Archive for Zenithstrength

Are You Recovering From Your Training?

Posted in Z.S. Basketball Training, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , on April 18, 2013 by zenithstrength

intensity

Recovery seems to be the most under utilized aspect of training programs. Working with youth athletes in today’s reality means that most kids are balancing their schedules between homework, practice, training and maintaining some form of social life. In addition, with the explosion of cross fit and its many spin offs,  it seems that everyone feels they need to do more with their training with the attitude of having to “kill” yourself each session to feel like you got a productive workout.

And here’s the news flash the may irk a lot of peeps out there.  Going balls to the walls every training session will hinder your long-term progress. If you’re an athlete looking to get stronger or bigger and your coach keeps running you to the ground in practice every day with liners or suicides up the wazoo, he is making it that much harder for you to achieve your goals.

I want to be clear on this. I’m not saying that hard work is bad. You have to bust your butt in the gym with focus and purpose to achieve results. But, there is a difference between training to improve sports performance and using the session to demonstrate your performance abilities. Improving sports performance involves varying intensities throughout the week, and month and takes time and patience to see the results. The second involves maxing out, either with weights, jumps or an extremely taxing workout that drains the nervous system and leaves you feeling wiped out.

In addition to poorly planned training sessions, there are a lot of showcase camps that are sabotaging these kids potential to get better by instilling the notion that they need to play their sports 7 days a week year round to get a division one scholarship.

This is the reality that strength coaches are dealing with at the high school and middle school level.  Kids specialize early and no longer have off seasons to work on getting stronger and improving for their sport. A lot of quality training occurs in the off-season, not while someone is playing on 3 AAU teams after finishing up the high school season. As a result, the training program has to be modified if the parents are unwilling to compromise for the betterment of their children.

Monitoring Training Stress

The focus needs to be on educating parents and coaches on proper ways to improve athletes without grinding their nervous systems to a pulp. I had the opportunity to talk with Mark Uyeyama who is the strength coach of my favorite NFL team the 49ers, and he mentioned that he foresees a paradigm shift in the strength and conditioning towards a more holistic approach, integrating and tracking recovery instead of just blasting out more squats, deadlifts and plyos. This definitely caught my attention as we have slowly been shifting our approach and integrating different methods such as breathing techniques in our sessions.

These recovery techniques are no longer just available for professional athletes. HRV or heart rate variability is technology that is available to the amateur athlete to monitor stress and recovery. Here’s an article talking about HRV as well as why pro athletes recover better than average joes.

Joel Jamieson is the man when it comes to conditioning, and he originally brought the concept of recovery and the ability to monitor it to my attention with his HRV system. Here’s a great post by Joel on recovery and maintaining balance between the sympathetic and para sympathetic nervous system.

Jaguar

Stress is one of the big culprits for nervous system burnout and over reaching and needs to be managed. Essentially everything you do will evoke a stress response. Thoughts of worry, anxiety, intense training sessions, reacting to crazy drivers on the road, studying for a big test, relationship troubles,  all have an effect on the body’s nervous system, specifically the sympathetic nervous system. The great thing about HRV is that you can monitor how your body responds and modify your training session accordingly. This is huge in regards to the information you have at your disposal and no longer having to go on feel as to whether you should go lighter or even take a day off.

Mark Uyeyama had a great analogy when he talked about managing the training process for his pro athletes.  Imagine  you have a cup and it fills up with everything you do that involves mental or physical stress, such as training, sports practice, studying, etc. Throw all that in the cup but the key is to make sure the cup never over flows. That folks is managing the training process. Making sure the cup never over flows is an art, and involves tracking and knowing how your athletes are feeling as is, getting improvements of your athletes without working them to them point that they stop making gains.

Summary

Whether you’re an athlete looking to get a division 1 scholarship or someone who trains and plays basketball a few days a week, you should strongly consider using HRV to monitor your training and recovery. As the paradigm shifts towards integrating more holistic approaches with training, hopefully we as strength coaches, can also have an effect on the health implications related to stress that go beyond the scope of this article.

SS

Random Thoughts on the Functional Movement Screen

Posted in Athlete's Accomplishments, Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , on February 25, 2013 by zenithstrength

fms1

This past weekend we hosted the Functional Movement Screen level one certification at our facility. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the FMS it was created by Gray Cook and Lee Burton as a way to score and grade movement and predict potential injuries based on the score. You can check out more info here.

A nice analogy that I got from Gray Cook regarding the FMS and how it works as a movement screen is thinking about going to the doctor’s office for a health screen and being told that you have high blood pressure without experiencing any health issues. Having high blood pressure doesn’t mean you’re going to die, but we now know that having high blood pressure for an extended amount of time increases the risk of stroke and other ailments. The FMS works in similar way with regards to screening movement. A score below 14 or obvious asymmetries that aren’t addressed doesn’t mean you will get injured tomorrow but poor movement patterns combined with repetition is the perfect storm for an injury waiting to happen.
There are 7 tests used in the FMS.

FMS hurdle step

1.Overhead Squat

2.Hurdle Step

3.Inline Lunge

4.Shoulder mobility

5.ASLR

6.Trunk Stability

7.Rotary Stability

Certain tests will be skewed given the population that you work with. For example most overhead athletes with probably exhibit limited internal rotation with their dominant hand and have a limited score on the shoulder mobility.

Internal rotation

 

How the scapula sits on the rib cage will also affect this test.

Trunk stability can be affected by one’s upper body strength levels. But overall, you have a scoring system to see if clients improve over time.
Now there are definitely two sides of the coin on methodology of the FMS as people will question if the FMS is the only screen you need to perform. There is more research coming out on the effectiveness of the screen but overall I like the fact than coaches have a tool to grade movement and it definitely benefits your clients to incorporate the FMS into your assessment protocol.

 
I still feel you need to perform static assessments on athletes and clients, as there are limitations to the FMS tests but when you combine the two you get a very good picture of what the athlete needs to design a program geared towards sports performance.

Shyam

Friday workout with Sled Drags and Farmers Carries

Posted in Z.S. Tennis, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , on July 23, 2012 by zenithstrength

 

Farmers walks are a fantastic exercise to build grip strength as well as core strength and upper body strength.

Here’s some video of our training session using sled drags and farmers walks.

Bill Hartman has a great article on corrective carries using farmers walks and suitcase carries.

I like to use farmers carries in this case to teach proper core stabilization keeping the ribs down and the abs braced.

In addition, holding the weights also helps integrate rotator cuff stabilization as the athlete needs to have the shoulder blades in the proper position while walking. I like to cue our athletes to stay tall and keep the shoulders down. Once everything looks good, you want to load the weight heavy enough so they can still keep the proper form.

We also have the knee drive variation from the video (see 1:17). These are great to teach hip separation for sprinting and also hip flexion without rounding the low back. The kettlebells engage the core and create stiffness and prevent lumbar flexion and extension.
Cue the athlete to get tall which should help clean up the movement.

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

SS

 

 

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.

Shyam

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.

SS

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