Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Kettlebells.... I get it

Last week Superwoman, Neghar Fonooni, wrote a great article called "What is RKC?" If you're not familiar with RKC (or Neghar, she's friggin' rad!) go read her article, but in a broad view it's a tribe centered around fitness through functional movement and kettlebells. They use the kettlebell as their primary tool even though they are much more than that. I personally haven't gone through the RKC program so I can't say anything good or bad, but the people I've met who are RKC certified have a great knowledge of movement and the body and get great results with their clients. Nuff said.

(Sidenote: I know most RKC's use way more tools than just the kettlebell)

However, I worry about those who use just one tool, like the kettlebell, for their programs. I worry because hammers aren't used for chopping down a tree and a chainsaw isn't very good to smack in some nails. Some people do get carried away with kettlebells and at that point is when I like to make fun of them. This time I started thinking why this one group loves the kettlebell so much and it became very obvious.

For the general population (think 'I want to lose 10 pounds and feel better') there really isn't a better tool. When combined with good ole body weight movement you really can do everything you need in a program. I get it kettlebell crowd. For your demographic the kettlebell dominates.

Lets look at basic programming and how the kettlebell is so effective.

Warming up:
Usually consisting of dynamic stretches and body weight movements, you can add the lighter kettlebells into the mix with these to work on mobility and stability issues as well as muscle activation. Below is a great warm up exercise.

Power Work:
Since power is lost at a higher rate than strength as you get older, it's crucial to find safe modes of maintain and improving power. Since learning an Olympic lift when your 45 doesn't sound too appealing, I can't think of anything better than the kettlebell swing. When performed correctly it improves hip power tremendously without adding impact that jumping or other typical modes of increasing power would. Two huge factors to staying healthy and feeling good.

Strength Work:
Being strong feels good, period. Kettlebells can be used effectively with almost every movement. I typically don't overhead press most general population clients and they aren't very convenient with pushing movements like bench press. Good thing someone discovered how to do push ups. Other than that you can row, use them for squats, single leg exercises, and dead lift variations. Combine this with some good body weight movements and you can have a great strength program with progressions.

Core Work:
My favorite core exercise is the Turkish Get up. Nothing will get your core stronger than owning that exercise. It's best tool? Hands down the kettlebell. Also, most of your core strength will come through doing well designed strength exercises. Below is Gray Cook demonstrating the get up.

Conditioning/Metabolic Work:
Swings can work here again as well as combining it with body weight exercises can really put together a great circuit that will help with fat loss and conditioning.

If I'm training athletes this would change dramatically as I feel different tools are much more effective for most of these categories. I still use kettlebells with athletes but not to the extent I would with a fat loss client. For the typical fat loss/feel better client, you could just use the kettlebell and see great results.

So RKC/Kettlebell crowd I get it. The kettlebell is not just a crazy obsession but a well designed tool that can effectively give you the most bang for your buck. Well played.... well played...

Other great tools that came in after a kettlebell:
TRX/Suspension System

The Other Side:
Awesome new song from The Head and the Heart who are out of Seattle.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Coaching the Deaf?????

Brian McCormick got me thinking..... again. In his recent post he talked about 10,000 hours with regards to coaching (go read it!!). He mentioned in his post that one summer he had to coach a young basketballer who was deaf, and how he had to adjust his coaching style.

This has my mind going bananas right now. What a great way to coach and to learn how to coach!

Why? Well obviously you will come across very few athletes who are deaf in your lifetime, but lets take the idea to your preparation. Call it programming for S+C coaches or practice plan for sport coaches.

What if you prepared the way you teach like you were coaching a group of deaf athletes?

1. You would probably come up with great progressions that lead the athlete into the desired result. Instead of yelling a command that they either didn't understand or probably weren't even listening to, instead you put them in the right situation where they LEARN what they're supposed to do. I am a huge advocate of coaches talking less and instead they put their athletes in situations (games, drills, etc) that force them to learn the objective. Too much talking (or yelling) only leads to athletes playing like a robot and are unable to make the decisions on their own in the heat of competition.

2. Demonstration will be improved dramatically. You will have to focus on what you want them to do and what you don't. In my opinion, you will have to use the John Wooden technique of "Do this, not this, do this." What a better use of that technique than if you were teaching a group that couldn't hear. They see the right way, see the wrong way, then see the right way again. Deliberate Practice at it's best.

3. It slows your mind and there mind down. You now must take everything in smaller steps. Why is this better? The idea of "Chunking," where you practice smaller parts separate from each other than bring them together as a whole unit, is a fast track to learning new skills. The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle talked about how he saw a trend in numerous "Talent Hotbeds" where they all forced athlete's musicians, artists, to slooooooowww doooowwwwwnnn. If they can't perform a skill at a slow pace how can they perform at a high speed? Preparing to coach to deaf students might be the way to slow a coaches mind down and really evaluate how you are doing things. Something I will definitely try.

My suggestion? Take 30 mins-1 hour a day and go over each area of your program or practice plan. Imagine your coaching to deaf kids and how you might teach it. They can't hear you and you can't talk. My guess is you will see a lot of things that need improvement with your program. I personally want my athlete's moving better even when I'm not there or continuing good training even when they move on. This is just a theory but my hypothesis is that it will do nothing but improve your ability to get your athletes better.

Until next time, I'm off to attack this task. Future posts on if it improved my ability.......

Here's also a fun game to see how your observation skills are.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Youth Pitchers and Injuries

I recently read an article by Dan Peterson on his blog that talked about a recent study that evaluated youth baseball pitchers. This opened my eyes to how much damage we could be doing in the youth leagues, especially the travel teams that play 9-12 months per year. This study came of out the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

This study took place over a 10 (yes 10) year period, with over 481 athletes ages 9-14. That's what you call validity. The boys were asked about number of innings thrown, if curveballs were taught before the age of 13, and if playing catcher had an influence on injury. In summary the numbers showed that kids who pitched over 100 innings in a year were 3.5 times more likely to be injured..... I'll let that sink in.

Also, 5% of the boys had a serious enough injury that forced them to retire or quit. RETIRE BEFORE THE AGE OF 14! Some please get Strasburg to come throw a heater at the parents heads now. There is no way that these kids didn't have symptoms that they told parents or coaches about before it became so bad that a MIDDLE SCHOOLER had to retire from a sport that they liked to play with their friends. I hope others see what's wrong with this situation.

Why does this kid have a smile on his face in this picture?

One stat that was somewhat misleading is that only 2.2% of the boys were pitching at the end of 10 years. If they were 9-14 that means they were either playing in college or pro at the end of the study. Other than that, this study told us a lot about what's going on.

Learning to throw curve balls before the age of 13, however, had no correlation to injury. I would have guessed the opposite, but it just shows that overuse is a much bigger issue.

So enough ranting, What can we do about this?

EVERY Little League, club league, and youth league must monitor innings pitched for each player. Education, education, more education, then action. Good thing is that the biggest organization has already started this. The Little League World Series already says a player must wait a day after 20 innings pitched and 3 days if they pitched 85 innings. This doesn't mean they can't play baseball, but throwing pitches in games is much different than playing catch with friends.

We can't treat youth bodies like adults bodies

Another solution is educating parents on how else they can improve pitching without pitching. Gaining strength and power is pretty dang important. Encourage push ups, pull ups, planks, etc. as well as other rotational sports like lacrosse, tennis, hockey, golf, and frisbee. A body that is pre-pubescent is going through so much change that adding in a different stimulus with a similar concept will improve everything they do. The kid doesn't need to stop being athletic but they must stop throwing over 100 innings per year.

Now help me get the word down to the parents and coaches of the leagues that aren't monitored as closely or we will continue to have kids over worked and injured before they reach high school.

The Other Side:
I've mentioned before that 3 great kids that have worked with me and attend the school I work for have made some moves in the music industry. They're called Dirty Gold and they just released their first EP called Roar. It's available on iTunes and is absolutely fantastic. Here's an acoustic version of there first single "California Sunrise."

In the Open: Dirty Gold - California Sunrise from In the Open on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Observations of a Legend

Last weekend I was visiting family in the bay area, and whenever I go on a trip I always look for a facility or coach to meet with and learn from. Through Facebook someone suggested to look up Dan John as he recently relocated back to San Francisco area. Now if you don't know who Dan John is, immediately drop everything your doing (unless it's carrying a baby or something fragile) and go buy, then read, his book Never Let Go. Dan has been a athlete, coach, teacher, fitness professional since the late 1960's. His philosophy of training was far ahead of his time when bodybuilding and nautilus were trendy. He based workouts on movements and getting athletes stronger because he knew that was the right way to do it.

I emailed him hoping to maybe to come to where he trains ask a couple questions and maybe see him coach a little. Nope. Instead he invited me to train with him and a group of about 10 the next morning. There was no way I was going to pass it up and fortunately my mom, who had the rental car, is the best mom in the world and read a book at a coffee shop while I worked out on her vacation. Thanks Mom!

One of the first things I noticed is Dan has the energy of a 12 year old kid still. Before we worked out he literally was rolling on the ground talking about how fun it is to roll around. You had me at hello... For the next hour and a half we did series of movements, based around movement quality. The great part about this group led by Dan was that ideas, cues, and experiences were bounced off each other making for great learning experience. Also some corny jokes and funny stories kept it the mood fun and engaging. My favorite joke from Dan while performing an overhead press.... "What did the kettlebell say to the other kettlebell? I'm imPRESSED." Corny, but it's all in the delivery.

I could get into some cues or new exercises I learned but I don't think that's where the value was in this experience. The group itself is what I took most out it. It was your staff meeting, mastermind group, or whatever else you want to name it. They were the essence of coaching and learning. Dan was the tribe leader but everyone else chipped in making suggestions, corrections, or a bad one line joke that made everyone smile.

My suggestion is to find 2-3 friends, coaches, or other athletes you like being around and train once a week. Try new things, talk about what you see and what they see. It gives more insight into coaching, teaching, and learning. That was deep practice at it's best!

Thanks Dan and others in that group for letting me be apart of it for one day!

The Other Side:
Recently I found a new hip hop artist/musician I loved named Childish Gambino. Then I found out it was the actor/comedian/writer/everything else Donald Glover from the show Community. He is pretty much my new idol..... check out his website and music.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Vertical Jump and How Sterotypes Can Affect Them

This week I read two very interesting articles relating to white people and their arch nemesis…. Jumping. First I read Brian McCormick’s newsletter, where he talked about the idea of Choking with stereotypes. In summary he talked about how females and African Americans perform better on tests when alone or with or females or African Americans compared to when they take a test with white people in the room. He then went on to talk about how the typical “white men can’t jump” stereotype is more environmental than it is genetic.

To play off of this idea I was reading the book What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell, which is a compilation of his New Yorker pieces, where one of the chapters talked about choking. In the piece entitled “The Art of Failure,” it talked about similar studies Brian mentioned as well as a study on white people and (dun duh dun…) jumping.

At Tufts University, Julio Garcia gathered a group of athletic white students and had them perform a vertical leap test and a 20 second push up test. Twice each group performed the tests. When administered by a white instructor the students improved on the second test as expected. The next group though had a black instructor administering the tests. The vertical leaps didn’t improve. He did it one more time with a black instructor who was taller and bigger than all of the athletes. Their verticals actually went down. The push ups? They had no difference between any of the three groups.

So what does this mean? That sometimes the stereotypes that the media and environment brainwash us with might be false. Maybe we have more control over our athletic and mental capabilities than we think.

If you had a chance to watch the NCAA dunk contest, a 5’10” white kid named Jacob Tucker from a Division III school stole the show with an impressive vertical leap and even more impressive dunking repertoire. I guess he didn’t get a chance to see the Woody and Wesley classic.

Personally I’ve always wanted to dunk. When I was young I had an adjustable hoop that I constantly tried to dunk on. I jumped and jumped and jumped. Now I have over a 32” vertical (no step) and can throw it down (almost 2 hands now). A 32+” vert is above average in the NBA combine (Blake Griffin’s was 32” no step at the NBA combine), but my height is slightly lower (by slightly I mean miniature at 5’9”). If you look at my parents, my mom pushes 5’2” and my dad pushes 5’8” and neither can jump over a tuna fish can. If I received their jumping genetics I might hit the backboard.

Fortunately I didn’t really care much and my town was whiter than a glass of milk. I really didn’t know the stereotypes until middle/high school. Even then I didn’t really care and just kept lifting and playing. What resulted was every summer trying to dunk on the next height up from age 8-14. Now I can throw it down (video to come this week) at 5’9”.

One more comment on the vertical leap. Remember; as you get taller your wingspan also grow in proportion. Kevin Durant has a sub 30” vertical but his wingspan is 7’+ giving the illusion that he’s a high riser when in actuality his reach is bonkers. A person under 6’0” also has to battle shorter arms, as well as smaller hands most likely.

The Other Side:

The new Lupe Fiasco album is off the hook. Here's my favorite song so far.