Wall Slide Variation with Bands

Posted in Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , on July 17, 2012 by zenithstrength

Wall slides are a great “bang for your buck” exercise to keep the shoulders healthy especially if you’re an athlete involved in overhead sports or are coming off a shoulder injury.

Here are a few reasons why I like using wall slides so much.

1. Improving shoulder external range of motion.

I remember first learning about the effectiveness of wallslides from the Optimal Shoulder Performance Dvd by Eric Cressey and Mike Reinold. Wallslides  gently  improve shoulder external range of motion without excessive stretching  for those who may have limitations  caused by sitting in a chair for hours on end.

2. Improving upward and downward rotation of the shoulder by strengthening the lower traps, serratus and activating the upper traps.

Eric Cressey has talked extensively about the importance of shoulder upward rotation in this post and mentions the research as to why upward rotation is important not only for baseball pitchers but for athletes involved with overhead sports.

3. Improving thoracic spine extension and shoulder flexion range of motion.

In addition to improving shoulder external rotation, wall slides also improve shoulder flexion and mid back extension which are two areas that we usually could use  more mobility with . Unfortunately, these two motions have a synergistic relationship in that a limitation in upper back extension mobility will generally affect your ability to reach your arms overhead.  Furthermore, soft tissue restrictions in the lats and pecs can also limit shoulder flexion.

While you can perform wall slides seated or standing, I prefer to do them seated with the head, shoulder blades, and low back touching the wall. This will ensure that the athlete does not substitute shoulder flexion,(raising the arms overhead), for lumbar extension(excessively arching the low back). Make sure to keep the ribs down so they don’t flair out while raising the arms overhead.

I like to cue our athletes to take a nice deep breath in, expand the rib cage and  then exhale performing a rep while the ribcage is depressed. You don’t have to perform them like this but integrating breathing will help teach what it feels like to keep the rib cage down.

Once you get really comfortable with these you can progress and add some band resistance which really lights up your lower traps and also challenges T spine extension since the bands are pulling you forward.

For more goodies on the T-spine check out Dean Somerset’s fantastic write-up on that subject here.

Give these a try at the end of your upper body workouts and let me know how you like them.



Cool Core Variation

Posted in Z.S. Training with tags , , , , on June 13, 2012 by zenithstrength

I think its important to continually find ways to be creative with exercise selection and progressions to prevent routines from becoming stale. I love reading posts from coaches like Ben Bruno, Nick Tumminello and Jim Smith because they are constantly coming up with creative variations of traditional exercises and I enjoy analyzing the “why” factor as it pertains to why the variation works well.

Check out some of Ben Bruno’s posterior chain exercises  and his article on training around knee pain.

I have Nick’s Angled Barbell DVD which has a ton of exercises to use with the Landmine.

If you haven’t checked out Smitty’s and Joe Defranco’s products, Power and Extreme, I highly recommend them as they have a ton of exercise variations to add to get you explosive and improve your strength.

Taking a page from some of the more creative coaches, I was messing around on the functional trainer and came up with a core training variation of the deadbug .It  really challenges your ability to control extension of the low back and also works the lats and tri’s and lower abs as well.

Here it is.

Give it a shot and let me know what you think.


Getting Back to Basics

Posted in Z.S. Basketball Training, Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2012 by zenithstrength

There have been quite a few articles from some highly respected coaches talking about getting back to basics and working on their own limitations to improve and progress with their training:

Its My fault Too by Tony Gentilcore

Back to Basics: A Challenge for Myself by Molly Galbraith

And another article on why you should not write your own program by none other on Tony G’s blog.

Noticing a theme here? I decided a few weeks ago that I had reached a breaking point  with my training, frustrated with my lack of progress; it was time to hire a coach to help me reach my goals.

I have quite a few movement “issues”  that I have been trying to address with some success. But with my goals of getting stronger in the front squat , barbell deadlift and just feel like a “bad ass”, I knew just lifting heavy was going to lead  to trouble. Now I am not as eloquent as Tony who talks candidly about his SI joint issues but basically what I have going on is the lack of ability to control my T/L junction. In addition, I have limited T-Spine extension despite my daily routine of soft tissue  and mobilization work….. In English all it means is that it is very difficult for me to arch my mid back without arching my low back and its hard to keep my low back neutral when I squat and deadlift with light weight. Of course as the weights get heavier the compensations become more noticeable.

As you can see on the left there is much more of an arch vs the more neutral start position on the right.

Now before I accidentally set off a controversy on whether or not to arch, it really depends on the client and what you are trying to accomplish. But from my understanding and what I have learned from some of the best coaches, you do not want to rely on passive restraints for support when you lift. In this case that would be crushing your spine if you arch too hard. There needs to be support from active restraints with minimal help from the passive restraints.

Anyways, getting a little side tracked here…. to work on my goals I hired Mike Robertson to help me get on track and back to feeling good about lifting. I have quite a few products from Mike including Assess and Correct and wrote a review on Bullet Proof Back and knees so I had a strong feeling I would be working on the basics such as doing a ton of half kneeling/tall kneeling movements and goblet squats to box for the first part of my program

As Mike says it’s not sexy and I would concur,  I think he forgot to mention it is also humbling since it has definitely been much harder than I thought to perform planks and birddogs correctly with a neutral spine and proper alignment. Ultimatel,y as a coach, I understand you have to get this stuff  down and learn to control your spine before advancing to the heavy/fun stuff…after all this is what we want to achieve with our athletes.

It’s almost been 2 weeks and I am already  noticing better control of my low back with the movements and a ton of oblique activation when I do the exercises correctly.

I’ll start updating my training more often as I continue with Mike’s program.

Remember that in order to progress, many times you have to take a few steps back and work on the basics but in the long run the results are well worth it.

Train Hard!


Form Tips on the Inverted Row

Posted in Guest posts with tags , , , , , on April 23, 2012 by zenithstrength

Today’s post is a guest post from coach Nick Tumminello from Performance University.  I think Nick is one of the more creative coaches in the industry and his dvd Angled Barbell Training is a great resource if you’re looking to learn new exercises to use with the Landmine.

The inverted row and its progressions are a staple in our programming but many times they are performed incorrectly.

Nick goes over some tips to work the upper back with the row.

Inverted Row-The Best Form Tips You’ll Ever Get!

by Nick Tumminello.

One of our favorite bodyweight exercises for increasing back strength (especially in the often weak and under-utilized mid-back muscles) is the Inverted Row!

More specifically, an overhand-grip Inverted row (using a barbell) done with a few simple tweaks, which we’ve found to make this great bodyweight back exercise much safer, smarter and more effective!

The video below reveals some very cool form tips and an innovative concept we developed, which demonstrates what we feel to be the best way to do Inverted Rows!

Additional Coaching Tips on Inverted Rows exercises and grip variations:

– When we’re doing underhand (more close-grip) inverted rows using a barbell, we don’t use the fat pad as the shoulders and elbows are in a different position, which we’ve found allows you to pull the bar into your ribcage without as much risk of “breaking” our desired form.

– Using a suspension device or rings is also a great option for doing inverted rows. That said, at Performance U, we prefer to use the barbell for the overhand grip option (displayed in the video) when we’re really trying to focus on strengthening the mid-back muscles; we feel use the fat pad provides great feedback for both us and the client.

– We really like using the suspension trainer option for our neutral grip inverted row variations and for our Triple Threat Back Blaster protocol, along with other circuit style options where we string together several pulling exercises back-to-back.

Coach Nick Tumminello has built a reputation as the ‘Trainer of trainers” through his workshops at conferences and fitness club around the world. And, for his consulting work with pro/college sports teams and with exercise equipment/ clothing manufactures.
He’s the owner of Performance University international, which provides hybrid strength training & conditioning for athletes and educational programs for fitness professionals. Based in South Florida, Nick is a Fort Lauderdale personal trainer who works with a select group of athletes and exercise enthusiasts.

You can check out Coach Nick’s articles, DVDs, seminars schedule, mentorship program and very popular hybrid fitness training blog at http://nicktumminello.com/

It’s All in the Coaching

Posted in Z.S. Basketball Training, Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , on April 9, 2012 by zenithstrength

I’ve had a lot of training related stuff on my mind lately. I think that’s what happens when you immerse yourself in the field and attend a ton of seminars to learn from the best in the field. I was lucky enough to see Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson speak on the shoulder and core training and I realized that no matter how much you learn, in this industry it seems the more you know the less you really know.

I’m not afraid to admit that. It is definitely a humbling experience especially when I see a ton of coaches locally try to hook people by  guaranteeing x amount of inches in vertical jump improvement or y amount of lbs lost in 2 weeks or promising something along those lines. Everyone wants to workout balls to the walls but it seems no one wants to hear about how that ankle mobility problem or t spine rotation left unchecked can cause serious amount of time off playing a sport you’re trying to make waves in.

I feel that our job as strength coaches is to coach basic movement patterns and then load them appropriately once a standard has been demonstrated. Regardless of what assessment you use, FMS, DNS, overhead squat and or Thomas test, what really is the point of pushing an athlete with heavy deadlifts or squats if doesn’t look right. I guarantee most people don’t look like the pic below (courtesy of David Lasnier ) below when they get in the starting position of the deadlift.

I remember Mike Robertson saying to “trust your eyes”, if it doesn’t look right something is going on and we should try to figure out why that is, especially if you’re dealing with an athlete where performing at a high level is at stake. Weights need to pushed and doing it the right way is of the utmost importance.

Fortunately, there are people we can turn to resolve these issues.

Tony Gentilcore talks about the fixing the tuck under which is very common and needs to be addressed . Zach Moore writes his take on fixing the bottom position of the squat.

Here’s the reality that most people don’t want to hear and its the theme that I’ve picked up from people like Charlie Weingroff, Mike Robertson and Eric Cressey to name a few, I usually don’t name drop this much unless I’m trying to get into a hot club in Vegas,

and that is injuries are caused by repetitive movement breakdowns. Or to put it another way, there is an underlying movement issue or two that has been put under repeated stress. So if you’re a tennis player chances are poor t-spine rotation and extension plus poor core stability probably had a lot to do with stress fracture in your back. Or the volley ball player who has very limited ankle mobility, poor hip extension and has knee pain.  The more skillful the practitioner/coach the more  they will be able to help address what is going on.

In regards to my own training I have been guilty of ignoring many of these factors(core stability, hip strength and mobility)   which is why I’ve had a history of knee issues and some low back issues. But, here’s the good news. At 33, my knees are pain-free,which isn’t something I could say during my teens and most of my 20’s. More importantly I can enjoy lifting and training again so I can tell you first hand that this approach of addressing mobility issues and stability stuff that the top coaches in the industry talk about works.

If you’re a coach or trainer I would highly recommend anything by Mike Robertson and Eric Cressey to get started. These guys are two of the best and you owe it to your clients and athletes to make sure you are coaching your clients correctly.

In health,

Shyam Soin

Back Friendly Core Variation

Posted in Z.S. Basketball Training, Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , on February 28, 2012 by zenithstrength

There is so much core training on the internet its enough to make your head spin. One article talks about how flexion is going to break your back followed by a different post arguing the benefits of flexion. I try not to get caught up in the heated core debate. I listen to what the best in the field talk about, using research to validate their claims and make decisions based on what makes the most sense to me.

I used to avoid flexion when I injured my back a few years ago and then came to the realization that avoiding flexion is why I hurt my back in the first place as I didn’t  have a whole lot of lumbar flexion to begin with. What many doctors won’t tell you if you hurt your back is whether you have flexion intolerance or extension tolerance. There is a difference and each pathology has a different rehab protocol.

Now before I get side tracked I’ll let some coaches and rehab pros who are way smarter than I am talk about the difference between the two. Here’s an article by Eric Cressey that covers quite a bit regarding the low back.

I wanted to share a back friendly core variation that in my opinion strengthens the obliques safely and additionally adds anti rotation stability as well. Working with a ton of athletes the one thing that I’ve noticed is anti rotation and anti lateral flexion deficits seem to be high. I’m not sure why this is but there is a correlation between the body’s ability to stabilize anti rotation and reducing back pain occurrences, especially in rotational sports.

Here’s the video below

I call it the curl up with band anti rotation. Not the most creative name, but if anyone has a better one I am all ears.

Its very similar to the McGill curl up and for those for aren’t familiar with Stu Mcgill, he is one of the premier back specialists in the world.

Make sure to avoid crunching/rounding the upper back excessively especially if you have a ton of T spine extension limitations. The key is to reach up a couple of inches instead of crunching. I also use the ab mat which is great to add a little more range of motion.

Bret Contreras has a nice video talking about the ab mat and demoing the eccentric portion of the crunch.

I prefer the curl up variation over the more popular russian twists pictured below. In my opinion putting someone into flexion and then rotation is asking for disc issue down the road especially since most people can’t avoid excessive lumbar flexion at the top of this position.

The curl is much safer and adds the benefit of additional rotary stability which rotational sport athletes lack.

Give the curl up a try and let me know what you think.

Train Hard and Smart!


3 Keys We Can Take Away From Jeremy Lin

Posted in Uncategorized, Z.S. Basketball Training, Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , on February 15, 2012 by zenithstrength

Linsanity is here and it’s not going away anytime soon. Like most basketball fans, I have had my doubts about how long this feel good story is going to last last but after seeing Jeremy light up my Lakers, and then come back a few games later and hit the game winning shot against the Raptors…well…I’m a believer. This is the feel good story of the NBA and there is a lot we can learn about Lin’s success and use to help us with our own endeavors.

In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons someone experiences success is how much they believe it will happen.

You have to put the work and time in but all this is fueled by self belief that you belong and everything will work out. In Jeremy’s case he was undrafted out of college, played for a few teams, before arriving in the perfect situation for him to showcase his ability; a team that desperately needed a point guard to lead the way.

5 games later he is now a sensation in one of the worlds largest markets. I’m no sports psychologist, but I would say, that right there is mental toughness. Instead of cowering under the pressure and bright lights of New York city, he embraced the pressure and continued to perform at an extraordinary level. Or as athletes call it he’s in the “zone”.

So how does this relate to training  and what can we take away from Jeremy Lin’s recent tear.

1. Hard work and self belief are necessary if you want to accomplish something great and when things don’t go exactly as planned and its gut check time your self belief is what  help carries you through. The same goes for training. You have to set your goals and work towards hitting them. Whether its hitting a 400lbs on the trap bar deadlift or getting a thirty inch vertical you have to believe you can do it first and then put the work in.

2. Enjoy the journey to success. We are all guilty of forgetting that many times it’s the journey of trying to get to where you want to be which makes the difference between appreciating success  and being unsatisfied. I know that I am sometimes guilty of not fully enjoying the ups and downs of building a successful training business so Jeremy Lin’s success definitely has me reevaluating a few things.

3. Mental toughness is what separates the wannabes from those who experience success. There is no perfect situation. What I mean is that many times things don’t fall into place the way you want them to. Jeremy was crashing at a team mates couch trying to get quality sleep in. Not ideal  if you’re trying to dominate on the basketball court. How many people do you know would rather sleep on a comfy bed in a hotel room to rest up before the big game? Well, he didn’t have a choice in the matter. That’s what mental toughness is..dealing with the situation and still playing well.

In regards to training, there are many clients who want the fancy exercise that looks outrageous or they see some pro athlete performing a crazy ladder drill and think they need to be doing the same exercise to build freakish footwork. But in reality, it’s focusing on the basics squats, pullups lunges etc.  and building a solid foundation, progressing over time and putting a lot of work in  that builds a solid, strong and explosive athlete who moves well. Most people don’t want to hear that but that’s what separates the athlete who improves vs the athlete who quits and stops training after a few months. There are no quick fixes. Sorry.

Here’s a highlight video of Jeremy training. Inspirational stuff!

Put in the work, keep believing and here’s to you enjoying success with your endeavors.

In strength,