You want whaaaaaat….6 pack abs?

A week doesn’t go by without the topic of abdominal training and the best way to create six pack abs.  I assume everyone must know or have a general understanding of these magical muscles but with continued questions is there really that much confusion out there?  Standing in a grocery line basically reminds me that yes, there is still so much crap out there that how does the general public not have spinning heads and eyeballs popping.  I mean that would be an amazing sight to see but I wouldn’t want to get that close!

I blame the fitness magazines and the infomercials and the online junk & the uneducated fitness “people” but I also realize that as much knowledge as you share people are still going to search out results the old school way if they cannot put the hard work and effort into the right way.  Now, what is the right way?  When you are fighting with stress, lack of sleep, schedules, fast food how can you truly be someone who can eat clean enough to start to see those magical muscles underneath that wonderful layer of fat!  And is that layer truly that bad?

I will let that question sink in for a bit.

Lets make our way back to the 6 pack abs question.  When we look at our core or trunk there are a world full of muscles and connective tissue that plays a role in preventative maintenance, strength, stability, power transfer.

coremuscles

The most popular muscle for the gym dude is the “crunch muscle”.  The Rectus abdominis and the so called “6 pack ab” muscle.  The function is truly to resist extension and in most individuals this means reducing an anterior tilted pelvis.  The obliques add into that anti movement pattern by resisting rotation.  Now if you think about the ability of all these muscles to do their job and stiffen the spine in a strong, neutral position can you understand how much more strength and stability you would have!  If the trunk is floating around like a bowl of jelly and cannot control movement the increased risk to the spine is magnified.  Force transfer up and down to our limbs is decreased (well there goes your slapshot!) and the aches and pains start to sneak in.  Throwing that snowball towards your neighbor’s house now becomes all arm with no core to help transfer power!

Now lets not forget the importance of the diaphragm and the role it plays in the magical core.  When your movement becomes more demanding (sports, workouts) it’s crucial to understand proper breathing patterns and how the diaphragm works with it’s neighbors (abdominal wall, pelvic floor).  If you have a lack of core control and continually flare the rib cage (chest up/extension) you are putting the diaphragm at a disadvantage and well, your training just might suck!  The position determines the results!

diaghram

We also need to take into account the many other things such as the Glutes and hip function, the Thorax (rib cage area) and how all these areas link their movement together.  They are all neighbors and if one is cranky or lazy then the neighborhood goes to shit!  (Remember if it looks like shit, it’s shit!)

thoracic cage

So if you think about that layer of so called fat above those magical muscles I want you to ask yourself how do you function and perform?  Do you have pain?  Are you a weekend warrior who is able to play their sport and feel amazing the next day or are you walking around with aches and pains the following week only to return to your game of choice and repeat the cycle?  This is where the question really lies.  (Stop worrying about a tiny and I mean tiny layer of fat, there is a difference when it comes to health risk) Do you need to see rock hard abs with no true function or do you need a rock hard core in a sense of it’s amazing function and ability to do the job.  Training with some education behind it (this means good shit not bad shit….. good training!  If it looks like shit, it’s shit!)  This good training can have some amazing side effect of some nice looking abs!

We can definitely spend time on old school abdominal training.  That isn’t a bad thing!  There are benefits (not the topic of the article) what you should be searching out is what is the core and how do you train it away from traditional old school ways.  Are you learning about how to resist motion & how it transfers power?  Have you been taught how the neighbors work together?  The diaphragm, pelvic floor, abdominal muscles, hips/glutes.   If this information doesn’t seem familiar I encourage you to search out further information from a great, highly educated strength coach or trainer.  Oh, and stay away from the grocery store magazines guaranteeing rock hard abs in minutes a day!

The secret to hydration

Water and hydration is crucial for athletic success and human movement.  For the ability to allow our body to age gracefully and perform at optimal levels we must stay hydrated.  But how much do you understand the ability of the body to hydrate itself and what can we do to further improve our ability for increased hydration.

We need to MOVE!  And we need to move in a variety of ways.  This truly is the key to improving hydration through our system.  Drinking enough water throughout the day is only one step in a healthy level of hydration.  Our fascial system is a connection of tissue throughout our entire body.  Think of it as a net or a spider web of Soft tissue that surrounds and wraps around all structures of the body.  It’s a connection system and is also an enormous store of water in the body.

Thomas Myers The originator of the Anatomy Trains Myofascial Meridians explains through the Anatomy Trains website that “Fascia is the biological fabric that holds us together. You are about 70 trillion cells all humming in relative harmony; fascia is the 3-D spider web of fibrous, gluey, and wet proteins that hold them all together in their proper placement.”

We need to get water into the tissue by moving the body and the movement needs to vary to allow the fascia system that weaves its way through the body to be hydrated.  As we move and exercise water is squeezed in and out of tissue.  Without moving in a variety of ways the water we drink throughout the day has less of a chance to hydrate us efficiently.  The less we move, the more “stiffer” we feel.  This restriction or tightness may also happen due to inflammation and injury and usually the Fascia is ignored as a main cause of pain.  Thomas Myers (Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapist) explains that fascia has 10 times as many nerve endings as there is in muscle.  This is an important fact for individuals looking to reduce pain, inflammation and improve recovery.

For the athlete who ignores recovery and trains heavy on a regular basis you must be reminded that this training drives water out of the tissue which may lead to an increase in that feeling of stiffness.  Recovery should be doubled in the form of sleep, nutrition, massage or whatever options help you recover to an optimal level.  This is important for athletes looking to reduce their risk of non contact sport related injuries.  Keeping the soft tissue healthy is a great way to reduce the risk.

What are easy steps to improve hydration?

Drink water!

Move your body in a variety of different movement patterns!

RECOVER with enough sleep & clean nutrition.

Incorporate additional recovery choices like Massage, relaxation & stress reduction options.

Improving the Skating technique

As a coach or player what do you think makes a great skater?

Is the length of the stride the most important or the quickness to return the foot under the body (heel return)?

As a coach do you cue one technique tip more over the other?

It really is a chain of events.  Every part of that stride must be perfect in order to perform optimally.  What are the limiting factors on-ice as well as off-ice?

What is limiting the athlete from achieving the perfect skating stride?

This is where it gets fun!

As a coach and player you must take some thought into joint mechanics.

Hip joint mechanics

What is the build of the joint itself?  The joint may limit the amount of hip flexion the athlete can get making the skater look more “upright”.  This upright position minimizes stress to the anterior labrum/hip capsule

Femur length relative to torso

This will put a player in a more forward torso lean to improve the center of gravity over their skate.  This forward lean also means more hip flexion that the player may NOT have or will put them into a position of more spinal flexion/rounding of the low back

As a coach the dreaded “bend your knees” or “get lower in the stride” may seem like an easy fix but maybe there are underlying issues that cannot let the athlete perform these simple tasks.   A professional athlete who has spent countless hours skating (repetitive motion) and hasn’t followed a properly designed off-ice program may be increasing their risk of injury to the hip structure.

How can a properly designed off-ice program transfer to on-ice?

Knee Bend Increasing strength & stability is a main factor for athletes.  Strength allows for a deeper knee bend and stronger & longer push.  Stability allows the hip to control the motion downward throughout the lower body.

Heel Return The ability to return the skate directly underneath the body allows the skater to transfer into the stride push quicker and gives them less friction into the ice which can slow them down on the glide leg.  The skate returning directly underneath the body also allows for a greater length in the stride out.

Stride length and hip extension If the athlete lacks the strength or knee bend of the stance leg this obviously shortens the stride length giving them less power into their stride.  But what if the athlete lacks hip extension within the joint itself?  The extension becomes false extension through the low back.  Maybe hip extensors are weak and strength is needed.  Maybe the joint isn’t moving correctly to allow full hip extension.

Core strength This allows the athlete to absorb force and transfer power above and below the hips.  Can the athlete dissociate the pelvis from the trunk so the legs move in stride without energy leaks through the core?  Are the muscles around the spine and throughout the core trained in such a way as to create stiffness & transfer power?  This is where the athlete must avoid doing 100% floor based core work.  There are benefits to this depending on the level of conditioning but high level athletes should be reducing the overall time spent here.

There are many important factors in order to have a highly efficient skating stride, some not mentioned in this article, and simple off-ice ways to improve.  Your first step should be a movement screen/assessment.  This is where the red flags are caught and individual needs are addressed.  Work with an on-ice and off-ice professional.  If the stride can be analyzed through on-ice testing and screening this information can be passed along to the off-ice strength & conditioning expert.  This analysis may help with any assessment and increase the benefit and results of the strength and conditioning program.  Work together, not blindly!

Excel Sport & Health Voted BEST in the North Okanagan

Thank you to Okangan Life Magazine Readers for voting us as NUMBER ONE Fitness Club in the North Okanagan! We have been a finalist every year since we opened our doors and we didn’t think we could compete with the larger membership based gyms. We are SO proud and excited that our little Club of 150 members has given us this level of recognition. THANK YOU!
best of the okanagan
We promise to do our best to continue to strive for excellence, continue learning through the top mentors in the industry and provide the best we can to our loyal members who are family. Thank you ~ Rhonda Catt & Carla Rayner

It’s called PLAY!

The amount of parents searching for ways to develop their childs talent in their sport has risen dramatically over the years. The discussion of yearlong play in one sport is continually debated and the use of private training sessions to improve fitness or sport skill is a popular trend. What is often ignored is the good old fashion PLAY! The ability for a child to learn and develop skill and movement patterns through Play is the best thing you can do for your Child!
Unfortunately we all know the decline of play due to technology. Or the consistent decline of free play on school playgrounds due to the fear of injury. We need to bring back the ability for kids to jump, run, throw, catch, climb in order to build our future athletes and reduce disease and obesity.

Take the example of year-long Hockey. Parents are looking for ways to improve their childs performance in the sport now and for the future but are ignoring the fact that it limits their ability to experience other sports & movement patterns and decreases unstructured play.
So how does Play actually help in the development of a child? If you take into consideration the windows of development for youth there are many skills that can be increased for further success down the road.
There needs to be a base of Fundamental movement skills through play. Skills such as speed, co-ordination, balance & agility (running, jumping, throwing, catching, climbing) are learned through fun games and play.

Lets take a look at the ages of 7-9 (boys) 6-8 (girls). Increasing Speed at this age sets them up for further Speed growth at a later age. Speed at this age doesn’t mean running sprints. It’s play based such as tag, kicking a soccer ball, playing pickup soccer. Multi-directional movements that have the child moving quickly.
The game of tag is a phenomenal way to increase speed. If you don’t run fast, you are going to be “it” a lot in the game! Kicking a soccer ball is a fast, powerful movement and looks at rotational hip power/speed and is another building block. Free play is the ability to let these kids run loose and just PLAY! There is an enormous amount of skill development, speed, co-ordination and movement patterns engrained in our nervous system when we allow our children to play.
Neuroplasticity is brain development! It responds to the stimulation of learning, movement and what we experience through our surroundings. The brain will adjust to activity and new pathways are generated! Can you imagine how much learning goes on in the brain when we allow our kids to play! The variety of movement and joint positions our body goes through. The changes in speed and the learning process of experimentation with play is mind boggling. We do have the ability to enhance our skill development and further our athletic potential through something as simple as PLAY!

The ages 9-12 (usually a year younger in girls) are important skill development years. We are reaching the years of incredible growth for your child. They are ready to dig deeper into learning movement patterns and increased skill development. Think of these years as future athletic development. Further fundamental sport skills can be practiced. Play & drills that involve movement co-ordination and teaches children to decelerate properly, land efficiently and accelerate. Hand-eye co-ordination, kicking, multidirectional drills, balance games can all benefit this stage of learning.

Success in sport has everything to do with learning how to move, respond and react to movement and outside forces. You need to get active and you need to allow your child to experience as many different movements as possible in order to train the brain!
Let Play be your childs foundation for learning because future potential depends on it!

Help save the athletes!

I am calling out to all the athletes in this beautiful world! Isn’t it wonderful to see the transformations and the strength gains through training. The ability to push the Human body to extremes…. Oh, but wait… Extreme really isn’t a word that sounds enticing. It actually sounds a little crazy and in the end will it build an athlete that can move and play better?

I actually wonder why it has become such a badge of honor to pound your body into the ground and think it’s an acceptable level of training? The one thing an athlete must cherish is the thing they are destroying! Their BODY! Their machine! Their bread and butter!

I have been fortunate to work with very high level athletes. These athletes have had many years of play behind them. These years of playing their sport have also been tough on their bodies. Lack of mobility in a joint, little stability in another. The fact that their “so called core strength” really isn’t strength at all, its compensation! For me, it becomes rebuilding the athlete into healthier, higher quality movement so they can keep playing their sport. Undiagnosed impingement, Labral tears, Patellofemoral pain syndrome. This becomes the avenue of rebuilding the athlete!
The concern is many athletes have undiagnosed issues and train through them. Squatting ass to grass may work for one person but how do you know if your hips can even get into that position without compensation or further hip damage! THIS IS THE PROBLEM! Each individual athlete must strive to build a BETTER athlete, a better body to save their career.

It has become so normal for an athlete to push themselves to extremes without knowing why! Is the drill challenging an energy system? Is the drill building on your strengths? Do you ignore your weaknesses? Is lifting heavy weight really helping if you have no understanding of Core tension or breath? Do you understand foot position, head position, grip, lat tension, big toe function. Are you ½ kneeling, tall kneeling? Should you be doing pushups or working on scapula motion first? Does your core react to the movement or are you compensating around it?

WHY ARE YOU DOING THE THINGS YOU ARE DOING? Are you building a GREAT athlete? Or just doing a hard workout?

STOP thinking that harder is better! Everything you put your body through now will either move you toward greater success down the road or push you closer to injury. That injury may not show its face now but trust me, it will and wouldn’t you hate it if suddenly it showed up a year into a new contract from previous years of crappy training.

Yes you must train hard, yes you must push the limits and challenge yourself but you must be smart and understand WHY!

Power and the Butt!

The ability to increase power to help sport performance is always on the list of goals for many athletes. Absorbing and reacting to force in your sport allows an athlete to perform at a much higher level. I have touched base on the importance of Hip mobility in previous articles as that plays a role in how well the athlete can increase power and speed. If you do not move well, you cannot perform or train well!

How do the Glutes (butt) play a role in sport performance and function? It decelerates, stabilizes and accelerates the hip in different planes of motion. Skating includes all these movements during heel return and stride pushoff. Not only do you need a hip that moves efficiently in regards to mobility you also need to have strength in all planes of motion to allow an increase in power development.
Most people focus on power development in one plane of motion. (straight ahead/up and down plyometric jumps) What if the limiting factor on-ice is lateral power? How well are you increasing power in side to side and rotational patterns?
A quality training program should look at all of these limiting factors and allow the athlete to understand ground reaction force. This is the force exerted into the body by proper deceleration mechanics into the ground.
When we plant a leg into the ground to stop quickly and change direction, that force from the ground into the body allows us to decelerate and accelerate quickly and efficiently and increase speed, power and quickness. This efficient movement requires a lot of proper mechanics coming from the hip.
Off-ice training such as sled pushes, deadlifts, plyometrics, single leg RDL are just some examples of ways to increase this goal but what if movement mechanics are faulty? What if we cannot decelerate efficiently? What if we lack hip extension? How do we know if the glutes are weak? What if our powerhouse called our “Ass” doesn’t do the job? This is where dysfunction masks results and you will feel “stuck”.

Sound training programs will allow the athlete to create success in each plane of motion but starting with the sagittal plane (front/back) is usually the norm. The attached video shows a single leg glute bridge (The Cook hip lift) that has many benefits. This is a sagittal plane movement.
– It allows the athlete to test & train left and right sides and recognize if there is a weakness between sides.
– It requires good anterior core function to help maintain a stable, neutral pelvis.
– It requires hip flexion on one side with hip extension on the other which brings both sides into the equation.

Exercise setup:
– On your back pull one leg into the chest and place a ball between the bottom of the rib cage and thigh.
– Pull the down leg closer toward the butt and into midline.
– Engage the down glute and lift the hip up while maintaining pressure through the heel/midfoot.
– Avoid letting the rib cage flare/low back arch while lifting. This means you are creating movement through the back and not through the hip.
– Use your breath to maintain a neutral position. Exhaling while lifting and at the top of the position may allow you to keep the rib cage down.
– With the arms along the floor you can press into the ground to create some core tension. This tension helps to “turn on” the anterior core and help stabilize the pelvis.
– The goal is to have a straight line from your shoulders, up through your hip and knee as you extend the hip and lift up.

The athlete may need to start with a double leg bridge and progress to a single leg bridge depending on results from an assessment/movement screen.

Perfecting the Deadlift

Perfecting the deadlift is one of the most challenging movements in a gym setting. Due to daily repetitive patterns the majority of clients become knee dominant. They sit at a desk all day or drive hours for their job. We lose movement patterns that were fluid as a child. We create movement in our system where we should be stable. We lose mobility where we are meant to have effortless motion. Age doesn’t become as issue unless you spend years NOT moving! Maintaining proper function at the hip allows us to maintain a healthier low back and helps the athlete improve performance.

In the gym setting cueing for proper deadlift technique shouldn’t take you straight into heavy weight simply because the majority of individuals have lost the ability to move through the hip. An athlete may experience the same movement issues due to mobility restrictions or non-contract injuries that limit hip mobility. The low back takes on the load and we start to look for movement and power from the low back. We need to understand that our hips and efficient movement through the hips is our highway to speed and power. If we can understand hip dominant motion we can understand the correct technique for deadlifts.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The ability to load a heavy deadlift is not your only answer for increased speed and power development. A strong and stable core must function correctly to transfer power and stabilize. But so many have lost proper hip function and they must relearn this pattern in order to progress through a sound training program. In order to get strong you must have the ability to lift heavy.

When working with a client we spend quality time grooving the hip hinge pattern. The use of a dowel rod comes in handy and gives great feedback to a client relearning this pattern and allows the client to experience the “stay where you start” position.
deadlift
Technique tips:

– Place the dowel rod along the spine. Contact points should be head, shoulder blades and tail bone.

– The use of a mirror beside you will allow you to view the space between the low back and the dowel. Too much space takes you into an extended pattern which means less core/hip stability and more work on the hip flexors/quads & greater stress through the low back. Every client is different and the amount of space between the low back and the dowel should be cued differently. Have a goal of enough space to slide a flat hand through and no more.

– I encourage the client to sit into the hips or push the bum back toward a wall. Starting the movement at the hips and adding enough knee bend to maintain a straight (vertical) tibia (calf). Driving the knees forward or starting the movement at the knee means you are squatting the pattern, knee dominant and not hip hinging.

– Push the floor away from you as you stand up. This is a push pattern more then a pull pattern. The feeling should come from the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings).

-Maintaining the stay where you start position through the spine will decrease risk of injury and avoid the low back from doing the work.

It’s important to note that the photo attached is geared toward learning the pattern! There will be technique tweaks for things such as the height of the client, the tool used for the deadlift, restrictions. It is important to asses and not guess!