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, January 31, 2012

Training in Dysfunction

When you strength train - or endurance train - or skill train - when you have a functional imbalance or a dysfunctional, what happens?

By a functional imbalance, I mean either one stronger muscle is covering for a weak one, or a side-to-side imbalance (strong left arm, weaker right, or a similar case). By a dysfunction I mean some specific issue resulting from the above or from other causes - rounded shoulders, pronated feet, cocked hips, etc.

(Please note these are my own definitions for purposes of this post, not widely accepted definitions of these terms)

So when you train while in this state, are you correcting the problem or are you training in dysfunction?

The question is simply that - if your chest is weak but your shoulders are strong and you bench press, does the chest "catch up" or does it continue to push less than its fair share of the load with each rep? If you've got a side to side imbalance and you squat, do the sides "even out" or do they keep their (for example) 40/60 split, just at progressive loads?

With a dysfunction, the idea is that if your calf is locked up and your knee is handling all side-to-side movement that your ankle should handle, you need to free it up. If not, when you train side-to-side movement you're cementing in that knee substitution. If the knee can't handle the cumulative stress, it will go. If you've got "sleeping" glutes due to sitting all day and do a deadlift, do they "wake up" and handle the load or offload it on your back?

The idea here is that practice makes permanent. Strength training over a dysfunction will simply reinforce that dysfunction. You'll make a stronger, but still incorrectly working, set of muscles and groove an incorrect movement pattern.

In Part II I'll discuss some ideas about how to deal with this.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Trap Bar Deadlifts

Over on T-Nation, my favorite dead lift variation has gotten a really nice article:

The Trap Bar Deadlift

This article makes a case for the deadlift as a superior lift. I'm not ready to argue the trap bar deadlift is better than the regular deadlift. But it's definitely easier to coach, and cue, and for many people, to do. And it'll build leg and back strength.

I use the trap bar deadlift with my clients almost exclusively for those reasons (plus it doesn't require scraping a bar up the shins, which not so oddly bothers some lifters).

The article has a few good videos and text descriptions of the main lift and its variations, and if you're trap bar deadlifting please take a look at this one.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Points of failure and priority

Every exercise has a failure point - a weakness in the exerciser that limits his or her ability to continue to execute it.

So what does that mean when you program an exercise into your plan that has a specific point of failure?

I believe it means that you've prioritized that point of failure.

Your point of failure is your priority. Whatever fails first, and causes you to lose good form and stop, or just plain fails, is what you are prioritizing. Regardless of what the exercise is supposed to do, what it's doing is working on that specific weakness - or at the very least exposing it.

For example, is a deadlift a leg exercise or a back exercise? It's both, but if you fail because of tired legs it's not really working your back to the utmost, so your legs are your failure point.

You can use this in training for a variety of purposes.

For example, a person with poor shoulder endurance doing suspended pushups (with rings, say, or any similar training device). What will give out first is the ability of the shoulders to stabilize the body's position. So even if the triceps and chest can crank out more reps, the shoulders can't keep the rings in position and you cannot continue. This oddly makes it safer for someone with shoulder stability issues than regular pushups, because the exerciser must stop when he or she is unable to stabilize the rings.

Another example is a farmer's walk. Does the weight fall out of your hands due to a weak grip? Then, ultimately, you've gotten some ab and leg and back work but your grip is getting the biggest workout. Your grip has become the point of priority, and it's worth considering this exercise as slotting in where you'd do grip work. Same with, say, fat grip work - you add it in to prioritize grip over anything else.

Your point of failure on an exercise is a "weak point" but it's also your priority.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Music to Train to

John Schaefer (famous NYC area music promoter and journalist) had a segment on his "Soundcheck" show today about music to exercise to.

It's not just "songs that rock" or something, it's pretty scientific, as the discussion involves a sports psychologist who studies the effects of music on athletics and training.

Let's Get Physical

No surprise, "Lose Yourself" by Eminem came up as effective both anecdotally and scientifically.
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