IT'S NOT BLACK AND WHITE ANYMORE
I had a conversation with one of my athletes recently, and the topic was regarding the modification of exercise movements. More specifically, she asked if she was cheating herself when we modified exercise movements for her. It is my opinion that there are three distinct circumstances we must consider when answering this particular question.
The first concerns athletes that are learning how to perform specific movements. Most coaches realize that teaching an exercise movement isn't as easy as just showing the athlete what to do, but rather, there is a process of guiding the athlete through the fundamentals of the movement and then cueing the athlete to advance to the movement standard or more advanced progressions. Additionally, depending on the degree of coordination, flexibility, mobility, and stability required for the exercise, it may be necessary that the athlete begin working or continue working on areas of weakness to ensure they can adequately complete the activity in a safe, yet fruitful manner. We are often able to attack those areas of weakness with the modified movement itself, which further validates the need for the modified movement.
The second circumstance pertains to athletes with functional mobility, adequate strength, and learned movement patterns. There are a couple of reasons that an athlete in this category would regress a movement when they, under normal circumstances, can attain the standards of the movement. First off, athletes may modify movements because it's easier to do so. It requires less effort than the full movement, and the athlete can complete more repetitions in a shorter amount of time. Another reason an athlete will modify an exercise movement may be the refusal to perform it to standard because they are doing it "the way they've always have done it." These are the athletes who refuse to take constructive criticism of their exercise technique to make their movements more effective, often due to ego and pride.
The final condition we will consider concerns the athletes who know how to perform the movement but are lacking functional mobility or are hindered by injury. This is the category my athlete currently finds herself in, and it takes the form of chronic pain from a preceding injury. We've had to regress her movement for two reasons that include: 1) pain management and 2) development of more structurally stable movement positions. This approach does limit the overall growth of her as an athlete due to regressed movement modifications. However, we can ensure that she is still training and strengthening the fundamental components of the exercises through the regressions without causing further pain or discomfort.
In conclusion, there truly is no black and white answer to our question. I would argue that if an athlete is fully capable of completing an exercise movement to standard, that they should. But if there is a specific weakness that needs to be addressed, it is still acceptable to perform the regressed version of the movement until that weakness as been eliminated.
A Warmup is A Warmup
We’ve heard this line over and over again, but do we understand the intent behind it. Do we listen to it, do a couple “warmup” reps, and then go right into whatever it is that we are doing for that day. I know I’ve been guilty of it and I’m sure you have to. Nobody is perfect (including those of you who think you are).
So, if we do warmup correctly for the day, what does it look like? Is it supposed to take a long time? Is it supposed to include stretching? The questions are endless, but let’s try to keep simple.
And before you raise your fists to beat me, hear me out!
1. Increase overall body temperature and prepare joints for movement. When we work out, we know that our heart rate will be elevated, sweat will be pouring out, and we will feel much more confident in our movement. Instead of jumping right in, though, we need to gradually raise our core temperature to that point and get our joints ready for all the movements we are going to perform for that day.
The easiest way to raise your core temperature is to go for about a 5-minute walk, light jog, bike ride, row, or low-intensity work with a jump rope. These can be done by themselves or be combined, as long as they don’t become the actual workout. Keep the intensity low.
Once that’s completed, the athlete should then complete no more than 5 minutes worth of foam rolling and dynamic joint warmup to continue the process of preparing the body for movement. For foam rolling, I recommend they hit the following body areas for no more than 30 sec. at a time
(These should be the primary areas of focus, but additional areas (such as the quads, hamstrings, lower back, etc.) can be added as necessary.)
In regards to a dynamic joint warmup, we are working to increase our joint ROM and lubricate the joints before the day’s training. I recommend 10-20 reps each direction of the following movements:
Having completed the previous work to this point, we are now ready for the next step of our warmup process.
2. Increase Proprioceptive and Kinesthetic Awareness. Being aware of our body positioning doesn’t just mean knowing where our arm or leg is at any given moment but rather knowing our exact posture and what our joints are doing. In weightlifting, we are always seeking the most structurally sound position for any part of the lift. That begins by knowing if your knee is “stacked” over your ankle, your hips are “stacked” over your knee, and so on and so forth.
For this, my athletes perform a version of two banded exercises. One for the lower body and one for the upper body. The beautiful thing about this type of work is, not only are athletes required to be aware of their positioning during these movements, but they are also continuing the process of preparing the body for the day’s training.
For the lower body, the single best tool in our inventory is our utilization of a mini-band around the knees or ankles for the following movements:
For the upper body, there are two primary tools I use with my athletes to complete this section of the warmup. First, is the Crossover Symmetry System. This standalone system provides users with not only the tools they will use but also an activation system that fulfills our goal for improving our body awareness.
For those who don’t own or have access to the Crossover Symmetry System, the following banded warmup will do just as well to help continue our preparation for movement.
After completion of everything thus far, you will be at the end of our actual warmup and be ready to begin our next stage in the process.
3. Practice the movement before performing it. When training any movement, you should never “jump right in” to your working sets and weights. I will admit this was a mistake I made when I was at the beginning of my athletic and coaching career, and I paid for it by often missing lifts and being injured often. So, DO YOUR WARMUP SETS FOR EACH LIFT TO BE TRAINED ON ANY GIVEN DAY. It doesn’t matter if your doing squats, Olympic lifts, bench press, dumbbell work, etc. It doesn’t have to take very long, but practice a movement with lighter weight before training movement. I cannot stress this enough. Not only will you become more technically sound in the lift you’re doing, but you will be safer also.
I hope this outline helps you all in your quest to become better athletes and please reply if you have any questions or comments
What Are We About?
There are seemingly hundreds of programs or training methods that an athlete can use to “help” themselves get stronger, faster, and more fit. Some are extremely helpful and some, not so much. And it can take a long time to sift through all of these training methodologies to find the best one that works for you.
So, the question then begs: How do you figure it out?
There are three fundamental principles of a successful program. These points include:
Roan Cliff Weightlifting seeks to accomplish all three principles through the utilization of Olympic Weightlifting. Athletes at all levels can benefit from the Olympic lifts, weightlifting, as it develops the prerequisite strength, power, and speed for all sports. Additionally, if the athlete isn’t competing in a particular sport, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be an appropriate method for their training.
Now, you might be wondering why we only use the term, "athlete," to reference to the person participating in the training and not some other term, like fitness/workout practitioner. We believe that everyone who works out and trains should consider themselves to be an athlete for two reasons. First, it provides accountability. When training, you must ensure that a) you are consistently keeping to your training schedule and b) you are keeping to the workout intensities assigned by the coach. And second, when a person considers themselves an athlete, professional or not, they wear that title as a badge of honor. It motivates them to push themselves and remain disciplined in their training.
The method that Roan Cliff Weightlifting utilizes isn’t easy. But it is effective. It requires honest effort and hard work, but it is all in support of you, the athlete.
Josiah Prunty has been a USA Weightlifting Sports Performance Coach since 2014 and has worked with a variety of clients to improve their health and performance. Additionally, Josiah has BS in Health and Wellness from Purdue University Global and is a NASM-CPT, and CES