Sunday, 2 January 2011

The game-changer (exclusive content)

Hello all,

Happy new year, i hope you all had a great festive season and are ready to follow through with the 2011 goals?

Pretty interesting title? Well, this blog will be a pretty interesting read. The truth is i have been sitting on this amazing information since the summer and have not got around to turning the notes into a decent article/blog... until now.

In case you haven't read some of my earlier blogs, I travelled to the US in the summer and attended the Perform Better seminar and got to listen, learn and hang out with some of the biggest names in the industry. I dont want to name drop (actually i do) but i met:

Martin Rooney
John Berardi (worlds leading sport nutritionist)
Alwyn Cosgrove
Eric Cressey
Al Vermeil (chicago bulls strength/conditioning coach)
Thomas Plummer (Fitness Business expert)
Bill Parisi (CEO, Parisi speed schools)
Gray Cook
Greg Rose (Titliest Performance Institute)
Robert Dos Remedios
Mike Boyle
Todd Durkin
Steve Cotter (Kettlebells)
Fraser Quelch (TRX)
Nick Tumminello
... And Thomas Myers (author of Anatomy Trains).

If you are a fitness professional and you dont recognize any names on that list, I suggest you go and do some reading on their individual websites. They are all industry leaders and you could spend the next few years learning from the great work these trainers have put forward. But for today's blog i want to concentrate on the last name, Thomas Myers.

This guy probably knows more than you about anatomy
Thomas Myers is an anatomy expert, period. The closest we (trainers, gym users) ever get to people is by touch, this guy actually cuts bodies up for his research. It is safe to say he knows what he is talking about when it comes to the intricate workings of the muscles of the human body.

The following information was taken from notes taken by myself during Thomas Myers key note speech during the Perform Better seminar (of which only 500 people got to hear).

What is 'Anatomy Trains'?

This book shows how the body is inter-connected entirely by myo-fascial tissue (remember fascia from the last blog?) and identifies different lines/trains that connect the body. It looks at the body as a whole organism and not the traditional 600+ muscles attached to bone we all grew up learning about.

Opening question f the talk: How many muscles in the body?

Answer: 650+ (as we all thought)

Thomas Myers: Wrong. There is one muscle in the human body compromised of 600+ fascial pockets!

All these muscles are inter-connected by fascia

In one sentence, this guy had the whole room of fitness experts, trainers, doctors, etc in complete silence. He had commanded everyone's attention. Here are some other points taken from his talk:

- Injury roots start at an early age, people grow with their injuries

Some clients i train will have carried injuries from childhood and it almost impossible to fully correct these in just a few sessions per week.
- As fitness trainers it is "our parental task to design fitness programs for a neolythical body in an electronic world"

Due to modern technology, the way in which we move has changed, trainers must find a way to get people to re-engage with primal movements and avoid the modern day postures of offices and home life.

- Are you in shape? Round is a shape.

This picture is just wrong, but you can't argue he is very round?

- The neuro-myofascial web cannot be seperated. Training in isolation is not an optimal method.
- The key of modern training is to break bad habits not teach movements

Corrective training is the cornerstone of all good training programs. Anyone can design and implement a punishing training program but not everyone can design a program that allows the user to get great results and be injury-free. A truly effective program will manage stress not accumulate it.

- "Wherever your pelvis is, you are" Think about seated posture.
- The fascial system is affected by habital movement and needs focused work.

The foam roller/hockey ball are great ways to identify what is actually going on with your body. If it hurts like hell when you roll on your IT bands, then you have chronically tight IT bands from daily habits. Ironically, the clients who 'hate' rolling are the ones who need it the most, funny that?
- Is your scapula in the correct position when typing? are you even fit for typing?
- You need to incorporate 'long-chain' movements into your training programs.
- Yoga, pilates, bodyweight exercises using the whole body are the best for training fascia

His words, not mine. Don't think for 1 minute i'm going all Yoga on you. But it does seem to have excellent benefits for myo-fascial health.

The warrior stretch is a classic exercise which invloves the whole body

- Every warm up should include a dynamic element

If you do not include mobility exercises into your warm ups by now then you have been living under a rock. Mobility (or Dynamic flexibility) movements are the ideal start to each training session. Assess clients for individual issues then implement corrective strategies in the warm up and during the sessions for best results.

- Training with vector variation is useful (think kettlebells, clubs, etc.)
- Elastic rebound training is a great way to train fascia (jumping, running, plyometrics)
- Place more emphasis on propreceptive training for optimal 'fascial fitness'
- Rollers are good but may not be enough to truly correct fascia issues, regular massage is key.
- Hydration plays a massive role in the condition of your fascia system.
- To rehabilitate fascia completely, it may take up to 18-24 months!

So at this point im thinking (along with every other fitness dude in the room) 24 months!!! There is no way any gym rat would change their whole way of training for so long just to get optimal fascial health - no matter how good the final results, it just wont happen.

Which brings me to the main idea for this blog. How can you incorporate this philosophy into your training, stay healthy and not taking 18 months off lifting!

A: Create an off season for your body

Every athlete needs 'down-time' at some point

All sports have an off-season. They need to have an off-season so that athletes can rest and recover from the daily grind of matches and training. If they did not have a rest, the performance of each athlete and the standard of every competition would decrease - not to mention a massive increase in injuries.

Your body is no different. In order to grow/improve (whatever your goal is) you need some quality time out of the gym as well as in it. Below i have mentioned 3 different methods of incorporating mini 'off seasons' during your training year - see if you like the look of one and give it a try.

Method 1: 25 days on, 5 days off

A pretty simple concept, you take the last 5 days of each month off normal training to work on mobility, flexibility, foam rolling, corrective ball work, massage, restorative measures, relaxation, etc. The options are endless, you should start each 25 day training cycle fully refreshed and motivated when hitting the gym. I would say 2 or 3 longer periods off during the year (1-2 weeks) could be added to make this even better.

Method 2: 6 weeks on, 1 week off

You cant train "balls-to-the-wall" every session, all year round without something going wrong. You can do it for a while but your body will soon start telling you when its had enough. Niggling knee, wrist and shoulder injuries will develop into serious issues and will lead to time off training which can have a negative pyschological effect - i know, ive been there.

Excessive weight training and shoulder pain go hand in hand

This method breaks up training cycles into longer 6 week periods with 1 whole week off to work on corrective issues mentioned above. My recommendation for the the 6 weeks would be to use smart progressive methods as the weeks went on and not just lift more weight. For example:

Week 1: 70 % effort
Week 2: Increase 10 % effort (80%)
Week 3: Increase 10% effort (90%)
Week 4: De-load week (50% effort or change to Bodyweight movements)
Week 5: Maximum effort (100%)
Week 6: Maximum effort (100%)
Week 7: OFF

This is just one of numerous strategies to avoid an all-out approach when it comes to training. Use smart progressions and plan time off in order to continually increase performance. Try different rest periods and see what works best for you.

Method 3: Utilizing 'de-load' weeks, bio-feedback and extended restoration periods.

Ok so after thinking about this for a while... i have decided there are 3 essential methods to utilise for optimal performance when it comes to maintain healthy fascia, these are:

1. Deloading weeks. Training at approximately 50% to recover from intense training cycles without actually stopping training.

For an in-depth document on the subject, check out Eric Cressey's "The art of Deload"

2. Biofeedback. Have you ever walked into a gym and known it wasn't going to be your day and then walked out? No, thats not being a pussy - Thats called Biofeedback - listening to your body and knowing when to push hard and when to hold back.

After reading (my hero) Andre Agassi's autobiography recently, he mentioned in some chapters that his trainer, Gil Reyes would take one look at him when he walked into the gym and say "Not today, man, you ain't going to achieve nothing in here today". Some would say thats a cop-out from a trainer? I say Gil Reyes was a very smart guy, who knew explicitly how his athlete performed. This is Biofeedback.

Gil Reyes is a master of Biofeedback

The problems with Biofeedback are obvious. If you are a lazy bastard, you will always choose to do less. You could claim to be using biofeedback but actually you would be selling yourself way short. To effectively use biofeedback you must be:
- Experienced enough to 'listen' to your body.
- You must be willing to push hard when you feel good and lay off when you feel crap.

Its a tough skill to master, but i think you'll find that all the guys/girls who are 50+ and still in great shape are those who were excellent at biofeedback and used a long-term moderate approach to training.

3. Extended restoration periods. Periods of time (lets say 4 weeks) devoted completely to restoration and recovery. These are the off-seasons in your own training year.

This is something i have been using sub-consciencely for the past 2 years. I always take 2 seperate periods off per year (July/August & December/January) to give my body a rest from heavy lifting. Taking time away from the gym is vital for continued progress. So why not plan these times around your life?

Going on holidays in August? use this time away from the gym and fully recover for a hard winter program.

Busy work schedule on in January? Take this time to work on your flexibility, soft tissue work.

Final thoughts

Whether you write your own training programs or make a living writing other people's, you should always program in some form of down-time/deload/rest periods... whatever it takes to keep you and your clients injury-free. I hope i have shared enough ideas above for you to make your own decisions on what would work best for you. Training intensely for extended periods of time will ultimately end up in injury.

Everyone should strategically use 'off-seasons' to work on other components of fitness like Mobility, Flexibility, soft tissue work, etc. If you dont have any real knowledge of these areas then im guessing you will end up hurting yourself... or even worse, your paying clients. No paying clients = no job. Simples!
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'til the next time...

1 comment:

  1. Good write up Nath i particularly like the fact that as trainer you are recommending down time. 6 weeks on and 1 off is an extremely effective way of not only making good progression but also staying motivated and hitting new PB's in the later stages of the cycle.
    keep blogging pal, enjoyed that!!

    Tom Davies


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