Don't Train Like It's 2005 **

** After a few working titles I decided on this one as a follow-up to Don't Train Like It's 1985, which for some reason garners quite a few hits on a sustained basis.

Many who are serious about training can leave their beat downs behind. Beat downs are great for people who need to know that discomfort won't kill them. But I'm not talking about them.

Even Intensity, something I love, can take a back seat. In the new age, Progress is king. Now progress often demands much intensity, but not to the point that the days effort and intent interfere with a goal that's larger than any one workout.

P90X and Insanity and Muscle Pump, et. al are fine if you want a challenging alternative to running for establishing general fitness and improving body composition. But all of those are so 2005, and many want to do better than "Drop 10 pounds for swimsuit season."

You can only achieve so much in one training session, I don't care how epic. If you fail to allow your body to recover, all you received for your effort was one epic session. But if you find the sweet rhythm of hard work and rest and recovery, yesterdays epic session was a small but critical step in the process of achieving a whole new level of physical limits.

a transmorgification in process
Targeted training with attention to recovery for sustained progress - THAT is the new age of training.

Exercise never causes the body to magically transmorgify. It is a process of adaptation, remodeling, repairing, and in some instances laying down new tissue. That doesn't happen in a day.

Impact and heavy loading activities (especially those with an eccentric component as in lowering free weights) are rough on the body. So really, Respect Recovery!

Generally speaking, the more intensely you train, the greater the need for recovery. While it's true that young people recover better than older people, the crux of the matter lies more in how hard you push yourself.

A twenty eight year-old with 8 years of training experience has the capability to create major havoc on their system as compared to a 16 year-old newbie. Both may have had a challenging session, but the one will recover much faster, not because he's younger or because he's slacking, but because he hasn't developed the neural capacity to do as much damage.

So what do you want to get out of your training? For this day? For the year? Here are a few considerations:

Exercise is a poor way to achieve calorie balance. If you feel like you have to exercise every day to burn calories, then it would be easier to simply take in a few hundred less calories. Careful! All things on the diet and exercise sides of the equation can be easily taken to unhealthy extremes.

Exercise is good for mental health. But some days, the best thing you can do for your physical progress is recover. If you need to get moving, go outside for a walk, pick up a sport, or collect trash along the highway. Pray, do some yoga, write a letter to a friend, or nap.

If you're trying to achieve a certain sports performance or other fitness based goal, keep in mind that the body cannot adapt in two opposing directions at once.

Go ahead and try to "lose fat and gain muscles," and see how it feels to work so hard to get nowhere. Newbies can pull that off for a few months, but it's simply not happening for those who have been around the training block. Inadequate recovery with increased training intensity is one of the most common reasons why newbies quit making progress and transition to stagnant intermediate.

Quit training like it's 2005. Welcome to the new age...

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Deadlift Miracle

You go into it with an achy this or tweaked that, and feel so much better afterwards.Yes, all are welcome.

Deadlifts have delivered for my training friends and I. Through severely sprained ankles and knee irritation related to basketball and showboating. Through miscellaneous strains and a pectoral tendon tear and stuffy sinuses. Deadlifts have proven to be the perfect remedy for fatigue, fatherhood, academic and work stress, malaise, and undiagnosed bullheadedness.

Deadlifts are actually easy on the body. They're biomechanically sound, or in the "wheel house" as they say in baseball circles. Humans were made to pick things up and put them down, and time is no respecter of ligaments, discs, or menisci. So what are you going to do? Sitting around in the hopes of sparing yourself the osteoarthritis simply doesn't work. Your lower back would be fine if only you would peg correct form and respect the body's limited ability to recover, adapt, and push the limit.

Yes, I have hurt my back doing deadlifts. But deadlifts don't hurt people, people hurt people. That injury was a serious over-step on my end. Besides that, there's nothing to get you back on track to life and to deadlifts like a bit of rest and, well, deadlifts.

Runners high? Running and even mountain biking are merely gateway drugs to "dead lifters high." Go heavy if you really want to turn up the miracle. Seriously.

Going heavy is not for everyone. But let me tell you that ripping double (or greater) your body weight off the ground 20 or so times over the course of 20 minutes begins to strip the edges of reality. The gripping, pulling, and locking out opens the doors of PDS (Post Deadlift Syndrome).

Those suffering from PDS see the world as airy and light, both figuratively and literally. Burdens are lifted as iron is pulled from dead earth. Gravity dwindles and you traverse the terrain in astronaut bounds. You go about every small task with intent. You crush the pitcher of iced tea out of the fridge. The TV remote, the kitchen chair, the weed eater, every ordinary item is balsa wood in the hands of the Kraken.

It's not a good time to change the baby or play Legos. In truth, more than once I've broken dishes while under the influence of deadlifts.

Some would say this PDS is madness and others pointless. But I still call it a miracle. It fixes things in a very tangible way.

Have experienced PDS? What do you call it?

*Photo courtesy Synergy Fitness


Ball of the foot pain - call it something

The patient returned for a follow-up approximately one month after receiving the custom orthotics that we fabricated in our office. I asked if they had been effective; was she able to return to her typical work days and walking for exercise without metatarsal pain. She stated that she was able to do everything except walk barefoot.

She said "That still hurts. Am I going to need surgery?"

When I attempted to review the nature of her foot issue and why walking for long periods without her shoes and inserts would likely flare it up, the patient told me that she was confused. Since I had last seen her, she had sought a third and fourth opinion (in addition to mine and the podiatrist who referred her to our office).

Her concern went something like this:

"The first foot doctor said my foot pain was from the middle metatarsal bones dropping down, which he saw on the X ray. You said that my walking was off and the insert would provide better spacing. The second podiatrist took and MRI and said that it was from bursa swelling and inflammation. The third doctor thought I was doing well but would need new shoes. So what's the problem here?"

My task then was to show her that everyone she visited had independently reached the same conclusion but focused on different labels.

I explained that when the metatarsal bones drop, the foot loses the transverse/across the foot arch and the bones get repeatedly jammed together, which irritates the bursa and tendon sheaths in that area. Displacement of the natural cushion (plantar fat pad) causes high pressure right under the balls of the feet.

"We're all talking about the same thing."

Call it a dropped metatarsal, metatarsalgia, forefoot bursitis, gait dysfunction, or neuroma. The real question is "What are you going to do about it?" Even surgery usually requires some other intervention to achieve a favorable long-term outcome.

In this case, we focused on having the patient improve her gait pattern to include less turning out of the foot and torquing off her 4th and 5th toes. Some foot strengthening, hip and ankle mobility work, and gait training were critical for her to make and successfully retain those changes. The custom insert with a semi rigid shell and specifically placed metatarsal pad would provide structural support to maintain the transverse arch across the mid- and forefoot.

We also had to address her leg length discrepancy - not a few millimeters of no big deal, but a glaring problem that any layperson would say that she was jamming her one foot into the ground. Lastly, at the advice of the fourth specialist, she did purchase a quality shoe that provided more toe room and greater support to help maintain the entire foot in a neutral position rather than folding and twisting under the weight of her body.

The gait training, the exercises, the custom orthotic with heel lift, and the shoes - none of those things alone would have been sufficient to circumvent the chronic condition. But taken together, her current situation and long term prognosis seems favorable.

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You MUST do this to run faster

Speed is not entirely genetic! While I do suppose that accumulating months and years in front of a TV or computer and eating Cheetoes have much to do to with this "genetic" slow footedness, there are a few things that an athlete can do to specifically increase their top running speed. I'm not talking about running a 5K time under 18 minutes. What I care about is powerful, fast-breaking, third-base-stealing, wide receiver smothering SPRINTS.

What should a comprehensive sprint program incorporate?

1. Strength Training

Not sitting on machines...but traditional, functional resistance exercise that increases trunk stability and the ability to generate force off the ground through the arms and legs. Squat and dead lift variations are far underrated for developing jaw dropping speed. Strength training is also where you work on correcting muscle imbalance and dialing in proper movement patterns. It's where you do one better than merely working on "leg flexibility." Controlled mobility incorporates both strength and flexibility that will actually carry over to the task at hand.

2. Quick feet

You can do some timing and foot contact/coordination type drills. While agility ladder (and the like) drills have some merit, it is my opinion that a lot of time with these is uncalled for.

3. Power 
THE standard for generations. You can just tell he was no endurance athlete.

Develop peak power through the entire "kinetic chain" through Olympic Lifting and/or Plyometric Training. HERE is a little more on why I highly prefer plyometrics over olympic lifting for athletes whose primary interest is not the sport of weigth lifting. Either work well though.

4. Form

Many athletes who complain of being slow naturally run in a biomechanically inefficient manner or they start flailing around when attempting to go full tilt. Neglect  of steps 1 through 4 above often have a lot to do with this. But there is benefit from doing some deliberate practice in the components of sprinting. Slow down. Hit up the Googles for running form drills. Talk to a trainer or PT type person who knows what to look for, has actually sprinted in their life, and knows the beauty and worth of a nice open hill.


Here's the primary point of this essay. If you want to run faster, you must think of sprinting as a neurological event! Of course every human movement is a neurological event. But put in those terms, what are you teaching your brain with your exercise program?

What I frequently witness are many athletes and coaches over-killing long(ish) distance submaximal running, low rest "sprint" intervals, and Cross Fit Type Circuits. This type of training is by no means easy on effort. But in a sense they all teach the brain to go easy (less than full intensity at any one given moment) to merely survive the punishment.

What you absolutely, positively need to do is SPRINT FULL SPEED. Don't pace yourself. Don't try to go 400 meters balls-out. Even with more appropriate (short) distances, don't get exhausted to the point that you can hardly stand. SPRINT FULL SPEED, rest for a while, and SPRINT FULL SPEED again. I'd rather an athlete do 6 or 8 full bore sprints than 15 or 20 at 80 or 90% effort. As you are flying, think about powerfully generating force off the ground, quick leg turnover, and staying strong and solid with the upper body (no flailing).

Lame common sense disclaimer: If you're not accustomed to sprints or your physical conditioning is such that you can't sprint relatively short distances at full speed and repeat it without becoming exhausted, then yes, you should run (or even walk) longer distances at less than full effort. You should very gradually increase the strain and impact demands that sprinting places on the body.

Interval "sprints" at 85% with 10 seconds of rest in between teach the brain how to deal with misery, but they won't make you much faster. Drifting along at 110% of your impressive cross country race pace will not help you sprint much faster. Jumping rope, running bleachers, protein shakes, NONE of it will take you very far past your current sprinting capacity if you don't compliment it with full effort sprints. Having also given attention to number 4, when form starts falling apart, the sprint is done.

Like this writing.


Tight Hamstring Problems

You struggle to reach your feet. You can't squat very low, sit very long, or lift very well without straining your back. You've had repeated muscles strains in your legs and lower back.

You, my friend, have #tighthammyproblems.

Hey, it's okay. Apparently even smooth hip celebrities who call themselves names like "Flo Rida" fall victim to tight hamstrings.

I'm a damn shame
order more champagne
pullin them hamstring,
try'na put it on ya.
                                      -Flo Rida                          

And now you, Mr. Rida, no longer have to suffer!

If a few simple stretches were an effective solution, a lot less people would be in the Hamstring Problems Club. Really, it doesn't take a genius to straighten a knee and lean forward to stretch the hamstrings. So before you give me a Mr. Obvious Eyeball Roll, know how to max out your hamstring solutions.

1. How are you stretching?

The hamstrings, like all other muscles in the body, act across three planes of motion. In fact, they are an important stabilizer against rotational forces at the knee. Traditional forward bending and leg raise stretching hits the hamstrings in only one of the three planes. You may greatly benefit from learning how to stretch them in the other two planes. Google "tri-planar hamstring stretches."

You may also need to learn how to really lock down the pelvis when you're stretching. When those with tight hamstrings try to stretch by fully straightening their knee, the pelvis often rocks into anterior or posterior tilt, which provides an ineffective stretch and even perpetuates the greater problem happening in the entire kinetic chain. Stretching with the knee slightly bent and working on the feel of a "hip hinge" while keeping the pelvis and lumbar spine neutral is often greatly beneficial for all issues at hand.

2. What else is tight?

You may need to give attention to other inflexible segments (especially hip and lower back tightness and foot/ankle over pronation or supination). Tightness in the hip adductors also commonly causes the hamstring to work over time and therefore chronically tighten or strain.

Almost everyone sits for too long too often, which causes the lower back, knees, and hips to conform to the chair posture. Hamstrings often take the brunt of this when you go to run and jump and lift. Recovering mobility of the lumbar spine and hip flexors is often a great way to decrease the functional demands on those hammies.

When tight hamstrings are due to nerve root irritation stemming from a lumbar spine disc herniation, you may need to consider getting some professional help. Specific lower back care and nerve glides may be in order. They look different than typical hamstring stretches.

3. Does anyone else think it's hilarious that we go around calling a part of the human body "ham-" anything?

4. Have you addressed weakness?

Just like the above noted interlinked flexibility issues, weakness of the lateral hip muscles, thigh muscles, lower back, and abdominal muscles are potential contributing factors. The hamstrings will strain and be tight and strain and be tight until you work on bringing those other trunk and hip muscle groups up to par.

For those with chronic hamstring issues and increased lumbar lordosis (arch), weak abdominals are often the culprit because the hamstrings work hard to add stability to the pelvis. Those with hamstring issues and decreased lumbar lordosis (flat back) often have very weak butt muscles and lower back muscles.

Gradual, progressive strengthening of the hamstrings themselves is the primary means by which they  become resilient. The key is to closely monitor the load and range of motion. For example, bridging exercises and squats and backward lunges load the hamstrings in a much more limited range of motion compared to, say, dead lifts or a seated or lying knee flexion machine. You may want to begin with those more gentle exercises for a time, then move into higher load exercises within a limited range of motion, then move into the higher load activities at full range of motion, then gradually return to the running or jumping activities that strained the hammy in the first place.
Goblet Squats = Golden

For those who can't squat (or lift in general) without rounding their back due to tight hamstrings and/or core weakness, Goblet squats are pure magic! They "automatically" force the trunk muscles to activate and maintain a neutral spine.

Again,  if the hammies are reflexively compensating for poor trunk strength or stability, then all the greatest stretches and lotions and joint manipulations in the world will not help. Strengthen the core!

5. Lay off it already? 

Lastly, have you seriously considered laying the heck off the hammies? This relates to point number one (the Mr. Obvious bend forward and stretch move). Yes, neurotic exercise people often overstretch their hamstrings just because they lend themselves so well to stretching. Aggressive stretching will not "work out" a muscle once it has been strained. Aggressive stretching will not fix muscle imbalance or make the muscle more resilient.

I've had clients with chronic hamstring strains that keep tugging and tugging without giving it a chance to heal. Once you give the darn thing a chance to rest and apply very light loading (without aggressive stretching and higher velocity movement like running), it finally starts to heal, and you can progress through moderate and higher level activities as mentioned above.

So in conclusion, champagne is not a good long-term solution for Hamstring Problems. I don't suggest try'na put it on anything or anyone, or whatever that means. But I do hope you can now move beyond the old Mr. Obvious hamstring stretch if that's not working for ya.

- - - - -

1. Stretch the hamstrings, lower back, hip flexors, and adductors appropriately for your build and body type across three planes of motion. Watch out for foot/ankle issues causing rotational torque at the knee and hip. Learn to hip hinge while keeping the lower back and pelvis neutral.

2. Strengthen your weak areas and ingrain movement patterns that keep your lumbar spine and pelvis neutral. 

3. Lay off it already. Active/smart relative rest is far more beneficial than the typical advice to take some medication, take two weeks off, and go back to the same old movement patterns and activities that got you into trouble in the first place.

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Power Training for Baseball

"Sport Specific" training sounds nice, but what exactly does that mean?

Baseball players, are you truly doing all that you can to increase your bat speed and/or throwing velocity? Hitting and throwing are all about ROTATIONAL POWER! So go on and get you some of that!

Here it is, the 5-point recipe for rotational power:

1. Increase strength.

Strength is the fountain from which all awesome feats of athleticism flow.  For baseball guys what's important is the ability to generate force off the ground. The vast majority of athletes will benefit from increasing their ability to brace the core while efficiently generating and transferring force through the arms and legs.

Wimpy tubing drills, bicep curls,and tricep lock outs are the last thing an adolescent baseball player needs to be doing for the purpose of strength development. They need to pay their dues perfecting form in just a few total body movement patterns and then go and move some weight!

Think squats and dead lifts, single leg work like lunges and split squats, rows, presses, chin-ups, Prowler, and oh yeah, Farmers Walks. 

2. Increase total body power.

Plyometrics are where the brain learns what it feels like to go all out, to NOT pace itself, to generate high force rapidly through multiple body segments (and thus high speed movement). This is not an endurance event, but quite the opposite. Plyometrics train the quality that we call "explosiveness."

Most athletes see drastic gains with just a few weeks of appropriate upper body and lower body plyos, with the ultimate degree of improvement dependent on their Awesome Bucket (see point number 1).

3. Increase rotational flexibility.

If an athlete is lacking rotational flexibility of the hips, shoulders, or trunk, all the power in the world will not transfer well to the baseball skills at hand. So stretch those hip flexors and lateral hip rotors. Sit up straight and extend and rotate that thoracic spine, Slumpy McSlumperson. Make sure your baseball gurus know what appropriate range of motion and stretching technique of a throwers shoulder looks like before you go cranking away on that arm.

4. Increase mechanical efficiency.

Here I'm talking about deliberate practice in hitting and/or pitching mechanics. There are plenty of massive, strong, and powerful athletes who make average, mechanically poor baseball players. In my book, the most impressive athletes are the ones with small to average size and beastly on-field power.

Again, drills that mimic a throwing or hitting movement with elastic tubing or light dumbbells...I'll just go ahead and say that those are stupid at best. They can be plain dangerous from an injury standpoint. They may also do more harm than good to the finely tuned, total body motor control needed for generating arm- and bat speed while actually throwing or hitting a baseball (as motor control is highly task specific).

On the one hand, quality baseball instruction can provide immediate and almost miraculous results. On the other hand, it can only take an athlete so far if they lack strength or flexibility to control their body segments in rapid fashion (see points 1 through 3). Many instructors are quick to point out that a hitter or pitcher does this or that mechanically without giving proper attention to identifying and fixing why that's occurring. The coach can talk mechanics until he's blue in the face, but the athlete may need to work on strength and/or mobility for 2 weeks or months before he can even approach the desired mechanics.

5. Get moving and measure! The more time you have, the better. Some aspects of training and conditioning will take a while to develop. Other aspects can unlock immediate gains, so any time is a great time to start.

So now give me one good reason to train for baseball anywhere other than GoWags!