Sunday, July 29, 2007

Does absolute strength + absolute size necessarily equal good health?

I am prompted to ask this question after the death of US strongman Jesse Marunde this week at the age of 27. By all accounts, Mr. Marunde was a terrific athlete, good father, loving husband and human being. He was 6'5" and 300 lbs and collapsed at while working out--possibly just after high volume and heavy squatting. An autopsy is to be preformed, and only then will we know if the event was cardiac, vascular or related to something else.

Do we really understand the physiologic stresses a human body must tolerate with the training load and caloric intake necessary to create and maintain such strength and size? I'm not sure we do. Our culture glorifies these larger-than-life men, but I'm not sure we understand the health implications of developing and maintaining such mass and strength.

I take the nutrition and the health of my clients and patients very seriously--especially the young people. I try to walk the walk, as well as talk the talk. I had a conversation recently with a coach of a junior (20 and under) athlete who is in one of the higher weight classes. This coach told me that this young person already shows signs of hypertension, despite a significant reduction in body fat and increase in fitness over several years. And this coach is having somewhat of a challenge in getting the parents to take the issue seriously.

These types of small, but insidious warning signs must prompt us all--coaches, clinicians, parents--to think about the health, not just the performance, of our athletes from the very beginning. Especially those of us in the strength and power arena. Biggest and strongest at a young age may not always be best in terms of health and longevity. This idea might be tough for many in the more macho sports to swallow; but we owe it to our young people to help them understand the long-term implications of their eating and training habits, and help them monitor their health throughout the process.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Funkadelic: Vibram FiveFingers Footwear

Thanks to Cory Doctorow and his post on BoingBoing for sharing the link to Vibram's FiveFingers products. If you believe less is more, when it comes to developing and maintaining foot health, these might be right up your alley. Check them out here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

FYI: Check The Stick

Note to anyone traveling with the helpful and convenient "Stick". If you have checked baggage, you might want to pack it there, or it could be confiscated at the security checkpoint. Some TSA supervisors and security checkpoints technically consider this a prohibited item, since it might be interpreted to be a martial arts club-like device.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Weightlifting Camp Day 2

We are 3 workouts into the school-age camp--16 to 17 y.o. athletes. It has been good so far. My goals here are to improve my group coaching & management skills and observe different weightlifting coaching styles. It is never good to get set in your ways and think that one method works best for every athlete.

I walk an interesting path among the world of weightlifting, physical therapy and general athletic development. One of my goals in life to facilitate interaction, collaboration and understanding among the disciplines.

There are some very talented weightlifters here. However, some of them lack sound general physical preparation and movement literacy, so we are working a bit on that in warm up. The boys have a tendency to want to put a little too much on the barbell, so we spend some time reigning them in and harping on them to focus on body awareness and perfect technique.

The girls are just blowing my mind. There is some serious strength and power here and it is cool to see. And they are basically fearless, which comes in handy in weightlifting. You cannot think too much about the weight overhead; you just have to be confident and do it.

We train twice a day, working around the the training times of the resident athletes. It is always a treat to watch the resident athletes train speak with them. Pan Am medalists Natalie Woolfolk and Emmy Vargas, and their coach Bob Morris, are back in the gym this morning, just one day after returning from Rio. The Senior World Championships are roughly 8 weeks away and the pressure is on, as this is the primary qualifier for slots in Beijing. Right now the US women are eligible to bring 4 women to the 2008 Olympics, but they are close to losing one spot. The team must do very well in Chiang Mai, Thailand to keep all 4 slots.

The weather in Colorado Springs is great. I'm psyched to be out of the killer Midwest humidity for a few days. We can watch the Pan Am Games in the dining commons of the Athlete Center. The dorms now have wireless and the outdoor pool is open for individual recreation and team training. The food seems to get better every time I come out here, but they tend to steam/boil the heck out of the veggies. Blechh.

Friday, July 20, 2007

OTC Dining Hall Absurdity

Anyone else find this something a little sad about the presence of this junk in the dining hall at the Colorado Springs OTC? Not exactly the beverage of choice of champions in training....

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Jeff Wittmer sets PRs at Pan Ams

St. Louisan Jeff Wittmer finished 5th yesterday in the extremely competitive 94 kg weight class at the Pan Am Games. Jeff had a 10 kg PR total of 355 kg (158 kg snatch and 197 kg C & J).

Now, he's still 30-40 kg behind the truly elite of his class in the world, but this performance represents a real break-through for Jeff. Anyone who can go 5/6 and hit personal records in both lifts, at a major international meet, should be proud. And this performance makes Jeff a real contender for one of the 4 coveted spots on the 2008 Olympic team.

I believe Jeff is 23 (a graduate of Hazelwood East High School) and currently trains in Springfield, MO while he attends Missouri State University. It seems like he is finally getting his weight up to the full 94 kg, something he's struggled with over the last few years.

Jeff's father and coach, Mike Wittmer, is a chiropractor in St. Louis and a former lifter himself.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

2008 Adidas Weightlifting Shoe ?



A Philosophy of Strength and Health weightlifting scoop!

Bud Charniga (link to his great site, Dynamic Fitness) gave me permission to post photos of the new Adidas prototype for the 2008 Olympics. Lou DeMarco looked pretty tough as he trained in them down in the NSCA exhibit hall!

The arch of the shoe is covered in a shiny metallic plastic. Bud said they've tried to increase the ventilation in the shoe, as it is anticipated that the competition and training halls in Beijing will be quite warm. And for whatever reason, people like to see that the heel is solid wood, so the heel is again exposed vs the adiStar/Ironwork. Note the single strap vs the 3-strap models currently being sold. Price will likely run similar to the current adiStar model.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Mel gets the bronze medal in Rio!

See the press release here! Hits her best competition C & J in nine years--108 kg!

NSCA Atlanta: A Great Experience

I am so happy I decided to attend the NSCA conference in Atlanta. Not so much for the conference itself, but more so for the people who were there. Met some new people, revitalized old friendships and had the chance to talk to several mentors and colleagues. Highlights included dinner with Jerry Mayhew and Alex Koch of Truman State (nothing like drinks in ceramic coconuts!), the poster session and early-morning training sessions with all of the ETSU grad students (Mike and Meg Stone students), training and gabbing at Bud Charniga's Dynamic Fitness booth with Bud, Lou DeMarco and John Garhammer, chatting with Victor Bergonzoli and my Dartfish peeps, and of course, coffee talk with Jedi Masters Vern and Mrs. Vern.

The biggest news for me, was finding out my proposal to speak at next year's conference has been accepted! Huge challenge and great opportunity for me to present my ideas on rethinking back health and performance. Hope to see/meet many of you next year in Las Vegas!

My biggest beef with the conference was the Verstegen/Hopson/PowerPlate presentation, titled "A Painless Path to Optimal Performance." Now, nowhere in this title, on the NSCA website, or in the NSCA conference handbook of handouts was there ANY detail of what this talk was really about. It was all about PowerPlate and vibration training. And how convenient Mr. Hopson is a bigwig for PowerPlate. Mr. Hopson began his talk by divulging his position and apologizing for not having handouts, but did tell us we could pick them up at his booth (#159!) and get them online. Well, as of today, the notes are not on the NSCA ftp site. I walked out of this baloney and refused to go to the booth to get the notes. I found this all very slimy, and afterwards had the opportunity to talk to an NSCA conference committee member and told him of my concerns.

Don't get me wrong, I have been to Athlete's Performance and met Mark. He's done some impressive work and utilizes PTs well in his system. I would've been open to hearing his experience with vibration training. I just think the NSCA and all speakers should be compelled to provide full disclosure well in advance of the talk--in all web and print materials. And if one speaker needs to have his outline in by May 1, then they all need to have them in. I believe this was the only handout not included in the book.

My second concern is the lack of quality presentations regarding use of weightlifting (ack Olympic lifting!) movements. Any presentation that involves aspects of teaching the lifts should be very visually intensive and with demonstration. Text alone just doesn't get it, especially when there are therapists and new trainers in the audience who have no idea what this stuff is all about. Maybe I'll propose a weightlifting "From the Field" demo for next year specifically for newbies. And please, if anyone needs some video or still pics of weightlifting stuff, please let me know! I can help you.

It is always interesting to walk the path among the hard core strength/weightlifting people and the functional training/rehab people. Do not shut your head off to either; but realize there are limitations to both. Weightlifting movements are not the answer to all strength needs, but there are basic elements from weightlifting that can help anyone create sound body awareness, motor patterns, mobility and strength that are essential to everyday function.

Life is a banquet of multi-planar movement challenges, served up daily by our omni-present host, gravity. To survive and thrive, we must develop a physical literacy--a movement/biomotor vocabulary--that combines the elements of awareness, alignment (postural integrity), mobility, strength and power. This physical literacy results from deliberate practice and rehearsal, and is an emergent system that is more than just the sum of its parts. If we attempt to describe, measure, define or act on it via only one sub-level (say, strength), without the context of gravity, the entire body or purpose of task, then we miss the point.

-Tracy Fober

Friday, July 13, 2007

Return of the Jedi: Jedi Master Vern Speaks for the Functional Path Rebel Alliance


The Dark Lords of the Sith at the NSCA National Conference surely sensed a powerful disturbance in the Force today, as Jedi Master Vern took the stage. His presence and message loomed large over the cleverly placed Empire propaganda that was left on stage from the talk before. The juxtaposition of this talk with the Power Plate on stage could not have been more ironic.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

High School Athlete Dies While Bench Pressing

Here is a link to an article and video about a high school football player who died this week while bench pressing at home by himself.

It is tragic to hear about accidents like this. How I wish the football coaches of this country would stop emphasizing this exercise with their young athletes! Maybe companies will think twice about making home bench press benches. It does very little to increase true athleticism and brainwashes boys into an absurd obsession with their upper body/pectoral development. It screws up our shoulder mechanics and mobility. It requires very little athleticism, yet allows one to easily put 1-3x bodyweight in a potentially precarious position over the neck and chest, while you are pinned on your back.

And of course, you'll note the headline is "Football Player Dies While Weightlifting." No he was not weightlifting; he was weight training. Weightlifting is a sport that does not involve bench pressing.

Weightlifting is to weight training, as Kleenex is to tissue.

What will it take to get this stupid exercise out of our high school weight rooms? Stinkin' meat- head coaches who can't really coach true athletic development with barbells and dumbbells and bodyweight exercises....It's about your legs and managing your body as you move through space. It's about moving; not about how strong and big your pecs are.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Who needs a medicine ball?



Farmer Tom has been delivering mutant 20 lb. organic cabbages.
Eat your veggies.


Knees Know Where to Go...


when they are not limited by poor mobility or activity-related arthritic changes!

Oh to be 3 years old with normal hip, knee, ankle and shoulder mobility! And a strength to bodyweight ratio that > +1. Not really something the standard American lifestyle promotes. Can you keep your center of gravity over your base of support and mimic the positions of the two littlest guys in these pictures?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Melanie Roach: Extraordinary Woman

This is my friend Melanie Roach. She's working toward her dream of Beijing--at the age of 32 and as a mother of 3. See a great local tv story about her here.

Melanie was the first woman in the US to clean and jerk double-bodyweight; I think it was back in 1998. She still holds the record at 113 kg @ 53 kg bodyweight.

Here it is, almost 10 years later, and she is hitting lifetime PRs in terms of volume and intensity during training. Anyone else care to even think about back squatting 155 kg at 54.3 kg bodyweight, or power jerking 120 kg? She has her sights set high and they are focused on the 2008 Olympics.

She most recently hit a double-bodyweight clean and jerk at the 2007 Nationals in May. You can see that highlight in this video. As of July 1, she is ranked somewhere in the top 15 in the world in the 53 kg weight class.

Send her good karma as she travels to Rio this week to represent the US in the Pan American Games. Melanie is a tremendous athlete and a wonderful person. Go Mel!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Our 'Sicko' Story: Reality of the Absurd

Last Friday, Kevin and I went to see "Sicko." We highly recommend it to all. This health care professional learned a thing or two. Like Michael Moore, I too believe that the US for-profit insurance industry should be abolished.

We left Plaza Frontenac about 4:30 pm that Friday, and as we sat at the stoplight at Lindbergh and Clayton, we chatted about the movie. Then it happened: BLAMMO! We were rear-ended by a minivan. Wow. Neither of us saw it coming so we were not able to anticipate the blow. Luckily, we were far enough behind the stopped car ahead of us, so we did not hit them. I have never experienced a force of that magnitude; I immediately thought of some of my nightmare auto accident patients. My thoracic and cervical spine were not happy. Kevin began having flashbacks of being rear-ended in Chicago and the hassle he went through with that. What of our nice Subaru Forester?

Well, the person that hit us pulled over with us and we exchanged info. She was very apologetic. Her minivan appeared to have no damage. Shelia Subaru appeared to have handled the blow magnificently! She was not crumpled; there were a few scratches and the outline of the minivan license plate embedded in her bumper. We immediately drove to our Subaru dealer and got an estimate on the bumper. No other damage. But we were still sick at the thought of it all. And our necks, and my t-spine, really did hurt. I wonder how much force the car absorbed? Did it keep us from being hurt worse?

Now the sicko, absurd part. We have been contacted by the other driver's insurance company. They will send someone out to check out our car. That's the normal stuff. But then we also got this second call about the medical aspect of our claim. We have reported to them that we have pain, and are getting better, but are dealing with the treatment ourselves (me being a PT and all). We have not and will not seek outside medical consultation. Without a piece of medical documentation, nary one bit of proof of my license, this company has offered to pay us a lump sum to compensate us for the injuries; as long as we sign off and agree to never pursue further treatment for this against them.

Now, it is clear, that in this process, we could go for bigger bucks if we wanted to. I could claim to treat and treat myself and argue for a higher claim amount if I really wanted to. I even have a former client who is a pit bull personal injury attorney and could have him handle things or at least advise me on how to get more out of these people. But isn't that the whole problem with the system? Too many people taking advantage of a system and an industry that continually (and by mandate) sucks money out of US citizens because of the fear litigious medical claims?

I cannot do it. Call me naive or stupid. I will not lower myself to manipulate the system for my personal financial gain. My guess is that we would not be faced with this type of ethical dilemma if we were in Canada or France. We would simply get our injuries treated if we liked; there would be no bill for ANYONE to worry about paying. There would be no one writing checks to anyone just to make sure they go away and don't sue. It is sicko.

One particular question lingers in my mind, and that is whether or not this situation would have been different had Kevin and I been on bicycles rather than in our car. Would the insurance company be treating us and our injuries with the same urgency and importance?