Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Mirror Can Lie

             A common mistake that can be made during workout sessions is focusing on just the “mirror muscles."  These include the chest, biceps, triceps, shoulders and quadriceps and neglecting muscles that cannot be seen in the mirror such as lats, rear deltoids, hamstrings, and lower back.  Making this mistake causes muscle imbalances and postural problems that make the simplest every day tasks more difficult.
Correct posture, full range of motion, and functional strength can only be maintained when muscles are in balance. When your strength training puts the emphasis on the muscles on the front side of your torso, those muscles will tend to get tighter and shorter over time, while the neglected opposing muscles in your back will get longer and weaker. Your shoulders will start rounding towards the front, your neck and head will start leaning forwards, and you may develop chronic neck and upper back pain.  This postural problem can even lead to serious issues with pinched or entrapped nerves in your shoulders, or a propensity to injure your shoulder muscles, especially the rotator cuff which can lead to slouching.
  These same principles apply to the lower body. The tendency of people who build mirror muscles only is to concentrate on squats to strengthen the quads and glutes and neglect their hamstrings. In fact, the majority of hamstring injuries result from imbalances caused by favoring quad exercises over hamstring stretches and exercises.  The posterior chain, which includes the hamstrings, glutes, and back are critical. If your posterior chain is weak, you’ll never fully develop the “mirror muscles”.  Exercises such as leg curls, deadlifts, and reverse lunges are excellent for the hamstrings. 
If you are focusing just on your mirror muscles make a change today!  When developing your routines make sure that the same amount of time is spent on the non-mirror muscles.  Consult a fitness professional for assistance if needed.  Working those muscles will do wonder for your aesthetic development, posture, and strength.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

As The Talent Develops Don't Forget The Person

With the recent developments of Johnny Manziel and NCAA Conference Commissioners’ calling for changes in how the NCAA does business, intercollegiate athletics are under fire again.  In the age of 24 hours news and social media student-athletes from youth sports to college are under more scrutiny than ever.    Manziel was the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy in 2012 and since winning the award he has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.  Excessive drinking, lashing out on Twitter, being sent home from the Manning’s Passing Camp, kicked out of a fraternity party at Univ. of Texas, and most recently being investigated for selling his autograph in January, which would be a NCAA violation.  He has become the most recent case study of how imperative personal development is while pursuing and achieving athletic success.
2012 Heisman Trophy Winner Johnny Manziel.   
Wright Thompson of ESPN Magazine recent article “The trouble with Johnny” illustrates more of how his family enabled him more than teach him valuable lessons growing up.  Manziel is an example of how personal development is critical for all of us, not excluding raising a child that is gifted athletically.  This is not an indictment on his character or his parents, but shows how easily personal development can come at the cost of pursuing athletic achievement and the success that comes with it.  Parents, youth coaches, and administrators need to find as many teachable moments through athletics.  This does not have to come at the cost of developing their athletic skills and being competitive.  What tends to happen is that parents and coaches get caught up in the hype of athletic achievement.   As Thompson put it referring to Johnny Manziel, “People on the outside see only the final collapse: the drunken photo, the fight outside a bar, the angry tweet. They never see the slow decay, because that happens in private.”
St. Francis Academy Baltimore, MD.
Young athletes should have coaches and administrators who are as concerned about the impact they leave on young people’s lives.  How many athletes can look back and say that playing for a coach made them a better person, some can and some can’t.   The influential figures in a young athletes life see the signs, yet in many instances enable the behavior instead of addressing it head on.  Unfortunately some coaches take up the profession for the wrong reasons.  They see it as an opportunity to profit or live their dreams vicariously through young boys and girls or self-gratification.  Others have a passion for the respective sport and view coaching as an opportunity to give back and teach valuable lessons.  I recently visited St. Francis Academy in inner city Baltimore, MD during an Under Armour commercial shoot.  I was able to hear stories of how the coaches, chaplain, and staff have used football the change young men’s lives.  One player on the team is getting a scholarship to an Ivy League school.  The support system at St. Francis is determined to use football to change lives.  Regardless of the social economic conditions this should be the goal for all coaches dealing with our youth.
Sports can breed many positive character traits such as teamwork, discipline, interacting with authority, leadership, success, dealing with setbacks, interpersonal skills and many more.  Also, it can breed entitlement, selfishness, laziness, and disrespect.  Whichever side of the pendulum an individual is on it is rooted in the foundation laid by parents and coaches at a very young age.  In Jim Loehr’s book  The Only Way To Win, a prominent Division I college coach is quoted saying, “Parents teach values, church teach values, I’m paid to coach and win.  Don’t expect me to cover that ground as well.”  Another coach was quoted, “My greatest stress is having to coach players I don’t respect, whose character are seriously broken and flawed.  I can’t boot them from the team because I can’t win without them.  I end up helping them become superstars. I hate myself for leading people I don’t respect to victory.”  These feelings very common at the college level because young men and women were not taught the values in their early development.  A college coach with pressure to win inherits them with these issues and probably looked over them in the recruiting process.  Texas A&M Coach Kevin Sumlin is dealing with a multitude of issues with Manziel, who is a rising redshirt sophomore with a personal assistant who dropped out of school for the position.  Johnny’s family compensates the personal assistant and security guards when he is at certain functions.
Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, and Andrew Luck
The 2012 NFL football season saw Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson lead their teams to playoffs as rookies.  They demonstrated leadership and maturity that was infectious to their respective teams.  On the other hand, Cam Newton entered the 2011 season with questions about his maturity and leadership and showed poor body language when things did not go his way.  These are examples of how differently the accolades and recognition at a young age were handled.  It does not make Newton a bad person, but shows the difference in maturity and intangibles that the other three quarterbacks possess.  Manziel unprecedented success as a freshman quarterback probably didn’t change him, just exposed the traits that his parents did not focus on during his upbringing.
My concern is through athletics what kinds of people are being developed.  Well rounded, disciplined, respectful ones or entitled, selfish, and narcissistic.  It is up to parents and youth coaches to realize the importance of using sports as a teaching tool.   There is nothing wrong with putting the time and effort to maximize athletic ability.  It should not come at the cost of their personal development.  Relationships and experiences through athletics will last a lifetime.  Those experiences can be a foundation of our future leaders who set a positive example.