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.
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!