• Hanno van Vuuren // MSc Sport Science – in

Training to Move Better


Take a moment and assess your weaknesses with regards to your sporting code – now imagine if you could reset those attributes to round off your physical profile. What this article will focus on is a checklist of a couple of ideas we have been incorporating into our menu of workouts which helped us to move better and as a result performing better.

Box number one – Work around the functional movement patterns:

Push, pull, squat, lunge, hinge and carry are the six functional movement patterns[1]. Now they might seem basic but, the art of conditioning lies in adapting and re-assessing what we think we know. The trick comes in when you are assessing these movement patterns, if your athletes think they can squat - so do you just jump in and start loading the movement or do you actually assess their form of squatting?

Also when assessing these movement patterns – be strict on form and critical on red flags or compensating movements which may creep in. Within a high performance setup one of the most difficult aspects a coach faces, might be quality control of these functional patterns. Our advice would be to have them perform these functional movements without load and thereafter with load to screen for compensating movements in both scenarios.

If you’re like us and you have a team that are on different wavelength with regards to these patterns; assess and split them up into mini groups or phases (phase 1, 2 and 3). If we take for example the squat we could say that phases’ 1 and 2 is the ground work of getting them strong enough to perform the squat by using regressed exercises like step-ups or a goblet squats. These groundwork phases are where you can truly be creative, creating variation but still loading a certain movement. Phase 3 would then be loading the front and or back squats adequately and alternating the sets and reps so the athlete’s performance does not stagnate or plateau. When time is a major constraint, another option when assessing athlete could be combining two functional movement patterns; for example screening an overhead squat – looking at shoulder strength and mobility as well as squat patterns.

Box number two – Move away from duel limbed exercises:

Take a bench press for example; we can have an athlete who has a 3RM of 140kg but when it comes to single arm dumbbell chest press, their left arm fails after the second rep. Our thinking behind this is purely to challenge the body in more than one plane of movement – the body is going to have to work overtime to stabilize as well as exert force creating a higher metabolic cost.

So here are a couple of our favourites with regards to single limb exercises:

  • Single arm dumbbell press whilst in a lunge position for an overhead press alternative

  • Single leg step-up with a weighted vest as a squat alternative

  • Single leg pen-pick-ups or kettelbell pickups as hinge alternative

  • Contra-lateral step-press

  • Cable single arm bent over row

  • Singe arm suitcase carries

  • Single leg pallof press

  • Lateral lunges

Box number three – Start playing with slings:

Thomas Myers notes that everything in the body is connected through fascia trains and that we cannot only exercise parts of the train in isolation but, that we need to look into incorporating movements as a whole in order to move better[2]. Two important lines we want to point out, are the Front functional line and the back functional line.

The front functional line consists of the lower edge of the Pectoralis Major, lateral sheath of the Rectus Abdominis and the Adductor Longus of the opposite side. The back functional line consists of the Latissimus Doris, the Lumbodorsal Fascia, Sacral fascia, the contra-lateral Gluteus Maximus, Vastus Lateralis and Suppatellar tendon (as seen in the image below).


We humans move in a contra-lateral manner with the opposite arm and leg moving together as indicated by the lines and the way our body is connected as well. Running is also a unilateral action and in most sports we spend majority of time in a running action. During the support phase of the gait cycle we are supporting our weight on one leg and changing direction (as athletes do in most sports) which produces forces on different planes of motion and not just one. Although it is important to train sport specific movements one must remember that during most sports the athlete’s dominant action is running for up to 80% of the time.

For this reason it is important to train your athlete to be effective in that action. Squats for example are a bi-lateral movement only in the sagittal plane. Although great of strength and power training it does not incorporate the demands your athlete will experience while participating in there given sport. To prepare your athlete for the demands they will experience on the field it is important to include contra-lateral exercises producing force in all planes of motion to enable your athletes to move better.

The simplest examples of these incorporating these lines into training is a contra-lateral step-press for the forward functional line and a contra-lateral step pull for the back function line. Medicine ball work is a great way to incorporate movements in various planes. Something as simple as a step-up with a medicine ball slams at the top to challenge stability in different planes. Experiment and focus on incorporating horizontal work into your programs to teach your athletes to move forward and not up. The most important aspect is to train whole body movements in different planes and not just in isolation. Functional patterns (though the term can be controversial) have a great range of exercises various ideas on how to train and to move better.


Box number four – Create variation whilst maintaining intensity

The wonder of strength and conditioning is that so many variations can be created and no one program has all the answers. Thus, our advice is to get practical and try all those ideas you see on social media, and experience it to see what works and what to adapt. If you dislike an exercise, try to modify it, perhaps focusing only on the eccentric component, adapting the timing of the exercise (5 count eccentric: 1 count concentric).

You have the ability to determine the intensity of each session through your cues and attitude when an athlete enters the session. Although we love scientific research articles, the information is not always easy to translate to athletes and a great quote to always keep in mind is that “we don’t work with standard deviations, we are working with human beings”. A large part of coaching is failing at some point or another so we can reflect and adapt to be better coaches.

  1. Basic Movement Patterns | Science for Sport. (2017). Science for Sport. Retrieved 8 December 2017, from https://www.scienceforsport.com/basic-movement-patterns/#toggle-id-1

  2. Myers, T. (2011). Anatomy Trains. München: Urban & Fischer Verlag/Elsevier GmbH.

#Functionaltraining #Conditioning

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