Congratulations to past podcast guest, David Goldman on his role in this feature! This will definitely be a must watch!
As athletes, it is critical to use assessments in an advantageous way to guide programming towards the goals we wish to achieve. As general health and fitness participants, this is equally as important.
Simply put by Eric Cressey and many others, “If you’re not assessing. You are guessing.”
With jobs, families, and other vices pulling at our time, it is important to not waste time with training that fails to meet our needs. When used correctly, assessments unlock key data.
Ever feel that one side is tighter than the other? If you’re a swimmer, does one catch happen a little wider than the other? OK. Great! Now how much is the difference?
That is where an assessment comes in.
Not only does an assessment help quantify differences when comparing the left and the right side of the body, it provides a tool to compare with over time. Complete a new training cycle? Hitting higher volumes in the pool? An assessment helps you quantify changes that occur. Not only does it show improvement, it can show you when training is negatively impacting you. Then adjustments can be made before injury occurs.
You do not need the latest tech gear to be effective. Take our online training assessment for example. Everything is completed with minimal equipment and does not need wearable technology.
As part of RITTER Masters, you get access to our online assessment and complete a “Basic Training.” By the end, you will have the resources needed to take the data from your personal assessment and design a proper program based off of this.
Yes, assessment drives exercise selection.
Now let’s talk tracking. Let me paint a scene for you.
Jenny and John start their resistance training session for the day. This is their second time through this particular session (completed last week). The first exercise is a goblet squat for five repetitions. Jenny wrote down that she completed the exercise with 25# during the previous week. John thinks he did the exercise with some weight in the range of 35# to 55# last week, but he’s a little unsure.
Who is in the better position to succeed?
Jenny knows exactly what weight she used last week. This means she will be, at minimum, matching her performance. If the goal is to progress the weight weekly, she has the data to do so safely and effectively.
John thinks he needs to be using anywhere from 35 lb to 55 lb. That’s a wide range. If he did 35# last week and thinks he did 55 lb, 55 lb this week could result in too much of a jump in weight. This could lead to injury.
On the other end, let’s say John did do 55 lb last week, but he thinks he did 35#. He completes this week’s training with 35 lb. Did he get the most out of his training this week? No.
Capture some baseline data on yourself. Use this baseline data to monitor the effects of training, whether positive or negative. This can save you a lot of hassle in the future and can help take your training to a more effective level.
As coaches, we sometimes forget what it is like to be coached. We spend so much time looking out for others and their programming that we sometimes forget or minimize our own journey.
One of my passions is the sport of Olympic weightlifting. I’m by no means an expert, but I enjoy the beauty of the movements and the journey Olympic weightlifting takes you on. You have to think about the movement to learn it, but then you must not think while doing it (thinking=slow).
Clean + Jerk:
I had been following a program for almost a year and had seen solid results. However, I was just ready for something new. The old routine had run its course. After a few months of doing my own thing, I was ready to jump in to another program and continue learning.
There’s two massive positives I take away from having a coach. First, I don’t have to program my own training. It’s there ready to go for me. This is something athletes and clients enjoy. Also, I get to sit back and learn. Each coach has his or her style. Following a program can be one of the greatest learning tools around.
When it was time to jump back in to a program, I reached out to my friend Brad Wirth. Brad loves the Olympic movements and was eager to help. He set me up with a 12-week Olympic lifting cycle. You may remember Brad from Bomenclature Podcast #5 (http://www.bomenclature.com/podcast/2016/5/23/episode-5-brad-wirth-the-quadfather).
Sample Training Session:
At the start, I was consistently hitting a 175 lb snatch (my lifetime PR was 200 lb) and a 220 lb clean + jerk (lifetime PR of 255 lb). I definitely wasn’t at my best, but it was something to start with. These numbers are nowhere near world class, but I enjoy trying to stay ahead in lb what the elite lift in kg.
Now eight weeks in, the magic is happening.
I just wrapped up my day 1 route for week eight. After a few triples, doubles, and singles, the goal was to work up to a heavy snatch with no misses. Last week, I did a smooth 185 lb and called it. This week, I promised myself I would keep going if I felt good.
185 lb- Successful
195 lb- Successful
200 lb- Successful
205 lb- Successful (lifetime PR)
215 lb- Near miss
I know I wasn’t supposed to miss, but I was feeling good so I had to try! I sent the videos to Brad for some coaching. His response, “I actually like you set up on 215 more than 205. Maybe on a day where you try to go for it with less work leading up, you’ll have it!”
I challenge you to find a coach. Continue learning. Stay hungry.
Check back in another four weeks for my final recap!
The Quadfather-Brad Wirth
As you may know, I am a Performance Coach for RITTER Sports Performance. Below you will find a blog post regarding one of my online athletes, Melissa Schafer! It captures our very successful go at the 2016 Nationwide U.S. Masters Spring National Championship.
Check out what Melissa has to say about RITTER Sports Performance:
Interested in learning more about RITTER Sports Performance?
Learn more about RITTER: http://rittersp.com/?ref=melissapost
Online Training Programs: http://rittersp.com/online/athlete/?ref=melissapost
Way back in November, I had the privilege of “meeting” Melissa. We had just wrapped up our initial phone call to discuss which RITTERSP path would best fit her needs. I’ll never forget at the end of our first call.
After about 30-minutes of discussion about RITTERSP programming, Melissa asked, “So you program my strength training right? Not the pool stuff?”.
It makes me smile when I look back and see how far we have progressed. Melissa set goals that were 4-7 seconds faster than her pre-RITTERSP times. Despite having some concerns, Melissa decided to take the leap of faith and sign up for RITTERSP Online Training. She opted for the Silver plan, which meant monthly updates to training.
My initial focus was to balance out some of her assessment score areas. For Melissa, this involved a heavy focus on shoulders and hips. On top of balancing out these areas, we started building our base strength. At RITTERSP we focus on hinge, squat, push, pull, and brace movements.
Monthly calls with Melissa were epic! Melissa always had great questions about how the training was going to help her with her goals. She also wanted to know more than just the surface level implications of an exercise. This let me nerd out on the program and help give her enough information to continue buying into the program. Melissa’s biggest struggle was trusting that her minimized time in the pool (compared to her college days) would truly allow her to reach her goals.
We entered 2016 with a focus on volume. This was also when Melissa started to notice her body changing due to training. While on a skiing trip, she realized her legs could hold lines better and she could turn with ease. In January we continued to build up Melissa’s strength. In February, strength continued to build but power also entered the equation. It was time for Melissa to start focusing on being fast.
March started with a little curveball. Melissa had about a week of illness. Being so close to nationals, Melissa was worried how this would impact her performance. We focused on maintaining joint function and doing low intensity movement as she recovered. After a week of easing back into things, it was full steam ahead.
Volume decreased throughout March but intensity was on the rise. We focused on less repetitions but heavier repetitions. Melissa would transition quickly from a heavy movement to a bodyweight speed movement, focusing on contrast. She also closed in on completing her first unassisted pull-up. As for conditioning, we started to mimic the duration of her events. By using rowers and other conditioning modalities, we focused training a range that encompassed the length of her events in the pool.
March was a tough month in the pool for Melissa. The illness knocked out a week. Travel altered her swim schedule the next. A third week was affected by a busy life. She managed as many sessions in the pool as she could (1-2 a week).
Doubt started to creep in.
Melissa was unsure if a good national performance at the end of April was really possible. She signed up for a final tune up meet in early April to ease her mind. Melissa experienced slight drops in her times while racing conservatively!
April’s training focused on getting Melissa mentally and physically ready for the big meet. It was all about being FAST! We maintained Melissa’s strength with less reps and heavier weights. This allowed her body to experience lesser volume and not feel worn down. Melissa completed explosive movements to put the finishing touches on her training. Melissa also reached a huge milestone in the weeks leading up to the meet. She completed her first unassisted pull up!
After all of the ups and downs over the previous five months, it was time to race!
2016 Nationwide U.S. Masters Spring National Championship
100 Free 30-34yr: 4th-56.52 (59.23 seed time)
200 IM 30-34yr: 5th 2:20:07 (2:27:34 seed time)
*Niagara District Record!
This is only the beginning! Look out for Melissa to make an even bigger splash in the future!
RITTERSP Performance Coach
On Saturday, I attended the first Penn Sports Performance Symposium and it was a really unique experience. I have attended a few symposiums and conferences, but the spectrum of presentation and discussion at this symposium was spectacular. The room was filled with MD, ATC, CSCS, PT, and RD credentialed individuals. The side conversations between presentations even provided amazing insight on how to progress the field of sports performance.
One thing that I think is critical is that we become comfortable with this idea of sports performance. As strength coaches, we sometimes box ourselves in and put up massive walls. Sports performance is a more comprehensive methodology. We should want to rub elbows with MD, ATC, PT, and RD professionals in the field. The first priority should be the athlete. We need to put egos aside to progress to a new frontier of performance. Below are a few of the highlights I took away from the presentations.
Notes from the symposium:
Rob Wagner, PhD: Exercise Technique
-“You can’t be strong if you’re not confident.”
-ATC and CSCS should strive to develop consistent standards for teaching movements. An athlete will notice differences in teaching standard (ex. Setup for a squat) and have a harder time developing movement mastery.
Main Duties of a Strength Coach:
- Prevention of Injury
- Performance Enhancement
-Keep in mind that poor technique can be “mastered” just like good technique. Poor technique can result in limited athlete potential.
-When thinking about strength training and skill performance, think about the consistencies between the strength movement and the sport. For example, use a squat because it provides similar loaded ranges that the athlete will experience in the sport.
- However, do not change the exercise to replicate the sport skill (ex. Have rowers squat super narrow due to position in the boat). Altering the exercise to fit the sport skill may alter the overall effectiveness of the exercise. The athlete is also getting plenty of “sport specific” repetition in practice. Find pieces of the exercise that mimic the sport skill and highlight those specific pieces of the movement, without changing the overall execution of the movement (ex. Focus on the drive from the floor during a squat and compare it to the drive a rower needs in competition).
- Think about the speed of the sport when teaching the technique of training exercises. Move slow, be slow. Move fast, be fast.
Phases of Learning
- This phase is the beginner phase or a phase where an athlete is relearning a skill.
- The phase lasts for a very short time.
- Keep things simple. Focus on positive feedback and keep a macro view of movement. The goal is to start confidence development early.
Cues to focus on:
- Focus on proper setup and the endpoint of the movement. Keep things basic.
- Get away from an athlete having to see themselves move. Focus more on kinesthetic sense. -Most of your time as a coach will be spent in this phase. The athletes should become conversationally fluent in a movement.
- Start to break down a movement into more technical detail.
- Teach an athlete why we do things the way we do (ex. Why is the bar path important).
- Make praise more specific and precise (ex. Way to keep your chest up.)
- The athlete does without thinking.
- Coaches should question athletes in a way that the athlete analyzes the skill (ex. How did that feel?). Get the athlete to reflect on the movement.
- The use of imagery/self-talk can be implemented for performance.
Cues to focus on:
-Break the lifts into two main phases (squat, bench, deadlift):
- Setup-This increases in importance as progression through learning phases occurs and performance increases.
- Performance-This encapsulates the actual lift.
Points for Bench Press:
- When do we ever see movement where elbows are at shoulder height during a pressing motion? Usually if elbows are at shoulder height, the athlete lost (ex. Lineman). An athlete should look at the ceiling while benching, not at the bar. A basketball player does not look at the ball while shooting a free throw. The athlete looks at the rim.
Points for Squat:
- High bar back squat is more universal and safer for beginners.
- Elbows should be pointed slightly back to lock bar in place (versus straight down).
- If an athlete has a short torso and long legs the athlete will struggle to get to bottom of a squat with upright torso. Have these athletes front squat instead. Think about the first rule of a strength coach when teaching a squat. Prevention of injury!
Points for Coaching:
- Athletes will view you as an expert because of your position. This often makes it hard for them to relate to you in terms of movement. Having a lead athlete that is proficient in lifts opens the gateway for a powerful demonstration tool. The athletes will be able to relate more to the athlete demoing versus when you demo. This allows them to pick up more of the skill faster.
Diana Caramanico, MAPP (Masters of Applied Positive Psychology): Mental Skills in Sports Performance
-Optimism is “the engine of resilience.”
-Absence of negative emotion=sociopathy
-Don’t fear negative emotion. You just have to channel it effectively and in the right dosage.
-Negative emotion helped our ancestors pass on good genes.
- Ex. “A lion is coming. I should probably hide.”
- Negative emotion is for self preservation.
- Positive emotion is for societal preservation.
-Inducing the right amounts of negative emotion can help an athlete or team refocus.
- Ex. A team is up by 20 points and starts to take the foot off of the gas. The opposing team makes an 8-0 run to cut into the lead. A coach can implement some negative emotion to refocus players and up performance.
-Resilience is a learned skill.
-Exposing kids to adversity helps with this development of resilience. Micro-adversities are still needed in child development. Even having a child experience boredom exposes them to a stat where adversity is needed. They figure out how not to be bored. Leagues where nobody gets out or everyone goes to Nationals is detrimental to life resiliency.
Emotional Control: Deep breathing only goes so far. It is like “putting a bandage on a stab wound.”
- Activating event: What event triggered the struggle for emotional control.
- The event does not cause the emotion. If the event caused the emotion, we would all respond the same way to events. Comprehension and thoughts surrounding the event cause us to respond differently.
- Belief: This needs to be the focal point of long-term change.
- Control Emotions
- Turn threats into opportunities. Take the athlete past adversity to a sliver of hope.
- Ex. Threat: I failed the run test for the team. Opportunity: I now know what my weakness is and what I need to improve on. This will help me develop more effective programming to reach my goals.
- Turn threats into opportunities. Take the athlete past adversity to a sliver of hope.
Hunt the good stuff:
-Make an effort to highlight three positive points from the day during dinner.
-We are hard wired to find negativity. It takes a conscious effort to notice positive. This can be trained, however.
James Findley, PHD: Sleep and Human Performance
-Sleep is under diagnosed in athletics due to the though that an athlete is admitting fatigue or weakness.
- An athlete believes this will result in a loss of playing time.
-There are three types of people who will not get enough sleep.
- Those who can’t. Those who won’t. Those who don’t.
-Insufficient sleep results in increased cortisol and decreased glycogen.
-Stage III sleep is most important for physical restoration and rejuvenation.
-REM sleep is most important for cognitive restoration and rejuvenation.
-Wakefulness peaks during the mid morning and then mid afternoon.
- College athlete peaks are, on average, shifted later compared to average peaks.
- Expecting optimal performance at a 6 am lift may not be realistic for most. There are extra barriers to performance.
- The most drowsy state is when circadian drive and drive for sleep are closest in levels (post lunch).
-Circadian drive can eliminate home field advantage. It is best to start adapting to time changes days in advance of competition to minimize the effects of circadian drive.
-Sleep deficits are cumulative. You don’t adjust to lower levels of sleep. You just get worse.
- Subjective aspect does level out over time. Ex. “I feel fine."
- Objective aspect does not. Performance will continue to decline.
-Studies have shown that increased sleep (into the 8-10 hour range) results in increased individual performance. These increases in individual performance can result in more team success.
Jim Steel, Med, CSCS: So you want to be a strength coach?
-Teach athletes that it is ok to be uncomfortable.
- The weight is going to feel heavy.
-Athletes are rarely as into training as you are.
-Everyone gets one time (to be late, miss a lift, etc.).
-No time for gimmicks.
-Always know why or admit when you don’t know why.
- Then find out why.
-Anyone can make their athletes throw up.
-Never forget what it is like to be a freshman.
-Trick athletes into getting strong.
-Don’t let a bad workout get you down.
-Everything works: there’s good, better best
-Go by science, not by feeling.
- Provide concrete data on why training works.
-Understand trepidations about lifting.
- Ex. The squat is scary because you can’t see the bar.
-Understand trepidations about maxing.
-Get ready for plan breakers.
- Sport coaches are notorious for this.
-Learn one thing a day.
-Tell your athletes to do one thing to get them better everyday.
-Have fun and relax.
-Show me the pros on your team.
- Ex. Don’t do an Olympic program if you’re not Olympic.
-Don’t micromanage coaches on your staff. Don’t make robots out of them.
- Ex. Everyone has a right to their own style.
-Just because I make it look easy does not mean that it is easy.
-You must compete.
- Want respect from athletes? Compete.
- Realize that there’s much more to an athlete’s life than just the two hours he or she spends in the weight room weekly.
-Keep your mouth shut and learn.
Often I get asked, “Do you train males and females differently?” The short answer is no. I do not prescribe different exercises based on biological sex.
My belief is that there are certain movement patterns that everyone should train and aim to master. I like to focus around push, pull, deadlift variations, and “core” movements. In terms of importance, I program pull, deadlift, and “core” variations first. When writing programs for clients, I like to follow the K.I.S.S. method (Keep It Simple Stupid). A great resource to consider is Rob Miller’s, The Map of Athletic Performance.
Without going into too much detail, you can see that we spend much of our sport life in beginner and intermediate phases, sometimes never exiting these phases. This also applies to training. Very little portions of a persons training fall into the advanced or elite category. The basics create a foundation that can be built upon for years to come. Basic movements can yield great results.
Now back to the original question, “Do you train males and females differently?” The long answer, “Yes.” Let’s talk about the dreaded “m-word.” Let’s talk menstruation.
Review of the menstrual cycle (for the sake of this article):
From this chart, we see that the menstrual cycle has two main phases with two other focal points. The main phases are the follicular phase and luteal phase. The two other focal points are menstruation and ovulation.
Timeline (varies from person to person):
Day 0-6: Menstruation
Day 0-14: Follicular Phase
Day 14: Ovulation
Day 15-28: Luteal Phase
Based on the physiological changes occurring, I do believe the menstrual cycle can be used as a great training tool. SAY WHAT?! Hear me out.
-During the follicular phase, women tend to have a higher tolerance to pain. Does this mean you should start punching yourself? No. Does this mean you might be able to push a little extra volume around in your training or attempt to maintain a faster running pace with less discomfort compared to other times during the month. Yes. You may also benefit from greater force-generation capacity.
The body also seeks out carbohydrates for fuel during this phase. During the first 14 days of the menstrual cycle, aiming for higher intensities and volumes is more realistic due to these factors.
KEY POINT: Feel free to push the envelope a bit here. If you’re feeling good, this is a good point to try a little more. As you approach ovulation, keep in mind the rate of injury starts to rise, so focus on form under load towards the end of this phase.
Around day 14 (can vary from day 10-14), ovulation kicks in. At this point, relative strength will still be elevated and force generation will still be at your monthly prime time slot. When ovulation hits, it is not the worst time to go for a personal record in whatever endeavor you’re training for.
The kicker, injury rate is also elevated during ovulation. Estrogen concentration increases during this time. Estrogen can hinder collagen synthesis and neuromuscular control. The American Journal of Sports Medicine found that women were three times more likely to suffer an ACL injury while ovulating. This was found in participants who were not on birth control.
Women that are on birth control have more steady levels of estrogen over the course of a menstrual cycle. This leads to less ACL vulnerability over the course of a cycle.
In another study, women were found to land from jumps differently during ovulation. Could this tweak in landing mechanics lead to a tweak in the knee?
KEY POINT: The take home is to do technical maxes through this phase. Focus heavily on form if you’re going to try for a PR during this phase. Maybe even shift your focus to something with less injury chance (example: a 3-RM versus a 1-RM). This finding will definitely benefit from further research, as it is not 100% clear what causes the increased risk of tears during ovulation. Studies have focused on ligament laxity, landing mechanics, and estrogen receptors in the ACL. The effects of increased estrogen on neuromuscular control should, at least, be considered.
When looking at the luteal phase, it is often noted that body temperature rises during this time. The change in distribution of blood flow can have an effect on cardiac output. This leaves you less efficient at a level of exertion compared to what you would be without the increased body temperature.
Managing all of this can also become more difficult when PMS kicks in. Premenstrual syndrome has the potential to be downright debilitating. Not only does the body experience a decreased level of efficiency, the variables of pain and discomfort get added to the mix.
The luteal phase also shifts back to having fuel focus on fats. Fats will not give you the same power result as carbohydrates. Focus on a more medium volume lifts and overall maintenance until you are back into the follicular phase.
Overall risk of injury seems to drop once the luteal phase is reached. Ligament laxity returns to normal. Other factors just provide limitations.
KEY POINT: Focus more on medium volume lifts and training. If you’re having an off training session, it’s most likely the feeling of decreased efficiency kicking in. Kick back on the volume and intensity and get ready for the next follicular phase by focusing on form and maintenance. You may be able to complete training as scheduled. It just might not feel as great.
So how can you apply this to your life or career?
Individually and in Personal Training Settings:
- The first step is to figure out the length of your cycle. Then using the chart above, you can figure out a rough estimate of when follicular and luteal phases occur. After that, it’s all about how you structure your programming.
- Focus the “go getter” weeks during the beginning of the follicular phase.
- Once ovulation is projected, put an extra heavy emphasis on form.
- Finish out the menstrual cycle with medium volume training during the luteal phase. Take a little extra time to work into the training (smaller jumps with weight, etc.). One way to navigate this is to use ranges during this phase. For example, set a back squat to 2-4 sets at 80% of your maximum. If you warm up and make it through a few sets feeling solid, finish out the four sets. If you feel like crap, hit two sets and then move on. This way you still get meaningful work, but don’t beat yourself up mentally and physically when it is not in the cards.
Strength & Conditioning Settings:
- Luckily teams often seem to have menstrual cycles that sink up. Finding ways to properly approach athletes about this subject will help in the long run. It will be easy to plot a general timetable and then program monthly training around these phases. Athletes will appreciate knowing that menstrual cycles are factored in to training and will also appreciate the understanding of why training will feel different during the follicular and luteal phases.
- One thing that must be understood is that a season or event is not always going to line up with peak performance timetables in a menstrual cycle. Overall training weights and volumes can be maintained over the course of a cycle even though physiological changes is continuous. Being aware of the physiological changes that occur is crucial to the focus of training. Being aware that performance can be maintained throughout is also important to the psyche of an athlete or team.
The research behind the power of the menstrual cycle continues to grow and I am hopeful that the research will eventually highlight a form of causation. That being said, we can make meaningful changes based off of current research to better service ourselves, our clients, and our teams!
This week, I am changing things up with a little “magic pill” that often gets overlooked due to its age.
Often clients, athletes, and other industry professionals highlight nagging pains in knees, hips, backs, and shoulders. We fire up the painkillers, schedule a surgery, and chalk it up to old age, injuries, and other “lack of control” factors. Of course, sometimes more invasive measures are needed due to the extent of an issue; Other times, the fix can be completed for a much cheaper price.
How about an $8 fix?
A staple in my library since 2012 has been The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion by Pete Egoscue. This simple book was published in 1993 and packs a punch that is worth much more than the $8 entry fee.
Why has this book found a permanent home in my library?
The current state of the fitness industry has us searching for extreme answers for simple questions. Yes, we should always progress and try to learn more about our bodies. Yes, we should implement findings from new research to general health and performance training. Yes, we should strive to find better solutions.
We must not forget simplicity. Pet Egoscue captures effective simplicity in the book.
- “Pain is not something to be feared; it is something to be understood.”
- “You are pretty smart, but your body is smarter.”
- “Pain is your body’s voice. Listen to your body.
- “The only product that’s worth investing in is a fully functional musculoskeletal system. It’s no luxury but rather a basic necessity that’s within everyone’s reach.
- “A pain free, active lifestyle is not only possible, but it is the way you should expect to feel and live, no matter your age, no matter your previous experience.”
Pain and other limiting factors of movement can originate from postural deviations. The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion breaks deviations down into three “conditions.” From a practitioner’s perspective, imagine the ability to effectively master three conditions to the point where you could correct these conditions with ease.
A quote that was said often during my time at GW was, “Dominate your lane. Then expand your lane.” As a strength & conditioning coach or personal trainer, our scope of practice is not that of a physical therapist, M.D., or a chiropractor. However, we can master some basics and spark meaningful change with the basics.
The Three Conditions:
After establishing the condition of a person, Pete Egoscue takes you on a simple journey for postural correction. Each condition comes with a program on how to fix the associated postural issues. The fixes will not blow you away due to some flashy bells and whistles. What it will do is correct real issues with a dash of pure simplicity.
Sometimes looking back to the past will help you progress more than you could ever realize.
Pete Egoscue takes you on an amazing journey throughout the text and answers questions that get asked often in today’s world. You’ll leave each chapter with a greater understanding of your body and how to optimize it. This is done with pure simplicity in a world that becomes more complex by the minute.
Yes, the exercises could be changed. Yes, the book cover could be updated. Its effectiveness, however, is unmatched. Since its release in 1993, The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion has been in the hands of the consumer. Now it is time for the consumer to act.
You want a magic pill? Here it is.
*If you have read The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion, please comment with your thoughts below.
This week, I’m excited to talk about a topic that should be embraced by all.
The average fitness knowledge among humans is increasing!
Note: We still have plenty of interesting pathways in fitness and plenty of a need for fitness professionals to help people navigate the abundance of knowledge that they can access. There are also plenty of, “What the?” moments that occur in the fitness industry.
Working at an Ivy League institution, I understand that my lens includes students who are thought to be some of the best and brightest in the world. However, this trend is not just contained within a University setting. I believe this trend is viewable across all ages of life.
At the University setting, non-exercise science students are taking a greater interest in training. When I walk around our recreation facilities, I get absolutely stoked to hear people talk about Smolov, Westide, 5x5, California Strength, and other programs that are available. It is a beautiful thing to witness students critiquing each other’s form in Olympic lifts, challenging each other’s beliefs, and pushing each other to be better. I witness a lot of mediocrity around me on a daily basis, but it is beautifully comforting to see the training environments that are developing at the University level.
A few weeks ago, I sat in awe as I witnessed a general gym goer deadlift bodyweight+ and then initiate some occlusion training. I had to ask her why she was participating in occlusion training. Her response did not include, “It looked cool.” She talked about how she has read research on how it can help with left to right asymmetry issues, help her recover from injuries, and increase mass without wearing her skeleton down with more load. The fact that she took the time to think about her training to that depth was a breath of fresh air.
This style of training involves restricting blood flow by 70%+ to a specific area and using 20-40% of a 1-RM load. The reduction of blood flow followed by an increased level of blood flow has been shown to elicit helpful results in muscle growth and injury recovery.
This finding does not just stop at the University setting. People across all age ranges have taken a more vested interest in training. Training has become a much more visible part of society due to social media and other outlets. Also, look at the number of apps and wearables that give real time data. Managed properly, this data unlocks a world that was once only available for the athletic elite. This doesn’t mean everything posted is pure gold; however, we are developing a stimulating environment that is challenge the general exerciser to strive for better. If you ask me, I think life in general needs more of this.
Look around the next time you’re at a gym or out at the local exercise hot spot (shout out to the Rocky Steps). Although you may not agree with each training philosophy taking place, take in what is happening. Communities are becoming deeply rooted with exercise, friends are finding new challenges together, and people carving out their own path in the vast landscape of fitness. I have very strong opinions when it comes to training; yet, I am fully willing to embrace the beauty of this environment.
Shoot, even people at later stages of life are curious on how they can make things better. One of my closest influences is a 75-year-old seasoned warrior. The other day, I received an email from her asking how hip power can help better her day-to-day life. This is epic!
There’s even a crossover effect that is occurring. Yogis ask me about powerlifting. Powerlifters ask me about Pilates. Runners ask me about maximal strength. The playground that is forming is unreal! The thirst for knowledge is blossoming into quite a powerful environment.
What does this mean for fitness professionals?
We must adapt. We must be willing to embrace the development of knowledge. Often trainers, strength coaches, and performance advisers fear questions. The level of information available and the developing curiosity of this field will not accept this. Embrace the tough questions and conversations that tap into more than 10% of your knowledge. Be willing to accept that you don’t know an answer, but then do your homework! People want to know why something is programmed into their training session. Do not run from this! Cultivate an environment of constant learning and growth. This will help everyone sift through the abundance of information in the fitness world.
Fitness professionals will be called upon to develop and implement a higher level of knowledge at all levels. We must also accept the role of being the switchboard for the general population. People will seek guidance. Use your resources wisely to make the best informed recommendations you can. Always be willing to adapt.
What does this mean for recreation facilities?
Recreation facilities must be willing to embrace a much wider range of activity. The definition of recreation is changing, either hop on board or get left in the dust! People are craving more. Attempting to extinguish this flame will cause large scale facilities to crumble. Failing to embrace a style of training doesn’t just cost a facility a member or two. It will cost a facility a whole community that has developed within its walls.
My challenge for you:
Initiate meaningful conversations with fellow exercisers. Look past their methods if you disagree and just hear the thought that they put into their path. You might just get led on a blissful journey involving Smolov, Occlusion Training, and philosophies you never expected.
We still have many problems to fix in the world of fitness, wellness, nutrition, and general health. Take a moment to enjoy the change that is occurring now. Find a way to get involved. Let’s keep the momentum going.
If you haven’t been living under a rock this weekend, you might have seen that Conor McGregor was defeated by Nate Diaz at UFC196. This was an impressive victory for Diaz since he took the fight on an 11-day notice.
Heading into the fight, a lot of publicity surrounded McGregor’s movement coach, Ido Portal. Ido used many different tactics to try and prepare McGregor for a fight well above his normal weight class. A quick browse of Instagram or Facebook will show Mr. Portal and Mr. McGregor engaging in animalistic crawls, wrist mobility drills, and whipping a pool noodle around simulating a multitude of strike and dodging patterns.
This is not the first time an athlete enlisted the help of a “movement coach.” However, due to the social media connection with this fight, it was one of the more publicized moments in training history.
The training looked flashy, innovative, and had caught the eye of millions. Was this going to be the next big key to athletic performance?
Well if you watched the fight, the answer was a strong, unwavering…. No.
Since the fight ended, I have received countless texts and emails from old clients, fellow trainers, and just intrigued friends wanting to know my take on if I thought Ido’s training was effective. The internet has blown up with people mocking Ido Portal and saying that McGregor wasted too much time with his “movement coach.”
First off, we didn’t have 24/7 access to Conor McGregor’s training. Based on Instagram and other social media, it is easy to think that McGregor’s training was heavily focused with Ido as his guide. However, I fail to believe that McGregor’s team allowed him to just participate in the bits we get to see in a 15-second Instagram clip. A training camp for a fight is very comprehensive.
Looking at Ido’s body of work via his Instagram page, it is clear to see that he has great body control, body awareness, and overall artistic motion. One could definitely argue that these are attributes of great fighters.
So why didn’t this translate to a knockout performance by McGregor?
It has been said that McGregor’s camp involved minimal contact sparring. It also looked as if McGregor’s training involved many slow, relatively low resistance based movements. Based on previous testing, McGregor has the VO2 max of a midfielder in soccer. He can cover a lot of ground and recover quickly. McGregor has also been documented as able to complete 23 strict pull ups in 30 seconds. One area where McGregor scores a little bit lower is his punching power. His power was definitely adequate for the 145 lb weight class but was much more sub-par when reaching the 170 lb weight class.
Even with the lesser punching power, McGregor still caused Diaz to experience some pain early on in the fight. Landing a few body blows and shots to the face had Diaz in a more defensive fight.
Then it happened. Diaz connected on a solid blow that took McGregor by surprise. The pool noodle never hurt that badly.
Fear quickly crept in and McGregor stayed away from the body of Diaz. McGregor tried for some kicks and scratched for an answer before Diaz applied the choke to win the fight.
What went wrong?
I strongly believe that McGregor had minimized contact and resistance heading into the fight. Minimizing these two variables proved costly. It is easy to seem quick, strong, and agile without an outside force. However, once Diaz made his mark, physiological alarms went off in an instant for McGregor. Fight or flight started to kick in. This time the body chose flight. The minimized contact proved costly for McGregor’s mental state after that first blow. He couldn’t handle being hit. Although he had great power without external force, his blows were lest effective against the mass of Diaz, compared to 145 and 155 lb fighters. Diaz was able to absorb McGregor’s blows and each attack carried a little less zest compared to the first. Not only did McGregor lose his mental state, he lost his physical strength and power over time. I believe a better balance of resistance training would have alleviated the power drop off over the course of the fight. Maintaining strength and power for longer could’ve worn Diaz down faster. It would’ve also allowed McGregor not to fatigue as quickly under the external load he was fighting. It is often said in the strength & conditioning world that fast guys get slower but big guys don’t get smaller over the course of an athletic endeavor. This proved true again during the fight. The resistance of another fighter fatigued McGregor much faster than what his own bodyweight would in training. This effect could’ve been minimized by a more balanced programming. Also, minimizing contact definitely keeps the body fresh; yet, it turned out to be costly in the mental department.
In the future, balancing the flash with “old-school” strength will help McGregor find his way back to the light. Portal’s methods definitely have a place. However, McGregor’s team did not balance his training properly for this fight, leaving him completely exposed.