Should Sprinting and Jumping Athletes Do Plyometrics?
By Keats Snideman, CSCS, CK-FMS, LMT
What Are Plyometrics?
Probably one of the most commonly used (and abused) methods of performance-enhancement for sprinters and indeed all running and jumping athletes is “plyometrics.” Plyometrics can be defined as movements that involve fast eccentric muscle actions followed by dynamic and explosive concentric actions (aka, the stretch-shortening cycle). The best example of a plyometric drill that comes to mind is the classic “depth jump” exercise where an athlete drops off a box or step of some pre-determined height. Upon hitting the floor the athlete concentrates on explosively jumping into the air as high as possible. The purpose of this method is to “shock” the body and nervous system to produce higher levels of muscle tension and force than would normally be possible without the preceding drop. In fact, the “father” and creator of modern day plyometrics, Yuri Verkoshansky of Russia, originally named the plyometric method the “shock” method. To understand how such a system of exercises could be beneficial or detrimental to sprinting, jumping, and indeed all athletes, let’s take a closer look at basic muscle function during movement.
Reversible Muscle Action (i.e. The Stretch-Shortening-Cycle)
Through scientific observation, it has been discovered that if a muscle is stretched immediately before a shortening (concentric) muscle action, force and power output will be increased and energy expenditure will be less. To demonstrate this phenomenon, assuming you are sitting while reading this article, try to stand up. Do it now. Could you feel your body rock back to stretch the thigh muscles a little before you stood up? This is perfectly natural and is called “pre-stretch.” Many sporting actions and resistance training exercises actually involve some level of pre-stretch which enhance the subsequent performance. In the case of sprinters, have you ever noticed the different rituals they use when getting in the blocks. Often, you’ll see the sprinters stretching and kicking their legs behind the blocks before setting their feet in them. This is pre-stretch at work. Now getting back to our little sit-to-stand movement again, I want you to try standing without any pre-stretch (rocking back) whatsoever. In other words, lean forward a little from the hips and then stay still for a few seconds before trying to rise. Much harder if not impossible isn’t it? This simple test and observation is an easy example of how natural it is for human movements to utilize eccentric/lengthening muscle actions prior to concentric/shortening actions.
Even human gait (walking) utilizes this stretch-shortening-cycle to make it more efficient in terms of energy expenditure. In fact, if you walk at a comfortable walking speed (you’re preferred speed), you should be able to walk practically forever. However, if walking speed is increased or decreased from this preferred cadence, efficiency is lost and perceived effort may increase. Let’s apply this pre-stretch stuff now to running, sprinting and jumping. In sprinting in particular, there is a greater stretch of the plantar flexor muscles (gastroc-soleus, etc…) if the foot and ankle are pulled up (i.e. into “dorsi-flexion”) prior to foot strike (heel strike in walking and running). If performed correctly, this pre-stretch is followed by and explosive isometric muscle action and then the propulsive concentric action which moves the body forward and upward off the ground. This is also what happens during a vertical jump except that the arms and shoulders might be used more or less aggressively depending on the situation. This entire process is due to stored elastic energy in the muscles and tendons (think of a spring) and neurological reflexes (primarily the myotatic stretch reflex). When combined with a volitional effort to explode, improved performance (i.e. fasting sprinting times, higher vertical jumps, etc…) can be realized.
Classification of Plyometric Exercises
Plyometrics can be broken down into various types for simplicity. First off, you have “Impact” and “Non-Impact” forms of plyometrics. With impact plyos you have direct contact with a surface (i.e. the ground or playing surface) or an object (such as a medicine ball or sporting implement). In contrast, non-impact plyos involve a quick stretch (recoil) of one or several body parts and joints which then culminate in an explosive concentric muscle action. Examples of non-impact plyometric actions include various kicks and punches in martial arts and boxing. Also, you can think of a baseball pitch as a very dynamic and explosive non-impact plyometric movement. Ever seen a slow-motion or still picture of a pitcher’s arm in the cocked back position (extreme external rotation)? Now that’s some pre-stretch!
Next, plyometrics can be classified according to their intensity level. Similar to strength training exercises, you can have high-intensity plyos like depth jumps and plyometric push-ups and low-intensity variations such as skips, hops, jumping rope and jumps onto boxes for example. The intensity of plyos should really be thought of as a continuum rather than belonging to distinct categories. For instance, one athlete may find jumping rope extremely difficult and challenging whereas another athlete may find the same activity trivial, merely a warm-up. In general, it really depends on the fitness level of the athlete when it comes to choosing specific plyometric exercises. This will be discussed later in the article.
Next, you have preparatory and supplementary plyometrics which help prepare the body to hand the stress and force of fast eccentric muscle actions. This would include the lower intensity plyos discussed above such as skipping, hops, agility ladder drills, rope jumping, jumps onto boxes (but not off) and most forms of free-weight strength training. All these help to prepare the body to handle and produce more force while developing and strengthening the connective tissues.
As an interesting side note, some sport scientists such as the late Dr. Mel Siff, state that in order for an exercise to be classified as truly plyometric, the time interval between the eccentric-isometric (force absorption) phase and the subsequent concentric (force creation) phase must be short, as little as 0.15 seconds in lower extremity plyometric activities. Any longer than this and the movement is considered regular “jump” training, but not plyometrics. But this isn’t set in stone as other research has shown that some benefit still occurs in upper body muscle groups for up to four seconds after an eccentric muscle action (Wilson, et. al).
To recap, the basic premise and theory of plyometrics (and all training in general) to remember is as follows: if you can train the muscles, tendons, and nervous system to produce more force/tension in a shorter period of time during the takeoff from the ground, you can improve performance. This is primarily what the goal is with specific plyometric training. Sounds good right?
Plyometrics and Anaerobic-Dominant Sports
When you look at Track & Field (sprints, hurdles, jumps and throws) and most sports that rely heavily on anaerobic energy processes (i.e. Baseball, Volleyball, Basketball, Tennis, Football, etc…), you realize that there is already a relatively high amount of sprinting and jumping occurring anyway. It’s hard to deny that plyometric muscle action is a vitally important part of performance in these activities, but care must be taken when prescribing and performing specific plyometric movements to avoid overloading vulnerable and overworked areas such as the Achilles tendons, knees, and the lower back. If the plyometric exercises are being applied to the upper body (i.e. plyometric push-ups, medicine ball rebounds, etc…) problems can develop in the wrist, elbow, and shoulder areas. Usually, most of the injuries that occur are due to over-zealous use of and the mis-application of plyometric exercises and related drills. As with any training method, if problems arise, it’s usually the application of and not the method itself that is to blame. If plyometrics are to be used safely, a carefully planned integration must take place. Next, we will look at a rational plyometric progression process.
A Rational Progression of Plyometrics
The first step after making the decision to include specific plyometric exercises in an athlete’s program is to consider the nature of the sport and the current stress/strain being applied to the body from the sport itself. As mentioned above, sports such as Basketball. Volleyball and jumps/sprints from Track & Field already contain a high volume of plyometric muscle actions. For many of these participants, especially younger and novice-level ones, time might be better spent by focusing on getting stronger (improving maximal strength) through a progressive resistance training program and just playing the sport itself. True impact plyometrics (as discussed earlier) don’t need to be explored until the athlete is sufficiently strong and has developed a good foundation of connective tissue, joint, bone, muscle, and tendon integrity. This does not mean that preparatory and supplementary plyometrics should not be performed because they can help to prepare the body for more demanding plyometric exercises in the future.
A great place to start is to ensure adequate levels of basic strength are in order. Variations of the following strength and power lifts are a great place to start:
1. Squatting (especially front and back squats because they basically simulate the natural jumping movement pattern)
2. Deadlifts (including RDL’s, snatch-grip, clean-grip, sumo and conventional style; Kettlebell Swings would also need to be added to this category due to their “hinge’ or deadlift pattern)
4. Pressing (1 and 2-arm versions of bench press, push-up and military press variations)
5. Rows/Chins/Pull-ups (for postural support, upper back and elbow flexor development)
6. Carrying/Dragging Stuff (sled-drags, prowler pushes, farmers walks, waiters walks, etc..look to Dan John’s excellent products for more informaiton on this topic)
7. Supplementary/Assistance Strength Movements (such as single leg exercises, reverse and regular back hypers, GHR, planks, Swiss-ball exercises, medicine ball abdominal movements, chops and lifts, etc…)
The key with athletes is to keep it simple in the weight room and realize that we’re trying to create athletes, not bodybuilders. Keep the primary lifts in the strength and power building rep range (1-5 reps, maybe as high as 8 reps) and leave the higher reps for the supplementary/assistance lifts (10-15 reps is quite common for these exercises).
Depending on the specific athlete’s fitness levels and training history, some preparatory and introductory plyos can be started usually from day one. In addition to basic skipping and sprinting drills, some great beginning drills include the following:
1. Two Foot Hops/Jumps in Place- these are very mild and done in sets of 20-25 repetitions. Maximal height on these is NOT the goal here. Simply strive for a comfortable frequency that permits a fluid and rhythmic series of small jumps in place.
2. Jumping Rope- done at a faster pace, jumping rope is a fantastic preparatory drill that teaches an athlete a lot about timing, rhythm and helps to develop basic coordination. As with all plyometrics, the key is to keep the ground contact brief between jumps. Start with as little as 15-30 seconds and build up to 45-60 seconds worth of jumping. Any more than a minute of continuous jumping is not ideal since it takes the athlete further away from the anaerobic energy systems they are trying to improve (ATP-CP & Anaerobic Glycolysis). If you want to make it harder, simply make the jumps more complicated by adding in side-to-side, front-to-back, high knees (running man), Ali-shuffles, double jumps (2 revolutions per jump) and rope crossing. The variations are almost endless! For more information on jumping rope check out the informational products from Buddy Lee and great speed experts such as Lee Taft.
3. Agility Ladder Drills- similar to jump roping, the variations are endless. Simply focus on short ground-contact times and fluidity of movement. Keeping the eyes up and not on the ground adds to the difficulty.
After a period of adaptation to the above mentioned drills, higher intensity drills can start to be introduced:
4. Jumps onto Boxes- just as the name says, perform individual jumps onto boxes while sticking the landing with ideal body mechanics. This means a nice “athletic” position with knees lined up in the direction of the toes (no excessive inward or outward bowing of the knees)! As the athlete improves, jump height increases. Sets of 5 reps or so should be performed for only a few sets. Ensure the athlete steps off (not jumps off) the box in preparation for each successive rep.
5. Depth (Altitude or Drop) Jumps- in this variation, the athlete simply steps off the box and then “sticks” the landing in the ideal athletic position as mentioned above. It’s important to strive for a quiet landing as this ensures that the force is being dissipated properly upon foot contact with the floor. As famous Strength Coach Michael Boyle likes to say, “if it doesn’t look right, it isn’t.” Always start with a low box and only progress when form is near perfect.
6. Depth Jumps- not all athletes need to progress to this level of training but if they are to be done, they must be done right. The set-up is very similar to the Depth Drops as discussed earlier; the only difference here is that the athlete will explosively rebound off the floor upon hitting it, as if the surface was red hot. Since depth jumps are very ballistic movements, there must be some planning in advance (in the athlete’s mind), a process known in motor control as a “feed-forward” type of control. All ballistic actions utilize this feed-forward type of planning because there is not enough time to use “feedback” as with slower more predictable type of movements and activities. This is what differentiates true plyometric movements from the more commonly performed “pseudo-plyometric” movements. The reps and sets on depth jumps are similar to depth drops but include greater rest periods (3 to 5 minutes for maximum height depth jumps). Remember, these movements are HIGHLY stimulating to the nervous system! And since the nervous system take longer to recover than the cellular/metabolic system, you must take this into account if you are to maximize the potential benefits, and minimize the risks.
There is so much more that could be said regarding plyometrics and athletes, but hopefully I’ve hit the major points that need to be taken into account when designing athletic enhancement programs. I truly believe that many sprinting and jumping athletes can get phenomenal results without EVER doing any super high-intensity plyos. Getting stronger and more explosive in the gym can go a long way to improving game speed as long as some speed work is continued at least most of the year. If true plyos are to be used, than at least do a little homework to ensure a safe and proper progression for your athletes so performance can be maximized with less risk of injury.
What is Posture? Is there a Perfect/Ideal Posture?
To begin, I suppose it would be a good idea to define what we mean when we’re talking about “posture?” According to Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, “Posture is the attitude or position of the body.” Ideal or “Standard” posture is the skeletal alignment accepted as normal? The problem is that there is no truly universally accepted “scientific” standard of what ideal or “normal” posture is supposed to be. The closest we can get is the typical sketletal body chart (like the one that hangs in my massage room) which depicts both lateral and saggital views of the human skeletal system, stacked up nicely with the gravity line bisecting the major central axes of the joints.
Thou Shall Not Deviate from This Posture!
Another term that I learned from the works of Moshe Feldenkrias is “acture,” which combines the words “posture” and “action” to signify the dynamic movements that are still taking place even in seemingly static type of postures. Unless an area of the body is paralzyed, it is actually near impossible to be totally still since the body will always need the slightest of movements for interoception (i.e. propriocepetion) to occur. These subtle movements give information to the brain about the state of the body (i.e. Homeostatis) so that appropriate ouput or motor response can occur. It should become obvious then that even in so-called static states movement is the rule which can be summed up nicely in the following statement: Movement is Life, Life is Movement!
Other clinicians today, such as Pavel Kolar and even Gray Cook to a certain extent, use what is known as a “neuro-developmental” model of rehabilitation which basically acknowledges the developmental sequences or “milestones” that infants have to go through to achieve the upright or mature posture. They give special interest to the process of breathing and how that influences all the other bodily systems in normal growth and devlopment. Although Kolar’s courses are limited to medical clinicians, the interested reader, trainer, or coach can get a great insight to this system in a chapter written in Craig Liebensons’ Rehabilitation of The Spine: A Practitioners Manual. Gray Cook and his team at Functional Movement Systems also focus on respiration in the correction of faulty movement patterns and while not directly assessing posture per se, acknowledges the need to properly line up the joints during functional movements (called “joint centration” by Kolar). Gray poses the following question that should make us all think: “does the poor posture cause the faulty movement pattern or does the faulty movement pattern cause the poor posture?”
In contrast to the what I like to call the “Posture Police Approach” (more of a “Kendall-ish” approach to posture), there are other voices these days that question the biomechancal model of pain and posture. Most notably, Eyal Leaderman, wrote a paper called “The Fall of The Postural-Structural-Biomechanical Model in Manual and Physical Therapies: Exmplified by Lower Back Pain.” It is a good read and will give many coaches, personal trainers, and clinical types of therapists a nice dose of cognitive dissonance since posture and biomechanical models have been taught as the gospel for decades! While I do not agree with Leaderman’s critique completely (his use of and critique of scientific literature is lacking IMO), he does bring up some good points that should make us all think. Posture and mechanical factors (especially static posture) alone, cannot explain the vast variations in human posture we see and the differences in pain and/or dysfunction any given individual will have.
Posture and Pain? Which Came First?
In line with Leaderman’s critique of the postural-structural-biomechanical model, there are many critics of relying on static tests like posture assessments and x-rays and various medical diagnostic imaging studies. Many people have blemishes, disc bulges, arthritic/degenerative changes and other imperfections on x-rays, MRI’s, etc., yet have little to no pain. In contrast, countless people have terrible pain while showing almost no signs of “structural” damage on imaging studies. Clearly, there is more going on here than structural/mechanical explanations can explain. Enter modern neuroscience!
With advances in neural sciences, we now know and understand much more about the human brain and the central nervous system. The recent revision of our understanding of pain has shed light on how the brain can learn pain as a recurring “tune” in the brain (think chronic pain syndromes). Even after an injury has healed, a person can still feel terrible pain altough there is no medical reason to explain. Through a newer pain theory called “The Neuromatrix of Pain,” we now realize how many inputs are contributing to the pain experience at all times, including mechanical, physiological, and bio-psyo-social (emotions) stressors. Pain is a multifactorial phenomenon! For a great read on the current science and neurobiology of pain, I recommend “Explain Pain,” by David Butler and Lorimer Mosely. I reviwed the book in a blog here.
Understanding all the bodily systems involved in maintanence of upright posture is very important and one must also not ignore psychology and the mental/emotional factors that go along with posture; something that is well illustrated in the following classic Peanuts comic:
Charlie Brown Knows How to Be Depressed!
Conclusion and some Videos on Postural Assessment!
As you can see, the concept of posture and postural correction is not a black and white subject; much controversy exists with the truth (i.e. “reality”) probably existing somewhere in the middle between a purely biomechanical/structural approach, and a neurological/bio-psycho-social approach. While I still look at posture in my own training and massage clients, I always combine this information with more dynamic testing which could be anything from Paul Chek’s Primal Pattern Tests,The Functional Movement Screen (or its medical counterpart the SFMA), or perhaps Janda’s Six Functional Movement Patterns. If my client is healthy and athletic (a hard combo too find!), then more specific fitness or sports testing would also need to occur to ensure adequate capacities in the required Biomotor abilities.
To end, I will leave you with some videos on posture and postural assessment that I filmed back in February of this year (2011) with my friends and colleagues Bret Contrereas (right before he left for New Zealand to pursue his PhD!) and my facility partner Patrick Ward! Thanks for the help guys and its only taken my 1/2 a year to get this darn blogpost up!
Instructing this course will be my twin brother and Senior RKC, Franz Snideman, and of course I will be assisting! The first two courses I hosted were taught by the always amazing Master RKC Mark Reifkind (assisted by myself and the Queen of Swing, Tracy Reifkind) and were incredible experiences for all who attended! For a recap of the first HKC held in AZ read here.
However, this will represent the first time I’ve been able to teach with my brother since he was appointed a Senior RKC and we are both very excited for this opportunity. When the twins get together watch out…it’s like being bombarded by Hans and Franz (HKC Style)!
Get Ready to be Pumped Up..HKC Style!
The course will be limited to 20 people so make sure to sign up early if you are really interested! To sign up and read more about the requirements of the course, go here!
Last week (5/12-5/15/11) in St. Paul, MN, I was fortunate to partake in the CK-FMS (Certified Kettebell-Functional Movement Specialist) Workshop. Although I have taken the regular 2-day FMS workshop as given through Perform Better, this is a 4 day monster course for certified Russian Kettlebell Challenge (RKC) instructors that really went a lot deeper in terms of the assessments and advanced corrective strategies. Lead by Brett Jones, Master RKC, and Physical Therapist and Functional Movement Screen creator Gray Cook, it was intensive workshop for all of those attending.
Like the regular 2 day FMS course, the CK-FMS starts with basically the same layout by going over the background/history of how the screen was created and the foundational principles and concepts of why baseline screening for fundamental movement patterns is so important. An explanation of each of the 7 tests was given as well the scoring criterion. Day 1 was basically learning the principles behind the screen (the “why”) as well as becoming competent in administering the screen (the “how”). Like most newbies to the FMS, many will nit-pick about scores and try to figure out what the person’s “problem” could be which makes the screen take too long. A good screen should be performed in under 15 minutes and Brett Jones was adamant about that! Once you get the scores, then you try to figure out what needs to take priority based on the numbers and any additional breakout tests could then be performed as assessments to gather more information.
Some noteworthy statements that I jotted down this first day include:
“Hey look, its a skinny version of Franz! (David Whitley)
“FMS is a filter, its going to catch the shit..and not allow us to add fitness on top of dysfunction!”
“Compensation is a survival mechanism!”
“Specialization will compromise durability..it ruins adaptability and symmetry, which are more important for long-term health.”
“Seeds vs Soil- Seeds (exercise, movement, programming, etc..) won’t grow in infertile (dysfunctional) soil!”
“Movement Competency (not the same as perfection) vs Physical Capacity (Metabolics, strength, power, etc..)”
“Workouts should be educational, not just metabolic packages…”
“What is stiffness? It is the body’s way of trying to survive problems with mobility and stability; it is the default strategy when you have poor motor control..”
“Remove a negative (exercise, lifestyle habit, occupational habit, etc..) before adding a positive. Example, adding flax seeds to breakfast cereal when you already smoke and excessively drink alcohol! The flax seeds probably aren’t going to do that much!”
“The FMS is not designed to screen people in pan..STOP and go to the SFMA (Selective Functional Movement Assessment) or refer to competent clinician.”
Days 2 and 3
The next two days involved the basic and advanced concepts of how to correct the dysfunctional scores in all of the 7 screens. Another really cool thing was the constant integration of the screen to the fundamental KB lifts with special emphasis placed on the TGU (Kalos Thenos Turkish Get-up) and its potential to correct a lot of movement problems in and of itself. On day 2, Doc Cheng actually took us through a good 60+ minutes of Kalos Thenos Get-ups, first unloaded (naked get-up) and then with a light to moderate KB. What a tough movement this becomes when you really slow it down to avoid skipping over your “movement potholes or speed bumps!” Want something really challenging? How about a 2 minute get-up..can you say Super, SUPER SLOW TRAINING! Try it and get back to me…
Dr. Mark Cheng knows the TGU!
A great presentation was also given by Master RKC Jeff O’Connor on how the RKC is still a “School of Strength,” and that although Kalos Sthenos Get-ups are great, the goal is to eventually perform a get-up with a respectably heavy KB (for each individual of course). Jeff also lead a great review of the six RKC I moves (minus the get-up) on the 3rd day that really exposed how many of us (including myself for sure!) had slacked off on the precision and quality of some of our fundamental lifts, most notably the KB Swing! Since the “swing is the center of the RKC Universe,” as Mark Reifkind is known to say, than it makes sense that we should all be trying to ensure that this move gets better or at least does not stagnate!
The KB Swing is Still the Center of the RKC Universe!
Mark and Nikki Snow gave a great presentation on how they incorporate the FMS into their KB Boot-camp classes and showed how individualisation of the corrective strategies for each class member was still possible in a large class setting. In their own little pilot study they demonstrated the fat loss was greater when movement screens improved. They also took the entire class though a sample workout where we mixed in our corrective mobility and stability drills into a KB workout during the rest periods. This is something I’ve been doing in my own small group classes and really is a nice way to incorporate the correctives needed for each person. Great job by Mark and Nikki!
Mark & Nikki Snow of SG Human Performance in Omaha, NA
The final day we finished going over the advanced corrective strategies for what are known as the Big three,” which are the In-line lunge (ILL), the Hurdle Step (HS) and the Deep Squat (DS). These were saved for last because you really can’t correct problems here without cleaning up the bottom 4, more “primitive” patterns of Shoulder Mobility (SM), Active Straight-leg Raise (ASLR), Trunk Stability Push-up (TSPU) and the Rotary Stability test (RS). In the afternoon, Gray gave a lecture about the clinical/medical version of the FMS called the SFMA (Selective Functional Movement Assessment) which is counterpart of the FMS for those people in pain. Unfortunately I had to leave early that day to catch a plane back to Arizona with my boys so I didn’t get say good-bye to the many people I met and the awesome instructors and assistants who made it such a great experience for all.
All in all it was a great (and somewhat exhausting) experience! I highly recommend every RKC instructor to take this course; our clients, friends or family that we work with deserve the best and the FMS really serves as a compass, or guide to ensure safety and durability first, followed by kick-ass performance of course which the RKC is so good at delivering!
I would also suggest that if any trainers or coaches (or even recreational KB enthusiasts) who are not RKC’s out there, to at least take the FMS workshop as given through Perform Better; it is a paradigm shift who’s time has come. Better yet, become an RKC first and then take the CK-FMS!
I just wanted to quickly announce to any Phoenix area Kettlebell and Strength Training Enthusiasts that on Saturday, April 9, 2011, my facility partner Patrick Ward and I will be hosting our second Tactical Strength Challenge (TSC) which consists of the following three events: (For more info and all the rules check out the Tactical Strength Challenge Website)
A three-attempt powerlifting deadlift
Pullups for max reps
Kettlebell snatches for max reps in a 5:00 time period
Franco Columbo Would Probably Win the TSC With This Lift!
This Cat Would Definately Win The Pull-up Portion!
My Twin Brother Franz is Pretty Good at Snatches!
Where: Reality-Based Fitness/Optimum Sports Peformance Training Facility: 2009 E. 5th St, #12, Tempe, AZ 85281
(my cell #602-738-0562)
When: Saturday, April 9, 2011. Weigh-in @ 9 AM sharp with lifting immediately after that.
I recently recieved a question from a woman who read my article from last year (2010) on problems of the big toe (hallux). Her comments and questions were as follows:
“I just read your article “One ‘Hallacious’ Problem! (http://www.coachkeats.com/?p=395) Thanks so much for discussing this problem so thoroughly! I’ve been suffering with Hallux limitus/rigidus since high school (I know it’s genetic in my case) I’ve never been able to wear high heels or anything with a semi-tight toebox since then. I went to a PT when I was in college and he basically gave me a somber prognosis – orthotics with a firm section under my toe, motion control shoes with a wide toe box. The problem is those never helped really. Anything with a normal toe box that confines my toes in any way, puts pressure across the top of my foot or has a thick sole ends up hurting my toe to the point of not being able to keep them on anymore. My personal solution, that I stumbled across, was Chaco sandals, they are the only thing that keeps my big toes pain free. When I have to dress up I wear Earth shoes with the Kalso reverse heel which are okay for a while but end up still hurting. That being said I still wear regular running shoes with my orthotics when I run/train… and my feet still hurt during and afterwards. I need new running shoes, so I have been doing some research and came across the Vibram Five Fingers… and your article. My quesiton for you is – if I do go to a more minimalist shoe, is that going to speed up the deterioration of the joint? And it looks like you wrote this article almost a year ago, do you still feel the same way about the minimalist footwear? What do you wear on a daily basis? I want to be able to be more active, but with running shoes that hurt my feet, it makes it harder to get up the motivation to do it (although I used to enjoy it and loved playing soccer.) Thanks for your reply if you have the time!
And here was my response with added pictures for fun and clarificaiton!
Thanks for the reply to my article. I wrote that in response to my own on-going problem with my big-toe joints as you read in the article. Hallux mobility problems are quite common yet are seldom addressed in the mainstream media literature.
In response to your questions about minimialist footwear, I am a fan of the concept in general but feel that certain foot (and/or toe) problems might require some sort of orthoses to prevent further damage to irreversible dysfunction thay may have occured to a certain part of the foot or toes. I do own a pair of Vibrams 5 fingers and wear them several times per week. I also perform much of my strength training in them and do feel I have a better “connection” to the ground in terms of tactile sensation and pushing through the ground during exercises like squats, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, standing presses, etc..
I still recommend and wear the Vibram 5-Fingers! But they might not be for everyone!
I really struggle with lunge type of movements though (due to hyper-extension required at hallux joint) so will opt for a minimilaist type of shoe with at least a little stiffness in the upper or forefoot part of the shoe. My left toe especially really struggles with barefoot (or Vibram) lunges. I will perform them slowly with bodyweight a few times per week though to try to keep whatever mobility I have left in those joints.
Lunging requires adequate Hallux mobility!
I have been playing around with various form of proprioceptive taping around my feet and toes lately to see if I can position my big toes in such a way that they “glide” a little better during extension movements. I’m not quite sure I’ve found the right taping technique yet but will continue to mess around with the concept.
There are many uses for Proprioceptive Taping!
Whether or not going barefoot or wearing vibrams will accelerate the degeneration is a good question and probably depends on how much they are worn and what they are used for. For just basic walking around and standing I don’t have a problem with minimalist type of shoes. My main sport is track and field (sprints) and I usually wear a minimalist running shoe for warm-ups and slower sprints on the grass with spikes being worn on the track during my faster runs. However, I really like the idea of keeping the rest of my foot relatively healthy though so some use of Vibrams/minimalist footwear should be worn during the week.
Additionally, it is important (for me at least) to try to get some frequent massage/soft-tissue work on my feet and legs as well some joint mobilizations by some skilled colleagues of mine (one a massage therapist, the other a chiropractor). This, combined with self-massage and joint mobilization/stretching can possibly delay the process of degenerative changes that are bound to eventually get worse over time.
These two guys have the daunting task of tring to keep me orthopedically healthy!
Getting proper function up the kinetic chain in the pelvis/core area also has a profound affect on the lower extremeties and feet/toes so proper treatment includes balancing out the pelvis and possibly even the neck/head area! Chronic forward posture can cause all kinds of bodywide changes that can negatively affect the feet (amongst other areas).
The Kinetic Chain must be addressed in all Foot/Toe Problems!
In conclusion, I think everyone has to experiment with different types of footwear (or lack thereof), therapy, stretching and exercise to see what works best in the various type of activities one likes to engage in. I am also not opposed to certain type of orthotic devices being worn at times for people with real, irreversible foot/toe problems. Maybe some type of customizable shoe will eventually be invented that is “minimallist” in design in all the relatively “healthy” portions of the foot with just enough “support” for the areas that need it (like our poor big toes!); the best of both!
What Will Science Come With Next?
Thanks for reading my blog! For a little humour, here’s a funny cartoon video on Vibram 5 Fingers that is bound to give some of you a chuckle!
I recently found an article I wrote a few years back that I don’t think was ever published. It a nice primer on trigger points, pain, stress and adaptation. Enjoy!
Self-Help Strategies For Neuro-Muscular Pain
By: Keats Snideman CSCS, LMT, NMT
Pain is such a universal human experience that it suffices to say that pain is a normal part of life. We all know that pain can be such a debilitating experience and is probably the number one reason why any of us visits a doctor, a chiropractor, a massage therapist orany other kind of practitioner that deals with the body. But this still doesn’t answer the question: why do we have pain?
Before we can answer this question, it is important to look at the big picture. The body’s main goal is to survive by maintaining homeostasis, or the “steady state of the body.” It is through this goal of equilibrium that our body deals with the day to day stresses and insults imposed upon it. How the body copes with these stressors dictates in many cases whether pain will be experienced. When faced with stress of any type, the body can essentially do one of three things:
1. It can adapt
2. It can compensate
3. Or, it can decompensate.
These responses to stress occur in all types of tissue including skin, bone, muscles, connective tissues, viscera (organs), glands, and even the brain and central (and peripheral) nervous system.
INITIAL STRESSOR→ ADAPT→ COMPENSATE→ DECOMPENSATE
INJURY, PAIN, DYSFUNCTION
If the stresses we are exposed to are excessive, compensation will occur but only for so long. When no more compensations can be made, decompensation occurs, which leads to eventual injury, dysfunction, and eventual disease. When no more decompensation can occur, death of the various tissue and/or organism usually takes place. This is the basic process of life as we know from a biological standpoint.
Once we understand the big picture better, we can basically break down every type of stress we encounter into one of three types:
1. Biomechanical Stress: overuse, misuse, trauma, disuse, congenital, etc.
3. Psychosocial Stress: unresolved emotional states, somatization, anxiety, depressions, other mental illness, etc.
All of the above categories do not act alone; they are constantly interacting to produce what we call LIFE! Addressing one or more of these categories can go a long way towards improving one’s pain status and thus the quality of life. The remainder of this article will focus on my particular specialty, biomechanical stress (with a hint of biochemical stress due to the complex interaction between the two). Specifically, I want to address the very common muscle aches and pains we all suffer on a day to day basis.
Why Do I Hurt?
Probably the most frustrating type of pain is the daily chronic type of pain that many people experience. Tight, stiff and sore necks, shoulders, lower-backs and hips are very common experiences among people these days. To the people experiencing the pain, much of it seems unwarranted since in many cases, no precipitating specific event (like a whiplash or a fall) occurred. Nevertheless, tissues have been irritated and there is pain; often of a chronic nature which nags people daily.
However, I see most of this type of pain as “lifestyle-induced,” as many people have very poor habits of use with their bodies and are unaware of the things they are (or aren’t) doing that keeps their body in a chronic state of pain. These poor habits of use include poor body mechanics while sitting, standing and lifting as well as improper set-up of ergonomic factors (including seat/chair height, table height, computer keyboard and monitor arrangements, etc.) Additionally, stressors like carrying a heavy purse on one’s shoulder(attention ladies!), lugging around a heavy briefcase, talking with a phone between the ear and the shoulder, repetitive typing and mouse clicking can all contribute to chronic pain syndromes.
All these factors and many more can set the body up for ensuing pain and discomfort. Next, I’d like to explain the six key factors that need to be addressed when dealing with pain. These factors are also some of the key tenets of Neuromuscular Massage Therapy, which I began studying in the late 90’s. They still hold true today:
1. Ischemia- a state in which a tissue becomes deprived of an adequate supply of oxygen (also called “hypoxia”) for its current physiological needs. This can be the result of pathological processes (narrowed arteries or thrombus), anatomical blockages (tendon or muscle obstruction of blood flow), biochemical changes (vasoconstriction by the body to reduce the blood flow to a specific area of the body), or by functional adaptations (trigger point activity, muscle spasm or guarding). The end result of ischemia is less blood getting to a tissue (let’s use muscle as an example). With less blood, less nutrients (including O2) get through to the muscle and less waste products are removed. The result is a stagnant tissue with a lowered Ph. Eventually the increased ischemia will lead to the formation of trigger points and even increased scar tissue (collagen) to be laid down.
2. Trigger Points (TrPs)-
When muscles and other soft-tissues such as tendons and ligaments are placed under increased stress due to overuse, postural strain, etc., they have a tendency to develop localized areas which become hyper-sensitive, irritated and painful. Many of these localized areas are known as trigger points (TP’s). Trigger points have been shown by researchers to be the cause of much of the pain people feel on a day to day basis. The characteristics of a trigger point include:
* Local Sensitivity/pain on pressure
* Ability to refer pain (often radiating) to a remote, often distant area from where the TP lies. Sensations such as burning, throbbing, tingling, aching and even itching are not uncommon symptoms to experience from TP activity.
* Ability to increase tone or “tonus” in the tissues in which the TP lies, as well as in the target or referred zone/area.
* A weakening effect on the strength and endurance of the muscle(s) in which it lies, including the muscles in the target area.
3. Nerve Entrapment/Compression- Entrapment by myofascial tissues or compression by osseous (bony) tissues can interfere with neural communication and lead to pain, numbness, weakness, tingling, burning and host of other distressing signals into the brain and spinal cord. If left untreated, these types of dysfunctions cause significant changes and losses of normal function.
4. Body Misuse And Biomechanical Dysfunction- repeated movements of any nature done excessively and often with improper technique can and will lead to biomechanical dysfunction. Repetitive stress disorders like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Golfers Elbow, Patella Tendonitis and a host of others, are all associated with faulty body mechanics during the movement. With continued performance of the faulty repetitive techniques, tissues will eventually become tense, fatigued, and fibrotic. This is when tissue feels very hard and “ropy” during palpation. Although massage therapy techniques will bring pain relief, the real key is to try to remove and/or alter the conditions and situation in which the pain and dysfunction are being developed.
5. Nutritional Factors- imbalances and/or deficiencies in key nutrients, or hormones can and do cause issues with pain syndromes. The nutritional component of pain is vast and worthy of a separate article in the future!
6. Emotional/Psychological Factors- the amount of mental and emotional stress that each individual is under will play a major role in his/her current state of discomfort or pain. If left untreated (for example without needed medication given from a Psychiatrist) disastrous things can occur.
A Quick Recap: Plus More On TrPs!
One thing that’s important to realize is that any type of stress (biomechanical, biochemical, or psychosocial) affecting you as a whole, will cause TP’s to be more active and thus sensitive/painful. A climactic change, a stressful emotional event, a physical effort, a chill on the neck or almost anything else which places an adaptive demand on
your body will affect trigger point activity and pain in general. TP’s are therefore barometers of your overall stress level, acting as reminders of what we should be paying more attention to in our physical, chemical, and emotional lives.
Trigger points can therefore be seen as alarm signals sent to our conscious brain to make us aware that something is not right in our body. Just as it would crazy to smash a fire alarm with a sledgehammer without seeing why it went off in the first place, it is also unwise to try and eliminate or shut off a trigger point without examining why it exists. This doesn’t mean that the trigger point should be left alone, but that an investigation must occur to see what could be causing its activity to begin with. The moral of the story here is that if you don’t alter or remove the cause of the trigger point, it’s just a temporary fix (like a band-aid) and is bound to come back with a vengeance.
When pain occurs?
First off, it’s important to rule out any visceral involvement as many organs use the muscular system to warn us of current health problems. A common example of this phenomenon (called a visceral-somatic reflex) is a heart attack. In this condition, the left arm, neck, and jaw can become very painful despite nothing being wrong in those areas directly. Additionally, problems with the liver or gall bladder can refer pain into the right shoulder. How about the lower back with a kidney infection? Lots of referrals into the muscular system occur from problems with organs so it’s important that we rule out more sinister problems first.
Additionally, during cases of unstable joints or recent injury to a joint complex (including ligaments, cartilage and joint capsule), trigger points may form to help splint or “stabilize” an area. In this situation, it would be unwise to remove any related trigger points because they may be actively involved in protecting the area. Again, looking at the big picture as to why we may have pain or spasmed muscles is very important!
Self-Treatment of Trigger Points
There are several methods that can be used for treatment of trigger points including:
1. Trigger Point Pressure Release (aka “ischemic compression)
2. Chilling techniques (cryospray, ice, spray and stretch)
7. Self-help strategies (Epsom salt baths, hydrotherapies, breathing techniques, stretching, exercise and toning exercises)
What’s The Best Method?
For self-treatment, the trigger point pressure release is probably most effective and can be administered via many mediums including:
1. Your own thumbs and fingers
2. Foam Rollers
3. Tennis Balls/golf balls/lacrosse balls
5. Stretching (PNF, Static, or Muscle Energy Techniques)
6. Hydrotherapies (i.e. hot bath or contrast bath/showers)
7. Cryotherapy (i.e. Instant Ice Product by Gebauers)
Length of Pressure
A great way to self-treat trigger points is as follows:
1. Press the tender area until symptoms (and possible referred sensations are elicited) and hold this pressure for 5 seconds.
2. Ease off the pressure by about 50% for 2-3 seconds.
3. Continue this ratio of 5 seconds on/2-3 seconds off for up to 60 seconds or until the tenderness and/or the referral pattern is noticeably reduced.
4. At this point, the pressure should stop and a gentle stretch of the muscle should take place. This helps to keep the trigger point from returning again. Moist heat can follow this treatment followed by application of ice is there was exquisite tenderness or if any swelling was suspected at the attachment sites (where the tendons merge into the bone).
Rules Of Self-Treatment
1. Treat TP’s only to ease pain. Pain and other symptoms may be the result of more serious problems or pathology. Professional medical consultation may be needed.
2. Do not treat TP’s that lie on or near a swollen area, lump, or inflamed tissue.
3. Do not treat TP’s that lie on a mole, a wart, a recent scar or varicose vein.
4. Do not treat painful areas that lie on a woman’s breast. Seek medical evaluation if a tender nodule is found.
5. Although several trigger point lie on acupuncture points (up to 70%), do not self-treat with needles and try and be your own acupuncturist!
6. Do not overtreat an area. Always stop after a minute of on/off pressure as mentioned earlier.
7. Always try to figure out the actual causes of TP’s, such as poor posture or ergonomic set-up, the wrong use of the body, as well as any nutritional or hormonal inadequacies. Even exposure to toxic chemicals/substances can cause increase pain and trigger point activity.
8. When in doubt, always seek competent medical care.
Pain is mostly a useful sensation to alarm us that there may be a “threat” or problem occurring in or to the body that needs our immediate attention. When pain becomes chronic however (greater than 6 weeks), the pain might persist without any real tissue damage being present. In these cases, the pain itself can become the disease and need a multidisciplinary approach to treat it.
Since much of the pain we experience is of a less sinister nature, it helpful to adhere to proper lifestyle habits with regards to biomechanical, biochemical, and psycho-social stressors which we are all bombarded with on a daily basis. Hopefully you, the reader, learned some helpful self-help suggestions on how to manage and reduce any aches and pains you may experience on a daily basis.
In the first part of this blog series, I went over the strength training process I use with Patricia V., a 61 year-old client who’ve I turned into a Masters sprinter over the last 5 years. In this current blog, I’m going to discuss and demonstrate (via video) some of the specific warm-up drills, mobility exercises, and speed runs that we use in our training. Patricia is also my training partner so I threw a couple clips of me sprinting in their as well.
As mentioned in my first blog, it is my opinion that maintaining the ability to explosively use one’s hips, shoulder girdle, and extremities while maintaining a stable trunk/core is paramount to healthy aging. My client Pat is a prime example of maintaining these crucial physical abilities as she continues to get faster even though she is aging. So in addition to the strength and core work I demonstrated in the first blog of this series, sprinting (done well, with proper technique) is one such activity to maintain these abilities. It also happens to be a ton of fun and is very challenging, especially when performed for longer distances (150m+).
Speed Training Philosophy: Short to Long vs. Long to Short?
There are many different training philosophies when it comes to speed coaching and so I’d like to explain my personal training preferences to help make sense of why I do what I do. Specifically, I believe in training speed pretty much all year round since it really is the most crucial physical quality for a sprinter or “SprintAthlete” as I like to call it. Even if one has no desire to compete in track and field as a sprinter, participation in a speed/power activity or sports such as soccer, tennis, volleyball, baseball, basketball, etc.., etc.., requires a certain amount of sprinting speed for success. Learning proper running/sprinting mechanics and acquiring good, if not great acceleration ability is paramount in most, if not all of the sports mentioned. So for many athletes there may not be a need to sprint as far as 100 or 200 m as done in a track meet, but possessing the ability to repeatedly sprint 5, 10, 20, and maybe even 40 m at an all out intensity is a good ability to have!
In track circles, there is some debate (a periodization issue of sorts) as to the ideal sequencing of sprinting distances, volumes, and relative intensities. Specifically, some coaches use what is known as a short to long approach, while other coaches prefer what is called a long to short approach respectively. Both approaches have created both World and Olympic champion sprinters (and hurdlers) so one is not necessarily right while the other one is wrong; if performed correctly the end result is a faster sprinter (hopefully).
In the short to long approach (the approach I prefer) for example, full-speed sprinting is performed for smaller distances at the beginning of the off-season. As the sprinter improves fitness, the distances are gradually increased to eventually arrive at the necessary race distances or even beyond, for improvements in speed endurance and lactate tolerance. This is the approach that I use since my main goal is to initially get my sprinters moving at the speeds that we would like to see in competition. This approach was made popular by the late Canadian track coach, Charlie Francis, who unfortunately passed away in 2010. Charlie was the coach of the infamous Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, who was busted for steroid use during the 1988 Olympics (in Seoul, Korea) after smashing the 100 meter world record and easily beating his American rival Carl Lewis.
Charlie and Ben; perhaps the best Coach-Athlete Combo Ever!
Although many will discount Charlie’s coaching methodology based on his involvement with this drug scandal, he really did positively influence the way that we coach speed to all athletes requiring acceleration and high velocity movements in their respective sports. One of the most influential books on speed and power development that I ever read was Charlie Francis’ Speed Trap. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in speed coaching, even strength training for that matter!
This is my copy of the original book..a real classic!
You can get Speed Trap on Amazon and in E-book format at Charlie Francis’ site here.
Opposite of the short to long approach, the long to short approach has the sprinter starting with much longer runs at lower intensities and slowly shortening the distances as the season approaches and adding higher and higher intensity sprints to the mix.
There are pros and cons to each approach. With a short to long approach you are basically ready to run fast at any time during the year. You may not have your speed endurance in place but if the speed is there good things can happen. One of my favorite statements from Charlie Francis is the following: “whats the point of having endurance if you have no speed to endure?”
The long to short approach seems to have been used more by 200, 400, and 800m sprinters/runners in the past but is still used today by several recreational, amateur, and elite sprinters. Interestingly enough, this approach also appears to benefit the taller, lankier (ectomorphic), and possibly weaker sprinter while the short to long approach appears to be favored by shorter, or more average height sprinters with more muscular (mesomorphic) body types. Of course this is just an observation and ther are always exceptions to the rule…just look at the long (although extremely muscular) and lanky Usain Bolt!
Usain Bolt is making us re-think body type for a sprinter!
Anatomy of an Effective 100m Dash
Let’s break down a 100m dash for a look at the different components of a sprint race which in turn help dictate different priorities or “themes” that will need to occur in training.
Acceleration Phase: 0-25/30 Meters (Objective: To have a good reaction time and really push/drive out of the block by emphasizing power acceleration mechanics with slight forward lean, a neutral head in-line with spine, until an upright, sprint posture is achieved.)
Transition Phase: 25-45 Meters (Objective: to keep accelerating while transitioning to Max Velocity mechanics.)
Maximal Velocity Phase:40/45 – 65/75 Meters (Objective: To run tall by maintaining vertical posture with relaxed yet aggressive pumping of the arms.)
Deceleration/Speed Maintanence Phase:65-100 Meters (Objective: To minimize the slowing of the body by relaxing and possibly shortening stride length slightly to maintain stride frequency; this is a controversial topic with some coaches preferring going for length which I think is a mistake since it can lead to excessive “breaking” forces which only serves to slow the body down and increase strain on hamstrings.)
So with these parts of a sprint race in mind, it makes sense that training sessions could be broken down to work on specifics aspects or themes of a sprint race. In the case of our training, we break our training down as follows:
Monday: Acceleration Theme- repeated of 10-40 meters done all out from varied start positions. Resisted runs would be also be done on these days.
Wed: Speed Endurance Theme- 2-3 runs of 80-120m for speed endurance. When speed can be held for longer distances “special endurance” runs are begun which range from 150-300m. Occasionally, 300-600m runs will be done for small volumes to specifically work on lactate tolerance capabilities. This is very evil work and used far too much my many coaches who think a good sprint workout needs to involve lots of puking and kids lying on the ground after the session!
You Don’t Have to Become Pukey the Clown to Have a Good Training Session!
Fri: Max Velocity Theme- 4-6 runs of 40-80 meters from various starts and even run-in’s or from the “fly” as its called in sprint training. The goal here is trying to achieve the maximal velocity possible while maintaining relaxation and minimizing fatigue. It’s hard to be fast when you’re tired!
Of course the above example can be changed depending on one’s unique training situation and whether or not a race is to be done during the week.
Onto some Examples!
Ok, here a few videos that go over the basic warm-up process that we used during the early pre-season. You will see some dreaded “static” stretching, that’s right, STATIC STRETCHING in the videos so don’t adjust your glasses. I still use some in our training after a few PNF-type of contract-relax cycles, along with more active (dynamic) type of stretching/mobility work. We usually only hold the stretches for 3-5 deep belly (diaphragmatic) breaths and really just trying to set the mobility for the session rather than really pushing for new range, which rarely, if ever, leads to anything beneficial. Better to use comfort and ease as the guide and slowly increase range over a few attempts at a stretch!
In this next video, I filmed a track session in which we acutally performed a little of each of the 3 primary themes for training.
There is much more to our training process including plyometric activities, explosive med-ball throws, etc. But this gives a nice snapshot into quality training for Master’s competitors.
Thanks for reading my blog and watching the videos! If anyone out there has any specific questions or thoughts on training for speed please contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every now and then an educational product comes along that really has the potential to change this profession. Charlie Weingroff’s DVD product “Training = Rehab DVD set ” is one such product. This DVD set is a 6-disc collection with over 12 hours of lecture and practical demonstration to personal trainers that took place at an Equinox Fitness Club in New York City.
This is a Must-have DVD Set!
In a nutshell, this DVD gives you a seat in what was truly a groundbreaking event as Charlie Weingroff, a world-leading Physical Therapist and Strength & Condtioning coach, explaines his philosophies on how Rehabilitation and Fitness Professionals could speak a common language and truly be on the same page. The seminar begins with Charlie explaining some of the major influences on his personal rehab and training philosophies including Gray Cook and his team of rehabilitation professionals that helped him create the functional movement screen (FMS) and the selective functional movement assessment (SFMA). He also gives credit to Shirley Sahrmann, a notable physical therapist who has pioneered the treatment of motor control dysfunctions in common pain syndromes, Pavel Kolar, creator of the dynamic neuromuscular stabilization rehabilitation programs from the Prague school in Czechoslovakia, and he gives props to Mike Boyle and the platform he has given Charlie on the Strengthcoach.com forum to share his knowledge to fitness and rehab professionals.
Also mentioned is Charlie’s connection with TPI (Titleist performance Institute, basically FMS applied to Golf), Vibraflex whole body vibration platforms (Charlie is Educational director for this company), Westside Barbell Training (since Charlie is a competitive power lifter; he even shows a clip of him squatting 800 pounds!), The Philedelphia 76ers (he was head strength coach there for 2 years), and his love of comic books & superheroes, professional wrestling, and fantasy football!
Charlie then gives the basic layout and goals for this three day seminar which included lectures and practical ”learn-by-doing” demonstrations over the following topics:
1. Joint by Joint Theory (Disc one)
2. Advanced Joint by Joint Theory (Disc one)
3. Core Pendulum Theory (Disc one)
4. Redefining The Core (Disc two)
5. Janda (Disc two)
6. PNF (Disc two)
*The first two discs are heavy into the “nuts and bolts” and theoretical concepts that make up the corrective strategies shown on the later discs. One must NOT skip over this info if you are to really understand how to critically and intelligently weave this corrective exercise knowledge into personal training, strength and condtioning, and rehabilitative exercise processes. It was nice to know I was already familiar with the concepts Charlie talked about in these first discs so fortunately I have been studying and reading the right stuff. Again, ff someon is not familiar with these concepts and they want to be on the cutting edge of the fitness/performance fields, than they better take notes and watch these sections over and over again! There is SO MUCH incredible info in these first few discs.
1. Functional Movement Methodology (Disc three)
2. FMS (Disc three) (this was not covered directly in this lecture since it was assumed that base knowledge of FMS was already in place. The real emphasis was on the SFMA, which is designed for when the FMS demonstrates some pain)
3. SFMA (Disc three) (This is the real “gravy” of this product; how to learn the 7 base tests of the SMFA to dictate safe and proper exercise prescription for clients that have pain and/or dysfunctional movement patterns)
4. SFMA-Based Corrective Exercise (Disc four)
*This is where the real magic started happening for me as Charlie practically demonstrated first, how to properly implement the SFMA for fitness professionals, or what he calls the SFMA with “restrictor plates,” since no break-outs or medical diagnosing would be done. Charlie’s enthusiasm for ideal/proper technique (including proper head position and breath patterning) is so contagious that it instantly changed some of my cueing with my own clients. Throughout the process though, since this was a group of personal trainers, not medical professionals, Charlie was adament of the following:
1) No specific correctives on the Neck/Cervial spine would be taught. If there was pain and/or dysfunction, refer your client out to the appropriate medical/rehab professional.
On day one Charlie laid out these rules as part of his seminar agenda:
2) Will not teach directly treating pain
3) Will not teach diagnosis of pain or dysfunction
4) Will not teach manual therapy.
1. SFMA Functional Training (Disc five)
2. Putting it All Together (Proper Strength Progressions)
*The information on these last DVD’s really put it all together as Charlie laid out the proper sequences for any dysfunctional assesments found during the SFMA (minus the neck of course). The correctives all started with the typical FMS sequecning:
1) Restore Mobility First- According to the Core Pendulum Theory, if any joint is to achieve true stability/joint centration, it must first have awareness/input from proprioceptors and mechanoreceptors thoughout a full range of motion for that joint. A great quote from Charlie that stuck in my mind was: “Never take a mobility problem to a stability fix!”
2) Establish Static, then Dynamic Stability (make sure some mobility has been established first)
3) Go For Functional Strength- or as Charlie likes to put it:
As an RKC, it was also nice to see Charlie give props to Pavel Tsatsouline and the RKC community. He is a big fan of exercises such as the Turkish Get-up (as taught in Kalos Sthenos) and the Swing. Charlie plans on becoming an RKC in the near future as far as I know!
Besides really getting a better understanding of the SFMA, I’d have to say the coolest tips I got from these DVD’s was in his teaching of the Chop and Lift exercises as taught by Gray Cook and Functional Movement Systems practitioners. Charlie gives some great “qualifying” tests to ensure that someone is actually ready to begin training these exercises intensely. Charlie has such a good eye and really picks up on the subtle little “cheat” strategies that people, all people, will do to make it LOOK like they are performing the exercise correctly.
In closing, the biggest take-home points I learned from Charlie in this DVD set was:
1) Have a reason for everything you do in your program
2) Do NOT hurt people!
3) Really learn the foundational anatmomy, biomechanics and physiology,etc.. to understand the princples/theories behind why we do what we do.
4) BE DISCRIMANATORY!!! It takes practice, but anyone can learn to spot the subtle compensations that will make an exercise at least unproductive and ineffective and at worst, dangerous.
I highly recommend this DVD prodcut to any fitness, strength, massage, or rehab professional (both medical and non-medical) to broaden one’s understanding of human movment, how it becomes painful and dysfunctional, and what we can do to remedy it. Great job Charlie and I look forward to more great things from this guy in the future!