First up, an Under Armour shirt with several sensors built in (pictured above). Measuring things like heart rate, temperature and speed.
Recently we looked at the Radiate Athletics shirt on Kickstarter, which promises to change colour according to body temperature. Interesting idea.
Of course, added to the above are the various strength-assisting, compression and moisture wicking items that are seen in any number of gyms and competitions.
"A light workout that combines aerobic activity and resistance exercise 1 hour after your meal will reduce the post-prandial concentration of triglycerides in your blood"
Triglycerides (TG) are a type of fat (lipid) that circulates in our blood. When we eat a meal, our tissues use some calories immediately. The calories that are not used are converted to TG which are then transported and stored into our fat cells. When our body needs energy between meals, it taps into its fat reserves by releasing TG from the fat cells into the blood stream. Hormones regulate the level of TG in our blood. Yet, certain diseases, namely obesity and diabetes, disrupt this hormonal regulation and lead to high TG in the blood. High TG increases your risk for atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke (cardiovascular disease—CVD).
When it comes to measuring the TG levels health professionals typically look at fasting TG levels. In this case, TG are obtained after an overnight fast. Normal fasting TG levels should be lower than 150mg/dL. If your fasting TG are high you can lower them through diet and lifestyle changes. Exercise as well as limiting alcohol, fat and sugar, are effective ways to lower TG. Also, if you are overweight, and you follow a healthy weight loss diet your fasting TG will come back to normal levels. Diets where carbohydrates account for more than 60% of total energy intake, can increase TG levels, in which case a carb controlled diet plan may be prescribed.
TG are elevated in our blood for a few hours after we eat a meal. For some people, TG may rise to abnormally high levels in their blood after they eat a meal. Studies have found that it’s not only the fasting TG but also the nonfasting TG levels that can increase the risk for CVD. A Denmark study found that the more the TG increases after a meal the more likely an individual will develop myocardial infraction and ischemic heart disease. We definitely need to keep our post-meal (post-prandial) TG levels low.
How do you keep the post-prandial TG levels low? Studies so far have shown that exercise (i.e brisk running, walking, or resistance exercise) performed before a meal can suppress the elevation of post-prandial TG. But this new study found exercise after a meal can rip the same benefits with regards to TG.
Many of us who aspire to become stronger, faster, and in better condition, tend to neglect our diet. This article will elaborate on the diet aspect and specifically the importance of eating breakfast.
"Most people eat 150% more calories in the evening than they do in the morning."
When it comes to eating, recent research shows that it’s not only what we eat that is important but when we eat. In fact, the time of the day we eat:
This article will focus on the second element—the time of the day we eat affects our overall calorie consumption—and will arouse interest to those of us who want to eat less and lose fat.
We may have been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it appears that most of us don't give it the attention we should. In fact, most people eat 150% more calories in the evening than they do in the morning. Interestingly, when those who consume most of their calories in the morning are compared with those who eat a larger portion of their daily intake at night, morning eaters are found to consume fewer calories overall , suggesting that placing an emphasis on breakfast may help people eat less. It turns out that people are less satisfied by food later in the day, resulting in them eating larger meals closer together and taking in more calories overall. This suggests that it may be more than a coincidence that the modern trend toward later eating and an increase in the prevalence of obesity and overweight are taking place together.
It appears that the time of day one eats impacts overall calories, but how does the type of food eaten factor in? This is the question Dr. John M. de Castro set out to answer, taking a closer look at the relationship between overall daily intake and the proportions of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) eaten at certain times of day . For a solid week, 867 individuals recorded everything they ate or drank, along with the time of day it was consumed, the amount consumed, and the way the food was prepared. This data was then examined to determine how the characteristics of the food eaten during different times of the day impacted the overall amount of food the study participants ate.
Supporting the folk wisdom that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, the analysis revealed that eating more of a macronutrient in the morning was associated with a smaller overall intake of that macronutrient over the course of the day. To determine more precisely which macronutrients had the largest impact on the satiety properties of breakfast, intake was also compared across days. Total overall consumption was compared for days when a participant's morning meal contained less of a particular macronutrient than usual and days when the morning meal contained more than usual. The results showed that each macronutrient has an impact on daily consumption as follows:
These results confirm that morning meals, which people find particularly satisfying and filling, can lead them to eat less food over the course of a day. In contrast, eating at night is less satiating and can result in a greater overall intake of food. This is true for all three macronutrients—individuals who ate more of each macronutrient in the morning tended to eat less over the course of the day. Furthermore, it appears that the carbohydrate content of breakfast is primarily responsible for its ability to satisfy, while the carbohydrate and fat content of foods eaten in the evening are responsible for the impact of those meals.
Could encouraging people to eat the majority of their daily intake of food in the morning be an effective way to lose unnecessary fat? The evidence seems to suggest so.
Therefore, eat a carbohydrate-rich breakfast, because research shows that eating a full breakfast helps you better control the overall calories you consume daily.
Carrying extra fat is associated with skipping breakfast and eating later in the day , and only 4% of those who have lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off report skipping breakfast .
In fact, the science shows that an increase of 1 calorie of carbohydrate or fat in the morning results in 1 fewer calorie of food being ingested overall throughout the day. That means, a person who eats a 500-calorie breakfast consumes 100 calories less over the day than a person who eats a 400-calorie breakfast. In study participants, a carbohydrate-rich breakfast resulted in a reduced intake of approximately 108 calories per day, amounting to a projected 11-pound fat loss over one year.
While simply eating more in the morning seems to be associated with eating less overall, focusing on certain macronutrients appears to make a difference as well. People who eat breakfasts high in carbohydrates tend to have a lower BMI than those who skip breakfast or eat a high-protein breakfast , and children who eat breakfasts cereals that are high in carbohydrates tend to have lower body weights . This accumulation of evidence suggests that eating a breakfast high in carbohydrates, restricting evening eating, and eating low-energy-density foods may be the optimal dietary pattern—and one that could result in the easy loss of 11 pounds per year.
"It is generally believed that if more than 15 repetitions per set are possible, the weight is too light to stimulate maximal growth."
This is why the commonly prescribed regime for muscle mass is 8-12 reps at >70% of one repetition maximum, while for shape and definition the prevailing approach is that of 15-25 reps to failure using lighter weights.
But is there any research to support the notion that heavy weights are indeed required for muscle increase? Has anybody ever proven that lighter weights are similarly, if not more effective, in stimulating muscle growth? The truth is that current beliefs on the effectiveness of heavy weight training are based mainly on empirical evidence. From a physiological point of view, we know very little as to how heavier training loads would result in greater muscle hypertrophy than lighter weights lifted to the point of fatigue.
Research has come to challenge and stir debate on what we have so far considered a requirement for muscle hypertrophy. According to recent studies, it appears that heavy resistance (high intensity) is not a pre-requisite for muscle hypertrophy. In fact, volume, not intensity, could be where the secret to fast muscle growth lies.
In a 2010 study, researchers from the McMaster University (Canada), and the University of Nottingham (UK) attempted to determine how intensity and volume affect muscle growth. Specifically, they compared which of the two -intensity or volume - triggers the highest protein synthesis, anabolic signalling and gene expression in the muscle tissue.
In this study, the researchers asked 15 men to perform 4 sets of leg extensions either with high intensity or with high volume. All men were familiar with this type of exercise as they engaged in lower body resistance training for more than 6 months before the experiment.
The participants performed the 4 sets of leg extensions, resting for 3 minutes between each set, in two different ways as far as the intensity and volume are concerned. In the first way, the intensity was set at 90% of 1 repetition maximum (1RM) and the exercise was performed until failure (90FAIL). In the second way, the intensity was set at 30% of 1RM until failure (30FAIL). Failure was reached when an additional full repetition could not be completed due to fatigue.
As it was expected, in the 90FAIL condition the weight the participants could lift was heavy (80kg) but they could lift it for only a few times (5 reps on average) in each set. In the 30FAIL condition, though, where resistance was set 3 times lower (28kg), the times the weight was lifted increased 5 fold (24 reps). The exercise volume of each condition, which was determined by multiplying the repetitions accomplished by the load (kg) lifted, was higher in the 30FAIL condition (1073) than in the 90FAIL one (710).
We know that weight lifting stimulates the production of skeletal muscle proteins. As a result, our muscles grow (hypertrophy). Therefore, by measuring the rate of protein synthesis we can indirectly assess how exercise may affect muscle size.
There are two types of muscular hypertrophy: Myofibrillar, which refers to the contractile component of the muscle cell and results in strength increase rather than size increase, and Sarcoplasmic which refers to the non-contractile component of the muscle cell and results in size increase rather than strength increase.
Researchers examined whether intensity (90FAIL) or volume (30FAIL) resulted in greater activation of protein synthesis in the muscle cells of the participants' quadriceps. Specifically, they looked at both myofibrillar and sarcoplamic protein synthesis. The protein synthesis was measured at rest (before the exercise), at 4 hours-, and 12 hours-post exercise.
As the graph shows, at 4 hours, myofibrillar protein synthesis was elevated in both conditions to almost the same degree. However, protein synthesis was sustained at 24 hours only in the 30FAIL protocol.
Similar results were obtained when sarcoplasmic protein synthesis, and several genes and proteins involved in anabolic signaling were studied.
What does this mean? Simply, low-load high volume weight lifting (30FAIL) is more effective at activating muscle protein synthesis than high-load low volume weight lifting (90FAIL).
Does this mean that low intensity high volume resistance training makes a muscle bigger and stronger, too? Perhaps, it does. In order to find out if this unexpected effect of low-load high volume on protein synthesis leads to increased muscle size and performance, researchers did another experiment.
These sound great.
Personal Trainer extraordinaire Derek 'D-Rock' Peruo is currently putting together various supplement kits, designed to provide regular doses of everything needed to help attain a particular goal. The video below will give you the overall idea :
For more information on the kits themselves (available soon!), pricing and so on - head over to the site at :
And yes, we'll be reviewing these just as soon as they're available. Fantastic.
Come and say hello at :
The Straight to the Bar Community page : https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/100569524789778696565
See you there.
We've noted a number of superb resources - books, DVDs, equipment, workshops and sites - in the Strength & Fitness Newsletter this year. Here are a few personal favourites.Precision Nutrition Fat Loss Crash Course.
If one of your goals is to shed a bit of excess fat, but you're not quite sure what to do/where to start, have a look at the Precision Nutrition Fat Loss Crash Course. Absolutely free.
A compilation of training strategies from some of the heaviest players in the Iron Game. This is training the old-fashioned way - heavy weights, good food and plenty of recovery. Beautiful.
Maik's take on the strength-training world is not exactly mainstream; but it's certainly well-supported and highly effective. Good stuff.
Well made, nice and tough, fast, and they can certainly handle heavy loads. Perfect.
Advanced bar moves, handstand push-ups and a whole lot more.
Love a spot of Rock Climbing? Check this out.
If you've ever been told you have a condition like Tennis Elbow or Golfer's Elbow, you need this. Brilliant.
The second Super Human Workshop was truly incredible, and a look at the many people involved will show you exactly why. To say there was some fantastic information shared is an understatement. Loved it.
If you've ever tried any of the StrongerGrip gear (and if you're a grip fan, you absolutely need to give it a run - superb equipment), you'll certainly appreciate this. After being in the works for years, the StrongerGrip Modular Grip System is finally ready for prime time.
As goals go, this one was certainly ambitious :
Physicist Francis Slakey committed himself to climbing the highest peak on every continent and surfing every ocean.
This is a glimpse at that incredible goal, and the various challenges he encountered along the way.
Suffice to say that if you enjoy a bit of stone work from time-to-time, this DVD should definitely be in your collection.
I love reading books from people who have 'walked the walk', and Andy Bolton's certainly done that. Supersize Your Strength is simply a 16 week training program helping you to replicate that tremendous strength in your own training.
RunTarget is an application for your smartphone that keeps track of where you are, and how fast you are running at any point in time. Well worth checking out.
Club swinging is fantastic, but where do you start? Right here.
Want to lift more weight, and get seriously strong abs in the process? Grab this.
I slipped my S1 disc in my back and pinched my sciatic nerve about a month ago. I did the same thing about 3 years ago, but this time around it is taking a lot longer to heal. I love heavy lifting with natural objects and homemade equipment, but I am nervous to try anything until my back is completely healed. My chiropractor says that the "only" way to strengthen those specific muscles in my back, is to use some fancy machine they have that targets those specific muscles that costs almost $100 per visit. Needless to say, I do not believe him. I would like to ask the straight to the bar community what they would recommend that I start with to get my back healed up so I can continue lifting. By the way, I am only 27, so giving up lifting now is WAY too soon for me.
Over to you. Have you ever experienced anything similar, and is there a particular course of action you'd recommend?
In terms of exercise in general, excessive reliance upon the act of exercising is termed exercise dependence. According to Hamer and Karageorghis (3), it is characterized by an obsessive and unhealthy preoccupation with exercise. Research has focused largely on the behavioral aspect of it but little research has been done on the biological process that takes place.
The Affect Regulation Model states that running serves as a positive feeling enhancer and a negative feeling enhancer. It focuses on two types of runners, one who runs to reduce their distress and one that runs to increase the positive feeling (3).
The research also shows the abstinence of running increases the negative feeling, which can only be alleviated with exercise - thereby reinforcing the need to exercise more.
Exercise Dependence can also disrupt social relationships that indirectly affect psychological health.
Based on the DSM IV categorisation, exercise dependence was found to have the same characteristics as drug dependence. These include tolerance, withdrawal symptoms from complete cessation of an exercise routine, and lack of control - an intense need or want to exercise beyond what is considered normal and routine (1).
So, how do we build the diamond shaped calves we crave?
First off: train your calves. Sounds simple but think about it. How many people in the gym train their legs properly? By that I do not mean 20 sets of leg extensions and abductor machine but squats, step ups, lunges etc. See. Out of those few athletes, most of them either do not train calves at all or add a couple half -assed sets in the end of the workout, when they are spent as is.
That leaves us with the last of the Mohicans, those that train their calves diligently multiple times a week, with different rep ranges and various loading schemes. Those are also the ones, who, lo and behold, have good calves.
That being said, let's move on and have a look at the different options to train calves. Just to clarify, when talking about training calves, one usually means training the soleus and gastrocnemius.
First there is the seated calf raise, which isn't one of my favorites since it to soleus dominant.
Second would be the standing calf raise, which involves the both muscles but can be uncomfortable when there is a lot of weight on your back.
Third option are the calf sled or leg press. These are my personal favorites since you can get a deep stretch, which is need to tear the fascia and create new growth in the muscle.
Lastly, there are jump squats. This is a fantastic, yet forgotten exercise. Hereby you load a barbell with about 25% of your regular squat weight and perform explosive squats where you end up on the tip of your toes.
So I prefer the calf sled and the leg press, but that's just me.
During my research, I was also astonished by learning about how too much water can cause the kidneys to become overloaded and shut down and if not treated then eventually could lead to death.
In terms of the amount of sodium intake one should ingest on a daily basis, the basic understanding is that too much sodium will cause the body to withhold water that may have implications on one's overall health when referring to conditions such as high blood pressure.
Therefore, the rationale is to cut back on salt in any form to daily levels below 2400mg. However, the research is different for athletes based on their activity level and the environment that these athletic events take place.
Athletes are encouraged to begin exercise well hydrated and to consume sufficient amounts of appropriate fluids during exercise to limit water and salt deficits (Maughan, & Shirreffs, 2008).
Available evidence suggests that many athletes begin exercise already dehydrated to some degree, and although most fail to drink enough to match sweat losses, some drink too much and a few develop hyponatremia - a condition that affects the way the kidneys excrete water (2008).
There is a tendency to replenish the water due to the initial sensation of thirst and by then the body is severely dehydrated. The athlete then tries to make up the perceived deficit by ingesting fluids over a shorter period of time, which leads to the stated condition.
A water loss equivalent to 2% or more of body mass appears to reduce endurance exercise performance in both temperate and hot environments especially when the duration of the exercises is around 90 min or more. It has been reported that oral replacement of even 50% of a 4% body mass loss during a 20min break was effective in restoring exercise capacity (2008).
More on the 'how' in a minute. First, a little history.
Circuit Training was first developed by R.E. Morgan and G.T. Anderson at the University of Leeds in 1953. The idea was simple :
A circuit consists of 9 to 12 stations (circuits consisting of fewer stations are often used now), with each station representing one exercise. At each station an exercise is performed, with a specific resistance and for a specific number of reps.
Work at each station takes 30-60 seconds, after which, the trainee moves directly to the next station on the circuit (with no break) and begins the exercise. An aerobics station requiring 15-180 seconds of work is placed between the main exercise stations.
This original formula has changed little over the years, and has benefited from occasional refinements rather than a complete redesign. For example, it is now common to see people performing circuits with fewer than 9 stations, and circuits where all exercises are themed (such as boxing in boxercise).
A decade later, a system called Peripheral Heart Action (PHA) was developed by Dr Arthur Steinhaus, and popularised by bodybuilder Bob Gajda. Although it's often confused with circuit training, the goals are somewhat different.
In PHA, trainees seek to keep the blood flowing strongly through the body, throughout the entire workout. The smaller muscles around the heart are worked on first, followed by the larger muscles around the body's periphery.
Although the basic structure of a PHA workout is similar to that used in Circuit Training, there is a key difference in approach. In PHA, exercises are selected that will enable the trainer to pump blood to the extreme ends of the body, aiding overall circulation and seeking to reduce a build-up of lactic acid.
As an example, here is a 'typical' PHA workout. Note that the exercises alternate between focusing on upper and lower body muscle groups, with different areas being worked each time.
These exercises would collectively comprise one cycle, with 5-6 cycles generally being performed. The resistance of each exercise is increased for each new cycle.
Each exercise is performed for 10-12 repetitions, with the trainee moving directly onto the next exercise at the culmination.
Well it has been 18 months since I opened the Terminal City Barbell Club. I could lie and say it has been easy and everything has rolled along smoothly but I thought instead I would share a few hard-earned insights:
- Keep doing work. Do not wait for a "great idea". Digging into the mundane is where inspiration and better ideas will emerge. I have espoused this philosophy in the past when it comes to writing but it only struck me the other day that it equally applies to running my gym. And really, even without an inspired marketing campaign just getting something done ensures that "something" gets done.
- Be very clear on what you want to do and whom you want to train. You are not working for a globo-gym for a reason. Remember that reason. You've got to keep your heart in the work. Also, in this field, it seems like people appreciate a specialized environment. If you are highly-specialized, however, then make sure you have a big enough population base to survive or find a secondary income source. Take away point: pursue specialization but not over-specialization.
- Be open to the unexpected. I was very happy to have a women in her early-60s show up at my gym for her first session and pull out her weightlifting shoes. She was totally keen on the barbell lifts and she was prepared, without me even mentioning the right shoes for the job. What I am getting at, I think, is that despite knowing "who" you are reaching out to you will be surprised by remarkable individuals who do not fit the mould of an aspiring strength-athlete.
- Keep your expenses as low as humanly possible. Rent the smallest space that is practical. You might not need the Eleiko plates to start with. Or the really cool $40 collars (I bought two pairs). Buy the best bars you can afford though, and proper plates.
- Avoid going into debt. Mark Rippetoe and Steve Pulcinella have both written about how hard it is to make a decent living at this game. They are not bullshitting you. If making money is your priority then you might want to find another avenue for making it.
Is it something you feel you should be doing, but aren't exactly sure what it's all about?
Here's the perfect opportunity to find out what's what. Join John and I for Gymchat 175 - Stretching. Fantastic.
How do you get started? Before or after your workout? Is it really worth the effort?
This week we're going to discuss the various ways to get your stretch on, when to do it and the benefits of doing so. Helping us explore this fascinating topic is none other than Great Weight Lifting's John Cammidge.
Join John and I for Gymchat 175 - Stretching. Fantastic.
Stabilization is EXTREMELY important when attempting to tear cards; if you do not have a solid grip on the deck, cards will start slipping and just attempting to get a nice tear started will be close to impossible. "What can I do to counter act this?!" you ask... well I have some exercise suggestions that will improve not only your stabilization but also your crushing strength:
Crimp grip around the worlds are an incredible way to build not only stability but also endurance, crushing strength, and wrist strength. Position two five pound plates or two ten pound plates together (depending on your current strength levels, you might have to start off with the two fives to gauge) and place only your four fingers overtop of the combined plates in a sort of steering wheel set up. The image above shows the grip set up...
I recently visited the chiropractor's office because I had lower back pain, which I thought was brought on from sitting in my office chair 8 hours a day. Well, after the chiropractor analysed what was wrong she noticed my hips were slightly misaligned, she said it could be due to a tight muscle, which was probably in my legs, boy was she right!
She said the most common area for tightness is the hamstrings, so she started stretching and massaging mine. She started with the left hamstring, which was fine, then moved to the right, at that point I almost jumped from the mat. It was so painful and she informed me it was very tight, when she asked do you stretch I said yes, of course.
What I didn't realise is that I don't stretch enough, so I decided to create this post to help others understand the importance of stretching.
But if you're finding it tough to get time to work out or you're frustrated that every time you go to use something it's taken, then maybe a home gym is in the cards for you. I really couldn't stand it when guys would be using a piece of equipment and would take 5 minute breaks between each set to talk to their buddies. I'm knowledgeable enough to find something else similar to do when that happens but not everyone is.
So I finally got tired enough of paying gym memberships and always having to wait to use certain equipment and started collecting equipment that I could use at home. The gym I have now, in my opinion, is perfect but it didn't come all together right away. Unless you have a bundle of cash to burn it takes a bit of time to build up a collection of all the equipment you need.
Here's how I started: I bought dumbbells and a bench.
Boelts was a worker on the bicycle, Ullrich had more talent than anyone else during the last 50 years. But in terms of mental toughness and work ethic, nobody could touch Boelts. So he felt entitled to scream at his captain when he appeared to not give it his very all.
The unorthodox strategy paid off, Ullrich ended up winning the tour.
I train 3 times per week, every Monday, Wednesday & Friday. My primary goal is to build muscle size and my secondary goal is strength, so the rep ranges & weight percentages change depending on the workout day. I perform 3 working sets of each exercise, well apart from deadlift where I perform one working set.
On Mondays and Fridays I lift lighter, approximately 70-75% of my one rep max for 10-12 reps until form failure, my rest times between sets is 3-4 minutes, depending on the exercise. On Wednesday I lift approximately 80-85% of my one rep max for 8-10 reps until momentary muscular failure. My rest times on Wednesday's are between 4-5 minutes, depending on the exercise.
Deadlift: 1 set x 10-12 reps
Bench Press: 3 sets x 10-12 reps
Squat: 3 sets x 10-12 reps
Chin Ups 3 sets x 10-12 reps
Mid Rows 3 sets x 10-12 reps
Standing Push Presses 3 sets x 10-12 reps
The ab crunch machine is where it all started, from that point on I was bitten by the fitness bug. Although I was a little different, I was more interested in looking bigger and stronger compared to looking like a lean fitness model. So in the summer of 1997 at the young age of 12 I remember starting my fitness regime, I would run or cycle twice a week to keep up my fitness and to get stronger I did body weight exercises, such as pullups, press ups, sit ups etc. Doing this worked well, even at such a young age, but I quickly progressed and needed to take the next step - lifting weights.
So, for my 14th birthday my parents bought me something I had wanted since I started my fitness regime, a set of dumbbells. I was ecstatic, I had a set of dumbbells totalling 50lbs, I was finally ready to start lifting weights. For the next couple of weeks I read books on the many different exercises you can do with dumbbells, I must have tried 50 or more exercises, most of which I can't even remember. My favorite of all exercises was the dumbbell biceps curl, which I'm sure is a favorite for many young guys. I distinctly remember doing dumbbell curls twice a week in my bedroom, I remember curling 10lbs each arm for 2 minutes, resting for 30 seconds then starting again for another 2 minutes, I did this for a total of 30 minutes!
Over the past week or so I have gotten into a groove of watching youtube videos of strength and conditioning coaches training their athletes. One thing that has come to my attention is that in this day and age of training with all the "innovative training" and "functional training" methods out on the market today, it has really taken away from the fundamental development of athletes. What I mean by this is that trainers have outfitted their gyms with all these new training tools/fancy toys that supposedly give them an advantage over the competitors.
However, I see these tools becoming the standard to training which is extremely concerning for me considering that the use of these tools takes away from building a solid foundation of movement and strength.
If you are unsure about what I am writing about I will give you an example; the use of sleds, parachutes and other resistance running or even accelerated running tools on the market today should NOT be used on athletes that still need to learn how to run! You do not need anything but space to teach an athlete how to run properly, and even run an effective training session that will have excellent results. The truth is, only a very small percentage of people become 'experts' in movement (running, lateral movement, etc) and until someone becomes an expert the growth, development, and improvement of an athlete's running mechanics can and will improve immensely with just the training without the use of any tools.
First of all, what are when people do shrugs they tend to think only about the small area that's actually visible toward the ears (unless you are Johnny Jackson, then that part is huge).
But if you be so inclined and look at the graphic, you will notice that the traps are quite big and cover a large part of your back.
Secondly, the traps elevate and lower the shoulder blades so the traditional way of rolling the shoulders back and forth is not a good idea. Get a feeling for moving your shoulder blades without engaging the arms. A good idea is to have a training partner touch you in the lower trap area while doing reverse shrugs at the lat pull down.
On a side note, I find this an extremely helpful technique with so-called out of sight muscles such as hamstrings, traps or midback. Studies have shown that each set becomes about 30% more effective, if we have the sensation of the touch on the working muscle. Quite neat.
People usually do not have any problems feeling the visible part of the traps, but that only a small portion of the muscle, as stated above.
There's more to working out than just putting up impressive bench press numbers. Here's a list of other numbers to strive for. When you hit these numbers, then you can consider yourself one of a select bunch that's made it in the gym.
Here's the list:
I'll just get it out of the way. It's probably the exercise that's done more than anything else, the bench is always in use, and meatheads have a hunched look because of it. This is an awesome number, but make sure you hit the next number to even out muscular imbalances.
This number has been up for debate around plenty of fitness forums. There are many "tests" around that say if you can do over 13 reps, then you're considered 'above average'. In my opinion, that's pretty good, but I'm not going by numbers that fitness guides are throwing out there. These are numbers that are going to put you closer to 'elite' status among your peers.
Ever see a guy squating 3 plates a side? Probably not. That's because they're over doing chest exercises instead. If you want strong legs, skip the leg press, put some weight on your back and squat. There's a reason powerlifting competitions don't include the leg press as an event. The squat is harder and you'll be a stud in the gym once you hit this number. Athletically, you'll also dominate because of the leg strength you've accumulated.
Ya, I put exact numbers for the other exercises, but when you consider bodyweight, it's tough for me to keep putting numbers that skinny runts will never hit. If you can put up 2.5 times your bodyweight, you've developed some serious strength. This is not just a leg exercise either, as you're working your hip extensors and overall posterior chain. This is another exercise, like the squat, that should be a staple in your program if you're looking to increase your overall strength and power.
So today, I want to write about one of the forgotten pioneers of bodybuilding, who coincidentally, was almost as sociable as Mike Mentzer: Vince Gironda aka the Iron Guru. Vince, born in the Bronx, later settled in California and was one of the first trainers to the stars.
His clients were : Clint Eastwood, Cher, Larry Scott, Arnold Schwarzenegger and so on. But it wasn't so much his clientele that makes him remarkable, but his contributions to the sport which pushed weight lifting in a new direction. I just want to list the most important ones.
He was one of the first to develop a low carb approach to dieting, where he prescribed a whole eggs and lean meats combination along with some vegetables (pretty much a paleo diet).
Interestingly enough, he only proposed 3 meals a day and bridged the time in between with amino acid and liver tabs. I myself am a huge fan of liver tabs, its a convenient protein and vitamin B source and I feel my physique looks better and leaner when I use them. So this is more or less an intermittent fasting approach, as it has become popular today.
Even though he didn't like back squats, he used front squats in every workout as a hormonal optimizer in order to create growth in all muscle groups. This is something I have done with clients and I urge everyone to try. If you have a period of time where you can focus on your training and resting, up your calories by 10% and train your legs every time you go to the gym for 2-3 weeks. You will be very pleased with the results.
The bench press got no love from Vince, he felt it places too much stress on the front deltoid and doesn't develop a good chest. As a bodybuilder, I have to agree. The flat bench is very hard on the rotator cuff and front delts, while creating a droopy chest. I prefer the dumbbell version or the incline bench. For power lifting, that's a different story.
Vince also dismissed the then common notion of bulking for the sake of getting bigger as nonsense since it only led to fat gain. He was very much concerned with creating a physique as opposed to just heaping on mass (where has that idea gone??). I think the appropriate term for Vince would be "Physique Architect", he was very much concerned with a v-tapered physique. Vince was actually punished at a contest for appearing too "ripped" and was placed lower for being too lean ...(those judges later oversaw Lehman Brothers real estate portfolio).
In a way, I feel that Vince was too ahead of his time. In today's world he would have been a multimillionaire over and over.
The Gymchats are a mix of discussion and interview; looking at a different training-related topic each week. To take part, just add a question or comment to the main discussion thread (and the thread is announced in the newsletter, the forums and on Google+ itself - wherever you are, you'll see it).
NB : if you're a professional trainer, coach or athlete - and would like to share your experience with the fantastic audience here - I'd love to hear from you. Just post a comment below, or contact me privately.
In the late 70s /early 80s it wasn't uncommon to train 4 hours a day and consume 500 grams of protein a day (yes, I did follow this routine when I was 17...hey, I lived in rural Germany and there was no internet, so please forgive me). Unsatisfied with the gains of the average non-steroid assisted trainee, he became convinced that the majority of people were over trained and drastically shortened his and his clients' workouts. In conjunction with Arthur Jones, he created his system of High Intensity Training or HIT. Basically, the trainee trained infrequently, 3-4 times every 2 weeks and did only one set beyond failure. He also added drop sets, negatives, partials etc.
There are many variations of heavy duty training. Dorian Yates, who is said to have been a heavy duty trainee, used in fact a much higher volume than Mike Mentzer ever prescribed.
I started lifting weights at the high school gym on a old Universal multi-station machine with my high school buddy. We also exercised in his attic with a plastic weight set with a basic weight bench.that you buy at the local department store. Unknowingly we were working out almost everyday of the week for 2-3 hours. Can you believe that?
I continued weight training with my buddy until I graduated and went to the Marines where I "sowed my royal oats", meaning I decided to start acting wild and careless - not focusing too much on weight training. My day consisted of my 8-5 job as a Motor Vehicle Operator (2.5ton military trucks) for carrying cargo and military personnel when training in the field.
as well as a brief look at my own transformation.
Want more? No problem. We'll be publishing a few more of these stories over the next few months (and if you'd like to add yours, just let me know); a spot of inspiration for everyone who's just getting started. And if you are, welcome.
It really will change your life.
A few of the ways I like to blend these are the ones I mentioned in 'Giving it Away' and 'Giving it Away II' : essentially donating pre-loved training equipment to those without any of their own. I'd love to kick that up a notch (particularly at this time of year), and add some other forms of assistance to that list. First cab off the rank is my favourite micro-lending service, Kiva.
I first came across Kiva back in 2006, after reading about Matt Frame's 'handcuffed swimming in Cambodia' record. It's a service which let's you invest a relatively small amount of money (typically $25, which is still $25, but is small for a business loan) in a business somewhere in the world. I say 'invest' because it's a loan - you'll generally receive the money in full, several months later.
If you've got an extra dollar or two and would like to check out the details of what they do (and how), come and join me at :
And thank you. Watching someone transform their life is truly incredible.
Mixed Martial Arts is such an intensive fitness activity in terms of both physical and mental exhaustion that one has to train extensively in a number of areas in order to be adequately prepared. One has to have incredible endurance, enough at least to stay up and alert at all times. Being able to aptly utilize brunt force is also a huge advantage, so one has to be able to strengthen his body to such a level that he can draw said force, and not only that, but he must learn to concentrate well enough to focus that force on a particular target. If you're enticed by the allure of Mixed Martial Arts and want to prepare yourself for the action by following an all-inclusive regimen to get your body up to speed, you'll need to do more than just train for the matches themselves. You'll need to amplify the strength and durability of your own body and mental state, and to do that you'll have to incorporate several different strategic areas into your training routine.
Running is the simplest, most straightforward way to periodically increase your body's ability to endure physical strain over long periods of time. If you're unaccustomed to running for long periods of time unbroken by rest, you'll need to build your stamina up slowly at first before really pushing yourself hard. Start by running a mile or two every day until you're able to do so without ending up severely out of breath, panting, etc. Pushing your body further initially when it can barely tolerate a couple of miles of continuous running isn't going to do you or your training routine any favors. Once you've built up your endurance and can last for several miles rather well at a decent pace, you can begin pushing yourself harder.
Focus on running for as long as possible, as opposed to running really fast but only for a limited set of time. You're not training to break a marathon time record here, you're training to endure the tests required of mixed martial artists. If you wanted to break the world record at the Boston Marathon, your pacing is essential to follow and tweak, but here it is the strict amount of time you're able to last on foot that is of greater urgency. Pacing is important only insomuch as to not have your routine thrown out of whack (dramatically shifting speeds while running can cause your body unnecessary extra exhaustion). Using a treadmill can help you maintain a strict speed pace (as you can set controls on the machine to follow your directions). Running outside is fine too, but many people, especially novice runners, can find it difficult to maintain their speed consistently over several miles. Run often, at least 4 days a week, until you've felt your endurance has improved to a point where you can switch over to other stamina-testing cardio activities, such as stair climbing, bike riding, etc. Then, you can choose more of your own preferred activities over running alone.
Eventually, however, the punching bag will become more of a complementary tool that you use in conjunction with a sparring partner. Having another person around is a huge help, particularly because there is so much unpredictability in fighting an actual person. When facing a boxing bag, you are jabbing a stationary object that's only similarity to people is its weight. When facing a sparring partner, you're honing in closer to what actually occurs in Mixed Martial Arts (needless to say, there is no master champion punching bag out there you're going to meet up for a challenge one day).
Take advantage of facing off against a sparring partner as frequently as possible, as it will help you with predictive strategies (knowing when to throw a punch or kick, as well as knowing when to hold back and when to dodge). Though a punching bag can technically last longer in the ring, which makes it a vital tool to have, it can't help you with fighting strategy nearly as well.
Calling it quits doesn't have anything to do with long-term cessation of your fighting practice. It simply means knowing when to hold back a punch or kick that doesn't need to be thrown, saving every last bit of energy until it is absolutely needed. Throwing a punch that's very likely to get blocked can be a waste of energy late in the game, when you may need to draw from your energy reserves minutes later just to stay up and alert. Learning to ration out your energy, to pace yourself properly, and to withdraw when you're severely endangering yourself will help you master the finer points of MMA fighting. Be sure to have help around when testing your limits, in case you need medical assistance or some other help at an unexpected moment. After all, it's hard to rely on your own devices if you've fallen to the floor and can't get up.
For the people who missed the conversation, here's the transcript (as a free PDF) :
And to find out the details of upcoming discussions, just subscribe to the weekly Strength & Fitness Newsletter. Again, absolutely free.
For those who are new to these conversations, a quick definition : the Gymchats are weekly discussions (currently held on Google+) on a variety of fitness-related topics. Everything from nutrition to competition; if it relates to training, we'll be talking about it.
To give you an idea of what these look like, the most recent Gymchats have been listed below :
This week we're taking a look at this enigmatic activity, and finding out just what I'm missing out on. How to train for it and how it helps with other forms of
your training (and overall condition). Fantastic.
Gymchat 144 - Training at Home
Conversation on Wed Nov 16, 9pm EDT (1am UTC)
This week we're returning to our conversation on Training at Home - equipment & space required, sharing progress and getting feedback. The many ways to make the most of what's available. Fantastic.
Gymchat 143 - Strength Training Over 40
Raymond Ho, interviewed by Kirk Fontaine
Conversation on Wed Nov 9, 9pm EST (2am GMT)
This week we'll be returning to our discussion, looking at the nutritional, recovery, injury and equipment considerations related to training at this age. Everything that will help make sure you're stronger, healthier and in generally better condition in your 40s (and onward) than you are/were in your 20s.
Gymchat 142 - Fitness & Autism
Eric Chessen, interviewed by Kirk Fontaine
Conversation on Wed Nov 2, 9pm EST (2am GMT)
This week we'll be returning to our discussion on training approaches, focusing on the many aspects of fitness other than the lifting itself. What's your current diet like, and do you take any supplements? What sort of music do you listen to whilst training, or do you prefer to lift in silence? Other than getting a good nights' sleep, how do you recover after a heavy session?
This week we're continuing our discussion on Hand Strength, focusing on the Grip Training side of things. What it is, why it's important and how to go about it. Fantastic.
Gymchat 138 - Hand Strength
Conversation on Wed Oct 5, 9pm EDT (1am UTC)
This week we're taking an in-depth look at all aspects of Hand Strength. What it is, why it's important and how to train for it. Fantastic.
Gymchat 137 - Grip, Clubs & Health
Conversation on Wed Sep 28, 9pm EDT (1am UTC)
This week we're taking a look at this superb partnership, particularly when it comes to using equipment such as clubs. Beautiful things.
"Designed to improve your hand-eye coordination, reaction time, depth perception and first-step acceleration, the Nike SPARQ eyeReact Ball is a performance-enhancing super-tool that will benefit athletes of all sports." (Nike Store, n.d.)
The SPARQ eyeReact Ball is a tool used to help athletes improve their ability to detect an unpredictable stimulus due to the ball's unknown bounce pattern, and react to it in an organized and efficient movement pattern. This develops what we call "Human Information Processing". First the person is exposed to a stimulus, in this case the SPARQ eye React Ball, then the individual proceeds to Response Selection where translation occurs. The person chooses how to respond to the stimuli, in this case depending on where the ball bounces the person makes a choice to step in that direction, possibly with a specific foot leading, and reaching with a specific hand, while maintaining a low athletic posture. After the response selection has been identified the next step is Response Programming where the central nervous system organizes an appropriate response and begins the movement. The purpose of using this SPARQ eyeReact Ball is to successfully develop an appropriate, and time efficient; stimulus identification, response selection, and response programming. This is called Reaction Time.
The type of reaction time used while training with the SPARQ eyeReact Ball is called Choice Reaction Time. Choice Reaction Time is very receptive to improvements if practiced. This makes the use of this training tool effective in aiding athletes in their training. The use of this tool in the development of Human Information Processing as mentioned earlier supports Nike's claims of improving reaction time and first step acceleration.
However, Nike's claim to improve depth perception is not entirely valid. As stated in the journal article Training Perceptual Skill by Orienting Visual Attention (Hagemann, N., Strauss, B., & Cañal-Bruland, R., 2006). The benefits of training programs that claim to improve general abilities such as depth perception, visual acuity, and peripheral vision lack empirical confirmation and the benefits of such programs are doubtful. In fact in a comparison between novice and expert athletes it was found that there was little to no difference in those general skills listed above. The major contributing factor to experts performing better was in their ability to better anticipate and react to given stimuli (Hagemann, N et al., 2006). Hand-eye coordination and depth perception are not actually motor skills, but hand-eye coordination can improve from improved Human Information Processing (Aparo, L. ,n.d.).
Hand-eye coordination is a task that requires accurate judgement of timing based on what the person interprets from the visual stimulus and translates that to an appropriately timed response. For example: a football player reaching out to catch a football moving at a very fast velocity with proper placement of his hands to successfully catch the ball. Improving choice reaction time allows the player to see the football (stimulus identification), select when to reach out for the ball and how to place his hands (response selection) and have the central nervous system organize the information and begin the action (response programming). Hand-eye coordination first starts by the detection of the stimulus. As mentioned already visual acuity cannot be improved however, effective anticipation can drastically reduce the time it takes to process the stimulus and give the athlete more time to be accurate with hand-eye coordination. Spatial anticipation can be improved through practice and when used effectively makes a big difference in both hand-eye coordination and information processing. (Bredin, D. S., 2011)
Therefore it can be concluded that the Nike SPARQ eyeReact Ball can effectively improve Human Information Processing, which results in improved choice reaction time. Developing a fast choice reaction time directly supports Nike's claims to improving first step acceleration and hand-eye coordination based on a faster response to the stimulus. However, the claim to improve depth perception is not directly benefited through the use of this training tool.
Aparo, L. (n.d.). Influence of Sport Stacking on hand-eye. soeedstacks.com. Retrieved October 5, 2011, from http://www.speedstacks.com/groups/benefits/thesis_luca_aparo.pdf
Bredin, D. S. (Director) (2011, September 20). Information Processing Parts 1 & 2. Class Lecture. Lecture conducted from Dr. Shannon Bredin, Vancouver
Bredin, D. S. (Director) (2011, September 29).Information Processing Expert vs Novice. Class Lecture. Lecture conducted from Dr. Shannon Bredin, Vancouver
Hagemann, N., Strauss, B., & Cañal-Bruland, R. (2006). Training Perceptual Skill by Orienting Visual Attention. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 28, 143-158.
NikeStore. (n.d.). NikeStore. Shop the Official Nike Store for Shoes, Clothing & Gear. Retrieved October 3, 2011, from http://store.nike.com/us/en_us/?l=shop,pdp,ctr-inline/cid-1/pid-304449/pgid-304449#l=shop,pdp,ctr-inline/cid-1/pid-304449/pgid-304449
In the last seven years of using sandbags I have found they can be one of the most powerful training tools in increasing performance, mobility, strength, and conditioning. The trick is you have to understand why and how you use them to maximize their benefits. Creating a systemized approach changed the way I saw "sandbag lifting" and just as Powerlifting, Bodybuilding, and Olympic Lifting have definitive methods and techniques I believe sandbag training deserves the same : more accurately it'd be getting away from "sandbag lifting". Let's change what the implement is and focus more on what we are trying to achieve; thinking in terms of Dynamic Variable Resistance Training (DVRT) helps us get started.
Watching most programs and videos of people lifting sandbags, I know they have never given thought to the impact holding the sandbag has on the exercise or performance of the movement. However, determining how you hold the sandbag dictates everything in regards to what you wish to accomplish by performing the movement.
The barbell has four standard positions (possibly 5 for some of the odd lifts), kettlebells are similar, but sandbag training in the DVRT system has NINE! This means we can manipulate how the body perceives a weight, stability, and challenge both at once if we want.
Looking at the first three positions in sandbag training (Bear Hug, Zercher, Shoulder) they are significantly different upon their use and effects. The Bear Hug position aligns the weight with the lifter's center of gravity making it the easiest position to add load upon. The Bear Hug position can also be seen as the basis for teaching correct movement patterns as the weight of the sandbag will act as a counterbalance allowing for a more upright position and deeper squat position. This equals less unnecessary stress upon the low back and the deeper squat position allows for maximizing glute and hamstring activation while opening up the hips as well. All of a sudden what appears to be a simple exercise can be a foundational lift of any program.
The Bear Hug Squat :
Because sandbag training does not lend itself to incremental loading we first change the holding position of the sandbag and then change body position. Moving from Bear Hug to Zercher changes the center of gravity and creates more stress upon the trunk and upper back; providing what can be perceived as a larger load even if the actual weight of the sandbag has not been altered. Looking more deeply at the movement we see that the Zercher Squat in sandbag training not only is more difficult but becomes a powerful trunk anti-flexion exercise. You can see the similarity of the Zercher position and the common plank exercise, except now we are adding motion to the plank!
The third sandbag training holding position is Shoulder. Unfortunately, this is the very place that most people begin! If the Zercher position is related to the front plank Shouldering is closely related to side plank. The stress of large frontal plane loads make the Shoulder position the most challenging to move while maintaining correct posture alignment. The Shoulder position in our DVRT system is known as one of the most difficult asymmetrical loading postures. Experts agree that asymmetrical loading is one of the most important "unused" aspects in training.
"The longer I'm in this industry and the more people I train, the more emphasis I seem to place on asymmetrical loading. For decades, we worked to get people off machines and into doing more free weights because of the stability benefits they afford."
- Eric Cressey
Like many misunderstood aspects of sandbag training, the value of sandbag shouldering in providing asymmetrical loading is very undervalued; especially with the load being applied directly on the body, causing more of the smaller stablizers of the spine and trunk to be active then more common variations of holding a weight to the side of the body. If we understand the role of these patterns then we can also create proper progressions and regressions so we can see continual progress in the training.
The Shouldering position is also ideal because we can use it as an assessment for core and pelvic stability. As one performs a more stable lift (eg. Shoulder Squat) we can watch for movement of the hip and body towards one side or the other during the exercise. This tells us a compensation pattern and inability to stabilize by the lifter is causing such negative movement. We know as coaches now about how to then regress the lifter so we can fix those instabilities and make them a better athlete, lifter, or flat out just healthier.
Asymmetrical sandbag loading :
Understanding the role of body position while performing sandbag training is vital in increasing performance. Because sandbags never will (and shouldn't) come close to the loads of a barbell we can make lighter weights feel heavier by changing body position. This accomplishes several goals.
Because sandbag training does not lend itself to incremental loading, we can alter body position to make a lighter weight feel heavier as a form of progressive training of heavier sandbag loads. Sandbag Training should be more about maintaining posture under unstable loads and unstable positions. This ensures more strengthening of the more commonly missed stabilizers and patterns. The result? Such training can enhance strength and stability in the more common gym lifts, but the reverse isn't true!
We can more accurately identify weak links because in these more unstable environments we see true movement skills.
Such training involves progressively moving to more single leg stances. Not just doing single leg exercise in their normal setting, but trying to produce power and resist load and movement in these positions.
This article is kind of the second step in mental training for competition in sport or anything you pursue. In my first article I touched base on how to train your mind through the use of training spaces. This practice eventually conditions the mind to amp up to optimal intensities in whatever setting you train it to be active in. Once you learn to achieve this first step you can learn to apply it to any scenario in life. Also in order to build off of this I will now introduce you to the mind set and belief of mental and physical excellence. The principle sounds simple, you have probably heard it a million times before, but not many people buy in and choose to actually believe and live in this power.
We are physically capable of amazing things; it is our mind that sets limits to what we can achieve.
With that in mind let's take a moment to look at ourselves and others in competition and training. How often do we hear excuses like "I am too tired", "I am a little bit sore today", and "I didn't get enough sleep"... and the list goes on and on. By creating and believing these statements we say to ourselves and the public around us we buy in and set limits to what we can do.
This past weekend I was lucky enough to travel to Belfast to watch the Ultimate Masters World Strongest Man competition. This took place at the same venue as the Ultimate UK Strongest Man - organised by The Daddy Glen Ross, the World famous Irish strongman.
I work for Strength Shop UK and we were one of the main sponsors of the competition - supplying circus dumbbells which were used in the Junior Strongman event , and the massive 110kg log which was used by the Masters. Travelling over on Sunday , we had a ringside seat to watch Ken Nowicki from Scotland be crowned as Junior UK Strongest man after also competing in the Open event and finishing second.
The Masters event had a fantastic line up -
The head referee was none other than former Worlds Strongest man Magnus Samulesson, winner in 1998.
I have never been to a Strongman competition before and being in the presence of so many huge men was a bit of an eye opener - Im a tall guy but I felt like a little kid beside these guys.
The day had 6 events with 3 head to head events. They were -
12 Tonne Truck Pull, 20 metres, old style harness only, 90 secs x 2 competitors
Flag Hoist, 5 flags, timed, 2 x competitors
Strength Shop Timber Log Lift for maximum weight , x1 competitors
Squat 320kg for reps, 90 secs timed, x 1 competitors
Human Wheelbarrow, 20 metres, 90 secs timed, 1 competitor
Stones of Strength, 5 stones, 100kg - 160kg, 90 sec timed, x 2 competitors
The Masters started with the truck pull - a head to head competition with two massive men pulling to massive trucks
Photo - Davie Easton
Having never seen the flag hoist before, I was intrigued to see how this event worked. It was similar to the Fingals Finger but in reverse, instead of pushing the pole up it had to be pulled up.
Photo - Denise Hunt
Thanks to everyone who's taken part - it really is appreciated.
Still, it always frustrated me a little that there's no easy way to point people to previous discussions. Unless you were there at the time, there wasn't a lot you could do.
Accordingly, we'll be moving these conversations to a platform that makes this sort of thing nice and painless : Google+.
Google+ (or just G+) offers a lot of advantages, both for the people who are there and those that can't make it at the time. Specifically :
And seeing as we're moving to Google, a new name is in order. I'll be running with 'Gymchats', as it isn't too much of a change and makes the subject matter pretty clear. The topics themselves will be exactly the same.
Incidentally, if you haven't used Google+ before and would like an invitation, I have a few left. Otherwise, swing by my profile and add me to one of your circles.
Whilst I maintained the somewhat uncommon sleep routine, I completely overlooked the process of switching to it in the first place. It was my initial 30 Day Challenge.
In fact, it wasn't until I saw this talk (the video below) by Google's Matt Cutts that I really thought about the power of these challenges to bring about lasting lifestyle changes. Almost immediately I began analysing various aspects of my life to find things that I'd like to change.
This is the first of those.
Firstly, a bit of background. For as long as I can remember, I've been a night person. I've always been far more productive at midnight than at 10 in the morning.
Consequently, 5 years ago when I made the switch to a Biphasic Sleeping routine, I decided to take my nap in the early evening, and my 'core sleep' a number of hours later - in the early morning.
This worked extremely well, and I followed the same routine - unchanged - for almost 5 years. In fact, the only change during that time was the frequency of adherence.
When I first made the transition, I would have a night of monophasic sleep every month or so; depending on my schedule. Sometimes a biphasic routine just isn't possible, or even desirable (for example, if you're dining with friends during your usual nap time).
This occasional night of monophasic sleep gradually became a couple of nights, then a few; and eventually moved to a week or more. Particularly when travelling, when it was only possible to see/do things at certain times.
For this experiment, I decided to push the monophasic sleep period to an entire month. If successful, I'd return to a biphasic schedule at a slightly earlier time than before. Perhaps something like 4:30pm - 6:00pm for the nap, and 10:00pm - 4:00am for the core sleep.
As for the question of 'why?', there are a couple of reasons. The first is simply that it provides a different set of things to photograph; think of sunrise, frost and early morning light. These are all things that I very rarely see on a late night schedule.
The second - and perhaps more important change - is an anticipated increase in productivity. This is based on anecdotal evidence from those who've made similar changes, notably Steve Pavlina  and Leo Babauta .
Whilst this increase is perhaps more hoped for than expected, the important point for me is that starting the day earlier isn't likely to reduce productivity at all. Not in the long term, anyway.
First, let me point out I elected to break my own cardinal rule for these challenges (and for many transitions, actually) : to only change one thing at a time. As this one involved a major lifestyle shift, I decided to adjust several things at once.
These were :
The point is simply to increase morning light, and decrease afternoon light.
NB : to do the opposite (if you need to spend more time awake in the evenings), just reverse this. Less light in the morning, more in the afternoon and evening.
Although I hadn't seen any information on this, I decided to switch my Vit D supplementation to the mornings for the same reasons as those above. To make things easier, I took my other vitamin supplements at the same time.
Previously they were all taken just after my last large meal, typically around midnight.
Although I rarely get anything approaching 8 hours of sleep with a biphasic routine, as I'd switched back to monophasic for this challenge I was typically sleeping around 7.5 hours a night. I allowed myself at least 8 hours per night - giving myself a small buffer zone of at least half an hour, just in case. This usually meant going to bed around 11:30, and waking up a little after 7.
NB : this half hour buffer proved to be useful, at least at the beginning. Gradually my sleep time came down (by a minute or two each day), and now I regularly wake before the alarm goes off.
When I initially changed over to a biphasic routine, I didn't pay a great deal of attention to sleep hygiene (removing distractions, light sources etc). This time around I eliminated objects, light sources, sound and activities - as much as possible - from the area in which I sleep.
It's now quite a dark, simple room; and falling asleep within minutes is almost inevitable.
This lines up with the sleep hygiene improvements. Wherever possible, I now watch podcasts, movies etc slightly earlier in the day. Preferably not whilst sitting in bed, using a laptop (which was the norm previously).
How much? Over time, I gradually reduced it from 8-10 cups per day to 1 cup per day. I've been on that quantity for more than a year now.
For this experiment (and it's a permanent change) I cut this back to 1 cup per week; replacing the other cups with green tea. Accordingly, I never missed the 'hot drink on a cold day' feeling. And the once per week thing ensured that occasionally when I found myself in a cafe or with friends who always drank coffee, I could still enjoy one.
All-in-all, it was much easier than I expected it to be. Nice and painless.
As I mentioned above, prior to this change I usually ate a large meal a couple of hours before sleeping, which usually equated to somewhere around midnight. One of the things I noticed immediately was that by starting the day earlier, I was hungry a lot earlier. I switched to having a large breakfast almost immediately.
And yes, that replaced the meal at midnight. I eat a lot, but not quite that much.
As with the 'timing of large meals' change above, this was one that just felt right, and began a couple of days into the experiment.
I still have the 'light session in the morning, heavy session in the evening' routine, I've just brought both workouts forward a bit. A few hours.
Recently a very strong and more importantly very promising and dedicated client of mine was going to take a holiday weekend in Las Vegas. She was not happy to be missing training. Nor was she actually interested in Vegas. She is someone who wants to train as frequently as possible and since I had watched some interviews with John Broz and read a bit on his site, I suggested she pay a visit to his gym.
Little did I know that she would follow through with my suggestion. And little did I know how spending two days with Broz would change her and profoundly influence how I coach my athletes.
From what I garnered from my client (I will call her G.), as soon as she stepped to the platform Broz knew that her challenges were going to be psychological and not physical. He had a heart-to-heart talk with her about her aspirations and insisted that she decide upon lifetime goals as soon as possible. Apparently he demands this of all his athletes and made no exception for someone whom he would only be seeing for a day or two. In the time we had worked together G. had always been very timid when approaching the bar. She possessed little confidence in her abilities to perform the required task. Yet, as the bar got heavier, she without exception pulled performances out of herself that I and bystanders in the gym found no less than ferocious and astonishing. Without digressing too much Broz made an estimation of what she needed within minutes of making her acquaintance and proceeded to provide her with some tools to rectify it. He then took her far out of her comfort zone and got her to pull a deadlift PR of something in the order of twenty pounds. I am sure it wasn't pretty but it served as a kind of limit experience and showed her what she is capable of.
When G. returned and related her experiences I immediately began to compare my own more conservative and protective practices as a coach to what Broz was doing. I grasped how good at psychology Broz was and realized that, though I have very good reasons for being more conservative in my own approach, it was time for me to start pushing out at the edges a little harder and see what would come of it. For me as a coach the Broz experience served as a lesson in how we must pay as much attention to mental development as physical. I feel that though Broz is getting more exposure of late for his approach to programming we must not overlook how his approach and the "Bulgarian" approach more broadly both requires and develops a very courageous attitude towards ones training.
Alongside a shift in attitude, G.'s visit to Average Broz Gym is also having a large impact on how I have been training my athletes. This influence I am calling The Bulgarianization Experiment. I consider it an "experiment" because I am both enthusiastic and skeptical. Skeptical because so many of my influences and mentors advocate heavy training no more than two or three times weekly and because of the claims that daily (or several times daily) squatting and training to a maximum only works with those of a very high genetic suitability and with the use of anabolics and other PEDs. Enthusiastic because Bulgarian-inspired training seems to be working for many of the top weightlifting clubs in the US, and these clubs are subjected to very rigorous drug-testing. This approach to training is refreshing compared to the three-days weekly regimes most popular amongst strength coaches in North America. Bulgarian lifters are exciting to watch and have been inordinately successful on the international stage. I doubt that the drugs they had access to were better than that of their competitors. Finally I have a number of athletes who wish to train near daily. Training in a Bulgarian-influenced style has allowed me to give them serious hard training as often as they are able to come into the gym. I have been able to dispense with upper/lower splits and excessive accessory exercises which I never really felt convinced by in the first place. Indeed it is both possible and useful to squat everyday.
I have been using Bulgarian Training-Lite and Bulgarian influences with three types of athletes.
In the meantime, here's a brief look at 7 Health & Fitness Monitoring Devices.
The original Nike+ was essentially a wireless pedometer, specifically designed for running enthusiasts. Embedded in the shoes, it passed information to an iPod or iPhone which was worn by the runner.
The Nike+ GPS uses the phone's GPS to provide similar information - quite accurately - with your own choice of footwear.
Note that if you're not using an iPhone, you're limited to the original Nike+ system (using an iPod as your display), with much the same information being tracked - running duration, distance, calorific expenditure and so on.
What's more, it's deeply integrated with some of the other products listed here; particularly RunKeeper. And a freely available API will doubtless see many others following shortly.
I think I've discovered a new word for Webster's Dictionary: GripWalking. My word processor doesn't like it. Well for a number of years carrying small (or large) weights for distance has been used by strength enthusiasts. The "Farmers Walk" is a familiar strongman (300+ lbs) exercise, although I have heard of carrying a "Fat Man" Blob (end of a 100 lb Roundhead 50+ lbs) about 91 feet. As hunter-gatherers 50,000 yrs ago we certainly carried spears and rocks as weapons, so we're made to do this.
That's a bit much for my term GripWalking. I'm talking about < 15 lbs in one hand at a time, switching hands, and walking a couple of miles. Small dumbbells <5 lbs have been used to walk with, although they are held in the usual fashion not requiring a persistent grip effort.
The most common form is to carry 1 or 2 lbs in each hand, not much for gripping. If you bump up the weight (5 to 10 lbs), use a round object that requires grip effort, now you're talking about GripWalking. I've started this after training with many grip tools: hand crushers up to 250#, Blobs, plates sideways, and balls 3" to 5". Various GripWalking objects are seen in this photo:
The steel ball bearings are what I use but are somewhat pricey. They are also used for massage of sore muscles. I started with a 3.5" ball bearing @ 6.4 lbs and have worked up to a 4" @ 9.5 lbs. I have a 5" @ 18.5 lbs, but can't hold it long enough, establishing my limits for GripWalking. Here's what I do normally:
The gym can be more than just a place people go to get big and strong, the gym is as good of place as any to train the mind to achieve greatness. I once heard a quote "lead with the mind, and the body will follow"... I will be honest I don't know who said it but none the less the statement stands true. As athletes we must learn to control the mind to be successful.
How many times have you been on a team or watching a sport as a fan and seen that one crazy guy on the sidelines hitting his head, yelling, jumping, and basically hyperventilating, getting pumped up for the game? What we must understand is that there is a right and wrong time to turn on this high intensity and a right and wrong time to turn it off. When we are in this high intensity state like the person I described we are exerting a lot of energy, this is wasted energy and often causes the person to burn out before that energy is really needed. We need to know how and when to turn it on, and just as quickly turn it off. Taking a look at Football, the game is made up of lots of extremely high intensity, short bursts. During the play the athlete needs to be in this high intensity state of mind, but as soon as the play ends he needs to turn it off and conserve his energy for the next play.
On Saturday 16th July, I took an 8 hour drive to compete in the UK Strength and Power Series meet in Cardiff, Wales. This is a grassroots strongman competition that I first competed in last year when the competition was set up slightly differently - a one day competition with 7 events. This year sees the competition consist of 3 heats, 3 weight categories and the top 2 from each category going through to the final in October.
I had entered the South West meet as it was being hosted by my good friend Andy McKenzie from Ironmac Fitness. Andy is a tremendous strength and conditioning coach who won the lightweight category last year and had kindly agreed to programme for me leading up to this competition.
Also heading down with me was my friend and sometime training partner Louise Mather from the band Any Color Black and her sister Gillian. Louise was competiting in the competition too in the ladies middle weight category.
The drive down was long but filled with chat, laughter, no music ( stereo was broken ), eggs, dark chocolate and traffic jams.
After arriving in Cardiff to drop the girls off, heading back to Newport to stay and Andys, I eventually got to sleep.
Nervousness and a body clock set for early mornings due to my year old baby meant that I woke up at the crack of dawn. I got showered, fed and prepped with coffee and eggs. We set off for the short drive to Dragon CrossFit, venue for the fun and games ahead. This is a tremendous strength and conditioning facility that is located in a large industrial area.
After weighing in, and meeting a few faces that I remembered from last years competition and a few faces I wasnt expecting (my buddy form back home had travelled down with his girlfriend to cheer me on and hadnt told me they were coming), the main organiser of the event , Chet Morjaria, gave us the welcome speech and gave us a run down on the first two events of the day.
Event 1 would be circus dumbbell form ground to over head for as many reps in 75secs. Heavyweight men would be using the 53kg dumb bell
Event 2 would be the Conans Wheel, with 120kg on it for us big lads.
Due to company I work for, Strength Shop UK supplying some of the equipment for the competition, I was probably only one of a few people who had used one of these huge dumb bells on a regular basis as part of my training so I was feeling great going into this event. In training I had managed 15 reps so I was looking to get there or maybe a couple of more reps.
I managed to crank 15 reps again, which I was happy about but unfortunatley this was only good enough for 3rd place as 2 guys managed 17 reps.
The second event was something I dont think anyone had done before. As I had finished 3rd in the first event, I was 3rd last to go in this so it gave me a chance to see how some of the others attacked his piece of equipment. When my turn came around I picked up the arm and set off on what would end up puting me in 2nd place. This I was very happy about, but that really, really hurt!
After this event, we had an hour for lunch so I tried to eat and drink to fuel up for the afternoon. After lunch, Chet announced what the next two events would be.
That's right!, get yourself brick'd. Today's workout was nothing short of D&D. Death and Destruction, and it was all about the BRICK. Hell , with the energy level on HIGH, had some one shouted out some shit while Digger and I were tearin' the local park up, why, they would have been pulling the brick out 'der mouth.
You get your weight set. We'll get the BrIcKs. Mad apparatus skillz by Mantis and Digger using their GFA (Gorilla Fitness Arsenal) to zero in on some extreme exercises.
Here's the video :
USAJunglegym. Open the cage door and see what happens.
75yd Single arm carry of the Shield of Faith @ 65lbs. ( 3 Rounds)
75yd Extended-Overhead carry of the Shield fo Faith (2 rounds0
15yd Weighted Hangman's Carry
40yd Weighted Hangman's Carry
75yd Weighted Hangman's Carry
Cinder Block Reverse Throw x3 -runback- throw x3 more ( 3 rounds)
Cinder Block Tossover the swingset x 4block (3 rounds)
-pullups engaged in between-
Jump overs 15 into 10 Jump Ups (outdoor rock) (1 Round)
Multiple Pullup variations on the branch with hang time 1 (round)
Letter to the Editor
22 June 2011
Sent to USAJG from MsSteve8890:
"I have watched every single video you guys have posted. They're all awesome... just straight f$cking FIRE! I am no where near as in shape as some of you guys are, .. these workouts are hard and intense! But more importantly they are basic... they're primitive.. Paleo!! Yes Dinosaur! It's a straight up hunter gather workout. "take this rock and move it 10 times over..Pick up this log an throw it ten times over. It's f$cking fun man! I'm doing this training from here on out!
I have had a gym membership and I'm sick of it. 'Guys come in all the time smelling like a bottle of cologne, walking around with a towel , wiping the sweat off the bench they just worked out on. F-that. Take any of these dudes an have them do some front squats with and oddly shaped bolder. The won't or they can't. It ain't about being "big". Health is all in endurance, agility and stamina. Its about beng a freaking machine; sprinting thru the dense forest as fast as you can, never stopping.
I have been a carpenter for 15 years now and I am 31 now. The things you guys use is just genius. You got me thinking of ideas of my own now. Maybe making some concrete dumbells and a pull up station outta a 4x4 frame. I don't have the luxury of trees in my yard, so i'll have to make a few things. I can't wait to start!
I'm gonna get the word out for you guys. Society is so f$cked up nowadays it will be hard to actually get people to understand what you guys are doing...You're no crazier than the asshole who goes for weekly manicures or tanning every week. Funny how that kinda shit s accepted. Society got it's shit backwards. Hope people see the genuiness and possibilites of what you guys got going on.
I'm seriously amped up! I went in my garage and couldn't believe the shit in there I can use to a workout with. I got full bucket of spackle and some 60lb stones laying around. I'm going primative, I'm gettin' gorilla man! I gotta keep up with you beasts! Hope to meet you guys this summer! Great f%cking job! Keep it going!!"
There is a common debate among regular gym goers. How fast should we lift? I am going to outline both sides of this debate and leave you with my thoughts and philosophy on the subject, which by the title of the article I am sure you can tell where I stand.
Reasons for Lifting Slow:
When we are lifting weights and moving through the range of motion slowly we are putting the muscle under more stress through a longer contraction. This prolonged contraction on both the eccentric and concentric motions of a lift causes the most muscle hypertrophy due to more micro tears in the muscle. The main basis behind slow lifting is based on studies that have found the greatest amount of tissue damage resulting in muscle hypertrophy can be created through the eccentric (muscle lengthening) motion of a lift.
Reason for slow lifting = increased muscle mass
Reasons for Lifting Fast:
For every movement we make no matter how big or small our nervous system sends a signal to the muscle that we want to contract, allowing it to contract. Simply put the speed in which our nervous system communicates can actually be trained to respond faster or slower depending on how we train. Also, muscles are like elastics in the sense that they store elastic energy, the greater the speed of the muscle lengthening, the greater the speed and force of the contraction. This principle of elastic potential also needs to be practiced and trained. The combination of these two principles creates faster and more powerful movements.
Reason for fast lifting = increased; response time, speed, strength, power
What are we training for?
In the end you need to ask yourself what your goals are and what the purpose of your training is. As a body builder you would benefit from a slow tempo, but as an athlete there really isn't much room for a training program based on slower temp lifts. The fact of the matter is hypertrophy can still be gained through increasing the volume (more sets and reps) in a fast lifting program.
That's all I could hear in my head "Its only 110kg per hand. Christ, that's more than I weigh!". The voice had started, but I knew I could shut him up.
I just took a breath, gripped the handles, picked them up and walked the 10m.
Now, that isn't a lot to do on farmers walks. Hell, we have a guy in our crew that did 150kg per hand. But for me that was a huge weight. And I did it!
My road to strong has been a long one that is only now starting to take me towards my goal - be strong. The road began 12 years ago when my wife joined a local gym and asked me a long to keep her company. I was overweight, had just stopped smoking, liked a drink and could eat junk food for Scotland. But I went along, and fell in love with exercising.
At the beginning, I took part in every kind of fitness class that the gym had to offer - aerobics, spin, circuits etc. I loved it. My weight started to go down, my fitness started to go up and my interest in working in the fitness industry took hold. Our local college was my first port of call to do a basic course in health and fitness followed by a more in depth course after this first one was completed. This then led to a couple of recognised qualifications and my first job as a fitness instructor.
All through my time at college and at the gym I would do the usual kind of weight training that most people begin with - split routine, 2 body parts, lots of exercises, some cardio. Then around the end of 2004 I found Crossfit and became hooked. I would try and get people to come and train with me but no one was interested - so I had to travel to train with friends I had made on forums, travelling from Glasgow down to London, Manchester and Newcastle. I was a CrossFit junkie, I travelled to California to do the level 1 cert in the days before they offered it in the UK. I was the first in the UK to open up a dedicated CrossFit box and ran it for 2 years. I was following the main page workouts from www.crossfit.com and getting very, very fit but not very strong.
This addiciton to CrossFit lasted 'til around 3 years ago when I changed my training and got more into strength training by following the CrossFit Strength Bias system then Jim Wendler's 5/3/1. These systems helped me to get stronger but I didn't have anything to focus my training on. I don't play any sports so I just train because I enjoy it.
At the beginning of last year I decided to enter a CrossFit/ Strongman competition at CrossFit Reading, UK which was organised by my good friend Chet Morjaria and his functional fitness website www.funckey.co.uk . My plan was to enter the over 90kg weight category and I did this with ease on a diet of cheesecake and Guinness, weighing in on the day at a whopping 106kg with a lovely power belly.
Over the past week or so I've been exploring Google's new social service, Google+ (thanks Adam). Absolutely fantastic.
There's already been a lot written on what it is, what it's likely to become, how to use it and so on (I've listed a few of my favourite resources below). In the meantime though, a quick question :
See you there.
In part 3 of this article series I am going share with the other 3 exercise videos described in Part 1, plus I am going to add in a bonus video of and movement that very helpful for those with hip 'tightness' issues (Hint: it is great for mobilizing the hips across at least 2 planes of motion and even a really great precursor to movements like the kettlebell windmill).
The picture above is of our team on the training ground with Brett Kirk, Sydney Swans Hall of Famer; as we kicked off our second 1/2 of the 2011 season.
Of course we do off field strength and conditioning work too; which led me to the following point that I think many, many athletes and strength, conditioning and fitness professionals either don't get or complete under-value.
That while we may be talking in the context of shoulder and hamstring repair in this article series, the important point is:
1) The tools do matter because they allow access to a true integrated program instead of being segmented, into warm-up, activation, mobility, rehab, strength, energy system work, recovery, you can actually have an integrated program that implements all parts synergistically as long as you are willing and able to program appropriately.
A dragon flag is typically performed lying face-up on a bench or on the ground with your hands grasping a sturdy object behind your head for support. From here, the objective is to lift your entire body up in a straight line, stacking it vertically over your shoulders in the top position.
Here's a quick video demonstration :
Part 1 of this series about using kettlebells, TRX, and ultimate sandbags for recovering from shoulder and hamstring injuries, gave you a general overview of the movements and some of their applications.
In part 2 and the up coming Part 3 I wanted share with the videos demos of all the movements mentioned in part 1, plus 1 bonus video.
Something that I may not have been made clear on before and that is part of the beauty of using these tools; is that they can easily be inserted into your actual program, if you are not in an acute phase of recovery from a hamstring or shoulder injury.
Thus elminating the need to feel like you are solely spending/wasting time do pre-rehab exercise(s), that often just don't get done. Now you can easily insert these 8 movements into any full-body program and not only will you be armor plating your shoulders and hamstrings, you'll be have a time effective workout too.
This article outlines the life of this incredible Strongman, the many feats he performed, and a little more on the harness lift depicted. Let's dive in.
Thomas Topham - known as 'the strong man', and later 'the British Samson' 2 - was born in London about 1710 1, the son of a carpenter. Although he was brought up as a carpenter's apprentice, he eventually found himself as the landlord of a small pub, the Red Lion Inn near the old St Luke's Hostpital (now in Fitzroy Square, Marylebone).
Here he discovered that although he was a poor businessman (as far as the pub was concerned), he was able to entertain the patrons by performing various feats of strength. Ultimately this would become his routine - crowds would gather not just to drink, but to see him perform (at 1s each, no less).
On 10 July 1734, a concert at Stationers' Hall was given for his benefit, and included several of his strength feats. The woodcut on the performance's programme (now in the British Museum) shows Topham lying extended between two chairs, with a glass of wine in his right hand, and five men standing on his body.
In 1737 Topham performed in Ireland and Scotland; and at Macclesfield in Cheshire he impressed the corporation to such an extent that they gave him a purse of gold and made him a free burgess. At Derby he rolled up a pewter dish of seven pounds 'as a man rolls up a sheet of paper'; twisted a kitchen spit round the neck of a local shopowner who had insulted him, and lifted the 27 stone Vicar of All Saints with one hand, he himself lying on two chairs with four people standing on his body. He further entertained the crowd with a rendition of 'Mad Tom' (Tom O' Bedlam), though in a voice 'more terrible than sweet' 1.Dr John Theophilus Desaguliers; a French Natural Philosopher and member of the Royal Society of London. Desaguliers lived nearby, and took a strong scientific interest in Topham's abilities. In his writings (notably System of Experimental Philosophy) he described his various skills : 6:
In addition to his freakish strength, Thomas Topham could also sing; he was a soloist for St Werburgh's Church in Derby 7. Though his basso profundo was said to be so deep and resonant that it was scarcely human 7.
It's inevitable, when it comes to playing sports; it is not IF you get hurt, it is more a matter of WHEN.
It starts with a 3 step progression.
1) A 'crunching' or 'pop' sound or possibly just a 'twinge'
2) Next is the sinking feeling in your gut. Confirming that it is game over, at least for the time being
3) Then the question: Will I be ready for the next game?
If we use just a tiny bit of common sense we would easily understand that sport is the ultimate 'pattern overload' program; thousands and thousands of reps over the course of a career, executed with extreme force and velocity.
While injury is inevitable the athlete forges forward practicing and training hoping to never experience or undergo any type of catastrophic injury like broken bones, torn ligaments, or other major injuries.
There not much we can do about these 'big boys'; but the holy grail that many athletes spend much of their non-sport training lives pursuing is the prevention of the 'little injuries' like separated shoulders and pulled hamstrings.
There is another question that comes after "Will I be ready for the next game?"
And it is:
"How can I train to prevent this injury from ever happening again?"
While they are 'small' injuries, they are very common and are responsible for a lot of games lost in a variety of sports.
So I thought I would share a few tips that I have accumulated that work very well in answering the question:
"How can I train to prevent this injury from ever happening again?"
The 2 main areas that these 'little injuries' seem to turn up the most are:
-- Hips, Hamstrings, Groin
Unfortunately I have had to earn some of this knowledge the hard way, through my own injuries.
Through my experience I have been able to hone it on what really works; and following two considerations or the base principles I use to program.
Consideration 1: Is Accessibility of the exercise, can the athlete perform some kind regression/progression of the desired movement even when acutely injured, will the movement cause further damage, and will it lead a faster more complete recovery.
Consideration 2: Is Integrity does the exercise promote/improve the movement pattern integrity, does athlete lack the ability to integrate proper musculature to produce the desired movement, and does the selected movement enhance movement integrity.
Accessibility and Integrity are two of the base components to my A-DIS³C Movement Matrix; but we'll save the details of the matrix for another article.
I got married and had two children - a son & daughter - in the 70's. I always impressed upon them the importance of weight training as the fastest way to keep in shape and boost your morale. In the 80's & 90's I returned now and then to weights even visiting York Barbell and meeting Bob Hoffman before he passed away. My son started weight training and played varsity football. He still lifts. My daughter also uses weights and kettlebells. My influence worked!
Okay, not really that long. I had always been a pretty skinny, weak chump for my younger years, but come freshman year of high school I decided to do something about it.
I had goofed around with weights a couple years prior to get stronger for ice hockey, but it wasn't until that one fateful year that the bug had officially bit me. It wasn't until - believe it or not - I went on the internet, and for whatever reason did a search for weight lifting (I don't remember the exact term), but I started looking around at what came up and stumbled across a forum dedicated to strength and bodybuilding. It was here that I discovered how strong the Average Joe actually could be, without pharmaceutical assistance. I was benching about 135lbs at the time, and these guys were benching 315+ for countless reps. I started looking for ways to achieve this great strength, and well the rest is history.
Ever since then I've been hitting the heavy squats, deadlifts, benches, rows, overhead presses, all the movements that anyone should be doing in their quest to become abnormally strong.
Everything was going great (for the most part), but then my love for the game basically tripled when I discovered the awesomeness of strongman. Lifting big ass rocks like a caveman, walking with 800lbs on your back, moving tires the smart way (flipping them, rather than rolling them), all gave me the biggest rush imaginable, along with a fresh new incredibly fun variation of the traditional barbell squat.
To build this sled, you will need to a few items that you may even have lying around your garage or hanging out in your basement under some laundry!
You will need:
This is all you need to make this functional piece of equipment!
It all started last year when my best friend, Tara and I were looking for a way to really motivate us to lose weight and feel great in our bikinis. We had always tried to create games and challenges against each other, but nothing ever really stuck (we have the worst discipline), so we came up with a genius idea that we knew we'd never back down on... what was this genius idea you ask? It's pretty simple actually.
In February 2010, we created a Facebook event (we called it Bikini Challenge 2010) and invited several of our friends who we knew wanted to lose weight as well. The challenge didn't consist of much. Participants had until June 21st (the first day of Summer) to get fit, lose weight, etc. Then at midnight on D-Day (June 21st) each participant had to post a full length shot of them in their bikini and use it as their default pic on their Facebook profile for 24 hours. We also had the participants post the shots on the wall of our fan page. Anyone who didn't post the bikini pic by 12:15 would have to pay $100 which would go into a pot and be split up evenly between all the participants who did post their pic. Since no one wanted to pay the $100 and no one wanted to post a "fat" bikini pic, the motivation was, well, pretty intense!
There have been some superb articles in that time (my favourites are listed below), as well as training logs, product reviews, forum discussions and of course the twitterchats. It's really been (and continues to be) an incredible ride.
Before we dive in to the list itself, a quick word on the content : while it's quality stuff, there's a lot of it. Feel free to pick out your favourites, bookmark them, add them to Instapaper/Evernote/Pinboard; Stumble them and share them with your friends. Dive in.
While they're meant to give you that razor's edge of strength, if you don't have a barbell then they are still a fantastic overall strength building tool that you can train with. It's much better to lift only odd objects and still get pretty damn strong than to do nothing.
Using these monsters will work the hell out of your body's stabilizing muscles, the ones you never knew you even had. You're working them much harder in completely different ways from how a barbell ever could because it's so perfectly balanced, and they don't work the all-important stabilizers.
Your stabilizers do just that, they stabilize. They contract isometrically to support your body under a load. This is why manual laborers can be so strong, because they work the heck out of their muscles and stabilizers the way barbells can't. An opposing lineman in the sport of football isn't going to push against you in a perfectly balanced fashion like a barbell will; they're going to be fighting you in all different directions. Lifting odd objects will give you advantage over any Joe who only lifts barbells, no matter who you are.
To round out your training, in addition to barbells you must train with odd objects, such as rocks, sandbags and kegs. These are very awkward objects to train with, so your body will adapt as so. Use of them will also help to improve your grip strength tremendously.
Lifting a barbell isn't nearly the same thing as trying to shoulder a 200lb sandbag or pressing a beer keg that's half filled with water. They're unbalanced objects that shift around, fighting you every step of the way. Almost as if it were alive. You have to do so by sheer power and control, because there isn't any comfortable way of balancing with each object, because you have to do that yourself. They'll keep shifting around, making themselves nearly impossible to control. If you can't clean and press that sandbag, then you can't do it. There is no bouncing or cheating, just pure grit and determination. Odd objects are a terrific solution on how one can go about building farm boy, pig wrastlin' strength that allows you to move damn near anything you want.
In this half of a two-part series, I'm going to look at some simple ways to build yourself a sandbag using cheap supplies and an afternoon of labor. Part two of the series will discuss training philosophy, technique and program design.
Sand is still the classic option for filling a bag, and it is easy to find when you need more. The trade off is clean up, which can be a hassle if the bag breaks. You will need a large volume of sand to make a very heavy bag, but that's not a big deal. When I built my home-made sandbag, all I did was go down to the beach and swipe some. Didn't spend a dime.
Hi, my name is Jedd Johnson, and I bend steel with my hands.
That's right, I take steel bars, wrap them in suede to prevent a cut to my hands, and bend them into a U-shape.
"Why the hell would he want to do that?" you might ask...
I'll tell you straight up...
Because it makes me feel like a friggin' animal.
It makes me feel like I am a 800lb rainforest gorilla that can destroy anything put in front of me.
And I like that feeling...
Maybe that description is too wild, and you can't identify with it, so let me describe it a little differently...
A PR Bend is like adding 50 lbs to your deadlift, and holding it there while you scream before dropping it back to the platform like a bomb from an airplane.
Completing a bend you never were able to do before is like hitting 100 snatches in 5 minutes for the first time ever, and letting out a warrior cry because it took so much hard work and determination to get there.
Much like the landmark feats described above, I love taking a perfectly good nail or bolt and making it completely useless.
Some people think this is ignorant, but they don't realize that BENDING IS THE PERFECT COMPLEMENT to movements such as the kettlebell snatch and the deadlift...
Now, you're probably thinking: What!?!? How in the world could bending steel complement my snatch and deadlift work?
The answer is the principle of Antagonistic Balance.
"Antagonistic" means opposite, against, contra-indicative.
Think of a Broadway Play. The agonist is the main character and the antagonist is the character that plays opposite him or her. Many times these two are enemies, or their views are somehow contra-indicative of one another - they are opposites; they disagree.
So what is Antagonistic Balance, then?
Well, your body works the best, improves its performance, and is at its healthiest when the antagonistic muscle groups in the joints and opposing sides of the body are within a reasonable balance.
Think of the shoulder. If you do too much bench pressing and not enough rowing, pull-ups, retractions and other opposite movement patterns, you can really do harm to your shoulders, messing up the posture, pinching off nerves, and thus ruining progress on the bench.
You've heard of this before probably a hundred times and you are well aware of it in your training, right?
And you know, if you do too much pushing and not enough pulling, you could be setting yourself up for a serious fall down the line.
Now, where does this come into play with respect to the relationship between steel bending, the kettlebell snatch and the powerlifting deadlift...?
To fully understand this, let's look at the movement patterns of these movements individually.
The Kettlebell Snatch is marked by Extension throughout the body.
The athlete starts in a flexed position with the knees, and hips bent. The bell is swung back through the legs, loading the hamstrings.
The momentum of the bell is reversed with controlled violence and then extension begins throughout the body. The hips and knees extend to give momentum to the bell. The spine is lengthened.
And finally, the arm punches itself into a straight, extended position.
The Deadlift is very similar.
The lifter starts out in a crouching position, grasping the bar as it sits on the floor.
From there, the lifter pulls the weight up along the body, extending the knees and the hips.
Once the bar is pulled to its highest point, the lifter further extends himself, pulling the shoulders back into a position of pride.
Upon analyzing both of these movements, the action that is repeated time and again is extension: extension in the knees, hips, shoulders and arms.
So, what is the natural antagonistic balancing action for the movement pattern of Extension?
There has to be some kind of contra-indicative movement pattern that essentially will negate these two big lifts, right?
The answer is Flexion.
To repeat, we are looking for an antagonistic, or opposite movement pattern, and we already said that KB work and Deadlifts involve a lot of force into extension, so the natural antagonistic movement pattern would be flexion.
BUT WAIT - I thought that, just like the ghost busters crossing the streams, having your "body in flexion" was bad!?!?
Sure, sitting at your desk all day in flexion is BAD. It can have a huge toll on your body over the years, so let's try to avoid that...
How about Crunches?
SCREW THAT! BORING!!!
There has to be some other exhilarating strength training practice that involves flexion, while also requiring the same level of dedication, the same level of discipline, and the same level of technical precision in order to succeed that the Kettlebell Snatch and the Deadlift require. But what is it???
The answer - STEEL BENDING.
Don't believe me? Let's look at steel bending, now, and the movement patterns involved.
Find five to ten different types of crunches. For instance try a combo of leg lifts, regular crunches, bicycle, push-ups, and ball exercises. Most exercises that you can do on the floor you can also do on a strengthening ball. The ball is a great way to keep your core engaged. An engaged core equals supported back and a more effective workout. Modifications are necessary for individuals with lower problems (like me). For instance, with the leg lifts, only go down until your back begins to lift up off the ground. Then bring them back to perpendicular to the ground and continue your workout with this limitation. If you don't, you put your back under unnecessary pressure. Check out the snazzy video.
There are many other ab workouts there too. The key is to do all of these in a row. Maybe do 15 reps or 30 seconds of one, take a 15 second break, then do another until you have finished them all. Take a 2 minute break and repeat. The point is to work up a sweat and keep your heart pounding faster. It's an excellent form of strength training.
Boxing requires the ability to withstand body punishment. Take a 12-15 pound medicine ball and have someone deliver a body blow with the same form the individual would deliver a shovel hook but with the medicine ball delivered full force to your abdominal region. Do not hit the individual in the Liver, Heart or Kidneys when doing this exercise. Make sure to tighten your abdominal muscles and blow out air from your lungs when the ball makes contact with your abs. Skipping rope for 3-5, 3 min. rounds conditions the legs, along with 3-5 miles of road work done 3x a week. Punching power can be developed on a 150-200 pound Heavy Bag. Double End Bag develops punching accuracy. Sparring is important for learning how to gage distance and timing. I recommend 3-5, 3 min rounds of shadow boxing, Sparring and bag work following that order 3 times a week. Boxing requires Quad strength, and sand bag quarter squats and half squats give the legs a good workout. I recommend 3 sets of 50-100 sand bag squats performed 3 x a week, for boxes. Boxers can also benefit from wrist strength which improves punching power and neck strength which will strengthen the neck and allow the neck to act as a shook absorber when receiving blows.
First, I have a confession - looking back at my high school I largely consider myself a waste of talent. I was blessed with size and athleticism, but I threw them away by never getting serious about training. I am still disappointed to this day.
I attended a small Catholic high school in Binghamton, New York which was not known for its sports programs. I enjoyed sports, playing football, basketball, and baseball. Unfortunately, all I did was dabble with strength training.
We did not have any organized lifts at the high school to speak of, but my dad had a few friends that used to play big time college football. One offered to pick me up each morning and take me to the gym before school.
I loved it....but still didn't get any stronger.
Honestly, I had no idea what to do at the gym. One day I would do all hammer strength machines, other days I would just bench and call it a day. Chin ups were too hard...never really did any of those.
Despite my lack of results at the gym, I was fortunate enough to get recruited as an offensive lineman and baseball pitcher. I decided to attend Colgate University and play football, but I still didn't "get it".
What do you think would happen to someone that was weak and taking the pounding of year round football program? You guessed it, I got injured. I went to all weight training sessions (mandatory), but still didn't get many results. It wasn't the programs' fault, it was my lifestyle. Before I knew it I had gone under the knife 4 times for knee injuries.
I was at a cross roads. At 6 foot 5, 310 lbs, I had two choices. Continue living a lazy lifestyle or make a change. I finally "got it". That summer between sophomore and junior year I lost 55 lbs on eating right and training hard. Working in a sheet metal shop making square pieces of metal out of flat ones all day with a hammer certainly helped as well!
External factors play a major part in how we feel and how we react to them will determine whether we are successful in what we are about to do. From a training perspective all manner of things can and will try and stop you doing what you want to do, whether that is a gym session or competing. Your inner voice will try and convince you that doing anything that makes you uncomfortable (training in winter, doing a heavy squat session) is a waste of time and will try anything to stop you.
There are things that can combat that:
We are all affected by many things in our lives, but remember, it is our
reaction them that determines how we get past them and stay motivated on our
The only limits are those that we impose on ourselves, so don't impose
limits, find your motivation and stick to it.
Hi, my name is Jedd Johnson. I am a CSCS through the NSCA, an RKC through Dragondoor, and am co-founder of DieselCrew.com. Our website is dedicated to exploring the development of strength and conditioning for all athletes in all sports.
Over the years, my favorite facet of strength training has been Grip Strength and I compete in several competitions every year. Grip Competitions involve Crushing, Pinching, Support lifting and other forms of hand and lower arm strength.
One of the coolest parts of the sport of Grip is Nail Bending. Bending nails, spikes, bolts, steel stock, drill rod, and other things is one of the most exciting and obsessive types of strength training you can do.
Up until now, Nail Bending might be one of the last things you would ever think of doing in your program, but there are actually a ton of benefits that you can get from Bending. Check these out :
While wrist curls and similar classic forearm exercises bring about results, they pale in comparison to the bulk built by bending. The sustained tension of nail bending causes growth in both the flexor side of the forearm and the extensor side of the forearm, creating an impressive look of balance and control.
In short, your forearms will probably BLOW UP!
When you become proficient in harnessing your mind's and your body's power in nail bending, imagine the results you will see in your other lifts or in the sport you play. You'll be unstoppable compared to everyone else who has never truly tested themselves in the ways you have after taking on the challenge of bending.
Take Note: Nail bending is NOT some form of trickery or sleight of hand like magic is.
However, it DOES bring about much the same reaction from a crowd.
Imagine talking about this new sort of strength training you are doing and when they ask you to show them, you bust out a nail, wrap it in a towel and bend it right before their eyes.
How awesome will that be?!?!
You could use this classic feat of strength of Bending to set yourself from everybody else at school, at the gym, or at your place of work. Instead of just blending in with the rest of the people, you will automatically be set apart from everybody else.
Instead of just somebody in the crowd, you'll become the Strong Guy/Gal (Yes, ladies bend too!!!), or The Nail Bender.
Every time people see you, even if it's only occasionally, you'll be burned in their mind as somebody with a strong grip - nobody to mess with, that is for sure.
Luckily, I got to be on the other end of a training session recently - with Matt Ruskin, an MMA fighter, ex-marine, and all around badass.
Matt took me a bit out of my element by giving me an MMA (mixed martial arts) style workout. As he points out, "MMA training challenges your equilibrium by constantly making you switch from being on the ground to being on your feet."
The exercises we did all involve explosive changes in direction, and when all was said and done, I was pretty beat.
Truth be known, for at least a few months there early on I was an anti-kettlebell person; buying in to the bullshit that you can just use a dumbbell. How wrong I was.
My ultimate interest in kettlebells has always been the access they give to people to perform movements that they never would have in a normal environment; whether it is an athlete or some just looking to lose a few pounds. It is all about having the accessibility to the fastest journey from point A to point B and kettlebells provide that.
2. Most programs are written specifically for strength or specifically for fat loss. How do you program for both?
I think people used to think that they could not do both; but there is a trend out there that that is starting to insert heavier loading into fat loss programs. I think most of us would agree a large degree of fat loss is changing what goes into your mouth.
Strength and fat loss actually go quite well together, although we have been conditioned to think otherwise. When you think about it with pure strength work you should use relatively low volume work and with a restricted fat loss diet you don't want to expend too much energy.
Here's a personal example : I did the better part of a train-up for a strongman contest while using something called the velocity diet (fairly restrictive fat loss protocol) and it did not effect performance at all.
3. Why use kettlebells for strength and fat loss when you can use other tools?
Ultimately it is accessibility. If you are a pretty decent coach and your client has the physical ability with kettlebells the door is wide open.
It's really as simple as this - the vast majority of people can't squat or deadlift worth a damn, and we can get proficient at that stuff quickly with a kettlebell. There is no psychological 'hang-up' of having to 'address a big weight' and that is beyond value. Not only in long term movement quality but in regard to fat loss too they use more of the 600 principle as my friend Dax Moy likes to call it; in short they are using more of their 600 muscles and that is a good thing when it comes to fat loss.
Not to mention we can progress them to things like swings, snatches, get-ups and flowing complexes.
For athletes it is sad to say but most of them are pretty strong but move like shit, it allows the access again to refine some movement and coordination and then put the foot on the pedal and go into advanced movements again while having a very short learning curve, it's very powerful.
When were are honest about things we need athletes in & out fast with high impact results, not spending a ton of time teaching minutiae or refining technique.
Kettlebells are the perfect blend of a tool that provides diversity, and accessibility to many different populations; whether it is performance strength work, metabolic work, or even mobility work with just a couple kettlebells. As someone who needs their 'tools' to make money, that is invaluable.
4. Why double kettlebells?
Well as you may have figured I am not much of a 'load nazi', that is the apparent thing that the double kettlebell provides and for most people and athletes that is enough.
With the kettlebells we are allowed the opportunity to move relatively heavy weight fast, and this very good for developing athleticism and even better for fat loss.
There is another component and this something I call integrity; basically when someone is forced to hold the kettlebell(s) in the rack position regardless of the movement it just brutalizes the core in a good way, in other words it keeps people from being lazy and at the same time slips in a sneaky little bit of core work.
5. Can you describe a sample workout?
We have a variety of signature workouts from Big Iron Burn (BIB), Chaos Method (CM), and Smoke Session (SS). Things that make our program a bit different from purely the exercise standpoint.
We have a 'pick your own ending' style with the chaos method that switches things up everyday or Big Iron Burn which is a primary movement plus a burn circuit that supports the movement developed in the big iron portion.
Then we have the metabolic Smoke Session. Ultimately the programming is set up to sustain progress whether you are a kettlebell newbie or a fitness enthusiast so you will be able to step in and get kickass results.
Since most people want to feel like they worked out here's an example of a workout that I shot this fall with a football theme.
If you would like to check out all our other free workouts and videos go to: www.kettlebellworkoutvideos.com
"You can't run below 10.40 in the 100 without drugs."
"Show me an Olympics track and field athlete who is not on drugs and I will show you the one who is last!"
In the powerlifting world, Louie Simmons is known for claiming that steroids are necessary to become "as strong as possible".
It has become a common belief that all high performers in power sports are on drugs. Repeated drug charges of famous athletes in sports like baseball and track and field, and recent movies like "Bigger, Stronger, Faster" only support this contention.
Since I was a young boy I have believed that we, as human beings, possess an unlimited potential.
Wealth is moral. The only sin is limitation.
Cutting edge researchers like Bruce Lipton and Gregg Braden have written books with statements such as:
"Our genes are controlled by our beliefs."
"We are not bound by the laws of biology as we know them today."
I believe that we are about to see a BIG CHANGE in the methods used in strength and conditioning. The best coaches and athletes will start to pull in methods from outside our field and start applying within our field. A common denominator for these methods is that they will embrace the human being as an energy being (this is fact - check your physics book) rather than a collection of bones and flesh.
I asked Shawn Tompkins, head MMA trainer at TapouT Training Center in Las Vegas, the same question. He said he'd pick the gym with the better atmosphere. "If you don't enjoy what you're doing, what's the point?" he asked.
I'd like to point out that this is coming from the guy who's coached MMA superstars Wanderlei Silva, Randy Couture, Dan Henderson, Mark Hominick, Vitor Belfort, Mark Coleman and more. A coach who is driven and passionate and worked tirelessly to perfect his own coaching style over the years. He'd pick the gym with the best vibe over the one with the best coaching.
Tompkins isn't the only person with that opinion. Many coaches have pointed out over the years that all the credentials and knowledge will not replace a good gym vibe or culture. Although it sounds like nails on a chalkboard to goal-centered athletes, the process really does matter as much as the destination. Create an atmosphere where everyone feels valued and respected, and that's where they'll really shine.
The best gym I've ever had the pleasure of training at was Primero BJJ in Tucson, Arizona. I can't say that I could differentiate between the good vibe and good instruction. Good instruction is part and parcel, really, but perhaps it is the atmosphere that makes students more receptive to it. Qualified instructors are a dime a dozen, but safe and positive environments? From my experience, they are deceptively hard to find.
The gym atmosphere permeates into every aspect of training. Good instruction is of paramount importance for those who are solely focused on training, and Primero had some of the best with the combined talents of Richard Bueno, Brian Ogule and Joe Solorio. And instruction is the first place where gym vibe is important, if you want to create an atmosphere where students feel safe enough to take risks, be creative, ask questions and try new things. I'd go to Primero for the conditioning; when I decided to get serious about getting in shape it was heavy lifting and Primero that got me there. This is another place where gym culture is important. How many athletes would go to a gym with a rotten vibe when they've had a bad day or are stressed out for other reasons? Much easier to talk yourself out of it, but a gym with a good culture has the opposite effect: students are more likely to attend under negative personal circumstances.
Like most things in life, being aware of the subtle nuances of the human flag is the key to performing it skilfully. Most people assume it's strictly an issue of upper body strength, but there are other things to consider when training for the human flag. I believe that achieving a full human flag begins by having a thorough understanding of these considerations. From there it's simply a matter of practice, dedication, and patience.
A lot of people ask me how long it takes to learn to do a human flag. It's natural to ask this question but I think the best way to approach training to do a flag is not to think about the end result. It is a long road to the human flag and people who go in expecting a quick fix will likely be disappointed. It takes a lot of practice - even if you're already fit. However, if you focus on the process rather than the end result, I think you'll find it a more rewarding experience. It also helps to set small bench marks along the way by using easier variations to build your way up to the full human flag.
The key to gradual progression is to practice similar positions where you'll have better leverage. Part of what makes the full human flag so challenging is that you're using a relatively short lever (your arm) to hold up a very long object (your body). Since you can't really make your arms longer, you need to find ways to make your body shorter in order to make the flag more manageable.
Progressive distance training has been used by legends like Paul Anderson, Peary Rader and Bob Peoples. Progressive distance training is related to supra-maximal eccentric training, in the sense that supporting structures of the body, like grip, core, bones and tendons get exposed to loads beyond 1RM. Unless specifically addressed, a weakness of progressive distance may be a lack of stimulation of strength in the bottom position of a movement (typically the most challenging part).
By nature, progressive distance should be a 6-week cycle (or longer) to allow the athlete to adapt to the given settings. Due to the short range of motion (ROM) initially, the rep number is a little higher and tapers down as ROM increases.
A power rack with solid safety pins is needed for this MV.
|Day 1||? x 5-1|
|Day 2||? x 3-6||(55-75% 1RM)|
|Day 3||? x 6-3|
|Day 4||? x 6-3|
As mentioned in Appendix 6, the range of motion is related to the tension on the muscle and thus, intensity. The ROM is waved down and up from workout to workout and week to week using the following sequence. (Setting 1 should allow for about 1-inch of movement. Subsequent settings are counted based on setting number 1).
|Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4||Week 5||Week 6|
The goal of the system is to progress to full ROM. You can shorten or lengthen the progression (fewer or more settings than 8) if full ROM for the athlete/client corresponds to a number different from 8.
Well, if you haven't jumped rope since you were a kid, you might be surprised by how challenging it can be.
In fact, I think it's one of the best forms of cardio conditioning out there - way better than the eliptical trainer.
You can probably expect to get winded and feel uncoordinated the first time you try jumping rope for cardio, but after a few sessions you will start to get the hang of it.
Once you get that move down, you can move onto alternating feet (skipping), and then work on doing double skips.
Legendary Danish physicist, Niels Bohr, was known for saying that "an expert is someone who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a narrow scope of practice".
I will assume that you are currently creating your long-term training plan based on some form of periodization model (linear, non-linear, conjugate, block etc). If you are ahead of your game, you might even have my book "The Flexible Periodization Method".
(Not everyone is comfortable with "periodization" and find the concept to be confusing and too theoretical. If this describes you, I recommend that you initially focus on the most basic definition of periodization -"a division into periods".)
Programmes that follow the principles of periodization have been proven to yield better results than programs that do not follow principles of periodization (Study "Designing Resistance Training Programs", by Fleck and Kraemer to learn more).
If you are not basing your long-term training programs on a clear, effective periodization model, then that is 'the mistake of all mistakes!" Let's dive into it!
A great macrocycle plan is based on asking the athlete and or coach about the weak link in training or competition. I have written elsewhere about the 7 categories of weak links, but here they are listed for your convenience
What ever physical capacity the athlete is aiming to improve, the training program to address this particular capacity must be trained for a sufficient number of weeks so that useful training adaptations are created.
The sufficient number of training weeks ranges from 3 to 12 depending on the capacity to be improved, how strongly that capacity is emphasized in the program and the training age of the athlete or client.
MV 1: ? sets x 10-12+10-12+10-12 reps / Tempo: 502 / RI: 60 sec
Start with a 3-4/5 RPE load for 10 reps. Progress on load when 12 reps are completed in all segments in at least one set. Progress on nr sets from week to week.
(RI = Rest Interval, RPE = Rate of Perceived Exertion)
MV 2: ? sets x 8-10+8-10+8-10 reps / Tempo: 502 / RI 60 sec
Start with a 3-4/5 RPE load for 8 reps. Progress on load when 10 reps are completed in all segments in at least one set. Progress on nr sets from week to week.
MV 3: ? sets x 3-5 reps with an unilateral exercise alternating left and right for 4-8 minutes without rest / Tempo 502 / RI: 60 sec if more than one set is used.
Start with a 3-4/5 RPE load for 90 sec constant work. Progress on load, when at 2 min of unterinterrupted work can be performed. Increase nr of minutes from week to week.
MV4: 1 set x 100-200 reps / Tempo: m0m0 / RI: na
While it's commonly seen in competitive gymnastics, few people are familiar with the planche and even fewer have thought to try it themselves. I'm hoping to change that!
The textbook planche position is almost the same as the push-up position - except your feet are not touching the ground!
There are several positions to practice while building up towards this, such as headstands, handstands and the crow (aka frogstand). It's also helpful to practice planche variations with bent arms and/or legs, as these are typically easier.
Before working on the planche, you should establish a solid foundation of core strength as well as upper body strength, through doing exercises like planks, push-ups, and dips.
The full planche is still a work in progress for me but after months of practicing, I can get my body mostly straight when my arms are bent.
I asked Henkin to take a look at my deadlift, which is probably my best lift. It took me 16 weeks to get from 175 lbs. to 200, and I was convinced that my newfound 1RM wasn't going to change any time soon. Twenty minutes with Henkin proved me wrong, and I walked out with a new 1RM: 220 lbs. But probably even more important (if you're of the belief that anything's more important than a PR), I walked away with a greater knowledge of my own muscle imbalances and movement patterns that need work, and some great ideas to help me get there.
Since these problems aren't particularly uncommon, I thought I'd share some of what we worked on to activate my posterior chain - particularly the glutes and hamstrings, with an emphasis on proper hip extension.
Josh Henkin's explanation: "By internally rotating the feet you minimize the use of the dominant external rotators. This may sound contradictory, but you actually stimulate more of the stabilizers such as the gluteus medius. If the smaller muscles learn to fire better it will provide a better environment to have the prime movers more effectively perform their job."
I've been a professional armwrestler for 20 years now, but it didn't start out all trophies and gold medals. My first 2 years I struggled to just win a single match in the amateur class until I learned the sport specific training needed to become a better armwrestler.
In this article I'm going to give you the 3 basic points you need to work on to get your self ready for an armwrestling match.
Of course, if your gym doesn't have a set of straps, you can always bring your own and freak out the training staff with your mad skills.
Beyond portability, suspension straps also allows you to quickly adjust the difficulty of each exercise simply by changing the angle of your body in relation to the anchor point: If an exercise is too challenging, move your center of gravity closer to the vertical line under the anchor point and widen your base of support ("feet apart"); If an exercise is too easy, move your center of gravity away from the vertical line and make your base of support smaller ("feet together").
In sports, there are rarely slow controlled movements like conventional pull-ups; real life activities typically involve using the body as a whole. Kipping pull-ups are an explosive, dynamic exercise, turning the pull-up into more of a full-body exercise as opposed to just working the upper body.
Utilizing the kipping technique for pull-ups usually allows for more total reps, which is why some gym rats have referred to it as "cheating." But I think that's somewhat of a juvenile attitude.
From my point of view, when people use the term cardio is it is being referred to as low intensity steady state aerobic (with oxygen) exercise such as running or stationary bike and has no place being called a conditioning program. To me conditioning is an intense anaerobic (without oxygen) training experience and I feel a lot of people are misguided. I thought I would put the record straight.
A conditioning program consisting of high speed and high intensity exercise will certainly keep you fit whilst preserving your strength and mass. It will also make your body more efficient at burning fat by increasing your metabolic rate for up to 36 hours after you have finished your training. The other benefit is that you can complete your conditioning session in less time.
The most important thing you can bring to a conditioning program is you. That is, if there is a lack of effort put in then the program will suck. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink; well this holds true here. You can have the best conditioning program in the world, but if you don't show up with your A game and give it all you have got, then you may as well forget it. You get out what you put in, anyone can jog, but how many people can do hill sprints at top speed without keeling over?
Remember - Knowledge is power only if the knowledge is applied.
Fatigue makes cowards of us all - Vince Lombardi
Conditioning workouts hurt, there is no getting around it. Lactic acid sets in and then your mind is against you trying anything and everything to make you quit. If you train intensely then you will meet fatigue, fatigue is unavoidable. However, the body can be trained to minimise its effects or at least delay them.
You have got to be motivated to train through fatigue. Intense conditioning will challenge you, but motivation will allow you to achieve your goals through hard physical and mental activity, giving you the ability to push through fatigue.
The body has more potential than most people realise, however conditioning is not just about the physical training; mental training is just as important and that will come about by hard physical effort, pushing through fatigue. Mental conditioning plays a pivotal role if peak physical conditioning is to be realised.
Were you aware that we have 3 energy systems? Without getting too technical, the 3 energy systems our body uses are:
Aerobic : This is used primarily for steady state cardio, burning calories whilst doing the exercise but very little if any afterwards. Training too much with this system can reduce muscle mass, speed and power (e.g. marathon runners).
Anaerobic : Has 2 energy systems (ATP-PC and Glycolytic). These energy systems are used during high speed/high intensity conditioning.
ATP-PC is stored in the muscles and is the energy system for power. However we only have a finite amount and is quickly used.
Glycolytic : This energy system derives its energy for glycogen stored in the muscles or liver, this is what the body uses during intense exercise once ATP stores have been depleted.
Training in this manner will still provide cardiovascular benefits but will also keep strength gains and well as providing effective fat loss. This is due to the increase in your metabolic rate post exercise, which allows the body to burn calories long after you have finished training.
Having good aerobic fitness is still important, but you do not have to do steady state cardio to achieve it. Anyone who has tried a high intensity program, which uses energy without oxygen will still be breathing heavy afterwards. This is because the body still has to utilise oxygen to help remove lactic acid and replenish energy stores.
A good conditioning program will enhance all three energy systems.
There are times when I see people in a gym on recumbent bikes or stationary bikes for quite literally hours reading magazines. This will get you nowhere, burn very little fat and will not even tax your aerobic capacity and do nothing for your conditioning.
Let's get something straight. You do not need to spend hours in a gym, the maximum time you need to spend conditioning is 30-40 minutes and this can be realised by high intensity conditioning. In fact if you have limited time to train you can fit a ball busting conditioning session in 20 minutes, ever tried to do 20 minutes of burpees straight? I rest my case!
GPP is the way whereby an athlete can improve his/her work capacity (the amount of work a body can produce) by using a variety of conditioning exercises, designed to improve Aerobic Endurance, Anaerobic Endurance, Recovery, Strength and Coordination. Everyone should aim to improve their GPP, through high intensity conditioning.
There are several methods that can be used to create a complete all round conditioning program; the following are the ones I primarily use:
There are several options that lend themselves particularly well to interval training:
A punching drill on a heavy bag is a great example of interval training. Plan out 8-12 1 minute rounds with 1 minute rest in between rounds. These 1 minute rounds have to be really taxing and you have to be able to go all out until the minute is up. This is extremely difficult but extremely rewarding.
Circuit training is a great way to conduct your conditioning routines, it is similar to interval training but can be for time or for repetitions or both. Circuits are performed at a fast pace and can concentrate on upper body, lower body or be combined to provide full body conditioning. There are no rules as to how circuits are constructed. It could be just bodyweight or other modularities can be used including dumbbells, barbells, sandbags, medicine balls, kettlebells, heavy bags, skipping rope etc.
Circuit training is tough and is designed to force you to dig deep and push through fatigue.
Simply put, how much of a particular exercise you can do it a defined amount of time. Your goal is to increase the amount of work performed in a time period.
Great examples I use are:
An excellent protocol for conditioning, this involves 8 rounds of exercise with 20 seconds of intense activity, followed by 10 seconds of rest.
Tabata Intervals are one of my favourite protocols for an excellent conditioning session. You can either pick one exercise such as squats or pick multiple exercises, performed one after the other.
Complete this tabata circuit for 8 rounds WITHOUT stopping
Finishers are a great way to round off your training, whether it was a strength or conditioning session. They will test your mental toughness and push your physical ability to the limit. From a strength point of view it is a great way to get a conditioning routine in and from a conditioning point of view a great way to teach your body to push through fatigue and increase your GPP.
Farmers walks, tabata intervals, bodyweight or density training are great examples of finishers.
All of these are essential for maintaining good work capacity for strength training. The benefits of this include allowing more intensity and volume to your strength workout, quicker recovery times between sets and between workouts. By having increased recovery allows you to handle bigger workloads.
Of course you still have to train smart and not let the conditioning detract from your strength training if strength is your focus. Getting DOMS for days after a conditioning session will not help your strength training.
I see these all as equal and strive to be as strong and as conditioned as possible. I am not too concerned about bulking up as long as the functional strength is in place.
Everyone has their own goals, but no one should neglect either strength or conditioning.
Always plan your activities and log everything. Improvements can be made easier if you know what you did in your last training session. Lay out a week of activity and stick to it. A typical week for a general strength and conditioning program could consist of the following:
The strength training could go Maximal Upper, Lower, Upper and then the following week reverse it so that it is Lower, Upper, Lower.
Another strength-focussed week could be Full Body Strength on Monday, Day Off on Wednesday as recovery and then an Explosive Strength day on the Friday.
The point is is that as long as you have a plan, you can track your progress to make sure you can get the training in and know what you need to do week on week.
I always recommend backing off every 8th week with a program like this to allow your body to recover. This would entail less volume of training.
Before we get into some approaches to building grip strength for jiu
jitsu, I wanted to go over a couple of things. First of all, part of
grip burnout in a jiu jitsu tournament has to do with the lovely
cocktail of fear, adrenaline and technique that isn't exactly
thoughtful. To avoid burning out your grip before you even have a
chance to get started, you might consider not grabbing the gi from the
get-go but working some other type of takedown. Feel free to ignore
this advice if it's not your style (or if you're a judo player), but
if you're a wrestler grabbing the gi from the beginning does little other
than burn your grip and hurt your takedown attempt. You can also have
a light grip or use a no-gi approach where you grip the actual arm
(for example) rather than the gi to avoid killing your forearms before
you even have the chance to get started. Just something to think about
and possibly discuss with your coach and team.
Secondly, make sure you don't go nuts with the grip training. It is
very easy to overtrain, so make sure to either incorporate it as a
small part of your overall strength and conditioning program or, if
you're using a more intense approach, to take two weeks off every
month or so in order to prevent overtraining or injury.
Having said that, here's some approaches to strengthen the grip for jiu jjtsu.
Throw a gi over your pullup bar and do some pullups grabbing onto
that. If you're still doing jumping pullups or body rows, use a gi for
those instead. If you didn't bring your gi to the gym, you can use a
towel in a pinch.
Wrap a towel around your bar to make it nice and fat, and kill your
forearms by doing your pull-ups on that. You can also use a fat bar
for your barbell lunges, or fatten up your dumbbells for your one-arm
One simple way to work your grip strength is by lifting heavy things.
Take the lifting gloves off, use some chalk if necessary and work your
Some of these are still ideally suited to my training, and get used frequently; others are just fun to challenge yourself with. Whichever way they're used, here are a few more of The Forgotten Lifts :
Following Scott's lead, I asked Greg 10 questions to dig below the surface.
I grew up in the southwest San Francisco Bay Area, which is were my gym is now. I learned the lifts in high school, although not well by any means. I didn't have any real guidance or exposure to actual weightlifters, so to me at that point, they were just some other barbell exercises that I didn't use much.
As soon as I could afford it, which was maybe 15 years old, I bought a power rack, a real bar and as many plates as I could for my garage to upgrade from the junk weights I'd be using for the previous few years. That went with me when I moved to Arizona, Chico and southern California. I still have the rack and plates - not sure what happened to the bar.
So I was always lifting weights, but not weightlifting. I wish I had better exposure to the sport at an earlier age. When I was in Chico, I was given a partnership in NorCal Strength & Conditioning. Finally I had access to bumpers and bars that actually spun a little, and immediately weightlifting became my primary interest although I was still doing conditioning work and training BJJ. Eventually I quit doing anything but lifting.
Shortly thereafter I sold my house, sold my third of the gym to my two partners, and moved to southern California to lift with Mike Burgener. I wanted to take some time without the responsibilities of gym ownership, without having to spend the entire day training clients, and just have a chance to train myself. It was the best decision I've made. I was able to be coached by one of the best out there and be in an environment of serious lifters. Burgener's gym is just a two-car garage at his house with four platforms smashed together, a lot of bars and weights, and a lot of love for the sport. I continued training private clients in the garage and coaching lifters with Burgener, learning as much as I could.
Pretty much from day one. I've never been anything more than mediocre as a lifter, and I've always put myself in a position to prioritize others' lifting over my own. I don't mean that to say I'm extraordinarily selfless and charitable; I've just recognized that I can do more as a coach than an athlete. I derive enough satisfaction with my own training whether or not I'm competing, so it's not much of an issue. Fortunately, I think not being a great lifter has made me a better coach because I've had to get creative and think my way through progress.
First, I want to acknowledge the shortcomings of an online training program: I can't program specifically for any of the participants, although I do keep an eye on comments and try to adjust accordingly. There are a number of things I do in that program that are specific to this essentially unknown group of athletes based on assumptions I've made about them and their needs. So far it seems to work well - we get a lot of comments and emails about peoples' success.
CrossFit had a daily conditioning workout posted; Mike Burgener had a daily weightlifting workout posted. I just happened to be in a position that people contacted me a lot about combining lifting and conditioning. I initially didn't want to post a daily workout because of the problems inherent with such a thing, but there was enough of a demand and I like programming so I figured I would do it. So the point is that it filled the gap in the existing workouts and provided what is basically a weightlifting program that accommodates a bit of conditioning work for people who want to get stronger, improve their Olympic lifts, and not turn into fat slobs.
Weightlifting is the only thing that keeps my interest as a coach and an athlete. In terms of training in general, I like pretty much everything out there, and I like using as many tools as possible. I like interacting with all the different people and learning what they have to teach. It doesn't mean I'm going to do exactly what they do the way they do it, but there's no one you can't learn something from, even if it's what not to do. With regard to actual certifications, I've had all kinds, but they don't mean much. The only ones I maintain are the USAW and CSCS. I don't pursue higher USAW certs because I have no compelling reason to. I'd rather stay in my own gym, coach, train and work - having a different classification on my USAW card doesn't affect what I do, and I have no interest in coaching international teams, so it doesn't matter.
I think weightlifting should be accessible to everyone, but that doesn't mean it's appropriate, beneficial or necessary for everyone. If it's not done well, there are definitely unnecessary injury risks, and that's my biggest concern with the growing popularity of the lifts not matched by growing numbers of competent coaches. In other words, the more people doing the lifts improperly, the greater number of them who will get hurt, and the more we will start hearing that weightlifting causes injury.
I'm not saying your gym should be filled with half-naked women
sporting novelty items. What I am saying is that you could take a hint
from nice, clean stores which revolutionized the way many women looked
at sex shops and tapped into a whole new market. What separates stores
such as Good Vibrations or Fascinations from the XXX Adult Store even the bravest women won't venture near? Read on.
Very few women like to shop...or work out... in a dungeon. Granted,
gyms are not always the cleanest of locations. People work out hard.
They sweat. We get that. But seriously, gym owners - clean up your
shit. Your mom doesn't work here. Make sure your bathrooms and
changing works have working locks, soap and toilet paper. Pick up the
pile of sweatshirts on the floor. Clean the floor. Pick up the piles
by the reception desk. And change the light bulbs. And if you're
looking for a gym you hope your lady friend will like, just
remember - an unlit and filthy gym is not attractive to women.
The problem with the creepy, smelly sex shop is that it attracts
creepy, smelly people. What's the best way to prevent this? Shine a
light on it. This strategy is actually used in convenience stores to
prevent shoplifting. And it has the added benefit of making people
feel welcome. Even if people keep to themselves during their actual
workout, nobody wants to be ignored. Create a pleasant and friendly
environment and you'll build customer loyalty.
A good sex shop has something that meets the comfort and tolerance
level of a wide variety of of customers. Not looking for hardcore
porn? Massage oil is pretty sweet and innocent. As are Halloween
costumes. Whether someone's looking for bachelorette party favors or
items to stockpile in their dungeon (er, basement), they can find what
they need in the good, well-lit sex shop.
How would this work for your gym? Simple. Make sure your offerings are
acccessible for the diverse needs of your client base. What does this
look like? Dumbbells that start at lower weights. Cardio machines and
even weight machines for people who will not be weaned off of them
quite yet. Kettlebells, TRX systems and bumper plates for your
hardcore clients. And a wide range of classes for all skills and
This time we're taking a look at a few of the other ways of helping out various health & fitness charities; through one-time events, book/DVD/t-shirt purchases and direct financial donations. Let's get started.
If you're the type of person (and I'm definitely in this group) that loves to listen to some hard-hitting music during a workout, this may be one for you. In my case - and I suspect I'm not alone in this - the tunes come via an iPod which I wear throughout the session. It's a great way to help block out the world around you, and focus on the task at hand.
What happens when you get a new mp3 player, or similar device? Do you slowly build up a collection of things that are just sitting in a drawer?
If that's the case, swing by Gazelle. They'll buy these older devices from you, taking away a lot of the 'will I, won't I' debate each time a new iPod comes out. Great company.
There are many, many fitness-related fundraising events on the calendar each year. These offer a unique way to donate money, as typically you sponsor one of the athletes or teams involved. Examples include the MS Mud Run, the OXFAM Trailwalker and the Alzheimer's Society Himalayan Trek.
For details of all of these, and many more fitness-related events, head over to the calendar.
This falls into the category 'help them while you help yourself', and is a superb way to help out a charity or three. Typically the products are books, DVDs or CDs; such as liftStrong.
While it is true that feats of strength do require strength in order to complete them, there is also a great deal of technique that is involved as well.
There are many people out there who have tried tearing cards only to give up thinking they weren't strong enough just because they could not do it the first time they tried it.
Because feats of strength like card tearing are so beneficial for building strength, getting mentally strong, having fun, and being healthier, it is a shame to have people lose interest after failing the first time.
I failed the first time I tried to tear a deck of cards. In fact, it took me many days of trying before I was ever able to finish off a deck. I talk about this in my Card Tearing eBook.
What I want to do today is let everyone know that it does take some time to adapt to the card tearing learning curve, but you can make that learning curve much shorter by employing a few easy technical tweaks. By making these few technique improvements, tearing a deck of cards can be "within your grasp". Sorry for the bad pun...here are the technique tweaks.
The number one thing that makes it difficult to tear a deck of cards is the outside cards splitting. Once they split it becomes even harder to tear the deck. To prevent this, squeeze as tight as you can with the fingers over the edge of the cards. This keeps the cards pressed together and formed in one unit. This way the outside cards you are gripping won't end up sliding around, and the split on the side of the deck will break all the way through allowing you to attack the deck's weakness.
Many people fail to realize the importance of the thumb in tearing a deck of cards and barely engage it. The thumb can be used to secure the deck of cards in your hands by pressing hard against the side of the deck. The thumb can also be used to wrap over a fingertip or two to increase your crimp grip power on the outside cards.
The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
Strategic Negotiation by Brian Dietmeyer
The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric S. Raymond
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
I have borrowed heavily from each for key concepts and examples and wish to give the works and their authors full credit for anything beneficial that you derive from this article. If you find this article at all interesting (which I hope you do), then I recommend that you review the above texts, as they are all excellent reads. Also, I am indebted to those that participated in Scott Bird's Twitterchat #69. The generosity of the participants in sharing their best practices and personal experience helped me to refine my thinking and encouraged me to follow-up with this article.
During the last century, the world's greatest achievements came from solving complicated problems. For example, splitting the atom and putting a man on the moon, required multiple people and teams with specialized expertise. Unanticipated difficulties were frequent and timing and coordination of the work was critical. However, as experience was gained, we were able to repeat and refine the process, until it was nearly perfect.
Encouraged by our success, we entered an age of specialization. This is no less true in the strength and fitness world, where we now have a panoply of experts from science, medicine, and coaching focused on particular and specialized aspects of exercise, nutrition, and recovery. There are experts, including entire sub-specialties for doctors, physical therapists, kinesiologists, and dietitians and technical experts, who can be certified generally (e.g. CSCS for strength training and conditioning) or specifically (e.g. particular training methods like kettle bells). Professional athletes now assemble teams of experts to help with their training. Amateur athletes and serious exercise enthusiasts have access to physicians, personal trainers, nutrition professionals, and various therapists to help with recovery, not to mention the wealth of information and data that can be pulled from the Internet.
Unlike building a rocket ship, maximizing individual athletic performance includes variable factors that are different every time. These factors differ between athletes and even within the same athlete (training methods change as athletes age, are injured, gain strength, improve skills, etc.). It is this variability that makes training a complex problem.
So, what is a complex problem? Well, complex problems are not simple problems. Simple problems are best managed by following an established set of actions with little or no variation in technique. Think of baking a cake from a mix. If you are careful and follow the instructions, you will successfully bake a cake.
Complicated problems like building a rocket ship and sending it to the moon and back, cannot be accomplished by following a recipe. Complicated problems require multiple people or teams with specialized expertise. Unanticipated difficulties are frequent and timing and coordination of work is critical. But, with complicated problems, you can repeat and refine the process, until it is nearly perfect.
Complex problems, like raising a child, helping a client manage a lawsuit, or maximizing athletic performance include variable factors that are different every time. Expertise as a parent, attorney, or trainer is valuable, but not sufficient to adequately address complex problems, because their outcomes remain highly uncertain.
This does not mean that acceptable outcomes for complex problems cannot be achieved or are merely the result of good fortune. Rather, there are certain strategies that greatly enhance the probability of achieving acceptable outcomes. As our awareness and understanding of complexity improves, it becomes clear that the job of a professional is not just to be an expert in a particularized field, but to become a team member actively engaged in achieving an acceptable outcome.
As an attorney, the most important question that I can ask a client is, "What do you believe is an acceptable outcome?" Notice the term acceptable. Perfect outcomes are not achievable. A client that is hoping for a perfect outcome to a complex problem is sure to be disappointed, as trade-offs become necessary, when responding to unexpected problems.
Determining an acceptable outcome is really a matter of negotiating. On the one hand, there is the wish list that defines a perfect outcome. After clients have brainstormed or told me about everything that they would like to achieve, we put those interests in rank order. Then, we turn and consider competing interests. These often include incompatible goals, conflicting obligations, the interests of other parties, and limits on time and resources (this by no means exhausts the list of potential competing interests). Comparing the two lists helps define an acceptable outcome and determines where efforts can be focused to achieve the greatest results.
When dealing with a complex problem, any plan for achieving an acceptable outcome must include a list of necessary tasks and a plan for maintaining communication. The task list ensures that routine steps are not missed. The communication list guarantees that everyone talks through and contributes to resolving the unexpected and hard problems.
Properly formulated task focused checklists are very good at reducing the probability that a key step will be skipped or missed, because they engage the thinking part of the brain. In the field, key steps are not so much consciously skipped, as much as they are missed due to environmental distractions. By creating an agreed upon checklist of action items, you decrease the risk that you, your client, or another member of the team will skip a key step due to distractions. The checklist serves as a cognitive safety net, making it easy to embrace the project at hand, without skipping simple steps.
An example from training might be properly warming up. Everyone knows it's foolish to engage in physical training without warming up first, but with time pressure, competing interests, or environmental stress, this step occasionally gets skipped. The risks associated with skipping this step, are significant. Pulled muscles are a major setback to a training program. When you balance the interests involved, saving a few minutes versus suffering a major setback, the risk associated with skipping this key step is unacceptably high. Therefore, item number 1 on your checklist could be:
A gathering of articles that will give you an idea of the incredible range of training styles and approaches available. The Magnificent Seven.
NB : if you like these articles (and I've no doubt that you will), a simple way to show the author appreciation is by voting on it. You'll see links for Digg, Twitter and Facebook next to each one.
There are those that like to use sandbags because they are a nice "change of pace" or some other misguided souls use them because they want to be "hardcore". Neither of these reasons are good enough to justify the use of sandbags in one's training programs.
Using any type of training method or tool should be the result of problem solving one's training needs. Whether this is to enhance a specific fitness quality or to help an old injury, or to hit angles and movements that are not possible with other means. In a lot of ways my system was the result of trying to solve these issues in my own training and those of my clients.
Too many coaches look at sandbag training as a means to look tough during training. No one ever won anything based upon how they looked while they trained. It is only the result one achieves through their training that is truly meaningful.
I have found sandbags to help in some unexpected ways. For example, athletes and non-athletes alike often struggle to perform a great squat. I am referring to an Olympic style that not only gets you stronger, but mobile as well. All too many times coaches abandon squats or use a lesser variation to get around their weaknesses and flexibility issues. Often this results in injury or lack of transfer.
In order to solve this problem I often recommend implementing bear hug squats for those lifters that have a problem with excessive forward lean. The bear hug squat is a great drill because not only can you load the exercise to appreciable levels, but the counterbalance of the sandbag keeps the lifter far more vertical often curing at least 90% of the lifter's forward lean issues.
By using this position as well, the lifter can go deeper into the squat training more of the hamstrings and glutes. The bear hug has additional value in isometrically training the upper back and arms, two areas that many athletes forget to train in this manner that result in poor performance. In MMA many athletes fatigue after trying to execute an intense choke or submission. Largely this is left untrained in strength and conditioning.
To see how to solve other squatting issues see the video below:
Sandbags additionally can provide a remedy in improving pressing strength and shoulder health. Because of the constant shifting of sandbags, the smaller stabilizers are trained in the shoulder girdle. This means the support of the joint improves over time. Yet, we don't have to neglect performance. Using specific sandbag drills we can teach the body important lessons of stability and building a solid foundation by still training. All too often coaches feel frustrated as they try to find cues that teach lifters these same principles.
As a strength coach for the past fifteen years I have found myself in a similar position as many who want to find the fastest ways to strength. This led me down the road of examining many different training methods, and one that has always intrigued me was sandbags.
For years sandbags were used by athletic programs that simply could not afford to supply large amounts of athletes with strength training tools. Tell an athlete they have to lift a sandbag and they already know it is going to be more difficult than a bar or dumbbell, their heads sink as they know they are just flat out hard! Yet, even if something is difficult, it doesn't automatically make it beneficial.
I found it intriguing that sandbags had no definitive system of training. It appears that EVERYTHING from medicine balls, body weight, to kettlebells have a system of training. Having a system is important in developing meaning behind training and exercises, without it things remain random and training is stagnant and without purpose.
Why sandbags? Having competed in team sports for over a decade, and iron sports such as Strongman and Olympic lifting, I found sandbags provided some unique benefits for all types of athletes.
Having lifted stones, logs, and lots of odd implements, sandbags still remain one of the most challenging implements to train with because of the constantly shifting load that makes sandbags so difficult. I first used sandbags when access to standard Strongman tools were impossible. It just seemed obvious that sandbags hit the body in a different way than your standard weight room tools, it was as though sandbags hit all our weak links. Then when I actually got to train with Strongman tools and events, nothing compared with the challenge that lifting heavy sandbags provided on the back, hips, arms, legs, and abs...YES, truly the whole body! There seemed to be something there that could be more applicable to people beyond Strongman, but what was it?
Strongman is known for lifting odd objects, but the angles and movements that could be created even go beyond the standard Strongman protocols. One of my greatest disappointments with the renewed excitement of sandbag training is the lack of innovation people are using in their training.
Hang around strength coaches long enough and you will undoubtedly get into the "should or should not" Olympic lift argument. For those that are typically in the "do not" camp, it is the fact that Olympic lifting is a very specific sport and technique is challenging to pick up. Some coaches are fearful they will spend more time teaching technique than receive the benefit of Olympic lifting.
Sandbags remove that concern as cleaning, jerking, and other Olympic "style" lifts can be performed quite easily so more time is spent training than practicing. Some may argue that kettlebells do the same, however, kettlebells are different as they typically don't hold true to the triple extension that occurs in Olympic lifting which is what makes it such a powerful training tool for athletes. Sandbags do hold true to the triple extension and offer more variety in exercises that can be created that can replicate the unpredictable nature of sport itself. We now can not only perform the standard pulls and explosive exercises but perform them in rotation and other angles that happens in many sports!
First off, bending steel is extremely fun. Many athletes who take up bending literally become obsessed with it and bend multiple times a week.
Another benefit from bending steel is the physical result of bigger and stronger muscles. Straining against the steel requires a great deal of time under tension which results in increased strength and bigger muscles, especially in the upper and lower arms.
Next, bending increases your mental toughness. While the first couple of times you bend you may fail at a particular attempt, if you resolve to focus mentally and continue to hone your ability to do this, after a short time your mental toughness will enable you to blow past previous plateaus and climb the bending ladder.
Finally, there are certification systems out there that you can strive for and get recognition and your name 'up in lights' for the efforts you put into bending. Unfortunately, jumping right to the steel that you get certified on can leave you highly disappointed and possibly even injured.
This article serves as a guide of how to get started with bending and how to gradually climb the ladder safely and steadily.
Coiled Nails: Many nails are not straight the whole way down their shaft, but rather have a coiled design to them.
Being a feat of strength, it comes down to specialized training with the goal of lifting a heavy weight/ object with your jaw. Is it safe? Use caution, as with all feats of strength, they are not normal and there is a risk you take when you undergo training for any of them. I'm not a dentist either, so if you lose some teeth in the process, make sure you have your dentists' number handy.
The jaw lifting will put great stress on the back of your neck. So start with a comfortable weight and build up the conditioning and feel of the exercise. In the actual feat you'll be either picking up a weight or object straight off the ground or as I do in shows, swinging someone in a swing that's attached to a special jaw device that I made. Start off with high reps of the neck and jaw work. Then after a period where you feel comfortable with the exercises, you can start using higher weight and lower reps. When you get to the lower reps and heavier weight, use caution and have your body in a very solid position. Make a solid base starting with your feet, hands on your quads and feel the strength from the ground through your arms and transfer to your neck and jaw. Now, use caution with higher reps also and you can use same strength base. Your jaw and neck are not the strongest body parts, so chaining and spreading the tension will help you feel stronger and keep the exercises a bit safer.
So you can lift heavy weights? I'm impressed, but your average person doesn't know the difference between 225 and 800 lbs on the squat. They're both beyond his ability and heavy.
I don't want to knock weightlifting, though it may sound like I am. I lift weights and think everyone should too. The benefits are numerous.
But I want to encourage you to do something more. To add in some more skill into the mix. To do things that may inspire the average person to want to do it too.
I'm talking about things like feats of strength, kettlebell juggling, crazy bodyweight feats, hand balancing and acrobatics. Things which I enjoy doing.
Don't think that these are just party tricks either. Although skill may be involved (skill is involved even in basic weightlifting exercises in case you didn't know), they require strength and more. The benefits of many of these skills extend to endurance, coordination, balance, mobility and more. Things that many weightlifters may be lacking.
Don't take my word for it. Legendary Strongman George Jowett wrote back in 1930 on the subject of hand balancing:
No doubt you will have noticed that invariably all hand balancers have splendidly formed arms and each has a firm powerful hand clasp.
I have found that hand balancers on the whole have a more perfectly formed arm - particularly the forearms and wrist- than the weight lifter.
The hand balancer employs the hand and wrist much more than does the lifter of weights and what is more interesting, he employs the arm muscles as well as the grip in many unusual ways- ways not possible to the exercise fans who handle weights only.
No doubt knowledge of this diversified method of development is what makes the mass of European strength athletes so partial to the practice of hand balancing.
The average American strength athlete could practice this valuable pastime of hand balancing more consistently than he does.
True back then and even more so today.
Big muscles are not necessarily the key to performing body-weight feats of strength - you need look no further than my 165 pound frame for evidence of that. The key is core strength and total body control.
It's hard to get a consensus on what counts as the definitive one arm push-up. There are different variations, and like all other feats of strength from the pull-up to the human flag, everyone has their own opinion.
I believe that the ideal range in somewhere between 90-110 degrees of flexion as measured along the OUTSIDE of the elbow, depending on the mobility of the individual. If you aren't sure how low you are getting, have someone else watch you. Sometimes it's hard to feel how your body looks when you exercise. People often think they are going lower than they actually are. I know - I was once one of them! In order for me to count a rep in any sort of competitive situation, I would need to see a minimum of 90 degrees of flexion.
A strong midsection helps to get your whole body to work together. You also need to think about your opposite leg; If you are doing a one arm push-up on your right arm, your left leg needs to be engaged and vice versa. I find it best to practice keeping my whole body tight during the entire range of motion.
For my own training, which forms the basis of this article, I use heads from York Legacy Dumbbells, although nearly all of the methods can be applied with most other shapes. These are cast iron and have one fairly flat side and a flared side. I have 5 of these ranging from 12.5kg up to 22.5kg in 2.5kg increments, and before getting them had never touched, or even seen a Blob.
It felt most natural for me to place my 4 fingers on the flared side of the Blob and my thumb on the flat side. I soon realised this was in fact the 'easy' way of lifting them and it was more difficult and thus productive, to attempt all the lifts with my thumb on the flared side. Obviously at first it meant backing down to the smaller weights and building the strength back up and then my goal was always lifting the next weight up in this manner.
Note: Your Pinch strength is ultimately determined by your thumb strength.
How? Glad you asked.
Running Shoes : if you enjoy an occasional run, chances are that you have several pairs of shoes that get infrequent use at best. Rather than let them sit and gather dust, consider giving them to an organisation like Shoe 4 Africa or Soles 4 Souls; where they'll be cleaned up, sorted, and given to runners in the poorer parts of the world.
You get a clean cupboard, they get shoes. Everybody wins.
Clothing : although I'm talking about training clothing here, any clothing can be donated in the same way.
If - like me - you've inadvertently managed to accumulate a swag of workout gear over the years that no longer fits (t-shirts particularly), pass on the older models to places like Cancer Research UK, the Salvation Army or local charity shops.
Equipment : if you've been lifting for a while, there are probably a couple of items that don't get used all that often. Or perhaps you've just managed to land yourself a new rack, and there's a perfectly good one just sitting there.
Whatever the case, there are charities that specifically collect and redistribute this equipment. Of these, the largest is the Fitness4Charity group. Fantastic organisation.
NB : for smaller pieces of equipment and sporting goods, the Salvation Army is a great option.
Books : I've been surrounded by books for as long as I can remember, and an avid collector (and reader) for most of that time. To say I've got a few items in my fitness library is definitely understating things.
Given that, I'm always amazed when people sell their own precious strength-training tomes. Of course, if you're going to be getting rid of these gems in any case, why not donate them to Hands Across the Water, Books 4 Tanzania or your local library, school or gym.
SMR--Self-Myofascial Release--is the simplest way to use a foam roller. Think of it as "stretching without the stretch". During SMR, pressure is applied to a muscle causing activation of the Golgi Tendon Organ, which in turn signals muscle spindles to release and relax the muscle being worked on. In addition, SMR also breaks down scar tissue and unsticks muscle fascia as you work your way from one end of the muscle to the other.
While this double-whammy of "stretch" and "massage" makes SMR an amazingly efficient prehab and recovery tool, the best part is that it can be applied to your current training program without too much adjustment. A 10- or 15-minute SMR progression at the end of your current routine can serve as a great cool down after a hard day of lifting.
When I foam roll, I prefer to begin at my calves and work my way up to the neck. Feel free to experiment and find a sequence that works best for your needs and with your program.
Dynamic Weight Swinging, why it's one of the most beneficial things you can do for improving your performance. Kettlebells, Clubs, Maces; these are not your traditional weightlifting implements, but soon they will be the norm. Here's a little example of how kettlebells and the side effects of using them helped me with the Highland Games.
It was early 2000's. Whenever the last Tactical Strength Challenge was held in Chicago. Great time. I remember it was my wedding anniversary (can't remember what one) but I got Pavel on video wishing my lovely wife a happy anniversary. She wasn't as thrilled as I thought she'd be. It was a great time, I got a close second. This was when the events were weighted pull-ups, weighted pistols and snatch for reps. So the following year I was getting ready to return to Chicago and take first. Well it was cancelled. I heard about the Highland Games competition on the same day.
Also in Part I, we learned a handful of basic hammer levering movements and ways to easily modify them for plenty of variation in the training program. The sledge hammer is an outstanding implement for building wrist and lower arm strength. However, we have only skimmed the surface so far! There are many more great ways to use the hammer to pump serious strength into the wrists and lower arms.
Tossing the sledge hammer is a great way to build wrist strength and hand-to-eye coordination. To begin, hold the handle in the upright position in one hand. From there, toss it over to the other hand. When you start out out, you may have to toss it with the hands very close together, but you should try to work toward tossing it up and over to the other hand once you get better at the task.
The goal of this exercise is to toss the hammer from one hand to the other without letting the hammer head drop to the floor. This may seem like a simple task, but the dynamic nature of this movement can make it very challenging to keep the hammer head elevated. With an 8-pound hammer, even a slight angle to the hammer makes it hard to control.
You will see right away that you will not be able to catch it perfectly every single time. Sometimes you will catch it in the center of your palm and others you will catch it with your fingers. The further away from the wrist you catch it, the more torque will be involved in the catch, and the more challenging the exercise becomes.
Heavy Hammer Swinging
As you may have seen on the Diesel site, I recently added an addition to my house which caused large cinder blocks and concrete blocks to be deposited in my lawn. I have taken it upon myself to try to break up these blocks by hitting them with a 20-pound sledge hammer, and have found that this is an extreme exercise! Striking tires with a lighter hammer is one thing, but it does not compare to beating on a concrete slab with a giant 20-pounder! Each swing of the hammer wears out your core, shoulders, and chest, but it really does a number on your lower arms, wrists, and especially the thumbs.
I like to swing the 20-pounder in groups of at least 20 repetitions. In order to do this you must find a balance between tension and relaxation of your body. If you tense up or rush too much, your body will fatigue, forcing you to stop early; but if you avoid excess tension, you will be able to perform dozens of repetitions before burning out.
Hammer Chain Twists
I am warning you right now, the exercise I am about to describe is freaking serious. If you are not committed to building the strongest wrists possible, then don't try this. Any weakness of the mind, heart or spirit will cause you to fail.
This exercise involves connecting a chain to the head of a sledge hammer. I did so with some athletic tape, but you can use whatever you like. Next, pick the hammer up to the near parallel position. Once elevated, the idea is to begin twisting the hammer handle in an attempt to completely raise the chain.
I am telling you, this exercise is freaking tough. I use an 8-pound hammer with a thick chain, making it very challenging. I did this the other day and felt it from my finger tips all the way through my arms and into my shoulders. Two days later, and my supinator muscles are still fried! Be sure to twist in both directions in order to maintain balance in the antagonistic muscles. This exercise is a keeper!
Incidentally, if you're looking to have an image created for your own twitter profile page, drop Rory a note. Superb work.
This has been something I've been working on lately, and have gotten a lot of help from two things:
First, you've got to be brutally honest with yourself, before you can do so with others. Be humble enough to see what you are messing up, no matter how much you want to be different than what you see in the video. It is what it is, period! It might be shocking to get a really close look at your own technique, or lack of, on the video. Remember, smashing the video camera won't improve your lifts any, and it could expensive!
Seriously, though, set up the camera where you can get a good side view of your lifts. Hit a few reps, and come back and review them.
One thing you might see the bar hitting your quadriceps on the second pull, and being knocked forward. If you're doing this wrong hard enough, your sore quads might give you a hint. Probably, you don't even realize you're doing it. The slightest collision can disrupt a rapidly-accelerating bar's path.
With the bar looping out to the front, other aspects of the lift are deteriorating too. On a clean, it may cause the bar to be received too far forward, being supported by the arms instead of the deltoids, and the lift can fail. On a snatch, it can make it that much more difficult to complete the third pull.
On the one hand, I was thrilled to have new options to try, since tried-and-true wasn't working. On the other hand, I was confused and a little worried that two professionals could have such different opinions. People disagree: it isn't news. They disagree across all disciplines about every subject under the sun. If determined enough, they will continue to disagree no matter how much evidence to the contrary is presented. In fairness, most doctors do recommend "getting a second opinion". But what if the second opinion turns into a third, and so on? How do we without those fancy diplomas know who to depend on, and when to quit listening?
I've made a lot of progress after following the recommendations of the second PT. What does this mean? If the first PT was wrong, why was he wrong? If the second PT also proves to be wrong, what then? I'm afraid that if I ask you what your experiences have been, you'll have similar stories, but I'm going to ask.
If you are injured or sick, hopefully you seek medical advice when appropriate. Doctors are the experts and should be the first ones to advise you, if not the only ones. They have the knowledge, the tools, and the prescription pads. Specialists have paid their dues and you should be able to go to them with confidence, expecting that they know what they're talking about. You don't ask a baker to shoe your horses and you don't ask a blacksmith to do the etching on your fine china. Specialists have specialties. We go to them because they don't have to guess the way we do...right?
Specialist 1: "In my professional opinion, that arm will be just fine."
Specialist 2: "In my professional opinion, we're going to have to
cut that arm off...with a rusty AXE!"
Who would you rather see?
Most of my sessions would be at work and I'd use the meeting room for privacy.
So that first morning I kicked up against the metal double doors, held, did some inch-deep presses, and lowered under control...except I didn't move. I couldn't get back to the ground. I'd worn my Doc Marten boots that day and that stupid loop on my boots caught the upper hinge of the door.
Many people, like myself, might be more familiar with terms like endurance, intervals, intensity, etc, but this is different from all of those.
John Brookfield, the creator of this system, uses the mental picture of a hummingbird flapping its wings so fast they seem to be a blur; but the point is, they can do it for quite a while.
Some large birds, like eagles, spend much of their time with their wings in a fixed position, just gliding along. The hummingbird is at the other end of the spectrum.
I don't claim to be a world-class CrossFit athlete, however, at age 58 I can do a decent job on the "workout of the day". When John gave us each a few simple tests with his ropes, it was borderline humiliation.
It was hard to believe that this could be so difficult; it reminded me of when I first tried CrossFit several years ago. Why could I not handle this very well?
John graciously explained that this was the common experience of many, many people he had tested during their training with him. Developing "pure output" is his main goal with this part of his rope training. After reading many of the testimonials on his website from notable coaches and athletes, I was somewhat relieved. Yet I was also intrigued with the whole idea.
CrossFit has shown me many of my weak points over the years, which I am grateful for; I have been able to work on those areas to develop them into strengths. I can see the process continuing with this. After about two months of training, I am seeing some measureable improvements.
I have introduced the ropes to all my athletes/clients, with incredibly positive feedback (after they get over the shock, of course). Now we use the ropes for all types of purposes, from a great warm-up to an entire workout by themselves. John's in-depth knowledge of training was evident in his program design. He showed how we could scale the rope training to accommodate any fitness level by using various angles, distances, etc.
With certain feats comes the assurance of pain - not the usual type of soreness that's customary with having gone a little overboard on the reps and sets from a traditional workout, but pain that occurs throughout the movement as a result of cuts, blisters, bruising and lord knows what else.
In preparing for pulling a decent number on the one finger lift I knew that I was going to be in for a bit of agony along the way. In training for something like the one finger lift, just as in training for something like barehanded bending, you have to expect and accept the fact that some of your workouts are going to be at least a little unpleasant.
A lot of people would probably question that fact that someone would aspire to a goal that they new was going to cause them some pain and that could potentially cause some serious injury, but those who have a passion for performing these feats of strength understand that it's a matter of testing not only your physical limits - but your mental limits as well.
Despite the fact that you know going into any workout that you could potentially cause yourself harm on a minor or major level doesn't mean that you should just throw caution to the wind though, these types of feats require very carefully planned preparation and a very keen understanding of your body. You not only need strong, developed muscles but all means of support (ligaments and tendons) must be strong and prepared to handle the force that you'll be putting on them as well. Because of this you can't necessarily follow a natural progression as you would with a routine designed to increase your bench press or squat max because it may take the tendons in your hand and wrist longer to recover than it would your chest, back or leg muscles. You'll have to learn the difference between residual soreness that will amount to nothing and the pain that means you need to take an extra day off if you want to stave off injury. This type of feat requires slow, smart and controlled progression to get the best results while staying at as close to one hundred percent as possible.
When my obsession with one finger lifting began just a short time back, I mentioned my intentions to grip legend David Horne via his online grip community and David cautioned me to take great care in attempting lifts of this variety. David, who has managed some astounding numbers on similar lifts, had suffered a nasty injury while performing a one finger lift with the little finger resulting in the need for emergency medical attention. If I hadn't had the advice of an incredible athlete to help me along the way, I believe that there is a very strong chance that my progression thus far may have been halted by injury. With the knowledge I took from this brief conversation, and the decades of personal experience I had in traditional strength training, here is how I got started on working toward a bigger one finger lift.
Every person that lifts or performs other workouts has made mistakes along the way. One of the biggest errors is wasting time. Before you know it, the lifting session is over. Here are five tips to maximize your time spent in the gym.
Contrast baths are used from high school level athletes to the professional level. They can help reduce the pain caused from a heavy session in the gym or a hard practice on the mat. Some athletes prefer using the contrast bath before they train to get the blood flowing while some prefer to use it after. Either way can work for you. Here is how.
Fill two tubs, one filled with hot water and the other filled with cold water. The temperature of the tubs should be about 55F/13C for the cold and for the hot tub make it as hot as you can handle. Now get into the cold water first and flex your muscles slowly and rotate your joints in small movements as best you can in the tub. Do this for 2 minutes. Then get out of the cold tub, transfer to the hot tub and do the same as before. But for only a time period of 30 seconds. Rotate back and forth for a total of 15 minutes ending in the cold tub. If you do not have access to these big tubs you can always do this at your home. Of course you need two tubs to do this technique but if you want to recover quicker you will do it.
Now that I'm no longer playing sports and have moved on to the other side of the "teacher-student" and "coach-athlete" relationships, I am constantly faced with the realization that, although I accomplished much during my prime years, there are many things that I could have done better to not only increase the quality of my play and school experience, but perhaps even to have taken my playing career further than it was. Don't get me wrong. I am grateful for everything that I have been through and feel fortunate to have played among some of the best in the business, but the perfectionist in me always analyzes the past and wonders if I could've been even better. I always ask myself the same questions. How could I have been better? What lessons do I want to use in my own coaching today? What advice can I give so others can use my mistakes to their advantage? Having always wanted to help others, I've provided seven lessons that I've learned along the way that I feel are very important to anybody in this business, whether an athlete and/or a coach.
Everyone has weaknesses, even the most advanced among us. If you think about it, the only thing keeping us from reaching our maximum potential is the distance between where our weakness has us right now and what our individual bodies are actually capable of achieving. In a team situation, especially in football, it is impossible for the strength & conditioning staff to make an individualized workout for everyone because of the sheer size of the program. I know this was really difficult at my school because the strength & conditioning staff was responsible for over 20 different sports teams, male and female. In these situations, try to make an appointment if possible and discuss the issues that you've noticed during your workouts. You know your body better than anyone so don't avoid the situation. Every day you don't inquire about how to improve your weaknesses is one more day that you have to live with it. Ask how you can make slight alterations in your workout to best suit your needs. Going to see a professional in a private sector setting would also be beneficial, especially if they can test you appropriately and help you identify problem areas.
Of course, I have an example from my own experience. When I was preparing for my NFL pro-day (mini-combines done on a college by college basis), I started to notice that my knees were grinding and were extremely uncomfortable. However, being a hardworking kid and having little knowledge of what was causing my problem, I kept plugging along, assuming it would eventually just go away. I was wrong. This problem plagued me during training camp in Houston and during my NFL Europe experience. My knees were often sore and sometimes swollen, causing constant discomfort. When I came back home from Berlin, I finally had enough. I went to see a physical therapist/CSCS friend of mine that offered to treat me. After a short consultation, he told me that I didn't have a knee problem but that I had weak hips and a muscular imbalance problem because of an imbalanced strength program. My hips were extremely weak compared to my quads and hamstrings and my IT band was so tight that it was actually pulling my knee cap out of the natural groove, towards the outside of my thighs at a slight angle. By the time I received this diagnosis and was able to treat it with proper stretching and corrective exercises, it was too late for me to fully take advantage of it. I wasn't able to get back into an NFL camp after that. Knowing what I know now, I wish I would've spent some extra money, even if it meant working a side job, to work one-on-one with someone who could train me personally, rather than through a one-size fits all approach. It still kills me a little today because now I'm in the best shape of my life and my knees feel great when it could've been that way when it really mattered. I'm not saying that I would've made it in the pros in this situation because, realistically, I know what was stacked against me as a no name, small college player, but you never know as it is a "game of inches".
Rest and recovery are essential to making gains and maintaining a high level of play. One of the biggest mistakes that I made while playing was always resting inactively. I remember being in the Texans' training camp and going through the famous "dog days of summer", which couldn't have been more true in Houston where daily August temperatures are well over 100 degrees. I remember going through the grind of days that began at 6 am and ended at 11 pm which included two practices, weight training, endless team/position meetings, training room appointments if needed, and playbook studying. Every day, my body felt exhausted. I was pushing it to the limit. Every chance I got, whether it was the two hour break after lunch or on a day off, I slept to try to get my energy back. Although important for recovery, I wish I would've been disciplined enough to help my body heal actively as well. Even after I slept, I still felt energy-less, despite eating and drinking fluids constantly, and sore. I wish I had taken the time to do the things I do now to "work out the kinks". First, I wish I brought a foam roller and lacrosse ball to go through my active release routine before/after practices and again before going to be at night. Second, instead of using the pool facility as a wading area on down time, I would have gone through some dynamic movements (lunges, squats, etc.) to maintain range of motion in muscles that were tightening with each passing day. Third, I would have used contrast showering more (alternating bouts of warm and cold water) to stimulate the recovery process even more. Overall, I think it's easy to become inactive when trying to get ready for the next session of intense physical exertion but it is important to fight that urge. Get the eight plus hours of sleep that you need every night and become active in your recovery during the day. Your discipline will no doubt help your body feel better when you need to ask a lot of it.
In addition, as much as we try to keep it from happening, sometimes our thoughts betray us and try to bring doubt into our minds. This is the basis of the "fear of failure" phenomenon, where we try to keep from failing rather than working towards achieving the goal. I know I've experienced this in my life and the reality is that it handicaps you until you learn to change your mentality. I remember walking onto the field and thoughts like "what if I drop the ball?" or "what if I miss a block?" would find their way into my mind. What I found was, when I had these thoughts, usually the unwanted outcome occurred. Why? Was it because I was a bad player and didn't belong on the field? No. It was because that was the mental cue that I was giving my body. Our minds are powerful. If we train our minds to expect to make the big play and to want that challenge, we will probably do just that. Does it guarantee a win? Of course not, but it allows you to compete without regret.
As a quick demonstration, ask yourself if you have ever been in this situation. Looking back, I played my best football after I had been smacked in the mouth once or when something else really pissed me off. When this happened, I almost felt like I was in the zone and that I could dominate my opponent on any given play. Was it because I had all of sudden ascertained football ability at that moment? No. I finally stopped thinking and starting playing without mental distraction. My body was finally able to perform those tasks that it had always been able to do. It was just a matter of unlocking my ability and keeping my mind from getting in the way. It's a beautiful thing when you achieve that focus, that feeling that you can handle anything. There is no doubt that there is a critical psychology behind sport performance.
This is one is self explanatory but nonetheless important. Find someone better than you and who knows more than you. Train with them if you can and pick their brain. Know everything they know. Sure, they may be a freak of nature in some cases, but it takes more than that to be a success so find out how they've got to be where they are now. While in Houston, I had the pleasure of getting to know Mark Bruener, a NFL veteran of thirteen plus years and one of the nicest guys I've ever met. Although he possessed many natural gifts, it couldn't have been the whole story. There are guys bigger, faster, stronger, and more athletic than him at his position but the majority haven't even touched the success and longevity that he has enjoyed as a professional. How can that be? Simple. His dedication to his craft was second to none. He was a master technician and he practiced perfectly. I remember picking his brain any way I could to try to learn what he knew and how much it helped me. He would show me proper hand placement and footwork which are critical, especially at the highest levels. My only regret is that I didn't ask more or try to train with him and other veterans in the gym. I could've learned so much more not only as a player, but as a future coach as well. Don't let opportunities pass you by. Be proactive and a life long learner. Grab any bit of information that you can get your hands on.
First and foremost, logs are free. That's right, I said FREE. (Who doesn't want something that's free?!) Logs can be found abundantly in woods and forests and cut to one's own specifications. If the woods or a forest is not an option for some, then scouting for telephone poles new or used is a great alternative. Three of the logs I currently use were all taken from a huge long section of telephone pole that was treated. I stumbled upon it accidentally and it was great find.
Secondly, the workouts that can be done with a log are awesome. Haul it, squat it, carry it, press it, FLIP IT! No matter which exercises are performed they're all tremendous strength builders, hands down.
Thirdly, utilizing an alternative method/object, (i.e. the log) to get fit provides a great opportunity to bring about new mental and physical stimuli, not to mention a lot of fun!
One of my favorite exercises to do with a log is flip it end over end. Somewhat similar to a tire flip, the Log Flip incorporates most of the same muscle groups, (i.e. hamstrings, glutes, lower back, arms, traps, entire core, shoulders) and can be performed in place or over a distance. The weight and size of the log is dependent upon the user. I have three logs that vary in weight; 160lb, 135lb and 100lb respectively with a forth on the way that weighs 250lb+.
Around 2002 I became very familiar with a piece of equipement that is often found way in the back of most commercial gyms. On the rare occasion you find the piece being used it will usually be some young noob performing barbell curls with 10# on each side.
For a true Iron-head like myself I find this very disturbing and fight the urge of picking the noob up and moving him down to the curl machines where he belongs.
This piece is called the Power Rack and it is all you need to get as BIG and STRONG as you yearn for.
On this rack you can perform Squats, Chin-ups, Shrugs, Heavy Floor Presses, Shoulder work, Heavy Rowing, Dips, Everything you need to forge yourself into a piece of Steel.
And then there is the exercise that has become synonomous with myself:
The Partial Rack Pull.
There are different ways to do this exercise but the version I prefer and that I'm known for is pulling the bar at a height just above the knees.
To do this take a measuring tape and measure 24" from the floor to the bar. This is the height that I pulled 1,500# from @ a 202# bodyweight in Florida at the Strongerman compound. If the height is correct when you step up to the bar it will sit right above your knees.
I use lifting straps when going this heavy from APT prowrist straps.
This is not an instructional on how to rack pull but rather, how I came to picking up humans instead of weight. To learn about rack pulling you can find some great articles on the web or go to my website www.mikethemachine.com and watch my promo video.
When I speak and perform I would always finish my program with a 1,000# rack pull. It was actually 1,043# when all was said and done.
The problem with this was that as I became a better speaker and more bookings came in I was faced a problem. How in the heck am I going to transport 24-45# plates to different places?
I had to do something as this was a very original feat and the crowds loved it. My manager the great Dennis Rogers suggested why don't you lift people?
I was like Yes, Great idea! But how? So we started throwing around some ideas. I called my friend Mark Strickland and told him about the whole idea. Mark being the creative genius that he is wrote up some plans that day.
The next morning he called me and said he wants to show me something. That morning he gave me this paper with my exact vision of what I wanted. After much thanks and praise to Mark I then had to think ok, who can make this for me?
That is when I called my brother in iron Ryan Pitts from www.strongergrip.com I explained on the phone what the idea was and then sent him out the plans.
PRESTO!!! A few months later I had my Human Rack piece in my hands and ready to go.
Now I had a way to still do my 1,000# lift and needed no extra weight, I could use people from the audience to pick up.
With power lifting and bodybuilding there is and endless array of plans and formulas based on years and years of research by top performing athletes and coaches that have good track records of proven results. If you want to get a single lift, or your power lifting total, up you can try: Westside, 5 X 5's, 3 X 3's, Buckeye, Smolov, linear periodization, etc, etc, etc. You'll be able to easily find spreadsheets that you can punch your current max and your goal into and the numbers that you'll use to attain your goal will automatically be generated for you - like a road map to your success.
With some grip activities and feats of strength similar modalities of training as described above can be implemented because there is a natural progression towards the ultimate goal. Closing hand grippers is one example of this - CoC, Beef Builder, Heavy Grips etc all have low, medium, difficult (and darn near impossible) grippers that you can work your way through - knowing what your next step will be along the way.
With certain feats of strength though, it's not so cut and dried. The formulas simply don't exist, and with certain feats there is no build up to the eventual completion and very little in the way of track-able progression to tell you how close you are to actually achieving your goal. One of my recent goals was to crush a full soda can - this is one of those feats that there is no training information on, that there is no gradual progression toward and that there is no way of knowing when you're ready. Admittedly, much of my plan was founded through trial and error, but here is how I achieved that goal...
When training athletes I rationalize which kettlebell movements are useful if they meet three criteria:
As you will see, all of the following exercises fit these criteria. All are fairly simple to learn so they do not detract too much from the time of the training session. All of these exercises, I feel, are best done with kettlebells rather than any other training equipment out there. These exercises can be implemented in a variety of ways within the varying scheme of sets and repetitions; therefore they can be manipulated to fit the movements and energy system(s) trained.
Keep the kettlebell between the knees and feet, look up to keep a flat back, drive your hips upward. At the top of the deadlift pull the kettlebell up slightly and catch in the Goblet position and then go into a front squat. At the top of the squat drop the kettlebell back down to the low position and begin the deadlift again.
At the top of the swing where the arms are extended simply let go of the bell and "regrab" it without having it pull you forward. When this becomes easy try touching your chest then quickly grabbing the bell, or tapping the handle as many times as you can with alternating hands.
Sunday March 15th I attended an RKC II Preparation Course held by Master RKC Mark Reifkind in Palo Alto, CA. I arrived at 9am and we started progressing through the various techniques we would be expected to be proficient in when we go to RKC II in Minnesota in June. First we hit the pull up. People always seem to think the pull up is so simple. Maybe that's why few people can do an appreciable number of them, or with any significant weight. I learned much and we moved on to the Hard-Style Jerk. I cleaned up two 20 kg. bells (relatively light for me) and proceeded to demonstrate my technique. This could potentially be a little tricky as I've been doing GS jerks for quite a while and would have to re-wire my technique.
It was a fast onset of pain, the kind of pain that immediately makes you break into a cold sweat. Of course I proceeded to do another rep, and then opted to put the bells down. We decided I had gone into flexion during a jerk and possibly rotated slightly. Lifting my hands above my head hurt.
Of course I wasn't going to just sit down.
This caused me to arrive at the conclusion that spinal flexion with weight overhead was the enemy. I could continue through the rest of the techniques, but I had to be perfect. I could feel it any time I went into flexion, or loaded incorrectly. When I got sloppy and shifted the load from my hips to my back, I paid for it.
This really came in to play during the military press portion. Many bells must be pressed overhead. The slightest compromise in technique would be punished. Pain compliance was in full effect. As a result, my presses improved 100%. Shoulder down in the socket. Not just down in the socket but pressing into the socket and shoving my whole body into the floor. I was pressing myself away from the bell for the first time, and felt the presses more in my abs than my shoulders.
Note how the muscles in my forearm stand out as I crush the handle to dust.
Everything else improved by leaps and bound as well. Windmills, Pistols, Bent Press, etc. Pain is a strong motivator, and sometimes pain is good.
At some point in our lives, we've all taken part in the juggling act that is life and have felt overwhelmed by it. We always demand more of ourselves. We compete. We are "doers". We achieve and we do it all, not because our parents, friends, coaches, or teachers want us to, but because we can't live without the challenge or the feeling of trying something new. Since we are overachievers, we must also be mindful of how easy it is to overload ourselves with too many activities and focus too much attention on one or two tasks. One of the best pieces of advice that I have ever received revolves around this exact topic; balance. The advice was that no matter what was going on in life, you MUST always maintain the 5 Fs to create a healthy balance. The 5 Fs are as follows:
FAITH - No matter what your beliefs are, make sure you satisfy your needs for a spiritual life whether it's attending service, discussing your beliefs with loved ones, praying alone, or simply taking some quiet time for yourself to reflect on the day. Although often times faith is associated with religion, it doesn't necessarily have to be experienced in that manner.
FAMILY - Never, under any circumstances, neglect your family. They are the most important people in your life. They are why you are here and why you have the opportunities you have. Always be respectful and show them the love they deserve.
FRIENDS - After family, your friends are the second most important support structure for your life. Make sure you set aside time to just "hang out" and enjoy yourself. All work and no play makes us very boring people.
FITNESS - Of course, a well balanced, healthy life can not be lived without exercise. This is where strength & conditioning and sports come into play. Whether a child or an adult, novice or expert, this is an absolute must. It's also key in helping us burn off some of the frustrations that other parts of our lives bring into the mix. I've never worked out and not felt better afterwards. Unfortunately, this is often the first activity that is sacrificed in an overloaded schedule.
FOOD - Sometimes when we are busy, we forget to eat and eat healthy. If you are working hard at your job, at school, on the field and in the weight room, you need to fuel your body for success. If you are expending a lot of energy, you need to ingest healthy sources of fuel and get them in at the right time. Like my college coach used to tell us, "your body is a machine, like a new sports car". If you want it to give you the best performance, you need to feed it the premium grade fuel, not the cheap stuff that will just get you by. As athletes, we must aim to eat 5 - 6 small meals a day, with each meal containing protein, carbohydrates, and fats in order to sustain our level of activity and remain mentally sharp. I can't tell you how many times that I've become so involved in a task that I'm doing at work that I forget to eat. By the time I realize that I haven't had food in me for four or five hours, it's already too late. I feel famished, weaker, and less focused.
Light, physical or abstract, is typically associated with enlightenment, but you could choke the whole world with all the metaphors and similes out there about light, some sappier than others. "Light is knowledge", "Light is good", "Light is nice", "Light is a purring kitten" (I'm sure it's out there somewhere) etc. And then you can make all sorts of other leaps. "Light is knowledge, and knowledge is power, so light is also power" etc. There's plenty of fancy wordplay out there that I won't add any more to.
Back to the trees: those stronger trees survive by depriving the weaker trees of something they need. This is the opposite of what my (limited) experience in the online strength community has been. The biggest and the strongest have typically proven the most generous to me, with both their time and talents. Results are what we want, and we gravitate to those who have had the best results. These mighty few usually have stories about their own mentors. Mentors/teachers/coaches are essentially people who offer to sponsor (sometimes for an hourly fee) your success.
Now, I'm going to assume that, even if you're not addicted to something, you know someone who is/was/will be. You can't fight an addiction without a system, something like the popular 12 step programs. The 12 step model forms a system of constant encouragement and self-scrutiny. I'm taking a look at the classified ads in Salt Lake City right now--whatever's ailin' you, anonymous or not, we've got you covered:
Overeaters, undereaters, UFO abductees, Religion, Atheism, gout, alcoholics, narcotics, low self-esteem, (too) high self-esteem, oversexed, cutters, panic attacks, grief, depression and so on...
I'm happy these programs exist and that people benefit from them. One of the first things many of them do is assign each member a sponsor. You contact your sponsor to talk you down from the ledge. They support you when you want a drink, a donut, you feel the panic attack coming on, or your stomach flips as you see the whirling lights of that UFO descending again. Your sponsor checks up on you, encourages you, and hopefully slaps some sense into you during the weak moments.
Maybe you don't need that person. I've heard plenty of people say that they love strength training because you do it alone. I'm the same, I also know that I'm more productive when I'm in touch with someone who shares my goals, or at least knows them.
Getting involved in a few of the online forums has been, for me, like instantly having a million sponsors. There's a way to reach out to some of the strongest people in the world and pick their brains. A lot of them also prove to be the coolest people out there, people you'd want to know under any circumstances. There is a group to celebrate your achieved goals with. Every day people I've never met contact me to ask how my shoulder rehab is coming. It's exciting and humbling and fun. So you're strong. Would you turn down a chance to be stronger? I suspect not, and that's why you find these strooooong people hanging around the forums--they haven't decided they know it all yet. Maybe it's not the "light" of overwrought poets and professors, but I believe the strong of any discipline all feed off the same energy.
The key is to do bodyweight exercises that are difficult.
Don't just do a bunch of pushups and situps to failure. Doing this will get you weaker. You have to try things that you can't or almost can't do. Instead of trying to do a bunch of pushups try to do a one arm pushup or pushups with your feet elevated. Or you can try to do a handstand pushup. Below are some examples of how to keep your upper body strong using difficult bodyweight movements.
|Pushups||Pushups ( Feet elevated)||Handstand Pushups|
|Pullups (assistance)||Pullups (No Help)||Pullups (One Arm)|
|Dips (assistance)||Dips (No Help)||Gironda Dips|
|Pushups||Hindu Pushups||Dive Bomber Pushups|
|Chinups (assistance)||Chinups (No help)||One arm Chins|
|Pushups with Clap||Pushups (Double Clap)||Pushups (Triple Clap)|
|B/W Squats (parallel)||B/W Squats ATG||Squat Jumps (get depth)|
|Lunges||Pistols||One Legged Squat|
|Lunges||Split Squat Jumps||Side Split Squat Jumps|
|Hip Ext||One Leg Hip Ext||Glute Ham Raise|
When I was in college, I refused to sign up for Facebook. I thought it was one of those things that my friends were wasting their time on, and I didn't see a use for it. However, my friend Jim Smith over at the Diesel Crew mentioned that I should start a Facebook account to network with other trainers. I've been on Facebook now for just over a month. I have met some great people, had some intelligent discussions, and started my own group for Bull Strength (now over 775 members strong). In terms of my website, Synergy Athletics, Facebook has become the #2 referring source and has contributed to my 25% traffic increase this month!
Advice regarding Facebook: Build trust by conducting intelligent discussions. Comment on other people's statuses, make friends, and talk training. There are a lot of worthwhile groups to join. Do not get on there and start pushing your own stuff right away!
Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging site that allows its members to send and receive updates (known as tweets). Tweets are written up to 140 characters in length and posted. It's like a combination of text-messaging and blogging. You can even have an ongoing dialogue with a group of followers. This week I joined Straight to the Bar's Scott Bird (and everyone else who chimed in) for a discussion on "Bull Strength".
Advice regarding Twitter: As with everything else, content is king. Make pertinent and respectful tweets. Also, there are a lot of helpful applications to look into. Mr. Tweet can help you find followers and get followed yourself. Wondering how you are doing? Check out Twitter Grader. All you have to do is put in your twitter name, in my account it is "jhashey," and Twitter Grader will analyze your account and give you a number grade. They also have a website and Facebook grader.
What have you done?
You pushed it, you were stupid and as they say, "It's your fault." Dan John has a great saying; "Squatting doesn't hurt your knees, the way you squat hurts your knees." I'm using squatting as an example because in my experience it is more uncommon to see a properly performed bodyweight squat--let alone with a load on your back-- than to meet someone who has completed a marathon.
Now is the moment of truth; do you push through the injury and hope it fixes itself? Or do you take some action through inaction?
For a lifter, the hardest thing to do is take some weight off the bar, or in extreme cases, not train. The hardest thing is to stop your heavy training. I'm here to set you straight and tell you that you have to think big picture.
Let me tell you, guys... if you could see what equipment they give us in the ladies area, you'd understand why we hang out with you instead of heading into our own "special section". The equipment is REALLY lacking for anything really heavy or serious. Our dumbbells are all little and pink and plastic, we have lots of machines for spot reducing our hips and abs (which we all know is not possible, right?). I've never once seen a barbell in the ladies section.
Ask most people what they know about TS and they most likely picture Deuce Bigalow or another film that portrays Tourette's as that disease that makes people shout obscenities uncontrollably. But that's Hollywood TS. Even with cases as severe as mine, this symptom is incredibly rare, less than 1% of what are already considered "extreme" cases.
Some really quick background - TS is a neurological disorder that typically either makes people move involuntarily, or make noises involuntarily. Imagine the worst you've ever needed to sneeze - now pretend that feeling is always there, but it's not trying to make you sneeze, it's...well, it varies wildly and anything goes. My symptoms might remind you of the Tasmanian Devil, which I can live with - much more respectable than Deuce Bigalow. When things are at their worst, I yell, twitch, jerk my limbs around, scratch myself, punch myself, slobber, pant...and on and on and on. My brief fantasies of military service ended when I realized that nobody would want me hiding next to them. I couldn't ever even play hide and seek. One day four years ago I screamed so hard every 2-3 seconds that I got a hernia. I've also bitten through my lips and tongue more than once. A year ago I dislocated my thumb during a movie, just by wiggling it around too hard. Boo-hoo.
It sounds weird. It is weird. With all the amazing functions and limitless potential of the body and brain, there are just as many things that can get screwy along the way. And so I've struggled with this bizarre disorder for the last 10 years. It beat me down more than I'd like to admit. I was often unable to leave my house. I was too disruptive in public and too embarrassed. The years stretched out ahead of me in my mind, and I had little hope that I'd reach any of the goals I'd set for my life.
Then some small things changed. I want to be clear that nothing that follows is meant to be self-congratulatory. It's just the way that things happened. My father set me in motion and in retrospect, the rest seems inevitable.
I got into lifting. No particular reason, other than my dad did it and said it might give me some "small victories". A way to feel like I was in control. I was surprised by how quickly I came to enjoy my brief, modest workouts, and soon felt like something was wrong on days that I couldn't lift. My numbers were nothing special and still aren't, but it was the ritual of progress that mattered.
One thing led to another, and pretty soon I had discovered Dragon Door and the grip world. My house filled up with kettle bells. I began to spend lots of time worrying about how to strengthen my hands, of all things. And a funny thing happened...little by little, my passion for strength training took the place of the misery I'd let my disorder cause me. For ten years I had watched my body do whatever it wanted. And now, like an out-of-body experience, I saw myself putting that body through its paces during some wonderful, brutal workouts. I could suddenly look at myself and say: "You do whatever I tell you to, now shut up and get to it."
These primitive self-help sessions led to a discipline that has crept into everything I do, and much of what I am. By day I'm a humble librarian. My profession is not known for its physical might. If you ever do think of a library, chances are you picture a little old lady shushing the taxpayers in between her bun readjustments.
But in my office you'd see a bunch of kettle bells, some sledge hammers, a mess of chest expander bands, a pinch block from Strongergrip, a bunch of metal objects at various stages of being bent, and of course, stacks and stacks of books. The Diesel Crew bending manual also has a permanent spot on my PC's desktop.
Unfortunately, bodyweight training hasn't received its due in the past. Many believed it boring -- lacking in choice and options. Others didn't feel it provided adequate challenge. Well, that's all changing. The secrets of ancient physical cultures are converging with the ingenuity of cutting-edge coaches to deliver captivating programs using only the trainee's body weight to garner impressive results. And with the economic uncertainty of our times, bodyweight and other low cost training options are growing in appeal.
If we look to the past for inspiration, we can tap into rich traditions such as the Iranian Pahlavani and the physical cultures of the Indian peninsula. Even yoga, before becoming diluted and filtered for the West, was rife with examples of strong and wiry practitioners using the resistance of gravity on their own bodies to build incredible physical prowess. And much closer to home, strongmen of the early 20th century were huge proponents of bodyweight training and published dedicated tracts on the subject such as The York Hand Balancing Course.
Today, the treasures of the past are being resuscitated and imbibed with new life by innovators such as Scott Sonnon, founder of the Circular Strength Training® system. Anyone who has ever tried his FlowFit® program or any of the exercises from his Body-Flow™ collection know that these are not milquetoast exercise options.
More modern day options are available through the study of athletes such as gymnasts, acrobats and even break dancers. The extent to which these athletes can control and manipulate their own mass in space is an inspiring feat. But beyond their jaw dropping skill and strength, they are also a deep well of training ideas for anyone interested in using bodyweight exercises in their training.
Building off such solid examples, we can create programs for many different goals. In fact, the new Bodyweight Exercise Revolution introduces five turn-key programs for fat loss, strength, hypertrophy, longevity and general athleticism.
In order to explore the power of bodyweight training, let's take a look at one of its most versatile uses, high intensity circuit training. By putting a bodyweight circuit together which taps into the range of high intensity exercise, we can use it for purposes such as fat loss or cardiovascular conditioning. This makes for an appealing alternative to conventional interval training, which can become tedious.
It can also be an excellent option for space and time efficient exercise when you are on the road or in the middle of a particularly busy period in your life. A small space in you hotel room, office or bedroom will suffice to receive the benefits of a hard-hitting conditioning session.
The ways you can set up your circuits are almost limitless. Here, we'll borrow a protocol I learned from Scott Sonnon during a TacFit session in Bellingham, Washington. You'll have three minutes per round. Each round starts at the top of the three minutes. So you'll have to get in all your repetitions and rest within that timeframe. The faster you go, the more rest you'll have.
I suggest you start with a thorough warm-up of joint mobility and movement prep. I use the Intu-Flow joint health and mobility program, along with a selection of movements from the Body-Flow library and some easy but sophisticated routines with my Mini Clubbells®. This gets the joints lubricated, the body temperature up, and the muscles all firing properly.
Wrist strength is also very important for keeping the wrist joint healthy. In contact sports, injuries of the wrist are all too common and they can be very nagging on the field or court. These injuries can take a very long time to heal, keeping the athlete out of the game for weeks at times. Strong wrists are more resilient against injury, so athletes must properly prepare them for competition forces.
Unfortunately, many sports teams are not strengthening their wrists properly. Often, sports teams' main grip, forearm, and wrist training is built around one single movement: Wrist Curls. While wrist curls are great for a pump, they do very little for the important sports-specific properties already established at the beginning of this article - force generation, bat/stick/racket control, and injury prevention.
Proper wrist training should be done through all angles, encompassing the many different functions of the wrist including flexion, extension, and ulnar and radial deviation. The images at the left show these four basic movements of the wrist, and in order to prepare for competition, time in the weight room should be dedicated to strengthening all of them. It is plain to see that wrist curls are not going to cut in order to strengthen the wrist in the many angles of movement in which it is designed to perform. So the challenge is before us to find a suitable way to train the wrists.
The sledge hammer is a starting point. An 8-lb sledge hammer costs roughly $25, so it is not an expensive piece of equipment by any means, making it a painless addition to your training collection. The sledge hammer can be used to train the wrist in flexion, extension, and ulnar and radial deviation in a multitude of different ways. What follows is a series of simple exercises you can start off with, using the sledgehammer.
Vertical Lever to the Nose
The first exercise is the Vertical Lever to the Nose. The hammer is brought to the vertical position, lowered under control to the nose or head, and then returned to the vertical position. This exercise trains ulnar deviation.
Pros: The sky is the limit with this piece and while not everything that can be done with this is difficult you can make up your own exercises or opt to intertwine the straps together and go from two grips to just one. The difference can be huge. I will say that bulgarian split squats, leg curls, flys, power pulls, and t's are personal favorites that can be made more or less challenging depending on the angle you are standing or leaning.
Cons: The price is a bit high for a piece of webbing and all the claims about it being created by a Navy Seal are extremely annoying. If you need ideas you can purchase DVDs, posters, or a virtual trainer, but again you are paying way more than you should be.EXF Rings- this brings us to the next nifty piece and that is a set of gymnastic rings. Simple and effective, they come in two colors, red and black, and can be hung in similar nature as the TRX although I recommend using something like a truss, pull up bar, power rack, or cable crossover station.
Pros: if you think bodyweight training isn't difficult try holding an iron cross or doing a one arm chin (OAC). The rings add an element of instability that just can't be replicated with free weights. Looking to shore on some size to your shoulders, chest, and back, then flys, push ups, dips, chin ups, and even levers can do just that.
Cons- while not as expensive as the TRX these are not cheap given their simple nature, they are also a bit harder to set up if you're indoors and do not have a sturdy object to attach them too.
Pros- its almost half the price and is even lighter and more portable.
Cons- with price reflects quality, these things aren't as sturdy or as comfortable, but hey, who said exercising had to be comfortable.
Pros- They feel great, they loosen up sore areas, can help with thoracic mobility and they can be used for additional balance training.
Cons- For a piece of foam they aren't that cheap, but unless you want to buy a 6 inch PVC pipe which can be much less forgiving, or go the tennis ball route this is not a bad choice at all.
Myo Ball- essentially a mini, foam, gel, or air ball that may or may not have spikes that does essentially the same job as a foam roller. I like Perform Better's Spikey Ball.
Pros- the spikes get you even deeper, and feel amazing on tired feet.
Cons- the small ball takes longer to get your whole body.
Pros- the stick is much more portable than the previous tools, and can hit places that the ball and roller just plain can't.
Cons- couldn't really think of any, this isn't really necessary, if money is an issue stick with the foam roller.
What became apparent, however, was that despite all of the conflicting information, the most effective programs typically share common elements and principles. Rather than focusing on the different theories, it will serve you better to look at the big picture: the fundamentals. The intention of this article is to present the most effective training principles in a simple and clear fashion. If you design your next program based on these basic concepts, you will get results. When it comes to training for size and strength, this is "What Really Works":
Of course, if you are using the big, multi-joint exercises I suggested above, your core muscles are being challenged during the rest of your workout as well. By using functional, free weight, ground based, compound movements, you are involving your entire midsection to a huge extent. I also strongly advise against using any belts, wraps or straps during most of your regular training, as this can decrease the involvement of the important core stabilizers. These training accessories should be reserved for maximum lift attempts and competition, unless otherwise indicated for specific injuries.
Include stability training & unilateral (single leg, arm) movements
Incorporate some exercises that force you to balance on one leg or stabilize a weight with one arm, such as step ups, lunges, single arm press, etc. Working with odd objects such as kegs or sandbags also create a greater demand on your stabilizers and place a new stress on your body, leading to new results. These types of movements will increase the strength of your weaker side and develop your proprioceptive ability.
Balance the volume of training for (and the strength of) agonist and antagonist (opposing) muscle groups
This is an important principle for increasing strength, size, NMA, and preventing injuries. Basically, you want to balance the workload on both your pushing and pulling movements. The force and speed you can generate in a press or a throw is largely affected by the ability of the antagonist muscles to eccentrically stabilize the joint. If you cannot control deceleration, you can't accelerate to your full potential.
Research has also demonstrated that one can recuperate faster by performing a set for an antagonist muscle group between sets. This is known as Push-Pull Supersets, such as super-setting rows and chest presses, or pull-ups and overhead presses. It has been shown to maintain strength between sets, as well as stimulate hypertrophy.
Work on Your Muscular Imbalances
Muscle tension and joint pain is often due to compensation for joint instability or weakness in another muscle. This is where isolation exercises come into play. You need to train your weak links in isolation before you can incorporate them into a movement pattern. Otherwise, your dominant muscles will continue to compensate, leading to further muscular imbalances. Prime examples of common weak links are the posterior deltoids, external rotator cuff, lower trapezius, glute medius, vastus medialus, and often some core muscles.
Having said that, it is my opinion that in most cases it is a waste of time to perform an entire workout using only isolation exercises for small muscle groups (unless you are in a prehab / rehabilitation program). For example, a one hour workout just for "arms" is completely impractical. Each workout should stimulate a majority of target muscle groups with fewer exercises. Think of training movements, not muscles.
"Functional training" (integrated exercise) will only reinforce compensatory patterns if the weak links are not first identified and eliminated." -- Greg Roskopf, MA, founder Muscle Activation Techniques
In fact, strongman training ties in directly with most of the principles listed above (#2,3,4 & 5)! It involves compound, functional, ground based movements that strengthen your core and build balance. Strongman training is a fun and effective way to make your workout more productive, and is easy to incorporate into your regular training program. Give it a shot.
First of all, you need to make sure you have the proper footwear when starting any type of running program. There are specialty stores where they will put you on a treadmill and have you run to see what your "gap" looks like while looking to see if you are running properly. To prevent shin splints you can do a few things. During your warm-up prior to your workout, walk for 50ft and back on your heels. When you're done with your workout while stretching, do it again. Once you are accustomed to doing this, you can add resistance. You can do this with a buddy or with a dumbbell. Attach a jump stretch band to the DB or have your buddy hold the band and sit on the floor with your legs stretched out all the way; wrap the bands around your feet; then flex your foot back towards you. Hold for a second and take it back to about a 45 degree angle and continue this for 5-8 reps. This will make your shins much stronger and your legs more resistant to injury. This will benefit your weight training while also strengthening your legs. Since you do calf raises, you should do shin flexes or toe raises. When training your quads you do the opposite motion by training your hamstrings, why not start training your shins.
Hammer curls are a popular drill for many people working to add more size to their arms. I would like to present a simple variation that makes the hammer curl a great drill for grip strength and wrist power. By using a 2" to 2 and ½" handle, you will have to engage the grip and wrist for a superior total arm drill. This is very simple to use, and productive. I prefer to use the Strongergrip "Gripbell dumbbell" for this drill, the 3.5" ball makes the drill very challenging even with light weights. I personally prefer using heavier weights for lower reps to tax the thumb, but this drill can be used with a variety of programs from low rep to high rep. Do not allow the plates to touch the hand or wrist, allowing the weight to "lean" on the hand will reduce the leverage effect upon the arm. Maximize the disadvantage of the thick handle for new strength gains. You can make a fat handled bell by simply wrapping duct tape around the handle of a standard DB until you reach the desired thickness.
I am sure you have seen videos of it on the web. Maybe you know someone who can do one or two. Maybe this drill just plain freaks you out. The pistol squat is the real deal in athletic leg power, coordination and grace. The people who have spent a lot of time with this have built outstanding strength in the legs and hips. I think the best pistol squatter in the world is Steve Cotter, who is able to pistol two 32kg bells, and most impressively leap from the floor at bottom position to a table top with ease (video). The drill is difficult to learn, but in the process of learning it you will gain much skill in the areas of tension and body control. There are two resources for the pistol squat which are invaluable if you want this strength. Pavel offers the "Naked Warrior" Book and DVD and Steve's "Mastering the Pistol" DVD. I cannot think of one sport where mastery of the pistol would not help.
We've all heard similar sayings. Most successful athletes know that their mentality plays a strong role in their performance. Many recreational athletes and trainees also realize on some level that their thoughts and moods affect their workouts. But very few actually dedicate sufficient time to their Mental Conditioning (to "train their brain"). The fact is that the mind (especially the subconscious mind) actually has INCREDIBLE power that many don't acknowledge. Our mind has the ability to make us stronger, more muscular, more athletic, more powerful, even wealthier and happier! Sound unbelievable? As this article will explain, your inner world creates your outer world.
The intention of this article is to share some of the basics of exercise and sport psychology and to illustrate the importance of our thoughts and emotions relative to our physical goals. I will also describe some simple techniques that you can use regularly to improve you performance. This information is directed to those readers who are already participating in a regular bodybuilding or strength training program and are motivated to achieve greater results.
The truth is that it's our mind that determines what results we will achieve. The process goes something like this: Your thoughts and beliefs lead to your emotions, which in turn lead to your actions, which cause your results. Unfortunately, most of us put up our own psychological barriers that interfere with our performance and limit our success. The four-minute mile was a famous example of a psychological barrier. For years runners were apparently not able to run a mile in under four minutes, although many came close. That led to the common belief that this was physically impossible. Incredibly, within a year and a half after Roger Bannister's famous breakthrough, 16 other athletes accomplished it! It wasn't because these athletes were suddenly training harder. They were no longer limited by their beliefs once Bannister had demonstrated what was possible.
What I'm saying is that with a bit of mental conditioning you can expect far superior results from your training, and in many cases it's all that's holding you back.
The four basic principles of mental conditioning are as follows:
The field of exercise and sport psychology is significantly more involved than this, but these principles provide a great starting point for developing a mental training program.
Studies have shown that appropriate goal setting leads to performance enhancement, with moderate to strong effects. To remember the key principles of effective goal setting, think SMARTER; your goals should be:
Take some time right now to write down your short term goals as well as your long term "dream" goals (the ones that may seem a long way off and harder to achieve). Writing your goals down is the basis of a contract with yourself. It also helps to publicly acknowledge your goals.
Short-term or daily goals are the most important because they provide a focus for our training in each and every session. Past research on elite athletes found that setting daily training goals was one factor that distinguished the successful performers from the less successful.
Many have also found it useful to write a 'Mission Statement' for themselves, which summarizes their basic goals and primary objectives in their life.
Scientific research has shown the use of Visualization (or Imagery) to be an important adjunct to physical training. This is why world-class, elite level athletes and coaches use imagery techniques regularly. In fact, past studies have demonstrated that athletes using visualization dramatically improved their performance by comparison with those who didn't.
With clear and vivid visualization training, certain parts of our brain can be stimulated to illicit small neuromuscular signals and specific hormonal changes that can lead to real physical changes in your body and your performance. In addition, we can reprogram our subconscious mind to develop stronger neural "connections" that will reinforce those positive thoughts and beliefs that empower us to achieve our goals.
For visualization / imagery training to be most effective you need to be in a relaxed state with as few distractions as possible. The following simple Progressive Relaxation exercise will help achieve this.
While you are in this relaxed state it is a perfect time to practice visualization training for a few minutes. This is an important part of your mental conditioning program. The key points to remember when practicing your creative visualization are as follows:
Here are a few simple suggestions of visualizations you can do, to get you started:
I developed my own program, which combined short sprints (20m) with kettle bell exercises. These exercises could focus on specific muscle groups, e.g. hammer curl, tricep extension, etc., but could also include compound exercises (those that require the use of more than one muscle group (e.g. Turkish get Up, French walk, rolling squat, pullover and snatch, etc). Even finding various ways of throwing the kettle bells keeps the routine interesting.
All of my routines are performed outside, which allows a more varied program. The confines of a gym, or your own garage, have their benefits, but can limit the exercises you can perform. And not only will you find your workouts interesting, so will people who happen to walk by!
IronMind.com sells an excellent hub lifting device called the Hub-Style Pinch Gripper. With a 2 and 7/8 inch gripping surface that is as slick as greased cow snot, this is one challenging grip training device. I have one of these implements and train on it from time to time. My best lift on it in pounds is only in the 50's. According to the IronMind page, with a lift in the 50's I'm "doing great," but if I hit 75 pounds, I should give them a call. I am in agreement. Big lifts on this device are earned, for sure. The standard way of lifting with the IronMind Hub, as I call it, is just simply attaching the V-shaped connection on the bottom of an implement to a carabiner, attached to a weighted loading pin or JumpStretch band. The IronMind Hub is a widely recognized standard for hub pinching implements, but other companies also sell them, including John Beatty at FatBastardBarbellCo.com.
Many grip strength enthusiasts also enjoy building their own grip strength implements from scratch. Recently, my good friend, Brad Martin, whom you have seen in many great video clips on the DieselCrew.com site, took the time to devise his own hub lifting implement. The list of items you'll need to make your own set-up is very short:
When I first started my journey, I knew I wanted to get into 'really good shape' and 'lose some weight' but those aren't really very specific goals. So after giving it some serious thought, I defined my goal to specifically be: I WANT TO SEE MY ABS. Hence, the Vision Wall is comprised mostly of pictures of fitness models and other women with fantastic abs. I didn't feel the need to see their faces, its their abs I'm concentrating on. So, sorry girls!! I'm afraid you have go to headless to be on my Vision Wall!
Strength training and physical conditioning is one of the most respected and oldest disciplines around.
The approach is simple. Start where you are and gradually increase
your strength. Strength is mainly a SKILL. So like any skill the more
you practice it the better you become. Instead of thinking of your
strength training days as "workouts" think of them as "practices" and you'll make better gains.
Also, strength is mainly a function of your Central Nervous System (CNS). You're basically teaching your central nervous system to contract your muscles harder, in effect "be stronger" to perform at higher and higher levels of strength (as you put them under this pressure through the process of progressive overload). Keep reading to discover more about strength training...
Strength training is using exercise and physical conditioning to increase your strength. When it comes to what strength is there are 4 key types:
Strength training will help you in virtually every area of your life. Here's a partial list of the benefits.
There's different ways to build strength, here's a couple:
Your recovery plan should include the right nutrients in your diet and the right amount of fluids. As for the nutrients, you want to make sure you eat at least 2 servings of fatty fish a week. This ensures you get the Omega-3 into your body to help circulate the blood and take away many other benefits that this vitamin offers. If you don't like fish, you can always eat some walnuts throughout the week. Next is Vitamin A. You need this vitamin to promote proper immune function and cellular growth and development. Also needed is Vitamin C to help with strength and flexibility of your tendons and ligaments. Lastly you must drink lots of water. You should consume about a gallon of water a day to help your muscles recover and to hydrate your body from the abuse you put it through day to day. These are just a few nutrients you need to promote recovery of your muscles and immune system. There are many more to consider which could be an entire article in itself. These are the basics you need!
Now some people like to think you can not train on your day off. This is sometimes true since different body types can handle different loads. But in general, you can still train on your day "off". Things I like to do with my athletes are some high rep work with light weights or even some body weight work. How many reps? I go anywhere from 20 to 50 reps. Yes 50 reps sometimes make its way in there. Then I also like to do some conditioning work on these days since a lot of the time is focused in the gym. This can be anything from battling ropes for time to sled dragging.
Sled dragging is a fun and innovative way to get your athlete to keep training even when he thinks his body can't take any more. You can pull a sled with a rope around your hips for distance/time or you can do push/pulls were you grab the rope as if your in the bottom of the bench press position but standing and push the rope out in front of you pulling the sled closer to you. Then you take a step forward and do it all over again. Using a sled will build some serious total body strength. You can do all gym exercises with a sled! There are more exercises and explanations of this type of training in The Ultimate Sled Dragging Manual which you can find on my blog. This manual is written by Smitty & Jedd of the Diesel Crew. It really shows you how to use sled dragging to promote recovery work or a workout that you can add into your program.
There are other methods to aid in recovery as well such as foam rolling and contrast baths to rid the waste products that have moved into the area during training. To foam roll your quadriceps for example simply lay the foam on the ground and lay on top of the foam with one leg on the foam and the other off to the side. Then pull yourself forwards and backwards with your upper body. You can hit your quad at different angles to. You can also apply this to all muscles in your body. Throw in a tennis ball for those hard to reach muscles and do the same thing. If you have the equipment to take contrast baths for your whole body, great! Fill one up with hot water (as hot as you can handle) and fill the other up with cold water (shoot for 55 degrees). Sit in one tub for about one minute and thirty seconds then swap to the cold tub. While in the tub slowly contract your muscles as you would in a lifting movement. You do not have to "flex" just do the movement. Do this for about 15 min total time. You will notice a big difference in the amount of time it takes for your body to recover.
Scalable for all fitness levels: Beginners can start with the push up from the knees or with hands elevated on an object such a chair. For the extremely unconditioned, the hands can even be placed on a wall. Those looking for a challenge beyond the standard push up can move to the push up with the feet elevated, the dive bomber push up, or any of the one-arm push up varieties. For the ultimate push up test of strength, balance, and core stability, try the one-arm one-leg push up!
Ultimate convenience: You can't beat body-weight exercises for convenience. The push up requires no equipment and can be done with minimal floor space. I even know a guy who used to do push ups in a Starbucks bathroom!
Alternating Circuits - Set up two or more circuits within a given workout, and alternate between the circuits, just as you would perform a superset. This works great for upper/lower body training. Here is a sample workout:
Perform Circuit One, rest 1-2 minutes, then tackle Circuit Two. Rest 1-2 minutes then go back to Circuit One.
Rest-Pause Circuits - Rest-Pause is when you use extremely heavy weights and perform 2-3 repetitions with short rest periods. I'm not going to ask you to use your 2-3 rep maximum. But use reasonably heavier weights then you use during your normal circuit workout. Here is a sample workout:
Complete all the repetitions (3x3) for each exercise before moving onto the next. Rest 1-2 minutes at the end of each circuit.
The amount of research and literature on the advantages of outdoor fitness is astounding. The fact that many people prefer to exercise indoors to the outdoors is astounding as well. While there has been a surge in the number of exercise programs and businesses over the last decade that promote outdoor fitness, there still remain the stigmas or should they be labeled excuses when it comes down to it. "It's too hard to workout outside", "too cold to run today", "oh, there's snow on the ground, better stay inside" or "what do I use for weights if I am outside?" are just some of the quotes that come out in regards to outdoor fitness. There hasn't been a big enough shift yet for more people to embrace the outdoor experience, but it's coming. Here are just a few points that are worth considering:
I got my first taste of a shoulder injury at age 15. As a foolish teenager, I had no idea what so ever in the weight room. I simply emulated the strong looking men in the gym; picking up weights, pressing weights, throwing weights around. I was told over and over by my Uncle- "leave the machines alone, they are not for young guys" but I did not heed that priceless advice. One day while messing around on a smith machine, I failed to pay attention to the fact the bench was cross angled to the bar off-set, when I went for a sloppy bench press I felt a strange pain in my left shoulder. Two days later I was unable to lift my arm past my waist level without pain and weakness.
Fast forward a decade. I had spent 3 years preparing for the workloads. Years of shoulder work, back work, rotational, and static positioning. I held a thick mule shoe tightly to my left hip. I set my beer on the table and leaned over to my right. I shoved down hard, the shoe moved, and so did my shoulder. I stood up, shook out my arm, and finished off the shoe. The guys around the table said "good job..."
They should have said "good job there lazy guy, instead of standing up to start it, you just tore your deltoid and rotator cuff!"
So a bad decision cost me 4 months of training with my left arm.
This article is not to teach you how to avoid injuries. I am not the best guy to tell you how to do that. Instead I am going to teach you how to bounce back when you do screw up. My shoulder was tore across the front deltoid with a minor tear in the rotator cuff. My health care provider told me no lifting, no steel bending, nothing for 6 months. After several months of self rehab and professional chiropractic work, I am back to bending horseshoes and military pressing with no pain or discomfort.
Some pointers to add in - here take your time. I can completely roll my working side hip in to the floor comfortably now, but it was not always so easy. The best advice for stretching with this movement comes from Pavel Tsatsouline - pry in to position. I shall demonstrate this in the video.
That 'hip toner' machine reminds me of a huge misperception out there in the world of fitness that a lot of people have about "Spot Reducing".
First of all, let me tell you flat out: SPOT REDUCING IS A MYTH! If you have extra fat on your hips, doing a million reps on that 'hip toner' machine will NEVER reduce the fat on your hips. If you have excess flab on your abs, you can do a TRILLION crunches, sit-ups and leg lifts but it will never reduce the fat on your abdominal area. What it WILL do is build up the muscle under the fat in those areas. Therefore, you are actually working towards making an area you are trying to reduce BIGGER!! This is completely counterintuitive to your goal of reduction.
I'm not talking about that Hershey bar at Wal-Mart. I'm talkin real, raw, unadulterated cacao (ku-cow). The real McCoy, the thing that Hershey bar started as. It's not what you think. Ill tell you why...
First off, if you're reading this and you one of those hardcore guys who think that guys should eat only meat and potatoes to get strong, you need to get a brain and keep reading. Getting strong, putting on muscle, increasing your endurance is much easier when your hormones are in balance, and the right nutrients are present.
You see, cacao is actually in the nut family. Nuts are naturally high in minerals and cacao is no exception. It's long known that magnesium is very beneficial for increasing test levels, especially when taken at night. Raw cacao happens to be the number one food in the world in magnesium. Higher test levels, obviously means stronger muscles, though not necessarily bigger. Few know that magnesium is also the number one mineral that your heart utilizes. More magnesium=stronger heart. Stronger heart=better endurance, work capacity, and recovery time, stronger organs and better overall health. The dark brown nut has lots of good fats as well. Fats are necessary for the integrity of cellular structures, integrity of the nervous systems and the eyes. These fats are also a vital role in supplying your body with cholesterol, the one thing that your body needs to produce steroid hormones, testosterone, DHT, etc. Good stuff so far? Its gets better. Cacao also contains arganine, and we all know what that does right? Increased size of EVERYTHING. Other significant amino acids, tryptophan, it also contains dopamine, the feel good stuff. It gets better.
Cacao happens to be the number one food in the world in antioxidant concentration. On the ORAC scale, its number one at over 13,000, 30 times what green tea has, 20 times what red wine has. What do antioxidants do? They protect your cells from any damage. They feed your immune system, without an immune system you can not recover from your training.
I find that weight training does many things for me from the physical, right through to the mental and emotional.
First of all, I love a challenge, especially a physical one. I'm a very Type-A personality and if I can't do something 100% I really don't want to do it at all, so when I weight train, I go as hard as I can. I find a lot of internal personal satisfaction from going hard, being good at it and having the body to back that up.
While I am doing the actual training, I don't think anyone can argue with what endorphins do for you mentally, but I also get some truly great physical sensations that I've become addicted to as well. That tight feeling my skin gets when experiencing the 'pump' is a major rush for me. Nothing is better than feeling like your muscles are going to rip out of your skin! There's also the "burn" I feel while I'm doing my reps, as lactic acid builds up in my muscles from the heavy workload. I LOVE IT! Also, when I train, I try to hit failure as much as possible (the kind of failure where your muscle actually gives out on you, not the kind where you stop because it burns). When I do hit failure it is immediately frustration-inducing if I haven't gotten all my reps in. I'm a pretty competitive girl so if I feel like my body is giving out on what my brain wants to do, I find I'm immediately competing with myself and pushing to get those weights up regardless of failure. So, at that point failure sucks. But after I get over my little internal hissy-fit having hit failure is awesome and I feel great that I pumped until I reached it!
Since you may not want to cut up your good dumbbells, you can go to a garage sale and pick up someone's old rusted or banged up weights. To make a block weight, simply use a hacksaw to cut off the end of your chosen dumbbell. Make sure to place the hacksaw blade as close to the head of the weight as you can. Ensuring the proper blade placement will prevent excess grinding of any possible raw ends. Be patient because it will take you awhile to get through the handle. At least this will give you a good workout!
When training with the block weight, you will be using one hand at a time. Your thumb will be the main support while lifting the weight. Your index and middle finger will be the opposing force. Even though your ring finger and pinky can wrap around the weight, they will provide little force for the pinch on this type of weight. Still you will need to use them while you lift the weight. To help prevent slippage, put some chalk on the sides and top of the weight. Remember to chalk your hands up good too. Bend down and pinch the weight, putting the weight deep into the crook of your thumb and index finger. Wrap the rest of your fingers on the other side of the weight and pinch down hard. Stand erect with the weight once you are upright set the weight back down.
All the regulars seemed to agree that the worst time of year was January. That's when the gym was flooded with new people. The treadmills and ellipticals were packed and the squat rack turned into the curl rack. Oddly enough, there was rarely any increased traffic at the pull-up bars, the dumbbells, the bench, and the power rack (must take too long to adjust the pins for curls).
Reflecting back on it, I didn't resent the increased traffic because it was more crowded. I certainly did not mind the people getting on the treadmills and attempting to lose weight either. The thing that bothered me the most was the lack of commitment of the new crowd.
You could almost tell by their gym mannerisms that they were going to quit at any time. Someone would be walking on the treadmill for a few minutes, get a cell phone call, answer it and leave. Someone else would come with a couple of friends, talk while sitting at some machines then take off. You could almost predict when they would stop coming.
Now I don't want to over generalize and say everyone that comes in with a New Year's resolution quits, but it is the majority. There was a new gentleman that came in with the New Year's crowd that must have weighed around 350 lbs at 5 foot 6 inches tall. This man stuck with it for my last two years at that gym, and I bet he is probably still working hard. Five days a week he would be chugging away on the treadmill and sweating profusely (or as my brother who sweats a lot would say, he made a lot of "hard work puddles.") There were few people that I respected more at that gym than this gentleman. He made a commitment and stuck with it.
I had not been to this gym in awhile, but I went back to talk to the owner about the New Year's crowd. He told me that their membership enrollment in January is greater than all the other months combined. Gyms like to advertise lower yearly rates (as opposed to lower monthly rates) during January to get people to pay for the full year, knowing that most of them will drop out in the first month. At that particular gym, between 65-80% of the new January members do not swipe their membership cards in after February.
According to Jeff Barge, Welch Media contributor, only 45% of Americans even bothered setting goals in 2004, down from 88% in previous years. Jeff adds that, "According to our study, only 8% of Americans say they always achieve their New Year's resolutions. The way it seems to work now, setting a New Year's Resolution is a recipe for defeat. It has come to be one of the nation's most masochistic traditions -- almost rivaling Halloween in that respect."
While many grip strength feats are easier for those with larger hands to perform, hub lifting might just be one of the feats that is easier for the smaller handed athlete to perform. I believe this to be so because the smaller handed individual is able to grasp the hub implement closer to the center of the hand. When a larger handed individual takes a grip on a hub, much of the hand will fail to come in contact with any of the gripping surface of the hub, so leverage and mechanical advantage is decreased. This bottoming out effect is caused by the fingertips hitting against the flat surface of the plate.
As a fitness enthusiast for years I enjoy and continue to enjoy outdoor fitness and training. While there are many, many paths one can choose to reach his or her fitness goals, I find the outdoor approach the most challenging and rewarding. I can't say where this passion began exactly, but it could have started subconsciously in high school when I read about the gladiators of Rome. They trained in sand, would carry and run with stones in their hands over long distances, practiced jumping over pits to develop leg strength and engaged in tug-of-war with fellow gladiators to build upper body strength. It might have also been the Spartans of Sparta I read later which inspired me good deal. Here were men trained at young ages to wrestle, survive in all types of weather, fit enough to carry a 30lb shield in one hand while wielding a 15lb short sword in the other, ah, and let me not forget their ability to throw the javelin with acute accuracy!
As you can see, even Santa finds time to squeeze in a few sets of pulldowns. Have a great holiday.
There have been a number of fantastic articles on Straight to the Bar this year, contributed by a range of guest authors. While you're temporarily escaping the festivities, take a look through some of my favourites.
10, to be exact.
Wow! Who knew working out TOO much could affect your progress like that!?
Are you on a plateau? Have you assessed your program with an eye to making sure you aren't working out too much? If you are stressing out your body too much and maybe also not eating enough, it's a good possibility that your body is freaking out and hanging on to every piece of fat, carbs and calories that you give it, in order to prepare itself for the next grueling day of stress.
If you are over-training like I was, that could be what's causing your plateau. Take a second look at your program, maybe all you need to do to move forward is relax a bit!
The same shake up is required in training. The basics stay the same, just as you go to work every day and eat every day. You should keep the big lifts, squats, deads, presses, etc as primary in your program. However, set aside a few minutes at the end of your workout to mix it up. Grab a plate and try to flip it and catch it, pick up some 35's and try to pinch grip them, or attempt an isometric hold on the glute ham raise. It doesn't really matter what it is, as long as it's different from your usual routine!
I'll give you some ideas by explaining a few shake ups we have attempted. At the end of a lower training day in July, we decided to attempt one handed tire flips. There isn't much of a standard or protocol on how to accomplish this, but we decided to give it a shot. At first, we couldn't get our hands underneath the tire, so we ended up rolling it into the yard and digging a small hole under one of the treads. It was just large enough for us to slide our hand under. After a few attempts people started landing the one handed flips. It was a great sense of accomplishment for those involved! They forgot about the strain of the dead lifts, GHRs and chain step-ups just a few minutes before. The next day, everyone had sore legs, hands and forearms primarily from the tire work.
In the last few years the 'mounted' wrist-roller has appeared and offers a solution. Usually consisting of a bar which can slide over a barbell or a pin in a power-rack, it takes out the supporting element of wrist-rolling and lets you really hammer your lower arms.
The downside? Cost.
This doesn't have to be a problem though - here's a guide to making your very own power-rack mounted wrist-roller:
Over the last few months, I have been incorporating overhead holds while performing these lifts. By holding the weight overhead, as opposed to at the sides or on the back, the lifting posture drastically improves out of necessity. In other words, if you lean forward or swing back while holding something overhead, you will drop it. That's what we call "self-correcting!" Of course you should spot the lifter to protect them from dropping it straight down, even though the imbalance usually causes them to dump it forward (although I've never had the weight come straight down, better safe than sorry!)
The easiest and safest object to hold overhead is a light sandbag. Just in case the athlete drops the bag, it is soft enough and light enough that it does not present a large safety concern. A medicine ball also works well for the aforementioned reasons.
I'm a self-professed fitness junkie and I have managed to achieve some pretty significant muscle gains (& fat losses) working out only in my tiny city apartment with just some basic equipment and utilizing things already in my home as sub-ins for actual equipment.
With a well thought-out but small selection of equipment you can have a well-rounded and complete workout at home, too. Invest in a few fitness bands of differing tensions, a jump rope, and some dumbbells of varying weights and you are all set! And, if you want to get as serious as I am, install a pull up bar too! Its pretty simple to do and is removable any time.
Personally, because I enjoy doing supersets and supercircuits and find constantly making adjustments to be detrimental to a good, hard workout I prefer to use different sizes of dumbbells that don't require adjustments, just grab and start pumping. But, if space is a big issue for you, instead of getting a full set of dumbbells like I have, get yourself a pair of adjustable dumbbells. They take up almost no space and you can adjust them to any weight you want.
Make sure you have something you can use as a flat bench (I use my coffee table because it's sturdy), use a kitchen chair and find or create a ledge and GO FOR IT!!!
You CAN feel the burn at home. Trust me. Just check out the photos.
*please note the pictures contained herein do not reflect equipment I actually use for working out. Any equipment you see is only for propping purposes set up for these photographs only.
The 20-lb shot is the perfect size because it is not too large for an individual with small hands and not too small for an individual with large hands. It is a comfortable size for just about anybody.
There are several ways you can toss the shot in order to train the hands and forearms from a variety of angles. Here are a few to try.
Brad was also able to produce quite a bit of power through his fingertips when he was flipping the shot as well. The difference was that he concentrated on making the shot spin very fast with each toss.
"That stuff is for sissies!"
"If I'm not pushing max weights, I'm not making progress!"
These two dogmas couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, with some proper planning and attention to recovery, strength athletes could potentially make the gains that have eluded them for the past few years. In addition, it's important to remember that in the gym we tear down tissue. We grow and get stronger when we rest and allow our body to adapt to the training stresses we have just imposed on it. If we never give it time to adapt and get stronger, then we're constantly in a phase of breaking down, and that certainly will catch up to us in time.
I have outlined five recovery strategies that can be beneficial to all athletes (not just strength athletes) and instrumental in avoiding overtraining, potentially preventing injury and setting you up for continued progress in the weight room.
Give yourself a break some times! Yes, progressive overload is important to making gains. But, backing off and giving your nervous system a break is also important. You can't max out every day (and probably not every week even...at least not for any considerable amount of time) as you will likely hit the wall sooner rather than later.
Unloading could be accomplished in a variety of ways. It could be just lowering the intensity (the amount of load lifted in relation to your 1RM for a given lift) for a week. For example, if you are squatting 4 sets x 5 reps @ 87%, the following week you could unload the intensity by performing 4 sets x 5 reps @ 75%. It could be in the form of lowering the volume. So, if you are working on squatting 4 sets x 5 reps @ 87%, next week you could unload by performing 5 sets x 2 reps at 87% before ramping back up. Or, it could be in the form of just taking a few days off and maybe partaking in some active rest (an easy walk, riding the bike, etc).
Whatever you choose, allowing yourself to back off a little bit not only helps the nervous system recover from all the heavy/intense training, but it also gives the joints and tendons some time to recover, since going heavy too frequently can lead to a lot of aches and pains.
An easy way to set up time for unloading is to use a 4-week schedule. Week number four is always going to be your unload week before starting to work the intensity back up or changing the training focus (IE, from strength emphasis to power emphasis) in the next 4-week wave. The 4-week wave also fits nicely into a month training plan, which is why I like it.
While there are many ways to incorporate unloading into your program (and some of this will be dictated by your sport and the amount of time you have to prepare for competition), here are two generic examples to give you an idea:
|High Volume||Moderate Volume||Very High Volume||Unload|
|Exercise||Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4|
|Chin ups||3x8||2x8||4x8||2x8 (decrease load or use body weight if you typically use extra weight for work sets)|
|Base Week||Moderate Intensity||High Intensity||Unload|
|Exercise||Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4|
|Bench press||3x5@80%||4x5@82%||6x3 start at 85% and work up to a max over 6 sets||2x8@70%|
|Chin ups||3x8||3x5||5x5||2x8 (decrease load or use body weight if you typically use extra weight for work sets)|
What you eat is critical to what you get as a return on your training investment. Making sure you're getting quality calories is important to ensure that your body is fueled up for the next training bout. Incorporating a post-workout shake or meal is also important to help replenish muscle glycogen (stored energy) that was burned during your workout and to start repairing damaged tissue (protein synthesis).
This year I had the opportunity to attend the NSCA's 31st National Conference. Joel Cramer PhD, Jeff Stout PhD, and Joseph Weir PhD gave a three-part talk on Nutritional Supplementation Before, During and After Resistance Training. They really drove home the point that we need to be on top of our supplementation around workout time. One thing that they talked a lot about was the potential for protein synthesis to be maximally stimulated by increasing amino acid delivery to the muscles at the time when blood flow is increased (which is just prior to and during our workout). After presenting the research, Jeff Stout concluded that, "consuming carbohydrate and protein pre-, during and post-resistance training can significantly reduce muscle damage. By reducing muscle damage, athletes should be able to increase speed of recovery, and allow for them to participate in the next high-intensity exercise sooner."
A simple way to put this into practice is to bring a shake to the gym that you can sip on just before and during your workout. Sometimes, because of how whey protein is, it is not the best texture to sip on during training. If this is the case for you, there are a number of Branched Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) products out there which have a much more manageable texture and taste for prior and during the workout (some of them taste a lot like Gatorade).
The five worst words in the English language are "maybe it will go away". If something hurts, it means that something is wrong. Figure out what that something is and correct it before it turns into a bigger problem.
Oftentimes, little, nagging problems can be fixed by incorporating some stretching and corrective exercise into your daily routine. This doesn't mean you have to join a yoga class or stop lifting heavy and pick up five pound dumbbells and wave them around like an idiot on one leg. But, it does mean that you need to be aware of what is going on with your body and know what to do to fix it.
Corrective exercise and stretching are not stressful on the system and can help with your recovery and regeneration. Perform some of the corrective exercises prior to your lifting, as part of your overall general warm-up and perform stretches post-workout once the muscles are warm. As well, since they are not stressful, you can perform the corrective exercise and stretches on off days. In fact, this is recommended, as it will help make the effects of these modalities more long-lasting. Performing some flexibility and mobility work on off days can be a great way to get active rest and keep the body healthy.
There are four key elements to training for strength:
One of the best methods of boosting strength is the Westside Barbell Method. This method uses three ways of training for strength:
Choose three to five compound exercises to work your entire body.
Perform 8 sets of 3 repetitions of each exercise using a load that is 50% of your maximum.
Rest 60 seconds between each set.
Choose two of the three exercises and use the repetition method to train those exercises.
Perform 3 sets of 8 repetitions of each exercises using a load this is 60% of your maximum. Rest 120 seconds between each set.
For the remaining three exercises, continue to train with the dynamic method.
Remember that the primary difference between the repetition and dynamic effort method is SPEED.
The two exercises that you chose to train with the repetition method, now train with the dynamic method.
The three exercises that were being trained with the dynamic method, train with the repetition method.
Train all lifts with the maximum effort method.
Use 90% of you maximum load, and work up to a 1-3 repetition maximum. This means that you should keep adding weight until you fail at a set of 3 repetitions.
Rest 3-5 minutes between each set.
NOTE: Your first max effort session may take a while, so make sure you have a of time.
As a self-professed fitness junkie, I do many things to stay fit, but first and foremost I'm a runner. I've been a runner for the majority of my adult life but I can remember what it felt like to be just starting out. Running actually helped me quit smoking. The day I quit smoking was the day I started running. I didn't make it far, and I didn't try to go fast. These are the two biggest tips I can give anyone who is interested in becoming a runner. Start small, and start slow. Very slow.
I find that the biggest obstacle a beginner encounters when trying to become a runner is treating their run like it's a race right off the bat. The best thing to do, rather than trying to get somewhere fast is to get somewhere comfortably, but at a constant pace. If you have to start out at a brisk walk, then so be it. When I started out I was able to stay at a running pace only 1 city block. However, the next day I was able to make it two city blocks. The trick is to slowly build up the distance you can do before succumbing to exhaustion. Don't race, just find your comfortable pace and control your breathing (three steps for one breath in, three steps for one breath out worked best for me when I was a beginner).
Once you've built up your endurance levels to the distance you've set as your goal, then it's the time to start testing your speed. But until then, just get where you're going comfortably, and have fun! Enjoy the ride! I often think of my endurance runs as "going for a ride on my legs." I turn off my brain and just enjoy the scenery and the ride!
Grip strength is not thought about, pumping the forearms is done half heartedly with some light wrist curls...maybe.
With serious lifters leaving the fancy gyms and opting for their garage, basement or backyard - grip strength is becoming a serious focus.
It's becoming serious because these undergrounders realize that weak hands are related to a weak man. If you wanna lift big, the hands must be strong and they must be trained....HARD.
The earlier in the game you start, the better off you will be.
I learned this big time after I met Steve Maxwell for the first time. He told me that when his son was 4, he hung a rope from the ceiling so his son would have to climb up and down the rope to go upstairs rather than using the stairs.
At the time, Steve's son was a teen and he told me that his son had much larger hands than his own, which led to his feelings that the training of hands - especially at a young age - can help mold the hands into more than what they were predisposed to.
Today, in my gym, there are no straps to aid in the grip. There is lots of rope climbing, rope training (attached to sleds, kettlebells, battling ropes, tug of war), thick handled devices and all around emphasis on hand strength.
There are many ways to get 'in shape'.
I am talking about lifting stones, and not the stones that you see in strongman competitions either. Those perfect, smooth spheres are useful tools, but that's not a real stone. I mean actual stones. Stones you find on the beach, or in the mountains, from mother earth herself. Boulders. Jagged edges, nowhere to grip, and a constant struggle to lift.
When you lift real stones, each lift is a battle. You and mother nature and nothing else. There are no handles on a real stone, and there is nothing easy about lifting it off the ground. You'll know an ab workout when you zercher squat a stone. Pressing a stone overhead is an exercise in strength, balance, and bravery. You have to physically wrestle the heavy rock in order to keep it under control, and it will fight you every step of the way. There is no pattern to lifting a stone; you have to be strong in every plane of motion, and the stone does not care how toned your arms look. Lifting a real stone will give you a feeling of accomplishment that is unrivaled by traditional lifting, and a mental edge in all of your endeavors.
I set aside one day each week for stone lifting at the beach.
Some things to try with your stones:
Your palms should face your body and don't wrap your thumb around the bar.
Now, start doing wrist curls. Use only your wrist and try not to raise your arms as you do reps. The last rep should have the belly of your forearm on fire.
Do 5 sets of 20 reps everyday except weekends. In 4 to 5 weeks you'll gain at least a 1/2" in your forearms, possibly more.
Rest less than a minute between sets.
After you've completed 5 sets of each, stand with your arms straight out and open and close your hands as fast as possible for 90 seconds. You're done! Now you're on your way to larger forearms. Promise!
I don't hide. I don't bury it like most people do. I set it up on a cardboard box in my mind and attack it. Not with a shotgun or fists, but with weights. With kettlebells and loud music. I attack the thought, the distraction, like there's no tomorrow.
Lets do a little exercise. Take the following three sentences:
Lets switch up all emotions with the word "frustrated" and see what happens:
Now that I have included hanging core exercises into my regimen, I have seen drastic improvements in the aspects of strength that I mentioned above. Not only is my core stronger but I am performing more chin and pull-ups with my improved grip and back strength. Of course, once I started doing more hanging leg raises I had to learn some variations and then create some of my own. With all of these exercises, the athlete must control the negative portion of the lift so swinging doesn't occur. Here are examples of the core exercises I find most beneficial!
Grappling, Wrestling, Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, Sambo, Boxing and Football are all sports that require a strong neck. If you have a strong neck it will help you absorb a blow to the chin by acting as a shock absorber. In grappling matches having a strong neck will assist you in defending a choke and also make it difficult to be choked out [of course if someone gets a choke on your windpipe it won't matter how strong your neck is, but having a strong neck provides more chance for you to fight off the choke and escape].
In wrestling for example if you are being pinned, you can use your neck strength to bridge on to the top of your head and get your shoulders up off the mat, thus canceling out the pin attempt.
Another use for a strong neck in combat is you will be able to defend having your head pulled down and your body controlled.
One of the first things you learn in wrestling is that if you can control the head then the body will follow. During a wrestling or grappling match if you have been training your neck and your opponent tries to pull your head down you will be able to resist his attack and then in turn set up an attack of your own.
During a football game the players run at each other full speed and SMASH right into their opponent head first. Do you think that a player with a little Pipe Cleaner neck could take a hit like that? Of course not.
Another reason you should be doing neck work is if you are a Power lifter or a Strongman. Take a look at 2 of the most important lifts we can do for size and strength. They are the Squat and the Dead lift. During both of these exercises the head must be pulled back. Why? Because as I stated earlier, where the head goes the body will follow and during the dead lift if your head is tilted back when you start your pull your hips will follow. This is what you want because all your power is generated from the thighs to the butt and the hips. In the squat if you look down instead of up you will round your back and possibly go forward during the movement which will most certainly lead to injury. Anytime we squat we want a flat back, head tilted back and in tight on that bar.
There are structures in the body that can be honed to the point where their edge will never fail you. I am referring to the tendons of the wrist; responsible for incredible power in the lower arms. Once these tendons are built, they will last a life time. A great example; look at the forearms of any man who labored his whole life. In his 70's or 80's, his shoulders and back may appear frail, but those wrist tendons are still popping out like steel cables. The most shining example can be found on the powerful frame of Lawrence "Slim" Farman, known to the world as "Slim the Hammerman". King of leverage lifting, he is still performing in his 70's and he is AMAZING. Slim's tendons are massive, built from a life time of demolishing stones with a 16lbs cutting sledge, and a million hours of intense steel bending and hammer levering workouts.
I am not going to promise you the Hammerman's strength from taking on this material, but I will put money on stronger hands and forearms from these investments.
I named this article the power to give and take away because that's what great footwork allows a fighter to do in a fight. What I mean by that is that your feet allow you to get in punching range to give you your best punching opportunities and at the same time getting you out of range to avoid being hit yet getting you back in range just like that to give again or get off like we like to say in boxing and striking. A perfect example of what awesome footwork can do for a fighter was displayed last weekend by Bernard 'The Executioner' Hopkins. It's VERY fair to label Bernard the executioner again after he executed the perfect fight plan in shutting down while shutting out Kelly Pavlik.
Several years ago, PDA, Piedmont Design Associates, began selling a choker plate that could be put over the spring of a gripper in order to reduce the length of the sweep between the handles. This device is called the Ironhorse Choker Close Collar and can be found on the PDA website, FractionalPlates.com. I have had one of these chokers for many years and have used it on many of my grippers. As you can see in the image, the disc is slid over the spring, reducing the spread space between the ends of the handles.
If there is one downside to this type of choker, it is because it will slide off if the gripper is tipped upside down. Inverting a gripper like this is very good for training the last two fingers, which I have written about before in a previous article here on STTB. Check it out here.
In recent years, Choked Grippers has become an event at several Grip Contests. The promoter tightens the clamp down on the handles of the gripper so that they are at parallel. The parallel set, or Mash Monster set, is the most common setting technique used in Grip contests, but it can be difficult for the referee to judge parallel handles during Gripper set for many reasons. The pre-closed choked set eliminates this uncertainty almost entirely.
I am currently preparing for an early-December Grip Contest, the Gripmas Carol, organized by Chris Rice in Crooksville, Ohio. In this contest, Choked Grippers at parallel is one of the events. To prepare, I have choked a handful of grippers at parallel. In my training sessions, I try for max closes with the hardest grippers I have choked. If I successfully close a gripper, I then open up the clamp just a touch and then try to close the gripper again. This has been working very well.
Pyramid strength training involves two simple principles:
Each workout is designed to go up one side of the pyramid and come back down the other, working each target muscle group in turn. (Tip: It's better to count in easily divisible numbers so you can remember where you are, for instance multiples of five.) Let's start with a simplistic example:
Of course the number of reps you choose and the weights you select will be tailored to your individual abilities and goals. More on that in a minute. Two things to remember:
As soon as one set of weight changes gets too easy, it's time to move your numbers higher for both poundage and reps.
Remember to put in a 30 second to 1 minute rest interval between each weight change when working out.
A few years back I submitted an article to Dragon Door in which I shared my training of Turkish Get up. This article will be considered the Part II for "Mastering the Turkish Get-up for Total Body Power".
First, the revisions:
Mastery is a process. It is not an end goal in itself. The master is better than everyone else, yet he continues to find more, refine more, and polish more. I once thought I had mastered the Turkish get up. I now know I have many more years to learn and improve. I can now stand up with 185lbs with a 7 foot bar in one hand. Many people told me this would never happen, yet I accomplished it in under three years. Now I am eye balling 225lbs. The same people who said I would not get 185lbs are telling me 225lbs is impossible. Fools! Mastery is about improving, even when many think you do not need to improve more. I do not know where the line falls in the sand, but I know I will be the one to call it, no one else.
On variations of the Get up. There are many types of get ups, and depending on your goals some are better than others. If you want maximum strength you need to lift a lot of weight IE the Barbell version. If you want your shoulders to have some crazy strength endurance, use a Kettlebell and go for time. The recent FMS changes to Hard Style have brought in some variations of the get up by prominent RKCs such as Dr Mark Cheng such as the hip bridged get up. The classic use of a sand bag for the get up is an invaluable tool for grapplers. The point I bring to you; know the outcome you want before selecting your tool.
The Get up and the general population: There are 4 drills I personally believe every man and woman in the world should do. The Deadlift, The Get up, the KB swing, and the Goblet Squat. The Get up is the primary upper body drill in my opinion for 99% of people who are beginning a S&C program. A light weight bell such a 16kg will be all the resistance most men can handle for the first month of training. At Unbreakable Fitness it's not an issue of "can you do 1 rep?" The issue is "can you do 1 rep perfectly 30 times non-stop?" If the answer is "no", than you shall not even touch my heavier bells until you reach this goal.
Then it hit me--no, not the wheelbarrow OR the stick my girlfriend was holding--my epiphany. I jumped up, took the stick off my girlfriend and spanked myself on the buttocks and yelled . . .
That's no wheelbarrow, baby--that's a sled!
Initially my girlfriend thought our kinky love-making had sent me mad--mad I say! She point-blank refused to let me ravage the wheelbarrow. It took another two hours of relentless gardening to convince her to let me have my way with the wheelbarrow.
The next day I sprung into action. Whilst the wheelbarrow had most of the parts necessary to make my hella-sled, I still needed something for it to slide on. Then I remembered my mate, Allan--he was a sandboarder (sort of like a snow-boarder--only gay). Anyway, after a little 'gentle' persuading he agreed to give me his old sandboard--for free :)
Now that we have ourselves protected, it's time to grab the plate. I personally like to tear plates at chest level, and that is the method I am going to discuss. As a dry run without a plate, place your dominant hand in a hammer style grip. Place the pinky side of that hand just above the bottom of the sternum. Now place the other fist in the same manner below the dominant one so you have the thumb side of the non-dominant and the pinky side of the dominant meeting. Squeeze as hard as you can and push your hands in opposite directions with the top hand going slightly upward and the bottom hand going slightly downward. If you push straight through, the potential for being cut dramatically increases.
Coupled with the ability to close the hands quickly and powerfully, athletes must also be able to adjust to different pressures while squeezing. Take the above examples. The basketball player needs to be able to hold a basketball while players hit it from all sides. Also the football player must be able to hold onto the jersey as the running back twists and drives for extra yards. Before you even look at the example exercises, take a minute to think about how strong hands can help your game. Take that information into account when you manipulate these exercises to benefit your athletic endeavors. These exercises are generally in order from easiest to most difficult.
Exercise 1 - Thick Grip Climbers - The athlete must hang from a pull-up bar, release one hand and put it on a thick grip. Repeat with the other hand and then climb back to the original hand position without touching the ground. An advanced variation of thick grip climbers is to perform the exercise from a half chin-up. The exercise can be done for time or for reps. The athlete in the video does a good job with the speed of the exercise but has to work on keeping his body under control while changing grips.
*Note: If you do not have thick grips, be creative with a solution such as taping a hand towel around the bar.
Exercise 2 - Rippers - Essentially like tug of war, but with varying tempos. Have an athlete take a good base and hold an object such as a towel or thick rope. Have a partner pull on the rope in different directions and at different intensities. A variation is to have both athletes go at once and essentially try to pull the rope or towel out of the other person's hands. Also for lacrosse athletes, baseball players, and interior linemen we use a shovel handle to represent the stick, bat, or hand fighting. Typically rippers are done for a short period of time.
Trainers, coaches and athletes have asked how they can use their kettlebells to increase their Grip strength. The truth is, kettlebells can be used with the express purpose of building Grip strength. We showed many ways to make this work in our Advanced Kettlebell Techniques eBook series. With this article I will show how easy it is to turn just about any kettlebell you have into a piece of Grip enhancing weaponry.
Before we get into this exercise, I first want to explain that it is important to remember that Grip strength is not just about picking things up and holding them there. Grip's more than lifting the Blob or the Inch Dumbbell. There's more to it than closing heavy grippers. Grip strength is even much more than just bending nails.
Grip strength involves all of the musculature from the elbow down. This includes all of the muscles in the forearm, everything that crosses the wrist, everything that controls the thumb, everything that rotates the forearm and all of the muscles that open and close the hand.
When it comes to developing well rounded Grip strength, you must train all of the functions of the hands and the forearms in the right balance. This means including enough extensor work to balance all of the crushing, pinching and supporting you do. It means including work of the elbow flexors with the hand pronated in order to prevent the development of epicondylitis, tendon inflammation, and other forms of overuse injury. And it means you must train your wrists in a variety of angles.
When thinking of wrist training, attacking from many different angles is important. Remember, a great deal of muscles that pinch, crush, and support cross the wrist. As a result, continuity of the wrist musculature and bones is necessary in order to properly transfer strength across that joint.
Sounds frightening, doesn't it? Rotator cuff problems are some of the most common that affect the shoulder. Unfortunately, many of us often neglect this crucial area and suffer the consequences. Fortunately, a small bit of prevention can go a long way. Actually, even farther, because not only can strengthening the rotator cuff prevent future problems, it can enhance other exercises by making your shoulders more complete joints.
I know what you're thinking, "So what are these four exercises, how often should I do them, and how heavy should I go?" Before we get to the exercises, let's answer the other two questions.
My goal was to get this workout done in under twenty minutes, and now I'm at the 35 minute mark. What to do? I have a million reasons to quit. But only one reason to keep going....and that's what matters. Just keep going because if you don't, you'll never know if you could do it. You'll never know how long it took, and you'll never figure out a way to improve yourself. Just keeping GOING DAMNIT!
I pick up the weight. It feels like a hundred pounds of solid rock in my arms. I push the KB over my head like there's no tomorrow. One rep, two rep....seven...eight...nine...ten...aargh! I scream and drop the weight. A neighbor glances at me and wonders what the hell I'm doing. I seriously need a fence.
I pick up the weight again after what seems like two minutes of rest, my longest ever. I push the weight up again with my left hand. Three...four...nine...ten...aargh! I sound like a pirate in agony. I look at my list. Only 6 more exercises left, 50 reps each. I keep asking myself, "What the hell is wrong with me?" "Why did I design this workout?" "Why can't I finish it?" "Why is it so hard?"
56 minutes, and 24 seconds later I scribble my time in my notebook. As I'm walking back up the stairs to my room, I wonder what the hell I just did, and what the hell just happened to me.
Every once in a while I'll perform a workout that is seemingly impossible and aims to push my mind and body to the limits. The majority of the time it is your mind that fails before your body. The only way to train you mind is to try something you've never tried before. Last time my training partners and I pushed ourselves was the Saragarhi workout. We succeeded in finishing that workout in an amazing time.
This workout....this 500 reps of pure torture...I should have been able to do it faster....but the number....500 reps...and the shear number of exercises....10...and the number of reps per exercise....50...was just...insane!
Honestly, this workout was a pure endurance workout. Here's the workout:
I really do not know what kind of drugs I was on when designing this workout. What the hell was I trying to prove?
Even from a design standpoint, there are a lot of flaws to this routine. But you know what, I have a rule: Once it's written, it shall be done.
Ok, so what exactly is a deadlift? A deadlift is a movement where you pick up a barbell off the floor. Simple? Yes? Not really. There is a lot that goes into this seemingly easy movement, and, honestly the best way to learn is by actually performing the movement. Here's how you do it:
I have competed in many Grip Strength competitions over the years. I have trained and competed with some of the best in the sport of Grip and I think I have collected a wide range of knowledge on the subject. I was recently asked in an interview if I though Grip Strength Training was important for athletes outside of the sport of Grip. Without a doubt, I think it is very important to dedicate time in the athlete's training routine to developing solid hand strength, but I also think that some ways are better than others. In my opinion, one of the best types of Grip training for general athletes is Pinch Grip Training.
There are many ways to train the Pinch Grip. In this article, we will look at a few of those ways. You will see videos of Pinch Grip feats and training styles and then I will discuss possible carryover to the sport of grip and other sports with each technique.
First, is a clip from the 2007 grip contest at Total Performance Sports, the Grip Assault. In this clip, I am messing around with a 56-lb Scottish Highland Games Throwing Weight.
As you can see, this is a feat that is suited best for a person with large hands. A smaller handed individual may not be able to spread their fingers far enough to get the fingertips over the edge of the weight.
If you have smaller hands, there is no reason why you still can't train in this style, though. Just find weights that are smaller in size. Block weight training is great because it forces you to lift things with an open hand. Open hand strength training makes the full length of the musculature and tendonous masses work in order to lift the weight. With open hand training, you really feel it throughout your entire hand the next day.
When I do wide pinching, like in the video above, I feel the fatigue from the fingertips to the base of the fingers, through the palm and into the wrist. The majority of my grip workouts involve thick block weight training, yet I still see continued increases in my other lifts. To me, that means there is better carry over in wider lifts than narrower lifts, especially if your training goal is excellent performance in Grip Contests, like me.
Even if Grip Competitions are not your interest, I still suggest that open hand training be a main focus in your grip protocol. If it carries over well to other grip lifts, it will carry over to other gym lifts and other sports as well.
Next, in this video, I'm pinching two 45-lb plates & lift a Half 115-lb Hex Block Weight.
I would consider the Two 45's Pinch feat to be a mid-range pinch feat for me, personally. The two 45-lb plates fit securely in my hand, just about the size of my palm.
The Half 115 Pinch is getting out of the mid-range and moving toward the wide pinch range, although not nearly as wide as the 56-lb weight pinch. Again, the half 115 is going to be much more difficult for a person with smaller hands. It is a rather narrow half 115 compared to some of the other ones I own, but for someone with sub-8-inch hands, it will seem huge.
A dream came true for an old boxing salt in Portland, Oregon, USA. At 81, Carl Hayford's fondest wish was to hit the bag again. West Portland Boxing Team made it happen - with style.
There was the press of boxers, the sound of leather bounding leather, the smell of sweat - and balloons, t-shirts, a trophy, and cake. Monday evening, Sept. 15th, Carl's friends and family brought him from the care center where he lives to the old-style boxing gym.
Carl was very much at home in the gym. He sparred, told war stories, and hit the bag.
You're suffering from information overload and to make matters worse a lot of what you're hearing is conflicting information.
You're probably wondering where to start (if you're a beginner)... or... where to go next (if you've been around for a while).
It's time to step back and take a look at the BROAD picture. It's time to keep it simple.
This is your "structure" or "model" you can put any new fitness information you learn in to. In its most simplistic form, you need three things for fitness:
So the question then becomes, "How can you maximize each of these areas to become a more "Fit" person?" Glad you asked because that's what the rest of this article is about!
There are many training methods to use these tools to get strong. But in order to build strength your sessions should focus on these things:
As you can see some exercises fulfill two roles like deadlifts (squat and pull) and clean and presses (explosive and push). Which further reduces the amount of exercises you need, making building strength even simpler. So for each workout you would just pick 1 of each type of exercise (1 push, 1 pull, 1 squat, 1 explosive), mix them up for variety and keep them within the prescribed reps, sets and frequency.
That's about all there is to building strength!
Pick an exercise for cardio: bicycling, running, high jumps, and skipping rope are all favorites of mine. You then do intervals of "work" which focus on intense effort and "rest" intervals which focus on recovery.
Your session can last as little as 4 minutes to as much as 20 minutes depending on intensity. Here's a couple quick examples:
Do a 2-5 minutes of your chosen exercise lightly to warm up before the intervals and afterwards to cool down.
You will do this routine 2-3 times per week on days that you're not strength training. Or if you only want to work out 3 times per week (strength and cardio included) you can reduce the intensity of your interval training and do it after your strength sessions.
As a bonus, strength training combined with HIIT both help to create an optimal hormonal environment in your body... increasing testosterone, Growth hormone, IGF-1.... And reducing estrogen.
Start considering. Virtual meets are ready for you.
Virtualmeet.net runs virtual meets - "geographically dispersed" raw, steroid-free meets that take place wherever the lifters and judges are, and play out online.
I'm the first female to successfully complete a virtual powerlifting meet, and the first one to come back for more. I just finished a deadlift meet, and Scott asked me to talk about my experience. I'm so excited about the project that I'm happy to talk about it to anyone who'll listen.
Virtualmeet.net is a grassroots project founded by Kristoffer Lindqvist in Finland and run with love by his volunteer team, warmly welcoming lifters at any level of skill or experience. Participants have been in Iceland, Austria, Finland, Puerto Rico, Canada, the U.S. (this particularly attracts Americans, for whatever reason) and more, and the list continues to grow.
Let me start with a couple of disclaimers. I'm not a powerlifter, and I've never done a live meet. I've attended them, and I brag on my world champion sister. My competition history up 'til now has been bodybuilding. Since my training evolved into strength training and Olympic-style weightlifting, the idea of dabbling with powerlifting as cross-training appealed to me. Doing a virtual meet isn't as intimidating as doing a live meet, and you just can't beat the convenience. New adventures help keep me fresh and nimble. Finally, the idea of a truly grassroots project run on passion and brains really nailed it.
Virtual Meet is just beginning to gain momentum. Next month is the pilot weightlifting meet. Eventually, VM strives to be a home of both powerlifting and weightlifting virtual meets, run parallel, throughout the year.
It's terrific fun and burgeoning with good sportsmanship spirit, but make no mistake: It's no joke. Judging is strict. At this writing, just 57 percent of attempts have passed. So although this doesn't count as a sanctioned meet, in many respects, this feels very real.
The technical architecture for the Virtual Meet web site blows me away. It seems as if Kristoffer Lindqvist (Yes, that Kris - founder of Under the Bar, the oldest powerlifting site on the web) has thought of everything. There are the conventional online community things you'd expect - discussion forums, profile pages - but everything has nifty little extras. Like the profile pages house widgets displaying your best lifts - one in pounds, one in kilos - that you can paste wherever you want, and they're automatically updated to reflect your current stats.
There are tons of tiny ingenius conveniences when it comes to viewing meets, too. View by meet, by flight, by lifter, by lift. Hover over a score and the judging specifics drop down. Tell at a glance what the attempts were for each lifter and which ones scratched.
The rules are detailed and assist you in delivering quality recordings of your lifts. I've benefited as a videographer just by following all the suggestions for framing, angle, timing. Uploading clips is done via FTP, so the judges get to them easily.
I've had a few glitches in the tech stuff - Gmail banishing meet emails to spam, the pesky business of adhering to a new FTP server's quirks - but overall, it's worked well, and Kris has always been there in a heartbeat to guide me through email, despite a major time difference (when does this guy SLEEP?).
Well, for a long time eating and sleeping as much as possible served me well - I was gaining weight and getting stronger - so I saw no reason why I couldn't keep doing this for a long time. However, as the weights I was using continued to climb and after a 4 month long 'dirty' bulk I was much stronger and 35lbs heavier - great, but now my joints were starting to ache and I felt sore for much longer after workouts. I figured this was just due to the weight gain and that I'd adapt after a week or two of maintaining the same weight.
The two weeks passed - I was still sore, and my left hip was almost constantly aching. This was getting increasingly annoying and it got to the point where I needed to at least try something to help me recover. After lots of reading on the internet I began to notice that foam rollers were mentioned with a much greater frequency than I had noticed a couple of years ago, and it was rare to see an article or training log that didn't mention their use somewhere.
I first read about foam rolling in Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson's article "Feel Better for 10 Bucks" on T-Nation but, whilst very interesting, it really didn't seem relevant to me 4 years ago. I was 17 - how much "soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue" could I possibly have accumulated in that space of time that needed to be broken down? Maybe in a couple of decades it would be something to remember, but at the time I couldn't see the point. A few weeks ago, as I re-read the article and many others on the same subject, I could see that in theory it might be possible to address a number of issues.
Now of course there are always the exceptions to the rule such as wolves, hyenas, and other wild dogs which are often noted for their great endurance by trotting country sides for hours on end. As for humans, there are many anecdotal stories of African and Native American hunters running down their prey, but again this is not a routine matter as it is with traditional aerobic jogging or any other traditional aerobic fitness forum.
While humans cannot out sprint many animals we can do surprisingly well in endurance running contests. Another great exception to the endurance running rule is the Tarahumara people from the Sierra Madre Occidental in Mexico. They originally began distance running in order to communicate from village to village, but then turned it into competition forming a "foot throwing" sport similar to soccer over long distances.
For every good study that comes out about jogging there will always be a negative one. I am not in full support of distance running in any sense, but only in the times where it may be necessary in life to survive. Looking at it from a hormonal perspective long distance jogging does indeed produce large amounts of cortisol in relation to growth hormone and testosterone. The best exercise to deliver the most "bang for your buck" is increased intense, but brief (15- 45 minutes total), amounts of sprinting variations which use the whole body as opposed to just the legs. Sprinting, Kettlebells, pushups, pull-ups, clean and presses, intense yoga, etc. are all much better then jogging. Essentially sticking to the basic human movements and then simply adding weight will provide the absolute best long-term results packed environment. Not only will you add muscle to your body, but you will get the look of a sprinter, professional dancer or a completive fighter as opposed to a jogger or marathon runner. Personally I like the look of the former a lot better. Not only that, but many studies have shown that high intensity workouts yield much bigger, stronger hearts, lungs and dramatically increase overall physical capacity than compared to that of long distance counterparts. This type of training will enable and empower you to survive critical situations where overall physical fitness is not just needed, but in many cases vital.
I enjoy reading about some of our modern day warriors and even some of centuries old that didn't really battle in wars per se, but instead in the competition arena such as Milo of Croton.
While everyone wants to snatch, not everyone wants to learn how to snatch. Fewer people want to learn how to swing. Brett Jones Master RKC stated "There is a big difference between swinging a kettlebell, and performing a kettlebell swing." Perfectly put. Everyone is more than happy to swing kettlebells around, but not quite as quick to do all the drills necessary to learn how to perform a kettlebell swing.
In my workshops I work with personal trainers who want to add some kettlebell skills to their repertoire. Most often this works out fine and the trainers learn how to effectively perform the six core lifts of hard-style kettlebell training. On occasion I run into trainers who are unable to swallow their pride, and deal with the fact that most of what they know simply does not apply to kettlebell training. In fact, often trainers pretty much need to go back to square one and start the learning process all over again. Some cannot cope with this and don't use kettlebells themselves. This is unfortunate as often the trainer will also be unable to swallow his pride when it comes to regressing a client.
There is a reason that the RKC program minimum is composed of the Turkish Get Up and the Swing. These two movements are the roots from which all other movements sprout. Swings, cleans, high pulls, snatches, all look pretty much the same from the hips down. If someone is unable to properly perform a swing, how are they going to perform a snatch, which is basically a more advanced swing? If I watch someone snatching and their hips lack any real snap, I know that if I watch their swings, the swings will be faulty as well. If they are 'stiff arming' the snatch, I know their high pull is broken.
The focus of this article will be Dynamic thumb training with the Titan's Telegraph Key, or TTK, manufactured by IronMind Enterprises, but very quickly, I will touch on the other divisions as well.
STATIC THUMB TRAINING
Static Thumb Training is where the athlete pinches something and the thumb, for the most part, does not move over a Range of Motion. This is the way that probably 90% of pinch work is executed, I'd venture to guess. Examples are Plate Pinches and Block Weight Lifts. Here is a video of Plate Pinches and Block Weight Lifts:
EXTENSOR THUMB TRAINING
Extensor Thumb Training is where the muscles on the back of the thumb are the primary muscle group being worked. Rubber band training is a very simple example of the thumb extensors being worked. Here is a video demonstration:
MULTI-PLANAR THUMB TRAINING
I find that Multi-Planar Thumb Training is an excellent way to keep all of the muscles in the thumb healthy and strong. I accomplish this with a bucket of sand. Essentially all I do is stick my thumb into the sand bucket and stir the sand around until the muscles powering the thumb are flushed with blood. Once you feel the pump through your thumb, you can also do some deep tissue massage to work out any kinks. Believe me, if you have any imbalances or adhesions in the muscles in the thumb, you will find out where they are with this exercise. Unfortunately, not a lot of grip strength trainees know about this technique that can help them out so much. Here's a clip:
DYNAMIC THUMB TRAINING
Dynamic Thumb Training is where the thumb moves over a distance. One of the implements that I have been using for Dynamic Thumb work is the Titan Telegraph Key, or TTK. There are other implements on the market that are very similar that you can pick up that have other names, but they all work on the same principle: the fingers and thumb oppose on another, positioned on two separate plates; resistance is placed at the end of a lever arm; and thumb strength is used to move the resistance.
"It is by acts and not by ideas that people live."-- Anatole France
Transforming myself from a couch potato to an athlete has been the most important, life-changing activity I've ever engaged in. Apart from my marriage, there's been nothing else in my life with such profound consequences.
First I should say that a lot of people wouldn't consider me an athlete at all. At 47 years old, 5'2" and 200+ pounds, I hardly look like one. But the thing is--I act like one. Our actions are what define us, more than our thoughts and beliefs, and definitely more than other people's beliefs about us. The things you really believe in, the things that really matter to you--you do. Accordingly, that makes me an athlete.
"If you're not scared, it's because you're not paying attention."-- Marge Simpson
I started exercising and dieting when I reached a weight and size that alarmed me greatly. I was 260 pounds and a size 26. The thing that really terrified me was that there didn't seem to be any end in sight--I knew that if I didn't make some changes, I would soon weigh 280 pounds, then 300, then 400... I was scared.
All the reasons why I got to that weight and why I didn't do something sooner are too much to go into here. I just want to say that it had to do with fear and self-doubt and despair, and nothing to do with sloth or laziness. Anyone who thinks "fat-and-lazy" are one word is a fool. If nothing else, someone who lives with the hatred displayed to fat people in this society has more character and mental fortitude than you imagine.
"It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little."-- Sydney Smith
At first I approached exercise with much trepidation. I HATED it! It hurt, it was tedious, it was boooooring. And at my weight, almost any kind of exercise was painful and held a real possibility of injury. I built up slowly. I taped those aerobics shows on television like Crunch Fitness, and worked out every single day for 30 to 60 minutes. I bought a Richard Simmons tape (and gained a real respect for that guy). I bought a glider (that thing the pony-tail guy sells) because it was the only home exercise equipment rated for my weight.
The only thing worse than exercise was dieting. I dropped from approximately 3500 calories a day to 1800. I was very resistant to the idea of dieting, because I felt that I wasn't really eating all that much. And in terms of volume, I wasn't. I was never someone who ate entire bags of this or whole boxes of that. I mostly just ate too many restaurant meals--the calories add up very quickly.
"I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on men unless they act."-- G.K. Chesterton
I lost about 60 pounds over 18 months. Then eventually I stopped losing weight entirely, no matter how much I cut my calories or how much I exercised. And somewhere in there I discovered weight lifting.
It started with some shows on FitTV and ESPN, which is where I got all my fitness advice. I watched Body Shaping and Kiana's Flex Appeal. I really loved the way the women looked--I have no problem with female muscle, up to and including being "bulky." The people on the shows seemed so NICE. They weren't intimidating or exclusionary or macho. They showed people with different abilities and different levels of fitness and competency, all participating in the same activities. It began to seem possible that I could do that too.
You don't become good at something unless you participate, and you don't have to be good at something to be 'allowed' to participate."-- Me
I got a couple of little dumbbells and started doing biceps curls and triceps extensions. Someone gave me a weight bench with plastic sand-filled weights, and I kept it in the dining room and used it a couple times a week.
The transition wasn't quite complete yet. I liked the weight-lifting, it made me feel very groovy and daring, but I was just playing around with it, and not doing a directed program that brought results. I wasn't consistent with my efforts. Eventually we sold the bench at a garage sale because it was taking up too much room.
Not long after, I discovered Cathe Friedrich's show Cardio Blast. Despite the title, most of the hour-long episodes were centered around weight lifting with dumbbells. This is when I began to take weight-lifting seriously. I need to write Cathe a fan letter telling her how much she changed my life!
"The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work."-- Emile Zola
I think it finally clicked with me because her program was a follow-along type. Before, I didn't really know what to do--I'd end up doing curls because I didn't have anything else in my repertoire. Watching Cardio Blast, I learned squats, deadlifts, shoulder presses, rows, pushups, oblique twists, flyes... I learned different protocols like pyramiding up and down, slow counts, eccentric emphasis, explosive movement, supersetting and intervals. Knowledge built up rep by rep.
Most significantly, I saw Cathe and the other women using big weights. Instead of the 3-pound pink dumbbells, they did their curls with 15s! They did chest presses with a 20 in each hand! My workout equipment started taking up a lot of space in my bedroom and I started becoming very STRONG. After just a few weeks of a routine, I could see noticeable differences in my arms, my calves, my back. I'll never forget the day I just whooosh! lifted up a big television when I needed to move it. Raaarrhh!
"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds courage"-- Dale Carnegie
This was the epiphany for me. I saw that strength training enabled me to DO things. All that cardio exercise, while it has its place, didn't really have any measurable achievements. Unless you're a professional dancer, spending hours developing the ability to mambo-step-turn-repeat! doesn't gain you anything in the rest of your life. It's an isolated skill with no real application, sort of like getting really good at Pong. And it's the sort of endless, unmeasurable, non-goal-oriented type of activity that women are frequently nudged into, whether it's one's workout or one's career.
I was so proud when I started to outgrow those 20-lb dumbbells. The limits of my grip strength made heavier dumbbells impractical, so I bought something called a Sensible Gym, an inexpensive version of the Total Gym. It's a good piece of equipment. Now I could do some of those exotic exercises like lat pulldowns and sitting rows. A whole new world.
Interval sprints and the like can be healthy, but the general public labors under the delusion that running is the king of exercises, and since we all know that more must be better, running for hours on end must be great for you, right? You are correct, if your destination is to get to your coffin as quickly as possible, or become a functional cripple by your forties.
If you engage in strength training and have proper running mechanics, you can avoid many of the negative effects associated with long slow distance running. However, most people do not have these things. Therefore they would be better off doing something with no impact on the joints, which combines resistance and cardio. I have just described a kettlebell swing.
To be an efficient runner three of the primary things I need are strong lung capacity, good cardio, and strong legs. Again, I get all of these from kettlebell swings. If you were to engage in a progressive program of kettlebell training (heavy on the swings and snatches) with minimal running performed primarily for specificity you would find that you are a stronger runner than if you had only run.
We know from weight training that the surest way to cease progress is to just keep lifting the weights and always trying to add more on. Yet this is how many (probably most) train for running. Come to think of it, this is how many people also train with weights.
While I was with the California National Guard I had to take part in two of the Army Physical Fitness Tests, each of which required a two-mile run. I ran both tests in about 12:30-13:00 minutes. Not super fast, but I'm a poor runner. I finished ahead of about ninety percent of the battalion, most of whom were a decade younger than myself. I had not run a single mile on my own in about six months. What I had been doing was a boatload of swings. That's when I stopped running completely.
Enter the purchase I made of a series of DVDs by Grandmaster Strongman Dennis Rogers. One of those amazing DVDs was How to drive a nail without a hammer. I'm going to go through some basics and tell of my undertaking of this awesome feat of strength.
At first I thought that this was going to be an impossible thing to do. My wife thought something was wrong with me. (Not sure if that has changed.)
Looking back, the biggest thing that held me back was my mind. And the fact that not many people can drive a nail through a piece of wood with their bare hand. I think anyone can do it if they believe they can. More than the little engine that could, you have to know you can. So, to help the mind out I think conditioning is the beginning of your quest to be a human hammer.
I started slapping an anvil. Sounds cool, anvil slapping. You can use any hard surface - stone, brick, wood; something to toughen the area where you'll be holding the nail. Start with soft slow slaps in the beginning and gradually build up to harder more forceful slaps. This will get your hand and mind ready for the impact of the nail drive.
Another area I noticed that was more sensitive was between the ring and middle finger where the nail protrudes. This area needed the most desensitizing. What you can do is put the nail in your palm, head of nail against the callous part of your palm, make a tight fist around the nail with the nail protruding perpendicular from your palm. See picture. Then similar to slapping, start tapping on a surface over and over to condition the inside of those fingers. Ideally the nail is driven in perfectly straight which will lessen the impact on the inside of the fingers. Now after your conditioning you will be ready to start driving.
Recently, there has been some confusion about true Blobs, and it is my goal with this article to set the records straight so that the new athletes who are entering the ranks of the sport of Grip strength can be clear about what they are purchasing and training with. After all, it wasn't too long ago that a new grip trainee wrote in about purchasing what he thought was a legitimate blob only to find out he had been misled in the deal. Here we go.
True Original Blobs are very rare for many reasons. One thing that makes them rare is credited to their color. Because they are a dark brown to black color, they do not look like the flashy, silvery colored dumbbells that are so common in gyms and health clubs today. For that reason, they are often discarded and replaced by "nicer looking" dumbbells.
I recently heard a story from a friend in New York state. He said he was checking out gyms to see if they had any of these dumbbells and he was told that they had just swapped out their old dumbbells for new ones. Where'd the old ones end up? The dumpster. Now that's a crying shame.
The version of York dumbbell that Richard Sorin first trained on and named looks much like the Blobs that many Grip enthusiasts currently own, but are actually a bit different and more difficult to lift.
If you really take a hard look at the original style Blobs, both sides of them curve out almost equally. This curvature on both sides of the blob is what makes them so much more difficult to lift that the blobs that many of us have run across today. It is very difficult to get any kind of dig or bite with the thumb like can be done on the next generation of Blobs.
York Blob Replicas
As noted, one edge of this generation of Blob is straighter than the original. Experienced lifters know that the most advantageous way to situate their hand when lifting the Blob is to put the thumb against the straighter side and the fingers along the side that is more curved. Since the thumb is the weakest part of the hand in this equation, it needs to get any advantage it can when you are lifting the Blob. This advantage is attained by digging it into the sharper edge of the blob.
On the Gripboard, I maintain the Records Lists for many established feats of Grip Strength. There is a list dedicated to Blob lifts there, and because of the rarity of true blobs, these York Replicas are also honored for that list.
In Summer 2003, I picked up a 100-lb dumbbell from York, right at their facility. Shortly after this time I began hearing and reading that York would be stopping the production of this style of dumbbell, hence cutting production of new Blobs. Ever since then, half 50's from old York dumbbells have gotten more and more rare...
These diseases include diabetes, degenerative diseases, joint and heart problems and others.
As we age, a small amount of muscle tissue is lost annually; at a steadily increasing rate. The loss of muscular strength is often associated with a decline in health and the severity of this tissue loss, and is determined by how well we take care of ourselves in the years before we age.
Our lifestyles have become less active than in previous years. Most of us have sedentary jobs, and once we finish working, we come home and sit around some more.
This inactivity is largely responsible for the loss of muscle tissue, and in order to avoid it muscles must be put to use.
The human body was designed to be active and works much better when it is. Without it the body's movement towards decline speeds up progressively.
Strength training is the fastest way to improve muscle strength and endurance.
A) Clean and rack [Only the Long Cycle will require a re-clean, but the initial clean for jerks must be polished as well].
B) First dip.
C) The subsequent reversal or "bump".
D) The second dip, to locked out arms and flared lats, braced abdominal wall, and widened base if necessary.
E) Lock the hips and drop the bells into a racked position, reload for rapid fire.
According to Pavel Tsatsouline*, the long cycle is big with Russian fighters. Ju Jitsu clubs in central Russia have instituted kettlebell C&J requirements for belt promotion. Some players must rep out with a pair of 32kg 'bells. No other word for it than nasty. So if a fighter moves from his hips, and all in sport and ballistic weightlifting is channeled through some variation of hip flexion or extension, the spherical nature of the bell and the emphasis on the second dip would make the jerk a logical choice for the combat load of any player. Observe the benefit from each corner of the drill to your sport.
This is the most important purchase for your home gym. You will spend countless hours with your gimp - kicking, punching, grappling . . . nuzzling. So, in my opinion, it's worthwhile buying the best quality bag you can afford.
So what sort of bag should you get?
Short bending is one of the greatest ways to build true power and endurance in the lower arms, but its effects are not just experienced in the arms. You will build your chest, shoulders, lats, traps and abs while bending. You will benefit across the whole spectrum from muscle hypertrophy to power to endurance. I will discuss this in detail.
First benefit is to your neural strength: Steel bending is an exceptional way to build your single unit application of tension. What I mean is this - you have to tense and load every muscle in your body, take out all "leakages", brace everything together and direct it through you hands with a sniper's precise angle. If you get sloppy punching on the nails ends, you will hurt yourself. You could possibly punch yourself in the face, roll your hands out of the groove, stab yourself, or any other combination of less desirable outcomes. This activity will turn your wrist to stone. Your ability to direct power will be significantly increased. This will directly carry over to any other strength-skill you currently have. The way I load up to bend a Huge Stainless Steel Bastard is exactly the same feeling as when I load up to pull a max dead, to press a 48kg bell, or to slam an axe through a log. It adds a critical power appliance to your "strength skill tool box".
This increase in strength and power naturally will carry over to an increase in your endurance. Anyone who has bent a nail will tell you the first time they bent it was so tiring. I have watched people sweat bullets bending their first respectable nail. As time goes on you gain huge reserves of power. A personal testament to this level of power for me was October 2007 when I bent 150 60D nails in one hour using the double under (DU) grip. That represented a massive improvement from Jan 2007, when bending 10-15 nails left my hands extremely fatigued.
Let's talk about the muscle growth. Bending is a high tension exercise. Forcing a steel bar to yield requires hundreds of pounds of force, applied for several seconds. A big bend often will take much longer than it would take for a dead lift or squat. Your muscle fibers will get much denser. If you have ever met some one who does a lot of bending, you can not help to notice the density of the forearms, chest, arms and back.
Steel bending builds real confidence. You are doing what should not be done. When you trash a piece that takes hundreds of pounds of force to bend, you can not help to feel good about the achievement. I promise you will tackle your other hobbies, sports and challenges with greater confidence and determination after going all out on a steel bar. Bending can become a powerful implement to develop an individual's mental toughness and pain tolerance. I have witnessed this effect on people from both steel bending and kettlebell lifting.
So I see it every day, in every gym in every country. If you ask the average person if they lift weights, they immediately in their mind jump to the Bench Press and the Curl. Without a doubt the world's favorite muscle groups to train are the chest and the biceps. And there is nothing wrong with that, no one will ever change it. I am not going ask anyone to abandon the beloved Bench Press or Barbell Curl. I simply want to suggest another exercise to add to your arsenal for the chest and arms. I would like to present a drill I have used for the last few years in my own training.
I do not want to get into the talk about what style of press works best, or best types of resistance for the curl - I will leave that to others. Look around and you see amazing records set in the different press styles - arches, flat, reverse grip, decline, incline - the addition of benching shirts has allowed man to push to the true upper limits of bench press potential. Regardless of someone's personal opinion of what PL gear does for the lifter - these 750lbs-1,000lbs+ Bench Presses are nothing to sneeze at.
My own training is centered on training movement patterns for increased strength, so I am always looking for ways to make a groove easier or harder to increase performance. I have been limited on my ability to flat press for the last 10 years because of a stupid shoulder injury I incurred when I was 16 years old trying to be the tough guy in a Power House Gym. Looking back it was simply too much teenage posturing and not enough attention to the fine points. I paid my price with interest over the years with that mistake until I discovered the Turkish Get-up and its great rehab potential for the shoulders and upper back - thanks again Steve Maxwell!
So you've just purchased your first medicine ball. You've turned your back on the latest fitness trends, gadgets and hi-tech tom-foolery and gone old-school. Now all you need are some killer moves to prime the pump. I got you covered. I've trawled the net for the best ball-tossing, ball-banging goodness out there. Enjoy.
First up, let's visit the Underground Strength Gymnasium and bust out the Combat Complex.
Pretty sweet drill, huh? But there's more to ball-play than a quick toss. Check out Musis89 and his Wall Series.
Yup, that's right - banging is just as satisfying as tossing.
In the strength and conditioning world, there are people who seem to achieve more by doing less. While every person has their own story and circumstances, there is typically a common thread bonding successful strength athletes and separating them from the mediocre and less than average athletes.
That bond is choice technical drills, text book form, laser focus on the tiniest details, and dedication to the end product.
In part I of this series, I identified two drills which I label as perfect for any strength athlete. I want to continue this trend. I am not going to identify something and say 'this is good for a thrower, but no good for a swimmer'. My goal is share choice drills that apply across the board.
If for some reason you think there is no such thing, I will offer points to warm you up to my methods here. First of all, people need to keep an open mind. By labeling a drill useless, you are closing your mind to potential advantages. The way someone else uses a drill may be of no use to you, but the drill itself can be a gold mine. I will share one example on this : the first man I ever met who deadlifted a lot was a body builder at a Golds Gym in Dearborn Michigan. At the time (I was 14) I did not know anything about lifting. This guy would do sets of 12-20 reps in the deadlift, usually with very little weight. Now with everything I know now 11 years later, I say he was wasting a lot of his time the way he trained, but I also say the dead lift is the best lift in the world. That's what I am talking about.
So today we will examine two drills for the shoulders that are not really shoulder drills, but total body drills. These are two drills that are very good for all kinds of strength athletes. I am going to show some variations of them as well.
Yes, it is possible to lose fat and build muscle at the same time. I've been doing it for the past 8 months. In september, I was 158 lbs at 16.5% bodyfat. This month I am 13% bodyfat at 155lbs. Put that into excel, and you get 6 lbs lost and 3lbs gained, or 9 lbs total displacement. Achieved these results simply by eating healthy and training for less than 10 minutes 6 days a week. Now who's too busy to workout? (By the way, before I get any "oh, you're not big enough" talk, I should inform you guys that I'm 5'5" and not a bodybuilder. Just an average kid who's struggled with his weight since childhood.)
But I only did this because I had one more semester left of school and knew I was going to busy. Now my goal is to burn off all my fat and finally get that nice, sinewy, 300-Mf'r look. I want to get in some hours before I start working a boring 9-5 dread job for the next 10 years. Hence my goal for the next few weeks will be to burn as much fat as humanely possible. I will be using two approaches: High Intensity Circuits, and Low-Carb diet.
Honestly, it gets boring and annoying running sprints and doing circuits all the time. I suggest setting some goals that are opposite to your primary goal, just to mix things up. My secondary goal will be two gain or maintain overall strength. Hence, I'll perform one heavy barbell workout approximately once a week.
Nail Bending is not exempt from this monstrous mass of knowledge and information. I know I have learned a ton that has helped me improve my bending technique and performance from guys like Aaron Corcorran, Ben Edwards, and Josh Dale over the last couple of years. Even the methods for wrapping nails for bending have improved and this is what I'd like to focus on with this article.
When I first started competing, wrapping techniques were in the dark ages. In 2003, most people were wrapping nails and bolts with towels. Now think about that - we were all taking a pointed nail or a jagged-edged piece of stock and protecting ourselves from being stabbed by wrapping a cloth towel around the end. Needless to say, each bend that was done, the athlete was taking a chance, risking injury.
At the Strong Arm Tactics contest in January 2004, I wrapped a blue nail cut to 4 inches with a normal green bathroom towel (pictured above). I hit it with the reverse style and almost instantly the end of it popped completely through the towel. The only thing that kept it from going through my hand was the fact that I wrapped the very end of the cut edge with athletic tape. I didn't complete that nail bend - the ends wound up about 2.5 inches apart, if I remember correctly - but if I had, it would have been the shortest blue nail ever bent, tying Rob Vigeant who completed it at the contest.
If I remember correctly, the two Vigeant cousins, who have now moved on to full time arm wrestling as their athletic pursuit, wrapped their nail stock that day with a bank bag, a very resilient material, but very bulky and cumbersome to bend with. It didn't hurt them though - one bent the blue nail I mentioned before and the other put a really nice kink into a red nail, which was a treat to watch.
A kinked red nail was a BIG DEAL back then, and I think two things are the principal reasons for the explosion in red nail benders and other tremendous bending eats these days. One of them is the use of the Double Overhand technique. I go into why the Double Overhand technique is so powerful in my Nail Bending eBook. The other, quite frankly, is wrapping techniques.
Looking back at the memories of early grip contests I competed in, it was just plain silly to wrap a pointed nail or a jagged piece of HRS/CRS stock with just a towel. Talk about ludicrous. But, we didn't really know any better.
Today, it's a different story. Nowadays, people are using leather wraps that are both more effective at completing big impressive bends and at protecting their hands. In fact, it's been probably two years if not longer since I have seen anybody wrap with something besides leather or a combination of leather and something else.
The first person I ever saw wrap with leather is the Terminator, Pat Povilaitis. In 2005 (I believe), I went to the Arnold Classic and participated in that year's Night of Strength, a gathering of Grip athletes where everyone demonstrated feats of strength. There, Pat proceeded to shock the crowd bending reds cut to sub-6 inches time after time. Seeing the best nail bender in the world devour red nails with these new types of wraps was what I believe to be the catalyst for the shift in the Grip world toward using leather wraps when bending nails.
If you're going to start bending nails, bolts, and stock, you need to get yourself some leather. You can get leather at many places. I have gotten good quality leather wraps from three sources.
The first source I got leather from was a vendor on ebay. Smitty bought a welding cloak and we cut it up and got lots of good leather wraps from it. Smitty and I have used these leather wraps for well over 2 years. They've taken a beating and they have some worn spots in them, but they're still good enough to get it done with some serious steel.
I got another set of wraps from John Beatty at Fat Bastard Barbell Company. They are sweet. Even when brand new, they still wrap around the stock tight and get a good hold.
The last type of wraps I have gotten, and what I am currently using, are the wraps from Adam Glass. I am not sure where Adam found these wraps, but they are really nice. You barely feel anything when you use these wraps, and when you do as much grip training as I do, you need to minimize the wear and tear on your hands as much as you can when bending.
For the athletes looking at starting out with nail bending, all I can say is GET YOUR LEATHER NOW. There's no need to risk stabbing yourself with a nail or cutting your hands up with the threads of a bolt. Find a source of leather you like and get a few pairs so that you can be sure you can have fun doing it for a long time, and so you can excel at nail bending.
The most important thing for you to remember when wrapping your attempts with leather is to get them really tight on whatever it is you're bending. Check back next week and I'll show you how to wrap your nails so tight, they'll never slip or shift on you while bending.
For more information about nail bending, check out my Nail Bending eBook. It should answer any questions you have, and if it doesn't then email me.
Check out the newly revamped Diesel Site
Fight Geek mentioned yesterday how much he's enjoying the Parkour Tutorial videos (same here, incidentally). Here are a few of my own favourites - 10, to be exact.
Here's a guide to fitness-related goodies for your Mother, Mommy, Ma or Mum. Even if she hasn't had time to step into rubber-soled shoes in years, there are items here that will make her smile at the thought of flexing again. And if she's as hardcore as the Straight to the Bar team, you've just hit the jackpot.
Happy Mother's Day, Grrrls!
Training, lessons, sessions and classes
What's the second-most precious thing to most mothers? Time to herself. Serve her notice that she's been signed up for one-on-one time with a great personal trainer - general fitness or specialized sport coach (boxing never fails!). Sign her up for ten yoga sessions at the groovy upscale studio you always see advertised. Or if she doesn't have a gym membership, get her a punchcard for ten guest visits, so she can use the gym whenever she wants, without the sales pitch of the trial membership. It's guilt-free time for her to focus on herself, her body and her personal quality of life.
Does she have stroller-ready children but no jogging stroller? Sure as taxes, she has jogging stroller envy whenever some perky mother and baby pair in matching designer warm-ups glide by with one. For the top picks, check out Collapsible jogging strollers that go from trunk to trail with ease. This review piece by Sarah Bowen Shea is online at Runners World. (Pictured is Shea's favored Schwinn Joyrider Jogger)
Chocolate. You better believe grrrls want chocolate. Chocolate that won't sit in our stomachs during a work out, give us a sugar crash, make us feel fat, guilty, or like we have to brush our teeth. We're talking whole food chocolate. This mind-blowing stuff is made with just cocoa, nuts, dates, maybe a little fruit - stuff like that, and it tastes amazing. I love Labarar's delectable Jocalat bars and the similar Clif Nectar bars.
A blender. As Krista Scott says, generally one has to tread carefully when getting household items for women for romantic occasions, but pair it with a big jug of protein powder and you should be cool. The Kitchen Aid commercial blender is the Cadillac.
And/or a blender bottle - not the kind with a motor, but this innovative and effective low-tech one with a wire whisk-like ball inside.
Whether you are a grrrl, or have a sister or daughter, you know that grrls like to hit things. Give her something to beat on besides you. Any grrl will be delighted with the right bag to punch or kick. Check Title Boxing or Everlast for a variety of heavy bags, speed bags, and martial arts bags. If she's into cardio kickboxing, she's probably used to a freestanding bag with a water-filled base.
Everlast Evergel Glove Wraps rock. She can wear them under bag gloves as a convenient and more protective alternative to handwraps, or alone for light bag work, mitts, speed bag, grappling and more.
Then get her a real pair of G&S bag gloves, instead of those cheap ones from the sports store. Twelve ounces should be fine, and they're very helpful in figuring out fit if you call.
So we will train with two drills, one which uses a slightly rounded back, and one which trains you to resist twisting as you lift.
No one it seems in the world of strength will dispute the zercher's effectiveness and ability to strengthen all the muscles in the body. With that said, this is one of the rarest exercises to find. Right in the category of bent press, continental clean, and two hands anyhow. Very few people train with zerchers, but the ones who do are strong. The basic zercher movement has elements of the dead lift, the good morning, and the squat. You can take it and go steps further and do multiple squats, or do low good mornings. The version I am going to demonstrate is the type of zercher I use 95% of the time.
I use a close stance because I am built to pull like that. If you deadlift Sumo, than I recommend you pull your zerchers sumo. One word on that - watch out for hip pain as you do the stand up portion. A sumo stance is much wider that a power squat stance.
Some of the fine points. Have a full belly of air before you squat to pull. I am bracing my abs and pushing the pressure up in my body. This protects my back from injury. If you want detailed information on bracing, get Pavel's 'Naked Warrior'.
Once I place the bar on my leg, I fill my belly again and prepare to stand up. Now this is where it gets hairy for a lot of people. There are a few things that people get too wrapped up in.
Bar position on the arms - the bar should rest in the crook of your elbows. It is acceptable to place it on the meaty part of your forearm, but your arms will fatigue very fast this way. The upper arm should face downward, as in the elbow points down. If your arm is pointing forward, your arms will fatigue very fast. Some people complain of discomfort, but I assure you that will pass as you harden up. I do not think it's a good idea to use a towel - here is why. If the towel shifts during the lift, you will be very uncomfortable. So just take your time and build up.
Hand position - some people like to clamp their hands together, which is acceptable. Some people like to leave them out (myself included). Let me make a suggestion - try it both ways, once you figure out a method, stick to it. Don't get too wrapped up on who says what about it.
Doing reps - I stand all the way, and go all the way down to my legs, than place the bar on the floor. I then start from the dead lift as in step one. This is not a lift to rush through, take your time and work for maximum tension and safety. Remember we are training to build strength, and build good habits.
Ready to purchase your first (or next) kettlebell? I've got a guest post up at Fight Geek which just may come in handy - Where to buy kettlebells. Enjoy.
A few years ago, a couple of young dudes I trained with (Muay Thai), wanted to do some extra conditioning work. I offered to take them on a run up Puke Hill on the weekends. After a few nervous side-glances, both of them asked, "Why is it called Puke Hill?" After striking a suitably melodramatic pose, I just smiled and then walked away.
When they finally got to do the run, I noticed three distinct changes to the way they normally trained:
Of course Puke Hill is just a hill. Sure it was steep, and using it for interval-sprints was quite challenging, but what hill sprints aren't challenging? So here's the point of my story: I believe that by simply giving the run a name, my two padawans trained harder, worked together better, and gained a greater sense of individual and shared achievement.
Goody's post yesterday (looking at his workout in Jedd's basement) reminded me of just how good it can be to share your home gym. It has all the usual benefits a training partner brings, as well as bringing the other person slightly out of their comfort zone. Always good.
UPDATE 18/09/11 : The video below was available when this post was written, but has since been removed by the user.
Apologies for that.
Via FlipCatch : one clip from the recent batch of Audi RS6 ads has a nice mix of gymnastic and acrobatic skills. Superb.
Bending nails can result in a lot of positive benefits - increased wrist and hand strength, increased arm, shoulder, chest and lat strength, mental toughness, increased muscle mass of the lower arms, and a truly addictive and rewarding sport/hobby.
All of the following progressions are meant for the bender who is looking for progressive, injury free training. All of my progressions listed are for the bender who bends with minimal padding, such as a single set of IronMind hand pads or thin leather no longer than 4"×8".
NB : Any piece of steel gets roughly 15% harder every time 1/2 inch is removed. Shorter pieces are usually harder than longer pieces of tougher steel IE a 5" CRS 5/16 bar is harder than a 7" Hex steel bar. Piece for piece in the 5/16 sizes is CRS-Hex-Stainless.
1. Forearm size
Nail Bending involves a great deal of tension in the hands, wrists and forearms which leads to major forearm muscle development, especially in the extensors of the forearm. Often, forearm work at the gym involves movements like wrist curls and other simple variations. While these exercises bring about results, many times there is a lack of development in the muscles in the back of the forearm. The sustained tension of nail bending causes growth in both the flexor side of the forearm and the extensor side of the forearm, creating an impressive look of balance and control. The top nail benders' forearms resemble the forearms of the top arm wrestlers - marked by thick, rugged and cord-like musculature.
2. Mental and Physical Toughness
Nail bending involves taking a perfectly good nail and twisting it into a shape that makes it completely useless for any of its normal industrial applications. You're doing something that was never meant to be done, and to do this requires you to focus all of your strength and your mental power into the bend. A lack of commitment from either end of the spectrum will end up in your inability to finish up the bend. When you become proficient in harnessing your mind's and your body's power in nail bending, imagine the results you will see in your other lifts or in the sport you play. You'll be unstoppable!
3. Coordination of the Kinetic Chain
Nail bending isn't just an exercise of the lower arms. If you try to bend a nail by tensing only the hands, wrists and forearms, you stand the chance of failing miserably. The best nail benders are able to coordinate the effort of the entire core and torso and radiate this exertion throughout the kinetic chain - from the core, through the torso, into the shoulders and down through their arms, forearms and hands. As I have said many times, you don't bend nails with your hands, you bend them with your entire upper body! This coordination of the kinetic chain will carry over to other lifts, even the bench press, which when done correctly involves major synchronization between all of the musculature in the upper body.
4. Sporting Implement Power and Control
Many sports involve some sort of stick, bat or other implement: baseball, racquetball, tennis, hockey, lacrosse, etc. The strength built from nail bending will translate very well into these sports. You will notice an increase in power resulting in everything from longer drives on the golf course to a stronger back hand on the tennis court. Being selective at the plate will be easier because you'll be able to pull that bat back when you realize that curveball is headed for the dirt, and your slap shots will scare all the goalies you run into on the ice.
5. Impress Your Friends
Nail bending is NOT some form of trickery or slight of hand like magic is. However, it DOES bring about much the same reaction from a crowd. Imagine talking about this new sort of strength training you are doing and when they ask you to show them, you bust out a nail, wrap it in a towel and bend it right before their eyes. How impressive will that be!
6. Get Your Name "Up in Lights"
Nail bending has been growing in popularity exponentially in the last 5 years. There are now two separate certification systems for nail bending. The first to come in existence is the IronMind Red Nail Roster, located HERE.
IronMind, Inc. is one of the pioneers in grip strength products and they offer a variety of nails that athletes can purchase and bend. These "nails" are actually a variety of lengths and diameters of cold rolled steel stock. Their biggest piece is what the call the Red Nail, a 7-inch long, 5/16-inch thick piece of evil. If you bend it using IronMind's wraps into a U-shape in less than a minute, you get your name featured on their certification list. If you click on the link, you'll see that I certified in 2007.
The other major nail bending certification is organized by John Beatty's Fat Bastard Barbell Company.
They feature a host of lists for which one can certify. Their equivalent to the Red Nail is the Bastard Nail. Bend their 7-inch by 5/16-inch stock and you garner the title of Certified Bastard! And that is just the beginning. They also feature lists for bending stainless steel stock (Shiny Bastard) and Hexagonal Stock (Hexabastard) among others!
The best thing about nail bending is that it is good pure fun. You are able to test yourself and see improvement in your technique and strength while seeing increases in confidence and mental edge. You can crank up the music and go for a new personal best. Over the course of time, all of the nails, bolts, and stock you bend can be saved for posterity. You can see how you progressed over the years. One day, you'll be able to tell your grand kids about when you first dominated the 60-penny nail or the grade-5 bolt. And maybe you can even log them onto IronMind.com or FatBastardBarbellCo.com and show them the certifications you were able to acquire.
In short, nail bending is one of the most exciting parts of the sport of Grip Strength. For me, the physical and the mental benefits I have seen from nail bending are outstanding, not to mention the friendships I have made with some of the top nail benders in the United States and around the world. I encourage you to try your hand at nail bending.
Read up on Nail Bending more here at Straight to the Bar and these other excellent resources:
Diesel Nail Bending eBook - The most complete bending reference on the net.
DieselCrew.com - Our site is loaded with information on Nail Bending and Grip Strength
Gripboard.com - This is THE message board for info on anything related to Grip Strength
My Blog - Stay up to date on the goings-on around the Grip World at my Blog.
NAPALM JEDD JOHNSON
One of the best ways to learn a new skill - whether it's an exercise, or a method for making something - is to watch someone else do it. If they explain the process as well, all the better.
Here are 10 of my favourite tutorial videos; showing various exercises, variations and DIY constructions. Enjoy.
Watching this commercial got me thinking about training partners. Training partners are an essential part of most sports. They provide encouragement, friendly competition, the odd rebuke and of course--help you train the aspects of your sport you can't train by yourself. Or that's what they're supposed to do. Unfortunately, sometimes training partners can prevent progress rather than foster it. So it's important for athletes to be discerning. Over the years I've learned two important lessons about training partners . . .
I can't over-emphasize this point. If your training partner is a lazy, ignorant, excuse-filled, thumb-sucking, moron--you'd do better to train by yourself (unless Homer Simpson is your athletic ideal). Only a high-quality training partner can provide high-quality training. Sounds obvious, but I've seen more than a few athletes blow their careers (and health!) by selecting the wrong training partner. This point leads on to the next . . .
For the vast majority of my 'training life' I've had great training partners. I'm convinced one of the reasons I've been so 'lucky' is that I've made it my business to work on my partner's development just as much as I work on my own. I've always viewed training with others as a means of mutual improvement.
So what should you be looking for in a training partner? I think there are three must-haves . . .
Clubs are wonderful things. If you've ever tried sledgehammer levering, you'll be familiar with the concept - a heavy, unstable weight held at a distance; and moved under control. Different tool, similar feeling.
Of course, clubs are used for much more than that. For a peek into their history, and to get an idea of how they are used, take a look at these sites :
The fun - from my point of view, anyway - also comes from the creation of the equipment. I love being able to use gym gear that I've made; it's a particularly satisfying feeling. When it comes to clubs, the thinking's no different. Here's how to make your own clubs.
Before you head down to the nearest hardware store, consider this : there are two basic techniques for making your own clubs - each with their own parts list. Here are the details.
Remember to plug the hole you've just made (using a plastic-friendly glue).
To make the handle a little less slippery, add some duct tape or the wrap used on cricket bats and tennis rackets. If you made the nunchaku, it's the same stuff.
The final weight of the club can be easily adjusted using ankle weights. Just slip them over the handle and push them up as far as they'll go.
This circuit can be done by anyone, at pretty much anytime, anywhere. Its great for GPP, fat loss, overall conditioning, and will benefit you in any sport you compete in. The circuit is intense, but short and effective.
* 5-10 burpees (you can do more or less depending on your fitness level)
* 25 Pushups
* 50 Bodyweight Squats
* 25 Leg Lifts or roman twist
* 5-10 Pullups (you can do more or less depending on your fitness level)
Rest for one minute and repeat for 3 more sets. A total of 4 sets
NOTE: If you don't have a pullup bar, then shadow box by doing 1-2 combos for 50 reps
Do 2-3 times a week, and progressively add more reps for all the excercises listed. This will make or break the routine. You must continue to shock your body into performing more work to see more gains. For example go from 10 burpees to 15-20 over the coarse of a few weeks. The key to the circuit is to be INTENSE! Keep your time and strive to break it each time.
If you've been reading this site for a while, you've probably noticed that there's a fair bit of home-made equipment on here. To make life easier, I've moved it all into a new 'DIY' category.
Here are a few of my favourites :
As you can see, there's no need to let finances get in the way of a good workout.
Daniel takes a look at hamstring training. A good read.
Has your workout been stale lately?
Does it seem like forever since you set a new PR (personal record)?
Have you turned your training regimen inside and out to get it jump-started and still can't get the results you want?
Many athletes feel that the quality of their workout is most dependent on the factors they see while doing their lifting and conditioning: proper warm-up, flexibility, and atmosphere like heat in the gym and the music playing.
Sometimes it's not so simple. Sometimes we need to take a good hard look at our entire lifestyle to find what is holding our progress back. Here are several factors that I have found to have a big impact on how well my workouts go.
When I don't drink enough water throughout the day, I usually end up dragging ass by the time it's time to lift. In order to get enough water every day, I have to concentrate on it every day. I have a system for this.
I only count the water that I drink when I am not eating. I like to bring a 16 ounce bottle of water and drink it dry several times a day. I try downing it once before my 9 AM meal, once before lunch, and once before I leave work. These three bottles of water between meals, plus what I drink while eating, make a big difference in my hydration status and in my workout when I get home at night.
I also see a difference in how often I need to use the bathroom during the day. Getting enough water means I'll have to go to the bathroom to at least 3 to 5 times and the urine will be clear. Clear urine is a sign of proper hydration and it is what I shoot for.
If you don't get the rest that you need you will not be able to fully recover from your workouts. Everyone is different as far as how much rest they need, so you will have to find out what is optimal for you. For me, I have found that it isn't always the night before that has the most baring on my rest levels and my success in the next workout. Instead, two nights before is what has the most impact on my training. For instance, I know that if I go out partying on a Friday night, I can usually have a decent training session on a Saturday morning if I slept well Thursday night.
I try to anticipate what my sleep patterns will be like during the week based on my work schedule and I plan my workouts accordingly. For instance, once a month I have to go into work about 4 hours earlier than normal on Thursdays. I get less sleep than normal on Wednesday night, but as long as I get to bed at a reasonable time Tuesday night, my Thursday afternoon workout will not be affected.
This is something you can monitor for a while and see how changes in your sleep patterns affect the quality of your workouts. After assessing them for several months, try to find patterns. When these patterns show themselves, try to schedule your workouts appropriately.
Your eating approach needs to be dialed-in to have good workouts. After all, the food you put in your body is the fuel you will draw energy from later on.
These days, I shoot for 4 meals during my work day, as opposed to the 2 meals per day I was eating for the last 3 years. I started this eating schedule in January and have stuck with it ever since. I have seen excellent results since changing. I have cut off about ten pounds of fat and have seen a steady increase in my grip strength levels. These meals are smaller and more frequent, but I think this has helped me because my body can absorb the nutrients more efficiently and I end up storing fewer excess calories as fat at the end of the day. I plan on eating this way for quite some time and I encourage you to do something similar - whatever your schedule permits. See how you can trim your meal sizes down and see where you can stick an extra one or two throughout your day. I think you will see huge dividends from doing so.
Time of Workout
Are you a morning person? Are you a night owl? Depending on how you would describe yourself, you may want to think about moving your workouts around in order to take advantage of how your body best operates.
I think that for me the best time to work out would be 11 PM. If I can get a decent nap in from 6 PM to 8 PM, I can stay up all night and be productive throughout that entire time. Unfortunately, doing this does not compliment my current lifestyle, and so I must train when I am able, most days between 6 and 8 PM.
I think the second best time for me is around noon. I say this because this is when I train on the weekends and my workouts on the weekends are always more productive than my workouts during the week. This holds true whether I am training with a group or training alone on the weekend.
Don't just train in the afternoon because that is when you have always trained. Try moving your workouts around if you can. Find what time of day is best for you. Many people find that they can be more consistent in the gym if they go in the morning, before work. They are mentally fresh in the morning because they have not yet been frazzled by the stresses of the work day. Many who train in the morning also feel better throughout the day because of the increased energy levels they experience from waking up with brisk, stimulating exercise.
Drinking mass amounts of coffee may give you a jumpstart of energy, but drinking too much can work against you where your training is concerned. Caffeine thins the urine and causes you to become dehydrated. I do my best to stick with one large coffee a day. If I drink too much coffee, I notice several things. First, I urinate more and become dehydrated. Next, my thirst levels go down and I drink less water, becoming even more dehydrated, and finally my appetite goes down and I eat less. This cycle results in me feeling like I am going to pass out by 2PM.
We all experience ruts in our strength and fitness training from time to time. I know there have been lots of times in my ten years of serious training where I wondered when I would see another PR (personal record). What I have learned is that patience and consistency are very important. I have also found that usually the factors that take place long before and long after the workout are much more important than the ones that exist during the workout. Thank you for reading. I hope by analyzing the factors I mentioned you see substantial improvements in your training quality.
To your training success,
Remember last time I said ladies should lift? Nothing has changed. But some of you may now be saying, "Well, I'd love to start a strength training program, but I have no idea where to start." And others of you might be saying, "Why should I listen to this bitch anyway?" Okay, let's tackle the latter first. I have no idea. But, I mean, you've read this far, so may as well keep going.
Look, I avoided weight training for years. Going to the local gym and putzing around on the little dumbbell curl machine had about zero appeal to me, and though I tried to get into it from time to time, I could never really commit to what felt boring and pointless and much less appealing than staying home and watching bad sitcoms on TV while eating spoonfuls of peanut butter right out of the container. (I suppose my blog in those days could have been called, "Straight to the Jar".) But then I found a style of weight training I loved, namely this kickass combination of plyometric drills and running and jump-rope with technical lifts and cool tricks mixed in for a terrifyingly hard and super fun workout, and I got hooked. I'm not saying that will absolutely work for you, but there's probably something out there involving barbells and exercises that will. Oh, and did I mention that this training also made me lose body fat, get muscle definition, speed up my running, protect my bones, feel super strong and badass, and lift my ass a good inch higher without Spanx? And that I'm not one of those naturally skinny people who can eat anything and look like a rail? That my metabolism is so slow I could probably survive as long as the cockroaches after the nuclear winter wipes out all the food supplies? Just saying.
Before you brag about how much weight you're moving, take a look at how the cable is connected to the stack at your favorite exercise machine. Is the top plate connected to a pulley or a cable? Why? The pulley version makes lifting the weight easier by half. Try a triceps push-down with the two variations of machine and you'll see. So go ahead and use the little white numbers to track your progress, but remember that "40" doesn't necessarily mean "40 pounds."
This is a common problem among many beginning squatters as the lifter is usually afraid of falling backwards with the weight. Instead of sitting back first, the lifter will bend at the knees to go down. This causes the knees to go forward well over the toes and often times causes the lifter to go up onto their toes in the hole. This is not only dangerous, but you are limiting how much you can squat. The pressure on the patellar tendons in this position is tremendous and leads to big time problems down the road.
Yes, some lifters, especially Olympic lifters, can adapt to these kinds of stresses from having their knees that far forward.
However, the goal here is to improve the squat and move more weight, and that will be accomplished by sitting back into the squat.
The lifter must learn to sit back and not down. This can take a long time to get them to do, and even longer to get them to do it under maximum loads. I start all newbie squatters on a box.
I use a very high box and a very light load, usually the empty bar with some light JumpStretch© bands attached for tension. The basic commands I give are for the lifter to sit back like he is searching for a chair that is behind him. Once the lifter can get down to the high box by sitting back, I lower it an inch and start all over. Eventually the lifter will be able to sit back to a parallel box and the movement will become second nature.
Another possible reason for the lifter's inability to sit back is hamstring strength. If the lifter has weak hamstrings, he won't be able to sit back into a squat without falling. It gets much worse as the weight increases. To address this, get the lifter on the glute-ham machine pronto!
This is the best way to bring up lagging hamstrings and prepare the lifter for handling more weight in the squat correctly. I have also found Romanian Deadlifts and reverse hypers to be effective for improving the sit back portion of the squat.
This is probably the second most common error made by a squatter. The lifter usually descends well, but once they hit depth and attempt to come back up, the knees shoot inward leaving the lifter in an awkward and dangerous position. The reason this happens is usually linked to weak hips. The hips are weak, and therefore the body, in attempt to lift the weight, will draw the knees inward. This places the stress on the stronger quadriceps muscles.
Direct hip work will help immensely, but the lifter also needs to learn how to squat. The quickest way I have corrected this with lifters is to take a min JumpStretch© band, double loop it, and put it around the lifters legs at about knee height while they squat lighter weights. The lifter's goal is to keep the band tight and not let it fall down their legs. This will cause them to focus on proper knee position and really driving the knees out, not only during the ascent, but also during the descent. If you do this often enough, it will become second nature for the lifter to drive his knees out during the squat. I have found this to be most useful during wide stance box squat training. The lifter will be handling a lighter load, 50-60%, and thus can focus on the proper mechanics and keeping the band around their knees tight. Once it becomes second nature, there will be no need for the band.
Direct hip work via handle squats, pull-throughs, kettlebell swings, and belt squats will also help bring the hips up to match the strength of the quadriceps. When doing any type of direct hip work, make sure to really drive the knees out and make a conscious attempt to 'spread the floor' with your feet. Drive your feet hard into and out against the platform to assure proper hip activation.
And, I'm proud to say, she's my sister.
Did you set out to become a world record holder in this lift?
Not at all. The fact that I hold the world record is still surreal to me. I am one of a few women in the world pulling over 500#, yet I am always surprised when people walk up to me after a competition with compliments and handshakes.
Did this lift come easy to you? How long until you felt competent?
The deadlift HAS always come easier to me than the other lifts. Compared to bench pressing, I have had to train very little to get where I am now. Unfortunately, knowing this has allowed me to be lazy and (give me) the feeling that achievement is constantly just out of my grasp.
Is the deadlift your favorite lift? If so, was it always?
Absolutely. Deadlifting is, in some circles, considered to be the bluecollar lift of the powerlifting world.
During the beginning stages of my competing, I did not deadlift. People are rarely seen training this lift, and a normal gym setting can be an embarrassing place to do it, especially to someone who doesn't know what they are doing. I was somewhat influenced to try it after watching several very strong women pull at the end of our competitions.
It is not as popular, nor can it be as easily influenced by the use of supportive gear. Take benchpressing for example. In the 80s and early 90s men benching in the 500-600 pound range were elite. Somewhere along the line, someone got the idea to change the single-ply bench shirt into scientific armor. We went from having denim then double-denim, to lifters wearing shirts 3x too small for them with 4 inches of stitching across their chest and a split down the back. I read an interview from a girl who benched just below 400 pounds openly admitting that she gets at least half of that from her shirt. Now I watch amateur lifters in the gym spending money on shirts before they even have their true form down, and lifters shattering their forearms in competition because they were not built to support upwards of 800-1000#.
There is a time and place for everything, and whether someone lifts equipped or not is their decision. In many competitions, I too wear a shirt (though drawing the line at a double poly), but feel the deadlift is more raw in form. Deadlift suits cannot add 100# to your pull, and training without a partner is possible. At a competition everyone shows up to watch the bench, but the Lifters are the ones left watching at the end.
Describe your training, and how it differs between on and off-season.
I am a strong believer that heavy lifting is mostly done in the mind. If you allow your body to soften up during "offseason", you take the chance of coming back weaker and less enthusiastic than you would have been if you'd stayed disciplined and focused.
Training the deadlift is different than the other lifts in the sense that overtraining is very easy to do, and for that reason, I do actual deadlifts only leading up to a competition or occasionally on a back night at moderately heavy weights.
If I deadlift every week, I find my body and mind becoming bored. Instead, I focus on working my hips on the sled or by doing squats/hack squats. My grip leaves something to be desired, so I also do forearms and try to keep the rest of my body tight.
About 6-8 weeks from a competition, I will begin doing heavy deadlifts twice a week. On the first night, I use the same form as I would in competition. On the second (about 3 days later), I like to stand on a platform or plates and do hyperextensions. Both nights I do sets 6" above and 6" below the knee from the Smith Machine with weights I normally wouldn't be able to pick off the ground with the intent to work the sticking points and refining my form. Additionally, I move my focus away from arm exercises and anything not directly tied to the deadlift. The last week before competition, I stop deadlifting altogether and give my body time to rest.
Does your philosophical approach to deadlifting differ between the on and off-season?
I am ALWAYS working to shatter my previous records in competition, but I seem to do worse if I train the deadlift every week. My focus is pointed more at keeping everything strong all the time and training the deadlift primarily leading up to a competition.
What goes through your head while you're executing a deadlift?
Clear your head and walk up to the bar like you hate it. Ignore the crowd, and don't look down when you place your hands. Take a deep breath in, bend your knees, and set your hands. Push down with your legs and roll your shoulders while exhaling, pull with all your might. Then try not to pass out.
What are the biggest mistakes you see others make in their deadlifts?
Form is a real killer in the deadlift. Some people are gifted with bull muscle strength and have the ability to pull up great amounts with their knees locked and backs bent. Eventually, however, the increasing amount of weight can cripple the spine. Having a firm stance and utilizing the large muscle groups in the legs and pelvis will allow for steady improvement and keep a body healthier in the long run.
Are the mistakes generally the same between regular lifters and competitors?
I think competitors are less likely to have sloppy form because they can appreciate the lift from a judging point of view. However, there are always a few, both competitors and regular lifters, more concerned about showing off than the gradual climb to core strength. This probably has more to do with individual personality, but does not improve ability to lift in any way and annoys the rest of us in the gym.
What was the best piece of advice you ever got on your deadlift?