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STRENGTH AND POWER TRAINING INFORMATION FOR THE SERIOUS ATHLETE!

Strength Articles


Dedicated to those who care enough about their good health to actually do something positive on a daily basis to improve it.

Permission to use these articles

You may use these strength training articles in your newsletter, on your site or in your personal fitness emails if you send an electronic copy of the article, along with the date used to Contact Danny

Articles written by other strength training coaches express their individual opinion and do not necessarily reflect the training methods or philosophy of Explosivelyfit Strength Training. They are presented here for your thoughtful consideration.

Preliminary note to all of you power athletes:

Warm ups that consist of static stretching prior to the power and explosive sports are contraindicated because they are detrimental to the outcome.

A dynamic warm up is a key component to explosive displays of power.

The table of contents lists an abundance of strength training articles.


Table of Contents

Advanced powerlifting techniques by Rickey Dale Crain

Bicep curls for great abs by Adrian Birkby, CSCS MPT

Building athletic movement

Children and exercise

Combining mental and physical activities to keep your cognitive abilities sharp

Conditioning for running by Daniel Pare

Cool down

Do’s and don’ts for an injury free exercise session

Effective program design variables

Functional training in the real world by Adrian Birkby, CSCS MPT

Growing kids, growing crisis by Daniel Pare

Hard work on basic exercises by Prof. Bradley J. Steiner

Improving joints function by Daniel Pare

Is your heart on top of your training?

Isolation vs. compound exercises
by Adrian Birkby, CSCS MPT

Lifting weights is associated with positive cognition and memory area changes in the brain

Load and repetition recommendations

Measuring muscular endurance

Maintaining range of motion

Muscle activation

Muscle recruitment in full and partial rep scenarios by Rickey Dale Crain

Periodization; the practical aspects of implementation

Protein synthesis and energy use

Selecting strength exercises

Self prescribed orthotics - good or bad for your health?

Starting out with an aerobic exercise plan

Stretching and the warm up-are you confused? by Brad Walker

Strength exercises and speed of motion

Strength training for injury prevention by Brad Walker

Strength Training Properties

Strength training thoughts for the pre and adolescent child

Testing your training program

The components of physical fitness

The importance of a balanced workout by Adrian Birkby, CSCS MPT

Training room environmental climate conditions

Using chains to increase your strength

You want results by Daniel Pare

Water, the essence of life

Working the external rotators

 

Starting out with an aerobic exercise plan

The research over the past several years continues to support the benefits of aerobic exercise. Not only is it good for your cardiovascular system but it helps ease fatigue symptoms in those with chronic fatigue syndrome, in the elderly, and the long-term sedentary person. However, this does not mean that people in these categories should just immediately go out and try to run a marathon. Before you even start, check with your doctor and review your history of activity, any type of joint problems, cardiovascular conditions, or other conditions that may cause you problems if you exercise

If you have not exercised consistently in the past or in the recent past, start out slowly and build up gradually your ability to tolerate the physical activity. Even though exercise will help most people, those with chronic fatigue syndrome should start out very slowly because it can aggravate the symptoms in some.

Older, sedentary, people must also start building a foundation of activity by increasing their levels of exertion on a smaller progressive scale. This will go a long way to avoiding injuries.

One of the easiest ways to get started on a physical activity program is to start walking. Begin with a slow pace of eighty steps per minute for about half as far as you think you can go every day. Increase this distance until you are walking a mile or so each day all the while being cognizant of the traffic and the phenomenal ability of some idiot drivers who are not paying attention to come dangerously close to you. (Oops, that just slipped in)

Some of the more recent studies have shown that brisk walking, one hundred steps per minute, five times a week for at least half an hour results in almost the same health benefits as exercise that is much more vigorous.

Another advantage of taking a brisk walk is that those who take these walks lower their risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, Osteoporosis and potentially other diseases. It has also been found that mental health issues seem to occur less frequently.

Gradually you will notice your ability to go longer increases until you are walking thirty to sixty minutes a day. Once you are able to do this, you might want to start including biking or some sort of an exercise class.

One of these new activities could include resistance training. You do not need to go to a gym to resistance train but the advantage of doing so and hooking up with a certified strength specialist is that you will learn how to do the exercises correctly and in most cases avoid injury. Old style bodyweight calisthenics can be effective in increasing your muscle mass, strength, and power output.

Power output is important because it develops the strength necessary to rapidly catch your balance if you begin to fall. If you do not have the strength, you will not have the power to protect yourself.

Do not be fooled by the advertisements saying that you can use light hand weights to get strong because it will not happen. You have to challenge your muscles and unless your condition is such that you cannot move heavier weights these small hand weights are not going to suffice.

Combining mental and physical activities to keep your cognitive abilities sharp

Scientific research never ceases and constant investigations into what makes us healthy are no exception. Some of the recent research and subsequent reports result from observational studies. These observational studies were not designed to prove a cause and effect. Nonetheless, they still may point the way towards improving your health by decreasing your disease risk.

Some of these findings may already be common knowledge to you, whereas others may be a surprise. In any case, all of them may be worthwhile paying attention to in the future.

Combining mental and physical activities to keep your cognitive abilities sharp

If you are health-conscious person, as many are, you are already aware that exercising both your body and mind can help keep your memories sharp as you age. A recent study out of the Mayo Clinic reinforced this synergistic mind body connection.

These researchers found that by combining mentally stimulating activities, in this case computer use, and moderate exercise, the participants decreased their odds of incurring memory loss more so than singling out either activity. The definition of moderate physical exercise, for the purposes of the study, is "brisk walking, hiking, aerobics, strength training, golfing without a golf cart, swimming, doubles tennis, yoga, martial arts, using exercise machines, and weightlifting." They used the computer as an example of mental activity simply because it is a popular means of mental exertion used by this population sample.

In the study, researchers observed and tested 926 Minnesotans aged between 70 and 93. Each of these people completed questionnaires concerning the amount and time of their physical exercise and computer use.

The results indicated that the study participants who did not use a computer or exercise 37.6% showed mild cognitive impairment signs and 20.1% remained cognitively normal. Of those who did both mental and physical exercise, they found that 36% were cognitively normal and only 18.3% were showing signs of cognitive impairment.

Based on the results, it certainly seems reasonable to stimulate your brain with mental activities and exercise to improve your physical health in order to provide a protective barrier for your memory during aging process.

Lifting weights is associated with positive cognition and memory area changes in the brain

A new study, conducted by research scientists and led by Teresa Liu-Ambrose, PhD from the University of British Columbia stated, “exercise is a promising strategy for combating cognitive decline.” She pointed out that other studies have found aerobic and resistance training increase the cognitive ability in older adults and others with mild cognitive impairments. Nevertheless, she noted there is no data comparing the effectiveness of aerobic or resistance training to one another in helping seniors with mild cognitive impairment.


Not having this data makes it difficult to understand which of the two forms of exercise could be the most beneficial and according to Dr. Liu-Ambrose, “understanding this is crucial to using exercises as a strategy for altering the trajectory of cognitive decline in seniors with mild cognitive impairment.” Therefore, she and her researchers placed 86 women, aged 70 to 80, into three groups.


The groups were divided up thusly:

  • Group 1 trained twice a week both machines and free weights
  • Group 2 exercised with an outdoor walking program
  • Group 3 did only balance and stretching activities

Each person in the three groups was measured with the Stroop test. This is a standard cognitive test used to measure selective attention and the individual’s ability to deal with conflicting information. In the latter instance, it would mean being able to read out loud the word blue, when it is actually printed in red.


A secondary group of tests “measured the individuals working memory, associative memory, problem-solving,” “visual attention and task switching.”


The results of the six-month study found that even though the aerobic group got physically fitter and improved their balance while doing so they realized no increased cognitive benefits. However, those in the weightlifting group” significantly improved their average performance on the Stroop test and tests of associative memory.”


In fact, there were significant functional changes within the areas of the brain that were associated with cognitive and memory as noted in the MRI scans of 22 participants.


Dr. Liu concluded that the results of the study provided “novel evidence” that strength training provided the beneficial results for those individuals that were suffering mild cognitive impairment. She did caution that these results might be different when tested with men or women of a different age group.

 

Training room environmental climate conditions

Temperature and humidity play an important role in personal comfort and in getting the most from your training sessions. Temperatures that are too high generate excessive heat build up in the strength trainee leading. This may lead to copious amounts of perspiration fluid loss. Individual tolerances to heat vary. In each case temperatures that are above 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius) contribute to the onset of fatigue; both mental and physical. Once fatigue sets in the lifting becomes more demanding which leads to a loss of motor coordination. If this condition continues the likelihood that an injury will happen will be increased.

Conversely, temperatures below 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 Celsius) may place an athlete at risk for incurring an injury unless the warm up is sufficiently long enough to raise the body temperature, pulse and breathing rates. In both cases, unless preventive measures are taken, the work out may suffer.

In each instance the athlete must adjust to their surroundings and make the necessary changes in their warm up. If it is hot then fewer warm up sets will be required as opposed to lifting in a colder room. As long as the pulse, breathing rate and joints movement ranges of motion are dynamically brought up to the necessary operating stages for the production of strength and power the athlete is set to go.

Not only is temperature a concern but the humidity of the room has a bearing on the outcome of a successful training session. Relative humidity in the training area should be at 60% or less. The temperature in the room should also remain constant to prevent higher humidity and increased condensation from forming on and damaging the equipment.

While it is important to keep the humidity and temperature in the room at the recommended levels air flow is also a concern. Keeping a constant flow of new air helps maintain good air circulation. The circulating air provides a cooling effect in addition to eliminating odors from the room.

Observation of these environmental concerns and keeping them within the recommended healthy ranges will make your training area more receptive to building the strength and power in each of your athletes.

Hoffman, J. R. and Ratamess, N. A. A Practical Guide to Developing Resistance Training Programs, Coaches Choice 2006

Using chains to increase your strength

chains 

Chains are essential pieces of gear in the weight room! If you don’t have them, then stop right now and go get a set. They don’t have to be the welded, high tensile strength ones like the loggers or truckers use to secure their loads; they just have to be chains. You can pick them up at your local hardware store and spend a small fortune or you can keep an eye on the garage sales.

Not only does the added resistance of the chains increase your strength but they also serve an even more important role in providing protection for your joints during explosive lifting. Chains do this by decelerating the bar later into the bar path as your joints near full extension. This late deceleration may come only millimeters later than without the chains or bands but it still allows the bar to be pushed faster and longer into the ending part of the lift than without the added resistance.

Let’s back up a tad here. When the bar nears completion, a mechanism inside the joints recognizes that the range of movement is nearing the end. Once detected, it automatically begins to slow the bar down.

As a side note, this same joint protective mechanism may also hinder the strength process by preventing enough time and distance necessary to complete a heavy lift. Your muscles, at the peak of their strength curve, run out of the high-powered energy sources known as ATP/CP within eight to ten seconds. Your lift had better be over when this energy source is depleted, because it more than likely won’t be finished.

Back to the main topic again, if this deceleration did not take place the joints would be overwhelmed with the weight and the speed of the bar as they reach the end of their range of movement potentially causing hyperextension of the joint to occur. Expert lifters are able to delay this deceleration longer than less experienced lifter thus causing faster movement for a longer period in the lift. They do this in part by developing the muscles that surround and protect the joint. These are the agonist and antagonist muscle groups.

Of course, development of the powerful antagonist muscle groups is critical to protecting the joints because the joint ultimately relies on these muscles to prevent the damage from happening in the first place.

Chains can help get you stronger by taking advantage of the natural strength curve of your muscles and favorable joint angles. They do so by adding weight to the bar at various points in the bar path. Everyone has parts of the lift that are not as strong as, for instance, the end of the lift where the joint angles are much more efficient lifting heavy weights.

Chains can help overcome the weak areas and improve on the strong phases of the lift simply by adjusting their length. For example, if you lack lock out strength then adjust the chains so all of the weight is on the bar at the end of the lift. You do this by making sure the chains are completely, or nearly so, off the floor at the end or top of each one of the repetitions.

Accelerating the bar to the top with chains on causes an overload at the finish. This overload is necessary to overcome your lack of lock out strength.

In the example just given, you help build your lockout strength by explosively lifting the bar through the full range of exercise movement until at the end of the lift the entire amount of chain is swinging off the floor.

If you miss your lifts at other points, such as lower in the bar path, then adjust the amount of chain left on the floor during that phase of your lift. Measure it out and set it up to add weight at that position in the lift. Simply fix the chain so it leaves more on the floor, this can be an incremental adjustment, earlier in the lift.

In our gym, we use chains from a logging skidder. These are cut into thirty-nine inch pieces, and then attached to a smaller chain with a single carabiner . These are attached to a modified spin lock collar that weighs five pounds.

If you don’t have the small incremental weight chips, then use the chains. The links on this chain are 5.05 ounces each making this easily adjustable for each lifter no matter what their strength levels may be.

The use of chains is just one of many different options that can be added into your strength training routine.

We have improved our lifts using two to three, one week cycles beginning with 65% of a 1RM for one week, moving up to 70% for the second week and ending up at 75% for the third week.

The first session of each week consists of six sets of two reps for the bench, the next session is a one rep max with the chains and the third session consists of six sets of three reps at the selected percentage rate.

Every now and then on an off day start with 75% on the bar and do two to three sets of as many as possible. Generally do this on the last day of the week so you have a couple of days to recuperate.

If the chains are used on other lifts adjustments in the sets and reps will need to be made.

The old standby of five sets of five reps has stood the test of time and whenever a schedule is slowing down and becoming less productive for you or your athletes then get on this for a two to three weeks and renew your enthusiasm.

 

chains        chains
Thirty-nine inches                             Skidder chain

chains                             chains
Carabiner                                   Modified spin lock-five pounds each
cjains                 chains      
 
A smaller chain holds                             Each piece weighs 6 pounds
the skidder chain   

Strength training properties

Morphological changes naturally occur in those who strength train. These changes in the muscle composition result from increases in the amount of muscle glycogen, the number of mitochondria, the capillaries, the muscle fiber size, the tissues of the connective structures, and even the bones of the affected muscles become stronger by increasing their density.

Additional changes taking place in the nervous system include improvements in the intermuscular and intramuscular coordination of the muscles. The main changes are believed to occur in the recruitment and synchronization of the motor units. Training with and subsequently overcoming maximal resistance “causes recruitment of a maximal number of motor units-nerve cells and muscle cells innervated by them and the synchronization of their activity”. (Zatsiorsky 1995)

It should be noted that these morphological and functional changes are specific for each different exercise.

For example use of isometric exercises for an extended time will result in an increase of muscle cell sarcoplasm, nuclei that is rounded in shape, transverse expansion of the motor plates, non symmetric capillary structure (illogical paths of capillary construction which seems to serve no specific purpose) and finally a thickening of the single muscle cell and muscle bundle materials (endomisium and perimisium), extensions of the motor plates along the muscle cell length and a very pronounced transverse striations in the myofibrils which are the contractile portions of the muscle cells-these are the ones that make our muscles do work for us. (Bondachuk et al 1984)

There is very little transfer of strength between the different movement types, i.e. isometric, concentric and eccentric even in the same muscles of the sport. Even a little transfer may benefit the strength athlete thus all positive development are encouraged. Keep in mind the specificity of training principles, which have direct application to the strength and power sports.

Briefly stated the posture in which one strength trains and exercises should in most ways mimic the posture of the sport. The angle and or muscle length of the exercise movement should also be similar to the activity.

Typically, in the strength field, we try to discourage momentum from taking the place of muscle recruitment during the lifting process. However, the speed of the sport needs to be addressed in the weight room thereby making velocity of movement critical to the application of force, which is necessary to overcome the resistance on the bar.

Movement patterns of the sport must, whenever possible, apply to the strength development process. These patterns can only developed through a carefully thought out strength program, specifically designed for the individual athlete. Strength for each particular move not only depends on the size of the muscles cross section of fibers but also upon the recruitment and synchronization of the muscle cells firing of the various motor units. This comes from training the neuromuscular pathways. Training as you play increases the chances of playing as you train because as Dr. Stuart McGill has stated “practice makes permanent.”.\

Only the newest strength athlete can and will benefit from using only one exercise to enhance all other areas of strength. According to Wazny, 1992, increases in static strength do not cause cross over increases in dynamic strength except in the beginner.

Influence that the central nervous system has on strength development is tremendous. Stimulation, just prior to or, during the strength test results in quantitatively measurable increases in the final output.

Hypnosis has the largest impact at producing a 26% greater output. In 1961 tests revealed that forearm strength was increased by 7.4% within two to ten seconds after a pistol shot and 12.2% if the athlete shouted during the application of force. These are significant increases in strength. Imagine a 26% increase in your squat, your deadlift, bench press or your total.

Have you considered the influence the CNS has on the body during one limb lifts? It has been shown that greater force production occurs while exercising one limb at a time than when both are used simultaneously. Reasons vary for this phenomenon but include by exercising unilaterally the neural activity is more concentrated on the one limb. Another theory is by exercising one limb at time the other limbs motor units are not interfering by participating in the movement. The result of having more strength and power with one limb compared to using and combining the total of both limbs is a bilateral deficit. Bilateral deficit, if displayed by the athlete, occurs in both arms and both legs not in one leg and one arm.

Now in my experience this is a rare occasion, one in fact that I have never observed in the athletes that train with me. Most have difficulty even approaching half the total of two limbs with one limb. A classic example is the military press. How many can military press two hundred pounds with one arm? A few, granted, but not many. Most however can military press two hundred pounds with two arms.

Now the literature bears this observation out as the bilateral deficit generally occurs only in untrained individuals. Most weightlifters lift bilaterally with either the arms or both of the legs moving in the same direction and not separately.

This is known as bilateral facilitation, which is obviously the reverse of bilateral deficit.

Strength exercises and speed of motion

If strength exercises are used to help develop speed then the weight must be low enough to allow the same speed of action as the play displays. Otherwise, the movements slow down on the field.

Generally speaking, if the resistance to be overcome in the game is high, then the speed resistance exercises in the training room must also be of high intensity. As a prime example, high caliber weightlifters use loads of 70-80% of their one repetition maximum on speed day training.

Recall previous discussions of strength development and the cross sectional fibers relationships. It is now known there is no such easy relationship between the muscle contraction speed and the cross sectional fibers of the particular muscle.
Proper coordination of the motor units in the muscle is necessary before maximal speed develops.

This coordination is very dependent on the efficiency of the nervous system.

With increasing resistance comes a corresponding decrease in the velocity of the muscular contraction. Simply put, strength force output increases to match and overcome the resistance increases but the velocity of movement decreases. When the resistance the athlete encounters equals the force output then the velocity of motion is zero. Taken to the logical conclusion if the resistance continues to go higher the athlete will be moving in an eccentric pattern of movement.

Selecting strength exercises

Planning a training program requires the coach to select exercises that will further the goals of the athlete. There are numerous decisions that must be made in this process. Whether to use free weights, machines, static tension holds (isometrics), body weight exercises, or Isokinetic equipment. Generally speaking, strength training is planned around the classifications attached to the change in muscle length.

For instance, the exercise may be one of constant length, isometric in nature, or it may be concentric with the muscle fiber shortening as the exercise progresses. The opposite of concentric action is the eccentric contraction where the muscle lengthens during the movement. The latter two descriptions refer to isotonic muscle actions where ‘iso’ means constant and ‘tonic’ which in this case means tension.

Each of the methods relies on the biological fact that motor units exist and it this existence that ultimately determines whether or not force will be produced. Every motor unit is made up of a motoneuron in the spinal cord and the fibers of the muscles it controls. Coordinating these motor units into a cohesive power generating force transforms the athlete into a dominating player on the field or platform.

Beginning athletes will derive the greatest advantages from a training program that is designed with the following points kept foremost in mind. Starting with the identification and training of the major muscle groups that are stressed throughout the athletic event and ending up with a highly technical and powerful competitor, these are the guidelines to success.

In all training programs the muscles that contribute the most to the activity have to be identified and then specifically trained. This definitely involves strengthening muscles that if not strong will increase the chances of injury. Lower back and neck muscles are prime areas of concern for a football player and a wrestler and these should be targets of training.

An athlete must compete with a fully developed structure that has been trained to meet the demands of the sport. In preparing for the sport it is in their best interest to train the largest muscles of the trunk, particularly the abdominal wall and the muscles that surround the spinal column (spine erectors).

Identification of the primary sport movements and the contributing muscle groups will guide the coach in selecting exercises that are best suited to enhancing the power output that is then displayed on the field or platform. This increased strength permits acquisition of higher quality sport techniques that are then useful in competitive situations.

The coach must demand that a full range of motion (ROM) for each exercise and sport movement be performed, other wise the exercise will not be as beneficial as it could be. Full ROM is a prerequisite for successful completion of the movement and is furthermore an injury preventive necessity. If the muscle is developed via shortened ROM movements the chances of incurring an injury increase dramatically.

Protein synthesis and energy use

The energy supply for the synthesis of protein in the body fluctuates during, and after exercise. During exercise the supply of energy used for the synthesis of protein decreases, thus leaving the door open for increased protein degradation. Furthermore, the uptake of amino acids from the blood which normally would go into the muscles is also depressed at this time.

This means that during heavy exercise the mass of proteins within the muscles are being catabolized (turned into waste products) faster than new proteins can be synthesized. The result is the protein availability in the muscle automatically decreases after a workout while the amount of catabolites (waste products) increases.

After a workout, the amino acid uptake is higher than at normal resting states with the resultant Supercompensation and above normal saturation of protein in the muscle tissues.

Reference:
Science and practice of strength training, Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky, Human Kinetics 1995

Periodization; the practical aspects of implementation

The concept and application of varying ones training program has been around for quite some time now. However, the scientific evidence supporting this particular planning concept is lacking. In a recent book Stone, et al states "the evidence to date does indicate that integration of scientifically backed knowledge and practices into a comprehensive training process can yield superior results."

Astute coaches will take periodization concepts and put them into practice will be the ones achieving high level results with their athletes. Those who don’t will witness their trainee suffer the consequences.

Planning a periodized schedule that is customized for the individual lifter involves manipulation of the factors critical to the out come. Factors such as optimization of the training load, volume, intensity levels, work to rest ratios per the percentage of one rep max and exercise selection will produce extraordinary outcomes for the hard working lifter.

Periodization is not a linear progression because the phases or the yearly cycle are not linear. Instead, a nonlinear progression is use in the plan. Oft times called undulating progressions or undulating nonlinear progressions the variables are adjusted according to the particular phase of the training period.

Specifically speaking the primary goals of periodization are to eliminate or reduce the possibility of over training and to ‘peak’ the athlete at the correct time of an important contest or meet. Secondarily to this is the maintenance of the fitness levels of the athlete throughout the competitive season.

Maintaining an athlete’s strength and power throughout a season means paying close attention to the differing levels of volume, intensity, and exercises used in the sessions. According to Stone, et al "a good coach can direct the adaptation process toward specific goals by varying the load (methods) or exercise selection of training (or both) across, as well as between, levels of variation (i.e., macro-, meso-, micro cycles : daily and intra training sessions)."

If the periodization principles are followed "the outcome will be a superior performance."

Stone, M. H., Stone, M., and Sands, W. A. Principles and Practice of Resistance Training. 2007 Human Kinetics
Ibid
Ibid


Water, the essence of life

Keeping your body well hydrated throughout the day is the key to staying healthy. Water predominates and regulates basic cellular functions in all of our organs. Some scientists estimate that it makes up 70% of the body. Are you getting enough water to keep yourself strong and healthy?

This critical ingredient to life helps to remove the left over waste products that result from living as it washes and flushes them away. Not only does it transport the waste away it brings in nutrients that make the cells grow.

Drinking enough water each day will increase your ability to digest the food you eat and perhaps even lower blood pressure. It helps to regulate your body’s temperature control mechanism regardless of whether the environment is hot or cold. Some believe that being well hydrated decreases stress and lessens the effects of depression for some people.

For those who are trying to lose weight, filling their stomachs with an adequate supply of water quenches their appetite while at the same time metabolizing the fat in the body.

Many people have also found they are less constipated and irritable if they’ve had the right amount of water during the day. If your urine looks like pale lemonade or nearly clear then you are getting enough for that particular time.

However if you are about to participate in a sporting activity then you need to add more fluids to your pre-meet contest in order to stay hydrated. Not only before but during the contest your body will require water or a sports drink to keep the electrolytes in the proper balance for optimum performance.

You’ll know if you’re not getting enough water because your urine will be the color of apple juice. When it’s this color it’s time to get more healthy fluids into the system or your mental and physical capabilities will deteriorate.

Water helps lower blood viscosity making it flow easier within the circulatory system by not being so thick and gooey. It can also help reduce those low grade headaches many people get during the day. Chances are pretty fair this is caused by a lack of enough water and simply getting a drink or two will decrease the headache.

Too much water on the other hand can be life threatening due to the effects it has on the sodium balance at the cellular levels. Although not a common occurrence hyponatremia must be a consideration if someone has engaged in a lengthy endurance event or has taken in a high quantity of water. Symptoms of hyponatremia include headache, muscle cramps, alterations in their mental state and a dullness of thinking abilities. Coma followed by death is a distinct possibility for an athlete or person suffering from hyponatremia without medical intervention.

Medical care is essential if they are to survive the incident. The symptoms in some cases resemble those of dehydration. However what the hyponatremia victim needs is not more water but a concentration of essential salts and electrolytes in order to survive.

Summary

Drink enough to keep your urine clear or a pale yellow. Once you notice you’re thirsty you are already behind the hydration curve because thirst is a slow indicator of the correct amount of fluids in your body.

Isolation vs. Compound Exercises

There seems to be a growing trend of thought that isolation exercises are a waste of time and fall short of the benefits of compound exercises which involve multiple muscle groups and therefore burn more calories and provide a more efficient workout. Whilst this fact is true it does not for a minute justify discarding their use. Unfortunately once an idea catches on in the fitness industry it often gets practiced and prescribed without anyone stopping to think why. Science gets thrown out the window in favour of hearsay.

Whilst compound exercises exercise more muscle groups in the same time span, and burn more calories as more muscles are used they will not lead to optimal development on their own. Consider the bench press; it utilizes the pectorals, triceps and deltoids. As with any compound exercise the smallest muscle groups will generally fatigue first, in this case the triceps. The pectorals may not have been exercised enough for optimum strength gains but it can no longer be exercised as the triceps are fatigued. The only way for further exercise to be performed for the pectorals is to isolate them by doing some form of fly exercise with dumbbells or the pec deck machine.

Another advantage isolation exercises have over compound exercises is that they move the muscle through a full range of motion. Back to our bench press/pec deck example; the bench press does not put the pectorals through a full range of motion. The pec deck does; it brings the pectorals back to their stretched position.

Basically in order to have a balanced and effective workout where all muscles receive adequate stimulation isolation exercises are a necessary component. In the same way ruling out compound exercises in favour of isolation exercises will also compromise results. The following exercise combinations show how the more popular compound exercises can be complimented with isolation exercises in a workout.

  • Chest: Bench Press and Pec Deck or Dips and Dumbbell Fly
  • Back:  Chin-up and Pull-over or Bent-over Row and Pull-over
  • Thighs: Squat and Leg Extension or Leg Press and Leg Extension

The isolation exercises can be used before or after in a pre or post fatiguing fashion. It’s good to vary the application (i.e. pre or post fatigue) in order to promote variation in workouts helping to keep them fresh and to prevent plateaus.

Adrian Birkby, CSCS MPT

 

Functional Training in the Real World

One of the latest crazes in the fitness industry is Functional Training and Functional Strength. Only closed kinetic exercises that utilise multiple joints, in multiple plains of motion via everyday life type movements (pulling, pushing, jumping, crouching, running etc) constitute functional strength! Or so we’re told. Basically it’s in and with it common sense and scientific reasoning have gone out the window!

First of all what exactly is “Functional Training”? Definitions vary depending on who’s selling it but the following points seem to universal. Functional Training involves:

  • Movement through multiple planes.
  • Focusing more on neuromuscular control (than non functional).
  • Using full body movements typical of everyday life.
  • Acceleration, stabilisation and deceleration of movements in the body.

That aside, it’s a bit vague. Throwing up after 10 pints of lager could satisfy the above criteria but somehow I don’t think it would be counted as functional training. The following exercises would be considered functional:

  • Squatting.
  • Squatting on a balance board.
  • Bench Press (especially on a Swiss Ball instead of a bench).
  • Plyometric Push-ups.
  • Lunges.
  • Rows.

The following exercises would be considered non-functional:

  • Bicep Curl.
  • Leg Extension.
  • Triceps Extension.
  • Shoulder Raise.

Basically if it involves exercises that utilise multiple muscle groups with some kind of pushing or pulling its functional. If it involves doing these exercises whilst balancing its functional. Isolation exercises are very non functional. And heaven help you if you perform isolation exercises in a machine, that’s the most non-functional of the non functional!

HOWEVER!

I pose the question: when is strength not functional? The Oxford English dictionary defines the word functional as “practical without being decorative or luxurious”. If a barbell curl (or better still, a machine) is utilised to grow muscle on the upper arm and increase its strength how is that not practical or “functional”? More tissue around the joint makes it more stable and less prone to injury. An increase in cross-sectional area of the biceps muscle will make it stronger. Performing a bodyweight squat on a balance board may be many times harder than performing it on a stable surface but considering there is no extra weight involved it can’t be any more challenging to the prime movers. Within the bounds of functional training adding instability is considered a progression.

Yet in this case the muscles involved in stabilising the hips get tired and fail long before the prime movers (quads and glutes) which get worked even less than in the simple bodyweight squat. How is that progression?

In what situations in real life is specific squatting strength on a balance board relevant to? Leg strength or endurance (depending on the duration of the set) will be improved much more using a simple bodyweight squat or better still adding weight. Investing the same amount of training time performing the rather “non functional” leg extension would improve leg strength many times over than bodyweight squats on a balance board.

Conventional exercises may not look as interesting as a lot of the so called functional exercises and may not be as fashionable right now but they will make greater inroads into the body’s functional ability. If you particularly like functional training then by all means do it. It is important to enjoy keeping fit and for it not to become a chore. But don’t be kidded into believing that it is superior to conventional weight training, the science just isn’t there to support it.

Adrian Birkby, CSCS MPT

Children and exercise

When I was a child we walked up hill both ways to school, toiled in the fields until dark and then carried candles so we could see what we were doing out there…Yeah you bet that’s how I grew up. I did do my share of pitching hay bales in the hot and humid Michigan sun. As our children grew up they were active, for hours at a time, in the woods around our home. But that was before the advent of the home computer and the rapidly expanding video game craze.

To this day they are all active young adults. This is not necessarily the case with many of the younger generation though.

Recent studies have clearly shown that our children aged, 12-21 years, are not getting enough physical exercise. The obesity rates continue to climb bringing with it increased risks of diabetes, cardiovascular and bone diseases, along with a wide assortment of associated medical problems in their future. 

Regular physical activity brings with it greater strength, endurance and confidence in ones self. It helps build strong bones and better weight management along with reduces stress and anxiety. The social implications are manifested in life long friendships brought on by common goals and values that are developed through the fun and enjoyment of sports participation. Last but certainly not least is the skills that are developed during this active time of their lives.

As concerned parents we need to consider providing places for safe play to take place. Notice I did not say more sports opportunities but simply places to run and play tag, jump and climb without fearing for their safety every second.

Since we are the adults in this equation it is incumbent upon us to do something about this health problem. Lead by example; get off the couch, set the TV clicker aside and go outside for a walk. Join a fitness group or if there isn’t one start your own by asking a friend to go for a walk or skip rope with you at a convenient time.

Other suggestions for the parents are to acknowledge, encourage and offer praise by showing an interest in your child physical achievements. Continue to encourage them to be active around your home by setting the example of jogging to get the mail or riding your bike to get the paper in the morning. Walk with them to school or ride your bikes together on the week end or try the local walking path. It’s a great to ride with your child or a friend. Just wear a helmet while you ride. If you don’t already have one they are free at many places so that can no longer be an excuse for not wearing one.

If they show an interest in strength training make certain to follow a few simple rules for their safety.

  • Supervision is paramount for the young children-be on top of what is going on in the gym. Don’t leave it up to someone else; after all they are your kids.
  • Keep in mind that no matter how big they are for their age they are still children and are physiologically immature.
  • Focus on learning how to do the exercise-the weight will come in due time.
  • Proper technique always precedes weight increases. If the form is not correct then don’t add weight to the bar.
  • Teach then proper breathing techniques, i.e. no holding of the breath by using the Valsalva maneuver.
  • Control the speed of movement-momentum has its place but not at this young age. They must be in control of the bar at all times.
  • Do each exercise in a full range of motion, don’t be cutting the squats high or bouncing the bar on the chest or heaving the weight up in the curls.
  • Use multijoint exercises, such as the squat, bench press, barbell rows as opposed to isolated movements like the concentration dumbbell curl.
  • Lastly make certain your child understands the directions given to them and is able to follow them.

In reality, short of a medical condition that predisposes an adolescent to obesity, there is no reason other than a lack of exercise that our youngsters are fat. The bottom line is the more active they are the less likely they will become obese.

The components of physical fitness

Every person has a different idea of what constitutes physical fitness. Some believe if you are able to run a mile or lift a heavy weight you are fit. But are you?

There are many aspects to consider when discussing physical fitness and each of these may change with time, place, type of work being done and the presenting situation. However, all of the physical fitness pieces are a result of everyday activity, and the encoding of the genetic potential of the individual. How you make use of what you have been given depends on how dedicated you are to the increasing your personal level.

Physical fitness is the achievement of motor tasks such as speed, strength and endurance and the physiological responses to the imposed stress placed on the body during physical activity. Thus fitness is both dynamic, (motor achievements) and static, i.e. medical fitness. Top performance is a combination of the two and is attainable only through the reaching of peak physical fitness.

Looking at the concept of fitness a bit closer will reveal that it is the ability to perform everyday living tasks willingly and with enough energy left over to then enjoy other physical activities during the remaining free time. And to have enough energy left in reserve to meet unexpected physical and mental demands. Put another way it’s the state of the person’s level of ability for activity.

Fitness enhances the performance of significant agility, dexterity, strength, speed, or other motor qualities or the development of these abilities that are then measurable by testing that requires no proficiency of a particular sport technique.

Another way of looking at the issue is to determine the shape or condition of the organs and their specific level of functioning as expressed via the solving of versatile motor tasks. This helps to determine the developmental degree of the individual’s motor abilities.

In many cases, physical fitness can be seen as the ratio of effectiveness of the total complexion of the body to its predisposition toward success in the sport. Furthermore, it can also be stated as a realization of life style and/or the system of values expressed in how a person lives their life every day.

It has even been equated to the biological value of the human and is the entirety of the person’s ability and skill to perform all movement activities.

As can be seen from the few paragraphs above fitness is defined in many different ways. This fitness ability is not given to a person in one dose nor is it permanent or dispensed in equal amounts to all people. Fitness has to be sought after and relentlessly pursued if it is to be obtained. It is never given out on a silver platter.

Measuring muscular endurance adapted from ASCM

Muscular endurance is the ability to repeatedly contract the muscles over an extended time span with enough strength to maintain a certain percentage of a one repetition maximum or to cause muscular fatigue. Common exercises, familiar to most athletes and non athletes, serve as field tests for different parts of the body.

The sit up and push up are common examples of movements that help determine the athlete’s ability to produce continued power over a long stretch of time.

In each instance there are performance guidelines that are useful in comparing one athlete to another.

Here for example are those used in the push up test. This is adapted from data out of Canada.

The push up test assesses upper body endurance. It begins in these two positions each depending on the sex of the trainee. Males perform the test on their toes while the females are allowed to have their knees bent and touching the floor throughout the exercise. The number of correct repetitions is counted and scored according to the accompanying chart.

Male

Age
15-19

Age
20-29

Age
30-39

Age
40-49

Age
50-59

Age
60-69

Excellent

39+

36+

30+

22+

21+

18+

Above average

29-38

29-35

22-29

17-21

13-20

11-17

Average

23-28

22-26

17-21

13-16

10-12

8-10

Below average

18-22

17-21

12-16

10-12

7-9

5-7

Poor

17-

16-

11-

9-

6-

4-


Female

Age
15-19

Age
20-29

Age
30-39

Age
40-49

Age
50-59

Age
60-69

Excellent

33+

30+

27+

24+

21+

17+

Above average

25-32

21-29

20-26

15-23

11-20

12-16

Average

18-24

15-20

13-19

11-14

7-10

5-11

Below average

12-17

10-14

8-12

5-10

2-6

1-4

Poor

11-

9-

7-

4-

1-

1-

The bench press endurance test

Although the one rep max is the gold marker for a bench press there are other ways to determine if the athlete is within the standards for their age and weight groups. The accepted test for gender and age comparison is the YMCA bench press test.

The test requires a male to lift 80 lbs and a female to lift 35 lbs as many times as possible with a metronome set at 60 beats/minute.

The test is terminated when the individual cannot completely extend the elbows during a lift or cannot keep pace with a metronome set at 60 beats/minute.

The standard norms of strength for the bench press are expressed in the following charts coming up next. If you are not within the healthy category then it’s time to start a more aggressive strength training program. A physically fit healthy range is above average up to excellent. Anything less is settling for mediocrity.


Female

Age
18-25

Age
26-35

Age
36-45

Age
46-55

Age
56-65

Age
66+

Excellent

50-36

48-33

46-28

46-26

34-22

26-18

Good

32-28

29-25

25-21

22-20

20-16

14-12

Above average

25-22

22-20

20-17

17-13

15-12

11-9

Average

21-18

18-16

14-12

12-10

10-8

8-5

Below average

16-13

14-12

11-9

9-6

7-4

4-2

Poor

12-8

9-5

8-4

5-2

3-1

2-0

Very poor

5-1

2-0

2-0

1-0

0

0



Male

Age
18-25

Age
26-35

Age
36-45

Age
46-55

Age
56-65

Age
66+

             

Excellent

45-39

43-34

40-30

35-24

32-22

30-18

Good

34-30

30-26

26-24

22-20

20-14

14-10

Above average

26-25

25-22

22-20

17-14

14-10

10-8

Average

22-21

21-18

18-16

13-10

10-8

8-6

Below average

20-16

17-13

14-12

10-8

6-4

4-4

Poor

13-9

12-9

10-8

6-4

4-2

2-2

Very poor

8-0

5-0

5-0

2-0

0

0



Similar tests compare age with the ability to correctly do the bent knee sit up.

Strength Training Thoughts for the Pre and Adolescent Child

A solid physical fitness base begins with becoming stronger and is a decisive measure of athletic success later on in life. In 1986 Sewall and Micheli conducted a study that clearly showed a 40% increase in strength in both genders aged 10-11. This resulted from a short nine week strength program.

Even preschoolers are encouraged to strength train. However in this instance the protocol consists of providing an array of energized gross motor movement activities. This directed exertion encourages skeletal and muscular development.

A few examples of these types of movement are teaching a young preschool child to march around the room or parts of the playground. They can be inspired to run around and over different types of terrain or taught how to throw balls or other objects for distance and accuracy. Involvement in games that require jumping and crawling are other examples of such activity that will help them grow stronger.

As the child grows encourage them to take part in a more varied program of strength exercises that are more suited to their natural abilities and movement requirements.

Activities can include strength training three times a week beginning at age six and continuing through age ten for up to fifteen minutes at a time. This does not mean that each session is only fifteen minutes long. How many parents would drive to a facility for only fifteen minutes? Not many in my estimation. So the answer lies in providing a mental and physical stimulus to these youngsters while at the same time developing their physical conditioning.

Strength coaches working with these young children can be demonstrating a variety of different exercises in preparation for furthering the child’s future physical development. Interspersed with actual hands on weight training are exercises that use the individuals own body weight for jumping, sprinting and crawling on all fours.

Pay particular attention to the landings if they are jumping. An uneven stress placed on the legs can displace their pelvic bones and it goes without saying that conducting a lot of jumps on hard surfaces can predispose their feet to damage.

Climbing provides another excellent source of muscle stimulation and mental confidence for the child. This energetic physical action includes the use of ropes, monkey bars, jungle gyms and dare I even mention such a thing as climbing a tree or a rope.

Even simple supports on a monkey bar or bench can enhance the child’s physical ability to control their body in a static position.

If the child can do chin ups or pull ups then have them do so. If not then give them an assist in getting past the hard points of the motion. In the Explosivelyfit strength training gym we make good use of high quality Iron Woody Fitness Bands to give them that little bit of help in doing a chin up.

Running or skipping rope are exercises that children enjoy and can do during a training session. Unless pushed by an adult, children will exercise within their own limitations. Of course there are exceptions and these are ones the coaches have to be cognizant of during the training sessions.

An awareness that younger children have not fully developed their temperature regulation system should be kept in mind in order to prevent heat and cold related injuries from occurring.

The mission of an adult strength coach is to encourage the younger generation to exercise by teaching them the right way and not forcing them beyond their immature physical and mental capabilities.

Growing kids… growing crisis by Daniel Pare

Today I would like to address a very important issue: the health and overall physical condition of your youth. Current statistics are indicating that our young people are becoming more and more susceptible to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes (type 2), osteoporosis and obesity at a very young age. What has happened to our children and what must be done?

Lifestyle is one of the prime suspects in the every increasing problem affecting young people. Physical fitness and nutritious eating have been replaced by technology and fast food. Children are spending the majority of their waking hours in a sedentary position at school, doing homework, at the computer and in front of the T.V. Young people please take stock of your own situation. How much time are you spending in front of the T.V and computer on any given day? Always remember that the amount of food and the amount of physical activity on a particular must balance in order to maintain a healthy body weight and a conditioned body. Variety and color is very important when selecting food choices and I remind you that fresh organic fruits and veggies would be helpful in building a healthy body.

For those of you who enjoy being involved in sport activities, I recommend you and encourage you to get involved in a strength training program as well. This will help decrease the risk of injury and will benefit your overall strength and give you strong bones as well. Weightlifting exercises such as the squat with highlight and strengthen the movement in the hip area. This will facilitate sitting, standing, running, jumping and good posture. You will see tremendous progress in your contributions to your teams in the sport activities that you are pursuing.

My objective today is to provide you with a gently reminder to eat nutritious foods, beginning with a healthy breakfast, to engage in physical fitness including a strength training program, and to get sufficient sleep each day. Specifically I would like to challenge each of you to consider 20-30 minutes of moderate activity per day. This will provide you with health benefits and will help to de-stress you.

Will the next 10 years see a decline in childhood disease or will the crisis escalate?

Building Athletic Movement

Physical athleticism requires precise mastery and powerful execution of specific sport movement/motor system patterns. In order to accomplish these multifaceted demands on the body each of the interacting sequential muscle groups within the kinematic chain and kinematic system have to be functioning and producing their peak tension at the exact right time.

Acknowledgment of the forgoing leads to these observations:

  • The body determines the most rational activation of the individual kinematic chains.
  • The individual parts that make up the chain will be integrated into this arrangement in a high powered flowing state of continuity.
  • Perfection in training continuously alters the organism’s responses.

While the successful intelligent athlete trains and continues to develop more highly defined skills the body is adapting by forming complex engrams within the neuromuscular system. These neural changes make major contributions to the rapid and fluid movements that are a necessary part of all sports.

Each exercise or sport movement is formed by and evolves from a cause and effect relationship with the individual elements making up the pattern. The line of force which is developed to successfully complete these movements depends on the efficiency of the neuromuscular system. The relationship between these mechanisms is constantly changing in an effort to find the most balanced response to the required movement pattern. Meanwhile additions to the dynamic element are being added to the equation.

This latter represents the ‘rigid framework’ i.e. the determination of the spatial time parameters and the working effect of the movement. It is this dynamic concept that is vitally important to the athlete and their coach.

The dynamics of the patterns depend on the interaction with the sport implement; in the case of the lifter, the loaded barbell of dumbbell. This interaction is further divided into concentration and the dynamic reaction to the load.

Expanding on this interactive process leads one to the conclusion that we are not just discussing the physical expressions of the movement but also the process that evolves during the active accentuation of the motor unit’s responses to the external stimuli, i.e. the load.

In the beginning stages of learning a new skill or exercise the dynamic elements are weak, which makes the law of facilitation immediately relevant. This law states that each time a movement is performed wrong it becomes easier to repeat and harder to execute the right pattern in the future. With each repetition the movement becomes more difficult to correct. Fortunately these early mistakes don’t have long lasting effects on the system-if they are continually modified in closer approximations of the exact movement.

As the pattern becomes closer to perfect the body automatically finds more effective ways to reconcile the discrepancies of the motor unit’s interrelationships. These changes are the result of differentiations in, and increases within the emphasis of neuromuscular output at the varying times necessary to produce maximum power when needed in the chain of events.

It is at this time in the training sequence that performance of correct repetitions begins to take hold. The relationship between the movement strength amplitude curve and the execution time decreases indicating approaching movement perfection.

Once this takes place the process is complete and the movement is performed technically correct with little to no wasted energy.

Summary:

Continual training in the techniques of your sport at the closest equivalent to perfection requires constant attention to the detailed execution of each movement pattern.

Fundamentals of special strength training in sport, Y. V. Verkhoshansky


Bicep Curls for Great Abs by Adrian Birkby BSc CSCS MPT

It’s all to tempting to play the numbers gain when weight training. Lifting quantity replaces quality and momentum plays a greater role in lifting the weight resulting in less than optimal muscle fibre recruitment. It’s a very common site around gyms today, and leads to poorer development and often injury. A good test to ensure a particular weight isn’t too heavy is to see if it can be paused at any point in the range of motion and then resume lifting without jerking the weight.

That said the following exercise how to ignore this concept to the extreme and demonstrates how the barbell biceps curl can be used to develop the abdominals:

1. Select a weight that is too heavy to be controlled concentrically or isometrically.

2. Place barbell in starting position against the waist, with arms straight, palms facing outwards.

3. Start the movement by jerking the barbell with the arms upwards and backwards simultaneously, thrusting hips forward and arching the lower back backwards, reaching the top of the range of motion as fast as possible.

4. Attempt to control the downward descent, however this is not essential, and may prove impossible with heavier weights. Upon reaching the starting position ensure a neutral spine and cervical alignment.

5. Increasingly exaggerate the hip motion as the set progresses.

6. Terminate the set when the desired number of reps has been met or when it is no longer possible to create sufficient momentum to propel the weight upwards.

This variation of the barbell curl places minimal strain on the biceps whilst letting the abdominals and spinal erectors do most of the work. The deltoids are also involved to a lesser extent as a synergist in the initial jerking phase, thus allowing the maximum amount of weight to be lifted.

Alternatively a smaller weight that can be controlled concentrically could be implemented with proper form, although this uses only the correct muscle group as opposed to multiple muscle groups it does ensure better biceps development. It may not look as macho but it greatly reduces the chance of injury whilst increases the chance of training goals being met.

Think smart, not numbers!

[For anyone unfamiliar with the concept of trainers having a sense of humour, this particular trainer does. DO NOT attempt the above exercise unless you have a desire to spend your later life in a wheel chair!]

Working the external rotators

Shoulder problems come in all variations, from the nearly insignificant twinge all the way up to requiring emergency surgery after an injury. Statistics reveal this unfortunate happenstance will affect nearly sixty-seven percent of the population over the course of their lifetime.

Obviously, keeping the shoulder musculature strong is a necessary ingredient in maintaining healthy shoulders. Placing an emphasis on strengthening the external rotators is one positive step that can be taken toward achieving pain free shoulders. In the rehab and weight rooms, the most commonly performed exercises are the pendulums and standing and lying on the side external rotator cuff movements.

The latter two are frequently given special attention, especially for those athletes consistently performing heavy bench presses. Benching imparts a tremendous load on the shoulder structures and the small muscles of the rotator cuff sometimes struggle to keep the humerus in the semi ball and joint socket.

The rotator is made up of four muscles, each one of which is designed to stabilize the shoulder while at the same time preventing any impingements between the different parts of this complex joint as the arm is being raised. The Infraspinatus and teres minor both act to externally rotate the shoulder. The subscapularis internally rotates the shoulders. However the most injured of the four is the supraspinatus which abducts the shoulder when the arms are moved upward over the head.

Now, getting back to the external rotator cuff exercises, recent research (1) has posited (2) that a slight variation in performing the previously mentioned external rotator cuff exercises; the standing and lying motions, will elicit greater beneficial gains to the athlete. The recommendation is to place a support between the side and under the elbow while doing these exercises. Abducting the arm slightly helps prevent an intrusion on the main blood supply that comes from the suprascapular and subscapular arteries to the rotator cuff.

It may be to your benefit to alter your rotator cuff exercises and include a towel or foam pad next time you’re doing your shoulder training.

(1) Strength and Conditioning Journal; volume 30, number 4, Aug 2008 Implications for specific shoulder positioning during external rotator strengthening.

(2) To put forward for consideration something such as a suggestion, assumption, or fact a suggestion, assumption, or fact put forward for consideration

Self prescribed orthotics - good or bad for your health?

The use of over the counter shoe inserts continues to grow as more people turn to them for foot pain relief. Perhaps this increase is a result of the numerous media ads saturating our senses. But the question remains rather or not these inserts actually do any good in the long run.

It is generally concluded but not definitely proven that development of osteoarthritis in the knee has a strong relationship with knee varus torque. Based on this premise a group of researchers at the University of Virginia examined various factors that can alter the torque on the knee joint thereby predisposing the individual to osteoarthritis within the medial tibiofemoral compartment later on in life. Having had a total knee replacement in 2006 I can attest to the pain involved with osteoarthritis. It is constant.

Their study, which was recently published in the May edition of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, focused on the effects that inserts have on the knee joint torques. They already knew the adverse affects that high to moderate high heels did to the knees of women wearing these styles of dress shoes and in this study decided to look at ‘subtle changes in footwear’… brought on by ‘over the counter cushioned arch support inserts’..

The test subjects were all healthy active adults averaging 29 years of age. They tested on treadmills, first in normal running shoes without inserts and then with cushioned arch supports. Their knee joints were examined using 3-D motion picture capture equipment that was synchronized with the ground reaction force data.

The results were statistically significant and clearly demonstrated that peak valgus torque on the knee increased 6% during the late stance while walking and 4% in the running portion of the test. These increased torque loadings were a direct result of the supposedly innocuous cushioned arch inserts.

The conclusion, reached by the researchers, that additional material added under the medial aspect of the foot increases the medial force bias placed on the structure of the knee during walking and running activities. These additional forces may have the tendency to increase wear and tear within the knee joint thereby leading to development of osteoarthritis in the knee.

Varus – means turned inward and used to describe a condition in which a body part such as the foot or knee is turned or displaced inward toward the midline of the body or limb. The opposite would be valgus where there is an abnormal outward turning of the bone, generally at the hip, knee or foot.

Improving Joints Function by Daniel Pare

It all begins with the right approach to training.  Whether you are a beginner or a more advanced trainee you only need what is required FOR YOU to get results!  That is why analyzing a training program is So important.     

As an example, if you are used to doing something that looks like this; bench-press, incline bench-press, and decline bench-press for 4 sets of 10 reps, that is well in excess of 100 repetitions for a chest work out.  You are doing too much!

Let me remind you of a simple fact, which will help you make the right decision when it comes to designing your own training program “Train To Remain Strong”. 

In order to make high repetition sets efficient one would have to workout at approximately 50% of what one’s strength level is (this is an average and some individuals will be able to use a little more).  This means that when you are doing bench-press for example, you should remain strong from the beginning to the end of that set.  The barbell should be pushed up evenly and straight up, your shoulder blades should be close to each others and remain that way, your abs kept very tight, your feet should not move, your buttocks should remain on the bench, and your head should not move.  You must be very tight and sturdy and remain that way for all those repetitions.  Does this seem like a lot?  

By doing sets of 10 repetitions at more than 75% of your strength level you are not working towards improving and maximizing joint function at all.  Remember that if the muscles are not strong enough to do the work, the joint is certainly not doing well!     

The more weight you persist on using under those conditions the weaker your muscles will become.  As for the joints, let’s not forget that if you are hurting you are certainly not getting results!         

You like to do negatives, forced reps, burn sets… and you do them regularly!  They are good except that they must be added to your workout in a way, that they will produce results.  Just make sure that they are used accordingly.  Consider utilizing sets of 5 reps and keep in mind proper form and technique.  Whether you are looking at weight loss, toning, becoming stronger, excel in sports activities and so forth, you need to approach training with that in mind.  By working out and emphasizing on remaining strong from start to finish, you will get the results you want.  Analyze what you are doing or have been doing and experience great results, quicker, and most importantly, injury free.  It is well worth it. 

Daniel Pare, NCCP, CSO, CSPS, CSTS.
Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach
St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada
519-633-0771
Fax 519-637-1210
Email Stsa1258@aol.com
Web www.Stthomasstrengthathletics.com

Load and repetition recommendations from the National Strength and Conditioning Association Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, Baechle, T. R. and Earle, R. W. Human Kinetics, 2000

Hypertrophy
Endurance

Strength building

Strength
power

Peaking

Maintaining
conditioning

50-75% 1 RM

80-90% 1 RM

87-95% 1 RM

≥ 93% 1 RM

80-85% 1 RM

3-6 sets

3-5 sets

3-5 sets

1-3 sets

= 2-3 sets

10-20 reps

4-8 reps

2-5 reps

1-3 reps

= 6-8 reps

Supermaximum

Maximum

Heavy

Medium/sub maximum

Low             

>105% 1 RM

90-100% 1 RM

80-90% 1 RM

50-80% 1 RM

30-50% 1 RM

1-7 reps

   

6-12 reps

30-150 reps

Load and repetition recommendations from Serious Strength Training, second edition, Tudor O. Bompa, PhD, Human Kinetics 2003

Each authoritative source cites load based upon the percentages of one repetition and relative to ranges of repetitions, which have been shown to be most favorable to achieving the particular goals of the session. With the exception of the suggested repetitions listed in the ‘hypertrophy’ portion of the NSCA and the ‘low’ of Bompa’s charts both share similarities across the board.

The Importance of a Balanced Workout Adrian Birkby, CSCS MPT

One would think that the above title is a little obvious. That everyone knows that you need to exercise all muscle groups in order to gain the optimum benefit from working out but also so you don’t build up muscular imbalances around joints that can lead to injury. Not so!

I went to my Parents local gym when I was home for Christmas and was shocked. It was newly refurbished gym that people in my local area (80 miles away) were talking about. As you can imagine I went in there expecting great things. The machines were very posh and expensive, they probably had two to three times the amount of weight standard gym machines have but they had nothing at all to exercise the lower back or hamstrings. What’s more the upper body machines were all compound movements. There’s nothing wrong with compound movements but the smallest muscle group always tires before the bigger ones do, leaving them under stimulated (this is one of the reasons why we use isolation exercises as well in a balanced workout). There were no free weights or even elastic cables to help fill in the gaps left by the machines and the machines themselves didn’t quite provide a full range of motion.

If the legs are exercised using only movements where the legs are extended (e.g. squats, leg press, leg extension), the hamstrings (although remaining the same strength) become relatively weaker in comparison to the quadriceps. This builds up a muscular imbalance that can predispose the knee to injury, the same can be said for the lower back and abdominals. Admittedly there are bodyweight exercises for the hamstrings but they will only balance the strength around the joint if a similar stressor is used for both sides of it and are not suitable to complement a leg press machine and a leg extension machine.

My horror was furthered by the lack of knowledge displayed by the instructor who was taking me through my induction. There is a lot of rubbish floating around the fitness industry based on hearsay and not science, unfortunately quite an amount of that gets taught to trainers and instructors alike. The trip really opened my eyes to how misinformed and misguided well meaning people and establishments can be. I was going to get one of my rehab clients in the area to join the gym in question to work on his knee, had I not visited and sent him there he would have got worse!

In summary, what are the basic makings of a balanced workout?

  1. A routine involving all muscle groups.
  2. A combination of compound and isolation movements.
  3. The same stimulus for all movements e.g. train for strength, hypertrophy or endurance but not a mixture varying from muscle group to muscle group.

Adrian Birkby, CSCS MPT

 

Advanced Powerlifting Techniques by Rickey Dale Crain

Introduction: Form, style and technique are everything. By Rickey Dale Crain

Only in the world of powerlifting, when one is asked how to improve one's lifts, are we encouraged to try this new routine, or asked, "What is your routine?”  If I was a baseball player, I might ask what technique do you use to swing the bat, increase bat speed or shorten the distance the bat travels?  I would not ask what routine you use to become a better hitter.  If I was a football player, I might ask what technique should I use to throw the ball more accurate or faster/harder?  Surely I would not ask what routine would I use to accomplish it.  If I was a shot-putter, I would surely ask what form and style do you use to throw the shot 50-60 foot or more, not what routine did you use to accomplish the feat.  So why in powerlifting is the first thing asked and the first thing offered is a routine? 

We don’t ask how do we accomplish the lift the best way possible.  The strongest do not always win.  Instead, the best prepared and the ones who perform the lifts flawlessly are the ones who win.  It is a goal orientated and a performance orientated sport like all others, so form, style and technique should be the first thing on the athlete’s mind, as well as the first thing on his agenda when trying to improve his lifts, i.e. his max single.  I believe the reason we do not focus on form is that we have been influenced by our brother sport, bodybuilding, and its results orientated status.  It has a big influence because of its popularity in magazines and books aimed at bodybuilders.

 It is, however, a different sport and has different goals and needs.  We should not confuse the two, and allow it to get in the way of our goal as a powerlifter.  Our goal is to become not only stronger, but in how to display that strength in the most productive way, i.e. a big single max lift.  As we look into this phenomenon, let us describe what we are trying to accomplish.  To describe this phenomenon, we need to understand some very simple terminology.  Therefore, we shall agree on the following definitions:

Form: The shape or appearance of a thing that makes it identifiable, and/or the nature, structure, or essence of a thing, considered apart from its content, color, texture, or composition.  It is visible, distinct, or discernible.

Style: A way of doing something; especially a way regarded as expressing a particular attitude or typifying a particular period (i.e. old style/school).  A self-confident willingness in exhibiting skill or quality.
Technique: The procedure, skill, or art used in a particular task.  The way in which the basics of something are done.  Skill or expertise in handling the technique of something.  Special ability or knack.
 
All three are separate and distinct, but all come into play and overlap in any sport when trying to achieve that maximum result.  There are many areas of each lift: the squat, the bench press and the deadlift, that are effected by form, style and techniques. 

Feet: in, out, straight, flat, raised

Hips: going back, staying where they are, raised

Hands: in, out, open, closed, palmed, on the bar, on the plates, on the collar, tilted in, out, straight

Head: up, down, straight

Arms: down, up, tilted in, out

Breathing: how much you breathe, when you breathe

These all affect each other and in turn make up your form, style and technique, in conjunction with your body type and style and the length of your limbs, etc.  These are just some of what is needed to be looked at to insure the best outcome of the lift. Your stroke (distance traveled) on the lifts, you can alter the distance traveled dramatically on the bench press and deadlift, but not so dramatically on the squat as to effect the increased or decreased leverage. 

So, as we begin to look at these always keep in mind: form, style and technique is everything. The squat and bench press seems to be more brute strength, but to excel at the deadlift, I always had to learn to finesse it up.  I know for a fact that when lifting, through all the hundreds of state, regional, national, and world records I broke I was not the strongest on the platform.  Instead, I was the smartest, the best prepared, and had the best form, style and technique.
 
Powerlifting became an official sport in 1963, thanks to Bob Hoffman and York barbell.  The three powerlifts: the squat, the bench press, the deadlift are a true measure of strength and power.  All are used, with success to train for almost all other sports in the world.  When that contest time rolls around, however, the one who is the strongest does not always necessarily win.  Rather, it is the one who displays the best combination of strength and power and is able to produce the big numbers coupled with form, style and technique. 

As in any sport these components are important and will usually be the difference in winning and losing.  Better form not only yields more weight lifted, but also lessens the chance of injury and down time in training.  Staying free of injury is as important as anything else, as longevity in this sport is determined by your health.  The longer into your training career you go, the higher the numbers  will be. Let us look at each individual lift and break down all the parts that will affect what weight is lifted successfully, and how to perform them to your best advantage.

The Squat, the King of all lifts:

Everybody's body structure can and does dictate different form and style, but some things are the same or very similar (or should be to be successful) for the vast majority of lifters.  Let us take a look at these:

Hand placement on the bar and bar placement on the back

Arms and elbows -Thinking and concentrating through the lift from beginning to end

Walk out and set up -Breathing and flexing of certain muscles

Feet placement and hips -Head placement and eyes

Before you approach the bar, all your equipment should be fitted and fitting properly.  All your psyching up and mental preparation should be pretty much done.  It is time to perform.

Hand placement on the bar and bar placement on the back:

A person’s structure, limb lengths and size have a lot to do with hand placement on the bar.  The main rule of thumb is the closer the better.  It will keep the bar tighter on your back, and no chance for the bar to roll.  The lighter lifter usually has no problem with this, but the bigger and heavier lifter, usually through inflexibility, wants put his hands out wide.  Thus, he decreases his leverage by the fact the bar will have to be placed higher on the neck to keep it from falling.  "I will say this once, and I am sure I will take some hits on it, but it is the absolute truth. 

The vast majority of bigger/heavier lifters have very poor form, for many reasons, but inflexibility and the refusal to practice good form is the main reason.  They pretty much try to rely on their size to muscle up a lot of weight.  That is one reason why the smaller lifter is so much superior pound for pound at all the lifts." The weight should be supported by not only the back of the deltoids where the bar sits, but some should be supported by the arms, forearms, elbows, wrists, hands.  This dictates as narrow a hand placement as possible.  Smaller frame people will have narrower grips than bigger frame people, i.e. My grip is considerably narrower than Bill Kazmaier's.  Grip the bar tight.  The tighter the grip, the less pressure will be on the wrists and elbows and shoulders, and the bar will have less of a chance or almost no chance of moving or rolling.
 
Arms and elbows:

If your elbows, wrists or shoulders hurt, try tilting your elbows up as you get under the bar, and/or rotate your hands a bit inward.  If you still have a lot of problems, you may need to move the grip out a bit, but work on flexibility constantly so as to keep them in as close as possible. The wider the grip the more the hands will probably tilt inward.

I disagree with false grips. They are dangerous because you do not have the bar under full control, and it makes you place the bar higher on the neck, hurting your leverage.  Also, some federations allow holding the collars.  This practice is very dangerous and really cuts down the leverage. The key is to not only feel tight but also be tight and have everything under control.  The lower the bar, the better your leverage is and the more the hips will be utilized.  And the hips are where the power comes from.  You should not squat totally upright utilizing the legs only. Only a few people are so big they cannot grip the bar fully and squeeze into a position inside the collars.  Many big guys could work on flexibility and be able to achieve this.

Walk out and set up:

Walk under the bar, elbows high, squeezing the bar tight and pull yourself under the bar.  With the bar about 1-2 inches or so below the deltoid or shoulder, there is a groove for every person that will be evident and sit comfortably.  You may have to experiment to find it or it may come naturally.  If you are having trouble finding it, ask an experienced lifter.  After the bar is sitting tight on your back, set your feet side by side but with one foot just ahead of the other, i.e. heel to toe.  Make sure your back is chalked up good to help keep the bar from slipping down your back.

Take a very deep breath, squeeze your hands, shoulders, abs, (i.e. everything) and swing the hips forward.  Push up and come back out of the rack.  The momentum of the bar and plates, while under control will help you to come out of the rack much easier.  Walk out with a minimum of steps,  2-3 at the most.  Practice your walk out with an empty bar and while warming up.  Practice does make perfect, and learn to do it right every time.

Feet placement and hips:

After walking out and setting up, make sure your feet are the proper distance apart.  What is that you might ask?  Hopefully you have some idea what is comfortable, and best suited to your body structure, age and strengths.  In case you have not a clue as to what planet we are now on, here a few helpful  suggestions:  Look at this chart to summarize stances:

Feet placement and hips
 

Short back

Medium back

Long back

Short legs

Medium/Wide

Medium/Wide

Short/Medium

Medium legs

Medium/Wide

Medium/Wide

Short/Medium

Long legs

Narrow/Med/Wide

Medium

Short/Medium


 This is fairly accurate and there are reasons for the above.  It would take a few pages and 20 minutes to put it down on paper to give it a fair discussion.  If you really want to know call or e-mail and we will talk.  Hip, leg, and back strength also dictate to a point where your stance might be at the present...but not where it should be.  See the chart below to help with this area:

Strength comes from: Hips    Legs      Back
Stance:                      Wide  Wide/Med   Med/Narrow
 
Head placement and eyes:

After walking out and setting up, look out (not up too far), but never down!  Now your head can be in 1 of 4 places:

1. Looking way up - for people with wider stances, and the bar higher on their back (and checking out for aliens and space ships in the sky). 

2. Looking out - for the average lifter, and the most correct way.

3. Looking down - for the closer stance squatter with the bar really low on the back (and also allows you to check to see if you tied your shoes).

4. Looking at the mat, with a flat face, showing you screwed up and haven't listened to anything I've said to you.

Breathing and flexing of certain muscles:

You should still be holding that deep breath from the set up and walk out.  Make sure as you get ready to descend (that means go down for some of you),  you are flexing everything: abs, face, hands, neck, and all upper body parts.   As you go down, push your knees out, hard.   As you cock your hips and shoot them back (as if sitting on a chair), get your chest out, shoulders back,  and have a small arch in the back.  At the bottom, your shins should be vertical or almost vertical and never past your feet.  Michael Bridges made this popular by giving it a name: The Bridges Fair.  It has been part of my form, however, for 30 plus years.

As you approach the bottom of the lift, where the imaginary line from the top of the knee to your hip joint breaks parallel, you pull yourself through the point with a slight bounce.  Then drive upward with your upper body, hands, arms, legs, hips, back, or otherwise with everything you own.  Sometimes the imaginary line is more imaginary at times than others depending on how much you paid the referee or whether you are dating his sister or daughter.  As you stand up (or get scraped up, whatever the case may be) and as you complete the lift, go ahead and walk forward and rack the bar.  Hopefully the spotter/loaders are not taking a lunch break and will help you a bit, hopefully a lot.  Stop, walk, rack, and breathe.  Finally it is over.
Thinking and concentrating through the lift from beginning to end:

Remember:
*Squat slow and under control.
*Form is everything. Always squeeze the bar.
*Always squeeze your abs (or ab, whatever the case may be). Always squeeze everything.  

Practice makes almost always perfect.

And remember, form and style is in essence more important than the workout itself.  Age dictates style and form.  The older you get, the more your form will need to be altered or adjusted.  Sex (male or female, not the action) will dictate form changes.

Experience in lifting, etc. will also be a factor.

The Bench Press:

Most people's concept of bench pressing is to just let the bar come to the chest stop and/or bounce it and just press it up.  I assume this style is okay if you have no plans of ever improving a whole lot or ever competing.  Bench pressing is divided into four main areas of technique:

The set-up (which is you the person)

The lift-off

The descent of bar

The ascent of the bar

All areas are important to achieve the maximum amount weight lifted not only in the contest but also in training for the contest. As in squatting, tight is the key word, and working on the shortest distance the bar travels is what we are looking and striving for.

The set-up:

This is a very critical component of the bench press.  Most lifters who fail in a big bench or raise the bar or level for injury do so because of a poor set-up.  As you lay down on the bench we already assume you are stretched and as limber as you can be.  Your feet should be in a position on the floor where they can get sufficient footing and traction.  I realize that most meet promoters, it is sad to say, fail more in this aspect of bench press platform preparation than any other area.  Slick floors, dirt on good floors make feet slip, and slick floors that allow the bench itself to slide when pushing with the feet can negatively affect your set-up. 

Work with the judges and meet promoters before the meet to correct this situation.  You have experimented and found the best foot position to allow you to push hard with the feet/legs and not have your rear end come off the bench.  For shorter people this is almost anywhere.  The taller you are the more your feet must be way out in front, way out to the side or way back underneath you—your choice.  Wear a shoe with a heel of some type.  This type of shoe gives you an angle to push against and increases your leverage to push.  As you lay down on the bench push yourself into an arch.  The bigger the arch, the higher the chest, the less distance the bar  travels—i.e. bigger numbers.  You can work on flexibility exercises to increase your arch.  This arch is a biggee and very important—work on it.  I push with my hands against the uprights, as they are right there by my shoulders.  My feet are under me, and my heels tilted out as far as they can.  That feet set-up will lock you into position better. 

You should have those shoulders and neck pushing down into the padding of the bench.  Your thighs and hams should be wrapped around the bench and your chin should be tucked into the chest. The way you grip the bar is optional in all federations except the IPF and its affiliates, where you must use the thumb around.

If you desire other methods do so in other federations.  A few (very few) use the reverse grip, but a vast majority uses the power grip or thumb less grip.  This grip is much preferred if allowed.  It takes most all the stress off of the shoulders, elbows and wrists.  Thus, the grip alleviates a large percentage of lifters of tendonitis or similar problems.  You should, however, use whatever your federations rules dictate or allow.  The width of your hands on the bar is crucial.  We want the best leverage without compromising our strong points or build.  The wider the better is usually  true.  With the advent of bench press shirts, narrower grips are becoming more common as the shirt helps more with the bottom part of the bench than the top.  I really feel, however, that too narrow of a grip is a bad choice for most lifters.  It leaves out the chance of injury to weakened muscle groups—i.e. the chest—and leaves out the largest muscle groups that could be involved in the bench press.  More is better in this case.  If they would continue with the wide grip, until injury or age dictate a closer one, I think they would be much more successful.  This grip brings more of the three muscle groups responsible for benching into play than any other grip.  Chest, shoulders and triceps should be put to the test, and the maximum gain from each used to get the maximum results.  Squeeze the bar, and pull the elbows in as much as possible. 

Squeeze the shoulder blades together (or rotate the shoulders down), whichever way you understand it better.  The result is the same—it shortens the distance the bar travels to the chest.  We are on our way to emulating a decline as much as possible (since we all know one can decline more than you can bench).

The lift-off:

Next, the spotter/loader lifts off to you, gingerly and gently, letting go at over the top ab or so.  This position should be about the highest part, i.e. shortest distance for the bar to travel.  Take a deep breath as the bar is lifted out.  I mean a big, deep breath—get that chest in the air.  So when you let the bar down, it is the shortest distance for the bar to travel.  Did I mention this is the shortest distance for the bar to travel?  On some it may be a bit further down the ab (for those of you with only one ab, heh heh heh) /abs.  As the bar is being handed out, emphasize even further the pushing together of the shoulder blades.  You should still be squeezing the bar.  Push hard against the floor with your feet as you take the bar from the spotter/loader.

The descent:

 Dr. Tom McLaughlin, PhD...in his book, Bench Press More Now: Breakthrough in Biomechanics and Training Methods, he showed that beginners, and advanced bench pressers had different rates of descent on the norm.  Beginning lifters usually let the bar down to fast, out of control hitting a different spot on the chest each time.  Also, they usually have difficulty in max weights of stopping the weight for a pause and having success in pushing it back up.  The more advanced lifter had twice the time period in the descent and thus the even heavier weight was in control, more easily stopped and paused.  Thus, the ascent was more easily achieved.

The Deadlift:

"The meet don't start 'til the bar gets on the floor."-The immortal words of Don Blue, world record holder of the 70's. The deadlift: just you, the bar and your mind.  Even though incredible back strength and psyche is needed, good technique is a must.  There are two types of deadlift styles: the conventional, which most use, and the sumo (both narrow and wide), which most do incorrectly for the ones that do use it.  The deadlift is broken up into three parts:

The pre attempt scenario, i.e. getting ready for the lift

The set-up, i.e. walking to the bar getting your feet set and gripping the bar

The attempt/pull

The pre attempt scenario:

A big psyche is necessary and you must have your mind set on the proper technique as you approach the bar.  Concentrate on the form so as not to let the psyche get in the way of the form.
The sumo set-up:

Approach the bar.  Take one foot or the other; your choice as to which is most comfortable and depending on whether you are a wide sumo or a narrow sumo.  The shin goes up to the bar, and toes tilted out 45 degrees or even more in some cases.  Shins vertical, and knees slightly bent.  Hands should be down inside the legs with the forearms touching the inside of the thigh if possible. 

As you push your knees out (like the squat), you bend over slightly, with arms straight, and grasp the bar half on and half off the knurling.  Your arms should be straight vertically from the shoulders to the bar.  This rule will determine exactly where the hands are to be placed.  For a very big lifter with wider shoulders this may be all the way on the knurling.  For most, however, half off and half on will insure the best and shortest pull.

The arms are straight, and the bar lies in the fingers, like it is holding a hook.  Thumb should be overlapping one or two of the first two fingers. The bar should "not" be squeezed.  Rather, it should just lay in the fingers/hand.  Only the thumb should be flexed, or squeezed, not the hands, not the forearm.  If this is done incorrectly, most likely, the bar on a very hard pull will slip out of the hands.  Also if the hands are rotated as you grip the bar, it will most likely slip out as the weight pulls down, and pulls the rotated hands back to a straight up and down position.  One does not have to have a strong grip to hold onto large amounts of weight.  I have a very poor grip and grip strength and have never lost a deadlift, i.e. 716 at 165lbs.

As the bar is slowly let down, remember to pull the arms, flexing the lats.  Do so as to get the triceps to come on to the lat area.  This action will act as a shelf on which to sit.  As you start the upward movement the lats will be flexed and act as a launching pad. 

It should take about 2.5 to 3 seconds till it reaches the chest.  It will sit on the highest part of the chest/abs, stopping for a split second pause, then exploding up as you push with everything (as in the squat).  Your feet should be driving against the floor, with shoulders and back against the bench, and with your arms against the bar.  The bar  should go straight up, the shortest distance.  Sometimes in the proper position, it will seem as if you are actually pushing toward the feet.  The bar is actually going straight up, not back toward the head, as we taught and were taught for 50 years.  Think decline. You need to make sure in the descent and the ascent the wrists are in a straight position.  Do not let them curl or bend back.  This action will let the bar go in that direction.  It also is hard on the wrists.  A good set of wrist wraps will help some in this for support.

The eyes throughout the whole bench should be focused out toward where the bar would start and end, in line of sight.  Racking it should be an after thought.   Let the spotters take it from you.  Remember form, style and technique is everything.

The sumo attempt/pull:

As you are leaning over the bar knees pushed out, you dip the hips slightly to start your pull, short and sweet.  The hips will pull in towards the bar.  The head will follow from down to out as you start the pull.  You will pull the slack first out from the plate/bar.  Then, the bend in the bar slack will come next.  The bar will pull into the fingers even more as this slack is pulled out and as all the different areas of slack are pulled out you will explode up, with a very short in line stroke.  The back will not be arched but have a slight curve in it/or perhaps even straight.  You should take a short half breath right as you go down to the bar. 

Too much breath expands the chest and rib cage more than it need be.  It raises the shoulders and lengthens the distance the bar travels, as well as forces the shoulders back while at the bottom right before the pull.  A variation of the slow sumo pull is the drop and grab and explode method.  Everything is still the same as far as the hands, but it is done very quickly.  Many times, when done too quickly or out of control, one grabs the bar wrong and/or the hips rise to fast, giving way to a stiff legged deadlift.

The conventional set-up:

Walk to the bar with the feet about shoulder width apart.  The shins should be 2-4 inches from the bar.  Some minute experimentation will find the exact spot you need to be.  As you lean over to the bar, grab it the same way as you did in the sumo except outside the legs a few inches on the knurling, touching the calves.

The conventional attempt/pull:

Take a small breath and dip the hips and pull.  One variation of this technique used nowadays is to dip, roll the bar a few inches out in front of you, and then reverse and pull it back in.  As it gets to the shins start the pull upward.  Some momentum can be obtained from this and the bar can be started in closer to the center of gravity.  If not done exactly right, however, a moving bar can be a problem.

Conclusion:

Form, style and technique are more important than the routine.  We know this to be true in every sport and so it is in powerlifting. We need to concentrate more on it, and spend hours on it, consistently, every week, throughout your whole career.  A baseball player takes thousands of swings a week.  So a lifter should do many, many reps with little or no weight to perfect his form, style and technique.

Rickey Dale Crain
IPF/WPC/AAU World Champion
2000 Powerlifting Hall of Fame Inductee

The Cool Down: Another look at this important phase of your workout

By Danny M. O'Dell, MA. CSCS*D

This is the time during the training period that is allocated to returning the body to its pretraining session status. The cool down allows the body time to recover from the intense exercise by readjusting the heart rate and blood pressure back to its pretraining resting levels.

Additional mechanisms of the body that are aided in the cool down and readjustment phase are the enhanced returns of the Venus fluids to their previous pretraining states. Moving these fluids decreases the potential for post exercise hypotension and dizziness. With the circulatory system working efficiently the body cools itself down quicker and more effectively while it continues removing the excess heat that was generated by the active muscles.

An active cool down encourages faster removal of lactic acid more so than a ‘stationary resting’ recovery mode. A rise in post exercise plasma catecholamines is averted when engaging in a properly controlled cool down. This is of particular importance to those suffering from heart disease as it may reduce the possibility of ventricular arrhythmias, a dangerous situation that could lead to cardiac failure and subsequently death.

Studies have clearly shown that eliminating a cool down immediately after exercise has been linked to increased cardiovascular problems. When the exercise is suddenly stopped with out a cool down the Venus return is slowed (due to a lack of muscle pump action). This in turn reduces the flow to the heart at a time when it is still trying to catch up to the demands of the exercise which may precede complications due to the restriction of oxygen to the heart and the heart rate. According to the ACSM ‘consequences of this include ischemic ST-segment depression with or without anginal symptoms, serious ventricular arrhythmias, or combinations thereof’.

One of the better cool downs is to simply walk around, especially out doors in the fresh air. Move your arms and shoulders in big circles as your take your walk. Look at the wonderful things around you as you continue to cool down.

Reference:

ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription sixth edition, 2000 Lippincott Williams and Wilkins publishers

Do’s and don’ts for an Injury Free Exercise Session

by Danny M. O'Dell,MA. CSCS*D

There are numerous exercise movements that are performed each day in weight room’s world wide. Many are excellent but a few are just plain dangerous to the joints and other supporting structures of the body. Here is a partial list of the movements that are best left out of your repertoire of exercises.

During your warm up avoid as much as possible the hyper extension of your neck. It is better to do the side to side moves known as the lateral flexion rather than the hyperextensions of your neck. It is normally best to avoid crushing the vertebrae together don’t you think?

Speaking of your neck now is a good time to mention where to hold the hands in sit up or crunch. Interlocking your hands behind your head is asking for an injury to occur, especially if you are tired and it is at the end of the set. The forceful pulling on the head will eventually strain the neck muscles leaving you with a painful and difficult to manage sore neck. Rather than holding on to your head it is best to place your hands across your chest during the movement.

Doing the ‘plow’ where the upper legs and feet are moved over the top of the head while lying on your back is really bad for your back. This puts an enormous strain on the lower back with negligible positive rewards for the contortionistic effort. Instead of doing this back breaking exercise do the cat and camel.

The cat and camel is performed on your hands and knees. It is a simple non ballistic, non strenuous movement of the lower back. Simply move your back up and down much like a cat does each time it stretches. The range of motion is small but great for creating a healthy back. Often times you will see trainers teaching the superman.

This is another of those movements that seem to be good but are in fact horribly dangerous for your lower back. The stresses on the lower back are in some cases triple that of the cat and camel which are at the lower end of the shear force scale. Studies by Dr. Stuart McGill have shown the compressive forces on the hyper extended spine are at or even exceed 1300 pounds of pressure. It is a poor exercise and one that should be avoided by those seeking to maintain healthy backs.

The V-sit up fall into the category of increasing the danger to the lower back. These sit ups call for the legs and upper torso to be lifted at the same time until the body is shaped like a V in the alphabet. An excellent replacement for this exercise is the partial sit up and an even better one for that matter is the curl up. The curl up is performed in this manner

Beginning exercise description
*Lay supine on the floor (facing the ceiling)
*Place your hands under the small of your back-do not flatten your back to the floor as this increases unnecessary stress on lower back. This position helps to keep the lumbar spine from actually flattening against the floors surface.
*Bend one leg to about ninety degrees at the knee and leave the second leg in a relaxed position on the floor
*Keep the head and neck rigid and DO NOT curl them up as you move upward. Focus on the ceiling and keep them firmly attached and unmoving on the cervical spine.

Exercises
*Remove the weight of the head and shoulders, this does not mean you lift them off the floor.
*Raise the head and shoulders a short distance off the floor, hold for a moment and lower back down. Focus on the thoracic spine without cervical or lumbar flexion occurring during the movement.

The leg lifts with trunk extension also place undue stress on the lower back so optional exercise is the bird dog. It is performed in the following manner:

Bird dog number 1
*Begin on the floor on your hands and knees
*Raise one leg out straight to the rear while maintaining a position which is parallel to the floor
*Raise arm straight to the front while maintaining a position which is parallel to the floor
*Raise one arm and the opposite leg up parallel to the floor
*Hold for a moment or two and return to the beginning position
*Keep the hips and shoulders square to the floor at all times do not let either one dip or hike upward.

Bird dog number 2
*Begin on the floor on your hands and knees
*Raise one leg out straight to the rear while maintaining a position which is parallel to the floor
*Raise arm straight to the front while maintaining a position which is parallel to the floor
*Raise one arm and the opposite leg up parallel to the floor
*Hold for a moment or two and return to the beginning position
*Do not rest at the bottom, simply sweep the floor with your hand and knee all the while maintaining your form
*Keep the hips and shoulders square to the floor at all times do not let either one dip or hike upward.

Stretching out the hamstrings may sound like the perfect thing to do but if you are putting your feet up on a waist high support and bending forward then you are putting your body at risk. If you are a ballet dancer and have the necessary flexibility and training background you may get away with it. For the rest of us do this particular stretch on your back and on the floor. Hold one knee close to your chest as the opposite leg is slightly bent in a nearly outstretched fashion on the floor.

The hurdlers (quad) stretch commonly seen in the gyms and track fields with the athlete leaning back on one of their bent knees is particularly dangerous to the ligaments and tendons of the knee. The body is not meant to be stretched that far and in no sport is it a requirement. A better alternative is to lie on your side and gently stretch the leg by flexing it back toward your buttocks. Don’t be jerking around, remember mild discomfort is the key to a good stretch.

Lunges are often seen being done with the forward knee traveling in front of the toes. This is not a good execution of the exercise just as it is not a good execution of the squat. Keep the knees in back of the toes for healthy knee joints.

If you follow these suggestions your chances of an exercise related injury could be reduced. Like the saying goes train smart.

Effective Program Design Variables

Productive training requires thought and careful program design to produce effective results. What follows is a brief look at several of the variables.

Intensity of effort chart*

LOAD PERCENT 1 REP MAX CONTRACTION
Supermaximum <105 % Eccentric/isometric
Maximum 90%-100% Concentric
Heavy 80%-90% Concentric
Medium/heavy 50%-80% Concentric
Low 30%-50% Concentric
*Serious Strength Training, Bompa, T.O., Pasquale, M.D., and Cornacchia. L. J.
Human Kinetics, 2003

Exercise selection

The exercises selected should be those that exhibit the greatest electrical activity as measured by the Electromyograph during the movement. Selections based on these criteria tend to recruit the highest muscle fibers thereby increasing the power output.

Developmental level of the body

Development depends upon the training time and experience of each individual. The entry level trainee will require a longer anatomical and physiological phase than will an experienced and highly trained athlete. In most cases this implies 12-15 exercises for each major muscle group which will be spread out over a period of time from one to three years! Don’t be in a hurry to move the big weights.

Correctly designed routines

Correctly designed routines will be balanced and effective for building mass and strength. Observation of the body will be a guide in preventing any unbalances that tend to cause long term problems with power output. If you notice your left arm getting larger and stronger than the right then make the necessary program corrections early in the adaptation phase.

Proper technique and good form will increase the effectiveness of the exercise because the proper muscles are being utilized. The substitution of alternate muscles to complete the move is avoided with perfect technique practices. Picture the bench presser who consistently lifts their buttocks off the bench. They are the classic example of using alternate muscles to complete the lift.

Full range of motion ensures a maximum recruitment of the motor unit fibers. A good tactic to employ between sets is to practice flexibility exercise with the recently used muscles. This does NOT mean STATIC STRETCHES! Dynamic stretches are used best during the down time between sets.

Performing flexibility exercises between sets helps to keep the muscles elongated and additionally speeds in the recovery process. Another excellent reason to work the flexibility is it helps the overlapped actin and myosin to return to normal where “biochemical exchanges are optimized”.

• Loading patterns

Successful training programs apply a number of loading variations to consistently challenge the neuromuscular system. These range from the simple pyramid to the flat pyramid.

The basic pyramid has been an effective tool for many successful strength enthusiasts. In this commonly used pattern the load progressively increases as the repetitions and sets decrease. For example after a general and a movement specific warm up the practitioner will begin with a set of five to six repetitions at 85% of the 1RM. After an appropriate rest interval this initial set is followed by another set of three to for repetitions at 90% of 1RM. Successful completion of these preliminary sets leads to a set of two to three repetitions at 95 1RM. The final set is at 100% with one repetition. This completes the sequence at this basic level.

The double pyramid begins as the basic. However, once the scheme reaches the 95% level, it repeats the 95% load. The schedule then calls for a set at 90% for two repetitions, which is followed by sets at 85% for three repetitions and a final one at 80 for repetitions.

A skewed pyramid improves upon the double pyramid in this aspect; the load constantly increases throughout the session until the last where a built in taper appears. The last set is performed, with good form, as quickly as possible.

The major disadvantage to all of these layouts is the load varies greatly between light to heavy. The load goes from hypertrophy to maximum strength. Nothing is worked effectively. There is a more efficient method of becoming powerful.

The flat pyramid provides the maximum training outcome. Maximal strength gains result from intensity levels above 80%. The lower ranges contribute very little to the eventual outcome of power, unless the goal is speed development. Neurological adaptations occur as the physiological stresses exceed the 80% 1RM.

Keeping the intensity level in the correct strength building range throughout the entire series is the forte of the flat pyramid. The body is not confused by wide percentage changes of intensity and adapts to the imposed load.

The flat pyramid begins with a specific movement warm up then moves right into the strength ranges of intensity. The progressions in the following shows this scheme very well.

70% 80% 80% 80% 80% 70%
80% 90% 90% 90% 90% 80%
85% 95% 95% 95% 95% 85%
*Serious Strength Training, Bompa, T.O., Pasquale, M.D., and Cornacchia. L. J.
Human Kinetics, 2003

Various load patterns can be developed with the flat pyramid. Focus on the objective and insert the proper percentage of intensity in the working portions of the scheme, i.e. the center four sets at the chosen percentage values represent the target goal levels.

• Repetitions per set

Normal training involves sets of 1-20 repetitions. Tudor Bompa, in his book Serious Strength Training recommends repetitions in the 150 range for increased definition and muscular endurance purposes! Now that is a huge number of repetitions to do for any exercise; let along adding weight to the move. Most strength athletes will have hard time moving a bare squat bar one hundred and fifty times for one set.

Fortunately, strength is displayed in violent spurts of power of less than two to three seconds at a time. For power and maximum strength the ranges of one to seven repetitions are best followed by the athlete. Hypertrophy adaptations are best at six to twelve repetitions per set.

Lifting speed

An important part of developing power output recall the power formula work divided by time, work performed faster equates to more power. The intended speed of the lift is not always reflected in the bar speed. An example is the lift at 95% of one repetition maximum; while the lift appears slow in execution the application of force necessary to move the weight must be rapid and consistent throughout the range of motion. This is not the time to slowly apply force against the bar.

Synchronization and recruitment of the maximum of fast twitch fibers are required to move this resistance. This is possible only “when the application of force is fast and vigorous”. Thinking ‘speed’ during the lift translates into faster movement.

Number of sets

The sets performed depends on how many exercises are scheduled for the session, the phase or cycle of the program, the number of muscle groups being trained, and the level of experience of the lifter.

The more exercises selected the less will be the number of sets executed as fatigue will set in and will adversely disrupt the lifting technique. The same holds true for the muscle groups as large muscle groups will fatigue the overall system more than smaller ones. For example, more sets of calf exercises can be performed than squats due to the onset of total body fatigue. Advanced athletes tolerate higher training intensities and loads than do the less experienced. Physical foundation improvements raise the capacity to accept greater training loads via more sets and repetitions.

The training phase dictates training load and intensity, both of which are dependent upon the particular ‘cycle objective’. An example of this is the adaptation phase where the sets and reps are not high, additionally they are substantially lower than those of the hypertrophy phase.

A larger number of muscle groups trained per session will dictate fewer sets and repetitions. A similar situation exists if a schedule calls for multiple days of training per week then the muscle groups trained will also be less on each day.

As the training experience grows the body tolerates higher load volumes. This in turn paves the way to more sets and higher repetitions per body part.

Rest intervals

The system supplying the energy determines the rest intervals. For example, during the hypertrophy phase the rest periods compared to the work periods will be close to one to one. This makes the system to adapt to the stress imposed on the muscles by the lifting and short rest between sets.

Maintaining range of motion

Strength training and stretching go hand in hand towards increasingly better fitness levels. A loss of flexibility brings with it a loss of functionality in daily living activities as well as in the weight room.

Stretching is not meant to hurt-unless you are in the active stages of recovering from a surgery to one of your joints or muscles. In which case the stretches will hurt; but a successful outcome depends on regaining the lost range of motion.

This involves loosening up the areas around the surgery and daily motion of the joint or muscle. It should not swell afterwards because if it does then you have pushed it too far, too fast. Back off and get the swelling under control and then work the movements again being careful not to cause swelling again. Ice and compression are important tools to use after surgery and after exercising the area.

Prevention of the loss of joint range of motion depends on following a pattern of stretches that follow these minimal guidelines.

  1. Static or Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation general stretching programs involving the major muscle and tendon groups such as the shoulders, chest, upper and lower back, and the legs.
  2. Do your stretching two to three times a week or after each strength training session.
  3. Hold each stretch to a point of mild discomfort unless working past a surgery limitation then it will be a bit tougher and deeper into the discomfort zone.
  4. Each stretch needs to be held a minimum of ten seconds for each static stretch and up to six seconds for each PNF contraction which are immediately followed by the assisted stretch.
  5. Perform each selected stretch for three to five times each.

A little bit each day will produce amazing results in a very short time.

Muscle Recruitment in Full and Partial Rep Scenarios by Rickey Dale Crain

I want to address a not so unusual and not so uncommon problem we all see in the weight room. I am referring to the partial movement exercises in your workout. Whether it is powerlifters, strength athletes, bodybuilders or just those simply weight training to keep in shape, it is widespread. I want to discuss it in 2 scenarios; first as a reason not to do it and second as a reason as to why it might be happening. Let us see who is doing it and why they are doing it. What is the reason for this and why we should eliminate it from happening in our training regiment.

1. Most powerlifters, strength athletes and/or those training for sports add it to their regiment to help overcome a sticking point (i.e. ¼ squats or lockouts in the bench or deadlift) or for no other reason than they have always done it that way (i.e. they do not know how the lift is done properly).

2. Bodybuilders many times do it intentionally for training reasons; in going towards failure on that last set of reps, or because it is ingrained in their workout program. They may not be aware of the proper way to do a particular exercise or aware they are even doing it at all.

3. Beginning lifters (who perhaps do not know correct form) or their trainers (who should know better but don’t) are the group we see all the time in the gym doing this. Have you ever started to train and glanced over at a bench and find a young kid on it, letting the bar half way down and then pressing it back up; or see a bar loaded in the power rack with lots of weight on it and then watch someone do squats where their knees are not bending more than a few inches. 

They actually have no clue they are shortchanging themselves in strength and actually setting themselves up for an injury down the road. 

In all cases one must realize your strength and total muscle recruitment is improved with full range movements over that of a partial range movement. You are not working that lower or upper part of the movement; thus it will never grow (or grow as well), get stronger or be able to recruit the muscle in that unused portion as well as it does in the worked area; therefore giving you an imbalance in strength (muscle recruitment ability) throughout the full range of the exercise.

Partial movements have a place, but for beginners and others like them, full range motion should generally be the case (One scenario where it is not applicable is in rehabbing an injury and/or you are unable to do the full range motion due to an injury or age factor). In fact there are very few times when full muscle recruitment should not be the norm. They need to work the entire muscle group(s) through the entire movement. Do not fool yourself!!!!!!!!! Or shortchange yourself.

If we look at it from a muscle recruitment point of view only, we see it is easier to judge muscle recruitment based on your range of motion. This is a good tool as to how much weight you should be using and when to stop the exercise (i.e. when fatigue has set in). When we no longer lift a load through its full range of motion it is because muscle fibers have dropped out of the task. A bodybuilder should not even want to start it any earlier in the set than necessary.

Form and technique is always a good measure of when muscle recruitment starts to fail.

Some good examples may be with the start of a higher squat,aleg curl that is not finished out, and an abbreviated biceps curl. These are a few of the exercises where the range of motion diminishes and you lose speed.

Each repetition of each set should consist of a full range of motion of that particular lift. No half squats…….no half benches…..no partial curls……no half way down lat pulls…..

When you fatigue, whether you realize it or not, you typically shorten your range of motion (and slow down). Either you don't fully extend your arms at the top, or you won’t touch the bar to your chest, etc. The reason why you must shorten your range of motion is because muscle fibers have dropped out of the lift. Sometimes this occurs while the speed still remains relatively high, but the distance the bar travels becomes shorter and shorter to compensate for this.

This holds true for most virtually any exercise. I'm sure you've been unable to lock out a bench press, bent over row, or deadlift, so the concept is not limited to any one certain movement.

The final word is this: whenever you must shorten your range of motion you should terminate the set (unless of course you are doing sets to failure) because you're recruiting fewer muscle fibers; and with heavy weight you are setting yourself up for serious injury.
http://www.crain.ws/

Hard Work On Basic Exercises by Prof. Bradley J. Steiner- 1971

I happen to believe that Reg Park is the best example and single representative of what proper training with weights can do for a man. He's got everything: huge, almost superhuman muscles, the strength of the most powerful competitive lifter, and the perfect, well-balanced physique that one sees on Greek statues in museums. Whether or not you agree that Park is the Greatest -- if you've seen him, then you've GOT to admit that he's good, to say the very least. OK. so who cares about my opinion anyway, and what in heck does this have to do with how you can get the Herculean build you're after?

The best physiques (and Park's is one of 'em), were all built by hard work on the basic, heavy duty exercises. There are NO exceptions to this statement. Even easy-gainers who (like Park) build up very easily, never get to the Hercules stage without the ultimate in effort. Park worked up to squats with 600 pounds, behind the neck presses with 300 pounds, and bench presses with 500 pounds! Hereditary advantages or not, Park sweated blood to earn the massive excellent physique that he has. And so did every other human Superman whose muscles aren't merely bloated, pumped-up tissue. The problem of WHAT these basic exercisers are, and HOW HARD one must work on them for satisfactory, or even startling results, is one that every bodybuilder, at one time or another during his career, is confronted with. This month we're going to solve the problem.

To begin, let's sift through the thousands of possible exercises, and variations of exercises that confront every barbell man, and set down a principle by which the trainee can determine the BEST among them; those upon which he should be concentrating his best efforts. Here's the principle: An exercise is worthwhile if it allows you to use very heavy weights -- brings into play the BIG muscle groups -- and causes lots of puffing and panting.

From the simple formula stated above, it is quite easy to see that fully eighty or ninety percent of the exercises followed by most barbell trainees do not come up to the standards required for maximum physical development. Concentration curls, Hack squats, lateral raises, thigh extensions, triceps "kickback" movements, etc., all followed slavishly by thousands of misinformed bodybuilders, are a waste of time.

My very bitter apologies to the high-pressure ad-men, and the authors of all the super Space-age courses, but their stuff is strictly form hunger. If you've been sucked into following any such routines, drop 'em! In all honesty, fellows, that garbage won't do a thing for you, aside from bringing discouragement and disillusionment. Save your time and money, and put your effort into THESE exercises:

*The Squat - Regular, parallel, breathing style, or front style
*The Press - Military or behind neck, seated or standing, barbell or heavy dumbbells
*Rowing - Bent over, barbell or dumbbells, one or two arm
*Power cleans and High pulls
*Bench pressing - barbell or heavy dumbbells, Incline or flat bench style
*Stiff-legged dead lifting and heavy barbell bendovers

In essence, those are the exercises that you ought to be killing yourself on. We're concerned with the development of SIZE, POWER and SHAPELY BULK, so we've eliminated all supplementary abdominal and calf work. This you can do at your leisure, or you can omit it entirely, with no consequences to your overall development. The stuff we've enumerated above is what you need in order to turn yourself into a Human Hercules. And, lest you believe that this writer has a vested interest in this, let me say that he HAS. I derive personal, private, selfish satisfaction pushing the truth about sensible barbell training, and seeing those guys who are willing to work for their goals, achieving the builds they desire. The muscle heads, the "muscle-spinners," the drug-takers, etc, are no concern of mine. They can go their own way; I'm concerned about the rest of you.

Honest muscles, like honest men, are rare. But they can be attained, and the only way to do it is through HARD, HARD work, and an honest approach to training programs. So if you're willing, you can get the physique you're after; if you train as I have discussed on the Basic Movements.

There are reasons why these basic exercises are best. Let's talk about them.

It isn't generally understood, but the easiest way to build the small muscle groups is by exercise on the big ones! For example, it's impossible to build a broad, powerful back, and thick pectorals, along with terrific shoulders via the heavy cleaning, pressing, rowing and bench work that I advocate, without building enormous arm size and strength. You couldn't do it if you wanted to! Yet, aside from weight-gaining, building big arms is a giant headache for most barbell men. How simple a matter it would become if only they would forget about the ridiculous pumping, cramping and spinning-type isolation exercises, and just train hard on the basics! The big arms would come naturally.

John Grimek once had arms that taped close to 19". They were so big and powerful that they didn't look real! Grimek at the time was an Olympic weight-lifting contender, and he had trained for a long period without doing a single curl or triceps "pumper." His big arms got the way they did from the Heavy Lifting Training. You can do the same by working hard and heavy. And you don't have to enter Olympic competition!

The trapezius and neck muscles are impressive and too often neglected by many weight-trainees. But your traps will grow like crazy if you push your cleans hard, and if you get your presses up to really impressive standards.

Ditto for your neck muscles. The huffing, puffing, and muscular work and exertion caused by ALL heavy work will make your neck muscles grow.

Forearms - "stubborn forearms" will respond like obedient, trained seals to heavy rowing, cleaning and pressing. And just try to keep your grip on a super heavy barbell while doing a set of stiff-leg deadlifts, without forcing the forearm muscles to ache and grow beyond belief!

Heavy squatting will build heavier calves. Sounds impossible? Well, just try working your squats like you're supposed to, and you'll see your calves begin to grow no matter how they've refused to respond to toe raises.

Power cleans are fine for the calf muscles too. Incredible as this statement may sound, it's absolutely true. The coordinated effort of leg and back movement in heavy cleaning DOES work the calves! Try it for a few months and find out for yourself.

Nobody wants to be fat around the middle. Yet, unless you're drastically overweight, you don't need more than one set of one abdominal exercise (done in high reps, with resistance) to keep a rock-hard, muscular mid-section. The hard work on squatting, cleaning, and ALL heavy exercises will inevitably keep you trim and hard.

And make no mistake about this: you are far, far better off with a thick, powerful waist than you are with a "wasp-waist pretty body." A man should be BIG. He should be strong and powerful. And he can't be if he tries to blow his biceps up to 20" and keep his waist down to 30". Use your head! If there are any real supermen around who have waistlines below 33" or 34", then they've got 'em only because they're SHORT, and, the small waist is proportionate tot he rest of their husky muscles.

Training on the big exercises builds HEALTH and LASTING muscle size. These two factors are very important. Today, men like John Grimek, Reg Park, Bill Pearl, and another lesser-known Hercules, Maurice Hones of Canada, all possess builds and physical power comparable to that which they had during their prime. The reason? They built REAL MUSCLE, Sig Klein must be around seventy, yet he's got the build of a twenty-five year old athlete. The reason? He built REAL MUSCLE. The same holds for scores of others in the weight game who got their physical development by hard, hard work with heavy weights on the best exercises.

If you're a young man now, then you're probably more interested in what you can look like on a posing platform, and in how fast you can get piles of muscle - but don't, no matter how great the temptation for an "easy way out" via pumping routines or muscle drugs, follow any system of training except the good, heavy, teeth-gritting type routines that build pure, strong, big muscles. I say this as a sincere warning against charlatans who would rob you of your money and your health - and do it gladly - to sell you on their own private "miracle systems' or methods'. Keep clear of them, and remember, please, that you've got a long life ahead of you after any physique competitions you might enter or win within the next few years. You want health, well-being AND big muscles that will stay with you for the rest of your life. You will only get them if you train HARD and HEAVY!

Here's a sample program that you can follow. It will give you every desirable physical quality. IF you work to your limit on it.

Warm up with one set of twenty prone hyperextensions.
Do two progressively heavier warm up sets in the squat, using five reps in each set. Then load on weight until the bar bends, and do three sets of five reps each with this limit poundage. Push! Fight! Drive! the SQUAT is THE builder of SUPERMEN!

Go to your flat bench and do two warm up sets, as you did for your squats, of five reps each in the bench press. Then do a final 3 sets with all the weight you can properly handle. In this, and in every other exercise in the program, REST WELL BETWEEN SETS!

Now do power cleans, stiff--legged dead lifts, or barbell bendovers. Same sets., same reps and the same forced poundage attempts as in the preceding exercises. Your lower back is a vital body area. Turn it into a SUPER POWER ZONE by intensive back work!

Do heavy, bent-over barbell rowing. Two warm up sets - then three limit sets - five reps in each set you do. Reg Park (I always seem to come back to mentioning him, don't I!) used this exercise along with the power clean in order to build the unbelievable back that he possesses. He considers this bent-over rowing exercise the best single upper back movement a man can do.

Do some form of HEAVY pressing, If you read my stuff then you already know that I practically sneer at any shoulder exercise but the press behind the neck! But of course you can old military barbell presses, dumbbell presses, or any form of heavy seated pressing with excellent results sure to follow - IF YOU WORK HARD. Same set-rep scheme for your pressing as for the other exercises, and a tip: May guys have complained to me that I don't understand (a-hem!) their difficulties when it comes to heavy pressing behind the neck. It seems that the effort of cleaning the bar up and behind their necks before each set tires their poor little bodies out. What to do? Do your presses right off the squat racks! Load the bar up. Get set comfortably under it. Get a good, solid grip on the bar and set your feet firmly. Now go to it. Press the weight right off the racks. Then, after each set, return the bar to the squat racks. Simple? you'll get wonderful results this way - since you'll be saving your energy and concentration exclusively for the pressing action, and all of the work will be thrown directly on your deltoids...so, better and bigger muscles!

End your workout with an abdominal exercise. Do any one that you happen to like. I prefer leg raises off the end of a flat bench, with iron boots on my feet, but it's really only a personal preference, and you can work your midsection with any 'ab" exercise that you happen to like. Just do one set, and run the reps at around twenty or thirty.

Here's the routine written out:
Warm-up - 1 x 20
Squat - 5 x 5
Bench press - 5 x 5
Stiff-leg dead lift - 5 x 5
Bent-over rowing - 5 x 5
Press behind neck - 5 x 5
Leg raises 1 x 25

Do that routine - or a similar one - as described in this article, and your muscles will bulge through your clothing after a year or so of training!

The watchwords are BASIC EXERCISES and HARD WORK. Remember them when you walk into the gym next time. You'll be grateful for the rest of your life that you did!

Professor Bradley J. Steiner's
Academy of Self-Defense
Seattle, Washington
Tel: (206)-523-8642

Strength Training for Injury Prevention by Brad Walker

Strength training has been a part of sports conditioning for many years. It is touted for its effects on speed, strength, agility and muscle mass. Often overlooked though are its benefits for injury prevention.

What is Strength Training?

Strength training is moving the joints through a range of motion against resistance requiring the muscles to expend energy and contract forcefully to move the bones. Strength training can be done using various types of resistance with or without equipment. Strength training is used to strengthen the muscles, tendons, bones and ligaments and to increase muscle mass.

Strength training should be implemented in the conditioning program of all sports, not just strength sports. The increase in speed, strength, agility and muscular endurance will benefit athletes of every sport.

Types of Strength Training

Strength training comes in a variety of formats. The formats are defined by the type of resistance and equipment used.

Machine weights - Machine strength training includes resistance exercises done using any of the various machines designed to produce resistance. These include machines with weight stacks, hydraulics, resistance rods or bands, and even the use of Thera-band or resistance tubing.

The resistance, weight, may be changed to increase the intensity of the exercise. The range of motion and position of movement is controlled by the machine. The resistance may be constant throughout the movement or may change due to the set-up of the pulley and cam systems. Machines often add a degree of safety but neglect the stabilizer, or helper, muscles in a movement.

Free weights - Free weight strength training involves using weights that are not fixed in a movement pattern by a machine. These include barbells and dumbbells. Also included in this group are kettlebells, medicine balls, ankle and wrist weights, and weight lifting chains.

The weight used, as with the machines, may be changed to increase the resistance of an exercise. The resistance at different points along the range of motion transfers to different muscles and due to angles may lessen at times. At the lockout of a joint the weight is transferred to the joint as the muscles simply stabilize the joint.

The range of motion and path of movement is not limited so the stabilizing muscles must work to keep the joints in line during the movement. Due to the fact that the movement is not fixed poor form can become an issue.

Own body weight exercises - Bodyweight exercises involve utilizing the athlete's bodyweight as resistance during the exercise. As with free weights, the range and path of motion is not fixed by a machine. Exercises such as plyometric jumping, push-ups, pull-ups, abdominal exercises, even sprinting and jumping rope, fall into this category.

The weight used in these exercises is constant and only changes when the athlete's body changes. The changes in resistance during the movement are similar to those of free weight exercises.

The range of motion and path of movement does not follow a fixed path so stabilizing muscles come into play. Form is again an issue with these exercises. The inability to change the weight used does limit the effectiveness for some athletes. Larger athletes will be limited in the exercises they can perform and the number of repetitions. Smaller athletes will quickly go beyond the desired repetition range for strength building.

How does Strength Training prevent injury?

Strength training in athletics is common practice today. The benefits are obvious and the immediate crossover of those benefits to the playing field makes it ideal for off-season conditioning. Injury prevention is one benefit that is often overlooked. Strength training is a very effective tool for injury prevention for a variety of reasons.

Strength training improves the strength of the muscles, tendons, and even the ligaments and bones. The stronger muscles and tendons help hold the body in proper alignment and protect the bones and joints when moving or under impact. The bones become stronger due to the overload placed on them during training and the ligaments become more flexible and better at absorbing the shock applied to them during dynamic movements.

When an area of the body is used less during an activity it may become weaker than the other areas. This can become a problem when that area (whether a muscle, ligament, joint, or specific bone) is called into play suddenly during an activity. That area cannot handle the sudden stress placed on it and an injury occurs. Strength training, using a balanced program, will eliminate these weak areas and balance the body for the activities it is called to do.

Muscle imbalances are one of the most common causes of injuries in athletics. When one muscle, or muscle group, becomes stronger than its opposing group, the weaker muscles become fatigued quicker and more susceptible to injury. A forceful contraction, near maximal output from the stronger muscle can also cause damage to the weaker opposing muscle due to the inability to counter the force.

Muscle imbalances also affect the joints and bones due to an abnormal pull causing the joint to move in an unnatural pattern. The stronger muscles will cause the joint to pull in that direction causing a stretching of the opposing ligaments and a tightening of the supporting ones. These can lead to chronic pain and an unnatural wearing of the bones. A balanced strength training program will help to counter these effects by strengthening the weaker muscles to balance them with their counterparts.

Precautions for Strength Training

Strength training is a great tool for injury prevention. Becoming injured during strength training obviously defeats this purpose. To avoid injury it is essential that proper form be used in all exercises. Keeping the body in proper alignment while exercising will minimize the injury chances. Starting with light weights or resistance and developing proper form before increasing the resistance is important. When increasing the resistance it is important to do so in small increments and only when the desired number of repetitions can be performed in correct form.

Rest plays a crucial role in the efficiency and safety of a training program. Performing strength training exercises for the same muscle groups without adequate rest between the training sessions can lead to overtraining. Overtraining will result in the muscles being unable to repair properly and not being ready for additional work. This can lead to acute or chronic injuries. The muscles repair and become stronger during rest, not during the workout.

Article by Brad Walker. Brad is a leading stretching and sports injury consultant with nearly 20 years experience in the health and fitness industry. For more articles on stretching, flexibility and sports injury, please visit The Stretching Institute.

Stretching and the Warm up-Are You Confused? by Brad Walker

Lately, I've been receiving a lot of questions referring to the latest studies and research findings, and one question that I receive most queries about concerns the role that stretching plays as part of the warm up.

Currently, there seems to be a lot of confusion about how and when stretching should be used as part of the warm up, and some people are under the impression that stretching should be avoided altogether.

This is a very important issue and needs to be clarified immediately. The rest of this article is dedicated to dispelling some common myths and misconceptions about stretching and its' role as part of the warm up.

What has Science got to say?

Most of the studies I've reviewed attempt to determine the effects of stretching on injury prevention. This is a mistake in itself and shows a lack of understanding as to how stretching is used as part of an injury prevention program and the warm up.

Stretching and its effect on physical performance and injury prevention is something that just can't be measured scientifically. Sure you can measure the effect of stretching on flexibility with simple tests like the "Sit and Reach" test, but then to determine how that affects athletic performance or injury susceptibility is near impossible.

One of the more recent studies on stretching supports this view by concluding;

"Due to the paucity, heterogeneity and poor quality of the available studies no definitive conclusions can be drawn as to the value of stretching for reducing the risk of exercise-related injury." (The efficacy of stretching for prevention of exercise-related injury: a systematic review of the literature, 2003, Weldon)

To put the above quote in layman's terms; there hasn't been enough studies done and the studies that have been done are not specific or consistent enough. For the most comprehensive assessment and conclusion of research done on the affects of stretching I suggest you have a read through the following article, The Truth about Stretching.

The Greatest Misconception

Confusion about what stretching accomplishes, as part of the warm up, is causing many to abandon stretching altogether. The key to understanding the role stretching plays can be found in the previous sentence. But, you have to read it carefully.

Stretching, as part of the warm up!

Here's the key: Stretching is a critical part of the warm up, but stretching is NOT the warm up.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that doing a few stretches constitutes a warm up. An effective warm up has a number of very important key elements, which work together to minimize the likelihood of sports injury and prepare the individual for physical activity.

Identifying the components of an effective and safe warm up, and executing them in the correct order is critical. Remember, stretching is only one part of an effective warm up and its' place in the warm up routine is specific and dependant on the other components.

The four key elements that should be included to ensure an effective and complete warm up are:

1. The general warm up

This phase of the warm up consists of 5 to 15 minutes of light physical activity. The aim here is to elevate the heart rate and respiratory rate, increase blood flow and increase muscle temperature.

2. Static stretching

Next, 5 to 15 minutes of gentle static stretching should be used to gradually lengthen all the major muscle groups and associated tendons of the body.

3. The sports specific warm up

During this phase of the warm up, 10 to 15 minutes of sport specific drills and exercises should be used to prepare the athlete for the specific demands of their chosen sport.

4. Dynamic stretching

Dynamic stretching involves a controlled, soft bounce or swinging motion to force a particular body part past its usual range of movement. The force of the bounce or swing is gradually increased but should never become radical or uncontrolled.

Please note; dynamic stretching carries with it a high risk of injury if used incorrectly. Dynamic stretching is more for muscular conditioning than flexibility and is really only suited for professional, well trained, highly conditioned athletes. Dynamic stretching should only be used after a high level of general flexibility has been established.

All four parts are equally important and any one part should not be neglected or thought of as not necessary. All four elements work together to bring the body and mind to a physical peak, ensuring the athlete is prepared for the activity to come.

So what conclusions can we make? Stretching is beneficial, when used correctly. However, as with most activities there are rules and guidelines to ensure that they are safe, and stretching is no exception. Stretching can be extremely dangerous and harmful if used incorrectly.

Remember, stretching is just one very important component that assists to reduce the risk of injury and improve athletic performance. The best results are achieved when stretching is used in combination with other injury reduction techniques and conditioning exercises.

Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don't make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won't be effective.

Article by Brad Walker. Brad is a leading stretching and sports injury consultant with nearly 20 years experience in the health and fitness industry. For more articles on stretching, flexibility and sports injury, please visit The Stretching Institute.


Testing your Training Program

Are you testing the results of your training program or are you just hoping and guessing at the outcomes?

Do you think we are able to continually bring home world championships by not following a carefully designed workout schedule? The quick answer is NO. Every set, rep and selected exercise is considered based on the relationship to the ultimate goal-personal bests.

We use clearly established test days throughout the training schedule.

Once every four to six weeks a mechanism to evaluate the effectiveness of our schedule is put into effect.

Is your squat lift poundage actually going upward or are you stagnated? Can you Military press more now than two months ago? Is anything better now? You will not know unless you test.

Without periodic tests, you are wasting your time and energy on a potentially non-productive workout schedule. In each training session, a set goal is established or should be established. At the end of the particular series of training sessions in the mesocycle, measurable results should be obtained. If they are not what you expected then changes to the program are necessary if you want to achieve your goals.  

Building regularly scheduled test days into your strength training program results in these direct benefits:

*It measures the validity of the strength program design.
*It clearly indicates a benchmark day; one that will give instant feedback to the previous hard work.
*It will provide incentive to go onto the next phase of the training.
*It will put in a semi rest day of low volume.

Depending on the mesocycle we test on a regularly scheduled basis in all of our lifts; consider doing so in your program and see just how you stand relative to the final objectives of the year.

If you aren't measuring, you don't know where you're at.

Conditioning for Running

By Daniel Pare, N.C.C.P., C.S.O., C.S.P.S., C.S.T.S.

Runners, why would you strength train?  This article is going to explain what is happening when you are running and why you should consider strength training to help you become a better runner with fewer injuries.   

I have several members who are long distance runners (5Km +) and since they have started strength training they find long distance running a lot easier.  Why is that?  When you run, every step you take increases the compression on the knee joint and this makes things worse when one is not running properly.  You should be running from heels to toes and a lot of people do not have enough overall body strength to run adequately.  The more bouncing you are generating when landing, the more conditioned you must become.

The knee joint needs to become stronger.  How are we going to do this?  “Strength Training”  You want to train to become strong and if you body build you are going to be training to become big and the last thing that you want is extra muscle mass.  Let me be more specific.  Since your knee joint is going to be taking quite the beating, squats (full depth) should be emphasized. 

Now, why full depth squats, after all we are not squatting that low when running?  That is correct.  What we need to realize is that the deeper one squats the stronger the abdominal muscles, the hamstrings and other key muscles need to be.  I suggest you begin by doing 10 reps of squats.  When you are fully capable of doing those 10 reps, you put a barbell on your back and you begin to squat.  The objective is to squat up to your own body weight on the barbell for sets of 5 reps. 

Remember; we are strengthening the knee joint and more than 5 reps will not strengthen the knee joint, but actually weaken it!  If you become much stronger than you are right now (not bigger!) it will be much easier for you to run the distance. 

Here are a few key exercises you should consider; the squat (full depth), power clean, power snatch and deadlift.  Can you work on your upper body?  Sure why not, but remember that the more muscle mass you are intending on building, the more at a disadvantage you will be. 

The reps should be left at 5 per set at best.  Make sure that you become stronger and not bigger.  The stronger you become the easier it will be to run.  Enjoy your running and go the distance.

Daniel Pare
Strength and conditioning coach
St. Thomas, 519-633-0771
Email stsa1258@aol.com.  

 

Biceps muscle activation and its relationship to hand positioning during the biceps curl exercise

In Principles and Practices of Resistance Training by Stone, Mike, Meg, and Sands, William. they wrote about the scientific evidence supporting task specificity of the motor units (MU). The specific activity of the MU depended on the action and movement pattern the muscle was undertaking, force production, the rate of force development and the velocity necessary to complete a movement.’ The example cited involved the bicep curl.

Evidently, when the bicep brachii contracts during flexion, the MU’s in the lateral portion of the long head are the preferred muscle fibers. Supination of the forearm during the movement activates the MU’s of the medial portion of the muscle.

They also found that certain MU’s become more involved during different movements of the body part. For example, the brachialis and the biceps have different thresholds of activation that are dependent on the type of contraction. i.e. concentric vs. eccentric. Speed of movement further determines the threshold levels of the various muscle fibers.

This means that training with various contractions, speeds and angles of motions will heighten the development of the muscle groups.



Stay strong mentally and physically, and remain passionately committed to your hearts chosen path. Danny M. O'Dell, MA. CSCS*D

Providing medical advice is not the intent or purpose of this site. We assume no liability for the information contained in these pages if it is taken as medical advice. Always consult with your primary health care provider before beginning any new exercise program.

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