“Circus Training”

By Jim Bryan
It’s funny how things come and go, only to come and go again. The “functional Training gimmick” has been with us for awhile, even though it has been for the most part debunked over and over. (For a back ground look up the S.A.I.D. Principal.) What it says is this: The body is always trying to get better at exactly what you practice. To get better at your sport, practice your sport.
To get proper “carry over” what you do has to be “EXACT” to your sport, not similar, “EXACT.”  Sooooooo, what in the world does standing on a stability ball and having your “trainer” throw a medicine ball to you  have to do with being able to play base ball, soccer, foot ball, volley ball, etc? It doesn’t.
But some see this in a gym setting and are very impressed with the “ball standing skill.” They don’t realize that the skill is specific to “standing on a ball” only.  And the “trainers” that push this stuff are incompetent at best or just plain charlatans at worst. I’d like to say that trainers that work with high level athletes have the background to be able to figure this out. I’d like to but I can’t. You see, many of these so called trainers are just looking for gimmicks to “set them apart” and make them look cool or more knowledgeable. In reality they are pathetic and put everyone they train in danger. Just because a trainer is certified doesn’t mean they are capable.
I have been training in a big commercial gym now for about 2 years. A few of the trainers there are good, solid in their knowledge, and safe. Others are horrible. It’s like this in most gyms and even more so in the “Sports Training Facilities.” Strength Training is general. Sports Training is specific.
Standing on a stability ball while lifting weights, or catching medicine balls or any other trick, is not training for your sport. It is training for a job in the circus. And if you are a high level athlete, why expose yourself to this kind of silliness? You could end up with a career ending injury.  It does kinda look cool doesn’t it?  
…Roll eyes.
TAKU’s NOTE: Thanks to my friend and fellow strngth coach Jim Bryan for this weeks excellent article. Stay tuned for more articles based on Truth not Trends.

Functional Training

By Jesse Cannone CFT, CPRS, CSPN

In the past few years I’ve seen a huge transition in the fitness industry. More and more people are using functional training and some argue it’s the only way to train. The purpose of this article is to give people an understanding of what functional training is and what it does and does not do.

First, let’s look at what functional actually means:

Functional – Func.tion.al

1. capable of operating or functioning

2. capable of serving the purpose for whit it was intended

(Webster’s Encyclopedia 2nd Edition, 1996)

Based on that definition, you can draw many conclusions as to what is functional. Depending upon who you ask, you will most likely get a diverse variety of responses as to what is functional. All human movement is a combination of various functions. Human movement cannot take place without muscular function. According to the functional training “experts”, functional training uses bands, balls, free-weights, and plyometric exercises in an attempt to condition the body in an unstable environment. Many of the experts feel that performing exercises that mimic activities or specific skills is the most effective way to train, regardless of ones goal.

What is the safest, most efficient and effective way to optimize human performance?

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Factors Affecting Human Performance

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In order to maximize human performance, you must have a good understanding of what affects performance. The factors that play the greatest role in performance are:

* Power (strength and speed)

* Agility (flexibility/mobility/stability)

* Cardiovascular and respiratory conditioning

* Sport Skill (neuromuscular coordination and efficiency

* Genetic Potential

Let’s take a look at each factor and determine which training methods are going to deliver optimal results. By optimal results, I mean the greatest amount of improvement, with the least amount of risk and in the shortest amount of time.

Power

Power = Force x Distance / Time

Power can be increased three ways:

1. Increase Force (Strength)

2. Increase Speed

3. Increase Distance (flexibility / range of motion)

1. Increase Force (Strength)

What is the most effective method of increasing strength and/or muscle tissue? In my opinion, High Intensity Strength Training is the most productive, safe and time efficient approach available. I am not stating that one set of each exercise is the best choice. My definition of High Intensity Training is: training to momentary muscular failure, with brief and infrequent workouts in which all variables are prescribed based on the individuals: goals, age, current fitness level, fiber types, personal preference and past experience.

The purpose of strength training is to increase strength and lean body mass, NOT for training a specific skill or movement – that’s called practice! People strength train for many reasons and there are many methods that work. For years, many trainers and coaches have had their clients and athletes perform Olympic lifts because they feel it will transfer over into the performance of their skill.

Numerous studies have shown that the neurological transfer of skills is not optimal unless the skill is practiced EXACTLY as it is performed in competition. Therefore, performing power cleans because you play football is NOT optimal. Performing power-cleans will only get you better at performing power-cleans! Focus on increasing strength and lean body mass and practice your skill exactly as it is performed during competition.

2. Increase Speed

Increasing the speed at which a skill is performed is another great way to improve power. Speed is primarily predetermined by the individual’s genetic make up. However, that does not mean that you cannot improve speed by practicing the skill EXACTLY as it is performed in competition. A great deal of focus should be placed on perfecting the technique. By practicing the skill in this manner, you will improve neuromuscular efficiency, which will result in faster and more accurate performance.

3. Increase Distance (flexibility / range of motion)

Increasing flexibility is another way to improve power. By increasing flexibility, you increase the distance that force is applied which results in an increase in power.

The safest and most effective method to increase flexibility is by performing full range of motion exercises and incorporating a sound stretching routine.

Agility

Improving ones agility is another way of optimizing performance. Agility drills should be SPECIFIC to the activity or event. For example, having someone do plyometric jumps off of boxes is NOT specific to someone who plays basketball! Yes, a basketball player jumps, but not off of boxes. Having the athlete practice jumping from the floor would be much more specific to their sport. Always ask yourself, “What is the goal?” “Is what I’m doing going to give me the outcome I desire?” “Is it optimal?”

Cardiovascular and Respiratory Conditioning

Increasing cardio/respiratory output and endurance is another factor that has a major impact on performance. This topic is one of such importance that it is beyond the scope of this article. In general, if you increase the individual’s cardiovascular and respiratory output and endurance, there will be a corresponding increase in performance.

Cardiovascular training should also be specifically geared towards improving the individuals conditioning in the metabolic pathway in which they compete or perform. For example, someone who plays tennis should primarily train at a slow to moderate pace and incorporate bursts of high intensity effort. Interval training would be a good choice for this individual. Keep the training specific to the individual.

Sport Skill

This is an area in which there is a lot of confusion among many athletes, coaches and trainers. Skill acquisition and strength levels are two completely different things. Therefore, they should be trained separately and with different methods. In order to optimize the performance of a specific skill or movement, it needs to be practiced EXACTLY as it is performed in competition. It has been shown that each activity or movement has its own neuromuscular pathway and that just because a movement is similar does NOT mean there will be a positive transfer or carryover of skill.

In order to maximize performance, the individual should attempt to perfect their movement or skill with endless hours of practice. The goal of practice should be to improve the technique, accuracy and increase the speed at which the skill can be performed. This topic was addressed earlier in the section titles “Increase Force.”

Genetic Potential

This is the factor that I have found to have the greatest impact on human performance. Genetic potential is something many people overlook. Regardless of what methods of training I use, I will never be a world-class marathoner. I can train twice a week or I can train 5 hours a day, it sill won’t change the fact that my body wasn’t designed to excel at endurance activities. I hear of too many coaches and trainers having people follow dangerous training programs in an attempt to drastically improve their performance. This is not to say that you cannot improve performance. When training yourself or a competitive athlete, always set realistic goals. As stated earlier, the best thing to do is utilize the most effective methods available and work hard!

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Differences Between Functional Training & Machine Based Training

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Most, if not all of the so-called functional exercises fail to supply constant and variable resistance. Most quality machines supply constant tension and variable resistance based on the strength curve of the particular muscle and track proper joint function.

For example, compare dumbbell bicep curls on a Swiss ball to a bicep curl on a quality machine (such as Hammer Strength.) While performing the dumbbell curl, there is no tension on the biceps in the bottom or top positions. The resistance is greatest when the dumbbell is perpendicular to the floor. The amount of stimulus is also decreased due to the fact that the individual must balance his/her self on the ball.

While using a machine, there is constant tension on the biceps and the amount of tension varies during the exercise based on the strength curve of the biceps muscle. Which is going to make the individual stronger? Which is going to stimulate more muscle fibers in the biceps?

In my opinion, machine based training is by far superior if the goal is to increase strength and/or muscle tissue. Keep in mind that more muscle equates to a faster, stronger and better athlete, providing they practice their specific skill(s) or movement(s).

This is not to say that functional exercises serve no purpose. There are benefits to functional exercise; just not as many as some people are lead to believe. Exercise selection and the training methods used should be based on the individual’s goals. Instances where functional training may be effective would be in individuals who need to improve balance, stability and neuromuscular coordination. Below is a chart that shows the differences between Functional Training and Machine Based Training.

 

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Conclusion

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Functional training obviously has some benefit and can be a great addition to a well-designed strength program. However, I personally feel it should never take the place of a structured strength training routine. I recommend using a combination approach, which utilizes machines, free-weights, bodyweight, balls, bands and anything that is going to deliver the desired results.

Always remember that training for strength and/or increases in muscle tissue and training for skill are two completely different things. When designing or assessing a training program, the following questions should be asked: What is the goal? Is it time efficient? Is it safe? Is it delivering the desired results? Is it optimal?

References

1. Schmidt, R.A: Motor Learning and Performance -> From Principles to Practice. Human Kinetics Books; Champaign, IL 1991

2. Bryzcki, Matt: A Practical Approach to Strength Training, Masters Press; Indianapolis, IN 1995

3. Magil, R: Motor Learning – Concepts and Application, 4th Edition, C. Brown Publishing, Madison, WI 1993

4. Chek, Paul: What is Functional Exercise? (Article), C.H.E.K Institute

5. Calais-Germaine, Blandine: Anatomy of Movement, Easterland Press, Seattle, WA 1993

6. Tortora, Gerard, J: Principles of Human Anatomy, 5th Edition, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY 1989

7. Stein, Alan: Improving Athletic Power (Article), Hard Training Newsletter

8. Manny, Ken: Skill Development: An Open and Closed Case (Article) www.naturalstrength.com

9. Kielbaso, Jim: Ploys – My Story (Article) www.cyberpump.com

TAKU’s NOTE : About the Author

Article written by certified fitness trainer and best-selling author, Jesse Cannone. For more great fitness articles be sure to visit Jesse’s website http://www.gethealthyandfit.com

© 2006-2009 HybridFitness.tv. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction without permission prohibited.

STRENGTH TRAINING FOR SPORTS, INTEGRATION NOT ISOLATION

First let’s define strength training. For our purposes strength training refers to exercises using ones body weight or outside resistance such as barbells, dumbbells, sand bags, medicine balls, etc, which are designed to increase or enhance one’s natural strength to greater levels then when starting a given program.

As an athlete strength is the foundation from which all your tools are launched. Your goal is for your body to learn to work well as a unit. You want to maximize your strength to weight ratio as well as being explosive and quick when needed. You want strength that is functional and useable in motion. The term “Functional training” has become a buzzword of late. Some say what it means is to train movements not muscles. Well, it is muscles that cause movement to happen, so we cannot remove them from the equation. To train using functional exercises means choosing exercises which place demands on many muscles at once and which challenge your bodies energy systems in a variety of ways. So, how do we get there?

If you want to learn how to get big and strong you look at what the biggest and strongest guys do. This seems like a logical approach to take, but it can be a mistake. When I first started training I did just this. Like thousands of neophytes before me I sought to gain the secret knowledge of the massive men I saw in the “BodyBuilding” magazines. I surmised that these men were taking being big and strong to the outer limits so they must have a clue as how best to approach getting there. I also thought that they would naturally (no pun intended) choose what ever was the most efficient and effective way to achieve their chosen goal.

Unfortunately I was wrong. I came to find that there was no logic at all to the approach of these heavily muscled giants. They were for the most part just blindly following the trends that slowly flowed through their little world hoping as much as the rest of us to find the holy grail of the perfect strength and size routine. They did however have some advantages over most of us, these being genetics and drugs. I don’t want to spend too much time on this particular subject for this is not an anti-bodybuilding article. In truth I have nothing against bodybuilding at all. I just want to point out the folly of blindly searching for help based on a poorly placed assumption that bigger guys have a secret that others do not. It turns out that if what you want is truly effective and efficient training for improved athletic performance in sports, your best bet is probably to look at what the pro bodybuilders do and start doing the opposite.

Most Pro Body Builders use what I call the Frankenstein training method. They treat their bodies as if they were made up of a bunch of separate pieces that they are trying to combine into one glorious pile of muscle. They strive to isolate each section and blast it into submission with endless sets of exercises concocted to achieve maximum muscle in that one area. With this in mind they commonly use “Split” training routines so they can really focus on each area to the exclusion of others. Splitting their body into pieces also allows them to work out more often, chest on one-day shoulders on another, and then back, biceps, etc. Unfortunately this overlooks one important issue. Our bodies are not made up of many different compartments each with its own fuel, maintenance, and recovery needs.  Nor were our muscles designed to function in isolation. Now, don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with using a leg extension machine or doing a set of barbell curls, the mistake that some make is basing their routines around these movements or just doing too much superfluous training.  Doing multiple sets of Biceps or Triceps exercise may help pump up your arms, but it will also add unneeded training volume to your overall routine not to mention extra fatigue on some of your smallest and most used muscles.

When first assessing your body, pay attention to your strength and flexibility symmetry. It is normal to have a dominant or “strong” side but any major imbalances should be corrected sooner rather then later. If you are not a beginner and a basic strength foundation has already been established, you must still determine if any glaring strength or flexibility asymmetries exist and strive to correct them. This is where isolated, single joint movements may be beneficial to your development. Beyond these early training stages, unless you are correcting a very specific imbalance or rehabbing an injury you should not be wasting much of your valuable training time working muscles in isolation.

Don’t be like Doctor Frankenstein

For ideas about how to create well thought out, efficient training plans for any sport or fitness goal be sure to check out our other articles and pod-casts. If you feel you need help or just don’t seem to be getting things dialed in the way you would like, contact us here at info@hybridfitness.tv I am sure we can help.

PAU for NOW

TAKU

Defending Bilateral Movements

By: Keats Sniderman CSCS, LMT, NMT

Introduction

Take a venture through the popular training magazines and journals these days and you’ll read about the many virtues of single-leg exercises. Movements like single-leg squats and deadlifts, step-ups, and many varieties of lunges are becoming the mainstream form of training in both private training facilities as well as commercial gyms. Even more popular is to perform these movements on “unstable surfaces” such as squishy disks, upside down ½ Swiss-balls (Bosu Balls), and wobble (balance) boards for example. In fact, these single-limb exercises have become so popular, that many strength coaches, physical therapists, and personal trainers are starting to abandon traditional bilateral movements such as squats and deadlifts. These traditional movements are even being touted as “nonfunctional” and even dangerous by some. I think we need a little reality check here. Therefore, this article will discuss and highlight many of the claims for and against single-leg and bilateral movements respectively.

The Current Arguments/ Some Rational Responses

Listed below are some of the most common arguments given on why people (especially athletes) should focus mostly on single-leg exercises. Following the arguments are some rational responses:

1) Since 60% (approximately) of the walking cycle is spent on one leg (aka “Stance Phase”), most of our lower-body strength exercises should be performed on one leg.

Response: While it’s true that a large percentage of the gait cycle is spent on one leg during the stance phase, this does not prove single leg exercises’ superiority over bilateral movements. This 60% is also based on research during walking. In what sporting situations is walking the goal? The same research used in the current argument also shows that this stance phase decreases to 40% during running. During sprinting, the stance phase gets even shorter. The bottom line: in most sporting situations in which running speed is important, your goal is to spend less and less time on one leg, and more time in the air, also known as a “float” or “flight” phase. In that case, I’m going to argue that skydiving is the most sport-specific activity of all!

Additionally, what many people who use this argument fail to realize is that during the gait cycle you are using stored elastic energy which helps to generate motion and maintain balance (keeping your Center of Gravity within the Base of Support). This is similar to the gyroscopic effect that keeps a bicycle in motion. Also, the momentum generated during gait and the use of stored elastic energy causes the hip muscles to activate in a much different manner than when performing single leg strength exercises.

From the scientific field of human motor control, we know that there are two primary types of movements: ballistic and co-contraction. With ballistic movements, there is an initial burst of muscular activity followed by period of relaxation during which limb motion continues as a result of limb momentum and stored elastic energy. In contrast, co-contraction occurs when there is a simultaneous contraction of both the “agonistic” and “antagonistic” muscles. Co-contraction activities (like many strength exercises) often use less elastic energy and are thus very different from a body in motion. This is why it’s actually more fatiguing on the muscles of your legs, pelvic girdle, and spine to walk slowly than at a slightly faster, more natural pace. This brings to mind the many ventures of window shopping I used to engage in with my mom and sister as a youth; I would ALWAYS feel so tired and drained very quickly when having to stroll around the mall at this slower pace!

To recap, many of the popular single leg (including bilateral movements!) exercises today are vastly different in the motor control characteristics when compared to the gait cycle (whether walking, running or sprinting) and other sports specific actions. This does not mean that single leg exercises are not valuable, it just serves as a reminder that nothing is as specific as performing the exact sporting task itself.

*Note- if you want a good reference on-line for the human gait cycle check out:

http://www.drpribut.com/sports/spgait.html

2) Single leg exercises are better than bilateral movements for training balance and are thus more “sports-specific.”

Response: It’s hard to deny the increased demand on balance during single leg exercises. However, coming to the conclusion that these exercises will improve balance in sporting situations better than bilateral movements is far fetched. One thing that seems to be forgotten is that balance is very specific to the situation in which it is needed. What this means is that balance in one situation doesn’t automatically transfer to all other situations. Science has shown us that there is no such thing as general balance.” If there was such a thing, you would expect a person with great balance on skis to have great balance on a surf board, a skateboard, and a tight tope. Someone who appears to have good all around balance probably just has good body coordination, reactive ability and a highly conditioned nervous system which includes a keen ability to use his/her righting reflexes.” These are the same reflexes that allow a cat to almost always land on its feet at the end of a fall. As a side note, athletes would probably get more out of practicing some of the martial arts (especially Judo, Aikido and others), some basic gymnastics tumbling moves, and some change of direction sprint and agility work.

With regards to specificity, the actual goal of “sport-specific” resistance training should be to increase force absorption (eccentric and isometric strength) and force generation (concentric strength) in similar ranges of motion and positions that are encountered in sport. Exercises like Front Squats and Snatch Grip Deadlifts fit the bill nicely here as they strengthen the hip and thigh musculature over a full range of motion. These movements also allow enough load to be used to stimulate muscle strength and hypertrophy by effectively activating the endocrine (hormonal) system.

But then, it’s up to specific practice of one’s sport or activity to improve the actual “skill” needed. People need to realize that getting stronger through resistance training only enhances your “potential” to become a better athlete; you still have to perform your sport however!

3) Single leg exercises are safer on the spine than bilateral movements due to lesser loads

.

Response: While single leg exercises almost always involve less overall load to the spine, they can be significantly more stressful to the hips, knees and ankles. With exercises like lunges and single-leg squats (both excellent exercises) for example, very large loads can be transmitted to the hip, knee and ankle of the working leg. Many of the people performing these exercises might not be qualified to do them and most likely need a period of training with bilateral movements such as conventional squats and deadlifts to strengthen their legs and trunk in a safer and more progressive way. Some people are far too weak to even entertain doing some of the lunge, step-up and single-leg squat (& deadlift) variations you see being performed out there; yet these are exactly the exercises being prescribed by many personal trainers and even some rehab specialists specializing in so-called “functional training.”

I know that plain old bilateral squats (even with bodyweight to begin with) and deadlift variations are not that exciting to some, but it just might be what most people need for quite some long time. Remember, just because something appears challenging or is difficult to perform (like a single leg squat), doesn’t mean it’s safe or effective for everyone. Conversely, just because an exercise looks boring or easy (like a squat variation for example) doesn’t mean it’s not effective. Trainers and coaches need to design personalized exercise programs based on what their clients/athletes actually need, not on what they FEEL like giving them at the moment or what’s cool or in vogue in the latest fitness magazines.

4) Single leg exercises are superior to bilateral exercises for recruiting key stabilizing muscles like the Vastus Medialis (VMO), Gluteus Medius, and other hip stabilizers (i.e. hip rotators).

Response: There is no doubt that single leg exercises recruit several of the hip, knee, and ankle stabilizing muscles. All one has to do is stand on one leg and feel all the muscles that recruit in your entire body. This massive recruitment of muscles you feel is a good thing as your body does not want to fall! However, just because higher levels of muscle recruitment may occur during some single leg exercises does not mean they are more effective than bilateral movements. Since loading potential is much higher with bilateral movements, there is also more potential for hypertrophy and strength than with single leg movements. Bilateral movements allow for better dissipation of force/stress through the body which helps to avoid over-stressing any one area. In contrast, the more you isolate and add load to a given limb, the more joint stress that occurs; so this increased level of recruitment comes with a price since now all the stress is focused one limb’s joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This may overload a vulnerable area.

I have determined on myself and countless others, that too much single leg work can absolutely toast the working leg’s hip abductor muscles (glute med, minimis, TFL) and leave them sore and riddled with trigger points and ischemia (lack of blood). With regards to ischemia, tissues that are ischemic are generally tender to the touch and the hip abductors are notorious for being ischemic. Even the contralateral lower back (primarily the quadratus lumborum muscle) can get strained and over-worked from excessive single-leg work. This occurs when the working leg’s hip-abductors fatigue causing the opposite side’s low-back muscle to kick in to keep the pelvis from dropping.

This article is starting to sound a little negative regarding single leg movements but please don’t get me wrong here, I STILL USE them regularly. For instance, if someone is performing a good deal of bilateral strength movements for their hips and thighs, I might add anywhere from 1-3 sets (usually 2) of Bulgarian split squats or single leg deadlifts for example, after the bilateral movements depending on the phase and goal of training. It all depends on what the goal is! And if I need to drop some exercises from the training plan on any given day, it will probably be the single leg exercises as they just aren’t the priority. Besides, many athletes are doing what amounts to a lot of single-leg training in their respective sports via running and change of direction movements.

The Reality of The Situation

In reality, I believe that many trainers and coaches are really just bored and thus get sucked into giving their athletes/clients exercises which are difficult and maybe popular (at the moment) without thoroughly thinking through the exercises and qualifying them for their respective clients. I’ve also been guilty of this in the past, but always find myself returning to the many variations of squatting and deadlifting because when taught properly, they flat out work and give you the most bang-for-your-buck with regards to training efficiency. It also apparent that many trainers and coaches don’t know how to teach bilateral movements properly and thus choose not to use them. Too bad. The following list shows the many varieties of bilateral movement that are available to the fitness enthusiast, strength and conditioning professional or rehabilitation specialist:

Explosive Variations:

Snatch (full lift)

Clean (full lift)

Power Snatch

Power Clean

Power Jerk

Push-Press

Squat Variations:

Back Squat

Front Squat

Overhead Squat

Zercher Squat

DB Squat

Low-cable Squat

Deadlift Variations:

Deadlift

Snatch Grip Deadlift

Sumo Deadlift

Deadlift off Platform

Suitcase Deadlift

RDL’s

Hybrid Variations (neither a Squat nor a Deadlift)

Hack Squat (aka ‘Behind the Back” Deadlift)

Trap Bar Deadlift (fairly Quad-dominant)

DB/KB Squat (similar to Trap Bar Deadlift)

Cable Deadlift

Keep in mind that all these movements can be performed with a variety of mediums (i.e. barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, odd implements and many more). The range of motion can also be limited or extended in any of these bilateral movements depending on the desired goal. The speed of movement is also easy to modify in these movements and can even be augmented by using accommodating resistance techniques (chains, bands, weight releasers, etc.). Those coaches and trainees that are familiar with accommodating resistance techniques know that they are much more feasible with bilateral movements than with single leg movements. There is a time and a place for occasional use of these techniques with single-leg movements however.

It should be mentioned at this point that single leg exercises are still a very valuable addition to any conditioning program and should be part of the toolbox of most coaches, trainers, and rehabilitation specialists. However, they should be thought of more as “assistance” exercises or side-dishes, rather the “main entrée” if you know what I mean. Maximal strength techniques are not that safe when you’re on one leg! However, there may be cases (as there always are) where someone would be better off doing some barbell or dumbbell lunges or step-ups for example, rather than loading a sore or tired back with heavy squats. It just really depends on the situation and the individual. The following list includes several variations of single leg exercises that are used quite frequently:

Lunge Variations

Stationary Lunge (i.e. Split-Squat, Static lunge)

Dynamic Lunge (single step and then return; either forward or backward

Walking Lunge

Multi-Directional Lunge

Cross-Over Lunge

Bulgarian Split-Squat (rear foot elevated on box, bench, or in strap of TRX, etc.)

Single Leg Squat Variations

Single Leg Squat to Bench

Single Leg Squat off Step

Full Single Leg Squat (i.e. Ass-to-grass Pistol)- reserved for the mutants of the world!

Single Leg Deadlift Variations

Single Leg Deadlift (bent-knee, aka Single Leg RDL)

Single Leg Deadlift (nearly straight knee)

Single Leg Good-Morning

Step-Up Variations

Lateral Step-ups (i.e. Petersen Step-ups, VMO Step-ups)

Regular Step-ups (of varying height)

Alternating Step-ups

Cross-Box Step-ups

A Word About Progression

As discussed earlier in this article, one thing that really bothers me is the lack of trainers and coaches qualifying their clients for specific exercises. As an example, I’ve seen countless trainers in gyms making overweight and deconditioned individuals perform exercises like walking lunges, single leg squats on a squishy disk and single leg deadlifts when these people probably couldn’t even perform a hands-free bodyweight squat without trouble. Yes, maybe the bodyweight squat is kind of boring and not as “cool” looking as the wobble board lunge, but if you’re client can’t even perform a bodyweight squat then what the heck are they doing standing on one leg bouncing on a Bosu Ball?

I have a better idea: let’s actually do what’s best for the trainee/client right now. Maybe later, after a good foundation of basic strength is built with exercises like squats and deadlifts, can the thought of single leg movements like lunges be entertained. And when you do start those lunges, how about beginning with a split-squat (aka “stationary lunge) before having people lunge around the gym with knees flailing like a new-born colt!

Another thought would be to first just teach your client to stand on one leg and balance without excessive swaying of the spine or pelvis (i.e. Trendelenberg sign). This will strongly recruit the ipsilateral hip abductors (i.e. Glute medius, minimus, and TFL) without the unnecessary stress of performing a single leg squat, deadlift or even a lunge. Once a proper single leg stance can be performed, a mini single leg squat can be performed as a great test of trunk, pelvic, knee, and even foot and ankle stability. These exercises can be also be used with great success as “activation exercises” prior to sport or resistance training sessions to facilitate hip, knee, and ankle stabilizer function. Watch for excessive trunk movement, pelvic instability, internal rotation and inward buckling of the femur and knee (varus stress), and pronation of the foot and ankle complex. Most people will demonstrate at least some of these compensations.

From here, multi-directional single-leg hops can be safely performed as an introductory force absorption and plyometric drill. To add difficulty, eyes can be closed or a blindfold can be worn. This dramatically increases the demand on the somatosensory (proprioceptive) system!

The Bottom Line

To conclude, I hope this article has been an informative and possible eye-opening foray into the highly disputed world of exercise prescription and the concept of sport-specificity. With a little common sense and some logical thinking, single leg exercises can be safely worked into a resistance training program, but not at the expense of the more productive bilateral movements that should be the cornerstone of any good conditioning program!

TAKU’s Note – About The Author:

Keats Snideman is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and a licensed massage therapist specializing in Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT). He is the owner of Reality-Based Fitness LLC, a performance training and massage center located in Tempe, AZ. He specializes in the enhancement of athletic-style fitness and has a proven track record for getting his clients results having coached and provided treatment to a variety of clients (athletic and non-athletic alike). Some of the clients Keats has worked with include athletes from the NFL, NBA, MLBA, USA Track & Field as well as athletes from both the collegiate and high school levels. For recreation and fun, Keats also competes as a competitive sub-masters sprinter (100 & 200m dashes). He may be reached at ksnideman@gmail.com or through his website at www.realitybasedfitness.com

“Functional”

What’s in a word?

The term functional training has been around for years. When I first started working in the fitness industry “Functional Training” meant working with compound movements like Squats, Presses, and Rows.

In the recent past it has become an industry buzz-word. Some trainers have built their careers around this term while other greedy equipment manufacturers, eager to make a quick buck, have created scores of mediocre products that are somehow supposed to enhance ones ability to train “functionally” more so then another modality.

When I train myself or my clients, I am all about simplicity. I want to get my job done in the most efficient way possible, when it comes to time. Ask anyone who trains with me and they will tell you the training is always challenging but little if any time is ever wasted. If I am working with an athlete whose sport requires lifting weights with specific technique such as a power lifter or an Olympic style weightlifter then you better believe we will focus some time on lifting technique. But if my client just wants to be in better shape, then outside of safety considerations and proper form how or what we lift is not that important.

The tools we use and the exercises we perform with those tools are not functional merely because they exist. To quote my Friend, Tom Kelso, one of the brightest and best strength coaches I have ever had the pleasure of speaking with: “A functional’ exercise is any exercise you do that makes you stronger. Read: any exercise that creates overload on a muscle and is done progressively is functional. Last time I checked, ALL muscle groups were important at some point for proper athletic skill execution and injury prevention.

So don’t get too bogged down by what is functional and what is not. If you are training hard and safe and all of your major muscle groups are being challenged progressively, you are on the right track. Remember to design conditioning drills that match the energy system demands of your sport and you can’t go wrong.

Now get to it!

PAU for NOW

TAKU