Some thoughts on movement…

Interesting thread. This is in response to a post here:

http://www.davedraper.com/fusionbb/showtopic.php?tid/30321/tp/1/

And the following is just some rambling thoughts I have on this and may not add up to much or even address the thoughts raised in that thread. So, for what it’s worth,  here you go:

I guess most of the time I just don’t look at things in a way of categorizing them. I just train. I just do.

Movement begets movement.

Movement with various loads/objects/bodyweight begets flow.

I don’t think:

“How do I train this snapshot in a movement pattern?”

Or:

“How do I connect the dots from crawling to standing?”

Or:

“How do I connect or flow the strength in dead lifting to the mobile strength in exploding off the line of scrimmage into an opposing player?”

Unless specifically focusing in on rehabbing an injury, where maybe something very specific must be stretched/strengthened, etc, I don’t view any lift or movement as separate from the rest of my movements or patterns.

In other words, a hinge as being separate from a push, or a crawl as separate from a stand.

I guess a particular movement, like a goat bag swing (hinge) is sort of a series of snapshots in time. It’s a small piece of a larger moving picture. Life is a constantly changing movie, not a 30 second video.

Maybe many approach training as if it is a 30 second video repeated as separately from the rest of their movements in life?

I think that is the sad thing in training for many:

It has to be this or that.

I think it should be this AND that.

I think it’s all about exposure.

Bodybuilders are not the best athletes.

Neither are Power-lifters.

Nor are marathon runners.

Now, true, they are all athletes if they compete, we might say, in their particular sport.

But what is the quality of movement or their ability to flow from one thing to another given a large variety of tasks outside the things they compete in?

More on this in a bit.

Sitting is a specific task. So is standing.

Crawling is a form of mobile sitting.

Walking is a form of mobile standing.

Think about that for a minute.

Sit in a chair. Think about your posture. Now drop out of the chair onto all fours. Note the same basic posture, being in the sitting position but for the arms extended to help support your body. Start crawling and it is a horizontal-mobile-sit. However, because of the changed position (vertical sit to horizontal sit and effect of gravity on changed position) and the effects of movement, the muscular effort and recruitment is higher.

Standing vs. walking, well, same vertical posture but greater involvement of musculature adds in mobility or movement. And it spirals up to running.

As far as brachiating is concerned, which is swinging from a ladder rung to rung, or tree limb to tree limb, I don’t really see the problem. Connected with javelin throwers, I see the thought that they are sort of mimicking the motion of throwing the javelin. It would be a good movement for them.

This is highly simplified, but, when brachiating through rungs on a suspended horizontal ladder as you reach out in front of you to the next rung and grab it and release the hand behind you the weight of your body causes the anterior muscles to tighten up, especially on the side of the body reaching forward.

I know a lot of other muscles and things are involved, but that’s what you will feel, that front/somewhat side musculature firing. Once the body swings through to a bottom position, the loading is more akin to the loading of a pull-up. And when you reach for the next rung, the arm strung out behind is now stretching the anterior musculature of the upper body. It is basically elongating while still under an amount of contracture until the other hand grabs the next rung.

So a javelin thrower has his arm back in a similar position and then contracts the musculature of the upper body, really the entire front of the body as they pull the javelin from behind to hurl it forward.

Take a look at this video here (not the best quality, but it works for our purposes):

Look at how the arm gets long just as the athlete prepares to hurl the javelin forward.

Certainly seems brachiating would be great for a javelin thrower.

But if you don’t have access to brachiating through the trees:

I am thinking that  single arm sledge hammer hits on a tire with a 3- 6lb sledge hammer would work too.

Think about it, you grab the handle near the end, swing the head lightly behind you and then begin to pull the hammer over your head. This may look very similar to the arm position of a javelin thrower at the start.

If I were going to use this for a javelin thrower, I think I would have them park the sledge behind them as they stood with legs splayed in the position where they are about to throw, that position where the arm is extended and long to the back.

Then rotate around and forward and thinking “long arm” have them pull that sledge up and over in an arc to slam into the tire on the ground. This puts that musculature under stretch and then into contracture. The anterior side will get stretched and worked at the same time. If you try this, you will no doubt experience some soreness if you are not use to it. It would be a “same but different” sort of movement, I think. Or maybe not?

However, I would probably have them start with a 3 pound sledge and a long handle. Most 3 pound sledges are called drilling hammers. They have short handles, so you will have to change the handle out for a longer one. You could probably get a similar feeling by putting a light medicine ball in a sack and grabbing the sack sling it back and long arming it over to smash into the ground or a strategically placed table.

I would work both sides. It would not take much weight to do this. A competition javelin weighs in at 800 grams. So, 28 grams to the ounce, do the math, equals about 1.78 pounds. Pretty light compared to standard discus at 4.4 pounds.

Now, if you look back at that video you will note that most of these guys upper torso does not incline much past 30 degrees past vertical at release. A lot of the energy is coming from that rotational spiral being unwound. Yet that “X” pattern of being crossed up doesn’t look quite as great as it does for a discuss thrower. The back arm doesn’t seem to be lagging back as far as in the discus, though I could be wrong here.

So, maybe an overload exercise such as the one arm javelin sledge swing could allow greater expression of power to be applied in that short area of the actual throw.

Someone would have to be willing to try it without changing anything else in their training for several months and then testing the effects on their throws. It will either help you throw farther or not.

Now, back to this whole movement, flow thing.

As I said, I think in part, the ability to be able to flow from one basic movement or quality to another comes from exposure.

No I’m not talking about buying a yellow plastic rain jacket.

I’m talking about exposing your mind and body to many different forms of movement. If we repeat the same pattern enough times we become good and then great at it. It becomes flowing or smooth, we might say. But too many repeats of this can cause repetitive stress injuries.

And focusing too much on one thing may make you great at it, but add in something unfamiliar and you will not perform it as easily or smoothly because of lack of exposure to other things.

Now for the competitive athlete, that’s the only way to be competitive and make a living at it. To be great at golf ya gotta golf. A lot! Especially if you want to make money at it.

But for most average people, its not smart training. It’s like an office worker who sits all day and then tries to run on the weekend playing a game of tag. They can’t run fast or far or cut quick and end up twisting an ankle, pulling a groin or ham-string.

Why?

Not enough exposure to different things, to different movement patterns. They can’t flow from sitting to running and cutting.

Play basketball all the time and nothing else and then try playing baseball or helping someone move, you won’t be too good. And you will get plenty sore from the new exposure to stimuli unfamiliar to you.

People will even get hurt using a screwdriver or hammer because of having an office job and never doing anything different. They get great at sitting.

Now, someone who has played a bunch of different sports as a child and worked a large variety of physical jobs has accumulated a vast pool of movement patterns that they can draw upon and allows them to easily flow from one thing to another and to pick up new patterns of movement readily.

Everything is connected. The body is one piece. So exposing it to many things builds the quality of movement in many ranges, planes, degrees, angles, whatever you want to call it. You become used to expressing strength, speed, power in all kinds of ways. You learn to leverage your strength and wedge your body into nearly anything in any way. The mind learns by being exposed to much variety.

So does the body.

So, a beginner must learn basic patterns of movement. Some static and some mobile. But in time, repeated exposure to variety adds in adaptability to fluid, ever changing circumstances and they flow from one thing to another. They learn to apply strength or dexterity or power from this to that.

So, some specific, focused training on some pattern like a hinge (goat bag swing)

A pull (pull-up)

A push (push press) for example.

Measurable, repeatable, projected outcomes, ability to cycle weights, reps sets, etc.

And some exposure to variety:

Tumbling

Sleds

Rocks

Sledge hammer hits

Tree climbing or monkey bars

Bodyweight training,

Gymnastics,

Parkour

Cycling, rowing, running, swimming, climbing,

Etc.

How about taking one KB and doing one set of every single exercise you know with a kettlebell? And when you are done, try coming up with some new moves or even learning a new move you haven’t tried yet.

Learn to move doing a multitude of things and the flow will be there when you need it.

So some specific familiar training mixed in with constantly changing unspecific, unfamiliar training. A little of both goes a long way toward being athletically built and functional in many areas of life.

Eventually everything becomes familiar.

Paint your canvas with more than one color using more than the same size brush all the time.

Expand. Explore. Innovate.

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

 

 

 

 

Looking for some “POP!” ?

Carbonation.

We use to call my Dad that.

Pops.

But only when we were out of arms reach and he was in a good mood. Or we’d get popped upside the head.

Do you have it? Do you need it?

It is that explosive ability some people just seem to have. Not only can they explode into action they have the timing down.

Some people play a sport and their explosive moves seem more like a push. Not too effective. Not too explosive.

Other guys can hit pretty hard. Or smack a ball real good. Or hit a tackle hard.

But there are some people that,  at impact, seem to completely obliterate the object or person, sending it into orbit. They literally seem to explode into whatever they are doing at just the right moment to effect the greatest result.

Having that elusive “pop” can make the difference in winning, in setting a personal record or world record or just making it though a situation, whatever it might be.

It can be taught if you don’t have it naturally.

So, in no particular order, I will set out some ideas for you to try and some thoughts on getting this perfectly timed “pop” of explosive energy. Hopefully there will be something here that you can use.

First off, if you are heavy footed, or slow of feet, you will have a difficult time getting more explosive. You have to be able to move your body. It all starts with the feet. Explosive power comes from the hips, but starts with the feet.

If you don’t believe that, just put an Olympic weightlifter (very high hip power and explosiveness) on a sheet of ice and have them try to explode the bar up at just the right moment. It won’t happen without solid footing to drive off of.

So work on your foot speed. Rope jumping is good for this. Learn to skip rope fast and in various foot patterns. Drilling the first 10 meters of the sprint is good. Driving off the line just for 5 meters works good too. So does learning how to do split jerks.

Before anyone can really explode at just the right time, they have to have the technique down very well before their body will let them explode into an implement or object.

Let’s face it, our body is not stupid. If you don’t have the technique right and you don’t have a certain amount of strength developed to go along with the technique, your body will NOT let you move explosively no matter how hard you try.

As soon as you pick up the weight, shot-put, discus, etc, your body will sense the load and as you begin to move, if the technique is not there you will not move effectively enough to input or transfer power and mass and energy into the implement.  Your form will break down. The body senses that and thus you can’t, you literally cannot move as fast as you would be able too if your technique  was rock solid.

It’s like someone who never runs and suddenly they try to sprint. They hit a wall and can’t run very fast. Their body won’t let them because it is foreign to them, their body does not know how to perform at that level.

So, practice your technique. Drill it. Focus on getting “smooooth”. Make it flow.

You may need to break the steps of a movement down into more manageable segments at first. But as you string them together, you want to flow smoothly through the entire dance with whatever object you are manipulating and transferring your mass and energy into.

If necessary, start off slow and gradually build your speed, as long as your form does not break down.

Next, you have got to be strong enough to support the technique and loads experienced throughout the movement. Throwing a shot or stone or hammer or discuss loads the body with some very high forces.

It is one thing to throw a fast punch barehanded at a speed bag. Next try it at a 40lb heavy bag. Then try it again against a 80lb bag. Finally try it against a 110 lb bag. The final moment of impact is getting progressively greater and if you have not trained for it, the timing of your technique and the strength of the bones, muscles and ligaments of your body won’t let you hit as fast and hard as you could.

Your body knows this even if you don’t. It will slow you down.

It is one thing to move fast and explosively with a PVC pipe practicing the Olympic lifts and quite another to do the same with a heavily loaded bar. Even if the technique is there, yet the strength is lacking to support the loads or forces encountered during the movement, we won’t be able to move fast and pop the bar up at just the right time. If we force it we get injured.

Once again, your body knows this even if we try to ignore it.

And if you try to force the issue, trying to get more explosive, at this stage, you will generally end up moving slower, with too much tension and/or injuring yourself as you override your bodies protective mechanisms.

Every sport has a technique to it. There are leverages you need to learn, body and foot positioning, timing, rhythm, when to accelerate and then explode, etc.

Learn that.

Get stronger.

Apply the strength to the technique of your sport. Gradually getting faster and more explosive. Some times it will suddenly “click” and you will pop one out there. Other days it just won’t happen. Don’t try to force it into happening. That almost never works.

Think of it like waves on a sea. They are sort of random, various heights but every 7th wave is higher. This is true. Google it.

So, as you practice your technique, vary the intensity with which you explode. You can’t maximally explode on every rep, hit or throw. You would run out of steam pretty quick.

Why do you think powerlifters and Olympic lifters have opening lifts they make before the big one?

Why do you think a boxer feels out his opponent and hits “pop, pop, pop,    BOOM!”

So, ramp up your throws or hits, etc. Start easier, ramp up a little in explosiveness and then hit a good one. Think about how it felt. Better yet, “feel” how it felt to go through the motion and then explode into the implement. Close your eyes while you do this mentally. Replay it.

Then settle your waves back down, practice some smooth technique runs through your movement and when the moment is right, that 7th wave will hit and “BOOM!”, you launch it. Learn to feel it, to build up to it and let it happen.

If you try to continue to “Pop!” every rep or hit or throw, you will lose that explosiveness real soon. You have to cultivate it.

At first, it might only be a few reps that you really explode on once per week or maybe only a couple of times in a month may feel like “Wow! I nailed that one!”

But as you learn better technique, get stronger and learn the timing of when to pop at the end of an explosive move, you will find it easier to repeat that when you want.

And you will be able to vary the intensity of that “pop” for each throw, lift or hit.

Then, to outsiders or those not as advanced as you are, all your efforts will appear to be max efforts no matter how far the implement goes. They don’t see the  waving of intensity that you are using. To them, whether you throw a 35lb hammer 30′ or 60′, the intensity was the same. They can’t differentiate.

Think of that explosive pop at the end of a movement as sort of a pulse of power.

Face a wall or shed or heavy bag (or your training partner if he is willing). Put your hands on that object and push against it. How did it feel? Was it effective? Did you feel explosive?

No?

Good for you!

Now do the same thing again, with your hands on the wall. Relax and then suddenly tighten up and drive from the feet, hips and  body into the object. It is like a wave running up your body, starting at your feet that accumulates in intensity and power as it passes through you into the object. Pulse into the wall or heavy bag. If using a bag, you will need someone to brace it from behind so it doesn’t swing away from you.

Pulse, relax, pulse, relax.

How did that feel? Did you note the differences in tension? When you tried to force it did you notice it wasn’t as effective as when you sort of let it happen without thinking?

Now get your hands several inches away from the wall or heavy bag. Suddenly drive into it slamming your hands into the object. But do so in varying degrees of intensity. Do several fast but lighter smacks and then when it feels right, “BOOM!” into that object. Just be sure not to injure yourself.

You should be able to see a difference in how fast and hard you can hit or explode. You need to learn to control the rate of force development you are applying, the speed and intensity, as you vary how hard and explosive you hit or throw.

Next, do this again after you rest for a minute or two.

But this time we are going to add another element. You will jump your feet a little.  This is going to take more timing.

Face the wall or heavy bag with your feet about shoulder width apart. Relax.

Explode as you jump and  shift your feet to a staggered stance (one foot forward and one back) . As you do this your feet come off the ground slightly.

As they land into their new position, ram your feet home at the same time as you hit or “POP!” into that wall or bag. Add in a good grunt at that moment also.

When you get the timing right you will know it.

This is what you are after when you throw an implement, hit something or tackle someone. You may be already moving quickly or be  starting from a relative position of calmness.

But you have accelerated into movement or exploded into movement and near the end of that movement you add in that “POP!”

It is an explosion at the end of the initial explosion of movement that got you into the final position to apply your maximal energy.

You suddenly moved, jumped your feet, slammed them down and “gave” all that stored and rebounded energy and force into the other object at the moment of impact, with interest.  You multiplied all that energy to pass it into the other object.

Years ago, a friend, Bud, was teaching me how to spin and throw a 35lb Russian hammer, as he called it. He wanted me to explode into the implement with a loud grunt at the right time. He wanted to hear me do that. He said it makes you more aggressive on your hardest throws. Don’t do it on every throw. Only on those that you put that maximal pop into. He felt if you didn’t do that, you weren’t putting everything you had into the throw.

It is sort of like a power breathing crunch. When you do Janda’s and come up near the end of the movement, if you grunt out a short blast of air, it magnifies your power, among other things.

Bud would give a “hup” every time he lifted a weight or threw the hammer. But when he lifted real heavy or threw particularly hard, it was a much louder “HUP!”

So, try putting some grunted breath into that pop. It’ll tighten you up more and transfer more energy.

Now, in some movements or sports there is more of a whip like action going on. In other activities it is more like a punch.

Shot put, punch.

Discus, whip.

There is follow through in both.

When we talk about exploding into an implement, various sports require varying degrees of acceleration to get the implement to that point where we give the final pop. But the point is:

We are trying to accelerate the object throughout its range of movement with us (before we release it) as fast as we can and then add in extra force from our combined mass and speed, like a explosion right at the final release.  We can’t move at maximum speed right from the start or we would rip our arms off, but we try to go from zero to 60 as smoothly and as fast as we can.

Smooth is a big thing.

But in both cases, there is a “POP!” at the final release. You are trying to transfer all  the energy and mass of your body that you can into the object.

Throwing through the object helps accomplish that.

In boxing, set-up punches are “pop, pop, pop” with a definite pull back of sorts. They sting and hurt but there is an emphasis on getting the hand back quickly to protect and cover up your own body. Thus, maximal energy is not transferred. The final “BOOM!” of the series of hits is the hit that is thrown with a complete follow through and punching through the target.This is the truly explosive punch.

This is similar to many other sports like tennis, for example. You send the ball back with fast, explosive hits, but are trying to get the racket (and your body) back into position fast to hit the returned ball, setting up your opponent for the “BOOM!” hit, that pop they can’t react fast enough to return. That hit has a greater follow through.

Same with throwing.

Practice throwing. “Pop, pop, pop”, just practice getting it out there. Don’t worry about the distance. Feel the movement. Dance with the implement. Become one with it.

Then when the time is right:

“BOOM Baby!” you’ll nail it and send that thing flying farther than you ever had.

Don’t get too excited. Relax. Think about how it felt. Smile and know that 7th wave will come around again.

In time you will find it gets easier and easier to do this.

My thought is if you can’t feel this in your sport, if you can’t seem to get explosive from practicing your throws or puts, then you need two things:

Lots of technique practice and learning how to POP! from outside your sport.

In other words:

Learn how to do a power clean and split jerk (PC & SJ).

Or learn how to throw a power punch.

Or learn how to slam a sledge into a tire with your whole body into it.

The point is, you don’t need to learn to box, or learn the Olympic lifts or how to chop a gnarly piece of wood. You just need to step outside your sport, learn how to pop;  and when you can do that consistently, take that knew-found skill and plug it into your chosen sport.

Now, just to set this matter straight, it is not like a person explodes into action and then literally resets somehow while in motion and explodes again. But that is sort of how it might feel. For example, we can do a PC fast, but not get too much pop on the bar.

Or we can move fast in the PC and at just the right spot: POP! that bar up and catch it in the rack position.

I really like the power clean and the split jerk for teaching this pop. Doesn’t matter if it’s with a dumbbell, kettlebell or barbell initially. But I think learning to do them with a barbell is the best way. You can learn the technique with a bar and gradually add weight as you get the technique down and the timing of that pop just right.

If you’ve never done PC & SJ before and get to the point where you can handle at least 225 pounds in this move, couple that with continued practice on your throws and you will be throwing farther than you ever have, with more explosiveness.

So:

Learn how to PC or you might try PC’s  from the hang.

If that seems like too much, you could opt out and just take a barbell from a rack or stands and practice the split jerk. But I really think the full PC & SJ is better.

Now, I picked the PC & SJ for a reason:

A power snatch is good, but there is not opportunity to do a jerk after. Both the PC and PS help drill that explosive pop (among many other things) but the PC allows a person to drill transferring energy through a rigid torso into the weight when we perform a split jerk immediately after the clean.

I like the split jerk better than the squat jerk style mainly for one reason:

We are doing this to drill that explosive quality during greater movement:

In the squat jerk, we merely jump the feet very little and squat under some to receive the bar overhead.

In the split jerk we have to move the feet over a much greater distance, splitting them, one forward one back. More movement to synchronize  in a short period of time. This is more like stepping through the spinning dance to deliver the final explosive pop to drive the implement. Swinging or snatching a kettlebell does not teach this delivery of force or transferal of energy after replacement of the feet simply because the feet do not move while doing swings and snatches.

With putting a shot or stone or throwing a hammer or discus, we begin the movement and start accelerating through it and as we come to the final step right before we launch the object we try to give it an extra blast. The hammer goes low high low around us and we try to go faster through the spins adding more momentum to the hammer with each revolution. On the last spin we come out of the hammer dipped low position and try to explode it up and out of the spin with an explosion of force.

The put is similar, with a low position (from spin or glide) and then a final drive into the put/stone which takes us from low to literally jumping into and through the implement to put it, to throw it.

And the discus comes out the spin where we accelerate (maintaining that “X” position of the shoulders and hips) and we explode out of that “X” to release the discus with a blast of power.

We might also try moving through the entire sequence of the spin or glide more slowly than normal and then when we hit the power point where we would explode: EXPLODE!

At whatever point in your movement you need to blast off, think to yourself: BOOM! right at that instant you hit that point in your movement. Grunt, yell, whatever and get aggressive right then. Then step it down a notch or two, relax for a few throws and ramp it up to another BOOM!

Throwing or putting into some sort of wall can help using only the last step right before the release. This leaves out any concern for how far the implement goes and leaves out more confusing steps before the release, so you can focus on exploding. Then after this, follow up with a few nice throws and  a few explosive ones to set the full technique. Sort of like deadlifting and then doing some jumps right after.

Doing a heavy PC followed by a split jerk takes a lot of technique, timing, tension, relaxation, smoothness, etc. There is a whole series of athletic movement packed into this one exercise. Highly underrated movement for those seeking that elusive “POP!”

If you are an athlete, listen to your coach. He knows better than me.

If you are an average Joe or Jill looking for some added POP! to your sport or just because, follow this:

Get stronger overall. Basics baby.

Get stronger with your implement.

Drill your technique. (Fast, slow, always smooth with and without your implement, learn the leverages, the timing, the footing)

Drill your explosiveness using various means. (Sport specific practice, non-sport specific practice, learn the timing of the pop)

Blend it all together.

Become awesome.

On practicing technique:

You have to focus on your technique.  Become one with the implement you are throwing or putting or lifting explosively. It takes a lot of repetitions to learn the technique of a particular move until it becomes first nature. You want it to become like another of your bodies senses, so that when you perform the movement it is completely natural to you.

Most people who have this explosive ability can apply it to any sport or even to certain “situations”. You might not be the biggest or the strongest guy around on your field of play. But if you can hone the timing of this “POP!” and apply it at will, you will be way more effective in what you are trying to accomplish. And you will surprise a few people along the way.

So, if this helps you get more explosive, just thank Pops.

Just make sure you aren’t within  arms reach or be prepared to duck :)

 

 

 

 

The Full Contact Twist

Well, let’s see if I can do this right. I am going to post the three video’s I just did on youtube, here, for you to see in case you missed them.

If you participate in nearly any sport, this exercise will improve your batting power, shot put, discus throw, tennis racket or golf club swing, etc.

It really strengthens the torso and helps you apply power from the ground up through your body and into your arms and hands.

Do it for 2-5 sets of 2-5 reps about 2-3 times per week. Plug it in at the end of a workout. It will really tighten up your midsection too.

Walter