Home Posts tagged "Relative Stiffness"

Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 32

In light of the busy baseball offseason, I'm long overdue for an update to this series. So, here goes!

1. Have a long-term plan, but not necessarily a long-term program.

The other day, an observational visitor to CSP-FL asked me if I had a big, overarching goal for all our professional baseball players. My response was simple: "Minor league guys need to get through five 4-week programs, and big leaguers need to get through four."

The MLB regular season always ends on a Sunday, so the math is actually easy to do. We know most MLB guys report around February 14, which gives us 19.5 weeks for the offseason. That 3.5 week "buffer" accounts for some time off, some vacation, a few days over the holidays, and travel to Spring Training. We "give" a little bit on guys who played well into the postseason in the previous year.

Over this 16 weeks of training, we transition from active recovery, improving mobility and building work capacity, to building strength and power, to transitioning into more specific skill development. It's all something we've become comfortable handling as long as we can get in those four program blocks. However, while we have a long-term plan, we don't write all the programs up in advance. Why? Very simply, what you put on paper for a January program when you write it three months in advance almost always needs to be modified prior to the time when it's actually being executed. Even the best players on the planet who've established really good offseason routines have to call audibles on the fly as various things come up throughout the offseason.

Have a general framework in place, but don't be so rigidly adherent to it that you can't pivot on the fly over the course of several months. It'll save you time and make your programming more effective if you write the specific components of your offseason progressions when the time is at hand.

2. Good coaching always comes back to relative stiffness.

Give this video of a back-to-wall shoulder flexion a watch:

Now, think about what's happening from a stiffness standpoint. When the arms go overhead, we're asking good stiffness of the anterior core (rectus abdominus, external obliques), glutes, and scapular upward rotators (upper trap, lower trap, and serratus anterior) to overpower bad stiffness of the lumbar extensors, lats, and scapular downward rotators (levator scapulae, pec minor, and rhomboids).

This good vs. bad stiffness interaction is taking place in every single movement we prescribe and coach. If we don't appreciate functional anatomy and understand how to tone down the bad and tone up the good, we simply can't be efficient coaches.

If you're looking to learn more about relative stiffness, I'd encourage you to check out Functional Stability Training: Optimizing Movement.

3. Be careful with predicted max charts.

Last week, I hit a personal record (PR) with five reps at 600lbs on my conventional deadlift.

PRs aside, though, it was actually a pretty good example of how off the predicted max charts really are.

After this set, I plugged 600 pounds and 5 reps into four separate predicted max calculators I found on the internet. The projections for my 1RM were anywhere from 675 pounds all the way up to 705 pounds. That 675 might be a possibility, but taking that to a 705 might very well be two years worth of specialized deadlift training.

Predicted max calculators have their place, but don't think for a second that they're perfectly accurate. And, they're even less accurate with a) more experienced lifters and b) lifters with a heavy fast twitch profile.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 11/20/17

I hope you had a great weekend. Before I get to the recommended reading for the week, I wanted to give you a heads-up that with it being Thanksgiving week, we're kicking off our Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales early so that you have an entire week to take advantage of them. From now though Monday, November 27, you can get 25% off on any (or all) of the Functional Stability Training resources from Mike Reinold and me. You can check them out at www.FunctionalStability.com. No coupon code is necessary.

6 Principles to Improve Your Coaching - Speaking of Functional Stability Training, here's an excerpt from the latest offering on this front, FST: Optimizing Movement.

NFL Teams Address Fatigue Factor - We've worked a lot with Fatigue Science to monitor sleep quantity and quality with our athletes, and this article goes into detail on how they're impacted NFL teams as well.

Why We Use End-Range Lift-off - Cressey Sports Performance coach Frank Duffy discusses how to build active control of your passive range of motion.

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Optimizing Movement: Understanding Good vs. Bad Stiffness

With this week's sale on Mike Reinold and my Functional Stability Training series, I wanted to give you a little sample of what these products include. Here's a three-minute excerpt from one of my webinars on the cencept of relative stiffness from Functional Stability Training: Optimizing Movement.

Again, the entire FST collection is on sale for 25% off through Monday at midnight. You can check it out at www.FunctionalStability.com. No coupon code is needed.

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Making Movement Better: Different Paths to the Same Destination

Lately, I've been posting more training pictures and videos on my Instagram page. The other day, I posted this video, and it led to some good discussion points that I think warrant further explanation:

One responder to the video asked the following:

You had an Instagram post the other day about an athlete not being able to differentiate between hip and lower back extension. I have a client with what seems to be a similar problem and just wondered how you generally go about teaching them the difference.

The answer to this question really just rests with having a solid set of assessments that help you to understand relative stiffness. I was first introduced to this concept through physical therapist Shirley Sahrmann's work. Relative stiffness refers to the idea that the presence or lack of stiffness at one joint has a significant impact on what happens at adjacent joints, which may have more or less stiffness. Without a doubt, if you've read EricCressey.com for any length of time, the most prevalent example of this is a shoulder flexion substitution pattern. 

In this pattern, the "bad" stiffness of the lats (among other muscles) overpowers the lack of "good" stiffness in the anterior core and deep neck flexors - so we get lumbar extension (arched lower back) and forward head posture instead of the true shoulder flexion we desire. Truth be told, you can apply these principles to absolutely every single exercise you coach, whether it's an 800-pound squat or low-level rotator cuff exercise.

As an example, when you cue a wall hip flexor mobilization, you're working to reduce bad stiffness in the anterior hip while cueing an athlete to brace the core and activate the trailing leg glute. That little bit of good stiffness in the anterior core prevents the athlete from substituting lumbar extension (low back movement) for hip extension, and the glute activation creates good stiffness that impacts the arthrokinematics of the hip joint (head of the femur won't glide forward to irritate the anterior hip during the stretch). 

In the upper extremity, just use this back-to-wall shoulder flexion tutorial as an example.The "reach" would add good stiffness in the serratus anterior. The shrug would add good stiffness in the upper traps. The "tip back" would add good stiffness in the lower traps. The double chin would add good stiffness in the deep neck flexors. The flat low back position would add good stiffness in the anterior core. Regardless of which of these cues needs the most emphasis, the good stiffness that's created in one way or another "competes" against the bad stiffness - whether it's muscular, capsular, bony, or something else - that limits overhead reaching.

Returning to our prone hip extension video from above, if we want to get more hip extension (particularly end-range hip extension) and less lumbar extension, from a purely muscular standpoint, we need more "good stiffness" in rectus abdominus, external obliques, and glutes - and less stiffness in lumbar extensors, lats, and hip flexors. As the question received in response to the video demonstrates, though, this can be easier said than done, as different clients will struggle for different reasons.

Sometimes, it's as simple as slowing things down. Many athletes can perform movements at slow speeds, but struggle when the pace is picked up - including when they're actually competing.

Sometimes, you can touch the muscle you want to work (tactile facilitation). Spine expert Dr. Stuart McGill has spoken in the past about "raking" the obliques to help create multidirectional spinal stability. I've used that cue before with this exercise, and I've also lightly punched the glutes (male athletes only) to make sure athletes are getting movement in the right places.

Sometimes, a quick positional change may be all that's needed. As an example, you can put a pad under the stomach to put the lumbar extensors in a more lengthened position. In fact, doing this drill off a training table (as demonstrated above) was actually a positional change (regression) in the first place; we'd ideally like to see an athlete do this in a more lengthened position where he can challenge a position of greater hip extension. Here are both options:

Sometimes, a little foam rolling in the right places can get some of the bad stiffness to calm down a bit. Or, you might need to refer out to a qualified manual therapist to get rid of some "tone" to make your coaching easier. I do this every single day, as I have great massage therapists on staff at both our Florida and Massachusetts Cressey Sports Performance facilities.

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Sometimes, a little positional breathing can change the game for these athletes, as it helps them to find and "own" a position of posterior pelvic tilt while shutting off the lats.

TRXDeepSquatBreathingWithLatStretch

The take-home point here is that there are a lot of different ways to create the movement you want; coaching experience and a working knowledge of functional anatomy and relative stiffness just help you get to the solutions faster and safer.

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