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




Eight things I took away from Sorinex Summer Strong 8:

Although it is difficult to describe an amazing event like SS8, I tried to pare it down to 8 things I really took away from the event. This was my third Summer Strong, and each year I don’t quite know how they continue to make it better. I’d like to thank Pops Sorin for having the vision to create such an amazing company. Watching him attempt the 500 pound deadlift for the 50th year in a row was nothing short of incredible. I saw him get the 49th, and was right behind him for the 50th attempt. With the situation described afterwards, I applaud his courage, and will never forget that moment.
I would also like to thank Bert and the whole Sorinex crew. I am a below average athlete, and not even a strength coach, but everyone on their staff that I interacted with treated me like one of the #BoscoBrotherhood, and that really meant a lot to me. These are my thoughts, in no particular order:
1. Competition is good, whether you are at the top level- (in the room were Olympic athletes, highland games champions, college and pro football stars, world-record holders), or just a recreational athlete. Even though I am a below average athlete, I greatly enjoyed going through the Ultimate Athlete Combine. While watching the amazing feats of strength, speed and power all around me, I thought of this often used Teddy Roosevelt quote:
“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.”
2. The most powerful messages delivered were not directly related to training, programming or exercise, but focused on philosophies for living life. Brandon Lily really inspired me, and helped me to take a hard look at myself. As you know he is a world-class powerlifter and had a knee injury during a meet. He had complications, and managed to make it to SS8 after some recovery from his 11th surgery. This in itself was courageous, but his discussion of how he lived before (completely focused on self), and how he lives now (focus on friends and family) was amazing.

Judd Logan is a legendary thrower, and an Olympian. He is also the head coach for track and field for Ashland University. He has more world records, and has coached more national champions ,than I could remember. He has a book about his coaching philosophy coming out soon, and I encourage you to keep an eye out for it. I won’t give away much of the book, other than the first point. He said that on our journey to be great, we need to find a “light-giver.” He described this as a person who can illuminate your life’s “map” just 1inch further than you can see. He then described a situation in which he was the “light-giver” for a young lady who happened to be sitting in the audience. It was an almost over-saturation of inspiration to hear Jud speak about Adriane Wilson. He described her college and professional resume for field events, and it was impressive. Then he described her battle with cancer, and her continued training despite chemo. He provided a path and encouragement for her, and her talent, hard work and strong will took her to the elite level.

The guys from Team Some Assembly Required shared their stories, some with military related trauma, and others who have congenital limb loss. The stories in themselves were inspiring, but the attitude that they each possess was amazing. All they asked for is the opportunity to compete. Not just compete, really, but dominate any competition that they come across, against anyone.

I have been following Zach Even-Esh for several years. Earlier this month I was able to go to his Underground Strength Certification concurrently with Travis Mash’s Learn2lift seminar. To say that he is a motivating guy is a great understatement. His discussion of mental toughness went beyond the weight room. He described the struggles that his grandparents went through during the Holocaust. His discussion on perspective in life, when we are faced with uncertainty or difficult times, was on point.

3. Multiple presenters discussed concepts related to Janda’s work: Upper and lower crossed syndromes are very common clinical presentations observed in most physical therapy clinics. It was very interesting to hear strength coaches discuss these movement patterns in both high-level athletes, and in the aging general fitness population. Andrea Hudy, who is the assistant athletics director for sports performance for the Kansas Jayhawks, didn’t specifically mention Janda, but throughout her presentation she described exercises to release the anterior chain, mixed with exercises to strengthen the posterior chain. The mixing of strength movements with mobility or stretching movements in a workout was a welcome change to the “just strengthen it” mindset. Dan John has a way of simplifying even the most complex concepts into usable information. His programs use Janda’s philosophy, along with basic assessments, to provide exactly what the person or athlete needs. His described his experiences working with athletes as being similar to what Janda observed in his crossed syndromes.
4. As a physical therapist, I have a good grasp of exercise progression. Ingrid Marcum blew me away with her understanding of exercise, cues, progressions, and programming. Check out her youtube channel, and keep an eye out for her upcoming blog. I suggest that any physical therapist seek out a gymnast or exercise professional who is a former gymnast. Ingrid had the innate physical knowledge of high level gymnastics (along with many other sports and skills), and her eye for movement, cues, and manual correction was extraordinary. For example, she broke down a simple “superman” exercise, which is used commonly in the rehab clinic. She looked at it as a diagnostic tool to see where extension in the spine occurs. If the prone position did not translate to a good standing position (think about any overhead position), then she corrected by cueing to reach the arms and legs forward, rather than up. The progression then moved to supine. The cue was to press the heels into the ground, and lift the hips off of the floor as a unit. As this improves, the coach can then hold the heels, and have the athlete push hard into one side, which takes pressure off of the opposite side. It sounds simple, but was a tough exercise to perform properly.
5. Several presenters talked about our nation’s obsession with early sport specialization, and how detrimental it is for athletes. Joe Kenn, two-time professional strength and conditioning coach of the Year, for the Carolina Panthers, simply stated that early sports specialization needs to stop. His presentation discussed the differences in teaching the clean to field athletes versus weightlifters.

Dan John, another legend in the S&C and throwing community discussed his ideas related to classifying athletes or clients. Check you his books Easy Strength and Can You Go? for more information (I would suggest to just go ahead and get every book he has written). He described placing each person into a quadrant, based on different characteristics. Quadrant I included young children. He said that the focus of this quadrant should be exposure to every sport possible, tumbling skills, kettlebell skills, Olympic lifting basics, and all forms of track and field events. I love this concept, and wish our school systems would bring back this type of physical education.

Jeff Nichols discussed the idea that we are a product of what we did growing up. For example, kids used to climb trees, ride their bikes all over town, play pickup baseball, and spend most of their days outside. In today’s society, kids either sit in cars or on couches all day, play x-box, stare at a computer or phone screen and stay inside all day. The other type of kid is encouraged to throw a curveball in 6th grade, and get a hitting and throwing coach when he is 10. Both of these types would benefit from improving motor function. Jeff put it this way: “More resistance does not produce better motor patterns in the dysfunctional athlete→ better motor patterns improve motor function.”
6. From a physical therapy perspective, one of the most inspiring and fascinating groups at Summer Strong 8 was Team Some Assembly Required . They are a group of high level athletes who happen to have physical disabilities. Some are military veterans who were wounded in action, while others have congenital limb loss. One of their messages is that they will compete with able-bodied athletes, and beat them. They did not want sympathy, just the opportunity to compete at a high level without limitations. I competed right alongside a veteran who has no calf muscle, and a veteran who has an above the knee amputation. I will be a staunch advocate for Team SAR, and use my profession to get as many adaptive athletes as I can back to competition.
7. Jeff Nichols, a former Navy SEAL, and co-owner of Virginia High Performance, once again brought great insight into recovery for athletes. He covered some really simple ideas for sleep hygiene:
-Keep blue light to a minimum around bed time(iphone, ipad, TV)
-Iif you use an alarm-make sure it uses red light only
-Keep your phone 5-7 feet away from your head (can disrupt Delta wave patterns→ disrupts REM cycles→ disrupts hormonal output→ disrupts Gainzzz)
-We lose heat through our wrists and ankles- leaving them outside the covers could help sleep
-Pain medication does not allow Delta waves
-Create a ritual for bed time (brush teeth at same time, meditate, deep breathing)
8. I moved to Spartanburg, SC for my first PT job, after graduating from Elon University. Unbeknownst to me, I moved into a hot bed of football talent, where Coach Mike Srock was working with Marcus Lattimore, on his way to playing at USC, and in the NFL. It was really cool to watch Coach Srock take Marcus through the Byrnes High School system of warmups and drills. They interacted like they had never stopped working with each other. Coach Srock is not only an amazing strength coach, but epitomizes the idea of being a life-long learner. What I gain from him, each time I hear him speak, is that any program based on principles (a system) can be continually tweaked without causing a negative result. He continues to learn and apply new ideas to his program, but the principles of strength, power and speed remain constant.