Holding Off on Deadlifts

When I introduce a new movement/lift to a client, I don’t have time for them to struggle with it because I work with multiple people at one. I try to pick exercises that they will be able to do with confidence and little to no coaching.

In a semi-private setting, I have other people waiting for my coaching, which leaves me with less than a minute to show someone a new activity.

Because I don’t work in a private setting, I tend to hold off on deadlifts for the 1st month or so.

To give you more context: We train people who have never trained before (bad at taking cues), people who might fear to lift weights at first, and people in persistent pain who are very deconditioned (my target market).

Deadlifts are hard to get right.

If they don’t tuck enough, they’ll arch their back, if they tuck too much they’ll round. If they’ve never lifted before, they don’t know how to create tension in their abdominal area. They don’t know what it’s like to push their feet through the floor…the list of problems can go on and on.

Plus, the word “dead” is in deadlift.

There have been many instances during a consult or introductory session a new client will witness one of our current clients lifting heavy trap bars off the ground, and they tell me something along the lines of “I never want to do that!!!”

With these people, you run the chance of them feeling confused, threated and non-confident when you try to introduce a weighted hinge within the first few sessions. If they build a bad taste about deadlifts from the beginning, they’ll progress way slower than they’re capable of. And the goal is always steady progression.

This is especially true with persistent pain clients. They feel their low back during a deadlift and they’ve had back pain for 10 years. Their brain is on high alert. If they flare up the day after their first time trying it, good luck getting them comfortable progressing with that lift.

I want to remind you: Context Context Context! Of course, not everyone is like this. Last month we had a brand-new client start with us and within one month, she was deadlifting, squatting, and doing kettlebell swings.

If someone comes in with a small lifting background and not scared of weights and they take cues well, we introduce things way sooner.

But since most people don’t take cues well, we train multiple people at once, work with those who are scared, or ones who are super deconditioned, I save myself the struggle and hold off on hinging until I think they’re ready to handle all the instructions to do one correctly.  

That sets ME up for success, but most importantly, it sets the client up for success.

How do I know they’re ready?

Glad you asked 😊

Think of this as giving your clients the ingredients for a deadlift so when the time comes, it takes minimal to zero coaching.

1) Restoring Motion at the Hip and Thorax During the Initial Month

In order for your client to execute a good-looking deadlift, certain motions at the hip and thorax are required. People who lack certain motions will struggle from keeping their deadlift looking like a banana or their inability to sit back and only round the shit out of their spine.

All of those positions above are undesirable.

Instead of thinking it’s your inability to coach it correctly, or your client’s ability to understand what you want them to accomplish, It might be that they don’t have access to the motions you’re wanting them to perform.

To free up your client’s movement, here are my top few moves that I will go into deeper detail explaining the “WHY” behind them over the next few weeks.

For now, practice coaching them. We’ll dive deeper later on 😉

These exercises are great for warm-ups and homework for the clients that like do thing things at home. (yes, those clients do exist).

Once you go through these activities, you’ll notice the cues are very similar. Exhale, reach, and tuck.

But what if someone seems like they need to the opposite? What if someone is super rounded on the deadlift??

You want to keep in mind, you can’t use your eyes to assess what the client needs when deadlifting. Take Carden for example. It looks like he needs to extend and get his chest to the KB. Carden has deadlifted a little over handful of times.

Carden went through 90/90 Bridge and Elevated Bench Rockback (shared above)

Can you see a small difference? on the left from the first video he seemed to round a little too much. Second he was able to sink back into his hips more and round less through his low back. Nothing to write home about, but it’s a good change!

Here’s a video of a simple way I explain to students on why they can’t use their eyes to assess what a client needs:

 2) Being Able to Push Through the Floor

I got a lot of cues by my employers when I first started out. One of those cues when coaching a squat or deadlift was “Push your feet through the floor”.

Since clients had no problem telling me when I didn’t make sense, I would always get the confused look and a “I have no idea what you mean by that” when I’d cue it.

Because of that, I started introducing that concept early on in someone’s training when we’re doing basic activities on the ground. It seems to help them understand what I mean by “pushing yourself through the floor”, which is a great thing to think about when you’re starting to lift heavier weight off the ground.

Glute bridge hold is a good exercise to start introducing that concept:

3) Create Tension in a “neutral” Position

I hate this term because most people say good posture = having a neutral spine. I’ve gotten away from that thought process, but I still think it’s important for clients to be able to lift with not arching too much and by not rounding too much, and I can’t think of a simpler term to use than “neutral looking spine”.

Which I know there’s no such thing as neutral, you don’t have to write that in the comments (yes, talking to you, Zac), but can we all agree that you don’t want deadlifts looking like this….

Or like this….

And we want them more like this….

Plus, if you share clients with someone, don’t you want to have somewhat of an agreement of what a good deadlift looks like. We all have to come up with our own standards, and my standards are:

A deadlift needs to look somewhat like this:

Where they’re maintaining a “neutral looking spine” throughout the entire lift.

Top position

Transition:

Bottom:

You and I both know people struggle with this. They’re not aware of their body and to ask them to keep their trunk looking like this as they’re focusing on 5 different things at once. Pushing hips back, keep whole foot contact, not shrugging, keeping head with spine, knees slightly bent…you’re asking for a lot.

That’s why, by the time I teach someone how to deadlift, exhaling, tensing up their “core”, has already been ingrained in their movement skillset and close to second nature.

Here are a few activities that can be put in someone’s program prior to deadlifts:

Tall and Half Kneeling Band Pull-over breathing are GREAT ways to teach someone an optimal position:

Here are a few other ways you can teach your clients to create tension:

4) Confidence in Your Ability to Keep Them Safe

If I have a client who was super scared to lift and it’s been 4-8 weeks and I haven’t hurt them yet. Chances are, they trust me. Their trust means a lot when I tell them they’re capable of lifting that 50lb KB off the ground.

If they trust me, they too will believe they can pick up the 50lbs KB off the ground.

Trust will be a long way with persistent pain.

A few years ago I worked with a lady that would “hurt” herself each time she didn’t train with me. To the point where she cried if I wasn’t there. Since I knew nothing about pain at the time, I thought my colleges and employer were not paying attention and let her do things wrong. Now I think she trusted me so much, that if I was watching her, she thought she was doing it right. Which isn’t a good thing for a client to develop a dependency on you like that, but it does go to show how much trust plays into a client’s ability to do something.

Wait….so what about squats???

I don’t deadlift people right away but I will squat people on day 1 or 2.

Squats are easy because you can start with an ISO squat hold, which makes it easy to coach. Plus, if a client over tucks a little bit, I’m cool with it. With deadlifts, I don’t want people rounding too much.

Here are a few variations I start people with:

(I don’t cue hands together anymore)

If someone nails these down, adding movement to the lift is a piece of cake 🙂

A strong squat will also prepare someone for a successful deadlift when you decide it’s the right time to introduce it.

I hope all of that was helpful. Will be diving deeper into movement and whats required for your clients to move well over the following weeks 🙂

Until next time!

Lucy

Human Matrix by Zac Cupples

Someone asked me if I just zone out while Zac speaks since it’s my 7th? 8th? one as his TA. When I’m not coaching or demoing, I’m listening.

I listen to how well things flow, make sure people are following, catch when they get lost due to their facial expression, when they get distracted or disinterested…etc.

(now that I’m typing this, I wonder if anyone has caught me looking at them and wondered “Why is Lucy starting at me?!?”)

For the following course, he takes all my critiques and all the anonyms critiques from the attendees and spends countless hours making improvements.

Almost every course is a different course.

How could I zone out? He has simplified it so much, his explanations are becoming more and more clear, the practicality of the information taught gets higher each time, and his jokes eventually start to be funny to me.

I’ve already heard him talk about the improvements he needs to make for the next course 😊

Learn from people like him. People who keep getting better and haven’t mailed it in.

However,

I think the HM playlist needs to have more than just one LP song on there 🤷🏽‍♀️💁🏽‍♀️

Thanks to the attendees for sending me all these videos and pictures form this weekend’s seminar!!

So if you haven’t (or have) attended Zac Cupples’ course, YOU SHOULD.

zaccupples.com/seminar

Ps.

Thank you, Zac. For letting me help you.

Thank you, allllll the amazing attendees who have helped me find my purpose 😘

What Do You Have Left If Your Job Gets Taken Away?

In the fitness industry, a job that can be SO rewarding, makes it easy to forget your life outside of it.

Your family time, your friends, your relationships, your health, your old hobbies, your fun time…everything.

I’m about to get personal AF, which is not meant for you to feel sorry for me, it’s to remind YOU to get a life outside of your work and learn from my mistakes because things got extremely dark for me, and if one coach reaches out to an old friend because of this post, my struggle was worth sharing.

I’m lucky you’re reading about Lucy Hendricks right now, by Lucy Hendricks, because I’m alive and you’re not seeing pictures of me on social media spreading with captions of “I had no idea, she seemed so happy when I saw her at seminars. May she RIP”.  

I was recently on a podcast where I was asked What is the hardest thing I’ve had to overcome? Which I answered with “Losing everything”.

A few years ago, I didn’t have a life outside my work. But it wasn’t like I was sitting at a desk 60 hours a week getting super unhealthy being glued to a chair and a computer.

Being consumed by my work was a healthy thing for me. Especially with all the research showing how important connection and community are.

My coaching hours kept me moving throughout the day hitting 15-20k steps. I was constantly learning new things and applying them with all my clients. I got to come into a community with people that I would consider family and interact with them 2-3 times a week year after year.

I had found my purpose.

I was learning what it took to thrive, and I had a community to learn along with me.

I got to express my creativity and purpose through workshops, building a gym library, posting on the social media community page, sending out emails, writing articles, coming up with protocols, 5 minute health rants before group class, 20-40 minute conversations after training sessions, community potlucks…etc. I was living the dream.

I had found my tribe, I was fulfilling my purpose, and I felt like I didn’t need anything else.

I ignored all my friends outside of work, I didn’t take any time meeting new people, I couldn’t have a relationship with someone outside of the industry because that’s all I could talk about, but I never saw it as a problem because I was truly happy.

Until it got taken away.

I’m sure you know what it’s like to lose a friendship/relationship. It sucks.

I lost over 100 in one night and I had no one to turn to.

I grieved on my own. No one checked on me to see if I was okay and there was no one to see that I was climbing into a deep hole of depression which ended up changing my life.

One month went by….two…three…four…and it just kept going.

The only thing that kept me from staying in bed all day were my current clients, the students I started working with, and seminars I was helping with or teaching.

Things got way worse before they got better.

Last year I developed some intense persistent back pain that lead me to beg my business partner to constantly cover for me. I was taking over the recommended daily dose of Advil and developed horrible gut issues from that. I had waves of intense fatigue that were so strong I could barely talk or get out of bed…which lead to even more begging for my shift to get covered.

On top of all of that, I couldn’t train, and I couldn’t stand touching my muscle-less (is that a word?) body, and hearing people say things like “Lucy must not like to train”.

When I went into work, clients would jokingly ask me if I even worked there anymore, and I just had to laugh it off, because they had no clue how bad things were. No one knew. The only reason they could sometimes tell something was off was due to me constantly getting sick, which lead to more covered shifts.

It got to the point where I was going to bed hoping I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. I started isolating myself from everyone because it was easier than feeling pressured to satisfy their needs.

I had loved ones asking me to be different, telling me to change my perspective and attitude, demanding my love and time, constantly requesting for my attention and presence.

I felt all this pressure to service other’s need, but I had nothing to give. I felt like I was drowning, spiraling down a deep hole I couldn’t get myself out.

Losing my community, losing everything I had, was the catalyst of the hardest two years of my life.

But here I am. Happy to be alive. Slowly climbing my way out of the hole I got myself into. Constantly reminding myself to take care of myself no matter how much I love my job or how pressured I feel to service others.

And I’m here to tell you to do the same.

The two things you should take away from this short story are:

1) Get a life outside of work and take care of YOURSELF.

Build connections throughout the industry that don’t involve your job. Go out with your local friends even if it means too many drinks and dancing your ass off until 3 am. Hire professionals (therapist, trauma experts) to help you cope with whatever you’re dealing with because no one can do it alone and your loved ones sure as hell can’t be the ones who help you.

2) People are suffering all around you, just because they don’t share about it on the internet doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

If you’re reading this, you probably follow my work, or you might have seen me at seminars. It looks like I have it all figured out and I’m doing great, but the reality is, I’m an amazing fucking speaker and I’m an amazing coach, but everything else needs a whole lot of work.

If you need help with coaching and developing a training model, I’m your girl! But there’s a reason why I don’t teach people how to manage their time, how to cope with life stressors and trauma, or successfully manage their employees and business.

Never Struggle Getting Someone to Tuck After this Video

If you’re into positional breath work, trying to get people to tuck is usually one of the first things you do.

When you attend a seminar that shows you all these foundational activities (breathing exercises), they seem like they’d be easy to coach, since they’re being demoed on a coach.

However, we all know clients don’t take cues well. Especially the general population.

So if you struggle getting people to tuck correctly, this video is for you 🙂

What other coaching questions do you have??

If you missed my post on how I introduce the basics to brand new clients, you’ll want to head over to THIS BLOG, and watch me take my new students through their “first day”. 3 out of the 4 I had never worked with before! It gives you an idea of how I deal with people who have never done any type of positional work.

How to Introduce Movement to Brand New Clients

Do you know what’s not fair?

Going to a seminar and watching a coach take another coach through an exercise and expect you to recreate the same execution with your clients…

Good luck with that.

Do you know who take cues really well?

Coaches

Do you know who doesn’t take cues well?

Clients

A lot of coaches who want to be detailed and want to add a breathing component to their training, struggle to get clients to buy in or fall short when producing results that are meaningful for the client.

Is the root of their problem the lack of knowledge? Do they need more theory? do they need more courses where they sit and learn about the rib cage for 15 hours?

No! They need better execution, better coaching, and more realistic expectations.

Fortunetly, I’ve got a solution for all those needs 😉

You can learn how to do something by countless hours of observing someone else do it, or you can learn by actually doing it. Michelle Boland and I created a 100% hands on workshop where you get to learn how to do everything you would like your clients to do. Keep your eyes peeled because we’re currently working on scheduling more 😉

If you can’t attend our workshop in two weeks, I’ve got an hour of content that you can watch today!

What does it look like when someone who has never trained with me goes through the initial consult where breathing is introduced?

I was lucky the April class from the Lexington Healing Arts Academy let me record them on our first class together. 3 out of the 4 I had never worked with before.

Even though they all have been active in the past/present, they have never been taken through my detailed coaching or any breathing exercises.

With these videos I want you to focus on a few things from a “new client” perspective”.

I want you to notice:

  • How I break down the activity. I start with one aspect of the breathing exercise and let them practice/fail, and I slowly get more detailed and add other cues.
  • How much I repeat what I say. exhale, keep exhaling, exhale, more….more exhaling, keep going. I’m not afraid to keep asking for a certain thing, and you shouldn’t either. Cue it until they do it.
  • How complimentary I am. For my friends and loved ones, I might seem like I have a cold distant personality, but for new clients, I’m the nicest most encouraging person on the planet. Let people know they’re doing a good job. At Enhacing Life, we take all aspect of training seriously…including breathing. Our new clients get a lot of praise for doing these things correctly.
  • How it’s not perfect. Detailed coaching doesn’t mean it has to be perfect. It means it’s always improving 🙂

Throughout the videos, you’ll also hear me talk to the new students. I want you to notice I don’t impress them with big words. If you’re dealing with interns or new hires (new trainers), you can’t start them off where you’re at. You’ve gotta give them the big picture, you have to start with practical information and keep it simple simple simple.

Disclaimer: these students took cues really well. Over the next few months I will be doing consults that will be recorded. My hope is for you to watch me fail and problem solve with people who are extremely difficult 🙂

Hope this was helpful!

Lucy

Rest in Peace- Belly Breathing

I was seeing a psychotherapist last year who guided me through a meditation. During the breathing portion, he cued me to let my belly expand upon inhalation.

After the meditation ended,  I asked him why he wanted me to push my belly out. He said pushing the belly out allowed me to breathe with my diaphragm instead of being a shallow chest breather. Better diaphragmatic breathing would tap into my parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest), and allow me to relax.

Little did my therapist know I’m a breathing fanatic. My life might always seem like it’s falling apart and I don’t know what I’m doing from his perspective, but I got breathing retraining down pat. I ended up educating him like I do many people on what diaphragmatic breathing really is, and what it is not.

Spoiler alert: belly breathing isn’t doing what most people think it’s doing, and people are not really chest breathers.

During respiration, you actually want your abdomen AND chest to expand. Your lungs are in your chest, not in your belly. Your belly already has a bunch of substance in there (organs), let the rib cage take the air.

During normal respiratory mechanics, the ribcage and abdomen should expand a complete 360 degrees to achieve adequate intra-abdominal pressure.

Belly breathing lacks this circumferential expansion, reducing intra-abdominal pressure, which can result in limiting movement options and performance in the gym.

Before we go any further, let’s go over what are normal mechanics of respiration, and what it is not.

THE Zac Cupples made an amazing 8 minute video for you all. It will get you a better understanding on what breathing should be and then we’ll get into some practical stuff that I know you’ll love.



If you’re coaching belly breathing, it’s okay to stop.

It’s 100% okay to let your clients know you’ve learned something new and you want to implement it.

When I first got into teaching breathing 8 years ago, I too coached belly breathing. I would put light chains on their bellies and got them to push against as they inhaled. Even though my intentions were always in my client’s best interest, my lack of knowledge led to lackluster breath coaching.

If your intention is to stop your clients from being shallow breathers, tap into their parasympathetic nervous system, teach them how to chill out, and have them become better movers and more efficient lifters, belly breathing is not the way.

So as of today: RIP Belly Breathing.

Never again will you coach it.

I will teach you what you CAN start coaching and you will start helping your clients with wayyy more than just “breathing”.

Let’s say Zac’s video just went over your head. It’s cool. Breathing is complicated.

Let’s wrap your head around this stuff by showing you the big picture and giving you some actional steps to start getting good at this stuff.

If you want to change someone’s breathing, you have to start looking at the structure that surrounds the lungs.

When you’re trying to understand your main breathing muscle, your diaphragm, you must appreciate the position that the ribcage is in. And if there’s something I look at a lot, it starts with R and ends with IBCAGE.

Trying to achieve diaphragmatic breathing by cuing a “belly breath”, “pooch the belly out” or “Let your belly billow out” would be like trying to open a door that is already open.

A door must be closed before it can be opened.

In order for you to take a breath IN with your diaphragm (Inhalation, Inspiration), it needs to come from a state of being OUT (Exhalation, Expiration).

In order for you to be ale to do what’s on the left, you have to come from being on the right.

I’ve put my hands on hundreds of people’s ribs. Some of the assessment findings stay pretty consistent with each person I look at . Even though everyone seems different from the outside, their thorax’s keep telling me a similar story:

And It’s telling me to tell you “STOP COACHING ME TO BELLY BREATHE, You’re fucking it up!!”

When you assess the rib cage, you can make some assumptions on what phases of respiration people are in and what phases of respiration they struggle getting in. In this post, we’re going to keep things simple.

Because in reality, people can present different breathing limitations all throughout the body. Today’s goal, is to get you to stop coaching your clients to belly breathe, or start coaching breathing in general, and start globally making clients better movers/breathers!

Once you have experience coaching the activities I will share below, you’ll be ready to take things deeper. Because it always goes deeper. Nothing about the human organism is simple. Remember that.

To not overcomplicate things, we’re going to say your clients struggle to achieve a position of full exhalation with the diaphragm in a domed position, where the middle is pulled up, like a parachute.

See how it looks like a parachute?

If it can’t dome/exhale, the diaphragm sits flat, in a position of inhalation (inspiration), which can be accompanied with numerous movement limitations, and what most people would consider “poor posture”.

Your muscles that you use to breathe in with are winning, but they’re not even winning a good way, like our President.

Your muscles that help you achieve a state of full exhalation are struggling and are not in a position of a lot of power. Like our coward corporate Democrats we have in office.

Your clients struggle breathing correctly, just like they struggle with other movements like flexing their shoulder or extending their hips. Fortunately, a little emphasis of it goes along way.

I’m very biased, but I think breathing is a movement more coaches should be paying attention to.

If you can’t perform another movement like hip extension, It’s easy to understand that limitation will be accompanied with problems on the training floor. Can’t extend hips, means they can’t lock out their deadlift without arching their back.

With breathing, it’s harder to make those connections, but I guarantee, if your clients suck and breathing in and out, it will definitely be accompanied with problems on the training floor.

You’ll see things like, limited shoulder motions that prevent upper body lifts from looking good, hips can’t extend so they feel everything in their back, ankle won’t bend and their squat looks like shit…you name it.

If you start appreciation breathing, you might start seeing alllll the annoying problems on the training floor magically disappear.

If you’re interested in how breathing can affect movement, the next video is perfect for you.

If programming constraints are taken away due to the quality of movement your clients can demonstrate, you can get these people STRONG no matter what their background is.

This is Josh. Two years ago Josh couldn’t do much without pain.

Josh can now deadlift over 300lbs and squat over 200lbs and he got there with the help of breath retraining.

Josh’s story repeats itself over and over, not just at Enhancing life, but at gyms all over the place.

Coaches who get deep into breathing, realize that it’s more than just breathing. It’s more than just putting people in 90/90. It’s more than just rehab.

This rabbit hole gets hated on all the time but the ones that get into it, are no longer driven by what other fitness professionals think, they’re more driven by the results their clients are getting.

Like Josh’s results. Josh was doing step ups last week with 100lbs on his back (safety bar), and he said “This feels so good!”.

The same Josh that said last year that he thought his knees were one day going to give out on him.

Appreciating breathing is a huge reason why he has progressed so much. Not the only reason of course, but it was definitely a big piece of the puzzle.

Now I hope you’re wondering, what should I do instead of cuing belly breathing? How can I help my clients breathe without overusing their back and neck muscles 20,000 times a day? How can I get my clients moving better and get them to become more efficient lifters?

I’ll help you get started 🙂

Look at the following exercises as activities that put your muscles in a better position to be a better breathing/mover.

The better you breathe, the more degrees of freedom your joints will have. More degrees of freedom means more movement possibilities!

Breathing sequence for all these activities:

  1. Full breath OUT through the mouth
  2. 3-5 second hold at the end of the exhale
  3. Inhale keeping the front ribs down vs belly breath. The cue of keeping the front ribs down doesn’t mean expansion is not allowed there. By cuing that, it allows for the expansion to be closer to 360, so you should see some movement in the belly, but cuing it to not expand tends to give you the outcome you want (360 expansion).

Once you have hours of coaching these exercises under your belt, you’ll be able to start digging deeper.

I didnt come up with ANY of this. This is just my interpretation of the things I’ve learned through REALLY smart people.

The two people you need to start following are Zac Cupples and Bill Hartman. If you keep asking yourself Why and How these are the guys that will help you figure out those answers. Invest your money on their courses/intensives.

However, you have to be a decent coach to even take their info and be successful with it.

Good coaching can’t be taught through a webinar or a lecture seminar where they only use one person to demo with.

Lucky for you, Michelle Boland, Michael Mullin, and I have the perfect seminar for you!

The first day 100% HANDS ON coaching.

April 27th & 28th 2019
The Trio: Lucy Hendricks, Dr. Michelle Boland, & Michael Mullin
Day 1: Saturday with Lucy Hendricks & Dr. Michelle Boland, Fundamentally Sound: Coaching & Technical Mastery
Hours: Five Total, 8am-1pm
Day 2: Sunday with Michael Mullin, Circuiting the Rehab Training Model
Hours: Five Total, 8am-2pm, lunch 11:30-12:30pm

What people have said about the hands on portion:

Fit Pros, What Do You Know About Back Pain?

Alex Kraszewski is a Physiotherapist working in Essex, United Kingdom, who also holds a triple bodyweight Deadlift to his name. He’s here to talk about how to better understand back pain as a fitness professional.

Back pain sucks. If you’re a human being or you work with human beings, chances are you or your clients have experienced back pain that varied from either a mild backache to being disabled by pain. Despite the huge advances in medicine, the number of people suffering with back pain is spiralling out of control, and we don’t seem to be much better at dealing with it.

In most cases of back pain (nearly 90%), there isn’t a single source of pain. Scans and investigations might show disc bulges and dehydration, arthritis and compressed nerves, but there are no guarantees these cause pain. Relating pain purely to structure, without appreciating the bigger picture, is probably what got us in this mess with back pain in the first place.

Pain is influenced by almost everything in our lives, and the biopsychosocial model helps us appreciate how all these inputs can interact when it comes to pain. Stress, sleep, education and beliefs about pain, how we move and exercise and many other things, all influence pain. No one single thing causes pain, and if you make this assertion nowadays, the internet will strike down upon you with more vengeance and furious anger than Jules Winnfield.

Back Pain often has a mechanical component

But just because pain is influenced by more than how we move in the gym,  that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t value how we move in the gym, and under load. What’re we’re doing at any one time (context) dictates what movement strategies would be appropriate. To that end, we need to consider how motions, postures and loads  influence the load an exercise exposes us to.

Take a 100kg/225lb Deadlift. The things that will influence how, and where, that 100kg is applied to the body depends on;

  • Type of Deadlift used (Conventional, Sumo, Trap-Bar, etc) – Load
  • Positions used (neutral spine, more flexed or more extended) – Posture
  • The shape and size of the lifter (limb and torso length) – Posture
  • Movements used (interaction of the spine, hips and knees) – Motion
  • Volume of lifting (Sets & Reps, sessions per week/month?) – Load

And the result of these things include;

  • A more horizontal torso position (conventional deadlift) will increase spine load compared to a more vertical torso position (sumo or trap bar)
  • A more flexed or rounded spine position will load the passive structures of the spine and increase spinal shear forces compared to a more mid-range or ‘neutral’ position
  • More spine flexion for the longer-legged lifter with a conventional deadlift, compared to a trap bar deadlift.
  • Using more spine motion and less hip motion will load the spine more than the hips
  • More volume will increase spine load, regardless of form.

Exercise execution influences load, but we can’t use this as the only way to decide if something is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Konstantin Konstantovs made a reputation for himself by pulling over 400kg with a round back and no belt

I’ll say that again. Over 900lbs with no belt and a round back. Go back 10 years and the thought of spine flexion under this much load would’ve broken the internet. Thankfully – we’ve moved on a bit since then.

Most of our clients aren’t mutants, so alongside thinking about the way we lift, and how it influences spine load, we also have to take into account the other ‘stuff’ too;

  • What does the rest of the training session and overall program look like?
  • How much rest and recovery is occurring outside of the gym (think stress, sleep, hydration, nutrition).
  • What does the rest of the week look like for motions, postures and loads (office ninja, manual labourer, or crime-fighting superhero?)
  • How adapted to one particular strategy of lifting is the client (is it a brand new way of doing things, or have they done it for years without a problem?)

If there is a balance between the way in which exercises are performed and what goes on in the rest of our lives (load), and our ability to recover from these things (capacity), we will adapt positively and get fitter and stronger. Injury risk increases when there is an imbalance between the load applied and our ability to recover;

The first priority as a fitness professional if pain or injury is reported is to have a healthcare professional check it’s nothing serious. After that, the fitness professional is well placed to identify the motions, postures and loads associated with back pain. We don’t say causing back pain, because this starts to move into a diagnostic and healthcare arena.

Back pain won’t have a clear medical diagnosis a lot of the time, but a ‘movement diagnosis’ can be an important factor to consider with a client’s pain. A movement diagnosis allows us to consider the motions, postures and loads associated with pain, without getting hung up on a structural source of pain.

Flexion and Extension Based Back Pain – A ‘Movement Diagnosis’ for Trainers

One way of broadly categorising back pain within resistance training is as flexion- or extension-based. As far as the mechanical component of back pain goes, we are looking for whether a client’s back pain relates to a flexion or extension motion, posture, and/or load.  

This doesn’t mean we ignore the non-mechanical factors for pain, but it can identify exercise selections or executions that may be part of the painful picture to make changes accordingly. If we can do that, we stand a great chance of helping our clients reduce their pain, and get back to crushing it in the gym, and in life.

Let’s say someone is performing a roundbacked deadlift with a hip hinge that could do with better execution and is reporting back pain, we can lean towards that person reporting flexion-based back pain. The reasons for this might include;

  • The motion of spine flexion to extension to complete the lift
  • The posture of spine flexion under load
  • The load requiring control and resistance of spinal flexion

These factors are based on the way the exercise is being performed, but don’t forget to consider how much the exercise is being performed. Perfect technique doesn’t mean you’re invincible to unlimited volume and intensity, or that your recovery outside of the gym doesn’t matter.

If and when pain is present in this scenario,  we have a couple of options of what to change;

  • Coach the exercise in a way that changes the posture (round back towards more neutral spine) or motion (more hip hinge, less spine motion) – The Way
  • Reduce the load – either the weight on the bar, or the volume of the exercise – How much
  • Change the exercise (conventional block deadlifts, trap bar deadlifts or sumo deadlifts) – The Way

We can apply this any exercise. Understanding what could be contributing to back pain, and working around this, is developing the ‘trainable menu’. This is way better than just resting and waiting for pain to go away.

In the Complete Trainer’s Toolbox, I take a deep dive into the variety of factors within exercise that can influence spine loading, how to both modify exercise in the presence of back pain, and how to help rebuild the client who is struggling with back pain to get them back to their most loved and enjoyed activities.

The Complete Trainers Toolbox is available for a launch sale pricing for $100 off the regular price until Sunday February 17th at midnight. Get Alex’s presentations, as well as an additional 15+ hours of digital video content and 1.7 continuing education credits

How Coaches Can Create The Future of Healthcare: Interview with Dr Terry Wahls

When people find out I don’t want kids, my fitness industry friends seem to understand more than others. A lot of them even share the same feelings than me about reproducing.

That might be because we see the world in a similar way. If you make a living on helping people be healthy, it’s hard to not look around and feel completely hopeless for our society’s future. We are one brainwashed, overstressed, underslept, overworked, disconnected world, and it’s only getting worse.

Having kids in a world that keeps getting sicker, and the fight to be healthy gets harder and harder makes reproducing seem like an uphill battle.

Trying to advocate for your own health is a tough job, especially if it’s your actual career of choice. The health and fitness industry has enemies that constantly make it hard. They promote unhealthy behavior, they make candy cheaper than vegetables, and they pump misleading information that keeps the public in the dark.

It wasn’t until 2016, the year I got into politics, that I found out those same enemies I’d been dealing with for years in the fitness industry, were the ones funding politicians to push policies and bills that are leaving us with horrible health consequences.

And if you’re not dealing with corruption and greed, you’re dealing with uneducated politicians that don’t know what it takes to have a healthy society. Their view on health doesn’t go beyond conventional medicine, insurance companies, and misguided information. So even though their intentions are nothing but the best, like Bernie and Alexandria Cortez, their plan to keep people healthy, falls short.

Hoping to get the health and fitness industry involved in politics due to their level of education on the topic, I started talking about the need to get everyone politically involved, especially people like us (coaches) who connect the public to information they can trust.

I had a few people who supported my idea, but for the most part, I got reminded that getting political wasn’t a good idea for my business, and/or for my online presence.

Being as stubborn as I am, I kept at it.

I kept pushing, kept digging deeper, and I kept seeking out people who could help me figuring things out. I was part of two worlds I felt needed to be desperately combined. I felt so strongly about this, I was convinced that 5+ years from now I was going to leave the industry and get into politics because someone in the political system needed to advocate for our health.

Corrupt and uneducated politicians were not cutting it for me.

But first, I had to figure out what I needed to fight for once I got in. Even though my beliefs strongly align with the progressive side of things, some of their policies like health care for all, didn’t sit well with me and I had no one I trusted to talk to about it.

The people I looked up to in the health world were conservatives or “not into politics”, and the people I looked up in the political world like The Young Turks, knew nothing about health.

The amount of money spent on preventable disease is outrageous. If we give people free “healthcare” with no system in place that focuses on patient education and health ownership, the amount of money we spend on disease will keep raising. Healthcare will just be a system that doesn’t let people die, while simultaneously keeping them sick.

Which is why it’s no surprise health advocates align with the conservative side when it comes to healthcare. They know Medicaid for all won’t save us when we live in a society that relies on the person in the white coat and insurance companies to dictate their health. But I can’t bring myself to support a system that lets people die because they couldn’t afford surgery, or a doctor’s appointment after their cut on their foot got infected.

Even though I don’t want the person relying on insulin to die by taking away their medication, I want the system to change that got the person relying on medication in the first place.

Over the last year I’ve felt quite alone with my views on things, until one lazy day where I was scrolling through social media and I noticed someone I truly admired in the health industry post something political on facebook.

Dr. Terry Wahls shared something about her son running for state senate. Terry Wahls is one of the pioneers of the paleo and functional medicine world. When I saw a post about her support for Stacey Abrams and researched her Son’s political background, I immediately felt a rush of hope. I had found someone who seemed to have the same political views and someone who would be way more educated on the topic than me.

I wondered “What kind of policies does someone like Wahls believe in? What is her son going to fight for? What do they think of healthcare?! Is her son influenced by her knowledge in health!?”

Really eager to know some of these answers, I emailed her. 2 minutes later I got an automatic response saying she got an overwhelming amount of emails….etc etc basically, not getting a response.

HOWEVER, a couple days later, she accepted my interview! I was finally going to get the answers to the questions I had from someone who I trusted and seemed to have the same views as mine.

I was excited to find out how we can bring positive change into the political system that advocates for our health. I wanted to know more about the policies I should be fighting for. And most importantly, I was hoping to find out what my future role in politics was going to be, because I wanted to bring massive change at the highest branches of government.

I got all those answers…..

And halfway through the interview, I found out what my future role was.

It’s not in politics.

It’s as coach, a connector.

Someone who connects people to the right information and show them how much control they truly have over their health.

Terry Wahls shifted my perspective and gave me the direction I’d been searching for.

Now I’m calling on all fitness and rehab professionals to join me and be the CONNECTORS we have the opportunity of being.

During this interview we go over: 

  • How much should the government be involved in our lives 
  • Is a federal solution the answer to getting our society healthy?
  • Will we ever have healthcare that isn’t influenced by corruption and uneducated politicians? 
  • What policies should we be fighting for? 
  • Why we should study the attributes of health and happiness? 
  • Should the fitness and health industry get politically involved? 
  • How to get your tribe involved to create affordability around being healthy
  • How coaches and health advocates can start creating change at the local level
  • How coaches could be the future of healthcare

Dr. Terry Wahls is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa. She is the author of The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine and the cookbook The Wahls Protocol Cooking for Life: The Revolutionary Modern Paleo Plan to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions. You can learn more about her work from her website, www.terrywahls.com. She hosts the Wahls Protocol Seminar every August where anyone can learn how to implement the Protocol with ease and success. Follow her on Facebook (Terry Wahls MD), on Instagram drterrywahls and on Twitter at @TerryWahls. Learn more about her MS clinical trials by reaching out to her team via this email: MSDietStudy@healthcare.uiowa.edu

If you want to learn more about being a coach who takes a multi-factorial approach: Check this blog out, sign up for my newsletter, and/or learn from me in person!

 

I hope you enjoyed this.

Until next time 🙂

 

Lucy

 

A Shift in Sports Performance

By Michelle Boland, PhD, CSCS

There’s a huge lack of awareness of what individuals in the fitness and performance industry are capable of doing and can do. Fitness professionals are the most important practitioners in the health care system but can be the most overlooked. My first few years working in the sports performance field, I often got the question: “Why are you a strength and conditioning coach disappointed tone)?” That question always bothered me as it came with assumptions: that I was too good for the job, that strength and conditioning is attached to a stigma of higher education being unnecessary, the career is viewed as a fall back for people who like to exercise, or that I should be doing something more important. I am uncomfortable with all those assumptions.

There are great minds in the fitness and performance industry who just happen to have a passion for training. Those minds are also not myopic, they are creating a paradigm shift in the fitness and performance industry. I am lucky enough to work with some of those individuals who blow me away every day with their level of knowledge and PURSUIT of knowledge. I will be referring to sports performance from a context focused on collegiate athletics, but inferences can be made throughout the fitness industry and the general population. The grand unified theory that I will be discussing is a theory that can be used to shift our performance training paradigm. We are going to raise the bar of what is possible and what we are doing with athletes and clients.

I recently returned from Dr. Ben House’s Functional Medicine Retreat in Costa Rica; Yes, a strength and conditioning coach attended a functional medicine retreat, this is the paradigm shift. One of the presenters was Dr. Bryan Walsh who provided this great analogy: A plant needs 2 things, water and sun. However, the soil it is in dictates how well the plant will respond to the water and sun. Well, humans are the same way. Our physiology is what dictates how well human’s will respond to diet and exercise. As a sports performance coach we need to apply our knowledge and PURSUE knowledge on human physiology in order for athletes to get the most out of training in relation to the outcome of performance.

What is Sports Performance?

We like to make things simple: If I program hang cleans, the athlete will develop the quality of power and perform their sport better. I can even objectively measure whether that athlete is improving in the hang clean exercise by testing. Boom. It’s as easy as that, right? But they play ice hockey, so how do I measure if getting better at the hang clean is making them a better ice hockey player? That’s a good question. I test their skating speed? Boom. Done. So, their ability to hang clean more weight and skate goal line to goal line in a quiet arena with about 10 people watching, no puck in play, and no stakes involved, is an indicator of game performance?

Performance is complex and multi-factorial and my job should be complex and multi-factorial. We are going to have to consider all aspects of performance which is governed by a complex interaction of variables: Task, Organism, and Environment. Performance improvement needs to consider EXPOSURE to elements of these variables and address CONSTRAINTS within these variables.

The specific task being performed is related to the goal of the task and the rules governing the task. The task can include shooting (skill specific) or it can involve an exercise during training; in all accounts it needs to be accomplished within the rules and be related to a goal. The goal of shooting is to put the puck in the net to score points (consistently AND WITH INTENT) and the goal of an exercise is to acquire a training quality with the idea of translating into performance.

How can we incorporate this into training? Manipulate the task (exercise) by setting rules and the completion of the rules accomplishes the goal (exercise). For example, the Kettlebell Deadlift can be accomplished by setting rules: start and end with the KB on a line, stand with midfoot on the line (shout out to Dan Sanzo). We can also educate athletes on the task in its relation to sport performance, which will improve intent.

In relation to performance, the sport itself involves rules, pace, and skills which all need to be specifically trained related to specific game exposure. Specific exposure involves incorporating all variables to the highest intensity or closest to game experience. An example would be creating competition within the specific environment of play, with the same people, with similar rules, with similar movements, and under similar pressures.

In relation to a team setting create competition days within the weight room and consistent testing to expose them to challenge (understanding what a ‘10’ feels like on a scale of 1-10 is a valuable tool). During high intensity practice days, practice at the highest intensity mimicking the game. Our job is to provide exposure to create adaptation and influence outcome.

The environment is what is acting on the system. It is the location of the contest, noise, crowd, weather conditions, and stakes of the competition. It is elements that effect the organism/player which can even include social relationships. Does the athlete respect/like the coach? Did they get into a fight with their significant other before the game? Do they respect their teammates?

Environment also includes the food available to the athlete. Coaches usually harp on athletes about their diet and body composition but rarely connect their actions to their goals. The environment we are creating for that athlete to succeed should do just that, help them succeed. The habits and routines that we want them to have should be facilitated through education, priority setting, and resources available. If you actually care about nutrition and you WANT your athletes to care, why are we creating an environment that provides pizza as a post-game meal? Does that action align with your goals? Is that creating and environment for that athlete to succeed?

The organism category is the player. This incorporates sports psychology, exercise physiology, and biomechanics. The role of the sports performance coach is usually boxed into the silo of biomechanics and physiology. We assess movement and fitness in order to develop exercise programs that will improve the qualities tested (at least that’s the goal). We want to create structural (ex. increase number of mitochondria) and functional (ex. decrease mile time) adaptations. This is where WE thrive. We can sit at a computer for hours and create complex rep schemes and program design. It’s what we love. But the athlete can easily sabotage your program by wrecking it with outside factors.

Show awareness that other factors exist besides your block periodization plan. Don’t take things too personally when an athlete comes in and isn’t excited to do your epic 5-3-1 rep scheme that day. Maybe they just failed an exam, were up until 2am studying, found out that their parents are getting a divorce, just broke up with their significant other. Maybe they perceive you as a jerk and don’t want to do your program. CREATE A WELCOMING TRAINING ENVIRONMENT AND TRY TO BE A GOOD PERSON. Performance needs to factor in all aspects of stress load, exposure, and avenues of interventions because they all matter. The whole matters, not just the parts. A HUGE part is psychological.

We need to create an environment where people can express their struggles and emotions. We currently live in a world full of superficial relationships with social media friendships. We shouldn’t play therapist but we should create an environment that encourages dialogue and communication where people can understand each other and express themselves. Having a sport psychologist referral is a way to incorporate an interdisciplinary collaboration. If you want to learn more about this or understand how it effects everyone, even professional athletes please read this article by Kevin Love titled “Everyone is going through something.” 

Sport performance coaches should explore knowledge of how psychological, physiological, biomechanical (Human), and environmental (Environment) factors interact with the performance outcome/result (Task/goal). We should respect the dynamic nature of constraints and their respective contribution to performance at any given time (Glazier, 2017).

Reducing the number of constraints within each category/component can improve the number of possible configurations that a complex system can adopt in respects to contribution to performance (collective output). Constraints within these variables/categories can create limitations and barriers (ex. fatigue, anxiety) Small-scale changes may have a large-scale impact. A component of this would be to consider actions that are excluded by constraints compared to actions that are caused by the constraint.

How do we do this?

Create a holistic/interdisciplinary approach to performance:

Steps for a better outcome as a fitness or performance coach:

  1. Create a team of referrals and professionals. We need to break down the silos (Glazier, 2017). We need to create an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach to sports performance. Find local physical therapists that you trust to deal with pain, find a local psychologist, and find a local sport nutritionist. Talk to the people you surround yourself with and learn about their areas so you can speak the same language. You will lose by-in and confidence if you speak negatively about other professionals or if the athlete is hearing different opinions.

Environment: Holistic Approach:

 Provide them with the tools to succeed outside of exercise; with the illusion that they have knowledge of the exercise they are participating in. Seriously though. Are athletes leaving with an understanding of how to exercise when they leave college? Do they know how exercise improves health? Do they have a baseline knowledge about exercise and health?

  • We often lose sight of how the other 22-23 hours in a day outside of the gym can influence performance and health.
  • Provide them with education and an understanding about how sleep, nutrition (micronutrient and macronutrients), stress, and gut health (yes, we have conversations about the microbiome and probiotics) which can all have an enormous effect on performance and health.
  1. Open communication and provide resources about social connections (interactions with other players), intentions, skills for crucial conversations, and creating a successful environment.
    • Consider both inter-individual and intra-personal relationships
    • Environment breads quality of life and genetic expression
    • Have conversations about who they associated themselves with: Do the people they surround themselves with support the process of accomplishing their goals or do they do the opposite?
  1. Set an example of behavior/habits.
    • Ultimately you need to work on yourself before you can help or attend to others.
    • EXPRESS GRATITUDE. Gratitude is the opposite of threat so create an unthreatening environment in which athletes genuinely know that their work is appreciated. (Learned this from Dan Sanzo).

Organism: Create opportunities to make better people

  1. Provide opportunity to develop as athletes as people. Instead of complaining that an athlete is immature or misbehaving, that can be an opportunity for a life lesson. Show that you care outside of how much weight they can lift.
    • Create a process driven environment instead of a goal driven environment (shout out to Kyle Dobbs).
    • Attending college should not just be a time to chase a degree or grades in the hope of getting a job. College is about learning to understand who you are and who you want to be. Students and athletes often become lost after graduation when they lose their identity as a student or athlete.

Task: Choice of Training Modalities: Train them HARD and SMART:

  1. Provide challenge and exposure. Challenge athletes personally and physically. Provide athletes with fitness and challenge so they can physically increase the body’s ability to cope with the physical stress of their sport. Challenge them mentally by creating competition and make them think. Challenge them with accountability and standards.
  • We should understand that there is more than getting athletes to increase their max deadlift weight. There are consequences to training (especially myopic training), which implies both positive and negative results. Increasing an athlete’s deadlift max may reduce their performance on the field. Performance enhancement is complex and multi-factorial. The important thing is how the athlete plays their sport.

Conclusion

 The Grand Unified Theory was originally introduced by Newell (1986). In order to accomplish a performance outcome we need to consider how organism, task, and environment interact to influence behavior (coordination and control). Constraints within these categories provide boundaries and limitations that reduce the number of coordinative configurations (options) and create compensations that impact behavioral output. A limitation to performance can be anxiety. Lack of exposure to any of these variables can create anxiety due to lack of control. Anxiety as an emotion can physically manifest shifting from an external to internal focus of attention.

We also can take away from this theory that there are no absolutes. Sports performance can and should incorporate a wide variety of knowledge and the PURSUIT of knowledge. If you do what you have always done, you will be what you’ve always been. Explore not just the what but explain how and why it happens. We need to start rewriting what our industry is rather than letting people define what our field is. There is no such thing as having all the answers but change happens when we ask the right questions and pursue the answers…

References

Glazier, P.S. (2017). Towards a Grand Unified Theory of Sports Performance. Human Movement Science, 56, 139-156.

Newell, K.M. (1986). Constraints on the development of coordination. In M.G. Wade & H.T.A Whiting (Eds), Motor development in children: Aspects of coordination and control, 341-360.

 

The Breathing Strategy Hierarchy

A couple of years ago Bill Hartman opened my mind to a new way of assessing someone’s movement needs. Since then, Through Bill and Zac’s work, I’ve developed a movement assessment that helps my clients move better. When clients move well, progressing them to lifting comes with little to no problems.

This morning while running on 5ish hours of sleep, jet lagged, and after too much coffee, I decided to take the students through my thought process when picking breathing activities for my clients. I will be refining this and adding the lower extremities, but in the meantime, learn what breathing and arm position a client needs when picking activities.

Also, sorry for the gum chewing :O

ENJOY! and let me know if it helps, or if it didn’t and you’re still confused. If this doesn’t make sense, I will find a better way of explaining it.

Before you watch this, if you’re new to this whole breathing thing, watch this video, and check out my article on it, first!