The Stability Series Part 5: Training Default Positions

by | July 9, 2015, 9:47am 0

The stability series began by introducing the core concepts of athletic performance and provided a blueprint to strengthen your buns, abs, and shoulders. In other words, the first four articles gave you the information you needed to ensure your trunk was healthy and functional. By now you should dominate glute bridges, display a mastery of the pillar, and laugh in the face of the Trendelenburg test. If not, I recommend spending some time with the first four articles before continuing. I know, I know, I say this every installment. However, this time I really mean it. Things are about to get heavy!

Up until now, the series has focused on providing athletes with the tools required to develop proper postural mechanics. Unfortunately, relaxing stretches and banded exercises will only get you so far. To maximize on field results, it is important to stress posture and position in the weight room. While competitors tend to believe they will “rise to the occasion” in the big game, Raphael Ruiz argues that athletes will always fall back to their “level of training.” Ruiz believes that it is important to train “default” positions in order to maximize sport-specific performance. In my experience, the most efficient way to accomplish this task is through weighted carries and sled work.

Farmer’s carries, yoke walks, and sandbag marches are all amazing training tools. Infinitely scalable by design and eloquently brutal, weighted carries enhance traditional lifting-based strength programs while effectively training stability in the abdominal wall. Famed strength and conditioning coach Dan John notes that loaded carries have done “more to expand athletic qualities than any other single thing” compared with other training tools in his career as both a coach and an athlete. Of these options, ultimate players and newer lifters should focus on the waiter walk and the farmer’s walk, saving the yoke carry and subsequent spinal loading for after establishing competency with more advanced compound exercises, such as the squat.

Kettlebell waiter's walk

Kettlebell waiter walk

Waiter Walks

  • The waiter walk is a good place to begin your journey with carries as it becomes difficult under relatively light load.
  • Hold a kettlebell by the handle with the bell pointed towards the sky, choosing a weight that can be performed properly but also challenges the ability of the shoulder to maintain stability.
  • While maintaining a fully retracted and depressed scapular position, take a total of 20 steps and then repeat with the kettlebell in the opposite hand.
  • Perform upwards of three sets with a challenging weight.
  • The movement works on the ability to maintain a stable shoulder, neutral core, and active glutes.

Farmer’s Carry

  • The farmer’s carry works on trunk, glute, and shoulder stability while walking.
  • Holding a heavy weight in each hand, walk in a straight line performing 10 to 20 steps.
  • Focus on maintaining a neutral shoulder position, keeping your chest up and a forward gaze.
  • Ensure toes are pointed forward and gait mechanics remain posterior dominant throughout the movement.

Waiter walks and farmer’s carries should help teach and reinforce the importance of maintaining a stable kinetic chain. These are methodical movements; however, the athleticism required of high level ultimate is anything but slow. Flatball is a highlight-reel sport with fast cuts and big plays. When the disc is up on universe point on Sunday, are you going to dig through your glutes and powerfully hit your stride to make the game-defining play? Or will you fall to your less than ideal default, run on your toes, and put unnecessary stress on your ACL?

Training speed requires slowing down. Sprinting, like any athletic endeavour, is about proper patterning. This is best accomplished with resisted sprints using either bands or a conditioning sled. Joe Defranco is a big fan of sled work as it allows an athlete to slow down their movement patterns while remaining dynamic and practice the “three keys of acceleration: forward body lean, positive shin angle, big strides.” When performed properly, these movements also have the added benefit of increasing muscle mass in the posterior chain.

Banded Marching

  • Place a band around your waist and have a partner hold the other end.
  • Ensure your partner is paying attention, then lean into the band.
  • Begin marching, focusing on driving through your glutes.
  • Drive hard into the ground, squeezing your glutes with each step.
  • Think high knee, high toe, and make sure your feet remain pointed forward.
  • Your partner should provide enough resistance to keep the band tight and allow you to lean, but not so much that mechanics break down.
  • As an alternative, hook a sled to a harness and pull it.

Banded Running

  • Everything remains similar to banded marching; however, increase foot speed and mimic a sprint pattern.
  • Remember to lean into the band and keep your trunk tight. This is what you have been training for.
  • As an alternative, hook a sled to a harness and pull it.

Sled March

  • This is similar to banded sprinting; however, instead of pulling against resistance you are pushing against it.
  • Get tight and lean into the sled, focus on keeping a tight tummy and your shoulders in a neutral position.
  • Exaggerate your knee height before driving the full foot into the ground.
  • Push through the heel with each step, making sure you feel your glutes.
  • Perform 2 to 6 sets of 20m marches with a moderate load, focusing form over weight.

Sled Sprint

  • Perform once the posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings) are actively warmed up and conditioned for use.
  • Hit the sled as hard as you can and drive into it.
  • While you should be pushing through the ball of your foot, your posterior chain should remain the primary mover.
  • Perform 2 to 10 sets of 20m to 40m pushes, depending on desired stimulus. Resting until recovered between efforts is best for technique work.

Hopefully you have been working towards stabilizing your kinetic chain and are ready to put that newfound rock-solid body to the test with heavy carries and sled work. Use these movements as training tools, focusing on posture and position and loading only when you feel comfortable with each pattern. Try some of these exercises and let me know how it goes in the comments. With some work you should be more efficient on the field, less prone to ankle and knee injuries, and less fatigued at the end of tournaments. The next installment will look at more advanced exercises, such as the squat, the pull up, and single extremity variations.

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