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.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Peter's Trap Bar DL PR

I hit a trap bar deadlift PR yesterday.



That's 335 at 185 pounds of body weight. It shattered my previous PR by 20 pounds and matched my all-time best straight-bar DL. I felt like I had a lot of poundage left in me, but I hit a very solid PR and just cut it there. I can get more later.

Previously I pulled 315 at 180 pounds back in January. That matched my all-time PR pulled almost 8 years before. I pulled 315 on 4/3, and it was tough. I failed, needed to back off, and put on a belt, and then work my way back up to 315 and had nothing left in the tank.

Today it was just easy. I pulled:

5 x 155
2 x 205
2 x 245
1 x 295
1 x 315

Then I briefly failed on 335. I got set and started to pull and it broke the floor, but I realized I'd taken a too-wide stance and that forced me to roll forward onto my toes. I just stopped right there. I took less than a minute to re-set and pulled the rep in the video:

1 x 335 (with belt)

Pushing up the bar, and making Mike Guadango change record board listing:



335 isn't a very heavy deadlift for many people. For me, it's a significant PR and it shows me how far I've come.

I've got an eye on eventually pulled 365 at 182.5 pounds or less body weight - a double body weight deadlift.

I'd list credits of the people I need to thank for but the list would be too long. At the very least I need to mention three: John for getting me to pull 315 and 335 back in the day so I knew it was there in me now, Tom for constantly telling me to get after it and get it, and Mike for bringing me from trouble walking right to pulling a PR with room to spare.

Monday, April 17, 2017

If you had to start with two free e-Books, which two?

If I had to point people to two free PDFs to get started lifting and eating right, I'd go with these two:


From the Ground Up, by Dan John (reviewed here).

and

Fuck Calories!, by Krista Scott-Dixion

Why FTGU?

Because you have to start somewhere, and we don't really know where to begin. Dan John teaches athletes, and teaches Olympic lifts - but he also teaches solid basics.

I don't generally think Olympic lifts are for everyone, but I do think that understanding the concepts of those lifts is valuable. When it comes to a free ebook that explains what you are to do, why, and how, FTGU has everything covered.

Why FC?

Because when you are starting out, two things are in your way:

- what you think you know

- your habits

Cleaning up "what you think you know" is hard. We are bombarded literally every day with diet and diet-related news, tips, and most difficult yet, choices to make. What do I eat? Is this good for me? I heard I need more protein. I heard that this fat is good for you. I was told to eat more calories so I burn more, but also to eat less calories to lose weight - which is it? And so on and so on. Nevermind food labels, ad campaigns, and Photoshopped models pushing foods they didn't eat and supplements they didn't take to get like they did in the pictures.

FC helps by basically saying, "Here are the things to pay attention to about your body and how it reacts to what you put in it." But even more basically, more directly, and more usefully than how I just put it.

Those are the two free ebooks I'd recommend if you had to start with just free ebooks.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Visual Study Results on Instagram

If you're interested in keeping up, at least to a degree with studies about strength training, Chris Beardsley is your guy:

Chris Beardsley Instagram

His Instagram feed consists of visual layouts of study results in handy graphical formats. He explains further in the caption.

Personally I find it hard to keep up with even a useful fraction of the studies on strength training. They are too many, often small, written for scientific rigor not easy digestion, and scattered. Chris Beardsley is doing a great service by taking some of them and making the information pop out usefully.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Steven Low on Muscle Strain / Tendonitis

Steven Low wrote two excellent articles on rehabbing muscle strains and tendonitis, originally on his Eat-Move-Improve site. He's relocated to stevenlow.org, and I wanted to link to these two articles:

Overcoming Tendonitis

On Muscle Strains

If you suffer from either of these, these can be eye-opening looks at what's effective and the timeline involved in healing, rehab, and what kind of work you need to put in to prevent them.



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Joel Jamieson on Consistency

My favorite training method is simple: training consistently.

That is, make some progress every day. In the gym, do enough to make some progress.

Outside the gym, do at least enough to recover from what you did in the gym (and from any other stress you have.)

At the table, eat properly more times than not.

As long as you do that, the specific approach you chose isn't as important to me. Get in there, get it done, get recovered, and more times than not eat healthy foods in reasonable amounts for your goals.

Joel's take goes way beyond that pretty basic description, and it's worth reading:

Make Progress Every Single Day

Monday, March 27, 2017

Buddy Morris on knee rehab, rest, and recovery

I stumbled across this look at the terminal knee extension for rehab and warmup while looking for something else with Buddy Morris (Arizona Cardinals S&C coach):

Training Concepts, Recovery, and Knee Rehab with Buddy Morris



"At some point in time, rest becomes a training means."

Good stuff.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Which body measurements to track for which goals?

As a trainer, I track different things for different client goals. I have my clients track different metrics given their different goals.

Weight: Since scale weight is the gross total of your entire mass - fat, muscle, bone, water, that bowl of oatmeal you ate before you came to the gym, etc. - it's a rough measurement. Easy to take, but it doesn't drill down to the specifics of what it consists of. So I'm not generally interested in that for clients interested in fat loss. We'll measure it because it helps us calculate body fat.

For example: A client weighs 145 on day one. On day sixty, the client weights 135. Is that progress towards healthy weight loss? Maybe. But what if the client is dehydrated on day sixty and lost mostly muscle mass due to poor diet choices? We don't know, so it's only part of an answer.

For a client interested in getting bigger and stronger, this is a critical number. Seems odd - the skinny guy who wants to put on mass, the weak woman who wants to get stronger - why is weight more important to them than the person trying to lose weight? Because how much you weigh tells you how much bigger you're getting and provides a number to compare to your lifts.

For example: You pulled 315 at 190, and two months later you pulled 315 again. Are you stalled out? Maybe. But what if you're 185 two months later? Your proportional strength went up. Doing 12 dead-head pullups at 135 is impressive; doing 15 when you are still 135 means straight-up progress.

Body Fat: Now we're getting somewhere. Even if we're using a fairly inaccurate method, as long as it's consistent, it can give us insight into the ratio of lean body mass vs. fat.

For fat loss clients, I will strenuously argue for body fat measurements. The goal is really not weight loss, it's fat loss.

For example: A client drops from 220 to 210 but body fat goes from 25% to 28%. The client has lost more muscle than fat. The client went from 165 pounds of lean mass and 55 pounds of fat to 151.2 pounds of lean mass and 58.8 pounds of fat. That's negative progress - yet the scale says they've made a 10 pound drop!

Waist/Hip Measurements: I do these as waist the belly button vs. widest part of the glutes (other people do them different ways). I find those two are the easiest - check across the belly button, move the tape measure until you find the widest part of your glutes.

These measurements tell us a lot - are you gaining or losing midsection size (and therefore most likely fat)? Are you gaining or losing at the glutes? This is a great measure for folks looking to put on mass, too.

For example: A client's weight stays steady at 200, but the client's waist and hips go from 38" and 42" to 36" and 41.5". The client is most likely losing fat mass, especially around the midsection.

Caliper Measurements: I have not meant a single client who was willing to do these. Not one. I've got a pair of calipers and trained to use them, but used them in the field zero times. Fat loss clients are too embarrassed most of the time, it can feel invasive ("Hi, you just met me, can I use a pair of calipers on your flab?"), and I don't get any bodybuilders or people who need their fat levels drilled down to "but where do I need to lose it?"

Calorie Counts: I've written before about how I generally dislike calorie counting - too fiddly, inaccurately specific ("I ate 1,498 calories today and burned 1,520 calories!" = within +/- 10-20% of each of those numbers), hard to sustain. But in some cases I'll have clients track them to use as a minimum - to ensure they are eating enough. For fat loss clients, I care about food quality and eating consistency, not calorie counts. I know a lot of people swear by calorie counting and can point to success. I've read books by people who've tracked calories every day for years. But I've seen too many clients - in fact, almost all clients - eventually stop tracking, or track obsessively to the point of ignoring clear issues to meet calorie counts.

BMI: I only use body mass index when tracking it for a client that needs to reach a specific BMI for testing purposes. I think it's a useless measure at best. Yes, your height matters, but when lean and strong athletes rate as "obese" and skinny folks carrying a lot of fat are "healthy" you've got a measurement that tells you nothing useful about the client.

Here are some examples.

Case one is a skinny teenage boy looking to get bigger and stronger. He's lifting six days a week, getting in sufficient sleep and recovery.

We track calories, if possible - if not, simple food journaling or recall will do. Ideally we'll have a minimum calorie count each day. We track weight gain, but specifically do not track body fat or waist measurements. Knowing his weight is going up means we know he's putting on body mass. Some will be fat, yes, but most of it will be muscle given his training and eating. Tracking body fat would be useful but distracting - instead of worrying about getting enough food, sleep, and training, the client will also be thinking "Is this good weight? Am I putting on too much fat?" Since the answer is likely no, it's just more mental stress for no good purpose.

Case two is a middle-aged female looking to lose body fat. She's training two-three times a week and stays fairly active, but lack sufficient sleep due to job stress and hours.

We track weight in order to track body fat. We specifically do not track calories, although I may sit down and calculate them vs. a food recall journal and ask the client to add or subtract food from certain typical meals. We track body fat, and if the client agrees (many don't), waist and hip measurements. During discussions I never talk overall body weight.


Note these do rely on clients agreeing to regular measurements - I've had clients who won't let you check anything they can't show improvement on. No getting on the scale unless they've checked before they came and saw it went down (even if the goal is otherwise). No body fat measuring because it might be bad. No waist/hip measurements because it's embarrassing (and they won't do it themselves.) In those cases, I find it's best to ignore the less helpful measurements - don't check weight at all, for example. Instead, work steadily on making progress on processes, and if possible work towards getting useful measurements. Suggest the measurement methods and refer them out to someone else to check, or have them check themselves. It's always going to be more helpful the more information you know, but in my experience it's less than helpful to track, say, weight even though you know it's not giving you good information.
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