Archive for November, 2008

What The Heck is a Thoracic Spine?

Posted in Uncategorized on November 30, 2008 by mboyle1959

The thoracic spine is not a dinosaur fossil. It has nothing to do with Jurassic Park. However the thoracic spine is an area that strength coaches will hear more and more about in the next few years. Last year I dubbed the thoracic spine the no-mans land of the spine, a neglected section of twelve vertebrae stuck between the much more talked about lumbar spine and the forever-painful cervical spine. The thoracic spine is poor Plain Jane stuck sitting between two high-maintenance supermodels. No one sees her, or pays attention to her.

By definition, the thoracic spine is the twelve vertebrae that connect with the rib cage and is located between the lumbar spine and the cervical spine. Because we rarely get thoracic pain we tend to overlook this critical area. Neck and low back pain are rampant so the thoracic spine is often completely overlooked. Unfortunately a big key to avoiding both lower back pain and neck pain may lie in the mobility of the forgotten thoracic spine. In the simplest terms, the body does what is easy, not what is best. As we age the thoracic spine stiffens. As a result we tend to turn the head at the neck ( cervical spine) or rotate at the lower back ( lumbar spine). A mobile thoracic spine can help to avoid or relieve both low back and neck pain by allowing rotation in this key area.

For years we have been warming up the wrong area with the wrong exercises. Lots of “experts” recommended exercises like hip crossovers and scorpions to “warm-up” the low back. A few years ago I wrote an article called Is Rotation Training Hurting Your Performance. The article questioned a number of exercises commonly recommended as “warm-ups”. . In the article I recommended that athletes avoid most exercises that rotate the lumbar spine and instead focus on developing motion at the hips and thoracic spine. The truth is that good motion comes from turning the hips and the shoulders not from rotating the lumbar spine. The way to get good hip motion and good upper body motion is to focus on the hips and thoracic spine, not the low back.

Mobility at the thoracic spine is actually simpler to develop than you think. It doesn’t even involve rotation. The concept illustrated was shown to me by Sue Falsone of Athletes’ Performance in Tempe AZ. Check out the video below. What you are going to do to mobilize the thoracic spine is to perform a series of simple crunch-type exercises while lying on two tennis balls taped together. Place the tennis balls under your back with one ball on either side of the spine. Begin at just above bellybutton level. With the balls in position do five crunches. You should feel the balls pushing into your spinal erectors (the big muscles on either side of the spine). The balls are actually pushing the vertebrae slightly forward, in effect creating motion ( mobility) at the level of that segment. A series of these crunches can be done all the way to the top of the shoulder blades. The end result is often a large increase in shoulder turn. Another possibility is to foam roll the thoracic spine. Make sure the elbows are together as demonstrated to separate the shoulder blades and get pressure on the thoracic spine,

If you are bothered by low back pain, neck pain or want more shoulder turn try the exercises illustrated. Just remember, it’s not always where it hurts that needs the attention. Often times it’s the joint above or below.


The Truth Hurts

Posted in Uncategorized on November 28, 2008 by mboyle1959

Lets face a few facts. Most of what the “fitness’ experts have been telling us for the last twenty years is wrong. What’s the song title? Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word . The baby boomers reading this might recall the Fonz on Happy Days and his complete inability to say the word “wrong”. Ok, I’ll start.

Training with machines. Sorry, we were wrong.
Took up jogging and got injured. Oops, sorry. Wrong again
Hurt your back at Yoga. Sorry again.
Gained weight on your high-carb low-fat diet. Oops.

The truth hurts but, here it comes.

The best training is most often done standing and does not include any type of machine.
Aerobic exercise tends to cause a lot of orthopedic problems and is not the best way to lose weight or to get in shape.
Yoga just might not be good for everyone.
High-carb low-fat was a total disaster.

There, I said it. Sorry. More advice?

Beware of fads. They will come and go. I started lifting 37 years ago with a York 110 lb set. I survived Nautilus and HIT. I remember that eggs were good for you and then bad for you and are now good again. However, last week I read another study that linked eggs to diabetes. I eat eggs, yolks and all.

All I can say is the more things change the more they stay the same. Get a bar and some dumbbells and do simple stuff. After your done, eat some food.


Posted in Uncategorized on November 26, 2008 by mboyle1959

Just want to take a moment and give thanks to everyone for a great year.
I’m thankful to have a loving wife and two wonderful healthy kids.
I’m thankful to have a great business with a great staff.
I’m thankful to all of you who support me by reading what I write and watching the educational products I produce.
I’m also thankful to all of the people in my little circle who have helped and continue to help me make an impact on the field. This includes all the loyal men and women who read every day.
Special thanks to Anthony, Adrienne, Aaron, Bobby, and Chris. I’d be lost without you guys.

This Week on

Posted in Uncategorized on November 24, 2008 by mboyle1959

This week on we have three new articles by three excellent writers. With Thanksgiving week coming up we’ll try to get them out M-T-W.

Training the Masters Athletes – Bruce Kelly

Bruce looks at some of the unique things about training the older athlete ( I hate to say it takes one to know one)

Systems Approach to Training – Nick Tumminello

Nick gives his own spin on program design. I really enjoy reading Nick’s stuff. He is a practical coach who always has a well thought out approach. Nick recently did a two hour seminar for my staff at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning and was as good live as he is on paper.

Olympic Lifting- Robb Rogers

This is the type of article that we need to reread every once in a while. Just a good back to basics piece.

Hope you enjoy another great week on the site.


The Paradoxical Commandments

Posted in Uncategorized on November 22, 2008 by mboyle1959

Sorry to go all “philosophical” on you but, I think this is important. In a recent post related to youth sports and early specialization ( this time the specific topic was youth winter indoor football) one of my readers and frequent contributors Michelle Hart-Miller, a wonderful person and excellent coach, sounded almost despondent in her response .

“In this society I’m beginning to question making any effort at all.”

My response was to post The Paradoxical Commandments, a series of wonderful inspirational thoughts that have found there way around the world. On some of my worst days dealing with any problem I try to remember the concept of “Anyway”. The Paradoxical Commandments were written in 1968 by Kent Keith and are contained in a book called AnyWay

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

I truly believe this is what keeps me coaching. One small victory can offset numerous losses.

Random Nutritional Thoughts

Posted in Uncategorized on November 21, 2008 by mboyle1959

Although I posted this today at, I thought I would share my thoughts with those of you who read the blog but, not the site.

Corn is grain not a vegetable. It is also a grain that is 80% sugar. High fructose corn syrup ( a corn by-product) is the number one calorie source in the US and is in just about everything.

Atkins worked. We just didn’t understand why. Atkins may still prove to be healthier than the high-carb low-fat junk. RD’s have really dug in their heels ( generally high heels) about this in spite of overwhelming science to the contrary.

Barry Sears was way ahead of his time. He even kept saying “protein adequate” to avoid the Atkins comparison but conventional wisdom shouted him down. Read The Zone.

Ectomorphs should never give nutritional advice to endomorphs. If your nutritionist is a skinny little runner ask to see some pictures of them when they were fat. If they don’t have any, don’t believe them.

Never take nutritional advice from someone who runs more than 5 miles a week.

I read the other day that cereal can be a part of a good breakfast. The author then mentioned that in order for cereal to be part of a good breakfast the other parts had to be extremely good.

High-carb low-fat is not a diet plan. It is a prescription for giving Adult Onset Diabetes to children.

Both high fructose corn syrup and trans fats are very scary. Take some time to read about both. It will change the way you eat. Dr. Mercola’s book has some good stuff on both. is a great website

Food additives are scary. Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 3, Red 40, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, and Orange B have strong links to ADD. Check out the Feingold Foundation. Did you know that a lot of these additives are petroleum based? Yes, I said petroleum.

According to author KC Craichy of Super Health – 7 Golden Keys to Unlock Lifelong Vitality grass fed beef has a very favorable fatty acid profile compared to grain fed beef and in fact is ideal for human health. It costs more but, it’s worth it.

I heard an egg ad the other day in which they said their chickens were fed a 100% vegetarian diet. I thought about chickens as carnivores. Bottom line, eggs are really good food, yolk and all.

The South Beach Diet is a really good book with a really bad name.

Buy a Brita water pitcher. It will save you tons of money. While you are at it get some aluminum water bottles and fill them yourself.

Bottom line, we need to really think about nutrition, for ourselves and for our kids. There is a lot of scary stuff out there. I heard someone say the other day that if a company has to tell you a food is good for you that means it probably isn’t.

MBSC Winter Seminar

Posted in Seminars on November 19, 2008 by mboyle1959

Saturday Feb 14th from 12-5

Don’t miss the chance to see and hear what some of the best in the business are working on.

Training and Rehabilitation Strategies for the Pelvis and Hip: John Pallof RPT
John’s presentation will focus on the training and rehabilitation of athletes with hip and groin injuries with particular emphasis on the sports hernia issue.

Off-Season Baseball Training: From Assessment to Opening Day: Eric Cressey
Eric will demonstrate how to take a baseball player from the initial evaluation to the start of spring training.

Training Considerations for Basketball: Brijesh Patel
Basketball players are different than other athletes and these differences need to be reflected within their physical training. Learn what considerations need to be made for training basketball players as well as modes and progressions that can be implemented right away.

– Concussions and Sports: Chris Nowinski
Chris will give an in-depth overview of the sports concussion crisis. It will include his personal story about being forced to retire from World Wrestling Entertainment due to post-concussion syndrome and the information that inspired him to write Head Games: Football’s Concussion Crisis. He will cover the latest research coming out of Boston University’s new Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, including post-mortem examinations of athletes’ brains. Finally, he will provide practical information and tools to help professional in any line of work with concussed athletes serve their clients better.

– Practical Strategies for Preventing Low Back Pains: Mike Robertson
In this presentation Mike will discuss: Typical causes of everyday low back pain; The role of the pelvis, surrounding musculature and force couples; Training Interventions (core training, flexibility/mobility, etc.); Behavior Modification

– Training for Ice Hockey: Michael Boyle
Michael’s presentation will focus on the concepts that have made him a world leader in the training of ice hockey players, both male and female. The presentation will move from the basics for young players to training the NHL player.

The Seminar begins at 12 on February 14. MBSC will open at 8am and registered participants are welcome to observe the group-based training.

Our lead sponsor, Perform Better, will have 2 tables on-site filled with the best equipment and instructional products. In addition, Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning is equipped exclusively by Perform Better so you can also get some hands on experience with Keiser, Pro Star, York and UCS equipment.

To register click below

Early participants, purchase here – $99 for the first 100 participants

Traumatic Injury Versus OverUse Injury

Posted in Injuries on November 18, 2008 by mboyle1959

There are two types of injuries, trauma and overuse. Our sports medical model is based in the trauma model. The trauma model works great if you sustained a sports injury from a collision etc.. It doesn’t work so well for gradual onset injuries like tendonitis.

The real problem is if the mechanisms have nothing in common, chances are the treatments are not going to be similar either. Trauma treatment revolves around the RICE concept. ( rest, ice, compression, elevation) or possibly surgery. Unfortunately we frequently apply the trauma model to overuse problems. The overuse model involves much more. If your problem took time to develop, it will probably not be solved with a conventional RICE approach. Unfortunately, this leaves a lot of frustrated people out there.

The thought process is simple, if you didn’t get hit by someone else or hit an immoveable object then the “trauma model” probably won’t heal you.

If you developed an overuse injury over time, an “itis”, the old RICE formula will only help you to keep the wolf from the door. What you really need is an exercise program that will help to correct the causes of the problem. We have a great article at called The Essential Eight- Eight Mobility Drills Everyone Should Do, the article contains another link to A Joint by Joint Approach to Training that will help you understand this thought process better. Once you understand the process better take a look at the Corrective Exercise Specialist post and see if someone is in your area.

If you are injured and not getting better ask yourself first “How did I get injured in the first place”.

This Week on

Posted in Updates on November 17, 2008 by mboyle1959

The last two weeks have been huge weeks for content on the site. Anthony Renna from has posted too many audio interviews to list. If you like stuff for your IPOD, check out the latest interviews but, make sure you backtrack and read the articles first.

In addition, we did our first “theme week” and featured three excellent articles about differing soft tissue techniques. Coming up this week is “random thoughts” week. In a strange coincidence, I received two articles, one from Jon Messner and one from Justin Levine, both similar and both with the working title “Random Thoughts”. I liked them both and added some of my own random thoughts in the area of nutrition. You can look forward to three more great articles this week, all just “random thoughts” on coaching and training.

In addition we have Episode 24 of the podcast. This week we have Coach Todd Hamer from Robert Morris University as our guest.

Last but certainly not least for those of you interested in income opportunites, Anthony Renna of Strengthcoach Podcast fame is launching . The first webinar will be “Making Money with and Perform Better Using the Affiliate Programs”. This will be an excellent opportunity to learn about an easy way to increase your income while promoting great products. Look for lots more educational offerings from .

Hope you enjoy another great week on the site.


Corrective Exercise Specialists

Posted in Training on November 14, 2008 by mboyle1959

Laree Draper, member and wife of bodybuilding legend Dave Draper, has put together an excellent and fairly comprehensive list of “corrective exercise specialists”. Interestingly enough, the list is littered with writers and members. I’m really proud that our community is being recognized across the country and, around the world. You can view the list at