Mastery by George Leonard

Mastery by George Leonard

Mastery – Book notes

  • 1987 May edition of Esquire magazine, Ultimate Fitness section by George Leonard.  “Ultimately, fitness and health are related to everything we do, think and feel. Thus… what we are calling ultimate fitness has less to do with running a 2:30 marathon that with living a good life.”
  • Mastery – the mysterious process during which what is difficult becomes progressively easier and more pleasurable through practice.  This is not just about sports but in all of life.
  • Don’t put quick easy results over long term dedication to the journey itself. The quick-fix doesn’t work in the long run is eventually destructive to the individual and society.
  • Success and fulfillment are found in the long term, essentially goalless process of mastery.  This is true in all areas of life.
  • Our current society works in ways that lead us astray, but the path to mastery is always there, waiting for us.
  • Mastery is a process, and its available to anyone willing to get on a path and stay on it. It begins when you decide to learn any new skill.
  • There comes a point when doing a activity that the truth begins to sink in.  Going for mastery in this isn’t going to bring you the quick rewards you had hoped for.  There’s a seemingly endless road ahead of you with numerous setbacks along the way-and most important-plenty of time on the plateau, where long hours of diligent practice gain you no apparent progress at all.  Not a happy situation for one who is highly goal oriented.  You realize that you have a decision to make at some point along the journey, if not now.  You’re tempted to drop the activity and go out looking for a easier one.  Quit the path to mastery and just have fun with it.  Or you might try twice as hard, insist on extra lessons and help, practice day and night.  Committing to the long path to mastery.  This choice comes up in our lives all the time.  Anything that has to do with learning, development, and change.
  • Genius no matter how bright, will come to a swift burn out if you don’t choose the masters journey.  It will be arduous, exhilarating, bring unexpected heartaches, and unexpected rewards, and you will never reach a final destination. You will probably end up learning as much about the skill you’re pursuing as yourself.
  • The path will be one of progress, a dip and long plateau. Repeated over and over again.  You have to be willing to keep going when you don’t seem to be making any progress.
  • Spurts happen because we have to keep practicing an unfimilar skill until we get it in the muscle memory, or program it into the autopilot. Not having to “think” about doing something.  We’re just able to do it.
  • How do you best move toward mastery? You practice diligently, but you practice primarily for the sake of the practice itself. Rather than be frustrated on the plateau, you learn to appreciate and enjoy it just as much as you do the upward surges.
  • The dabbler jumps from one shiny object to the next because its easier to do that than commit to mastery and have to change oneself.
  • The obsessive focuses on results and puts full effort into getting ahead.  But when they hit the plateau they burn out from all the extra energy and not enough results.  They need to embrace the plateau and learn growth in spurts.
  • The hacker does only enough to get by. They are willing to settle for not growing and improving.
  • You can be all three types at different times but the basic patterns prevail.  They reflect and shape your performance, character, and destiny. Knowing these patterns can help you see why you’re not on the path to mastery. 
  • Our society will make this path difficult for you.  Its a quick fix mentality that tries to appeal to using fear, logic, snobbery, or pure hedonism. They show life as a series of climatic moments. In short there is no plateau.  When things get hard we take a pill, use a crash diet, become an instant millionaire, use a credit card, buy a pre-cooked meal, etc. It’s just a series of quick fixes. Business fits into this as well.  Executives are urged to cut the expenses, put assets into improving profits… at the expense of balance and growth.  Then the leveraged buyout to make a lot of money in a short amount of time.  Very little value is added to the corporation, or to the national economy in the long run. This same thought pattern is what makes people think they can learn a new skill or lose weight without patient, long term effort.
  •   Achieving goals is important, but not as much as enjoying the process and journey itself.  Value, enjoy, and love the plateau.. the long stretch of diligent effort with no apparent results. Learn to embrace and know that if you stay on the path you will hit another spurt of growth.
  • People who get into something for the money, fame, or the medal can’t be effective.  You have to discover your own desire, and when you do you won’t wait for other people to find solutions to your problems.  You’re going to find your own. Set goals for yourself and make sure you enjoy the work.  It should feel like it is your “essential you” doing the work and if you didn’t do that work it would be betraying that essential part of yourself.
  • What are you drawn to that you feel in a world of your own?  Totally focused almost hypnotized. You can easily concentrate and take pleasure in your work. Where you enjoy the feel, the rhythm, and texture of it.
  • Fame is not important.  To love your work, and willingness to stay with it even in the absence of extrinsic reward is what its all about.
  • The face of someone in the pursuit of mastery is often relaxed, serene, and sometimes faintly smiling.
  • Goals and contingencies are important, but they exist in the future and the past, beyond the sensory realm.  Mastery and practice exist only in the present. You can see it, smell it, and feel it. Loving the plateau is the love of the present, and then hitting a growth spurt and another plateau. Loving the plateau is to love what is most essential and enduring in your life.
  1. Instruction – the best first step you can take is to arrange first-rate instruction.  The self taught person is on a chancery path.  One on one instruction with a master is the best form, but you can also learn from books, classes, friends, co-workers, etc.  The search for a good person starts with knowing who the teachers teachers were.  This applies to books as well.  Once you find someone attend a session with them and view their interaction with students.  Do they use praise or damnation?  The best will strive for a 50/50 approach of praise and correction like John Wooden did. Does the teacher focus only on the best students?  Do they have the knowledge, expertise, and technical skill to teach beginners?   Most of the best students work harder and and experience more than talented students.  If a person is a slow learner and preservers their efforts they will reap the most reward because they struggled the most to learn it.  An audio or video tape can show you the correct golf swing, but it has no way of observing your swing and telling you what you need to improve.  Books also suffer the same in that they suffer from lack of feedback.  But a paragraph sometimes has more power to change the individual and the world than any number of pictures.  Good teachers are ones that can involve each student actively in the process of learning.  If a teacher doesn’t seem like a good fit, first look inside.  You might be expecting more than the teacher can give.
  2. Practice – You practice in order to learn a new skill, and improve yourself to get ahead, achieve goals, and make money.   But in mastery its not about something you do its about what you are. Practice is just the path upon which you travel. Practicing something that is an integral part of your life.. NOT in order to gain something else.   But for its own sake.  Rewards are not the goal of the path, but are fine if they happen along the way.   Its about going on learning for as long as you live. People who do this goalless practice do it because they love practice and they do it to get better. The better they get the more they enjoy doing the basic moves over and over again.  Do it to enjoy yourself, not to make money, get fame, and stature.  How long does it take to become a master at _____? How long do you expect to live?  Practice is the path to mastery.  It may be a rough and bumpy path, but it will be the most reliable thing in your life.  It might eventually turn you into a winner in your chosen field, if thats what you’re looking for.  But thats not really the point. Its just to keep practicing and staying on the path.
  3. Surrender – to your teacher and discipline.  And to your own hard earned proficiency from time to time to reach a higher level. Be prepared to fail at the beginning and make a fool out of yourself.  The essence of boredom is found in search for novelty. Satisfaction lies in mindful repetition and the richness in subtle variations of familiar themes.  If you want to progress at something you may have to be ok going back to the basics, trying something different getting worse for a time to get better.
  4. Intentionality – Mental practice.  Visualizing what you will do beforehand vividly. Bodybuilders and golf pro’s do this and say it is the key to their success.  The movement is already engrained into their nervous system. Thoughts, images and emotions have a effect on the world of matter and energy.  Arnold said that it is that vision.. seeing himself as Mr. Universe is what gave him the “want power”. Intentionality fuels the masters journey. Every master is a master of vision.
  5. The Edge – Masters work the fundamentals in small incremental steps.  The goal is to test the boundaries and push the envelope between endless, goalless practice and those alluring goals that appear along the way.  So you’re choosing a lifelong path, but there are checkpoints along the way. After you have put in the time along the path with instruction, practice, surrender, and intentionality you want to test yourself and push beyond your limits.  But then afterwards its back on the plateau.
  6. Why Resolutions Fail – We all resist change. Your body adapts to the demands you constantly place on it.  And keep it there. You have to decide if you really do want to spend the time and effort it takes to get on and stay on the path of change.  Be aware that resistance internally and externally is natural when you try and change anything.  Use pain as a possible guide for performance.  Play the edge of that discomfort as it will lead to progress.  Find others that have gone through what you are going through for a support system.  If no one else has gone down that path just find others close to you for support. Keep practicing as that will bring you into homeostasis during times of change.  Devote yourself to lifelong learning.  Learn how to learn.
  7. Getting Energy for Mastery – Old adage if you want something done ask a busy person to do it. We need rest and relaxation, but the human body can wear out from lack of use. Often the best remedy is 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. The same way mental and spiritual lassitude is often cured the same way with decisive action or clear intention to act.  Human energy comes into existence through use (motion). To tap into more energy maintain physical fitness.  Acknowledge the negative but accentuate the positive.  Tell the truth. Honor but don’t indulge your dark side. Set your priorities… decide what you’re going to do with the energy.  Indecision leads to inaction, which leads to low energy, depression, despair. You can’t do everything, but you can do one thing, then another one thing.. and so on.  It’s better to make the wrong choice than nothing at all.  List everything you want to do today, and then tomorrow. The prioritize them and focus on the most important first.  Do this for long term goals as well.  The simple act of just getting it down on paper will add clarity and energy to your life.  Make commitments and take action.  The journey is goalless and you take it for the journey itself.  But there are goals along the way.  The first being to just get started.  Then there is making a goal a little further out that will give you some clarity.  Plus energy flows from commitment.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Then, get on the path to mastery and stay on it.  The path will lead you to an energetic life.  Keep the flow going in low and high times.  Take the proper time for action and rest.  Much of the worlds depression is discontent and unused energy and potential. Start now.
  8. Pitfalls Along the Path – The challenge is staying on the path to mastery.  Will you actually be able to balance your job and path? The need for quick results is usually the worst enemy of mastery.  When you’re climbing a mountain be aware of the peak, but don’t keep looking at it.  Just keep looking at the path in front of you. And when you reach the top keep on climbing.  Don’t bounce around to different teachers.  Use competition to hone your hard-won skills to a fine edge. Winning is essential on the path but it isn’t the only thing.  Winning and losing with the same poise is the mark of a master.  Laziness can take you off the path, but the path itself is the best remedy for this.  The best way achieve a goal is to be fully present.  Hear its messages and ride the edge for progress but don’t get injured.  Don’t put emphasis on external rewards.. as the reward is the journey not a championship.  Be able to laugh at yourself and not be too serious.  Be consistent and don’t worry about perfection.  Its not about being perfect.  Its about the process and journey.  The master stays on the path year after year, trying, failing and trying and failing for as long as they live.
  9. Mastering the Commonplace – Zen masters will tell you that periods of sitting and meditating/chanting are the same as building a stone wall or washing dishes.  We can make the commonplace part of the extraordinary. you can do any task as a meditation by being fully present. Maintaining full awareness of your every move and your entire body. Aim for grace in your motions and breaths.  Don’t hurry and think about finishing the job.  Just on the task you’re doing.  You will feel better and most likely finish faster. Focus on the process rather than the product.  Practice doing regular tasks without losing composure.  Stay balanced, centered and focused on the process rather than pressing impatiently for completion.  Just as you have to work at a sport to achieve mastery the same goes for other areas of your life such as relationships.  Most of the learning will take place on the plateau.  Use all these same steps to become a master at relationships.  Because nothing in life is separate.  Your thoughts, acts and all paths of mastery all merge together.
  10. Packing for the Journey – Use a checklist of all the steps.  Then focus on balancing your body and centering your energy in your abdomen. Relax and tight muscles and do some breath work. Relax for power.  A tense muscle loses its strength. And such an overbearing attitude will fail.  Its your evolutionary destiny to use what is unused, to learn and keep on learning for as long as you live.  It’s not easy but its the ultimate human adventure. The path never ends.  How do you begin then? You need to only take the first step.  When? There is always now.

The Master and the Fool – Let yourself be seen as a fool to learn a new skill and become a learner.  Let yourself be playful and free to make mistakes.

Are you willing to wear your beginners badge with honor?

Andre Agassi

Found a great YouTube series on Andre Agassi.  I was never a fan of tennis or Andre’s, but watching him tell his story is quite amazing.  The level of self discipline, mastery, self discovery, lessons learned, etc.  It’s worth watching.  I am going to dive deeper into his story and read his book Open when I get a chance.

Speed, Agility, and Quickness Training

Similar to plyometrics training SAQ will enhance your ability to decelerate, accelerate, and dynamically stabilize the entire body while in all high velocity movements in all planes of motion.  Teaching the nervous system how to respond better and quicker.

Frontside mechanics – the correct alignment of the lead leg and pelvis while sprinting, that includes ankle dorsiflexion, knee flexion, hip flexion, and neutral pelvis.

Backside mechanics – same as frontside but focuses on rear leg during running.

Kinetic checkpoint during running:

Foot/ankle complex – the foot and ankle should be pointing straight ahead in a dorsiflexed position when it hits the ground.  Excessive flattening or external rotation will cause abnormal stress and decrease performance.

When designing a program start with limited horizontal movement and unpredictability, lower reps/sets.  Progress all to make the drills harder.

 

Plyometric Training Concepts

Plyometric training is also known as reactive training and uses hopping, jumping, or bounding to develop muscle power. It is key to make sure you have the proper joint stability, core strength, range of motion and balance BEFORE doing any plyometric exercises.  Also it may not be suitable for everyone especially those with past injuries, chronic diseases, or other limitations.  But if properly progressed the chances of injury are lower. When programmed properly plyometric training can be the key to achieving optimal performance in any activity or level of ability.

Everyone can benefit from stabilization, strength, and endurance as well as the ability to produce force fast to perform efficiently.

Rate of force production – muscles being exerting max force output in minimal amount of time.

The classic example is stretching a rubber band. When the rubber band is loose, the stiffness expressed across it is quite low. When the rubber band is stretched taut, the stiffness expressed across it is much higher. As a result, the time to reach peak force is dependent on the time course of this interaction between the contractile and elastic elements of a muscle. By having more motor neurons innervating the muscle fibers of any given muscle fire together, the stiffness of these elastic elements can be increased more rapidly, allowing a shorter latency between the initiation of force and the initiation of movement. This also allows subsequently recruited MU to capitalize on the stiffness created by MU that have been previously activated, increasing the total muscular force rapidly.

So basically you are creating stronger and tighter rubber bands out of your extremities with increasing your rate of force. Integrated performance paradigm – to move efficiently forces must be damped (eccentrically), stabilized (isometric) and accelerated (concentrically). The faster the switch from eccentric to concentric phase the more power will result. The shorter ground contact time will also result in less tissue overload, and reduce risk of injury.

Overall this training will give you stronger functional muscles, tendons, and ligaments.  Increasing performance in everyday activities and sport. Speed is limited by neuromuscular coordination and will only move as fast as the nervous system will allow. Plyometric training will raise the limit of the speed set.

 Plyometric Stabilization Exercises:

Little joint movement designed for improving landing mechanics, posture, and reactive neuromuscular efficiency (coordination when moving dynamically).  Hold position when landing for 3-5 seconds.  Make any adjustments to fix faulty positions. Exercises:

  • Squat jump with stabilization – make sure knees in line with toes before and after jumping.  Feet should point straight at all times.  From side view make sure knees are behind toes at both takeoff and landing.
  • Box jump-up with stabilization – adjust height of box to match ability and do all planes of motion.
  • Box jump down with stabilization – step off and drop to the floor initially and then progress to jumping off the box to the floor for progression.
  • Multi planar jump with stabilization

 Plyometric Strength Exercises:

These are more dynamic and involve full range of motion.  Improves dynamic joint stabilization, eccentric strength, rate of force production, and neuromuscular efficiency of entire human movement system.  Repeat quickly and spend only a little time on ground. Exercises:

  • Squat jump
  • Tuck jump – ensure proper alignment
  • Butt kick – look for client arching back which is a symptom of tight quads

 Plyometric Power Exercises:

Include the whole muscle action spectrum and contraction-velocity spectrum used while integrated functional movements are occurring. Improves eccentric strength, rate of force, reactive strength, reactive joint stabilization, dynamic neuromuscular efficiency, and optimal force production. Perform exercises as fast and explosive as possible. Exercises:

  • Ice-skaters – can start out hopping side to side and adding a reach with the hand if needed
  • Single leg power step up – be aware of the switching of positions
  • Proprioceptive plyometrics – use cones, hurdles, or tape on the floor

 

Balance Training Concepts

Poor balance is related to injury risk.  Maintaining proper balance is vital.  It is not only in static positions but also involves multiple neurologic pathways during movement.

Dynamic balance – Ability to change directions and move during different conditions without falling.

Balance is made possible by visual, vestibular (inner ear) and proprioceptive inputs.

Effects of joint dysfunction:

  1. joint dysfunction
  2. muscle inhibition
  3. joint injury
  4. swelling
  5. altered proprioception

80% of the adult U.S. population will experience lower back pain.

Training should consist of at least 10 minutes a day, 3 times a week for at least 4 weeks to improve dynamic and static balance.  And be done in a systematic progressive method of stabilization, strength and power phases.

All three phases can be made harder or easier by changing visual conditions, changing the surface, or altering body position or movement required.

Balance Stabilization Exercises

This phase involves only small joint movements and trains the reflexive (automatic) joint stabilization to increase joint stability.

The body is placed in unstable environments and learns to contract the right muscle at the right time to maintain balance.

Exercises:

  • single leg balance – make sure glutes of balancing leg stays contracted
  • single leg balance reach – keep hips level
  • single leg hip internal and external rotation – rotate through hip not spine
  • single leg lift and chop – make sure knee that is in air remains in line with toes
  • single leg throw and catch – harder = various height, further distance, and changing velocity

Balance Strength Exercises

Now the balance leg will incorporate dynamic eccentric and concentric movement through full range of motion.

Exercises:

  • single leg squat – make sure knee stays in line with toe
  • single leg squat touchdown – if trouble touching foot touch knee and progress
  • single leg romanian deadlift – progression – touch knee, shin, foot
  • multi planar step-up to balance – make sure balance leg hip is in full extension for max glute use
  • multiplanar lunge to balance – make sure lunge doesn’t go too far out

Balance Power Exercises

This phase will help with deceleration, eccentric strength, reactive joint stabilization, and dynamic neuromuscular control.

Exercises:

  • multi planar hop with stabilization – make sure landing is soft and quiet and keep knee in line with toes
  • multi planar single leg box hop up with stabilization
  • multi planar single leg box hop down with stabilization – keep knee in line and land softly

Designing a balance training program should be done in that order.  When moving into the strength and power phases you want to add a set, reduce reps and rest time to make the training harder (90 seconds to 60 seconds rest).

Cardio Training

What is cardio training? The ability of the respiratory and circulatory systems to supply oxygen rich blood to skeletal muscles during physical activity.

It has a massive list of health benefits including better heart function, more efficient breathing, reduced cholesterol and blood pressure, reduces depression and anxiety, better sleep, lose weight.

Cardio fitness is vital to health and wellness along with enjoying everyday living. It can help prevent chronic diseases and improve quality of life. In fact it is one of the main predictors of how long of a life you will live.

Each training session should include a warm-up, conditioning, and cool down phase.

General warm up – low intensity exercise consisting of movements that don’t necessarily relate to the more intense exercise that is to follow.

Specific warm up – low intensity exercise consisting of movements that will be included in the higher intensity exercises that will follow.

Warm up should last 5-10 minutes and be of low to moderate pace.  This will get the heart and tissues ready, as well as psychologically.  Although a new client may be a longer warm up time.  Up to 30 mins.

During warm up static stretching should only be done in areas that the fitness assessment has found to be tight or overactive.  Each stretch should be held for 20-30 seconds.

A cool down should be done to prevent blood pooling in lower extremities and lengthen muscles back to normal. Goal is to bring heart rate and body temperature back down to normal, and get physiologic systems back to baseline.

Flexibility should also be included in the cool down phase. Should do 5-10 minutes of low/moderate cardio, self-myofascial release, and static stretching.

FITTE Principle

  • Frequency – number of training sessions in a given timeframe
  • Intensity – the demand an activity places on the body
  • Type – mode or type of activity selected, to be cardio it must be rhythmic in nature, use large muscle groups, and be continuous
  • Time – length of time engaged usually in minutes – adults should get 150 minutes of moderate, 75 minutes of high intensity, or an equal mix of both for the same time period each week
  • Enjoyment – amount a pleasure one gets from an activity

Training Zones

  1. Zone one – 65-75% HR, walking jogging
  2. Zone two – 76-85% HR, spinning class
  3. Zone three – 86-95% HR, sprinting

Using stage training (periodization) a client can progress from a base stage 1 to stage 2 interval work in moderate intervals to stage 3 high intensity intervals and not risk overtraining. Which is caused by improper rest and recovery.

Circuit Training

Circuit training can be a very time efficient methods to improve cardio fitness.  It can be just as effective as traditional cardio methods like treadmills, biking, and results in a higher metabolic rate and strength levels after the workout.

Trainers must keep an eye on posture during circuit training to avoid poor form and risk injury.

Flexibility Training Concepts

Most people will require some warm up and flexibility to exercise optimally. They also usually suffer from some type of posture imbalance due to sedentary lifestyle, repetitive motions, office work, etc.

Flexibility will help prevent and treat neuromuscular injuries.

Importantly some people will not be able to achieve their goals until these issues are corrected.

Flexibility – Normal extensibility of all soft tissues that allow the full range of motion of a joint.

Extensibility – Capability to be elongated or stretched.

Dynamic range of motion – Combo of flexibility and the nervous systems ability to control this range of motion efficiently.

Neuromuscular efficiency – The ability of the neuromuscular system to allow agonists, antagonists, and stabilizers to work synergistically to reduce, produce, and dynamically stabilize the entire kinetic chain in all three planes of motion.

Postural distortion patterns – Predictable patterns of muscle imbalances

Relative flexibility – A body will seek path of least resistance during functional movement patterns. Examples are a person who externally rotates feet during squatting due to tight calf muscles.  Or someone who arches their back during a overhead press due to tight lats and inability to lift arms directly overhead.

Muscle Imbalance – Alteration of muscle length surrounding a joint.

Imbalances may be caused by:

  • Reciprocal inhibition – simultaneous contraction of one muscle and the relaxation of its antagonist to allow movement to take place
  • Altered reciprocal inhibition – caused by a tight agonist which inhibits the antagonist
  • Synergistic dominance – happens when inappropriate muscles take over the function of a weak prime mover
  • Arthokinematics – motion of the joints in the boyd
  • Arthokinetic dysfunction – altered forces at the joint that results in abnormal activity and impaired neuromuscular communication at the joint

Mechanoreceptors located in the muscles and tendons help determine muscle balance or imbalance. Which include muscle spindles and Golgi tendons.

Muscle spindles – Lie parallel to muscle and sense length changes. Preventing a muscle to stretch too far or fast.

Golgi tendons are located where the muscle and tendon meet and sense tension and rate of tension.

Autogenic inhibition – process of neural impulses that sense tension are greater than the impulses that cause the muscle to contract, providing an inhibitory effect to the muscle spindles.

Pattern overload – consistently repeating the same pattern of motion which may place abnormal stresses on the body. This can be as simple as a person sitting as a computer all day which is causing a repetitive stress to the body.

Flexibility is a key component in all training programs.  It helps with:

  • correcting muscle imbalances
  • increases joint range of motion
  • decreases excess tension in muscles
  • relieves joint stress
  • improves the extensibility of musculotendinous junction
  • helps maintain the normal length of muscles
  • improves neuromuscular efficiency
  • improves function

Davis’s law – says soft tissue models along the lines of stress.

If muscle imbalances and flexibility are not addresses before resistance or cardio training then the client may be putting additional stress on the body due to improper mechanics and bad muscle recruitment. Which can ultimately lead to injury.

Flexibility, just like other modes of training should follow a systematic progression known as the flexibility continuum.

The integrated flexibility continuum consists of three stages:

  1. Corrective flexibility, to increase joint ROM, improve muscle imbalance and correct altered joint motion – self-myofascial release, static stretching – used in phase 1 (stabilization) mode of OPT model
  2. Active flexibility, to improve the extensibility of soft tissue and increase neuromuscular efficiency using reciprocal inhibition – self-myofascial release, active-isolated stretching – used in phases 2,3,4 of OPT model
  3. Functional flexibility, which involved integrated multiplanar soft tissue extensibility through full range of motion with optimal control without compensations – self-myofascial release, dynamic stretching – used in the power phase of OPT or before athletic competition. Examples include the prisoner squat, multi planar lunge, tube walking side to side, and a medicine ball lift and chop.

Video showing how to prisoner squat:

Each form of stretching manipulates the receptors of the nervous system which allow for alteration of muscle extensibility.

 Self-myofacial release applies force to a knot and realigns the fibers with the muscle while releasing tension.

IMPORTANT – Client must find a tender spot and sustain pressure for at least 30 seconds (hold till discomfort is reduced) which will increase Golgi tendon organ and decrease muscle spindle activate to trigger the autogenic inhibition response.

It is suggested to be done before stretching because if knots are present and not broken up before stretching it may hamper muscles ability to stretch. Can also be done during cool down.

Static stretching (taking a muscle to point of tension and holding stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds) should be done to decrease muscle spindle activity of a tight muscle before and after activity.

Static stretching should be avoided before a competition due to loss of some strength.  Unless there is a muscle imbalance present.  Active and dynamic can be completed before athletics.

Active Stretching – process of using agonists and synergists to dynamically move a joint into range of motion.

Suggested form of stretching before an athletic competition or high intensity exercise.  Unless any imbalances are present in which case self-myofascial release and static stretching should be done first.

Typically 1-2 sets of 5-10 reps are done while holding stretch for 1-2 seconds each rep.

Dynamic stretching – active extension of a muscle using force production and momentum to move a joint through the full range of available range of motion. Uses reciprocal inhibition and done with 1-2 sets of 10-15 reps of 3-10 different exercises.

Can be used as a warmup before athletic competition.

 

Fitness Assessment by a Personal Trainer

A fitness assessment will look at a clients health history, risks, posture, movements, fitness baseline, physiologic measurements, cardio assessment, and design an exercise program to safely progress to desired outcome (clients likes/dislikes, goals, needs, abilities).

What a Personal Trainer Can and Can’t Help With

Can not:

  • Diagnose medical conditions
  • Prescribe treatment
  • Prescribe diets
  • Provide treatment of any kind of injury or disease
  • Provide rehab services for clients
  • Provide counseling services for clients

Can:

  • Obtain health and exercise guidelines from a doctor, PT, or R.D.
  • Follow national consensus guidelines of exercise prescription for medical disorders
  • Screen clients for exercise limitations
  • Identify potential risk factors for clients through screening procedures
  • Refer clients who feel pain to a qualified medical practitioner
  • Design individualized, systematic, progressive exercise programs
  • Refer clients with general information on healthy eating according to the food pyramid
  • Refer clients to a qualified dietician or nutritionist for specific diet plans
  • Use exercise to help improve health
  • Assist clients in following the medical advice of a physician or therapist
  • Design exercise programs for clients after they are released from rehab
  • Act as a coach for clients
  • Provide general information
  • Refer clients to a qualified counselor or therapist

Subjective information is gathered from a prospective client to give the trainer feedback of clients personal history like job, lifestyle, and medical background.

The physical activity readiness questionnaire will help trainers identify any medical, health, or physical condition that could restrict or limit the quantity or type of exercise the client could do. It will identify any individuals that require further health testing before going further into fitness testing and training.  They may need to see a doctor first.

Things like chest pain, dizziness, medications, and other reasons someone shouldn’t jump into training.

Two areas of focus for trainers should be the clients occupation and general lifestyle traits.

Examples:

If someone is sitting for long periods of time their hips are usually tight, shoulders rounded, forward head posture, and usually poor cardio conditioning.

Lots of repetitive work overhead can lead to muscle imbalances.

Dress shoes can lead to posture imbalances.

Mental stress can lead to increased HR, BP, and ventilation at rest and exercise.

Lifestyle – outside of the work life what recreational activities / hobbies does the client do?

What is their medical history?

Any past injuries or surgeries?

Chronic conditions – 75% of american adults do not engage in 30 minutes of low-moderate activity most days of the week. The CDC recommends 30 minutes of flow-moderate intensity exercise 5 days a week or more for good health. Risks go up for chronic diseases like high blood pressure, CHD, high cholesterol, stroke, lung problems, obesity, diabetes, cancer when this is not done.

Medications

  •  Beta blockers – Used for high blood pressure or irregular heart rate
  • Calcium channel blockers – Chest pain or hypertension
  • Nitrates – Hypertension, congestive heart failure, and peripheral edema
  • Bronchodilators – Correct or prevent bronchial smooth muscle constriction in people with asthma or other pulmonary diseases
  • Vasodilators – Hypertension or congestive heart failure
  • Antidepressants – Various psychiatric and emotional disorders

Effects on HR and BP

  •  Beta blockers – HR and BP decreased
  • Calcium channel blockers – HR increased, BP decrease
  • Nitrates -HR increase or stay same, BP stay same or decrease
  • Diuretics – HR no effect, BP same or decrease
  • Bronchodilators – HR no effect, BP no effect
  • Vasodilators – HR increase, stay same, or decrease, BP decrease
  • Antidepressants – HR increase or same, BP same or decrease

Personal trainers do not prescribe, administer or educate clients on medications.

Objective Information includes exercise and resting physiological measurements like BP and HR, resting anthropometric measurements like height, weight, BF percentage, circumference measurements, and specific measures of fitness like muscle endurance, flexibility, and cardio status. This can form a baseline to measure progress against after a training period looking at physiological, body composition, cardio health, static and dynamic posture assessment, and performance.

Heart Rate

Resting HR is a good indicator of overall cardio health, and exercise HR is a strong indicator to how a clients system is responding and adapting to exercise.

Pulse rate is also known as heart rate.

There are seven pulse points but two are mainly used (wrist which is preferred and neck with caution).

To find a radial pulse lightly place two fingers on right side of arm just above thumb. Count pulse rate for 60 seconds.  Average over 3 days.

Carotid pulse on the neck to the side of larynx.  Count for 60 seconds and average over 3 days.

Excessive pressure can cause problems.

Resting heart rate can vary.  Average is 70 bpm for male and 75 bpm for female.

Resting heart rate can be used to calculate target heart rate zones.

  1. Zone one builds aerobic base and aids in recovery
  2. Zone two increases aerobic and anaerobic endurance
  3. Zone three build high-end work capacity

A straight percentage method can be used to estimate max heart by subtracting 220 minus age.

  1. Zone 1 – Max HR x 0.65 to 0.75
  2. Zone 2 – Max HR x 0.76 to 0.85
  3. Zone 3 – Max HR x 0.86 to 0.95

I find the above formula to be off base.  For exercises that a client is efficient in their HR could be lower than this level.  And for something they are not accustomed to it may be higher.

A more accurate method is the HR reserve (HRR) or Karvonen method. Based on the fact that it now factors in the clients resting heart rate.  But still guesses on max heart rate.

NOTE – To be correct I think you need to do a max heart rate tests doing the specific exercise to really define target heart rate zones.

THR = [ (HRmax – HRrest) x desired intensity ] + HR rest

Example – Myself at 65% – 220 – 30 = 190 (max HR), 190 – 40 = 150, 150 x .65 = 97.5, 97.5 + 40 = 137.5

For biking which I racer cross country mountain courses my HR is about 180 max while riding.  Which brings my number more to 131. So the above formula would make my zones a little too high for that specific exercise. But the formula will get you in the ball park.

 Blood Pressure

BP is the pressure of the blood circulating against the walls of the blood vessels after blood is ejected from the heart.

The first (top) number is systolic and is pressure within the arterial system after the heart contracts.

The second number (bottom) is diastolic and is pressure in the arterial system when the heart is resting and filling with blood.  120/80 or lower is the recommended blood pressure by the American Heart Association.

Measuring BP can be done with a sphygmomanometer on the bicep and a stethoscope over the brachial artery.  Rapidly inflated cuff to 20-30 mm Hg above where pulse can no longer be felt at the wrist.  Then release pressure about 2 Hg per second listening for a pulse. Systolic will be the first observation of a pulse.  Diastolic pressure is when the pulse fades away.

It is recommended that trainers that a professional course in blood pressure assessment before assessing clients.

Body Comp

Monitoring body fat % helps:

  • Find high or low levels
  • Help client understand BF
  • Monitor changes in body comp
  • Help estimate healthy body weight
  • Assist in program design
  • Use a a motivational tool
  • Monitor changes in body composition as they relate to chronic diseases
  • Assess effectiveness of nutrition and exercise choices

There is no accepted body fat range, but generally 15% for men and 25% for women is accepted.

Men:

  • 3-5% is essential body fat
  • Athletic is 5-13% BF
  • Recommended for 34 years and younger is 8-22%
  • 35-55 years old 10-25%
  • 56 years and older 10-25%

Women:

  • 8-12% Essential
  • 12-22% Athletic
  • 20-35% 34 and younger
  • 23-38% 25-55
  • 25-38% 56 and older

You can test BF by skin calipers, bioelectrical impedance, and underwater testing.

The Durnin formula (NASM uses) uses a skin fold at four points; biceps, triceps, sub scapular, and iliac crest.

Don’t use the skin fold test on obese clients.  Use a bioelectric test if available or just how clothes fit and how they look.

To calculate fat mass:

BF % x scale weight = fat mass

Scale weight – fat mass = lean body mass

Measurements

A good easy to use, quick, inexpensive, method that can be used on obese clients.

Measure:

  1. Neck – across adams apple
  2. Chest – Across nipple line
  3. Waist – narrowest point above hip bones
  4. Hips- feet together and measure widest part of butt
  5. Thighs – 10″ up from patella
  6. Calves – widest point
  7. Biceps – measure with arm extended to side and palm facing forward as widest part

Waist to hip ratio is a good indicator of chronic disease due to stored fat in the midsection.  Divide waist by hip measurement and if .80 for women and .95 for men and greater may put someone at risk.

BMI

BMI = [ weight (lbs) / height (inch) ] x 703

Lowest risk of disease is 22-24.9.  25 someone is considered overweight and increased risk.  30 and up is considered obese.

Cardio Testing

Most accurate is a VO2 max test.  But client and equipment are not always available or willing to do a max test.  So a submax test is often preferred.

The YMCA 3-minute step test and the Rockport Walk test are most common sub max tests.

YMCA test – Step in correct cadence on a 12″ step for 3 minutes and measure HR for a period of 60 seconds within 5 seconds of completing the test or use HR monitor and get HR within 5 seconds.

Apply to chart and it will show zone 1-3 cardio starting recommendations depending on how poorly or well they did.

Rockport is based on using the clients weight and walking as fast as they can on a treadmill for one mile then measuring HR bpm at the one mile mark

Posture

Proper posture ensures the muscles in the body are functioning and aligned properly with their length and tension relationships to allow proper joint motion and movement.

A quick static observation can provide a good deal of information.

Three basic compensatory patterns that have been found and studied are:

  1. Pronation distortion syndrome
  2. Lower crossed syndrome – hips tilting forward
  3. Upper cross syndrome – back rounded kinda like forward  head

Kinetic Chain Checkpoints

  • Foot and ankle – straight and parallel
  • Knee – in line with toes not adducted or abducted
  • Lumbo pelvic hip complex – level with spines
  • Shoulders – Level not rounded or elevated
  • Head and cervical spine – Neutral not tilted nor rotated

Dynamic posture is with movement.  Look for overactive or under active muscles or imbalances.

The overhead squat test is a good indicator of lower extremity movement patterns.

Client should stand shoulder width apart feet pointed straight ahead. Shoes off.  Raise arms overhead fully extended. Upper arm bisects the torso.

Squat to roughly chair height and return to starting position.

Repeat for 5 reps and observe from front side and back.

Single Leg Squat assessment

Assess dynamic flexibility, core strength, balance, and overall neuromuscular control.

Hand on hips and stand on one leg. Squat to a comfortable level then return for 5 reps. Knee should stay in line with toe and hip, and shoulders and waist parallel.

Pushing and pulling assessment

Stand split stance on a free motion machine and look for forward head, arching back, or shoulders elevating.

Push up test – test the muscle endurance of the upper body.  Go until exhaustion and count how many were done.  Test the same way in the future and the client should be able to do more.

Davies test – measures upper extremity agility and stabilization. Not good for people with poor shoulder stability.

  • Place two pieces of tape 36″ apart, one long piece between the two for proper alignment
  • Place hands on both sides in push up position
  • Client quickly move one hand to touch the other
  • Perform alternating sides for 15 seconds a side
  • Repeat 3 times
  • Record number of touches and repeat later

Shark skill test – Looks at lower extremity agility and neuromuscular control. Its kinda a profession from single leg squat test and may not be for everyone.

  • Client stand in center box of a grid with hands on hips and standing on one leg
  • Hop in designated pattern always returning to center each time
  • Perform a practice run with each foot
  • Perform test with each foot (four times total) while keeping track of time
  • Record the times
  • Add .10 seconds for other leg touching ground, hands off hips, foot into wrong square, foot not returning to center

Upper extremity strength assessment – Bench Press

This is mainly for select people who strength is important and not for people wanting to lose fat only.  Can be used to determine training intensities for the bench press.

  • Lie in position
  • Warm up with weight for 8-10 reps
  • 1 minute rest
  • Add 10-20 pounds and perform 3-5 reps
  • Take a 2 minute break
  • Repeat until failure between 2-10 reps but 3-5 reps more accurate
  • Use one rep max chart to estimate

Lower Extremity Strength Assessment – Squat

Figure out one rep max on squat for overall lower body strength.  May again not be suited for all clients.

  • Feet shoulder width apart, knees in line with toes, lower back in neutral position
  • Warm up for 8-10 reps easy
  • 1 minute break
  • Add 30-40 pounds and perform 3-5 reps
  • 2 minute break
  • Repeat until failure between 2-10 reps but 3-5 reps more accurate
  • Use a one rep max chart

In all tests make sure client performs with minimal movement compensations.

 

Human Movement Science (Boring)

Biomechanics – Science of external and internal forces acting on the body and the effects produced by the forces.

Superior – Above a reference point

Inferior – Below a reference point

Proximal – Near the center of a reference point

Distal – Away from center of body or point of reference

Anterior – On the front of the body

Posterior – On the back of the body

Medial – Near the middle of the body

Lateral – Outside of the body

Contralateral – Positioned on the opposite side of the body

Ipsilateral – Postioned on the same side of the body

Anatomic postion – Body erect with arms extended and palms facing forward.  A reference point for body positioning in science terms.

Frontal plane – A wall in front and behind person – So its movements to the sides

Sagittal plane – Walls on the side of a person – can only do movements front and backwards

Transverse – Rotations

Extension – Movement in which the relative angle between two adjacent segments increases.

Hyperextension – Extension of a joint beyond the normal limit or range of motion.

Abduction – Movement in the frontal plane away from the midline of the body.

Adduction – Movement in the frontal plane toward the midline of the body.

Internal rotation – Rotation of a joint toward the middle of the body.

External rotation – Rotation of a joint away from the middle of the body.

Horizontal abduction – Movement of the high or arm in the transverse plane from an anterior position to a lateral position.

Horizontal Adduction – Movement of the arm or thigh in the transverse plane from a lateral position to an anterior position.

Scapular retraction – Adduction of scapula, shoulder blades move toward the midline.

Scapular protraction – Abduction of scapula, shoulder blades move away from midline.

Scapular depression – Downward (inferior) motion of scapula.

Scapular elevation – Upward (superior) motion of scapula.

Muscle Action Spectrum

Isotonic – Force is produced, muscle tension is developed, and movement occurs through a given range of motion.

Eccentric – Moving in the same direction as the resistance. Decelerates the force.

Concentric – Moving in opposite direction of force. Accelerates or produces force.

Isometric – No movement – stabilizing force

Isokinetic – Speed of movement is fixed, and resistance varies with force exerted. Often seen in high end rehab labs.

Common Force-Couples

Muscles                                                 Movement Created

Internal and external obliques – Truck rotation

Upper traps and serratus anterior – Upward rotation of the scapula

Glutes, quads, calfs – Produce hip and knee extension while walking, running, climbing, etc.

Gastocnemius, peroneus longus, and tibialis posterior – Performing plantarflexion at the foot and ankle complex

Delts and rotator cuff – Performing shoulder abduction

Levers

First class – Like a seesaw with fulcrum in the middle. A nodding head.

Second class – Resistance in the middle with the fulcrum on either side. Push up.

Third class – Have effort between the fulcrum and resistance. Bicep curl.

Conclusion

Each system in the kinetic chain is separate, but must work together to gather information internally and externally to create and learn movements (motor behavior).  Using proprioception, sensorimotor integration, and muscle synergies to create efficient movement (motor control). With practice, as well as internal (your own body) and external feedback (from a trainer) will allow efficient movement to be reproduced (motor learning).

 

Eggs and Heart Disease

In the majority of U.S. adults age 25 and up, one egg per day accounts for less than 1% chance of developing heart disease.  It’s more effective to focus on major risk factors like smoking and other diet habits than egg consumption (1).

Although the more it seems you consume the risks start going up.  After 7 eggs a week the risk for heart failure goes up (2).

Based on the studies I have read so far I would say a small amount of eggs is good for you (6 or less a week).

One egg a day doesn’t really lead to a good meal by itself.  So what I suggest is adding an egg to a salad a few times a week or make an omelet with one egg yolk and 3-4 egg whites. Whether the egg should be raw or cooked needs further study. Many cases of salmonella and raw eggs have been found.

Some studies are also suggesting that egg yolks are not the issue and you can eat quite a few a day and be fine.  I personally am leaning toward the middle on this one at the moment because of so many conflicting studies.

Sources:

1 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19000074

2 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18195171