To keep and improve flexibility.
When we are born, we have excessive joint mobility and flexibility. As we grow up, we lose the mobility we don’t use and retain some based on the activities we do and sports we play. This plays a role in the compensations we develop. For example: As a baseball player, you partake in thousands of reps of swinging and throwing using one side of your body prior to high school -- this is what we would label “functional compensations” -- as the excessive range of motion a pitcher gets in the shoulder is a big contributor in how well they can throw a baseball. On the flip-side, it is likely to cause certain issues when performing other activities that require more symmetry. Lifting weights and learning how to perform your basic movement patterns properly will help to improve and maintain joint mobility while building stability and strength.
Mobility without stability is just as much an injury risk as an overly stiff body that lacks mobility.
By creating stability in a given range of motion, you are more likely to retain that joint mobility. Think of resistance training as pressing the save button. If you only quarter squat, you will likely lose the ability to achieve full hip flexion compared to someone that squats with load through a full range of motion. By training from a young age, we develop the functional mobility and strength that sets the athlete up for greater improvements down the road, along with a decreased risk of injury.
Gravity is resistance
I had a parent ask me recently, after seeing one of our youth athletes doing cleans, when the time was right to start resistance training. I explained to him that everyone does resistance training in life as soon as they are born. Let me explain. How does a baby stand up for the first time? Well, after trying over and over and failing to overcome their own bodyweight and gravity, they eventually build up enough strength and coordination to stand up and walk without falling. Fast forward a few years and those kids are running, jumping, and exploring the world through movement. Each ground contact during running is upwards of three times your bodyweight. Even some of the strongest NFL players will never lift anything that heavy in the weight room. Ever seen a young child jump off the monkey bars or from the swing and land on the ground from high up in the air? Did you worry about them and the health of their body? These are joint forces that are much more extreme than anything they could do in a controlled weight training session with a knowledgeable trainer. By participating in resistance training, a good coach can teach proper mechanics and help build a more resilient body, thereby reducing the risk of injury in sport.
Where are all the farm boys with stunted growth?
It doesn’t matter if we are lifting barbells or a bail of hay, resistance is resistance. Most people have heard that lifting weights at an early age will stunt the growth of a growing child. If this were the case, why aren’t children who grew up on farms (or other scenarios where physical labor was unavoidable) deformed and broken? Bails of hay, buckets of water, and wheelbarrows full of dirt all add up and are relatively heavy just like barbells and dumbbells. We have yet to see an epidemic where these children grow up to be hindered by it. Most of them reap the benefits of a strong mind and body as well as a robust general capacity to do physical work.
This week's DST Exercise of the Week is the Dowel shoulder mobility series, which is an alternative to the old-fashioned shoulder dislocators that a lot people do for their shoulder mobility work. The problem with the old-fashioned dislocators is when we go up and over, we’re forcing our body into a fixed range of motion that might not be appropriate for that athlete at the time. This is going to lead to anterior glide of the shoulder once we turn it over, and that is going to lead to a lot of excessive extension when we are trying to go over the top.
We have the athlete grip a PVC pipe about shoulder width apart. He’s going to turn one hand out and one hand in, right in front of his body. We tell the athlete to take his bottom hand and push the other hand straight to the sky. Don’t worry about rotating yet, just try and reach up. As we reach up as high as we possibly can, we’re getting a good stretch through this entire side through the lat. Then, we tell the athlete to take this bottom hand and start pushing his other arm into a big arm circle. He’s going to rotate back so we’re also getting a little bit of thoracic mobility and core stability while he maintains this position.
We want to maintain pressure through the entire range. Then, when he gets back to the start, he’s going to do the same movement in the other direction. We go up and over pushing up with the other hand. It is important to know that whichever hand starts at the bottom is always applying the force, so we want to tell the athlete to try to keep the hips as square as possible.
After the athlete does eights reps or so on each side,
we’ll go backwards with it. So we will have the athlete start in the same
position, and we'll use the top hand this time to push the bottom hand down. Going through the Dowel shoulder mobility series is a better option to get that extra should mobility
work or movement preparation work before your workout. We usually do one or two sets of
eight to twelve reps of this.
Physical Principle: Periodization
One of the core principles for our athletic development processes is the concept of periodization. Having goals is vital for all athletes. You need to know where you want to go before you can take the proper steps to get there. However, constant fixation on an end-goal can be detrimental to actually achieving it. That is where the idea of periodization helps immensely.
Periodization is taking the end-goal and breaking it down into smaller, more achievable steps. Think of it this way: Your end-goal is a finished bookcase from IKEA . Periodization is what helps you build it with steps A through J. This process-oriented mindset creates daily opportunities for little victories, which helps sustain the motivation required to accomplish long-term goals. Focusing on, and believing in, the process is what periodization is all about.
"Rome wasn't built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour."
Everyone loves an underdog story. A long-shot with little hope who defies logic, silences doubters, and overcomes all obstacles on their way to ultimate glory. But that’s not always how it plays out in real life, is it?
Mr. Holland : "Jacobs would have fought this."
Principle Wolters : "She would have lost."
Mr. Holland : "Yes, she would have lost. But she would have fought this. And so will I."
This is a prime example of what true dedication looks like. Sure, it's dedication to a losing cause, but Mr. Holland absolutely refused to go down without a fight.
I've found that I'm drawn to this same mentality in fiction and reality alike.
One of the most inspiring stories in all of mythology is the Battle of Thermopylae -- Anyone want to do a Gerard Butler "This is Sparta!" impression? Now's the time -- I'll wait. What an incredible narrative: 300 men vs. hundreds of thousands . The Spartans faced certain death, yet remained undeterred in their resolve to fight for their land and stand up for what they knew was right.
Or how about a historical account? The Battle of the Alamo is essentially the same storyline. We absolutely love it here in Texas -- and for good reason. If you don't know the details, you need to do some research. The epic line in the sand drawn by William B. Travis. The willingness of every last man to give his life for the greater good. THAT is dedication.
Here's my point: You're not going to win every game you play.¹ You won't achieve every goal you ever set for yourself. You cannot and will not be perfect. But does that mean you shouldn't try? Absolutely not. Find something of great value, throw caution (and probability of success) to the wind, and dedicate yourself to it.²
The wall drill is a drill we use with all of our athletes. It emphasized body position and leg action during the Acceleration phase of sprinting. Here are simple coaching cues for the wall drill.
Physical Principle: Dynamic Correspondence
By Lee Fiocchi
The basic idea behind what we call Dynamic Correspondence is that an athlete's training off the field should translate to an athlete's performance on the field. Let's look at speed as an example.
Not all speed training is created equally. The common mantra that “you have to train fast to be fast” is very important but not entirely true. The last couple years in research -- largely elucidated by JB Morin and his research group -- is that direction of force is critical, which really isn’t the biggest nugget that we learned from the research. Most effective coaches know and purposely design their training to achieve improved position and posture to help athletes perform more effectively in acceleration. The myth that I fell for is that loaded sprint training with loads greater than 10% of body weight can have a negative affect on performance. As it turns out, loads should be tailored to the individual's body and their goals. This thought process is true of almost all training: strength and speed training should vary depending on how it will impact the athlete in their sport and for their position.
DST Exercise of the week is the Glute Ham Raise (GHR). In this video, we’re going to go over just the hamstring portion of the full Glute Ham Raise.
We’re going to start by making sure the athlete's knees are up on the pads. Some things to look for are to have the glutes and the core tight. A cue for creating tension in the core is to tell the athlete to think about bringing the rib cage and the pelvis together. When first going out, some athletes will try to just tip straight down. But that movement leads to a bit of a hip hinge, and we want to eliminate that. We’ll coach the athlete to take their heels and push them through the platform, and that’s going to force the athlete to extend their legs straight out. Pushing through the platform, you want the athlete to keep tension through the hamstrings, avoiding relaxation of the back.
They’re going to go down to about a flat position, then, before coming back up, they’re going to want to think about kicking their heels to the ceiling and attacking with the hamstrings, never losing core engagement. Once again, we’re not relaxing at the bottom, we want to make sure there’s tension through the hamstrings throughout the entire movement.
This exercise is shown on a GHR machine. The Glue Ham Raise can also be done with an athlete using a pad on the floor. In this scenario, the athlete's knees would be resting on the pad and they would need something or someone to keep their legs and feet from coming off the ground when extending their body down to the floor. Both versions of this exercise are equally effective and will target the hamstrings and posterior chain.
Recovery is a difficult topic to research. Often times, there are conflicting studies and conclusions, because so much of the recovery process is measured anecdotally. So what’s one to do? For one, start with defining the terms. Next, read the methods of the study to see if they are actually addressing the topic at hand. From there, we can get a better picture of truth outside of the spectrum of opinion.
Defining RecoverySo what is recovery? Is it at the cellular level? Is it in reference to perceived soreness or recovery of specific and relevant range of motion? Is it recovery from an injury? Is it recovering strength? For this blog we will define recovery as being at the cellular level, referencing perceived soreness decreases and strength recovery. Relevant range of motion is a tricky topic to try to throw in here because of all the factors and mechanisms that could lead to lost mobility and the reacquisition thereof. It would be irresponsible to reduce that topic to whether or not cold-water immersion aids recovery of that nature. Same goes for recovering from injuries.
Finding Applicable StudiesWhile researching this topic, you will find numerous studies pointing in all different directions, most of which deal with recovery from highly metabolic activities like running or playing soccer. We acknowledge these, but for our purposes, we want to look specifically at resistance training. With how much traction cold-water immersion has had for decades and with the more recent surge of cryotherapy, one would think resources would be plentiful on this topic. This is simply not the case. Very few research papers and studies get into the specifics of recovery, especially as it relates to resistance training. I was able to find some, however, and they are cited throughout this blog.
Effects on Perceived Muscle SorenessMuscle soreness is a common, yet not always a reliable, indicator of recovery. However, the effects of cold-water immersion therapy are pretty clear. Pretty much every study ever done on this topic has shown that cold-water immersion significantly aids in a reduction of muscle soreness. However, there are very few studies that even attempt to find out why this is the case. There needs to be more research on this topic, but I believe there hasn’t been because we already have a decent hypothesis on this. The cold has the ability to numb the area and provides relief of pain. In-short, if you only care about reducing soreness, then cold-water immersion or cryotherapy is definitely a viable option for you.
Muscle Recovery at the Cellular Level
This topic specifically lacks applicable studies to indicate viability. However, a 2016 study by Peake, et al. does a pretty good job of attacking this. They used single-leg resistance strength training in three groups. One performed cold-immersion, another group performed active recovery and the third group used a passive (sedentary) recovery. The study controlled nutrition and even bathing schedules to eliminate the heat from the showers and baths from affecting the results. They monitored the results using muscle biopsies and blood work. Without getting into the entire study that you can read yourself, the results were not necessarily what you might expect.
Cold-immersion therapy showed no significant (statistically, not my determination) difference in muscle recovery when compared to active recovery. One could stop there and make a claim that active recovery would be superior because of its ability to be broadly applied in a group setting. It also comes with zero monetary cost. Not so fast. The study also showed that the benefits of either method were minimal when compared to the passive or sedentary group. So now what? Is this a referendum on all recovery methods? Well, not exactly. Methods are important.
The active recovery method was pedaling on a stationary bike, so all we see here is that, for recovery purposes, hopping on the bike for a warm-down seems to be a waste of time. It is not an indicator of the effectiveness of other active recovery modalities. Each would need to be studied or observed independently. In fact, I read another study that showed tremendous backing for active recovery over static or passive recovery. The problem is that they do not detail what the active method consisted of. My opinion is that it more than likely depends on the method itself.It is important to note there are many studies that seem to indicate real benefits with cold-immersion. However, they don’t really apply very well to strength training. The studies base the findings on activities with a high metabolic stress and moderate mechanical stress. When it comes to strength training, we typically see a reduced metabolic stress with a heightened mechanical stress. That is an important difference. In the end, this study shows that the biological indicators at the cellular level do not support cold-immersion being used as a primary recovery method.
**Note: The study also references a 2003 study by Roberts, et al. that seemed to show a loss of muscle mass and force production when cold-emersion was implemented post-workout over a 3-month period. That is significant.**
Strength RecoveryThis is where people could easily get lost. The studies seem to show contradictions rampant, but when observed more closely, there seems to be more of a bell curve. One study by Pfeiffer, et al. seemed to show drastic decreases in strength when using cold-immersion methods. However, the method to determine this was repeating high-intensity exercise with a quick turnaround (within an hour). As I stated before, there is a 2003 study by Roberts, et al. that indicates a loss of strength over a 3-month period of using cold-immersion in comparison to other recovery methods.
ConclusionPlease make your own determinations. Don’t blindly listen to what I’m saying, but these are the conclusions that I’ve come to with the current information available. There are simply not enough studies out there on this topic. The ones that are out there, when looked at as a whole, do not seem to support to the use of cold-immersion as an efficient or effective recovery method post-workout. This is especially true when it comes at a monetary cost to you. Alternatively, active recovery is going to depend on the specific method.
Angus Lindsay, Sam Carr, Sean Cross, Carl Petersen, John G. Lewis, Steven P. Gieseg, The physiological response to cold-water immersion following a mixed martial arts training session, Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism , 2017, 42, 5, 529
Pearce, et al. Journal of Physiology . Volume 595, Issue 3 1 February 2017 Pages 695–711