The Richmond Oval is really something! Only 10 minutes driving from our home on Dunbar Street. What a great facility.
This was the first NSCA regional conference to be held in Canada and it was well-attended. You would expect a room full of fitness professionals to look pretty fit. Not so. Not even many of the speakers looked fit. It was a bit of a surprise. Sure, not everyone attending a CrossFit seminar looks fit but the average fitness level in CrossFit is much, much higher!
We got free samples of Muscle Milk a chemical sugar concoction which I’ve been meaning to rant about in a blog one day. And people actually drank it! Not even post-WOD, just while we sat there.
The NSCA in the US is embroiled in a war with CrossFit. The largest certifier of trainers, the NSCA has lost market share to the CrossFit certs in a big way and is now lobbying government to require all trainers to be NSCA certified. In their words, to preserve training standards. CrossFit is fighting back pointing out that the NSCA’s cert unlike CrossFit does not train trainers how to teach – or even how to perform – lifts before certifying them. That’s right, when you see the CSCS cert beside a trainer’s name it does not mean they have actually learned how to lift or how to teach the lifts.
So why go to this conference? Good information is good information. And it is good to learn from outside the CrossFit orthodoxy as well. Most CrossFit certs cost $500-1000. This conference cost $150. It’s a vast difference in price and in quality. So it is unfair to compare the conference with the well-oiled seminars that CrossFit puts on but it is hard not to. The quality of presentation and information is on a different level. CrossFit is offering a Mercedes to the NSCA’s Pinto. Maybe another reason they have lost market share.
The conference started with a long ramble about the benefits of membership in the NSCA, their insurance products, job board and certifications. They are introducing a new higher level certification (online of course) that even requires trainers to know how to perform lifts. This portion went overtime leaving our first speaker short on time and forced to rush through.
Speaker 1: Scott Herbert of Excel Fitness in Richmond
The discussion revolved around speed & power and the importance of those skills in athletics. Scott discussed creating mobility first, then stability, then strength, then power, then speed. He discussed planking & bracing and the often neglected lateral sling (think side plank). He liked planking on an unstable surface (later speakers refuted this). He mentioned joint integrity, tensile strength and neural pathways and exciting concepts like post activation potentiation.
A bunch of exciting ideas but when it came to programming he was all over the map. Part of this was due to being rushed and part due to microphone malfunction and the rest just seemed like trying many different things. Pairing back squats with box jumps and cleans with sprinting. Fun. Developing 2 rep strength a la Dave Tate & Westside Barbell.
A bunch of cool ideas without a coherent applicable methodology. Scott really plugged a lot of equipment: vertimax, Keiser machines and his new darling the Exogen Suit.
Speaker 2: Developing a Career as a Personal Trainer
There were all the obvious things like get your clients fit. Also, get a mentor, a 2nd certification and keep learning.
Not a bad speaker. Not what I came for.
Speaker 3: Grace Golden, Purposeful Balance Training
This was a fun one filled with fun drills that could be used in warm ups, etc.
Grace eschewed the use of unstable surfaces or eyes-closed drills because that’s not how athletes perform. Amen!
With all the sports specialization she feels elite athletes have failed to develop Fundamental Movement Skills. Again, amen!
Balance training IS core training. Really starting to love this speaker!
Then Grace got into the difference between closed skills (predictable) and Open Skills (unpredictable) and manipulating task & environment so that athletes must create solutions. Athletes MUST have opportunities to fail.
Motor skills and cognitive skills are simply different points on a continuum.
Contextual interference effect: Random vs blocked practice.
Finally, this was the kind of speaker I came to hear from. I wish she had more material available.
Speaker 4: Dale Canavan, Strength & Hypertrophy: Molecules to Hormones
As the title suggests this talk was very science based and almost lulled us to sleep with technical terminology but it eventually lead to some golden nuggets of info. This presenter, a university prof, was probably the fittest looking of our presenters so he might have more than just a theoretical understanding of fitness.
He discussed Neural Strength Inhibitors: Inefficient motor unit recruitment, Antagonistic motor unit recruitment, golgi tendon inhibitions
He further discussed how aerobic training leads to muscle loss via the mTOR pathway recommending to preserve muscle that all WODs be shorter than 60 minutes.
As well as recommending High Intensity Interval Training he discussed the importance of nutrition. He highlighted the importance of eccentric training and stretching for maximizing amino acid uptake. And discussed how muscle wasting and 3-4% strength loss occur within 6 hours of immobilizing a muscle. So several shorter workouts spread out across several days are superior for maintaining muscle to a few big workouts with more rest days between. That leads me to wonder if several small WODs spread through a day would be more effective than 1 bigger WOD per day? Experiment time?
Here are other dangers to hypertrophy:
– Calorie reduction impairs IGF-1 production, say no to fasting
– cortisol impairs IGF-1 (stress, lack of sleep, thermal stress, smoking)
– no nsaids like ibuprofin!
How to maintain muscle
– Keep training under 60 minutes
– Eat protein after training – he likes milk (skip the chocolate) and derides other fake products (protein powder, amino acids, creatine, muscle milk)
– Eat protein every 3 hours (20-30g per sitting)
– Avoid glycogen depletion
I was glad I stayed awake for this one!
Speaker 5: Viper
This speaker came along and validated my 2016 Open Team training plan which made me very happy.
He discussed tensile vs compression load, farm strength and how to develop functional resilience in athletes to minimize injury. He explained how moving load off midline forces the body to lay down collagen deposits that help bullet proof athletes making them strong in inefficient positions (this is good).
This totally verifies my training approach and though it changes nothing for me, it puts some solid scientific explanation behind what I already intuitively knew to be true!
He then had us play with his patented toy the Viper. It was the most fun portion of the weekend. Not only did we get up to move, The Touch & I felt very much like Rich Fronings compared to the other participants. As fun as the Viper was it was a poor mimic of real world strength and the movements were too controlled and synthetic to replicate the farm strength we were discussing. A beer keg and sandbags would be better.
Speaker 6: Ian McCarty, Visceral Restrictions, Articular Mobility Dysfunctions
This guy is an Osteopath and discussed how organs can contribute to mobility impairment and even referred pain via visceral adhesions. It echoed many of the things we’d heard already about the fascia and collagen deposition but more personally I have experience with my right kidney sticking to my diaphragm resulting in pain and immobility. I was taught by my massage therapist how to manually correct this and it really works!
Of course, I am not qualified to do this for clients but it is something to keep in mind.
Speaker 1: Barefoot Training
Not barefoot running but barefoot training. The best presenter all weekend. Of course we already do a lot of this at CrossFit Empower. But the talk convinced me we should push it more.
Performance = stable effective movement – efficient, energy sparing effort – total system works economically
Get the body to work together to improve force transmission. 1000’s of nerves in bottom of foot robbed of sensory input when shod.
Core stability begins in foot. Foot initiates hip activation. again we looked at those myofascial highways
Speaker 2: Masters Athletes
This guy pissed me off from the start by discussing the limitations of masters athletes and how they are not “normal athletes”. Now I get that there are considerations we must make for older athletes like longer recovery, injury history, etc but really, is Peaches really less capable than the rest of us? his focus was on loss and disability not on gains and ability. He showed video of an older athlete doing KB Swings incorrectly and excused it by saying “It’s not perfect but not bad for an older athlete.” Bullshit, it was wrong. Might the older athlete use less load? Sure. Should she use incorrect form? No!
If you don’t hold your athlete to the standard of correct form then I guess they won’t achieve that. But then why are you even coaching? I turned my ears off to avoid further aggravation.
Speaker 3: Block Periodization
In Judo we did a lot of this. In CrossFit we don’t really periodize. Well our Open competitors will. Sort of.
Speaker 4: Internal Model for Motor Control Theory
This was a gong show. Mic cut out through much of it making the already nervous speaker even more unsettled. It was all grad student mumbo-jumbo. All theory with no application. I walked out and talked with one of the earlier presenters.
In the end it was about internal vs external cuing which I have already read about a fair bit. They could have said that in plain english.
Speaker 4: KB Training its not like I am a beginner.
Regional NSCA Director and KB specialist based on the North Shore presented the KB.
She crowed about how her top students had recently accomplished an 40kg KB Turkish Get Up. These are KB specialists? Call me arrogant but I warm up – as in my starting weight – with a 95# barbell TGU. That worried me. Then she confused a KB snatch with a KB swing and I got worried. I lost confidence in her ability to teach me much about the KB. To be fair, I have trained KBs a long, long time. Maybe the seminar would be useful for less experienced trainers. It was the last session of the day. I decided to head home early and get started on our big move.
So I didn’t like everything about the conference and it certainly demonstrated how CrossFit has gotten way ahead of the NSCA and other industry “experts” but I did get some very valuable information to take back to our little box on Dunbar Street. Balance training, barefoot training, hypertrophy & tension loading for resiliency are all useful applicable concepts to incorporate in our training. And they are not all things that are necessarily covered by CrossFit so it does pay to every now and then get outside the box:)
All the same, happy to be home!