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Sexy training…well mickey mouse thinks so!

A swimmer approached me a while ago to get a training and nutritional strategy sorted out. He is hoping to qualify for this 2012 Olympics, happy days!!  Anyway to cut a long story short, one of the exercises he had been previously prescribed was him lying on his belly on a bench using cables to mimic the front crawl stroke, how sexy is that!!…if your idea of sexy is a darkened room, some dodgy 70’s porn and a roll of toilet paper! The guy spends up to 12 hours plus a week swimming (front crawl), why on earth would you get him to do the same movement with cables in the gym…mental! Get some front levers (assisted if necessary), or at least lean away type pullups, cleans and external rotation done surely!

This brought to mind boxing training that has boxers using cables and dumbbells to mimic punching…a great idea especially as they spend most of their time doing these same movement when sparring…mental! Get some incline DB Presses, chins, snatches and specific shoulder external rotation done instead surely, oh and don’t forget squats!

Or the golfer that gets prescribed wood chops because the trainer thinks it’s a good exercise that mimics golf.  He plays golf all day and still has to do a similiar exercise in the gym…mental. Get some chins, squats, external rotation and or snatches done surely! If the guy has other issue like lower back restriction, pain, weakness then obviously address that as well (common in golfers)

Or the scrum half that uses cables to mimic passes…mental! All this will do is to teach the incorrect firing pattern for when he does pass. Squats, cleans, chins and presses are the order of the day surely! Let the player pass the damn ball in field practice!

The problem seems to be that we trainers get confused by the so called ‘functional police’ and forget that without strength the athlete is doomed for mediocrity. We can faff about all we like trying to analyse this movement or that drill, instead of concentrating on getting the person as strong as is necessary…there is no substitute for it! Speed and power come from strength. Messing around with swiss ball, bosu ball, power plate will generally not get you strong. They may help other aspects of fitness but only really if you wear a pink mankini!

Speaking of speed and power, I’m sure you’ll see trainers / coaches prescribing plyometric type exercises to the general public or indeed to athletes…the problem here is that alot of these poor people can’t squat their own body weight, not to mention the 1.5 to 2 x body weight squats that most experts advise before attempting these power enhancers. Get the person strong first then power / speed will follow. There has never been a fast moving weak person! Remember no substitute for strength!

I fully appreciate that movement, rotation, torque, change of direction, loading the body in unusual angles etc can, does and should have its place when training. The latest buzz phases ‘bridging the gap between the gym and the function’ is fine and dandy but don’t put the cart before the horse. Get the body strong at basic movements as the core value, then by all means add in some so called ‘function’

As a general observation, the more complicated the exercise (Mickey mouse), the less motor units are being fired, and the less strength adoptions are taking place. From a trainers /coaches point of view what do I care though, getting my client standing on one leg on a bosu ball and doing triceps kick backs makes me look like I know about ‘function’…so sexy!!!

As for the swimmer, he had a PB after 4 weeks and is now seeded 1st, happy days!

James Buckingham
Percision Fitness & Performance PFP