Guy Massi: Oscillation, Amplitude and Dynamic Stability Training

Back in the days of flip phones and pagers, I found myself an enthusiastic 18-year-old “man-boy” with my first training credential in hand. I had just undergone my initial formal learning experience that supported my own experience of training as an athlete.

I subsequently became subject to all of the common rhetoric associated with becoming a training professional. Being young and daring (probably more so stupid and naïve) I decided to provide a very different and novel service to make me stand out in the market place.

I always wanted to be different. Traditional and conventional isn’t my path. I didn’t want to be like everyone else. (Many might say that is one of my greatest flaws.)

Maybe this desire of mine came from one of the greatest influences on my developmental perceptions. In my early teens, I had the honor and privilege of working as a New York Rangers (NHL) practice assistant to one of the greatest and most legendary hockey coaches on the planet, Herb Brooks. For those who may not be hockey aficionados, Herb was the head coach of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic hockey team at Lake Placid in 1980.

Herb was a generally reserved, yet at times fiery, coach who never spoke purely for the sense of expelling carbon dioxide; his words always held a purpose. To this day, I don’t believe I’ve ever met anyone quite as passionate about their craft. Most don’t know that Herb was truly accomplished and possessed quite a methodical system as it pertained to strength and conditioning. Herb was also fascinated with Russian training systems. Therefore, through Herb’s inspiration and influence, I too became fascinated with Russian training systems.

Fast forward; there I was, “years post-Herb,” observing most around me moving through the “exercise” of competing for business in the generalized aesthetic fitness market. That’s when I decided to run with Herb’s previous inspiration and provide a more novel fitness and athletic development service to the market. I’d focus on the things that every athlete (and person) wanted like; speed, strength, power, agility, balance, stability, dynamic stability, multi-planar movement and the gambit. All this, while also offering some functional development (that one might not be completely aware of) for the eventual culmination and optimization of Dynamic CapacityLet me clarify . . . 

Dynamic Capacity encompasses the overall ability to effectively apply, manage and maximize the aforesaid underlying functional performance elements in order to efficiently perform activity at desired speeds. It is the sum of all parts. In other words; Doing Sport, Work or Life in real-time motion, and doing it really well.

Dynamic Stability is a necessary, underlying functional performance element for Dynamic Capacity, yet remains a separate training component that should focus upon stability in-and-through range of motion and the various planes of movement. It is part of the Dynamic Capacity equation. In other words; it is one of the essential pre-requisites to Dynamic Capacity, much like speed, strength, power, balance, agility, etc.

With the knowledge that stability is the precursor, I decided that I was going to start playing with oscillation and amplitude training methods in order to develop all of the components required for the ultimate culmination of Dynamic Capacity.

Surely, I would want to begin by building biomechanical command. What signature progressions might I devise to develop these ideas? Now don’t get me wrong; I did have my regular fitness clients and they paid very well, but I made the decision to veer towards athletic development, and some of the philosophies I developed during my own training and exposure to Herb Brooks.

I had heard mythological stories of mammoth Russian athletes performing back squats on vibration plates, so that sounded like as good a starting point as any.

Lacking the funds to score whatever version of a vibration plate that may have existed, I set out on a quest for the next best (and free) thing. I began to “pillage” gymnastic centers for decommissioned spring platforms, and modified them to be completely horizontal. I utilized old motor vehicle springs, cutting them down and fashioning the platform to be stable enough for the athletes I coached, yet reactive enough to provide them with a particular degree of challenge while training.

I didn’t quite get the magnitude of biomechanical reactivity and stability requirement I was attempting to achieve, so I pushed the envelope a bit, and increased the stability demand by adding the element of amplitude in addition to the oscillation training component. My hope was for better and varying degrees of momentary oscillation and amplitude production as result. Maybe my lack of mechanical experience didn’t yield the most efficiently “tuned” spring platforms either.

Looking for more options, I began to suspend kettle bells from bands at various positions and deviations from the ends of barbells in what I coined Band Suspend ResistanceBSR. (Some may now call it “Hanging Band Technique” – HBT) So I began to tool with the protocols and progressions, and became convinced that there was in fact a method to this training madness that provided superior development. I later began calling it “Cyclic Oscillatory Power Progressions©” (COPP) to emphasize the cycling of movements within the training (i.e. feet per second, amplitude, oscillation and angle of deflection that was associated to attempting to calculate impulse forces and the likes.)

I liked what I was seeing, especially the development of some really big, powerful, fast, agile and dynamically stable athletes, which was quite rewarding. At the same time, I was kind of segregating myself from the main stream . . .  not the greatest thing to do as a newbie.

Long story short, I was ostracized for quite some time, despite the obvious efficacy of the methods. In attempting to peddle the methods to some teams and athletes, I was met mostly with chuckles, belly laughs, sneers, jeers and the occasional slamming door. However, I decided to maintain the course and further develop the work.

I set out to prove a point: Deliver the concept to the masses on a more broad-spectrum scale of application. Not just reserve it for athletes, but also deliver it to fitness clientele. This charge assisted to clarify my own questioning and reconsider many of my methods. Basically, the following was confirmed and/or came to light:
1) The setups were elaborate, time consuming and often required a lot of assistance to even get the user started,
2) The required speeds for certain lifting and training progressions could not be safely achieved,
3) Because of the rigidity and unpredictability of the training platform, general and overall safety was compromised (especially as it pertained to potential rotation or torsion associated injury,)
4) The risk vs. reward element became far too prominent in higher level protocols,
5) The methods were in fact; not applicable to everyone, and highly dependent upon developmental junctures.

I was still hell-bent on finding a way to make this happen for everyone. As time passed, the inevitable safety concerns remained. Because of the high level of operating capability required, the application and training concepts could not be adapted and utilized for “the masses” strictly through the use of the training equipment and platforms readily available to our industry at the time (i.e. rigid barbells and Band Suspended Resistance.) Further, this didn’t even include the ideas pertaining to return-to-work and return-to-play programs.

What was I to do? I hid it away for the higher functioning athletes and presented the concepts to the very few like-minded individuals who observed and noted the methods’ advantages. I began to be content with the thought that this is how things would remain. Then I reflected upon my early experiments with PVC as a barbell (they were actually hard to forget . . . due to the sheer volume of snapped and wasted PVC.)

I really believed that there had to be a way to make it work; to create a training platform that would safely provide for the biomechanical reactivity, oscillation, amplitude, speed and dynamic stability components required and as elicited by the user. There had to be a way to use what I had learned to achieve the goal of superior Dynamic Capacity. Reality spoke again, ‘You don’t have time or the capital ($$$) right now to venture, so just do what you do otherwise.’

That’s the background. I just wanted you to fully appreciate the notion of developing general stability and dynamic stability as a whole for the eventual culmination of Dynamic Capacity. Now, let’s examine some of training platforms out there. The pros and cons here, are strictly based on my own experience, knowledge and opinion . . . as well as the obvious.

Band suspended Resistance (BSR)
(Band hanging kettle bells, dumbbells or plates from a conventional rigid barbell)
Pros: Provided a higher degree of relative difficulty, elevated motor unit recruitment and stability requirement
Cons: Safety issue in most movements and at speed and difficult to apply for most demographics
Limitations: Limited operability

Primitive “Fluid Loaded”
(Slosh Pipe, Sand Pipe, Shot Loaded, etc.)
Pros: Elevated work requirement, motor unit recruitment and stability demand
Cons: Unpredictability, risk of torque or shearing injury
Limitations: Limited application

Both of the above present the shared risks of suddenly “yanking” the user from a positive biomechanical operating slot, as well as:

  • Ever present torsion and shearing injury risk
  • All presented a calculated training risk (Risk v. Reward)
  • Risk vs. reward literally needed to be examined on a case-by-case basis (i.e. age, history, ability, previous injury, neuromuscular association, inter/intra muscular coordination, developmental junctures, programming objectives, etc.)

 Tsunami Bar© Flexible Barbells

(A revolutionary, new fitness and athletic development training platform)

  • Provides elevated motor unit recruitment and greater safety in movement at speed,
  • Builds positive biomechanical operating slots associated with functional operating techniques, and Inter/intra muscular coordination,
  • Allows for lower risk in dynamic, hyper-dynamic and ballistic-dynamic movement,
  • Offers a complete training platform for oscillation, amplitude, speed and stability training,
  • Solves the training paradox of pushing the envelope without compromising safety (little to no risk vs. reward concerns,)
  • Develops biomechanical reactivity (how one anatomically manages, navigates and adapts to changes in surface and/or training mediums that otherwise challenges biomechanics,)
  • Allows for said biomechanical testing observations because of the “live weight” presented by the Tsunami Bar.

From my experience with all of the above platforms as it pertains to strength, power, speed, agility, stability, plyometrics, proprioception, etc., I have found the flexible barbell (Tsunami Bar©, in my case) to be far safer, superior and application-agile, offering improved Rate of Force Development (RFD), increasing maximal force, control and/or elimination of Force Dissipation (FD), optimization of inter and intramuscular coordination, energy system and metabolic efficiency and of course Dynamic Capacity.

This works for me. Find what works for you. I hope that my process and the concepts presented can be of value and that you leave with the following takeaway: when making your final training peripherals decisions consider safety, portability, logistics, programming agility, orientation requirement, supervision requirement, and of course return on investment (ROI). I hope that I’ve helped provoke your thoughts as you check those boxes. If you believe something will work, keep searching to find a means that will either support or disprove your vision.

In closing, I remind you that no matter what you endeavor to achieve, all goals require persistent, diligent effort – a.k.a. Hard Work. Always remain focused and committed to your objective because Greatness is forged, not fabricated©.

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