Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Brandon LaVack Interview - Part 1

Had a chance to interview Brandon LaVack, from LaVack Fitness. Brandon is a personal trainer, with emphasis on runners, weight loss, and finding and correcting muscular dysfunctions and imbalances. He's a young buck in the fitness world, but is surely a name you will see held in great regard in the near future. Well enough of me telling you, I'll let Brandon spill the beans!
 1.  First off, Brandon, thanks for doing this interview, it’s really appreciated. Tell us a little more of your background and how you got in fitness, training, performance field? 
 It’s funny that I am actually on this side of the interview.  I am used to asking this question, but never actually having to answer it myself!  Fitness for me started many years ago, when I was four to be exact!  My parents got me started with distance running and it was just something I fell in love with.  A great sport, which led to many great experiences.  I went to St. Lawrence University for undergrad, which is a small Div. III powerhouse for track & field and cross country.  That was a great experience and was the first time I was really introduced to lifting.  I fell in love with lifting, as the benefits you could see so consistently, both physically and mentally.
It was at this point that I knew I really wanted to pursue something in the fitness field.  As soon as I started to dig deeper, I realized that I love to help friends get in shape as well and that was the start of me knowing I wanted to be a trainer.  During my Junior year I was lifting and managed to tear my posterior labrum on my right shoulder, an injury that took the Doctors forever to figure out because they refused to take my hypermobility into consideration.  They said it couldn’t be torn because I had full range of motion.  This led to a huge battle with constant pain, like 7 out of 10 most days on the pain scale all day long.  A wonderful experience to say the least….
This tear took me out of sports my Junior and Senior year, which was an incredibly difficult experience, but really showed me how much I love fitness.  It also help lead me into post rehab work and working with individuals in chronic pain as two of my major niches, as suffering from chronic pain hit real close to home and I saw the exact effects of how debilitating it can be both physically and mentally.  These experiences led me in the direction I am now.  I specialize in working with individuals recovering from rehab, individuals in chronic pain and runners.  Like many trainers, I deal with individuals looking to lose weight and get in great shape, but my passion lies with the first three.
2.      Awesome, I was a DIII athlete as well, always great to hear from fellow student-athletes!  You’re working on becoming a licensed massage therapist, what compelled you to pursue this, and how has it helped in your work?
Pursuing my license in massage therapy has been an interesting ride.  In order to still be able to pay the bills and keep training my clients without having to give any of them up, I had to take the year long program, which is 3 nights a week, 6-10pm.  Just about every morning I am at the club training at either 5 or 530am, so that makes a real long day!  Aside from the long days, I decided to get into massage therapy due to the groups of individuals that I specialize in.  I was having trouble finding good soft tissue people in the area that shared the same viewpoints that I did, too many massage therapists are “lets release all the tight muscles because that is what we were taught”, which isn’t a viewpoint that I share.  I was tired of not getting the soft tissue work I desired for my clients, so I figured what the hell…why refer out when I can just do it myself!

How has it helped with my work?  It has helped in so many ways.  I now have added A LOT of value to my services as a trainer, as I now have more services to provide but also can better work with the population that I enjoy working with which is essential.  Don’t get me wrong even with massage therapy; there are still times that I need to refer my clients out for additional work from medical professionals.  I would say that about 98% of the soft tissue work I now deal with personally.  Once licensed, I will be adding massage therapy as a service I offer.  I will offer relaxation based massage, but my focus will be on corrective and orthopedic massage, as I would rather you feel better for 23 hours rather than 1 hour.
3.      I bet your clients love having the best of both worlds with you as their trainer!   Now when first seeing a client or athlete, what assessments do you put the athlete through?
This all depends on the individual at hand.  If I am dealing with just an average gym-goer and I haven’t had the chance to sell them on the benefits of better movement, I will play it safe during the evaluation, as I begin to teach them.  I will go through basic motions and get an idea of what is going on, seeing where strength levels are along with basic quality of movement.  Once I have begun to work with them for a couple of sessions and educated them, I go a little more advanced with a Functional Movement Screen and some table assessments (modified Thomas test, hip IR and ER, birddog, etc…).
Now if I have someone coming to me directly from rehab, it becomes a lot more in-depth.  I will start with Neurokinetic Therapy to make sure that the quality of movement is coming from where we want it to.  If that is the case, I move on to the same I would do with my clients listed above.  At some points, I am not satisfied with what I am seeing and will refer them out to a medical professional for further review.  This will occur if there is still pain present, but it is not fitting with what should be occurring based off the injury that they had.  Most of the time, things come back clean and okay, but I have had times where there was more and it was missed during check out with their medical professional.  This is the part of the business that is tricky, as a trainer we want to help our client or athlete, but we need to realize that we can’t work with pain.  Refer out and make sure nothing else is going on if things don’t seem right.  When this happens and I get the green light I will dig in a little deeper to my assessments to see where we can clean up the movement to help them to move better to feel better.
4.       What are the most common dysfunctions, asymmetries, imbalances, or deficiencies you see?
Now this is an issue all in its own.  At what level do we begin to worry about an imbalance or asymmetry?  There needs to be a system to clarify what falls under acceptable and non-acceptable, this is something that FMS does well, one reason I enjoy using that system.  As a trainer, do we tell our clients that they are “dysfunctional” or do we program accordingly to fix these issues without making them feel self-conscious?  I say it depends, an individual with a previous serious injury is in the first of those two questions, while most of the time everyone else falls under the latter question.  Many gym-goers are already firing on all cylinders with different potentially negative emotional responses; do we want to add another emotional response?  This could begin to cause damage to the results we want to see with our clients.
With that said, the populations I deal with tend to have a lot of hip related problems.  The external rotators and back-line are usually very weak and cause issues up and down the line.  I see a lot of Peroneals inhibiting the TFL as well.  My endurance athletes, I have a tendency of seeing weak glutes max (check calves), weak abductors (check opposite adductors), weak rectus femoris (check QL, SI Ligament, Vastus Lateralis, distal vs promial), weak toe extensors (check soleus) and weak lats (check opposite glutes).  With anything, there are no absolutes, but these are areas that I commonly find with my runners, though I have seen plenty more!  As far as the upper body goes, take a look at that neck!  The scalenes and pec minor are workhorses for other areas of that upper body not working well!  We obviously want to look at the midsection as well and just because someone can hold a plank for 60 seconds, doesn’t mean their core is working properly.  I often see issues with the core not working up to par for what it should be able to do.

(Here is some more info after a couple email exchanges with Brandon - So lets look at the calves.  The calves are a workhorse and able to do A LOT of work.  Looking at most runners especially they always have tight calves.  Want to get their calves to feel better?  Do a foam roll on calves followed by glute bridge, always you to lock in that new mobility with proper function from glutes without being taken over for.  My theory behind this connection is that with most endurance athletes you see a terrible strength and function base out of the hamstrings, since most runners never properly get their posterior chain involved in long distance, their calves though...always working!  Think about it as synergistic dominance of that back line.

The rectus femoris is a fun one!  In gait, we would be looking for opposite QL to stabilize the hip while opposite rectus femoris is concentrically contracted.  The same would apply for same side QL, with a much greater need for stabilization since force applied through the kinetic chain.  There are also times when the RF isn't working properly that you begin to see the vastus lateralis figuring out how to help stabilize more in order for the individual to keep moving forward in some cases; athletes are the best compensators!  During this, I see the whole vastus lateralis becoming facilitated, often with individuals complaining of  "IT Band Syndrome", which is really just the VL underneath the IT Band.  Let's think about the IT Band, do you really think you are creating a stretch on that band when doing soft tissue work?  I would beg to differ and be far more willing to admit to the VL being the painful aspect.  What becomes even more interesting is when you see a distal vs promixal or proximal vs distal relationship with the RF.  One shuts down a bit, either proximal fibers near hip or distal near knee, causing the other to have to help assist.  This will cause an individual to have really tight hip flexors if proximal or knee pain if distal.   

If you can't properly use the toe extensors, there needs to be a way to create forward movement, without proper toe extension we are going to be faulty with running.  If you look at the big toe expecially this is made clear by a Shirley Sahrmann quote " "The extensor digitorum longus muscle is more dominant than the anterior tibialis muscle for the action of ankle dorsiflexion. During active dorsiflexion the patient demonstrates extension of the toes as the initial movement instead of ankle motion."  So if this movement is faulty, creating stiffness on the plantarflexors, in this case the soleus would allow for a more efficient movement pattern in the eyes of the brain.  Tightening the plantarflexors would allow for less "need" for ankle dorsiflexion since that tightness would create less ankle dorsiflexion range of motion.)

Keep your eyes peeled for Part 2!

1 comment:

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