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.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ending the year on a Joe D Rant

I love Joe DeFranco's "Industrial Strength Show" podcast.

I used to train at his gym, so it's just fun hearing him again, week after week.

But it's also solid training information from a very smart but very down to earth man.

So this year I'll end my posting on this blog with Joe's latest show, and his New Year's Resolution rant:

Why Your New Year’s Resolution is Bullsh*t!

I don't make resolutions, I make plans. That's the way to do it, in my experience. Don't promise yourself a change, make plans to do so. Something simple, and then get after it. And don't wait until after the clock strikes midnight tonight if you can get started now.


And if you do plan to go to the gym, download a few episodes of Joe D's podcast and give them a listen. Great information, and entertainingly presented.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

TIME, Situps, and fitness in healthy people

Two articles caught my eye today.

The first was TIME Magazine, saying that "Fitness experts are now advising against doing too many sit-ups for risk of back injury."

Yes, that's true, if you mean by "now" you mean "for at least the past 10 years." This was old news 5 years ago. It's true, but badly out of date.

Why Fitness Experts Have Turned Against Sit-Ups

And for all of the "fit and obese is okay" sorts of news I've seen pop up, here is a study of 1.3 million Swedish men that seems to indicate that fit + lean beats fit + obese.

Fitness more protective among normal-weight people

Both are true. Both are useful. TIME is just well behind the curve here. And the study in the second implies that you do still need to control your body fat. Not a terrible surprise, but good to know and good to have for reference.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Recovery is filling the hole

One of my favorite training quotes is about recovery, and it's from John Meadows (who runs Mountain Dog Diet).

As far as I know, I first came across it here:

"Training is like digging a ditch. Recovery is about filling that ditch, and adding a little bit more." - John Meadows, quoted by Jim Wendler in 2012 in Review.

I've heard a few variations of it. Usually it gets simplified to "Training is digging a hole, recovery is filling it."

It's a fantastic way to look at training, especially as you look older.

You need to build your recovery into your workouts. Not in the "rest between sets" sense but in the "rest in your workout schedule" sense.

It's a slow-and-steady approach, at heart. Don't do anything you can't recover from. If you push extra-hard, leave in some extra space to recover.

What I like about the metaphor is that it also tells you that minimal work with maximal recovery isn't going to cut it. You have to work. But you can't crush yourself day in, day out, and expect results over the long haul. You just aren't spending any time filling that hole.

I use this metaphor a lot with clients these days. I keep it mind myself. Work, get your training in, make some progress toward your goal. Then rest and recover. Don't mistake digging for filling and vice-versa, and make sure you do enough of both - in balance.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Larger Muscles Are Stronger?

It might seem obvious to people outside training/gym rat/strength trainer circles, but it might be that larger muscles are stronger than smaller muscles:

A Larger Muscle is a Stronger Muscle Due to Increased Strength and Leverage

There is a myth of "non-functional" muscle, based on the idea that you can be less muscular than someone else but stronger. Also, your body can grow muscle in more than one way, so not all muscle growth is equally useful for all purposes.

But the article I linked to above includes the summary of a study that says, basically, yes, larger is stronger. Larger muscles have more leverage, all things being equal.

It's nice to have scientific research backing the concept. Tested proof is a useful thing. But it's full circle - yes, bigger muscles are probably stronger. And if you're strong without bigger muscles, you'll be stronger with them. All things being equal.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Women Weightlifting article

I just wanted to share this article that came up over on CBS's website:

Women weightlifters challenge stereotypes: "It's cool to be strong"


Why I like this article:

- it's about competitive lifting.

- it has a great before and after training picture of one of the women. I often get the "I don't want to bulk up" concern. It's not going to happen, generally, unless you make "bulking up" the focus of your training and diet. But side-by-side pictures of a woman putting on 20 pounds and leaning out and looking nothing but better = a great example to show beginning female trainees.

- It has this great quote: "[ . . .] I've learned that strong feels so much better than skinny [. . . ]" Yes, yes it does. Strong feels better than fat or skinny, and I've been all three at one time or another. Strong is capable, and capability is attractive to yourself and to others.

The article does conflate "weightlifting" with "powerlifting," however. Lifting weights, or weight lifting, are training practices. "Weightlifting" is an Olympic sport, and it's not the same as powerlifting, which is a non-Olympic and very different sport. It's okay, though, I did the same for years myself.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Training Terminology: Jacked vs. Jacked Up

One term you'll hear pretty often in the training world is "jacked." It has two very different uses. Add or subtract the word "up" and it goes from "jacked" to "jacked up."

Being jacked means being well-built. Strong, large muscles, well defined, and otherwise in shape. For example: "I started squatting and my legs got totally jacked!" This is a positive.

Being jacked up means being injured, hurt, or working through impeded movement. "I got jacked up from squatting with my knees collapsing in." This is a negative.

These aren't one-meaning-per-person either. You will hear the same trainer, trainee, or athlete say, "I got all jacked up playing my sport, but then I rehabbed and started lifting right and got totally jacked!"

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Eric Cressey Side-Lying External Rotation video

I love these little gems of coaching information from Eric Cressey.

Eric Cressey is the guy you'd go to for shoulder or elbow trouble. He has, by a combination of amazing knowledge, practical experience, and personal experience, made himself into a shoulder-and-elbow (and most of everything else) expert.

He also puts out these short, to-the-point videos dealing with common exercise errors.

This one deals with a common and effective rotater cuff exercise, the side lying external rotation (sometimes called the side lying L-fly).

Troubleshooting the Side-Lying External Rotation

What I like about it is the tweaks to make it more effective, and easy ways to detect error. Most rotator cuff exercises are easy to "cheat" by accident. If you have an RC issue, it's probably because you have something wrong and found a way to compensate. You will likely keep unconsciously compensating to complete any exercises you're doing to fix that compensation. With the tweaks in the video above, you'll feel the actual intended target muscle working better. For a rehab exercise, that's critical - the goal is to get the "team" of muscles working together properly, not just do a movement.

That's a great little video, and Eric Cressey's blog is always full of useful information. It's mostly aimed from one coach to another, but it's applicable to people of all levels of experience.
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