Saturday, December 30, 2006

From a PT Standpoint: Overhead Squats

This comment was posted recently:
Anonymous said...

From a PT stand point what are your views on Overhead Squats for a Pitcher in Baseball

Well, in general I try not to look at things from just an American PT stand point. If I did, I'm afraid I would never squat (overhead or otherwise) nor put anything over my head. I might be stuck in wall squat and Theraband purgatory. Being around the sport of weightlifting has been invaluable to my growth as a physical therapist.

I try to
  • be open and look at movements and exercises as a coach and athlete as well.
  • keep in mind the human body responds to stresses in many positive ways, not just negatively.
  • keep in mind the body types, postures and common movements/ROM of other cultures.
Many of my colleagues are incapable of thinking "outside the PT box" and that, in my opinion, is a shame. They fear movements, positions and efforts they themselves could never achieve and so they pooh-pooh it for everyone. And they contribute to the perpetual myths like "do not squat below 90 degrees" or "don't let your knees go over your toes" or "overhead motions are dangerous for overhead athletes."

As for the question, I don't think OHS's are inherently bad or necessary for any athlete. They can be a productive part of a program for many, as a warm up and total body mobility/stability/core control drill. If the athlete has poor ankle, hip, shoulder or thoracic spine mobility, I doubt I'd recommend them if the athlete were older. I'd pick my battles carefully. Obviously, they are not essential for anyone to become an elite baseball pitcher. Does this particular athlete need something that doing overhead squats might provide him? Can we use another implement besides a barbell?

But I do believe in all athletes, especially young overhead athletes, developing and maintaining comprehensive shoulder mobility and stability. And in my book, that includes pressing overhead with the barbell (doesn't have to be heavy and should include behind the neck work), dumbbells and headstand/handstand work.

Mr. Zhang, pictured above, certainly takes the overhead squat/squat jerk to the limits of human shoulder stability and mobility. Isn't the human body amazing?

Friday, December 29, 2006

High School Holiday Sports-O-Rama

There is no rest for the AD over the break. 16 teams in The Spartan wrestling tournament meant 12 to 14 hour days on Wednesday and Thursday. Back today for another 8 hours to host part of the MCC sophomore basketball tournament, then off to the local junior college to watch the varsity basketball team play at 8:30 this evening. Grapplers, cagers and Spartans--oh my!

And be warned future spouses of AD's, if you are the significant other of the athtletic director and you happen to be at school when the score keeper doesn't show up, you might have to dust off your trusty no. 2 and keep the score book for the next baskteball game. I felt really old when I had to ask how many time outs they have now and how you document the 30 second vs the full timeout!

Any Idiot (or group of idiots) Can Publish a Book on Weight Training

My water polo/swimming athlete let me borrow a book he received as a gift, The Ultimate Guide to Weight Training for Swimming. It contains the traditional bodybuilding/powerlifting-based schlock. The author highlights his qualifications on the back of the book:

National Bench Press Champion USAPL
Regional Power Lifting Champion USAPL
Ohio Bench Press Record Holder
First Class Certified Personal Trainer


Hey, where do I go to become a "First Class Certified Personal Trainer?"

The book has some decent basic information in it and some really bad information in it, but primarily acts as a glorified ad for a website that provides e-coaching/training services. I couldn't find anything about the company (qualifications) that provides the training services on the website, but I did find some articles by master marketing guru, Ryan Lee. Go figure. This author has very likely attended his seminars. Turns out the company has an entire line of books "Ultimate Guide to Weight Training for X" for just about all sports (25 sports at my count). Hmm, I wonder if they differ at all in content, as they are all by the same highly qualified author. And the best thing about the website is the opportunity to become an affiliate of this group, so you too can rake in the money in the lucrative "I've Got Biceps and Deltoids, So I Know How to Make You A Better Athlete" industry.

Here are some red flags if you are looking for a reference book on weight training for yourself or your kids, regardless of the sport:

1. There are 7 exercises for the biceps and 8 exercises for the triceps.

2. There are 3 different types of calf raises. (What the hell is a "reverse calf raise?)

3. The deadlift is performed with a fixed, straight bar with small plates.

4. The "power clean" is performed with a fixed, straight bar with small plates, with a thumbless grip.


5. The generic workouts in the back recommend 3 x 12 for the "power clean."

6. The book includes the exercises "21s" or "concentration curls."

7. The book includes "shrugs" as an upper body exercise.

People, it is a scary, but free world out there. How to know the real deal from the not so real deal if you're just the average parent? It is tough. We just have to educate parents and athletes the best we can and help them wade through the schlock. I suppose this idiot should get her act in gear and make a positive contribution to it all, rather than just blabbering about it on the blog.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald Ford: A Champion of Our Collective Strength & Health

I didn't vote for him in my second grade class election in 1976, but today I have gained a much better appreciation of Gerald Ford. It seems Mr. Ford was a thoughtful, considerate public servant (not to mention a great athlete and coach of various sports), who put the strength and health of his country before his own political gain and the partisan politics of his critics (on both sides).

It is fascinating to watch him testify before the House Judiciary Subcommittee with composure and candor, regarding Proclamation 4311--the only sitting president ever to testify before this committee. He took it upon himself to explain to us all why it was essential for the country to move on and get back to the real problems our nation faced in the fall of 1974.

Ford was a team player, serving in the House of Representatives for 24 years, working as House Minority Leader for eight. Maybe in his death, we can, as a country, remember his famous words and take them to heart in these trying times: "It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable.

If you get the chance, watch Mr. Ford's acceptance speech of the 2001 Profile in Courage Award. Should we all be so eloquent and sharp at 88 years old.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

What is your philosphy of health?

Is health better achieved through manipulating biology or behavior?

I always read my Wash U alumni mag (did my PT grad degree there) with a bit of a skeptical eye. Lots of bragging about the medical school and research on the cellular level vs. information about more practical arts and interventions. This latest issue had two items that caught my eye.

The first was a short blurb on current research by Jeff Gordon, Ph.D and his lab, and how they study the types of bacteria in the guts of special mice, to see if the different bacteria types absorb more or fewer calories from various foods. You know, we can't possibly be the fattest, sickest culture in the world just because of the poor choices we make. It must be the bacteria in our guts. Hmmmm....

The second blurb was on an alum, Allison Slade, who is now the principal at a charter school in the Chicago public school system. The school, Namaste Charter School, was founded in 2004 by a group of teachers who wanted to use fitness and nutrition "as an avenue to higher student achievement." In my mind, this woman and these people get it right. The kids have a "walking school bus" that brings them to school, a 15 minute "Morning Movements" class every day, and ONE HOUR of physical education every day. The teachers incorporate movement into every academic discipline and the school has a full time parent coordinator that works with parents on healthy living--cooking, nutrition, exercise. Every Friday there is a "Family Breakfast" that brings in most families for a nutritious breakfast and a workshop on a health or fitness topic.

Check out their academic philosophy and daily schedule here.

Now, which method, manipulating our biology or changing our behavior, will in the long run, bring about health to more people?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Damn Proud to Lift Like a Girl

Put this together to highlight some of the great efforts at the American Open. Okay, gotta go do some lifting myself...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Stone City: SPEC Coaches College 2006

Finally back from the ETSU Coaches College put on by Meg Stone and her husband Dr. Mike Stone. They had a great mix of high-powered speakers (including me!) for coaches of all levels. Loren Seagrave raised more than a few eyebrows with his ideas on top-speed running physiology. Dr. Jeff McBride had some interesting research and thoughts on developing max power and strength. Dr. Bill Sands spoke twice and had some great information on fatigue and the implementation of a new recovery center at the OTC in Colorado Springs. Meg did a fabulous talk on the responsibilities of being a coach and Dr. Stone spoke on training principles and theory behind strength for team and individual sports.

My favorite speakers were Clive Brewer, from SportScotland and Dr. Kyle Pierce, from LSU-Shreveport. I've known Kyle for several years now, but have never seen him give a talk. His knowledge and passion for working with young people (generosity) in weightlifting, regardless of their abilities, was great to see. Clive did a great talk on long-term athletic development and some of the methods they are trying to implement within SportScotland. Several speakers used the term "physical literacy" over the weekend. That is something I'll expand on in the blog and other work over the next year.

I also met Professor Hiroshi Hasagawa from Kyoto, Japan. It was interesting to hear about the barriers he faces in Japan trying to implement an American system of strength and conditioning. As a result, he has developed a new organization (different from the NSCA Japan)to meet the needs of the Japanese sport and coaching culture.

I want to thank them and their terrific gaggle of graduate students (Ann, the super mascot and Jenna, future pole vaulter) who did a great job of taking care of us. And I cannot forget Dr. Mike Ramsey who carted us around and spoke on implementing testing (power/strength/endurance)! We stayed at the beautiful Carnegie Hotel and never wanted for anything. I cannot wait for next year's clinic--hope to speak on more than just video in sport. It will be bigger and better as East Tennessee State has promised more financial support. The athletic community at ETSU is very lucky to have Meg and Mike. They will raise the bar as far as athletics is concerned, and they will bring a mix of theory/application of training principles and coaching education to the academic side, and share that with coaches in this country and around the world through future SPEC conferences.

Save the second weekend in December on your calender for this event! If you gotta get some silly CEUs for NSCA or USA Cycling or whomever, you won't be disappointed with this event. It is a great opportunity to learn from some of the best in the field, from all over the world.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What is it to throw "like a girl" ?

I'm working with a 16 y.o. swimmer/water polo athlete. He's a dream to work with strength-wise as he has no mobility issues. We are starting from scratch, but he will do well.

The biggest challenge we'll face is working on his throwing. This is a kid who swam and played soccer and basketball as a youth, but who never learned how to throw properly. How to describe it? Well, some have used that phrase we all know so well: throw like a girl. But from a mechanics standpoint, what does that actually mean?

For this kid, it means not having any flow of using the hip / shoulder rotational sequencing (primarily using lumbar extension), dropping the elbow significantly just prior to release, and--most importantly, no wrist flexion follow through with the arm following through. When I watched him at first, it was amazing to note that he released the ball with his wrist almost fully extended.

After two sessions, I've gotten him to get better wrist positioning and follow-through using two hands with med ball slams and supine throws. He's just starting to get some zing on the ball with two hand overhead work. Still lacks one-handed coordination, but reports his coaches and teammates are already noticing a difference as he was hitting the corners of the goal last week.

It is hard for me to imagine growing up in this country and not learning how throw a ball. But, this guy was clearly using his motor system for other skills during the prime developmental stages. I, on the other hand, am told that my aunt (in her 20's studying to be a PE teacher and playing college softball) took me at the age of 18 months and began playing catch with me. That grew to hours and hours of "toss to myself hit the ball over the fence in grandma's back yard" and eventually a full football uniform for Christmas at the age of 6 with many more hours of punting onto the roof and begging anyone I could to play catch with me. By second grade, I could throw and catch any ball that came my way. By 5th grade, I was in the gym emulating my favorite basketball players shooting jump shot after jump shot.

I was determined to never, ever let anyone tell me I shot (or threw), well, like you know what. And my motor system was being exposed to all kinds of ground-hand-eye-ball movements during prime-time nervous system development.

Surely I digress, but my point is this kid never fully developed ground-based basic throwing skills as a youngster because he participated in sport activities that didn't use those skills specifically. If you never learn it, you don't have it. His coaches are a bit skeptical, but I think there's still hope. Although he's older, and his motor system is a bit less pliable, we'll make some giant strides with some simple practice and understanding of basic throwing mechanics. This has really challenged my eye and my ability to decipher and communicate what to me, is a very easy, almost innate, motor task. It is a great exercise in whole/part/whole drill instruction. I am forced to come up with novel ways of getting this guy's body to move effectively with the ball in his hands.

(The picture is of an oil painting on canvas, titled "You Throw Like a Girl" by Pamela Murphy.)

Monday, December 11, 2006

My Brief Stint as a Lemming

Speaking of stupid human tricks....That post got me to thinking about "wall squats." A staple of personal trainers, a variation on the infamous physical therapy "wall slide", this exercise continues to stink up gyms and clinics around the country. And I'm sure young basketball players are still routinely tortured by coaches who make them do "wall sits." Any idiot can make it burn, right? Who needs a Smith Machine when you can have somebody lean back against the ball and mindlessly flex and extend their hips/knees? Don't let those knees go over those toes, Mrs. Jones!

Is there really any reason to do this versus doing a bodyweight squat? Or a sit-to-stand for frail or post-operative patients? Why the ball?

In 2000, I began working for a high-end personal training company. The organization was basically good people trying to help other good people be more fit. And although this is a topic for another blog, I made TWICE the hourly wage that I had previously made working for a prominent St. Louis hospital as a physical therapist! We had an uppity gym in a wealthy suburb of St. Louis and worked with many prominent citizens. One of the things I noticed initially was the other employees using the "wall squat" with our snazzy silver Swiss balls. Not wanting to stand out or be too aggressive (progressive?) with my older, less fit, possibly less open-minded and very wealthy clients, I began doing them too. And then one day, the light bulb went off.

What the hell was I doing?

I'd NEVER done a "wall squat" while working with Derrick, much less with myself. Was I being lazy letting my clients do something that seemed to them to be work, but really did nothing functional for their lower extremity strength, mobility and balance? So I changed my mojo and started, once again, using bodyweight squats, Vern's squat series and yes, even barbell squats. I got their center of mass over their base of support and taught them how to move their bodies--even the personal injury attorney who'd had a laminectomy. That dude now lifts 3x per week (with a barbell) on his own, plays golf and has taken his physical health back after being terrified of exercise--all after the age of 57.

So use your noggin. Don't be a lemming. Don't be an exercise monkey who is satisfied to count reps or hand people weights--in the clinic or the gym or the weight room. Make them think; teach them to work and move their minds and bodies. It's your duty.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Stupid Human Tricks

Just got a new Performance Conditioning for Cycling newsletter put out by USA Cycling and Ken Kontor. There's a little article by Tudor Bompa regarding the foolishness that now abounds with focusing on "training stabilizers" or what I like to call "stupid human tricks." Vern G. has expounded on the topic as well, so I don't want to beat a dead horse, but it really comes down to this:

If you move well, you are training the movers and the stabilizers. If you move poorly, on the ground or on/in any other medium, you are not using the stabilizer muscles appropriately.

You don't need gadgets to work stabilizers. You need to teach the body to tune out the noise. You need supervision by someone who knows what's going on and who knows how to communicate to the athlete the means by which s/he can modify the movement. The athlete must first have awareness, then alignment, then mobility and then strength. With this healthy foundation, you can then teach the nervous system to build power, agility, endurance and success.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Outstanding Performances!

Kelly and Kendrick are amazing athletes. They work their butts off. You'll see them on an Olympic team or two. I'll comment more soon. Okay, let's hear the comments on Kendricks's "splaut" jerk! Does it make your shoulders just quiver?