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Why Therapists Should Understand Strength

As a chiropractor that specializes in manual therapy and rehab protocols, I see patients dealing with a variety of problems. Now while the conditions can vary greatly, the common denominator that all my patients share is that they are either in pain or unable to perform a specific activity at a level they desire. Being able to provide a service to help people was exactly why I got into chiropractic and it is why I work to continually develop my craft and treatment philosophy. My treatment philosophy has helped to develop my system for how I go about evaluating and treating each patient that comes to me for help. As valuable as my education and residency has been to developing my treatment philosophy, the insight and knowledge I have gained on strength and conditioning as an athlete and coach has been equally valuable.

A great mentor of mine told me that with his background as a strength coach, he uses that background and mindset everyday with his patients. Some years later, I continually have a renewed appreciation for what he communicated in that statement because looking at my patients through the "lens of strength" can provide me with a refreshing perspective.

Why?

Simply put, strength matters. Strength has the ability to cover up dysfunction. Strength will directly impact movement quality. Strength will improve mobility or flexibility issues. Strength has tremendous ability to minimize or reduce overuse injuries. Strength becomes a focus in my treatment plans and the advice I provide my patients.

In my opinion, a major player in the outcomes of patient care is the quality of advice they receive. Much of the advice I provide is directed at my patient's current exercise routine. And, at times, the advice is very blunt. The type of advice that is often tough to swallow on their part because it means big changes

What does that advice look like?

Say you are dealing with low back pain that is worsened from repetitive flexion. You can’t tolerate bending forward to tie your shoes or get nervous just thinking about picking up something from the floor, yet you love your group exercise class that has you running through dozens of crunches, sit-ups, air squats, and wall-balls. Your back is not going to respond to any form of therapy until you remove the irritating factor (your group exercise class) and follow the advice of substituting in more appropriate exercises that promote a healthy back.

Say you can’t properly lift your arms overhead with ideal form and posture through the shoulders, spine, and hips. Now you want to participate in an exercise routine that includes Olympic lifts such as the snatch and overhead pressing. What you must understand is that you lack the prerequisites to perform loaded overhead exercises. This is why your shoulders or low back hurt after overhead pressing or performing a full snatch and you need to be advised accordingly.

Advice should be constructive, providing a solution. However, there is some advice that is simply unacceptable. The classic example of this is the runner who develops knee pain, decides to see a doctor and is told, "Stop running."

Unacceptable.

The solution is rarely that simple. Maybe that runner lacks movement control in joints in such as the ankles, hips, pelvis, and spine because they lack adequate strength in surrounding musculature. Maybe that should be addressed while their current running program is restructured according to their tolerances.

There are solutions and often those solutions involve strength development.

As a therapist, odds are in your favor that you are going to find a strength deficit that is playing into that runner's knee pain. Odds are in your favor that you are going to find that lack of strength is correlated with any number of common conditions.

Lack of strength is never solved by inactivity and prescribing rest. Strength requires the opposite. Strength requires focus, guided effort. Strength is a difficult pursuit and it requires that one knows what they are doing if you are going to coach the process.

On my end as a therapist, what becomes even more difficult to navigate is managing a patient who has his or her own personal trainer or strength coach. I always ask them what they are doing for "training," and most times my response is inwardly shaking my head. I don’t say anything, unless I’m asked. If I’m asked, then it is time to be brutally honest.

It is important to note that you shouldn’t just take exercises away, but substitute better ones. My job is to find the best exercise for the job. This is why developing a large exercise pool to draw from is invaluable as a strength coach and as a rehab specialist. Having a huge exercise pool will allow you to make progressions, regressions, and substitutions based on movement patterns, training goals, mechanical sensitivities, or movement limitations.

At GP, we have taken time to develop our exercise pools for lower body pushes/pulls, upper body pushes/pulls, hybrids, developmental stabilization, etc. This allows seamless transition between phases of rehabilitative care for my patients and continual development from a strength and performance perspective for my athletes because we have developed our plan for progressive development. This understanding of strength also allows me to provide the most appropriate advice when it comes to exercise selection.

As William Penn said, “Right is right even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong even if everyone is for it.” People are there for your expertise and knowledge as much as your skills. Remember to provide the care and treatment you would want to receive and provide them with the advice and direction you would want to understand.

More related reading:

https://gallagherperformance.com/interview-with-mike-odonnell-dc-ccsp-cscs/

https://gallagherperformance.com/the-best-exercise/

https://gallagherperformance.com/before-you-go-to-a-chiropractor-read-this-first/

Are You Promoting Independence?

As a chiropractor, I often treat people who have already exhausted all of their insurance money from seeing other chiropractors and/or physical therapists. They come to me out-of-pocket and immediately expect me to do significantly more in one or two visits than the previous professional(s) did after the 12-20 visits that drained their insurance benefits.

I’ve routinely accepted the challenge and many times I’ve closed their case in 2-4 visits by having them listen to advice, advice that addresses underlying issues previously missed or ignored by other providers. Yes, I am a chiropractor and I will adjust and perform manual therapy as needed. But the difference maker time and time again has been the time focused on education directed at independence. Promoting independence on the patient’s behalf is a game changer. This is why I feel so strongly that empowering a patient should be the focus behind therapy and prescribed home programs. As patients discover how they are able to better themselves, their compliance becomes a non-issue and outcomes drastically improve.

The opportunity to educate others is a responsibility that should never be taken lightly. As a provider, the methods utilized to accurately assess a patient’s condition and direct treatment must also serve to improve provider-patient education and accountability.

Gray Cook places this perspective into words very well:

“Our current medical and physical cultures are wasting a lot of time and not creating independence in our clients or our patients. Do we want them to be well and go tell others about their experience or do we want them to keep returning as continual consumers? At what point does wasting time conflict with an oath to do no harm?”
Are you wasting your patient’s time?
One of the fundamental challenges within healthcare is that the human body is a complex adaptive system composed of several interacting parts that are continually changing in response to the stimulus from the environment. This complexity makes understanding the human body a difficult task. Unfortunately, some healthcare providers find reality too complex and would rather repeat the same routine evaluations and treatment over and over again to fit their own skill set rather than truly diagnosing a patient’s condition before administering treatment. This is where providers should question their principles. Are you doing the same thing over and over? Are you so ritualized that your care lacks individualized attention? Are you wasting your patient’s time because you keep missing their problem?

The very essence of what we do is problem solving. Before you can solve a problem, you first must identify what is relevant. On most patients, you can find any number of problems, but it is the relevant problems that are the key. To find relevant problems, you must have a reliable method. The foundation for any method is knowledge and experience. Knowledge and experience that is rooted in understanding how basic science (anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, etc.), pathology, assessment (orthopedics, technique, imaging, etc.), and treatment all integrate.

I’m continually shocked and disappointed when speaking with a new patient who has been told by previous providers that their symptoms “Don’t make sense.” When it comes to musculoskeletal (MS) care, everything makes sense. It may be extremely complex, but it makes sense. If something doesn’t make sense to you, then you don’t understand it well enough. Make changes. Take a more detailed history. Change your perspective. Perform a more detailed assessment. Expand your knowledge base. Do something different.

Never dismiss a patient as not making sense.

As a physical medicine provider, it is your job to have a knowledge base that is large enough to encompass the overwhelming majority of MS problems and conservative interventions. If you don’t, chances are you will suffer along with your patients because your knowledge base is not sufficient enough to diagnose their problems.

Diagnosis must have accuracy and completeness. It must include a pain generator and the relevant problems or dysfunctions. These must be put into context for the patient so they can understand how they came to be the way they are. This is critical as it provides the framework for the education and advice you provide your patient.

Ultimately, that very same framework serves to empower your patients to become more independent. The process is about transitioning them from dependence on you as the provider to an independent patient who truly understands their problem, how to go about fixing it, and the steps needed to prevent recurrent issues in the future.

Final Words
I’m not trying to do anything in my work at Gallagher Performance that is unheard of, but it is still rather uncommon. For my conscience, I would rather create independence than be routine. I also feel that this conscience is growing among healthcare providers and that it is a mindset patients desire to see from their provider.

Promote independence. Your patients will thank you.

More related reading:

https://gallagherperformance.com/stress-overload-and-injury/

https://gallagherperformance.com/relief-care-vs-regular-chiropractic-care/

https://gallagherperformance.com/before-you-go-to-a-chiropractor-read-this-first/

Stress Overload and Injury

In the world of athletics and pursuit of elite level performance, injuries are a given. However, the prevention of sports injuries is never as simple as identifying movements or exercises that should be avoided. It would be nice if it was that simple and if we could solve all the injury problems for athletes across the globe by eliminating one particular movement. Unfortunately, the human body is too complex to be solved by one solution that can be applied to everyone.

Rather than debate the role of specific exercises in a training or rehabilitation program, loading parameters and progressions, or whether certain exercises pose greater risk than reward, the purpose of this article is to discuss a much deeper concept that is at the heart of injury prevention and management, the balance between stress and adaptation.

Hello, My Name is Stress
Stress is something each and every one of us is all too familiar with. Whether it’s related to financial struggles, work-related problems, academic pressures, athletic expectations, family or relationship issues, stress is a common theme of the human existence. Now while these forms of mental stress are responsible for many reactions within the human body, for the purposes of this article this is not the kind of stress I am talking about. Rather, we will be discussing what is known as biological stress and how it relates to injury.

What is Biological Stress?

Biological stress accounts for all the physical demands (stress) placed on our bodies, both mechanical stress and metabolic stress.

Mechanical stress is a measure of the force produced and absorbed by the entire neuromusculoskeletal (NMS) system, including components such as nerves, muscle fibers, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and bone.

Metabolic stress is a measure of the demand placed on all the systems responsible for energy production/recovery and involves every major organ system in the body, such as the cardiovascular, nervous, muscular, endocrine, and immune systems.

As you can tell, both mechanical and metabolic stress are highly interrelated. The greater the degree of mechanical stress, the greater the degree of metabolic stress.

Balancing Stress & Adaptation
Training is best defined as, the targeted application of stress designed to disrupt homeostasis and put the body’s defense mechanisms at work; remodeling, strengthening and improving the efficiency of many different systems throughout the body.”
Factors that Influence Biological Stress:

  • Training Volume
  • Training Intensity
  • Training Frequency
  • Exercise Selection
These simple variables are what define individual training sessions and the training block/phase. They will dictate the amount of biological (mechanical and metabolic) stress, its application to the human body, and how much stress is applied. The training goal becomes to apply the correct type of stress in the appropriate dose/amount while targeted to the appropriate areas necessary to improve performance.

Training and biological stress is one side of the coin. The other side takes into consideration factors that influence adaptation. What makes the training process enormously more complex than it appears is what happens in between sessions as our body responds to the stress of the training session or adapts. The complexity stems from how many variables are involved in how we adapt to the stress imposed by training.

Factors that Influence Adaptation:
  • Genetics
  • Training History
  • Nutritional Habits
  • Sleep Quality
  • Mental Stress
Our genetics, nutritional habits, level of mental stress, training history, and sleep play a critical role in how quickly our body’s systems and tissues are able to rebuild and adapt from the stress of the training process. Get enough sleep, eat well, have better genetics and a long history of training, you will adapt much faster and respond quicker to the same level of training/stress than someone who is experiencing higher levels of mental stress, has poor sleeping habits, a poor diet, and lesser genetics. Even minor differences in any one of these factors can have a major impact on the ability to adapt to your current training.

Out of Balance, Out with Injury
By now, it should be clear that looking at sports injuries solely from the standpoint of the use or misuse of particular exercises or protocols doesn’t paint a very complete picture of why they happen. Even when discussions of injuries extend into the realm of assessing various movement patterns and joint function while trying to predict or minimize risk of injuries purely through improving quality of movement, often times these discussions fail to consider the fundamental concepts of the stress-adaptation balance.

The truth that is rarely discussed is that every athlete and individual is truly different and no two people will ever respond to a given training program or level of stress in the same manner. Recently, the days of individualized training have been replaced with current fitness trends of bootcamps, CrossFit, P90x and other such programs that irrationally encourage anyone and everyone to do the same thing.

Not only do such approaches always fail to consider a person’s individual ability to adapt to stress, they often preach that results are a direct result of nothing more than lots of effort with lots of intensity. The classic American attitude of “more is always better” approach has spilled over into training, training with high intensities at increasingly higher volumes. Now combine that with no individualized considerations and what you have is a recipe for injury. Current fitness trends seem to place a greater importance on the business model rather than having an appreciation and understanding of the complex function of the human body as it relates to developing a quality training program for the individual.

When you consider the stress-adaptation balance, it's not surprising why the injury rates are continually rising in youth sports. Young athletes today are under incredible pressures to specialize in one sport, be it from coaches or parents, and this is why it’s become sadly common to see athletes as young as 12-14 suffering from chronic stress injuries like tendinitis, or the more correct diagnosis of tendinosis. The ‘multi-sport’ athlete has been replaced with the ‘single-sport, all year long’ athlete. A year round competitive schedule, lack of properly constructed sport practice, and lack of time dedicated to physical preparation and athletic development is largely to blame for the huge increase in youth sports injuries in recent years.

I just happened to catch a recent interview with Tommy John on Dan Patrick’s radio show. For those of you who may be familiar with his name, Tommy John is a former MLB pitcher and the “Tommy John” surgery is named after him since he was the first individual to have the medical procedure of ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction. When asked about his thoughts as to why the surgery is so common now, Tommy John has this to say,
“I really believe….that sports, high school sports, little league sports, have become year round. And they force these kids at a very young age to pick a sport and that’s the only sport that they play, they train at. And you have these….pitching academies and your kid comes in and pays $2000-$3000 and you go in every Saturday and work on pitching. And I tell parents this, “If the best pitchers in the world don’t pitch year round, then why should your kid pitch year round?”….You have to get all these great surgeons that do Tommy John surgery, or did Tommy John surgery, they cringe when you say ‘year round pitching’ because you must let the arm rest.”
Without knowing exactly why, Tommy John nailed the central issue when it comes to several sports injuries, the lack of appropriate rest to allow the body the chance to recover and adapt to the stress placed upon it. Despite his example of baseball and pitching, the truth is each sport has it own unique injury rates. It truly all comes back to stress and the inability of most coaches and trainers to respect the stress and adaptation process. While some athletes are capable of adapting to stress far more efficiently than others, no one is immune from the effects of a poorly designed training or sport preparation program. Such programs are run by coaches or trainers that chronically stress athletes with little understanding of how to facilitate recovery and adaption, ultimately leading to injury.

Final Words
Regardless of whether you are a doctor, therapist, coach, athlete or simply just train to be healthy and stay in shape, this article was to present you with a more complete view of the role stress and adaptation play in the injury process. There is certainly value in assessing the degree of stress specific exercises may place on particular joints/tissues and whether or not they are appropriate for an individual given their needs or limitations. Failure to consider the role of stress tends to lead to an approach to injury prevention based purely on exercise selection/avoidance rather than one than also places consideration on biological stress and adaptation management.

More related reading:

https://gallagherperformance.com/ultimate-runners-guide-to-injury-prevention/

https://gallagherperformance.com/3-simple-steps-to-reduce-your-risk-of-sports-injuries/

https://gallagherperformance.com/prevent-re-injury-integrated-training-rehabilitation/

https://gallagherperformance.com/magnesium-for-better-health-athletic-performance/

Athletes Must Understand This to Be Successful

The emphasis of many athletic development programs is typically rooted in developing the physical qualities needed in the sport of competition. Physical qualities usually emphasized are endurance/work capacity, strength, body awareness, agility, quickness, speed, and explosive power. Improvements made in any of the previously mentioned physical qualities can certainly improve an athlete’s fitness and physical preparedness for competition. But great athletes are rarely defined by their level of fitness and how ‘in-shape’ they are. They are defined by their ability to play the game and perform the skills of the sport. Great coaches and trainers understand this, being able to take an athlete’s newly developed physical qualities and transfer them to into improved skill execution or technical mastery of sport related movements.

This is accomplished by specificity of training.

In order to ensure specificity of training, it is first necessary to determine the exact physical qualities an athlete is in greatest need of. Many coaches and trainers refer to this as ‘identifying the deficiency’. Once the deficiency is identified and an understanding is developed as to how the deficiency is limiting on-field performance, the deficiency can be trained appropriately.

To identify deficiencies, the majority of coaches and trainers utilize tests to determine an athlete’s level of strength, endurance, explosiveness, and even flexibility. While these tests are often necessary and provide quantitative information that will help assess how an athlete stacks up in comparison to others, what these tests fail to indicate is how efficiently an athlete can perform sport-specific skills or maneuvers.

Physical performance tests fail to indicate an athlete’s needs in relation to game performance. To ensure transfer of training into improved sport performance, identifying an athlete’s developmental needs must take into account an analysis of all components involved in successful competition. Often, this involves a complete biomechanical analysis of movements related to sport-skill execution.

For example, the deep squat is often a staple of many strength and conditioning programs. It can be a tremendous exercise for building hip strength and power and for a variety of other reasons. But when you examine the sport-related movements of many athletes, one can come to the determination that the need to deep squat is not a priority for many athletes. Consider hockey and basketball players. These sports require hip external rotation strength and power to execute sport-specific movements (skating, lateral cuts, change of direction, etc.). Rather than placing greater and greater emphasis on improving strength in the deep squat, these athletes will be better served in developing hip external rotation through other exercises which more closely mimic the external rotation demands of the hips in competition.

Again, great athletes are rarely the strongest or the fittest. There are studies that demonstrate Olympic-level athletes and World Record holders are not the strongest athletes (with the exception being in strength sports such as powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting). Athletes on the highest levels of performance do not lift the greatest amount of weight in commonly used exercises, such as the clean, squat, bench, or deadlift.

More commonly, athletes will fall in the midrange of strength numbers. What this is demonstrating is a ‘point of diminishing returns’. Many athletes reach a point at which increases in strength or other physical qualities do not always equate to improved sport performance.

Successful athletes must be able to execute sport skills with technical mastery and precision. Regardless if you are a hockey, football, soccer, lacrosse, baseball, tennis or track athlete, you need great acceleration, speed, agility (ability to change direction quickly), and the ability to jump high (which also requires explosive power). But arguably most important is the ability to perform all sport skills with mastery and precision of movement.

An athlete will never be successful if they do not have the ability to execute sport skills successfully. This is why technique must be closely analyzed and why the training of physical qualities must directly enhance the performance of sport-specific skill execution.

Analyzing an athlete’s sport skill technique and the demands of game play becomes a necessary first step to determine exactly what their training program should consist of. Often to correct and/or enhance technique, special strength exercises are implemented to develop the specific strength an athlete needs to execute movements more efficiently.

We addressed special strength exercises in this article. Special strength exercises are intended to replicate the exact neuromuscular pathways utilized in the execution of specific sport skills.

With proper analysis and identifying the ‘deficiency’ of the athlete, it enables the training program to have greater transfer into sport performance. The training program is continually adjusted as improvements in strength, speed, agility, and explosive power are integrated into technical mastery of skill execution.

Related Articles:

Training for Elite Athletes
Common Mistakes in Developing Young Athletes

Advanced Training for Elite Athletes

The concept of sport-specific training has continually gained popularity over the years. It’s a growing market and business-minded individuals are taking notice. Similar to trends in functional exercise, you have a growing number of trainers stating they offer the “latest in sports training”. Frankly, anybody online can say their method or approach is the best. In a competitive market, people enjoy using words to attract your business. There are plenty of gimmicks that exist, namely in the world of speed training. Often times, athletes acknowledge such methods did little or nothing to improve on-field performance. If these gimmicks worked, it's simply because the athlete was a novice or of low qualification. Novices have the unique ability to respond to almost any form of training. But does this mean what was done is most appropriate? Does it mean training was efficient or effective? Not necessarily. When it comes to the training of higher level athletes, previously used methods and/or exercises will eventually fail to produce continual improvements in sport performance. There is a point of diminishing returns and training must adapt accordingly.

For any athlete, sport-specific training must ensure maximal transfer of the training program to on-field results. If exercise selection or organization has little carry over to making athletes better, you are wasting valuable time and money. Transfer of training can be summed up with the SAID Principle (Specific-Adaptations to Imposed-Demands). The SAID Principle has been proven time and time again in both research and training. This principle implies that training is most effective when resistance exercises prescribed are similar to the target activity or primary sport form/movement. Furthermore, every training method will elicit a specific (and different) adaptation response in the body. There must be compatibility between training and sport. This becomes of increasing importance as an athlete reaches higher and higher levels of athletic competition.

As mentioned before, research has demonstrated how exercises that once worked to improve sport performance for an athlete at a lower qualification level, will eventually lose training effect as the athlete gains mastery. For instance, indicators of maximal strength (squat 1RM) often have a direct correlation in low-level athletes, but lose significant correlation with enhancing sport performance in higher-level athletes. Similarly, movement abilities such as sprinting and change-of-direction (agility) are each separate motor tasks, characterized by specific motor abilities. Improvements in linear sprint speed and change-of-direction ability have limited transfer to each other and the degree of transfer decreases as an athlete progresses.

Thus, in order to enhance the sporting ability of high-level athletes, there comes a time when we must get more detailed than simply chasing increased strength and 'quick feet'. It’s inevitable. There is no way to avoid it. The world’s greatest Sport Scientists understood this and proved the need to go beyond traditional training approaches to see continual improvements in performance as athletes reached higher levels of competition. This is where the concept of Special Strength Training (SST) becomes of importance in the training plan.

Introduction to Special Strength Training
Pioneered by Dr. Anatoli Bondarchuk, SST has been incorporated for decades by coaches in other countries, mostly in the Olympic sports. Dr. Bondarchuk is most noted for his involvement in the throwing sports, particularly the hammer, and his results speak for themselves. It was Bondarchuk’s identification and implementation of special exercises with the highest degree of dynamic correspondence to the sporting movement that became the focus of his athletes' training plan. His organization of training allowed athletes to set world records and win numerous international and Olympic medals despite the fact that they did not possess the greatest strength in movements such as the clean, squat, or bench press.

Exercise Classification System
Bondarchuk classifies exercises into 4 categories:

  1. GENERAL PREPARATORY EXERCISES are exercises that do not imitate the competitive event and do not train the specific systems.
  2. SPECIAL PREPARATORY EXERCISES are exercises that do not imitate the competitive event, but train the major muscle groups and same physiological energy systems as your sport. However, movement patterns are different.
  3. SPECIAL DEVELOPMENTAL EXERCISES are exercise that replicate the competitive event in training but in its separate parts. These exercises are similar to the competitive event, not identical.
  4. COMPETITIVE EXERCISES are exercises that are identical or almost identical to the competition event.
It’s important to note that as an athlete rises from general preparatory exercises to the competitive event, each category on the list becomes more specific and will have greater dynamic correspondence to the athlete’s sport. Thus, as specificity increases, exercise selection decreases. There are hundreds of exercises that potentially could be considered Preparatory exercises. Preparatory exercises prepare the body for more specific sport training, while Developmental exercises aim to develop strength and technique. Special Developmental and Competitive exercises have the highest degree of transfer. The greatest focus from a planning and organization standpoint is placed on these exercises in order to yield improvements in sport performance. At this point, exercise selection has narrowed greatly. Often, the competitive exercise is simply the competitive event. In the case of a track athlete, the competitive exercise is considered the event (hammer, shot put, long jump, 100m, etc). This can also include subtle variations to the event. For team-sport athletes, the competitive event is the game. The classification of exercises as they relate to specific athletes is not the scope of this article. That discussion is far too detailed and is always dependent upon the athlete, their level of qualification, and the competitive event.

In explaining SST, Bondarchuk said,
“General exercises have little relevance to the sporting action. Specialized preparatory exercises use the same muscles that are involved in a particular sporting action. Specialized developmental exercises include single joint actions that duplicate one portion of the sporting action. They also mirror the velocity and range of motion seen in the competitive movement. Competitive exercises are those that fully mimic the competitive movement in more difficult conditions and easier ones.”
Advantages of Special Strength
There are a number of advantages to programming SST within an athlete’s training program. Among many reasons, arguably the most important application of SST is the development of strength as it relates to specific movement and skill execution in an athlete’s sport. This advantage cannot be overlooked since very few approaches train physical qualities (strength, power, work capacity, etc) and technical skill development simultaneously. Programming should provide the avenue for athletes to achieve higher levels of sport mastery. Rather than applying appropriate programming, many trainers get caught chasing quantitative numbers (squat or bench 1RM, 40 yard dash time). While focus on general motor abilities is important for the novice athlete and provides performance-enhancing benefits, they lose their carryover for the more advanced athlete. SST ensures that strength gains will have a direct transfer into sport technique and skill development.

Special Strength is Task-Specific 

The effectiveness and accuracy of exercise selection within special strength training is dependent on a thorough understanding of what a given athlete is being asked to perform in competition. Selecting an exercise is great, but you have to put it into a program and a plan. You need to know your athlete and what exercise(s) works well for them. For team sports, task-specificity also takes into account that you understand the athlete’s position and the physiological/energy demands relative to their sport. Care must be taken to stay within certain parameters, above or below, the sporting movements to avoid yielding negative adaptations on the expression of sport skill. For example, applying loads that are too heavy will negatively influence technique by causing breakdown in mechanics that are important for developing speed strength. Speed strength is essential for throwing, jumping, and sprinting. Conversely, loads that are too light will also have a negative influence on mechanics since the lack of resistance with fail to promote the building of specific strength.

Summing It All Up
This article attempted to offer insight into the concept of special strength training and how it correlates with higher levels of sport mastery. Due to the nature of SST, it’s important to keep in mind that early specialization in training, similar to early specialization in sport, can occur too soon. Athletes like NHL stars Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, and Henrik Zetterberg (pictured above) don't train like novice, youth hockey players and young hockey players should not be training like them. Research has proven that athletes at low levels of training and physical ability need to focus on increasing general physical qualities such as strength, as strength will carry over greatly to movement speed. In fact, novice trainees have the ability to attain simultaneous increases in strength, power, coordination, speed, core stabilization, proprioception, and reduced injury risk. However, as an athlete reaches higher levels of mastery, effectiveness of basic training methods become limited quickly due to the specificity of movement and skill related to sport.

If you are unclear on how to properly utilize the training methods of SST, you should not blindly implement SST into your training. The incorrect application of exercise and program variables would likely have a negative affect on the neuromuscular actions involved in sport movement. Athletes looking to ensure the best results from SST would be wise to have their training overseen by a coach/trainer who is knowledgeable and competent in its application.

Sources

Bondarchuk. Transfer of Training in Sports. Ultimate Athlete Concepts, 2007.
Siff & Verkhoshansky. Supertraining. Ultimate Athlete Concepts, 2009.
Verkhoshansky. Fundamentals of Special Strength-Training in Sport. Sportivny Press, 1986.

 
 
 

Tendinopathy: Changing Treatment and Improving Recovery

Let’s start off with illustrating a scenario that may sound familiar to many of you:

As an athlete or someone who simply enjoys being active, you put in plenty of hours working out, training, practicing and competing. Whether it’s running, jumping, throwing, swimming, skating, shooting, or swinging, you slowly begin to notice some minor irritation in a joint or muscle. It could be a knee, a shoulder, back, quad muscle, groin, foot, wrist, or your rotator cuff. You sense things don’t feel right, but you convince yourself it’s nothing serious. After all, it may be a little painful during activity and goes away quickly when you are done. Plus, you got an important game, match, or race coming up and you can’t afford to take any down time.

You decide to put conventional wisdom into practice and take it easy, resting as much as possible. You ice the area. After all, it’s what we have been told to do for years. You may even take it a step further and do some stretches to bring some relief to the area. If the pain is bad enough, you may reach for medication to help take the edge off.

However, over the course of weeks or months, you begin to notice this pattern occurring more frequency as your pain persists. It’s got you puzzled. Now your pain is not just present during training or sport, but you notice it with everyday tasks such as walking or opening doors. You could shrug off the pain before, but now pain during simple tasks has your attention. You may now be getting concerned since it’s not only taking less to cause pain, but your pain may be getting more intense. You may even start to avoid certain activities.

What you are learning and beginning to realize is that despite the efforts to ease your pain, your symptoms persist and are getting worse. Despite rest, ice, and medication, your symptoms are not improving.

Change the Approach
Contrary to what has been preached for years, it is now known that interventions such as rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications and electrical stimulation will not solve your problem. The application of these interventions was based upon the assumption that inflammation within connective tissue or joints was created by repetitive motions and sustained postures associated with labor, sport, or other forms of activity. However, this assumption has been proven to be wrong. New understanding of overuse injury is providing the foundation for treatment that truly addresses the root cause of your symptoms, not merely alleviating them.

New Understanding
We all know someone who has been told they have tendinitis, or inflammation of a tendon. Tendinitis is commonly referred to as an “overuse” injury.

Tendons are the structures that connect muscle to bone. They are critical in transmitting the force produced by muscles during movement. It was believed that tendons, when injured or over-stressed, became inflamed and painful. Inflammation is the body's natural response to injury. Inflammation begins the healing process. Applications such as rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication are prescribed to minimize the effects of inflammation.

Interesting thing is, research has demonstrated that inflammation is rarely present within tendons, thus providing a new understanding of how overuse injuries develop.

Back in 1979, a couple surgeons by the name of Robert P. Nirschl and Frank A. Pettrone examined sections of injured elbow tendons under a microscope. What they found was no presence of inflammation. None. What they did notice was how the tendons had degenerated. Their color and texture had changed. The tendons were grayish and swollen rather than white and soft.

No inflammation? No tendinitis. Tendinosis is the correct name for this condition. Tendinosis is the result of repeated or sustained muscular contraction associated with poor movement or posture, which decreases blood supply. The body begins to react in similar ways as if you had injured muscular tissue and scar tissue development is triggered. This would be a normal response if there were actual damage, but the body has been tricked. There is no injury, but scar tissue accumulates in healthy tissue due to compromised circulation. Accumulated scar tissue increases mechanical stress on tendons, limiting normal function of muscle contraction. Limited function means reduced strength, range of motion, and can lead to pain during activity.

Now that we understand the mechanism behind scar tissue production, the deeper question is, "What is the underlying reason for poor movement or poor posture that is responsible for the overload?" Because if the reason was simply just sustained postures or repetitive movements, wouldn’t we see more of the population coming down with overuse injuries?

Mobility vs Stability: Stabilizing the Confusion
Mobility seems to be the buzzword of the fitness industry and it’s certainly popular among certain camps within the physical medicine profession. There are plenty of products, assessments, and even entire workouts that are devoted to mobility. Some define mobility as the ability to achieve a certain posture or position, while others define it as the ability to achieve a certain range of motion specific to a movement (i.e. squat, push-up).

Advocates of mobility claim that mobility should be achieved first. We need mobility and lack of mobility is implicated as a predisposing factor for overuse injury. But is mobility the secret to preventing overuse injuries and unlocking athletic performance?

While mobility is important, if we consider the developmental model, stability should be the primary focus.

Enter the Developmental Model
Developmental kinesiology, or essentially understanding how we develop motor function through early childhood, emphasizes the existence of central movement patterns that are “hard-wired” from birth. For example, an infant does not need to be taught when and how to lift its head, roll over, reach, crawl, or walk. Each and every one of these movement patterns occurs automatically as the CNS matures. During this process of CNS maturation, the brain influences the development of stability before purposeful movement can occur.

The process begins with the coordination of spinal stabilization and breathing through what is known as the integrated spinal stabilizing system (ISSS). This constitutes the “deep core” and it is activated subconsciously before any purposeful movement. The musculature of the ISSS contracts automatically under the control of the nervous system. The role of the ISSS is critical because it provides a fixed, stable base from which muscles can generate movement. The ISSS is essential to maintaining joints in a neutral position, thus maximizing muscular forces with minimal stress to structures such as ligaments, capsules, and cartilage.

Bottom line: Inadequate activation and stabilizing function of muscles may place greater stress within the body, compromising posture and movement. Mobility is DEPENDENT upon stability. You need stability first before you can achieve purposeful, efficient motion. A deficient stabilizing system is likely to lead to strain or overuse injury due to compensatory movements.

Managing Overuse Injury
Now that we have a better understanding of why scar tissue develops in the body and factors that contribute to poor movement and posture, its time to discuss what can be done in the treatment and prevention of overuse injuries.

#1 - Myofascial Release Techniques. Understanding that overuse injuries are most often degenerative scar tissue problems rather than inflammatory conditions, treatment strategies should change accordingly. Rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medication, and electrical stimulation are no longer ideal treatments. Treatment that involves myofascial release or soft-tissue manipulation becomes the focus in order to breakdown scar tissue and allow for normalized muscle/tendon function. Clinicians or therapists are able to locate scar tissue by touch. The hand is a powerful tool. Characteristics they evaluate for may include abnormal texture, movement restriction, or increased tension. Treatment is often delivered by the hand or with the use of an instrument and is non-invasive in nature.

#2 - Improve the stabilization function of muscle. To ensure quality movement during functional activities or sport skill execution, it is critical that all stabilizers of the body are adequately activated. Insufficiency within certain muscles in the kinetic chain will result in muscular imbalances that can contribute to chronic pain or poor performance. Corrective stabilization strategies thus should always be the foundational concept of any training or rehabilitation program. Clinicians are beginning to recognize the importance of “training the brain” since the majority of motor dysfunctions may be more related to altered CNS function than local joint or muscle issues. The CNS is the “driver” and attention must be given to how it coordinates muscular patterns during movement in order to provide stability.

For example, if someone has difficulty performing a squat, rather than focusing on local “tight” or “weak” muscles or restricted movement in a specific joint, one may need to realize that the insufficiency is due to a dysfunctional ISSS pattern at the brain level.

Rather than focusing on mobilizing a tight glenohumeral capsule/joint and strengthening the rotator cuff musculature in the treatment of shoulder impingement in a baseball pitcher, should you focus on an inadequate ISSS and the "weak" link in the kinetic chain, such as poor dynamic scapular stability, proprioceptive deficits, or impaired lower extremity mobility.

The body functions as a single unit during complex movement, not in segments. The key is to maintain control, joint stability, and quality of movement. Every joint position depends on the coordination of stabilizing muscle function throughout the entire body. Through repetition, ideal stabilization patterns are achieved and then integrated in with sport-specific movements.

Conclusion

New information has provided a deeper understanding of how overuse injuries develop and led to improved treatment. These concepts are foundational to the patient-care and sports performance training clients receive at Gallagher Performance. Myofascial release techniques can help offset the build-up of scar tissue within tendons or muscles, promoting normal function of those tissues. Ultimately, the ability to coordinate and control precise movement will minimize stress on the body and the trigger for scar tissue development. Developmental kinesiology provides a method for both assessment and the training or rehabilitation of muscular stabilization as it relates to efficient movement. The combination of these approaches not only reduces the risk of injury and pain syndromes resulting from overuse, but impacts sport performance.

Sources:
Cholewicki J, Juluru K, McGill SM. Intra-abdominal pressure mechanism for stabilizing the lumbar spine. J. Biomech. 1999a;32(1):13-17.
Hagins M, Lamberg EM. Individuals with low back pain breathe differently than healthy individuals during a lifting task. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2011;41:141-146.
Janda V. Muscles; central nervous regulation and back problems. In Korr IM (ed). Neurobiological mechanisms in manipulative therapy. Plunum Press, New York, 1978, pp 27-41.
Janda V. Muscles and motor control in cervicogenic disorders. In: Grant R (ed). Physical therapy of the cervical and thoracic spine. 1st edition. Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh. 1994, pp 195-215.
Kibler WB. The role of the scapula in athletic shoulder function. AM J Sports Med. 1998;26(2):325-336.
Kolar P, Sulc J, Kyncl M, Sanda J, et al. Postural function of the diaphragm in persons with and without chronic low back pain. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2012;42(4):352-62.
Kolar P. Facilitation of Agonist-Antagonist Co-activation by Reflex Stimulation Methods. In: Craig Liebenson: Rehabiliation of the Spine – A Practioner’s Manual. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2nd edition 2006, 531-565.
McGill SM, Grenier S, Kavcic N, et al. Coordination of muscle activity to assure stability of the lumbar spine. J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2003;13(4):353-359.
Page P, Frank C, Lardner R: Assessment & Treatment of Muscle Imbalances. The Janda Approach. Human Kinetics. 2010.
Panjabi MM. The stabilizing function of the spine. Part I. Function, dysfunction, adaptation, and enhancement. J Spinal Disord. 1992;5(4):383-9.
Panjabi MM. The stabilizing function of the spine. Part II. Neutral zone and instability hypothesis. J Spinal Disord. 1992;5(4):390-6.
Schlottz-Christensen B, Mooney V, Azad S, et al. The Role of Active Release Manual Therapy for Upper Extremity Overuse Syndromes: A Preliminary Report. J of Occup Rehab. 1999;9(3).

Health and Sport Performance Improved in 5 Simple Steps

An interesting dynamic has been developing in youth sports. The dynamic has been generated by the current nature of greater focus placed upon competition rather than athlete development. This is evident by the increasing number of games played at the youth level, commonly seen within travel or club organizations. Now, while this trend is not a favorable one and can actually be detrimental to youth athletic development, it has seemed to be the driving force for another trend.

The trend being the greater awareness and proactive nature some parents and young athletes are taking to become more educated on proper nutrition and training. The reality is, at the youth, club, and high school levels of sport, there is a competitive advantage to athletes who not only improve their athletic qualities (strength, speed, power, stamina, etc.), but also become healthier by making better food choices or finding ways to improve recovery.

When it comes to athletic development and preparation, there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” approach. There are far too many individual differences to account for. However, there are some basic principles or guidelines that most any aspiring athlete can implement and see results.

That said, here are five tips that can put you on track to experience better health and more consistent sport performance:

1. STRATEGIC FOOD SHOPPING
 When shopping for food, stay on the perimeter of the store. This is where you’ll find the best in whole food selection such as beef, chicken, fresh produce, and other food that should be the foundation of quality nutrition. The middle aisles mostly consist of processed foods. Sure they may taste awesome, but they do little to support the nutritional demands of young athletes.

2. READ FOOD LABELS
 The importance of reading food or ingredient lists cannot be stated enough. It's important that you know what you are consuming. Food labels can be misleading. For example, items can read “Low Fat” or “Non Fat” in an attempt to appear as a ‘healthier’ choice. However, if you read the label closely, you will find that these foods often have added sugar and/or artificial flavors. As we discussed in this article, fats, such as saturated fat are not the bad guy. Sure, you should avoid foods with trans fat, but the over-consumption of sugar and other processed foods will do more harm to your body than quality, healthy fat ever will.

Focus on selecting foods with a short ingredient list. Food manufactures appear to be taking notice, as they are producing a greater selection of foods with few and familiar ingredients to appeal to the consumer demand for healthier, natural foods.

3. EAT RIGHT, ALL DAY LONG
 When it comes to meals, you can find plenty of people who will advocate breakfast as the most important meal of the day. Others will say dinner. Some may even say lunch. Regardless of opinion, it’s more important to be consistent with your nutritional intake during the ENTIRE day. As a growing and developing athlete, simply focusing on nailing one meal won’t cut it.

It’s important to consume food at adequate levels throughout the day to replenish energy stores and promote an environment within your body that is essential for growth and repair.

4. IN-SEASON MAINTENANCE
 Strength and weight gains occur during the offseason. During the season, athletes need to focus on maintaining what they have built during their offseason.

Why?

With the abundance of practices and games during the season, athletes do not have the energy reserves and time to make strength or weight gains and recover in time for competition. Plus, many athletes can be banged up during the year, thus limiting what you can do with their training. This makes having a trainer or coach who understands how to work around minor injuries of tremendous value.

Establishing an in-season maintenance program can keep athletes healthier and performing at more consistent levels during the season. It also allows them to step into offseason training with greater ease and ahead of the game.

5. TRAIN SMARTER, NOT HARDER
 This is contrary to what almost every athlete hears at some point in their career. Athletes are told to train hard, work hard, etc. While hard work is necessary and valuable, there comes a point when being smart about your training is even more valuable.

Training should produce results. You should be getting something out of it rather than just being exhausted. It’s not difficult to make someone tired. Anyone can make you tired. Those trainers and coaches are a dime-a-dozen. What athletes need is someone that will produce results. There should be measurable gains in strength, speed, and power. If you are not seeing gains and simply becoming more and more tired, you need to start training smarter.

For additional reading on the difference between training smart vs. training hard, check out this article.

What You Need to Know About Preventing Knee Injuries

There is no question that knee injuries are a common occurrence among athletes. The incident of devasting knee injury, such as ACL tears, has been on the rise for years. Once considered an adult injury, ACL tears are occurring more often in children as reported by orthopedic specialists, estimating that thousands of children and teens suffer an ACL injury each year. According to statistics presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics 2011 annual meeting, over the past decade youth ACL injuries have increased 400% and girls are at eight times the risk of an ACL tear as compared to boys. Clearly, there is a problem with knee injuries among youth athletes. But where is the solution?

Mechanism of Injury and Risk Factors
To identify a solution, we must first identify the problem. In this case, the problem is the mechanism(s) of injury most commonly associated with ACL injury. Keep in mind that about 2/3 of all ACL injuries are non-contacted related. Meaning, the athlete didn’t have someone tackle them or have a player roll-up on their leg, resulting in injury. Non-contact injury opens the door to the possibility that a large percentage of ACL injuries can be reduced or prevented. Here are the most common mechanisms of injury associated with ACL injury:

  • Jumping/landing improperly
  • Planting followed by cutting or pivoting
  • Straight-knee landing
  • Stopping or landing with the knee hyperextended (too straight)
  • Sudden deceleration of movement
As far as risk factors are concerned, there have been several identified as having an association with ACL injuries, such as:
  • Weak hamstring and gluteal (hip) muscles
  • Poor neuromuscular control and balance
  • Poor dynamic biomechanics (Jumping, landing, cutting, etc.)
  • Fatigue
  • Female Gender
It is important that all risk factors be evaluated for how they play into an athlete’s risk of knee injury. Currently, there are movement screens available to help in identifying what potential risk factors may predispose an athlete to increased risk of ACL injury. Although these can prove to be valuable, one cannot underestimate the importance of simply watching an athlete move outside of a controlled environment. This means keeping an observant eye on them during training or practice and stressing them to see how their movement changes. You may be surprised by how much you learn about the physical abilities of that athlete from just simple observation.

Understanding the Female Athlete
Now that we have identified some mechanisms of injury and risk factors, we will turn our attention temporarily to the female athlete since they have their own special considerations in preventing ACL injuries. While researchers are continuing to study and gain understanding of the possible causes that may place young females at an increase risk of injury, a number of factors specific to female anatomy and development have been the focus of attention.

Female Hip and Knee Anatomy
Despite many young female athletes experiencing pain in their knees, the root of some of the problem may actually originate in the pelvis/hip structure. There is a growing trend among sports medicine specialists who focus on the pelvis/hip to reduce the incidence of knee pain and injury.

According to the Women’s Health and Fitness Guide (2006), the female pelvis has a number of differences as compared to the male pelvis for the purpose of accommodating childbirth. Among those differences, the female pelvis has a greater forward tilt and more forward facing hip joints. These features of the female pelvis/hip result in the femur (thigh bone) being positioned with more of an inward angle and internal rotation at the knee as compared to the average male. It is this increased angle of the femur when compared to the vertical position of the tibia (shin bone). This anatomical difference is known as the "Q-angle" and is illustrated below.



What does all this mean? SImply put, it means the female knee is predisposed to having unfavorable forces placed on it and that the core, hip, and thigh musculature must be strong enough to compensate for the increased angle of the femur to the tibia, or else the female athlete may be at a higher risk for experiencing knee pain or injury.

What can be done?
Unfortunately, regardless of gender, there is no such thing as complete injury prevention. However, there are reasonable and appropriate steps that have been implement in programs that are successful in reducing the occurrence of knee pain and ACL injuries:
  1. Improve hamstring strength. The hamstring muscles have a critical role in maintaining healthy knees. Proper hamstring training and strengthening must take into consideration how the hamstrings function during the primary sporting movement(s). For example, land-based sports with an emphasis on jumping and sprinting ability will place a high demand on the hip extension action of the hamstring. The hamstrings must be trained accordingly to be able to meet and accommodate the forces generated during sport.
  2. Improve hip and core strength. The musculature of the core and hips have a tremendous amount of control on the pelvis and femur, and thus the knee. Poor hip control puts the knee in compromising positions, increasing the risk of injury. When the core and hips are weak, they needs to be a focus of treatment/exercises. This will serve to improve the stability of the knee.
  3. Improve Proprioception (Balance) and Neuromuscular Control. Sufficient proprioception and neuromuscular control is the difference between being able to ride a bike and falling on your butt every time you get on a bike. Understand that altered proprioception and neuromuscular control contribute to abnormal motion during dynamic sporting activities, such as cutting and jumping/landing. One study revealed, “Improved joint mechanics during landing were achieved regardless of the individual’s muscle strength, suggesting that strength may not always be a prerequisite for movement re-education.” This should demonstrate the importance that mental focus and repetitive use of proper movement has on correcting mechanics.
  4. Decrease fatigue. There are 2 types of fatigue, peripheral (muscles) and central (brain). Peripheral refers to exercise induced processes leading to decreased force production (typical muscle fatigue). Central fatigue relates to a gradual exercise-induced reduction in voluntary muscle activation. Essentially meaning the brain gets fatigued. It is plausible to say injury comes from both, however from an injury prevention stand point; peripheral fatigue is difficult to manage because your muscles will get fatigued. But targeted training of central fatigue might be the way to go in preventing injury. How does one train central control. As one study put it, “Exposure to more complex or cognitively demanding movement tasks may facilitate improved perception and decision making within the random sports environment.” This is were mental focus and developing an athlete's awareness of their body during drills becomes important. Mental imagery may prove beneficial in developing central control by utilizing “mental reps” to help engrain proper movement and ideal mechanics.
References:
  1. Powers CM, Souza RB. Differences in Hip Kinematics, Muscle Strength, and Muscle Activation Between Subjects With and Without Patellofemoral Pain. J Ortho Sports Physical Thearpy. 2009;39(1):12-19.
  2. Powers CM. The Influence of Abnormal Hip Mechanics on Knee Injury: A Biomechanical Perspective. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2010;40(2):42-51. http://www.jospt.org/issues/articleID.2396,type.2/article_detail.asp.
  3. Heiderscheit B. Lower Extremity Injuries: Is It Just About Hip Strength? J Ortho Sports Phys Ther. 2010;40(2):39-41. http://www.jospt.org/issues/articleID.2404,type.2/article_detail.asp.
  4. Mizner R, Kawaguchi J, Chmielewski T. Muscle Strength in the Lower Extremity Does Not Predict Postinstruction Improvements in the Landing Patterns of Female Athletes. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2008;38(6):353-361. http://www.jospt.org/issues/articleID.1408,type.2/article_detail.asp.
  5. McLean SG, et al. Impact of Fatigue on Gender-Based High-Risk Landing Strategies. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. October 2006.
  6. McLean SG. Fatigue-Induced ACL Injury Risk Stems from a Degradation in Central Control. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. January 2009.
  7. Hilgefort M, Winchester B. Preventing ACL Injuries in Female Athletes.

The 2 Most Common Reasons Why Results Suffer

Lack of progress or results in any training or fitness program is a common frustration for many athletes and individuals. Let's take a look at two of the more common reasons why people fail to see results from their training efforts.

#1 – You Aren’t Training Correctly

“I don’t get it. I workout hard. I eat right. I follow advice. I feel like I’m doing everything right, but I just can’t seem to (plug your goal in here)”
At GP, we hear this time and time again. Chances are you have heard these complaints or have experienced the same frustration.

Let’s get this straight: if you aren’t achieving your goals, you aren’t doing EVERYTHING right. Keep it mind, everything makes sense. Don't settle for someone telling you, "I don't know" or "I don't get it". If results aren't happening, there is a good reason for it. If you or your trainer don't understand the reason for your lack of results, chances are it doesn't make sense to you or to them. But it always makes sense.

Something can change.

Something can improve.

There is a solution.

This is why trainers and coaches that have a massive knowledge base and utilize critical thinking are invaluable to the progress of their clients.

As with any problem, to identify the solution you must have a clearly defined goal or outcome. Regardless if your goal is to lose 25lbs, squat 500lbs, or run a faster 5K, your training parameters must be compatible to the desired goal or training result. If your method of training is off, it will have huge implications on why you aren’t progressing or seeing results. Sorry, you can't just 'wing it', that will only get you so far.

We could put this into perspective with any number of examples, but let's use a young, high school athlete who is relatively new to lifting. They decide to start following the latest routine out of Muscle & Fitness, wanting to get bigger and stronger. Now if you happen to be a guy looking to build a bigger chest and upper body, maybe this program does the trick for you. But if you are that high school athlete who is more serious about improving their game and athletic abilities, the same routine will likely have little to no carry over into on-field performance. Sure maybe it will help you look good, but last time we checked looking good doesn't make you a better athlete.

Another common training mistake among young or inexperienced trainees is applying advanced training techniques when they aren't necessary. Young athletes often look at elite level athletes and try to follow their training program. The elite are few and the majority of athletes don't need highly specialized training to see results. Especially young athletes. Young athletes can benefit tremendously from focusing on the basics. It's pretty amazing what can be accomplished with appropriate programming of basic movements such as sprints, jumps, medicine ball throws, Olympic lifts, squats, deadlifts, presses, pull-ups, rows and any of their variations.

Training programs will do exactly what they are designed to do. That said, if you decide to follow what your buddies do or what some article says your favorite athlete does, be our guest. Chances are those choices will be very limited in their ability to improve you. The mistake here is not having a training program tailored to your goals and needs. Before you decide to train with someone or follow a program, ask yourself these questions:
  • Was an assessment performed to understand if my body is prepared for the training ahead?
  • Is my injury history accounted for and understood?
  • Is this training program tailored to reach my goals?
  • Am I going to learn proper lifting technique to minimize my injury risk?
If you answered "no" to any of the above questions, you should seek out better guidance. Just because a training program worked for someone else, doesn't mean it will work equally as well for you. Again, this is why it is so important to identify your goal(s) and have a knowledgable trainer or coach to program them correctly.

And for those athletes who want to get bigger or look better, don't stress about it. It doesn't need to be the focus of your training. As an athlete, if your training, nutrition, and rest is on-point, physique becomes a BY-PRODUCT of your training. There is a reason why NFL tight end, Vernon Davis, and numerous other athletes look the way they do. Their primary training objective is to improve their athletic performance. The training that is required provides them with their physique.

These considerations have implications for both the athlete looking for improved performance and the individual who simply wants to look better.

#2 – Recovery Isn’t a Priority
If you have read enough of our articles, this will sound like a broken record to you. The importance of recovery can’t be stressed enough. Want to know if you have a great coach or trainer? They will educate you on recovery and it will be planned as part of your training.

The primary goal of training should never be complete exhaustion. If you are gauging the quality of your workout by the level of your fatigue, you are missing the point. And chances are, you are missing out on results. Sure you may be seeing results, but could you be seeing more?

Yes, training may produce soreness and fatigue, but it is not the objective. The goal is improvement and to see results. Contrary to soreness and fatigue, results are less commonly achieved. Results are not achieved during your training session, they occur when you are recovering. Away from the gym, the track, or the field.

This is exactly why your recovery strategies, just like your training, must be planned out from week to week. This not only includes how you plan to monitor work/rest ratios during your training, but how you plan to recover between sessions. With many people, it can be difficult to get them to rest properly. Unfortunately, the majority of us have been essentially brainwashed to believe that MORE exercise is always BETTER. That you need to push yourself harder, and to push yourself to exhaustion.

While yes, there will be times when training will be physically and mentally challenging. It will produce a high degree of fatigue in order to deliver gains, but this cannot be the norm. As a trainer or coach, it is your responsibility to monitor your clients and athletes. To know when to push and when to back off. You must find the right amount of recovery they need, and stress the importance of them sticking to it.

Staying true to guidelines of proper rest and recovery is needed for the body to supercompensate to the stress placed upon it. It’s critically important to realize that progress does not occur when you are working out; rather it occurs when you are recovering after that training.

Your results depend on it.

Athletic Development: Will Your Child be a Success or Burn Out?

What you need to know:

• Long term athlete development is a process that occurs over many years. This is not an "8 week program". Rather, it starts at an early age and continues on into adulthood. It is not simply a linear process, but is one that must be highly individualized to assist the athlete in reaching their full potential.
• The greatest challenge to coaches, parents, and athletes is the understanding of how difficult this process is. Athletes are dealing with massive changes in physical attributes, brain function, and sport skill acquisition. These all must be managed simultaneously while stressing the concepts of hard work in a positive environment.
The Case for Long-Term Development
When it comes to athletics, critical development begins at a very early age. As children mature, they progress through important developmental stages during their growth and maturation process. If long-term athletic development is of any importance to the coach, parent, or athlete, certain aspects of these stages must be addressed at appropriate time periods, otherwise the chances of the athlete reaching elite status is reduced.

Similar to other facilities and organizations that place importance on long term athlete development, the model used at Gallagher Performance began with a review of research and methods utilized in child and athletic development around the world. Through the review of current and past research/methods used with elite athletes and even military special operations, it was concluded that to truly address athlete development, a new way of looking at how to properly structure "strength and conditioning" programs must be considered.

Long-term athlete development models are being utilized around the world by more than 100 national sport organizations. For example, within the sport of hockey, there is no doubt that countries like the Czech Republic, Finland, and Sweden produce numerous NHL players. The numbers becoming even more impressive when considering the population of these countries. Each of those countries has placed the primary focus on long-term athlete development models.

Early Specialization in Sports: It's Not Working
Early specialization in sport is becoming increasingly more common among children in the United States. The rationale behind such a decision typically being if a child plays one sport, year round, they will be more advanced than their peers, more likely to be the 'star', get recruited, and/or possibly go on to make millions. Is this all fact or just wishful thinking?

Recent research from UCLA reveals that early specialization in sport has very poor connection with young athletes achieving elite status. A survey of almost 300 NCAA Division I athletes found that 88% played two or three sports as children and 70% did not specialize in one sport until after the age of 12. These findings were already understood in former East Germany and USSR within their youth development programs.

Studies in East Germany and the USSR found that children who went through an early specialization program did have more immediate improvement in their performances. But these children also had their best performances between the ages of 15-16, had greater inconsistencies, many quit or 'burnt out' by the age 18, and they had greater rate of injuries because of forced adaptation compared to children who played multiple sports and specialized later in life.

Now coaches are beginning to recognize the negative impact early specialization has on athletes. Brent Sutter, former NHL player and head coach/GM for the WHL's Red Deer Rebels had this to say about players who focus on hockey 10-12 months out of the year:

“You just don’t have as many players today that are as good athletes as they used to be. Too much today, especially in young players, is focused on hockey 12 months a year ... You really notice the guys who are true athletes and the ones who are not. The ones you can take and play baseball or soccer with them and they get it. This is noticeable even at the NHL level. The true athletes are a little bit further ahead ... I want our scouts to look at athletes not just strictly hockey players."
This is not just a hockey issue. Arguably, the same can be said for athletes in any sport.

Conclusion
Long-term athlete development serves as a framework for athlete development in sports. It is a system that integrates age-appropriate training and recovery programming with competition while maintaining one consistent goal: the development of athletes.

At GP, we take an educated and unique approach to proper youth development in sports, focusing on a wide variety of motor, coordination, and other developmental skills. Athletic development is a process and certainly not one that should be rushed. Don't just take our word for it. Sports science and coaching experts around the globe are endorsing this model and implementing it to ensure the best outcomes for their young athletes.

GP Athlete Spotlight: Paul Emanuele

Paul Emanuele (RB/DB, Franklin Regional HS) is currently in training with specific attention provided to strength/explosive power and speed in preparation for a number of combines this summer, with the most recent being this weekend at the University of Pittsburgh.

Like all athletes who see consistent improvements, Paul has been a hard worker since day one. Tremendous athletic ability and hard work are always a dangerous combo. Paul has the speed, quickness, and power to break open a game at any moment.

Welcome to GP, Paul!

Relief Care vs Regular Chiropractic Care

Many people say that once you start going to a chiropractor you have to go for life. They are afraid they are going to get locked into something for life when the same thing could be said for routine medical physicals, dental check-ups, and even regular exercise if you want to experience the benefits and take a preventative approach to your health.

When it comes to chiropractic care, patients may choose to be seen for a brief treatment period to help relieve a specific problem. They may choose to receive regular care because it helps them feel better. The patient always has the choice.

The reality is, there is a level of personal responsibility one must accept if they want to live an active and healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise and proper nutrition are arguably the two most important life-style changes one can make for themselves. The majority of the clients we see at GP initially are looking for exercise and/or nutritional programming. But once they experience massage or chiropractic care and what it can do for their body, their health, or their recovery, many opt for routine care. This is exactly why several top level athletes make regular massage, soft tissue treatment, and chiropractic a part of their recovery and maintenance program.

At GP, we strive to provide our clients and patients with the tools and knowledge they deserve so they are able to live active and healthy life-styles.

Drop the Confusion, Athletes Need Consistency for Efficiency



What you need to know:

  • Neural efficiency is the key to becoming a better athlete, this is known as athletic mastery.
  • Mastery requires time, intelligent programming, hard work, and dedication to consistency.
Consistency Matters
The primary goal of any athletic and strength development program should be neural efficiency. Fact of the matter is the nervous system controls and coordinates every movement and every function in your body. The nervous system thus is the regulator of strength and movement coordination. This is why ALL successful athletes have periodization implemented into their programming. Periodization is a fancy word for structured, intelligent programming to address individual needs.

Any athlete that has reached elite status in their sport has used periodization to address their needs and to ultimately promote positive, long-term adaptations from the learning of repeated actions by the nervous system. One observation that can be made of such programs is how little they seem to change or when a change is implemented, it follows a progression based on what the athlete is displaying or what they are capable of from day-to-day, week-to-week, or month-to-month.

Don't Let Fitness Trends Confuse You
Programs and/or trainers that endorse 'muscle confusion', randomized daily workouts, or continual change to exercise without following proper programming will always fail to develop an efficient nervous system. Sure for the ADD crowd and those that get bored easily, this appeals to you. Or maybe you are that person obsessed with 'fitness' and have become convinced workouts of this manner are the Holy Grail. If you are one of these people, be my guest. That's your choice. This article is specific to athletes and those that want to see consistent, sustainable results from their hard work. Not to simply have a workout entertain them.

Randomized workouts may sound interesting, even cool. The marketing placed around these workouts will spin words and science to make them appealing to the masses. Ultimately the end result is not allowing the athlete or individual to properly adapt to their training and achieve mastery.

How can adaptation and mastery be a bad thing when you want to improve? Want to be great?

Mastery is the Goal
For many, the frustration with mastery is it requires time. A lot of time. Mastery is a long-term process. This is exactly why great coaches and great athletes stress fundamentals at any level, from 7 year olds all the way up to the professional ranks. Think about it. Coaches don't just go through random drills at practice and if they do, they likely don't last long or frankly shouldn't be coaching in the first place. Fundamentals are reinforced because the better an athlete is at the fundamentals, the greater chance of success they will have when performing more complex sport skills.

Mastery is a grind. Its prerequisites are consistency and discipline. Mastery takes years to develop and this becomes a problem when the fitness industry wants to sell a 'quick fix'. And most Americans want that 'quick fix'. They want results now, not later. They don't want to put in years of work when they see programs that advertise how they can 'get ripped in 60 days' or 'get faster in 4 weeks'.

That's a Wrap
Athletes should recognize that their goals will not be solved with today's latest fitness trend. The only way to achieve mastery is through consistent, focused effort to become efficient in all fundamentals and sport specific skills. The message should be clear. At GP, this is something we feel strongly about and want to provide you with the information needed to make the best decisions for your goals. Mastery and efficiency are critical to the athlete and we addressed the importance of that in this article.

Is your training program allowing you to develop the mastery needed to achieve your goals?

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