Injury Prevention and Rehab

Functional Asymmetry and Eccentric Deceleration Presentation

by Matt Jordan on May 14, 2016 No comments

Over the past four years I’ve been working hard to find new methods to detect deficits in athletes returning from injury.  Two particular areas of interest are assessing functional asymmetry and eccentric deceleration ability.  I’ve found functional asymmetry testing to be of great value for monitoring athletes throughout the return to sport training period.  However, I don’t think it is as simple as relying solely on what the eyes can see or simple between-limb strength tests like measuring single leg squat strength or single leg vertical jump height .  I look at functional asymmetry from a few different perspectives.  I have written about this in both lay and peer-reviewed articles.

In terms of assessing eccentric deceleration ability, we know that non-contact injuries often happen in the transitional zones when muscle work is performed through lengthening contractions to absorb external energy (i.e. during decelerating events).  In order to evaluate an athlete’s eccentric deceleration ability it is important to have few tools in your toolbox including those that use the power of visual observation and those that are determined objectively.

I have received a lot of requests in this area so I put a link below to a presentation I gave recently on this topic.

I’m also offering a weekend webinar on Saturday June 4th to discuss different approaches for evaluating functional asymmetry and eccentric deceleration ability.  Space is limited so please reserve yourself a spot soon if you are interested in learning more.


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Matt JordanFunctional Asymmetry and Eccentric Deceleration Presentation

Assessing Functional Asymmetry in the ACL Injured Athlete

by Matt Jordan on January 16, 2015 No comments

Article Overview: 757 words on assessing functional asymmetries using dual force plate methodology.

About 3 weeks ago I gave an hour presentation at a local ski shop to discuss my PhD research, which focused on functional neuromuscular assessments throughout the late phase rehabilitation to improve outcome for ACL injured elite ski racers.

Like most applied strength and conditioning research projects, this one evolved out of ongoing efforts to track and monitor my athletes.  In addition to tracking training loads and athlete readiness using subjective questionnaires, I was using a dual force plate system to assess explosive strength, mechanical muscle power and jumping ability in my athletes.

As time went on, I started to see that the lower limb force asymmetry obtained during vertical jumping was sensitive to MSK functional status throughout the return to sport phase after an ACL injury.

This is not a new finding but I took a unique perspective as a strength coach and began looking at specific movement phases that we often address in our programming.  Specifically, I broke the asymmetry in the countermovement jump down into the eccentric deceleration phase and the concentric phase, and looked at the early phase asymmetry in an unloaded and loaded squat jump along with the late phase asymmetry.  More recently, I began evaluating the landing asymmetry as well.  I coined the term kinetic impulse asymmetry index (KIAI) and published a paper on how I go about doing this in case you’re interested (Jordan et al., 2015. SJMSS).

The functional asymmetry assessment along with a few other specific neuromuscular diagnostic tests have now become integral to my approach for evaluating uninjured and ACL-reconstructed athletes alike.  In fact, as a part of our monitoring system, we began evaluating functional asymmetry in many of our uninjured athletes and we are now finding the kinetic impulse asymmetry index in the eccentric deceleration phase to be predictive of lower body injury in previously uninjured athletes.

In terms of assessment time, the two tests take about 10 minutes to perform and are easily administered in a high performance weight room.  You can also obtain a dual force plate system for around $2500-$3000.  This is still expensive but it is far cheaper than the typical price tag of $15,000 / force plate. I’ll tell you, this is the best money I’ve spent in a long time but you’re talking to a strength coach that sticks to the basics.

I often get asked by strength coaches if it is adequate to simply look at vertical jump height or jump distance.  The short answer is that it does provide some insight into functional asymmetry.  However, using a dual force plate system and looking at the kinetic impulse asymmetry index allows me to obtain a much better picture of where the deficits lie and how I will program to fix them.  Remember, that athletes can often shift their jumping strategy so that jump performance remains the same but in the case of the ACL-reconstructed athlete, deficits may still remain.

Your uninjured athletes will also find crafty ways of maintaining performance in the presence of an impending injury or fatigue.  This is why how an athlete performs the movement is more important than the performance in the context of identifying athletes who may be around the corner from a injury.


Using this approach along with the information I obtain from my MSK assessment, I’m able to zero in on deficits and barriers that are limiting an athlete’s return to sport after an ACL injury.

I’m also able to evaluate when my programming is out of whack and when it has led an athlete into a state of maladaptation.

Together, having these metrics have really shaped how I program for the ACL-reconstructed athlete.

On that note, you can click the link below to get a PDF of the presentation I gave a few weeks ago.  There is some background information on ACL injuries and I also provided some thoughts on how I program for ACL injury prevention.

By no means is this exhaustive but it gives an idea of the approach I take.  I also recognize there is some amazing expertise out there so I would encourage you to read up from others if you are interested in how to manage this extremely challenging and multi-factorial injury.

I think the important take home message is that you never know where simple monitoring will get you as a strength coach. The key is to start evaluating what you think is important and then keeping an open mind to the possibilities.

As always, I look forward to comments and feedback so send them along.




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Matt JordanAssessing Functional Asymmetry in the ACL Injured Athlete

What is your training philosophy? Guidelines for the non-athlete.

by Matt Jordan on June 13, 2014 No comments

Article Overview: 811 words on building a training philosophy for for the non-athlete.

My speciality is designing workouts for individuals with specific sport performance goals and helping athletes come back from injury.  I also get lots of requests to design programs for people who are looking to stay fit and lean while minimizing additional wear and tear on their body.

I understand this battle.  On the one hand high intensity training brings results.  On the other hand, half a lifetime of competitive sport or the normal routine of spending 5-8 hours sitting at a desk takes its toll. Keeping your body healthy  eventually becomes more important than hitting a personal best in the gym.

The pendulum in the fitness industry has shifted towards high intensity training of all modalities and types.  The long-term sustainability of this approach is extremely low especially in the absence of high levels of regeneration/recovery – something to which most individuals are unable/unwilling to commit.

It is important to build a training method and a philosophy that minimizes negative or maladaptive stress, and promotes positive training stress.

The key to a training program’s success is creating a meaningful energy flux (i.e. creating a disturbance in energy balance) and stimulating the body’s adaptive response.  The more frequently we cause an energy flux, the better the results.  The better our timing of changing the training stimulus in light of the body’s non-linear change in its adaptive response, the better the results.

Here are some recommendations for building your training philosophy, and striking a balance between positive training stress and negative/maladaptive stress:

  1. Start your workout by prioritizing three areas of MSK deficiency. This could be mobility-related, motor control-related, or synergist-strength related. It is beneficial to get a set of eyes on you in a formal movement evaluation to pinpoint these areas.
  2. Use a combination of whole-body multi-joint movements in each workout. These comprise your indicator or primary lifts. Multi-joint movements are known for providing the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to hypertrophy and strength development.
  3. Even though you may not be a high performance athlete, periodize your training. A good method is to alternate between a mesocycle (i.e. 3-4 weeks) in which you load by volume (extensification or accumulation where time under tension > 30s – reps 8-15) and then a mesocycle in which you load by intensity (intensification – time under tension < 20s – reps < 8)
  4. Start each each mesocycle with an introductory microcycle (a microcycle = 4-7 days). This can be followed by two building or overreaching mesocycles. In the first of the two building microcycles, it is best to increase the number of sets slightly (e.g. add 1-2 sets onto the primary or indicator lifts), and lower the rep bracket by 1-2 reps (e.g. go from 10-12 reps to 9-11 reps). In the second overreaching mesocycle, continue to increase intensity by lowering the repetition scheme and slightly reduce the number of sets. The final microcycle should be an unloading phase in which both the number of sets and the intensity are reduced.
  5. Manipulate rest intervals and tempo to achieve your training effect while reducing the external load requirement. These may be two of the most overlooked training parameters. For example, by reducing the speed of movement in the eccentric phase from 1 second to 4 seconds, there is an increased time under tension and the reduction in speed reduces mechanical advantage necessitating the use of a lower external load. Remember, time under tension and building tension are two keys for eliciting muscle hypertrophy. Conversely, the conscious acceleration and maximal neuromuscular activation while concentrically lifting a submaximal load can elicit substantial gains in muscle strength and power.
  6. Carefully plan the number of sets taken to technical failure. I say technical failure as I don’t mean passing that point of technical breakdown. Poor mechanics are a huge culprit for accelerating MSK dysfunction. Instead, you should plan in advance the number of sets in any given workout that are going to be taken to technical failure. Emerging research suggests that equal or superior gains in explosive strength, maximal strength and hypertrophy may be achieved by keeping a couple of reps in the bank.
  7. Intersperse higher intensity training sessions with some lower intensity sessions. This is not popular in the fitness world but sub-aerobic threshold training volume and restorative sessions (e.g. mobility/flexibility) will go a long way to increase your tissues structural tolerance and your overall work capacity.
  8. Nutrition and sleep are your two biggest assets for optimizing recovery from training and become increasingly important with age.
  9. Lastly, don’t get stuck doing the same program for months on end. While too much variation (think of chaos training – something I do not support) is problematic, too little variation leads to stagnation and is a real killer for overall gains.

These are just a few principles I find effective for establishing a training philosophy when the goals have moved beyond high performance sport although many of the principles apply here too.

Feel free to send me comments or feedback.

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Matt JordanWhat is your training philosophy? Guidelines for the non-athlete.