Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Another apocalyptic sign...

Novel pharmacological approaches to combat obesity and insulin resistance: targeting skeletal muscle with 'exercise mimetics'.

Carey AL, Kingwell BA.
Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.

Chronic diseases arising from obesity will continue to escalate over coming decades. Current approaches to combating obesity include lifestyle measures, surgical interventions and drugs that target weight reduction or the metabolic consequences of obesity. Lifestyle measures including physical activity are usually the primary strategy, but these are of limited long-term efficacy because of failure to maintain behavioural change. An alternative approach used to elicit the benefits of exercise training and overcome the problems of long-term compliance is to develop drugs that mimic aspects of the trained state. Elucidation of metabolic pathways responsive to exercise in various tissues, particularly skeletal muscle, was an important antecedent to the promising concept of drugs that may mimic specific aspects of the exercise response. From an obesity perspective, an important aim is to develop an agent that reduces body fat and improves metabolic homeostasis. This review focuses on promising metabolic signalling pathways in skeletal muscle that may yield 'exercise mimetic' targets.

PMID: 19547950 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Like everything else; there's money to be made.

"C'mon Man."


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Exercise Corrective

There has been some very good answers to my Just Questions... post. What I was hoping to do was ignite some thinking, especially regarding the corrective exercise stuff that seems to be the latest way to make money in the health and exercise industry.

My biggest issue with the corrective exercise stuff, as all the bright folks who responded to the post also stated, is that any movement/exercise can be corrective. I think too many of the "experts" have been spewing too much pseudo rehabilitation stuff and now everyone is over-thinking/over-correcting symptoms and playing the role of therapist. I thought exercise in general was theraputic and pro-active. What about true expert coaching of basics and allowing these basic gross movement patterns to do the correcting?

It's important to not settle for average technique and try to patch everything up with "corrective" work. Let's allow for individuals to access their motor learning capacities. Language, quality demonstration, and effective coaching cues are important here. Using language with a little emotion goes a long way as well. Watch a group getting an energetic talk about correct lifting posture. What do you notice? The audience begins to straighten-up.

I have dumped much of the activation/prehab/rehab work from most if not all the programs I write now, and have had hardly any issues because of it. I've been demanding in the correct technique of the major barbell and dumbell lifts and bodyweight movement. I also make sure to leave the weightroom as a place to develop strength and power, and have done as much as I can to get more time of our training sessions outside the weightroom for movement/speed/agility work. What's been amazing is how "corrective" good quality movement training and basic strength and power lifts can be. Repetition and patience is important... the athlete needs practice and time, and it's amazing what happens when it is given.

The major point here is, if one gets much better at coaching the basics and has a thorough understanding of the mechanics and physiology of basic exercise, it becomes much easier to spot problems that need correcting/adjustments. Now every moment spent with an athlete or client becomes an assessment and less time needs to be spent on specific assessment sessions and filling an athletes time and energy with more exercises than needed. Every individual only has a finite capacity for attention and energy. Let's put it to use with the most effective methods.

Obviously there is a time and place for "corrective" type work, but let's not make and lead everyone to believe they are a patient.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009


"We need to teach weight trainers to work HARD. Not the pseudo stuff. Not the artificial gimaces, grunts and groans, but what my friend Mike Thompson calls 'THE REAL THING." Once lifters learn what hard work is really all about, and what it can do for a man, they will drop the all day idiot routines and the marathon training schedules like they were last week's garbage on a hot day in August. They will become dinosaurs: savage denizens of dungeon gyms who live for that extra rep, that extra pound of iron, and the feral thrill of bloody combat with an iron bar.

Do your own part to aid the revolution. Train hard. Train ferociously hard. Train as though your life depended on squeezing every last bit of effort from your body. Train so hard that a couple of hard exercises will knock you into next Tuesday. Train so hard that the mere idea of going to the gym on less than 48 or 72 hours rest is an absurdity. Train so hard that the four hour a day, six day a week crowd will barf in their water bottles when they see you in action. Strike a blow for dinosaurs. Strike a blow for men. Have the courage to train HARD. Have the courage to use an abbreviated program. Be a DINOSAUR!"

-Brooks Kubik. Dinosaur Training: Lost Secrets of Strength Development.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Just Questions...

1. Does corrective exercise work? If so, does context make a difference?

2. Does corrective exercise address the cause or the symptom?

3. If all you're looking for is movement dysfunction, is all you find is movement dysfunction?

4. What happens to the psychology of an athlete when they have to follow corrective exercise protocols vs. the regular heavy training that the rest of his or her teammates are doing?

5. Should my kids get the flu shot; or does it just depend on who you talk to?

6. Is what we know about human gait wrong because we have been skewed by footwear?

7. Athletic training staffs across the country receive information from Perform Better with the latest being a email newsletter: "The Death of the Squat". With Coach Mike Boyle's latest "thought process"... being an "expert" with Perform Better... does this mean that we, as strength coaches who still have our athletes squat, now have to deal with possibly added resistance from the sports medicine staff about 'what we do', because a very well-known coach now says they are bad?

I would love to hear anyone's thoughts to any of these questions. Thanks.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

No More Squats?

I think not.

I think this claim and/or marketing hype may just be the thing squats needed: A return to true strength training...

Death of the Back Squat?!

ROFTL with the RFESS

Go to the source...

The Disappearance of the Posterior Chain

Also, in the case of working with beginners, I can't think of a better, even possibly safer, way to develop and teach the intense volitional effort needed to build true strength (and, I truly believe, that high volitional effort is a rare trait these days). Teach and demand great technique...

And... one more thing... let's not make the weightroom more necessary than needed by spending all our time doing endless amounts of lifts that barely challenge the 'whole' organsim. Let's kill as many birds as possible with a few stones, and get out of the weightroom and work more on the necessary sports and movement skills.


A note: I think Coach Mike Boyle is a brilliant coach, I just disagree with his No More Squats, and I think it is important for those that disagree to voice their opinion, as he did his.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rehab Age

In thousands of years from now, fitness archaeologists are going to scour through the findings of equipment and documents of different training methods and maybe come to some of these possible conclusions:

1. The "Get strong" Age.
2. The "Get weak" Age or, more accurately, the Aerobics Age.
and currently...
3. The Rehabilitation Age.

It seems that we are fully-fledged into the rehablitation age, in which all or the majority of physical fitness training is done by rehabilitation means... or circus tricks.

Is everybody now made of glass that we should not do anything that requires a little focus, effort, and "guts"?

Yes, maybe it's a sign of the times; people are more dysfunctional from lack of moving.

But if all of our focus is on finding dysfunction, is all that we find is dysfunction?

How many passes does the team in white throw?

Hopefully our focus isn't making us lose sight of other possibilities.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Random Friday 2009

1. I don't use "sport-specific training", I use human-specific training.

2. What you believe is a close 2nd behind what you do... and in some cases equally as important in the whole scheme of things.

3. Growing up... I came from a small town and our school didn't have much of a weightroom. So I spent my summer work's earnings on purchasing my own weight equipment. It was one of those old-school benches in which the dip bars were the racks for the bench (arms went on the outside of the racks to take the bar off to bench). Now I didn't have the knowledge I have now, but I knew that I had to train my lower body and that the leg extension and curl apparatus on the bench wasn't worth shit. So basically I rigged up the bench to raise the hooks to use the dip handles to set the weight for back squats. The bar barely balanced. I had to make sure I had a family member help me load the weight so the bar wouldn't tip off and had to be sure to weight down the opposite end of the bench so the bar wouldn't get dumped to the front. Regardless... I squatted.

Also, if any of you have been to northern Minnesota you know the winters are long, cold, and f***in windy, with lots of snow. My home was about 5 miles out of town, and often the gym wasn't open when I need to run/sprint. So I would bundle-up and head out into the sometimes below 0 temp and run in the snow. We lived next to a wooded area in which the snow would pile up to 2-3 feet deep in places. I figured this would be great training for myself as a running back. Sprinting high knees through deep snow, fighting through heavy duty snow apparel, it was like trying to break leg tackles for the entirety of every sprint. Plus the terrain was hilly, so I figured, 'Eat this Walter Payton! He maybe sprinted hills, but not with this much gear and snow to battle... wuss.'

Long story short; make due with the resources and environment in which you situated, and be sure to attack it with everything you've got. Maybe I wasn't training the "right" way with the perfect plan, but I was training HARD! As the good coaches I have had, have told me: "even if you're wrong, be sure to be wrong at 100 mph." ...just be sure to learn from the mistakes after.

4. I am often guilty of getting caught-up in arguing methods regarding training, but we all know,

Methods are many,
principles are few.
Methods often change,
principles never do.

Ultimately, regardless of the method, regardless of what you believe, believe in something... it's kind of like someone who once said something like, 'believe in yourself, or no one else will.' ... huh, pretty good advice...

5. The "orginal" Random Friday???

6. Want some great reading loaded with great information, insights and thoughts. Check out my good friend Josh Leeger's

7. No More Squats. While I might not entirely agree, Coach Boyle always has good insights and thoughts.

8. Play fast. Move with everything you've got. Good things will happen. I see this at the playground I go by on my lunch break each day. We need more of this stuff. Kids always know the answer to fitness: Don't think about it, just play... we, as adults, just need to get out of their way.

9. Sleep. Quality sleep. Lots of it.

10. If you're fortunate to have some sunny weather today and this weekend, get your ass outside and load up on the Vitamin D any chance you can get... while moving.

Have a good weekend!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I stole this one from Mike T Nelson.

Spurs alter workouts after Garcia injury
(Not sure what team this is, Kings or Spurs... the article confused me)

How about we throw away the stupid toys and just get back to doing basic movements and get and stay strong that way.

Sometimes I get caught-up in the hoopla and ask myself, "Am I not a very good strength coach, because I don't do a million and one exercises that the world has never seen before?" or "Because I only use barbells, dumbbells and bodyweight, does that mean I don't know what I am doing?"

Yes there is a risk everyday you step out of bed, but why put your trust in some inflated colorful ball. Here's a novel idea, how about doing all your exercises where it's you between the weight and the ground...

Train the way the pros train... yeah right.



Happy 99th Birthday to Coach John Wooden (It was yesterday October 14).

If you ever get a chance, read any one of his books. Actually make that chance... and READ one of his books.

I highly recommend Wooden on Leadership.

Also check out these inspirational words from a currently active all-time great, Pete Carroll on Coach Wooden's impact on his career. Great stuff!


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mythical Methods?

The Myth of Core Stability.
By Eyal Lederman

A critical review of core/spinal stability practices and claims. Great article.

The conclusions from the article:

-Weak trunk muscles, weak abdominals and imbalances
between trunk muscles groups are not a pathology just
a normal variation.

-The division of the trunk into core and global muscle
system is a reductionist fantasy, which serves only to
promote CS.

-Weak or dysfunctional abdominal muscles will not lead
to back pain.

-Tensing the trunk muscles is unlikely to provide any
protection against back pain or reduce the recurrence
of back pain.

-Core stability exercises are no more effective than, and
will not prevent injury more than, any other forms of
exercise or physical therapy.

-Core stability exercises are no better than other forms
of exercise in reducing chronic lower back pain. Any
therapeutic influence is related to the exercise effects
rather than stability issues.

-There may be potential danger of damaging the spine
with continuous tensing of the trunk muscles during
daily and sports activities.

-Patients who have been trained to use complex
abdominal hollowing and bracing manoeuvres should be
discouraged from using them.


Lederman, E. The myth of core stability. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies (2009).

Friday, September 18, 2009

Gluteus Maximus

Just read Dispelling the Glute Myth by Bret Contreras over at T-Nation. I do like Bret's progressions to take some basic single-joint exercises and overload them. While I like many of the concepts of the article (I agree that the glutes are a key), the one important point I take away is sprinting. Maybe this is because I've posted about this in the past, but I think coordinated macro-movements are the bread and butter, especially in my context.

The most important message I take away here is in Bret's bulletpoints in the article are:

• A sprint activates 234% more mean gluteus maximus muscle than a vertical jump.

• Due to the increased glute activation, sprinters commonly experience "butt-lock;" whereas repetitive vertical jumpers experience "quad-lock."

• Hip extension exercises that mimic sprinting have horizontal or anteroposterior directional load vectors, involve hip hyperextension, and include reverse hypers, back extensions, hip thrusts, pendulum quadruped hip extensions, and pull throughs.

The important point to take away from this thought-provoking article is to get sprinting more. Lots of quality things happen when sprinting is part of one's training, much beyond just better glutes. Bottom line is, if "functional" is the way to go, then let's practice moving functionally.

Couple previous thoughts on sprinting:

#16 is one to look at here. The reference is at the end of the article.

Acceleration and Absolute Speed


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Simplexity 2

Do This, Not That! by Dan John and Chris Shugart.

Aaaaaahhhhhhh... like a breath of fresh air... (sound effects: light breeze rustling through the leaves and birds harmonizing a beautifully peaceful song)


Monday, August 31, 2009

Sad-entary Lifestyle

My job is that I work with athletes, however, this does not mean that my work is not affected by society's chosen lifestyle: Physical inactivity poses greatest health risk to Americans, research shows.

Here are my connections to the athletic population (but important to ask all of ourselves), through a couple of the questions I have:

1. So, of the 50 million some sedentary Americans, some must be parents, grandparents, friends or other family members to the athletes I directly work with... correct?

2. Are we not influenced by are environment? (Everything evolves from environmental pressure, dammit!) And if so, does not the influence of these some 50 million Americans lower the perceived 'standard' as to what we, as humans, are capable on a physical level?

It's like the saying, 'if the gym you train at has dumbbells that only go up to 50 pounds, and you're lifting the 50's, you're pretty darn strong... in that gym. If you go to a 'real' gym and the gym has dumbbells that go up to 150 pounds and you can only lift the 50's... then you're not s**t.'

So if the average American's idea of a 'workout' is climbing a couple flights of stairs, what has this done to our collective perception of what it means to be fit?

We need to educate on what IS healthy, fit, and strong, because we may just be a "Nation of Wimps" in every sense possible...


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"Win Forever"

There is a reason Pete Carroll's crew at USC is at the top of college football year in, year out... He 'gets it' from all angles.

This guest appearance by Bill Withers is a follow-up put together by Coach Carroll in response to an earlier team meeting.

Pete Carroll is pure genius...


Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Is it just me or our we (as a strength and conditioning/fitness industry) getting WAY too far ahead of ourselves with some of the stuff that is out there?

I work at a Division I university and most of the athletes I work with are not anywhere near "elite". We benefit very highly from the most basic of training... DONE WELL.

I am just worried that the 'smarter' (or better yet, cuter) we all get with "new" training ideas, the more confused many of us are really becoming.

“Before I learned martial arts, a punch was just a punch and a kick was just a kick. When I studied martial arts, a punch was no longer just a punch and a kick was no longer just a kick. Now I understand martial arts, and a punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick.”
-Bruce Lee

Thoughts? Anyone.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nation of Wimps

My good friend Greg Lanners recently brought to my attention a book and it's website; which I believe carries an important message regarding our country's youth, and more specifically how it's our issue as parents raising this 'nation of wimps'.

And rolling with the theme of my recent posts... it goes beyond what we regard as the 'physical'... however, as I see it, it's all the same...

Check it out:


Thursday, July 30, 2009

That Time of the Year

We're at that point in the year again, where fall sports getting set to begin. It's a mad... no, MAD! dash to the first game. Coach Vern Gambetta's recent post, Preseason Practice – Where Championships Are Lost, is right on. I would agree that the fatigue and the injuries it causes is more neural than metabolic.

Plus to add to his statements, of too much volume of high intensity practices, heat and poor hydration, what about anxiety? Being a former athlete, I don't remember the start of any season not accompanied by some anxiety. The excitement and sensory overload just magnifies the metabolic fatigue. Anxiety leads decreased motor performance and decreased heart rate variability and all it's effects on performance, increasing fatigue. This goes right along with my previous post: Mindful Training.

The physical components play a role, but, again, the 'whole' athlete, and just as importantly, the context, cannot be overlooked. Great coaching awareness is a must.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mindful Training

I've touched a little on this in the past, regarding the implementation of increased central nervous system emphasis with regards to speed, agility, and conditioning.

Speed Focus


Now some pretty cool research is coming out regarding a more brain performance focused approach to ACL prevention training.

Knee Injuries May Start With Strain On The Brain, Not The Muscles

The key again as I discussed in Speed Focus, is an external focus. Which can only be done with emphasis placed on attentional focus outside the body. This type of stuff again lends itself to the use of reactive type training. Running around cones and form running are good teaching drills but eventually the athlete needs to be placed in a chaotic environment where just mindlessly going through the motions won't cut it.

If our #1 goal as performance specialists is injury prevention, the 'whole' athlete needs to be challenged, because they WILL be challenged in competition. It's important to be smart, but training for athletes cannot be soft and most importantly, not MINDLESS. The athlete only improves when challenged...

I would argue that most of the preventable ACL injuries are a disconnect between the central and peripheral nervous systems. Mechanical work and strengthening is nice and important, but integration with 'noggin' is a must.

The important thing is to empower athletes with the knowledge and understanding of a few important, basic movement rules, which they can then utilize in more chaotic training. This is where the importance of controlled form running, cone agility drills, and speed and tempo work come into play. These exercises/drills are the classrooms for teaching, but application of this education has to take place as well, and it's not truly application unless the predictive and reactive aspects of the brain are involved.

This is similar to something I touched on regarding movement, in some dialogue with Patrick Ward at his very informative blog, Optimum Sports Performance. Teach the athletes some basic rules and guidelines regarding movement, and then, from there, it is their job to problem solve.


Thanks to Frank Forencich for pointing out the ACL research.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Yes it's important to have a large 'exercise toolbox', but what I think sometimes gets forgotten is that each exercise has secondary adaptations and/or consequences. While one choice of exercise might seem like a smart selection to target a specific motion around a specific joint or joints there are additional forces being applied to areas outside of the key areas.

Take ab rollouts of any kind; done on stability balls, TRX or Blast Straps, or the ab wheels. These may be great exercises for anterior "core" stability, but what's going on, as far as forces, at the thoracic spine and shoulder complex? I am specifically thinking anterior tilting of the scapula and thoracic flexion. Sure the athlete might be coached to maintain the correct positioning, but the forces are still being applied.

... Or take an athlete who is completely "bound-up" in the rectus femoris. So much so that going into any kind of lunge position pulls the pelvis so far forward (anterior tilt) that things start to spill out. Is a forward or reverse lunge a good exercise for this athlete to perform. Can, or is, the athlete disciplined/skilled enough to be sure as to not use the posterior leg for eccentric stability or any driving force to come out of the lunge? Especially when any type of heavier load is to be used. Speaking from experience, I have had extreme soreness in the rectus femoris from performing reverse lunging the day prior... what's the adaptation?

I am not saying a certain exercise should not be done, but the "big picture" needs to be seen when applying any exercise with the hopes of improving performance. There are multiple adaptations that come from every exercise based on the movement itself, type of external load, where the load is placed, volume, intensity, or even the subject performing the movement... plus many others.

Is corrective exercise necessary or is it just a need of subtracting from the "program"? Or just making better exercise choices? Or improved coaching?

Just be aware.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

An Important Essay

I absolutely enjoy Frank Forencich's stuff, and his latest essay is 'dead-on'. His work through his philosophy of Exuberant Animal applies on so many levels.

Do yourself a favor and read:

Get Down by Frank Forencich


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fatigue In The Head?

From the NY Times:
Can Your Brain Fight Fatigue?

These hypotheses having been around for a while now, as Timothy Noakes, of the University of Cape Town in Africa has been a leading proponent of the central fatigue model and central governor hypothesis.

Personally, I don't think the central theories can be disproved as being the driver behind performance and fatigue. The limiting factor is motivation...

Are there any studies that have been done with subjects under, which would always be subjective, MAXIMAL motivation to then ultimately determine where fatigue is ocurring first?


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Emotional Movement Intelligence

When we stretch our fingers and we think about the sequence of actions that had to occur..., at the start we find the action of volition, a psychic action, then the transmission of this volition, a nerve action, then the contraction of the muscle, a muscular action, and finally the movement of the organ, a mechanical action. In what order should we study these events? A philosopher of the past, a Spinoziste, would not hesitate: follow the logical path; introduce the facts in the very order of their appearance. This is precisely the order our contemporary school rejects. The physiologists of today rethink the order of events by beginning with the crudest and most visible, and working up progressively to the most refined and obscure.
- E.J. Marey

Paul Ekman, a psychologist, has made a career in the study of emotions and their relation to facial expressions. He has found that facial expressions are pretty universally human. Anger, fear, joy, sadness, disgust, and surprise all have pretty specific facial muscle activity. If emotions show up distinctly in the muscles of the face, might they not be found throughout the rest of the body?

Are we ignorant to think that emotions don't play a role in our ability to move effectively and efficiently, or doing anything well?

We are comfortable making connections to the cause of a "bum" shoulder to faulty mechanics of the contralateral ankle joint. Why couldn't a habitual perception of the world, leading to a common emotion lead to a specific body posture. Charles Darwin published work on this topic back in 1872 in "The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals"

So are stretching protocols (especially static stretching), but possibly any mobilization/ movement re-education, in some cases, potentially just beating one's head into a wall. Without changing perception of movement, there may, or will not, be any long-lasting change.

Working on movement patterns and mobility drills are a start and necessary, but changing the mind is where it needs to begin. If a person thinks they are "tight", then they will be "tight". Maybe not the idea of being "tight" but the "pressing" issue (stress) of the thought of being "tight". From Wikipedia: Stress can lead to symptoms include irritability, muscular tension, inability to concentrate and a variety of physical reactions, such as headaches and elevated heart rate (my additional note: also decrease in the ever-important measure of heart rate variability).

Yes, improving one's mobility/movement might lead to improved perceptions, but this is still relying on peripheral and environmental factors to change something that might be more successful when done in conjunction with working centrally and out.

Dare I say we need to dip a little into the psychology, as all the physical practice will get you only so far. Activation drills, static, dynamic stretching, mobility work might not do a whole lot for someone who is constantly under the stress response. Neurological "tightness" might be able to be remedied for brief periods by way of PNF or RNF type methods, but as soon as one's thoughts, attitudes, and perception of themselves and the world around them return, so will the habitually learned startle/stress patterns of neurohormonal activity. People have been building up their personal body schema's and emotional character for years and to think that just working from the bottom up for an hour or two a day is all there is, may be missing a primary component.

As stated in the opening quote by Marey, volitional action starts and ends in the brain in the motor cortex. But even before this there is an emotional component that leads to the motivation of the volitional movement. So if we are to truly follow the logical path of movement, then we need to start with the emotional motivation. As my good friend Frankie Faires says, "States before skills."

One's thoughts determine a lot in regards to the effectiveness of any training protocol, especially improved flexibility, mobility, or whatever you want to call it. Hell, everything could be just one huge placebo effect, but that might be taking it a little too far for now.

It all starts with the ability to manage stress, change perceptions and ultimately control the mind. This is what the greatest performers of all-time have always done and have the ability to do. As they say, "Success leaves clues".

Now I am not saying that the physical methods of training don't work, because they do. It's just that I have seen many cases where a client or athlete has put in the physical time to work on their movement, but has produced little to no change...

Just some things to think about...


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Dream

THE school:

-No chairs.
-Integrated physical activities in all subjects.
-A state park type location, lots of trees, hills, and water.
-Busses drop the kids off at the gate which is 2 miles from the school (leave your shoes at the gate, sport shoes will be provided when necessary).
-A lunch house located 1 mile from the school (with REAL food).

I could go on and on...

I'm sick of reading about, dealing with, and prescribing "corrective" exercises for movement dysfunction.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Born To Run

Finished this excellent book a couple weeks ago. Christopher McDougall has written a classic. Some very good insights into the errors of the shoe industry, ultrarunning, the Tarahumara or Raramuri people of northern Mexico, and discussions on the evolutionary theory of running.

McDougall interviewed and discussed some of the same researchers that I cited in my post Running a few months back.

An entertaining book with lots of insightful philosophical gems.

Some may think it is impossible or insane, but if it's part of your culture to run like the Tarahumara... logging 600 miles in 5 days, really is no big deal.

Nature, nurture, and culture.


The Push-Up Epidemic

I hate talking about one specific exercise but holy cow!

It's amazing to see the low quality of the push-ups everywhere. People's spines (head and neck too) are draped along like the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge. And where are the elbows off to?

Is it from a lack of awareness, or are most of us just that frail?

This is the basics. Amp-up the P.E. and get kids doing these right. They have to learn to read don't they? Why can't they learn the proper way to move themselves (sad reality is it's actually re-learning how to move)? Maybe the teachers don't know how to do a push-up themselves... fine, LEARN.

I am not advocating drill sergeant basic training, but I am advocating a tiny bit of expectations.

There is a huge disconnect from the experience of "core strengthening" as an infant to the degression of adolescence, that just continues on into adulthood... Yes, our trunks are weak.

This is a fraction of the puzzle and a symptom of the bigger problem, but FIX THE DAMN PUSH-UPS FOLKS! ... and stop sitting in chairs so much.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I've had an interest in strength and conditioning since my early days. Some of my early motivations came as a young kid watching and reading about the training of guys like Walter Payton, Roger Craig, Jerry Rice, Eddie George, and on...

These guys probably didn't follow any of the super-precise methods or elaborate periodization schemes, but they got themselves in shape. They were fit. They got fit by lots of running. Running sprints, intervals, hills, and even some long distance work. And fit is something that seems to be a scarcity more and more these days. It seems as though more and more athletes are content with putting in the minimum.

My all-time favorite is Walter Payton. The guy played 13 years in the league. He missed one game his entire career, during his rookie season, only because his coach held him out. Much of his career was spent playing on the astro turf of Soldier Field. He wasn't overly fast, had a small stature (5'10" 200lbs.), but was arguably one of the most dominant and physical players to play the game. His secret... his conditioning was second to no one. He had the drive to put forth the effort to stay in supreme physical condition. His workouts were legendary, which among other things included the original, "The Hill". While teammates rested between drills during practices, he would jump rope. He biked to and from practice.

From his autobiography, Never Die Easy:

"A lot of people encouraged me to get into coaching when the St. Louis deal didn't work out. I never could even think about it. I could never coach, because I never understood the workout ethics and the philosophies of any other athlete I ever met. When I practiced I literally would vomit if I had to. I worked myself and gave all of myself even if it was practice, and when I went to training camp, it was like I was on a vacation, because I was ready. I never stopped working out. I understood that I had to be physically fit. I understood that I might not be the best, I understood I might not be the strongest, I understood that I might not be able to have the speed, but I figured if I took all of these qualities that I did have and I put them together, I had something no one else had. So I would be the most prepared for training camp ever, and I was. I trained harder in the off-season than I did during the season, that was my belief. And it worked, obviously. It worked real well.

But what I saw in my last couple of years in the league only got worse as time went on. Too many guys showed up out of shape for training camp. Then they missed games or practices because they had pulled muscles. Duh? That wasn't a surprise. How could I coach players who want to sit home and eat ice cream and pies and not even work out once or twice a week, and then only wait until camp? Go out partying all night, and then when camp came, that's when they decided they would buckle down. My philosophy was so opposite, I knew I couldn't - I knew because that's how I was. That was the animal inside of me, the untrained animal, and I certainly could not go in there and unleash something that somebody didn't have. I didn't know how I could do that."

Bottom line was, Walter Payton, was in great condition.

The thing that worries me is that this is becoming more and more of an anomaly. General fitness is becoming rare.

As a college coach, we may only get to see athletes for a couple hours a day, 3 to 4 days a week. This is good, but there is still about 180+ hours the rest of the week. 8 hours of high intensity training and 181 hours of next to nothing???


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Carl Valle Interview

"To Kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact."

A great interview with Carl Valle on Reality-Based Fitness. Carl does an excellent job at critically evaluating many topics from soft-tissue therapy, corrective exercise, spine mechanics/"core" training, to Olympic lifting and program design for track athletes.

Keats Sniderman and Patrick Ward have done an excellent job putting together the Reality-Based Fitness podcast show, which looks at training science and nutrition through a critical lense.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stress Eraser

I've been coordinating with a psychologist at counseling center here and I just got the soccer athletes that are in town for the summer hooked up with their own personal StressErasers.

Basically they are a biofeedback device used to determine breathing and heart rate and monitoring the balance of the autonomic nervous system. I believe it can be a very powerful tool to develop the skills to maintaining and/or creating an increased parasympathetic tone. Breathing techniques by way of the respiratory sinus arrythmia can be very effective at improving ANS function.

We've advised the ladies to practice with them at least 3-4 times per day for around 10 minutes, if not more often. We'll be collecting some rough data. I hope to get more athletes hooked up with them in the near future.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Speed Focus

Observing the transformation of athletes making the transition from high school to college, it is obvious to see many differences, but one stands out the most... speed.
Yes, a freshman is exposed to more and, hopefully, better training, but what ultimately leads to the improved speed?

I would argue the speed of practice and play are the likely determinates. As an athlete, you won't make the cut if you don't shift gears and practice and play at a faster pace. This is done everyday, as better athletes and more demanding coaches and practices don't have time for turtles. This daily demand ultimately forces an adaptation. The neural correlates are the obvious upgrades. Improved motor unit recruitment, and likely increased myelination of the specific patterns of movement.

From my perspective, this demand must be the basis of training. The demand for speed must be high year round, as neural development is not an easy or quick process.

The athletes I work with sprint "all-out" on a weekly basis. We often make this into competitive situations with races, chase, and mirror drills. Basically anything that increases the level of motivation. Which leads to some points regarding motivation.

Research has shown that decreased levels of motivation decrease the level of neural output, as electrical stimulation can increase contraction strength after maximal voluntary contraction has been attempted, but upon verbal encouragement the MVC can be increased. Call it what you will, CNS fatigue or other, motivation needs to high to maximize neural development, as the nervous system is the driver of muscle adaptation. Which is also why fatigue needs to be managed to maintain high output with attempts to move fast. Move fast to be fast (specificity).

Plus, the racing, chasing, and mirroring in movement skills leads, not only to increased motivation, but to a greater external focus, which has been scientifically shown to outperform an internal focus almost all the time. Greater external focus improves performance and efficiency. Studies on attentional focus using EMG have shown an external focus leads to decreased muscle activity (efficiency), while improving accuracy, balance, and speed.

Obviously there are times of need which an internal focus may be a necessity, possibly with technique work, but often this can be accomplished with an external focus. "Push the ground away from you" (external) vs. "extend your hips".

Get athletes out of their heads and bodies and free up the higher levels of conciousness to play the game. Let the primitive centers of the brain take care of coordination, intensification and attenuation of movements.

Train fast and motivate through external focus. Neurologically time is limited.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Expensive Pain

The painful truth about trainers: Are running shoes a waste of money?

Another good article about the hazards of modern footwear. Just disregard the final section by the podiatrist... lame advice.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fix the ceiling

"I just feel tight today."

I can't tell you how many times I've heard this from many of the athletes I've had the opportunity to work with. Maybe it's my training... but I can't be wrong (slight sarcasm), so I am guessing it's not. I quickly give them an answer to their comment, going off about how it comes down to movement, nutritional intake, and psychological states.

I saw this today regarding water and flexibility at

I've also told athletes this same thing for years, but is all this water recommendation just another patch on a leaky ceiling? What about all the s**t we eat on a daily basis. It's an absolute "Catch 22" on hydration states. High fructose corn syrup and all the other simple corn-derived carbs that infiltrate most of our diets are just sucking all the water out of our cells. Not to mention all the f-ing with insulin levels that go on because of these simple carbs.

While I'm at it... dairy products fuel the fire as well, evaporating our tissues with simple sugars. Paints a pretty bleak picture when you think about all the foods we consume that contain corn and dairy. This discussion could go for miles...

Here's a good video overview I saw at Conditioning Research the other day regarding diet and health as it's viewed from a paleolithic perspective. Something to think about.

You can only patch-up a ceiling so much, before you need a new ceiling. So yes, drink more water, but it may not drown out all the problems.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009


This has been brewing for quite sometime. 

Sprinting is good. Running is good. Long distance running might be good… LONG DISTANCE RUNNING?!

In general, I don’t think we run enough; athletes, general population… everyone. We may not be "putting in" enough miles per week, accumulation of sprint reps and/or moderate to long steady runs. This might even be a case for strength and power athletes to get in some longer runs in. Dare I say some endurance training for a power athlete.

In most cases there is a solid division amongst the endurance community and the strength/power community, those who run, bike, swim long distances and those who lift heavy objects, sprint, and jump. From my perspective as a strength and conditioning coach, endurance activities have been called to be death sentences, unless of course you work with long distance runners. This is not an article about "building an aerobic base first" or advocating running miles for football players, but rather something to provoke some thought towards the health of an individual. Sedentary lifestyles and it's consequence of obesity are rising higher than ever and to think that the athletic community is immune to this and it doesn't relate is ignorant. Today's athletes have access to the same technology and foods that the rest of the population does, and many have the same favorite past times of movies, video games, and technological communicating while enjoying big macs.

Running isn't sexy and isn't going to sell for big dollars but here are a few points that we cannot ignore about our evolutionary past…

We need to take a step back and objectively look at who we are, how we’re built, and what we are built for. I am going to lay this out in random points on why we need to run and why some long distance running might be good for all of us. But mostly advocacy for the importance of all forms of running.

1. Ever thing about our bodies are structured for forward bipedalism with the structures set up for energy conservation for running long distances. Sorry we aren’t the speed demons we’d like to think we are. We are extremely slow when we compare ourselves to other mammals, but we can run farther and longer than pretty much every other mammal.

2. Long legs with reduced distal limb mass for energy conservation while running and improved stride length.

3. A foot structure built for storage and release of elastic energy while running, along with a long Achilles tendon.

4. The nuchal ligament which only mammals that are effective runners have. This helps with head stabilization during running. Which allows for effective function of:

5. Vestibular system with enlarged posterior and anterior semicircular canals for effective head stabilization during cursorial functions.

6. Tall narrow body (also for increased efficiency), very little body hair and lots and lots of sweat glands for effective thermoregulation.

7. An extensive cardiovascular system which works closely with a powerful respiratory system. An expanded venous circulation system of the neurocranium, all to effectively assist in oxidative energy reproduction and thermoregulation.

8. Wide shoulders and short forearms, along with narrow trunk all for counter rotation of the trunk versus the hips. Lack of running (lack of enough general movement) could potential be the problem of all this off-setting of the lumbar instability issue everyone keeps seeing; altered joint-by-joint function.

9. Stabilized sacroiliac joint, expanded surface area for erector spinae muscles and gluteus maximus attachments, all for increased trunk stabilization while running.

10. Here’s a BIG one… The gluteus maximus. It has little to no role in static standing and and very little function in walking. It becomes active when we run, with higher EMG readings at increasing speeds. In running the gluteus maximus controls flexion of the trunk on the stance side and decelerates the swing leg. Also helping to control flexion and extension of the thigh.(2) So if it has little function for standing and walking then why do we have an enlarged gluteus maximus? Running! Maybe… just maybe… this is the reason we see so much “glute amnesia” around. We’re all hyped up on activating the glutes during activation sessions prior to a workout, maybe we need to just be running (as in longer sprints, tempo runs... not just short accelerations which many can get through with more of a knee dominant role) a little more, or a lot more.

11. Short toes with permanently adducted hallux: increased running efficiency.

12. Barefoot running: It’s been shown to reduce the energy cost of running (10, 11), decrease mechanical stress with higher preactivation of the triceps surae (11). This ties into some of the past research in which I have done looking at foot and ankle pathology on arthrokinetic/arthrogenic reflexes and it’s effect on hip extension musculature. Basically faulty feet lead to faulty hip function. Message: get out of the shoes and run more… maybe this will also help with point #10.

Tying this in with running, especially running barefoot, which has shown to increase forefoot mechanics, it seems to make a lot of sense with our continuing contention with flat feet. Running barefoot usually creates forefoot strike rather than heel strike (neural reflex adjustment? Not sure but I am not going to heel strike while running barefoot… would you?). As shown in the video here, the pre-activation that must occur to create foot stiffness has to have an effect on all lower leg musculature, but one that I want to bring focus to is the posterior tibialus. This small muscle inserts onto inserts on to the tuberosity of the navicular, the first and third cuneiforms, the cuboid and the second, third and fourth metatarsals. That’s a lot of insertions for one muscle, and it’s role in supporting the longitudinal arch is pretty huge. I will leave this point at that to think about…

13. And forefoot running usually creates better performance (12). Barefoot running helps with this, but this could be a top-down issue too with our life and love of sitting…

14. New research shows that running may provide more bone health benefits than resistance training. This does make some sense if we evolved to run.

15. The Central Pattern Generators. Since the day we learned to crawl, we have been ingraining this pattern. It’s a large part of how we function. We probably don’t even need our head for it (… sick, I know). It’s important for babies to work this cross-crawl pattern through crawling, and it probably means it’s important for us as adults too. Lots of connections are fired-up through the corpus collosum, by this patterning, which connects the right and left sides of the brain. It just may help us improve functions in a number of different arenas.

These CPG's follow the very distinct force distribution path and if everything structurally is set-up to follow this pattern, we may gets some very theraputic benefits from performing central pattern activities. Maybe enough qulaity reps and good progression following this pattern can clean up the "joint-by-joint" disfunction...

Plus, with reduction in outdoor activities, less physical education, and just less play time in general, I would argue these Central Patterns don't get developed as strongly as they could, leaving a person with a weakened movement system. Maybe more play and running strengthens a lot of the proprioceptive deficits that seem to lead to injury after injury as children, especially females, get older and participate in high school athletics. (read: females, ACL injury)

16. Running, especially sprinting has been shown to in some instances increase EMG activity of specific muscles over 100% than that of maximum voluntary contractions (1). The stretch-reflex obviously plays a large role here, but I think there is lots of carryover into other activities from sprinting, especially when it relates to power.

17. Genetically. An abstract: Endurance running and digit ratio (2DAD): Implications for fetal testosterone effects on running speed and vascular health.
There is anatomical and physiological evidence that endurance running (ER), i.e., running one or more kilometers using aerobic metabolism, originated early in the evolution of Homo, and the consequences of early selection for ER may be important in modern Homo. Here we examine ER performance in competitive ER. ER is sex dependent such that men tend to run faster than women, and the influence of sex on ER suggests that it may be modified by testosterone M. It is shown that a putative proxy for prenatal T, the ratio of the length of the 2nd and 4th digits (2DAD), is correlated with ER. Thus performance in training for ER was associated with high prenatal T, as measured by low 2DAD, in both men and women. In cross-country races from 1 to 4 miles, 2DAD explained about 25% of the variance in both male and female ER. Therefore, speed in ER was dependent on a proxy for prenatal T. 2DAD correlates 'with performance in sport and exercises, which test a mix of strength and fitness, but the associations are in general quite weak with 2DAD accounting for less than 10% of the variance in performance. Our finding that 2DAD explains about 25% of the variance in ER suggests that prenatal T is important in determining efficiency in aerobic exercise. Early populations of Homo may have been strongly selected for ER and high prenatal T. The implications of this for patterns of predisposition to cardiovascular disease in modern Homo are discussed.

It also cannot be overstated that the importance of cardiovascular health and it’s role in regulation of the autonomic nervous system. Yes, long, slow steady-state cardio has been given a bad rap for effectiveness with our issues with fat loss in this country but I can’t help but stress the importance of autonomic regulation through the long, slow, steady-state means. Longer, easy runs may promote an increased parasympathetic tone, which will not only enhance recovery, but put a person in a better psychological state and create an internal physiological environment better suited towards burning unwanted calories, and all the other good things that come from the "rest and digest" state, namely recovery.

Now, before anybody gets in a tizzy over this stuff, I am not advocating marathons next week or that everyone should give it all up for running. I am just stating that I think it (running) is important and overlooked (from my perspective in the strength and power community). We still need lots of variation in our movement, but we should for sure not neglect running.

Another area of potential attack is that running creates so many overuse injuries. Sure it does! But so does anything else that is not slowly progressed. I haven’t squatted heavy in a long time, so I am not going to the gym tomorrow and throwing 4 bills on the bar. Same thing with most folks, they probably haven’t run at all in 2, 3 decades, so maybe running 100 yards for tomorrow is enough. Progressive overload is the principle.

It’s also important to vary speeds and terrain (pavement is obviously bad). Barefoot is better than shoes.

Get away from treadmills if possible. This throws entire confusion into the entire nervous system. Proprioception or kinesthesia (whatever floats your…) sends signals that you are moving, while the vestibular system and vision reply back: “Ah… we’re not moving anywhere…” Complete neurologic confusion. Just watch somebody who has spent a good 30-40 minutes on a treadmill get off and walk. My philosophy on this is that if we are performing cursorial movement, we want to be covering ground, not hovering ground. Don't F with your nervous system more than you have to. Mike T Nelson gives a nice overview of this on his recent interview on Super Human Radio.

In my situation, I make it a point to get some running in at the end of every workout. Try to restore good Central Patterns. One thing I’ve noticed is that weightroom rarely transfers (acutely) to running, while running almost always transfers to the weightroom. Example: warm-up with some light running and short sprints, then go right into some light squatting, usually not much of a problem. Finish a hard weightroom workout, and now attempt to go out and run. A little awkward… we are built more for running than lifting. Man… I probably really hurt my strength coach credibility there.

I just think so much emphasis is put into what goes on into a strength workout, when most of our activities are centered around running in some form. It's like a baseball pitcher not pitching in the off-season or a basketball player not shooting from May to September. Expertise takes reps.
Regardless, I think it is imperative to get in as much running as possible after a workout (no sprinting, just good, fast running) to restore normal patterns. This could lead into a deeper conversation about strength work and transfer to sport, but I am probably going to leave that for my death bed out of fear for repercussions from colleagues and myself included…

I need to make it aware that in my situation in working with athletes, I can’t and shouldn’t be doing lots of long distance running. It is speed and sport-specific conditioning we’re after, but that doesn’t mean it is bad to take one or two days per week to perform a longer run on the correct surface (grass, field turf). Because like it or not we cannot escape our evolutionary past. It’s important to respect our physiology and take care of health first.

1. Kyröläinen, H., Avela, J., & Komi, P. (2005, October). Changes in muscle activity with increasing running speed. Journal of Sports Sciences, 23(10), 1101-1109.

2. Lieberman, D., Raichlen, D., Pontzer, H., Bramble, D., & Cutright-Smith, E. (2006, June). The human gluteus maximus and its role in running. Journal of Experimental Biology, 209(11), 2143-2155.

3. Liebenberg, L. (2008, December). The relevance of persistence hunting to human evolution. Journal of Human Evolution, 55(6).

4. Campbell, R. (2009, March). Walking, running and the evolution of short toes in humans. The Journal of Experimental Biolog,. 212(5) 713-721.

5. Lupski, J. (2007, December). An evolution revolution provides further revelation.;. BioEssays, 29(12), 1182-1184.

6. Lieberman, D., & Bramble, D. (2007, February 15). The Evolution of Marathon Running. Sports Medicine, 37(4/5), 288-290.

7. Manning, J., Morris, L., & Caswell, N. (2007, May). Endurance running and digit ratio (2DAD): Implications for fetal testosterone effects on running speed and vascular health. American Journal of Human Biology, 19(3), 416-421.

8. Bramble, D., & Lieberman, D. (2004, November 18). Endurance running and the evolution of Homo. Nature, 432(7015), 345-352.

9. University of Missouri (2009, March 9). Building Strong Bones: Running May Provide More Benefits Than Resistance Training, Study Finds. ScienceDaily.

10. Divert, C., Mornieux, G., Freychat, P., Baly, L., Mayer, F., & Belli, A. (2008, June). Barefoot-Shod Running Differences: Shoe or Mass Effect?. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 29(6), 512-518.

11. Divert, C. (2005, September). Mechanical Comparison of Barefoot and Shod Running*. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 26(7), 593-598.

12. Hasegawa, H., Yamauchi, T., & Kraemer, W. (2007, August). Foot strike patterns of runners at the 15-km point during an elite-level half marathon. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 21(3), 888-893.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009


When I stop and think about some of the stupid things we do, shoes tend to rank towards the top.


Thursday, February 26, 2009


I am continually amazed (not really, but...) at the necessity of specific conditioning. It's so specific that the only way to get in "game shape" really is to play the game.

Things such as tempo runs, varying distance shuttles, gassers, circuits, wind sprints are great for general fitness, but to hone in on the energy demands of specific sports, I think there needs to be greater integration of the brain. Seeing things and having to react quickly requires a lot of energy, so while it might seem like the athletes are getting in great shape with basic conditioning, when the sport suddenly demands use of all sensory systems of the brain, they aren't in quite as good of shape as one might think.

From Wikipedia:
"Brain energy consumption

PET Image of the human brain showing energy consumption
Although the brain represents only 2% of the body weight, it receives 15% of the cardiac output, 20% of total body oxygen consumption, and 25% of total body
glucose utilization.[72] The demands of the brain limit its size in some species, such as bats.[73] The brain mostly utilizes glucose for energy, and deprivation of glucose, as can happen in hypoglycemia, can result in loss of consciousness. The energy consumption of the brain does not vary greatly over time, but active regions of the cortex consume somewhat more energy than inactive regions: this fact forms the basis for the functional brain imaging methods PET and fMRI.[74]"

One thing to take away from this is that energy in the human body is not infinite and must be distributed among the body in order for survival.

Utilizing reaction drills with auditory and visual stimulus immediately heightens the intensity of a conditioning drill. Mirror drills with a partner effectively gets one athlete reacting and another strategizing. These types of drills also increase the competitive aspect of training, which for an athlete, is the essence of what they do.

Obviously care needs to be taken with competitive, reactive conditioning, because if over done, in certain situations athletes could potentially "drill" themselves in to the ground with too much competition. But, I think in team sports, this form of drilling should comprise the majority of the conditioning work.

The goal is to not only increase the capacity of the different energy systems and efficiency of the peripheral nervous system, but also the central nervous system. Specifically the sensory systems found and integrated in the brain. In athletic development it is important not to miss certain systems. Especially when it comes to training for the random chaotic environments of teams sports. Even more important than being sure to train all systems, is to train them integratively at the same time.

The only difficulty with this form of training is creativity. The key is to find drills that challenge visual, auditory, and vestibular function at extreme speeds with the movements found in sports. Loads of memory on a huge hard drive are worthless with a slow central processing unit.

I'll have more conditioning thoughts in the near future...


Monday, February 23, 2009

Question for those that make the claim

This came up not one, not two, but three times this morning (in three different cases)... so I have to ask.

Show me how you can preferentially recruit the "mythical" vastus medialis obliques, the... I mean... THE VMO (HUGE emphasis on THE).

I am absolutely intrigued by this level of skill and would like to know how to do this. Then to be able to replicate this fine skill at what I would consider game speed.

Help please.

Ahhh... microscopes.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Typical Progression?

1. The environment shapes the mind.

2. The mind shapes the brain.

3. The brain shapes the body.

4. The body shapes the brain.

5. The brain shapes the mind.

6. The mind shapes the environment.


Friday, January 23, 2009


Nobody ever reaches their genetic potential. It's never even close... they just "max out" on what their lifestyle and environment can support.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Measuring Quality?

Movement quality reigns supreme. Movement quality cannot be measured by numbers, only by a good eye and feel... or lack thereof.