I’m back finally… New Free Weekly Health&Fitness Tipz! This week i get back to my little series “Things You Should Probably Know”. I run down a list of about 10 quick things that you might not be aware of. Things like how to not damage your spine during early morning workouts, “muscle confusion”, fad diets, muscles pain, supplements etc. Many of you might already be aware of some of this stuff. But if not, please spread the word. I encourage everyone to educate yourselves as much as you can.Te health & fitness industries thrive on keeping us stupid. It’s time we did something about that.May 1, 2012
New Weekly Tipz! This week i talk briefly on health. Health before fitness. Being “healthy” means taking care of the basics first. ALong with that is also our attitude, aka the thoughts we keep. Negativity in our personal lives will eventually eat up our “health” like the cookie monster eatin’ up some cookies. Being positive helps everything. Health before fitness…every time.February 28, 2012
Charles Pazdera: Real Strength. A story about a boy that became a man in the face of Cancer, which eventually took his life. But he never gave up, he never complained, he never quit. This is meant to inspire…January 21, 2011
Charles Pazdera: Real Strength
The other day we lost one of the strongest kids in the world. I refer to him as a kid because that is how I knew him. Charles was about six years younger than me and we grew up together as close family friends, even though far apart in age. You could never refer to him as a kid anymore. No kid could ever stare cancer in the face for 3 years and walk tall the entire time, never ever once saying why me. This was a man. Charles is now pain free and waiting for us. He defines the word strong.
In the training world we view strong as 500 pound squat or a 600 pound deadlift. Charles had a different strong. Early in his battle with cancer he had a major surgery that required the removal of his entire right scapula, shoulder joint and collar bone to try to remove the tumors. This was not some minor procedure – this was 12 hours of hell that would handicap Charles for life.
I knew Charles was very into lifting weights. I had trained Charles for a few months back in 2002 before I moved to California and I remember how dedicated he was that summer in the weight room. In fact, the way he found out about his cancer was from a visit to an orthopedist about an ailing shoulder that he assumed was from lifting.
What would you do if someone ripped out the major bones of your back and shoulder?
Most would not go to your friend and ask for an exercise program to work around it. This is exactly what Charles did.
I was not really sure how Charles was going to able to lift any weights. I wrote Charles a program where he was able to train his lower body with minimal use of his right arm. We have a safety bar at the gym so he was able to squat with minimal stress to his surgical area. For his posterior chain we used 45 degree back extensions, again minimal stress to his upper back, and these rocked his glutes and hamstrings and Charles loved them. I have not prescribed a Swiss ball crunch in years but when I looked at his program I added them along with Front Planks for his core. Again minimal movement and stress to his surgical area.
His upper body work consisted of Neutral Grip Incline Push-Ups and Blast Strap Rows. When he pulled himself up on a set of Blast Strap Rows he was crooked and the reps looked like he was pulling with only one arm but after each set he would smile and say “it’s so great to be back in the gym.” The push-ups were tough for him and range of motion was minimal but I still see him in the corner of the gym doing his best.
Charles loved arm work. I could tell that before Charles got sick he trained his biceps and triceps like crazy, typical college kid trying to look good. We put those in and that was like dessert for Chaz. Again, they were not pretty but just watching him perform DB Curls and Band Pushdowns made me so proud of him. I loved the face he would make when it really burned. He always had a smile and never once complained that something hurt.
For Charles’s cardio we just did steady state walking on the treadmill at 140 BPM for about 30 minutes. I guess I prescribed this because I wanted him to be around the gym longer.
When you do not feel like getting up for work, think of Charles. When you get to the end of your workout and you do not feel like doing intervals, think of Charles. When it burns toward the end of your set, think of the smile on Charles’s face after his arms burned. When you are having trouble starting an exercise program after it’s been a few years, take a long look at both of your arms and legs and your cancer free body and then tell me you can’t, better yet, tell Charles you can’t. I am not sure if he will have any sympathy for you. Then again, he might, this is how incredible this young man is. Full of life, smiles and love – and unfortunately cancer.
Charles’s funeral was like a party. It was a celebration of a young man that taught us so many things about perseverance, bravery, toughness, stubbornness and love. The number of people that showed up for Charles was incredible. It showed how much he meant to so many and confirmed the footprint he leaves on all who knew him — or about him — and how missed he will be.
There has been great controversy over the past several years about the position of the spine (specifically the low back) as it relates to optimal performance and long term health. Is the Lordotic spine healthy? It seems to function quite nicely for a great many athletes. What about the Kyphotic spine? This back position seems to produce the greatest amount of symptoms and problems. But what about the concept of “neutral” spine, how do we define it, what is it? Is it braced, drawn in, tail tucked, flat back bowed, arched or what? How do we attain it? Why are we so worried about it? What happens if I don’t have it? How do I get it? Where do I find it? Who invented it? Let’s look at some definitions.
Another way to look at this concept is the tilt of the pelvis. In lordosis, the pelvis is rotated forward or anteriorly. In kyphosis, the pelvis is rotated posteriorly. In neutral, the pelvis is aligned. Examining this concept as a performance practitioner rather than a researcher, athletic trainer or physical therapist has led me to some conclusions. First of all, is the pelvic position and the corresponding lumbar spine position resulting in some type of symptom manifesting itself in terms of pain, discomfort, tightness or inhibition of performance? If so, then I will prescribe some corrective exercises, stretching, foam rolling or therapy in order to address the inhibited performance due to pain, discomfort and tightness. I will also refer this person to an athletic trainer for further evaluation. If there is no pain, discomfort, tightness or inhibited performance, then why fix it if it ain’t broke? Most sprinter, hurdler, jumper, power, speed athletes will have a lordotic lower spine. If they are asymptomatic and pass the intrinsic muscle tests for the pelvic floor and lower core region strength, stability and flexibility — then train. The kyphotic person may need some remedial work, regardless of symptom level if you plan on loading the spine with squats, cleans, deadlifts or other types or resistance exercises that place load through the upper core. According to Dr. Stuart McGill, one of North Americas leading experts on the spine and its ability to withstand load a flat lumbar spine will tend to exhibit symptoms or problems much more often under load stress than a lordotic spine. Extension work for the kyphotic spine will be prescribed in order to enhance the thoracic spine area’s ability to withstand load.
My concern is the ruckus over the “neutral” spine concept and its application to performance training. After listening to many experts argue over the efficacy of this concept (it reminds me of the back side of the “drawing in” controversy), reading about this in the various publications concerned with performance and health exercise information as well as coaching thousands of athletes performing literally millions of repetitions over the past 25+ years I have come to the conclude the following observations. In a nutshell, the “neutral” spine is a manufactured and artificial position for the lumbar region. The term I feel much more comfortable with is the “natural” spine position. Here is a practical application of the difference. Have the client/athlete reach overhead until they feel skinny. At this point, have them take a big, deep breath and lock it in as if you were going to punch them in the stomach. While maintaining this core-lumbar position, drop the arms, exhale while maintaining a braced core and drop into a basic athletic position. This is a natural spine position that is ready to absorb and produce force throughout the core region. In order to convince the skeptic, have the client/athlete produce a lordotic lumbar spine while in basic athletic position and then press down on their shoulders much in the manner of a resistance squat load. Repeat this drill with a kyphotic lumbar spine and ask the client/athlete, “which is better to absorb and produce force?”. Then, if the client/athlete or colleague is still not convinced, ask them to assume the “neutral” spine position and repeat the drill a final time. The asymptomatic, “neutral” spine is a manufactured position that is unable to be replicated during the duress of performance. It also goes against the concept of maintaining pillar core integrity in order to transmit the power generated from the legs into the shoulders, arms, hands or implement with very little flexion, extension or rotation in the lumbar spine, until the mobility of the hips and thoracic region have been exhausted.
Dr. McGill explained this concept to me at a seminar in a one on one conversation in which I had asked him why I was being instructed at a performance center to teach the tail tucked position in training performance individuals. His first response was “I would have no idea”. When he laughed and said he would expound upon his point, I knew he was teasing me and asked him to please continue. He asked me if I would humor him in a little experiment. I said “sure”. He then instructed me to assume an athletic position, “tuck my tail” and then react to his instruction for the next 30 or so seconds. At this time he commanded me to “jump, do a squat thrust, shuffle right, shuffle left, do a quarter turn right, do a quarter turn left, squat, buzz my feet, lunge right, lunge left and get back into position”. At this point, he asked me what had happened to my lumbar postural position. I responded that I had no idea. He stated that was his point — artificial/manufactured core positions are not practical to teach for performance athletes that are asymptomatic. In rehab settings in which specific symptoms or deficiencies are being addressed then artificial spine positions are certainly a part of the rehabilitation protocol. The natural lumbar spine position with core integrity prepared to withstand force in multiple planes as well as transmit force in a variety of angles while still maintaining the ability to respire (without holding your breath) is a huge piece of performance that allow us as coaches and trainers to unlock the power of the legs and hips and express that power in our sports. This “natural” spine position combined with hip mobility, the skill of disassociation of the hip — shoulder complex and internal coordination resulting in huge force summation creates the physical performances we all long to enhance with our expertise.