Over-specialization with under-development

Early specialization by many sport scientists is today called the sickness of modern sport. In modern sport, young athletes need to spend so much time playing their sport because if they don’t do that, their opponents will! Let’s put it this way… imagine a 12-year old tennis player who is practicing at the court every day for 1.5 hours for 1 month. This means 45 hours/month. His friend is practicing 3 hours daily, which means 90 hours/month. In six-month period, this is 270 hours against 540 hours. If they play against each other on the tournament, it is not too hard to figure out who is going to win. At such a young age where physical characteristics are still not so dominant in sport with high technical demands, the winner is basically always the one who is training more specifically. Moreover, if that one continues to win a large per cent of his/her matches, we deal with the situation where, already at that age, managers, sponsors and possibly higher amounts of money are entering the game… Of course, with that amount of time spent on the court there is less time available to train outside the court and by training in that way we find over-specialized, but under-developed young bodies. What I mean is that these young athletes are already incredibly good at playing their sport but if you ask them to do the basic locomotive tasks such as forward/backward roll or simple bodyweight deep squat they are not able do it! Youth sports participation has evolved from child-driven, recreational free play to highly structured, deliberate practice devoted to sports-specific skill development!
And now, the big question is what can we, as S&C coaches, do with these kids who spend every day 3 or more hours on the court? First of all we need to step out from the classic S&C approach where we only think about jumping higher and running faster because kids are doing that on the court every day!! There are so many categories we need to develop to support the body to be able to jump and run during the actual play. Another important thing to consider is that modern children are not playing outside in the parks, they are not climbing and falling from trees, they are not riding a bike for the whole day and by not doing so they are not developing what I’m calling pre-athleticism!!
Here is a good example from TPI – Titleist Performance Institute training model for young golf players based on biological age. TPI is currently considered the best place for training young golf players and many facilities/academies of other sports are trying to copy their developmental training model.

tpi

On the other hand, we have similar situation in professional sport too! With so many competition events during one week or month (look at the NBA, Baseball, top soccer teams in Europe, tennis tournaments almost every week) athletes are, all the time, under specific load (playing sport) and there is little or almost no time (if you calculate traveling and changing time zones) for actual training. And if athletes get into this rhythm for several years, suddenly we have a situation of over-specialized, but under-developed body. Athletes are highly specialized, sometimes on the highest sport levels, but we can find massive anterior pelvic tilt with always-tight hip flexors; they want to stretch their hamstrings and/or calves day and night, and they do not know how to breathe properly. In my opinion, here again we need to step out of the classic S&C coach’s head and start thinking how we can help the athlete to feel better and to move better by not only loading him even more, but by correcting his body posture and allowing him to move with less compensatory movement pattern.
For high-level athletes we need to find a training solution: HOW TO DO MORE WITH LESS. And here I mean less volume, less intensity! Many times we don’t even have 1 day in a week to do proper strength training. What we need is a smart and intelligent approach to the training. Breathing, posture, developing movement patterns during low level and high-level intensities, fatigue resistance training modalities…

Modern Approach to Strength & Conditioning – Part 2

In the second part of this blog series I will share my point of view on developing efficient cardiovascular system via energy system development as well as my principles with regard to strength training. As I have already said in first part, the main purpose is to give you some ideas and information about something new that you might want to start learning about and incorporate it into your regular training routine.

foundation

ESD – ENERGY SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT

Here we are talking about conditioning, developing efficient aerobic and anaerobic energy system! If we go even deeper, it is all about how our body produces ATP (adenosine triphosphate).
The body can produce ATP in two different ways: with or without oxygen – i.e. aerobically or anaerobically.
Anaerobically in two ways:
1) PCr hydrolysis (phosphocreatine hydrolysis) – energy from phosphate, which is fastest and more powerful, but not long-lasting <10” – ANAEROBIC ALACTIC ENERGY SYSTEM
2) Anaerobic glycolysis – energy from glucose – slower and less powerful but lasting longer than PCr 60-90” – ANAEROBIC LACTIC ENERGY SYSTEM

Aerobically:
1) Oxidative phosphorylation – energy from mitochondrial glucose and mitochondrial fat – the slowest and not so powerful production but longest in duration – AEROBIC ENERGY SYSTEM

Regardless of type of sport, the 3 energy systems always work together rather than in isolation and by doing so ATP is produced in bigger or smaller amount aerobically and/or anaerobically. Of course that in marathon there is domination of oxidative phosphorylation as opposed to 100 m sprint, where the energy is dominantly coming from anaerobic resources. Every sport has its own specific energy demands, that is true, and athletes need to train that specific zones to be efficient in their sports. But one thing is really important to understand: athletes need well developed aerobic system! Why?

Athletes who can produce a greater proportion of their energy aerobically versus anaerobically will fatigue slower than athletes who produce a greater proportion of their energy anaerobically!

Efficient aerobic system can:
– help recover faster during the points or between periods of the match, and after the match as well

– strong aerobic system will spare ATP reserves – player will depend less on generating ATP anaerobically if he can use aerobic energy for longer period of time

– athlete will enter easier in parasympathetic mode, lower RHR, which comes as a result of good cardio base and can help decrease sympathetic drive, which helps to relax and recover between games

tennis

This is example of energy demands in tennis and as you can see there is high domination of anaerobic alactic energy system. By looking at this graph we can fall into a trap by thinking that there is obvious need to train almost exclusively in a range of 6-10’’ with submaximal to maximal intensity. This is far from the truth!

As you repeat an event over and over again, the proportion of energy produced aerobically as opposed to the anaerobic energy systems increases!

On the other hand, so many coaches are seeing development of aerobic system only through the low intensity steady-continuous cardio work! Aerobic training is not just low-intensity training. There is a need to train whole spectrum of aerobic development, from power to capacity to be able to stay longer in aerobic pathway of producing ATP.

Just remember that as long as you’re under anaerobic threshold and relying on the aerobic energy system to produce energy, you have a chance to live longer. As soon you are above AT to produce energy you are about to die fast on the field!

STRENGTH

Getting our athletes stronger should be ultimate goal of every training process!

Strength is underlying capability for power and speed but equally important part of strength training is to prepare athletes’ JOINTS for stress via strengthening muscles & ligaments that hold them together!

Many of us like to watch videos on YouTube where guys lift incredible amount of weight in squats, deadlifts, bench press… Without question, this is really impressive, but the questions that remains in my head when watching these videos: is this kind of strength transferable into specific sport speed and agility? Because this should be our ultimate goal, shouldn’t it?

We are not training our athletes in the gym to become impressively strong dead lifters or squatters; we are using the gym as a helping tool to accelerate them on the court!

These are the principles that are building blocks in my approach to strength training:

Myofibrillar/functional hypertrophy more important than sarcoplasmic/structural hypertrophy*
Here we are talking about type of strength training causing growth of muscle contractile parts versus growth of plasma, organelles, and non-contractile proteins. Type of strength training that develop functional strength and power is more beneficial for general athlete than hypertrophy oriented strength training

- Proximal stability leads to distal mobility and athleticism
Importance of core control and strength as priority to every other aspect of strength development, but also every strength exercises where core is not involved is complete waste of time

Fundamental relative strength (FRS) before every other type of strength
Athletes need to have complete control over their bodies by having capacity of doing wide range of bodyweight movements with absolute control such as 1 leg squat, front plank, 1 leg reverse plank/bridge…

Unilateral strength more important than bilateral strength
Almost every sport is played on 1 leg, and if you are not familiar with the term BILATERAL DEFICIT you should absolutely learn it

- Low system training load – higher internal demands with less external stress on the body
example 1: split squat with barbell on the back = spine compression, more difficult to control proper posture, more difficult set up with high load
example 2: split squat /kettlebell in each hand = less load on spine, easier to control positioning of thoracolumbar canister, because of irradiation principle athlete can generate more tension by being “innervated” better by the surrounding muscles’ contractions = forearms>shoulder>lats>gluteus

Isoinertial type of strength training is the same (or maybe more) beneficial than isometric, isokinetic or isotonic
This is because:
a) Injury “PRE-rehabilitation”
Many of non-contact sport injuries typically occur when muscles are in lengthened position under high tension. Isoinertial training is oriented towards preparing muscles for that kind of stress because of high forces in this, almost overstretched, position
b) Eccentric muscle contraction overload = deceleration advantages
Eccentric overload is coming from the so-called ‘’delayed eccentric action’’. During isoinertial training 1/3 of eccentric motion is almost with no resistance and by doing this we are overloading the remaining 2/3 of the range of motion because muscles need to absorb the same amount of energy that is produced over the whole concentric phase but in a shorter period of time
c) Lower external stress on the body
Resistance is placed around waist so there is no compression of the spine during heavy lifting
d) Greater neural adaptations and neuromuscular efficiency with increased recruitment of high threshold motor units

CAT – compensatory acceleration training**
Lifting heavy weight with the intent to move it as quickly as possible during concentric part of the movement provides explosive strength benefits

*Mel Siff: Supertraining , Vladimir Zatsiorsky: Science and Practice of Strength Training
**Dr.Fred Hatfield

Modern Approach to Strength & Conditioning – Part 1

Modern Approach to Strength & Conditioning – Part 1

In this blog series I decided to share my view of how modern approach to strength and conditioning should look like. Everything here is based on my current knowledge and on more than 20 years of experience. The main purpose is to provide you with new ideas and information about something new that you might want to start learning and incorporate into your regular training routine.

The next slide shows what is essential for me with regard to the methodological, well-organized and long-term athletic development:

1a

Before I start to talk about every segment of this pyramid, one thing I want to make clear. If, for example, SAQ-speed/agility/quickness is on the top of the pyramid that automatically doesn’t mean that is the least important and/or that it should be trained in the end, when all other parts of this pyramid are developed good enough. As every house should have strong foundations, my pyramid also has its own base qualities that are ideal to build one after another. So, if I have, for example, an athlete with poor movement quality that automatically doesn’t mean that I’m not going to train strength or power or speed, yes I will, but I must find adequate approach not to eventually hurt this athlete or over train him because of his movement limitations. In this part 1 I will talk about lower part of my pyramid, what I’m considering being the foundations and movement quality.

FOUNDATION

Five words, SLEEP-HYDRATION-NUTRITION-SUPPLEMENTATION-BODY COMPOSITION. It sound so simple, but so many athletes fail in one or more of these. We can be serious professionals and train hard every day, but if we don’t have adequate sleep regularly everything will fall apart. Moreover, we can train hard and sleep long enough, but if we are not paying attention to our micro and macro nutrients intake, the recovery process will suffer, immune system will not be able to efficiently protect our body, hormonal status will not be optimal… Hydration status is very critical before, during and after the training or competition. Water regulates your body temperature and lubricates your joints. It also helps transport nutrients to give you energy and keep you healthy. If you’re not properly hydrated, your body can’t perform at its highest level.

In the end, what is the sense of training if you can’t recover from it!

2b

This graph is showing classic supercompensation cycle. Every well-organized training plan must have periods of loading and periods of recovering before the next training stimuli. Without putting attention to all the foundations, it is much more difficult to re-enter in the SUPERCOMPENSATOIN PHASE.

What can we use to monitor these 5 so essential categories if we want our training program to succeed? Bioforce HRV (http://www.bioforcehrv.com/) is on top of my list because it gives you information on day-to-day basis about the recovery process and athletes readiness for training. Measuring pH level is simple and effective way to control acidity/alkalinity of our saliva and/or urine. If you have metabolic or respiratory acidosis this can be a warning signal that something is wrong with your diet. Elevated levels of lactic acid in the system are an indicator of lactic pH imbalance, whilst dehydration can cause the acidic state of the body, and poor sleeping habits can influence your pH status. Whatever is the level of athletic intensity, a healthy pH balance can be the difference between good and great athletic achievements!

Simple questionnaire on a daily basis can give you so much information about the recovery and readiness for next training stimuli. Here is an example:

3b

            MOVEMENT QUALITY

Our first task should be the INJURY REDUCTION and (then) the performance enhancement!

That is why, if an athlete can’t squat, there is no sense to load that pattern with extra weight because he will compensate that with muscles and joints that are not designed to execute that specific task. If someone can’t do proper shoulder flexion 120°, there is higher risk of injury whilst doing the overhead pressing. If an athlete can’t show proper hip flexion >90°, any kind of sprinting is inefficient and can lead to the injury. I could go on forever with examples, but today so many people in our field talk about this fundamental movement importance although few of them are having good approach at least from what I can notice. Every coach must be aware of the fact that with, for example, unstable core/pelvis, poor hip function, one or both ankles stiff, the athlete is competing with an injury about to happen.

An injured athlete cannot train and therefore can’t improve his athletic performances, only a healthy athlete can do that!

Movement quality essentially means: every joint and muscle must have adequate range of motion        (MOBILITY), capacity to sustain stress (STABILITY/STRENGTH), and on top of that an adequate coordination between these joint systems (MOTOR CONTROL) should stand.

If an athlete can’t demonstrate movement quality, then he is not ready to proceed with the movement quantity training – loading with weight or speed, or even just volume!

Movement matters and if you don’t believe in that I highly recommend you to learn methodologies like FMS (Functional Movement System), DNS (Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization), PRI (Postural Restoration Institute), FRC (Functional Range Conditioning) and then decide whether the movement quality is or isn’t important!

 

Self-myofascial release – pros and cons

Foam rolling and other techniques under the so-called self-myofascial release (SMR) continue to gain popularity in the fitness world today. These days, we can find foam rollers everywhere: in gyms, physical therapist have them, in living rooms, athletes travel with them… Like many other things invented in the last 20 years, in our fitness industry this training or treatment approach is, for some fitness professionals, also extremely important and beneficial, whilst for others is a complete waste of time. However, the truth lies somewhere in between. But, as we work with the real people and if we consider ourselves professionals, we owe our clients or athletes the best of what they need. When we want to apply some training methods, we need to have all the available knowledge not only about how to apply it, but also all the necessary knowledge about the science supporting it.

So let’s start talking about what the SMR can really do to our body:

  1. Autogenic inhibition and tissue desensitization

We all know what Golgi tendon organ (GTO) and muscle spindles are and without peeking too much into the science, they are two important neuroreceptors that are working together reflexively to regulate muscle/tendon stiffness. Like muscles, fascia also has receptors and they are called Pacini receptors and Ruffini corpuscles (there are more neuroreceptors both in muscles and in fascia, but these are the most common and therefore I will mention only them). They are all specialized to provide information with regard to touch, pressure, vibration and tension to the central nervous system. When, for example, the tension rapidly increases, the GTO inhibits muscle spindle activity within the working muscle (agonist) to prevent possible injury of the muscle or tendon. This reflex relaxation is called autogenic inhibition. Basically, it is a self-induced, inhibitory, lengthening reaction that protects against the muscle tear.  With the proper application of SMR, we can simulate these and other neuroreceptors by compression of the tissue, which will result in less tension in the muscle. This tissue desensitization is possible by compressing and stimulating neuroreceptors of the fascia too and by using the SMR techniques we can decrease the fascial tone.

  1. Increased blood flow and recovery

In the research published in Journal of Strength and Conditioning, foam rolling can lower the risk of developing coronary artery disease, blood clots, and other atherosclerotic diseases. (1)

Normal, healthy arteries relax and contract in order to increase and decrease blood flow, but they get stiffer and more rigid as we grow older or become inactive. The researchers found that foam rolling not only advances the blood flow and circulation to the muscles, but also loosens the arteries to maximize vascular performance. The deep compression of the muscles allows the normal blood flow to return and restores the healthy muscle tissue. More flash blood in the muscles-tendon and surrounding fascia means that we can speed up the recovery process to some extent. Moreover, healthy tissue acts as a sponge; through the movement and stretching there should be a sponge-like compression and expansion of the tissue with associated water in/out-take through the tissues.  The tissue that does not adequately act like a sponge will cause pain after some time and will become “bonded”, without normal sliding between tissues.           

  1. Relaxing trigger points

Trigger points can be found in both muscles and fascia and are made of thick and knotted tissue. We are actually talking about the tissue misalignment caused by trauma or injury, poor motor control patterns and emotional distress. Sometimes, trigger points can be accompanied by the inflammation and, if they remain long enough, what was once healthy fascia is replaced by inelastic scar tissue. Trigger points can be caused by poor posture and, if dysfunctional movement patterns remain long enough, the brain consequentely turns off the stabilizing muscles so that the prime movers start to work like stabilizers and become overtoned and tight. Below you have the example of process how scar tissue is formed in muscles that are always “on”.

constant-contraction

This is one of the main reasons why we have so sensitive areas like upper trapezius, SCM, pectoralis minor, tensor fasciae latae…

SMR can be beneficial for relaxation, desensitizing these trigger points and adhesions formed between the muscle layers and fascia. What is important to emphasize is that it is impossible to completely break down trigger points or tissue adhesions or scar tissue by using the SMR techniques. For that, you will need a manual treatment practitioners as well as changing your posture or dysfunctions that are causing them!

 

These are three main things we can accomplish with SMR, and now I will try to explain two completely incorrect explanations of SMR benefits: 

  1. Improving flexibility

Foam rolling or any other technique used in SMR can’t improve flexibility!

Why?

When we are talking about improving flexibility, we are actually trying to make a muscle longer by increasing sarcomeres in series. If we try to do it (and there is no exact scientific evidence that this is possible), we need to put the muscle in its maximal length position and hold it there for a minimum of 30 minutes according to the Shirley Sahrmann’s theory.

Simply as it can be, when applying foam rolling, we don’t move the muscle through large excursions, which means we are not stretching the sarcomere in a new position!

But, after foam rolling, lots of people will say they feel much more flexible than before. This sensation is real because through the stimulation of neuroreceptors, you regulate your neural tone and with less neural tone in muscle and fascia, you can move more easily with fewer restrictions. But what is really important to understand is that these changes are not permanent, after 5-10 minutes everything returns back in what is considered the normal state for every individual.

  1. Improving the joint ROM

Available joint ROM is depending on many things that are linked together. How one joint will move depends on the surrounding muscles, tendon and fascia, on their flexibility, good coordination during action, if tissues are gliding one over the other smoothly. In addition, the stability and mobility of surrounding musculature crossing one joint have a big impact on how this joint will move. Then there are intrinsic factors, which include joint capsule with ligaments and other collagenous tissues and finally the joint structure itself (not everyone have the same joints with regard to the angular positioning of the different bones that are creating one joint). All of these factors have tremendous influence on joint ROM.

Now why is the SMR ineffective with regard to the joint ROM.

We can’t influence the anatomic composition of the joint with SMR. For example, limited ROM can occur because of the joint capsule tightness and can be treated only manually. There is no way you can treat such delicate areas with any technique from the self-myofascial release arsenal. If we want to improve joint ROM, we simply need to enter in these limited joint positions and “play” there with different techniques. Furthermore, whilst applying SMR we don’t work on the stability/mobility of surrounding muscles. Muscles on which we apply the SMR are mostly in passive position and there is no way to have the impact on the stability/mobility issues if they are the limiting factor in joint ROM. We can only influence the soft tissue extensibility and tone, where again changes we make are only temporary. These are the most obvious reasons why SMR cannot be considered as a technique to improve joint range of motion.

Here is a video clip from dr. Andreo Spina, where he is going even further trying to explain why foam rolling and other techniques can not actually be included at all under the name of myofascial release:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnYdzaoMyQ8

 

Summary

From strength and conditioning trainer’s perspective, the SMR is definitely worth it, but my impression is that this supplemental training approach is taking too much credit for things it can’t accomplish.

If you work with an athlete or a client who doesn’t have the possibility of regularly working with manual treatment practitioners (and by that I mean minimally 2-3 times a week), then SMR should be an integral part of each workout. In this situation we, as trainers, can use the SMR not only for warming up or recovery purposes, but also for “scanning” the body to find the tissue that is repeatedly too sensible during the SMR.  This can give us information about what is wrong and can help us modify your training plan.

In the situation when you have the help of a manual practitioner who works on the soft tissue, there is no need to incorporate SMR techniques into every workout. Rather then spending time on a foam roller, do some real mobility work by putting your joints in restricted positions where, by using breath, isometric contractions, irradiation, you can make more difference and help someone to move better.

 

(1)  T Okomoto et al. “Acute effects of self-myofascial release using a foam roller on arterial function.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2014): 69-73. PubMed. Web. 2 September 2015. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23575360>

 

 

 

5 basic bodyweight strength test/exercises for every athlete

We can measure the strength in many different ways. First of all there are many different types of strength: maximal strength, explosive strength, strength endurance, strength speed, speed strength, relative strength. Along with so many different types of strength, we have even more exercise modalities for testing and developing each of different strength qualities.

However, here I want to talk about something completely basic, something that not only every professional athlete must be capable of doing, but also young athletes who are involved in regular sport activities. In my opinion, the most important type of all strength types is called fundamental relative strength (FRS) or how effectively can you control your own bodyweight. What I mean is that every athlete, regardless of age and gender, should be capable of doing this kind of exercises properly and with 100% control.

To avoid confusing you, here I’m not talking about classic relative strength. Example of relative strength is when you can deadlift 200kg with 90kg of your body weight, your friend can also deadlift 200kg but with 85kg of his body weight so his relative strength is higher because he can produce more force per kilogram of body weight. Here I’m talking about pure bodyweight type of strength where we are not using the external weight. I know what you are thinking now: calisthenics! Calisthenics indeed use only body weight for resistance, but when practicing calisthenics, exercises are done in more dynamic way most of the time using momentum when exercises or part of the exercises are too difficult to perform. Here we don’t want a momentum! These tests are done with a maximum control during movement, always with short pauses between eccentric and concentric part of the movement. These pauses are done to emphasize movement control and kinaesthetic awareness and to avoid the stretch-shortening cycle. Many times we neglect the ability to slow down the movements. In my opinion, we have to earn our right to be fast.

So let’s talk about FRS tests:

1. Test – Front Plank for 2′
When we are talking about athletic performance, we are actually talking about how efficient is the central part of the body in order to be able to transfer energy down and up through the kinetic chain! Period!!! We need to have well-organized core so that extremities could move freely and efficiently and this is the reason why modern training approach is moving more and more proximally. But what does that mean? It means that every exercise properly done must use the “core” to CONTROL rather than initiate the movement! From an injury prevention perspective, getting the athlete closer to the neutral position (front plank is one of basic exercises for that goal) takes the stress off the low back, hips, and knees. I know that if I can improve athletes’ posture, alignment, and stability in the sagittal plane first, this will have positive influence on frontal and transverse stability too! There is no better way to test how we control our core in sagittal plane than the old, simple front plank.

Why for 2’?
Dr. Stuart McGill (PhD), who is considered a leading authority in spine biomechanics and core development, says that in order to protect the spine, two minutes is a good goal to aim for a standard abdominal plank on your elbows. Holding the plank exercise for that long indicates that you have a reasonably strong core. It can also reveal if an athlete can control this perfect posture even when under fatigue. Another good point of view is Dr. Kelly Starrett’s. He is teaching about 20% constant tension concept or enough abdominal tone to keep braced neutral core position while playing, walking, standing or sitting. If an athlete can’t keep a good front plank for 2′, I doubt that he/she will have this 20% tension during playing or practicing when he/she is actually not thinking about the position of his/her core.

To perform the standard front plank, start by putting your elbows directly beneath your shoulders, forearms parallel, wrists and palms on the floor. Create double neck and pull your head back, push your elbows to the ground to open your mid scapula region, press your sternum down together with slightly posterior pelvis rotation in order to create neutral spine position. Legs are spread shoulder-width apart with knees locked and ankles dorsiflexed. In this position you should have the straight line along the ankles-hips-shoulders-ears. If someone would put a stick on your back, there should be 3 points of contact, sacrum-thoracic spine-head, with little or no space between lumbar spine and the stick. Try to breathe normally. Stay like this for 2′ please.

2. Test – Side Plank for 1′
If the front plank is telling us how good is the core control we have in sagittal plane, a side plank can tell us how good we are in frontal plane. Side plank can also reveal where the major problem exists in lateral component of stability. If it is more the core problem or maybe it is also the hip problem. In fact, during the side plank, a big role is played by three gluteal muscles too, minimus, medius and maximus. The frontal plane instability in the hips will lead to the excessive knee caving in during running, jumping or during regular lower body training in the gym (squats, lunges, step ups…). Furthermore, in my opinion, when we are talking about the side plank we are not talking only about the frontal plane stability, but about the component of transverse stability as well. Everyone who has tried the side plank had noticed smaller or bigger loss of balance whilst holding the position. To prevent falling down to the front or backside automatically include the anti-rotation stabilization movements – transverse plane!

Why for 1’?
Simply because in the front plank position we have 4 points of contact to create stiffness and stability, in side plank 2 points or 50% less…
To perform the left side plank, put your left elbow directly beneath your left shoulder, elbow at 90° with wrist and palm on the floor. Push your left elbow and forearm into the ground with your right arm resting on the right side of your body. Again create a double neck position pulling your sternum down together with slightly posterior pelvis rotation to create neutral spine position. Left foot is on the ground with right above it and the position of the both ankles at 90°. Knees are locked. Your body must be in a straight line with your chin-navel-2 medial malleolus. If someone would put a stick on your back, there should be 3 points of contact, sacrum-thoracic spine-head, with little or no space between the lumbar spine and the stick. Try to breathe normally. Try to stay like this for 1′. Then repeat on the right side. Here we also want to check if there is some asymmetry between the sides. Not only by checking if someone can keep the position for the same period of time on both sides, but also if the technic/alignment is the same for both sides.

3. Pistol Squat – 5 reps w/1” down position hold
I remember couple of years ago in my old gym when I was asking some strong guys who were squatting more than 150 kg to show me whether they can do a pistol squat. None of them was ever able to do even 1 solid rep. What is that telling us: you can be strong like a bull bilaterally and it means nothing unilaterally! And I honestly hope that everyone is already familiar with the fact that almost every sport is played on a single leg! Conclusion: athletes need single leg strength much more! Let’s educate their bodies to be able to have control, balance and strength to perform a single leg squat. Pistol squat is not only about the strength, but is more about building perfect interaction between mobility-stability-motor control in our lower extremities. Pistol teaches us how to properly load the hip and this is one of the most important athletic manoeuvres.

Perfect pistol is done standing on the flat floor and this is not very demanding for the working leg, but it’s also a good checking point for hip flexor on the non-working leg.

This 1” pause in the bottom position is only because we want to avoid rebound; on the other hand, the goal is to have control in the most difficult position. Pistol squat is an excellent indicator for proper acceleration, deceleration and change of direction movement capacity!
To perform a single leg pistol, stand with weight on your heel and your other leg slightly out in front of you. Push your hips back and bend your knee to slowly lower yourself; ideally you will be able to touch your heel with your butt; the knee should be over your mid-foot and the other leg extended in the air. Stay in this position for 1” and then stand up, do 5 reps and then try it on other leg. Here again we want to check for any kind of asymmetry between legs: heel off the ground, knee caving in, hip flexion on other leg, amount of spinal flexion.

4. Push Up – 10 reps w/1” down position hold
This test represents a simple way of checking whether an athlete has enough:
– basic strength and endurance in upper body musculature responsible for pushing
– core control during dynamic movement in sagittal plane
– interaction between scapula and GH joint
Why 1” down position hold? Simply because I want to avoid momentum, and you will be surprised how many of your athletes will struggle with this test. This one-second floor touch with the sternum (neck needs to be retracted) will completely avoid the stretch-shortening cycle and put much more stronger stress on core and scapula stabilizers to control the movement. You also want to check the scapula movement because the push up is a closed chain exercise and scapula needs to move freely on the rib cage. For example, many times you can find both or only one scapula in retracted position all of the time, which puts a lot more stress on GH joint. Secondly, this position of the scapula puts you in extended posture where the core will be inhibited.
To perform standard push up test lie on the floor, put your feet shoulder width apart, hands are set up so that middle fingers point straight up, forearms are perpendicular to the floor, elbows at 45°. Before starting, outstretch your legs by contracting your quads, rotate your pelvis underneath you, pull your head back and create the so called “double neck” by tucking in the chin. In this position the only thing that touches the ground is the lower part of the rib cage and upper abdominal wall; push up from this position.
Again 1” pause with the lower part of the rib cage touching the ground is only because we want to complete the control during the movement with no use of momentum at any time. We can also put a stick on athletes’ back to have better view on what is going on with his/her core during the execution of the test. Do 10 repetitions. As soon as the athlete loses its initial position, the test is over. For example, the head touches the ground first, hips are dropping down, changing position of the arms or legs.

5. Inverted row – 10 reps w/1” up position hold
For me, inverted row is nothing else than the reverse push up! So if someone is capable of doing 10 push ups, then in order to have optimal upper body strength and symmetry he/she should also be able to do 10 inverted rows, but unfortunately this is a very rare case. In my experience, 9 out of 10 athletes will fail to do this! But why is that important?
Many sports require from athletes to use their upper body to perform a throwing motion (baseball, softball, handball, basketball, swimming) or use a racquet (tennis, squash, badminton) in order to propel an object. Sports like football, soccer, wrestling, martial arts involve pressing and pulling with the upper limbs against an opponent. Imbalances in strength between agonist and antagonist must be analysed due to their association with injury and performance.
“Muscle imbalances have been defined as faulty relationships between the antagonist and the agonist muscles that will result with an effect upon the joint they cross.”- (Sahrmann S. (2002) Diagnosis and treatment of movement impairment syndromes. Mosby, St. Louis).
So in this case we are talking about the shoulder joint. In order to protect the shoulder, we need to have symmetry between pushing and pulling musculature. I choose inverted row and not pull up for example, because during the pull up you need to lift the whole weight of your body, in the standard push up you lift between 65-70% of your bodyweight, the same happens for inverted row when your body is parallel to the floor.
To perform parallel inverted row you ideally need the Smith machine or you can do it on the squat rack just be sure to block the barbell so it can’t move. As your complete body must be parallel to the floor (like in down push up position) you need the box at least 10-15cm high where you can put your both heels. Grasp the bar with overhand grip at the same width like during the push up test, raise your body from the ground and if you have the barbell on the correct height, your position should be parallel to the floor. Retract your neck, pull the ribcage down, contract your abs and gluts, your legs must be straight. Pull yourself up until your sternum (the same as during the push up test) touches the bar, stop for one second. Do 10 reps. As soon as the athlete loses its initial position, the test is over, for example forward head posture, hip sagging (the body doesn’t stay in a straight line), changing positions of arms or legs.

Fundamental relative strength test chart:

Fundamental Relative Strength Tests Score Notes
Front Plank 2′
Side Plank – Right 1′
Side Plank – Left 1′
Pistol Squat – Right 5 / 1” pause
Pistol Squat – Left 5 / 1” pause
Push Ups 10 / 1” pause
Inverted Rows 10 / 1” pause

After inserting results in the above table, you have an easy insight and know how to program your future strength training. If the score of an individual is low on some test, spend some extra time on that movement. Of course, if you have worked with athletes who are involved with sports or positions where strength is a dominant capacity, you will need to test squat, deadlift, bench press etc., but if you find that these athletes fail in one or more of the above mentioned FRS tests, involve that during the strength training too. You will find that these big lifts will improve working on fundamental relative strength. The same is true for power lifts like cleans, snatches or swings.
Someone can argue about these tests being too static and every sport is dynamic. At the end of a day this is true, but like I sad at the beginning, these are the basic tests that can show us elementary limitations in mobility/stability, inadequate motor control, asymmetries left/right and front/back or lack of strength. We all easily forget that everything must have a foundation. According to my training philosophy, if someone is not capable of holding static front plank for at least 60”, it will be very hard for him/her to control his/her core during a set of push ups, which is nothing else than a dynamic front plank. Moreover, so many coaches force athletes to do squats or lunges with a lot of weights on their backs to make them stronger and more athletic although none of these athletes has the capacity to perform a single leg squat. These guys don’t understand that pistol squat is a true indicator of athleticism! Develop the capacity to perform a single leg squat and then, if you need, load that pattern or every other with regard to the leg training and your athletes will explode!
Hopefully I have succeeded with the intention to ask yourselves at least a few questions about how to approach to the strength training in the future. Because at the end of the day, asking yourselves the tough questions and bringing your principles into dilemma, is the only way we can improve and become better coaches for our athletes!

Athletic stance – 4 important rules to have optimal position

There is one postural position/stance that is common to all multidirectional sports and it’s called athletic stance. Regardless to the surface (ice, grass, clay, hardwood) or type of sport (individual or team sport), athletic stance is position that can be repeated many times during one point or action, or during the entire match. This position can be the starting position before acceleration, or stopping position after deceleration. It can also be intermediate position during transition between two different moves and, finally, it can be “active waiting” position from which a player must react to another player or ball.

There is no universal definition of AS as it can vary between different sports (tennis or soccer), positions in the team or players’ position (defender or attacker). Generally speaking, athletic stance is a standing position that allows you to maximize your strength, power or speed in any direction. Changes in the angles of the ankles, knees and torso depend on the direction where we want to produce strength, power or speed. For example, there are differences in stance with regard to the pure vertical power vs. lateral speed. Because all of that, when we train athletes, AS is something we should address during the training process and develop properly in order to enhance other qualities that are categorized under power, speed and agility skills. Like with every other skill, first we have to learn some basics of proper positioning.

When I’m coaching athletes for proper AS positioning there are 4 most important rules:

  • Position of feet should be wider than shoulders with firm tripod contact

 

You need to have a wide stance because in this way you will be able to start moving in any direction you want – left, right, forward or backward. If you stay in narrow position, it is impossible to have rapid start in any of these directions because you don’t have the proper angle to push off. How wide is ideal? There is no perfect answer. If you are guard and play defense in basketball, you will want to have wider position than, for example, if you are returning serve in tennis. But if you like numbers, many researches are talking about 50° angle between your belly button and your heels.

Serve return position in tennis

Serve return position in tennis

 Feet can be parallel or up to 15° out of the toes. This mostly depends on how much dorsiflexion we have in the ankles. Good tripod contact with the surface (first, fifth metatarsal and calcaneus bone) is essential for efficient pushing of the ground in the direction we want to go and for executing proper triple extension of the ankle, the knee and the hip.

  • The position of knees should be inside the feet

 

In this way we can create a better push off angle in order to push our body in direction we want to move. For example, if we want to move to the right we need to push with our left leg. Start of the movement will be more efficient if we have left hip internally rotated with the knee positioned inside our left foot. If our knees are in line with the feet or even outside it will be much harder to start the movement and we will lose precious milliseconds to react.

sirola-2

 

  • Chest should be positioned over feet, back neutral not hyperextended

 

When chest is positioned in front of the feet we have weight on the front two-thirds of the foot. Why? Simply because if the weight is distributed mainly on the heels, the reaction time drops quickly. Try to execute any movement whilst “sitting” on your heels and you will feel like it takes forever to accelerate in any direction.

sirola-3

 

  • Back neutral not hyperextended position

 

Lower back should be as flat as close to the neutral position in order to create stiffness through the midsection. Everyone should know that proximal stability leads to distal mobility, so that with the proper positioning of the core, an athlete can create adequate stiffness to move his distal segments in more efficient way.

sirola-4

The myth of functional training

I was inspired to write this post about functional training since this term has been misunderstood by many personal trainers, strength and conditioning coaches as well as by physiotherapists. Almost everyday I witness, even on high-level sport training, what coaches and trainers do when it comes to “the functional training”!

What is the origin of the functional training idea? Who was the first to bring up this training modality to everyday life? Functional training has its origins in rehabilitation. Good physical therapists often use this approach to retrain patients with movement disorders. The whole idea is to work with patients after, for example, knee operation not only to regain full ROM at the knee joint but also to regain full movement pattern such as squat or lunge. After terminating with their physical therapy, patients-athletes are often released from medical institution just because they do not feel pain anymore. Without regaining the movement pattern they are doomed to a new injury sooner or later. FT can help people-athletes with no medical history to restore some basic movement patterns, which have been lost due to the lifestyle and/or wrong training approach. Movement patterns are often lost not because of the negative structural changes in muscles or joints, but because the nervous system is continually sending alarm messages to certain muscles and inhibitory messages to others. Therefore, functional training is actually every training approach used to address certain muscle imbalances.

Functional or?

And this is where the problem for me begins? Well, some trainers and physical therapists (who want to become trainers) are thinking too much and often come with great conclusions.
Example number 1:
If staying on Bosu ball can improve stability of the foot and overall balance than I can load that position and do 1 leg RDL (or whatever the name is for that exercises but you know what I mean) with barbell with as much weight as possible!! Oh boy, this is completely wrong! Why? If we follow the basic principles of human movement and strength training, we know that we should respect joint centration and how important is to do exercises to improve strength. Now try to do 1 leg RDL with barbell in your hands staying on the Bosu ball and try not to a) round your spine, b) have ankle-knee-hip aligned, c) put load on your hip properly keeping tibia relatively vertical! Impossible!!!
Example number 2:
I analyzed every tennis movement in detail and now I’m going to load those specific movements to improve power output. We are going to do forehand in open stance on cable apparatus with 10 kg with fast and explosive movement, like those that happen during the match or practice… Very stupid! Why? Because with this much weight (racket weights some 300 grams) the athlete will most certainly change its technique (tennis coach is not going to be happy about that), the speed will change as well – he will not be able to move 10 kg at the same speed as with the racket and from the specific power standpoint this is waste of time. Last but not least, the body will start to compensate – in order to move 10 kg quickly, some “wrong” muscles will start to do the job.
I could continue listing this kind of examples forever…heavy squats standing on fit ball, push ups with feet and hands in the TRX, split squat standing on 2 Bosu balls etc.

Real FT approach or whatever the name of that approach is

Generally we use unstable surfaces as type of training when we want to increase strength/reaction time of muscles responsible for proper stabilization. What Gray Cook was teaching us for so many years is that muscles that stabilize don’t need so much strength training, but good timing and reaction. Rotator cuff muscles could be showing high EMG during external rotation with elastic band, but during the pull up they are working even harder to keep humeral head into glenoid fossa and that is their primary task!
The basic idea of FT is to get to work our local and global muscle system in coordination. The LMS (local muscle system) is a group of small muscles located close or around the joint and responsible for adequate centration and stabilization, whilst the GMS (global muscle system) is a group of big and strong muscles, the so-called prime movers, because they are mainly responsible for producing powerful movement. These 2 systems can work efficiently only if a perfect joint centration during movement is present. If one of your femur bones has the so-called “anterior glide syndrome”, you have limited access to strength and power in that hip. In order to explain better how these two systems should work imagine a car where LMS is transmission and GMS is the powerful engine. If the transmission doesn’t work efficiently with proper timing to change the gear all that force that engine has cannot be expressed efficiently.
For example, if we have a client and we want him to do lunges or split squats but one knee is caving in during these movements, we need to introduce some functional training approach with some RNT techniques, using some unstable surface to engage more properly core firing and glutei activation. After we regain this fundamental pattern, the next step is to load that pattern and not to progress with unstable surface. We want to do as soon as possible the real “heavy duty” training and not certain circus training.
If someone shows me a perfect “eagle” squat with 2×24 kettlebells, I’m not going to put him on the balance board so he could show me if he can do it there. Instead, I’m going to give him 2×26…
And finally, for every client/athlete functional training should bring result in the everyday life/sport with regard to the improving ROM, stability, motor control of basic movement patterns – squat, hinge, push, pull and locomotion. If one exercise can improve some of these movements, I will call it functional.

Slide board training to improve tennis player’s performance

Modern strength and conditioning coaches can choose various equipment in order to improve athleticism of their athletes. Some of this available equipment is more or less beneficial, but, in my opinion, one piece has been omitted for years – a slide board. A slide board was introduced to the world of fitness in 1990s, but never became famous compared to other pieces.

The slide board – sometimes called a lateral exercise trainer – looks a lot like a large smooth mat with blocks on each side which an athlete has to push off, stopping in that way the sliding movements. An athlete wears cotton socks booties which allow him to move on the slippery surface. Improving lateral movement is beneficial for all athletes who are competing in sport where the side-to-side motion and change of direction are used.

Slide training is closed kinetic chain exercise where multiple muscles and joints work simultaneously, applying stabilizing forces to the joints, and simulating one specific athletic movement – change of direction. Pushing off the bumper activates primarily hip extensors for prime movers while hip-knee-ankle stabilizers give support to the movement. The posture muscles of abdominals and back remain tightened in order to support the body in a forward-leaning position. Sliding involves continuous movement functioning therefore primarily as aerobic and muscular endurance exercise. Finally, the slide board lateral training is mostly beneficial for improving change of direction, but also for the balance, agility and endurance.

Slide board for tennis players

Why should we use the slide board for athletic improvement of tennis players? If we analyze the game, the answer is obvious:

  • 80% of strokes played with less than 2.5 m movement (most slide boards are from 2.4m – 3.05m),
  • an average of 4 changes of direction made during a point,
  • over 1000 changes of direction made during a match,
  • 70% of movements are lateral

Our first goal with the slide board training is cardio endurance in specific lateral movement. I personally like to use the slide board in 2 different ways: one is for preparation for the clay season and the other one is for hard and indoor part of the season.

Today we are discussing how we use sliding movement during preparation for the clay court season. In the following video pay attention on how the tennis player is moving on the clay court when he has to defend.

In this video you can notice how Milos Raonic, after hitting forehand, uses not only his right leg, but also his left leg as some kind of a brake to stop sliding. This is the key to the efficient clay court movement where you need a lot of time to use your back leg to assist the stopping before the change of direction occurs. This is the point where we can effectively use the slide board. In the following video I encourage Milos to use his back leg as brake to help him stop after sliding. We also added lateral resistor on the ankles. This is our progress so as to put more emphasis on hip external rotators muscles.

He has his hands together for better control of unwanted movement of the upper body because our goal is to hold his shoulders, hips and torso in biomechanically correct position while sliding. He inhales just before stopping and strongly exhales after pushing off a bumper.

Slide boarding has so many common features with tennis movement and that is why the proper use of the slide board for lateral conditioning in tennis can help you achieve better results in a short period of time.

Stability training enigma

Today in fitness, rehabilitation and sports performance we can find so much misunderstanding of what stability is and how to achieve it. To explain better the role of proper stability in human body, we need to go a step back and understand some basic principles of how our body uses muscles to produce a movement.

Types of muscle actions and functions

            For every movement a lot of different types of muscles are used: agonists, antagonists, fixators and synergists. Agonists are, let’s assume, big and strong muscles such as quadriceps, glutei, pectorals, latissimus dorsi…They can produce high amount of force and power and are the main “responsible” for, sometimes incredible, sport performances! They also have aesthetic role: on a well developed body it is easy to see them like on an anatomy chart poster.

Antagonists are the same type of muscles but during the movement they oppose agonists as they tend to relax to allow agonists to move (e.g. during hip flexion gluteus maximus is antagonist for rectus femoris).

Fixators are the muscles which simultaneously contract in both agonists and antagonists and that occurs especially under stress conditions during strenuous effort and increased demand (e.g. during standing on one leg).

Synergists work together with agonists to make agonist stronger. One type of synergists are stabilizers! Stabilizers are much smaller agonists “assistants”. Piriformis, transverse abdominus, rotator cuff – they are acting “behind the scenes”, helping “big guys” to produce movement. During a complex movement they reflexively turn on and off, producing stronger or weaker contraction to help prime movers, that is agonists, to efficiently execute the movement. Let’s consider a push up as an example: people think that push-ups are good upper body exercise. In fact it is, but it is also an excellent core stability exercise! During push-ups, especially at the concentric start and at the eccentric finish, transverse abdominis with internal obliques reflexively prevent hyperextension of lumbar spine. During squats, the piriformis, together with other external rotators, keeps knees from doing valgus preventing in that way any possible knee joint injuries.

 

Who needs stability?

            Anybody can benefit from stability training. Stability demands are different for every movement pattern. If you stabilize well in a bilateral stance, maybe you will not be so good in unilateral stance. Stability training prior to strength training is necessary because is building proper foundation for efficient movement. Researchers have demonstrated that if you are not able to stabilize efficiently your joints during movement, then you will not be able to generate force from them. A lack of stability increase the stress on your joints and overloads passive stability tissues (tendons, ligaments) which may potentially lead to injury.

Every joint in human body needs more or less stability. This chart shows the biggest joints which primarily need stability.

 

Joint Primary need
Ankle Mobility
Knee Stability
Hip Mobility
Lumbar Spine Stability
Thoracic Spine Mobility
Scapulo-Thoracic Stability
Glenohumeral Joint Mobility (and Stability)

 

The warm up is the perfect time for introducing the stability work primarily on the knee, lumbar and scapulo-thoracic joint. By this we help our prime movers, agonists, to function easier and efficiently.

You can notice the lack of stability if someone is having a hard time controlling the static or dynamic movement. The example for static movement is a half kneeling stance, whilst the example for dynamic movement could be the leg raise test where a person raises its leg from a supine position. If you notice more passive than active movement then that will be a classic example of range of motion over which a person doesn’t have control.

These are the common stability problems:

 

When we lack stability:

  • repetitive muscle strain
  • repetitive muscle tear
  • movement impairment syndrome*

* Shirley Sahrmann: With repeated incorrect movement (in our case, the unstable joints), mechanical stress occurs and results in premature degeneration of the joint and eventual pain from repetitive stress.

Stability training enigma

            People or athletes often do the stability training in a completely wrong way! Maybe that occurs because they don’t understand well the definition of stability. Stability doesn’t mean staying still, and can’t be trained in that way! Plank is a good example: holding plank for 1 minute or more is not stability training, but the isometric training.

stability

Remember that the stability muscles contract fast and reflexively, so after only few seconds in a plank position, big and strong rectus abdominis and external oblique take command and the real stability practice is over!

One of the best available stability definitions is provided by Charlie Weingroff: stability means keeping position in a presence of change!

According to my opinion, stability training means maintaining an adequate anatomic position of joints despite external influences. Imagine a flag on a strong wind: in order not to fall down, the flagstick should be very stable when the wind continuously changes direction. The 1 minute front plank is, for the flagstick, like the wind blowing only from one direction. But if we introduce into plank breathing with neck rotations, or put stability ball in action, we will have wind from all directions. That is the real stability training as far as I’m concerned.

Let your joints become more mobile

Mobility? What is that? It is something for yoga gurus or Pilates enthusiasts… – that is the typical answer of old school strength coaches to the question whether they check and use mobility in their training programs.

Sorry my “old” colleagues, but that is something very important!

1

This Joint by joint training system has been created by Gray Cock and Michael Boyle, and is essentially saying that, for efficient movement, some of our joints need more mobility whilst others need more stability. As you can see, all major joints in human body which need to be mobile such as ankle, hips, thoracic spine, part of the cervical spine, glenohumeral joint and wrist joint are coloured with pink. What they brilliantly discovered is that if we lose mobility in one joint segment, our body will have to replace that lost mobility with another upper or lower joint. If hips are not moving properly, the body will start to compensate that movement and most often the lower back will start to move too much. According to Dr. Stuart McGill, leading authority of spine biomechanics and function, that is the recipe for lower back problems – read pain. If ankles are too stiff and don’t move properly, there is a big chance for knees to suffer and start moving too much what, in the end, can cause knee problems. As far as the upper body is concerned, if the thoracic spine is rigid, scapula starts to move too much creating shoulder instability. And we could go on listing…

WHAT IS MOBILITY

            I found out that too many coaches do not know the difference between flexibility and mobility. They think it’s the same thing. Mobility is not flexibility! By my definition, flexibility is ability of a muscle to reach a maximum length between 2 joints, whilst the mobility is maximum range of movement between structurally connected joints. Mobility includes joint range of motion together with tissue and muscle flexibility and some stability. When you notice someone with flexibility problem, you never know is this actually a muscle length problem, a fascia problem, a passive connective tissue problem, a capsular problem or maybe a stability problem in another body region. By doing so, stretching is definitively not the only way to solve the problem.

2

To make mobility easier to understand, I will give you some of the “lack of mobility” examples:

Example 1

Let’s say you have a client or an athlete or you personally have tight hamstring musculature. If your hamstrings are always tight, you can stretch them day after day but nothing will change. Why?
Muscles don’t just get tight because they want to be tight; they’re tight because someone, namely, our brain ordered them to be tight. But why in the first place our brain wants them to be tight? Because by acting so, our brain is protecting the instability in some other joint, compensating another area of the body that isn’t generating enough tension to stabilize it or, we might have lost mobility in some other joint. For example, you can have a thoracic hyperkyphosis and by this, whilst standing or walking, you are leaning too much forward. In this situation your brain sends the message to the hamstring: “Hey guys, be always contracted and protect us from falling down on our nose!” The stretching itself can only help to reduce neural drive to our upper leg backside musculature for a moment and for a while shut down protective mechanisms causing a muscle to be tense. But what is more important, it doesn’t address the cause of the muscle being tense and that’s why you can stretch all day long but length changes will be difficult to notice. Stretching in this situation can’t help because this is the joint alignment problem, you lost the thoracic MOBILITY and you need to correct your upper back posture. Start with some thoracic MOBILITY drills, extension, extension with rotation in order to correct the standing posture. As soon as you start standing more upright, the brain will send the message to the hamstrings musculature: “There is no more danger of falling forward, you can stop working overtime!”

Example 2

During basketball match the coach is yelling to an athlete: “Lower your legs” or “Your stance is too high”. But the athlete, as much as he tries to be lower, no difference can be noticed. I witnessed many similar situations in other sports as well. Where is the problem? We FIRST have to check his MOBILITY in the hips and ankles region! How deep will be his athletic stance depends on his ability of making as deep squat as possible with his own bodyweight. Athletic stance is always somewhere in the middle between max depth bodyweight squat and normal stance. If your athlete is capable of performing only 30-degree deep bodyweight squat, you can imagine how his athletic stance will look like.  While he is not able of performing a bodyweight squat to a minimum 90-degree angle, his movements on the court will not be optimal. Before every workout in the gym or on the court, he needs to mobilize his hips in all 3 planes of motion as well as to gain ankle mobility primarily in sagittal plane. There could appear some stability problems as well but that is not the story for this blog.

Example 3

Pay attention next time you see a 1 or 2 years old children how easily they stay in perfect deep squat position for a long period of time. How is possible that a 1-year old child can deep squat and we can’t? Is he/she having stronger legs? I doubt it… This is a sign of great mobility with which we are born and then we had to gain stability for this mobility system to be able to stand up and to do a perfect squat. This was a normal neurodevelopment strategy by our Mother Nature. So if nature gave us tons of mobility when we came into this world, it is something we have to primarily test and, if it’s necessary, emphasize first before starting with our training or rehabilitation in order to achieve results faster.

1

These are the “symptoms” when certain person misses mobility in one or more joints. Because all of that, the importance of mobility in everyday training is very important. Mobility needs regular work on a daily basis. During the general warm up, spend some time doing calf-hip-thoracic mobility and you will be surprised how easier and more fluid you will feel when you start to play your sport, exercise in the gym or run. Come on people, let your joints become more mobile!