Training The Other Side Of The Coin



A coin has two sides, a head and a tail.


You can’t have one without the other, they are two parts of the same thing. They are symbiotic.

If you’re familiar with the WG-Fit logo, you’ll spot the Chinese Yin-Yang symbol.


This symbol famously depicts the balance between the light and the dark, the hard and the soft, the dichotomy of living a full life.
The symbol demonstrates that as one aspect weakens the other strengthens, but the dot of the contrasting colour in the strongest part of each side tells us that no matter how strong an attribute becomes, its opposite number is always present.

This is part of what I was talking about in my post about elbow pain in boxers.
In that post I gave the metaphor of a race car. We said how one of the best methods of making the car faster around the track is to improve the brakes.

racecar brakes 1
But, surely brakes are for slowing down, not for going faster?
Well yes, but with better brakes, we can brake later, from higher speeds and therefore carry a greater average speed around the track. The brakes are the yin to the accelerators yang, they are the opposite side of the coin.

So in our world of strength & conditioning, fitness and performance, what are the sides of the coin?

Obviously strength is one side. Strength is a result of muscular contraction, so whether you need the maximal strength of a powerlifter, the explosive strength of an olympic lifter, the strength/power endurance of a kettlebell lifter or the strength endurance of a triathlete, you need strength.
Every distance runner and triathlete that ever came to me always, without fail, improved their times by getting stronger.

Some Gold Medal winning legs

Some Gold Medal winning legs

On the other side of the coin is relaxation. As we train, we are tensing, we are contracting the muscles, compressing the body. Depending on our sport, we may be working certain movements/actions more than others, which can lead to problems. A prime example are our Brazilian Ju Jitsu guys.
BJJ players spend most of their training time in a rounded position, their shoulders are rounded forwards, their spines are flexed forwards and the hips is most often held in a flexed position. And while this maybe ideal for holding your opponent in your guard, or gaining a good side control from the top, it can be detrimental to overall health and longevity if that posture transfers away from the training floor and into day to day living.

A room full of flexed spines

A room full of flexed spines

It’s not just the BJJ lads either, think about your boxing stance or your posture as you sit at your desk. Sunken chest? forward head? Rounded shoulders? Flexed hip?


A different room fulf flexed spines

A different room fulf flexed spines

So, while we need to strengthen all the areas we use to dominate our sport, we need to spend more time strengthening the muscles that are stretched and held slack in our sports.
For most this means doing a shed load of deadlifts, kettlebell swings, bridges, rows and pull ups.
But it also means stretching and relaxing our primary sports muscles, our hip flexors, pecs, lats and quads.
Very few that come through my door have optimal length in their pec minor, which puts their rotator cuff in trouble. Or their hip flexor chain, which causes problems for their glutes, knees and low back.
This is where they need to spend time on the other side of the coin. Relaxing and lengthening.

Due to reciprocal inhibition, it can very tough getting loose and inactive muscles firing if their opposite numbers are over tight. So that leaves you with two options:
1 – Get yourself to a good physio. I use John over at the Dublin Performance Institute
2 – Learn to do your own compensatory work.

Of the two, the second option is obviously preferable.
And the best compensatory practices can be learned from our resident Yoga/Somatic teacher, Anne Dempsey.

Anne Dempsey, she WILL give you the skills to ward of injury before it happens

Anne Dempsey, she WILL give you the skills to ward of injury before it happens

As hardcore as we like to think we all are, tough nuts, impervious to damage and injury, we are all building up an injury debt that will need to be repaid. I’m 36 and have built up a massive debt, essentially I’ve spent much of the last 10 years in pain. Anne has given me several tools with which to manage that pain, to help the body relax and recuperate more efficiently so that I can continue training, I can continue leading from the front and I can continue to jump, roll and play being a power ranger with my kids.

Anne teaches every Saturday at Wild Geese, currently at 4pm, straight after the Muay Thai and JuJitsu classes. We may be moving her to an earlier time slot in the near future, but be sure to get in for 4pm and learn to do your own maintenance work.




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