12.23.2013 – Position And Power

There can be many ways to develop strength. Much akin to nutrition, there is no overarching consensus, but science has given us a good amount of objective data to go off of. Also, in line with the learning process of nutrition, the issue is going to be based on context (don’t miss the forest for the trees) and heuristics. Fitness in the realm of social media is all about alarmist literature and quick fixes; it’s what sells and entices people who live the modern hyper-busy lives. As a result, taking the time to learn in order to draw well-informed conclusions from experience is slowly becoming a lost skill.

This post will not aim to address the issue of program or regimen superiority, but rather the need to keep an open mind when coaching/training someone to better movement and greater strength.

Position and Power: A Synergistic Relationship

Good position grants power. Good position cannot be had without proper mobility and stability. These are among the first few variables that a novice must master in conjunction with strength training. As with anything worthwhile, the time and effort must be invested.

Mobility

Being involved with the CrossFit community for the past few years, I’d have to agree that it has done so much more good than harm to the philosophy of fitness. Among the positives it has brought into training, mobility as common knowledge is probably the greatest. Members, clients, trainers, and coaches alike all comprehend the basics of human mechanics now. Why? Well with the demand to master so many different types of movements it’s really a natural evolution.

Injuries and chronic pain that result from poor, repetitive movement force people to figure out not only ‘how’ but also  ‘why’ it occurred in the first place. Simply, we learn from our mistakes (hopefully). The plastic roller and lacrosse ball then become a staple in the warm-up, cool-down, or whatever. Then bands start coming into play as well as some PNF and maybe even some fancy new stretch out of a hot-selling book. All a good thing, of course, but there’s no need to bombard your program with the unnecessary. Use only what you need and avoid being a victim of paralysis by overanalysis.

Stick to the basics:

  • Stretch regularly: This is usually a neglected piece of the puzzle, especially in the world of weight training. The recent popular notion of no static stretching before working out might be a culprit. However, being restricted in the joints prior to repetitive movement does more harm than good. Flexibility is the first step in both positioning and range of motion, which are imperative to power output. Without the ability to reach full range of motion on a lift, optimal muscle recruitment cannot be achieved. The amount of stretching needed depends on each individual’s needs based on a risk-to-benefit ratio. If you don’t have it, it is highly needed in strength development.

Dmitry-Klokov-Ankle-Stretch-Tibialis-Anterior

  • SMR (self-myofascial release): Roll out on plastic pipes and lacrosse balls regularly to reduce neuromuscular tension and chronic pain associated with it. This can help prevent injury as well.

Overall, learn more about muscular anatomy. If your movement/workout regimen is comprehensive enough, you’ll know what you need to work on. There really is no substitute for practicing and striving to master the movement itself.

Overhead shoulder mobility.

Overhead shoulder mobility.

Stability

We come into this world with plenty of mobility. Infants and children have amazing flexibility all throughout the early years of their life. It’s apparent in their movement. However, stability is something that we earn as we learn new movement patterns, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. Though not at odds, we tend to forget about one or the other in our strive for fitness in the adult years. Mobility often tends to be the focus of most CrossFitters, Yogis, and many lifters presently.

As stated before, power cannot be optimally generated without both mobility and stability. Power requires good position, which stability allows, but cannot be achieved without the proper mobility; it’s an interdependent process. So how does someone condition stability in conjunction with mobility if they’re a novice lifter struggling with compound/dynamic movements?

  • Strict movementStrict, controlled movement patterns should always be practiced/mastered before ballistic and highly coordinated movements. The more strict a movement is for a novice lifter, the greater the muscle recruitment. This sets a strong foundation for stable joints as more coordinated movements come into a program.
photo (3)

Dips: the squats for the upper body.

  • Unilateral movementsThe importance of unilateral movements (e.g., single-arm/single-leg exercises) cannot be stressed enough. Placing a unilateral load on the body forces both balance and joint stability simultaneously. Further, it challenges and fine-tunes neuromuscular coordination by forcing the body into the right position in order to obtain balance. If you’ve ever known anyone with a knee injury or a foot injury (for example), you know the rehabilitative process demands unilateral exercises. This is no different for healthy joints that haven’t yet been injured. If a client is suffering from asymmetrical hips in a squat, then lunges or Bulgarian split squats are a great prescription. There are progressions for all skill levels, thus accessible to anyone. Simple.
Front rack reverse lunges.

Front rack reverse lunges.

  • Lateral, rotary, and dynamic movementsThe body has the capability of moving in many different directions and it should be trained as such often. The more the body is conditioned to move in those different directions, the more prepared and stable it is overall. Lateral and rotary movements are absent in most gym settings, which is a set back for members and clients. Joints are loaded in more ways than just pressing, pulling, and squatting. The knees and shoulders are prime examples.

“The Scapula craves complexity but the hips crave Intensity” -Ido Portal

Being able to rotate your arm around you body in a full revolution already gives you an idea of how many muscles, tendons, and ligaments are in play to allow such a great range of motion. Though pressing and pulling are a solid foundation for shoulder health, it’s definitely not enough, especially if you regularly engage in weight training (any type) or some type of upper body intensive regimen. Raises, band pulls, and walking on the hands are all highly-effective exercises for building shoulder stability. There is no greater muscle recruitment for the shoulders than walking on your hands. It’s a pattern that cannot be replicated through machines or free weights.

As for the lower body, the same applies. Lateral, rotary, and dynamic movements condition multi-directional loading and better prepares joints for varying/repetitive activities.

  • Isometric and eccentric trainingMuscles need to spend time under tension in order to elicit hypertrophy. Eccentric training helps with proper joint positioning and muscle pre-loading. Isometric training helps with muscular endurance and recruitment. These two are important to any strength program.

photo (3)

  • Single-joint movements: Bicep curls, tricep extensions, lateral raises, etc. All of these are very helpful exercises. The argument against these usually boil down to what people believe to be “functional”. BUT almost all exercises can be functional within context. If a client lacks arm strength in a pulling movement, then curls might not be such a bad prescription. If weak triceps are contributing to epicondylitis (due to instability in compound movements), then tricep extensions may help.

photo (3)

Yes, CrossFit conditions a lot of coordination and power output, but bodybuilding conditions a lot of muscle recruitment and stable joints (does anybody really believe that a 5-20min workout can get you everything?). Add what you need and don’t be a victim of training dogma or specific gym conformity.

Bottom line, keep an open mind to all training methodologies. Don’t assume one size fits all. The efficacy of a program is dependent on how versatile it is given the variability of people’s backgrounds, abilities, and mindset. Always remember that anecdote alone is never a good foundation to teach, coach, or lead. Good coaching is a balance of heuristics and objective knowledge. Strength development is a long process.

10.22.2013 – Progress

Haven’t posted in a while.

Reoccurring themes that keep popping up in both my training and clients’ progress: consistency and motivation. The former is often determined by the latter. Both are going to hinge on the individual’s character. Character is cultivated through struggle. Whether or not that character possesses the capacity to see through to progress no matter the amount of discomfort or adversity lies in the key confine(s) of perception.

Perception can be changed through learning new behaviors, but there needs to be a willingness, desire, and clear sight of goals. The resistance to learn can often be insurmountable. Though disheartening at times, it comes with the territory. Knowledge/education is always the first step.

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Workout log

09.25.2013 – Paleo Dreamz

I know that spending time in the comment section of most articles/blogs can be a big killer of productivity, but this is too good:

http://paleomovement.com/alan-aragon-paleo-critic

As a former Paleo dieter and proponent of senseless suffering brought on by inflexible principles, I must say that those adhering to any extremist/dogmatic way of eating without any objective logic can be quite ridiculous. But what we see happening here in the world of nutrition gives us insight into why conflicts around the world exist and are hard to untangle and solve. It’s kind of like religion, right? Right?

Just eat your food and know your body.

09.22.2013 – Squats, squats, and more squats

Titz on rits...

Titz on rits…

This past Saturday marked the end of a hellacious squat cycle. I was introduced to a level of intensity that was much higher than anything I have been used to in my time lifting weights. Here’s what I ended up with:

Week 1:

  • 4×9: 245
  • 5×7: 265
  • 7×5: 280
  • 10×3: 295 (belt)

Week 2:

  • 4×9: 265
  • 5×7: 285
  • 7×5: 295 (belt)
  • 10×3: 315 (set 7 – 2, f; set 8 – 2, f; set 9 – 1, f; set 10 – 1, f)

Week 3:

  • 4×9: 275
  • 5×7: 295
  • 7×5: 305 (belt)
  • 10×3: 325 (set 4 – 2, f; set 5 – 2, f; set 6 – 315, set 7 – f…)
7x5 at 305. Most I've done  with this weight.

7×5 at 305. Most I’ve done with this weight.

There’s plenty of PRs in these past 3 weeks with the sheer volume of squats performed at loads that used to be questionable for me. Now it’s time to deload and test to see how far it’s gotten me. My weight did not shift and I felt lighter some days even with the increase in calories (161-166lbs). However, my body composition did improve, which was expected. Just shows you how brutal this type of program can be. Overall, my strength in almost all movements have increased and my conditioning feels just fine and I didn’t even drill anything else that much either. The carry-over potential (yes, potential; not an absolute deal) of this lift is pretty amazing.

Some PRs during this cycle:

  • Tap-n-go power snatch x 2 – 180
  • Push press 3RM – 220
  • Front lever – 12 seconds

Here’s how we celebrated after getting a DNF for the 10×3 this past Saturday:

Everything just feels stronger. 225 used to be a chore to put overhead this many times especially post-lifting, but it has gotten remarkably easier with the squats. Stronger midline and legs equal better stability and neuromuscular coordination, which yields better transfer of power through the kinetic chain. I’m excited to see what else has improved as we test. Overall, I’m glad I made it through uninjured. Big thanks to coach dariles who made sure no one bitched out (lol).

I’m sure I’ll miss squatting in about 2 days or so…

09.16.2013

Feeling back on track with everything. My energy is back to normal levels following a few hectic weeks with work and everything in between. I did come to my senses and sat back to enjoy some of the great things developing and existing in my life in the midst of everything though.

Clients are finally seeing the positive results of their patience and adherence to the sound principles of nutrition and proper strength training. No major decline in energy, an increase in overall strength and coordination, no unnecessary suffering through inane avoidance of food, body composition change, and most importantly better quality of life. Very rewarding to say the least.

Two more weeks of Smolov…meso cycle! I don’t know how I’d even make it through the full cycle without copious amounts of sleep and calories. Progress so far:

Week 1:

  • 4×9: 245
  • 5×7: 265
  • 7×5: 280
  • 10×3: 295 (belt)

Week 2:

  • 4×9: 265
  • 5×7: 285
  • 7×5: 295 (belt)
  • 10×3: 315 (set 7 – 2, f; set 8 – 2, f; set 9 – 1, f; set 10 – 1, f)

Week 3:

  • 4×9: 275

My body weight has remained static so far at ~164lbs. I’ve already put up more weight on my back squats on this cycle than I ever have since I started taking back squats more seriously in the past year and a half. It’s definitely a fight each and every set though, but I’m excited to see the results.

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Food log – upping my protein intake for the remainder of Smolov

Workout log