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  • Anthony Mychal 3:47 pm on February 13, 2018 Permalink  

    The ONE single UNO sole MAMMOTH super MASSIVE reason I wouldn’t be caught DEAD doing Starting Strength (again)… and what I’d do instead 

    Starting Strength is a book, but most people know it as a program — one often recommended to confused noobs that wanna get stronger and build muscle.

    I would know. My old mentor referred it to me back in 2007. I used to pepper him with T-R-B-L turrable questions.

    Five reps or four reps? How many sets? What’s the best program? What’s your experience with butt secks? Should I have a 401(k) or a Roth IRA?

    He gave me personalized answers to every question I asked… for the first few weeks. Alas, my hyperactive forebrain eventually sunk his titanic morale. Too many questions on board, not enough towing capacity.

    “Just buy Starting Strength,” he said.

    So I did.

    And my life was never the same.

    After buying Starting Strength

    Starting Strength transformed my approach to strength training. In hindsight, this might not have been that big of an accomplishment because, at the time, my approach to strength training was akin to teaching abstinence for birth control.

    Alas, I wouldn’t be where I am today without my Starting Strength backbone. I owe many beers to Rippetoe and Kilgore. They're welcome to cash in whenever they please.

    And yet.

    And yet.

    If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t do Starting Strength. And, if you’re reading this, there’s an above average chance you shouldn’t do Starting Strength, either.

    The Starting Strength program

    In order to understand why I wouldn't do Starting Strength again, let's take a superficial look at the program itself to anchor what follows. Below comes from

    Day A

    • Squat 5 reps x 3 sets
    • Press/Bench Press 5 reps x 3 sets
    • Deadlift 5 reps x 1 set

    Day B

    • Squat 5 reps x 3 sets
    • Press/Bench Press 5 reps x 3 sets
    • Deadlift 5 reps x 1 set

    This is considered phase one. You train three non-consecutive days per week, you alternate between Day A and Day B, and you add weight to the bar for every single exercise every single training session. This is all you need to know about the program for now.

    Where's the beef?

    Are the exercises dangerous? Will they injure you? Will they give you hemorrhoids? Will they turn your firstborn into a flat earth theorist?

    No. No. No. MAYBE.

    My hatred of Starting Strength is (admittedly) superficial and shitty. In other words, how every girl treated me in high school — that’s how I’m treating Starting Strength.

    I’m not bashing Starting Strength on the whole. There is a large group of people for which Starting Strength is nothing but unicorns, marshmallows, and Preparation H.

    But, for me, it wasn’t. And isn’t.

    Because it’s easy to see (unless you have a potato for a brain) that Starting Strength is a powerlifting program. And this makes all the difference.

    Powerlifting for sport

    Powerlifting is a sport. Powerlifting athletes compete across three different exercises: the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. These three lifts are often referred to as the “big three.” The athlete that totals the most weight across all three lifts wins the powerlifting competition.

    The stock Starting Strength program contains four total exercises: the back squat, the bench press, the overhead press, and the conventional deadlift. Three of these four lifts are the big three, which is all the evidence I need to support my claim of Starting Strength being a powerlifting program.

    It should also be all the evidence you need to believe me, unless you're of the aforementioned potato brained ilk. And we're not talking about those cool purple Hawaiian potatoes. We're talking about shriveled, shitty, sprouting Idaho baking potatos.

    Why does powerlifting matter?

    This whole “powerlifting” detail matters for one supremely simple reason: I'm not a powerlifter. The only thing a powerlifter cares about is squatting, benching, and deadlifting more weight. That's the life they sign up for. That's the problem they choose to solve.

    The only thing LeBron James cares about is basketball. You'd only live in LeBron's shoes if you wanted to ball, right? Well, I mean, I guess you'd also wanna live in his shoes if you wanted to be a multimillionaire and a celebrity.

    My point is that, if you wanted to be a powerlifter, you wouldn't do what LeBron does. Just like LeBron wouldn't do what a powerlifter does. Different problems requires different solutions.

    Logic says the only reason to go on a powerlifting program is if you (a) share the same powerlifting “problem,” or (b) have a problem that will be solved as side-effect of solving the powerlifting “problem.”

    The problem(s)

    I suppose now would be a good time to talk about the problem I was trying to solve. Back when I was referred to Starting Strength, I was skinny-fat. I hated my body. I hated my narrow shoulders. I hated my toothpick arms. I hated my wide chubby belly.

    It was built opposite of the way I wanted to be built. I wanted comically broad shoulders that funneled into a narrow waist. (What can I say, I watched a lot of anime.) I never wanted to be bodybuilder, or random blobs of muscle.

    I didn't know it at the time, but building an x-physique (as I now call it) was my problem. I looked like Spielberg's E.T., and I didn't want to. I would have done anything to solve my problem. I was solution apathetic. If there was a pill that would have changed my body overnight, I would have taken the pill.

    Powerlifting and x-physiques

    Let's return to something I mentioned earlier.

    Logic says the only reason to go on a powerlifting program is if you (a) share the same powerlifting “problem,” or (b) have a problem that will be solved as side-effect of solving the powerlifting “problem.”

    Do I share the same problem as powerlifters? No. As mentioned, I didn't care about squatting, benching, and deadlifting. To me, it didn't matter how I fixed my body, as long as I fixed my body.

    Onto the second part… Would my problem be solved as a side-effect of chasing the solution to the powerlifting problem? In other words, if I set my inner Death Star towards getting as strong as possible on the squat, bench, and dead, would I end up with an x-physique?

    The answer is no. Not many x-physiques are built as a byproduct of bettering the big three and only the big three, especially if you have a skinny-fat body as a starting point.

    Two problems with Starting Strength

    I have to take a few steps back, for context. Starting Strength is the frame of reference, more so than “bettering the big three.” But my point still stands. Starting Strength won't build many x-physiques.

    Having a broad, thick, and muscular back is arguably the most important aspect of an x-physique. The back responds best to upper-body pulling exercises (like chin-ups and rows), but there isn't even one single upper-body pulling exercise in Starting Strength.

    Also, most skinny-fat dudes have whack chest proportions. Their lower-chest holds most of their muscle mass, as opposed to their upper-chest. Given this, most skinny-fat dudes need to focus on growing their upper-chest. Unfortunately, the flat bench press prioritizes the lower chest. (Read more on this here.)

    Why I wouldn't do Starting Strength

    The one mega super awesome unfathomable reason I wouldn't do Starting Strength again (nor would I recommend Starting Strength to skinny-fat noobs) is because the problem Starting Strength is designed to solve is NOT our problem.

    Doing Starting Strength if you want to build an x-physique is sort of like saying, “You want to be good at baseball? Sweet. Well, here, grab this golf club. Go to the driving range every day for the next six months. Work on your swing. I'm sure you'll be able to hit Blyleven's curve afterwards.”

    Only minor differences

    Starting Strength is a flat-blade screwdriver. Works excellent for slotted screws. But I'm a crosshead screw, which means I need a cross-recess screwdriver. They are different, but, In the end, there are more similarities between the two than there are differences.

    The solution to my problem is similar to the solution to the powerlifting problem.

    Half (more than half, really) of Starting Strength is exactly what you need if you wanna build an x-physique: you need to get strong, especially if you're a noob. You just have to get strong on the exercises that'll increase the odds of an x-physique output.

    Farting Strength

    I'm not creating this divide between me and Starting Strength for publicity, nor am I trying to be a genius and reinvent the wheel. In other words, I'm ssooooooo not afraid to steal the  programming principles that create Starting Strength‘s infrastructure for my own diabolical use.

    If you happen to be a skinny-fat noob and you were thinking of going on Starting Strength, here's something you should know.

    I'm creating a mod of Starting Strength. A program that's designed to be a little more skinny-fat (and x-physique) friendly. I'm releasing it on the site, for free. If you want to know when it drops, make sure you're signed up for my weekly email column.

    The post The ONE single UNO sole MAMMOTH super MASSIVE reason I wouldn’t be caught DEAD doing Starting Strength (again)… and what I’d do instead appeared first on Anthony Mychal.

  • Anthony Mychal 4:34 pm on February 7, 2018 Permalink  

    The second important (but boring) nutrition principle every skinny-fat noob should know: drink water 

    Drink water.

    When you get thirsty, your body is asking to be hydrated, not fed an emulsified rum ham.

    Most commercial beverages are emulsified “somethings” that don't hydrate better than water. And, to make matters worse, they bully your satiety.

    always sunny rum ham

    Green Warrior Smoothie

    Here's a list of ingredients for a “Green Warrior Smoothie” (compliments of

    • 1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh red grapefruit juice
    • 1 cup (25 g) destemmed dinosaur/lacinato kale or baby spinach
    • 1 large sweet apple (200 g), cored and roughly chopped
    • 1 cup (130 g) chopped cucumber
    • 1 medium/large stalk celery (85 g), chopped (about 3/4 cup)
    • 3 to 4 tablespoons (30 to 40 g) hemp hearts, to taste
    • 1/3 cup (55 g) frozen mango
    • 2 tablespoons (4 g) packed fresh mint leaves
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons virgin coconut oil (optional)
    • 4 ice cubes, or as needed

    The fact that one ingredient is of the “dinosaur” variety makes me shit my pants. But that's neither here nor there.

    You blend all of these “Green Warrior Smoothie” ingredients together, you drink the resultant paste, and then you become a warrior. Yum! You can feel the vigor throttling through your arteries! Becoming a warrior never tasted so delicious! Sparta really dropped the ball!

    But let's play a game.

    Eating a smoothie

    Rewind time. Don't blend the ingredients. Spread them out on a table in front of you. Look at them. Appreciate them. There's a lot of food there, right? Right. Now imagine eating all of these ingredients as they are. Raw. Quite a different experience than slurping them down in smoothie form, no?

    Despite having the same amount of food in your belly, drinking emulsified ingredients is different than eating solid ingredients because liquids bypass most of our satiety circuitry.

    • There's chewing.
    • There's ingestion time.
    • There's volume.
    • There's visual presentation.

    All of these things influence how we feel about what we eat. (You wanna know what doesn't influence how we feel about what we eat? Calories.)

    Wonderful water

    If you're trying to keep your energy intake under control, you have to feel satiated. Drinking liquid energy is like taking a painkiller exactly when you want to feel pain. Please take this Vicodin before you enter our BDSM room.

    If it doesn't make sense, that's because it doesn't.

    Water has no energy, so the fact that it bypasses your satiety circuitry doesn't matter. This means water is two for two.

    • It hydrates.
    • It has no energy.

    It also keeps your skin smooth, flushes waste, and helps your body absorb vitamins. It does everything need a liquid to do with no downside.

    Drink water.


    Questions are afoot, no doubt. I'm going to write about other acceptable beverages and address some things bound to be crashing through your cranial walls. But I'm going to swing to the opposite extreme first.

    Drink whatever you want

    Regardless of what's better or worse, you can drink whatever you want to drink, just like you can jump off a bridge (if you wanted to). But every choice has consequences.

    If you drink something beyond water, you have to reverse engineer it into a solid. This isn't easy to do. If an ice cube melts into a puddle, and you only see the puddle, you can't know the shape of the ice cube.

    The ingredients inside of a “Green Warrior Smoothie” spread across an entire table before they are blended. But, once blended, they fit into a small container.

    Reverse engineer liquids 

    In order to reverse engineer a liquid into a solid, you have to find the ingredients. Just about anything you buy should have a nutrition label. You're looking for two things:

    • Does this have ingredients?
      • If so, what are they?
    • Does this food have macronutrients?
      • If so, what are they?

    A 12 ounce can of Mountain Dew contains 46 grams of sugar. A no fat Starbucks venti latte, around 25 grams of sugar. Great. But, guess what? Food companies know we don’t know what the fuck this means, which is why you have to take these nebulous metrics and turn them into something with a heart beat.

    A common spoonful of sugar holds around five grams of sugar, which turns a no fat Starbucks latte into (water + 5 spoonfuls of sugar). A small Mountain Dew becomes (water + 14 spoonfuls of sugar).

    Think about what this means.

    What drinking energy actually is

    If you drink a small bottle of Mountain Dew with dinner, you're shoveling fourteen spoonfuls of sugar down your throat alongside your meal. You can go further: what the heck does fourteen spoons of sugar look like as a different food? It’s like eating two potatoes!

    When solid foods become liquid foods, you shove things into your body that you otherwise wouldn’t. This is why liquids, for my money, are the at the heart of the obesity epidemic.

    It's hard to chow down 10,000+ calories of solid food day in and day out. But if you liquefy most of those calories…

    Question time

    There's still a lot I want to cover, but I don't know how to do it in a sexy way, so I'm doing it in a question and an(t)swer format. YOLO.

    Q: How much water should I drink?

    I never understood the question: “How much water should I drink?” It's simple, really. When you're thirsty, drink water.

    I suppose people ask this question because their default beverage is something not water. They want to know much water to drink as a side quest, as a supplement to their normal beverage intake.


    Water is the main quest. Water is your normal beverage intake. Anyone trying to lose fat that's drinking mostly non-water should be locked inside of a torture chamber.

    The old standard is eight cups of water per day. Why? I don’t know. I don’t care to know why, either, because this is very low recommendation. You won’t find many muscular or lean people that only drink eight cups of water per day. Try drinking at least a gallon of water every day.

    If you’re peeing neon yellow, you’re not drinking enough water. Your pee should be clear(er). More white than yellow.

    You can drink too much water, but drinking too much water is a unicorn. You have to be forcing a lot of liquid down in a short period of time and resisting urination. Liquids are about hydration. Don’t drink until you feel bloated or full. Drink to quench your thirst.

    Q: What can I drink besides water?

    Like I wrote earlier, you can drink whatever you want. But if you want to stick to my recommendations, the two most sensible beverages options besides water are black coffee and plain tea. Not for any particular reason beyond the fact that they contain next to no energy.

    Note the black and plain recommendation. Cream and sugar aren't deadly. They simply add calories, which isn't terribly desirable. Budget for them or pay the price.

    And then you should drink more water. Always. Both coffee and tea are diuretics. (They make you go pee pee.) If you have a cup of coffee or tea, have a cup of water before going for your second cup.

    Also, if you’re drinking coffee, tea, or any caffeinated beverage, be aware of how much you consume past 12PM. Caffeine can interrupt sleep. Sleep is important.

    Q: What about milk?

    Milk isn't a superfood. Everything milk provides can be had through other means. Strength training will build strong resilient bones better than milk will.

    But you can drink milk. You just have to reverse engineer it into a solid food. Milk is a combination of protein, sugar, and fat. There's energetic baggage.

    Some people, usually the thinner crowd, can benefit from drinking milk when they’re trying to gain muscle. This crowd typically has a small appetite, so they struggle eating enough calories. Because milk is a liquid, it goes down easy. They can accumulate solid food energy without having to shove mounds of food down their throat.

    In other words, these skinny “hardgainer” types drink milk for the exact opposite reason why most people need to be conscious of their liquid intake.

    Q: What about sugar free drinks?

    The ten thousand food rule: don't drink calories. And this brings us to the land of sugar free sodas and artificial sweeteners, which is a sticky place.

    Most people that use artificial sweeteners are obese. This is a fact. The question is whether (a) obese people are using artificial sweeteners because they are obese, or (b) obese people are obese because they are using artificial sweeteners.

    I’m not going to comment too hard on artificial sweeteners because, as far as I'm concerned, the jury is still out on them. Are they harmful? Most studies say no. Are they helpful? Ehh. Maybe?

    Here's something to think about. (What I'm about to write is totally speculation, so keep that in mind.) Your body might build an association between zero energy yield and sweet tastes. In other words, your body will begin to think sweet tasting things have no energy.

    This doesn't mean that drinking no calorie beverages will make you fat. But, but, it might create a bottomless sweet tooth. Just a thought. And why, in my eyes, the jury is out on artificial sweeteners. But that's not the worst news in the world. Because the jury isn’t out on water.

    Q: What about Gatorade and sports drinks?

    The amount of people drinking Gatorade makes me want to kill a cat. And that's saying something because I love cats. The ocelot is my spirit animal.

    If you aren't sweating (from exercise) and you are drinking Gatorade, you deserve to have wood splinters driven into the skin underneath your fingernails. Even if you are sweating, there's a good chance you don't need Gatorade.

    Gatorade and sports drinks take root in this idea: when you’re exercising, you’re (a) using energy and (b) losing water. Therefore, to maintain performance, you need to replenish both.

    Water hydrates, but it doesn't energize. Gatorade hydrates (with the help of water and electrolytes) and energizes (with the help of sugar).

    Contrary to popular wisdom, replenishing energy isn't a huge deal during casual exercise. The much more important need is hydration, which can be kept under control with water. (For perspective, your body can survive around three weeks without food, but only one week without water.)

    Chances are, you won't notice much of a performance difference between drinking 1L of Gatorade or 1L of water unless you are an edge case HARDCORE athlete training and sweating for hours upon hours doing lots of huffing and puffing, under constant duress. Like one of those nut-job marathon runners. Perhaps then it'd be a good idea drink one of ‘dem ‘dere emulsified potato smoothies.

    If you are doing some kind of hardcore exercise and losing a lot of fluids, an energy drink is preferred because they're easy to digest.

    Blood gets shunted to the intestines to help digest food. Blood to the intestines means less blood to the muscles, which means bad performance. Chucking back a plate of pasta as you cruise past mile twenty is a recipe for chucking up a plate of pasta as you cruise past mile twenty-one.

    QWhat about peri-workout drinks?

    Similar to sports drinks, a lot of people recommend sugary pre post-workout drinks for strength training sessions in order to spike insulin, maximize muscle growth, and blah blah blah.

    You don’t need sugary post-workout drinks, nor do you need sugary pre-workout drinks. Much more important than sugary peri-training shakes is the rest of what you put into your body across the entire day.

    The post-workout window of opportunity is an overblown marketing concept, designed to get you to buy supplements. Alas, supplements supplement your base food intake. Before you have to solidify the base before you supplement. And, even then, there are only a few supplements worth your money.

    Q: What about alcohol?

    I like alcohol. I like beer. But getting smashed hammered faced isn’t exactly symbiotic with looking good naked. Alcohol is an energy nutrient. There are calories alcohol. There are calories in the shit that gets mixed with alcohol (namely sugar).

    You want to limit your alcohol consumption for reasons already explained: drinking energy isn’t ideal.

    If you insist on drinking…

    Any non-sweetened hard liquor (vodka, whiskey) on the rocks or mixed with club soda is ideal. Diet soda works, too. Dry red wines are good. Pinot noir, cabernet, merlot. Tequila will also do the job. (Kah, my friends. Kah.)

    Beer is the worst. But I love me some beer. I drink it often. More often than I should. But I treat it as solid food. I budget for it. You should, too.

    The non-Hyrule blue potion

    Ever wonder why the blue potion in Zelda was a rock star that filled both hearts and magic? Blue. Water is blue. I rest my case.

    water zelda blue potion


    If you wanna check out the first important (but boring) nutrition principle every skinny-fat noob should know, click here.

    The post The second important (but boring) nutrition principle every skinny-fat noob should know: drink water appeared first on Anthony Mychal.

  • Travis Jewett 12:47 pm on February 6, 2018 Permalink  

    Two Important Carries for the Clinician 

    There are a lot of exercises used in training that can have a very dramatic effect in a clinical setting. The scale of the exercise may be different depending on the population, but the principles remain. Many times in the clinical world, clinicians get caught up in doing the same exercises they were taught in school that may be effective in the beginning of recovery from an injury but do not elicit enough of a stress to really drive adaptation when thinking about creating optimal function for a patient (or athlete).

    First, a mention of the farmer’s walk and suitcase carry

    One of the most under utilized exercises in clinical work is a properly coached, executed, and appropriately heavy carry. Most do not understand how a sufficiently challenging farmer’s walk or suitcase carry can force a patient to create appropriate levels of trunk stiffness and loading of a single leg stance. You can replace many correlate exercises for “core activation” (one of Pavel’s favorite terms!) with a variety of carries. Do not get me wrong, everything has its place depending on the person you are working with, but eventually you have to create enough of a stress to drive an adaptation.

    The farmer’s carry and suitcase carry are terrific examples of exercises that are missing in the training of most patients and athletes. They provide an excellent training stimulus for the frontal plane and can help correct a variety of compensations and imbalances around the trunk.You likely plan them in your training and the training of others already so I am doing to discuss two other carries that are favorites of mine. These two carries tackle a lot of the same trunk stability issues we see but in a slightly different way. We will discuss the use of the kettlebell front rack and overhead carries.

    I have personally come back from four major upper extremity surgeries and have an affinity for working with shoulders at my clinic. While some of the things I do are outside of the scope of practice of the strength coach (manual work to help a person reclaim position) the simple strategies I use to help people learn (or re-learn) positions of the shoulder are fair game. My intent is to give you an understanding of why I do certain things and how they can be applied in a clinical or coaching setting. While the farmers carry is important in the beginning stages of recovering from a shoulder injury, the rotator cuff is reflexive to distraction and compression to keep the head of the humerus centered in the socket, it does not take into account organization of the trunk and pelvis while holding your arm in different positions.

    Carry No 1: Front Rack

    For a shoulder to be considered healthy, (at least in my book), it needs to be able to move from a front rack position to an overhead position with control, strength, and without pain. If you are familiar with the principles of StrongFirst, pressing big weight overhead is a staple of our big six of training. Pavel even wrote a book, you may remember Enter the Kettlebell, with one arm pressing and swings as the main training objective.

    Travis Front Rack

    We will start with the front rack carry. To me, it is the most underutilized of the carries I typically see performed with a kettlebell. Your press is only as good as you clean (that is an old StrongFirst saying that is still very true) and the front rack carry is an extended version of that moment after a heavy clean before you press the weight overhead. If you do not have a solid front rack with all the proper muscles firing to position the kettlebell and shoulder in the correct position for a smooth and efficient press, you will be asking for trouble when it comes to getting and keeping a big weight overhead.

    A lot of the issues with the overhead position can be traced back to a lack of strength and endurance in the rack position. From proper breathing and bracing to proper rib cage position and movement of the scapula, it all starts from the rack. You can do front rack carries with single or double kettlebells depending on what you are trying to accomplish and I would suggest you mix in a healthy dose of both.

    When you hold a kettlebell properly in the rack, you get an isometric contraction of the muscles of the shoulder girdle (pecs, lats, serratus, teres major, etc). Long holds in this position with some cuing are a great way to get the muscles around the shoulder blade active and can help someone learn better control of the position of their shoulder blade on their rib cage. Work in some deep, focused breathing and you have a tremendous exercise as the placement of the kettlebell will help self-correct people away from accessory breathing patterns (what many of you refer to as chest breathing). This can be a great way to start helping someone with shoulder impingement.

    When pulling down hard with the lats and keeping the elbow down and against the rib cage, you also start getting activation of the quadratus lumborum, transverse abodominus, and internal and external obliques. Pair a long hold in the rack with an effective rooting and bracing strategy and we are starting some powerful lower back training. Add in some deliberate walking while maintaining proper posture and position and have the person breathe through the nose with their cadence and magic for the shoulder and spine will start to happen. I could have spent a long time teaching that person a whole bunch of different exercises or I can work with one well-executed exercise. The body does not really work in parts. It works in movements and the more you can make something appear like something a person will actually do, the better.

    Carry No. 2: Overhead

    This brings us to my other favorite, the overhead carry. Unfortunately, I typically see overhead carries performed very poorly as part of a “met-con.” The person is internally rotated with shrugged shoulders and a bent elbow; wandering around suffering. They are not receiving any benefit from the activity and are likely just cementing in a bad habit and potentially injuring themselves down the road. When performed correctly, the overhead carry is a very powerful tool in restoring proper function of the shoulder girdle. Just like the front rack carry, if it is executed with intention, proper coaching, and appropriate loading, you can replace a lot of exercises.

    Travis Overhead

    There are many ways to perform overhead carries but I really prefer using the kettlebell for the majority of the work. Yokes make for great variety when you want to have a person do a carry but stay connected across one implement. There is a time and a place for both in training. I am not as fond of barbell overhead carries because you can’t fail as safely as you can with a kettlebell or yoke. I also like the kettlebell because the way the weight is distributed also acts as a bit of a loaded stretch. You can certainly use dumbbells, but they require an extra degree of difficulty beyond the kettlebell. You have to fully create rotation at the shoulder to stabilize them as the weight is distributed differently. This makes the kettlebell the most utilitarian variety because you can cover the needs with most of the population you work with and easily meet them where they currently are.

    When properly executed, the overhead carry will help a person with proper shoulder mechanics to stabilize a load. If loaded appropriately, you can spend a lot of time in the overhead position and teach the person, through effective cuing, to have the proper muscles engaged (elbow locked out, shoulder slightly externally rotated, lat and pec slightly engaged, arm fairly close to the ear with no shrugging). Time is a key component in this exercise so you don’t want the load to be so heavy that the person can’t keep total focus on the task for an extended period of time. You need to be able to see if the person can maintain proper relaxed breathing, a strong and stable trunk, and support the load with their entire torso, not just their shoulder girdle. This makes the overhead carry much more than a shoulder exercise as it challenges the entire body to work together to perform an extremely demanding task. If you can master the positions of the rack carry and the overhead carry, filling in the middle becomes much simpler when people understand where to start and where to finish.

    Breathing and Rib Cage Position

    Before I wrap this up, I want to go back to the importance of breathing and rib cage position during both carries. I think these are often overlooked pieces when evaluating how an athlete is performing either exercise. Breathing is a very popular topic these days in the world of strength and conditioning and you can certainly dive deep into the rabbit hole of breathing assessment and training. Like many things, people will get too far one way or the other and not see the forest from the trees. What is important to understand in the context of these carries and training of the shoulder is the position of your rib cage and how it can be manipulated with your breathing can have a major impact on the function and, eventually, health of the shoulder girdle.

    This is why spending a few minutes discussing efficient breathing mechanics and how to maintain them under load and the challenges of different positions is important before you start. It is beyond the scope of this article to dive too deep into breathing mechanics but understanding how to show a person to pull air into their lungs with efficient use of the diaphragm instead of lifting their rib cage actively to fill their lungs to create intra-abdominal pressure and stiffness. Tilting the bottom of the rib cage up (this is called and open scissor between the rib cage and the pelvis) will change how the shoulder blade can move in relationship to the rib cage and throw off the normal scapulohumeral rhythm that is essential for proper overhead lifting.

    If you break overhead shoulder motion into thirds, roughly one third should come from scapulothoracic motion and two thirds should come from glenohumeral motion. If we put the shoulder in the plane of scaption, which is having the scapula in 30 degrees of abduction from the frontal plane, the first thirty degrees or so of abduction of the shoulder in the sagittal plane should be coming from glenohumeral motion. After the initial 30 degrees, the shoulder blade will start to upwardly rotate and eventually the motion at the shoulder blade will account for about 50-60 degrees of the 150-180 degrees of total shoulder motion.


    Here are some images of the plane of scaption. The first image is from and the second image is from

    When people tilt the rib cage, they will not have as smooth and full motion through the scapula and glenohumeral joint and the overhead position will not feel strong and stable. Tilting the rib cage allows the person to appear to have full overhead motion but it is simply because they have changed the angle of their rib cage instead of fully flexed the shoulder. By coaching proper breathing and bracing during these static holds and carries, you can safely begin to teach and reinforce sound shoulder mechanics. Here is a video showing the carries with some explanations.

    I will be discussing these and many other lifts and their applications in a clinical setting in the new StrongFirst for Clinicians course coming February 17-18 in Atlanta, GA. For more information at the link.

    The post Two Important Carries for the Clinician appeared first on StrongFirst.

  • Anthony Mychal 4:18 pm on February 5, 2018 Permalink  

    The first important (but boring) nutrition principle every skinny-fat noob should know: eat Mother Nature’s food 

    Eat Mother Nature's food.

    (And lesser processed variants of Mother Nature's food.)

    If you think I'm talking about CLIF bars, then you need to keep reading. Or burn in hell. Either one works. Because I'm not talking about CLIF bars. I'm talking about something much more raw. Something much more wholesome.

    When your dog takes a big ‘ol shit, pick up the turd logs and eat them. On the spot. While they're hot. That's what I'm talking about. PureUnfiltered.

    Wait. No. That's not right, either.

    Guess I got a little overzealous. I'm not myself. I'm a little nervous, because… well, okay. I'll tell you why I'm nervous, even though it's embarrassing.

    I fully endorse eating mostly Mother Nature's food and its limited processed variants. But I don't have a fucking clue as to what either of these things are.

    Handy heuristics for Mother Nature

    I'm compelled to throw some heuristics your way in an attempt to better explain what Mother Nature's food is and isn't. These heuristics go down smooth… until TROLLTHONY takes over.

    Mother Nature's food is in nature

    Things that run, hop, jump, and fly. Things that once had a heartbeat. Things sprouting from the ground. Things growing from trees. Things like: fruits, meats, organs, eggs, fish, berries, nuts, seeds, roots, grains, and vegetables.


    Mother Nature's food doesn't have ingredients

    What are the ingredients of a chicken pot pie? Chicken is one of them, but there are more. What about a peach pie? Peaches are one of them, but there are more. What are the ingredients of a peach? Of a hunk of chicken? There are none, save for the food itself.


    Mother Nature's food was around 1000 years ago


    Moving to processed foods

    I regret every second of wanting to write this. I can't explain what Mother Nature's food is, so I guess I'll try to explain what it isn't. And in order to understand what Mother Nature's food isn't, we have to enter the world of food processing.

    Food processing is the transformation of raw ingredients, by physical or chemical means into food, or of food into other forms. Food processing combines raw food ingredients to produce marketable food products that can be easily prepared and served by the consumer.

    ~ Wikipedia

    As much as I wanna say that the “purest” forms of Mother Nature's food require no processing, TROLLTHONY wants to collect his toll.


    Processing isn't evil

    Luckily, I'm not here to debate the “purest” forms of Mother Nature's food because processing isn't inherently evil. There are plenty of processed foods that are fine to eat. To which you might be wondering: O RLY, LIEK WAT?

    My gut says: most “okay” processed foods tend to be (a) minimally processed, and (b) rooted in Mother Nature's food. These foods tend to have only a few ingredients, most of which are Mother Nature's food.

    I'd get more detailed if I knew what I was talking about, but it should be obvious by now: I don't. And if I keep it as vague as I just did, TROLLTHONY stays in his hole.

    Introducing junk food

    Processing isn't inherently evil, but it can turn sour. It's one thing to char salmonella off a turkey leg, or turn a cow's titty juice into cheese. It's another thing to create a somehow stay fresh forever puff pastry designed to deliver an intense dopaminergic spike in an attempt foster consumer addiction.

    Perhaps that sounds extreme, but that's junk food in a nutshell.

    In general, as a category, junk food, is dominated by the “c” words: chips, candies, crackers, cookies, and cakes. And, well, you might as well add protein bars to the list.

    Protein bars are junk food

    Have you ever looked at the ingredients of a protein bar? Protein bars, for the most part, are junk food. Below is the label for a protein bar. There are two things to note.

    protein bar junk food

    First, look at all the ingredients. In general, having more ingredients hints of being more processed, and being more processed hints of junk food.

    Second, look at the order of the ingredients. Some of the earliest ingredients are flour and sugar, meaning this isn't really a protein bar. It's actually a carbohydrate bar. (On nutrition facts labels, ingredients are listed by their percent contribution. The first ingredient makes up most of the food.)

    Why Mother Nature's food?

    Junk food is definitely not Mother Nature's food, so I'm gonna take a squat and tell you why I recommend opting for the (thus far) vaguely defined combination of Mother Nature and its limited processed variants, as opposed to junk food.

    More proof

    Mother Nature's food sustained life for millions of years, before the advent of hardcore processing techniques. We have a long history with Mother Nature's food, so we know what's good (eat broccoli) and what's bad (don't eat poison ivy).

    We don't have the same empirical wherewithal with newer processed foods, with the story of trans fat being all the evidence anyone could need.

    The trans fat TL;DR is such that humans thought they could make a fat better than one that occurred naturally in Mother Nature's food (saturated fat). This new fat was named trans fat. Trans fat is now being banned. From all food. So, uhh, yeah. It was a flop. A big one.

    More nutrients

    If you don't know why nutrients are important, ask the pirates that crossed the Atlantic for the first time. We need nutrients. If we don't get them, we die. Or, even worse, we grow a fucking goiter.

    Most highly processed junk foods aren't as nutritious as Mother Nature's food. Companies often try to fortify their junk food with vitamins and minerals, but this misses the mark. Sure, it stops us from growing goiters. But there's more to “nutrition” than vitamins and minerals. What about phytochemicals? Bacteria?

    Less consumerized

    (I'm wearing my tinfoil hat for this one.) When I said that junk food was designed to hack human taste buds, I wasn't kidding. Do me a favor. Walk up and down the aisles of your supermarket. Look at how many products there are.

    These products have one goal in mind: your repeat consumption. That's the only way these companies stay in business. Thousands and thousands of products want you to want them. That's crazy, isn't it?

    Even Mother Nature's food gets doctored up. Apples and peppers are given wax coats to make them look shinier because they know we don't buy downtrodden produce. MY TINFOIL HAT IS ONE FIRE.

    Junk food is a death sentence

    Although nutrient-void-taste-bud-hacking junk food is less ideal than nutrient rich food from Mother Nature, junk food is not Mother Nature's binary.

    Mother Nature's binary is poison, not a god damn whoopie pie.

    The most heinous processing mistake of this age is, arguably, the aforementioned trans fat debacle. And although trans fat isn't good for you, it's not an immediate death sentence.

    I grew up in the golden age of trans fat. I don't even wanna know how much my body has digested (or tried to) since I was a kid. I didn't have the willpower to resist Ritz Crackers covered in aerosol can cheese whiz.

    The 90-10 split

    No food (to my knowledge) will permanently halt fat burning or muscle building. But that doesn't mean you can eat whatever you want. Your food intake is finite. If you're eating for body composition purposes (or better human purposes), you need to nourish your body. Some foods do this better than others.

    Think 90% Mother Nature's food (and its limited processed variants). The other 10% can creep into processed world if needed, in whatever way best suits your personality.

    If you can't stop eating the pint of ice cream once you start, you should cap how often you eat it. Maybe you need to do the once per week cheat meal thing. If you're a good self-limiter, maybe you're the type of person that'll thrive on having one small portion every day.

    This isn't an easy thicket to navigate. And I hope I'm not giving you more leeway than you can handle. You can't eat a bunch of shit and look great naked if you aren't genetically predisposed to look great naked. That's just how it goes.

    On needing the 10%

    This 10% leeway isn't necessary. I make room for it because behavior change is messy. You're coming into this with decades of experiences, feelings, and emotions under your belt. If you have strong ties to certain foods, then cutting them out cold turkey can sabotage your efforts.

    For example, try not to think of a pink elephant for ten seconds. Seriously. Try. After five seconds, you'll realize that the only thing you've been able to think about is a pink elephant.

    This is what happens (sometimes) when you classify a food as “forbidden.” It’s the only thing you think about, which makes it nearly impossible to resist.

    In other words, if you absolutely love an overly processed junk food and you put it on the naughty list, you're going to be thinking about it. All. The. Time. And that's behavior change suicide; the prospect of never again eating a food you love is terrifying.

    Eat Mother Nature's food

    Even after everything we've been through, you might still be wondering, “I get it. You want me to eat Mother Nature's food. But what the heck is it?”

    The best definition for Mother Nature's food: nutrient rich foods that have been proven — over a long stretch of time — to support human life.

    That's sounds about right.

    Take this definition and use it to figure out which… wait. No. Wait. Lists. There are lists. Fuck. We could have ended this a long time ago. My bad.



    You have a better idea of what Mother Nature's food is (and isn't). The hard work is done. Eat mostly Mother Nature's foods and its lesser processed variants. You can leave now.

    Below I expand on the three reasons why eating Mother Nature's food is the tits. I don't want you to get too excited, but stories of pirates and goats are afoot. Okay. Fuck it. Get excited.

    It's the tits, reason one: nutrients

    Calories (energy) get a lot of press. People say, “We eat because our body needs energy.” And while that's true, it's also negligent. The OG pirates crossing the Atlantic for the first time weren't dying from starvation (an energy deficiency). They were dying of scurvy (a micronutrient deficiency).

    The world of food below calories: vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, bacteria (bacteria isn’t always bad), and so many other things that we don't yet know about. (I'm going to refer to this collective world simply as “micronutrients.”)

    Here’s a list, straight outta’ Harvard. Tells you what vitamins and minerals do for your body. Here’s a neat infographic about phytonutrients and food color. Here’s an interesting article about hunter-gatherer gut bacteria compared to our modernized gut bacteria.

    Micronutrients are what create you. The hairs on your head are micronutrients. Your fingernails are micronutrients. Your blood cells are micronutrients. In some sense, micronutrients are like materials, whereas calories are like workers. You need both to build a house.

    Micronutrient importance

    If you aren't getting enough micronutrients, you might be tired, lethargic, and unmotivated. But, fuck. That's nothing. If you don't get enough vitamin C, you die of scurvy. If you don't get enough iodine, you grow a goiter. A FUCKING GOITER.

    You need micronutrients to keep your body running smoothly, which means now is the perfect time to shrivel into a ball of paranoia about micronutrients. Just kidding. Kind of. Not really.

    If you are paranoid about your micronutrient situation, you can get it tested via hair sample. (I’m looking into credible companies that do this.) But you don’t have to shell out hundreds of dollars to get tested. You can, instead:

    1. Eat mostly Mother Nature’s food.
    2. Eat a variety of Mother Nature’s food.

    Because somehow (magically) most of Mother Nature’s foods are nutrient plentiful. If you Google “best sources of <specific nutrient>”, you're almost always going to get a list of Mother Nature's food in return.

    Then again, the fact that Mother Nature's food is nutrient dense may not be very magical when you think about the alternative: if Mother Nature’s food wasn’t nutrient plentiful, the human race would have died long ago. Because, long ago, the only thing they were able to eat was Mother Nature's food.

    Goats galore

    Just in case staving off Kwashiorkor wasn't reason enough to care about micronutrients, there might be another big one. I'm not 100% sold on what I'm about to tell you, but it's interesting enough to make me sound smart by association pass along.

    In The Dorito Effect, the author (Mark Schatzker) writes that goats stop eating sooner when fed vitamin fortified feed (as compared to goats fed non-vitamin fortified feed). In other words — actually, fuck that. Let's use an example.

    There's an infinite amount of Granny Smith apples in front of you. These are regular Granny Smith apples. Mother Nature's food, full of nutrients.

    A clone of you is in an identical adjacent room. He, too, has an infinite amount of Granny Smith apples in front of him. But there's one difference: these apples have been stripped of their nutrients.

    If both you and your clone went H.A.M. on these apples, eating as many as you could, you would hit a point of satiety before your clone would.


    Everything in excess is toxic, or so the theory goes. Water and oxygen are fantastic. You need both of them to survive. But too much of either will kill you. Same goes for nutrients.

    So you (and the goat eating vitamin fortified feed) stop eating sooner in an effort to avoid nutrient toxicity. Your clone (and the goat eating non-fortified feed) doesn't know when to stop.

    If this phenomenon really applies to humans, then Mother Nature's food could help regulate your satiety (because Mother Nature's food is typically more nutrient dense than its overly processed counterparts).


    The first reason Mother Nature's food is the tits: it tends to have more nutrients in comparison to overly processed junk food. And we need nutrients, otherwise we die. Or, even worse, we grow a fucking goiter.

    It's the tits, reason two: fuckery

    Obesity is an epidemic. Humans can't stop eating. Smart people say that we're addicted to energy. As a species, we grew up in an environment that wasn't energy abundant. Those that had the biggest desire (addiction?) to consume energy fought hardest to get it. They were the ones that lived, and they passed on their genes.

    So when you see someone that craves sweets, it makes sense. They crave the sugar because the energy within sugar is preciiioussssss. But do people REALLY crave sugar? When people get “sugar cravings,” do they reach into a jar of white sugar and shove a handful down their throat? Do kids get a hankering for a glass of sugar water?


    Kids don't drink sugar water. They drink Kool-Aid. They drink Tang. (Do they still drink Tang? I don't know. I used to slay some Tang.) They drink Little Hugs. All of these drinks are more than sugar water. They're flavored sugar water.

    Fucking with flavor

    Humans crave flavor. And, if you’re just learning this, you’re late to the party. Food manufacturers have known this for a long time. They inject bodacious flavor into slop food, turning us into mindless goats. Don’t believe me? Become your own private investigator. Take a gander at the ingredients portion of the food label.

    • natural flavor(s)
    • artiticial flavor(s)
    • flavor(ing)
    • monosodium glutamate (MSG)
    • disodium guanlyate
    • disodium inosinate
    • torula yeast
    • hydrolyzed protein
    • autolyzsed yeast
    • saccharin
    • aspartame
    • acesulfame potassium
    • sucralose
    • neotame
    • advantame
    • stevia

    This is a list of flavor enhancers, compliments of The Dorito Effect. These ingredients are all signs that the food is being pumped with added flavor.

    Money, money, money

    What's the point? Are flavor enhancers deadly? No. Not to my knowledge. But, when you peruse the supermarket, you have to come to grips with a harrowing reality: every single company that's selling food wants you to buy their food. And not just once. But over and over and over and over.

    Companies are only companies because they make enough money to continue being companies. In other words, money is king. Altruism isn't.

    This is why Mother Nature's food often gets processed. Salt is added to meats to preserve their shelf life. Wax coating is added to vegetables to make them look shiny and pretty. But overly processed junk food usually takes it one step (or twelve) further.

    Junk food is designed to hack your brain. It's designed to give you pleasure. It's designed to make you a repeat customer.

    Have you seen my tinfoil hat?


    The second Mother Nature's food is the tits: there's less fuckery. Overly processed junk food, for the most part, is designed to hack your brain in the name of repeat consumption. Yes, yes. I know they should add some of this flavoring to broccoli, but, until they do, treat junk food as you were taught to treat Mos Eisley spaceport.

    It's the tits, reason three: proof

    Years ago, a bunch of (supposedly) smart humans concluded that saturated fat caused heart disease. Saturated fat is found naturally (lol) in both animal-based foods and plant-based foods. So the supposedly smart humans made their own fat, which is now commonly known as trans fat.

    Trans fat was (and still is) an ingredient in many different foods, but margarine — the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter substitute for butter — was the trans fat poster boy.

    For a long time, people avoided “regular” butter (saturated fat) in favor of margarine (trans fat) because the smart lab guys said it was a healthier alternative.

    But it wasn’t. And it isn’t.

    Time has shown us two things.

    First, the link between saturated fat intake and heart disease isn’t as clear as it was once thought to be. Meaning the assault on saturated fat might have been unjustified.

    Second, trans fat destroys our bodies. Seriously. Trans fat is so bad for us, there’s a nationwide ban starting in 2018.

    Finding trans fat

    Since I dropped the bomb, I might as well give you a heads up. These days, companies have to list trans fat overtly on the nutrition facts label. But you can't trust the label. For two reasons.

    trans fat label nutrition facts

    First, nutrition labels go by a “per serving” basis. But servings are totally arbitrary. You can make a can of soda have 2.5 servings. But everyone knows you don’t drink 33% of a can of soda, you drink the whole can.

    Second, if a food contains less than 0.5 grams of a macronutrient per serving, it can be listed as containing 0 grams per serving. In other words, a food with 0.4 grams of trans fat per serving can be listed as having 0 grams of trans fat per serving.

    Companies purposefully fracture their serving sizes so that they're able to list their food as having 0 grams of trans fat per serving. So if you want to really find trans fat, you have to read through the ingredients. The word “hydrogenated” was (and still is) the red flag. Fully hydrogenated. Partially hydrogenated. Whatever hydrogenated. The word “hydrogenated” is all that matters.

    hydrogenated ingredients

    Naturalistic fallacy

    Trans fat showcases human hubris, but I want to make sure you understand the point I'm driving home. I'm not raging against trans fat because it's not “natural” (lol).

    Whether or not a food is found in nature has nothing to do with my argument at all; I'm not tripping over the naturalistic fallacy.

    The naturalistic fallacy, in a nutshell, is the assumption that “natural” is “right” (or better). This fallacy initially had moral implications. For instance, chimps kill other chimps. Therefore, murder is “natural.” And if murder is “natural,” then should it punishable?

    As it relates to food, the naturalistic fallacy is simply the assumption that “natural” food is inherently better than processed foods. But the problem isn't processing. I have nothing against processing. The problem is proof.

    Proof isn't in trans fat pudding

    Humans survived eating a subset of food that’s been around for a long time (it existed before the advent of advanced processing techniques). And there is empirical wherewithal to know what’s good and bad within this subset of food.

    • Don't eat chicken medium rare.
    • Don't use poison ivy to make tea.
    • Don't eat random forest mushrooms.

    Although I always wonder about the first guy (or gal) that chomped into a raw onion. Must have thought death was imminent. I don’t know who woulda' had the cojones to go in for a second bite.

    Anything new introduced (fuck you, Soylent) into normal “human” feeding patterns should be approached with skepticism. In other words, when it comes to food, look towards Lindy.


    The third reason Mother Nature's food is the tits: there's more proof behind its consumption. Processing changes the proven. It's like a game of telephone. You tell one person a sentence, that person tells another person, that person tells another person, that person tells another person, and on and on it goes. By the time the game of telephone ends, you're left a different sentence. We know the first sentence was good. We don't know if the new (altered) sentence will be good. Until its too late.

    The post The first important (but boring) nutrition principle every skinny-fat noob should know: eat Mother Nature’s food appeared first on Anthony Mychal.

  • Anthony Mychal 10:12 pm on January 11, 2018 Permalink  

    Why “listen to your body” is stupid advice that’ll make you fat and lazy 

    My eyelids are closing as I type this. I got two hours of sleep last night. My body is telling me to go to sleep. I should listen to my body.

    “Listen to your body.”

    You hear that phrase all the time. It sounds… right. It feels right, too. After all, the human body has doing it's thang for millions of years now. It has to know a thing or two…


    Maybe not.


    The premise behind “listening to your body” is such that your body has some sort of knowledge that your conscious mind doesn't have. The only way to access said knowledge is by listening to your body's whispers. But there are a few problems with this…


    What if your body isn't trying to tell anything? Put your head up to your stomach as it digests food and you'll probably hear some gurgling and swishing. But that doesn't mean those noises are but… noises. DON'T CRACK YOUR KNUCKLES, SONNY.

    Problem: if you try to listen to your body too deeply, you're likely to turn noise into signal and risk misinterpretation.


    Assume your body is trying to tell you something. What makes you think you can understand your body's language? How do you know you have the right translation?

    Pain is a negative, right? A sign you're doing something you shouldn't be doing. Wait. What about that whole “pain is weakness leaving the body” thing? What's the difference between discomfort and pain? I'm confused already.

    Problem: the translation you have for what your body is trying to tell you isn't universal. You're likely to rely on what you think your body is telling you, and, quite frankly, what you think might be wrong. 


    Listening to your body insinuates that your body works from inside of a vacuum. But your expectations greatly influence how your body functions. If you're used to eating lunch at 12PM every day, you'll probably be hungry at 12PM even though your body, deep down, might not ACTUALLY be hungry.

    This is where the placebo effect lives. The placebo effect, in a nutshell: your body feels how you expect it to feel.

    Problem: humans are creatures of habit and expectation, and sometimes those aren't helpful to an end goal. 


    If you believe current evolutionary theory, then humans are pain and risk averse, meaning we're always going to be pushed towards comfort.

    What if comfort isn't ideal?

    If you're trying to stop smoking, your body doesn't really want you to stop smoking. If you listen to your body, you're gonna grab a smoke.

    Also, our primitive software isn't terribly suited to the modern world. We're afraid to take risks because our body codes stressors as ZOMG I'M BEING CHASED BY A LION, but, in reality, you're not being chased by a lion. You're just deciding whether or not to dump your shitty girlfriend that cheated on you.

    Problem: the way the body functions is a matter of context. We evolved in a world different than ours, which means what our body tells us might not match reality.


    I could continue with more examples. Continuing with the thread above, evolutionary theory also says that humans are misers. We conserve and hoard energy. If you listen to your body, you're going to die of Pizza the Hutt Syndrome and eat yourself to death.

    pizza the hutt

    Look –

    I get the sentiment. Listen to your body. I'm not saying you should ALWAYS ignore your body, just like I'm saying you should ALWAYS listen to your body. And because the door swings both ways, the phrase “listen to your body” is just another fancy yet flaccid fitness platitude.

    The post Why “listen to your body” is stupid advice that’ll make you fat and lazy appeared first on Anthony Mychal.

  • Anthony Mychal 10:12 pm on January 11, 2018 Permalink  

    Why “listen to your body” is stupid advice that’ll make you fat and lazy 

    My eyelids are closing as I type this. I got two hours of sleep last night. My body is telling me to go to sleep. I should listen to my body.

    “Listen to your body.”

    You hear that phrase all the time. It sounds… right. It feels right, too. After all, the human body has doing it's thang for millions of years now. It has to know a thing or two…


    Maybe not.


    The premise behind “listening to your body” is such that your body has some sort of knowledge that your conscious mind doesn't have. The only way to access said knowledge is by listening to your body's whispers. But there are a few problems with this…


    What if your body isn't trying to tell anything? Put your head up to your stomach as it digests food and you'll probably hear some gurgling and swishing. But that doesn't mean those noises are but… noises. DON'T CRACK YOUR KNUCKLES, SONNY.

    Problem: if you try to listen to your body too deeply, you're likely to turn noise into signal and risk misinterpretation.


    Assume your body is trying to tell you something. What makes you think you can understand your body's language? How do you know you have the right translation?

    Pain is a negative, right? A sign you're doing something you shouldn't be doing. Wait. What about that whole “pain is weakness leaving the body” thing? What's the difference between discomfort and pain? I'm confused already.

    Problem: the translation you have for what your body is trying to tell you isn't universal. You're likely to rely on what you think your body is telling you, and, quite frankly, what you think might be wrong. 


    Listening to your body insinuates that your body works from inside of a vacuum. But your expectations greatly influence how your body functions. If you're used to eating lunch at 12PM every day, you'll probably be hungry at 12PM even though your body, deep down, might not ACTUALLY be hungry.

    This is where the placebo effect lives. The placebo effect, in a nutshell: your body feels how you expect it to feel.

    Problem: humans are creatures of habit and expectation, and sometimes those aren't helpful to an end goal. 


    If you believe current evolutionary theory, then humans are pain and risk averse, meaning we're always going to be pushed towards comfort.

    What if comfort isn't ideal?

    If you're trying to stop smoking, your body doesn't really want you to stop smoking. If you listen to your body, you're gonna grab a smoke.

    Also, our primitive software isn't terribly suited to the modern world. We're afraid to take risks because our body codes stressors as ZOMG I'M BEING CHASED BY A LION, but, in reality, you're not being chased by a lion. You're just deciding whether or not to dump your shitty girlfriend that cheated on you.

    Problem: the way the body functions is a matter of context. We evolved in a world different than ours, which means what our body tells us might not match reality.


    I could continue with more examples. Continuing with the thread above, evolutionary theory also says that humans are misers. We conserve and hoard energy. If you listen to your body, you're going to die of Pizza the Hutt Syndrome and eat yourself to death.

    pizza the hutt

    Look –

    I get the sentiment. Listen to your body. I'm not saying you should ALWAYS ignore your body, just like I'm saying you should ALWAYS listen to your body. And because the door swings both ways, the phrase “listen to your body” is just another fancy yet flaccid fitness platitude.

    The post Why “listen to your body” is stupid advice that’ll make you fat and lazy appeared first on Anthony Mychal.

  • Shawn Myszka 3:00 pm on January 4, 2018 Permalink  

    2017 Mover of the Year – Antonio Brown 

    The end of the season is here and we have witnessed 16 weeks of extraordinary football; 1,696 plus players who are faced with solving movement problems that the majority of human beings could never fathom being confronted with. Collectively, we have marveled at the best in the game at doing just that. And while this is happening there’s more going on behind the scenes. I take it upon myself to dive into the film of this, both the highs and the lows and everything in between, in an attempt to understand those problems and the movement skills used to solve them, from the inside-out. When the smoke settles on this endeavor, I make a stand on who I believe the most masterful mover in the league is on that the analysis and what you read today is that result.

    We are now completing year five here at ‘Football Beyond the Stats’ and in those previous years we have had some truly astonishing movers that we have featured here.

    2013 – LeSean McCoy (Running Back, Philadelphia Eagles)

    2014 – Earl Thomas (Safety, Seattle Seahawks)

    2015 – Antonio Brown (Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers)

    2016 – David Johnson (Running Back, Arizona Cardinals)

    With our reigning Mover of the Year going down during the very first game of the season, it’s time for a new Champion to prevail. Turns out, the deeper I got into my analysis the more clear it became as a number of players began to emerge as my frontrunners for the 2017 Mover of the Year:

    • Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons – With two of the four previous Movers of the Year being RBs, the top dude at this position is always going to get serious consideration. Freeman is one the best decelerators in the game and has also added a tremendous amount of adaptability across his movement skills.
    • Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks – The 2014 Mover of the Year is back on top of the safety rankings but will his decisive movement behaviors have improved enough to regain his championship from three years ago?
    • Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks – The teammate of Thomas and the unwavering leader of the Seahawks, Wilson is a three time All-Movement First team performer because his perception-action coupling and his movement creativity which are on another level in comparison to not only his QB peers but most others across the League.
    • Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers – The 2015 Mover of the Year is the definition of must-see TV anytime he steps on a football field. Having been an All-Movement First team member in four consecutive years (yes, 4!), can he reign supreme once again in this stacked group?

    Guess whose back?

    This likely won’t come as any shock or surprise as unless you have been living under a rock you probably have a good idea not only just how good this player is but also what I personally feel about his movement skill-set. Even in a league that is packed full of standout movers, Antonio Brown, WR of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is in a league of his own. When we think of movement skill and mastery on a football field, I like to use this definition to guide me: movement skill expertise is “the functional relationship between an individual organism and its environment, characterized by attunement to relevant perceptual variables and concomitant calibration of actions (Jacobs & Michaels, 2007)”.

    AB pic 12

    Armed with this definition during my weekly evaluation of football players, I attempt to study the level of proficiency within all three B’s of a player’s movement skill (behaviors, brain, biomechanics) as he executes through the problem-solving processes necessary to respond to the ever-changing environment that is NFL chaos (and pressure, anxiety, fatigue, complexity, etc).

    Well, simply put, Antonio Brown IS the current epitome of that definition. He embodies it. Straight-up, no questions asked, not even close. Don’t @ me!

    AB pic 9

    Furthermore, putting this problem and solution connection to work really starts to encompass what movement skill expertise is about: dexterity. Famous motor behavior scientist (and my hero) Nikolai Bernstein stated that: “Dexterity is finding a motor (aka movement) solution for any situation and in any condition (1967).” I am going to go out on a limb here but if Bernstein himself were to have been a football movement connoisseur and studied the sport like he did some other tasks, he would have salivated over watching the resourcefulness that Brown displays when coordinating and controlling his movement solutions under the context that an NFL Sunday will demand.

    What do others have to say about AB84?

    Though it’s next to impossible to run out of superlatives about the game’s best mover, I am sure that many out there have gotten awfully sick of reading my words as I ramble on about just how good Antonio Brown really is. So, don’t just take my word for it. To help enlighten you further and to show that I am not the only one who is infatuated with the movement skills of Brown, I have employed the assistance of two of my most trusted peers in the field who I have an ongoing shared mentorship with, Ross Cooper and Cameron Josse, to add their insights into the mix:

    Ross Cooper, a Football Position & Skill Acquisition Coach, puts it this way:

    Bruce Lee stated, “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”

    No player in the NFL exemplifies these water-like movement capabilities like Bruce Lee described quite like Antonio Brown does. The beauty of AB is his real level of transferable skill in/versus any environment, opponent, weather. AB has an ultimate relationship between his perception & movement solutions, turning the opposing DB’s ‘strengths’ into ‘weaknesses.’  No matter what technique the DB is playing or defensive scheme, AB becomes water. He controls-attacks-dictates-reacts simultaneously!  He is the epitome of perception leading action & action leading perception. He manipulates and controls DB’s time & space, while skillfully reacting off of that same time & space. His movement strategies, unreal cognitive-perceptual decision-making, and overall game feel both within his precision route running and also his agility; perceptually and movement wise manipulating-creating-dictating-controlling-reacting via time & space before and within the route, plus extremely lethal YAC.  From the first action he takes off the LOS he manipulates DB’s both movement wise & perceptually for the needed space he desires within his full route tree, while also reacting-adjusting into what the DB/defense & offensive teammates are doing during each route/play. AB also uses the environment (field itself) the way he sees fit as a main weapon for his wanted outcome.

    AB pic 2.jpg

    AB uses each affordance for action that becomes presented, both moving in tight & open spaces, in a way that allows him a vast combination of authentic movement solutions, level-to-level perceptual skill and the ability of solving multiple problems simultaneously. On-field; “The question is the answer & the problem is the solution.’’ AB showcases this weekly, that he is one of the best NFL movers of all time.

    Another trusted colleague and Director of Sports Performance at DeFranco’s Training Systems, Cameron Josse, went on to say:

    Brown plays the game with tremendous confidence.  It’s as if he fully expects to make a game-breaking play on each and every snap.  Psychologically, it’s clear that he understands his impact on the Steelers’ offense and fully accepts his role as a big play threat.

    You’d be hard-pressed to find any other receiver that runs routes as consistently crisp as Brown does.  Being efficient as a route runner is NOT about executing a route the exact same way every time, but rather successfully maneuvering around different coverage and doing so in biomechanically efficient positions.  When we talk about “biomechanical truths”, we are talking about moving with minimal energy leaks and using body positions leading to more optimal movement displays based on a particular sport problem.  The problem is always changing and therefore the solution must always change as well.  Context is king, as always.

    Brown always seems to find a way to be open and continues to advance his ability of exploring and creating movement solutions in his route running, consistently showing the ability to beat his opponent’s best defensive backs.  The ‘law of exposure’ from the book, Game Changer (Fergus Connolly, 2017), states that players will adapt and respond to the speed and complexity of the sport problems being presented to them.  So, while a team will strategize and put their best defensive back on Antonio Brown, they are risking the chance that this will only further enhance Brown’s creative solutions since it’s just another problem for him to solve.

    AB pic 8

    Brown possesses a truly diverse skill set.  His cutting actions and ability to redirect his body in the open field appear smooth and effortless, seemingly getting better with time.  One of his hallmark traits is his ability to find a movement solution when it seems clear as day that there isn’t one.  His adaptability is his strong suit here, as he understands that he must move at varying speeds and in various positions to achieve what he is intending to do based on what he is perceiving.

    He has the ability to work along a wide spectrum of movement bandwidths, such as changing his base of support to manipulate the space he is working in – he can decelerate with a narrow base of support when space is tight, and can also use a wide base of support when he has more room to operate. One of his most underrated attributes is his kinesthetic sense (his awareness of where he is in space) and how that impacts his ability to catch the football.  We can certainly admire his route running and movement after the catch is made, but the receptions he makes are incredible.

    Consider the reception he made against Kansas City this past season in Week 6 when he caught a tipped pass with one hand while simultaneously avoiding an attempted tackle by the safety and subsequently taking off for a 51-yard touchdown reception.  Wide receiver skill set at its finest!

    Has his movement skill evolved since 2015?

    I certainly agree with all of that which both Ross and Cam claimed regarding Brown. Extending their thoughts, it’s an appropriate time to include my analysis from 2015 when Brown was named our top Mover then just as he is now.

    However, when attempting to make the determination to award him his second Mover of the Year in five seasons, it was vitally important to me that I could come to the conclusion that he had in fact gotten more masterful than he previously had been. This was no small order as I made the claim two years ago that the 2015 version of 84 was the best mover I had analyzed during the course of this blog. So, I needed to be able to unequivocally say to myself, “AB’s movement skill-set has evolved!”

    Obviously, you were able to skip ahead in the test and know the answer I ended up residing on (that his movement skill HAS improved). So, in which ways has this occurred?

    On the surface, Antonio Brown is still the exceptional mover I deeply analyzed and glowingly raved about back in 2015. The route precision, the sharply attuned perception, the ridiculous space manipulation, and the diverse agility actions…all of those characteristics are still well intact and if anything, like a fine wine, that skill-set has gotten even riper. The ability to coordinate, control and skillfully organize a movement solution no matter the situation (the task dynamics) is still the best in the game.

    AB pic 1

    But what do we see when studying and investigating the 2017 version of AB84…that is, the evolved movement mastery of Antonio Brown? Well, for a moment I want you to remember above when I mentioned Bernstein’s definitive words on dexterity in movement skill; specifically, the second part of that quote… “And in any condition.” THIS is exactly where and how AB has gotten even more proficient, at least in this movement coach’s opinion.

    One of the major indicators of true movement mastery is the ability to be able to have a movement solution to any movement problem which presents itself and to do it under the extreme constraints present which can act as key performance inhibitors to even some of the game’s best. I am speaking here of the realities of playing football at the highest level like which is witnessed in situations late in games such as psychological influence (pressure/anxiety) or physiological influence (fatigue; both physical and perceptual-cognitive). These condition changes can significantly impact the level of robustness (i.e. stability and adaptability) of even a professional athlete’s movement skills; often drastically changing both the strategies as well as the execution of the solutions organized (bringing many superhuman movers’ behaviors back down to earth).

    AB pic 11.jpg

    As everyone knows, I usually don’t pay a whole lot of attention to statistics. However, used here, they help paint a picture as we illustrate this point. According to situational statistics found on the NFL website, in the 4th quarter over the course of this season, Brown snatched 28 balls for 550 yards (average of 19.6/catch) and in the last 7 minutes of games he racked up 12 catches for 291 yards (24.2/catch!!). In contrast, when AB84 won his first Mover of the Year award in 2015, he recorded 30 catches for 429 yards (14.3/catch) and with 7 minutes left he had 20 catches for 248 yards (12.4/catch). Thus, you can see the huge difference late in games in 2017 and this showed qualitatively as well as AB84 was routinely at his best when it counted most.

    Obviously, this perspective can only give us so much context because there is always a lot going on which make up these situations and the numbers which accompany them. However, I do believe it’s clear, what makes Antonio Brown better right now (than he was in 2015) is that when a game is on the line, and pressure, anxiety and fatigue is theoretically at its peak, you wouldn’t want any other WR lined up to make plays for your team.

    Every system has a flaw: so, where does he go from here?

    I like to think of all sport movement problems, as well as the solutions that are connected to them, as highly integrative systems that are each peculiar in their own ways with interacting constraints every time that they come together with one another. This is the very essence of the concepts contained within ecological dynamics; ecological psychology and dynamical systems theories, which we can use to study motor behavior in sport. On the solution end, any complex dynamical system is adapting through means of self-organizing its component parts in a way that satisfies the system’s constraints. We can think of Antonio Brown (and more specifically his movement system) as a complex system self-organizing a movement solution under the unique problem he/it faces.

    AB pic 13

    Even in the midst of what appears to be the most optimal of self-organization for any system though (as I have claimed AB84 to be), my personal feelings tell me this…every system has to have a flaw…a weakness. Obviously, movement on a football field is complex. Additionally, the individuals that Brown (or any player in the league) face are also the very best at what they do. Thus, no system is perfect and has the solution for every problem ever presented even if it’s highly attuned to a range of problems. Instead, we know, there’s always a weak link in any system. So, with AB84, who is the game’s most attuned and adaptable player, where is it?

    The following is purely speculative but I want to share the ideas anyway. To do so, I want to expand on something my friend Ross mentioned above regarding Bruce Lee, and one’s movement skill being more “like water.” When taking this quote and applying it to movement on a football field, it begins to speak to the need to not fit within any sort of container for solving the problem involved in one’s sport; either as it pertains to the strategies employed or the technical execution utilized to carry out those strategies. In fact, this idea is where Bruce Lee’s famous quote on execution within a martial arts fight (or street fight) really stems from where he said, “The highest technique is to have no technique. My technique is the result of your technique. My movement is a result of your movement.” Of course, to me and my thought processes regarding movement skill acquisition, this idea is one that I remind myself (and each of the players I consult for) of each and every day.

    Bruce Lee technique

    For those that are unaware, what led the late and great martial artist Bruce Lee to find himself immersed in his thoughts of Jeet Kune Do (JKD) occurred in 1969 when he realized that other traditionally-practiced styles of martial arts (even those that he had practiced/mastered) had become too rigid & fixed, too patterned & unrealistic. He foretold how this new style was to be a hybrid mixture of other styles but which should be more personally connected to one’s own style. It’s because of this that it was not only a hybrid of other styles but also other activities that he would adopt from so one was able to flow and move fluidly (like water and without specific prescribed technique) no matter what the situation called for.

    AB pic 7.jpg

    Because of that, JKD, in Lee’s mind, was to always allow for authenticity and honest expression through one’s movement. Like an artist telling a story through a painting, from the outside looking in, a fight could unfold to be told in the same way. It just so happens that I believe this is the very same thing we witness of the football movement skills which emerge when an individual is highly attuned to the affordances that exist around him and he’s in a state where he can adapt accordingly.

    AB pic 10.jpg

    Thing is, that’s what makes where AB84 is right now and what he could potentially be on the verge of accomplishing from a movement skill standpoint so damn special! Could it be that Antonio Brown is at this football movement equivalent of developing his own Jeet Kune Do right now? Meaning, a place where he exists with such oneness with the problems that he is facing that IF he were to expand himself even further, AND allow for even greater creativity, that he would come up with his own even more authentic way of moving on a football field?

    So, what’s my advice to Antonio Brown to do just that? How can he create the AB84 version of JKD? Well, first, come to the realization that no one can ever get ‘too masterful’; there can never be too much attunement…too much adaptability……too much dexterity. Taking this another step further, though he’s the NFL’s best movement problem solver, this offseason as you prepare for the future, go solve more problems…and a wider variety of problems…and (maybe most importantly) against a wider variety of LIVE opponents. Go out and look to create with one’s movement in new and maybe even unorthodox ways. Look for more opportunities to add deception in your skill sequences; more hesitation, more feinting, more faking, more changes in timing of the movement actions.

    AB pic 6

    Basically, present yourself with practice tasks which stretch your current grip on your movement solutions (aka require you to expand your movement skill-set and the use of your toolbox even further and sometimes in novel ways). This movement practice environment should allow for:

    • Exploration – Searching the problem landscape to be able to adequately explore how the movement solutions can be coordinated and controlled differently (or in refined ways)
    • Amplification – The problems faced each day should amplify education to each of the 3B levels (behaviors, brain, biomechanics) of how the movement skill is being organized (what’s being perceived, the decisions made because of this, the execution of the biomechanical actions)
    • Exploitation – Once one is comfortable in this constantly ever-changing practice context, the mover can begin to exploit different aspects and nuances of the respective problems that they have now become accustomed at solving

    Meaning, in a nutshell, get out of the pre-planned footwork drills and, instead, get into more representative tasks and contextual problem solving. It’s in these ways that I could see the NFL’s most masterful mover get even better! It’s scary, but it’s true. In these ways, AB84 would add more dimensions to the movement solutions he coordinates (new and/or refined movement strategies and/or pattern combinations) and how he controls his current movement solutions (adding adjustability and an even more functional ‘fit’ between he and a wider variety of problems he could encounter). If we think he’s the face of dexterity in movement skill now, just wait and see where he would be if he would take this approach.


    No matter which way we cut it I think it’s still rather clear; Antonio Brown is the most masterful mover in the game. He owns himself within his movement solutions, he organizes highly authentic and creative movement actions which remain efficient and yet effective and he is able to become one with the situation at-hand. We could not ask for a better representative of movement mastery than AB84 and we should all sit back and marvel at the movement behaviors which emerge. The only question remaining then is; can he get even more skillful?! I know at least one Football Movement Coach who is really excited to find out.


  • Shawn Myszka 4:00 pm on January 3, 2018 Permalink

    2017 Movement Awards 

    Picking up the trend that I started at the end of last year, I am going to continue to beef up my year-end award giving this season. In fact, before naming the 2017 Mover of the Year tomorrow, and to go along with the ‘Most Improved Mover’ and ‘Most Impressive Rookie Mover’ recognition, I am going to name a ‘Most Masterful Moving Team’ this year for the respective team who collectively showed up each Sunday with the most skillful of performers across their roster.

    In true ‘Football Beyond the Stats’ fashion, each of these additional awards will be judged and selected based on the same criteria as the Mover of the Year (and the All-Movement Team for that matter); on the execution of movement skills and not on where individuals (or teams) rank statistically!

    Most Improved Mover

    Todd Gurley, Running Back, Los Angeles Rams

    Rams Preview Football

    This selection may come as a surprise to some where after two years ago, while as a rookie, Gurley seemingly took the NFL by storm and showed the flashes of RB greatness to be the new torch bearer at the position for this generation. However, even when he was doing that, I always felt as though there was still a little left to be desired in his movement skill-set. Yes, he was capable of breaking home run plays at anytime. Yes, he was also frequently found laying down some nasty hurdles over guys. So what’s the reason for all of the doubt from me? Well, I felt as though he was often accomplishing those respective tasks by simply being more athletic than his opponents in many cases. Meaning, he was solving those problems through physical prowess and not through the most dexterous of movement toolboxes. Don’t get me wrong here; those plays most definitely count and in the NFL you are to achieve success in any way that you possibly can. That all said though, under the direction and tactical strategies of new Ram Head Coach Sean McVay, Gurley is now being put in positions to literally take games over, and because of this, I have seen a whole new level of improved movement skills emerge from Gurley. There is no doubt that Gurley can still run past just about anyone and he will still jump over a guy if said opponent elects to take his eyes off of him and/or tries to go low, but the Rams RB isn’t just about athleticism any longer. Instead, he’s now out there solving problems in highly attuned and adaptable ways and with the inclusion of new wrinkles in his movement patterns this has all led to more precise timing and creativity in his agility actions. Finally, he’s done this rather consistently throughout the year against all comers which is the mark of someone masterful truly coming into his own in the context-dependent fashions which take place on a field.

    Most Impressive Rookie Mover

    Alvin Kamara, Running Back, New Orleans Saints

    Kamara 2

    Resembling the whirlwind we saw out of last year’s top rookie mover, Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs, this year’s top first year performer, Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints, presented problems to the rest of the league that aren’t often found from a rookie. Though Kamara was absolutely incredible in his own right, it was not a foregone conclusion that he would end up in this top spot. Instead, he had to contend with the impressive movement skills of new comers in fellow do-it-all running backs Kareem Hunt (Chiefs) and Tarik Cohen (Bears) as well as a number of All-Movement Team members including a First Team performer at tight end, Evan Engram (Giants) and Third Team performers like linebacker Reuben Foster (49ers) and cornerback Marshon Lattimore (Saints). In fact, I would say it was possibly Kamara’s teammate in Marshon Lattimore who gave him the biggest push for this recognition. However, based on how he truly took the NFL world by storm, I feel as though it was Alvin Kamara who displayed the most well-rounded and surprisingly refined movement behaviors of all of the rookies. It’s been downright unfair what Kamara has been doing to any team that stands in his way. His visual scanning is precise and sensitive, his decision making is varied but accurate, and the strategies that flow from his creation lead down to feet that are quick but powerful.

    Most Masterful Moving Team

    At first glance, this new award at ‘Football Beyond the Stats’ would seem to be easier said than done to select. Theoretically, one could just go through my All-Movement Team in a position-by-position manner and simply count the respective NFL team that was represented with the highest frequency. However, every team has outliers who perform at a level that far exceeds their peers. Thus, rather than do this (i.e. count the team represented most often), I decided to try my hand and do my best at evaluating an entire team roster based on the level of movement skill that was put on a field each and every Sunday. Once the smoke cleared on this above mentioned process, a number of teams kept reoccurring for final evaluation; so much so that I would say that I really couldn’t go wrong with any of them. Here were some of the features of our top candidates:

    Kansas City Chiefs – A team appealingly built on speed on both sides of the ball, when you think about dynamic, game-breaking playmakers, you can’t help but think of the Kansas City Chiefs. Yes, speed kills. However, just because a team is fast doesn’t mean they are the most skillful and dexterous when it comes to movement skills. That said, they do have a number of performers who show more than pure linear speed or explosive burst such as burner Tyreek Hill, rookie Kareem Hunt, and tight end Travis Kelce (with Hill and Kelce being former First Team members of our All-Movement Team).

    Seattle Seahawks – Over the years, I’ve often commented about the movement capabilities of this previous perennial playoff team. In fact, if this would’ve been a couple of years ago, they may have been clearly the tops of this group for a number of years straight. Even now, we stand with my top moving QB in the League on their roster (Russell Wilson) as well as at least one impressive mover at each level of the defense including two members of our All-Movement Defensive First Team (Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas).

    Atlanta Falcons – The defending NFC Champion is stacked with movement talent on both sides of the ball. From All-Movement First Team performer Devonta Freeman to dynamic guys like Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen anchoring a consistently moving defense throughout, this team is one to be reckoned with for a list like this. Oh yeah, they also have a guy named Julio Jones who just so happens to be on our All-Movement Team and makes catches appear to be routine that no one else around the league can even make.

    Pittsburgh Steelers – Anytime your team has a past Mover of the Year on its roster, you are almost certain to get immediate recognition for being one of the best of the best. This team is more than just about Antonio Brown though; it has a multiple All-Movement Team mention at Running Back Le’Veon Bell and is stacked with other guys like youngster TJ Watt and Ryan Shazier (2017 All-Movement Second Team) on the defensive side of the ball. Additionally, with the pocket presence of Big Ben at QB thrown into the mix this team have the makings of a roster worth evaluating deeper from a movement standpoint.

    Minnesota Vikings – For the Vikings to turn my head says something; even when they have me being more highly critical of them due to the fact that they are the team that I have the highest number of my personal clients on. Unlike the other teams, I have not missed a single snap from the Vikings’ season. Because of that, I get to see the best and the worst of them. No matter the week, one of the NFL’s best overall teams is stacked on both sides of the ball with proficient movers including guys like Everson Griffen (All-Movement First Team at DE), a consistent mover like Harrison Smith (Third Team Safety), and one of the most mobile QBs of 2017 in Case Keenum (Third Team QB).

    Jacksonville Jaguars – The surprise team of the entire AFC and this list, the Jaguars roster is loaded across the defense with performers who are as dynamic as it comes especially as a unit. This includes All-Movement First Team performer A.J. Bouye and fellow cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Though this team does deserve mention here, especially with what their defense did all season long, I feel as though they are still a year or two away from both further movement skill refinement from their standout defense as well as acquiring a few more dynamically skillful playmakers on the offensive side of the ball.

    That all being said, when the dust is settled and the game movement analysis has been completed, the winner is…

    The Atlanta Falcons!

    Falcons 2

    I decided to go in the direction of the reigning NFC Champion, Atlanta Falcons, as my first-ever Most Masterful Moving Team award winner! From top to bottom, from offense to defense and into the special teams, this team has few weaknesses when it comes to the movement skills that they display. The Falcons have an offense that have world class movers (Freeman, Jones, Ryan) and depth to boot (such as Tevin Coleman, Justin Hardy, Mo Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, & Austin Hooper) which aids in them winning this award. The thing that puts them over the edge is likely the level to level movement mastery on the defensive side of the ball. I already mentioned their outstanding safeties, but they are dynamic upfront with the authenticity displayed by edge rushing guys like Courtney Upshaw, Brooks Reed, Adrian Clayborn and Vic Beasley and with one of the more athletic LB tandems playing in the game in Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell. Beyond those aforementioned special safeties, we find two crafty corners who can sufficiently get movement jobs done, as well. This all combines to make the Atlanta Falcons the most fun treat for any Movement Coach to analyze in 2017.




  • Shawn Myszka 3:41 pm on January 2, 2018 Permalink  

    2017 All-Movement Team 

    It’s that time of the year again: NFL award time! And you’ve found what I believe to be the most unique award compilation that you will come across this post-season.

    If you’re new here, let me enlighten you as to why and how this list is compiled. First of all, I believe the players who possess the most attuned and adaptable of movement skill toolboxes should be recognized for the work that it goes into crafting those dynamics. As you will notice, there are times that those skills translate into the player being a NFL statistical leader at their position, and other times it does not (hence the blog’s name, ‘Beyond the Stats’). Because of this, our list is based on hours upon hours of my movement analysis during film study to determine the players who I feel are deserving of being considered the game’s best movers at each position.

    If you want to look back at last year’s All-Movement team (Part 1; Offense & Part 2; Defense) you can check them out below. This will also give you a further idea on who’s movement skill has evolved and who’s may have dropped off from one year to the next.

    Part 1 (Offense):

    Part 2 (Defense & Special Teams):

    However, that’s about enough of living in the past; let’s find out who were the most masterful movers in the NFL over the course of the 2017 season.

    All-Movement Team; OFFENSE


    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Elusiveness while moving in the pocket, Making plays with feet when plays break down

    First Team: Russell Wilson (Seahawks)

    Wilson 2

    Second Team (Tie): Case Keenum (Vikings), Cam Newton (Panthers)



    Third Team (Tie): Matt Ryan (Falcons), Tom Brady (Patriots)

    When I wrote last year’s All-Movement Team description I shouted from the rooftops how good last year’s First Team QB, Green Bay Packer Aaron Rodgers, was particularly when it comes to the ability to move accordingly based on what the contextual problem at-hand offers a performer. In fact, this subjective take was the subject of an article written by Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune which pitted Rodgers versus an athlete I have worked with extensively in the past, Everson Griffen (Vikings). However, due to being injured early in a week 6 loss versus the Vikings this season, Rodgers just didn’t have as much time under center as we would like to see in order to evaluate where his current movement toolbox resides. Thus, a new performer would be sure to step up to that top spot.

    However, just how “new” to our First Team would this performer be? Honestly, this season it really ended up being mainly a two horse race for this top spot between two players who are former First Team performers; Russell Wilson of the Seahawks (2015 & 2014) and Cam Newton of the Panthers (2013). At the end of the day, for the THIRD time ever, the do-it-all Seattle QB would end up reigning supreme again though an incredible 60+ yard run from Cam when facing a number of players of mine from the Vikings in the 13th game of the season almost put him over the edge. Wilson though, almost constantly carrying his team in every way that he can, just makes plays that others cannot (whether he’s in the pocket or outside of it). With a movement skill-set that is built like a RB when looking to run the football in space, it is now backed up with an enhanced link between perception and action, between eyes & other senses and his feet & arm to allow him to always be in positions to make extraordinary plays no matter where he is on the field.

    Rounding out our Teams we start with an unlikely performer at the beginning of the season in current Vikings QB, Case Keenum, as well as two of the very best signal callers in the game, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan. Very few players showed the type of magician-like escape-ability that the former journeyman QB Keenum has; because of this, he has extended plays that others have not and is deserving of mention on our blog. The two perennial Pro Bowlers and last year’s Super Bowl starting QBs in Brady and Ryan won’t typically blow anyone away with their movement skills outside of the pocket but inside the pocket, they are simply masterful. With the ways that they take in constantly-changing information and understand their individualized affordances for action to remain in a position to make the necessary throws while doing so under a vast array of conditions (pressure, weather, etc), this list would not be complete without these two guys.

    Running Backs

    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Robust movement strategy use in diverse conditions, Stopping/cutting on a dime, Accelerative burst

    First Team: Devonta Freeman (Falcons)


    Second Team (Tie): Le’Veon Bell (Steelers), Alvin Kamara (Saints)


    Kamara 2

    Third Team (Tie): LeSean McCoy (Bills) Todd Gurley (Rams)

    With last year’s All-Movement First Team member and eventual Mover of the Year, David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals, unfortunately visiting the Injured Reserve for the year after the very first game of the season, it was time for a new back to step up and take the crown. Luckily, each level of the 2016 All-Movement Team was stacked with individuals fully capable of doing just that. Coupled with some newcomers who made a solid run at our annual team, this group is packed full of individuals displaying highly dexterous movement skill sets and the ability to execute under numerous contextual demands.

    Over the past few years, one performer always seemed to get nudged out in the final tallies to find a different player was wearing that aforementioned crown. Making the Third Team last year and the Second Team in 2015, Devonta Freeman of the Atlanta Falcons is the RB that I feel has become the most well-rounded of all the members in our group this year. This is not taking anything away from a former All-Movement Team members like Le’Veon Bell (2016 Second Team) with his authentically-unique movement style which is made possible with vision and patience, or 2013 Mover of the Year, LeSean McCoy (2016 Third Team), who has a movement skill-set truly showcased by his extraordinary adaptability. It’s also giving credit where credit is due with newcomers to our team such as the dazzling rookie, Alvin Kamara, who’s playmaking ability and elusive style showed itself as the Saints moved him all around the field as a match-up nightmare to take the NFL by storm from the start. Additionally, it gives adequate recognition to the NFL MVP candidate of the group, Todd Gurley, whose explosive burst and linear speed is beyond in another category even across this plethora of special movers.

    At the end of the day though it would be Freeman who would come out of this class on top and it’s for good reason. Long recognized by yours truly as the most technically proficient decelerator in the game, he has the capability to stop on a dime more proficiently than the rest of the group and this quality sets everything else up in his ability to change direction and re-accelerate with style and pizzazz. This year, for whatever reason, this unique technical execution now seems even more skillful as it is backed up by more attuned perception which allows him to not only time actions more precisely in response to opponents but also do so with enhanced level to level problem-solving in mind. Though it’s completely subjective to say, Freeman also has the widest, most diverse of toolboxes of the group; so much so that he has equal access for an abundance of cutting solutions at any moment in time.

    Wide Receivers

    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Crisp/precise route running, Dynamics in the open field, Linear football speed (ability & mechanics)

    First Team: Antonio Brown (Steelers)

    AB pic 6

    Second Team: Julio Jones (Falcons)


    Third Team (Tie): Doug Baldwin (Seahawks), Golden Tate (Lions)

    The king is still here…and when it comes to the quantification of his movement skill set, he is without equal at his position. It turns out that even a late season (week 15) calf tear couldn’t slow his roll and keep others from surpassing him (just like it went down in many statistical categories among the NFL receiving leaders). The WR group usually consists of more than a few guys that we could marvel at with their movement, but AB84 is on another level. In fact, he’s so good that if I could somehow find a way to write his name in the First, Second and Third Team slots I almost would. Last year I critiqued Brown in saying that I felt as though he had a down year movement-wise after coming off a 2015 campaign where he was awarded our Mover of the Year and where I claimed he was the most masterful I’ve seen doing it since starting this blog. Built off of a supreme, out-of-this world type of functional fit between he and both routine and novel tasks within his environment, AB84 is back where he belongs and so for the FOURTH YEAR IN A ROW he reigns supreme on the top of our list.

    Like I said, don’t get me wrong though, the rest of this group is impressively skillful. All three of these guys, Jones on the Second, and Baldwin and Tate on the Third, have found themselves on our list in the past and this year is no different. Julio Jones’s unique kinesthetic sense & awareness is a movement trait which is only honed through hours of beating on one’s craft. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he also hit the sperm lottery and is built upon a unique blend of physical qualities that few others in the history of the NFL have ever possessed. Two technicians and former teammates round out our Team. Though both are having a bit of a down year statistically, this doesn’t matter much to us here (just look at the name of the blog!) as you would be hard pressed to find any two guys (at least outside of Brown) as proficient within the movement actions contained in their route running and as crafty after the catch as these guys.

    Tight Ends

    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Wide receiver-like route running, Athleticism to make plays happen after the catch, Proficiency to be an effective blocker

    First Team: Evan Engram (Giants)

    Giants Cowboys Football

    Second Team: Travis Kelce (KC)

    Kelce pic 2

    Third Team: Delanie Walker (Titans)

    I will admit; I am going to be look like a bit of a hypocrite here. Last year, the first words uttered out of my mouth regarding evaluating the level of mastery displayed by individuals playing the tight end position were oriented around their ability to display an all-around skill-set to equally execute in both the pass and the run game. Well, this year I am violating my own rule as a rookie TE came onto the scene whose dynamic movement skills in the pass game were just too much to ignore. At 6’3” and only 240lb, Evan Engram runs routes with the movement capabilities of most big WR due in part to tremendous linear speed (ran 4.42 at the NFL Combine just last year) highlighted by explosive acceleration over short distances. Additionally, his ability to get in and out of breaks rapidly allows him to not only become a mismatch versus the backers and safeties that often find themselves lined up against him, but it also can even show itself as a quality which allows him to get separation from more cover-oriented DBs when lined up on the outside. Just a rookie; the sky is the limit for Engram and I think we can predict that should be on our Team for years to come.

    Not to be too outdone (though they are essentially placing 2nd and 3rd after all), the next two individuals to round out this list are guys who have become mainstays on our Team. In fact, these guys were the recipients of First Team honors over the previous two seasons (Travis Kelce in 2016, Delanie Walker in 2015). Though neither of these guys honestly took major steps back in 2017 (Kelce earned a Play of the Week early in the season), if we are gauging this off of all-around game, an argument could be made for either of these guys to get the nod. Thus, it was more of a case that Engram just happened to offer that much more unique of skill-set. That said, Kelce runs routes with precision and Walker remains as crafty in space as anyone is once a ball is in his hands.

    All-Movement Team: DEFENSE

    Defensive Line/End

    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: First-step explosive burst, Ability to move rapidly to change direction to move laterally when tracking down ball carriers

    First Team: Everson Griffen (Vikings)


    Second Team (Tie): Aaron Donald (Rams), DeMarcus Lawrence (Cowboys)

    Donald pic 1


    Third Team (Tie): Khalil Mack (Raiders), Cameron Jordan (Saints)

    At first glance, some will look at Everson sitting at the top spot of this list and immediately cry “bias” to me…however, if you were to do that, it would immediately show that you haven’t watched 97 for the Vikings over the course of any game this season. Of course, I can see why people will initially claim this; knowing that my work partnership with Everson has been somewhat publicized over the years (as we have known each year since the offseason following his rookie year…which seems like forever ago!). However, everyone who personally knows me understands that I am MUCH more critical on how my player’s are performing than anyone on the outside world could be (besides the Twitter haters that is).

    In fact, it could be said that Everson probably should have been sitting on top of this list before this year (he was on the Third Team a couple of times). Instead, from the start, I have personally maintained the highest of quality standard for Everson’s movement skill and behaviors (as I do for any player who I work with). So, in this way, Ev has been at a significant disadvantage over the years versus other players because I see both the good and the bad of his craft with a fine toothed comb…from every angle, at every speed, countless times! Due to his diligence and commitment to that craft, this year saw a whole lot of good from 97’s movement toolbox. Honestly, since week 8 and a game against the Browns in London where Ev began to deal with some plantar fascia issues, the access of certain moves/skill (or at least the full control of them) started to become limited. But, even then, the abundance of solutions that he had available started to show through as just a few weeks later he recorded a multiple sack day vs. the Lions and finished the regular season with 13 sacks and a whole lot of disruption week to week.

    Though an interior defensive lineman doesn’t get nearly the opportunities to show the level of mastery within their movement craft as edge defenders do, Aaron Donald has continued his reign over the entire NFL and his movement mastery is a big part of this. When we talk about a player displaying diversity and dexterity in their movement solutions on the defensive side of the ball, Donald is at the top of this list. Receiving his first ever recognition here at BTS is the Cowboy weekly pass rushing force to be reckoned with, DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence is as creative as they come in his pursuit to bring QBs down; he moves with authenticity and is displays a variety of ways to solve the problems that OL present.

    Falling down our list slightly from last year but still worthy of All-Movement recognition is Khalil Mack. Last year’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year and our First Team performer here, we still see Mack out-adapting all competitors (both in regards to the literal competition he faces each week as well as the talented crew he beat out to make this list). If there’s a movement problem in the environment, he likely has a solution to match it. Wrapping up our Team at the front of the defense is Cameron Jordan of the Saints. While the veteran is considered among the most well-rounded DE’s in the league, it’s mostly due to his understanding of where he is in time and space and what he can do from that position when he’s there.

    Inside Linebacker

    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: First step explosiveness in all directions, Ability to rapidly cover ground laterally

    First Team: Bobby Wagner (Seahawks)

    Wagner 1

    Second Team: Ryan Shazier (Steelers)

    Shazier 1

    Third Team: Luke Kuechly (Panthers)

    From the NFL football movement I analyzed throughout most of the year, this was really a two horse race between last year’s top mover at the position, Bobby Wagner, and a guy that has really flashed periodically since entering the league, Ryan Shazier. Of course, our eventual Second Team performer unfortunately suffered a tragic spinal injury in week 13 of this season. However, prior to that point, he really appeared to be coming into his own from a movement skill standpoint and was truly giving Wagner a run for his movement money.

    Though hampered by a nagging hamstring issue towards the end of the season, Wagner could be found through at least the first ¾ of the season making a real push towards an NFL Defensive POY that seems to have eluded his stellar career up to this point. Attacking problems 360 degrees around him equally as effectively and efficiently, Wagner’s aggressive but attuned style wastes little motion step to step, snap to snap. In contrasting styles, relying more on his unique physical gifts than his sensory-perceptual awareness, Ryan Shazier is as athletically dynamic as it comes at the position. At 6’1” and 230lb, he’s always been a freak of nature running around on the field. As I said above, it seemed as though he was really starting to display those unique athletic gifts in the nuanced solutions required of the position when things got scary that Monday night versus the Bengals. Now facing an uphill road ahead, I want to extend all of my hopes and prayers for Shazier and his recovery as he pushes forward.

    Our Third Team player, Luke Kuechly, is the model of football IQ. A former First Team performer in the past (2014), he finds himself as a runner-up to the runner-up for the third consecutive year. Coming off of a 2016 season that he ended off-of-the-field with concussion issues, Kuechly’s body of movement work is built off of intention and decision making. Don’t get me wrong, he has both physical gifts and biomechanically-sound execution, but it’s the link between his perception and his cognition that most sets him up for success. It’s because of this that his name must be included in any conversation about movement skill, expertise, and mastery at the linebacker position.

    Outside Linebackers

    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Accelerative burst, Deceleration/Cutting ability to be able to stop quickly to reaccelerate while tracking ball carriers

    First Team: Chandler Jones (Cardinals)

    Chandler Jones.jpg

    Second Team: Von Miller (Broncos)

    Miller 2

    Third Team: Reuben Foster (49ers), Lavonte David (Buccaneers)

    In today’s NFL, OLB are asked to perform a wide variety of tactical tasks to help their teams win. Because of this, there is huge inter-individual variability in responsibilities put on the players at the position from team to team. Furthermore, this makes the evaluation of movement skills here that much more difficult. It’s truly like comparing apples to oranges between the players. It comes down to flavor and preference and even though I try to be as unbiased as possible, I am human so some of that is bound to be at play at all times. That all said when the smoke cleared on this year’s analysis we find ourselves with a new champion mover at the OLB position for the first time in the last three years. That’s right, much to even my surprise, the mighty blend of violence and grace that is known as Von Miller’s movement toolbox has least slightly…and at least for now.

    Honestly, last year, Von Miller came awfully close to upending eventual Mover of the Year, David Johnson, as being recognized with the most masterful movement in the whole league. This year though, he seemed to me, at least at times, to lack some of that typical ability to completely take over games with his movement skill that was his hallmark for years. That’s not to say that Miller’s skill-set isn’t still top notch, it still is. However, from what I saw from Chandler Jones this year, he could not be denied. Having a career year statistically, Jones appears to be leaner with more explosive pop every time his foot hits the ground. Though he doesn’t corner around the edge like the guy he unseated (Miller), he has an array of moves at the top of his rush which gives him diversity and dexterity in the problem that the Cardinals most often ask him to solve; beating an OT and sacking the QB.

    Asked to do completely different things but playing “theoretically” the same position, we find two guys who are unbelievably effective and efficient, Lavonte David and Reuben Foster. Reminding me of the distinction that we made above when discussing Bobby Wagner and Ryan Shazier, the OLB equivalent stands here with David being the perceptually attuned veteran who more often than not finds himself in precise positions and Foster the young dude out there balling with supreme physical prowess for a football field. Both stacked with class leading instincts especially when running in space to track down offensive opponents with or without a ball in their hands, these guys would have easily found themselves on the top of the list if I included the edge defending pass rushing OLBs in another category.


    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Mastery of body position & control (especially during cover situations), Movement speed in multiple planes, Athleticism while ball in the air (leaping ability, tracking, kinesthetic awareness, etc)

    First Team: AJ Bouye (Jaguars)

    Bouye 2.jpg

    Second Team: Darius Slay (Lions)


    Third Team (Tie): Patrick Peterson (Cardinals), Marshon Lattimore (Saints)

    As I mentioned last year at the onset of our discussion on the top moving corners in the league, I feel it bears repeating again: we can never separate perception and action in the coordination of movement skill & execution! This, of course, applies in regards to the demands of every position in any open task sport. However, maybe no position embodies this reality of sport motor behavior more than playing corner in the NFL. Meaning, how you are required to move will stem from who it is that you are forced to cover day each week and how you combine the 3B’s of movement skill (Behaviors/sensory-perceptual attention, Brain/cognitive decision making, Biomechanics/technical execution) in order to carry out those task solutions.

    Making the jump from the Second Team in 2016 to the top of the CB heap in 2017 is new Jaguar A.J. Bouye. Though this group is stacked with individuals who consistently show out from a movement and sport skill standpoint, Bouye is the cream of the crop. Last year I selected Bronco corner Chris Harris over Bouye because I felt as though he was more polished, diverse, and dexterous than this year’s king. However, Bouye seems to have taken the necessary jumps in skill to bring the best overall package to the mix. Honestly, every time I watch film of him, I find myself rewinding the same play over and over again as I watch the extremely functional perception-action coupling he displays. His senses and his feet are so closely connected and it shows with the way that he jumps on routes and darts to bring down any skill player with a ball in this hands. Additionally, when carrying out certain movement patterns that allow him to execute in those respective tasks like planting & breaking on a receiver or preparing to tackle in space, we will almost always see him in efficient biomechanical positions and executing with little wasted motion or time.

    The rest of our All-Movement Team across the Second and Third units is loaded with movement talent who displays proficiency and executes with slightly different but authentic strategies. Darius Slay is a guy who is underrated at the position and is sometimes unjustly left off the list when discussing the top corners in the game. However, talk about stepping up to challenges, Slay routinely follows the opposing team’s top pass catcher (as do the other two guys on these teams) and he matches his solutions to meet the unique needs of what the WR brings to the table. This, ladies and gentleman, is the definition of dexterity in movement and few across any position have been as good as Slay with this movement quality. Of course, no one in the position has the sort of God-given athleticism that Patrick Peterson possesses. This is not to say that he hasn’t worked diligently to develop the nuances of his craft, but he just brings something to the table that others cannot. Almost a mainstay on one of our units of our Team from the start five years ago (being a First Teamer in 2015), Peterson has consistently gotten more skillful especially in regards to an increase in perceptual attunement and overall football IQ. Finally, a guy that I really couldn’t leave off the list is rookie Marshon Lattimore of the Saints. This youngster is truly impressive especially at a position where guys really don’t hit their strides until racking up repetitions and exposure to defending against the game’s best WR, Lattimore has stood under this fire and taken the best shot from the best WR on each team. Though he’s given up some catches as he has learned, the authenticity of his movement solutions are often characterized by instinct, trust in his skills, quickness in his steps, and low, slicing movement patterns.


    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: 360 degree movement ability (acceleration, stopping, changing direction), Movement speed to snipe guys from anywhere in the field in both aspects of the game, Athleticism while ball in the air (leaping ability, tracking, kinesthetic awareness, etc)

    First Team: Earl Thomas (Seahawks)


    Second Team: Kevin Byard (Titans)

    Byard 2

    Third Team (Tie): Harrison Smith (Vikings), Lamarcus Joyner (Rams)

    Last year seems like such a distant memory now. If you remember back though, I had awarded Giants safety Landon Collins as the new face of masterfully moving individuals at the position while also acknowledging he was last year’s ‘Most Improved Mover.’ With every Seahawks game I watched, my 2014 Mover of the Year, Earl Thomas, seemed to make me doubt that decision to put anyone ahead of him even more. Even though Earl ended up on our Second Team last year, it was definitely an off year for the former three-time, First Team mover.

    Fully back and reloaded in 2017, when it comes to the whole host of movement problems to be solved by a safety at the highest levels of the game, I feel as that Earl is without equal. Though it could be argued that when it comes to playing the position, with what one is asked to do within the tactical and technical aspects of the game, our Third Team performer, Harrison Smith, may be the very best safety in the game (meaning, not the best mover…but the best with what he’s expected to do and what he does). However, with some of the extraordinary highlight plays that no one else is capable of making at the position, this is where Earl stands out and he does so with such finely attuned perceptual skill, zero hesitation in the decisions he makes, and an all-out reckless abandon like he’s being shot out of a canon wherever he goes on the field.

    Beyond Earl, and including Harrison, this group is stacked throughout. Our Second Team performer is a young guy that just keeps balling out and making more splash plays than anyone at the position across the league. The first full season starter for the Titans, Kevin Byard, has a movement toolbox that is built on a diversity of abundant movement solutions which led to him grabbing more interceptions in dynamic fashion than the rest of the group. Byard could be a guy who pushes his movement skill to the next level in years to come and in the process pushes Thomas for that top spot. On our Third Team, Lamarcus Joyner is a guy that would not turn heads when looking at his pre-draft measurables back when he came out in 2014, but all the guy does is solve problems in front of him and in turn, present problems to opposing offenses. Though he’s only around 190lb, this dude plays fast on tape and is as aggressive as they come. In fact, it appears as though some of his movement skill is modeled towards Thomas-like tendencies. He also has tremendous dexterity in his game having the capacity to step in at CB for the Rams when needed. Finally, as mentioned above, within the movement skills of the game’s all-around best safety in Harrison Smith, we see behaviors built on true affordances for action; he understands the plays that he can make and he simply goes and makes them. Additionally, he does so with authentic movement patterns that wouldn’t fit within the confines of many biomechanist’s presentation examples but are effective and optimal for who he is and what he aims to do.

    All-Movement Team: SPECIAL TEAMS

    Kick Returner

    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Top end speed (mechanics & ability), Curvilinear running ability (mechanics & speed), Open-field decision-making

    First Team: Pharoh Cooper (Rams)


    Second Team: Dion Lewis (Patriots)

    In today’s NFL, we don’t get to see the movement skills of kick returners showcased nearly as much as we once did. Year to year, the NFL has seemed to all but do away with kickoff returns in hopes of making the game safer. However, I would argue, that seeing a player who has a knack for being a proficient kick returner is one of the most intriguing stories to study on a football field due to the vast number of movement skills that they must be in possession of and find a way to employ them at the right time and place. Speaking of movement dexterity, we find our First Team performer (and Second Team Punt Returner), Pharoh Cooper of the Rams. With Cooper, we are not talking about a guy with blazing fast linear speed nor are we even talking about a guy who possesses movement patterns that fit under some idealized biomechanical ideal. Instead, when you watch Cooper, you will witness a player with authenticity in each of his movement patterns and the solutions which drive them. Meaning, he makes the most out of whom he is, exploits his strengths, and covers gaps in his style because of his understanding of his own particular affordances for action.

    Punt Returner

    General Movement Qualities Evaluated: Stopping in multiple biomechanical positions, Movement strategy use in chaotic conditions, Rapid acceleration

    First Team: Jamal Agnew (Lions)


    Second Team: Pharoh Cooper (Rams)

    Like I just mentioned with my investigation of those returning kicks, I also love uncovering the way the game’s best punt returners solve the diverse problems that they are faced with. Not only do these problems vary widely, but they are also taking place in the most extreme of unpredictable, chaotic situations. Though our sport is filled with these types of crazy, dynamic sub-systems in problems taking place all over the field, nothing is quite like when a punt is in the air and 11 guys are purpose-driven with a singular intention of tackling one specific performer who is a sitting duck waiting to respond with the best that his movement toolbox has to offer. In my opinion, the player who accomplished that goal better than all others in 2017 was Jamal Agnew of the Detroit Lions. The fifth round pick from just this year was truly dynamic scoring two punt return touchdowns and providing a dynamic spark for his new team by playing numerous roles beyond returning punts and covering WRs. This versatility was driven by tremendous immediate pedal to the floor type of acceleration but it didn’t stop there as though Agnew was brought in as a CB, he appears to have a more than solid grasp at the offensive agility maneuvers in the open field that are necessary if one is to gain chunk yardage each time you touch the ball.



  • Shawn Myszka 7:38 pm on December 26, 2017 Permalink  

    2017 Play of the Week – Week 16 

    Game: 3 Various Games (ATL/NO, PIT/HOU, & TB/CAR)

    Play: Novelty & creativity wins the week

    What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

    This time of the year, many of the week’s best movement plays can get missed or go unnoticed because people are so busy enjoying the holiday season (rightfully so). Well, each of the plays that we will feature today will most definitely go down as some of the season’s very best no matter who’s doing the judging (i.e. movement coach or fan); thus, I wanted to ensure that they received rightful attention here. When I pitted each of these against one another for the final analysis nod today, there was simply no way for me to leave any of these three plays out. What made it even more needed for all of them to be featured was that they all occurred in a fashion that did NOT go according to the way that they were drawn up or routinely practiced. Meaning, the performance was built upon a foundation of novelty and creativity within the movement skills portrayed.

    I often rant and rave about a perceived reality I have regarding skill expertise (whether it’s a movement skill or a sport skill); at the end of the day, and even though there is definitely some prerequisite for performing “the fundamentals,” if you play at the highest levels of the sport, you must have robust, dexterous, diverse, and sometimes flat-out creative movement coordination and control. There are no better illustrations of this collective need than when we look at how each of these performers, Marshon Lattimore of the New Orleans Saints, DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans, and Damiere Byrd of the Carolina Panthers, organized their execution on these respective plays this week.

    What happened movement-wise on the play?

    We will start this week by watching each of the plays. As you do, look for the common thread uniting each of them (i.e. novelty and creativity).

    First, we find Marshon Lattimore with his tremendous butt interception…

    Arguably, no rookie at any position has shown the level of mastery over the course of their first year campaigns as corner Marshon Lattimore has for the Saints. On this play, he raises the ante when a tipped ball lands on his backside and he ‘feels’ his way through the balance of the ball till he could come up with it (even with numerous others including teammates had their hand at grabbing it away). Though in live time this play seemed to move in slow motion, it’s likely that Lattimore didn’t consciously sense and/or control for the actions utilized when the ball rested on his butt; he simply reacted subconsciously and it maintained the ball’s balance accordingly. Of course, it could’ve easily landed differently and/or rolled off of his body but it didn’t; thus, it’s a spectacular highlight play for us today.

    Lattimore pic 2

    Next, we have DeAndre Hopkins with his tip to himself to bring in the one handed grab…

    Really the lone highlight for the Houston Texans versus the Steelers on Christmas day came as Hopkins did his real live impersonation of the tip drill that runs rampant in some way, shape, or form within developmental practices across the country. After tipping the ball, and while heading to the turf, Hopkins visually locates the ball while contorting his body maintaining a functional, sensory fit with the problem (his hand on the DB’s jersey), till being in a position where his opposite hand could haul the ball in before landing down on top of the DB and the ground.

    Hopkins pic 1.jpg

    Finally, we feature Damiere Byrd with his slick moves on this kickoff return.

    I have often talked here about how chaotic and unpredictable every kickoff or punt return situation plays out. When I say no two problems are ever the same on a football field, this reality quickly becomes magnified when we find ourselves in kickoff or punt scenarios. Damiere Byrd showed a full gamut of movement skills on this kickoff return and as he displayed them, he did so by adjusting and adapting their execution under the unique temporal and spatial demands required on this play. Want a reason as to why we should all incorporate more representative-type tasks into the practice environments of our athletes (and less preplanned/canned change of direction drills) to train for real, game-like agility? This play should show us that real reason!

    Byrd pic 1.jpg

    Hopefully, it’s easy to see where novelty or creativity in movement skills (or in Hopkins’s case, a more isolated sport skill, as well) reigned supreme to allow each play we featured today to occur. I am not dumb to the fact that there is an elephant in the room though; each of the plays appears to have a certain degree of luck involved to make them possible. Though it’s next to impossible to determine how much of the execution success was due to luck versus skill I can say this; the more I personally seem to utilize certain ideas from nonlinear pedagogy to form the centerpieces of my practice environments for my respective players, the more of these types of “lucky” plays such as the ones we saw today that my guys also seem to make on NFL game day. I am talking about pedagogical ideas such as:

    -the use of repetition without repetition so no two problems are really ever the same in practice

    -game like affordances within those above mentioned problems so the plays have to couple their perception and intention with their actions

    -encouragement for experimentation and creation with one’s movement or sport skills throughout the course of both common activities as well as novel ones in the practice environment

    -utilization of activities which allow players to not only become more attuned to subtle changes within their environment & task but also attempt to organize combine movement/sport skills authentically (sometimes differently) in response to them

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