Unlock Your Highest Potential

Random Thoughts: Spring Break Edition

This is not your normal Random Thoughts. While I may be covering several topics today, there is one common denominator – the thoughts were conceived from interacting or observing high school athletes.


1. Some people disagree with the “new age” concept of training the lower back for stability and not mobility, saying that sit-ups, crunches, sidebends, and lumbar rotation training is acceptable. Here's a different perspective for them:

If you crack your radius and ulna at the middle of your forearm, they put you in a cast to lock those bones in position so that they can heal properly. Nobody ever argues with that approach. Think about even further. In fracturing those bones, you've taken a segment of the body that was designed for stability and made it mobile. So, the solution to heal the problem is to lock up the area temporarily to condition it for long-term effective force transfer.

You know what happens when a young athlete gets spondylolysis (vertebral fracture) at the lumbar spine? They put them in a brace. In other words, they lock up a hypermobile segment of the body to return it to a physiological “norm” — and the healing rates are very good. It makes a lot of sense, as most of these injuries occur in athletes with poor hip and thoracic mobility who must go to the lumbar spine to get the range of motion they lack. Maybe if more people did their “core training” as if they were in a back brace, we'd see fewer lower back injuries. (Lindsay: Whats that Fritzie? … Did you say brace my abs? … What on earth do you mean?)


2. I see an amazing phenomenon among the fathers of the legitimate “stud” high school athletes. Some are usually very humble and easygoing; you can talk to them all day and really enjoy their company. For every one of these guys you'll meet, you'll encounter ten fathers who talk your ear off about how great their sons/daughters are, how their kids are the next NFL, WNBA or MLB superstars, and how they've carried their teams (in middle school). Interestingly, in 50% of these cases, their kids aren't even playing because “the coach has something against him/her”. 


3. 99% of the young athletes who train with me for the first time don't know how to do a correct push-up. If you have a son or daughter and want to do them a great justice, teach good push-up form early on. Key points: chin tucked, eyes look directly down at the floor, upper arms at a 45-degree angle to the torso, hips up (not sagging), and the chest reaches the floor first. (Tracie: perform 10 “perfect” pushups every time you eat , also read #5 on this entry)


4. While nutrition takes the cake, I would put sleep quality on par with program design in considering what makes or breaks one's success. I know some athletes are always going to train their butt off and eat ridiculously clean, so the only thing that ever has dramatic short-term impacts on how they look in the mirror and feel is sleep quality. From experience and observations, the more total sleep I get, the better. And, to take it a step further, the more hours I get before midnight, the better. So, if you're reading this at 3AM, go to bed. I'm really not that fascinating (although I like to think I am), and I'll guarantee everything on my website will be here in the morning, afternoon, or whenever it is you wake up. On a side note, don’t change your myspace layout every night and stop commenting everybody that you will see the next day at your school.


5. I never thought the day would come, but I've actually become desensitized to Rage Against the Machine. If you’re a regular person and only spend 4-6 hours a week in the gym probably can't really relate, as a little Rage will never get old in that time period. I, however, spend roughly eight hours a day in a gym setting, seven days a week — and Rage comes on a lot. Fortunately, there's plenty of good stuff on which to fall back — from ATREYU to InnerpartySystem. If another high schooler tries to pass Rebellution and Jamie Foxx as lifting music one more time,  I might choke them with a mini-band. For those of you looking for some new flavor, check out The Fall of Troy. Here are some singles my athletes and I enjoy: Tha Punks Theme by Young Caps of So , Let the Beat Go by El Rock


6. Miscllaneous Tips for the High Schooler (Trent, pay attention!):

·         Show up on time, clean-shaven and showered. If you walk in ten minutes late with a serious case of bed-head, you might as well not bother applying.

·         More important than your experience/knowledge is your ability to communicate and have positive interactions with people.

·         Do not type the words "ur" or "lol" in your email containing your cover letter and resume.

·         If I introduce you to my friend do not call him "bro" unless you are, in fact, his brother. (And, even if you are his brother, you're a freakin' CEO; stop talking like that!).

·         Remember that there's a difference between "lose" and "loose;" "to," "too," and "two;" and "they're," "their," and "there."

·         If your email address is hottgunz@gmail.com or sweetcandy@yahoo.com, don't bother submitting an application — unless you're hoping to apply to be one of Dr. Kevorkian's guinea pigs.

·         Consider me first as a boss rather than a friend.


7. I sent out emails to all of our high school athletes asking them about their goals for 2009. Of the replies I got (about 56), only two athletes mentioned improving flexibility as a goal for the year. Interestingly, these were two guys who came to us with 15-week back-bracing protocols for lumbar spine stress fractures. Injuries yield perspective. It's better to live vicariously through others in this regard, so heed their advice.


8. I have kettlebells, and I like them for certain exercises, when they're more user-friendly than dumbbells. For example, I love kettlebell swings. I think they're a great power exercise for beginners (high school athletes) and older athletic clients, who don't like or need the wrist stress of the Olympic lifts. I just don't like them for cleans and snatches because they hurt my athletes. Save your macho comments about “working through pain”. Don't tell me my athletes should keep trying until they learn to control the weights so they don't bang up their forearms.  Instead, look at it from my point of view: A 14-year-old athlete I'm training goes home night after night with bruised and battered forearms. His mom and dad — who, I should note, are paying good money to have me train their young athlete — ask why his arms look like melted crayons. He tells them about how I have him and his fellow athletes fling around these cannonball thingies, which on a couple of exercises slam into their forearms. Over and over and over again. Then he tells them, “Fritzie says we should get the hang of it after a few more workouts”. Do you think Mom and Dad will wait to see if, indeed, Junior gets used to it? Or do you think they'll get on the phone right that second to inquire about my innovative training techniques? Same with my professional athletes. Do I try to explain to a guy who makes $9 million a year that he'll eventually enjoy the exercise, after he quits beating the shit out of his forearms? Or do I find another exercise that offers the exact same benefits without the contusions, and keep that athlete as my client?


9. Without him knowing it, I recently convinced another  high school athlete to do the YMCA dance as a shoulder health series. I think I’m on to something:

Y: Lower trap activation, thoracic extension
M: Pec minor length, thoracic extension
C: Internal rotation range of motion
A: Lat length, thoracic extension

I haven't really taken the time to break down the Macarena or Funky Chicken yet, but I think it's safe to say that the Electric Slide will get your glute medius firing a bit.


10. A high school female athlete showed me a training program she got from a trainer.  While I could've poked a ton of holes in the program, this is what stuck out the most.

Her side bridge workout regiment:

Week 1: 60 seconds per side

Week 2: 75 seconds per side

Week 3: 90 seconds per side

Week 4: 105 seconds per side

It was then that I realized that I'd been wrong all along in training this athlete for her chosen sport. Apparently, this coach had seen something I hadn't, and she was clearly better suited for fame and fortune as a professional side-bridger. Seriously, folks, if you can do a side bridge for one minute and 45 seconds, you don't need to be doing side bridges anymore — or you at least ought to find some way to make them harder. Try a one-leg side bridge, at the very least. Kayla, drop the dumb Los Gatos trainer and just convert from a Long Distance Client to Private Sessions. I'll cut you a deal.


11. Lesson learned from “Seven Strong”: It takes commitment to stand by your convictions when all those around you have none. It takes perseverance to keep fighting when you are losing. It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before, to test your limits, to break through barriers you thought were unbreakable. It takes discipline and a strong desire to be the very best that you can be, when others around you settle for mediocrity. It takes hard work and sacrifice to make a dream a reality.


12.  It amazes me how many ignorant high school kids drink illegally (that’s another rant for another day). Alcohol kills soft tissue quality. During a conference I chatted with a manual therapist for a major league team. He told me that just by working on one of his athletes’ tissues, he could tell that they had been out drinking the night before, describing the tissue as “boggy”. Right when I got home, I hopped on Pubmed (see links page) to investigate further and came across this:


“The development of alcoholic muscle disease, which affects both cardiac and skeletal muscle, leads to increased morbidity and mortality in patients who abuse alcohol. The disease pathology includes myocyte degeneration, loss of striations, and myofilament dissolution, which is consistent with alterations in structural and myofibrillar proteins”. (Assessing Effects of Alcohol Consumption on Protein Synthesis in Striated Muscles By Thomas C. Vary and Charles H. Lang)


It’s been a while since my muscle physiology courses, but I can still say with almost certainty that these effects can be acute and chronic. All in all, alcohol isn't great for tissues, but I'd call it especially problematic for those who are trying to bounce back from injuries.


Note to “Mr. Baseball trying to gain muscle”: This becomes especially problematic when you're also suppressing the Testosterone levels on which you're counting to help maintain muscle mass while on the shelf. Add in that alcohol consumption interferes with sleep quality, and you'll quickly realize that growth hormone output won't be optimal (sleep is an extremely important time for growth hormone, which is very important in strengthening connective tissues).


13. High school football players are addicted to benching. One quick way to tell if an athlete is locking their shoulder blades down and back enough while benching is to put a piece of tape across the bench in line with the top of their head. If they slide up, you'll see that they aren't locked in enough; this is particularly noticeable on sets with multiple reps. If they don’t lock the shoulder blades in place doesn't just change head position, but it also allows the scapulae to tilt anteriorly (forward) at the bottom of each rep. Over time, this can beat up the anterior capsule of the shoulder. Getting the lower traps strong and working on length and tissue quality of the pec minor can make it easier to fix this technique flaw.


13. A 16-year-old hockey player I just started training told me that he had previously gone to a personal trainer who gave him an arm day. After some consideration, I've come to the conclusion that this fleecing of his parents' money was ethically on par with violating him with a rusty coat hanger.


14. The concept of viewing the entire kinetic chain with an injury has definitely advanced the industry, but the problem is that it's become so “vogue” that some people have taken it too far. Believe it or not, when some “forward-thinkers” see a shoulder problem, they start off their assessments by looking at the opposite big toe, or glute activation, when someone with shoulder pain walks in the door. The first thing I look at is total range of motion at the shoulder joint, particularly in internal and external rotation. According to the Total Motion Concept, in a healthy shoulder, total combined rotation (internal rotation plus external rotation) should be virtually identical on the right and left sides. So, the first thing I do when someone comes in with shoulder pain is (with the scapula fixed) assess internal and external rotation on the non-injured side, and then add them up to get a total motion figure. This is my baseline — and I'll repeat the measures on the injured side to see where things stand.


Here is a great example: a 17-year old baseball player who had recently been cleared to return to throwing by his doctor following an overuse elbow condition that resulted in medial elbow pain. No physical therapy was prescribed; he was just told to rest it.


Here's what you're looking at:

Right Shoulder: 19°IR +103°ER = 122° Total Motion
Left Shoulder 53°IR + 90°ER = 143° Total Motion


So, you've got a 21° total motion deficit, and a 34° glenohumeral internal rotation deficit (GIRD). This goes to show that just because you're asymptomatic, it does NOT mean that you're healthy; this is another problem waiting to happen.

All the research on ulnar collateral ligament (elbow) tears and SLAP lesions (shoulder) in overhead throwing athletes has demonstrated that a large percentage of the patients present with a GIRD of over 20°. The course of action for a guy like this is stretching for the posterior rotator cuff (and potentially capsule) until he regains that 21° of total motion he's missing.


This would put him at this:

Right Shoulder: 40°IR + 103°ER = 143° Total Motion
Left Shoulder 53°IR + 90°ER = 143° Total Motion


Effectively, you could call this guy a "Perfect GIRD" example. A 13° internal rotation deficit is actually relatively normal in baseball players who have thrown a lot during their developing years and developed what's known as retroversion. Basically, this means that in their developing years, their shoulders warped to accommodate the demands of throwing by allowing for more external rotation so that they can “lay back”. Just ask Billy Wagner.


This goes in the opposite direction, too. It's not uncommon to see guys with terrible external rotation ROM. I had a right-handed pro pitcher come in for his initial evaluation, and his non-throwing shoulder had markedly less range-of-motion than his throwing shoulder. This is strange, as an injured throwing shoulder will show more external rotation, less internal rotation, and less total motion. So, seeing that his health history didn't tell me anything, I probed.

Me: "You've never had any issues in this shoulder?"

Him: "Nope, I don't think so."

Me: "Never worn a sling on it?"

Him: "Oh, wait! I fractured my scapula in a car accident when I was 17."

Me: "That would have been a good thing to put on the health history, huh?"

Apparently, total motion tells you things that the athletes themselves can't even remember to tell you!


15. The best coaches are needed with the youngest athletes, as they're the most impressionable in terms of motor and psychological development. A bad coach at the college or professional level simply gets fired, and the athletes move on. A bad coach in the grade-school and adolescent years can make a kid dislike exercise for life and set him up for a host of chronic and traumatic injuries thanks to poor technique and overuse. Speaking of “traumatic injuries thanks to poor technique”: a high school athlete will never improve in their chosen sport if the trainer does not fix their posture and monitor their technique. Note to Katelyn’s trainer: research dynamic warmup, mobility and corrective exercises.


16. An guy come up to me and asked if I minded showing him the proper technique for a cable crossover. I just asked him how much he benched, and he replied with “85kg” (187 pounds and he weighed about 200). Doing cable crossovers at that point is roughly the equivalent of preparing for the SAT with a coloring book.


17. The positioning of the feet in a static posture assessment can tell you a lot, but simply looking without following up won’t give you a definitive answer. The most common postural distortion I see among high school athletes is an externally rotated foot position. It’s common to assume that this is simply a case of an athlete with hips that are stuck in external rotation.  And, in many cases, this is definitely the culprit.  For these athletes, a hearty dose of knee-to-knee stretches will do the trick (along with some stretches for the hip external rotators in a position of hip extension). For other athletes, though, this foot position is simply a compensation, as athletes will turn the feet out to compensate for a lack of dorsiflexion (toe-to-shin) range-of-motion.  These athletes need to work hard to improve ankle mobility with a combination of lower-extremity soft tissue work and mobility drills.


18. I use barefoot training to most of my high school athletes. In addition to strengthening the smaller muscles of the feet, barefoot training “accidentally” improves ankle mobility in athletes who have been stuck in restrictive shoes their entire lives (i.e. basketball players). Here are the exercises I am open to doing barefoot: all deadlift variations (rack pulls and DB variations included), box squats (hip dominant), and all body weight mobility drills.  I don’t go barefoot for any loaded single-leg movements (aside from 1-leg RDLs and 1-leg squats/pistols) or more quad-dominant squatting variations. All that said, I am careful about integrating barefoot drills in very overweight or very weak clients. These individuals do not go barefoot for any of their dynamic flexibility warm-ups aside from in-place ankle mobilizations, as lunging variations can be a bit too much stress on them at first. Speaking of ballers ... shout out to Mercedes Pardo - that woman can straight up hoop!!!


19. When you tell a high-schooler to do something and they lowly say “I’ll try”  - yell BULL to the SHIZZnezz!!! Trying is lying. There is no such thing as trying. You do it and get results; or you don't. and you have excuses why you didn't. When a high school students say, “I’ll try” they usually mean, “I'm  not going to do it now.” Procrastination is a horrible habit to develop at a young age.


The End of the Ride… And in an appropriately random fashion, I'll end on #19. Rest assured, though, there'll be more to come. I'll be back next high school season with another installment, but in the meantime, you can count on some other submissions from me during the next months. If previous years' trends hold up, I'm bound to pick up a few things on the fly.




Related Page: "HS Jot Sheet" , “How to Tell a Winner From a Loser” , "Things: I Didn’t Learn in School" , "To The High School Senior" , FAQ 1 Bball Nutrition, FAQ 2 Bball Gems, HS Dissection, Bulletproof Knees  , Movement Preparation , Position Specific Training: Libero , Sample Conditioning Day , Optional "OFF DAY" Training Session , Optional "Muscular Development" Training Program , Nutrition Tidbits , Post Workout Nutrition FAQ , Pre Game Meal