RKC to CSP: The Journey of the Little Things

Dan John once told me, “You have attended everything that I have. You know my knowledge just as well as anyone, and you keep showing up.”

Well, why wouldn’t I?

I recently traveled across the U.S. to catch up with Dan John and Eric Cressey, two of the biggest influencers in my life whose knowledge continues to help me develop and grow the systems forATPSoloBlackRed Academy of Total Performance and Cystic Fibrosis Fitness Institutes. Two coaches that pack a powerful punch when it comes to training.

From an early time in my career, I developed the awareness to understand that the people I surround myself around and the messages they instill in me would influence how I grow and live my life as a son, brother, friend, and coach. It is the messages, the “little things,” that bring context and meaning to the bigger picture.  TaylorCFFIlogoMainWhen your system (auditory, spatial, kinesthetic, etc.) is fully engaged in a learning style that is new or uncomfortable, it doesn’t pick up on the small pieces that the environment requires to be built on. In order to work towards the bigger picture, the system first views the new environment as a whole and then must become comfortable in order to be able to break down, process, and learn from the “little things.”Going to conferences and seminars that you are not highly versed in challenges you to truly understand the context of what a coach is saying.

Dan John: “Show up, perform the lifts, then you have the right to talk about it.”

Eric Cressey: “Over-deliver.”

These two quotes, when morphed together and put into context, sum up why I travel around the world to try to improve my craft.  Dan has been my mentor and friend (more like family) for over 6 years, and Eric has mentored me for over 5 years.

Recently, I had the opportunity to assist Dan at an RKC in Utah (his house) and listen to Eric present on the shoulder in New York.

Hanging out at Dan’s is always an adventure. His dog, Sirius Black, runs around with chew toys close to his side, Bob (their robot cleaner), plays Rock’em, Sock’em Robots with the walls as it searches for dirt, and Dan is on course to conquer a 100 items of business before the clock strikes noon.

I have been to RKC in the past, yet this RKC was unique. Tim Anderson, the owner of Original Strength, was coming into recertify and we were both crashing at Dan’s. This meant resets and kettlebell for 3 days.

Yeah, I think I can live with that. As Ice Cube once said, “today was a good day.”

The little things I learned:

Dan John: “Stop chasing your one rep max.”IMG_6619

Takeaway: You spend a lot of neuromuscular energy when you chase the 1 rep max. Your recovery then has to be on point. We can’t forget about what goes on in the body after the lift. It takes days to recover from high neuromuscular training. Those days off could be fundamental lift days if you stop chasing the 1 rep max.  What I mean by this is, what if you lift more often and at 60% max? Then your 60% gets easier and you increase the weight, which by default will increase your 1 rep max. This will allow your system to fully utilize its adaptation mechanisms to increase proper recovery. Adequate recovery gives you optimal potential.

Tim Anderson: “It feels good to feel good.”

Takeaway: I heard that and thought, “Yup! Tim gets it.” Tim’s words were so clear, yet ambiguous to a lot of us. Goals give us opportunities to do unimaginable things. They also give us time to create clarity. The process to accomplishing a goal is determined based on the clarity regarding the goals purpose, as well as is determined by the environment. IMG_6623The journey to the goal increases specific adaptive changes of movement. It takes blood, sweat and tears to reach a goal. Yet, after you enjoy the accomplishment, you must reciprocate and allow the body the time “to feel good” as well. Your psychological goals will allow for your imagination to run wild, but you need to create a partnership among the systems (neurological system, respiratory system, skeletal system, muscular system, immune system, etc.) that allow the psychological state to occur.

Eric Cressey: Just because an exercise doesn’t hurt, doesn’t mean that it isn’t causing problems.  Think of the cigarette analogy; it’s one bad habit that won’t kill you in a day, but it can do so over an extended period of time.”

Takeaway: This is why you have to have clarity on your goal. Everything in movement has its purpose, however, depending on your goal, that purpose may not be ideal in the end. The hard pill to swallow is the “right now.” When an exercise feels good in the moment, there is a tendency to glance over on if it was truly beneficial towards what you were trying to accomplish. When you get hurt during a movement, you immediately analyze and blame what you did wrong at that moment, when in actuality it was repetitive patterns done continuously over time.IMG_6698 These repetitive patterns eventually reach a limit threshold, which causes the body to send out signals and give you a reality check. This is what we call “right now” thinking. When you are completing repetitive movements that are not ideal for the progress of your goal, your internal alarm system goes off and lets you know to adjust, slow down, and/or stop the movement.  Processing instant and gradual performance feedback, as well as informative feedback (how to improve) will allow for clarity to occur to help you understand what happened.

Showing up and listening to the little things shapes your “why,” your purpose for creating your goals, and brings clarity to your mission. Consistency then allows learning styles to adapt and creates familiarity to your vision. It is all about “the little things.”

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All you have to do now is show up.

 

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Baseball Pitchers In-season Posture

 

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Baseball players overtime develop and master the skill to make split decisions in front of 40,000 screaming fans, rotate and connect with unreal power and consistently do it over and over again. However, the elite of the elite are a dime a dozen. It takes time and years of practice to get anywhere close to that. To even give yourself a chance on the diamond you must take care of your body especially in-season when you don’t have as much time to devote to it like you did in the off-season.

Understanding the player’s positon on the field and what they do off the field in the weight room gives great insight into where stress is being absorbed and diminished throughout the season. This helps establish a direction to what exercises might be the most beneficial during their in-season training.

First you always have to start with an assessment and what their posture is telling them before and after games. In part one of Academy of Total Performances 6-part series I am going to discuss how we at ATP break down a pitcher’s posture and how it relates to their mechanics.

Birddogs and Baseball Bats

School is back in session and baseball coaches are urgently getting the ball rolling for their fall programs in preparation to get their baseball players ready for the spring season. Anytime coaches start a new program the optimism is high because the clarity that the fall program can bring sets them up with the confidence needed to bring home a title. Along with scheduling fall practices and scrimmages the coaches have to manage scheduling time to get into the weight room so their athletes have an outlet to get strong and faster.

Like most baseball programs the workouts start with a warm up to improve blood flow to the muscles, increase mobility or maybe even create some stability in preparation for that day’s lift or if the players are lucky batting practice on the field. With so much going on the athletes will tend to get confused on why they are doing certain warm up exercises versus others or honestly do not care what so ever on what they are doing as long as they get to get under a bar and lift something heavy or take a few hacks on the field. Now working on the little things such as a proper warm up or some simple stretches is just not as flashy or cool to a young athlete compared to taking swings on the field. Young athletes don’t tend to see the importance because there isn’t an instant result compared to taking batting practice and watching and feeling how hard they hit the ball or how far it went. What if time stood still for 1 minute and you had the opportunity to teach an exercise that you believed was going to have an important carry over onto the field. If a genie granted me that moment, I would pick the Birddog exercise. Hands down one of the best exercise that every young baseball player should master and here is why.

Birddogs

The birddog starts in a 6-point position with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips with your toes gripping the ground. From this position you breathe in through your nose expanding the belly down as you push the belly button to the ground. This expansion creates stability throughout the middle of your body.  As you grasp full stability you drive your heel back as far you can, point the toes as you reach the full extension. As this is going on you are simultaneously reaching as far as you can forward with your middle finger while keeping the thumb up as if you were going to show someone they did a great job. The goal is to fully lengthen the body while trying to maintain a stable position keeping the heel under the butt and while trying to keep the arm in line with the ear at the end range. In a perfect world all this would happen with ease and simultaneously unfortunately in the baseball World this doesn’t happen and tends to look different based on the player but that is what happens when you decide to fully commit to a sport that only creates bigger gaps in asymmetries.

Now let me show you what this looks like from a throwing perspective.

This only captures a minute second in time of the acceleration phase in his throwing mechanics but if you look closely this mimics a lot of what the birddog exercise is doing. He is synchronizing his contralateral sides (opposite sides) to create stability so he can transfer from his landing foot to his release point. The force that is transferred when the lead leg lands can reduce and a lot of times be expressed through other joints when the brain and neuromuscular system cannot adapt and create efficiently through such a high force movement. Throwing a baseball can create up to 7500 degrees of internal rotation along with 1.5 times body weight of distraction force at the shoulder. This leaves baseball players prone to injuries when their body cannot absorb and transfer force efficiently at such a high rate from the ground up.

This is why Birddogs are a great exercise to throw in the warm up and throughout various points in the fall strength and conditioning program to help create and maintain movement quality in baseball players. Birddogs challenge the system to communicate with the all systems to synchronize while moving through the throwing phases in baseball. I would recommend having your baseball players do 2-4 sets a day of 3-6 reps on each side. As the movement gets easier try to have them hold longer when they extend out and back. The goal would be able to hold for 6 seconds or 3 long breaths (in through the nose and out through the mouth).

You know an exercise is built for baseball when it is mimicked in the throwing phase of a baseball throw. Having your baseball players perform various forms of birddogs throughout the program will help improve the quality of how they transfer force from the ground to their release point. This can only help them improve on their self-awareness of the movement as well as give them a better understanding on why such a simple exercise can go such a long way.

Check out my article on why Baseball players should do everything else backwards.

https://breakingmuscle.com/strength-conditioning/train-your-weak-side

Why the Environment dictates your training

When it comes to training there is so many roads you can take to reach a goal. I have seen hundreds of ads on the best way to shed fat to the muscle building programs that guarantees 10 pounds of muscle in 6 weeks. All these programs are tempting but what needs to be understand is everyone person is different. Every goal is different and how your body adapts to these programs will be different, so what may work for you may not work for someone else.

I remember when I first started lifting weights in 1999 I had a vision and goal to get as big as I possible could. I figured the bigger I got the stronger I would get the harder I would throw. I lifted 6 days a week and was on a mission to gain as much size as possible. There was only one problem I was a baseball player and too add to that I was a pitcher. Getting as big as possible isn’t necessarily the right formula to throw harder and improve on the quantity of skills I was trying to perfect on the mound. I did not start to grasp this until 2008 when I was side lined for the whole season due to serve ulnar issues because I over trained.

When I was side lined I searched for answers and it lead to my first mentor Bobby Aldridge and I still will remember to this day what he told me, “it is not how much you can lift or how many days you lift, but the appropriate amount of sets and repetitions based on the environment you lived in”. I actually need to lift heavier with less repetitions and focus more on my movement awareness and my ability to transfer force from the mound to home plate. We focused on creating a better environment of sleep, strength and mobility and less on how much time I spent in the gym. It did not matter how much I deadlifted or how much I could squat but what was the right amount that would transfer over for me to pitch at the highest level.

To learn more about how training is customized based on the individual and the environment they live in check out my article on breaking muscle on Gap Threshold Training.

http://breakingmuscle.com/strength-conditioning/avoid-burnout-with-gap-threshold-training

Why baseball players need to train with Kettlebells in season.

Over the course of the last few weeks I have had the privilege to coach under and be coached by some of the best coaches in the business. Timing has been perfect because of the gap between football and the start of spring training is always hard for me. I don’t know what to do with my self as I am a baseball addicted and football is my fix until the Lombardi trophy is finally hoisted in triumph. So as I waited for the last contracts to pop up on bleacher report of who is signing where and what team is projected to win the World Series, I decided to take a journey through the kettlebell community to improve on my ability to use kettlebells as a tool in the development of the baseball players that train with me in the offseason. With season approaching I thought it would ideal to reflect on the kettlebell exercises that I have used over the course of my coaching career that have shown to help my athletes maintain healthy shoulders, hips and thoracic spines throughout a long season.

Just to be clear kettlebells are a tool that I use but are not the end all be all when I am programming. I use many other tools to help my athletes stay healthy but I think it is important to go over some exercises that the kettlebell is an excellent source of equipment when performing these exercises.

1.) Tension + Relaxation = Optimal Expenditure

Baseball players are embarking on a long journey this season and they need to have the ability to create tension when needed but also have the awareness to turn it down (relaxation) when the time is right. The players at the elite level not only shine because of their talent but they have the awareness to ramp it up when needed and dim the lights down to conserve when they know it is going to be a grind. A good friend of mine Dan John talks about arousal levels and how as your arousal level goes up your time under arousal will start to diminish.

RKC TensionYou must be in tune with proper arousal meter order to understand the readings it will portray to you.The RKC does a great job at the beginning of every certification getting you to master breathing patterns that create tension patterns and breathing patterns that create relaxation patterns. Baseball is a job that requires 162 games in 180 days out of you. Grinds of long road trips and environmental influences out of the control of a player’s hands as well as your hands. This is job is a recipe for high arousal and limited relaxation and that is on a continuum of sympathetic to parasympathetic performance throughout a long season. Getting the athlete to work on diaphragmatic breathing during their rest periods between sets is just a simple way for them to work on regaining control of that arousal system.

Example: Circuit

Deadlift  (High Arousal)

Hip Flexor Stretch (Low Arousal)

Side Plank (High Arousal)

Rest 1 Minute (Last 30 secs is diaphragmatic breathing work focused) (Low Arousal)

2.) High Bridge +Single leg Kettlebell Deadlift + Kettlebell Swings = Optimal Longevity

Baseball players are extension based athletes. This means that they need to have ideal hip extension over the course of a long season because they tend to lose what Dan John calls the bow. This is the integrity it takes from the knees to the hips to the shoulders to efficiently hinge back and extend forward like if you were to shoot an arrow at a target. High bridge can be a great exercise and assessment when a player gets back from a long road trip. What happens is over the course of a long road trip a player’s hips tend to tighten up causing them to shift their extension pattern to the lumbar spine. Getting them to do a few bridges (10 reps) and then asking them where they feel it, whether it IMG_1402 2is their lower back, quads, hamstrings or glutes will tell you how they will move next when they walk out the door. Baseball players tend to feel it in their lower back, quads and hamstrings before they feel it in their glutes giving you a great indication that their glutes aren’t firing first. Glutes are the strongest hip extensor muscle in the hip complex and if they aren’t firing first which tends to happen after a long road trip they need some work before the player steps back on the field. Adding in some single leg deadlifts and some light kettlebell swings are a great way to get the glutes firing again. Throwing in some mini band work as well would help lock everything into place.

3.) Time under appropriate tension = Optimal Integrity

Tension comes up again but I am going to attack it from a different approach this time. I believe the loaded carry family and Turkish gets up are very important when your working with a baseball player in season.  Turkish gets up are the end all be all when your talking about full movements for baseball players in my eyes. When you are able to use a tool that has a unilateral tension displacement such as the kettlebell, it brings a component that dumbbells can’t. When you grasp the kettlebell and put it over head you turn the  rotator cuff on and signal the Taylor TGUshoulder that its time to work. Than as you go through the 14 steps of the get up you get a component of hip mobility, thoracic mobility, shoulder dynamic mobility/stability and unilateral core activation through various degrees. Everything that you need for a baseball player.

Now when you add in bottoms up carries, waiter carries and suit case carries you keep that treasure chest safe with great armor. See baseball players rotate and throw at such a higher force that they need to maintain the breaks that they have acquired in the offseason. Waiter carries attack the shoulder joint with great isometric manipulation around the area. Bottoms up carries add in the dynamic component to keep the rotator cuff awake and strong and there is notIMG_1420 2hing better to maintain that anti-rotation component than having a player hold a heavy kettlebell on one side and walk for distance. This lets the oblique’s (which is one of the highest injuries in pro players in spring training) and the surrounding muscles that connect the lower half to the upper half maintain quality breaks. Do not forget that you challenge the grip of these athletes when you carry heavy and if they start to lose their grip it is a great indicator that they are fatigued and need to shift back up to number 1 and work on living in their parasympathetic state to get some recovery.

In season training is a key component in all athletes and having the right tools in the tool box is key. Athletes have limited time to train because of their undulating schedule from traveling across the country to taking a test right before the game, so they don’t fall behind in class. The kettlebell is a convenient tool to maintain sport specific postural integrity for overhead athletes.  Creating the understanding of arousal on both sides of the spectrum, owning it with posterior strength (high bridge, KB SL deadlifts) and optimizing shoulder and anti-rotation synchronization with carries and get ups will give them the chance to login in numerous innings and starts to further their career.

IMG_1420 2 Optimal Integrity +Optimal Longevity= Optimal Expenditure

Apply by Subtracting: The True Theory to Coaching

I have always wanted to speak and help spread new ideas or concepts so people could then evaluate digest and remodel them into theories, philosophies, and concepts that could help the people around them. I believe I acquired this passion from my mom who was a Special Education teacher in my hometown of Hanford, California

I remember when I was young I would hang out in her classroom after school and watch how she interacted with her students.  There was never a dull moment in her classroom. Whether it was trying to calm an uncontrollable autistic student lost in frustration and anger down before she blew up the building or leading a class project of letters written to Santa, she always knew how to inspire children.

I know my passion for education and inspiring others to think outside of the box came from my mother and her passion to help others. So, when I was asked to present a lecture on “The Theory of Coaching “to the kinesiology students at Sonoma State University (SSU), I jumped on the opportunity because I new the route I took to receive my degree isn’t the traditional four years and get out but a developmental process that took over eight years.

When I finished my baseball career at SSU I still had one more academic year left before I would receive my bachelor’s degree. During my last year I felt that something was missing from the massive textbooks and daily lectures that seemed so rehearsed. I felt that there had to be more to sports science than rep schemes and fat burning zones; I didn’t believe everyone could attain their goals based on a book of research that was done in a laboratory, where every variable was monitored and calculated to a T. So I left SSU and went on a four-year journey to find the gaps in training.

Application

During those four years I came across the application of applied science, where rep schemes, power output, different metabolic zones, and nutritional advice doesn’t have an ideal situation and environment and will be challenged. Why? Because clients are unique and to achieve a specific goal you, the coach or trainer, less equals moremust understand what his or her true applicable ability is. This was the key concept I was looking for, and applied science molded my training philosophy from that point on.

After many days of deliberating my approach and rehearsing my Power Point presentation, I walked into the SSU confident with theory of “apply by subtracting. I decided to challenge the audience with scenarios that they see every day, but ask them to look beyond the numbers to the environmental factors that cause a difference of programming.

Let me explain: If a middle-aged woman who has three kids and has a husband who works five to six days a week including business travel one to two times a month leaving her with only has three hours a week to workout, comes to you and says she wants to lose “10 pounds” because she is fat and out of shape. What type of program would you write? What areas would you attack first?

In school you learn that you should have her do 30 minutes of cardio three days a week, multi-joint compound movements such has squat to press, or deadlift to press and eat a balanced diet. Not a bad approach right? The problem with this type of program is these ideas target the curtain walls of the castle, but they do not have the type of impact that is needed for sustainability unless you are able to understand the courtyard and keep of the castle (your clients internal trigger point if you have lost me).

What we don’t learn in school is how do you approach a woman who is lying to you about her goals because she is either self-conscious or in denial of why she truly wants to lose ten pounds.

I remember a time when I had a client come to me and she said she wanted to get in shape, and that meant losing ten pounds because she was thinking about doing a bikini contest. She was already in great shape and honestly didn’t need to lose anything. So, I kept my ears on high alert and over time her true belief came out. Deep down she didn’t want to do a bikini contest at all, what she wanted was for her husband to acknowledge her, say she was beautiful and touch her. The idea of a bikini contest was for attention, and she was hoping it was going to come from her husband. This situation isn’t in any book because it is life. You can’t write a book about someone’s life scenarios and expect them to translate over to someone else’s. Life just doesn’t work that way, and you are setting your client up for failure when you base your plan (or program) on what they say upfront and not how they move and adapt to different stressors internally and externally.

As the minutes flew by we analyzed/reviewed client scenarios and a theme was arising throughout the classroom. The idea of looking on both sides of the spectrum and understanding where your client is and how to develop a program that is based on them thriving on both sides of the continuum crushed any cookie cutter systems in textbooks. Steam was arising from the students’ heads as if they were playing soccer on a cold winter day. Ideas and concepts were percolating throughout the classroom about approaching programs not by numbers but by environmental variables.

If the client works all the time and lives in a world of stress, then you develop a program where they understand what cutting loose and having fun is like.

If the client believes losing ten pounds will be the answer to all their questions then you develop a program where you mask numbers with small habits that reach small accomplishments that boost their confidence, gives them a new sense of self-worth and possibilities. Their program distracts them from the idea that they need to lose ten pounds, and instead focuses on positive accomplishment over the long haul.

Clients are scared to fail, shoot we are all scared to fail and what is ironic is the more we try not to fail the more we fail. Why is that? It is because we are ALL in denial and we need to look in the mirror and let failure be an accomplishment. Yea I said it “let failure be an accomplishment” because that is 1 more failed attempt to success and success brings endless possibilities.

Now how the hell do we fix this?

As I wrapped up my presentation, I was very clear on one thing. That the idea of applied environmental training isn’t easy, and there is not a template on how to approach each scenario, but one thing is very clear, if you are patient, have belief,Med. Castle and passion your client will give you the opportunity to bring down their draw bridge and dance with them in the courtyard. You just have to be willing to attack the situation outside of the normal three sets of 10 rep scheme and apply a developmental program that fills the client’s gaps based on how they live their life and not anyone else’s.

Approach all programs with an impact so powerful that clients have to wear sunglasses because it is radiantly pouring from your veins. Any program you develop based on a client’s true belief, will improve his or her whole quality of life and will not just penetrate the curtain walls.

Remember apply by subtracting and you will be dancing in the courtyard.

Stay True to the Game

One afternoon in sunny Northern California where we haven’t received rain in who knows how long, I was able to sit on a metal bench and listen to; two of the greatest baseball players to play the game as they took batting practice. It was like hearing bombshells going off as the ball hit the bat. I didn’t know if I needed to duck for cover or evacuate in fear that the facility was going to collapse. I am sure glad I didn’t because what I heard next was some of the simplest most profound knowledge I had heard in a long time.

 

“Do not let them beat you on the inner half.” “If they come into your house you make sure you let them know who owns this house.”

 

That was it! Very simple and straightforward.

 In the fitness industry, it would translate into “Do not lift FLUFF!”  Fugly, Lifts, Under, Functional, Framework.

Kettlebell-BOSU-Ball

We tend as a fitness industry to let people into our homes and sell us on this idea that more is better or these compound movements done on a Bosu ball while juggling a kettlebell will create “core stability and improve strength”. For example, I walked into a very and I mean very nice Life Time fitness gym in Goodyear, Arizona thinking there would be some top notch training going on. Boy was I wrong. I watched a trainer evaluate his client’s overhead squat, which wasn’t too great (a one on the FMS), then proceed to have him balance on a Bosu ball and do single leg squats accompanied with jump squats. This was part of the trainer’s “ass kicking workout” that was supposed to start his client on his journey to becoming “FIT”.

I don’t get what he was trying to accomplish with this client who blatantly showed signs of movement impairments. Maybe he thought adding in a form of environmental instability and then adding in compensatory power movements would clear his clients of his poor movement patterns or maybe it was the last YouTube video he saw, but really during the first session? I guess he didn’t have book or journal article on what happens when you have inadequate deceleration stability and increase compensatory patterns.

Well being a glass half full type of guy, I stayed positive thinking that there is always room for improvement, as long as he didn’t kill his client with the next circuit which no doubt was kettlebell swings on the Bosu Ball to target the client’s “fat burning zone”. I decided to be proactive and hit the gym up the next night when I saw another trainer at the same facility have her client do a rear foot elevated squat in a TRX while holding a Kettlebell overhead. Really? Now WTF where she trying to accomplish with that exercise combination?

 

SHOOT ME NOW!!

I just poured out my whole glass of water and said screw it!

 

Can someone tell me why are we getting away from the fundamentals that we learned from the beginning? Like when we were five and we stepped into the batter’s box with no idea what we were doing but trusted our coach when he said “keep your eye on the ball at all times and just hit it!” And we did – because it was so damn fun.

We as coaches must come to a point of clarity. A point that drives us to practice what we preach and grind through the sweat and tears to accomplish something we and our clients thought might not be possible three years before. If we do, we will find hidden gems within our failures and triumphs that will give us insight into improving how we program our clients’ workouts.

 

If you let another trainer come into your house and sell you on a new exercise that he or she invented 6 months ago, and it is clear that he or she have gotten away from the basic concept of mastetrainer1ring movements, then you need to let them know who owns the house and not let him or her beat you with that inside pitch. Stay true to why you stepped into the batter’s box and show your clients what hours of mastering the boring stuff will do for them in the end.

 

Stay true to the game and the game will stay true to you.

 

 

Stay True