Fitness Stuff You Should Be Reading!

Sorry for my lack of involvement the last 2 days, my gym has been closed due to no power from Hurricane Sandy, so I have been really lazy on making a post.  Won’t happen again because I have confirmed that my gym is open tomorrow so lazyness will cease as of tonight!

 

Eric Cressey’s newest blog: Strength Training Technique: 8 Ways to Screw up a Row

Pretty much self explanatory but gives very good advice for rowing exercises and shows mistakes that pretty much everyone makes.

Bret Contreras’ most recent contribution to T-Nation.com

20 Almost Laws of Strength Training

It is about things that you don’t necessarily “need” to do at the gym, but would be nice if you do.

http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/20_almost_laws_of_strength_training

 

An article from Strength Coach Mike Robertson on Floor Press (disclaimer: this is a long article, but it is well worth the read)

http://robertsontrainingsystems.com/blog/floor-press/

 

Hope everyone on the east coast is recovering from Sandy.  Happy Hump Day!

 

 

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Hangover Mondays! Sandy-Seminars-and Squats!

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Hurricane Sandy is upon us, and it’s only a matter of time before her wrath obliterates us all and is the leading cause to the zombie apocalypse (can you think of a better reason for it).  But on a serious note I hope everyone in the northeast remains safe, so stock up a little, stay inside, and make sure your dogs are securely attached to the pole (Doggie kite flying anyone?)

 

Congrats to the San Francisco Giants on winning their second World Series in 3 years.  They did an amazing job of making the Tigers look like the Yankees did this postseason.

And props to the other (better) Giants, the New York Football Giants for earning a 4-0 record at the new Cowboys stadium, having a 6-2 record and sitting 2.5 games up in the NFC East.  It was a brutal game which I believe neither team should have won, but thankfully the Giants came out on top.  As Herm Edwards famously said “You play to win the game”, the Giants did just that.

Yesterday I attended Cressey Performance’s 1st Annual Fall Seminer all the way up in Hudson Ma.

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There were 7 Presenters total.  4 of which were current Cressey Performance (CP) coaches, and the others worked at/with CP in one form or another at one time.  I won’t go into detail about all of the presentations, but I want to touch on a few of the topics that I feel you should know about.

 

The First Presenter was Eric Cressey (Owner of CP), his topic was “Understanding and Managing Congenital Laxity”. (what a mouthful)

To sum it up the best I can, it was about your body’s mobility with regards to stretching.  Million dollar question:  What does Static Stretching actually do for you?  Short Answer: Absolutely Nothing (99.9% of the time).  It is usually believed that stretching will help to lengthen the muscles, but in actuality it takes the muscles a minimum of 30 minutes of constant stretching (yes you read that correctly) for the muscle to even begin to lengthen.  And even with that all a stretch does is it temporarily changes your body’s tolerance to the stretch (hence why it feels good afterwards).

Don’t get me wrong, some individuals do have a true muscle shortness and stretching will benefit them, but this population is so small and insignificant, that it doesn’t matter.

So how do we get rid of muscle tightness?  Short Answer:  Mobility work.  Think about it, most of your muscles connect at the joints, so fixing the joints will pretty much cause the muscle tightness to fix itself.

Mobility is defined as One’s ability to reach the goal movement or posture/position.  The problem is that the same mobility work will not work for everyone.  What works for a 12 year old won’t work for a 15 year old, which won’t work for an 18 year old, which won’t work for a 45 year old man who sits at a desk all day, and rightfully so.  Your body is constantly changing as you age and you need to adjust your work accordingly.

I can go on forever about mobility related stuff, but there is more to talk about so I will post more about it in the future.

The next presenter I want to talk about was CP Strength Coach Christopher Howard.  His presentation was entitled “Program Design Considerations for the Young Athlete”.  All I can say is Wow, he really hit the nail on the head with his presentation.  Chris mostly trains young athletes in the age range of 10-14.  This is the ideal age to start weight lifting.  

“Generally Speaking, if children are ready for participation in organized sports or activities – such as Little League Baseball, Soccer, or Gymnastics – then they are ready for some type of Strength Training” – ACSM Current Comment on Youth Strength Training

Strength Training (not Weightlifting or Powerlifting) is defined as: A systematic program of exercises designed to increase the individuals ability to exert or resist force.

So when training your young athletes your primary goal will be to get them to resist external force, and to move an external force.  Most of the time the external load will be their body weight.  Most youth athletes will struggle to do a pushup, because they lack the strength and the stability.  So to first build the stability the starting exercise for the kid will be a plank.  Medicine Balls are also a great tool for kids because its lightweight, gives amazing benefits, and it’s also fun for them.  

Free Weights is the last step for young athletes and should only be used if they prove to the coach that they have the strength and stability to be able to handle them.  Most of the young athletes at CP use the Trap Bar for deadlifts, if the weight is too much they will do a similar exercise with the kettlebell.  

Training frequency is also important, at least twice a week is preferred but no more than 4 days per week (depending on the athletes sports schedule).  Once per week is not enough because the athletes will simply not remember the tricks and cues the coach gives them on correct form, and this will hinder their performance and progress in the coming weeks.

The last presentation I want to discuss is from Tony Gentilecore (who I had the opportunity to chat with for a bit at the seminar).  His presentation was entitled “Deep Squats: Are they worth it?”.  I will again come up with the simplest answer possible:  It Depends!  I am not the first to say this but I truly believe it that “Squats aren’t for everyone”.  However like with the stretching there is a small population that shouldn’t be squatting.  For example: an individual with 2 blown out knees and 3 herniated disks in their lumbar spine.  Yeah he probably shouldn’t squat.  Most of you in one way or another can squat, as long as it’s done properly.

There is a rumor going around that squatting is bad for your knees, well I am here to prove that that statement is false.  A study done in 2001 by Salem and Powers: “Patellofemoral (knee) joint Kinetics during the Squat on Collegiate Female Athletes” found that NO discernible differences at 70,90 and 110 degress of knee flexion with regards to patellofemoral joint reaction forces and joint stress.

So in English that reads, squatting with a knee flexion at those degrees puts no additional stress on the knees compared to standing.  There I just proved that Squatting is not bad for your knees! BOOM!!!!

The knee is set up perfectly to do what it needs to do, the ACL/PCL/LCL/MCL all keep the knee joint in place and prevent unnecessary movements.  The knee can protect itself!

The next topic covered was the spine.  You MUST keep a neutral spine when squatting.  You can cue an individual as many times/ways as you want, but until you show them and describe to them how to “arch” your back, most people will never learn it.  Think “Chest Up and Out” when teaching neutral spine.

A Few important modifications.  If there is pain, don’t do it.  Always work a pain free Range of Motion (ROM).  Favor Single leg work because it works pelvic stability and forces you to use less of an external load versus Bilateral Movements.  Address tissue quality, so Foam Rolling before you squat should be a requirement.

Also working the glutes and hamstrings will drastically help the squat.  So deadlifts, pull-throughs, bridges etc. will all benefit your squats.

Okay so there is my (short) summary of the seminar.  It was very informative and I will be attending more.  Thanks to everyone who made the seminar happen.

If anyone has any questions or comments on the topics I covered, please don’t hesitate to ask! Stay Safe these next few days!

Exercises I love doing and you should be doing too! -Seated Single Arm Rows-

 

Rows are great.  I can’t think of another upper body exercise (other than standing overhead presses) that requires as much muscle recruitment as the Row.  Seated rows are one of the few exercises that you can do from a seated position (most others lack core involvement and are therefore pointless).  But seated rows actually demand a lot from your core.  As you pull in a horizontal motion towards your body your core keeps you from using your hips to jerk (which is the way most people do this exercise).  It also prevents your spine from flexing forward and from extending backward.  Your Body should remain rigid, with no torso movement at all.

The Same goes for your Scapula.  Times of the past have told us to squeeze the shoulder blades together when performing a Row, but not anymore.  The Scapula is a Stability joint, therefor it should be used as a stabilizer (meaning little to no movement).  When performing the row you should try to make your back as wide as possible, and pull with your arms.

 

Now take all of those principles and apply them to an asymmetrical exercise called the Single Arm Seated Row.  All of those (previously mentioned) actions of your body but with a twist.  Well actually without a twist because now you need to use your core to prevent your torso from rotating during the pull.  I like to keep my non-working arm on my hip as an indicator to help prevent rotation.

Here is a video of the exercise showing proper form and execution.

 

Give it a try with 3 sets of 8 reps (on each side).  Make sure to use a weight heavy enough that you will feel your core working to prevent that torso from rotating.

 

The Time has come, only two more days till Cressey Performance’s First Annual Fall Seminar.  I am starting to get really pumped, the only bad part is that I have to leave my apartment at 5:30am Sunday morning and make the 2 1/2 to 3 hour trek up to Hudson Ma, but it will be totally worth it.  I plan on sharing some of my learnings with all of you Monday morning.

 

Have a good weekend everyone!

Training Your Core without doing Core Training!

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Let’s face it, EVERYONE hates doing core work. Training for that most sought after six-pack has been the influence of most individual’s reasons for joining the gym in the first place. But the only way that most people think they will get that six pack is to do a million crunches. So some time goes by and you have done thousands upon thousands of crunches and what do you have to show for it, 2 measly little ab muscles and a ton of lower back pain, Congratulations I hope that’s what you were going for.

Yes Core work is an important factor to every workout, but doing Plank’s and Farmers Walks is not the only way to strengthen up those core muscles. There are several strengthening exercises for your main muscle groups that will also help to give you a nice strong core. The main one that comes to mind for me would be pushups. Think about your body position during a pushup, you are essentially in a planking position, and the focus of the pushup is to keep your body stable and have consistent body movements throughout the exercise. Well take a while guess as to what muscles will be keeping you stable during the pushup. Without proper core stabilization during the push-up, your body will be completely out of whack while performing the exercise that you will need to stop and catch yourself from falling over or face-planting on the floor. Another great example of an exercise that requires a great amount of core work that is not labeled as a core exercise is any type of row that is not chest supported (Seated Cable Rows and Bent Over Dumbell Rows are the best examples). During rowing motions your body uses the core for stabilization to prevent not only rotation of the body during the pull, but also to prevent any extension of the lumbar spine.

The Main function of the core is Stabilization of your entire body, so performing exercises that keep your body stable will in fact work your core muscles. Squats is another great example of an exercise that requires a lot of core stabilization. When done properly your core will fire up to keep your body from any lateral motion as well as any Anterior or Posterior movements.

I want to re-emphasize that this article is NOT meant to say that you no longer have to do core work. Core work is the stable of all types of strengthening exercises that you do and is the mortar to your bricks in your weight lifting. This article was meant to show you that you will be always working your core when you weight train, whether you realize it or not.  

Fitness Stuff You Should Be Reading!

Ben Bruno is arguably the most functionally strong person on the planet.  He is always coming up with new exercises to challenge yourself and your manhood.  He is the king of Single Leg exercises.  He is a regular contributor to Tnation as well as his own website BenBruno.com

His most recent Tnation article entitled “Sissy Exercises That Aren’t” is a great article about exercises that you wouldn’t normally think of doing because they are too “girly”, but are in fact extremely challenging.

http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/sissy_exercises_that_arent

Eric Cressey is a very gifted individual.  As Co-Owner of Cressey Performance in Hudson, Ma. He specializes in training baseball players from high school all the way to professional.  This article from his website (EricCressey.com) from last year is about not letting distractions affect your lifting program.

http://www.ericcressey.com/strength-and-conditioning-programs-eliminate-distractions-to-lose-fat-gain-muscle-get-strong

Bret Contreras is another extremely smart individual.  He is constantly doing research in the fitness industry about the latest trends, techniques, and exercises to help keep this industry at the top.  This article is about Kettle Bell Swings.  A lot of people do kettle bell swings and MOST of you do them wrong. This article goes really in depth about the swing and ensures that you do it properly to give you the necessary effect.  Everyone should read this article and learn something from it.

http://bretcontreras.com/2012/10/proper-kettlebell-swing-form/

Happy Hump Day!

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Is your Programming where it should be?

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There are several books/articles out there that describe the different programming techniques.  5/3/1 by Jim Wendler and the Westside method by Joe Defranco are some of my favorites, but those programs are for the more advanced lifters.  Mike Boyle’s book “Advances in Functional Training” (another book you should read) offers a great chapter on programming for athletes that has an amazing carry over for the general population.

Starting Strength (which I have mentioned earlier) also has a great programming chapter.  They discuss the hierarchy of your lifts and explains the scale extremely simply in the order of what your strongest lift should be, to your weakest.


Deadlift > Squat > Bench Press > Power Clean > Overhead Press. 

There you have it.  Simply put and no need to go more in depth (but I will anyway).

If your Bench Press is higher than your squat then there is something terribly wrong with your lifting program and you should probably re-evaluate your life’s choices.

Just as important as the programming is learning the lifts properly.  If you choose not to squat because it hurts your knees then you are either

A) an idiot

B) Not squatting properly

C) you have bad ankle mobility

D) all of the above

Anyone who tells you squatting is bad for your knees is wrong.  Squatting is only bad on the knees when it is done improperly.

Like last weeks article “Pairing of Proper Exercises” (https://christangredicscs.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/supersets-of-pairing-of-proper-exercises/) the order of exercises is just as important as well.  Its a good rule of thumb to start your workout with the exercise that requires the greatest amount of muscle fiber recruitment across multiple movement patterns (your brain hurt from that one?).

For example: I usually start off each workout (after foam rolling and movement prep) with a few sets of Turkish Get-ups because it works every movement pattern your body has.  From there I move to either Cleans or Power Snatches which again have a High Muscular Recruitment demand from multiple muscle groups.  From there I usually get more specific as the workout goes on.

I have found that this method works best because if you start out specific and then get advanced with your movements you will burn out all of your energy on the smaller isolated movements and will focus less on the more demanding movements.  This will cause you to compensate the complex patterns because of muscle fatigue and cause improper movements.

So take a look at your current program (if you even have one), and re-work it so that your more important lifts are first and your accessory work (isolated movements, strict core movements) are towards the end of your workout.  It will make your workouts more efficient and will deliver better results, and in the end isn’t that what we all want?

Hangover Mondays 10/22/12

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4th quarter Eli Manning does it again!  Despite the Giants defense not being able to stop the running game of the Redskins Big Blue still came out on top and now have a 2 game lead in the NFC east.  Not bad for week 7!

-Had a discussion today with a Pro Baseball player at my gym (plays for an independent league in the midwest during the summer, so it’s semi-pro at best, Flint Michigan Tropics anyone?)  

But seriously this kid had a good head on his shoulders, and works out hard and does it right (from what I have watched).  We were talking about some of the equipment choices the average gym-goer makes (in the commercial gym setting).

We stared with what would most of the members do if we removed most of the machine equipment (by that I mean the Leg Curl, Leg Extension, Seated Chest Press, and so on).  Do you think most of the members would leave the gym, because they don’t know how to exercise any other way?  Or would they reach out for help and ask for assistance on different exercises?

Because most of the members of a typical gym aren’t usually taught to do exercises properly and are just thrown to the wolves, I don’t blame them for using the circuit machines.  The problem is that those machines simply isolate the muscles to strengthen them, and yes it will do just that.  The problem is though that your body does not move in isolation in a real life setting.  Your body moves in movement patterns and in order to get stronger in real life (which is why people come to the gym in the first place, second only to staring at girls wearing yoga pants), you need to train those specific patterns.  This is one of the many flaws of the commercial gym setting, most members think that by doing the 25 minute circuit, that is all they need to get stronger.  

 

– Next topic:  Why are people with shoulder pain/problems still Benching?

A member came up to me and asked me why his shoulders hurt when he was bench pressing today.  First I asked him how often he benches.  Not surprisingly he said at least 3 times per week.  I then asked him how often he does Standing Overhead Presses.  Again not surprisingly he said almost never.  When I asked him why he never does them he could not give me a good reason.  He said he does seated shoulder presses in the Smith Machine, and I had to force myself not to get angry with him.  

I told him he should lay off the benching for a little bit and focus more on Overhead Presses and Horizontal/Vertical Pulls.  By the look on his face you would have guessed that I just murdered a dozen puppies right in front of him.  

Have we placed the Bench Press on such a high pedestal that speaking of such things is considered blasphemy?  Doing a quick shoulder assessment showed me that he had no impingements in either of his shoulders and he scored a 2 on the Shoulder Mobility FMS, so where is the problem?  I told him the main reason for his shoulder pain was most likely too much Horizontal Pressing (bench type movements).

So I made it simple for him.  For every Horizontal Press exercise that he does he should do at least one Overhead Press (1:1 ratio), and should do at least 2 Pulling exercises (Horizontal or Vertical, in a 2:1 ratio of Pulls to Presses).  His “injury” is most likely overuse of the Gleno-Humeral Joint (Shoulder) in the Horizontal motion, and the best way to get rid of his pain is to stop benching.  

Those ratio’s of Push and Pulls don’t apply to just him.  The book Starting Strength Vol. 3 by Mark Rippetoe goes in great depth on how this ratio’s will greatly develop your strength properly, as well as keep you from getting injured.  I highly recommend any person in the Fitness industry to read this book.

 

This Sunday I will be traveling to Hudson, Ma to attend Cressey Performance’s First Annual Fall Seminar (www.CresseyPerformance.com).  I am really excited because I’ve briefly spoken to Co-Owners Eric Cressey (www.EricCressey.com) and Tony Gentilcore (www.TonyGentilcore.com) through email and I am looking forward to meeting them in person and hearing them speak.  I will share some of my learnings in next Monday’s post.  I highly recommend that any of you reading check out their websites, they are both incredibly gifted individuals of the fitness industry.

 

Happy Monday!