Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better – Installment 61
Written on March 24, 2015 at 4:00 am, by Eric Cressey
This installment of quick tips comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach, Miguel Aragoncillo.
1. Use “discovery learning” as a way to improve retention for movement patterns.
Going to continuing education courses consistently allows me to adjust my perspective based on the “latest” information available in the industry. However, one of the biggest things that allows me to shift my perspective further is to listen in and converse with other professionals during lunch breaks to further understand the topic at hand in a more productive way.
This first point divulges how to implement a sense of discovery about movement patterns and gives some very straight forward tips for coaching anything that is new to your clients or athletes.
Keep these points in mind when using this new technique of teaching.
• Use your athlete/client's words and language to help them learn a movement better.
Not every person will know where their glutes are, for example. Have the athlete just point to the part of their body where they feel it; you don’t need a PhD in Exercise Science to teach a basic movement pattern.
• Remove body parts.
If a hip hinge is too difficult, reduce the neuromuscular challenge by having them start on two knees instead of two feet. Now the movement is largely a singular hinging pattern when they start on their knees, instead of stabilizing on their feet.
2. Consider reducing the number of “corrective exercises” you perform.
I’m a big fan of Dan John and his easily quotable phrase, “Keep the goal the goal.” Maintain your perspective of the goal at hand. If your goal is to improve strength, lose fat, or improve at your sport, how many corrective exercises are you performing? How much time are you utilizing doing foam rolling? Minimize your time spent analyzing your own problems by seeking out the best coaches, therapists, or nutrition coaches, and get to work on that goal. Sometimes, you'll find that exercises can even be combined to improve efficiency without sacrificing the benefit.
Corrective exercises are supposed to correct something. By omitting these movements, will the athlete miss any crucial movement patterns? Play “Devil’s Advocate” and make sure to incorporate all that is necessary, but no more. If you aren't careful, your "correctives" can wind up becoming a cumbersome majority of your training sessions.
3. Learn the difference between blocked and random practice - and apply each appropriately.
On the topic of training youth athletes, I recently attended a seminar in which blocked vs. random practice was presented. For the purposes of this article, blocked practice is specific training of a singular skill with no changes in environmental surroundings (like swinging a bat against a pitching machine over and over). Conversely, random practice involves having an individual adapt to the surroundings and incorporate different (but similar) skills (like swinging a bat for different scenarios - with a live pitcher).
The biggest question of the day was, "Which athlete excelled when it came time for performance?"
When tested in the short-term, blocked practice performed better than random practice. This makes sense, because if you practice a singular skill over and over, you will get better at that skill.
However, when enough time passed for participants to “forget,” retention of skills was the name of the game. So when retaining skills for a longer term, blocked practice did not do as well, and practicing “randomly” prevailed.
From a logical point of view, this is similar to memorizing sentences when you’re cramming for a final exam. Sure, you’ll do great if the teacher just has the same exact sentences or questions as the book - but what happens if the teacher forces you to critically think, and asks questions that are different than the material presented during class?
This leads quite appropriately into the context of a long term athletic development model. By increasing skills and techniques in a broad sense, athletes will more easily acquire specific sport skills. Conversely, with early sports specialization, athletes are practicing (almost always) one skill over and over, and struggle when diverse, more unpredictable movement is required for success.
What are the actionable items you can take away from this?
If you coach youth athletes, or you yourself have a young son or daughter:
• Encourage them to try multiple sports.
• Allow them to “figure it out” when it comes to decision making skills, especially as it applies to sports.
• Provide feedback - but much, much later after the competition, game, or practice session.
• This will allow for them to come up with their own unique thoughts, and allow them to be uninhibited when it comes to creating a solution to whatever problems occur during a game.
While this is a “Quick and Easy Way to Move and Feel Better” series, I imagine that we can help everyone of all ages move and even feel better by taking this information and acting on it.
4. Try this quick oatmeal snack.
I’ve been preparing for a powerlifting meet for the past few months, and an easy go to snack in the morning and/or at night is a quick oatmeal snack.
It’s fast, needs little ingredients, is a flexible snack, or even as a snack if your goal is to gain mass.
• 1/2 cup Oatmeal
• 2 tbsp Chocolate Peanut Butter or Powdered Peanut Butter
• 1 Scoop of Protein Powder
• Handful of [Frozen] Blueberries
• Honey for taste
• 1 cup of almond or whole milk
Prep time: Pour the oats in first, followed by milk, then heat to 90-120 seconds. Then, add everything in and mix it up. The easy clean-up makes this a go-to for the past few weeks/months with all the snow in Massachusetts!
5. Remember that band can increase resistance - or assist in cleaning up a movement pattern.
Whether your goal is maximal strength, increased hypertrophy, or even learning an exercise for the first time, bands are a useful tool.
Band placement is critical for learning how an exercise can increase resistance, or assist during a movement.
For example, you can improve strength by performing a band resisted push-up, or help the push-up by utilizing a band under the waist to elicit a “pop” out of the bottom of the push-up (where the exercise is most difficult).
At the same time, bands can help to improve reactive core engagement, or in other words, your body will have to reflexively react in a favorable way.
About the Author
Miguel Aragoncillo (@MiggsyBogues) is a strength and conditioning coach at the Hudson, MA location of Cressey Sports Performance. More of his writing can be found on www.MiguelAragoncillo.com.
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