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Changing Loading Strategies Based On Movement Trends

Trends are everywhere. They inhabit our daily lives and are all around us. Additionally, most solid training principles have been developed and utilized successfully for quite some time. If anything, most of what we coaches do is a simple repackaging and selling of old information to a new audience. In this, I rarely get individuals and athletes with training backgrounds who haven't done the same exercises as we use with my athletes. With this, I am always up front with my newcomers in how we don't do anything new or flashy, we just implement and execute the same stuff in a better fashion with greater attention to detail.

But when looking at the trends of what people have done in the gym and why they're not getting the results they want, it is often notable how they have rarely altered the means by which they've loaded exercises. When doing a training history recall, most individuals get locked into a trend of Barbell loaded or Bilateral Dumbbell loaded exercises. They do this with both bilateral and unilateral movements.


As we go through assessments during the onboarding process, one of the next trends I look for in my new clients and athletes is their default movement patterns. This allows us to identify changes which need to happen. I mentioned the implementation and execution of the basics, right? When we look at common movement trends, we can start to frame how we may change the way we load movements.

A Zercher Loaded, Front Foot Elevated Split Squat, implemented during an experimental phase in my own programming.

Here's a recent example of this, as I had an athlete come to me who was strong, athletic, and fairly mobile. As a high school kid, who lifts at school regularly, this is usually a great starting point. When we went to look at their movement trends, we noted how they needed to work on controlling what range they had available to be able to drive output through those joints. One these things was controlling the internal and external rotation at the hip throughout the gait cycle. Now, this athlete was still doing their single leg work in fair proportion to their bilateral leg work, but these movements were almost exclusively Barbell loaded or Bilateral Dumbbell loaded.


So what have we done? We've created a program where we change the loading scheme to change the demands in stability and bias certain rotational moments at the hip. One week, we may unilaterally load a Split Squat in a contralateral fashion to bias internal rotation, placing the weight in the opposite hand as the forward leg. The next week, we may unilaterally load it in an ipsilateral fashion to bias external rotation, with a dumbbell in the same hand as the forward leg. We may load a Single Leg RDL in same way, and for the same reasons.

A simpler example, which doesn't even change the implement, is someone who demonstrates a trend towards back strength in the squat and consistently shoots the hips up during a back squat. This effectively turns the movement into a Good Morning, which they can use their back strength to complete a rep. In instances where this is present, we take the barbell and load them in a Front Squat position, allowing the load be shifted in relation to the feet and eliminating the ability to shoot the hips back without the bar falling off the shoulders.


These are just examples, but they demonstrate something we need to be aware of when we program training. We need to look at loading and movement trends in order to find the strategy which will enhance the desired quality. Do we need more internal rotation at a joint? Contralaterally load it. Do we need more external rotation at the joint? Ipsilaterally load it. Do we need more leg strength over back strength in the squat? Anteriorly load it. Do we need more back strength over leg strength in the squat? Load it close to hips in a Zercher Squat or do Good Mornings.


If the trend biases towards a certain movement pattern, and the trend in our loading of the movements are the same, then we need to look to create a new trend. And it is often we can do this through a simple alteration in loading scheme, which has a solid opportunity to influence the trend in movement.

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