Athletic Bodies in Balance
I just got back from a tourney with a bunch of college kids, and came across this “61-Year-Old Stays Young Playing Ultimate at UNCG” YouTube vid via the UPA.org twitter account:
“Chasing at 61 [year-old] when they’re 20 becomes very hard… that’s why I mainly play offense” =)
I don’t know about you but I’d love to play some kind of frisbee up past my sixties (without back pain kthxpls)–my greatgrandma kept on cooking & walkin’ past 104 or so, and joint replacement surgery might be somewhat viable when I hit 90, who knows ^_^.
Dara medaled in the Olympics at 41 and Angela Ruggiero at 30 is training hard for “another shot at gold in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics”, which makes me hopeful that college-level Ultimate athletes can keep on playing if they train hard and train smart. Plus it makes me said when I hear about elite college players retiring after just a few years, or learning to hit up NSAIDs (ibu pill-poppers) as their main way of staying afloat.
That said, I’m just going to cite Dan John who mentions “ten different movements you should do as a human”
- Vertical Push / Vertical Pull
- Horizontal Push / Horizontal Pull
- The Squatting Motion
- The Posterior Chain (I call these deadlifts)
- The Anterior Chain (sit-ups, leg raises)
- The Twist or Torque Moves
- The Total-body Explosive Exercises (If you’re limited by time, these are the ones to do.)
(p. 240, Never Let Go)
The more I try out different training methodologies, programs, and systems, the more I come back to this notion of the Athletic Body (hopefully) being in Balance. If you push, do you pull [as much]? If you work your frontside, do you work your backside?
I for one have made many mistakes here–I didn’t do much squatting in 2008 (mostly deadlifts), in 2009 I was missing some anterior chain strength, and more recently in 2010 I realized I pushed wayy more than I pulled. And each time I moved (played myself) into pain and then took days / weeks / longer to sort out the details.
You’ll note that Dan mentions “The Squatting Motion”, probably because he later talks about how just doing goblet squats might be “all the squatting most people need” (p. 300).
I’ve been experimenting with having my team incorporate goblet squats with 175g Ultrastars into their training–on the field or in the gym for semi-private group training (one strength coach and a few athletes at a time for a nice balance of attention, efficiency, and effectiveness)–and I think that’s going well so far. In the gym, I alternate with assisted single-leg squats to a bench, on the field in a circuit with K’bell swings and/or sprints.
Many women cannot do strict-style push-ups or chins, so doing wall push-ups / pulls progressing to table / bench / empty-Oly-bar-on-a-rack pulls and presses has seemed to work well so far. For posterior chain I’ve been doing bodyweight progressions to a back bridge, starting with both-legs-grounded glute-activating bridge ups to Cook hip lifts to marching glute bridges, to “straight bridges“.
I’ve also started programming chop & lift, either with a cable in the gym or partner-resisted on the field, with the girls I train–way too many of them have decent front planks but struggle with side planks (oh you obliques). I found that one girl in my training group was overusing her back extensors doing push-ups and after we did more oblique work (side bridges / chop&lift), her push-ups and back pain got quite a bit better. They have also grown a lot in terms of their deep throws, and I hope that more anti-rotation oblique-heavy anterior/lateral chain work like the chop&lift will help them learn how to connect their notable lower body strength to their upper bodies, for maximum pulling / putting power (a lot of women I see pull/put-deep mostly with their upper body, men too, except that college-aged men get away with it cuz they can bulk up a lot more quickly..).
As for Twist / Torque, both Dan John and Coach Boyle have done more twist / torque in the past but don’t seem to be programming it much these days, since they didn’t really find it to be effective even for throwing athletes. I also experimented recently with pulling both forehand and backhand, for example, to balance things out in case that leads to too much thoracic spine or gleno-humeral internal/external rotation deficit (noting that baseball players nowadays sometimes throw backhands to balance out their internal rotational-heavy pitching arms), and got a tip from Kenneth Jay that Kettlebell cleans can be useful by themselves in rehabilitating shoulder-joint rotation deficits in swimmers. (In my own training, my nervous system really seems to like the 20kg K’bell cleans I do.)
And as for “Total-body Explosive Exercises”? I tried teaching novices to do 1 Arm Dumbbell Snatches and while it wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t extremely ugly either. K’bell swings are a lot easier to teach than any overhead lift, it would seem, even though I’m still learning how to coach groups out of the squat-style (butt that sinks down) rather than moving-deadlift-style (butt that moves back, as if you don’t want to get kicked in the nads/VJJ) KB swing.
And actually, someone sent me a college men’s off-season lifting program that seemed pretty good and approachable, involving RFESS (rear-foot elevated split squats) aka Bulgarian split squats and some bodyweight push/pull and so on, but it did lack this “Total-body Explosive Exercise”. In a sense it was quite similar to this home workout also courtesy of Dan John (p. 198),
1. RL RFESS (right-leg bulgarian split squat w/ DB in suitcase position)
2. LL RFESS (left-leg…)
3. Goblet Squats
4. Deep Push-ups, chest to floor, with push-up handles
5. Doorway Chin-ups or Pull-ups
6. Ab Wheel
10 reps each, done in a circuit. In retrospect, this was probably would have been a good start for a winter-break off-season program, with some bridging / sprinting / trunk anti-rotation / ankle or shoulder prehab thrown in there.
To wrap things up, beyond keeping muscle groups and movements in balance, it’s also good to remember/shoot for some balance of work/play, body/mind, tension/relaxation. Harder said than done, of course, this from someone who trained for some 24hr / 8dy the other week (had two K’bell workshops two weekends in a row, sandwiched in between two two-day tournaments), and then had to take time off to heal before this last tourney… sometimes more is not better, even though more is fun (sometimes).
In retrospect, I also realize that I’ve become unbalanced again the other way re: mind/body, as I haven’t really written / learned as much about the mental game (training for or enacting) as the physical game, on the field or on this blog, and that’s something I’d like to address. I also struggle sometimes to figure out how to coach other athletes re: their tension/relaxation curves, some gals hold too much body tension and burn out quickly in a blaze of getting-injured-omg-suck glory, some other girls tense up too much in the head, and rarely let go of their own anxieties. But how does one train the quick tension/relaxation flip in both mind and/or body? Do tell, time, time will tell. Aye, there’s more coaching / learning to be done.
The centre may not hold, but we’re gonna damn well try to find our centers, so stay centered, centering, stay strong, and strengthening =)