Along with my work in Gymnastics I also see quite a few Olympic Weightlifters and CrossFit Athletes. Through the last few years of being in Boston and working with Dave Picardy’s crew at TreeHouse Athletics/NSCF, I have been working a lot in this niche and team up with the coaches to help spread wellness information. I just came back from a week in Tennessee with a group of amazing coaches and athletes at Power Monkey Camp. In a nutshell, Dave Durante and his crew bring in experts from different fields including Gymnastics, Olympic Weight Lifting, Rowing, Jump Rope, CrossFit Coaching/Programming, Nutrition, and more to share and teach athletes who attend. I was thankful enough to be asked to team up with Dr. Dan Pope of Fitness Pain Free to teach about injury prevention and movement health. Throughout the week the coaches shared thoughts and learned from each other, worked out, talked shop, and had an epic cornhole tournament Friday Night (how is Mr. Craig THAT good at cornhole?).
Over the course of the week Dan and I had the chance to evaluate and treat a really wide spectrum of athletes from beginners all the way through CrossFit Regional/Games competitors and some elite level Olympic Weightlifters. Even though I’ll be shifting back and focusing on our upcoming Gymnastics Revolution Seminars, I wanted to share a post on a few take aways that crossed my mind from the week. My hope is that I can start getting some more content up about these areas down the road.
1. Life Long Learning and Teaming Up
Probably the best part of Power Monkey (next to amazing food from Paleo Nick and hilarious night time camp fires) was that there were so many open minded, humble, highly experienced coaches from different disciplines in the same room all sharing information. At one point during the week I was standing talking to one of the other gymnastics coaches Shane and he said “it is ridiculous how much intelligence is in this room”. I couldn’t agree more. Coaches were constantly sitting in on other people’s lectures when they had free time, asking questions about different ideas, and were sharing their thoughts around issues in their respective domains.
One of the may favorite parts of the week was being able to team up with other coaches to help out some of the athletes. For example, at one point Chad Vaughn was working with a high level CrossFit athlete on snatch technique that I was going to check out later that day for intermittent shoulder complaints. During their session we took video from 2 camera angles with coaches eye and did slo motion video analysis, with Chad looking at more snatch technique and myself looking for movement markers. I sat in for 45 minutes listening to their discussion on what was/wasn’t working, and then from there I had a great train of thought to run with. We went through the evaluation and were able to better narrow in on it, and things directly transferred over to what was going on with her snatch. I learned a ton from hearing them talk technique, but also found it fascinating to see how the movement evaluation correlated to performance aspects on the platform. This was only one example, but this happened multiple other times throughout the week in relation to working with different people.
Even though I may not have a ton of experience in all the different realms such as rowing or programming, I took away a ton of interesting points when talking with these coaches. There is an amazing amount of information out there to learn about. I think it’s important to mention that we should always network with other disciplines to continuously grow and learn more.
2. Assess Don’t Guess
From a more PT side of things this seems pretty cliche, but it came to light more than ever this last week. Dan and I each ran well over 25 evaluations and also teamed up to co-evaluate a few athletes. On the same lines, the coaches were going through detailed movement breakdowns to find certain areas that needed attention just like Dan and I would do on an evaluation. Although on the surface many things appeared to be similar overlap in issues, I was amazed to see the variety in underlying causes for issues. For example, we saw about 10 “overhead issue” cases and 10 “limited squats” all with very different origins that panned out through further assessments.
Here are a few examples/breakouts for different common issues Dan and I saw related to upper body issues
- Restricted lat/pec tissue creating opposite sided FAI/hip pain in a high level CF Athlete with snatching and back squatting
- Restricted lat/subscap tissue and opposite sided mild hip internal rotation/tibial internal rotation creating local shoulder pain in an elite level female Olympic Lifter
- Restricted thoracic spine and posterior shoulder tissue mobility limiting front squatting/Clean and Jerk abilities in recreational CF athlete, but had no pain
- Restricted thoracic spine mobility and limited ankle dorsiflexion mobility creating knee pain with snatching/overhead complexes in male high level Olympic lifter
- Poor ulnar nerve neurodynamics in a recreational CF athlete creating numbness/tingling and limited wrist extension with overhead barbell work
- Restricted thoracic spine mobility creating rib discomfort/”tightness” in an Olympic level rower
- One sided scapular motor control issue into flexion and overhead movements creating limited handstand alignment in a high level CF athlete (no pain present)
- Similar motor control issues creating shoulder pain in another high level female CF athlete, and overhead scapular control/coordination creating ongoing shoulder pain in a high level silk arielist
- Limited thoracic mobility creating excessive bilateral shoulder motion and elbow stress during overhead motions like barbell work/hanging skills
- Pattern motor control issues being able to actively control shoulder elevation/external rotation in front rack positions for cleans/front squats in high level CF athlete and in recreational Oly lifter. This plus limited hip IR was contributing to an ongoing L sided adductor strain with cleans (weight shifting forward in front rack).
As you can see, there is quite a spread of different factors behind each case and this was only a handful of examples. There was just as much variability for lower body issues with squatting, Oly work, and so on. Many appeared to have “limited motion” on the surface but some came from soft tissue mobility, some from issues far away from the site of pain, some from more nerve issues, some much more motor control driven rather than mobility. The take away for me that was from beginner level athletes to highly competitive athletes there are many different things that can come to light as driving factors, and each required an individualized intervention process. As Dan and I talked about based off of Gray Cooks work, it’s better to spend more time aiming than shooting so you use a sniper rifle and not a shotgun for movement problems.
3. Technique and Skill Mastery Rules The Road
Something that was universally talked about through the different stations was the importance of technique and dedication to mastering basics before adding intensity. On a few days I had 2 hour slots open, and I spend it rotating between the handstand, snatch, clean and jerk, ring, bar, jump rope, and rowing stations to get a feel for everyones content. Although everyone was coming from a slightly different approach, the majority of the time was spent on progressions, basics, and mastering technical parts to all the movements. The handstand stations went piece by piece breakdowns of how to master alignments, the snatch station had various positional basics with only the barbell, the rowing station discussed specific breakdown or parts to the stroke, and so on. I was amazed to hear people talk about the intricacies of other areas like rowing and Oly work that I had never even thought about.
In a way it seemed everyone followed this template of basics before complexity and load. I think this speaks to the importance of developing high level skill in different areas, but it also speaks volumes in terms of carry over to injury prevention. Dan and I spent quite a bit of time on concepts related to using technique to avoid compensations, making sure basic movement components are present in training, and being adamant to constantly revisit basics to help combat overuse injuries, and screening for basic movement component flaws. Although it is very tedious and frustrating sometimes to put so much time into this type of work, I think it’s importance can’t be stressed enough. In the end it takes a long time to develop different skills, but the time and effort into technical mastery can go a long way for both injury prevention and optimal performance.
All and all, being at Power Monkey Camp was one of the best experiences I have had yet since getting out of PT school. I would highly encourage anyone who trains in the areas of Olympic Lifting, Gymnastics, CrossFit, and so on to check out the upcoming camp slot in October 4th – October 10th. It’s a week jam packed full of fun and learning, and creates a one of a kind experience to learn from some of the best in the business. I was super grateful for the opportunity to attend and am already looking forward to the next round. Here’s a couple fun videos I had from the last week including Dan Pope getting his gymnastics on, me messing around with Olympic Trampolinist Steve Gluckstein, Steve tearing it up during a tramp demo, and some Tumbl Trak fun from one day in the week.
Now that I’m back to the regular grind I’ll be sure to get some more content up as we approach the 3 GRS weekends coming up in just under a month!