All in sports performance

I spoke with a client yesterday about his resistance training program. It seemed like he had a solid plan and was making good progress. But I did disagree with one aspect of his approach, which was his workout motto: Working Out Sucks™. His motto is a reminder that he won’t achieve his goals without working hard enough to be fairly miserable for at least part of the workout.

There is a lot of much needed skepticism on the internets these days in regard to the idea that we can diagnose movement “dysfunction” and prescribe movement “correction.” A lot of this debate centers on the FMS and other systemic approaches to improving quality of movement. I think a lot of this discussion is useful and productive. I also think that the level of skepticism sometimes goes too far, veering into what I call “movement relativism” - the idea that one movement will work just as well as another for a given purpose, or that we don’t have the slightest idea how to tell whether one way of moving is better than another.

In the previous two posts, I discussed two basic ideas. First, that the developmental movement patterns learned in infancy are building blocks for the more complex movements that we use in our daily lives as adults. These simple patterns are combined to form complex movements, just as words and letters are combined to make sentences. If someone is limited in performing a basic movement like squatting or rotating, there are a very wide range of everyday movements that will be compromised. Therefore, if we are going to spend any time working to improve our movement, it is these fundamental patterns that should get most of our attention.

Extreme Performance or Optimal Health? Pick One!

Many of my clients will ask my opinion about whether a particular sport or activity promotes movement health. Yoga, running, swimming, weight training, ballet, soccer, gymnastics, crossfit. (People are especially interested in whether these activities will be healthy for their kids.) It’s an interesting question because almost any physical activity you can think of has costs as well as benefits.

I have previously written about the importance of visual processing for athletic performance. I just came across a video demonstrating the unbelievable (I mean that literally) visual skills of a world class athlete, via the excellent Axon Sports blog. In the video, sports scientists test the visual processing of Christiano Ronaldo, one of the worlds best soccer players. (By the way, Ronaldo was a top contender for my world’s greatest athlete.)

Welcome to the third and final installment of my best athlete in the world series. In this post I will actually name the winner. But first a quick review of my existing ground rules, and the addition of two additional criteria that will narrow things down to our winner pretty quickly. As I discussed in parts one and two, my best athlete must have strength, speed, stamina and skill, with skill being the most important quality.

Welcome to part two of my argument for who is the world's greatest athlete. Here is a brief summary of part one. First, I concede there is no way to arrive at a truly objective answer here, because it necessarily calls into play subjective preferences. However, after starting with some admittedly arbitrary ground rules, I think I can logically proceed to a defensible conclusion. I know this sounds more like a legal argument than a bar room sports debate, but believe me, this analysis will go far beyond what you probably guessed!

Power at the End Range

In the previous post I discussed the idea that flexibility is generally overrated as a quality that promotes sports performance. In particular, I argued that: most sports do not involve extreme ranges of motion; most elite athletes in fact have only average flexibility; and quality of motion at a joint is usually far more important than quantity of motion. That being said, it is definitely the case that in many sports, some very important events happen near the end ranges of motion and this may require some very specific preparation. For example, in my own sport, squash, players are called upon to repeatedly strike the ball with full force while in a fully stretched out deep lunge position. While most people have the flexibility to get into this lunge, it does take quite a bit of training to be able to get there quickly and then hit a ball with maximum force. In this post I’ll share some thoughts on how to improve power, speed or skill at end ranges of motion.

I just read the abstract of a study cited by Chris Highcock at Conditioning Research. (By the way if you are interested in either strength training or hiking, check out Chris' excellent new e-book called Hillfit.) It is one of many studies that show that muscular fatigue impairs coordination. Because coordination is essentially a mental skill, this is an interesting flip side to another study I recently blogged about which shows that working on math problems makes you physically weaker.