Load Vectors: Less is More!

Last year, I created the load vector training model. Of course the system is not perfect, just like all other classification systems. Human movement is quite dynamic and complex, which makes any system of classification very challenging. However, the load vector concept is very intriguing and has merit in the literature.

Chi emailed me his thoughts regarding load vectors last week and I asked him to write a guest blog on the topic since he’s obviously put a lot of thought into it. For those of you who don’t know Chi, he’s a freaky-intelligent guy, a research machine, and an all-around nice guy! And he lives in the Netherlands!

Load Vectors: Less is More!
By Chi Chiu

How do you respond to a blog invite from a highly innovative guy, who turned the explanation of one exercise into a book of 600 pages? How about by writing the shortest guest post ever, about nothing new!

Bret has written extensively about the concept of load vectors (LV) which adds another layer to the use of planes by focusing on the direction of the resistance, instead of the movement. While doing so, he introduces 12 “new” words like anteroposterior, lateromedial, and torsional. Although I enjoyed the concept and love (bio)mechanics, I did not adopt the lingo, because in the weight room we already have less sophisticated, but adequate terminology like push, pull and rotate. If you combine them with the axes (axial, sagittal, and lateral), you basically get most of the LV concept, but on a more intuitive level.

The words push, pull and rotate are generic and tell you something about the forces acting upon the body, while the axes specify the direction. The squat is an axial push exercise and a chin-up an axial pull. The Pallof press however, is a movement in the sagittal plane and looks like a push, hence the press part. In the “new” LV lingo, however, it’s a lateral rotational pull. The LV dictionary for the weight room just got shorter and more intuitive. As a result of it, I’ve seen various people apply those principles on their program design, only minutes after I explained it to them. Just tweak it a little on upper, core, and lower body exercises and you have a general balanced or more specific adapted selection of exercises in no time. By using more intuitive and familiar words, the LV concept gets more accessible and therefore more applicable.

New Terminology

Axial – vertical plane
Sagittal – horizontal plane
Lateral – lateral plane
Push – moving away from the body
Pull – moving toward the body
Rotation – twisting

Examples

Axial Pull – chin up, deadlift, power clean, curl, shrug
Axial Push – military press, squat, lunge, dip
Axial Rotation – landmine, single leg box squat, single leg RDL
Sagittal Pull – inverted row, seated row, back extension
Sagittal Push – push up, bench press, hip thrust, sled push
Sagittal Rotation – bird dog, single leg hip thrust, single arm db bench press, renegade row
Lateral Pull – standing cable adduction
Lateral Push – x-band walk, slideboard lateral slide, lateral raise
Lateral Rotation – Pallof press, cable chop, cable lift

6 Comments

  • Could you argue that the deadlift is an axial push, as you push into the ground to move the weight vertically?

    I would still argue that cleans and snatches are pulls, because even though they are initiated with a push, the main part of the lift is the pull, and you can complete the main part with only the pull – off blocks and from the hang for example.

    It’s really semantics – great post!

  • Nick, I likrthe thought, but I would submit that the LV terminology is based strictly on the direction of the load, rather than the direction of force to overcome the load. That in mind, the LV of a deadlift us an axial pull because the glutes and hams pull across the hip fulcrum to perform extension. Admittedly, I too cue myself to push into the ground when deadlifting, but in truth, that technique is more of a bracing to achieve gluteal/ham activation and stability. What gets you through the range of motion? The pull, not the push. As you’ve said, the snatch is a pull- is not a snatch but a faster, more powerful deadlift, that results in momentum generation to lift the bar overhead? Crude- but you get the point.

  • Admittedly, when I initially read the post, it made instinctive sense, but I fought against it, mostly for no logical reason. I went back, read the initial LV posting, then re-read this post, and admittedly, it makes perfect EXPERIENTIAL sense!

    I teach and proctor Personal Training certs and ceu courses, and this is what I see in the field- most trainers INSTINCTIVELY speak to LV, but are forced to learn anatomy planes. Example- the biggest confusion that I see in the workshops is the confusion between sagittal and horizontal plane regarding push-ups. I formerly thought the confusion lay in the inability to perceive the movement of the shoulder joint and the horizontal movement of the humerus (and that is true from an anatomical perception), but I can now see that there is a pre-existing experiential framework for perceiving the LV in a push-up as sagittal.

    Great stuff. Formalize it, create a CEU course around it, put together a team, and sell it. This really helps to functionally communicate so much more of what happens in training, without negating any other aspects of academic knowledge. NOW maybe this will help to bridge a discussion and language around joints/fulcrums, which is where the majority of movement dysfunction manifests.

  • s2bfitness says:

    Although the culture and training in my facility is solid, it is still a commercial gym. And as such I still get asked if a Pallof Press is for the chest. :/

    What would you term something like a half-kneeling sequential lift since it acts in multiple planes? Multi-planar rotational seems to fit…

  • Chi says:

    @Nick,

    Great question. A deadlift is a pull that leads to axial compression, it starts with a pull and stays a pull during most part of the exercise, therefor I would consider it a pull exercise.

    I would have to agree with you on cleans and snatches, but these are complex movements like the TGU. In case of any complex problem, you need to break it apart. Then assign the forces that act upon it.

    @s2bfitness

    Well any flexion of the shoulder will contribute to chest activation (the pec is a flexor), so that would be a big yes of on the pallof press;-)

    A half-kneeling sequential lift would be a rotational lateral pull in the first half that adds a push component on the latter half (the pull part is till active though).

  • Chi says:

    @Earnest,

    You’re right, it does not cover everything and it’s more of a experiential sense.

    I’m usually already impressed when trainers actually take time to balance out push and pull exercises in their programs.

    I use to rave about Bret’s LV concept and all I got was a ‘we’re glad your happy and excited’ response, while hiding a pitiful look. Now, they using it, so that’s progress ūüėČ

  • Charlotte says:

    Awesome post Chi…. I’m a newbe, so reading and learning about this now is great. Thanks for sharing!

    -Char

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