One Email Changed My Life!
November 7, 2014

One Email Changed My Life!


It was Thursday Morning April 8th, 2010. I was sitting at the front desk at the gym when we were located off Mendon Road. The business had been open just about 6 months and we were struggling.  I was losing about $5,000. a month had one employee who was walking all over me and come to find out stealing from me. I had no clue how I was going to pull it all together and keep it going. I had clients depending on me and not to mention my family who was depending on me and at the time we were expecting our second child that October. I remember vividly sitting at my desk clueless on how I would get out of this mess. I was paralyzed.  Than I opened my email inbox.

Before I talk about the email I wanted to share with you a story.  The story about my business and why this email was so impactful.  You see this month Athletes Equation will be celebrating the 5th anniversary of being open. In those 5 years.  That day in 2010 there is no way I would have told you I would be writing this blog post.  From the moment I opened the doors to Athletes Equation I have been through my fair share of shit. Enough stuff that would take down most people. While I have been business my sister passed away unexpectedly and in the first month I was opened, lost both my grandparents who were like a second Mom and Dad to me, Had major knee surgery and could not work for 3 months,  had a Birth of a child,  had a Divorce, and I could keep going. Lots of shit. But, The email I got on 4/8/10 changed my life  and helped me handle all of the shit that has come at me.  Fast forward to 2014 nnothing short of death will stop me from going where I want to be and I don’t even think death will stop me because I believe I have a legacy that will live on with my children, friends, and people I have touched. Much like the man who sent this email over 4 years ago.

What the hell could make an email so powerful. It wasn’t much. But, it had everything to do with me as it did with the words in the email.  It was powerful as I was ready to listen. That is the power of messages and it is also the weakness. The most powerful of messages are useless unless someone is ready to listen. Being in the fitness industry I have seen hundreds of people come in to my gym and some are ready to listen and others aren’t. On 4/8/10 I was ready to listen to the message of that email. Today I hope you are too ready to listen because I know the message in this blog post will change your life just like it did for me. It’s message will make you bulletproof for all the shit that typically gets in your way of success.

On to the man who set me the email. Pat Rigsby is one of the brightest people I have had the pleasure of meeting. He is a fitness business consultant and has help countless people turn around their businesses and lives. I met Pat in 2009 and have followed him ever since. He sends out an almost daily email with information on how to build a better business. He is one of the most positive and intelligent people I know. Let me put it this way. When my wife told me she wanted a divorce I made two calls that day. First to my parents and second to Pat.  Enough said on the respect I have for the guy.  Now, this email he sent was not written just for me it was just a email marketing message trying to inspire and help me grow as a business person. But, what made it so powerful was I was ready to listen, take action and believe in its message. I know you are too. So, here it is….

7 Tips for Guaranteed Success!

  1. Stop blaming your circumstances! – guess what shit happens.  It happens to everyone.  It isn’t personal.  It is life.  There is always someone out there who has it worse but is living better than you.  So, stop playing the blame game and move on.
  2. Stop blaming other people! – Take responsibility for your own actions, your own mood, and your own success.  I am guilty as charged.  It is a hell of a lot easier to blame someone else than it is to take responsibility.  But, it is a thousand times more rewarding to take responsibility and move on.  You will be light years ahead of the rest of the population if you do this.
  3. Be persistent! – There is no such thing as an overnight success.  If you believe in something and stick to it than you will eventually succeed.  If you think that isn’t true than you really didn’t believe in it to begin with.  Buy into yourself and what you are doing and you will succeed.  It really is that simple.
  4. Do what you should be doing! – “your actions are either moving you closer or further from your goals.” -Pat Rigsby.  This is true in business, fitness, competitive athletics, life, etc.  Trying to save money for retirement and you eat out every night.  You won’t reach your goals.  Trying to lose 10 lbs and you drink beers 4 nights a week.  Yup, you won’t get there.  Do what you should be doing!
  5. Invest in others! – Nothing and I mean nothing will make you feel accomplished like helping someone out.  Taking your time, your money or your knowledge and sharing it with someone who needs it.  I belong to a networking group called BNI.  The philosophy of this group is that givers gain.  Give something to someone else and it will come back to you 100x more.
  6. Work on YOU everyday! – If you are not trying to improve yourself daily, you are just on your path to death.  Think I  am being dramatic I am not.  The nature of life is that you will decay until you die.  Sounds grim, well it is.  But, if you focus on improving yourself by taking classes, staying fit, doing things that add value to your life you will slow this process.  There isn’t a person on the planet that can’t improve in some area of their life.  Always work to improve!
  7. Focus on solutions, not problems! – Simply, build a no whining zone around you.  Stop complaining when something is bad.  Stop being so damn negative!  There is enough of that on this planet to keep the negative pity party going without you.  Find the positive in everything,  find the solution to everything.  When there is an obstacle in your way spend your energy getting over it not bitching about it.

So, here is where I end my post the same why Pat ended his email.  Take a few minutes and digest these 7 tips.  If you choose to live by them everything in your life just got a little bit easier.  Success does not happen by accident.  It happens when you make it happen.

October 27, 2014

Pumpkin Bootcamp a Huge Success


Yesterday we hosted our 1st ever PUMPkin bootcamp for charity.  We had twelve awesome people show up to get a great workout for a great cause.  Overall we raised $275 for the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Research Foundation.  I would like to give an extra special thanks to Brooke, Sage, and Owen Patterson who donated $30 that they raised by selling breast cancer themed bracelets.  On top of that $30 we had $185 in donations and Athletes Equation pitched in $5 for every person who attended for a total of $275.

The bootcamp was a lot of fun with some awesome costumes.  The workout was more than a challenge and that was dependent on what sized pumpkin you brought.  Check out the awesome photos of the event below.

10659208_10152357990187187_8778753578045619285_n 10347722_10152357990507187_255182917849186147_n 10411219_10152357990672187_6926250668879821636_n 10647221_10152357990542187_3987666391690767377_n 10712975_10152357990237187_8550675418496069107_n 10712826_10152357990307187_7433434403432707936_n 10710540_10152357990707187_7894677407154962585_n

core anatomy
October 8, 2014

Building the Athletic Foundation: The Truth about Core Training for Athletes


There is one area of training for sports performance that is often neglected, miss interpreted or poorly applied by Coaches and Athletes. You can go online or visit your local bookstore and find books and plenty of articles written on Core Training for athletes. Most Coaches and Athletes will tell you they know how to train their core. A vast majority of the time when Core training is discussed in conversation or in a written article or book the main focus is on abdominal musculature training and primarily the movement of trunk flexion.   When it comes to real Core Training for athletes it is about developing a foundation in the torso that the athlete can use to generate more force with their extremities and to transfer energy developed by the legs to the upper body. It is this Athletic foundation that will enable any athlete to improve and perform at a higher level. The abdominal musculature/ trunk flexion way of thinking for sports performance is the equivalent to people thinking the world was flat during Christopher Columbus’ time. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how focusing on developing the Athletic Foundation will create a better athlete and provide you with some simple exercises that will make any athlete better.

 

core anatomy

Athletic Performance core anatomy

Why is focusing on Abdominal training inappropriate for athletes? It isn’t that focusing on “abs” is bad. It is just that the abdominal wall is just one small portion of the musculature that makes up the Athletic Foundation.   If you think of your Athletic Foundation and torso as a box you will understand that this foundation has three dimensions to it. Traditional abdominal focused core training is one dimensional. The Athletic Foundation as a Top, bottom, Front, Back, Left and right side to it. You must train all of these aspects to create balance and strength throughout the torso. The top of the box is created by the diaphragm. This is the muscle that aids in breathing. But, it also separates the abdominal cavity of the torso from the cavity where the lungs and heart are located. The bottom of the box will be made up of the musculature that fills the bottom of the pelvic floor. Both of these sets of musculature is very strong and in the martial arts these two muscle systems are utilized to create great amounts of rigidity for both delivering strong blows but also protecting one’s self from taking strong blows. The sides of the box are going to be created by the internal and external obliques.   These muscles both flex the trunk but also create rotation. The back of the box is created by the musculature on the posterior side of the body. As you can see from the picture above that this is a great deal of musculature. These muscles primary job is to keep our body up right. Without strength in these muscles becoming faster and stronger is much harder than it needs to be. Finally the front of the box is created by two muscles that have varying roles. First, is the muscle that most people are knowledgeable of, it is the rectus abdominis. AKA the 6 Pack, there is probably no more misunderstood muscle in the human body than this muscle. First, to have a six pack has everything to do with body fat percentage and nothing to do with strength. But, that is a whole other topic. Second, if this muscle was meant for pure flexion like a sit up it would not have the appearance it has. The bands of connective tissue that creates the six pack appearance are there so this muscle can make a contraction with minimal movement. If it was meant to create a large movement like in a crunch these stents would not be there and this muscle would look more like two long muscles then the six pack that is there. The other muscle is the Transverse Abdominis. This muscle is vastly more important than the rectus abdominis and is designed with a huge surface area that can generate large amounts of stability in the torso.

 

Now that you have a better understanding of the structure of the Athletic Foundation we will learn how this structure needs to be trained.   At Athletes Equation we have 6 aspects of training that we focus on when training the Athletic Foundation. The 6 Criteria of training are:

  1. Dynamic Abdominal Training
  2. Static Abdominal Training
  3. Posterior Hip Development
  4. Medial Hip Development
  5. Posterior Shoulder training
  6. Spinal Stabilization

Our exercises we use for training the Athletic Foundation must meet more than one of these criteria for us to utilize it in our training program. Below is the Athletes Equation Big 12 exercises for an Athletic Foundation of Iron.

 

Drill One – Single Leg Hip Lift (Posterior Hip Development/Spinal Stabilization)

 

Drill Two – The Bird Dog (Spinal Stabilization/Static Abdominal Training)

 

Drill Three – Front Plank (Spinal Stabilization/Posterior Shoulder Training/Static Abdominal Training)

 

Drill Four – Push Up position Shoulder Taps (Posterior Shoulder Training/Spinal Stabilization)

 

Drill Five – Double Leg Lowers (Spinal Stabilization/Dynamic Abdominal Training)

 

Drill Six – Side Plank (Static Abdominal Training/Spinal Stabilization/Posterior Shoulder Training)

 

Drill Seven – The Russian Twist (Dynamic Abdominal Training/Spinal Stabilization)

 

Drill Eight – Hip Abduction Leg Lift (Medial Hip Training/Spinal Stabilization)

 

Drill Nine – Dead Bugs (dynamic Abdominal Training/ Spinal Stabilization)

 

Drill Ten – Draw in crunch (Dynamic Abdominal Training/Spinal Stabilization)

 

Drill Eleven – Athletic Position Band Holds (Spinal Stabilization/Static Abdominal Training)

 

Drill Twelve – Band Tears (posterior shoulder training/Spinal Stabilization)

May 12, 2014

Training Tip – The Drop Set


You have been training hard trying to get stronger.  But, you just can’t seem to lift that next weight up.  Whether it is a dumbbell, barbell, kettlebell, medicine ball, etc.  Any type of resistance can use the drop set to help bridge the gap when acquiring new strength.  The Drop set is a technique that body builders use to train for the volume they need to build muscle.  But, the technique can be used by you to help complete that set of 10 for let’s say overhead press when you can only do 6 good reps with 20 lbs and instead of giving up and going down to 15 for 10 reps or even worse doing 4 crappy reps with 20 lbs and potentially hurting yourself, take advantage of the drop set.  It can be the difference between plateauing with strength and building new strength. 

Example with the overhead press.  You are doing a set of 10 with 20 lbs but can only get 6 good reps.  If you stop at 6 reps you only get 120 lbs of volume for the set (20 lbs x 6 reps= 120 lbs).  If you drop down to 15 lbs dumbbells then you get a little more volume but not much more with 150 lbs.  If you do your six reps with 20 lbs and finish with 4 reps at 15 lbs you will have a total volume of 180 lbs which is only 20 lbs less than if you did the full 10 reps of 20 lbs. 

By utilizing the drop set in training you will gain strength quicker than if you just stay with one weight.  So, the next time you are struggling with a weight think to do a drop set. 

August 4, 2013

Is Resisted Running Bad for You?


In his book “Explosive Running” Dr. Michael Yessis asks the question if you can consider running is a natural movement for humans.  I know a large number of you reading this will say that it is.  The truth of the matter is that it isn’t.  Next time you are watching the Nature channel and see a herd of Gazelles galloping across the savannah in Africa try to spot out the differences between the strides of the Gazelles.  Now the next sunny weekend day take a look at all of the joggers and see if you can spot their differences in their running gate.  I bet this is beginning to change your answer.  The true answer to Dr. Yessis question is that running for humans is not a natural movement.  It is one that must be learned and refined through practice.  Now, I believe running is a natural ability for humans and we are made to run but that it takes large amounts of practice to reach full potential as a runner.  Sprinters like Usain Bolt were not born and raised to run sub 9.6 100 meter dashes.  It takes countless hours of training and skill perfection to be on the edge of human performance like Bolt.

So now that we know running is a skill which must be learned I have a question for you.  Who taught you how to run?  Did you have someone introduce you to running technique?  Now, unless you have run track or been lucky enough to receive coaching in running mechanics chances are that you taught yourself how to run.  I know I taught myself how to run long before I even understood what the term biomechanics meant.  Needless to say there are a lot of people out there who have not ever put a moment’s thought into their running technique.  As a Strength Coach one of the most common requests from athletes I work with is to make them faster. There are several ways to make people faster.  Some are appropriate and some I believe are not.  One technique that I think is over used and is used too early in an athlete’s training program is resisted running.  Resisted running is usually done with Parachutes, weighted sleds, rubber bands, and other means of resistance.

Resisted forms of running are excellent for developing hip power and as long as they are being used for these means can be a very advantages part of a training program.  With that being said using these means solely as a means of improving running is a huge mistake.  Will an athlete get faster using these means?  Absolutely they will.  But, stealing a line from Mark Rippetoe “Everything works, just something’s better than others.”  Thinking about ways to train athletes that may work better than others lets reevaluate our use of resisted and assisted running in training of athletes.  If an athlete’s running biomechanics are near their full potential and flaws are minimal then by all means do some resisted/assisted running as a part of speed training.  But, if an athlete is not running with efficient biomechanics adding resistance to them will only reinforce the poor biomechanics or even worse make their running form even more flawed.

So, instead of adding resistance to train for speed try working on some running biomechanics.  By eliminating flaws in running form and improving movement you can make great improvements in speed for athletes and more importantly drastically reduce the risk of running related injuries.

Strength Training for Rowers


An under utilized part of training for Rowing is Strength Training.  Rowing requires a total body effort and proper flexibility and synchrony of appropriate musculature.  The physiological demands on the muscular system during rowing will require endurance, strength and power.  An appropriate strength training program used in conjunction with a rowing training regime will help to improve performance, reduce injury and aid in recovery from workouts.

 

The four phases of the rowing stroke the rower will be required to have adequate range of motion in several joints, adequate stability in the torso, and the ability to generate adequate force with the lower extremity.  Starting with the Catch phase and powering through the drive phase to the finish and through recovery proper range of motion within the ankle, knee, hip and torso is a must.  In order to appropriately generate power with the lower extremity during the drive phase and transfer this power through the torso and down to the oar the rower must be able to move through appropriate ranges of motion.  One detrimental adaptation from training can be from the repetitive stress on the hips and lower back in rowing.  It is not uncommon to have tightening of structures of the hips and the low back which in turn will limit range of motion.  Most notably rowers typically will have tight hamstrings and hip flexors.

 

Lack of mobility coupled with unbalanced strength or weakness is a recipe for injury.  Involvement in a proper strength and conditioning program with emphasis on flexibility of the hip, lower extremity strength and power, and torso strength will significantly decrease the chance of injury and significantly improve performance of rowers, especially if they have never been involved in a strength training program.

 

Here is a sample of some of the exercises we use with our rowers at Ullucci Sports medicine:

 

Hip mobility Drills – These drills are designed to be done after a complete dynamic warm up.  The help to encourage mobility throughout the hip, they are not just performed after the warm up but with some individuals they are done daily.

 

Split Squat:  This exercise is performed with the legs split apart so that the down knee and thigh will be perpendicular with the ground and the hands are behind the head.

 

Lower the back knee towards the ground so that it will hover just above it or as low as mobility will allow for the torso to remain upright and perpendicular to the ground.

 

 

Side Lunge:  The side lunge is performed with the feet slightly outside shoulder width and the arms out directly in front of the body.  Lunge to the side keeping the arms in front of the body and the knee and foot lined up.  Sent the hips back and the torso should come forward but you should try to keep the back in a neutral posture by emphasizing the chest up.  The hip should only go as deep as mobility will allow for a neutral spine with the chest up.

 

 

Rotary Lunge: The starting stance is with the front leg’s foot facing forward and the back legs foot facing away at a 90 degree angle from the front foot.  The stance has the feet just slightly outside shoulder width.  Lift the front foot toes up and sit the hips back.  The back foot and knee should line up and the depth of the lunge should be as deep as mobility will allow for a neutral spine with the chest up.

 

 

 

 

Hang Power Clean – This exercise is an excellent choice for developing explosive strength throughout the total body.  This exercise involves nearly every muscle of the lower & upper extremities and the musculature of the torso.  Performed explosively it is best performed with proper coaching and with weight that ensures proper technique and acceleration of the barbell.  The start position is with the feet hip width apart and the knees slightly bent.  The lifter should distribute their weight through whole foot with emphasis through the rear foot.  Their back is in a neutral spine posture with their shoulder blades tight with the spine.  Their arms are straight and they grip the bar with a closed grip or a hook grip.  The barbell is accelerated up from the hang position to a triple extended position where the ankles, knees and hips are fully extended and the shoulders are shrugged.  This is accomplished by pushing away from the floor.  The arms are maintained straight until the barbell reaches maximal height.  At that time the lifter quickly changes their upward momentum by accelerating down ward by pulling their body under the barbell.  They snap their elbows through the barbell by loosening their grip driving the elbows up and then quickly around the barbell.  The bar is received in a ¼ squat position with the elbows parallel to the ground.

 

 

Front Squat  – The front squat begins with either a grip similar to the finish position of the clean or a cross over grip displayed below.  The barbell with be in a squat rack and should be unracked by the lifter after they brace their abs and then they should take a few steps away with the barbell.  From a fully erect position the lifter starts the lift by pushing their hips back and quickly follow with bending of the knees.  The spine should be maintained in a neutral posture with emphasis on keeping the chest up.

 

 

During the decent in the front squat the elbows should be kept parallel to the ground and the lifters weight through the whole foot with empisis on the rear foot.  The proper depth for a front squat is the hip parallel or below the knee.  As the lifter lowers the barbell they should not allow the knees to cave inward or move too far forward over the toes.

 

 

Deadlift – The deadlift begins with a barbell on the ground.  The lifter should have their feet under the barbell and hip width apart.  From here they should bend down and grip the bar with a closed grip just outside the knees.  The bar should be touching the shins and positioned over the middle of the foot.  The back should be in a neutral spine posture and the hips above the knees.  The shoulder blades should be positioned directly over the barbell making the shoulders appear to be in front of the bar.  The head should be looking directly ahead.  From the start position the lift begins by the lifter bracing the abs and pushing the knees back away from the bar.  When this happens the hips will rise and the lifter should keep the back tight and neutral.  This will cause the bar to lift off the ground. From the knees the focus of the lift should be on keeping the abs braced and back tight.  Once the bar clears the knees the glutes should be fired and the hips thrusted towards the bar.

 

The lift is half over when the hips reach the bar and lock out is achieved.  After this the direct opposite is done to lower the bar back to the ground.  Keep the abs braced and back tight.  Push the hips backward and allow the bar to go down the thighs till it reaches the knees.  Once the knees are cleared by the bar bend them and the bar should be lowered back down to the ground and should end in the position over the middle of the foot.  The finish position and start position should be identical and then another repetition can be performed.  During all times the back should be maintained in a neutral spine.

 

 

 

Romanian Deadlift – The Romanian Deadlift (RDL) is a great lift for building back and posterior hip strength and also maintaining and gaining flexibility in the posterior hip.  This lift begins from the finish position of the conventional deadlift.  Start by bracing the abs and  allowing the knees to be slightly bent.  Maintaining a neutral spine by keeping the chest up during the lift push the hips backwards and slide the bar down the thighs.  The bar path should stay over the mid foot and the knees should not move.   The only joint that moves during the RDL is the hip.  The focus is on bending solely at the hip and maintaining a neutral spine.  Go as far as your hip motion will allow and do not allow any movement at the spine.  Once at the bottom of the motion, squeeze the glutes and bring the hips to the bar and return to the start position.

 

 

Bent Over Row – The start position is similar to the conventional deadlift.  The difference being that the hips are pushed up higher so that the torso is parallel to the ground.  The barbell may be away from the middle of the foot and more towards the toes.  At the start the spine should be kept in a neutral posture.  Initiate the lift by bracing the abs and pulling the barbell up from the ground.  Maintain the chest high and the back in a neutral position.  Do not allow the shoulders to move up.  The torso should remain level as the bar is pulled up from the ground to just below the sternum.  Once the barbell touches the body lower the bar back to the ground in a controlled manner.  Once the barbell is on the ground rebrace the abs and perform another rep.

 

 

Bird Dogs – This exercise begins on your hands and knees.  Your hands should be directly below your shoulders and knees below the hips.  Position in a neutral spine and this posture should be maintained during the exercise.  From this quadruped position raise one arm and the opposite leg at the same time.  Be mindful of your spine and do not allow curvature or excessive hyperextension.  Pause for a moment when the arm and leg become parallel to the ground then in a controlled manner return to a quadruped position being mindful of your posture and spinal alignment.

 

 

Russian Twist – this is an excellent abdominal exercise for athletes who are involved in rotation with stabilization.  Elevate your feet a couple inches from the ground and have your torso at about a 45 degree angle off the ground.  Holding a weight or medicine ball perform rotations touching the weight to the ground with each repetition.

 

 

V sit up – Lie on the ground with your legs extended and your arms extended over your head.  Simultaneously perform a leg lift and a sit up.  Attempt to touch your hands to your toes and then return to the start position.

 

The Zen of Weightlifting


One of the most common, if not the most common, flaws in weightlifting technique for the clean and snatch is bending the arm prematurely during the first and second pull of the lift.  What I mean is that when you are pulling the barbell from either the hang or from the floor the lifter will bend their arms at the elbow in an effort to muscle the weight up.  This is a bending of the elbows should not take place until the lifter has reach the full “triple extended” position with the ankles, knees, and hips fully extended.  Let’s examine this flaw because it is so common and see if I can’t provide you with a good cue to help curb this bad habit.

First, let’s review proper technique.  In both the clean and the snatch the arms of the lifter during the initial first pull of the ground should remain straight.  As the barbell approaches the knees and passes them they should remain straight.  At this position the barbell will be in the relatively same position as the classic “hang position”.  Here the arms will still remain straight.  As the second pull is initiated from the knees the arms will remain straight until the lifter achieves extension of the ankles, knees and hips or “triple extension”.  Now the first time the lifter should use his arms in a non-isometirc contraction (contraction without joint movement) is when they have achieved full “triple extension” and the shoulders are shrugged upward.  At this point as upward momentum of both the lifter and barbell reaches its fullest point of extension the lifter may now pull on the barbell with a concentric contraction (contraction of muscles which causes the joint angle to shorten) where you will see the elbows bend and move upward.  At this point as it is explained in the USA Weightlifting Club coaches manual “This pulling action does not pull the barbell up; it pulls the lifter down, and accelerated the descent.”  So what they mean is as the momentum of the barbell and lifter is going upward the lifter will use the pulling with the arms after reaching maximal height of elevation before their momentum takes their feet off the platform to quickly change direction to downward momentum of their body with continued upward momentum of the barbell.  This is the only way that such impressive loads are able to be lifted by advanced and world class weightlifters.

Now, where does the flaw begin?  Bending the arms too early in the clean and snatch is best described by Strength Coach Mark Rippetoe in his book “Starting Strength” as he states rather sarcastically that somewhere in our brains we are hard wired to lift things with our arms.  Now, he is joking with that statement but part of it is true as many beginners and non beginners try to “muscle” the weight up in these lifts.  Where being strong and using a little muscle certainly helps lift heavy things it can be the flaw that limits your ability to lift heavy things in the long run.  The flaw of prematurely bending the elbows will cause several other flaws some of which are: not fully extending the hips, swinging the weight up with the spinal erectors, and performing an upright row movement instead of pulling the body under the bar to name a few.  I could keep going for several more hundred words on how this one flaw screws lifters out of reaching full potential in the O-Lifts.  But, I want to move on to why I choose the title of this little essay.

So why the Zen of Weightlifting.  Well, I love the book the “The Inner Athlete” By Dan Millman and in it he uses several examples taken from the martial arts to explain how certain thinks work in life and sports.  But, on example really hit home to me for a direct application to weightlifting technique.  In his chapter on Natural Laws he describes a drill called “Blending”.  It is the Martial Arts priniciple of No-Collision.  It is kind of like when pushed pull and when pulled push.  Now, before I start getting too philosophical and tell you to snatch the pebble from my hand Grasshopper.  Let’s briefly look back to finishing the second pull and achieving maximal extension with a barbell.  At this point if you correctly keep the arms straight and allow the legs to create the force needed to break inertia of the barbell and allow the tight levers of the body to lift the barbell upward once the peak height is reached the lifter should feel that barbell want to continue upward.  But, it is the flaw of bending the elbows too early and “muscling” the weight that won’t allow the lifter to feel this all important  feeling.   Now, back to blending…. When performing this drill your partner will give you resistance in the form of a push or a pull.  Your job is to match this force of being pulled or pushed with the opposite movement.  At this point of matching the resistance you should feel no resistance at all.  Now, back to the platform….. When you follow correct lifting technique man lifters and coaches will describe the transition from the second pull to the pull under as the barbell having a feel like there is a brief moment of weightlessness or no resistance; or something along those lines.  So that is much like blending.

So the next time you are performing the O lifts or coaching them.  Try to use this Martial Arts principle of Blending to coach the lift.  You may find that this path of least resistance may just be what was ordered to help boost your lifts.  Now, about grabbing the pebble from my hand grasshopper….

The Difference between Error Recognition & Awareness for Athletes & Coaches


When Coaching Athletes in drills and lifts one key point that I try to get the individual to understand is the difference between just recognizing their technical error and truly becoming aware of the error. In his book “The Inner Athlete” Dan Millman describes this difference very eloquently.

“There is a great difference between recognizing and error, which come after a simple explanation, and accepting an error as an error – an acceptance that implies full responsibility for correcting that error.  Full awareness implies willingness to change, and we may not be ready to do that.”

As a coach I can’t make an athlete correct an error.  I can only direct them towards making the correction.  It is easy for an athlete to say they understand or recognize an error taking place.  But, it isn’t until they fully are aware of the error that they can correct it.

So, why is understanding this difference between recognizing errors and becoming aware of errors important for coaches and athletes?  It is because ultimately it is up to the athlete to make the correction with their error and not the coach.  The coach can only teach proper technique or how to do a skill; they can not “make” the athlete do it correctly.  Making errors and mistakes is what athletes must do to learn, grow and improve.   The athlete must want to understand their body and what they are asking it to do.  An example of this is one of the simplest drills in the weight room.  The Romanian Deadlift or Stiff legged deadlift is a simple exercise which requires only movement at the hip and stabilizing the other joints involved.  Seems simple….But, wait it is one of the more difficult exercises to coach.  Simply because many individuals are not aware what their body is doing.  They think they are doing one thing and then they do something completely different.

This is where understanding the difference between error recognition and awareness comes into play.  Coaches mostly recognize error and flaws in what is being asked of the individual.  That is what we do.  But, how many coaches try to teach awareness.  Now this may not be appropriate for all levels of coaching.  For the personal trainer, strength coach, athletic trainer, physical therapist and some sport coaches this is exactly what is missing from their instruction on some drills.  If an athlete just doesn’t seem to get it and you are hammering home the same points change it up. Put it on their shoulders to truly become aware of what they are doing.  If the athlete or individual doesn’t understand they are making an error they can’t become aware.  Again using the Romanian Deadlift example, my goal as a coach is to try and make the person aware when they don’t move at the hip or don’t fully stabilize.  I can tell them all I want what they did wrong.  Unless they are aware they won’t make the correction.

So next time you are coaching a drill or exercise instead of focusing on telling individuals what they are doing wrong and how to correct it.  Ask them what they are aware of that they are doing.  Ask them how it feels to them try to get them to make the correction without you having to tell them or position them over and over.  Yes, this may take a little longer at first but it will save you time in the long run as when the trainee or athlete learns this skill of becoming fully aware then when you instruct new exercises or drills they will be ready to be aware of what they are doing as they are learning the new skill.

Try Not to Try


Very rarely dose a company get an advertising slogan right but I truly believe that Nike has got the appropriate slogan for all Athletes.  “Just Do IT”!! So simple when you say it, but how many of us actually “Just Do It”?  I recently finished the book “The Inner Athlete” By Dan Millman and in it he has a great though process on the word “Try”.  As a strength coach I find myself asking my Athletes, Clients, and Trainees often to “try” something here or there and my Athlete, Client, and Trainee will often say to me “I’ll give it a try”.  But when you break it done the word “try” already creates a negative mind set.  To have to “try” to do something shows a sign of weakness or that something will take over our natural ability.  When training that is exactly what you are trying to do is strengthen weakness or to improve our natural ability.  So why do you need to trick yourself into thinking that you have to “try”?

Millman discusses how when the mind resists something we feel stress.  That a vast majority of people tend to push or resist stress full situations or thoughts rather than accepting them and moving forward.  Now what on earth does this have to do with lifting and training?  Simple, when faced with the challenge of staring down a max effort lift or having to test out in a skill at a combine most of us will come out with the comment “I am going to try my best” or “ I am going to try and give my best effort”.  If this sounds like something that you would utter to yourself mentally or even say it out loud then you are already half beaten.  Once you are then going to put forth the effort of trying your body will begin to stress about the situation and your tendency to make a technical error or mental error goes up tremendously.

Now let’s just not dismiss this as the new wave of positive thinking and changing our mindset that is sweeping around right now.  I am not trying to say that to you.  But, what I am saying is think about what you think about when you try.  I was a basketball player in college and when we would apply the full court press on our opponent it was not because we knew we had a defense they could not break.  All defenses in basketball can be broken by a disciplined and team orientated offense.   We applied the pressure full court press to force our opponent into making quick decisions and to, here it is again, “try” to beak our pressure.  Once we got them to do this then we had them, they would breakdown mentally and make errors and turnovers.  Think about your sport and how you apply pressure tactics to create more stressful situations or a challenge to your opponent.  Think about what happens to your opponent when they begin to “try”.

Now that you have that understanding think about how much more powerful you will be as an athlete when you stop “trying” and start “doing it”.  When you have no self doubt and are able to accept stress and resistance that life and opponents provide you will have an advantage that not many individuals will have.  Eliminating “try” from your vocabulary athletically your performance will become free of psychological resistance.

Reference:

  1. Millman, Dan.  The      Inner Athlete.  USA:  Stillpoint Publishing, 1994.

A Simple View on Running Mechanics


As athletes and individuals working with athletes it is important to have a sound understanding of running biomechanics for several reasons.  Being able to identify and correct common biomechanical flaws in running technique will help to ensure proper efficiency from running technique, reduce the risk of overuse injuries from running and lastly improve running performance.  Many times first instinct of a coach or athlete is that they will not be able to improve their running performance via training.  The thought is that they are born able to run smoothly or not.   This may not be the case as genetics only plays about 1/3 of the ability to run.  The rest of what makes up running ability are skills that must be learned and perfected.

Running technique is about timing and coordination.  If you have proper timing they you are coordinating your movement and muscle contraction to create what appears to be an effortless flow of motion.  But, if your technique is flawed then it is apparent the effort it takes to coordinate the running movement.  Most research on running injuries points to improper technique as the main reason for injury.

There are major differences between sprint form and long distance running form but for the sake of keeping this article simple we will look at the basic differences in the types of running.  The reason for the differences between the two types of running is mainly because of the force required to sprint at full speed and the range of motion required by the joints to reach sprint speed.  In both types of running the posture of the torso will be erect with the head held in a neutral position.  The arms should be relaxed and in a 90 degree position at the elbow.  Sprinting will require the thigh to be brought to a near parallel to the ground position with the foot striking under or near the hip.  The foot will strike the ground from either a ball of the foot to heel or with the whole foot at one time.  In longer distance running the thigh will not raise up as far and the touchdown of the foot will be slightly in front of the body creating a longer support phase.  In sprints the distance between thighs in the flight phase will be much greater than that in long distance running, approximately 145 to 160 degrees in sprinting to 90 in long distance running (1).

Running technique can be broken down into three phases:  Pushoff phase, flight phase, and support phase.

Pushoff:

The pushoff phase of running technique involves mainly just full ankle extension to propel the hips forward.  This propulsion of the hips forward must be met with keeping the torso erect and slight hyperextension of the lumbar spine may be noted.  The more forceful the ankle extension the greater the force pushing the hips forward will be.  During the pushoff phase the knee will not fully extend.  Dr. Yessis in his book “Explosive Running” describes the knee action during pushoff this way: “All too often, athletes and coaches recommend full leg extension in the pushoff, believeing this is the main force-producing action.  But, straightening the leg fully gives you more of a vertical, rather than a horizontal, force component.”  This statement by Dr. Yessis runs contrary to what many people think.  But, during pushoff the hip extensor muscles are not contracting to push you forward.  They are actually relaxing so that your pelvis is maintained as a fused unit with the push off leg.  So the knee must not be allowed to fully extend until pushoff is completed.

On the other side of the body the swing leg is being driven forward during the pushoff phase.  This is initially done by the powerful hip flexor group of Rectus femoris, Illiacus, and Psoas major and minor.  But this is only while the thigh is behind the hip following that legs pushoff phase.  After the initial movement forward of the thigh it is moving on momentum created by the hip flexor muscle group.  During sprinting this hip drive will be very forceful and the thigh will carry to about a 75 to 90 degree angle to the hip.  When the thigh is driven forward the shin will “fold up” (1) under the knee to allow for momentum to carry the thigh forward.  As the leg prepares for touchdown and the flight phase the shin will swing out to lengthen the leg.  This straightened leg is used to created force when it is then pulled back towards the ground later in the running cycle.

The arm action during push off will be opposite of what the legs are doing.  The arms should maintain a mostly forward and back path with minimal side to side movement.  Utilizing the arms inappropriately or not enough can lead to plenty issues themselves.

Transition to the flight phase occurs when the toes of the pushoff leg leave the ground.  At this time the leg will continue backwards briefly before the knee bends and the leg is then prepared to become the swing leg and be driven forward.  A key point in regards to injuries is that during this phase of the running stride often the heel will strike the buttock.  This is not proper form and the increased activity of the hamstring muscle group during such a flaw may lead to a hamstring pulls.

Flight Phase:

The flight phase lasts about as long as the stance phase.  During the flight phase is when your thighs are going to be furthest apart.  During sprinting this will be about 140 to 160 degrees apart and in long distance running between 90 and 110 degrees (1).  As the swing leg is driven forward it is slowed and eventually stopped by contraction of the hamstring muscle group.  As this is occurring the Shin of the swing leg will unfold from under the knee and the leg will be extended to create long lever geared toward creating force.  On a injury side, this is going to be one of the areas that most people will run into problems when returning from hamstring injuries because it is where the hamstring will be most vulnerable.  By the time the pain of injury is experienced the leg is in contact with the ground so it is often miss interpreted as the ground strike as to what is injuring the hamstring but it is the elongation of the hamstring after the shin swings forward and the hip is flexed that is where the injury occurs or re-injury.

A key term here is the Paw back.  This is where the elongated leg is then forcefully driven back towards the ground.  This paw back motion is performed until the foot strikes the ground.  In full sprinting the force of ground contact can be many times greater than body weight and are blamed for many injuries.  But, one forgotten point is where the foot is striking the ground.  If it is striking way in front of the center of gravity of the body then it will act as a break and will slow the individual down until they are back into the pushoff phase.  So the foot contact should be as close to the center of gravity of the body as possible to maintain forward momentum.

Support Phase:

This phase is the transition between the flight phase and pushoff phase.  During this phase the body is maintained in an erect posture while the legs transition their roles.  It is a brief moment where some of the muscles will relax and prepare for contraction again.  From the side a runner should look like they are running level to the ground only with slight variances up and down.  This slight up and down motion is greater in long distance runners than in sprinters.   But, that should almost not be noticeable in live motion.  But, if there is a noticeable sinking of the body during the support phase this may be indicative to having some weakness in the stabilizing muscles of the hips and pelvis.  This sinking action will make your running very inefficient and should be corrected as this will then place more stress on the legs to generate more force and this may create injuries that are totally preventable.

During this support phase the ground reaction forces are stored by the muscles of the legs for return through pushoff.  Our muscles are designed for this force storing feature and it is this function of muscle and connective tissue in muscle that allows for us to be such powerful runners.  This function of returning energy through the push off is why we need to focus on eliminating running with the heel strike when the swing leg comes back in contact with the ground.  Unless it is the ball of the foot or mid foot that strikes first then the energy of the ground will travel up the leg and will not be utilized and the energy will be lost.  This is what often causes many injury issues in may runners legs.

To conclude this brief explaination of running technique lets evaluate one of the Statements Dr. Yessis makes in his book “Explosive Running”. He states that no matter the skill level of the athlete or runner technique can be improved.  One of the best ways to make athletes faster is to examine their running technique via filming and take a closer look at exactly what they are doing with their body.  By cleaning up their running form and implementing simple form improvement drills and flexibility and mobility drills the individuals can see huge improvements in speed and endurance.

References:

  1. Yessis, Michael. Explosive Running: Using the Science of Kinesiology to Improve Your Performance.  McGraw Hill. 2006.