Andrew’s Blog

Props from one of my PGA clients, Jason Dufner Posted on January 22, 2015, 0 Comments

http://www.asapsports.com/show_interview.php?id=105735

"I talked to a pretty specialized guy in Atlanta, his name is Andrew Johnston, a friend of mine had had some chronic back issues and I got with Andrew in Atlanta and Andrew's kind of a holistic guy, he does the whole thing, diet, PT, working out, he does the holistic approach to your health.
"I kind of specified that I was interested in what he had to offer as far as eating better and the diet.  My friend Lane Savoy had great results with him changing his diet.  With his back he had some really chronic back issues, so I gave it a go and feeling pretty good about it." --Jason Dufner

 

http://www.eyeonthetour.com/?p=17970

The mad scientist that put all of this together is actually a young personal trainer in Atlanta who does something called Triumph Training and had worked with a friend of Dufner’s.

 

http://espn.go.com/golf/story/_/id/12216602/jason-dufner-turns-corner-health-issues-humana-challenge-golf

...but consultation with Dr. Andrew Johnston in Atlanta led to an approach to reduce inflammation.

and for the record, I'm not a doctor nor do I play one on t.v.

Question from a PGA Client Posted on August 18, 2014, 0 Comments

Question:

My back feels great as evidenced by how I'm playing, thanks to you and your program.  But it's funny that I'm aware of tightness in my back after walking to the next hole and then being stationary for a while.  I've also noticed the same phenomenon among the students I teach.  Why is that?

 

Answer:

Walking takes specific muscles through a shortened range of motion. Couple that with dehydration on any level, and the importance of stretching pre, post, and DURING a round will be paramount. Any faulty length/tension relationships will be more pronounced over time/increasing levels of fatigue as the body gravitates toward a position of strength. Core deficiencies/dysfunction will contribute, too, of course. Both of these will likely take some time to resolve, especially as:

--the movement pattern of gait (walking) is much more deeply ingrained into the neuromuscular system than that of swinging a golf club/putting (unless you're Tiger Woods, perhaps).
--athletes tend to be "lazy" and present with more postural aberrations when doing something "simple" like walking than when performing a complex maneuver.

Hydrate.
Stretch.
Strengthen.

Do such simple concepts work?

The proof is in the putting...



Questions about muscle spasm and "weak knees" Posted on August 07, 2014, 0 Comments

Question:

Any suggestions for back spasms and weak knees?

--L. Brown

Answer:

Back spasms are quite often a sign of instability and the muscles are attempting to splint the area to keep movement from being excessive (and, thus, causing more wear/tear).  I would recommend a thorough assessment by a qualified practitioner.  Once that has been accomplished, both the TVA progressions (p. 212) and the Horse Stance Vertical (p. 155) in my book (available in print or digital format here: http://triumphtraining.com/pages/holistic-strength-training-for-triathlon) will likely be good starting points for you.  And even if the spasms have a different root cause/causes (nutrition would be an obvious suspect as food sensitivities can create inhibition of the core secondary to inflammation of the intestines), the muscles being targeted during both movements are essential for your orthopedic integrity. 

Weak knees?  Since no part of the body works in isolation, I would say it's not the knees so much as the legs; and not the legs so much as the body.  Training the hip extensors will likely benefit you.  But you would need to progress appropriately.  So, I would again recommend obtaining clearance from a qualified professional.  Then I would work on length/tension relationships and optimal core functioning.  In fact, it's likely the knees feel week as they don't have a solid foundation (i.e. back) off which to exert force.  L1 through L4 could all be compromised, too, so pathology here needs to be ruled out and/or addressed.  Lastly I would begin a strengthening program which progresses from a non-axial loading position (i.e. supine/floor based) to more neurologically complex/axial loading exercises (hands and knees, knees, standing) to mimic the functional demands of the real world.  All 3 planes of motion should be addressed with a focus on maintaining your balance over your center of mass.  Let form and pain free range of motion dictate parameters like sets and reps and make sure to include periods of unloading both in your training week and your training cycle so that the body has a chance to super compensate and get stronger/healthier. 

 

Phasic vs. Tonic Muscles Posted on May 08, 2014, 4 Comments

To stretch or not to stretch? That is not the question. Not really. Though there are numerous studies debating the merits of stretching, the ones which find no benefit to the athlete are typically flawed. The authors researching the efficacy of stretching inevitably apply a general stretching protocol to the subjects in their study with a one-size-fits-all mentality. But different activities cause different responses in different muscles. This is simple to understand when one considers that not all muscles are created equal. For the purpose of this discussion, I will focus on the difference between Phasic muscles and Tonic muscles.

Phasic Muscles are composed of at least 51% fast-twitch muscle fibers. These are powerful muscles, but they fatigue more easily than do tonic muscles. Kind of a shame, too, as these muscles are primarily responsible for movement. The gluteals are good examples of phasic muscles.

Tonic Muscles are slow-twitch dominant, composed of at least 51% slow-twitch muscle fibers. As such, they are highly resistant to fatigue and have a greater propensity for work. The iliopsoas is an example of a tonic muscle group.

One of the major differences between phasic and tonic muscles that is of particular interest to triathletes is how these muscles respond to faulty loading. Loading is the resistance which the muscles of the body must overcome. In the gym, it may be a dumbbell. In life, it’s gravity. Thus, even if the only weight room you’ve ever spent time in is the wait room at your doctor’s office, it’s fair to say we all experience loading in our lives. Faulty loading can take the form of under-use, misuse, or disuse. But as triathletes, who swim, bike, and run for up to seventeen hours all in the same day, the form of faulty loading we are typically concerned with is overuse.

Tonic muscles respond to faulty loading by shortening and tightening. With a lower threshold for stimulation, tonic muscles need very little encouragement to turn on. This can, and often does, result in hyperactivity of a tonic muscle, limiting the motion at the joint(s) over which that muscle crosses. As mentioned in Chapter One of Holistic Strength Training for Triathlon (http://triumphtraining.com/pages/holistic-strength-training-for-triathlon) , this lack of flexibility (or more specifically, this lack of mobility) results in all the biomotor abilities being adversely affected.

Phasic musculature does the exact opposite. It tends to lengthen and weaken in relation to its relative antagonist(s) or opposing muscle (group). The problem is then magnified by the fact that muscles which are short and tight will hold their antagonists in a lengthened position. This can lead to what is commonly termed stretch weakness. Stretch weakness is defined by Florence Kendall in her book entitled Muscles: Testing and Function with Posture and Pain as

weakness that results from muscles remaining in an elongated condition, however slight, beyond the neutral physiological rest position, but not beyond the normal range of muscle length.

She goes on to say that “the concept relates to the duration of the faulty alignment rather than the severity of it” (italics mine). So is it any surprise that the aspiring triathlete, who may spend up to seven hours at a time hunched over the bike with a rounded back, has increased thoracic kyphosis and can’t stand up straight? Brick that with a swim where the pectorals and medial shoulder rotators get overworked during the course of an hour-and-a-half-pool session, and the source of the typical triathlete’s faulty posture becomes clear. Now the lengthened muscles of the thoracic spine are being pulled by the tight muscles of the chest, shoulders, and lats. This results in even more thoracic kyphosis.

Maybe you should just run, you’re thinking. Well, the increased lumbar curvature created by the tight, overworked quads and hip flexors of the average runner causes a compensation in the thoracic spine leading to… say it with me… increased thoracic kyphosis. So much for the benefits of cross training, right? Instead of one source for our orthopedic and postural aberrations, we triathletes have three. I guess we’re just S.O.L.

But no, we’re not out of luck. We just can’t rely on dumb luck when it comes to our stretching program. We can’t just do random stretches for every part of the body and expect our sport-specific muscle imbalances to be addressed. We need a specific course of stretching which actively targets the muscles we abuse when we swim, bike, and run.

The question then isn’t if to stretch, but when to stretch and how? If you perform stretches for every part of the body, you haven’t done anything to alleviate the muscle imbalance caused by your triathlon training. The tight muscles are still tighter than the loose ones. Your body is still out of alignment. And a body that’s not properly aligned moves and functions less efficiently, increasing its susceptibility to fatigue and, ultimately, to injury.

The bicycle wheel is a common analogy which effectively represents this idea. Ideally, thirty-two spokes running from the rim to the hub are tensioned appropriately to keep the wheel spinning true. Logging a lot of miles on the bike, especially under harsh road conditions with bumps or potholes, can lead to a wheel which wobbles as certain spokes get tighter while others become looser. Each imperfection in the road leads to the wheel wobbling worse and worse.

During college, I worked in a bike shop in St. Petersburg, Florida. Some Mondays, guys would come in with their wheels after crashing at the weekend’s bike race to see if the wheels were salvageable. The head mechanic, a guy named Ray who worked wonders with the spoke wrench, would stick the wheel in the truing stand and spin it. The arms of the stand would tell him which spokes were in need of tightening and which should be loosened. He’d keep fine tuning the calibration of the stand—tightening a spoke half a turn here, loosening another with a quarter turn—until the wheel ran as straight and true as the day the cyclist bought it.

Some wheels, and some cyclists, weren’t so lucky. One day a guy in shredded Lycra limped into the shop carrying his mountain bike. He’d gone down pretty hard on a training ride and his front wheel was so out of true he’d had to walk the bike to the store. The guy asked us if we could fix it enough for him to ride it home. Not much for words, Ray took the wheel from the guy, went behind the counter, and held it up at eye level as if he were reading which spokes needed attention. Suddenly, and with force which could be heard over the Chili Peppers playing on the shop’s stereo, he slammed the wheel down hub-first again and again. After a few seconds, he paused, repositioned the wheel in his hands like a guy making a pizza, and slammed it down on the counter a few more times. Finally, he stopped banging the wheel and gave it back to the cyclist, who looked a bit more abused than when he’d come in. But his face changed as he spun the wheel. It still wobbled. But if he could endure a jerky ride, the wheel looked like it just might get him home.

Throughout the body, ideal length-tension relationships exist which, when altered by chronic shortening or lengthening of certain muscles, result in faulty joint kinematics. It’s a matter of physics. Forces generated by movement or loading cannot be adequately dissipated in a joint which has moved away from its instantaneous axis of rotation. The resulting premature degradation of the joint itself inevitably hastens the demise of the triathlete’s competitive career. But if you stretch the right muscles at the right time and in the right way, just like a wheel in a truing stand, your chances of maintaining your orthopedic integrity increase exponentially. And though I can’t promise you that you won’t ever have to walk your bike home, with correct stretching you should never have to limp your body home.

Question about Chronic Pain in an Endurance Athlete Posted on March 18, 2014, 0 Comments

Question:

I just did a 6 hour mtb race this past weekend. It was awesome. My writeup is below.  Another reason I'm reaching out is because I still have some nagging pains on the left side of my body (primarily) that I've been unable to fully address with stretching, chiro, and the massage I occasionally get. I've even gone as far as to stop running for the last month and a half, but it doesn't seem to be the root of the issue (just exacerbates it). 

I'm thinking I need to go to someone that's cycling and/or running specific to really dig into the problem spots. There's a couple that I've seen people talk up, but I thought I'd see if you have someone you'd recommend. Any info is appreciated!

Answer:

Sounds like it was a good race despite the issues.  And as far as those issues are concerned, I think you need to consider:

--nutrition/lifestyle: you've done some work with me, so you should have a good background.  But I question your choice of fuel for the race--GS cookies and granola bar being the main issues.  Of course, nutrition outside of competition is even more important.  Then there's thinking, breathing, hydration, movement, and sleep, too.  How are you doing here?  If you tax the system too much in relation to these principles, it's only a matter of time till the body revolts.  And to get really deep, hip flexors are closely tied to the adrenals.  And the left side of your body is the female side....

--length/tension relationships: we've never done a full physical assessment, and it might be worth your while.  You're stretching, but are you stretching exactly what you need to be stretching?

--core function: is it working, and are you strengthening what needs to be strengthened and in a functional way which supports your performance goals?

--proper program design/periodization: you might want a 2nd opinion on what you're doing (and remember: the higher your level of stress, the lower your tolerance for exercise).

--bike fit (best guy I know is Matt at Podium).

 

--equipment choice (i.e. shoe, pedal, etc).

 

Jeff Trotti is an excellent massage therapist and the guys at First Choice Health Care are skilled Chiro's and ART practitioners.  But until you address the underlying cause as mentioned above, you're likely just chasing symptoms and will have to continue seeing these folks regularly.  Ultimately, you need to be your best therapist. 

Know that endurance athletics, especially EXTREME endurance like what you're doing, is rough on the body.  And anything which is not perfectly aligned/functioning gets magnified by the volume of training/racing.  It can be something small which simply adds up until it reaches your particular breaking point.  And the better your nutrition/lifestyle/program design, the higher your threshold and the more straws your back can handle before it breaks. 

Lastly, if your issues don't seem to be responding to stretching, chiro, massage, etc, those are good clues that it's likely something else which needs to be addressed.  I've mentioned a few of the obvious suspects above.  Let me know if you want to pursue any of them with my assistance.  And good luck!

 

Much Chi

--A

General Advice Regarding "Degenerative Disc Disease" in the lumbar region Posted on February 10, 2014, 0 Comments

A friend of my wife who cannot get in to see me asked for my insight regarding a diagnosis of Degenerative Disc Disease.  Specifically, she asked me about chiropractic or anything else I might suggest.  My response is below in italics.  NOTE: I do not recommend any of the below activities without a thorough assessment by myself or another qualified professional. 
Chiropractic is likely not going to be the (permanent) answer. 
I'd suggest ELDOA (at least the one pictured and maybe my class when I start it up).  Here are the instructions for her:

Lie down on back with butt and heels against wall.
Dorsiflex and invert the feet.
Take arms overhead and in line with the shoulders and externally rotate them.
Push sacrum to floor.
Look down with eyes and flex chin down without lifting head.
Push heels up toward ceiling.
Push hands away from shoulders.
HOLD for 60s, continually checking to see if you're doing all of the steps detailed above. 

There are other ELDOAs she could use, but this is a good one with which to start.

I'd cut out all PUFAs or at least all veggie oils (including what's in processed food--read labels).  I'd also Minimize/eliminate alcohol, soy, and probably gluten.  Removing these things will help with inflammation (pain), core function (helping to prevent further degeneration), and blood sugar handling (healing).
I'd drink water with a pinch of salt to help with hydration, histamine (pain/swelling), and up regulation of thyroid (healing).  Stainless steel or glass and not plastic.  In fact, I'd get rid of all plastics so that the exposure to xenoestrogens is minimized (see list).  This will help prevent excess laxity when stability will be key.
I'd add bone broth and/or gelatin (www.greatlakesgelatin.com) frequently/daily.
Specific core work needs to be performed.  My book would be a good resource, but I would probably suggest:
--TVA work (daily)
--Lower Abdominal #1 (daily)
--Horse Stance Vertical (daily)
--Oblique Raise (i.e. side plank, every other day)
Variables such as reps/sets/rest intervals I haven't specified as I haven't assessed her, but I'd err on the side of conservatism and do less rather than more.

Possibly also Prone Cobra every other day, but without a full assessment I'd recommend caution.  All the above movements are available in my book which she can download off my website or we could get her a physical copy (http://triumphtraining.com/pages/holistic-strength-training-for-triathlon). 
Posture is key, of course.  So likely stretching of:
--Pecs
--Lats
--External Hips
--Internal Hips
--Hamstrings
--Hip flexors
--Quads
Again, all in my book.

Sleep from 10-6 would maximize anabolic/repair hormones. 
Nasal/Diaphragmatic breathing would help balance the ANS and keep her healing 24/7.
A lot of info and sans assessment, but I know much if not all would help her.
Hope she finds something useful.

I Want to PUMP You Up! Posted on January 29, 2014, 1 Comment

I recently returned from California where I was studying Pumping of the Trunk and Pelvis. I thought I had skills after 18yrs with my wife--but she's the one who said I should go....

Our teacher was Dr. Guy Voyer (http://www.guyvoyer.com/eng/index.htm).  And though my first experience with him in Dallas last year had me seriously questioning if I was ready for the level of knowledge he was unloading on me, this course confirmed a few things--1) I could eventually understand his thick French accent, 2) Like most of us, I learn best in layers, and 3) These techniques were really going to help my clientele.

Articular pumping (and there are over 600 different ones) is a gentle but extremely effective method of re-hydrating specific structures of the body.  From bursa to ligaments to tendons, all the tissues of the body need to be well hydrated with various bodily fluids to remain healthy.  Indeed, I'll quote Dr. Voyer when he says, "the day this fluid stops moving is the day you die."  You probably don't need such a bold statement to convince you.  After all, pain is a good motivator.  And pumping can help you alleviate and even eliminate years of pain and dysfunction such as

  • Arthritis
  • Bursitis
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Sciatica
  • Sprains
  • Tendonitis
  • and much more
One of the most important reasons to use articular pumping is that it helps normalize the tissues.  So, even if you aren't currently suffering from any symptoms or known pathologies, these techniques can prepare the body so that you benefit more from your stretching and corrective exercise program.  That means more health and more performance.  Though, for me, that's probably a bit redundant--I consider those two terms synonymous.  And if you're curious as to why I feel that way, ask some of my clientele or come in and experience Triumph Training for yourself.     

Push Pattern Posted on November 10, 2013, 0 Comments

In reality, muscles do not push. Movements, even pushing ones, occur because a muscle (or muscles) contracts or shortens and pulls the origin and insertion closer together. Even during a push up, the triceps contract to pull the origin and insertion closer together, causing the arms to extend and the body to rise away from the ground. This, of course, is achieved with the help of additional actions of the pectorals and deltoids (not to mention countless core muscles essential to a proper push up. These are the same muscles often lacking in a guy who has a 250-pound bench, yet can’t hold his pelvis level to perform a decent push up). In the sport of triathlon, forward propulsion is achieved mainly by the action of these muscles. This section will focus exclusively on the upper-body pushing movements.

NOTE: Anytime you do unilateral (i.e. single arm) Pull or Push Patterns, you are creating a rotational force and, thus, mobilizing the spine. This not only helps nourish the spine by pumping the spinal discs with the fluids essential for health, it’s also specific to the movement patterns involved in triathlon.

First Descent—Braced
Second Descent—Seated or lying
Third Descent—Seated or lying on fixed-axis machine

EXAMPLE EXERCISES

Push Ups
1. In prone position with arms outstretched and hands placed shoulder width apart, lower the body down until the upper arm is approximately parallel with the floor.
2. Return to start position and repeat.

Decline Push Ups
1. In prone position with arms outstretched, hands placed shoulder width apart, and feet on an elevated surface, lower the body down until the upper arm is approximately parallel with the floor.
2. Return to start position and repeat.

Medicine-Ball Push Ups
1. In prone position with arms outstretched and hands placed on a medicine ball, lower the body down until the upper arm is approximately parallel with the floor.
2. Return to start position and repeat.

Bosu Push Ups
1. In prone position with arms outstretched and hands placed shoulder width apart on a Bosu, lower the body down until the upper arm is approximately parallel with the floor.
2. Return to start position and repeat.

Hands-on-Physio-Ball Push Ups
1. In prone position with arms outstretched and hands placed shoulder width apart on a physio ball, lower the body down until the chest just touches the ball.
2. Return to start position and repeat.

Feet-on-Physio-Ball Push Ups
1. In prone position with arms outstretched, hands placed shoulder width apart, and feet (or foot to increase neurological complexity) on a physio ball, lower the body down until the upper arm is approximately parallel with the floor.
2. Return to start position and repeat.

Shoulder Press
1. Standing with Good Posture, hands holding two dumbbells just above the shoulders with palms facing forward, extend arms overhead.
2. Return to start position and repeat.

Arnie Press
1. Standing with Good Posture, hands holding two dumbbells at shoulder height with palms facing body, extend arms overhead so that palms end the movement facing forward.
2. Return to start position and repeat.

Unilateral Arnie Press
1. Standing with Good Posture on the dominant leg, hands holding two dumbbells at shoulder height with palms facing body, extend non-dominant arm overhead so that the palm ends the movement facing forward.
2. Return to start position and repeat with the opposite arm, switching stance legs once half the reps in the set are completed.

Bosu Arnie Press
1. Standing with Good Posture on a Bosu, hands holding two dumbbells at shoulder height with palms facing body, extend arms overhead so that palms end the movement facing forward.
2. Return to start position and repeat.

Kneeling-on-Physio-Ball Arnie Press
1. Kneeling with Good Posture on a physio ball, hands holding two dumbbells at shoulder height with palms facing body, extend arms overhead so that palms end the movement facing forward.
2. Return to start position and repeat.

Straight-Arm Push Downs
1. Stand with Good Posture, hands holding a bar with a pronated grip, swim width apart.
2. Push down and bring hands toward the legs until bar touches thighs. Do not allow arms to bend at elbows as pivot point is at the shoulders.
3. Return to start position and repeat.

Unilateral Straight-Arm Push Downs
1. Stand with Good Posture, non-dominant hand holding a handle with a pronated grip.
2. Push down and bring hand toward the legs until it is beside or even behind the thigh. Do not allow arm to bend at elbow as pivot point is at the shoulder.
3. Return to start position and repeat.

Cable Push
1. Stand in a counter stance with Good Posture while holding a handle at shoulder level with the non-dominant hand and a pronated grip. The arm should be pulled back so the elbow is high and the forearm parallel to the angle of the dominant arm which should be outstretched in front of the body, palm down.
2. Push non-dominant hand away from the body while simultaneously rotating along the axis of the spine to the dominant side. Hands should switch places so that the dominant hand is now at shoulder level with a high elbow and the other arm is outstretched in front of the body with the palm facing down.
3. Return to start position and continue for the designated number of reps before repeating on the opposite side.

Swim
1. Stand facing a cable machine with non-dominant side holding a dumbbell at shoulder height with palm facing body and the dominant side holding a handle at shoulder height with palm facing forward and the elbow glued to the side of the body.
2. Simultaneously extend the non-dominant side overhead while pressing the handle down until the dominant arm is fully extended.
3. Return to start position and continue for the designated number of reps before repeating on the opposite side(s).

Pull Pattern Posted on November 05, 2013, 0 Comments

Another one of the seven primal patterns, pulling movements are often neglected or underdeveloped compared to their sister pattern, pushing movements. This is often because people don’t have vision for what they can’t see. When you “see” a tree, you don’t really see the whole tree. You don’t see its roots. You don’t see the other side of the trunk or the top of the canopy. Yet the tree could never be fully developed without them. So just because you can’t see the muscles of your posterior chain does not mean you should ignore them. You are more than just your mirror muscles. In fact, it is the predominance of anterior chain movements in triathlon which make pulling proficiency so important for triathletes to maintain postural balance along with orthopedic health.

NOTE: Anytime you do unilateral (i.e. single arm) Pull or Push Patterns, you are creating a rotational force and, thus, mobilizing the spine. This not only helps nourish the spine by pumping the spinal discs with the fluids essential for health, it’s also specific to the movement patterns involved in triathlon.

First Descent—Braced
Second Descent—Seated or lying
Third Descent—Seated or lying on fixed-axis machine

EXAMPLE EXERCISES

Low Row
1. Standing with Good Posture and holding a bar with a supinated grip, shoulder width apart, pull hands toward body so sides of wrists finish at rib cage as the bar touches the torso near the level of the sternum.
2. Return to start position and repeat.

Unilateral Row
1. Standing with Good Posture and holding a handle with a pronated grip, pull hand toward body, supinating the hand so the wrist finishes at the side of the rib cage at approximately the level of the sternum.
2. Return to start position and repeat.

High Row
1. Standing with Good Posture and holding two handles (or a bar if necessary) with a pronated grip, a bit wider than shoulder width apart, pull hands toward body while keeping the elbows high and the forearms in the same plane as the angle of pull. Wrists should remain neutral (i.e. not flexed) and finish movement at approximately shoulder level.
2. Return to start position and repeat.

High Row with Rotation
1. Stand with Good Posture, holding two handles with a supinated grip, shoulder width apart. Initiate movement by rotating torso to the non-dominant side. Simultaneously pull handle held by non-dominant hand toward body while keeping the elbow high and the forearm in the same plane as the angle of pull. Wrists should remain neutral and finish the movement at approximately shoulder level.
2. Return to start position and repeat on the opposite side.

Suspended Row
1. Maintain Good Posture while leaning back at the appropriate angle (difficulty increases as angle steepens) and holding the handles of a suspension system with a pronated grip, shoulder width apart.
2. Pull body toward handles while maintaining high elbows and forearms in the same plane as the angle of pull which should perpendicular to the body. Wrists should remain neutral and finish at approximately shoulder level.
3. Return to start position and repeat.

Pull Ups/Chin Ups
1. Stand with Good Posture while grasping a Pull Up Bar above the head. Grip should be swim width apart and pronated for a Pull UP or shoulder width apart and supinated for a Chin Up.
2. Pull body towards hands until chin passes over the bar. Legs should not swing forward at any time during the movement.
3. Return to start position and repeat.

Overhand Pull Down
1. Kneeling or seated with Good Posture holding two handles or a bar with a pronated grip, swim-width apart, pull hands toward body until handles go below chin level but not below the clavicle.
2. Return to start position and repeat.

Cable Pulls
1. Stand in a counter stance with Good Posture while holding a handle with the non-dominant hand and a pronated grip. The other arm should be pulled back so the wrist is at approximately shoulder level with the elbow high and the forearm parallel to the angle of the other arm.
2. Pull hand toward body while simultaneously rotating along the axis of the spine to the non-dominant side. Hands should switch places so that the non-dominant side is now at shoulder level with a high elbow and the other arm is outstretched in front of the body with the palm facing down.
3. Return to start position and continue for the designated number of reps before repeating on the opposite side.

Abdominal Specific Movements Posted on November 02, 2013, 0 Comments

EXAMPLE EXERCISES                          

 

Four-Point TVA Stance and Progressions

  1. Get on hands and knees with the hands directly beneath the shoulders and the knees directly beneath the hips.       Bend arms slightly at the elbow so that the back is parallel to the floor. I recommend use of a dowel to ensure maintenance of a neutral spine. The dowel rod should touch the sacrum, the thoracic spine between the shoulder blades, and the back of the head.
  2. Take a large diaphragmatic breath in through the nose and allow the belly to expand and the navel to drop away from the spine. Exhale and then activate the TVA to draw the navel in toward the spine as far as possible without flexing the spine/losing neutral spinal curvatures or compensating/cheating in any way. The only part of the body which should visibly move is the navel.       It may help to concentrate on activating the pelvic floor musculature. (Women: Perform a kegel.       Men: Pull your testicles up toward your head).
  3. Hold this position until it’s necessary to take another breath. Then repeat the process for the designated number of reps/breaths.

 

OR

 

  1. Get in shortstop position with the hands on the knees. Knees should be bent slightly and spinal curvatures should remain in neutral (i.e. don’t round the lower back).
  2. Take a large diaphragmatic breath in through the nose and allow the belly to expand and the navel to drop away from the spine. Exhale and then activate the TVA to draw the navel in toward the spine as far as possible without flexing the spine/losing neutral spinal curvatures or compensating/cheating in any way. The only part of the body which should visibly move is the navel.       It may help to concentrate on activating the pelvic floor musculature. (Women: Perform a kegel.       Men: Pull your testicles up toward your head).
  3. Hold this position until it’s necessary to take another breath. Then repeat the process for the designated number of reps/breaths.

 

OR

 

  1. Stand with Good Posture.
  2. Take a large diaphragmatic breath in through the nose and allow the belly to expand and the navel to move away from the spine. Exhale and then activate the TVA to draw the navel in toward the spine as far as possible without flexing the spine/losing neutral spinal curvatures or compensating/cheating in any way. The only part of the body which should visibly move is the navel.       It may help to concentrate on activating the pelvic floor musculature. (Women: Perform a kegel.       Men: Pull your testicles up toward your head).
  3. Hold this position until it’s necessary to take another breath. Then repeat the process for the designated number of reps/breaths.

 

Lower Abdominal Series # 1—Pelvic Tilt

  1. In supine position with knees bent, feet on the floor, and a blood pressure cuff pumped to 40mmHg (or a hand) placed opposite the navel in the small of the back, gently draw in the navel.
  2. Flatten the lower back into the cuff (or the hand) by posteriorly rotating the pelvis using the lower abdominals to raise the pressure on the cuff to 70mmHg. Try to keep the hamstrings completely relaxed as they can also rotate the pelvis posteriorly. But if they do the work, the lower abdominals won’t.
  3. Breathe naturally as the pelvis is held in this position. Return to start and repeat for the designated number of reps.

 

Lower Abdominal Series #2A

  1. In supine position with knees bent, feet on the floor, and a blood pressure cuff (or a hand) placed opposite the navel in the small of the back, pump the cuff up to 40mmHg.
  2. Gently draw the navel in and then flatten the lower back into the cuff (or the hand) by posteriorly rotating the pelvis using the lower abdominals to raise the pressure on the cuff to 70mmHg.       Try to keep the hamstrings completely relaxed as they can also rotate the pelvis posteriorly. But if they do the work, the lower abdominals won’t.
  3. Pivoting at the hip, lift one leg up until the thigh is perpendicular to the body and the knee is at 90 (or less if the exercise needs to be made easier) while maintaining the pressure on the cuff at 70mmHg, varying no more than +/-5mmHg throughout the exercise.
  4. Lower the leg back to start position and then repeat the movement on the opposite side.

 

Lower Abdominal Series #2B

  1. In supine position with knees bent, feet on the floor, and a blood pressure cuff (or a hand) placed opposite the navel in the small of the back, lift the legs until the thighs are perpendicular to the body with the hips at 90 and the knees at 90. Note: the angle at the knee can be decreased to make the exercise easier if necessary.
  2. Pump the blood pressure cuff up to 40mmHg.
  3. Gently draw the navel in and then flatten the lower back into the cuff (or the hand) by posteriorly rotating the pelvis using the lower abdominals to raise the pressure on the cuff to 70mmHg.      
  4. Lower one leg back to the floor as you maintain the pressure on the cuff at 70mmHg, allowing the reading to vary no more than +/-5mmHg throughout the exercise.
  5. Raise the leg back up and perform the same movement on the opposite side.
  6. Repeat for the designated number of reps.

 

NOTE: All of the Lower Abdominal Series are best performed with a blood-pressure cuff placed opposite the navel and inflated to 40 mmHg (or 30 mmHg if lumbar curvature is deficient).  The athlete would then increase the reading on the dial 30 mmHg by posteriorly rotating the pelvis to increase the pressure.  For Lower Abdominal #2A and #2B, the leg movements should be performed with no more than 5 mmHg fluctuations above or below starting pressure (i.e., 60 or 70 mmHg). 

 

Forward Ball Roll

  1. In prone position with forearms on a physio ball, elbows at 90 and positioned underneath the shoulders, gently draw the navel in toward the spine.
  2. Push the ball forward by extending the arms as far as you can without losing the neutral curvatures of the spine. Lumbar spine will work but should not be the focus of the effort. Exercise can be descended by performing the movement from the knees as necessary.
  3. Pause at the end R.O.M. before returning to start position and repeating for the designated number of reps.

 

Oblique Cable Twist

  1. Standing with Good Posture, feet wider than shoulder width, and with a cable machine on the non-dominant side of the body, rotate torso so that hands are in front of the chest, grasping a handle attached to the cable. Dominant hand should be on first and non-dominant hand should be on top.
  2. Rotating along the axis of the spine, twist torso toward the dominant side. Movement should be initiated by the core, and the only reason the hands should move is because the chest moves first. Slowly return to start position by reversing the motion. Concentrate on a powerful positive and a controlled negative.
  3. Repeat for the designated number of reps before performing the movement with the opposite set up position in the opposite direction.

 

Oblique Raise

  1. Lying on the side of the body with the forearm perpendicular to the torso and the elbow directly underneath the shoulder, lift the hips off the floor until the body is one straight line from ankles to ears.
  2. Hold for the designated time period or do reps as prescribed. Note: exercise can be descended by bending the underneath leg which shortens the lever arm as the body is supported between the elbow and the knee.

 

Oblique Raise External Shoulder Rotation

  1. Lying on the side of the body with the dominant forearm perpendicular to the torso and the elbow directly underneath the shoulder, lift the hips off the floor until the body is one straight line from ankles to ears. The elbow of the non-dominant arm should be glued to the superior side of the body with the hand across the abdomen, grasping a very light dumbbell.      
  2. Hold this elevated position and externally rotate the non-dominant arm up as far as strength and flexibility will allow. Try not to let elbow deviate far from the body. Note: exercise can be descended by bending the underneath leg which shortens the lever arm as the body is supported between the elbow and the knee.
  3. Very slowly return the non-dominant arm to the start position and repeat for the designated number of reps while maintaining the elevated position.
  4. Perform the movement on the opposite side.

 

Oblique Raise Abductor

  1. Lying on the side of the body with the dominant forearm perpendicular to the torso and the elbow directly underneath the shoulder, bend the dominant leg at the knee so that the lower leg is perpendicular behind the body.
  2. Lift the hips off the floor while simultaneously abducting the non-dominant toward the ceiling as far as strength and flexibility allow.      
  3. Hold this elevated position and externally rotate the non-dominant arm up as far as strength and flexibility will allow.
  4. Pause end R.O.M. before slowly returning to the start position and repeating for the designated number of reps.
  5. Perform the movement on the opposite side.

 

Supine Lateral Ball Roll

  1. Seated on a physio ball, roll body down until the ball supports the head and shoulders. Feet are on the ground with the shins perpendicular to the floor. Arms should be out at the sides of the body like a tightrope walker or. A dowel rod can be placed across the chest and in both hands for cueing (it should remain level and in contact with the chest at all times.       Additionally, the thumbs should never be activated to hold onto the dowel rod). Maintain TVA function (i.e., navel drawn in slightly) to avoid over-recruitment of the lumbar erectors. Note: if lateral movement is sufficient to bring head off the ball, tongue should be placed on the roof of the mouth in the physiological rest position.
  2. Shuffle over to the non-dominant side while maintaining the hips in an elevated position and the rest of the body in perfect alignment. Pause at end R.O.M.
  3. Return to center and then shuffle over to the dominant side before pausing again.
  4. Move back to the center position and repeat for the designated number of reps.

 

Stabilizer Series

  1. In prone position with forearms on the floor, elbows at 90 directly underneath the shoulders, activate core musculature to maintain neutral spinal curvatures supported between the toes and forearms. This position can be held for time or progressing to the following steps if proficiency allows. If it’s difficult just to maintain the above position, descending the exercise can be accomplished by moving from the toes to the knees.
  2. Take dominant arm off the ground (and if strength will allow, the opposite leg, too) for the designated time.
  3. Return to start position and then repeat on the opposite side.

 

Bosu Prone Leg Lift

  1. In prone position with arms outstretched and hands placed shoulder width apart on a Bosu, lift one foot off the ground by extending at the hip (not the knee). Keep core activated so that lateral deviation of the Bosu/body is kept to a minimum.
  2. Return to start position and repeat the movement on the opposite side, alternating for the designated number of reps.

 

Push Up Row

  1. In prone position with arms outstretched and hands placed shoulder width apart and holding two dumbbells (the movement can be performed without the dumbbells, using just the hands if necessary), lower the body toward the floor until the upper arm is approximately parallel with the floor.
  2. Return to start position by extending the arms.
  3. Lift one dumbbell off the ground and pull it to the chest so that it just touches the rib cage. Keep core activated so that lateral deviation of the body is kept to a minimum. If necessary, move legs wider to give a more stable base of support.
  4. Return to start position and perform the movement on the opposite side before repeating the push up followed by the two rows again for the designated number of reps.

 

Prone Low Crawler             

  1. In prone position with forearms on the two physio balls of equal size, elbows at 90 directly underneath the shoulders, activate core musculature to maintain neutral spinal curvatures supported between the toes and forearms.
  2. Push the ball in contact with the non-dominant arm forward by extending the non-dominant arm.
  3. Return the arm to the original position and repeat the movement with the dominant side.
  4. Bring the dominant side back to the starting position and then repeat for the designated number of reps.

Squat Pattern Posted on October 30, 2013, 0 Comments

SQUAT

 

You don’t know squat. But you should. One of the seven primal patterns, squatting was essential for survival when we were cavemen and -women. And while evolution has developed our Texting pattern such that many of us have a thenar eminence the size of our bicep, our squatting skills have suffered in kind. Because of this, over 80% of people will endure an episode of back pain in his or her lifetime. And triathletes aren’t immune. So squat! It’s good for your back. It’s good for your knees. And it’s good for your triathlon performance. The only thing it’s not good for is your orthopedic surgeon’s bank account.

 

First Descent—1 dowel-rod support                         

Second Descent—2 dowel-rod supports                   

Third Descent—Swiss Ball on wall as support          

                                   

EXAMPLE EXERCISES

 

Back Squat

  1. Stand with a barbell on shoulders (not the neck) and with chest out, shoulders back, and navel in (this is Good Posture and gospel for every exercise as it emphasizes proper body positioning and activation of the TVA). Hands should be as close in on the bar as flexibility will allow. Feet should be positioned a little wider than hip width apart and either straight ahead or slightly externally rotated.
  2. Inhale to charge the thoracic cavity and then descend into a squat position by leading with the glutes as if sitting in a chair.       Go down as far as possible without pain or losing the lordotic curve in the lumbar spine.
  3. Return to the start position by pushing through the heels and exhaling through pursed lips after passing the sticking point of the ascent. Ensure knees track over feet throughout the movement.

 

Front Squat

  1. Stand with arms crossed, elbows facing forward, barbell on the shoulders and the thumbs of the hands, and with Good Posture. Feet should be positioned a little wider than hip width apart and either straight ahead or slightly externally rotated.
  2. Inhale to charge the thoracic cavity and then descend into a squat position by leading with the glutes as if sitting in a chair. Go down as far as possible without pain or losing the lordotic curve in the lumbar spine.
  3. Return to the start position by pushing through the heels and exhaling through pursed lips after passing the sticking point of the ascent. Ensure knees track over feet throughout the movement.

 

Step Up         

  1. Stand with Good Posture with non-dominant leg placed on a box/bench of appropriate height.
  2. Step onto the box/bench by pushing through the heel (think about pushing the box/bench away). Knee should track over the foot and torso should remain upright throughout the movement. Additionally, hips should not swing out to the side but should remain directly above the foot and knee.
  3. Return to the start position by descending under control, maintaining pressure through the heel so that glutes and hamstrings remain activated.

 

Crossover Step Up

  1. Stand with Good Posture behind and to the side of a box/bench of appropriate height.
  2. Beginning with the non-dominant side, bring the outside leg across the body and onto the outer edge of the box/bench.
  3. Step onto the box/bench by pushing through the heel (think about pushing the box/bench away). Knee should track over the foot and torso should remain upright throughout the movement. Additionally, hips should remain level throughout the movement.      
  4. Cross the non-dominant leg behind the body to descend back to the floor on the opposite side of the bench/box.
  5. Repeat in the opposite direction.

           

Unilateral Squat

  1. Stand with Good Posture on top of a box/bench.
  2. Take the dominant leg off the box/bench and bend the opposite knee to descend the body toward the floor.
  3. Maintain pressure through the heel of non-dominant leg, allowing knee to track over the foot and chest to remain elevated and hips to stay level throughout the movement. .
  4. Go as far as strength will allow with proper form and then push through heel to return to the start position.

 

High Step Up            

  1. Stand with Good Posture with non-dominant leg placed on a box/bench taller than knee height.
  2. Step onto the box/bench by pushing through the heel (think about pushing the box/bench away). Knee should track over the foot and torso should remain upright throughout the movement. Additionally, hips should not swing out to the side but should remain directly above the foot and knee.
  3. Return to the start position by descending under control, maintaining pressure through the heel so that glutes and hamstrings remain activated.

Foot pronation is not associated with increased injury risk in novice runners wearing a neutral shoe: a 1-year prospective cohort study Posted on October 14, 2013, 0 Comments

Abstract

Objective To investigate if running distance to first running-related injury varies between foot postures in novice runners wearing neutral shoes.

Design A 1-year epidemiological observational prospective cohort study.

Setting Denmark.

Participants A total of 927 novice runners equivalent to 1854 feet were included. At baseline, foot posture on each foot was evaluated using the foot-posture index and categorised into highly supinated (n=53), supinated (n=369), neutral (n=1292), pronated (n=122) or highly pronated (n=18). Participants then had to start running in a neutral running shoe and to use global positioning system watch to quantify the running distance in every training session.

Main outcome measure A running-related injury was defined as any musculoskeletal complaint of the lower extremity or back caused by running, which restricted the amount of running for at least 1 week.

Results During 1 year of follow-up, the 1854 feet included in the analyses ran a total of 326 803 km until injury or censoring. A total of 252 participants sustained a running-related injury. Of these, 63 were bilateral injuries. Compared with a neutral foot posture, no significant body mass index-adjusted cumulative risk differences (RD) were found after 250 km of running for highly supinated feet (RD=11.0% (−10% to 32.1%), p=0.30), supinated feet (RD=−1.4% (−8.4% to 5.5%), p=0.69), pronated feet (RD=−8.1% (−17.6% to 1.3%), p=0.09) and highly pronated feet (RD=9.8% (−19.3% to 38.8%), p=0.51). In addition, the incidence-rate difference/1000 km of running, revealed that pronators had a significantly lower number of injuries/1000 km of running of −0.37 (−0.03 to −0.70), p=0.03 than neutrals.

Conclusions The results of the present study contradict the widespread belief that moderate foot pronation is associated with an increased risk of injury among novice runners taking up running in a neutral running shoe. More work is needed to ascertain if highly pronated feet face a higher risk of injury than neutral feet.

How Can I Train My Abs Without Doing Crunches? Posted on October 07, 2013, 0 Comments

Squat

Dead Lift

Lunge

Step Up

Clean

Snatch

Turkish Get Up

Shoulder Press

Push Up

Pull Up

Row

Abdominal Hollowing

Lower Abdominal #1-#4

Plank

Side Bridge

Upper/Lower Body Russian Twist

Supine Lateral Ball Roll

Supine Hip Extension

Supine Hip Extension Knee Flexion

Swim, Bike, or Run

Good Ole Belly Laugh

Daily Bowel Movement

Simply Stand Up

Breathe Properly

Etc.

Random Client Questions with Answers Posted on September 25, 2013, 0 Comments

1.  Am I to try and avoid all PUFA's?  (Looks like you had avocados on one of your recipe)
2.  Can you give me examples of good protein/carbo/fat snacks?  You said I need a good mix, so I am trying to figure that out.
3.  You said to include raw items with meals because of their life giving qualities.  Can you provide examples?  It seemed like you were steering me more towards fruits.  Raw veggies not such a great idea?
3.  How should I start my venture back into dairy?
4.  Can you tell me my beneficial produce and the produce to stay away from one more time?  So salads are bad?  What about baby greens?
5.  If I have my hip/glute/back pain, should I not do my corrective exercises?
6.  I need more advice on myofascial work.  I think this could be really beneficial to me!  All the muscles surrounding my iliac crest, and on the sides around the notch of my femur seem to hold SO much tension.  I think from all the skateboarding, snowboarding, and mountain biking I've done, with NO stretching.  
7.  Could I potentially have parasites in me?  Are parasite cleanses a good idea?
8.  My Dad has been recommending Aloe water at his clinic.  He wants to know your thoughts on it.
9.  My girlfriend recently gave herself a coffee enema.  She wants to know if those have the health benefits they promise.
ANSWERS:
1--it's not one of your action items, but it would serve you well.  Avocado is high in PUFA's, but it's one I would be o.k. with using as a garnish and not a staple (like most do with nuts/seeds/veggie oils/etc).
2--I think you can come up with some on your own (you're a smart guy), but I've attached a list.
3--Raw fruit (ripe) though some are better than others, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes.  Otherwise, I cook most of the others.
4--Above ground veggies except for the ones mentioned above are ones which should  be limited and/or cooked and/or eaten with saturated fat.  Add squash/zucchini to the above.
5--stretches always.  DAILY core movements always (and shouldn't hurt).  Other movements at the threshold specific to your situation (reps/sets/weight/frequency of workout).  You should find that the workout makes you feel better.  If not, you're not ready for that particular movement and we need to go slower/fill in holes in your development.
6--we can work on that next time, but golf ball/tennis ball/foam roller/stick--I have some explanation/examples in my book (http://triumphtraining.com/pages/holistic-strength-training-for-triathlon).  You can download a copy off my website or get one from me directly.
7--You probably do.  Don't want to go there yet.  Besides, some parasites have a symbiotic relationship with us.
8--don't do bells/whistles until you get the basics down.  And that bell/whistle is one I wouldn't recommend.
9--as #8.  And if you're eating/living in a way to support health, you don't need to resort to enemas.

Don't Be Hamstrung! Posted on July 24, 2013, 0 Comments

Did you pull a hammie?  Be careful.  The recurrence rate in the first two months is approximately 22%.  But you can improve those odds by combining some knowledge of anatomy with your passion for training.

See, the hamstrings act on both the hip and knee, extending the former and flexing the latter.  During sprinting and other explosive movements, the hamstrings are typically lengthening while under tension.  This is what's termed an eccentric contraction.  And, unfortunately, concentric contractions (which predominate in most strength training programs) don't easily transfer to eccentric strength.  While there are many movements which can effectively train the hamstrings in the manner in which they're challenged, a simple one which can be implemented with no equipment is called the Nordic Hamstring Exercise.

With feet anchored (or using a partner as in the above illustration), pivot forward from the knees while maintaining core activation.  You should aim for one straight line from ears to knees, concentrating on not "breaking" at the waist.  Move only as far as you can (and it probably won't be far at first) with a goal of reaching the point where you almost get stuck and can't pull back.  The image of the figure in the middle above is likely as far as most people will go with good form.  Some people like to drop to the floor and then explosively push back up with the arms to the start position.  But the difficulty, along with the excessive loading and development of the internal shoulder rotators, makes this aspect of the exercise contraindicated in most cases.  

Studies show up to a 60% reduction in new hamstring injuries and up to an 85% reduction in recurrence compared to controls when incorporating this movement into a training program.  But go easy at first.  Otherwise, soreness will leave you walking funny for several days.  But at least you're walking.  And that's what you have to do before you run.  And you can't do that well unless you're hamstrings are strong and smart.  So train them to be that way. 


Posture and Swim Speed Posted on July 15, 2013, 0 Comments

There are two simple ways to swim faster:

increase your stroke rate (SR)

or

increase your stroke length (SL)

In other words, SR x SL = swimming velocity.  But Terry Laughlin, founder of Total Immersion, holds that increasing SR is self-limiting because energy cost goes up by a cubic relationship.  Taking your SR from two times per second up to four times per second results in you burning through your limited energy supplies eight times faster (2 x 2 x 2 = 8).  Laughlin goes on to state that “faster swimmers take fewer strokes than slower swimmers—at every level from Olympic finals to lap time at the local Y.”

But what if your pelvis is tilted anteriorly (a condition exacerbated by the tight lats which result from lots of pool time)?  What if your upper back assumes a position of kyphosis eerily similar to your seated workplace environment?  Then the short, tight muscles of the pectorals and deltoids will inhibit your reach, thus decreasing stroke length.  The only way to make up for this deficit is to increase your turnover, which costs you energy you cannot spare. 

In addition, the forward head carriage associated with a kyphotic posture puts your melon deeper in the water and greatly increases drag.  Ask the best swim coaches in the world and they’ll tell you that reducing drag will produce greater dividends in the water than anything else you can do.  You want to swim through the smallest cylinder possible.  But that’s hard to do when your cranium is virtually scraping the lane line at the bottom of the pool while your upper back breaks the surface of the water like the dorsal fin of a shark.  

 

That’s some serious drag you’re creating.  And it’s all because of your faulty posture.  Even worse, if you cannot extend the thoracic spine because you’re stuck in a position of kyphosis, every stroke you take will put excessive strain on the muscles and connective tissue of the shoulders.  As the prime movers involved in swimming become fatigued and their movements become less efficient, the four tiny muscles of the rotator cuff become overworked in an attempt to dynamically stabilize the glenohumeral joint.  Ten thousand meters a week later, and you’ve developed a nice case of swimmer’s shoulder. 

When defined as “significant shoulder pain that interferes with training or progress in training,” 35% of elite and senior level swimmers report episodes of swimmer’s shoulder.  What they are experiencing may not technically be swimmer’s shoulder but a similar condition called thoracic outlet syndrome.  The thoracic outlet is the space between clavicle and rib cage through which nerves and vascular structures pass from the neck and thorax to the arm.  The symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome are similar to swimmer’s shoulder and numerous other clinical diagnoses, but they all have one thing in common.  As Kendall states,  “treatment should emphasize increasing the space of the thoracic outlet by improving the posture [and] correcting the muscle imbalance… that adversely affect the posture of the head, neck, and upper back.” (Italics mine.)

STRETCH: Sub Occipitals, Levator Scapulae, Pectorals, Anterior Deltoid, Latissimus Dorsi, All Hip Flexors 

STRENGTHEN: Deep Cervical Flexors, All Scapular Adductors, Lower Abdominals, Glutes

Other actions would likely need to be taken, too.  But the above prescription is a good place to start.  And just like posture, if you begin in the right place, you have a greater chance of ending in the right place.  

Machine Training Faults: Stabilizers Posted on July 07, 2013, 0 Comments

Weak or untrained stabilizers can be overloaded quickly, sending inhibitory signals to the prime movers of a specific movement and resulting in decreased neural drive to those muscles.  In other words, your nervous system will not allow the prime movers to fire at 100% of their capability when they are not protected by the stabilization provided by the machine.  

See, your body is smart.  It realizes when the structural integrity of the joint over which that muscle crosses is compromised, even if you don’t.  So you may be able to perform a squat on the Smith Machine with two hundred pounds.  But your brain, just like when you were first learning to drive, won’t allow you to utilize that power when your legs aren’t guided through the motion like the thousands of reps you’ve performed in the past.  There are just too many other things going on with which your machine-trained body is not familiar—like gravity, balance, and unguided motion.  You simply will not be as strong as you thought.  Strength training’s detractors will cite this as evidence that lifting weights is of no benefit to sports performance.  And if you continue to lift incorrectly, the only thing you really end up strengthening is their argument.

Go prove it to yourself.  After a couple of warm-up sets, do eight reps of a bench press at a weight which makes the last repetition a challenge.  Have your training partner spot you to ensure we don’t find your decaying carcass trapped underneath the bar a few days later.  When finished, admire yourself in the mirror as you recover and stay loose for your next effort.  Now, lie across a physio ball like the subject below (though, personally, I'd advise having the head supported by the ball, too--otherwise you'll overdevelop the SCM's and perpetuate forward head posture) and perform a set of dumbbell chest presses with the same amount of weight. 

 

I doubt you could complete another set of eight.  You may not have even been able to get the weight up off your chest.  Don’t feel bad.  You just received a valuable lesson in neural drive which should feed your desire to train correctly.  And if not, you can always get back on one of those machines and feed your ego!


The Negative Aspect of Running Posted on July 02, 2013, 0 Comments

Running is essentially eccentric.  And I don’t mean that runners are odd (they have nothing on triathletes).  What I mean is that the impact of running is handled by the body eccentrically.  The muscles contract and lengthen at the same time as they control the weight of the body in its descent back to earth.  See, what comes up eventually comes down—at two to seven times body weight depending on the speed and form of the runner.  And this load must be eccentrically controlled ninety times per minute per leg!  Thus, just like the rotator cuff must be conditioned appropriately to handle the demands of swimming, training for the lower-body triple extensors (the ankle, the knee, and the hip) must include an emphasis on the negative portion of a lift so nothing in the kinetic chain eventually fails.  Below is one exercise to include in your strength training program (which should come before the development of power--which running is an expression of).

 

Calf-Raise Negatives

 1.      Stand with the balls of your feet on a step and your heels hanging off.

 2.      Rise up onto toes using both legs.

 3.      Take the dominant leg away and use a 10-count to control your descent so that your heel ends up below the ball of your foot. 

 4.      At end range of motion, put your dominant leg back on the step and rise back up to the top position again, repeating the process for the designated number of reps.

 5.      Doing the movement with a straight leg targets the gastrocnemius.  Doing the movement with a bent knee (15-20°) targets the soleus.  Both versions should be performed.

 

Many other exercises which can be utilized to enhance the orthopedic integrity of any athlete who runs can be found on the pages of my book: Holistic Strength Training for Triathlon (available in print version or as an instant download here: http://triumphtraining.com/pages/holistic-strength-training-for-triathlon)

Your Body on Sabbatical Posted on July 01, 2013, 0 Comments

You probably know where your glutes are.  Thanks to your job, you have extensive knowledge of the seated workplace environment.  But just because you sit on your glutes when you work doesn't mean your glutes work when you sit.  In fact, working your ass off is a phrase which was probably motivated by the detrimental effects of the workplace environment.  Sit on those cheeks long enough, and it won't matter which one you turn.  You won't find either of them, because sensory motor amnesia has put them on a permanent lunch break.

Sensory motor amnesia is a term first used by Vladir Janda to describe a muscle which no longer works.  Via either pain or disuse, the muscle has "forgotten" how to function.  And the longer any muscle is turned off, the harder it can be to turn back on.  But before you get your panties in a wad--oh, wait...you can't since your butt is purely hypothetical at this point.  So maybe you won't even be phased to hear that your ass is likely not the only part of your body on sabbatical.
That's right.  Two other areas commonly prone to sensory motor amnesia are the abdominals and the scapular adductors.  Now, if you don't have a Budweiser tumor, I'm sure you're at least familiar with the look.  It's about as ubiquitous as it is unattractive.  And while highly correlated with alcohol consumption, even teetotalers can be prone to this look as there are many sources for dysfunction here.

Scapular adductors on the other hand, may be testing the limits of your anatomical knowledge.  These are a group of muscles which, as the name implies, adduct your scapulae.  When you stand up straight, lift your chest, and externally rotate your shoulders, these are some of the muscles responsible for that action.  Unfortunately, most people don't stand up straight, lift their chests, or externally rotate their shoulders.  Thus, the majority of folks, even if they can locate these muscles, will find that they're inhibited.   
How do we bring these three key areas of the body back on line?  Well, the first step is simply to touch them.  Palpating a muscle helps you become aware of that muscle.  When I'm working with a client who cannot fire a particular muscle, one of my strategies is to continually tap the inhibited muscle while they perform a movement involving that muscle.  If the client actually gains awareness quicker than I annoy the absolute crap out of them, then the potential to fire that muscle increases exponentially--especially if the muscle is responsible for a right cross to my nose.  And once the client can activate a muscle, then we can finally work the muscle.  It's kinda like the brain in that respect: use it so we don't lose it.  

 

For additional insight into the cause of as well as the cure for sensory motor amnesia, read the following post: http://triumphtraining.com/blogs/blog/6364218-365-ways-193-why-your-lower-abs-are-absent

Breathing during Strength Training Posted on June 08, 2013, 0 Comments

Breathing is of critical importance to a successful strength training program.  Optimal breathing patterns will minimize the risk of injury while maximizing the benefit of the athlete's time in the weight room.  Specifically, inhalations should occur during movements where the body moves out of or away from the fetal position; while exhalations should be reserved for movements that move the body toward or into the fetal position.  

This is exactly how the body works.  Try it: take a big breath in and notice that you get taller as your spine elongates into extension.  This is the exact technique we used when my son went to Disney World for the first time.  Not blessed by age (he wasn't quite five years old) or genetics (his dad is 5'4"), he was just under the minimum height for some of the better rides.  But when I had him take a big breath in--presto!  He was good to go!  If only I had known about this trick when I was his age...

Now blow the air out of your lungs and feel how you get shorter as you literally compress into flexion.  In a properly functioning body, inhaling is coupled with axial extension, abduction, and external rotation.  Exhaling is coupled with axial flexion, adduction, and internal rotation.  And lifting with proper breathing mechanics will help you be stronger during the lift.

The one exception to this rule is when lifting at intensities that necessitate holding one's breath.  The body does this naturally as a way to stabilize the diaphragm so the muscles of in the Inner Unit have a solid foundation from which to apply force and support/protect the axial skeleton.  Failure to do so would send excessive loads through the spine, eventually resulting in injury.  Thus, using a heavy back squat as an example, optimal breathing for a safe and successful lift would proceed in the following order: 

1--INHALE to charge the thoracic cavity.

2--Gently draw in the belly button to activate the TVA.

3--Descend in a controlled manner with knees tracking over toes and your pressure through the heels.

4--Once at parallel or at the appropriate depth based on the ability to maintain a lumbar lordosis, begin the ascent.  EXHALE through pursed lips after passing through the sticking point as you return to the start position.

5--Begin as explained in step one and repeat for the designated number of reps.