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The Secret to Athletic Longevity

Today’s guest post is written by Tim DiFrancesco [1], PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Los Angeles Lakers and owner of TD Athlete’s Edge [2]. 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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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 [2] across all of our platforms (Twitter/Instagram: @tdathletesedge) for more insight on how to perform like a pro for the long haul.