Ten Takeaways from Sorinex Summer Strong 10

I was lucky enough to attend Summer Strong for the fourth year in a row, this year.  Each year, I am blown away by the atmosphere, speakers, and caliber of people that I get to interact with.  And…each year it somehow gets better.  This year was no different.  It was really cool to be able to have the whole event at the new Sorinex facility.  The amount of work that the Sorinex crew put in to make this event so special was evident in all the details, from the set up in the show room, to the large grills and stone eating area that they built, to the Sorinex welding crew cooking all of the meat and veggies for the weekend! Thanks for making this such a great event!

I took so much away from the event, from speakers, to the combine, to conversations with different coaches.  I will try to pare down some takeaways to just 10 things, below, in no particular order.

  1. I rolled up on Friday morning for open gym.  I ran into Scott Puckett, a friend who works in law enforcement.  After catching up, he showed me several drills using maces and kettlebells.  We discussed the importance of training all planes of motion, and the use of all kinds of lifts/drills/patterns, including maces and paddleboarding. This idea was further solidified when I heard Pat McNamara describe his training philosophy. He described skill/ strength in the transverse plane would “save your life, save someone else’s life, or kick someone’s ass.” They really gave me some ideas to make training fun again, with less focus on sets/reps and perfect programs, and more focus on graceful and powerful movement.


  1. Cal Dietz provided some great insight into daily training blocks to emphasize specific hormonal output.  For example, if you are a power athlete (short bursts, CPK system, <10 seconds), you should utilize that time frame for all training parameters. This might look like the following: Alactic/ Anaerobic Day: 6 reps per set for resistance training exercises; 10 second Bike sprints with ~45 seconds rest; agility training: 12-15 sets of 5-10 second drills. Each day’s training should focus on a specific energy system, to optimize gains. Each pathway can be worked during the week, depending on the needs of the athlete.


  1. I had the privilege of hearing Alex Oliver speak this year. He was a SEAL for 21 years, and exemplified the ideals of leadership that he discussed. Thank you for your service, and for sharing your thoughts on leadership.  Alex’s business partner at Virginia High Performance, Jeff Nichols, also spoke, and reminded coaches that training like Navy SEALs does not build teams, but is used to weed out people from a program.  They are doing great things for combat veterans at VHP.
  2. I look forward to the Ultimate Athlete Combine every year.  From my past experiences, I know I will probably finish in the bottom of the pack, but it is a great challenge. Many of the events are repeated each year, but I can be pretty sure that there will be tests of strength, power, change of direction, and strength-endurance.  This helps me to plan a yearly cycle of training, to attempt to improve these areas. The areas I am going to focus on this year are jumping and throwing.


  1. I have been a big fan of Power Athlete HQ for several years. I started out in 2009 really enjoying Crossfit, and getting some results, as many people do. I then saw many people in the gym get injured, and realized I was spending a great deal of time trying to improve things I really didn’t care about (ring muscle ups, long met-cons, high rep weightlifting). I attended the Crossfit Football (now Crossfit Sports Specific Application) seminar at Muscle Driver USA, and the philosophy of training just made sense for what I enjoy. I enjoyed hanging out with Tex and Luke during the weekend, and getting to hear/ meet John Welbourn.


  1. To say that Crispy is a hero is an understatement. He proudly served his country, and sustained severe burns, which has required more than 100 surgeries, and the amputation of one of his legs. I thank him for his service to our great country. I had the opportunity to sit with him at lunch one day, and he talked about his goals and trips he is going to pursue. I think this also makes him a hero- he is living his life to the fullest- whether deadlifting 600 pounds, hunting all over the world, or sharing his story, he does it with such passion, sincerity and gratitude.


  1. One of the most unique moments was when Dave Spitz, of Cal Strength, was making his presentation. He is a great ambassador for the sport of weightlifting in the United States, and had one of his athletes, Wes Kitts, snatching during his presentation. Dave’s presentation made it clear that he wants an American atop the podium in weightlifting as soon as possible, and this passion was exemplified through Wes’s 380 pound (172kg) snatch, to the chant of U—S—A !


  1. Bret Contreras, aka “The Glute Guy” shared great insight on all of the most recent research regarding the glutes. Whether strength/ power related, aesthetics, or hypertrophy, he is the leading expert in exercise selection and training methods for the glutes. There was one point he made that really helped me to see glute exercises in a different light, for rehab and training purposes. He found that exercises in the frontal plane had more EMG activity at the upper gluteals. Exercises axial plane produced more EMG activity in the lower gluteals. Exercises in the Sagittal plane produced about equal EMG activity in the upper/ lower gluteals. He recommended that we train each plane of motion at the hip, with different rep ranges, to get the best results.


  1. Adam Nelson and Brandon Lilly both spoke from the heart. They are both high achievers in sport. They demonstrated work and passion over long time periods, to attain their goals. Brandon spoke on “guts.” He said that having guts is a choice, and the world can often beat the guts out of us, by convincing us there is a better way for us to live. He said that each person must make the decision to be great, not just participate. Adam Nelson described most people as staying in their lane, inside the guardrails. He discussed greatness as standing up on the guardrails, to get out of the regular flow of traffic, which does have an element of danger.


  1. Jud Logan shared his experiences as a legendary track and field coach, through his description of the General Physical Preparedness (GPP) program he took his athletes through. His ideas can be utilized for any athlete, as a fun and effective off-season program. He described the goals of GPP to be: 1. Increased the ability to do work   2. Strengthen the tendons/ligaments at lower intensities   3. Decrease body fat and increase lean body mass   4. Build teamwork and belief.


It is hard to put into words the atmosphere at Summer Strong. I feel like just being in the presence of all of the great athletes, coaches, and patriots, made me a better person, and helped me to believe I can be better, do more, and impact the world in a more positive manner. The quest for strength of body, mind and spirit is what the “Bosco Brotherhood” is all about (in my opinion).

Early Specialization in Sport and Career

I wanted to follow up a video I posted to Facebook, with a blog piece that could expand my thoughts. I recently read a blog post by Travis Mach (access here: http://www.mashelite.com/sport-specialization-causes-injury/)., and listened to a podcast by Physical Therapy Insiders (guest was Craig Liebenson). Both pieces talked about the problems associated with early specialization. Travis Mash focused more on the physical/ sports domain. Craig Liebenson described early specialization in the context of a career in rehabilitation.


The topic of early specialization in sports is a topic that is often ignored by some parents and coaches, who continue to believe that year-round sport specialization will ensure that their child becomes the next athletic superstar.

I will list a few reasons that children and adolescents should participate in a variety of sports, games, and free play.

_ An increasing number of youth are specializing in single sports at younger ages and engaging in repetitive, intensive activity.

_ Early, single sport specialization has not been shown to improve future athletic performance, but

has been shown to be detrimental both physically and emotionally.

_ The adolescent growth spurt is a particularly vulnerable period of time for the youth athlete with repetitive microtrauma, placing the body at risk structurally.

_ Burnout can occur in athletes who have no off-season, or break from competitive periods

_ Long-term consequences extending into adulthood exist for the athlete who specializes at a young age.

Smucny M, Parikh SN, Pandya NK. Consequence of single sport specialization in the pediatric and adolescent athlete. Orthop Clin N Am. 2015;46:249-258.

_May reduce opportunities for all children to participate in a diverse year-round sports season and can lead to lost development of lifetime sports skills.

_Early sports specialization may also reduce motor skill development and ongoing participation in games and sports as a lifestyle choice.

Myer GD, Jayanthi N, DiFiori JP, Faigenbaum AD, Kiefer AW, Logerstedt D, Micheli LJ. Sports specialization, part II: alternative solutions to early sport specialization in youth athletes. Sports Health. 2016;8(1):65-73.

_Specialized training in young athletes has risks of injury and burnout, while the degree of specialization is positively correlated with increased serious overuse injury risk.

_Risk factors for injury in young athletes who specialize in a single sport include year-round single-sport training, participation in more competition, decreased age-appropriate play, and involvement in individual sports that require the early development of technical skills.

_Adults involved in instruction of youth sports may also put young athletes at risk for injury by encouraging increased intensity in organized practices and competition rather than self-directed unstructured free play.

Myer GD, Jayanthi N, DiFiori JP, Faigenbaum AD, Kiefer AW, Logerstedt D, Micheli LJ. Sport specialization, part I: does early sports specialization increase negative outcomes and reduce the opportunitiy for success in young athletes? Sports Health. 2015;7(5):437-442.

The picture below is not to say that an athlete will be recruited by a Division I school if they play multiple sports in high school. It is just to show that not focusing on one sport from an early age does not determine if an athlete will be successful in a sport.


Thoughts to reverse the trend that come to mind are from Gray Cook, MovNat, and Crossfit Kids. Expose children from a young age to many different physical challenges, games and sports, through in-school physical education, or outside of school programs. Educate parents on the risks of early sport specialization, as well as, the athletic and psychological benefits of being a multi-sport athlete.



The same sentiments can be stated about “early specialization” in a career. I am not saying that having a track or plan for a career is wrong. Just that the speed of attaining a position, certification or level of income should be more like the cliché, marathon, not a sprint.

I feel that I can talk honestly about this topic, because early in my career I feel that I was too focused on the “next thing”, rather than gaining a broad spectrum of experience and knowledge. I started a residency program directly out of PT school. I feel that this was definitely a good decision, but in retrospect, I would have had a better plan for mentoring. The company I worked for was great, but the mentoring was looked at as more a “get it done as fast as possible” type situation, rather than quality.

I took one year off between my residency program, and starting a fellowship program. I enjoyed the year off, but felt an urgency in the back of my mind, that I needed to start the fellowship program or I would be behind. I now ask myself, behind who or what? I had a difficult time in the program, both with the material and clinical improvement, as well as, personally. During my fellowship program, we discussed the results of a personality type test called Strength Finders.  Two categories I ranked highly in were “Achiever” and “Learner.”  One of my instructors, David Browder, warned me that having this combination of strengths could result in the need to constantly be working towards a certification or end-goal program.  He was right, in that, as soon as I finished a program, I was on the lookout for what was next.  I am learning how to enjoy the present more, and not be consumed with achievement.

I will always have a great desire to read and learn.  I now have better perspective on a healthier way to grow in my career.  My only focus now is to stay true to who I am, while serving people to the best of my ability.  This will take a lifetime to master.

Injury, Rehabilitation, Training, Tissue Loading

I was recently listening to the Westside Barbell podcast (Episode 21), and really enjoyed hearing Louie Simmon’s take on rehabilitation from injury, along with John Quint’s insights into loading tissue. They discuss that there are no bad exercises. Before you disagree with that statement, here is what I mean- each exercise selected for prehab/rehab/strength/conditioning should have a purpose. Sometimes an exercise that has been deemed “bad” or “unsafe” is necessary to produce the stress needed for a specific application or adaptation.

Injury (non-traumatic or non-contact) occurs because of lack of capacity of tissues (aka training) to handle that position. An example of this would be trying a new exercise at a load that is too heavy, resulting in injury. An indirect example would be an injury incurred when in an abnormal position during a football game. The player might be a lineman firing off the line, and being rotated during the hip/back extension movement. Yet another example would be an exposure to an eccentric event (an example could be downhill hiking), with no prior experience, could induce delayed onset muscle soreness, muscle damage and injury. In both situations, exposure to exercises that stress the tissues in a manner similar to the injury position could reduce the risk of injury. For the football player, it could be rounded back deadlifts or good mornings. For the hiker, it could be progressive eccentric loading for the hamstrings (Repeated bout effect of eccentric training).

Another thought that I had was the human body’s amazing capacity to adapt, heal, and demonstrate plasticity. I did a quick search and found some examples in the literature of tissue changes/ healing with exercise/ mobilization:

– Beattie PF, Arnot CF, Donley JW, Noda H, Bailey L. The immediate reduction in low back pain intensity following lumbar joint mobilization and prone press-ups is associated with increased diffusion of water in the L5-S1 intervertebral disc. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2010; 40: 256– 264.

– Beattie PF, Donley JW, Arnot CF, Miller R. The change in the diffusion of water in normal and degenerative lumbar intervertebral discs following joint mobilization compared to prone lying. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2009; 39: 4– 11

-Disc hydration can change with specific movements or manual        treatment.

-Buckwalter JA, Grodzinsky AJ. Loading of Healing Bone, Fibrous Tissue, and Muscle: Implications for Orthopaedic Practice. J Am Acad Orthop Surg 1999;7:291-299

-Tissues in the body adapt to loads being placed upon them. I have          two thoughts about this. First, there is the “use it or lose it” concept. Some describe a natural course of aging, with atrophy of muscle tissue and bone density changes. If the appropriate loads are placed on the body, progressively, could this be reversed?

-Secondly, there is a great deal of scary terminology out there regarding imaging- degenerative joint disease, degenerative disc disease, osteophyte formation, stenosis, etc. As seen in the table/ picture, each decade we live, aging/ changes in the spine occur. The interesting part of this chart is that despite the high prevalence of “abnormal findings” on imaging, the people in the study had no symptoms.

-Brinjiki W, et al.   Systematic literature review of imaging features of spinal degeneration in asymptomatic populations. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2015 Apr;36(4):811-6.


-Magnetic resonance imaging and clinical follow-up: study of 27 patients receiving chiropractic care for cervical and lumbar disc herniations. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1996;19(9):597-606.

-Although this study was not specific to just exercise, there was a good clinical outcome in 80% of the patients, along with 63% of the studied patients having a reduced size or completely reabsorbed disc herniation.

-LaStayo PC, et al. Eccentric Muscle Contractions: Their Contribution to Injury, Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Sport. JOSPT. 2003;33:557-571.

-The inability to control deceleration could be a risk factor for injury during sports. A common example is the non-contact ACL injury. The hamstring might not be able to control deceleration, and the ACL’s passive restraint of anterior tibia motion is challenged too much. Exposure of the hamstrings to eccentric muscle contractions can increase strength, and provide assistance to the ACL during cutting or deceleration on the field/court.

Kongsgaard M. Effects of Heavy Slow Resistance Training. AJSM. 2010; 38(4).

-Tendinopathy is a common problem (Achilles, Patellar, Hamstring, Rotator cuff). Heavy slow resistance training can increase the density of the tendon, as well as, return the tendon area to closer to normal size.

-Frost HM. A 2003 Update of Bone Physiology and Wolff’s Law for Clinicians. The Angle Orthodontist. 2004;74(1):3-15.

-Wolff’s Law states, “that bone in a healthy person or animal will adapt to the loads under which it is placed. If loading on a particular bone increases, the bone will remodel itself over time to become stronger to resist that sort of loading.”

This post is not to say that you should ignore form, or put yourself in awkward loaded positions. The point is that progressive loading produces positive adaptations (specific adaptation to imposed demands), and as Greg Glassman once stated, “we fail at the margins of our experience.” Analyze your sport, and add exercises to your program that could address postures and positions outside the normal exercise selection.  Whether the goal is rehabilitation, or training for a sport, the reasoning behind exercise selection should always be apparent.

The Power of Reading

One of my yearly habits is to put together a list of books to read over the year.  This habit started when I was in high school, almost 20 years ago.  My basketball coach gave me a one page essay, titled, “The Power of Reading.”  The premise of the essay is that reading is empowering.  The comparison was made between one man who read no books, and one man who read 25 books in a year.  In four years, the second man would have read 100 books- which man will be more successful?

I break the books up into four “Pillars of Strength” (which I took from the movie Chasing Mavericks): Physical, Mental, Spiritual and Emotional.  I posted a picture of the books that I have collected for 2017, thus far.  book-list

Sorinex Summer Strong 9

I attended Sorinex Summer Strong for the fourth time this year.  I have to say that it is an amazing event, with the most passionate people in the strength and conditioning, performance and tactical communities coming together to learn, lift and have a good time. At each event, I come away with not only new knowledge, but a desire to better myself.

9 Thoughts/ Lessons from Sorinex Summer Strong 9

  1.  Cross-discipline education:

I was a minority at the event, as the majority of the attendees are either strength coaches, or in some way involved with athletics. I found great crossover into the rehabilitation world, from many of the presenters. In many cases, a strength coach will continue to work with an athlete who has pain or faulty movement patterns. I often see practitioners argue over scope of practice, and who should be working with a patient/ athlete. For example, if a patient has an injury, who should work with the athlete? (PT, athletic trainer, strength coach, chiropractor, massage therapist, etc). I find that when I listen to experts in other fields, it helps me to see things from a different perspective. This year, I saw several different views of human movement and the improvement of human movement. I would recommend any PT to step outside of your comfort zone and seek education in an area outside of the PT world.

  1. “Get in the Ring”:

I wish I could say that I dominated the field in the Summer Strong Combine.  Needless to say, I did not win.  Part of the enjoyment of Summer Strong, for me, was in the physical preparation for the combine. I looked at each event from the previous year, and attempted to create a program that would improve those areas. For example, I increased the amount of jumping, sprinting, and carrying in my program. For the repeat events, I was able to improve the deadlift by 20 pounds and improve the Versaclimber by 50 feet. The bench press event (measured using a Tendo unit) went down from the previous year. This gave me some insight into where I want to direct my training for next year’s combine. This thought was reiterated by Tex McQuilkin, of Power Athlete HQ, who I was able to talk with a short while at the event. I was reminded to ask myself, “what are you training for?”

I was also encouraged by the Teddy Roosevelt quote below:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”  Theodore Roosevelt

  1. Be a lifelong Learner

The first speaker is someone that I have heard speak multiple times, and his material never gets old.  Coach Mike Srock epitomizes the concept of a lifelong learner.  He has coached for 30+ years, and his athletes’ success speaks volumes about his program and mindset.  There is no doubt that he is one of the best high school strength coaches in the nation.  The point I wanted to highlight is that I observed him writing in his notebook during every presenter over the weekend.  He has created an amazing program at Byrnes High School, but he continues to learn, ask questions, and stay hungry for new ideas and applications.

  1. Most limits are self-imposed

“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” Bruce Lee

From a physical therapist’s perspective, Team Some Assembly Required showed me that sometimes I don’t push people hard enough, and sometimes I don’t expect enough out of people.  I am not happy with this mindset, and will be working on this over the next year.

  1. Assess and Correct

Cal Dietz provided such amazing insight from his experiences working with athletes.   His understanding of training is beyond what I can comprehend.  One parallel that I saw between his talk, and the physical therapy world, is that experts begin to recognize common syndromes (a group of symptoms that consistently occur together or a condition characterized by a set of associated symptoms).  This further reiterates point number one: learning across disciplines can provide a fresh viewpoint, and new insight into movement. One area he discussed that was very insightful to me, was motor control concepts, as it relates to firing sequences of the glutes, hamstrings and quadratus lumborum. I often see patients who have facilitated quads and hip flexors, with relatively lower activity of the glutes. He showed a simple way to palpate the posterior chain muscles, to detect the muscle contraction sequence during a leg lift in a prone position. I took this back to the clinic and found it to be a useful “quick test.”

  1. Quality Movement Over Quantity of Movement

Chris Frankel discussed concepts related to correct form during exercise.  He discussed the concept of “masses and spaces”, and the importance of keeping the relationship between these areas during movement. I see parallels to other systems, including Power Athlete’s focus on posture and position, and Gray Cook/ Mike Boyle concepts regarding the mobility/ stability continuum.  I think a lot of very intelligent people are saying the same things.  As Jeff Nichols discussed (paraphrased), we have replaced move better, with move more weight. A big focus of many of the talks was to create a training environment based on specific goals, with progression only occurring if movement standards are met.

  1. Just Breathe

Dana Santas was a very interesting speaker.  As she stated, she was not the normal selection at this event.  She shared a very personal story, and how she ended up as the “mobility maker” of professional sports.  It was cool to not only hear her story, but also to see her hybrid approach to yoga.  She did two breathing/ visualization exercises at the end of her talk. I was reminded that carving out time for breathing, meditation, and yoga can reap big dividends for health, and performance.

  1. Enjoy the Journey

Adam Nelson was the definition of passion. He discussed his journey to becoming an Olympic Gold Medalist, with an intensity that kept all on the edge of their seats. The main point I took from him is this: we can only control the process, never the outcome. By this, he means we can train hard and smart each day, but a victory is not necessarily guaranteed.

  1. Success is meaningless without your health and friends/family

For a hard-charging, goal crushing group, balance in life is often not a consideration. Ed Cosner is a legend in the strength world. His short talk showed the importance of honesty about health, and to not ignore the warning signs of a health problem. After his surgery, he had a new lease on life. He is now crushing strength goals again, with a focus on staying healthy.

Brandon Lillly once again spoke from the heart. He talked about a time in his life when chasing an elite total in powerlifting became the most important thing in his life. When he fell during a squat attempt, his goal was quickly taken away. As the realization dawned, he realized that he had alienated many of his closest family and friends with his singular focus on powerlifting. He is now helping people get strong, while repairing the relationships in his life.

Rudy Reyes and Christmas Abbott both spoke about overcoming addition in their lives. Alcohol and drugs can become a way to cope with problems from the past, and to escape reality. Both Rudy and Christmas overcame their addictions, and now coach and help people to become the best they can be.

It is difficult to describe or put into words the atmosphere and energy of Summer Strong. I was able to take lessons away from each speaker, and compete with great athletes. I was able to be in the presence of great men who have served our great country, legends in the strength game, an Olympic gold medalist, and master coaches. I want to thank Pops and Bert Sorin, and the whole crew from Sorinex, for putting together such an amazing event. I hope to continue to grow stronger.

PT Student Perspective: The Job Search

About a month ago, I tweeted that my job search has turned out to be more of a growth search. Little did I know just how true that statement would be. I should probably back up and introduce myself. I’m Allison Stowers, DPT and climber from Chattanooga, TN. I recently graduated from Georgia State University and I was lucky enough to have Matt as a clinical instructor while in school. It was in talking with Matt and Sean Eads, Matt’s other student that I learned of Twitter, Podcasts and blogs. And after fully immersing myself in the online world of PT, I began to parse out exactly the type of therapist that I want to be and how exactly to start the process of getting there.

Upon graduation, I began applying for jobs and had several interviews. My first interview had me reeling as the interviewer began by going over how I would be expected to bill.   And it just went downhill from there. The next interview went amazingly well in comparison. Less than 15 minutes after leaving, I received a full offer with exactly the salary I asked for. I knew the interviewer from having had a clinical with the company and I just felt really comfortable. I thought I could be happy here, but still had a nagging feeling that it wasn’t quite ‘right’. I declined the offer. Twice. And so it began. How many offers could Allison turn down? I definitely felt like Goldilocks during my search. This clinic is too big. This clinic is too far. This clinic doesn’t want me to birth children (different story for a different day).   The total number would come out to five. After the fourth ‘thanks, but no thanks’ my husband casually mentioned, “You know, at some point, you should probably accept something.”

And so I did. But not before I had some serious ‘come to Jesus’ chats with myself, my friends, my husband and my mentors about what it is I really wanted. And so came the list. Anyone else out there incapable of accomplishing a task without a list? In order to accomplish the task of ‘get a job’ I needed to come up with the top five must haves for me to say yes.

  • On site mentorship
  • One on one, one hour appointments with my patients
  • Freedom to choose continuing education
  • Openess to helping me develop a pelvic floor niche (#pelvicmafia)
  • Established practice seeing outdoor athletes

Call me picky. But now, you may also call me employed. It was a tedious process, but I’m glad that I held out. Recently, while registering for a climbing competition, my husband noticed my new digs listed as a sponsor. It was the ‘here’s your sign’ moment for sure. I have found my home. So my advice to new grads or anyone seeking a change of scenery, make your list, and stick to it. If the position isn’t right for you, you won’t be right for it. Don’t be afraid to say no. But don’t forget to eventually say yes.

New Vital Signs

The definition of traditional vitals signs is as follows: clinical measurements, specifically pulse rate, temperature, respiration rate, and blood pressure, that indicate the state of a patient’s essential body functions. These signs don’t necessarily give us an idea of where a possible problem is coming from, but can alert us to a potential problem. A single test for each of these measures is also fairly meaningless, as seen with elevated blood pressure due to “white coat syndrome.” Measurement of these variables over time, at regular intervals, gives a better idea of a possible problem.

I would offer 5 functional vital signs to be measured at regular intervals by health care professionals. These signs correlate to mortality, functional mobility, and risk of falling.

Grip Strength

Chair to rise (sit to stand) x 10 reps for time

Kettlebell Bottoms Up Carry

One-legged balance test (SLS)

Sitting-Rising Test

These variables can give us an idea of ways to train to improve functional mobility, decrease risk for falling, and maybe live a little longer (barring any unforeseen trauma or situation).

Grip strength is directly correlated to mortality in many studies, and is a good indicator of full body strength. It can also be an indicator of fatigue, as used by some weightlifting coaches. The test is administered by having the person hold the dynamometer in the hand, with the elbow at the side, flexed to 90 degrees. The person will then squeeze the handle, and the number (in Kg or Lb) will be recorded. The average of three trials is taken. This article describes norms for grip strength, stratified by gender and age: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3101655/pdf/1756-0500-4-127.pdf.

Picture 5



A very basic measure of power is the chair to rise (sit to stand) test. This test involves moving from sitting to standing 10 times in a row, as fast as possible with good form. Although this test won’t be valid for an athlete, or most younger people, it can give information regarding moving bodyweight, lower extremity power for basic activity, and stability.

Picture 4



The kettlebell bottom up carry is used as an option for training trunk stability, shoulder stability, and grip strength-endurance. I am proposing that this be a test to measure trunk musculature function under load. McGill and Marshall showed that during the KB bottom up carry, there is an increase in trunk musculature contraction (measured as percentage of the maximal voluntary contraction). To perform this test, place a light kettlebell in the hand with the bottom up. Keep the elbow pinned to the body and the wrist vertical. Walk a given distance with the kettlebell in the vertical position.

Picture 3



One-legged balance test (SLS): This is a simple way to look at balance and stability of each lower extremity. For the older population, the inability to balance on one leg greatly increases the risk of a fall with injury. In the younger population, difficulty with this test could cause problems with running, jumping and landing on a single leg, and athletic movements (poor motor control).

Picture 2

University of Buffalo Concussion Clinic

The Sitting-Rising test was studied by de Brito et al, and found to be a significant predictor of mortality for certain populations, as well as, a good basic test for functional mobility.

This is a good explanation of the test, and the scoring, although a little cheesy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQIbffQj2xM.

I feel it is safe to assume that if a younger person has poor performance in any of the tests listed above, it will only get worse as the person ages (if no action is taken). The tests could also be used to guide exercise selection for a rehab program or wellness/ fitness program. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on exercise ideas to improve these tests.

Off-season soccer program

I have recently been reading and listening to several podcasts talking about ACL injuries, training, and physical preparation.  I put together an off-season program for soccer players, which could be adapted from 3 days per week to 2 days per week in-season (with some changes to sets/reps/loads).

Warm-up: PEP Program

  1. Jog 20 yards forward, jog 20 yards backwards
  2. Lateral Shuffle: 20 yards to left, 20 yards to right
  3. Walking Lunges x 10 each side
  4. Single toe raises x 20 each side
  5. Lateral hops over cone or paralette x 30 seconds
  6. Forward/ backwards hops over cone or paralette x 30 seconds
  7. Single leg hops x 10 per leg
  8. Lunge Scissor jumps x 10 per leg
  9. Forward run with 3 step deceleration
  10. Lateral diagonal runs
  11. Bounding runs x 40 yards


Monday Wednesday Friday
Primary Lift Goblet or Front Squat Pushups 3 x 12-15 KB or barbell deadlift 4 x 5
Primary Lift Kettlebell swing 3 x 15 TRX Rows 3 x 15 Single leg deadlift 3 x 5/5



Secondary Lift Supine TRX Hamstring Runner 3 x 30 seconds Power High Pulls 3 x 5 TRX Lateral Lunge 3 x 8/8
Secondary Lift Supine TRX Bridge with hip abduction 3 x 30 sec TRX Lunge with shoulder Y/T/Arrow 3 x 5/5 Banded Goodmorning

3 x 20

Secondary Lift Nordic Hamstring 1 x 5 Superset: Bicep curl/ Tricep pressdown 3 x 10 Nordic Hamstring 1 x 5
Trunk Plank 4 x 30 seconds Med Ball OH throws 3 x 5 Half-kneeling chop 3 x 15
Trunk Side Plank 4 x 30 seconds Med Ball Rotational throws to wall 3 x 5/5 Half-kneeling Lift 3 x 15
Trunk Dead Bug isometric 4 x 30 seconds GHD raises 3 x 12

Bird Dog 2 x 10/10

Cool Down:                                                                                                                            Static stretching: 2 x 20 seconds each stretch/each side:              -Hamstrings, piriformis, quadriceps, Brettzel I and II, hip flexor stretch

Dan John, Janda and TRX

This post has taken some time to get down on paper. I recently finished Dan John’s book Can You Go?, as well as, saw Dan speak at Sorinex Summer Strong 8. He has a way of breaking complex ideas down into their simplest form, and filling a whole book with insight and pearls from his experience.

Picture 1

In the book, and the talk, Dan John talked about simplifying training to include common patterns of dysfunction seen with aging. He cited Vladimir Janda’s work related to upper and lower crossed syndromes as influencing his programming as he gets older.

I have definitely seen the upper and lower crossed syndrome patterns in my physical therapy practice, and really appreciated Dan’s take on how to incorporate this philosophy into a training program.

Here is a workout I created using the TRX, based on the crossed syndromes. Use it if you need a de-load workout, a warmup prior to any general workout, want to focus a cycle on bodyweight training, orjust want to attempt to mitigate the effects of a desk job.

TRX Couplets (you could also use gymnastics rings if no TRX):

Picture 2

TRX Row with Pec Stretch

Supine straight leg bridge with hip abduction with Cossack Stretch

TRX Bridge with hip flexor stretch

TRX plank (feet in handles) with TRX Long Torso Twist

Tricep press with Bicep stretch

Shoulder Y’s and T’s with stiff leg hip hinges

I did 3 rounds of 15-20 reps on the exercises, and 20-30 second (each side) holds for stretches.  Give it a try!

Underground Strength and Learn2Lift Seminars

Picture 2  It has taken some time to get my thoughts together after the recent seminar weekend with Zach Even-Esh, and Travis Mash, at the Mash Elite Compound in Advance, NC in May.  The knowledge, passion and sincere desire to help people was clearly evident with Zach and Travis.  All of the participants were equally as passionate about learning.

I will start with a description of Zach’s Underground Strength Coach Certification.  I have been following Zach for several years, and as soon as I saw that he was coming to NC, I signed up.  He blends sound training principles with workouts designed to improve mental toughness.   He describes his training methodology as being a mix of science and hell.  By that, I think he was saying that some people get so caught up in having the perfect program, that they never fully develop.  Skills in the weight room should transfer to every day life.  He emphasizes mental toughness training integrated with intelligent program design to help athletes improve strength, power, speed, muscle growth, and the belief in themselves.

The training started with the warmup.  I loved that it included a variety of light plyometrics, bodyweight movement exercises, and dynamic mobility exercises.  This concept of dynamic warmup has good evidence behind it (PEP Program, and I was definitely sweating and breathing hard afterwards.  The warmup is also the time when Zach starts to assess his athletes: how are they moving?, what is the general attitude of the group/athlete?, do they look fatigued or alert?  As a physical therapist, I really appreciated his eye for movement quality and “on the fly” assessment.   Another takeaway is that even when the intensity is high, you can still have fun.  This is how it felt during practice time with tire-flipping and various weighted carries.  Getting outdoors in a competitive atmosphere can increase the workload, while keeping athletes from getting burned out.

Another aspect of the cert that I really enjoyed was Zach’s thoughts on business.  I had recently read the Emyth Physician, and it described a good business being run by someone who is no longer a technician (in my case a physical therapist).  The technician should stop their technical trade when they become an entrepreneur, to focus on building the business.  Zach basically said that he loves training athletes, and the Emyth concept does not fit his life.  I appreciated that, as I can’t see myself giving up working with people as a PT to focus purely on the growth and/or management of a business.

Learn 2 Lift

I didn’t know much about Travis Mash prior to going to his Learn2Lift seminar.  I wish I had been following him!  He is a wealth of information related to training, weightlifting, powerlifting, and helping athletes reach their goals.  He has competed at a high level in powerlifting, weightlifting, and is now planning to compete in GRID.  The biggest benefit I found during the seminar was having Travis walking around correcting form and coaching.  You can learn from books and manuals, but nothing beats hands on the bar coaching!

Something that is often forgotten in programs is the pre-requisite mobility, stability and strength to perform more complex movements.  I applaud Travis for making all of his athletes earn the right to perform snatches and cleans- with a good front squat and overhead squat, respectively, prior to starting the oly lifts.  Long term athletic and personal development are his focus, and it shows in his teaching methods and programming.

Both Travis and Zach discussed strength training and conditioning as being more than just the physical.  Zach hits more on mental toughness and belief in yourself.  This is key for building a stronger deadlift, as well as, a stronger life.  I was really inspired by Travis sharing that his gym/ training atmosphere is his ministry.  I have always felt that competition, sports and training teach valuable lessons about life, and I really saw how Travis added another component by sharing his Christian faith with his athletes.  Both Zach and Travis showed that coaching is more than just improving lifts, building muscle, or teaching technique, it is an investment in a relationship.

If Zach and Travis get another weekend seminar together, I highly recommend that you go.  Check out a podcast that Zach and Travis did, live at the seminar on The Barbell Life.

Check out Zach’s website: www.zacheven-esh.com and Travis’s website: www.mashelite.com