Category Archives: Continuing Education & Product Reviews

Product Review: Dan Baker – High Powered Performance Video

I recently had the pleasure of going through Dan Baker’s High Powered Performance Videos.

This series is a 7 video set of a workshop Dan Baker put on in the UK. For those that don’t know, Dan Baker is a PhD and strength coach, who served as the Director of Strength and Conditioning for the Brisbane Broncos Rugby Club for just under 20 years.

I was excited to check this video set out, as Dan Baker has published a lot of great strength and conditioning research and articles around power training, periodization, and energy system training. I have read much of his work over the years and one of the things I admire the most about Dan is that he is a strength coach who honors a scientific approach. He isn’t a scientist who sits in a lab and pontificates about what people in the field should be doing. He is a doer himself, not only serving as a strength coach at the highest level but also competing as a powerlifter, who takes a scientific approach to developing his programs – always testing, always objectifying, and always trying to understand how to do things better.

The video set is excellent. The first video goes into the long term athletic development approach Dan set up at the Brisbane Broncos. Unlike sports in America, where players get to the highest level by playing through high school and college, with different teams, the athletes in the National Rugby League are part of a club and they work through the ranks of that club. As they develop it is ultimately determined whether or not they will make it to the highest level team. This process allows the strength coach to take a multi-year approach to developing strength and fitness. Dan lays out his plan and explains how they move athletes through the process, the ways they test the athletes, and the strength markers that athletes need to hit in order to transition into the next stage.

Other videos in the collection go into topics such as:

> Periodization
> Power training with bands, chains, and lifting complexes
> Program design
> Energy system development (particularly around Max Aerobic Speed utilization in the training process)

Dan shows a lot of video footage of his athletes and shows their actual training programs from year to year. He talks about what they did, why they did it, what results it produced, what errors he made, and what changes were made each year to ensure that the athletes were constantly improving. Dan shows and discusses data on his athletes dating back to 1995 and talks about how guys developed and the sort of capacities the athletes at the highest level were able to attain.

I recommend the High Powered Performance Video Set to any strength coach in the field as Dan clearly discusses how he blends the science and the practical in order to take an objective approach to establishing a high level strength and conditioning program.

Book Review: The Science of Running by Steve Magness

I have been traveling a ton lately and for me that means long plane rides and lots of time to read. One book I just finished reading is Steve Magness’ “The Science of Running: How to find your limit and train to maximize your performance”. Steve is a really knowledgeable coach, currently the Head Cross Country Coach at the University of Houston, who writes one of the blogs I frequent on a regular basis, Science of Running.  Seriously, if you haven’t checked out Steve’s blog you need to head over and do so. It has some fantastic content regarding running and physiology.

I’ll start by saying that the book is one of the best books I have read on the topic of distance running. Most distance running books tend to gloss over key details and get right into the cookie cutter approach of the training template that the author has put together. This book is very different. Steve spends a significant number of chapters going into the scientific details of his approach to training runners. The first thirteen chapters are heavily focused on scientific information and coaches of all sports (not just running) would benefit from reading through the first section of this book as the information is helpful for training athletes in various sports.

The second half of the book is dedicated to training and takes the reader through everything they need to know about setting up their own training program to address their needs as a runner. For those who are not coaches, but rather recreational runners looking to improve their performance, the second half of the book is extremely beneficial and user friendly (even if you gloss over all the scientific stuff in the first part of the book which is basically there to answer the question of “Why you are doing certain things in your program”).

Aside from his obvious love of reading research what I like most about how Steve approaches things is that he is a coach first. Steve talks about many of the limitations of applying strictly researched methods to the real world and discusses how he uses the research he reads to build to his model. The other thing that stands out to me about this book is that it is not a cookie cutter training program. Most running books are set up to provide the reader with a stock 3K, 5K, 10K, 1/2 Marathon, and Marathon program. Steve discusses why this is a poor approach and talks significantly about classifying runners based on fiber types, performance, and the race they are training for. Writing programs is not as simple as just filling in a template. While it may be the most time efficient approach (filling in a template is much faster than actually looking at test results, asking questions about the individual you are programming for, and structuring something that is specific to them) I agree with Steve 100% that there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration when writing a training program and it is not a simple task as many make it out to be (this may be a blog post for another time). The second half of the book goes over everything you need to know to write your own training program – testing/evaluation, training methods, periodization/planning, strength training, and even the biomechanics of running.

I can’t recommend this book enough for coaches of all sports, not just distance running. The information in this book will get coaches thinking and perhaps asking more questions of themselves when it comes time to write training programs for their athletes. For $20 you can’t go wrong with The Science of Running.

Conference Review: Assessing Movement with Stuart McGill and Gray Cook

Yesterday I made the 2 hour trip from Portland down to Stanford University for Assessing Movement: A Contrast in Approaches & Future Directions. The course was set up to be a dialogue and debate between Dr. Stuart McGill and Gray Cook. The event was put on by Craig Liebenson with support from the Stanford Sports Medicine Department. Laree Draper of On Target Publications was there to capture the event for a DVD release at a later date.

Initial Impressions

I have to first thank Dr. Liebenson for putting on the event. It was well run and structured. Also, thanks to Laree Draper for being there to capture it. Laree has done a great job of putting out wonderful educational resources for the profession over the past 4 years or so.

I didn’t know what to expect heading down there. I know these are two passionate individuals, both of whom I have gotten the opportunity to learn a lot from for a number of years, and, based on many of the (foolish) comments on facebook (Ex., “Who won?” or “Did McGill steam roll Gray?” or “Was it a battle?”) I believe this topic is one that people get very emotional about. Truth be told I thought it may turn into a total train wreck with people getting upset, getting loud and uncomfortable, and nothing getting accomplished (IE, no real learning taking place). I was pleasantly surprised. I found both of the presenters to be very complimentary of one another, showing a lot of respect to each other, and maintaining healthy discussion rather than resorting to personal attacks or comments that were not going to lead to further discussion or better learning for the audience.

The Lectures

The morning started out with both speakers giving two lectures in a “you go, I go” type format.

Gray was up first and he presented the basis of the Functional Movement Screen and discussed why we screen, what the FMS is, what it isn’t, and what things the test may be telling you in order to provide you with information to draw up your exercise road map.

Dr. McGill was up next and he presented his review/critique of much of the literature conducted on the FMS. He was very thorough in reading through the literature and I appreciate the time he put into pouring over the research. Throughout this lecture Dr. McGill presented his logic behind what a movement screen looks like to him and some of the issues he takes with the FMS and some of the things he may do differently.  This presentation set up Dr. McGill’s next presentation nicely.

Gray followed up with a short discussion about some directions for the future and addressing some of Dr. McGill’s comments. The nice thing about Gray’s talk was that he got up there and acknowledged that the screen may not be perfect but it may be the best thing we have available to a practitioner “at this time”. Gray isn’t so hell bent on his model that he believes it is the only thing you need to do or that it is perfect. He openly said, “As soon as there is something that we believe is better we will embrace it. Whether it comes from our group or another group of professionals.”

Dr. McGill finished the morning with a talk on “Developing the Ideal Screen/Assessment”. As I said above, this talk expanded on Dr. McGill’s first talk and took his logic and applied it to an approach which is based on understanding the needs/demands of the athlete and coming up with tests that evaluate the athlete in those needs/demands. One of Dr. McGill’s favorite quotes regarding movement is, “Just because an athlete can does not mean they will”. In a nutshell, Dr. McGill is saying that just because they can move well on an FMS does not mean they will move well when placed under load or some sort of metabolic demand. Dr. McGill spends a lot of time with his clients (his assessments are 3hrs long) so that he can poke, prod and push the individual to see where/when they “break”.

Following lunch each presenter was then given the opportunity to do a practical session in front of the crowd to further explain their approach. Gray started and he FMS’d a gentleman from the crowd revealing that the guy had adequate movement and met the baseline criteria of the FMS. Dr. McGill followed with a series of tests that would be specific to sport or task. Dr. McGill took the same guy and had him perform an arm over arm rope pull, similar to something a firefighter might do in training, to evaluate the gentleman’s potential for tolerating load in a rather metabolic situation. Dr. McGill also pulled other people out from the crowd and showed some table tests for the hips, squatting and deadlifting patterns, and a series of box jumps looking at how someone performs the movement, creates power, and creates relaxation.

The day ended with a whole bunch of Q&A from the audience and some closing remarks from both parties.

Some Of My Thoughts

Most people end up agreeing on more things than they disagree on and this was the case on Saturday. There was a lot of agreement between the two presenters and during the Q&A, following Gray’s answer, Dr. McGill would often start his answer off by saying, “I can’t disagree with anything the man said.” (that sentence works really well if you read it in a deep Canadian accent). While there are some disagreements that these two guys have they actually agree on  a lot of things and I believe that both of their approaches have a place in a comprehensive process (more on that in a bit). The cool thing about the areas that they disagree on is that they are both willing to keep pushing the envelope to try and make it better. Both of them agree that movement screening is essential and they both want to do the best they can for their athletes and the general public.

During Dr. McGill’s talk I found myself nodding along and agreeing with much of what he was saying. In fact, what he was proposing is something that I feel every great strength coach SHOULD be doing – understand the bioenergetic and biomechanical demands of your athletes and test those demands to look for limiting factors that may be holding the athlete back from higher performance. Of course this makes testing difficult because that means you may have to choose different tests for different athletes (and maybe even different tests for athletes in the same sport who play different positions!). It isn’t as algorithmic as people would like it to be. I know people want the easy answer to things but, as Dr. McGill stated many times in his answers during the Q&A, “It depends”. And it does! It always depends! That being said, I believe there is a difference between general screening for risk and specific screening for sport. Which leads me to my question…

My Question

I got up and asked a question during the day (in fact, I was the last question of the day, so thanks for Dr. Liebenson for letting me get it in). My question was directed to Dr. McGill regarding his logic and it went something like this:

“Earlier in the day you provided us with a presentation of your logic around movement screening. I found myself nodding along and agreeing with most of what you said as these are things a great strength coach should be doing anyway – understanding the sport and testing the sport. However, in my logic, I draw a line between testing general movement capacity with a screen of simple body weight movements and testing capacity where we are placing someone under physiological or metabolic load to evaluate when or where they break down. During the practical portion today Gray screened a gentleman that we found to have reasonable movement competency. You then placed this same guy under metabolic load with the arm over arm rope pull and found his form broke down after about 15 seconds, indicating that he either doesn’t understand the technique of the activity or he lacks strength or fitness. In my mind the FMS did what it was supposed to do and your screen did what it was supposed to do. One told us that they guy had adequate movement so we didn’t need to worry about a movement fix and the other told us that he lacked technical ability or strength and fitness. Thus, we could conclude that movement wasn’t a problem but we need to provide this individual with a strength/fitness/technical correction instead. Whether we have 3 hours or 1 hour to assess a client, 10 minutes is a drop in the bucket. Do you ever see these two systems living under the same roof?”

Dr. McGill paused and thought about the question for a second or two and then answered that, “It really just depends. It depends on the situation, the athlete, and the scenario.”

My Own Answer

I believe it doesn’t depend. To me, in my logic, the answer is actually simple. If you have pain doing a basic movement then I don’t need to test you under a metabolic challenge because you need medical intervention and medical screening. If you can’t do the movement with your own body weight then I don’t need to place you under some sort of load or strain to see when you will break down – you already broke down with your own body weight! This is the same discussion I have had with some Crossfit folks in the past:

Them: “The person can do the FMS well but then look like crap when I put a bar in their hand have them overhead squat with 95lbs.”

Me: “The FMS told you that they were allowed to do the overhead squat. It did its job. If they can’t squat with 95lbs overhead then the problem is one of strength or fitness. Train them to perform the lift.”

The application of the FMS is an easy one (in my opinion) and can be represented by this decision tree:

Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 3.05.07 PM

I think a lot of times people make this more complicated than it is or they don’t fully understand the message and they misrepresent FMS, turning it isn’t some sort of soft “pseudo-physical therapy” system where people don’t really train – they just do “corrective exercise”. As I have said before in previous blog posts, the FMS can help you with the exercise road map and, at times, tell you what not to do, but it can also be very powerful at telling you what you can do and what you can really work at. When you find those things that you can attack in the program, ATTACK THEM! Get after it. Train hard. Get stronger. Get more fit. Being strong, being fit, and being in shape are just as much “corrective” as moving well. I think some of the issues that people take with the FMS is that they don’t really have a system of how to use it with the training programs they write and they think of it more as a “limiter” to what they do than a powerful tool to help enhance what they do.

I agree with both Gray and Dr. McGill. Rather than focus on the differences between their two messages I embrace them. I believe that we should screen for general/basic movement competency to ensure the individual doesn’t have pain when performing a body weight task and to ensure they can even perform the task with their own body weight in the first place! I also believe that we should be testing individuals under metabolic challenges and not just be focused on the numbers of their output (how much, how high, how fast) but also watching their movement to understand what their strategy is for dealing with load in a fatigued state. Both of these approaches attack different parts of the paradigm and answer different questions about the athlete. They are both necessary. If they weren’t, then I wouldn’t have both “movement” and “fitness” as two of the three key pieces in my Physiological Buffer Zone training philosophy:

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 7.34.38 AM

 Movement is life! If we stop moving we die. I believe Gray said it best, “Move well, then move often.”

If there is one thing that people take away from Saturday’s event (or the DVD when it comes out) it should be that we need a comprehensive evaluation process that starts general and then digs deeper into the specifics, based on athlete/client’s needs. No one ever said the FMS provided all the answers. In fact, if you go back and read Gray’s first book, Athletic Body in Balance, there are chapters in there on strength and power testing and on training endurance capacity. If you go back and even read the chapter Gray wrote in Bill Foran’s High Performance Sports Conditioning Book, the FMS served as one chapter of many in the assessment of the athlete. In fact, the FMS was the broad/general assessment and then each chapter was written by a different coach who specializes each sports (soccer, baseball, football, endurance running, etc). Each sport had its own unique set of tests used to evaluate different physiological capacities necessary for success in that sport. That isn’t much different from what Dr. McGill is proposing with his movement screen approach, which is asking us to put the person under load and see what happens.

Both approaches are necessary and, in my mind, they both live under the same roof.

A Week At Omegawave Headquarters

This past week I had the pleasure of spending time at the Omegawave Headquarters in Helsinki, Finland.

The Omegawave system has been around for a number of years and recently, with the addition of a mobile version for personal use, it has gained more popularity. I have been using the Omegawave system for well over a year now and made the trip to their headquarters with two other colleagues in order to gain better understanding of the system, ask questions about how the system works, and gain a full appreciation for where the Omegawave system fits into the overall training approach.

The week was full of great content and we spent most of the time discussing Omegawave with the VP of Research, Val Nasedkin; Senior Research Scientist, Romin Fomin; and,  North American Director of Education, Chris Frankel. The guys did a great job presenting the material and, rather than just lecturing at as for several days, they kept the room interactive and allowed us to question everything and discuss various approaches. I believe that I walked out of this past week a better coach with a greater understanding of what many of the parameters and indexes in the Omegwave system are telling me. Additionally, I have a better appreciation for what the Omegawave is testing and how it is calculated because, to be honest, going into the week I had a ton of questions and uncertainties about how the system works.

The Omegwave Approach

Most people consider the Omegawave to be only a monitoring system (which is how I thought of it as well). The system is more than that though. While it can be used to monitor the athlete, when applied correctly, it offers the coach the ability to adjust training based on the individual athlete’s needs based on how they are adapting to the training stresses applied to them. Rather than thinking of Omegawave as a monitoring tool think of it as an entire training approach. Instead of looking at just one single physiological parameter (for example, HRV) Omegawave looks at multiple parameters (Ex., DC Potential, Amplitude Frequency Analysis of ECG, neuromusclar, sensorimotor, etc) and uses various algorithms to provide the coach with a comprehensive report of the athlete.

The Omegawave approach to managing the training process is based on the following equation:

Genetics + Athlete + Training = Result

Most coaches focus solely on the result. They take the athlete, they apply training stresses, and they evaluate whether or not the athlete is improving. Where this approach fails is when the coach does not take into consideration the physiological cost of obtaining that end result. Of course the athlete can get stronger, more powerful, more fit, but at what cost? If the training load is inappropriate it may very well lead to a positive improvement in the athlete’s fitness but may be more damaging in the long run leading to an athlete who produces inconsistent results and breaks down, often modulating between successful competition outcomes to unsuccessful competition outcomes, breakdown, and/or injury.

The Omegawave approach, as indicated by Nasedkin, is focused on the final three pieces of the equation (since we can’t really change genetics) with the emphasis being on the athlete themselves. Thus, rather than just looking at the result of training we now look at how the athlete tolerates the training session and make adjustments from there, as needed, to ensure that the athlete produces steady results over a longer period of time, allowing them to maintain a higher level of daily readiness and produce more consistent results with less fluctuations in performance and less chance of injury.

Some Of My Thoughts And Fitting Omegawave Into The System

Over the past year, one of the things that I was hung up a lot about with the Omegawave system was the terminology in the system with regard to many of the parameters the system is reporting on. Coming out of this weekend I see that maybe a lot of stuff is getting lost in translation as once I got clearer explanations on how to look at some of the parameters and what they are reflecting (rather than what I thought they were reporting on based on their verbiage) I am a lot more comfortable with the system and now understand why I would see certain things with different athletes in training and didn’t really know how to interpret the findings the Omegawave was telling me. I think one of the goals of Omegawave going forward is to provide a lot of eduction to the end user which will certainly clear up a lot of confusion for those in the field and allow coaches to have a greater understanding on the system and their own training approach.

The idea of putting the athlete at the center of the training process (rather than only looking at the result of training) is an approach I have taken for a long time and something I consider to be very important. When evaluating how an athlete is adapting to training there are two key things to consider:

  • External Training Loads
  • Internal Training Loads

External training loads reflect what we do to the athlete as coaches and include things such as training loads, training volume, GPS, power outputs (bar speed, jump height, etc), temperature, altitude, etc.

Internal training loads reflect how the athletes’ respond to what we did in the training session and include things such as session RPE, daily readiness questionnaires, HR, HRV, etc.

The Omegawave can be used to provide information in both evaluation areas. Some of the Omegawave tests, such as HRV, DC Potential, and Amplitude Frequency Analysis of ECG, would fall under the Internal Training Load category as we are gaining an understanding of how the athlete has adapted to the previous training session, while things like the jump testing, sensorimotor testing, and Power Work Capacity Test, may fall under the External Training Load category as we are applying a training stress and looking at the result/outcome. In this way, the Omegawave provides a very comprehensive look at the athlete and what Val referred to as a “macro-view” of the individual.

The macro-view concept of the athlete is a critical one as you want to have a clear picture of the individual you are dealing with. The Omegawave will fit nicely into my training approach and methodology going forward as it provides critical information to react to within the context of a holistic training process. For those that have been reading my blog or seen me lectures over the past 3 or 4 years you would be familiar with my training philosophy which is centered around what I refer to as the “Physiological Buffer Zone” (For information on this concept you can read more HERE, HERE, and in THIS aduio lecture I did for sportsrehabexpert.com).

The physiological buffer zone is basically the area between physical capacity and injury or breakdown. Some athletes tolerate training well, can training frequently, and can compete often before ever approaching the line of breakdown (large physiological buffer zone) while others tend to always be walking that fine line and end up breaking down even with a minimal amount of training (small physiological buffer zone).

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The Physiological Buffer Zone is focused on three key parameters:

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Within each of those parameters we have tests to evaluate the athlete. These tests are carried out at the start of a training program – I don’t like to prescribe an exercise without knowing something about your movement, I don’t like to prescribe training methods without knowing something about your fitness (how can I choose training methods that target a specific physiological goal without knowing where you are at and where you are trying to get to?), and I don’t like to  prescribe a training program without knowing about your ability to tolerate and resist the training stress and adapt adequately to the training sessions. The Omegawave fits nicely within this system and now that I have a better understanding of the parameters within the Omegawave it offers me a new way to look at the stress and fitness components within my physiological buffer zone concept (the movement piece is evaluated with the FMS which, coincidentally serves to provide us with a “macro-view” of the individuals movement which we can then dig deeper if need be should something come up). The Omegawave will compliment and add to all of the other assessments we are using to evaluate external and internal training loads to provide us with greater information on the athlete and better decision making going forward.

Conclusion

No matter what your training approach/methodology is you should be evaluating the athlete to gain a better understanding of how they are tolerating the training stress you apply to them. Gone are the days of very strict and rigid periodization schemes. Each athlete is an individual and each athlete will respond to training in a different way. It is important for the coach to take this into consideration and provide the athlete with the right training stimulus, at the right time, and in the right sequence during the training week – Give The Body What It Needs. After this past week I believe the Omegawave is a nice piece to have within the framework of your entire systematic approach. It shouldn’t replace what you are doing but it should compliment it, augment it, and help make it more directed and focused. Thanks to Val, Romin, and Chris for their time. Hopefully other coaches will soon get the opportunity to review the system as we did.

Sports Rehab to Sports Performance Teleseminar 2014

I’m excited to be a part of the 2014 Sports Rehab to Sports Performance Teleseminar, along with many of the professionals I most admire and appreciate in this field.

Now in its sixth year, it promises to be the best one yet! It kicks off on Tuesday, January 28, bringing you one interview per week for 10 weeks. Listen and learn from some of the best clinicians, coaches, and trainers in the world–and registration is FREE!

Here’s the line-up:

Ron Hruska - PRI philosophy, goals, and teaching/training the squat pattern

Val Nasedkin - Omegawave technology and the sciences of recovery and readiness

Andreo Spina - Functional Anatomy Seminars, Functional Range Conditioning, BioFlow Anatomy, and more

Mark Comerford - Kinetic Control system, understanding the biomechanics of normal and abnormal function, and motor control retraining of uncontrolled movement

Phil Plisky - Injury prediction and prevention, the Y Balance Test, and when to return to play?

Linda Joy Lee - the Thoracic Rings Approach and the Integrated Systems Model, finding the meaningful task and primary driver

Gray Cook - the history of the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), research and injury prediction, and developing effective training programs

Kyle Kiesel - the evolution of the Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA), and the importance of a movement model to guide assessment and treatment.

Charlie Weingroff, Patrick Ward, and Nick Winkelman - Strength and Conditioning Roundtable: Advances in training and performance.

Kevin Wilk - Shoulder evaluation and treatment strategies, dynamic stabilization for the shoulder, and what does the research and clinical experience say about treating scapular dyskinesis and GIRD.

Don’t miss this opportunity. Once you register,  you’ll get an email with all the details.

Happy learning!