Posts Tagged ‘vince mcconnell’

Priming the System

Finally…our blog is back! And, each week our purpose to to shine light on key topics, and hopefully give you insight that contributes to solutions on your behalf in your athletics preparation and fitness endeavors.

And, it all starts RIGHT NOW!

As a competitive athlete, or just someone wanting the most out of your workouts, your potential is only as good as your ability to tap-into it. An area frequently misunderstood, or outright ignored, is the role of the neural aspect (central nervous system) to your muscles’ contraction and performance.

Accurate quality trumps defective quantity

You don’t have to make major changes in your current program in order to take advantage of this training principle. It’s as simple easy as the addition of a few specific NSD drills (NSD-Nervous System Development) towards the end of your dynamic warmup can get the job done with huge benefits to your overall progress and results. As is our standard at McConnell Athletics, accurate quality trumps defective quantity.

Simply put, proficiency of your neural development reveals the degree of signal from your brain to your muscles to fire and contract. Regardless of your training goals, your nervous system is a key player in the realization of your desired results.

For information on this application, please go to:
http://exercisesforinjuries.com/nsd-drills-with-vince-mcconnell/

Through faith–in strength & health,

Coach Vince

Note: Please feel free to share this blog, and your feedback is welcome

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Good or bad, reality is there is more information on training in these times than has ever been imagined in years and decades gone past. Considering that I trained my initial clients back in 1983, I have seen quite a lot of trends and fads come and go. With every new “best” system or method comes the obligatory b.s. to go along with some good, sound, and usable information. ‘Half-truths’ are the primary lure to get people’s attention but these are still fallacies, and this is where the unnecessary arguments start and the confusion begins.

The ever-increasing amount of blog pros, infomercial icons, YouTube experts, and Internet trainers over-saturating our field (with some pretty ridiculous, yet entertaining, stuff) has only served to add to the confusion with information overload. Like the saying, “Can’t see the forest for the trees”, it’s at point now where ‘you can’t see the principles for the systems’

“you can’t see the (training) principles for the systems”

Due to the constant demands of work with clients and athletes, I have taken a nearly-10-year hiatus from writing. This time away has allowed me to do a significant amount of reading and observe the direction our field is going in. While there have been some marked advancements in a few key areas such as assessments, soft tissue and joint health, and nutrition, for the most part, the subject of program design and application has taken a few leaps backwards. The root of this regression is the focus on catchy, hyped systems and the ignorance of foundational principles.

The Unique Perpetual Process of Learning as a Fitness Professional

Without a doubt, I am a dedicated advocate of continued education and learning, and having been in the world of professional performance and physique training for nearly 30 years I’ve come to realize that, especially at this stage in my career, much of this “learning” is not so much an issue of acquiring more information but a matter of sifting through the clutter and dusting off some tried and true gems from the proverbial storage bins. Being that my clientele includes both competitive athletes and general population, the topics of the “stored” information crosses many paths.

I can’t tell you how many times in the past several years I’ve seen what is referred to as some “new, functional, cutting edge, real-world, you-fill-in-the-blank” drill, technique, or method become highlighted as some intelligent, ground-breaking training solution when in reality it’s nothing more than an ignored component that got lost in the tidal wave of our field’s high percentage of attention-deficiency. In essence, the old becomes new again through a new coat of paint , and the forgotten becomes the new-found star via a sexy marketing campaign.

When student is ready…teacher re-appears

From the start of my career, I’ve been fortunate to have some honorable mentors. Many of these men are now well into their 70’s and have exemplified the longevity that every dedicated professional should aspire to. As well, all of these extremely knowledgable and accomplished men, without exception,  are still learning.

With one of these mentors, the not-close-to-70-yet Charles Staley, being in town at McConnell Athletics last week for a seminar and videotaping, it was an opportune time for me to do some reflection and ‘professional housecleaning’. Charles is well known for his “visionary”-like , if not controversial, teachings. If there’s a better way to describe Charles than saying he is a proponent of “the common sense approach to training” I can’t think of it. He has a way of getting you to not only question what is “generally accepted as fact”, but also has answers that fill in the void when a “false fact” has been exposed.

It’s really all quite amusing to Charles that he is considered one of the authorities in our field. He’s quick to humbly say, “I fear the day when people get this all figured out… because I’ll be out of a job”. The fact that Charles is a master at keeping the simple things…well…simple, in no way implies that he is not capable of throwing some heavy science at you as well.

Matter of fact, its science that is the very foundation of what Charles’ “simplicity” is based on. This brings me to the topic of this article: principles are all that really matter. And, coincidentally or not, one of Charles’ best contributions to the field of strength/conditioning and fitness, Escalating Density Training (EDT), is the ideal symbolic tool to use to address what I believe is the most important (read: ignored) lesson to be learned in our line of work, and can serve as a microcosm of sorts to life in general.

For those not familiar with EDT, it’s basically a “system” of progressive workload based on high-quality reps and fatigue management. In reality, EDT epitomizes what effective training is all about. The parameters (re: reps, sets, time) used in EDT are simply in place to make the best use of the principles the system is founded on. More on this in a moment.

‘If you base your self esteem, or validation as a fitness professional, on others agreeing with you, or being a “yes man”, your growth and progress are as good as dead, and the confirmation you seek you lose.’

To make clear, it’s an understatement to say Charles and I don’t fully agree on everything related to training. Matter of fact, there are several issues we appear to be on opposite sides. Ironically, it’s this fact that enhances the overall learning and growth process. It should never be a goal to be in total agreement with other coaches or trainers in order to  learn from them, or vice versa. If you base your self esteem, or validation as a fitness professional, on others agreeing with you, or being a “yes man”, growth and progress are as good as dead, and the confirmation you seek you lose.

A few examples of Charles’ and my personal training-application views will reveal how our seeming disagreements are actually a means for each of us progressing in our work: Charles sees little need for the regular presence “warm up”, stretching, kettlebells, sandbags, or single-leg training.

At McConnell Athletics our “warmup” sometimes looks like the actual workout, stretching is a regular part of most clients’ program, you’ll find kettlebell drills in most every program, and it’s rare you’ll see a workout sans single-leg training. However, I don’t implement mobility/activation drills, stretching, kettlebells, sandbags, or unilateral exercises for their own sake. They are simply “tools in the box” that I deliberately choose to use to best utilize basic training principles with my eyes on progress. The key point here is NOT the “disagreements”… as, obviously, there actually isn’t one!

The relevant issue is that our principles are congruent no matter the individual manner we are applying them. I fully understand why Charles has the position he does on what he does as does he with my work. For example, Charles sees no need for dedicated stretching due to him, and/or clients, not experiencing limitations in range-of motion for the particular tasks they perform. I apply stretching drills where they are needed but not for sake of some legalistic, pseudo-standardized law that says stretching is a must in every program. Charles and I are going in the same direction no matter the different “vehicles” or “mapped route” we may be using.

Before commencing a process of training, here’s two  ‘should-be-obvious-but-is-ignored’ facts: 1) Properly defining your general objectives and specific goals in training is necessary to the success of your efforts, 2) Designing an effective and efficient course of action to accomplish your objectives and goals is necessary

Once you’ve arrived at a general training objective, and some specific goals, your next duty is deciding on the aforementioned program or ‘course-of-action’. This program is best to be built on a “system” where you can regulate the needed workload and assess both your short-term and long-term progress. This all sounds relatively simple and rhetorical. However, ironically, this is typically where the problems begin.

Systems are excellent servants but horrible “masters”

When it comes to an effective training program, there are certain components that must exist in order for the program to produce the desired results. Each workout is performed as nothing more, or less, than a stimulus to cause a response for muscular, and systemic, progress. A ‘system’ of training can be highly effective at coordinating each workout as well as subsequent workouts. Systems have tremendous benefits in giving your training direction, clarity, organization, and compliance.

However, if a particular system is deficient of sound principles, it’s efficacy is benign and the only actual “benefit” to you would be helping you be consistent, and boosting your psyche into feeling as though you could be accomplishing something.

That being understood, the hidden common problem is when the system becomes the objective in itself. That’s like when one becomes “identified” with a particular diet without understanding the principles the diet is based on. The diet is then doomed to eventually fail.

Stop Out-Thinking  Your Progress

With Staley’s EDT, the apparent simplicity brings with it the potential for an abundance of unnecessary confusion. This system exemplifies sound principles and, appropriately, leaves plenty of room for individual application.  I’m certainly not saying that EDT is the best way for everyone to train each and every workout (though you would do well to keep all of its principles intact). I’m simply using the ‘down-to-basics’ Escalating Density Training as a microcosm of  our “state of the union” tendency to “out-think” our progress.

‘The failures, or problems, with the “system” originate when when one overanalyzes, or “out-thinks”, the system.’

EDT, like other proven systems, is based purely on sound, effective, proven principles. That’s ALL the system promises. The manner in which one applies these principles is a unique issue to each individual. The failures, or problems, with the “system” originate when when one overanalyzes, or “out-thinks”, the system. By over-analyzing the system, you’re paralyzing the principles.

Training, in any system, is the exact same way. As long as you keep the goal…the goal, and do not allow the system parameters to overtake the system principles, you will experience progress, and success, with the system you are using. Principles are all that truly matter. The manner in which they are applied, as proven for well over a century, are unique to the individual.

VM

Be sure to check out my audio lecture,  ‘The Role of a Personal Strength & Conditioning Coach’, at movementlectures.com

For more information on McConnell Athletics, go to McConnell Athletics

For more information on Charles Staley, go to his website at  Charles Staley

As I’ve mentioned previously, the purpose of this weekly page is to give you information you can use…NOW…on key topics of interest in the field of performance and physique training.

I will touch briefly on the “why?” ,and follow with information, and examples, of the “how to” part of the solution equation. There are plenty of reliable informational resources available on the “science” of what I present so I’m going to focus on what I specialize in– the applications of sound, and proven, training principles, techniques, and their many variations and combinations.

Now onto this week’s topic: One of the most often neglected aspects of an otherwise solid strength training program is the implementation of single-side, or unilateral lower body training (ULBT). Even with the more frequent coverage of the topic via training blogs and other articles on the Internet, there remains a lack of understanding of its value, and application in a large percentage of training programs, especially at the high school and collegiate levels.

In actuality, it can be argued that ULBT is more important than performing exercises with both legs at the same time (re bilateral). (For the contrarians: YES, I know there’s some definite benefit at certain stages to load the body in bilateral fashion as “part” of an optimal training program)

Most all sports, and their specific demands, are unilateral of the lower body, or alternating, in nature. When there is a significant ‘imbalance’ there is at least some degree of compromise. That known, in reality, there likely does not exist a perfectly-balanced pair of limbs on any individual. However, that fact is not justification for ignoring the benefits of striving for as much balance as can be attained.

The benefits of minimizing single leg strength differential include both injury-prevention and performance. There’s plenty of science to back up the issue of ‘bilateral deficit’. This is where the force produced by each leg individually, added together, surpasses what the force would be with both legs working together. No matter if training to increase speed, enhance agility, or heighten jumping ability, ULBT is an invaluable component to a training program for any athlete. And this does not even take into account the inestimable benefits regarding less compression of the spine, and the potential decrease of joint and connective tissue stress.

Beyond just plain old “traditional bias”, the typical rationale of forgoing ULBT exercises in favor of more traditional bilateral drills is: “it’s too time-consuming” or “we can’t use as much weight”. Translation: “I’m too lazy to teach the new exercises”, “I’m too impatient for my athletes to do 2 sets for every 1 they’d do otherwise”, or “my job is to get my athletes’ numbers up… lifting as heavy as possible and they can do more with 2 legs than with 1”.

Obviously there is a practical aspect to how much time is available for training but with unilateral ULBT being such a valuable modality in an overall training program, there needs to be some allowance for any extended time a unilateral exercise may take. In regards to the other “excuses”, I’ll refrain for now and leave that for an upcoming topic of the week.

Below I’m including several video clips demonstrating key variations of progression in ULBT. The first 2 drills are utilizing resistance bands that I prefer to start athletes with in developing key mechanics for the higher-load exercises to come.

Band Overhead Split Squat

This application helps identify, then resolve, weak links in the mechanical chain that would otherwise impair performance in other unilateral LBT drills. The integration of the hips and scapulae builds a foundation for all the higher loads to come.

Band Unilateral Glute/ Ham Deadlift

This drill assists in learning optimal hip hinge that is essential to optimal performance in all lower body training. The resistance is less where most people who have difficulty…have it: the bottom 1/3 of ROM. The resistance increases the remainder of the ROM making this drill an excellent “teaching tool”.

Rear-Foot-Elevated Split Squat

A now-popular exercise that is probably the most common of all of these drills listed. Single leg strength is the priority here as the drill lends itself to higher loading capabilities. Adding intensification techniques such as “1 1/4’s” make this a standard single-leg strength exercise worthy to be in any effective program.

Unilateral Good Morning-to-Reverse Lunge Hybrid

A posterior chain all-star. This exercise hybrid combines an optimal hip hinge with a hip-dominant (re neutral spine while leaning forward) lunge. Utilizing the ‘Ultimate Sandbag‘ in the Zercher position is optimal here due to the engagement of the core region, and thoracic extension, throughout. One of McConnell Athletics’ go-to lower body exercise combination.

Alternate Front Lunge w/KBs in Rack

Many of the benefits of the previous exercise with added emphasis on quad region as the lunge has you stepping forward into a deceleration for the quadriceps. Holding kettlebells (or sandbag) in the “rack” position engages the entire core region for stability throughout spine. Make certain to “make a footprint” with each rep to ensure proper muscular involvement and less demand on knee joint.

Sandbag/ Band Lateral Lunge contrasted w/ Lateral Bounding

A frontal plane combination that employs contrast of higher load with the Ultimate Sandbag with a less-loaded, yet more explosive, band drill which includes a “plyo effect”. Excellent combination for athletes whose sport has lateral, change-of-direction demands and for any rotational sport.

Even with the above demonstrations, this only scratches the surface of valid possibilities in single leg training. Give these exercise applications a legitimate trial and see for yourself the benefits to health, performance, and development for you and/or your athletes or clients. As always, your comments and questions are welcome. As well, any topic you’d like to see covered in future articles please shoot me an email at mcconnellathletics@gmail.com

And, another reminder to check out MOVEMENTLECTURES.COM where you can find my audio lecture The Role of a Personal Strength & Conditioning Coach

In health, performance, and physique–

VM

http://www.mcconnelltraining.com