Its been a little while since I've gotten a blog up. I've been swamped and haven't had a ton of time to get around to it. I attended the Perform Better Summit in Chicago this past weekend and it was an amazing time. I picked up lots of great information and got a chance to network and catch up with friends and colleagues.
I got a chance to learn from a lot of top notch professionals including Martin Rooney, Mike Boyle, Alwyn Cosgrove, Gray Cook, Eric Cressey and Mark Verstegen among others. It was awesome getting a chance to meet and chat with Martin and Eric. My mentor/friend/colleague Mike Robertson presented on Sunday and I was lucky enough to help coach during his hands on presentation. I enjoyed it a lot and picked up some new info from him like I always do when I'm around him. Bill Hartman and some other guys from Indy were also in attendance so it was good to see them all and hang out.
I also got the chance to catch up with some friends and fellow professionals from UW-L so that was awesome as well.
These are the best seminars around for fitness and strength and conditioning professionals and are great for physical therapists and athletic trainers as well. I learned lots of great stuff from training topics such as dynamic stability training, workout preparation and evaluating golf swings to plenty of business and success topics. I would highly recommend them to anyone in any related field. The last one of the year will be in Long Beach in a couple of weeks I believe.
If you are looking for another great seminar to attend, Mike and Bill are hosting the Midwest Performance Enhancement Seminar in Indianapolis on August 28th. It will feature plenty of top notch professionals including Mike, Bill, Brett Jones, Brian Grasso, Lee Taft and Pat Rigsby. You can find out more and register here.
I want to give a big shout to one of my baseball players, Ryan Geil, who has been crushing homers, striking people out and making the paper pretty much every game so far this season. I will get some specific stats in the near future.
I will hopefully get around to doing some writing this week so stay tuned!
Performing exercises on an unstable surface such as a bosu ball or stability ball has been a "popular" practice over the years for some trainers and exercise enthusiasts. The claim is that performing exercises on an unstable surface such as a bosu ball will activate more stabilizers and train the "core." It is supposed to be more "functional." I hate to tell you (actually I love to), but there is absolutely nothing that is functional about doing an exercise standing on a bosu ball.
In the latest Strength and Conditioning Journal, there is a great writeup by Daniel Hubbard on whether or not unstable surface training is advisable for healthy adults. Looking at all of the research and a little bit of common sense, it is clearly not advisable at all. When a movement is performed on an unstable surface, some extra stabilizers are activated, yes, but the prime movers that are ever so important for real time functional activity are unable to produce the optimal force that they usually do, and have to contribute more to stabilization instead of doing their normal job. Why in the world would anybody want to inhibit the prime movers during an exercise? This makes one more susceptible to injury, hurts performance and can ruin movement patterns. It has also been shown that training on an unstable surface can alter neuromuscular recruitment that can conflict with normal training and activity on a regular surface. During exercise on an unstable surface, antagonists are actually activated more as the agonists produce less force. During normal exercise on a stable surface, antagonist activity usually stays the same or decreases. There is no logic or good reason to do this.
The one time that training on an unstable surface would be advised is to train proprioceptive awareness and balance, and reactive ability right after an injury or in certain individuals with specific balance or awareness issues.
I do like the stability ball for use in certain exercises such as stability ball leg curls and rollouts. However, this is a different story. I would never advise someone to stand on a stability ball to do an exercise as this can lead to injury and completely destroy proper motor control and firing patterns.
Don't believe me? Here are some published research studies to back this stuff up.
In a 2004 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research by Anderson and Behm, it was determined that neuromuscular recruitment was altered and that force output was diminished during unstable surface training. (1)
In a 2007 study by Cressey et al. it was shown that unstable surface training actually hurt performance improvements in young, healthy athletes. This is because there is no carry over from doing things on something like a bosu ball or inflatable disc (used in this study) to doing things in a real time activity. Like I said earlier, force output is less during this type of training which also hurts performance such as shown in this study. (2)
In a 2008 study by Nuzzo et al. it was shown that trunk muscle activity (or "core" activity) during stability ball exercise was less than progressive squat and deadlift exercises performed normally. The so called added "core" activity was supposed to be one of the magical benefits of doing these types of exercises. (3)
These are just a few studies. There are many many more that have consistently shown the same types of results. The fact of the matter is, progressing in the tried and true big bang exercises such as squatting variations, deadlift variations, chinups, etc. will make you stronger, hammer your core, improve proper neuromuscular control and movement patterns and improve performance and body composition better than any bosu ball, stability ball or disc will ever do.
1. Anderson KG and Behm DG. Maintenance of EMG activity and loss of force output with instability. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 18: 637-640, 2004.
2. Cressey EM, West CA, Tiberio DP, Kraemer WJ, and Maresh CM. The effects of ten weeks of lower body unstable surface training on markers of athletic performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 21: 561-567, 2007.
3. Nuzzo JL, McCaulley GO, Cormie P, Cavill MJ, and McBride JM. Trunk muscle activity during stability ball and free weight exercises. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 22: 95-102, 2006.
I've had a few people ask me what in the world I am doing when I have some of my athletes and gym rats who want to get strong lifting with big and colorful rubber bands over the barbell. Thus, I have decided to write a little bit about the use of what is known as accommodating resistance.
In strength training, the body has what is known as the strength curve with different lifts. Basically, this shows that we are stronger at different points of a lift depending on lever lengths, leverages, position and joint angle. For different movements, maximal values of force output are obtained at different joint angles. The curve will vary depending on the movement and the phase of the movement. Something like a biceps curl will be a much simpler curve than a multi joint movement like a squat, which would have multiple changes.
Lets look at the bench press for example. People will generally be stronger at different points of the lift. You press the bar off of your chest and at some point during the upward phase, there is a sticking point, or minimax. This is the hardest point of the lift . Once you get past this point, the finish is usually easier. In Science and Practice of Strength Training, it is stated that "the heaviest weight that is lifted through a full range of motion cannot be greater than the strength at the weakest point." The problem with this is that the muscles and nervous system are not trained optimally throughout the entire lift. They are working harder or easier at various positions and at the end of the lift, the bar must be decelerated. So how do we fix this?
With the use of accommodating resistance, we are able to work hard throughout the entire lift and accelerate through the end range. This leads to more explosive and stronger individuals. Louie Simmons and a lot of the great lifters at Westside Barbell helped to educate many people all over about this wonderful training method. I have even read that training with bands was a secret used by the old Soviet Union.
With the use of bands and chains, this practice is made possible.
With bands, tension grows as the lift moves higher. Continuing with our bench press example, a pair of mini bands will generally add about 40 lbs of tension off of the chest and about 90 lbs at the top. So if you had 200lbs of straight weight on the bar, it would be 240lbs total at chest level and would constantly raise until it reached 290lbs of resistance at the top of the press. This ensures that we have an optimal challenge at both the weakest point (off the chest) and the strongest point (the very top at lockout). Thus, the strength curve is changed and instead of going up and down, it will continually raise. This teaches you to accelerate through the lift, develops the muscles and nervous system optimally and makes people explosive and brutally strong.
In the above example, bands are anchored under a rack or dumbbell and pulled up over the barbell. Bands can also be set up in a reverse manner. They can be anchored to the top of a rack and pulled down over the bar. Used this way, the bands stretch as the bar travels lower; thus, helping you off of your chest the most and providing less help as you press the bar. With this method, more straight weight can be used and the nervous system can be trained to handle heavier weights. The concept is the same as above in that the resistance grows as the bar is pressed to lockout. Both of these methods build very strong lockouts, develop explosiveness and great strength and get the body used to moving heavier resistance fast.
With chains, a few links of chain lay on the floor at the beginning of the lift. As the bar travels down, more and more chain is deloaded onto the floor. As you press back up, more and more chain comes off of the floor. So you might have 15lbs of chain off the chest and 40lbs of chain at lockout. As you can see, the concept is similar to the bands in that each point of the lift is challenged optimally as the resistance continually grows throughout the lift. Where the bands add tension as resistance, the chains add real weight. Both methods are brutally effective and have helped to develop some of the best lifters and athletes in the world.
Another added benefit of the bands is the fact that they cause one to lower the bar much faster than normal. This in turn causes one to come up much faster than normal, developing acceleration and speed strength.
Using accommodating resistance like this works great with squats, deadlifts and bench presses, but can also be used for an unlimited number of things. If you want to get brutally strong, fast and explosive, you are selling yourself short if you are not training with this method from time to time. I can use a specific example from my own lifting to support the effectiveness. In May of 08, I deadlifted 540lbs in a meet in about 4.5 seconds. After doing some speed and max effort work with bands and chains all that summer, I deadlifted 560 lbs that August in about 3 seconds. Athletes and strength coaches all over the world use this method and if you are not, you need to start.
Now that we know a little bit about the background of the use of this stuff, in the next post, we will discuss how to use them in a program.
Bands and Chains combined
Chains in action
I recently had a new client come to me who was diagnosed with femoral acetabular impingement. What that basically means is that he has issues with the head of his femur rubbing against his hip socket. He is a marathon runner and this problem has been affecting his performance. Unfortunately, instead of finding out what exactly was going on that was contributing to his impingement, specialists that he saw went ahead and shaved some of the bone off. While this may or may not have been necessary, if imbalances that he has are not fixed, his problems could come back.
As soon as I found out about his issue, I immediately suspected that he had glute and hip flexor issues. Thus, I checked his glute function and sure enough, it sucked. Then, I checked his hip flexor length and pretty much all of his flexors were very stiff and even short, especially psoas and tfl. This leads to the situation I've discussed previously, anterior tilt of the pelvis. The reason his femur is impinging is because of the fact that his glute is not pulling his hip into full extension because of the position he is in. His hamstrings try to extend his hip but without the help of his glute, it cannot be extended fully and properly and impingement comes about.
What are we going to do to make things better? We are going to get some length in his hip flexors and get his glute firing on all cylinders. This will allow his glute to effectively pull his hip into proper extension, improve his running economy, get rid of his pain and problems and set him back on the road to record times. There are also some other things going on such as pelvic rotation and other issues up and down the kinetic chain such as ankle stiffness and shoulder imbalances.
This condition CAN result from bony abnormalities and various pathologies and in these cases, surgery and physical therapy may be necessary. In many cases, muscular imbalances can be the root of the problem and with some proper training, symptoms can be resolved nicely.
If you drive a car that is out of alignment long enough, eventually something is going to break down and you are going to find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere on the side of the road hoping that you don't get stuck hitchhiking with some loon. You can think of the body and running the same way. If you run long enough with your body out of alignment, eventually something is going to give and you won't be running very far anymore. So if you must run, do yourself a favor and get your body a tuneup once in awhile. It will save you lots of trouble down the road.
You can read more about running issues here
Check out a