Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What Are You Talking About…Specifically? (part 3)

Sport-Specific Training – But “Why?”

In my many discussions with those in my field (who I hold the highest regard), we all agree that there are many ways to become stronger. Some ways are safer than others and in some cases, more beneficial overall to the athlete but regardless, there is more than one way to skin a cat.
Because there are so many variations there are times when illogical approaches are suggested – approaches that further probing reveal a lack of understanding of form and function. Ask “why” an individual needs power cleans and you more than likely will hear a response such as “it builds explosiveness” and to which I would again ask “why”. Since their understanding is such that it is merely a regurgitated response from a well-known individual or because their favorite football team does it my second probe of “why” tends to stop them dead in their tracks, usually because they really don’t know why they are doing what they are doing and are just following along aimlessly. I’ve had many brief conversations with people who are sport-specific specific – brief because they can not intelligently explain to me why they need to be specific in the gym nor can they explain to me, for instance, why a leg press, squat, deadlift, lunge or any other deep knee bending movement would somehow differ in developing the muscles of the legs and hips. At that point the conversation usually terminates because they are without an answer or logical reason. Personally, it is beyond my comprehension why it so damn difficult to have someone understand that a person who is looking to improve their performance doesn’t need more than to work at improving their strength and conditioning and perform proper practice for said activity to improve.

Again, I’ll reference my own experiences. After my failed vest experience all I did to improve my basketball was work at my sport and performed resistance training. Hell, I didn’t even do any additional conditioning work because at the time I was training three times a week doing full body workouts for one set to muscular failure and just playing basketball all the time. Through this dedicated effort my knowledge of the game improved, experience was teaching me how to “anticipate” and “respond” better. My speed/quickness improved as well did my jumping (I was able to touch the rim at 5’7”) and not to mention my shooting range increased as well and I could play full court for hours. Instead of wasting time doing simulation work I was applying my efforts into the actual activities that were required to play my sport.

It’s All Vanilla To Me

I always tell a buddy of mine that with the countless number of ice cream flavors out there in the world, vanilla is still the number one favorite flavor. Vanilla is as plain and simple as you can get and yet it sits high as supreme in the ice cream world. Manufacturers add variety and invest countless hours and money into developing new and exciting flavors to wow the industry – and they do for a short time before everyone falls back on old faithful – vanilla. Vanilla, it’s simple, effective – it gets the job done, just like a straightforward strength program consisting of a handful of compound movements worked hard and consistently over time and proper practice of specific movements in your sport. Quite often this “vanilla” approach is shunned because of its simplicity and unfortunately, its advantages ignored. It’s an uncomplicated, established method that doesn’t need accreditation, sponsorship, extensive research or techno terms to define or describe –it’s just a plain old way of producing results that have benefited many an athlete over the course of many, many years. - Fred Fornicola

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What Are You Talking About…Specifically? (part 2)

Sport-Specific Training - Today

Sport-specific training in its current concept is a means of simulating a movement or exercise in the weight room with the intention of it transferring to the playing field – regardless of what that field is. It is also a protocol of lifting fast to become fast, using low repetitions to bulk and performing power cleans and snatches to make better football players. Of course these are not all of the perceived concepts attached to sport-specific specific training but enough to make one question what the hell someone is thinking when they argue these points. It’s beyond my comprehension why anyone would think performing, for example, a walking lunge would simulate running or how throwing a weighted object will somehow cross over to throwing a football or baseball. The term “sport-specific” in my definition of the term means “specific to ones sport” which means that an athlete should be doing what is specifically needed to perform their activity or sport. If someone wants to improve their golf swing then they should take golf lessons from a qualified coach and then practice, practice and practice some more. Swinging a weighted object of any kind in place of the golf club will not develop club head speed or improve your swing – what it will do is create new mechanics for your body to learn and then distort your regular swing. Plain and simple – there is no transference from one activity to another, which is why movement is SPECIFIC!

The same holds true for developing explosiveness and speed. These skills are developed by becoming stronger, practicing proper skills and techniques, understanding your sport, having acute auditory and visual skills, being perceptive and of course, let’s not forget genetics. I remember watching the great Dick Butkus when he played for the Chicago Bears. You could see him watch as plays evolved and then react with such tenacity and speed. Was it because he was doing power cleans or lifting fast? Hell no, the man knew his sport and his competition and put himself in the right place and the right time. He was strong, determined, understood how to read plays and was an animal on the field – that’s what made him great - and this was all without the benefit of strength training because at that time he didn’t believe in it.

Have you ever experienced or witnessed an individual avoid a car accident merely because they see the accident unfolding as it is about to occur and while observing their surroundings, react instantly? Is it because they work out on a balance board or maxed out on their squats? Nah, I doubt it. They used their auditory and visual skills, maybe even some experience and knowledge of how to handle a situation as this. So, my confusion lies with the idea of transfer - transfer of performing one movement or skill to another. If a power clean is identical to performing movements on the football field then I should be able to eat soup with a fork because it’s the same movement as if I were to use a spoon. If you believe that one needs to stand on an unstable surface to become stable then that leads me to reason that you wouldn’t mind a house built on sand. Why put someone on an unsecured surface to develop their stability? Why have someone risk falling, twisting a knee or ankle, or worse so they can develop balance – and when in hell was the last time you saw anyone play a sport on an unstable surface? Lift fast to be fast? Gotcha, so let’s use momentum and gravity to move the weight, not our muscles to develop speed – right. Think about that, does it make sense to unload the muscle to develop strength and speed? If you give it a moment’s thought you’d realize that the muscles need to do the work to become stronger and just throwing a weight around doesn’t mean you are becoming stronger or becoming faster – it just means you are throwing a weight around. - Fred Fornicola

Part 3 to follow...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What Are You Talking About…Specifically?

My original intention for this article was to go through a thorough explanation of the misnomer “sport-specific training,” but after a few conversations over the last few days with some of my peers who have encountered some “debates” over this idiotic concept, I’ve decided to just cut to the chase and discuss this plain and simple.

Sport-Specific Training – The Old Days

In my day, sport-specific training (which I don’t believe was even a trendy term at the time) meant becoming more physically fit by strength training, running, performing wind sprints etc., along with hours upon hours of skillful practice of one’s chosen sport. Currently, the term “sport-specific training” has taken on a completely different connotation, largely in part because of the commercialization of the strength and conditioning industry. At the present time, the idea of sport-specific training is touted as being able to duplicate or imitate a specific "skill" or aspect of ones sport in the weight room atmosphere. As for me, it meant practicing sprinting and making cuts up and down the court while dribbling a basketball, rebounding, shooting and actually performing game-like activities, not running with a parachute on my back or throwing weighted balls or jumping off boxes.

Here’s a personal anecdote that I’ll use as an example. I played basketball my entire young life and back in the late 1970’s, weighted vests became popular (what, do you think weighted vests are new?) so I purchased one. I wore that thing all the time because I was going to improve my jumping, my speed and my quickness – well, so I thought. I ran, jumped and practiced shooting every day with that vest on and in the beginning I had trouble making any of my shots, my running stride was out of whack and my timing was way off. Why? - Because I was learning new motor skills. After about a week I started making my shots and started to get my timing down. Now, after that week I decided to go play some pickup games sans the vest and to my surprise, I couldn’t make a shot to save my life. My timing was way off, my stride was not right and I miss timed my jumps. Why? I had developed new learning skills with the vest on which DID NOT cross over to my needs on the basketball court. - Fred Fornicola

Part 2 to follow....

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Round Three

Matt (Brzycki) and I received some very good news yesterday regarding our book "Dumbbell Training for Strength and Fitness". Sales have been going quite well and we need to do a third produciton run. We are just a couple hundred copies away from hitting the 6,000 mark in sales in just over a years time.

Matt and I are very proud of this project and would like to thank everyone who has supported us in this effort.

Best in Health,

Fred Fornicola

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Safety First

A sad event occurred on July 10th when a young teen, who was lifting weights alone at his home, was killed in what the news called a "freak accident."

In my opinion, it is surprising that the death toll isn't higher since this scenario seems to be the norm for young teens (as well as adults) who perform exercises alone - especially those exercises that require proper spotting by a qualified individual.

Strength training is a great activity but safety is paramount - especially when you are training alone so use discretion and forgoe ANY exercise - even if it's the "best of the best" if you can be injured - or worse!

Here is the article regarding the death of this young teen.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Trusting What You Know

"The things we know best are things we haven't been taught." - Luc de Clapiers de Vauvenargues

Exercise is (or at least, should be) a personal endeavor and to follow specific "rules" often throws a monkey wrench into the works. Too often people handcuff themselves when they use these arbitrary guidelines and because of this, their fitness suffers. They often don't go by "feel" and don't trust what their instincts tell them because certain rules prohibit or recommend otherwise. They don't listen to what their body (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual) needs and their fitness program is lacking - all because of what they've been taught.

It makes perfect sense to seek out knowledge but there is no better teacher then your own experience. Fred Fornicola

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A New Look

Premiere Personal Fitness website has a new look.....check it out

Monday, July 02, 2007

Hips & Girdles

In a quick conversation with my daughter early this morning we were discussing throwing the shot put. She is interested in throwing the shot (she's in 6th grade) and is supposed to learn over the next few practices to see if she has what it takes to throw. I briefly reminded her that she not only needs the strength from her shoulders but it is her legs - in particular her hips that give her the power and for her to focus on using her hips when she is doing the shot. If you think about it, the hips are involved in every aspect of sports and is the main source of where your power comes from. Taking that in to consideration, a solid exercise program MUST involve the hips structure in some fashion. If someone just did a multi-joint lower body movement like a deep knee bend (squat or leg press for instance) or some form of deadlift they would satisfy more than half their requirements for providing the largest muscle group thorough stimulation. Second to the hips is the shoulder “girdle” which is extremely important in every aspect of athletics and daily life and should be worked thoroughly with some type of overhead pressing movement, therefore a workout consisting of a set of overhead presses for 15-20 all-out repetitions followed by a set of stiff-leg deadlifts for 35-50 repetitions should nail if for most people - everything else like pushups, curls and maybe a pulldown would be "extra" and more than likely, not necessary on a constant basis. - Fred Fornicola