Movement Dysfunction or Functional Adaptation?

When is a “dysfunction” really a dysfunction? Are some of the things that people are calling dysfunctions merely adaptive responses based on their participation over time in a particular sport or activity? Is the body symmetrically as we have been lead to believe? Is there are prefect movement pattern and technique for each activity? Do muscles really shut off? Are we hunting for things that really are not there with the emphasis on movement dysfunction? These are not sarcastic questions, but really concerns based on thing I have seen and heard over the past several weeks. When do you train if you have these “dysfunctional” patterns? Is training bad for your health?

Business and the Blog

I have been hesitant to promote my products, seminars and consulting on this blog. For information on any of this I try to limit this to my web page www.gambetta.com We have many new and exciting projects on tap as well as new DVD’s and hopefully some e-books. From time to time I will mention on the blog but I want to state that there will be no banner ads on this blog and I will keep the overall commercial to a minimum. We are revising the web page so that there will be an abundance of free content on training and rehab. I am going to lean on my colleagues to help me create content and to add a diversity of opinion. Just as in my presentations my goal here is to:

Provoke – Stimulate thought, discussion and innovation

Educate – Share successes and failures to help stay on the functional path

Motivate – To keep learning with passion and dedication

Early Specialization

This is an abstract of a paper presented at a conference at the Australian Institute of Sport. I think it is fascinating because it presents some concrete research based information on the effects of early specialization

Specialization and Diversification in Early Athlete Development

Joseph Baker

School of Kinesiology and Health Science

York University

In the domain of sport, the acquisition of expertise requires negotiating biological, psychological, and socio-cultural constraints (Baker & Horton, 2004). Successful negotiation of these constraints can lead to the highest levels of performance while unsuccessful negotiation often leads to burnout and/or dropout from sport (Weiss & Petlichkoff, 1989). Arguably, the most critical period of development for future sports experts, is childhood. The seeds sown during this period have a profound effect on adult achievement. However, there is contention among researchers, educators, and coaches about what form early sport involvement should take. Many developmental sport systems are based on “early specialisation” models where aspiring elite athletes limit their sport participation to a single sport, with a deliberate focus on training and development in that sport.

In point of fact, there is considerable evidence supporting the early specialisation approach. In a review of several decades of research on the effects of practice and training on learning, Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch-Römer (1993) speculated that attention to what they termed “deliberate practice” (i.e., effortful practice that lacks inherent enjoyment done with the sole purpose of improving current levels of performance) was essential to the development of expertise in any domain. Further, they argued that it was not simply the accumulation of deliberate practice hours over an extended period that lead to superior levels of performance. In their view, success is tied to the accumulation of sufficient hours of high quality training at crucial periods of biological and cognitive development. As a result, early specialisation became an important element in bringing about future success. Based on these findings, Ericsson et al. concluded that the earlier one begins focused training the greater chance they have of achieving exceptionality in their chosen domain.

While the evidence supporting early specialisation appears relatively straightforward and empirically sound, this approach has been linked to several negative consequences. In general, these consequences can be classified as having adverse effects on motor, psyhosocial, and physical development.

Effects on Motor Development: Wiersma (2000) speculated that the limited range of skills performed during early sport specialisation has the potential to limit overall motor skill development. For instance, a rower spends considerable time in a seated position performing aerobic work and although this may positively affect cardiovascular health, it is likely that it limits the development of general motor development in tasks such as jumping, running, and throwing. This limited motor development may affect long-term physical activity involvement (and therefore long-term health) by decreasing the likelihood of participation in alternative physical activities.

Effects on Psychosocial Development: Wiersma (2000) also suggested that early specialisation could stifle sociological and psychological development by reducing the number of opportunities for growth in these areas. Sport can be an excellent means of developing social skills such as cooperation and socially acceptable behaviour; however, spending too much time training may not provide enough time for social growth and can lead to “social isolation”. Further, excessive training without adequate recovery can lead to staleness and/or burnout (Henschen, 1998).

Effects on Physical Development: In a review of overuse injuries in adolescents Dalton (1992) indicated that during crucial periods of biological development excessive forms of training could have serious costs. An example of this is often seen in the knees of developing athletes. Due to rapid bone growth of the femur, tibia, and/or fibula (such as occurs through a ‘growth spurt’) tightness and inflexibility increase around the knee joint because muscles and tendons have not increased in length at the same rate as the bones. This creates an imbalance in the joint and under periods of physical training or activity increased stress is applied to the knee and connective tissues. These imbalances increase a youth’s susceptibility to knee injury from repetitive microtrauma and associated conditions (e.g., Osgood-Schlatters’s).

While these consequences are clearly harmful, perhaps the most damaging evidence against advocating the early specialisation approach concerns sport dropout. A defining characteristic of the deliberate practice activities outlined by Ericsson et al. (1993) is that they place little value on ensuring enjoyable participation. Investigations of participants who drop out of sport (e.g., Butcher, Lindner, & Johns, 2002; Weiss & Petlichkoff, 1989) have consistently indicated that lack of fun or enjoyment is a predominant motive for discontinuing participation in a given sport. Based on this evidence it appears that the types of training advocated by the early specialisation approach may be at odds with the level of enjoyment necessary for a long-term commitment to physical activity involvement.

In a series of studies, our research team has considered the relative value of early specialisation compared to an opposing position based on involvement in a range of sports and physical activity throughout early development (i.e., early diversification). Training data were collected based on methods proposed by Côté, Ericsson, and Law (2005) where participants provided information on the amount and content of different types of training occurring throughout their sports careers. General conclusions based on these results are presented below.

1. Early Specialisation is not necessary for Adult Expertise.

Our investigations of athletes ranging from triathletes (Baker, Côté, & Deakin, 2005) to netball players (Baker, Côté, & Abernethy, 2003) revealed that early specialisation was not the norm for expert athletes. More commonly, expert athletes had a diverse sport involvement with participation in a range of different sports during early development. Figure 1 shows the pattern of activity involvement for our examinations of triathletes and sport decision-makers (from Baker et al., 2005 and Baker et al., 2003 respectively). For all sports, there is a gradual but steady increase in activity involvement that peaks in mid to late adolescence. Following this, there is a decline in involvement, ending with a near solitary involvement in the athlete’s primary sport. The implication here is that diversification during early involvement may play a significant role in expertise development. Interestingly, a similar profile of activity involvement was found in the non-expert groups studied with one notable exception – the decrease in activity involvement typically seen in the experts during adolescence was either later in the non-experts or not at all suggesting that non-experts do not have the same focus on training during later development.

Figure 1. The pattern of activity involvement for our examinations of triathletes and sport decision-makers (from Baker et al., 2005 and Baker et al., 2003 respectively).

2. Participation in Other Sports May Develop Capacities that can be Transferred to the Domain of Expertise.

A diverse sport involvement during early development may have a beneficial role in acquiring requisite sports skills. Analysis of basketball, netball, and field hockey experts found that having a broad exposure to different sports throughout development reduced the number of hours of sport-specific training required for expertise (Baker et al., 2003). Recently, Abernethy et al. (in press) speculated that time spent in other sports may have been useful for developing pattern recognition abilities that were transferable across similar domains. Investigations of transfer of training effects in aerobic sports support the conclusion that general skills and abilities are transferable between activities that share similar performance demands (e.g., Loy, 1995). Our recent examination of performance in Ironman triathletes of varying levels of skill (Baker, Deakin, & Côté, in press) corroborate this inference. Furthermore, the range and depth of involvement in other activities as a child and adolescent was found to have some value in predicting performance as an adult.
It seems clear from this research that the relationship between training and skill development is not as simple as outlined by Ericsson et al.’s theory of deliberate practice. Our investigations suggest that a diversified involvement in early development is not as detrimental to elite development as previously believed, although this may be restricted to sports with later ages of peak performance (cf. Gymnastics, Law, Côté, & Ericsson, in press). Understanding the task demands underpinning expert performance in a specific sport is essential for understanding the types and amount of training necessary at different stages. Sports emphasising abilities that peak later in development can allow greater flexibility during early development than sports with abilities that peak earlier. But eventually, all future expert athletes must adopt a program of training that focuses on deliberate practice. Without a long term commitment to high quality training athletes will be unable to attain elite levels of performance. All the same, coaches and parents should consider the consequences of structured training during early development as these experiences have a profound influence on involvement in sport and physical activity across the lifespan.


Abernethy, B., Baker, J., & Côté, J. (2004). Transfer of pattern recall skills as a contributor to the development of sport expertise. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Baker, J., Côté, J., & Abernethy, B. (2003). Sport-specific training, deliberate practice and the development of expertise in team ball sports. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 15, 12-25.

Baker, J., Côté , J., & Deakin, J. (2005). Expertise in ultra-endurance triathletes: Early sport involvement, training structure and the theory of deliberate practice. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 17, 64-78.

Baker, J., Deakin, J., & Côté, J. (in press). On the utility of deliberate practice: Predicting performance in ultra-endurance triathletes from training indices. International Journal of Sport Psychology.

Baker, J., & Horton, S. (2004). A Review of Primary and Secondary Influences on Sport Expertise. High Ability Studies, 15, 211-228.

Butcher, J., Lindner, K. J., & Johns, D. P. (2002). Withdrawal from competitive youth sport: A retrospective ten-year study. Journal of Sport Behavior, 25, 145-163.

Cobley, S., & Baker, J. (2005). Developing elite rugby players: The role of sport specific practice and involvement in other sports. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Côté, J., Ericsson, K. A., & Law, M. (2005). Tracing the development of athletes using retrospective interview methods: A proposed interview and validation procedure for reported information. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 17, 1-19.

Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R. T., & Tesch-Römer, C. (1993). The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological Review, 100, 363-406.

Henschen, K. P. (1998). Athletic staleness and burnout: Diagnosis, prevention, and treatment. In J. M. Williams (Ed.), Applied sport psychology: Personal growth to peak performance (3rd ed., pp. 398-408). Mountain View, CA: Mayfield.

Law, M. P., Côté, J, & Ericsson, K. A. (in press). Characteristics of expert development in rhythmic gymnastics: A retrospective study. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology.

Loy, S. F., Hoffmann, J. J., & Holland, G. J. (1995). Benefits and practical use of cross-training in sports. Sports Medicine, 19, 1-8.

Weiss, M. R., & Petlichkoff, L. M. (1989). Children’s motivation for participation in and withdrawal from sport: Identifying the missing links. Pediatric Exercise Science, 1, 195-211.

Wiersma, L. D. (2000). Risks and benefits of youth sport specialization: Perspectives and recommendations. Pediatric Exercise Science, 12, 13-22.



Our videos will be available in DVD format later this summer. Keep checking the web site

Active Multi Stage Warm-up

Warm-up is an aspect of training that is very easy to take for granted because it must be a component of each training session that allows it to become quite mundane. Remember warm-up sets the tempo for the training session. It is not separate from the workout, but an integral part of the workout. Because it is so crucial to the workout it should be thoroughly planned to dovetail into the actual workout.

A complete and effective warm-up should be in concert with the goal of the workout. Warm-up is the transition from the normal daily activity to the actual workout. It should be progressive, in that it builds in intensity in a crescendo like manner. It must be active and dynamic, not passive and static. It is a given that warm-up should elevate the heart rate and raise core temperature of the muscles, but the most overlooked and perhaps the most valuable aspect of warm-up is nervous system stimulation. The nervous system is the command and control system of the body; it must be activated. This dictates the order, selection, and tempo of the tasks that comprise the warm-up.

Warm-up consists of multiple stages that fall into two broad categories: general warm-up and specific warm-up. The stages are not equally divided; the proportion is usually 75-80% general to 20-25% specific. The stages are sequenced to work from the ground up and the core out. There is an emphasis on hip position, awareness and mobility. If there are multiple training sessions planned for a day then each warm-up after the first warm-up should be abbreviated. The only exception to this is if there are more than six hours between workouts. Six hours seems to be the threshold when the residual effect of previous warm-up and workout begin to diminish.

It is also important to point out that warm-up is very individual. If the individual has a hyper and excitable makeup then often warm-up does not have to be as long. The opposite is true for the mellow, more passive athlete. In team situations these individual considerations need to be taken into account. As the athlete progresses through their career and gains more experience warm-up assumes ritual-like routine. I remember watching Edwin Moses, two time, Olympic champion in the 400 meter hurdles warm-up. His routine never varied, he did the same exercises in the same order no matter what the conditions. The whole routine took 45 minutes, but when he was finished he was ready to train or compete! Competition warm-up should be different in some regards than practice warm-up. It can serve as a tool for psychological arousal or calming as needed. Competition warm-up must be flexible to adapt to different conditions and space requirements.

The workout begins with the warm-up! It sets the tempo for the workout to follow. It is the bridge from normal daily activities to actual training. Too much emphasis in warm-up is placed on raising core temperature and heart rate. For me the main physiological objective is neural activation, getting everything firing to prepare for the more intense to follow in the actual workout. From a psychological perspective the warm-up should almost be a ritual. This serves as a security point or anchor for the athlete. The warm-up can vary in length from as short as ten minutes for the warm-up before a second session to as long as thirty minutes. The length ultimately will be determined by the objective of the workout. The warm-up is “active” not continuous. It should build progressively in intensity into the workout. There is an emphasis on mobility not on static flexibility. Flexibility is trained as a separate training unit, preferably after the workout. This is a typical warm-up scenario. For more explanation of the exercises and additional sequences see my video Warm-up and Preparation available at www.gambetta.com

Active Multi-Stage Warm-up

Relaxed Strides 6 – 8 x 50 meters at 60 -70%

Mini Band Routine (12” band above ankles)

1) Sidestep 2) Walk - Forward/Back 3) Carioca 4) Monster Walk

Balance & Stability

Single Leg Squat (Hold each position ten counts)

a) Straight 2 x ea leg b) Side 2 x ea leg c) Rotation 2 x ea leg

Balance Shift

Shift & Step Right - Shift & Step Left

Forward Step Right - Forward Step Left

Back Step Right - Back Step Left

Basic Core (3 Kg Med Ball)

Wide Rotation x 20 – Walking Forward & Backward

Tight Rotation x 20 - Walking Forward & Backward

Side to Side x 20 - Walking Forward & Backward

Chop to Knee x 20 - Walking Forward & Backward

Figure 8 x 20 - Walking Forward & Backward

Multi Dimensional Stretch

Step & Reach Series (2 reps in each plane Forward/Side/Rotational)

Reach Up Reach Out & Down Reach Across

Active Stretch

Psoas, Hamstring, Adductors, Calves, Lats & Pecs as needed


Jack Knife Crawl x 5

Creepy Crawl x 5

Hip Mobility (Five Hurdles) – Not done in every warm-up

Hurdle Walks – Over

Coordination (Two reps of each exercise)


Crossover Skip

Side Step

Carioca (low & long)

Carioca (short & quick)

Backward run

High Knee Skip

High Knee Skip w/Rotation

More on Periodization

The following comment was sent in regard to my post on periodization. “While this certainly *sounds* right, I'm wondering if this comment is a research-based fact or personal impression and, if the former, the sources of it. Although I am certainly not an expert, I wonder if it perpetuates a characterization and/or stereotype of the former "Iron Curtain" countries.”

It is both research based and personal impression based on extensive observation, study and conversation of the training and planning methodologies of the former Eastern European countries.

See on of my previous posts in the archives from the Journal of Clinical Chemistry. Read the work of Franke and Berendok, without extensive doping support the East German sport machine would have been a show of what it was. I am not sure what you mean by the stereotype of the former Eastern European countries. I try to stay away from stereotypes, but for those countries sport was part of national policy. Success in sport was closely tied to the communist ideology. One only has to read their coaching manuals and see the opening chapters on Marxist- Leninist dialectics. This is not meant to denigrate the progress and innovations they made in sport, but we must always put their writing in the context of the social/cultural milieu that existed at the time.


Periodization - A need for change

Periodization is a concept not a model! Unfortunately over the years it has been portrayed as a strict model, it is not. As a concept periodization is an educated attempt to predict future performance based on evaluation of previous competition and training results. It brings the future into the present so that we can do something about it. It is achieved through planning and organization of training into a cyclic structure to develop all global motor qualities in a systematic, sequential and progressive manner for optimum development of the individual’s performance capabilities. We need to get away from the traditional focus on the models of periodization that were developed and refined in socialist/communist societies that had strict control over every aspect of the athlete’s lives, including systematic doping. That is not our sport culture. In order to be more effective and applicable the focus should shift to the process of adaptation and the underlying concepts to achieve optimum adaptation by applying a systems approach to planning training. This implies that everything must fit into the context of a larger whole. A system is an integrated whole. Changing one part of the system changes the whole system. Everything is interconnected. The elements of the system are only viable because of the relationship between the parts.

Planning is essential to sport performance regardless of the level of competition. The traditional focus has been on the long term plan. It has been my experience that the longer the period of time for the plan the less applicable the plan will be. To be more effective the long term planning should focus on global themes and training priorities based on competition performance, training, and testing data from previous years. The detailed planning of the microcycle and the individual training sessions is where focus needs to be for planning to be more effective and practical.

There are contemporary issues that necessitate re-evaluation of the traditional concepts of periodization:
1) There is a serious decline of basic physical fitness levels and fundamental movement skills at the developmental level. Even elite athletes do not have the broad base of movement skills that
the athletes had when I began coaching in the late sixties. This necessitates a remedial emphasis throughout the athlete’s career because this was not incorporated in a foundation.
2) The reality and demands of the extended competitive schedule that exists today. In classical periodization competition was strictly controlled. This is not
a reality today. It is not unusual for a professional soccer player to play 70 matches in a season. At the youth level it is the norm for a baseball player to play 100 games in a year. This reality forces a revision of the classical ideas of periodization. This competitive schedule will not change so we must adapt the planning to this reality.
3) The drug influence/bias in traditional periodization models developed in the former eastern bloc nations. The revelations from the former GDR exposed the reality of their planning was the cyclical application of systematic doping. This has a profound effect on the frequency and intensity of training and most importantly on the ability to recover. To base training methodologies on information derived from this system is fundamentally flawed, yet this is what has been done and is continued today. The majority of the traditional literature on periodization has been written by people who were part of this system. We must take this into account in planning for our system which does not have the strict control of the former eastern bloc nations.
4) There has been an overemphasis on volume loading relating to previous point. Systematic doping enables the athlete to tolerate significantly higher work loads. The published programs from the former eastern European countries always emphasized the periodic increase of tons lifter, meters run etc; linked to incremental performance improvement from year to year. It turns out that the volume loading increases in those programs was closely linked to changes in dosages of anabolic substances. For the non drug athlete volume has to be increased gradually and in many sports it should not be the primary emphasis.
5) Applying the improved understanding of human adaptive response to various training stimuli, especially in terms of neural and endocrine/hormonal system response. From current research our knowledge of the adaptive response has increased significantly. This needs to be applied in order to devise more exact training plans based on what we know of the science of adaptation.

Spectrum Approach

The dictionary defines Spectrum as a broad range of related values or qualities or ideas or activities. The spectrum approach is the cornerstone of Functional Training and rehab as I define it (see yesterdays Blog) Training consists of a move across a spectrum of activities and training methods. You do not stay in one place. It is not segmented, but a blending of one method into another. At different times of the year and in a career the emphasis will be on different points on the spectrum. As an example look at the strength training spectrum, it begins with bodyweight and progresses to high force, slower speed lifting, which in turn progresses to high speed high force ballistic work. Depending on the sport and individual needs it is entirely possible for one athlete to stay on one point on the spectrum for a relatively long period of time. This is not an arbitrary decision but criteria and need based. It is essential to have a method to determine where you need to be on the spectrum. This should be evidence based and based on testing.


Functional Training Definition

This is something I have been continually asked about over the past year. I must admit I have struggled to give a good answer, but based on some discussions in England and my readings I am going to make an attempt at defining Functional Training. I am not sure it can be strictly defined because it encompasses such a broad area. First we must define function. The definition I use is that it is integrated multidirectional movement. Everything we do as long as we are alive is functional, it is really a matter of how functional relative to what we are preparing for. One of the dictionary definitions of function is “A thing depends and varies with something else.” It does not mean that you don’t lift weights. It does mean that you are acutely aware of context and interrelationship of physical qualities and systems of the body.

Functional training is training that incorporates a full spectrum of training designed to elicit the optimum adaptive response appropriate for the sport or activity being trained for.

It incorporates a kaleidoscope of methods systematically applied to improve all systems of the body. No one system is emphasized to the exclusion of another. No one method or physical quality becomes an end unto itself. Each athlete is a case study of one. Each athlete brings something different to the table. It is characterized by integration of movement and a spectrum approach. By spectrum approach I mean moving along a spectrum of methods and activities relevant to the method being utilized. As best I can tell if you accept this definition functional training is not new. It is something that has characterized good training and rehab programs for a long time.

UK Lecture Tour

Three real great seminars during my quick tour of the UK. I would like to thank Julie Hayton who organized and coordinated the whole thing and Ian Graham www.AthleticBodyConditioning.com who hosted the seminar in Dublin. The Dublin seminar was held at Dublin City University. It was a very nice venue and a very good lively and spirited group. Next I went to Scotland where the venue of the seminar was Motherwell Football Club (That being real football) A small group but mostly coaches which always makes it fun. It was a real good venue because we could go directly downstairs to the workout area for practical sessions. The last seminar was at Hinckley Football club near Leister in East Midlands. Good group with some real good discussion concerning core function and other ideas that I will share in later blogs. Hinckley is a semipro team that has a better stadium – The Marston Stadium - and workout area than virtually any Major League Soccer Teams. It is also where Juile Hayton has her business, Momentum Performance Systems. I will post pictures and more on the trip later this week. Right now I am trying to recover from a trip that began at 3:00 am eastern time yesterday and ended at 10:00 pm!



Great seminar the past two days here in Dublin. Lots of good questions. People very earger to learn. I will post on the questions and detailed observations when I get back to the states. I was able to visit one of my former athelets last night. I had not seen him in twenty years. Real fun to revisit the good old days of coaching decathlon. It certainly was a more innocent time. We were all doing it then for love ofthe sport, certainly no money or shoe contracts. The family all plays Irish music, had a couple of great accordian peieces by the kids. Got in a great discussion on rhythms and music and the relationshipto rhythm in sport and movement. Movement is like music, it is not always about the notes, it is what happens between notes. Off to Edinburgh, Scotland



Here in Dublin now. I will start teaching the first of three Following The Functional Path seminars in the UK. Interesting to talk to people here about sport and rehab.The problems we face in the US are not unique to our side of the Atlantic. It is interesting to see the passion and nationalistic fervor for the World Cup. The other evening when the British were playing, the roads were empty during the match.
I am amazed at how much American football has influenced the whole approach to strength training here. Interestingly enough this approach has led to many of the same injuries we see in American football.


Real Football – Real Athletes

Athleticism is the ability to perform athletic movements (run, jump, throw, kick) with precision style and grace. If you watch any of the World Cup you will see the height of athleticism. These guys are truly amazing athletes. They must be fast and explosive, they must be very fit to sustain the pace for the duration of the game and for some the duration of the tournament. In addition many of the players who play in European Leagues have just completed a full season which can encompass over 60 games! Shaq could take a lesson from these guys. A hint on watching the games, sometimes try not to watch the ball. Watch what is happening off the ball. Watch how players get in position to receive the ball. I can’t wait to get to England to be able to watch a bit more of the action and the game is appreciated. Let's hope the English team fulfills expectations or the country will be in mourning.

Thoughts on Training the "Core"

Effective and functional core training is based on two simple principles:

Train Core Strength before Extremity Strength

A strong stable core will allow the extremities to better do their job therefore we should train the core first in a training session and in a training program.

Dynamic Postural Alignment Is the Foundation for Training

Posture and a strong and stable core are integrally related. Posture is a dynamic quality. The larger core muscles known as “anti-gravity muscles” play a major role in maintaining a sound functional athletic posture.

We need to shift our thinking away from posture as a still picture or a posed position. Posture must be assessed relative to the athlete’s event. Each sport has its own specific posture and each individual within the sports have their own posture. The combination of the two allows for much variability. Our goal should not be to fit everyone into certain parameters, rather it should be to understand what each athlete brings to their event and adjust accordingly.

An important assumption is that the body is fundamentally asymmetric. It is unrealistic to think of muscular balance right to left or front to back. We must think of proportionality. The core muscles play a major role in dynamic posture because the large muscles of the core act as “anti-gravity” muscles that give the body structural integrity to allow the limbs to position and reposition according to the demands of the activity.

Balance is a key aspect of movement that is closely related to the core. Balance is a dynamic quality because movement is dynamic. Balance is control of one’s center of gravity, control of body angles and unstable equilibrium. Movement is a state of dynamic equilibrium consisting of a constant interplay of imbalance and balance with the body constantly trying to regain balance to perform efficient movement. There is a continual reaction to gravity and external forces such as the playing surface, opponent’s etc. The muscles of the core play a decisive role in balance because of the location and function of the core muscles; therefore core training and balance training are synonymous.

The Core is an integrated functional unit consisting of the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex, the Thoracic and Cervical Spine. It is a Muscular Corset that lends integrity and support to the body. The Core is the center of the body, the thickest part of the body. The Core is where all movement is modulated. It is more than “six pack abs”. The core works as an integrated functional unit that accelerates, decelerates, and dynamically stabilizes the body during movement. All movement is relayed through the core. The core is a swivel joint between the hips and the shoulders which: 1) Allows the entire body to accelerate the limbs 2) Allows the entire body to decelerate the limbs 3) Allows the entire body to support a limb.


The traditional method of assessment is isolated, is usually in a prone or supine position seeking to isolate strength of individual muscles. The functional assessment is integrated and movement oriented in standing position or a position that simulates the posture of the sport. A simple qualitative analysis consists of simply taking video of the athlete doing their respective sport activity from the front, side and rear if possible and judge quality of movement. Also take video of a typical training activity and judge quality of movement. Look for patterns, similarities and differences. Quantitative assessment has two components:

Assessment Driven from the Top Down

Medicine Ball Chest Pass

Off Two Legs

Off One leg

Medicine Ball Overhead Throw

Off Two Legs

Off One leg

Medicine Ball Rotational Throw

Compare distance right and left

Assessment Driven from the Bottom Up

Balance Tests

Excursion Tests

Lunge, Jump, Hop Tests

In designing a core training program and selecting the exercises carefully consider all of the following:

Demands of the Sport

Demands of the event or position

Physical qualities of the athlete

Dynamic Postural Analysis

Injury History


Trip to Great Britain

I will be gone to Great Britain to do three Following the Functional Path seminars from June 15 to June 26. In all probability I will not post each day. Enjoy the World Cup!

US World Cup Performance

I would almost feel remiss if I did not comment on the performance versus Czech Republic. Frankly I was not surprised. The US was not going to sneak up on somebody this time. It also underscores the old coaching adage that a good athletic big man will beat a good athletic small man. They were bigger and faster and very skilled and tactically aware. I felt all the pundits were unrealistic in the expectations set for this team. The preparation games showed some glaring deficiencies. To me it also reveals huge flaws in our development system. We have a very naïve approach to preparation for the World Cup. This IS the biggest sporting event in the world, not some regional ODP tournament. Long term planning is foreign to US soccer and it will continue to be revealed.

I also feel Bruce Arena’s negative comments about the players were uncalled for. Everyone knows that they did not play up to their ability. What he said should have been said behind closed doors to each player. That is a rookie coaching mistake! Steve Sampson had his shortcomings, but never once in 1998 did he say anything negative about the players and he had every opportunity. Bruce Arena has responsibility to prepare the players and they were obviously not prepared. Also he picked the players; those were his players on the field, not someone else’s. I learned in my first year of coaching that players win and coaches lose. I wish him luck getting those players back.


Odds & Ends

There was a question on type of Medicine Ball and size. Get a regular rubber medicine ball that bounces well. The ones with the handles are good but you can’t do wall work with them. 3 kg or 6.6 pound ball is best weight.

As far as ASTYM and ART. Gus Gutierrez from BRPT in Baton Rouge did a real good presentation on the combination. He feels the combination is very effective. As a coach I can certainly see that.

Becoming an Athletic Development Professional

I have been contacted by several people that asked me for advice on what it takes to be an Athletic Development professional as they are looking to get into the field.

Passion – A genuine enthusiasm for what you do. Not just when there are crowds and on game day but everyday.

Experience – Train for several sports, coach several sports. There is no substitute for having to put your butt on the line on game day as player or a coach. This is essential. This does not mean you have to be a star, but at least participate.

Study and Observe - Get around great coaches. See how they work. See how they praise ands scold. Learn everything they do. I once followed a German track coach, Gerd Osenberg around for a week. I wrote down everything he did. I used to go to the 49ers training camp in the early seventies because they had a good linebacker coach. I still use some of those drills today!

Learn & Research – Read scientific journals, coaching journals, technical journals. Get away from the internet and go for straight facts. Study video.

Practice – Get proficient at the skills you must teach. Be able to capably demonstrate the movements. Know skill progressions and how to teach

Be Organized – Plan and have a contingency plan. Be on time and stay late.

Look the Part – Get fit, dress the part and dress appropriately.

Communication Skills - Sharpen them. Realize all the dimensions’ of communication.

Have a life – Take care of your family and reserve some time for yourself.

As a last thought remember it takes at least twenty years to nbe an overnight success.

Moe Drabowsky

Moe died yesterday after a long and courageous battle with multiple myeloma. I got to work with Moe when he was a pitching coach with the White Sox. In 1986 when everyone else was resisting everything we were trying to do in conditioning Moe embraced it. He could see immediately how it could make the pitchers better. I will never forget him telling me one day that this would change the game. He was a funny man; he had a reputation as a prankster, which was well deserved. A terrific ab workout was getting Moe telling stories. He would go on for an hour and you would be laughing for an hour. Your abs would be sore the next day it was better than a medicine ball workout. My favorite story was when he called to order take out Chinese food from the bullpen, only he called China for the food. One of his favorite tricks was shaving cream on a player’s hat. That is what Moe is doing to the Oriole mascot in the picture. Moe was a fine pitching coach whose patience and calm demeanor enabled many young pitchers to achieve their potential. You guys up there in heaven better watch out because you best believe Moe will be giving someone a hot foot. Moe we will miss you, but every time any of us think of you it will be with a smile.