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, November 30, 2011

Congratulations - big DLs

I'd like to congratulate my clients Tom and Pete the Fireman on some heavy trap bar deadlifts this past Monday.

Tom pulled a 20-point PR of 555 pounds.

Pete pulled 505 pounds, which is his first 500+ deadlift, and is also well clear of 3x his bodyweight of around 160. Last time he tried to pull a new PR he got 455 but couldn't even move 475.

As if they need it, I just sent them the link to this article by Mike Robertson. It's got five useful tips for deadlifting.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Upping your Pullups

There is a nice article Mike Guadango from DeFranco's Training Systems up on T-Nation.

Time to Up Your Pullups

I've got personal experience with Mike - he's trained me. His own pullup numbers are excellent and he's demonstrated an ability to improve other people's pullup totals.

The progression to a pullup if you can't do one is good, too, although it does require a bit of equipment (rings, a place to do horizontal rows, etc.)

It's also got a nice collection of pullup variations at the end - including band-resisted (a favorite of Pete the Fireman) and correctly-labeled one-handed pullups (often mistaken for one-arm pullups).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

One-Arm Pushup

One of my clients has a goal of re-achieving the one-arm pushup. So I've started to bury myself in tutorials so I can help him reach his goal. Here is where I started.

Beastskills One Arm Pushup Tutorial


World's Strongest Librarian's One Arm Pushup Tutorial

If there are others I need to consult, let me know in the comments!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Weighted Hip Hinge

I'm a big fan of kettlebell swings, but I find the name throws people. They feel like they need to really swing the weight, using a lot of arm and back muscle to lift it. "How high do I swing it?" is a pretty common question.

I've started teaching new clients the move as the "weighted hip hinge." First I'll show them the motion, unweighted, and then add a kettlebell. My cues are typical - head up, chest up, pull the hips back and hinge at the hips and let the knees follow. Keep a solid arch. Hike the weight back.

I tell them to just let the weight hang, and not worry about where it goes. When they "hip hinge" repeatedly and quickly, it'll swing. The motion is the same but removing the term "swing" seems to keep people from concentrating on the arc of the kettlebell and instead keeps them concentrating on their hip and back position, which is the key.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review: CFF Drag Harness

I recently purchased a sled and dragging vest from Christian's Fitness Factory. While I have not yet been able to use the sled, I have been using the vest.

CFF Dragging Harness
Price: $29.99

What does it come with? The harness also comes with a dragging line for a sled of any kind.

The dragging line is a bit annoying, because the carabiners don't sit longways with the end of the line, but sideways. This means the lines don't pull smoothly forward and backward - you can see it in the illustration of the drag line on the harness's page. This doesn't seem to affect pulling performance but it seems lie it would eventually impact the longevity of the carabiners.

How does it fit? It goes on easily. The (plastic) buckle adjusts easily but grabs tight, and the straps stay where you put them. The padded shoulder portions are comfortable and wide, and distribute weight well when it's buckled properly.

If you buckle it a bit too tight, you'll feel most of the weight from the dragged object in your abs and chest. It's uncomfortable with the buckle pressing down on your chest. However, if you adjust it more loosely, the weight rides properly on your chest and shoulders.

It is also easy to put on and take off, even on a client with a shoulder/arm injury, which means it's easy to superset in sled drags instead of just "set up, do these, move on to the next thing." This is a very good thing when using the harness as a training tool for more than one person, too - I can easily use one vest with two clients and swap it back and forth with a one-buckle adjustment. This is much faster than a weight belt with a tow strap fed through it.

4 out of 5. On the Ironmind-like you-can-use-this-to-drag-a-plane-is-a-5 scale, this isn't the best it could be. But it's very solid, and it seems to be holding up to heavy use so far. The weave and construction are good, too, and none of the parts seem cheap or poorly made. It's well made.

Overall: If you need an inexpensive harness, this is a good one.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Law of Duplication of Exercises

When I train people, I often duplicate exercises. That is, I set up X for one client, so other clients do X or a variation of X.

For example, I had three clients in a row recently. The first one did a rope pull/prowler push combination, heavy, for strength. Hand-over-hand rope pulls with the Econo Prowler, and the push it back. Repeat repeatedly.

The next client was also supposed to do the Prowler for conditioning. So as a change of pace - and because it was all set up - I had this client do the same exercise. I made it lighter and pushed a faster pace to get more of a conditioning effect.

The last client wasn't supposed to do the Prowler at all, but it was all set up . . . and that client needed to do a heavy leg exercise. So I took the rope off, hooked up a tow line to the Prowler, and added a pile of additional weight and had the client drag it.

None of this would have worked out this way if I hadn't had to set up the Econo Prowler and tie the rope on for the first client. All of them would have done something, but not all do the same thing with minor changes.

In every case, the exercise is fit into the appropriate spot and customized to the client. The load varies, the reps and rests vary, the exact usage varies. All are sufficient to get a training effect in the way the client most needs it. But rather than set up, say, heavy rows and then low-handle prowler pushes, and light prowler pushes for cardio, and a squat, I used the same tool. Lower setup time, each client hit a variation they don't see that often, and everyone got something out of it.

It's a time-saver for a trainer, but the primary consideration is still this: get the client the training effect the client needs, without risk or harm.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Recovering from Injuries

Tim Henriques has an excellent new article on this subject over on T-Nation. It's fairly basic but it's step-by-step advice for coming back from injury.

Step-by-Step Approach to Coming Back from an Injury

Warning: T-Nation is NSFW, and the images in the article are of traumatic sports injuries in progress. Very much ouch.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Offset Bulgarian Split Squat

Buried in an otherwise normal (but well-written) article about squats, Tony Gentilcore demonstrates an offset Bulgarian split squat.



Thursday, November 3, 2011

Book Review: From Russia With Tough Love

From Russia With Tough Love is yet another kettlebell book by Pavel Tsatsouline, kettlebell guru. I've reviewed a couple of his books before, but I hadn't gotten my hands on this one until just recently. It's a kettlebell book aimed squarely at women, and features two female RKCs (Russian Kettlebell Certified) as the models for all of the exercises.

Like his other books, it's written with a mix of "no excuses, Comrades!" Soviet-era callbacks and rock-solid training advice. Unfortunately, it magnifies some of the faults of earlier books without adding much to the canon.

This book largely covers the kettlebell box squat, clean, military press, one-arm deadlift (and one-legged deadlift), and snatch, all with kettlebells. The details on these exercises is outstanding, and while it does heavily repeat earlier books, it is written as if this was your first exposure. This is good because it doesn't assume any base of knowledge. It also doesn't sugar coat this - training is hard work, and while this is effective and doesn't require training to exhaustion you are only getting out what you put in.

The exercises are also well-pictured, with clear illustrations that exactly match the text, button-pictures differentiating bad form from good form, and easy to follow instructions.

But sadly the book also has even more ads for Pavel's other books and courses, more ads for his friend's books and courses, and even more forum quotes from the forums. This would be cool if it was interspersed as the occasional testimonial, but pages and pages of it? Often it's just a question, or a comment, or a "kettlebells are awesome!" me-too post, which don't add much besides a sense of community.

The book also has some sloppy editing. This sloppy editing shows up in a couple of places - besides boxed text that tracks across multiple pages, you also get text that either just ends (pg. 18) or begins (p. 122) out of nowhere. It also leads to some oddness - the book repeatedly mentions toning (keeping muscles lean and under tension even when you are relaxed) and strength without bulk. But some of the forum posts quoted mention adding strength, thickness, and muscular weight gain . . . so which is it? It can clearly be both, but it's hard to reconcile "do this and you won't get bigger than you want to" and "this is a great way to get bigger muscles" - and those two basic ideas show up a lot.

Content: 3 out of 5. What is there is excellent - very high quality instruction on kettlebell exercises. But it's very heavily padded out with quoted Dragondoor forum posts, testimonial posts, long digressions with text errors that make them hard to follow.
Presentation: 2 out of 5. The text is easy to read, the pictures clear, and the good/bad/optional extra icons are nice. But the book is a mess organizationally, there are multiple trailing off sentences and sentences that start nowhere, and a total lack of text flow.

Overall: All of Pavel's books have two things in common - excellent material and a high price. The others I've read have been much better put together, however, and the instruction wasn't so padded out with extras. This book is very high quality information crammed in between poorly organized forum quotes and useless filler. This is too bad because the instruction that is there is gold. Not recommend - check out his other books instead!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

More Fitness Myths Debunked

I'm not a huge fan of myth debunking, since I think it's generally better to tell people what is correct than what is wrong.

But it's very nice to see more "mainstream" (non-industry, non-niche, non-fitness focused) news coverage that has correct and useful training information in it.

I'm not sure what's up with the formatting in this article, but the information is quite good:

Top 10 fitness myths by Sally Rummel
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