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.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dan John intern report

One of Coach Dan John's interns wrote a post-internship report, which Dan John put on his website.

Report from Adrian Cradock, My Irish Intern

It's a bit dense, and could have really used an edit and more drafting. But in those blocks of text is a lot of good reflections on strength and conditioning training, and on coaching in general. If you have the time to sit and read through these, I think you might pick up an idea or two of what to work on, and why to work on it.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Circus Strong

If you haven't seen this guy yet, you need to. The only words that come to mind are "circus strong." This guy is amazing.



I don't know the story behind this - if you do, please post it in the comments! Who is this guy? What's his background?

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Admin: Book Reviews Updated

I have updated the Book Reviews page.

- Each book is now listed alphabetically by the main author's last name.

- I've added the ratings after each book, for quick identification of the good (and the bad).

- I've starred (*) the best books - the ones with content 5 and at least a 4 in presentation. These books are, for the topic they cover, the best of the books I've read. This doesn't mean that everyone needs the Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding, for example, but it does mean it's a superior book for its subject.

I've cleaned up some of the links and standardized how I format each of the short entries, too.

I hope you find this useful. I've read and reviewed (the hard part) almost 60 books. I hope I'm saving you having to read the bad ones . . .

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Too Fat to Fight

Even the US military is concerned about the rising obesity rates and lack of physical fitness in children.

You may have seen articles about this, but it's worth reading the actual report. It's short and pretty much to the point. Unlike most fluffy articles, it's backed by endnotes, research reports, and hard numbers.

Too Fat to Fight

Read it, and if you know teachers or kid's coaches, have them read it too.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

5/3/1 FAQ

Some of these may apply to your own 5/3/1 cycles.

5/3/1 FAQ

Good stuff. Some of it contradicts the book, but it's possible that Jim Wendler just changes his mind about things sometimes. Fair enough.

I'll second the idea of using Fat Gripz (or Tyler Grips) for BBB assistance work. That's worked brilliantly well for me.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Glider Body Saw

Recently I've begun to do an exercise called the glider body saw. "Glider" from "furniture slider" or a glide pad, "body saw" because it looks like you're sawing a log with your body. Since the name isn't that common, I had to track down a video when someone asked what they were. Here it is:



I first heard of these from my boss at work, but also saw them here:
The Best Ab Exercises (T-Muscle, not W/FS)

Why would I do these? These are a good substitute for an ab wheel exercise or other anti-extension core exercise. They are a good step up from planks, too - you need to hold a good plank first.

How do I do these in my program? I've done them for reps and for time. Either seems very effective in achieving a training effect - improved performance in this exercise the next time and in other exercises over time - so I don't think there is any "special" way you need to program them.


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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Don't change until you have to

Frequently you'll hear people say something like "I've been dumbbell bench pressing for 8 weeks, should I change it up?" or "I've been doing this program for six weeks and it's giving me great results, but I think it's time to change."

The answer to the first question should be "Is it still working? If so, don't change anything." To the second, it should be "If it's still working, why are you changing it?"

Despite that, the person asking will probably change workouts. I mean, it's been weeks, and they don't want to stall out/fail to confuse the muscles/miss out on something better.

Why is this so? What is with our attention span that we'll change something that is working just to change it?

The advice I've given and continue to give is, if your program is working, if an exercise is working, don't change it. Keep doing what's giving you results, if those are the results you want. That is the key - do what is working until it stops working, then change it.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Review: What Happens to Your Body When You Are Weight Training



By Brezina, Corona
Published 2009
48 pages

This is a juvenile book on weight training. Let's just get that out of the way right away - it's 48 pages, larger print, glossy, full-color pictures. You'd find it with a J code on the side in the library, and yes, that's pretty much the only place you'd find it. I read it because I'm always looking for a good guide to kids weight training and to weight training in general to recommend to my own child clients and to their parents. Maybe you are to, so here is my review.

The book is a very basic overview of what strength training is, what it involves, and what it is for.

The book leans a bit towards the standard recommendations - start on machines, do around 10 reps for one set, maybe move up to 2 or 3 sets and you get more advanced. It also has a few errors, probably from oversimplification. A good example is 1-rep maxes. It says that some people test these, but they can be dangerous (with no explanation of why) and they aren't good for building strength. That's sort-of accurate, in a way - a maximal single attempt at a new PR can be dangerous, but generally isn't any more than a rep maximum is. You can build a lot of strength on singles, although they have limited application to 10-year olds who'd be reading this book.

The book loses points, though, for lacking any real explanation of what physiologically happens in the body in response to weight training. It's more like a basic primer than what the title suggests. Would it kill them to have an explanation of supercompensation and adaptation, and muscle fibers increasing in size as they get used? Seriously, all it would take is 3-4 sentences about how you lift 15 lbs for 10 reps so your body gets strong enough to do that and then a little more to build a cushion, so you need to challenge it a touch more next time. But that's not really given any coverage.

There is a short section on risks and problems - injuries, anabolic steroids, and the like. The mention of the risks of doing way too much weight to show off shows a good understanding of what it means to be 9-12 years old and in the gym. Or male and in the gym ever, really.

The example exercises are generally good - it talks about bench presses (and gets bonus point for calling it "notorious"!) and squats and lunges, rather than curls and hip abductor machines. All of them are just examples, though, they aren't demonstrated. And - wince - the picture of someone squatting has a girl doing high-bar squats with a pad on the bar.


Rating:
Content: 3 out of 5. For what it is, it covers a lot of ground and does it well enough. No real glaring errors but it often uses terms without real explanation of those terms.
Presentation: 4 out of 5. Very readable, good pictures, but it really needs more illustration of what the text is specifically addressing.

Overall: Not a bad book for someone with no basic understanding of strength training. So I'd recommend it with caveats to a young kid getting into lifting, or a parent of the same. But there must be better books out there . . .

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Blast Strap Pullups

Sometimes you just don't want to do pullups off the 2 x 4, you want to have an actual handle. So, I did this:

From Strength Basics


. . . so we could do this:

From Strength Basics


It worked great, and the handles didn't move at all for me or either of the two guys I was training. Plus, you get a little rotation of the handle as you pull, so you can keep a firm grip without tearing up your hands holding on. If we'd brought out chalk I'd have used that to, to keep grip from being the limiter.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

What's your favorite exercise?

This is a great topic. What is the most fun exercise for you to do, regardless of its overall value?

I went with strongman-type stuff - swinging hammers, flipping tires, carrying weights (farmer's walks, sandbag carries, etc.), sled dragging and prowler pushing type stuff.

I like this kind of stuff because it doesn't require a lot of technical skill or instruction. They're hard to mess up. They are largely just sheer brutal strength training with minimal strength. Strap the sled onto your belt and walk or run. Push the prowler. Flip the tire over however you can. Swing the hammer. Get that weight from point A to point B and then bring it back. They aren't difficult, just hard.

How about you? Respond in the comments, or join the fun at EXRX's forums.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Artificial Constraints

"'Master,' he now said, 'I have heard of an exercise, in involving suspended rings. To achieve the perfect lunge, piercing the hole and making no contact with the ring itself-"
[Murillo, the instructor] snorted. 'Yes [. . . ] But as an exercise, I am afraid its value is limited.'
'Why?'
Murillo eye the young man for a moment, and then sighed. 'Very well. The exercise requires too many constraints, few of which ever occur in the course of a real fight. You achieve point control - useful point control, I mean - when it's made integral to other exercises. When it's combined with footwork, distance, timing and the full range of defence and offence demanded when facing a real, living opponent [. . . ]"


- Murillo and his student, from Steven Erikson's "Toll the Hounds" (2008)

This quote articulates my own problems with some martial arts training very eloquently. It also applies to how I see some forms of weight training, especially machines.

A machine creates a set of controlled circumstances - all you really need to do, generally, is sit down, grab some handles (or put your feet on legs on a padded lever arm or a plate), and push or pull. You don't need to exercise any control of the weight. You don't need to determine its path, or prevent it from going where it doesn't belong. You don't even need to go get the weight and set up. It's just sit, grab, and manipulate. Your muscles will get stronger - resistance is resistance after all - but you won't be able to apply it to the same degree outside of a machine. You effectively create the ability to move a machine with heavier resistance rather than get a level of muscular strength that can apply more broadly. Your body adapts, after all, to what you challenge it to do. If you never challenge its ability to move in a three-dimensional range of motion against an unstabilized weight, it won't get any better at it.

I believe machines have some utility, but far less than any health club floor would lead you to believe.

Admittedly, barbells and dumbbells also provide a degree of artificiality to training - ergonomic grips, easy load increments, consistent distribution of the load - but they do so to a lesser degree than machines. Putting 135 overhead with a barbell is easier than putting 135 overhead when it's a sandbag or a person or a keg, but it's much more applicable to the problem than 135 pounds on the seated shoulder press machine. The machine never challenges you to stop that weight from moving around off the pre-grooved path.

What are you doing in your training that is too far divorced from what you are actually training for?

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Jason Nunn's Core progression

Jason Nunn recently posted an article about "core training." The "core" is that overused term that is used to describe the muscles of your midsection and lower back. Overused, but nonetheless accurate enough. All of your standing exercises will heavily involve your "core" and so will most sports endeavors. Training it can take a variety of forms. But with so many exercises the choose from, how do you know where to begin? Once and exercise becomes relatively easy, what is the next step to make it just hard enough to force additional adaptation?

Jason posted this article to help:
Core Training Progressions

The listed progressions seem basically sound - the stuff that halts me and some of my clients seems to be a high-water mark. The ones with problems with a plank don't get anywhere with an ab wheel, for example. Jason's got a much larger base of experience (and clients) to draw on but I was pleased to see that my experience matched it. If you're doing core training but aren't quite sure what to progress to (or regress to), read the article and watch the excellent video embedded in it.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Finding a Personal Trainer

Mike Roberston posted a fairly provocative blog post recently, entitled "Finding a Personal Trainer - 2 Questions You MUST Ask.

First, go read his blog and come on back here.

Done?

It's sparked a lot of comments, and it sparked some thought from me. I don't disagree with Mike Robertson on this, and I'm not trying to drum me up some blog hits by arguing with him. In fact, I think he's on the right track in getting people to question their personal trainer's qualifications. But I realized, I'd suggest people ask two somewhat different questions when they want to find a personal trainer.

First, I'd say that it's not necessary to be in the industry for five years to be a good trainer. If you insist on five years of experience before hiring someone to train you, aren't you essentially saying "learn on someone else"? If everyone did that, where would new guys get their experience? How long you've done something isn't always an indicator of your ability, just of your persistence. So, instead, I'd ask:

"What is your experience training people in general, and for my goals in specific?" If I've got 1 year of experience but it's all in fat loss training and you're looking for a fat loss trainer, we might be a good match. If I've got 6 years of experience training guys for MMA and you're an older woman looking to rehab a knee injury, maybe we're not. It's not how long I've been doing this, it's how long and how successfully I've been training people just like you.

Second, it's not that important to do this full time. I'm not working full time, but that doesn't mean my clients are getting a raw deal. They get the benefit of all of my (unpaid) study time, my own training, my prior experience. Does it really matter that I haven't assembled enough clients to pay my rent without another, non-training job? It doesn't to me - my own trainer doesn't just train me, he also does other work that isn't training people. My MMA coach isn't a full-time MMA coach, either, he's got other work that he does too. Does that make him a worse coach than a guy with a school full of kids paying the rent on the building? No, why should it? What's important to me with both of them is what they know, and how thoroughly they apply themselves to staying current. My S&C coach knows more about training MMA fighters than I do, despite me making it a point to learn everything I can about that subject. My MMA coach seems to watch every fight that occurs in every pro fight, and most of the amateurs that might fight his own fighters as well. That's the key - continuing education.

So I'd ask a different question. I'd ask:

"How do you stay abreast of current developments in training, and what kind of continuing education do you do?" If someone says, oh, I learned all this stuff in school, that's not adequate. You want someone who is reading blogs, online magazines, books, forums, and trade journals. You want someone who wakes up in the morning thinking about a better way to get your pullup numbers up or your body fat down. You want someone who, when you go to tell him or her about this "new thing" you heard about, can tell you more than you got from that news story. Or who read it already and has been applying what he or she learned. That is what matters. Job status isn't relevant, it's whether or not this person applies themselves to learning more. Fitness isn't a static field, so don't hire a static person.

I'm sorry this isn't as punchy as "5 years, full time" but in my opinion, this is what you want to ask.

Thanks to Mike Robertson for a thought-provoking post. This has been stuck in my mind since I read his post yesterday and I've been mulling this over since then. I'm going to count that as continuing education.



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Friday, June 11, 2010

Product Review: Carlson's Fish Oil

Fish oil is recommended for any and all people to add to their diet for its high concentrate of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are necessary for health, but relatively hard to come by in sufficient quantities in a fish-light, modern diet. Supplementation is needed, but you're going to want a good fish oil for a good price.

This review is for a liquid fish oil - Carlson Laboratories Very Finest Fish Oil.

It's available in lemon flavor and in orange flavor. As of yet, I've only tried the orange flavor. I'm going to wait until I run out of orange to try the lemon flavor.

Taste: It tastes like pretty much any fake orange flavored drink or medicine, sans aftertaste or bitterness. It didn't repeat on me (in other words, no burps), so there wasn't any fishy aftertaste in any way, shape, or form.

Nutrition: Each teaspoon full is 4g of fish oil, of which 1600mg is DHA and EPA and other omega-3 fatty acids. That's a pretty good ratio of DHA and EPA (1.6g / 4g = 0.4), but all of the oil is valuable nutritionally, not just the omega-3s.

Storage: You need to refrigerate it after opening, and they recommend using it within 3 months. Since the 500ml bottle contains 100 teaspoons full, it should last pretty much most of those three months if you stick to the recommended dosage.

Price: $48.50 for 500ml is a bit steep, but luckily you don't need to pay that. Check Amazon.com or Vitamin Shoppe and you'll find it for much less than that. The price is reasonable for the convenience of taking a teaspoonful (or even a tablespoon full) instead of knocking back a bunch of fish oil pills with your meal. Speaking of which, here is an excellent rule of thumb for how much fish oil you need, check this post by John Berardi. The % fat in the post is approximate body fat. Around 15%? One tablespoon (3 teaspoons) a day - making the bottle last about a month.

Bottom Line: Recommend. Tastes good, good value for the (actual internet retail) price.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Zercher Squats

One of my friends was asking me about squatting with the bar across the arms the other day. This post is for him.

Here is JV Askeem's take on Z-lifting, as he calls it:

Z Lift

Here is a sandbag Zercher Squat:

http://www.mbodystrength.com/sazesq.html

I prefer the sandbag to the bar, personally, because the arms don't get constricted by a heavy bar pressing down on the muscles. Instead, you get a more "natural" lay of the weight as it seeks to trickle down around the arms.

When you zercher squat, you'll find you end up naturally keeping a tall posture, a big chest, and sitting back. You have to, or you'll dump the bar or bag. This makes it a little more self-correcting than the back squat. If you go too heavy on a back squat, you can end up rising hips first and then shoulders second instead of simultaneously. With a zercher squat, if you do that at all, the weight pulls you forward and you can't complete the lift easily. You don't want to lose the bar or bag, so you sit back more and thus keep an even hips and shoulder rise speed.

Finally, here is my very own strength coach doing a zercher squat in a rack:



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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Charles Staley interview

I just invoked Charles Staley's name in my posts about workouts. He's interviewed over at T-Muscle and discusses exactly that subject.

Sucker Punch: Charles Staley

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

More Pushups

I love pushups and pullups. I think they're tremendous exercises that are sorely misunderstood and badly underutilized. So, given that...

...how could I not love this article?

What You Don’t Know about the Push-up by Zach Dechant.


Probably the best part of the article for me is where he discusses technique. He says:

"Watch most beginners set up and do push-ups, and you’ll find that they almost all set up with a hands wide, elbows straight out position. They may be stronger in that position for now, but once they learn and reinforce a more proper position, they will become even stronger."

This is my experience as well. I've had a succession of kids that I've trained say they "can't" do a pushup in any position except a full T, with the arms out to the sides if not out in front of their shoulders. They'll occasionally theatrically fall down (only if we're on a mat, though) if I try to have them do pushups with the arms back at 45 degrees. They're right in that the T position is slightly easier early on, but at a great cost to the shoulders. It is also ultimately bad form, in that in it keeps you from truly good pushup numbers. It's self-limiting - your body knows it's sacrificing your shoulders to get the motion, so it won't let you do too many. Get the arms in the right spot, get that 45 degree angle, and you can start cranking them out and loading them up.

I am also really happy with this one, too. I'm not sure how I missed linking to it before. Nick Tumminello discusses a large variety of pushup variations. Most of them are fairly advanced. But it starts with the basics of spinal alignment (and how to correct it with a dowel, pvc pipe, or foam roller), head position and hand position, and other nagging faults that limit your performance. Once you work on those, you can get a "proper" pushup, which them strengthens your body in proper alignment. That helps your posture, which in turn helps all of your lifts. The top position of a squat or deadlift or press is a normal, proper standing posture. So it feeds in a nice little circle of positive feedback.

I recommend both of these articles if you're training people with a pushup or doing them yourself. It's worth taking a video of yourself and checking your pushup form. It seems silly - it's just a pushup - but you might find some minor errors that are holding back your progress. Do a max set in front of the camera, and you'll find out what breaks down when you get tired. Then you can refer back to Dechant's and Tumminello's articles to see how to address it.

So drop and give me 20!

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Book Review: Muscle Medicine



By DeStefano, Rob (D.C), with Bryan Kelly, M.D. and Joseph Hooper
Published 2009
260 pages

Muscle Medicine, in its obligatory subtitle, bills itself as "The revolutionary approach to maintain, strengthening, and repairing your muscles and joints."

The book was written by members of the New York Giants football team medical staff. The team as an integrated staff of chiropractors/ART therapists, physical trainers, and medical doctors. Instead of each injured player going to one doctor, they see a team that works together to heal any injuries.

One problem with the current medical system - as anyone who's gotten a nagging injury can tell you - is that you often have to choose a specialist who works in isolation. Go to the chiro and you get adjusted and ART to loosen up tight muscles. Go to the orthopedic surgeon and you get surgery or painkillers. But what if it's more than one problem? What if you don't know where to go to start with?

The authors worked as a team. This approach makes sense - if physical manipulation is sufficient to solve the problem, the chiro is the best choice. If surgery is needed, the orthopedic surgeon gets the job. Weak muscles post-injury are deal with by the physical therapist. But what happens when it is multiple problems? A torn muscle may need surgery, but if other muscles around it have tightened up as a result, surgery alone won't fully repair the problem. The tight muscles need to be loosened up to allow the repaired muscle to heal properly. Thus, this book.

The book is divided up into sections by body part. Neck, lower back, hands/wrist, etc. are dealt with in turn. Each gets a more-or-less descriptive section concerning possible injuries, a few case studies showing previous clients and how the integrated approach was used with each, and then a series of stretches, strengthening exercises, and self-myofascial release techniques.

The strengthening exercises are pretty basic but make a lot of sense. External and internal rotations for rotator cuff injuries, wrist exercises for wrist injuries, ankle band work for ankle problems, and so on. They aren't Earth-shatteringly new or exciting, but they're all well explained and are aimed at addressing the root of the problem and not just the immediate symptoms.

Perhaps the best section discusses either contracting out or subcontracting out your rehabilitation and treatment. The contracting plan is that you find a single medical professional to rely on, and allow that professional to send you along to any specialists you need. The subcontracting approach is to find each specialist you need yourself. The book gives you enough information to help you make an informed decision about either approach. Neither is given short shrift; they're both treated as useful approaches that make more or less sense depending on the nature of your injury and your knowledge. The small section on managing your health care provider is also useful and direct, without being cynical. It's your body, and you need to heal it.

If this book has one potential problem, it's going to be in the eyes of the readers. Some people have no positive regard whatsoever for chiropractic doctors, osteopaths, ART or self-myofascial release therapy. They're (witchdoctors/frauds/charletans/theives/whatever) and that is that. This book doesn't take that approach. Not a surprise, it's written by a DC (a chiropractor). But importantly, it treats all kinds of health care professionals as having pieces of the solution and shows you how to integrate them. A chiropractic isn't going to help if your tendon is snapped or a ligament is torn, but surgery from an orthopedist and painkillers isn't going to help if you've got a chronically weak muscle offloading its work onto over-active surrounding muscles, either. If you've got both, you need both doctors to fix it. This book takes a holistic, pragmatic approach, and if you don't have time for some of the health professionals they recommend you won't get a lot out of it.

Rating:
Content: 4 out of 5. Quite thorough and useful information on treatment.
Presentation: 5 out of 5. Well laid-out and easy to follow, with accurate illustrations.

Overall: If you have nagging injuries and you'd like to get a handle on them, this book is a good place to start. You get more than enough information on self-treatment to get started, and great advice on pursing professional medical help. The integrated approach to treatment is excellent. If you're hurt, it's worth reading this book. Especially at the price, recommend.


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Friday, June 4, 2010

Your Choice of Workouts, Part II

Yesterday I presented two options - A (work all-out and come home exhausted) vs. B (moderate workout).

Most people seem to aim for A. They want to work hard. This can be self-punishment ("I've been lazy lately, I have to make myself work!"), misguided ideas about the diet/exercise connection ("I ate three doughnuts yesterday . . . I have to work them off!"), or even misguided ideas about exercise ("I skipped a few sessions, so I'll make up for them now.") It can be a need to always push to the limits to see where they are. The advantage to training like A is that you're always intense, you're getting everything you can out of each workout, you're banging away at the exercises and not just going through the motions. Or you should be, anyway. This kind of workout approach can also lead to overtraining and injury, especially because you're gauging success by how badly you ache.

With B, you're aiming for a more measured approach. Each workout builds on the next, but it doesn't leave you breathless and toasted and tired. But you didn't work as hard. Your intensity isn't as hard, so you might not make as much immediate progress.

My bias is towards A in my heart, but B in my head. Why is that?

A makes me feel like I worked, like I milked each session for everything it was worth. B makes me feel like I really didn't work as hard as I could have. It can be hard to gauge what is "enough to improve optimally" but it's not hard to gauge "I worked to exhaustion." But working to exhaustion isn't always optimal.

Charles Staley discussed that recently in an interview with Mark Rippetoe but it's not a new idea. Joe DeFranco mentioned this way back in his Ask Joe column, too - that any coach can exhaust you, but not all of them can improve you (he discusses it a bit further here. The idea is that each workout builds on the next, culminating in some pre-determined result (improved lifts, improved results in a contest, the body of your dreams, whatever. It might not actually send you home thinking you did everything you could possibly do today.

To close off this rambling, I'm reminded of a saying credited to judo master Jigoro Kano - that the goal is to do the minimum effort to get maximal results. In other words, do only what is necessary to get optimal results and nothing more. Is that A, B, or a mix of both? If your workouts always look like A, is it really aiming for maximal results or just the satisfaction of maximal effort?

I don't pretend to have all the answers here. This is just something that's been on my mind a lot lately. How do I train my clients so they feel like they've done hard work, but also so that they aren't doing any more than they need to get to their goals as fast as possible? How do I train myself for the same thing?

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Your Choice of Workouts, Part I

If I could promise to train you and offer you this choice, which would you take?

A) A hard workout every session, that leaves you thrashed, trashed, and tired. You'll go home feeling like you worked, certain that you couldn't have put in more effort every day.

B) A measured workout every session, that leaves you worked but not too tired. You'll go home knowing that yeah, you could have worked harder today, you kept some in the tank.

Which do you take now? And why?

What if I could promise you better results with workouts more like B than A, but you wouldn't feel like you'd done as much? How long could you stand it, even if the weights kept going up, the fat kept coming off, the goals kept falling like dominoes?

It's a tough question. In my head, I know approach B is the one to use. Measured workouts that build on each other successively to get a desired result. But A feels good, feels like you worked. Is the immediate satisfaction of "I worked hard!" so seductive we can't see the benefits in a steady approach?

I'll discuss this more tomorrow, but this question has been stuck in my head and I wanted to get it out there.
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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Boris's 5 Tips

Boris over at SquatRx had a short article posted over on the Wanna Be Big newsletter. You might have seen it in the linked blogs area of this site, but if not, here it is:

5 Tips For Training Time Management

The Wanna Be Big newsletter is also full of other good articles.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Exercise: Band Shrugs

I had the tricky problem of trying to find a shrugging exercise for my clients without having a lot of gear to use in the process. Both of the guys I was training that day are strong enough to require real weight on shrugs, but I didn't have a lot of weight to load a bar.

What I had them do was stand on the middle of one of my Iron Woody bands (a blue, "Small" band - not to be confused with a mini) and grip the ends of the band and shrug upwards with a 2-second hold at the top. To prevent the inevitable time distortion, someone else counted the hold times. The "shrug" isn't terribly hard but the reps add up, and the hold makes each successive pull harder. A good way to cue this is to have the trainee set their shoulders back and down, and then pull the shoulders up while keeping the scapula "packed" together. You don't want a round-shouldered pull. The top portion of this shrug should look a lot like the top portion of a barbell shrug or a shrug-hold (such as a farmer's walk).

To increase the grip portion of the exercise, instead of grabbing inside the lop of the band, grab the band itself, or feed a short towel through each loop and grab the towel for the shrug.

This exercise is hard to progressively load, but you can use a stronger band or grip it further down. My clients seemed to think it was easy . . . at first, but it added up quickly. Give them a try if you want to add in a shrug, but want either a change of pace or don't have the weight necessary for a challenging shrug.

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