Archive for exercise programs, fitness-related injuries, recommended resources, tips for trainers, What We Love This Week, workout tips

It’s Mobility Week at Focus

by Meaghan posted September 30, 2015

It’s Mobility week in FPTI‘s Advanced Concepts class! This week, our AC students are learning various mobility assessments and drills to improve range of motion and overall function in their clients and prevent injury, as well as how to incorporate mobility into both first sessions (as assessments) and overall programs to enhance progress toward other goals. They’ll even learn how to communicate the importance of mobility to prospective clients to get buy-in.

Among other great resources, one that we like to share with them is MobilityWOD.


Mobility Workout of the Day, that is. MobilityWOD is a website put out by Kelly Starrett, DPT in attempt to provide athletes with drills to increase mobility and improve their training and performance. His goal was originally to get a video-based mobility blog post up every day for a whole year. What happened, though, was that he became a go-to source for the industry’s mobility needs.

We like him for another reason as well: Even though Kelly is a physical therapist, he really “gets” the strength world and takes an intelligent approach to training. What’s great about MobilityWOD is that he doesn’t just put up a video of himself doing an exercise. Rather, he includes explanations (in both text and video) of how and why the mobility problems usually occur, along with how his drills work to improve them, as well as other strategies to prevent recurring problems. He also includes ways to test and retest mobility to evaluate and monitor progress, as well as questions and even assignments designed to get you thinking about how and why things work the way they do.

So whether you train just yourself or other people, I guarantee you’ll learn a thing or two from MobilityWOD that will enhance your results – so check it out!

All About The Deadlift

by Meaghan posted September 23, 2015

Today’s post comes from a very special guest contributor: FPTI Instructor and Focus Starting Strength Coach, Brent Carter.

OK. Let’s talk about the deadlift for a minute and get a few things straight. First, deadlifts are NOT bad for your back. Only BAD deadlifts are bad for your back. Good deadlifts are actually GOOD for your back. As we have discussed on this site several times, the muscles that comprise the “core” (as much as I hate that term) – including the abdominals, the internal and external obliques, and the spinal erectors – are best trained in the specific fashion for which they were designed to be used. And namely, due to their long, thin muscle bellies, these muscles are best equipped to resist movement rather than create it. Well, guess what: That is precisely how they are trained in all of the main barbell lifts (squat, bench press and deadlift), especially the deadlift.

Harris deadlift

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Is “Agility” Training as Productive as We Think?

by Meaghan posted May 13, 2015

To cut straight to the chase, my answer is NO – at least not the way we typically perform it.

Before you get all excited, hear me out. Let’s start by looking at some of the most common “agility” drills that we do with our athletes and clients.

First, we have side shuffles, purported to improve agility in athletes like basketball players:

But what is agility really? Agility is defined as the ability to start, stop, slow down, speed up or change direction. And I would add that in order to actually improve agility, we’d have to do these things in response to an unpredictable cue, as this is how things work in sport and in life.

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Are Your Hamstrings Actually “Tight?”

by Meaghan posted November 14, 2014

Not sure exactly why but lately I seem to be fielding inquiries regarding this question even more so than usual. This is usually how the conversation goes:

New trainer: “My client says her hamstrings are tight but when I go to stretch them, they aren’t tight AT ALL.”

whats up with that

Me: “OK, let’s think back to what we talked about in class regarding lower cross syndrome. Does she have a bit of an anterior tilt in the pelvis?”

New trainer: “Yeah…”

Me: “OK, so what does that mean for the hamstrings?”

New trainer: “Ohhhh… Got it!”

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Effective Exercises: The Deadlift

by Meaghan posted March 11, 2014

The other day, one of my students asked me what my favorite exercise was. My response? The deadlift, hands down. (Not to be confused with the Romanian deadlift – or “RDL” – where the bar starts from a hang position and never touches the floor, and is predominantly a single-joint hip extension exercise rather than a multi-joint lift like the conventional deadlift).



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Effective Exercise Alternatives for the Core

by Meaghan posted July 28, 2013

I’ve written before (HERE) about how and why I’m not a fan of a commonly used exercise by personal trainers: The lunge with rotation (usually accompanied by a medicine ball or ViPR). Simply put, most people don’t have the correct amounts of mobility and stability in the correct areas to really do it correctly, and wind up rotating from the wrong areas – namely, the knees and the lumbar spine. Watch here:

Did you notice what happened when she added the trunk rotation versus when just the arms moved? Watch again and look at the woman’s knee…

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Functional Stability Training

by Meaghan posted July 1, 2013

What do trainers, athletes, fitness enthusiasts and average Joes in the gym all have in common? Among other things, they all have ankles, knees, hips and a lumbar spine that need a certain amount of stability for optimal performance. After all, you can only get so strong, so powerful or so ripped before getting injured if you don’t have good functional stability – and Eric Cressey’s new DVD entitled Functional Stability Training for the Lower Body shows you how to get it.

As most of you know by now, I’m a pretty big fan of Eric Cressey’s work. This product is packed with both informative lectures that are easy to understand, as well as practical application via exercise demonstrations. Along with Mike Reinold, Eric takes you through a series of modules that address all of the following and more:

  • Influence of the lumbopelvic region on the lower body kinetic chain
  • Why you still need to be focused on strength AND functional training
  • How to disassociate the hip and lumbar spine
  • Quick tips for assessing posture and alignment in 3D
  • How alignment influences movement patterns
  • How to enhance the reliability and validity of your assessments
  • Appreciate muscles’ roles in the etiology of acute and chronic injuries
  • Learn training techniques to improve tissue length, quality and strength in functional contexts
  • Understand why hip internal rotation is important
  • The influence of the foot and ankle on the lower extremity
  • Impact of mobility issues on lower extremity kinematics and performance
  • Why, how and when to integrate neuromuscular control drills into your rehab and training programs
  • Learn the phases of proper neuromuscular control development
  • Understand several progressions designed to maximize neuromuscular control
  • Learn dozens of exercises and where they fit on the progression-regression continuum

As most of you also know, I’m also a big fan of deadlifts. Coincidentally, so is Eric. Here’s a brief clip from the DVD discussing the bilateral deficit in the deadlift:



If you like what you see, you can pick up your copy of Functional Stability Training for the Lower Body HERE.

Finding The Minimum Effective Dose

by Meaghan posted June 20, 2013

In the past, we’ve recommended a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise – either continuous or broken up into 10-minute bouts throughout the day – on most days of the week for the general population. More recently, we amended this recommendation to include an alternative option of at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise 2-3 times per week. But some people still can’t seem to “find” the time to exercise…


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Complete Spinal Health and Core Training

by Meaghan posted March 13, 2013

I think anyone in this industry who knows me also knows I’m a little opinionated when it comes to core training… Research aside (and there’s a lot of it), a simple consideration of kinesiology tells us that certain joints were meant to move – the hips and thoracic spine, for example – while others were meant to NOT move – like the lumbar spine. This simple joint-by-joint analysis should, for the most part, dictate how we train.

Of course, there are always structural abnormalities, postural deviations, conditions, etc. that may warrant a different approach, and this is precisely why assessments are so important. I’ve always admired Tony Gentilcore for constantly acknowledging these things, and I admire him even more now for making his recent core training seminar available:

Together with Dean Somerset, Jeff Cubos and Rick Kaselj, Tony discusses how he assesses his athletes to determine things like whether or not back pain (or the potential for back pain) is flexion- or extension-based, the role of posture and breathing, the importance of hip mobility and glute strength in the prevention and treatment of low back pain, and where foam rolling/massage and core stability fit in. BUT, he does so without losing focus of the goal: PERFORMANCE.

As trainers, we don’t treat pain, and most of our clients don’t want to spend money doing just “corrective exercise.” They want to train. We just have to understand what movements and loading patterns are likely to cause pain and what interventions are likely to help prevent or improve symptoms.

I don’t want to give away too much, so check out this video for a little more about Tony Gentilcore and Spinal Health and Core Training:


If you like what you see so far, the full seminar is available HERE.

Progression, Regression or Modification?

by Meaghan posted March 5, 2013

One of the difficulties many new trainers face is figuring out how to select the most appropriate exercises for a given person’s goals and contraindications while still creating a progressive program. And given all the different fitness modalities we now have available for training, it’s no wonder there’s so much confusion. Without a solid understanding of biomechanics and kinesiology, and the ability to think critically about how a given piece of equipment or technique variation changes these things, selecting exercises becomes a crap shoot.

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