Archive for Shyam Soin

Which Squat Variation Should Athletes Use?

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

I remember seeing Mike Boyle at the Perform Better Summit a few years back and he turned a lot of head’s when he stated that he didn’t back squat athletes. He preferred the front squat variation to the back squat. He eventually added the front squat to the list preferring to go with single leg variations instead. A lot of coaches took issue with his view-point which was that the low back was the weakest link in the bilateral squat lift and he could get better results with heavy single leg training.

I agree with his assessment that the low back is a limiting factor and if you have someone lift a lot of weight in a single leg stance it doesn’t necessarily correlate to bilateral lifts. For example if you can get an athlete to lunge with 225lbs it doesn’t mean that he can necessarily squat 450lbs.

As strength coaches, our job is to teach movements and while there are an infinite number of ways to  improve strength, I feel that there is tremendous value in using the squat while training athletes. Ultimately, it comes down to which variation of the squat front or back, limits the amount of risk while still providing a training effect.

In my opinion, the front squat is the safer choice for the majority of athletes and while also improving movement and performance markers implications such as the vertical jump and broad jump.

back-and-front-squat

There is a great series done on Ben Bruno’s blog written by Jim Reeves comparing the front and back squat in-depth.

He analyses joint motion at the hip knee and ankle and compares the two lifts and the data might surprise you.

Joint Motion/Alignment Front Squat Back Squat
Hip Flexion 56.1 43.8
Ankle Dorsiflexion 69.2 70.4
Knee Flexion 63.4 69.0

 

 

  • There is more hip flexion in the front squat vs the back squat while reducing low back shear. Basically the front squat allows for more hip motion while maintaining a relatively safer, more upright low back position vs the back squat.
  • There is more movement in the knee-joint during the back squat than the front squat which might be contrary to what most people think. That’s interesting to take in terms of knee pain and while squatting for some with knee pain won’t be an option it seems that the front squat is the more knee friendly of the two.

Now obviously there can be discrepancies between two people and what their squat looks like but in general the front squat allows you to keep the upper back more upright and its easier on the low back because of the reduced torso angle.

Core Strength

anterior-core

One benefit of the front squat is that it hammers the anterior core and works the obliques and rectus abdominis.  The load shift to the front forces a posterior tuck of the hip to engage the abs and glutes to keep the hip neutral. Most athletes generally are weak in this area so anytime you can shift the load to the front during an exercise you should.

During the back squat, it is much harder to keep a neutral spine and it will force more compression in the low back as you arch our back. Arching the low back disengages the abs and glutes and puts you in a mechanical disadvantage and puts a lot more work in the low back instead of having the glutes and abs help out.

This isn’t to say that back squatting will lead to low back issues but keep in mind that for the majority of athletes who “live” in extension the back squat reinforces the pattern and might not be the best variation for them.

Squats and Shoulder Health

Both the front and back squat can put stress on the shoulders. The front squat can put stress on the A/C joint with the front loaded bar position while the back squat forces the client to externally rotate the humerus which can be an issue for certain training populations.

We don’t back squat our overhead athletes, mainly because of the position it puts the athletes shoulder in. Since most throwers/tennis players need external rotation range of motion and generally have more range on their dominant/throwing side, putting them in that position can cause some instability in the joint and we feel there are “safer”  options such as the front squat.

While the front squat is a great variation for throwers, if they have A/C joint issues or injuries the pressure of the bar can aggravate that. In these cases use the safety squat bar for either front or back squats. We also have harness front squat variations as well.

I’ll put a post up of some different variations we use at Zenith Strength in a future post.

There is a more research needed to fully examine which squat helps improve vertical jump and broad jumps the most. However, if the goal is to minimize risk while improving performance I feel like the front squat is still the safer option.

Conclusion

While I have talked about the benefits of front squatting this isn’t to say that I don’t like back squats. Most athletes need to work on improving movement patterns, and again the goal should be maximizing performance while minimizing risk of injury.

I think it was Charlie Weingroff who said something to the effect of how you train your athletes and how you train yourself should not be the same. Just because you may have a bias towards a particular system or a set of specific exercises doesn’t mean your athletes need to train that way. Be diligent and match exercises appropriately to athletes who can perform them with solid technique.

Minimizing risk includes appropriately pairing the squat variation with the athlete while considering multiple factors. This is why we assess athletes and while we like the front squat there still may be instances where squatting might not be the best option for them. The last thing you want to do as coach is have an athlete tweak or injure something while lifting in the weight room.

 

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

Core Stability in your Training Program

Posted in Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2011 by zenithstrength

Assessing and addressing core stability is an important part of a solid strength and conditioning program . The reason for that is the better you can control/stabilize your pelvis the better you can demonstrate force through movement. This applies to whether your goal is getting stronger and lifting heavier weights, or getting faster on the field. I have never seen an athlete who was fast and explosive who didn’t also have good core stability. Now this doesn’t mean that only thing one has to train is the core. I get asked that question a lot, and  the bottom line is that force production is the name of the game if you are an athlete. In order to get stronger, you must have stability in the right places to demonstrate force.

Here are some basic guidelines and exercises regarding programming some core stability exercises into your program.

1. Anti extension which is preventing and controlling back extension/hyperextension. This is especially important with clients who have an excessive anterior tilt and have back pain.

Some examples include front planks, ab roll out variations, body saws and loaded zercher sandbag carries

2.Anti Flexion which is preventing your low back from flexing. Consistent and repetitive flexion of the spine may potentially cause issues with disc herniations down the road.

Examples of anti flexion exercises include  hip hinging, dead lift variations and squat variations. In addition  the prone knee to chest mountain climber using sliders or the TRX is another great exercise that we use with clients who have a posterior tilt/flat back to teach them the difference between hip flexion and lumbar flexion.

3.Anti lateral flexion,which  is preventing the low back from flexing to the side.

Some examples of exercises include side plank variations, pallof presses, landmines, suite case carries using farmers walk handles.

4. Anti rotation, which is preventing rotation in the pelvis and low back.

Some great anti rotation exercises include bird dogs, renegade rows, single leg RDL’s and hip thrusts.

 

Both anti rotation and anti lateral flexion stability are important especially in rotational sport athletes like golfers baseball pitchers and tennis players. Since these athletes spend most of their time rotating its a good idea to throw in these exercises to keep the low back healthy.

You should have some combination of the core stability exercises listed. Depending on how many weight training session per week you lift,  the combinations are endless and don’t be afraid to get creative.

Eric Cressey has a great article on programming core exercises into your program.

Below, is an example of working anti extension and anti lateral flexion with the plank using a band.

You can make this more dynamic by adding two bands and pulling the athlete into lateral flexion. I originally got that idea from Jim Smith and Joe Defranco. They have a dvd coming out soon called Extreme, detailing creative ways to get stronger and faster.

Try some of these exercises out and let me know how they feel.

Train Hard!

Shyam

Lateral Quickness Drills

Posted in Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , on August 18, 2011 by zenithstrength

Lateral quickness and the ability to change direction and cut is a necessary skill in order to perform at a high level on the playing field. Unfortunately many strength training programs don’t address lateral stability and strength.

Below is a list of a  few of the exercises we use at Zenith Strength to improve lateral movement and quickness

Band Resisted Turn and Go

 

Cut stop change of direction.

 

Cross over sprint with change of direction.

Give these a try and let me know if you notice improvement with lateral quickness and cutting.

I’ll post some videos of some of our favorite  strength exercises for lateral movement that we use to supplement our speed training next week.

Train Hard!

Shyam

Overhead drill with a Twist.

Posted in Z.S. Tennis with tags , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2011 by zenithstrength

At Zenith Strength we are constantly thinking about ways to get more creative to help our athletes improve.

My brother who is a tennis coach mentioned that most players have issues with the proper footwork for the overhead.

After watching some of Eric Cressey’s med ball drills that he does with his pitchers, I came up with a variation for our tennis players.

 

In the video below, David Hsu is working on his cross over step as it relates to the overhead, drops back and throws a weighted 12oz med ball to work strengthening and  his motion and developing more force. The ball weighs slightly more than the average tennis racket is about the size of a baseball. You can get these at power-systems

We generally do this after some band resisted cross over steps to take advantage of the neuro muscular stimulus the band tension provides.

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