BMX and Back Pain, part 2

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BMX and Back Pain, part 2 Rotation is an important part of a healthy back. It's also a quality that we tend to lose as we age. It doesn't happen simply because we're older but instead because we stop maintaining the ability to do it. A lot of factors work to "steal" our rotational ability over time. The more time someone spends sitting, the more our posture takes on a stiff, rounded shape. Our sport of BMX actually reinforces this posture also. Even quite a few of the activities people do to get fitter take away our rotation! Weight training as it's typically done has us in fixed postures and can tighten us up. Endurance training adds thousands of reps and hours in position. Our rotation should come mostly from our thoracic, or upper spine. While our lower back can and should rotate some, we will run into trouble if we try to use it for too much of our rotation. If the upper spine doesn't rotate well, the lower back has to help out too much and we're then at risk for back pain or injury. If you can rotate better, you'll be more fluid and powerful on the bike. Test your rotation: sit on a bench or chair and keep your knees and feet pressed together. Don't allow them to move! Put a dowel or PVC pipe on your back. Sitting tall, slowly rotate to the side as far as you can with your own strength. Practice a few reps to each side, then note how far you could go. Ideally, you can go to at least 45 degrees to each side, and left and right are roughly equal. This test can be used to improve your rotation. 1-2 sets of 10 per side, done slowly and held at max rotation for 2 seconds each works well. However, there are other things that work better if you are really stuck. I'm happy to post more on this if anyone wants, let me know! #oldschoolbmx #midschoolbmx #bmxfitness #bikefitness

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Back Pain & BMX, part 1

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Back Pain and BMX, part 1 The low back is another common trouble spot for veteran riders. There can be many causes of back pain and each case is a little different. I typically see some glaring problems in most riders though. One of the first things I look at is to see if someone can actually move each part of the spine. The classic Cat/Camel exercise is an easy way to see this – we are looking to see if the back can both flex (round) and extend (arch) symmetrically. If it can’t, then you are lacking control and mobility thru your spine and this is a potential problem. What happens is that the “stuck” or immobile parts don’t move as they should, and therefore end up making the more mobile parts move excessively to make up the slack. This will make overuse injury or strains much more likely. Even worse, acute trauma is more likely also, as the spine is unable to absorb force as it should. While I could improve my extension some, you’ll note that my curve is pretty symmetrical both ways. This is not the case for most riders, at least at first. If you find your spinal mobility lacking, this same exercise is a great way to gain your mobility back. You’ll need to move slowly and focus your effort on the areas that don’t want to move. A partner’s cues can be very helpful, or if you are alone, you can use the feedback of a band to help you. Doing a set of 5-10 reps 2-3 times per day will pay off – it requires no equipment and can be done anytime in just a minute or two. We’ll look at some other variations in the next post. #oldschoolbmx #midschoolbmx #bmxfitness #bikefitness #blueoxgym

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Single Leg Strength, part 5

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Single Leg Strength, part 5 In this last installment, we’ll look at training in imperfect positions. This is relatively new idea in strength & conditioning, though some sports & coaches have used these principles since long ago. Training with proper form is very important for an optimally functioning body and for the most carryover to sport & longevity. However, it’s impossible to execute every movement exactly the same, and the unavoidable truth is that you will get into some bad positions in life or sport from time to time. This is even more true if you are a rider! If you only are strong in standard strength training positions, when you get taken outside these positions, you have little strength and injury is more likely. The body is very adaptable to however you stress it. If you apply a small amount of training stress in these compromised positions, your body will adapt and build more strength & control there. As long as the load does not exceed the capacity of your tissues to handle it, you will adapt and be able to handle more load in the future. These positions require patience – I start with easier variations and just 1 set of 5 reps at first and build from there. Also, many of these positions require that good mobility be developed first – these are NOT exercises to develop mobility, but rather exercises to strengthen ranges of motion you have already developed. We don’t use these if pain is present, so they are not for rehab. Video 1 is some knee hinging work. Video 2 is quad/tendon, and big toe strength work. Video 3 shows twisting squats and inside squats for knee and ankle resilience. Lastly, I show a flow sequence of joint prep where this might be combined in a conditioning circuit (video 4). Going over each and how to perform them would require a series of posts. I’m just sharing them so you can see all of the elements that go into a well designed routine. Please do not try these if you don’t have the mobility to do so, or have the ability to hit some of the basic strength metrics discussed in the earlier parts of this series! #bmxfitness #bikefitness #fitforflat #bmxtraining Thx @bmagaziner for the 📸

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Single Leg Strength, part 4

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Single Leg Strength, part 4 We return to single leg work in this 4th installment. Once the Split Squat standards have been met (see part 1), then we can move on to true single leg work. Skater Squats (aka King Deadlifts) are the starting point here. Most cannot do these while getting the trail leg’s knee to the ground at first, so you’ll want to find an elevated surface you can get to with good form. The hips must stay square & neutral, the working knee must not collapse in, and the foot arch also should not collapse. Build control & strength at your starting depth, then reduce the height over time until you can do these while tapping the knee to the floor. Once there, work up to being able to do a set of 15 each leg without any form flaws. In the first video, I go over the variations in order of difficulty. Note that in some versions I allow a slight assist with the back foot. Pistol Squats off a box are next (video 2). These are progressed by squatting deeper over time. I like doing slow eccentrics (lowering) to build strength in the bottom position. If you train this movement well, you’ll be able to do them on the floor, as in video 3. (note-ankle range of motion is a common limitation – address this with mobility work or you’ll never get a full pistol squat) Once you own these on the floor, they can be done weighted, as in video 4. The Shrimp Squat is the final one I’ll cover here in video 5. (there are other more advanced versions yet). You’ll return to the Skater Squat progression, but now hold your free foot in your hand. This is far harder! Progress by depth, then reps. Follow all the same form points of the skater squat. Your likelihood of a knee injury is significantly less if you develop true single leg strength/stability. You’ll also have greater resilience on the bike or in whatever activities you like to do. #bmxfitness #bikefitness #fitforflat #bmxtraining

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Single Leg Strength, part 3

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Single Leg Strength, part 3 (double leg) Along with developing the single leg strength from part 1 & 2, we also want to be building strength with both legs together in the classic squat pattern. The first order of business is an unloaded squat with great form. Some will have to work on specific mobility or stability drills to achieve this, but that would be for another series of posts. Assuming one can perform quality squats without weight, I then move athletes to the Goblet Squat. In the past, I’d start an athlete on the barbell to learn Back and/or Front Squats. However, I now use the Goblet Squat until one can demonstrate 20 good quality reps with 1/2 their bodyweight. This is not easy and can take some people quite a while to achieve! I switched to this method a couple of years ago after reading an article by @drjohnrusin After trying it myself, and using it with clients, I have come to see the effectiveness of this method. (Dr. Rusin uses a 25 rep standard; I went with 20 reps for newbies but do use 25 reps+ for those with a significant training age) If starting with an experienced athlete, I still use this test, as many will still show flaws in their squat technique under fatigue. Loading in front with the dumbbell or kettlebell forces the athlete to create greater core/abdominal activation, and solidifies the movement from shoulders to hips. I also like it for my remote clients who have access to DBs or KBs, as the Goblet squat is more self-correcting than the barbell variants. Testing a high-rep scheme requires strength endurance and once fatigue sets in, it displays a default pattern the individual will use under high fatigue or loading. By finding this, we can then individualize the training to address this weak point. By working the Goblet squat pattern diligently, you earn the right to get under the barbell and go heavy. Everyone I’ve had pass this challenge easily masters the barbell variants and handle decent weight right away with good form. Here’s 30 reps @85 lbs, done at ~165 lbs bodyweight. #bmxfitness #bikefitness #fitforflat #bmxtraining @rochelle_hagnas

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Single Leg Strength, part 2

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Single Leg Strength, part 2 Part 2 of single leg strength is having control of your leg at the hip. These movements are not commonly trained, but I have found them to be of great benefit. This 4 exercise series is a starting point. These exercises evolve into other ones once these become easy. By the way, these exercises are important for all who want their body to work correctly, not just riders! Let’s look at them: • Straight Leg Hovers on Wall – hip flexor strength. Sit with your legs straight & back flat on the wall. Lift your straight leg with control and pass it over a low object. Over time, increase the height of the block, or add ankle weights. If you can’t lift at all, sit on a low pad to make it easier. • Side Plank Leg & Hip Lift – lateral hip strength. This “Jane Fonda” looking exercise is actually pretty hard to do well! From a stacked side plank, lift the top leg AND push the bottom hip up, cresting a star shape. Nice & slow with control. • Straight Leg Glute Bridge – hip extension strength. Off the ground, or on a low block, set up as shown. Squeeze your butt on the working side and press the hip up just a few cm. Keep your pelvis tucked under and don’t allow your low back to arch! You should work to feel this mostly in the glutes. • Copenhagen Adductor Lift – groin strength. Set up in a side plank with your top foot on a bench. Staying in a nice line (no bending at the hips), drop your top hip and bottom leg, then return smoothly for reps. If this version is too intense at first, bend the top leg 90 degrees so your knee is on the bench. I have people do 5-10 reps each side of these 4 drills in a circuit. One time thru to start, then working up to doing it 3 times. Once you can do it for 3 x 10 with good control, you’ll have much improved hip strength & control! #bmxfitness #bikefitness #fitforflat #bmxtraining

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Single Leg Strength, part 1

This series is for Flatlanders and BMX’ers in general, but the same principles apply for everyone I train. These are great exercises to work toward mastering for everyone. This is reposted from the original series in my Instagram account.

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Single Leg Strength, part 1 This series is for Flatlanders and BMX’ers in general, but the same principles apply for everyone I train. These are great exercises to work toward mastering for everyone. There are bilateral (2 legged) exercises I’d suggest doing also, but we’ll get to these in later installments. Single leg exercises have a host of benefits. They require foot, ankle, leg, hip, and core strength when done right. They also let you identify and correct imbalances in strength from left to right. I start with the Split Squat, done on the floor as shown. (also known as a static lunge, as your feet stay in place) Shoulder width stance, step back with one foot. I want these to be done barefoot, especially if you normally wear thick soled riding shoes. Grip the floor with your front foot and make sure your weight is even between the heel and ball of foot. Engage your torso muscles and slowly pull yourself down, keeping your torso upright and your knee hovering in place. In this beginning version, it shouldn’t move forward over the toes much at all, and keep it centered over you mid foot. Do not let your knee buckle inwards, or let your hip kick out to the side. 3 sec lowering, then up in about 1 sec. Once you can do 10+ perfect reps at that speed per leg, you can move to the weighted version shown on the second page. For this one, everything is the same. Hold DBs or KBs in each hand. I want to see an athlete be able to do 6 reps per leg with 1/3rd of bodyweight in each hand, with a 3 second lowering per rep. These should be perfect form to count! Hat tip to @jfitzopex for this one long ago. Remember, you don’t get a good score on a test if you get most of the answers wrong, even if you tried really hard and it sucked to take the test! Think the same way here. For those not new to the strength game, this test may be easy – great! I do have progressions/standards beyond this, but that’s for later. Next post, we’ll look and single leg strength in a different and often neglected way! #bmxfitness #bikefitness #fitforflat #bmxtraining @rochelle_hagnas

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7 Fitness Questions

This was done for another site, but it seems like a good re-post here:

1.      What’s your favorite movement assessment and why?

For me, this has evolved a lot over the years. Nowadays, I really just watch basic movements and how I see people moving tells me where to test further. However, one thing I always do is a head to toe assessment of basic joint mobility. Do the joints work like they should, or do other parts of the body compensate and try to do the work instead? This involves basically having the athlete do joint circles or articulations. 

For example, most folks have no control or sensation as to what their scapula is doing. Ask them to move just the scapula and they move either their spine or their elbow instead, or maybe both!

I use assessments from many different systems that I’ve studied over the years, plus a few of my own, but those interested further I’d direct to the FRC system (Functional Range Conditioning) to learn more, as I feel this is the best resource. 

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3 Tiers of Movement, Part 3

Specialized Training or Abilities

Now, let’s look at the top of the performance pyramid – special abilities. This should be the icing on top of the cake, but instead is the starting and ending point for many people.

What I mean by special abilities is a singular focus on one physical quality such as strength, or a program of sport-specific or occupational specific movements. The human body can be trained to do some amazing and very unique things. Some of these abilities are more along the lines of developing a certain physical quality to the max, such as sprinting 100m as fast as possible or running a marathon. Others are more highly developed skills – think professional golfer or circus performer. 

By nature, a very narrow focus on certain abilities requires an imbalanced approach. It often takes an incredible focus of time and energy to get great at something, and this leaves little left to train toward being well-rounded. Now, this doesn’t need to be a big problem if specific work is done to minimize imbalances and you have your foundation in order.

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3 Tiers of Movement, Part 2

Movement Capacity:

This post, we look at the second tier of the pyramid – movement. How well can you move, how many movement options do you have available, how relaxed are you when moving, and are you moving in the appropriate way in which the body is designed? 

Someone with good range of motion AND control in all joints will have access to a great level of fitness by virtue of that. But, just like when we explored the first tier of being human, most people are far off the mark in this category also. Why?

The body adapts to any posture you adopt regularly to make it easier. The body always looks for ways to conserve energy, and we become distorted over time due to our unnatural lifestyles, eg: sitting all the time for work and relaxation.

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