As I was watching some of the Ravens versus Colts playoff game yesterday, I wasn’t as much interested in the outcome of the game as I was in watching Ray Lewis play his last home game, less than 3 months after tearing his triceps.
Injuries are part of the game when you are an athlete and Ray Lewis was unfortunate in suffering such a severe injury so close to the end of his career. But to watch him play yesterday, with reckless abandon, with no regards to his physical body, was truly a thing of beauty. And the topic of sports injuries is something that I have taken great interest in after my knee injury last spring. Its not the physical healing that ends most athletic careers; it’s the fear that becomes ingrained into your mind that will do you in.
Ray was able to play with such intensity yesterday without fear because his spirit is much more powerful than his physical body will ever be. Could he have called it quits after getting injured and just retired without playing during the playoffs? Sure he could have, but that’s what a lesser champion would have done. And regardless of what you think of his past, the man is a champion and once a champion, you are always a champion. It is a mindset that is well worth going after. I can guarantee you that Ray Lewis didn’t set out to get a certain amount of tackles each year or to get his bench press up to a certain number, but rather he set out to be great every day.
I see it all the time with athletes and clients at Newell Strength, people want immediate gratification. But the pendulum of life doesn’t reward those that are looking for immediate gratification. The athlete that steps up to the task at hand is the one that I want on my team. The one that knows he/she might be a long shot, but goes forward with full intensity anyway, those are the ones that will become champions. The athletes and trainees that skip out on the hard stuff don’t have less value as people, its just that they have yet to develop a champions mindset. Most of them never will, because that is the 99% rule, but it doesn’t mean they can’t.
An allegiance to an old injury or a diet or a contest will get you nowhere and you will be stuck on ‘Someday Isle (I’ll)’ with all the other average people out there. What is your legacy going to be when it’s all said in done? Are you a talker or a doer? Examples are set by our actions, not by what we say. And Ray Lewis is leaving us all with a great example of a champion and a leader that we may not see again in sports for some time. Be great today…
I was gonna write about something different today but I am to souped up after last night to not share with you guys what I did. I had set a goal to walk within one month of surgery and I did it last night. Now, I am not walking around all the time without assistance, but I did it, it’s a start. I also got my first leg raise last night! Don’t worry, I captured it all on the video below for you:)
This reinforced the power of the mind to me. I have been visualizing, dreaming about and meditating on these events every day. No one broke the speed of sound until Yeager did it in 1959, people thought you explode and disintegrate if you tried (thanks Rich for sharing this with me). The year that Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile, 50 others did the same thing. Because….someone broke through. Impossible is nothing….
Althought I love Halloween and this time of year, this is not a post about that kidn of fear. This is a post about fear in the weight room and how it relates to injury. Too many times, this will hold people back from reaching their true potential. The few examples I will cite here involve real people and injuries such as herniated discs and ACL tears.
Let’s start with Randee. Randee is a member at Newell Strength and he tore his ACL and mensicus in his right knee a year ago. Randee recently went to his doctors and they were amazed at his progress and hypertrophy (muscle building) in his right leg since he has been coming to me. There are times when Randee is fearful of cutting the wrong way or doing the wrong thing and re-injuring his knee and rightfully so. I wouldn’t want to go through that again either. But that’s all it is….fear. We have had to modify certain things such as planting and cutting for Randee, but he going with it and the fear is starting to melt away like butter on hot bread. By the way, Randee will be in an upcoming MTV reality series, so stay tuned for the updates.
Now on to me. I had a pretty severly injured back a few months ago and it is something that I have had to deal with throughout my competitive career in bodybuilding. When we got the MRI last spring, it showed two black spots where my L4 and L5 discs used to be. That means there is nothing there and I struggled for about 3 months before I was normally functional again. It is not all the way healed and it is something I will always have to deal with and I take great care in making sure I implement strategies for traction every single day. Am I fearful it will go out again? Yes, I am, especially with the competition this spring coming up. But again, it is just fear. I have to modify certain things and I haven’t back squatted heavy or deadlifted heavy since last spring (did 300 pounds for 20 reps on the back squat a few weeks before it went out—>see link below). But I know that to develop the back thickness necessary to bring home a bodybuilding title, I will have to deadlift. So, I was back at it this morning. The weight was only 150 pounds, pretty humbling for a guy that has pulled 600 pounds, but its a start.
I also have a number of female athletes that have had ACL injuries in the past and unless you have been living under a rock, ACL tears are pretty epidemic with female athletes. The reasons are debatable, but I know they are caused by a weak posterior chain. The issue from coming back from them though is again, fear based. Too many girls have re-torn the ACL after making their comeback and this sits in the minds of other female athletes. However, if they take the correct steps, proper training and education, it is only fear that holds them back.
YOU have to feel the fear and roll with it. You cannot let it stop you. Fear nothing people!
While speaking with Northeastern University’s basketball strength coach/director of sports medicine, Art Horne, yesterday, the issue of knees naturally came up. The reason I say that it naturally came up is because being that he works with a lot of basketball players and I work with a lot of basketball players, we both encounter knee pain a lot. He made the very interesting point that basketball is really one of the only sports that you can play by yourself. So these players are basically playing year-round. This is something that I have written about before and I am not really that fond of.
Many basketball players and even non-basketball players will come to the gym complaining of anterior knee pain. Yes, some of this can be attributed to overuse injury but many times we need to look at the surrounding joints. In this case, that means the ankles and hips. In case you haven’t noticed, the basketball shoes that athletes are wearing now are more like space boots. Add to that the ankle braces or taping of the ankles and you have effectively taken away all mobility from the ankle. For some reason, many players and coaches think this is a good thing. What they don’t realize is that the ankle, like the hip is a mobile joint. If you take away the mobility from the ankle, it must go somewhere and that somewhere is up to the next joint, the knee. The only problem with the knee becoming more mobile is that it is supposed to be a stable joint. A mobile knee equals an injury. There have been many cases of NBA players going in to have mirco-fracture surgery and the surgery being unsuccessful. All they are essentially doing is treating a symptom rather than the cause, like trying to get a fever down when you have an infection. As long as players are wearing space boots, knee injury will linger.
The joint above the knees, the hip is one of the most complex in the entire body. I don’t think I have encountered but one person in my gym that has enough mobility in the hips. Once again, if you take away mobility in the hips, that mobility must go somewhere and it travels south down to the ‘dumb joint’. There are many ways to attack this problem, including: stretching the hip rotators and hip flexors, utilizing soft tissue things like foam rolling, performing mobility exercises such as ‘fire-hydrants’ and teaching exercises such as the squat and deadlift with complete range of motion and the proper ‘hip-hinge’. Funny, I just wrote about the hip hinge last week. It is to me one of the most essential movements in the entire gym. Do yourself a favor, educate your knees and take them from the bottom of the class all the way up to Harvard, they’ve had enough of being the ‘dumb joint.’
I feel that this article is long over do and if you are a fellow strength coach, you feel my pain. I am not referring to the actual car that you drive, but your Current Adaptive Reserves (CAR). This will come in handy for yourself or your athletes.
To understand what Verkhoshanksy refers to in Supertraining (2009), you must first understand what Seyle proposed as the 3 phases of general adaptation syndrome. He proposed that all animals or organisms exposed to stress go through the alarm, resistance and then the exhaustion phase. “The energy source for the second stage (resistance or adaptation) comes from the readily available superficial adaptation energy source or the emergency deep adaptation energy source, depending on the level of exhaustion or depletion of energy at any instant” (p.83). This is otherwise known as YOUR current adaptive reserves.
Now, correct me if I am wrong, but the whole point of any training is adaptation. In our world, either we or the athletes we coach are trying to get performance and strength to improve. I know from my time competing on the bodybuilding stage that a few weeks all the way up to one month off did my body good and allowed for some serious super-compensation when I returned to training. Many of the top professional bodybuilders take up to 3 months off after the Mr. Olympia contest. I know that bodybuilding is more of an ‘underground’ sport, so let’s look at the big sports. NFL and NBA guys take plenty of time off after the season. Many NBA stars have passed up playing for the national team just so they could get their time off.
I train a lot of high school athletes and although they are often resilient, they do have their limits. Many of my basketball players have gone from the scholastic season, right to the AAU season and now they are entering summer ball leagues. Where the heck is the off-season? It takes a tremendous amount of CAR to get results when we are talking about strength, speed, power and improved performance. This new trend that has happened in the past 7 years or so is very scary to me as a strength coach. Many high school athletes play the same sport or focus on the same sport year round. The mental fatigue and burnout is a huge stress in itself. Mental stress will take its cut out of our pizza pie of CAR. The extra practices and constant running of the athletes takes its share of pie from CAR. More than three-quarters of our CAR pie is gone, hardly enough to keep for any real adaptations.
The off-season is the time for some serious rest and regeneration and then getting big and strong. Strength coaches, our critical off-season is being taken away before our very eyes. If the sports coaches want us to get the athletes to improve their athletic traits, then we NEED our off-season. YOU need to be in the best CAR mode possible. You all know how much energy is needed to gain 1 pound of muscle, to jump 1 inch higher and to shave .2 of a second off your forty time, make a stand!
I had the great pleasure of presenting at the NJ state strength and conditioning clinic yesterday down in Vineland. It was a great honor but more importantly I got the chance to see some other great speakers and I got the chance to learn. To me, it is a continuous process of learning and growing. The topic that I want to speak about tonight is recovery. One of the presenters was from Virginia and he was one of the top guys for the Navy and their exercise programs. So you know that he had access to the finest equipment and top research in the world, literally. He showed us scans of athletes and men that had been monitored by the OMEGA wave machine which can measure CNS autonomic activity. This machine is used by some NFL and top college football programs. It can basically tell you how much more you can push before illness or injury results. Pretty cool stuff. Dallas, the presenter also showed brain images of a brain that goes on 6 hours of sleep versus a brain that gets 8 hours of sleep. The blood flow difference was dramatic to say the least. A brain that stays awake for 17 hours functions as if it was over the limit intoxicated. I was ready to jump out of my seat because I am constantly awake for 18 or 19 hours. The combination of the two, pushing to hard and not enough rest has led to a back injury for me. If you are going to train hard, you must recover hard! It has to be a part of the program. Adaptation does not take place under the bar. My friend Ryan, another presenter was telling me that when he got to speak to the Nebraska strength coaches, he found out that recovery and nutrition are emphasized even more than the training in their program. Recover, recover, recover!
One of our key players sprained his ankle pretty badly in our basketball county semi-final game which we won. If you have ever sprained your ankle, you know how badly this hurts. Usually an ankle sprain means stretched and/or torn ligaments. A ligament takes about 21 days to heal and a muscle takes roughly 5-8 days. The reason I am telling you how many days it takes to heal is for purposes of the squat and deadlift. It is vitally important to arch the low back, allowing little to know rounding of the lumbars throughout each of these lifts. There will be a lot less stress on the low back ligaments this way, but there will be more stress on the spinal erector muscles. This is one reason why I always train the low back in auxillary exercises AND because it is part of the almighty posterior chain. If you round your back while lifting heavy or relatively heavy weights in these lifts, you may wind up sidelined for 3 or more weeks, trust me, I’ve done it and had to learn the hard way. Get the low back strong, arch your back and get EXPLOSIVE!
Listen up, if you did not hear, 12 Iowa University football players were hospitalized with a condition known as rhabdomyolysis. This condition is caused by excessive exercise in which myoglobin is released from the muscle into the bloodstream. It is a condition which is harmful to the kidneys. The reason I am writing this is because you would figure the strength and conditioning coaches at a major university would know better. The players reported doing 100 reps of certain exercises, something that would have no application to football anyway you twist it. The point is, anyone can make athletes tired. Too often this is confused with a good workout. I get results for my athletes, adaptation to be more accurate. If I told you to do jumping jacks for an hour, you would be dead tired. Do you think that is a good workout? Do you get my point? A good strength coach knows the difference. The coaches at Iowa are ignorant in their training applications, make sure you aren’t ignorant in choosing a competent strength coach:)
My intern is getting ready to join the national guard and he will have to pass his physical training test to continue on. He was telling me that one of his tests is 2 miles or so in 13 minutes. I will be designing a program for him and when that program succeeds, I will have it available for all other military and law enforcement personnel. Anyway, he was saying that he is trying to work on his running form in hopes that this will improve his time. Wrong! Form is one of the last things that I will look at. Firs and foremost he has to get stronger in the posterior chain as I have said a thousand times, lol. He also said that his foot is striking the ground with too much force (refer back to last week when I spoke of force and running). To fix this, I told him to do what I have my elementary grade students do, run with your shoes off. It is instantly self-correcting. Your body learns how to contact the ground. There have actually been studies on this. This also works for landing when performing a vertical jump. Sounds simple and it is, but it is golden if applied on the right person. Give it a try.