During the last two blogs we took a look into the coaching process of OPEX athletes with the consultation and the lifestyle and nutrition coaching. The next aspect each OPEX athlete goes through is specific movement assessment, physical and Energy System testing, which sets the framework for how the individual athlete’s programming will be set up.
In any pursuit of a goal, you must first understand where you are starting from to determine how to arrive at the finished product. It is only after this you are able to determine the direction and progression of the journey.
We take this exact approach with each of our athletes. First, understanding the reasoning behind the goals and then aligning their priorities with action from where they currently stand.
Many athletes speak to me prior to starting as an OPEX athlete and say they aren’t strong enough, healthy enough, or their lifestyle is not where it needs to be, to be successful as an athlete. We take each individual and meet them where they currently are and help them become the athletes they strive to be, first through the lifestyle and nutrition consultation, and then the movement assessment, physical and Energy System testing.
The movement assessment is one of my most favorite parts of the coaching process. We take each individual athlete through a series of functional movement screens that assesses how the athlete moves through space. Here I will illustrate some of what constitutes our movement assessment and physical testing at OPEX Fitness:
- Movement and Positions: This part of the assessment is where to the coach looks at the movement of the athlete and works to determine if there are any big asymmetries with their movement and positions. Some aspects of this include:
- Flexion and Extension: We assess whether each athlete has adequate range of motion within the spine, knees, hips, elbows, wrists, etc. If they do lack mobility we look more deeply into why and how these decreased range of motion effect function movement patterns.
- Rotational: We assess each athlete’s ability to rotate under certain movements. Some athletes have a lack of rotational ability and that can usually be tied to aspects of asymmetrical flexion and extension as well as core control and breathing (see later).
- Abduction/Adduction: In this part of the assessment we look to see if the limbs can move away from and closer to the point of insertion. Examples would be external or internal rotation of the hips or shoulders. Sometimes there is a clear range of motion deficiency and sometimes there is a motor control issue that makes another muscle group fire in order to create that abduction or adduction.
- Pronation/Supination: The primary example that we often see asymmetries will be in the foot and ankle. Think of pronation as where the outside of the foot rotates upward and supinates as where the outside of the foot rotates downward to the ground. This gives the coach huge insight into why squat mechanics could be an issue for the athletes as well as why the athlete might have knee pain and hip dysfunction.
- Core Control and Breathing: We assess if the athlete is able to properly breath through the belly and brace from deep in the core (not just the 6 pack abs), but actually bracing the entire anterior and posture trunk together. Often lack of motor control to breath and brace properly can lead to challenges up and down the body that can make function movement and flexibility difficult.
- Strength and Strength Balance: This is the perfect example of “start the athlete from where they are today, not tomorrow”. Too many coaches test certain movements without first understanding why they are testing the movement or if it is useful or smart. Here are a few examples of the movements and strength relationships that we test (certainly not all).
- Accordion to Air Squat to Back Squat: The accordion tests to see if the athlete can move their hips and knees together, at the same time. If yes, then we test the air squat. If yes, then we check to see if the athlete can back squat their body weight. So depending on the athletes starting point we can properly start the program to be able to progress the athlete. You need to have the pieces before you complete the puzzle, and that is the proper way to assess the athlete.
- Pushup to Dip to Weight Dip: Similar to the above example these are all progressions of the one before it. It is important that during this process we as the coach take the time to understand how the athlete moves and only progress further when they have earned the right to do so.
- Energy System Testing: The words energy system gets tossed around with high frequency at OPEX and within the fitness industry. This of it this way:
- What pace can the athlete continuously do for a long period of time, walk away, then repeat efforts to show “understanding” of PACING? A great example could be a row 2 min consistency, rest 1 min x 5 sets. Is the athlete able to understand how to make this consistent?
- If the athlete isn’t able to show consistency then we dig much deeper in the initial training and program slow paced, smart interval work that the athlete can sustain for awhile while they train.
- If the athlete does so consistency and proficiency with pacing then we look into the opposite end of the Energy System spectrum and see what sort of cyclical power they could create in a short amount of time. Think of either a 10 sec all out sprint or a 15 second all out Assault Bike sprint. You simply can’t stay at that pace for very long and it takes a lot of rest before you can do it again. From this we understand how much power your clients can quickly produce.
- We also look at the “middle zone” of 60 sec to 3 min and see what challenging pace the athlete could turn over fast with. Think of running 800m as fast as you can. Think about the pain that you feel if you really go at this. That is the burning feeling of the middle zone. This middle ground test is for that athlete that understands this effort and can actually produce a result that would be indicative of their true result of how fast they could do that run.
- In the sport of sailing we break down each sailing class, type of racing, and position in to the Energy System spectrum based on time domain and energy output. For instance, a pedestal grinder on a TP52 will have to produce short burst of energy 10-15 seconds long during the tacks, gybes, hoists and take-downs, consistency race after race for the entire event. While a laser sailor must hike for minutes on end while keeping mentally acute and prepared to make the proper decision tactically. From these assessments and understanding the athlete’s position and class of racing, we can better understand what types of Energy Systems are produced within the sport, as well as where the athlete lacks from the testing.
- Sport specific: The last aspect of assessment that I conduct with each of my athletes is seeing how they move in their sport. For the sailing I want to see how they move in different wind conditions and through different maneuvers. Since I have extensive knowledge and experience in many different classes and positions, I can paint a full picture of who my athlete is, how they move, what limitations they are starting with and how these limitations are transferred on that boat.
The ultimate goal for a majority of my athletes is to get better at the sport of sailing – and with the extensive assessment that each OPEX athlete goes through we are able to properly progress each athlete from their starting point and reach that ultimate goal.