A Constraint Led Approach to Training

Hey Peak Performer, it’s Coach Nathan here!

Do you have a teenage son or daughter? Well, like them I have a slight problem with remembering to turn the lights off.  When my wife Jen and I first moved to Kelowna we moved into an apartment where some of the kitchen lights were under the cabinetry.  Specifically, the cabinet where we keep all of our supplements and vitamins. What’s the problem? Well, the lights would make the cabinet heat up which could ruin the vitamins, and well, these were my favourite lights.

According to personal trainer Adam Kemp, the one punch man training routine is a viable option for getting in better shape.

As much as I would try to remember I would always leave this light on, which would not make Jen too happy. Solution? She wanted me to stop using the lights altogether.

After a few weeks of repeating herself to no avail, she finally decided to tape the light switch down so I would not be able to switch it on.  My ego, obviously, was not too pleased about this as I immediately stated that the tape was overkill. 

Well over the next few days I would repeatedly still turn that light on, but I would notice the tape rip off the outlet and would panic push the tape back onto the wall.  This happened over the next while until I finally learned my lesson.

So what is the point? Well no matter how many times she would tell me to not turn that dang light off, I would fall into a familiar mindless pattern, until she broke that pattern by putting in a constraint.  The tape provided me with a physical boundary that facilitated the desired outcome she wanted. This is very similar to a method we use to teach movement solutions at OPP.

At OPP we utilize a constraint led approach for teaching movement solutions.  Constraints are physical or abstract boundaries, within which learners can search and explore movement solutions.  Wondering what I’m talking about? Here are some examples.

Perhaps you have been a victim of a water bottle being placed on your foot for alternating leg lifts to make sure you keep your leg straight up?

Or maybe you have been crawling and a coach placed a cone & ball on your lower back to keep your hips level?

Or were forced to hinge with a dowel rod on your back, while your knees are against a bench, to make sure you keep a neutral spine and accomplish the movement with your hips?

Essentially all these are different constraints coaches at OPP use to help you accomplish the desired movement outcome.  These constraints are usually worth a thousand words, and help keep you from getting frustrated and sick of our voices!

 I recently had a client doing side lying leg lifts to target the glutes and hip abductors. As she would lift her leg it would shoot forward, instead of going straight up.  I asked her if it felt like her leg was drifting forward and she said no.  I then held a dowel upright in front of her shin, so when she would lift her leg it could not drift forward. As she finished her set I asked if she felt the difference. She said yes and followed by saying “It always feels like I’m doing what you ask until you show me how to do it properly. ” The language was specific.  She didn’t say tell me, she said show me.  I could have said lift your leg straight up and do not drift forward over and over again, but to her perception that is exactly what she was doing.

Constraints give you feedback in real time and show you how to accomplish the movement. Words can be perceived differently from person to person. Constraints for the win!

So let me ask you.

Have you ever had a coach who would just repeat the same cue to you over and over again?

Have you ever experienced frustration because you feel like you are doing what that coach is saying, but they are still telling you that it’s ‘wrong’?

Or you know you are supposed to feel a particular movement in a certain area but can’t seem to figure it out?

I’m sorry if you have had to experience that, because it’s not your fault. So, if you are sick of the frustration and want to maximize your time and efforts, come visit us at OPP and let us help you look, feel and play better!



2 Responses to A Constraint Led Approach to Training

  1. Joyce Boon says:

    Good post Nathan. Those constraints really work for me.

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