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, February 28, 2012

Article Review: Roadwork 2.0

If you missed this article by Joel Jamieson, it's worth reading:

Roadwork 2.0 - The Comeback

Joel Jamieson espouses the very old school idea of using steady-state cardio to improve aerobic conditioning for combat sports. Short version: he thinks you should do roadwork.

It's more common to see people training short-burst stamina in the gym to support their MMA fighting or get ready for a match. But Joel Jamieson has been arguing - with a lot of scientific basis - that you need an underlying base of aerobic conditioning to succeed in combat sports. This article also provides an 8-week framework you can use to organize your aerobic conditioning.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pallof Press variation

I must have missed this the first time around, but my boss introduced me to it:

Pallof Press 2.0

It's a tube based variation with movement. Give it a try; if you do it correctly it's very challenging.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Book Review: Pain Free

Pain Free
by Pete Egoscue and Roger Gittines
Published 2000
298 pages

If you accept Dan John's idea that the body is one piece, you'll understand this book's approach, too. The basic idea is that the body must move, and move correctly, to be healthy. Chronic pain is a sign of dysfunction that must be fixed with proper movement, not drugs or surgery. Pain isn't based at the site of pain (usually) but rather is the result of cascading dysfunction from some original point of problem.

The book starts with an introduction, and a general discussion of chronic pain. From there, it goes into specific body areas and how to deal with pain there. The book starts at the feet up. Each chapter discusses pain in that body part in general, gives a description of a successful or "too late to fix" case, and then gets into specifics. Each chapter has an explanation of how the pain and dysfunction starts, and how to address it.

The exercises - "e-cises" - are well-described and illustrated well. The descriptions are concise enough for easy read through, and clear enough to follow after one read. While it's not always immediately clear why an exercise might help a remote body part, the text explains how and why a, say, hip adductor exercise will help an ailing shoulder. The whole "body as one piece" approach makes sense.

Nicely each program gives you an estimation of the time needed (and it's pretty accurate) and the frequency.

The book also includes a general maintenance program and specific programs for dealing with common sports pain. It's both aimed at being curative (fix the dysfunction) and palliative (relieve the immediate pain), and ultimately preventative (keep you moving properly so it doesn't happen again). They do seem to work, too - pain reduction in my personal experience and those of I've used the programs is immediate, and in the medium term the pain is less intense. Long-term, it's not clear, but it's reasonable to expect that to continue.

The maintenance plan also makes a nice general mobility warmup, or active rest on off days - it's easy movement through natural ranges of motion.

Content: 5
out of 5.
Presentation: 4 out of 5. The main downside to the book is the amount of flipping each exercise requires. This is a useful space saver, but it means you flip back and forth when actually following the exercise lists.

Overall: If you're in pain chronically, or you know someone who is, this is an excellent resource. No mysticism or mumbo-jumbo, just motion to effect improved function. The maintenance program is half-bad as a warmup, either, or as general mobility prep. Highly recommended.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Training in Dysfunction II

I argued earlier that training while in dysfunction, you just train in the dysfunction permanently. Or at least, into a long-term dysfunction.

Training in Dysfunction

So what's the solution?

This is where corrective exercise, mobility drills, and even isolation exercises come into the fore.

The approach is pretty simple:

1) Get the client (or yourself) moving properly. No sense hip hinging or squatting or pressing if you're doing it in a way that is cementing in poor movement patterns.

2) Load that specific movement pattern in a way that reinforces the proper movement.

3) Increase the load and/or movement difficulty once the movement is ingrained properly.

As an example, let's look at a client who can't squat to parallel without his or her knees buckling in.

1) Get the client squatting with a band across the knees, which forces a conscious effort to push the knees out. This will groove the proper pattern. Also, squat the client up from a box set at parallel or slightly below. This allows them to go through the entire range of motion you're attempting to train.

2) Begin to load the squat - a little at first, with increases as the client gets stronger and the movement pattern is perfected.

3) Increase the load, and begin to squat both up from the bottom and from the top down to parallel.

In this manner, you're prioritizing proper movement and proper function, and then loading it. If you do it in the reverse fashion, at best you'll cement in a poor movement pattern, at worst you'll create a long-term dysfunction that leads to pain and injury. For most clients, the goal isn't maximal lifts, but maximal function, and proper movement patterns are the way to start that.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Shoulder/trunk stability exercise

My boss forwarded this one to me for use with one of my clients, and I wanted to share it here as well. It's a nice video of a simple trunk stability and shoulder (especially rotator cuff) strength/health exercise.

One of my favorite exercises to improve trunk stability and shoulder strength

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Kettlebells for Back Pain

Recently the New York Times put up a blog about a Danish study of using kettlebells to ease back pain.

Turning to Kettlebells to Ease Back Pain

The article has some of the usual errors - it describes a press as an isolation exercise. Er, no. There is no press I can think of that's an isolation exercise, they all involve multiple joints. Nevermind the "kettlebell press" is one of the keystone kettlebell exercises, so even if it was "isolation" it wouldn't be unique to non-kettlebell weights to do it. It also fails to mention that there are plenty of swinging dumbbell exercises too, although it is correct that people don't do them very often.

The article turns into a bit of a commercial for kettlebell classes, but it gets a lot right - weights, under proper supervision and done while standing and moving, are healthy and functional ways to exercise.
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