Static Stretching?

“Stretching isn’t about today’s workout, it’s about preventing an injury six months from now.” – Mike Boyle

A lot of strength coaches have removed static stretching from their program after some of the research that came out many years back that showed a loss of power (though it was minimal) after static stretching. The research is far from convincing.
Some coaches have removed stretching from their programs after some of the research that came out years back showing the static stretching resulted in a short term loss of power, even though the loss was minimal and the research was far from convincing.

We on the other hand stretch every time we come into the weight room. We address tissue quality first via foam rolling then address tissue length via stretching. We follow this sequence with a dynamic warm up and feel that most all if not all the power that was lost is probably now back to normal levels.

Whether or not we actually lose power in the short term if we follow the stretching with a dynamic warm up is up for debate. What’s not up for debate is that I’d take the healthier athlete with potentially slightly less power over the minimally more powerful but potentially injured athlete every single time.

Top Left: Quadruped Adductor Rock
Top Right: Spider-Man
Bottom Left: 90/90 Hip External/Internal Rotation from Dr. Andreo Spina
Bottom Right: 1/2 Kneel Hip Flexor

Diaphragmatic Breathing is Important!

“Your diaphragm is responsible for your breathing, your posture and for stabilization in performance.” Brett Jones

Poor breathing patterns can lead to dysfunction across the entire body. And because of that, almost without fail, the best corrective exercise is teaching people how to breathe properly.

Breathing

Breathing has a huge neurological influence and is considered our window between the sympathetic (fight or flight) and para-sympathetic (rest and digest) of the nervous system. Most people that are in pain are stuck in a sympathetic state, and getting them into a more para-sympathetic state can do a lot in eliminating pain.

“Breathing is the number one corrective for shoulder mobility.” Brett Jones

From a mechanical standpoint, diaphragmatic breathing can allow for better positioning of the ribcage and pelvis, placing people in a more stable and aligned position, giving you a better base to work off. Diaphragmatic breathing can quickly improve shoulder mobility, hip mobility, help loosen up tight hip flexors, tone down an over-active upper trap and/or activate an under-active lower trap, amongst other issues.

Step One When Fixing the Squat

Anyone who has worked with athletes knows that it is not uncommon to see the inability to simply bodyweight squat to parallel with proper form. We could argue over what the issue is. Lack of ankle mobility? Lack of hip mobility? Lack of core stability? Could be one, all, or a combination of the three.

The first, best and easiest fix? Raise the heels. Raising the heels gives you more ankle mobility. Raising the heels causes an anterior weight shift which makes it easier to sit back when you squat.

PS: Powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters have been wearing shoes with an elevated heel for a long, long time. There is no actual research that shows that elevating the heels hurts the knees.

PPS: If someone can’t perform a bodyweight squat properly, loading them with a barbell isn’t all that smart and you could seriously hurt someone. It’s actually pretty irresponsible.

Weekly Articles & Podcasts

Another week, another handful of both articles and podcasts from the last week in the world of strength and conditioning.

Articles

Anti-Extension Core Progression

Professional Development: Process vs. Outcome by Eric Cressey

A Letter to My Younger Self by Michael Boyle

Colts Trade Bench Presses for Turkish Get Ups

5 Updates to My In-Season Training by Mike Robertson

The Lats are the Glutes of the Upper Body by Dean Somerset

Podcasts

The Impact Show with Eric Cressey

The Impact Show with Jon Goodman

Physical Preparation Show with Josh BohnotalPhysical Preparation Show with Josh Bohnotal

Strength Coach Podcast #190

Iron Game Chalk Talk with Nick Grantham

Enjoy!

Anti-Extension Progression

Looking for a core that not only looks good but functions well, whether your a regular Joe or an athlete? Of course you are, because we all are.

What’s the most important function of the core? I would argue it’s the ability of the anterior core to prevent extension of the lumbar spine. It’s crucial for both everyday life, sport performance, and just feeling strong and healthy. How do you train anti-extension? Through this safe an effective progression that will not only allow you to improve your core strength but keep you from wrecking havoc on your back.

1. Front Plank: Everyone should be able to perform a perfect front plank for 30-45 seconds. What’s perfect? Your body should be a straight line, looking like you are standing. Core, glutes and quads tight.

2. Push Up Taps: Now with the body in a push up position, tap one hand to the opposite shoulder in a slow and controlled manner without the hips/lumbar spine moving. We have now added a small amount of anti-rotation to our anti-extension exercise, making it more difficult. Remember, the slower the better.

3. Ball Rollout: Begin tall with the glutes and core tight with your hands on the ball. With your toes digging into the ground, roll your entire body forward keeping a perfectly straight line from your knees to your shoulders. The key is not allowing any rounding of that lower back as you roll outward.

4. Body Saw: The body saw is very similar to the ball rollout. In a perfect plank position, acting just like a saw, use the shoulder joint to move your body forward and backward. The body saw is essentially a front plank with motion. Again, no rounding of that low back.

5. Slide Board Push Up: Without a doubt the most difficult progression. The combination of anti-extension, shoulder stability, and a rotary component due to the hand being in an asymmetrical position, makes this an extremely challenging and humbling exercise. In that same perfect front plank, reach one arm overhead while keeping the core engaged and resisting extension. Again, no rounding of the lower back.

Weekly Articles and Podcasts

Its Saturday, so that means another round of articles and podcasts from the last week in the world of strength and conditioning.

Articles

Contraindicated Exercises: Upright Row

Funky Shoulders?

This is 40 by Bret Contreras

You’re a Coach, You’re Busy, Lets Adapt by Tony Gentilcore

10 Tips for Making Mobility Work with Your Schedule by Eric Cressey

Recap of the 2016 Perform Better Summit by Harold Gibbons

Patience Teaches More Than Enthusiasm by Dean Somerset

Podcasts

Physical Preparation Podcast with Chris Merritt

The FitCast with Michael Mullin

Historic Performance Podcast with Matthew Ibrahim

Historic Performance Podcast with Bryan Mann

The Impact Podcast with Rob Taylor

Power Circle Podcast with Chris Hays

Enjoy!

Funky Shoulders?

Are your shoulders jacked up a little bit from spending too much time sitting in class or at your desk in the office or even because you spend too much time in the car behind the wheel?

A simple fix or at least a great place to start would be to try to implement some floor slides. Floor slides add a lot of bang for your buck from both a mobility and stability standpoint.

A few key benefits;

  • stretching the pecs and the internal rotators of the shoulder
  • activating the lower trap and the external rotators of the shoulder
  • decreases the use of the upper trap which is overactive in most people

You might also be shocked with how difficult it is for you to get into this position, especially if your shoulders are really jacked up. You may also find that one shoulder moves better then the other which is something to take note of.

A couple keys to the floor slide;

  • try to keep both the arms and the wrists in contact with the floor/ground the entire time
  • focus on retracting and depressing the scapulae
  • while you are actively moving the arms overhead, continue to focus on keeping both the arms and wrists in contact with the floor/ground the entire time
  • if it hurts, don’t do it

Generally speaking, 1-2 sets of 8-12 reps during your warm up before training or part of a movement maintenance program away from your daily strength training will do the trick.

Contraindicated Exercises: Upright Row

In the last year I have had the opportunity to take over the strength and conditioning efforts with the volleyball team at the University of New Hampshire. As a result I have had to do a lot more research and gain more understanding of the shoulder in order to maintain and improve the health of our team.

Thankfully there are always people in our industry that put out phenomenal information for free on various topics, and the shoulder is no different. Surprising to no one, I turned to Eric Cressey (as well as others) and his website, which has been a lifesaver in gaining more knowledge and gaining a better understanding of the shoulder.

upright row

One thing kept coming up when reading the work of all these incredibly smart people: Upright Rows are a terrible idea, and not just for overhead athletes but basically for almost everyone. Even though the exercise has been popularized by bodybuilders for developing the muscles of the shoulder girdle and maybe more specifically the traps, it is a very bad choice for most people, especially overhead athletes.

Don’t want to hear it from me? How about from Eric Cressey?

“I’ll be blunt; in my experience, of all the potentially harmful exercises for the shoulder girdle, this one (upright row) warrants the most apprehension.” Eric Cressey
So why is the upright row contraindicated?
The upright row places the glenohumeral (GH) joint into abduction and internal rotation. Abduction and internal rotation is the exact position that creates impingement of the rotator cuff and subacromial bursa. Additionally, in many cases, people will perform the upright row by elevating the scapulae and protracting their head has they raise the bar or the dumbbells.
There aren’t a ton of good things going on with the upright row. Most of these things that are undesirable when training most anyone, especially an overhead athlete. I would argue that no one should be performing the exercise, but think it’s downright careless to have an overhead athlete perform the exercise.
What should you do instead of upright rows to develop the shoulders?

Again, look to the work of Eric Cressey. Landmine presses are phenomenal for overhead athletes. Boring but extremely beneficial would be the classic push up, something that more people struggle with then you would intitially think. And last but not least, my favorite, the bottoms up KB overhead press. All these exercises should be staples in a strength program for an overhead athlete, making up the majority of their pressing movements.

Do no harm.jpg

Moral of the story, understand what you are doing and why you are doing it. Just because an exercise has been around for a while and is a staple in many strength programs doesn’t mean it is beneficial and should be included in any strength program.

Remember the number one rule of strength and conditioning, do no harm. Eliminate the bad, focus on the good.

Weekly Articles and Podcasts

Here are a handful of both articles and podcasts from the world of strength and conditioning over the last week.

Articles

Cont. Ed. on the Cheap

C-O-A-C-H

8 Random Training Thoughts

5 Steps to Building Better Athletes by Mike Robertson

10 Steps for Making Mobility Work for Your Schedule by Eric Cressey

Hacking the Hip Hinge by Ryan Faer

15 Lessons I Wished I Learned Sooner by Martin Rooney

29 Lessons on Hockey Development by Kevin Neeld

How to Get the Benefits of Depth Jumps Without Jumping by Craig Marker

Podcasts

The Movement Fix with Eric Cressey

Strength Coach Podcast #189

The FitCast with Coach Dos

Physical Preparation Podcast with Gary Schofield

MSCC Panel with Greg Werner

CVASP Podcast with Megan Young

Enjoy!

 

8 Random Training Thoughts

Once a month I try to put something out with some random thoughts that have been going through my head, which are usually a result of some podcasts I have been listening to or a book that I have been reading. Here is the latest edition with 8 thoughts to sink your teeth into.

1. Coaching, whether you are a strength coach or a sport team coach, comes down to three things: communication, trust and respect. If you as a coach do a great job of communicating with the athletes that you work with, in a respectful manner, you will earn their trust. When you earn their trust they will run through a wall for you – and that’s a good thing!

2. A broken athlete can’t win a team games. Our number one goal should be to do everything we can to keep each and every single athlete healthy, yet I see so much training online that doesn’t exactly fit that template. Everyone moves differently, has different limitations and as a result should have slightly different variations of the same program. Be willing to adapt the strength program to the needs of the athlete and/or sport you are working with.

3. Working off the previous thought, the best way to get rid of pain during a certain exercise is to eliminate the exercise. Don’t over-complicate things. If it hurts, just stop doing it. Its really that simple.

4. It’s not hard to be cutting edge, you just have to be willing to drop your ego and learn from other people and then implement some of their thoughts to improve your existing program. I don’t care who you are there are a ton of coaches out there that can teach something. The minute you think you can’t learn from another coach or have just decided that you no longer feel the need to learn more, you’ll slowly start to lose in this industry. Whether you like it or not, there is no such thing as standing still in this field, you are either getting better or others are passing you by.

5. Piggybacking off the previous thought, it is extremely apparent that many people, strength coaches included, are afraid of change even though they say they aren’t. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo – it’s the only way the profession or the world in general has ever moved forward. You are probably going to ruffle some feathers of people that are either unwilling to change or are afraid of change, but in the long run if you feel strongly that something is the right thing to do you need to do it. Doing the right thing is always the right thing.

6. “When you force an athlete to perform an exercise their joints are capable of doing, don’t be surprised when they get hurt.” – Dr. Andreo Spina. I feel like everyone knows and understands this. On the other hand, I feel like not everyone follows this.

7. Recently Eric Cressey recorded a podcast and had some thoughts about contraindicated exercises for athletes. He thoughts were something along these lines…”Just because an exercise doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t mean it isn’t causing harm for that particular athlete.” No matter what someone tells you, throwing a baseball, hitting a volleyball or performing the skating stide a ton of times over the course of many years is not good for your body. As a result, not all exercises, even if they are pain free, are good for those joints/the body depending on the sport or athlete that you are working with. Be proactive with your program and anticipate what potential problems athletes could have, then program accordingly.

8. “The body doesn’t differentiate between stressors.” Buddy Morris. This same thought process is also something that Charlie Weingroff has written about recently in an article that he had written for his personal website. For a long while I have thought this same thing but didn’t have any ammunition to back up my feelings. I don’t think the body knows the difference between a bench press or an incline bench press, a back squat or a front squat, a pull up or a chin up. What the body does know is the stress that you have placed on it. Chase the adaptation you are after. If you can get the same adaptation with less weight or less overall stress on the body, why wouldn’t you?