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.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Years 2012

About a year ago, I posted about New Year's Resolutions:

"1) It's better to have a goal that's well-defined than vague. It's easier to add 25 pounds to your deadlift or lose 5 pounds than to "get stronger" or "lose some weight." Why? It's quantifiable. You know if you've done it or failed - there is no middle ground.

2) It's better to set goals of action than goals of results. If you do have a goal set, it's better to set one based on what you'll do than what you'll get. "I will add 25 pounds to my deadlift" is fine but you can't control that. "I'll follow this specific deadlifting program for 6 months" is better." "I'll eat 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day before I'm allowed to have any dessert" is better than "I'll lose 5 pounds" - you can control the first one, but it's hard to control the second. You can control what you do better than you can control what you get by doing so.

3) If you do have a goal that is results-based, set a series of milemarks along the way. Not 5 pounds by next year, but 1/2 pound per month every month until 2012. Not 25 pounds on your deadlift, but 2.5 pounds per cycle for 10 cycles. Bite-sized portions keep you from biting off more than you can chew."

So, how did you do?

How will your resolutions look this year? More of the same, or did you build a base you can advance from?

Make that #4 on that list:

4) Resolve to build a foundation for the future. Don't make a temporary resolution, or something that you can gain and then easily lose. What good is it to lose 25 pounds if you put them back on? Instead, resolve to build a base of habits that will get you where you will go.

- Exercise three times a week.

- Have no more than one bad meal in a row.

- Eat fruits and vegetables at every meal.

- Save 10% of your paycheck, rain or shine, sales or no sales.

- Slowly increase the efficacy of your workout (progressive overload of some kind).

This way, next year, you're not resolve to do the same things over again. Set a concrete set of actions down and make them habits. You may find you don't need resolutions if you do this.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Plank World Record

A new world record plank:

George Hood held a plank for 1 hour, 20 minutes and 5.01 seconds.

Matching that will be tough, but why not try a plank and see how long you can hold it?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Donward Dog for Health

Yoga is often the whipping boy of strength training - it won't get you maximal strength. But there is an undeniable longevity to the training amongst participants. They don't generally drop out of yoga due to to injury. So it's interesting to see yoga getting its proper place in the mobility/movement for health approach that's been becoming the norm in strength training.

This post demonstrates downward dog, and makes a short but good case for its utility to non-yogi.

Thanks to Mike Robertson for finding this and including it in his newsletter.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Farmer's Walks redux

I've been doing a lot of unilateral (weight on one side) farmer's walks recently, and all of my clients do farmer's walks in some way at some time. Here are a few resources on this excellent exercise:

Jedd from Diesel Crew on Farmer's Walks

Shon Gross on Farmer's Walks on T-Nation

This post of mine has some tips and a link to Jim Smith's advice on farmer's walks.


Dan John on unilateral farmer's walks

Grab some weights and get carrying.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

CFF Sale

Christian's Fitness Factory is having a "12 Days of Christmas" sale.

You can see their sale items up on their homepage.

I've had nothing but good experiences with them, so I can't recommend them highly enough if they've got something you need. It's worth looking into their sales, it might be the best time of the year to pick up something you, your gym, or your clients need.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mark Rippetoe has a new deadlifting article up on T-Nation, here:

Are You Ignorant When it Comes to the Deadlift?

Probably written to coincide with the new, 3rd edition of Starting Strength, this article covers my favorite lift.

The article hits a number of points familiar to Mark Rippetoe's teachings on the deadlift:

It's done from a dead stop. Touch and go is nice, in my opinion anyway, but bouncing off the ground is bad. It's a dead lift, which means the weight is lifted from a dead stop.

The right setup will look different from person to person, but it will be mechanically the same (flat back, relatively narrow stance, chest up, etc.) One great thing about Mark Rippetoe's articles is that they all back the argument with sound mechanical discussions of the lift. It's not "because it's how it's done" but because gravity and mechanics will make it happen in a particular way so it behooves you to plan around that. Everyone will pull the bar up from mid-foot, everyone will drag it up the shins if it's heavy enough, everyone will have their scapula directly over the bar when it breaks the ground, etc. even if they aren't all built with the same proportions.

Highly recommended read.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Evaluating assistance work

Here is how I evaluate assistance work.

Does this add something to your overall athleticism and health?

Does this help improve your main lifts?

Is it safe to perform, either in general or for the person in specific?

If the answer these is yes, great, I include the assistance work. A lot of them fall down
hard on 2 and 3.

An example is rack pulls (a shortened deadlift). I find most of my clients have a problem not with lockout strength but with getting the weight off the floor in good form (or at all). Rack pulls help with the top of the deadlift, which isn't where they are failing, so I usually skip these and work on other things.

Another example are Pallof presses. I'm pretty well convinced these are very valuable for most of the population, both athletes and non-athletes. They are safe to perform, and while they may not clearly improve the "big lifts" of the trainee, they correlate pretty well to improved health, strength, and stability. So I include them. It doesn't worry me that an increased Pallof press doesn't seem to correlate with a higher deadlift or squat or more pullups. But as it goes up, other benefits accrue . . . so I find a way to rotate them in.
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