The Fatal Flaw In the Kettlebell Swing: The Kettlebell Coaching Series

You’ve probably seen headlines like this before…. kettlebell swings and saving your back OR the one thing you need to fix in your kettlebell swing OR the guide to the most effective kettlebell swing. Yet here you are… you still clicked… Why?

jillian2Teaching the kettlebell swing (a good, safe one) is as hard as teaching Olympic Style Lifts because so many things can go wrong. Plus… there is more bad info out there than good as evidenced by Fit EDU’s “go to resource for kettlebell swings” and celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels. If you haven’t picked up on the sarcasm please try your best to keep up.

Here are a few critical elements of the swing we will assume you know how to teach (if not you can find an link to article on that topic below):

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  1. How to hip hinge through the clients full range of motion
  2. How to brace at the top of the swing 
  3. How to ensure explosiveness (from the bottom to the top)
  4. How to breathe (biomecanical breathing match and diaphragmatic breathing)

 

 

*Note: any of the above can also be fatal flaws, but we are assuming you already know how to address all of the above because you’re an awesome movement coach** Oh by the way… we offer 2 levels of kettlebell seminars. Check them out

Ok… now that we have gotten this far its time to focus on the one thing that separates good kettlebell coaches from great ones. SEQUENCE in the downswing. You can see poor sequencing in the first portion of this video. Liz (sorry Liz!) hip hinges before closing the gap between her body and the kettlebell. In other words, she does a poor job of allowing the kettlebell to get close to her body before hinging.

Here’s another example illustrated by Coach Erik (while he is discussing explosiveness in this video it is still very applicable).

Let’s do a lame/generic review of physics and then apply to the swing.

Center of mass- The point, about which the distribution of these individual weights is symmetrical, is the center of gravity of the body. Thus, if a body has more mass distributed in its upper part, the center of gravity will be closer to the top of the body.

External load- A load (kettlebell in our case)

Ok… so time to apply these terms to kettlebell swings. In the kettlebell swing the further the external load (kettlebell) is from the body and more specifically center of mass to greater the stress on the body. Huh? The further the kettlebell is from our body the harder it is to control and the more likely we are to allow the spine to flex/extend which increases the likelihood of injury.

Now that you can identify bad sequencing in the downswing (if you’re still not sure watch the videos above one more time). We need to make one more point before we talk fixes…

SELF PRESERVATION

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Above all else we have a natural instinct to keep ourselves free of harm. Logical. However, this is to our detriment in the swing. We often hip hinge early because our instincts tell us to… so the kettlebell doesn’t hit us in the crotch (even though it won’t).  We have to fight an instinct that goes back tens of thousands of years so please be patient with your clients. This will take time. The bottom line is they need do the equivalent of “play chicken with your manhood” as Coach Erik so eloquently puts it. He’s a wordsmith. Not truly applicable when training women, but using this cue still works and usually gets a chuckle.

To the fixes:

Medicine Ball Drill

Long Lever Drills: Core Blaster / Rope

We have more… many, many more, but these are a good start. We really like starting with the medicine ball drill as there is immediate feedback. Bad sequence… you hit the med ball. It’s a bit jarring, but doesn’t hurt. It quickly gets the point across. If this doesn’t resolve the sequencing issue then we go the the rope or core blaster. For more info on sequencing and to make “Play chicken with your manhood” actually make sense check out this article.

If you interested in formal education in this area, but don’t want to go broke or feel like you are joining the military check out our Kettlebell Coaching Seminar. We are preapproved for 8 CEUs by all the major certifying bodies and most of the others will accept our curriculum with an appeal.

Have questions? Email us info@fit-edu.com

www.fit-edu.com

Anti-Rotation Exercises and Why You Should Care About Them

downloadThe concept of anti-rotation and using anti-rotation exercises isn’t new. However, it was highlighted and popularized by Eric Cressey about 10 years ago. Since then there has been a debate over whether or not these exercises actually do anything. Many movement professionals think they’re a waste of time. Some are skeptical and others are “all in”. Let’s take a look at both sides of the argument, but start by clearly defining the concept and giving a few examples of exercises.

What is it (concept)?

It’s all about staying in a neutral position to maximize leverage and force development. “Anti-Rotation” as it is discussed today in fitness and performance training is the ability
of the “core” (musculature of the torso) to stabilize the spine and pelvis to maintain a neutral position, while being acted upon by rotation forces. This is important in all physical activity… from running to performing a bent over row to a kettlebell swing. There is always some combination of muscles involved in preventing rotation against external forces in exercise and sport. When applied to ballistic and grinding exercises the amount force required to prevent rotation, especially in single-sided exercises, is significant when under heavy loads. Both anterior and posterior core muscles must “fire” at the right time and with appropriate force to ensure adequate stability to prevent rotation of the spine and minimize injury risk. While we are focusing on anti-rotation, it is important to note many performance professionals also address anti-flexion, extension, and lateral flexion in their programming. For simplicity, we are focusing on anti-rotation.

What is it (exercises)?

So… The Paloff Press is the exercise everyone thinks about when they hear anti-rotation. hqdefault The exercise can be done kneeling, half kneeling, standing, and in split-stance positions (the position should be dictated by the goal or movement you want to “fix” in mind). Additionally, the exercise can be performed with bands, cables, or manual resistance. In most iterations of this exercise the handle is pulled in towards the midline and then pushed away from the torso. This creates variability in the load as the mechanical advantage/disadvantage changes. The obvious goal is to maintain neutral while in good posture.

Another example of an anti-rotation exercise is the shoulder tap. Same concept… just a different set up.

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Assume a high plank position and slowly tap the opposing shoulder. The goal is to maintain neutral (most important pelvis) throughout.

 

The argument for anti-rotation exercises:

There are a countless number of people (athletes included) with significant motor control issues. As a species we find very creative and ineffective ways of accomplishing tasks with all the wrong muscles. Over time, this can lead to injury and/or poor joint position which negatively effects leverage, the amount of force we can produce, and increases the likelihood of injury. When the “anti” exercises are implemented they can improve motor control, help establish a stronger base and increased force production. However, the exercises should only be implemented when there is an obvious deficiency. For example, if a uni-lateral overhead kettlebell press is in your program and you can’t seem to maintain a neutral spine at a certain load there is a chance a stronger base (which can be created via anti-rotation exercises) will improve performance. In this scenario, you would want to mirror the foot position to achieve the desired outcome. Either shoulder taps OR a standing bilateral stance would do the trick. Additionally, YOU are are likely already prescribing “anti” exercises. Plank, Side Plank, TRX/Ring Core work, unilateral farmer’s or overhead carries, etc, etc… are all exercises in the “anti” family.

The argument against anti-rotation exercises:

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People just need to get stronger through traditional strength training. If you want a stronger core squat, deadlift, press and squat heavy weight loads on a regular basis. With appropriate coaching and volume, your ability to maintain neutral in sport and exercise will get better. You don’t need fluff exercises to make this happen.

Our stance:

We sit somewhere in the middle. While we do believe regular strength training (with good programming) will help anyone maintain neutral under heavy loads, there are some instances where “anti” exercises are needed. We look at anti-rotation exercises as a sort of a movement “hack”. If an anti-rotation drill helps a client get in better touch with how to maintain neutral in another exercise or skill, and they improve performance, it’s a win. We are all about implementing coaching drills which have an immediate positive impact on performance.

youth-strength-training-1Another consideration is the age of your client as it may have an impact on your decision to include or exclude “Anti” exercises.  Older individuals will most likely need more of this than youth trainees.  Older individuals (25+ years) tend to have movement patterns that have been destroyed by life, improper training, or accumulated sports injuries.  Kids, on the other hand, can make better use of their time by including the big compound exercises and developing a solid foundation of strength.  For kids, most of the time, movement flaws are a result of skill and motor control deficiency.  Adding “anti” correctives won’t always lead to a boost of skill. For some clients, anti-rotation exercises are the answer. If it works, great. If not, move on.

The anatomy and physiology of anti-rotation:

Want to learn a little more about the science? This section has been designed to help develop a better understanding of the muscular anatomy of the “core” and each muscle’s involvement in preventing rotation.

Anterior (Inner and Outer) Core

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Posterior (Inner and Outer) Core

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Muscle Responsibility
External Oblique Prevents Torso Rotation
Glute Maximus Lumbar Spine and Pelvis Stabilization
Internal Oblique Prevents Torso Rotation
Latisimus Dorsi Prevents shoulder Elevation and Protraction, Thoracic Spine Stabilization
Quadratus Lumborum Prevents Torso Lateral Flexion
Rectus Abdominus Spine and Pelvis Stabilizer
Transverse Abdominus Torso Stabilizer

As you can see from the above chart stability/maintaining neutral is a result of a variety of muscles working together. If you are going to maintain neutral in most athletic situations the appropriate musculature must “fire” at the right time in order to prevent significant rotation of the Pelvis, Lumbar and Thoracic Spine.
**Please note that there should be a mix of voluntary and reflexive muscle activation.

In the end you need to decide if you are on the “anti” exercise ban wagon. We find these exercises to be very helpful when applied in the right situation. Our approach is to apply these exercises with a very specific outcome in mind (i.e. improve stability in a kettlebell overhead press). Our approach includes the “anti” exercise immediately followed up the exercise/skill we are trying to improve. We have found this approach to be effective. To be clear, this is the only situation where we implement “anti” exercises. Try our approach and let us know how it work.

 

 

Ballistic Kettlebell Exercises and Arc Differences

The kettlebell swing, clean and snatch are all incredible exercises for a long list of reasons when performed correctly. The correctly is the key word in that statement. Unfortunately, fitness professionals and enthusiasts who are not “trained” to use kettlebells often bastardize these awesome movements. In this article we will examine the arc differences in these movements so as to help develop an understanding just how different these 3 skills are.

Let’s start with a brief review of a few key terms:

Arc- a part of the circumference of a circle or other curve

Force vectors- a quantity having direction as well as magnitude, especially as determining the position of one point in space relative to another.

 External forces- forces that are present when performing work with external objects that changes the demands on the system

The Swing

The swing has the biggest arc, producing the greatest external (forward and rotational) forces acting upon the body. Notice that at the end position of the swing, the kettlebell is the farthest away from the center of mass compared to the snatch and clean. If remove the “skill” required for each movement we examine the swing is actually the hardest to control because of how far away the load is from the body.

SWING ARC_crop

The Snatch

The snatch has a medium–sized arc, producing moderate forward and rotational forces acting upon the body.  The kettlebell is farthest from the body’s center of gravity in the “middle” of the exercise. However, you will notice this is a much tighter arc than that of the swing. While this movement requires significantly more skill than the swing, the bell is actually easier to control because it remains closer to the center of mass.

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The Clean

The clean has the smallest arc, producing the least forward and rotational forces acting upon the body.  Like the Snatch, the kettlebell is farthest from the body’s center of gravity in the “middle” of the line of action. Similarly to the snatch the kettlebell is never too far from the center of mass. Once again, if you take away the skill of the clean it is a relatively easy exercise to perform relative to the swing and snatch.

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Why Understanding Arcs Matters:

Developing an understanding of the arc and the resultant forces acting upon the body helps the coach and student better control the kettlebell-body system when performing these exercises. Additionally, an understanding of arcs and forces will help with coaching these exercises.

For example, a general rule of thumb is to master the 2-arm swing, and then the 1-arm swing, before attempting to clean or snatch. In fact, we promote training heavy 1- arm swings before the student is given the green light to snatch. This is because the swing requires the lowest level of skill of these three movements while requiring the greatest amount of core firing to prevent spinal rotation. Therefore, the 1-arm swing is great preparation for the clean and snatch which require a higher level of skill.

We progress kettlebell ballistics by using the swing to teach the ability to explosively extend the hips while controlling external forces. Once this has been mastered, we then layer in additional drills that will help with the necessary skills to perform the clean and snatch. Breaking down kettlebell ballistics by their arc and forces acting upon the body isn’t a new concept. Instead it’s one that is often overlooked.  Once we understand how the arc changes based on the exercise, we can manipulate the external forces through the right vector to produce the most efficient movement.

If you would like to learn more about Fit EDU’s kettlebell coach program and how we evaluate and coach kettlebell exercises visit us at www.fit-edu.com.  You can also visit our blog’s main page to see other articles on the swing, turkish get-up, goblet squats, and much more.

The Elsa Method: Let It Go

Sometimes as a coach, you need to be like Elsa from the Disney movie Frozen, and Let It Go! That’s right, just Let It Go.  All the technique flaws your coach’s eye is picking up, you do not need to address them at this time, you and your athlete might do better if you just, Let It Go!  (FYI: We are both Dads to girls under 4… Hence our in-depth knowledge of Frozen… We felt a need to make that clear… just saying) It is OK, and sometimes a must, to let your trainees practice complex fitness exercises with what would be considered poor technique.  Before the internet fitness police come and hunt me down, please let me elaborate.  

Think about youth sports in this country.  There are many kids who play organized sports from a young age.  However, even at their pinnacle as an athlete, very few of these kids will build sports skills that are refined enough to be considered exceptional.  At their age none of them do sports or athletic skills at a high level, and most of them are done poorly.  Go to the park and watch a group of 12-year-old kids play basketball.  While the majority can exhibit the necessary level of skills to play a game, there will be frequent inconsistencies and mistakes.

Image result for kids playing basketball

Check out a high school JV cross-country race and take a look at the running form or go to a high school track and field meet and watch the field events.  The running, jumping and throwing skill you see will be full of errors, due mostly to a small window of experience, but also poor strength and fitness.

But…

Do we make these kids stop playing or competing because they do not perform sports skills well or have the requisite fitness level?  Of course not!  What do coaches of youth and high school sports do if they recognize poor skills being performed?  For the most part, they Let It Go!  They have to let poorly performed jump shots and baseball swings go or they will never be able to play a game.  The entire skill must be performed, as full of holes as it might be, to get better at it. When it comes to youth sports, people generally understand that improvements take a long time to accrue and we faithfully give coaches a lot of leeway to make our young athletes better over time.  We need to understand this happens in the weight room too.file_002

“The Elsa Method” of purposefully letting things go isn’t only for your trainee’s sake, but also for yours.  Don’t put so much pressure on yourself as a coach to make someone perfect in short order. It once took me two years to get an Olympic weightlifter to consistently squat below parallel.  He had some flexibility and strength issues, that eventually resolved over time due to proper cueing, proper intensity, and continued practice.  Some of my other athletes have taken the same amount of time to keep their arms straight on cleans and snatches.  With proper drills, training loads, and well-timed and clearly understood cues, most of them eventually get it. As the coach, it is your job to understand what your trainee responds well to and which drills lead to the most technical improvement for that individual. It’s also your job to make sure ego (both yours and your client) does not overtake their physical capabilities and current skill level.  

Recently, when discussing the idea of letting things go, I received an anecdote from a coaching colleague of mine, that will help illustrate what can happen if you are overreaching a trainee’s skill level.  This coach was having his client deadlift.   The client was doing the deadlifts very well.  The back was neutral and they were successfully loading tension into the body/bar system.  The bar path was on point, the hip hinge was flawless and the sequencing of muscle action was spot on.  But the breafile_001thing…the breathing was not exactly perfect. She was not filling air into her belly optimally. So, instead of just being happy with all that was going right, he tried to coach her into make the breathing pattern more optimal.  This is where the ice castle crumbled to the ground.  The sequencing became choppy, the hinge got worse, the loading of tension into the bar disappeared, and the performance of an exercise that was nearly perfect, became terrible.  

Luckily this coach was seasoned enough to realize the error of his way, and Letfile_004 Go of his attempt change the breathing by telling his client to forget every cue he just gave her, and go back to what she was doing before.  It was outside of the client’s ability to perform the new breathing pattern AND deadlift correctly.  Now the coach knows where her limits are and that he has to introduce the breathing skill separately before adding it to the deadlifts.

Technique errors need to be fixed to the best of your ability, but it can’t be done all at once.  Poor movement skills in beginners is usually just a lack of experience, and it can take a lot of time for someone to learn and master new skills.  We’ve written on the blog before about how the body creates myelin and make physiological changes in the nervous system to literally build skills.  This process takes time, and it is worth it to take the time.  In the next two installments of this three-part coaching series, we will talk about how and when to use coaching cues.  In the meantime, if you come across a new trainee that struggling to pick up a new skill, focus on one piece at a time, and for everything else that is going wrong, be like Elsa, and just Let It Go!

The Best Exercise You’re Not Doing (For Your Shoulders) Part 2

In our last post on the Armbar Kathy Dixon of Action Potential Physical Therapy took me (Coach Joe of Fit EDU) through the set up of the unloaded Armbar. Now it’s time to take the next step, but first a follow up to “my shoulder story”. I am still working my way back to 100%  and regularly perform the Armbar months after completing PT. Here’s why I mention my progress… I feel much more stable/packed in all loaded upperbody push/pull work because I am “in touch” with my shoulder stabilizers… particularly immediately after performing the Armbar in my prep work.  I am better able to get and keep the stabilizers active and know this will improve performance and prevent injury long term.

Now back to why you clicked…

Now that you have a basic understanding of what the Armbar is, when/why to implement this exercise, appropriate body position, and how to get into position it’s time to introduce load (from part 1 of this series). Please note it is critical to be conservative with the weight load and to follow each step in this process. Additionally, a kettlebell (not a dumbbell) is our preferred method of loading for a variety of reasons.

When making the transition from unloaded to loaded with the Armbar (assuming correct position) you will immediately feel the stabilizers (posterior cuff and serratus anterior just to name a few) turn on. When watching the video below you will notice quite a bit of shaking when Kathy loads me with just a 12kg kettlebell (55 seconds in). This isn’t a bad thing and is a great opportunity to help your students/patients/clients feel their shoulder stabilizers turn. This has become my “go to” exercise to teach shoulder packing even before loaded carries.

Here Kathy coaches and explains how to perform and coach the loaded Kettlebell Armbar with Shoulder Internal/External Rotation.

Important coaching points to remember:

  1. Ensure proper alignment of the spine, scapula, and arm before introducing load… position is everything
  2. Watch and palpate the scapula, pecs, traps, and lats to minimize compensation
  3. Develop cues that work for you as it relates to describing ideal shoulder blade position (I like “slide your shoulder blade into your back pocket”) and muscle activation
  4. Master the static loaded hold in this position before introducing internal/external rotation

Here’s a recap of the step by step process of the Loaded Kettlebell Armbar:

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  1. Assume a supine position (pic 1)
  2. Grasp a kettlebell with the hand on the “working side” and bend the “working side’s” knee
  3. Placed the other hand behind the head and keep the other leg straight (pic 2)
  4. DSC_0008DSC_0009 Establishing posterior cuff activation {be sure the ribs are down (not splayed) and the spine is neutral} and then press the kettlebell up to the position in pic 2-notice how I closed the gap between the scapula and the ground in the above pics
  5. Ensure proper alignment of the arm and shoulder blade on the working side and centrate the joint (pic 2)
  6. From this position roll the body as one unit onto the “non-working” side while maintaining shoulder joint centration and scapular position (pic 3)
  7. Connect the working side’s knee to the ground (pic 3)
  8. Now that you’re finally in position ensure proper alignment of the spine  and working arm (fist is directly above the shoulder joint) (pic 3)
  9. Activate the posterior cuff and Serratus Anterior in order maintain a depressed and retracted scapula
  10. Slowly perform internal/external rotation of the shoulder joint with an increased emphasis on maximal external rotation (pics 4 and 5)

If it’s already obvious to you, this is an exercise you must practice on your own before implementing into your performance or rehab programs. If you are working alone we recommend videoing from a posterior view and reviewing positioning. However, your best bet is to perform with a colleague present so you can practice performance and coaching. Once again thank you Kathy Dixon of Action Potential Specialized Physical Therapy for great information.

Want to learn more about this or other fitness related topics? Then visit us at www.fit-edu.com for tips on kettlebell and barbell exercises, breathing and postural control, and metabolic conditioning just to name a few topics. We also just so happen to offer 5 (soon to be 6)  live, full-day seminars on a variety of fitness topics.

The Best Exercise You’re Not Doing For Your Shoulders Pt 1

The longer you work in the field of exercise science (really most fields for that matter) the more you realize how much you DON”T know. I am certainly no exception to this rule. Many years ago and after 3 Labral repairs and many rounds of physical therapy from football and basketball injuries I was convinced I had the shoulder all figured out. I knew the anatomy and physiology, understood the movements at the Glenohumeral Joint and Scapula, common injuries, best practices for “rehabbing”, and thought I understood the interplay between the movement at the scapula and the Glenohumeral Joint. Well… as it turns out I was wrong. After all the surgeries and physical therapy I still had atrocious motor control and poor posture which led to re-injury.

Now let’s skip ahead… I was back in physical therapy… this time at Action Potential UnknownSpecialized Physical Therapy in Glen Mills, PA. In one of my first appointments the therapists reintroduced me to the Arm Bar. I knew of this exercise, but rarely performed it, never prescribed it to clients, and never considered it’s potential benefits when “rehabbing the shoulder” . As it turns out, this exercise was absolutely critical to my lateral viewrecovery.  Specifically, performing The Arm Bar under the watch of Kathy and the team of Physical Therapists at Action Potential helped improved my motor control by  teaching me to quiet my Pecs,  Upper Traps and Lats while activating my  Serratus Anterior and “Posterior Cuff”. I tended to default to Lat activation in lieu of Serratus activation which led to a host of motor control problems.

Given my success with the Arm Bar, I thought writing a piece on it made sense. Particularly because most people are scared of this exercise since it looks high risk when holding a kettlebell and many of those who do perform it don’t adhere to some of the most important principles.  Let’s get starting on the Kettlebell Arm Bar…

What exactly is the Arm Bar?

If you don’t normally watch the videos in our blog reconsider on this topic as this is much easier understand by watching. Here Kathy Dixon of Action Potential Physical Therapy explains what the Arm Bar is.

kettlebell-arm-barThe demands the Arm Bar place on the body are unique. The Arm Bar is a mix of rotary stability and active hip extension to get into the position and becomes a combination of rotary stability and thoracic spine rotation while maintaining a packed and centrated shoulder joint. Got all that? Now on top of all those things we need to ensure the correct musculature is active and prime movers don’t jump in to act as stabilizers. When I first began performing this exercise in PT I recruited Lat or a mix of Pec and Anterior Delt which is way wrong.

How to set up the Arm Bar…

As we said earlier, watching while Kathy talks makes learning the set up and mechanics much easier.

The basic steps in setting up/getting into position for the Arm Bar are:

  1. Establishing a supine position with a bent knee on the kettlebell side and the opposite side’s arm placed behind the head
  2. Press the active side up while establishing Serratus Anterior, Lower Trap, and Rhomboid activation
  3. Be sure the ribs are down (not splayed) and the spine is neutral
  4. Ensure proper alignment of the arm on the working side relative to the shoulder and joint centration
  5. From this position roll the body as one unit onto the “non-working” side while maintaining shoulder joint contraption and the same scapular positionkettlebell-arm-bar
  6. Now assume the position in the picture to the right (notice the knee is connected to
    the ground)
  7. Now that you’re finally in position once again ensure proper alignment of the spine, shoulder blade, and working arm.
  8. Finally, activate the posterior cuff and Serratus Anterior (told you this is easier to watch!)

When is it appropriate to prescribe the Arm Bar and what are the benefits?

While the Arm Bar appears to be high risk, it is safe when executed properly and can produce significant benefits including improved shoulder packing, motor control, and when loaded strength.  I now use the Arm Bar to help students and clients understand how to pack/centrate the shoulder and as a prerequisite to the Turkish Get-Up. I even like to use this before getting into heavy carries because it’s great at putting clients/students in touch with their shoulder/scapular stabilizers.

We will leave it there for now, but we’ll be back soon with a second installment on the Arm Bar. After all, we need to add in internal/external rotation while maintaining a stable scapula! Before we let you go we should probably clear up this whole joint centration thing since it is a term regularly used by physical therapists, but not so much in fitness. Joint centration is a fancy was of saying centering the ball in the socket. Yup… it’s pretty much the same as “packing” your shoulder, but this term can be applied to any ball and socket joint (shoulder/hip).

A very big thanks to Kathy Dixon of Action Potential Specialized Physical Therapy for such great information on this topic. If you are local to the Glen Mills, PA Area and you or a client need physical therapy I highly recommend using Action Potential! They are one of the very, very few one to one Physical Therapy Clinics in our area.

Want to learn more about this or other fitness related topics? Then visit us at www.fit-edu.com for greats tips on kettlebell and barbell exercises, breathing and postural control, and metabolic conditioning just to name a few topics.

 

Transference of Exercises — When the Unexpected Helps the Unintended

Did you ever start training an exercise or using a new training program, and after a few weeks tried something completely different and experienced success?  Most likely the exercise or program transferred to this other aspect of your life.  If you are a bit fuzzy about what I’m getting at, let me give you a real life example.  A  few years ago a woman was doing a general strength and fitness program with me over the winter months.  When the weather got better, she went back to one of her favorite spring/summertime activities–hiking.  2012-08-18-Lions-Binkert-Hike-9867-MKHWhen she came in the next Monday after her first weekend hike of the season, she was raving about how fit she felt and how she left her husband in the dust as they went up steep hills.  She experienced little to no breathlessness and zero soreness the following days.  Obviously her general training program of Deadlifts, Turkish Get-Ups, Goblet Squats, Ring Rows, and other basic exercises, transferred nicely to being successful during a tough hike in the woods.  She was pleasantly surprised about this outcome.  This is the hallmark of a properly designed training program.

Heavy-Deadlift-LockoutRecently, a peer of mine in the lifting world, Dane Miller, wrote a piece about how front squatting and pull-ups allowed him to set an all time personal record in the deadlift of 600 pounds without training the movement at all.  You can see this idea of transference among all sports and disciplines.  My track coach in college was adamant about our 400m runners sometimes racing in the 200m.  Same goes for the 800m runners racing in the 400m.  He knew that the foot speed needed for the shorter distance would help improve the time in the longer race.  Shot putters and discus throwers have always known that performing the snatch and clean & jerk in the weight room will help them throw their chosen implement farther because of the power it helps to develop.


Many times, like the example of the effortless hike through the woods, transference of h=300training will come as a surprise.  It was a surprise to a former rotational shot putter of mine when he realized, that all of a sudden, he had a lightning quick turn around pivot move to the hoop on the basketball court.  Another reason kids should be playing multiple sports as they grow up is because there is, what should be, obvious transference from one sport to others.  It’s also a reason why programs like STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) are popular and successful in schools.  The subjects are so interrelated that it makes sense to combine them together instead of breaking them apart.  

The older and more experienced you become as a coach or teacher in your chosen field, you will notice transference between two drills more clearly.  From experience, I now know you can increase a power clean by deadlifting 10 set of 2 reps, with moderate weight and doubled up mini jump stretch bands attached to the bar, once a week for 6 weeks.  When my Strength and Conditioning class finished their 6 week block of banded deadlifts, and we switched back to cleans, they were all able to do 10 sets of 2 with their old max!  

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Even though it gets easier to notice transference as you grow as a coach, you still can be surprised at what relates.  In our last article on the front squat we spoke about variations of the front squat for people that have trouble with the front squat.  One of the variations was to use lifting straps on the bar that give the lifter more “breathing room” in regard to elbow and wrist flexion.  This allows you to still train the movement and work around poor flexibility.  Personally, I have never had to use this variation until recently.  I’ve been dealing with shoulder pain that makes the rack position impossible.  So instead of ignoring front squats, I started to use straps.  After a few weeks of practice, more attention to what was starting to happen allowed a transference effect to be noticed.  I noticed that I had to shrug harder into the bar when using the straps which lifted the bar off my collar bones.  It allowed the bar to sit a bit deeper on my neck and allowed me to stay more upright than ever before on the front squat.  One day after front squatting with straps, I decided to try some cleans and what happened with my body surprised me.  When I received the bar I also shrugged my shoulders high and it landed securely deep into my shoulders and neck.  I had never felt the receiving position feel like that before.

Lightbulb!
If you have ever taught someone to clean, they most likely have had the bar crash onto their collar bones or low on the shoulders.  Front squatting with straps helps to groove the proper receiving position by forcing the shoulders to elevate and be active into the bar.  This variation of the front squat, that I once thought was garbage, will become one of my go to drills to reinforce proper receiving position.  Like some of the best inventions ever created, it happened by accident and was totally unexpected.  Keep those eyes open coaches! Like front squatting with straps, sometimes you have to give things a chance.  You never know where an answer to an unasked question is going to surface.

Interested in learning more about the front squat? Check out Certified Barbell Coach Seminar here.