A Reaction to “Dirty Little Secrets of the Single Leg Training Craze”

Posted in Injuries, Low Back Pain, MBSC News, Random Thoughts, Training, Training Females with tags , , , on March 7, 2018 by mboyle1959

If you haven’t read this article, Dirty Secrets of the Single Leg Training Craze, don’t bother to continue. I can promise that the things I’m about to say won’t make much sense.

First off, let’s try to set the parameters of the discussion. No real strength coach, me included, is telling anyone to do only single leg exercises all the time. Therefore the premise of the entire article changes. There really are no “dirty secrets”.

What I have said and written is that for higher level athletes, we have found unilateral knee dominant movements to be not only safer but more effective. We continue to do bilateral power exercises ( Olympic lifts and variations) as well as both unilateral and bilateral plyometrics. In addition, with healthy athletes we continue to use Trap Bar or Hex Bar Deadlifts.

So the reality is that there really is no single leg craze, only a steady progression of good empirical thought reinforced by what we now understand about functional anatomy.

No Agenda

With that clarified, lets dig into the article a bit. Carl declares himself to be a man without an agenda yet the article reeks of agenda. Nothing generates Likes and views like telling a bunch of people what they want to hear. The man who thinks he is right loves affirmation.

In fact, opinionated pieces that profess to be not opinionated are perfect for the “see I was right all along crowd”.  Readers think “this guy (who has declared that he doesn’t have an opinion) agrees with my opinion”.

The good part about Carl’s article is that it won’t change the minds of those of us who really understand the issue and see through the smoke, mirrors, topic changes and deliberate confusion. What an article like this will do is reaffirm for the dinosaurs that they have a few more years until extinction.

Much like a 3 Card Monte wizard, Carl plays quickly, mixing facts and opinions and never clearly distinguishing when switching to one from another. He seems to express opinions as facts with no mention of opinion.

The Gloves are Off

Lets try to deal with some of the “unbiased” statements, one at a time.

Carl begins with the dichotomy of “the gloves being off” as he prepares to offer “ a fair and balanced overview”. This is paragraphs one and two. Either the gloves are off ( fight analogy) or, the article is going to be fair and balanced? Can you take the gloves off and write a fair and balanced article?

Clearly, at least from my perspective the article is neither fair, nor balanced?

The next five to six paragraphs discuss agendas, smoke screens and product sales? Very fair and balanced. As you follow the first few agenda-less, unbiased, paragraphs, you are given the impression that people like me gave up on bilateral squats because we have an agenda. We hide behind smoke screens in order to sell products?

My Agenda?

My only agenda is attempting to help teams win and to have healthy athletes. In the interest of full disclosure, I sell information products but, trust me, they do not represent a majority of my income. Also, I do not sell equipment. I do work for an equipment company ( I’m a speaker for Perform Better) but, I have not ever been involved in equipment sales as a profession.

Hands-on session at the Perform Better Summit in Munich

Game Changer

Carl goes on to say  “so far nothing has surfaced in any training facility that screams that moving toward split squatting is a game changer.” I would beg to differ? It is a game changer in my facility. Back pain has nearly disappeared, vertical jumps have climbed, and most importantly championships have been won at the collegiate, professional and Olympic level.

Ask Devan McConnell at UMass Lowell if he thinks single leg work has been a game changer. Ask Cameron Josse at DeFranco’s. In fact, ask any coach who has really committed to single work if it has been a game changer.

Gurus and Outcomes

Carl goes on to state that “most proponents of single leg training are the functional training gurus who use the visual appearance of exercises as their hallmarks to success rather than the outcomes of entire training systems”. As the author of New Functional Training for Sports, I might think that this is an un-opinionated and unbiased reference to me?

If in fact it is, I can again say that we are not relying on the visual appearances of the exercises but instead on the results of the exercises, both in what they are doing and, what they are not doing. Teams are winning and athletes are healthy. That is not appearance. We don’t appear to be healthy and, we don’t appear to be winning. We are healthy and we are winning. I have the stats to establish both.

Overused and Oversimplified

Next Carl states that  “saying that “because we run one foot at a time” is the most overused and oversimplified argument as to why an exercise is a superior or better option.”. Sorry, overused, maybe yes, oversimplified, yes, entirely accurate , yes. This is the science of functional anatomy? The musculature behaves differently in unilateral stance. The entire patterns are different. This is akin to telling the track coach, that bounding and hopping are overused and oversimplified?  Why not just do lots of double leg jumps and then go do the event?

A Path to Overuse

The next opinion is “doesn’t adding more exercises that load one leg cut a path to overuse syndromes and pattern overload the same gurus warn us about?” The answer to that would be yes if the gurus were saying that unilateral exercises decreased loading on the hips or knees? However, those I know that espouse unilateral training do so to avoid back issues? So, the agendas and smoke screens seem to emanate from the author vs the subjects?

Bilateral Deficit

Carl then moves into some really confusing talk about bilateral deficit. The reality is that the bilateral deficit exists and, that it explains what we see in unilateral exercises. We can use heavier loads because the body is neurologically wired to work unilaterally, not bilaterally.

I’ve already written about Bilateral Deficit here.  Unilateral Training and the Bilateral Deficit


Back Squat and Split Squats

In this section Carl goes on again to restate that switching to unilateral knee dominant training has not proven to be effective. Valle states ( for the second time) “so far nothing has surfaced in any training facility that screams that moving toward split squatting is a game changer. I’ve previously cited the study on academy rugby athletes that compared squats to split squats where the data showed similar results, not dramatically different results.”

Again Carl ignores those of us that have seen split squatting as a game changer. But, most importantly, Carl ignores the reason that we switched. The motivation to move toward unilateral knee dominant work was not the performance benefit as much as the injury prevention benefits.

The rugby study cited actually supports my/ our position as the study showed that unilateral training and bilateral training had equal benefit.

Injury Risk

What Carl neglects to mention are quotes like this from none other than Frans Bosch ( a big unilateral proponent) .

Bosch states’ “ not only is the value of deep squats questionable, but so is the claim that double leg squats are particularly suitable for improving strength in the legs. Strength in the back muscles may be the limiting factor, rather than strength in the legs, and so double leg squats may in fact be a maximal strength exercise for the back muscles”

This is very much in line with my “transducer” argument. I stated a few years ago that the back was a bad transducer.  The back is not an effective vehicle to get force from two legs to a bar held on the back. That is just reality. The back becomes the limiting factor in squatting. That is not opinion, that is fact. You can watch 100’s of failed squats and you will rarely see the legs give out while the torso remains solid and erect. I have competed in powerlifting and have watched literally thousands ( probably millions) of squats and failure occurs the vast majority of the time via a rapid lumbar flexion.


This article seems to be a deliberate attempt to pander to the bilateral audience? All I could think of as I read this was the Henry Ford quote “ if I had listened to everyone else I would have invented a faster horse”.


Complete Core Questions

Posted in Core training, Low Back Pain, MBSC News, Training with tags , , on November 16, 2017 by mboyle1959

I’ve been getting some great questions from viewers of Complete Core and, figured the best way to answer was via a blog post.

1. Recently I was in a seminar by a good physiotherapist. She told us that we can’t make the little core muscles stronger (i.e. multifidus) like the big ones (i.e. rectus abdominis, oblique). But we can make them more skillfull, so they could know when to swicth on and off. That is what she called stability. And she said it is a great way to use unstabile surfaces like big balls. For example lie on a big ball with the stomach and raise the left leg and right arm. In the “What is the core” video you seemed to don’t like the use of balls. What is your opinion on this?
A- We don’t use the stability ball much any more. I think we can do the same quadruped type exercises without the ball and, the effect will be far more “real world”. I think if you look at the quadruped section you can see that core stability ( in my opinion) is being able to move the hips or shoulders without the spine compensating. I’m not sure if the addition of the stability ball helps.
2. I think I have a good book for you. When you mentioned swimming under the pool I thought you might want to read this.
Patrick McKeown – The Oxygen Advantage
This is a revolutionary book about nose breathing and CO2 tolerance. I use this on myself and clients and have big results. Better recovery (short and long term), health and mental fitness. I think you can use this with your athletes too.
A- I’ll check it out. I think we are going to see much more interest in how we breath over the next few years. That is why I spent so much time on it. I was completely wrong about breathing and readily admit it.
3. I know that sit-ups and crunches are bad for the spine, but I didn’t know that leg raises were bad. Are leg raises, L-sit holds and hollow body holds bad for our spine or do they just not help build a better core?
 So my question is am I hurting my people with these exercises or do these exercises not help them to achieve  better core mechanics?
A- I’ll answer 3 and 4 together below as they are related. 
4. Also I think you mentioned (57:50 in the video) that we would never do hanging leg raises in a functional way. But when you climb a rope while using your legs, I think you do the a hanging leg raise. You have a high grip, then you raise your legs as high as possible, hook the rope with your legs, you “squat up” with your legs and then re-grip again higher. Also it is true that when you rope a climb like this you don’t raise your extended legs just your flexed legs.
A- I am not a fan of leg raises. As I mentioned in the video I’m not a fan of long lever hip flexion. With the exception of punters in American football, divers and gymnasts, very few people will use long lever hip flexion. I have also found that those with longer legs can get back pain from hip flexor oriented leg work. I think if your athletes climb ropes, they might need that function?
5. I would like to ask if some of the exercises I have used before are healthy or not in your opinion:
Is the Twist holds rotation of the thoracic or the lumbar spine?:

A- Absolutely lumbar. I would never do this under any circumstances. Ask yourself, why you do it?
Same question as above about the Windshield wipers?

A- Another exercise I would put in “silly, waste of time category”. Again, ask yourself “why would I do that “? 
Kettlebell windmills (if the the flexion happens in the hips and not in the lateral flexion of the spine)?

A- I like Steve but, would never do these either. I like them even less with the slam. I guess my question in every case is ” why are you doing this” and ” what do you expect to accomplish”. I think as you view the examples in the program you’ll see that we really cover why, what and how.
Check out Complete Core and see what you think?

The Best Foam Roller Yet?

Posted in Uncategorized on July 11, 2017 by mboyle1959

We all know that foam rolling is big. Big enough to even get the internet experts to start writing stupid articles about foam rolling being bad for you. ( just an aside, how can something that feels so good be bad for you?)

So, the guys at Rollga have reinvented the foam roller. I know, I didn’t believe it either. They grabbed me at the Perform Better Summit in Providence with the old “do you have 30 seconds” pitch.

Thankfully, I was smart enough to stop. At the end of much longer than thirty seconds I was both happy and sad. Happy because I had found a new product that worked better than the old one. Sad that I had to spend about five hundred dollars to replace all my rollers.

Here’s the difference. With the Rollga your bones drop into the grooves in the roller. This allows the muscle to be accessed in a far greater way. The Rollga is better for hips, shoulders, upper back, really everywhere.

PS- I don’t work for Rollga. I just like to tell my friends about good stuff.


Great Article on Vitamin D

Posted in Uncategorized on June 1, 2017 by mboyle1959

This is a great article from Dr Joseph Mercola on Vitamin D.

I know many readers here consider Mercola to be a quack and a pseudo-scientist but I personally enjoy his info.

The Greatest Public Health Risk

When To Quit Your Job

Posted in Uncategorized on May 18, 2017 by mboyle1959

This is great advice from lifestyle entrepreneur Ryan Lee that can really apply to trainers. So many people dream of quitting and going out on there own. If you are thinking about it, read this:

When To Quit Your Job

If you are looking for conversation every day on strength and conditioning and personal training, check out StrengthCoach.com . I’m on every day answering questions.

Bred to Be a Superstar?

Posted in Uncategorized on May 17, 2017 by mboyle1959

This is a tough topic to cover and, I’m sure both Todd Marinovich and his father may not appreciate my using them as the “what not to do” example but the articles below serve as stark reminders of what could happen when disrupting the normal child development process.

The following is from a 1988 Sports Illustrated article on then high school phenom Todd Marinovich:

“Marinovich wasAmerica’s first test-tube athlete. He has never eaten a Big Mac or an Oreo or a Ding Dong. When he went to birthday parties as a kid, he would take his own cake and ice cream to avoid sugar and refined white flour. He would eat homemade catsup, prepared with honey. He did consume beef but not the kind injected with hormones. He ate only unprocessed dairy products. He teethed on frozen kidney. When Todd was one month old, Marv was already working on his son’s physical conditioning. He stretched his hamstrings. Pushups were next. Marv invented a game in which Todd would try to lift a medicine ball onto a kitchen counter. Marv also put him on a balance beam. Both activites grew easier when Todd learned to walk. There was a football in Todd’s crib from day one. “Not a real NFL ball,” says Marv. “That would be sick; it was a stuffed ball.”

This is the sad epilogue to the story:  Todd Marinovich went on to play quarterback for both USC and the Oakland Raiders so if you are not familiar with the story, there appears to be a happy ending. However, read on to another SI story over 40 forty years later.

” Former USC and Los Angeles Raiders quarterback Todd Marinovich is facing new drug charges after he allegedly was seen trying to enter a stranger’s home naked.

Prosecutors filed misdemeanor charges Tuesday accusing the 47-year-old Irvine resident of trespassing, public nudity and possessing methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. He could face up to three years in jail if convicted.

Authorities say a naked Marinovich tried to open the sliding glass door of an Irvine home in August. He allegedly left a bag containing meth, marijuana, drug gear, his wallet and driver’s license on a nearby hiking trail.

The former USC and Raiders quarterback has struggled with drug problems that drove him from the NFL and resulted in several arrests. “

Child development is a process and, one that can not and should not be rushed or tampered with. It’s OK to let kids be kids. Remember, the prize may not be worth the price.

Youth Performance Training

Posted in Uncategorized on May 13, 2017 by mboyle1959

I get a lot of great questions from the readers of  New Functional Training for Sports. I got a bunch about youth performance training and thought I’d combine a few into one blog post.

Q-  I would really like your professional opinion on “youth”performance training. Two years ago, my son (age 8) attended a football camp where professional trainers gave a presentation about year around position specific training and sports performance training. They said something that stuck with me, explaining that  “research shows that a kid learns how to run fast by age 9.” Essentially saying that you need to train to obtain the optimal performance of the athlete by age 9.

A- This is a bit of a complicated answer.  One, I have trouble with “professional trainers” addressing 8 year old?

Also, I’d like to see the “research”.  I know in some Long Term Athletic Development plans they discuss “windows of opportunity” and one is early. However kids can learn to be fast without professional coaching. Yes, they need to move and move fast but, that could be flying down the base path in kickball, not an organized speed session. Relay races will do just fine at 8. If you really believe in the Long Term Athletic Development idea, there is also a later window. However, I’m not sure I even buy that. We’ve seen tremendous speed increases in collegiate athletes although, I will tell you that you can’t make a slow kid fast at that stage. In the bigger picture, slow twitch kids may be slow twitch kids and might never excel at team sports.

Q- Many of todays trainers (as mentioned above) use some parts of this as their selling points:

 “Human muscles innervation is completed around 6-7 years of age (Grasso 2005). This implies that the brain has formed its neural connections to the muscular system and that optimization of these connections can begin. This makes it more possible to perform coordinated activities. By 10-12 years of age, reflexive motor patterns are conditioned and relatively permanent (Grasso 2005). These finding suggest that introducing proper motor skills between the age of muscle innervation and the age of permanent motor pattern formation may be advantageous (Drabik 1996)”

A- Drabik’s book is great but, again we need to interpret what “proper motor skills” are. I keep coming back to the idea that 5-10 year olds need to play. However, play that involves running fast, jumping, swinging etc. can be seen as good play. Video games might fall in the bad play category. The statement above should not be a justification for as I like to say “being in the childhood stealing business”.

Q-A couple weeks ago I was at a track meet. It was hard not to take notice of a kid that you can tell put in some serious work in the off-season. . This kid (age 8) was not running like this last year.

A- If we have a kid putting in “serious work” in the off season for track at 8 we have a “serious” problem. Kids should be playing with friends and riding their bikes, not putting in “serious work” on the track. I always like to say that for every one of these kids that succeed there are a 1000 kids who hate their parents.

Q- My son’s track coach told me that my son does not have fast/quick turnover when running (something that can be achieved with performance training).  The old school in me, just wants to naturally try to use downhill running methods to gradually speed up that turnover at this young age. My goal is not to have a young superstar that fizzles out or plateaus early but rather keep my young kids athletic and hopefully they peak older (in High School) when it really counts. I just want to make sure that I am not hindering my son’s future performance by not addressing certain things now through performance training that could wait until is body gets more developed. I wanted to ask the opinion of experts in the field that were impartial.

What is your opinion on performance training at young ages (kids aged 5-10)?

–       Risks vs Benefit?

–       Is there a certain age threshold that you recommend?

–       What is too young?

A- The risks ( primarily psychological) far outweigh the benefits. My major concern is the perversion of the parent – child relationship. Parents are coaches because they have to be in volunteer situations. When the parent shifts to coach role, resentment builds. Google Todd Marinovich and see how that one turned out.

Athletic development is a process. Every kid is different but, it’s not about physical readiness. as much as it’s about psychological readiness. Some kids are pleasers and want to be around a parent. My daughter ( full college scholarship at 15) was that way. She has always been at the facility and loved the environment. She wanted to be like the older girls she looked up to. My son was different.  Initially ( at 11) he expressed a desire to start training but, quickly got bored with it. It became a source of friction and our relationship was suffering. I was upset that he wasn’t living up to his commitments, wasn’t taking it seriously etc. I had to step back and say ” lets try again next year, our relationship is too important”. That has worked out really as he has done a better job this year at 12.

Personally, I think 11 is a good age to start introducing kids to the weight room. Up to 11 I think kids should be playing sports. Lots of sports. Ideally at least three as well as learning to swim, ride a bike and paddle a canoe. ( Summer Training for Nine Year Olds)

Q- Can my son achieve the same long-term performance results if he started performance training older (age 12yr/13yrs or older) rather than if he started now at age 8?

A- To be truthful, I can’t answer definitively. I believe yes. What I can tell you is that I strongly believe that a child who goes through a normal childhood has a much higher chance of being a well adjusted adult. The Chinese are doing well in certain sports ( mostly those that favor smaller athletes) like gymnastics and diving through early specialization and extensive practice but, I’m not sure it is good child development.

Q- Am I missing out on a future performance window (when he gets older) by not maximizing on his reflexive motor patters by age 10?

A- Again to be truthful, I’m not sure. However, I keep going back to the child development piece which as a parent should override any performance thoughts. Your mission as a parent should be to encourage your child to develop in a well rounded person, not to produce a track or football star. Sport is way to teach great lessons but, not in this case.