Archive for functional movement screen

Variety Is Greatly Overrated. Here’s Why! (Including TIPS On How To Progress!)

Despite what some believe, strength is NOT the goal with the movement training we do. Strength is a symptom ….a symptom of moving well.  In a similar vein, speed training is not the optimal path toward improving our fitness.  Improved fitness leads to improved speed potential. Speed is a product of moving well and improved fitness.  

~Coach Al


Strength isn't the goal! Strength is only a symptom of moving well!

Strength isn’t the goal! Strength is only a symptom of moving well!

Here at Pursuit Athletic Performance, Kurt and I believe the true value and benefit to movement based strength training resides in digging DEEPER into the basic skill and integration of  a movement.

In this day and age, with athletes becoming bored so easily and instant gratification being so prevalent in every phase of our life and culture, digging deeper into a movement vs. moving “on” from the movement is often difficult (and even frustrating) for the individual athlete to fully embrace.  We seem to frequently fall victim to the mindset of always looking for the next “great” exercise, the next great “tip,” or how we can blast on to the more “advanced” stuff, thinking its a magic bullet to the success we seek.

Whether or not you like it, the truth is that the devil is in the details and the magic to optimal progression and exploding your potential is in true mastery of the basics and fundamentals.  This single concept, while easy to read, might be the most challenging for the average person to accept and embrace, but it IS the key to long term, meaningful success.

So, yes, variety is greatly overrated.  To reiterate, once the shiny newness of an exercise wears off and you’re “bored” with it because it’s not “new” anymore, you’re forced to get deeper into it, or bail out and just move on to something else “new” and “exciting.”  I’d argue the best choice is the former, not the latter. 

Of course, that being said, there are a great many ways to enhance the quality (and thus results) of the training you are doing, rather than to change exercises.  For example:

1. Use a slower rep speed. 

  1. It’s common for folks to move in and out of movements quickly.
  2. It’s common to see folks come out of the bottom of a movement quickly, rather than “owning” that bottom portion.
  3. Use a count of 4 – 1 – 3 seconds: 4 seconds lowering – 1 second pause at the bottom – 3 seconds raising.
  4. Removing the ‘elastic’ or rebound component to better own each phase of the movement.

2. Decrease your leverage. 

  1. Think about the HUGE difference in difficulty between a double arm push-up with a wide arm position, and a single arm push-up! Huge difference in leverage.
  2. On the topic of stability, a tiny difference in how wide your arms or knees are really changes how difficult the exercise is to do well!

3. Improve your focus and tension! 

  1. Where’s the hard in your exercise coming from?
  • From inside of you? Posture, breathing, focus?
  • Or is it coming from OUTside of you?  Are you thinking a different exercise, or more weight (outside of you) will automatically make you stronger? Not going to happen.
  • We need to consciously PRODUCE that tension, even when moving a relatively small amount of weight.
  • Focus, tension management, radiation of tension throughout!
  • “Intensity” and “strength” isn’t just about moving more weight. Its about bringing a certain level of whole-body tension and focus into every movement.
  • In RKC/HKC circles as well as in power lifting circles, there’s a saying: “If you make your lighter weights feel heavier, your heavier weights will feel lighter.” Practice the focus and tension skills with lighter resistance, you’ll get more benefit from every movement you do!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al

We Are All An Experiment of One: Find Out What YOU Need The Most and Then Get It Done!

TEAM Pursuit Athletes at the 2013 Timberman Half Ironman triathlon!

TEAM Pursuit Athletes at the 2013 Timberman Half Ironman triathlon!

In order to be able to run as fast and as long as you would like to and remain injury-free while doing it, your running body must be BOTH strong and flexible. Think about this fact: approximately 50% of the energy that propels you forward during the running stride comes from elastic and reactive “energy-return” of your muscles! While you’re taking that in, think about this: at the same time that certain muscles are required to be elastic and reactive, others need to be very stiff and strong, to prevent your body turning into a wet-noodle as your feet hit the ground!

Muscles tense and lengthen and release and stretch (helping to facilitate rotation around your joints while doing all of that!) as they prepare to store energy and absorb outside impact forces and turn that stored energy into forward propulsion. There’s a lot more going on during the stride than you could ever imagine!

And while all of these things are happen within each of our bodies while we run, they happen at different rates of speed and relaxation and ease for each of us. We are, at once the same, and yet very different.

Some of us need more STRENGTH and STIFFNESS in our “chain,” while others need more FLEXIBILITY and ELASTICITY and MOBILITY.  We each have our own “limiters” and weaknesses which may be making us either more prone to injury, or limiting our speed and endurance potential.

So given all of that, do YOU know what your weakness is?

For example…

  • Are you prone to calf injuries because your calves are forced to absorb impact forces due to “too tight” hips?
  • Do you lean back on downhills and “hurt,” suffering from painful quadriceps during those downhills because your quads are too weak to absorb those impact forces and prevent your body from collapsing against the forces of gravity?
  • Are you still landing out in front of your center of mass, even though you know you shouldn’t, because your hams and glutes are not “reactive” enough (too slow) and weak to contract quickly, getting your feet UNDER your hips as you touch down?
  • Does your low back hurt during the late stages of your longer runs or rides because its trying to do the work your butt should be doing?
  • Is your stride short and choppy because your hip flexors are so tight they can’t release to allow your pelvis to rotate forward so that your legs can extend behind you as you drive horizontally forward with each stride?

These are the questions and issues we ALL need to consider, and for each of us, it is different. If you take the time to listen to your body and consider what YOUR weakness or limiters are, then you’ll be able to address it and as a result, improve and run to your true potential!

The answers you are seeking are not always found through “harder” training. Sometimes the answers come when we listen within.  Sometimes things like YOGA or revisiting the BASICS and FUNDAMENTALS, are the path to exploding our true potential, rather than another hard track session.

Our unique Pursuit Athletic Performance “Gait Analysis” system was designed to help us help YOU, learn what it is that YOU need the most! To learn more, go here to learn more about our analysis packages.

Check out our testimonials page here to learn more about the success stories of so many athletes who learned what THEY needed to do to truly explode their potential!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al

Coach Al Reviews New Kettlebell DVDs by Gray Cook and Brett Jones

Hello Everyone!

kettlebells, kettlebells from the ground up, gray cook, brett jones, al lyman, pursuit athletic performanceI am really excited to share my thoughts on two fantastic, new kettlebell instructional DVDs–Kettlebells from the Ground Up – The Kalos Sthenos, and Kettlebells from the Center – Dynami, by Gray Cook, co-creator of the Functional Movement Screen, and Brett Jones, RKC. No two people on the planet are better equipped to teach basic, but essential, foundational kettlebell skills. And these DVDs are nothing less than outstanding.

Those of you who work with us know that kettlebells are one of our favorite training tools. Appropriate mobility, true core stability, and functional strength inside a balanced body that is moving authentically is THE KEY TO ATHLETIC SUCCESS, regardless of your sport. Kettlebells are so tremendously powerful in helping create faster, more ballistic, and injury-resistant athletes.

In Kettlebells from the Ground Up, Gray and Brett focus on mastering the incomperable Turkishkettlebells, kettlebells from the center, gray cook, brett jones, al lyman, pursuit athletic performance Get-up. This move provides no better test of your stability and mobility in all planes of motion on both sides of your body. In Kettlebells from the Center, Gray and Brett guide you through perfecting hip-hinge mechanics, essential for the dynamic kettlebell swing. If you are a runner or triathlete, there is no better movement pattern to train than the kettlebell swing. True hip extension where the glute is the ultimate driver of the movement is a crucial movement pattern to own and master. In the video below, I demonstrate both movements for you.

One cannot overstate the impact Gray Cook and Brett Jones have had in the field of human movement and strength training. These two new videos add to the legend and lore of their reputations, and it is my privilege to present my thoughts on them. I will be doing more writing and reviewing of these two DVDs, and will be sure to share them with you as well.

Coach Al

The Results Are Amazing! A Wonderful Testimonial

We were delighted to receive this testimonial from one of our rock star clients, Steve Arendt. Steve came to us with a litany of injuries, and a spiraling downward trajectory in terms of running performance and training consistency. Instead of continuing to try and cram fitness on top of injury and dysfunction, he put his head down, did the work to get strong, stable, balanced and mobile. He is now seeing the benefit of his dedication, and it’s just the beginning of an athlete unleashed!

Thanks, Steve! We know there are great things in store for your training and racing!

From Steve:

I’m a runner and triathlete — I love the lifestyle and the feeling of being strong and fast. About two years ago I started on a downward spiral of running injuries: SI joint, piriformis, calves, and Achilles tendons. I grew to fear running — even when I took time off, it seemed like yet another injury would crop up as soon as I started running again. It was ruining my races because I couldn’t train with consistency. I tried all the usual things: massage, compression, stretching, icing, but the injuries just kept coming. I knew something bigger was wrong, but I didn’t know what.

So I flew out to Al and Kurt for a gait analysis. What a revelation! The Functional Movement Screen was eye-opening — I couldn’t believe how weak I was in some areas. I’ve been following Al and Kurt’s program for about 3 months now, and the results are amazing. I’ve been able to restart running and am slowly building back up (without injury). Running feels completely different now — I used to feel like I was plodding, but now I feel like I’m gliding along, light and easy. And my pace is about 30 to 45 seconds per mile faster with the same effort. The program is a lot of work, but its worth it.

Most importantly, with Al and Kurt’s explanations, I understand what I am trying to accomplish, so I know what to focus on. No more random exercises that might help or hurt the problem. And since I know what I’m trying to do, I can feel when I start losing form due to fatigue or lack of focus, and I can correct it.

Oh yeah, the swim. I went to Al and Kurt for help with running, but their program had an immediate effect on my swimming. I gained a nice bump in speed just from the improved core stability and strength. That was an unexpected, but very welcome, benefit.

I’m VERY excited for the coming race season, when I can try out my new run on the competition!

A Quick Fitness Boost Now…Or Faster, Lasting Results in the Long Run?

Coach Al Lyman, gait analysis and functional movement expert

Coach Al Lyman, CSCS, FMS, HKC

Don’t put fitness on top of dysfunction.Gray Cook, PT, co- creator of the Functional Movement Screen

If you are like most endurance athletes in the northern hemisphere, you’ve put the 2011 season behind you, and are anxiously looking toward 2012 hoping to make it even better. Among the things you might be pondering is whether to add a new piece of training equipment or whether to start a new training program. Before you decide which new tools or tricks you want to add to your training mix, I highly recommend you take a step back for a moment, and begin your path to a great 2012 season by first taking a focused look at the quality, rather than just the quantity, of your movement. More miles or reps at the beginning stages of training, if some aspect of your movement is inefficient, causes pain, or is putting you at higher risk of injury, is short sighted and will surely end up slowing your ultimate progress. In short, avoid adding progressive fitness elements to your training (positives) before you resolve lingering sources of pain, inefficiency, or dysfunction (negatives).

More specifically, the “negatives” might be:

1. A restriction in movement or lack of appropriate mobility where it is needed.

2. A lack of stability or muscle balance.

3. A nagging injury that you’ve been nursing for a while resulting in other tissues being forced to compensate or absorb more stress than they were designed to handle.

Even a subtle lack of balanced strength and flexibility around the hips/pelvis, or in other joints in the body, will prevent you from achieving the desired results from challenging workouts. In a way, it would be akin to a farmer trying to plant seeds on gravel. They (the workouts) simply won’t be landing on fertile soil and will have little chance of producing a bountiful harvest. And a bountiful harvest–results– is what matters!

The bottom line: You have to move well before you throw reps, high heart rate, and miles at your movement pattern.

My suggestion to you: choose to reverse the “negatives” now!

Here are some TIPS to help you do just that:

o Know this: when you massage or use a foam roller on “healthy” muscle tissue, it shouldn’t be painful. If doing foam roller work is painful, the tissue has lingering micro-trauma and damage. Be smart and take care of the soft tissue work now to ensure normal muscle elasticity when you resume more progressive training.

o Get screened and/or evaluated by a knowledgeable professional who knows (and can show you) the difference between core “strength” and core “stability.” There is a difference! The best “screen” I know of is the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), which is an excellent way to learn what your weak links, asymmetries, and overall risk of injury is. Find a certified provider near you.

o If appropriate levels of flexibility are an issue it is going to interfere with training at some point. Remember, you might be “inflexible” in certain places because your body is creating stiffness due to a weak synergistic muscle somewhere else. Things aren’t always as they seem. Learn about Active Isolated Stretching and focus your flexibility work on muscles that are tight due to your lifestyle (sitting at a desk or behind the steering wheel for example).

o Poor mobility, stability, or balance will interfere with training. Get them cleared at the beginning of your training, so that they won’t limit your progress or create greater risk of injury moving forward.

o You can visit me and my partner, Dr. Kurt Strecker, at our Gait Analysis Lab and get a full assessment of all of the above items, starting with a detailed exam, FMS, and 3D-video analysis. We also do online assessments also for those of you who cannot make it to the lab.

o Besides being assessed by a professional, start videotaping every exercise you are doing in your routine. Learn and study what good movement is and improve your awareness of how you are moving.

All of the above applies whether you are a novice or elite athlete. We know that the central nervous system (CNS) of talented high-level athletes is much better at compensating than the average person’s CNS. However, an elite or a top age group athlete could still have a restriction in movement, or a lack of basic core stability or compensation that is holding them back. Here’s a prime example.

Lis Kenyon, who I coach, WON her age-group in Kona this year (and set a course record doing the same in 2010). She recently visited our Gait Lab. We discovered a number of issues related to stability, muscle balance, and strength. Despite the fact that she handily beat the best in the world in her age-group, she still has room for improvement and can be even healthier–and faster. As her coach, I feel that is exciting and is something that we can all learn from.

To summarize, this is a little bit like the story of The Tortoise and the Hare. You could start out now with workouts designed to achieve fast fitness benefits. OR you can decide to learn how to move better now, and increase the chances of finishing stronger and better later in the season. If you get it right in the beginning of the training process and progress steadily forward, you will most certainly increase your chances of “winning” in the end, beating the hares every time. Improving how you move NOW will pay big dividends in the long run, in the form of improved vitality, youthfulness, and much faster race results!