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.




I really like a lot of what Valle has to say.
Sharp guy!

Mike T Nelson said...

Great stuff! As Dan John has said "Squats are not bad for your knees (back, insert body part). How YOU squat is bad for your knees"

The individual response to the exercise is what must be measured and then coached correctly for that athlete.

Rock on
Mike N