EliteFTS Article

I had another article posted on EliteFTS.com this past week.  If you haven’t seen it you can check it out here. 

Training Rotational Movement Patterns

It concerns training rotational movement patterns in the weight room with beginnner / intermediate athletes.  I wrote the article because of all the questions I get on our rotational training movements when you don’t have bands, cables, or medballs. 

These are some of the options available, but they are simply a patterning sequence  for our athletes before we move on to more advanced movements incorporating transverse loaded patterns, as well as speed, and power movements. 



Shoulder Mobility and the Fist to Fist PART I

Since the first week of school is upon us this means one thing for the baseball program at TCU; movement screens.  The last 4 days of my life have been evaluating, measuring, and deciphering movement.  I recently uploaded a few videos that give some quality examples of the overhead squat, both good and poor.  I’ll post on those in the next couple days or so. 

Today, I wanted to talk about the fist to fist test that some use, including myself, to measure shoulder mobility. 

The problem with the fist to fist is that it isn’t a true indicator of shoulder mobility, and more specifically, glenohumeral internal rotation.  There are a number of factors that play into being able to raise the hand high on the back.  A combination of elbow flexion, scap movement, and internal rotation all play a part. 

Several years ago when I first began administering the fist to fist test for shoulder mobility I had an individual measured 5 cm with the right arm up, and 7 cm with the left arm up.  According to Gray Cook and the FMS this is scored a 3 and shows great ROM with no imbalances to speak of.  At that time I utilized this test exclusively for our shoulder ROM and didn’t perform any added measurements so to speak when an athlete scored perfectly on his gross movement tests.  However, this individual later ended up having an issue during the season and consequently had to be scoped following the year with a partial rotator cuff tear. 

On the surface throughout this athlete’s testing, and screening he didn’t show any disposition to a lack of shoulder ROM.  However, when he was looked at by our team shoulder specialist he had a large glenohumeral internal rotation deficit as well as a total arc deficit which we now know as a huge indicator of problems in the throwing shoulder. 

At the time I couldn’t quite understand how an athlete can score so well in shoulder mobility and then have such restrictions at the same time, but I soon began to dig deeper. 

A study done in 2006 by Karen Ginn in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery showed the behind the back reach test to have a low to moderate correlation with true shoulder internal rotation. 

Does hand-behind-back range of motion accurately reflect shoulder internal rotation?

In an even more specific study done back in 1996, the examiners discovered that the more correlated movement occurs in the scapulothoracic area when high results are achieved with the behind the back test of shoulder mobility, and that the majority of shoulder internal rotation occurs while the arm is still in front of the body.

Use of vertebral levels to measure presumed internal rotation at the shoulder: A radiographic analysis

What these studies tell us are that the scapula, and elbow to a lesser extent accounts for more of the motion in the test than true internal rotation occurring at the shoulder. 

The video above is a great example of what I’m talking about.  The athlete measures well under 10 cm on both sides exhibiting no imbalances and showing great shoulder mobility . . . right?  When you have the athlete remove his shirt the problem is easily identified.  The movement occurs because of the scaps inability to stay stable thus allowing the athlete to get his hands so close in the screen.  The actual movement isn’t occurring in the shoulder.  This athlete is in dire need of some scapular stabilization work here. 

When we dig deeper with a goniometer and passive internal, and external rotation we find our real issues.  This particular athlete is right handed pitcher with measurements as follows:

External: 129 deg.
Internal: 48 deg.
Total Rotation: 177

External 125 deg.
Internal 65 deg.
Total Roation: 190

We now undercover the truth of his actual glenohumeral motion.  This athlete has a total rotation deficit of 13 degrees and a glenohumeral internal rotation deficit of 17 degrees.  When all looks good on the fist to fist we actually find that this athlete has lost ROM in his throwing arm which is a huge indicator of shoulder injuries in throwing athlete.  I actually don’t even want him throwing a baseball until we recover that lost motion.  It’s that important.  Now, had we not actually measured rotation at his shoulder we would have cleared him with flying colors because of his fist to fist test.  This is where the fist to fist can and does commonly cause problems.  In the past few years I have learned a lot exponentially more about the shoulder and have come to understand why the fist to fist test leaves so much to be desired.

Adaptation and Stress

A few weeks back Mike Reinold had a piece on his website titled Career Advice for Students and Young Professionals from Experts in the Field.  Leon Chaitow, who is a famed manual therapist, had a nice response.   I have posted it here. 

I recommend a thorough understanding of Hans Selye’s general and local adaptation syndrome concepts.  This suggests that whatever the actual health problem – and in fact the more complex the problem the more important this formula becomes – it is essential to appreciate that almost all health issues can be seen to represent failed/or failing, adaptation. Once this is understood it becomes important to consider which adaptive stressors can be identified – whether lifestyle, biomechanical, biochemical or psychosocial – and how these can be modified or eliminated. These adaptive stressors represent one facet of the therapeutic equation, which might involve postural, respiratory, nutritional, behavioral or functional factors. The other part of the equation that needs to be considered relates to way(s) in which functionality might be enhanced, so that the stress burden can be better managed. Aspects of this would entail improved strength, stability, flexibility and mobility – along with sleep, rest, exercise etc.

So the bottom line of this therapeutic formula boils down to – reduce the adaptive load, while improving function. The only other choice is to treat symptoms. Into this mix it is also critical that we tailor the therapeutic interventions to the ability of the individual to respond positively – so that treatment doesn’t become yet another stress burden.

I believe this statement has a lot of meaning to coaches in the field of sports performance.  There are two concepts that I take away from it.  The first is to the body’s ability to deal with adaptation, and stress.  The second is  treating the adaptation, or failed adaptation, and stress.

Everything has a stress on the body.  Buddy Morris, strength coach at the University of Pittsburgh, has stated that the stress of training is much more harmful to the body than the stress of a broken bone.  A broken bone is localized vs. the entire organism being affected by stresses of intense training. 

The body is always in a constant battle of adaptation.  Injuries, sickness, diseases, etc. all go through this battle in the human body.  Take an overuse injury such as patellar tendonitis.  It is the tendon failing to adapt to the implied stresses over time.  We walk a fine line between too much, and too little.  Too much / too often a stimulus and the body reacts in a negative way.  Too little and the body won’t rise to a higher level of performance.  I have always been a firm believer that I would rather undertrain an athlete than to overtrain them.  Training is the same process just on a larger scale.  If we fail to adapt to the stresses of training, our performance begins to decline.  Sickness, or injury will be right around the corner.   

I recently purchased a highly recommended book called Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers.  The book is about the human body’s reaction to stresses and how it can disrupt / cause a cascade of events in our body.  So far I’m about half way through.  It is an interesting read to say the least.  It’s not only a great book on stress but an awesome physiology book written in a way ties all the events that happen in your body together.  And the author does it all with a dose of comedy.  I’ll have more to come on this topic as I make my way through the book. 

My second take home point in the statement deals with improving function while correcting the failed adaptation.  The last paragraph is what commonly happens in the world of rehabilitation / physical therapy.  We treat symptoms and not the actual root of the issue.  Surgeons are some of the best examples of treating symptoms.  “Lets operate,” is all too often the answer when correcting movement patterns, or fixing soft tissue restrictions,  may actually cure the issue. 

One of the best analogies I have heard for correcting movement is this: 

When a car loses its alignment the area that usually receives the most notable damage is the tires.  So the average person sees the tires worn and goes out an buys new tires.  However, we haven’t fixed the actual problem which is the alignment.  So while new tires will look nice, they too soon will wear out quickly in the wrong place.  The underlying issue is the alignment.  Fix the alignment and you fix the problems with the tires wearing

The body is the exact same way.  Fix the underlying issues and you actually fix the problem even though they probably aren’t the same thing.  Rotational athletes who have restrictions in the hip and the ability to rotate pay for it in their lower backs.  So not looking at the underlying issues, people start working the lower back claiming it to be weak, or stiff, or whatever.  However, if we fix the hips we fix the back. 

Always look for compensations occurring in movement.  When those are found and corrected, injuries and failed adaptation begin to disappear.

The Annual Plan

I’ve never quite understood how a coach can develop training programs properly without having an annual plan set up.  I’ve known many coaches who just “have it in their head,” but in reality we all forgets important details when it comes down to it.  Other coaches just plain don’t have one and training becomes a random assortment of exercises, reps, sets, weights, periods, etc. 

Annual Plan Example  

Without one coaches never know where they’re going or where they’ve been. 

 Having an annual plan set-up helps to decipher loads of information.

  • Helps determine where to change the emphasis of your program (ie: cycling volume, intensities, motor skills, etc.)
  • Accounts for appropriate deload / unload / rest and recovery weeks instead of training for 14 weeks and deloading for a week prior to maxing out. 
  • Determine future, and current volume, and intensities based on past volume, and intensities.
  • Denotes the most important dates, and competitions.
  • Allows for oversight of the entire training cycle / cycles

As we go through the year I make notes on what I need to change for the next training year.   Once my annual plan is set up I begin filling in the details of specific exercises, volumes, and intensities.  This process is relatively easy as my training for the most part already done. I started my first annual plan when i was working with the women’s soccer team at Missouri State Univ.  The model I followed at the time was that given by Joe Kenn.  It was somewhat crude, and there are tons of things I do differently now but it still gives me a great overview of what and how I modeled our training back then.  Each year I can look at my annual plans and see how our training how changed, hopefully for the better.  I have always been a big believer in 3 week cycles.  Once a 3 week cycle is coming to a close I can go to my annual plan to see what intensities I should be aiming for and then fill in the details. 

2003-2004 Annual Plan

 Above all, the annual plan to me is about a coach being organized.  Having plans set-up allow for feedback from the weeks, and months of training.  Annual plans aren’t something that are set in stone but they allow a guideline for the coach through the sports training process.   

If your unfamiliar with creating annual plans the following article is a great resource.  It covers a lot in the form of periodization, but that can be essential in knowing when it comes time to create your training program  It’s good enough that I have included it into our internship program as part of the programming chapter. 

Annual Training Program  

Once you have a model in place you can make future changes based upon the result that was achieved.  If poor sporting form was the end result, annual plans help to decipher what can be altered to achieve the results necessary.  Without a plan the training process is a blind one.  How can coaches properly plan and account for peaking, deload weeks, volumes, etc. when there is no plan to follow.  If spectacular results are achieved, what was it over the past 6 months that led us to those results, or what do we need to do differently to achieve higher results. 

New Interview

The Fall semester has begun finally and hopefully I will have a chance to get to posting more regularly.  The past three weeks have been full with Fall camp for Football.   Not only that but I spent a large majority of the time putting the finishing touches on the Annual Plan for Baseball, as well as the Fall training plan. 

Annual Plans are hugely important in my eyes.  I think they are one of the most useful things a strength coach can have.  To truly be able to plan semester after semester of training I don’t see how one can appropriately do this without an Annual Plan developed ahead of time.  My plans have become so detailed that essentially the training is already laid out.  I just have to go and fill in the details from there.   I’ll post more on the Annual Plan later this week. 

The past week, as well as this week have been testing Baseball with our movement screening as well as performance testing.  I have a few new things I’m doing to track CNS fatigue in our guys this year so hopefully I can post a little bit of that as well in the future. 

A few months back I did a phone interview for a great individual on the East Coast.  Her name is Samantha Horwitz and she has started several websites pertaining to training, speed, and overall strength and conditioning. 

The interview is posted below.  Some of the topics I covered pertain to different forms of strength, as well as some of the basic movements I believe every athlete should perfect in the weight room.  Hopefully, I didn’t butcher it too badly or confuse too many people out there.  If it raises questions please don’t hesitate to let me know.   

Zach Dechant Interview @ 100percentstrength.com

Samantha has good information out there so be sure to check out her site.  The link is posted below. 


Upper Traps Don’t Elevate???

I found a pretty interesting piece on the upper trap today.  It comes from the dynamicchiropractic.com

The Upper Trapezius DOES NOT Elevate the Shoulder

By Warren Hammer, MS, DC, DABCO

Essentially the article talks about a study back in 1994 that goes against a grain in the thought process of the upper trapezius being a scapular elevator.  In a study titled, “Anatomy and Actions of the Trapezius Muscle,” by Johnson and Bogduk, the scientists determined that due to the location and orientation of the trapezius fibers they did not act as elevators of the scapula like commonly thought. 

The essentially transverse orientation of the upper and middle fibres of trapezius precludes any action as elevators of the scapula as commonly depicted. Rather the action of these fibres is to draw the scapula and clavicle backwards or to raise the scapula by rotating the clavicle about the sternoclavicular joint. By balancing moments the trapezius relieves the cervical spine of compression loads.

Actually the main muscle responsible for elevation is the levator scapula, and the upper traps primarily work as stabilizers somewhat.  It’s an interesting article based on an interesting study.  Both are heavily entrenched with anatomy so be prepared. 

I found this to be extremely interesting.  At the moment I am currently on my second go-round with Shirley Sahrmman’s book, Diagnosis and Treatment for Movement Impairment Syndromes. 

For those that don’t know, Shirley’s  book is a tremendous resource for anyone studying movement patterns.  It’s very physical therapy based but gives great insight into the issues diagnosing, as well as treating movement impairments with specific corrective exercises.  After reading up on the scapula and common problems people develop I remembered the upper trap article and decided to post on it.  There should be more to come in the weeks ahead from Shirley’s book as it will be a great resource for our off-season training. 


Get Body Smart

Today, I’m sharing with everyone a great resource when it comes to understanding muscle anatomy.  The website is titled Get Body Smart.  I have included a link to the muscular system page, but the website actually goes over almost everything pertaining to human anatomy and physiology. 


I think the muscular system tutorials are terrific for those needing to buff up their knowledge on muscle origins and insertions.  Each section allows for interaction as well as shows the layers in which each muscle rests. 

Understanding movement is one of the most important concepts a strength and conditioning professional can have.  I believe this is one of the area’s that students entering into the profession understand the least.  Schools teach everyone about origins and insertions but students never truly learn how each muscle affects overall movement.  I remember memorizing endless origins and insertions but they never really meant anything to me because the concept of how everything ties in together to produce motion wasn’t covered.

Knowing and understanding movement, how and where it is produced helps to determine where imbalances, as well as where deficiencies lie.   

For example, the psoas is one the five flexors of the hip.  But when the hip flexes, the psoas generally doesn’t even assist in hip flexion until the femur is around 90 degrees and above.  From that point on the psoas is now the major player in hip flexion.  Knowing this important fact can help us in determining problems when an injury occurs such as a quad strain.  If we properly know our insertion point on the femur, we could understand how its possible that the psoas doesn’t activate until we reach parallel with our thigh, or how it actually assists the glutes in external rotation of the hip. 

The glute medius is a lateral rotator of the thigh, as well as an abductor.   However, if we look closer, the anterior fibers actually assist in internal rotation of the hip. 

Or take the pec minor for example.  It attaches to the corocoid process of the scapula.  If this muscle is tight and overactive, it pulls the scapula into anterior tilt.  When the scapula is in anterior tilt, the lower trapezius is put on stretch and becomes inhibited.  Having an anteriorly tilted scapula now limits humeral extension, which can lead to a host of problems in the shoulder. 

The website really is a tremendous resource not just for the muscular system but for the entire human body.  I personally don’t think coaches can understand the function of each muscle and how it ties into overall body motion as it pertains to athletic movement enough.  Understanding movement goes a long way in developing strategies to correcting improper patterns and preventing injuries down the road. 

Related Posts:
Upper Crossed Syndrome I
Upper Crossed Syndrome II
The Other Shrug
What you don’t know about the pushup!!!
Lower Crossed Syndrome
Lower Crossed Syndrome II