1. Carl, you seem to be a very vocal and critical voice in your blogs and from the looks of the blogosphere, readership is growing. What is your intent and goal with your blogs and writings?
Good question! Having public views isn’t easy, as “critically thinking” isn’t going to win popularity contests with some commercial online experts in the community. For me, I see myself as a journalist asking tough questions that many simply refuse to answer. We have had thousands of coaches and athletes read the blog at elitetrack.com and come to an exciting amount of different conclusions to common questions regarding assessing athletes, self-regeneration techniques, program design, and the human side of coaching. What is rewarding is the steady evolution of coaches moving away from dogma and delusion into logic and reasoning. Mel Siff was so important in our profession because his investigations into training helped create a checks and balances review of some suspect claims and Ideas. When I come back from some visits this summer I think I will have a lot to write about in September.
2. Your blog on elitetrack.com had some very polarizing thoughts and discussions that have stirred up a lot of debate. Much of it is on Foam Rolling, the FMS, corrective exercise, and other popular subjects. You have even criticized some of my own thoughts on the transfer of glute training. Could you show some counterpoints to popular tests such as the FMS?
The FMS is in my opinion a great start for inexperienced personal trainers to learn basic assessments. What the test is sharing is 7 movements or screens only. I was exposed to the FMS in 1998 and used it before I was informed of the limitations by some great coaches and sports medicine professionals. What was interesting was the sports medicine had performance perspectives and the coaches had athletic health ideas that really open my eyes to reality. I will use the overhead squat and make just a few of the many counterpoints that the community is sharing. This can be an article by itself as this is a big one:
To make sure we are on the same page the FMS is considered a ground-based assessment that uses simple movements and screens for dysfunction. Other tests such as actual analysis of video or film, orthopedic tests, table tests, radiology, and other instrument methods such as force plates, biochemical, electrical, and even psychological methods are all involved to appraise the athlete. I understand that from a practical standpoint we can’t live in a utopian world but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that a small set of screens for one type of test is by any means complete. What is convenient is that the tests are simple, require no formal education, and allow qualitative information to pass as evidence of dysfunction.
First let’s take a closer look at this photo of what a passing 3 looks like. What’s’ wrong with this picture? First the athlete is in spinal flexion during the deep squat and is unable to keep the bar in line with his head. This athlete is in flexion of the entire spine. Bad news if this technique was used under load. What do you think would happen if the PVC pipe were replaced by 100 kilos in a full snatch? That bar would be dumped forward, end of story. This movement is valuable but the devil is in the details. I use the test for strangers, meaning someone I have never met that I need to learn a lot about in a hurry. Like a pick-up line at a bar, you are likely to not utilize the overhead squat test assessment as much down the road as the relationship over time will need something different than what started the process. Restrictions of the upper body in a back squat for example will lead us to some valuable data. Since all training is testing, the exercises designed to improve functional change are not being used to screen the athlete. Nobody does hurdle steps to fix athletes, why not measure or score the exercises that do fix the impairments?
Point One- A load overhead is subject to debate as I stand more middle ground on snatches for athletes, but a load will interact more valuably than a PCV pipe. First, most athletes may not have good weight training backgrounds and a lot can be seen from just having an athlete get into position to do the test with a heavy weight. Remember sport is about forces as well, not just visual symmetry. Much of the kinetics we find in sport is way beyond the tests that are done at slow speeds and low loads such as the FMS. Symmetry visually can be created by asymmetrical contributions and fine wire EMG studies are being done to see if stabilizers are working in harmony with the overhead squat test. I have already observed some of the data and it reminds me of the cliché car alignment analogy. When driving around a parking lot things appear fine but when you hit the autobahn what is wrong will appear flagrantly.
Point Two- Joint flow (mobility) can be evaluated in many ways but under load you can see interesting gaps between unloaded movements and or open chain tests. Thoracic mobility is vital in posture and sporting movements and training for athletic performance. What may not limit an athlete on the field may limit the athlete in weight room activities that try to break those barriers. Note one reason this model in the photo could have the bar closer to the midline of the body if he had more thoracic extension. That quality is a combination of strength and joint flow and is not demonstrated with this screen. Some will argue that the weight would create the change in thoracic extension without effort and I have yet to see that happen to athletes without sufficient backgrounds in those training methods.
Point Three- The screen only demonstrates visual motion and not how forces generated those joint actions. Is visual symmetry evidence of symmetrical function? No. Like the other tests, the overhead squat doesn’t share how reactive forces are dissipated through athletic actions such as cutting and jumping. Are those not functional movements for athletes? If they are, shouldn’t coaches be trained to see or screen those impairments? I simply don’t agree that the seven tests are good measures of fundamental requirements to athletes in most land-based sports. In Charlie Weingroff’s blog, a great blog of interest in many ways, he shares to his readers that a perfect FMS score with a basketball player was unable to do basic hopping without dangerous compensations. Evidence that an athlete can ace the FMS exam and not be ready for a choreographed sub-maximal force fundamental exercise? I will not get into arguments about definitions here, but whatever the classification of the screening process, there is no argument that the process was incomplete when basketball players have risks when doing closed loop jumping. I was emailed this example from several strength coaches at the D1 level as an example that we must get a more complete appraisal with athletic performance.
I am only sharing the limits of the FMS screening and by your interview with Tony; his screening process seems to be more extensive with a lot more testing options. Eric Cressey has voiced his concern of trainers learning functional anatomy instead of more tests and credit must be given to him for bucking the trend. While I can’t endorse Assess and Correct as the definitive solution to evaluating athletes, I would choose that option of assessments over the FMS in a heartbeat. I have different opinions on the corrections that that product has, but there is no doubt that it’s a better approach.
I currently use a process heavily influenced by a few lesser known coaches and therapists, and the PCA by Kelvin Giles is starting to increase popularity here in the US and for good reason. Al Vermeil uses something different and more intensive and complete. Some use orthopedic tests as well as physical competence tests. Who is right or who is likely to get better information? At the end of the day the money trail will clue us in that the FMS tests are simple, brief, and inexpensive for the mass market. I like the Contreras Mafia test. If the Mafia had a gun to your head and said evaluate my son for athletic preparation you would likely not limit yourself to those seven tests. You would call your network of people, everyone from PTs, Chiropractors, Soft Tissue therapists, other coaches, Orthopedic Doctors, Kinesiologists, radiologists, and maybe a medium at the local tourist trap!
In summary the FMS has much to offer, but what percentage does it represent of the whole picture of appraisal? If I had to guess less than 8 percent. How about that number? I realize that a lot of experts are using this in order to maintain their “circle of friends affiliate code network”, and that disturbs me that money is before education.
3. Wow that was a big one. Let’s go more rapid fire for the readers so we can keep things moving. Perhaps one paragraph per question? It seams like you have come full circle on glute training with your prediction that LVT (Load Vector Training) will be the next big thing. Could you shed some light on what you believe regarding the glutes on sports performance with athletes?
Yes and No. A big difference to me is that the LVT is a refinement and a more articulate and organized view of what the research and coaching wisdom have known for some time now. What is exciting is that a connection between more difficult aspects of training and the hands on reality is no longer cloudy. Sprinting is simple at times but when something isn’t working it’s very complicated and demanding to fix. The vertical nature of maximal sprinting and progressions of velocities you had were in conflict with what I have read but I think we are in more agreement now.
4. I noticed you blogged way back in 2003, a time before most people knew what blogs were. Can you tell me how much your views changed since then on sprinting?
My views on sprinting have not changed at all. What has changed for me is a better understanding of the methods of coaching. When developing a speed and power athlete, instructing movement with a few arbitrary words that sound good to the coach (but the athlete doesn’t find the relationships) is something everyone deals with which is why we must refine our abilities to teach. It’s not easy. Each year the palate of cues becomes higher because athletes B or C may not respond to cue A that worked two years ago for a specific athlete. The most important education process of working with sprinters is observing better track coaches and watching how they cultivate technique and speed in conjunction. I have seen many good presentations on sprinting and days later we are back to square one because the application suggested on the lectern sounded good to the audience but when applied in real life the theory didn’t have merit. Often athletes must take a step back to take big steps forward and pure sports are often the most humbling because the feedback is so objective. It takes time, but that notion seems to run counter in the popular market when 8-week solutions or special equipment promise the moon overnight.
5. I noticed that you have a 10:1 to 20:1 ratio of research paper to book reading philosophy, any particular reason you believe that we should be reading research more instead of books?
My biggest error as a coach is looking to coaches for information instead of what makes humans special. Creativity, reasoning, and process are qualities I investigate. Books are great but why not see the direct source of information? Reading research is a grind but a rewarding process because you are getting some transparent information. I am not saying research is pure or perfect, but in this day of age is vital to get a more valid set of data. I read one book a week and reread a few key books a year. I tend to read research in the morning and books at night. When you are reading someone’s blog and they are citing things always ask, “What is their agenda?”
6. You were certified with the NSCA with your CSCS but decided not to continue being with the NSCA. Do you plan to ever get involved with the organization again?
Interesting you should ask! I was certified about ten years ago with the NSCA and flew all the way to Phoenix to get my CSCS. It was worth it and I remained certified until just recently. Right now I am focusing on track and field and will be looking into getting my LMT next year. In fact, I have a few certifications but my rule of thumb is to have more letters in your name than after it. I will renew my membership this summer and will continue to be supportive of the organization. To have a CSCS is a bigger responsibility than just keeping up with your CEUs every December or so. It’s important to keep up with the organization with regards to voting and I have not been able to attend their Conferences and regional events. If you feel strongly about your certification you should put in serious effort into the organization from which you are certified or licensed. Just having it as a way to spice up a resume is dishonest and I felt that I should focus on my other responsibilities.
7. I see you plan to get your LMT soon, why are you so interested in soft tissue therapy and who are your influences with regards to sports massage?
After observing elite soft tissue therapy the late 1990s I realized the massive improvement curves and injury reduction qualities of conventional soft tissue therapy. Over a decade span I have seen the profession complete a cycle of fads that come and go. I have nothing against NMT or MFR, but I have seen that “show” before and the value of any technique must be reviewed by a different set of criteria. Pin and stretch will resurface in a different acronym in the forthcoming years and my belief is that the best practitioners have a specific approach, skill, and methodology. We must measure success on the results and the context of those results and my visits to some impressive names have been extreme disappointments. I frankly see an inverse relationship between the rate of speaking and abilities.
8. What information resources can we use from Track and Field and other Olympic sports to help sports performance. Anything in particular?
Here are three from the top of my head for this summer-
Start out with the Mechanics of Athletics by Geoffrey Dyson. Understanding fundamental movements of running, jumping, and throwing is imperative. It’s not easy and I find myself rereading stuff all the time. You can get the book used online for dirt-cheap because it’s an oldie but goodie. No excuses.
Go to the ASCA Conference and see how the big boys and girls get down. They have a clinic section call the Gold Medal Clinic and it simply reviews what coaches did with case studies of actual champions. I am really proud of the ASCA with the representation of female speakers as men often dominate the coaching profession. This year the city of Indianapolis is hosting the event and you can stop by and visit IFAST and give the readers a scoop of what is going down in Bill Hartmann and Mike Robertson country.
Subscribe to Denis Reno’s Weightlifting Newsletter: For 45 dollars you are getting something that really bombards what elite weightlifters are doing technique-wise. This is mailed to you 8-9 times a year and the photos are dynamite. Denis is a wonderful guy and still competes while in his 70s.
9. Name one book that people don’t read but should consider? Perhaps what popular books need further review?
I am not against censorship of any kind so I can’t say don’t read this or that but I can say watch out for some bias. I will keep this as brief as it’s beyond the one paragraph promise from above.
Shirley Sahrmann’s book Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes is a valuable insight into understanding injury in relation to the nervous system. It’s trendy and you will see it on reading lists with many coaches like a badge of being in the know or being enlightened. Ironically the same people share Anatomy Trains by Tom Myers, one who uses a completely different approach with soft tissue therapy to help patients. One can say a balanced approach can be developed after reading both texts and I agree, but the reality is coaches are trying to push an agenda with some poor justifications. The agenda is often, “don’t listen to others but our sources, listen to our filter and everyone else is wrong.” I foam roll but drive for real hands on therapy. In a private setting this will compromise profits a bit and open up possible criticisms coaches don’t want to hear. What is happening is a collective censorship by many experts to focus on coaches playing the sports medicine role with their corrective exercise. Ego and profits drive interest in making sure training is exercise catalog DVD’s-based instead of process-centered. Making sure you don’t spend money on sports medicine and soft tissue therapy is the name of the game with some online experts.
Asafa Powell has run over 100 kilometers last season without getting “fat and hormonally impaired” and we still have people bashing running because they can’t keep recreational runners healthy. More talking in absolutes. Nobody that is worth their salt uses recreational weight trainers as populations to study for their training programs. Study success not disease. Strangely the same experts are pioneers of barefoot training and running and link what is reading now. This is strange so little of their assessment programs include biomechanics of moving such as running, vital components to most team sports. No basic gait screen with the FMS? Why is that?
What’s enlightening is that new coaches are realizing that they need to make sure they’ve mastered the role they have and are reading works such as Strength and Power in Sport by Komi and reading it multiple times. Right now I am reading a greek translation manual on muscle and elastic interactions of the Olympic lifts so I understand the exercises better. Doing the job right is hard and I don’t produce miracles. By the way a syndicate of coaches have pooled money to place such resources into a wiki for sharing of less commercial but priceless information. Sometimes doing the exercises correctly is corrective exercise. We still see mule kicks in hang cleans, not engaging the hips in squats, and arching the back in incline presses. Read everything but don’t get cocky thinking you have reached the limit as a strength coach.
10. How do you feel the order of a workout should be arranged?
The one paragraph per question rule may be broken if I get too much into this but my experience with this is that there are cardinal rules with training design. The reason I say rules instead of ideas or concepts is that rules are usually written in blood, meaning something bad happened that people placed strong warnings of what you should not do in order to avoid injuries or failure in the future. When you remove risks, the options are often infinite but certain patterns of sequence will show more success more than others. Remember training is about maximizing probability, not getting lost in abstract debate. Break down training into elements and connect the dots. Most coaches will do a warm-up and warm-down with the heavy training in the middle. The main thing is that you use everything efficient and effectively. I would strongly suggest watching a jumps coach who is trying to push bodies past absolute records to learn more. Grossly, it’s often the order of skill, speed, power, strength, conditioning with many speed and power athletes. Much of the mobility and flexibility training can be interjected where needed. Sports Training Principles by Frank Dick is a good start for a beginning coach.
11.Who are your biggest influences in the worlds of strength, conditioning, and speed training?
I was surprised when I thought about this for a few days in regards to which coaches were my actual influences instead of my perceived influences. While many coaches have shaped my thought process, I must look at my actual approach with some honesty.
Strength- Charles Poliquin: Who isn’t really? I remember reading the ASCA journal in the early 80s and was shocked about how modern his concepts were. I liked his thinking and the fact you will not see technique in the primary lifts that is questionable. Heavy lifting done right isn’t exciting, but he does produce some great results. Straightforward is not easy and it’s hard sometimes with certain circumstances to do a heavy power clean with prefect technique for example, when you may have only 18 minutes every other day. This is why I have changed my inventory priorities and made it more recursive.
Conditioning- Dick Jochums: Coach Jochums is a huge surprise to me regarding conditioning, as swimming doesn’t seem to transfer to many sports on paper. His basic concepts on power and his elegant approach have had a bigger influence on me than I thought.
Speed Training – Bud Winter: The art of relaxing is the Holy Grail for sprint coaches. While I am influenced in program design by other coaches, the simple aspect of teaching athletes to relax while expressing maximal speed is the most primary needs for the sprints.
12. With your technology and artistic abilities what projects are involved with now that we might find valuable in the sports performance and fitness profession?
A tasteful lead into what I can offer your readers? I dabble in a lot of things and currently I provide the following three major services.
Mediacasts– If you like the interview and want to open Pandora’s box with much of the current training information, I provide bi-monthly one-hour slide narrations of popular topics. The feedback has been outstanding and Bret can attest it’s a great value. Anyone interested in a free sample and a topic menu can email me at email@example.com.
IT Solutions for Sports Organizations– I consult with coaches to make their job easier with regards to technology and administration. Most coaches want to do a better job collecting data that is important to them and wish to save time doing the routine stuff that can be done better with technology. I have helped a lot of high level teams do a better job with their existing philosophy of training by ensuring they do what they believe in better. I rarely talk about training because it’s often not what you know but what you get your athletes to do. For example I do a lot of assessment form customization and cloud solutions and smart phone optimization so you can spend more time coaching and learning and less time doing paperwork.
Anatomical or Graphical Illustration for Physical Therapist, Coaches, and Researchers. -After Bret finishes his 5 page article this summer, some examples of my artistic abilities and skills of sharing visual instruction. If you are a writer or lecturer who needs to help convey your message or ideas to people I tend to have a knack for finding the right people to share data or visual instruction. I just finished a course on anatomy for artists so I can bring to life how the body works biomechanically.
Thanks for the interview.