Category Archives for "Functional Fitness"

Your Questions Answered – The Barbell Life 336

You’ve heard me say this before – but I LOVE these podcasts.

We get to listener questions today on a variety of subject from fixing sticking points in the deadlift to the challenges of coaching high school to squat technique… and even someone asking advice about powerlifting in their 70s!

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ACADEMIC CONCEPTS MEET REAL-WORLD APPLICATION.

Learn the High-Level Muscle Science, Physics, and Biomechanics Principles to Give Your Athletes the Fastest and Safest Progress Possible

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LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • Deadlift sticking points
  • Active recovery days
  • In-season programming
  • Leaning forward in the squat
  • Lifting into your 70s?
  • and more…

Understanding Power to Individualize Programming

The word power is thrown around a lot in the strength and conditioning world, but unfortunately most coaches and athletes aren’t fully aware of what power truly is.

I am talking about the real definition of power as defined by biomechanics. Today I am going to explain this definition in as simple terms as possible, and then I will give you some ideas regarding application. The best part of today’s discussion is once you understand this biomechanical equation, application is only limited by your imagination.

Cliches

In sports, coaches and athletes are always talking about working hard. You will constantly hear phrases like:

  • “out work”
  • “do work”
  • “hard work”
  • “work hard”

Those are all nice phrases, but what do they mean? I am glad you asked because I am going to tell you.

You might be wondering why I am talking about work when I said that we are going to talk about power. If you stick with me, I will explain. You can’t have power without work because at the end of the day power is performing a large amount of work in a short amount of time. So let’s break it down!

Work

Work is defined as force x distance. Most of us already know that force is mass x acceleration. Now my goal is not to show you my skills in biomechanics. My goal is to help all of you understand the complexities of power in the simplest of terms. Therefore force in its simplest of terms is moving a mass. How do I know force is referring to displacement or moving positions? I know this because acceleration is a change in velocity, and the time it took to make that change. With work we’re referring to the distance that this force occurred.

When a strength and conditioning coach or biomechanist refers to power, they’re talking about doing work as quickly as possible. Power explained even more simply can be stated Power = Force x Velocity. We will come back to this shortly.

Power pretty much explains all things in sport that bring the crowd to their feet: hitting a homerun, sprinting at high speeds (foot striking the ground as the end point of the moment of inertia from the body’s center of gravity), a tackle in football, or a massive leap in the sky for a rim-shattering dunk.

Laws

Almost every athletic feat is going to revolve around one of Newton’s three laws of motion. Let’s take a look:

Newton’s First Law (Law of Inertia) – Newton’s First Law of inertia states that objects tend to resist changes in their state of motion. An object in motion will tend to stay in motion and an object at rest will tend to stay at rest unless acted upon by a force.

Newton’s Second Law of Motion (Law of Acceleration) – “The velocity of an object changes when it is subjected to an external force. The law defines a force to be equal to change in momentum (mass times velocity) per change in time.” Newton’s second law of motion explains how accelerations occur. (McGinnis, 2013). The acceleration (tendency of an object to change speed or direction) an object experiences is proportional to the size of the force and inversely proportional to the object’s mass (F = ma). Therefore, a greater force will cause a faster acceleration, and a heavier mass will create a slower acceleration.

Newton’s Third Law of Motion (Law of Reaction) – This one states for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore when an athlete’s foot strikes the ground during a sprint causing ground reaction forces between the foot and the friction encountered on the ground, the athlete is propelled in the opposite direction of the foot. The foot strike is creating force downward and backwards, and the ground with the help of friction creates a force upwards and forwards allowing the athlete to sprint down the field or track at an acceleration proportional to the force applied to the ground.

The one common trait amongst the three laws is force. Therefore force needs to be a consideration in all solid strength and conditioning programs. However, force can’t be the only consideration as velocity plays a massive role in power. If you want to improve an athlete’s sprinting speed, there are multiple concerns with none as important as the velocity the foot is traveling at the instant it strikes the ground. Does that mean coaches should only train velocity aka speed work? It depends, but probably not.

JUST LAUNCHED: THE POWER OF THE CLEAN

Travis Mash's guide to the mighty clean... the most valuable lift for Strength and Conditioning Coaches

Learn to understand the clean on a deep level so you can easily and confidently correct movement flaws, assess athletes, write programs, and coach them to athletic success.

Speed

If you desire to increase the sprint speed of an athlete, there are multiple factors that need to be considered:

  • Relative Strength – this has to be a major concern since that’s the main mass that an athlete works with during most athletic events that involve sprinting, jumping, and change of direction.
  • Absolute Strength – this is especially true up until a solid base of strength is developed with most sources stating 1.7 to 2 times bodyweight in the king of all strength lifts, the back squat. However this isn’t equivocal as there are many conflicting pieces of research out there with varying standards all over the place. I will talk more about this one a bit later.
  • Sprint Mechanics- I want to say right away that I love sprint specialist coaches. One of my favorite coaches in the world is Coach William Bradley. If you don’t know him, that’s your loss. He’s a magician with the 40-yard dash.
  • Mobility/ROM – this is where I believe a lot of arguments center without people knowing. The body has to be able to move throughout complete ranges of motion without restriction. One easy example is the effortless elevation of the femur placing the foot at a peak height before being driven into the ground will provide for maximal potential energy which is equal to mass x gravity x height (hint I am talking about the height).
  • Optimal Neural Adaptations – I am really talking about the neuromuscular system, and the relationship between the agonist and antagonist (when one is contracting, the other is relaxing). This comes with practice and the proper stimulus in training.
  • Power Production – we’ve already talked about this one a bit, and I will touch on this one a bit more later in this article.
  • Tendon Stiffness – Strain Energy is Another type of potential energy is also used in sport. Strain energy is energy due to the deformation of an object. This comes with proper strength training, plyometrics, bounding, and other drills on the track.

There are a few coaches out there taking relative strength to all new levels. Unilateral squats, pullups, pushups, and unilateral hinges are all a part of the equation. It isn’t just pullups. How stable is your leg when the foot strikes the ground? These are all considerations.

Absolute strength is where there are a lot of variables that come into play. When I talk about absolute strength in regards to squat strength, I am talking about a full range of motion. Yes, I agree that partial ranges of motion are great for power development. However only when joints are taken through a full range of motion is synovial fluid released in the joint providing nourishment and lubrication. Not to mention, if I train an athlete like a powerlifter, that means I am teaching them to bottom out at right below parallel. That would be me purposely shortening the ROM of a sports athlete just to get them stronger. This doesn’t make sense in the world of athletics.

Sprint Mechanics should probably have been discussed first on this list. If you want to get good at a certain activity, you need to do that activity. The same goes for sprinting. This leads me to my belief on “how strong is too strong.” When you get so strong that the volume required to get any stronger takes longer than you have set aside for strength training, then you can start to slow that process. If not, strength training will start to take away from other categories that need to maintain their state of equilibrium. It’s the athlete’s version of homeostasis. All categories related to faster sprinting times need to improve in relation to one another with the priority remaining sprint mechanics. I hope this makes sense.

I already discussed range of motion, but the deal is that strength can’t come at the cost of range of motion. When that starts, you are now a powerlifter. An athlete has to be able to travel through space within all the planes of motion. For that to happen the body needs to maintain a complete range of motion. Kinesthetic awareness and proprioception rely on the athlete’s ability to flow through space unrestricted. To be clear I am not referring to hypermobility, but rather I am referring to optimal mobility.

Optimal neural adaptations will take place within the neuromuscular system with proper sprinting mechanics as well as using movements in training that encourage this agonist/antagonist relationship. Weightlifting is the perfect example if you think about it. The body produces a massive force, experiences complete relaxation from antagonist allowing for maximal acceleration during the change of direction aspects of the pull under aka third pull phases and drive under phases of the jerk. Just like in sprinting the best weightlifters are not just the athletes that can produce the most force, but rather they are the athletes that have systems effectively inhibiting those antagonists during those crucial phases. Specificity relates to the style of training as much or more as the specificity of the movement.

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Power Production is something that we discussed earlier on, and was the lead in to the entire argument. Once an athlete realizes those amounts of absolute strength where volume requirements exceed that of more important aspects, velocity based training should become the primary component in the weight room. I recommend developing a complete force-velocity curve with the movements that you intend on using in the weight room. I recommend movements such as bilateral back squats, unilateral squats, deadlifts, trap bar deadlifts, push press, and rows. Once you define the quality of speed/velocity that you are deficient, that becomes the focus of one’s strength training. However at this point you can call it speed-strength training. This will be a lot less taxing on the body, and will yield big dividends with speed.

Tendon stiffness is where plenty of athletes still have room for improvement that could lead to sprint personal records. This form of potential energy is related to tendon stiffness and the amount of deformation of the tendon. Tendon stiffness can be improved with plyometric training and complete range of motion training at the ankle and knee especially. There’s a lot of great work out there right now. You can check out plenty of new work out there on tendon stiffness. Some of the guys creating all-time vertical leaps have tapped into this quality.

So there it is guys. This is my way of coaching athletic performance. I don’t believe that you can be dogmatic toward any one component. I believe the ones that are trying that are the ones that are inefficient in one or more categories. Check out @spikesonly on Twitter for some real information in the sprinting world. I promise you will thank me. Now can we all go back to creating holistic workouts that develop well-rounded awesome athletes?

McGinnis, Peter M.. Biomechanics of Sport and Exercise . Human Kinetics, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Hypertrophy Research with Dr. Alex Koch – The Barbell Life 334

Gaining muscle seems like it should be simple.

In one sense, it is. Eat right. Lift heavy. Repeat.

But in another sense, building the MAXIMUM amount of muscle possible in the MINIMUM amount of time? That’s an art and a science.

Well, my good friend Dr. Alex Koch joins us yet again on today’s podcast to share the latest science on muscle building and performance. This is one everyone will enjoy!

A World Class Coach's Guide to Building Muscle

Hypertrophy for Strength, Performance, and Aesthetics.

World champion and world-class coach Travis Mash has combined the latest research with his decades of practical experience to bring you an amazing resource on muscle hypertrophy.

LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • Following Arnold’s bodybuilding program as a teen (and how it was HORRIBLE for him)
  • How muscle science has changed recently
  • Finding the right way to build muscle for the individual
  • Tempo training, fiber types, and tendon health
  • Science proves lifting light to failure is just as good as going heavy?
  • and more…

Neurology and Coaching with Evan Lewis – The Barbell Life 331

Our bodies are amazing.

The more we progress in terms of science, the more we realize the complex connections between neurology, muscles, and performance.

And our podcast guest today, Evan Lewis, is on the cutting edge of these developments – using his knowledge to help rehabilitate athletes in pain and to help athletes perform at their peak.

There are also some great nuggets of wisdom for coaches in this one. I was blown away by Evan!

STRENGTH UNIVERSITY VIDEO CURRICULUM

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It's finally here... Learn about technique, programming, assessment, and coaching from a master. For strength coaches and for athletes, these 53 videos (7 hours and 56 minutes of footage) will prepare you to understand the main lifts for maximum performance and safety. Get ready to learn...

LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • Why young coaches get fired up… and then do the WRONG thing for their athletes
  • Amazing ways of finding out what areas are not neurologically firing
  • How CrossFit has contributed to the problem
  • Getting rid of the “threat response” from the nervous system
  • Did Michael Jordan debunk the Functional Movement Screen?
  • and more…

Fixing Athlete Posture

First, let me say that I am enjoying Human Movement and Biomechanics class that I am taking this semester at Lenoir-Rhyne University with Dr. Keith Leiting.

After taking a brief look at compression, tension, shear, and torsion forces and their effects on the body, we dove straight into assessment. Our first look at assessment was postural alignment. I have to admit that working with my chiropractor extraordinaire, Dr. Lawrence Gray, helped to prepare me for this section of biomechanics. However, this class has taken me even deeper, which I am applying to my athletes as we speak.

Posture

Here’s what I have noticed even with some of my top weightlifters. The majority of college students demonstrate varying levels of upper cross syndrome, which is what you see with people who have their heads forward, rounded shoulders, concave chests, and a rounded back. Now to be clear, my athletes have not become the Hunch Back of Notre Dame yet, but they are on their way.

I decided to address these issues now for two reasons: to protect the future of their postural health and to make them better weightlifters. You are also going to help avoid unnecessary injury by addressing each athlete’s individual postural alignment.

For example, if an athlete has a rounded thoracic spine with their shoulders rounded and most likely internal rotation of the humerus, they are going to have a tough time getting the bar overhead in an optimal position. If they can get the bar overhead, it’s most likely going to cause injury somewhere down the road. When the scapula elevates and rotates forwards, the acromion process and coracoid process (parts of the scapula that muscle tendons are connected to) roll forward and down.

Normally there is lots of space for the rotator cuff tendons to move around (subscapularis, supraspinatus, and to the posterior the infraspinatus) freely – at least that’s the way God designed us. There are also bursae sacs that lend help with lubrication and cushioning, labrums that line the actual rim of the glenoid cavity, and a synovial membrane that lines the joint capsule for added lubrication and cushioning. When the scapulae wing and rotate, the space for the tendons, bursae, labrum, synovial membranes, and muscles becomes limited. When space becomes limited, friction is sure to take place. With friction, you can guarantee that inflammation and tears are soon to follow.

In Athletes

In the sport of weightlifting, when the scapula deviates from its intended resting place, movement is going to be impaired. In the sport of weightlifting, optimal movement is absolutely required. Powerlifters can get away with bad posture for a bit longer, but they shouldn’t. When I was a powerlifter at the highest of levels, 90% of my fellow athletes had experienced shoulder surgery. The rest were on their way, and the sad part is they could easily avoid this injury by reading this article and applying the information.

I put some of my athletes through a quick biomechanical assessment, and I found the following four malalignments frighteningly common. I am going to explain each of them, tell you how to easily assess, and what to do about each.

Kyphosis

Normally it is accompanied by forward head syndrome and internal rotation of the humerus. It’s sometimes called upper cross syndrome because it has a cross-section of weak muscles that are lengthened and a section that is tight from being shortened and compressed. The tight muscles include the pecs, subscapularis, and muscles of the thoracic spine. The weak (lengthened) muscles include rhomboids, lower/mid trapezius, and weak external rotators.

How to assess: look for over development of the thoracic curve, which is normally accompanied by excessive lumbar curving and either no curve of the cervical spine or excessive curve due to the head forward and the athlete excessively extending to see in front of them.

Exercise to strengthen the weakened scapula while encouraging improved posture:

  • Prone Y Rotations

Soft tissue work:

  • Peanut Drive the Bus
  • Foam roll the thoracic spine with scapula protracted

Exercises to strengthen weak muscles:

  • Band Pull-a-parts and external rotation for the rhomboids and external rotators
  • Blackburns for the lower/mid trapezius
  • Face Pulls with external rotation

Exercises to lengthen tight muscles:

  • Band Distractions
  • Pitcher stretch

Here’s a video that will explain each exercise:

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Forward Head Syndrome

Normally this comes with kyphosis, but it can exist without being a hunchback. It’s easy to assess as well. You will want to have your athlete turn to the side, so you can view them in the frontal plane (aka from the side). You should be able to hang up a plumb line that perfectly runs though the ears, ac joint, greater trochanter, mid-knee, and the lateral malleolus. If the ears are in front of the ac joint, you have some degree of forward head syndrome. You might not have full-blown kyphosis, but you can rest assured that it’s coming as well.

Weak muscles include:

  • Deep cervical neck flexors
  • Deep cervical neck extensors
  • Rhomboids
  • Mid and lower traps

Tight/Shortened Muscles:

  • Sub occipital Muscles
  • SCM (sternocleidomastoid)
  • Levator Scapula
  • Upper Traps
  • Pecs

Manual work:

  • Levator Scapula lacrosse ball
  • SCM

Strengthen and stretch

  • Wall exercise for forward head syndrome Sub-occipital muscle stretch w deep inner 3 minute hold neck extensor strengthen
  • Band Pull-a-parts
  • Angels against wall

Humerus Internal Rotation

This one is common amongst not only my college athletes but also with my powerlifting brethren. Bench pressing is all internal rotation. If you focus on bench pressing without any regard for external rotators, you can be assured that your humerus will start to be frozen with internal rotation. You can also rest assured that shoulder surgery is inevitable unless you address the issue. This one is easy to assess.

Assessment: simply look at the athlete’s hands and see if they are neutral (palm facing in to the body or facing towards the posterior of the athlete (thumbs turn in). If the palms are facing behind an athlete, that athlete has internal rotation.

Tight muscles:

  • Subscapularis
  • Lats
  • Pecs

Soft Tissue Work:

  • Lacrosse Ball pecs and subscap
  • Band work distractions

Stretches:

  • Baseball pitch stretch against wall (arm externally rotate)
  • Pec minor against rack w unilateral wall slides
  • Wall Slides

Strengthen:

  • Pull-a-parts w external rotation
  • Prone Y’s on Bench
  • Lying DB External Rotation
  • Wall slide

Anterior Pelvic Tilt

This is very common from the sitting that is so common in society right now. It’s easy to spot because it looks like the person is sticking out their butt and stomach on purpose. However lower cross syndrome is actually the culprit.

Weak muscles:

  • Lower lumbar extensors
  • Abdominals

Tight muscles:

  • Hamstrings
  • Psoas
  • Illiacus
  • Rectus Femoris

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Stretches:

  • Half Kneeling lunge w lower leg elevate

Exercises to strengthen:

  • Planks
  • Curl Ups
  • Unilateral RDLs

Soft Tissue:

  • Foam Roll lumbar
  • Lacrosse ball or DB Psoas

I hope these exercises help to correct your athletes’ postural alignments. I am using them right now with my guys, and we are noticing daily changes in the positive. Remember, you won’t just be making them better athletes. You will also be affecting their long-term health and wellness. Don’t forget that is your job as well. Their parents trust you for that very thing. Let me know in the comments if you would like any other videos on correcting exercises.

Your Questions Answered – The Barbell Life 327

I know I always say it – but that’s because it’s true.

I LOVE these podcasts where we answer listener questions.

And we have some great ones today on all areas from nutrition to programming to coaching insight to dealing with aches and pains.

JUST LAUNCHED: THE POWER OF THE CLEAN

Travis Mash's guide to the mighty clean... the most valuable lift for Strength and Conditioning Coaches

Learn to understand the clean on a deep level so you can easily and confidently correct movement flaws, assess athletes, write programs, and coach them to athletic success.

LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • Improving a power clean
  • Dealing with back pain
  • Best workout split for busy people
  • Getting strong fast
  • Balancing all the demands of CrossFit
  • and more…
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