Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Review of Current Trends in Movement Training with Dr Duncan French.

This a review of the Current Trends in Movement Training video which is available from here. This is a down-loadable video of a lecture and practical sessions that took place at Leeds Metropolitan University last year.

The product is produced by Brendan Chaplin, who is the head of strength & conditioning at Leeds Met Uni (just for the record I have no affiliation with either and have never met the fella). He does seem to be one of the few coaches in the UK who is trying to match and compete with the American strength coaches, in terms of setting up seminars, producing products, podcasts, interviewing coaches and setting up a brand.

And unlike most American coaches, which tend to be independent, working in private clubs etc this guy is very much coming from a university background and getting people involved who not only have coaching experience but also masters degrees, doctorates and working with high level teams. As we know, these things on their own don't necessarily mean someone is a good coach, but I commend Chaplin on trying to raise the bar on the quality of what is available for education purposes in the UK.

So what do you get for your money.

The downloadable video is 2 hours and 20 minutes long. You also get a pdf of the power point presentation which is 53 pages long. The cost of this at the moment is £67.

The first hour of the video is a class room based lecture, the remaining hour and twenty minutes consists of practical sessions covering mobility warm up drills,  co-ordination exercises, footwork drills and plyometric progressions.

Who is Duncan French?

I must confess that before purchasing this video I had no idea who Duncan French was. I bought this video on the strength of another video that I bought from the same website - a Vern Gambetta lecture and practical session (which I will review on another occasion).

Duncan French's website is here. In short he has a PhD in Exercise Physiology, has been a strength coach at the English Institute of Sport (EIS), Great Britain Basketball (yes, apparently we have a basketball team) and Newcastle United (that's a soccer team to any Americans reading). In addition, he was one of the founders of the UK Strength & Conditioning Association (UKSCA) and has been its director for 4 years. I should have heard of him but I hadn't (and yes, I am even a member of the UKSCA, so maybe they should improve their PR).

In short, he has the background and is not some chump sitting in his mothers basement who decided to release an ebook and video.

Duncan French - standard folded arms strength coach shot - comes across as a nice fella though

The lecture section.

This lasts approximately 60 minutes and is a straight film of a lecture. The sound quality is good (unlike some other products I have bought in the past from other coaches), the inter-cuts of the powerpoint are clear, so you can easily see what is being referenced, and you can follow along with the pdf of the power point.

In this section French basically outlines his movement philosophy. What I found interesting is how open minded he was in referencing a whole range of different coaches, not relying purely on the academic literature. In setting the scene of 'what is movement' he covers both Paul Cheks and Dan Johns definitions of primal movements - pushing, pulling, twisting etc. Anyone who has been involved with DNS and developmental kinesiology can find these definitions lacking, and I was pleased to hear French mentioning the true primal patterns you go through as a child from laying on your back to rolling to squatting and standing. Gray Cook even gets a mention.

The fact that a strength coach and academic is mentioning these things shows how the field has evolved. The truly humble coaches are always willing to learn and have moved beyond the usual approach of given athletes only Olympic lifts and basic strength training.

You could easily skip the lecture section and go straight to the practical stuff, and the practical session would still make sense. However, you would miss out on a some nuggets of information.

"Train things that people aren't good at. The things they have had taken out of their system." - French
 If you are coach or a personal trainer you will tend to see the same things that people have had taken out of their system - for example hip mobility and t-spine mobility are two things I see lacking in people everyday.

Another key point that can easily be missed is how someones anthropometry influences the coaching. As Duncan says, you may have the same exercises but depending who is standing in front of you, the coaching may be different.

Two key points that come across are that Kinetics are trainable and Kinematics are coachable:

Kinetics - things like force, power, stiffness are all trainable - this is the strength training part.
Kinematics - angular velocity, base of support, basically how you move - are coachable.

I think this a key point if you are a PT, coach or someone doing a bootcamp outside. Putting a bunch of exercises together is easy, what makes the best coaches better than everyone else is how they coach them. Being able to look at someone and picking out what they need to improve. As French says, coach the multi directional movement, you are not just there to provide motivation.

Some other key things that French covers in the lecture are - strength & stability, stability is not strength, stability is reflex driven. He also covers optimal posture and how bad posture increases joint loading, and will ultimately decrease ROM and decrease force production. (If you want anymore detail go and buy the product!)

French is big on principles and not practices. To paraphrase Homer Simpson, in this house we obey the laws of biomechanics!

Differential Learning.

This is obviously something that Duncan is just introducing into his coaching practice. And it is something I will write about in more detail in another post. In brief, the idea is to get away from highly structured drills. For example, rather than always having the hurdles at the same height & distance, vary the spacing, vary the height, to increase motor learning and not get stuck in fixed patterns. However, if someone is a beginner keep things structured, you need to understand the rules before you can break them.

Take away point.

The key take away point for me echoes DNS and other whole body movement approaches. (As an aside: The difference between DNS and some of these other ideas of primal movement is the shear amount of precision in the movement)

'The ankle in isolation affects everything' - French

As does the hip and the scapula. The body moves in a global pattern.

Warm up drills: 10 minutes, 18 exercises.

The next section takes place in an old school gymnasium (wall bars, ropes, balance beams) making me have a flash back to plimsolls and school PE and got me wondering if these type of gyms would actually be better for us all.

The sound quality is not as good as the lecture to begin with as it is in an echoey hall, but it does get better as this section goes on. This is a mobility warm up based on Duncan's primal movement principles. As he points out on several occasions, 'we are not re-inventing the wheel here' and these are drills he has picked up over the years from various places and some he has made up himself.

If you are familiar with the likes of Cressey's Assess and Correct, some of the stuff that Diesel Crew posts and elements of Animal Flow, Primal Move and Mov Nat then this will be familiar territory. The interesting thing is that a guy with a PhD and is the director of the UKSCA is absorbing them into his movement system and is using them with his athletes. This actually might be an area where those in the private fitness industry have always been ahead of the strength and conditioning coaches working in traditional sporting environments.

You get a lot of exercises here in a very short amount of time. I counted 18 separate exercises in just 10 minutes. And a couple were new to me. Some people would have stretched this whole section out to a stand alone product in itself! Again, if you already do mobility drills, then this may not bring anything new to the table for you.

Co-ordination exercises.

As an introduction to this section French stated that he saw these being done by a German Table Tennis coach, and like all good coaches thought 'I'm having those!'.

This is all about tempo and rhythm.

Again you get a lot of drills for your money here - I counted 15 drills in about 12-14 minutes. Some will be familiar if you have done any running technique work - things like A Skips, and some will be familiar if you have seen any of the barefoot running drills - pose running, chi running and so forth. There are some coaching cues and points for example with the A Skips that I have used since watching this video.

There are quite a few I haven't used before, if you are involved in circuit classes, bootcamps or actually training teams these would all be a good addition. What is also comforting is watching the seminar participants doing the drills, I assume they are all S&C coaches and they present with the same movement issues we see in the general population all the time, with a whole range of anthropometry.

As French says though, this is just basically hopscotch. His job and all of ours is to

 'make you a better athlete' and make the 'athletic vocabulary as big as possible' of the people you are training.
Footwork Drills & Plyometric Progressions.

For me this is the section of the video that makes the purchase worthwhile.

The foot work drill section lasts about 10 to 12 minutes and covers approximately 8 drills. This section takes place in the weights room and the video and sound quality is good.

Unless you want to lose a kneecap - don't try this - for some proper plyos see the Duncan French video

French goes through his progression from low level footwork drills to plyometric progressions. Unlike some books and videos that throw a whole load of plyos at you, this actually gives a logical progression and coaching points. The key is speed and foot contact, as French states

"Its hard to make people fast by training them slow"

You need to move the body at speed. Stop the drills if the athlete slows down or the movement quality is lost.

The last section is the plyometric progressions and lasts about 40 minutes. He goes through the principles first - deceleration before acceleration, pre-qualify the athlete with dynamic isometrics. In brief, he starts with depth jump progression, about 7 exercises; a box jump series, 5 exercises; hurdle series, where some differential learning ideas are brought in and then a travelling/ multi-directional speed section -of about 8 exercises and finally some chaos drills (back in the gymnasium) which are probably more applicable to team sports.

If you have ever read the likes of Verkhoshansky, Chu & Siff, it can be difficult to figure out an actual progression for your clients and know what coaching points to emphasise. Duncan French gives you that progression and some invaluable coaching advice.

What you don't get.

What you don't get are any upper body plyo drills, no strength training in the traditional sense and no easily printed off template you can copy. If you are looking for these things, then this is not the product for you.

In conclusion.

French finished by saying that you should be trying to make all movement look more athletic. And

"Be a thinking mans coach... don't just throw a load of drills together"
This can be applied to PTs, group trainers or coaches. Follow principles and then use your imagination.

The lines between strength coach, personal trainer, fitness coach and physical therapist are becoming increasingly blurred. The ones that will thrive will be the ones that understand movement principles and get results.

Like all these type of products, £67 is not cheap, but for me it was worth it. And Chaplin has produced & edited the product well. Do bear in mind it is an actual seminar being filmed though, things are happening live.

I have already used many of the drills and progressions with a national level hockey player, an elite distance runner and myself (for what its worth). I'll let you know the results.