Archive for the ‘Strength Training’ Category

Let’s face it, training is incredibly demanding. It’s a beautiful thing to see what your body can do when you push yourself; but there’s no reward if you’re not willing to do that. At the same time, you also have to appreciate that more isn’t always better.

There’s a delicate balance between being conservative and getting out of your comfort zone — and you’ll find that operating between two extremes can produce positive outcomes, especially when you’re trying to boost your performance on the field.

To read the full article on STACK, click HERE.

 

1. Perform Face-Pulls and Band Pull Aparts to keep your shoulders healthy

 

The shoulder is perhaps the most commonly injured area not just in the athletic community, but also the general population. They’re a ticking time bomb because at some point they’re eventually going to flip you the finger — whether it’s from inappropriate training, or from poor posture.

The simplest, most-effective way to reduce likelihood of shoulder pain is to develop the muscles of the upper back. Hear me out, Face-Pulls and Band Pull Aparts are not just corrective exercises or activation drills. Applying them appropriately into your training can strengthen the weak links in your upper back and improve posture. Win-win.

2. Use Fat Gripz in your warm-up sets

 

Focus, concentration, and technique are more important than a lot of people think. These are all critical when working up to an appreciable load on compound movements like a deadlift or a bench press.

While using Fat Gripz is a great tool to improve your grip strength, another cool thing about it too is that by adding them in your warm-up sets it actually enables you to lift more weight after you’ve taken them off. You’re essentially making the exercise slightly more difficult to trigger the heightened involvement of your nervous system. By definition, you’re recruiting more muscle, but with less loading.

3. Prioritize single-leg work

 

Before you throw the yellow flag, I’m not against traditional squatting and deadlifting. They’re still vital to a well-balanced strength training program. Your body, however, takes a beating. There’s only so much load that it can tolerate before you start to get diminishing returns. Splitting the load up in half, and prioritizing single-leg work still provides you with a comparable training effect, if not better.

You’re not imposing a ton of sheer and compressive force on the spine, and since sports are played on mostly on leg, it’s much more sport-specific.

4. Do Banded Sumo Walks to activate your glutes

 

Your glutes are responsible for producing a ton of force, so you’re not doing yourself any favors by not paying close attention to them. If they’re firing on all cylinders, your knees and/or low back end up taking a hit. Activating your glutes by simply adding a mini-band around your knees and forcing your knees out while you walk side to side enables you to move and perform better.

5. Pair up your strength work with mobility drills

 

Freakish levels of strength should be commended and appreciated, but I’ve learned the hard way that being strong doesn’t mean a thing if you move like a tin-can. Placing an emphasis on mobility goes a long way because if you can’t move well…guess what? You’re not going to perform well.

Have fun sitting on the bench.

Understand that being strong and mobile are inseparable — the two go hand in hand. A great way to avoid the monotony of mobility work is to pair them up with your strength work.

Main Exercise                              Mobility Drill

  1. Squat                             Stationary Spiderman w/ reach
  2. Bench Press                  Quad Hip Flexor Mobilization
  3. Deadlift                          Prone 1-Arm Trap Raise

1. Box Jumps for conditioning

 

I’ve said this many times in the past, I’m not a fan of box jumps as a tool for conditioning, The purpose of plyometric work is to learn how to generate force (accelerate), but more so, how to absorb it (decelerate). You are defeating the purpose jumping up and down on a tall box like a chimpanzee on crack. More pressingly, they become very demanding on your body when you perform them in that fashion. This opens the door for potential injury.

There are far better options. I’d opt for something with less impact that’s not going to sacrifice future training quality (kettlebell swings, med ball slams, battle ropes, sled work).

2. Push-Ups with elbows flared out

 

PushUpForm

Even though Push-Ups are underrated — and don’t get the respect it deserves for its versatility — being able to do them properly is not an easy task for beginners, especially women. Push-Ups with your elbows flared out isn’t an ideal position. A technical error like that becomes problematic simply because it puts undue stress onto your elbows and shoulders. Moreover, what you’ll typically see is poor anterior core engagement and virtually no recruitment of the triceps.

The ideal position you want is that of an arrow — placing your left elbow at 8 o’clock, and right elbow at 4 o’clock. Initially, it’s going to be significantly harder, but it will pay dividends in the long haul.

3. Overhead Press

 

OverheadPressForm

Rule of thumb: if you can’t get your arms up overhead without dropping your neck (forward head posture), or over-arching your lower back, then pressing a load over your head is out of the question. Earn the right to do it.

To that end, overhead pressing has never been a main staple in my workouts nor most of my clients, for good reason. The pertinent issue is that a lot of folks can’t do them pain-free. And, in the grand majority of cases, people just demonstrate piss-poor form (top) — it’s like watching a live grenade about to go off.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should totally discard the movement. In fact, I still have a few of my clients do them from time to time because it is a great exercise. It all comes down to risk-reward.

Bottom line: if you can perform them then have at it… but, do so in an efficient manner (bottom).

4. Deadlift Butchery

 

Many lifters have a tendency to hyperextend through the lower back at the top of the deadlift. Admittedly, I’ve also been guilty of this in the past. This aberrant movement becomes more pronounced as the load gets heavier and heavier.  Don’t believe me? Go to any commercial gym and see for yourself.

In all fairness though, those same people are just unaware of how to actually use their hips.  We’re always going to resort to the path of least resistance. So, in this case it’s much easier to rely on our lower back than our glutes (or lack thereof).

Luckily, this can be easily rectified by pumping the brakes and backing off on the heavy loads to give yourself some time to… yanno, work on technique.

Two ways I’ve found to be extremely helpful in dissociating low back movement for true hip extension is the Hip Thrust and Sumo Deadlift.

5. “Squatty” Kettlebell Swing

 

There’s a world of difference between a knee-dominant movement, and a hip-dominant movement. With that in mind, the most butchered exercise out of the bunch would have to be the Kettlebell Swing. If applied appropriately and executed correctly, it can improve hip strength and build a solid backside. Treating it like a squat, however, ruins many of the benefits.

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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 — 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 — 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 — 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. 

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