Q&A with S&C Coaches – Part 2

This is a two part series, with Part 1 found here.

With many gyms opening up in Massachusetts, I wanted to provide a little bit more value for strength and conditioning professionals who are just entering the field, especially entering during a time with much ambiguity for our field.

With this said, this is the second part of a question and answer where I ask a few colleagues and strength coaches some questions on a their sources that underpin their understanding and knowledge base for coaching.

David Otey

@DavidOteyFit

I first met David while we were both presenting for an NSCA course in New Jersey in 2018. Afterwards, I quickly realized we ran in similar circles with several like-minded strength and conditioning groups, and it is just surprising that 2018 was the first time we met. He is a master instructor for Dr. John Rusin’s “Pain Free Performance Specialist Certification,” and he also serves on the advisory board for Men’s Health.

1. What are your top 2-3 resources for getting stronger/more resilient?

  1.  Renegade Radio podcast with Jay Ferruggia
  2. Becoming a Supple Leopard – Dr. Kelly Starrett
  3. TheStrengthHouse.com

2. What are your top 2-3 resources for learning functional anatomy?

  1. Physiopedia.com
  2. Human Anatomy Atlas – App Store 

3. What are your top 2-3 resources for exercise programming?

  1. Pain Free Performance Specialist Certification
  2. MYTPI.com 

4. Do you have any advice for an up and coming strength and conditioning professional?

Volunteer as much as you can in the beginning. Volunteering is where I learned so much of the information I use on a day by day basis now. Not all places can take on interns that can provide credit. And people are certainly going to be jumping to pay someone new to learn a lot of new information on their dime. Everyone can take volunteers though.

I always tell college students or young people aspiring to be in any field, ask the person you are working under how you can EARN their recommendation. It is not a matter of just asking someone with influence to sign their name on the dotted line. How can you show that individual that you are so serious about this career path that you earn their nod of approval? If you approach every interaction that way moving forward, it will make this process a lot more fluid. How can I EARN your respect?

Matt Siniscalchi

@MattSiniscalchi

I first met Matt at a Postural Restoration Institute course at a facility he worked at in 2012, then I interned at that same facility in 2013, and then eventually becoming his co-worker from 2013-2014. We’ve kept in touch ever since, and I’ve probably asked him more questions than he has asked of me, regarding all things energy systems training, sprinting and speed questions, strength training, exercise programming, and everything in between. Needless to say, Matt is a very sharp individual who I hold at a high regard. Plus, he is also an Eagles fan.

1. What are your top 2-3 resources for getting stronger/more resilient?

2. What are your top 2-3 resources for learning functional anatomy?

  • Biomechanics and Kinesiology of Exercise – Yessis
  • FRC (Functional Range Conditioning) concepts – Andreo Spina

3. What are your top 2-3 resources for exercise programming?

  • Advances in Functional Training – Boyle
  • Revolutionary 1x20RM Strength Training Program – Yessis

4. What are your top 2-3 resources for learning exercise physiology?

  • Ultimate MMA Conditioning by Joel Jamieson

*although I wouldn’t implement these first with athlete’s at first, it gives a good general understanding of ideas.

5. If you work with a specific population, what are your top resources for learning more on how to serve that population, and why?

  • Bill Knowles (reconditioning, athletic development) 
  • Dr. Michael Yessis (sport skills, special strength, athletic development)
  • Vern Gambetta (all things athletic development)

6. Do you have any advice for an up and coming strength and conditioning professional?

     1. Always question the “WHY” : much to do about strength and conditioning nowadays seems to be that we follow advice blindly without searching deeper/throughly. 

      2. Always try to base things off results first. Did the athlete achieve the goals they are set out to get? Are they playing their sport better or are they better in accomplishing tasks of daily life, or their hobbies, etc.. (general population)? Did they achieve those goals and/or play better as efficiently as you think?  

      3. Look back at the history: exercises, pieces of equipment, research done –> why, how, when, was it utilized, created, and in what context was it done? Also whom (level of athlete) was it used on and their results? Why do you think it worked or didn’t work? These seem to help find answers as to if the very things we are implementing make sense, work, and why it could work.

      4. “And then what?” An incredible question I learned from a colleague, Jeff Moyer. We can get caught up into strength methods, certain exercises, breathing techniques, recovery modalities, burning fat at any cost, just doing daily workouts of the day etc…what is your starting point and where are you going? Are you getting there consistently? How do you know?

Nick Stodolski

@Stodolski_Strong

Nick and I have crossed paths in a few different ways – first when I went to observe at a facility he worked at from maybe 2016-2017ish, and then our circles began to become more similar when he began a master’s program with the folks at Merrimack College. Nick has taken a “outside of the box” approach to this industry, much like myself, and for that I appreciate his perspective and his experiences. Now, he is a strength coach working with EXOS.

1. What are your top 2-3 resources for getting stronger/more resilient?

2. What are your top 2-3 resources for learning functional anatomy?

 Currently: Human Anatomy Atlas 2021 (App on Ipad or Tablet)

Miguel this may be different and hopefully you agree. Contact your local physical therapy office or hang out with AT’s, shadow, and bring and form questions. This was one of the biggest ones for me. We can all learn cadaveric anatomy, but the functional aspect really hits home here.

3. If you work with a specific population, what are your top resources for learning more on how to serve that population, and why?

As I worked as an EXOS Tactical Performance Coach, EXOS Tactical Performance Cert along with the NSCA Tactical Certification were big in my development to learn that population.

Along with those certs, Cal Dietz has an exceptional “Tactical Performance Coach” book which does a great job explaining how to properly program concurrent (training all physical qualities) training principles which with the way the world is now with such short prep times I think could be brought to the world of athletics. With Gen Pop clients I think it can hit home to help you still program intelligently and keep them from potentially getting bored. I think it’s a great little layout if trying to set up some bootcamps.

Finally spending time with that population. Asking them questions about their jobs, their experience, and then watching some of the tasks they need to carry out during training. Not only does it help you understand what they need better but it forms relationships and trust between you and them and you do not come down as a dictator but a true leader that wants to help.

4. Do you have any advice for an up and coming strength and conditioning professional?

Don’t try to impress people by what you know. I made that mistake at an internship. I came in with the most experience and it was a big time internship so I wanted a job. Someone with MUCH less experience than me was given big training jobs while I was stuck doing busy work. When I finally approached our director I asked him why this was. He told me “I’m not liking your character. Although you are more experienced, I can teach that to the others, but I can’t teach character.” Be a good person before being a smart person.

Jay Mendoza

@MendozaJayC

I actually met Jay while in an undergrad at Temple University many years ago, but our paths would again cross when he moved to Massachusetts as the head strength and conditioning coach of Brandeis University. Our circles are probably very similar because of the Philadelphia to Boston connections, but our experiences differ from my private sector work to his collegiate experiences.

1. What are your top three resources for getting stronger/more resilient?

One of my favorite books on getting strong is “5/3/1” by Jim Wendler. While some would argue it may not be the flashiest way of getting stronger, or may not provide enough, the longevity of this method proves its validity. While you can alter it to fit your specific population, I think the 4 week percent-based program 5/3/1 provides is a solid way to introduce progression with clients. What 5/3/1 made me realize is that training, no matter the goal, is a marathon, not a sprint. So it is important to always keep the end goal in mind and just try to be incrementally better each day.

Another resource I like for getting stronger is “The APRE” by Dr. Bryan Mann. I think it is a fantastic protocol when working with beginner populations. It provides weight adjustments depending on completed number of reps. For some of my athletes, they never know how much weight to move up, and sometimes we are not at the point where we are working on percent-based or RPE-based workouts. The APRE is a simple way of continuously progressing.

When I hear resilient, I think of bulletproofing the body so it can withstand demands. And since I work with athletes, my mind for some reason shifts to jumping. I am always amazed by watching athletes perform single leg take-offs or doing depth jumps from a 36in box. The ability to absorb all that force driving into the ground and reapply it upward without getting hurt is resilience to me. So for me, one of my go-to books is “Vertical Foundations” by Joel Smith. This book breaks down vertical movement like no other. I was blind to how much goes into jumping before reading this book. I feel most books and programs do not go into enough on how to teach jumps, or how to progress them, but jumps are highly intergral for sport.

2. What are your top 2-3 resources for exercise programming?

For exercise programming, I really enjoyed “Scientific Principles of Strength Training” by Dr. Mike Israetel, Dr. James Hoffman, and Chad Wesley Smith. I am a big fan of these 3 gentlemen as I feel they have a great ability to take complex material and package it in a way that is easy to understand, to enjoy, and to further apply. The book offers everything from specificity, fatigue management, and periodization. I think it is also important to note that as the book suggests, it is full of principles. If you are looking for a book to provide you with sample programs that you can regurgitate to your clientele, this isn’t it. But it will provide you with the tools needed to create well-thought, progressive, and result-oriented programs for people.

Another resource that I like for exercise programming is “The Black Book of Training Secrets” by Christian Thibaudeau. Thibaudeau uses his experience coaching powerlifters, olympic weightlifters, bodybuilders, and athletes and provides a great resource on how to train those populations. He goes over a lot of information and at the end provides lots of examples of workouts. I also think it provides a look into how training sessions and entire programs can be very different than just straight linear periodization, which was very helpful for me when I was just first starting out.

3. If you work with a specific population, what are your top resources for learning more on how to serve that population, and why?
Since I work with athletes, one of my top resources would be “High-Performance Training for Sports” by David Joyce. This is basically an anthology of sport training programs from some of the best strength & conditioning coaches around. It gives you insight into how elite coaches train elite athletes.

Another resource that I have used a lot lately, especially in this quarantine time, is the NSCA College Coaches Facebook group. It is raw information coming straight from the mouths of coaches who do what I do every day. Their insight is so valuable to me, because they are in my shoes. I find that so many of them are ready to help and provide information that it makes for a great community. Coaches helping coaches,

4. Do you have any advice for an up and coming strength and conditioning professional?

I think my advice would be to be a sponge and try to learn as much about everything, but then also practice it. I think it is easy to read about different training styles, but go out and actually apply it to yourself. I have done everything from powerlifting, to olympic weightlifting, to training the shotput (under the tutelage of one of my collegiate athletes I was working with) all for the purpose of learning how those programs and movements work. Do not pigeonhole yourself to one ideology or training style, there’s validity and applicability to them all.

Another piece of advice would be to go out and network. As I mentioned, there are tons of Facebook groups full of like-minded individuals who are willing to talk shop and lend some words of wisdom. Visit other coaches, watch a session, and connect with them. There is a lot to be learned.


Thanks for reading!

As always,
Keep it funky.

Q&A with S&C Coaches – Part 1

Over the past few months under quarantine and stay-at-home orders, it’s become apparent that communication is imperative towards progress in the context of education, along with maintaining professional relationships across the industry.

I’ve surprisingly made more new contacts that I would not have made if not for the pandemic, and reinforced past relationships all due to the coronavirus’ stay-at-home orders. With this said, I wanted to take some time to outline and highlight some individuals that I respect in the strength and conditioning industry.

An ALTIS Zoom call with many other S&C and rehab professionals

With the Internet being largely the only method for individuals to communicate with their clients and other professionals in the past several weeks/months, this can “muddy the waters” as entry-level strength and conditioning professionals may be pulled in many different directions. However, this also allows normally busy individuals in the midst of a season in many different sports to also contribute their expertise in a public format, or in private communication between other individuals, as well.

With this said, I wanted to see if I can help not only guide entry-level professionals on where to get reliable information, but also where to place their energies into continuing education. I’ve asked other experts in their respective fields to answer this Q&A for several different topics related to our industry.

This will be a two part series, and I will give my own input on this Q&A at the end of the series as well. I wanted to get a diverse group of professionals, so the range of sports these individuals work with involve basketball, hockey, collegiate strength and conditioning, alongside other professional and even youth athletes. There is a plethora of information to get from these simple questions, and I hope this will begin to highlight where these professionals’ principles lie as it relates to how they work.

Jeff Aldham

Burlington, ON
Instagram: @Aldham_AD

I met Jeff Aldham first in the summer of 2017 at the 2017 Physical Preparation Summit hosted by Mike Robertson. He was an attendee, and we kept in contact ever since. Jeff is based out of Burlington, Ontario, and I love the information that he puts out there regarding nutrition, youth athlete training, along with his general philosophy on training.

1. What are your top 2-3 resources for getting stronger/more resilient? 

The simplicity of Mike Boyle and the Certified Functional Strength Coach’s program for novice athletes as well as adult population.

For more experienced athletes that I am able to measure readiness (Omegawave, HRV), and I also use Westside and/or Triphasic Training from a training perspective. I have used Triphasic’s general physical preparedness phases with a number of my high school and college/pro athletes.

Triphasic Training by Cal Dietz

Another system I use is the Functional Range Conditioning as of late as it pertains to joint specific “strength training” as well as “tissue resiliency.”

2. What are your top 2-3 resources for learning functional anatomy?

Whatever outdated texts I had to read in college, Anatomy Trains, even Precision Nutrition, as it revisits physiology and nutrition on a cellular level. FRC’s lectures on “Bioflow” has been very interesting to compare to “Biomechanics.” 

3. What are your top 2-3 resources for exercise programming? 

  1. Functional Range Conditioning
    • Functional Range Assessment
  2. Certified Functional Strength Coach
    • Functional Movement Screen

4. What are your top 2-3 resources for learning exercise physiology?

  • Same answers as above (question 2- 3).

5. If you work with a specific population, what are your top resources for learning more on how to serve that population, and why?

(Note: Jeff works with several youth and high school, collegiate athletes.)

Charlie Weingroff’s (Canada Basketball) message saying “Training = Rehab, Rehab = Training” as it pertains how to train an athlete that you’re able to measure readiness with and train consistently.

Boyle and CFSC for both adults and novice athletes as well as Functional Range Conditioning/Kinstretch as they are easy systems to follow that involve what most humans both want and need. 

6. Do you have any advice for an up and coming strength and conditioning professional?

“Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” aka just be a good human and show compassion, humility, and empowerment. 

Artie Hairston

Springfield, FL
Instagram: @RT_Hairston

I believe I met Artie first at a Postural Restoration Institute foundations course (can’t recall which specific one), and our circles of contacts have intertwined ever since. I also did an in-service when he worked at a private sports performance facility in Massachusetts, but now Artie is working as a strength and conditioning coach in the Florida Panther’s AHL team, the Springfield Thunderbirds.

1. What are your top 2-3 resources for getting stronger/more resilient?

Triphasic Training” by Cal Dietz, and “Science and Practice of Strength Training” by Zatsiorsky and Kraemer. Both provide a solid general framework to build upon particularly for a young coach/trainer.

2. What are your top 2-3 resources for learning functional anatomy?

Dr. Pat Davidson’s “Rethinking the Big Patterns” 1+2 Seminars and his extensive library of work related to those seminars. He presents a system that considers complex functional anatomy/biomechanical concepts in a way that is easily implemented and useful to a coach of any level. The Complete Anatomy App is also super useful and easily accessible when trying to get a better understanding of anatomy/movement. 

3. What are your top 2-3 resources for exercise programming?

  1. Ultimate MMA Conditioning” by Joel Jamieson provides a useful framework for the implementation of training and conditioning protocols.
  2. New Functional Training for Sports” by Mike Boyle, provides a system of progression and regression that can easily be implemented and adapted by a beginner coach.
  3. Applied Sprint Training” by James Smith is a great book for the application/implementation of speed work for both track and field as well as team sport athletes.
This is an image of the book "Applied Sprint Training" by James Smith
Applied Sprint Training by James Smith

4. What are your top 2-3 resources for learning exercise physiology?

Basic Exercise Physiology textbooks would be my best beginner resource particularly those aimed at undergrads. “Science and Practice of Strength Training” which I mentioned for strength as well has a solid general outline of exercise physiology, which can also serve as a good starting point.

5. If you work with a specific population, what are your top resources for learning more on how to serve that population, and why?

I work with hockey, and three top resources I look to in the hockey community are Kevin Neeld, Devan McConnell and Anthony Donskov. All 3 have extensive experience with hockey at all levels and are extremely transparent with their information as well as have valuable products.

… are all strong recommendations.

Intent by Devan McConnell

Other resources that have been extremely useful to me is collaborating and learning from hockey sport coaches and skill coaches. I have taken the time to talk with, learn from and be instructed (on ice) by some of these coaches and have had leaps in my understanding of the game and how to best serve that particular population by trying to experience it first hand myself. I also take the time to sit in on team meetings, film review, practices as much as I can throughout the season. This information allows me to better understand the coaches perspective, better utilize language/analogy in the gym that is more relevant to the players, and show the players that I am invested in their development as an athlete.

6. Do you have any advice for an up and coming strength and conditioning professional?

For the upcoming fitness professional I recommend working with a wide variety of clients. Some of the best learning experiences and growth I’ve had was while working with youth or adult clients.

The second piece of advice especially when starting to program for your clients is to try things out for yourself. Some of the best training insights I have gained is by putting myself through a program I was going to put a client through. By experiencing the program first hand you can easily identify any pitfalls that you might have otherwise overlooked. 

Kyle Davey

Salem, OR
Instagram: @KyleDavey1

Kyle is an individual I’ve grown to respect over the past few months, not only because our paths crossed continuously whenever there were any Zoom video conferences, but also because he has asked intelligent questions during these calls, which prompted me to reach out and talk shop briefly with him. From these interactions, I know that he walks the walk when it comes to coaching individuals of all ages and populations, and I hope his input helps those who are just beginning their journey into the S&C field.

1. What are your top 2-3 resources for getting stronger/more resilient?

  1. Chris Beardsley for strength training science, his medium page is awesome.
  2. Angela Duckworth for resilience and her work on grit.
  3. I guess the NSCA CSCS for a beginner. The NSCA isn’t without shortcomings, but in the CSCS book and exam you do learn a lot of the basic science that gives you a platform to understand arguments and form your own about training. 
Grit by Angela Duckworth

2. What are your top 2-3 resources for learning functional anatomy?

Pat Davidson and the RTBP concepts are pretty sweet. I have Postural Restoration Institute influences as well. The book “Trail Guide to the Body” was helpful to me when I was in school.

3. What are your top 2-3 resources for exercise programming?

Chris Beardlsey has influenced my programming ideas, alongside Anatoliy Bondarchuk’s “Transfer of Training” and ALTIS’ information and resources as well. And to reinforce this further, the basic physiology stuff that is taught in the textbooks, including the CSCS textbook good resources, too.

Transfer of Training Vol. 3 by Anatoliy Bondarchuk

Stuff we take for granted but is not common knowledge for the layperson and probably the beginner coach: cardio isn’t ideal before strength training as it decreases force expression, plyometric work before strength work, allowing adequate rest between sets for optimal recovery and performance gains, etc.

4. What are your top 2-3 resources for learning exercise physiology?

My top resources are Joel Jamieson, and maybe the ACSM Exercise Physiology Certification. I haven’t done it, but if you want to go the clinical route I think that’s the gold standard in that world. This was my Exercise Physiology textbook in college, and there is lots of good knowledge there.

5. If you work with a specific population, what are your top resources for learning more on how to serve that population, and why?

For training athletes, ALTIS has been a big resource. From learning how to coach speed mechanics, to teaching weight room concepts, they do a good job in their Foundation course. Again, Chris Beardsley has solid work on the underpinning mechanisms of athletic development.

6. Do you have any advice for an up and coming strength and conditioning professional?

Find a quality mentor, hands down my #1 piece of advice. Tough to qualify a quality mentor when you’re brand new, but do your best. Learn as much as possible so you can stand on his or her shoulders.

Secondarily, spend as much time reading and learning the right things and talking to the right people as possible. You will have to pay for many of these experiences–travel, course costs, books, etc. It’s worth it…as long as you’re not venturing into the wrong rabbit holes. Otherwise you’re wasting time, money, and energy. Do as much as possible before other commitments, like marriage and children, supersede your financial and time priorities.

Third, don’t be an internship whore. Do one (with your mentor), and then enter the workforce. Lastly, try and find people who are at the same level as you so you develop a peer group. Internships help with this. This way you can grow together and have open and honest conversations with each other about your (relatively young) training ideas that you may not feel comfortable openly discussing in front of “experts” you look up to.

Answering these questions was surprisingly difficult, other than the last one. I feel like you pick up things here and there along the way, hard to identify single go to sources. Not sure how good my answers are, but they’re here. 


That is all for Part 1, more to come in the Q&A – Part 2!

As always,
Keep it funky.

The 90/90 Hip Shift with Alternating Crossover

This is the third article in a series, where we’ll cover the 90/90 Hip Shift with Alternating Crossover. The series covers the 90/90 Hip Lift and 90/90 Hip Shift positions. The other articles can be found here:

What Is It?

The 90/90 Hip Shift with Alternating Crossover is an exercise that is the theoretical third activity that can be progressed from a position originally known as the 90/90 Hip Lift. This is an exercise that is taken and modified from the Postural Restoration Institute, and is taught in the MyoKinematic and Pelvis Restoration courses (and perhaps the Postural Respiration course, depending on if it is brought up or not in the lab section).

For starters, here is a video detailing the step-by-step process for going from a 90/90 Hip Lift, to the 90/90 Hip Shift, to the 90/90 Hip Shift with Alternating Crossover (90/90 HS AC).

Integrating systems will be covered in this article in relation to the 90/90 Hip Shift. There are many variations with the 90/90 Hip Shift, and this article will go over combining many of the body’s systems versus simply adding variations for variations’ sake.

Background for Using This Exercise

Progressively, each subsequent version in the 90/90 series goes to lengths to impact the nervous system. At its simplest, the 90/90 HS AC is the most complete version of this pattern on a mechanical level.

However, further integration beyond does not only relegate its effects to only pressures of the thoracic diaphragm and pelvic floor/diaphragm, but seeks to further affect the brain and system’s ability to intake information of the world around it.

Yes, pressure is important, but nerves innervate these thoracic diaphragm and pelvic floor as well.

Ideally, you’d aim to work on the first couple easier versions of the movement – the 90/90 Hip Lift and 90/90 Hip Shift – before continuing with the 90/90 Hip Shift with Alternating Crossover.

There may be two points of reasoning for continuing with this exercise – either you need MORE stimulus to re-organize how your body moves, or you need a greater FOUNDATION before moving on to the neurological pieces that I will be describing below.

Populations That May Benefit

Integration can benefit many individuals – ideally I’d say, “everyone should want to achieve this level” of movement. However, there are certainly some individuals that may benefit more than others when looking to utilize the principles of integration into any exercise.

  • Individuals who may have had neck, cranial, or facial issues
  • Individuals who may have balance, dizziness, or vestibular issues
  • Individuals who may feel chronic tightness in neck
  • Individuals who may feel chronic tightness in hamstrings, calves (gastrocnemius), and arches of feet
  • Individuals who have had pelvic, sacroiliac, or lower back issues
  • Individuals who have had knee issues.
  • Individuals who may experience anxiety, especially in relation to movement related anxiety (return to play, returning from injury)

The reason these individuals may benefit more than others with integrating other systems is because in everyone, and perhaps even organismically, there are several systems at play when locomoting, and moving about the world.

Executing the 90/90 HS AC allows the user to begin to tap into the potential into the great amounts of interplay between the visual, vestibular, and somatosensory systems which to control the body on a postural level. (2, 3) Yes, there are certainly a lot of benefits that can be ascertained from this exercise on a biomechanical level – general knee “crankiness” may be relieved, hip issues may be relieved, etc. But I’d like to take this time to begin to identify the integrative nature of how the body works, especially just beyond a mechanical level of thought process.

The reasons why individuals who may have had neck, cranial, or facial injuries may benefit from these sorts of integrated exercises is multifaceted in nature, stemming from reasons in evolution of the vestibular system (4) and concepts involving sensory reweighting (5), which I’ll go over later in the article (and in a follow-up article).

Instructions for the 90/90 Hip Shift with Alternating Crossover

This is an image of the end position of the 90/90 Hip Shift with Alternating Crossover
90/90 Hip Shift with Alternating Crossover

Per the PRI Manual:

  1. Lie on your back with your feet on the wall and your hips and knees at a 90-degree angle.
  2. Inhale through your nose and as you exhale through your mouth, perform a pelvic tilt so that your tailbone is raised slightly off the mat. Keep your low back flat on the mat. Do not press your feet into the wall, instead dig down with your heels.
  3. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth as you straighten your right leg and reach towards it with your left arm. You should feel your left abdominal muscles and the muscles on the back of your left thigh engage.
  4. Maintaining a pelvic tilt, bring your right foot back to the wall.
  5. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth as you straighten your left leg and reach towards it with your right arm. You should feel your right abdominal muscles and the muscles on the back of the right thigh engage.
  6. Continue this sequence for 4-5 breaths with each leg.
  7. Relax and repeat 2 more times.
  • My own alterations include adding in a hip shifting maneuver before adding in the reaching component with the arms.
  • Further, the leg that is bent will be the “anchor” that maintains the stance position of the body. As the (3) instructs to “feel your left abdominal muscles and the muscles on the back of your left thigh engage,” this demonstrates that the left leg is the stance leg in this case, and the right foot will be reaching up towards the ceiling (in a hip shifting manner).

Levels of the 90/90 Hip Shift with Alternating Crossover

With all of these pieces of information of the “why” under your belt, the mechanical information of the gait cycle is laid out for you to dissect by asking yourself these questions.

  • If one leg is assuming a “mid-stance” position, what muscles must be sensed, and then activated?
  • If the other leg is in a “mid-stance” position, what is the other leg demonstrating?
  • What do the muscles involved with the swing phase of the gait cycle exhibit?
  • Can these phases of gait be reflected in the upper body and the upper extremity?
  • Can these phases of gait be reflected in the torso, ribcage, and spinal level?
On a general level, these are the arthrokinematic movements that should be coupled together during the designated phase in gait. (Further elaboration can be detailed in more nuanced phases of gait, along with detailing any dysfunctional or aberrant arthrokinematics.) (1)

Defining Integration

In order to understand what’s underneath the hood beyond a biomechanical level, you’ll need some introduction to how integration alters the system on a whole.

Integrate: /ˈin(t)əˌɡrāt/
combine (one thing) with another so that they become a whole.

Integration in this sense is not merely just the mashing of all the systems and selling it as a weekend course. More specifically, in order to further our understanding one step further, we’ll look to a few specific systems, and how they interrelate and interact with one another – the visual, vestibular, and somatosensory system.

These three systems contribute to postural control.

Mechanically, I’ve brought up several points and questions that point to greater biomechanical involvement with the gait cycle than simply just lower body movements occurring in order to propel the body forward. (see Asymmetry and the 90/90 Hip Shift). However, the body does not simply move better and differently after one repetition, and it may take several repetitions until something registers in the user’s brain that something is indeed different than before.

By sensing that the body is placed in a specific position, your body will assume a specific resting posture that will place the body in specific mechanical positions, and will call upon the resting musculature.

However, by placing the body in different positions while laying down, standing on two feet, standing on one leg, etc, the nervous system will be attuned to a different sense of “space” on a neurological level.

Receptive fields are found primarily in the visual, somatosensory, and auditory system. They provide input towards creating a "sense of space" of the external world, which is represented in the internal mind.

In the context of the sensory system, there are “afferent neurons” that will relay signals when a new stimulus is detected, and this will eventually alter the motor output.

For example, if you predict you are about to step into a hot shower, but it ends up being a cold shower, you’ll likely contract the muscles that are touching the water in a reflexive manner after you experience the drastic change in temperature.

Cortical Pathways for Afferent Neurons

But, instead of a shower’s temperature affecting the motor output of your body, I’m bringing up the idea that introducing a different stimulus (and sensation of this different position) can jumpstart the process for increasing bodily awareness, and then increasing movement efficiency. Further, this concept not only extends in the somatosensory system, but also extends to the visual and auditory system as well.

So, what does this concept look like, and what does this mean?

Defining Sensory Reweighting

We utilize different senses to navigate throughout our environment and our world. Simply, there are five senses to acknowledge – sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. However, we may not use the sense of smell nor the sense of taste to navigate our world to inform our movement decision making process. Rather, when we navigate our world we will primarily be using the senses of sight, touch, and the vestibular organs (found in the ear) to control our sense of balance and postural control during resting and dynamic movements.

However, what happens after an injury to the foot, knee, or hip? Will there be an alteration with how we navigate the world? Or perhaps an injury to the cranium, or degradation in the acuity of the visual system? Will everything be firing on all cylinders in equal values? Or will something adjust based on one sense being “dulled” and another sense increasing in sensitivity levels?

Sensory Reweighting: the process of adjusting the sensory contributions to balance control (3)

This is a graph demonstrating the difference between the visual, vestibular, and somatosensory systems in the context of "sensory reweighting."
Altered functioning of postural control may lead to over-dependence of the vestibular control, at the cost of less visual and somatosensory systems’ contribution to movement.

If there are three systems at play, there may be approximately 33% of each system being utilized at any given time for movement and dynamic control. (See column on left)

However, if there is an injury, reduction in sensitivity, or degradation of one of these systems, surely there will be a likewise adjustment in the other two systems as well. (See column on the right)

Integration of these systems is utilized to relieve some of these unnecessary demands, and re-organize how the body moves, walks, and performs many other movements as well.

In this case, the visual, vestibular, and somatosensory systems create a delicately balanced system with which postural balance is resting upon. Now, the visual and somatosensory systems primarily guide this sensing process, with the vestibular system being the “back-up” system with which to rely upon a “righting” system. (reference)

If you’ve ever seen anyone do a side plank and try to crank his or her neck into an upright position, you’ll understand what I mean here.

Side Plank with a Neck Turn
Side Plank with a Neck Turn

This side plank’s neck position doesn’t call for the individual to consciously activate the SCM and anterior scalene to laterally flex the neck, rather it may be a by-product of dependence on the vestibular system to “right” the visual system and confirm a position of being upright – even if the rest of the body is literally sideways.

So, the driver, or mechanism controlling the motor output, for movement in this case is the vestibular system, which is done on a subconscious and perhaps even dysfunctional manner. Applying this thought process, what other movements may see head and neck motions first to drive movement for the rest of the body?

That’s a great way to reinforce the vestibular system’s contribution to lifting something off the ground.

In other words, this neck strategy may not be the most advantageous strategy to call upon when aiming to improve upon your motor control of the rest of your body during deadlifting. Movement should be reinforced by co-contraction of the lower body musculature needs to be experienced by the appropriate musculature and not driven by the vestibular system.

So, what can you do? Do you just fix your neck position and call it a day? Can you just avoid any problematic positions?

This is not so simple. That is like putting multiple pieces of tape on something to keep it together, instead of simply re-evaluating how to replace the material altogether. The problem is still there, you just haven’t addressed it appropriately. Sometimes in order to arrive at a solution, you need to go through it, not around or avoid it.

So, with an exercise like the 90/90 HS AC, there is a large reliance on the somatosensory system to guide the movement, along with the eventual reduction in visual and vestibular dependence. Essentially by shifting a large amount of sensation to the muscles being used, the visual and vestibular system may be “relieved” of taking over the work and often a sense of “lightness” may be felt by the individual – because there was a large amount of sensation that was derived from dependence on the visual and vestibular systems, often the neck may be a contributing factor towards feeling “tight,” “heavy,” or just general unease or discomfort.

The picture on the far right (before) is essentially a forward head posture; if you orient the axis of body on the alignment of his pelvis, the head will be leaning forward ahead of the body, but rather it is being displayed with with excessive lumbar lordosis in upright posture.

With this said, perhaps the asymmetry I wrote about in previous articles may be attenuated or reduced by increasing somatosensory control, and reducing vestibular/visual dominance (especially in one side)!

Choosing to Integrate Systems

So, why choose to integrate multiple systems for a movement that can be largely viewed as mechanical? Does it have to be so difficult? 

The purpose is not to intentionally make things complex, but to go into a topic with the basic understanding that things may eventually become complicated. The willingness to understand and interpret information must be exhibited by the reader (or client), otherwise integration of these systems is an unnecessary endeavor. You can lead a horse to water, but you don’t need to explain to it the mechanisms for how water evaporates into the clouds, to eventually become rain. They should just drink it. If the horse asks, then you can explain it. 

So, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

With this said, integrating neurological stimuli is much more than just making them do an exercise with no attachment to the meaning of why they are doing the movement.

By introducing a neurological stimulus, you will be guiding the client, patient, or athlete to create a new experience, ultimately one that they have never experienced before. In other words, by introducing a new or previously unattended to visual or sensory stimulus to the body, and then tasking the body to move, you’ll be introducing something that they have either forgotten (re-introducing the stimulus), or have never experienced (a novel stimulus).

But a novel stimulus is not the sole purpose of these movements. However, this novel stimulus is an introduction to the learning process of the individual, ultimately affecting how they view their internal self, their external world, and the way they experience life.

So, instinctively when coaching athletes in a 90/90 Hip Shift, I walk them through how to mechanically achieve certain positions, but I also recognize that my clients and athletes aren’t such a simple organisms – they aren’t machines or robots that work with mere inputs and outputs.

However, the body is sensitive enough to recognize if there is something as small as a hair brushing up on your face, if something is touching your leg (and what intensity), or if something moves quickly in the left or right side of the individual’s peripheral vision. This is in contrast to when you grip something with lots of tension to prevent it from falling.

Ultimately, your body won’t react to have a buffering system of higher or lower amounts of sensitivity if it isn’t referencing, or has the awareness, of said body part to do the action.

The reason I bring this is up is that there are stimuli that can elicit a greater or lesser reaction based on what the interpretation of that stimulus is – and that leads into more discussion on feedforward and feedback loops of the nervous system – which ultimately leads to learning how to increase or decrease their responses based on whatever stimuli is introduced into their system!

In Review

  1. The 90/90 Hip Shift with Alternating Crossover is the next progression on a biomechanical level (for this series).
  2. Integrating the feet into the movement is crucial to altering somatosensory input into the body (as the feet are truly the only thing to deliver information to the body when walking – you don’t walk with knees on the ground, or your face either).
  3. The 90/90 HS AC (and other unilateral exercises) can aim to restore somatosensory system that may affect one side of the body, as well.
  4. Afferent neurons and the associated cortical pathways allow for sensation to occur, which may be a precursor before motor output occurs.
  5. Essentially, you’ll often need to sense before you can move – and this dates to when you are going through the developmental process as a baby. (If you don’t build an effective understanding of how to relate to your body as you develop, you’ll likely have a difficult time sensing and moving as you grow into adulthood.)
  6. The 90/90 HS AC activity, among with many other integrative exercises, allows for greater sensory reweighting to occur, which can alter the contribution levels of the visual, vestibular, and somatosensory system to postural, and eventual, dynamic control.
  7. By reinforcing greater somatosensory control, there can be a reduction in the vestibular system’s contribution to “uprighting” the body, which can help relieve tonicity in various regions in the body.
  8. In a similar fashion, by reinforcing greater somatosensory control, there can be a reduction in a need for the visual system dominance, which can reduce forward head posture, squinting, migraines, headaches, and it does so by upregulation of the parasympathetic nervous system.
    1. Appropriate cortical mapping is important towards building subconscious awareness, which will then build upon the motor outputs necessary towards any specific goal.

With this amount of information available, it is my hope that you begin to see that simple biomechanical issues are not just simple biomechanical problems – they can spiral into complex neurological and evolutionary based pieces of information. By relating it back to an exercise, such as the 90/90 HS AC, I hope to make this information relatable, and informative to guiding your practice and clinic.

As always,
Keep it funky.

References

1 – Michaud, Thomas C. Human Locomotion: the Conservative Management of Gait-Related Disorders. Newton Biomechanics, 2011.

2 – Kandel, Eric R., et al. Principles of Neural Science. McGraw-Hill Medical, 2014.

3 – Shumway-Cook, Anne, and Marjorie H. Woollacott. Motor Control: Translating Research into Clinical Practice. Wolters Kluwer, 2017.

4 – Graf W.M. (2009) Evolution of the Vestibular System. In: Binder M.D., Hirokawa N., Windhorst U. (eds) Encyclopedia of Neuroscience. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg

5 – Assländer, Lorenz, and Robert J. Peterka. “Sensory reweighting dynamics in human postural control.” Journal of neurophysiology 111.9 (2014): 1852-1864.APA