Be Well Personal Training

Monday, February 27, 2012

Evolution Kettlebell Groundwork Workshop- a review

This weekend, I had the honor of attending the Evolution Kettlebell Groundwork (EKG) workshop.  The workshop was held at Wolf Fitness Systems in Salinas, CA and conducted by founder/owner John Wolf, a charismatic, enthusiastic proponent of circular strength training (CST).  Prior to attending, I watched some of the movements online and researched the basic principles of CST so while the moves weren't completely foreign to me, they were still outside of my normal realm of body movement.  I strength train 2 or 3 times a week, using primarily body weight movements and practice the Ashtanga yoga primary series 2 or 3 times a week, with some second series thrown in.  I also either swim, bike, or run daily (I love being outside), so I consider myself in decent shape.  However, to say some of the movements taught were alien to me would be an understatement.  John has a very methodical approach, grooving the foundation of the movement pattern before advancing to complex variations with and without kettlebells.  The workshop was physically challenging with an emphasis on form.  He cares strongly that people understand the movements and took the time to watch everyone perform the patterns, making corrections when necessary.  I can see why people are drawn to him as a coach and teacher.

The series of movements taught in the EKG program are fun and look really cool (there is something gratifying about that, although it's obviously not the only reason one should be drawn to a particular style of programming).  It would be strongly applicable to clients participating in MMA or other martial arts.  I could see a large amount of transfer in the flexibility mixed with strength.  It would also be a good complement for yoga practitioners looking to gain strength.  I do think there is a lot to be said for working dynamic mobility and stability, rather than emphasizing static mobility and stability.  This is why I still strength train- I think it is more functional than what I can do on the yoga mat.  Interestingly, there were a handful of Crossfitters there this weekend.  I admired their openness to learning a new modality, and John had a great way of keeping the workouts challenging while emphasizing safety, which seemed to resonate with them.  Everyone appeared excited about the material and it was obvious everyone in the room was sufficiently challenged to want to gain proficiency in the EKG program.  As mentioned earlier, I was unfamiliar with many of the moves and some of them were extremely difficult for me.  I am fairly certain the 160 seconds of squat thrusts were the longest 160 seconds of my life, which means I should do them a lot (my warped personality at work.  If I can't do it, I must master it because it must be good for me).  While not all of the moves are applicable to my style of training or my clientele, I definitely took away things that can be adapted and integrated into my programming.  It has been interesting to watch my training evolve over the years.  In my ninth grade English class, my reading habits were compared to a goat's; I loved to dabble in a variety of genres and subjects.  I feel like my professional career exhibits a bit of that.  The more I learn, the more I find myself picking a little of this and a little of that to use with my clients and ultimately help them move better.  Now that graduate school is winding down, I will be attending the FMS certification and the dynamic neuromuscular stabilization certification in the fall.  Elements of EKG and CST were reminiscent of things I have seen in Gray Cook's stuff, which is heavily influenced by DNS.  I appreciated the fact that John mentioned this workshop wasn't about the "why."  It was about the movements.  The "why" would be a whole other workshop.  I love the why, but that wasn't what was I there for and, because of background, I understood the why behind the warm up, work, and cool down.  The only thing I would change (and this is simply a personal philosophy) is if I were teaching the system to someone who was hyper mobile, I would utilize stability movements in the warm up rather than mobility warm ups.  95% of us need the mobility warm ups, but once in a while you get a person who has far too much mobility and not enough stability.  These people are more challenging because they have less awareness of where their body is in space and lack the strength to keep everything "plugged in."  Kino MacGregor, a well known Ashtnaga teacher, came to yoga hyper mobile.  Every day, she worked on the strength elements of the practice i.e., holding plank, holding chatarangua, lifting her body off of the floor using the strength of her arms.  In this way, she built the stability to support her mobility.  Because the movements in the EKG system favor mobility, I would emphasize the stability aspect of each movement, not taking someone to end range until stability was gained throughout the range of motion.  Again, this isn't a problem most people have, but once in a while, you get someone who does.

Overall, the EKG certification workshop was a worthwhile, fun experience.  We are so fortunate to have someone like John in the area who is willing to share his expertise with other professionals in the community.  I would highly recommend this to others interested in learning a different, functional way of programming, especially those working with individuals participating in multi-directional sports or athletics.  Just be prepared to work and be prepared to be sore in some interesting place- all with a smile on your face.

Yours in health and wellness,

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Strength and conditioning programs for runners

Designing strength and conditioning programs for runners is something I love doing.  Helping runners move better, become more economical, and improve performance while reducing injury risk is enjoyable and, as a runner, something I work on regularly myself.  Why do runners need a strength and conditioning program, you might wonder?  A research review performed by Saunders, Pyne, Telford, and Hawley (2004) concluded strength training improved running economy in elite runners.  A small study performed by Berryman, Maurel, and Bosquet found that while plyometric training and dynamic strength training were more effective at reducing the energy cost of running than just running, plyometric training led to the greatest cost reduction.  However, this does not mean everyone should run out and add jumping to their routines.  Progression is important, as well as proper periodization based on goals and race schedule.  Below are some guidelines for individualized program design, based on research and experience.

  1. Perform a needs analysis, or have someone perform a needs analysis on you.  A needs analysis consists of goals (are you competing in road races, or just running recreationally), movement assessment, and analysis of posture.  Patellofemoral pain is a common complaint among runners.  A comprehensive movement assessment can identify risk factors, such as knee internal rotation and hip adduction during a single leg squat, which are believed to contribute to PFP (Noehren, Pohl, Sanchez, Cunningham, and Latermann, 2011).  It also identifies potential muscle imbalances and flexibility issues which might affect running gait.  
  2. Don't perform exercises sitting.  You don't run sitting.  You run using your entire body to stabilize while you are propelling your body forward, one foot at a time.  Train you muscles standing up.
  3. Include movements on one leg.  Balance is important, and runners spend a lot of time on one leg.  Things like single leg squats windmills, and  walking lunges challenge the kinetic chain and work dynamic balance at the same time.
  4. Use proper progression.  The exercises described above are great, but should only be performed if you can do a perfect double leg squat, anterior reach, and stationary lunge.  The quality of the movement is critical.  Training faulty movement patterns will simply lead to more faulty movement patterns.  In order to progress, some flexibility work or foam roller work may be required.
  5. Roll.  Use a foam roller prior to your strength training program to reduce activity to muscles that are overactive.  In runners, this typically includes the IT band, quadriceps, and calves.  This will allow the proper muscles to be recruited for various movements.  Ideally, a runner would roll almost daily, including before runs.  If it hurts, know that if you continue to roll, over time it will hurt a lot less.
  6. Periodize your training program.  This is particularly important if you are racing.  Heavy weights and plyometrics will improve running economy; however, they also cause soreness.  It is important to figure out when you should be building strength, working on power, and allowing for recovery.  I use the base building period of an endurance athlete's program to work on strength, speed training portion to incorporate some plyometrics (this requires excellent feedback from the athlete.  You don't want to hinder the speed training workouts.  I make sure I do plyometrics with the person when speed training is done for the week), and taper to focus on quality/endurance movements, using one or two plyometric exercises if the person has been strength training for a long time.  
  7. Remember quality.  Don't do something too soon (such as add jumping motions).  Work on improving movement quality first.  This might take some time, but it will be worth it in the end.
  8. Don't forget the rest of your body.  While we don't use our arms to run, we do lose muscle mass as we age.  What good is all of that running if we can't lift ourselves off the floor if we fall?
Yours in health and wellness,

Saunders, P.U., Pyne, D.B., Telford, R.D., & Hawley, J.A., (2004).  Factors affecting running economy in distance runners.  Sports Medicine, 34(7), pp. 465-485.
Berryman, N., Maurel, D., & Bosquet, L., (2010).  Effect of plyometric vs. dynamic weight training on the energy cost of running.  Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(7), pp. 1818-1825.
Noehren, B., Pohl, M.B., Sanchez, Z., Cunningham, T., & Lattermann, C., (2011).  Proximal and distal kinematics in female runners with patellofemoral pain.  Clinical Biomechanics, (Epub ahead of print).