Monday, June 24, 2013

Training Idea's You've Never Heard Of Part 3 - Put Your Best Foot Forward

What's the most important part of your car?

The engine is a good answer but what connects the engine with the road?

Ah yes, the wheels.

If your wheels can't support the engine then bad things happen. Bad expensive things. And no doubt you'd get onto that right away.

As this a blog on footy and the preparation of your body for it, lets go out of the speaking in metaphors.

You pump it all the way up in the gym getting bigger and stronger in the hope of getting faster and thus better (cos speed is king).

You'll squat. You'll deadlift. You'll lunge. A lot of you will leg extend which is a waste of time but hey, not everyone's perfect.

But let's go back a bit and think about the actual motion of running.

What's the only part of your body to touch the ground when you run?

What part of your body needs to be able to absorb and then release all the strength and power you've built up in your hips and legs to make sprinting faster an actual reality?

I bet you've never trained your feet and that's a huge mistake.

Specifically you want to focus on your big toe and your arch.

Addressing the big toe first If you have a stiff big toe then 3 major issues can arise.

1 - When you walk the entire body must advance over the foot and ankle but if your big toe is inhibited (just doesn't work like its meant to) then you'll fond another way around which alters your alignment and can cause problems at the foot, ankle, knee, hip, low back and even shoulder/neck issues.

2 - If you can't load your big toe then it can become arthritic pretty quickly.

3 - You won't be able to achieve triple extension or an adequate toe off position to achieve optimal sprinting mechanics and thus you won't be able to access the "engine room' you've worked long and hard to build up in the gym.

Addressing the arch, it's main role in sprinting is to be able to be strong enough to put as much force as you can generate into the ground with as little deformity as possible. If you bounce a flat footy on the ground it flattens out when it comes in contact with the ground and barely springs back if at all.

If you have a weak arch, and in a lot cases no arch at all, then you're leaking just as much power as you are generating.

To determine if it your big toe is an issue for you then record yourself doing some reverse lunges and look at your back foot. If your big toe is no good then you'll be loading your smaller toes on the outside of your foot and you won't be very stable either.

To determine if your arch is an issue then record your self performing a bodyweight squat and look for your foot to roll inwards as you descend into your deepest position.

Below is a video of some exercises that I've been using to train the forefoot.

For the squats onto toes focusing on pushing right through the big toe on every rep.

For the step ups again focusing on pushing through the big toe and limit foot deformity by maintaining the plantar flexed angle you start with.

For the depth drops focus on landing on your toes again limiting deformity of the foot upon landing and hold each landing for 1 - 2 seconds in an athletic stance.

The skipping basically puts all this together so stay on tour toes, push right through your big toe and keep foot deformity to a minimum where your heels should not touch the ground at all

Pop these in your warm up for 8 - 15 reps focusing on quality over quantity and aim for 3 - 4 times a week.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Training Idea's You've Never Heard Of Part 2 - Breathe Yourself Flexible

Last week I posted about diaphragmatic breathing and if your breathing patterns are not optimal, how they can cause joint and muscle tightness which WILL negatively affect your performance on a Saturday (if you're not already injured from them!)

To quickly recap when your breathing patterns, with the main culprit being a lack of diaphragmatic breathing, then 2 things can, and will happen.

1 - You'll tend to breath through your chest which will result in a lot of chest, neck and shoulder contractions every time you breath and with repeated contraction comes overactivity of all of these muscles which leads to chronic tightness. This will negatively affect your shoulder mobility. Massage or physio won't help here at all post 12 - 24 hours of treatment because you'll continue breath the way you do, and those muscles continue to work a very high rate.


2 - Your diaphragm is one of the many muscles that is responsible for core stability. When this muscle is not being used to breath it's like any other muscle, and will become weak and unaccustomed to the roles that it's designed for. Again like any muscle, when it doesn't perform as optimally as it should then stress is shifted to other muscles to pick up the slack. In this case the muscles are hip, being closest in proximity to the lumbar spine, will become stabilisers and tighten up to provide that stability.

There's a fair chance that if you suffer from one then you'll be suffering from the other as well so both area's will need to be addressed.

Firstly you'll need to retrain your breathing patterns as described in last week's post linked above.

Secondly you'll need to integrate this diaphragmatic breathing pattern into stretches for the upper and lower body.

Over at my actual business website I have made up some home rehabilitation books with one each for knees, lower back and shoulders that has a step by step program for each. Head over to here to purchase through the Paypal link making payment to

As a short case study I had a client who took a fall and developed a frozen shoulder about a week later because of it. He took a week off personal training from doctors orders then came back before he was meant to because he wanted to. His first session in he could only lift his hand off his hip about 10 - 15 degrees. In 10 - 14 days which would have accounted for 5 - 6 personal training sessions using the exact protocol from the shoulder book, we had him raising his arm all the way to the roof pain free but with a little discomfort.

These books works because it actually gets to the heart of the problem instead of treating a few symptoms and getting some very short term benefit only to fall back to your starting point in a day or 2.

If you have restriction anywhere then these books will go a long way to regaining that range of motion which will then set you up correctly to 'cement" that new and improved posture through strength training.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Training Idea's You've Never Heard Of Part 1 - Diaphragmatic Breathing

Last month I posted about my up coming series on "Training Idea's You've Never Heard Of", and now that I  have finally filmed the videos I needed for them, let's get rolling.

First I'm going to teach you how to breath. Yep, you read that right.

Not having correct patterns can be hazardous in a shitload of ways. For the athlete the main one's is that your oxygen circulation will not be as good as it could be limiting endurance and it can lead to chronic muscle tightness.

As always the first thing to do is an assessment of your breathing so set up your camera phone, press record and take a video of you taking 3 big, deep breathes while lying on your back. Make these the biggest breathes you can take.

I'll wait for you to do that before I go on..................................................................................................

OK now have a look back at that video and see if your chest rises up more then anything when you take a breathe in. Am I correct? I probably am as I haven't seen anyone not breathe through their chest who I've tested this on which includes probably every client that has come through my studio in the last 6 months as well as friends and family I used as guinea pigs to put this into action.

So why is chest breathing so bad? Well it means that your not really using the muscle/s that are designed to actual perform your breathing with the biggest one being your diaphragm.

Being a chest breather is very uncool in 2 major ways.

The 1st way is that when you breath through your chest then you are contracting your pecs, front delts, upper traps and various neck muscles 20,000 times a day. Coincidentally it's these muscles that are chronically tight from sitting in front of a computer all day, driving and terrible programming with your gym program.

The 2nd way is when your diaphragm is not being used it becomes weak like any muscle. Being a member of the core muscle family, and a pretty damn important one at that, if it is weak than your core stability is not going to be as good as it could be either. What happens here is that because your core muscles are there to support the lumbar spine and pelvis above all else, when they can't because of weakness then the muscles in and around the hip will provide the stability instead which means they tighten up like North Melbourne in a 4th quarter.

That tight groin you have is probably not going to go away with some rest and massage because if you're still breathing, which is advantageous in regards to living, then those muscles are still being overworked.

Here's a video of yours truly with the first 2 breathes of each variation being purposefully bad ones, and the last 2 breathes being correctly demonstrated. Archie is also pretty good at it too but if you look at infants, they all are.

Notice how I breathe heavily through my chest on the first 2 breathes then strictly through the diaphragm on the last 2.

When practicing diaphragmatic breathing there are some rules to abide by.

1 - Breath in through your nose taking as much air in as you can in a controlled manner, we're not sniffing a mate's fart here.

2 - I instruct clients for the first half of the inhalation to fill the top part of your belly and then for the second half to push it down to your lower belly, essentially filling your entire belly.

3 - At the midpoint of the breathe your looking for 360 degree expansion of your core so you should feel pressure in the front, back and both sides of your belly. If you were a weight belt then that's what your aiming for.

4 - Hold that breath for about a second

5 - Through purst lips, exhale the breathe slowly and controlled. Again don't be in a hurry here.

6 - Each breath should take about 7 - 8 seconds to complete.

Perform a set of 10 breathes at the start of each gym session and actually the more you can practice this the better.

Going back to the video, I do breathing on my back (supine) and on my front (prone). I suggest starting off in a supine position and once you can do all 10 breathes without your chest moving at all, then roll onto your front and try the prone variation. The progression here is that you now are working against some resistance to get the 360 degree expansion in the form of your body pushing against the ground.

Have a crack at this and let me know how you go. Next week I'll post about using this diaphragmatic breathing to improve flexibility and mobility, a thing most of you can probably use.