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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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March 07, 2017

The Secret to Athletic Longevity

By Guest
11 Comments

Inline_GuestToday’s guest post is written by Tim DiFrancesco, PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Los Angeles Lakers and owner of TD Athlete’s Edge. Tim is a longtime friend of the Primal community, and I’m thrilled to have him contribute today. He’s offered to lead us through a portion of the screening he uses to evaluate players as well as exercises to improve weaknesses. I think you’ll find a great deal to apply to your Primal fitness in the tips and demonstrations.

Just the fact that you’re reading this tells me that you’re ahead of the pack. You already have what many don’t: the motivation to get out there, grind workouts, and train your body to be its best day after day. That’s clutch, but unfortunately it’s not enough to keep you ahead of the pack! One of the secrets to helping NBA athletes get ahead and making sure they stay there is a sound movement assessment. A movement assessment is an appraisal of how a player moves before they hit the court. Movement assessments don’t have to be restricted to a defined and organized battery of tests. Although I use something of the sort, I’m also constantly assessing players’ movements as they train, warm up, and play.

Without ongoing movement assessments, you run the risk of sending a player out to compete and perform with underlying limitations and weaknesses. Often these limitations and weaknesses are hidden by the highlight reel athleticism that we all see during game time action. This scenario is a huge problem because as we’re all cheering at their big plays, damage is being done to tissues, structures, or joints that can ultimately lead to debilitating injury.

This doesn’t just apply to high level, high paid athletes. It applies to anyone putting work in at the gym, pounding the pavement, hitting the trails, playing sports, or generally testing the physical limits of the body. I know what you’re saying: “That’s great, TD, but where do I get a movement assessment to know if I’m ready to train and play?” Not to worry—I’ve got you covered!

I’ve put together a series of movements that I want you to test yourself on. I want you to use these to see just how ready you are to train, play, and compete for the long haul.

1. Single Leg Squat

This appears simple but like many “simple exercises” it can be tricky to do right. This is testing your ability to be on balance and strong during single leg stance. No matter what you do for sport, play, or training, you will end up in a single leg stance. You better be able to stay strong and balanced in a controlled setting if you want to perform safely in a dynamic and random setting. Your performance on this test will give insight into your lateral (outside) hip muscle strength and function. Keep in mind that your hip’s ability to perform can make or break what happens at your knee and on down the line. In other words, there’s a lot at stake here.

Coaching Keys:

  • Stand on one leg while you bend the other knee, bringing the heel to your butt.
  • Sit your butt back and down into a single leg squat and return back to standing single leg position.
  • Imagine having a laser pointing out of the front of the knee. Your goal is to keep the laser pointing straight forward.
  • Keep your chest up and back flat.
  • You should be able to get your hips below parallel without knee collapse or allowing your chest tip to the floor.

2. Half-Kneel Stand-Up

This movement looks at your ability to control your body from a split or lunge stance. Even if you rarely perform an activity that requires lunge positions or actions, this test is very important. It generally shows how capable you are of producing power through one hip at a time while controlling your pelvis and surrounding core musculature. This is fundamentally critical during any physical activity. Your hips need to be both appropriately mobile and strong to allow you to perform physically over time. Performance on this test will tell a lot about general hip strength and mobility.

Coaching Keys:

  • Start kneeling with one knee on a pad and the other foot/knee in front of you. The front knee needs to be in line with the rest of the body.
  • Stand up from the lead knee/leg into a single leg stance position.
  • Return back to the start position in a slow and controlled way.
  • Imagine having a laser pointing out of the front of the lead knee.
  • Your goal is to keep the laser pointing straight forward for the entire motion.

3. Airplane

Your core is responsible for holding everything together while your arms and legs do work. That’s the essence of any physical activity. The Airplane test allows us to see how competent your core is while you work to be stable on one leg. It requires one leg to be stable and balanced while you move the body around the hip. The only way this is possible is if your core is operating at a high level. It doesn’t indicate a strong core necessarily, but it does indicate your core’s ability to communicate effectively and in a timely fashion with your hips. If the core is unable to communicate smoothly with your extremities, you’re going to have trouble functioning in any physical activity over a lifetime.

Coaching Keys:

  • Begin by standing on one leg and taking a bow.
  • Place your hands in an “X” across your chest.
  • With your chest parallel to the floor, open and close your hip on the non-stance side.
  • When opening and closing the hip, you should see the same open/close motion at the shoulder. In other words, your hip and shoulder should be completely connected and opening/closing together.
  • Your goal is to open and close the hip/shoulder together at a slow and controlled pace 3 times without losing balance on the stance leg.

Now that you’ve put yourself through your own personal lower body movement assessment, you may have found a few areas that need work. Here are 5 exercises that will help you to bolster your single leg performance and your physical performance overall.

1. Sidelying Single Leg Hip-Drive

Benefits:

This exercise is a great way to strengthen your core and lateral hip/glute muscles. The action of this exercise will challenge these muscles during movement patterns that occur during running. This will help you to refine your running mechanics and performance.

Coaching Keys:

  • Stay tall through the shoulder on the floor side (avoid the sagging on the shoulder).
  • Keep the rib cage away from the floor.
  • Avoid allowing the low back to arch when you touch the hips to the floor.
  • Avoid low back arch at the top of the action.
  • Keep the chin tucked.

How To Use:

Use this as a warm-up to a lift, sport, or any activity. It’s also great as a standalone exercise to strengthen the hips. Shoot for 2-4 sets of 8-15 repetitions.

2. Elevated Single Leg Squat with Counterweight

Benefits:

This exercise will target your glutes in a single leg position. If you notice that your knee caves in uncontrollably when you do a basic single leg squat, then you need to develop your glutes. The glutes control what happens at your knees and below. There’s a good chance that you’re spending ample time in single leg stance during any physical activity. This exercise will not only help you to develop better control while on a single leg but also better strength, power, and performance from a single leg.

Coaching Keys:

  • Be sure that the counterweight doesn’t exceed ~10lbs.
  • Add resistance or weight by applying a weight vest if the form is perfect with just a 10lb counterweight.
  • Sit your butt back like there’s a chair.
  • Keep the knee from caving in or losing control.
  • Picture a laser pointing out of the front of the chest. Keep the chest facing forward so the laser doesn’t point to the ground.
  • Keep the core tight or the belly button close to the rib cage. This will ensure that you avoid a hyper-arch position of the low back as you drop into the squat.
  • Finish the move in a tall knee position. You want to be statue tall—no less, no more. The knee should be locked out, but be careful of letting this cause a rock-back position through the low back.

How To Use:

Use this as a warm-up to a lift, sport, or any activity. Use a weight vest to add resistance and use this exercise as part of a super set during a lower or total body lift. Shoot for 2-4 sets of 8-15 repetitions.

3. Medicine Ball Single Leg Deadlift with Rotation

Benefits:

This is a great exercise to train single leg balance the right way. This exercise will challenge your single leg balance in a functional position while your upper body is active. This is what happens in sport and performance.

Coaching Keys:

  • Move the ball across your chest instead of rotating your chest or upper body.
  • Keep your foot still in your shoe or on the ground.
  • Keep your stance leg knee from caving in or moving side to side significantly.

How To Use:

This is a great warm-up for any workout or activity. It can also serve as part of a balance and core specific workout. Shoot for 2-4 sets of 8-20 medicine ball rotations on each leg.

4. Cable Bowler Squat

Benefits:

The Cable Bowler Squat will strengthen your single leg balance and stability during rotational single leg action. Sport or activity of any kind happens in all planes, so you need to train in all planes.

Coaching Keys:

  • Don’t let the shoulder sag or dip at the bottom of the movement. Keep the shoulder packed with the rest of the body.
  • Be active with the outside leg. Reach the heel up and back behind you at the bottom of the movement.
  • Slowly lower yourself into it. Avoid falling into the bottom position.
  • Finish the move in a tall knee position. You want to be statue tall – no less, no more. The knee should be locked out, but be careful of letting this cause a rock-back position through the low back.

How To Use:

This is a great warm-up for any workout or activity. It can also serve as part of a balance and core specific workout. Shoot for 2-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions on each leg.

5. Kettlebell Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat

Benefits:

This exercise will help you to strengthen the muscles around the hip and the knee while in a single leg position. The glutes, quadriceps, and even the hamstrings are targeted. Developing strength in these areas will help you to protect your lower body and enhance your lower body performance. If you want to avoid lower body injury and train to have better balance, run faster, jump higher, or land better, then you need to be doing the Kettlebell Rear Foot elevated Split Squat.

Coaching Keys:

  • Don’t let the knee drift too far over the toes, but don’t keep it too far behind the toes either. The lead knee should ever so slightly cover up the toes when you look down.
  • Avoid letting the knee cave in during the motion.
  • Keep the core tight or the belly button close to the rib cage. This will ensure that you avoid a hyper-arch position of the low back as you drop into the squat.
  • Finish the move in a tall knee position. You want to be statue tall – no less, no more. The knee should be locked out, but be careful of letting this cause a rock-back position through the low back.
  • Be sure to keep the shoulders from rolling forward while you hold the weights.
  • Select a height of the surface to place the rear foot up on that feels comfortable throughout the entire range of motion of the exercise.

How To Use:

This exercise fits perfect in a lower body or total body lift. Ideally, you should super set or pair this with an exercise that is grip neutral (doesn’t require grip action). Shoot for 3-5 sets of 4-12 repetitions.

Do the assessment, train up the deficiencies, and visit us across all of our platforms (Twitter/Instagram: @tdathletesedge) for more insight on how to perform like a pro for the long haul.

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11 Comments on "The Secret to Athletic Longevity"

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Elizabeth Resnick
21 days 7 hours ago
This is great info. For those of us who aren’t competitive athletes, but just want to look and feel amazing, here are two things that I do frequently to make sure I am on track. I’ve heard that it is so important to maintain your balance and quad strength. I practice standing on one foot, with eyes closed, whenever I think of it. Then try it on the other foot. Most people are much better on one side than the other. For quad strength, I make myself get up from the floor without using my hands or knees. I do… Read more »
Lindsay @ PFM
20 days 10 hours ago

I like this. I think this is really what fitness is all about, being able to function in daily life!

Georgina
Georgina
21 days 3 hours ago

Awesome information. Thank you very much.

Susan
Susan
21 days 2 hours ago

I’m a wildland fire fighter. These exercise look like they would be excellent my work.

Nannsi
Nannsi
21 days 1 hour ago

Looks pretty stressful. Not for this old lady, thank you, although it looks like lovely fun. I can feel the crunch and hear the grinding of my knees just reading this. Walking stairs and very careful weighted squats are the most I can ask of them. I do balance work (tai chi walk and moving forms), and get pretty good results without sacrificing my joints.

Shary
Shary
21 days 48 minutes ago

Yeah, me too. I maybe could have done some of this stuff 20 years ago, but my knees aren’t up to it anymore. Can’t ski the moguls anymore either..

HealthyHombre
HealthyHombre
20 days 23 hours ago
Really cool functional exercises. I used to work out at a sports performance place that did a lot of this kind of stuff, plus some martial arts training that focused on balance and flexibility. Unfortunately I’m no longer a spring chicken and with multiple injuries I have to work around thme a bit and one legged stuff is a little problematic. I’m going to try the Sidelying Single Leg Hip-Drive, and also this post is inspiring me to get back to some of the one legged balance stuff I used to do, I will start with minimal knee bend and… Read more »
Beeksma
Beeksma
20 days 21 hours ago

Love the fitness oriented post

Chuck
20 days 17 hours ago

Great article Tim! Is that Bruno Strong shirt from Ben Bruno? Love it!

J D
J D
20 days 11 hours ago

Thanks for posting these. I will be incorporating some of these into my routine.Always nice to see new functional related exercises.

Danielle
Danielle
20 days 10 hours ago

I would really like to see more videos on new exercises and mobility. These were great and so helpful at the gym this morning!

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