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:


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

Anterior Core.001.jpeg

Posterior (Inner and Outer) Core

Posterior COre.001.jpeg


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.


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.


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.


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  You can also visit our blog’s main page to see other articles on the swing, turkish get-up, goblet squats, and much more.

Conditioning for Athletes and Not Being A Bully

By Garrett Harty

Energy Systems and How They Relate to Conditioning

Image result for rugby runningGrowing up as an athlete competing in sports from the time I was a youngster to a college athlete, I was generally subjected to practices filled with conditioning that would last forever. In fact, I can remember back to my rugby days in college where every practices would start out with a 5k, or at least it felt that way. After a long distance jog we would hit the sled for about an hour, do some tackling drills, play small games, and then sprint at the end of practices. The long slow distance run in the beginning of the practices was time for us to catch up on our teammates lives and allow for general tomfoolery. The sprints at the end of practice were usually miserable and nothing more than an opportunity to show how tough you were. Theses sprints could last for what felt like an eternity, and the general thoughts that went through everyone’s mind were, “why are we being punished”, “this is going to suck”, or “there is no reason for this”. Chances are these are the thoughts that your athletes are having in their minds every time you say “it’s time for conditioning.”         

Why is it Important to Train Energy Systems?

As a Strength and Conditioning Coach, I asked myself “is there a more effective way to condition athletes for their sport aside from having them run for hours on end for no purpose?” Not only is this style of conditioning dreaded by everyone involved, it has little carryover to game speed conditioning. In reality, we are encouraging athletes to jog or do the “big boy shuffle” (walking with a hop), and then we chastise the athletes’ who are unfortunate enough to lag behind the pack. By punishing the stragglers, aren’t we just screaming-coachbeing bullies? What if it was you or your child at the back of the pack, being yelled at by the coaches? After being an athlete under this style of conditioning and watching the effects it’s had on teams, I, like many others have started using the same principles that we use for  weight training with conditioning.   

A Better Way to Conditioning

I’m not the first person to have these thoughts, and I’m not the first person desiring the development of an effective conditioning session. While an effective conditioning session will not stop the team from having a couple of athletes at the back, it will adhere to the SMART principle (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Repeatable, Timed) and lead to the questions/answers of just how prepared the team is for the session and why the team may be struggling to complete the training session.

traditional-periodization-model2So that leads us to the next logical step — how do we condition athletes with a purpose? There are a number of variables that influence this next step, including: the sport we are training for, the time of year, the dominate energy system used by that sport, and logistical considerations such as; time restrictions, number of sessions, and the location. Most coaches struggle with training the most dominant energy system because they need to  allowing their athletes to recover. The next section will cover why it is important to train the correct energy systems and why athletes need to recover between bouts of sprinting.

Energy Systems


The anaerobic and aerobic energy pathways combine to generate energy, in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for the body. The anaerobic pathway can rapidly generate ATP However, it is less efficient than aerobic ATP generation in part because it does not incorporate oxygen.

Both the anaerobic and aerobic systems can be further broken down into two sub-pathways each. The Phosphagen and non-oxidative glycolytic pathways are both anaerobic. Since these pathways can rapidly generate ATP, the body utilizes them in the early stages—roughly the first two and a half minutes—of exercise. After the first two and a half minutes of continuous exercise, the more efficient, oxidative glycolytic and oxidative systems begin producing the lion’s share of generating the body’s ATP for the remainder of the activity.


The anaerobic system is broken down into two sub systems: The Phospagen (A lactic) and Non-Oxidative Glycolytic (Lactic).  

The Phospagen system is the initiation system used to start every movement.  The Phosphagen system uses ATP already stored in the muscle cells and creatine phosphate to accelerate the creation of ATP within the cell. The phosphate system is the dominant system for the first ten seconds of movement. This system is generally used in sports with a single max effort or repeated max efforts with a break or active rest periods, this occurs in most sport.

The Non-Oxidative Glycolytic occurs after the first ten seconds of activity, and is the dominant pathway until two minutes and thirty seconds have elapsed. This energy system metabolizes carbohydrates for energy by a process called glycolysis to produce ATP and pyruvate. Glycolysis is fast, but inefficient and produces just two molecules of ATP from a single molecule of carbohydrate. When muscle cells have sufficient oxygen, they can break down pyruvate aerobically to yield more ATP molecules through oxidative glycolysis. Since oxygen is limited during the early stages of activity, cells instead convert pyruvate into lactic acid, which accumulates in the form of lactate. Although lactate does not directly cause fatigue, high levels of lactate buildup in tissues during intense exercise can quickly lead to exhaustion. The non-oxidative glycolytic system is used in most sports…  

To train both the Phospagen and Non-Oxidative Glycolytic systems effectively, use repetitive short bursts of high intensity combined with a rest period of either no activity or light levels of activity between bursts. To train the Phospagen system, the recommended work to rest ratio is between 1:12 and 1:20. To train the non-oxidative glycolytic system, the recommended works to rest ratios is between 1:3 and 1:5. These recovery periods could have active rest drills build into them. An active rest drill is another that will allow the athlete to recover but keeps them moving, an in practices  example would be 30 secs. passing, 30 secs. dribbling, 30 secs. holding a plank, 60 secs. water, 30 secs. walking back into line and waiting to go. An conditioning only session example would be allowing the athletes to walk back and get back in line.   


The Aerobic systems are: the Oxidative Glycolytic and the oxidative. The Oxidative Glycolytic system uses oxygen to break down pyruvate to yield more ATP. Oxidative Glycolysis is the dominant energy system after the first two minutes and thirty seconds until twenty minutes of continuous activity. This system is generally used in sports such as distance running, swimming, and rowing.

The Oxidative energy system uses oxygen in combination with the metabolism of fat to create ATP. The Oxidative system is the dominant energy system after twenty minutes of continuous activity. When a runner says they hit a wall around the twenty-minute mark, it is because the body switches from metabolizing carbohydrates to metabolizing fat to make ATP. This system is generally used in sports such as distance running, swimming, and rowing.

To train both the Oxidative and Oxidative Glycolytic systems, move at a consistent pace and gradually increase time or speed for longer periods of time.  


brett-_092114_rmu_mens_soccer_720Since spring sports are about to start, let’s use Soccer as an example to implement the above principles. In this scenario, the goal of conditioning is to prepare the athletes for sport specific pre-season team practices. Now that we have a sport, and time of year, it’s time to pick an energy system to train. Like most field sports, soccer is a repetitive sprinting sport, with active recovery. This means that we should aim to train the Anaerobic Energy Systems. Next we need to determine the time period we have to train.  We will use the three weeks before camp, with the assumption the athlete has been  training all summer. Each of the three sessions will track the yardage of that session, as well as the total weekly yardage, with the goal of completing each session in 15-20 minutes. The program will build in a  Linear fashion. I like to use Word and Excel. This way I can look back at it when the session is over to reevaluate how it worked and to have something to build off of for next year.

Take home points:

A better way to Conditioning

  1. SMART Principle(Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Repeatable, Timed)
    1. S: Specific- Sport, Time of Year and Goals
    2. M:Measurable- Yardage of session/week and Time of session
    3. A:Attainable- is the program realistic
    4. R:Repeatable- Keeping data on your team’s thought the years
    5. T: Timed-How long will the program last
  2. Train the most dominant energy system
  3. Build in recovery periods

The Anaerobic sub systems:

  1. The Phospagen system (A lactic) / initial energy systems  
    1. Dominant for the first 10 sec.
    2. Work to rest ratios are: 1:12 – 1:20
    3. Sports: Olympic Sports
  2. Non-Oxidative Glycolysis (Lactic) system
    1. Dominant for the 10 sec.-2:30 mins.
    2. Work to rest ratios are:  1:3-1:5.
    3. Sports: Olympic sports

To effectively train both systems use repetitive short burst of high intensity with a recovery period of no activity  or active rest between burst.  We have found that the Non-Oxidative Glycolysis system is the most time efficient to train Olympic Sport athletes during the conditioning sessions  because of the overall time it takes to do, work to rest ratio is shorter. We have found  that for a team of 20 athletes a work rest ratio of 1:3-1:4 is the most effective for conditioning.

Aerobic Sub Systems:     

Oxidative Glycolytic

    1. Carbs and Oxygen to produce ATP
    2. Dominant energy system from 2:30 mins-20min
    3. Distance running, swimming, rowing


    1. Fats and Oxygen to produce ATP   
    2. Dominant energy system from 20 mins on
    3. Sports: Distance running, swimming, rowing



Baechle, T. R., Earle, R. W., & National Strength & Conditioning Association (U.S.). (2000). Essentials of strength training and conditioning. Champaign, Ill: Human Kinetics.

Siff, M. C. (2000). Supertraining: [strength training for sporting excellence (Fifth edition.). Denver: Supertraining International.

Garrett Harty is an Assistant Strength and conditioning coach at Robert Morris University where he deals mostly with the Olympic Sports.  He has a bachelors degree in Exercise Science from West Chester University where he was a student Strength coach for the WCU gymnastics program. He has worked as an intern at Malvern Prep School, Arcadia University, Temple University and St Mary’s Hospital wellness center.  He is also an assistant instructor for Fit EDU, Level 1 Certified Kettlebell Coach (CKC-1) and a certified Yoga instructor.  He can be reached at



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.


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:


  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 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.

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!  


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.

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.

The most fundamental functional exercise

You know breathing is important when it comes to movement and training. We have all been taught exhale on the exertion and inhale on the return (this is a general statement… there are nuances). Ok great… easy enough, but is there more to it? If so, is this out of our scope as fitness professionals? 
To answer the above questions:
YES there is much, much more we should / need to do with our clients and NO it isn’t beyond our scope with a little education and practical experience on the most current science related to breathing assessment and corrective strategies. 

Human-LungBreathing is our first motor program. It’s also the most essential and foundational motor program we have. Unfortunately, we begin to lose optimal function of this pattern early in life. We’ll get into why later. When our breathing is compromised, so is our posture. When this occurs, our deep core muscles (specifically the diaphragm) don’t function properly and our breathing gets even worse.  This can have detrimental implications on movement quality because the diaphragm is the center point of our body. If the diaphragm is faulty, there is a lack of stability that no amount of abdominal or gluteal bracing can compensate for.  

Have you ever tried to improve a movement pattern OR increase ROM in a joint OR improve flexibility OR try to move up in weight in a “big lift” where all the “normal” strategies fail?  Believe it or not, if you’re not assessing and correcting breathing you might find that you get stuck more often than you’d like to admit. 
 Correcting breathing will:
DSC_01121. Improve deep core muscle function
2. Improve length in muscles being forced to assist in breathing because the deep core muscles are under-active
3. Allow joints to return to their optimal position (if they’re being pulled in bad position by overactive “compensatory muscles”)
4.     Improve bracing
5.     Decrease stress and anxiety
6.     Improve endurance
7.     Decrease neck tension
8.     Improve posture 

Whether you are a “function first” fitness professional, strength and conditioning coach, or specialize in fat loss you NEED to better educate yourself in this area and here’s why:
Function First Fitness Professionals:
6752PS2If your client is being pulled into flexion as a result of bad posture there are often significant posterior chain limitations. For my “FMS People”, I’m talking about a poor score on the Active Straight Leg Raise and/or Shoulder Mobility. Additionally, if you’re goal is to train the “core”, but you ignore deep core muscles you’re not training the core in an ideal manner. 
The bottom line is if you can’t breath correctly you aren’t really training the core. At least not the deep core.
Strength and Conditioning Coaches:

DL Rounded spineThis is an easy one. If you want your athletes to lift significant weight you need them to learn how to brace and maintain that brace while moving and applying significant force.  You also need to teach them power breathing. If your athletes lack the ability to perform basic diaphragmatic breathing they can’t correctly perform power breathing. Therefore, you will see bad posture in the head, shoulders, C-Spine, T-or Spine. I think we all know deadlifting heavy weight with bad posture can result in bad things…


Here’s how screening for and correcting dysfunctional breathing patterns will help in strength and power training:
Battling Ropes Metabolic ConditioningProfessionals Specializing In Weight Loss:
Your success (in the weight room) is all about getting the metabolism up and keeping it there for hours and days after the session. The better your client breathes, the more work they can perform in a session. If you’re programming the right way this will help your client in the quest for weight loss. 
So… Why do we lose our breathing patterns?

1.     Sitting too much (especially in bad posture)

2.     Too much screen time

3.     Poor posture / postural awareness

4.     Movement dysfunction (increased compensatory strategies)

5.     Early specialization in sports

6.     Improper training methods (Training muscles not movements)

Notice the trend above? The bottom line is spending too much time in flexion (sitting in some form) and poor movement are the primary culprits.
Where and how do breathing assessment and corrective strategies fit into your programming?
There are simple assessment and corrective techniques that can be included in your initial fitness screening and in their training programs. Just like any other exercise, it can be progressed and regressed accordingly. Most importantly, you are teaching them strategies they can integrate into their daily life to not only improve their fitness, but their overall well-being.

If you would like to learn specific strategies to screen for and correct dysfunction breathing patterns attend Breathing and Postural Control by Dr. Missimer on 4/2/16 in Malvern PA!