Filling in Your Knowledge Gaps

Knowledge GapsWe all have knowledge gaps.

Those little areas of our knowledge base that just aren’t quite up to snuff.

Or perhaps, just not up to our standard.

I like to think of it as a wheel, and your specific areas of knowledge are like the spokes that prop that wheel up.

If you’re balanced and all your spokes are of equal length, you’re cruising right along with no worries.

But if you’re imbalanced and those spokes are of unequal length, well, I’m assuming you can imagine what happens to your “wheel.”

As personal trainers, or strength and conditioning coaches, we’re required to know a ton about a lot of different topics.

Strength training.

Power development.

Speed and agility training.

“Corrective” exercise.

Endurance or energy system training.

The list goes on and on.

One thing that we’re becoming more and more well-known for here at IFAST is our R7 approach to program design.

Let’s look at this through the lens of the R7 approach, and I’m hoping along the way we can flesh out exactly what your specific knowledge gaps are (as well as how to fill them in).

R1 – Release

This is the starting point for our training sessions, and typically includes myofascial release work with either a foam roller, lacrosse ball, or stick.

Knowing what muscle group to work on or address is critical to getting the best possible response from your training program.

If you’re doing lacrosse ball work on the pecs, but that have a lat dysfunction, can you see how that might be an issue?

Addressing an R1 Knowledge Gap

If your goal is to fill in this knowledge gap, a good assessment program would be ideal.

Of course I’m biased, but I feel as though the Diagnosis Fitness courses are the most thorough and complete when it comes to determining specific movement limitations.

However, the Functional Movement Screen is another option, and I know in their Level 2 course they discuss some of the tight/restricted areas that might need work if you have an underlying movement dysfunction.

Beyond Diagnosis Fitness, consider reading foundational anatomy and assessment texts such as Muscles: Testing and Function, The Janda Approach, or any of Shirley Sahrmann’s work (all of which are featured in my Top 10 Fitness Books blog post).

R2 – Reset

Ah the reset.

This area may be the biggest shift in our program design process in the last 3 years.

Quite simply, why do we want to load a pattern when the system is not aligned properly?

If I can be a bit less cryptic, I want as many joints in neutral before I go out and have someone squat heavy, run far, or do their thing on the field or court.

Now there are tons of different ideas as to what a reset really is.

I would argue any exercise that attempts to reset or restore a neutral alignment to a joint could be considered a reset, but I also know others have differing viewpoints on the topic.

Addressing an R2 Knowledge Gap

At IFAST, our primary tool right now is to use the Postural Restoration Institutes exercises and drills to promote neutrality at the various joints in the body.

However, we’ve also heard great things about DNS, and Bill and young Eric will be attending DNS Levels 1 & 2 in 3 weeks.

Needless to say I’m excited to see what they bring back. If we can find exercises/drills that better restore neutrality (or do so in a quicker fashion), then I’m all for it.

But if you haven’t attended either of these courses, don’t fret.

Something as simple as a core-engaged hip flexor stretch pre-workout can restore neutrality through the pelvis, giving you a better starting point to build from.

Again, the assessment helps you determine if one or more joints are out of position. From there, use whatever is in your toolbox to help restore alignment and improve function.

R3 – Readiness

Readiness (also known as your warm-up) is a critical component of the training session.

I know there were debates years ago that started something like this:

“If you ran into a bear in the woods, you wouldn’t be able to warm-up!”

Which is all fine and dandy, except:

A) We’re talking real-life here. Chances are you’re not out hiking and running into bears on a daily basis, and

B) I’m trying to optimize your performance. There’s a big difference between running for your life out of necessity, and optimizing your performance in the gym because you want to get hyyoooogggeee, cut up, or super-freaking strong.

Addressing an R3 Knowledge Gap

For starters, read my epic post on warming-up here. This will give you a lot of information to get you started.

Next, I think we need to break this down even further by qualifying what your warm-up is trying to do.

  • Are you trying to improve or eliminate a movement dysfunction?
  • Or, do you move pretty well and literally just need to get warmed up?

If you are trying to eliminate a movement dysfunction, you need a more “corrective” warm-up. At the very least, your warm-up (and entire program, really) needs to address your specific movement limitations.

In this case, Assess and Correct is a great option if you don’t have access to a qualified coach.

On the other hand, I’ve really grown fond of some of the FMS correctives as well. I think the FMS is a wonderful tool, but the real genius is in the correctives they use to eliminate movement dysfunctions.

I would totally plug the DxFit correctives course here, but until that’s all packaged up and ready to go I’m going to temper my enthusiasm a bit 🙂

R4 – Reactive

Reactive work (such as linear speed, multi-directional speed, plyometrics, etc.) is shrouded in mystery.

But what’s even worse, is that there appears to be this ongoing battle between “sport” coaches and “track” coaches.

On the one hand, “sport” coaches will tell you they’re the best at developing “game” speed. And there’s something to that, because it’s rare that someone gets to run straight ahead for 40, 50, or 100 yards in a game.

On the other hand, I also have a firm belief that if you want to learn a skill, technique, or principle, you go to whomever in the field is best at that.

If you want to develop the fastest athlete known to man, who better to do that than a qualified track coach?

Addressing an R4 Knowledge Gap

Admittedly, this is the biggest knowledge gap for me, personally.

When I’m lacking in a certain area, I like to accumulate as much information as possible, and then I can start filtering out the garbage as I go.

It’s amazing, but if you take a couple of months and really dive into a topic head-first, you start to see the big picture much more clearly than if you spread that learning out over months or years and diluted your focus.

Here is my speed training wish list for the coming months. Keep in mind this is just as much for me as it is for you, as a lot of these are things I’ve linked to randomly and want to have in one place!

  • Review all my Charlie Francis DVD’s and manuals that I perused in the past.
  • Check out Dan Pfaff’s materials. If anyone has any specific recommendations here, feel free to post them in the Comments section below.
  • I’ve also heard great things about Boo Schexnayder, so his DVD’s are high on my list as well.
  • A guy I really respect that I think meshes the “track” world and “sports” world is Mike Young. Here’s a free PowerPoint deck that I came across that you’ll probably enjoy (The Mechanics of Speed).
  • Last but not least, I met Ken Vick this past weekend at an NFL combine dinner and the guy is super-sharp. I’m really looking forward to diving into his site, Art of Coaching Speed.
  • For multi-directional speed, my first resource is Lee Taft. I reviewed all of Lee’s Ground Breaking Speed 2.0 DVD’s last year, but again, a thorough review is in order.
  • I’m also in the process of reviewing the IYCA’s Ultimate Speed Drills program, and I’m hoping it’s a solid resource. (Side Note: This is also on sale for half-off this week only.)

As you can see, I’ve got my work cut out for me!

But rather than continuing to let this area lag behind, I’m going to aggressively pursue my knowledge here and work hard to get it up to snuff.

Last but not least, this is why I’m hosting our Elite Speed Seminar here in Indianapolis on May 11th. I’m going to bring in Lee Taft and Nick Winkelman because I’m a selfish SOB and want to learn from two of the best.

R5 – Resistance

I’m not sure how much needs to be said here.

When it comes down to it, if I had to classify myself in one of these categories, I still think of myself as a “weights” coach.

In my not-so-humble opinion, lifting weights is one of the easiest ways to get bigger, faster, stronger, leaner, or simple more awesome.

As such, I could go on and on about all the resources that are out there on lifting weights, but I’ll do my best to filter it down to a few.

Addressing an R5 Knowledge Gap

If lifting weights isn’t your thing, you have two areas you really need to dive into it:

  1. Strength training technique, and
  2. Program design.

For strength training technique, I think you could do a lot worse than Starting Strength as your foundational text. I’m not sure I agree with all the anatomy and biomechanics in here, but the bulk of the coaching is spot on with how we do it here.

As far as program design goes, this is such a huge topic I don’t even know where to start.

I’ve learned from coaches such as Ian King, Charles Poliquin, Dave Tate, Louie Simmons, Mike Tuscherer, and so many others I’m forgetting it’s not even funny.

From all that, I’d like to think I’ve created my own philosophy or program design process that’s a conglomeration* of all those brilliant people.

(*Props to me for putting the word conglomeration into a functional sentence!)

If you want a starting point, here’s an article I wrote for T-Nation 6 or 7 years ago that will give you a lot of the basics:

Program Design 101

If you really want to master this area, though, there’s no quick-and-dirty shortcut I can provide.

You need to read and learn from a ton of different people, and then take a mix of those approaches to create your own philosophy.

This is really true of all the above areas, but it’s critical when it comes to program design.  This is something you’ll be doing on a daily basis as a strength coach or personal trainer, so it behooves you to get really friggin’ good at it.

R6 – Regenerate

This is an area that we (i.e. I), have really come around on in the past 5 years.

Back then, it wasn’t rare for me to write everyone glycolytic energy system training protocols because it was hip or en vogue.

Now, armed with a superior understanding of the underlying physiology, coupled with a better understanding of what energy systems are actually utilized in sport, I’d like to think I’m a lot better at this now than I was in years past.

Addressing an R6 Knowledge Gap

If you want to learn more about physiology, you need to read physiology text books. That should be pretty straightforward, but that’s also incredibly boring.

I distinctly remember hating my ex phys classes in my Masters program. The professor was a marathon runner, and as such  looked at everything through a distance training/single-muscle cell perspective.

Can anyone say B-O-R-I-N-G?

I’m a meathead powerlifter bro – tell me how to get jacked and I’m all ears.

However, this area is critically important if you work with athletes who have to demonstrate speed, strength or power repeatedly on the field or court.

If you want to learn more about physiology and how it applies to your clients and athletes, you must read Joel Jamieson’s Ultimate MMA Conditioning book.

Don’t let the name fool you. This is a foundational text for actually applying those underlying physiology texts to real-life training. It’s not just for MMA coaches/athletes who want to beat each other’s skulls in.

I can’t recommend this book strongly enough. If you read it and don’t reconsider how you’re going about energy system training (and/or significantly improve your results along the way), you should probably just take up stamp collecting or knitting as a new hobby.

R7 – Recover

This is final step in our training program, and it shouldn’t even really be considered “training.”

The goal here is to shift our bodies from that sympathetic, fight-or-flight, lift heavy sh*t and dominate life focus to parasympathetic, chill out, listen to Bob Marley, and start to recover focus.

If we really want to water it down, I want to kick-start the recovery process ASAP after a workout.

Addressing an R7 Knowledge Gap

I’m not sure there’s a single “resource” on this area, as recovery is really the third pillar in our quest for building a superior body (training and nutrition would be the other two).

In this case, one of the simplest things you can do is bang out 10 quality breaths, focusing on the exhale, and you’re doing some great things to trigger your body and shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic activity.

Another option could be doing some extra foam rolling, or even static stretching of those tight/restricted areas.

Don’t over think this one too much. Just do something to shift your body and mindset and you’re good to go.

Summary

Okay, this post that I really meant to keep short is now well over 2,300 words, and I feel as though I’ve barely scratched the surface.

With that being said, I’d love to get some feedback from all of you.

What are some of your specific knowledge gaps?

Or on that same path, what are some great resources that you’ve found in the past to fill in your knowledge gaps and bring them up to par?

I’m looking forward to your feedback below!

All the best

MR

10 Comments

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  1. Great blog!! You just gave away enough resources for 30 days of steady reading, reviewing,and studying, now I’ve got to figure out a cheap way of gathering them up . Thanks Mike !!

    • Jeff –

      I do what I can brother 🙂

      And yeah, I tried to give a nice mix of paid and free stuff in there. Trust me, I like free as much as the next guy.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Mike you should take a look at primalmove.com

    For the reset section. The system is based on the Fms and uses primative movement patterns ( rolling crawling rocking ) to restore movement quality.

    Also Tim Andersons becoming bullet proof is a great read.

    • Jason – Will do. I believe I’ve heard of it in the past, but I’ve got their website open on my laptop now. I’ll be digging in soon 😉

      Thanks!
      MR

  3. Thank you for this super great post, Mike! I love the idea of full-on diving into a topic for a few months rather than dragging it out (or picking a few topics at once to learn about in 6 months). Sounds like a really good way to stay more focused.

    • Izzy – I like this way a lot better. I think you not only learn better, but get more of the “big picture” as you see the things that everyone is discussing/teaching.

  4. Great stuff as always Mike. I feel that one of the biggest shortcomings in the fitness industry today is the lack of a systematic approach to training. So many professionals seem to follow the “throw a bunch of sh*t at the wall and see what sticks” method. Systems like this R7 approach and the FMS are what our industry needs to establish credibility and move forward.

  5. For speed I love Charlie, Dan, and Boo.. Brilliant guys.
    Also check out Ralf Mann biomechanics expert.
    I personally throw away anything that involves a “speed ladder”. Personal preference but why do power speed drills one day to jump a speed ladder and screw up all of the arm mechanics that were just worked on.
    I would like to pick your brain regarding some of your thoughts on the “postural/assessment stuff” when I see you which should either be in Richmond or at the BSMG.

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