“...the brain is like a muscle. When we think well, we feel good. Understanding is a kind of ecstasy.”
Where do you go if you face a problem or question your experience or bookshelf can’t answer? Especially when faced with the complicated workings of the human machine! For me, I seek out other coaches. After all, a coach needs a coach.
The problem I faced was a common one. I know this because it has appeared at every school I coached: Athletes have an injury, they receive specific rehab to return to action only to wind up back on the shelf while their teammates leave them behind. The Athletic Trainers are addressing a specific issue, but not what might have cause the injury. Looking at the athletes as a whole, how can a coach more effectively integrate athletes back into team training, and, more importantly, keep them there?
To help solve this problem, I sought the help of Lauren Polivka, DPT. Her solution, ditch the foam rollers and the stretching and fix the real problem: teaching athletes how to move. Lauren is a licensed physical therapist based in Atlanta, GA, who graduated from Northwestern University with a Doctorate of Physical Therapy in 2007. She has visited with Power Athlete on PA Radio Episode 114 and leads a Repair and Recovery workshop in which she educates athletes, coaches and gym owners on 4 principles of movement she developed:
- Dynamic Functional Mobility
- Proximal Stability for Distal Mobility
- Muscle Sling Systems
- Multi Joint Approach
Information gleaned from books and takeaways from presentations are a great for breaking a mental sweat, but real knowledge is gained through conversations. Lauren and I found a lot of comparable conclusions and connections for athlete's performance happened upon through applications of different movements and assessment tools. With the conversation below, we hope to spark the Quality Movement Movement!
Dynamic Functional mobility
Developing both efficient and effective movement needs to be a daily practice through the implementation of Dynamic Functional Mobility into both daily warm ups and active recovery.
Dynamic → Constantly Changing
Lauren defines dynamic as pieces that are constantly changing. Sitting on a foam roller or reaching down to touch your toes will not prepare you for the training day. Believe it or not, I constantly see sports teams still applying the “10 count” stretching grid in their pre-practice and pre-game routines! Standing on the sidelines, this kills me, but I always turn to my guys and let them know we’ve already won.
Functional → Specifically Relates to Skill
Dynamic warm ups are more than getting your chili hot, though. The warm up must specifically prepare for the training day ahead! Athletes on our Field Strong program know this all too well as these programmed warm ups aim to increase the working range of muscles and prepare them for more powerful efforts.
Functional, maybe an even more over used term in this industry than recovery. Lauren draws a line in the sand for the term and its definition; functional: specifically relates to skill.
Mobility → Elasticity
At Power Athlete we define mobility as an athlete’s ability to get into a position. Lauren does concur with this definition, but takes a more analytical approach asking, “are the body parts elastic enough to get into a position?” This is from a movement perspective, not simply isolating a problem, or throwing out a solution to a whole group that does not have the problem.
Active recovery needs to become a daily practice. This does not mean going through the motions on a foam roller or sitting in the cold tub post practice. Active recovery is something the athlete does for themselves such as skill development, cool down stretching, or making time to attack movement deficiencies. I’m sorry, but extra bicep curls and a lap on Jacked Street. post training is not active recovery. We all have issues limiting our performance, but how dedicated are we in actively correcting these limiting factors?
Active recovery days are a big component to the Field Strong program. They dial in on skill transfer, proper Primal movement patterns, challenge the body’s deep stabilizer muscles, plus elevating heart rate to flush inflammation and be ready for next training session. If your rest days look anything like @Luke’s inactive recovery, you could be negatively affecting your trainability and performance long term.
Get Your Chili Hot
The warm up is where Lauren and I found common ground, both in a general approach and specific application. The general approach to a warm up of an athlete or team needs to increase the functional potential of the body as whole and is accomplished in the fighter’s warm up and iso-stability work. The specific portion of each and every warm up (routine’s are dead), establishes the optimal relationship between the (forthcoming) movement and requirement of the central nervous system, as well as priming the energy systems for the specific sport.
Any experienced Power Coach will tell you the strength or speed an athlete can display is not constant. Performance depends strongly on the conditions preceding and accompanying the motor activities. The primary goal of Field Strong and any Power Athlete custom team program is developing the replication of speed. This enhances an athlete’s ability to compete as close to their athletic potential rep after rep, no matter their fatigue level.
Warm ups offer the opportunity for an athlete to become better connected to their body's function. The greater the connection, the more capable they are of fully and skillfully using the potential and replicating this at a high level.
Empower Your Performance - Everything is everything
Performance for Lauren can be broken down into a simple equation:
Performance = Efficient + Effective
Lauren and I were in agreement on a lot of performance approaches. This will not always be the case when seeking the answers to your questions. Inquiring about Lauren's path of discovery for her 4 principles of movement sent me down many wormholes and grown as a coach. I encourage all of you to look beyond Google and try to find a coach that has been there. You may not like what you find, but diving deeper into how they came to their conclusions. After all, the brain is like a muscle, you have to stress to progress!
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Former collegiate lacrosse defensive midfielder, 4-year letter winner and 3-year team captain. Coached strength and conditioning collegiately with Georgetown University football, Men's and Women's lacrosse and Women's Crew, as well with the University of Texas at Austin's football program. Apprenticed under Raphael Ruiz of 1-FortyFour-1 studying proper implementation of science based, performance driven training systems. Head coached CrossFit Dupont's program for two years in Washington D.C. Received a Master's in Health Promotion Management from Marymount University in 2010, and has been a coach for Power Athlete since October, 2012.
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