Last time, I mentioned I’m starting a program to fix some weaknesses, and a friend asked, “How is training to fix weakness different than training to build strength or improve conditioning?” Good question. For me, it’s a matter of emphasis…meaning I always work on strength, conditioning and skills, but there are cycles when I want one of those things to go up at a faster rate than another. A good rule of thumb is when the body is healthy and pain free, focus on strength or conditioning, but when the quality of movement degrades or performance plateaus, work on your weaknesses.
Now, every strength coach has their own functional movement screen they like to use, but one of the best diagnostic tools is to examine ‘movement under tension’. Walking with a dumbbell or weight overhead, completing a bodyweight squat or hinging with a resistance band are good examples. They’ll ask you to do a movement at a certain load or speed…repetitively, and then cue you to rest. Then, they’ll tell you to do it again. Why? Messy movement patterns are inefficient and require the body to expend more energy to perform, which makes you tire more easily. Likewise, they’ll ask you to pause in the middle or hardest portion of a movement to check form or see which muscles are firing. Every person’s body is unique so the first goal is to understand the mechanical function of a body. Once they have a basic map, they’ll look at integrated movement patterns and ask themselves, “What does the body need to stop doing? …implies an imbalance or weakness, or “What does the body need to do more of?”…implies a skill or muscle deficiency. Movement expert Julien Pineau refers to this as finding the 'key log' issue or the one thing that’s causing multiple issues in the body. Fix that one thing, and several other problems will clear up.
So, what weaknesses am I working on? Well, I’ve got some issues on my left side that have become very pronounced since I started snatching. (The snatch is an Olympic weightlifting skill that involves lifting and stabilizing a loaded bar overhead while dropping into a squat.) Those things are impacting the pull from the ground as well as my ability to balance the bar while descending into the squat. Hence, I’m tackling mobility and stabilization with my back and shoulders as well as teaching my hips and shoulders to work together.
If you're wondering how to include exercises that address mechanical weakness, stay tuned. Next time, I’ll show you my new program, and we'll discuss how a good program is structured.