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Category: Teaching

Training Tip: When to Use Offset Loading

Here’s a recent question from one of my distance clients:

Do you use offsets frequently? Always contralateral or do you use ipsilateral?

I love this question because I think it’s one of the best illustrations of the art of coaching. Not often are things black and white.

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Why the Romanian Deadlift?

Here’s a recent question from a distance client of mine.

Why RDL? Do you use it for almost everyone?

The RDL is the purest form of a hinging pattern and the easiest way to teach someone how to use their hips, glutes, and hamstrings independent of their spine. I would say that’s a pretty objective opinion of mine seeing as you’re minimizing complexity of the movement by all but eliminating the contribution at the knee. In terms of complex movements, it’s a pretty simple one.

I will start most people with an RDL, even if they already have lifting experience. Well, maybe especially if they have lifting experience because, often times, I need to re-teach their hip hinge.

Now, once you know this, I’m generally going to throw on more complexity. For example, when you can demonstrate a consistently (or semi-consistently) clean RDL pattern, I’m going to then have you RDL the weight to the knee, then squat the weight down to the floor.

Ta da! Then we have a deadlift pattern.

The RDL is a fundamental movement that I need all of my clients to know, and it’s arguably the easiest way to teach hip extension while keeping the acetabulum over the femoral head.


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All Four Belly Lift vs. Toe Touch or Sit and Reach Breathing

BACKSTORY: I recently gave one of my new clients the All 4 Belly Lift to do for homework.

This exercise is one I learned about from the Postural Restoration Institute, whom I highly recommend. But if you’ve been reading here for a while, you already know that (exhibit one, two, three, four, and five).

He was already familiar with the exercise and the above video I sent him, but wanted to know the difference between something like this and just doing a toe touch or sit and reach and breathing?


The All Four Belly Lift is a way to take a few degrees of freedom (a.k.a. compensation options) out of the equation. What I mean by that is being on your knees limits your ability to use your ankle to avoid expanding through your back and tucking your pelvis underneath you.

This exercise is also a way to inhibit your back side and teach your front side to turn on. Specifically, it’s really good for helping someone feel their abdominals working, helping them get all the air out, shutting of spinal extenders, and opening up the back of the hips.

A toe touch and sit and reach breathing can also accomplish these things. I like the belly lift because I think it’s easier to cue someone to keep their neck muscles off.

With the other two, you’re putting the hamstrings on a stretch. That’s fine for some, but for people who have extra flexibility in their hamstrings (most lifters, including you), they will get a lot of this motion from their hamstrings, not pull their pelvis underneath them.

For these people to get the motion of the exercise, they will tend to reverse their spinal curve. That is, their lumbar spine flexes and thoracic spine extends. If this happens, we’re actually accomplishing the opposite of what I want. See drawing below if it helps.

sit and reach

I know, it’s beautiful. One of my science classes last semester was in the art building, so I’m an artist now.

The same kind of thing can happen with the toe touch. One thing that the toe touch offers that the other two do not is the sensation of the feet in the ground. Being able to hold a toe touch and breath is a progression in terms of complexity, but a regression in terms of how much strength one needs to perform the exercise correctly. Most lifter types need a little bit of external load to overcome to help them feel the positions that I want them to achieve. This is why I tend to dole out more all four belly lifts than the other two variations.

They all can be effective, but there are differences to consider.

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Teaching Mistake: Keep your Biases to Yourself

I’ve recently made a resolution.

Be okay with failing

In keeping with this resolution, I want to share with you a recent failure of mine. Because it’s okay to fail. Because I’ve learned from it.


My Bias

When I teach students in my functional anatomy lab, I don’t like to baby them. I’m lazy, even. They’re adults, they should do it. After all, you learn better when you’re actively involved in the task (Hake, 1998; Sokoloff & Thornton, 1997; Wright et al., 1998).

So I had a few students ask me, “Can you show us where these anatomy terms can be found every day at the beginning of lab?”

I politely explained to them that it’s easier to remember if you have to work for it. My lecturing to them doesn’t keep their brains involved in the process. Plus, they’ve already been lectured to on the material!

This is elementary for me at this point in my life, but there’s a huge problem with that.


The Issue

I’ve always had trouble with the emotional side of things. When I look at the world, I see nerve transmission, entropy, and biomechanics – not feelings.

I’ve even had an ex-girlfriend call me a robot!

“Typical guy.”

Can you see why this is a problem? Would you listen to the jerk who just denied your request?

Say it with me: Not a chance.

It has nothing to do with how right I am! I could have just told this student a simple trick to cure cancer, but I’m still the rude guy who shot down that one girl in front of the class.

“He doesn’t even care.”

I eliminated all empathy from my response. Even if I do care about my students and their success, how are they supposed to know that if I don’t show them? Should I expect them to listen to me because I have a degree? Because I’m their professor?

Say it with me one more time: Not a chance.

Live and learn.


Failure is the Best Teacher

I can tell you I won’t do that again, but what’s a better way to handle this situation?

The first option: appease the masses.

Say, “Yes of course I can do that!” Work hard, spoon feed them the information. They’ll probably still learn more when all is said and done because we’ll be working as a team instead of me vs. them.

The reason I don’t like this course of action is because it compromises my ideals and, as a human, I’m stubborn.

The second option: empathize, give them what they want, then remove the scaffolding.

The idea of scaffolding is great for teaching. Give them the support they need, then gradually remove it as they become more stable with the material. The trick, and this is where I failed, is to recognize that this doesn’t just mean you need to learn vocabulary before you can learn a concept. In the beginning, they need all of that support. Without it, they lack confidence in their own exploration. Even if they discover something meaningful, they will assume they’re wrong.

So from now on, I’m going to set my bias aside and stop making assumptions.


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  1. Comment below about a time you recently failed and what you learned your experience.
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