We have a guest post from a good friend of mine, Tim DiFrancesco. I’ve known Tim for the past 6 years and he’s been a great resource for me during that time. Today he’s put together a comprehensive article on the benefits of loaded carries and how to perform them. Enjoy!
GUIDE TO THE BEST CORE EXERCISE YOU’RE NOT DOING
There is an exercise you are ignoring that can solve your core and posture dysfunction. That exercise is the loaded carry, and you need to being doing it. First you need to know the WHY - as in why it’s such a big deal, and second you need to learn the HOW - as in how to do it correctly. Here is your guide on the loaded carry:
HUMOR ME FOR A SECOND AND FOLLOW THE COURSE OF EVENTS BELOW. WHETHER YOU’RE A PRO ATHLETE, AN ASPIRING ATHLETE OR A HUMAN WHO ENJOYS GETTING MORE FIT, CONSIDER HOW MUCH OF THE FOLLOWING IS FAMILIAR TO HOW YOUR TYPICAL DAY UNFOLDS:
- Roll out of bed and wonder what version of a pretzel you slept in that made your neck, shoulders, or low back feel stiff and sore.
- Sip your coffee while hunched over staring into your phone to see if anyone posted something life altering to Facebook.
- If you are a morning workout person this is the time when you would bang out some crunches – aka “hunchback makers”.
- Now you are running late so you rush to your car only to slink down into what could easily be mistaken for an upright fetal position with a steering wheel to rest your hands on. You maintain this position for your entire commute.
- Pull up to work and find the parking spot closest to the front door in an effort to minimize the amount of time standing up straight and walking around like a human.
- Hustle into work and sit down at your desk in a chair that invites you again into what resembles a seated fetal position but this time with a keyboard to rest your hands on instead of a steering wheel. You maintain this position for your entire workday. Well…not your entire workday – you take a few breaks to peer into your phone, double and triple checking to be sure that if the solution to world hunger is posted on Facebook, you will be the first to catch it.
- Now it’s time to hit the afternoon commute back in your car in you know what position…
- The commute home took you so long that it’s time for dinner so you swing through the drive-through (this way you avoid standing and walking like a human again), grab your reward for the day and hurry home to binge watch the new season of House of Cards. The ideal position to do this in is of course seated on the coach, slumped over your food on the coffee table, shoulders rolled forward, upper back looking like a camel’s hump with your head projected forward on the screen - this promotes the ideal shoveling action during consumption of your “nourishing foodstuffs” that were born from a drive-through window.
- After devouring several episodes of House of Cards along with whatever was in the paper sack of “food”, you check your phone one last time. You take this step to be sure that you get just enough late night blue-light from your devices to ruin any chance you have of a restful night’s sleep. Finally, time for you to curl back up in that pretzel position that makes your neck, shoulders, or low back feel so stiff and sore.
ANYTHING FAMILIAR THERE?
Repeating some version of that routine day after day is a lovely way to make it impossible for your postural and core musculature to function at a high level. Unfortunately, even when you target these bad habits and attempt to address them there is still a problem:
EXPECTING TO ERADICATE ALL DESTRUCTIVE ASPECTS OF THAT ROUTINE IS IMPRACTICAL…LIFE HAPPENS!
PROBLEM & SOLUTION
The problem is clear, but what is the solution? The solution is to train your core to be armed and ready for the insanity described above. One way to do exactly that is to pick heavy objects up, carry them, put them down and repeat. I know this is hard to believe but your body has a primal craving and is designed to lift and carry heavy things. Human evolution would have been a little tricky if we were a species with poor lifting/carrying biomechanics or structure. Your slothful mind might try to tell you sitting on the couch is a better plan, but sub too much sitting for lifting/carrying and you’re going to have problems!
When you sit more and lift/carry less, the muscles that you need to be strong get weak. Other muscles or connective tissues that get forced to the rescue of the atrophied groups end up being overused, misused and super tight. Vladimir Janda was a pioneer in the crusade to link primitive or developmental movement patterns to rehab/training. Janda identified familiar combinations of tightness and weakness, and gave a name to these musculoskeletal patterns of dysfunction:
ANY ATTEMPT YOU MAKE TO PERFORM AS AN ATHLETE, WEEKEND WARRIOR, OR HUMAN WHILE PRESENTING WITH ANY VERSION OF JANDA’S CROSSED SYNDROMES WILL EVENTUALLY END UP IN SPOILED PERFORMANCE AND/OR INJURY.
You may not appreciate lifting or carrying heavy objects as training for your core or better posture, but you should. Think of your postural and core muscles as the frame of a sturdy lift or loaded carry. If they were suddenly turned off in the middle of lifting or carrying a heavy object, you would crumple to the ground.
Planks should be part of your core training, but you need to include or progress to training your core while standing or ambulating. Last time I checked that is how humans typically function and perform.
WHETHER YOU ARE HOISTING A HEAVY BOX UP ON A HIGH SHELF, SPRINTING OFF OF THE BLOCKS IN A TRACK MEET OR DUNKING A BASKETBALL, YOUR PERFORMANCE WILL SUFFER IF YOU HAVE NEGLECTED TO TRAIN YOUR CORE IN STANDING OR WHILE WALKING.
Lifting and carrying heavy objects is a great way to train your core in standing or while walking. This will help you avoid postural and core dysfunction. Like anything else in training there are right ways and wrong ways to execute a lift or carry. The video below will show you how to lift and carry heavy objects the right way:
THIS EXERCISE CAN BE DONE WITH DUMBBELLS IF YOU DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO FARMER WALK BARS.
Get some loaded carry variations into your program. Not only is it the best core exercise you’re not doing, but it will help you offset the destruction you are doing by always being plugged into your phone, keyboard or steering wheel! Start with manageable loads and work towards heavier loads, once you have mastered the keys to lifting and carrying highlighted in the video above. You will perform better, feel better and be less susceptible to injury.
Janda Syndromes. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.jandaapproach.com/the-janda-approach/jandas-syndromes/
Kresser, C. (2013, February 22). How Artificial Light is Wrecking Your Sleep and What to do about it. Retrieved from http://chriskresser.com/how-artificial-light-is-wrecking-your-sleep-and-what-to-do-about-it
Tim DiFrancesco, PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS is the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Los Angeles Lakers and President of TD Athletes Edge, where he provides fitness and nutrition guidance to aspiring and professional athletes. For training advice, visit www.tdathletesedge.com and follow him on Twitter/Instagram through @tdathletesedge.
Carol dweck is the leading researcher on mindset and developing success. Her research continues to prove that the key to success in any field is to develop a growth mindset vs having a fixed mindset.
If you haven’t looked into this before, I highly encourage it. It will make you a better coach, spouse and parent.
check out these articles on mindset:
I saw this post on Mike Boyle’s blog and thought it was awesome and wanted to share. There are so many brilliant points here that all coaches can learn from. Enjoy!
35 Secrets of Brilliant Coaches
“He’s ‘just’ a coach.”
“She’s ‘just’ a teacher.”
These are two sentences that make my blood pressure spike to the point that I get a little dizzy.
Managing approximately 70 gymnastics professionals, all of whom are teacher-coaches, I am acutely aware of the amount of training and education that these dedicated pros undergo to instruct their young athletes. The technical knowledge of the skills in combination with understanding the progressions necessary to achieve the elements safely and the rules and regulations that govern the various competitive levels fills volumes of books, hundreds of DVDs and dozens of trainings and conferences.
But that is only part of the picture.
While superior knowledge of the sport is a cornerstone of a brilliant coach, it takes so much more than content and procedural knowledge to be a brilliant coach or teacher. Simply because a person has great knowledge of the sport and a fabulous win-loss record, does not mean they are a brilliant coach.
1. Cherish the child over the athlete. Brilliant coaches know that being an athlete is just a small part of being a child. Brilliant coaches never do anything to advance the athlete at the risk of the child.
2. Treat their, and all other, athletes with respect. Brilliant coaches treat all of the kids in the gym, on the field, court etc. with total respect. No matter what.
3. Communicate with parents. Brilliant coaches understand that parents are not the enemy and, in fact, are an important ally in the development of the athlete.
4. Listen to their athletes concerns. Brilliant coaches don’t tune out athletes worries, fears or mentions of injury.
5. Connect before they direct. Brilliant coaches understand the importance of emotional connection. You matter. You belong. You are important to me. Not you the athlete; rather, you the person. Our most fundamental need is safety. When we feel safe we can trust and when we trust we can learn. Brilliant coaches know that this foundation of trust is essential.
6. Begin with the end in mind. Brilliant coaches keep their focus on the big picture of the goal of the athlete. They have a plan, but are flexible as they are aware the road to success is filled with twists and turns.
7. Are obsessive about fundamentals. Brilliant coaches understand the value of fundamentals as the core of all skills. The stronger the core, the more successful the athlete. Legendary basketball coach John Wooden would spend his first practice with his players instructing them how to put on socks. Correct wearing of socks prevents blisters, and feet absent of blisters can attend basketball practice.
8. Break skills into chunks. Brilliant coaches don’t simply teach a cartwheel. They break that cartwheel into several key sub-skills and instruct on those skills first before putting them together to perform the cartwheel. Brilliant coaches know that by isolating the individual elements that are woven together to achieve the skill athletes will succeed faster.
9. Embrace athletes’ struggle. Brilliant coaches understand that learning is a curve. Like muscle needs to break down before building up, athletes need to struggle to push forward. A brilliant coach doesn’t panic when this struggle happens.
10. Make the boring interesting. Brilliant coaches connect the tedious to the goal and make games out of those things that can be counted. They issue challenges and create missions. The goal is to make these dull, but necessary moments more engaging.
11. State corrections in the positive. Brilliant coaches say “do this” not “don’t’ do this.” Don’t bend your arms is less effective feedback than “push your arms straight.”
12. Find the bright spots and build from there. Brilliant coaches are aware of weaknesses and try to improve them to meet minimal standard but spend much more focus on the areas that an athlete excels. Trying to turn a strong pitcher into a better batter is less effective than trying to make him better at his curve ball.
13. Don’t try to break bad habits; rather, they build new habits. Brilliant coaches know that the most effective way to break a bad feedback loop is to replace one habit for another.
14. Give feedback in short, clear spurts that are precise and action oriented. No long speeches. John Wooden was once followed for a whole season so his motivational techniques could be studied. Wooden’s average “speech” was four sentences. Furthermore, brilliant coaches do not engage in observational coaching. (“Get your arms up.” Up where? “Your knees are bent.” Tell me how to fix that.) Concrete feedback (“Your arms need to be right behind your ears.” And “Squeeze this muscle and this muscle in your leg to make it straight.”) is given instead.
15. Are careful about how they measure success. Brilliant coaches do not use scores or win-loss records as their sole measure of success. Brilliant coaches understand that doing so can erode the long term development of the athlete. Brilliant coaches instead develop competencies for the long run, even if that means sacrificing success at the beginning of journey. If you had to choose, would you rather have your child be the strongest student in the first grade or in the twelfth grade?
16. Use the right mixture of attainable and reach goals. Brilliant coaches have zoned in on the sweet spot of challenge.
17. Keep momentum moving forward. Brilliant coaches understand that objects in motion stay in motion, so there is not a lot of waiting around time in practice.
18. Constantly are seeking continuing education. Brilliant coaches never believe they know it all or that they cannot improve themselves. Quite the opposite. Brilliant coaches read journals, articles, books and scour the internet for training ideas. They attend professional workshops and seek mentorships from other coaches.
19. Create, instead of finding, talent. Brilliant coaches appreciate natural aptitude but know that it can only take an athlete so far. Furthermore, brilliant coaches are humble enough to admit that they are not perfect at predicting success, so they just get in there and work. Finally, brilliant coaches concede that extraordinary talent is not a fair assessment of their value as a coach; rather, they measure their coaching efficacy by taking an athlete who is less gifted and helping that athlete succeed.
20. Observe intently. Brilliant coaches are always trying to figure out what makes people tick so they can better reach them.
21. Understand interpersonal relationships of the team are important. Team building and bonding is not a waste of time but an essential element for success.
22. Use imagery in coaching. Brilliant coaches paint pictures in the athletes’ minds. “Jump as high as you can,” becomes “Push the floor away from you like a rocket blasting into space and reach that rocket to the stars.”
23. Separate learning from practice. Brilliant coaches understand that practice begins after the athletes learn. As a result, they do not have athlete “practicing” something they have not yet learned so as to avoid creating bad habits. Learning takes place with close observation and direct instruction.
24. Focus the athlete on what to do, not what to avoid. Brilliant coaches tell their athletes things like “Shoulders squared and body tight” versus saying “Don’t fall.”
25. Focus on the multiple ways of learning. Brilliant coaches use auditory, visual and kinesthetic modes of teaching each skill, acknowledging that people learn differently.
26. Understand child development. Brilliant coaches have a working knowledge of the milestones of childhood and tailor their actions and expectations to meet the athletes where they are.
27. End practice before athlete is exhausted. Brilliant coaches know that bad habits and short cuts ensue when athletes are drained.
28. Give plenty of time for new skills to develop. Brilliant coaches allow at least eight weeks for athletes to learn a new skill. As the athlete progresses in the sport that time frame will actually get longer, not shorter, as the skills are increasingly complex.
29. Use positive coaching techniques. Brilliant coaches do not yell, belittle, threaten or intimidate. They do not need to bully to get results. While short term success my occur under such pressure filled environments, a brilliant coach knows that in the long run these techniques will backfire and are dangerous to the development of the child.
30. Have a growth mindset. Brilliant coaches believe that our basic skills can be developed through dedication and hard work. They reinforce this with their athletes over and over so their athletes feel motivated and are productive.
31. Know what they don’t know. Brilliant coaches are not afraid to admit that they don’t have all the answers. They do not allow their ego to prevent them from getting additional help, training or even suggesting to an athlete’s family that the athlete needs to move to a more experienced coach.
32. Educate their athletes. Brilliant coaches go beyond instructing their athletes, instead educating them in a age-appropriate ways regarding the purpose of and objective of various drills, skill sequences and conditioning circuits.
33. Have clear rules and logical consequences. Brilliant coaches do not keep their athletes guessing with respect to the standards of conduct or the result that can be expected for breeches of those standards. Rules are applied justly without shame to all athletes, including the stars.
34. Understand that fun is an essential element in training, no matter how elite an athlete becomes. The number one reason that athletes quit sports, even sports that they love and in which they are succeeding, is because they are no longer having fun. Fun is not a frivilous sentiment but is the foundation of an athletes’ healthy commitment to a sport.
35. End practice on a positive note. Brilliant coaches always find a way to seek the positive at the end of even the most awful workout. Even if it is as simple as “Tomorrow is a new day,” brilliant coaches know that both success and failure are temporary states.
It is clear that content knowledge is just the beginning of what makes a brilliant coach (or teacher). Yet, absent these other qualities, all of the knowledge in the world does not make a smart or effective coach brilliant.
What do you think? What are other characteristics of brilliant coaching?
If you found this post to be helpful, please consider tweeting, emailing, sharing on other social media or forwarding it to the brilliant coaches and teachers in your children’s lives. It will mean the world to them