What I’ve Learned: Principles of Movement & FASTER Global – Part III – Lunge and Reach

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In the previous two posts, (here and here) I discussed what I’ve learned by going through the FASTER Global coursework. (If you’re a fitness professional who wants to truly become an expert at movement, then you need to do this course. This has been the most comprehensive movement education I’ve had in nearly 20 years of working in the fitness field.)

I believe I’ve made the case for why we should train with tri-plane movement. Further I believe that I’ve illustrated why traditional gym exercises like squats and deadlifts may not be the best way to develop all-around movement skills or strength.  (For the record, I’m not saying traditional squats and deadlifts are bad. I use them in my own workouts and with my clients. To be clear, I believe that there are infinite variations that can and should be used to condition people in the most comprehensive way.)

In the previous post I showed a bunch of lunge and squat variations. Here are some more lunge variations this time with arm reaches.

Lunging and reaching

While lunging, we can drive motion from the upper body by reaching up, down, across, overhead, etc. We can reach with one or both arms. The way in which the trainee steps drives motion from the upper body up through the rest of the body. As he or she reaches, motion is driven down through the body toward the ground. The reaching affects balance and creates a wide range of slightly different body positions which look a lot like any number of athletic activities, for example, look at the baseball pitcher and basketball players.

Lower body motion plus upper body motion.

Saggital plane anterior lunge with same-side posterior arm reach… Or something like that. Lots of stuff happening.

Kobe executes a type of lunge and reach down.

Kobe executes a type of lunge and reach down.

Resistance can be added to these in numerous ways: weight vest, dumbbell(s), sandbags, kettlebells, etc. Cables or tubing positioned at any number of angles can speed up or slow down the lunge.

Remember though, if someone can’t control these exercises then he or she should be regressed to something that is controllable, safe and manageable.

Here are a few examples of lunges combined with reaches in various directions. I’ve shown an anterior lunge and a lateral lunge but we could add any of these reaches to any type of lunge. The combinations are nearly infinite.

Next we can progress to jumps and hops, all done in any number of directions, all with feet and arms in any number of positions. I’ll show some of those in the next post.

What I’ve Learned: Principles of Movement & FASTER Global – Part II

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From gym work to “real life.”

Athletic endeavors and typical daily movements are rarely symmetrical. We’re often stepping from one foot to the other in any of several directions, swiveling and/or bending our bodies, reaching, moving with a load on one side of our body–all potentially at the same time. If we think of the SAID Principle (discussed very thoroughly here by Todd Hargrove of Better Movement) then it stands to reason that some of our training ought to resemble our chosen athletic or leisure activity, both in movement pattern and energy system usage.

A squat by any other name…sss1

Skiing-in-France-HD-Wallpaper-1280x800-3A lot of conventional exercises–squats and
deadlifts for instance–keep the feet planted against the ground in a symmetrical stance. Fine, but how much should we expect those exercises to translate to something like skiing? Yes skiing uses two legs and it sort of looks like a squat but there’s a lot more going on during a ski turn than just moving the body down and up.

We could say something similar about basketball where there’s a lot of jumping,

how-to-deadliftlanding and movement into positions which look a good bit like a deadlift–but clearly doesn’t look like the standard deadlift.

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Here’s a very interesting video on how to take a squat and add some flavor to it:

These are the types of movements that more closely resemble many sports and recreational activities. These can be used as part of a warm-up for a workout or they can be used as the workout itself.

Ground reaction forces

At some point we need to consider ground reaction forces. A foot or feet hitting the ground creates a whole different set of circumstances compared to planted feet. Enter the lunge.

A lunge creates a ground reaction force (GRF) as the foot hits the ground. A series of events should ideally take place in a certain sequence at the following joints: mid-tarsal joint, subtalar joint, talocrural joint, knee, hip and on up through the spine and even out to the shoulders and beyond!

(BTW, a lunge can be any distance or depth. If someone can’t lunge far and deep then it’s completely appropriate to simply take a step. I often ask my clients to go as far and/or deep as they can only so long as they can maintain control of the movement.)

There are a lot of variations on the lunge. We can step in any number of directions. Our world is a three-dimensional place so we can step forward or backwards, side to side, or in a circular or twisting type of motion.The purpose in doing this is to allow us to experience a wide range of joint angles and different ground impact scenarios. We can see if an athlete is able to move into his or her sport position. We might be able to expose a movement pattern that is unstable and which the athlete may want to improve for performance and safety.

Lunges for all occasions

Here are a collection of lunges done in an assortment of directions. Each type of lunge creates a different reaction throughout the limbs and joints.

Not pictured are lunges in which the trainee steps up or down off of a step. Any of these lunges can be done in this way. It’s a good way train for something like a hike (if for some reason a hike can’t be undertaken) or to simply add variety and new skills to the workout. Next you’ll see lunging in conjunction with reaching.

 

What I’ve Learned: Principles of Movement & FASTER Global – Part I

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I spent much of the Summer and Fall going through the FASTER Global Specialist in Functional Performance and Specialist in Functional Therapy courses. It’s been a fantastic experience. At times it was incredibly challenging but such is life with anything worth learning and doing. I’ve come away from the experience with a tremendous movement analysis skill set, and a systematic way of thinking that I didn’t have before.

Sometimes I think I know something, that I’m a fairly knowledgeable trainer. Then I’m exposed to new information and I think, “I don’t know anything!” Whenever I dig into something new I have my old beliefs challenged by new concepts. That’s very much my experience with FASTER.

In this post I’m going to cover a few things I’ve learned. I’m going to try and keep it concise. I could meander all over the place….

The Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand (SAID) principle is always at the top of the FASTER thought process. We consider the client’s or athlete’s goal(s) and then we build a program that very closely resembles that goal. If we’re working with a skier then joint motions and body position should look a lot like skiing. Similarly with a bowler, kayaker, runner, rock climber, pitcher, someone who has trouble waking up and down stairs–whatever. So with that we start with some questions.

Two big questions & another question:

  1. Can the athlete get into the position required by the activity?
    Asked another way: Does the athlete have the range of motion for the task?
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  2. If yes, can the athlete control that ROM?The above two are big. If we get two yeses then we ask:
  3. Can the athlete control the ROM at the speed required of the sport?

skiing_downhill_2_editLook at these activities. Lots of interesting poses here. Notice how the bodies are positioned. Notice the knees, hips, trunk, arms and head. Take note of all the angles between the joints. Here’s a question: Do any of the exercises you see or do in the gym look anything like any of these? How much of what you do in the gym puts you in an athletic or “real life” position? Does a standard squat, deadlift, kettlebell swing, sit-up or any type of machine exercise fit the bill?

In my exercise toolbox I russo-webnow have the observational skills and knowledge to address those previous there questions with my clients and athletes. I know how to progress people from very simple movements to far more aggressive movements. I feel confident in my ability to help my clients solve their own movement problems via what I hope are fun, challenging and safe exercises.

inar01_elsswing(BTW, this also applies to anyone who “just wants to work out.” If he or she has no athletic goals but wants to feel like they’ve worked hard, I can instruct them on exercises that will be both challenging and safe. If I think a squat is the type of exercise that will satisfy his or her requirement to “feel” a workout, then I still will ask those questions.) 7b1f7605c6133681547f2de831471e06_crop_north

In following posts I’ll discuss progressions and variations on traditional exercises. By playing with joint angles, foot positions and hand/arm positions, and by employing impact (stepping, hopping, jumping) we can create an infinite number of exercises that closely resemble sporting activities. With this process we can probably better prepare for sports than if we simply employ traditional exercises like squats, bench presses and deadlifts. Don’t worry if you don’t consider yourself an “athlete.” These exercises tweaks can be a lot of fun, very challenging and never boring.

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The Goblet Squat

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Nearly all of my clients squat. Sometimes instructing the squat can be a challenge. Though it’s essentially just sitting down, the squat can become complicated and difficult. It’s easy to over-coach the squat. That’s where the goblet squat comes in very handy.

Big-time strength coach Mike Boyle has done a great job telling us about the goblet squat. I find his instruction to be succinct and easy to follow. Here’s the video. Watch it and squat away!

Breaking Plateaus: the MilitaryPress

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I’m a big fan of the military press (aka the press, the standing press, the overhead press). I like putting the weight overhead. It’s a challenging total-body exercise that in my mind probably delivers more useful strength and skill than something like a bench press. I’d like to press 200 lbs. which is my body weight. For that reason, I tend to lift heavy and I typically don’t go above five reps per set. My progress stalled for a while so I went on the hunt for ways to move it along. This led me to read up on all kinds of interesting ways to break through plateaus.  (Admittedly, a torn ACL didn’t help my pressing. My press was slowing down though prior to the tear.)

To get stronger we generally need to add weight to whatever it is that we’re lifting. This is the simplest, most obvious way to get stronger. It’s inevitable though that at some point our progress will slow and we’ll have to find other ways to move forward in our strength training. Here are a few methods I’ve used to improve my press:

  • Weight: A lot of people tend to lift in the same rep range. I often see people in commercial gyms lifting in the 10-15 rep neighborhood. A good way to make progress is to add weight and move down in reps. The 5-rep and below range is good for getting stronger. In contrast, if we’ve been lifting in the low-rep range, there might be a benefit to reducing weight and adding reps.
  • Speed: We can subtract weight and move faster. To get fast we need to move fast. If we reduce the weight (40%-60% of your 1-rep max) and move very fast then we get a very different type of powerful stimulus to the muscles. I’ll talk about this more below.
  • Different exercises and movement patterns: If progress stalls on the barbell military press then we might want to switch to an incline barbell press, or a dumbbell military press, or a seated military press, or a behind-the-neck press. You see my point? Choosing an exercise that’s the “same but different” can help us make progress in our main lift.
  • Bring up weak points: I’m not much of a fan of bodybuilding-type training in which individual muscles are emphasized. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for this approach. If we look at the particular muscles involved in a given lift then we might use exercises to isolate those muscles and make them stronger and/or add mass. For instance, we could use tricep extensions in order to strengthen that piece of our press. Similarly, we might look at supporting musculature–the upper back for instance–and target those muscles to a stronger foundation from which to press.

Here’s some more on my experience with dynamic effort, “same but different” and some bodybuilding work.

Dynamic Effort

Speed and strength live in the same house. They are very close acquaintances. They have a lot of physiological similarities. Training one tends to help the other. Fast twitch muscle fibers are our strong and fast fibers. They should be trained with heavy weights as well as high velocities.

As we add weight to the bar, the bar slows down. We create more force but we don’t create speed. If we want to train speed then we need to lighten the load considerably and move a lot faster. The Westside Conjugate Method addresses both strength and speed during the week. Max Effort (ME) day has lifters lifting very heavy weights and generating a lot of force but at a slow velocity. Dynamic Effort (DE) day has the lifter using much lighter loads moved at a high velocity. This creates explosion.

Incorporating a dynamic effort day into your lifting may help you break through any current plateaus you may be experiencing. If you’ve never employed the DE method, then you probably have a nice well of untapped potential and you’ll likely see impressive results fairly quickly.

I’ve from pressing 135 lbs. for 2 reps to 145 lbs. for 3 reps in about four weeks since incorporating the DE method. Cool! As advocated by Louie, the DE day came 72 hours after the ME day. I typically did 10 sets of 2 reps, adding 5 lbs. each week.

At no time did I become anything like exhausted by the DE work.  That isn’t the point. Speed is the point. If you get tired then you’ll slow down. Don’t expect to experience a typical workout feeling with DE work.

Louie wrote an article titled Westside Military Press Training for Mike Mahler’s Aggressive Strength site. Here are the tips:

  • Do the seated press with dumbbells. Choose three weights for example 100 lbs, 75 lbs, and 50 lbs. Work on setting a repetition record with one dumbbell weight. the reps should range from 10 to 25 reps.
  • Do dumbbell extensions or barbell extensions for special work along with rear, side and front raises.
  • Do barbell pressing in the following manner. Ten sets of three reps in a three- week wave. 70% the 1st week 75% the second week and 80% the third week. Pendulum back to 70% and start over. Second day 72 hours later do max effort work.
  • Use chains on the bar or JUMPSTRETCH bands to accommodate resistance. (Editor’s note: Usually as the bar gets close to lockout you will naturally slow the bar down. The bands keep the resistance on all the way to the end).
  • Work up to new PR in the incline press.
  • Do rack lockout work on the high pin where 10%-15% highest weight can be done.

Developing the Overhead Press is another good article on Mahler’s site. If you like to press then read it!

The Conjugate System can get a little complicated and hard to understand. For a very good and concise explanation of the system, check out Jordan Syatt’s article The Westside Conjugate System: A User’s Guide.

Other ways to train speed (either lower or upper body) include the following:

  • jumping
  • medicine ball throws
  • plyometric pushups
  • power pull-ups: Do these explosively for 1-3 reps.

Same but different

I’ve varied the way I press–but I’ve kept pressing. In the book Easy Strength, Pavel Tsatsouline talkes about the “same but different” concept. With this concept, we take the main lift we’re working on–the press–and find some way to change it just a little. We offer a little variety to the nervous system, we learn a slightly new skill, and we can improve our main lift.

A similar process is proposed by Bill Starr in the book the Strongest Shall Survive. This system employs a heavy/light/medium approach to lifting where the exercises are changed slightly between each workout. For example, the back squat is used on the heavy and medium days and the front squat is used on the light day. Presses alternate from the bench press to the military press to the behind-the-neck press. Read the book to learn more.

In my case, I’ve incorporated the standing behind-the-neck press as well as seated dumbbell or kettlebell presses in which I sit on the floor with my legs straight out in front. I do these for reps.
Here are some examples “same but different” changes we could incorporate into our press routine

  • military press to behind-the-neck press to incline press
  • standing press to seated press
  • handstand or incline pushups
  • dumbbells and/or kettlebells in place of the barbell

Other things

I’ve also incorporated back-off sets after my heavy pressing days. I reduce the weight considerably and press for 10-12 reps. I expect this to help build some mass.

I’ve used dumbbell rear delt flyes to help build my upper back. I do these for 8-15 reps typically and I vary the weight each workout. This is the type of bodybuilding isolation work that I haven’t done in years.

 Finally

I’ve just scratched the surface with this stuff so I anticipate continued progress. As my ACL heals I expect progress to accelerate quite a bit. This has been a very interesting process. I’ve enjoyed learning about and applying these concepts, particularly the dynamic effort work. I just recently started a little bit of jumping. I expect this to help my squat and deadlift. I plan to keep a speed day as part of my workout plans.

Coaching Movement: Internal vs. External Cues

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I recently listened to an interview with Todd Hargrove of BetterMovement.org at the Well Rounded Athlete.   At about 21:30 in the interview, Todd discusses the idea of internal cues vs external cues as they pertain to learning new movement skills. I found it to be a fascinating concept and one that pertains very strongly to my current study of the FASTER Global curriculum.

What are internal and external cues?

  • Internal cue: The athlete focuses on his/her body parts and how they move.
  • External cue: The athlete focuses on affecting something in his/her environment. He/she focuses on the outcome of his/her movement.

Below are some examples of internal and external cues from an NSCA article titled What We Say Matters, Part I.

(What We Say Matters, Part II is also very interesting. I won’t discuss the whole thing but it goes into feedback frequency, or how much information coaches should give athletes while they’re learning a new skill. Turns out a good bit less feedback is better than giving feedback 100% of the time. Coaches and trainers should definitely read it. On to the internal/external cues.)

Table 1provides examples of internal versus external focus cues for different movements and note that analogies can be considered external cues.

Internal Cue External Cue
Sprinting: Acceleration
  • Extend your hip (knee)
  • Activate your quad (glute)
  • Stomach tight
  • Drive the ground away
  • Explode off the ground
  • Brace up
Change of Direction
  • Hips down
  • Feet wide
  • Drive through big toe
  • Roof over head
  • Train tracks or wide base
  • Push the ground away
Jumping
  • Explode through hips
  • Snap through ankles
  • Drive hips through head
  • Touch the sky
  • Snap the ground away
  • Drive belt buckle up
Olympic Lifting: Snatch
  • Drive feet through ground
  • Drive chest to ceiling
  • Snap hips through the bar
  • Drive feet through ground
  • Drive chest to ceiling
  • Snap hips through the bar
  • Push the ground away
  • Drive/jump vertical
  • Snap bar to ceiling
  • Snap and drop under bar

Which is best?  Internal or External? 

The article cites research that demonstrates internal cues to be more effective than external cues. More evidence comes in an article from Strength and Conditioning Research (a great resource) titled How Much Difference Do External Cues Make? The following studies are cited and they’re summarized:

  • Marchant (2009) – the researchers found that an external attentional focus led to greater force and torque during isokinetic elbow flexion movements while simultaneously decreasing muscle activation as measured by EMG.
  • Porter (2010– the researchers found that directing attention toward jumping as far past the starting line as possible had a much greater effect at increasing broad jump distance compared to focusing attention on extending the knees as fast as possible.
  • Wulf (2010– the researchers found that an external focus led to increased jump height with simultaneously lower EMG activity compared to an internal focus of attention.
  • Wu (2012– the researchers found that an external attentional focus let to increased broad jump distances despite not affecting peak force production compared to an internal attentional focus.
  • Makaruk (2012– the researchers found that 9 weeks of plyometric training with an external focus led to greater standing long jump and countermovement jump (but not drop jump) performance compared to training with an internal focus.
  • Porter (2012– the researchers found that an external focus far away from the body led to greater results than an internal focus or an external focus near the body in terms of standing long jump performance.

“So in general, the main factor that is associated with external focus is an increase in performance. Also, there may be a tendency for reduced EMG activity at the same time. This is interesting, as it may be a mirror image of what happens with internal focus.”

The reference to reduced EMG means that with an external focus, more muscles are actually relaxed during the movement. The benefit to that is that the muscles acting in opposition to the movement are more relaxed, thus allowing for better movement. If too many muscles are contracted then we may move slow.

How does an external rather than internal focus result in superior outcomes? The NSCA article cites work by Dr. Gabrielle Wulf, Director, Motor Performance and Learning Laboratory at UNLV:

“Wulf et al. (17) defined the hypothesis, stating that focusing on body movements (i.e. internal) increases consciousness and ‘constrains the motor system by interfering with automatic motor control process that would ‘normally’ regulate the movement,’ and therefore by focusing on the movement outcome (i.e., external) allows the ‘motor system to more naturally self-organize, unconstrained by the interference caused by conscious control attempts.’” 

From other research by Wulf in another article:

“Wulf et al. (2001) explained this benefit of an external focus of attention by postulating the ‘constrained action hypothesis’. According to this view, individuals who utilize an internal focus constrain or ‘freeze”’their motor system by consciously attempting to control it. This also seems to occur when individuals are not given attentional focus instructions (2). In contrast, an external focus promotes the use of more automatic control processes, thereby enhancing performance and learning (3,5).”

To me this suggests that the external cueing allows us to tap into reflexes, reactions and movements controlled by the autonomic nervous system. I think any athlete has experienced the situation where we think too much and our performance falters. We think very hard about the individual components of what we’re trying to do and the result is we don’t ski well, we don’t drive a golf ball well, we miss an Olympic lift. In contrast, we’ve been in that “zone” where things just happen.  We don’t think, we do. Everything is coordinated and we’re barely aware of what we’re doing. It seems that the external cues are the best way to get to our ideal way of moving.

Is there a place for internal cues?

So the research tells us that external cues are superior to internal cues. Does that mean we should do away with all internal cues? That issue has been discussed in an article by Bret Contreras titled What Types of Cues Should Trainers and Coaches Provide? and an article by Sam Lahey titled the Science and Applications of Coaching Cues. They’re both in agreement that internal cues are sometimes the best way to go when coaching. As often happens, the coaches in the field have some disagreement with researchers.

Contreras does a very good job in discussing his observations of when internal cues might be superior to external cues, particularly when it comes to getting an athlete or client to feel his or her glutes.  This is from his article:

“When I train beginner clients, it takes me considerable time to get their lumbpelvic-hip complex working ideally during squats, deadlifts, back extensions, and glute bridges. In my opinion, external cueing is not ideal for improving form in the most rapid manner possible. My belief is that internal cueing will get the individual to where you want them to be in a much more efficient manner.

This applies to preventing lumbar flexion in a deadlift, preventing valgus collapse in a squat, or preventing lumbar hyperextension and anterior pelvic tilt in a back extension or hip thrust.

1) Palpating different regions of their body to make them aware of the various parts involved and what those parts are doing,

3) Having them stop approximately 3/4 the way up on a hip thrust and practicing anterior and posterior pelvic tilt so they can understand how to prevent anterior tilt from occuring,

5) Being ‘hands-on’ during their performance and manually helping place their pelvis in proper position, manually setting the core in neutral, manually pushing the hips upward to ensure full ROM is reached, and poking the glutes to make sure they’re on and the hammies to make sure they’re not overly activated, and

I don’t believe that this heavily ‘internal’ approach can be improved-upon by a purely external cueing approach.”

I tend to agree with Contreras.  I’ve often found that I need to bring awareness to one piece of the overall movement puzzle (glutes are the best example). I want clients particularly aware of glute contraction at the very top of a squat, deadlift or kettlebell swing. Contracting the glutes tightly at the top of these movements is important for keeping the pelvis and lumbar spine in good, safe position and for getting the most “oomph” into the lift. Before I teach these exercises, I want the client to know what it feels like to squeeze their glutes. I simply want them to know what the glute contracting feels like. I don’t need them to move fast or lift heavy. In this case, an internal cue seems to be the best way to go. I’m not sure of a more effective cue than saying “Squeeze your butt as tight as possible,” when I want to make someone aware of their glutes.

(Though now that I think about it, “Squeeze a quarter between your butt cheeks as tight as possible” might actually be an external cue that would work very well.)

Contreras also cites the cues “chest up” and “knees out” during the squat as simple, effective and commonly used internal cues that often work well during the squat. Again, I agree with him that phrases like this are usually effective enough that we don’t necessarily need to construct similar type phrases with an external focus.

Finally, Contreras says that he typically uses more internal cues with beginners during the initial instruction period. As the athlete gains experience and expertise, he moves on to more external cues with the idea of getting maximum performance.  That process matches what I’ve seen and experienced with my own clients and athletes.

Thoughts

The task for coaches and trainers is to use language to express to an athlete how he or she should move. We may use a description that makes perfect sense to us, yet is completely confusing to the athlete. If that’s the case then we need to pick another description of that movement. Further, a description that’s crystal clear to one athlete may make no sense at all to another. From what the research says, using these external cues is probably the best way to get our athletes and clients to move the way we want them to. We may however need several different external cues to paint the best picture in the athlete’s head. If an internal cue works best then we should use it.

What I’ve learned from reading these articles is that:

  1. Less is more. Too much coaching confuses the athlete. Fewer/simpler cues are best.
  2. Directing the athlete’s mind outward will by-and-large get the best performance out of him or her.
  3. Some degree of internal cueing may be necessary from time to time. We don’t want to throw the baby out with all the internal cueing bathwater.

I think we coaches would do well to think of several ways of describing exercises. A good time to do this is during our own workouts. How many ways can we describe moving a barbell or kettlebell? What is important during a push-up and how can we verbalize those points? What are some external cues to describe good running technique?  Or weightlifting techniques?

This whole concept of cues is another example example of that the real target with exercise is from the neck up.  The brain is the real target here, not the muscles, joints or bones.

Size Matters Not: Part I

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I’m very grateful to Jamie Atlas of Bonza Bodies for giving me the opportunity to write a guest post for his blog. He runs one of the big group bootcamps at Red Rocks. He’s been featured in 5280 and has been voted one of the top trainers on Denver’s A-List. Jamie also contributes a fitness column to the Denver Post. So, he’s a fairly big-time presence in the Denver health & fitness scene. He’s also been very generous to me with his time and his sharing of information. So head over to his blog for my post titled Size Matters Not. A Case for Strength Part I.  Parts II and III will appear on my blog.

Worth Reading: What Makes a Great Personal Trainer? Recovery, Pronation, Bringing Up Your Weak Spots

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What makes a great trainer?

The Personal Training Development Center (PTDC) has a lot of useful, informative articles for personal trainers.  Are Personal Trainers Missing the Point is a recent piece with which I agree. The key observation is this:

“The ability to correctly coach exercises is slowly becoming a lost art in the training world, despite that it’s the most fundamental component of being a personal trainer/coach.”

The article advocates for trainers to teach the squat, deadlift, bench press, standing press and pull-up.  (I would ad the push-up to the list.) It’s also suggested that trainers learn to teach regressions and progressions of these exercises. These exercises are the essentials. They have been and still are the basic building blocks of effective exercise programs and they offer the most return on investment of a client’s training time. Read the article to learn three steps to becoming a better coach.

Running recovery

Alex Hutchinson writes for Runner’s World and the Running Times. He recently wrote an article called the Science of Recovery.  He briefly discusses six methods: antioxidants, jogging (as during a cool down), ice bath, massage, cryosauna and compression garments. Anyone who trains hard–runner or not–may find the article interesting.

Pronation

Pete Larson at Runblogger.com gives us Do You Pronate? A Shoe Fitting Tale. Here, he describes overhearing a conversation between a confused shoe store customer and the mis-informed employee who tries to educate her on pronation. Contrary to what many of us believe, pronation is not a dire evil problem to be avoided at all costs. Larson says it well:

 “The reality is that everybody pronates, and pronation is a completely normal movement… We might vary in how much we pronate, but asking someone if they pronate is like asking them if they breathe. I’d actually be much more concerned if the customer had revealed that no, she doesn’t pronate. At all. That would be worrisome.”

If you’re a runner then I highly suggest you learn about the realities of pronation.

Supplemental strength

I love strength training. I love all the subtleties and ins & outs of getting stronger. One area that I’m learning about is supplemental work (aka accessory work). This is weight training used to bring up one’s strength on other lifts (typically the squat, deadlift, bench press or standing press).  With supplemental work, we’re looking to find weak areas and make them stronger.
Dave Tate at EliteFTS is one of the foremost experts on all of this. Thus, his article Dave Tate’s Guide to Supplemental Strength is very much up my alley, and it should be up yours if you’re serious about getting stronger. He discusses several categories of exercises and how to incorporate them into a routine. Below, the term “builders” refers to exercises that build the power lifts (squat, bench press, deadlift):
  1. Always start with the builders. Do not start with the main lift.
    Examples: Floor press, box squat. Sets: 3-5. Reps: 3-5.
  2. Move to supplemental exercises — exercises that build the builders.
    Examples: 2-board press, safety-bar close-stance squat. Sets: 3. Reps: 5-8.
  3. Accessories — Either muscle-based (for size) or movement-based (for strength). Use supersets and tri-sets, as needed.
    Examples: DB presses, biceps curls. Sets: 3. Reps: 10-20.
  4. Rehab/Pre-hab — Whatever you need, nothing more or less. Examples:
    External rotation, face pulls. Sets: 2-3. Reps: 20-30.
This is just a little bit of the article. It’s very detailed. There may not be much here for recreational lifters but for coaches and those of us who have gotten a little deeper into our lifting, it’s a superb article.

4/5/14 Workout

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Oh joyous day! I did several sets of back squats! I love me some squats and it felt like a big breath of fresh air doing them. First time for barbell squats of any kind since the knee went out. I got down to a fairly respectable depth (just below parallel.) The knee felt pretty good. There was some tightness/bruised-type feeling on the outside of the knee but only at the deepest depth. I followed that with deadlifts and some other fun stuff. Here’s what it looked like:

  • Squats: 95 lbs. x 5 reps – 115 lbs. x 5 reps – 135 lbs. x 5 reps, 5 reps, 10 reps
    • Life affirming!
    • Felt very solid.
  • Deadlift: 155 lbs. x 3 – 205 lbs. x 3 – 225 lbs. x 3 – 2625 lbs. x 3 – 290 lbs x 3 reps
  • 1-arm kettlebell clean & press: 16 kg x 10 reps each arm – 20 kg x 10 reps each arm
  • Ab wheel roll out: 7 reps x 3 sets

I followed this workout with intervals on the bike: 1 minute on/1 minute off x 5 sets followed by several minutes easy pedaling, then I repeated it.

Relatively Good ACL News & 4/3/14 Workout

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ACL News

I saw a non-surgical orthopedist yesterday and he walked me through my MRI. It wasn’t the worst news in the world. There were no bad surprises. I do have a grade III sprain aka a fully torn ACL. I have a grade II sprain of my MCL. No surprises there. The good news is my minisci are intact and undamaged. That’s great news! There’s also no bone damage. I’m really happy about both of these things. Surgery will be required but this injury could’ve been quite a bit worse.

I told him about my activities (staying as active and mobile as possible so long as I’m not in pain) and he approved. He said most people who get this type of injury sit down, prop up their leg, and move as little as possible. The muscles whither and their movement suffers. They go into surgery in bad shape and they come out worse. Recovery takes much longer under these circumstances.

This is no good. I’ll meet both meet with a surgeon and start physical therapy in two weeks. Some people have expressed exasperation and frustration at the pace of this process. I’m not one of them. I’m not the only guy wandering around Denver with an injury and this isn’t life threatening. I’m grateful that I have insurance, I don’t have some awful, exotic injury or illness and I’ve got people around me who can help. Anyway, the doc said surgeons typically wait on the surgery for two reasons: 1) We want to reduce swelling as much as possible and 2) We want to restore as much range of motion as possible. This stuff takes time and there’s no way around it.

4/4/14 Workout

  • Good morning: 135 lbs x 6 reps – 145 lbs x 6 reps – 155 lbs. x 6 reps x 3 sets
  • Super set 1
    • pull-ups x 4 reps
    • push-ups x 4 reps
    • goblet squat x 4 reps: I worked up from 16 kg to 20 kg to 24 kg
    • I accumulated 74 reps on pull-ups/push-ups but I didn’t time it.
    • My squat depth is getting better and I’m very happy about that. My knee is tolerating the movement well.
  • Super set 2
    • windmill: 16 kg x 5 x 2 sets – 20 kg x 5 – 14 kg x 5; What’s the windmill? Watch the video.
    • stability ball leg curl: 13 reps x 4 sets

    All’s well. Might get in a bike ride today.