Monday, July 31, 2006

Test Day #1: Sah-weet, Coach!

I decided to do some testing before AJ enters the cross country season. We'll do some additional testing on Wednesday before she leaves for vacation. Here's the data so far:



ST Goal

LT Goal

10 RM Squat

54% BW*

50% BW

75% BW

5 RM Front Squat


50% BW

75% BW

5 RM Press

28% BW

33% BW

33% BW

Single Leg Squat

20 R/L

20 x 3 R/L

20 x 5 R/L

Push Ups




Incline Pull Ups




Pull Ups




Prone Plank

90 seconds

120 seconds

120 sec x 3

Side Plank

30 seconds

45 seconds

45 sec x 3

3 kg Med Ball Put








* exceeded goal already!

Even better--AJ tells me she's noticing her R valgus/R hip IR tendency is decreasing in frequency with her running. She senses it when she fatigues--and knows she needs to attend to it and correct it. Her R hip control is improving with her back squats. We will nurture that strength throughout the CC season and go full-tilt in the winter.

She's come a long way in only 6 weeks @ 3 x week. The girl ran TWICE yesterday--didn't do anything silly in the heat--but knows she needs to acclimate herself for the coming season. Her goal for the season is a sub-20 minute 5k. Her best is right at 21 minutes right now. I'll bet she does it. This kid is smart and determined.

Any suggestions for further testing or different goals? Oh yeah, this athlete WILL NOT be spoiled EVER by bench pressing--at least under my watch. She will incline and press and handstand and push up; and her scapulothoracic mechanics, glenohumeral joint and posture will be the better for it.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Riding in a Furnace

Convinced myself to get out on the bike. It was noon. It was 98 degrees and felt like 98 percent humdity. You could cut the air with a knife. This ride was going to be much like rides I took on the road in the picture. Nothing like rides through the Florida swamps to acclimate one to a sizzling July in St. Louis. Only this ride included a few hills and more traffic.

The ride was good. It was challenging physically and mentally. Took an unconventional route that brought me to a good oasis at 1 hour. I was ready--really ready--to refill my water at the convenience store. Had a slight headache and figured I was probably a bit dehydrated at the start of the ride. Bought a--get this--64 oz cup of ice water from the soda fountain for 25 cents. Yes, they sell 64 oz styrofoam beverage buckets now.

I sat in the shade of the store canopy and doused myself with the leftover water from my second bottle. Then, feeling like Baby Huey, I took the 64 oz cup in both hands and relished the ice water. Had to hold the damn thing with BOTH hands! I filled up my two hot plastic bottles with the ice water and got back on the bike. The 30 minute cruise home felt good. What a difference 10 minutes in the shade makes, along with the head and torso cooled with water internally and externally.

The human body can do marvelous things, if cared for properly. I kept my head and didn't do anything stupid; didn't try to prove anything to myself or anyone else.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Building Foundations: Part Three

Today was another good workout! I experimented with increasing the weight for the hexbar DL and discovered we need to keep the weight a bit lower that I initially figured for today. Just a 10 lb decrease in weight (along with a 2" or so boost in height for the bar, due to her long legs) enabled AJ to keep perfect form for sets of 10 reps. I am incredibly picky about lumbar spine mechanics and control with young athletes. It only takes a few degrees of lumbar spine flexion to become a disaster, so we made two adjustments and her form became perfect.

I cued her constantly during every rep to not relax at the bottom and keep her chest tall and butt down--along with keep the arms straight. Many like to bend the arms with this exercise and it takes a bit to get some to use the arms as a passive "holder" of the weight. This exercise is about PUSHING the weight up with the legs, not picking the weight up with the upper extremities.

I am a big fan of 45 degree hip extension work. The average person and athlete need to establish lumbar spine/pelvic control and dissociation with squat and "waiter's bow" movements. The 45 degree apparatus assists in learning the "waiter's bow" movement and prepares one for more advanced movements, such as the Good Morning or SLDL (and many of the exercises in the Bosch & Klomp "Running" text).

It is less aggressive than the traditional "hyper" bench; and this bench is very adjustable for short/tall people. The key is to set the pads low so the pelvis is free to move. The torso is locked on the pelvis and this exercise involves movement at the hip only! I often cue people to "release the hamstrings" and "lead with the hips" in order to tease out lumbar flexion/extension at the end ranges of the movement.

AJ is really working on her upper body strength. She demonstrated improvement with her incline DB presses today. We still need to work on elbow position with this exercise, but overall, I am confident%

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Building Foundations: More Improvement!

Well, today's session was great--for many reasons.

1) AJ graduated to the blue band. There are many people in the St. Louis area who rue the day they met me (&Vern's) blue band! With sidestepping, her R hip IR/valgus movement is very much improved. I have seen grown men cower at the blue band.

2) AJ completed 5 x 5 in the front squat. This was her first time to front squat and she did fabulously! It was interesting to note that her form is actually better with the front squat; the R hip extensor/ER weakness is almost absent. She front squats easily what she back squats right now. And she can FEEL the difference! This is key. We have a new exercise and have really discovered just how quad dominant AJ is.

3. Pressing and push ups continue to improve. AJ proudly told me that someone COMPLIMENTED her on her form at the Y on Monday. Yes!

4. Squat jumps (Burn with Vern Jr. set of 20 bw squats/6 squat jumps) are looking much more fluid. She has almost perfect control of the R LE with landing and take-off. AJ still needs to learn to move faster, but the progress is great.

5. I forgot to mention my experiment last week with hex bar DLs. It was fascinated to watch AJ deadlift 20 lbs more (for a set of 8) than she squats. I was fascinated by the ease with which she did this initially; but it all made sense when she reminded me that she cared for her sister on a daily basis and has to do dependent transfers all the time! Talk about functional strength! We will use hex bar DLs quite often I think, as she is comfortable with them and I think it will help her gain confidence with other squat techniques--not to mention gain terrific all-around strength.

That's today's report. She's setting PRs in pushups almost every workout. We'll keep expanding her library of exercises so that when the season comes, she is armed with a good variety of basic movements. I hope to see her 1x/wk and have her working 2-3x/wk on her own, as her competition schedule allows. If only my DeSmet guys worked so diligently....

Monday, July 24, 2006

Building Foundations: You Go Girl!

I'm working with a young, female cross country runner--call her AJ--who is preparing for her junior year in high school. My job is work on basic running mechanics (relaxing the upper body, more efficient arm swing) and building a foundation of strength.

AJ is about 5' 7" and 115 lbs. She's a 12:30ish two-miler. Born and built to go long; needs to get stronger and learn how to find and express power when necessary. She's never lifted or done any supervised jumping. We're working with some R sided (hip/core/shoulder girdle) weakness. She's got a mellow, quiet--but determined--personality. My job is also to light a bit of a fire and bring out confidence in her ability to be faster and stronger.

So far, our 3x/wk workouts have been great. We are learning to train; gaining confidence; building neuromuscular coordination and expressing torso stability while learning good lower extremity mechanics with squats. She's learning to control R hip IR/knee valgus movements with landing mechanics. While I was on vacation, AJ was diligent with her program and I returned to find improved pressing (overhead & push up). This young athlete was even using a mirror at home to make sure her mechanics were perfect with push ups.

She's gaining confidence, even though her teammates have questioned her resistance training. "Aren't you afraid of getting bulky?" they ask. She just laughs. I'm so proud of her. She understands it takes hard work, attention to detail and persistence. Such a joy to work with at all times.

I can't wait to see her progress over the next two years.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The IronMaven's Training Hall

At the behest of Bull Ternus, I've posted a few more pics of the IronMaven Training Hall. Basement location; must be 5'9" or less to press or jerk with the bumpers. Training equipment includes:

1. Pulling stands
2. Power rack (pullups, straigh arm pulldowns, incline pullups)
3. York Women's Certified Comp bar
4. Full set of York black rubber bumpers in kg (25, 20, 15, 10) plus a set of 10 lb plates
5. Hex bar (a favorite!)
6. Powerblock DBs (5-45 lbs)
7. Rebounder tramp with about twelve med balls ranging from 1kg to 8kg in size
8. Various weightlifting and cycling motivational posters, pics and sayings
9. Agility ladders, hurdles, foam rollers, bands for glute med work
10. 45 deg extension apparatus in my exam office
11. Stool for killer stool hand walks
12. Treadmill (for the hubby)
13. Adjustable bench for incline presses
14. Physioball

How many female physical therapists have their own full bumper set and bar at home--and actually know how to use it???? It's my dream gym come true; a little retreat from the world. Painted and industrially carpeted by yours truly. Knocked out a closet to make it about 11 x 17 total, so we could get the treadmill for the husband. Make him squat too, along with my patients and clients. No excuses. Just lift. Get some. Right, Bull? Ooh rah!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Lower Abs, Lower Schmabs...

My recent post on how my fellow physical therapists focus on "magic muscles" and fear full ROM work at the knee and shoulder, reminded me of a humorous encounter I had a few months ago with some first year Wash U DPT students. My friend Cindi works at Wash U, coordinating research in diet & exercise and has students who help with their studies. When the students found out I was an alum, the first words out of their mouths were:

"What are your low abs?"

I said, "Why they are 5/5 of course!" 5/5 in physical therapy-ese means normal strength.

I stifled a laugh. They had obviously just been introduced to Shirley Sahrmann's low ab testing and progression and they were giddy with the challenge it presented. Now, I have learned much from Shirley and I respect her immensely; but to be perfectly honest, I have not done a low abdominal test on ANYONE in probably 4-5 years. Why? In my mind, back patients--and really anyone--need HIP/LUMBAR SPINE & TOTA BODY AWARENESS and LOWER EXTREMITY FLEXIBILITY with squatting/sit-to-stand type movements a hell of a lot more than they need to zero in on some deep abdominal muscle contractions.

Yes, they need to "brace"--but they need to learn to do it while they are moving in the context of gravity. They need to learn how to move. MOVE. CREATE GROUND-BASED FORCES AND ATTENUATE THEM. Bend their hips, knees and ankles without flexing their spine as they heave themselves about in their daily activities. Learning how to move and gaining lower extremity flexibility is much more protective for back health than simply focusing on your TA or your external obiques.

It is not just about one muscle group. Not even the hip abductors. It is about knowing your body and moving well.

Recently, I watched a person who is under the care of a prominent Wash U therapist. Back pain, cortisone shots--the whole nine yards. I happen to be working with this person's spouse on strength & conditioning stuff. Do you know what I saw? I watched the back pain patient, who was obviously intimidated by some of the simple walking lunges and other work the spouse was doing, use the WORST BODY MECHANICS IN THE WORLD to pick something up off the floor. She used ALL LUMBAR FLEXION to stoop down.

It killed me. Here was this person who was suffering from back pain--getting care from one of the top rated medical and physical therapy institutions in the country--and not one damn health care professional had taught her how to move so she can protect her back from further injury and strengthen/mobilize the structures around it.

Low abs, low schmabs. Know your ENTIRE body. Move well--on your feet, within the context of gravity. Be strong.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Sport TV Nirvana?

Anybody besides me and my husband having a blast watching the Only Lance Network tonight? First it is Tour de France highlights/preview of tomorrow's epic stage, and now they are showing the Paris stop of the IAAF Golden League series?

I mean, how often do we get to see world class javelin throwers in our US homes? They must be getting the Eurosport or BBC feed, but I cannot tell. Nice to have somebody besides Dwight Stones doing commentary too.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Thoughts from the NSCA

Back from the NSCA meeting in DC. For me personally, this was a great experience. I met and spoke with, for the first time, many wonderful people. I found a great friend and mentor in Meg Stone. I reconnected with many others and facilitated a great meeting of the minds with Scott Moody of the CAP program ( in Overland Park, KS and Dr. Jerry Mayhew of Truman State. These people will generate some great new data on real world athletic development. They will contribute to the betterment of all coaches and athletes with their work.

But, my bullshitake meter has also been more finely tuned—just sit in the main hotel bar for a few evenings and you’ll get an eye and earful of schmooze—and then head to the exhibit hall for some additional tuning.
These types of meetings are good to learn to wade through the BS and see what is genuine.

I found no earth-shattering new thoughts or products. But, I also did not get to as many talks as I wanted. I spent more time in the exhibit hall than I thought I would. Here are some my thoughts:

1. The BS meter went off in front of the ALL THAT (yes, it is ALL THAT and you will be ALL THAT if you drink this) recovery drink booth. Looked much like the “GO JUICE” of several years ago. These people are playing on the new ‘milk is a great recovery aid” popular press and research. As for me, most of you know what I think of dairy. I did not taste it, but this stuff has CREAM listed in the first few ingredients. Did a brief Google but could not find any info on the company or who is backing it. A prominent M-F speaker seemed to be in the booth promoting this product.

2. Many of my physical therapy colleagues are still in the dark. I had several discussions with people who were frustrated by PT speakers who focus on “magic muscles” and “drawing in” and continuing to promote the “squatting is bad for your knees if you go to low” mantra. This is one of my pet peeves, professionally. Most PTs have never, ever worked with athletes and they do not normally work with healthy people. The are fixated upon FEAR of TOO MUCH and they have a completely absurd idea of what type of INTENSITY, OVERLOAD, PROGRESSION can/should be safely and effectively used in all types of humans. They FEAR full human ROM, overhead and with the lower extremity. It is completely absurd and by doing all of this “prehab” crap, they actually feed into the problems they believe they are preventing.

3. The NSCA’s focus on growth—they now claim over 30,000 members—has severely diluted the quality of the presenters and derailed focus on athletic development. Attendance at this show was LOW; it was expensive for attendees and exhibitors. Personal trainers, PTs, ATCs and PhDs dominated the majority of the crowd, the awards and the board. There are more women on the board, but they are from these fields; women who truly work in athletic development are MIA. It will be interesting to see how the hiring of Boyd Epley affects things, if at all. Lee Brown is the new President. He promises good things. We’ll see if anything changes.

More as I have the chance.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Thoughts after Park City and Before the NSCA

Had a great time in the wonderfully dry state of Utah; for some reason, the lack of humidity makes me (at least) much more likely to get myself outside and ride--and even run. Did some fabulous hill sprints up the massive stairways connecting streets in Old Town.

Park City is heaven for athletes, summer and winter. And we could get around without a car for 6 days. We biked and hiked all over.

Seeing the professional mountain bikers was great. Wish I would've gone over to the Olympic Ski Jump Park and watched the US Ski Jump Team's developmental camp for girls 6-17. Yep, chicks teaching little chicks how to ski jump. 4 day camp for $25 total; sponsored by the National Sports Foundation.

Later today I leave for Washington DC and (Darth Vader theme) the NSCA National Convention--collecting my CEUs (yes I've been assimilated by the s&c Borg and have not had the balls to drop it; dropped the CPT several years ago) and joining the Dartfishes for a bit of exhibition mania. (Anybody need a Dartfish lanyard? :-) Haven't been since 2000 or so. I'll get to see all of the legendary gurus, bozos and fabulous toys up close and personal. Did you see where Boyd Epley was hired by the NSCA to a special position? Drop me a line if there's anyone or anything you think I should pay particular attention to.

I'll have my camera along and hope to capture some great images. The exhibit hall will be full of buffed out coaches and personal trainers. Will the MetRx ladies be in attendance? Hopefully I can wade through the BS, the samples of whey protein and recovery drinks, to report on the good, bad and the ugly. Drop me an email if there is anything you'd like me to check out.

Now I must get on the bike. Today is the first mountain stage. The Tour will be ripped apart. Floyd has avascular necrosis in his injured hip. Look for Cadel Evans to make his presence known. I love July.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

New Challenges: Wasatch Grind

New physical and mental challenges are good for the soul. These are pictures from our epic 5+ hour mountain bike ride on the Mid-Mountain Trail in Park City. Rain the night before made early switchbacks almost impossible as we made the climb from 7000 to 8500 ft. Our lungs heaved. Once at 8500, this blue (intermediate) level trail seemed to be more technical than we roadies desired. Pretty interesting to feel the physical and mental strain of navigating rocky single track on the side of a mountain--forearms burning on descents as you tell yourself to pick a line and stay confident. Very scary and overwhelming at times. Exhilarating at others.

We finally reached the Red Pine Lodge gondola and decided our minds and bodies had no more to give to the mountain. Imagine our relief when Tom, the gondola guy, said we could take the gondola back into The Canyons at no charge. Brian, Cindi, Kevin and I hopped in and enjoyed the view and the ride back down.

My obliques are sore. I have blisters from walking what seems like 2 miles up the muddy switchbacks and down the intense rocky descents. But the experience was great; and I didn't fall over, so that was good. Makes me respect the abilities of the mountain biker so much. Pretty humbling when a guy who, and I'm not kidding, looks like Wilfred Brimley, spins easily past you up the rocky incline like it is no big deal. Their fitness and bike handling skills completely baffle me.

More tomorrow, but we'll take it easy or maybe not. Might head to Deer Valley and watch the NORBA race. Hey, if you haven't tasted your own blood yet, you aren't working hard enough. Right Cindi?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Mentors in Athletic Development/S&C Field

Okay, sports fans, I read a great piece by Pamela Stewart Slim of "Escape from the Cubicle Nation" blog. This particular post discusses finding mentors. Just wondering, very early on a Saturday morning, if any of you feel there are some particularly special mentors out there in the athletic development / strength & conditioning world?

I know Vern Gambetta has posted on some of his favorite sport coaching mentors. I know Vern has offered to mentor others in the field and understands there is a need to provide mentorship. Do we have any other mentors in this "professional field"? Or are there now just "gurus" out to make a buck?