In the rush to get results fast and take shortcuts, or to “get to the interesting stuff” young athletes get broken. Improving the structural integrity of the athlete is essential before moving onto other areas of fitness.
Watching Alien Covenant this week prompted me to update this blog as they used the phrase also.
I used to say that Structural Integrity is composed of 4 key components:
Balance: Static and dynamic, upper/ lower body, single limbs.
Stability: Joints are strong and can support body weight when moving and static.
Mobility: How you control limbs over a range of movement.
But, when presenting at the DAASM symposium in April, I was challenged on the use of “stability” By Dr. Homayun Gharavi MD, PhD, PhD. He suggested that the word “control” is better than stability. Stability has been overused and is vague, the body is designed to move, unlike a table, and so control is more accurate.
This means the new schematic would be this:
The Foundation of Athletic Development
Most of the athletes I initially encounter have glaring deficiencies in their structure or posture that limits their ability to progress. Loading athletes like this either through volume, intensity or weight, will lead to breakdowns. Saying someone needs to get fitter and then giving them a running programme, without seeing them run, is poor coaching.
Instead, after their initial musculo skeletal and movement screening, we start to work on their structural integrity. This is the foundation of Athletic Development and then allows the athlete to work on their athletic ability involving spatial awareness, rhythm, movement abilities and timing. This then allows greater ease of skill acquisition. In this video you see an example of work with young gymnnasts.
The theme was putting precision, variety and progression into the coaching and teaching of young people at every opportunity.
Kelvin gave a great one day workshop which had coaches, parents, teachers, physiotherapists and also 4 junior international athletes attending.
The 3 pillars of athletic development
Kelvin outlined his take on this:
Cardiorespiratory (metabolic) efficiency: the running, swimming, cycling that gets the heart and lungs working.
Nutritional quality: what the athletes put into their mouths and bodies.
Mechanical (movement) efficiency: the focus of the day.
When looking at mechanical efficiency, the load must be determined by the quality of the technique.
That load is either: speed, distance, volume, direction, complexity or the surface upon which it is performed.
When all of this is perfect, only then can you progress. “Function before sports specific skill, force, speed or endurance.“
This is criterion based progression: the athlete must earn the physical right to progress. The adaptation must be permanent and consistent.
(Compare that with the norm which is “no weights until you are 16, now we start with power cleans”, or “you can’t do a body weight squat? Never mind, get in the smith machine and we can add some weight because you are too skinny” James’ rant over).
Kelvin gave examples of this, and we started with a lot of squat variations, followed by physical competency assessments.
I have done this 4 times previously with Kelvin, but always learn something new. Today it was that spending 4 hours in a car leads to tight hamstrings!
The state of the nation
Kelvin spent a good portion of the day outlining the data and research behind our lack of physical ability.
As a coach of young people, or even senior clubs and teams, it is easy to concentrate on “performance outcomes” either in the gym or in the win/ loss column. However, it is important to remember where these athletes are coming from.
It is alright having “medal targets” for Rio and Tokyo Olympics, but the simple fact is that we have a young generation of unfit, overweight kids who struggle to move properly. Kelvin laid this out very well.
It is everyones’ responsibility to help solve this problem. The answer isn’t with p.e “specialists” being put into primary schools and chucking a ball at 30 kids and saying “play a game“.
The answer isn’t with hordes of sports science students being able to recite force/ time relationships or measuring Vo2 max on a treadmill but unable to coach a press up or a squat properly. Let alone sequence those movements into a meaningful, engaging coaching session.
The answer lies with better coaching and teaching:”If you don’t chase precision, you are supporting mediocrity”.
“Kids aren’t afraid of hard work, the’re afraid of boredom”. Wayne Goldsmith
“My butt is killing me”
The last hour of the day was all practical with Kelvin taking the group through some lunge progressions, sway drill variations and single leg squat variants.
“Are we teaching/ coaching them to discover, or to be robotic?” Kelvin put all his theory and experience into practice.
This was a great example of how good coaching and using time and space can create overload, rather than justing adding weight. “The minute you put a bar on someone’s shoulders you slow them down“.
With minimal coaching cues, Kelvin set tasks that their bodies had to solve: linear, lateral, rotational, squatting, bracing, hinging. So much variation and fun, with just the body.
As Steve Myrland says “Complex equipment tends to yield simplistic results, simple equipment tends to yield complex results
Summary and the way ahead
Exeter school provided the venue and it was great to see their teaching and coaching staff making the most of this opportunity.
They have recently opened their Athletic Development Gym and have implemented some great programming ideas.
Thanks to everyone who took part, and especially to Kelvin for once again delivering a great workshop (following on from his session at Willand School, I have been helping them further implement the ideas).
Contact me if you would like a similar course run near you