Here in Denver its Sunny and 84 degrees. It’s a beautiful day, and Outlaw was poppin’ this morning! I hope you all are enjoying the summer weather, and getting out on adventures more and more! That’s part of the mission at Outlaw and this blog, to enable you to move better and enjoy life’s adventures more. That being said, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com, or reply to Rob on this email and give us some feedback.
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Now onto the movement ‘stuff.’
Last week I introduced and made an argument for the value of accessory movements. In summary the article says that accessory movements offer building blocks, and more specific ways to work on big lifts, injury resilience, and movements specific to sport. Also, we strength coaches don’t just put them in there to be a**holes. If you wanted to go back and read it, here is the link: Movement Basics: Accessory or Integral?
Within this week’s blog I want to explore my top ‘accessory’ areas to train. I will introduce the movement type, explain the value, and conclude with some practical exercises to try or add into your routine.
Any Type of Single Leg Movement
Single leg movements are irreplaceable in many training programs. Sport is played on a single leg, which offers the athlete more mobility, speed, and dexterity in their movement. Training in a single leg fashion, for some very established strength coaches, has taken the majority emphasis in their programs. While I do not hold that view, I do see single leg movements as hugely valuable to creating injury resilience, more sport specific power, and addressing imbalances.
The first key benefit to single leg movement is the reduction of risk of injury. Doing an exercise on one leg instead of two is inherently less stable, and the small muscles of the foot, ankle, and up to the hip must work harder to stabilize, hence they get stronger. Most of the time stronger = less injury prone. Second is the enhanced power and specificity to sport. While exercises in the weight room should rarely look like sporting movements, single leg exercises offer a good bridge between the compound lifts (back squat, clean, deadlift), and running, shuffling, and jumping. Lastly training “unilaterally” (one side of the body at a time) works to narrow any differences in strength from side to side. This is again important because as small as a 10% difference in strength from side to side can preempt injury!
A good place to start your single leg training is to work on ankle stability, (balancing on one foot at a time) adopting split stances, (split squat, lunging) and working slowly into loaded movements.
Core (The Power Barrel – Tim Murray)
Training the core, or your ‘abs’ or the ‘trunk’ has evolved tremendously over the past decade, and it has transformed immensely for the better. Crunches, roman chairs, and oblique side bend things are a thing of the past, where they should be. (you should rarely if ever do the hyperlinked exercise. No offense to the people who made the video, but it’s a bad exercise.) Core training has turned into a more accurate way of using the core how it is designed to operate within sport and life. The core works to stabilize, transmit, and retain force from your limbs. That is, in most movements your limbs are doing the action, and your core is keeping everything together.
Training the core is nothing new, but the how is very new. We must train our core to maintain posture and transfer the most power through our limbs in order to maximize athletic performance. Isometric (holding static position) exercise is a great way to do this. Insert your 4-minute plank here. Let’s take it further though, challenging the core to resist deformation with a variety of outside forces helps to build a stronger, more complete core. So, we do this by using “anti” movements where the core fights the urge to move in a direction. Anti-flexion, (not bending forward), Anti-extension, (not arching back), Anti- lateral flexion, (not bending to the side) and Anti-rotation, (not rotating) should be staples of the new core training.
But! you just said not to rotate! ANTI-Rotation. Yes, anti-rotation is a great way to train the core, but rotation itself is a perfectly healthy and extremely athletic genre of movement. Rotation is natural to human movement and the best way that athletes create power. Take a look at the baseball swing, striking of a soccer ball, shot in lacrosse, or the best example throwing the discus. Rotation applies in about every movement we do, it can be subtle, but creating strength through rotation can actually save your back and create more power.
We should then go into training proper rotation and avoid training rotation and flexion together. I.e. Russian twists are not always the best exercise selection. That being said we should teach our athletes to rotate through their hips, rib cage, and shoulders without excessive flexion or extension of the spine. This can lead to better power when we do start to rotate violently in some of the athletic movements I listed above.
Training rotation is best when we start simple. I have used and seen a great med ball toss progression that teaches athletes to rotate appropriately and create power from that rotation. (Thanks, DU Sports Performance!) Starting in a kneeling position athlete side toss a ball to the wall on their side, and we progress the exercise from there. Here are some basic videos of training rotation: Half Kneeling Rotations, Athletic Stance MB Side Toss.
I know this blog went a little long, so I applaud you if you read all the way through it and are here now, even if you did just skim and watch some YouTube. I have really enjoyed being able to write out some of my movement thoughts, and I hope you have enjoyed reading as well. We have two more blogs to go in this series, so thank you for reading this far, and I hope you have gotten some value out of the posts! Until next week, accessory movements are movement basics too! – Alex Friedman CSCS