Anthony Mychal Hybrid Blueprint

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Injuries

Why healing injuries takes more than a phoenix down

Injuries Phoenix Down

Three mosquitoes are hanging out on a wooden fence. Little do they know, they’ll be dead in five minutes.

Twenty feet to the left there are five humans sitting around a camp fire. The smell of blood makes them hungry, so they take flight for dinner.

Ten feet into the journey, Dan notices something. He whispers to himself.

“Oh no.”

He sees a candy cane like structure dangling a glowing blue bug zapper.

Dan the mosquito knows all about bug zappers. When he was younger his dad lectured him about their danger every day.

“You’re going to want to go near them,” he would say, “but you can’t. You have to resist.”

And every night Dan’s dad taught him how to restrain himself.

These memories take form in Dan’s mind as he see’s his best friends flight path bias towards the bug zapper.

Fran wasn’t as lucky as Dan. His dad didn’t teach him about bug zappers.

“Ohhhh…what a pretty blue color,” Fran said…right before the smoke from his burning carcass shadowed into black night sky.

Stan wasn’t far behind. His dad didn’t teach him about bug zappers either.

“Ohhhh…what a a wonderful bright light,” Stan said…right before he plopped atop Fran’s dead body.

Dan is sad, but has nothing left to do but feast. There are five humans at his disposal, so he continues on.

He’s five feet from the bug zapper. Holding strong. Dan’s father taught him well.

He’s stopped in front of the bug zapper. Admiring his willpower. Looking down at his dead friends. And that’s when a gust of wind randomly launches Dan into the bug zapper.

Dan, Fran, and Stan. Five minutes ago they were best friends.

Now they’re dead.

The next day Jorge, another mosquito, notices the bodies below the bug zapper during a morning flight. He uses his deductive reasoning and concludes on the cause of death with confidence.

Here’s where we shift from mosquitoes to injuries. (About time, right?) Jorge can tell you about the cause of death…but not the reason for death.

Although being zapped with the cause of death, it wasn’t the reason for death. Dan died because of the wind; it was a fluke accident. Stan was attracted to the brightness. Fran was attracted to blue.

Injuries are manifestations of  problems, they aren’t the problems themselves.

I have knee pain is as descriptive as Fran died from the bug zapper. It tells you about the end, but it doesn’t tell you why the end happened.

When you’re dealing with an injury, ask yourself:

Are you fixing the pain? Or are you fixing the problem that’s causing the pain?

If Jorge used phoenix downs on his mosquito buddies and wanted to make sure Dan, Fran, and Stan didn’t meet the same fate, he’d need to use a unique strategy for each person.

  • Dan’s death was random.
  • Fran’s death was from enjoying the color blue.
  • Stan’s death was from enjoying bright lights.

If you really wanted to “fix” these mosquito amigos, you’d need to fix the reason why they died in the first place. Using a phoenix down is nice and all because, hey, you’re alive and free of pain. But you’re at risk of flying right back into the bug zapper.

Assuming the injury isn’t random (because sometimes injuries are random), look for the reason. Deal with the pain, yeah, but don’t stop there. Dig. Dig. Dig.

As the saying goes: where there is smoke, there’s fire. Putting out the fire is lovely. But the more attention you give to the fire itself, the less you give to the arsonist sprinting out of the back door and into the woods.

And as long as the arsonist is alive, your house is in danger.

Listen to your whispers, save yourself some pain

You can’t hear a whisper unless you’re actively listening. Your body whispers to you all the time, mostly with pain.

I have five places that whisper to me: my formerly broken foot, my left knee, my left hip, my right elbow, and my right shoulder.

If I hear these whispers, things aren’t going well. A severe injury is probably around the corner. Or I’m going down a hole that will be hard to climb out from.

So this past Sunday, I was doing bodyweight squats. My knee felt foggy, and my left hip popped. When I moved to pull-ups (again, during the warm-up), my elbow didn’t feel quite right. The nerve pain in my foot has also increased.

All things considered, I’m not in a boatload of pain. Nothing hurts to the point of grandpa movement, but I would be an idiot not to listen. Sadly, most people don’t listen. Whispers are easy to ignore, after all. It’s not a slap in the face. Not a shout. Just a murmur of a warning. The faintest, “Psst.”

Find out the spots that like to whisper to you. And when you hear them, don’t ignore them. Your body is smarter than your mind sometimes. Listen to it.

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(I wrote this quite some time ago.)

Muscle Imbalances Revealed – Creating a Foundation for Athleticism

The barbell row is a saint confused for a sinner.

Strength imbalances don’t exist.

Muscle reprogramming is like driving to your house.

…what does it all mean?

When I was asked to contribute to Muscular Imbalances Revealed, I had mixed emotions. First, because I didn’t absolutely believe in muscular imbalances. Second, because I didn’t see myself as a “muscular imbalance” kind of guy.

Luckily, Rick (the head of the project) was cool enough to let me fly my own way.

So I took flight.

I was on the hook for a forty-five minute presentation.

Not only is my presentation twice as long as required, but I also supplemented with a bunch of videos that were shot after a tricking session of mine. For the life of me, I didn’t want to look like another guy in a collared shirt and khaki’s working on clients from one of those medical benches.

Want to know what the presentation is like? Great, thought so. Here’s a preview:

And here’s what’s further inside the interwebz box:

  • My girlfriend demonstrating some exercises. Fantasize away.
  • Assessment and Exercise for Athleticism – Introduction – Length – 2:21
  • Me doing an aerial after an awkward introduction.
  • Assessment and Exercise for Athleticism – Presentation – 1:35:01
  • Slight wind interference on a few videos because the weather god decided it would be funny to be “that guy” one the day that I shot. (But you can still hear everything.)
  • Assessment and Exercise for Athleticism – Tripod Position – Length – 2:40
  • Me wearing a backwards hat. (What else is new?)
  • Assessment and Exercise for Athleticism – Hip Flexion – Length – 2:07
  • Me probably saying “…you know…” one hundred times more than I should.
  • Assessment and Exercise for Athleticism – Remedial Hip Flexion – Length – 1:42
  • Assessment and Exercise for Athleticism – Hip Hinging – Length – 2:35

WHAT’S THE PURPOSE?

My “job” through this project was the showcase some baseline athletic assessments to sure up sloppy movement. Most of this would be pre-teaching of basic lower body human movement patterns—squat and hinging and whatnot—essentially some progressions if you’re barbell row inept.

There’s some hip. Some foot. Some reprogramming. Some of my philosophy. Some of just about everything.

It’s basically eleven years of success and failure that comes from both my experience as an athlete and a (former) coach. That in itself is pretty priceless, not to mention the emotional implications this all had for me.

And let’s not forget that I’m just one of the contributors—the product contains much much more than what I have outlined here. This is just my part.

WHERE CAN I GET IT?

I’m not a fan of pre-sales and whatnot, but I was given access to one since I contributed to the project. Like a champion, I let you know about it in a post earlier this week. But I’ll just remind you that until tomorrow, August 10th, you can get access to an exclusive call that all of us contributors are doing, in addition to some other free swag.

Since you’re an awesome reader of my blog, you’re getting access to this pre-sale which gives you automatic and free access to a coaching call. If you’re interested, click the link below.

–> Click here to check out Muscle Imbalances Revealed

Remember, those nice looking bullet points above are just what I contributed, and is only one piece of the entire product. There’s mega more than that.

So show some love, check it out, and pull the trigger if any of my recent posts have peaked your interest.

Bottom line is that:

  • If you can’t barbell row correctly, this product will help you.
  • If you have those wiring issues we talked about, this product will help you.
  • If you want to know more about how I reprogram, this product will help you.
  • If you want to hear my sexy voice, this product will help you.
  • If you want ideas of how to incoprorate reprogramming into faster movements, this product will help you.
  • It you want to know the stuff that was instrumental in my personal adventure and turning my life, health, and athleticism around, this product will help you.

As usual, I appreciate you being here. If you have any questions for me or about the product, feel free to e-mail directly. Wondering whether or not it’s a good fit for you? Just shoot me an e-mail. I’m a pretty honest dude. You won’t be misled. Wondering more about the product in general? I’m right here, dawg.

anthony.mychal at gmail dot com

And don’t forget, you have until tomorrow to snag Muscle Imbalances Revealed with the freebies. You know me — I love free stuff. That’s why both The 242 Method and The Myth of HIIT are currently available with no strings attached. So if you’re a fan of free, grab it now.

But that’s all for now. I’m off to train and then make an oatmeal volcano. Last week, I gained 20.4 pounds on my ”foregoing all nutritional habits” experiment. I can tell you this: so far, my taste buds loved me. Everything else would disagree though. Especially my love handles. That’s what happens when you eat  pizza and wash it down with a few beers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

 

Get Your Glutes In Gear (Sample Program Inside)

The question of how to use the glutes more during a sprint or vertical jump is paralyzing. It insinuates that some conscious thought or training strategy directly and immediately alters how the body functions during explosive movement.

But we know thought kills speed. And we know that, for starters, it’s simply about driving to your house over and over and over and over. (This is an analogy for doing something for so long that your body instinctively remembers how to do it. In other words, you don’t think about how to squat after a few months of squatting. You just get under the bar and make it happen.) The trick, however, is finding the right house. Every movement is unique. Every movement has it’s own “house.”

Repatterning the glutes to increase their use in explosive movements starts basic, with traditional low intensity activation exercises such as prone leg lifts and hip bridges. Most people “know” this, so they start their workout with these exercises during the warm-up. But because these exercises are relatively “easy” and kind of boring, it’s easy to just “go through the motions.”

Don’t.

Instead, do this:

1. START BASIC…

…with close to no moving parts. For instance, I use a modified bird dog because it’s easier to concentrate on the glute without worrying about balance.

Yes, the bird dog is “too complex” for me.

Crazy, right?

But the goal is to get the glute in gear, not better some random yoga pose.

Use an isometric contraction at the finished, or “top,” position because no matter how slow of a  tempo I prescribe, you probably won’t abide by it.

Don’t worry. No many people (including myself) adhere to tempos. It’s too much thinking. It’s much easier to lift, hold for five seconds, and then lower.

Do this exercise everyday for fifty to one hundred repetitions (spread through out the day) for starters. If this seems like a lot of work, that’s because it is.

Changing processes and functions in the body is never easy. Really, you don’t want it to be easy. If humans adapted on a whim,  we wouldn’t survive that long.

2. ADD MORE…

…moving parts. Since most movement is upright, I like transitioning into standing exercises from here on out. The go-to for standing hip extension, in my opinion, is the romanian deadlift movement pattern (also known as the “hinge” movement pattern).

For simplicity, work isometric contractions at both the start and finished positions. I use something called the fundamental tip toe position, which is essentially doing a calf raise and contracting your glutes. Hold this for time — one minute is a good starting point.

The opposite end is finding a way to squeeze your glutes in the bottom position. If you have a friend, it’s probably best if they punch you in the buttcheek every five seconds while you’re down there. Again, one minute is good for a set.

Spread four of five sets of both of these through out the day.

3. BRIDGE THE GAP…

…between the fundamental tip toe position and glute beating position, making it smooth motion. This, my friends, is what it feels like to “hinge.”

If your glutes aren’t warm after ten repetitions, be worried. If they aren’t on fire after twenty-five, you’ve done something wrong. That “something” is probably an inability to keep tension on the glutes through out the range of motion. It’s going to sound weird, but you want to “grind” your glutes as you push your hips back during the romanian deadlift motion.

Think about the feel you get when you lower a weight slowly during barbell curls, maintaining a contraction in the muscle as it lengthens. This is “grind.” Finding the “grind” is tough with the hips and the hinge, so you have to work on it.

4. ADD SOME KIND OF LOADING…

…to the movement once you get the grind sorted out. Be sure to keep it slow for now. Regular old romanian deadlifts with a barbell or dumbbells are viable options. The barbell makes it a bit more difficult. Your movement is restricted by the barbell hitting your legs, but you’re going to have to get used to it anyways, so it might as well be now.

5. ADD A LITTLE SPEED…

…with something like kettlebell swings or perhaps hang cleans. Use a manageable weight.

6. ADD MORE MOVING PARTS WITH A LITTLE SPEED…

…by doing something like a lower load power clean. The power clean in itself isn’t a necessary transition, but it’s slow enough (even though it’s pretty fast) to have some control over, meaning you can “feel” things going on during the movement. This is in contrast to a vertical or broad jump, where things happen too fast to have conscious control over.

7. HOPE FOR THE BEST.

Heavier power cleans, vertical jumps, sprints, and other similar exercises will depend on the work done above. You won’t have time to “feel” or “think” during them. Instincts take over.

But if you follow the progression above — or at least extrapolate the principles — you’ll probably end up driving to the right house on a consistent basis. Just know that it takes a lot of time to get there, and you shouldn’t rush the process.

HOW THIS SEQUENCING CHANGED MY LIFE

The above process was fine tuned after my “dark years,” which was when I was stricken with debilitating knee pain. Over time, I failed on enough programs and false claims that I finally clawed my way out with my own developmental framework. During the year of experimentation, I learned a lot about movement, but specifically how movement relates to athleticism.

In short, I found out how to create a foundation for athletic movement. This sequence above is the shell of that foundation. It single handedly changed my future. I was entering into a depressive state after being debilitated with chronic knee pain.

A little while ago, I was asked to share my view on fundamental athletic movement as apart of a larger project, Muscle Imbalances Revealed. So for the past month, I worked hard to create a worthwhile presentation and awesome supplementary videos for this product. I’m proud to say that it’s finally available for purchase.

If you have any interest in athletic framework and glute programming example above, you will love my contribution to the Muscle Imbalanced Revealed project. It’s an informal walk-through of my perception of athletic movment and what it takes to form an awesome foundation for future high level skills.

Since you’re an awesome reader of mine, you have access to the early release. And the best part is that if you pull the trigger before Friday, August 10th, you will also get access to a free coaching call that myself and the other contributors will be apart of.

So it’s definately worth checking out. And be sure to get it now under this early screening before access the bonus coaching call ends.

I’ll be back in a few days to give a little bit more information about just what I did for the product.

But I’m happy that I can share this information as it was so instrumental in my personal adventure and turning my life, health, and athleticism around.

Here’s the link one more time. I hope you will check it out.

–> Click here to check out Muscle Imbalances Revealed

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I’ve done enough talking. How would YOU incorporate this information into fixing up a barbell row? Increasing athleticism? Powering a squat from the glutes?

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photo credit: Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games

What You Should Know About Motor Programming and Repatterning

Take me out to the ball game.

No, seriously.

Put a bat in my hand and let me go face to face with a ninety-five mile per hour fast ball.

Just don’t watch when I pee my pants.

I can’t hit a ninety-five mile per hour fast ball. Hell, I probably can’t even hit one at eighty. My body wasn’t “taught” how to locate and swing at objects flying at speeds undetectable by anyone with a midi-chlorian count less than 20,000.

WHERE WOULD YOU BEGIN?

If I had any ambition of hitting a fastball, I’d have to start slow. Very slow. And I’m not quite sure the “slow ball” is in the MLB repertoire.

To put things in perspective, however, most major leaguers probably started at the furthest end of “slow” with teeball.

Anytime you learn something new, it almost always happens slowly from a movement standpoint. Slow affords thinking time. Looking back to my barbell row woes, I find it no coincidence that isometric contractions were involved. You can focus on things better when there are no moving parts.

It’s not uncommon for rookie (albeit advanced in the grand scheme of things) baseball players to lose their swing. When it happens, they don’t resort to facing faster pitches to get back in the groove. Motor patterning and learning should start slow. And I’m not talking “slow and steady wins the race” kind of slow; I’m talking “slow so you can think about what the hell you’re doing” slow.

When you’re up against something unpredictable that requires a fast reaction, the end result is all instincts. There’s no thinking involved. Stuff just happens.

Teeball eliminates the complicated variable in the equation to foster learning. Kids at that level barely know how to swing, let alone swing at a ball with an unpredictable flight path fly by their face.

Once the swing—the more controllable variable—is learned, complexity is added. Speed of movement then gradually increases over time. So speed is the last step, really. Yet no one cares about the slow stuff.

“How can I use my glutes more on a vertical jump?”

Worry about how to use your glutes in something simple and slow before worrying about something complex or remotely fast.

This brings up an interesting learning curve:

  • Simple slow.
  • Fast simple.
  • Slow fancy.
  • Fast fancy.

HOW TO START MOTOR PROGRAMMING

If I were to measure up to the ninety-five hour fastball, I’d first learn how to swing like a baseball player. (My softball swing just wouldn’t cut it.) Yes, this would probably involve a tee.

Learning the “true” baseball swing is like activation work. It’s the relatively simple first step.  At this point, it’s all about feel. To progress into faster, more complex movements you have to feel the movement.

Speed increases difficulty because it eliminates feel. There’s no time to think. Baseball players, golfers, javelin throwers—anyone that engages in a violent activity—get to a point where they don’t think. They just do. The moment they think, they lose. They rely on feel. But it’s not the same kind of feel that the beginning stages are focused on. There’s no “activation.” It’s all instinct. All unconscious feel.

The baseball swing is driven from the hips. But no baseball player thinks about “squeezing the glutes” or “firing the rotators.” Those cues are fine at the rudimentary level, but once you get to the fast fancy stuff, you don’t have control.

YOU CAN’T THINK WHEN THINGS ARE FAST

Thinking about much of anything ruins speed and pureness. Being “in the zone” is a complete lack of conscious thought. And being “in the zone” is never a bad thing.

Repatterning—hopefully—enables the potential for a “zone.” You want the slow and simple stuff to be “enough” for your body to use the same pathways without consciousness. It’s like moving to a new house and accidentally driving to your old house on your way home from work one day. It’s all about rpetition over time. And doing a few repetitions of activation exercises here and there won’t quite cut it.

“It takes 500 hours to invoke a motor pattern before it becomes unconscious. It takes 25-30 thousand reps to break a bad motor pattern.”

- Buddy Morris

WHY PATTERNING IS DIFFICULT

Few people enjoy hammering away continuous seconds and countless repetitions with basic movements day after day. There’s no tangible reward. Your biceps don’t grow. It takes a long time. It’s not glamorous. It’s tiresome. It’s really just not all that fun. But you need it.

Your body has been evolving and blossoming over your lifespan. Even if you’re only fourteen years old, that’s still fourteen years of “driving to the same house.” Think about:

  • How many steps you’ve walked up in down in the past week. Now multiply that by 52. Now multiply that by your age.
  • How many times you’ve gotten in and out of a car today. Now multiply that by 7. Now by 52. Now by your age.
  • How many times you’ve squatted, deadlifted, or done any kind of exercising.
  • How many times you’ve played a sport.
  • How many hours you’ve sat watching television.

It adds up.

Perhaps the saddest part is that patterning doesn’t hold forever. Major league baseball players sometimes get sent down to the minors to “find their swing.” These are guys have been playing ball since they were five, and they still lose their patterning.

The minor league slows everything down. The competition isn’t as good. Pitches don’t come as fast. There’s more time to think.

It’s like starting over.

Even more surprising than losing a swing is how much work it takes to maintain one. Considering that baseball players take batting practice before every game, and there are 162 games every season, they’re hacking at the ball a lot. So even at the highest level, it takes daily work to keep consistent with a craft.

WHAT WE CAN ASSUME ABOUT PATTERNING

We can learn a lot from baseball players about learning skills, specifically learning motor patterns:

  • The process starts with conscious thought.
  • The process starts slow.
  • The goal is primarily to do slow things so much that they become as mundane and “regular” as driving to your house.
  • You don’t have a say in fast. Fast is fast. Fat happens from accumulating slow and hoping for the best.
  • Regression is normal and manageable.
  • Upon regression, dial down the speed and seek simplicity.
  • It takes a lot of work to maintain what you have. You’re never quite “home free.”

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I’ve done enough talking. How would YOU incorporate this information into fixing up a barbell row? Increasing athleticism? Powering a squat from the glutes?

Be sure to check back next week for an actual sample of how I would reprogram the glutes. Afraid of missing it? Sign-up to my newsletter by throwing your name/e-mail in either the box below this post or at the box at top of the screen. Only the good stuff hits your inbox. I promise.

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photo credit: Patrick Hoesly

 

Muscle Imbalances, Generators, Connectedness, and 3 Tips to Clean up Athleticism

It only takes one look at a lineup of athletes from different sports to realize they all come in different shapes and sizes. This reassures me of two things.

First, different body types exist. Even though somatotypes were created for psychological purposes, people do have different proportions. Not everyone follows the same rules. (This is a shout out to the Skinny-Fat Brohirrim.)

Second, the theory of muscular imbalances is a crapshoot.(This may sound odd as I just hinted to contributing to this year’s Muscle Imbalances Revealed product in my post about correct “feel” for the barbell row. But allow me to explain.) In the past, I was more vehement about this. Some of the first articles ever written for this here blog were about muscular imbalances.

To this day, I still don’t give much credence to the idea that there’s an ideal ratio to be had among muscles. When athletes are as diverse as they are, it just can’t be possible in my opinion.

An opinion which is backed by some notes of interest.

DEBUNKING MUSCULAR IMBALANCES

The crossover effect, for example, is one reason why I think the body is smart enough to prevent itself from growing wildly out of proportion to the point of danger. Train one arm in isolation and the other arm gets stronger. That’s the crossover effect.

Another reason is that of general organism strength—the theory that all training recruits a certain percentage of motor units in relation to the body’s entire pool, and the amount and extent of those recruited affects the organism as a whole.

Consider baseball players, specifically the amount of “unbalanced” rotational work they do in both hitting and throwing. Now, there are injuries in baseball, but not as many as you would think given the volume of “unbalanced training” their body is exposed to. They play 162 games from April until September, not counting spring training or playoffs. Most games involve maximal sprinting, maximal rotational swinging, and maximal throwing.

Fun fact: Chipper Jones—arguably one of the best switch hitters of all time—said hitting from both sides of the plate may have made him more susceptible to injury.

IT’S NOT ABOUT MUSCULAR IMBALANCES

At first glance, my methods can be confused muscular imbalance theories. But saying muscular imbalances exist assumes that there’s a hidden blueprint of the body. (Holy Grail, anyone?)

Every sport and every athlete has a different blueprint. What’s ideal for a center fielder won’t be ideal for a pitcher. What’s ideal for a goalie won’t be ideal for a gymnast.

Consider the differences between athletes that live around the same equipment: Olympic Weightlifters and Powerlifters. Both throw around heavy barbells and yet there’s just something “different” about the two groups of athletes. Upon testing, you would find a lot of strength differences between the two groups because the body adapts to survive, and each sport triggers different survival responses in the body.

I think (notice I’m using the word “think” here as nothing is really “proven”) most muscular imbalance problems are misinterpretations of two things:

  • Big muscles being generators
  • Small muscles being points of connectedness

BIG MUSCLES ARE GENERATORS

The bigger the muscle, more involved it should be in any given movement.

Crazy idea, right?

The hip houses the biggest muscles. As you get further away, the muscles get smaller and smaller.

The big muscles are generators. The golf swing, the baseball swing, the vertical jump, the sprint, and a host of other movements rely primarily on the big muscles of the hip.

This makes it seem like a muscle’s importance declines if it’s further from the center of the body. But this assumption ignores something I like to call “points of connectedness.”

Generators are only useful if they can be connected to something to give power to. So their usefulness depends on this connection.

In something like the vertical jump, the hips are the generator. The foot and ankle complex is the point of connectedness. If this connection isn’t up to par, not all generator power will be realized.

This may be easier to understand with an Olympic Weightlifting analogy. They artificially “enhance” their point of connectedness to the ground with weightlifting shoes, making for more efficient force transfer. They also enhance their point of connectedness to the bar with the hook grip.

When you look at the construction of the body, it goes like this:

  • Generator  (Hips, torso, shoulders)
  • Link (elbows, knee)
  • Point of connectedness (ankle/foot, hand/wrist)

In both the upper and lower body, the links (elbows and knees) function similarly. They don’t do much other than flex and extend. (The knee does rotate some and have a bit more freedom.) But they link the generator and point of connection.

If either the generator or point of connectedness is askew, the link will also be askew. The classic example for this is elbow problems.

CHIN-UPS AND ELBOW TENDONITIS

Elbow tendonitis is common amidst those that do a lot of straight bar work, specifically chin-ups and curls.

The fix is nearly always to opt for a neutral grip because the supinated grip ruins the natural neutral relationship between the wrist and shoulder. The elbow didn’t do anything wrong. It was just along for the ride.

Not that I haven’t used baseball enough for examples, but you will often hear of great hitters having either fast or strong wrists and either fast or strong hips. Rarely does anyone tout about “immaculate elbows” or “kick ass knees.”

The reason I was able to conquer crepitus and years of chronic knee pain was because I abided by one equation:

Hips + Feet = Knees

(In terms of health in relation to movement.)

We used to live in a knee-centric world. It was all about quads and hammies. While some of these muscles cross the hip, they aren’t the dominant muscles of the hip.

Things have changed. I’d say that we’re currently living in a glute-centric world. When ESPN writes a gigantic story about glutes, you know something is up.

But it’s only a matter of time before we begin to focus on the foot. Truly, the only reason I’m respecting and understanding the power of the foot is because I shattered mine to bits. As of now, I’m still rehabilitating it (1.5 years after breaking it), and I’m just beginning to realize the importance of isometric strength in the calves and the importance of dorsiflexion potential.

A lot of tricksters float across the ground, subtly bouncing in between moves. I want to say that the saying having “pep in your step” is code for “diesel isometric strength in the forefoot.”

My right foot is a lot more “locked up” than it used to be. My toes overlap and come to more of a point than compared to my left. It’s a shame that 6-8 weeks in a cast does these sorts of things. My current plan is to destroy myself with a lacrosee ball in hopes of “making space” by separating the joints in my foot.

You would be surprised at the kind of difference a wider base makes—something I realized during handstands. The narrower the fingers, the more my wrists, elbows, and shoulders got hurt. The more I splayed my fingers (to a reasonable extent), the more control I had which led to less injuries.

All things being equal, movement, balance, everything should be easier from a wider base. Most people are walking around on stilts because of the way their foot has contorted over time to fit into shoes. But I want to say the foot should fan. The more separation you have in between your big and second toe the better.

PUTTING INTO ALL TOGETHER INTO ATHLETIC MOVEMENT

As wacky as it seems, this relates to things as seemingly trivial as the barbell row. If your “feeling” the row in the wrong places, you’re wiring is likely out of whack. And if you’re wiring is out of whack, your foundation for athletic movement is likely out of whack too.

So if you want to play electrician, here’s some of my secret sauce. Use it as a launch pad.

1. Stretch the hip flexors, but stretch them correctly. This is a given in our age, but most people don’t stretch the hip flexors right. The trailing leg should be internally rotated with the toes flexed and pressed against the ground. Cross your hands behind your head and lean to the opposite side of whichever leg is being stretched. Or you can just do the super stretch shown above.

2. Find your forefoot. You can do something like front squat (or regular) calf raises, but don’t let the heel touch the ground. Teach your lower leg how to balance the body. Alternatively, you can load up a barbell, throw it on your back, and simply walk around on your tip toes.

I can’t say this is going to turn you into the next Michael Jordan, but that isometric strength is going to help you develop a better connection between your foot and the ground.

“…if calf muscles are not the most important contributors to a high vertical jump, in any case, they are important because in the execution of vertical jump they are involved as organic part of explosive legs extension movements in the last part of push up phase.

The calf rises are not the main exercise for the vertical jump height increasing but they cannot be eliminated in the training program.

Calf rise is the training mean that assures the increasing of calf muscles strength. The preliminary increasing of maximal strength of calf muscles is needed to assure the subsequent increasing of their explosive strength, starting strength and reactive ability.

Calf muscles are strongly involved in the lending shock absorbing phase of run and bounces. The preliminary enforcement of calf muscles, before the use of jumping exercises, it’s needed also to avoid legs injuries (calf muscles strain).

-  YuriVerkhoshansky

3. Get your hips firing. 

Getting the hips to fire was undoubtedly one of the most significant moments of my training career. And that’s if you want to consider a year’s worth of hard work a “moment.” It’s taken me from knee pain to knee health. Squat woes to squat triumphs. Hell, it even fixed my barbell row. (Remember, rewiring stems deep and infests more than one specific movement pattern. There’s also a general aspect to it.)

Crazily enough, it also broke my foot because I was flying through the roof during a tricking session. My moves were so high that I was seriously missing the ground on my landings, to the point of them just looking ugly because of how surprised I was. My body wasn’t going where I was used to it going because I had extra airtime.

Lo and behold, body parts ended up in wrong places, and I ended up with a cast around my leg. So let’s not forget increased the ability of the hips to increase vertical jumping power.

But before I get into how to fix the hips, I want you to digest everything else first, as the the overall scheme of motor programming and patterning can get rather complex.

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Check back on Tuesday for more goodies. And be sure to ask your questions in the interim. The comment boxes are below. It’s always a jammin’ place down there, so join the party.

An Athlete’s Guide to Chronic Knee Pain

The idea for An Athlete’s Guide to Chronic Knee Pain started when I played tons of basketball during my senior year of high school. My knees flared up and the doctors I visited just prescribed pain killers. So from 2004-2009, I submissively lived with this pain. Looking back, I don’t know I managed. I was an avid trickster from 2002-2011, and I loved doing squats, deadlifts and the likes. I was always jumping, running, or playing some kind of sport. During it all, my knees gave me issues.

In 2009, I posted a YouTube video of my knee sounding like virgin Rice Krispies floating in cold milk. As Jon Call, a good friend of mine put it: I was Googling for crumbs of information on chronic knee pain. I went to different forums and posted my video in hopes of aid. I returned empty handed.

So I decided that I had to fix the problem myself. I forced myself to forget the popular rehabilitation methods. I threw away terminal knee extensions, hamstring stretches, peterson step ups, leg curls, and leg extensions. I sat down with a pen and a notebook and asked myself the following questions:

“What could cause my patellar tendon to nearly shut down in pain?”

“How can so much discomfort nestle into such a simple structure?”

“Why is this problem so prominent?”

“Why aren’t popular rehabilitation methods working?”

I mapped my answers, devising a plan. Over the next year I experimented with my conclusions. The process wasn’t perfect but it was working: my knee pain was fading. I documented my journey. As I worked with more athletes and clients, I tested what worked for me. The results were similar.

I thought back to my basketball days, and how I longed for the very information I held in my hands. So I started typing, and I expanded on the program and rationale behind my method, eventually writing the book I wished I had back when I routinely blew $25 on medical co-pays.

From a business perspective, writing this book was a stupid idea. Sales gurus would tell me that I couldn’t compete with Mike Robertson’s comprehensive Bulletproof Knees. But I never did this to compete with anyone. I don’t doubt the quality and expansiveness of Bulletproof Knees. When I was withering in pain, however, I didn’t drop the money it because I didn’t have a meniscus injury as Mike did. I just had nagging chronic knee pain. Not quite as serious, and I was unsure of the transference.

When I thought back to 2004, I wanted a product that was written with athletic intentions that only dealt with nagging chronic issues and would, most of all, be affordable for a high school kid. And that’s what An Athlete’s Guide to Chronic Knee Pain is. So if you’re looking for a hugely comprehensive and anatomical resource for internal structural damage, you’re not going to find it in An Athlete’s Guide to Chronic Knee Pain.

To give you an idea of what An Athlete’s Guide to Chronic Knee Pain is about, I made a free preview of the book that’s easily downloadable on the main page.

I guess I’ve been rambling, so I’ll shut my fingers down. There’s tons more to read on the main page for the book, in addition to the the free preview, so I hope you take a look. Just click on the picture or link below to check it out. And if you’re one of those ambitious souls wondering how to put out your own eBook, don’t worry. That’s coming soon.

 

An Athlete’s Guide to Chronic Knee Pain: Theories and Solutions for Patellar Tendonitis, Jumpers Knee, and Patellar Tracking Problems

CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE MAIN PAGE FOR AN ATHLETE’S GUIDE TO CHRONIC KNEE PAIN

What A Rejected Article Looks Like, and Why Your Thoracic Extensions and Hip Flexor Stretches Are Wrong

In a few weeks, the culture of this website is going to change. I’m going to become less “end result” oriented, and more “process” oriented. I’m working on a fancy “about” page to explain just exactly what that means, but the shortened version is that the internet is filled with people that spout the end result. Internet ads say, “I made $1,000,000 in ten seconds. Click here to find out how!” That’s end result thinking. If the link said, “Click here to see how I’m trying to make $1,000,000 in ten seconds,” it becomes process thinking.

Most of my articles are end result articles. Here’s how to do X. Do this to accomplish Y. And that’s fine, as end result articles have their place and will always appear on this website. Of course, I’ll continue to find and expand on topics I feel aren’t covered enough, such as skinny fact ectomorph training. For those of you interested in that, you’ll be happy to know I’m in the midst of writing something huge for you. Starting today, I’m going to start being more process-oriented.

WHAT A REJECTED ARTICLE LOOKS LIKE

Some of my readers have aspirations to write for fitness, strength, and health magazines just as I once did before I broke through last October. One of the problems is that, as a beginner writer, you only see finished products. Not every idea that slips into the crevice of your brain’s neurons makes the cut. Behind the scenes, a lot goes on. Sometimes editors guide writing in directions against intention. Other times, the article is flat out rejected as magazines have certain criteria and brands they upkeep and abide by. So regardless of how well you think a piece is written, or how fitting you think a topic is, you might want to hold your breath.

I submitted this piece to a publisher months ago. It was rejected. Looking back, I know why. I’d do a lot of things differently, but I’ll save that critique and insight for another blog post (which, by the way, is a great process  oriented topic). Until then, why do you think it was rejected? Did I leave spelling errors in the draft? Is it a bad topic? Is it boring? Drop your comments at the bottom of the page.

Your Lumbar Spine and Its Effect on Mobility

By Anthony Mychal

I’m debating what’s worse: the process of getting whiplash, or driving home after getting whiplash. On one hand, getting your neck abused like a PEZ dispenser is traumatizing. But it’s over before you realize it started.

On the other hand, the drive home is brutal. You don’t change lanes because you can’t turn your head. Your life suddenly depends on peripheral vision. What are you? A horse? And then comes the dire times in which you actually need to see if you’re going to end your life by colliding into a passing car. You can’t trust your rearview mirror because of the blind spot. Since your neck is useless, your rotation comes from the spine, aided by your suicide grip on the steering wheel.

But this is all evidence. Evidence in favor of those that say: “the body doesn’t move in isolation.” No kidding. But it’s also a testament to the body’s resiliency. So your neck is broke. What are you going to do? Die? You’ll find a way to survive. Or, at the very least, try to.

Compensations like these are prevalent throughout your body, but they aren’t necessarily a “good thing.” Deep down, your motivation is survival. Your physiology doesn’t care about chronic pain or nagging injuries as long as the heart is still beating.

Most muscular problems stem from the center of your body because of how important it is. “As athletes advance,” Bret Contreras writes in a recent blog post, “they learn to incorporate their hip and leg musculature into their movements to a much higher degree.”

And for good reason. The pelvis has some of the strongest and largest muscles attaching on and originating from it. The hips control the lower limbs so to speak, just as the shoulders control the upper limbs. These two areas can tell you a lot about how a person functions.

But they aren’t mutually exclusive. As Eric Cressey has pointed out before, stiff hips can lead to a stiff thoracic spine, which can throw off the shoulders and neck. And if the shoulders and neck are struggling, how do you think the elbows and wrists will fare? It’s this crazy stuff that really shows just how far compensations can root.

THE MISSING LINK

Now I’m not one of those guys that blames discomfort in the pinky finger on the hip rotators. All I’m saying is that you need to keep the hips and shoulders clean because they have the most responsibility. They’re like babysitters in charge of ten newborns. If they can’t stop one baby from crying, then there’s a good chance all of the babies will start crying—and the babysitter won’t be too far behind.

Keeping the shoulders and hips clean sounds easy, and eager souls will rush into mobility drills. Since more is better, they’ll hit their furthest range of motion with no regard for the body as a system of moving parts. And in order to get the most out of our mobility drills we have to consider what’s in the middle of the shoulders and hips: the lumbar spine.

It’s well known—especially with the surge of pallof presses, planks, and their respective variations—that, in most situations, the lumbar spine is a transmitter and not a producer of force. And when transmitting, tighter is better.

What’s not well known is that the lumbar spine can also be a crux in your mobility work. You can be doing drill after drill, but unless you have control of your lumbar spine, their effects will be moot.

Aside from the shoulders and hips having a large list of responsibilities, they are also at the mercy of our bad habits like sitting too damn much and carrying ourselves with bad posture. We know this though, so we’re smart enough to stretch our hip flexors and get in our thoracic extensions. But any corrective exercise you can dream of will fall short if the lumbar spine is doing the mobilizing. So let’s take a look at both of these movements and see how we can make sure they’re actually doing what we want them to do.

THORACIC EXTENSIONS

If there’s one thing I have learned about thoracic extensions, it’s that everyone hinges from the lower back unless told otherwise. This happens for two reasons.

The first reason is because of the range of motion obsession, as stated earlier. When you get that foam roller under your shoulder blades, the only thing you care about is rounding over so that your head touches the ground. Wrong.

 

If you’re doing them “right” your head isn’t going to touch the ground because the thoracic spine doesn’t have much extension range of motion.

The second reason is because it “hurts” a little when you do it right, and most people are afraid of pushing comfort zones. Undoing years of hunching, sitting, and bad posture doesn’t feel normal, so don’t expect it to at first.

But the fix is easy, and it starts with your set up. Instead of arching your back in the start position, engage your abs a bit as if you were doing a crunch, and keep this contraction throughout the entire range of motion.

Next, instead of reaching for the ground, fold from the thoracic spine and “feel” the movement in the middle of your back.

Trying to teach this to a group of thirty teenagers at once leads to thirty teenagers doing it wrong. But it only takes a few punches to the stomach before they start to do it “right.” Then, with a little practice, something even crazier happens. They “feel” the lower traps and rhomboids contracting against the foam roller. And I don’t see how that could be a bad thing.

HIP FLEXOR STRETCHING

I blame the hip flexor misconceptions on the front splits. Everyone is obsessed with going as deep as possible, with no regard for actually, uh, feeling a stretch in the hip flexor. More range of motion is only better if you’re tapping into the right movement.

To me, a deep lunge doesn’t represent a flexible hip flexor, it represents a flexible lower back.  But to understand why, you have to understand pelvic positioning and the resultant angle of hip extension. (In the pictures, the yellow line represents the pelvic plane, and the red line represents angle of hip extension.)

When standing up, with your back in a neutral position, the angle of hip extension from the pelvic plane is 90°. Holding in neutral, you can only extend your hip 10° to 20°. This range of motion, however, is all hyperextension. So in order to qualify as hyper extension, the angle of hip extension from the pelvic plane has to be greater than 90°.

If you assume an anterior pelvic tilt, the initial angle closes to 70° to 80° (as oppsed to the 90° in neutral). Extending your hip from this position makes it appear as if you’re getting more hip extension, but you’re not. You’re getting the same amount, if not less, because you have to cover the 10° to 20° lost from the anterior pelvic tilt.

 

In theory, the fix looks similar to what was done at the thoracic spine—don’t care so much about range of motion and tighten the abs—but it’s more difficult to execute.

First, abandon your old hip flexor stretch that probably looks something like the picture below.

 

Although the deep lunge position makes it appear as if the hip flexor is being stretched, it really isn’t because the angle of hip extension from the pelvic plane is near 90°. Remember that hyperextension happens at an angle greater than 90°, so with the deep lunge you’re barely stretching the hip flexor beyond its length in a normal standing position.

To correct this, squeeze the glute of the rear leg and “push” the front of hip forward while tightening the abs a little. Cue yourself to rip the hip flexor from the bone. (It was a saying I learned from Buddy Morris, and it works well.)

If you’re having trouble tilting your pelvis, practice “nerd posture.” Stand up, squeeze the glutes, and then tilt your pelvis and body as if you did nothing but play Call of Duty all day.

Get back into the lunge position, squeeze the glute of the rear leg, and assume nerd posture at the hip. It’s challenging at first because the lead leg actually pulls on the ground with the hamstring, like a leg curl, for leverage when tilting the pelvis upward.

Once you settle into this position, you won’t be in nearly as deep of a lunge, but you will feel your hip flexor being stretched much more because you’re actually stretching into hip hyperextension.

LESSONS TO BE LEARNED

While compensations can happen in many movements, muscles, and motor patterns, it’s important keep the shoulders and hips clean. The information here extends beyond thoracic extensions and lunging hip flexor stretches. During any mobility or flexibility drill be it scapular wall slides, shoulder dislocates, or fire hydrants, consider the role of the lumbar spine. See if you’re really mobilizing, or if you just think you’re mobilizing. It’s more than going through the motions.

Don’t be upset if you’ve been doing things wrong. Remember, it’s these compensations that enable us to survive. Or, at the least, prevent automobile accidents.

 

References

Contreras, B. (2011, Sept 11). Standing rotary training is whole body training! [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://bretcontreras.com/2011/09/standing-rotary-training-is-whole-body-training/

Cressey, E. (2011, March 29). Oblique strains in baseball: 2011 update [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://ericcressey.com/oblique-strains-in-baseball-2011-update

 

 

Is The Functional Movement Screening Worthless?

Every year there are new methods, new programs, and new screenings designed to “protect” athletes from injuries. Take the Functional Movement Screening (FMS) for example. It consists of seven mobility screens used to identify incorrect, imbalanced, and compensatory movement patterns throughout the body. The theory being that proficiency in all seven tests lessens your chance for injury. But since when have sports become so predictable?

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDxeJVIc7iM

The video above showcases a group of NFL guys being taken through the FMS. I know they didn’t work with the athletes long enough to develop proficiency in all seven areas. At the least, they were educated about it. But it is interesting to see how the season is panning out for these guys. Here’s the injury list: Steven Jackson (quad), Greg Jennings (hamstring), Jahvid Best (concussion), Jonathan Stewart (possible ankle), Hakeem Nicks (hamstring), Leon Hall (ruptured achilles), and Patrick Chung (foot). Insane, isn’t it? Only three of the athletes featured have yet to have an injury. Two of which aren’t regular players (Dennis Dixon is second stringer, Aaron Curry has been traded).

Maybe—just maybe—the fancy things we do to prevent injuries don’t do a damn thing. Maybe they contribute to the problem. Here’s what Carl Valle of Elite Track has to say:

The Posture Police coach that is overzealous tends to get athletes bracing too much and living in a tight world instead of a balanced relaxation and contraction environment. Interesting to note the increase in hip tears, sports hernias, and lumbar injuries with “Modern Core Training Performance”. Coaches need to guide the trail not blaze it for the athlete.

The “core” transmits force, no doubt. But rotational athletes flirt with fluidity, grace, and relaxation. They can’t always assume a neutral spine.

If I can remember, Dr. Yessis once said something like, “injuries are more likely caused by improper programming, not muscular imbalances.” It all stems back to adaptation. If adapting is necessary for the good of the organism, it will adapt. A martial artist and a baseball pitcher will surely score differently on the FMS. Shouldn’t we expect that?  Shouldn’t we allow individual variances between sports and athletes? Or, should I say, how can’t we allow for variances between sports and athletes?

 

 Edit: In light of the responses this post has been getting, I posted an informal follow up here.

Strength Imbalances Put to Rest – Why Great Athletes are Imbalanced

Do strength imbalances cause injury? Or are they a natural adaptation grown out of the impulse to survive? There’s no definitive answer, or so it would seem. Theories of injury causes run amok. But they are all the same in that they are theories. Suppositions. What should be or could be. Not what is.

Truthfully, I’m using nothing but should-be’s and could-be’s to try to disprove others. But that’s really what the fitness industry is all about. Few things are absolute. So I hope that my theory gives you a new perspective. One that you never had, or thought of having. One that can help you better understand how to protect yourself in the future.

A QUICK REVIEW

This is the fourth time I’ve written about strength imbalances. It might help if you went back and refreshed your mind.

In the first article, I talked about the shortcomings of the research field. How most machines don’t mimic real life movement and how most recommended ratios are guesses.

In the second article, I talked about how imbalances are nothing more than adaptations, just like strength or size. A baseball player will always be a stronger rotator to his dominant side because he has to be.

In the third article, I talked about defining a human baseline, which makes classifying imbalances even more difficult. It contains quotes from Bret Contreras and Eric Cressey that agree with my ramblings.

IRRITANTS, VIRUSES, AND ADAPTATION

As I mentioned in the second article, imbalances are adaptations. The body doesn’t intend on having one side stronger than the other. It happens because it’s just reacting to what it’s exposed to.

Training is an irritant to the body, kind of like a virus. If you do squats, the body responds by making the legs stronger so it doesn’t get crushed by the weight on your back. If you get chickenpox, the body responds by making antibodies so that it doesn’t get threatened by the disease again.

But if the body responds to training as an irritant, wouldn’t it naturally build itself up into a mega-creation impervious to injury? Theoretically, yes. But the body cares about survival and not performance. That’s why thoughts of cannibalism creep into your mind if you get stranded in the arctic with a few friends.

It's all about survival. Even from birth.

In addition to the body’s focus on survival, it won’t transform into Megatron unless it’s given the time to recover from the stressful events. Chickenpox isn’t cured in an hour. So let’s take a look at the potential causes of injury.

CAUSES OF INJURIES

Before I give you my three reasons of why injuries occur, remember that these are nothing more than my theories. My should-be’s and could-be’s.

The first reason injuries occur is by simply doing something wrong. Call it bad form, but putting yourself in compromising positions or using bad mechanics will expose structures to stress they aren’t designed to handle. This can be squatting with the knees inward or bench pressing with the shoulders flared. The body can’t move in all directions. Respect how each joint in the body works.

The second reason injuries occur is by not being able to recover from irritants. Recovery being the key word here. The more you stress yourself, the longer it takes to recover. It’s like getting a cold, and then a day later getting the flu, and then a day later getting chicken pox. You’re going to struggle because you’re never working at your highest level and with every disease you dig deeper into your need to recover.

A victim of not enough rest?

Baseball pitchers that have to get Tommy John surgery fall into this category. Take Stephen Strasburg for example. He got hurt less than one year into his MLB career. Eric Cressey theorizes that it’s not so much a mechanics issue as it is him having to always showcase his talents. When you’re always looking to light up the radar gun with triple digits you never get a chance to slow down.

The third, and final, reason injuries occur is because of a combination of both of the above. This is where most are apt to blame strength imbalances, but notice that it’s nothing about strength in the traditional sense. I break this reason into two categories:

1) Mobility impairment that force your body into bad positions. If your thoracic spine is all bottled up, your upper body isn’t going to handle things very well. Same goes for your hips and lower body.

2) Bad motor patterning that stresses muscles out of sequence. This is essentially my theory of knee pain. The muscles nearest the center of our body are designed to do the bulk of movement. When the smaller muscles take over, they stress themselves more than what they are designed for.  This, in my opinion, is how most tendonitis starts. When the smaller muscles start to do more than the bigger muscles, you’re going to have problems.

A foot strike way in front of the body puts a lot of responsibility on the hamstring.

A prime case for this is Jose Reyes, who is prone to hamstring injuries. It might be easy to blame all of his problems on hamstring strength, but as Carl Valle explains, the problem is more likely due to his mechanics. (Read more in the blog post, More on Footstrike: Jose Reyes and Hamstring Injuries).

CONCLUSION

If you want to say that injuries are caused by “imbalances,” I probably couldn’t argue. But the moment you bring up strength imbalances, we’re going to have some problems.But I’ll leave you with this these thoughts.

We always have been and always will be imbalanced creatures. Total symmetry just doesn’t happen. From the moment we’re born something is off. We open the pickle jar better with a certain hand. We have a dominant hand for fine motor control. We (might) have uneven abs, ruining our high school dream of having a perfect six-pack.

 

My abs are imbalanced, noooooooo.

Aside from taking care of your soft tissue restrictions, extreme structural imbalances, and doing a few things right in the weight room, you live and die by your imbalances. The only way to truly have balance is to become equally proficient on both sides of a traditional unilateral movement. So if you’re a pitcher, you’d have match your pitch count with your right and left hand. But you’ll never get anywhere if you did that. It doesn’t leave time to specialize and master the craft.

Now even though these are my could-be’s and should-be’s, here are some things I know for sure: Tiger Woods doesn’t swing the club left handed, Michael Jordan didn’t take game winning perimeter shots left handed, and Roger Federer doesn’t hold the racket in his left hand. I’m sure they don’t regret their imbalances. Will you?