Porcelain Post: Building a Wider Base to Reach a Higher Peak
Huh, I guess that was more specific than I thought.
Building a Wider Base to Reach a Higher Peak
Copyright: kapu / 123RF Stock Photo
I received a pretty cool email this morning from a college athlete of mine (Division I baseball) whom I worked with this past summer.
To give a little back story he had trained with me at Cressey Sports Performance a few years ago when he was in high-school, and had reached out to me this past May after completing his Junior season at school.
He walked into CORE and after going through the particulars – a thorough assessment, discussing his season, what he felt he needed to work on, his nagging back pain, his favorite GI Joe character, you know, the important stuff – he had this to say:
“The time I felt best was when you were writing my programs.”
With my chest sticking out a little further we broke things down and came up with a game plan for the summer, particularly with regards to how we were going to tackle his chronic back issue that had been hampering him for a few seasons:
- As with any baseball player (and pretty much every athlete in the history of ever) we were going to hammer anterior core strength/stability to encourage more posterior pelvic tilt and implement drills to learn to dissociate hip movement from lumbar movement. Read: a metric SHIT-ton of deadbugs and birddogs. Not sexy, but whatever.
- Work on regaining appropriate scapular upward rotation via actual scapular movement and not extending through lower back or shrugging.
- Learn to control rib-position (limit rib flair and thus excessive extension) via positional breathing drills. There’s a lot of magic that happens when you teach someone the importance of a full exhale.
- Also, teaching the importance of the reach and allowing the shoulder blades to move around the ribcage (again this whole extension thing rears its ugly head).
- And, last but not least…still lift heavy things. Albeit doing my job as the coach to “pump the brakes” when needed and not fall into the trap of “lifting heavy at all costs because that’s what athletes do.” Truth be told: this mentality is probably why this athlete kept getting hurt in the first place.
To this last point (not lifting “heavy”), I wanted to showcase that it was more about the QUALITY of the movement and taking the time to 1) do stuff right and 2) understand how building a wider base (via more volume with SUB-MAXIMAL loads) will help with reaching a higher (strength) peak.1
Now, most guys at this point would roll their eyes and think I was going soft. However, this athlete was on board and willing to trust the process. So went to work for three months.
I received this email this morning:
“How’s it going? I wanted to tell you that yesterday we had our first testing day and I got 515 on a one rep max for trap bar deadlift! The best part is my back felt good after!”
He nailed a 515 lb deadlift despite having never gone above 405 all summer (on the last week we trained together).2
We still got after it all summer. He had his fair share of squatting (2 KB Front Squats), single leg work, carries, glute bridges, rows, Pallof presses, push-ups, and me making fun of him for having never watched The Usual Suspects. That’s sacrilege if you ask me.
However, the vast majority of his “strength” work was done in the 60-80% range and we were meticulous with making sure that every rep was pain free and that technique was solid.
I’d make the case that because we addressed alignment and stability issues along with movement quality, and got him into a better position, that he was then able to express his “true” strength more effectively when the time came.
The answer isn’t always to “lift heavy.”
Something to think about.