It's Okay To Bench!

Well, sometimes...

Image result for olympic bench pressWith the advent of smart, sport specific baseball training and conditioning, some athletes and their parents have taken the message of Eric Cressey et. al out of context.

The bench press has plenty of potential for putting the shoulder at risk. It is also a technically simple and effective way to build upper body size and strength.

Is it okay for baseball players to bench press? I think Cressey himself would tell you that it depends. The best we can do is answer the question in the consideration of a given athlete.
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Is the baseball player going to bench press two or three times per week? Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday is National Bench Press Holiday for all the gym bros who love them some bench. This is unnecessary and may lead to development of imbalance and overload to the shoulders.

Is the athlete already bench pressing three hundred pounds for reps? He is already in a place called "strong enough" and as a baseball player, should invest his time elsewhere.

Has the baseball players put in many seasons as a pitcher and developed adaptive changes to the shoulder (like anterior shoulder joint laxity and torsion of the humeral shaft)? Bench pressing is not best for this athlete.

Is the athlete already being paid millions of dollars to pitch? In this case the potential benefits of bench pressing are not worth the risk of injury.

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Is the athlete generally free of shoulder issues and sporadically using the bench press as a part of an overall strength training program?

Is the baseball player in desperate need of gaining five or thirty pounds in order to improve overall performance?

Is the athlete going to keep things in perspective, NOT hyperextending his back and using a super wide grip and massive hip drive in order to move 15% more weight on the bar?

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Most young baseball position players fall into the latter group of scenarios listed here. They have much to benefit from using the bench press as part of an overall training program. Many collegiate and higher level pitchers will fall into the former group and should likely cool it on the bench.


A few hours with Mike Robertson

Yesterday I had the privilege of getting to know Mike Robertson. We spoke on various topics of performance training and rehabilitation as I observed him apply his process of athlete assessments.

He had me at the "PR Bell."

Mounted on the wall was a brass bell beneath a small plaque reading "PR Bell."

Mike Robertson is one of the top trainers in the US working in one of the top 10 gyms in the US. He is kind and his methods are simple and effective. His communication skills are world-class. His training facility has everything you need and no more. I love it - the number of exercise and entertainment contraptions and machinery that I did not see at his modest sized gym.

It's no secret that Mike is a huge advocate of the methods created by the Postural Restoration Institute. I've not pursued formal training in PRI, and I'm still not sure that I need to. We discussed how his skill set is overlapping in some areas and complimentary in other areas as compared to more traditional rehabilitation providers.

But Mike is obviously doing something VERY right. Chief among the many areas he excels is in helping the athlete to understand how the low intensity, unexciting corrective type work relates to the more glamorous hardcore training and performance qualities that everyone seeks. And then...imagine this! ...He provides a method and facility to do both in a comprehensive program.


We got this!


Zombies hate physical therapy

A case study:

The patient is a 47 year-old female whose chief complaint is right leg weakness and instability which adversely effects her ability to walk. Relevant past medical history includes lumbar disc herniation, fibromyalgia, and being deceased as of October 31 2014. She reports an abrupt onset of symptoms at that time, and describes the mechanism of injury as grabbing, biting and scraping of the right lower leg. She reports that her symptoms have gradually worsened as the leg continues to decay.

The patient has not underwent a recent medical exam or diagnostic imaging.
The patient rates her pain as 0/10.

Significant trauma of the right lower extremity is observable, with weepy goo pockets of mushflesh. The common peroneal nerve is exposed over a gnawed fibular head. The right Achilles tendon is absent and the plantar fascia is not tender to palpation. Pedal pulse is 0 beats/min. Patient is unable to detect 10 g monofilament light touch. The patient ambulates with right foot flat at initial contact phase of gait, with lateral trunk lean to the right and right hip adduction during weight acceptance, and there is no supinatory propulsion during late stance phase. Functional limitation include right leg weakness and instability which creates difficulty with activities of daily unliving. The patient goals include increased strength and stability of the right leg to enable return to stalking humans without complication.

Applicable ICD-10 diagnosis codes include:

M36X221 - bit by a zombie
F329 - zombie
JKLMNOP34 - ataxic confabulations
6789876 - abnormality of gait
S92.1 - stanky leg

Todays treatment included fitting patient with rigid rocker bottom shoes and Arizona Brace to provide external stability to the foot and ankle. Following this, the patient demonstrated improved speed of walking including acceleration and change of direction with minimal energy leak.

The agreed upon goals and treatment plan were discussed with the patient. She will attend physical therapy for two to three visits over the next two weeks to allow for sufficient  help l;dka#$%%d_!@*khhhhhjkljkl


Don't Make This BroScience Training Mistake

Those guys trained hard and often. They had time on their sides, with the relatively low stress college lifestyle and unlimited access to healthy foods. Yet they did not change substantially over two years.

I gained plenty of knowledge in the classroom during my undergraduate years at Slippery Rock University. The lesson I remember the most took place on and around campus.

Image of SRU Barbell Club circa 1998
I survived was perfectly content for four years there without a car, preferring to ride my mountain bike. With 7500 others my age, plus some cool faculty, where else did I need to go? I discovered that my life skills were considerably delayed in some ways. But I could easily make up for it with endurance and discipline and much needed grace from On High.

The Slippery Rock Barbell Club was a learning environment of the highest caliber. The tin warehouse located a stones throw from campus was quite literally JAMMED full of grimy top-notch weight training equipment. You could easily trip on a jug of protein or a 150 lb dumbell. With no set hours, rules (taken seriously), or cardio equipment, it was paradise for hardcore meat heads and anyone who grew weary of the SRU Russell Wright Fitness Center.

I witnessed many extreme feats of strength, machismo, and plain weirdness at the Barbell Club. I quickly realized that I would never fit into the bodybuilding subculture. 
A jumbled mess of powder coated iron.

During my junior and senior years I fell into the habit of training after class in the early afternoon. Many ex athletes did likewise, which resulted in knowing a typical cast of characters. The alphas of the barbell club showed up around 4:00, close to when I was finishing. They were locals, a bit older than any of the students, huge and lean. I only knew them by their nicknames, names like Diange, Big T, and Klip. They did their steroids in a small alley between the loading dock and a row of trees. They yelled a lot and intentionally bloodied their shins during deadlifts.

There was another group of guys, below the alphas, former wrestlers and football players, who would be at the Barbell Club nearly every day that I was there. They were training and talking when I walked in and when I left. I would go to my dorm, clean up and meet some friends at the dining hall when I would see them get in line behind me.

I'm fairly sure that this group trained with the typical Bro-Split that all of us did back in the day. Leg day was Wednesday, after "chest" on Monday and "back" on Tuesday. Squats involved wrapping their knees for 5 minutes, squatting a moderate weight for one, maybe two reps, unwrapping their knees and talking about the previous set for 3 minutes, and repeating the process for 40 minutes before a similar ritual on the leg press, leg extension and leg curl machines.

With the rare combination of access to an all-you-can-eat dining hall, PhD level expertise in bro-science, and twenty year-old gusto, this group of young men put on a fantastically grotesque display of training and eating eating. Walking back to my dorm after dinner, I would see them through the glass windows of the dining hall, sitting proudly beside six or eight plates and bowls stacked on each tray.

You would think that with all that heavy training and eating, these guys would transform into mighty monster of impressiveness. No, actually you wouldn't. They were dead wrong in their approach. Now, don't get me wrong. They were bigger than the average college student. But they were definitely...mmmhhh...unremarkable. In appearance, strength, and power. Unremarkable.

I've reported plenty of my own wheel-spinning mistakes and blunders on this blog. But these guys lived in the gym and dining hall and devoted so much to achieving so little.

While their story is uncertain, I highly suspect that the key consideration they missed was a holistic appreciation of human physiology, especially in regards to RECOVERY.

In their minds the equation to life success and happiness was:
More training + more intensity + more eating = more size, strength, and awesomeness.

In reality, progress looks something like this nonlinear equation:
.5XTraining(recovery) +.25Intensity(recovery) + 1.2 moderate eating(recovery) = Xawesomeness    Where X=your particular version of awesomeness because you really can't have it due to genetic limitation, unless you take steroids.

At some point, more training only serves to tear the body down. The perfect nutritional balance cannot make up for grossly over training. Likewise, a perfect training program cannot atone for missing the mark with the diet.

You don't have to train six days per week and stack bowls and plates in order to look and perform good. For the novice strength athlete, nearly anything works for a while. But very soon, you will need to work hard and smart in order to save much wasted time and effort.

How many days per week should you train in order to realize your desired results?
What exercises and how many sets and reps should take place during each session?
How do you move toward optimal recovery, between too much and too little?
These are all easily answered, but they vary between individuals and the seasons of their life.

Some will figure training out long way, on their own. Others will turn to Youtube or the most convenient personal trainers and bros. Still others will seek the help of the most experienced and qualified professionals who have walked the road before them.



The Founding Fathers of the BLC 

Last week, Ben, Cort, Russ, and I were on hand for the weekly ritual now known throughout all the lands as Plyo Friday. Loc, one of the younger trainees, described it as a gathering of the "Founding Fathers" of the The Bonny Lane Club.

I've written an overview of our small community that we call the BLC here.

The predecessor of the BLC began in 2002 at our old house on Belleview Park. I invited a few basketball players from Harrisburg High School to come see and learn how a middle aged white guy can dunk. They compared my basement to "something less than Rutherford" (elementary school). They learned how to squat and few other things, and stuck around for as long as we lived there.

The BLC officially started a few years later, after we moved to our home in Mechanicsburg. Since then, thousands...no, hundreds...no...TENS (!) of people have passed through the BLC. They come to improve their health or athletic performance, and hope to achieve a few fitness goals. But nearly everyone who has joined the journey has become genuine friends.

The Founding Fathers were first. Some of them are not around as much, with school and work and life and whatnot. To this day I cherish our friendship.

You want to join the anti-gym? You want to learn and contribute to our training knowledge? You want to understand some things about the group and about yourself? You came back to this yard and basement after experiencing a 300 run or a set of 20-rep squats?

"My brother! My sister!"