain Bolt deated American Tyson Gay to set a new world record in the 100m last night. Bolt's time of 9.72 surpassed fellow Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell's old mark of 9.74, set on Sept. 9, 2007. Asafa Powell did not compete because he is recovering from a chest injury. Bolt defeated American record holder Tyson Gay, who finished 2nd with a time of 9.85. Gay's personal best is 9.76 with 2.2w. This sets up the potential for some serious competition amongst Bolt, Gay, and Powell heading into Beijing. The envelope is being pushed... hard! It's going to be fun to watch...


In Case You Missed It

There has been a good discussion following my May 19 post, "Research", discussing the question of, "is it a stability or mobility issue?" and the transfer of movement assessments, among other things... Check it out here, and please feel free to continue the discussion.


Monday, May 19, 2008


I have been doing some research into the arthrokinetic reflex. This directly relates to one of the foundational concepts behind the dynamic joint mobility of Z-Health.

A snippet of some of my rough, rough, rough draft paper:

Critical to performance, the sensorimotor system regulates the control and force applied by skeletal muscles to the bones and joints through the constant interplay of sensory and motor neurons. If at any time sensory feedback is altered abnormally, motor control of the muscles will be adjusted and altered as well. Hurley et al (27) stated that a joint must have normal mobility in order for the muscles which cross that joint to function efficiently. A muscle which crosses or attaches to an immobile joint will be inhibited by sensory feedback from free nerve endings located within joints and ligaments(mechanoreceptors) known as the arthrokinetic reflex (AKR). The AKR (6,21,23,45) is an inhibition of muscles surrounding or attaching to a joint that is injured, hypomobile, or exhibiting faulty arthrokinematics (43). The AKR may not only effect local muscles around a particular joint, but also more remote muscles, including those on the contralateral side of the body (22), which results from the multisegmental organization of mechanoreceptor afferents within the neuroaxis (21). The articular mechanoreceptors located within joint capsules regulate the AKR (5,8-11,43,44).

The importance of mobility cannot be overstated...

One more thing:

Stability should be taken out of the training world "vernacular". I am not sure what the hell this means anymore. This topic came up at the College Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association conference that I recently attended in Nashville, TN. (Gray Cook and Robb Rogers' presentation, which was good, but irritated my bad tooth when the overhead squat photos appeared again... ahhhhhh!!!!)

A big reward for anyone who can explain this one to me.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Dimas Spyrou Training 2000 Olympics

Christos Spyrou and Pyrros Dimas of Greece, training just prior to the 2000 Olympics.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Acceleration and Absolute Speed

Some thoughts on acceleration and speed training:
Some may feel acceleration is a much more important component for team sports than absolute speed. The idea is that most sports only consist of short 5, 10, 15, and 20 yard bursts of acceleration. I don't argue this fact one bit, but I do believe neglecting absolute speed, or stating that not much can be benefited from it is very short-sighted.

Question: What is the purpose of acceleration?

Answer: To get to top speed as fast as possible.

Question #2: What if you have an athlete who's absolute speed sucks, but is great at accelerating because he or she has done a ton of acceleration work?

Answer: You have an athlete that can get to a tortoise speed very quickly... awesome.
What I question is the logic of only working on acceleration or thinking that acceleration is so much more important than absolute speed.

Again it comes back to, what is the athlete accelerating to? To get to TOP SPEED. If getting to top speed quickly is the goal of acceleration, wouldn't it be of great benefit to improve top speed to increase the ceiling height of acceleration potential? Isn't a very fast top speed a window to great acceleration potential?

Absolute speed consists of and requires great leg turn-over (stride frequency). If an athlete can improve their absolute speed, then their ability to move and coordinate their legs quickly will be enhanced. Translating this into the acceleration component, the ability to accelerate quickly should be enhanced as well, in a well rounded program including power and strength work.

A lot of this comes back to lack of high intensity posterior chain training. Most acceleration is very quad (or knee dominant) in nature and a program lacking absolute speed work and true posterior chain work can appear to be effective, but I think in game action this may not transfer as favorably. (read: injury prevention)

Let me be clear: Absolute speed and acceleration training go hand-in-hand. Both are extremely important components to athletic development.

Some benefits of absolute speed work:

-Hip mobility: Great hip seperation work that will transfer to the sports speed (specificity).

-Motor unit recruitment by means of velocity requirements.

-Injury prevention: not many injuries occur during the acceleration phase: many do occur at higher or top speeds.

-Coordination over full ranges-of-motion. Charlie Francis: "...what you can say for sure is that better tone is influenced by higher speeds. As more fibers within muscle contract together (recruitment), more fibers subsequently relax together." (again, read: injury prevention)

-Potential improvement in muscle fiber lengths. Kumagai et al. (2000) hypothesizes, based on their research, that muscle fascicle lengthening may be a potential adaptation to sprint training. ...theory, but interesting nonetheless.

-True "core" work. Equal and opposite reactions being transfered through the torso at high velocities.

-Improved function of the posterior chain, which doesn't get maximum work in acceleration training.

(Lieberman et al. 2006, and Kyrolainen et al. 2005)(starting to sound like a broken record here. read: injury prevention)

-Improved elasticity throughout the entire body. Improved ground reaction control out of the foot, ankle, and knee. At top speeds the knee becomes more of a dynamic stabilizer for the forces generated at the hip to be transfered to the ground, whereas during acceleration, the knee is the primary force generator.

Something else to ponder:

Take an athlete who has asymmetries (movement assesments). Does the athlete need corrective exercise before sprint training, or is sprint training a corrective exercise?

The motor pattern of sprinting is coordinated through the cerebellum. Being more primitive than other parts of the brain, the cerebellum, controls and coordinates many locomotive functions.

Speaking of asymmetries,

Any asymmetry in movement is an asymmetry in the nervous system and it's body maps. The nervous system needs to be fixed first, muscles and fascia will follow suit.


Monday, April 28, 2008

A Thought on Mirror Neurons

With the discover of mirror neurons, we know we can, in theory, potentially improve our skill in something just by watching that same skill being performed.

What about the latest craze of watching poker on T.V.?

Watching a bunch of folks sit on their ass around a table... have we gotten so lazy that we now must watch something with so little movement, just so those mirror neurons don't have to fire? We are really out doing ourselves now.

"Man, it just fatigues me to watch this stuff..."

Just a thought...


Tuesday, April 22, 2008


A good article came out yesterday in the New York magazine online, discussing the downfall of wearing shoes.

You Walk Wrong

I'll have more to add to this soon, as I am doing a lot of research on the function of the foot and ankle, and the effect they have on the rest of the body. I will say, however, that proper foot function is paramount from both a biomechanical and neurophysiological standpoint.

When it comes to problems with our feet and ankles, the majority of us do EVERYTHING wrong.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Preventing Cancer

This morning a good article was posted on MSN, regarding prevention of cancer. It is full of guidelines we already know we should follow but most of us don't. It just puts in perspective how truly important it is to lead a healthy lifestyle with lots of movement and healthy eating.

Preventing Cancer Is More Possible Than You Think


Saturday, April 19, 2008

"Practice Makes Progress"

This morning my daugther and I were watching T.V. (I know not a good thing, but we limit it to just a few minutes a day) and a short Disney program came on called the Happy Monster Band. Its a little skit with a different song each time. The title of today's song was "Practice makes Progress".

A simple, yet profound message.

The key with anything we do, is motor learning. Practice something over and over and you will get better. Learn how to do something through good coaching, lots of frequent and consistent practice, and watch others who know how to do that something well (read: mirror neurons). (Cognitive stage of motor learning: 1-1,000 reps)

Neurologically, as we begin practice a skill, we use more of the higher regions of the motor cortex and the "maps" of the skill become larger, with increased activity in the frontal lobe (specificly the supplementary motor area, which is used for complex and unfamiliar motor tasks) of the brain. As we continue to practice day after day, month after month and improve our skill level, the area of activity begins to shift lower in the cortical hierarchy (cortical=cererbral cortex is the outer layer of the brain) to the premotor cortex. We are becoming more competent. (Associative stage of learning: 1,000-10,000 reps)

Then after years of practice, eventually the brain activity for that particular skill moves into the primary motor cortex. At this point we have become truly great at whatever particular skill we have been working on. Think: world class athletes or musicians. (Autonomus stage of motor learning: 100,000-300,000 reps)

An important part to remember of world class performers, is that it takes thousands of repetitions and years of practice to get to that level. Not a few days, weeks, or even a few months, but years of consistent, frequent repetition, with the body and its' recoverability allowing.

It's all part of the awesomeness of neural plasticity. Our nervous systems will change upon anything new that we do or expose ourselves to. In the entire scheme of things, this happens very fast as our nervous system is the most rapidly adapting system in the body. The only problem is that our other systems and tissues are not this fast, and we need to allow time for them to adapt. Hence, why we have to allow time for recovery after any type of intense training.

Another key aspect is focus. Practice of any skill requires a tremendous amount of focus (if you are hoping to get good at that skill). I would argue that extreme focus on a particular task will speed up the learning curve and possibly cut down the amount of repetitions it takes to achieve mastery. ...some just want it more.

Training for a sport, specific activity or just health in general is an everyday, all day thing. Not just a 1 to 2 hours a day three to five days a week thing. Every second outside of those 1 to 2 hours of intense physical training has just about as much effect on the performance outcome as the specific training itself. The problem is, is that motor learning is always taking place... as I am currently improving my skill at sitting on my ass and typing on the computer.

Again, the message of the Happy Monster Band; practice and you will make progress.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

No title

A couple weeks ago I completed the first weekend in Z-health R-Phase. Very cool stuff, lots of great information.

I've been wrapped up in the world of neurophysiology lately... it's a black hole.

So... on that topic,

Mirror Neurons:

Cells That Read Minds

More on mirror neurons here. The 14 minute clip is pretty cool.

This is a relatively new concept in neuroscience. Basically mirror neurons are pre-motor neurons which fire when a person does something, like shoot a free throw, for example and when a person watches someone do the exact same thing.

If you personally know how to do a skill, then basically by watching someone perform that same skill, the same synaptic activity (brain cell communication) happens as if you were performing the skill yourself. I call it free practice... sort of. You just better be sure that whoever you are watching is damn good at whatever it is they are doing.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Not a Stability Issue

Stability vs. Mobility: cool buzz words

This topic came up in Alwyn Cosgrove's recent article on T-nation titled, Cosgrove's Five Ah-Ha! Moments:The Education of a Misguided Trainer. This was one of the better articles I have read in a while on T-Nation. However, I respectfully disagree with the idea that the differences in overhead squat mechanics are a result of instability. This ah-ha moment for Alwyn came from being at a Gray Cook presentation. I think both Alwyn and Gray are exceptionally bright people, but I just don't see the logic in this one.

Here are the two photos posted in the article.

In the first photo, the subject has a very nice looking overhead squat. In the second photo, the guy squatting obviously has a movement issue of some sort. Now when taking the two subjects and placing them on their back to reduce the effects of gravity, there squats look much more similar to each other, unlike performing the movement on there feet. Lying on the back does take away the need for stability, but does not mean it is a stability issue.

But looking closely, I don't see a whole lot of similarity, primarily at the ankle, but also look closely at the degree of knee flexion. I also see an immobility issue in the shoulders and thoracic spine. Plus, looking at the lying on the floor photos, the first squatter cannot put his shoulders and arms through the floor to show his ability to extend the thoracic spine. Taking away gravity does make them look more similar and reduce the need for stability, but the question is why does the second guy need more stability? Because he doesn't have the mobility!

This may seem like a minor detail to some, but if a tiny bit of the foundation is off, the whole structure is going to be messed up. The ankle range of motion stops the second guy at a much higher depth than the first squatter because going any deeper will displace his center of mass too much that he would simply fall over. Also the inability to get full extension out of the thoracic spine and ROM hurt the depth as well.

Will adding stability and to where, I ask, increase his range of motion in this particular overhead squat?

Will the added stability allow this guy THE ABILITY TO DEFY THE LAWS OF PHYSICS?

I don't believe you can add stability without improving mobility first.

Looking at the photos, I would say that the issue is a mobility one and it is showing up at the ankle. However, the cause isn't necessarily an ankle issue, the immobility at the ankle could just be the SYMPTON of a broad array of issues. I don't know, but I do know that it isn't a stability issue.

Mike T. Nelson wrote some good stuff about mobility and stability in this recent blog post.

What is also interesting, as Mike stated in his blog, is that Gray Cook discussed the same thing in a recent Strengthcoach podcast. In the podcast he talked about how we need mobility in order to have stability, not the other way around.

Please feel free to discuss or disagree.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Disappearance of the Posterior Chain

It wasn't too long ago that all the talk in the strength and conditioning world was about developing the posterior chain.

"Front for show, back for go."


Nowadays, true posterior chain strength work seems to be disappearing? It seems that many strength coaches are abandoning some great posterior chain exercises in favor of rehabilitation type exercises. Glute bridging, single-leg glute gridges (Cook Hip Lift), slideboard leg curls, quadruped hip extension exercises, and single-leg RDL's seem to be the flavor these days.

My question is what happened with bilateral RDL's/stiff-leg deadlifts, deadlifts, glute-ham raises, cleans and snatches from the floor, or even straight-leg hip extensions (remember the "old school" roman chairs)? Did these exercises become obsolete? Were the coaches who used these exercises with great success, for years upon years, wrong when it came to working the posterior chain?

The key is critically looking at any exercise in both a biomechanical and physiological sense. Questions that need to be answered: does the exercise recruit high-threshold motor units and does the movement put the specific muscles in an optimal mechanical position to function? Not many sports, especially team sports, involve low-threshold motor units (slow-twitch fibers) and limited hip flexion and extension. What is the adaptation from low load, low velocity exercises and their carryover to high load, high velocity activities? (principle of specificity)

For example, does a glute-bridge (any version; single-leg or double leg) or slideboard leg-curl recruit most or all of the possible motor units? Do these exercises take the hip through a full range of motion to get maximal activity out of the hip extensors? My answer would be, no they do not. Could they be loaded to increase motor unit recruitment... maybe, but I haven't found a very effective way to do so, and again you can't or don't get a pre-stretch of the hip extensors into hip flexion.

How about a standard 2-leg RDL or the glute-ham raise? Do they or can they recruit high-threshold motor units? Most definitely. When done correctly do they biomechanically stretch and contract the hip extensors? The glute-ham raise, depending on how it is done, may or may not, but it certainly gets work out of the hamstrings, and the RDL absolutely does.

Also one of the main functions of the glute complex is to control forward lean of the torso, some of the above exercises negate this very important function.

Now I must be clear on everything here, I most definitely have and/or do use some of the previously mentioned exercises. Some of the glute bridging and other exercises can be great for pedagogical purposes. And I am aware that a single-leg RDL can be loaded relatively heavy and of the research behind bilateral deficit, but the load on the system in any bilateral exercise, I would argue, does quite a bit for the development of the athlete.

Single-leg training is important for balance of musculature, reducing the bilateral deficit, and recruiting stabilizing muscles. I do think single-leg/limb training is a necessity, however...

... areas of question that I have: the stability component of high speed movement is much different than weightroom stability. Running actions are cyclical and the effect is more like a gyroscope with the actions of the arms and legs; the need for single-leg stability is minimal. Multi-directional movement is different and does require a tremendous amount of single-leg stability, but the force vectors required in multi-directional movements require more horizontal stability than the force application and vectors in the weightroom which are more vertical in nature. Also, upper body mechanics play a larger role in lower body stability during dynamic movements than one might think...

The key is to train and strengthen posterior chain/hip complex, not just stimulate it.

Front Squat vs. Back Squat

There has also been an increased favor towards the front squat as opposed to the back squats when it comes to knee dominant exercises or lower body pushing, if you will. The thought is that the back squat places too great of a load on the low back and that the front squat reduces this load. Research shows a slight difference, and looking at moment arm lengths when watching a squat this can be visually seen to be true with the increased forward lean and hip flexion in the back squat as opposed to the front squat. But this increased hip flexion leads to increased activity out of the hip extensors which in a anterior/quad dominated society can be a very good thing. So, could it be said... the back squat is a posterior chain exercise?

Plus, the increased hip flexion in a back squat lengthens the proximal hamstrings pulling on each muscles (semi-membranosus,-tendinosus, and biceps femoris) insertion at the tibia, which reduces the anterior sheer at the knee caused by the quadriceps (anterior displacement of the tibia on the femur). (Also why hip flexion upon landing is so important for females... the increased "tug" from the hamstrings reduces ACL stress)

Another positive of the back squat is the necessity of increased dorsiflexion at the ankle. This stretches the soleus/gastrocnemius complex creating an extension moment at the knee, again reducing and/or neutralizing anterior sheer on the knee.

Another overlooked aspect when it comes to the front squat vs. back squat is the necessity of thoracic extension to maintain good technique. Yes, I am aware, that those with shit for posture (myself included) can make up for this with abduction and increased external rotation at the glenohumeral joint, but with good coaching this can be worked on and improved. The front squat does require upper back extension but is limited with the reduction of an anterior sheer force and abduction of the scapula.

These qualities to the back squat and a whole lot more...

There are many more benefits to the back squat than the few I listed here and I think it is safe to say that the back squat IS an effective exercise. I believe both the front and back squat have a place in a program, but I don't believe that because "so and so" only uses the front squat, that the back squat needs to be banished for eternity.

In a program lacking high load, hip flexion to extension posterior chain/hip dominant work and utilizing only front squats, there is a missing gap. Single-leg exercises may help, but most are anterior/knee dominated movements. An anterior dominant program is great for acceleration out of blocks or a three-point stance in running the 40 yard dash, but limited in "upright" acceleration (which most sports involve) and top-end sprinting and most importantly in injury prevention.

To wrap things up...

-The posterior chain needs to be trained in a way that induces high threshold motor unit recruitment and effectively targets hip extension from a pre-stretched position of hip flexion.

-Back squats are a great exercise.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Good reads

Vern Gambetta had two excellent posts today on his blog about the thought that athletes need to build an "aerobic base".

"Building an Aerobic Base"

"More on Aerobic Base"

This was a response by Jack Blatherwick addressing his views on the topic. Jack makes some excellent comments about the neuromuscular repercussions of steady-state aerobic work.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

CNS Intensive Training

Most training should be CNS intensive; speed of, strength of, power of, quality of, even conditioning and recovery work affects the CNS, just at a lesser percentage of 100% effort, which is unattainable anyway. You can’t separate the nervous system from the rest of the body. (The S.A.I.D. principle rules all)

The latest reaction to this whole CNS “craze” is blown way out of proportion. Much of it is in response to Mike Boyle’s programming changes he made this past summer with his the Boston University men’s hockey team and the conferences in which he presented on it. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved his presentations (I saw him present on it in Atlanta, which was the same presentation I saw a couple months earlier on the DVD of his talk he did at his own winter seminar at his facility), I like his line of thinking on things, and the fact that he isn’t afraid to make changes. The problem is he presented on his situation, repeat: HIS situation, with elite level college hockey players. People take this as the bible and think it relates directly to them. Sorry folks not many are working with those types of athletes.

Boyle works with higher-end athletes with his BU hockey team, and it was only really affecting his 3rd and 4th year guys. Their numbers were basically “stalling out” after 2 years with the program. Guys that have been in the program already for 2-3 years, plus knowing hockey, many of these guys are 22-23 years old (most play 1 or 2 years of juniors after high school). So you dabble a year or two extra of a little more serious training after high school, and then get to Boston University where Boyle puts them through the rigors for 2 more years and by year 3 they hit a wall. Add to it that they are college kids who live off pizza and beer and sleep only about 6 hours a night (I remember the days, I know, I have been there and done), so I would say their recovery isn't to great. Training is only as good as the ability of the body to recover. And recovery does take some effort.

So Coach Boyle makes their training a little less "CNS intensive". If I am one of his athletes I am thinking: "Hell yeah! We don't have to do as much, and we get basically two 'guns' days a week, and only one day of hard conditioning. Yeah I am going to work a little harder."

A player's psyche does make a difference.

Everybody hears about this CNS intensive training and begins to start treating the human body like some expensive piece of crystal. Yeah the body is precious, but it is lot more resilient than most people think. People have survived more dire situations than sprinting or stepping under a bar. I think CNS intensive, if there is such a thing, really only applies to those who are closer to their genetic potential, which nobody will ever ultimately achieve, but some get a hell of a lot closer than others. A young 16-18 year kid who is squatting a decent number around 350-400 and all his numbers follow accordingly, isn't really that close to his genetic potential, as much as some might like to think. And again, it depends on what each athlete is training for, is it strength, speed, power, conditioning? Where and what is the focus?

Our athletes at UND, train their asses off with what many people would call too "CNS intensive" training, but we still make gains year in, year out. If an athlete drops off at testing time, we look at many factors such as: did the athlete become sick at any time where-after training session numbers began to drop, does the athlete take care of themselves outside of training, do they eat well, sleep, outside stressors, injuries during the competitive season or off-season, etc.? Yeah the 3rd and 4th and 5th year (in the case of football) athletes don't make the gains that 1st and 2nd year players do, but they have been following similar programs since they stepped on campus. Program changes, in Boyle's case, go a long way, but most of it’s because the recovery factors haven't changed. It's not intensity, volume relationship; it's recovery - volume relationship that truly matters.

Good recovery, high volume.

Bad recovery, low volume.

Intensity always stays high (based on volume).

Obviously there are always exceptions to everything, but for the most part intensity should stay as high as the volume allows, following logical progressions.

Charlie Francis was one of the first guys (that I am aware of) that really brought to light the whole CNS fatigue thing, and we have to remember who he was working with. He was working with athletes who were near the peak of human potential and had been training with the guy for around 11 straight years, consistently. However, he didn't start worrying about the CNS control until all other factors were taken care of, nutrition, recovery (massage, EMS), hard training on the basics, and drugs (it has to be done at the Olympic level otherwise you wouldn’t be Olympic level). I don't think Charlie was too concerned with controlling Ben Johnson's CNS fatigue when he started working with him at 15 years old in 1977. Now did he monitor training stress, of course, but probably not to the extent that he did in the mid '80’s. Not until his athletes were hitting national and world marks did he really adjust his training to regulate CNS fatigue.

The majority of athletes aren't that close to world caliber marks.

But it would be ignorant for me to say that Charlie Francis was the first to ever to regulate CNS fatigue. Training stress has been regulated for years. You don’t think the ancient Greeks did some monitoring of their athletes? The Romans monitored the training of the Gladiators. What it all really comes down to is adjusting the training based on the level of the athlete and giving recovery focus. Training the human body has been around for a few years.

CNS regulation:


Saturday, March 1, 2008

Beijing '08 (Chinese Weightlifters)

Since I have been on the topic...

Here is some footage of the Chinese weightlifters training. Zhang Guozheng, the reigning Olympic champion in the 69kg class, is at shown in the beginning of the footage in the black shorts and no shirt. Midway through is another 2004 Olympic champion, Shi Zhiyong.

Communism sure helps these countries in sports such as weightlifting, just as it did for the East Germans and Russians back in the day.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Beijing '08

A look inside the Polish National Team training hall.

... pure focus.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Truth

I've probably read this article over 20 times now, and it never gets old. It is by Chris Shugart, a writer for T-nation.

Modern life: busy, hurried, hectic. The modern attention span: short. This new blog series: pithy.

The Hurried Man's Guide to Training

By Chris Shugart

*There are muscle groups you can't see in the mirror. Train them anyway.

* Use barbells and dumbbells a lot. Use machines a little.

* Racking your weights is great for forearms and grip strength. You'll burn extra calories too. Also, we won't kick your lazy no-weight-racking fat ass.

* If you need a spot on rep #2, then trying for 10 reps makes you a dork and your training partner a fool.

* Think of the exercise you hate the most. Maybe you feel humiliated in the gym you're so bad at it. Now, do that exercise first in your workouts for the next 8 weeks, you wiener.

* You know that hottie in the gym you're always staring at while she trains? That sexy, beautiful creature that you want to talk to so badly it hurts? Don't. Let her train, frat boy.

* Try a little of everything. Try not to become a cult member who worships any one lifting style or training implement. Try not to plug your umbilical cord into the latest fad. There is no single best way.

* Cardio: Do a little. Not a lot. Jogging for miles? No. Do sprints, intervals, or strive to increase NEPA (non-exercise physical activity.)

* Sex = Best. NEPA. Ever.

* Do pull-ups, rows, deadlifts, dips, bench press, overhead press, and squat variations. The rest is just details.

* Be aggressive without sacrificing form. Do not just "go through the motions." Strain, sweat, focus, suck wind.

* There are some crappy training methods out there, but doing something is always better than doing nothing.

* Never stop learning, but avoid analysis paralysis too.

* There are genetic freaks out there who can grow and get stronger with shitty training programs. You're probably not one of them.

* Lift more. Talk less.

* If you're a fat guy who can bench a lot because the bar only has to travel two inches down to your tittie-pecs, then don't brag about your bench press max.

* If you can do a lot of pull-ups because you weigh 115 pounds, then we don't want to hear about that either.

* It's a squat rack, not a curling cage.

* Lifting gloves: Because pansies like soft hands.

* Dave Tate has been known to smash his forehead into the bar before a big squat. You have been known to match your lifting straps to your workout pants. Notice any other differences?

* Don't take diet advice from fat guys.

* Listen to those in the trenches. They don't have to be super huge or super perfect or super strong, but they must be doing it and applying it to themselves and others on a daily basis. Beware the eunuch in the harem.

* Asking most heavy steroid users how to train and eat is like asking a crackhead for investment advice. They may offer some, but don't listen to it.

* Asking a genetic mutant lifter or gifted natural athlete how to train and eat is like asking a racehorse how he runs fast. He couldn't tell you even if he knew.

* Recovery: You're probably not paying enough attention to it.

* If you added 90 pounds to the squat bar but squatted three inches higher than before, you did not get any stronger. Moron.

* The best ab training exercise involves pushing yourself away from the dinner table.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Don't Believe the Hype

Please don't tell me about your 55 inch box jump.

Now I am all for box jumps for training purposes. They take away the eccentric load of landing and are great for teaching athletes how to land while not having to worry about the eccentric stress, but don't brag about them. Hey, if they get your athletes to put 100% effort in to jumping, I am all for it... just don't brag about it.

All a box jump proves is that you are good at bringing your legs up to your chest after jumping. The athlete with the highest inseam is going to have the greatest advantage. So tell me... how do I train my inseam?

For example, let's say I were to practice my box jumping and got relatively good at them. I build my way up to be able to do a 60 inch box jump. That's right 60 inches! Boo yaa! Youtube baby!

Ok... 60 inches.

I just measured my inseam and it's right around 33 inches, maybe it would be less, but it is REAL cold today.

So let's work the math, 60 - 33 = 27. So really if I work on my technique all I technically might need is a 27-28 inch vertical. 28 inches... wow.

So what do I post on youtube... a video of my 28 inch vertical, or... my 60 INCH box jump!

Like I said, box jumps can be a great training tool; just, please, don't tell me about yours.

Happy box jumping!


Friday, February 8, 2008

Activation Exercises

There seems to be a lot of discussion about activation exercises recently. Is there a benefit of doing such exercises? How long do the muscles stay activated? Does it make a difference if an athlete or client does them?

For what it’s worth, my take…

I have had the same question: Is there a benefit to these simple, isolative exercises, which rarely use any load? Do activation exercises like a glute bridge really prepare or fix a problem that is often only going to show up at full speed and higher intensity voluntary contractions in an athletic movement?

This past off-season, I have made some changes in my programming for soccer. The very first thing we do is activation drills focusing on the torso and hips.

-Get key core muscles turned on = better movement in the dynamic warm-up.

-It’s damn cold in North Dakota, and our workout sessions start real early. I want to warm-up and turn the neural switches on before we try to move through full ranges of motion. Isometrics and low level activation drills don’t induce a lot of joint stress and warm up the body quickly.

Basically I want to turn on the mid-section and hips before we start in on our dynamic warm-ups, other than that I save the activation work for the strength portion of the training session.

After the activation and dynamic, we go into plyos and then movement skills (linear or multidirectional, depending on the day), similar to probably most coaches.

The strength work has been where I have now put most of the activation exercises.

We do more of an upper/lower split.

My feeling with the prehab/activation stuff, which is often done at the beginning, basically "wears off" by the time they are into their strength work, where we are trying to strengthen fundamental movement patterns. If this excitation falls off, the athlete may quickly drop back into their habitual movement patterns. Obviously I am constantly cueing athletes how to move better, but sometimes pre-activating certain muscles gives the athlete a better feel.

So what we do now is pre-activation exercises prior to our main lifts. By implementing pre-activation exercises, like X-band walks, Mini-band walks, front and side bridges, prior to lifts such as front squats, single-leg squats, lunging, RDL’s, we continually get an improved pattern we're looking for and hit the correct muscles with more "bang".


1a Side Bridge X :30
1b X-band walks X 15e
1c Front Squat X 5


1a Mini-band Hip external rotations X 20
1b SL Squats X 6e

So if our lower body strength exercises are always technique sound, my thinking is we must to be laying down improved motor patterns with quality strength. S.A.I.D. principle.

It's like Dr. Eric Cobb of Z-health says about how strength training "cements" your neural patterns. So to me, it makes sense to use the activation exercises right in with the strength work, to "cement" down what we are trying to accomplish.

Plus, most activation exercises are either concentric or isometric in nature, with very little eccentric emphasis. By doing the activation exercises prior to the strength work, hopefully with a better “feel” for the right muscles, the athlete will use, say the glutes and hips, better in an eccentric fashion. The activity in muscles such as those that surround the hips are much needed for eccentric control of the femur and low back. And with torso stability work prior to a lower body exercise, we could possible get better relative stiffness, to “free up” the hips to move better.

No injury issues to date, since we have been doing this.

I guess just my thoughts, and so far has seemed to work well for me...

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, February 7, 2008


I've never played organized hockey in my life, but being from the great state of Minnesota, I have played in my share of pick-up games. Yes, I can skate; my Dad used to make us an ice rink each winter growing up.

Hockey, however, is one of the many problems, of youth athletics. Ask any serious hockey player or parent of one, when they or their child started to play hockey, they will probably say something along the lines, "well, I learned to skate when I was 2, and started playing mini-mites at 7 or 8".

... 2?!... 7, 8?!... crazy!

My daughter is four months away from 2 years of age, she still can't jump, and still trips and falls just running around... do I need to put the skates on her already? Am I missing something?

Then to top it off, these kids parents are their coach. Think about that for a second... their parents usually have no idea of the needs of young athlete. (Notice I didn't say hockey player: you are not a hockey player at age 7, you are a young child)

These so-called coaches of these youth hockey programs take it to the extent of having early morning hockey practices before school, in-season training after school, and then spinning classes at night, because the fools for coaches think their "athletes" need to be in great shape for their WEEKLY, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday tournament. (this is a true situation, as a matter of fact)

I've worked with many hockey players... you should see some of them run. You'd swear they had skates on, but they do squat well.

This problem isn't just related to hockey however, it is everywhere. Many other sports are being played year round. Every parent thinks they have the next Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez, Lebron James or Serena Williams.

As strength coach, Mike Boyle, has said before, it's organized child abuse.

Then to top it off, we have sports training centers popping up, to cash in on the overzealous parents and their little "superstar".

Now I am all for increasing the activity of our youth, as obesity is an getting to be an insurmountable problem in our society, but most of these centers are just glorified conditioning conveyor belts. They are running kids through the assembly line like bottles of Coca-Cola. C'mon, any body can condition someone.

I would bet most of these places aren't teaching the fundamentals of quality movement. This could start another rant about sport-specific training. If I hear some place offers sport-specific training, I know it's crap. Kids need the fundamentals of movement and lots of play.

I don't know if I will ever coach an athlete who needs something beyond the fundamentals of movement and training. It's rare that athletes are at the level of movement efficiency that they can move beyond the basics.

This also brings me to another thought. Working at the collegiate level it seems to be the norm these days to have movement dysfunction. There seems to be more "jacked-up" individuals than decent functioning ones. Every athlete seems to have a shoulder, back, or knee issue, or all three.

Just as we are rapidly advancing our knowledge in the area of performance enhancement, there is a just as rapid decline in athletes who are truly athletes. Maybe the all the dysfunction is forcing us to get a better understand? But I do know the young specialization and the age of technology are definitely to blame. I sit here at my computer.

I guess it's an inverse relationship, the more we learn and understand, the more "jacked up" we are getting. This isn't even considering the general population. I have spent time working with the general public, and I learned more about dysfunction in that time than I wanted to.

All this leads me to the question: Where do we start?

Obviously this is a loaded question.

My thoughts immediately go to our school systems.

My undergraduate degree is in physical education, and I spent over a year and a half substitute teaching in numerous schools in 10 different cities in Minnesota and North Dakota. Each school is in the same situation; less P.E., more classroom time. Are our youth getting that much smarter from the extra class time? Carla Hannaford's Smart Moves should be required reading for anyone who has a pulse, but especially if you work with kids or are a parent. Hannaford covers every detail on why movement is so important to learning and the well being of everyone.

Plus, I hate to say it, most physical education curriculum's don't do too well in teaching movement, and if they do, it isn't being kept up, because most schools only require P.E. through 9th or 10th grade, and sometime only two times per week for only a 1/2 hour. I guess when we are 16 we don't need to exercise anymore.

The great majority of the athletes that we see excel today, are doing so on top of movement dysfunction. It's rare for an athlete to go through their sporting career without some sort of non-contact injury. But does it really have to be this way?

What if our youth were allowed to grow up without the "coaching expertise" of their parents, and allowed to play the way they want?

What if a child wanted to play in an organized sport, they were required to play in 4 different sports throughout the year? They couldn't sign up to play basketball or soccer, they could only sign up for sports.

What if quality movement was the basis for all physical education curricula? Students were required to learn how to hip hinge, squat, lunge, jump, run, land, change direction, and just to stand properly, to name just a few. Hey... we require kids to learn algebra, write, learn science and history, why can't they be required to learn movement.

What if you had to be able to do all the previously mentioned movement at an acceptable level to graduate?

What if physical education was required everyday of the week for a student's entire academic career?

What if all this were true? What kind of athlete might we have to work with at the collegiate level and beyond?

Maybe this is just wishful thinking. But what if?


Wednesday, February 6, 2008


It all comes down to movement. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less.

-Movement range of motion
-Movement speed, acceleration, deceleration, change of direction
-Movement stability
-Movement strength, power, endurance
-Movement elasticity, rate of force development
-Movement efficiency
-Movement quality, quantity

At the end of the day, if somebody asks me what I do... I guess I would have to say:

I coach movement.


Monday, February 4, 2008

Any Given Sunday

Well the Giants did something not many thought they could and would do. Goes to show; it's not how you start, it's how you finish.

My game MVP goes to the Giants defense and David Tyree. Don't get me wrong, Eli Manning played a great game, but the Giants D played solid all day and it was Tyree who scored their 1st touchdown and ultimately saved the day with his ridiculous catch over the middle on 3rd down, on the Giants game winning drive.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hamstring Strains

Don't have anything organized to post right now. The off-season, for many of our teams here, is in full effect, so life is pretty busy to say the least. So I am pulling this from my notebook where I jot down notes and ideas. Sorry if it is scattered...

Some notes I've made on some of possibilities as to why the hamstrings can become strained. Something I've dealt with personally on numerous occasions. It amazes me the simplistic approach people still take with these nagging injuries... the hamstrings are not necessarily weak! And leg curls and "you need to stretch more" are not the answer!

-The quad-to-hamstring ratio is a bunch of bull.

-The hamstrings are almost always NOT weak, just overworked. They now not only the flex the knee, extend the hip (overworked here), eccentrically control the knee, but also are being looked to for stability at the hip.

-Need to check if the glutes work (synergistic muscle), however we need to take it steps further than this because it is always much deeper. Sometimes the glutes are active, just in an inefficient position to help.

-Question needs to be asked: Why don't the glutes fire; why are the hip flexors tight, short, and/or overactive or even tight, short, and underactive?

-Check motor patterns (what are the athlete's habitual patterns; this is the key).

-Could be and most often is, poor stability and motor control in the lumbar spine.

-Jammed joints, arthrokinetic reflex inhibition of muscles, capsular adhesions.

-Poor thoracic mobility/extension with over-activity of upper trapezius, levator scapulae, scalenes; this creates faulty head position which often times affects eye position. (this all helps to create an extensor reflex, throwing off the mechanics of proper sprint pattern.

-Ankle mobility/motor control. Foot strike position which can be caused and usually is, by lumbopelvic positioning and rhythm.

-Internal vs. external rotation balance in the hip. A good balance is need between the two, but lack of controlled internal rotation will not allow the glute to get a pre-stretch to allow it to concentrically produce force. This is how quality movement is made; muscles need a pre-stretch to work efficiently.

-Quality hip internal rotation consists of adequate hip abductor activation and again, lumbar stability.

-Lumbar instability is usually greater on the same side as the affected limb (Functional Movment Screen rotary stability test).

-Contralateral rotation of the torso from affected limb (arises from habitual patterns).

-Motor skill as it relates to stride mechanics: chasing or pulling center of gravity when at absolute speed.

-Athletes with chronic pulls need continual reinforcement of efficient motor patterns, "cueing" exercises, along with soft-tissue work to release some of the fascial restrictions that have been built up over time.

-Foot strike patterns; striking the ground with the midfoot as opposed to the forefoot and rearfoot. Midfoot striking creates efficiency in running/sprinting. Allows for elasticity, reducing the need for concentric work. Is it because of an ankle issue or is it because of bad lumbopelvic positioning?

And these are just of few of the possible reasons.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Upcoming Seminar (details)

Here are the details from Chuck Fountaine on Coach Robert dos Remedios' clinic:

Coach Dos is Coming!

Who is Coach Dos?
• Robert dos Remedios, MA, CSCS
• Director of Speed, Strength & Conditioning/Professor in Kinesiology-Physical Education at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, California.
• 2006 National Strength and Conditioning Association Collegiate Strength Coach of the Year.
• Author of the best selling book Men’s Health Power Training from Rodale Books.

When is he coming?
1:00pm Saturday, March 15
• 2 hour lecture/Q&A entitled "Real-World Fitness: A Conditioning Coach RANT..." Coach Dos will be speaking in the Prairie Rose Room located in Memorial Union on the campus of North Dakota State University. This lecture will be open to the entire student body and to any members of the community/area who wish to attend. Attendance is free, but we ask that at least one non-perishable food item be donated to stock local food shelves.

Coach Dos’ visit is made possible by the NDSU Exercise Science program and the NDSU Wellness Center. See you there!

For additional information, please contact Chuck Fountaine at 701-231-6385 or


Monday, January 21, 2008

Minnesota NSCA state clinic

This past Saturday I attended the Minnesota National Strength and Conditioning Association state clinic at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

The 1st presentation was by Jaynie Bjornaraa, an assistant professor at the College of St. Catherine Physical Therapy program. She covered ACL injury and the Female Athlete.

Some of the key points were:
- majority of ACL injuries are non-contact (mostly landing from a jump and neuromuscular control factors)
- menstrual cycle being the cause remains a theory, there are no conclusive results.
- greater hip internal rotation and adduction a major cause.
- The importance of vision and landing (Santello et al, 2001 shows that without vision; Ground reaction force increased, knee flexion decreased, and more variable timing.)

Jaynie then talked about some interesting research they are doing on non-ACL vs. Post-ACL surgery people and some of the things they are finding. The Post-ACL group takes more time to reach peak force, with lower average peak velocities when cutting. She also mentioned that there was no difference between the ACL reconstructed leg and their "good" leg in these areas, stating that the injured leg seems to bring the neuromuscular qualities of the "good" leg down.

The 2nd presentation was by my good friend Greg Lanners. Greg is a "been there, done that" guy. He has worked with athletes/clients of all levels (youth to professional and olympic athletes), as a strength and conditioning coach at both the high school and college levels, and a teacher, and now currently is doing some great things for youth fitness and strength and conditioning. He truly knows his stuff and also seems to know EVERYBODY. He is the owner and president of Innovative Strength Concepts.

Greg's presentation was titled, "Foundations of Strength for Youth". This was one of those presentations that everybody should have heard and needs to hear.

Greg discussed the importance of basic movement for youth in our country today. He talked about some of the issues regarding our current state in this country in the area of youth fitness. I think often times we get caught up in the next latest greatest thing when it comes to fitness and forget that the majority of us need to start somewhere. Greg's presentation covered just that. Even though it was directed towards working with youth, many of the exercises he covered she be used at any age.

Key points:
- machine should have no application when training youth, much less anybody.
- our job as professionals is coaching movement, youth or other.
- Start with Play! the initial "strength program" for youth.
- Foundations of training programs for youth: Posture, Stability, Strength, Mobility.

Then Greg finished with his seven basic exercises that he starts all youth and beginners on when training, giving everybody great tips on how to coach these movements.

The last presentation was by Carrie Peterson, a sports nutritionist, who consults and works with the Minnesota Lynx, Wild, Vikings, Timberwolves, and Twins. She covered the basics of sports nutrition and dispelled some of the myths regarding nutrition for athletes. She covered everything from macro/micro nutrients, water intake, meal timing, and supplements. A very good, basic presentation, which I so desperately needed for review.

At the end of the presentations, I had the pleasure to visit with Mike T Nelson and Brad Nelson on some of the different applications of Z-Health. These guys are extremely intelligent and both are certified in Z-Health. Extremely interesting stuff to say the least. Mike was even so kind to perform some of the techniques on me; pretty wild.

I also had the pleasure to ride down to the conference with Greg Lanners, and that always ends up being an entire 1 on 1 conference in and of itself. We discussed his presentation, the state of the industry, some of the exciting things he has in store for the health and fitness industry, some of the changes I have made in my programming with athletes, the full circle everything goes through, the keys to training anybody, and a whole lot more. It's always a good time.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Upcoming Seminar

I just got word from Chuck Fountaine, a lecturer in the Exercise Science department at North Dakota State University, that he has organized an awesome opportunity to hear and meet one of the top strength and conditioning coaches in the industry.

On Saturday, March 15, Robert dos Remedios, strength and conditioning coach at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, CA, will be presenting at North Dakota State University. This is a definite "can't miss" opportunity to hear one the best in the business when it comes to strength and conditioning. Remedios is the 2006 NSCA Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year and just recently released an excellent new book, Men's Health Power Training.

I will keep everyone posted as far as details and registration goes as soon as I hear more.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Great Advice

Here is some great advice from Alwyn Cosgrove, one of the top training experts in the industry.

"Be brilliant at what you do."

Pretty simple, yet says a lot.

You can read more about Alwyn Cosgrove here.