The Original Big 3

By Dave Howington, Performance Trainer

Athletes come to us wanting to become better performers; parents come to us wanting their kids to be safer. For both desires, dedicated mobility work needs to be addressed. In our warm-ups and throughout our workouts we always have mobility drills to treat what I call the big three: upper back, hips, and ankles. Here’s why each area needs to be addressed.

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The Original Big 3

Three Areas of the Body to Mobilize & Assist Performance

1. Upper Back

When movement in the upper back is restricted posture will deteriorate, and the neck and the low back will compensate, when I have athletes who come in saying they have low back pain, the upper back becomes one of the first areas I observe. Regarding performance, athletes need mobility in their upper back to allow for better arm movement during activities, such as sprinting and agility. For baseball players, or any athlete in which they need their arm to go overhead, a mobile upper back will help extend the longevity of their career by reducing the risk of elbow and shoulder injuries.

For baseball players, or any athlete in which they need their arm to go overhead, a mobile upper back will help extend the longevity of their career by reducing the risk of elbow and shoulder injuries.

For baseball players, or any athlete in which they need their arm to go overhead, a mobile upper back will help extend the longevity of their career by reducing the risk of elbow and shoulder injuries.

2. Hips

Mobile hips moving well are an absolute must for any athlete. Regarding speed training, lack of hip, mobility predisposes athletes to a higher risk of low back and knee injuries because these two areas often have to move more than is necessary to compensate for when the hip is tight. Along with this increased risk of injury, comes a decreased potential for performance as a lack of hip mobility will slow the athlete down when cutting or changing direction. The inhibition of these maneuvers can largely be attributed to lack of hip movement inhibiting the athlete from efficiently getting into the right positions to perform.

Mobile hips moving well are an absolute must for any athlete.

Mobile hips moving well are an absolute must for any athlete.

3. Ankles

Ankle mobility, similar to hip mobility, creates excess compensation in the knees. Also, tight ankles will increase the risk of ankle injuries. Further, ankle function and health are vital when it comes to the first step and acceleration. Similar to the hips, tight ankles will inhibit athletes from getting into the right positions to perform and build speed efficiently, forcing the athletes to waste movement, and as a result, slowing them down.

Similar to the hips, tight ankles will inhibit athletes from getting into the right positions to perform and build speed efficiently, forcing the athletes to waste movement, and as a result, slowing them down.

Similar to the hips, tight ankles will inhibit athletes from getting into the right positions to perform and build speed efficiently, forcing the athletes to waste movement, and as a result, slowing them down.

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In future posts, we will discuss specific exercises for each, but we hope this helps paint a clearer picture as to why we stress the importance of mobility for our athletes. From a safety component, proper mobility cannot be understated, and from a performance component, athletes who do not move well are lowering their ceiling for their performance potential.

The Prowler Sled

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The Prowler Sled

One of The Best Sports Performances Tools Out There!

Spend any time at our facility, and you will see athletes pushing around a piece of equipment that looks like a wheelbarrow without wheels. Some of our sleds even have a joke warning about nausea and indigestion called “prowler flu.” Jokes aside, this is an excellent piece of equipment for any athlete, and a staple for all our training programs for quite a few reasons - below are three.

1. Low Risk, High Reward

Athletes can build serious athletic qualities with the sled, and there is not a high risk of injury. The sled is a low impact tool that builds lower body power, core strength, and adds a conditioning element while being easy on both the knees and the back.

2. Various Uses

Touching on what we mentioned above, if we want to build power we have athletes push the sled fast. If we're going to work conditioning, we have the athletes push the sled over a longer course of time. If we want to we are working speed we can have the athletes push the sled with a deliberate focus of their limbs to emulate lower limb mechanics during sprinting.

3. Overall efficiency

It does not take a lot of time to teach an athlete to push the sled, plus all the benefits, and this means we can get a lot done in workouts when we incorporate sled based exercises.

One added measure, check out this video of the MLB National League MVP Christian Yelich, he is performing a lot of exercises we incorporate, including sled work (Click Here).

Suffice to say, the sled is one of the best pieces of equipment we use and will remain a staple in our training programs for years to come.

Christian Yelich goes HARD in the gym. Check out his offseason grind About Major League Baseball: Major League Baseball (MLB) is the most historic professional sports league in the United States and consists of 30 member clubs in the U.S. and Canada, representing the highest level of professional baseball.

2 Tips to Instantly Run Faster

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2 Tips to Instantly Get Faster

Speed is a skill and it can be trained!

If you follow the NFL, you may have noticed the Kansas City Chiefs, and Showtime Mahomes has become one of the most dominant teams in the league this year. Along these same lines, it's no secret they are also seen to be one of the fastest teams. As the saying adage goes, “speed kills.” A couple of weeks ago ESPN produced an article with the headline “Bengals overwhelmed by Chief’s dominating speed.”

Every athlete I have ever met wants to be faster, regardless of their position. I cannot think of a single athlete who does not want to be faster in their sport. The beautiful truth is, speed is not entirely genetic. Sure, some individuals are gifted with a predisposition of better levers, longer tendons, or the likes. But when we get down to it, speed is a skill, and it can be trained. Further, there are aspects of speed I will lay out; which, when applied, even without coaching will make any athlete instantly faster.

The arms need to move faster than the legs!


Tip #1: Fast and Violent Arm Swing
This is something I think a lot of athletes get confused about. In our heads it is intuitive speed is all about the legs and the arms follow along for the ride. However, the opposite could not be more accurate. Our body works in coordination and naturally prefers our arms and legs to move together as much as possible. Great sprint coach Charlie Francis who coached countless numbers of Olympic Athletes points out and coaches the arms need to move faster than the legs. I will repeat this; THE ARMS NEED TO MOVE FASTER THAN THE LEGS. This is a subtle faster, but it holds none the less. If you want to be instantly faster, you have to move your arms.

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Speed is a skill which needs to be practiced and trained over and over again.

Tip #2: Stiffen the Core
I use the word stiffen instead of brace for several reasons. For one a braced core will cause the athlete to be too tense. Speed is all about contraction and relaxation. If the athlete braces, you will be all contraction with none of the relaxation. However, the core does need to be stiff especially if you are prescribing to the first cue I provided. The more violently the arms move, the more the torso will want to twist with the arms causing a whole slew of issues, and making it nigh impossible to run in a straight line. However, an appropriately stiff core will help you resist the twisting the arms are trying to create thereby helping you not run around like a chicken with its head cut off. How taut should the core be? Think like you are at the beach and someone attractive walks by, you will not brace, you obviously will not let your gut hang out, but you also do not want to make it seem like you are trying to keep your gut in; this is the way you should feel when you are sprinting.

Speed is a skill which needs to be practiced and trained over and over again. However, these two cues will go a long way in helping you perfect this coveted athletic ability. You will need to use both as they work in conjunction with each other, but when you do, you will find yourself already faster than you were before.

- Dave Howington, CSCS, Performance Trainer

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Move Weight to Lose Weight

"Strength is a glass." a common phrase I have adopted when I discuss the importance of strength training. What this phrase communicates is the stronger you are the bigger your proverbial glass. In other words, regardless of my goal, if I get stronger it will be much easier to achieve my goal. This being said, the means to get stronger can sometimes be intimidating.

For instance, I remember when I was in middle school, I wanted to get more fit, but I was actually scared of free weights. I would explain myself away thinking I do not need them, and in fact, they are just more dangerous than they are good for me.

Truth is free weights such as dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, and other implements are amazing tools truly helping individuals get strong. However, the fear of moving heavy weight has led to a trend of only using cardio and aerobic-esque type classes in order to improve body composition. 

 

I am hear to say, that if body composition improvement is desired, than you must be willing to push yourself. For some of us this takes courage and it forces us outside of our comfort zone. But when you do step out you will be awakened to a wonderful world you may not have ever known.

Without going too in depth with the science, lifting weights and getting stronger has some key roles as it pertains to changing your body composition. An older study performed by Campbell et al. (1994) found that resistance training and the increased muscle mass that comes from it increase the bodies energy requirements. In other words your body burns more calories when it has more muscle, even if you're not doing anything.

Stiegler and Cunlife (2012) looked at resistance training for individuals when they were following a weight loss nutrition plan and found that resistance training helped preserve their muscle mass. This is huge, because once the diet is over, the better preserved your muscle mass the easier it will be to maintain the changes you have made for yourself.

Suffice to say, the key ingredient for increasing lean mass, specifically muscle, is strength training. However, there are some caveats to remember. THESE ARE IMPORTANT.

  1. ONLY COMPARE YOURSELF TO YOURSELF - Are you doing something better today than you did yesterday? Are you stronger today than you were yesterday? Great that is all that matters. Even if strength for you is not the same as someone else. Even if you it seems like you are weaker than someone else, this is OKAY! They are not you, rather than look at them spend some time looking in the mirror. Focus on yourself, be better than yourself, and do not worry about what others are doing around. I promise they are not judging.
  2. NUTRITION IS KEY - To paraphrase a popular quote, "the road to a six pack is not filled with doughnuts and beer." This does not mean you have to forsake this stuff forever, but what this does mean is you need to be conscientious of what you are eating. A couple of keys are to make sure you eat lots of protein, lots of veggies, and drink lots of water.
  3. EMBRACE THE PROCESS - I cannot say this enough. The biggest mistake people make when trying to change their body is they get hung up on the outcome they desire. The goal of body composition is not a straight path, rather its like a walk through a meadow. If you are too focused on getting out of the forest you will miss the beauty and nature around you. 
  4. ROME WAS NOT BUILT IN A DAY - This old adage holds true for anything. Those super fit models on instagram? They did not get like that over night. A lot of major overnight success stories did not actually occur over night. Same with achieving a body that you are happy about. Back to my earlier point, it is a process.

If you want meaningful lasting change in both health and your body, you need to be willing to get stronger, but most importantly at your own pace. Take my words to heart, and take the above four points to heart, and you will find yourself not just achieving your goals, but maybe even having a little bit of fun in the process. 

- Dave

References

Campbell, W. W., Crim, M. C., Young, V. R., & Evans, W. J. (1994). Increased energy requirements and changes in body composition with resistance training in older adults. The American journal of clinical nutrition60(2), 167-175.

Stiegler, P., & Cunliffe, A. (2006). The role of diet and exercise for the maintenance of fat-free mass and resting metabolic rate during weight loss. Sports medicine36(3), 239-262.

Foam Rolling 101

A trend that has grown in the fitness industry of recent years is called foam rolling, or as some people might call it self-myofascial release (SMR). However, what it does is still a question we must explore. 

There are a couple of schools of thoughts regarding SMR. The first school of thought is the idea that SMR is a way to help break scar tissue. The other school of thought is that SMR stimulates proprioceptive organs within our soft tissue called Golgi tendon organs and muscle spindles to tell essentially tell our brain that a muscle is overactive, and, for lack of a better term, needs to be turned off. 

For myself, I used to think that the first school of thought was the correct one. However, I have come to learn that to break up scar tissue and fascia the amount of pressure and force needed to be applied is not something that can be achieved through foam rolling. However, the idea that foam rolling can help inhibit muscles that are chronically "turned on" is something that is truly valid. 

You see our daily living makes some muscle groups more active than others. For instance, sitting here writing this up, my hip flexors are turned on, my pec minor is pulling my shoulders forward, and my neck is craning forward. If I do not take care of these muscle groups, eventually I will find these muscles become very tight and affect my quality of movement.

This is where foam rolling, and SMR becomes the most valuable, inhibiting these muscles, so that I may activate the right muscles and thereby improve my movement.

The following are videos demonstrating areas I find are key to foam roll:

The Foot - You can use a tennis ball or lacrosse ball.

Calves - This is best when using a foam roller and one leg. 

Quads

Hips/Piriformis

Lats 

 

Finally, when you are done foam rolling the essential part is to get moving. If you foam roll an area and do not then seek to use your new found ranges of motion, then you may as well not even be foam rolling.

Suffice to say, foam rolling is helpful, especially as it pertains to helping us enjoy the subsequent workout and movement that follows.

Thanks,

Dave