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, April 17, 2013

Article Review: Mike Robertson on Knees

If you have any knee issues, check out this new article up on the IFAST website.

3 S's for Stronger Knees by Mike Robertson.

Who should read it?

Anyone training with, or training through, a "bad" knee.

What's in It?

A good three-fold look at the issue of fixing a knee issue. How to deal with stability and strengthening in different planes is covered. How to deal with hip and ankle issues to fix knee issues. Also how to line up posture through the knee.

One of my favorite bits is that for some knee issues (ones with frontal plane stability issues) you don't want to go for single leg training until you can do two-legged training. My own experience with knee issues is that some don't respond at all to single leg exercises but to two-legged exercises. Why? Well, now I think I know why.

Well worth the read.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Basics: More Weight is the Easiest Way to "Change it Up"

How do you make your workouts more productive?

You'll hear about things "Muscle Confusion" and "changing it up" as ways to get your body to grow.

This is true, to an extent. The body responds to new stimuli by adapting to it, and then adapting to grow stronger than what is minimally necessary to respond again in the future.

So yes, you can swap out exercises, change up your workout day after day, and progress.

But there is an easier way to do it.

Keep the exercises the same, keep the reps and sets the same. Just add more weight - even the minimum possible jump - and do them again.

This is a change. A deadlift for 5 reps at 135 pounds being "changed up" to 5 reps at 140 pounds is enough of a new stimulus to get your body to respond.

Don't worry about changing things, just make them harder for as long as you are able to keep getting the reps.

This is not to say there is no value in changing the exercises workout to workout. A rotation of workouts might do this - Monday is Workout A, which includes the Barbell Bench Press and Pullup, and Thursday is Workout B, which includes Pushups and Dumbbell Rows. But next Monday you could come back to Workout A and simply try to add more weight to the bar for the same sets and reps to progress.

Remember a change in stimuli is a change in stimuli - you don't need to keep swapping around workouts, rep ranges, sets, and exercises to progress. For someone just trying to get in shape, adding weight to the bar, plates to the cable weight stack, and using bigger and bigger dumbells and kettlebells is the way to go.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Personal Trainers: Answering "What now?"

What to do in the gym?

A personal trainer can tell you what to do in the gym. But so can any of hundreds of websites, and dozens of good training programs you can find on the web.

Part of the real value in a personal trainer is that your trainer can answer two important questions - "What next?" and "What now?"

"What next? - All programs, good or bad, will eventually stop working for you. Either you will progress past the limits of the program, or past the limits of linear progression (adding weight to the bar each workout).

When your gains run out, or the program proves to just not be working for your specific goals, a good trainer can answer, "What do I do next?"

"What Now?" - Even more important, how do you adjust your workout when life intervenes? An injury, illness, fatigue, stress - many things can derail your workout. If your workout plan says "bench press" and you've injured your shoulder, now what? A good trainer can answer that, on the fly, during a workout.

This is the most important part of the personal trainer's job - having the knowledge and experience to change your workout in reaction to changing needs, changing goals, and changing circumstances.

How can I do this myself?

Ask yourself, what if? What if I get hurt? What if this stops working? What if I need to substitute out because of missing or broken equipment? What can I do to keep getting a training effect? Know yourself, and learn what you can about training so you can make your own decisions.
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