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.
High contact/impact male athletes are simply getting too heavy. There exists an ill-conceived notion that bigger is better, to a point where weight increases can no longer be considered functional.
As an avid student of strength & fitness applications for a period well in excess of four decades, especially in relation to techniques that determine sporting adaptations, it is more and more apparent that the modern male athlete involved in high contact (body-to-body)/impact (body-to-playing surface) sports is becoming too heavy. While it is of course vital to be stronger, it need not be reflected in an athlete's objectives toward deliberate and specific weight increases. An outcome most often determined by the strength training techniques employed by individual club, strength & conditioning departments.
Many male contact/impact athletes at the elite level are in excess of 100kgs, with a great many more within the high 80 to 90kg ranges. If strength training practices were employed that focused purely on functional principles that applied to that sport, and specifically targeted the core as the initiator of all movement and the centre from which all effective power is generated, then the benefits outlined below could be more realistically achieved. Provided of course this process is conducted in tandem with concepts that through simultaneous multi-planar neuromuscular techniques, strengthen, stabilise and positively mobilise key body structures (in some instances, efforts to increase flexibility ranges, actually destabilise target structures), thereby allowing athletes to achieve optimum weight ranges, as determined by individually unique genetic factors.
1. High speed body contact would not create as much potential for serious injury, especially when between an athlete over 100kgs, and another much less in weight.
2. VO2 max, and therefore overall aerobic capacities would be greatly enhanced, enabling athletes to perform to higher levels for longer, with corresponding positive effects to deal with/delay/overcome fatigue.
3. While there are many drills to seemingly foster increases in agility, it cannot be argued that reductions to overall body weight will further assist in this regard.
4. While balance training is commonly used to improve core strength (a facet of strength training far too complex to cover in detail in this discussion), in settings that still employ traditional strength training techniques, it does not go far enough. It is one dimensional, and due to this finite limiting factor it does not have the inclusive depth necessary to deliver the advanced adaptations high performance sports demand. Training practices must offer multi-planar profiles, that subject participants/athletes to simultaneously applied opposing forces. All while also deliberately engaging in progressive balance considerations. The purpose being to produce a more inherently developed capacity for the athlete to maintain their footing, and as a result not go to ground. A contention in this piece, that many instances where athletes slip and fall, only to be eliminated from the contest, are not entirely due to the use of inappropriate footwear, but may be more directly attributed to core strength/stability shortcomings. Imagine the reverse if contact/impact athletes were able to stay on their feet even in only 1% more of such cases. A turnaround that is undeniably beneficial, and could ultimately prove to be game changing.
5. An expectation exists in this opinion, that due to reduced loads brought about by a decrease in applied sporting resistance (body weight), combined with advanced proprioceptive/neuromuscular training techniques to mitigate irregular forces, those key structures most commonly susceptible to serious long-term injury/rehab, would be better protected. Outcomes similar to those in the design and manufacture of modern motor vehicles. There was a time when vehicle designers/manufacturers believed that the sturdiness implicitly built into motor vehicles went hand-in-hand with their commitment to delivering improved safety outcomes. However, research has proved this to be a misconception, and no longer are vehicles made from heavy steel components, but are constructed using much lighter alloys, containing in-built centres to more efficiently absorb energy (crumple zones). In this way the damage caused by collisions has been able to be minimised. There are many examples that can be used to illustrate this concept in a sporting sense, particularly in terms of its non-recognition/non-adherence/non-acceptance in the two male dominant Australian football codes, and extending beyond our shores to the gridiron competition in North America. In fact no sport has been immune, neither for men nor women, with the common trend in each as viewed by this commentary, being the unrestricted pursuit of enhanced, traditionally sought strength & conditioning outcomes.
To all the KEEN RUNNERS/JOGGERS/WALKERS out there - what are you doing to minimise the risks of the repetition type injuries your sport/activity has the tendency to cause from time to time. You know, those bouts of shin splints, knee and ankle pain, hamstrings/glute tightness, and in some cases even mild to chronic hip bursitis. While the common tactics of ensuring your footwear is adequate, and regular flexibility training can in some cases ease these conditions, most often, they are only treating the symptoms. The underlying condition hinges more around individual biomechanical flaws, where there is inherent hip & pelvis instability. When there is an imbalance in the muscles controlling hip & pelvis movement, your legs are prone to moving through awkward/contraindicated ranges, creating unwanted loads on the muscles and structures that support and therefore enable the running/jogging/walking actions.
So, please make sure you are doing your hip & pelvis stability, strength and alignment exercises!
Here is an interesting, but very challenging variation to the traditional Bench Press. In terms of it's relative significance, the conventional version is an exercise burdened with way too much responsibility and credit. However, with this radical adjustment to position, overall adaptations through core and posture become more specifically targeted. Alignment at the bench is taken up at right angles, with the lumbar curve positioned at the forward edge of the bench. A spotter passes the loaded bar to the participant, and the normal eccentric/concentric phases are performed. Initially, loads will be high, so resistances need to be considerably reduced. However, as adaptations occur, as is indicative of all Bodii concepts, appropriate increases will become possible. Highly inclusive and unsupported core strength and core stability requirements are essential. A demonstration can be seen in the slideshow below.
For those of you truly interested in better understanding "the core" and it's very specific involvement in movement and exercise, try this very simple demonstration.
In a standing position, lift one foot from the floor and take note of how readily you are able to balance on the supporting leg. Now do the same on the opposite leg. Having tested your ability to balance on each leg, repeat the above process, but this time consider what you understand by the core, and activate the relevant muscles.
What is your reaction to this shift in focus? If you have adequately engaged the correct muscles, you will notice a sense of improved stability, prolonging your capacity to balance, and minimising any urgent need to lower the raised leg back to the floor. A deeper insight into these complementary core engagement and balance functions can be gained by also performing this demonstration with your eyes closed.
Observation: The above demonstration allows us to consider the global concept of exercise. Not from the traditional possibility that general strength training may incidentally affect the core, but in terms of how the deliberate and sustained inclusion of the core will expressly benefit fundamental strength training outcomes. In other words, optimal expansions in desired strength & fitness outcomes, stimulated by training that originates and extends from and through the core.