This article is authored by Eric McKay. Opinions expressed may not be that of SMARTER Team Training, STT sponsors or constituents. In 2009, Erik opened No Bull! Strength and Performance, a personal training facility with an emphasis on individual attention and educating his clients on proper strength and conditioning technique. He is also an adjunct professor of physical fitness and wellness at Lansing Community College, and the strength and conditioning coach for the Lansing Community College softball team, a perennial powerhouse program in the National Junior College Athletic Association. Before starting his own business he was a football coach for 11 years at various levels and has worked strength training and conditioning family, friends, and athletes from numerous sports for over 20 years.

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I have read many articles by Jack Lalanne and in many of them he discussed exercises to work the muscles of the entire body. He even broke it down and showed exercises for the ears, eyes, eye lids, etc. Now, I am not going to take it that far, but I believe you must train the entire body. When I say this, it means that I train all of my athletes and clients’ head, neck, hands, grip, and feet musculature, body parts that are often forgotten.

We are all aware of the concussion issue that most strength coaches are trying to diminish with proper strength training protocols for the head and neck. I as well believe that it is very important for athletes to train the musculature of the head and neck to reduce the effects of concussions and sub-concussive forces, but I don’t stop there. I also train the head and neck of all my clients, from the young to the old; we all need to have strong head and neck muscles. I have a 70-year-old woman that I train twice a week for 30 minutes and she absolutely loves to train her head and neck. At first she was very hesitant, but she trusted that I was a professional and knew what I was talking about. She is very happy that she made the decision to allow me to train her head and neck. This is only possible because of the purchase of the Pendulum 4-way neck machine that I made early in 2011. After reading numerous articles and hearing numerous lectures on the importance of training the musculature of the head and neck, I decided that we all have the ability to suffer from concussions and I am doing my part to help lower the effects of concussions for my athletes and clients.

The next body part that I make sure to include in every training session for EVERYONE I train are the hands. Again, strength coaches understand the importance of training the grip for sports, especially combat type athletes, but everyone, not just athletes, use their grip everyday! Because every day of our lives we have to grip things I want to make it easier for my clients to continue to live their lives being able to do all the things they need to do. In many cases I can improve their lives because a stronger grip has improved the ability to do their daily tasks with less issues or trips back and forth to accomplish goals that require hand strength. One of the women that I train has noticed that with her increased hand strength it has been easier for her to carry her groceries into the house and it takes her fewer trips. Although it is only an extra minute or two that it saves her, it allows her to get through things faster and spend more time on more exciting activities! I tell everyone that talks to me about training, specifically the grip, “We are going to use our hands for the rest of our lives. You may want to make sure that they are trained properly so that they are ready when we need them!”

Last, but certainly not least, the parts of the body that I believe are very important to train are the feet. When Vibram five-finger shoes first came out years ago I jumped at the opportunity to purchase a pair not knowing if they were going to be around for a long period of time. I have personally noticed a change in how I walk, stand, and run. Because of those changes I have also noticed that my posture is better. I have no low back pain from being on my feet all day long anymore as well as no hip, knee, or ankle discomfort from standing and working on my feet all day long. I knew that I wasn’t the only one that was concerned about the musculature of the feet, but was pleasantly surprised when I was called up on stage at the Michigan State University strength clinic a several years ago by Coach Mike Gittleson after talking to him about my shoes and why I believe it was important to strengthen the feet. Remember when you put your foot into a pair of regular shoes, or heaven forbid a pair of high heels, you are doing them a disservice. Anything that offers support and thick soles is bad for the feet. Shoes that offer support are like putting your feet in casts! The shoe gives the support instead of the muscles working to support the foot. The thick soles do not allow you to have the kinesthetic awareness while standing, walking, jogging, running, etc. to do those activities with proper form. Most all of my clients at one time or another either train in their bare feet or have purchased a minimalist style of shoe to train in and I have heard rave reviews from every single one of them. A couple of my clients had really weak ankles and would sprain them getting up off the couch. After training in their bare feet or minimalist shoe, they have noticed a major difference in the amount of ankle pain and have not sprained their ankles in months now!

That’s the way I see it!

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Erick McKayErik McKay BS, MA, CSCS, Kinetics Coach earned his B.S. and M.A. in physical education at Central Michigan University. While at CMU he worked with the Center for the Enhancement of Physical Education Programming and gained additional experience developing K-12 physical education curriculum with a focus on proficiency in the knowledge of proper form and execution of motor skills, and taught strength and conditioning courses as a graduate assistant. Erik went on to earn the Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach designation from the National Strength and Condition Association, the premier certification in the fitness field. Coach McKay can be reached via email by clicking here.