Archive for mike robertson

Should You Static Stretch to Improve Flexibility?

Posted in Z.S. Basketball Training, Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2013 by zenithstrength

Toe touch

Should you static stretch to improve flexibility?

The answer will depend on which expert you ask.
The debate about static stretching and the potential pros and cons is still hotly contested among coaches and rehab experts today. Some will swear by it, such as those who practice yoga. While there are others such as sport performance coaches who will avoid static stretching like the plague because of fear that it will reduce power output and potentially lead to injuries. I tend to take the middle of the road approach and feel there is a place for static stretching but like most things related to training it largely depends on the individual.
If stability is your issue then static stretching isn’t for you until you address that first. There are two types of individuals that should put heavy static stretching on the back burner, at least temporarily. One case is someone who has mobility restrictions. Dean Somerset talks about how stability can affect your flexibility in his article Stretching Doesn’t Work. He goes over why stretching a tight muscle doesn’t work and the relationship between stability and mobility. I can relate to this with my myriad of hip mobility issues. I would stretch my hips with countless figure four stretch variations, groin (adductor) stretches, hip flexor variations and hold them for 30 secs to as long as 5 minutes. While I definitely noticed more range of motion after, it was always short-lived never lasting more than a couple of hours. I would get into a cycle of stretching, feeling good and then feeling tight again.
I figured something was going on and it was related to other issues such as how I was moving and how my nervous system chose to “protect” my body by tightening up certain muscle tissues. And here’s the deal, no amount of static stretching will change this. Going back to Dean’s article the reason this is happening is because there is probably an underlying stability issue which is not allowing the CNS to release that muscle tension.

anterior tiltThink about someone who has an anterior tilted pelvis. Typically this is associated with tight hip flexors and the hamstrings may feel tight as well. Most people will stretch what feels “tight” so they add a few runner/lunge stretches and hamstring stretches but nothing changes. However, if you address the issue of the anterior tilt by strengthening the glutes, hamstrings and obliques which helps the client/athlete control lumbar extension, the hips will be in a more neutral position and that chronic tension/tightness in the hamstrings should lessen based on the change of the pelvic position.

There’s another group who should hold off on static stretching and they are the hyper mobile clients such dancers and yoga instructors. Many times these folks already have extreme ranges of motion as they keep pushing the end ranges of the muscle to “feel” a stretch. They need to control that excessive range of motion and have their stability “catch up” with their flexibility. Once they can resume static stretching. Essentially, it is about creating a balance between stability and mobility as the inability to control excessive flexibility is a recipe for an injury down the road.

Dancer

Get Assessed.
How do you know if you need stability?

There are a few ways to address stability issues to help improve your mobility. The functional movement screen is great way to gather information on what the client needs and is something we use with our athletes. Tests like the overhead squat, hip lift variations and a plank hold with a dowel will give clues about someone’s stabilization patterns.

overhead squat

Postural Restoration Institute has tests to check hip positioning with more complicated issues such as anatomical restrictions like hip capsular stuff. They also assess breathing which can be associated with muscular tension especially in the neck and upper back. The assessments don’t have to be complicated but they can help with getting answers regarding how you move which will help to determine your programming needs.
Once you address any underlying causes of stability and hip positioning you will get much more out of your static stretching sessions. Basically, the more balanced you are with regards to stability and mobility around given joints, you can stretch to your heart’s content and see better progress with improvements in flexibility.

Make sure to add mobility sessions before workouts or on recovery days which are different from static stretches. While there is a correlation between passive flexibility and mobility, mobility will always be more important for athletes and individuals because it is demonstrated through movement.
Mike Robertson goes through a good warm up circuit here.

So, is static stretching for you? If you don’t have major stability needs and if you plan on hitting the splits or just feeling good, you need to add static stretching into your daily routine. However, if stability is lacking in the core or hips, you need to address that first before adding a ton of static stretching.
Leave your comments below and let me know what you think.

Shyam

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!

Shyam

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

Glute-Ham Raise Regression

Posted in Z.S. Basketball Training, Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 23, 2011 by zenithstrength

If you are an athlete who is interested in getting faster and more explosive you need to add glute ham raises in your training program if you’re not doing so already.

Glute-ham raises are fantastic for training the posterior chain which is usually lacking in many people and developing hamstring and hip extension strength which is important if your focus is on improving speed and quickness.

The problem is that the glute ham raise is very hard to perform. Most people won’t be able to complete reps without severely arching their backs using lumbar extension instead of hip extension, definitely not something you want to do if you would like to keep your low back healthy and pain-free.

Mike Robertson has a great instructional video on how to perform the glute ham raise correctly.

We came up with a glute ham regression using the pull up revolution pro, which deloads the body on the eccentric portion so the athlete can achieve full hip extension and also  assists the client for the concentric portion so that the athlete can work on maintaining neutral spine.

Daniel demonstrates the glute ham raise regression below:

Once the athlete can perform a couple sets of 6-8 reps with solid form, we gradually reduce the band assistance and will eventually progress to loading them with chains.

Another benefit to improving strength through glute ham raises is that it transfers over to improving the deadlift and squat.

Mike Robertson has an article about this you can check out here.

If your goal is improve your explosiveness or you would like to improve strength by lifting heavier stuff, give this regression a try and then start progressing and improving your strength.

Train Hard!

Shyam

Assessing the Basketball Player

Posted in Uncategorized, Z.S. Basketball Training, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2011 by zenithstrength

Assessments and corrective exercise are extremely important factor in designing a strength and conditioning program. It doesn’t matter the sport you play or the goals you have. The coach needs to have an idea on how you well you move and the easiest way to do that is with a few exercises. Before we get started, I highly recommend Assess and Correct from Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson, and Bill Hartman. A&C is great as it will improve your ability to assess clients and athletes. There are also corrective exercises with progressions to improve movement issues and you can add them into your dynamic warmup.

Regarding basketball athletes there are a few things we look at that  basketball players usually have some restrictions with

1.Ankle Mobility

2.Hip Mobility and stability

3.Previous injury history

Keep in mind that I am generalizing and that not everyone who plays basketball will have  these issues which is why it is preferable to thoroughly assess the athlete prior to training them.

Ankle restrictions and lack of dorsiflexion is very common amongst basketball players and this can occur for many reasons such as type of footwear  worn, using ankle braces while practicing, and/or  due to sprained ankles.

Eric Cressey also has a great article on the importance of ankle mobility you should also check out.

We also take a look to see if there are soft tissue restrictions in the calf and soleus that may be inhibiting ankle movement and if there are we address that by using some SMR techniques with a lacrosse ball or stick. If that doesn’t work we will refer out for soft tissue work.

Here are a couple of ankle mobility drills we use for the ankle. Keep in mind that there are endless variations of mobility drills out there.

I learned this from KStarr  and have been using this for a while now and have been seeing a lot improvement with our athletes. Check out Mobility wod for some innovative mobility drills.

I like this set up with the band just above the malleolus as it allows the ankle to glide from the band distraction.

Calf stretch using the pro stretch.

I highly recommend this if you don’t have one as it the best way to stretch out your gastroc. The prostretch also works well for plantar fascitis and other foot issues too.  

Hip Mobility can be an issue for basketball players. Generally speaking from the players we have assessed hip flexors both the Psoas and Rectus Femoris will be short and stiff. The Thomas test is a good way to test hip flexor shortness.

Below is a detailed explanation of the Thomas test and what to  look for.

We also check hip strength/stability using the overhead squat and single leg squat test.

You can also use the step down test to see if the knee caves in. Hip stability is extremely important regarding knee health and is a key component in our program design to prevent ACL injuries.

And lastly we take down the athletes injury history because the strongest indicator of an injury is a previous injury to the same spot. By assessing the athlete and addressing the needs of the athlete and improving movement patterns our goal is to reduce the likelihood of a serious injury so the athlete can reach their performance goals on the court.

Tran Hard.

Shyam

Single Leg Hip Stability Using Bands

Posted in Z.S. Tennis with tags , , , , , , , on May 5, 2011 by zenithstrength

Today’s post continues along the line of knee health and hip stability as we look to get more  creative in challenging  hip stability to help alleviate knee issues. There are times when the athlete may not be able to perform a single leg reach with their body weight without their knee going everywhere and may need assistance to create a bit of stability, so we need to create an exercise regression.

We started using the Jungle Gym to create a regression and perform a single leg reverse lunge while holding on to the handles. By holding the handles you create a bit more stability and also deload the knee-joint while  getting some good glute medius activation and hip extension as well.

They are also great for athletes who may be dealing with some knee issues and are working on increasing  knee and hip flexion range of motion.

One of the keys is to make sure the tibia stays vertical to keep this a hip dominant lift and take stress of the patella, something that both Mike Robertson and Charlie Weingroff have talked about extensively.

As you progress you can add band tension to increase the eccentric load on the hips and quads  and work on improving hip extension power as the video shows below:

In addition you can perform single leg jumps from this position as the athlete progresses.

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

Stay healthy,

Shyam

Review of Bullet Proof Knees and Back Seminar

Posted in Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2011 by zenithstrength

When I heard about the Bullet proof Knees and Back seminar that Mike Robertson put together and released on DVD, I jumped at the opportunity to pick up a copy and learn  from one of the top strength coaches in our industry. Mike is one of the best  when it comes to getting clients/athletes healthy from nagging injuries and then working with them to improve athletic performance.

The product is extremely thorough covering functional anatomy, hands on assessments, tons of coaching cues for the exercises that Mike uses and he also goes over program design. Furthermore, all the information in the dvds are research and evidence based so you are getting the latest and most effective ways to attack knee and back pain.

One of the most valuable parts of the seminar is that you get a chance to assess movement in a practical manner. Its one thing to sit down and listen to a lecture about what to look for regarding movement assessments and a whole different experience to get to assess a person on-screen  and let your eyes get used to seeing specific issues with Mike guiding the whole process.

In addition to the detailed static and dynamic assessments that Mike explains both in lecture and the hands on session, the coaching and cues for the exercises that he uses for low back and knee pain is extremely informative.

Many of the exercises aren’t new but its the detail in coaching them, exercises such as tall kneeling and half kneeling rows or pallof presses and getting clients into  proper hip extension position to engage the hips and lower abs/obliques.

Here are my three “A HA” take home points  from the seminar.

1. Respecting the assessment process in regards to how the athlete/client likes to move. Instead of trying to figure out everything, m observe what patterns the client uses to execute movements. For example in prone hip extension if the back extensors or hamstrings “light up” instead of the glutes make a note of it instead of jumping to conclusions right away.

Mike also does dynamic assessments in addition to the isolative assessments to get a complete picture on how someone moves.

For example if some tests tight in isolated ankle dorsiflexion the overhead squat test should also show if someone has ankle mobility issues as well. Based on the isolative dorsiflexion test with legs straight and knees bent you can start to figure out if you need more soft tissue work to address the calves or the soleus.

2. The goal of balancing stiffness of muscle groups to decrease pain which works in conjunction with the comprehensive assessment. Once you know what muscle groups are stiff and doing too much and what muscles need to be strengthened then you have a plan to attack the imbalances and get the client out of pain. There are many ways of attacking the issue of quad dominance. For example, using SMR techniques and hip dominant single leg movements and hip mobility stuff, Mike likes to use the hand grenade approach and attack an issue with as many tools as possible.

3. The importance of  diaphragmatic breathing and the effect it has on posture as well as core activation.

This is something that Charlie Weingroff has also talked about as well in regards to core training. Basically you should be able to do a front plank and side plank and breathe into your belly aka diaphragmatic breathing. If you can’t do this you don’t as Charlie puts it “own your core”. The standard is a 2 min front plank and  90 sec side plank.

Mike discusses the same thing regarding breathing into your belly and also talks about the negative effects chest breathing has on posture and issues with the neck, upperback and forward head postural stuff.

Proper breathing patterns is a topic that many coaches and PT’s have started to delve into and needs to be considered when dealing with comprehensive program design of the client.

If you’re a strength coach you need to have the Bullet Proof Knees and Back Seminar in your training library.

Check it out here.

Stay healthy,

Shyam