Note: Better late than never, right? I’m not sure how completing this review slipped through the cracks, but here it is:
Last December I made a weekend trip out of visiting brothers at the University of Delaware and attending the NSCA Mid-Atlantic Regional Clinic. As chance would have it, I spent the day sitting next to Rick Howard, who was one of the presenters. (He also happens to have coordinated the event, be the NSCA Mid-Atlantic President, the PA-AHPERD president, and the director of athletics for the School District of Philadelphia. Read: He’s kind of a big deal.) Rick and I had chances to chat during the day, and I asked him about the connection between the work of the NSCA and the different bodies in the American Alliance of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance. As it turns out, there isn’t a whole lot going on there, but Rick encouraged me to get involved. He doesn’t know it (yet), but that small conversation between presenters has had a big impact on me.
After the conference, I e-mailed the director of NSCA New York, Dianne Sykes Scope, with a similar question: Does the NY NSCA do anything with the NY-AHPERD? Once again, there isn’t a big connection, but Dianne and I kept in contact; after a successful presentation at the Nassau Zone Conference, we discussed me presenting at the 2011 NSCA New York Annual State Clinic. Fast forward to the 5th of November, and I’m taking an early-morning train to Penn Station, tired, nervous, and ready to present. Let’s get into the presentations, shall we?
Sabrina discussion was titled Advancing the Game: Transforming Traditional Sports Nutrition Through Periodization. She stated that almost everyone [in the field] is familiar with periodizing training programs, but we seldom look at nutrition as a variable that can be manipulated for performance enhancement. Periodizing nutrition allows you to do three things: Enhance your overall health, Improve performance, and Optimize body weight and composition. During the pre-season, we should be focusing on eating that’s matched to our training load, which allows for weight loss (or gain) when necessary. The focus should be on foods that are whole and natural, with at least 6-8 servings of fruits and vegetables, a focus on high fiber foods, and following appropriate macronutrient ranges and fluid intake levels. The pre-season is also a great time to experiment with different foods and sports nutrition products, allowing you to see how your body responds to different types of foods and supplements. When your mind and body are getting ready to perform, you don’t want to throw yourself a curveball, do you?
Once you get to the season, it’s important to practice what you’ve learned in the off season. This includes practicing your competition eating, so your body can become accustomed to exactly what it should look forward to. Just as the pre-season was the time to experiment with your feeding, your diet should be pretty level in season, without much deviation from what works. Again, the focus should be on consuming whole, natural foods that provide the most nutrient-to-calorie ratio; we’re eating for health and performance, which usually goes hand-in-hand.
Sabrina noted that throughout the year, there should be a focus on consuming colorful foods, healthy fats, proteins, and a multivitamin (if/when necessary). It’s also important to document not only what you’re eating, but how you feel when you’re eating it. This will allow you to improve your overall health and performance, support changes in food intake and training, tailor your diet to your training (and not the opposite), and shift your mindset to eating healthy to fuel your body for activity and life.
At the 2010 NSCA New York Annual State Clinic, Ted’s public speaking skills and content blew me away, and he accomplished the same thing this year. Speaking about Biomechanics and Motor Learning, Ted elequoently stated that “Movement, to me, is a language.” Ted posed two interesting questions to the audience members: “What do you love about your field?” Easy question, easy answer. “How do you accomplish that?” …[crickets]… See, it’s much harder for people to answer that, but Ted explained that it’s essential to pass our technical knowledge on to our clients as information they can apply to their own movements and lives. I’ll bet that very few of your clients are interested in exactly how Stuart McGill does research on the lumbar spine and spinal health, but I’ll also bet that almost all of them care if you can apply that information to reduce their risk of injury or let them feel and move better. After a quick refresher/crash-course in motor learning, Ted discussed creating a movement plan, or establishing a system that allows your client to learn how to move, based on their past movement experience, and within the limitations of a new exercise. In this sense, we’re always teachers, increasing a clients movement literacy; sounds like a language to me too, Ted. Once movements are competent and comfortable, then we can discuss increasing intensity, volume, tonnage, etc. Just like it was in second grade, the learning environment is paramount; trainers and coaches must focus on how we’re teaching our clients how to move, and if this enhances their health and their lives.
Peter, who also presented at last years conference, is a professor of clinical exercise physiology at Sacred Heart University. His presentation, Field-based Tools to Assess Stability and Function in the General Public and Elderly, could also be called “Smart Assessing”. Just as Ted did before him, Peter took a great deal of complex information and boiled it down to the nuts and bolts of assessing. Peter was the first to say that these assessments are for everybody, not just the elderly. He noted that there is a difference between “real age” and “physiological age”, and that it’s important not to let the number of years a client has under their belt determine how they’re trained or how we prioritize their training. [Note: I wrote this blog post which demonstrates the same thing]. Peter reference the Prague school of movement dysfunction, and the names Vladimir Janda and Pavel Kolar, which are spoken with reverent tones by those who recognize the names. (My words, not his.) If those names don’t ring a bell, then this picture will:
In our chair-based society, movement dysfunction is perhaps the most easily treatable epidemic, but it requires education and skilled practitioners to reduce the prevalence of the upper and lower cross. While these imbalances are often noted in the elderly, they’re also becoming increasing prevalent in the youth population, where a natural desire to slouch compounds the effects of days spent crammed into desks and computers. Properly assessing these postural imbalances, as well as capacity for a variety of exercises, allows trainers and coaches to better program for and enhance the health of their clients.
Several attendees and I made our way over to Grand Central Terminal to grab a bite to eat and discuss fitness. Our meals included pizza, a deli sandwich, and Indian food, and our conversation was just as varied. We discussed barefoot running, Olympic weight lifting, and body weight training, as well as the knees-past-the-toes myth, and society’s fear of the incredible edible egg. It was a great time to relax and talk shop in a beautiful location. Now, back to the speakers:
Barbara Pyzer, PsyD
Barbara was a repeat presenter from last year, and I love her insights into The Issues of Dealing with Difficult Clients. As a psychologist, Barbara seems to have a broader view of human health than the physical performance minded crowd; she offered a wealth of information on how the mental and spiritual health of clients can be a huge impact on how they feel and respond to your programs. Barbara noted that we can evoke powerful reactions in other people, provided that we’re on the same page as them, and they view their trainer/coach/therapist as a teammate, not a boss.
When dealing with difficult clients, Barbara provided some great tools that can help align the mind so we’re all working together. Simple but powerful techniques like assigning “homework”, where clients can list and repeat several good things about themselves help to shift that negative focus to positive ones. Frequently, they’ll use strengths to compensate for weaknesses, and will be motivated by avoiding pain, not just seeking reward. When working with these clients, it’s important to view training as teaching, and recognize that a true connection with your clients goes far beyond meeting standards, achieving objectives, and pre- and post- assessment. As important as it is to develop this relationship, we mustn’t forget that in actuality we can ‘fire’ a client that it isn’t working with. Barbara recommend having a support network you can turn to, or direct a client to, when it’s necessary to find a professional who is educated beyond your skill set, and I agree that networking and/or referring out can help both you and your clients better learn how to deal with mental or physical issues they may be having.
Barbara quoted Harold Bloomfield and said “What we resist, persists.” This powerful quote exemplifies the notion of dealing with issues that arise, instead of brushing them aside and hoping they go away. Take a few seconds of personal time and identify something that you can deal with better; now brainstorm ways that you can use to change this regressive behavior. (I meant do it now, as in before you read the next review!)
Dianne Sykes Scope, MS, NSCA-CPT
Dianne, who organized the whole shebang, gave a killer presentation discussing obesity and exercise in her presentation, Obesity: A Multifaceted Approach to Transform Your Practice. After discussing the benefits and negatives of using Body Mass Index (BMI) as the indicator of obesity, she discussed several of the risks and complications associated with the disease. Dianne shared this jarring graphic from the Center for Disease Control, which tracks our nations change in BMI since 1985:
Obesity is a lifestyle disorder, and one that is entirely preventable (save metabolic disorders.) Unlike most disease statements, a hypokinetic disorder like obesity is easy to treat: Move more, and eat less. While you’re likely to agree that this is a no-brainer, Dianne pointed out the obvious; If it was that easy, the map above wouldn’t have so much red on it. After reviewing some of the national level statistics on obesity, Dianne proposed a great response to the statement, “I can’t afford personal training.” “No, You can’t afford NOT to do this!” I’ve used this infographic as an entire post on its own, and I think you’ll enjoy the data in it so I’ll use it again:
Harold Gibbons, NSCA-CPT
Who is this guy?! By the time Dianne had wrapped things up, I was pretty nervous, but I was excited to get into my presentation, Get the Most ‘Bang’ for Your Training ‘Buck’: Functional and Efficient Training for Everybody. As chance would have it, the previous presentations were all related to my content in some way, and I was able to include statements from each of them in dialogue. Once the introduction was out of the way, I asked the audience, “What is functional training?” I was looking for a colloquial definition that we could all agree on, one that was a bit more applicable than the current NSCA definition:
- An exercise continuum involving balance and proprioception, performed with the feet on the ground and without machine-assistance, such that strength is displayed in unstable conditions and body weight is managed in all movement planes.
- Multi-joint, multi-planar, proprioceptively-enriched activity that involves deceleration, acceleration, and stabilization; controlled amounts of instability; and management of gravity, ground reaction forces, and momentum.
- A spectrum of activities that condition the body consistent with is integrated movement and/or use.
Steven Plisk, MS, CSCS*D
In the grand scheme of things, functional training is simply anything that provides results. If we’re making our clients feel and look better, then our training is functional. While we’re seeking results, we’d like to follow the defininition listed above, and make sure we’re providing the absolute most we can for our clients. I shared a quick explanation of the Joint by Joint with the audience, and added that it’s important that we select compound exercises that require mobility for specific joints, while demanding stability from others. Once appropriate exercises have been selected, we should sequence them in groups that compliment each other, and allow for the vast majority of time being used for training, minimizing downtime between sets. The ‘sequencing’ part is the trickiest, because a variety of factors influence what we can program; client history and training age, exerperience, comfort and conditioning levels, etc. Some highly technical exercises, such as the Olympic lifts, don’t allow for this, because recovery between sets is important, but I enjoy this anecdote which I’ve heard Mike Boyle say, both in lectures and interviews: “Push something, pull something, use your legs.” It’s a simple concept that allows you to sequence exercises and allow for enough recovery between each individual movement that allow you to build highly effective circuits.
Frequently, I find that these sets 3-4 exercises can be designed to allow for the development of multiple domains of fitness within a training session. We’re developing muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, (an)aerobic capacity, and improving body composition. Typically, we think about starting training sessions with the ‘big’ bilateral movements, such as squats and bench presses, but this might not always be the best idea. If we’re training someone that doesn’t have an explicit need for these lifts, why not move to a unilateral variation first, where we’ll be stronger at the beginning of the training session. The bilateral deficit is the idea that each leg/arm is individually stronger than it when working bilaterally. Here’s a great example of unilateral strength from Ben Bruno:
Ben’s got some incredible strength, and certainly demonstrates whats possible with single leg training. I think he’ll agree that a 305×6 split squat doesn’t equal a 610 for 6 back squat, even though the load transmitted to the working leg is exactly the same. The fact that you’re holding half the weight though should greatly reduce the chances of getting hurt.
I tend to prefer unilateral exercises from a bang-for-your-buck standpoint as well, as you increase the demands on your torso to transmit forces between the upper and lower body. While some of the more complex single-limb exercises (like dummbell snatches, or split squats) should take place at the beginning of a training session, I prefer to sequence some exercises into circuits that become highly metabolic in nature. If you’re using several unilateral exercises, the rest time between limbs and exercises is minimal, and the metabolic cost is rather high. It’s upper-body specific, but this Grappler Press, Meadows Row, Rainbow Deadlift finisher demonstrates that:
Outside of poor exercise selection, I think that poor exercise sequencing are the two biggest mistakes that trainees and trainers make. I’m the first to raise my hand as guilty of this, but I enjoy tweaking and modifying programs and training templates to allow people to do the most amount of work in a given period of time. This doesn’t mean everything is a circuit and your on 4 minute Tabatas, this means that you should try pairing exercises, and use rest time to stretch or mobilize tight parts of your body. Spend as much of your time ‘doing work’, and you’ll get better performance and posture results with each training session.
I referenced Jim Wendler’s Stretch, Lift, Sprint training template for sequencing your warm-up, strength training, and conditioning, and referred to several products from EliteFTS. One of the attendees asked me if I liked EliteFTS, and I told him ‘Hell Yea!’ I find that most people aren’t heavily interested in corrective exercise, or mobility, or recovery, but once they understand that they’ll begin to feel better or perform better, they get on board with it. As it turns out, Jason has written a few articles for the site, and he, several other attendees, and myself had a great discussion about balancing the ‘functional’ side of training with the ‘go pick up heavy shit’ side. If those are the two ends of a continuum, we noted that most people look at the heavy side as the elite, when in fact they need to think about how to effectively increase their quality of movement and quality of life.
As I made my way back to Penn Station for the trip home, I was ecstatic, both about learning from 5 really smart people, but also for my first opportunity to present at an NSCA conference. As I continue to learn, I hope to once again be in a position that lets me give back to the people and organizations who I’ve already learned from, and encourage those around me to learn more while they enhance their own personal health. I’ll never forget the
Gunpowder Treason NSCA New York Annual State Clinic, and I’m already looking forward to attending next years event.