Archive for the ‘Strength Training’ Category

At some point in time you’re going to experience back pain. It’s quite common, and at times can be tricky to work around because it’s so complex. For reference, I’ve injured my lower back twice and it’s no joke. Quite discouraging actually. And unfortunately, I had to take a few steps back on my training. So, I can relate if you’ve had back problems.
In this post, I want to address some of the issues revolving around back pain and offer general guidelines that will ultimately get you feeling good and back in the iron game.
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What NOT To Do

1. Stretching Will Actually Do More Harm Than Good

 

Whenever people experience pain they have this¬†behavioral habit of¬†stretching the painful area. ¬†Let me tell you: the site of the pain, is almost never the source of the pain. Stretching is not inherently bad. You just have to be more selective of your approach when trying to ease the pain ‚ÄĒ and I’ve found that painful areas rarely like being stretched. It just causes more instability.

You might provide yourself with some pain relief, but the problem is that it’s only temporary. More often than not, the pain comes back worse than before.¬†Thus begins the vicious¬†cycle of repeating the process over and over again.¬†I understand the rationale behind it, but to give some context ‚ÄĒ¬†it’s the equivalent of repeatedly banging your head against the wall.

To drive the point home, the last thing you should be doing is stretching your lower back. You’re actually doing more harm than good.

2. Do Not Stop Training

 

While continuing to train at a high-intensity is unwarranted, pressing the pause button and remaining sedentary is not exactly the best route either. Even worse if all you do sit all day long.

Suffice it to say, it’s still¬†possible to strength train. ¬†It all boils down on focusing what you can do and¬†listening to your body.¬†The key is doing the right workouts. Placing an emphasis on spine sparing exercises will pay dividends in your longevity. ¬†Have some common sense. If the movement hurts, then don’t do it.

You’re not doing yourself any favors by running 3-5 miles¬†on hard pavement, doing a set of box jumps, or attempting to set a PR in your squat.

What You Should Be Doing

1. Strengthen Core Stability

 

If your lower back keeps acting up, it’s most likely a lack of stability rather than mobility. As such, strengthening your core is priority numero uno¬†when it comes to keeping your lower back healthy. The inability to properly brace or stiffen your spine results in your passive restraints taking up most of the stress.

2. Single-leg Training and Glute Work

 

As I mentioned earlier, placing an emphasis on spine sparing exercises is of primary importance. Prioritizing single-leg training and glute work have tremendous value, specifically for folks suffering from acute or chronic back pain. Performing any single-leg work (Assisted 1-leg RDL, Bulgarian Split Squats, Lunges, Step-ups) reduces the shear and compressive forces on the spine that you would otherwise experience in traditional bilateral lower body movements.

Yes. The hip thrust¬†mimics an “inappropriate” motion, but make no mistake¬†‚ÄĒ if you want to transform your backside and keep your lower back healthy, these are¬†money.

3. Make Simple Modifications

 

Once your symptoms have begun to wind down and you start to feel good,¬†it’s easy to dive back into your normal training regimen with gusto.

Not so fast.

Tinkering with different variations or altering your set up with an exercise can make a world of difference.  For instance, setting up for a conventional deadlift might not bode well for the vast majority. But with a trap bar, kettlebell, or a landmine, you can shift your weight more posteriorly further reducing the likelihood of aggravating your lower back. Similarly, lying flat on your back for a bench press can be a hassle. Opting for an incline press is more user-friendly because it eliminates the need to excessively arch through the lower back. Remember, keeping your spine neutral under load is the way to go. Compromising that can potentiate another injury causing your lower back to flip you the finger.

I’m happy to announce that I’m taking clients for my online fitness coaching. If you want to get stronger, build lean muscle, and decrease body fat, learn more about my coaching here. 

Let's Get It Started

Most people already have a general idea of what to do with respect towards achieving a better physique. They do everything right. They consistently put in the work, and¬†they¬†follow all the right advice ‚ÄĒ they’re pretty much hell-bent on doing whatever it takes to get from point A to point B in the quickest way possible.

Regardless of what the goal may be, the recurring theme (unfortunately) always seems to be people not getting the results they’re looking for.

Here’s¬†four reasons why you’re not seeing results.

1. Lack Of Discipline and Work Ethic

 

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If there’s one thing that working in a commercial gym has taught me, it’s that most folks go through the motions. This absolutely drives me nuts.

Getting out of your comfort zone is necessary if you ultimately want to look better and perform better. Taking selfies in the gym and posting your workout on social media does not equate to productivity in the gym¬†‚ÄĒ you’re just a¬†douche.

2.¬†You Don’t Even Lift

 

Following up with the point above, nothing beats hard work. ¬†What’s most unfortunate is people falling prey to fads and gimmicks promising fast results. There’s a reason why compound movements such as Squats, Deadlifts, Pull-Ups, Presses and Rows are staples in so many strength training¬†programs. Adhering to the basics and training with intensity gets the job done.

Prioritizing compound movements are going to give you a more impressive physique than you’d get from curls and sit-ups. ¬†If you think for one second that you’d be better off without them, something is seriously wrong with you.¬†Get bigger, stronger, faster, and leaner by sticking to the big lifts before you think about¬†isolating your arms and abs.

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3. Train With A Purpose

 

While I do think far too many people place too much of an emphasis on advanced training protocols, you have to appreciate how beneficial actually having a plan can help. As the old adage goes, “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail”.¬† You’d be wise to take that into consideration because at the end of the day, you have to train with a purpose.¬† You’d be hard-pressed to find anybody with a good looking physique that doesn’t track their progress. Establish a¬†plan and get after it.

4. Hydration and Sleep Are Kind Of Important

 

Let’s face it: the vast majority of the population are constantly dehydrated and are sleep deprived. In fact, in addition to how negatively it impacts performance, studies have shown that dehydration and sleep deprivation leads to an increase in fat mass.¬†You can follow any training program to a T, but if you’re not doing the simple things such as drinking more water and getting enough sleep, you’re just spinning your wheels.

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While I’ve always had an open mind, there were¬†instances in the past where I just wanted to bang my head into the wall over the uncertain¬†things I saw¬†other trainers do. Nowadays, I¬†try¬†to¬†understand the reasoning behind their approach.

How you train or what you advocate is your move. Every exercise has its place due to the concept of specificity.

That being said, if we’re talking about¬†exercises that are the most bang for your buck, it’s no question that you’ve got to hammer down¬†movements that are going to make you strong¬†‚ÄĒ and exercises¬†that exhibit high levels of muscular recruitment are going to be your best bet.

Here are four exercises to rule them all.

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1. Prowler/Sled Push

 

What can I say? They’re the best way to lean out without losing strength and muscle.

From a conditioning standpoint ‚ÄĒ these babies rule, which is why they should be in your training program.¬†If the zombie apocalypse does happen, at least you’ll know that you’re in excellent condition to be a survivor.

2. Loaded Carries

 

I always get asked, “What does this exercise work?” Instead, they should be asking what doesn’t this exercise work. I’m convinced¬†that nothing packs on more muscle than loaded carries. In addition to improved hip stability, walking with a heavy load¬†forces you to engage your core, your upper back, and arms. It’s also worth mentioning that it does a heck of job in improving¬†shoulder function.

3. Deadlift

 

It’s no secret that the Deadlift is highly regarded as the king of all exercises. You’re essentially working everything from your head to your toes. With that in mind, there are many schools of thought on how¬†should you¬†pull. Powerlifters will argue that the Trap Bar Deadlift are for sissies, and others will say Sumo¬†is cheating.

Here’s what I have to say about all of that:

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What we need to start taking more into consideration is our unique individual anatomy. People vary dramatically in structure. Some might not be able to pull a conventional deadlift.  Similarly, there are others who might be more well-equipped to pull from a sumo stance.

I believe the deadlift is a big movement that should stay in your training program year round, however, you have to choose which variation is suited best for you.

Conventional Deadlift

Sumo Deadlift

Trap Bar Deadlift

Landmine Deadlift

4. Bulgarian Split Squats

 

I know what you’re thinking, and yes¬†‚ÄĒ I would’ve said the same thing in the past, but hear me out. ¬†I have such an immense adoration for this exercise simply because they rarely cause me or my clients any problem. ¬†In fact, I’ve¬†found them to almost have a universal application.

Due to structural limitations, a lot of people are pretty much in quick sand whenever they try to get under the bar and squat ‚ÄĒ they’re not going anywhere. This is why I’m convinced that the Bulgarian Split Squat is a far better¬†option than conventional squatting. Even with proper form in a back squat, you’re bound to run into some problems¬†whether it’d be hip, lower back, or knee issues. Moreover, you can virtually load as much weight as you can, but with less loading on the spine.

If not these, front squats are my second option.

Conclusion

 

I’m aware that¬†this is a very short list. You can make a legitimate argument¬†that I’ve left off other noteworthy exercises. But make no mistake that proper execution of these movements¬†will yield big time results. ¬†Vary the intensity and stay consistent.

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