Which Standards Matter in Your Training?

January 18, 2017

Which Standards Matter in Your Training?

“Without a standard you cannot teach” – Dr. Nicholas Romanov

Standards are used in all areas of life as a means of comparison. Imagine how confusing math would be (or how much more confusing, in my case) if there was no definitive standard for the answer to 1 + 1. What if the standard in California was different than in Michigan, which was also different in Russia, which was also different than my 5th grade classroom?

In the world of strength and conditioning, common standards for movement include range of motion, load, volume, and speed. For squatting examples, standards could be 5 sets of 5, 225-lbs., maintaining a certain bar path, or breaking parallel.  All of those structures are artificial; they were created by humans as a means to serve a specific purpose. Hip crease below the knee, for example, was set as a standard of comparison.  Ex. Person A does a 200-lb. back squat here in Michigan and Person B does a 200-lb. back squat in California, we both know we are performing the same squat and not a half-squat that you see in high school weight rooms across the country.

Instead of artificial standards for movement, we need to look at natural standards; those that are provided to us by nature. In the world of formal strength and conditioning, there are three standards that encompass all movement:

  1. Midline Stability – no change in your spinal position throughout any movement
  2. Loading Order – whatever moves first carries the most weight
  3. Laws of Torque – in all motions of flexion, we need to create external rotation; in all motions of extension, we need to create internal rotation

The important thing to understand about these three standards is they apply no matter what movement, program, circumstance, or earthly setting we find ourselves in. As long as gravity is still a thing and our physiology stays the same then these standards do not change.

Let's use those standards in relation to a back squat. Here's a 17 year-old athlete from our gym going through 3 RM Back squat progressions.

    The first standard we look for is midline stability. Jake has very tight hips (a constant work in progress) that usually cause his low back to round at the bottom of squats. So we had him go as low as his spine remained unchanged - which for this day was a med-ball depth. Next we made sure his hips were moving back first instead of his knees shooting forward. Finally, the Laws of Torque applied to the back squat means that his knees needed to stay out the entire time.

    As long as those three standards were met, we challenged them with increased load. If there was any deviation from the standard then the load would have been decreased. I could have also challenged him by adding more reps for each set, more sets in total, or more speed either with each rep or between each set. But the important thing to understand is 7 sets was not a standard, nor was 80% or his 1 rep max, or 300 pounds. Jake's standards for the back squat were Midline stability, Loading Order, and Laws of Torque.

    Blindly following man-made standards set by a program is the easiest way to limit our results. Instead, we need to understand the three general standards listed above and then set our own specific standards for the movements we do that match the purpose we want. Doing this will lead your training and your athletes’ training to better results in half the time.

    The very name of this site implies this as well; don't just abide by the standard of parallel. Break it.

    Full ROM squat for Carter until his hips develop more. But the main three are obeyed.



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