Saturday, December 20, 2008

Short Track Speed Skating Nationals in STL

These images are from the men's 500 m B and A finals today at the Short Track Speed Skating Nats. We paid a whopping $5 to see the best men and women short track speedskaters in the country race. It was fun to walk right in and see a final featuring Apolo Anton Ohno. He ended up 3rd, after crashing out not once, but twice. They restarted the race after AO took out two other guys on the third lap of the first race. After much deliberation, the officials did not disqualify him and allowed him to start again. AAO led after the second lap and then fell again about 20 m from the finish on the straight away, taking out another dude with him. Not a good day for AAO. The AD and I both think he should have been DQ'd after the first crash. Someone in the lobby of the rink was showing a nice high definition replay of the first crash and you could clearly see AAO grab the arm of the guy next to him and take him down.

Of course, there is very little local media coverage of this national championship event. Reminds me of a weightlifting nationals, only there are a few more people in the stands and it isn't being held in some dank hotel ballroom. Same volunteer officials with their blue blazers on doing all the work. Very talented athletes toiling in anonymity, with some serious glutes and quads packed in their high-tech uniforms. Mostly families and friends cheering them on.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Words of Wisdom

To all my young Padawans (especially the ladies), who are about to embark on another New Year's fitness resolution:
"Tone not. Train or train not. There is no tone."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I Don't Get It

Back in the day, it was a big deal to get your varsity warm ups--that included pants. We could actually fit pants over our shorts. Now, they just wear long sleeve shooting shirts and these things that are supposed to be shorts. How do you move in this stuff?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Erin, not your average 6th grade teacher, is flexible, strong and fast. Oh yeah, she was a member of the 2005 World Championship team.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

My Girl

Sidewinder. Schlinkhaus. Jingles. Lady. Boney Cat. Skinny McMinny. Girl. We called her everything but Millie. She was sassy and surly; she was Miss Independent. She was my companion for 18 of her 20 or so years on this earth; for all of my adult life. The last few years, she couldn't hear a damn thing, but she made sure we heard her. She left us on Friday, November 28.

She was the alpha cat and knew it. When she rounded the corner downstairs to join the rest of us to watch a movie, we would hum Darth Vader's Imperial March. Murphy Fober knew he had better make room for his superior. Her hisses at him were legendary. And most of our human friends approached her with respect. She wasn't exactly Ms. Congeniality (and neither am I), but she did mellow a bit after losing her hearing. My mother and sister were often told to talk to the paw. But she loved the Athletic Director; and she knew who the real alpha cat was. I could get that cat to do anything and I could carry her around however I liked.

I found her in November of 1990 at the downtown Chicago ASPCA. She was so beautiful and athletic--a great pingpong ball player and leaper. Her little white paws and belly were lovely. She loved to sit on my lap or next to the laptop and observe. She would follow the cursor arrow and paw at it. And then she would sneeze all over the screen. I will miss my girl.

Monday, November 24, 2008

PB&J Pierson: A Big Man Learns to Move

High school basketball season is upon us. With that, I bring you a peek inside one of Ryan "PB&J" Pierson's last pre-season workouts. This workout included, but was not limited to, the following:

Lunge & Reach
Med Ball Wall Drills
BN Push Press (work up to 135#/3 x 3)
Step Ups (work up to 80#/8 x 3)
DB Rows
Curl & Press
Modified Gambetta Squat Series x 5 sets w/90 sec rest intervals:
20 bw squats/10 lunges/10 ice skaters/10 sq jumps w/arms = 1 set

Ryan has been working with me since late February. He averaged 2 sessions per week only, with several weeks off during the summer for AAU basketball and wisdom teeth. Primary goals for this time period have been to develop basic mobility, body awareness, confidence and strength (force production and force attenuation), with particular attention to the LE's (he had a R tibial avulsion fx with a pulmonary embolism in early 2007).

We have not measured body fat, but he is down 7-10 lbs and much leaner than in February. Ryan does not do any Olympic lifts right now, but I will teach him the basics before he leaves for college. He now has the mobility to lift from the floor or the block/hang position. We still have a great deal of work to do on hip mobility, basic running mechanics and first step speed, but now the foundations are there. He can squat, lunge, push, pull, rotate, crawl, skip and throw with the best of them. And remember, he's almost 7 feet tall. My goal is to have him move better than the 5' 10" kids on the court.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Children of the Corn

Before I get to the corn thing, I have to brag a bit. Got the Epson Powerlite Home Cinema 720 installed this week. This is our lone television in the house, in the basement. There are many days we never have it on. But when we fire up the Fober budget home theatre, it is sweet. Some women have the shopping gene for shoes, knick-knacks or clothes. Mine mutated into a technology gene. With 2.35:1 ratio wide screen movies, I have an 8 ft. diagonal screen. Now, we only have 5.1 surround sound, but we did it for a song. The rumble and vibrations of a star destroyer or shells flying over your head at Normandy are pretty damn impressive. And Russell Crowe looks fabulous as Maximus in Gladiator. Catherine, you'll have to come over and watch it for the 51st time.

Anyway, on to the real topic of this post. I rented a few DVDs to check out the new projector's abilities and picked up the movie King Corn. This a great documentary if you have an interest in food and how agriculture has changed over the last 100 years. It is the story of two city dudes and their quest to crow an acre of corn in Iowa. The movie features interviews with Michael Pollan, Walter Willet, Loren Cordain and Nixon's Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz (who recently passed away at 98).

If you are a child of the 70s and 80s, this movie is about you and your diet. We are children of the corn. Thjs movie will make you think about the food choices you made back then and the choices you make now.

I'm thinking of having a King Corn screening for my STL peeps. Let me know if you are interested (Orie, Cinister?) in a good movie and conversation some evening. You know, kinda like Oprah's book club, but more fun. Just please do not look under your chair; the only thing you will find are lost cat toys.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Nice article in the P-D this morning about the DeSmet Spartans returning to the Class 3 soccer semi-finals for the first time in 6 years. Coach Greg Vitello has been coaching the Spartans for 41 years. Yes, 41 years. He has almost 700 wins in soccer and is also the varsity baseball coach. He is old school and runs a tight ship. This part of the article (read the entire article here) really caught my eye:
"It's not about records or stats; it's about doing what you have to do to survive and move on to the next round,'' Vitello said.

By design, the Spartans play fewer regular-season games to gain more quality training time. And now the extra practice is paying dividends.

"We pride ourselves on the work we do in practice, and this group, as much as any I've coached, seems to get that,'' the coach said. "Rather than playing games for the sake of playing games, hopefully our guys are a little fresher and more mentally prepared at this point of the season.''
Imagine, in this day and age high-flying club/select programs and leagues, a high school coach who knows the value of team development and quality training time vs garbage games! Mental preparation? Quality training time? Fundamentals? This is what it is all about.

And in the "Sign the Apocalypse is Upon Us" column this week: The Thin Man tells me his twin sister's high school basketball team is one of 30 high school teams being "sponsored" by Nike this year.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hip to the Shoulder

The Thin Man (volleyball, 6' 7", 170 lbs) is making progress. Yesterday, he finally felt what it is to have the hip lead the shoulder with an overhand throwing/hitting motion. Our normal warm up hit a bit of a snag when his R knee decided it didn't care for lateral lunges. So we stopped the "get low" lower body stuff for a few minutes and went to some football/med ball throws.

TTM is super-duper tight in his anterior hip musculature. He has also always been a middle hitter, so his approach has always been shortened, with his shoulders/hips more square to the net, rather than open to the setter/court, like a R-handed strong-side hitter typically takes. Thus, he has developed a very arm-dominant swing (with little combined torso/hip extension and rotation). Now the asymmetry between his R and L shoulders is beginning to become prominent--something that has to be rectified.

I had him take a stride stance, with the L foot in front of the R, rotate the his hips to the R, flexing the hip/knee/ankle, and shift his weight back to the rear R foot. I then demonstrated pushing through the ground with my R foot to generate rotation to the left with simultaneous triple extension (ankle, knee, hip) of the R LE. He attempted to mimic my movement, but had trouble getting the hip to rotate and extend. At that point, I put my hands on his hips and manually cued the combined rotation/extension (after asking his permission, of course).

Eureka! He said it felt totally different than anything he'd ever done before--"so there's this diagonal connection going on between the R and L sides." Yes! Big stretch through his R side. I told him he had to practice the motion, R and L, over and over with throwing and hitting; and that it would probably take a little while before he consistently integrated it into his on-court hitting mechanics. The key was getting him to understand the weight-shift from back to front and feel the triple extension of the leg (particularly the hip) as part of the rotation that proceeds the arm motion.

Sometimes you just have to go back to square one and go step by step.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Yes, let's just put everybody on a statin for his or her entire life! Another drug company-sponsored study (AstraZeneca) to make you think you need drugs to be "healthy." It's all so fugazi.

If you haven't noticed, my posts relating to training/strength have been few and far-between lately. No more gas in the rig. Needing a little downtime after over 3 years and 400+ posts. So I'll still be posting, but it'll be a little less frequently and might discuss things other than weightlifting, resistance training, or athletic development for the rest of 2008. Also looking to revamp the whole system with a new laptop and a few more toys for video analysis.

2009 looks like it could be a whirlwind of a year, so it is important for me to regroup and get back my enthusiasm for this stuff. And for my own training. Will turn 40 soon and can only hope to have the same energy and ebullience that my friends Vern Gambetta, Mike Burgener, John T. Thrush, Jerry Mayhew and Mark Rippetoe bring to their work. And there's the AD--he turned 48 yesterday. He's my guy and there's no one who works harder.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Voter #11

Optical scan ballot #12. In line at 5:30 am and out by 6:20 am. When we left, the line was out the door, around the building.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Good Stuff from Boris @ Squat Rx

Great post by Boris Bachman, teacher and coach, of Squat Rx fame. When we drink the kool-aid of any "one true way" and don't stop to really define our needs, it is hard to give up the ghost. Oh yeah, that ego gets in the way too.

It takes aging, injury to yourself, or watching a good friend suffer and struggle with the orthopedic or neurologic consequences of years of over-training or high-level competition to really make you stop and think about what you are doing. Do your due diligence and keep the big picture in mind for yourself and the people you coach.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Vardanian = Hops

Norik Vardanian, son of Soviet legend Urik Vardanian, demonstrates some of the same athleticism that his father was famous for. I think Norik's best competition lifts are 155 kg snatch and 200 kg clean and jerk. He is 21 years old and trains at the OTC in Colorado Springs.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dr. Weesner Gets Her Mojo Back

The weekend workshop with Mike Burgener was a tremendous success. I think everyone learned something new. One of the highlights of the weekend--besides Orie's outstanding lunch--was watching Kathy Weesner successfully front squat. All these super-long femurs needed were a few more degrees of ankle dorsiflexion to help the rest of the body accomplish the task.

More on the weekend soon.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Wednesday Perspective

If the week is getting long and frustrating, take a few minutes and watch this NYTimes video of my friend Melanie and her family. It will help you regain some perspective.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

On the Road Again

Did my first 50+ mile ride today in at least 4 years. It was a beautiful morning, about 50 degrees when we started. Rode from the Valley out Wild Horse Creek, up Ossenfort then through St. Albans and back onto the newly paved (Old or New?) Tavern Rd. Then hit Fox Creek up to Six Flags and Allenton Rd into Greensfelder Park. Found our way back to Wild Horse via Rockwoods and took the flats back into the Valley. Lots of church and pumpkin traffic through the flats. Not my favorite place to be on a bike on Sunday, but we made it. The ride took a little more than 3 and 1/2 hours; max HR of 182 and avg. of 144. Sorry, no power meter data to geek out on.

It is humbling to drag yourself back into shape, with any sport or activity. Slowly but surely it gets easier; but it is never easy. It is definitely more fun to have a steady wheel to follow and friends to give encouragement when the road rises steeply ahead of you. PJ and Joe didn't make it a hammerfest; for that, I'm quite grateful.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Velocity and Power Data: Monday Morning Geekout

Here's the velocity data from the lifters profiled in my 10/5-6 posts. What do you think? Same weight on the bar with the same outcome: good lift--but accomplished via different styles.

Sage has a max velocity of 1.48 m/s at a bar height of .76 meters. This corresponds to 1167 W max power and 18.8 W/kg.

Shannon has a max velocity of 1.79 m/s at a bar height of .68 meters. This corresponds to max power of 1402 W and 22.46 W/kg.


USADA Alert for All Athletes in the Registered Testing Pool (formerly Out of
Competition Testing Pool)

Please be advised of the new USADA changes coming into to effect. Starting November 1, 2008,
USADA will require ALL Whereabouts Filings -- formerly called Athlete Location Forms (ALFs)
to be submitted via the athletes’ online account on USADA’s website at Hard
copies of the Whereabouts Filing will no longer be available.

One of the new Whereabouts Filing requirements is the “60-minute time slot”. Athletes in the
Registered Testing Pool must submit a 60-minute time slot for each day in the quarter between
the times of 6 am-11pm. If the 60-minute time slot changes, athletes are responsible to make sure their Whereabouts Filings are updated. It is suggested by USADA that this time slot is routine as possible.

When locating an athlete for testing, the Doping Control Officer (DCO) will make a reasonable
attempt based on the information given for each day. Please be aware that as of January 2009,
DCOs will NOT make phone calls, in accordance with the International Standards of Testing.
A Missed Test will occur if an athlete has:

A) A Filing Failure, which comprises of:
1) No submission of Whereabouts Filing
2) No 60-minute window is indicated
3) Your Whereabouts Filing is inaccurate or incomplete. If this occurs, a declared Filing Failure will be shared with WADA and the International Weightlifting Federation.

B) Athletes are only subject to a Missed Test if they are NOT available during the 60-minute time slot.

Note: 3 Whereabouts Filing Failures within any 18 month period will result in an Anti-Doping
Rule Violation,

For those athletes in the Registered Testing Pool (RTP) for Quarter 1 2009, the “Athlete’s
Advantage” Online Tutorial will be mandatory and all athletes will be required to successfully
complete four tutorials prior to submitting their 1st Quarter Whereabouts.

In addition, please be advised that the new list for Prohibited Substances is available online at: It includes a summary of modifications and the monitoring list.

For more information, please visit USADA’s website at:

Friday, October 10, 2008


I would give my left ovary for the opportunity to work in and supervise a high school weight room in the afternoon. Nothing irritates me more than seeing a weight room "supervisor" grading papers or working out when s/he should be supervising and teaching kids. If you are given the responsibility of supervising young people in a weight room, please do your job or get someone who will do the job.

Leg Drive

2008 Olympian Natalie Woolfolk (63 kg) demonstrates a balanced, efficient, powerful dip and drive with 120 kg.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Joe P. on Shin Splints

Great post by Joe P. on that thing called shin splints. And the truth shall set us free!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Moving Pictures

This isn't the exact lift from the previous post, but it is the first attempt for each lifter (80 kg). Both lifters are in the 63 kg weight class in this event. I hope to have the bar velocity data sometime soon. Yes, one lifter (further back on the platform) is Sage Burgener. The other lifter is Shannon Sheesley. Both women are very accomplished weightlifters.

Check the comments in the previous post to see what coach Mike Burgener has to say on the topic at hand.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

From the Archives: For Weightlifting Geeks

What are the similarities and differences between these two athletes, as each transitions into and out of the second pull?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Mindless Masochists Need Not Apply

"So, are you just killing that big kid?" Grin. Hehehe....

Someone asked me that the other day, as PB&J was getting ready to train. I am not the dominatrix type; nor do I just prescribe exercise for punishment. I don't derive any pleasure from making people suffer. I do find it gratifying to help people succeed, whether it is getting that first good push up or making a college team.

I motivate people to work hard and do things correctly because I earn their trust and I get them to invest in themselves; on a physical and intellectual level. I let them know why we are doing what we are doing, and how it will impact their performance goals. I document daily/weekly successes and give them positive feedback. They start to get it. I don't have to intimidate or call anyone derogatory names to get them to work hard. I don't yell. Mindless masochists need not apply for my assistance.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Go Eat Here

The Land of Smile Thai restaurant will leave you with a smile. The green papaya salad was fantabulous. I must become one with the Swimming (Rama) Angel next time. 9641 Olive Blvd, Olivette, MO. 314-989-9878.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

General Thoughts on The Week

It was good week for me. PB&J tested well; increased his VJ by 2.5" and SLJ by 7.5". When his VJ is normalized for his bodyweight and expressed as Watts, his average (2000+) and peak power output is good (8800+).

The Thin Man (16. y.o., 6' 7" and 175 lbs, volleyball player) started training with me. He has a long way to go, but is a great kid and will do well if he is consistent and focused. Our initial work will focus on hip strength and mobility, along with general body awareness and ground-based footwork. And of course, we hope build some infrastructure, i.e. lean body mass, on that frame. It will be even more fun if his 6' 3" twin sister joins us.

Had a great ride on Wednesday with a group of very strong women. I have a ways to go to get back into decent riding shape. Out of that group, I have at least two kick-ass women who want to do some off-season work with me. They will learn how to train effectively for their sport and not waste any time on the traditional off-season weight training for cyclists crap.

Overtime had a good session in the gym and found the visual feedback from Dartfish very useful. He was able to make some key adjustments in technique and was psyched to see that he was making progress. Video feedback is not just about pointing out mistakes; it also allows the athlete to see what they are doing well and right.

The AD is psyched about the progress of the Big Dig at school. If the weather cooperates over the next 8 weeks, we could have only the third Mondo FTX running surface in the US down by the end of Fall. Football won 28-0. Connor Callahan won the RimRock Invitational CC meet in Kansas. The DeSmet Invitational swim meet went well and teams from around the state had the chance to swim in the venue that will host the state swim meet in November.

After all the good stuff, the rest of the news is a little underwhelming. I am mad. You greedy 'effing, short-selling, speculating Wall Street investment bank bastards. Balance sheets full of fraudulent accounting and lies. It is sickening. How do you people look at yourself in the mirror? What is your reality?

Jackson Browne says it for me in his song, The Pretender:
I'm going to be a happy idiot
And struggle for the legal tender
Where the ads take aim and lay their claim
To the heart and the soul of the spender
And believe in whatever may lie
In those things that money can buy
Though true love could have been a contender
Are you there?
Say a prayer for the Pretender
Who started out so young and strong
Only to surrender

Monday, September 22, 2008

Pheline Physics

A cat body at rest, tends to stay at rest. Especially when acted upon, i.e. snuggled by, her mom's favorite sweatshirt.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Reflections on My Visit to the Mothership

Paul Hodges was a terrific speaker. The dude presented 5 different times over 2 days. I'm sure he was exhausted. I didn't get a chance to ask, but I'm almost sure he was a Presentation Zen guy, as his supporting AV material was beautiful, but simple. He is not a pure TrA (transverse abdominis) guy, as I thought he was going to be. As is want to happen, many people have taken his work to the extreme. He appreciates quality of movement and knows that neither the multifidus nor the TrA are solely responsible for chronic back pain and dysfunction. He understands that a variety of movement strategies are optimal for maintaining musculoskeletal health. But he did kinda go after the general idea of "bracing" that is now embraced by the fitness/therapy/performance world.

I spoke with him briefly after Saturday's session to try and get better idea of the motor control training protocols that his group used in comparison to a general exercise group, but our conversation was brief; it was clear he and Linda Van Dillen and Co. were exhausted and ready for dinner. What exactly was the general exercise protocol used? Are there specific exercises/movement strategies that facilitate torso control or the elimination of LBP? I do know that he is on my side when it comes to treatment of back pain, and is working hard to provide supporting evidence to the work comp and psych docs that purposeful rehabilitation is a worthwhile endeavor for most subgroups of chronic back pain patients. I understand it is much easier to quantify results when you control the variables and reduce the question to specific muscles/muscle groups. But it is a bit hard for me to stomach (pun intended) when so much of the work is done out of the context of moving (lower extremities), in a gravity-mediated environment. Beautiful data doesn't necessarily mean it is meaningful in the real world. And Hodges does understand that.

Shirley was the final speaker of the day and she was a trip. The focus of her talk was on abdominal musculature as the root of some issues in her patient population. I was disappointed she didn't talk more about the impact the rest of the body and movement strategies might have on back pain, but she touched on it. It is fascinating to think that she is still in the clinic and seeing patients on a daily basis. She received her PT degree 50 years ago, in 1958, and still bases much of her world view on the work of her friend, Florence Kendall. That said, she is constantly learning and keeping an open mind when presented with good evidence. Even better, Shirley has really improved her own fitness, diet and health over the last 10 years; and she is extremely worried about the problem of general fitness in our country. Now, I just have to find the opportunity to pick her brain about some of my ideas about preventing acute back issues.

It was somewhat amusing to see the juxtaposition of presentation styles and subject matter this weekend. We went from the most progressive use of current presentation technology and experimentation to the most basic use of observation skills with supporting still images from Florence Kendall's initial work. For sure, one must have an appreciation and understanding of the past to make the most of the current technology and information.

So my journey to the Mothership was a good one. I had the opportunity to hear three wonderful physical therapists speak and see several classmates and former instructors. I do think the Mothership is a little too isolated in its little ivory tower sometimes; they need to get out more and see what the rest of the world is doing, or at least invite more of the rest of the world inside. Yes, you have bright students, wonderful faculty that accumulate NIH grants, and a great program that encourages critical thinking, but there is an attitude of superiority by students and some faculty that can be incredibly off-putting to those of us now in the real world. I know it is a struggle to keep the program well-funded and that Wash U must keep up a constant PR campaign to compete against other programs in the country, but the "We're Awesome" gets a little old after a while. Student loan debt certainly contributes to making one cranky and cynical after a few years.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Voyage to the Mothership

I'm off to commune with the Mothership this afternoon and all day tomorrow. Should be interesting to hear Dr. Paul Hodges speak. And it will be nice to see Linda Van Dillen and Shirley Sahrmann again. My world view, particularly my view on back pain, has changed so much since I graduated. I'll try to keep an open mind, but I think it will be a challenge for me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Building & Rebuilding the Young Athlete

Ryan "PB&J" Pierson is working his tail off. We've had just just over 6 months of training, averaging 2 workouts a week, with several weeks off in the summer due to wisdom teeth extraction and AAU tournaments (drive me crazy). He has leaned out to 6' 10" and 238 lbs, from 247, as a 16 year old high school junior. He is still learning to train, developing base strength, mobility and body awareness, training vocabulary and gaining confidence back after his LE surgery (avulsion fx)and post-surgical pulmonary embolism in the summer of 2007. His knee no longer swells during basketball games, as it did last winter.

His training plan has included a steady diet of squats (bw, back, front), lunges, lunge n reach, step ups, presses, push presses, incline presses, db snatches, body weight rows, and basic bilateral and unilateral landing and jumping mechanics. We are creating strength and learning how to express it.

I don't normally like to post specific workouts, but this is what he did this afternoon.

Warm Up

Jump rope (dl, sl, alt), MB squat/press/lunge series, 20 push ups
Leg swings, hurdle mobility, mt climbers/groiners, knee hugs, high kicks
BW Squat Series (20 bw squats, 10 fwd lunges R/L, 5 lat lunges R/L, 5 sq jumps) x 4 with 20, 30 and 45 seconds in between sets.

Main Strength

Front Squat: bar/5 95/5 115/5 135/5 155/5 x 4
(Best Back Squat set is currently 225/5)

Push Press (behind neck): 75/5 95/5 115/3 125/3 135/3 140/3 (pr) 145/3 (pr)


Step ups w/ 20# weighted vest: 8 R/L (fwd/lat) followed by vest off and 6 Alt Jumps R/L x 3
DB Row: 30#/12 x 3
Curl & Press: 30#/6 x 3

We will do some testing next week and transition into more footwork, agility/first step/running mechanics, and combo strength/jumping stuff. We will also move to a new facility where we can do more rotational MB work and really get into more transverse plane movements. By the end of next year, he will be one of the most mobile, athletic big men around. And he likes to play defense.

P.S. If anyone has a pair of size 17 weightlifting shoes you aren't using, I'd be happy to take them off your hands.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Very Lucky

But the tree has suffered extensive damage and will have to be removed soon. We are not interested in having the rest of it end up crashing through our roof. Ideally, we will salvage the remains of the very tall ash tree and use it as firewood. Who's up for a wood-splitting party with the Weiss family and their arsenal of saws and mauls? Or we could play Roy Hobbs and make a few Wonderboy baseball bats.

It was fascinating to watch the arborist work. Lots of planning and problem solving; immediate gratification from creating order our of chaos. Work outside in a physically invigorating and challenging environment. I'll admit, I had some serious thoughts about changing professions.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

2008 Tour of Missouri Video

Had a great time roaming around the CWE, watching the racers go by. It was good to see my cycling peeps. Ring the bell, ring the bell, ring the bell!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Where is George Hincapie?

Can you find Georgie in this picture from last year's Tour of Missouri?

Wednesday Random Thoughts

Maybe Lance and Brett have been texting each other? These dudes just can't get enough of themselves.

Mark Cavendish is on his way to STL. He is in the leader's jersey in the 2nd Tour of Missouri. Nice. I hope to watch him zoom up Art Hill on Sunday.

Mondays with Orie. Orie Shafer is tackling the Performance Menu workouts. It is a rare treat to work with someone who asks good questions, works hard and discusses Stephen J. Gould in between sets. Clock genes in Drosophila, Orie? Those things actually sleep? I still have nightmares of their little red eyes from biology lab. Do they do any squats? :-)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Thoughts on Strength

Strength is an essential part of health and performance. Do you train for relative or absolute strength? Is optimal strength the same as maximal strength? Is the best measure or evaluation of strength always a barbell movement?

Tracking Heads

Fun with Dartfish an the ability to track objects. And no, you can't make it a smiley face.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Recent Elvis Sighting

Just in case you are wondering, he drives a pink '56 Cadillac.

Get Funky, Appreciate Rythym

It is great to see people doing more overhead movements lately, whether it be with barbell, kettlebell or gymnastic movements. Many people in the US, particularly male athletes, lack full shoulder ROM. Our obsession with strength and mass, in the form of bench pressing and bicep curling, sets our basic shoulder health back.

And for whatever reason, many health professionals forget that the shoulder complex is perfectly capable of 180 degrees of flexion and abduction. Overhead movements are not inherently dangerous or bad for you; they will be painful if you have let gravity and limited activity contribute to postural issues and muscle imbalances. This only happens if you don't exercise the upper extremities through a full ROM and maintain strength and mobility throughout the shoulder girdle complex. Cartwheels anyone?

But overhead movements are not just about being strong. It is not just about having big ol' upper traps and shrugging with objects over your head. Strength is just one component of a healthy shoulder girdle complex and it involves many other muscles besides the upper traps. In my mind, the primary benefit of overhead movements is maintaining and developing normal scapulohumeral rhythm--the coordination of scapular upward/downward rotation with humeral elevation/depression.

When I say humeral elevation, I mean humeral abduction or flexion. For the humerus to elevate properly, it must have the cooperation of the scapula. This does not mean the scapula must simply elevate; something many seem to misunderstand. In fact, scapular elevation by the upper trap alone, is many times a compensation for a loss of scapulohumeral rhythm. The upper trap may grab the spotlight by being all buffed out; that doesn't mean it performs the brunt of the real work when it comes to the scapula's role in overhead movement. Big traps don't necessarily mean good shoulder health.

There's a little more to the story. The scapula also abducts, protracts and upwardly rotates as the arm elevates; it must reverse this process as the arm returns to neutral. This rotation allows for optimal contact of the humeral head in the glenoid fossa for maximal stability; it also creates room for the rotator cuff and subacromial bursa under the acromion. This coordinated movement requires work by the entire trapezius complex--middle and lower traps too, and the serratus anterior. (Note the serious serratus anterior in the picture. Today's singlets don't allow us to see full shoulder girdle musculature in the weightlifter.)

So, if you are a novice trainer or coach, before you get jiggy with it and go shouting out to the world about the "active shoulder" with overhead movements, please take the time to get a basic understanding of the biomechanics and functional anatomy of the shoulder complex. No one expects you to rehab a shoulder--that's not your job--but you should be able to have a fundamental understanding of what happens with normal overhead movement if you are going to teach it.

So get funky and hip to scapulohumeral rhythm. Scapular rotation is the key to humeral elevation.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Structure & Function: Positively Pes Planus

Does one develop flippers as s/he becomes an elite swimmer over the years or does having flippers contribute to becoming an elite swimmer?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Freedom's Fury

Freedom's Fury
is a great documentary about the most famous water polo game in history, Hungary vs. the Soviet Union in the semi-finals of the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. This game was played in the shadow of the Soviet crackdown of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. It is a great story of sport, politics and society. It is also a fascinating look at the history of water polo in Hungary, and why this small country has dominated the sport throughout the years. The first hour of the movie contains great footage and discussion of the innovative training methods pioneered by the Hungarian national team in the 1950's.

Mark Spitz narrates. And it just so happens that Spitz, as an age-group swimmer, was briefly coached by the most famous player on the 1956 team, Ervin Zador. The most talented Hungarian player, Zador defected to the US immediately following the '56 Olympics and never played water polo again.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Olympic Thoughts

Kinesiotape: Anyone else notice the plethora of tape on various athletes?

Great Britain: Kicking ass and taking names in track cycling. Vern had a great post with a link to the story of how and why they are succeeding now. Chris Hoy rules.

Volleyball: Don't get me started. The indoor game is so beautiful and powerful. It requires the ultimate in teamwork and communication. Too bad you cannot watch it during prime time.

Tall athletes: Don't give up hope if you don't like basketball or volleyball. Maybe there is a place for you on the track or in the ring.

Thank BOB: Despite their best efforts to force-feed us certain sports in prime time, I have to say it has been great to see the live streaming of the BOB (Beijing Olympic Broadcasting) feed on the NBC website. I just watched the Madison and match sprint finals, and will now pop over to the weightlifting feed to see the 105+ A session. My favorite archived videos thus far are the goals of the day in soccer and the 63 B women's session in weightlifting (Michaela Breeze's gutsy performance despite injury). If you want to see some of the best of weightlifting, I highly recommend the 105 A men's session. Dimitri Klokov (silver) is one of the most athletic 105s around. Gold medalist Andrei Aramnau, at 5' 8" and 20 years of age, made a 200 kg snatch look like nothing. Note also his lack of upper body mass. This dude totaled 436 kg (200/236) and set three world records and doesn't look anything like an action figure. More on that thought in another post.

Never knew: There was a "coach peloton" in the rowing/canoe/kayak events. It's gotta take some coordination to not crash into your fellow coach or ride into the drink if you get a little excited during the race.

Monday, August 18, 2008

October 25: Learn a little something!

Iron Maven and CrossFit DesPeres are excited to present an intensive, one-day workshop with Mike Burgener on Saturday, October 25. We'll work from 9-5 and provide you with a great lunch and a fun t-shirt.

Participants will have the opportunity to have video feedback while learning the fundamentals of the snatch, clean and jerk. Want bang for your buck? This is it. Space is limited so sign up now to reserve your spot.

Email me (tfober at gmail dot com) to register.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mel on NBC this morning

She will be featured on NBC from 11 am to noon, Central time. She had a American record performance, making all 6 lifts and hitting a PR snatch by 2 kg. We are so proud of her! More details soon. Some how she was able to text me about 3.5 hours before she lifted. I am so happy for her. Hopefully now she can relax, eat (!) and enjoy some time with her family and see some of the sights and other events over there.

Friday, August 08, 2008

From the San Diego Union Tribune

Local weightlifter loses his spot

August 8, 2008

Getty Images
Weightlifter Casey Burgener is a Rancho Buena Vista High graduate.

BEIJING – Casey Burgener flew to Beijing. He collected his Team USA gear. He prepared mentally and physically to participate in the Olympic weightlifting competition.

His six teammates are competing.

His fiancee, Natalie Woolfolk, is competing.

He isn't.

The Rancho Buena Vista High alum is 6 feet 1, weighs 275 and can hoist 494 pounds above his head, but he has been tossed around by the capricious politics of international sport like a dandelion in a hurricane. Burgener was on the U.S. Olympic team, off it, on it again and then, finally last night, off it for good.

“It's heartbreaking,” said Woolfolk, who plans to marry Burgener this fall in his hometown of Bonsall. “To finally find out the day before the Olympics starts that you're not competing, it's just heartbreaking. I wish he was here with me.”

Woolfolk paused as her eyes welled with tears.

“But he's extremely level-headed,” she continued. “He doesn't blame anybody. He doesn't call anybody names. He'll get over this and get on to something else. But he deserves this, just as much as anyone on this team. He deserves to be called an Olympian. He's a testament to the attitude, the commitment, everything that goes along with being an Olympian.”

A USA Weightlifting spokesman said Burgener, 25, had declined interview requests, but his coaches and teammates spoke candidly and at times angrily about what they perceive to be a major snub.

The back story:

Weightlifting is an individual sport, but countries earn berths to the Olympics through team results at the World Championships. The 27th-place team at worlds gets three slots, and the U.S. men finished exactly 27th at the 2007 worlds last summer.

In December, USA Weightlifting executive director Dennis Snethen was scanning the Web site of the International Weightlifting Federation and noticed, to his utter shock, that Chinese Taipei was listed as 27th. The U.S. men were now 28th.

The IWF explanation: Lifters from other countries had been disqualified for failing drug tests, and when the results were recalculated the U.S. men had dropped one place.

The U.S. men went to a secondary Olympic qualifier, in Peru in March, and secured two slots for Beijing. They continued lobbying for a third slot and, Snethen says, were told they had been granted it shortly before the U.S. Trials.

Then Burgener, a heavyweight whose father taught him how to lift in their garage, qualified as the third U.S. man.

A week later, the IWF informed USA Weightlifting that, sorry, it would have only two men's berths in Beijing.

“Our strategy,” Snethen said, “was to bring Casey to the Games, and with drug positives or no-shows hope the IWF would let him in. That didn't happen, unfortunately.”

The great irony, of course, is that positive drug tests – Greece and Bulgaria each had 11 – end up punishing a country without any.

“We're lifting weights clean and we have a slot taken away from us,” Snethen says. “That we play the game clean and get penalized for it, that's what hurts the most.”

Burgener is expected to remain in Beijing to watch Woolfolk compete Tuesday in the 139-pound division. Woolfolk said Burgener's parents, Mike and Leslie, likely would cancel their trip to Beijing.

And Burgener's future in the sport?

“He's saying that he's done,” Woolfolk said, “but it's hard at this moment to say you'll keep going. I think he needs some time away from the sport right now.”

Mark Zeigler: (619) 293-2205;

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Casey Burgener: A Class Act

Casey Burgener has represented himself, his family and his country with the utmost dignity and professionalism. He has consistently performed nationally and internationally, drug-free. He has earned his degree in physics. He has spent the better part of 14 years preparing to compete on the Olympic stage.

This morning he called his family from Beijing to tell them he will not be competing. There is no 3rd spot for the United States men's team, as was presented to the athletes and the crowd in Atlanta on May 16, 2008. Casey's performance and documentation of the presentation of Casey as a member of the 2008 Olympic team, as captured by NBC on video, will likely never be shown. The following is in honor of Casey Burgener and his accomplishments on that day.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

More Stuff

Reading: Rome 1960 by David Maraniss. Fabulous account of the 1960 Olympic Games and the stories behind the events, athletes and organizers. Big-time Cold War politics. US athletes are instructed to give written propaganda to Soviet athletes. Divided Germans compete as a unified team. The first televised games with Jim McKay receiving film daily via plane from Italy. Avery Brundage, IOC emporer. Cassius Clay is 18 and smitten with Wilma Rudolph. Ed Temple and the Tigerbelles rock. Rafer Johnson leads the US team as flagbearer and wins the decathlon.

Wondering: When is this stupid heat and humidity going away? Heat index of 113 yesterday.

Waiting: Now NBC says Melanie is possibly going to be on the Wednesday Today Show. Possibly. Mel's session will be televised (or some parts from it) this Sunday on NBC.

Really: Had a request via a contact for video of Casey Burgener for Late Night with David Letterman. Sent them a clip. Supposed to use it this week sometime, but I have no idea of the context of the segment or what they are doing.

More waiting: We will find out in roughly 48 hours whether or not Casey Burgener will compete in Beijing. He is there training and in good spirits. Regardless of what happens, he'll stay through the end of the games and then fly away to Europe with Natalie for several weeks to decompress. They will be married in November.

Looking forward to: October 25. My friend Mike Burgener, the Weapon of Mass Instruction, is coming to STL for a one-day workshop on the lifts. Email me if you'd like to join us and learn something. It's $250 and includes opportunities for video feedback, lunch and a hip t-shirt.

Thursday, July 31, 2008


  • Mel will be featured on the NBC Today Show, tomorrow morning (Friday, Aug 1). And there should be a clip or two of video from Iron Maven included in the segment.
  • Mel called from Beijing Monday. She is training well, hitting 162.5 kg PR back squat yesterday and an easy 110 kg CJ the day before. You can read her blog here.
  • Carissa Gump, 63 kg Olympian, has her blog here!
  • Great post by Vern Gambetta on the difference between coaching and training. Everybody wants to get certified so they can "train" people. It all seems so cool and glamorous to be a trainer, right? ROTFLMAO. But what they are really learning to do is dole out canned workouts and exercise combinations. Is there really any substance there? Do they know what they are doing and why? Is a particular exercise appropriate for a particular person? Remember, people will get better at anything if they repeat it enough; particularly if they are starting from an untrained status and the measuring stick is only as blunt as volume of activity for time. General fitness and work capacity are a good start. But we can do better and give them so much more.
Editorial: On that note, I think use of the term coach, as a proper noun, should be reserved for someone who actually leads a team or an individual in a seasonal or year-round, competitive endeavor within an organization, be it a club, school or whatever. And this usually when leading the college-age level teams or individuals and below. Young people should refer to an adult coach as "Coach" just as they would use the term Mr. or Mrs. It is a sign of deference and respect in the athletic setting. Kids at DeSmet call me Mrs. Fober or Coach Fober because I have actually acted in a coaching capacity and I am an adult.

Adult athletes who actually compete in a recognized sport will typically refer to their coach by his or her first name. The relationship here is more of a partnership and collaboration and there is no need to establish formal boundaries of respect or delineate who is in charge. This is unless there is a need to establish and maintain control, and there is a very formal team coaching situation. For example, I can see the USA Basketball men calling Coach K, Coach K. I would sure as hell have no trouble calling Pat Summitt "Coach." But these people are true coaching professionals and their job is to lead a group of collegiate and professional athletes in a designated competition.

Former athletes may refer to a respected and long-time sport coach as "Coach" after they have graduated, most often as a sign of affection and respect; but most of the time, that person will encourage former athletes and other adults to address them by their first name. And I'll admit, it is hard for me to call my college volleyball coach by her first name, something she has asked me to do. She will always be my coach and mentor; I respect her immensely. But there is no longer a need to delineate boundaries of rank between us. I can still learn and take direction or mentoring from her, but we are both adults now and I acknowledge that by addressing her by her name.

Adults who coach in a school setting may refer to colleagues as "Coach". This can be out of true respect, especially if that person is older or a well-established sport coach professional; but many times it is in jest and for the fun of it, almost in a mocking manner, when student-athletes are not around. If students are around, then we refer to each other as Mr./Mrs./Coach Fober. Otherwise, we refer to each other by our first names.

Monday, July 28, 2008

My Crazy Week

So I'm back in my hometown for my grandmother's funeral. I'm sad, but I'm relieved for her and for my stepmother and father who have been primarily responsible for her over the last four years. End of life issues are challenging and I don't think our health care system does the best job with them, but my grandmother's providers did an admirable job and we, as a family, were able to make the right decisions this past week.

Tomorrow, I will be one of six grandchildren who will act as pallbearers at her funeral. Few women have the opportunity to take part in this aspect of a funeral. Hopefully I can hold it together and do what I need to do.

On a lighter note, Kevin and I had the pleasure of having Mike and Leslie Burgener at our home last Friday. We had a blast celebrating their wedding anniversary with them and just visiting. Mike's sister lives in my hometown and our families know each other. It is a small world.

That's it for now. More as I have the chance. Until then, here is some fun video of Nat, Casey and Carissa training for Beijing that Mike put together from his recent trip to the OTC.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hexlite Gets A Thumbs Up from Vern

I think this calls for an official Iron Maven WOOT!

Love the bar. Used it in my workout on Tuesday. Have to figure out how to get six for next off season VB. It is really cool for farmers walks - part of my PLA (Play Low Ability) Module. You can bet my beach ladies will be using it when they get off this road trip.

All the Best
Vern Gambetta

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mel Update

Talked to Mel yesterday. She is having the best training cycle of her career as she approaches 21 days out. She's tired and training with an extra layer of clothing on to try an simulate the heat and humidity of the conditions in China. Mel hit a lifetime best snatch of 83 kg and 105 kg, 110 kg and 112 kg clean and jerks yesterday. She holds the American record in the clean and jerk, 113 kg, set in 1998.

Before yesterday, she had never even attempted 83 kg in training. I am not surprised she is still making progress at 33. She's had over 18 months of consistent training for the first time in 10 years, with only minor aches and pains; her back is not a limiting factor. She's meticulous with her diet and is working hard to keep her weight at 55 kg so she can better tolerate the pounding--and avoid the wrath of Obi John. She's not got access to a high-tech athlete recovery center, so she improvises and takes a large Tupperware storage container out in the back yard and fills it with ice cold water and has a seat.

It's not rocket science. It is steady training, a wise coach, a supportive training environment, a supportive family and community, and an athlete who is grateful for every moment of the journey.

Perfect Summer Morning

Nothing better than a great cup of coffee, the paper and a seat alongside Phil and Paul as they commentate on the first Alpine stage of Le Tour.

My thoughts are with Bec, Sandy, Ted and my other peeps who head to Jefferson City this morning to face the MO State Time Trial. 1:05 Bec! Watch out for 2 Old and his new Cervelo P3C. May you all have a tailwind on the way back in!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Waiter's Bow

The sit and reach test stinks. Why? Well, it does not allow one to discriminate between hip and lumbar spine flexion. It tells you NOTHING. The initial testing position puts the hip/torso in 90 degrees of flexion to start; that is an end-range hip flexion position for many. For most, this is only a tortuous test of lumbar flexion. Ever had the pleasure of making a wrestling room full of 9th grade boys try to sit up against the wall while keeping their knees extended?

I prefer to use the Waiter's Bow as a assessment tool, and as a warm up or cool down exercise. My goal is to create hip extensor mobility in the context of the neutral spine. The Waiter's Bow is a weight-bearing, AROM test of flexibility that allows you to discriminate hip flexion from lumbar spine flexion. The Waiter's Bow is, in my book, a basic movement comprehension skill everyone should learn. It lays a foundation for advanced training skills and the neutral-spine body awareness that is critical for back health over time. Who needs to stoop when you can either squat, bow or some combination thereof ? It ain't rocket science; just movement basics.

The Waiter's Bow

  • Start with feet shoulder width apart, hands on hips
  • Keep knees stable but slightly unlocked
  • “Hinge” forward at the hips, lowering a neutral spine torso
  • Lower only as far a hip flexibility will allow
  • Return to standing, leading with the hips, not the spine
  • Keep chin tucked, torso tall and scapulae slightly retracted

Sunday, July 13, 2008


We are finally back from Las Vegas and the NSCA National Conference. It was a busy weekend for me, as Iron Maven shared a booth in the exhibit hall with Hitechplates, had a research poster and spoke. Overall, it was a challenging, but invigorating experience. Kevin came with me and was a rock of support throughout the conference. I cannot thank him enough for being there.

It was great to exhibit with Mercedes Dickerson. Her Hitechplates were a highlight of the show and I'm so happy for her success. There is no one more deserving. The Hexlite bar received good reviews from people in the school and adult/occupational health settings in the US, Canada and Ireland. It was gratifying to hear people say they had been looking for a light hex training bar.

The talk? Well, that was a trip! I've never been so nervous. Usually I'm just fine and have a great time. But this room was huge--there were more people than I expected--and had multiple screens, with a big video camera right out in front. The tech guys would switch from the slide to video of the speaker after only 15 seconds of the slide on the screen--that was a little annoying if you were trying to make a point with an image. Expressive aphasia? Frog in the throat? At one point, all I could think of was the Brady Bunch episode where Cindy Brady went into a catatonic state and stared blankly into the red light of the tv camera. Hey, you can only learn and improve by doing.

Evidently I was able to speak somewhat coherently. People took notes and there was good group of people with questions for me at the end, along with many compliments. I definitely stuttered and stammered a bit, read my slides a bit too much, failed to reference a couple of good studies and make a few points I wanted to make. But I can honestly say I went up on that stage to share concepts and ideas that I think will help people better understand the impact personal mechanics (lifting and squatting) have on back health. No infomercial for me. I signed an agreement that said I would not self-promote during the talk. There were no references to my business website or the Hexlite bar during the presentation. Instead, I paid for the opportunity to exhibit and spent roughly 16 hours in the booth.

All in all, it was a great trip. Got to see many friends and colleagues. Watched Buddy Lee do his thing in his booth behind ours. Had a blast watching various people train at the Dynamic Eleiko booth across from us. Had some great conversations with Jerry Mayhew, Vern Gambetta and Lou DeMarco--guys who know how to teach, and who make it their personal mission to mentor others, while being lifelong learners themselves. And that, my friends, when it comes down to it, is really what it is all about.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Hexlite: A Idea Becomes Reality

I've wanted to build a light-weight, dual-handled, hexagonal shaped training bar since 2001 or so. I have found this style of bar--much more so than a traditional barbell--to be very useful for teaching ground-based lifting mechanics to beginners.
  • It facilitates learning the concept of pushing your COM and the mass of the bar away from the floor versus "pulling" with your back. This is something many people have trouble doing initially with a barbell.
  • It facilitates lowering your COM with your lower extremities versus bending over to reach for the bar.
  • It eliminates the problem of getting the bar around the knees.
  • It provides an alternative to or an additional leg strengthening exercise to barbell squatting. If anyone is initially uncomfortable with a barbell on their back, he/she can use this type of bar to groove the confidence, stability, mobility, body awareness necessary to barbell squat.
But there are some barriers to using traditional 45+ lb. bars. First, even with 10 lb plates, the beginning load of 65 pounds is too much for many young people and many adults. Second, this type of bar is historically associated with maximal deadlifts and shrugs; not with teaching basic body mechanics or being used as a light-weight training modality. You just don't see this type of bar used by physical therapists or ATCs in a rehabilitation or reconditioning setting.

My goal is to blow away those barriers and make ground-based leg strength and mobility work accessible to everyone. I want to bring a low-impact, weight-bearing exercise modality to those who are at risk for osteopenia and osteoporosis. It may take a bit of a paradigm shift in methodology for it to be accepted by physical educators and rehabilitation professionals, but that is fine. I want to thank everyone who has provided input and feedback on the Hexlite bar over the last 12 months. It has been a long journey. Thank you for helping make this dream come true.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Amazing Cara Heads

Cara, the reigning 69 kg US national champion and current alternate for Beijing, keeps training like she means it. Her 95 kg snatch and 122 kg c&J at the Trials were two of the best lifts I've seen all year. This is a double-bodyweight (146 kg) set for 10, gentle readers. You can hear her training parter and fellow Olympic team member, Kendrick Farris, giving her a little support in the background. She hits a set of 135 kg/10 right before the PR set.

Cara and Kendrick train at LSU-Shreveport, under the direction of Kyle Pierce. Now, their training plan differs a bit from many other typical weightlifting training programs in that they squat sets of 10 on a regular cycle. Thus, they squat a higher volume on a regular basis than many other competitive weightlifters. For example, Melanie Roach (coached by John Thrush) never squats more than triples. But her current training plan has her squatting every day of the week. She may even squat and front squat in the same training session. There are many different coaching philosophies on how to apply volume/intensity/frequency for the competitive weightlifter, particularly with squatting.

BTW, Melanie went 6/6 at a meet in Canada yesterday with a 77/80/82 and 100/105/110, for a 192 total.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Headroom Therapy

My own personal therapy session. Felt the need to go through the vaults and see what was there. Some of my favorite clips from the past two years.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008

More Thoughts on Back Health

I cringe when I see this. Those who advocate development of paraspinal and erector muscle mass promote doing so with exercises like this. If you understand anything about the spine--if you've read any Stuart McGill--you'll realize that repeated spinal flexion and extension, over time, is risky. The spine is not a hip, knee or even a shoulder. The musculature around the spine is designed for postural control, not ballistic, concentric force production. Hip and leg musculature is.

For performance and health, we want to develop the ability to stabilize the spine and transfer force through the torso, from the ground up. The force is produced and absorbed primarily by the lower extremities. Best movement practices in training, then, teach the athlete to distinguish hip flexion/extension from spine flexion/extension and incorporate the principles of using the hip vs the back during training, life and sport. Now I understand that many tasks don't allow us to use perfect body mechanics and that there will be lumbar flexion and extension with many sport and life movements. However, it is unnecessary and unwise to train loaded and repeated lumbar flexion and extension in order to prepare for those situations.

It's kinda like smoking. Yes, there will be some who survive--maybe even thrive--doing rounded back DLs, wacky ballistic glute-ham stuff, thousands of back (not hip) extensions, etc. But my bet is they are the exception and not the rule. Each body handles stress a little differently. And it is the cumulative stress--the insidious degeneration over time--that gets most of us. Most people don't appreciate good back health, or joint health in general, until it is gone. You don't have to be one of those people.

A better bet is to optimize lower extremity mobility, strength and power while developing sound, efficient movement skills specific to your sport and life tasks. Optimize and apply quality stress to the spine, not maximal stress. This requires understanding and appreciating the difference between spine and hip mobility with sagittal plane movements.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thoughts on Back Health

Those who think of hypertrophy around the lumbar spine as a marker of back health or view it as a training goal are misguided. Absolute spinal erector strength doesn't necessarily protect your back from anything; skilled movement patterns are more likely to do that. Back health (from a sagittal plane standpoint) is about control of torso orientation and alignment, while moving within the context of gravity. It is about understanding the difference between spine flexion/extension and hip flexion/extension. It is about limiting shear, torque and compressive forces over time, while maximizing strength and mobility of the lower extremities. Back health starts from the ground up, not in the back musculature.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Favorite Coach

There was a quiet retirement gathering for Kevin and basketball coach Bob Steiner last night at school. Nice to see some of the former swimmers and parents. And get a DVD copy of the 2002 state championship year--when the Spartan team toppled the Parkway South Patriots by 4 points (215 to 211) and kept them from their 4-peat. It was a total team effort. The newspaper basically said South had it in the bag after Friday's prelims; but Coach Fober knew his team was only 9 points behind. And as he has said, so often, in his infinite wisdom:

The race isn't swum, until it is swum.
A South kid false starts in the 50 free consolation final and our guy, who was in lane 2 (15th) wins the consolation final (9th) for major points. A Spartan sophomore swims the race of his life in the 500 and moves up from 14th to 9th, while two South kids in the same consolation final place lower. The South 200 free relay anchor forgets to put his goggles over his eyes when he dives in, and the team ends up in the consolation heat, while the Spartan 200 free relay owns the finals and captures their second 2oo free relay state title in two years. The Spartans did the little things right when it counted and they bested a team no one had beaten in 3 years--with only one relay champion and no individual state champions. It was a total team effort, with everyone working up to their personal potential; what high school sports should be about.

That's Coach Fober for being a role model and mentor for the young Spartans under your guidance. As one parent wrote in her thank you note:

I don't think that it is just chance that our boys chose the career paths they did. They learned from you how important a coach can be in the life of a teenage boy. I am so glad that you were such a strong role model for them, never placing winning over the right choice.
And when you work hard and make the right choices over time, success will eventually follow.

(For a more light-hearted look at Coach Fober's coaching style, see him in action at his last Metro Catholic Conference Championships here.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Recover and Recharge

After 48 hours with little sleep and 36 hours of travel, I was happy to see the big orange couch. The furry people were also happy to help in my recovery efforts.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Dios Mio!

While having a perfectly interesting and tasty lunch at La Boqueria, after the Picasso and History Museum, we were very rudely interrupted:


DeSmet students in Barcelona! Can't get away from them at home, or here.

A dios mio.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lunch @ the '92 Olympic Pool Venue

Had a nice afternoon on Monjuic, the site of the '92 Olympic opening ceremonies, gymnastics, athletics, swimming, baseball and water polo. The museum was a great deal--only 4 Euros--and had a wonderful collection of video, photos and historical items (like Big Mig's time trial machine, above). There was also a neat display regarding the use of technology to catalogue every aspect of a futbol match.

We had lunch at the cafe overlooking the competition pool. The facility (sync swim pool, 50 m outdoor competition pool and 50 indoor pool, serve as part of the Barcelona Institute of Sport and a municipal recreation facility. You can swim, nude or not, in the '92 competition pool.