Part 3: The Coupling of Functional Movement with Technique
By Marc Evans (www.evanscoaching.com) – Exclusively for TriSports.com
Putting it Together
The influence of technique (functional technique) upon athletic performance is vitally important. And to be sure, an effective means to achieving this is through coupling the practice of technique with functional movement and core stability training.
In triathlon and especially for the IRONMAN the run is frequently the determining factor in race success. And the run, unlike the bike, has a narrow pathway for accomplishment. You cannot pay for efficient running – it is by itself and much like swimming subject to the economy of movement. Movements built upon the foundation of stability.
Over the years, a constant characteristic observed in the world’s best triathletes are the coupling of symmetry and stability principally during the run segment. There are exceptions, like IRONMAN champion Faris Al Sultan’s unconventional technique (bike and run) but for the most part IRONMAN Champion triathletes like Scott Tinley who I coached, Mark Allen, Craig Alexander, Greg Welch, Chrissie Wellington, Dave Scott (perhaps, exemplifies coupling better than anyone), Peter Reid and Erin Baker all were exceptionally balanced along the core and powerfully stable with each stride.
In the 2009 IRONMAN world championships, Mirinda Carfrae broke the women’s marathon run course record on way to finishing second to Wellington. Nothing short of an amazing first effort at that distance, but her run is a textbook demonstration of coupled technique, movement and stability as her running style was unwavering and powerfully stable.
The Process of Coupling Technique & Training
As a coach, I see my role as teaching elemental body lines – those movements in technique which are known to be practical and efficient. From the head, shoulders, arms, torso, legs and
feet an athlete functions through a complex system of movements – and some of these are elemental – that is, identified as compulsory to maximize one’s best performances.
In swimming, one of the most common uses of technique is the high elbow and low vertical hand catch position. This is very nearly compulsory to swim at a high level – or at least to one’s potential. But knowing this is the position and executing are very often limited by restrictions in mobility and strength.
Yet, here is where we can make important differences in performance by coupling movement, stability and technique. For instance, shoulder mobility and chest flexibility limitations could be playing a role. And by identifying those areas we can improve the high elbow position – Not to a world class level for most, but nonetheless, improve speed, efficiency and reduce energy costs.
And in cycling efficiently athletes appear being “on top” of the pedals with higher pedaling revolutions even as the hips and torso are unwavering. Conversely, slower rpm’s use more energy (muscular demand is greater) and may increase unbalanced movements all along the kinetic chain – using costly body energy.
Similarly, when a triathlete’s right knee loops asymmetrically out and inward when pedaling an assessment can help determine the causes of such movements. Well known bike fitting systems discount the foundation assessment and will adjust the cleat and shoe interface with the pedal, insert shims, recommend orthotics, move the shoe medially or laterally and even in some cases change the length of the pedal axle. In essence, they have treated the cause, but not the effect. What they have left out in their evaluation is assessment of functional movement and strength to determine if there are tightnesses or weaknesses that are the true root cause of the asymetrical movements.
This is central to why coupling an assessment with technique is so very important – and I expect will become the norm for coaching and bike fitting systems and experts as competencies and tools to...
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