I once heard a coach talk about how he used the 70/20/10 rule in his programming.
70% of his programming was science-backed concrete items that he KNOWS will work, 20% of his programming was items that he was ALMOST CERTAIN will work, and the remaining 10% was risk-free innovative techniques and theories that he was PRETTY SURE would work.
That really resonated with me, because I'm very dedicated to making sure our athletes at PACE Fitness Academy achieve absolute mastery of the basics. You know, the "boring" stuff that never makes it onto social media. This is the stuff that undeniably works and has been around forever. We hammer these basics. Squats, RDLs, Rows, Push-Ups, Sprinting, Jumping, Lunging, etc.
In my own personal training endeavors, I like to push the envelope further and get more creative. I like to challenge status quo and make my own training extremely outside the box—almost experimental.
As any good coach will echo, how you train your athletes is likely going to be very different from how you train yourself. In this case, that 70/20/10 rule gives me a 10% opportunity to bridge the gap and take some of my creative experiments into real world application.
One method that has stuck around and become a staple in our advanced population is a technique that features the use of plate perturbations in core-specific training. Here's what it looks like and how to include it in your programming.
What are Plate Perturbations?
Perturbations are defined as "a disturbance of motion, course, arrangement or state of equilibrium."
Essentially, this method uses a light weight (usually an iron plate) to act as a distraction to the motion, rhythm or center of gravity during an exercise or drill. For us, this often means placing a small plate onto a resistance band prior to performing a banded exercise. You can also apply manual perturbations in the same manner, which is very common in physical therapy and rehabilitation practices.
There are many incredible benefits to using this method and even more possibilities for application. Muscle engagement, stability, mind-muscle-connection development, actually having fun in training, you name it.
What I'd like to focus on in this article is using plate perturbations to challenge certain muscle groups or joints where stability is massively important, such as the shoulder, ankle, knee and core.
Using this technique gives athletes a small dose of random instability within these programmed positions. With the heightened sensitivity of muscle spindles, you can train athletes to become more responsive to distraction forces that may occur on the field of play or even in their day-to-day life.
I'm not saying a little 5-pound plate wiggling around on a Pallof Press band is the same as a middle linebacker throwing himself at your sternum. This is simply micro-dosing sport contextual demands on the body, rather than chasing sport specificity in the weight room with movements.
The body needs to resist, absorb and create forces in all planes of motion. And needs to do so at game speeds. Any way we can safely and appropriately incorporate some of those demands in the weight room allows the athlete to have a greater chance of doing so in a live game environment.
Applying plate perturbations to already mastered exercises such as Dead Bugs, Band Face Pulls and Pallof Presses also gives the athlete a constant progression to provide that "overload" stimulus, since many of those exercises are non-weight-bearing and difficult to scale. The beauty of plate perturbations is that it is very rare to replicate. Each perturbation is slightly different in force, vector and duration, which challenges the athlete both physically and at the neuromuscular level.
Again, perturbation training is nothing new or groundbreaking. Manual methods have been used in the rehab industry for many years. As strength training has become more focused on preventative care, this is an effort to blend the rehab world with the preparation world, so that the two never have to meet due to an injury. "Prehab," if you will.
Below are some of my favorite examples of plate perturbation methods applied to some of our foundational exercises. Remember, these moves are NOT a replacement for the 70%! However, we've found them to be a great programming supplement for our advanced population. Try these out and get creative on your own to help push the envelope on what can be accomplished in the weight room to benefit the athlete in their sport.