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