// Get smart with Smart Muscle™ training

The ability to quickly deliver real results is crucial in today’s fitness market. By training your clients smarter, not harder, you can do just this, says Peter Twist.

Success in the fitness and sport industries is measured by results. Professional athletes work diligently with well organised sport coaches who plan every aspect of their performance process, from intricate workout design through to extensive season-long cyclic training programs. This is not unlike personal trainers who are hired and fired according to their ability to inspire clients to achieve tangible physical change. In today’s fast-paced society the ability to deliver real results quickly is paramount. By using Smart Muscle™ training, you can achieve these results by training smarter, not harder.

What is Smart Muscle™ training?

Smart Muscle™ training combines appearance goals with real life function and sport performance goals by using a blend of dynamic balance challenges, multidirectional movement skills and whole body strength exercises. This style of training creates a maximum metabolic cost that activates various muscles from prime movers, to synergists and stabilisers to create complex, purposeful movement that occurs sequentially from toe to fingertip. Executing whole body movement relies on excellent proprioception and coordination built from rehearsed mind-to-muscle communication pathways.

Adaptations for all ages

Smart Muscle™ exercise captures the essence of elite athlete training and applies level-appropriate programming to make it suitable for all ages, from children to ageing boomers. Active adults of all ages benefit by awakening movement patterns, activating extensive muscle groups, re-energising neuromuscular communication pathways and restoring both mental and physical function. The result is enhanced mobility, reduced incidence of injury, increased athletic confidence and a massive caloric expenditure.

Children and young people gain balance, movement and strength, and with each repeated exposure to foundational movement patterns (running, jumping, kicking, throwing) neuromuscular references are established and enhanced. The brain thinks in terms of movements, not individual muscles, and neuromuscular communication pathways (sensory and motor commands) become faster and more efficient, leading to more coordinated, precise and athletic movement.  Rather than teaching children and young people to isolate muscles, exposure to whole body, sequential movement patterns with ability-specific balance challenges builds a solid foundation for sport-specific skill execution. The key to safely utilising this training in younger populations is understanding the individual needs of each child as they progress through the dynamic challenges of neurological, skeletal and muscular changes of adolescence.

Supporting sports skills

The sporting environment requires exceptionally fast read–react–respond abilities where an athlete can quickly interpret a game situation, evaluate the opponent (or the terrain) and apply the correct strategy to create the advantage. Sport is won or lost in small fractions of time and precision frequently determines outcomes. Athletes need to develop exceptional movement skills (speed, agility, coordination, quickness), dynamic balance (core strength, proprioception) and diverse strength (endurance, capacity, power). Layering complex movement, balance and strength challenges develops a smart athlete that is well prepared for the unpredictable demands of sport.

Separate then integrate

Although the temptation when training clients for short-term goals can be to fast track to the most complex skills, drills and exercises, purposeful progression is critical. Begin with a focus on the foundation, where the elements of the training program are separated and developed individually. Teach and train the basics of movement (mobility, patterning, deceleration skills, multidirectional quickness, energetics) without using balance or resistance training tools to encourage precision, control and accuracy. Teach and train the basics of balance (body control, joint stability, postural compensations, segmental control, knee tracking, coordination) using a progressive exposure to more complex balance training tools. Teach and train the basics of whole body multidirectional strength training, progressing from simple to complex lifts that require more joints to work sequentially using a variable range of motion (triple flexion, triple extension, linked system), low loads of resistance and controlled tempos. The outcome is a more functional body that is well equipped to handle the demands of sport and everyday life.

Once quality, controlled movement, balance and strength are established, the variables should be gradually integrated to challenge more than one variable at a time (movement + balance, balance + strength, movement + strength) before progressing to a more performance-based training style that integrates all three variables. Complexity can then be further challenged with tempo changes, work-to-rest variations, load changes and exercise sequencing.

The exercises

Combining strength with a balance challenge (photos 1, 2, 3 & 4)

BOSU® Balance Trainer; up, up, down, down
Begin in a plank position with forearms in contact with BOSU®. Place one hand on the BOSU®, press up through the BOSU® and place the other hand on top until shoulders are directly over hands and the body is flat from shoulders to toes.  Establish stability before lowering one arm down, placing forearm on the BOSU® followed by the other arm to return to the starting position, all the while moving with balance and torso control. (Click images to see larger)

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Combining movement with strength (photos 5, 6, 7 & 8)

Smart Toner™; push pull combination
Using two Smart Toners™ the goal is to perform a row with the pulling arm and a press with the pushing arm. Cue client into athletic-ready position with a split stance (front foot contra-lateral to pulling arm). With pushing arm, grasp one handle at shoulder level with elbow up. With pulling arm, grasp the handle with palm facing in and the elbow in tight to the body. Core is set and upper body is strong. Successful execution involves linked rotation, pivoting of the feet while performing a rowing and pushing movement with the upper body. The pulling arm performs a row action that finishes with the elbow in tight to the body, the hand at hip height. The body rotates as a whole and pivots in the same direction as the pulling arm. The pushing arm performs a press action and finishes extended at shoulder height. Keep the core strong throughout the entire execution. During the recovery phase the whole body simultaneously returns to the start position through reversing the pivot, pulling action and pushing action.

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Integrate movement, balance and strength (photos 9, 10 & 11)

Smart Toner™ BOSU® Balance Trainer; 2-foot lateral jump ro
Begin beside the BOSU® in athletic-ready position with triple flexion of the hips, knees and ankles, grasping the Smart Toner™ handles with arms extended and core set. Cue the athlete to explosively triple extend through the hips, knees and ankles and jump laterally while simultaneously performing a row with the upper body. Land on the dome side of the BOSU® using triple flexion of the hips, knees and ankles to decelerate the body, absorb power and maintain balance. Maintain the row position.

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Challenges to athletes, clients and trainers

To instill positive physical change, the body must be challenged beyond its existing comfort level. Trainers must use a critical eye to correct errors and demand precision over repetition. I have carefully designed exercises which combine several lifts, some concurrently and some sequentially. For example, a lateral bound with deceleration loading (on a BOSU®if ability permits) into a dumbbell lateral raise with unilateral hold is a simpler two-layer combination exercise that challenges several elements (lateral movement, eccentric lateral loading, single leg balance, core stability and shoulder as prime mover). As you graduate through the coaching methodology to safely teach Smart Muscle™ exercises, three and four-layered combination sequences become possible. These heighten the metabolic cost, deliver the widest range of challenges to the body, increase alertness and keep your client fully engaged throughout every rep. Interesting exercises also have the power to gain much greater adherence than simple repetitive ones.

Safe and interesting whole body challenges, carried out at a pace clients are comfortable with, will develop strong, responsive and skilled bodies.

Peter Twist, MSc
Peter is president of Twist Conditioning’s three divisions: franchised Sport Conditioning Centres, product wholesale and the international workshop series specialising in sport conditioning. To learn more about the Twist training methodologies, education and equipment available in Australia contact QPEC Fitness Solutions at www.qpec.com.au or visit www.twistconditioning.com