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Enhancing Strength and Stability in Athletes

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I really feel to optimize movement and maximize performance, you need to work on both strength and dynamic stability.

But sometimes people need to focus on one more than the other.

Here’s how we try to integrate the two concepts with our patients and athletes.

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#AskMikeReinold Episode 273: Enhancing Strength and Stability in Athletes

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Show Notes


Transcript

Student:
All right. We have Noah from Chicago. Chicago. He is asking after going through your Champion Performance Specialist program, I’ve learned that you advocate for working on both strength and stability to optimize performance in athletes. Can you give some examples of how you build programs in the gym that incorporate both?

Mike Reinold:
I like that. Great question. Thank you, Noah from Chicago. Really good question. I think, for some reason with the strength and stability concept, some people are usually really good at one and maybe not so awesome at others. And to me, it’s just a lack of experience. You have to just understand and see that little bit, how they come together. So that’s a big thing that we do at Champion, and we talk about all the time is, is how we work on both strength and stability throughout the body. Right?

Mike Reinold:
So it was funny, Diwesh and I were, I think we were just talking about this the other day, right. With some of our off season, like training programs, how to work on some of those stability things and stuff like that. So Dewey why don’t you start with that kind of concept. So we have somebody that obviously needs to build some strength, but we are a big believer here at Champion that we also have to work on how they control that strength, and optimizing their movement. So how do you work stability into people’s programs? And then maybe if you can even give some examples, I think that’d be great.

Diwesh Poudyal:
Yeah, for sure. So for me, the first thing that I kind of start with is the needs analysis of the athlete. So inherently we got to figure out is, whatever sport or whatever activity this person does. Is it a little bit more biased towards needing to be super, super strong and powerful? Or is it maybe a little bit more required towards being stable? So I think that is going to help kind of figure out what do we have a little bit more of. And then from there, we start picking exercises that are going to be a little bit more biased towards one versus the other, after we’ve done that needs analysis. So for example, if we do a bilateral loaded squat, obviously that is going to be bilateral symmetrical, very stable position. So the focus there is going to be building strength. So we push strength, we push load, make sure that people are getting stronger there.

Diwesh Poudyal:
If we, let’s say, go into a single, like RDL, we know that you are on a single-like stance, you have way more frontal plane competency required. You have a little bit more transverse plane control. So you have a lot more demand for stability there. So we start figuring out what dosage of each one makes a little bit more sense for the athlete and we kind of sneak in that level of dosage. So that is typically how we set up like our, our strength exercises to be a little bit more on the strength side versus the stability side. Now, on top of that, a lot of times we will have a separate section to work on stability, dynamic control and all that stuff towards the beginning of the workout, whether it’s a pairing with some of our power exercises as like an act of resting.

Diwesh Poudyal:
But for there, we’re pretty creative with some of our stability exercises like med ball chops. Sometimes we have actually been using a lot of our water tubes and water balls. I don’t know if people are familiar with that, but having something that creates external stability demand. So essentially it is a giant tube filled with half or a little bit less than half water, rest, air. So you have a little bit of load and you have a little bit more of an unstable, more dynamic environment for us to control. And we can do that on a single leg stance, split stance, bilateral, whatever it is. Whatever amount of stability we’re looking to induce on the on the client. So, we tend to be pretty creative with sneaking some of that stuff in there, but overall I think we do have a really well-balanced program for most, for athletes where they work all their strength and power stuff and making sure that they work stability in frontal and transverse plane.

Mike Reinold:
Right. And it’s funny too, like you mentioned, just like, you know, somebody doing like a bilateral squat and then like a single leg RL and you know, that is stability. That’s not just like unilateral strength, right. That’s stability to be able to do a single leg squat, you have to stabilize in two planes and move in another. I mean, that’s actually a, a big stability component that I think again, people just like take for granted and they think, oh, I’m not working on stability.

Mike Reinold:
So, briefly, Dewey, give me an example. If you have, let’s say a general high school athlete, maybe they are well-rounded. They do not need one thing more than another. They do not need strength over power over a dynamic control. Walk me through a typical, what’s this session look like for them in terms of how you incorporate strength and stability exercises, just in one section, in real time.

Diwesh Poudyal:
Yeah, for sure. So I would probably have it be somewhere where at the beginning of their workout or towards the beginning of their workout, paired up with their power work as a filler. I might do some sort of stability work to maybe prep them for anything else they might have to do. So one that easily jumps to my mind that I mentioned earlier was a med ball chop that I might pair a single, med ball chop, where you are accelerating a ball down towards your hip and you are having to stabilize that position. So that can help gain a little bit more control for some of our other med ball rotational work. It might even help work on a little bit more deceleration and accepting force on all of our jumps and land things. So we might put that on early on in the workout and have that be our primer.

Diwesh Poudyal:
And then later on, we might have, let’s say a trap bar deadlift as our main strength exercise, and then to fill the rest of that workout with our more accessory or assistance movements we might go into a deficit split squat or a single leg squat that you may mentioned where it is a little bit more accessory work, but the focus of that is a little bit more biased towards stability. So our trap bar Deadlift was our big strength builder for the posterior chain. Our next one might be that split squat or that single-like squad that’s a little bit more accessory biased towards stability. That’s not as much of a strength-gain exercise and it’s a little bit more controlled. It’s a little bit more, having body control in different planes.

Mike Reinold:
Yeah, I like that. Great. That’s a great example of how to pair those up. I like that. Mike, I want to hear from your perspective. So you work with a lot of adult-type population athletes with golfers. I know that you incorporate these two concepts with them. Why don’t you maybe tell us a little bit about why and how you do it with that population of like an adult recreational athlete.

Mike Scaduto:
Yeah, absolutely. In my mind, I kind of break stability down into a couple different components. So I think a proprioception, or your ability to know where your joints are in space. I think of balance, which is kind of tied into proprioception and motor control with a couple different components as well, including a visual component, which I think is very important. And then motor control or ability to move your body into certain positions with good, smooth motion, without a lot of perturbations and without a lot of compensations. So I kind of break it into those components. And I think a balance component, especially in an aging population that wants the athletic, I think the balance component is very important. So we will do some stability- based balance training. We will use uneven surfaces or unstable surfaces such as an Airex pad.

Mike Scaduto:
We may add some external perturbations to really work on stability and make it a little bit more unpredictable as we go. So we tend to start our balance training and make it predictable. And then we add layers of unpredictability to have them be more reactive with their balance training. I think that does have carryover to sport where they are either accepting some external force or creating in an internal force and they have to maintain their balance. So we try to incorporate that into our training. And I think that applies in golf. If we want to create a powerful golf swing, but also hit the ball on the center of the face, we need some amount of balance and stability throughout the swing. If the golfer is losing their balance, it is going to be very difficult to maintain centeredness of contact on the face. So we will break it down into those components, train each component, and then hopefully be able to make that more applicable to their sport down the line once we’ve kind of checked the boxes along the way.

Mike Reinold:
Yeah, I like it. And it is not focusing on one side of the spectrum, right? If all your focus is on strength, you have a really strong person that maybe is not precise with their strength. And if all you are focusing and on is stability and control, then maybe you’re very precise, but you’re not very powerful with that. You don’t have that, that strength of it. So that is a good combo. So I want one more thought on this, and I want to go to the Fitness Painfree, Dan Pope, fitnesspainfree.com.

Mike Reinold:
So Dan, a lot of your clients could probably bench press me for reps of 10, right? Like that’s pretty common, right? So we get these really big, really fit people that would argue that they’re all amazing athletes. They probably all think they’re amazing athletes. How do you incorporate stability into their programs when they probably see it as, what is this silly thing that we are working on? I just want to work on my snatch.

Dan Pope:
Yeah. Well, I guess it is a bit of a selling point, right? Let’s take the shoulder. So if you have some sort of surgery, let’s say surgery on the capsule or labrum or something along those lines, you’re probably going to have altered proprioception. You’re going to have a ton of weakness that goes with that. And people want to get back to dynamic motions. They want to be able to clean and jerk. They want to be able to snatch. So you want to get the shoulder prepared for that. And stability is obviously really important.

Dan Pope:
One of the things that we do at Champions is, we have manuals where we use rhythmic stabilizations. What I do after a certain period of time is I start to move them towards movements that are still unstable, but they look a little bit closer to a cool movement that people want to do in the gym.

Dan Pope:
So we do a lot of bottoms up kettlebell work and we’re doing presses overhead, we’re doing windmills, we’re maybe doing variations of movements the athletes are already familiar with. So it feels like they’re progressing closer to a snatch or a clean and jerk. We still get to work a little bit on the stability of the shoulder joint, just because once you start snatching again, after let’s say some sort of surgery, we really have to prepare for that. And you’ve got a heavy load and it’s a little unpredictable in terms of where it is going to land. And we have to be able to stabilize that weight when it gets up there. So, preparing that is obviously very important and I tend to use fun, cool exercises because people love those, that look a little bit closer to a clean jerk and snatch.

Mike Reinold:
Yeah. But then correct me if I’m wrong, when they get back to then their functional activity, they reap the rewards, right? They say like, oh, I feel like I’m able to actually either be stronger or faster, accept more load or whatever, because of incorporating both, right?

Dan Pope:
Exactly. People that like to listen to my advice, just because most folks just want to train, I will give them those accessory exercises to try to keep the shoulders strong and safe over the course of time. I think it’s really smart to incorporate some of that on a weekly basis. Just like if you are a pitcher, you’re going to be doing rotator cuff exercises, whatever it is. We should probably think about accessories for overhead stability for those barbell athletes in the same way, just use exercises that are more specific to their needs.

Mike Reinold:
Great way of saying it, so, awesome. To me, when you put strength and stability together you end up having the best results over time. And a lot of people, I think sometimes they take that the wrong way that they think that we are not getting better at either. Just remember that it is a spectrum sometimes in some portions of people’s program, we’re more worried about strength when other times we’re more worried about dynamic control. And then there’s times that there is a blend and there is a way to do it. So that’s the key to really kind of figuring it out is making sure that you understand like, Diwesh said at the beginning of this is, you understand the unique needs of the person in front of you and what they need right now. What is their needs assessment for strength, power control, whatever it may be and make sure you’re focusing on that. But again, it’s almost always better to work on everything together, just maybe with a little bit more of an emphasis on the thing that is that low-hanging fruit for today.

Mike Reinold:
Awesome. So, great question, Noah. Thanks so much for submitting. If you have a question like that, head to mikereinold.com, click on that podcast link, and you can fill out the form to ask us a question. And please, head to iTunes, Spotify. Please rate, review, and we will see you on the next episode. Thanks so much.

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