Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fitness Trends For 2014 (Not The Usual Suspects).

The official ACSM list of fitness trends for 2014 can be found here. Yeah, high intensity interval training, bodyweight training blah blah, catch up fitness industry and media hacks, that's so 2008. The real fitness trends and hot predictions are listed below:

No.1: Bicep Curls or if you are a female - tricep extensions (or if you are a patronising fitness expert appearing on daytime TV in January 'working on the bingo wings ladies').

The bicep curl will always be number one in the gym. If you spend more than 2 hours in any gym at least one guy will come in and start his workout by warming up with some alternating dumbbell curls while standing exceptionally close to the dumbbell rack.

The bicep curl is so versatile, too tired to squat? You will still have enough energy to do some arms. Hard conditioning session? Always time to work on the guns at the end.

Can you see how complicated this is? Of course it needs to be trained every workout.

The bicep is essentially three muscles that cross the elbow and shoulder joint (or if you are Charles Poliquin probably 23 muscles -each with a unique action) but at last count there are approximately 23,000 bicep exercises. Because it doesn't matter that it may be one of the smallest muscle groups you work on - it is the most important. No one can tell if you workout if you only do legs and have to wear trousers. But biceps, there is always time to put on a tight T-shirt and pump up before heading out.

No.2: 30 minutes on the x-trainer/ elliptical if you are female or Chest Day if you are male.

It doesn't matter how much people tell you that you don't need to do steady state cardio to lose weight, or that weight loss is all about nutrition, because as a female you know that the real key to success is the x-trainer. Whatever  fancy program your trainer gave you with weights and kettlebells and functional shit and HIIT it doesn't matter; because deep down you know the key to all physique goals is the x-trainer. Plus all that stuff is too hard, and you can't remember how to do it plus there is no TV attached to the kettlebell so you can't watch Hollyoaks while instagramming fitness inspiration pictures.

For Chest Day refer back to no.1, there is always time for chest, and Monday has been international bench press day since the beginning of time or at least the beginning of Golds Gym in California. And all those dopes doing bodyweight stuff are just clogging up the area that you need to scatter weight plates around the flat bench to prove how much you can lift.

No.3: Paleo & Ketogenic Backlash.

You tried paleo and it was fucking hard and you didn't transform in to a paleolithic warrior in 7 days. Plus no one knows if you can eat a freakin' potato or not (sweet potatoes are okay but no one knows why) and if you so much as look at a legume your intestines will explode. If you write a paleo book be sure to make sure that whatever you like and don't want to give up is considered paleo - this normally means coffee, red wine, chocolate (Swiss paleo) or milk (as long as the milk is from a wild cow and you milk it yourself).

Potato: Can I eat this or not?

Plus those coconut farmers need a break, Somewhere in Hawaii or Southeast Asia or wherever all the coconut oil comes from, some of those farmers have been working 24/7 since The Paleo Solution was released. And if the world runs out of coconuts all the Paleo/ Keto people are screwed. And there will be mass panic at your nearest Crossfit Box.

Give it a rest paleo people, these fellas need a day off

As for the ketogenic diet, the Italian Pasta Cartel is not going to stand for it anymore. As pasta sales plummet they realise this madness has got to stop. They are going to 'take care of' Robb Wolf, Mark Sissons and Tim Noakes for sure.

Expect some of your favourite fitness and diet gurus to change their mind and decide that now you have to eat high carb and low fat; bran flakes, pasta and rice galore. As you already bought their last book, you are going to buy this one too.

In the future we will discover that High Fructose Corn Syrup is actually a health food. Much like when Woody Allen wakes up in the future in the film Sleeper, his character was the owner of a health food store, but in the future they have realised that all that health food is actually bad for you.

Dialogue from the film Sleeper

Dr. Melik: Well, he's fully recovered, except for a few minor kinks.
Dr. Agon: Has he asked for anything special?
Dr. Melik: Yes, this morning for breakfast. He requested something called wheat germ, organic honey and tiger's milk.
Dr. Agon: [ laughs ] Oh, yes. Those were the charmed substances...That some years ago were felt to contain life-preserving properties.
Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies? Or hot fudge?
Dr. Agon: Those were thought to be unhealthy, precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.
Dr. Melik: Incredible.

Source: www.Explore-Science-Fiction-Movies.com

Woody Allen in Sleeper
Stay confused and consume.

No.4: 700Ibs Deadlifts.

There are now a record number of elite powerlifters who only ever lift in their garage or on the internet. You rarely see them in the gym, I guess because they are all at home lifting 700Ibs but unfortunately they don't have a video camera. The 600Ibs deadlift is now so common that most lifters achieve it within weeks of reading Starting Strength and critiquing Supertraining and claiming that those Westside guys are all pussies; so the only place left to go is the 700Ibs deadlift.

Strangely, I don't see so many people claiming sub 2.10 marathons, I guess because you can't do that in a garage.

No.5: Some crazy kids toy/ bongo fusion disguised as the latest fitness tool.

Right now there is some guy, probably in California or Australia or New Zealand figuring out how he can part you with your cash.

The quickest way to come up with the latest fitness gimmick is to take a kids toy like a hula hoop and then combine it with some high energy music, then brand it, licence it, and claim it burns fat and works the core better than anything else.

But most of the obvious stuff has been done, for the fitness entrepreneur this means some lateral thinking is required. How about taking one of  those pedal powered cars the kids drive in the film Bugsy Malone and turning it into a cardio machine. Or how about the new dance sensation - Polka, combined with Flag Signals - I call it Polkwa. A total body conditioner plus practical if you get lost at sea or find yourself at a wedding in Central Europe.

Car from Bugsy Malone: Strap a TV on this and you've got a new cardio machine

No doubt Gym Box already has these classes, so please don't write to me.

I've combines Polka and Flag waving - I call it Polkwa.

No.6: Barefoot Backlash.

It turns out barefoot running didn't turn you into a Kenyan overnight, plus your calves hurt and it took a lot of goddamn effort.

As is human nature, rather than finding a middle way, we swing to the other extreme. How about attaching a couple of sponges to your feet or those springy pogo stick shoes that Saturday morning kids TV presenters would bounce around on back when such TV existed. Unfortunately, Flubber doesn't exist, or does it? How about a pair of Hokas. Or how about training, or doing some strength training, or work on your mobility or not thinking there is an equipment solution to a fitness problem.

Hoka - It's the French word for Flubber

No. 7: Sit-Up And Crunch Comeback.

Unless you work in a commercial gym, in which case, you just stopped doing them because you read the research from 2002.

The tricky thing about those researchers is they keep saying it depends, it depends on the client, it depends on their goals, it depends on their spine morphology. Well that's no good, you want a six pack and so do your clients. And all this 'it depends' is no good for debating on the internet, there can be no grey area.

Abs are not made in the kitchen, they are made on the sit up bench.

Plus, your favourite MMA/ Boxing fighter does 1000's of sit ups so they must be okay. And whats more Crossfitters do those sit ups on the Glute Ham Raise and none of them are injured. And you're bored and your clients are bored of planks. Crunch ahoy! Much like bicep curls there is always time for some isolated core work.

No.8: Special Selfie/ Instagram Zones At The Gym.

You're at the gym and you need to take a picture to prove you're at the gym and so everyone knows what a rich and fulfilling life you lead; and to motivate all your followers on Instagram. Except the lighting's no good and you left your phone in the car. No problem, this is an idea I stole when visiting Guinness Storehouse in Dublin - they take a picture of you pouring a pint and then you can go to one of their ipads and share the picture on facebook. Genius!

This is exactly what the gym needs! The special selfie zone will have the right amount of lighting to make you look thin/ pumped/ ripped and you can share the picture instantly on social media. No need to take pictures of yourself surreptitiously in the changing rooms or look like a dick while your friend videos you on the calf raise machine. You can focus on what the gym is really about, telling other people you are there, so you can feel smug.

No.9: Weightlifting Shoes As Fashion Accessory.

Your Mum has bought you some new weightlifting shoes. The only problem is only the Bros you lift with are going to see them. Or if you bought them yourself, you spent a fair amount of cash on them - but you only get to wear them at the gym a few hours a week.

Solution: Start to wear them out and about. You will look taller, in the event of a fight you basically have two lumps of wood strapped to your feet, plus in the club on the dancefloor while making some shapes you can easily hit a deep squat/ cossack move and impress all the chicks (at least one of who is bound to be a bikini competitor - result!)

Do you know how much these cost? Damn right I'm wearing them to the pub

No.10: Some New Social Media Network You Haven't Heard Of Yet.

Facebook will be dead by the end of the year or maybe tTwitter will be or MySpace will make a comeback, I dunno. Or someone will invent a new social network. We all need more outlets to tell people what we are doing. Picture of your paleo dinner on Instagram? Check. Motivational quote on Twitter? Check. Awesome Bicep curl video uploaded on Facebook? Check. But its not enough. We need more.

No.11: Les Mills - times they are a changin. (A serious one).

Les Mills have been using the same payment model forever. The likes of bodybalance, pump, combat etc are massive in health clubs. If you have never heard of them you probably don't go to a health club. I guess way more people do Les Mills than do Crossfit. But Crossfit has appeared in The Huffington Post, The New Yorker and the British Press. It really is in the zeitgeist. Les Mills hasn't - epic fail. If you run 3 or 4 Les Mills programs it costs the same as having a Crossfit affiliation for the year. Crossfit is also sponsored by Reebok and has created a tribe effect. Food for thought there.

Camille Leblanc - apparently she does Crossfit, which unlike Les Mills you've probably heard of.

I thought Zumba or Bokwa or Bootcamps would kill Les Mills, as they are either licence free or make the instructor pay the licence. With the new music licencing laws in the UK - health clubs have to pay the money themselves and can't make the self employed instructor pay for it. And then there is all the quarterly workshops. In the end Les Mills will euthanize itself unless it catches up to way things work and gives you a bit more for your money than a few posters and leaflets. They need to use the same tactics as Crossfit or your class studio will be or already is a Crossfit box.

No.12:  People On Blogs Writing Lists Of Fitness Trends.

Yep, we all love a top ten list and predictions about fitness trends. Look on the bright side, unlike a newspaper you didn't have to pay to read this and unlike something written by some weary Journo, it's not some regurgitated list from 2008. Some newspapers and magazines seem to think their readers have never seen the internet or used Google and are already behind the zeitgeist by the time they get round to reporting stuff. Rant over. Do what you enjoy.

"Don't follow leaders, watch your parking meters."  Bob Dylan

Happy New Year Fitness World, make 2014 a healthy one. Another year lost in fitness.

Of course

Monday, December 16, 2013

I've Seen The Future And The Future Is... Coaching (or possibly cleaning, one or the other).

"The quality of a man's life is in direct proportion to his commitment to excellence, regardless of his chosen field or endeavor." - Vince Lombardi

We are in a golden age of gym equipment. A few years ago you were lucky if you could find a gym with a basic power rack and an olympic bar. Standard health club gyms consisted of resistance machines, some kind of terrible key system and cardio, and if you were lucky the dumbbells went up to 20kg. The management were afraid of 'hardcore' lifters and were trying to attract some mythical exerciser who was willing to pay £60 a month for the chance to sit on a stationary bike; except that person never turned up in large enough numbers to build a viable industry.

Nowadays, some of the biggest chains have power racks and bumper plates and functional rigs. Crossfit* gyms and micro gyms opened and they all had Olympic bars and ropes, sleds and prowlers and minimal if any of the standard cardio and resistance kit. A few years ago bands and chains and specialist bars were rare, they existed on the internet in Westside. Now the average 16 year old gym goer may have seen a safety squat bar, football bar, cambered bar, pushed a prowler, tried to break his leg by jumping on a stack of plyo boxes and build his biceps with a thick grip barbell.

Its is only 5 or 6 years ago when I went on an Olympic weightlifting course, it was hard to find, it was the only one I could find and they didn't even call it Olympic weightlifting (BWLA weightlifting for sports course to be exact) and I think one of the guys who opened Crossfit London or Manchester was on the same course. And I couldn't find any videos on the internet on Olympic lifts or how to do them. My, how times have changed, suburban housewives are doing Oly lifting as part of their daily WOD and the Reebok shop in Covent Garden sells Crossfit branded Olympic lifting shoes (there was one website that sold them in the UK when I purchased a pair).

Equipment is not enough.

But. It is easy to become enamoured by gym equipment. More people are Olympic lifting than ever before, but very few people lift heavy or come close to being national level. There hasn't been a sudden rush of world records or big powerlifts. Quite a few people have got their 10,000 hours in, but we're not suddenly giving China or Eastern Europe a run for their money. There is a possibility that it takes more than practice, that 10,000 hours has become over emphasised. The same is true in endurance sport: triathlons, 100 mile ultras and weekend 10k's are fully booked, barefoot running is mainstream but as a nation we are less competitive than we were 30 years ago in Marathons - take out the one runner we have and we have no one. People are running slower marathons than they were in the early 1980's.

And however much equipment there is, there is always someone who wants more, if only your had Eleiko bars or a monolift - then they would be a champion, despite the fact people were lifting heavy and winning for eons without any of this stuff. And some guy in a Bulgarian basement is lifting with a rusty barbell and kicking their ass.

Rocky 4 - back to basics, it's not about the equipment

But I digress, the point is, if it was only about equipment and facilities and participation we would see way more people competing at a high level. But we don't. Of course, many people doing these activities have no desire to compete, they just enjoy them, and they like training and being fit.

"the best teacher is repetition, day after day, throughout the season." - John Wooden

And the other point, is having the equipment is not enough. You can have a room full power racks and performance equipment, but if the gym culture is still embedded in body part splits, it will all be empty apart from the bench press and the adjustable benches closest to the mirrors. And there is a fear, a lot of guys and even more so women, who have been using gyms since their rise in the 1990's default to what they know. Why try something if you risk looking like an idiot, its pretty hard to go wrong on the cross trainer or doing a bicep curl, but get the glute ham raise wrong and not only could you end up being rescued there is a chance your hamstrings will explode.

So without coaching and a change in culture all this new equipment (which is really a return to the old0 will stay unused.

"The more I coached the more I became convinced that the mind, the will, the determination, the mental approach to competition are of the utmost importance." - Brutus Hamilton

What do Jess Ennis, Mo Farah, every professional football team and all of British Cycling have in common? They all have coaches.

"'The main thing about Percy is that he coaches your spirit' Elliott believed 'The body itself may only need two months training to get fit, the rest of the time you're building up your spirit - call it guts, or some inner force..." Herb Elliott on coach Percy Cerutty

Health Commitment Cop Out.

If you go to a small micro gym, studio or Crossfit facility there is a good chance you will get some coaching (the debate about quality is for another day) due to the format these facilities use - small group training, one on one, you have to book in. These facilities also have an advantage that certain populations would have self selected and excluded themselves. People arriving at Crossfit or an olympic lifting gym know what to expect, they know what the deal is, the chances of the obese grandma with a dodgy knee and blood pressure pills turning up to take part in the WOD are slim.

In a health club or leisure centre the system is set up differently, anyone can turn up and expect to do anything. Many clubs in the UK have now adopted the Health Commitment Statement produced by UK Active (the governing body for the fitness industry in the UK??!). It is designed to replace the Par-q which was too medicalised. For example, the first line on the HCS is

"We will respect your personal decisions, and allow you to make you own decisions about what exercise you can carry out. However, we ask you not to exercise beyond what you consider to be your own abilities."

Now, we are treating people like adults, which is a good thing, and not expecting the coach to start delving into medical history. In another section it states

"You should not exercise beyond your own abilities. If you know or are concerned that you have a medical condition which might interfere with you exercising safely, before you use our equipment and facilities you should get advice from a relevant medical professional and follow that advice."

Except, firstly people ignore what they have just signed and still ask you what to do about their bad back or achilles or what is best for blood pressure. And secondly, what both the Par-q and HCS fail to address is that most people don't have medical conditions that restrict them, they just have appalling movement patterns, poor mobility and have no idea about how to make an informed decision about what the best exercise to do is or how to it correctly.

And certain exercises will be unsafe for them at this stage, they don't have the knowledge to decide, their judgement of their own ability is flawed. Its like saying, go into the supermarket and buy healthy food, some people will get it right, some people wont. Or like asking someone if they are a bad driver, most people are going to say no, ego is a powerful thing. If someone has a warning light on the dashboard of their car, yeah, they could keep driving and hope nothing happens or they could go to a mechanic and find out what it is. The HCS is kinda like saying to the public, you might have some warning lights up, but we'll let you decide if you can keep on driving the car, we don't want to get involved. We don't want to put up barriers.

And yes, if you work on the premise that most gym members are going to do 10 minutes on the cross trainer and then do a few resistance machines, then they will probably be okay. Except the game has changed, they could turn up and start doing high intensity intervals or body attack or box jumps supersetted with thrusters.

Just Say No.

So what is to be done? Well don't be afraid to coach. And don't be afraid to say no. And knowing what is appropriate and not appropriate requires screening, unless someone has been screened in some fashion, how do you know what there is ability is? This is where Crossfit and the general fitness industry fail, screening is virtually non existent and no one gets told 'actually this is not for you'.

Consider the short burst fast classes and HIIT classes that are all the rage. In a large health club anyone can turn up. The coach on the gym floor has to make a decision, the person turning up has signed the HCS form, but there is a good chance the person signing has no idea what a tabata interval is, there decision is based on incomplete information. So the coach has several choices, scale the workout (it's not high intensity anymore, you are not ready for high intensity), let them do it and risk the possibility of them literally stroking out Andrew Marr style or say no. Sometimes coaching is about pushing people, sometimes it's about saying no.

Somewhere along the line, the industry got desperate, it needed to make the sale, we lost faith in ourselves. Don't be afraid to say no to the client, there is always another choice for them. And this could work in your favour sales-wise:

"The minute it was clear that we weren't desperate, the moment we started to lead instead of beg, the sale was made." - Seth Godin

Coach & Differentiate.

"Let all know that you expect them to possess the highest level of expertise in their area of responsibility." - Bill Walsh
The way to differentiate is to coach. Anyone can buy equipment but can they use it? Anyone can shout at clients and make them do 1000 burpees. But can you affect change, can you get results? Is anyone even measuring your results? Coach everyone all the time in your facility, this is a world away from personal training.

Nearly every elite athlete, every team, has a coach or a whole team of coaches. And yet, the public expect to turn up and get results with no help. They are scared and disappointed too. Scared of looking stupid and disappointed by an industry that let them down on numerous occasions. Be different, start coaching everyone and the atmosphere will change, you will change the game from the inside out. Suddenly there will be a buzz about your facility.

Have a training philosophy, have a deep knowledge about everything your are doing and not doing but then realise that coaching is not always technical. It could be simple phrase or word or look, it could what you leave out that matters.

"Teach 'connection and extension'. An organisation filled with individuals who are 'independent contractors' unattached to one another is a team with little interior cohesion and strength." - Bill Walsh

Be aware of the prism you see everything through. Maybe you personally favour hypertrophy, or strength or kettlebells or whatever. But be ware of processing all your clients needs through these prisms. Start blank, see it through the prism of the client, what they really need and then pick the right coaching route. Your philosophy of coaching should be bigger than the tools and methods you use. Coaching is flexible.

Does Louie Simmons Put The Hoover Round?

But what if no one cares about your coaching. There is a good chance that if you work in a commercial facility the management has never even asked you about coaching or measured it, there is a 100% they have measures your ability to clean. The scenario could play out like this:

The health club see all this stuff about small group training and functional training and thinks this is a bandwagon we need to jump on. So they buy all the kit and tell the instructor he/she now teaches fast classes. The instructor is teaching the class and someone complains about the cleaning. The instructor is then conflicted, they are being measured on the cleaning, not the  coaching, and all this stuff could be a fad anyway. The instructor then realises they are actually a cleaner, which is not a bad thing, except they then discover that the actual cleaner gets paid more than them. They then figure out that the studio instructors are getting paid three times as much for teaching a class as the fitness instructor is for teaching on the gym floor and no one asks the studio instructors about cleaning. Yes, its a way of having all these classes on the schedule without paying the instructor more than minimum wage. The instructor gets demotivated, the kit stands empty, everyones doing what they always done. Of course, some clubs pay the instructors a decent rate for coaching, but show me a manager who didn't panic about a cleaning complaint and I'll show you a....

Of all the people, whoever left a gym , it seems no one ever left because they failed to achieve their goal, they left because they didn't have time or it wasn't clean enough.

Which makes me wonder, does Louise Simmons, Eric Cressey and Mike Boyle have the same issues. No one ever released a fitness product on how to keep your gym clean. Does Louie put the hoover round first thing in the morning, do lifters complain that Westside is too dirty or there is too much chalk around, do people tell Rippetoe to get better air conditioning at Wichita Falls. Does Louie just catapult any complainers out the door with a purple band? This topic seems sorely unrepresented on fitness forums.

I can't help but feel the likes of Boyle and Cressey are missing a trick here, how about 'Shoulder health while dusting, avoiding anterior glide of the humerus when cleaning cardio equipment' or 'Advances in mutli-tasking in the gym environment, how to re-tune the TVs on the CV equipment while dealing with a complaint about the music'.

The game has changed.

"'That's the way we've always done it' is the mantra of a team setting itself up to lose to an organisation that's not doing it that way any more." - Bill Walsh

The large chains still pursue a supermarket model, they are trying to cater to the masses. They think they can be all things to all people. But if you try to market to everyone, you have a product aimed at no one. And you end up with some pissed off members, because your product was never really for them in the first place, you just told them it was.

"Don't try to make a product for everybody, because that is a product for nobody." - Seth Godin

Much like coffee shops, you could go to Starbucks and get an insipid cup of coffee that doesn't really offend anyone, but at the same time there is a rise in independent coffee shops, its the same for pubs and micro-breweries. It's the same for gyms, except the way to differentiate is with coaching. Except way more people go to coffee shops than go to gyms, going to the gym is a niche activity, whether you like it or not. Going to the gym is more akin to collecting vinyl or vintage cars, it's a niche that wants to be mainstream. Once you accept this marketing becomes easier, you are not trying to please everyone.

There are really only 2 or 3 big players in cardio and resistance equipment, most gyms look the same. Anyone can buy some dumbbells and weight plates. It is what you do with it that counts.

Somewhere along the way, personal training became the antithesis of coaching. It became number counting. No one wants to be associated with the personal trainer moniker anymore. The fitness courses didn't teach people how to be coaches. How to motivate, how to inspire, how to innovate, how to individualise but still have a system. So, the trainers aspired to be coaches, but you'd be shocked at the level of knowledge in these courses.

And the coaching course are stuck in another era, if you've ever been on one, its more about how to control large groups of people and make sure no one falls down a hole; basically a health and safety course. That's what we did to coaching in this country, we turned it into the lowest common denominator health and safety course pitched at kids. It is more akin to an old school PE lesson, which is okay if you are teaching kids. But most of us are coaching adults, grown ups, professionals, who need professional coaching.

Coaching is not about holding someones hand or shouting, its about teaching them a skill, knowing when to instruct and when to not. Knowing when to let someone make their own training decision, and giving them the information to do, but also having the confidence and guts to say when someone should not do something, when to push and when to say enough is enough.

The game has changed, the big health clubs just don't know it yet, or like most large industries with layers of bureaucracy are too slow too react, suffer from inertia or try to copy something really half arsed.

The best gyms have a system, they coach everyone and they have results they can show you. Not one off aberrations, but consistent results with clients across the board.

I could be wrong, maybe all health clubs should bin all their instructors and employ 10 permanent cleaners and everything will be fine. Or possibly there should be a new REPs level 4 cleaning qualification.

The answer is to coach and coach some more, or get out like alot of people are doing these days. Open your own facility, be picky with the clientele, it takes guts for sure.

Have confidence, the equipment is secondary. It could be just me standing in a room with a couple of kettlebells and a bar, and its worth the money because of the coaching and the atmosphere.

Build the gym, but then coach, and create the atmosphere and the reputation. Build it and they will come is only half the answer, the building is just the first part, the people is the second part and the most important. People get results.

Be 'consumed by the process of developing the ability of others. You do it because you really care for it, you do it because you have to.' ( Bill Walsh)

"Concentrate on what will produce results rather than on the results, the process rather than the prize." - Bill Walsh
Coach, the alternative is to be the same as it ever was, which is no choice at all.

Bill Walsh, The Score Takes Care of Itself. My Philosophy of Leadership.
Gary M Walton, Beyond Winning. The Timeless Wisdom of Great Philosopher Coaches
Seth Godin, Purple Cow & The Icarus Deception

* Without wishing to get drawn into the eternal crossfit debate, here's my 2 cents worth. There is a puritanical element who seem to think crossfit are responsible for all random training shit. As if before crossfit everyone walked around with a copy of Supertraining under their arm and everyone periodised properly and everyone trained properly and it was all logical and despite powerlifting, olympic lifting and bodybuilding being the most minority of sports - it seems everyone in the gym was competing in these disciplines despite never actually competing; and all training programs had a clear goal and purpose. And of course, everything was logical like splitting your workout into bodyparts, and no one ever did anything illogical like working chest and arms everytime they went to the gym. And all sports are logical like swimming 2.4 miles and cycling 100 and running a marathon, and 22 people kicking a bag of air around a park, and back flipping on a beam and bench pressing in a triple ply denim shirt. Of course, all pro athletes train using a completely systematised approach and no one ever coasted on their genetics, and how someone trains for football or baseball or powerlifting should be the basis of all training, because the gym is only full of serious athletes. And you can't copyright circuit training, in the same way you can't copyright dancing (Zumba) or yoga and pilates (Bodybalance), but goddam they cornered the market and created a tribe with minimal equipment and we all wish we had thought of it first. And its dangerous, because I've never seen a powerlifter or bodybuilder who had to get their pec re-attached or their bicep rupture repaired, and no endurance athlete ever had to have knee surgery and no football player ever had an ACL repair, and every year thousands of people get rescued off of mountains after throwing themselves down them on skis after no actual training or practice and everyone in the world now knows what rhabdo is, and I've never seen anyone get it even in ultra endurance events. (and I can't do a handstand press up or a kipping pull up and there is no way I'm wearing long socks).

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Simple Way to Use Triphasic Training Principles with Bodybuilders, Figure Competitors, Athletes and Everyday Clients.

Triphasic training is a method developed by Cal Dietz and Ben Peterson to train athletes. The book can be purchased here, my review can be seen here, an explanation by one of the authors Ben Peterson can be found here, a video of Cal Dietz explaining it can be found here and there is more good info over at the powering-through blog.

The purpose of this article is to show how triphasic training can simply be applied to training programs for all types of clients. The original book is focused on athletes but I have used the principles with physique competitors, bikini competitors, beginners as well as endurance and field based athletes. I will give examples from real world programs below.

Hopefully, Dietz and Peterson wont think I've taken too many liberties with their training system!

There are key elements that make up triphasic training (in my opinion)
  1. The triphasic element which gave the sytem its name
  2. French Contrast Method and accelerated plyometrics
  3. Oscillatory movements
  4. Timed sets
It's also how Dietz and Peterson organise these into a block periodized program using various percentages of weights. If you want to know how to do this go and buy the book! Here I have stripped out all the percentages and the specific periodization they use to give you a simple applicable version.

This article focuses on just the triphasic element - eccentric, isometric and concentric movement. I will touch very briefly on the french contrast method but for a good explanation and more examples of how to use it go to powering through blog here. I have used oscillatory movement, but won't cover it here. As for timed sets, I haven't used them and without a special piece of equipment called a Tendo unit they are hard to do.

What is triphasic?

The classic triphasic picture - you want to be the blue line. Source: www.stack.com www.xlathlete.com

In a nutshell work on the three elements of a muscle movement, the eccentric (lowering, lengthening phase), the isometric phase (the static part), the concentric (muscle shortening, lifting the weight up phase). In the graph above both athletes are lifting the same weight and have the same 1RM but the blue line is completing the repetition more quickly, the eccentric phase is quicker, the isometric phase is shorter and the concentric is faster and more explosive.

Essentially, training the three elements can make the athlete quicker, more reactive and have the ability to develop more force at a higher rate. In essence, if the two athletes were on a pitch playing rugby or football, the person with the red line would still be slowing down and deccelerating while the blue line person would have already stopped and then exploded in the opposite direction.

3100 - Tempo.

At this point you might be thinking, well, I already know about tempo training and emphasising the eccentric etc. A decade or so ago this type of training was popularised by Ian King and Grand Master Poliquin. But it all got a bit too complex and random for my liking with all sorts of tempo schemes for all sorts of exercises. You used to see the four number tempo written all over programs. So like most people I just stopped using it and thought about lifting as explosively as possible and having some control on the eccentric.

What the numbers mean - in seconds:

3 - the eccentric lowering phase
1 - isometric
0 - concentric
0 - time at top of rep before starting next rep

Then triphasic training came along and showed a much more structured and logical way of using tempo during specific phases and only on certain exercises.

Time Under Tension (TUT). Triphasic could help build muscle?

One of the elements that make muscles grow is time under tension. All bodybuilders know this but as pointed out by Dave Tate in this article a few years ago on T-Nation - very few people know how much time under tension they are getting. They do their 3 sets of 10, but it then turns the time under tension was less than 20 secs, as they have rushed through the reps with poor form. According to the article the  maximum hypertrophy takes place somewhere between 30-45 seconds, and most people generally support the idea of it being just under 60 secs somewhere depending on the load. 

So could lower repetition sets and a relatively high weight but with a slow eccentric help with muscle growth. Seems feasible. And if you are used to always doing 8-12 reps at the same tempo, it is certainly going to challenge and change things up.

For Physique & Bodybuilding.

For example, in the program below there is a 6 second eccentric, if you consider the rest of the repetition takes 1-2 seconds, then 3 reps is going to give you 24 secs under tension. And 6-8 reps with a 6 second eccentric, with total rep time being 7 seconds = 42 to 56 seconds under tension.

Day 1 – LEGS – each block is 2 weeks – warm up before session
Exercise Block 1 -eccentric Block 2 - isometric Block 3- reactive
A Back Squat 2x5 1x3 WU then 3x3 with 6 sec eccentric 6000 0500 drop like a stone – hold isometric explode up 0000 reactive 5x3
B RDL 4x8 - triphasic 4x8 - triphasic 4x8 - triphasic
C Bulgarian split squat 3x10/side 3x10/side 3x10/side
D GHR 3x slow eccentric 3x slow eccentric 3x slow eccentric

This was day one of phase one of a program for a guy who is an experienced lifter, who before was doing the classic hypertrophy training and wants to compete in physique competitions. In the above example, WU= warm up and 6000 means a slow 6 second eccentric and everything else as fast as possible.

Note, I didn't use percentages like in the original triphasic. In my experience guys who train at higher rep ranges rarely go near maximal or have no idea of what their 1RM is, therefore after warm up, I instructed him to build up to a heavy 3 reps. If using percentages you want to be somewhere between 80-90%, above 90 will be too heavy.

With the RDLs 8 repetitions with the triphasic principles is hard! And this rep range is way higher than Dietz would use with athletes. In retrospect 6 reps would have been hard enough.

Block 2 is isometric. This helps to recruit high end fast twitch motor units - the type rarely recruited by traditional hypertrophy training. Not only do In think this gets the person amped up for the rest of the training session and fire up the nervous system, I think in later phases it will help them to recruit more muscle, lift more weight which can only be a good thing.

In Day 4 of the phase 1 program for this client see how the first exercise is triphasic and a compound movement and the following exercises are more traditional exercises and rep ranges for hypetrophy. (Please, note the exercises selected were based on these clients specific needs, injury profile etc)

Exercise Block 1 - Block 2 - Block 3-
A Incline BB Press Triphasic triphasic triphasic
B 1 Cable flye 3x12 3x12 3x12
B2 Cable rear delt 3x15 3x20 3x25
C1 TRX Y 3x10 3x10 3x10
C2 TRX Press up 3x10 3x10 3x10
C3 Stir the pot 2xmax 2xmax 3xmax

In my experience bodybuilding guys love the triphasic element, they find it extremely taxing, it brings a strength element to their training but it feels like hypertrophy training. A slow eccentric lower into a squat or holding a bar an inch of your chest for 5 seconds and then exploding back up brings a quality element to the training. No cheating or bouncing off the chest with this. Every rep counts.


Of course with complete beginners we're not loading them up with 85% of a 1RM and then doing some heavy reps. With beginners I am really using the triphasic principles to get them better at moving and controlling the rep, it could be bodyweight only or with a kettlebell for goblet squats.

And with beginners you can do a couple of weeks of each phase or doing them all in one workout. For example:
Set 1: Bodyweight squat or goblet squat at whatever normal speed is and look at depth
Set 2: Slow eccentric phase, 6 seconds, can use a box to ensure consistent depth, emphasize the technique and exploding back up
Set 3: If everything is looking ok, drop down into as isometric hold for 3-5 seconds and drive back up
Set 4: Reactive - reps as quick as possible.

Repetitions of 5-8 work well. Experiment.
Again this really helps the beginner focus on quality reps and technique rather than just going through the motions.

Hockey Player.

This was a program for a county/ national level Hockey player. One day of the program had triphasic training in. The other days consisted of foundational plyometrics, power exercises, conditioning and agility drills as well as mobility. This athlete still had a full time job so had to fit his training outside of hockey practice in his lunch break, so realistically only had 30mins or so for each session. Hence, on the program I indicate that if he runs out of time to only do the triphasic squats on this day even if he does nothing else.

Session 2 – leg strength emphasis

Exercise Block 1 -eccentric Block 2 - isometric Block 3- reactive
A Back Squat* 2x5 1x3 WU then 3x3 with 6 sec eccentric 6000 0500 drop like a stone – hold isometric explode up 0000 reactive 5x3
B RDL 3x6 – triphasic as above 4x6 - triphasic 4x6 - triphasic
C Calf raise 1 leg 2x10/side slow eccentric 2x10/side slow eccentric 2x10/side slow eccentric
D GHR 2x max slow eccentric 3x max slow eccentric 3x pulse
*key exercise, do this if nothing else if you run out of time!

This block of training was 6 weeks, like all the triphasic training, 2 week blocks work well. In phase 2 we added in French Contrast Method and Sports squat (see video of sports squat here). Note, the sports squat is a narrow stance squat that is favoured by Dietz and Peterson as being more sports specific, as the feet width is more like your natural gait width, it also means you may not be able to go as low or lift as much weight.

DAY 1: French contrast method MONDAY
Exercise Block 1 – 2 weeks Block 2 - Block 3-
A1 Sports Back Squat
Rest 15 secs
A2 Split lunge jump
Rest 15 secs
A3 ½ Weighted squat jump
Rest 15 secs
A4 Single leg hop
Then rest 4 mins
3x3 @ 85%+


3x5 @30% RM or weighted vest







Accelerated band jump 4x5-8
In the rest period do prehab work
Choose from
1. cable face pull
2. band pull apart
3. hip flexor mobility
4. wall scarecrow
5. or any exercise from recharge day
10-12 reps As block 1 As block 1

For a more in depth explanation of French Contrast and how to do it for upper and lower body see powering through blog  here or Triphasic training itself. In essence it is a form of contrast and complex training, where a heavy exercise is followed by a bodyweight plyo then a another heavy exercise (but not as heavy as the first) and then another plyometric - a faster plyometric than the first one. In the program above in block three, an accelerated plyometric is added at the end, as is done in triphasic training, this is a more overspeed plyometric. This is one of the few programs to also mention a percentage of weight as this athlete was used to such things.

All this day consisted of for this athlete was the french contrast and the corrective exercises done while resting, as he only had 30 mins or so to train. Other days consisted of more lateral movements needed in a sport like hockey, dynamic effort weights and shock method plyos.

Note, how I did not introduce French Contrast or sports squats until phase 2 - so 6 weeks of foundational training even with an athlete with experience of plyometrics and explosive work.

The Marathon Runner/ Duathlete.

This was a training program for a marathon runner/ duathlete trying to break into being elite. He had already achieved a sub 2.30 marathon, coming third in Warsaw and wanted to win a big city marathon and powerman duathlon. He later went on to win Phuket marathon and Powerman UK long course in 2013.

Unusually for an endurance athlete this guy had a background in strength training and Olympic weightlifting, so wasn't your typical weak endurance athlete. Still phase 1 of the program there was no triphasic, in phase 2 the sports squat was introduced - as this stance was applicable to the width of running and cycling gait; and in phase 3 triphasic and French Contrast was introduced (see below). So 12 weeks of training before I introduced French contrast and triphasic.

Endurance athletes are some of the most challenging to program for, as in this case for example, running and bike training can be up 15-20 hours week, training twice a day. And then on top of that there was mobility, plyometrics, strength and some other power training. So bear in mind this is a small but important part of the entire training plan. This athlete also had oscillatory training as part of their training program.

Day 1 – each block is 2 weeks
exercise Block 1-eccentric Block 2- isometric Block 3- concentric
Sports Squat
15sec rest
Split Lunge jump
15sec rest
Barbell half squat jump
15 sec rest
Single leg long jump
3-4min recovery*
WU 1x5 1x4 then 3x3
6 second eccentric


Back squat – drop fast into bottom position – 5 sec iso hold – explode up
Set reps the same
Sports squat – reactive – fast as possible in all phases
*during recovery TRX Y 3x10 3x10 3x10
GHR 3x6 3x6 3x6
Rollout with 2 DBs 3x10 3x10 3x10

The Bikini Competitor.

This is the program I probably take the most liberties with the triphasic principle, and you could argue that I am just using tempo in a traditional sense.

It does seem to be an issue with some women, that it is very hard to get them to train near a repetition maximum. Ask them to lift the heaviest weight they can 10 times and they will, then ask them to lift the same weight for 20 reps and they will, they were no where near their 10 rep max the first time round. One way to increase the difficulty is to add in an eccentric element and an isometric element to make the repetitions more challenging. In the case of this competitor there were certain weak areas she wanted to work on, and also the competition she entered had a fitness testing element as well  - consisting of maximum box jumps, bench press, and various other elements - hence the structure of some of the days below. She went on to win her age group in the bikini category.

DAY 2:








On another day I also utilised walking lunges with a pause isometric. The slow eccentric RDLs worked really well in developing the hamstrings.

Best Triphasic Exercises.

To simply implement triphasic training pick a compound exercise (though, now I think about it I think you could do it with barbell bicep curls - don't hate me too much Cal & Ben!) from the list below. It should normally be the first and/or second exercise or both in your training plan. If Olympic lifting, personally I would put the explosive lift before the triphasic exercise.

These exercises work well:-
Squat -  especially box squat/ bench squat options to get consistent depth on eccentric phase
Sports Squat - sports specific stance and nice for reactive concentrics and in French Contrast
RDL - you may need to where straps
Bench Press/ Incline Press
Military Press - I haven't tried - could work
Pull ups/ Chin Ups - slow eccentric makes this very hard even bodyweight. On the isometric days, drop like a stone but stop before your arms are straight, so you are still holding the position with muscle tension with a bend in the arms, use various angles, and then try to explode back up - a 3 sec pause is hard. On the reactive days people may mistake you for a crazy kipping crossfitter.
Deadlifts don't work, and it should go without saying it doesn't work with Olympic weightlifting

Pauline Nordin: This picture has nothing to do with triphasic training but my girlfriend thought this article needed a picture of a hot woman


Please be aware that the training programs I have outlined above are not like the ones in the triphasic training book, this is my own take on it using the elements and principles of triphasic.

Not every exercise or phase has to be triphasic, but it is a good way of getting some strength training into programs, help technique, gets time under tension where needed and sets the tone for the rest of the workout.

I've had good success with this method, let me know if you have tried it and what the results were.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Functional Movement Symposium (Coffee, Wafels & Argentinian Steak).

This is an overview of The Functional Movement Symposium hosted by Human Motion, that was held just outside of Amsterdam on Sunday 13th October.

The speakers on the day were Kyle Kiesel, Lee Burton, Mark Scappaticci, Behnad Honarbakhsh, Craig Liebenson and Gray Cook.

Firstly, I have to say Amsterdam is the friendliest city in the world and really does live up to the stereotype, everyones on a bicycle or tram, every other shop is a coffee shop (normal ones and special ones) or a bar. It also appears to be where Supermodels are harvested from. So after spending the first day wandering around the town with my colleague Nick and my girlfriend Tiss, drinking coffee, eating cake, partaking in several local beers, eating a very tasty Argentinian steak (why are there so many Argentinian steak houses in Amsterdam?), having a wafel with cream on, getting lost and being constantly rained on it was time for an early night to catch the shuttle bus the next morning at 7am to the symposium venue.

As my notes on the day were taken through a haze of sleep deprivation, caffeine and micro brewery beer any mistakes or mis-quotes are my own fault.

Coffee and Cake Amsterdam style (Nick 'our man in Amsterdam' Heasman on the left)

First talk of the day was Kyle Kiesel & Lee Burton - A Systematic Approach For Exercise Design.

Kyle Kiesel kicked off the presentation (he had been standing in the doorway of a hotel in central Amsterdam with us at 7am waiting for the shuttle bus too).

It started with a brief overview of the Functional Movement Screen, which I won't repeat here as I am assuming you are familiar with it. Then Kyle did a live FMS screening on a guy from the audience, he scored a 13, which is below the cut off point of 14 (I think the guy may have scored higher if he wasn't wearing supertight Euro skinny jeans!). Interestingly, even though the guy said he wasn't in pain, because of his borderline score, lack of smooth movement and high threshold strategies (grimacing to do simple movements) Kyle then did some additional SFMA screening. This was interesting stuff, but I think most of us want to know what we then do with the screen information, how do we construct a program with this information?

Lee Burton then took over, and went through a simple checklist. What do they (the client) not need? Correctives? Conditioning? What do they need? What do they not want? What do they want?

Using the example of a young American football player, Burton then went through the other information you need, such as medical history. This was good to see, as all too often people can become obsessed with the minutiae of movement assessment and forget about the case history of the person in front of them. Have they had previous injury or surgery, what goals do they have? In the case of the American football player, previous shoulder surgery, his age (17), positional needs are all addressed in the program even if the screen presents as non painful and symmetrical.

It was good to hear Burton talk about give and take with a client as well, as any of us who design programs all day know, you have to give the client a bit of what they want, a little bit of what they need and challenge them enough without breaking them down and equally not spend an hour doing correctives if its not needed.

In the case of the young football player a circuit of mobility exercise including T-spine rib rolls and Turkish Get Ups were put into his warm up. Mobility or motor control work can also be supersetted with strength work, so Burton still had power cleans, box jumps and kettlebell strength moves in the young athletes program.

Bag to prove I actually went to it

This whole concept is expanded on further in the DVD The Future Of Exercise Program Design - which I only watched yesterday. If you are involved in program design or writing programs in anyway I think this DVD is required viewing, especially the Alwyn Cosgrove section, as he uses several real world examples of clients and their movement screens and how you use this in conjunction with other information to construct a program.

Other points of note from this talk were
  • The re-tear rate of ACLs after surgery is 20-30%!
  • Back pain can be because of excessive core activation, not a weak core, a motor control issue
  • Lack of mobility can = instability

The next presentation was by Mark Scappaticci, entitled Functional Integrated Therapy - Optimising Performance.

 I must confess I had never heard of this guy before, which goes to show some of the best people in the world aren't promoting themselves on the internet and social media all day long, because they are out there working with clients and athletes on a daily basis.

I enjoyed this presentation, even if by Scappaticci's own admission, it's something he only put together a few hours earlier. But hey, when a guy has been to the last 6 Olympic Games with the Canadian team and consulted with the GB Olympic team it's worth listening to what he says.

Scappaticci's background is a chiropractor, and was there treating Donovan Bailey when he broke the 100m world record. He has his own assessment system, and like all good systems whether it be FMS, DNS (Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilisation) or Scappaticci's FIT - they have more things in common than they don't.

His first point was to asses the body as a global structure and look for areas of increased tension/ forces. It is surprising that assessing as a global structure is still really not part of mainstream physiotherapy in the country (UK), it is still very much look at the injured area in isolation, whereas Osteopaths, DNS, FMS, NKT etc all seem to assess globally first.

He then outlined his systems theory - the sphere of optimal performance needs:
Optimal biomechanics
Optimal nutrition (at this point Mark informed us that if you go into any Olympic village food hall two thirds of the track and field athletes are in the line for McDonalds. Yes, sorry to disappoint but genetics is a factor and even elite athletes are not optimal)
Optimal rest
Optimal program design
Optimal technical skill
Optimal mental focus
Optimal adaption to stress
Optimal restoration

And we don't want to wait for the first injury, we want to be able to predict it and prevent it before it happens.

Optimal biomechanics need the neurosensory system, soft tissue and joint all to be working optimally.

An injury will result in different compensations in different people, for example an ankle injury may result in a different sensorymotor adaption depending on the individual (for example, the glutes switch off to protect the ankle resulting in hip or knee issues - my words here) and world class athletes are masters at compensation. Poor mechanics result in increased stress on tissue.

"Outcomes are only as good as your ability to assess." - Scappaticci

Another interesting point is to separate the clinical diagnosis from the causative diagnosis. For example, in my field, you have been diagnosed with a disc bulge at L4/L5 but what caused it? The weak link breaks but the structures away from it may be the things that are not working. (Joint by Joint theory anyone?)

Scappaticci also went through the injury mechanism - injury leads to reduced oxygen level in the area, an increase in alpha procollagen which causes scar tissue. This may show up as abnormal tension in the fascia long after an injury has 'healed'.

The fact that someone is afraid to move may drive pain signals was another point that resonated with me, I see this all the time with chronic back pain or people afraid to squat because their knees hurt.

Scappaticci stated that you need to have a treatment strategy 'power of intention, what are your goals?'

Other points
  • Poor posture is a a barrier to optimal performance
  • Do sports specific testing where appropriate. A poor assessment doesn't mean they are poor at their sport.
  • Can I do something to enhance performance, if not I might leave it alone
  • Taping  (like kinesio, rocktape) affects the nervous system
  • Use whatever tools you've got - dry needling, fascial abrasion (a tool invented by Mark, to me it looks like a bit like a gua sha or graston thing, though Mark assured us it was different, but at 690 euros for the tool set I think I might follow Leon Chaitow's advice from when I saw him talk 'use a jam jar lid!')
At the end Mark got the guy on stage who had previously done the FMS with Kyle at the start, his active straight leg raise had been asymmetrical with the left leg no where near 90 degrees. Mark did some dry needling in the guys sacro-illiac area for literally about 10 seconds and then retested the guys leg which went up about another 30-40 degrees. Would it stick? Mark said he didn't know. What makes the best the best is they are also humble, sometimes you don't know why something works, it just does, but you gotta have a system. And you've gotta assess and test, treat then retest..

Next up was a practical session with Behnad Honarbakhsh (who also happened to be standing outside the central Amsterdam hotel at 7am waiting for the bus) called Reset Techniques for the Thoracic Spine.

First point form Behnad was to define a reset technique as 'anything without the active participation of the client'. And any change you do manage to make has to be set. And the technique you use should be based on your diagnosis.

I believe Behnad is a Canadian Osteopath and also teaches the SFMA course. I got the impression quite a few people in the room had taken the SFMA course during the week as Behnad asked certain questions about anatomy of the ribs and spine; the Symposium was the culmination of a week of courses including FMS, SFMA, dry needling and so on. This practical session was very much aimed at the manual therapists in the room, as it involved manipulation and visceral techniques. So if you are a Chiro or Osteo you can do this stuff, if you are a coach you can't. (my girlfriend is in her 4th year at Osteo school and currently one of her electives is visceral manipulation, so this is very much her field).

The session started by doing an assessment on a guy attending the symposium. If you aren't involved in manipulative techniques then this is still interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, 'the opportunity for compensation is greatest standing' and 'mobility takes precedence over motor control'. Which means, yes, looking at standing posture but then look at other postures and see if things change. If a problem is coming from the head and neck down, it will still be there in a seated position, an asymmetrical head position will stay asymmetrical, if it is coming from the feet up it will disappear during seated posture. So it gives you an idea where your treatment or corrective exercise strategy should start.

Behnad then went through reset techniques for breathing, ribs and visceral manipulation. To be honest learning practical techniques in these type of sessions is almost impossible, as what you need to do is observe and then go away and practice. Also, I think for a lot of the group it wasn't relevant, as like me they aren't going to do visceral manipulation. And even things like breathing resets which can be quite simple still take time to learn and practice (as I know from DNS).

Take home points were though-
  • Don't discount the viscera referring pain, we tend to think in musculoskeletal issues and forget about the major organs and how for example the liver is attached to your diaphragm, so can influence breathing
  • The driver of a problem is the thing that changes the other one. For example, if you manipulate a rib and breathing improves, then the rib was driving the breathing disorder.

Next up was Craig Liebenson - Building a Durable Athlete - Introduction of the Prague School and athletic development.

For me (and my colleague Nick) this was the stand out presentation of the day. Although, I have heard audio interviews with Craig Liebenson talking to Stuart McGill, I have never seen an entire lecture from him or seen him in person. It was one the most galvanising and inspirational talks I have seen.

And I almost didn't go to this one, as I have done DNS courses A, B and C and have a fair grasp of what the Prague School does. But this talk wasn't really about the Prague school, it was about bringing everything together, a call to arms if you will.

DNS and all that jazz source: rehabps - facebook page

A few key quotes from Liebenson

"Pain is not an early warning system, its already too late, the damage is done."
"Assess without expectation"
All too often we have a preconceived idea about what we will find or what a client wants or needed. But it's not about us, it's about that persons quality of life.

"Ensure competency before adding capacity"
And don't be "a prisoner to protocols". Liebenson was very much in the camp of movement philosophy and similarities between the likes of Janda, the developmental model and the FMS. Yes, the assessments may be different, but there are some underlying principles of movement that drive everything. You assess and then you analyse and then he gave us the classic Karel Lewit quote

"He who treats the site of pain is lost"

Maybe they should write this above the door of every physio department in the country.

Then Liebenson gave us some stats on MRI and CT false positives. For example 30% of 30 year olds will have a discogenic issue on an MRI but will not have pain. And also a Korean study I don't have the reference for - basically quality of life must match quantity, there is no point living longer if our functional capacity dramatically decreases and your levels of pain go up. Our job is to get people moving better and more often.

Other key points from Craig

  • After injury tissues heal but muscles learn. An echo. Guarding.
  • Ankle sprain -brain switches off the glute to allow ankle to heal
  • A  fine line between building and breaking
  • Get Strong first, he referenced Pavel Tsatsouline here
  • And adopt a middle way.
Liebenson then quotes another person I had never heard of, Henk Kraaijenhof, but turns out to be a famous Dutch coach and another person too busy being awesome to bother writing a book I guess

"Train as much as necessary, not as much as possible. As much as is necessary in order to improve."
and then another Lewit quote

"The first treatment is to teach the patient to avoid what harms him."

This very much echoes Stu McGills advice and something that is easily forgotten in our rush to use fancy techniques and exercises. And then Janda again

"The brain thinks in terms of movements, not individual muscles."
Old Vlad Janda was ahead of his time. Then there was a quote from Laird Hamilton, the big wave surfer. I forgot to write it down. But it was very much in the vein of movement quality and authentic movement. What I liked about this lecture was Liebenson brought all these disparate sources together, whether it be Laird Hamilton, Greek Philosophers, Dutch coaches, Lewit and Janda from the Prague School or Pavel with the kettlebells and showed the thread that connected them all. Authentic quality movement is writ large in all their philosophies. And I like the fact that someone like Liebenson is constantly learning and remaining humble and in wonder at the human body like us all (he said a couple of years ago he didn't know what a deadlift or kettblebell swing was). A true renaissance man for the new rehab renaissance.

A final quite from Janda

"Time spent in assessment will save time in treatment."
And then echoing the DNS approach - every exercise is a test.

DNS - everything is connected. Source: rehabps, prague school facebook page

And then Craig made us all stand up, and reach for the ceiling, decompress the spine, and breathe to engage the core and bring the ribs down (it is always surprising that on most fitness courses and lectures you spend all your time sitting down in a terrible posture, doing exactly what you tell your clients not to do).

And lastly a call to arms

"The world has stopped moving."
Sedentarism (did Liebenson just make this word up?!) is this generations smoking. People aren't moving and its killing them.

To finish a clip from www.designedtomove.org

And up last, the big man himself Gray Cook - Cooking with Gray.

At this point I think we are all flagging. The symposium has been going since 8.30am, its now pm and we got up at 6am (5am UK time).

Gray Cook

Gray Cook has the ability to bring it back to basics, to reduce it all down to its essentials. To make you think about the very basis of it all.

In the lecture Cook went through the principles of movement as outlined in his book Movement. You need principles, a checklist, a system.

"Movement is a behaviour."
If you are in a gym or fitness facility you are 'the front line of defence, we do fitness a little differently here'. Never forget that if you are doing this stuff you are still in the minority. Maybe there were 50 or so people in the room listenening to this lecture, that's 50 people in the whole of Europe. Yes, if you use these things you are in the minority. To echo what Alwyn Cosgrove says in the Future of Exercise Design - if you are in this room and continually learning, or doing this stuff you are in the top 0.5% in the country.

Anyway back to Gray, some key points

  • You need two perspectives - movement & performance or movement and impairment
  • Mobility before motor control (as stated in previous lectures)
  • What is dysfunction? We talk about it all the time, but whats the definition
  • If we compensate the workout may be harder but not efficient. If you can't squat, trying to get someone to do 20 loaded squats is going to be hard for them but is just going to break them down or injure them or produce a load of inflammation and cortisol which may be detrimental to their goals such as weight loss.
  • Total body tension doesn't over stress joints - such as in the deadlift
  • Core may not be globally weak, it might be how it responds in one pattern
  • Don't overkill corrective exercises.
  • Delete the insulting movements
  • They could be too sedentary or too specialised
And that was that. A video clip from the Erwan Le Corre and Gray Cook video, in which my girlfriend wondered if Erwan was single.

Any questions? Of course, at this point I couldn't think of any, no one else could either. Afterwards I thought of some questions
1) Will the movement screen always be the same 7 movements or will some get added or deleted?
2) Behnad had mentioned a breathing screen/assessment earlier - will it get added in?
3) And a question from my colleague Nathan - why no hinge pattern in the FMS assessment? There is a squat movement but no deadlift movement, why only multi segmental flexion in the SFMA not in FMS?

But of course, none of  that got asked. And before you know it, we're all back on the shuttle, including Gray and the FMS guys (I thought Gray might drive us all in the movement bus, like the equivalent of the Scooby Doo Mystery Wagon but no such luck).

In my mind this was well worth going to, for 149 euros. A chance to meet like minded people, realise 'you are not alone' and inspires you to carry on.

And before we knew it, we were lost in the Amsterdam rain again and then drinking Heineken in a small bar.
Micro brewery beer menu - I guess there is a reason this picture is blurred

Take home messages

  • If you're not assessing then you are guessing
  • You gotta have a system, principles are more important than methods
  • Dutch women (and men) are hot
  • I can't read a map