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.
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: