Episode 32 – Stability or Balance?

The strong savvy cyclist & triathlete podcast


Menachem Brodie:

Hi everyone. And welcome to this episode of the Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete Podcast. My name is Menachem Brodie, and I am your host. Today, we are going to talk about balance versus stability. And do you need all of these crazy BOSU balls, stability ball, crazy crunch things going on? The answer is no. And we’re going to get into why.

But before we get into today’s podcast, a few housekeeping items are in order. They’re actually really short this week. So bear with me for about a minute and a half, 90 seconds as we blow through them. Number one, if you have not yet signed up for the Human Vortex Training newsletter, you should do so now. We’re putting out all new content, and we are looking for suggestions of what you would like to learn. So there are some anchor posts that we’re going to have in the newsletter that only go out to the newsletter at specific and critical times throughout the northern hemisphere’s cycling and triathlon season. However, there are lots of different places that I want to put in information that you are specifically looking for. So send me over your questions and things you’d like to learn more on, including what we’re covering here today. Because this was a listener request. Actually, we had about seven listening requests at the end of 2019 saying, “Can you please give us a podcast as a breakdown as to balance versus stability?” So here we are. That’s housekeeping item number one.

Number two, the strength training for cyclist certification is going to open very shortly. We’re going to open it for between five and seven days. We still haven’t decided yet because we’re not really sure how many people are going to bust down the doors. Now we ran a special back for the eighth night of Hanukkah at the end of 2019. Those spots were gone in 37 and a half hours. So the seats we are opening here for the strength training for cycling certification are going to go fast. And this course is not going to open again until the fall of 2020. So if you’re at all interested in taking up your level of strength training for cycling, make sure you’re getting in on that. There are going to be CEUs for USA cycling, USA triathlon, and the NSCA. As well as NASM and AFAA. So when you complete this course, it does count towards CEUs. They are currently in review as it is the beginning of 2020. Those offices were closed for a number of days, and they’re probably backed up with lots of membership requests and re-certification. So we’ll find out here in the next couple of weeks how many CEU’s exactly, but we’re expecting a good amount for these.

Number three and last on our housekeeping item is as we go through this winter, we’re moving towards the end of June. And the end of June of 2020, I am presenting a workshop at the Science & Cycling Conference. So you will come and learn from me in-person strength training assessments that you are able to do and how to build programming to help your athletes able to do better. But it’s not just me. You are going to get a number of other presenters, including Sebastian Weber, whom we’ve had here on the podcast in the past, and a number of other workshops that will be done that you’ll be able to attend. The workshops are extra. They’re one day between four and eight hours. Mine will be a full day, including a luncheon. And you will get the full attention because it’s only 15 to 20 people can sign up. So if you’re interested, head over to the science-cycling.com website. The link will be down below because I think I got that website wrong, but it’s the Science & Cycling, and you need to sign up for the workshop. Early bird gets a discount.

All right, that was longer than 90 seconds. Let’s get into balance versus stability. This is a huge topic that so many people butcher and mess up. Including myself. Back when I started, I was one of those people. I bought an INDO BOARD when I first opened the Human Vortex training studio at big bang bicycles back in 2007. And I had a number of people get onto the BOSU board and try and do stuff. And then I realized wow, cyclists and triathletes don’t have any balance. This is dangerous. I’m going to get sued because somebody is going to get hurt. So I took the INDO BOARD home out of the studio so people would stop asking for it instead of put them on a [inaudible 00:04:16] cushion. And then I realized wow, they’re still really unstable and not able to balance. Let’s go to single foot stuff.

So we started doing statue of liberties, single leg dead lifts, and they failed miserably. So we went backwards and went to you got it, hip lifts. We got it to standing on one foot, and then standing on one foot eyes closed. And that was a failure as well. So we went to what I called the four star touches, where we have you balance on one foot, reach the foot behind you, tap the ground directly behind you. Tap the ground behind you at a 45 degree angle, tap the ground to your right. If you’re balancing on the left, so directly to your side, tap your foot in front of you, and continue that for a number of rounds until you start to lose your balance/ That’s balance training.

So what exactly is the difference between balance and stability, and why do so many cyclists and triathletes frankly suck at it? Well, there is a big, big difference between balance and stability. And those of you have taken the strength training for cycling certification or any of the TrainingPeaks University courses know that I am not a fan of using unstable surfaces or labile surfaces for athletes until way down the road, because there’s so many things that we can do. And it’s not just me saying this. If you’re a basketball player listening to this because you follow me or work with me, if you go over to PJF Performance, he posted a podcast back in 2019 in the fall or winter, I think it was the winter where they talk about you don’t need all this fancy crap frankly, to be able to train your stability. Really, you want stability, you not balance.

Balance, and here’s the difference between balance and stability. Balance is putting a pyramid upside down on its tip and having it attain an equilibrium. What’s the problem with balance? Well, you need a relatively small force like I don’t know, a three second old baby just reaching out and accidentally brushing it, to knock it out of balance and for it to fall and collapse. No more. But stability, stability is when we have the pyramid right side up where it has a wide base at the bottom and a small tip at the top, which high forces can be applied to it, but it doesn’t change its position. This is a quality that we want in our athletes.

So balance training on one leg is not going to be as beneficial as stability training at the beginning. It’s cool. It looks nice. We include it for sure. A little bit in our dynamic warmup. But it’s not, again, it is not a focus of the training program. Getting you to be able to balance by using strategies that are poor because your core control is poor and your core strength, listen to the last podcast before this one to learn about what core training really should be. You are not going to develop good strategies for bouncing. Your body’s just going to figure it out on its own and not leave you developing as an athlete. Instead, you’re going to be developing as somebody who is where you are trying to figure stuff out.

Imagine trying to get a cooked piece of spaghetti to be stable versus taking an uncooked piece of spaghetti and getting it to be stable. It’s a little bit more challenging, but you can probably do it. Or actually, let’s take 30 pieces of cooked spaghetti held together by a rubber band versus 30 pieces of uncooked spaghetti held together by a rubber band. Which one is more stable? Definitely the uncooked, right? That’s what we’re looking for. And that’s how you are as an athlete if you don’t have proper core strength and training.

Now as a noun, if we were to look at balance, it means that stability is produced by the even distribution of weight on either side of an axis, a vertical axis, right? As a verb, it means as we already mentioned to be in equilibrium, a state of equilibrium between opposing forces. So stability however, is a quality, or a state or degree of being in a position that you’re able to endure or withstand outside forces. This is the property of something to be able to maintain its position or steady motion, to develop forces or moments that restore the original condition. That’s stable. So again, the property of the body or a body that causes it when it’s disturbed, or pushed, or shoved from a condition of equilibrium or steady motion to develop forces or moments that restore the original condition.

Can we all agree that that’s what we’re looking for as endurance athletes? It’s not balance. It’s not being able to stay in a state between opposing forces. It’s the ability that when we are disturbed, when we’re peddling down the road by a big gust of wind, when we are running down the road by going single leg, it’s our ability of our body to maintain an equilibrium to restore that original condition of being stable.

And I’m not making this up. This is actually plum out of page seven from Functional Training defined or Functional Training by JC Santana, Juan Carlos Santana. So Functional Training is the name of the book. If you are a coach or an athlete who would like to learn more about this, go ahead and pick up the book. It’s a fantastic book. I like it. I like him. I do train a number of MMA athletes. A lot of people don’t know that, but I train a number of athletes outside of cycling and triathlon. Mostly basketball players, but I have a Brazilian jujitsu, MMA, kickboxing, a couple other athletes that I work with. But all of the main principles are the same. What’s different are the forces, the vectors, and the types of accelerations and directions of those accelerations that the athlete needs to produce in their sport. As well as the skill.

And remember, if we go back a number of podcasts, I don’t even remember how long ago because it was over a year ago I think at this point that we actually have quite a few different definitions of strength. There’s speed strength, strength endurance, skill, skill endurance, skill strength, power. And I think there’s all these different types of things that we need to build in that star, those five pointed star in athletic abilities.

But when it comes to stability, it really is our goal in our training. So it’s designing a individual so that forces that act on you, you’re able to recover and restore the original condition and that of equilibrium. That’s what it comes down to. So as you’re running down the road, we want you to have great core control and coordination as we spoke about in episode one for 2020, which I believe is episode 32 overall. So if you haven’t listened to that yet, go after this one and take a listen. Because understanding what true core strength is, is pivotal in understanding how to build stability.

Now in practical terms, we’re looking at the ability of stability to control the unwanted motion. That’s what we’re looking at. It’s controlling unwanted motion. And this is where those strength training programs out there for cyclists and triathletes that tell you squat, and hamstring curl, and front plank, and side plank, and repeat. And maybe some pull-ups because you should be able to do three pull-ups are leading you astray. They’re leaving 85 to 90% of the strength gains and performance gains on the table because they’re just telling you it’s sports specific. It looks like what you do out on the road. Or, “Hey bro, sport specificity rules. You need planks and lots of them. So we’re going to give you planks. Five minutes of planks for everybody followed by body weight squats, because you’re a cyclist and you need them.”

Both of these approaches are wrong. If we go through and we just follow the common advice out there, which quote unquote is common sense. But as many people in the past have noted, common sense is neither common nor sensical. It’s just a generally accepted practices, which oftentimes are very wrong and can lead people astray because you’re not individualizing number one. Number two, you’re just following and doing the same exact thing that you spend literally thousands of repetitions per hour on your bike, or running, or swimming doing. You’re not actually improving the ability of your body to deal with these different forces, and to maintain good control.

And this is where a lot of triathletes and cyclists get into trouble and overuse injuries. You get into poor postures. I’ve had a number of athletes that I’ve worked with who don’t consider themselves athletes. They’re like, “Stop calling me an athlete. I’m just a cyclist. I ride my bike. I’m not an athlete. I’m not racing. I’m not doing any types of competitions.” Well, guess what? You are an athlete because you’re going out and doing stuff. And frankly, you’re coming to me because you can no longer reach into your back pocket and pull out food on the ride. You have to wait for a rest stop because you’ve lost range of motion at your shoulder to be able to feed yourself or to reach in your back pocket without cramping seriously and possibly wiping out the whole Peloton behind you. That is a big issue. So yes, you are an athlete. And you need to perform on the bike as well as off.

Now, there is nothing that you can do from an unstable balance position, like a one-leg balance, except for stand there and try and react to the forces that are acting on you and trying to push you over. However, when you are working from a stable position such as on the bike, where a gust of wind comes and you have great core control, you’re able to use your hips and your core to help steer that bike as opposed to flaring your arms out, losing great motor control over the bike, and being able to steer it. This is one of the many, many reasons why having a great bike fit is important if not integral for those who are not racing even more so than those who are racing.

Why? Because those who are racing are actually getting a rest and stress period. They’re thinking about it. It’s on their mind. They’re aware of it. And even if they’re breaking that rule, they are still following it. And they’re getting a good idea of, “Hey, I need to do something here to maintain balance.” And what is happening for those who are riders or cyclists and, “Hey Brodie, I’m not an athlete. Stop calling me,” is they are continually riding more, and more, and more, and more, and more, and more, and getting more, and more, and more, and more, and more into dysfunction. And they’re getting the thoracic curvature. They get off the bike and their number one complaint is, “My neck hurts.” Or they say, “You know what? I look in the mirror the other side and I look like a grandma, but I’m only 52. I don’t want to look hunched over like a grandma. Help me.” And when we get to that point, it’s a very uphill battle.

So what we’re going to talk about today is developing stability and leaving the balance training to be something that’s done way later in your athletic career. Now, again, that is not to say that we’re not going to include some of it. Statue of liberties, walking knee poles. Even if we look at some of the balancing stuff that we have to do as we set up for an exercise with a rear foot elevated, but supported split-squat, or as they’re called the Bulgarian split squat. Where that foot is up on a bench or slightly elevated off the floor on a 12 inch soft box. That is a balance exercise. But we’re using it in a little bit more of a stable position because you have that proprioception feedback and you’re able to push down into that soft plyo box.

So I give this to people when they can’t balance or stabilize themselves. And then they ask, “Hey, can I do single leg balancing on the wobble board?” No, no you cannot. You can’t even hold yourself up when your rear foot is touching something and you have a stable platform. Why would we put you on that? That’s a waste of our time. You’re going to develop poor movement strategies.

If we go back to the fundamental foundational core exercises, which we spoke about in the last podcast episode here number 32, our first of 2020. You’re going to be able to develop the ability to be stable, to produce core stiffness appropriately to allow for distal motion. Getting motion from your shoulder, getting motion from your hip. Not from your back, not from your spine, and not from separating your rib cage from your pelvis. And that creates this wringing. So you’re constantly twisting right to left.

Now as we get into stability, here are a number of things that we need to do in order to get better at stabilizing our body. Number one, great breathing patterns and great regular posture. These are the foundations for everything we’re going to do. Learning how to breathe, learning to get the rib cage to move as they should, like bucket handles up and down as you breathe in are absolutely foundational for everything we’re going to do. Why is that? Because our diaphragm with a good breath moves in chorus along with our pelvic floor. These two muscles working together act like a piston when we have good posture. So when our rib cage is stacked over our pelvis, and our chin is back, and we’re able to hold a nice posture unlike me talking to the microphone here where my chin is kind of out from my head because it’s hanging forward. The microphone is down a little bit here. If I tuck it back a little bit, I have good posture. I now can produce a solid what’s what’s considered a canister.

So instead of having a scissors as Dean Somerset calls it in. He was also on the podcast here. So if you’d like, you can take a listen to that. He trains a number of cyclists up in Edmonton. And we had a really great conversation on going from 1,200 to 2,000 Watts and how he’s able to produce that type of power for a cyclist. With the basic fundamentals we’re talking about here.

Building that canister where your ribs are stacked directly over your hips is going to allow the diaphragm and pelvic floor to work together to create intra-abdominal pressure. This is important because it gives you spine stability.

Brian Maldonado in his book Preferred Movement Patterns for Cycling. I’ve talks about how we want a trunk pelvis roll. And that’s a very technical book, by the way. In all honesty, when I first bought it, I wasn’t quite into biomechanics. I had taken an undergrad class in it when I was a sophomore. I think it was a senior year level, but they let me sit in on it. So I understood where he was talking about. It’s a little bit more technical. So if you’re looking for a like this show or the HV training YouTube channel, something where it’s very like, “Here’s how to do it.” That book is not going to be it. It’s going to break down a lot of the biomechanics, talk about a lot of the different forces on the body. But if you’re interested, I strongly recommend picking it up. It’s a great book. He put a lot of effort into it. A lot of great pictures and graphs in there for you to look at.

But when you produce this great intra-abdominal pressure, you’re producing proximal stiffness, or stiffness at your core to allow for distal motion. This is a key and absolutely, you can’t replace. It is a linchpin, not a key. It’s a linchpin. It ties everything together into allowing you to be able to have best performances out on the bike. That’s how integral it is. You cannot put everything together and put down the best power possible without learning these skills. And it is a skill to learn how to breathe. And it takes time. And if you’re an athlete, I encourage you to take five minutes. If you can afford it, buy some noise canceling headphones. Download an app. There’s one called sleep timer I believe. Let’s just look and see what the actual name of it is. It’s called sound machine. It sound machine app. I think it’s $2. You can download on Android or on Apple, on iTunes. Download it. And it has a ton of different noises that are considered white noise.

So while this specific app was actually developed for you to be able to just go and fall asleep, there are a number of different things on here that you can listen to that can help you really fall asleep. So one of my favorite for falling asleep is going to be the ocean, the waves. But it’s also useful for learning how to connect the mind to the muscle. And this is something that I learned very early in my training career and has served me very well. And here is one of the secrets, the many secrets to the success of the athletes here at Human Vortex training.

Whenever we’re in the gym, and here our home in Tel Aviv is in AI fit. When I have an athlete learning a new movement and struggling or needing complete focus, we’ll go and we’ll shut off the music to the whole gym. And some people complain, tough. Some people complain to other people in the gym. I try not to work in peak hours with these athletes, but sometimes it happens. We will turn the music off. So we have a quiet, white noise style background of people talking. You’re not really paying attention. Or if we’re in a busy gym, I’ll bring my noise canceling headphones. And I will hook it up. I will give it to them and say, “This is what we’re working on. We’re going to spend the next five minutes listening to this. Or this. Or this. And have you make that mind muscle connection.”

That may sound really weird to a lot of you. Why the heck am I having them listen to rain or waves? Maybe we’ll do bigger waves. It’s white noise. So this white noise is what’s going to allow you to be able to block everything else out and really focus and connect. You need to learn how to shut off your mind from running in the background, and learn to be able to close your eyes or just focus and connect with the muscles. So the better back and hips program that I’ve run here for the last couple of years has been fantastic. We’ve had great results in large part because we work on glute activation and teaching people how to brace and connect with their true core. Again, we talked about this in the last episode. And this includes recommending for a handful of the participants in the past couple of years, that they download this app. Back then when we started, it was free. Now it’s $1.99, totally worth it. A lot of people email me and say, “This was so great on the airplane ride or the car ride. I was able to fall asleep with this.” Or they see an accelerated ability to be able to make that mind muscle connection.

These small tips have huge implications in your longterm success. So downloading the sound machine app. And it doesn’t have to be noise canceling headphones, but it really helps when you can’t hear the music in the background, because a number of times, a song comes on and you recognize it, or you like it, or hate. It takes away your mind for even a split second. And that just doesn’t allow that system to rewire. And your neurons physically grow and reach to connect. There is actually, I don’t know if I have a link to it saved, but one of my mentors actually posted a video. It’s like a 20 second sped up a piece of nerves actually connecting. And the worst part of this video is it cuts off just as the nerves are connecting. And I was like, “I want to see what happens next.” I’m a huge nerd. Some people are like, “Yeah, whatever bro.”

But it really is a mind muscle connection. So you can go and download the sound machine app. You can go to the Google Play store. You can go to the Apple Store. I strongly recommend downloading it. They have a bunch of other stuff on there. It is very useful and can really help. It’s helped me fall asleep. It’s helped me connect to new muscles. It’s helped me master new movements. As well as a plethora, a broad number of other athletes here for a plethora of new movements. I give them a cue or two and leave them alone for five minutes and just watch them record. They block me out. They don’t have any type of feedback other than either the mirror in front of them, or their own body and their own fingertips trying to feel what’s going on.

So download that. We’re going to take a quick break here because a lot of you have said you appreciate having that break halfway. You have your lunch hour or half hour. You have a drive. And it’s a little bit tough to find that spot in the podcast. So we’re going to take a quick break here for a bumper, telling you to go over to the Human Vortex training website. And then we’ll be right back for part two of today’s episode, talking about balance and stability.

Speaker 2:

Want to learn more? Check out humanvortextraining.com for more on this topic from Coach Brodie and today’s guest.

Menachem Brodie:

All right, sorry. That was a little bit loud at the end there, getting a little bit excited. Okay. Now let’s talk about how we’re going to build stability here. So we talked about the mind muscle connection, the importance of being somewhere quiet without music. Using the SoundCloud or sound machine rather app. Not SoundCloud. You can download this on your local SoundCloud in order to listen to the podcast, which you’re already listening to. The sound machine app, noise canceling headphones. Which are a little bit expensive. So I know that that’s a hangup for a lot of us. I know it took me two seasons to pick a pair up, and I got them on Christmas special on Amazon. But keep an eye out for those and really go for the ones that are a little bit higher class. I like Bose. That’s the personal one that I have that I like. It’s a very high quality. It’s worthwhile.

Other noise canceling headphones athletes I brought in, I haven’t been really impressed with, but the Bose have actually done it. By the way, I’m not getting money for recommending these things. I’m just telling you what I use and what I like. That’s all. So if I remember, I’ll put in the show notes. I’ll link over to the exact ones that I have. No, you do not need to get the metallic or gold pink that I got. But I like that because it’s a conversation starter, especially for women’s specific training.

Now as we go forward, when we talk about stability, there are a number of ways we can do this. But mostly, it’s done through unilateral or one-sided exercises. Now this doesn’t mean that we’re using one weight. This can be done with two weights. So one of the exercises that I have really been prescribing a little bit more frequently the last couple of weeks here has been the front plank arm march. So there is no weight involved. Instead of progressing somebody up through the bird dog at this point in the year if we’re seeing that they’re a little bit tired or a little bit getting tired, worn out mentally because of the winter. Buffalo, it’s snowy, you can’t really get outside and ride that much. We’ll go to the front plank arm march, which is a much more challenging exercise than the bird dog. So this is for intermediate to advanced athletes or those who have mastered the bird dog arm opposite leg. So we’re not quite up to the bird dog with the athletic pop, but you’re able to produce that core stability and control as you lift the arm and leg off the floor.

Now from there, we can take you into the front plank arm march, and this is where we take the hand and reach it up overhead. This is like just doing a bird dog except your feet are both extended and the toes are on the ground. But you’re learning how to fire the glutes, the abs, the lats, and protract the shoulders a little bit to get the [inaudible 00:28:32] fired up, to produce that core stiffness and control as you lift that hand. Now when most athletes start with this, they can barely lift the hand two inches off ground before they start to dip and dive with their hips from one side to the other. So start small with this.

Now the other thing we can do for stability training is a single dumbbell. So there is linked here a single dumbbell shoulder press where you’ll see I actually kind of lose that canister position a little bit that I talked about in part one of today’s episode. So there are a little bit of wiggle room, or there is a little bit of wiggle room, and there are some situations where you actually want to get thoracic extension. In this specific video, it’s borderline. So if you’re a coach, you’re looking at this. You’re like, “You know what? You can improve that.” You’re right. I can keep that rib cage down a little bit. I can work on getting better scapulothoracic rhythm. That’s the ability of the shoulder blade to slide and guide itself up and out on the rib cage. I totally can.

But I just want to show you this is standing. You see that my opposite arm, I believe it’s my right arm. I am squeezing my fist, my shoulder blades back and down. I’m using the lats. I’m bracing my midsection. I am firing my glutes hard. And I am thinking about spreading the floor in kind of a Superman squeeze, which you’ll learn about here on the HV training blog, upcoming the end of January I think we’re going to release that.

So these are some things that you can do. And the weight doesn’t have to be that heavy when you do unilateral. It’s not about getting the weight from beginning to end range of motion. It’s about how you produce that. And that’s why I chose the single dumbbell shoulder press. Number one, most of you as triathletes shouldn’t be doing this exercise. Number two, most of you as cyclists totally should not be doing this exercise, because you don’t have that range of motion. And that’s why I chose this. It’s not to show off. But it’s to show you that there are movements that you should be able to do that you can’t yet. It takes time.

So in order to get you to be able to move unilaterally, let’s go down to part of this Human Vortex training hip series. Let’s go to half clam shells. And I want you to take a look at the video here in the link description or rather the description for today’s podcast episode. And as you look at it, you’ll notice that I’m having to fire my obliques to keep my ribcage and pelvis from separating. These half clamshells are not done laying where I’m at a 90 degree angle to the floor with my hips. I’m actually at about a 30 to 45 degree rolled forward on purpose.

What this does is two things. One is it forces me to engage my midsection and learn how to brace my core at an angle. For triathletes, there’s an automatic connection to this because it’s ‘sports specific.’ But really for cyclists, this is really important as well because it’s teaching you to resist rotary forces or ringing forces. As I like to refer to them when you’re on the bike and going around a corner and cornering, or when you’re even climbing. These are important positions to put yourself in for the exact reason that they’re different than what you experience exactly in your sport. And they’re going to force you to recruit the muscles in different ways. This can lead to far better results from your strength training program.

Now the half clamshell is usually done as part of the warmup. So in our last episode, we talked about the foundational core exercises. Number one, McGill curl up or McGill crunch. Which by the way, don’t look on YouTube, just go to HV training, my video, the one from PerformanceRX, or the three that have the good doctor, Dr. McGill himself in it are the only videos on YouTube that you should be using for proper movement. And PerformanceRX, Joel is his name and those are the only videos you should use. The other ones just butcher it and a wrong. So number one, McGill curl up and McGill crunch. Number two side planks, top leg forward. Number three, bird dog at the appropriate level of performance for you that you can master control of your core and the movement as a whole getting movement only from your shoulder and your hip.

Then number three will be half clamshells. So we’re taking you through the core activation, and core connection, and core stiffening routine. Before we go to the half clamshells. Now when you do the half clamshells, what we’re looking for is for you to use the glute medius to be able to do this movement. So you can find the glute medius by putting the thumb of the same side of the hip. That’s up on the bump on the front of your hip, the bone, that’s called the ASIS. You’re going to reach back, and you’re going to stretch your index finger back behind you and spread your fingers out just below your belt level. So the way I like to describe this is kind of like holstering your weapon. Some people don’t like that. Tough luck. It’s just a description of where the holster would be. Deal with it. We’re trying to teach you an exercise.

Put the thumb on the bone, reach those fingers behind you just underneath the belt line. And the glute medius is roughly going to equate to where your ring finger and middle finger are if you spread your fingers nice and wide. Now it’s not a solid rule. For those who have more narrow hips, it’s going to be a little bit further back because your glutes are a little bit further back. And others who are a little bit wider hip, that’s going to be really back there. So you really have to go there, but it’s right below your belt line.

We do not, do not, do not, do not want to use the tensor fascia latae. The tensor fascia latae if we have the hand in the same position is going to fall right about where the web is between your index finger and your thumb. And it runs forward on the front of your hip, front of your thigh, kind of like where you put your hand inside your pocket on a good pair of Dockers or dress slacks. That’s the tensor fascia latae. We do not want to use this muscle.

Now part of the potency of the half clamshell is in that 30 to 45 degree angle that you’re rolling forward. So you kind of have to use that top hand to support yourself. So some of you may find it hard to kind of find the glute medius and activated. You can put your bottom arm straight in front of you to give you a little bit of support while you find this muscle.

Now, the real thing about this is it’s a very difficult activity to execute properly because you really do need to have that top hand to support you until you gain the ability to brace your midsection properly. Because again, the part of the potency, and I kind of trailed off and went off on a tangent here about that setup is that you’re getting the external oblique to tie in and work together with the glute medius. These muscles work together to resist rotation and dropping of that hip. So the glute med min complex, specifically the glute medius work together with that external oblique and the glute maximus and the internal oblique, external oblique work together as well to resist that dropping through single leg gait or walking patterns. So when that leg is unsupported and you’re swinging the leg forward, the glute max and the external oblique work very hard together.

In this half clamshell position, you may only be able to get your knee to lift off the ground by a centimeter or less with the correct muscles, while bracing appropriately to not twist or separate your rib cage from your pelvis. This is paramount in your mastery of this movement. And this is where you’re going to get a lot of your stability from. Because when we go into rear foot elevated split squats, or we go into side lunge hand over head reach, you are going to need to fire these muscles together to keep yourself stable. Remember, we’re training stability, not balance. Balance, you’re just sitting there waiting to react to other forces. This is just like most cyclists go out there, and triathletes as well. They don’t learn how to bump or to take a force of another rider going into them. And instead, they just freak out, and fly across the boat. And something bad happens because well, we’re on the road with vehicles. Instead of learning how to maintain a center of gravity, maintain core rigidity, and be able to bump back and hold that line and to lean into that bump. This is where in large part, what we’re doing in the strength training room is going to transfer over to what you’re doing on the bike.

I really hope that you’ve listened to the number of podcasts in the past and thought and actually enacted in adding skill strength to your biking routine. This skill strength means going out and practicing cornering, braking, short braking, bumping, turning. All of these things are important, turning and cornering is different. Cornering is that speed. Turning is going at slow speeds around obstacles, trying to go as tight as you can. These are all important skills that every single cyclist should have. They allow us to really take what we’re doing in the weight room and apply them to sports specificity. Sports specificity is not going into the weight room and just mimicking the same movements you have in sport. That’s called programming yourself for an overuse injury and making things worse in my opinion.

Now, as we get through the stability training, what else do we need to think about? Now stability training, we need to think about moving the center of gravity through different levels. So this can be accomplished through something like a single leg deadlift, where we’re getting some stability. We’re not balancing so much because we’re moving. It could also be through a moving statue of liberty stretch. That’s a little bit more balancing. The stability for the single leg deadlift, why is that stability not balanced? Because you are moving as a dynamic movement through that range of motion. Now some of you will say, “You know what, Coach Brodie you’re wrong. That’s a balancing exercise.” Technically, yes it is. But the way I look at its it’s a stability exercise because we’re not enacting another force on you. We’re not changing and giving you a labile or unstable surface. So I count it as stability training because we’re going through a small range of motion looking to stay stable. It’s not about balancing. It’s about going through range of motion and maintaining stability of the rib cage pelvis connection, and rotating about the hip.

But if you want to call it a balancing exercise, if that’s going to help you go through it and get more out of it, power to you. Totally cool. But just know even though you’re calling it a balancing exercise, what we really want to get out of it is the stability to control the forces through those motions and the ranges of motion. And to allow you to remain stable. We’re not looking to do this for long periods of time and to balance crazy amounts.

Now, if you look back at one of the bicycling pieces that I had the pleasure and privilege to participate in with Selene Yeager back in 2019 in the fall, we did a piece together on I think it was 10 different deadlift variations. And one of them was eyes closed single leg deadlift.

For a lot of you out there, if you really want to do balance training, close your eyes for non-weighted movements and practice them. This can include squatting believe it or not. This can include walking lunges or static lunges. Closing your eyes will greatly increase the ability for you to tap into your proprioceptive functions, pretty much.

Now some of you may have inner ear issues or have problems keeping your balance to begin with. If that’s the case, I would recommend being next to a wall or something where you can touch and feel. Or gently, lightly, whatever the correct adjective is, lightly closing your eyes. So you’re not really seeing straight ahead, but your kind of ability to see is a little bit cloudy. And that can help you get a little bit better sense. If you have true inner ear issues or you have major issues with balancing, go see your practitioner, go see your family doctor, or ear, nose, and throat specialist to kind of figure out what’s going on. Or if you already know what’s going on, ask your physical therapist or your ear, nose, and throat specialist what are some exercises that you can do to help you get more stable while being on a stable surface.

The balance training side of things, like the stability by the way, we train many different ways here at Human Vortex training, we’ll do pullies, we’ll do bands, we’ll do kettlebells. We’ll do dumbbells. Many of the things we don’t do are stability balls, BOSU balls, [inaudible 00:41:01] pads, wobble boards. Rarely are those included because one, they’re another expense. And most of us are already pushed our limit with buying three pairs of kettlebells or two pairs of kettlebells and an adjustable bench for the home. We will use TRX, but it’s not an unstable surface per se. We will introduce non-stability or instability rather by doing a wide pole extension with a knee lift, or a row with the knee lift, or put the feet up on a bench and try and lift one leg. That’s the instability. We don’t need an unstable surface. We just need to create a challenge to the organism. That’s you. In a way where you have to produce stability in ways that don’t include two or four points of contact.

So this whole thing, this obsession that we have in triathlon training in particular, about balance training really needs to go away. Having a high level mountain biker stand on an INDO BOARD and flipping a five pound weight and grabbing it with one hand is kind of cool. Is it actually going to help them perform? I don’t know. I haven’t assessed that athlete. Maybe it is. It looks cool. That’s for sure. But is it actually going to be the best exercise?

And this is where we get into the discussion of it may work, but is it efficient? And as endurance athletes, especially as endurance athletes, we do not have five to seven hours a week to dedicate to being in the gym. So would you rather truth or dare, we’ll do a truth or dare. Truth or dare? Okay. Dare. No that doesn’t work, would you rather, we’ll go back to the original. Would you rather spend seven minutes getting three sets of eight where you are practicing producing stability by doing a one arm or one leg movement while you’re on a stable surface and actually improve your muscle strength, ability to go through a range of motion, and the ability of the body to resist rotational forces on the body? Or would you rather spend those five to seven minutes doing three or four sets of standing on an INDO BOARD and flipping a five pound weight and catching it with your hand where you’re getting better at resisting very light forces that are acting and working on your hand eye coordination?

If it were me, I’d want to increase my strength. Because I’m an endurance athlete. I’m already getting a lot of low forces out of my sport, and balance, and other stuff. I’d much rather improve my coordination, my athleticism, to be able to produce more power, and to be able to resist forces acting on me to be more stable. And to be able to understand how to produce intra-abdominal pressure to be able to move.

Now, some of you will honestly answer, “Brodie, I want to do the balancing thing. That’s something that I find beneficial.” Good, that’s individual for you. But don’t go crazy with it. This is where the training magic happens. There is no one answer. So I know I’m contradicting myself. Now look, I don’t need that. Now that’s one of those things that it’s going to contradict for different people. Some of you genuinely need to work on your balance. You have awful balance. And again, if you always had awful balance, the number one thing I would tell you to do is go to an ear, nose, and throat specialist and let them know you’ve had awful balance and have them check out your eardrums. Because there’s fluid inside your eardrums, as well as small hairs. And the interaction of those can tell you where you are in space. And that can be one of your balance issues is actually an internal issue, which may or may not be treatable.

So don’t accept, “I have awful balance. I need to do unstable balance training and that’s it.” No, no, no. Number one, let’s work on your breathing patterns. Number two, that’s work on giving you proper core control, and stability. Number three, let’s work on stability. And even before all that, let’s just go get it checked out. Let’s go have a physical from an ear nose and throat specialist who can look and tell us if something’s up and we really need to be concerned or looking at a different professional along with our strength and conditioning coach.

So, there’s a lot of different things that you can do that will improve your performance that aren’t strength training related. Including seeing the right professional for what’s going on. Now that isn’t to say that one professional is an end all be all. If you really don’t understand or don’t agree with what they’re telling you, go get a second opinion. Now I know the health care system is really expensive right now. But is your health and wellbeing in the longterm worth an extra 300 bucks?

Some of you, if you were in the position I was out of college starting Human Vortex training. The answer is no, I don’t have it. It’s either eat for a month rice and beans and pitas, and hummus, and whatever cereal’s on sale. Or going to see one doctor for a 15 minute checkups. So yeah, the answer is going to be no, it’s not worth it. Cool. Let’s work with what we’ve got and what we can do.

So to wrap up today’s podcast, and we went through a lot. Balance training relatively low on the totem pole. When I say low, it’s not something that’s even on our radar most of the time. We’re going to have it occur in our dynamic warmup because it’s something that we need to get a little bit of. But it’s not going to be something we go and plan lots of time for.

Stability however is going to be foundational in what we do. And we’re going to start with both feet or both hands planted firmly on the floor, learning to master and control movements before we think about adding different types of challenges. Because we need to learn postures, positions, and breathing, and coordination before we take a step up to the plate and even think about adding instability or the ability to resist forces in different ways. This is why the bird dog, the McGill crunch, or curl up and the side planks are so instrumental. They teach you to deal with forces in different vectors, get you to work with different muscles together in order to see better results. Which allows you to really progress your abilities far faster by rewiring your body, getting you to great positions, teaching you good breathing patterns, and able progress as you go forward.

As you plan your training for the next month or a month and a half, if you found any of this to be useful or beneficial, please go over to wherever you downloaded or are listening to this podcast. Hit that subscribe button, give us a five star review, leave a couple words or sentences about why you found this podcast so useful. Like and share is a huge help to us to get this message of strength training properly for cyclists and triathletes out there to help people like you avoid injury, increase performance, and see better. So before you go and plan this in, please help get the word out there. Help more people find this podcast. And remember train smarter, not harder, because it is all about you. Have a fantastic week, and we’ll talk to you next Tuesday.


Picture of Menachem Brodie

Menachem Brodie

Coaching since 2000, Menachem Brodie has been working with athletes in a number of settings, and a broad variety of sports.


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