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Position Defined: Part 1

Feb 25, 2018

 “The most dangerous phrase in the language is ‘we’ve always done it this way’”- Grace Hopper

Do you ever think about what you’re doing?

Do you ever think about the consequences of what you may be doing? As strength and conditioning and fitness professionals we need to begin to re-examine sacred cows with a more discerning eye in relation to technique cues, what exercises should look like, and the purpose of the exercises selected.

Sacred cows are ideas, customs, institutions held, or beliefs that are above criticism and viewed as incontrovertibly true. We need to start questioning the cues of ‘chest up’ and ‘butt out’ that were shoved down our throats as students and young coaches. We tend to think we are eliciting positive adaptations in training but training has consequences, which implies both positive and negative results. In the opening remarks, I presented a question because you should constantly be...

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An Athlete's Relationship With An Exercise Environment Via Afferenation and Energy

Aug 11, 2017

Sensory information dictates our perception of the world around us-whatever world that may be to you. That world may be walking down the street feeling the sunlight on your face, holding a barbell in a gym, or sitting at a table holding a loved one’s hand. Our brain needs accurate sensory information from our environment, in order to connect. Sensory information includes the linkage of both the external environment (sensory) and internal environment (emotions). Representations of our environment can occur with both real and remembered stimuli (1). Human behavior and motor control is based upon ACCURATE sensory information (19,21,22). Vision, vestibular, and somatosensory (pain, touch, temperature, and proprioception) input provides our brain with the information it needs to make accurate motor and behavioral responses. The brain needs this afferent information in order to feel safe and know that it can protect itself against threat. You need the ability to sense and feel.

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Allostatic Overload: Stress and Emotional Context Part 2

Jul 26, 2017

What we have learned from Part 1 is that physiological adaptations during training are due to the planning of stress. As humans, we need the stress response to survive. Stress is training variables (i.e reps, sets, intensity, loads, velocities, etc.) and the cascade of the HPA axis is the window into performance. But we also need to be able to turn it off when it is not needed.

A chronic state of stress will limit adaptation and performance. A chronic state can lead to changes in environmental perception, behavior, and anxiety (level of tension). Allostatic overload is a term that reflects the pathophysiology that chronic over activation of the stress response of regulating systems can create. These changes can reflect compensation patterns for movement and be reflected physically, emotionally, and behaviorally. Part 2 will be dedicated to the physical adaptations to allostatic overload.

However, we need to appreciate that it is not just physical. Part 1 discussed...

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Allostatic Overload: Stress and Emotional Context Part 1

Jul 21, 2017

Okay, I get it... ‘Allostasis’ has become the new catch phrase. However, I think it places an emphasis and understanding on the consequences of training adaptations. No, not every adaptation we make to training is positive for health and well-being; training can be associated with a cost. Consequence can have both a positive and negative result, but cost is associated with a price to pay. Training is stress. Stress can change the way we think, process information, and behave. As a coach, you need to be a thoughtful stress manager and understand that everything you do has a consequence.

Before an adaptation to training can be acquired, the payment in stress is required. The consequence of that stress depends on how it is managed. As strength and conditioning coaches, we are stress managers. Stress is a bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium (8). Exercise is planned stress (i.e. periodization). The same chemical...

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Why Your Coach Might Be Wrong About Your Squat: Knees In For The Win

Jun 27, 2017

Whether you're an elite powerlifter, a strength and conditioning coach, a personal trainer, or a physical therapist, you've probably been versed in the concept that proper cueing for the squat with the lower extremities is, spread the floor with the feet, and push the knees out.

Perhaps you've even gotten the tid bit about screwing the floor with your feet in the direction of external rotation as well. If you've learned that these particular cues are the way to go, then you've probably also learned that knees caving in towards midline, or valgus is the devil.

You've probably seen the technique involving putting a band around the knees so that you reflexively push the knees outwards (varus) against the input of the band. The rationale for squatting this way usually involves the concept that you're going to utilize more gluteal tissues since the actions of the femur will feature external rotation, via the feet screwing, and abduction with the feet spreading the floor and the knees...

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Hormones and Training: What You Need to Know

Dec 04, 2016

There are two communication systems in the body, one wired, the nervous system, and the other non-wired, the endocrine system. Communication systems are used to decode the meaning of the environment that the organism finds itself in, and to communicate the environmental messages to the individual cells and DNA of the organism. Hormones do not make the cells do anything differently than what the cells normally do. Instead, hormones change the rate and the magnitude of physiological expression of cellular behavior. Hormones are released from a source cell and make their way to a target cell where they exert their effect. Some hormones are released a great distance from their target cell, others are released from a neighboring cell, while others still are released in the same cell that ultimately is the target cell. The endocrine system utilizes glands, ducts, and the circulatory system to send its messages throughout the body. To exert its effects on the body, a hormone must bind to...

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Myocardial Oxygen Consumption in Fitness

Oct 23, 2016

Oxidative training has made its way back around to being everyone’s darling in the fitness industry. It seems like everyone and their mother is doing cardiac capacity blocks. I’ve been hearing a lot of people use real physiology terms to explain what sorts of goals they’re working to achieve, and that makes me incredibly happy. People are looking for capillary density, mitochondrial biogenesis, eccentric cardiac hypertrophy, heart rate recovery capacity through parasympathetic means, improved lactate clearance, etc., etc. There are a few areas where I think our attention will be brought to going forward regarding the optimal development of aerobic capabilities of the organism, and one of those things is myocardial oxygen consumption (MVO2). MVO2 is a measurement of the aerobic activity, specifically at the cardiac muscle tissue. Typically we estimate what the MVO2 is by measuring the rate pressure product (RPP) and inferring that number towards MVO2 scores. Based...

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Know-Think-Guess: The 70/20/10 Rule of Programming

Jul 25, 2016

Good programming is a balancing act worthy of a Game of Thrones episode: on one side sit the foundational movements–pushes, pulls, hinges, squats, and carries–while on the other sit the latest and greatest in cutting-edge research-velocity based training, blood flow restriction, PRI, post-activation potentiation and more. Stuck neatly in the middle is the modern-day coach, like Jon Snow caught between the white walkers and the mortal threats from the seven kingdoms. How much credence should be given to the up and coming methods? Is it really worth abandoning tried-and-true approaches? Today's article is an attempt to help answer that question, providing some guidance for just how to navigate the relatively narrow space between these two worlds. It's a strategy I've been able to use to help me be both innovative and effective, allowing me to use some of the more exciting things I've come across while not abandoning some of the staples of strength and conditioning. In...

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Readiness, Preparedness, and the Plight of a Minor League Baseball Player

Jul 19, 2016

So about two months ago I was out doing some grocery shopping when I got a call from an athlete of mine who is currently playing minor league baseball.  For the sake of this article, let's call him Tim. Before we get to the phone call, however, let me give you a quick backstory:  Tim is a very good athlete who put in a lot of hard work this offseason and managed to take his fastball from high 80's to 93-96 MPH.  For anyone who has played baseball, and played for an extended period of time, you'll know these type of velocity jumps are hard to come by.  As an unrelated aside, I hate when coaches try and take all the credit for their athletes improvement.  Yes, good programming and coaching makes an enormous difference, but at the end of the day nothing is possible if the athlete isn't making the sacrifices and putting in the time to get better.

Anyways, when I picked up the phone I could immediately tell something was wrong and it didn't take long to figure...

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Owning the Frontal Plane for True Multidirectional Speed

Jul 04, 2016

What does every coach want more of for his athletes?  Multidirectional speed; a foundational pillar of any athletic development program.  Multidirectional speed relies on an athlete’s ability to not only produce power, but sustain it throughout competition.  When getting at the heart of multidirectional speed you will find it to be about improving motor programs and increasing an athlete’s ability to maintain a posture during explosive dynamic movements. To ensure performance is optimal, posture and body control must be owned in all 3 planes of motion to ensure an athlete’s full potential is accessed.  Most athletes are well-trained and potentially over-trained in the sagittal plane, while they are under-trained in the frontal and transverse planes.  This is likely the case because deadlifts, squats, and the bench press are well-understood exercises.  When considering the transverse plane, we have seen improvements in the...

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