Exercise of the week - Pendulum to overhead with hip extension

In this week's segment - we're going to show an exercise that we created to work on a multitude of qualities with one of our International Competitive Swimmers.

Try this exercise if you've mastered these basics first:

1. Ability to shift body weight fully from one leg to the other. This is evident in a full foot plant on the support leg, and a full heel lift in the hind leg, demonstrating little or no weight shift is left on the hind leg. This weight shift is important in most sports but is especially functional for locomotive or unilateral-cyclical exercises.

2. Pendulum motion - which can also be thought of as the basics of a kettlebell swinging motion - letting the hips stretch as the weight goes back, and using your hips to swing the weight forward. Practice the swinging motion first without the overhead swing and coordination of the opposite arm swings.

3. Ensure that the hips can stay neutral - which for most will involve a posterior pelvic tilt - and an effort to keep the abdomen contracted and pulled in. An error in the neutral spine component of this exercise would be cycling through neutral, posterior and anterior pelvic tilts, or some combination of them.

4. Shoulder flexion and extension. Ensure you're able to get the shoulder into flexion (overhead) and extension (behind body) without compensating through the ribcage. Feel a stretch in the lat on the upper arm - and no shoulder pinch!

5. Coordination of the arms and legs. When you have mastered the coordination - ensure that you are also trying to get rotation in the opposite shoulder and hip - evident in swimming, walking, running, skating, and most other sports for that matter.

The purpose of this exercise is multi-faceted. When done correctly, the athlete will feel that they are exercising their brains and coordination perhaps more than their muscles at first. Sport is complex and coordinated, and this is not fully appreciated by traditional strength training involving a bilateral squat, a bench press, or the like.

"We contend that movement variability, far from being solely due to neuromuscular system or measurement “noise” – as sports biomechanists may have previously supposed – is, or could be, functional. Such functionality could allow environmental adaptations, reduce injury risk, and facilitate changes in coordination patterns. We conclude by recommending that sports biomechanists should focus.. on important related topics, such as control and coordination of movement, and implications for practice and skill learning" (Bartlett et al, 2007).

"Variability in practice has been shown to enhance motor skill learning. Benefits of practice variability have been attributed to motor schema formation (variable versus constant practice), or more effortful information processing (random versus blocked practice)... findings suggest that the attentional foci induced by different practice schedules might be at least partially responsible for the learning differences" (Chua et al, 2019).

"Based on these results, it seems that an elevated monotony and elevated strain in workload could have negative impacts on athletes’ health and training adaptations. One study identified a link between monotony, strain and injury incidence among young football players" (Brink et al.2010)

"The link between injury and monotony has first been described by Foster (1998), and the monotony has been linked to illness episode with elite athletes.. indicat[ing] that there was a link between the 4-weeks monotony and injury incidence." (Delecroix, 2018)

There is no shortage of examples in the literature, and in practice, that preach that humans learn skills best when the training is not monotonous, but rather variable, a challenge to coordination, and is difficult from a neuromuscular perspective rather than simply an "external load" perspective. Most sports are not played with heavy weight on the back, after all..

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