Ground-Based Core Training

Ground-Based Core Training

The end goal for all of us is to be doing real-world “core” exercises.



Overhead presses.

You’ll get no argument from me on this. But the question becomes:

Is this person physically prepared to do this?

Do they have an optimal core stability strategy?

Or do they use a hip flexor/spinal erector dominant strategy that locks them in extension?

Many would call this an “open” or “scissored” posture, and it’s sub-optimal not only because you’re only using the posterior muscles, but you’re also crushing the back side of your spine (vertebrae and discs) in an effort to create stability.

If this explains you or your athletes, you need to re-build your core stability strategy.

A typical progression would look something like this: click here for link to article:


Science Investigates How to Rest For Power

Science Investigates How to Rest For Power

One of my articles from earlier this week discussed how to use rest intervals to maximize strength over the course of a set. Greater ability to lift heavy weights over the course of a workout means greater strength in the long run. In this particular study, it was the case that longer rests were better, especially four and five minute rests, and that one minute rests were no good. This makes good intuitive sense, but it isn’t the whole picture.

The thing that made that study unique was that it was amongst the first of its kind to look at strength. Similarly, we are in the dark about how to rest for the expression of power. You might wonder why we would need more research for power if the strength study gave us solid, intuitive results. Well, in a study this month in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, researchers wanted to take a look at the proper rest intervals for power, just for good measure. It never hurts to be too thorough. And it’s a good thing they did, because the results are surprising.

The difference between strength and power can be confusing. Strength is more or less the amount of force you can exert. In other words, the heaviest weight you can lift is an expression of maximal strength. Power is the rate (speed) at which a force can be moved. Part of the confusion is that the sport most concerned with strength is called powerlifting. Strength is a component of power, but not the other way around. As far as power goes, if you can lift more weight at the same speed, your power has gone up, and if you can lift the same weight at a faster speed, again, your power has increased.

Because strength and power are different, they don’t always respond the same to the adjustment of variables. For example, you might think a heavy weight is required for the most power, just like it is for strength, but in reality the greatest power output generally comes from relatively light weights. Indeed, in this study, the researchers used seven sets of jump squats per workout with an increasing load. The squats were performed from unweighted all the way up to 60kg in 10kg increments. The greatest power output was with just the bodyweight alone.

The surprising thing about this study is that when the researchers compared one, two, three, and four minute rests between sets, they found no difference. One would think rests as short as one minute would cause performance to decline in the later sets at least, much like it did with the upper body strength of the other study, but this was not the case for power output. The differences between the groups were either too small to be statistically relevant or unclear, perhaps due to the small number of participants.

In the end, the researchers deemed it unimportant which rest period length is used for three rep maximal power jump squats at various loads. This seems too surprising to be completely true, but for now we can say one thing: power definitely reacts differently to rest period length than strength.

Three Hours of Conversation With Dr. Stu McGill

follow link for audio  Three Hours of Conversation With Dr. Stu McGill

Why hamstring injuries continue

Why hamstring injuries continue

It gets tiresome reading about players having a hamstring injury that prevents them from playing, especially when they are some of the team’s fastest players.  After the player is injured, the teams become cautious. But of course it is a little too late.  Why weren’t measures taken to prevent the hamstring injury?

As I’ve stated many times, hamstring problems are one of the simplest to avoid but one of the more difficult ones to rehabilitate. The continual injuries to the hamstring muscles appear to be happening because the teams don’t do any technique (form) work on running or cutting. Nor do they do specialized strength exercises to strengthen the hamstring muscles as they are involved in execution of the running and cutting skills.

Teams consider the injuries as being “part of the game” and lament the fact that the player cannot play.  Sadly, this practice will continue until the teams realize that hamstring injuries are preventable. They are almost always due to improper technique and insufficient strength of the muscles as they are used in execution of the skill.

The hamstring muscles are most frequently injured in play while running, accelerating and changing direction while in motion. But, as far as I know, there is not a single professional or collegiate team that does technique analyses or scientifically based work to improve or fine-tune the player’s running or cutting technique.

Nor do the teams do any specialized strength training that is specific to the joint actions that occur in these skills. They continue to do general strength exercises such as the knee (leg) curl and deep squats to prevent hamstring problems. However, these exercises are not specific to the actions that occur in the above-named skills.

The most effective exercise that strengthens the hamstring muscle and the tendons at both ends, in sequence, is the glute-ham-gastroc raise.  It can best be performed on the Yessis  Glute Ham Back machine which is made specially to correctly do the glute-ham-gastroc exercise as well as other hip and core exercises.

I have never had an athlete experience a hamstring injury if he did the glute-ham-gastroc raise on a regular basis and had proper technique in execution of the running and cutting actions. These are the two key factors for the prevention of injury.  But yet they appear to be lacking on almost all teams.

Teams often have the players stretch the hamstrings with toe touches or exercises similar to this. However such exercises may also be the cause of hamstring problems. For example, many players are proud of the fact that they can touch their toes when they bend over with straight legs.

However, because you have a rounded back to reach this far you overstretch the ligaments of the lumbar spine more than you stretch the hamstrings.  As a result, you end up with a looser back more prone to injury rather than a safer or stronger back or hamstring muscle.

By doing the glute-ham-gastroc raise and exercises such as the good morning or hip extensions on the Yessis Glute Ham Back machine you get dynamic stretching and strengthening of the hamstrings. This is a key factor in prevention of hamstring injury. You need strength in the range of motion in which the muscle acts in execution of the skill.

Proper running and cutting technique and exercises specific to running and cutting are not an unknown entity; there is much information available that can easily be incorporated by the teams.  But it appears they are not taking advantage of what is an already proven formula for the prevention of injury to the hamstrings.

Barefoot Training and Athletic Performance – A Coach’s Perspective: Part 1

Barefoot Training and Athletic Performance – A Coach’s Perspective: Part 1

Imagine a training technique so diverse that it can benefit everyone from participants in a group exercise class and patients in a rehab setting to athletes looking to improve their speed and agility.

Barefoot training is one of the best examples of a training technique where the benefits cross all aspects of health, fitness and performance.

As EBFA paves the way in barefoot education and barefoot programming it is our mission to not only education fitness professionals but also cross over into the medical and sports performance industries.

This year EBFA had the opportunity to present on barefoot science at the 46th Annual NSCA National Convention and the Okanagan Strength & Conditioning Conference.  It was very encouraging to hear the coach’s perspectives and excitement in the application of barefoot science with their athletes.

As EBFA continues to spread education to the strength and conditioning industry, we wanted to get catch up with two of our favorite coaches and fan of barefoot training with their athletes – Coaches Chris Floand Michael Torres.

Hi Coach Flo and Torres. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk barefoot with EBFA! As we explore the benefit of barefoot training as a form of neuromuscular training for athletes, it seems almost natural for the technique to creep it’s way into the training floors.

Do either of you currently apply barefoot training techniquees with your athletes?

Coach Flo: All our athletes train without shoes on.

The reason we do this is because the absence of shoes allows us to see any compensations within the ankle and foot. Many of our athletes will preset collapsing arches or flat feet during our assessment. We will notice that due to the dropping arch they will increase the valgus stress on the knee causing pain along the medial patella and or mcl.

This is just one of many biomechanical deviations we find by having them train without shoes. True story, many of my athletes now come to sessions in just flip flops because they know they won’t be needing shoes.

Coach Torres: I have been integrated barefoot training with athletes for some time now, the reason being first and foremost the simplicity of their ability to feel how their own body responds to various stress.

As I learned more through research and education such as the courses provided by the Evidence Based Fitness Academy, I found it more and more critical to engage training in this way.

In the performance world coaches often talk about training from the ground up and understanding force production, however they place a layer of preverbal noise between the athlete and the ground so I don’t feel they can truly appreciate the relationships between the body and ground.

That’s awesome that you both apply barefoot training with your athletes. I knew I liked you both for a reason! Just kidding.

So as you both begin to integrate barefoot training with your athletes – how have they been responding? Do they embrace this change?

Coach Torres: Athletes in general often start with many questions on why I have them take off their socks and shoes, but usually the questions are answered by their own awareness just in completing basic balance exercises or the first time they add a significant load through the body.

I have seen some dramatic changes with having barefoot training as a foundation to working with athletes – specifically over the course of two years as a Head Coach for a High School Track and Field team. We reduced non-compete injuries by over 60% and produced back-to-back seasons with 100% personal records set, numerous state qualifying appearances, and other areas of achievement.

I personally attribute the success to not only having a well-balanced training program, but demanding awareness of foot health and barefoot training. 

Coach FloOne of the number 1 things my athletes say is that they feel their feet gripping the inside of their shoes when they play sports now. They also say that they feel more balanced when cutting or running.

I don’t know if this is because of the training without shoes, the balance work we do at Flo, or a combo of both. I’d say its the combo but their is no way to test it really.

The same holds true with feeling stronger and faster, I feel it’s a combo of the barefoot training and good programming on our part.

These are exactly the benefits we are promoting to coaches – that there is a benefit to being more aware from the ground up.

Do you see barefoot training concepts becoming more prevalent in the sports performance and strength conditioning industry?

Coach Flo: I can see barefoot training becoming big but only in small studios. Unfortunately many of the big facilities will see it as a hazard. If an athlete drops a weight on their foot it can be an insurance nightmare.

With the proper education I believe we can make athletes understand the importance of using their feet to add to their performance. If I can be totally honest, I think if someone like LeBron James or some big time sports star said that barefoot training was their key to success it would create boost in the amount of people doing it.

Coach Torres: In the future I hope that others like my self, my company Integrated Performance, and my colleagues that are currently utilizing barefoot training as part of a high performance program will lead the change in  the concept of barefoot science and performance training.

There is no question that barefoot training is not just beneficial to sport performance but a critical element that should be integrated into programming for optimal results.

I feel a lack of barefoot training sets the athlete up for a higher injury risk, so no matter how great your program is, if the athlete gets hurt (especially in a non- contact movement) then what good is the program really?

Great thank you both so much for your time and sharing with EBFA your perspective on barefoot training and sports conditioning.


How to Use Stoic Singles to Increase Strength and Train More Often

for full article and video click   How to Use Stoic Singles to Increase Strength and Train More Often

This past year, I set sail trying to pick apart Olympic weightlifting training and gymnastics training with the eye to steal the best and most applicable of each to piece together for my own hybrid training philosophy. It’s been surprisingly successful to this point. (Who doesn’t want to be a combination of those twoathletes, really?)

One thing I struggled to understand for a long time was how to train at a higher frequency. I was clueless, and had no idea how anyone could make predictable progress (see the end of this article on chaos in training) while doing something like squatting every day.

But, by a mishap, I found my answer — something I call the Stoic Single. It not only hinted at how to train at a higher frequency, but also made me stronger.


For those that don’t know me, I’m a fan of going either (a) heavy or (b) light. Or, as I wrote about it on my Antifragile post, either (a) do something more than you’re used to or (b) doing something light enough so that you’re ready for (a) when the time comes. As Charlie Francis once said: our highs are too low; our lows too high.

I’ll blame Dan John: I hate medium.

There’s a lot that goes on under the hood of this though. For one, I’m not a huge fan of maximal effort training to failure. Save for mishaps, I never train to failure. Doing more doesn’t always end in more, as no one gets stronger ad infinitum. My body, on any given day, decides whether or not to go for broke, but one thing is sure: my light days always facilitate my heavy days, otherwise, they wouldn’t be very “light” now would they?

Another way phrase this light day facilitation: light days make heavy days easier by not impeding with recovery. Most people have an artificial perception of what “light” means in their mind, likely because we reduce the totality of stress down to weight on the bar.

This is a problem.


At some point, everyone that trains with a barbell begins notices that handling a heavy weight is fundamentally different than handling a lighter weight. More often than not, there’s a cusp — a weight goes from tolerable to hrmpphhuuuggggghhhh. My personal example: front squats with 275 pounds. For whatever reason, that was the point where things got dicey (even though my max was above 275).

In Squat Every Day, Matt Perryman talks about how handling near-max weights requires a different skill set than handling light weights, and I think that’s a fantastic way to put things.

The best analogy for this, in my opinion, is of throwing a baseball accurately. You can do a lob toss or you can throw the ball as fast as possible. In each case, the mechanics are the same, but the mechanics are just one part of the equation. The intensity, in some manner, dictates your ability to perform. You might be able to kill the Cat Rack with the lob toss, but what about throwing as fast as possible?


For many people, the answer to getting more comfortable at 275 would be to increase your absolute max. The stronger you are, the easier everything else underneath becomes. While I agree with this to some extent, a noteworthy experience in the past made me go another direction.

Anytime I see strength under the guise of skill, I think back to my 40 Day + PLP experiments. (Read Part IPart IIPart III.) They taught me that strength was more than weight on the bar, and that perception and “amp” could also predict strength. In other words, if you have to snap an ammonia cap, punch yourself in the face, and listen to Mercenary to lift something, you’re not as strong as someone that can lift that same weight yawning.

And so when you combine the three buckets of consideration in

  • Making a light day . . . light
  • Practicing heavy lifting as a skill
  • Tracking emotional arousal

the Stoic Single flew out of the womb.


We are, for the most part, told to go heavy or go home. Pain is weakness leaving the body.

You might be familiar with Westside and their three ways of achieving maximal muscle fiber recruitment:

  • (ME) Maximal Effort: lifting a weight over 90%1RM (it’s worth noting that ME lifts aren’t always taken to failure)
  • (RE) Repeated Effort: lifting a light(er) weight to failure
  • (DE) Dynamic Effort: lifting a lighter(er) weight as fast as possible

There’s also the (SE) submaximal effort method which is generally lifting 70-85% 1RM within a certain range without being taken to failure—this was the method primarily used by the coaches I interned under, and they got great results with their athletes.

Now, I’m not a huge fan of training to failure or the dynamic effort method for non-powerlifters (just go trick or something), but that’s not the point here. I’m breaking these down to show this:

  • ME – high psychophysiological arousal, heavy weight (trying to break max)
  • RE – high psychophysiological arousal, lighter weight (taking to failure)
  • DE – high psychophysiological arousal, lighter weight (maximal acceleration)
  • SE – medium-high psychophysiological arousal, lighter-medium weight

We’re never really handling a heavy weight unless we mean business. In other words, every time we train with a heavy weight, we’re also training under the influence of ammonia (if you’re into that sorta thing), punching ourselves in the face, and listening to Mercenary. In other words, we’re not really getting a lot of “practice” in with handling heavy weights.

More importantly, we never learn how to perform at a high level without it also being very physically and mentally draining.

Of course, you can’t train frequently if you’re always destroying yourself mentally and physically. But what if you shifted your focus to lifting a heavy weight without much investment? What if you practiced your way to handling near-maximal weights with a stone face?

What if we learn how to perform at a high level without it being very physically and mentally draining?


As if you couldn’t have guessed, the Stoic Single is all about crushing a heavy weight with zero emotional investment. Volume is kept low to save the body extra stress. Going back to my front squat example @ 275:

  • 5×135
  • 3×185
  • 2×225
  • 1×245
  • 1×275

So warm-up to a weight you’d never miss, but one that’s still rather heavy. Lift it crisply with next to zero emotional arousal. If you’re yawning and texting in between sets, you’re doing it right. Don’t listen to music.

The benefits of the Stoic Single include solving problems that only creep up with heavy weights. For instance, the upper back usually rounds over in some in a heavy front squat, but not in a light front squat. This is just one example, but a lot of lifts have “heavy” problems that aren’t present with “light” weights. You get more work on these problems because you’re training heavy.

You might be wondering how the Stoic Single classifies as a “light” day, and I go back to my original classification: the light day makes for an easier heavier day. One of the benefits of Stoic Singles: your emotional investment drops even when handling a heavy weight.

So, in my case, I learned how to lift 275 without trying, which made everything else above it seem easier. This is the 40 Day + PLP effect in a nutshell.

My childhood motivation….