Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Traps article on T-Nation

I read a good article recently over on T-Nation by Tony Gentilcore:

Strong Traps, Healthy Shoulders

Your trapezius muscle, aka the traps, is a large muscle in your upper back/neck area. A lot of people will train it with upright pulling motions and shrugs, but Tony Gentilcore breaks down a lot of ways to strengthen the entire muscle more effectively.

This features some very effective and useful lifts:

- the landmine press (especially for people with shoulder issues)

- the vertical Pallof Press

- overhead shrugs (something I first encountered maybe 20 years back, and it's still underutilized)

- a variant of the Y using suspension trainers

It's a good article and very useful if you have either an over-active trap or under-active and need to get it all firing and working correctly.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Military Fitness

There was an interesting article in the Military Times about fitness rating in the military.

Spooked by obesity trends, the U.S. military is redefining its basic fitness standards


The US armed forces are attempting to put together a standard that:

- effectively measures health and fitness

- doesn't unfairly penalize the muscular

- doesn't unfairly pass the slender but unfit

- deals with body fat vs. actual physical fitness

- doesn't weaken standards of health and fitness


This is tougher than it sounds. Most of the previous methods - such as the taping method - inaccurately rated body fat. Some common standards, like BMI, fail to deal with people on the extreme ends and don't really give useful information about those in the middle, either.

“We are taking a slightly different perspective on this, focusing on the health: What determinants can we identify that would relate to predispositions for injury or illness?” the defense official said.

So, health and predisposition to injury. Two key issues they want to be able to understand on an individual basis.

And BMI?

"'BMI is absolutely useless'"

The problem is determining what health is, what predisposition to injury and illness actual means in terms of measurements and markers, and then measuring that. This is not a small problem.

Especially interesting to me is the idea of a fitness military specialty. Expect that if that happens, you'll see a lot more military-derived fitness programs and former military fitness specialists touting that experience as the basis for their programs. It's just natural if such a specialty exists.

The article is long but well worth the read.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Congratulations to Miyake Hiromi

I have a soft spot for 48kg Women's Weighlifting competitor Miyake Hiromi. One reason is that when I lived in Japan I chanced to see a TV program showing her rigorous training regime under her Bronze-medal winning father.

The program was extremely illuminating for me. I really got to see the relationship between high pulls, snatches, the judging standards of the snatch, and see the split jerk in action. I'd seen the lifts performed but I got a really clear idea of how they were used together in a training program.

I'm currently on vacation in Japan, so I was able to catch Miyake-san's deep knee-bending snatch at 81 kg, and then all three of her clean and jerk attempts - including a 107 kg jerk, enough to earn her the bronze medal (her third medal - she took bronze in 2008, silver in 2012).

You can see her here, holding the bar overhead as she knows she's gotten the three white lights signalling a good lift.



So congratulations, Miyake-san, and thanks for the lessons on weightlifting training.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Article Review: Hips Don’t Lie: 4 Drills to Unlock Your Stiff Hips

I love mobility drills and stretching exercises for the value they bring to your health. They unlocked performance, reduce pain, and increase overall freedom of movement. Hip drills, especially, as often back and knee pain are tied to hip issues. Plus, with all of the sitting we do, I'm as likely as not to just give people hip mobility drills to counteract that. The hips are the new core.

Hips Don’t Lie: 4 Drills to Unlock Your Stiff Hips

This article has several excellent drills you can use to improve your hip health. The wall hinge is one I use often to teach deadlifts and hip hinging in general. "Touch the wall with your butt" beats "break at the hips" in terms of coaching cues. And the kneeling hip rotations (which I learned at DeFranco's gym as "fire hydrants") are excellent pieces to the hip-health puzzle.

I can't help but feel that there are a lot of veiled references to Kelly Starrett in this article. It puts down "couch stretching" - something Kelly Starrett has at least popularized - and has a "chair smash" where you smash your chair. Not a coincidence, in my mind anyway, that Kelly Starrett uses the term "smash" a lot when describing some tissue and mobility work. It's something I don't like to see, because I have had clients and friends and family make great strides in hip health with the couch stretch and "smash" techniques using an Alpha Ball.

I like what it adds, though. Circular hip movements, especially slow ones to ensure you get in the time and technique needed, are key to overall hip health. Making sure you add them in can make a huge difference for knee, hip, and back pain. Never mind improving performance.

I really recommend this article overall.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Onion on the problems of eating healthy

The mock-newspaper The Onion put up an amusing article called "
Superfoods - Myth vs. Fact."

For example:

"M[yth]: Kale is a delicious way to meet your body’s iron needs

F[act]: Kale is a way to meet your body’s iron needs"


or
"M[yth]: Adding acai berries to your morning smoothie provides a huge antioxidant kick

F[act]: Chances are, if “your morning smoothie” is a recognizable part of your routine, everything’s going to turn out just fine in your life anyway"


Like all good, painful jokes on The Onion, it's rooted in reality.

Walnuts - and other healthy foods - can be expensive.

If you aren't used to eating certain foods (kale, for example), they aren't automatically interesting and delicious.

You have to actually consume flax seeds to benefit from them, which means buying and preparing them.

You need to have a habit of healthy eating before you can tweak those healthy habits to be even better.

You also need money and/or access to healthy foods, as discussed in this article on Precision Nutrition.

I've argued before that it's pretty easy to know what's good and what's bad. A shopping cart full of veggies and raw meats will beat one full of packaged snacks made with veggie powder and processed meats. But if you've got time-poverty, live in a food desert, or actually live in poverty, knowing the first beats the second is only part of the answer. Knowing is half the battle, as they used to say on G.I. Joe, but actually solving it isn't always trivial. It's a painful reminder that the playing field isn't level. Healthy eating something we all need, and something we can all strive towards. But it's not as trivial as just throwing in some "superfoods" to your diet.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Deliberate Overreach vs. Overtraining

This past week and this current week, I'm engaged in deliberate overreach.

Deliberate Overreach is when you push past your normal limits in an unsustainable fashion in order to reap a training benefit. It's not sustainable because your training exceeds your recovery, but potentially has the benefit of increasing your work capacity, strength, endurance, and/or other aspects of physical fitness.

This differences from overtraining in that it's deliberate, systematic, and it has a programmed deload phase. It's not running down your system through constantly training more than you can recover from, but rather pushing past your limits for a finite time and then allowing a recovery phase to let your body compensate and hopefully supercompensate (in other words, get better).

In my case, this is near-daily long, hard bouts of MMA training along with lots of cycling, movement drills, rehab exercises, and so on. After this, the training will taper off severely for an equal length of time, and then return to normal.

This came about due to traveling to see some old friends, and being near my old MMA gym for two weeks. I'll manage 9 days of hard training in an 11 day span. The original goal was 10, but a scheduling error meant I had to miss one day. While I would not be able to sustain this level of training normally at this time, I expect to reap the benefits of getting in lot of extra drilling and sparring.

You can use this in your own training. If you have a week or two where you can go very hard, especially if it's followed by a week or two where you cannot (vacation, work-related travel, scheduling issues, etc.), consider doing this. Add in extra training sessions. Put in extra sets on each workout. Push the weight on the main lifts up to something doable but not easily sustainable. Set records in your timed workouts.

Then, as the forced downtime arrives, you can relax knowing you're benefiting from the time away from the gym or the track or the dojo.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Vacation

I, and Strength-Basics, are on vacation for the next few weeks. See you when I get back!
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