Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hell On Wheels

What do you do when it is 15 degrees outside and your training plan calls for painful intervals on the trainer?

Head to the Maven's secret underground, climate-controlled training facility where your teammates can goad you into working harder and the images of Vinokourov, Mayo, Beloki and Armstrong attacking and suffering in the Alps spur you on just a few minutes more...ticking the pedals over in anger.

You won't find these women in "arrears" in their races this year. Venga, venga, venga!

Monday, January 29, 2007

High School Weight Room Postulate #1

For any given male, the quality and quantity of work done in the weight room is inversely proportional to the amount of Under Armour worn.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Philosophy of Food and Eating

There's a great essay by Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma" in Sunday's NY Times. He writes beautifully and does a great job of exploring the issues surrounding the American diet. The bottom line for Pollan is:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

It is not rocket science. Keep it real, keep it whole and keep it simple. My favorite quote from the essay follows:
“The problem with nutrient-by-nutrient nutrition science,” points out Marion Nestle, the New York University nutritionist, “is that it takes the nutrient out of the context of food, the food out of the context of diet and the diet out of the context of lifestyle."

Monday, January 22, 2007

Pulling Under the Bar






Weightlifting is not just about propelling the bar upward with triple extension of the the lower extremities. One of the more challenging aspects of training an athlete to do the full lifts (especially if s/he has only done the power versions or has done too much upper body rowing stuff), is teaching the athlete to pull against the bar and pull themselves down under the bar before gravity beats her/him to it. When the weight is greater than bodyweight, it becomes essential.

This sequence of photos is less than .50 seconds. See how the athlete literally pulls himself against/around the bar? Actively pulling, not just floating with the bar--usually a losing proposition. This MUST happen when you weigh 77 kg (169 lbs) and the bar is 113 kg (248.6 lbs). It is hard to do when the weight on the bar is less than bodyweight; the athlete usually wants to just power the bar up, up and up and not her/his body down to meet it.

Note: See the wrist flexion? The bar path is virtually straight. The bar MUST rotate smoothly or the athlete will break his wrist trying to reverse curl 250 lbs. Not a good idea.

This CONCEPT is important to ingrain in the athlete from day one. It requires the nervous system to do a complete 180 in a matter of milliseconds. Note this lifter has very little "air time" and does not stomp/donkey kick his feet. Air time is NOT an advantage here; this isn't a jump shot. The idea is to get down and get your body prepared to receive the weight in a strong, safe position. The feet will move out from the pulling position--this lifter is very flexible and moves his out only slightly--but the majority of elite lifters cannot and will not waste time/effort to stomp. A few can do it, but in my opinion, it is a sign of an inefficient lifter who is probably wasting effort that could be applied more effectively.

See the video here.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Things That Make You Go Hmmm....

Here are some excerpts from Kathleen Nelson's column in the Post-Dispatch today. Seems a website called marathonguide.com issued a list of the country's 25 outstanding US marathoners. The only criteria was running at least 3 marathons (!) in a year and consistently finishing near the front of the pack.

Now, I am constantly arguing the necessity of smart weight-bearing activity and strength work for endurance athletes and weekend warriors. This guy's story just blew me away. Fosamax for a man at the age of 31--with an MD?
The spotlight also shone last week on Dr. Thomas Whalen. He described himself as a middling runner at St. Louis University High who barely made the cross country team at Emory University, a Division III school. He had little time to run during medical school and has taken Fosamax for almost a decade because of osteoporosis. Yet the 41-year-old Whalen made the list of 25 outstanding U.S. marathoners, selected by marathonguide.com.
Then:
Whalen ran six marathons in 2006 and two ultras, races beyond the 26.2-mile marathon distance. He earned three top-3 finishes and had a fastest time of 2:44:27.

"There's something romantic about 26 point 2, something magical," he said. "I'm not very fast, so I wouldn't be good at shorter distances."

Following that logic, Whalen has entered a most daunting race next month, the Rocky Raccoon 100-mile trial run in Texas. After that, he'll return to the marathon distance, first in Little Rock in March then at the Spirit of St. Louis Marathon in April.

Whalen trains daily, sometimes twice a day. He credits cross-training, swimming and spinning, for suffering just one stress fracture since his diagnosis with osteoporosis. He credits his wife, Janet, for her displaying unending patience with his training schedule.

"I'm not talented or smart, but I can outwork anybody," he said.

I will comment no further, but just say that truth is often stranger than fiction and stuff like this happens only in America.

Do any of you track guys know if the African distance people (or elite male American runners) show a propensity for low bone density as they age? Just curious. I've heard Pam Hinton's current study on master male cyclists bone density does not bode well for that group of male endurance athletes.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Hex Bar DL vs Squat Mechanics

I've posted previously about using the hex bar deadlift to teach basic triple extension mechanics and proper back management with lifting. Ideally, the athlete will use this lift as an adjunct in training while also using bodyweight squats, back squats, front squats and possibly overhead squats.

See the video here.

This hex bar weighs the same as a traditional 20 kg or 45 lb bar. It is essential to have 45 cm bumper plates to put the bar at a reasonable start position. I have elevated the bar higher off the floor if the athlete has really poor hip/ankle flexibility.

The hex bar deadlift, when done appropriately, really helps the athlete or patient learn what it is to "push" the weight off the floor using the legs, not the back and upper body. I do not use this lift for assessing 1 or 3 RM for anyone.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

OT: Great University of Chicago T-shirts


(neat picture of Stagg Field featuring a Chicago vs Michagan home football game, turn of the century)


Got my Chicago alumni mag the other day. There was a little photo collage of different student groups selling stuff to raise money. Breckenridge House was selling the following t-shirt:


"That's all well and good in practice...but how does it work in theory?"

Excellent. But my all-time favorite has to be the following:

The University of Chicago: Hell Does Freeze Over


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

How do you keep your COG over your BOS?


The human body has a variety of methods for achieving physical goals. In this example, one athlete's spine bears the brunt of the job, while the other athlete's shoulders compensate.

Have a lifting movement or position you need to illustrate for your team, class or presentation? Let me know. I have a tremendous library of video that I can use to help you, whether it is an inspirational video, a collection of instructional clips or stills.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Hurdle Improvisation




I don't have any regular size hurdles, so I've improvised with the bar and the rack. I'm sure there's some liability issues with using the equipment in this way (any lawyers out there?) so I'm not openly recommending it for anyone. But it gives me the ability to do this type of warm up mobility work and utilize the potential assessment method suggested by Vern Gambetta in his new book.

JE (pictured above) has good lower extremity mechanics, with just a tad bit of hammy stiffness. Front squats are easier for him than back squats. His throwing mechanics are improving--more accurate passing--according to his coach. He had 4 assists in a 9-2 club team win this past Sat. He is learning great resistance training fundamentals he can take into the high school weight room when he works out independently. He will set the bar and start a trend for his teammates during their dryland/weight room workouts. When he showed his friends his Friday workout exercises, they wanted to know where the bench press was. He just laughed.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Women of Mesa Cycles Racing

I had the opportunity to spend a few hours with Adrienne Murphy and the women of the Mesa Cycles Racing Team. From left to right: Molly Vetter-Smith, Emilie Duchow, Samantha Schneider, Jen Goldstein and Cat Walberg. This group of racers will put the hurt on many fields in the Women's Pro 1/2/3 races in the greater Midwest this season. If the very thought of rolling up to the start line with Catherine Walberg on one side of you and Molly Vetter-Smith on the other side of you isn't scary enough, you can bet knowing that Jen, Sam and Emilie are all there to work for them and maybe even take a race or two themselves will make you even more uncomfortable. Can you say suffer? I'm happy to keep my microscopic aerobic capacity in the Chronic Cat 4 races, thankyouverymuch.

I did brief flexibility screenings and musculoskeletal history reviews with each racer and we did some practical reviews of fundamental mobility, core strength development and the basics of bodyweight squatting. We could've spent an entire day working on various things. Coach Adrienne had great questions and observations to help facilitate discussion and demonstration. The goal was to educate, screen for specific musculoskeletal issues that might become problematic in the future, and give these women some practical tips for off-bike training that they could use now and throughout the season.

Too many endurance athletes, and athletes in general, NEVER really get a physical screening that involves a hands-on musculoskeletal component. And they don't ever really learn how they need to train with resistance to really facilitate their particular athletic development needs. How can you "pre-hab" (not a favorite term of mine) or get stronger if you have no idea why you are doing what you are doing, and you don't know whether or not your strength/mobility/alignment/body awareness is deficient?

I want to thank Adrienne for investing in me and giving me the chance to assist the women of Mesa Cycles Racing with their training. I'll do everything I can to help each athlete stay strong and fit on the bike and off it.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Feedback Please!

Here's to a healthy and strong 2007 to everyone! I'm hitting the ground running. Not going to play small anymore (thanks for the great podcast, Pamela!)

I would like to send special thanks out to Ron, Vern, Alex, Carla, Jill, Joe P, 2 Old, and Aimee A. for supporting my blogging efforts this year. Katie, I'm going to answer your question about helping stompers, I promise! It is time to take the next step and make some more tangible contributions to the world of athletic development.

There have been some requests for materials and I'd like feedback from everyone on what type of weight training/weightlifting resources you'd like to see: video, website, print. Find a PDF of this great power clean sequence by Natalie Woolfolk here. Shoot me an email and let me know what you think and what I can do to help you and your athletes Learn to Lift properly.