Isolating Abdominal Muslcles

The isolation of the internal oblique and transverse abdominas was a big topic of discussion at the seminat I was teaching yesterday. This now has become part part the folklore of training and rehab. I am amazed that people can't take a step back and think through this whole process. Those muscles are deep abdominal muscles that are very hard, maybe impossible, to voultarly recruit. Yet people still insist on teaching their patients and and athletes to do that using the drawing in maneuver or abdominal hollowing. Stuart McGill in his research has debunked this. The hollowing in actually destabilizes the spine. One again remember that the body does not recognize individual muscles, it recognizes patterns of movements. Use movemnst that require those deep abdominal muscles to work as part of the bigger picture


Unstable Sufaces

Keep those comments comming. Have to keep this short today, I am off to teach a seminar. I am going to post on last nights dinner conversation - strength. My comment to the group was it is the easiest physicalto develop!! Whay then do wenot regognize that? More later


Go Animal

This is a really good blog http://goanimal.typepad.com/goanimal_weblog/

Unstable Surfaces - Ideas?

I am working on an article for Training & Conditioning www.momentummedia.com on using unstable surfaces. I would like to get some ideas/feedback on how, why and if you are using unstable surfaces in your training or rehab. I am not going to comment on this one for awhile, except to say that my ideas have been reevaluated significantly in the last two years.

Great Post & Great Blog

Go to http://presentationzen.blogs.com/presentationzen/
This is a great post. Neat way to get you thinking, especially if you are a jazz fan like I am

Sport Appropriate or Sport Specific Training

My friend Steve Myrland from Madison Wisconsin is on of the brightest and most innovative coaches I know. He never stops thinking. His latest idea that he bounced off of me yesterday at first seemed incredibly simplistic, but on a bit of reflection it is really quite profound. Steve is working on an article on specificity and he had been bouncing some ideas off of me. Today he hit me with the bombshell. His asked “Isn’t it more about what is sport appropriate than sport specific?” I quickly answered yes; finished the conversation went off to swim my laps and was haunted by the statement. I called him back to tell him he was right on. The only thing that is truly sport specific is the sport itself. Similar is not the same. This incessant search for more specificity that I have been on for a million years might be an endless search, unless your think sport appropriate. Sounds like semantics and a bit of verbal gymnastic, but there is a lot here. Obviously if you just practice the sport then there will soon be a point of diminishing returns, but the problem is to make the training appropriate for the sport. Mile and a half runs are not appropriate for football players, but short explosive burst of five to ten yards are. It all comes back to having a thorough understanding of the demands of the sport and the positions or events in the sport. Then you can undertake sport appropriate training. Some times it will be the sport and sometimes it will be far removed. A baseball player getting ready to play in the 150th game of the season probably would welcome some general work as an opportunity to break the routine. That is certainly appropriate. Remember simplicity yields complexity.


Total Body Movements

I am a strong believer in utilizing total body movements throughout the training year. Total body movements involve a combination of pushing, pulling movements and squat derivative movements. The advantages of total body movements are:

All major muscle groups are utilized and linked.

Movement is through a full range.

Movement is ballistic.

There is limb acceleration and deceleration.

Technical demand is high. Balance and timing are necessary for success.

The athlete must be fully engaged mentally to achieve progress.

There is a mistaken notion that total body movements must be done with an Olympic bar. I think that a bar is inappropriate for many body types and many sports. Using a dumbbell as illustrated in the picture of squat to press allows

the resistance to fit the body rather than trying to make the body fit the resistance. I have found total body dumbbell movements really effective in season where time is limited. It is possible to get a great workout in 15 to 20 minutes. You get a lot of bang for your buck.


More on Self Esteem

Last week during our panel discussion on Human Performance at Kenyon College the issue of Self Esteem came up, as it seems to do a lot lately. I was a bit surprised at the opinion of the panel which included two sport psychologists. The consensus seemed to be that we have sold our kids short with the emphasis on self esteem to the exclusion of responsibility. Along the same line today when I was driving to workout I saw five different cars with bumper stickers that proclaimed their kids honor students at various local elementary schools. Simply everyone cannot be an honor student, where are the C students? Somebody has to be average. The problem is that we have elevated mediocrity under the guise of raising self esteem. I see it every where. Our athletes are praised for their effort, like showing up for practice. Pros get bonuses for playing a certain number of games, isn’t that their job? That does not merit praise that is what you are supposed to do. What message are we sending? We need to think about accountability, responsibility and realistic expectations based on realistic evaluation.

Psychologist Roy Baumeister was commissioned to survey the literature on self-esteem by the American Psychological Society. His work was published in the Winter 2006 issue of the Stanford Innovation Review http://www.ssireview.com/ These studies show not only that self-esteem fails to accomplish what we had hoped, but also that it can backfire and contribute to some of the very problems it was thought to thwart.” Among his findings: Self-esteem does not make people popular or altruistic; does not keep children from indulging in sex, drugs, and alcohol; and is a result, not a cause, of good schoolwork.

Enhancing self-esteem is therefore a waste of time in the pursuit of health and well-being, Baumeister writes.

Instead, he suggests the most promising human strength is self-control. “Although the research on self-control is newer, the evidence already looks much better than the case for self-esteem ... [and] interventions that boost self-control have shown remarkable and sweeping benefits.”

We all need to think about this. As coaches and teachers it is our responsibility to correct deficiencies and set a high level of expectation. I firmly believe that your level of expectation determines your level of achievement. Let’s raise the bar! We must challenge our young people, for that matter we must challenge ourselves. I am reminded of a story from my good friend Dr. Joe Vigil, who coaches Dena Drossen ( Deena just won the London Marathon Sunday in American record time) She had just won her first National championships in Cross Country. After the race she came over to Joe and expected to be congratulated. Instead he challenged her. He said that when she won an Olympic medal he would congratulate her. Harsh,maybe? But Joe was doing his job he saw the potential that she possessed and was determined to help he achieve that potential. Eight years later in Athens she medaled in the Marathon!


Athletic Development – Defining the Field

What is strength and conditioning? What is strength and conditioning coach? As far as I can tell there is not much consensus. I have seen many strength coaches who never leave the weight room because they view themselves as just that, strength coaches. If that is all that is expected I guess that is fine. Is it personal training? Is that what the profession is? To achieve consensus we must define the field; currently it is all over the map. There is much confusion, there needs to be consistent direction and purpose. Coaching is definitely not personal training; there is a clear distinction between personal training and coaching. Personal attention is certainly part of coaching, but coaching implies a long term commitment on the part of the coach and the athlete. At present the field is called Strength and Conditioning. It is a field that evolved out of American football in the 1970’s, although there were some notable strength coaches in the fifties and sixties. They were just that, strength coaches. Unfortunately many people have found out the hard way that what is appropriate for football does often transfer well to other sports. It is very easy to see that influence even today, because the term strength and conditioning evokes an image of training two separate qualities. It sends the wrong message. Strength and conditioning are part of a much bigger picture. That big picture is developing the complete athlete to be at their physical best and stay injury free in their chosen sport. A broader more descriptive term that evokes the goal is athletic development. The goal is to train all the components of athleticism to the degree required by the sport that the athlete participates in. The athletic development coach is part of a performance team. A well qualified athletic development coach usually makes a good leader of a performance team because they a good perspective on the big picture. The very nature of their job demands that they be the consummate generalist.

The Athletic Development coach is a coach and they should be accorded the same professional courtesy and respect as the actual sport coaches, but that respect must be earned. The only way it can be earned is if everyone works to more clearly define their roles. It demands getting out of the weight room, broadening your horizons to incorporate training all athletic qualities. The evolution of the role of the Athletic Trainer (ATC) in the US should serve a good model. The certified athletic trainer has certainly evolved into much more valued and prestigious position than it was 40 years ago. They have done that by professionalizing and defining their field. The athletic development coach must do the same. The athletic development coach must develop a skill set that offers a precise blend of what to coach and how to coach skills. All the technical knowledge in the world is for naught if the information cannot be imparted to the athlete in a format and style that they can use. In essence it is what you do with what you know.

Athletic Development is defined as the process of evaluating and training all the components of athleticism according to the demands of the sports and the qualities of the individual athlete. It is based on the understanding that athleticism is the ability to perform athletic movements (run, jump, and throw) at optimum speed with precision style and grace. This is clearly more than strength and conditioning. It is not necessary to make it complicated to define a profession, in fact the simpler the better. Simplicity yields complexity. Give the body credit, it is smart. Good training takes advantage of the wisdom of the body.

The Athletic Development coach is part of a much bigger picture. They are a cog in the wheel of the whole development and training process. They are support staff and should remember that. Keep things in balance. Do not claim credit for wins unless you will to accept blame for losses. Stay in the background; focus on the job of making the athletes better. The best self promotion is a job well done.

How should Athletic Development coaches be evaluated? Athletic development coaches should be evaluated based on their ability to train the qualities of athleticism. Unfortunately because the strength & conditioning has been so closely tied to football, the strength coaches’ evaluation is often tied to wins and loses. This is unfortunate and another reason that there needs to be a paradigm shift toward athletic development. The Athletic Development coach should be judged on the improvement and refinement of the physical qualities of the athletes they are working with. There are standards of professional behavior that must be upheld regardless of the field of coaching, that is a given. Evaluation will become much more objective when the field is clearly defined.



I just got an email from an athlete that worked two years ago. She is potentially a great heptathlete (top ten in US Olympic trials in 04), but has been plagued with chronic back problems. She is having problems again. When I look at her program it is no wonder. Virtually all her core work is seated or lying. Great majority is emphasizing flexion and extension movements. In short all things that would aggravate back problems. Not near enough rotation. Also chronic high hamstring problems (related to back?) she has been doing ham glue raise which for me is as bad as hamstring curls. So what is the moral of this story – Each athlete is a case study of one, they must receive individual programs. One size strength training does not fit all. The program is working fine for the other athletes in the group (I wonder about that) THINK – it does take a little more time to individualize training, but the pay off is immense.


In Season Program

If you are interested in a copy of a comprehensive in season pitching conditioning prom drop me an email at vgambetta@aol.com. The only thing I ask in return is that send five people my blog url www.functionalpathtraining.blogspot.com. My goal is to somehow get this blog ranked in the top 100 Blogs on Technorati. I am going to do this against the big boys who are spending tons of money on this. No advertising, no whoring, just some off the wall ideas and an occasional tidbit of good information. Help if you can.

In Season Training

Training in season is the dark hole of the athletic development process. It seems everyone is able to do a good job preparing when there is no competition but what happens when the competitive season starts? Typically the first few weeks go OK because there is inertia from the previous training, then the training tapers off to almost nothing. This is a huge mistake. The common excuse for this is that there is not enough time. Time is not an excuse. Remember training is cumulative. 10 to 15 minute blocks of training supplemented by an occasional 20 to 30 minute block will get the job done. This is assuming that that the preparation has been done before the competitive season started. 15 minutes a day for 5 days totals one hour and fifteen minutes. Multiply that out over a 28 or 32 week season and it is a significant investment of time. The secret is to have the time thoroughly planned so they correlate with the phase of competition and the individual’s needs. Remember everyone MUST warm-up so it all starts with a structured active warm-up for each training session. This emphasizes movement, not sitting on the ground and stretching. Each individual athlete should have a remedial program that they do on their own time. An example would be the stretch cord for hamstring injury prevention. (See picture of Jose Reyes, Shortstop for the METS doing a stretch cord hamstring exercise)

Strength training must be maintained during the season. Especially leg strength and total body strength. Even more important for the female athlete. Session do not have to be long but must be directed. Three or four exercises are sufficient. Use total body movement like a squat to a press, you get more bang for your buck. (see picture of Squat to Press) More on this in another blog.

As far as overall fitness, the practices themselves should address a lot of this. In transition and intermittent sports it is necessary to do a little more. I refer to the work of Dr Billat from France for the science and application of what to do.

Billat, Véronique L., Slawinski, Jean, Bocquet, Valery, Demarle, Alexandre., Lafitte, Laurent ., Chassaing, Patrick ., Koralsztein, Jean-Pierre. (2000) “Intermittent runs at the velocity associated with maximal oxygen uptake enables subjects to remain at maximal oxygen uptake for a longer time than intense but submaximal runs European Journal of Applied Physiology Volume 81, Number 3 January Pages: 188 – 196

Billat , V. L., Slawinksi, J., Bocquet, V., Chassaing, P., Demarle, A., Koralsztein, J. P. (2001) Very Short (15 s - 15 s) “Interval-Training Around the Critical Velocity Allows Middle-Aged Runners to Maintain V˙O2 max for 14 minutes” Int J Sports Med Vol 22: 201-208

These articles will be helpful to you.

Speed and agility must be trained, once again in short bursts. I put some footwork drills everyday and even sometimes on game day. I have found that the tune up the central nervous system.

Plan and attack this important phase of training to make your athletes better.


Dr Ken Cooper

This guy is amazing! I was on a panel with him yesterday and attended a presentation he gave last night, but more amazing was the hour shuttle ride to airport this morning. This is a man who has worked all his life to shift the paradigm in medicine from treatment of disease to prevention of disease. He is now in his late 70’s and full of energy and passion. My thing has never been general fitness, but over the past several years I have become increasingly concerned with the decline in general fitness in all age groups, the rise of obesity and the alarming epidemic of diabetes. Dr Cooper is trying to do something about it. I certainly am going to pay a lot more close attention to his work. This man has spent over forty years collecting and studying data on exercise. His data is a gold mine of information that if applied could have a profound effect on changing some of the alarming trends we are seeing today.

If is so great to be able to meet someone with this passion and knowledge. It certainly was inspiration to see how fit and mentally sharp he has kept himself.


Decline of Skills

I am here in Gambier Ohio, at Kenyon College for the opening of their spectacular Athletic Center. Nothing like this in the US. This will not be a long post but I could not help but comment on the headlines in today’s USA Today Sports page regarding the influx of skilled European player. Well da! If you work on skills and coach skills and you have good athletes then you will have skilled players. That is pretty profound. The more basketball gets away from the school and coaches who are teachers the worse skills will be. More games, is more exposure. It is also less practice and work on fundamentals.


Posture & Gravity – Random Thoughts

Gravity is always there! I know that is not a profound thought but when I read that a particular exercise is really good for athletes but it won’t work with the geriatric patient or the average person. I get really confused by those kinds of statements. Is gravity turned off for the normal person? No way, gravity is always there and it always wins. I guess I really shook up some people with my article on posture in one of the recent Training and Conditioning magazines. Much of our posture and subsequent deviations is our reaction to gravity. There will be deviations, posture is not static. Posture must be assessed in movement not in stillness. We are designed to move, not stand posed in front of a posture grid! Each sport, each job, and for that matter each life situation will have adaptive postures. The current trend (which is not actually new, but if you listen to the guru crew you would think they discovered postural evaluation) is to evaluate posture statically, identify deviations from ‘Normal” (by the way someday I want to meet Mr. Normal) and then correct the deviations. All is fine and well, but what happens when you spend a whole bunch of time working on the corrections without much change happening in quality of movement. Assess posture in movement, look for individual movement signatures; everyone has them, see if anything stands out. Determine if anything that stands out will hinder their ability to move. If you think it will, design a series of remedial exercises to address those needs. Make they part of daily preparation to train. Keep it simple and get them moving.


Great Quote

This is the Google quote of the day;
How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.
- Benjamin Disraeli

Hitting A Baseball

There is no doubt that hitting a baseball is a very difficult athletic skill. Last night I was listening to Joe Morgan babble on about hitting and it triggered a flash back to my years working in pro baseball with the White Sox and the Mets. I agree hitting is difficult, is was, it is and it always will be my contention that that the methodology of teaching and coaching hitting is 90% of the problem. I am taking a big leap of faith by calling it methodology. It is surrounded by gurus, poor teaching and fundamentally unsound training. In other words most hitting coaches set their hitters up for failure. They actually tell the hitters that! The standard line is that Ty Cobb one of the greatest hitters of all time failed six out of ten times at bat! My retort is so what and why didn‘t he hit six out of ten. You can imagine how popular I was with the hitting coaches.

I have some ideas based on things that I have seen:

No fear – If you are afraid of the ball you can’t hit. This is tough to overcome. One of the reasons aside from steroids for the homerun barrage of the nineties is the amour the hitters are wearing. They have taken away some of the fear of getting hit by the inside pitch.

Vision – This is the key and it also can be trained. The key is to establish a stable base for the head so the eyes are still in order to effectively track the ball. The head must be still!

Biomechanics – It is a sequential kinetic chain striking activity that starts from the ground up

Hand/Eye Coordination – This is essential and it can be improved

Body Awareness – Must develop a good feeling for the position of the hips in relation to the feet and the separation of the hands from the body.

Practice Organization – It is not more swings, it is quality swings. 100 swings at a time will ingrain bad habits. Ten quality swings, some balance work for recovery followed by ten more swings is much better than twenty swings. This is not Vern Gambetta’s opinion this is sound motor learning.

Specificity – Batting practice occurs at about sixty to sixty five miles per hour. Seldom does a hitter see a breaking ball in batting practice. I have never been able to understand how this transfers. One American MVP actually walked out of the batting cage because the batting practice pitcher was throwing too fast! Soft toss is the other staple of hitting coaches. This is even dumber than batting practice. There has to be a better way

Balance – Dynamic to set up a stable platform to allow the eyes to track the ball

Strength – Leg and core strength establish the base. Rotational strength is the key, med ball work is more important than bench press. It is not hand and wrist strength, they are the last links in the chain to be involved.

I will be interested in your comments.



Mark Crabtree, Director of Sports Performance Chicago Bulls/White Sox Training Academy wrote and asked me to comment on the following: “I was wondering if you could comment on how much of your coaching is explanation to the athlete what you want them to do, such as talking about the correct form and technique before doing the drill. VS- coaching them on technique while the drill is being performed.”

Mark, this is a pet peeve of mine. We can tell them and explain it all they and most of the time they won’t get it. Too many times as coaches we try to hard to orchestrate and make everything perfect. The learner has no idea of what perfect is. They get frustrated and we get frustrated when they can’t get it. It took me a long time to figure this out. Let the athlete feel their way through things. Give them some general cues and then let them explore the movement. If it is practical show them video (at normal speed) of outstanding performers. Don’t break it down; let them feel the rhythm and the timing of the whole action. Project it life size if possible. As coaches we definitely talk to much (I think we like to hear the sound of our voice and make sure people think we are doing something). Remember there are three styles of learning auditory, visual and kinesthetic. We get stuck in the auditory. Athletes need to also see and feel.

The body is very intelligent. I have found that id you put it in position it will figure a way to do things. For example in teaching acceleration mechanics, a simple drop and go exercise without much explanation can move an athlete significantly on the learning curve Why? Because you are taking advantage of the body’s natural stumble reflex. Unless there is some neurological deficiency it is impossible to do wrong. It is only when try to verbal y tell it to do something that things go haywire.

Give the athlete movement problems to solve that will enable them to discover movement skills in a “play like” environment. “… one goal of functional training is to practice movements in order to make them automatic. Second, even though accomplished athletes may have little idea of what they focus on during skill execution, at some conscious or subconscious level they are focusing on relevant cues. For this reason, Singer et al advocated that skilled motor performance can be best achieved if learners adopt a nonawareness type strategy. Nonawareness refers to a lack of attention placed on the activity while it is in progress, but learners are instructed to preplan the movement and focus on a specific situational cue. “(Ives, Jeffrey C. and Shelley, Greg A. (2003) “Psychophysics in Functional Strength and Training: Review and Implementation Framework.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Vol. 17 #1 p180) Nonawareness means having the athlete focus on solving a particular movement task rather than focusing on how they should move “correctly.” Movement is natural; by making it conscious there is a high risk of making it robotic.

To make it natural it is necessary to have well designed progressions that elicit good patterns of movement without having the athlete think about it. Motor learning is hierarchical therefore build on from simple to complex.


Geno Auriemma – In Pursuit of Perfection

I just finished reading Geno Auriemma’s – In Pursuit of Perfection. It was an enjoyable read by a man who is driven to succeed. I certainly related to a lot of what he said in the book. He himself was an immigrant, my parents were immigrants and many of the experiences he related in the book brought back memories of my youth and my parents. The following quote particularly struck me:

“I think kids today have lost something. The bus I got stuck behind stopped at every street corner. At one stop six kids got on. The next stop, which was thirty or forty yards away, tops, another group of kids got on. I’m thinking to myself, “Why can’t they just walk to the next bus stop?” That’s what missing. We do everything for our kids today. Life has become too easy. That’s one reason coaching to me, is not just about basketball. It’s about teaching kids how to get along in life.”

Human Performance

I am going to be on a panel at Kenyon College this Thursday. The occasion is the official opening of their new performance center. It is a spectacular facility. It is easily one of the best in the US. The panel will be on Human Performance. Each of us was asked to submit our ideas on what Human Performance is. The following is my response:

For me Human Performance represents testing limits physically, psychologically and intellectually. There are no limits that Human Performance cannot overcome. Even though my perspective from a professional standpoint is sport, I am equally fascinated by all realms of human performance. Human Performance transcends disciplines.

An elderly neighbor overcoming the effects of a stroke

A child taking their first steps

A writer taking the 26 letters of the alphabet and fashioning those into words, sentences and paragraphs

A composer taking seven notes and combining them to produce a symphony

There are no limits if you continually test the limits.


Energy Medicine and Science

Joe wrote me the following after yesterdays post recommending the book Energy Medicine in Therapeutics and Human Performance by James L. Oschman “I beg to differ with you on the energy medicine book. Oschman starts with sound science, then takes these wild metaphysical leaps. The fascia system acting as a second nervous system?? You should see the junk that's being passed off as science in some of these "myofascial mapping" courses. If you think function has been corrupted, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Is there any way we could hear the Iron Maven's take on this topic?”

Joe, I have explain my point of view on this. I know that a lot of pseudo science and mumbo jumbo, not to mention heaps of bullshitake, have gravitated toward this field, but there is something there. We as practioners cannot always wait for science to verify what we are doing. Oschman’s concept of “The Living matrix” deserves some study. To me it begins to explain some things that I have seen over the years. There is no doubt that the fascial system needs to have more consideration that we have given it. Whether or not it is a faster messenger system than the nervous system is certainly open to debate and research from greater minds than me. Don’t get me wrong I believe in science, but in sports the scientists have followed the practioner. I have never seen a scientist innovate a new training or rehab technique. They study them after the fact. Some of the biggest mistakes I have made have been to summarily reject ideas like this. I am going to keep an open mind on this one. A healthy dose of skepticism is always good. I am not ready to embrace this completely nor to reject it completely, the book got me thinking.


A few more book recommendations

Olbrecht, Jan. (2000) The Science of Winning – Planning, Periodizing and Optimizing Swim Training. Swim Shop, Luton, England.

This is an outstanding book. Some of the best information on training adaptation I have been able to find. It out of print and hard to get.

Oschman, James L. (2003) Energy medicine in Therapeutics and Human Performance. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Butterworth Heinemann.

Very though provoking. Some real out of the box thinking on the role the fascia plays in movement. This is the future.

Radcliffe, James C. and Farentinos, Robert C. (1999) High- Powered Plyometrics. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Publishing Company.

The best work on plyometric training. Jim Radcliffe is one of the best coaches I know, this book reflects his methodical

Todd, Mabel E. (1937) The Thinking Body. Princeton Book Company Publishers. Highston, NJ.

This is a real gem. I stumbled on this about five years ago. Todd was a dance professor at Columbia. She gets it, she understands movement. A must read.

Generic Training Programs & the Young Athlete

At a certain level anything you do will result in improvement. This is certainly true with the young and developing athlete. Generally they begin a program at a relatively low state of general fitness. This offers the opportunity of a large window of adaptation. Virtually anything they do will produce instant results. This is why flawed programs capture kids and parents. The results are quick – then what? At the initial stages of training the patterns that are learned are ingrained. So if they learn to run on a treadmill they will be good at running fast on a treadmill, but will it carry over? Special care must be given to teaching and reinforcing correct patterns of movement at the initial stages of training. Time invested at that level will pay rich dividends in the near future both in terms of performance and protection against injury.


More Than an Exercise

Seldom will a training method or an exercise stand alone. An exercise or a training method only becomes effective when combined with other methods or exercises to produce a synergistic training effect. An example would be plyometrics. It is a good training method that will quickly reach its limitations unless carefully blended with strength balance and mobility. When looking at an exercise or a method always ask:

How does it fit with the overall training program/

Where does it fit?

Why does it fit?

The goal is to think globally and contextually with a clear vision of the desired end result.

It is part of a system. A system is characterized by a predetermined relationship among all components of training. Each individual component has it’s own function, but most importantly each component has a profound effect on all other components. That in context of the system is why it is more than an exercise.


More Book Recommendations

Hannaford, Carla. (1995) Smart Moves – Why Learning Is Not All In Your Head. Great Ocean Publishers. Arlington, Virginia

Though provoking – a must read for anyone working with young athletes

Jones, Norman L. et. al. (1986) Human Muscle Power. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Publishing Company.

Even though it is twenty years still good information. It has stood the test of time.

Kellmann, M. (Editor) Enhancing Recovery: Preventing Underperformance in Athletes, Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. 2002

So far the only book on recovery. Very good overview. Some good useable information.

King, Ian (2000) How To Write Strength Training Programs (Second Edition). Toowong, Australia: King Sports Publishing.

Good sound information. Very practical

Kurz, Thomas.( 2001) Science of Sports Training. Second Edition. Island Pont, Vt: Stadion Publishing Company.

Outstanding, I recommend this one to everyone who wants to understand training without a bunch of Russian mumbo jumbo.

Kurz, Thomas. (1994) Stretching Scientifically – A guide to flexibility training. Third Edition. Island Pond, Vt: Stadion Publishing Company.

Very good test on flexibility. No BS

Kraemer, William J. and Hakkinen, Keijo. Editors. (2002) Strength Training for Sport. London, England: Blackwell Science, Ltd

Basic, but very good.

Kreighbaum, Ellen and Barthels, Katharine M.( 1996) Biomechanics - A Qualitative Approach For Studying Human Movement. Fourth Edition. Allyn and Bacon. Boston

The best book on applied biomechanics, easy to understand and apply.

P. V., Editor, Strength and Power in Sport, Second Edition, London: Blackwell Scientific Publications 2003

A classic, now updated, better than ever. For me this is a constant reference.

Lee, Bruce. Tao Of Jeet Kune Do, Santa Clarita, California: Ohara Publications, Incorporated. 1975

Written by a genius who understood movement, not traditional, but thought provoking, especially on balance. It fact it is the basic text on balance training.

Lieber, Richard L. (2002) Skeletal Muscle Structure, Function & Plasticity – The Physiological Basis of Rehabilitation. Second Edition. Philadelphia: Lippincot Williams & Wilkins.

This is a great book. Well written. Complex information with many practical applications. I try to read anything I can get my hands by this guy.

Logan, Gene A. and McKinney, Wayne C. (1970) Kinesiology. Wm. C. Brown Company Publishers.

This is the classic. These guys were so far ahead of their time it was scary. This is another constant reference for me. Now out of print. In fact this was the last edition published – 1973.

Sustained Excellence

I am fascinated by organizations, teams and individuals that that can achieve sustained excellence. By sustained excellence I mean consistent success, maybe not always winning the championship but being in contention year after year. I look at teams like the New York Yankees, North Carolina Women’s Soccer, De la Sale High School Football in California, Australian Women’s Field Hockey. Individuals like Edwin Moses, Cal Ripken, Michael Jordan and Mia Hamn. They all represent what I consider to be sustained excellence, they are the best. Sure they all have talent, but there is more to it than that. The following are my observations of the characteristics and traits necessary to sustain excellence:

Strong Leadership

Continuity in Leadership

Consistent Discipline (Incredible self discipline for the individual)

Continually Striving to Improve

Tradition – if you don’t have one, then create one

Work Ethic that is well defined and with a purpose

Talent – Ability to identify and acquire talent that will fit the system without stifling the individual

Consistency in all aspects – Never too high or never too low

Research & Innovation – Constantly looking for ways to get better.

Change – Recognize that is it is a constant and it must be part of the plan

Plan – Have a well defined, but flexible plan with built in contingencies

Execution – Execute the plan

Evaluation – Objectively and unemotionally evaluate the plan

The Whole Person – Concern for the whole person “24 Hour Athlete” concept. You can’t just be great two hours a day you must be great 24 hours a day.

Adversity – Thrive on it and accept. Deal with it without panic

Confidence – Quiet and assured, not cocky or boastful

Execution – The level of expectation, determines the level of achievement. They expect to be the best, never surprised.

Contrast this to the losers and also ran’s – They always have an excuse. Usually something like yea but or if only. The loser will constantly reflect on why? The winner focuses on HOW!!!


Book Recomendations

I have had a lot of people ask me about the best books in the field. Here are some recommendations. Some of these are out of print, but still available. I put a few up each day so that I can annotate them and tell why I think they are useful.

Charlesworth, Ric. (2001) The Coach – Managing For Success, Sydney, Australia: Pan Macmillan Australia.
A great coaching text. Charlesworth was the coach of the Australian Women’s Field Hockey team. A dynamic individual. Great insights into what it takes to be a great coach.

Dominguez, Richard H. M.D., and Gajda, Robert S. (1982) Total Body Training. New York, N.Y: Warner Books.
A classic. These guys were ahead of their time. They coined the term core.

Drabik, Jo'zef Ph.D. (1996) Children & Sports Training, Island Pond, Vermont: Stadion Publishing Company, Inc.
This is a constant reference for me. Full of practical and useful information.

Gabbard, Carl., Leblanc, Elizabeth., and Lowy, Susan. (1987) Physical Education for Children-Building the Foundation, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Another oldie but goodie. Great on teaching progressions and movement skills, all things that are not taught today.

Overhead Injuries

Overhead throwing Athlete injuries-namely the increase in SLAP Tears and UCL Tears in pitchers--baseball team I work with has 8 guys that have had UCL Reconstruction in the last 2-2 1/2 years. We have also probably had 8 SLAP Tears in from athletes in all our sports in the last 12 months. Both numbers just seem extremely high. Is there some type of programming that could be implemented that would help prevent these injuries?

Your pattern of injuries definitely reflects a national trend. I never heard of a SLAP tear before 1994. The all of a sudden it became the injury. Out team doctors for the White Sox wanted to examine every player for SLAP tears. My question was there really a problem or did we create a problem by looking for one? That seemed to get the ball rolling. As a non medical person who has the luxury of asking stupid questions I want to know if pitchers and for that matter other throwers always had them, but they threw through them or rested and rehabbed and they were able to tolerate them? I started asking the pitching coaches who had had been pitchers about this and their opinion was just that, they all had those symptoms at one time or another and thought it was just something they had to endure. So were they just tougher? I don’t think so. I think we have more sophisticated diagnostic methods (MRI) that show things that did not show before. There is more at stake from a monetary standpoint, big salaries and bonuses in professional baseball and liability at the college and high school level. All of that being said what can be done. Take the focus away from the rotator cuff. Do more core work in functional positions – standing and moving. Do more hip mobility and crawling. In short anything that can link the hip to the shoulder. Also make sure that they have sound pitching mechanics.

As far as UCL the numbers are high and increasing. Here is a problem that is two fold. 1) Too many breaking balls at a young age, kids should not be allowed to throw anything but a fastball and a change up until they are 14 – 15 years old. 2) Changes in grip to manipulate the pitches. This puts more stress on the elbow. There is also this crazy idea that has developed among young pitcher that they can come back throwing harder after the surgery. Another urban myth.


Overhead Exercises

Tracy Fober http://ironmaven.blogspot.com wrote the following “the rehab bias against overhead movements and reduction of movements to only targeted rotator cuff stuff and scapular work that never allows the arm to elevate above 90-120. This is in spite of the fact that they want people to have "full ROM" and that in the real world, athletes fully flex and abduct and do combos of this all the time. “ Tracy this is something I have fought against for years. It is based on flawed research that just looked at the shoulder scapula relationship and failed to take into account the whole kinetic chain. I focus on the shoulder hip relationship that, is what is most important. Also impingement is not an overhead problem, to quote Gary Gray, “it is a getting to overhead problem.” Therefore we need to focus on how they get over head. Usually it related to weakness and lack of awareness in the trunk and tightness in the hips. There is no pain when the arm is overhead and no pain when the arm is at the side. The pain occurs just as the hand is raised past the shoulder. This should give us a huge clue that focusing on the rotator cuff is not the answer. Look at the mechanics of getting overhead, Stretch the lats and the pecs, not the shoulder. As far as exercises incline pull ups and push-ups, ring pull-ups and push-ups, front pull downs and crawling are the way to go. Some people eliminate bench press for the overhead athlete, I think straight bar bench press should be eliminated. Dumbbell bench is OK, but not a major focus. As an aside this is the third year I have worked with University of Michigan Women’s swimming and they have virtually eliminated shoulder problems. A big reason is that they have stopped working on the shoulder and focused on the linkage of the hip to shoulder. High volume of reps on the rings and med ball core is the answer.


Thoughts on Functional Path Approach

Training and rehab is more than assembling building blocks. In essence that is the traditional linear mechanistic approach to training. The contemporary functional path approach emphasizes context and builds on relationships between elements of training. Sport Science researcher Roger Enoka put it best, when he said “The function of a muscle depends on the context in which it is activated.” This really is the essence of it. Traditional programs look at individual muscles and then look for exercises that develop those muscles. This is where the disconnect starts. That is fine for body building, but it just does not transfer well to performance. It assumes a direct cause effect relationship which does not exist. The functional path approach seeks to enhance coordination by training muscle synergies through emphasis on pattern s of movement. Historically this explains the success of PNF as developed by Knott and Voss in treating polio victims. Even though some of the positions they used where not highly functional, the key was that the patterns they used were meant to stimulate synergistic recruitment of muscles in patterns that imitated their role in functional activities. So even though I call this a contemporary approach it really is not. Training is about movement, higher level movement is about efficiency Training should reflect this. Finding or even inventing exercises is easy, assembling the exercises into a coherent pattern that emphasis relationships and context is the key. The power clean is a great exercise or is it? It really depends on where, how and when it is used. This is just one example. Once again think about the big picture.



Sorry I left out the titile of the book - It is Strength Training for Sport. To answer Joe it could make top 25 list. I am actually compiling that now and will post it soon.
As far as the staring role, I am working on gaining about 50 pounds to be able to play Kraemer.

Individualized Strength Training Programs

“Individual differences in the magnitude of an adaptational response to a given exercise stimulus support the need for the use of individualized programs.” (Kraemer & Häkkinen, page 37.) This is perhaps the biggest shortcoming in strength training. One size does not fit all. It is difficult, but not impossible to individualize in a group context. It is not only desirable, it is a must. If programs are not individualized then the results will be very inconsistent, less likely to be reproducible and the risk of injury will increase.


Strength Training and Endurance Training – Interference

Endurance training work performed concurrently with strength and power training can significantly compromise strength and power if the volume of endurance work is high. You are essentially setting up conflicting biological adaptations. This is a common dilemma in intermittent and transition game sports. The solution is to prioritize training so that the two modes are not in opposition to each during a training cycle. Periods should be devoted to power improvement and periods devoted to endurance development. It is a constant trade off. There are also periods where the two must be trained concurrently, but they still must be prioritized.


Convenient isn't Always Correct

This is taken from Seth Godin, marketing guru’s blog. http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/

He is talking about business, but he could have been talking about a functional screen or some other stuff we conveniently measure as coaches. “There's no doubt that you should measure things that are both important and measurable. When you do, it's inevitable that what you measure improves.

Caveat #1 is not to measure things that aren't important, just because they're measurable.

But caveat #2 is even more important: the art of business and organization is in realizing that there are important things you can't measure.”

Funnctional Path philosophy for professional soccer team?

Misha Filipovic from Belgrade, Serbia asked me to comment on the problems he faces in preparation of a professional soccer team. My problems are:
1-Short preparation period (4-8wks)
2-Need for fast results.
3-Since I learn about your work from internet I am not sure about sequencing of components during prep period.

These are common problems in sports where there are extended seasons. In a short preparation period often times you can do more harm than good. Based on testing results I think it best to group players based on their specific needs for at two to three days a week of very targeted specific training. For example if a player needs work on acceleration capacity then the player should train that more often. Then this must be carried into the season by designing small modules that address specific needs that can be in a short time block like 15 minutes. I know you need fast results, but training is cumulative. Short sharp sessions that are very specifically targeted to improve a particular physical capacity will pay rich dividends

Try to set up your training in six week blocks. Belgian sport scientist Jan Olbrecht has shown this to be the ideal time frame to develop physical qualities to their fullest extent. At the end of six weeks the emphasis must change in order to insure continued adaptation. The first 21 day cycle is a time of “fast adaptation” and the second 21 day cycle is a time of “stabilization.” Most blocks throughout the year are structured accordingly, with the exception of the peak competition block where the cycles are seven and fourteen days in order to more carefully control loads in pursuit of specific competitive objectives.

Also in devising a realistic, workable plan recognize that each training component has its own time to adaptation. Flexibility improves, adapts from day to day. Strength improves, adapts from week to week. Speed improves/adapts from month to month. Work Capacity improves/adapts from year to year. In terms of reversibility the converse is true. Without emphasis those qualities decline at essential same the rate they adapt. The implication here is that in the short preparation time you should be able to make some strength gains. You also should be able to impact changes on in overall fitness.


Natural Strength

In yesterday Sarasota paper there was a very interesting article about a 71 deputy sheriff who can bench press 410 pounds. That is really amazing. It is even more amazing to see the guy’s picture; he looks like he is about fifty. He works out two or three times a week, but said that most of his strength was “natural.” In the next sentence he tells about starting in a circus balancing act when he was five years old with his brother. They continued the act until he was fifty. The act consisted of balancing his weight and his brother while standing on his head! (Sarasota was the home of many circus performers when Ringling Brothers was headquartered here) Immediately I thought of what a great foundation in structural and supporting strength this gave him. He is right, his strength was natural, and it was developed by strengthening ligaments, tendons and synergistic muscles that now enable him to bench press 410 pounds. This just served to reinforce a lesson that I learned the hard way. To lift heavy, you must prepare to lift heavy. That preparation is a logical progression from body weight gravitational loading to allow the body to adapt over time. Those of you that work with middle school and high school athletes should heed this lesson. Spend two years getting them ready to lift heavy and they will lift real heavy! If you start lifting heavy right away (young athletes can do it) you will pay the price later. The price will be injuries and a plateau in gains.

Respone to Gambetta- Movement Screen Measurable versus Functional

Mike Boyle send me this rebuttal to my post on the Functional Movment Scree. It is good and though provoking. I still do not agree, but it is good to have diversity of opinion - Vern

First let me state that one of my best early sources of education was Vern Gambetta. Vern was a man ahead of his time and was one of the early proponents of what is now called functional training. With that said, let me now politely disagree with Vern’s stance on Gray Cooks Functional Movement Screen.

Gambetta states ”The tests in the screen do not give much information that I can translate to actual athletic movements. They all seem to be ends unto themselves. I know many people are putting a lot of stock in this, but I want to ask the obvious question, What are you doing with the information that you derive from the tests? How can you interpret that information and take the identified deficiencies and derive a truly functional conditioning or prevention program?”

I would like to pose a few rhetorical questions:

1- I’m not sure how familiar Vern is with the FMS. I would doubt that someone who does not feel the screen has great use has ever done the screen and I would guarantee that they have never been to a Functional Movement Screen course.

I feel like this would be analogous to a writer reviewer reviewing a car he has never driven or a tool he has never used. I think the key to writing reviews is to be an expert in the area and to test or test drive the product. Although Vern is a training expert, I don’t believe his area of expertise is evaluation. My recommendation to Vern would be to learn the screen and then take a group of athletes through the screen. I can guarantee that you find things you would miss simply looking at movement. The reason for this is the reason that I think we need to be careful with the whole “functional training” thing. In my experience the better the athlete, the better the compensation Elite athletes always find a way to perform a skill and often make it look easy. In Vern’s terms “the red flags disappear”. The red flags don’t disappear, they just go into hiding. I have found that the only way to analyze the motion of an elite athlete is to slow them down and look at static postures, active ranges of motion and stability. The red flags hide until they become a full blown injury. Then we are forced to back up and attempt to fix what is now broken. The approach of many of the ‘experts” in strength and conditioning is that “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. In other words, wait until it breaks and then go ask guys like Gray to fix it. The problem is, with a tool like the FMS we get to close a few barn doors before the cows get out.

2- I am very curious as to how someone can say that the tests in the screen don’t “translate to actual athletic movements”. In Gambetta’s case this seems odd as Vern has been a huge proponent of single leg training, beginning when it was viewed as heresy. How can things like lunging, squatting or stepping not “translate to actual athletic movements”? They are in fact the essence of athletic movement. Gambetta recommends a series of screens. “I believe that you must have a screen that is specific to the sport or at the very least for categories of sports”. This is a wonderful suggestion. I look at this proposal and think “wouldn’t it be great if they could make a car that drives like a Mercedes, has four wheel drive, gets forty miles per gallon, and room for 6 passengers.”. Nice but unrealistic. The beauty of the FMS is in the simplicity. A coach who works with a wide range of athletes, as most do, can use one simple screening system.

The key to understanding and using the Functional Movement Screen lies in realizing it is just what the name implies. It is a screen. A basic tool to look at patterns of movement and bilateral imbalances. It is not meant to be a program design system. I have found that the FMS is a great way to begin a program. The FMS and the results create an immediate bond between the client and trainer or , the athlete and the coach. Even if the program is not individualized in any way, the athlete or client feels that there own unique concerns are now being addressed. To learn more about the Functional Movement Screen go to www.functionalmovement.com



Joe asked the following question: Has this Janda stuff ever been put through the scientific method??? To my knowledge it has not. In my opinion Janda has been misinterpreted. His work is being used to justify a bunch of mumbo jumbo that is far removed from anything he wrote. Several years ago I researched his work quite thoroughly. There was (may still be) a compendium of his writing that was quite extensive. I came to different conclusion than the NASM crowd. Basically what Janda does is give a context to view movement and possibly analyze the source of any dysfunction. He identified three common syndromes 1) Upper Crossed 2) Lower Crossed and 3) Pronation Distortion. The problem is that if you go looking for those syndromes you will find them. Then what? Virtually every swimmer and thrower has some upper crossed syndrome. Do we keep them from swimming? Absolutely not! That posture is partially an adaptive response to their training. It can be simply addressed by daily attention to remedial work that stretch the Pecs and also don’t forget the Lats.

The take home point for me on reviewing his writings was very simple. In certain activities there are muscles that chronically shorten due to the manner in which they are used. Sometimes you have to lengthen them and sometimes you have strengthen them. It really depends on the individual and the activity they are involved in. More stretching is not the answer. Once again stretching is part of the bigger picture of understanding the movements that cause the tightness.

Hope this helps clarify things a bit. I know I restated my bias, but we must see the forest for the trees. I would be interested in comments from other people that have studied Janda’s work.


Perspective – Style versus Substance

I am 59 years old and have been coaching for 37 years. I have seen many changes and many fads come and go, many starts rise and flame out. I guess I am at the point in my life and my career where I have become more reflective. I am certainly much more aware of where I have come from, who have been my role models and teachers. I also know that I have become a lot less tolerant for hype and general bull shitake in training and in life. I am trying to temper this intolerance with keeping an open mind to new ideas of substance. The dilemma that I face and I am sure many of you face is separating the style from the substance. What is real, what is validated by honest experience and science?

I began coaching in 1969. To say it was a time of change would be an understatement. It was a time of social change and because sport does not exist a vacuum, a time of change in sport. A big issue then in coaching was dress codes and appearance standards, how that has changed, thankfully. We spent too much policing stuff that detracted from coaching. Knowledge about training was changing, sport science, especially applied exercise physiology and biomechanics were gradually making their way into the performance world. It was a time when a generation of great coaches in my sport, track & field were ending their careers. Bill Bowerman at University of Oregon, Bud Winter at San Jose Sate. These guys were innovators, real pioneers. They were passing the torch to the next generation of coaches.

As a young coach hungry for information I could not get enough. I subscribed to every journal and went to every clinic and scientific conference I could. All with one goal: to be the best and most knowledgeable coach I could be. I learned a lot. I still made many mistakes, some I learned from and other I kept repeating. Overall the progress was forward, the athletes were getting better.

Just like every young coach I think there was time when I put the focus too much on me. I took too much credit for the wins and took the loses too personally. It took me some time to figure out that it was about the athlete, that is why we are coaching, they are the center of the coaching universe, not the coaches.

What is the point of all this? As I move ahead in my career I find myself talking more about ‘the good old days.” I know how that used to annoy me when I was a young coach. I think that can be a real trap, because you are making a choice to live in the past. Rather than live in the past I chose to learn from the past. I do not want to repeat past mistakes. History and experience can give a wonderful perspective. This is a perspective missing from the current generation of coaches. Their focus is on marketing themselves, trying to come up with a gimmick that will make them some money. There is something to be said for paying your dues. It is important to know history and the origins of training methods. There is not a whole lot that is new. If you do your research you find that most of what we use today in training was done 50 to 100 years ago. It is trite to say but we stand on the shoulders of giants.

It is really tough when you know everything. I know I have been there, there was a time when I was convinced that I knew everything and I was not afraid to tell anyone who would listen and some who would not. The problem is that when you get to the top of the mountain, it is awfully lonely there and there are a lot of people waiting for you to fall off. Those are hard lessons. I guess I am not sure why every generation has to make the same mistakes. Learn from those who have gone before you. I know now, more than ever it is not about I or me, it is about great friends and mentors who had the patience and understanding to help. It is about my family who stood by me. I look back to gain a clear perspective to move ahead.


The Consummate Coach

The latest issue of Track Coach Magazine has a tremendous interview with Dr. Joe Vigil PhD. Joe is one of the greatest coaches I have known. He has been a friend, a role model and a mentor to me over the years. Here are a few gems form the interview.

On benchmarks to gauge progress “The amazing thing is that if you understand science, as you have an increase in the parameters we test for, you can train and implement those variables in training protocols and you can actually chart progress. I will give you an example. We were able to tell Meb (Keflezighi) and Deena (Kastor) what they would run at Stanford and they had never achieved those goals, but they achieved them within a second. And so it really works well.”

On running in the morning: “Everybody’s distance running should be done in the morning. The philosophy behind that is that when you go to bed at night and you are lying flat, your intervertebral discs are able engorge themselves with water. And in the morning when you get up and your full bodyweight is on those discs and gravity is pulling on you and the more active you become the more water you lose and they become compressed. And consequently you have a chance to irritate those horse tail nerves that come out of the vertebrae and that is when you can develop some injury and also some postural deviation.”

On strength training: “Well we work out three times a day and one of our workouts is in the gym and we a combo of plyometric bounding, ladder drills, weight lifting and core development. They work at very religiously. They don’t let it slide by. And that is just as important as running.”

On using a treadmill: “We use the treadmill for testing. For training, no. Leberace did not get good at playing the piano by chopping wood. If you want to be a good runner you have to run.”

On continuing to learn: But it seems my ambition to learn has increased over the years. I am still excited about getting up in the morning. I get up at four every morning. Literally excited. I’m exciting about meeting, just to study and read. I plug into Medline, the information retrieval center at the Olympic Center.”

On how he wants to be remembered: “But I want to be remembered as a good person, as a good friend. Not a developer of champions or the championships we’ve won. Those things are not important. But I would probably like to be remembered as a person who put some worth in other peoples lives cause I believed in them. Very simple.”

I feel very privileged to have known and had the opportunity to work with Joe Vigil. I hope all of you get to meet someone like this in your lives. He is truly a treasure. He is what coaching is all about.