Worn Tyre Pressing Shoulder.jpg

 

If your car had a worn down tyre, would you think the tyre was faulty (even though all your tyres are the same brand and age) or would you suspect the car was somehow putting more pressure on that tyre?

Many people have pain in a shoulder when they bench or shoulder press. They are convinced there is a problem with their shoulder. More often than not, the shoulder is not to blame. It is the rest of the body organised in such a way that undue stress is put on that shoulder, much like the car putting strain on the worn tyre.

To imagine a clear example, imagine being laid down to bench press with a spirit level laid across your chest. If the level isn't level, there isn't much chance that you will experiencing and creating equal forces through both sides. If the chest isn't level or the pelvis isn't level or the feet or something else isn't well balanced, a shoulder can pay the price.

If this is the case, is it any wonder that shoulder treatment wouldn't work? Just like changing the worn tyre, the problem still exists. Level the car out and the tyre no longer takes excessive strain. "Level" the body out and the shoulder needn't either.

If you're sick and tyred of shoulder pain during pressing, come work with me. Even the longest running problems can be improved more quickly than you can imagine.

 

Arton "The Mechanic" Baleci
Float Sting - Athletic Training + Rehab

 

Posted
AuthorFloat Sting

 

When most people think of making their deadlift form better, I doubt they think that they can learn much from the male stripping movie Magic Mike.

I'm here to tell you they are wrong.

It's all too common to see people unable to achieve the proper starting position for a deadlift, with the bar held to the shins, straight elbows, a medium bend in the knees, flexed at the hips, the spine neutral or slightly arched and the chest high.

Any of these elements can be sub par and to write about them all would be akin to writing the sequel to “War and Peace”. Here I'm going to focus on the lack of neutral spine, specifically at the lower back.

Many people can't get in the start position with a slight inward curve of the lumbar spine. Their lumbar spines are instead curved outwards.

If this is you, there are a few things you can do:

1) Don't deadlift – you can get plenty strong enough without deadlifting after all.
2) Deadlift from blocks or a rack – you will find that shortening the range of the deadlift will make it easier to get your lower back in the correct starting position.
3) Sort out your mobility so that you can achieve the desired start position.

The third option is where I suggest you go. It's also where you get to exotic dance your way to a better deadlift.

Set yourself up in your deadlift position and enhance the undesirable bend in your lower back. That's right – bend it more, but just at the lower back so that the pelvis tucks under.

After a few movements tucking your pelvis under, staying in your deadlift position, now lift one side of your pelvis towards the same side armpit before lifting the other side of your pelvis to its corresponding armpit. Rock the pelvis side to side like this a few times.

Having rocked the pelvis backwards and side to side, now try rocking it forwards a few times staying rocked forwards on your last movement. From here rock your pelvis round in circles, going from the forwards position round to one side, through the back position, through the other side and back to the front.

 This little stripperesque circling of your pelvis can help out your deadlift starting position

This little stripperesque circling of your pelvis can help out your deadlift starting position

Get this circle going smoothly and you will find yourself doing the pelvic winding commonly associated with Magic Mike and the like.

After the pelvic rocking, you will probably find yourself more able to get in a good, solid starting position for your deadlift, more able to get your lower back into at least a slightly lordotic/arched position.

I know that grinding like this on the deadlift platform can look a little bizarre but your back, your hips and your deadlift numbers will thank you for it.

Magic Mike your way to a better deadlift,

Arton “Nothing wrong with a little bump and grind” Baleci
Float Sting – Athletic Training + Rehab

Posted
AuthorFloat Sting

 

I have been helping athletes and people from many walks of life improve their mobility and the way they move for many years.

Now it's my turn...hopefully our turn.

I'm going to work on developing my range in a specific position every day for the next month, posting photos and videos of my work as I go. At the end of the month, we'll see how far I've gone.

I'm going to work on my overhead squat position with my hands at approximately shoulder width.

To the right is a photo of my starting position after three minutes of warm-up at resistance level 5 on an elliptical cross trainer at around 120rpm, just to get my core temperature up a little.

To make this squat better, I'll need better ankle, hip, spine and shoulder range.

One month mobility challenge day 1 angles.png

This could be problematic for me given that I have tibial torsion on both sides, more pronounced on my right side. This primarily structural issue affects how my knees track over my ankles and how the ankles bend  (you can see that my feet point out in the photo to kind of substitute for a lack of ankle dorsiflexion) so I may have bitten off more than I can chew given such a short time frame here but to hell with it. Let's see what I can do even with a structural issue.

I'm going to be sharing media on this every day. I hope you join me in a quest for better mobility and share some pics too.

Post a photo of your overhead squat on my Facebook page or to my Instagram and let's see what a month of solid work can do for it.

 

Arton "Squat it like it's hot" Baleci
Float Sting - Rehab + Athletic Training, Manchester

Posted
AuthorFloat Sting
Categoriesmobility

 

The pain may never go away.

For somebody in pain, these are words that they may dread to hear. For me, they were possibly the most liberating words I ever heard.

I had chronic pain start in late 2010 that stopped me possibly getting into pro sport. It turned my life upside down. It also couldn't be diagnosed beyond "referred pain". My knee was very painful to extend but the structures showed no damage on scans.

After a year in pain, I went to see some people who helped me get more comfortable. They said I could be pain-free if I trained with them over the longer term so I did. 

Fast forward a few years practising the methods that would lead me to this pain-free utopia and I was still not pain-free. It was also being inferred that it was because I wasn't good enough at the work yet which bred a strange kind of anxiety in me.

I should be able to solve this. Why can't I solve this?

Fast forward a few more years of practise, experience and growing up.

I had worked with many people who I had helped out of pain fully or partially. I had worked with a few that I hadn't been able to help despite my very best efforts. I had seen many others who had spent hundreds and thousands of pounds on treatment and on learning to treat using various methods. People didn't always get better.

People don't.

One of the worst parts is that they think they should. They beat themselves up when they don't get to that pain-free utopia. The gap between their expectations and their current reality haunts them. It is worse than the pain itself.

Many people ask themselves the rhetorical question, "What if the pain never goes?"

Doing this one day, something changed in me. The years of experience made me answer this question that I had avoided answering at the edge of my awareness.

My sporting days were long gone. With that aside, my pain wasn't really impacting my life that much. Sometimes it felt a bit funny if I did a lot of activity and sometimes I felt a bit unsafe on ground where my footing was uncertain. Other than that, my life was pretty good.

I think the day I answered this question and came to accept that what pain I had left may never go, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was also the day I realised that mechanics' cars break down sometimes and doctors get sick sometimes. It doesn't make them bad at what they do.

Since I came to these realisations, my life has been better and my comfort has been better. 

Fears, anxieties, embarrassment and shame make pain worse. They send impulses to the brain just like physical trauma does and can contribute to bodily pain in the same way.

I think one of the most damaging notions that we can have is that we must be pain-free to be happy and to perform well. 

I know people who have severe chronic pain who are happier than people who sprained an ankle last week. I also know that pro athletes are very often carrying a niggle or more and are still crushing it performance wise.

I help people reduce and eradicate pain. Part of that is in helping them stress less about what pain they have. 

The fixation on a pain-free Utopian existence is one of the most painful things we can do to ourselves. Focusing on what you can do and what is comfortable is about as close to Utopia as you're going to get...and it's pretty damn good.

 

Arton Baleci
Float Sting - Injury Rehab + Athletic Training, Manchester

 

 

 

 

You know by now that I'm a big fan of moving better and for most of us that means being more mobile. To be more mobile, we generally have to move through fuller ranges and move and stay around end ranges. 

For all it's good, it can also be detrimental.

Those of you interested in performing well in your sport, listen up.

You need good mobility but training through full ranges with all your joints can have NEGATIVE effects on your performance.

Let us take the squat as an example; one of the staple exercises used for athletic development.

Ever since I can remember, there has been an emphasis on "ass to grass" styles squats where the squatter gets their backside as close to the ground as possible.

Most people lack the mobility in their hips and/or ankles to be able to do this type of squat properly anyway. It doesn't stop them. In their quest for ass-to-grass, they will round their backs horribly to cheat their bum closer to the floor. Cheating doesn't make it any better but I'm going a little off-topic.

Even if you can ATG squat, should you?

It is good for the hips, knees and ankles to be strong through their full range but to know whether squatting like this is really good for you, I need to know which sport you play.

If you are a weightlifter, you need a deep squat for sure. You deep squat as part of your competitive event. 

Many other sports involve zero squatting. A quick look at the popular team sports - football, rugby, cricket, basketball - and you will realise that a full squat never happens. In rugby, the joints and muscles may use parallel squat positions in scrummaging. In cricket, the wicket keeper squats down but doesn't need to produce vast forces in that position. The lower limbs in most sports most frequently assume half squat and quarter positions.

It has been shown that these variations of the squat are most advantageous to the sports where they primarily occur. Running and jumping use similar joint angles after all.

For more advanced athletes, it is actually known that training full range movements for sports that only require use of partial ranges can actually be detrimental to performance.

It consolidates motor patterns unuseful to the competitive event. I saw an example of this just the other day in a video where a world class weightlifter performed a vertical jump. It is known that weightlifters are extremely powerful and yet this guy's jump was quite unimpressive given his physiological capabilities all because he squatted way too deep into his countermovement. My guess is that this was a result of his familiarity with squatting over jumping.

The title of this piece is "How flexible do you need to be?" and I haven't explicitly got to that yet.

First, I said that full range movements are required for good mobility and joint health.
Then I said that moving through full ranges can be detrimental to sports performance depending on your sport of choice.

Performance and health can quite easily contradict one another and my suggestion is that while you're competitive at a sport, they should at least a little.

Don't abandon full range training for performance.
Don't abandon partial range training for health.

You can still train your joints through their full ranges even through competitive times. They need to be capable of full ranges. Just monitor how frequently and intensely you go about it. Use off-season training to do more full range training.

If you're training for general health and fitness, feel free to throw partial range training into the mix. It can help make you stronger and more flexible if used correctly.

Be as flexible as possible while still able to progress performance even if it is a juggle of somewhat contradictory qualities from time to time.

 

Arton "Partial to a full range movement" Baleci
Float Sting - Injury Rehab + Athletic Performance, Manchester

 

 

 

As Michael Phelps continues to win more medals than I can swim metres (I swim a little like a brick), I was speaking with a colleague about some fascinating things I have heard about swimming (my source is an excellent programme called Total Immersion).

Apparently, dolphins are about 80% efficient at turning their movements into forward motion through the water. An average human swimmer is around 3% efficient and 97% flailing and splashing.

Phelps and the other fishmen and fishladies are more like 10% efficient at converting their motion into forward movement through the water.

Perhaps even more fascinating is that generally more elite swimmers produce less forceful movements than their less medalling competitors.

The difference that sets them apart is not the power of their movements but more the efficiency of them in reducing drag through the water. If you've ever swam wearing flippers, which give you a longer slipline through the water, you will know that this lengthening of you makes swimming a helluva lot easier.

Now, strength and power are still very important in swimming. Watch the explosivity of the block start. The underwater push during turns. 

Even with the premium on efficiency, cardiovascular fitness is still crucial. Movement, however efficient it may be, still needs the heart and lungs to power it. Especially while holding one's breath under water.

Efficiency is crucial. Fitness is crucial.

For a long time, I have focused almost entirely on athletic efficiency, improving performance by improving how athletes move. I knew that many people exist who work fitness without a care for efficiency so I thought I'd leave them to that side of things.

I have changed my mind. 

Through my work, I have came to understand that I am rarely positioned to help with efficiency and fitness in an INTEGRATED manner.

Having had many clients request that I help them with sports specific conditioning and many scratching their heads at how the conditioning they do fits with the beneficial work that we do together, I now offer it all.

I will help you move more efficiently and with greater control which will help you enhance speed, strength, power and endurance AND I will help condition the physical qualities that also enhance speed, strength, power and endurance.

In aquatic terms (sticking with the theme of the post), I will help you streamline your submarine, drive it better and give it a bigger better engine. Sound good?

Give me a shout if it does. I'd love to meddle/medal with your athleticism.

Taking to my new dual role like a fishman to water,

 

Arton Baleci
Float Sting - Rehab + Athletic Performance, Manchester

P.S. just in case you didn't realise, I'm now based out of Manchester. I'm still working nationally, internationally and online, but if you're in the area, it's now easier than ever to work with me.

 

I've heard it said that you do best the thing that you need most.

Nearly seven years ago, I had to stop training for a football project I had given my heart and soul to for a few years. Kicking caused excruciating pain and nobody could explain why. My knee was in one piece (although clicking), my pain was a mystery and nothing I tried helped me.

After lots of learning and trial and error, I was able to kick again.

My pain was peculiar - I've not heard of others having the same experience - but during my search for answers, there was something I was surprised not to find. I couldn't find any good detailed information on the kicking movement.

That struck me as strange. There are countless books on the golf swing, the tennis serve is known in detail, the baseball pitch is broken down in depth. Football is probably the most popular sport in the world and the movement around which the game revolves has not been examined in the same way.

This had to change...so I have changed it.

"Move Smoother, Strike Harder: Methods for improving accuracy and power in football kicking" is my first book. In it, I break down the kicking movement, present ways to improve your ability to execute it and then look at other ways you can upgrade the way you strike a ball.

The book is written stripped of as much jargon as possible so that players and coaches without backgrounds in anatomy, physiology, biomechanics and conditioning can pick up what they need to improve playing and coaching skills. Athletes and coaches from other sports that involve kicking (rugby, Gaelic football, Aussie rules football, American football, many of the martial arts) will also find relevant info in there.

I am the first to acknowledge that kicking isn't the be-all and end-all of being a better player but I firmly believe that we should give this central skill the respect that it warrants. Some will be served better than others by prioritising it.

Whatever your level of play, if you're committed to being better, every sliver of improvement counts.

You can buy the book through the link below or from me if we're seeing each other any time soon.

Move Smoother, Strike Harder

 

Arton Baleci
 

BUY YOUR COPY BY CLICKING HERE

 

I was once a student of a school where I learned some of the techniques I use in my work to this day. I wouldn't call it a cult but

  • It was pretty authoritarian.
  • Questions were frowned upon, dismissed or answered in the vaguest terms imaginable.
  • All forms of bodily education were seen as inferior to theirs and many were plain dangerous.
  • Students who questioned the teachers in any sustained way were excommunicated. I become one of these. Except I'm a badass so my excommunication was more akin to that of Bane from The League of Shadows in The Dark Knight Rises.
  • The students were told that they would never reach the levels of talent of the master. Pretty shitty teaching if you ask me.
  • There was a mass suicide pact.

That last bit is a joke...I think. I haven't heard from any of my fellow students in a while...

Anyway, beyond me bashing my former teachers' controlling ways under the cloak of anonymity, what I'm want to let you know here is that this cultish environment blinded me to an irrefutable truth.

The way I ended up as a disciple - scratch that - student was after a couple of miraculous healing experiences with the teachers. I was a convert!

I was told that all of my physical athletic desires could come true. Whats more, they weren't so much a case of limitations in my body but limitations in my mind. Those who know me know that my mind is plausibly limited.

I worked diligently, deciphering what I could of their opaque ways. Quickly limitations fell away. I could move further, better and more beautifully.

But the next day I would wake up back at square one or thereabouts. Over and over again. I had not learned what I needed to for these beautiful changes to stay. My mind-body had failed me. 

I was a failure for even wanting progress. Apparently, until I let go of the need to get better, I would not get any better. Many of the students were brilliant at not wanting progress. They could even go for months at a time without doing any practise.  They had detached themselves from wanting to achieve anything or wanting to get any sort of value from their education.

My weak mind couldn't let go. Like an addict, I snook in practise wherever I could. The slithers of athletic progress that I achieved would no doubt have been much more abundant had I maintained the discipline to do no homework, independent learning or practise. I'm sure when the progress of my fellow students comes, it will hit like a blissful tsunami of bodily freedom and enlightenment.

If only I could let go of that poisonous desire. 

When you leave a group, it can take a while to readjust to life outside of it. The nagging doubts and feelings that drove me to question to the point of my exile have surfaced with the passage of time. Their roughness has frictioned on me, flaking off old, dead layers.

I think I'm basically me again now...and I am calling bullshit. This is the irrefutable truth that I was blinded to:

The methods that create temporary performance improvements do not necessarily create lasting performance improvements.

There are techniques that can create rapid change in physical abilities, especially in those with pain, but to move to different levels of performance consistent work of ever-increasing complexity and intensity is required.

Physical skill requires ongoing work.
It isn't like knowing that 2+2=4 and that once you know it, it's always there for you.

If you want to get better, there will be a grind. Sure, make it as efficient a grind as possible but you still gotta put in work.

You may find it hard to believe that I was such a stupid schmuck to be taking in for as long as I was for so long to not see that truth. I find it hard to believe too but it happened and I have emerged to warn you that miraculous effects can be blinding.

No matter how cool their tricks are or how many follow their methods, never be blind to the truth of the grind.

 

Arton Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Performance and Rehab

 

Posted
AuthorFloat Sting

 

Oooof. I've returned with a clickbait of a title! I'll explain where I've been shortly. 

First, let me explain that rather suspect word I've used. It's a slang noun version of the word PUSILLANIMOUS, which means to act with timidity. It has its roots in the Latin for "puny" and the Greek for "faint-hearted".

It's been a little while since I've written for you, one of the main reasons being that my mam (yes, I am northern) has had to have some toes amputated - an all-too-common plight of diabetics. She's seemingly out of the woods now and will hopefully be out of hospital soon.

Having not had the easiest time of it for a number of years, I have seen her battle through many trials.

Not having your outside two toes, as I'm sure you'll be able to imagine, will take some adapting to even after the pain of removal has subsided and the tissue mends. Balance will be a little more challenging from a hardware perspective.

It also will be from being bed-ridden for a few weeks. We lose strength, mobility and balance quickly when off our feet.

I've seen her stable on a zimmer frame, less so on crutches and wobbly on her feet.

I know her.

She will try too much too soon. She will want to battle. She will want to be back to where she was as soon as she can be.

Upon examination of the phrase I unconsciously scrawled down just a few lines ago, it's easy to see how unclear thinking can be around matters like this.

"Too much too soon" is a common turn of phrase but in using it we miss lot of useful information.

I have no problem with her being active. Activity is a great healer and a great builder. My real issue is how risky that activity is.

A significant risk for somebody out of hospital like this is falling and breaking something. When unsteady, walking is risky. The harder the surfaces being walked on, the greater the risk of a fall doing damage. 

Walking stairs in riskier.

I hope my mam listens to me and is as active as possible while keeping risk as low as possible. Crawling instead of walking at time around the house and bum-shuffling upstairs are options I hope she explores. They will help rebuild strength, mobility and balance and carry much lower risks.

I think my mam isn't alone in her avoidance of perceived pusillanimity.

I think many of us in veer towards taking unnecessary risks in our rehab and training. I think many of us let our fear swing the pendulum too far the other way so we do too much too soon or perform activities that have a shitty risk-reward ratio.

If you're in pain, feeling weak or unable, sit with it for a moment. There is no shame in it. There is no need to fight that feeling.

The only thing to do is honestly appraise your capabilities at that time - not what you want to be able to do instead - and work out a progressive, risk averse plan to get you there.

 

Arton "The Pusi" Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Performance and Rehab

 

 

"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,
The hands can't hit what the eyes can't see."

For those of you that hadn't realised, my business name was inspired by these words of the most iconic boxer ever to have lived.

They speak of the very essence of what I see my work is all about helping athletes find more of within themselves.

Lightness.
Ease.
Grace.
Efficiency.
Intelligence.
Speed.
Power.

The man boxed like a marvel with an original style that many have tried to borrow from and imitate since.

His fighting outside of the ring was probably what cemented him in the collective consciousness of the world.

His psychological warfare tactics and the smart, charismatic mouth that delivered them are remembered far beyond their time and sport.

His self-assertion and the choice to do what he felt was right regardless of external consequences that most would reluctantly succumb to point towards qualities inside us all that we would often like to express more.

Thank you for serving as an inspiration to us all, Mr Ali.

Your greatness lives long beyond you.

Posted
AuthorFloat Sting

 

We've all heard of it in many different forms. Most of us in sport train it in different ways. 

Some of us plank. Some of us engage the TA. Some of us hollow body. Some of us crunch. Some of us rely on the big lifts to take care of it.

Core stability is important to sports performance.

As the definitions vary depending on who you're speaking to and when you're speaking to them, the definition of core stability that I will be using today is

the ability to use the muscles that move and stabilise the spine and the hips with the right timing, coordination and force for the task at hand.

The "core" is of crucial importance in transferring force through our frames, from the bottom upwards, the top downwards or otherwise.

I've been reading quite a bit recently about spinal biomechanics and using the core musculature to keep the spine neutral for maximal power transference is generally advocated.

This is solid information that I advocate too.

I do however feel that some information is lost underneath this message.

I want to remind you of core MOBILITY.

Where lots of us recognise that mobile hips and a mobile T-spine are a good thing, it seems that all of this thought of stability has scared many of us off moving our lower spine.

All many think of during core stability practises is bracing the abdominals and the isometric contraction of the lumbar extensors to hold the lower spine neutral.

This may be partially due to the knowledge that loaded spinal flexion and torsion has a relationship to spinal disc herniations.

But check the word "LOADED".

This word in this context refers to external loads being used to make movements more difficult to stimulate tissue adaptation.

So movements without loads are safe? What about quick movements done without extra load which equal and exceed the forces experienced during loaded movements?

Is any amount of load OK to use? Can I bend my spine to pick up a bag of sugar off the floor? What about something a little heavier?

Neutral spine is a wonderful concept if used as a guide, almost like the north of a compass. Understand that we needn't always head due north to get to the north pole. In this case, I suggest that to veer from due north from time to time is a good thing.

An immobile, hard lumbar spine isn't a great deal better than an overly-mobile one. An overly-mobile lumbar will experience high forces within itself that over time can cause damage. A completely stiff lumbar spine can leave areas above and below vulnerable to higher forces. It can also still be vulnerable to injury if the habitual bracing is lost and the muscles of the area are unable to respond adequately, due to lack of conditioning, to the movement in the area.

A hard lumbar is garbage.

A strong lumbar can move with control and its musculature can exhibit high forces in AND AROUND neutral position. It can move and stay still.

Train lumbar flexion and torsion sensibly.

You can move the area unloaded. You can move it loaded. The key is that you are intelligent and progressive in creating core mobility. This way, it will benefit core stability. 

Let neutral spine be your north star and remember, the best way north isn't always due north.

 

Arton Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Performance and Rehab

 

walling off (1).png

 

In life and in sport, we are taught a lot. We are taught so that we can acquire skills equally or more quickly than our predecessors so that we can do bigger and better things and it works. It also comes at a cost.

Look at this video of a young Lionel Messi, long before his successful pro football career. This applies far beyond football.

I don't know exactly how old he is in this video but it's rare to see somebody around that age dribble like that.

His dribbling 20 or so years later is very similar in style to this, just faster and more refined. Coaching hasn't noticeably changed it like it will have changed his game tactically.

Most kids are coached to dribble and yet they never get near this level of proficiency. How come tactically players change more easily than in terms of their dribbling ability?

Forget football for a second as what I'm alluding to here is bigger than one sport.

Teaching can be an impediment sometimes. I think the times when it really impedes the learning of athletes is when speed of action in an ever-variable environment is necessary.

To go back to the dribbling example, the way many players are taught/coached to dribble are through drills. They learn ball manipulation and tricks repetitively to the point where they should become habit that can be produced quickly in the appropriate situation.

"Habit" is the problem in my eyes.

It implies speed of action which is good but how can a habit - a memorised response - be a true solution to an ever-variable situation?

Reaching inside of ourselves for our "habit" gives the opportunity for the moment to pass. And that's if we ever had an appropriate habit in place to deal with the exact situation in front of us anyway.

I speculate (I have no scientific data in front of me - my speculation is based on years of coaching, reading of research and other topics around the matter...maybe even a little of my own thinking if I'm lucky) that part of what set Little Messi’s dribbling apart right through his career is a lack of habit and a resistance to coaching.

If the technology existed to read his brainwave output during his dribbles I think we would see more activity promoting awareness of the current moment in time and less activity in the memory centres than with his less-skilled counterparts.

He sees and does.

The less skilled of us kind of see, search for a memory of what to do in this partially understood scenario and then do based on this.

That is one clunky process. Is it any wonder there is such a difference if this is the difference in what goes on?

Some of you will rightly point out that Messi has been at one of the top football clubs in the world since the age of 13 and so has been coached for many years on a daily basis.

My opinion is that his ability to dribble hasn't benefited from coaching there but has lots from playing lots against other top class players day-in, day-out.

He's been " in the moment" against progressively more demanding situations.

Teaching is awesome for some things. Spontaneity, creativity and improvisation don't fit that bill.

 

Arton Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Performance and Rehab

P.S. forget about Messi being in the moment when you're practising and playing. He'd be just another thing taking you away from being in your moment. Only you can create for you.

 

 

When I'm not writing blogs or a book (my first should be available in around a month), I can create good likenesses of pictures. I've had many say that I am quite the artist. I would never describe the pictures I create as art or myself as an artist when it comes to drawing. They are copies drawn with something approaching the rigour of an architect or an engineer, often with a ruler and calculator.

Take the ruler and calculator away from me and my attempt to copy the Mona Lisa would look more like Lisa Simpson.

So my art technical skills aren't great. On top of that, my abilities to create purely from memory or imagination are even worse.

Surely original conception plays some part in the definition of an artist?

It's easy enough to cook something edible following a recipe. What about cooking something that you've eaten before with no recipe? What about creating a completely new dish?

It's easy enough to learn to play a piece of music with sheet music. What about repeating a piece after only hearing it? What about conceiving a new piece?

You know what I'm saying.

Anybody can learn to fake artistry in anything. With an elaborate enough Paint by Numbers and a steady hand, it would be fairly easy to imitate the Mona Lisa. In sport I call it "Playing By Numbers". There are athletes playing at the highest levels in all kinds of sports like this. But in situations where the numbers become blurred or are removed, their lack of deep artistry is exposed. They don't know what to do.

Anybody can learn fake it by Playing By Numbers.

I also believe that anybody can learn to ditch the numbers and be more and more like real sporting artists who can memorise and, more importantly, create and improvise.

It just requires a different sort of practise altogether - one that builds sporting intelligence. If you want more on the type of practise that I'm talking about, let me know.

Ditch the aids. Make real sporting art.

 

Arton "More Bollock than Pollock" Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Performance and Rehab

 

 

 

 

I doubt you will see anything more incredible today than the 90 seconds from the 2:15 mark in the video.

Driven by a need to manipulate objects without the gift of arms, this guy has developed extremely dexterous feet to do the things he wishes to. A quick search around Youtube will reveal many videos of people without hands doing many things that those of us with arms will find unfathomable.

If you pay attention, you will see that it's not just the guys feet that allow him to play. He also has very good control of his ankles and hips to put his feet in the right positions to toe his notes. To play that well he has good use of lots of himself.

You probably have no interest in playing piano with your toes but your foot function is probably of more importance to your physical abilities than you have thought.

A foot that doesn't move well has knock-on effects right up you. 

Every step we take involves cycling through the movements of pronation and supination. Without going into detail, these movements are crucial in shock absorption and power production.

Aren't these the fundamentals of athletic performance?

And if they are, wouldn't it be a good idea to work on them?

Without writing a guide on foot training, I will provide you with some ideas about how you can get your feet moving better, hopefully helping you to move better within your sport.

The steps (pun intended) go something like:

  • MOVE YOUR FEET WITH YOUR HANDS: As some parts of your foot will probably be under poor voluntary control and some of the joints in the foot can only be moved indirectly with voluntary effort, use your hands to get all of the joints moving. Go slowly and gently, exploring all the possible movements of your toes, your ankle, the heel bone and all of the bones between it and your toes. Work as many different combinations of possible. This will act as a sensitiser so that you are more aware of all the constituents of your feet and ankles.
  • MOVE YOUR FEET WITH YOUR FEET: Voluntarily move your feet and ankles with their own muscles to the best your abilities. It may be difficult to start with. Movements will possibly be inconsistent and jerky. Start with simple movements that over time progress in terms of volume and complexity to drive neural and tissue adaptation. 
  • MOVE YOURSELF YOUR ATTENTION ON YOUR FEET: Walk around, jog around, jump around barefoot on a flat, hard, clear floor. Notice what you feel as you do these movements. Emphasise the movement of your feet with every push-off and landing. Again, be progressive with this, alternating building volume and speed of movement over time. 
  • MOVE WITH YOUR GLOVES OFF (OR AT LEAST WITH THINNER ONES): Most people's feet have been hidden away in thick gloves and casts for years. They are more commonly known as shoes. They have no doubt played a part in the stiffening and dulling of your feet. PROGRESSIVELY reverse that process. When you consider ground safe, walk barefoot when you can. Work towards, over the course of months and years, wearing less rigid and cushioned shoes more often. This will slowly aid your foot adaptation through lots of extra low level stimulation. People who don't habitually wear shoes tend to have longer, broader feet that distribute pressure better through their structures. Look for shoes that are wide enough at the front to allow your feet and toes to splay as you roll through your stride.

This work takes time to provide results and the results are ones that you may not realise due to their slow onset and indirect nature. Working with a professional and/or with foot pressure plates can provide easier proof of progress but whether you notice progress or not, developing more dexterous feet and integrating their new capacity with the movements of the rest of your body is an excellent thing to do.

You may never impress like the pedal pianist but better feet will make your sporting music a little more harmonious.

 

Arton Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Performance and Rehab 

 

 

 

 

Imagine we drop a 1kg ball from a set height of 1m onto a set of bathroom scales. The needle on the scales will flicker past 1kg before settling on that value.

Taking the same ball and throw it forcefully downwards from the same height. The needle on the scales will flicker further past the 1kg mark than it did when the ball fell.

Take the same ball and aim to break the scales. How do you imagine you would do this with a drop or a throw? Drop the ball from high enough or throw the ball down hard enough and eventually the scales will break.

Now imagine that the scales are special. What makes them special is that the they can hold a tonne and flatten like a pancake if only the tonne is loaded onto them extremely slowly. Load them too quickly and they will break or protectively rigidify to stop deformation. To best do this, the tonne wouldn't be “dropped” but in a way it would still be falling while in contact with the scales very, very slowly.

If you're interested in understanding how to improve the physical capacities of athletes, be it yourself or ones you work with, you need to understand some of the physics of force and some of the physiology of how people respond to force.

I think the falling ball illustrates some of the physics of force nicely.

A greater force is needed to stop the same object the faster it is moving. This is the physical basis of strength training before we get into any physiology.

If the force required to stop motion is greater than the force-producing ability of the stopper at that given moment, motion will not stop. It will just slow. This is what happens during most injuries.

The scales that can deform under load very slowly are similar to they way we develop mobility. Exerting force very slowly in new positions is possible. Do it too quickly and break or get no movement at all.

We know this stuff intuitively from our experience in the world.

Don't be blinded by the language of physics and physiology.

There's a lot that can be explained just by a ball and how it falls.

 

Arton “The Force” Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Performance and Rehab

P.S. those of you who strength train slowly, think about that needle flickering. The scales have to produce more force to stop the fast-falling ball than the slower falling ball. Faster eccentrics require you to develop more strength at the bottom to reverse a movement than slower ones. Slower eccentrics generally require more controlled muscular tension through movement but a lower peak force output. Slow eccentrics are better for hypertrophy than strength and speed so stop training like a bodybuilder unless that's what you're after!

 

If you could have seen me stacking over and over at the new local trampoline play park the other day, I may have gone down in your estimations. 

You didn't...so pheeeeew.

Anyhow, before the bouncing I was getting ready in the changing room with my friends and one need £1 for a locker. I didn't have another quid in my pockets so I decided to rummage around in the outer compartment of my bag. There are all sorts of forgotten "treasures" there.

Coins jangled. I thought we were in business but the larger coins were all Euros. Then I felt notes that I didn't know were there - bonus! But no, they were Hungarian currency. Hungarian Forint would be unrecognised by many people, myself included.

I briefly thought to myself that I could take one of these notes to the desk, say a 5000 which is worth more than a tenner, and the staff still wouldn't have given me a pound coin. 

"Your money is no good here, sir" they'd have said, believing that I was trying to con them with some strange Monopolyesque notes.

Sometimes value means nothing if it's an incompatible currency.

Movements are the same.

Certain movements and exercises will be accepted as valuable by certain individuals, helping them progress towards their athletic goals, and those same movements will be rejected by others as useless actions that don't help them at all.

Some people's jumps will be helped by improved ankle mobility where others will benefit massively from improved thoracic extension. 

Some people's golf swings will be upgraded through greater spinal mobility, others more so through loosening their hips or shoulder blades.

Some people desperately need mobility work to improve power, some need absolute strength, some need speed training.

We all find different currencies valuable and others useless.

Make sure your training has value to YOU.

 

Arton "Bereau de Change" Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Performance and Rehab

 

6+6=
3x4=
√144=
72/6=
One dozen
The number of disciples Jesus had
Your last age before you are a teenager

These are all different ways of leading you to the number 12.

If we stick with the mathsy ones at the start, imagine you are only taught to parrot those four ways of equalling 12. Without an understanding of the processes that allow numbers to operate on one another to create other numbers, I could offer you all the cash or Krispy Cremes in the world to show me another way to equal 12 and you couldn't do it. The thought of those wasted doughnuts bring a sugary tear to my eye.

Anyway, this is a basic example of how the answer is completely secondary to developing the ability to produce it. A skill is the same.

Somebody could teach me to enunciate a joke in Japanese (I don't speak any) with the appropriate expressions, tone and gestures. Outside of that one joke, the content of which I wouldn't understand, I wouldn't be much of a Japanese-speaking stand-up comic.

We need to stop training ourselves this way for sports; learning more jokes and more ways to get to 12. Even in the sports with the smallest number of variables – solo sports without direct opponents or teammates to take into consideration – variability in training in the crucial way to build a high-performing athlete. An athlete that really gets what they're doing.

Varied training builds skill levels more quickly.

I recently stumbled across this idea in a new form. Dr Wolfgang Schöllhorn calls it “Differential Learning”. There's a cool video here of a shotputter training conventionally for a period before switching to the differential learning approach where he throws differently, badly and in every other way he can think of. Check out his results. 

This is a sport where the same size and weight implement is thrown from the same size and material circle. The wind doesn't even appreciably influence the throw. The results go far beyond this n=1 sample number too.

And what's more, training like this doesn't just build skill faster, it also cultivates far better retention than traditional learning where the learner does the same thing over and over hoping to take it towards perfection. There have been experiments where not only does the skill from differential learning decline more slowly with a period of no practise but skill levels increase after practise stops.

It is postulated that the nature of constantly trying to find solutions to varied training engages the learner in such a way that they still create solutions unconsciously for a period of time after stopping practise.

Getting better while you're doing f#ck all! That's gotta sound good to anybody!

Now I will leave you with a question that you may find rather uncomfortable.

Do you have the guts to give this sort of approach a proper go for a significant period of time?

You may be reading this thinking it is a no-brainer but many will find it to be far from easy in reality. To do this will require most people to change the way they have gone about training for many years. It will feel unsettling and highly counterintuitive. It will require time and thought to create a varied training schedule. You may even fear that in being so scattergun with training drills you skill levels may abandon you or at least slip.

Take this fear as the sensation of being more awake to learning and performing.

The comfort of similarity is warm but dulls us.

Be prepared for nothing and ready for everything.

Vary and thrive,

 

Arton "Jokes don't make a comedian" Baleci
loat Sting - Sports Performance and Reha

If you are an athlete, you probably want to get better at your sport. If you're one who isn't bothered about doing so, don't waste your time reading on.

Every single one of you reading will have a different idea of what getting better would mean in your case.

There will, however, be some commonalities...

Hold up.

Have you ever bored yourself? I have. I just did with the first few lines of this blog.

While what I wrote is true, it's drier than a mouthful of salty crackers on a hot summer's day. You've heard it all before.

And like most things you've heard before, you'll give it as much attention as a politician's "promise". 

It will mostly slide into the ether, along with substantial amounts of wasted time and half-paid attention.

And that would be an awful shame for us both.

And I think there is a killer lesson to be learned here for our sports too.

If our practise doesn't engage us, does it enrich us? If it bores us with repetition, how much do we take from it and how much does it stay with us as a part of our repertoire?

Even the word "repertoire" grates me as I think of boredom and its polar opposite.

A repertoire is a stock of skills that a person habitually uses. When I dive into my repertoire, at times it can feel too easy. At times, it doesn't feel like I have enough choice in there and I am trapped by my lack of choice.

I want plenty of choice. That means as large a repertoire as possible. Ideally, an infinite repertoire.

Theoretically, the best way to develop this would be to practise with infinite variability WITHIN THE BOUNDS OF YOUR SPORT.

A basketball player isn't allowed to kick the ball so a kick needn't ever be any part of their repertoire but any and every sort of throw should be.

Practising every sort of throw, however impractical it may appear to be, will do a great number of things.

It will expand their repertoire giving them new options in situations they are used to.
It will create new opportunities and situations for them that they weren't previously aware of the existence of.
It will sharpen the quality of their more habitual throwing styles through contrast with the new ones. 
It will keep them more engaged in their learning process.It will make them more unpredictable to their opponents.

Some would argue that by practising so many different skills, a player would be prepared for nothing.

I would argue that it would make them ready for everything. 

More on this next time,

 

Arton "Trained Ready" Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Performance and Rehab


 

 

 

"I fear not the man who has practised 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practised one kick 10,000 times." Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee was an icon, a well-respected martial artist and a clever guy. His quotes and quotes that he has adapted from other sources still live strong to this day.

There is a lot of wisdom in this quote.

The question that is the title of this article is "Improve Your Strengths Or Minimise Your Weaknesses?". I hear this question asked quite a lot or implied in many conversations in coaching and sports improvement circles.

There are some people who swear by sticking to their strengths and making the most out of them.

There are others who work as hard as they can to be as well-rounded as possible.

This Bruce Lee quote is indicative of that first type of thinking - make your strengths stronger.

If you get caught by that well-rehearsed kick, you would probably know about it! But if you knew you were fighting somebody with one strong move, you would account for that in your tactics. We see it in the mixed martial arts now. Strikers (fighters who specialise in punching and kicking) who don't know what to do when somebody takes them to the ground and wrestles with them.

That sharpened kick don't mean shit down there.

10,000 rounds of that one kick don't look so good now.

But wait...neither does the alternative.

Bruce knew that an opponent who had practised all the kicks under the sun just one time each wouldn't pack any serious power. Jack of all trades, master of none.

So which is it? Strengthen the strengths or bring up the weaknesses?

I was going to say both but a more accurate answer is that it depends.

If you have a gaping hole in your skills or attributes that causes you problems in your sport, you should probably give that some attention.

If you're a decent all-rounder, try flipping the script and bringing up one important aspect of your game. When you do this, think about which will give you most bang for your buck. Not all skills and attributes are equal in any sport.

Really, we want to be working on both regularly with different emphasis attached to each depending on your current needs.

The odds (in my opinion) are that whether you have predominantly specialised or generalised to this point, you will be most comfortable doing whatever it is you have became accustomed to doing. 

Honestly look at yourself. Have others you respect give you feedback on what you would be best served to work on. These will help shake you out of your comfort a little and begin improving at a faster rate.

I'm identifying these things in myself. Doing so will pay dividends. It probably will for you too.

 

Arton "Specialist/Jack of all Trades/Whatever I must be" Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Performance and Rehab

P.S. I'm using Bruce Lee's quote here as an example to think around. I don't believe for a second that Bruce Lee didn't think about the nuances that I'm speaking about. He did after all create a revolutionary martial arts school based around having "the way of no way". He understood this better than many. He, like everybody whose thoughts are captured on video or in writing, can have their ideas taken out of context and used too simplistically at times.

 

 

 

 

By now, you know how much importance I give to mobility development. After years of helping athletes of all levels get better mobility with highly individualised programmes, today I am releasing a revolutionary programme aimed at improving anybody's side splits.

The methods are so strong, I guarantee the programme will have significant effects. They are SO strong, you really shouldn't try them without expert programming and supervision.

If you recognise the benefits of increasing your mobility and want to learn more about a programme that guarantees life-changing results, click here.

See you on the other side,

Arton Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Performance and Rehabilitation