What I Learned from Charlie

Charlie Weingroff isn’t just smart – he’s wicked smart.

Last month, we were lucky enough to have Charlie come into IFAST for the afternoon and drop knowledge bombs on us left and right.

With no real itinerary or schedule, we simply asked Charlie one question and over the next 3.5-4 hours, he finally got to the answer!

Below are some of the key notes that I took that afternoon, and I think you’ll really benefit from some of the concepts that Charlie highlighted.

The essence of stability is this: One thing goes one way, one thing goes the other – and nobody wins

This is one of those concepts that’s so simple, yet brilliant, I can’t stop thinking about it.

Imagine this: There’s a tug-of-war with two equally matched teams. So equally matched, that they’re both pulling with all of their might, but the rope never moves.

This is stability!

That’s how our body should be as well. If you want strong, stable joints, you need balance on both sides. Without that balance, you lose stability, and in turn, lose strength, power, and become less efficient with your movement.

How Well Do You Own Your Spine?

Very few people enjoy birddogs, half- and tall-kneeling exercises, etc.

But how many of you have truly mastered these concepts? I know I still have work to do in these areas.

Regardless of whether your goal is amazing athletic performance, to become a high-level powerlifter, Olympic lifter, or strongman, or simply to shed body fat and look great, owning your spine is a critical element of safe long-term training.

Improve your Breath to Relax your Neck

One of my key areas of learning for the year was not only proper breathing mechanics, but the role of the diaphragm in breathing as well.

Quite simply, if you can’t engage your diaphragm and “breath into the belly,” chances are good you’re going to become over-reliant on your accessory breathing muscles in the chest and neck.

Ever wonder why someone’s neck simply won’t let go? You could stretch until the cows come home, but not get a change in their neck mobility.

But when you assess their respiratory patterns, you realize the neck isn’t the problem – it’s a symptom of poor breathing mechanics!

Fix the breath, and watch the neck and accessory breathing muscles immediately relax and become more supple.

You should have 2 audits – Your Goal and Their Goal

This explains IFAST to a “T.”

We have their goals – shed body fat, get stronger, move faster on the field.

And then we have OUR goals for them – decrease likelihood of injury, improve stabilization patterns, unlock their hips, etc.

When you work in this fashion – on your goals as well as theirs – you have the best of both worlds.

Your job as a coach or trainer is to promote a healthy balance; a balance between what they want, and what you know they need.

Injuries are like a Light Bulb….

This may be one of the best analogies I’ve ever heard.

When a light bulb goes out, it doesn’t just happen spontaneously. It’s built up over time. It might flicker for a while when you turn it on, or even fade in and out when you’ve kept it on for a long period of time.

But eventually, it goes out.

Injuries are much the same. It’s not like you wake up one day, hit the weights, and suddenly you’re injured!

No way – this is something that’s been coming on for weeks, months, or even years.

Stop thinking of injuries in the short-term. Think of what has led to them over the long-term, and work to address any inefficiencies or dysfunctions that led you down that path.

Shoulder ROM is Enhanced when the Scapulae are Stable

This is something I’ve discussed numerous times, but it bears repeating here – if you want to follow the joint-by-joint approach to training, a lot of it starts with a stable scapulae.

When the scapulae are stable, this allows the gleno-humeral or shoulder joint to adequately and freely express its current range of motion.

We have to remember that nothing is isolated – we need to look at the entire kinetic chain. If someone is having shoulder, elbow or wrist issues, go beyond simply looking at the painful area and look at the entire segment to root out dysfunction.

For more info on this, be sure to read my Shoulder Solutions series linked below:

Shoulder Solutions #1

Shoulder Solutions #2

Shoulder Solutions #3

Work to Have a Stable Foot with Flat Relaxed Toes

Coming back to the joint-by-joint approach, we know that the lower extremity is crucial for quality movement up the kinetic chain.

For the lower leg, the joint-by-joint looks like this:

Great Toe – Mobility

Foot – Stability

Ankle – Mobility

Knee – Stability

With that being said, we want a stable foot, but we want and need extension through the toes.

If our foot is unstable, we search for that stability elsewhere – and our toes are one place we may seek that out!

When training barefoot, work on keeping the foot stable and the toes relaxed. It’s not enough to simply train barefoot; do it right!

You should point your toes on Half-Kneeling – Get into the toes

Last but not least, this is one of those tips that I took away and immediately used. When performing exercises in half-kneeling, don’t just rest the top of your foot flat on the ground.

Instead, point your toes and actively drive them back into the ground. I wish I would’ve known this before I created my tall and half-kneeling videos!

All in all, it was a fantastic day and I think we all learned a ton. We capped the night off with some high quality steaks and discussions that ranged from powerlifting to wrestling to the latest season of Jersey Shore!

If you enjoyed this piece, I can guarantee you’d love Charlie’s DVD series, Rehab = Training, Training = Rehab. Be sure to check it out if you haven’t already.

All the best

Mike

13 Comments

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  1. Charlie Weingroff is a human knowledge bomb. I LOVE that stability analogy.

    Training=Rehab is one of my favorite DVD’s of all time, and the lecture on the first disc should be required watching for fit pros.

    Thanks for posting these nuggets Mike!

  2. Hi Mike, interesting point about the neck. As I sit at a desk all day like a lot of people, my neck is constantly tight and painful. I perform stretches through out the day but nothing really ‘sorts it out’. Are there mobility drills for the neck? Or is it a case of soft tissue work?

    Thanks

    • It’s rarely as simple as “training” the neck – either via stretching, mobility, etc.

      Without looking at your entire posture/alignment, I can’t give you an easy answer. At the very least, try and get more extension through your t-spine and make sure your head and neck are on top of your t-spine, versus jutting forward all day.

    • It helps improve toe great toe extension, something that many people lack. This leads to a chain of events, but up the chain it can lead to poor glute recruitment.

  3. Hey Mike,

    The last point, pointing the toes in the half kneeling position, what do you do with the toes? By point your toes, you’re talking about a sole up position in the back foot? By driving them into the ground you’re talking about contracting them so that you push the nail side into the ground?

    Charlie is near perfect, all we need to do for him to reach some kind of immortality is to convince him that the WWE stuff isn’t real fighting. Then he’d be a demi-god or something.

  4. I started having people flex their ankle and toes on half kneeling stuff because otherwise the bottom of their foot seems to cramp up really easily. And I could never figure out why.

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