Do you ever wonder where local, or for that matter, worldwide strength & fitness trends are taking us? Does genuine innovation truly exist? And when it presents, is it recognised and embraced? Or do we still prefer the convenient options, and cling to old standards? As a long-time dedicated Fitness Professional, one who has lived the “Fitness Industry” and seen trends come and go, and then come again, these are the burning questions confronting us today. Of some of the recently recognised advancements, most have turned out to be passing fads ("Slide" training for example), and in many instances are a "re-jigging" of what has been tried before. The mountain climber’s exercise is one of these. Once upon a time, during the "fitness revolution" of the late 1970's early 1980's, they were known as single-leg treads. Even today's "HIIT" classes, are simply a re-branding of the common gym run circuit classes of the same era. Whilst alarmingly, many of the most inspiring, relevant and beneficial strength, fitness and range/motion techniques like Yoga and Pilates, are even now not included within the context of everyday gym programming, even though they have been employed with overwhelming success for a great number of years, and as such remain on the periphery of accepted mainstream practices.
Similarly, the Bodii system has been forged on alternative strength & fitness training principles, which deliberately oppose the traditional obsessions with support and stability, so as to better deliver unique strength, fitness, balance and range/motion outcomes. Cutting edge training advancements focused on graduated “progressive adaptations”, which are derived from strategic applications of load, based around thoughtful adjustments to the participant’s posture and position, through constant variations to included instability. Not, as is the case in traditional strength training, where the singular determinant to improvement is increases in applied weight. Often ill-considered increases at that. And as logic will tell you, eventually something has to give, and injuries will and do occur.
Modern strength training attitudes can only compound this very serious issue. A compulsion to lift more and more resistance, and to "smash-out" PBs has become the manic norm. A movement which has developed around the so-called "big three" power lifts of bench press, squats and deadlifts, that has now become the in-thing. A tendency, this presenter believes, brought about by a decided lack of innovation in an industry crying out for something genuinely new, but which at the same time is somewhat sceptical that anything new is even possible. After all, as a huge percentage of naïve fitness professionals would have you believe, most likely because they believe it themselves, what else can possibly be out there waiting to be discovered? Unfortunately, the old adage of “you don’t know, what you don’t know” is very much in play in this situation.
The ascendancy of the “big-three” lifts is in reality a "bit odd", as even in traditional circles, powerlifting itself was once upon a time on the periphery of standard practice, and was only followed by a select group of strength, 1RM fanatics. A group which often included dominant personalities, who over the years, have acquired higher profiles, enabling them to exert some influence over the direction strength & fitness would follow. And is not a focus necessarily based on sound industry progression and practice. Consequently, this about face is quite possibly the reason why the power lifts gained their impetus towards industry saturation. All recognised commercial strength training facilities will currently have an area devoted to the 3 lifts, amongst other popular current movements (sled push, box jumps) and are most often referred to as the “Functional Training Zone”.
Lifts labelled as "functional", a conclusion based on the effects they are reputed to have on the core and balance/stability outcomes, but which on closer scrutiny simply don't stack-up. As indicated in the immediately preceding blog on this site entitled “Core Strength & the Phases of Engagement”, the core can be subjected to differing levels of inclusion/activation, which in turn elicit varying outcome possibilities. Therefore, just because the core is in acquired mode, as it is at a minimum in each and every move we make, doesn’t mean that it is going through a strengthening process, and that the core is gaining real strength benefits. This can be likened to sitting down to a meal, where just because I am using my upper body muscles to cut up the food and deliver it to my mouth, doesn’t mean these upper body muscles are actually increasing in strength. They are in “acquired” mode. A situation which is identical to the role the core plays in the so-called big 3 lifts. Furthermore, the degrees of functionality can be best assessed by diligently employing the following criteria:
So, let’s now examine each of the lifts themselves:
WELL AND TRULY BEYOND THE LIMITED EXTENTS TO WHICH IT IS CURRENTLY PRACTICED!
Mainstream core training techniques do not differentiate between the demands placed on the core relative to the activity or sport being undertaken. To date there has been no general discussion regarding the phases of engagement to which the core may be subjected. It is accepted traditional core engagement practice, that no matter the activity or sport, Transverse abdominis can only be engaged at a singularly co-contracted level.
On the basis of a physiological preference for functional adaptations in strength, rather than any non-functional increases in mass, the Incidental/Deliberate Inclusion Cycle, originally offered in Program I, clearly illustrates this to NOT be the case. What we are about to explore are the long-term advantages arising from consideration of the distinct relative depths to which the core is compelled to engage throughout the full range of general movement and sporting possibilities.
The following phases of engagement will reveal, when it comes to participating in activities and sports where contact, impact and volume intensities differ, core engagement depths will also differ. It is neither appropriate nor relevant for athletes involved in high contact and high impact, and/or high repetition and high volume sports, to train their core employing the same principles as individuals not involved in either high risk or explosive athletic pursuits.
Is it reasonable, or even logical, to expect a rodeo rider, a rugby player or an Australian
rules footballer to develop their core using the same methods as a golfer, tennis player or cricketer?
1. The Acquired Core.
Acquired Core involvement can be seen in those daily routine and sporting activities where the core is involved, but because it is so routine and incidental, there is neither an awareness of the core, nor the want for its conscious inclusion. Any incidentally occurring physiological acquisition can be compared with the most basic automatic characteristics of breathing. It is not something demanding constant attention, as it can be controlled by automatic centres in the brain, and like the core, it can be deliberately regulated, even though it is normally a process which continues regardless of any thought. Fittingly, for this layperson's comparison, it is right and proper to describe the core as having similar crucially important automatic functions, where the core initiates movement, while breathing sustains movement. Consequently, if no appreciation is given to the development of core strength, or equally on improving breathing efficiency, acquired phases of both functions will deteriorate.
Moreover, if we concede most individuals have some concept of the core and its role in specific movement, they will have no understanding of the core's vital role in general movement. A common deficiency preventing the majority of individuals from knowing how to channel existing core strength to best advantage, and is possibly the most basic cause of localised fatigue and resultant pain in recurring functional activity and exercise situations. If there were a healthier respect for the principles of core involvement, and therefore the processes of core engagement, such issues as back pain would no longer instil the community with the same prevailing attitudes of avoidance and paranoia.
Everyday instances of when the core is acquired:
a) Sitting, standing - however low in intensity these positions may seem to be, it does explain how postural fatigue and back pain can set in when these so-called relaxed states are undertaken, and no consideration is given to even the simplest display of core & curve inclusion.
b) Walking/cycling, either for functional/recreational/exercise oriented motives.
c) Picking up, carrying, and putting down items of moderate size and weight, again requiring no special inclusion focus.
d) Any and all traditional strength and fitness exercises.
2. The Dynamic Core.
The Dynamic Core is demonstrated in activities containing clear core inclusion, but again where participants may or may not recognise this as being the case. Most often reflected in situations where something is felt, but participants incorrectly identify it as working the abs. The dynamic core is also seen in specialised core training, sports participation, and the more demanding daily chores.
Even though the performance of mainstream core training does require some level of strength and skill to complete, as the principles of Bodii have continued to evolve, substantial doubts as to their absolute validity as an across the board solution to core weaknesses and adaptation ideals have been uncovered.
Familiar instances of when the core is dynamic:
a) Strength and fitness training containing stability and core strength apparatus such as fitball, Bosu and balance/wobble boards.
b) Sporting actions like bowling a cricket ball, hitting a tennis ball, kicking a football.
c) Vacuuming or gardening.
d) To this point, each exercise contained in Bodii Program I are examples of the dynamic core.
Specifically: Basic Bodii exercises using 25cm core-ball.
Anaerobic endurance: mountain climber progressions.
Strength: single arm row progressions.
Flexibility/mobility: calf raise/hamstrings stretch progressions.
Observation A - It is of course possible, and in many scenarios highly probable, that demands on core engagement will carry-over into deeper and lesser phase inclusions as intensities increase and/or decrease. An example can be seen in a hypothetical analysis of a walk/sprint progression:
Sit - Stand - Walk - Jog - Run - Sprint.
If it is accepted the core is included in a sprint, it is not logical to assume it is suddenly not involved to some degree, once sprinting ceases, or even before it begins.
3. The Ballistic Core.
In many sports, the ability to engage and maintain even a dynamic core does not afford athletes with the core inclusion sufficient to handle the forces exerted on the body generally, and absorbed through the core specifically. This is especially true in sports with high intensity and high volume body contact/impact, and is a concept not highlighted simply in an athlete's ability to accept the contact/impact and play on, but most particularly in the athletes ability to accept the contact/impact, absorb the forces incidentally through an enhanced core capacity, and to repeatedly play on with no residual effects. An outcome possible only through biomechanically superior inclusions, and physiological adaptations that are able to:
a) Minimise the effects of inevitable contact/impact, injury and the debilitating consequences of fatigue through core strength conditioning, which across ballistic core specificity considerations, transfers its relevance to the individuality of all sports.
b) Prevent premature elimination from sporting competition, due to resulting contact/impact and/or injury outcomes.
An athlete’s ability to incidentally absorb high intense contact/impact is an example of ballistic core engagement, and as such any effective core strength training must be able to simulate the forces experienced at the moment of contact/impact.
Contact/impact simulations have been a standard component of the general training and skills regime peculiar to each sport. However, it should be noted, that in the performance of these general training and skills activities, the intent has never been to strengthen the core, rather it has been used to condition the athlete against the accepted rigours of that sport, while also increasing the athlete's endurance.
For athletes to properly prepare for any sport, it is most beneficial to
train all associated aspects beyond any expected performance thresholds.
Bodii reaches beyond the scope of traditional strength, fitness and sports specific training by having the capacity to simulate high intense contact/impact situations. An achievement based on specialised ballistic core strengthening techniques, which can be used to prepare athletes in the pre-season, and to supplement general training during competition and in-season phases.
The successful performance of any exercise with ballistic core requirement, depends
entirely on the participant’s psychological, biomechanical and physiological capacity to
deliberately engage and sustain the vital core inclusions at specific intensities.
Observation B - Consistent with the probability of core engagement phases carrying-over within the context of a single series of progressions, the final progression of the hypothetical sprint scenario offered in Observation A of the dynamic core, could conceivably present as:
Sit - Stand - Walk - Jog - Run - Sprint - Fall/Bump/Tackle (receive/deliver).
With greater consideration and acceptance of the role played by the core in all levels of functional movement, the effects of this very common sporting scenario could be better understood, and therefore controlled.
In light of this presenter’s comments and opinions in earlier blog posts, it is appropriate at this point to discuss, in greater detail, the issues surrounding conditioning the Hamstrings for both day-to-day exercise requirements, and for the significantly more intense sports specific adaptation outcomes. These discussion topics are based on observations made as the various Bodii Hamstrings related concepts and techniques have emerged. They include the following.
a) The complicated, intersecting aspects of the need to:
i) Strengthen the primary core muscles and the structures to which they attach (Bodii Program I).
ii) Strengthen the secondary core muscles, which in turn help to stabilise the primary core (Bodii Program I).
iii) Increase contractile strength, range and endurance in the muscles of the peripheral core (which includes the vulnerable Hamstrings), thereby supporting advanced inclusive strength and stability in hips and pelvis, the structure in which the core lies.
b) The diverse range of incidental/deliberate primary and peripheral core inclusions, and the resulting benefits to lumbar and hip/pelvis strength and stability. When conditioning the Hamstrings, this is especially relevant, as the greater part of the hamstrings group originates from the Ischial tuberosity, an anatomical feature located within the hips and pelvis complex.
c) The importance of properly balanced strength, stability and mobility factors in the primary and peripheral core, the active lumbar curve, and the integral nature of their connection to the issue of Hamstrings tightness.
Assessing Hamstrings flexibility/tightness issues.
The following considered observations are extensions to the natural biomechanical and physiological roles and relationships of the structures strengthened and stabilised by the muscles of the primary, secondary and peripheral core (Bodii Program I).
It is the prevailing weakness and instability aspects of the Hamstrings and surrounding structures, together with unco-ordinated strength and flexibility/mobility training practices that are some of the contributing factors leading to common chronic Hamstrings tightness and weakness/injury concerns. Built around this observation, Bodii has developed methods to firstly assess Hamstrings tightness, prior to athletes becoming aware of this problem, and secondly provide some training/conditioning options to assist in minimising the incidence and severity of these tightness/weakness/injury problems.
In past, and even recent strength and fitness training history, upper body range of motion and Hamstrings flexibility, have been determined by an individual's capacity to bend forward at the waist and touch their toes. In spite of the physiological relationship between Hamstrings and the lumbar spine being an accepted principle, this is a determination still being made without due regard for the functional role of the lumbar spine/curve, an area clearly identified as vital to Bodii training principles. Bearing this in mind, it is perfectly reasonable to expect any assessment of Hamstrings flexibility/tightness to be conducted with complete regard for all aspects of the natural physiology and purpose of the spine, and its load distributing curves.
Strangely, in current flexibility assessment situations, even accounting for expanded bases of understanding, this is still not the case. An example is the traditional sit-and-reach test, a test where the subject to be assessed is required to sit on the floor with their legs together and locked at the knees. They are then expected to extend and hold their fingertips as near to or beyond their toes as they are able to manage. An action to be performed without the help of any upper body momentum or extrinsic assistance. No thought or instruction is given to basic postural function, nor of the necessity to also consider, include and maintain the spinal curves.
True to Bodii principles throughout these programs, all assessments of Hamstrings flexibility/tightness should have equal regard for inclusion of the vital spinal curves. Based on this key notion, Hamstrings flexibility should never be assessed in isolation, but inclusive of upper body flexion ranges, and with the following criteria in mind.
1. Degree of natural/instinctive knee bend, when the participant to be assessed is in deepest upper body flexion.
2. Capacity of participant to include and maintain an active lumbar curve through upper body flexion, as the degree of natural/instinctive knee bend is reduced.
3. Capacity of participant to also include and maintain noticeable shoulder/scapula retraction, again through upper body flexion, and again as natural/instinctive knee bend is reduced.
4. When initiating upper body flexion, due to the lack of consistent efforts to stabilise hips and pelvis, there is an observed tendency under this flexion pressure among the majority of individuals to rotate laterally (external) at the hips. The reasons for this are twofold.
i) Because of its controlling influence, and its involvement in externally rotating the hips (Program I), Gluteus maximus tends to dominate in its hip rotation role.
ii) Resulting from the dominant Gluteus maximus, the intrusion of the upper body into the anterior space between the hips/pelvis, causes the legs to open and for hips to rotate externally. Biomechanically, this is the best means to accommodate this inevitably necessary physical compensation.
It is therefore imperative, in these assessments, to also determine the individual’s capacity to maintain strictly aligned adductors. A consideration that must encompass the degree of pronation and/or supination in each foot.
These criteria remain true and constant in all situations, and in all postures and positions. It is not the individual’s capacity to reach to or beyond their toes that commands foremost attention, rather it is the ability to retain the integrity of the spinal curves in their continuing context to recognised stabilising peripheral functions.
Strategy to relieve Hamstrings flexibility/tightness issues.
The strategy to relieve Hamstrings weakness/tightness arises from the above criteria. Its starting point is found in Program I, and has gradually evolved as the Bodii programs have developed. The principles of Bodii training are in accord with accepted practice, in that flexibility is a complementary, yet fundamental element to desired strength, fitness and mobility adaptations. However, this is only constant when due regard is given to safe and stable mobilisation of the body’s principal structures. Bodii strength, fitness and flexibility/mobility concepts have been built around this philosophy.
Flexibility/mobility, and continuing strength/stability adaptations around Hamstrings are best achieved through the increasingly incidental and simultaneous combination of the four vital inclusions.
1. Core engagement (incidental/deliberate): as this is the pivotal centre through which loads are referred, and upon which adaptations depend. Therefore, if Hamstrings tightness are an on-going issue, try to first strengthen and mobilise the structures and attachments of the primary and secondary core.
2. Deliberate activation of the lumbar curve: as the aspects of this inclusion are accepted as fundamental to co-ordinated Hamstrings/lumbar health.
3. Shoulder/scapula retraction: as the holistic attention to the integrity and inclusion of the spinal curves is paramount to overall postural strength, and the functional distribution of loads.
4. Hips and pelvis stability: as produced by the direct inclusion of the peripheral core muscles, ensuring stronger peripheral activation of a more stable hips and pelvis complex.
Any strategy to relieve Hamstrings flexibility/tightness issues should foster all of the above ideals, by producing the following adaptations:
1. Significantly advanced incidental inclusion of the primary core muscles, for greater absorption of impact/contact/load.
2. Increased relative strength in Hamstrings, and all aspects of mobility in the active lumbar curve.
3. Greater contractile range, endurance and flexibility/mobility in the entire posterior chain, and consisting Achilles tendon, calf, hamstrings, gluteals and Lumbar, Thoracic and Cervical curves.
4. Advanced and comprehensive flexibility/mobility at the Quadriceps/hip flexors overlap, through enhanced capacities towards hip extension.
5. Improved stability and inclusive strength of hips and pelvis during adduction, flexion, abduction and extension.
As these are extremely complicated biomechanical and physiological processes, individuals wanting to implement these strategies should realise that only a complete understanding of the involved methodology and specialised alternative strength, fitness and flexibility/mobility techniques will achieve the required strength, range, endurance objectives.
The silly AFL and AFLW seasons are upon us once more here in Australia, and it is time for this commentator to again crawl out of the woodwork to give his five cents worth. There still seems to be some inherent training/preparation issues that are very concerning in regard to both the men’s and women’s versions of this high contact, high impact brand of Australian football. Notwithstanding the very real and separate biomechanical issues confronting women especially in this regard. In fact, the notion of better preparing the athlete's knees is a real problem facing all competitive sports which require sudden and unpredictable loaded changes in direction. Rugby and netball are other examples that currently also suffer from this debilitating injury scourge. This is abundantly clear, as the number of ACL injuries suffered, and subsequent total knee reconstructions each season seem to be increasing, rather than reducing (???). All in spite of the latest training/preparation techniques being employed by highly qualified exercise scientists, physios and sports medicine experts. This has been highlighted with a spate of ACL blowouts already experienced in the AFLW (a season of a maximum of nine games), and now the AFL, even though we have completed only three rounds!! Worse than the injury itself, is the prolonged rehab, which, while there is the odd instance of a player coming back before the normal rehab schedule, the expected time out of the game is still an arduous twelve months. A particularly worrying situation when you consider that in years gone by, prior to the advent of modern exercise science/physiology principles, the most commonly occurring knee problems were meniscus related, perhaps a two to four week recovery timeframe.
As these very serious knee injuries are so prevalent, and with no apparent and foreseeable easing to this dilemma, would athletes not be better off without the strength training components to their already heavy training loads. Why have there been no noticeable advancements or alterations to training techniques, firstly to actually reduce the instances of the innocuous ACL rupture (the preferred option), and secondly to at least provide a substantial reduction to the length of the required rehab schedule? Surely, there is no sense in continuing to do the same thing over and over, with the expectation being to achieve a different outcome? And if in the inner sanctums of individual clubs and the minds of the responsible strength and fitness specialists, changes have been made to best adapt athletes to potentially crippling directional forces, then unfortunately, the many recent cases show that these best intentioned remedies are not working.
Allow me therefore to offer my opinion. As viewed and commented on previously, both on and off the record, the problem lies principally in the fact that the fitness professionals charged with this onus of achieving better outcome/injury prevention objectives are not thinking laterally, and continue to apply one dimensional and single direction (180 degree) training protocols to sports that produce loads on vulnerable centres and joints through 360 degrees. They continue to base training/preparation on the totally inadequate “support and stability” principles of by-gone traditional strength and fitness regimens. Even though there is some understanding of the importance of the posterior chain, exercises are still targeting muscular strength through progressions in applied resistances, rather than focal training/preparation work incorporating more diverse, multi-layered use of variable load, through adjustments to posture and position using innovative multi-profile methods. What is of greatest value in this context, is the need to accept that resistance and load are not the same. It is both possible, and desirable, to be able to vary load without simply increasing resistance, and to also be able to recognise when an athlete’s adaptation progress demands reductions in load, but without necessarily reducing resistance.
In all 360 degree sports, current training/preparation strategies apply singular and predictable support and stability based resistances on at risk centres and joints, when actual sporting loads are most often delivered from multi-directional, unstable and unpredictable profiles. Often these more adaptive loads can be applied to targeted centres/joints simultaneously from more than one direction. Loaded, and in some instances where the lack of adaptation warrants, unloaded training/preparation drills and exercises must have the capacity to duplicate all possibilities as demanded by any particular sport. That is, if training/preparation is to have any real/positive and long lasting effects. Unfortunately, this reality is not yet a recognised facet to mainstream strength and fitness concepts. There is still an unhealthy prevalence towards methods that are irrelevant to the underlying essence of 360 degree sporting adaptations, while still lauding the cosmetic and superficial outcomes to outdated training/preparation practices.
For true complementary adaptations to 360 degree sports to occur, then preparation techniques must also be through 360 degrees. An explanation for the above comments follow: as a means to try to help athletes avoid these debilitating ACL ruptures, there is an on-going trend towards teaching/adapting them to better land their jumps. However, in this presenter’s opinion, and indeed experience, there are four contributing reasons why current approaches to achieve these objectives cannot be met.
Effective programming must have the capacity to also produce secondary loads from one plane of movement (Sagittal, Frontal, Transverse) while the principal movement is completed in an opposing plane. This will better prepare athletes for the sheer forces imposed during loaded changes to direction, and will create more functionally balanced and movement focussed contact/impact athletes. Athletes will still experience these serious injury issues until high performance principles stop focussing on simply" landing" through the legs, whilst resistances are engaged in a singular plane. Training loads deliver better outcomes when based around the principles of “Specific Instability” and centred on including the core in its more dynamic and ballistic interpretations, whether they are directed from one, two or three planes of movement. In turn, adaptation outcomes will radiate from the systems and structures recognised as the core (Bodii-Advantage Through Adaptation, Programmes I & II) to the peripherally individual aspects of the legs (hips, knees, ankles) and also the arms (shoulders, elbows, wrists). Unfortunately, in the modern world of mainstream strength and fitness culture, the “core” is still not given it’s absolute due, and is seen as a distraction from true training, requiring 10 – 15 minutes of devoted training a two or three times per week. Even when core training adaptations become more greatly recognised, as certainly they must, the traditional views of training the core do not go deep enough. In future, anytime and every time a lift is completed, at the most primal level, a concentration of awareness will reveal, even before the lift is actually commenced, how intrinsically the body is stabilised and braced through the core. And there is, as I have heard said, no such thing as “not a core type of person!”
Why is it that although the benefits of an actively strong posture are universally recognised, the vast majority of “elite” athletes, individuals who by definition need to be better adapted, are still not aware of the need for its very specific inclusion? The importance of learning how to deliberately master this most basic of human movement principles in all things training, and consequently the inherent advantages this will have on sporting outcomes, cannot be overstated. Examples of this profound shortcoming is plain to see. There is abundant footage of athletes from all sporting backgrounds, parading around with protracted shoulders and inactive Lumbar curves, while also engaged in a multitude of chronically slouched and intrinsically contraindicated, non-functional positions. Where are their informed and current fitness support staff and medicos? By the time athletes compete in their chosen sports, postural considerations need to be second nature. It should be as obvious as it is logical, that with greater attention to an athletically trained posture, many of the most common soft tissue and impact/collision injuries could be better alleviated through the way in which these episodes relate to the body’s natural propensity to best absorb and distribute load? Unfortunately, there is serious doubt as to the effectiveness of the traditional training methods still employed to achieve the perceived fundamentals of a finely tuned athlete, and is quite possibly a significant contributing factor into why soft tissue and structural injuries still occur in pretty much epidemic proportions, with not even the slightest successful reduction in rehab times to look forward to. Showing zero improvement in more than twenty years of a dedicated "science based" approach to the pursuit of enhanced sporting adaptations. It is surely time to think “outside the box”, and source cutting edge drills, exercises and systems, which deliver “real” sports specific strength, palpable improvements in muscular range, contractile endurance, and flexibility/mobility considerations, as athletes continue their pursuit of functionally tailored sporting adaptations.
In view of the above, several problems still exist in this field:
1. Athletes are asked to perform exercises/training which are neither functionally appropriate, nor specific to athletic requirements. For example: involvement in power regimens, when chosen sports have nil true demands for power. Oftentimes, anaerobic strength/endurance is misconstrued with power, and athletes perform pointless movements which promote adaptations that produce muscular inflexibility and tightness, rather than the vital instinctual responsive agility in producing effort and accepting counter-effort.
2. Traditional training methods still produce one-dimensional and superficial outcomes. A vastly inadequate approach, as precious little time and co-ordinated attention is allocated to simultaneous multi-planar functional adaptation processes, which concentrate on the athlete’s more deeply rooted propensity to absorb loads when it is coming the other way. The ability an athlete may have to produce multiple intensive efforts, isn’t necessarily indicative of that same athlete’s capacity to absorb an opponent’s counter-effort. This elusive adaptation is a direct reflection of an athlete’s purposely integrated training regime to both “give and take” in a contest.
3. All things considered, it must be acknowledged that any capacity to consciously invoke and maintain the more deeply rooted propensities in loaded game day situations is extremely difficult. However, once the correct training concepts and techniques are applied, they will provide the necessary adaptations to carry athletes through to that heightened level, where the vitally important inclusions become incidental. Through practical and specific experience, athletes will even feel these incidentally adapted postural inclusions in their sleep!
Not surprisingly therefore, the principal centres in the human body designed for maximum sporting output and absorption, are also the means by which the various multi-directional possibilities of load are more safely distributed. However, this can only be the case if appropriate and comprehensive impact/collision absorption adaptation practices are correctly and consistently applied. Be assured though, this is not possible when using the structured support and stability methods of traditional strength, fitness and flexibility training. Why place your sports adaptation practices on predictable support and structure methods, when sport itself is athletically random, unpredictable and unsupported?
For this reason, the following postural guidelines should be strictly observed.
The Active Lumbar Curve.
In life generally, and sport specifically, there are many different positions and postures, each requiring strict attention to inclusion of the active lumbar curve. Like the core (a separate issue, worthy also of in depth discussion), it is essential to be able to activate this curve at will and in any situation. The most effective way to learn and practice this skill is to assume an all-fours position on the floor. Once in this position, alternate the arch of the lower back from extreme convex to deep concave (slide demonstration below). It is a movement where the pelvis is tilted forward, and is technically controlled by contracting the Multifidi local to the Lumbar curve.
The Retracted Shoulder/Scapula.
As Bodii principles are committed to honouring the natural physiology of the structures of the body, and as it is the purpose of the spine as a whole to absorb load, acknowledgement is also necessary in respect of the upper spine. To this end, the retracted shoulder/scapula is employed to maintain the integrity of the Cervical and Thoracic curves of the spine. In the slideshow below, the relaxed shoulder/scapula position and the retracted state are illustrated. As the relevant concepts & techniques are applied, and the required adaptations and inclusions begin to occur incidentally, it becomes apparent the inclusions of Lumbar curve and shoulder/scapula retraction are interdependent. Especially as in many training scenarios, if shoulder/scapula retraction is lost, so also is the active Lumbar curve.
In closing, it is the responsibility of all fitness professionals involved in the training of athletes of all levels to ensure all facets of posture are included in each and every exercise, drill and component of any approved strength and fitness training system.
Due to the on-going debilitating injury concerns present in high intensity competitive sports, it is the purpose of this commentary to postulate as to one of the possible causes, especially as it relates to the continuing instances of the so-called "innocuous" ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) rupture in the human knee.
As we all know, the human body exists in a three dimensional world. Consequently, for it to perform at peak efficiency, it, and indeed the key joint structures in the body responsible for getting from point A to point B must be appropriately adapted to move within this environment using three functional planes of motion.
a) The Sagittal plane, where the body/joint structures move forward or back. As seen in stepping forward and backward, and through flexion and extension.
b) The Frontal plane, where the body/joint structures move from side to side. As in stepping to the left and right, and through abduction and adduction.
c) The Transverse plane, where the body/joint structures move through rotation. Seen when the trunk twists left or right, and through internal or external rotation/pronation or supination of the legs/feet.
In principle, the ability of the body to move through tri-planar directions is reflected in the individual joint structures, where this same inherent freedom exists. However, as these multi-directional joint movements are not all prone to full ranges of motion, this natural mobility can be viewed as a means for the body to absorb incidentally occurring functional impacts/forces to better protect the individual joints against structural damage. An example of this principle is seen in the knee, a structure which is best equipped to full ranges of motion only in the sagittal plane, up to, but NOT including hyperextension. While within exacting restrictions it is able to move laterally and medially in the frontal plane, it is able to function this way so it may better absorb impacts/forces produced through walking or running, when there is need to pivot, and/or when expected/spontaneous changes in direction need to be accommodated. True frontal plane adduction and abduction in the legs originates only at the hips, while the knee is not functionally structured to allow loaded movement in the transverse plane.
The aptitude the joint structures of the body have to accept impacts/forces using a tri-planar "damping" system can be likened to the rationale behind the crumple zone built into modern vehicles. They are similarly designed to mitigate impacts, initially as a preventative mechanism, but failing this, to at least minimise damage to key components. Subsequently an approach lending itself perfectly to the goals of Bodii training, which set out to strengthen the engagement and activation principles of the vital inclusions, and to specifically enhance the integrity of the joint structures in biomechanical, physiological and proprioceptive senses.
Within the physiology of movement, the human body has an innate awareness of its muscles and tendons, their positions, and the space into which it is about to move and occupy. A feature to human movement that is relative to many considerations, but is principally the reason why we are able to move about without having to constantly look at our arms or legs to make sure they are doing what we want them to be doing. An instinct/sense known as proprioception, and for these express objectives, Bodii training has the capacity to introduce forces to enhance lateral and medial proprioceptive responses. Responses not available in the one-dimensional straight ahead, straight back and supported traditional methods.
It is possible, with application of specific Bodii concepts and techniques, to impose lateral and medial frontal plane forces upon individual structures while they are engaged in sagittal/transverse plane movements, and conversely, during frontal/transverse plane movements, to produce anterior and posterior sagittal plane forces. A training formula allowing participants to expand proprioceptive diversity, not only enhancing the body's adaptation to daily functional activities, but in particular context to this program, to better direct these proprioceptive enhancements towards the greatly more intense and unpredictable nature of competitive sports.
In light of the above background argument, it remains unclear to this commentator why sports scientists, sports physiotherapists and sports trainers continue to apply methods designed to prevent/limit injuries to crucial structures, when this process interrupts the inherent shock/impact absorption system in the "mitigation sequence" of these structures. While, for example, strapped ankles may protect this susceptible region, the laws of energy predict that the force/impact must proceed and be dealt with at the next available and unprotected structure in this volatile progression, namely the knees. Structures where even an innocuous force originating from a remote structural location may have drastic long-term injury consequences. Unfortunately, the practice of strapping key structures may in principle have it’s benefits, the real question is at what possible cost? Is it preferable to risk impacting the tendons/ligaments of the ankles, an estimated six to eight week convalescence, or blow the ACL, an extensive and frustrating rehab of twelve months? Frustrating, in that the apparent innocuousness, is rarely, if ever, explained.
Many of the topics covered on this site are often directly or indirectly targeted at the greatly underrated issue of hip & pelvis stability, and the numerous negative consequences any instability in this pivotal area can produce. Specifically, this is explained as adaptations that develop and maintain the balance in the muscles that enable the various movements through the legs. An ingredient key to Bodii principles that both ensures athletes are better equipped to tackle chosen sports, and also a factor in helping to limit the incidence and severity of soft tissue injuries, and is therefore a very important, although largely ignored and misunderstood area in traditional strength and fitness training regimens. A carefully constructed view by this analyst and CEC Program presenter that has resulted from a recent unhealthy trend in strength training circles to place undue emphasis on the traditionally accepted powerlifting exercises of bench press, the squat and deadlifts, with the misconstrued purpose being to create more "power-centric" athletes. It is everywhere, … and presently doing the rounds as the "new" training Holy Grail! All modern gyms have an area devoted to these three lifts, as the focus to attaining maximum gains in strength and power. However,there are serious unexplored repercussions, with the main problems inherent to this trend being:
1. Advancement is based solely on applied resistances.
2. Attention to posture and core inclusions are cursory.
3. Functional/stabilising abductor/adductor alignment principles in the thighs are not recognised.
4. Has little regard for all factors that determine true muscular power,
ie. power= (force x distance)/time.
The specific concepts and techniques to be outlined relate entirely to the balance between the four major and two lesser movement ranges of the thigh, and examines those which contribute to hip & pelvis stability, and those which hinder/detract. There is a distinct need for strength and fitness training to be built on sound functional reasoning, and for it to not compromise equality in contractile strength, range and endurance in flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, internal rotation and external rotation characteristics. It should not simply follow the herd. Because individuals predominantly move forward, and perform tasks through anterior/sagittal aspects, everyday movement, and most current strength and fitness enhancing scenarios make it impossible for this to occur naturally. Due to the predictable limitations brought about by the one-dimensional movement patterns of Joe Citizen, and even a great many athletes, a careful forensic assessment reveals that greatest emphasis and frequency as it relates to movement of the thighs is in flexion, with literally no deliberate time/training allotted to the capacity for thighs to also extend, abduct and adduct. Furthermore, this overstimulation of thighs in flexion, is being exacerbated by the dominance of a loaded Gluteus maximus when engaged in its rotational role. Therefore, and because of the relative mass of Gluteus maximus to the smaller muscles of abduction and adduction, the legs are forced to incidentally rotate externally to varying degrees along their entire length (Made even worse when loads are applied to deliberately externally rotated thighs). As a consequence, creating awkward, unstable, non-functional angles through the principal structures of ankles, knees and the hips/pelvis complex.
In Australian rules football, physical strength and endurance has become an ever increasing essential if the footballer-athlete wants to achieve any level of success. This is largely sought/achieved through training and practice of gross movement, often at the expense and neglect of those muscles that promote delivery of greater control and finesse, and is especially evident in the movement ranges of the thighs. Hence, if kicking for goal is to improve, a more thorough approach must be applied to create adaptations to provide greater stability and functional alignment in the structures that ultimately determine the line and trajectory of the ball. Once this has been accomplished, coaches and players can focus on ball drop and routine issues.
As a dedicated Fitness Professional, and long-time, enthusiastic sports and training student/practitioner, it is an on-going mystery as to why so many Hamstring injuries still remain as such a prevailing problem. As has been indicated previously in these blogs, strictly applied progressive strength, range and motion loads to the muscles and structures along the posterior chain (of which Hamstrings are an integral component) will produce inherent strength adaptations in this vitally important muscular/structural sequence.
It is of increasing concern, that the greatest emphasis in this area of gross sports related weakness seems to be more about injury treatment and rehabilitation than it is about prevention. (If this is not the case, current statistics and perceptions bely any such assertion). Modern training methods recognise the principal areas of note, but do not seem to apply systemic practices to alleviate/protect against these all too common interruptions to athletes in the performance of their chosen sports.
While it is conceded that there is no absolute guarantee against even one kind of soft tissue injury, absolute prevention is not the only focal area to be considered, as even if these injuries do occur, if relevant training adaptations have been of any benefit at all, then the period required to return to athletic performance should be diminished. That is to say, if a hamstring injury in earlier sporting eras kept an athlete out for a period of three to four weeks, then in this more knowledgeable time, training/medical understanding should be limiting this to one to two weeks. However, this is most definitely not the case, as clearly there has been no progress in this area. It seems that there are multiple Hamstring injuries to athletes on a weekly basis, not only in fierce competitive situations, but also on the training track. Once again, a clear indication that not only is not enough being done on the posterior chain, but it is not consistent enough, and does not carry with it correctly applied loads to the relevant inclusions along this vulnerable region. Furthermore, this responsibility lies within the scope of the strength & conditioning experts, as once the injury has occurred, medical/rehab personnel are powerless in limiting the extent of damage, and the recovery timeframe.
Notwithstanding all that has been said earlier in this piece, the most common error in preparing the posterior chain, is all too often a narrowly constructed and single minded specificity approach towards the Hamstrings, and even the posterior chain in isolation to other key physiological/anatomical factors. Due to the enormous reciprocal role of Hamstrings and the Lumbar spine, and by extension the co-operative intrinsic relationship of deep spinal inclusions and Transverse abdominis, essential Hamstring strength & conditioning is not complete without appropriate inclusion of primary, secondary and peripheral core adaptations, and how each individual athlete is able to respond and adapt to recently conceived multi-directional, tri-planar proprioceptive strength and fitness innovations.
There is, and has always been a deep-rooted reliance for exercise/training hopefuls to firstly seek-out the drive, or motivation to exercise. An objective that has resulted in motivation becoming a common and much debated topic. Many try to access this "Holy Grail" through the implementation of various strategies, which due to characteristics unique to each individual, although regrettable, are nonetheless intrinsically flawed.
a) Exercise novices, and even some claiming to be regulars, will often seek inspiration/motivation from their sporting heroes, or from one success story or another they have seen on television or read about in some glossy magazine. At best this is a short-term remedy, and is quite honestly a nonsense. Your strength and fitness training aspirations should not/must not hinge on the journeys and successes of others, especially since you cannot be aware of the full reality of that success.
b) It is not unusual for those aspiring to take on regular exercise to try and gain their motivation by concentrating their attention totally on what it is they hope to achieve. While setting goals can be quite useful, in many instances, the goals set are unrealistic in terms of the time and effort allocated for them to be realised. The best and most consistent strength and fitness training participants are those who are committed
to the entire training process, and who simply allow the desired adaptations to flow as a result.
c) Other exercise newcomers will recruit a friend with whom to exercise, in the hope this will provide them with the motivation they require. Although this is an often recommended plan, because each party is relying on the other to deliver the drive, something which can only be successfully generated from within each individual, and for that individual's benefit alone, this scheme is also unreliable. Experience has shown, when
predictably one falls by the wayside, the other soon follows.
Based on the above examples of "shifting responsibility", and also on the numbers who have attained both meaningful and long lasting results from motivation alone, it is clear motivation is widely overrated, and a commodity destined to deliver failure. Motivation is a very fickle and shallow impulse. You can never be sure you will have it when you need it, let alone when you want it.
Discipline is the only true initiator to exercise, and the definitive means to "getting the job done". It is the most effective way to establish that vital exercise pattern. The desire and application to succeed comes from within: You may not like it, it may be an outright, soul-destroying struggle, and it may be necessary to include some training modifications, but when you have finished, you will have actually done something. Unlike the vast majority of the population who merely dream of having "what it takes" to take-up and master the exercise challenge.
DISCIPLINE IS SINGULARLY THE BEST WAY TO ACHIEVE REAL RESULTS,
AND THE ULTIMATE PATH TO CONTINUED MOTIVATION!
Imagine a training protocol that incorporates every aspect of strength/fitness and flexibility/mobility, that exponentially applies the benefits of modern core training concepts, while utilising all of the recognised strength, fitness, flexibility and mobility exercises, but with a very specific and deliberate focus on a multi-layered system of vital inclusions. An approach employing rising instability and postural manipulation as its progressive base for biomechanical and physiological adaptation, and one which emphasises the referral of loads through the body's principal centres of stability and function in each and every possibility of movement and moment opportunity. One with an inherent capacity towards unlimited progression options, ranging from the seemingly innocuous, to the most insanely extreme. In essence a contradiction to recognised standards, one where its most basic contention is advancement built on instability, and as such opposite to current traditional exercise methodologies which still advocate support and stability, and where the outcomes are just as routine as the methods used are predictable. A puzzling approach, especially when one considers the vastly unpredictable nature and diverse incarnations of functional life, and the limitless scenarios they can and will deliver.
When considering functional training, many stop at the mundane day-to-day routines individuals encounter and must contend with, but do not truly consider those sporting/athletic situations which to many are also a component of everyday living. To be truly adapted, one needs to be occupied in a preparedness rationale dominated by an emerging awareness of the necessity to stimulate maximal adaptation in strength and fitness at all progressions of functionality. A task not achieved by continually trying to "smash" out PB's, using ridiculously non-functional and inappropriate resistances. But rather an objective accessed by relentlessly seeking positions that create more challenging levels of uncertainty, which apply loads to the vital inclusions of posture and core, as well as the individually targeted muscles. Outcomes achieved by performing each exercise selection with rising instability and reducing structured support.
A strength and fitness protocol entirely suited to elite athletes involved in serious sporting pursuits, and also to would-be athletes, aspiring to elite performance, who are aspiring to stronger, fitter and healthier lifestyles. An alternate training approach for those committed to taking their strength and fitness intensities to new heights, by fully testing their physical and psychological tolerances as a more effective means of satisfying training potentials.
The concepts of Bodii training and their associated techniques have undergone an on-going, yet spontaneous evolution in exactly this alternative training style. One which found its origin in one solitary exercise, subsequently sparking a deep curiousity and thorough exploration into all its possible variations and often surprising expansions. Bodii offers creative training alternatives, while continuing to mature in a dynamic and unconventional direction, leaving participants wondering where their next training session is going to lead.