Sunday, November 24, 2013

Why Derrick Rose will NEVER be healthy again

"They still don't get it."

So Derrick Rose suffered another knee injury Friday night which was later diagnosed as a torn medial meniscus, and social media blew up with shock and sadness and sympathy. And while basketball's Rome was set on fire, I sat quietly, looked at my television screen, and thought, "They still don't get it."

Derrick Rose has the potential to be one of the most unstoppable forces that basketball has ever known. Unfortunately, he will be relegated to a 30 for 30 special on ESPN years from now where a bunch of old farts will sit around and talk about how good he could have been if it wasn't for those "bad knees."

And it's the fault of the physical therapists, rehab specialists, and strength coaches.

Let's think about it rationally for a second. Derrick Rose has just come off of a two year hiatus due to a torn ACL. He plays for a few games and tears the medial meniscus in his other knee. And while people may say that the two injuries are unrelated, there is one glaring piece of evidence that suggests otherwise. Both incidents were non-contact injuries. Derrick Rose doesn't have an injury problem, he has a movement problem. And somehow this slipped by most of the people who were supposed to be taking care of him.

Physical therapy phenom Dr. Kelly Starrett (and many more competent PT's) frequently mentions that the vast majority of non-contact injuries are the direct result of poor movement quality. Not in the sense that he can't move; in fact Derrick Rose is arguably the most hyperathletic players in NBA history. But Derrick Rose clearly has a problem with moving well. It's one thing to walk outside and get hit by a truck, but when the most proprioceptively aware basketball player since Michael Jordan goes down without anyone touching him, you clearly have a big problem here. There is likely some sort of compensation, weakness, stiffness, or instability in his movement and that is what is getting him hurt. And as long as he still has those qualities, he will always be high risk for injury. Throw incredible speed, agility, and athleticism like he has on top of that dysfunction and you've got the injury riddled Derrick Rose.

The solution? Check his movement patterns via the Functional Movement Screen and the Selective Functional Movement Assessment. Let's see what his overhead deep squat and the other tests look like, and I have a sneaking suspicion that something will pop out that screams dysfunction.

So why is this on a fitness blog? Because it has extremely relevant application to those of us who are in the pursuit of fitness. Bottom line; if you are training on anything without paying any attention to your movement quality, you're setting yourself up for injury. Fitness isn't fitness if you can't take care of your body in the process. So stretch soft tissues. Mobilize joints. Improve stability and positioning. Spend time practicing good movement quality and reinforce that in your training or activities, and we can keep the limitations to your potential at a minimum.

"First move well, then move often." - Gray Cook

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Case Against the Plank

Alright, you functional trainers, come at me brahs!

Especially you buddy...

Fitness trends come and go, and somewhere in between they reach a white hot pinnacle of deified attention. 5 years ago, everyone was still doing crunches for the majority of their "core" training (don't even get me started). Today, the plank has become the sacred shrine of Project Beach Body fitness enthusiasts everywhere. Well you can consider me kicking down the doors of the Fitness Vatican and publicly setting Pope Plank II aflame as I boldly proclaim:

The plank is the most overhyped, overblown, and overrated exercise used in the gym today. Yeah I said it.

Don't get me wrong here. Like most exercises, planks most certainly have their place. It serves as an excellent exercise for beginners with no core strength whatsoever and people who have neuromuscular control issues. But if you have a 2 minute plank and you're trying to press on toward the goal of a 10 minute plank because that's what you saw on Pinterest, you're legitimately wasting your time.

We as human beings were made for movement. Just take a look at the growth and development of babies as they learn locomotion. They roll around a bit, then plank (basically just leaning on their hands), then battle crawl and eventually crawl with their legs too. Then come the big boy/girl moves; they learn to stand (which is essentially an upright plank to them if you've seen how much they wobble), but it doesn't stop there. They learn to walk and squat and push and pull and lunge and twist and jump, which are all dynamically core challenging exercises. So riddle me this: why should we waste so much time trying to develop a regression?

Okay, here's the breakdown: Static will almost always be a prelude to dynamic, and if the plank and standing stationary were the most advanced core positions, we would never survive (gotta move around to eat, right?). Planks serve no other purpose but to prepare you for movement. We were always meant to do something with the core stabilization that we earned and developed throughout our childhood.

But Jordan, what if I don't care about all that and just want some tightly firm, toned abs? If you still believe in myths like "toning" and "spot reduction", just sit tight. I've got a post coming soon that will address those terms. If you absolutely can't wait, look here and here. Hopefully that will hold you over until my post lays the Santa's-Not-Real caliber smackdown on your candy glutes.

Seasons beatings, everyone :)

So with "planks for sexy abs" relatively out of the way, why perform the exercise? A stronger core? Darling, you can plank yourself fifty shades of blue, but if I throw you on a football field the chances are that you're still getting put on your back by every one of those players. When it comes to functional movement, there is very little carryover to real life situations. Remember that your core can be whatever keeps you stable, but honestly, how often are you in the plank position in everyday life?

To sum it up, our obsession with the uberlong plank is us getting hung up on a stepping stone, and the plank is a pretty sucky indicator of true overall core strength. The solution? Get holistically stronger. Lift heavy weights. Try loaded carries. Play with kettlebells. Learn bodyweight gymnastics. Almost any dynamic movement that you do is going to tax your core. But for the love of all that is fit please don't stay still!

The prosecution rests. Oh, and that goes for you too, you "3 stability ball with your other leg in a TRX with 4 45lb plates on your back while balancing an apple on your head" plankers.

The prosecution rests again.

Monday, June 3, 2013

5 Ways to Avoid Plateaus and Reach Your Fitness Goals

Imagine what a few weeks can do!
Many times when I am discussing goals with clients (or everyone else who hears that I'm a personal trainer and decides to tell me their fitness life story), I tend to hear very general terms being used to describe success. Let's cram it all into one so I don't get so annoyed, shall we?

"Well, I want to lose some fat and get fit."
"How do I cut out all the bad foods and eat healthy?"
"I want to get in better shape and get stronger."

I instantly want to throw them in front of the freight train of specificity. Do you know how much fat you want to lose? Do you know how much fat you currently have on you? What is being fit to you? What are "bad foods"? What is eating "healthy?" To steal a line from my boss, what kind of shape do you want to get in? Square? Circle? Triangle?

Somewhere along the journey of the pursuit of health and fitness, most of us have become victims of generalized goals. That, my friends, can be a very bad thing. If your ultimate goal is some ambiguous concept, how will you ever know how close you are to achieving it? Playing it by ear only goes so far until you're stuck in a puddle of uncertainty. Your workouts become just that - workouts, whimsically formed (or formed for you if you take an exercise class) because you feel extra fat that day or had that extra glass of wine over the weekend.

Goals should be S.M.A.R.T.; Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Realistic. Timely. For the purpose of this post, we'll focus on the first two. Knowing exactly what you are shooting for prevents you from missing the mark every time. Here are some tips to steer you in the right direction:

Write it down on paper. Scribble down what fitness and health mean to you. How do you want to feel? What are you going to do with this health? Who are you doing it for? What's your motivation (very important for when motivation is escaping you)?

Get a visual.
I tell all of my personal training clients who want to change their body composition to find a picture of what they would look like if failure was not an option, print it off and bring it to me. It allows them to dream, it gives me an idea of what exactly it is they want, but most importantly it puts something tangible in front of them. They now have a visual target that they can work towards. Use Pinterest and the like to build your own motivational board.

Establish a baseline. If it's fat loss, get circumference measurements and your bodyfat taken. If it's strength, find your 1 or 3 or 5 rep max of an exercise. If it's mobility, use the FMS as a standard for your movement quality improvements. Time your workouts so you can beat them later. No matter what your goals are, you need a self-imposed standard by which you can judge your success.

Make incremental checkups. No brainer, but it's insane how many people don't check to see how well they're doing. Take progress pictures every few weeks. Do yourself a favor and get retested in all of the aforementioned, according to your goals. Not only can it provide inherent motivation by seeing yourself get closer to your goals, it can also let you know if something is wrong, and that allows you to make necessary adjustments.

Tell somebody about it. Be careful that you don't tell someone who will shoot your goals down, but it's important to establish accountability. That individual (or group) should be trustworthy, positive, blunt, and able to verbally ream you out should you contemplate giving up. Who knows, that person might even become your workout partner!

The best part about stetting goals is that they're yours. YOU get to define them however the heck you please; just make sure that you actually have something to aim at. Good luck!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Beauty & the Beast: Why Women Should Lift Weights to Become Both

"I don't really train with weights because I don't want to get bulky..."

I can't tell you how many times I've heard some form of this, and it frustrates me to no end that I'm still hearing this in 2013 (Happy New Year by the way). Unfortunately, many women have been convinced that the female body plus heavy weights will yield results like:

Mom, is that you? Jk lol this woman can't have children.

Side note: As big as she is, look how relatively small she is compared to the Governator, who doesn't really look all that superhuman anymore;

Let me clear the air on this perception right now before we go any further. Every one of those women bodybuilders is on drugs to make them look that way. Every. Single. One. And you can pretty easily tell the ones who aren't pumping themselves with juice because they look, well, kinda like this;

 By the way, this is what she looks like in street clothes. HYOOGE, huh?
Women generally do not possess the testosterone necessary to get that big. Heck, most men don't even have that quantity of testosterone! Compare the first two pictures to a natural female bodybuilder, and keep in mind that Blondie's diet was most likely spot on for over 3 months a la none of us.
 I know what you're thinking, "He hasn't seen me though. I blow up whenever I lift too heavy." I respectfully disagree, and contend with a combination of two things: 

1. You're not bulky, you're just not used to not being scrawny anymore or
2. You eat like a horse and you don't want to admit it.
Usually the answer is a combination of the two. I've said before in this blog that diet controls mass more than training does, whether that mass is fat or muscle. Fortunately enough for women, even that has its limits when it comes to eating too much. If anything, you may look thick, but certainly not bulky.

There are numerous health benefits from weight training, and wayyy too much research to put in a blog post. I'll try to keep these simple
1. Stronger bones- osteoporosis and osteoarthritis prevention and management even after you get it
2. Lower body fat- more muscle=higher metabolism=more fat burning around the clock
3. Better posture- free weights promote core strength which results in...
4. Reduced injuries!
5. Disease prevention- reduces risk of heart disease. Who's Cardio again?
6. Better overall mental health- Endorphins released by training relieve stress and long-term weight training breeds self-confidence, even fighting depression better than sitting on a couch and emotionally imploding in front of a stranger. Whodathunkit?!

Ultimately,  women who weight train live longer, healthier lives. Think about it; less physical and emotional stress, a stronger heart, fewer injuries, higher self-esteem, and a smoking hot bod? Sounds like a pretty good life to me! So pick up some iron and get that body and lifestyle you wanted!

 P.S. I know the weight room can be intimidating and the stigma that all men are pigs can potentially psyche you out from going in, so find yourself a good gym to soak up knowledge and experience. A good gym is going to have people (guys included) who are more than willing to help you learn exercises and routines without staring at your lady bits during you Romanian Deadlift set. Peace.