Say you just bought a used car that you planned on fixing up as a weekend project. The car needs a ton of work. Regardless of your experience, intuitively, you may begin with getting the engine to run, change the brakes out, and change the tires. What you wouldn’t do is go directly to adding a turbo to the engine that doesn’t quite run yet. What we can come to realize from this article is that strength and conditioning can be thought of in a very similar way to working on a vehicle.
On “Just Fly Sports Performance Podcast”, I listened to Joel Smith interview French performance coach Jerome Simian on how he built a world record holding decathlete. There was one section of the interview where Jerome notes his viewpoint on how he is able to increase performance through movement rather than through strength and power maxes. While he would agree, there is a time and place for heavy strength lifts, I thought it was a fantastic point made that we can increase the performance of the athlete through creating better movement patterns. This can be thought of like the car mechanic. If we pursue max effort strength movements before addressing competent movement patterns, it’s as if we are increasing the horsepower of the engine while driving on bad brakes and tires. In both the human and the car, the expression of the engine’s horsepower must be facilitated by a structure that is optimal. If structure and movement is not addressed first, we are giving an athlete an engine that is way too powerful for what their frame can handle. This is how countless injuries occur in even the best athletes. Even for an athlete in a strength based training program, we must continually come back to movement focused work; just as we would bring our car in for an oil change and inspection from time to time.
Just yesterday on the training floor, Coach Matt was breaking down a lateral shuffle technique with one of our highest level athletes. I noticed him quietly observe the movement patterns of the athlete’s lower body and feet. I asked him what he was looking for. He noted how he did not like how this athlete was stacking their trail leg during a lateral shuffle as they went to change direction. He felt it placed the athlete in a compromised position. What they did was break down the movement into simple holds, allowing the athlete to feel the exact adjustment that they both agreed that her body should be in. Even though this was a very high level athlete, they struggled in making an adjustment to correctly aligning her body. I couldn’t help but think what a catch this was by Coach Matt. With the naked eye he was able to notice just the slightest leak in positioning of the athletes lower body during a high speed lateral shuffle.
Whether we admit it or not, many humans have this innate belief that more is better. Oftenly in the strength and conditioning field we fall into this trap of trying to squeeze more speed, more power, and more strength out of our athletes. After all, we call ourselves performance coaches. How can we know if we increase performance without a quantitative number to tell us that we are improving? The adjustment Matt made to his athlete’s lateral technique was more beneficial than any pro agility (a baseline agility test commonly used by strength and conditioning professionals) or sprint time. He facilitated a technique that increased the integrity of this athlete’s frame, allowing massive room for the addition of more horsepower. Like I said before, adding horsepower to a car that is out of alignment, is a recipe to end up back in the mechanics shop. When people come into our facility for the first time, this is not always what they want to hear. Most people come to us and say “I want to get faster”, “I want to build strength”, “I want to increase my agility”. Regardless of the athlete’s goal, it must be initiated with fantastic movement patterns. In turn we will develop a machine that runs reliably, efficiently, and will have a tremendous amount of room for after-market additions.