Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Key Principle

Train to be able to absorb and apply as much force as quickly and efficiently as possible, without using range-of-motion restricting, or movement pattern altering equipment.

AS

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Path of Least Resistance

Do you ever wonder why it is so much easier to squat deep using a load than it is with just bodyweight?

The reason is because of relative stiffness. By loading the torso with a bar, as in the front or back squat, the body naturally reacts by stiffening the torso to protect the spine. The load now makes the torso stiffer than the hips, and the body always follows the path of least resistance.

To test this out, do a bodyweight squat when you are feeling "cold" and your hips feel tight. Notice how difficult it is to drop into a deep squat. Next try holding some front and side bridges (pillars, planks, whatever you want to call them) for about 30-40 seconds each. Now try the bodyweight squat again. Did you notice a difference? If you did the bridges correctly, it should have felt much easier to sit into a deep squat. Basically all you did was increase the neural signal to the torso muscles, increasing their activity, thus "stiffening" the torso, making the hips less relatively stiff than the torso.

If somebody seems to have a hip mobility issue, immediately check the stability of their torso. More often than not, their hips have become too stable, probably from sitting too much, making up for the instability at the torso.

Physics always rules.

AS

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I Love It!

I received this email yesterday from an awesome former client and even better friend.

Terry didn't start lifting weights until about 2 years ago; he's now 66. He began training with me a little over a year ago, to help iron out some back issues and improve his golf game. He's now officially a powerlifter, and his golf game is at its' best ever.

Powerlifting and golf... sounds like a perfect match to me. You gotta love it.

Great stuff, check it out:

video

407.5 lbs. deadlift; state record for 65-69, 110kg class

Aaron,

I get a chance to read your Blog ....always good stuff. I am in Florida for the winter so the weather here is beautiful ! High 70's - low 80's ..sunshine...just perfect... I'm in the Sarasota area.

Still training and pushing on ... miss your coaching though.. much tougher to discipline myself. Don't know if Steve has told you but I had a great 'first meet' at the Florida Senior Games last Saturday. It was for 50 plus year olds and they had many many different type of games for all age groups and some team sports. (Tennis doubles, etc). The oldest participant was 98. It was a full week affair held in Ft Myers Fl and ended Saturday (8th)

Anyway....the power lifting event went very well... they only had the push-pull event (bench and DL) but some real GOOD lifters. Nothing special went on in the Bench...but the DL was fun to watch...and participate in. There was a 60 year old who set a World Record at 705. I pulled 407.5 (185kg) for my PR and a NEW state record for 65-69, 110kg class. Won 3 gold medals which was a bonus. I also qualified to go to the Senior Game Nationals in Miami in May 2008.

In Feb I plan to compete in the FL State Open ...there I should also be able to beat the squat and total records. My bench is still pretty weak but I'm going to keep working on all of it Hoping with a squat suit to be in the 410-425 range.

I'm sending you the video of my DL and a pic ... note the shirt !! . Also I will send the World Record DL too. and a video of the same guy 20 years ago when he was competing in Australia. Watch the end of the video closely.

Your blog of Nov 9...good stuff. The article on lifting and age.

For us 'older' participants...

Dylan Thomas has some inspirational words for those of us who have crested the hill and find ourselves on the downhill slope ...

"Do not go gentle into that good night,Old age should burn and rave at close of day;Rage, rage against the dying of the light."--

Hope your family is healthy and enjoying the snow..... stay in-touch !!

Best Regards ...Terry H


What's your excuse?

AS

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Evolution and Sprint Throughts

This is interesting.

Evolution doesn't just pertain to humans over the course of thousands of years, we have micro-evolution going on everyday. Since the day we are born, we are evolve, physically and mentally.

My daughter, Eva, who is 1 1/2, makes dramatic changes over the course of weeks. First, she learned to hold her head up, then roll-over, then sit-up, then crawl, and walk and so on. Now she squats, does snatches, power cleans, and even does flips. My wife, the know-it-all occupationl therapist, tells me she's just picking things up off the floor; and that flip she did the other day, wasn't a flip she claims, it was because she tripped and fell. Whatever, I know what Eva's really doing. ;)

The old adage "use it or lose it" could be as wise a quote there is. Kids use it, adults lose it. We need to just get out and move everyday. The more we do so the more we regain back those previously easy movement skills.

For example, I have done a fair job of keeping myself in shape since my college football days, which was only 4 years ago. Most of my activity has been centered around weightlifting and strength training. This has been great for maintaining a decent body composition, and I have actually become stronger than when I was playing college football.

Lately, I have gotten back into doing sprint work. Mainly because now I have access to plenty of space to run indoors. Especially because it is tough to do in the winter in the upper midwest without shrivelling the "boys" up into tiny little raisins.

When I first started sprinting again, I started off slow with just doing tempo runs of about 60 yards. The first few sprints sessions really reinforced "use it or lose it". Everything felt tight and I was slow. These first few times are enough for most people to come up with the excuse that I am just too old, or my body's to worn out to do this. However, after each subsequent sprint session my body has started to feel better. Now I am up to doing all-out sprints of 40 to 50 yards and my body has been feeling better than it has in a long time. I definately feel a lot more "spring" in my legs now. Just walking feels easier.

I think often times we, referring to those of us that lift heavy weights and possibly sprinkle some light cardio in on the side, forget what it feels like to have true power or speed, and for our bodies to feel fresh again. I think getting back to what we used to do as kids, sprinting, we can regain that youthful feeling.

If you have the space to do it, add some sprinting into your exercise routine. It's a lot easier on your body than traditional cardio (treadmills, bikes, etc.), and develops great total body power, and re-awakens the nervous systems. Power is what we lose the fastest as we get older. Use it or lose it.

The key is to start slow and progress even slower. Start with light tempo runs, to get the range of motion back in the hips. Anything from 40 to 100 yards would do. Work on your feet striking right below you on each step, concentrate on moving your arms quickly through the shoulders, and keep your face relaxed. Start out with just 1 to 2 times a week.

As you become more comfortable with your technique and conditioning, slowly integrate some acceleration work of 10 to 20 yards (or meters, doesn't really matter), while just pacing the final 20 to 80 yards. You can also start to incorporate some "ins and outs" where you jog the first 10 yards, accelerate as fast as possible for the next 20 yards, then decelerate for the final 20 meters.

These are just some ideas to incorporate speed work into your routine. Be sure to keep a good balance of hip and knee dominant work in the weight room, focusing primarily on single-leg work. Continue to work on good movement patterns and focus on recovery and regeneration, with good nutrition and plenty of soft tissue work.

Use it or lose it. Re-evolve your ability to move fast and explosively again.

AS

Friday, December 7, 2007

Random Friday

10, somewhat random, thoughts to end the week.

1. High speed treadmills suck. Give me one example of when the ground moves for you.

2. Abduction work, such as X-band walks and mini-band side-steps, often improve squat technique, but not because of improved hip abduction activation. The improvement comes from increased hip internal rotation ability. If you lack adequate internal rotation, squatting deep will always be a problem.

3. Work capacity is often an overlooked athletic quality. It's pretty simple, increase work capacity, get more work done.

4. The greatest CNS supplement: water.

5. Sprinting is the best plyometric exercise there is.

6. Your center of gravity is almost dead center in your pelvis. Train to get this area to function well and the rest of the body to align directly under or over it.

7. Shin angle is key for quick, powerful movement.

8. Ankle dorsiflexion is very important for athletic ability. This also ties into #6 and #7.

9. The rotator cuff is rarely the problem, it's the symptomatic area.

10. Deep squatting does not cause your knees to explode or anything else bad to happen. Honestly, I've tried it. If squatting low does hurt your knees, either your hips or ankles suck. Go back and work on #6 and #8.

Have a nice weekend!

AS

Thursday, December 6, 2007

KB Slideboard Lunge

This one comes from Mike Boyle. It's kind of "tweener" because a normal reverse lunge would be categorized as a lower body push exercise, but adding the slideboard makes it half way between a push and a pull.

The kettlebell gives the resistance a lower center of gravity and by holding just one kettlebell on the inside of the working leg, you add a rotational loading component. This forces the working leg glute and torso to increase its activity.

video


AS

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Buried

The title about sums it up. Finals, projects, papers, Christmas break programs for all the athletes, training, facility clean-up, car issues, planning for next semester, Christmas shopping to get done, and literally buried in about 10 inches of snow. I will dig myself out... eventually.

Did I mention it's freezing ass cold!

AS

Monday, December 3, 2007

Overreaction / Underreaction

There has been lots of debate about what type of stability method should be used when controlling muscle activity in the torso. There was a large overreaction when Hodges and Richardson (1) came out with research showing the importance of the transverse abdominus in lumbar spine stability. People quickly jumped on this one, implementing all the TA and draw-in training we could handle. Problem was that the study related to people who already had back pain and there was a delayed firing of the transverse abdominus, which is actually one of the first muscles to activate upon movement in healthy individuals.

A few years later Stuart McGill, one of the top back specialists in the world, came out and said that drawing is not the best way to stabilize the spine; we need to "brace" the core. Now we fall along the line that we just need to stabilize the lumbar spine, while training the correct movement patterns of the hips, thoracic spine, and scapula.

Now we come back full circle again as a recent study (2) shows that the abdominal draw-in method is an effective method to reduce anterior pelvic tilt and help disassociate erector spinae activity from the glutes and hamstrings during prone position hip extension.

The problem I see is, we jump on a band wagon of a new and supposedly innovative idea and forget all the other effective methods there are at getting the job done. As many in the field have said before, there is always an immediate overreaction in the first few years of a new concept, then an under-reaction, and finally reaching a happy medium some years later.

With the activity of the torso, I believe, different tasks require different methods of stabilization. If somebody has low back pain, it may be warranted that they need to work on activation of their transverse abdominus as the Hodges and Richardson research showed. For maximal effort back squats, I would argue that we need to adhere to McGill's advice and "brace like hell". When lifting something directly overhead, such as a stand dumbbell press, we need to draw-in a little and activate our obliques to avoid hyperextension of the spine. Or, if your somebody like me who has tight hip flexors and an anterior pelvic tilt, the draw-in method is of high importance in limiting the use of the lumbar erectors and allowing for true hip extension.

Regardless of draw-in or brace, we just need to find the optimal method for the specific task and individual.

1. Hodges PW, Richardson CA. Inefficient muscular stabilization of the lumbar spine associated with low back pain. A motor control evaluation of transversus abdominis. Spine Journal 1996 Nov 15;21(22):2640-50

2. Oh JS, Cynn HS, Won JH, Kwon OY, Yi CH (2007) Effects of performing an abdominal drawing-in maneuver during prone hip extension exercises on hip and back extensor muscle activity and amount of anterior pelvic tilt. The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy 2007 Jun;37(6):320-4

AS

Friday, November 30, 2007

REALITY: a MUST read

Please do yourself a favor and read this article by Mike Boyle at CorePerformance.com.

Have a great weekend!

AS

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The S.A.I.D. principle

Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands (S.A.I.D.)

The SAID principle pretty much sums up everything we know about human performance and function. Our bodies perform in the exact manner in which we use them. What and how we do something determines how our bodies look and perform.

The population of the United States, according to the July 2007 census, is 301,139,947. It has been reported that 80% to 85% of all Americans have suffered from back pain at some point in their lives.

OK so let's do the math. 301,139,947 multiplied by 80% (we'll use the low end) equals around 240,911,957. So roughly 240 million people of the current population have, had, or will have back pain. That's insane.

So, getting back to the SAID principle. If we are in some sort of pain, it is more than likely something to do with what we do, what we have done, or even what we haven't done, that is the cause of our problems. Our joints, knees, and backs for this matter don't just go bad, we make them bad. So looking at the numbers of back pain incidences, we could say that about 240 million people in the U.S. use their bodies incorrectly. This number is probably even higher, if we were to consider all the other people who just seem to be lucky and never have back problems.

Also, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention the top 6 killers in the U.S. are:
1. Heart Disease
2. Cancer
3. Stroke
4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases
5. Accidents
6. Diabetes

Looking at these, you could say 5 could be preventable. Yes I would argue that some forms of cancer can be preventable. Now looking at back pain and the leading causes of death, we could relate all these to the SAID principle. The answer to these is specific, proper exercise and nutrition, and a 'little' restructuring of our society. Now obviously the last one is pretty unrealistic, but specific and proper exercise and nutrition is all within our control. The key to the exercise and nutrition is the specific and proper. We need to be specific with what we do and do those things properly. Again, specific adaptations to imposed demands. We cannot escape this principle.

Restructuring our society would solve all the problems, but to do so it would nearly mean we would have to take a step back in time. We are a victims of our own ingenuity. We have become so advanced in our technology that we truly are killing ourselves. And we are using our technology in fetal attempts to keep ourselves alive.

Alright, that last paragraph got a little deep and dark, and maybe a little exaggerated, but I think it is important to think about.

AS

Friday, November 23, 2007

Diagonal Arm Lift w/band

Many times people with impingement issues will have an issue with one of the upward rotators of the scapula, traps (upper and lower fibers) and the serratus anterior. More often than not impingement comes with the lower trap and/or serratus anterior not firing properly to assist rotating the scapula up and allow the humerus to come to full flexion overhead.

An excellent exercise to focus on the serratus anterior and it's upward rotation component is the diagonal arm lift.
video

The diagonal arm lift using a 1/2 inch band targets the serratus anterior muscle which helps with protraction and upward rotation of the scapula. Putting the back against a wall will help to cue you to keep the shoulders and torso from rotating. The key is to keep the arm externally rotated, which will limit the activity of the upper pec and anterior deltoid.

AS

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Band pull-throughs

video

Here's an option for pull-throughs if you don't have a low cable system. The band also provides accommodating resistance as the hips extend. For varying the resistance, use different size bands or just double-up bands.

AS

Friday, November 9, 2007

Older Adults


Here is an excellent article by Mike Boyle at coreperfomance.com, with an interesting study with older adults and strength training. Developing strength is the foundation for a truly healthy life.

AS

Friday, November 2, 2007

Quotes

Bite off more than you can chew and chew like hell. -- Peter Brock

To play it safe is not to play. -- Robert Altman

We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action. -- Frank Tibolt

If I knew I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself. -- Mickey Mantle

Just remember, somewhere, a little Chinese girl is warming up with your max. -- Jim Conroy, Olympic weightlifting coach.

I am convinced all of humanity is born with more gifts than we know. Most are born geniuses and just get de-geniused rapidly. -- R. Buckminster Fuller

Have a nice weekend.

AS

Monday, October 29, 2007

Chalk up another one for strength training


A study released from Michigan State University on Friday, found that college female swimmers, divers, and runners, had lower bone density than female athletes in other sports.

Just another solid reason these athletes need more focus on strength training.

The study is reported in the October issue of the Journal of Athletic Training.

The findings are published here.

AS

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Getting Functional

This is too funny to not post.


AS

Scapular Retraction and Depression

Try this:

Stand tall (think: tall spine) facing a mirror with your arms hanging directly by your side. Next slide your shoulder blades back together as far as you can, literally attempting to touch them together, while puffing your chest up. This should flex the muscles of your upper back (rhomboids, middle and lower trapezius), pulling your shoulder blades back and down. Now while holding this position raise your arms out in front of you, not changing anything about your shoulder blades. The shoulder blades should stay back and down, and definately should not shrug up.

What you're doing by raising your arms out in front is activating your anterior deltoids, inhibiting your posterior deltoids. I have seen countless athletes/people substitute scapular retraction and depression by simply externally rotating and/or extending the glenohumeral joint by using the posterior delts. This can potenially be a major problem that often leads to shoulder impairments.

Work on developing the proper motor pattern of scapular retraction and depression by practicing the above mentioned exercise. Focus on sliding the shoulder blades down and back when performing all upper body pulling exercises. Actually, all exercises, including lower body, will benefit from this. Don't forget to maintain a tall spine. By perfecting this pattern, you'll be less likely to have shoulder issues and you'll definately make greater gains.

AS

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Femoral Anterior Glide

If you ever experience a "pinching" sensation in the anterior portion of the hip(s) when squatting or pulling your knee to your chest when stretching your glutes, it could very likely be femoral anterior glide syndrome.

You see the glutes not only extend, abduct, and laterally rotate the hip joint but they also help control, what noted physical therapist Shirley Sahrmann calls, the path of instantaneous center of rotation of the femoral head. With normal functioning glute muscles, when the hip flexes the femoral head "glides" posteriorly to maintain its' position in the acetabulum. This posterior glide is caused by the pull of the glute muscles. If the glute muscles are inactive, the femoral head will glide forward upon hip flexion, impinging on the anterior joint structures of the hip joint.

The glute bridge is a simple exercise to use both as an assessment and activation drill for proper function of the glute muscles.

To perform the glute bridge, all you do is simply lie on your back and bend your knees to about 90 degrees. From there, set your feet about shoulder width apart and point your toes at the ceiling. Finally, raise your hips up off the ground, creating a straight line among your knees, hips, and shoulders. If you feel your hamstrings and/or low back and your butt muscles are soft you glutes are not doing their job. More often than not your abs will be relaxed as well.

Simply use this same drill to practice better glute activation. To improve your performance, practice posteriorly tilting your pelvis, tightening the abs, using them to pull up on the front of the pelvis, and squeezing your glutes prior to pushing your hips off the floor.

Use this exercise prior to your next training session. Proper glute activation can be to key to many problems along the kinetic chain.

AS

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"I've tried everything and nothing works for me"

There is always a lot of discussion about which type of training works best. Which is best for fat loss, best for building muscle, best for building strength, and so on. Conjugate or concurrent vs. linear periodization; High intensity interval training vs. curcuit strength training; 5 sets vs. 3 sets; High volume vs. low volume.

Guess what? It all works.

The only thing that doesn't work: not working hard.

Getting after it on a shitty program will create better results than a half-assed effort on a great program.

The problem is most people THINK they are working hard. In reality they more than likely aren't even close. Some decent indicators:

-Puking during or after a workout (log rolls for 100 yards don't count)

-Lying on the floor after the workout because your heart is going to explode out of you chest (it doesn't just feel that way, it IS about to)

-Head nearly exploding trying to squat "the house"

-Pumping out 10 chin-ups, squatting 235, doing push-ups with 70 lbs on your back. Not too shabby for a woman, at 50 years old.

-Lip starts bleeding because you bit a chunk off trying to get that last rep.

-Vision goes blurry

-Both entire arms go numb

-You squatted heavy in the morning, pulled a 200lbs. sled for 300 yards during the lunch hour, then you see your friends setting PR's in the deadlift in the afternoon and say to yourself "fuck it", and begin chalking your hands

-Head spins like a rediculous buzz, but this one doesn't feel good.

-Calluous ripping open on your hand leaving you, the bar, and the floor blood soaked

-Getting a concussion because you fell down the stairs because your legs don't function anymore

-Ripping a hole in your foot while doing barefooted 200 pound sled pulls

-Having to take an ice bath post-workout to bring your body temp back down because the paramedics put you in one

-A torn muscle

-Legs burning so bad you can smell the smoke

-Slurred speech

-Having a wrist issue that doesn't allow you to pull your wallet out of your pocket and the doctor saying you should not be lifting. What do you do? Bench in the upper 300's for more than ten singles, followed by max effort pull-ups

-Blowing a blood vessel in BOTH eyes

-Having someone ask you how much weight you just lifted and answering "yes"

-An old man having a heart attack because he was WATCHING you train

-Having to get a different bar because you just bent the one you were using

-Young kids running away screaming bloody murder because you stepped in the squat rack

-Blood dripping from the shins

-Hitting a 365lbs. PR in the back squat in your second year of lifting weights. At 65 years young

-Diarrhea before your workout; and it's not because of what you ate

-Having a doctor come up to you in a gym and telling you to "tone it down a bit"

-Drooling because you NO LONGER HAVE CONTROL

-Getting a funny vanilla taste in your mouth

There are more but I am tired. If you haven't experienced one or more of these you've never worked hard. Sorry not even close.

I am not suggesting anything by this, I am just saying.

AS

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Does this guy need ab work?

Training the Abs

Is direct ab/torso work even beneficial?

I have been juggling around the idea in my head for a while now and am beginning to wonder, is any direct abdominal work going to create any performance or function improvement?

The problem I see is far too many everyday folks and even many of the athletes I work with, have almost nothing as far as body awareness goes. So does it really matter if we train the "abs"? Do crunches, oblique raises, bridging, russian twists even transfer to useful human movement, especially when the abdominal work is done prone or supine on the ground.

We all by now know the philosophy, "train movements, not muscles" when it comes to training for performance. It is now common training knowledge that muscles work in integration not isolation. A few years ago this was a paradigm shift from the old-school bodybuiling body part splits training (day 1:chest, day 2:back, biceps/ triceps, day 3: chest, day 4: quads and hamstrings, day 5: chest, again...oh I forgot chest is everyday; you get the idea), to training in terms of movement (upper and lower body push and pull, triple extension, etc.) We came to this realization that when we trained individual muscles and attempt to put them to athletic use, the nervous system was not trained to integrate these strong muscles into smooth, orchestrated movement skills. What bodybuilding style training creates is far more non-contact injuries, muscle pulls, tendonitis (acute inflammation: 1-5 days of pain) to eventually tendonosis (degenerative: chronic pain), and impingement syndromes, along with a whole host of other issues.

Body part training may make you look good, but it doesn't do much for performance. Following the concept of 'training movements, not muscles', why does abdominal training seem to be the exception?

If any of you know me and my training philosophy, you know I am a torso stability guy, specifically lumbar stability. This is an area I feel most people need work. Lumbar stability allows for greater hip and thoracic spine mobility, keeping your knees and shoulders healthy. I use stability exercises such as front and side bridges and back extension holds for torso work. These are simple hold-for-time exercises that train all areas of the abdomen. However, I am starting to use these only for muscle activation purposes, no longer training exercises. You see these exercises do not teach any movement and are done from a position that is not considered athletic or "functional" (I am starting to hate that word). Another problem, most people do not do stability exercises correctly. The hips and shoulders need to be aligned properly and cued to 'fire' a certain way, but that's a topic for another discussion.

So how do we get strengthen the abdomen and what are the best ways to do so? Thinking along the lines that the abdominal muscles are designed to prevent rotation, stabilize the spine, and transfer power from the lower body to the upper body and vice versa, the best training is movement, quality athletic type movements.

People need to learn to squat, lunge, and lift things with their hips maintaining a stable spine. More importantaly though, I think we need to get back to moving athletically more often. Young children don't need direct ab work. They don't have back problems or any of the other issues our ever-becoming sedentary society does. Kids play. They run, jump, climb, dance, reach, pick things up, and do all the other wonderful things kids do. They move...athletically.

I've had sore abdominal muscles after an afternoon of playing pick-up basketball. Did I do any direct abdominal work? No. Did I run, jump, change direction, reach, throw, and catch? Yes. The abdominals resisted rotation, stabilized the spine, and transfered power. When we use our limbs to move through great ranges of motion do different motor skills, our abdominal muscles have no choice other than to work, and work hard!

The issue becomes one of our society. Often times these normally active abdominal muscles have been shut off because we don't use them anymore. We no longer move for survival, we sit. So we need to step back and re-teach athletes/people to move properly again, minus the direct abdominal exercises.

More and more, I am witnessing abdominal exercises causing more problems than good. I seen too much training for the the rectus abdominus re-inforce excessive kyphotic posture, which over time, can and will likely, lead to impairments at the shoulder, elbow, and wrist. The dysfunction can go the other direction as well. The excessive kyphotic posture will force the lumbar spine into great lordosis, creating anterior pelvic tilt, shutting the glute muscles off, causing issues traveling from the hip to the knee and then ankle.

Another issue is using rotation exercises for training the obliques. Many times the hips are already "locked-down" from lack of movement, so the lumbar spine has already picked up the slack and become more mobile. Add on twisting oblique exercises and now we are creating rotational sheering going on at the lumbar vertebrae. The increased mobility at the lumbar spine helps to further increase the immobility of the hips and thoracic spine. Again the dyfunction manifests itself outwards throughout the entire body. As you can see, without correct movement skills, direct abdominal training can be potentially harmful.

I am beginning to only using abdominal work such as side or front bridges as part of activation exercises to turn muscles on, not to train them. This is done first in our workouts prior to the dynamic mobility warm-up. I use it to help wake up certain muscles which in turn will hopefully create greater quality movement. As Mark Verstegen of Athletes' Performance Institute says, "Activate, then integrate."

So the question remains, is training the abs an entire waist of time? I don't know the answer but I am having a more and more difficult time seeing the benefit.

Here's a rundown to what I feel is the best way to get a strong torso and one the looks pretty good to boot. Just 3 steps, following in order:

1. Learn to move correctly (regain proper motor control: movement skills, activation exercises)

2a. Pick stuff up off the floor, squat (1 & 2 legs), lunge, step-up, RDL (1 & 2 legs), pull yourself up in a many different ways, and push things away from you. Load all these progressively heavier.

2b. Sprint, jump in many different ways off 1 and 2 legs, jump up onto and off of things, do all kinds of changes in direction, catch and throw balls, climb things, balance. Sounds like what you see on the playground.

2c. Condition, Hard!

3. Get after it... BIG TIME!

This should take care of your "core" pretty well.

Inevitably the question will always come up, what if the athlete/person is too weak in the abdominal muscles to squat or do a deadlift? Go back to number 1 and procede from there.

Don't forget, "Train movements, not muscles"

AS

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Rocky IV

We can argue sets and reps, exercises, and training philosophy, but it all comes down to getting after it.

Train Hard.
AS

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Research


Helping Dad with some performance training research. Actually she's getting ready to destroy the entire book case.

Keep reading,

AS

Recent Training 3


Eva also did some standing long jumps this day, working on her explosive power. Again notice the great positioning of the feet and a good torso angle, ready for impact.

The rock in her right hand is 1/4 of a kilogram


We finished up with a light conditioning circuit. A solid session overall.

Good training to you!

AS

Recent Training 2

We took our training outside on this day.


Eva performing some deep box squats. Trying to break-up the stretch-shortening cycle with box squats, along with working on proper depth. With box squats she has been developing great starting strength.



Here Eva is performing depth jumps. Notice the excellent landing position.

AS

Recent Training


Eva squatting. She's doing a nice job of keeping upper back extension in the hole. Notice back and shin angle.

We worked up to a couple heavy singles on this particular day.

AS

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Soft American


This was written in 1960 by John F. Kennedy. It is even more relevant today. President Kennedy obviously "got it".

The Soft American
By John F. Kennedy


Beginning more than 2,500 years ago, from all quarters of the Greek world men thronged every four years to the sacred grove of Olympia, under the shadow of Mount Cronus, to compete in the most famous athletic contests of history—the Olympian games.

During the contest a sacred truce was observed among all the states of Greece as the best athletes of the Western world competed in boxing and foot races, wrestling and chariot races for the wreath of wild olive which was the prize of victory. When the winners returned to their home cities to lay the Olympian crown in the chief temples they were greeted as heroes and received rich rewards. For the Greeks prized physical excellence and athletic skills among man's greatest goals and among the prime foundations of a vigorous state.

Thus the same civilizations which produced some of our highest achievements of philosophy and drama, government and art, also gave us a belief in the importance of physical soundness which has become a part of Western tradition; from the mens sana in corpore sano of the Romans to the British belief that the playing fields of Eaton brought victory on the battlefields of Europe. This knowledge, the knowledge that the physical well-being of the citizen is an important foundation for the vigor and vitality of all the activities of the nation, is as old as Western civilization itself. But it is a knowledge which today, in American, we are in danger of forgetting.

The first indication of a decline in the physical strength and ability of young Americans became apparent among United States soldiers in the early stages of the Korean War. The second came when figures were released showing that almost one out of every two young American was being rejected by Selective Service as mentally, morally or physically unfit. But the most startling demonstration of the general physical decline of American youth came when Dr. Hans Kraus and Dr. Sonja Weber revealed the results of 15 years of research centering in the Posture Clinic of New York's Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital—results of physical fitness tests given to 4,264 children in this country and 2,870 children in Austria, Italy and Switzerland.

The findings showed that despite our unparalleled standard of living, despite our good food and our many playgrounds, despite our emphasis on school athletics, American youth lagged far behind Europeans in physical fitness. Six tests for muscular strength and flexibility were given; 57.9% of the American children failed one or more of these tests, while only 8.7% of the European youngsters failed.

A Consistent Decline

Especially disheartening were the results of the five strength tests: 35.7% of American children failed one or more of these, while only 1.1% of the Europeans failed, and among Austrian and Swiss youth the rate of failure was as low as .5%.

As a result of the alarming Kraus-Weber findings President Eisenhower created a Council on Youth Fitness at the Cabinet level and appointed a Citizens Advisory Committee on the Fitness of American Youth, composed of prominent citizens interested in fitness. Over the past five years the physical fitness of American youth has been discussed in forums, by committees and in leading publications. A 10-point program for physical fitness has been publicized and promoted. Our schools have been urged to give increased attention to the physical well-being of their students. Yet there has been no noticeable improvement. Physical fitness tests conducted last year in Britain and Japan showed that the youth of those countries were considerably more fit than our own children. And the annual physical fitness tests for freshman at Yale University show a consistent decline in the prowess of young American; 51& of the class of 1951 passed the tests, 43% of the class of 1956 passed, and only 38%, a little more than a third, of the class of 1960 succeeded, in passing the not overly rigorous examination.

Of course, physical tests are not infallible. They can distort the true health picture. There are undoubtedly many American youths and adults whose physical fitness matches and exceeds the best of other lands.

But the harsh fact of the matter is that there is also an increasingly large number of young Americans who are neglecting their bodies—whose physical fitness is not what it should be—who are getting soft. And such softness on the part of individual citizens can help to strip and destroy the vitality of a nation.

For the physical vigor of our citizens is one of America's most precious resources. If we waste and neglect this resource, if we allow it to dwindle and grow soft then we will destroy much of our ability to meet the great and vital challenges which confront our people. We will be unable to realize our full potential as a nation.

Throughout our history we have been challenged to armed conflict by nations which sought to destroy our independence or threatened our freedom. The young men of America have risen to those occasions, giving themselves freely to the rigors and hardships of warfare. But the stamina and strength which the defense of liberty requires are not the product of a few weeks' basic training or a month's conditioning. These only come from bodies which have been conditioned by a lifetime of participation in sports and interest in physical activity. Our struggles against aggressors throughout our history have been won on the playgrounds and corner lots and fields of America.

Thus, in a very real and immediate sense, our growing softness, our increasing lack of physical fitness, is a menace to our security.

However, we do not, like the ancient Spartans, wish to train the bodies of our youth to make them more effective warriors. It is our profound hope and expectation that Americans will never again have to expend their strength in armed conflict.

But physical fitness is as vital to the activities of peace as to those of war, especially when our success in those activities may well determine the future of freedom in the years to come. We face in the Soviet Union a powerful and implacable adversary determined to show the world that only the Communist system possesses the vigor and determination necessary to satisfy awakening aspirations for progress and the elimination of poverty and want. To meet the challenge of this enemy will require determination and will and effort on the part of all American. Only if our citizens are physically fit will they be fully capable of such an effort.

For physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body; it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity. The relationship between the soundness of the body and the activities of the mind is subtle and complex. Much is not yet understood. But we do know what the Greeks knew: that intelligence and skill can only function at the peak of their capacity when the body is healthy and strong; that hardy spirits and tough minds usually inhabit sound bodies.

In this sense, physical fitness is the basis of all the activities of our society. And if our bodies grow soft and inactive, if we fail to encourage physical development and prowess, we will undermine our capacity for thought, for work and for the use of those skills vital to an expanding and complex America.

Thus the physical fitness of our citizens is a vital prerequisite to America's realization of its full potential as a nation, and to the opportunity of each individual citizen to make full and fruitful use of his capacities.

It is ironic that at a time when the magnitude of our dangers makes the physical fitness of our citizens a matter of increasing importance, it takes greater effort and determination than ever before to build the strength of our bodies. The age of leisure and abundance can destroy vigor and muscle tone as effortlessly as it can gain time. Today human activity, the labor of the human body, is rapidly being engineered out of working life. By the 1970's, according to many economists, the man who works with his hands will be almost extinct.

Many of the routine physical activities which earlier Americans took for granted are no longer part of our daily life. A single look at the packed parking lot of the average high school will tell us what has happened to the traditional hike to school that helped to build young bodies. The television set, the movies and the myriad conveniences and distractions of modern life all lure our young people away from the strenuous physical activity that is the basis of fitness in youth and in later life.

Now is the Time

Of course, modern advances and increasing leisure can add greatly to the comfort and enjoyment of life. But they must not be confused with indolence, with, in the words of Theodore Roosevelt, "slothful-ease," with an increasing deterioration of our physical strength. For the strength of our youth and the fitness of our adults are among our most important assets, and this growing decline is a matter of urgent concern to thoughtful Americans.

This is a national problem, and requires national action. President Eisenhower helped show the way through his own interest and by calling national attention to our deteriorating standards of physical fitness. Now it is time for the United States to move forward with a national program to improve the fitness of all Americans.

First: We must establish a White House /Committee on Health and Fitness to formulate and carry out a program to improve the physical condition of the nation. This committee will include the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and the Secretary of the Interior. The executive order creating this committee will clearly state its purpose, and coordinate its activities with the many federal programs which bear a direct relation to the problem of physical fitness.

Second: The physical fitness of our youth should be made a direct responsibility of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. This department should conduct—through its Office of Education and the National Institutes of Health—research into the development of a physical fitness program for the nation's public schools. The results of this research shall be made freely available to all who are interested. In addition, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare should use all its existing facilities to attach the lack of youth fitness as a major health problem.

Third: The governor of each state will be invited to attend the annual National Youth Fitness Congress. This congress will examine the progress which has been made in physical fitness during the preceding year, exchange suggestions for improving existing programs and provide an opportunity to encourage the states to implement the physical fitness program drawn up by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Our states are anxious to participate in such programs, to make sure that their youth have the opportunity for full development of their bodies as well as their minds.

Fourth: The President and all departments of government must make it clearly understood that the promotion of sports participation and physical fitness is a basic and continuing policy of the United States. By providing such leadership, by keeping physical fitness in the forefront of the nation's concerns, the federal government can make a substantial contribution toward improving the health and vigor of our citizens.

But no matter how vigorous the leadership of government, we can fully restore the physical soundness of our nation only if every American is willing to assume responsibility for his own fitness and the fitness of his children. We do not live in a regimented society where men are forced to live their lives in the interest of the state. We are, all of us, as free to direct the activities of our bodies as we are to pursue the objects of our thought. But if we are to retain this freedom, for ourselves and for generations to come, then we must also be willing to work for the physical toughness on which the courage and intelligence and skill of man so largely depend.

All of us must consider our own responsibilities for the physical vigor of our children and of the young men and women of our community. We do not want our children to become a generation of spectators. Rather, we want each of them to be a participant in the vigorous life.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Best Athlete in the World?

This is David Belle, founder of Parkour, from France. I won't try to explain exactly what Parkour is, but you can read more about it here.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Sport-Specific Training

Alright I have to get this off my chest. If a coach, athlete, anybody for that matter tells you they are following a sport-specific program, it's bullshit.

Do you wanna know what sport-specific training is? Pick-up a baseball bat and practice your swing if you are a baseball player. Shoot free-throws if you are a basketball player. Practice your golf swing.

I don't train athletes with sport-specific programs. There is no such thing. The only thing sport-specific is playing the sport itself. If you really need to have a sport-specific program you can go kick a weighted soccer ball; that should get that leg power up to drive the ball through the net;...shit. Man... I cannot tell you how old it gets hearing "so-called" trainers and coaches say they use sport-specific programs.

I train athletes to be better athletes. We need to stop thinking every athlete, from each different sport, needs a specific programs. We need to develop the qualities that help athletes excel at their sports; strength, speed, power, agility, and mobility to name a few. Most of the athletes I train follow very similar plans geared towards developing athleticism with the exception of specific needs or issues that need to be address such as excessive anterior or posterior pelvic tilt, kyphotic posture, mobility issues at the ankles, hips or thoracic spine/shoulder complex, or lack of stability in the torso. All my athletes are going to do some form of squatting, deadlifting, pushing, pulling, and lunging with minor changes based on any injuries or imbalances that need to be corrected. They need to strengthen and develop their bodies to prepare them to for the demands of their sport. My main goal is to develop an injury resistant body with a secondary goal of improving performance. A healthy athlete will always out perform an injured athlete. And it all comes back to making an athlete stable yet mobile, while getting them crazy strong.

There are no sport-specific programs... at least there shouldn't be.

Have a great weekend.

AS

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Muscle actions


Here are a few "different" actions of some muscles that aren't taught in anatomy class.

Latissimus Dorsi: lateral flexion of the torso, extension of the back. Sprint speed. More on this later.

Hamstrings: extension of the knee when the foot is fixed or planted.

Gastrocnemius: knee flexion, knee extension when the foot is fixed or planted.

Pectoralis major: inspiration

External obliques: posterior tilt of the pelvis.

Biceps brachii: shoulder flexion.

Rectus abdominus: resist rotation of the torso.

Adductor magnus: hip extension (3rd most powerful hip extensor), posterior fibers laterally rotate the femur.

TFL and Gluteus maximus: knee stability through the pull of the illiotibial band. Flexion pull when the knee is flexed and extension pull when the knee is extended.

Gluteus medius: anterior fibers flex hip and medially rotate the femur; posterior fibers extend the hip and laterally rotate the femur; both abduct the hip.

Gluteus maximus: hip extension, hip abduction (superior fibers), hip adduction (inferior fibers), lateral rotation of the femur, stability of the knee through the IT band, posterior tilt of the pelvis (bilaterally), rotation of the pelvis (unilaterally), stability of the low back.
Geez, what an amazing muscle! Learn to train it. Train your ass off. (pun intended)

AS

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Q and A


Question:
In my deadlift work, and step ups and lunges with dumbbells, my weakness appears to be my forearm/grip. I seemed to feel fatigue in my arms before my legs, just holding the bar and then later holding the db's (after forearms fatigued). What's do I do so I can complete my reps/sets?


Answer:
The grip strength will come around. Keep working at it, if your grip gives out, that ends the set, your grip is the week link and needs to be strengthened.

I consider grip strength the make-or-break quality of true pure strength. Increasing your grip strength will help you hold heavier weights (heavier weight=more muscle fiber involved=greater increases in strength and size). It will also allow you to create more total body tension for increased stability and strength (try squeezing your right fist as hard as you can, REAL HARD, feel what happens to your abdominals), and give you Popeye arms which chicks dig. :) Increasing your grip strength will also help increase your bench press believe it or not.(again, total body tension) Try benching with a fat bar, you won't be able to touch your regular bar bench press max.

What you are experiencing is very common. Grip strength is often the weak link for these lifts. Just keep working at it. Chalk helps. No straps (for now), more about this another time.

It should all come up within a couple of weeks, for now just add a little
more rest time between sets.

AS

Monday, April 9, 2007

NO CURLS IN THE SQUAT RACK

It's a SQUAT RACK! Take your curls elsewhere. If you can curl it, you can sure as hell pick it up of the floor. Stop being so damn lazy.

Seriously, nothing is more irritating than having to ask someone to move elsewhere so you can squat.

AS

Monday, April 2, 2007

Monday Motivation

Check out this video of one of Pyrros Dimas' training sessions. He is 5'8" and weighs around 180 pounds. Turn the volume up to hear the weights he is using. A kilogram is roughly 2.2 pounds.

Dimas, from Greece, is one of only four weightlifters to medal at 4 different Olympic games and only the third to win them successively. He retired in 2004.

Time to go lift.

AS

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Quote

Here's a great quote that comes from one of the most disciplined athletes I have ever worked with.

"Everything I do, affects everything I do."

Something, I believe, we don't think about enough.

AS

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

F=ma


Force = mass X acceleration.

Learn to apply it... to your training. ;)

AS

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Get Strong.

I get so many questions about how to get this or get that with their fitness. You know what... it all comes down to getting stronger. Get strong and things almost always fall into place.

How can I get bigger guns? Get stronger.
How do I put size on my legs? Get stronger.
How can I lose this fat? Get stonger. (you'd be amazed)
How can I improve my marathon time? Get stronger. (Seriously!)
What can I do to improve my vertical jump? Get stronger.

How do you get stronger? Lift more than you've lifted before. It's not that difficult.

There are many methods to get the job done when it comes to training, but there are only a few principles. All training methods need to follow training principles. If the method doesn't fit into the principles, the method sucks.

One of the most important training principles is progressive overload. Our body adapts to the training stress placed on it, whether it be positive or negative. Not enough, no change; too much, the body breaks down; the right amount, it gets stronger. However when it comes to training, most people underload. People doing the same thing over and over. We need to get out of our comfort zone and constantly strive to get stronger. Whether it be adding more resistance (intensity) or more repetitions and/or sets (volume). What I see is most people don't need to worry about the volume, they do plenty (probably too much) of sets and reps. So what does that leave us? Intensity, increase the weight. We need to progressively overload the body to create new change.

So when you have a question about your training, first look at the number 1 principle, progressive overload. Am I doing more than I did last week, month, year. If our body is strong, it will perform better than if it is weak. It's that simple.

Get strong, good things will happen.

AS

Friday, February 2, 2007

Training


This is a post from Dave Tate which came out in his weekly newsletter today (elitefts.com). Dave speaks the truth.

Refuse and Resist

I will not be as "others"

Came into work today the same as I have any other day over the past month, to much to do and not enough time. I do however get the most important shit done and that's all that matters.

I made my way into Jim's office and he stated "Not training again today". Maybe he noticed I was wearing my "good" t-shirt and sweat pants and took this as a clue.

It took me about 2 seconds to tell him "nope, just not my thing right now"

He then told me that this "was" my thing.

I had to think for a minute then got what he was saying.

This is the thing when you speak to someone with a zillon.5 IQ. You need to stop and think sometimes because much it meant when little is said.

What he was saying is that I do not know how to "workout" and may have never "worked out" in my life. What I do is "train" and there is a difference.

I am writing this because most who read this site "train" and do not "workout". We who "train" are not as "others" who just go to the gym and do their thing. Our rules are pretty damn simple and we always manage to get the job done better than the "others" .

We design our programs on torn off pieces of cardboard we find in the back of the gym.

We know the golden rule to success is busting our asses into the ground.

We make training such a high priority that life becomes scheduled around it.

We understand weak points are developed from NOT doing the shit we do not like to do - so we do it.

We love it when the set gets hard and the weight get heavy.

We don't watch the clock - we are done when we get done.

We understand this shit is supposed to be hard and the road will not be easy and figure - so be it.

We may read all the training science and logic but always resort back to the same damn thing that has always worked - busting our asses.

Pain is measured by lack of progress not injuries.

We think about training when we get up in the morning and when we go to bed at night.

We love the sound of another plate being slapped on the bar, or the thud of dumbbells hitting the ground.

The gym is our place to do what we do, not wish about what we could be.

We know when to turn it on and when....

to turn it off.

I am in one of the "off" phases and unless I am going to go in the gym and bust my ass 100% then I am not going. To me it is freaking pointless. I would rather give 100% to something else at this time then give 50% in the gym.

I refuse to give 50% in the gym because this is what "others" do and I fucking refuse to be like that, ever!

I had to give up many things in my training over the years but I will not give up busting my ass and be like every other lazy ass person who goes in the gym and gives a half ass effort. Worse yet, being in the industry, making my living in the industry and living a lie training like a half piece of shit. You can quote me on this one. The day I can no longer "train" and bust my ass in the gym with passion will be the same day I will remove myself from this industry.

Training to me deserves respect and not half ass efforts. I train not as much for the process as I do for the result. I will do what I have to do to get the results I am looking for. If it means I have to train 4 hours per day - so be it. If it means I have to train every day of the week - so be it. If it means whatever, then so be it. I will do what I gotta do when I have to do it. This is training to me. Training is about busting your ass for something others avoid because the road is too hard. Working out is an activity - a verb. Training is more than a verb. It is a way of life.

To give my training the respect it deserves I recharge and will return when I feel ready to go all out. To me working out is not an option. This is what "others" do and I will resist this with all I have.

I train and train my ass off because this is what I do. This is the life I choose and the decision I made. I am not in this to be like "others". I am in this to push myself to places I have not been before - to push the edge. I will never get to see what is over the edge by "working out". I will never find what I seek by the number of "workouts" I get in or how long I can do cardio for. I will never be satisfied with the same results anyone else can get. I am not the guy to show you how to "workout". I am not the one who can help you take the first step. I am not the one to motivate you to begin.

I could care less about this.

Hell, I have not trained people in years. I post this log so you can see what it takes for me to get the results I do (or not). I post this so you know you are not alone in your passion. I know what it is like to be surrounded by "others". I know what it feels like when everyone is on your ass about "what you do". I know what it feels like when NOONE understands. I know how it feels to think life is what happens in the gym and everything else is just intermission. Trust me. I know. We are not alone in our passion yet it seems so. So for the other two people out there - know I am with you.

I train because it is what keeps me from being like the rest. Training is my way to not be like the "others". I am not writing this to try and change the world but so the world does not change me - it is that simple.

Okay, I just made a huge post in an attempt to make an excuse for not training. But, I have never hidden that fact that I have two speeds - blast and dust. That's it and that is the way I am. In time you will see me blasting again, just not yet.

Dave Tate

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Fat Loss

Slow steady-state cardio exercise almost does nothing for fat loss. A "typical" 30 minute (light jogging) bout of steady-state cardio exercise on average burns 300 calories. As soon as the 30 minutes are done the body quickly gets back to its' resting metabolic rate. If the same 30 minute cardio is repeated day after day, the body adapts by becoming more efficient at burning calories. So basically each time the same 30 minutes is repeated, it burns less and less calories. Not too good for fat loss.

Enter resistance training.

Now try to follow me on this. This information is pretty complex. (heavy web blog sarcasm here folks!)

Lifting weights will build muscle. More muscle burns more calories at rest than less muscle. Now you have an increased metabolism. Wow!

This doesn't mean curling 5 pound pink dumbbells. This means real lifting with the main goal of getting stronger. Lifting 5 pounds means you can lift 5 pounds, and I don't care how many times you can lift 5 pounds, it is still 5 pounds. If you just focus on getting stronger, things usually fall into place as far as fat loss goals go.

Do "big" movements that target large muscle groups when lifting weights. Squats, deadlifts, presses, and rows should be your staples. Remember, however, that using 5 pound dumbbells don't count...especially if they're pink!

AS