Reverse Engineering the Athlete or Engineering the Athlete in Reverse

Historically speaking, I have heard of 3 times where individuals and/or coaches were trained trying to reverse engineer athletes.  The first case I remember was my Kinesiology teacher explaining how the Russians tried to reverse engineer swimmers towards Mark Spitz and his swimming asymmetry in the hopes of increasing swim times.  Ironically, Mark’s coaches were trying to fix this asymmetry, which later increased his times and decreased the Russians times. In cross country skiing I’ve heard that coaches were training younger skiers towards vagus knees in order to simulate the gait of advanced athletes.  My dad once told me that the Japanese had adopted what was known as the frog style (below) olympic lift which incorporated a varus knee to compensate for valgus knees occurrence.  I have yet to confirm all of these stories as it was often 2nd and 3rd hand information.

The first 2 stories are a type of reverse engineering that were short sighted. One can assume that greater injuries likely occurred from the valgus knees stress on the ligaments of the knee along with the possibility of low back injuries.  What can be gained by looking at these examples is to understand that chronic training can and does lead to asymmetry.

Anecdotally, I’ve used back squat partials in the past in order to get used to heavy weight and also to facilitate post tetanic potentiation.  However what I noticed occurring is my body getting used to shortened range movements and my lordosis/anterior hip tilt becoming more pronounced when squatting.  I think this situation can also occur with people that only do power cleans and neglect to do full cleans but at a different level due to movement pattern.  After all, the body is memorizing patterns and trying to figure out how to become more efficient at movement patterns by laying down fascia and soft tissue. I believe fascia is to blame for loss of range of motion while allowing for acute strength gains, also seen in isometric work.

That being said, I have in the past made the mistake of over attributing strength/power as a quality that will have direct carryover.  Strength/Power do have direct carryover, but these two characteristics are amplified by skill.  Once you have all 3 ducks in a row, mastery will follow.


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