Wednesday, February 28, 2007

How the Communists Activate The Transverse Abdominis

Pretty hard core, eh? Get it--hard CORE--okay, it's late. Wait, I don't see the little inflatable cuff under the lumbar spine to evaluate spinal movement.

No, really, check out Dan Hwang's Flickr photostream to peer into some of the Chinese weightlifting training halls. It is simply fascinating to see inside another culture and a sport that gets no press in this country. I think you'll be amazed at how much flexiblity the weightlifters have and work toward, almost gymanstic-like. Dan also has some great historical photos and comments about photos to highlight Chinese training philosophy. The 2008 Olympics in Beijing will be the penultimate test for Chinese athletics. They are intent on winning in every sport, and weightlifting is no exception. You'll see some of the monster heavyweight lifters they are growing in Dan's Flickr collection. Right now they dominate the lighter classes, but watch out.

Hopefully I will get to meet a couple of them this weekend. Several lifters and coaches will be in Columbus for the Arnold for exhibition. I'll try to take some pics if I can get near them if and when they train.

Tight ITBs, neutral spines and band routines--Oh my!

Well, I've been AWOL from my blog, but that doesn't mean I haven't been watching the Functional Path posts and comments. As usual, I'm in Vern's court on issues regarding the neutral spine stuff and using the band.

Most PTs (and I feel I can speak to this issue here, being a card-carrying offender of the profession) lack a bit of perspective with regard to athletic movement. They tend to discourage people to move at all and don't tend to be paragons of fitness and health themselves. And if they haven't been around elite athletes from many disciplines, they don't really have a perspective on what the body can take and how it really does respond to appropriately applied stressors in a fabulous way.

The body needs a variety of movement to create and maintain strength and mobility. We cannot move perfectly all the time. That doesn't mean I don't harp on people about good mechanics with lifting! We can teach ourselves more efficient ways to move for performance and health. I am of the ilk that this doesn't happen best in supine; we can evaluate contributors to poor movement in non-weightbearing positions, but you must also evaluate and train in the context of weight-bearing and gravity. That's how to teach systems (and it is a SYSTEM) to coordinate and stabilize and move well.

Anyway, I made a little commentary on the subject. It shows the good, the bad and the ugly about movement & training, with a particular emphasis on that crazy human spine. See what you think. In the end, it is all about function and teaching people better and best practices, given their particular tasks.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The 2007 Arnold Weightlifting Championships

I'll be working at The Arnold this year. I've never been and heard it is quite an event, that although it contains some of the "freak" that exists in the world of strength sports, it also hosts of the legends of strength. I mean, who wouldn't want to at least see Jack LaLanne in person? As for USA weightlifters, the Arnonld Weightlifting Championships act as a secondary qualifier for the 2007 Pan Am and World Championships (important qualifiers for the 2008 Olympics).

The two lifters in the video are Sarah Davis (58 kg) and Zach Schulender (105+ kg). Hopefully they (and many others) will build upon their fabulous performances at the American Open in December and move even higher in the top 20 next Friday in Columbus.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

An Ode To Free Weights

(Wrote this for the Feb issue of the Organic Athlete Member Newsletter. Thought I'd share it here too, even though I'm preachin' to the choir...)

Free weights, in their beauty and simplicity, require an intellectual and neuromuscular investment. You must learn how to use them, and practice using them properly. The body, the free weight, and gravity all have to work together. That doesn’t make free weights inherently more dangerous; it just means you need a little more information to use them appropriately.

Learning how to move and then attending to what you've learned is the foundation of physical health, of performing well, and preventing many injuries. Over the long run, is it really safer and better for you to develop a little mindless hypertrophy using machines, or is it better to learn how to control your center of mass as you transfer power from your legs to your upper body?

From a function and performance standpoint, free weights are for those who want to invest the time and effort to take their training to the highest and most productive level. It is no different than learning to eat well; dedication to your goal will pay off. And the purchase of a few key free weights can mean the freedom to workout at home without the expense and inconvenience of a commercial gym. The barbell, the dumbbell, the medicine ball, and the physioball are your friends. Don’t let a bad experience in a commercial gym or the misguided fears of “bulking up” or getting injured keep you from mastering your health and performance with free weights.

I encourage and offer ( coaches and athletes the opportunity to see me for a movement screening evaluation and then a session or two of exercise instruction and introductory program planning. This time allows me to find and address any mobility limitations, make sure body mechanics are sound, and answer questions. Check your local bike shops, running centers, and online resources for referrals to credentialed people (physical therapists, athletic trainers, or personal trainers) who are familiar with the demands of your sport and meet with her or him in person. It will be a great investment in your performance and health!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Athlete Interview: Aimee Anaya

  1. Name? Aimee Anaya
  2. Age? Kids? Job? I just turned the eminent age of 30. I was really excited all of my 29th year to turn 30. Like wow! 30! I’m so over my twenties, this will be great! But as the dooming deadline of January 11th approached, I wanted to take all that excitement back. Now, I’m just going to stay at 30 for the next 30 years. I no longer believe it is necessary to observe birthdays. I do have a child. My precious kiddo. Her name is Jade and she is now the grown-up age of 5. She recently has become quiet interested in lifting. She knows the basic movements of a snatch and a jerk, and can perform them with a PVC pipe and .5 kg plates on each end! She is becoming increasingly interested in watching all the lifters in our gym. She is currently in gymnastics. She likes it because of the movie Stick It, I like it because of the fundamental strength she is going to obtain for lifting. She hears us talk of the Olympics often, and just yesterday she asked me “Momma? When am I going to the Olympics for Gymnastics?”. Ha! That’s my kid!
I currently work a full time job at a casino (Monday-Friday 9 to 5). I am an assistant to a Vice President of Food & Beverage and Entertainment. I have recently determined that it is in best interest as an athlete to start training twice a day, so I have decided to leave my position and start serving again. I got a job at a really nice restaurant in Wine Country, and I am able to work part time so that I can focus on my training and have more time with Jade.
  1. Weight class? In the past 6 months I have been eating my way up to the 69 kg class from the 63’s. Gaining weight is not easy for me. I fight to waver around 66 – 67 kg. I am almost there!
  2. When did you start lifting and why? Why did you stop? I started lifting in 1996, around August. I was playing on a summer volleyball team and the volleyball coach sent me to Coach Burgener to gain strength. At the time, I was not so sure about it, because I had never strength trained in any kind of way. I thought I was going to be walking into a gym to hop on some machines. It all happened very quickly, and I can’t remember all the details. I just know that one day I was playing volleyball, and the next I was learning to snatch of the blocks. I started lifting everyday, and I quit Volleyball. About 4 months later I went to the American Open, and got to go to the OTC for the Junior training camp. So, I decided to stick with weightlifting and not pursue volleyball or track in college.

I stopped weightlifting in 2000 for absolutely no good reason. I hate to say that, but it is true. I was just selfish, and I wanted to go home. I was living at the OTC at that time - I didn’t realize then what an amazing opportunity had been given to me. I had seen all of these astonishing athletes who were devoting their lives to their sport. Some had lived there for years. I was worried that if weightlifting were taken from me, what would I have? I didn’t have a college education, and I don’t really have any family support, and it just scared me, I think. So I left the OTC, stopped training and dove into school. I didn’t step foot into a gym for 6 years. Now that I am training again (since November, ‘05), I realize the mistake that I made. I’m older and I have matured. I recognize what I lost, and what I have to gain. I am a better weightlifter now. I am stronger, I am mentally stronger, I have learned how to focus, and I have found a drive that I have never before experienced in my life. I have a passion and an extreme obsession for my sport now. I didn’t have that before. I have no regrets- I am grateful that I made that mistake so many years ago. Ultimately it has made me better.

  1. Did you play other sports? In high school I played basketball, volleyball, and I ran track. I wish I knew then what I know now in regards to strength training. We never went into a weight room!
  2. What are your goals with lifting? Where do you train currently and with whom? I have many goals for lifting. Most importantly to train healthy and strong for as long as I can. To continue to make gains and make my rise to the top. To have an exceedingly amazing come back. To stand on as many medal stands as I can. Every athlete wants to become an Olympian, my 5 year-old wants to be an Olympian. I want to be an Olympian. I just want to continue to beat my records and myself. If that is enough to make it to the top, then I am on the right track.

I train in my coach’s gym in Bonsall, California. I absolutely love it. He has four platforms in his garage, and we have a great little team. We are each other’s support everyday. My coach is Mike Burgener (www.mikesgym,org), Senior International Coach. In my opinion, he is the best coach in the United States. I have had many coaches across many disciplines in my life, and none compare to him. His knowledge and strength, along with his ability to understand me thoroughly, amazes me. We are very, very close- we have a great relationship. He is a father to me; a pure level of strength, trust and respect that I have never experienced with another person.

My boyfriend, Greg Everett ( is also very involved in my training, nutrition, and recovery. He is an inimitable to my weightlifting, and has become a huge asset to our team. Greg’s level and degree of knowledge is astounding, and he has brought so much to the table. My coach has welcomed and entrusted Greg as an assistant to my training, which has brought me both contentment and motivation. He is amazing support and encouragement for me, and I am a better lifter because of him.

  1. Ever had any major injuries from lifting? I think every injury is major if it takes you away from training. Because of this I try and do everything I can to ensure I get the best out of my recovery. I focus on my sleep, my eating, and my physical therapy. I have an athletic trainer who is simply amazing. He does a ton of soft tissue, this and that, etc. for every ache and pain I have. Greg has vigorously introduced me to stretching, cold pools, icing, and foam rolling- all which I hate, but it is still fantastic for my training. I hurt my wrist about 8 months ago and didn’t say anything to anybody. I was afraid that my Coach wouldn’t allow me to train on it, so I worked through the pain. I will never do that again. The only result from such stupidity is an increase of the injury and a longer healing process. I have learned my lesson that the best way to prevent a major injury is by recognizing pains in your body, and taking care of them.
  2. Best snatch, clean & jerk, front squat, back squat, push press? My best snatch is 88kg, my best clean & jerk is 108 kg. My clean is a lot stronger than my jerk. But this month I found my jerk, so watch out! I haven’t maxed out in quite some time in the other lifts, but my standing pr’s are: front squat- 130, back squat- 155, press- no idea, push press- around 86- 90kg (I can snatch push press 90kg).
  3. Any advice for women who are afraid to weight train or do weightlifting? First and foremost… to not believe the common misconception that you have to be gargantuan to be successful. You can still be beautiful and sexy and a lovely little lady even though you weight train. I believe that because weightlifting is such an unrecognized sport, women think of bodybuilders when they hear the word weightlifting. They see in their heads these muscled out girls in a bikini, and they automatically say heck no! Further, there are so many ridiculous exercise fads and diets out there that women are merely unguided and uneducated when it comes to weight training. Women have to see society’s version of beautiful through airbrushed, skinny, perfect looking models portrayed in the media. My advice is to not be afraid to be strong. Strength is just as beautiful. Right?
  4. What will you do after lifting? Lift. Haha! No… I am currently getting my Masters degree in Forensics. I will graduate in December of 2007, and I am going to start applying to PhD programs for Psychology this summer. I want to work for the FBI. And of course I will coach. I’d love to take over my coach’s kids, and Jade will be lifting then I’m sure. I will never walk away (completely) from lifting again. It is me.
Please check out Aimee's website:

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Study Design Issues: Hormone Status and Injuries in Women

Check out this Pubmed summary of a 2002 study from The Journal of Athletic Training that looked at ACL injuries and menstrual status. The commentary section highlights problematic issues of data collection and correlation in these types of studies. I think it would be helpful if major media outlets were a little more careful in the headlines they publish. One small study does not a fact make. However, publicity of such studies can help support unfounded stereotypes or myths that affect society in subtle ways.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Hormonal Hogwash

So I get this headline from the BBC this evening (link to the full article). It got my dander up:
Menstrual cycle injury risk link
Women are more likely to injure themselves at specific times in their menstrual cycle, research suggests.

London's Portland Hospital surveyed 1,000 osteopaths, and studied 17 women with a regular menstrual cycle.

The study suggests the risk of injury is linked to fluctuating hormone levels which affect the muscles and ligaments.

Both tissues appear to be vulnerable midway through the menstrual cycle, while the ligaments are at greater risk at the end.

This is significant for women everywhere who can plan their schedules around their cycles and avoid potentially painful injuries
Rebecca Morrison
British School of Osteopathy

Quick ladies! Grab your calendar and start plotting the days you need to lie still in bed and refrain from moving. You know how physically fragile (we won't go into the mental fragility) you are when those hormones start raging.

I'll have to say, I find a sample size of 17 to be pretty small and the use of "laxity of the forefinger joint" as hard and fast proof we are so vulnerable to these variations in blood hormone levels fairly weak. If there are any really good studies, please, send the references to me. Has ANYONE (coach, ATC, therapist) EVER really plotted this data with their patients/athletes?

I don't recall noting any trends of myself, or female teammates in grade school, high school, or college, or at the master's level of competition.

From a clinical view, back injuries, knee injuries--in ANYONE--much less just women, usually occur because of faulty mechanics/coordination/strength, not just simple joint laxity. Many young females athletes have more ACL injuries because they don't decelerate well, and they don't have enough eccentric control and strength for the skill level at which they play. It is not because we are freaks with wider hips and different hormones.

Maybe the woman in the article needs to find a Pilates or Yoga instructor to teach her how to tie her shoes without putting her back in a problematic position? Sounds like a plan to me!

Women need to TRAIN to move and be strong so they can play and compete at high levels, regardless of their hormonal status, controlled or not. No female athlete can schedule competitions or training around their hormonal fluctuations, nor should the average woman plan their physical activity around their menstrual cycle. How in the hell do you think women have survived over the last few thousand years cooking, cleaning, having umpteen kids, feeding the livestock, tending the fields, menstrual cycles just raging away? It just doesn't matter; there is no reason to perseverate on these minor physiological variations.

Unless you plant an idea in my head that says "you're in a dangerous state" or "you're different" because you're female and have this little issue men and boys don't. Then we create a medicalized, reductionist issue that really isn't meaningful, but people begin to THINK it is. This is the same type of historical gender bias crap (oh, but it is medically based so it is ok, right?) that kept women from running the Olympic marathon until 1984 and continues to keep them out of ski jumping and the longer distance races in swimming, running, etc.

We don't possess the same absolute strength as our male counterparts, but we can achieve the same or better relative strength and endurance levels if you teach us to train hard enough; to train properly; to train early enough to keep up with our early physical maturation. Support us to get the movement experiences our male childhood counterparts are encouraged to experience. Then we will have fewer injuries.

And finally, we are not hysterical patients when we come to your office with complaints of joint pain. Maybe physicians should learn to take a thorough history of our movements and activities, and evaluate HOW we move, rather than focus on what point of our menstrual cycle we are in. This is the REAL issue in my mind: Women with musculoskeletal injuries getting blown off or mis-diagnosed by physicians who will simply attribute the pain/injury to "hormones" and tell us to just stop moving that time of the month.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Get My Game Face On

Like everyone, sometimes I struggle to stay consistent with exercise. It has been especially hard lately to get myself on the bike, as it has been bitterly cold.

So this day, I had to steel myself and put my game face on, just like Old Millie here has. Millie is my 19 y.o. cat. She's a tough old cuss with a + 42 inch vertical leap and the sass to tell anyone what she really thinks. Here she's trying to pull the Jedi Mind Trick on me so I'll go upstairs and feed her. Again.

Got through a monster Vern squat series (5 sets) with JE, water polo man, along with some solid sets of push ups and incline pull ups. The the Veloforce women came over and I got in 75 minutes on the trainer with some decent efforts. They weren't long, but they had a bit of intensity. It helped to have moral support and occasionally bury my mind in the bass of the music.

Then afterward, there was a wonderful bonus. Friends Carla and Sandy, of the phyiscal therapy profession, determined my L knee ROM restriction wasn't just quad length; the accessory gliding and rolling of the tibia on the femur just wasn't happening. What magic a few sub-grade 1 mobilizations can do! Sometimes we are our own worst patient and need the widsom and healing hands of our colleagues. Thank you Carla and Sandy!

Game face on, knees working, ass in the saddle, sweating to the tunes. Made it through today and looking forward to tomorrow.

P.S. Dad is doing better and should be out soon!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Hospitals...Make Me Nervous

My dad is in the hospital. I really don't like hospitals. Used to work in one. Try not to get to close to them if I can help it.

This time it is a bizarre "abscess" or at least that is how they are initially directing treatment. In less than 24 hours, it has grown to the size of a grapefruit, with a very firm, warm center about the size of a golf ball. On his inner thigh. Painful. Utterly bizzarre. The human body never ceases to amaze me.

He just turned 61 yesterday. Nice birthday present, huh? Multiple sclerosis has, over 20 years, left his body frail and very fragile. Pretty weird when you can literally pick up your own father and transfer him from a wheelchair to the bed. Found that out when he fell and broke his collar bone a few years ago.

But he's a stubborn guy. Still walks short distances with a walker. And he's hell on wheels in the the tricked out Jazzy electric chair.

At least my stepmother works at this hospital and can keep a close eye on him. And she knows all of the staff so that will be helpful. Our main concern is preventing any unnecessary exposure to hospital-borne infections like MRSA by limiting invasive procedures if possible.

He doesn't need any special birthday presents from the hospital.

Get well, Dad. And get back home soon.