Today’s guest post is from a former athlete of mine that has become a strength and conditioning coach. It’s pretty cool seeing former athletes and interns grow and expand in their knowledge and ability and Sean puts together a nice little post here on Mobility.
Mobility and flexibility are essential to an athlete’s ability to perform and stay healthy but it’s kind of a tricky issue. As someone with a fairly large affinity for PRI, I’m keenly aware of some muscles that shouldn’t be stretched (Ex. Hamstrings). Now I am sure there are instances when these muscles need some stretching but I very rarely do it for my guys.
I always see guys with mobility/flexibility issues. Crappy ankle dorsiflexion, hips more cranky than Scrooge and limited thoracic mobility are commonplace in my weight room. For the purpose of this article, let’s examine the hips, specifically the hip flexors.
The hip flexors/psoas are tight on most every athlete I deal with. This tells me a whole gamut of things. L. AIC patterns, PEC patterns and rib flares are all things that I start thinking about but let’s just talk basics. The psoas are tight and we need them to not be, so how do we make this happen? Stretch ‘em! Well it’s not quite that easy.
Say we prescribe a 30 second stretch on each side for the psoas. What does that do? Well it gains us a new range of motion BUT you have not changed your tissue. Research shows that the minimum amount of time for you to achieve real tissue change is two minutes. This isn’t to say that stretching for 30 seconds does nothing; however it’s going to take far longer doing that way. So my first recommendation here is to stretch the areas that need it for two minutes at a time.
OK, so now you’ve stretched each psoas for two minutes each and you now have tissue change on both sides. You now have this brand new range of motion in your hips. Congratulations! Now what are you going to do with it? The next teaching point comes from the brain.
Your brain, over time, develops movement patterns. It learns how to move. Yay for you that you have a new range of motion, but once you get up and start moving, your brain is still going to go back to the movement patterns it knows. You need to tell the brain that this new range is acceptable.
You need to own the new range. So after you stretch, you have to include some stability exercises in order to own this new range. For the psoas, I like to include dead bugs directly after stretching.
We now have a new range and some neuromuscular facilitation in this area. Now we’re moving towards real change. Staying with the psoas example, I now want to be able to move through this new range. The psoas, when tight is going to restrict hip extension. Now that I have a freed up psoas, I want to move in and out of hip extension to further enhance the movement pattern. The glutes will now work more effectively and your brain is going to start understanding the new limits of your movement. For this aspect, I like to do glute bridges.
The last point I want to make is that we need to make sure we are encompassing all aspects of the joint so that they can all work in conjunction to generate the most possible change. The last area I target is the hamstrings. I want the hammys to be strong so they can anchor the pelvis down from the rear. This is going to provide some resistance for the psoas’ natural inclination to tighten up. For this, I do a 90/90 hemi-bridge while squeezing a medicine ball to activate the adductors which will further anchor the pelvis down.
At the end of the day, everything that you do is going to produce some level of adaptation but it is very important to know that when you’re trying to improve mobility/flexibility, there is a heck of a lot more that is going on than simply just a need to stretch the muscle.
Sean Light is a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and Performance Exercise Specialist (PES) specializing in injury prevention and performance training for professional level baseball players.
Currently, Light works as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Light holds a Bachelor’s Degree as well as a Master’s Degree in Sports Performance and Injury prevention. He is a Level 2 certified Strength & Conditioning Coach in the Functional Movement Systems (FMS). He also holds certifications in Pelvic Restoration, Myokinematic Restoration and Postural Respiration through the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI).
Light is a 2010 graduate of Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut where he was a three year letter winner as a member of the Bobcat Division 1 college basketball team. While at Quinnipiac, Light helped record the most wins in school history as well as advance to the Northeast Conference Conference Tournament Championship Game and the NIT and CIT postseason tournament.
Previously, Light has spent time working with the New York Yankees and the Quinnipiac University Strength and Conditioning Department.
Tracking, and monitoring data is at an all time high. You can see and read about how major professional teams and high major college teams are tracking speeds, distances, decelerations, heart rates and many other metrics. In the weight room, there have been tools that help measure power output and bar velocity. Many of these tools are expensive and therefore not available to those with smaller budgets.
Fortunately, there is a piece of equipment that I’ve been trialling for the past year that can be used with nearly any mobile device and gives you the feedback that allows you to program your training sessions using velocity as a variable. Most coaches and trainers use load as a primary variable but using velocity can allow you to better train for power and find the sweet spot for the optimal amount of reps to prescribe to train for this quality.
Power output is crucial for athletes and being able to know exactly what your loads as well as velocities are in training can better prepare you for the court, field or ice.
The Push band is a strap that you wear on your arm and syncs to your mobile device via bluetooth. They have an ever expanding library of exercises that you can choose from. When you select your exercise, then select your load and begin your set. As soon as your set is complete, you get immediate feedback on how to proceed for the next set. Your profile also keeps track of your progress over time. They are also working on a team/group setup that will be great for larger group settings and I can’t wait to see what else they have coming out.
I recently did an interview for Push that you can check out here:
I highly recommend the product and feel that it can add value to your program.
Check out their site:
Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a huge topic amongst Strength Coaches to track training status, recovery, and/or readiness of their athletes. I’m not here to debate the validity of HRV, its potential usefulness, or any of the piles of research collected on the topic but merely offer my viewpoint. If you have no idea what HRV is then this may not be the blog post for you because i am not going to give you a historical background citing research from the world of physiology. Google it! Then again if you need to google it, don’t bother reading this post because it will not mean much to you.
HRV can be an amazing tool for Strength coaches and Sports Scientists to collect data on training status from day to day. It seems as though changing your daily plan may be a little extreme but I do know of coaches that use HRV in just that matter while other Strength Coaches use it to track changes over the course of a training block or competitive season which makes more sense to me rather than chasing a daily number.
Here is my fear and the limitation of HRV in my environment…
For HRV to be reliable it needs to be performed at the same time each day. In the NBA we rarely work at the same time of day. Take this week for example…
Monday – off day: half of the team comes in for voluntary extra workouts around 11am
Tuesday – home game day: everybody must be ready for shoot around at 9:45am so players start coming in at 7:45 depending on their treatment schedule. Afternoon off before 7pm game time, fly to Charlotte following the game.
Wednesday – noon breakfast meeting before 7pm game, fly to Houston following the game (change time zones)
Thursday – off day/voluntary workouts begin at noon
Friday – shoot around at 11am with treatments beginning around 9am. Afternoon off before at 830pm game, fly to Dallas following the game.
Saturday – practice at 2pm
Sunday – 11am shoot around, afternoon off before a 7:30pm game, fly back to Indianapolis (time zone change).
As you can see it would be very difficult to have any sort of consistency in testing HRV. Even the most dedicated professional would have difficulty waking up to keep a consistent 8am (just a time example) HRV check considering that often times we get into a new city around 2am when flying after a game. This irregularity in timing can have a significant impact on your HRV number rendering it near useless. I will say that the company Proteus is collecting some interesting information with their wearable technology that makes capturing HRV a whole lot simpler by wearing what amounts to a band aid on your body for 36-72 hours (depending on how sticky your skin remains).
Another drawback of HRV is the “bad days.” If we convince a player that HRV is important, what happens when it is a game day and the number tells us that the player is not ready to perform at a high level. The psychological ramifications are huge and for those of you that think that you can just track the information without sharing the data with your athlete, you are wrong. Any player that is willing to be monitored is going to want to know the results! If they dont feel like they are an active participant in the process chances are they will not want to participate. So on that “bad day” i tell the athlete that they must foam roll, nap, hydrate, massage, etc…how is that any different than how they should already be preparing?! The recovery message is the same everyday or at least it should be. I’m not going to even address those of you that think that the player should get less minutes because you are insane to even think it! And finally, what happens if that player goes out and has a great game? Don’t bother asking him to sit still the next morning and ask him to do an HRV analysis because you already lost him the night before.
When an athlete competes once a week with an unchanging schedule during their practice week i think HRV can be a valuable tool but if your schedule is like the NBA, MLB or NHL then i dont think it is a sound investment of your time unless you love collecting useless data. Just my two cents.