The Positions Block

The Foundation Program, which is detailed in the book Movement Over Maxes, is built around 3 blocks of development.  Those blocks are titled Positions, Patterning, and Performance.  Each has a specific place and purpose in the grand scheme of producing a well moving, strong athlete with a solid foundation for future development.

The Positions Block is the first stage in the Foundation Program. The Positions Block is used to teach the entry-level positions of movement. When put in place, it positions the athlete for success.  Once learned athletes can progress their development.  Without a stable foundation to build upon, athletes are set up for failure from day one.

The Positions Block uses grooved and bodyweighted movements for its primary loading purposes. The grooved movements assist the athletes into proper positons.  Some athletes are unable to achieve positions of success in the big five movements for a variety of reasons.

1. Motor Control

Motor control is how the nervous system interacts with the body and the environment to produce movement. Motor control is often a large problem with younger, untrained athletes but we see this with every level of athlete from professionals down.  Every movement is a skill and training the movement is the way to improvement.

Younger athletes will often figure out the answer to a movement solution as they move through a pattern more. You can literally watch the growth in movements from session to session with minimal interference. Their body discovers how to organize itself optimally, and the repeated exposure increases the ability to get into fundamental positions easily.

Older athletes with a training history can pose more difficulty. They can often require a more specific, and focused approach. Regardless of the age, every movement the body learns is a skill and training the skill develops a higher level of motor control. Some can lackadaisically pattern the movement, while others must intent-fully train the skill or patterns similar to bring out the designated movement task.

2. Structural or Soft Tissue Limitations

An athlete struggling to move into proper positions can often come from soft tissue restrictions or anatomical limitations. Soft tissue restrictions can be something as simple as capsular restrictions in a joint or a length tension issue.  On the surface these seem simple but they can relate to deeper issues.  Motor control can cover up the issue of what looks like a length restriction. Stability, which relates back to motor control, can be a primary cause for a length issue. We often see athletes increase hip mobility from nothing other than learning to stabilize the spine, and pelvis.  Compromised stability in the chain will present itself as tightness elsewhere as the body seeks to create stability.  A lumbar spine that moves too much will look to the hips for added stability.  Compensations now occur in a hip joint that should have great ranges of motion.  Clean up the stabilization issue and joint function is often restored.

In many cases anatomical limitations can be a bigger factor in how an athlete moves than many coaches think. The femoroacetabular joint can be one such area of limitation.  Whether from birth or adaptation the hip can have limitations that don’t allow for deep squatting.  Or I should say won’t allow for deep squatting without issue.  No two athletes are built the exact same.  You can do all the soft tissue in the world and not make a dent in movement if anatomy won’t allow for it.  This isn’t to say gains cannot be made.  Exhausting soft tissue mobility, motor control, as well as perfecting movement patterns to the best of their ability will go a long way towards battling anatomical limitations.

3. Previous Injury or Coaching History

One way the body can have altered movement is from injury. The body will always seek to shy away from pain.  When that happens compensations occur.  Altered movements are the result.  The new movement becomes stored in the motor program and becomes the new normal even when the pain or former injury disappears.

Another factor in movement can be previous coaching.  Coaches can often reprogram the body to move incorrectly.  Look no further than pitching lessons if you need examples.  Poor coaching can “coach out” a proper movement in many cases.  Coaching out an improper movement isn’t the only cause.  Allowing an improper movement to occur is just as bad.  The result is an athlete storing an improper movement pattern into their motor program.  After enough reps the body believes the poor movement is actually the right way for it to be done.

The details of the Positions Block are as follows:

Goal

The Positions Block is solely there to teach movement to the point where the Big 5 movements can be performed competently.

Movements

The progression that is taken depends fully on the athlete’s movement abilities, training age, needs, etc.  Externally loading the athlete is generally small to none. There are of course exceptions but loading is not the primary goal, foundational movements are. Bodyweghted movements as well as regressed positions are used to reinforce the positions necessary for further development.

Frequency

This block is originally meant for a 5-day-a-week program, but can be adjusted to fit any time frame. The ideal 5-day time frame allows for constant reinforcement of technique acquisition.

Intensity

The intensity throughout the Positions Block is low. Like stated earlier external loading is little to none.

Duration

There are no concrete rules as to the duration of the Positions Block. This is based on the coach and the athlete. Train the Positions Block until athletes are capable of progressing to the main movements without technical breakdown.

This process will involve continual coaching, but coaches will know when the time is right. I use the all-important squat and hip hinge patterns to determine when it’s time to advance. Once an athlete can easily jump under a bar and move correctly, I advance the training. Progressions aren’t over the course of a day or two. They are in place until the necessary criteria are met. The criterion here is proper movement.