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Bret Contreras: Last year, I created the load vector training model. Of course the system is not perfect, just like all other classification systems. Human movement is quite dynamic and complex, which makes any system of classification very challenging. However, the load vector concept is very intriguing and has merit in the literature.

Chi emailed me his thoughts regarding load vectors last week and I asked him to write a guest blog on the topic since he’s obviously put a lot of thought into it. For those of you who don’t know Chi, he’s a freaky-intelligent guy, a research machine, and an all-around nice guy! And he lives in the Netherlands!

Load Vectors: Less is More!
By Chi Chiu

How do you respond to a blog invite from a highly innovative guy, who turned the explanation of one exercise into a book of 600 pages? How about by writing the shortest guest post ever, about nothing new!

Bret has written extensively about the concept of load vectors (LV) which adds another layer to the use of planes by focusing on the direction of the resistance, instead of the movement. While doing so, he introduces 12 “new” words like anteroposterior, lateromedial, and torsional. Although I enjoyed the concept and love (bio)mechanics, I did not adopt the lingo, because in the weight room we already have less sophisticated, but adequate terminology like push, pull and rotate. If you combine them with the axes (axial, sagittal, and lateral), you basically get most of the LV concept, but on a more intuitive level.

The words push, pull and rotate are generic and tell you something about the forces acting upon the body, while the axes specify the direction. The squat is an axial push exercise and a chin-up an axial pull. The Pallof press however, is a movement in the sagittal plane and looks like a push, hence the press part. In the “new” LV lingo, however, it’s a lateral rotational pull. The LV dictionary for the weight room just got shorter and more intuitive. As a result of it, I’ve seen various people apply those principles on their program design, only minutes after I explained it to them. Just tweak it a little on upper, core, and lower body exercises and you have a general balanced or more specific adapted selection of exercises in no time. By using more intuitive and familiar words, the LV concept gets more accessible and therefore more applicable.

New Terminology

Axial – vertical plane
Sagittal – horizontal plane
Lateral – lateral plane
Push – moving away from the body
Pull – moving toward the body
Rotation – twisting

Examples

Axial Pull – chin up, deadlift, power clean, curl, shrug
Axial Push – military press, squat, lunge, dip
Axial Rotation – landmine, single leg box squat, single leg RDL
Sagittal Pull – inverted row, seated row, back extension
Sagittal Push – push up, bench press, hip thrust, sled push
Sagittal Rotation – bird dog, single leg hip thrust, single arm db bench press, renegade row
Lateral Pull – standing cable adduction
Lateral Push – x-band walk, slideboard lateral slide, lateral raise
Lateral Rotation – Pallof press, cable chop, cable lift

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Developing Foot Speed and Agility
Michael Boyle

A couple of threads on the StrengthCoach.com forum got me thinking about the question of foot speed and athletes. I can’t tell you how often I hear a parent or a coach ask, “How can I improve my son’s/daughter’s/ athlete’s foot speed or agility?” It seems everyone always wants the shortcut and the quick fix. The better question might be “Do you think you can improve foot speed?” or maybe even the larger question, “Does foot speed even matter?”

That begs the larger question, “Does foot speed have anything to do with agility?” I know coaches or parents reading this are asking, “Is this guy crazy?” How many times have we heard that speed kills? I think the problem is that coaches and parents equate fast feet with fast and quick feet with agile. However, fast feet don’t equal fast any more than quick feet equal agile. In some cases, fast feet might actually make an athlete slow–often I see fast feet as a detriment to speed. In fact, some of our quick turnover guys, those who would be described as having fast feet, are very slow off the start.

The problem is fast feet don’t use the ground well to produce force. Fast feet might be good on hot coals, but not on hard ground. Think of the ground as the well from which we draw speed. It is not how fast the feet move, but rather how much force goes into the ground. This is basic action-reaction physics. Force into the ground equals forward motion. This is why the athletes with the best vertical jumps are most often the fastest. It comes down to force production. Often coaches will argue the vertical vs. horizontal argument and say the vertical jump doesn’t correspond to horizontal speed, but years of data from the NFL Combine begs to differ. Force into the ground is force into the ground. In spite of what Brett Contreras may say, vectors don’t seem to matter here. The truth is parents should be asking about vertical jump improvement, not about fast feet. My standard line is “Michael Flatley has fast feet, but he doesn’t really go anywhere. If you move your feet fast and don’t go anywhere, does it matter? It’s the old “tree falling in the woods” thing.

The best solution to slow feet is to get stronger legs. Feet don’t matter. Legs matter. Think about it this way: If you stand at the starting line and take a quick first step but fail to push with the back leg, you don’t go anywhere. The reality is that a quick first step is actually the result of a powerful first push. We should change the buzzwords and start to say “that kid has a great first push.” Lower body strength is the real cure for slow feet and the real key to speed and to agility. The essence of developing quick feet lies in single-leg strength and single-leg stability work… landing skills. If you cannot decelerate, you cannot accelerate, at least not more than once.

One of the things I love is the magic drill idea. This is the theory that developing foot speed and agility is not a process of gaining strength and power, but rather the lack of a specific drill. I tell everyone I know that if I believed there was a magic drill we would do it every day. The reality is it comes down to horsepower and the nervous system, two areas that change slowly over time.

How do we develop speed, quickness and agility? Unfortunately, we need to do it the slow, old-fashioned way. You can play with ladders and bungee cords all you want, but that is like putting mag wheels on an Escort. The key is to increase the horsepower, the brakes and the accelerator. I think the answer for me is always the same. I wrote an article last year called “Is ACL Prevention Just Good Training?” In much the same way, development of speed, agility and quickness simply comes down to good training. We need to work on lower body strength and lower body power and we need to do it on one leg.
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I love ladder drills. They provide excellent multi-planar dynamic warm-up. They develop brain-to-muscle connection and are excellent for eccentric strength and stability. We do less than five minutes of ladder drills, one or two times a week. I don’t believe for a minute that the ladder is a magic tool that will make anyone faster or more agile, however I do believe it is a piece of the puzzle from the neural perspective. People waste more than five minutes on biceps curls, but we have long debates about ladder drills.

These are also a great tool to show to coaches who want “foot speed.” Sometime it’s easier to “yes” them than to argue with them. Give a guy with “bad feet” a jump rope and you get a guy with bad feet and patella tendonitis.

PSS- I have never used the term “speed ladder.” We always call it an agility ladder if we call it more than the ladder.

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MMA for Football?
By: Michael Boyle
StrengthCoach.Com

“MMA training for an NFL athlete does not only NOT make sense, but would simply be counterproductive. The demands of the two sports clearly could not be any more different from each other. It makes as much sense as choosing to going to chemo therapy because you are sick of shaving your head (Michael Jackson’s doctor said that line, I believe). Taking a multi-million dollar athlete and having him train in such a nonsensical way is foolish and irresponsible… and please realize I am an MMA coach.” Dewey Neilsen, Nationally Recognized MMA Strength and Conditioning Coach

A couple of NFL strength and conditioning coaches have written to ask about NFL athletes using MMA training techniques to train in the off-season. I guess my reputation as a person with an opinion is following me. I can start the controversy right off. In my mind it is foolish and short-sighted for an NFL player to train like a mixed martial arts fighter. I watched a recently released NFL quarterback on Youtube engage in a sparring session with an MMA trainer. Trust me, I don’t want to get beat up by an MMA trainer, but I don’t think this is a good idea. The only guys on the field who really can’t operate without their hands are quarterbacks and receivers. If I’m paying a guy a few million dollars, I would really prefer he doesn’t punch anything. I was really surprised that one NFL GM actually endorsed the idea. Seems crazy to me.

To further draw on the controversy, let’s ask ourselves, what is MMA training? The majority of what we see on the web as MMA training seems to be muscle endurance stuff that doesn’t appear to be good for anyone except combat athletes, and certainly does not seem appropriate for an NFL player. I’ve seen guys training with snorkels in their mouths for oxygen deprivation; I’ve watched a guy literally throw rusty barbells in a field. So I will qualify myself and say that if we view MMA training primarily as sparring with mitts or kicking, I still can’t see how it has a place in training for a football guy.

Let’s look at the basics. A football play lasts approximately five seconds. An MMA round lasts five minutes. Right away, do you see a problem? The rationalization I listened to in the Youtube interviews revolved around the mental toughness developed in pushing through fatigue. I do not doubt this type of training is difficult, however what they are describing never happens in football. Plays last five seconds and the rest lasts about 30 seconds. This in no way resembles anything in the martial arts.

Moving on from the obvious energy system issue, an MMA fighter wears almost zero equipment and is able to punch and kick his opponent. An NFL player wears pads on most exposed bodyparts, and it is basically illegal to punch and or kick an opponent. Running is a huge part of football; in MMA, running will not win many matches and too much running will damage an athlete’s reputation as a willing opponent.

To add even more complexity, the best MMA strength and conditioning coaches probably train their fighters more like NFL players than the opposite. Jon Chaimberg’s and Dewey Neilsen’s MMA programs are not typical MMA programs. Instead, they are scientific programs based on the current science of performance enhancement. If an NFL guy told me he was going to train with Jon or Dewey, I would endorse it wholeheartedly. However, what they would do is train like a football player. The best MMA strength coaches realize their athletes get plenty of work with their MMA coaches. Much like NFL strength and conditioning coaches, the good MMA strength and conditioning coaches spend lots of time on basic strength training and power work.

The truth is, training like an MMA fighter is cool and trendy and might get a player featured on ESPN. What it might not be is intelligent or effective for conditioning for football. Football players and MMA is a lot like athletes and actors. MMA training means ringside seats at fights, pretty girls, nights out in Vegas. Sorry, it still doesn’t makes sense for highly paid athletes who participate in a physically violent sport six months out of the year.

If I’m an NFL strength coach, I’m not happy if my guys are missing workouts for sparring sessions. I’m less happy if they are using this type of training instead of the football specific routines I have taken years to develop. If you are an NFL executive, you are undermining the credibility of your strength and conditioning staff, and pretty soon your off-season program will be an MMA free-for-all you’ll need to rein in. I know I’ll get some negative feedback on this, but I owe it to my NFL colleagues to state an opinion that they can’t.

Look at it this way: How would position coaches feel if a player said he wanted to skip practice to go to MMA? The position coach’s feeling is, “This is my time with you—we need this time to get better.” The strength coach feels the same way. The off season is his time to do his best work. If a player is off sparing in an MMA gym, that is time away from the important things that really need to be done.

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The Growth Hormone Hypertrophy Myth
By Mark Young

The common assertion in strength training literature (I use that term loosely) is that compound movements must be done (and short rest intervals used) to maximize the growth hormone output associated with training to accentuate muscle hypertrophy.

In simpler terms:

Big compound movements + Growth hormone release = Hyooge muscles (i.e., looking like Bret Contreras)

(editors note: Compliments go a long way in these parts!)

For years studies have demonstrated that training using compound movements and/or short rest intervals does indeed increase the output of anabolic hormones giving strength to this theory which would normally be considered a good thing. Sounds good right?

However, more recent research has demonstrated that although testosterone, growth hormone, and IGF1 do rise with when training the larger muscle groups, there is no difference in muscle protein synthesis (muscle building) or intracellular signaling when compared to a group training without these hormonal changes.

Of course, caution is always warranted when we’re looking at mechanistic studies where hypertrophy is not actually measured (as this is how we got in this mess in the first place) so a follow-up training study was conducted to demonstrate the effects of training in the presence or absence of these hormones on hypertrophy and strength.

In this study, 12 males trained their biceps using a unilateral arm curl for 15 weeks. However, one arm was trained on one day strictly performing curls (Low Hormone Group). The other arm was trained on a completely different day followed immediately by several leg exercises aimed at increasing hormone concentrations in the blood (High Hormone Group).

From weeks 1-6 each arm was trained once per week. From weeks 7-15 each arm was trained two times per week although 48 hours was always left after the arm only condition (Low Hormone Group) to make sure that they did not experience any influence of the additional anabolic hormones while still while their protein synthesis was still elevated from training the previous day.

For those who are interested, each arm workout consisted of 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps using 95% of their bicep curl 1 rep max. In addition, the high hormone group performed 5 sets of 10 reps of leg presses followed by 3 sets of 12 reps of a leg extension/leg curl superset after each arm workout.

At the end of each workout the subjects drank a beverage containing 18 grams of whey protein to facilitate maximal protein synthesis. Isometric strength, 1 repetition max, and 10 repetition max for the bicep curl were taken pre-training and at 15 weeks. MRI and muscle fiber biopsies were used to determine increases in muscle growth.

As it turns out, the high hormone condition did elicit greater responses in testosterone, growth hormone, and IGF1 than the low hormone condition. While both groups experiences increases in strength, fiber hypertrophy, and muscle cross sectional area, there were ABSOLUTELY NO SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO GROUPS. In other words, training in the presence or absence of endogenous hormones didn’t make a lick of difference.

Criticisms of this study might include the fact that the subjects were novice lifters, that they didn’t have enough protein after training and that there were no dietary controls.

To these I offer a two considerations.

1 – Novice trainees will indeed make gains in response to almost anything. It is certainly harder to make gains with advanced lifters. For this reason I would argue that the differences would be LESS pronounced in people who were already trained since their gains are already limited.

2 – Whether or not the protein intake was actually sufficient (which THIS STUDY indicates that it is) or whether the diets were controlled doesn’t really matter because the study was a within subject design. In other words, because the study was comparing one arm to another instead of comparing between two separate groups means that each arm was subject to the same nutritional effects as the other arm since the belong to the same person. This minimizes the possible variability usually found in a between subject design (i.e., one group ate a lot of protein and calories and the other didn’t) and makes a within subject design more powerful. If there was a difference between methods, this type of design would have been the best suited to discover it.

All in all, the big picture is that training the larger muscle groups and shortening the rest intervals DOES increase the output of anabolic hormones. However, these hormones do NOT cause any additional hypertrophy.

That is not to say that you shouldn’t use the “big bang” exercises or that short rest intervals are useless. Heavy lifting taxes more muscle groups thereby increasing your chances of strength and growth. Short rests also make workouts quicker and more efficient (or possibly allow more training volume during a fixed amount of time).

It does mean though that you don’t HAVE to do the big exercises or maintain short rest intervals to elicit hypertrophy. For those who find it difficult to squat, deadlift, or bench due to an injury or condition, this should come as a welcome change to the usual “do the big 3 or be forever small” mantra. You have to load the muscles and you have to feed your body, but how you do it is up to you.

In the end, the anabolic hormone cascade is not going to do you any favors in terms of extra hypertrophy…because that is straight up bro science.

Consider That Myth Busted!

For those who want to reach Mark to bitch him out for shattering their dreams of becoming muscular and sexy as a result of endogenous hormone release you can visit his website at www.markyoungtrainingsystems.com

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Today’s post will be from my friend Joe Sansalone regarding the topic of shoulder packing. The best part about this guest-blog is that Joe doesn’t even know I’m posting it; I simply compiled information from Joe’s posts on the StrengthCoach.Com forum thread regarding shoulder packing and embedded his Youtube videos demonstrating the methods. Joe is one of the most knowledgeable guys in the industry yet many people have never even heard of him. This is because Joe is busy training folks all day long, not writing articles and blogs. Below you will find a few of his posts regarding shoulder packing as well as a several videos that Joe and his lovely girlfriend Neghar filmed together. Thanks Joe and Neghar!

Preface: Why Should I Care About Shoulder Packing?

Some readers may be asking themselves, “What in the hell is shoulder packing and why should I care about it?” As lifters, trainers, and coaches, we can’t just assume that an individual has proper thoracic mobility and proper scapulohumeral mechanics and prescribe them overhead movements. If we screen them and they demonstrate proficiency, then by all means, give them overhead movements. But if they aren’t cleared for the movements, we need to get them back into action by ensuring that we improve dysfunction such as poor t-spine mobility, poor mid-trap, low-trap, and serratus activation, weak rotator cuff muscles, absense of lat contraction, and unsynchronicized shoulder, scapular, and spinal movement in order to groove proper motor patterns and prevent chronic injury down the road.

Shoulder Packing by Joe Sansalone

Post #1

There seems to be some confusion as to what packing the shoulder actually is, when to do it and why. Keeping the shoulder packed does not mean to limit or stop the normal scapulo-humeral rythm of an overhead movement. In fact, packing the shoulder will actually reinforce and create proper overhead movement mechanics.

Lets first understand what is meant by packing of the shoulder. When Gray first introduced me to the idea of focusing on packing the shoulder, I was confused like many others. I thought, how the hell am I going to get my arm overhead all the way if I have to keep my scapula down and back the whole time, if I cant let my scapula upwardly rotate? I should have just asked him to explain more, but Gray can be intimidating because he is so much smarter than me.

Sue Falsone cleared up for me what Gray was trying to get me to understand. That is that packing of the shoulder means to move the arm overhead while maintaining the Path of Instantaneous center of rotation (PICR) of the humerus in the glenoid. In order for this to happen a force couple between the upper trap, lower trap, serratus anterior and the lats has to occur for the scapula to properly upwardly rotate while in a stable position on the Tspine. When the load begins moving overhead the compressive force into the shoulder reflexively causes the rotator cuff to fire and stabilize and maintain PICR all the way overhead as long as and only if the scapula remains stable on the tspine as it upwardly rotates.

To maintain scapular stablity on the tspine as the scapula rotates upward, the scapula’s position on the tspine has to be maintained and the force couple has to occur all the way to the lockout. This requires what is now being called shoulder packing, just maintain the scapula’s position on the tspine while it upwardly rotates. This maintains PICR through the movement and makes sure the sub-acromial space is not compromised. This is the proper patterning of overhead movements and what the RKC system and Gray call shoulder packing. Engage the lats and scapula muscles to keep the scapula in a stable position as it upwardly rotates, allowing the rotator cuff to reflexively do its job of keeping the humerus on the PICR axis in the glenoid. This is also known as maintaing shoulder stability.

Remember, the rotator cuff can’t build proper tension and properly stabilize the humerus if the scapula is moving around on the tspine as it attempts to upwardly rotate. When this happens it causes the shoulder to “float” and become unstable in the joint. The upper traps have to compensate for the lack of a proper force couple and the shoulder will move in an inappropriate way compromising its integrity and decreasing overhead movement potential and increasing risk of injury to the shoulder complex and neck.

Put another way, shoulder packing is the intentional focus on proper overhead motor-programming. It is the simultaneous engagement of the lat, serratus, and traps in the proper sequence as the humeurus moves into the overhead position. This keeps the scapula stable on the tspine while it properly upwardly rotates, allowing the rotator cuff to build and maintain tension for humeral stability, keeping the humerus in the glenoid with the proper PICR as it moves into the overhead position. This keeps the sub-acromial space uncompromised and impingement potential at its lowest.

One of the problems here is it seems we are thinking that packing the shoulder is about stopping the scapula upward rotation necessary to move the arm overhead, and therefore changing the natural and normal anatomical overhead movement pattern. It is not. Shoulder packing is simply the process of maintaining proper scapula position on the tspine and humeral position in the joint as it moves overhead.

Put another way again, packing the shoulder is focusing on properly patterning the complex movement of the arm overhead. Most people have upper trap dominance issues and upon pressing overhead the force couple is not happening or out of sequence, and in order to get the arm overhead they inappropriately shrug and elevate the scapula and humerous into the Acromium causing impingement of the sub-acromial space. This is an unpacked shoulder movement, which is also a very unstable humerus in the glenoid as it is shifting up, down and all around in the glenoid instead of maintaing PICR with a scapula that is stable on the tspine while upwardly rotating.

This inappropriate scapula elevation instead of scapula control, while it is trying to upwardly rotate, causes the rotator cuff to have a hard time developing tension to hold the humerus stable in the glenoid and the humerus subsequently shifts off PICR and up into the sub-acromial space and other directions. This type of upper trap dominant, force coupling problem and inability to maintain a stable humerus position in the glenoid as it moves overhead, is major factor in the development of shoulder pathology.

One last way to talk about shoulder packing. Packing the shoulder is just the process of avoiding improper scapula elevation and humeral upward glide into the subacromial space during overhead motions. Its just the term used to describe proper overhead patterning. An unpacked shoulder is a shoulder that elevates inappropriately in the joint and at the scapula, disrupting normal overhead motion and muscle recruitment patterns.

One more last thing, and perhaps this is all that was needed to be said, shoulder packing is not about stopping the normal upward rotation of the scapula, it is about stopping the dysfunctional upper trap dominant, impingement causing pattern of overhead movements, by teaching proper overhead mechanics and positioning of the scapula and humerus.

The RKC system teaches packing of the shoulder in the lockout AND during overhead movements for the reasons I listed above, not just in the overhead lockout. Lets not let the term “packing” throw us off. Again, packing is simply about proper sequencing, rhythm and movement patterning of the scapulo-humeral complex during movement. Packing the shoulder is a new way of saying good overhead mechanics.

I hope this helps clear up some of the confusion of what shoulder packing is and why it is taught. Sorry for the long post and the major redundancy, but I wanted to say the points in many different ways since this is such a large audience and different ways of saying the same thing can be helpful sometimes.
By the way, this concept is gone over by Brett Jones and Gray Cook in great detail in their Secrets of the Shoulder DVD.

Post #2

The key to overhead pressing properly is to concentrate on maintaining the proper scapula position on the tspine while it upwardly rotates, which is to resist excessive scapula elevation or depression. Both can cause problems and possible pathology, but people rarely depress their shoulders too much and almost always excessively elevate, so we focus on depressing/packing to bring back the length/tension balance between the traps as the arm goes overhead.

Also, to assist the rotator cuff in maintaing the PICR of the humerus in the glenoid, the lat should be intentionally fired. If you focus on these things, the natural force coupling mechanism of the serratus anterior, upper and lower traps will fire appropriately and the scapula should maintain a stable depressed position on the tspine while it upwardly rotates, without shrugging, with a posterior tilt that happens naturally as the humerus goes overhead.
When the force couple of the scapula muscles fires properly, the serratus anterior posteriorly tilts the scapula against the tspine and the upper and lower traps maintain the scapula’s stability against the tspine. This allows the rotator cuff and lat to stabilize the humerus in the glenoid as it moves overhead, maintaing the proper PICR. This is what we call packing the shoulder.

Sometimes an RKC instructor or physical therapist will pattern the position by working on getting to the overhead lockout position and gently elevating and anteriorly tilting the scapula and then re-depressing and posteriorly tilting the scapula back into position. This is a motor programming drill much like the prone Y pre-hab exercise. The idea is to teach upper trap dominant people who do not lack proper overhead mobility but have dysfunctional scapula-humeral rhythm and subsequent instability at the scapula and humerus going into an overhead position, how to properly position the scapula and humerus by firing the lower trap and serratus to learn to control the shoulder girdle as it moves overhead.

Perhaps this is what the RKC was trying to do. You certianly do not want to press overhead incorrectly and then “set” the shoulder into the right position every rep. The goal would be to get the pattern correct as you move overhead, so you end in the right positon as opposed to going up and then setting every time. That would be like descending into a squat with a hunch in the low back and then getting into proper hip flexion and properly positioning the spine and pelvis at the bottom of every rep before standing.

Once you have a person who can do a standing and a prone Y correctly, then you can progress to the standing version of that with a light weight to help reinforce positioning and patterning (as talked about above), and then begin to pattern the actual overhead motion.

The main thing to understand here, as Rob Panariello has pointed out, is you do not want to depress and retract the scapula and limit the natural upward rotation and force couple that needs to occur. Doing this, as professionalpt also pointed out, can cause the Acromium to be pulled down and when the humerus then goes overhead it can impinge the very narrow sub-acromial space. Its also just an unnatural way of moving. This is especially dangerous in those who have a type 3 Acromium hook, which creates even less sub-acromial space and subsequently even more potential for impingement going into an overhead position.

The correct patterning of the shoulder girdle going overhead is to maintain a stable scapula that will properly upwardly rotate on a properly positioned tspine. This happens through the force coupling mechanism/proper length-tension relationship of the upper and lower trap with the serratus anterior. This creates a stable scapular platform for the rotator cuff to reflexively contract against and stabilize the humerus in the glenoid, with the assistance of firing the lat. This maintains the normal PICR of the humerus as it goes up and down overhead. Thatls a lot to take in.

Because of the force couple and proper length-tension of the lower and upper trap and the serratus, the scapula will have a depressed and posteriorly tilted position on the tspine as the scapula rotates upward, much like the Y exercise. This is shoulder packing, also known as proper overhead mechanics. Whatever we want to call it.

This is the key to understanding overhead patterning and this is very different from simply depressing and retracting the scapula and stopping needed upward rotation. Doing this would almost be like creating a dysfunctional lower trap dominant overhead pattern. This is also different from pressing overhead without focusing on scapular stability, causing upper trap dominant dysfunctional pattterning and then creating the proper position at the top. We want to accomplish proper scapulo-humeral rhythm going overhead so the humerus is stabilized properly in the glenoid, maintaing the PICR, reducing the potential for injury.

Post #3

The Y is designed to develop proper overhead motor programming and muscle recruitment patterns. The goal of the Y is to correct upper trap dominance in overhead positions and restore proper functional mechanics and rhythm to the scapula and humerus in the overhead position.

The reach, roll and lift technique in the Y position is one of the best ways to pattern the proper overhead position and restore the correct muscle recruitment patterns of the lower trap, rotator cuff and lat in the overhead position.

Lying prone with the arms overhead, purposefully shrug the scapula and slide the hands overhead, palms down, as far as possible without lifting the arms off the floor. This will lengthen the lower traps, external shoulder rotators, and the lats. This provides a good starting point to pattern the proper scapula position and shoulder position in an overhead position. From this lengthened position we will be able to better facilitate the contraction of the lower traps, rotator cuff and lats by now having the room to depress the scapula into the proper place on the tspine and be able to better pull the humerus into the proper place in the glenoid in the next step.

Next, externally rotate the arms from the shoulder as much as possible (this will cause the palms to face upward to some degree) while simultaneously contracting the lats to pull the humerus down and sliding/depressing the scapula down the tspine by contracting the lower traps. You will notice as you begin externally rotating the arms and sliding the scapula down the tspine, that the shoulder will begin to pack into the glenoid almost automatically. This is the reflexive contraction of the rotator cuff caused by firing the lats and lower traps and by assuming the proper overhead position.

This will create the “packed” position and the proper length-tension relationship between the lower and upper traps. At this point the lats, rotator cuff and lower trap will be contracting and the shoulder will now be held on the PICR in the glenoid while the scapula muscles work in the correct overhead sequence.

Next maintaing this exact position and rhythm, attempt to lift the hands off the ground while keeping the elbows straight. The height is not important as that is more about mobility and lower trap and serratus strength. Eventually we want to develop more lower trap and serratus strength in this position, but in the beginning it is all about proper motor programming of the scapula muscles in the overhead position. The long lever against gravity in this prone position may be too much load for people to handle and you will immediately see upper trap dominance return or elbows bending to shorten the lever and relieve some of the load. These are all compensations that lead to the poor pattern that causes most overhead problems and pathology. Lifting the arms in the prone position while maintaining the lat, and lower trap contraction is vital to the development of proper overhead movement mechanics.

The Y is only as good as the execution when the arms are lifted. If the packed position of the lat, rotator cuff and lower trap contracting to hold the PICR of the shoulder is compromised when the arms are lifted, you are simply training and reinforcing poor mechanics and therefore actually increasing injury potential instead of decreasing it.

The scapula must not shrug when the lifting phase is initiated, as this creates a potential impingement, unstable humerus and upper trap dominance in overhead movements. Maintain the depressed scapula and contracted lat in the lifting phase as you created in the roll phase. The positions should look the same.

Be aware of overhead mobility issues. If a person has limited mobility in the overhead position they will compensate trying to perform the Y. No matter how much you cue or re-position them they will simply compensate upon lifting because they do not have the mobility to get into the position you are asking of them. You can still work on patterning overhead with these people using the Y, but you must lower the amount of overhead flexion they are in by elevating them and lowering their arms some. When they go to perform the Y they will not lift their arms into full overhead flexion as they will compensate into upper trap dominance. It is best to work on tspine and overhead mobility in these situations to develop the ability to even get the arms overhead properly. Then work on proper patterning.

The same is true of people who are mobile enough to get the arms into the overhead position, but lack the strength to maintain the position in the lift phase. If the lever is too great they will always compensate into an upper trap dominant pattern because the lower trap, lats, serratus or rotator cuff is too weak. In this situation it is best to learn the Y in a standing position facing a wall. Perform the same reach, roll and lift maneuver with the arms and body against the wall. Be aware of excessive lumbar spinal extension compensation here. Also be aware of that in the prone Y. In fact, standing might be the best place to start with all people mobile enough to get into the Y position. Its easier to teach proper patterning without the load against gravity.

To sum up, the Y is a corrective/pre-hab drill designed to properly pattern overhead mechanics to reduce the potential of injury to the shoulder. This is done by teaching how to properly contract the lower traps and lats to effectively position the scapula on the tspine allowing the rotator cuff to have a stable scapular platform to develop tension against. This patterning develops the PICR of the humerus in the glenoid in overhead movements. It is a great exercise to correct poor overhead movement mechanics and teach the shoulder packing concept if implemented properly.

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Yesterday Mike Boyle posted the following article on his website StrengthCoach.Com. I found it so inspiring that I emailed him and asked if I could repost it on my site. He was kind enough to grant my request.

When I read articles like these I’m always humbled by the tremendous amounts of passion and hard work some coaches have put forth throughout their lives. And possibly no one has put forth more than Mike Boyle. While my training methods sometimes differ from Mike’s (he’s more of a systems-guy and a strength coach while I’m more of an improvisation-guy and a personal trainer), I always listen carefully to what Mike says knowing that he has remarkable credibility with his vast experience and education. Mike has undoubtedly earned my utmost respect. Here’s his article:

My Top Coaching Influences

Michael Boyle

A blog reader posted this question recently and got me thinking. Who were my top coaching influences? I put a little thought in and came up with this list. Initially this was going to be a Top Ten but the more I thought the more the list expanded. Apologies to those I left out. I have been very lucky to have met so many great coaches.

Arthur Boyle. My dad was a high school phys ed teacher who also coached football and basketball (a sport he didn’t really play beyond high school). He went on to be a high school principal. Truth is I never saw him coach when I was old enough to “get it” but I learned a lot. I know he won what amounted to State titles in the 1960’s in basketball even though he was a college football player (it was called the Tech Tourney then). My father showed me that coaches could coach any sport. It didn’t matter what they sport they coached or what sport they played. I think this helped when I began to coach hockey players at BU. I also learned that some of my father’s most loyal fans were former managers who kept score books and ran errands. My dad innately knew how to treat everyone with respect. Lastly, I learned racial tolerance. My father coached lots of young African American kids in the sixties and loved it. I didn’t even know what prejudice was until I was much older. My dad was a Vince Lombardi era guy who often echoed the old adage “it’s not whether you win or lose but, how you play the game”. My dad believed that as do I.

Mike Woicek- Mike Woicek is an NFL legend. He has the most Super Bowl rings in NFL history, six, three with Dallas and three with New England, actually more than any player. In 1978 and 1979 he was the resident director in my dorm at Springfield College. Talk about lucky. For two years I sat in his room, listened to oldies, drank a few beers and worked my way through a box of Strength and Health and Ironman magazines. Mike introduced me to plyometrics, and the old Soviet Sport review, the predecessor of the Yessis Journals. Mike was my mentor during my early years at BU and was probably the single greatest influence on me as a strength coach. Mike was so far ahead of his time in the late seventies that it was comical. As a former track thrower his perspective on sports training was really progressive.

Bruce Buckbee- everyone who reads this will say “Who is Bruce Buckbee?” Again in the wide world of luck and serendipity Bruce came to Springfield College for Grad School at the same time as Mike Woicek and was my instructor for a course called Weight Training. Prior to Bruce’s arrival Weight Training was a simple and boring class. Bruce however had just come from University of Hawaii where he trained with the legendary Bill Starr. How about using Bill Starr’s Strong Shall Survive and being taught by a guy who had just been taught by Bill himself? We learned the Big Three ( squat, bench press, and power clean) from the book that coined the term) I was at Springfield College learning from a guy who had just finished training with a legend. At the same time I was chasing two other future legends around like Sam Leahey.

Rusty Jones- the third part of the Springfield connection is another NFL legend. Although Rusty does not have Mike’s rings he has had more teams in SuperBowls than anyone except Mike. Rusty was a graduate assistant football coach at the time and a nutritional pioneer in the 80’s. Rusty and Mike are actually the two longest tenured guys in the NFL. Wonder why the word lucky keeps coming up.

Jack Parker- my fourth influence is not a strength coach at all. Jack Parker is the winningest coach in NCAA history at a single institution with over 800 wins at Boston University. Yes, the same school. Coach Parker has been the head coach for 37 years. Next to my father I don’t think there is anyone in the world I respect as much as Coach Parker. I have had the pleasure of being part of about 500 or 600 wins of his wins as well as two National Championships and have learned so much along the way. I learned about coaching, I learned about fairness, and I learned about grace under pressure. I have been able to be in a locker room after National Championships wins, National Championships losses, and devastating player injuries. You learn valuable lessons in all these situations.

Vern Gambetta and Don Chu- Vern and Don fit together in my mind because they were the guys I wanted to be when I first attended NSCA conferences in the 1980’s. Both men came from track backgrounds and were instrumental in changing the field of strength and conditioning. I can remember watching them lecture and thinking to myself “imagine if I could ever captivate a room the way they did”. I read everything they wrote and bought every VHS tape they made. I idolized them. I wanted to be them. I hope today when I speak I do them justice.

Gary Gray- I don’t know if anyone had as significant an impact on my mind as Gary in the last twenty years. Although I don’t agree with everything Gary says or does, there is no mistaking the effect he had. In the early 1990’s Vern Gambetta told me I had to go to a Chain Reaction conference. I went to Phoenix and came away a changed man. I entered the room a meathead powerlifter and left a functional training guy. When Gary began to explain the concepts of function my entire world changed. The coolest thing is that it all made sense. These days I think the concept has gone to far but, that doesn’t change the things I learned at that first Chain Reaction seminar.

Johnnie Parker- I met Johnnie when he was the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the New England Patriots. Johnnie was the consummate coach and the consummate professional. When I lecture I see myself emulating Don Chu and Vern Gambetta. When I see myself as a coach, I see a guy that wanted to be Johnnie Parker. Johnnie was confident yet humble. He believed in the basics but was always learning and progressing. The most important thing to Johnnie was coaching. He coached from morning to night and pretty much stayed out of the limelight. Being in Massachusetts I took advantage of his generosity and visited him in Foxboro. With Johnnie it was just about getting players better and keeping players healthy. Everywhere Johnnie Parker coached teams went to SuperBowls and guys became Johnnie’s guys. There is no better testament to your ability than the loyalty of your players.

Al Vermeil — Al might be my favorite person in the field. I always say I want to be Al when I grow up. I don’t know anyone in our field who is more enthusiastic about learning than Al. He is the kid in the candy store. I brought Al in to do a seminar for my coaches a few years ago. The night before the seminar I brought him to the facility to observe our coaches and athletes. After about thirty minutes I expected Al to be ready to leave. Instead, he was ready to coach. He looked at me and said “can I coach some kids?”. I was dumbfounded. I had to drag him to dinner two hours later. Al Vermeil, he of 9 world championship rings in two different sports, stayed on the platforms and coached like a GA. Kids had no idea who this enthusiastic old guy was, but I did. I’ll never forget that night. It made a lasting impression on me and again showed me who I might be when I grew up. I am fortunate to be able to call Al a good friend and to be able to spend time with him every year at the Perform Better Summits. I often laugh in his lectures because the smartest people at the seminar never miss a chance to hear Al.

Mike Clark- Mike was the first of the Whiz Kid PT’s . The first time I heard him speak I thought “wow, this kid is smart”. Mike was like a physical therapy encyclopedia. I personally think he was the guy who fast forwarded many of us into the marriage of rehab and training. Gary Gray was a visionary thinker. Mike was the practical application guy. Mike took physical therapy and training and made them one science in a way no one else ever had.

Gray Cook — the original son of a preacher man, Gray has the ability and charisma to reach any audience. Gray may have influenced the way I program more than any one person over the past ten years. Mike Woicek and the others above built my foundation but Gray was a guy who changed much of the house. Another of these Whiz Kid Pt’s, Gray has single handedly changed coaches in every professional sport. Because of Gray the Functional Movement Screen is now the gold standard screening tool in our industry.

Mark Verstegen- Mark was one of the first Whiz Kid strength coaches. To be honest when I first read about him in Outside Magazine I was sure I wasn’t going to like him. Crew cut, snarling ex-linebacker? Not my type. Boy was I wrong. The guy could coach and was a great judge of character. I met some great guys through Mark who are also good friends today. I went to IPI to observe and came away with a friend for life. Both of our dad’s were high school principals and we grew up with the same values. Although he was 10 years younger, I felt like I had met my little brother in the world of strength and conditioning.

Alwyn Cosgrove- Alwyn was a great influence because he called me out at a time in my career when I needed it. To make a long story short, Alwyn reached out to me to connect on a few occasions and I was “too busy” to respond. Alwyn’s response was to tell Ryan Lee that I was a bit of an ass. When Ryan communicated that to me I simply said “oops”. Alwyn was right. I had been a bit of a jerk. Alwyn taught me a valuable lesson and I thank him for it. Alwyn also taught me another much more valuable lesson. He taught me that life is a gift and should be lived every day. As a two-time cancer survivor Alwyn inspires me to live better every day.

Ryan Lee- Many who read this will say Ryan Lee? However I think many of us in fitness and strength and conditioning owe a great deal to Ryan Lee. Ryan revolutionized our field. Ryan empowered us as coaches to realize it was Ok to make money. It was OK to try to develop a business. I can remember Ryan looking at me and saying “Is your stuff good? Then why are you ashamed to sell it?” Like many things in many professions people took Ryan’s advice the wrong way and took Ryan’s advice in the wrong direction, However, we have to realize not to shoot the messenger.

Chris Poirier- Chris Poirier is the man behind Perform Better. Chris saw the future and the future was education for trainers, coaches and therapists. Chris is probably the best businessman I know. Not because he knows how to make money but because he understands people. Bill Falk, the founder of MF Athletic, gave Chris a chance to develop a small offshoot of MF Athletic into a company that is now the leading education provider in our field. Chris’s idea was simple. If you give someone quality education you create customers. A simple and brilliant idea. He would say to the speakers “Don’t sell, teach”. If you educate them they’ll naturally become customers. It was a brilliant business idea that made industry names out of many of us. Without the Perform Better tour, I’m not sure where we would be.

I know when I publish this I will remember someone I left out. However the most important thing for me is to say thank-you to all the people who influenced me whether mentioned or left out. Without you I would not be the person I am today.

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The following is a guest-blog by my friend Sam Leahey, a 23-year old rising star in the fitness field. Sam has interned under Mike Boyle and Eric Cressey.

Recently I was afforded the luxury of attending a 3-day fitness business conference. The conference was one of those “big time” events that people fly from all over the world to attend. So much networking and innovative thinking was going on there that it was overwhelming for a young buck like me. However, I’m a pretty pensive person, and I did notice some things that put a new light on my perspective of the “fitness business/industry.” Though not exhaustive, here is a batch of discoveries I made:

It is WAY easier than you might think to make money with the internet. In fact, it’s so easy ANYONE can do it.

There are TONS of personal trainers and strength & conditioning coaches out there making TONS of money. Literally, TONS!

Most of those personal trainers and S&C coaches lack real and/or long-term results with their clients/athletes.

Most of those personal trainers and S&C coaches have tremendous gaps in their knowledge of exercise science and performance training.

Most of those personal trainers and S&C coaches are a bunch of scamming affiliates who care nothing about the people to whom they’re marketing.

It is easy to get so focused on the business side of things that the quality of your products and results you get with your clients/athletes starts to decline.

Now, if you go through these statements and take them to their logical extensions, the natural questions arise – “what about the ones who DO get real and long term results with their clients/athletes?”, “what about the personal trainers and S&C coaches who DO care about the people they’re marketing to because they sincerely want to enhance the level of quality knowledge out there and are not just looking for affiliate sales?”, “what about the ones who never lose focus of quality content and never let greed take over?”, “are all these guys/girls scammers too?”

I watched person after person present and even more people stand up in the crowd to testify how successful their fitness product was. In many cases the audience got an “inside look” at the product itself (videos, ebooks, etc). By the end of day two, I naturally found myself looking over at these individuals and saying to myself things like, “You don’t deserve to be selling that. It sucks, and no one is going to get results with it,” “That is the worst cookie cutter program I’ve ever seen,” “Your advice is going to get a lot of people injured. Please do some research before sharing your knowledge with others!”, and “SHUT UP AND SIT DOWN!” As I reflected on the experience during the ride home yesterday, I realized I learned a lot of what not to do and how not to be a scamming-low-quality-affiliate-seeker like the people I just encountered. However, I also found that I naturally was qualifying these individuals on some kind of imaginary continuum. They key word in the previous sentence was “qualifying,” as in, QUALITY!!!!!!!! Ah-Ha! So that’s the difference. Hopefully this depiction below will give you the reader the same epiphany I also had a on the ride home. If not, I’ve failed as an author. 8)

So, using this standard I think we can all agree that if you’re going to be putting products out there you better be at least on the far right third of the Quality Continuum. In other words, not on the far left and not just in the middle. In case you forgot, we should ALL be striving to be at the extreme end of the right side in our profession anyway! If you’re not, then please pick a new profession, we have enough low quality “professionals” and “half-effort folks” out there already. Please don’t consider putting any products out there.


Me (left), talking to a D1 strength coach (right) I met there. This was taken during one of our “speed networking” sessions.

I need to be clear here. The information I learned this weekend is very useful and CAN be used for good to enhance the general pool of knowledge out their regarding personal training and strength & conditioning. How many trainers and coaches out there do you know that would benefit tremendously if they got a hold of an E.Cressey, M.Boyle, A.Cosgrove, S.Mcgill, M.Robertson, or A.Renna product? Do we believe that we can change mainstream methodology of personal training and strength & conditioning? I KNOW we can. And one of the many great mediums to do that is by distributing top quality products from the aforementioned big timers.

One night after the conference I took a drive over to meet my good friend Anthony Renna for dinner. We discussed this very idea of quality and how far too many people are focused on making money and less on the quality of product their putting out. Even more disturbing is often times these individuals care more about creating products then they do about their actual profession!!!!!!!!!!!!!! One idea that kept being preached this weekend was “over deliver,” yet many products I saw were just piling on extra crap that made it even worse. All in all, this fitness business conference left me with an even higher respect for guys like Coach Boyle, Eric Cressey , Mike Robertson, Dr.Weingroff, Dr.McGill, Anthony Renna, and so many more. Our appreciation level for these leaders should be of upmost report because of the quality information they provide us all through various mediums. In the ideal world of personal training and strength and conditioning, professionals would be known for the quality they bring to the profession and not much else.

Does this represent your way of thinking. . .

Or does this?

I’d love to know how the readers feel about this topic too. Leave a comment below and we can discuss it. . .

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