Month: May 2012

Addressing Strengths & Weaknesses – Part II

First off, I hope everyone had a great memorial day and paid tribute in some way to our troops, past and present. They have done more for us than many ever dream to do. I paid my respects thanking those I know have served…and by nearly killing myself lighting up a grill for some bbq. We all have our own, unique ways of celebrating holidays. Anyway…

In part one, I mentioned it is important to train to your weaknesses instead of focusing on your impressive lifts, and doing so requires an imbalanced program focused on said weaknesses. Years of training “mirror muscles” (the ones you see when flexing in the mirror) can lead to deficiencies in other areas, typically upper back and posterior chain strength. These issues become more pronounced by poor posture, from activities such as sitting at a desk, hunched over a keyboard for hours at a time. This isn’t to say “never train your chest again” – instead, it is a reminder there’s more to training than what you’re doing. Specifically, what you’re not doing.


To recap, below are my strengths and weaknesses I mentioned last week – 

Weaknesses:

  • Ankle mobility
  • Lower body flexibility – primarily hamstrings & quadriceps
  • Unilateral leg strength
  • Transverse plane core strength – resisting rotation
  • Scapular retractors isometric strength
  • Rotator cuff activation & strength


Strengths

  • Bilateral leg strength
  • Posterior chain & erector spinae strength
  • Sagittal plane core strength – resisting spinal flexion
  • Vertical pulling strength


Again, it’s important to put the emphasis on weaknesses (as plenty of time and effort has likely already gone into building the strengths into, well, strengths). Now that we have gone through the humbling process of admitting we’re not perfect (still debatable), what’s the next step? How do we correct these weaknesses and shorten that list?

First, we address any soft tissue restrictions that may be causing problems. Go through a solid foam rolling program and note where you find any trigger points (they’ll likely be in the antagonist muscles to your strengths). One of the biggest detractors for a successful training program is pain, and if we can eliminate the source of pain (instead of simply avoiding training the area), we can develop a well-rounded program.

After improving the quality of the tissue, we want to essentially “reset” our body into a balanced state. How do we do that? Increase flexibility in areas that are chronically overactive and tight, while activating and strengthening muscles that are weak and/or “locked long” as Thomas Myers puts it in Anatomy Trains.

Given the above examples, we can figure that there is some tightness throughout my posterior chain (given the limited ankle mobility and lower body flexibility). So let’s increase the amount of time dedicated to flexibility and mobility work and less time under tension until ideal ROM is achieved. Notice I said less time, not no time – there can still be lower body strength lifts, however if I have a limited amount of time to train, the flexibility work takes priority.

This trade-off occurs with every strength/weakness pairing. If X is limited, then you’re probably doing too much Y and not enough Z. Increase Z and decrease Y until X is up to par. Simple? Yes. Easy? No. I’m no different than anyone else – I enjoy doing what I’m good at and shy away from my weaknesses, but if I want to be able to continue to make gains (and live with less pain from poor training habits), changes need to be made.

Weak rotator cuff and scapular retractors? See ya big weights, hello side-lying external rotations and bat wings. Balance an issue? Bye bye stable, two-footed movements, you’re being replaced with single leg, multi-planar movements. Sure, you’ll look awkward and weak for a while until your body adapts, but that’s the good news – you’re body is going to adapt. Those weaknesses will fade and be replaced with strengths.

Not only will your list of weaknesses shorten, you’ll move better and likely see an increase in your strengths. Weaknesses aren’t permanent, they are anchors that must be raised to allow your gains to continue. I hope you can get comfortable with being uncomfortable, it’s one of the best pieces of advice I can give. Once you’ve mastered a lift, movement, or skill, move out of your comfort zone and try something new. You’ll be surprised how quickly weaknesses can become strengths, once loathed exercises become staples in your program, and your ability increases.

As always, if I can ever be of assistance to you or your program, please feel free to contact me at anytime.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES
480-241-4112

YouTube.com/DrewBHenley 


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Addressing Strengths & Weaknesses

“It’s not enough to be good if you have the ability to be better.”

As you may be aware, I am big on quotes and that one tops the list (even on the link). An issue with several athletes and coaches is the belief that “good” is enough and they can hold steady and continue to succeed. Reflecting on yourself, your knowledge, and your skill set, then finding where you can improve and actually RECOGNIZING those areas as weaknesses is a difficult and humbling act. 

In the weight room, this is evident in athletes who hate stretching, or doing heavy leg work, or balancing their bench pressing with enough back work. The reason for avoiding certain work in training is usually simple – they aren’t good at it. They aren’t flexible so stretching hurts and shows their inflexibility, their weights on leg lifts aren’t as impressive as others or leaves them sore (due to lack of training), and nobody ever asks how many chin-ups you can do, the focus is on pressing big weight. Ask a high level athlete what his strengths are and you’ll likely get a well-rounded answer (depending on how modest the athlete is). Ask the same athlete about their weaknesses and you’ll likely get a half hearted response or one that starts with “Well, coach says I need to work on…” 

And therein lies the issue – athletes (and their coaches) attempt to distance themselves from their weaknesses and focus exclusively on their strengths. There is reason to emphasize strengths and hide weaknesses in competition (don’t plan to run the ball 90% of the time if your team is built to pass), but in training this leads to imbalances or worse, injuries. Most athletes have been training to enhance their imbalances most of their lives by drifting towards their strengths and avoiding their weak areas at all costs. By the time they recognize the importance of a balanced program, it’s usually too late or comes after rehabbing an avoidable injury.

In order to return to a physically balanced state, it is important to build the program in an IMBALANCED manner. More specifically, put a higher emphasis on improving weaknesses and creating a balanced (in terms of agonist/antagonist muscle forces) athlete. Eric Cressey does an excellent job describing how he addresses this in his training programs with this webinar

Many of these imbalances can be seen in an athlete’s posture or with a simple movement screen such as the FMS. Common imbalances such as Janda’s Upper-Crossed/Lower-Crossed Syndromes or any chronically overactive/underactive muscles can be noted by these assessments, but in order for an athlete to improve, a self-assessment is necessary. Below is my own self-assessment and next week I will show how the workouts have been built to address them.

Weaknesses:

  • Ankle mobility
  • Lower body flexibility – primarily hamstrings & quadriceps
  • Unilateral leg strength
  • Transverse plane core strength – resisting rotation
  • Scapular retractors isometric strength
  • Rotator cuff activation & strength



Strengths

  • Bilateral leg strength
  • Posterior chain & erector spinae strength
  • Sagittal plane core strength – resisting spinal flexion
  • Vertical pulling strength


It’s important for weaknesses to be addressed first in both assessment AND program design. When looking at weaknesses first, it becomes obvious what modifications must be done in programming. Next week, I’ll cover how the above weaknesses are addressed in my workouts. If you have completed a similar assessment and would like some ideas on how to improve them, feel free to leave a comment below or email me anytime.

As always, if I can ever be of assistance to you or your program, don’t hesitate to contact me.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES
480-241-4112
Drew@HenleySP.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley
YouTube.com/DrewBHenley

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Articles & Videos You Should See 5-4-12

I know it’s been a while since I put one of these up, so I figured it’s time. The following are some excellent articles and videos from around the internet regarding training, nutrition, & sports performance.

Articles

Deadlift or Squat: What’s the Diff? – This is an interesting article by coach Michael Boyle on how the line between squats and deadlifts has blurred. Also a little bit of a shameless plug as I was with Michael when he was working on this article and demonstrated the Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (cough*third video*cough).


50 Tips for Fat Loss – Charles Poliquin is one of the greats in the industry and does an excellent job compiling information & research into concise articles. There’s a quote I am fond of that I feel describes this quite well – “A great surgeon invents an operation only he can do. A truly great surgeon invents an operation that everyone can do.” The idea of taking the complex and making it simple is a difficult art, however Charles excels at it.


A Complaint Free World – I am interested to see where Dr. E is at right now with his goal to goal 21 days without complaining. If it works, I’m going to buy one for myself and every athlete I work with. 21 days without hearing a complaint? I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.


101 Tips for Being a Great General Manager – Coach Boyle makes a second appearance on the list (mainly because I couldn’t find the original source). Many of the tips have carryover from managing a business to simply managing relationships. Whether they are professional, personal, or other, relationships fail if you take them for granted.


The Story of Me and Food – Speaking of relationships, this piece comes from a friend of mine, Katie Sullivan. She is an amazing young woman I had the pleasure of getting to know during college and is currently an NPC Bikini Athlete…and oh yeah, going to freaking LAW SCHOOL. Holy crap, if you want to learn from a smart person who knows the importance of time management, look no further. This piece is more for women and coaches who work with female athletes, as image issues are a very real and troubling problem that some studies say affect up to 8 million Americans annually (90% of which are women).


PJF Performance Random Facts – Another close friend of mine, P.J. Fabritz, is a young, intelligent and passionate strength coach who wrote this interesting piece (albeit lighthearted). If you don’t know him yet, don’t be surprised to see his name coming up more often.

Videos

Bridge Rollouts – I was going to just post the YouTube link, but Ben Bruno does an excellent job describing the exercise and what’s going on. Ben’s limitless creativity never ceases to amaze me and I look forward to trying these out.


Hakeem Olajuwon Scoring Skills – This was in Bill Simmons most recent article and after viewing it, I was reminded why I love basketball. The Dream Shake with the up & under made Hakeem one of the three greatest centers of all time in my mind. Not to mention, the guy is 7 feet tall and moves that smoothly! My start in coaching was with the Coconino High School Boys Basketball Team in Flagstaff, AZ and there are a few athletes I worked with who will be entering their senior seasons there. Josh, Jake, Jason, and Bam-Bam (aka Andy), I’m telling you to watch this video and learn the up & under from the best. Good luck next year guys.


As always, if I can ever be of assistance to you or your program, please don’t hesitate to contact me at any time.


All the best,


Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES
480-241-4112
Drew@HenleySP.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley
YouTube.com/DrewBHenley

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60,000 in 60 w/ Alan Stein

I know it’s been a while since my last post, things have been hectic this month. But I wanted to be sure you guys check out Alan Stein’s site at www.StrongerTeam.com. It’s a great source of basketball information and can help coaches of any sport learn and improve their abilities as teachers, motivators, and mentors for their athletes. Recently, Alan brought up one of my first “big” contributions to strength and conditioning that I was able to attach my name to. Please visit his site and the article here. Alan has added a few touches of his own that provide a fresh take on it.


As always, if I can ever help you or your program, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


All the best,


Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES
480-241-4112

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